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Wolfe Solent

Wolfe Solent

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Gift of

YALE UNIVERSITY

With the

aid of the

ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION
1949

JOHN COWPER POVYS

WOLF SOLENT
A

NOVEL

1929

SIMON AND SCHUSTER
NEW YORK

FIRST

PRINTING,

MAY

1929 ig29

SECOND PRINTING, MAY THIRD PRINTING, JUNE FOURTH PRINTING, JUNE

1929
1929

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
COPYRIGHT,
1929, BY SIMON AND SCHUSTER, INC. 37 WEST 57 STREET NEW YORK PRINTED IN U. S. A. BY VAIL-BALLOU PRESS, BINGHAMTON

BOUND BY
DESIGNED

H.

BY

WOLFF EST., N. Y. ANDOR BRAUN

AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO FATHER HAMILTON COWPElT JOHNSON .

.

CONTENTS VOLUME ONE 1 The Face on the Waterloo Steps "Christ! I've had a happy life! 99 1 2 3 18 A Dorset Chronicle 42 62 115 161 4 5 Gerda 6 7 8 9 10 11 The Blackbird's Song Bar Sinister Yellow Bracken 203 The Three Peewits The Horse-Fair Christie 244 264 327 The Tea-Party The Slow-Worm of Lenty 376 392 411 12 13 Home for Bastards 14 15 Crooked Smoke 433 480 Rounded with a Sleep VOLUME TWO 16 17 18 A Game "This is of Bowls 491 537 562 Reality" The School-Treat 19 Wine Mr. Malakite at Weymouth "Slate" ' 608 679 709 or the 20 21 22 23 The Quick Dead? 774 817 Lenty Pond "Forget" 24 25 863 is Ripeness All 917 .

.

facing the engine.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS I ROM WATERLOO STATION TO THE SMALL COUNTRY town of Ramsgard in Dorset is a journey of not more 1 than three or four hours. of hazel-copses of damp moss. March of carrying fragrances young full green shoots. His short stubbly hair was of a bleached tow-colour. Swanage. but having by good luck found a compartment to himself. Wolf Solent was able to indulge in such an orgy of concentrated thought. the sweet airs of an unusually relaxed his nostrils. of wet muddy ditches. and Poole Weymouth. His forehead as well as his rather shapeless chin backward. but on the other hand he was not a prepossessing one. Through the open window near which he morning visited sat. Solent was not an ill-favoured man. . a peculiarity which the weight of his had a tendency to slope had the effect of throwing character upon the curve of his hooked nose and upon the rough. and of primroses on warm grassy hedge-banks. Lulcleaning its front legs upon the masts upon the sands of impossibly ceru- of painted ships or lean waters. thick eyebrows that overarched his deeply sunken grey eyes. that all these three or four hours lengthened themselves out into something beyond human measurement. buzzed up and down above his head. now and then settling on one of the coloured adverevery bluebottle fly A tisements of seaside resorts worth.

ance of my poor oifer. His mood. He offer. where for the present you will have your room. If it is convenient I would regard it as a favour if you will come up and dine with me on the night of your arrival.2 WOLF SOLENT and lean. I must again express my pleasure at your so prompt acceptfaithfully. and replaced. when he was only a child of . Darnley Otter about five o'clock in the tea-room of the Lovelace Hotel? He will be driving over to King's Barton that afternoon and will convey you to his mother's house. was which he obviously connected with a crumpled more than once drew forth from his side-pocket." re-invoked the extraordinary incident which had led to his "prompt acceptance" of Mr. living peacefully under the despotic affection whom. I dine at eight o'clock. The letter which thus affected him was written in a as follows: meticulously small hand and ran MY DEAR SIR: Will you be so kind as to arrive at Ramsgard on Thursday in time to meet my friend Mr. with London. only pose as before. rapidly to relapse into the same glanced over. it would have been difficult tall He was to tell whether the goblinish grimaces that occasionally wrinkled his physiognomy were fits of sardonic chuck- ling or spasms of reckless desperation. and as he stretched out his legs and clasped his hands in front of him and bowed his head over his bony wrists. whatever its elements may have letter been. Urquhart's "poor and for ten years he had labo- He was now of thirty-five riously taught History at a small institution in the city of his mother. and we shall be able to talk things over. Yours JOHN URQUHART.

He had. his new post. he was escaping . so at least he told his mother. until he lay dead in the cemetery of that town. a byword of scandalous depravity. a cousin of Wolf's mother. in fact." in so far as they instincts at all. He was Dean Swift. that their it.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS ten. He could visualize now. As it happened. He had danced is that how he himself expressed it in the middle of an innocent discourse on the reign of Queen Anne. day instead of two months ago. brought him to the very scene of these disturbing memories. It was only the fact that the Squire of King's Barton was a that relative of Lord Carfax. all the agitating memories of and along with Dorsetshire his dead father. no "authorities. after the astounding denouement of his London life. had made it possible for him to find a retreat. danced his "malice-dance" on that quiet platform to so aban- doned a retained tune. 3 he had left Dorsetshire. for respectable position as it was from a History Master in Ramsgard School that his father had descended. suitable to his not very comprehensive abilities. by a series of mysterious headlong plunges. telling his pupils quite quietly about all of and a sudden some mental screen or lid or collapsed dam in his own mind completely self and he found him- pouring forth a torrent of wild. as if it had occurred that very his mother's face. the outraged anger upon when he communicated to her what his "malice-dance" had happened. as literary assistant to the Squire of King's Barton. natural could possibly condone And now. with that event behind him. indecent invectives of upon every aspect modern civilization.

had hardened if it itself under the impact of those words. And the woe upon the face was of such a character that Wolf knew at once that no conceivable social readjustments it or ameliorative revolutions could ever atone for could . They had had some very turbulent scenes receipt after the of Mr. It was great curving an English face. He palling misery recalled the figure of a man he had seen on the steps outside Waterloo Station. But as she had no income *and only very limited savings. handsome face. Urquhart's first answer to his appeal.4 WOLF SOLENT from the weight of maternal disapproval into the very region where the grand disaster of his mother's life had occurred. beneath its disordered mass of wavy." he had flung out. grey hair. and it was also a Chinese face. It Protean wine of the priestess Bacbuc. One of 'the suppressed emotions that to had burst forth do with the apof so many of his fellow Londoners. "You shall come down to me there when I've got a cottage. the sheer weight of economic necessity drove her into submission. an Indian face. on that January afternoon had had The inert despair face that this figure 'had turned towards upon him came the be- tween him beeches. now and face a hillside covered with budding was repeated many times among those masses of emerald-clear foliage. of a mortal man against whom Providence had grown as malignant as a mad dog. and her agitated. It was just the face of a man. as he had taken up her most precious tea-set and dashed into fragments al her feet. a Rushad the variableness of that The sian face.

in such a vivisected frog's-belly of a world. harrowed. dusty. he asked himself. as he asked himself this and mentally formed a visual image of what he considered "thought. the one thing most precious of of that all in the world was being In the steadily assassinated. would there be a place that left for a person to think any single thought and easy? And. vivisected ! frog. no lake. Where. he seemed to see. He saw it scooped and gouged and scraped and He saw it hawked at out of the humming air. an image of the whole round earth And he saw it bleeding and victimized." such "thought" took the form of leisurely was . sight of this thing gave his thought a new direc- There arose before him. leaving a cloud of dust behind and the tion. as for the twentieth time he took out and put back Mr. with no sea. sunlit space small tobacco- stained carriage. he its By the time the hill of beeches caught sight of a powerful motor-lorry clanging way it. the monstrous Apparition of Modern Invention. netted in a quivering entanglement of vibra- heaving and shuddering under the weight of iron and stone. with aeroplanes spying down upon every retreat like ubiquitous vultures.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS ever 5 it make up as it for the simple irremediable fact that had been had been! had disappeared. with the lanes in- vaded by iron-clad motors like colossal beetles. like a smooth-bellied. along a narrow road. moving tower of instruments and appliances. free from throbbing. no river. Urquhart's letter where. like a He felt as though. complicated and inhuman. it He saw tions. thudding engines. floating and helpless.

with no comic uneasiness at the arrogance of such a proceeding. was just that sort of enlargement he experifelt enced now. was not as though he sink like rain-water. a cunning both slippery and serpentine. root itself like invisible spores of moss. big as elephants' feet. And then. remain unconyield. to He would never have confessed any living person the intoxicating enlargement of personality that used to to come him from imagining himself its a sort of demiurgic force. What he fell back upon was a crafty. yet As he stared out the open window and watched each . the thrill of men? had a malicious exultation that passed through his nerves as he thought of these things curious resemblance to the strange ecstasy he used to derive from certain godlike mythological legends. Why In should he not pit his individual magnetic strength against the tyrannous machinery invented by other fact. a cunning that could flow like air. vegetable leaves. elusive cunning of his own. drawing And it power from the heart of Nature herself. float like filmy yield and retreat. hanging from succulent and cold stalks on the edges of woodland swamps. rise like green sap. He did this quite gravely.6 WOLF SOLENT slowly stirring. when he the mysterious depths of his his defiance of these fell soul stirred and excited inventions. retreat and quered and inviolable! pond-scum. stretching out his legs still further and leaning back against the dusty cushions. It by modern back on any traditional archaic obstinacy. he set himself' to measure the resources of his spirit against these ac- cursed mechanisms.

past the queer-looking tower of Basingstoke and his thoughts took yet another turn. along by the side of the train. gathered such an inviolable placidity that its feet seemed planted in a green pool of quietness that was older than life itself. it in the sun. lanes. this leaping with the positive satisfaction of a hooded snake. And yet as the train rushed for- seemed to him as if his real self were neither giant nor snake. whereon the souls all the religions in the . in naturalsilent speed. but rather that black-budded ashtree. still in the rearward of its leafy companions. There was a tethered cow eating to itself grass in the churchyard. the sensation of imagining himself to be a prehistoric giant who with an effortless ease ran ditches. and it seemed to Solent as though many world were nothing but so creaking and splashing barges. and as for the space it of a quarter of a minute he watched this cow. leaping over hedges. Soon the train that carried him ran rapidly church. thrusting out a flickering forked tongue from coils that felt He shimmered ward. giant. he indulged himself in a sensation which always gave him a peculiar pleasure. and easily rivalled. and ponds. whose hushed grey branches threw so contorted a shadow upon the railway bank. for the But the Basingstoke church-tower substituted itself image of the cow.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS span of telegraph-wires sink slowly down till 7 the next telegraph-post pulled them upward with a jerk. the noisy born mechanism of all those pis- tons and cog-wheels! himself watching this other-self.

and another one at Ramsgard. and that in every graveyard was a vast empty grave waiting for the "Jealous Father of Men" who lived in the church. Here the train stopped. disturbing the swaying water-plants that grew there and driving away the shy water-fowl! He told himself that every church-tower in the land overlooked a graveyard. a long-drawn melancholy cry. less de- structive. the bluebottle fly. and yet another at Blacksod. and the idea came into his head. and though even here possibly because his absorption in his thoughts gave him a morose and uncongenial appearance tions no one en- tered his third-class carriage. really dead will Christ be known what He is. He knew there was just such a church-tower at King's Barton. less violent. as the train approached Andover. Christ will take the place of God then. Urquhart's village.8 WOLF SOLENT men ferried themselves over those lakes of primal of silence." As a sort of deliberate retort to these wild fancies. a cry heard only and horses and geese and cattle and villageby dogs idiots. the stream of his cogita- began to grow less turbid. the town on the further side of Mr. the tall spire of Salisbury Cathedral rose suddenly before him. who was cleaning his front legs on a picture of Swanage pier. the real death-cry of a god dead at last of ex- treme old age! "Christ is different is "Only when God for from God. very upright now." he said to himself. that from tower to tower of these West Country churches there might be sent. one gusty November night. as he fixed his gaze He sat on his fellow traveller. The austerity of Salisbury Plain yielded noiy .

rich and soft and vaporous as the realize airs that made Solent how hung over those mossy in the ditches. of open cornfields. the slow. was now a grim. Urquhart? And what would Mr. Urqu- What would he find in that house of . with sunken eye-sockets. to his two parents. to the wavering begetter. of wind-swept naked thorn-bushes. train The green. all these things the tall hedgerows. harassed-looking. he knew. as. and somehow the outburst that had turned. image of his sinister Children. with a fling of rebel- ended his scholastic career had released certain latent instincts in him which now lious satisfaction. but he felt his heart beating with keen excitement. "Darnley Otter's mother?" Who was this Darnley Otter? What had he to do with Mr. brown. His mother's grievances. after an absence of a quarter of a century. heavily-grassed meadows through which the moved now. shaven man. he returned to his native pastures. were often completely different from both their progenitors. and parklike moss-grown oaks. He thirty-five. the pollarded elms completely he had passed from the sphere of his mother's energetic ambitions into the more relaxed world. posthumous and belated. Dairy-farms took the of place sheep-farms. was very little Wolf had a shrewd in him that did not clean- on one side or the other. lush pastures. but full of an undying vigour.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS to the 9 glamour of Blackmore Vale. of bare chalk- downs. that had been the native land of the man Ramsgard cemetery. but suspicion that there revert. enclosed orchards. alder-shaded streams. had never really made him hate his father.

. ." upon the high grassy battlements of the great heathen fortress the notice-board. among . and drawing into his lungs lovely breathings cold primroses breathings that from damp moss and seemed to float up and on airy journeys of their own he found himself gathering his mental resources together down that valley so as to face with a concentrated spirit whatever awaited He .. . King's Barton . . .20 WOLF SOLENT form his own services hart reveal that evening as to the were to take? As the train drew up at "For Shaftesbury. among elder-bushes and herb Robert. or what people I shall know! I hope I shall find some girl who'll let me tall and slim and white! I'd like make love to her . "Christ is not a man. I I I don't care whether I get fame. . "And He will be more Three church-towers than a god when God is dead." he thought. I don't care whether leave any work behind me when I die. . . leaning forward. him . upon her left breast. . . ... it's quaint to think that I've absolutely no idea the what I shall be feeling when I touch with my hand masonry of those three towers . . with a tiny little mole. Staring at those turf-covered bastions. . elder-bushes . frowning and intent. . love to her out-of-doors . All want is certain sensations!" And with all the power of his wits he set himself to try and ana- . . . . . . like her to be very white Imogen's. he read the words. . . I'd like to make ." He pulled in his legs and clasped his hands over his knees. in these pleasant places.. Black- sod . never was a man. Ramsgard . . . and very soon loomed against the sky-line. . Semley. "I don't care whether I make money. three.

" which was connected by folding-doors with his grandmother's drawing-room. and spell. at when staying in his grandmother's house Weymouth. and he used it entirely in a private sense of his own. The thing he did was to attempt to analyze a mental device he was in the habit of resorting to a device that supplied him with the secret substratum of his whole life. allowed it to become his own secret name for his own secret habit. This was a certain trick he had of doing what he called "sinking into his soul. that the word had come to him which he now always used in his own mind to describe these obsessions. or these fits of absent-mindedness. an amusing but rather indecent nursery name. In his childhood his mother had often rallied him about way. His father. had encouraged him treating in these moods taking their them very gravely. this sensation This "sinking into his soul" which he . as It if him. He could remember very well where he first came upon the word. and had applied to it in her light-hearted these trances. room opened upon the and Wolf. carrying the word "mythology" into this bow-window. however." This trick had been a furtive custom with him from very early days. of his grandmother's Queen Victoria. It was in a curious room. when under he were a sort of infant magician. It was the word "mythology". on the other hand. was. called "the ante-room.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS lyze 11 what these sensations were that he wanted beyond first everything. and which was filled with the sort of ornamental debris that middle-class people were in the habit of acquiring in the early years of The window sea.

for his "mythology. This secret practice was always accompanied by an arrogant mental idea the idea. How it came about that the mere indulgence a sensation that was as thrilling as a secret vice should have the power of rousing so bold an arrogance." as he called it. namely. had no outlet in any sort of action. his profoundest personal pride life-illusion what might be called his dominant de- pended entirely upon it. Wolf himself was never able to explain. to ex- But such as it was. Not only had he no ambition for action. had seemed prepared netic to up. deep down in his being. a planet the great dualistic struggles between and death never emerged from the charmed circle of the individual's private consciousness. . he had no ambition for any sort of literary or intellectual achievement. It was limited entirely to a secret sensation in his it own mind. It was as if he had been different planet. such as he would have been hard put to plain in intelligible words to any living person. to the surface of his mind. of a subconscious answer such a summons. He hid. a contempt that in its was actually malicious pride for all the human where phenomena some changeling from a the issues of life life of worldly success. as he watched the glitter of sun and moon upon the waters from that bow-window.12 WOLF SOLENT consisted of a certain called "mythology" summoning- magwhich from those very early Weymouth power days. that he was taking part in some occult cosmic struggle to think of as some struggle between what he liked "good" and what in he liked to think of as "evil" in those remote depths.

brutal." The bluebottle fly moved slowly and cautiously across . patient. What he experienced now was a vague wonder as to whether the events that awaited him these new scenes these unknown people would be able to do what no outward events had yet done break up this mirror of half-reality and drop great stones of real reality drop hard. by all the movements of the elements but making some inexplicable difference. if 13 pressed to describe it. the true reality of which lay all the while in his mind in these hushed expanding leaves in this secret the roots of whose being hid themselves bevegetation neath the dark waters of his consciousness. would have used some simple earthly metaphor. I've carried my load like a camel. such as that terrible face on the Waterloo steps or that tethered cow he had seen at Basingstoke. material stones there them and lodge them down among I've it. never known reality as life other human know he thought. by liquid transparent nights. "My has been indus- monotonous." those dark waters and that mental foliage. merely by their spontaneous expansion. to the great hidden struggle always going on in Nature between the good and the evil forces.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS Wolf himself. And I've been able to do this because it hasn't been my real life at all! My 'mythology' has been my real life. He would have said that his magnetic impulses resembled the expanding of leaves over a still pool leaves nourished great vegetable by hushed noons. Outward things. were to him like faintly limned images in a mirror. "Perhaps beings trious.

. . green moss ." He clasped his bony fingers tightly together. . that escaped with an indignant humming through the wininto the unfamiliar air-fields of Dorsetshire. a village which he knew was the he reached Ramsgard. primroses his moschatel whiteness. . as he did so. and then clasped them again. He rose from his seat and took down his things from the rack. bawled out at the top of his voice. But perhaps it won't perhaps it won't be like . "What if this new reality.14 WOLF SOLENT Weymouth Bay. harsh as a corncrake's. . seemed unable to disturb Nobody issued from the train. 'white as a peeled willow-wand' dle . . A a sudden nervousness came upon him and he shivered little. with a countenance of whimsical inanity. as he rattled his milk-cans: "Longborne Port! Longborne Port!" Nothing was put out of the train except empty milk-cans. . apparently seeking some invisible atom of sustenance. wood . love to her in the mid. ." He unclasped this fingers. "Some girl who'll let me make . The young man's voice. now off Ringstead. so much agitation to last stop before his it only travelling-companion. seeking it now off Redcliff. of a hazel . . lanky. . the bluebottle fly. love to her . a tank or lorry or an aeroplane . life? . smashes up my whole secret be like a rock or stone . bareheaded porter. dow A young. time with the left It hand above the right hand. . . at was nearly twelve o'clock when the train drew up Longborne Port. . now off White Nore. causing. make . . when it does come. . .

Urquhart's "Darnley Otter!" he said to himself. what drowsy August what squirtings of white milk into shining pails. would those homely syllables summon forth! What dark November He lay back. the thought of lables how those particular syl- "Longborne Port!" mingling with the clatter of milk-cans. and how much Why was it that. roused to some long-dead human after centuries of sudden consciousness non-existence. when the it how little may mean to- future was very likely all there already. noons. the very essence of the familiar life earth! upon twilights. breathing rather quickly. he didn't get some sort of second-sight about it by merely reading those words in Mr. moved out took from his pocket Mr. For the last time he letter. would reproduce to skull. over those ancient orchards And there suddenly broke in upon the traveller. as he resumed his seat. like yellow pollen upon a drooping and muddy lanes. "It's odd to think that morrow!" name means now. Ay! There were the ruins of the great Elizabethan's . catkin." but he easily suppressed this thought in the excitement of the moment. Urquhart's neat hand? What kind of Darnley Otter? Was he a plain. with his coat and stick and bag spread out before him. as the train of that small station.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS 15 the impenetrable security which hung. stretched out like the great Wes- sex Fosse-way in front of him. middle-aged man was man like himself or was he a beautiful youth? The idea of beautiful youths made his mind once more revert to "peeled willow-wands.

were to say returning to school? to him: "Well. my I've learnt. meeting him on the platform. WOLF SOLENT And there expanse where the town held its Annual Agricultural Show. he hurriedly. . and where the Ramsgard schoolboys were wont in old days to run their was the wide gr. ration. and beyond that. I've learnt ." But at this point his excitement at catching sight of the familiar shape of the Lovelace Hotel. some Rams- Suppose he were Solent Major instead of Wolf Solent? And suppose some genial house-master.assy Steeplechase! How he left it all it. gard boy at this moment. "I've learnt. and what have you made of your twenty-five years' holiday?" What would he answer to that? As the train began to lessen its pace by the muddy banks of the river Lunt. . formulated his reply. let his He Millions of miles of blue sky. came back! Twenty-five years it was. and as if from fear of that imaginary master. since frightened and bewildered by his parents' sepaand how little it had changed! gaze wander over the high tops of the park beech-trees till it lost itself in the blue sky. when to think happiness out of sensaand when not to think. to get tion. across the . Solent. stretching outwards from where he sat with his stick and coat opposite him to no conceivable boundary or end! or any other colour Didn't that almost prove that the whole affair was a matter of thought? Suppose he were now. millions of miles of sky that could scarcely be called blue pure unalloyed emptiness. Sir. Sir.16 castle.

" he thought.THE FACE ON THE WATERLOO STEPS 17 Public Gardens. "And then I shall go and see if Selena Gault is still alive!" . standing up and grasping his bag. "I shall send my things over in the bus. that the imaginary catechism came to an end in mid-air. was so overwhelming.

suggested the manner of a cathedral verger. stirred his tation. even in his excitement. re- standing by that same shabby vehicle. said something hard and ironical to him which lashed his self-love like a whip. and it struck him. and certain patches of arrow-head leaves within the with a sudden unexpected agi- water."CHRIST! I'VE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" JtilS EXCITEMENT GREW RATHER THAN DIMINISHED AS HE gave up his ticket to an elderly station-master. the look of a certain old wall against the water. wherein his mother. and there came over him a vague recollection of some incident of those early years. he turned to the east and made his way across a small river-bridge. or one exactly it. just then as being strange what he remembered were things that had hurt his feelings rather than things that had thrilled him. Here. at once fussily inquisitive and mildly defer- got out of the train. He whose ential. He watched his luggage being deposited on the Lovelace Bus. where the road led to the Hotel. and then on past the police-station to the Abbey. These also brought to his mind certain isolated trivial occurrences of his childish days. Opposite the station were the railed-in Public Gardens. that In place of following the bus round the west of the Gardens. again. It memory was over this very bridge that twenty-five years ago . with a look of contemptuous derision on sembling her formidable face. air.

and he hurried on up Saint Aldhelm's Street. He heard the Abbey clock striking one. A narrow stone path led up door of the house. which resembled a blues doll's house. Blue and white hyacinths grew masses on either side of the path. and over the top of an uneven wall at his side protruded occasional branch-ends of pear-blossom. and in a funny. querulous voice deplored the number of castaway tins that lay in the muddy stream." Gault lives here still?" at last to a He came "Is it He allowed a baker's cart to rattle negligently past him while he made two separate hesitating movements his hand towards the handle of the green door. of It was queer that he should have had an instinct to look sharply both up and down the street before he brought himself to turn that handle. like deformed butterflies. caught and suspended in that enclosed space. But Wolf did not lean over the bridge this time. green door in the wall. and their scent. and with a quick movement he boldly opened to the the gale and entered the garden. rambling. upon the yellowish paving-stones. had a fainting. It was almost as though he himself to be a hunted criminal. he wondered uneasily. "that Selena possible. Newly-budded plane-trees cast curious little shadows. ecstatic voluptuousness which was at variance with the ."CHRIST! WE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 19 he had leaned with his father while William Solent showed him the difference between loach and gudgeon. taking refuge with Selena Gault! But the street was quite defelt serted now. brilliantly painted with inr and greens.

He made some awkward geswho resembled one another in shape. and surveyed. ture of welcome to these animals. with half-closed languid eyes. the' door through which they had entered. Miss Gault was the daughter of the late Headmaster of Ramsgard. with the nervous outward-staring eyes of a yellow-hammer. and when minutes had elapsed. He gave little name and waited. and grey. size. Miss Gault would see him few minutes. to opened hostess. silently. the The servant had not fifteen quite closed it door. black. coiled themselves up. and temperament in everything except colour. Almost immediately the to take a chair servant came back and begged him and make himself comfortable. and with- out demur ushered him his into the drawing-room. into the centre of the apartment.20 WOLF SOLENT prim neatness around them. A diminutive servant. who walked gravely and gingerly. rising quickly greet his found himself confronted by three cats. one after another. He felt as if he were in . Those few minutes lengthened themselves into a quarter of an hour. and he had time to in a meditate on all the possibilities of this strange encounter. being respectively white. It ap- peared she had had some tender relation with his father. very old but very alert. set Wolf sat on Miss Gault's sofa and himself to won- der what this rival of his mother's would look like when she entered the room. but instead of responding to his advances they each leapt into a separate chair. opened the door to him. and Wolf had heard his mother for twentyfive years utter airy sarcasms at her expense. and Wolf. had even attended William Solent's death-bed in the workhouse and seen him buried in the cemetery. breed.

with a face so strikingly was impossible to avoid an immediate contall. He decided that he liked the black one best and the grey one least. She was a ugly that it bony woman. He sank back upon the sofa and stared morosely at each cat in turn. that if only he upon him. and it was borne in as their conversation proceeded. But to eliminate was impossible for him shock that her ap- from his expression the it pearance gave him. He decided that the white one was its mistress's favourite. She made a sign for him to resume his seat. Gault herself came He rose and advanced towards it her with outstretched hand. had been able to contemplate her countenance with unconcern. which in spite of the warmth of the day still burned on the hearth. to her. its sciousness of ugliness."CHRIST! WE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 21 the house of the Marquis of Carabas and that the three cats were three Lord Chamberlains. even while he was thinking these ." But he had already begun speaking quietly and naturally things. He was occupied in this harmless manner when Selena in. she would have enjoyed one of the happiest moments of her life. he preferred to remain on his feet. Like a flash he thought to himself. but as she herself stood erect in front of the fire. she meet a single stranger anywhere without giving them a shock like this. "Can my father have actually embraced this extraordinary person?" self: And then he thought to himcan't be able to "The poor woman! Why. and did not lessen his surprise when she stiff received his gesture with a formal bow and a rejection of his hand.

"And so I just came straight in. wrong!" hoarsely. wrong. begin- odd sensation. moving to the chair occu- pied by the grey cat. took up the animal in her arms and down.22 WOLF SOLENT "I "I've just been invited knew you would know who I was. She did relax at this." he brought out after an uncomfortable pause. he noticed that she kept tighter pulling her white woollen shawl and tighter to give round her black silk dress. The effect of this was her the appearance of someone caught unawares in some sort of fancy costume some costume that rendered her ashamed and even ridiculous. but I thought I would come and you first. I'm going to drive over there this afternoon. I'm going to do some I work can't tell you quite what see it is out at King's Barton. "I've decided that your favourite cat is the white one." While she listened to him." little green door and between those hya- She still made no observation and he noticed that one marked quality of her ugliness was the dusky sallowness of her cheeks combined with the ghastly pallor of her upper which projected from her face very much as certain funguses project from the brown bark of a lip. Matthew?" sat she whispered . "Isn't he wrong." he went on. and. down here. holding it on her lap. dead tree." he said gently. "You're wrong. a sensation as if he ning were addressing someone who was listening all the time to feel a very in a kind of panic to a third person's voice "straight in through your cinths.

bent down over her chair." she said. "The black one "And the white one Mark. Luke?" he hazarded. "I think I'll he had Selena Gault gave a deep sigh." Wolf Solent was quick enough to take advantage of this change of mood." replied the lady. "Quite right. wilh her head held low and her hands occupied in out the shawl beneath the smoothing body of the somnolent cat. He moved across to her. "The best thing you could do. had a John." he heard her murmur." it seemed to Solent than sadness. and scratched Matthew's head. quite suddenly. but did impinge upon the consciousness of Miss Gault's visitor that this singular woman's hands were of a surprising beauty. and then. "What are the names is of the others?" Solent enquired. if His intonation could hardly have been different said. but like a sigh of relief rather go to the Abbey presently." she added. "I thought I'd like to go over and see where the grave is. She nodded. uncovering the fresh verdure below. quite proper. her whole face relaxed "I've never into a smile of disarming sweetness." His words were low-pitched but without any emotional stress."CHRIST! rVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 23 The cat took not the least notice of this it remark or of the fingers that caressed him. Since she said nothing more and persisted her head lowered a position lip in keeping which accentuated the enormity of her upper face and the dark sallowness of her if Wolf began to feel as he were an impertinent . with an effort as though a gust of wind had swept aside a mass of dead leaves. "And I never will.

But I don't want to let this day pass without trying to find it. boy. but She uttered the words quite that she avoided looking he noticed him in the face. come with you. who'll know where the grave is? I shouldn't like to get out there and not be able to find it. as he turned round with these objects in the hand." she said more gently." he said. "Do you think I'd let you go there alone. which he was rather surhad brought with him into the room. She stared that at if there were fifty gardeners?" him for a second after this with a look seemed to turn his bodily presence into the frame of a doorway through which she gazed into the remote "Sit past. But she suddenly turned her distorted countenance full upon him. down." she said. "there'll be someone out there at the his hat hand on cemetery." . straightened himself and squared his shoulders with a sigh.24 WOLF SOLENT some proud. "I'll be ready soon. "I suppose." she rapped out. secre- intruder stroking the pet animal of tive being whose peculiarity it was to prefer beasts to men. quietly. Then he moved across to the sofa and laid his He prised to notice he and stick. it "If would be a bother to " you "Sit down. She stood for a lime staring out of the window. he began. motionless and abstracted. some gardener or caretaker. sit down." Selena Gault tossed the grey cat from her lap and rose to "I'll h'er feet.

Her appearance in hat and cloak was just as peculiar more distinguished. upon which was a plate of Huntley and Palmer's oaten biscuits and a decanter of sherry. as before. carrying a silver tray. with such swinging . She found him stroking Mark. light pressure to he might easily have been a pure They walked side by side now. He found himself reducing his pace so that he might familiarize himself with every aspect of that heavy. instead of pleasing him or rousing him feel curiously irritable. The edifice was rather less gloomy than such erections usually are."CHRIST! I'VE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 25 The door had not closed behind her for many minutes when the elderly servant entered. but out. This natural gesture. fell He his sympathy. but Solent was unable to restrain an impulse to turn his head towards it. and Wolf soon found when presently they passed the front of the Abbey. Wolf had poured himself out as many as three glasses of this excellent wine and had swallowed nearly all the biscuits before Miss Gault returned. made quickened his pace. and her hand away so quickly that have supposed that accident. This building was on the further side of the road. the black cat. som- bre building behind iron gates. owing to the fact thai some indulgent authority had permitted its facade to be overgrown with Virginia creeper. where several townspeople greeted her. As he lingered he be- came suddenly aware that his companion had slipped her gloved hand upon his arm. Their way to the cemetery took them straight past the workhouse. that the power of her personality was fully appreciated in Ramsgard.

a little surly. "Can't you see what that boy? It's the slaughter- house! You've only to take the shadiest. her erratic gait. Her swinging arms. confused. pointing to a ramshackle group of sheds that seemed fenced off from the road with some unnatural and sinister precaution. Selena Gault's reply made his touchiness seem captious and misplaced. . She did not wait for him. a glance that gave an emphasis to the whites of her eyes such as made her companion think of a crafty dray-horse edging into Miss Gault stooped down and propelled herself under a rough obstruction that blocked a gap a field of clover. a nearer. rapid strides to the extreme corner of the enclosure. in the oak palings." she It's marked gravely. It's hardly ever disturbed. Did she sup- pose he had come to see his father's grave in a vein of "What's that?" he exclaimed. This sly. but made her way with long. quieter. Solent followed her. It annoyed him that she remained so sentimental commiseration? silent." With the road. quietest road to find 'em in They w.26 steps that WOLF SOLENT it was not long before they were beyond the houses and out into what was almost open country. her gaunt figure. way I and down quick glance up the generally go in. but no longer hostile. is.ere any town!" soon skirting the edge of the neat oak palings that ran along the leafy purlieus of Ramsgard re- Cemetery. "I let them bury him "It's is at the pauper's end.

Swaying thus above the mound and scrabbling with outstretched arms among the grass-blades. and bending down. She certainly did nothing on this occasion to cause him any discomfort. "Mors est mihi vita. that his own sensibility became hard and rigid. "I never like to see plantains in the to pull grass"." or any clover. amazed seemed to pass all limits of what was due. with a gasp of astonishment. human animals." he read. up cer- making a little pile of them behind the headstone. "She must have come here for twenty-five years!" he thought. prying look from under his bushy eyebrows. as Wolf stood there."CHRIST! PVE set the HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 27 man's mind thinking once more of various nonher just as she reached her goal. strous something mon- and bizarre that destroyed all ordinary pathos. her figure in the misty afternoon sunshine took on. on the upright slab of sandstone. Twenty-five years? If she had come here regularly for all that time. She just muttered in quite a conventional tone. left grave? upon his father's He was so so conscious of the personality of this at a tenacity of feeling that woman. or any moss either. furtive. and then. There was some- thing outlandish in the whole scene. He came up to "William Solent. she proceeded tain small weeds. the words." in recognizing the particular Wolf had no difficulty hyacinths that stood in an earthenware pot. under the date of birth and death. how could there be any "plantains. and he gave her a hurried. a kind of portentous unreality. .

of course not in any way. "There!" sighed Selena Gault. and between the head with- out a nose looking up and the head with so prominent a nose looking down there passed a sardonic wordless dialogue. "what Mr." "Fool me. Steadily. "I won't forget. were so much transparent glass." echoed the fleshless skull from below. It had with Mr. He looked down into William Solent's empty eye-sockets. that sepa- rated like him from the up-turned skull of his begetter. He weight with me. Urquhart!" She paused and glanced almost mischievously at her companion." she remarked. indifferently they looked back. the universe aren't shan't fool me. Not that that had any it had with some. boy?" ! When they were once more in the road. "I'm sure I don't know. and the empty eyesockets looked back at him. Miss Gault little became a more like talkative. patiently. But was uncommonly handsome. Shall we go back now. The few feet of Dorsetshire clay. "There There won't be any more of them for a fortnight. It should help him with some historical appears he is writing a 'History of Dor- . the half-inch of brittle West Country elm-wood. while his estimate of his respectful. "that new I friend's perspicacity became more researches." said Wolf gravely. "You're not really him. Whether there are plantains or whether there plantains. Urquhart will make of you!" "The idea seems to be. with a funny little laugh. his imagination worked freely. fool me." the son said to himself.28 WOLF SOLENT But though his emotions were cold. "So be it. rising to her natural perpendicular position.

I were never fond of each other. of course. turning towards her a startled face. But she did not linger. He said it to everyone in general. Sir!' as had been a fine hit at a cricket-match. "But he's no idiot. at every turn. 'Good for you. "I expect your mother has abused me pretty thor- "Ann and oughly to you since you were a child. but that didn't bring her round! She couldn't forgive me for being the headmaster's . 'Christ! I've enjoyed my life!' He used the word 'Christ' just in that way." I Wolf would have been entirely responsive now if Miss Gault had touched his arm or even taken his arm. was struck by an expression of actual animal fear upon her extraordinary physiognomy." she said presently. She cut me out. a Wolf felt time without comment. The hope was not fulfilled. and site it was not lorig before they were once more oppo- the workhouse. And then in a more amiable tone. but she walked forward without making any sign. "I suppose you eat them?" she asked in a hoarse whisper. "He didn't say it particularly to me. "Do you know what he said when he was dying?" she began suddenly. He has read You'll enjoy going through his library. There was a young clergyman there." himself experiencing a rather cowardly hope that his companion would pass the slaughter-house this little. and when your father cried out 'Christ!' like that and he was dead the next if second it hoard him mutter."CHRIST! WE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 29 "History of fiddlestick!" snapped the lady. and Wolf. He said. I just happened to be there. an athlete of some sort. straight down from Cambridge. as an exclamation. We were ene- mies even before your father came.

and I'm flippant where Ann is serious. Ann is flippant where I'm serious." This last remark. He was moment with an reveal to this woman temptation to the picture of her character with irresistible which he had been regaled for the last twenty-five years. It was a picture so extraordinarily different from the reality. referred to "My mother has a lot of friends in another person altogether. whether flippant or otherwise. rather lamely." he began. amwoman." Wolf tried in vain to imagine on what occasions Miss what that word meant seized at that Gault would display flippancy. In if some obscure way he as Selena Gault were practising an indecent treachery. coming at the moment when the Abbey clock above their heads struck four. town. Of course she has!" And then. But wherevej we were we should have haled each other. go on in a place like this. in a low. Miss Gault cut him short.30 WOLF SOLENT YouVe no idea of the savage jealousies that daughter. were personal to the point of in- sanity in their judgments of one another. The idea of his estranged parents having been "in love" with each other made him feel curiously in the cold. and strangely felt alien to both of them. bitious "Of course she has! She's a brave. high-spirited. produced considerable bewilderment in Wolf's mind. What his mother had told him was not even a caricature of Selena It Gault. meditative voice that seemed to float wistfully over the years. "She was very much in love with your father. but a treachery so subtle that he couldn't lay his finger upon it! . but he knew well enough in regard to his mother. that it made him wonder if all women.

the with the mellow warmth of the horizontal sun pouring through the col- oured windows below. vaulted roof. mind to till affiliation dulgent towards her. The high. He felt in whimsical and easy harmony with the queer lady seated by his side. Otter. mocking voices. beguiling voices. He felt bound up in some strange with that skeleton in the cemetery. upon his furtive. insidious voices that threatened unguessed-at disturbances . float at large. seemed entered the great nave of the Abbey-church and famous as if it fan-tracery. and into that world of undulat- his Wolf now permitted he began to feel once again that wander. a might and among of leaves! in that There was a faint greenish mist effect some cavernous contrast high roof. mysterious sensation which he called his "mythology." He felt free of his mother."CHRIST! rVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 31 "Let's go in here for a minute!" he said. Would he be crafty enough to life-illusion out of the reach of danhis inner Would world of hushed Cimmerian ecsta- He remain uninvaded by these Otters and Urquharts? felt as though he were tightening his muscles for voices seemed calling to a plunge into very treacherous waters. All manner of unknown voices him out of this warm Spring air. with its to offer itself to his vista of drift They down. and yet tender and ining carving and greenish dimness. The only thing that troubled him at all just then was a faint doubt as to what effect this return to the land of his birth would have vate. pri- keep that secretive ger? sies hidden existence." cool. mind were some "branch-charmed" along which his leaf spirit verdurous silence. "And then I must keep sat my appointment with Mr.

less embarrassment for Wolf in his encounter with Mr. It vice. though intimately associated with Ramsgard. There was far and they took their separate ways. windy ponds. Good is not the word! When I come you standing like that " with your hat off. tut. Darnley Otter than he had expected.32 WOLF SOLENT to that underground life of his which was like a cherished was not as though he heard the tones of these voices so that he could have recognized them again. and the splash of moor-hens over dark It blown over leagues and leagues made gurgling weirs. He parted from his companion by a grotesque little statue under the lime-trees representing the debonair ancestor of the Lovelaces whose name. "You'll come in and see me and my cats before long and tell me your impressions of all those people?" "I certainly will. have a kind of look "That's under your influence. "You've been very good to me. Selena Gault gave him her hand with a stately inclination of her unlovely head. was the taste of an air that has been of green stalks full of Solent think of water-buttercups in chilly sap. Miss Gault." he hurriedly said. Miss Gault. They were the only men in that massive old-world . had into slipped something legendary and remote." "Tut. It was as though a wavering crowd of featureless human figures on the further side of some thick opaque lattice- work were conferring together of his immediate appearance in conspiring awareness among them! The atmosphere was cooler when they came out Its taste of the church. boy! to think of it." he answered.

He noticed this gesture all the more vividly because of a curi- ously shaped white scar that crossed the back of the . was be reconciled not only to oneself but also in some curious way to the whole human race to ! "We waiter haven't seen Mr. health keeps up. and Wolf felt an obscure longing to sit opposite him in his own snug parlour wherever that was and draw out of him the hid- den sources of that superb respectfulness to be the object of which. this waiter. even for a brief hour's tea-drinking. Wolf was hungry."CHRIST! rVE sitting-room. I hope. "Perfectly. and the waiter. it the mellow beauty of centuries He was a clean-shaven man. was matched by the thinness who seemed to know Mr. hope you yourself are all right. The solidity of the teapot of the cups. and they found it easy and natural to sit down opposite each other at decorated hunting-scenes a round table and to enjoy an excellent tea." the Wolf's new acquaintance. more adjusted. Urquhart was saying I to down here lately. treated them both with a dignified obsequious- ness which had about of feudal service." bridge. the great philanthropist. with an aris- tocratic stoop and a face that resembled that of Lord Shaftesbury. HAD A HAPPY with LIFE!" 33 and large solemn prints of Conservative statesmen. "His Otter. than the gesture with which the elderly servant balanced the back of his hand against the edge of their table and leaned forward to reply to this personal question. more appropriate. Sir?" "Perfectly. The bread-and-butter was fresh and plentiful. Otter well. Stal- responded Mr. Stalbridge?" Wolf had never seen a physical human movement more expressive.

his hands thin and firm and nervous. and except for the malice and all. of a dark-blue shade. Sir. of that face by the Waterloo steps! reminded him "I've nothing to complain of. his rather grave into a thousand amiable wrinkles. His grey tweed suit. mischief that comes to mind. I've no grievance against the Almighty. classi- Darnley Otter was in every respect more of a fied "gentleman" than Solent. to look after some other guests. pointed. It's the Sir. fitted his slender figure to a nicety. that keeps us up. Van Dyck beard of a light-chestnut colour. since settled that little legal trouble of mine. But he make him think of that Waterloo-steps face? why did Mr. His necktie. it was impossible for Solent to imagine him laughOne facial trick he had which Wolf found a little . as they finished their tea and lit their cigarettes. thank I you Sir. His features were sharplycut and very delicately moulded. He had a trim. had evidently been very carefully chosen. His fingernails were exquisitely clean. The fellow's countenance did not It only remind him of Lord Shaftesbury." The air of courteous waiter exonerated Providence magnanimity with which the old made Wolf feel ashamed of every peevishness he had ever indulged. When countenance wrinkled itself he smiled. But he now hecame aware of something else about this waiter something that surprised and rather disturbed him.34 WOLF SOLENT man's hand. but he very rarely smiled. Stalbridge had left them. and for some rea- son ing. both the men. neither too faded nor too new. began to feel more comfortable When and reassured in their attitude to each other.

with Wolf . get it did not take them long to Solent's luggage. The curious thing about the anxMr. something that struck his natural ac- ceptance of It life as both monstrous and inexplicable. Wolf They were of a tint that face. He had never in the whole course of his life seen anything so harassed. quite tional different from any constituHis expression seemed to protest against something that had been inflicted on him. There was a sort of puzzled surprise in it. so anxious. a sort of indignant moral bewilderment. Their meal once over. some- nervousness. Otter's eyes was that it was unnatural. when their owner was unable any longer to avoid giving a direct glance. Nor was it just simply that the man was of a iety in worrying turn of mind. of Mr. in Mr. This habit was so constant with it him wasn't until the dialogue with the waiter occurred realized what his eyes were like."CHRIST! I'VE disconcerting steadily HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 35 since his own method was to stare so very a trick from under his his bushy eyebrows of hanging that that head and letting his eyelids droop over his eyes as he talked. That afternoon's drive from Ramsall mounted. Wolf had never seen before like the They were any human blue markings upon the sides of in freshly caught mackerel. But what struck Wolf most deeply was not the colour It was their look. and Wolf explained this to himself on the theory that the waiter's abysmal tact unconsciously relieved his interlocutor from the strain of habitual reticence. Urquhart's dog-cart. Otter's eyes. was when he spoke to the waiter that this unhappy expression was caught most off-guard. thing unexpected. as the expression in those eyes.

It was as if an enor- mous green or rather as ness created this tidal wave. was a road that ran along the southern slope of an arable upland an upland that lay midway between the pastoral Dorset valley which was terminated by the . heading for that rain-heavy western horizon. punctilious gentleman with the troubled mackerel-dark eyes. A chilly wind had arisen. was beautiful with an exceptional kind of beauty. with a thick bank of clouds. dark. composed of a substance more translucent than water. The road they thus followed. nor opalescent from their indirect diffused reflection. into which they were driving. if some diaphanous essence of all the greenby long days of rain had evaporated during fall one noon. emerald-coloured dew.36 WOLF SOLENT gard to King's Barton was a memorable event in Wolf's life. jogging leisurely along behind an ancient dapple-grey horse. The result of this complete extinction of the sunset in was that the world became a world its which every green thing upon its surface received a fivefold addition to greenness. only to twilight. It was one of those Spring evenings which are neither golden from the direct rays of the sinking sun. and as they sat by side in that dog-cart. cover- ing the western sky. they would pass very harmoniously indeed. with the approach of in a cold. He had come already to feel a definite attraction to- ward this scrupulously-dressed. followlittle ing a road parallel to and a to the right of that one which had ended with the cemetery. The evening itself. had flowed over the whole earth. down. he made up his side mind that if it was that his free hours to be in Darnlcy Otter's company were to pass. through which they drove.

that these scholastic activities of his were almost the sole financial sup- port of the family at "I do wish I Pond Cottage. Urquhart any expects from me. and his mother. What will he want me to do? Go searching round in parish-registers historical researches in my life. Mrs. I've only and so on?" The driver's gaze. still could persuade you. they were destination. Otter. Solent learned from a few courteous but very abrupt his explanations interjected by companions. Jason. remained unresponsive to the querulousness of this appeal. By one means and another such surmises in Blacksod Wolf was quick at he obtained an impression that this work to his reserved was anything but congenial companion. He also gathered that Darnley himself."CHRIST! rVE hills HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 37 and woods of High Stoy and the yet wider Somersetshire valley that spread away into the marshes of Sedgemoor. made compiled wretched summaries from books that everyone can get. sical except on Saturdays and Sundays. Urquhart. that the only other occupants of the house to which they were proceeding were Darnley's elder brother." he remarked. "I have a notion. "that you'll get light on a great many things as soon as you've seen Mr. when some two and a half miles from their "to give really me some sort of notion of I've never what Mr. He also began to divine." Solent began. worked as a clasunder-master in a small grammar-school in Black- sod. though certainly with no help from his well-bred friend. directed obstinately to the grey tail of their slow-moving horse. Solent." .

eccentric and gave it a more serious tone. "That's friend Miss Gault hinted." he said.30 WOLF SOLENT Wolf pulled down the corners of his mouth and lifted his thick eyebrows. fall and Wolf's attention reverted to what he could see of the famous Vale of Blackmore." he said. Otter gravely. Mr. "That depends. in fact?" Darnley did turn his bearded profile at this. the grooves." remarked Mr. Otter took no notice of this retort except to into a deeper silence than ever.' I've al- ways found him very sight of him. last holocaust. he caught a glimpse of that great valley. "I confess I begin to be a bit frightened. More and more did was entering into a the feeling grow upon him that he new world where he must leave befifteen hind the customs. My brother can't bear the Wolf made "I his favourite grimace again at this. every time a gate or a gap interrupted its green undulating rampart." he said. gathering the twilight about it as a dying wet ashes of his god might gather to his heart the cold. hope your brother will approve of me." civil. as they jogged along. Mr." just about what my He raised his voice is "Tell me. and his it tone had enough of a rebuke in malice in his companion. "The devil!" he thought. "what you mean by 'queer. "I to rouse a flicker of hope Mr. Every time the hedge grew low." "Jason' is a poet. the habits of long . Otter. Urquhart what you might call queer. Urquhart isn't a poet too.

." he thought to himwhile a sudden chilliness struck his face as their road drew nearer the course of the give river. where the donkeys stood and Punch and Judy was played! "I am within twenty miles of Weymouth here. lovely uninterrupted weeks of idleness.. the pompous statue of George the Third. memories of long. out beyond the bathing-machines. agitating and shameful scenes between his high-spirited mother and his drifting unhis up. And then in a kind of self-protective reassembling of his memories." he . not even for the sake of the slenderest 'peeled willow-wand' in Dorset." his As this thought crossed actually tightened his two bony hands tenaciously over his legs just above his knees. WE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 39 life. He summoned own delicious the sunlit bow-window at Brunswick Terrace. by the sea at Weymouth. "There's one thing. as if he mind he were fortifying himself against some unknown threat to his treasured vice. over the hot. the White Horse. the wave-washed outline of Portland breakwater! How he could recall his child- ish preference for the great shimmering expanse of wet sand. as opposed to these. when he read so many thrilling books in scrupulous father. dry sand under the sea-wall. the White Nore. "that I'll never up . How clearly he could see now the Jubilee clock on the Es- planade. as if great barrier of mental earthworks he could attack by the erection of a ward off any world upon his secret. irresponsible holidays."CHRIST! years of his self. he set himself to recall certain notable landmarks among his experiences of the up to the hour of this exciting He recalled various plunge into the unknown.

. the ground sloped cornfield after cornfield of young green shoots main ridge between Dorset and Somerset. all these leaves and grasses. to the isolated . in spite of its lack of hedges and trees!" Then he don. famous in West Counbetween Ramsgard and Blacksod. that's the place I love . conventional ambitions. "A double it life! A double life!" he muttered grey under his breath. . What a country this was! To his right. . . the hateful overcrowded years of college. full of the same flat. as they drove upwards to the great along. . as he lightened his grip his more world upon own bony thighs. From Shaftesbury. the interminable routine of his ten teaching.40 WOLF SOLENT thought. along which told only a mile or so away. recalled his tedious uninspired youth in Lon- the hateful day-school. it couldn't . . staring hart's nag. Urqu- swayed before him. Otter assured him between Salisbury and lay the him Exeter ! To his left the its Vale of Blackmore beckoned to him out of meadows meadows that were full of faint grassy odours which carried a vague taste of river-mud in their savour because of the nearness of the banks of the Lunt. so Mr. and also try history.. "That's where my real life began . the same sickening clevernesses? It couldn't Be so! this It couldn't . as at the rump of Mr. his companion main highway. on the north. . and moving his own still body a fiercely little forward... with enchanted springtime stirring in . Was he of going to be plunged now into another commonplace tedium.

Wolf felt the familiar mystic its sensation surging up even now from hidden retreat. thus leaning eagerly forward by his com- panion's side. he saw detached fragments of the earth's surface copses. as it anything that could encounter there. marsh-bird from dark untraverscd pools The airs of this that met its rising were full of the coolness of ! full this of the Whatever unsheathing of fern-fronds. . some inex- plicable prophetic greeting to returned native-born. as iron struck against of as flint. like some great moonlight-coloured fish from fathomless watery depths. his eyebrows contracted into a fixed frown his nostrils twitching. whispering. that valley stretched away. enlife. clicking. Up. to the south. it leaped forward mysterious faint now towards carried with it the new element as if conscious that it a power as formidable. up it rose. as he watched the horizon in front him grow each moment more fluid."CHRIST! I'VE HAD A HAPPY LIFE!" 41 eminence of Melbury Bub. intensify. as incalculable. like some wide-winged new world mosses. far-away fields hill-curves. more wavering. As he listened to the noise of the horse's hooves steadily clicking. stroy Thus clutching his legs as if to assure himself of his own and identity. clicking. so its it seemed. with every now and then a bluish spark rising in the dusk of the road. emotion was. this it and fragments of cloudless that came over him with a mounting confidence rich his furtive inner wonderful country must surely deepen. rather than threaten or deit. and hedges blend with fragments of cloud space.

"There! Perhaps you have a match. "There!" she exclaimed. as yours does on the front. which they had just carried in. sank into a confidential whisper. Darnley? It's so very characteristic! At least we try to keep it so. as you have to dress.A DORSET CHRONICLE o THIS IS knew you'd want think just it's TO BE YOUR ROOM. OTTER. Darnley? Darnley and I do it ourselves." she added. when he's out. but I rather comfortable. The whole look of to the visitor. "He's out now. don't we. Darnley?" Darnley obediently struck a match and proceeded to set alight two ornate candles that stood on a chest of drawers. . as the two lent's men stood in the doorway staring at So- pieces of shabby luggage. "l to see it at once. They both moved aside as she proceeded to make her way across the small passage. and above the fireplace. and Wolf peered into complete and rather stuffy darkness. don't you." SAID MRS. was detestable Above the bed hung an enormous Arundel print of a richly gilded picture by Benozzo Gozzoli. I think we might show him Jason's room. the chamber thus revealed. His own room is just opposite. for dining at the House? It's not large. My now that he felt quite envious of son Jason said only it. opening a door. of course. Filip- was a morbidly sanctimonious Holy Family by pino Lippi. where a few red coals still smouldered. looking on the back garden." Her voice.

peaked face. I'm sure I hope they'll be nicer to him than they were last time. for so prolonged a time. I daresay! I "Too wish he'd stick to Farmer's Rest. felt ashamed of rush of inconsiderate contempt that her manner of speech had provoked in him. high forehead. glancing at his watch and looking very significantly at his mother. "He the draught so terribly feels when he's indoors." murmured the lady. dear!" cried the lady hurriedly. he looked round with anxious concern at the room that was to be his base of operations. "At the Three Peewits?" retorted her son nice." remarked the son grimly. moving across the room. the smooth. "If he has. and a huge Alma-Tadema between the two windows. I We order it. "I'll be interested to see this confounded incense-burner. his secret fox's hole. turning Wolf.A DORSET CHRONICLE "I'd better 43 open the window a little. thin. the nun-like dress of the the first little and Wolf. Darnley and lasts a long time." he thought himself. mother." don't care for So a "He must have gone to Blacksod again." "We where are referring to the inns in this neighbourhood my son meets his friends. contemplating the woman. "No no. "There's something funny about to all this. it from little the Stores. the neatly brushed pale hair. There was a Leighton over the mantelpiece." Left to himself to unpack his things. It's only ciga- rette-smoke to and a little incense." remarked the mother." she added. hadn't I?" said Darnley. "He finds incense refreshing. and he divined at once that the spare-bedroom . drily.

and when he stood in the hall. and he thought to himself. hesitating over which The room to enter. but realizing that he trousers. . He quickly unpacked his clothes and put them away in easily-opening. deal with these awful pictures later!" And he little carefully extinguished his candles and stepped out on the landing. events were only now so many airy images. floating. . . "The poet's mother knows how to manage things!" He decided at first to confine himself to a dinner- jacket. household for mid- He leaned out of one of the windows. . but that's nothing. There was a vase of rust-tinted polyanthuses on the dressing-table. but the night was so dark he could see nothing except a row of what looked like poplar-trees and a clump of thick bushes. Urquhart receive me?" I'll his thoughts ran on. tie into a bow at the small mahogany-framed looking-glass. dining-room of Pond Cottage faced the drawing-room at the foot of the stairs. will Mr. "This brother of Otter's doesn't like him. and that these went best with the he changed his mind and put on As he finally lied his white ing of the full evening-dress. he could not help think- many unknown events that would occupy his thoughts as he stood just there in future days that ing. agreeably-papered drawers.44 WOLF SOLENT this was used as a depository by Viclorian works of art. had only one pair of black tail-coat. A sharp scent of jonquils was wafted up from some flower-bed below. drift- "How upon the sea of the unborn.

They'll be down. Just where Pond Lane turned into Lenty. She wanted to keep Otter in the house to deal with the beggar. as he made his way in the direction pointed out by the old woman. Looksy heres Mister! Master Darnley'll want to go 'ee. He crossed the threshold in answer to this appeal. "I know'd yer." Fortune favoured him more than he might have ex- pected. and there 'a be! Just 'ee go off now. "But if it isn't. "I know'd 'twas none o' they." the crone whispered. when other things were equal. by a bent old woman in blue apron. They're all on the jump about that chap's coming home. I can't help it.A DORSET CHRONICLE he was surprised to find himself beckoned to. quiet-like. Straight to the end of Pond. "I suppose this is Pond Lane. flexible. and God bless 'ee. So without asking any questions he silently and expeditiously obeyed the old servant. Don't 'ee let 'un go! 'Tis 'Tis no walk up to House. obliging. to be easy." he said to himself. Out wi' 'ee. straight along Pond Lane and down Lenty. and then down Lenty!" It was the nature of Wolf Solent. He snatched up his hat and his overcoat. Don't stand staring at a person toad-struck and pondering! Off with 'ee now! Be an angel of a sweet young gent! There! Don't 'ee wait a minute. afore 'ee can holler yer own name. 45 eagerly a and surreptitiously. soon as I did hear yer feet. afore they be corned downstairs. up to Squire's with Don't 'ee let 'un go! That's what I've got to say to 'ee. 'ee the I'll certify to 'ee Missus that I telled way to House. laying the dinner. and vanished into the darkness of the night. he met .

and from a few open spaces. and instead of it. the face faded. And. at that moment. Built in the reign of James the First. glory was its large and rambling garden a garden that needed more hands to keep it in order than the present owner was able to afford. crorwded with small faint stars. a pallid lu- minosity revealed the outlines of several wide. The sky had cleared a little. after he had rung the bell. themselves divided by stone-flagged paths.46 WOLF SOLENT difficulty in finding the drive-entrance to a group of children. But even as he looked. between the branches of a tall obscure tree that grew at the end of that yew-hedge. ready to vanish cock- wretched For one moment he had a queer sensation that that human face he had seen on the Waterloo steps there hung there also. Barton It it was not a long drive and Manor had always remained Its chief a small and unimportant dwelling. so wrought-upon were his nerves eyes of Darnley Otter. anxious. lichenspotted stone steps. intersected by box-hedges. high yew-hedge. there ap- peared to him the worried. and under their direction he had no King's Bar- ton Manor. looking in that uncertain light so mysterious and ill-omened that it was easy to imagine that on the further side of it all manner at of phantasmal crow! figures moved. standing on the top of the weather-stained. velvety lawns. to imbibe something of the beauty of this new surrounding. mackerel-coloured . Wolf could see at one end of these lawns a long. before anyone answered his ring. did not lead to a big house. Wolf Solent had time.

did not wait for his master's arrival. and as he approached he and over again. as he took the visitor's coat chest that stood in the hall. over soft. Very." am. gipsy-like complexion and coal-black hair. to reflect how oddly the servants in King's Barton behaved. voice: "What's this I hear.A DORSET CHRONICLE 47 He was him was. eh? What's this muttered. tall eh?" coachman. You received my letter and you came at once? Excellent. This figure. below the surface of his words. but a few minutes ago in the stable. Even at the very moment he was muttering an approsomewhat unusual greeting. to The man-servant who admitted dressed in rough workinga his surprise. eh? What's this I hear. gentlemen who come. or whatever he was. very good. Solent? Very good. He was an extremely powerful man. Wolf became aware of the approach of an imposing personage coming down the long hallway towards them. leaving Wolf to face his host without any official announcement. limping very much and leaning upon a stick. With one quick glance at Solent and a final "Excuse me. and hope me. Mr. The "Mr. disturbed in these fancies by the opening of the carved Jacobean door." . Solent." he said with a melancholy smile. Wolf Solent? Very. clothes. priate reply to this and al- lowing his thoughts. and had swarthy. Mr. Sir. or gardener. you'll excuse I He me way to apologize to I but that's the Sir. I satiny hear. I've "Excuse me. and laid it on a great oak been working never likes till "Excuse me. in a low.. very good. was in evening-dress. Sir!" he vanished through a side-door.

and some- thing profoundly suspicious in their intense question- ing gaze. His that was in the expression Wolf detected something that flitted across naturally large hair. which was almost as black as that of his man- servant. rich bundle Wolf of Chinese silk. The features of the face. Presently the squire spoke again. in the attitude of one idea whether he was arrested by sounds in the garden outside or sounds in the kitchen inside. his visitor's hand. were massive and refined. Dropping still. It them puzzled and him. and pendulous. Urquhart's stomach were unthat far too large for his feeble legs. "They didn't come with you then? They didn't bring you to the door then?" He spoke relief. Both Mr. made one aspect of it. Heavy eyelids. with what Wolf fancied was a tone of nervous . taken in their general outlines.48 WOLF SOLENT Uttering these words in the same low voice that made think of the unrolling of some great. baggy foldings below the eyes. Wolf had no a wig. One thing was certain. Greenish-blackness in the eyes themselves. amounting to something that might have been described as a hunted look. he offered his left hand to his visitor and kept stick that his right slill leaning upon the handle of the supported him. He himself heard nothing but the ticking of the hall-clock. An air of agitated restlessness. face The impression Wolf got from Mr. made another. Urquhart's was extremely complicated. made yet a third. caused Wolf to wonder whether or not he wore he suddenly stood stockwho listens. Urquperturbed hart's head and Mr.

eh? Fetch him? Did you say fetch him? Let's go in. Of course not! Come. brought in two steaming soup-plates. at the door through which the "I told him to lay three places." he Mr. 49 my way very easily." was all the visitor could "What's that? alone?" The You came man gave him alone? They let you come a quick. suspicious accent that Wolf looked him "They remarked straight in the face. like me to run over and fetch him?" he "What's that. Urquhart thought that. This is the way. if the door were opened and he called loud enough. and that Mr." he remarked. flicker one of his thick eyebrows. and limped a step or two towards the front-door. lifted "Would you said. "I sure they wouldn't let you come alone. know I had left the house.A DORSET CHRONICLE "I found reply. The table was laid for three. someone would respond at once out of the darkness. and a of a smile crossed his mouth. ." made Wolf. than Roger Monk. suspicious glance. and no sooner were they seated. Monk will have everything ready by now. Wolf received an impression that he wasn't believed. The dinner that followed was an excepin a plain dark suit. "Didn't Darnley come any of the way with you?" This was said with such a querulous. re-garbed as if by magic young maid and accompanied by a in cap and apron. Urquhart glanced servant had vanished." He led his visitor down the hall and into a small oak- panelled room. didn't even sternly. at this. Come along. come.

of impression. and opening upon an umbrageous picture by Gainsborough! vista resembling that "Our history will be an entirely new genre" Mr. Urquhart pursued independent researches in a room he called "the study. Very vividly he conjured up an image of that windowseat. so that tionally good one. Staring contentedly at a large monumental landscape by Gainsborough. ensconced behind mul lion-panes of armorial glass. while window- Mr." This was excellent news to the new secretary. if it were possible to decipher there a palimpsest of successive strata. Both host freely. Uris quhart was saying. He soon discovered that he was to labour at his par- ticular share of their grandiose enterprise in a seat of the big library of the house. where what might have been called the spiritual idea of a Country Road lost itself between avenues of park-like trees and vistas of terrace-walks. Such impressions are forever being human made and forever being obliterated in the ebb and flow of events. a more delicious sense of he had known for many actual physical well-being than a long year. as mysterious he sipped his port wine and listened to his host's mellow discourse. Wolf began to experience. but also a certain rapport between their personalities. and guest drank quite servants left them to their own devices. as "What I want to do to isolate the particular portion of the earth's surface called 'Dorset'.50 WOLF SOLENT and so also was the wine. there by the time the had emerged not only a fairly complete understanding as to the character of the work which Wolf was to undertake in that remarkable establishment. one inscribed below anolher. .

We must put in only what's got pith murders. in his chair. and and sap and fornications." and the muddy ditches "It's in fact a sort of Rabelaisian chronicle you wish to write?" threw in Wolf." he went on. "Are we quired. "Of course. a genuine continuity. "would occupy several lifetimes in the telling of it. as he wrote on the air. he waved to and fro. "Do you know what I've thought?" he said. Urquhart smiled and leant back He drained his wine-cup to the dregs. forming curves and squares and patterns. Mr. hand of a and. like the priest. Things like adulteries. a trail of filmy the smoke followed movements of his arm. Urquhart proceeded. eh? D'ye see the problem? Eh? What's to be done?" Solent indicated as well as he could by discreet facial signs that he did see the problem.A DORSET CHRONICLE 51 and the chronicle of them should be continuous." He paused in his discourse to light a ciga- rette. when it was lit. "We must select. Urquhart chuckled. His hand holding the cigarette was white and plump. my friend. and with half-shut . not episodic. All history lies in selection. "I've thought that I'd like to get the sort of perspective on human occurrences that the bedto possess posts in brothels of bar-rooms must come and the counters and the butlers' pantries in old houses in long-frequented lovers' lanes. which. intelligence in front of him. but left to the its solution profound Mr. We must select." salt. What's to be done then. to have any method of selection?" Wolf en- Mr. We can't put in everything.

he became conscious that Mr. but also with the deeply indented contours of his Holbein-like countenance! Mr. The parchment-like skin stretched itself tightly and sal there contemplating his firmly round the it bony structure of the cheeks. over the man's heavy eyelids and the loose wrinkles that gathered beneath his eyes.52 WOLF SOLENT full malignant eyes. Urquhart's coiffure seemed. like a drooping gonfalon. on either side of the "parting" in the centre of that massive skull. as though A veil of almost sacerdotal cunning hovered. Urquhart had left the mailer of Dorsel "I Chronicles and was speaking of religion." . had been vellum over a mysterious folio. While he was considering this phenomenon. But each furtive glance he look at the "Is it or isn't it raven-black cranium opposite tion less him made such for a supposi- and less credible. of a strange inward unction. as he imaginary History. "Thai doesn'l in ihe least mean I believe in the Chrislian religion. What still puzWolf more than anything else was the youthful glossiness of his host's hair. he squinnied at his interlocutor. by the flicker of the candles he seemed to detect the presence of actual individual hairs. an obtrusive and unnatural ornament designed to set off quite a different type of face from the one it actually surmounted. was broughl up an Anglican and I shall die an lhal Anglican. which contrasted very oddly zled not only with the extreme pallor of his flesh. The lines of his face. coarsely and strongly growing. a wig?" Wolf caught himself wondering again." he was saying. took to themselves the emphatic dignity of a picture by Holbein. in fact.

stark naked. "Eh?" he muttered. is 53 re- man continued. then straight out of the air there came into his the image of Mr. kneeling in the dead of night. "I like the altar. as if he were mentally examining it. dark." tbrew out Wolf sents cautiously. "Is the church in King's Barton ritualistic enough for your taste." There face. Tilly-Valley's . John Urquhart." the Solent. with a protuberant belly like Punch or Napoleon. The new secretary bowed raisins. "Repredid you say?" And then in a vague. as he did this. Tilly-Valley's his entertainer. grew fainter and fainter. "The all right. but his voice. "The came altar. as he uttered these words. discreetly over his plate of if it almonds and head He suspected that had not been for the excellence of the wine.A DORSET CHRONICLE There was a pause at this point. unfrequented edifice. Mr. dreamy. "Eh? What's that?" grumbled church here? Oh. while a storm of rain lashed the windows. "It does not matter to you then. the great swaying pontifical in front of him would have been more reserved in its unusual credo. And mind Sir?" he enquired. Urquhart smiled. Mr. Sir. "what the altar represents?" Mr. before the altar of a small. de- tached manner he repeated the word "represents" several times. the one absolutely satisfactory object of worinto ship left in our degenerate days. as a connoisseur might examine some small object. an expression Urquhart's that struck Wolf as nothing less than Satanic. while the squire filled his own glass and that of his visitor. and presently died away altogether.

its baggy eye- him between the candle-flames. to if The tone he had been permitted. "I hear? I make him say Mass every morning. that he had now really come across a person who. There came over him a feeling as airless night. was at once an agitating threat and an exciting challenge. He knew well He . just simply afraid. was a serious antagonist an an- tagonist who embodied a depth of actual evil such as was a completely new experience in his life. There was something abominably menacing in this great wrinkled while face. butting at It its pendulous eyelids. presented itself to his mind as a clear issue. He deliberately stiffened the muscles of his menace." donic leer. in that mysterious mylhopceic world in which his own imagination insisted on moving. folds. D'ye make him say Mass whether there's anyone there in or not. lay on his knee beneath the table. as it slowly dawned upon his wine-befogged brain. on an catch a glimpse of monstrous human lineaments behind the heavy rumble of a particular clap of thunder. lessly He straightened his body to meet this shoulders and glanced care- round the room. chair. He stretched out He threw one of his arms over the back of his as it clenched together the fingers of his other hand. care- fully parted hair. his legs." His voice sank into a whisper. He composed his countenance into an expression of cautious reserve. Urquhart uttered these words roused a definite hostility in Wolf's nerves. lowering his head between the candles as he possessed a pair of sacred horns. "Tilly-Valley's afraid of me. with its glossy.54 WOLF SOLENT He leaned forward with a sarif as docile as a ewe-lamb. This idea." which Mr.

A DORSET CHRONICLE 55 tions tary. too. I You have had a tiring clay. enough that what Mr. He opened the door for Wolf and they both went out into the hall. He knew that what he did not see was a furtive gathering together of the forces of an alien soul. What Wolf itself felt in his own mind just then summed in that up in vague half-articulated words uttered margin of his consciousness where the rational fades away going into the irrational. show you and if shall take you upstairs there's 110 knowing when we separate! By Jove"-~and he glanced "it's at the hall-clock past ten already! Better say good-night before we start talking again. good! Very good." he said. the squire of King's Barton that his had grown alive to the fact remarks were not meeting with the same magnetic response that they had met with at first. eh? You've got a walk before you. Well. come again by ten . as they stood at the foot of the stately Jacobean staircase. Urquhart rose and limped towards the door of the dining-room. a soul composed of metaphysical chemicals directly antipodal to {hose out of which his own was com- pounded. Urquhart saw in these manifestawas an access of casual bonhomie in his new secre- a bonhomie amounting to something almost like youthful bravado. "I think I will not the library tonight. Better say good-night before we get too interested in each other. "This Dorsetshire adventure is to be serious. And then he be- came suddenly aware that though quite ignorant of all that was occurring in the mind and nerves of his visitor. eh? What? Where'd that idiot put your things? Oh. Mr. "I think. After a minute or two of silence." he said to himself.

The question seemed disturb Mr. he found . and asked man him point-blank who this ill-advised predecessor of his was. the last thing he saw of Mr. then?" The wind whistled host's final past him as he spoke. I shall do better. after he had put it he turned to his host. propitiatory whisper. turning as he did so to the handle of the front-door. as the chilly much as March wind that blew in with a gust when the door was opened.56 WOLF SOLENT tomorrow morning and we'll settle everything. Urquhart was a feeble attempt the man seemed be making to cover his rotund stomach with the flaps of his dress-suit. "Eh? What? What's that? Didn't Darnley tell you? The boy ruined my History at the start. disturbed his physical balance. Urquhart's mental equanimity. in chaos. rid of him. o'clock I am it very relieved to find how much we've got in com- mon. as if he were ushering out a mador a policeman. and picked up and stick. I had to tear up every scrap. so that his word was scarcely to audible." by your assistance was by my Wolf walked to the place where his coat had been laid down by the man-servant. indeed. who kept uttering meaningless monosyllables in a silky. Eh? What? Didn't Darnley you? He left it He played hop-scotch with it!" Struggling with the heavy door and the gusty wind. Solent muttered a propitiatory reply. He dropped it and went tell all in a minute. Sir! "Very annoying You had to get I hope. his hat and on. as My History will not be betrayed last helper. In fact. When at last the great them and he was door had really closed between striding down the stone steps.

in a long. old-fashioned night- . himself. Or did he mean something quite different? Dead? Dead? But that wasn't the word he used. as he turned into Pond die he feels for his assistants when they at their post is anger like that.A DORSET CHRONICLE his 57 mind full of the impression which that inarticulate final the word had made upon him. There was a faint reddish light window of what he knew was his own bedroom. white. and lightly and stealthily He had no a middle-aged he slipped upstairs and entered his room. He then took the precaution of taking off his shoes." "Good Lord!" he Lane. he lit a match as soon as he was inside. sooner done so than a figure rose up from It a chair by the fire and stumbled towards him. "in the het of his job. without coming to any solution of the riddle. what did he mean?" His mind was so full of at the gate into the this problem that he arrived fore he in the was aware of small garden of Pond Cottage beit. "If it wasn't that he meant the fellow was dead. he that his predecessor in the study of Dorset Chronicles had died. "If all thought. and turned the key in the lock. was man. he must be a queer chap to deal with. looked forward with keen anticipation-to his in Dorset after twenty-five years. and he night first "She's given me a fire!" he thought to. as they say in that county. Opening the door quietly. and before he reached end of the drive and passed through the iron gates had come to the startling conclusion into Lenty Lane. What was the word he used?" And he continued worrying over the wind-blown sarcasm he had caught in the door- way.

but gradually." he too ' thought. would be at the silly very start. came before expected . mood had quite re- He went over in his mind his conversa- . irritation He began slowly undressing. It limit to at present. his habitual show touchiness and cantankerousness and was safe asserted itself. WOLF SOLENT with a woollen shawl wrapped about his shoulders." sentences humming in the air like the murmurs of some thick.. .. humbly apologize . let my fire out . After all. "Was writing poetry . in the freshness of the cool garden-smells. . muffled. . For a while his was prolonged by the way the wind kept makre- ing the candles flare. By the time he had blown out the flickering candles in bed. and the man's countenance was a mere blur above the folded shawl. "If I can't my room to myself I'll go somewhere else. there would be plenty of time feel to adjust all these things! He must and propitiate these people to the his way. . Once more Wolf found himself alone with the Landseer and the Alma- Tadema "This pictures. his accustomed equanimity turned. . "Does this incense-burner suppose that every- one in the world must humour his whimsies?" both windows wide and table. leaving these broken sleep well .58 shirt. hope you'll . Without further explanation the man pushed past him and went out. . . mechanical instrument. for the house was now as silent as the darkness outside it. lit He opened the candles on his dressing- Apparently Jason Otter had retired quietly to his bedroom. is have much!" he muttered furiously. light but the firelight in the There was no room.

A DORSET CHRONICLE tion 59 with Mr. all manner of trivial occurrences and objects of to this adventurous day began rising up be- fore him. grow- knew they could grow. that had refused to be reduced to a wig. as he with the grey paws of the cat upon Selena Gault's knees. Very vividly. upon a long-dead human skull! The jogging grey haunches of the mare that had brought him from Ramsgard confused themselves ing. Urquhart.Valley" repeated . as he leaned heavily their tea-table. more vividly than anything else. Urquhart as "Tilly- Valley. and wondered how far his imagination had led him on to exaggerate the sinister element in the man. He wished intensely that he had caught the drift of that final word about his predecessor. the Framed in the darkness that closed in coarse black hairs." While the syllables "Tilly. enchanted road revealed in that Gainsborough picture hovered before him and beckoned him to follow it. upon both the queer whitish scar on the back of that hand and the resemblance to the Waterloo-steps face. The abrupt apologies of Roger furtive exhortations of the old Monk melted into the woman in the blue apron. out of all proportion the rest. emphasizing themselves. Was he dead? Or was it only that he had been ignomin- iously dismissed? As he grew sleepy. He remembered now And then. metamorphosed themselves into similar hairs. upon him. he saw the waiter at the Lovelace. it seemed that he could think of nothing else but the completely unknown personality apparently that of the clergyman of the place re- ferred to so contemptuously by Mr. The long. in a strange half-feverish panorama. all suddenly.

but the cow couldn't quite lie down. like blue cotton-wool. soft. Something thick and heavy and sticky. the bent twig would "all be straightened out and all would be well! This being well" implied that that calm. It was a world Everything in the of material objects. far off. The cow lying down would be plantains a beautiful green that mound covered with larger. world was material now. He became some queer-shaped floating object that could not be put into words. . of which his mind was one.60 WOLF SOLENT themselves in his brain. something that preventing emanated from a black wig and a woollen shawl. it in that Something was from being straightened out. . When this thing rose to the surface. placid cow which was eating plantain-leaves under Basingstoke churchtower. till plantains grew larger and they became enormous succulent leaves as big as elephants' ears. the person concealed behind that odd appellation ceased to be a man. His mind was a little bluish-coloured thing. fluffy. and was extremely thick and heavy. a thing that was stirring. What was of importance was that an obstinate bend floating object should be straightened out. rising. Feelings were material. as if by masses of dead leaves. and had a taste like port wine! But there was another thing. Thoughts were material. covered up. like port wine. . and yet was of the utmost importance. far down. would give him illimitable reassurance and strength. and what was rising out of the dead . should stop eating and lie down. gathering. a thing that. im- peded its movements. in a minute more.

This is what made every material substance of such supernal impor- tance to him of an importance which perhaps material if all substances really did possess. and the bent twig was brown.A DORSET CHRONICLE leaves 61 was blue too. . . of planetary and be conscious with the conscious- ness of vegetable things and mineral things. It was as if in that slow sinking into sleep his soul had to pass all the long. . previous. were known. evolutionary stages life. but the sticky impeding thing was brown. .

waiting. he lay down again and gave himself up to the rainy air. clear that his bedroom was to be his No night-shirted intruder should run in and out at his pleasure! He leapt from the bed and proceeded to turn to the wall both of the mid. he realized it proceeded from those two heavily-framed pictures which gave to his chamber a sort of reading-room or club-room aspect. With clear to awareness of most of the things that at the had happened him in since he left his mother door of their little flat Hammersmith. once.GERDA IHE FIRST SENSATION TO WHICH WOLF AWOKE IN A morning of rainy wind and drifting clouds. he set himself with a deliberate effort to gather up his recent impressions and relate them as well as he could to the mood of yesterday's drive. expectant. full of the smell of young leaves and wet garden-mould. Harmless enough had they awaited him in the parlour of an hotel. And he it would also make sanctuary. That done. the He resolved to issue an ultimatum at He 'hadn't come to Dorsetshire to be oppressed by ponderous labours of Royal Academicians. he was were still oddly conscious that all his deepest instincts passive. they seemed no less than an outrage upon his senses when associated with this simple and in themselves quiet bedroom. As his mind began concentrating on this discomfort. He was like a man who re- . was a sensation of discomfort. Lying stretched out upon his back.Victorian masterpieces.

hesitates. but everything appeared in a cold. so different from the way in which they had appeared only some eight or nine hours ago. The tance importance of material objects their mystical imporhad been his last impression before sleeping. and reduced presented Each particular dominated the whole field of vision. he all these people of Miss Gault. never more cynically He surveyed at such times his dearest pathetic magnifying-glass in through a sort of unsymwhich there was not one of their frailties that did not stand out in exaggerated relief. so to speak. and as the images of sion before him. circular obscurity. It was surrounded. Everything that approached had few nervous chords. of the malign consciousness through which he saw them was at the same time telescopic and microscopic. but the fact that he recognized the transitoriness of the its mood did not diminish power. in a grateful placid lethargy. He was abnormally thing as it sensitive sensiitself at such times. of Mr. Urquhart passed in proces- was surprised at the light in which he saw them. as something . drying himself in the security of some alien beach. unmystical light. but with a curtailed bility. by a thick. It now was always thus when he awoke from sleep. The port-hole. of Darnley. too. Detail by detail he reviewed the events of the previous day. spiritual or psychic ones. and who. to begin his hunt for berries or fruits or fresh water. friends He was clairvoyant than on these occasions. It was no it primarily physiological. Nor was this sensi- tiveness itself an altogether It normal receptivity.GERDA 63 covers from the shock of a shipwreck. and approached it on the bodily plane.

where he could feel the wide horizons.64 WOLV SOLENT if it even were a mental image to be actually grasped with the five senses. and the word he was word life It fetish-worship. . mysterious. identity to houses. little the "souls. "souls" of planetary bodies and of the bodies of men and women. of all manner of inanimate things. trees. . animals. countrysides. "Am I inhuman in some appallingly incurable manaffection I have for ner?" he thought. he made a stronger effort than usual to get his thoughts into focus. chemical groupings that give a living . and he tried to analyze what sort of philosophy all the it was that re- mained with him during normal hours when his "mythology" his secret spiritual vice lay quiescent. That just that it! upon at last was the His normal attitude to was or nearer that than anything else! souls was a worship of all the separate. as he lay there. towns. The wet airs blow- ing in through the attempt." even. birds. if some clue-word that he could use to describe any of his new hit friends began ques- tioning him. "Is the human beings less important to me than the shadows of leaves and the flowing of waters?" . knowing that a long while must pass before he would have any chance of breakfast or even of a cup of tea. living he approached: "souls" of grass. fish. stones. His mind kept reverting to what he had fell during the drive with Darnley. It was as if open windows helped him in this he stole away from thai little round port-hole and shuffled off to some upper deck. the "souls" of all those strange. places. He fumbled about in his mind for some clue to his normal attitude to life it. And so.

and subtle He was worship" pleased at in this connection. the from the sight of Miss Gault and her pleasure with which he had surveyed the blue eyes had nothing sponsible. Their beauty held him in a magical enchantment. the deep satisfaction he derived cats. it certainly was different from "love. was a kind of exultant blending of vision and sympathy. . It feverish. above which the tassels of the blinds swayed to and fro in the damp gusts of wind." as it were. and between his soul and the "soul.GERDA He 65 gazed intently at the window-sills of his open windows. began hurriedly to shave himself. put- ting on his overcoat. He thought of the grotesque and obsessed figure of Selena Gault. demanded a response. using as he did so the cold water in his jug. of whatever it was he happened to be regarding. and pointed beard of Darnley Otter these things in them that was either possessive or re- And yet he lost all thought of himself in watching these things. there seemed to be established a tremulous reciprocity. No! Whatever this fetish-worship might be. as he saw them under certain lights. The delight with which he was wont to contemplate his mother's face under certain conditions." Love was a It possessive. It entailed responsibility. just as he used to do in watching the mossy roots of the chestnuts It avenues at felt for Hampton Court! and sycamores in the seemed then that what he both things and people. as she pulled up plantains from his father's grave. having thought of the word "fetishAnd it was in the pleasure of this thought that he now leapt out of bed and. called for thrilling mutual activity. exacting emotion.

" she said. Opening it cautiously. While at he was dragging the bath into his room. Redfern got quite used to us before he died. "I'll he shut the door and prepared to wash and dress. She smiled at him pleasantly. his safetyrazor in his hand. Dimity and I will "I be ready for you when you come down. Mr. his face lathered. while beside her tin was a wide balh and a can of hot water. and jerking both bath and can into his fortress. till you come down?" thank you! Thank you very much!" he shouted. "Darnley has had his breakfast and gone." she said. Solent. The whole process of his ablution and his dressing was now a mechanical accompaniment to absent-minded . This was followed by a gentle knock at his door. "Would you will like a cup of tea at once. Redfern?" "The gentleman who helped the Squire with his book. Otter herself standing there. when there was a sound in the passage outside that reminded him of the rattle of the milk-cans on the Longbourne Port platform. she turned the head of the stairs. He suddenly felt no better than a lout in the presence of this faded old lady. Do you think you can be ready in about half -an -hour?" Wolf bowed his lathered face and she went off. was waiting till I heard you move. Poor Mr. Jason does not get up till late.66 WOLF SOLENT He had not got very far with this. or you wait wait. he was surprised to see Mrs." "Mr. But you must have your bath now. He goes to Blacksod early. "You'll get used to us soon." Wolf hovered at the door. "I hope you'll be happy with us. however.

looking very pleased when Wolf explained to her what he felt about it. Wolf was not relieved from it. His dead face took during that half-hour the most curious forms. 67 on the subject of the dead Mr. It became the untidy heap of Wolf's dress-clothes. It became the spilt water It became the slop-pail. "These things came from my own home in Cornwall. on the pillows he himself had features. "This is my room. He saw him moulded as a pale. in fact. A nice death. emaciated youth. as he sponged himself Mr. no doubt. Redfern's behalf now that Wolf scowled at the in the tin bath. backs of these pictures. Redfern dominated that half-hour. It became the soap. gave the room a spirit that seemed to emerge from centuries of placidity and stretch out consolatory hands to every kind of wayfarer." said Mrs. Otter. pririts. till he found himself drinking delicious cups of tea and eating incredibly fresh eggs under the care of his hostess in their pleasant diningroom. old- old-fashioned engravings. Old-fashioned fashioned pastels. "I suppose he died here. to the exclusion of all other thoughts.GERDA fantastic thoughts fern. It upon the floor. became the sponge. ." He decided he would look for his grave in the King's Barton churchyard. Wolf saw him just lying stone-dead quitted. with those monstrous pictures lying like lead on his consciousness!" It was on Mr. Red- "This was the fellow's room. Urquhart called "TillyValley." he said to himself. with beautifully He wondered if he had been buried by the person Mr. The pictures here were of the kind that no phi- losopher could quarrel with.

was talking too much. Mr. work here he'd never have got that That library of Mr. They're in the drawing-room. Hostess and guest were interrupted in their rather one-sided tete-a-tete by the sound of footsteps descending the stairs." go and tell Dimity she need Jason will like to have a smoke expect I'll She disappeared through the door the very into the kitchen at moment when her elder son entered the room. But I like this room myself and I'm glad you do. Mrs. and it was only Wolf's power of automatically putting a convincing animation into his heavy countenance that prevented her from realizing how far away his thoughts had flown. young man! And he ivas so good-looking! My son Jason used to call him by the names of all the heathen gods. with you. dark-blue serge. Urquhart's was too learned for him. "We must have disturbed him. Wolf was astonished at the difference between the figure he had seen the night before and the figure he rose to shake hands with now. Otter "It's I jumped up at once. Red- fern used to love to read and write at this table. Jason!" she cried. dear." The visitor to King's Barton found his attention wandering several times after this. self-composed air of a much- . one after another! Jason was extremely upset when he died so suddenly. I believe if he'd done all his terrible illness. Jason Otler had the quiet.68 WOLF SOLENT The best things in the house belonged to my husband. Otler began to drift into rambling stories about her native Cornwall. Dressed in neat. Mrs. very valuable things. poor. I not clear away.

GERDA travelled 69 man of the world. Redfern's their cigarettes." have them put . table y and. Was it in taking care of him that Darnley's blue eyes had acquired their curious expression? Jason's own eyes were not tragic. they seemed to peer forth helplessly from the human skull behind them. they seemed to cry out for help without cessation or intermission." he beif gan. lighting looked each other up and down in silence. something almost indecent about the sensitiveness of this man's lined and indented face. privy or in the passage. He and Wolf favourite sat opposite each other at Mr. Jason Otter was decidedly nervous. indeed. as though some protective filaments that ought to have been there were not there! "I saw you'd turned our pictures to the wall. Forehead and chin were imposing and commanding. fixing his pleading eyes upon Wolf's face as asking for permission to humble himself I'll to the ground. Wolf saw his hand shaking as he lit a match. It made Wolf feel as though at all costs the possessor of such a countenance must be protected from nervous shocks. They were exposed. His clean-shaven face. There was. but this effect was diminished and almost negated by the peculiar kind of restless misery displayed in the lines of the mouth. They were something worse. in the "Ill have them taken away. and instead of glancing aside in the way Darnley's did. framed by prematurely grey hair. they were stripped bare. The man's eyes were large and grey. was massively and yet abnormally expressive.

That's what Bluethat's beard used to say. Mr. Mr. "It's only that It's I never can sleep in a room with large pictures.70 WOLF SOLENT "Oh. delicately. Otter's husband rather than to her son. A childish mischievousness illuminated his pallid physiog- No nomy." sooner had Jason heard this expression. Very gently." The head opposite him was so grey that he felt as if he were addressing this hint to Mrs. "A peculiarity? That's excellent. moving uel. and he chuckled audibly." he whispered earnestly. The face unwrinkled itself. like Agag before Sam- Jason rose to his feet. seemed to see with terrible distinctness the devoted lady of the house struggling alone with those "You must allow me on. in to do it myself. in a grave. "I'm if it going to beg Mrs. Otter to let me treat that room as were an unfurnished flat of my own. conspiring voice. But the humour passed as quickly as it had come. .' I think one of the prettiest excuses I've ever heard. The eyes became supplicatory. for he heavy frames. "I don't want anyone to be bothered about the mov- ing of those pictures." he went what he tried to make a casual. it's all right. airy tone." This explosion was so surprising to Wolf that all he could do was to open his mouth and stare at the man. "I think we'd better get those pictures changed now. Otter. nodding his head. The mouth tightened in solemn misery." returned Wolf. "a peculiarity of mine. a peculiarity of mine. Otter." than his whole visage changed. 'It's a peculiarity of mine. In fact." said Wolf.

"I couldn't felt as work in this and he spoke that his tone was cantankerous and im- polite. "I expect not! I expect not!" he cried cheerfully. he looked proudly and complacently round the room. he led the way into his own room. Otter. he found himself bold enough to host's make a faint protest against his Arundel prints. Sinking into a luxurious armchair and accepting a cigarette. to keep the populace at bay. as if conscious of the protection of the antique French chair in which he had ensconced him- . casual manner in the face of this gravity. whose ceremonious piety he found room. and stepping softly and were a dead person somewhere in the house. I myself could work in a church or in a museum." he murmured so distasteful. "Just me where to and moving put them!" to- together. rising wards the door." tell he said. do it like a shot." said back of the pantry. and under Jason's directions the Landseer and the Alma-Tadema were de- The two men went up posited in a vacant room at the "Come upstairs for a minute. in this Wolf as he felt the same uneasy sensations chamber had experienced the evening before. But Jason Otter showed not the least annoyance or even surprise at his guest's rudeness. a sort of papal guard. "There are few people who could. Mr. as if there was completed. I acts as a shield." As he spoke.GERDA Wolf "I'll 71 tried to retain his airy. It's like having a welcome anything that band of retainers. when this transaction quietly.

Mukalog. . from Mr. "It He brings it in sounds like a real idol . so that Wolf could scarcely hear him. the god of rain . . the a chuckle. lot of we know what letters these travellers are. a sale from some fool who thought it ." went on the poet. ." "The god of rain?" responded Wolf. but he had a after his name. The word "mythology" gave Wolf an uncomfortable shock. "I've only read one myself. . it Jason's countenance suddenly grew solemn and confidential. was nothing. man says." murmured Wolf." he whispered." continued the other. "so you needn't feel a fool." lowered his voice further. . "These priests look for God in the .. . clouds. and he pro- ceeded to dust with a large silk handkerchief. It was by that to Thibet. But in it he mentions Muka- god of rain. . . .72 self. He felt as a Catholic might feel if he heard a Methodist refer to the Virgin Mary. Malakite. but I never do that. "Of course. so I suppose he passed some examination. "I suppose you've never read any books on Hindoo mythology?" he said suddenly. and his face was wrinkled with amusement. I look for Him . beginning "That's what the to feel reassured. "He knows Latin. with man who went log." . He shook his head. "I bought it for thirty shillings He bought He it at . ." he added. WOLF SOLENT There was a Boule table it at his side. anyway. It's brought still me all my luck. "I've got here." Jason put his hand in front of his mouth as he said this. on the first page. the bookseller..

He snatched the thing away with a nerv- ous clutch. re- placed it on its jade pedestal. ?" "You say you look for Him ." said Jason Otter. and the expression of the man changed from extreme gravity to hobgoblinish humour. picked it up Mukalog. once more grave. "but the ways of God aren't as dainty as those of the Bishop of Salisbury. he finally it made a foolish schoolboy-like attempt to balance flat skull of its monstrous head.GERDA "I beg your 73 at- pardon?" questioned Wolf. the god of rain. and placed table. "In the mud!" he shouted. leaning . In this flies world Truth downward. and. just opposite "It's his it in the middle of the Boule Wolf. still staring in a sort of hypnotized trance at the . tentively forward. he rose to his feet and fetched from its pedestal a hideous East Indian idol. from the Stores"! While and in his host returned in silence to his profound dejection took out his Wolf. which Wolf noticed now. Wolf his rose. There was a pause. was standing near a carved brazier containing the ashes of some still-smouldering ashes doubtless that very incense which had to be "ordered French chair cigarette-case. with no great surprise. leaning over the table. not upward!" Hardly aware of what he was doing. hurrying to the back of the room. so occupied was his mind with the whole problem of his host's personality. Then. upside-down on the This proceeding brought a flash of real anger into Jason's eyes. Holding in absent-mindedly fingers for a while. . about six inches high. and. stomach that makes him so shocking.

Urquhart. "that poor chap Redfern committed suition. door. Ot- he said as he went out. moving to the As he placed his hand on the door-handle. "No wonder. had been carried to a greater length than any- where else in the world? any tales "You'd better not listen to about me that old Urquhart tells you. he felt though the evil spirit of Mukalog were serpentining towards him over the poet's shoulders and over the smooth Boule table." set himself to evil "god of kind of so wonder why it was that the which emanated from this idol should be distasteful much more than the kind of evil that emanated from Mr. He came sible for to the conclusion that although it is impos- any living human being to obliterate all elements of good from itself. crossed the landing and entered his that he He own room. listen to tales "I'm not one to ter." from anyone. anonymous image of idol creative energy evil that to create an should be entirely evil. as rise hurriedly "Certainly not. fixing his sorrowful eyes upon the visitor." he said brusquely. Now was alone." said the poet suddenly. Mr. as . both for good and evil.74 WOLF SOLENT rain. or for a writer. he fell into a very grave medita- he slowly laced up his boots." he said to himself. it is possible for an artist. or even for the of the race itself. But why should sinister than this Hindoo seem so much more any Chinese or Japanese monster? Was it because in India the cult of spirituality. The name of his employer made Wolf from his armchair.

however. on the further side of which. In fact. Well! Well! We we shall see. fidgetty mood that morning. The current of his mood was running more normally and gently by the time he found himself being escorted by his eccentric employer to the great isolated library which was now to be the scene of his labours. Wolf was not very much helped by these manoeuvres. he was teased and nonplussed. faint in the distance. seemed in a fussy. and then. Mr.GERDA cide! 75 What with this man's demon and Mr. Urquhart. muttering "That's good. preoccu- pied. He was anxious to find how much of a free hand he was going to be allowed. he could make out the high ridge of ploughed fields along the top of which ran the main road from Biacksod to Ramsgard. His dream by a mullioned window "blushing with the blood of kings and queens" turned out to be of the writing-table The view he got from his seat window surpassed the Gainsborough itself. this place doesn't seem a paradisal retreat. isn't it?" he would return them to the shelves and bring back others. The manor-garden melted away into herbaceous terraces and shadowy orchards." He carried his coat and hat quietly downstairs and to get out of the managed house unobserved by either Mrs. and he was also anxious to find out what out exactly . after he had opened them and read a passage or two. These in their turn faded into a green a literal presentiment. Urquhart's shall see what devilish History. at that pasture-land. Otter or the old servant. He kept bringing books from the shelves and placing them on his secretary's table. isn't it? That's the kind of thing we want.

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and there's very good ale at the Peewits. Urquhart came limping in in a slate of impetuous excitement. it I must give up any it. Half the morning had already passed in this way when Mr." object." and gave himself up note-making. "Eh? What? You don't mind walking a few miles. I've got a bill at the Three Peewits. as they are narrated by the sly Doctor Tarrant. He began before long to think that the Squire was all sagacity in this not so devoid of unusual method as he had at first supposed. and he added a few of his own. . "I must send you off at once to Blacksod. eh? It's Wolf folded up rant's History. where it was possible. Urquhart wanted done." With this intention in his mind. You can lunch in town at my expense. What he thought in his mind was: "This whole business is evidently just an old man's hobby. idea of taking seriously." he began. as soon as he was alone in his window. I must play with just as he's playing with it. eh? Roger says he can't spare the trap. tor's He exaggerated. and you can come back at your leisure. his notes and replaced Doctor Tar- He expressed himself as more than deit lighted to walk to Blacksod. and he enquired what was that Mr. You don't the nothing for a young man like you. the Doc- unctuous commentaries. "The History of the Abbotsbury Family.GERDA 77 Wolf listened patiently and dutifully to this discourse. he spread open before him that monument of scurrilous scandal. He transcribed in as lively a to leisurely way as he could the most outrageous of the misdeeds of this remarkable race.

there are two things that have come up. with a smiling inclination of head that resembled the bow of a great gentleman confessing a lapse of memory. a Talley- Eh? What? You'll have rand. a shadow. as if the question "The other thing?" he murmured dreamily. "Ah his yes. a nothing. Solent. per- was another little thing that It's you might as well attend to while you're about . His name's hold of Solent! Malakite. and a shuffling of his stick. Mr. both of them rather important. you are it. and with a quick alteration of his position. his eyebrows. There "Ah yes. You'll have to find out. I've just heard from my bookseller down there. one of those exposures of secret thoughts that to bring together levels seem of consciousness beyond rational thought. flicker. the lame man recovered his composure. eh?" he Wolf composed his countenance as intelligently as could and enquired what the other thing was. He says he's got the Evershot Letters. That's the book for us. That may be a lie. passed from one to the other. Solent. Privately printed and full of allusions to the Bramble- down Case! He says there's a man in London after it already. But the next moment. Urquhart lifted had been impertinent. A there was a startling change in that supercilious face. and that sort of thing. He's in Cerne Street." he murmured. You'll have to find out. You'll easily find him. as Wolf leaned back against the arm of his chair and looked straight into the man's eyes. fectly right.78 WOLF SOLENT "Well. Sometimes Malakite's let me have the use of a book and then sold it afterwards. It was all over in a moment. to be a diplomatist.

Tell the beggar good clear he that for let it English that doesn't set it I'll go to Dorchester for that stone if up within it's the week." Mr. but the expression upon his face was like that of some courtly prince-prelate of old times. and feel energetic. He's a jack-of-all-trades does under- taking and grave-digging as well as stone-cutting. "He's been as dilatory about Redfern's head- stone as he was about digging his grave. Eh? What's that? Torp. he finished his sentence. tions that he was unwilling "Mr. little matter of a headstone. go! Solent? But not important. fled to the He changed the position of one or two of the books. You can do it's me. of course. . Torp. Jog the memory of the good Torp. Urquhart became silent. But when the Squire turned round. If a bother. Urquhart shufbookcase. then. You'll easily the fellow. the stone-cutter. if you have time." Once more there was a silence in the library of King's Barton Manor. and as he did so.GERDA 79 not of any pressing importance. He has been disgracefully dilatory. but. with his back to his secretary. leaning heavily on his stick. he seemed this in the best of spirits. will you? That's the word. eh? What? Jolt the torpid in Torp. find Torp of Chequers Street. patiently and interrogatively. But I'm an old man and I don't think you're touchy about trifles. who desired his subordinate to obey instructo put into vulgar speech. Torp?" repeated Wolf. "It's not your job. kind of thing. "Just a other. as I say." went on the "Tilly-Valley's quarrelled with our sexton here. So I've had to use Torp as both sexton and undertaker." Mr. it might be a good thing to jolt the memory of Mr.

and if you're the kind of young genlleman think you are. "You'll excuse me. you'll listen to my words.80 WOLF SOLENT But have a good luncheon at the Three Peewits anyway! Make 'em give 'ee their own ale. went straight out of the room. after a moment or Iwo of that awkward hesilalion which a subordinate feels when he is uncertain as to what par- ticular gesture of parting is required. "These Barton servants seem pretty hard put to it. is. when the liltle sidehis hat and door leading to the kitchen hurriedly opened. It's good." Wolf contemplated had the the swarthy giant. Urquhart made as though the conversation had terminated. He had found of letting and was on the point himself out of the house. Mr. Mr. and Roger Monk made itation of a at himself visible. stick. Beads of perspira- . with bare throat torso of a classical athlete. who. Martin and myself. It's excellent. unless you you would be so kind. without a word. That individual down it at Pond Collage gets drunk on every night." earth is coming now?" thought Wolf. He did this with the precip- and he plunged once into rapid speech. that this house will be unless upset by breakfasl-time tomorrow. Sir." King's " Tisn't as though I didn't know that it's above my "What on province to speak. and bare arms. dressed in his gardener's-clothes. for troubling you. man the truth of the matter Sir. Monk tells me. "But speak I I must." Turning again to the bookcase. and Wolf." went on the agitated man. and ran downstairs. Solent. but reckless wilh anxiety. as to help Mrs.

Urquhart has to have 'em these days for and there ain't none of 'em in the house. sausages. for more than can say. Doesn't do." Wolf smiled he could. His smile was like the smile of some melancholy slave in a Greek play. I shall be delighted to help you and Mrs. Roger. and none can turn him. to go to town myself. and arti- am too set out. Roger. ones. to . Bob Weevil they're know him. What he puts his heart on he puts I've his heart on. Thank Sir. was downright distraught in thinking of Squire's like that. and he smiled sweetly. all hands made weak fumbling gestures "Certainly. "At Weevil's in full of relief and joy. High I Street. Tell knows me and they're for Mr. Solent. breakfast. I Mr. His voice sank into a confidential whisper. sages. and his great sunburnt in the air. 'ee and you can I I tell know! Two pounds of sauWeevil to put 'em down. doing this. Say Monk. it's sau- sages. What is it I can do for you?" By The tall servant's face relaxed instantaneously. "I'll in as grave and well-bred a manner as to bring you home some he said amiably. been with other gentlemen mostly in stable-work you understand but I've never worked for one like Squire. asking you to excuse me. it. Sir. what with horses to clean and chokes to plant and pigs in the yard to feed.GERDA tion stood out 81 on his forehead." cried the other. Mr." be very glad "At Weevil's. It eases a man's mind. means. "It's sausages. Monk. Don't mention He'll He Squire. And be sure you get fresh for me. Martin in any way I can.

the look of the their mud. ness. bare. smooth look of uncooked sausages. and gather if it volume and freedom. this day. and so I thank Mr. mingled with the foam of dark-brown ale and the peculiar. seemed to carry his mind back beyond any with definite recol- lections. branches. as into one. Wolf set out down the drive in extremely good spirits. leaves swaying in the wind these things hit his imagination with a sudden accumulated hands. The look of the oak palings. not with any idealistic emotion. he prodded the ground with his stick. the name of Malakite hovered in front of him. but with an . he strode forward with great strides. gustiness. He loved his father at that moment. made up out of fantastic names the name of Torp. the look of the branches. It its grey- suited his far. Solent. seemed to extend that with its gustily blown elm- itself before him along a road was something more than an ordinary road. It seemed to extend before him. And over and above such images floated the ambiguous presence of his father. Fragmentary images. his He rubbed This melancholy day. The its nature of the day. It didn't worry him its were many days rolled that it was Friday." And the man vanished with the same precipitation with which he appeared. far mood back completely. cloudiness. scarcely all budded embryo force.82 WOLF SOLENT is fixed. contravene Squire when his heart 'ee kindly. He felt as if everything that might chance to happen on this grey phantom-like day would happen under the direct influence of this dead man. Nothing suited him better than to have the day to himgelf. William Solent.

the deeply indented wooden steps leading to the all of rooms above. the highly-coloured lithographs of ligion. erations. "That must be where Roger lives" little Monk and without being seriously disturbed. about a quarter of an hour found himself in the centre of the village of King's Barton. But he walked on in in undiminished good spirits. All the cottages he saw here had protective cornices. the shining pots war and re- and pans. the grandfalher'sclocks. and it was easy for him to observe their quaintly furnished interiors: the china dogs upon the mantelpieces. under the passing feet of the genwas the actual doorstep which rose above it.* and in many laid between the door- cases this stone was as deeply hollowed out. step and the path. Almost the them had large flagstones. as Beyond these cottages his road led him past the low . it light seemed to him that he saw an image and of himself standing just inside one of the lower windows. the well-scrubbed deal tables. He stopped moment to stare at the window of this neat lodge thinking in his mind. heathen piety which allowed for 83 much equivocal indulgence.GERDA earthy. by reason of some impish trick of and shade. carved above windows and doors. as Wolf passed by. At the foot of the drive he turned into Lenty Lane. yellowish tint. liltle passing at the corner a trim cottage. of same mellow. whose gar- den of rich black earth was for a full of daffodils. chiselled and moulded with as much elaboration as if they were ornamenting some noble mansion or abbey. sensual. he was a startled when. Many of these cottagedoors stood ajar.

an extraordinary happiness took possession of him." pottering about the place. especially the many of the oaks and ashes. The ditches on both sides of the road contained gleam- ing patches of celandines. Some of them were really small dairy-farms. were yet quite bare. many of Wolf wondered vaguely yard his predecessor's stroke of in what part of the church- body lay that hiding-place without a headstone! He also wondered whether by some good luck he should get a glimpse of that sub- missive clergyman. but The hedges were already trees. in full leaf. tion He seemed to derive satisfac- from the mere mechanical achievement of putting . through the gates of whose muddy yards he could see pigs and poultry. satirically styled "Tilly-Valley. But the church remained lonely and unfrequented that at mid-morning hour. As Wolf walked along. but there was no sign of life there either. Nothing moved there but a heavy rack of dark-grey. sailing swiftly above the four foliated pinnacles that rose from the corners of the tower. The cottages grew more scattered now. Close to the church he perceived what was evidently the parsonage. At last he had passed the last house of the village and was drifting leisurely along a lonely country road. Here he stopped for a while to view the graves and to enjoy the look of that solid and yel proud edifice whose massive masonry and tall square tower gathered up into themselves so the characteristics of that countryside. wind-blown clouds.84 WOLF SOLENT wall of the parish-church. and sometimes a young bull or an excited flock of geese.

dark mud! The town of Blacksod stands in the midst of a richly green valley. whose world was limited to tree-roots and fern-fronds and damp. The hedges became . so made much more thrilling than if He felt as any human society he had ever met. following carries its the loamy banks of the river Lunt. and up and down its narrow pavements farmers and labourers jostle with factory-hands and burgesses. at the point where the Dorsetshire Black- more Vale. he enjoyed at that hour some primitive lifeidentical with feeling that felt. shire plain.GERDA one foot in front of the other. He asked himself lazily why it was that he found nature. many made here and also shoes. also leather gloves. grocers. Ironmongers. privilege to It 85 seemed a delicious him merely to feel his boots sinking in the wet mud merely to feel the gusts of cold air blowing upon his face. Wolf became con- scious that this lively agglomeration of West Country trade was about to reveal itself. was what these pollarded elms against whose ribbed trunks the gusts of wind were blowing. After walking for about two miles. Sausages are small made here and dlers. ferlilily into the great Somersetis it . sadshops dealing in every sort of farm-implement and farm-produce. or with what these shiny celandine-leaves felt. umbrageous district. fishmongers. Blacksod agricultural not only the centre of a large is the energetic arid bustling emporium of Cheeses are but enterprising factories. abound in the streets of Blacksod side by side with haberdashers. especially this simple pastoral nature that no attempt to be grandiose or even picturesque.

brightly-painted. And a then he found himself in an actual street. Neat lower. He less surveyed these little houses and gardens doubt- the homes of artisans and factory-hands with a feeling of almost maudlin delight. with trim but rather exposed gardens. wooden palings.86 WOLF SOLENT voluble. Bakers' and butchers' carts came re- swiftly past him. each exactly like the other. The little gardens. be manifested certain signs of Motor-cars showed themselves and even carts motor-lorries. The neatness. were delicious to him. But gave Wolf a mysterious satisfaction. with their crocuses and jonquils and budding polyanthuses. their fur- eyes watching the passers-by with the look of sick jackals. the blackbirds and thrushes less little villas began to appear at the roadside. street. with perambulators where the infant riders were almost lost beneath the heaps of parcels piled up around them. where daffodils in their royal nodded with a splendid negligence. He observed a couple of off their tramps taking boots under the hedge. the ditches shallower. as living in one of these places. It was new composed of spick-and-span it jerry-built houses. He overtook maids and mothers turning from shopping. their long brown peevish tive suspicious fingers untwisting dirty linen. behind low. the abnormal cleanliness of the brickwork and of the wretched sham- Gothic ornamentation did not displease him. as if ready largesse to do what they could for the and patient clerks humble their to shop-assistants who had weeded the earth about proud stems. He imagined himself and he realized exactly . Soon there began borough traffic.

" He gazed with interest at the various monuments for the dead. Torp's establishment was not far off. and as he walked. warning him that Mr. though no doubt it had something to do with the emptiness of his stomach. He walked very slowly now." He became alert now that faint contemplative people possess. to sit in the He tried to fancy what it would be like bow-window of any one of twilight. But it took the form of making him feel as if he were retracing some al- sequence of events through which long ago he had ready passed. He knew he was in Chequers Street. by grocers' shops and coal-yards. to prevent every delicate vibration of air and sky from reaching the skin of his very soul. the nature of which was very complicated. peering at the yards and shops on both sides of the road. sort of "second-sight. Woodbine. . these. Stone-Cutter. Bankside. He loved ihe quaint names of these little toy houses names like Rosecot. He loved the muslin curtains over the parlour-windows.GERDA 87 with what deep sensual pleasure he would enjoy the rain and the intermittent sunshine. Ah! There it was! "Torp. Primrose Villa. while the Spring noon slowly darkened towards He roused himself presently from these imaginations to observe that some of the real business of the little town was inter- becoming manifest. It only remained for him to keep his eyes open. and the ferns and flowerpots on the window-sills. a curious which almost all trance-like sensation came over him. There would be nothing artistic or over-cl uttered there. The houses began to be spersed with wood-sheds and timber-yards. drinking after- tea and eating bread-and-honey.

No sooner was he conscious of her presence felt another than he himself becoming as speechless with astonishment as the boy was at his own appearance. but smiling amiably at the "Get on! Get off! Don't worry the gentleman. Sir?" said Mr. do for 'ee. this about the earth. not attempt to rise. Torp." he thought. a lean. was clearing the with a whimsical fire. "I must get this Torp to show me what he's done for poor Redfern. just plump. Lob!" to the spellbound boy.88 WOLF SOLENT which lay about on the ground or stood erect and chalIt produced a queer imprescrowd of anonymous tombstones. She was a young girl . a and stared with a bold impertinence. sion. was smoking his pipe by the A handsome boy of about eleven. She sat on a stool opposite her father. He knocked admitted that that he cutter's at the it door and was so instantaneously was with a certain degree of confusion found himself in the very heart of the stonehousehold. "What can making any intruder. Mrs. murmured the woman And then it was that Wolf became aware of member of the family. as he passed on to the door of the house. fell back now eye. who had evidently opened the door to let himself out. at the stranger I The stone-cutter himself. lethargic man. midday meal. cadaverous woman. just finished their They had evidently table. leaning her shoulders against the edge of a high-backed settle. the owners and possessors whereof even now cheerfully walking lenging against the wall. Torp.

more suited to the summer than to a chilly day in spring. could hear the muttering viciously to herself and clattering angrily with the plates behind the kitchendoor a door she seemed to have left open on purpose. and her beauty was so startling that it seemed to destroy in a all ordinary human relations. Missus!" He spoke in a tone that implied that his own obesity must be accepted as a pleasant excucc for his retaining a sitting-posture. But Mrs. Her wide-open grey eyes were fringed with dark eyelashes. "Give the gentleman a chair. Sir!" cried the man cheerfully. "I believe to have the honour have taken the place of the gentleman for have just designed one of your monuments. leaning forward towards his guest and confidentially tapping his knee with his pipe. woman "Missus be cantiferous wi' terrible rotted." "Sit 'ee whom you down. as he seated himself with his face to the girl. Misler. "And them onions what she been and cooked all morning. Torp had already left the room with a tray." began Wolf.GERDA moment 89 of about eighteen. in a loud. moving I towards the stone-cutler. but the pe- emphasized the extraordinary suppleness of her shoulders and the delicate Artemis-like beauty of her young breasts. culiarity of this dress lay in the way it "I've come from King's Barton." I 'cos them 'taties be so remarked the man. Her voluptuous throat resembled long. and Wolf. so that she might combine the pleasure of listening to the conversation with the pleasure of disturbing it. Sit 'ee down. She close-fitting wore a simple dress. she've . an arum lily before it has unsheathed its petals. hoarse whisper.

" This last remark was due to the fact that the hand- some boy had edged himself quite close to Wolf and was gazing at him with a mixture of admiration and insolence. Mister. "What be a real girt that seal. when it be combed out. rather faintly. Now you be off to school. That's the Lord's own truth. but as he Wash?" Wolf put his arm round . There ain't house what thai poor woman hasn't to do. nothing in this blessed and her own daughter sitting round. but remained silent. "Be that what King John throwed into the the child's waist. keep his eyes away now suddenly became aware fully conscious of his agitation and was him with grave amusement. But her mother have to do it. smiled straight into his eyes. that the gumption to comb her own what I'm hair. strong as a May-pole. regarding was suppose you don't do any of the cooking?" he said. too. meeting her gaze. Lob Torp! Don't yer trouble the gentleman. "Save us and help us! girl ain't got cooking? Why. and it be mighly silky. telling 'ee. "She?" put Gerda tlo the in her father. W "I be hog-roots for all the Christian juice what be left in Wolf. She ain't got the durncd consideration to comb her own hair. She changed her position into one that emphasized her beauty with a kind of innocent wantonness.90 WOLF SOLENT Them onions might as well a-boiled all taste out o' they. who had found girl it difficult to from the that she by the settle. like on your chain?" he enquired. Mister.

. Torp. or 'be 'ee from Lunnon. "Aren't yer going into the yard? That stone for Mr. Maids what won't help their mothers in house. with a shrug of his shoulders. yer? I had thought maybe you knowed some wealthy folk out in country what had a waiting corpse. Mister. He comes to see 'un five times a if day. as this 'ere . Torp to think of extending his activities." Wolf rose to his feet. to im- ply that there was little need at present for Mr. At that Mrs. shall I tell "What Mr. "So you came about that. Manley's mother's been waiting since Sunday. maids what do nought but walk out wi' lads. 91 moment "Well. Redfern?" He utlered these words in a more decided and all propitiatory tone than he had yet used. Do 'ee come from these parts. and the family stared at him with placid surprise. 'tisn't up afore to- morrow. Redfern were? . Torp re-enlered the room. that!" cried Mr. 'tis strange that two young men same as you be should come to Blacksod. "Could you show he asked abruptly. eh? Well. he looked* steadily at Gerda. John?" she said. I reckon. me what you've done for Redfern?" . did "Oh. He'll be a crazed-man like. Urquhart about the headstone less for Mr. and both be Lunnoners! But Lunnon. had best be in Lunnon their own selves! ful to look at. that's what I tells our Gerda here. I expect they That there Metropolis must be summat wondermakes their own moniments in them parts?" Wolf nodded.GERDA did so.

92

WOLF SOLENT
"Well, there ain't no harm in
that, is there,

Missus ?"

said the stone-cutter, looking appealingly at his wife.

"Best show him," said the lady briefly. "Best show

him. But
is

let

'un understand that Mr. Manley's mother
first."

what comes

The obese
the

stone-cutter
the yard.

rose with an effort and

led

way

into

Wolf stepped
and

aside to permit

the girl to follow her father;

as she passed him, she

gave him a glance

that resembled the sudden trembling

of a white-lilac branch, heavy with rain and sweetness.

Her languorous personality dominated the whole occasion for him; and as he watched her swaying body
moving between those oblong stones closure, the thought rose within him
this, there

in

that
if

cold enhis sub-

that

terranean vice couldn't find a place for loveliness like

must be something really inhuman

in its ex-

actions.

With an
istence?

incredible rapidity he began laying plots to

see this girl again.

Did Mr. Urquhart know of her
Otter ever seen her?

ex-

Had Darnley

... He was

roused from his amorous thoughts by an abrupt gesture
of Mr. Torp.

"There
as Squire
in

'a

be!" said the carver.

"

Tis

Ham

Hill stone,

Urquhart said for'n to be. I does better jobs marble; and marble's what most of 'em likes. But

that's the order;

and the young gent what
the upright yellow slab,

it's

chipped

for can't help 'isself."

Wolf regarded

upon the top

of which was a vigorous "Here Lies," and at the foot of

which was an even more vigorous "John Torp, Monument-Maker."

GERDA
"You
drily.

93

haven't got very far, Mr. Torp," he remarked

"Won't take me more'n a couple
it

o'

afternoons to finish
tell

up," replied the other.

"And you can
Manley be
I'll

hart that as soon as Mr.

satisfied

Mr. UrquMr. Man-

ley of Willum's Mill, tell 'un!

get to

work on his

a clean joh of he." young There did not seem any excuse just then for prolonging this interview. Wolf's mind hurried backwards and

friend and

make

forwards like a rat trying

to find
let

a hole into a pantry.

He

thought,

"Would they

her show

me

the

way

to

the Three Peewits?" and then immediately afterwards

he thought, "They'll send the boy, and Fll never get rid
of

him!"

In the end he went off with an abruptness that was almost rude. He patted Lob on the head, nodded at the
stone-cutter,

plunges
Street.

into

plunged into the eyes of Gerda as a diver water, and strode away down Chequers

was not long before he was seated at a spotless white cloth in the commercial dining-room of the faIt

mous West Country inn. In front of him mahogany sideboard, which served as a

rose a massive
sort of sacred

pedestal for the ancient silver plate of three generations of sagacious landlords. In the centre of this silver

were two symbolic objects adorned with a white paper
apple-tart.

an immense
frill,

uncut ham, and a large half-eaten

Wolf was
selves.

so late for luncheon that he

and a solitary
the

waiter had the whole dusky, sober

room

entirely to them-

They were, however, looked down upon by

94

WOLF SOLENT

ferocious eye of a stuffed pike and by the supercilious eye of Queen Victoria, who, wearing the blue ribbon of
the Garter, conveyed, but only
lid,

by the

flicker of

an eye-

her ineffable disdain for

all

members

of the

human

race

who were
as

not subjects of the House of Hanover.

he lingered over his meal, drinking that dark, foamy liquor that seemed the dedicated antidote to a grey March day, he permitted his fancy to run riot with
the loveliness of

And

Gerda Torp.

How

remarkable that she
yet in her silence

had never once opened her
she had compelled both that
as

lips!

And
He

room and

that yard to serve
tilted

mere frames

to

her personality.

back in his

chair,

and pressed the palms of his hands against the

edge of the table, revolving every detail of that queer scene, and becoming so absorbed that it was only after a perceptible interval that he began to taste the cigarettes

which he went on unconsciously smoking. The girl was not the particular physical type that appealed to him most, or that had, whenever he had
most provocative effect upon his it, the but the effect upon him of a beauty so overpowsenses; ering, so absolute in its flawlessness, was great enough
across

come

sweep out of sight all previous predilections. And now, as he conjured up the vision of what she was like,
to

seemed that nothing more desirable could possibly happen to him than to enjoy such beauty. He made up his mind that by hook or by crook he
it

would possess
with her.

her.

He knew

perfectly well that he could

not, properly speaking, be said to

have fallen in love

He was

like a
all

man who
life

suddenly finds out that
thirst,

he has suffered

his

from

and simul-

GERDA

95

taneously with this discovery stumbles upon a cool cellar of the rarest wine. To have caught sight of her at
all

was

to

her

a craving that

be dominated by an insatiable craving for made him feel as if he had some

sixth sense,

that must be satisfied by the possession of her, and that nothing but the possession of
satisfy.

some sense

her could

Drugged and dazed with the Three Peewits' ale and with these amorous contemplations, Wolf sat on betrance. His

neath that picture of Queen Victoria in a species of erotic rugged face, with its high cheek-bones and
hawk-like nose, nodded over his plate with half-shut lecherous eyes. Every now and then he ran his fingers

through his short,

stiff,

fair hair, till

it

stood up erect

upon

his head.
last,

"Well, well," he said to himself at

"this won't

do!" And rising abruptly from his chair, he gave the waiter, who, in his preoccupation had been to him a mere
white blur above a black coat, an extravagant lip halfa-crown, in fact and, taking up his hat and stick, told

them

to put

down

his

meal

to

Mr. Urquhart's account,

and stepped out

into the street.

The

cold, gusty wind,

his brain at once.

He made up

when he got outside, cleared his mind that he would

leave the bookseller to the last; and, stopping one of the
passers-by, he enquired the

way
first

to Weevil's grocery.

Never did he forget that
the centre of Blacksod!

lingering stroll through

be doing their

The country people seemed to shopping as if it were some special fete.
all

Parsons, squires, farmers, villagers

were receiving

obsequious and yet quizzical welcome from the sly shop-

96

WOLF SOLENT

keepers and their irresponsible assistants. The image of Gerda Torp moved with him as he drifted slowly

through

this

animated

scene.

Her

sweetness

flowed

and flowed out around him, heightening his interest in everything he looked at, making everything seem rich and mellow, as if it were seen
through his senses

through a diffused golden
tures of Claude Lorraine.

light,

like that

of the pic-

And

all the

while over the slate roofs the great grey
spirit,

clouds rushed upon their arbitrary way. His

drunk

with the sweetness of Gerda and the fumes of the Three
Peewits' ale, rose in exultation to follow those clouds.

Whirling along with them
of his spirit, while his
stick

in

this exultant
its

freedom

human

figure with

oak walkingfelt

tapped the edge of the pavement, he

a queer

need, now, to carry this maddeningly sweet burden of
his to that

mound in the Ramsgard cemetery. "He would chuckle over this," thought Wolf, as he recalled that profane death-bed cry. "He would push me
on to snatch most scandalously sult be as it may!"
His mind dropped
all

at this girl, let the re-

now

like a leaden

plummet
. .

into

manner

of erotic thoughts.
its

Would

her silence go
.

on ... with
if

indrawirig magnetic secrecy

even

he were making love to her? Would that glaucous

greyness in her eyes darken, or grow more luminous, as he caressed her? Gerda certainly couldn't be called a

"peeled

willow-wand,"

for

her

limbs

were rounded
that

and voluptuous,
lethargic

just as her face

had something of

sulkiness

that

is

seen

sometimes in ancient

Greek sculpture.

GERDA
It

97

was

just at this point that, looking

round for a

person to enquire of again concerning the sausage-shop, he felt himself jerked by the elbow; and
suitable

him, smiling up into his face, was the handsome, mischievous countenance of Lob Torp. "I see'd 'ee, Mister!" burst out the boy breathlessly.
there, in front of

"I see'd 'ee long afore 'ee could see I! Say now, Mister,

have

'ee

any cigarette-pictures on 'ee?"
the excited child thoughtfully. Surely

Wolf surveyed
"If
I

the gods were on his side this day!
haven't, I soon will have," he brought out with

a nervous smile, searching hurriedly in his pockcls. It appeared that he did have a couple of half-used
packages, containing the desired
paper.
little bits

of

stiff,

shiny

"There, there's two, at any rate!" he said, handing

them

over.

Lob Torp

scrutinized

the two

cards with a disap-

pointed eye. "They ain't Three Castles," he said sadly.

"Them others He meditated
ets.

hain't as pretty as they

Three Castles be."

for a

moment, with his hands in his pock-

"Say, Mister," he began eagerly, with radiant eyes. "Tell 'ee what I'll do for 'ee. I'll sell 'ee the photo of

Sis

what

I

a-going to gie I

be taking down to Bob Weevil's. He were summat for'n, but like enough it'll be
gie 'ee the picture

worth more to a gent like yourself. Conic now, mister,
gie
I

a sixpence and
to

I'll

and say

nought

Bob."

The

ingratiating smile with which

Lob

uttered these

words would have been worthy of an Algerian streetarab. Wolf made a humorous grimace at him, under

98

WOLF SOLENT
mask of which he hid annoyance,
:

the

uneasiness, curi-

osity.

The boy continued " Tis a wonderful pretty picture, Mister. I looked it me own self. She be ridin' astride one of them wold tombstones in Dad's yard, just the same as 'twere a girt 'oss."
Wolf, after a pause, boy into the door of a shop. But Lob Torp was evidently an adept in the ways of infatuated gentleat it," said

"I don't

mind looking

pulling the

men.
"Threepence for a look, Mister, and sixpence for to keep," he said resolutely.
Wolf's tongue to cry, "Hand it But an instinct of suspicious over, .boy. keep dignity restrained him, and he assumed a non-committal,
It

was on the
I'll

tip of

it!"

negligent

air.

But under

this air the ancient, sly cun-

ning of the predatory
springs of his
it

demon began to fumble at the intention. "I'll get Bob Weevil to show

to

have

me," the Machiavellian monitor whispered. "I shall it in my hands then without being indebted to this
little

rascally

blackmailer!"

He

turned to the boy and took him by the arm.

"Come

on, youngster!" he said. "Never

mind about

the picture.

Much
shop

belter give

now

your friend! I'm going to Weevil's myself, and you can show me ihe way. I'll
it

to

give you your sixpence for that!"

He

pulled ihe child

forward with him and made him walk by his side, his arm ihrown lighlly and casually round Lobbie's neck. Bui all ihis sagacious hypocrisy no more deceived ihe cynical intelligence of Gerda's brother lhan did the
unction of that

arm about

his shoulder!

GERDA
The
"Don't
where.
bles. I
I

99
little eel.

child slipped out of his grasp like a
'ee

hold on to

I ain't

I, Mister. I ain't going to rin noschool the go-by for to play mara-gived

be goin' fishing with Bob Weevil, present.

He

lets

hold his net for'n."

"Oh,

is

there any fishing about here?" enquired

blandly, accepting his defeat.

Wolf The boy skipped a pace
Nought but
to

or two like a young rabbit.

"

'Tain't

what you'd

call fishing, Mister.

minnies and

stickles, 'cept

when us do go
girt

Willum's
to hook.

Mill. Woops-I!

But them

chub be hard

And
'Tis

Mister Manley he when us be down

likes to

to

farmer be feeding
real fishing."

'isself,

keep them for the gentry. Willum's of an evening, when that Bob and me do a bit of

olent irony.

Wolf surveyed the good-looking urchin with benev"Have you ever landed any of those big

chub?" he asked. And then he suddenly became conscious that the nervous, hunted eye of a very shabby

clergyman was observing them both, with startled interest, from the edge of the pavement. "We're near where us wants to go now, Sir," was the
boy's irrelevant response, uttered in a surprisingly loud
voice.

When

they had advanced a

little

further, the child

turned round to his companion and whispered furtively. "Yon Passon were the Reverend T. E. Valley, Mister,

from King's Barton. 'Ee do talk to I sometimes about helping he with them holy services up to church; but Dad he says all them things be gammon. He's what you
might
call

blasphemious,

my Dad

is;

and

I

be blasphe-

100

WOLF SOLENT
I

mious, too,

reckon; though
lets

Bob says

that

High Church

be a religion what
days. But
I

a person play cricket on Suno' that,

takes

no stock

being as cricket and

such-like ain't nought to I."

"Tilly-Valley!

Tilly-Valley!"

muttered Wolf under

his breath, recalling the contemptuous allusion of

Mr.

Urquhart.

"Here we

be, Mister!"

cried Lobbie Torp, pausing

before a capacious old-fashioned shop, over which was written in dignified lettering, "Robert Weevil and Son."

They entered

together,

and the boy was

at

by a young man black hair and a pasty complexion. "Hullo, Lob! Come to see if there's fishing tonight?" Wolf advanced in as easy and natural a manner as
behind the counter, a young he could assume. "I must propitiate

once greeted man with

my

rival,"

he said

grimly to himself. "My name is Solent, Mr. Weevil," he said aloud, "and I come on behalf of Mr. Urquhart of King's Barton."
"Yes, Sir, quite so, Sir; and what can
I

do for you,

Sir?" said the young man politely, bowing with a professional smirk over the polished counter.

"The gentleman's been
his

to see

high treble.
I

"And he saw
rinned after

Dad," put in Lobbie, in Sis, too, and Sis seed
the

him, too; and

him and showed him
Sir, or for

way!"

"And what can
hart,

I

do for you,

Mr. Urqu-

Sir?" repeated the young grocer. "To tell you the truth, Mr. Weevil,
there,

it

was Monk, the
and

man up

who asked me

to

come

to you. It appears

he's run out of sausages

your especial sausages

GERDA

101

he begged me to take back a pound or two for him." "I'll do them up at once for you," said the grocer
benignantly. "I've just had a new lot in." It was not very surprising to Wolf to notice that his

young guide hurriedly followed Mr. Weevil into the recesses of the shop. From where he stood he could see the two of them quite clearly through an open door, the dark head and the fair head close together, poring over some object that certainly was not sausages!

A

shameless and scandalous curiosity seized him to

share in that colloquy. The various paraphernalia of the the piled-up tins of Reading Biscuits, the shop,

great

copper canisters of Indian teas, the noble erections of Blacksod cheeses all melted all grew vague and indistinct.

"Mounted
to himself;
girl's

astride of a girt tombstone," he repeated

and the thought of the cool whiteness of that skin and its contact with that chiselled marble
irrel-

reduced everything else in the world to a kind of

evance, to something that fell into the category of the tedious and the negligible.

There came at last an outburst of merriment from the back of the shop that actually caused him to make a few hurried steps in that direction but he stopped short,
;

"I really by can't join in libidinous with the Blacksod popujesting lace just at present!" he thought to himself. "But there's

interdicted

his sense of personal dignity.

plenty of time. I've no doubt William Solent would have had no such hesitation!" And the thought came over him

how

ridiculous these dignified withdrawings of his would appear to that grinning skull in the cemetery.

"Don't tell Gerdie what I said about that picture. with the it." He paused and gave Wolf's companion a glance of complicated significance. "There you are. with dignified amiability. Books were evidently something for which they both entertained a hostile young grocer gave him detailed which Lob Torp listened with satiric condescension. for the wind had veered from northwest to due north. The house itself was a solidly constructed. and was both surprised and delighted by the number and rarity of the works exposed there for sale. "Malakite. will you?" he added. and puffing out his cheeks as he did so. Wolf. Lob.102 WOLF SOLENT But the youth and the boy came back again now gravely enough to the front of the shop. Ah! There was the second-hand-book shop. There was a tone in this remark that caused Wolf's face to stiffen and his eyebrows to rise. "And now per- haps you can kite's. He walked very slowly this time along the Blacksod pavements. "See you both again soon!" murmured suspicion. Urquhart will find those to his taste. handing him a lusty package. sturdily built Mid-Victorian . But the to instructions. and the air that blew against his face now had whistled across the sheeptracks of Salisbury Plain. sir!" said Bob Weevil. as he left the shop. "I think Mr." written above He paused for a second to gaze in at the window. tell me. "where I can find Mala- the book-shop?" The two friends exchanged a puzzled and baffled glance. not unmixed with disapproval. and he found himself buttoning his overcoat tightly and turning up his collar. single curious word." he said.

In that twilit place glue-pot upon it was almost spectral to see the eyes in that old furrowed face staring forth like black holes burnt in a "I startled you. as if to follow his folio to the ground. hollow eye-sockets. At first he found it difficult to see clearly. bearded. He pushed open the door and entered the shop." muttered wooden panel." to totter For one second the old bookseller seemed and sway. with sunken cheeks. sealed in a corner of the shop upon a rough. Wolf gently. tossing the the floor. old man. he made out a tall. with a in front of him. His approach was so easy dim light. cold afternoon. The old man's head was bent low over his work. for it was already nearly four o'clock. "Mr. 103 and there was a little open passage at one side of it. collected voice. the gas-jets unlit. and. advancing towards him between rows and natural in that of books. into a small walled-in garden at the back. His . closely cropped grizzled hair. and he made no sign of having heard anyone enter. But after a moment of suspense. am very sorry. gaunt. Sir. but he mastered himself. faded horse-hair chair. he could see. leading. Malakite?" said Wolf quietly. I disturbed you. and stumbled to his feet with such agitated violence that the round table collapsed also. that his astonishment may be imagined when the old man let the folio fall to the ground. spoke in a dry. leaning against the arm of his horse-hair chair. "It's a dark. the place ill-lighted. carefully little round table gumming together the loose leaves of a large folio which he held upon his knee. with a grey slate roof. the sky heavily overcast.GERDA erection. drawing I'm afraid I back a little.

is. could have been more quiry. Mr. when in the Inferno he heard a similar question from that proud tomb. Wolf. "My father's name was William a master at I Ramsgard School. and sank back again upon his chair. young man?" he said sternly. Mr. Your father. He made a feeble gesture with one of his long. We were intimate His death was a great blow to me. "Who are you. old man. startled than Wolf was at this extraordinary en- "My name He was in is Wolf Solent. The after a pause." friends." The. on hearing these words. Urqu- hart. My mother London.104 WOLF SOLENT as words were unexpected to his visitor as his agitation had been. "Who were your parents?" Not Dante himself. Solent. gave vent to a curious rattling sigh. voice. moved up to the bookand with an easy and spontaneous gesture . hearing these words. truth many things. am acting now as Secretary for Mr. bony hands. half sorrowful. lives swered humbly." he anSolent. reminded me of things that ought to be reminded me of. "I knew your father quile well.of too "You must forgive me. Mr." he said "You must forgive mo. Sir. half apologetic. like the sound of the wind through a patch of dead thistle-heads. deep down in his throat." but his next remark was quiet and natural. your coming suddenly upon me like that." The old man's voice rose at the words "too many. sir. was a very remarkable man. Solent. seller's side. Malakite.

GERDA
laid his

105

upon
met

the

hand upon the hand arm of his chair.

of the old

man

as

it

rested

"You

are the second friend of

my

father's that I

have

lately," said he. "The other was Miss Selena Gault." The old man hardly seemed to listen to these words.

kept staring at him, out of his sunken eye-sockets, with deprecatory intensity.

He

Wolf, beginning to

feel

a

little

uncomfortable, bent

down and occupied himself by picking up the fallen table, the glue-pot, and the folio. As he did this he began
grow aware of a sensation resembling that which he had felt in Mr. Urquhart's library the sensation of the presence of forms of human obliquity completely new
to

in his experience.

sooner got the folio safe back upon the than the shop-door swung open behind him and table, closed with a resounding noise. He glanced round; and
there, to his surprise, stood

He had no

gentleman brought in
orderliness, that

Darnley Otter. This quiet with him such an air of case and
felt

Wolf

a wave of very agreeable re-

assurance pass through his nerves.

He

was, in fact, thor-

oughly relieved to see that yellow beard and gracious reticence. The man's reserved manner and courtly smile
gave him a comfortable sense of a return to those normal and natural conventions from which he felt as if he

had departed very

far since he left the tea-room of the

Lovelace Hotel yesterday. The two young men exchanged

greetings, while the

owner of

the book-shop observed

them with a

sort of
feet.

patient bewilderment.

He

then rose slowly to his

106
"It's

WOLF SOLENT

time for tea," he said, in a carefully measured voice. "I generally lock the place up now and go up" stairs. I don't know He hesitated, looking from one to the other. "I don't know whether it would be asking too

much

if I

asked you both to come upstairs with

me?"
Wolf and Mr. Otter simultaneously expressed their extreme desire to drink a cup of tea with him.
"I'll

go and warn

my

daughter, then," he said eagerly.

if this young gentleman and myself were already old friends. By the way, this and he turned to Solent "is the book I folio, Sir"

"You know, Mr.

Otter, I feel as

trust

wrote to Mr. Urquhart about. I think I shall have to it with you. It's a treasure. But Mr. Urquhart is a customer of mine. I don't think he'll want to purgood
it

chase

though.

Its price is

higher than he usually cares

to give. Will

you excuse me, then, gentlemen?" So saying, he opened a door at the rear of the shop and vanished from view. The two men looked at each

other with that particular look which normal people ex-

change when an extraordinary person has suddenly
them.

left

"A remarkable
shop.

old chap," observed

Wolf

quietly.

Darnley shrugged his shoulders and looked round the

"You

don't think so?" pursued Solent.
all right,"

"Oh, he's

admitted the other.

"You don't like him, then?" The only reply to this was an almost
"Why, what's wrong?"

Gallic gesture,

implying avoidance of an unpleasant subject.
said Solent, pressing him.

GERDA
make himself more

107

"Oh, well," responded the Latin-teacher, driven to
explicit.

"There's a rather sinister

legend attached to Mr. Malakite, in regard to his wife."

"His wife?" echoed Wolf.

"He is said to have killed her with shame." "Shame? Do people die of shame?" "They have been known to do so," said the
master, drily, "at least in classical times.

school-

You've prob-

ably heard of CEdipus, Solent?"

"But CEdipus didn't
gods carried
"Well,

die.

That was the whole point. The
Malakite

him away."

perhaps the gods will carry Mr.

away."

"What do you mean?" enquired Wolf, with
terest, lowering his voice.

great in-

"Oh, I daresay we make too much of these things. But there was a quarrel between this man and his wife,
connected
with
his

fondness
sister

for
.
. .

their

daughter,
.
. .

this
.

young Christie's elder there was a child born,

and

well

.

.

too."

"And
It
it

the wife died?"
died.

"The wife

The

girl

was packed

off to Australia.

was taken away from

seems she couldn't bear the sight of her child, and her. I can't tell you whether
it

the case got as far as the law-courts, or whether

was
it."

hushed up. Your friend Miss Gault knows all Wolf was silent, meditating upon all this.

about

"Not a very pleasant background
ter!" he brought out at last.

for the other daugh-

"Oh, she's a funny little thing," said Darnley, smiling. "She lives so completely in books, that I don't think she

108

WOLF SOLENT

anything that happens in the real world very seriously. She always seems to me, when I meet her, as
takes
if

she'd just
it.

come out
She and
I

of a deep trance

and wanted

to

get on splendidly. Well, you'll in a minute, and can judge for yourself." see her Wolf was silent again. He was thinking of the friend-

return to

ship between this old
in his

man and

his father.

He pondered

mind whether or not

to reveal to

Darnley the un-

expected agitation which his appearance had excited. For some reason he felt reluctant to do this. He felt

vaguely that his new closeness to his cynical progenitor committed him to a certain caution. He was on the edge

manner of dark entanglements. Well! He would use what discernment he had; but at any rate he would
of all

keep the whole problem to himself. "I went to Torp's yard," he remarked, anxious to

change the subject. "The fellow doesn't seem
got very far with

to

have

Red fern's headstone."

Darnley Otter lifted his heavy eyelids and fixed upon him a sudden piercing look from his mackerel-blue eyes.

"Did Urquhart "Only the book
to

talk to
at

you about Redfern?" he asked.

grumble

him

for doing something about

that didn't suit his ideas. Did you know him? Did he die suddenly?" Mr. Otter, instead of replying, turned his back, put his hands in his pockets, and began pacing up and down the floor of the shop, which seemed to get darker and

darker around them.

He

slopped suddenly and pulled at his trim beard. "I cursed my wretched school-work to you yesterI

day," he said. "But when

think of the misery that hu-

GERDA

109

man
say

beings cause one another in this world, I am thankful that I can teach Latin, and let it all go. But I dareI

exaggerate;
that

I

At

moment

the

daresay I exaggerate." door at the back of the shop

opened,

trance, called out to

and the old bookseller, standing in the enthem in a calm, well-bred voice.

"Will you come, gentlemen? Will you come?" They followed him in silence into a little unlit passage. Preceding them with a slow, careful shuffle, he led

them up a flight of steps to a landing above, where there were several closed doors and one open door. At this open door he stood aside and beckoned them to enter.

The room, when they found themselves within
lighted by a pleasant, green-shaded lamp. There

it,

was

was a

burning in ihe grate, in front of which was a dainty tea-table wilh an old-fashioned urn, a silver teapot, some cups and saucers of Dresden china, and a
fire

warm

large plate of thin bread-and-butter.

From

beside this

table

a

fragile-looking

girl

who

might have been anything between twenty and twentyfive rose to welcome them. Darn ley Otter greeted this

young person in the matmer of a benevolent uncle, and while Wolf and she were shaking hands, retained her
left

hand

affectionately in his own.
left

Solent had received, since he

King's Barton, so

many disturbing impressions, that he was glad enough to yield himself up now, in this peaceful room, to what
was really a vague, formless anodyne of almost Quakerish serenity. What he felt was undoubtedly due to the
personality of Christie Malakite; but as he sank
in

down

an armchair by her

side, the

impression he received

110

WOLF SOLENT

of her

appearance was confined to an awareness of smoothly parted hair, of a quaint pointed chin, and
of a figure so slight

and sexless that

it

resembled those

meagre, androgynous forms that can be seen sometimes
in early Italian pictures.

to pass lightly

For several minutes Wolf permitted the conversation and .easily between Darnley and Christie,
tea.

while he occupied himself in enjoying his
not, however, hesitate to cast every

He

did

then surreptitious glances at the countenance of the old extraordinary man, who, at a little distance from the table, was reposing in a kind of abstracted coma, his bony hands clasped

now and

around one of
Then,
ing his
least
all

his thin knees,

and his eyes half-closed.

in a

'visit to

moment, Wolf found himself describthe stone-cutter's yard, and without the

embarrassment enlarging upon the hypnotic charm

that
It

had been

cast

appeared, for

upon him by the loveliness of Gerda. some mysterious reason, that he could
two people than he had ever

talk

more

freely to these
life.

talked in his

He had

come,

little

as he

had

yet seen of him, to

have

a genuine regard for Darnley Otter, a regard that he had reason to feel was quite as strongly reciprocated.

And

in addition to this there seemed to be something about the pale, indefinite profile of the girl by his side, the patient slenderness of her neck, the cool detachment

of her whole

attitude,

that unloosed the

flow

of his

speech and threw around

him an unforced consciousness
and
at

of being at one with himself

one with the general

stream of

life.

Darnley rallied him with a dry shamelessness about

GERDA
his
ter;

in

confessed infatuation for the stone-cutter's daugh-

and

Christie, turning every

now and

then an almost

elfish smile

toward his voluble

talk, actually offered, as

she filled his cup for the third or fourth time, to help

him
self,

in his

whom
is

adventure by inviting the young woman hershe said she knew perfectly well, to have
liked to

tea with

him any afternoon he
I

name!
have

"She
her.

beautiful," the girl repeated. "I love to watch

But

warn you, Mr.

Solent,

you'll

many

rivals."

"She's worse than a

flirt,"

"She's got something in

remarked Darnley, gravely, her that I have always fancied
a sort of terrible pas-

Helen of Troy must have had
sivity.
I

ready.

know for a fact that she's had three lovers alOne of them was a young Oxonian who, they tell
terrific rake.

me, was a

Another, so they say, was your
forgive

predecessor, young Redfern. But none of them

seems to have, as they say down here, 'got her into trouble.' None of them seems to have

me, Christie dear!

made
sesses

the least impression

upon her!

I

doubt

if

she pos-

what you call a heart. Certainly not a heart that Solent" he smiled one of his gentlest ironic smiles you, "are likely to break. So go ahead, my friend We shall
!

watch the course of your 'furtivos amores,' as Catullus would say, with the most cold-blooded interest. Shan't
we, Christie?"

The young
vocative,
after a

girl

turned upon Wolf her steady, unpro-

indulgent gaze. "Perhaps," she said quietly,
in

moment

which Wolf
like

had encountered her mind
a flowing river

felt as though his mind two bodiless shadows in
it

"perhaps in

this case

will be differ-

112
ent.

WOLF SOLENT
Would you marry
it,

her

if it

were different?" These

words were added
have indulged

in a tone that

had the

sort of faint

aqueous mischief in
in,

such as a waler-nymph might

contemplating the rather heavy earth-

loves of a pair of mortals.

"Oh, confound
for

it,

that's

going a

little

too fast, even
fol-

me!" Wolf
it

lowed,

protested. And, in the silence that seemed to him as if these two people,
this Christie,

this

Darnley and
in

had managed between them,

some

sort of subtle conspiracy, to take off the de-

licious edge of his furtive obsession.

"Damn them!"
to talk

he muttered to himself. "I was a fool But there
it

about

it.

is!

None
less

of their chatter

can make the sweetness of Gerda

entrancing." But even as he formulated this revolt with a half -humorous
irritation,

he was aware that his

mood had

in

some im-

perceptible

way changed. Under

cover of the friendly

badinage that was going on between Darnley and Chrislie, he once or twice encountered the silent observation of
the old bookseller,

who had now
all
it

lighted his pipe

and
it

was watching them
occurred to

with a cloudy inlentness; and

him

that

was quite as much due

to the

shock of what he had heard about the old

man

that this

change had come, as to anything that these two had said. "But to the devil with them all!" he muttered to himself,

as he and Darnley rose to go. "I've never seen any-

thing as desirable as that girl's body and I'm not going
to be leased into giving
it

up."

Before he

left

the house, the old bookseller

wrapped
it

the folio in paper and cardboard and placed

in his

hands, making, as he did so, an automatic reference to

GERDA
his

113
its

professional concern about

well-being. But the

expression in Mr. Malakite's hollow eyes, as this transaction took place,

seemed to Wolf

different significance

some

have some quite significance in no way conto

nected with the History of the Evershot Family.

All the

way back

to King's Barton, as the

two men

walked side by side

in friendly

fragmentary speech, Wolf

kept making spasmodic attempts to adjust the folio and
the sausages so as to leave his right

hand

free for his

oak -stick.

He

rejected

all

offers of assistance

from

his

companion with a kind of obstinate pride, declaring that he "liked" carrying parcels; but the physical difficulty
of these adjustments had the effect of diminishing his

response both to the influence of the night and to the conversation of his friend.
It

was quite dark now; and the north wind, whistling
had
be-

through the blackthorn-hedges, sighing through the tops
of the trees, whimpering in the telegraph-wires,
to acquire thai peculiar burden of impersonal sad-

gun
ness,

which seems

to

combine the natural sorrows of the

human
The

generations with some strange planetary grief
is

whose character
in spite of the

unrevealed.

influence of this dirge-like

wind did by degrees,

numbness of

his obstinate clutch

upon

his

packages, come

to affect Wolf's

mind.

He seemed

to rush

backward on the wings of this wind, to the two human heads to the fleshless head of William Solent buried in
the earth

and

to the despairing

head of that son of perdi-

tion crouching at

Waterloo Station.

He mentally compared, as he shouted his replies to his companion's remarks against the blustering gusts, the

114

WOLF SOLENT

sardonic aplomb of the skull under the clay with that ghastly despair of the living, and he flung over the thorn-

hedge a savage comment upon the ways of God. The trim beard of Darn ley Otter might wag on ...
like a brave bowsprit
.
.

.

"stemming nightly to the pole" but the keel of every human vessel had a leak
.
.

.

it
.
.

was only a question of chance .just pure chance how far that leak would go ... any wagging
.

.

.

beard

.

.

.

any brave chin might have
. .

to cry,

at

any

moment, "Hold, enough!"

.

And

suddenly, in the covering darkness,

Wolf took

off his hat

and stretched back
it

his head,

straining his

neck as far as

would go, so

that without relaxing the

movement
into

of walking, his up-turned face might

become

horizontal. In this position he
infinity

made

a hideous grimace
at

a

grimace

directed

the

Governing

Power

of the Universe.

What he
.

desired to express in this

grimace was an announcement that his own secret happiness had not "squared" him.
. .

His mind rushed upwards like a rocket among those distant stars. He imagined himself standing on some incredible promontory on the faintest star he could see. Even from that vantage he wanted to repeat his defiance

not "squared" yet,
yet!

crafty universe!

not "squared"

and the wind. . without putting his resolution any formal shape. He saw nothing of either of the brothers. after dinner with the Otters. into and he resolved. Jason had not yet appeared. squares in the extended whiteness indicated the exile of all art except that of the air.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 1 HE DESTINIES CERTAINLY DID APPEAR ANXIOUS TO his "square" him. vague delicious therefore. Urquhart turned out to be so delighted with the book. and though there had been some vague reference to his accompanying Darnley in his early start. the four bare walls. He took his bath with unalloyed satisfaction between like a great come seems. for when that evening. Otter. like most conspirators. he repaired to the Manor House with packages. Wolf awoke. who. From his conversation at breakfast with Mrs. on this day of Saturn. ing This was all agreeable enough to Wolf. that as soon as his business with Malakite was settled. that he commissioned him to return to the bookseller the very next morning and make the old man a liberal offer. had a furtive desire to be left to his own was now clear devices. he would make his way to the stonecutter's yard. in that mood wherein the sense of happiness-to- melted pearl. whereon certain dimly outlined the sun. it that the younger Otter wished his mornwalk to be free of human intercourse. to cover every immediate object and person with a liquid glamour. Mr.

This suited him well. Wolf entered for the second time the establish- ment of Mr. and. as if the proposal were a mechanical form of politeness.116 WOLF SOLENT it he learnt that was possible to reach the portion of the town where the bookseller lived without following the whole length of Chequers Street. trace of He agreed so quickly to Mr. and was preparing to bid the bookseller farewell. a letter from his mother. as midday meal. that Wolf felt a little ashamed of his own skill as a business intermediary. when the man asked in a blank and neutral voice. followed the man up the dark stairway with unquestioning docility. that he suspected to be from his coat-pocket. as he wished to time his appearance at the Torp menage so as to be certain of finding the girl at home. It lacked about an hour of noon. But accept he was glad to escape the tedium of haggling. Solent. dusting the . laid carefully at the edge of his plate. "Will you come upstairs with me. He had discovered. if he were the Torps so as to catch them at their to this suggestion. afraid of Selena Gault. and another letter. Mr. Both these epistles he hurriedly thrust into any ill-omened side-tracking of his plans for that auspicious day. and have a glass of some- thing?" Knowing that there to time his visit to was no immediate hurry. when. Urquhart's offer. He found Christie in a long blue apron. The old man received him without the remotest the emotion of the preceding day. Wolf assented on the former occasion. with a Ramsgard postmark. John Malakite. armed with permission to bid as high as five pounds for the Evershot chronicle.

THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG little 117 sitting-room. Solent." Christie nodded gravely. "after you went." girl uttered these While the words. Malakite muttered some inarticulate apology and went down to his shop. "I wrote to her yesterday. As soon of this peculiarity." he said. The dress she now appeared fitting in it and so tightly that not was of a sombre brown. only enhanced her slenderness. "when I would be certain of finding her. interrupted in some sacred rite. Wolf was touched by the grave awkwardness with which she pulled this garment over her head and flung it down before offering him her hand. No The girl stood for a visitor. If I'd known you were coming in today she'll I come anyway. he found his attention wandering from the meaning of her as he became conscious . "Well. With her smoothly parted hair and abstracted brown eyes she resembled some withdrawn priestess of Artemis. looking down returned her scrutiny without emdelicious sense of age-long intimacy and who ease flowed over him." she said. Wolf became aware for the first time of the extraordinary key in which her voice was pitched. than Mr. Mr. but also gave her an almost hieratic look. It was a key so faint and so unresonant as to suggest some actual deficiency in her vocal cords. But I daresay often does pay me visits. She might have asked her to tea. "I suppose you're not going to leave Blacksod without seeing Gerda?" "I thought of waiting till their dinner-time. Redfern's head- stone can be dragged in again as an excuse. sooner was the guest seated. upon her barrassment. A while in silence." she murmured.

. glancing sideways at him while she rested on the handle of the poker. Her remark. said. "That girl must be sick of admiration. her nose. slipping past him into an alcove that adjoined Wolf took advantage of her absence to move across to a bookshelf which already had attracted his attention. giving the impression that she was peering out at him through the drooping tendrils of some sort of wild vegetation. as may well be imagined." observed Wolf." retorted Christie. was not received with any great ardour by her guest." she the room. But she moved to the fireplace now and bent her back over it. smiled as she replaced the silver poker by the "Gerda knows well enough that / don't worry about her." "I expect her mother knows how well she can take care of herself. A couple of thin loose tresses of silky brown hair hung down across her brow. striking a little lump of coal with an extremely large silver poker. "Pardon me a minute.118 WOLF SOLENT speech and focussing itself upon her curious intonation. her mouth. "Take care was that Why it the devil shouldn't she lake care of her- self?" this And occurred to him to wonder how it sophisticated young lady had ever made friends with the stone-cutler's daughter. Christie's manners were so well-bred that it was difficult to associale her with a family like the Torps. girl The side of the hearth. "What an expression!" he of herself! cried petulantly." she added. her chin. "wouldn't you think so? Her mother must have an anxious time.

certainly did . "You're fond of philosophy?" he added. of chairs. He observed the unadulterated mid-century style of its cut- its antimacassars. "I see you read Leibnitz. as the morning light fell upon these things across the grey slate roofs in the and the yellow pansies window-box. and was its pages. Hurriedly replacing the book in its place and raising the wine to his lips. and of the heavy gold frames of its water-colour pictures. With it seemed to new gravity upon the features of its mistress. I've always been rather attracted to him though just why. and his eyes grew narrow and small. or Urn-Burial. of its individuality. I'd be puzzled to tell you. The room. when the girl returned with a glass of claret in her hand. too." He settled himself again in his wicker-chair. She seated herself near him upon the sofa and smoothed out her brown fingers.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 119 What first arrested his interest now was an edition of Sir Thomas Browne's "Hydriotaphia. skirt thoughtfully to with her She was evidently anxious this answer this impor- tant question with a becoming scrupulousness. scowling amiably at her. more abstruse volumes that her bookshelf contained. Miss Malakite. I notice." he said. His thick eyebrows contracted as he did this. "Don't you find those 'monads' of his hard to understand? You've got Hegel there. wine-glass in hand. Wolf as if the little sitting-room itself its awoke from somnolence and asserted glass chandeliers." He took this book down from the shelf. of its rosewood Geneva clock. he dreamily turning could not resist commenting upon some other.

" she went like on. I you suppose?" at She looked him as if she had been blowing soapat bubbles and he had thrown his stick one of them. Spinoza's 'substance' 'idea. speaking with extreme precision. "but all these queer non-human abstractions. "I mean they turn " into what I call 'atmosphere. "I mean as I say. "What do you mean melt?" he murmured. as deprecating her extravagant pedantry." philosophy in the light of "How do you regard it then?" Christie Malakite sighed." at expressing myself." she answered. "that suits "The tone of thought. she "I'm afraid I'm hopeless said. "All that every one of those old books has its for me.120 WOLF SOLENT its possess a charming character of own." he threw best. They seem to at melt." Christie beI know is own atmosphere gan. "I don't think I regard 'truth' at all.' and Leibnitz's 'monads' and Hegel's don't stay hard and logical to me. "There irrelevantly. dusky carpet and the great mahogany curtain-rod across the window gave "I don't understand half of what read. I which the thick. a character to the final touches." She slopped and looked if Wolf with a faint smile." "Atmosphere?" questioned Wolf. as if of the physical utterance of words were difficult to her and she expected her interlocutor to get her meaning independently of them. with a shade querulousness.' in. are so many of them!" she murmured . "I suppose it's funny to talk in such a way.

" he said . . get a sudden feeling of far away from where you going on outside over wide tracts of country . But don't follow 121 tease yourself trying to my awkward ways of putting things. Mr." "I'm following you with the greatest Wolf. . . same as life but Oh! Can't you see what I .. said to say w. I into When you . parapets of . their pointed roofs. bridges. mean?" She broke patience. . "It's just what to hear. off with an angry gesture of im- Wolf "I bit his lip to suppress a smile. while I you're reading a book." she explained. with dead . . "that philosophy is the mean. . "when you hear words! the rain outside. Solent. their avenues of trees I'm tiring you with all this!" But I'm afraid "Go I on. .. "I regard gasp.' but just as a particuI "What mean lar country.. trees at crossroads ..THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG "So many?" "So many truths.. little At that moment he could have hugged the nervous figure before him. . flinging each philosophy. . ." she went on. life itself . for heaven's sake!" he pleaded. . their Gothic buildings. as if you were driving in a carriage and all the things you passed were . can't put life sit it You know what mean? Oh. in which I can go about countries with their own peculiar light. leaves blowing over ." interest. with a little out the words almost fiercely." she went on. not as the 'truth." that it's want "I mean like the way you feel about things. them . . I don't park-railings of course. know perfectly well what you mean. lamp-lights on ponds.. . .

"It's I Descartes! He changed queer.' when we look up from I absorbing books . so that its he could see of her face was delicate profile. "Philosophy to you.." she went on. which were clasped so close to Christie's elbows as almost to touch them. in carriage-windows . is "Don't you see that what I'm admitting an unscru- pulous desire to make love to your young friend?" "Oh!" She uttered this exclamation in a faint... It's life framed room-windows . "that pletely about Gerda. and to me. like a wistful little wind sinking down among you might make her un- feathery reeds. in mirlife rors . "But you leave out so many things in all this. .. isn't science at all ! It's life It's . and you leave out your own character. of in framed caught on the wing. in waking-dreams perfectly well what you mean!" Christie do know drew up her feet all beneath her on the sofa and turned her head..722 WOLF SOLENT winnowed and heightened. for all I know" she spoke in a tone whose irony was barely perceptible "may be so interesting that the advantage of contact with it might even counterbalance your lack of scruple!" Wolf withdrew his hands. which." can confide in you so com- "Why?" she threw out.." he remarked.. the essence . He inter- .. meditative sigh. "You leave out the character of Gerda. a profile which. eagerly. "You mean that happy?" He gave a deprecatory shake of the head. in that particular position. too. in our 'brown-studies. reminded him of a portrait of the philosopher the conversation back to himself.

at such mo- ments attained if it a harmony of expression which ap- proached. ing his chair a little.. I oughtn't to have said that to you . miss the movement. and paused foi a second. so bluntly. "I suppose. and it pleased him Another thing he did not miss was that under any stress of emo- tion a certain wavering shapelessness in her countenance disappeared. chaotic and inchoate all these features. 123 tilt- "Forgive me. "It said. nose. which might have been given to a disgraced animal that required reassuring. curiosity. cheeks. "that makes you take sions so calmly. his tilted chair upon "I'm forgiven then?" he searching gravely in her secret thoughts. and as she spoke she leaned forward and made a little movement of her hand towards him. It's because I seem it's to have . At least I think curiosity!" Don't you mind!" She spoke these words with a tenderness that was as gentle as a caress a caress "It's all right.. fingers immedi- ately afterwards lay clasped on her But he did not well. the verge of the the floor with Wolf brought down a jerk.. Miss Malakite. Her lap. and he caught ." he "the most amazing perversities wouldn't shock flung out. did not actually reach." my scandalous confes- stopped once more. when left to themselves." he said ruefully." he went on. brown eyes all for a clue to her must be those books you read. Mouth. "I do blunder into unpardonable lapses sometimes. beautiful. chin. round the back of his head. you in the least!" As soon as he had uttered these words He he remembered what Darnley had told him. It was the faintest of gestures. a sort of ..THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG locked his fingers now...

. about her. now. there had lain a grey feather. but which now assumed a curious importance. Between the pages of the volume of the "Urn-Burial" which he had taken down from Christie's shelf. . dusty sun-motes. But in another sense am % . but he got up now to take his leave. way But soon enough. door. In a sense I my am I readings that conventional. You're wrong there. his obsession for the stone-cutter's . know. as they were a moonlight dew mingling with warm." I she said. . But Christie Malakite gave of being distressed." . and allowed these words of hers to float away unanswered. outside the pale. as he I suppose!" he said to himself. untouched and free. "That's probably like to why I can't bear the Bible." she said. it "I certainly don't like when things get too human. what you might . in the hard metallic sunshine "Her marker. back to the High Street. "that it's I am. He allowed them. "Do you mean She turned ." Wolf nodded sympathetically. inhuman?" this over gravely. be able to escape into parts of Nature that are lovely and cool.124 WOLF SOLENT no sign his breath in dismay. His final impression was that the ancient objects in her room were ponderheathen ing mutely and disapprovingly upon this fragile challenge to the anthropomorphism of the Scriptures! and strangely enough before his Gerda at all Wolf found himself re- Once out in the street mind reverted to calling something he had hardly noticed at the time. She even smiled faintly. "I don't have made me what call . to sink as he moved to the down among if the old-fashioned furniture chilly. his made and the sharp wind.

He opened them one by Miss Gault's ran as follows one. I have refused to pay till the Summer. that he remembered that he had not yet read his letters. It was then. lie within a few hundred yards of the at his Torp glanced a good deal too early. a great blunder to present himself at that house. Better let it be under- . When he was yard. MY DEAREST WOLF: Carter has begun to fuss about the rent. MY If I DEAR BOY: were not so eccentric a person and I striking. strides he made his way through the chief of bustling lively preparations for the Saturday thoroughfares of the town. Solent's letter was even more laconic. He clambered through the palings and sat down on the ground. in more senses than one. he espied a small patch of grass behind some ricketly palings. It would be. I am am writing to ask you whether you will care to come over to tea with me on Sunday afternoon? I will not reveal in advance whether there will be only myself and my cats . Mrs. affectionately. witnessing on every side atl manner afternoon's marketing. and find no still watch and realized that he was Cerda! Looking around for a resting-place. he felt. What does he think we are? And why did you run up that bill at Walpole's? That's the one kind of luxury which ought always to be paid for in cash. They were both short.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG With rapid 125 daughter rose up again and dominated his consciousness. . as he lit a cigarette. with his back to this object. and forgotten all about me my cats must have made not at all afraid of this! I should lake for granted that you had but since I know that both my manners some impression upon you. I may say. SELENA GAULT. . Yrs. in the centre of which was a stone water-trough.

as he sat there. I think it will do me good to do a little gardening. Wolf pushed out in his pocket." himself. green grass grew between some uneven bricks in front of him. and. which a coincidence of physical cold with amorous excitement is apt to produce. as pavement hardly turned to notice the bareheaded man with an oak-stick across his the The passers-by upon knees. his under-lip and drew down the corners of his mouth. in fact. as soon as you can assure me that you've discovered a clean. waiting with a beating heart his entrance to the yard of Mr. with extraordinary clearness he realized that par- moment in the passing of time. ANN HAGGARD SOLENT. very gravely. They were Blacksod burgesses and had their own affairs to attend to. small cottage. sat down upon if it had been a wishing-carpet. with a neat. as he replaced these two documents Then he got up upon his feet and shivered. its sturdy. Torp. wrapped in a faded brown overcoat. transparent blades with concentrated to "Grass and clay!" he thought to himself. it will be to see you again! Your loving mother. "From clay grass and then from grass to clay!" And once more that peculiar kind of shivering ran through him. especially when some fatal step of un- known consequence And ticular is trembling in suspension.726 WOLF SOLENT stood that you're away on a holiday! I think I shall join you at King's Barton quite soon. . my dear. looked at his He pulled his greatcoat tighter around him. it re- moving his cloth-cap. small garden. a hunched-up gaunt figure. How lovely." he said to "when it's five minutes to one. "I'll go in. and he re- A tuft of vividly garded interest. He watch again.

and this it was that had served the lent girl for doubt once them dignity. clambered over the palings and strode down the road. he now struggled to his and without glancing again at his watch. He saw the willows and the reeds of the Somersalt-marshes away there on his left. . The appearance of Torp's yard seemed to have changed feet. emphasized by a dagger-like thrust into the earth with the end of his stick. Torp's yard on "I'll their behalf one day. The head- stones themselves looked second-rate. but Wolf. look around for a place for mother.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 127 ical simultaneousness all the scenes His mind. far off in the Blackmore Vale many old ploughmen. were moving their horses from one furrowed field to another after their midday's rest and meal. He saw the long. on the east slope of which lay the village of King's Barton." he said to himself. low ridge of upland. less imposing. as he made more for the door. It looked smaller. after his fashion. wondered which of them a hobby-horse." Swinging his mind from these resolutions with an abrupt turn. And it came into mind how strange it was that while he at this moment at the idea of was shivering with amorous expectation entering that yard of half-made tombstones. weather-stained as the gates they were even now leisurely setting open. And probably almost all of them had relations who would come to Mr. his set his He saw the rich. pastoral Dorsetshire valley on right. "and I'll go to Miss Gault on Sunday. conjured up in geographaround him. in the night. and along the top of which ran the high-road linking together the scholastic retreats of Ramsgard with the shops and tanneries of Blacksod.

I only to be passing and I thought I'd look in. . So then us'll try again. But 'Bob says maybe Mr. He were fishing proper. Urquhart was very pleased to hear how well you're getting on with that monument. avoiding her husband's appeal. Torp had shut the door behind him. We dursn't pull 'em out. when Mrs." repeated Mrs. to notice was a crack in one of the door-panels. I saw him last night. There they all were. Manley won't be at the job. The first words uttered by Wolf. until reassured as to what was expected of him. he were.128 WOLF SOLENT boldly at the door . just beginning their meal! Gerda was evidently disposing of no small helping of Yorkshire pudding. "Just passing. Torp. Mr. "We seed three girt woppers down to Willum's Mill." Mr. come Monday. Torp turned his countenance toward his wife. Torp. "I haven't come about business today. and in the middle of this crack a tiny globule of dirty paint. a proceeding which seemed to announce to everyone round the table that he to was too cautious even to commit himself a word. but he had time. whose mouth and eyes were simultaneously happened so wide open as to suggest sheer panic. and thought to look in. Manley his own self were casting." These hurried words from young Lob eased the at- mosphere a little. while He knocked that there the vibrations of the sound were dying down. But she swallowed her mouthful at one gallant gulp and regarded her admirer with a smile of pleasure. cos Mr. The door was opened by Mrs. were directed at the head of the family.

I beg pardon. as my grandmurmur. you'd be best to sit 'ee down and take a bit of summat. pudding to the immense When once his guest was seated at the table. Lob. cut the young gentleman a slice. 'Tain't killed. but us dad used and well to must go to the Devil for sauce.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 129 Mrs." Wolf listened in silence to these ate his meal. He laid his He also began hand on the shoul- der of the boy. Torp looked at the sirloin in front of her husband and Yorkshire pudding in front of herself. and other similar re- marks while he He was so close to Gerda ." Thus speaking. "Father. she thrust a chair beneath the table. Wolf began to feel something of a fool. the obese stone-cutter re- laxed into most free pleasantry. Solent. when he detected a quick interchange of glances between mother and daughter. Mr. and having added a very moderate portion of Yorkshire slice of beef carved by the monument-maker. and was on the point of saying something about perch and chub. Get a plate from the dresser. to cover his embarrassment. Mr. be my text. "Thought to look in. "Injoy theeself like the wheel at the cistern. I warrant this meat were well fed you might say. as always so wi' they Darset farmers. The Lord gives beef. "Since you were passing." said the woman reluctantly. between the silent Gerda and himself. followed by the appearance of a faint flush on the girl's cheeks. with more violence than was necessary. she caught up her own empty plate and retired into the scullery. Redfern." she repeated. to feel extremely hungry. resuming her at the seat.

" responded says. "I'm glad she doesn't speak. Like a flash he recalled Selena Gault's words outside the slaughter-house. I reckon she's just got o' that there comfort Lob.130 WOLF SOLENT that he could catch the faint susurration of her deep. seated side his chair He moved by side in back a little . " 'Tisn't no use your coaxing of the stone-cutter. Manley!" Saying this. Wolf and Gerda were uncomfortable silence. if I don't get out in thik yard afore I gets to sleep. in a The door in of the scullery was opened about three inches. left alone. and shuffled out of the house. in that sensualized level of consciousness which I is just talk to her alone below the threshold of mental words. yer "What yer Mummie enough Mummie pasty to says. pass when the foregoing sentence fell like a veri- table pole-axe upon his ear. I. "The woman's apple-tart. closing the door behind him. the man rose from his chair. it!" "Damn he said to himself." "Be there any shrill voice. which space the beckoning forefinger of Joan Torp to her side. Mammie?" cried Lob. Us and Mr. "for unless " could "And Wolf so thik beast went to the hammer." The thread to of Mr." he thought to himself. Torp's carnivorous discourse had begun by. Missie. my pet. there'll be no pleasing Squire or Mr. glanced at Wolf with a leer like the famous uncle of Cressid. Redfern must swetten our bellies by talking sweet. and what's more. summoned her son Very slowly the beautiful profile on Wolf's right turned towards her father. even breathing. right.

he lit his cigarette and ransacked his brain for a line of action." he thought. Let's step out while we've got the chance and go for a stroll someThe girl where!" remained for a moment in motionless jndeci- sion. His eye caught the devastated piece of meat at the end of the table and story of it brought to his mind the terrifying articulate how the flesh of the Oxen of the Sun uttered murmurs as the companions of Odysseus at their is roasted "I impious camp-fire. I'll miss my and be just where I was yesterday. Gerda smilingly shook her head." He began likely search his pockets for cigarettes. and yet "You mind if I smoke?" he said. "I suppose you've often been told that you're as lovely as the girl who was the cause of the Trojan War?" "What a way of breaking the ice!" he thought to himand felt self. this It seemed absurd to ask leave of enough don't that it was young girl. "I want to see something more of you. "Have you got anything to put on within reach?" he whispered rapidly. "If the wench chance going to dull my wits to this extent." Under cover of what Darnley had called the girl's terrible passivity.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONC 131 and glanced toward the scullery-door. Desperately he hit upon the most obvious one. The voice of the woman and her son reached him in an obscure murmur. must say something. "This silence to it beginning to grow comic. her shrewish mother detested tobacco. listening intently to the murmuring voices in the . is a pang of mental humiliation. which was indeed just then like the quiescence of a great unpicked white phlox in a sun-warmed garden.

Following his instinct again. door The stone-cutter's chisel could be heard in his open shed. but he repeatedly fancied he heard the light steps of the intrusive Lob running in pursuit of them. Still his companion remained perfectly silent. his Wolf. also walking a good deal faster than circumstances seemed to demand. moved boldly "Come on!" he whispered. but she appeared quite untroubled by . The hat was of surrounded by a blue band. cli'ck. and they did not cast a glance in his direction. trembling with a nervous excitement that made stomach feel sick. but his attention must have been occupied with the row of little villas on the other side. away from the town. behind which she vanished. Then. with a grave nod. the cloak cream-coloured. Returning in less than a minute she presented herself in hat and cloak.132 WOLF SOLENT and scullery. she rose to her feet stepped lightly to a curtained recess. Wolf taking care not to let the latch of the gate Instinctively he led his captive to the right. Into the street they passed. Before long they reached a place where a broad road branched to the left at the foot of a considerable hill. he turned up this road and slackened his pace. Wolf kept some soft plain stuff. but his back must have been turned to them. and Wolf noted with surprise the absence of finery in the things worn by his silent felt cream-coloured of companion. seized his own coat and stick and to the door. They walked rapidly side by side. "Come on!" girl closed the They slipped out together and the behind them with cautious celerity. this turn Wolf had not remembered passing on the pre- ceding day.

and she his side lightly 133 swung along by then brushing and easily. "What do you call this he recovered his breath. they found themselves overlooking the whole town of Blacksod. stile. Missie?" he murmured. over a well-worn wooden the top bar of which was shiny as a piece of old furniture. but no stretch of politeness could have induced him just then to utter the hill. "Why Babylon?" But at that she shrugged her young shoulders and con- templated the blue distances of Somersetshire. and all of a sudden. away beyond that. To her mind Hill! the extraordinary thing evidently was that anyone could be surprised that Babylon Hill was called Babylon From itself the stile over which they were leaning a little field-path ran along the sloping greensward and lost in a small hazel-copse that overshadowed one end . the pollard-bordered course of the sluggish Lunt. and. "Babylon? What an extraordinary name!" he cried. for she "Babylon Hill. It syllable Torp. every now and the budding hedge on her right with her bare hand. as it crossed the invisible border-line between Dorset and Somerset. as seemed impertinent to use her Christian name quite so quickly. steady hill. meeting no one and seeing nothing but snatches of sloping meadow-land as they passed various five-barred gates.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG the rapidity of their movement. easily." she replied quite naturally and was less out of breath than he. For about half a mile they advanced up the long. Then there came a turn to the left.

after a pause. West Country "Poll-Poll-Poll. When he did reach the top. as they clambered up the turfy slope of the grassy rampart. "Skip over." he repeated. as queerly touching. And there came over him a deep wonder about the origin of this laborious piece of human toil. . They became the swift. had changed the face of this hill? Was of this silent beautiful girl be- side him the descendant come in the train of the some Ionian soldier who had which probably would all. child.134 WOLF SOLENT a of rounded table-land of turf-covered earthworks." he cried. this "Has "Poll's Camp. got any name?" he remarked. unconscious movements that in the She swung Wolf noticed herself across without any assistance. It suggested the There was something in her intonation that struck Wolf harmonize with her ladysimple finery of a thousand fairs. It didn't like attire. And "When then. with their blunt primitive spades." she answered. let's on. lessened the bite of his lust Wolf was slower than she in reaching the top of the ridge. and where that leads!" "Come see open country the movements of her body were entirely free from languor or voluptuousness. and of a very healthy young animal. Poll his rain-cap has got on They'll get their drink at Dunderton!" She repeated this in the peculiar sing-song drawl of a children's game. Were they Celts or Romans who actually. if legionaries? Dallying with these thoughts never have come into his head at a certain childish- ness in the girl hadn't. in a very subtle manner.

her arms outstretched." As a matter that lost of fact. if she were of the feline tribe she in this case would pursue her course. She waited that her eyes till Wolf was shut. How like a child. The hollow trench ran straight into the heart of a thick coppice which from this point out- . catching the vibration of she leapt to her feet and was off again. "Good Lord!" he thought. he was she gone round to the astonished to see no sign of his companion. If she were of a hare-like nature she would turn- double on her tracks. "has right or to the left?" He ran down into the bottom of the little artificial valley and stood hesitating. running like Aialanta. her knees bare. to play him a trick of this kind ! of finding her depended on His thoughts shaped themselves quickly now. Then. "I won't run quite as fast as I could! She'll better enjoy being caught if she has had a good race. her creamcoloured hat clutched tight in one of her hands. which ing to the left in this case would mean or right. but he thought to himself.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG and looked down into the 135 rounded hollow below. so swift-footed was the damsel this by following method of leisurely pursuit he soon her altogether. wound round the Ah. right Wolf turned it and followed the narrow green hollow as hill. which would mean to the climbing the opposing earthwork. so close that he could see were his tread upon the turf. from Wolf pursued her. and soon vanishing sight. His hope how far he could sound her basic instincts. there she was! Gerda lay supine.

and completely nonplussed. But the impatience in his senses was at least mitigated by his appreciation of the immemorial quality of his pursuit! He looked round helplessly and whimsically at the thick undergrowth and sturdy hazel-twigs. at that brief moment of overtaking her. The girl. obstinately the bottom of the trench. his maid might have undergone some miraculous vegetable transformation. the heavy undergrowth. composed stunted of brambles. caught sight of those incredibly white knees. like another Daphne or Syrinx. He would have been more philosophical at this junc- ture if he hadn't. no doubt panting like a hunted fawn somewhere quite close to him. at last loudly and indignantly. he be- gan calling her name. amused." he quoted to himself. budded pletely. elder- bushes. . and he played with the fancy that. had she gone? "The earth hath bubbles as the water hath. for one of the peculiarities of Poll's Camp was the presence of an echo. and newly hazels. and now. must have been especially delighted by this issue to the affair. Teased into was the last thing calculated to doing what he knew bring her back. where the devil should he go? Where. irritated. under the sky. all dead sycamores. at first gently and hesitatingly. Here. this echo taunted him. "Ger-da Ger-da!" it flung across the valley. over and over again. he didn't follow the trench.136 WOLF SOLENT in wards had overgrown the whole of the camp. ordinary paths disappeared comAll he could have done was to have followed bracken. overgrown forced a that it and that was so was unbelievable she should have But if way there.

spellbound. with his back against a young sycamore." he thought. what amber-paved pools surrounded by hart's-tongue ferns contain in the sphere of substance. there's no doubt she'll come again." And then as he extinguished his third cigarette against a piece of chalk. fascinated. But he sat down lit then. he became aware that a blackbird. his overcoat bad job. It seemed to hold.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG "Ger da! Ger 137 da!" The echo returned to him again. whereupon once more. in the sphere of sound. moving aside the tiny green buds of an infinitesimal spray of milkwort. was uttering notes of an extraordinary purity and poig- nance." Thus spoke one voice within him. the image of those bare knees destroyed the spirit of philosophical patience. You'll never have the gall to ask her to go out with you again. He listened. Daphand everything. forgetting ne's pearl-white knees hamadryads. Another voice said: "She thinks you're the father of all fools. He listened. "If she has run gone back out with to away from me. sadness that it is possible to experience without crossing the subtle line into the region where sadness becomes it It seemed to embrace in all the misery. in the dark twilight of hazel-stems. and carefully wrapping round him and resolving to make the best of a a cigarette. more full of the spirits of air That particular intonation of and of water than any sound upon earth. The delicious notes hovered through the wood hov- . the blackbird's note. "and just Chequers Street. She certainly seemed at ease with me me. had always possessed a mysterious attraction for him.

And then it was that without rising from the ground he straightened his back the sycamore-tree and against got furiously red under his rugged cheeks. protruding from the front of his cap. just giving himself up to listen. like a slap in the face.138 WOLF SOLENT and went waver- ered over the scented turf where he lay ing the hollow valley. smiling down upon him and removing hair. She had lost some- . But the blackbird's note was one of them. pouring forth to a sky whose peculiar tint of in- describable greyness exactly suited the essence of ils identity. while beads of perspiration ran his scowling eyebrows. down his forehead into For he realized. not very many. she came forward. and it may have been for that very reason thai the of certain sounds in the soul. Even his tow-coloured hair. forgetting all else. Waves of electricity shivered through it. that Gerda was the blackbird! He realized this before she made a sound other than it that long-sustained tremulous whistle. It was like the voice of the very spirit of Poll's Camp. immediately afterwards. the happiness of that sorrow which knows nothing of misery. Wolf sat entranced. unseduced by Roman or by down Saxon. seemed conscious of his humiliation. pushing aside the hazels and the her a different being. in one rush of shame. He found in front of bits of moss and twigs from her him. quality world melted the very core of his Certain sounds could do it. And then. quite calmly and coolly. He realized in- stantaneously by a kind of sudden absolute knowledge. He was utterly unmusical. when she stood there elder-bushes.

but later. and the only reply she vouchsafed to his question his feet. carefully removing from the creamcoloured jacket every vestige of her escapade. he swung her around. when she did confront him. deterred him. to "Gerda!" he exclaimed reproachfully. it to a certain point. the . This was a surprise to himself at the moment. and like a plant that has unloosed its perianth she dis- played some inner petal of her personality that had. been quite concealed from him. "how on earth did you learn to whistle like that?" She continued placidly to clear the wood-rubble out of her fair hair. is provocative of it is beyond a certain point destructive of lust. was to toss down her cream-coloured hat at Very deliberately. He had to get up upon his feet at this. will you?" she said. whether the possessor of such beauty be in a or not. she proceeded to lift up the hem of her skirt and pick out the burs from that. analyzing it. Then she quickly turned away from him. and is this. when her hair was in order.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 139 thing from the outermost sheath of her habitual reserve. too disordered assume any sagacious reticence. In the very act of doing this he had determined to kiss her. but something about the extraordinary loveliness of her face. he came to the conclusion that al- though beauty. up lust. until that moment. but he obeyed her with all patience. "There!" he said. so chaste If mood only he thought little to himself in later its Gerda's face had been a less flawless beauty. and taking her by the shoulders. "Brush my back. when he had finished.

You can't make me believe you've always run away. while Gerda. after I've she said. smiling. Directly they touch me I run . "But. and get familiar. " he began. always." she said. would have I always do run away. or can't you?"' Wolf surveyed the beautiful face in front of him and recalled what Darnley had said about the three lovers. wouldn't I run needn't scold. in unconscious. Gerda "Well?" she said. away. "so you had been anyone else. But the more he had seen of her the more beautiful her face had grown." She nodded her head vigorously. "Say it out! I know it's something bad.140 WOLF SOLENT beauty of her body would have remained as maddening to his senses as it was at the beginning. until it had now reached that magical level of loveliness which absorbs wilh a kind of absoluteness the whole paralyzing the erotic sensibility. I hide first and then slip off. But when I they slop being frightened. her chin propped upon the palms of her hands. "I have. I just hate them. Instead of kissing her he sat down again with his back to the sycamore. his feet. being the sort of girl you are." "You must have had some love-affairs. Can you understand what I mean. That's be- me come cause always like people at the beginning. Though the boys I know never will believe it. almost boyish began "I to talk to him have freedom. easy. "I have. when they're frightened of me and don't try to touch me." if it Father's quite tired of seeing back into the yard started for a walk with someone. lying on her stomach at aesthetic sense.

approaches her nest on the ground. under its lifted his thick Wolf rough crop of coarse. hugging her knees. them so that a great puckered fold established wrinkling itself above his hooked nose. she imitated the cry of the female plover when any man or beast. and. His ruddy face. "How did you learn to do it?" "I fooled Bob with that. resembled a red sandstone cliff on the top of which a whitish-yellow patch of withered grass bowed before the wind. Listen to this. bleached hair. sat down on the ground by his side. down Longmead. of form of a crimson sea-anemone." "Did you Gerda?" let the Oxford gentleman make love to you.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 141 away. this time in a slow. But when they try any of their games. The girl clambered to her feet. messing a person about and rumpling a person's clothes." she began again. I won't bear either!" eyebrows and let them fall again. it. "Wonderful!" cried Wolf. but I fooled Dick he was an Oxford gentleman with a silly owl's-hooting which old Bob would have known at once. It's a lovely feeling to be wanted like that. I fooled him endless times doing different birds. Do you know what into the this is?" And with her mouth pursed up strange foot. I want them to want me. It's like floating on a wave. "when I used to play with Bob in the Lunt ditches. "I found out I could whistle like that. meditalive voice. smoothing out her skirt beneath her. enraptured by that longdrawn familiar scream borne away upon the wind. . I can't bear it.

came a deep "I've never once whistled for anybody. Dick was He went past me several times. We'd taken our lunch. I "I tojd you. "That was a gross remark of mine." from her expression that this was a crisis between them. I hid in the hedge under Ramsbottom. hid." she said slowly. He had to go home without me and he told mother. he felt a sense was like a pricking sore lodged under the cell-lobes in the front of his brain. I heard him damning me like a serjeant Ramsbottom's miles away. "I ran away. Wolf sent a wordless cry of appeal down into the to help abysses of his consciousness. Dick was an 'honourable'. She He detected seemed and her hesitation brought a depth darkened their colour so that they beinto her eyes that to hesitate. Gerda. didn't I?" was all she said. I got back. don't answer!" he whispered hurriedly. "I wish you'd make that blackbird-noise for me now. He watched the flutter- some young elder-bush saplings. Mother hit me with the broom when furious. violet. They were ready ." Wolf was reduced to to silence. Her smile was suspended and hung like a faltering wraith over every feature of her face. so Mother wanted me marry him." But the half-profile which she had turned upon him showed no traces of anger.142 WOLF SOLENT as he As soon of shame "There that had uttered the words. Then he turned towards her and spoke with solemn emings of a greenfinch over phasis.

of those It yellow-beaked birds out of that a seemed easier that a bird should be decoyed out of a wood than human throat should utter actual unmistakable bird-notes. At length it did really cease. the moment there was any cessation of this stream of cool. immortal strain.the grassy slopes it floated forth upon the March wind. It was as if she had swiftly its summoned one leafy retreat. It was like a miracle.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 143 him. to her feet. in an ecstasy of pleasure. Over the turf-ramparts of Poll's Camp it swelled and sank. and silence seemed large grey feathers to fall down upon that place like from some inaccessible height. tremulous melody. "Go on! Go on!" cried Wolf. those powers in the hidden levels of his being. Gerda!" he said. He could hardly believe his ears. Both the man and the girl remained absolutely motion- less for a while. Away down . He gave himself up so completely to the voice. "Come on. that wistful. "That's Come on! Whistle that song!" all the more rea- Turning her face away from him. that the girl Gerda became no more than a voice herself. In the repetition of his request there was a magnetic tone of power that reassured himself. son. They responded to his cry and he knew that they responded. No conceiv- able sky but one of that particular greyness could have formed the right kind of roof for the utterance of this sound. liquid. she began at once. so that he could see nothing of her mouth. Wolf cared nothing that the whistler kept her face turned aside as she whistled. Then Gerda leapt .

lost itself in a pale. And shan't meet anyone. sad horizon. and a very curious diffu- sion of thin. greenish light seemed to have melted into the grey stretches of sky above their heads. watery. hill. Starting from a pheasants' "drive" in the lower half of the hazel-copse. with patches of olive-green marsh-land and patches of moss-green meadow-land. Gerda dear. She took him by the hand. where. it wound its way down the incline along a series of grassy terraces dotted by patches of young bracken-fronds that had only very recently sprouted up the great dead among brown leaves. for Bob and Lobbie are going to Willum's Mill. Longmead and watch the water-rats "We can get down there from little here easily. . rose the hill-ruin of Glastonbury. looking at her with hypnotized admiration. Arrived at the foot of the they struck a narrow still full cattle-drove where the deep winter-ditches were of water and where huge half-fallen willow-trunks lay across old lichen -covered palings." we Wolf rose light that stiffly.144 WOLF SOLENT down to "Let's go swim the Lunt!" she cried. He had little sat so long in petrified defelt drugged and cramped too. "Wherever you like." he said. he was a cramped. The path by which Gerda guided him down to the valley was indeed an ideal one for two companions who desired no interruption. and felicitously stupid. The im- mense Somersetshire plain. There's a lovely field-path I know. like a king's sepulchre. His mind The wind was gentler now. and together they climbed the embankment.

"Don't make a noise! last It's . that the light-green buds of those aged willow-trunks were framed in a more ap- propriate setting under that cold forlorn sky than any sunshine could give to them. that for non- human At ears must have made strange low gurglings and susurrations all day long. whether clothed clothed in vegetable fibre. they came to the bank of the river Lunt. No other sky would be cold enough and motionless enough to actually listen to the rising of the green sap within them. by myriads and myriads of growing things. but it does grey water. flowing. as they plodded along side by side muddy lane. November rains would turn them yellow and bring them down into the mud. Later seasons would warm them and cherish them. sudden recognition. It seemed to through that Wolf. But no other sky would hang above them with the cold floating weight of sadness as this one did a weight like a mass of grey seaweed beneath a silent sea. end of a spring day. this lane 145 hand in hand with his compan- Wolf felt his soul invaded by that peculiar kind of at the melancholy which emanates. flowing. a sadness accentuated by and grey horizons. its not seem to attain most significant meaning until the pressure of the Spring adds to these elemental wraiths the intense wistfulness of young new life.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG Advancing up ion. that infinitesimal flowing. It is fatality that in flesh or grey skies. sadness unlike all others. "Hush!" whispered Gerda. It is a from all the elements of earth and water. and has perhaps some mysterious connection with the swift. of the strange pursues all earthly life.

Indescrib- by forsaken able! Indescribable! But memories of this kind were and he had long known it! the very essence of his life.146 WOLF SOLENT when you can make a water-rat flop in so lovely it and see swim It across. as he passed them by. They were more important to him than any outward event. along melancholy moor-paths quarry-pools and by quagmires of livid moss. to hear a water-rat splash that mud-stained she scarcely glanced at these great yellow orbs rising from thick. They were more sacred to him than any living person. deserted and by sighing pond-reeds. "There's one! There's one! There's one! Oh. there came rushing headlong out of that ditch. moist. of escapes along wet. Throw something! Quick! . throw something to make it go faster. his gods. of escapes along old backwaters and to sea-estuaries. these wild wanderers. like an invisible company of tossing-maned air-horses. his secret relibotanist. but to Wolf. They were a his friends. a whole wild herd of ancient memories ! Indescribable! Indescribable! They had do with wild rain-drenched escapes beneath banks of sombre clouds. gion. like Like mad a crazed butterfly- he hunted these filmy growths. For what collector." full was along the edge of a small tributary of Gerda was so impatient marsh-marigolds that they approached the river-bank. stalks and burnished leaves. and stored them up in his mind. purpose did he store them -up? For no purpose! And yet these things were connected in some mysterious way with that mythopoeic fatality which drove him on and on and on.

Let's go rat-swimming often. It's wonderful!" tion leading She began walking along the river-bank in the direcaway from Blacksod. low. gone! It's done it!" she sighed at last. strange. in his life. "Swim! Swim! Swim!" she called out. do look it head breathing and puffing! Oh. The muddy those from this missile came rushing up against behind that pointed pointed little head. and then in her ears. gazing intently and rapturously at the sluggish brown stream. slid off along its mud-channel to in the reed-roots. as he suspected. No I it don't mean to hit I I don't can't mean throw To make swim at its faster! There! straight." "Hush!" The sound reached him rather by implication than by ear. liquid cry that was like no sound Wolf had ever heard "It's rat. but he surreptitiously glanced at that it and discovered. "It's I bed gone! And you did make it swim! liked to see it. But the girl had crouched down under an . 147 it. Oh. was already late in the afternoon." he thought to "when the sky is all twilight. what ripples makes!" Conjured in this way to join in this sport. her. came splashing Gerda clasped her hands. can't tell when twilight begins.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG Quick! Quick! to hurt it. Wolf followed his watch. when the shake of its emerging from the water without so much as one its sleek sides. "You himself. Wolf did pick up an enormous piece of wet mud and hurled it in the trail of the swimming ripples little rat. excitement she pouted her mouth into a reed-mouth and uttered a long.

really remains the same identical mass of waters . He glad that the Lunt. from start to finish. By thinking of all this waters togetlier. left had the town behind and was where he was now watching it. He had already begun to feel a peculiar personal friendliness toward this patient muddy its stream. some side-stream or Wolf so as to tried to visualize the whole course of the Lunt. sonality of a river from the personality of a The water of the sea. into which he could thrust his hand. unity could be achieved. It satisfied his nature with an ineffable satisfaction to watch that steady flow of the willow-roots and the felt brown water. though broken up into tides and waves. for between the actual water before him now. He sat down himself and waited patiently. whereas the water of a river is at every succeeding particles of it moment a com- pletely different body.148 WOLF SOLENT overhanging alder and was staring at the water. ditch or unless they get waylaid in weir. gurgling round the muddy concavities of the bank. her long cream-coloured arms supporting half the weight of her body. and it gave him pleasure to think that troubles were really over. win for it some its sort of coherent personality. when itself might so easily be ran! Looking quite fearing another Blacksod somewhere between these green meadows and the salt sea to which it as intently at these brown waters as Gerda herself was doing. it occurred to him is how different a thing the persea. No are ever the same. now to meet with nothing else really contaminating until it mingled with the Bristol Channel. and the water of that tiny streamlet among the .

While he was thinking all this he had turned his attention away from Gerda. moving slowly up to her side. Certainly Wolf how. he could not quite tell was no provocation in this. Or. rational than the senses of He felt sure of that. as Darnley had said. in picture.THE BLACKBIRDS SONG mid-Dorset spacial gap. if so. that there had never seen. in marble. Her face was bent down. as the hour of twilight grew near. glancing up the river. but now. there was no into the other. He liked its infinite variety. She was giving way to desire to expose warm. and. he was struck by a gleam of living whiteness amid the greenery. the extraordinary number of its curves and hollows and shelving ledges and pools and currents. The whole scene. The huntress of water-rats had slipped off her shoes and stockings and was dabbling her bare feet in the chilly brown water. hills 149 from which it sprung. She had indeed. something of the "terrible passivity" of the famous daughter of Leda. He rose to his feet. It was amazing to him that she did not shiver with the cold. naked limbs to the cold embraces of the elements. or in life. the extraordinary variety of organic patterns in the roots and twigs and branches and land-plants and water-plants which diversified its course. But once again he was made aware. He was struck by the fact that she made no movement to pull her skirts down over her knees. the provocation was directed to something older and less some immemorial girlish man. sat down by her. She was not being provocative this time. anything as flawless as the loveliness thus revealed to him. The one flowed continuously They were as completely united as the head and tail of a snake! The more he stared at the Lunt the more he liked the Lunt. had that .

. and the line of southern sky against which the opposite bank was outlined was of that livid steel-grey which seems to hold within it a suppressed whiteness. "Of course I'm cold." "Well?" "Have you enjoyed yourself today?" "What do you mean?" "Have you been happy today?" She did not answer. All about those white ankles and those white knees the greenness of the earth gathered the greyness of the sky descended. It was as if such vague non-human powers.150 WOLF SOLENT work of certain old English painters. "You're sure you're not cold?" Wolf asked. drew the back and away back and away from all his human words. back and away from all his personal desires. like the whiteness of a sword that lies in shadow." you can't say anything nicer "Gerda. silly! I'm doing this to cold!" feel "What a sensualist you are!" if "Better say nothing than that. kind of unblurred enamelled distinctness such as one sees in the The leaf-buds of the alder under which she sat were of that shade of green that seems to have something almost unnatural in its metallic opacity. made up of green shadows and grey shadows. girl Commonplace and ment and silent Presences irrelevant seemed both his senti- his cunning in the face of these two great that of the earth in and that of the sky which were closing upon her and upon himself.

like now. Then he began vigorously rubbing her ice-cold ankles good you back." "Oh. He was wondering in his heart whether Gerda's thing to do with the close vil mania for water-rats had anyresemblance between Mr. until they reached a graphical skill with which she navigable lane. "You do take care of me nicely. but anyhow like a girl. know when your people expect He with his hands. over hedge and over ditch." took her by the wrist and pulled her up the bank." he said." he said.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG But it 151 was getting too cold. "That's enough now." Wolf was very much struck by the competent geo- now proceeded to guide him. when finally he pulled her frock over her knees and smoothed out the wrinkles from her cream-coloured coat. Otter waiting. "Bob never used to stop for a minute. ." she said. "is the "What we've shortest way to Blacksod. I never understand why." funny But Wolf's mind was in no mood to deal with the I just abstract problem of damp leather. I mustn't keep Mrs. He must make her put on her things and come home. Wee- and these harmless rodents. He was always doing up his tackle or washing his fish or something. don't worry! We can be at my house in threequarters of an hour and then you can take the short-cut to Barton. I don't "On with your stockings. that couldn't get my boots on! They get so stiff and when you take them off. got to think about now. And if I did ask him to stop he thought I wanted him to mess me about you know? when it was only.

with the white mist rising around them. deliberately putting a nuance feel should of irresponsible lightness into his tone. "I think we'd get on splendidly." In that chilly twilight. married to you" said Gerda. "I wonder how in mured Wolf married to you!" murresponse. and Wolf became vividly aware how completely a definite responsible project of such a kind tended to break the delicious spell of care-free intimacy. suddenly. with an emphasis that was more boyish than girlish. They walked for a while in silence after this. It broke it for him. dark sheen of the "I think I'd be all right now." she retorted. Christie Malakite had been the to toss the fatal little . But was impossible bold idea. She made the remark fact a tone as if she if I in as unemotional and matter-ofbe all right had said. "I think I'd now used low-heeled boots. side- "We'll be and the two walked rapidly side by celandine-leaves." she said. But he did remember how I startled he had felt when Christie Malakite introduced the same idea. The beauty of the situation with her evidently tion in had to find its justifica- some continuity of events beyond the mere it pleas- ure of the passing moment. everything seemed so phantasmal. between the cold. to prevent his thoughts hovering it round this now had been first flung into the air. But it anyway. fresh shoots of the hawthorn-hedges and the. must have been just the reverse with her.152 WOLF SOLENT home in half an hour now. that this surprising observation gave him no kind of shock.

I "and she told me she was a friend of yours. I reckon. herself was another relations ex- He began wonder what kind of between these two young Splashing up the water from a puddle on his right with the end of his stick. very much." he said. I liked her so shan't ever be jealous of Christie!" was his companion's reply to this. She had done it with the utmost some remote being altogether out- side the stream of events. don't you know? That old game! Kids play it to- gether. She's for no man. Wolf Solent.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG puffball 153 gravity. more than anything else. That's your fault me cross asking questions! That's what'll make when we're married. as the game says. Gerda?" "Oh." "But it's such a queer expression 'She's for no man/ . He remembered the peculiar steady look of her brown eyes as she uttered the words. but likely enough it where you come from they call the same old game. But that this airy nothing of speculation should have re- ceived a matter. the gravity of upon the wind. We called it 'Boys and Girls'." "Oh. "I had tea yesterday with Christie Malakite.' many questions. he hazarded a direct question on this point. isted new impetus from Gerda to girls." "What game." something else! But it's "Why do you Gerda?" "Don't ask so say Christie Malakile's 'for no man. Mr. "I don't care if you have tea with Christie every day of your life.

humorous remarks about the people and things they passed. really something that actually passive nonchalance which permitted the old classical Or was .154 WOLF SOLENT it Does it mean she's got lovers mean was she's got who demon lovers?" companion. It was a quarter past six. and delay as she was now doing had something magnanimously pathetic and even boyish about it. There was still plenty of time for him to reach Pond ing Cottage before eight." laconically. "I like Christie very much and very much. To act in any other way would have seemed to such minds to be lacking in proper pride. Wolf looked at his watch and compared it with the town-hall clock. Most girls. and yet. it that her pride was did resemble that high. Street. They hit the town by a narrow alley between the townhall and Chequers Street. and his she replied she likes me irritating to his "Men think too much themselves. Wolf was perfectly aware that she had not forgiven him the hard. as he well knew. would have punished him for the hurrying home the comfort of little in silence discordance between them by and shutting him out without any further appointments. through it all. drifted slowly when the Otters dined. exaggerated manner. frivolous tone he That she was able to chatter had adopted about her friend. They all down Chequers Gerda mak- manner of quaint. of aren't human? Does He spoke lone in a mocking." This silenced Wolf. and they walked together in less harmony than at any previous moment in that after- noon. But Gerda appeared to have no pride at all in this sense.

but he thought better of it in time. unembarrassed silences.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 155 if women to speak of themselves quite calmly." she replied. He walked slowly forward under a starless sky." what her engagements were on Sunday and Monday. but as . not as they were when human beings were conscious of them. as she held out her hand. any day you like. and when Wolf enquired how soon he could see her again. first infatuation Gerda was now not only a maddeningly desirable girl. They said good-bye at the gate of Torp's yard. upon him. as if they saw their they life as an irresponsible fate upon which they could. so to speak. waited upon and worshipped. "Oh. the expression of which all his just those mysterious silences in Nature life long he had. "I've enjoyed myself very much. In fact. it was the ! expression of her silences as he recalled its full effect and not only of hers It was. and taking off his cap and waving his the point of asking her stick It Wolf was on he turned and strode away. as lie back without incurring any human blame? it were. was very nearly dark when the left last little villa on the King's Barton road was behind." she added. He recognized clearly enough that his had changed its quality not a little. revolv- ing his adventure. That strange whistling was the voice of those green pastures and those blackthorn-hedges. except tomorrow and Monday. girl with a definite personality of She was a her own. "I'm glad you made me go. That bird-like whistling! Never had he known such a thing was possible! It accounted as nothing else could do for her queer. as were external to themselves.

. In fact.756 WOLF SOLENT they were in that indescribable hour just before dawn. The last thing he desired was to be overtaken by something unearthly on that pleasant Dorset road! Had the extraordinary phenomenon of the girl's whistling more than he realized? His his first unsettled his nerves own it? simple and cowardly instinct was to quicken steps. And yet somehow they didn't resemble the footsteps of a child. "Hullo! "he cried. human powers of the night! He was so absorbed in his What kind the of steps of were they? They didn't sound like steps a grown-up person either man or woman they were so light in the dark road. grasping his stick tightly. Nothing on earth could have prevented a certain strained unnaturalness in his voice as he challenged this pursuer. this listening in itself induced him to diminish his it. Yet on this all his habitual mysticism what are called psychic imoccasion he could not help a some- With what discomfortable beating of his heart. he was a man little subject to piessions. it was with a quite definite effort that he prevented himself from setting off at a run! What was and Who was it? He listened intently as he walked. speed rather than to increase At last the mysterious maker of this uncertain wavering series of footsteps arrived close at his heels. uneven steps behind him. Wolf became aware of an odd feeling of uneasiness. faint stirrings upon the air of the departing of the non- thoughts that it was with a startled leap of the heart that he became conscious quite of hurried. Wolf swung round. when they awoke in the darkness to hear the faint.

if . Then he Even did. are .. recognize this night- walker's identity.. . Mr. . asking?" I "Not at all.." "Who ." remarked Wolf. Wolf's own voice "So dark said grimly. am the secretary at the Squire's. Wolf's clairhis over- this occasion was not shared by . don't mind .. my . ... . . you for some kind of ghost. Valley. . in the darkness he recognized that shabby. in his life though it was not the only occasion had used a kind of sixth sense. . that I took was quite natural now. in a rush of relief." the clergyman. "You must be a good walker. . "You came up very quickly. But whatever voyance on taker. This hollow sound would doubtless have passed harmlessly enough in the daylight. . you new ... when he may have been its cause. In the darkness it was ghastly. derelict personality he had seen in the street with Lob Torp the day before. .THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG 157 There was no answer. .. . you . is ." he "Hee! Hee! Hee!" The Vicar laughed with the laugh of a man who makes a mechanical.. of the King of Chaos by the poet Milton. and the figure came steadily along till it was parallel with him.. Valley. . Mr. It was the Vicar of King's Barton ! He was surprised afterwards at this sudden recognition .. said dark very tonight. . appreciative noise." . in a voice so husky and hoarse that it resembled the voice attributed to the discomposed visage "It .

Valley quite right. . him every day .. me. . .. . . .. Then . For nearly half a mile they walked side by side silence. play with the boys. and. they are ." "The poor people here kind to T. I .. was later. . E. In the dark it drunk tonight . Darnley ." kind see you the . . said prayers . You've got it quite right.158 WOLF SOLENT in too." Once more there was no sound but men's Wolf's feet that of the two in the road and the thud thud thud of stick. for to other ... .. in Then the quavering voice out of the obscurity began again. "For the rest ... The man stopped dead-still Wolf stopped the road. Valley. I . T.. . . .. except . . . . little . . . the . for he moved forward by Wolf's side with a firmer step.. E... . I was I in the Eleven at Ramsgard. in "You I are .. Vicar seemed to gather up out of the dark some new kind of strength. He . . "Valley for me. But very He again stopped dead-still in the road and Wolf stopped with him.. .. play still.. . . But you're is I quite right. . is my a name. . . but you'll isn't noticeable. . I very .. Then the voice recommenced... . see you later ..... Valley. I'm excuse me.. are very kind to for the rest . one I . Having uttered these words. natural politeness. must buried him.. T... E.. . must . . .. drink more than's good . me ..

. . But we'll at the table while feel quite you wash your hands. Valley. but it was Jason who first. a better place for waiting than a head- master's study!" "My down son doesn't mean that you've kept us a minute. as she moved He opened "I the drawing-room door. waiting!" she answered." sit said Mrs. Then. his words became steadily more coherent his intonation more to his senses.. " . and . "In there off. Wolf began. "Where are . am so very sorry. that's because I'm God's Priest in this Sir! . all rose They spoke from their seats.THE BLACKBIRD'S SONG all 159 all . ." . God's Priest. Mrs. after a moment's pause: "But they can't hurt T." grumbled the old woman. "Dimity's only just ready. "I've kept dinner back as good as ruined. so that you can happy." he said humbly. "Everything's "That sofa is only waiting. The door of Pond Cottage was opened till it's for Wolf by Dimity Stone." he chuckled grimly. . E. will you? They are devils! Devils! Devils!" His voice rose in a kind of helpless fury. None of 'em can . . . However you like to take it!" This final outburst seemed to restore the shadowy little man Wolf brought him to the gate of the Vicarage and bade him farewell there. . for until normal and more sober. You won't tell them. . Otter. drunk or sober place. Otter.

voice. just as he was closing the door. "Mother won't let us touch a morsel till you come. Otter's "Dimity! Dimity! We're quite ready!" And then. as Wolf turned to go upstairs." As he entered his bedroom he heard Mrs. Solent!" cried Darnley.160 WOLF SOLENT "Don't be long. he caught something about "these secretaries" from Jason. .

or at least a housekeeper. it's "That means ten o'clock. village-boys admire. Mrs. and happy to to have both her sons at the table. Otter. He ought to have a wife him. Jason Otter's pallid face reddened a little. dressed in to stiff puce-coloured silk." said Darnley." get ." said Darnley. Mother?" .BAR SINISTER OREAKFAST IN POND COTTAGE ON THAT SUNDAY MORNING proved to be the pleasantest meal that Wolf had yet enjoyed under the Otter roof. How he gets enough "Mother thinks no household can without a to eat I can't imagine." she said. to be the only man that any of the that's what it is. spoke at some length their guest about the morning service she and Darnley were presently to in the church which to in go. Valley conducted the worship of the parish. walls of Pond Cottage. He's got no one in the house. thankful for the opportunity of staving off discord between the They all four listened in silence. reverent manner which Mr. She explained him how much she liked the quiet. It's human nature we know he wants These country clergymen are all the same. and everyone knows how he to look after drinks. "Of course. "He's an unhappy little man. don't they. Otter." "There are the bells!" cried Mrs. "He makes me sad at other times. "They ring again at half-past. on for a day woman in it. while the faint notes from the Henry the Seventh tower penetrated the brothers.

162

WOLF SOLENT
felt

Wolf
air that

an extraordinary sense of peacefulness in the morning. The sound of the bells accentuated it;

and he wondered vaguely to himself whether he wouldn't offer to go to church with the mother and the son.

"By

the way," he remarked,
I

"may
their

I

ask you people a

question, while

think of it?"

They
tions

all

three

awoke from

individual medita-

and gave him

their undivided attention. Mrs. Otter

did this with serene complacency, evidently assuming
that the nature of his

remark would prove harmless and
it

agreeable. Jason did

with nervous concern, touched

with a flicker of what looked like personal fear. Darnley

with an expression of weary politeness, as much as to say, "Oh, God! Oh, God! I not going to have even
did
it

Am

from other people's problems?" Sunday "It's a simple enough thing," Wolf said quickly, realizing that he had made more stir than he intended.
free

"I

only wanted to

called

of a pond." There was an instantaneous sign of startled agitation all the way round the table.

know why this house Pond Cottage, when there's no trace

of yours

is

"The pond
"It's

is

there all right," said Darnley, quietly.

over that hedge, just outside our gate, the other
It's

side of the lane.
us, Solent;

rather an uncomfortable topic with

because at least three times James Redfern

thought of drowning himself in it. He may have thought of it more times than that. Jason found him there three
times.

We

don't like the

pond

for that reason. That's

all!"

Jason Otter got up from his chair.

"I'll

go and put on

BAR SINISTER

163

my

boots," he remarked to Wolf, "and we'll go

and

visit the

pond. You ought

to see

it.

And

there are other

things

I can show you, too, while mother and Darnley are in church. You've got your boots on, I think? Well! I

won't keep you very long." He left the room as he spoke and Mrs. Otter looked

appealingly at her younger son. "Don't worry, Mother dear," said Darnley, gravely, laying his hand upon her knees.

He

turned to Wolf.

"You must help

us in keeping
I

my

brother in good spirits, Solent," he said. "But I can trust you."

know

Jason did finally cross the lane together and enter the opposite field which they achieved

When Wolf and

by climbing up a steep bank and pushing

their

way

through a gap in the hedge the sense of peacefulness in the whole air of the place had intensified to a degree that

was so enchanting

to

Wolf

that nothing

seemed able

to

disturb his contentment.

The

field

he found himself in was a very large one, and

only a broken, wavering line of willows and poplars at
the further end of
of water.
it

gave any indication of the presence

The atmosphere was deliciously hushed and misty; no wind was stirring; and the placid morning sun
fell

upon the grass and
if it

the trees with a sort of largeness of

were too happy, in some secretive way of its own, to care whether its warmth gave pleasure or the reverse to the lives that thrived under its influindifference, as

ence. It

seemed to possess the secret of complete detachment, this sunshine; but it seemed also to possess the

164

WOLF SOLENT
vaporous warmth

secret of projecting the clue to such detachment into the

heart of every living existence that

its

approached.

Wolf was suddenly aware of a rising to the surface of mind of that trance-like "mythology" of his. All the little outward things that met his gaze seemed to form so many material moulds into which this magnetic current
his
set itself to run.

He surveyed

a patch of sun-dried cattle-dung upon

which the abstracted Jason had inadvertently planted his foot and across which was slowly moving with exquisite
precaution
a
brilliantly

green beetle.

He

surveyed a

group of small crimson-topped daisies over which a sturdy, flowerless thistle threw a faint and patient
shadow.
starlings,

He

surveyed the disordered

flight of

a flock of

lage.

heading away from the pond towards the vilBut of all these things what arrested him most was

the least obvious, the least noticeable. It was, in fact,

no more than a certain ridge of rough unevenness in the ground at his feel; a nameless unevenness, which assumed, as the misty sunlight wavered over it, the predominant place in this accidental pattern of impressions.
Jason said nothing
across the field.
to
at all as they

walked together slowly

The man had

ostentatiously avoided any

approach

Sunday

clothes that morning; and, without

hat or stick, in a very shabby overcoat, he presented rather a lamentable figure, as he led the way forward to-

wards Lenty Pond.

They reached the willows and poplars at last; and Wolf stared in astonishment at what he saw. He found
himself standing on the brink of an expanse of water

BAR SINISTER
that

165

side of

was nearly as large as a small lake. The opposite it was entirely covered with a bed of thick reeds,
see the little red-and-black shapes

among which he could

of several moor-hens moving; but from where he stood,

under these willows, right away to the pond's centre, the water was deep and dark, and even on that placid Sunday
a
little

menacing.
it

"He could have done
couldn't
is

easily

if

he'd

wanted

to,

he?" said Jason, gazing at the water. "The truth he didn't want to! Darnley's a sentimental fool. Red-

fern didn't want to

drown

himself.

Not a

bit of

it.

What

did he

come here

for,

then?

He came

to rouse pity, to

make

people's minds go crazy with pity."
just this

"The man must have been thinking of saying

to me all the way across the field," thought Wolf. But Jason jerked out now a much more disturbing sentence. "The boy did upset one person's mind. He made one

you'd be surprised to hear who that person was." But Wolf just then felt it very hard to give him his
person's

mind

feel like a

weed

in this water!

And

had
he

complete attention. For although the mystical ecstasy he just experienced had faded, everything about the day
in his

had become momentous
felt

hidden secretive

life;

and

detached, remote, disembodied, for all his Sunday clothes. He could hear the cawing of a couple of rooks

high up in the sky; and even when they ceased cawing, the creaking of their wings seemed like the indolence
of the very day
itself.

"A weed
his

in the water," he echoed

mechanically;

while mind, voyaging over those hushed West Country pastures, followed the creaking
wings.

766

WOLF SOLENT
it,

"Who was
fern?"

Mr. Otter, who was so upset by Red-

The appeal in Jason's miserable eyes grew still more disturbing. The man's soul seemed to come waveringly
formed
forward, like a grey vapour, out of its eye-sockets, till it itself into a shadowy double of the person who
stood by Wolf's side.

"Can't you guess?" murmured Jason Otter. "It was I ... I ... I ... You're surprised. Well, anyone would be. You wouldn't have thought of that, though you are

Mr. Urquhart's secretary and have come from a college! But you needn't look like that; for it's true! Darnley sentimentalizes about his death, which was unfortunate,
of course, but perfectly natural
as any of us might!

he died of pneumonia,

but what drove

was

this

playing upon a person's pity.

me to distraction He always did it

first day. Darnley yielded to it at once, he never liked the boy. I resisted it. I am of iron though in these things. I know too much. But by degrees, can't

from the very

you understand, though
bother

You

I didn't yield to it, it began to mind. Pity's the most cruel trap ever invented. my can see that, I suppose? Take it that there were only

one unhappy person left, why, it might spoil all the delight in the world That is why I'd like to kill pity why
!

I'd like to

make people see what madness it is." Wolf drew away from him a step or two, till he stood
the very edge of the pond,

at

and then he remarked
of

abruptly, "Your mother
the most good-looking

me that Redfern was one men she has ever seen." young
told

Having flung out these words, he began flicking the dark, brimming water with the end of his stick, watching

BAR SINISTER
why he made
it

167

the ripples which he caused spreading far out towards the
centre. Exactly

that

remark

just then

he

would have found

hard to explain. The wraith-like

phantom-soul that had emerged from Jason's eye-sockets drew back instantaneously, like a puppet pulled by a
string;

and over the two apertures

into

which

it

with-

drew there formed a

glacial film of guarded suspicion.

"/ have seen better-looking ones," said Jason Otter
drily.

"He used

to help that fool Valley

in his

High

Church

services. I don't

ever appeared to

know whether the Virgin Mary but I know he used to take her him;
them out
it

flowers, because he used to steal

of our garden!

My

mother

let

him

steal

because

was

Hullo!

What's up now? Who's this?" Wolf swung round and observed to his surprise the tall figure of Roger Monk advancing towards them across
the field.

something about you," said Jason, hurriedly. "I think I'll walk round the pond." "Why do that?" protested Wolf. "There'll be no secret
"It's

something for you.

It's

about

it,

even

if it is

for me."

"He'll like to find you alone best. These servants of
these landowners always do," replied the other. "Besides,

Mr. Urquhart hates me. He knows I know what he is. He's not a common kind of fool. He likes having good meals and good wine, but he's ready to risk all that for I
don't

know what!"

you I have no secrets with Urquhart," rejoined Wolf. "There's absolutely no need for you to leave us." "This gardener looked at me very suspiciously yester"I tell

day," whispered Jason. "I saw

him through

the hedge, in

168

WOLF SOLENT
He was
planting something, but he kept

his garden.

He must have known I was there. He must have been wondering whether he dared shoot at me with a shotgun. So good-bye! I'm going to walk
looking at the hedge.

round the pond very slowly." Wolf moved toward Mr. Monk, leaving his companion to shuffle off as he pleased. The gigantic servant looked
like

When

a respectable prize-fighter in his Sunday clothes. the two men met he took from his pocket a telegram
it

and handed
did so.

to Wolf, touching his hat politely as he

"This came early," he said. "But there was no one
else to send;

and

I

had

to tend to things before I

could

bring

it

by way

myself. If there's any answer, 'twill have to go of Blacksod, for our office shuts at noon."
the telegram.
It

Wolf opened
ran as follows:

was from

his mother,

and

"ARRIVE RAMSCARD SEVEN O'CLOCK SUNDAY NIGHT TRADESMEN HAVE NO SENSE COULD SLEEP AT LOVELACE."

"There's no answer, Monk," he said gravely; and then,

prodding the ground thoughtfully with his stick, and looking at the figure of Jason Otter, which was now stationary behind a poplar-tree, "This is from my
mother," he added. "She
tonight."
is

after

coming down from town

"Very nice for you,
"
'Tain't every

Sir,

I'm sure," murmured the man.

gentleman has got a mother." "But the difficulty is, Monk," Wolf went on, "that my mother wants to stay down here. You don't happen
to know of any cottage or any rooms we could get for a time, do you?"

in a cottage that

BAR SINISTER

169

Roger Monk looked at him thoughtfully. "Not that I knows of, Sir," he began, his gipsy-like eyes wandering from Wolf's face to the landscape in front of him, a portion of

which landscape included the figure of Mr. Otter, hiding behind the poplar-tree. but "That is to say, Sir, unless by any chance
.

.

.

that ain't likely, Sir.

.

.

."

"What do you mean, Monk?" enquired
eagerly.

the

other,

"

'Twere only that
place
.

I

myself

live lonesome-like in

me

own
were

.

.

his writings

.

.

.

and seeing you're helping Squire with and Lenty Cottage be neat set up, I
"

just thinking

his stick. "The very thing!" he cried exa flash his imagination became abnormally citedly. In

Wolf swung

active.
tails.

He visualized this He saw himself, as

gardener's house in all its dewell as his mother, snugly en.
. .

sconced there for years and years
rest of their lives!

perhaps for the

"But we should be a nuisance

to you,

the Squire were amenable, shouldn't The man shook his head.

Monk, even we?"

if

"Well,
if I

I'll

come

straight

home

may,"

said

Wolf

impatiently.

with you now, Monk, "Were you going home

now?"
"I was."

"Well,

I'll

just

run and

tell

Mr. Otter; and then

I'll

come with you."
standing where they had been talking, and hurried round the edge of the pond. There was someleft

He

the

man

thing peculiarly appealing to

him

in the idea of this

170
cottage.

WOLF SOLENT

How

pleasant

it

would

be,

he thought, when he

and

his

hence,

if

mother were living together there some five years he happened to say to her, as he came in to tea

from

his

hand, "I
first

Sunday walk, with a bunch of primroses in his came past Lenty Pond today, Mother, where I

heard about the chance of our settling here!" He found Jason sitting on the roots of the poplar,

tails of his

leaning his back against the tree-trunk and holding the overcoat stretched tightly over his knees, so

that he should be entirely concealed

from view.

"That

man

hasn't gone,"

was

his greeting to Wolf.

"He's standing there still." "I know he is, Otter. He's brought a telegram for me. My mother's coming down tonight. Monk says he doesn't
see any reason
cottage."

why

she and

I

shouldn't take

rooms
sat

in his

Jason looked up

at

him from where he

upon the

poplar-root, and the whimsical manner in which he hugged his coal-tails was accentuated by a smile of

hobgoblinish merriment.

"You mean

to live in it?"

he remarked. "You and

your mother? I don't believe old Urquhart would consider such a thing for a moment! These squires like to

show
guests
lives.

off their servants' quarters.

They

like to take their

where my head-gardener garden when he's finished with mine! Those are "Boule de neige" roses!' But when it
'That's

round and say:

He works
to

at his

comes

honest people lodging in places like that goodness! Urquhart wouldn't consider it. But you can
try.

But

my

advice to you

is

to be very careful in this

BAR SINISTER
matter.

171

You

never

know what

troubles you'll have

when
try.

you deal with people like this

Monk. But you can

There! you'd better go off with him. He's peeping and spying at this moment. He's thinking I'm holding you back because of the money you pay us."

Wolf shook
him:

his

head and made a movement
little

to

be gone,
at

but the other bent forward a
"I'll

and whispered up

walk slowly round the pond; then if he looks back he won't think you ought to wait for me."

With

this

complicated and obscure sentence floating
to

his

on the surface of his mind, Wolf left his companion own devices and rejoined Roger Monk.

Not more than twenty minutes' walking brought them
to the gardener's cottage.

To Wolf's

great satisfaction

the place proved to be quite out of sight of the manor-

house on the Ramsgard side of the orchards and the
kitchen-gardens.
It

stood, indeed, in Lenty Lane, a

little

east of the drive-gates,
cottage,

and turned out

to be a solid little

pleasantly

coated with

white

paint,

and ap-

proached from the lane by a neat gravel-path, on either side of which was a row of carefully whitewashed small

round

stones.

Wolf

for

some reason

didn't like the look

of those white stones.

Once more he regarded Lenty Cottage. The idea of its excessive neatness and tidiness, combined with the idea of its being so long empty except
it

for this one

What did

man, troubled his nerves in some odd way. suggest to him? Ah, he had it! It suggested

the peculiar lonely trimness

...

so extraordinarily for-

bidding ... of a gaoler's house outside a prison-gate, or a keeper's house outside a lunatic-asylum.

things will be differ- "Then you'd be pleased to have us here?" This time the gardener's look was direct and eager. easier to enter a gentleman's service than to leave Sir." Wolf ." he murmured. Monk. Urquhart might as well have put me up here at first. "But ent." The other gave him one of " his I equivocal glances. "You don't like here. "Mr. "I'd give a hundred pounds to get a place in them Shires again!" he burst out suddenly. Wolf looked it at him in astonishment. see the inside. 'Twere the matter of meals. "I'd be glad enough to have a gent like yourself sleeping under this here roof. I left "I were born here." he said cautiously. and worked in they Shires. Roger Monk. my gentleman be the sort of Nebuchadnezzar master be!" aren't a Dorset "You when I man. " 'Tis it. turning to his companion." the lady comes. if expect. then?" enquired Wolf. "but home This remark were a kiddie. Sir." he said. no doubt. Wolf observed the man rubbing one of his hands up and down the back of a chair. "Well. "Like it?" The man's voice sank when that to a whisper." replied the other.172 WOLF SOLENT let's "Well. They entered the house together and the matter was soon arranged between them. The upper layers of the man's mind were sophisticated by The deeper ones to retained their in- digenous imprint." made clear to Wolf a great deal about travel." he cried. I must go back Pond Cottage now. When things were settled.

dingy room. "Mrs. reading with fascinated interest the book which new secretary had brought him. . Solent! . in high glee. "It certainly would be he'll it could be done. "These Evershotts will be the making of our history. leather chair. Urquhart's study was a small. Five pounds for this? a capital I tell you. Monk. Mr. he began . it's worth twenty! You're ambassador. Wolf. after I've seen Mr. the of which were entirely covered by eighteenth- century prints. With his great white face drooping a little on one side." he remarked. Urquhart's presence. Urquhart. "if it. he made an unpleasant impression on Wolf's mind. . with the Evershott chronicle on his knees. Eh? .. in his ears. and as Wolf settled himself opposite him in a similar chair. What say to I don't know. if I my way A frown of concentrated concern clouded the counte- nance of the man in front of him.. as if with the flabby folds under his eyelids pulsing they possessed an independent life of their own. He discovered his employer in his study. walls Mr." he chuckled. I'm sure. We'll arrange about terms. "You did well with old Malahis kite. some found himself admitted to Mr.BAR SINISTER back from church -by 173 said calmly. best. and I must talk to them." With these words ringing fifteen minutes later. Do you suppose looked in on I should find him at to the cottage?" home now. Darnley ought to be this time. The Squire sat in a low. Otter and Mr. What's that? Your mother coming here? front-rooms?" Monk's He straightened out his legs and smoothed back his glossy hair from each side of that carefully brushed parting.

"Urquhart's eccentric ter I nervous imagination.leisure. and. Wolf sank back into his deep armchair and stared at the man's tweed trousers and shiny patent-leather shoes. men And as for the gardener's chat- suppose servants are always glad to grumble to a stranger. Urquhart's voice was so placid and casual as he made these remarks that Wolf was seized with a sort of shame for these letting his imagination run riot so among all new acquaintances. I A little while. anyway. fumbled once more with the pages of the book upon his knee. suppose?" Mr. a long breath that was something between a sigh of weariness and a sigh of relief.174 WOLF SOLENT he was probably exaggerating the Barton Manor. His recent inter- He drew views with Jason and Monk had this given him the feeling of being on the edge of a psychic maelstrom of conflicts. after all. peculiarities of King's "It's my himself. morbid The comfort of remote room and the ease at of this leather chair made him once weary of agitations . Mr. I expect. That Pond Cottage persuaded him to died. I It Not long." "Didn't my predecessor live in Monk's house?" he found himself saying. to feel that. was with them he They told you that. at drunken individual go to them. "It's the difference from Lon- don! That's what explains it. really forget. perhaps." he said to no doubt like hundreds of other of. bowing his head a little. Urquhart now stopped scratching his chin with his delicate finger-tips. The squire half raised it lifted his hand from the book he held and "Redfern? to his well-shaven chin." he thought to himself.

The event!" mother appreciate "How will your sharing her kitchen with my man?" said Mr. It . Urquhart suddenly. letting be up to now?" Wolf remained him run on. .BAR SINISTER and glad After 175 that he still could feel like a spectator rather than a combatant. The remark irritated Wolf. has . all. like young . tricky. Mr. its faults as a face. will you. I can see that! On my soul. What can he silent. sophical Duke event! Well . . But in his mind he really set himself once more to wonder sinister how far he had exaggerated the element in his em- ployer's character. I money than any know that much. I think you're an honest man. My cousin Carfax . . Urquhart leaned forward him intently. . . silly head?" the squire went on. the other one? But you're not tricky. why should he worry himself? As the philoof Albany murmured in King Lear: "The . . little matters "Oh. What did this easy gentleman know about the shifts of poverty? He was himself so bent upon the arrangement that these seemed quite unimportant. Your face shows but it isn't it. "You won't play me now and regarded a trick. . stupid. When does your mother arrive? I shall be interested to have the honor of meeting her again. she won't mind that!" he responded carelessly. But Mr. . Roger cares less for man I've ever dealt with. "What put all this into Roger's great. . "Is he tired of my company? Does he want to leave my service and enter your mother's? What's up with the man? It isn't the money. Well well well! . in his silkiest voice. Solent.

that's as well. where he found his hostess just returned from church. But here he met with nothing but sympathy whether. Therefore. He had settled matters his leave before the with the occupier and with the owner of his The arrangement he had Otter. but would have supper in his mother.176 WOLF SOLENT at was love one time with her. I suppose? excessively in Not tonight. Pond Cottage. everything straight. explaining that he would return that night. and as misty he retraced the track of Thursday's drive with Darnley. Ramsgard with he did not permit the various agitations into which he had been plunged to destroy his delight in that relaxed and caressing weather. eh? Well. He had no wish to behold the counte- nance of that "god of rain" again! He left Pond Cottage soon after lunch. anxious to take man had time to read him any pasfrom the Evershott Diary. . sages he took stock of the situation. off he hurried final to to new abode. The afternoon proved to be as and warm as the earlier hours of the day. you know. perhaps Mrs. . Well! They could put those pictures back on those walls now! And he mentally resolved to pay as few visits as possible to the bedroom of Mr. She may have all the while regretted the in loss to her eldest son of that chamber whose walls Wolf had so arbitrarily denuded." Wolf rose to his feet at this point. Martin shall go over there and make . Jason Otter. . Wolf could not say. Once outside the house. her secret heart she was glad to get rid of him. make was with Mrs. Pie found that travelling on foot in full daylight revealed to him many tokens of the Spring that he had missed on his evening drive.

BAR SINISTER Once or twice he descended side of the road. with outlying sheds and untidy isolated hovels. he had no difficulty in espying both cemetery and workhouse across an expanse of market-gardens and small enclosed fields. The look of these objects. these humble pasture-lands of One or two of the boys. The sweet. into the ditches 177 on either half -hidden where the limp whitish-pink stalks of primroses drooped above their crinkled hands and knees embedded in the leaves. aristocratic company not masters at all. as they passed him by. and. One a them actually lifted his straw-hat. made of little hesitating half-gestures of respectful recognition. the West Saxons. pressed his face against those fragile apparitions. He wondered what kind of a master these polite neophytes for it must have been the newcomers at the place who blundered in this way mote. with warm- scented earth. faint odour of these pale flowers made him think of Gerda Torp. as they were. Wolf became embarrassed by these encounters. and he began worrying his mind a good deal as to the effect of his mother's arrival upon the progress of his adventure. the outskirts of his approach to the by the various groups of straw-hatted boys who seemed exploring. but Governors of the ancient School? When he got closer to the town. Long before he reached was reminded of try School tall. disdainful Ramsgard he famous West Coun- young Norman invaders. combined. like reserved. gave him a sensation . mistook him for! Did he look like a teacher of re- French? Or did they take him for one of that high.

Wolf contemplated once more that famous fan-tracery Those lovely organic roof. lines and curves. up there in the greenish dimness. its Abbey. however insignificant. across such a margin. quiet mysticism must have been thrown. of all the intangible sensations that his ancestors of each one them in his day.178 WOLF SOLENT that he was always thrilled to receive the peculiar sensation that is evoked by any transitional ground lying between town and country. without entering the building. This high fan-tracery roof. and. seemed an almost personal sympathy to Wolf's mind. any of these historic places? Did. Uplifted there. He had never approached any town. with so much of the in before them. they approached or left. it was a few minutes to There was a languid afternoon service ebbing to end in the eastern portion of the dusky nave. challenged something in his soul that was hardly ever stirred by any work of art. but lingering in the Norman entrance. some floating "emanation" of human regrets and inevitably tracts human hopes hover redolent of so about such marginal welcomes and so many many farewells? When he came four arrived at last in the centre of the town and to the gate of the o'clock. Country wandering. without experiencing a queer and quite special sense of romance. in the immense stillness of deepest to appeal with . Was it that there was aroused in him some subtle memory had felt. their unknown West in fact. something was repelled and rendered actually kind of thing he had seen in that bedroom that hostile by the of Jason Otter. as. into whose creation so much calm.

comforted. Gault's sure of Wolf had nearly reached Selena door. that mellow with its stuffed fox-heads and mid-Victorian mahogany chairs. above the dust 179 stir and of all passing transactions. and fortified with a resolute strength by thinking of his soul after this fashion.BAR SINISTER that enclosed space. and healed. is some great ancient fountain in a walled garden. eternal arches of fling seemed to forth. the core of his being crystal ! was a hard. beyond all expectation. In place of him the sensation that his soul had melted into giving these high-arched shadows. and it was now five o'clock. No backwater of rural could have been more pulseless and placid than the interior. Wolf cursed the Fair and those horseloving magnates. train. The amplitude of the beauty around him had indeed just then a curious and interesting psychic effect. Hurrying round by the verified the time of the station. by this experience. But it was with a shock dignified lady in of dismay that he learned from the charge of the hotel-books that owing to the approach of the annual Spring Fair every room in the place was already occupied. for the smaller Ramsgard Inn was at the further end of the town. He crossed the public gardens. when he remembered that he ought to make a room for his mother at the Lovelace Hotel bewhere he office- fore he did anything else. opaque round Soothed. But there was nothing for him but to return to Miss Gault's. like enchanted water that sustained. it gave him the feeling that little. therefore. Aldhelm's . London he entered the hall of leisure famous hostelry. He struck St.

than he realized that his hostess was not alone. which seemed to arouse her to the limit of her nervous endurance. she kept up an incessant. passionate even before Miss Gault had finished uttering the syllables of her name. a chatter that struck . for The mechanical opening it no other reason than that was a gate from a street into a private enclosure. be kissed. slipped padded panther all the wickedly past magic of yesterday's walk and caused his heart imaginary image for he to beat at the had never actually seen that provocative picture the tombstone! of the young girl astride No sooner had the mute servant admitted him into Selena's drawing-room and closed the door behind him. who. but playing wildly with the cats. Not only were all the cats there. Off she went again. was a curly- headed. that little gate. like a velvetin a blind night. however. excitable chatter. magnetic of olive complexion. like a young Bassarid with young little girl. seized him by both hands and held up an excited. and the vein of amorousness in him.180 WOLF SOLENT and moved westward under the green door and entered act of Street just above the bridge the long wall. brought sud- denly into his mind his similar entrance into the Torp yard. for her to mouth cheeks were feverishly vivid and her dark eyes gleamed like two great gems in the handle of a dagger a dagger that someone keeps furtively moving backwards and for- wards between a red flame and a window open to the night. As she pulled the cats to and fro and tumbled over them and among them. on sofa and hearth-rug. to her play with the cats. He pushed open the garden of hyacinths. tigers.

"I Eighty-Five North Street Ramsgard. so wild. and. dusky atmosphere in which she played. and indeed seemed to require no vocal response from the other persons in the room. a substance rather than a sound. Tell Mr. in the foreground of which a young brown goatherd plays for ever with his goals. Solent live. "You mustn't be noisy when a gentleman's here. Mother went away when I was born.BAR SINISTER 181 Wolf's mind as resembling. "Olwen Smith!" The little girl got up from the floor in a moment. Miss Gault is my greatest friend. and came and stood by her friend's knee. in some odd manner. . after their first exchange of greetings. you've got your name and where you noisy little girls. Solent doesn't like little girls or that talk all the time and interrupt people. so rebellious. Urquhart's library. and he had hurriedly given her a description of Mr. when she and Wolf had seated themselves. for it seemed to supply a part of the warm. on your Sunday frock. She stood obe- The child uttered these sentences as diently by Selena Gault's side. I like the white cat best!" if they had been a lesson which she had learned by heart. Grandfather keeps the school hat-shop." "I live at Number repeated the child hurriedly. Urquhart and Mr. Aunt Mattie is my mother now. but her dark eyes fixed themselves upon Wolf with an expression that he never afterwards forgot." was eleven last Thursday. and yet so appealing did it seem. It was like the swirl of a swollen brook in a picture of Nicolas Poussin. so mocking. "01 wen Smith!" broke in Miss Gault. Mr. besides.

isn't that peculiar hypnotized smile . as his own mood changed changed with this way and that." expostulated Miss Gault." responded Gault's Olwen Smith. Her wild spirit seemed to have ebbed away from every portion of her body except her eyes. but not nearly so much as my her" said Selena Gault tenderly. The little girl cuddled up to the black-gowned figure and laid her head against the old maid's sleeve. and. reflecting thoughts that no child's con- scious brain could possibly have understood. when he gets daughter.182 WOLF SOLENT loves "Olwen cats love my cats. Smith. and it's Of course Mattie is his of him to say such things. That's angry. watch the mother died about twenty-five years ago. mechanically stroking Miss hand like an affectionate little automaton. while effect of that!" her feverish mocking eyes seemed to say to Wolf. child. "Aunt Mattie's funny" murmured the little girl. child!" "But she is. These refused to remove themselves from those of the visitor. rather! Just a tiny she. these dusky mirrors it. "Her name was Lorna. "But you know you love your Aunt Mattie as if she were your mother. says things why Mr." very wrong like that. "Hush. "She's been so good to you if that you'd be a very ungrateful little girl you didn't love her. She and your grandfather used to have dreadful quarrels "Mattie's before she died." tell "I heard grandfather that she was no more his Aunt Mattie the other night child than I was her child. Miss Gault?" Selena smiled at Wolf little bit funny." said Selena Gault. "There.

" said Olwen "You "Like mine?" murmured Selena Gault. like "Aunt Mattie's got a nose Smith. who have given their souls into children's keeping. and Wolf surveyed it with silent satisfaction. but the child's voice sounded clear enough. The arrangement of tray was evidently a matter of meticulous ritual in this house. transform their pets' worst faults into qualities that are irresistibly engaging. for the mute servant entered this room carrying the tea-tray. The that tea-tray was placed upon a round table black kitchen-kettle at Miss Gault's side.BAR SINISTER 183 with which older people. servants are The servant herself did not retire. reproachfully. That's one thing I can't have in my house. The general effect of Miss Gault's drawing-room. as most to wont do at such a juncture." a ceremony which was so deftly accomplished that Wolf soon found all his difficulties and annoyances melting away in the fragrance of the most perfect cup of tea he had ever tasted. "Not like yours." closer in the black silk The brown head was buried gown. Olwen dear. especially as the turbulent little girl ran off to play with the cats and left Miss Gault free not only to fill his cup. in . Miss Gault like his! Exactly like his!" Selena Gault had occasion at that moment to turn clean away from both her the visitors. but remained to assist at the ceremony of "pouring out. mustn't be rude. yours. A Miss Gault declared no other kind boiled good water was placed upon the hearth. but also to attend unreservedly to his remarks.

Olwen. There was not a single piece of furniture in this room of Miss Gault's which did not project some essence of the past. jumped up from the sofa. . you can go on playing! You can make as much noise as you like now! We've finished our conversation. if you don't berude to interfere with grown-up people's conversation. He broke the silence now by a reference to his con- versation with Darnley in the Blacksod book-shop. tender and mellow as the smell of potpourri. child!" cried Selena Gault. began to take on for his imagination the particular atmosphere that he was wont. and then in a completely tone. ." This implied something about old in this that there was room which made him recall that bow-window his in Brunswick Terrace.184 WOLF SOLENT the pleasant mingling of twilight and firelight. little girl's shrill But the pas- voice rose to a defiant shriek. "Hush!" different cried Selena Gaull. I'd never have known about Aunt Mattie not being daughter if I grandfather's real hadn't listened." "Be sionate as she quiet. Miss Gault. to think of as "the Penn House atmosphere. secretive pleasures." listening intently: "I don't want to play any more. "Otter " said he began. It's send you home. where childhood he used to indulge in those queer." "I wasn't interfering. . Solent tell you what Otter said!" "I'll have to have better. addressing the silent child. Weymouth. who was "01 wen dear. I was listening. I hate all your cats except this one! I want to hear Mr. in his own mind. flung the cat upon the .

Olwen dear. . she rose to the occasion now. his hostess of his mother's The nervous electricity with which the air of the room was already deterred him. boy. "When's she coming? Oh. Ann Hag- coming down here. encouraged rather than "Miss Gault!" he began suddenly when the tall black figure had subsided into some kind of peace in her green chair." she voice. Selena Gault leaned forward to- ward him. If Miss Gaull had not managed the child with perfect before. lot of said in the calmest it's and most matter-of-fact get so cross "I daresay because grown-up people talk such a nonsense that they when children listen. "You gard's needn't tell me. There! Look! You've frightened your own favourite!" It was when matters were at this point of psychic equilibrium that Wolf decided that no more moments must elapse before he informed arrival. . "My mother and if have the same name.BAR SINISTER floor. "I've just had some rather serious news which I'd better tell you at once. I can guess it. but a look of irrita- He nodded tion crossed his face. I'd never have known about Aunt Mattie not being real mother if I hadn't listened!" . and screamed aloud." in assent to her words. sick of the burden of life." Like a weary caryatid. "It's all right. 185 "And my tact shook back her tangled curls." he protested. what a mistake you'll make I you let her come! What a mistake you'll make!" . vibrating. but unyielding in her resolution to bear it without reproach and without complaint.

But moment a diversion offered itself which distracted the attention of both of them. though grandfather does sell the School hats! I know Aunt Matlie would love she. tell to have your mother. She made a very just as if faint movement with her two hands. The Lovelace is all filled up with people come in for the Spring Show. Olwen Smith. now burst in upon them. "She's due now few minutes." "In Ramsgard again a thing! after twenty-seven years! What What a thing to happen!" gasped Selena Gault. "She's due at seven o'clock." "What?" gasped like the lady. She took firm hold of the arms at that of her chair to steady herself. Aunt Mattie takes lodgers.186 "I've not WOLF SOLENT had much choice. who had been listening with fascinated intensity to what they were saying. Solent!" she cried. Miss Gault? Do tell him she must come Do let her come if you'll only with that the child sidled up against their hostess's knees with such beguiling cajolery that Wolf him." remarked Wolf in a drily. "Do let your mother have our front-room for the night. Wouldn't to us. Miss Gault! He'll say so!" And was surprised at the coldness with which the woman re- ceived her appeal. her deformed lip twitching some curious aquarium-specimen that has been prodded by a visitor's stick. "0 Mr. the deuce I'm going to put her! "I don't know where I That's where want your advice. at her side at all- the child had not been ." Miss Gault's face was like an ancient amphitheatre full of dusky gladiators.

Past the child's curly head. I'm sure your Aunt Mattie wouldn't wish to have a guest for only one night. looking up at the figure above her with a tragic. Mr. hug- ging her knees. You're always Miss Gault! You're very unkind!" unkind. which she held pressed against her.BAR SINISTER movement as if she 187 were pressing down a load of invisible earth over the roots of an invisible plant. past the puzzled and rather sulky profile of Wolf. now flung herself down upon the her It's floor and burst into furious crying. and covering her hot forehead with kisses. No one likes an arrangement of that sort. my dear. out into the gathering night. and." But the child. "You are prejudiced against me!" she said." she mur- mured. "I want her to come! when anything nice happens. I've told you so often you mustn't. who had been watching her face with tense scrutiny till in- this moment. her sobs ceased. Solent shall bring his mother to your house. "I want to come to us!" she wailed. "Hush. so queer out of her The word "prejudiced" sounded so unexpected and mouth that it charmed away the old "It's all maid's agitation. child!" she said irritably. stooping down and lifting her up. she stared." She fell into a deep reverie. Olwen. . out into many nights lost and gone. lamentable face. very solemnly. staring into vacancy. like this And then quite suddenly her tears stopped. right. past the thick green curtains bordered with red- and-gold braid. "You mustn't in- terrupt us like that. "It's all right. sitting upon the floor.

. appeal- see you again. turning round to manoeuvre it as Miss Gault opened the door." Olwen was obviously immensely relieved that he had refrained from hugging her or kissing her face. it was was triumphant. When Miss Gault returned and had closed the door. I'll was. that a commander in an involved campaign might give to a trusty but over-impetuous subordinate whose limita- tions of mind prohibit complete confidence. and yet ing and wistful. and he was left with that honourable glow of satisfaction with which clumsy people are sometimes rewarded who have been self-controlled enough to respect the nervous individuality of a child. it It was mocking and mischievous. in a queer way. and rising to her feet with hand still in hers." to expect you. stooping down off to and kissing the less child's feverishly hot little fingers. The lady nodded gravely. "Well." he said brusquely. "un- they send you bed before we get to the house. interrupting Miss Gault's thoughts. concentrated look.188 WOLF SOLENT Wolf now rather impatiently looked at his watch and compared it with the clock upon the mantelpiece. she stood for a space regarding her visitor with the sort of grave. Solent. not unmixed with misgiving. "I'll tell Emma to take Olwen home." she said." said Wolf. little Olwen held out her hand with one repentant. Very sedate and dignified was the curtsey she now gave him. "It's half-past six. Say good-bye to Mr. and yet of the most compliIt cated looks he had ever seen on a child's face. "and then she can tell Mattie the child's Smith one.

"Are you her shadow? Are you tied to her apron-strings? Can't you see what it means to me. Wolf's only retort mustn't take invade his very bury ing-ground!" . to have yourself that this is to speak to her? Haven't felt his country." were his parting words." silent. which what Ann always Wolf was clock. When that the train he reached the station. he was met by the news was to be about an hour late. perched high above the town itself overshadowed by the grassy eminence known . "This will worry our little Olwen!" he thought in dismay. did. He was watching the hands of the "Why did you let her come down here?" the old maid broke out. so Wolf mounted was not a very pleasant place to spend an the hill which rose behind the and the river.BAR SINISTER "It will be 189 awkward for her to go straight to these I Smiths. you know. enemy. . They'll think we've changed our minds. "They'll send her to bed for a certainty. you to have to see her. to this impassioned speech was to it snatch at the lady's hand and give it a hurried kiss. his possession? Haven't you felt that? And yet you let his enemy. his corner of the world. and it sup- may be all right. pose. anyway. his vindictive . "You too seriously. But she'd have to meet them. It's like is taking the bull by the horns. and to others who remember him. sooner or later. They'll think we're not coming at all. parallel tracks of the railroad Here there was a and sort of terrace-road." shall we get supper I when we are Damn till these teasing problems! wish Mother had waited The hour station in. there? And where tomorrow.

As he paced that terrace. Feeling sure that. It seemed to float off and away on a dark stream of something that was neither air nor water. But he stretched out his arms into that darkness in vain. was a support in which he could lose himself completely effort! lose himself without obligation or He. if the train came sooner than it was expected. capriciously." beyond the summit of which lay the as wide-stretching deer-park of the lord of the manor. craved for as he could some immortal creation of Chance. What he desired at that moment. blindly. such worship. as soon as he reached the terrace-road below "The Slopes" he began pacing to and fro along its level security. Mists that in the darkness were only waftures of chillier air rose up from the muddy banks of the Lunt and brought to his nostrils on this Spring night odours that suggested the Autumn. The sky was overcast. as he had never desired it before. or the scraping of one alder-branch against in- another above the waters of the Lunt. his mind seemed to detach itself from the realistic actualities he was experiencing. gazing down on the lights of the town as they twinkled intermittently through the darkened valley beneath him. inhaling these damp airs. he would hear it in time.190 WOLF SOLENT "The Slopes. or the faint finitesimal slide of tiny grains of gravel. the mortal creation of Chance. as some minute earthworm top of in the midst of the empty little path at the "The Slopes" came forth to inhale the Spring . wilfully. His voice might have been the voice of a belated rook on its way to Babylon Hill. so that these scattered points of light resembled the phan- tasmal reproduction of a sidereal firmament that had already ceased to exist.

. sharp sound of the clattering gates of the level-crossing. in spurts of phosphorescent illumination. and hurried with long descent. before the train drew found that his heart was beating with excitement. last few days. . all incongruous. I don't really want her at .ce of Lenty Pond. his appeal was lost that any single drop of water that rolled at the green back of a frog emerging from the cold surfa. various distorted physical aspects of the people he had met these ill-assorted. . Standing on the platform. for what dispersed them and shook them indeed into nothingness now. like a man falling plumb-down from a sky- light upon a creaking floor. interfering with Gerda . with an abrupt materialistic shock. he "I'm simply "about what I an impasse'' he thought to himself. But these aspects were maladjusted. feel for Mother.BAR SINISTER night! 191 A bubble of airy vibration. Wolf slid with a jerk into the normal world as he heard this sound. All these morbid evocations culminated his finally in the thought of mother. . as absolutely as moment down He kept visualizing the mud-scented darkness in which he seemed to be floating as a vast banked-up aqueduct composed of granite slabs covered with slippery black moss. in. his stick firmly at He grasped into the strides ground the in the by its handle. Out of the spiritual tide that carried him along. . down little world seemed important to him now Nothing but to see his mother's face and hear her high-pilched familiar voice. digging it every step. . . there whirled up. interfering . down here . was the clear. . .

clutching her wrists almost fiercely. now. grey hair he felt that. just this very thing! as of old." She caught herself up to- with a gasp. . I never knew what "Oh. full of despotic abruptness. . hand- face. . .192 WOLF SOLENT . white teeth. . . . with everything. . and he held her arm's length with both his hands. it's funny . "They were all down on us. spouting up. ruddy. my dabchick!" the lady cried. of reality to his phantasmal life and make the ground under his feet firm. he recognized in a flash that existence without her. He felt that without her the whole thing it might paper! split and tear as if had been made of thin was awful. Her coming. at this moment. that wavy mass of splendid. . however adventurous it might be. it was she alone who made the world he lived in solid and resistant to the touch. wretches tradesmen could be! They'll be nicely fooled up. when no one's thinking of whales when at everyone's thinking of the course of the ship!" When the train actually came in. those proud lips. just as those famous Ramsgard "Slopes" up there had seemed half -real a few minutes ago! It was she alone who could give the bitter-sweet tang . would always be half-real . kissing him on both cheeks in an exaggerated foreign manner. it when they find the house shut They behaved abominably. just like the spouting up of a great white whale . As he looked upon her now some that gallant. . It's odd . . had done. those strong. it's . and turned. . But they deserved it. though he might love other persons for other reasons. looking her up and down almost irritably. . . .

he gave his man on the box." Mr. "That man! Not that house." Wolf took from her a basket she which ap- peared full of the oddest assortment of objects. pushed by the docile porter to the front of the station. "Number the bus Eighty-Five North Street!" asked. Urquhart's drive-gate. Ramsgard now! Carefully now!" carefully The porter retired." "Where "It's at is this room? I remember every house in North Street. "There it is. Solent. Then she leaned forward and rubbed her gloved hands . The full. which Wolf hurriedly produced from his pocket while his mother was opening her purse. order to the When he had helped her into the interior of the stuffy little vehicle. of all houses. Solent's dark-brown eyes glowed like the eyes of some excited wood-animal. "the old bus! Put them in . as "Where are you taking me?" Mrs. off You don't mean " She broke and stared at him intently. "Those are all mine! Three big ones and three little ones! You can come back for the other people's when you've taken mine carried. Solent rumbled off." Mrs. But I've got a lovely cottage for us King's Barton.. the hatter's. out! Is that bus there? It always -used to be. and they both followed the loaded little truck.BAR SINISTER 193 wards the patient Ramsgard porter." cried Mrs. recompensed by a shilling. Mother. while an indescribable smile began to touch the corners of her mouth.. near Mr. Smith's. "To a room Lovelace was at in the town for one night.

or did he invite me? Am I destined to be Albert Smith's guest the first night I set foot in this place?" "Did you and Father know him well?" enquired Wolf. . . seriously. goodness! if But out they must have come down in the world. WOLF SOLENT while the "Has her cheeks glowed with mischief. He was Il's the hatter.. .. . It's your man." "The child?" It was his mother's turn to look puzzled now. Mother. "That is what the child called her. all right. Solent's smile died away. "Unless Lorna's child's got married. dangled before him. father knew Lorna well sillier Albert's minx of a Lorna was even about him than that idiot Selena. as the bus swung round the corner by the ancient conduit." she said." to return Her inscrutable smile began back with a sigh. which. at the same time. "Your wife. and she leaned "To go It'll straight to Albert's house it . all right. . "Well! the same. he lets rooms to visitors .194 together. "It can't be the same." "It's the same. wasn't he?" She nodded. But it'll be fun." . . feeling were struggling to catch two ropes. . be sport! I'm not going to take Olwen? Aunt Mattie? little ." Mrs. good man by any chance got a daughter as if he called Mattie?" "Aunt Maltie?" murmured Wolf. Mother. "Little Olwen Smith.

BAR SINISTER "What happened." bygones be by- She turned upon him then. "And I'm not going to be all my old The rambling old conveyance was drawing up now outside Number Eighty-Five. Mother. You don't seem lived in this town for ten years. "Your father never gave up his amusement for me. "You've got everybody!" which lit the inside of the bus flickering oil-lamp shone down upon those shining wood-animal eyes. Don't look so sulky! you I'm going amuse myself here. I'm going to begin with Albert! There! Don't be silly! Get out and help me out. They positively gleamed as the jolting of the vehicle jogged both mother and son up and down on their seats." "Listen. you must be good." said to realize that I Wolf hurriedly. Wolf! I'm to 195 in a mood I tell to be amused by everything. "I know what you mean when you here. Do you understand?" to job here. Mother?" "Never mind now. We can't go anywhere else . Mother. while the bus-man ran up the steps of the house to ring the bell." father taught me to be unconventional." she sugar-and-spice in said. let "Mother. Now look won't have you getting into any rows down here! I've got my nice to everybody. I talk of 'amusing' yourself. and gones. and you've got to be In his excite- ment he to laid his heavy hand upon her knee. and I'm not going to give up my amusement for you! I'm going to be just myself with all our old acquaintances. They be nice to everybody The glowed with excitement. "Your haunts.

" the grey- haired lady was saying with radiant glances at them all. Solent times change!" mur- mured the master of the house. half-an-hour later Wolf and his mother were seated at a massive mahogany table in the hatter's dining- room. With feverish cheeks and enormous dark eyes she stood at the elbow of her grandfather. . Albert. we must allow that! But goodness! You've got her figure and her look. do you? And I Albert knows me too well to be surprised at anything say. But I feel all right now. "I would never have believed it possible. now. as I set eyes upon you. Mattie. Olwen was not in bed. . You're not so pretty as your mother. sharing the Smiths' Sunday supper. my dear. their troubles. "I little was all shaky when you were coming. Mrs. . and that Lorna should have come to life in Maltie." And he himself to a helped said Olwen lingering sip of the glass of mild whiskey-and. It seemed like the dead coming to life. No. listening to every word of the talk and scanning every detail of Mrs. you're not as pretty as your mother." that at the door? Is that Lorna's child? Just . Wolf. Mattie doesn't mind. Of course. Solent's appearance. in a low voice. How does it feel to be so like someone else? It must be queer It gives almost as if you inherited I their feelings.296 WOLF SOLENT . "that you should have changed so much.water that stood in front of him." "Times change. but Albert mustn't be hurt if I say I think you're much nicer! You needn't scowl at me. . me even me a rather queer feel- ing. Who's . everything! But am glad to see you.

commonplace little 197 man. as if he had been caught trespassing in a very rigidly preserved estate. they possessed a certain formidable power. in spite of what Mrs. prominent nose was out of all proportion to the rest of her face. Mattie turned out to be a girl with a fine figure. The smell collected of hassocks and stuffy vestries hung about his clothes. girl dis- She replied calmly and with quite the appropriate nuance of humour to his mother's rather exaggerated badinage. were all rendered insignificant by the size of this dominant and uncomely feature. her eyes. He had expected her to be extremely all. and with concerted by this intrusion. but an unappealing face.BAR SINISTER He was a sad. spectacled eyes. While Mrs. But though Aunt Mattie's eyes were small and of a colour that varied between grey and green. He looked as if he had been spending the day in long Low Church official services. Smith's daughter. Solent had said. her forehead. But not at . Her chin. She was not pretty in any sense at all. showed Wolf was surprised how completely at ease the herself. and the furtive unction of an bits in many threepenny an embroidered bag weighed upon his stooping ate her cold who had shoulders. with a deprecatory bend of the head and a mingling of rustic cunning and weary obsequiousness in his watery. Wolf took the opportunity of studying in quiet self-effacement the expressive countenance of Mr. A person gazing into them for the second or third time found himself looking hastily away. Solent mutton and hot caper- sauce with hungry relish and rallied the nervous churchwarden. lean. She looked about twenty-five. Her thick.

though why it should have been so. to which the child responded breathlessly of the ways of . "Which day does the Spring Fair begin. Solent's evident recklessness found no rocks or its reefs in the behaviour of the others lash itself into foam! upon which it mischief could Before the evening was over and start for his was time for him to night-walk back to King's Barton. Smith gazing down upon them. but that Wolf knew enough women to know there were subtle withdrawings and qualifications under that heavy. into which it would have been unwise to probe. benevolent mask.198 WOLF SOLENT himself she seemed perfectly natural and unaffected. Perhaps he had expected the Smith family to display social tendencies at variance with those of the upper middle-class to which he himself belonged. he would have been ashamed to explain. All this was astonishing to him. with delier its great cut-glass chan- hanging over their heads and its gold-framed picture of some ancestral Mr. he behaved with quite as much dignity and ease as most of the professional gentlemen with whom Wolf was acquainted! This unpremeditated supper-party in that dingy high-ceilinged dining-room. Father?" Mattie said suddenly to the old gentleman. Wolf had more than once for a definite promise from Mattie begged Smith that she would bring Olwen over to see them when they were established in their new abode at Lenty Cottage. The girl was complaisant and gracious over this invitation. If so. . was neither awkward nor embarrassed. Mrs. For though the hatter of Ramsgard School did not behave nobleman. he was certainly like a guilty of unjustifiable snobbishness.

gazing at Wolf from the protection of Mattie's knees. then. "I haven't changed very much. and the tone in which he uttered these plaintive words seemed drawn from a vast warehouse of shelves of hats accumulated school-hats shelves upon him down "Your mother is your rupted Olwen in a shrill the burden of which seemed weighing in a Dead Sea of diurnal desolation." will be there then "We'll go on Thursday." said Mattie Smith acquiescingly.BAR SINISTER "The Fair. and it lasts till the end of the week. 199 hatter. a reddening of Mattie's . that completes to the one last touch. Smith looked a caught observing her. but someone told me after church no! it was before church that Thursday is it the horse-show. "Mothers are as mothers do. Mother. you haven't changed! You haven't changed!" sighed the weary little man." all!" cried Mrs. "That's I "Oh. in Mr. "Everyone and you'll be able to see how many of 'em remember you. Solent. little embarrassed at having been "No." he responded. the moment the gates are open! to go every day. my dear?" responded the "To- morrow. isn't she?" intervoice. Albert?" mur- mured Mrs. But he caught. Providence came to his rescue with an answer that was really quite an inspiration. all the same. I believe." said Wolf. real mother." "The horse-show is the great day. Solent response to a furtive appraising glance from the discreet churchwarden. Don't remember the Fair! I'd like I'd like go tomorrow.

As he grew smoking It tired of cigarettes. Wolf watched Mattie whis- pering to the child about going to bed. he became aware of a faint scent of apples. Solent's excitement was unsubduable. Mr. the dark old wall-paper. seemed tion of the apartment. No sound came rest of the house. to drink up every peculiarity of the room in which they sat upon which the heavily-globed gas-jets of the candelabra shed so mellow a glow. The dark old furniture. No sound came from from the the street outside. Solent drank only a little coffee. Wolf had long begun. waiting till a lapse in the conversation should give him a chance to bid them good-night and start on his walk home. he began to look from one to another. listening to Mrs. Albert Smith kepi pouring out whiskey himself and for Wolf. projected some kind of hypnotism upon the sliding moments. but as he knew well enough that Olwen wouldn't go to bed till the party broke up. Where to this scent originated he could not detect. Solent's rich. but though Mrs. facing one another across the table.200 WOLF SOLENT cheeks and a hurried turning away of the churchwarden's for eyes. of the furniture in his insatiable manner. the dark old great- grandfather in his heavy frame. And proceed equally from every poras he gave himself up to it. and there seemed something about this unusual supper-party that made him reluctant % to bring it to an end. she together by her high was the one who held the evening spirits. people they continued to sit Like a group of enchanted there. voluble voice. But Mrs. it . that made it as hard for him to move as if he were under a spell.

"any day but Thursday. . just out of pure. to way not basely. Well! The event must work itself out. she could not refrain. editions old enough to contain news of the death of Queen Adelaide or of Queen Charlotte! "I must go now. as Miss Gault on the very edge of his burying-ground. year after year. manage to rise at good-night. He would have He did last and to kiss his mother kissed Olwen. too. stirring up the mud of the ambiguous past.BAR SINISTER 201 brought to his mind a kind of distilled essence of all the fruit and the flowers that had ever been spread out upon that massive tions of brown table. that beat about in the secretive brain behind that heavily- . but simply the great invisible struggle had already begun between that dead man in the cemetery and this woman who was so extraordinarily alive ! She had come prepared magnificent success. ." he thought. . but to avenge herself in her own still with formidable to efface herself. but she impatiently drew away." was received with more warmth and cordiality than this girl had yet displayed. being encamped. day after day. His final appeal to Mattie to come over and see them." And he began to suspect that making a that start what really held him back from upon his walk was not any attraction in the Smith menage. when we'll all be at the horse-show. She had not come Ramsgard And now. spread out upon former edi- "The Western Gazette". said. suppressed high spirits. "I must go now. What were the thoughts. being here. In no sense was he re- from sponsible.

but to Gerda as she was to his wicked imagination when he listened to the lewd whisperings of Lobbie Torp and Bob Weevil. faded from his brain.202 WOLF SOLENT What was this queer attraction which he so different from the interest excited in him little featured face? felt for her. his face. the old serpent of lecherous desire lifted once more its head in that spacious night. the Smith granddaughter. accompanied by hardly any mortal sound except the creak of his heavy boots and the thud of his own heavy stick. Once more Gerda Poll's his mind reverted to Gerda Torp not to as she was when she sent her bird-call so far over Camp. It own was not until he was clear of the last houses of Ramsgard. rolling Then. as the grass-scented mists grew cooler against up towards the arable lands from the hushed Blackmore meadows. that the Smith house. the Smith daughter. by her father and by the girl? Wolf couldn't help pondering on these things as he made his way out of the silent town. to the Gerda he had never seen and perhaps would never see the Gerda who used a tombstone for a hobby-horse in that littered monu- ment-yard in Chequers Street! . clear of both workhouse and cemetery.

Bessie. The rooms downstairs. disliked cooking would be able with their meals. Martin. But that impression of something uncannily it neat and trim about still obstinately persisted in his own mind after the stir of their arrival was over. for the only furniture they contained 'was a miserable collection of wooden forms and battered cane-bottom chairs. remained to be seen. the Squire's housekeeper. after their first two nights in their new abode. But as how far his Wolf knew.YELLOW BRACKEN WoLF his TOOK GOOD CARE NOT TO REVEAL TO first HIS MOTHER own secret reservations as to the desirability of Lenty Cottage. the doors of which stood wide open. which stood open one appeared to be the vicar's . should their keeping a ser- vant. the doors of too. There was no word spoken about that their maid. and browns by the varied moods of the weather. were evidently used as religious classrooms. it struck Wolf that it would be amusing. Of the rooms at the top of the staircase. before entering on his labours with Mr. to pay a visit to King's Barton Vicarage. On the morning of Wednesday. promised come in two or three mother who. greens. He found the clergyman working in his garden. the whitewashed exterior of which was stained with faint yellows. Urquhart. but Mrs. to deal times a week to clean up. He followed him up an uncarpeted staircase and across an uncarpeted landing. and followed him into his forlorn house.

and even the floor. "Mostly stories. it of red coals. instinct. Chairs." remarked Wolf his host. as he sat down on the only chair that was not use. a forlorn emptiness upon Wolf's senses was ghastly. It was littered from end to end with cheap novels." he repeated. The vaporous March light filtering in through dingy muslin curthrew a watery pallor upon these abortions of piled tains human mediocrity. "You seem to be fond of reading." responded T. The room into which Wolf was now led had fire at least the redemption of a small this. No one could conceive a return to such a house as a return "home"! What that this wretched little priest meant was simply had no home. E. Having cleared a chair and the fragment of a table. in opposition to every human that was worse than squalor. turning his head round with a whimsical grimace. Its room or study. to in "Mostly stories. The basic it human lair necessity for some degree of cheerfulness in one's was outraged and violated. were up with these vulgarly-bound volumes. tables. he sat down opposite his . Valley. as he fumbled at the lock of a small cupboard hanging against the wall. The whole house looked shabby desolation seemed Its effect to project.204 WOLF SOLENT the bed bedroom was unmade and the floor was littered with tattered magazines and another the priest's sitting- though its owner had long since relinquished every kind of effort to get that personal happiness out of life which is the inheritance of as the meanest. But except for was not a place where a stranger would wish to prolong his stay.

. curious. I know myself through and through. "But you know those stories are hardly literature. E. trying his discomfort. "whatever he . be much worse re- much worse off. off You might . like the of a prophet among mice. overcome "Books and brandy . "It doesn't matter whether I drink or whether I stay sober! The blessed Sacrament remains the same." he went on. can't understand it. I curious. and with most of the parish despising me. Especially as I have so poor a conceit of myself. meditatively. and I am the weakest. feeblest character alive! really It is And yet. peated. "You to are not unhappy. Vicar . I am not more often in despair. Valley smiled wanly. "He's got hold of it. E. almost sensual sympathy." he . Solent. There was something about the man's abject humility that excited him in a way he could not have explained. Solent. "It hands and supporting his elbows on curious that with Urquhart and Jason Otter always working against me. . refilling his glass." he began voice again. and a fire for chilly days. "Much worse off. an unhappy person. E. resting his chin his clenched is upon the table. . . Valley does." than you are. as you say. whatever happens to T." he thought. Solent It is hardly theology. while Wolf found himself spasm of neryous way to a strange. then. T. his voice rising to a shrill squeal. not at bottom.YELLOW BRACKEN 205 guest with a bottle of brandy between them and two glasses." remarked Wolf. . I am not. I mean. "It doesn't matter what T." He was giving silent for a space. Valley!" Wolf looked at him and exulted in the man's exultation.

the matter of unholy love." the man admitted. ragged. This awful house might be a prison. so. With a " shaky hand he deliberately poured back into the decanter his unfinished drink. leather slippers. "Not a bit!" he cried. and he it gave vent to a sigh of infinite sadness. then. "You don't worry yourself about conduct." murmured "If you call it so." he mumbled almost incoherently. even the most insane and depraved even incest. "You mean T. There was a pause at this. E. WOLF SOLENT He's got hold of it. for instance is I conget nected with religion and touches religion. Valley. with awkward shuffling steps. steps that made Wolf aware for the first time that in- stead of boots he wore large. he came round the table to his guest's side." said Wolf. But when love in the The priest of King's Barton rose to wrong way his feet. or about duty?" The a bit!" little man's disordered El Greco eyes grew bright within their hollow sockets. "That is another question. I When I get angry it's a matter of nerves.206 likes to call it. a slave-galley. The fellow's a saint! He's got hold of it!" But it was his practical reason rather than his nervous sympathy that dictated his next words. it's "Why should be hard to tell. When drunk it's a matter of chemistry. "I'm nothing. "Not "And morality?" enquired Wolf. but every kind of love. But don't you know. seizing Wolf's . Then." he said. "I'm nothing. and the light in those animated-eyes went out suddenly. an asylum. just as if Wolf had put an extinguisher over them.

And then he went on rather lamely: "I "I don't think any of us think there are a great as there are a great many different kinds many different kinds of of love. . "By the by. only don't -let it be tomorrow. He suddenly felt a reaction in favour of the most simple earlh-born heathenism. my mother will expect a call from you soon. . just malice." and he held out his hand. there was a ghastly reciprocity. . .." he added gently. levels . feverish fingers. his mind of the kinds of love we run across sink down to the bot- tom of the universe!" this. 'Tm not so certain about any of this as to be rude to anyone over it! Well. I'm generally in then. . Shall we see you there?" And he shook the priest's hand with affectionate cordiality. are . . Urquhart. well. Valley. "Well." he mumbled. It seemed to him that between this confessed "morality" of all Tilly-Valley and what he had already divined as the unconfessed "immorality" of Mr. "don't 207 love sinks down that into the roots of the you know that whole world? Don't you know that . . it had been day since he first got out of bed that morning. when he returned . knows very much about love. "that most expression. Having said he uttered a short. in life . You will come. ately finished his glass of brandy. because we're going to the Show. defy Nature?" Wolf's brain became suddenly clearer than . . He deliber- and stood up." he blurted out. . stopped again.. good-bye.YELLOW BRACKEN hand in his dirty. that there . uncomfortable schoolboy-chuckle." He struggling with the difficulty of "I don't think. searching his It was just lunch-time mind with his eyes. won't you? Drop in at lea-time. to Lenty Cot- .

Mother. and your dear face as grandmamma used till to say that 'beyond yourself look! There's a letter for I've fin- you under that book. in one of those sudden clairvoyances that emanate so strangely from unopened a child at all. he felt certain that it wasn't from was from Gerda! to read it "You're mad Wolf. I can see that." she down opposite each other. It was possible. a breath of earth-mould that was very acceptable after his recent conversation. as they sat "Acting as oil and wine." Wolf looked at the book in question. It letters. "between the squire and the vicar. "You look very well pleased with yourself. dren?" Wolf shook It Could it be from Olwen Smith? appeared unlikely. and she brought into the small front-room. His WOLF SOLENT mother had been weeding in the garden all the morning. watching his face with gleaming brown eyes. Wolf. but the child did seem to have taken a fancy to him. but you shan't have it ished this good meal and drunk my coffee. "You're a nice one to settle quarrels! But I suppose you settled this that's what's given one by shouting them both down. But then. "Is it from that little Smith stayed girl. "It's bound a child's hand. got any chilhis head. do you think? Or have those people you those funny Otter people. where they had their light meal." he answered. which was a like a large edition of Young's "Night Thoughts" school-prize." She threw back her head and laughed wickedly." said his mother. "What have been doing to make you feel so complacent?" you said. with.208 tage. But I .

"I wonder how many in public. I think would be nice we had our in! It's coffee at once. 'The son of my old friend. That was sweet of you! Think of it! My son silting down to tea with all the Ramsgard old ladies! I'm sure she invited every one of the masters' wives and mothers to meet you. don't you? Do go and bring on the kitchen-stove. you know.YELLOW BRACKEN won't have if it 209 it my good lunch spoilt. I'm so glad.' I can hear her say it! Wejl do tell me. Wolf. Mother. But Mrs." with alacrity. it'll be so amusing. Solent was a match for him. He be revenge enough without that. this allusion to definitely impatient at the enforced delay about the letter. "Oh." He did not say first to that he had been felt it to the take ihe initiative in this affair. Wolf suddenly burst out: "I've been to tea with Selena Gault. often did. you know how I it with me. Wolf! For this is really getting interesting. It was over the Gault . going to the Horse Show. and they sipped their coffee in suspended excitement. I didn't of them I shall recog- nize? Albert used to be ever so embarrassed when I I made a fuss over him And I did. I never can endure deformity! I feel sorry and so forth." she cried. She wrote and and invited me. that you went to cheer up that old monster. but just can't see about. "Oh. just to silliness!" show care a fig about Lorna's Obscurely irritated by the flippancy of his father's misconduct. William Solent. their eyes shining across the table like the eyes of two animals. as he always did in these He obeyed caprices of his mother's. What did you it is think of the great Gault? Of course.

" and tore open the letter. out He then pushed her down by main force into an arm- chair and hurriedly handed her a cigarette and a lighted match. upon her. "Now "I'll tell please be good. She love. but really you know! You'd have thought he'd ity like that end of the world. you everything when I've read it. Solent ran to the side-table. Wolf? Take your hands from your head!" But Wolf. But not at all! What about it want to have run to the are you doing. His mother puffed great rings of smoke into the air between them and surveyed him with glittering eyes sat He down in the opposite chair . bony middle fingers pressed against his ears. was beneath the book. contented himself with making a shameless grimace at the woman who had letter that given him birth. I mean you know! look at fastidiousness. made as though she would throw it in the fire. I don't monster like that and the extraordinary thing with a deform- was that it didn't horrify your be catty. He had absolutely no The Gault had never before met any man who could even look at her. fell And it just dear head. and the half-playful. Her son rushed Quick and snatching up the as lightning Mrs. No. you must listen to me! He was as insensitive about things like that as in everything else.210 that your father WOLF SOLENT and I had our final quarrel. in a madly in love if went to her poor. with his long. This manoeuvre was entirely successful. Mother darling!" he pleaded. half -serious struggle that letter ensued between them ended in his wresting the of her clenched fingers. her as men do look at us. you can call it father.

Solent. "All right. I don't want I expect you'll find much nicer barmaids in Blacksod than you ever did in Hammersmith. stepping up to his mother's side and waving the letter in front of her. to see am child. Miss Selena Gault was forgotten. and yet. Mother darling. being the woman she was. SOLENT: and going out water-rat hunting with a basket for marigolds if there are any moor-hens down there. as he read the lowing words: MY I DEAR MR. I'm going to start directly after dinner with Loh and go down stream just like we did before." he responded. Nothing of this was hidden from Mrs. Wolf. He felt a tremendous reluctance to let her "It is from a read it. he leaned for- ward and took her handsome." he said as casually as he could. put to see it. with a rush of affection born of immense relief. Gerda. but she had had her little victory in the matter of Miss Gault. he dared not put it straight into his pocket. So do come there if you can't come to the Lunt. I never have. letter was written in pencil and in a handwriting as straggling and unformed as that of a little girl of The ten. This is from your little friend. I won't interfere with your light-o'-loves. And slipping Gerda's note into his coat-pocket.YELLOW BRACKEN 211 with eyes that had in their brown depths an almost maudlin passion of affection. and she was in a mood to be indulgent now. ruddy face between palms of his hands. have I?" "No." he thought. the . it into your pocket. Miss Malakite wants us to have tea with her about five. "Olwen would have composed a much more fol- grown-up production. you never have.

"I'm in the middle young man who has every I'm sure he's got some vices that even Selena Gault's never heard of. If it was. She him gaily enough. and then added: "You'd better not stay I awake. Otter!" she cried gaily. though know you Otters. "I shall just go to bed. but I'll let shall be coming home with the and myself in quietly. but he wondered if in the cavity of sound he seemed conscious of her strong throat was an evidence of some other emotion. "And I believe we'll get ." He kissed her quickly and placed both his hands for a the moment upon smiled back that little at rough mass of her grey hair." "Who was that. flicking his boot and thinking of the tombstone in Mr. . I won't! I'll read Canon Pusey's Sermons or something of that sort something that just rambles on and isn't modern or clever! So run off. I had my first caller this morning. she swallowed if it it as completely silver and ef- fectively as had been a little minnow swal- lowed by a watchful pike. and if I want a little variety. Torp's yard. my treasure. then. "But I'm back till now. and don't expect me I late tonight!" He hesitated for a moment. when he let her go. I'll go on with that. . and if that doesn't satisfy read Casanova's Memoirs. about Chinese Rugs. No. "Mrs.212 WOLF SOLENT off. Til read the book Cousin Carfax of a thrilling story about a vice there is! gave me I'll me. way." she cried jestingly. will. stick against his Mother?" enquired Wolf. and read in bed. when you were over at the Manor. and don't worry about me. By the .

So beautiful was the relaxed Spring atmosphere. Nothing could have been more congruous with his mood that afternoon than this slow following of the waters of the Lunt! Past poplars and willows. "Well. take care of yourself. as he strode down Lenty Lane. He skirted the town in such an absorbed trance thai he found himself in the river-meadow before he realized that he'd left the streets behind. past tall muddy ditches and wooden dams. Remember tomorrow!" And he opened the door hastily and let himself out. that by degrees the excitement of his sensuality ebbed a little. past tender. past low thick hedges of scarcely budded hawthorn. past deserted cow-sheds and old decrepit barges half-drowned hedges of white-flowering blackthorn. was'overcast with such a heavenly "congregation of vapours" that Wolf would not have had it otherwise. There were filmy clouds floating there that seemed to be drifting like the scattered ." darling! Don't "Jason?" muttered Wolf. His walk to Blacksod that early afternoon was one long orgy of amorous evocations.YELLOW BRACKEN 213 on splendidly. it Though the sky overcast. work too hard in the garden. he made his way through those pleasant pastures. past stupid largebodied cattle with shiny red hides and enormous horns. melancholy cattle with liquid eyes and silky brown-and-white flanks. past in water. She told me how fond you and her son Jason were of each other. and the magic of Nature became of equal importance with the thrill of amorous was pursuit. "Jason?" he muttered once more.

it seemed in some mysterious way nearer than they were. into which it was not impossible to pass! Though in reality was the background of all the clouds that surrounded it. Ay! Where did it . at one single point above the horizon. as he walked slowly on through the green. But even that was not all. this celestial Toll-Pike of the Infinite seemed to Wolf. that both he and Mr. and behind these feathery travellers was the milky ocean on which they floated. Urquhart so woefully lacked! And this was the thing. for the very ocean seemed broken here and there into hollow spaces. as he walked towards it. ethereal gulfs in the fleecy whiteness. Ah! That was the word. after which his whole life was one obstinate quest. like some entrance it into an unknown dimension. It was pure happiness. Like the entrance to some of the ether. harbour into which the very waters of the Lunt might flow. he thought. That incredible patch of blue seemed something into which he could plunge his hands and It seemed like a draw them forth again. there. the vast blue sky showed through. but the colour of turquoise. and through these gulfs was visible a pale yellowish mist. whose air-spun pavement was not the colour of dust. damp grass.2J4 feathers of WOLF SOLENT enormous albatrosses in a pearl-white sea. filled like overflowing cups with the very ichor of happiness. hovering there above the marshes of Sedgcmoor. as if the universal air were reflecting millions of primrose-buds! Nor was even great highway this vaporous luminosity the final revela- tion af those veiled heavens. Transcending both the filmy whiteness and the vaporous yellowness. that blue patch! It was the very thing he had tried so clumsily to explain to that poor Tilly Valley.

those green willow-buds became living moss around its blue edge. As he looked at it now. bubble up free and in such "love" half sex. who. something that required nothing save earth and sky for its fulfilment! Between himself and that blue patch there stretched the great trunk of a bending willow. free.YELLOW BRACKEN grow. unrestricted recognition of something actually in Nature. with its countless newly-budded by twigs. something that came and went. something that the mind could evoke. in reciprocal attraction. Not in any human struggle of that kind! Rather in some large. nor in vice! to stride forward with all his Where then? He began mind and all his soul fixed on that blue patch over Sedgemoor. not any ethereal road. bending down his human head from his animal body. this happiness? Where did unspoiled? Not. The trunk seemed attracted down to the waters of the Lunt. at it 215 any rate. and a great yellowish fragment of sky that leaned toa pool in space! wards became a tawny-skinned centaur. little. covered. now and the waters of the Lunt seemed to rise a as they flowed on. as more nearly and more nearly what he saw became . It was not any opening highway. as he had imagined at first. as if a liquid green mist. It was actually a pool of unfathomable blue water. quenched it his thirst in its purity. half reaction from sex that these two disordered people were pursuing! Not in asceticism. A yellow man-beast drinking draughts of blue water ! ever Wolf stopped dead-still and gazed at what he saw. And through the green buds of this bending trunk the patch of blue looked closer than ever.

his shoulders hunched. and the reason why all the world was all so green about him was because living souls the souls of grass-blades and tree-roots and river-reeds their kind. and in the tenacious flexibility of that smooth phallic serpent of vegetation he seemed to detect an image of his cretive life. he had never realized till they he had just ploughed through his work at that college. from marriage that had made it horrible for him to satisfy his sexual instincts with casual light-o'- loves from tap-rooms and music-halls? What had it been? He looked at a great alder-root that curved snakelike over the brown mud beneath the bank. his spirit concentrated. stoical. craftily forcing its own se- way the forward. but such as they were. after up of that blue immensity by the great mouth of clay ! tree. they flapped heavily over the dykes and ditches of his life. his head bent. through a liberation thousand craved. towards which it .216 WOLF SOLENT what he imagined. He felt obstinately glad that through all those dethe weight of which. like languid- He moved on now winged herons. again and slowly passed the bent His thoughts relaxed and grew limp after his moment of ecstasy. stubbornly at work on all that unbelievable drudgery? What had it been in him that had saved him from loveaffairs. for twelve heavy years. obstacles. in the drinking shared. This was what he wanted! This was what he sought! The brown earth was that tawny-skinned centaur. like chains testable London years that are were over thrown away. unyielding! What had it been in him that had kept him.

ennui and pleasure. looked closely at the manner in which the alder- root dipped so adroitly and yet so naturally into the river. and the . Yes! It was a kind of ecstasy he aimed at. that blighted the distinctions. It was the only gift it could give. a desperately punctilious reason to be happy. you had no And he recalled what how if you had pity left and there was one miserable consciousness in the right to be happy. his thoughts brought from one of whose spokes hung a bodiless him back to that Liv- ing Despair on the Waterloo steps. letting the violence of this last thought be smoothed away by the feel of the damp soil under his feet. Jason Otter had said about pity: universe. that confused the issues. was the coming to the surface of unutterable. on the contrary. like an automatic wheel that revolved in his brain. the kind that loses itself. when once you got a glimpse of that cord ! It was the existence in the world of those two gross vulgar parodies of life. Between your happiness and that face there was an umbilical cord. all happiness was a martyr's happiness. And human then. Oh.YELLOW BRACKEN And what was the happiness of this liberation? 217 Happiness! But not any kind of happiness. That face upon the Waterloo steps gave you your happiness. For about half a mile he walked steadily forward. that was a wicked thought! You had. All suffering was a martyr's suffering. not just He making love to Gerda Torp. that merges itself. a wheel head. the kind that demands nothing in return! It How could this ecstasy be called love? It was more something than love.

seemed to prolong with unnecessary punctiliousness her fumbling with the ragged recesses of her faded little purse. as she emptied pennies and bits of silver into her lap. lying quietly under the man's hands. won!" Wolf became aware Gerda. jutted out over the water. Wolf took the boy in his arms and began a genial horse-play with him. tumbling sort of him over and. pinioning the child's arms and putting off the moment when he must rise and face fallen her. . grass-stained face towards his sister. worm-eaten and grey with lichen. in the grass and holding struggled. So So hand over thik ninepence. They were seated side by side on a fallen elm-tree. and "You see I be right. He be come. there they were! He came upon them quite suddenly. ar- ranging the contents of a great wicker-basket that lay on the ground between them. same as I I've Sis! said 'a would. "Hullo!" cried Lob. Ah. imperceptible in detail. "Ninepence! It was ninepence!" the boy kept shouting. He continued to kneel above the prostrate Lob. him down by force But Lob soon wearied of as he kicked this. through hid leather boots of all the anonymous weeds and grasses that were beginning to feel the release of Spring. as he clambered over a wooden paling between the end of a thick-set hedge and the river-bank. the wooden boards of which. jumping to his feet. hand over what that a fit of sudden shyness had upon both himself and Gerda. too. turned his mud-flicked.218 WOLF SOLENT cool touch.

"you won't find a blackbird's nest round here with eggs the in it!" in front "How much?" boy responded. indolent conqueror. Their eyes met through the boy's violent scramble and snatching clutch. the shyness that they had felt before changed into a thrilling solemnity. Lob. in the pose of a young. bending over his prisoner.' "How much! how much!" mocked Wolf. who had suddenly appeared between them.YELLOW BRACKEN as he sought in vain to lift 219 up ! his eager grass-stained girl It face high enough if to see what the was doing: "It was he sixpence he went to Malakite's was ninepence if came here!" Wolf. holding out six- pence and three pennies. as their eyes met. Then the girl turned to her brother. as his if in the midst of a great heat body had been plunged into the cool air of a cavern. losing's seekings! Bet me enough to make a shilling! I be a prime grand better." she said. "There. Wolf let the child go and stood up. with heavy . shivering sensation ran through his nerves. "I bet you. and it was as if they had been overtaken simultaneously by an awe-struck recognition of some great unknown Immortal. / be!" And. But he was so conscious of Gerda's presence that a slow. They met through his cry of "Finding's keepings. standing of her with his hands behind his head. sweet. Lob!" said Gerda suddenly. For one quick moment they held each other's gaze. with a hand upon each. found himself watching the progress of a minute ladybird who with infinite precaution was climbing the bent stalk of a small grass- blade close to the boy's head.

They be all hipsyhor hedges. I wouldn't have betted so much if I wasn't sure I'd win. She shook her head. "I think his breath. 'twill She indicated assent to Lob began to swagger slowly away. looks-like. the floating Lob looked in his at his sister gravely. But they hain't so sly. rats with "You won't hunt him when I'm not there?" he bargained. I this unchivalrous issue. may as well have a look round. or me what wins. yellow-beaks." said Gcrda cunningly." Gerda nodded assent to "Well." as them thrushes be." this also. ." "/ ain't betted nothink. I think I'll do may take her bond. in this here field.220 WOLF SOLENT humour." muttered Wolf under "I haven't heard one of them since we came. It's either us both loses. "What a young miser we are!" As he took his place barge upon which it seemed to him they were embarked rocked with a motion that gave him a sense of sweet dizziness. "They like the hills better than down here on the flat. boy. Sis. by her side. weighing the matter mind." said can't Lob quickly. but I do know for three o'n already. and blackbirds be fonder o' holly-trees and bramble-bushes. seating himself on the tree-trunk by Gerda's side. I the bloody old it. "so you it's win anyways. "only mind no when I ain't there. " 'Tis early for them nesties ." decided the tricks! If you rat-hunt with him be threepence whatsoever. up along Babylon Hill.

lost to sight. powdery brown this attack. When from her she had finished brushing the puffball-powder clothes. which burst as touched Gerda's knee. a well-aimed puffball. you rogue. way he was had fallen grateful to her for The last thing he wanted was to spoil the strange." In some mysterious this. and he added an outrageous expression in shrewd Dorset dialect which had the effect of bringing an angry flush to Gerda's cheeks. an old. thin. But she unloosed his hands with deft." knows why you wants me to shogg he called back. covering her dress with a thin. noiseless rain. from the child's it impudent hand. cool fingers. she took off her hat and laid it care- fully. He rose and took her hand." she said. upon the tree-trunk by his side. lovely solemnity that upon them like the falling of slow." cried Wolf. "or you'll get more than you've bargained for!" But there came flying through the air. tight-fitting. skirt. absent-mindedly. moving away from the . "Not now. and they began log. He instantaneously threw his arms round her and held her tightly against him. Neither she nor Wolf moved a muscle in response to and Lobbie wandered slowly off till he was Then the girl got up and began shaking her loose and open. "Let's talk now. while in the silence between them he felt his heart beating like an invisible underground water-pump. The cream-coloured cloak hung in and Wolf saw that she was dressed olive-green frock. "Be off.YELLOW BRACKEN "I 221 off. dust.

different in his its entire being from own identity. impalpable and delicate. taking a course at right angles to the course taken by her brother. Wolf had hitherto. under her olive-green frock. mystical awe. all were different! And something in the cold. flexible body. putting his stick and together they walked carelessly and aimlessly across that wide field. hovering in some way around this tangible form. was the actual. whose physical loveoutward sheath ! was only its It added something to every took together tiniest detail of that enchanted walk which they The little over one green field after another. under everything she wore. The now reddish leaves of the newly-sprung sorrel were different. the clumps of dark-green meadow-rushes. to separate Gerda . in his had approached. this at his side. insidious essence." he and his cloth-cap by the side of the cream-coloured hat. slender hips. was not just a girl. but a living conscious soul. earth-thrown mole-hills were different. But he did not give up her hand. thrilling him with a kind of felt What he at that moment was that. with lovely breasts. was another form. not just a white. It new mysterious being liness changed everything around him. this deep- breathing Gerda. moving silently beside him under her cloak. and a gallant swinging stride. like a great stretched-out grey wing. The droppings of the cattle. said. attitude to the girls he inmost identity of this young human animal. low-hung clouds themselves seemed to conspire. but what he now felt stealing over him like a sweet. And the strange thing was that this conscious presence.222 WOLF SOLENT I'll "Wait! leave a signal for that little rascal. been dominated by an impersonal lust.

was so far only the beginning of twilight. Gate after gate leading from one darkening field into another they opened and passed through. her own nature at that hour seemed to gather into most resembled it in that Spring twilight.YELLOW BRACKEN world. between the unfallen mist of rain in the sky and the diffused mist of rain in the grass. Over this cold surface they moved hand in hand. were moving forward. and were leaning against a wooden gate which they had just shut behind them. to some vague imponderable sanctuary where none could disturb or trouble them! They had advanced for more than a mile in this enchanted mood. from where they stood. but the un- dried rains that hung still in motionless water-drops upon millions of grass-blades seemed to welcome the coming on of night seemed to render the whole surface of the earth less opaque. themselves like ghosts. about a stone's throw away. "Shall we try that as a shelter?" he asked. The words . of all the people of the earth that they two. towards the vast yellowish bank itself all that of clouds that It had swallowed up that sky-road into space. walking unconsciously westward. until the man began to feel that they two were left alone alive. the floor of which he could make out. careless of past and future. when Wolf pointed to an open shed. to be strewn with a carpet of yellow bracken. 223 and himself from the peering intrusion of the outer And if the greyness above and the greenness beneath enhanced his consciousness of the virginal beauty of the girl. tute- protected from the very ghosts of the dead by these lary vapours.

of course. "Did you like me directly you saw me. she began to speak. But Gerda detected in them the old. Gerda?" " . she asked this nai've question. as a "pretty" girl. house?" day in our He looked at her attentively. equivocal challenge of the male pursuer. It remotest conception as to suddenly came over him that she had not really the how rare her beauty was. but she had no notion that she moved through Blacksod like one of those women of antiquity about whose loveliness the noblest legends of the world were made! A certain vein of predatory roguery in him led him to play up to this simplicity." he But in his senses he thought "I should be a madman not to snatch at her!" And in his soul he thought: "I shall "I liked you best : marry her. the all mere utter- ance of any speech from her at was a shock strong that enough to quell his impetuousness. as. said. she stiffened her body. and drew back against the protective bars of the gate. so as to smooth away any hurt to his pride. when you were whistling to me. snatched her hand away." said Gerda. for I shall marry her!" "I liked Poll's best when you were hunting I can't me at understand Camp. with her fair head bare and her arms spread out along the top bar of the gate. As you sure as tomorrow follows today. trying to lead her towards the shed. and since silence rather than words had hitherto been the link between them. Very quickly then.224 WOLF SOLENT were simple enough. She regarded herself. and as he pulled at her wrist. "But "What can't you understand.

trem- ulous frown. "Well. as to if home they had been an apparition of wonderful white swans.YELLOW BRACKEN "I can't understand just in 225 don't want you to touch me you only knew what things they say the town about girls and men!" why I now. not with the sense of any unscalable barrier. sudden of reality. her per- him with such a sharp. such as one sees sometimes in antique marbles. rounded chin. But oh! if She looked him tilt straight in the face with an ambiguous of her soft. for all her coquetries. Slowly her hands look faded. never mind what they say in the town! You and I are by ourselves now. and a look of troubled bewilderment crossed her fixed gaze. but she fell to still her sides. given her some kind of startled shock. that it made certain tiny little blossoms pang of the blackthorn-hedge become strangely important. though "What things do they say in the town?" he asked. them At this she clapped her hands to her cheeks. As she stood there. while the delicate curves about her eyes took on that expression of monumental beseeching. He began to wonder if the girl. Something had come be- tween something that troubled him seriously. It's only you and I that count . and the troubled faced him with a faint. with her back sonality struck to the gate. Perhaps the extreme lewdness of lads like Bob Weevil had. His craving to take her in his arms was checked by a wave of overpowering tenderness. was not abnormally innocent. in some of those furtive conclaves between young people that are always so complete a mystery to older persons.

I feel as if I'd isn't as if time life. Gerda. how natural and we should have met at all? Only a week ago that was in the you were London.226 WOLF SOLENT And I won't tease you. What his own gaze encountered was a single tar- . Ge*da. "Don't act as we're strangers. and they remained motionless. isn't it. would ever "You know the depths. staring each other like two stone pillars bearing the solemn weight of the unknown future. and her eyes fell and searched the ground at her feet. or this black- thorn-hedge. dear?" he asked. are glad we've met. eyes. Gerda. Then he possessed himself of one of her hands. Gerda!" he pleaded. she pondered. He was at silent. difficult resolution in them. with no remotest idea world or this gate. no. "I do understand you much more than you think It I do. that in how weird I it is. and it was a new shock to him to feel how ice-cold her fingers if had grown. "Do men them?" ever leave girls alone after they've married The words were so unexpected that he could only press her cold fingers and glance away from those troubled eyes. without a breath. Without a sigh. you darling not with one least thing you don't like!" today. or that shed over there!" fingers did respond a little to his pressure now. mattered one I feel as if known you all my everything here" and he glanced round at those strangely important white blossoms "were an old story already. She raised her They had the tension of a sudden. not even herself. floating Her cold upon some inner sea of feeling. yet It's funny. And I'll take care of you for ever! bit. of which no one.

such a rush of happiness at the change in her voice that he could only answer at random. / don't know! Recognition. that's not I'm damned You've asked a hard question. and if I can give you the answer. that! Gratitude. "Oh. "you'll be soon mak- He chuckled right out at ing at me so damnably fond of you. "I'll leave "A girl I know I said once that my whistling was only whistling for a lover. sweetheart. Hurriedly anxious to rush in between her thoughts and ." He drew her towards him as he spoke. flung his arms round her shoulders and hugged her tightly to his heart. Gerda!" he cried breathlessly. as he let her go. It's your way of expressing what we all want to express. that I'll be completely all want to express?" she repeated. dissolved his tender consideration so quickly that once more she drew back. But I suppose. Gerda. No! not exactly quite it. whose bent stalk lay almost wisp of rain-sodden grass. perhaps. You don't think that. It's your genius. as he pressed it to him. flat 227 on a we're married. forgetting all vows and pledges. during which he felt as if with his own hands he "When were launching a rigged ship into a misty you alone just as much as you want!" sea. and this time she seemed to yield herself as she had never" done before.YELLOW BRACKEN nished celandine. do you?" "Good God! should think not! Your whistling's a wonderful thing. But the warmth of her body. your mercy!" "But what do we felt He "God! my dear." he responded gravely. after a pause. and." "What do we all want to express?" this.

. she kept her arms the woollen stuff. holding the gathered folds of Then her lips moved.. This action. in its grave tenderness and its freedom from any fever of the blood. bewildered look. and. He He took her head gently between his hands and kissed her upon the forehead. WOLF SOLENT he began saying the first thing that came into his head. She now pulled her cream-coloured cloak tightly across her olive-green frock. . "You're not angry with me.. She did not take any notice of these words of his... But the attraction of her sweetness soon excited his senses again and he began caressing her in spite of . .. crossed against her breast. something some kind . . sideways. she said you feel it's no good. looking the away from him.228 herself. to the gods . of . and instead of relinquish- ing the garment when she'd done this. did seem to reassure her. "I think what .. Gerda. . to . acknowledgement He stopped abruptly. addressed we all want to express is . and he answered in the only way he could. over very quietly: "If wide field. for " she had once more fixed upon him that wild. darling?" he blurted out." girl like me go home never forgot the solemn fatality she put into those words. you'd better let marrying a now.. and you couldn't think of me. but the look he dreaded began to fade away under the genuine concern of his tone.

His arm round her. her cheeks pale.YELLOW BRACKEN himself. Gerda. Let's just see what that shed over there's like! We needn't stay a minute there if it's not a nice sort of place. The sail fact that he his boat and hoisted his the fact that he comer what might his scruples. she let herself be led across the intervening tract of grass to the open door of the shed. when at last she had lifted up her tear-stained face and they had exchanged some long kisses. in the very power they had over had launched and vitality of her youthful blood. darling." A species of deep. little Before they reached it. down her She cried and he soon became aware of the his lips. was something that in itself dispelled cold here. her. the richness silently. She did not resist 229 action him any more. "I know nothing about anything. "You know I'm quite stupid and ignorant. lethargic numbness to everything except the immediate suggestions of his voice and touch seemed to have taken possession of her. but the refrom the former tenseness of her nerves broke self-control. but the sobs that shook her showed." Wolf did not pause to enquire whether this hurried confession referred to what might be named "the ritual of love" or just simply to her lack of book-learning." she said." he murmured. salt taste of tears upon She did not cry aloud. His . she turned her face round and glanced shyly at him. "it's cold here. however. her cream-coloured cloak hanging loose. "It's had already resolved to marry her.

like stormdriven eels roused and stirred from the ooze of a muddy river ! Together they stood at the entrance to that little shed and surveyed the interior in a silence that was like the hovering of some great falcon of past and future. For the lass Long Thomas lays in's bed Will have no blanket. a humming of a sea-shell in his ears. will have no sheet. feelings. an old Dorset ditty that he had read somewhere. with a refrain about Shaftesbury-town. with a faint interrogation in his tone. dry bed of last Autumn's yellow bracken. they faced each other. The queer thing was that as he drew her across that threshold his conscious soul seemed to slip out of his body and if it were feet to itself that watch them both from the high upper air as falcon of fate. whirled up from the bottom of his nature. but as he held her tightly against his beating heart. there suddenly floated into Wolf's mind. . desires.230 WOLF SOLENT by this time in such a whirl of excitement senses were that the girl's clear-toned voice sounded like the vague faint. But when. "Gerda?" he murmured huskily. some brutal." repeated the girl low voice. suspended between The place was an empty cow-barn. with their upon that bracken-floor. very Emotions. some exalted. There'll be yellow bracken about your feet. "I in a know nothing about anything. fate. There'll be yellow bracken beneath your head. it was not her words but the words of that old song which hummed through his brain. its roof thatched with river-reeds and its floor thickly strewn with a clean. like the fluttering of a whirling leaf upon disturbed water.

so that it They seemed should not separate them. her confiding trust. reverential. While the wind blew shrill and the river ran. down about their heads. And never again she saw Shaftesbury-town. patient. her "fatal passivity.YELLOW BRACKEN My My But mother has sheets of linen white. to itable sentinels of love be holding back the day. became like verwraith-like. the just as one from the other! And if as they lay happy and oblivious at last they were really lying on the xleck of some full-sailed ship which a great dark-green wave was uplifting. and the shades of twilight as they settled grew deeper and deeper. to 231 my true-love have I come And in yellow bracken I'll tonight surely lie: In the yellow bracken he laid her down. father has blankets of purple dye. Those twilight ^shades." were blended with the fragrance of those withered ferns and with that old ballad. They seemed to be holding back the darkness. so that it should not peer into their faces. Wolf found himself unaccountably recalling certain casual little things that he had seen that day seen without that he had seen them! He recalled the underknowing . The sweetness of his paramour. her courage. Meanwhile the chilly March airs floated in and out of the bare shed where they were lying. Whom The smell Long Thomas had taken of the bracken rose this old for his leman! that up from bed and took the words of song and turned them into the wild beating of the very pulse of love. To the end of his days he associated that moment with remembered these dried-up aromatic leaves and with that rhyme.

"Do you want me to whistle for you?" she asked. . which he had unconsciously noted in the outskirts of Blacksod. He recalled the peculiar whitish-yellowness hidden in the curves of an opening fern-frond which he had passed somewhere on the road from King's Barton.232 WOLF SOLENT had side of the bark of a torn-off willow-branch that he caught sight of in his walk by the Lunt. The words reached They came travelling to from an enormous distance. him over rivers. they stood together again outside the hut. there came over him a vague he had actually invaded and pos- sessed something of the virginal aloofness of the now darkened fields. He recalled the sturdy beauty. His fingers scious of her breathing living clutched the soft collar of the girl's cloak. He was conso steady. thing after the brief passage of time. He recalled certain tiny snailshells clinging to the stalk of some new-grown dock-leaf whose appearance had struck his mind somewhere in those meadows. When. and yet as something solitary. wide spaces. as if from time. . so gently. unapproachable. . over mountains. harsh. but what slow ebbing of what really was a very seemed to Wolf somedifferent more than time and feeling. in his ears a low. With his great mystery hand over Gerda's shoulder he drank up a from those cool. docile voice. of a single chestnut-bud. He was conscious of her personality as something quivering and quick. soft animal in the velvet darkness. Suddenly she broke the silence. acrid power. and yet so like the breath of a warm. full of a rich. .

him hear it! What does it matter now?" But she moved a few paces away and he watched her if it whitish shadowily-blurred face as had been the face was her of an immortal. where he was. He also remained motionless. peacefully dead. the tone of the flight of swallows across chilly seas as yet far off from the warm pebbled beaches to- wards which they are steering their way. of earth-bound bulbs not yet loosed from their sheaths. quite motionless. seemed Gerda's whistling died away now into a silence that to come surging back with a palpable increase of its visible darkness in train. happy laugh. And he knew. the tone of that life which is not sound. and as they took shape in his consciousness. that expression as she whistled was like the expression of a child asleep. It was the tone of the hour all the just before dawn.YELLOW BRACKEN 233 over forests. without girl But the sign or word. "Lob will hear "But let it. without seeing that it so." he said with a rough. but only withheld breath. He took her head between his hands and kissed her as he had never in his life kissed any woman. though it was into the night that she now poured those liquid notes. something quite different from what he had felt for her swelled up in his throat. And just as two straight poplar-trees that in some con- . remained standing just where she was. And. the tone of their drawn-out music was a tone full of the peculiar feeling of one hour alone of hours of night and day. about ten paces away from him. the breath of cold buds not yet green. or of a child happily.

bridge the impassable gulf between what Gerda was feel. Their words to each other. when at length they did break the spell and wander back hand in hand to where they had separated from Lob. joined and yet so mysteri- ously divided by this sweet fatality! So in the same green dews had stood Deucalion and Pyrrha. of easy tenderness should spoil the classical simplicity of their rare encounter! For classical it had been. each standing like a silent bivouac- watcher. had stood. and not otherwise. They also. those primeval had pondered thus. No casual words ing then and what he was feeling. bewillovers. . in the green dews of some umbrageous Thessalian valley at the very dawn of time. dered and sad. so this man and this girl. content and happy. he made up his mind he would refrain from any sentimental attempt to . guarding the smouldering camp-fire of their own hidden thoughts. remained distinct. while over their heads the darkness de- scended upon Mount Pelion. whose relation to each other could never be quite the same again. were simple and natural . had always prayed any great love-affair of his might be.234 WOLF SOLENT down so that their branches tinuous storm had been bent have mingled. Orion and Merope. aloof. when the storm is over rise up erect and are once more completely separate and completely themselves. in as he its heroic defiance of that so many obstacles. in its arbitrariness. or the white moonlight flooded with silver the precipices of Ossa! that As he thought of these things. while the earth waited for its new offspring. Thus. in its abruptness. removed.

A moment later. it is. however. but your mother we shall have to deal with. and we've got to face It's not only my I mother. know only too well that I've never been to Oxford. almost as small as our ! . crushed under the logic of his reason. and we've got to face it. emphatically enough. sweetheart what we've got to find is some tiny shanty of our own. "That's all right. "I've no desire to be supported out of tomb-making No." said Gerda. sweetheart. to the plain level of prosaic." "Father won't give us anything." my mother can ." he chuckled. practical anxieties. young girl though she was. "No. no. It was. Urquhart gives me will be barely enough for three people to live upon. cow-shed. and the feeling passed." said the girl quietly. that at this. in fact. live "We must by ourselves.YELLOW BRACKEN 235 reduced." he answered. my "I don't think your mother will want to live with us. "It's the devil!" grumbled Wolf." Wolf winced grown one person. it is. I know I have no 'honourable' in front of my name and I know that what Mr. so inevitable he said to himself that Gerda. where neither your mother nor interfere with us. should want a hearth of her own. There sweet. laughing surlily but not maliciously. Somehow or other he had so used to thinking of his mother and himself as it gave him a very queer feeling as Gerda had inserted a tiny needle of ice into his heart to think of the if two of them under separate roofs. "but there it. of course.

after a pause. "Don't gaily. free from all care. Missy." he said meditatively." hands together. He This time her words produced a more serious shock. "We'll have to have our banns read out in church. anyway. I "We're talking nonsense. Why. Solent will be very angry?" she "Do you enquired. felt as if one of his arms or legs had been amputated to and was stuck up as a ninepin for Gerda at." he replied. and if I have a child it'll be a bastard." voice. "is "What you don't realize." this pass. "I'll throw things deal with her." Wolf was silenced by this." he flung out. "but all that part of will be awful. bringing out the syllables it like pistol-shots. "Perhaps you don't realize. in ." said Gerda. "We shall!" he conceded. like the kings in history!" his But Wolf had already formed a very definite image in mind of the enchanted hovel where he would live with this unparalleled being. Gipoo me should never have a child. "It'll be far Gerda snatched her fingers from him and clapped her let's be married!" she cried more fun not to be. " and as for bastards "Hush!" she Cooper told cried.236 WOLF SOLENT think Mrs. "I don't believe Urquhart would make any fuss. Father never says a word like he'd been But Wolf refused to let educated or been to School. not knowing what she did. "It wouldn't interfere with my work. Gerda." she protested in a low how completely different my family is from yours. and then. "We can't manage it without being married.

" it!" he cried. to snatch " Tisn't where a gentleman dies. "that 237 my father died in Rams- gard Workhouse!" his Her commentary upon this information was hand and raise it to her lips. jagged incisions in the handle of Wolf's stick! Much time was to pass before those unevennesses in the handle of that ." he cried abruptly. and I'm going to Gerda!" live my life in Dorset- alone with my sweet He hugged her to his heart as he spoke. I've never heard anything to touch it you and never shall." she when he if her go. my Gerda. And there was Lob! The boy was crouched in a posture like that of a reproachful goblin. like "I'm very thankful that you said. that Wolf received shock that people get when. they encounter the reproachful sameness of some well-known aspect of hearth and home. "that makes Tis where he's born." she responded. "I don't care if your father talks his head off with Dorset talk.YELLOW BRACKEN a clear. as they stumbled the kind of upon it in the darkness. and all Blacksod knows that my father threw himself to the all this!" "Oh. my let whistling. his pocket-knife He was engaged in cutting with in spite of the darkness deep. I'm going to live for the rest of shire. It looked and yet so different now. damn dogs. after some world-changing adventure. the lovers arrived at the prostrate left their elm-trunk where they had so familiar belongings. "I don't know what "Like I should have done you hadn't. Gerda. and that's the long and short of it!" Thus discoursing. rather breathlessly. I can't tell what it's like. emphatic voice. the difference. "Oh.

or never no more will I take your girl's word!" tone was But the now the self-composed. "I know'd you'd do it. that silly "Where is it? I hope Have you blown it without making big hole you always make? Show it to me. like I always tell you "I to." was his sulky greet- mind no other occupation than could account for their protracted absence from his side. "I won." "Show me it wasn't the only one. Show it to us." he repeated obstinately.238 WOLF SOLENT to oak cudgel ceased compel its owner to recall with bitter-sweet vividness the events of that incredible March Wednesday "I know'd you'd go ! rat-hunting. the egg." grumbled the boy. There were four on 'em all wonderful specks in thik "I can't show nest. Lob!" it to 'ee. all right. Girls is never to be trusted. elder sister's tone. and I got a egg all right. and I only took one." that sentence? "Good Lord. so you pays. Lob!" cried Wolf. for I ain't got it. "I hope you only took one egg. and I minded what you always says then? to I. Lob!" . standing in front of her with the air of a robber-chief. "You've got to fork out! You've got to give threepence to I." "Where is it. Evidently to Lob's this girls isn't. Sis. 'Tis in their constitution to betray. "Where did you get Have you been composing that speech ever since we left?" "Look here." declared the boy." won." said Gerda. "I got a nest. ing. Lob.

while he himself. by the intense gravity with which Gerda took this trifling dis- agreement. "You know perfectly well you can always trust me. "It's you who we can't trust now. in a hard. let alone thik bloody egg. How quaint girls were! If he had caught Lob stealing his very it walch in the darkness and transferring to his own pocket. girt hedge. Solent?" whined the child. I broke the bloody thing!" wailed the boy des- perately. in a voice quivering with moral indignation.YELLOW BRACKEN Lob moved nearer to 239 let Wolf. just then." where us be now. I'm right-down ashamed of you!" cried Gerda. be they?" grumbled the boy. Lob?" repeated the young girl. isn't it. 'Twere in monstrous nestie. He was delighted. sidling up still closer to Wolf. then?" insisted the girl. too. "You won't she cheat I of thik threepence. as well as amazed. . Solent?" The man looked from one to the other. thik and I scratched myself cruel getting my hand "Why " 'Cos haven't you got the egg." "Lob. Mr. Mr. accusing voice. "I found thik nestie fields and fields away from in. you mark my words!" she added. "They girls be never to be trusted. full of an unutterably sweet indolence." he pleaded querulously. It amused him to listen to such contending voices from these two blurred spots of whiteness in the dark. that he would hardly have noticed the incident! "Haven't I won over she. Lob!" protested Gerda indignantly. "I were crossing one of they darned fields I treadit in and a girt rabbit-gin and came near to breaking me neck. "Where is that egg. acted as their languid umpire. he felt. "He's up to something.

come over you. phenomenon . Lob. the girl sternly. but stopped him with a quick movement. hullabaloo about. Lob? Oh. in listening to Gerda's righteous anger. The moods of women. were a ebbings and Sowings of which had hardly presented themselves to his deeper consciousness. " now. a leave anyone all lonesome-like? For all chap might have been tossed. and blackberryand mushroomings we've ever had together. you can never depend upon what Lob Torp says!' Wolf. in all the rat-hunts. "you've never lied to me be- nuttings. What's ings. this here dark o' night. 'Tisn't as if we hadn't al- ways done everything together. Lob. He obtained now. any more. listened in amazement to this dialogue. by some they girt bullicks!" His voice grew plaintive." Lobbie's voice sounded burst into tears. "Lob. for people to go about with! I shall always have to say to anyone in the future. seating himself in the darkness upon the fallen tree-trunk. I am ashamed of you! Tisn't and as if I were Mother or Dad.240 WOLF SOLENT to "What be up be all this now. then?" responded the boy. when a person tells straight it be so turble hard why did 'ee go rat-hunting with him here and you care. "What out what a person gone and done? If to 'ee to lose threepence. You're not nice company. but Gerda was unmoved. and you know you didn't. except the for those of his mother. 'Take care. "You never found any nest at all. now as if he very soon might "I shan't have no shilling! I shan't have no shilling without I gets the threepence you betted wi' I!" Wolf began fumbling in his pocket." she said fore.

and the pride she took in being able to show her power of guiding her lover through the darkened fields. which will pierce it to its heart's core! He had no that the faint conception of lying.YELLOW BRACKEN 241 an inkling of the supernatural power which these beings have of bringing to bear upon the male conscience exactly that one accusation." he whispered. "let's get back to the Blacksod road before we're completely benighted!" He and rose and moved on between them. Solent?" Wolf had grown weary by cussion. at the bottom of which reposed a few fading mari- golds and some handfuls of watercress. the clandestine transaction "Come on. this time of the whole dis- took advantage of the darkness to transfer from his own pocket to that of this fellow wrong-doer at least twice as He much as he was demanding. The excitement of climbing over the railings at the very edge of the river-bank. felt this at once with a child's clairvoy- "She's cross about the threepence. Lob himself ance." he said. Lob in penitent rather shamefaced silence carrying the great wicker- basket. Mr. lean- ing against the man's knee. Wolf "We'll drop Lob at the beginning of Chequers Street. "but you'll pay it. when they at last felt the hard road from . boy was and he how Gerda had found out felt at that moment a and perhaps scandalous wave of sympathy pass through him for Lobbie Torp. of all others. quickly restored Gerda's good- humour." said. when was accomplished. won't you.

as he felt And him . "Whom Long Thomas peated in his heart. She'll give us tea. . were the lights of a certain imaginary city which from his early childhood had appeared and disappeared on the margin . The few misgivings that remained to him about his marriage fell away in that hedge-scented darkness a darkness that seemed to separate the earth from the sky with the formless presence of some tremendous but friendly deity.. diffused seemed to warmth of unalloyed happiness." With the sister and brother leaning against him naturally and familiarly. at all." he reseemed to him as if the lights to now began welcome them.242 WOLF SOLENT feet.. on and on in like . in a deep.. which it has taken for his leman. that he just had only this to walk on and on . . the sensation came over lightly against along. She never does." still. strode along towards the lights of the town. "so I don't think matter. though.. order to bring that secret "mythology" of his into relation with the whole world." said it'll Gerda. he went on. Nevilton to Blacksod under their "Do you think. late as we are! She won't have noticed the time father's very likely. and of the town. The days of his life stretch out before him in a lovely Spring- scented perspective. each on one of his arms. Wolf with his oak-stick held firmly in the hand adjoining the now somewhat dragging and tired bird's-nester. "that Miss Malakite will expect us long after tea-time?" "I so was going to stay to supper with her. when her away and she's reading. under whose protection he bore those two Gerda press his arm softly and her young body.

. city of his It 243 was wont to fancy in . But whenever the first he had seen lighting was always associated with someone . . or the window-panes of privies . the dirty marks on wall-papers . above the the miserable patterns of faded carpets .. warm. some boy some unknown whose place life would resemble that first lighting of lamps . glowing security of that mysterious town. among nameless litter it.. but not . in the soapy water of between the . . . in his .. . of pavement-gutters. in . in lit!" "It's all And he word . . . .. "Whom Long Thomas repeated once more. .. and coming along a dark road to where lamps are . of . . in that has taken for his leman. at the appear in strange places.. .. some girl .. this bottom of teacups . ... . in that word. .. .. . and with the existence. that sense of arriving out of the cold darkness of empty fields and lost ways into the rich." he thought to himself. baths . of lamps. . . necessarily the presence. up . it .YELLOW BRACKEN of his mind. the bleak coals of dead Summer-grates rusty railings of deserted burying-grounds .

Her eyes were dreamy with a little cries languorous hap- piness. while her of pleasure at what she saw made water. incredible intimacy with her. however. It was a further revelation to him of the ways of girls. to notice that Gerda repeatedly stopped him. threw him upon a of the town. whose sweetness reduced everything to a vague reassuring stage-play. It left her was then that hunger came upon him. and to know that she was beholding them with him! When they reached the door of the Malakite book-shop. side by side. its traffic rich. ripples in the surface of her mental trance like the rising of a darting shoal of minnows to the top of deep As and for his its own mood. dark.THE THREE PEEJPITS RID OF LOBBIE AT THE CORNER OF CHEQUERS and moved on. "so don't press me. "I can't do it tonight. my precious!" Their farewell was grave and tender. 1 HEY GOT with a childish clutch at his coat-sleeve. and making . Street. past the lighted shopwindows. the lights crowds." he said. Everything became a play whose living puppets seemed so touchingly lovable that he could have wept to behold them. he became conscious of so deep an unwillingness to face the look of Christie's steady brown eyes 'ee that he impetuously begged off. but he without looking back. before some trifle in those lighted windows that attracted her attensoft tion.

beneath the not altogether sympathetic gaze of Queen Victoria. he found his eyes turn- ing inevitably to the place where Jason sat sat as if he had been doing nothing else since he came into that room but wait for Wolfs arrival. leading where drinks were served. he ordered a substantial supper. for nearly two hours lingering over this meal. Led by a mysterious not quite understood by himself for desire. he made polite. Standing there by Darnley 's side. and without a trace of that whimto sical humour with which he had departed from him at walk round the edge of Lenty Pond. as his friend mentioned their names. The man was watching him intently now.THE THREE PEEWITS his 245 way to the Three Peewits. while at the back of his mind the ditty about He remained Shaftesbury-town and Yellow Bracken mingled with the fragrance of the old hostelry's old wine. But Darnley Otter rose him to an aperture in the wall. once to greet him. and while his glass was filled and refilled with brandy. hurried bows to the different members of the company. it occurred to him that Darnley Otter had mentioned on the previous day that both the brothers might be here this night. still thicker murmur of men's social to his The change from his erotic musings into so and crude an atmosphere was more bewildering mind than he had expected. just then masculine society. he entered the little inner parlour of the Three Peewits. at befogged and blinking. Here he found himself in a thick cloud of tobacco-smoke and a voices. When at last he rose from the table. He gazed round him. Wolf began once summoning up from the recesses .

Nor was grim farmer from Nevilton. who was a this brother. and was uttering words that evidently seemed to startle the man. and there came in together Mr. as he saw it across that smoke-filled space. as he laughed and jested with various people in different parts of the room. he deliberately drank glass after glass of brandy. Torp. As he chatted that little counter with Darnlcy. incoherent flow of talk from all parts of the room. "I must have drunk Dante's Inferno. Valley. It seemed to him now that Jason's head. resembled that of lost spirit in some and crying. Things were at this pass when the door opened with a violent swing. "Help! Help! Help!" himself how ready he felt just then cry. Darnley's trim beard continued to wag with gentle- manly that he urbanity. T. E. but Wolf could see was growing more and more nervous about his nervousness without justification.246 WOLF SOLENT own nature all the of his psychic power he could bring to bear. ." he thought to himself. Jason had turned his face to his neighbour. for his face grew grimmer than ever. Manley of Willum's Mill. who was presently introduced to Wolf as Mr. in the midst of a rambling. and a tall handsome browbeating individual. if not to shock him. and he kept shifting his chair a little further away. amused at the nervousness with which Darnley observed to and growing more and more determined fathom the mystery of that self-lacerated being on the other side of the room. swirling up out of the pit It was curious to to respond to that up this new strength from pos- sessing Gerda. to at cope with this new situation. this proceeding. Mr.

but just one of those dreams where men and houses and animals and and interchanged that this groshould be the father of Gerda! trees are all involved tesque figure of a man dial emphasis. for the stone-cutter. and it struck Wolf's mind as a kind of mad dream not a nightmare. . whom he addressed loudly and familiarly as Josh Beard." In answer to Wolf's appeal. two of which he orifice. Valley. pulling the plump stone-cutter unceremoniously after seated himself by the him by the Icy moved lapel of his coat. Manley at the unfortu- of Willum's Mill proceeded with equal promptness to cast looks of jocose and jeering brutality nate poet. E. while Mr. brought three large glasses of the drink he demanded. Wolf noticed that Mr. for he staggered straight up to the counter. The heavy-jowled Mr. "My him friend Mr." said humbly. so I brought in. began at once repeating to this newcomer whatever it had been that Jason Otter had just said to him." said Wolf. in a very sour and malicious manner. shaking hands with Wolf as if he had not seen him for years.THE THREE PEEWITS The 247 vicar of King's Barton seemed to have been drink- ing already. as she appeared and disappeared at that square grew more $nd more dreamlike. Beard." said T. Man- across the room and side of the farmer from Nevilton. Torp and I are old friends. the barmaid. " Tis no impertinence. with cor"and I can't tell you how glad I am to you again. Vicar! Will you let me order you something? The brandy here seems to me uncommonly see good. I to come in. I hope. whose personality. Torp was in the bar-room. "Mr.

.248 WOLF SOLENT promptly handed to Valley and Torp. I hain't one o' who do blame the gentry." There was a vibration in his tone that the general clatter of tongues." stammered the man. . . Otter. and a gent be a gent while he Burn me if that ain't the truth. quite . I do say that a man be a lives. . for Gerda's parent was evidently a privileged jester among them." "But when we're dead. ques- Mr. . "I don't tion . . receiving his " 'tis wondrous for a man what glass with unsteady hand. say 'ee? be the man to answer that conundrum. while the third he appropriated for himself. man while he lives." remarked Mr. . Torp. evenin' to I 'ee. Otter. to sit and see what folks be they myself this. be with the Lord. good marble. Mr. . but to the dismay of his brother." called out the voice from the further end of the room. Mr. They others be with wold Horny. "Ask that drunk priest over there why he took young Redfern from a good job and turned him into a pious zany." Several mellow guffaws greeted this speech. What I do say be don't care who hears it. "what are we when we're dead?" of Jason "Evenin'. Valley. Sir! Dead. Tis wondrous. Us be as our tombstones be! Them as has 'Torp' writ on 'um in clean. . who was now talking in a quiet whisper to Wolf. Torp. . understand your little . the hollow voice of Jason floated once more across the room. works with chisel " and hammer all day. and I like who never do a stroke. at once quieted at and everyone looked Mr.

"His reverence asking of may be hard him?" And and this the great bully-boy hesitated not to roar out in thundering tones: "Mister Otter here be asking of 'ee. . a loss began the agitated clergyman. stretching out his long legs and emptying I. moving forward a step or two towards his aggressor..waiting to know from "I 'ee.THE THREE PEEWITS The bull-like voice of 249 Mr. as Wolf watched it. "I must beg you not to make a scene tonight.. Torp interrupted him. ." must beg you.. Shall / do the broke in then. had become stiff as a mask. his glass of gin-and-bitters. But Mr. Mr. whose face. But the farmer took no heed of public opinion. ." said Darnley Otter. for Mr. "He's sick as Satan wi' 'ee the and I'll tell cause for't. what god-darned you played on young Redfern afore he died." "I am still quite .. Manley of Willum's Mill of hearing." stir There was a general wits all in the room and a craning forward of necks. Manley. whole company trick be. quite . The seasoned cronies of the Three Pee- had long ago discovered that the most delectable of social delights was a quarrel that just stopped short of physical violence. Manley of Willum's Mill was this manifestation of universally disliked. "Do 'ee hear what Jack Torp be saying?" he jeered." among thee's betters!" There was a considerable hum of applause among the company at this. at a loss . "Ask thee bloody questions of thee wone bloody millpond and don't lift up thee's roaring voice to understand.

the legs." "The cause went on the master of Willum's mother's grave proper-like from Mill. Torp's voice rose higher still.250 WOLF SOLENT for't be. the lei- very walls of which must have been yellow with old surely disputes. and did say to theyselves. placed his great hands upon and leaned forward. "that I ordered me Weymouth. Torp gave a quick sideways glance to see how the "gentry" were behaving. with resonant contempt. 'stead of ferretting where there hain't naught but pers' monuments. 'twere ready and beauteous. thik stone! All what passed down street did stop for to see 'un. Having thrown out his this challenge. "This Manley here to leave his mother in ground for a day without a stone on her." round his dog-gone yard. workhouse six-foot and nothing!" were afeared Mr. " 'Twere ready and beauteous. Mr. There was a dead silence in that ale- embrowned atmosphere. for his at pockets were empty his beard and Darnley was merely pulling and keeping his eye on the Vicar. "Thee's mother's stone!" snorted the monument-maker. litter and rubbish and paufarmer drew in his knees. were aware of something exceptional in that spurt of human venom. But Wolf was discreetly occupied in ordering more drinks the barmaid to "put he had already had to tell down" what he ordered. Thik fine stone be loo good for a farmer's old woman! Thik fine stone be a titled lady's stone!'" The farmer's gin-dazed wits could only reply to this " 'Twere a pauper's throw-away. as if the "private bar" itself. He were afeared the poor woman . gents all. 'twere a by a repeated.

Mr. which immense hilarity throughout all the company. block o' Portland. It was at this point in the proceedings that more seri- ous trouble began. bellowed harmlessly for more gin. the big bully skirted this little group. . awaited his approach unmoved. do it!" found out now. same as they and bring whoam a fish-folk do cover bit o' silly their bones wi'.THE THREE PEEWITS would come out on's grave to tell tales fine stone 251 on him. But Mr. The Peewit for they were stricken into a silence. screamed out in about it paroxysm of fury: "It's you . Torp. ." broke in the owner of Willum's Mill. which was by no means a comfortable one. Valley. joining Wolf at the liquor-stained counter. this girt vool of a nag's head what must 'a do but goat-sucker! So while thik drive hay-wagon to Chesil. "Mr. who I've talk me to . what have never seed a marble!" excited Under the impact of this eloquent indictment. "Mr. Otter here have been the high doings what go telling pretty little tales of on up at King's Barton. Mr. Otter says Squire Urquhart have sold his soul to that . Urquhart . It's you who clash cronies must have felt that this unexpected between two of their "gentry" rose from more subtle depths than those to which they were accustomed. pointing with a shaky a forefinger at the Reverend Valley. To the surprise of all. the old were lying in yard as is good for they foreign margetting weathered-like. E. bles. and. Manley rose unsteadily to his feet and moved towards his enemy. at this juncture. for Jason Otter. Otter here. and Monk. . ensconced between Darnley Otter and T.

"so 'twere. there .. is . of Nevilton. . Valley in such shaky in . owing to liquor.. get into the devil's own trouble. mis- take your . . . Josh Beard here. Mr. what "Mistake?" roared the farmer. "Bain't Malakite the old beggar what got into trouble with the police some ten years since?" "So 'twere.. and when a quiet gent." The words were uttered by T. I tell 'ee. E. Torp under " of the voice. tongue in thee's bullick's-head!" cried the indignant monument-maker. be thee's "Hold moderate wambly "Bull-frog be his inability to in's head." agreed the grateful tenant of Willum's Mill.. some great . and heerd them.. brother Beard. 'Twere along of his gals.252 WOLF SOLENT black son-of-a-gun who works in's garden. and that 'tis bookseller Malakite here in Blacksod whose books do larn 'em their deviltries!" "I think . 'A did. like what's with us tonight. . and 'a do say 'a have heerd such things tonight such as no man's lips all should utter. too.. . hiding contend in repartee with Mr.. Manley. lift 'tisn't for a girt bull-frog like thee to up grumbled the big farmer. tones that Wolf was relieved when he saw Darnley take the parson reassuringly by the arm." And he turned round and leered at Jason Otter with the leer of a tipsy hangman. County of Somerset. as thee dost say. be as good a breeder of short-horns as any in Darset. from one as we do know. "I bain't one for to say I ain't got chapter nor text for saying! My friend." an increased grossness of speech.. in your mind. "What do a son-of-abitch like thee know ways of the gentry?" the "Malakite?" muttered breeder of short-horns. "A gent's a gent.

whether 'a be in shop or in that thik church. Josh Beard. Beard. He recalled certain complicated hints and hesitations of Selena Gault. moving now. may sell his grand school-hats at all he will . I would show this here stone-chipper the kind of gallimaufry these educated gents will cook for theyselves. achieved a mo- mentous orientation of many obscure matters.THE THREE PEEWITS what Bible do " 253 so some folks said. 'A was one of they hoary wold sinners tell of. If I didn't re- spect any real gentleman" "and if and to Wolf's consternation the gin-bemused stare of the farmer self I was turned upon him- weren't churchwarden and hadn't voted Conservative for nigh thirty years. 'twere even so. I Mr. afore they're done!" smoke and Wolf's wits." echoed have heerd that old Bert Smith up at Ramsgard could tell a fine story about thik little job." 'Twere even so. Manley. "And neighbour." Wolf's mind was too flustered with brandy just then to receive more than a vague shock of confused ambiguity from this startling hint." "That's God's own truth you've a-heerd. tell I out our way seeing were living though I know nought of Stamford Orcus in them same poor wisp o' bedstraw dursn't call days his own gal by his own name. as knows. in the light o' what folks. but the next remark of the man from Nevillon cleared "Bert Smith his brains with the violence of a bucket of ice-cold water. in spite of the fumes of alcohol. do report. but they do that." echoed the triumphant Mr. that " Tisn't safe for poor man to call his own daughter daughter. He recalled the reckless and embittered gaiety . with restored clarity.

facing him. But what Wolf himself knew was that the excited man was no longer under the restraint of his natural timidity. in the room." His voice. No one but Wolf could see the expression on his countenance. But Jason Otter rose to his feet. heard first now by the whole company for the had a disquieting tone. should be very glad indeed to hear anything else you may be anxious to tell us. With a shaky hand he finished his last glass and laid across the "I Mr. walked with short quick steps across the floor till he came close up to Farmer Manley. I my father. and everyone was sitime. "But since I happen to be myself one of these unfortunate 'educated' people. The one that dominated the rest was a categorical certainty that some immediate drastic action was necessary. of his mother. and there were all kinds of different ver- sions afterwards as to what actually happened. in the midst of that silence and under the startled attention of all eyes lent. and there he stopped. Manley. Then he looked room at the two farmers. Solent. don't know whose feelings you are so careful of. that he could recall later every flicker of the conflicting impulses that shot through him. came to grief in this neighbourhood. What he that did was to take Jason by the shoulders and fling him backwards into an old beer-stained chair that stood un- occupied against the neighbouring wall. and. In the violence of this action an earthenware jug of water and Wolf . His own intelligence was so clairvoyantly aroused at moment. and since Mr." he said.254 WOLF SOLENT it down on the counter. who was leaning his back against the his little counter and who had hands in his pockets.

" began Wolf. I didn't see. huddled limply in a great wooden chair. eh? I've had enough All the patrons of the private bar were gathered now in little groups about the room. "It's all right.. Valley?" The priest's feelings were evidently outraged by "What do you mean?" he protested querulously. Was he going to bite you?" The words were from T. Sit down. Solent. leaving the room nearly empty. which its owner willingly va- cated. . Jason himself.. E. I . and Wolf was so astonished at the expression he used." Wolf whispered little back. . .. "I can't . "I expect we're all a fuddled." he's rested we'll clear out. surface with a crash upon the There was a hush now throughout the room. I don't know! But bite people. understand. . "I mean. . the bulk of the many secretive nudges and company drifted out. it on yourself.. turned his devastated white face and lamentable eyes full upon his aggressor. and before long." whispered Darnley. .. Valley. and most of the company leaned excitedly forward.THE THREE PEEWITS had time fell 255 its to notice the mellow varnish of floor. "I don't "You couldn't have done anything else. won't you. . funny about you all! on my soul. you brought seem a good deal that's You must forgive me. Mr. with sly inquisitive glances and nods. . "Oh. accepting a chair by Jason's side. Otter." he gasped. Valley.. "I . "Do you this." know about that. to a stranger down here there does but. Bite? It's . and when of this. I didn't mean . that he answered with a good deal of irritation : Mr.

Torp. promptly "The Reverend here. with Mr. Valley. for his own self. "Nought but paupers' moniments in's yard. was steering for the door. Blacksod. fingers. Manley of Willum's Mill. thik girt stone what . "You drove the gentleman into fold. Beard. Torp. cautious voice of a drunkard anxious prove his sobriety. isn't it? didn't you?" They were interrupted by Mr. "Did you hurt the gentleman. leaning against the back of a chair.256 WOLF SOLENT You did say bite. and he made all the use he could of that. "Paupers' moniments!" jeered the farmer. The Reverend here did see. Manley to in the grave. aroused thus suddenly to normal consciousness. In thus approaching Wolf it was inevitable that the two worthies should jostle the portly frame of Mr." he in said. and 'a can still talk grand and mighty!" The stone-cutter struggled to gather his wandering wits together. In his confusion the only friendly shape he could visualize was the form of Mr.' do signify. Sir?" Wolf. Joshua Beard in tow. 'Torp. who. "can bear witness to I. The Reverend here do know what they words. rather an odd idea. who. had fallen into an interlude of peaceful "Who the bloody hell be 'ee barging into?" murmured Mr. Moniment-Maker. with an empty pewter beer-mug trailing by its handle from one of his plump coma. to said Mr. seems so!" echoed Mr. the face of all thee's bloody millponds and hay- wagons.

"and cool your heads." echoed Mr." he said. Redfern Number Two. clenched the fingers of his right hand savagely. Manley. I are the "Friend of Torp. who were nudging each other and leering at him like a couple of schoolboy bullies." Had not the whole scene become to him by this time incredibly phantasmal. "Thee'd best keep thee's daughter in house.THE THREE PEEWITS I 257 did put up over first young man. You and I must have a last glass to- . "Whatever happens. beyond his conscious intention. "Mr. As it was. Beard. Mr. gentlemen. might have struck a villainous blow at his life-illusion. Come. "Torp's friend. thee'd best do as I do Mr. Torp and best of friends. Valley and fixed them upon Wolf. "And here be second young man who can bear witness to say. but his wits were clear mustn't now." he remarked sternly. my good sir. same as first one did. and fat be in fire. 'sknow." concluded Mr. "My name is Solent. for thee's been clipping and cuddling our Gerda." He now removed his bewildered little pig's-eyes from Mr. make an ass of myself tonight. on this night of all nights. I ." he thought. "Lest t'other one rumple her. such an unexpected introduction of Gerda's name." chuckled Mr. Torp. Manley. he could only wonder at the perspicacity of drunken fathers. And then he turned to the two farmers. darn it. or you'll get into trouble. Wolf. and I be only to tell Missus on 'ee. I "You'd better go out into the air. and pull himself together for an adequate retort." he said quietly. Beard. and he mastered the impulse. as you ought to know. and. however. Jack!" continued Mr.

"We ought to be starting for home. as if it were the first come with you? I don't want he had tasted that night.258 WOLF SOLENT and you. he were there!" And with that swung behind them. . now this here lad be meddling with they lights'. of he could catch was the chanted refrain. suppose . "Now what be the meaning o' that. "I'll be getting home-along me own self. The farmers moved slowly toward the door. .. taking down his coat and hat from a peg. either!" brother. Vicar. him. from where he sat by his whose great melancholy eyes were fixed upon vacancy. "And it's none too soon. you won't mured the voice of T. little gether. Beard saying. "and if I've exceeded in speech to any gent here" and he glanced glass. "if I to get on anybody's nerves" .. Torp." remarked Mr. anxiously at Wolf and Mr." said Darnley Otter. E. it ended in a sort of bawdy rhyme. Simultaneously with this a serving-boy entered and began to turn down the lights. 'a called un. sipping the drink." "I me . emptying his "Good-night to 'ee all. . counter." Wolf heard Mr. Valley "it be contrary to nature and contrary to me profession. me boy?" He whatever it couldn't hear the big farmer's answer. "Jimthe door mie Redfern." And he led them away towards the counter. but which all was. too." he added. Valley. to mind . "Redfern Number Two." murwho had remained at the which Wolf had treated . He had just time to obtain three more drinks from the barmaid before she pulled down the and indicated in no equivocal manner little wooden slide that eleven o'clock had struck.

Valley. a cheap story. Valley's arm." Saying this he pulled his brother up upon his feet and helped him into his overcoat. He touched Mr. E. and both the men stood for a time looking at that unconscious reader. They were all silent. Valley about six paces to the rear. in every direction the great pastoral fields lay quiet in their muffled dew-drenched aloofness. her the other chin propped upon one arm and arm lying ex- tended across the table. The book she read was obviously. but as Wolf upon her. who seemed to have drifted off into without being asleep another world "but I don't like that walk alone at night. where for some reason neither curtain nor blind see had been drawn.THE THREE PEEWITS and he looked at 259 Jason Otter. The woman's face had nothing remarkable about it. us. Wolf could two candles burning on a small table at which someone was still reading. Darnley and Jason in front. sitting there in that commonroom at midnight. Half-an-hour later they were all four making their way past the last houses of Blacksod. In one of the smaller houses." "Of course you must come with ley. For leagues stared in and leagues there. But by those two pointed flames." said Darn- "Though what you can find so frightening in that quiet lane I can't imagine. It was an elderly woman who read there by those two candles. as if the contrast between the noisy scene they had just left and the hushed were walking quietness of the way were a rebuke to their souls. one isolated conscious- . an indescribable sense of the place drama of human life passed through him. Wolf and T. from its shape and appearance.

staring in at that candle-lit window. in love. in birth. Mentally he resolved once while to Mr. ness kept in death. . all the turbulent chances of mortal events. spectacled head became for him at that moment a little island of warm human awareness in the midst of the vast non-human night. my father. . He submitted at last to his walked on. He did not formulate the word "sister" in any portion of his consciousness where ideas express themselves in words. . more. himself would human some wayward philosopher like perhaps watch through a window a head reading by candlelight. and find such a still sight touching beyond words. when these formidable scientific inventions would have changed the face of the earth.260 WOLF SOLENT up the old familiar interest. Valley's surprise he still lingered. That simple. "Lorna and The little girl said we were alike. That's what it is!" . in some future time. But in his heart companion's uneasiness and he thought: "That old woman in there might be reading a story about my own life! She might be reading about Shaftesbury-town and yellow bracken and Gerda's whistling! She might be reading about Christie and the Malakite book-shop. pallid. but across some shadowy mental landscape . . She might be " His thoughts veered suddenly. that while he lived he would never allow the beauty of things of this sort to be overpowered for him by anything that science could do. reading about Mattie "Mattie? Mattie Smith?" And a wavering suspicion that had been gathering weight for some while in his mind suddenly took to itself an irrefutable shape. . He thought to himself how.

. And .Valley's religion in flashing humming aeroplanes! What would ever become that world." in such a world? Stubbornly he pushed this vision away. "Nothing shall make me yield. with head-lights along cemented highways. trying to with a jerk at this push away a certain image of things that rose discomfortably upon him the image of a countryside covered airships. . I lived there." hastened now to attach themselves to the personality of Mattie Smith it and to give their peculiar glamour. "How unreal my life seems to be growing. his secret "mythology. as long as there'll women like that read books by candlelight itself be some romance left!" His mind withdrew into point. like . from sea to sea by illuminated stations for overspread from sea to sea by thousands of of Tilly. "I'll live in my own world to the end. a tissue of filmy threads. . "London seemed compared with fantastic to me when but ." while a gasping susurration at his side indicated that he was. and all existence dominated by electricity? What would become of old women reading by candlelight? What would become of his own life-illusion." he said to himself. this! It good Lord! would be curious if that old ." he thought. woman old reading that book were really reading to my history and has now perhaps come my death.THE THREE PEEWITS within 261 girl with richly-charged identity! All the vague fragments of association that had gathered here and there a him new and floated and drifted that heavy-faced in his life around the word "sister. in his excitement. Well. walking too fast for Mr.

And as he walked along. he discovered that that grey feather of Christie's which served her as a marker risen "Urn Burial" had up again in his mind. "what the sight of that grey feather in the book. invisible struggle to safeguard everything that was sacred to him against modern inventions. float over them like a burrow under them like a mole!" his stick excitedly in the darkness. be- . adapting his steps to his companion's shambling progress. while He swung he gave his arm to Mr. And man's soul can escape from them and even while using them treat them with contempt treat them as if they were not! It can slip mist.262 WOLF SOLENT in the Valley. through them like a snake. I've brawled in a tavern tipsy priest on my ing I don't know to the limit. with a arm. thinking of nothing but defendwhat against motor-cars and aero- planes!" He continued vaguely to puzzle himself. he indulged in the fancy that his soul was like a vast cloudy serpent of writhing vapour that had the power of over-reaching every kind of human invention. and that old woman with the candle. "All inventions. "It's queer. his discovery of Mattie. have done to my mind. his encounter with Jason. I've made love to the limit. and here I am." he thought. thus fall away from his consciousness in comparison with that feather and that candle. "come from man's brains. He felt as though he were entering upon some desperate. and he came finally to the conclusion. as they lurched forward in the darkness." he thought to himself. Valley to help him along. as to what it was in his nature that made his seduction of Gerda.

" he finally concluded. I am like that! We must see what comes of it!" .. "If I'm like that . "But there it is. that there must be something queer and inhuman in him.THE THREE PEEWITS fore they 263 reached King's Barton..

ing between the circled The large expanse of meadow-land castle-ruins and the railway was stalls. so as to be prepared to face his Blacksod friends free of responsibility. Solent was fashionably dressed. ly- en- by booths. since the man. self. The day obviously was the culmination of the Wessex Fair. with a nod at his mother. he plunged into the heart of that motley scene. like so nervous tradesman. as she flung out her light badinage. Wolf caught sight of Mr. at the The thought rushed across his brain. as he watched her: "She's never had her chance in life! She was made for large transactions and stirring events!" Letting his gaze wander over the groups about them. roundabouts.THE HORSE-FAIR 1 HE FIRST PERSON OF THEIR ACQUAINTANCE THEY ENthe countered. the best thing he could do was to get sooner or later he would have to greet it over as soon as possible. therefore. and he decided that. Wolf was amazed at the cordiality of his mother's greet- crowd that ing. was none other than Mr. Solent mingled with filled lively Ramsgard's famous Castle Field that afternoon. many shining javelins. and so quite evidently was the worthy hatter him- Mrs. Urquhart's figure in the distance. when Wolf and Mrs. Leaving his companions to themselves. Albert Smith. fortune-tellers' . but what struck her son more than her clothes at that moment was the incredible power of her haughty profile.

at some little distance from the privileged spot where most of his compeers were gathered. who. whose carriages were drawn up under the railway-bank. had been able to reduce to servitude. close to the rope. 265 which the annual horde of migratory peddlers of amusement offered. But the centre portion of this spacious fair-ground was carefully roped off. Urquhart was given him by the fact that the Squire of King's Barton was standing alone. as if they super-equine festival that spectators! were parading in some gigantic ought to have had super-human powerful and so The creatures looked so contemptuous beside the stablemen who led them. toy circuses all the entertainments. that Wolf. could watch the proceedings in undisturbed security. though not to servility. ani- . to their rustic clients. according to age-old tradition. of this roped-off circle had been converted into a sort of privileged paddock. in fact. saw for a mo- ment the whole human race ous light in an inferior and ignomini- saw them as some breed of diabolically clever monkeys. who. corresponding to a race-course grand-stand. adorned with ribbons and other marks of distinction. as he approached this procession.THE HORSE-FAIR tents. and it was here that the riding and driving competitions took place that gave so special an interest to this particular afternoon. by a debased trick of cunning. One segment where the aristocracy of the neighbourhood. one after another. He was watching with absorbed interest a stately parade of prize-stallions. ambled ponderously by. The opportunity Wolf had seized of approaching Mr.

as he contemplated the vast grey flanks of the winner of the third prize. Wolf. said no more till the procession had passed. makes you feel like a Yahoo. Wolf could only lift his thick eyebrows interrogatively. as he shook hands with Mr. though he had grasped his secretary's hand warmly and had seemed pleased to see him. Urquhart's clothes. smiling. Sir. standing by his side. took no more notice of this remark than if it had been some negligible banality uttered by a complete stranger. and although own felt overcoat was a good one and his cloth-hat new. "I mean it makes me feel like a Yahoo. His attention began to wander the great stallions to a mental consideration that from made him straighten his own shoulders. Urquhart. "He looks me up and down. a that caused him considerable annoyance. this "Damn accursed snobbishness!" he said to himself. Good Lord! Look at that beast! Don't you get the sensation that those hooves are really making the earth tremble?" But Mr. He continued to feel uncomfortable under his employer's quizzical gaze. he feeling somehow badly dressed in the man's company. the felicitous ap- He had his suddenly become aware of propriateness of Mr.266 WOLF SOLENT far mals "It nobler and more godlike than themselves. "Why can't I detach myself absolutely visitor from these things and see them as a or Uranus would see them?" from Saturn Mr. Urquhart. "Do 'ee know who my man brought with him over here?" he said." said Wolf. Urquhart turned to him when the last stallion had passed by." he thought .

I was that old servant of our at the flowers in all the good was compelled to look the tassels on her cape her bonnet and "You don't way here. too. Eh? What? Come on. in a rapid and he contemplated inward vision that sly. And. by gad. and the chivalrous grand air with which coachman must have conversed with her. a moment ago. ." the "He put her on squire. "I can just see the good Darnley from here. speak to him. "I can't guess whom he brought with him. You watch his face. as he held "I couldn't let her walk. there's Tilly-Valley! Let's go and stir him up. "There! can't you? I wonder where that terrible person who's always drunk has hidden himself! I saw him. the reins." he said." mean Dimity Stone?" murmured Wolf. misogynistic eye fixed sardonically on the old woman's the wizened back. "as if I 267 were a horse that had disappointed him by not winning even a third prize." went on the squire. while the two of them pushed their way towards the clergyman." And greatly to Wolf's annoyance he found himself comwon't expect to He me pelled to support his limping employer on his arm. I suppose they hadn't room." He swung about and surveyed the crowd with indulgent arrogance.THE HORSE-FAIR to himself. "Tally ho! Run to earth!" was the squire's greeting. "And the Otters had left her behind." "You mean Monk?" he said. I suppose they got it from the hotel. I thought he was driving you. They came in a wretched conveyance. my boy. when I nudge his elbow." went on the Otters. "It box by his side.

.. . his thin neck. I walked . . you see that grey they drove over one? . that he costs. WOLF SOLENT with Wolf at his elbow.. it it stand pulsed and vibrated. . Stammeringly Mr. eh? what? Too many horsey rascals about? Too many rowdy young men. "Afternoon. that produced a profoundly pitiful feeling.. There was something about his pinched face. . . the Otters are here . eh?" If he was Wolf was astonished at Mr. Urquhart's familiar tone. "Seats.. ." And leaning heavily on his companion's arm. terances of the poor Vicar.268 as. Valley! Should have thought this sort of thing wasn't in your line. so did others many others . still more astonished at the expression on the face of the nervous clergyman. must get his employer away from this man at all Never had he liked Mr.. Urquhart less. Not only did out. . with a rush of sheer rage. it would be nice if there were seats here don't you think so? . . It came over Wolf then. . . There was at that something in his wrinkled white face. . "You don't need a seat at your age.. moment. did . seats?" Wolf could hardly bear to listen to these broken ut. his shapeless nose. Urquhart's presence provoked seemed concentrated in that pulsing vein. "Fine horses more of them than usual . did you say?" chuckled the squire. . his frightened eyes. . This sensation was accentuated by the way a certain vein in the man's throat stood out. he came up unobserved to little priest where the was standing. he tapped the priest with the end of his stick with an air of playful familiarity. Valley found his tongue. ... All the panic that Mr.

but what at that instant he got a glimpse of. slow- voiced and slow-footed. whimsical dairymen from the rich pastures of the Stour . beneath this man's gentlemanly mask. him along. was something different from viciousness. Here were smart." dry voice. and Wolf realized that he was seeing the most characteristic gather- ing for that portion of the countryside that he was ever likely to see. get back to the rope.THE HORSE-FAIR 269 which suggested an out-rush of incredible evil of evil emerging. We must and I to the surface. self-satisfied young tradesgirls. men from Ramsgard makers and with their wives and their carters Here were weather-stained from Blackmore. a sprinkling of well-to-do farmers from the far-off valley cattle-dealers of the Frome. can't let Mr. moving among them all. and. Urquhart's hilarity seemed to sink fathom-deep at the sound of his secretary's voice. The crowd had thickened perceptibly now. and glanc- he was startled by the look of ing sideways almost imbecile vacuity that had replaced what had been there before. Wolf was tolerant enough of the various forms of normal and abnormal sensuality. It was as if some abysmal ooze from the slime of that which underlies all evil had been projected "Come along. like some abominable vapour. He permitted himself to be pulled away. Sir. stalwart melancholy-looking shepherds from the high Quantocks. cider- from Sedgemoor. but with an infinite zest for . sly. from a level of consciousness not often revealed. "They're you miss that!" Wolf found himself saying starting the driving-match in a stern. But Wolf noticed a perceptible increase in his lameness as he drew at his face.

the local rustic labourers that tilled the heavy fields watered by the Lunt. and he drank in the scene before lhat him with unruffled delight. non-official.270 WOLF SOLENT enjoyment. world gave forth rank. and tar. leather. and paint. could have brought . beyond which the driving-contest was now proceeding. harsh. the magnetic currents of sympathy between the persons looking on and the persons showing off. Wolf's mind felt liberated from all its agitations. under equine hooves. and cider-sour human breath. that this Dorits autochthonous essence. the way the whole scene was characterized by something casual. the unique smell of the trodden grass of a fairfield. comforting beyond conscious knowledge beast. and half-devoured apples were all caught up and overpowered by one grand dominant odour. sweat. its terrestrial bitter-sweet. to the heart of man and Nothing could have been more symbolic of the inmost nature of that countryside than the humorous gravity with which these lean yeomen and plump farmers drove their brightly painted gigs and high dog-carts round that hoof-trodden paddock! The obvious reciprocity between the men who drove and the animals driven. and horse- came to his nostrils dung. and as they rested there. The peculiar smells and straw. and perhaps only that portion of England. The two men pushed their way back to the taut vibrat- ing rope. nonchaall this produced an effect that lant only England. and tobacco-smoke. Let the sun shine as it would from the cold blue heaven! Let the chariots of white clouds race as they pleased under that airy tent! It was from the solid ground under human setshire feet.

stocky lively but not particularly at that man. popular boys among the who must be feeling. What was Lord Lovelace to of King's Barton. just then. "If I have a vestige of occult power I put my curse upon them!" A short. "but they never can quite do it!" Once again Wolf interest which this felt a prick of shame at the curious occurrence excited in him. unathletic. unrest." muttered this latter. the well-known straw-hats manufactured by Mr. with powerful wrists. when he noted that the a familiar nod with Mr. and his mind ran upon the various queer. giving vent to a low. 271 Behind Wolf and his companion surged a pushing. heterogeneous crowd. passed them moment inside the paddock. driving a handsome horse." he thought. undiscovered bullies that probably existed in Ramsgard School at that very moment made him feel sick at the pit of his stomach. just .THE HORSE-FAIR into being." he thought. monotonous murmur. him? He glanced furtively at the squire The man's baggy eye-wrinkles had. man exchanged "Not a bad turnout for a Lovelace. and behind them again could be heard the raucous cries and clangings and whistlings from the noisy whirligigs. so indescribably thankful for this blessed interlude in their hateful life! The thought of the unknown. jostling. when the equipage had passed. "I put my curse on them. Albert Smith of the boys of Ramsgard School. "They must be having a 'half today. out. Wolf was wondering as this why the voices round him were discreetly lowered person trotted by. here Wolf could make and there among the people round him. Urquhart.

as he leaned his stomach against that vibrant rope. But the Mr. extended itself Gerda again. fly then. . . . The magic of the scene had completely vanished. and he recalled the outline of his mother's profile. taciturn and pensive though the squire had become. certain relief to pronounce the queer-sounding "Ailinon! Ailinon!" he muttered to himself. "What will she think of the Torp family?" he said to himself. Urquhart. And under his breath he repeated that strange classical lament. so contemptuously lifted towards Albert Smith. a mere catchword now.272 WOLP SOLENT was almost saurian. Savagely he tried to his spirit summon up out of the depths of some current of defiant magnetism. But the disgust he things at that moment extended felt at the pressure of itself to this whole fair- ground. The smell of the trodden earth was stale in his nostrils. A loathing of the whole spectacle Wolf turned away his eyes. of life took 'possession of him. but gave him a syllables. in miserable discomfort. From one corner mouth a trickle of saliva descended. "How even to the prospect of seeing can I face her in the midst of all this?" he thought. seemed to cut off all help from presence of these furtive resources. his Struggling against this wretched mood. So he sought to steady himself by pure reason. "Ailinon! And the very utterance of this tragic cry from old Greek dramas soothed his mind as if it had been the Ailinon!" a talisman. . a tag in his memory it from his school-days. he straightened back and clutched the rope with both his hands. a look that of his twitching towards which a small persistently darted.

"You won't . or or his mother. . and what pointed spikes of misunderstanding he had to throw himself upon before this bustling day was over! should be eased? Emptiness leered yawned He the innumerable ran his fingers along the swaying rope. that they . as if he had spoken in his sleep for he had . . a trickle of saliva more or less . emptiness him. His mind seemed to hover above the form of Gerda and above the form of his mother. confused medley? She must be somewhere about." And come swinging once more round the enclosure. Sir?" he found himself saying. . as if it had been a floating mist gathered about two sundered headlands. . "those gulfs of watery blue up there are such an unthinkable background to all this. And the words quite startled him. That familiar grey head. and this other. Where was Gerda now. whistling mouth when he brought them together? It would mean he would have what would happen to leave his mother. pursed-up. or anyone else man woman at really feel toward him so that this loneliness at him. a woman's profile more or less . as he watched those painted gigs showed a vicious tendency to the rope. Christie. as a chestnut-coloured mare then. in That's what this it would mean. this new strange head. sticky from human hands that had clutched it. a sense of terrified loneliness back her driver against came upon him.THE HORSE-FAIR 273 "After all." he argued. that they . with its sea-grey gaze and its wild. and heard the exclamations of malicious delight... out of that watery blue. with those mocking brown eyes. What could Gerda... too! and perhaps care if I go off to look for my mother.

" Wolf steered the squire as well as he could through the jostling mob I of people. "Neither tone nor words are the real man. out of this crowd. "You and grimly. it's and hopeless to find for me. I daresay. as well as another. Monk in this you go. There! That's all right.274 WOLF SOLENT his made up mind that he would never speak of his private affairs to this egoistic gentleman. I suppose hurly? He was to have little come back affairs. good luck to We'll do some solid work tomorrow. if I were you. and if your mother. know more about some make 'em of these good folks than they know themselves." he thought. He'll wait to see the cart-horses. Never know'd but one woman who could see a up a bit. me boy. poor bitch! Well. ha? Want gad after the petticoats? Well! Take I'll let me to the en- closure." remarked Mr. please God!" strode away. 'Sack' they used to call her. off with 'ee. she was. what fermenting misanthropy. "Our History'll sit what? Well. and left him at the entrance to the privileged circle. I'll find Lovelace in the enclosure. "What seething malice. I'd look for her in the refreshment-tent. that mask of his does cover!" . But Lord! he's got his own That's better. and 'sacked' 'ee. There! You needn't go at a snail's pace for me. Wolf mumbled some inadequate reply to this and What struck him just then was the contrast between the silky tone of his employer's voice and the toll-pike jocularity of his language. eh? you want to find horse-show out to the end and she was a tart of Lord Tintinhull's. "Eh? What's to that? Tired of the old man. Urquhart. at the finish.

About threequarters of the persons filling this huge canvas-space were women. This lady was seated alone at a small table placed against the canvas-wall. were disgorging into earthenware cups a quality of tea that seemed to meet the taste alike of the Lovelaces and of eagerly the Torps. others eating and as they stood. so varied were the human types now swallowing it! Wolf speedily became aware that Mr. for some reason. enhanced her The lady's costume. Urquhart's jibe about few petticoats being able to endure a horse-show to the end was not without justification. The place was packed with people. The his first way in was familiar form he encountered as he pushed that of Selena Gault. Wolf hurried to her. some taking stimulant at little their deal-board tables. others again crowding about the drinking massive serving-counter at the end of the tent. where great silvery receptacles. kept hot by oil-flames. where she was drinking her and eating her bread-andbutter in sublime indifference to the crowd that surged tea about her. Wolf re- speedily found his way to the entrance of the great freshment-tent. and underneath the pleasant badinage with which he returned his friend's greetings he found himself He positively clinging to this lonely woman. a sense of profound physical exhaustion.THE HORSE-FAIR and the whirligigs 275 Crossing the fair-field to the northward. snatched an unoccupied chair. and sat down at her side. had given a vague sporting-touch suitable to the occasion. to which she . fell. leaving the paddock to his left to his right.

Their complete isolation in the midst of the crowd for the people jostling past their table gave them little soon led Wolf to plunge shamelessly into what was nearest his heart." "There's nothing to be done. I was upon. came in with her certainly I she's here!" she cried. and let's talk about as serious as it Now turn round and look at me. "nothing except to make some money by hook or by crook! Do you think if I put the case to Urquhart. quietly I and sensibly. "Oh. No! it's no use! You can't possibly see her from where you are. "Why. I'm afraid." said Wolf gravely." dear boy!" she chuckled. She is one of the loveliest girls I've ever set eyes hadn't seen her since she's grown up. To ask that man for money to get . "You don't know are.276 WOLF SOLENT grotesque hideousness. "The child's here! She father a quarter of an hour ago. forcing himself to accept the situation. and don't know what's to be done about it." Never were human eyelids lifted more whimsically than were those of Wolf's interlocutor at this mild suggestion. could be. Selena Gault's ghastly upper-lip quiv- heed ered perceptibly as he told her of his affair with Gerda and his resolve to get married without delay. It's all this. Well! You have made hay while the sun shone. Miss Gault. my how funny you married on. amazed at her beauty. But from her deformed visage her eyes gleamed such irresistible affection that his ebbing courage began steadily to revive. he'd give me a little more? We're getting on first-rate with the History.

. 277 I suppose not. and that Olwen. the bookseller. the girl's little protegee. "Is it made her I a dedicated target for such a true that have a sister in this town?" he Gault's enquired eyes. they seemed now to have tangibility. looking straight into Miss The appalling upper-lip vibrated like the end of a tapir's proboscis. we'll put all our wits together and get you something in Ramsgard. pulse to reveal to this felt an irresistible im- woman certain rather sinister de- ductions that he found he had been involuntarily making from recent glimpses and hints. letting her hands fall heavily upon her knees. Smith's daughter at all but William Solent's. was actually the incestuous child of old Malakite. "If he does. eh?" he murmured.THE HORSE-FAIR "No good. Composed originally of the veriest wisps and wefts of fluctuating suspicion. "No. boldly. But Wolf. and the grey eyes blinked as if he had shot off a pistol. " There are jobs she added. having twice twisted his head back into its normal position from a hopeless attempt to see further than a few yards in front of him. solidified themselves in unabashed What they now amounted to was that Mattie was not Mr. do you?" Miss Gault shook her head. thoughtfully puckering her brows. like the hands of a flabbergasted sorceress. It was the startling nature of these conclusions that tempted him to fire them off point-blank at the lady by his side. whose mor- bid receptivity shock. and of some vanished sister of Christie's. "What?" she cried. But you don't think he'll show me the door.

as he released her hand and began fumbling for a cigarette. knowing. He his arm.278 WOLF SOLENT fingers palms downward and you're saying. "that Mattie have the same father. 'What's that boy?" Smith and I am Wolf saying that I've come to a shrewd certainty. as the new Mattie they were talking about was different from the one he had met in that Victorian dining-room. as different from the Miss Gault he knew." the table Miss Gault astonished him by putting her elbows on to and covering her face with her extended fingers. I'd find out sooner or later. hurriedly extending one of her wrists." firmly. . that he felt an uneasy discomfort. it wished she would remove those fingers and stop staring at him so discomforlably. When at last she did was was at countenance whose expression he a loss to read. He had only just succeeded in finding the small packet . does should think. through which her eyes now regarded him. He so. "It doesn't matter. and. but was flushed and disturbed. touched glanced furtively round. The imit pression he really got from almost indecent! was of something . my I couldn't mind. It was as if she had suddenly turned into a different person." "You must have known he said. Her face certainly wasn't blubbered to reveal a it with crying. He'd be glad. Was she laughing at him? There was something so queer in this gesture. . "I said outspread. She was not weeping he could see that." He And he it? gave an awkward little chuckle.

and wore a This un- down over her fair hair. for he saw her face stiffen to a conventional and rather strained smile. He soon dropped it. that for a moment he was mist. Torp Wolf and touching . introduce you to my friend. his heart beating brain in full fast. held out her hand. and the em- barrassed. however.THE HORSE-FAIR for which he 279 was searching. and said very hurriedly and quietly: "Gerda forgive me . . . he advanced to meet them. hurting her a little.. Ah! there they were their eyes lit up in excited recognition. Miss Gault. but his command of the situation." Gerda's eyes must have already encountered those of that lady. struck with a kind of dizziness that reduced everyone in that crowded tent to a floating at and eddying He caught her hand without a word and held it tightly for a moment. dis- engaged her arm from her father's.. Torp. assuming her lover. with Gerda leaning lightly on his arm! He did not hesitate a moment. But intervened. soft hat low in plain navy-blue serge. yet illuminated look with which she greeted brought back to his mind so vividly the events of yesterday. at this coming up very close to moment Mr. when he caught Miss Gault's round. but I want to . and. Gerda flushed crimson when she saw him. She was dressed dark. He swung way making straight towards them the portly figure of Mr. coming to meet him with charming impetuosity. attire heighlened her beauty. but leaping up from his chair with an incoherent apology to his companion.

since her were a babe.280 WOLF SOLENT hand with his the latter's lift it plump finger before he could to greet him. But Gerdie be a good girl. looks so! Don't 'ee take on. in 'ee fixed it up. Her mother once did though think I it 'ud be young Bob Weevil what 'ud get her. "So you and darter have whispered. "We've made friends already. " Tis they wimming's whimsies what us have got to mind." said Miss Gault . It's like I reckon! I be a climbing man. with a sidelong glance. almost funereal tone. Us be glad and so it be. hasn't?" whispered Mr. I did! I knewed she were one for the gentry. "Don't I be fretted about in advance. Mister. self. though a to bewildered. and she looked pleased. Darter's different from we and alms has been. shouldn't say it. became aware that Miss Gault had approached them and had been met half-way by Gerda. "What they do reckon'll happen to we. 'Twere barn in her. I tell 'ee. for Gerda's quaint society- manner had little left her. about us being poor folks like." He caught hold of Wolf's sleeve and put his face close to his face. but knewed a thing or two beyond that. Mister. as you might say. She had evidently said something very gracious to the girl . She's I had grand courtiers ere now. the him a shrewd wink. was then that Miss Gault took the opportunity of bringing Gerda up to them. Torp. while Wolf. it me wone enough she gets from I!" And before he stone-cutter gave It withdrew his rubicund face to a discreet distance. have 'ee?" he a confidential. nor the missus. 'tis what will happen to we. though turble lazy about house.

isn't. tomorrow afternoon. Miss Gault!" she added. this here fair! do mind when 'twere so thick wi' gipoos and such-Iike. but she's not a young lady one can forget!" hear. she smoothed out her gloves all Mr. there Father. as and buttoned her jacket. but Father and I haven't half gone see the round yet." Gerda was saying. as she listened to Miss Gault and her father. good-bye to Sir! Good-bye to 'ee. have we. out anywhere . Torp caught the word. with a straight. that he was beginning to couldn't he grow nervously hostile to all these explanations. is there. How do you do. Solent that I knew your daughter already. out of this hurly-burly. Father?" "Gone the round! I should think us hadn't!" said I Mr.. Mr.. "Bain't what used to be. "and I've told her I knew her well by sight. they things. person could scarce move. "Perhaps we'll you again later. set their man. What Mr. "I'll be at home Wolf. confiding." she murmured. so as to be at peace and alone? "Well. Marm! If . But Gerdie and will see summat. "So she shall be!" he cried emphatically. Why and Gerda go sraight off now. don't ain't ain't rid in They whirligigs why there a blessed season since her was a mommet that we . Torp. for orderhearts on doing! Well.THE HORSE-FAIR 281 Wolf. Torp! I was telling Mr. Good-bye. that a I . my chuck?" "No. good-bye. 'ee fear! . he found as he kept looking at Gerda's face. grateful glance at her friend's friend. Torp's reply to this was Wolf did not Aware that the situation had arranged itself. "I be a turble stern ing they to do what they've 'ee. though I've never spoken to her.

didn't fool!" "You did when you?" . I reckon!" out of the tent. . Watching that quaintly assorted couple moving away Wolf in felt a glow of almost conceited satisfaction in the discovery that whatever vein of snob- bishness it was him that had made so much of Mr. Miss Gault?" he said. as his eyes followed them into the open air. "Let's sit down again. . "So childish . And he added rather maliciously. "I'm glad the old man is as he is!" he thought." "Why is it so serious. resumed stiff their seemed to have grown and some- what remote." She sighed and gave him a glance irritably. Miss Gault! You were so especially sweet to her. . His spirits were a little dashed. seemed to say "And to cap everything you are an incredible that like her. And then." she said gravely. as they when he re- garded the lady seats. "This is very serious. however.282 all WOLF SOLENT to fling at they coceenuls. there'd and sundry here were be few left. second how refined she is!" Miss Gault lifted "My mother would see in a her eyebrows. . "Why is it that men are so ridiculous?" "But I thought you liked her. "I'm not only thinking . for her face opposite him. with an almost plaintive tone. it away completely where Gerda was concerned. that they think of nothing nothing then their desire is aroused. shall we?" he said to Miss Gault. Urquhart's clothes fell and Lord Lovelace's appearance.

You'll make her miserable. But after a moment she burst out: "Your father would laugh at you . to "She has indeed a irrelevantly. . while with her gaze fixed upon . girl herself.THE HORSE-FAIR know 283 of your mother.. greedy madness! You can't make a girl like that happy no! not for half a year! Good You're as selfish heavens. I tell you. child. cast about in the depths of his consciousness. for some line of ever. Wolf! she and you will talk completely different languages! You can't do it these things not in our country. you and your mother! She's sweet to look at." cried Wolf. but Wolf. . in Why did you talk of getting me work Ramsgard?" She made no reply to this. why I should fuss about her. I'd like And how know?" are you going to support her. and Poll's his different language. He attack that would disturb and agitate her. he would! He'd just laugh at you!" "Well. sulkily. that I of." said Wolf . "There's no reason. I'm thinking of you and the Listen." she said. And then. you're as blind as a as one of my cats! It's the girl I'm thinking of. and and of all your friends. mind reverted to the blackbird of Camp. we'd better not talk of it any more. howwith the vindictiveness of defeat.." he began. ten- boy" der and reproachful looks he had ever seen and she bent on him one of the most "all this is pure madness selfish. I've seen these things bring misery again and again just misery. "Miss Gault. anyhow. and her fingers tap the as he saw her face droop wearily table: "Why did you take it all so nicely just now.

with a shaky hand. She folded her hands mechanically over the heavy teacup and sat straight in her chair. "I knew there was something queer from the start. direct question? I know that Mattie "do you mind if I ask you a Smith is my father's is child. Then." she said brusquely." repeated Wolf. and like a great ruffled bird. "Don't you want to tell me. "I can't you here. staring into her lap like an image of Atropos. "Come talk to out into the air. "What's the matter with you all? Who is this child?" Then very slowly Miss Gault rose to her feet. in a cage. "What sister I want to know." . Miss Gault? Is it something you can't Still tell me?" silent. but is what I want to ask you now whose child Olwen?" A faint brownish flush ran like a stream of muddy water beneath the surface of the skin of her face. she poured some spilt drops of cold tea from her saucer into her cup.284 WOLF SOLENT in- vacancy she stared through him and past him into the terior of the great tent." he went on. She bent her head over the table. the lady remained her fingers tightly clenched over the cup. that has been shaken from the top. she began picking up and lifting to her mouth every crumb of bread in sight. "is why my Mattie has this child Olwen to look after. Is she a foundling? Is she adopted? Where did she spring from?" But the daughter of the late headmaster of Ramsgard School remained obstinately silent.

Mrs. he were responsible for and she's made for great. But what puzzled him now was that Miss Gault did not rise to the occasion as he . Mrs. with a kind of sullen an- ger against both the women. as "He there. as he had once or twice already in Dorsetshire. Once more if it came over him with a queer kind of remorse. at the very moment its of salutation. Smith advanc- ing resolutely and blamelessly towards the place they were quitting. well-dressed figure gather itself together for battle. from beneath the at his feet. when they encountered. stirring events!" But it was many days before he forgot the manner in which those two ancient rivals faced each other. Her cheeks were flushed. grew large and white and round. inexplicable inkling that the man was wretchedly miserable. Her brown eyes were shining with mischief. Wolf received a sud- den. he could see that proud face toss chin and that sturdy. The look he got from him as they approached seemed grey with weariness. Solent and Mr. this encounter of making him between them. as it: "She's had no life at all. however. talking gaily." can't have a shred of flesh left on him down he thought to himself. Solent was. It had. The hatter of withered in Ramsgard School looked pinched and the hard. that passage in cries out "Hamlet" where the ghost earth. And now. A piece of horse-dung he instinctively looked away while the two came together.THE HORSE-FAIR 285 They made their way together out of the tent. glaring light. without a possibility of retreat or evasion. but they had hardly gone a stone's throw into the cold March sunshine. the queer effect upon him recall.

"We passed a really pretty girl a minute or two ago. but it was clear him. was owing Miss Gaull's hands hung down at her sides. . whereas Miss Gault's inmost being just then seemed disorganized. that his was poised and adjusted to the nicest point of the encounter. Ann. Selena. . Solent's arm had been extended for quite a perceptible passage of time. as he watched mother's spirit them shaking hands." said Miss Gault." said Miss Gault slowly." "I'd look handsomer still. cried Mrs. Solent suddenly. so it's you ! believed there'd be so tricks again. stuffed doll that has been set up with difficulty in an erect position. speaking as if she were in some kind of trance. it was to retain them all the while the two were speaking. really . like the hands of a large. he could see. "Well.286 WOLF SOLENT had supposed she would have done. That they shook hands at all. Ann. But Mrs. I see. "Men can be too ambitious. To his own personal taste she looked more formidable in her black satin gown than to his mother did in her finery. little change. Solent told Wolf afterwards that there was no warmth or life in that cold pressure. off with And You I couldn't have are at your old running my son!" "I hope you are well. helpless. to his mother. disjointed. my son wasn't so un- ambitious and lazy. knows who she You ought "and Albert here says he to go over to the round- ." replied the other. And they remained like this until Mrs." is. giving Wolf a glance of glowing possessiveness. "You if look as handsome as ever. unwieldy. When Selena did raise her wrist and take her enemy's fingers.

She was on the side of . . the most formidable of all psychic forces! She was like a witch his mother on the wrong side fate in the fairy-story of life. a stocky plump little man. the proud outline of her scornful am glad . to rise up in his throat that He I rebelled against the look of his mother's profile. queer voice that he was not surprised to observe Miss Gault felt He glancing nervously at Mrs. But Mrs. Wolf. .THE HORSE-FAIR abouts. all the tents!" himself speaking in such a strained. As he spoke with his mother in this way about Gerda. and try 287 and find her! She was with a labouring-man of some sort. isn't am glad . maternal strength.." he said to himself. "that is Gerda a lady. and that her father a stone-cutter!" that And it came any human soul over him that it was an imbecility should have the power over another soul that his mother had over him. It resist- did not make it easier for him at this moment enough which had been such security to him in his childhood was the thing now with which he had to in his mother that he recognized clearly that the very strength struggle to gain his liberty that protective. Solent was too excited just then to notice so slight a thing as a change of tone. I'll hunt for her through ters.. "I face. he was aware of an angry revolt at the massive ance which her personality offered. As he looked at her now. but she was pretty as a picture!" "Do you mean that Dorset labourers sell their daugh- Mother? Or do you mean that all beauty can be had for the asking? All right. something was like a serpent seemed of fury. Solent to see if she had detected it.

to "Shake himself. "Where Mother. when you're ready to go?" response. oughtn't we. looking all the while mother's dress. and of destiny against random fortune." his mother was now saying. These people have had nod She was already carrying off her companion. Solent glanced at her son shrewdly and scrutinizingly. then? an hour?" the roundabouts. after a to Miss Gault.288 WOLF SOLENT against chance. and he decided that he would he said to himself. come on." "Say over there. Selena. the least remorse." which he proceeded to push into a trampled mole-hill with the end of his stick. Mrs. child! We By can't lose ourselves here. "You look as if you were enjoying yourself." flash. in about "All right." tea. which was received without a sign of shall when Wolf stopped her. he thought of the yielded loveliness of Gerda's body. very good! Mr. Mr. Smith had managed to remove himself a pace five years or two from their company. "I don't care how she feels when I tell her about Gerda. Albert Smith! I'm longing for a cup of theirs. "Oh. under cover of a sudden interest in a torn and flapping "Western Gazette. Smith shall escort me there . whether you like or not. Smith?" she added. and in a at his shake off it this off! resistance without it. Pass over disregard it!" he said "I shall it come and see you. anywhere. But Mr. I must say! What's come over you? Are you wishing yourself back in London? Well. "After twenty- people as old as we are ought to be sensible. we meet.

She's like that with me. close to her. isn't life. "Don't worry about my mother. "All right in an hour or so!" she flung back. and life. In absolute immobility the poor lady remained standing there." Miss Gault looked ing. a droop of her straight shoulders. It's 289 it. Miss Gault. staring at the grass. slowly to began to pick at the little cloth buttons of the braided jacket she gown." he whispered earnestly. as she went Her disappearance seemed to make no difference to Selena Gault.THE HORSE-FA1R when we've had our thai in this place of tea. "And why don't you and Selena have a turn at the swings?" off. that made him realize were strange emotions stirring under the sur- face of that airy manner. I quite understand. . at at him as if his words meant noth- Her vacant stare seemed to be fixed on something a remote distance." she it murmured. It was as if she'd put her foot upon an adder that struck her with sudden paralysis. darling. so that at a touch she would toppleover and fall. The stiffness of these oldfashioned garments seemed to hold her up. Without their support it looked as if she would have fallen down wore over her satin . strange. her hands. as were. really she's not! She's like that with everyone. my whole married you're the only friend I've got left?" Wolf was aware that there of an expression in her brown eyes. . Wolf came "She's not as flippant as she sounds . coming. then!" he repeated. "The roundabouts. she added. Albert. "I know.

after a moment's upon . You must remember that all this isn't as easy for her as she makes out." ! "Dear Miss Gault Don't you worry about swear to you she isn't as it ! malicious as she seems. She was the same about Gerda. for he began aware that various persons among the groups who passed them stopped to stare at her perturbed figure. . She clasped his hand tightly with both her own. She's ." she added. like that!" In his desire to soothe Fancy her noticing her his As he to be companion he seized one of the black-gloved hands." she said in a low tone. it. "No one else ever treated me as a woman. rearranged the her head. "She's like an elderly lo. but she can be really magnani- mous you'll see! She doesn't realize people's feel- ings. her mouth twitching. let me bushy eyebrows. that's what it is. as he stood helplessly before her. did so he looked round nervously. his Wolf wrinkled "You must muttered." She nodded and smiled a great black hat little at that." he thought. holding "I can't help it for a moment before she let it fall. boy. hard. and. Smith! She seemed like to Wolf. But his touch brought a flood of colour to the woman's swarthy cheeks. .290 just WOLF SOLENT where she was close to the newspaper buried through the nervousness of Mr. "driven any more mad by I the gadfly of the goddess." he after "You must look me as you looked after him. "Seeing her brings it all back." She paused for a moment. a classic image of outrage in grotesque modern clothes. be as fond of you as he was.

" go They moved slowly together across the field. "I don't want to tease you with questions." Miss Gault nodded gravely." he began presently. evidently "It's the sort of collecting her thoughts." she said. "let's 291 she placed her hand on his arm. said. "Olwen's father was old Malakite. in such a peevish tone that two solemn-faced of the Sixth Form of the School. "I know That's why I want you to tell me and not anyone else. "and Olwen's mother was Christie Malakite's sister." "It's tell me you know? not easy.THE HORSE-FAIR hesitation." said Miss Gault with a sigh. if I'm wrong." to the roundabouts." Wolf went on. glanced furtively at her as they passed. "and you cor- me." . with blue ribbons round their straw-hats and sticks in their hands. "But you promised you'd about Mattie and Olwen. it isn't. looking guardedly round them. "Well! Let rect me tell you!" he retorted. "Come. boy? Who told you?" she in- terrupted. "Mattie's my father's child. thing one finds so difficult to tell. clear voice. "Who members told you all this. It occurred to him now that he could distract her mind and at the same time satisfy his own curiosity by renewing their interrupted conversation." he muttered in a low. boy. "and Olwen " is Miss Gault had managed to turn her face so far away from him that he couldn't see her expression." She walked by his side in silence for a while.

looking at each other covertly. "But you needn't tell am right. so suddenly that . while his brain worked at top speed." she whispered. Wolf held his peace for a moment or two. as if with a spasm of savage relief. "I said that Christie Malakite has no heart!" cried Miss Gault. as denly she had lifted her hand to hit him." He paused. "Alive or dead?" She almost shouted her reply to this.292 WOLF SOLENT still Miss Gault gaze. "What did you say?" he shouted in her ear. Miss Gault did turn "Australia. "Dead!" she cried. and they continued to cross the field. "Is she still alive?" at this. and her voice was almost as harsh as the raucous whistle that saluted them. "What Christie must have gone through!" he murmured audibly. I know I right?" he repeated. and they both stood motionless. but in a tone as if talking to himself "What she must have gone through!" Miss Gault's comment upon this was drowned by the brazen noise issuing from the engine of one of the rather than to her. roundabouts which they were now approaching. "It wasn't her He he loved!" Miss Gault shouted sudif Wolf moved backwards. while a magnetic current of inexplicable antagonism flickered between them. kept her face removed from his steady "Aren't I me. stopped at this. "What's become of the mother?" he continued.

at that. They remained in fixed contemplation of a counter of glaring cakes and sweets." murmured one of the little "Trelawney Minor." little boys had decamped. did. Here. are you staring for? Urchins!" cried Miss "All the same they're nice boys. radiantly Miss Gault turned to Wolf." she said. my dears?" "Stepney boys. pretended not to hear her appeal. as softly as she could in the midst of the terrific noise that whirled round them. "Come direction rather than in any other. you two!" repeated the lady. Major. "I won't hurt you. if When the two . their heads covered with enormous and very new examples of the art of Mr. when you next meet queerlooking people at the Fair. children. reverential. They sheepishly turn round and begin towards her. Albert Smith. Only. and they really are very polite. "What are your names. Stepney Major and Trelawney Minor. here's half-a-crown for you." gasped the other." she muttered. "What Gault. don't stare at them as they were part of the Show. come here!" The two little boys. while two small boys of the Ramsgard Preparatory School nudged each other and peered at them inquisi- tively.THE HORSE-FAIR 293 "Who didn't love whom?" he vociferated in response. "Look! I've hurt their feelings now. "Well. with an air as if it were a complete moving accident that their feet carried them in that particular here.

. she shifted her posi. my dear Miss Gault.294 WOLF SOLENT "Didn't they take off their hats prettily? They do bring 'em up well. But Wolf began speaking again. eh? But that noise! that Christie at why did you say oh. I wasn't talking of the Malakites! was talking of your father and Lorna Smith." didn't love whom? We were talking of the Mala- "My dear boy" and. keeping house for that old wretch? How can she look the man in the face. "Terrible. "Haven't you seen her? Didn't you see what she was? Reading the books of that old wretch. I like that . Wolf. I should like to know? They I tell me Olwen can't bear the sight of her. as she spoke." "Mattie's mother. that's better!" And can hear you. . and don't wonder. needn't shout. a smile of the most complicated humour came into her strange countenance." "But Miss Gault. "Who kites. damn had no heart?" Miss Gault stared him. transforming it into something almost beautiful I "my dear boy. this "Miss Gault!" "You tion. and after a eyebrows almost fiercely upon moment's encounter with his . Little gentlemen they are!" She seemed glad of the interruption. noise! Isn't it?" boy?" she rejoined. what has Christie done? I should think she was the one most to be pitied. . "What's that." Wolf bent his his shaggy companion. There .

boy. let And I me you. things like this. tell "What "The Society for the Care found Miss Christie. for there had to me a pause in the whistling of the engine. "What has Wolf sternly." . ten. "It doesn't It's instinct. boy. you wouldn't dare!" Wolf felt extreme discomfort and for in distaste. in fact. you shall have it! Liswent over there when all that trouble happened.. were what and things like this. you're defending them now!" Miss Gault retorted. I . man was one of the most evil influences in father's life. I had to deal The Society sent me. "Why. society?" he asked. Fortunately the child can't bear the sight of her that old monster either. had some unspeakable with." happen to be anything you or Mattie may have let fall?" shouted Wolf in her ear. Miss Gault?" he a quieter voice. "What else is there demanded aloud and come "That old your know.THE HORSE-FAIR 295 gaze Miss Gault glanced away and contemplated the sweet-stall. or of expect.. her face dark with anger. She actually defended that abominable old wretch! She wanted to keep Olwen in their house. of Delinquent Girls. "Oh. "If you knew all. both obstinate and impertinent. sort of official position." eyebrows very high at this. I I if Christie Malakite done to you?" asked you must have it. He began to detect an aspect of Miss Selena Gault's character that Wolf lifted his hitherto had been concealed from him.

But who would have thought she was looked Miss Gault straight in the face. flicker of relief crossed the woman's agitated fea- "Mr." much as we've considered wise to "Who to are we?" said Wolf drily. leaning so it sank deep into the turf. just as all the may be sure he has his verIt's neighbourhood has! been the great scandal of the country. A tures. like this!" He and "Does Mr. Urquhart? Oh. "Mr. of Mattie's than the doings father?" he rapped out. and Miss Gault's figure assumed an unattractive shape. and he suddenly thought with immense relief of his mother. Mattie!" just as she cried contemptuously. Smith and myself. "I mustn't show my hand. it "Mattie tell knows her. Urquhart know the history of heavily on his stick that my sister the history of 01 wen?" he asked abruptly. ." he said to himself. and of her scandalously light touch in the presence of every conceivable human obliquity." The use "Greater of this particular word made Wolf explode." he said to him- self. "Oh. Don't you boy. the whole a kind of nausea to talk about it. you sion. "I must be cautious.296 WOLF SOLENT "Does Mattie know that?" he enquired. we had make ourselves responsible to the police for Olwen's It's bringing up? affair! It gives me been an unholy business." his Wolf found that protective instincts were thor- oughly aroused by this time. "It's this accursed sex-suppression. see.

won't quarrel. which was some three hundred yards further on. "We words. and her face was sad and gentle. his melancholy gaze surveying the scene as if he were a Gaulish captive in a Roman triumph. earthly link with his re- or with anyone felt Wolf singularly disinclined to cope with these people at that moment. brain felt like overcrowded stage. But he gathered his wits together as .THE HORSE-FAIR He regretted his maliciousness as soon as the 297 words were uttered. like one lations who had no else. in front of rest. whileJason. pull- ing his stick violently out of the sod. dear Miss Gault!" he cried. "I didn't mean that. side little by side. "It's all right. while the crowd jostled them and the engine renewed its whistling. was stand- ing apart. "Let's go on now. leaning on Darnley's arm." he whispered back. to his ear so that first bending close It he shouldn't lose her time she had dropped that rather and the use of his name did much to annoying "boy". He had that received of late so his many an contradictory impressions. Wolf?" she murmured. But she had turned while they stood her face away from him. They proceeded Suddenly they saw before them the anxious little figure of Mrs. eh?" The merry-go-round was isolated from the which they had passed to push their way through the crowds towards the next one. That scene in the cemetery came back to his mind. and for a silently there. will we. was the restore his good-temper. Otter. At last she did turn round.

"Why not? I understand he gave a lift to your old he'll Mrs. It's best to mind . Mr. By degrees Wolf managed to edge away from the two ladies. . That's minding His own business! what God's so good at Seen Urquhart anydrove him over. I talked to him when " I first got "Making a fool of himself as usual " "Come. "Mr. who were listening to Darnley's criticism of the horse-show. exchanging commonplaces as if they had been at a garden-party rather than a fair." I did. was impossible make sport him. "Did you see our clergyman?" said Jason. Valley?" The man nodded. "Certainly here. one's own business. Wolf had already remarked how oddly Jason's fits mortal terror assorted with the monumental dignity his of of grim and massive countenance. Otter!" It difficult became more and more for Wolf It to take seriously the man's to morbid of timorousness. and one day me like a black dog!" "Incredible. Mr. . Otter "Well. Stone." spy on me. Monk Jason Otter's face expressed panic. "Is that man here?" he whispered. and began to exchange more piquant re- marks with the dilapidated poet.298 WOLF SOLENT well as he could. and for a while they all five stood talking rather wearily. . You ought to to "Urquhart pays him beat be grateful to him." where?" "I was with him just now. I daresay it's no affair of ours.

"I've now! Probably they keep the poor wretch without penny. . Solent. Otter. should be very much "Good Lord!" thought Wolf to himself." you this" and Jason clutched Wolf's arm and glanced round to make sure "I tell you this. to stop him from drinking. beaten half-dead by picked up that man!" to sell that But Wolf's mind had wandered. "He looks a powerfully built fellow. I'll buy it from you!" The poet "It cost stareJ at him blankly. "but you shall have it." said Jason grimly. in a voice as sly and furtive as a wicked schoolboy." "Shall you bury it?" whispered Jason again. genially at I'll sell it him." let well. to you. it "I'll give five times whatever cost you!" Is me a pound. if He paused have obliged. I'll "Very well. agreed?" buy little." he said affably. Mr. I tell that the others were out of hearing "one day I shall be unconscious in a ditch.THE HORSE-FAIR 299 but he could not prevent a faint vein of raillery from entering into his reply. Mr. "By the way. it for five pounds. Otter." for a "And I you could me that five pounds done it tomorrow." "I'm not sure that I a can manage it tomorrow. and I'm sure I'm very grateful to you. if you ever want Hindoo idol of yours. that Jason pondered a "Why do you want that thing? To bury it?" that's it! "Perhaps How discerning you are!" And mo- Wolf smiled "Very ment.

" "To whom?" "To him . "I've never yet read a your poetry." Wolf went on.. revealing a to- tally different human countenance. penetrating look that like the opening of a sluice-gate. you mean? They don't I get significance. slow. to Mukalog." . my brother if ." of his The words were no sooner out he stared as if mouth than was at the man in bewildered amazement. brother likes it and your too. quite different from his previous his amused indulgence. . It a mask had fallen from his face. I think I realize what you it suffer from." and stared intently at Wolf wrinkled his eyebrows .. "My mother . Otter. human affairs." And the man shrugged his shoulders as Wolf had referred to the activities of water-flies in relation to "They don't understand its it. . "I've written lately in fact .300 WOLF SOLENT you to have it "I don't want any longer. for all their devotion? Well. Jason put his hand to his mouth and chuckled.. . . "Will you really read something? Will you really?" The tone in which he said this was so childlike in its eagerness that for the Wolf felt a sudden unexpected tenderness queer man. Mr. last night. anyhow. a poem to him. doesn't he?" was Jason gave him one deep. "But your mother adores your poetry. But don't suppose I shall understand either. "How they must have outraged life-illusion among them all!" he thought. "By line of the way." said Wolf laughing. very lately . ..

"I expect lots of people wish I were dead. ." said Wolf. Otter.." Jason without any demon went on. "Listen to him talking to the ladies! have been a member of Parliament. see "Did you how he looked. "You'd tered." he whispered. "He's what after a am!" Then pause he jerked his thumb towards his brother. "Darnley's a funny one. nudging Wolfs arm. "You'll be altogether happier when you've sold that thing to me. I can tell you what crossed his mind then!" "What?" enquired Wolf. those stallions passed "when him? He had to hang on to the rope to keep himself from falling. like to And bury him in your garden. . with a queer chuckle. gleam of nervous irritation flashed from Jason's and his upper lip trembled. looking into his eyes. Squire Urquhart. "hell die to help him. Mr." he added.." went on Jason. raising his voice. He's on that road now!" These last words were uttered with such concentrated vindictiveness that Wolf opened his eyes wide. I "He's myself!" he murmured. "I don't wish you were dead." he said." Jason mutthen quite unexpectedly he smiled so dis- armingly that Wolf once again experienced that wave of affection." "He is a grand gentleman!" said Wolf drily. "But I wish you would let me throw away that demon!" A eyes. "And as for that great bully of yours.THE HORSE-FAIR him for a 301 moment. like a He ought to loves to behave He grand gentleman.

on. gentlemen?" said a wellknown voice. under this rebuff. indeed." said It's Wolf slowly." he added. he held out his hand and raised his hat. touching his hat politely. "to see Valley well fooled by those rascals. too!" "You've got your knife into us home alone all." so absorbed in watching Monk and off the waiter. shortly afterwards he shuffled with barely a word of farewell. Wolf strode away in pursuit of Darnley and Miss Gault. stood before them. and. Darnley and Miss Gault moved forward now.. not fit for anything except horse-racing! He's got rid of Dimity and joined up with that waiter with the idea of annoying someone. and Mrs. "And to hate I think it'? a mistake. Mr. a waste of people energy But Jason's attention was at the rate still you do. When he reached these two. He'd have to go then. accompanied by the waiter of the Lovelace Hotel. but with that sly dog of a waiter " He paused and you know what waiters are glanced back furtively at his mother and at the two serving-men. Otter began asking Monk about Dimity Stone and thanking him for picking up the old woman. "I'd like.. "Let's clear out of this! You see what he is . that he listened to him only with half an ear. . Otter." whispered Jason in Wolfs ear. a great lub- "Come berly catchpole.302 WOLF SOLENT their hooves! "To throw himself under into the To be trodden ground by fifty stallions!" "Are ye talking of stallions. Shrugging his shoulders. and Roger Monk. He wouldn't dare to insult anyone alone. and a good thing.

" Selena appeared a little disconcerted at his abrupt departure. and he invariably gave way to it when. Drifting about with this in view. he began waving his stick in the air. he said to Miss Gault. It took him so long to find what he wanted. and as soon as the crowd concealed him from the sight of his friends. So besieged his consciousness many confused impressions that he wished devoutly he were going to return to King's Barton on foot instead of driving. he found himself alone and in the open. but Darnley gave him his usual gentle and indulgent smile. he found himself recalling all manner of former occasions when he had been driven to this kind of search. Solent. "But au revoir! We may meet on the road. for I expect my mother will be tired of this soon. after any prolonged period of human intercourse." Wolf shogged off by himself. that . "It's about time I began to look for my mother. His thoughts became complicated just at this moment by the teasing necessity of finding some place among those tents where he could make water." leave you now in Mr. He made his way rapidly fair-field. This was an old trick of his. to the extreme western cor- ner of the great where there were certain small swings patronized rather by children than by grown-up people. As he threaded his way through all those excitable West Country folk he did of order the various jolts his best to reduce to some sort and jars he had received. "You always seem to bring me luck.THE HORSE-FAIR "I think I'll 303 Otter's care." he said.

he felt as if he were engaged in some mysterious world-conflict. and had re-emerged into the sun- shine. That ravaged face of the Waterloo steps mingled its hurt with what Jason. and hands together in the old reckless way. Christie.304 WOLF SOLENT it when he had found his spirits. combined with an access at Weymouth. he became aware that there were two irritating perplexities still fretting his mind. as he gave himself up to this psychic abandonment. it seemed to him as if all these new impressions of his took their place in this mysterious struggle. He rubbed as he his walked along. Valley. This memory. drew his mind net toward his secretive mystical vice. Urquhart fused its influence with that of Jason's idol. so as to avoid contact . like a magOnce more. he experienced an extraordinary heightening of The acrid. from the sunhe used to descend by a flight of spittlesands. and of his mother to Miss Gault! When this orgy of mystic emotion passed away. He found himself steering his consciousness with treme care. while the sinister magnetism that emanated from Mr. as leaving him it presently did. were all suffering. of pervading physical comfort. and the cruelty of Miss Gault to Christie. as he walked along. stained steps. like stranded jelly-fish left high ex- and dry on a bank of pebbles. where the good and the evil ranged themselves on opposite sides. ammoniacal smell of that casual retreat brought back to his mind the public lavatory on the esplanade warmed into which. as limp and relaxed as if he had been walking for hours instead of minutes.

and these accumulated odours seemed to resolve themselves into one single odour that became a wavering curtain. It was about that grey feather which he had found in that book of Christie's! Why did it rouse such peculiar interest in him. How would have rejoiced offspring an irresponsible chance-driven finished untying this knot of And then. The first of these thoughts was about his ill-assorted parents. of roasted chestnuts. of paint. of girls' cheap per- fumes. before he had his parents' hostility. of rustic sweat. he had not gone far before he was plunged into both of them. mingled confusedly together. of cider. of brassy machinery. of fried sausages.THE HORSE-FAIR 305 with these two problems. of boys' new clothes. But. He felt as if it were that grinning skull in the cemetery. as generally happens. of horse-dung. of stale tobacco. He felt as if there were going on in his spirit an unappeasable rivalry between these two. he was plunged into the second dangerous thought. between the acts of a play. with the express purpose of separating that him from in his mother! It was just what he man would have done had he ! been alive. to think of Christie and of Christie's fondness for the works of Sir Thomas Browne? What was Christie to him with her books and her queer . of tar. All about him was the smell of trodden grass. This was more troubling to his peace than the other. with his "Christ! I've snatch at had a happy life!" that had made him Gerda so recklessly. behind moving folds which these two dangerous thoughts were moving and stirring the curtain into bulging as concealed figures might do on a theatre-stage.

was a shock. . in the midst of so many agitating thoughts. "After all. But nervous about Olwen what a sad face she had! She was so that he could regard her for several long seconds unobserved. and there. He experienced that sort of mental desperation that one feels when one forces oneself awake from a dream that grows unendurable. watching Olwen swinging. And in his knowledge that she was his sister he saw her now as a totally different Mattie. and it'll be dead before I get home!" pick it decided to give the dandelion a chance to survive. if I up people into the mud in a few minutes. by the side of it. among the children in the swing. and the boats were painted azure and scarlet and olive-green." he thought.306 WOLF SOLENT tastes? What stability could there be in his love for Gerda when this troubling curiosity stirred within him Gerda's friend? of all this. He touched the edge of its petals rather wearily with the end of his "If I leave it there it'll thinking to himself. burdened with perplexities. "and if it doesn't Ailinon! Ailinon! He What does it matter?" Moving on again at random. probably be trodden by these stick. was Mattie Smith herself! To come bolt-up upon her like this. his eyes caught sight of the at the idea of As he thought golden face of a little dandelion in the midst of the trodden grass. . . was 01- wen. What heavy ill-corn- plexioned cheeks! What a disproportioned nose! What . it may survive. It was a boat-swing. he suddenly found himself in the midst of a circle of children who were gazing in envious rapture at a gaily decorated swing that was whirling up and down in full. crowded activity. And there.

ruins. Has she told you is about it What I cannot make out whether Father . The child could not of course stop the machinery of the swing. horses. too. covered Wolf and Mattie with a protective screen of undisturbed privacy. she contented herself with just that rapturous topsy-turvy world people. it. and it was almost a relief him to be forced to take his eyes off her in order to franti- respond to Olwen. grass. Directly she gave him her hand even while he still he had begun to talk to her of their relation- "I've known it since I was fifteen. and what patient eyes! "She's if she Olwen was cited the first to catch sight of him. our house. and hills which rose and'fell around her as she rushed through the air! The cries of the children. and a flood of colour came into her pale cheeks. who was now waving to him cally from her flying seat. Wolf felt a curious embarto rassment as they shook hands." he thought. trees. "and it I'm twenty-five this month. "I wonder knows or doesn't know?" a clouded apathetic brow. it peculiar and romantic tenderness. and she it let me see that she knew But I saw she had kept since? from you." she said. the voices of the showmen. the clang of the machinery. and when she saw that he had answered her sweeping him into of signal. She recognized him at once. of course . and her ex- waving made Mattie hurriedly glance round.THE HORSE-FAIR 307 had a pretty hard life. That was what made to so awkward when you and your mother came She knows it. In the light of subsequent events they both looked back upon this moment with held ship.

" he we inherit that!" he added lightly. she was my nurse then at the . but what she saw in his face appeared to reassure her. "I'd never it. now I'm actually doing it! I was young then.. for . "that made Father have her at our house. to see I Olwen at the 'Home. Why do you think it was I wasn't more shocked Wolf?" The hesitancy with which she brought out his name enchanted him. and I read about it in the 'Western Gazette.' . . for I oh..' . was when they brought " me . he and Miss Gault were the ones who took Olwen away from Mr. and . and Father and Miss Gault thought I knew nothing. Nanny . .. He snatched at her hand and made a movement as if he would kiss her. Smith to take her house?" said Wolf.. but she glanced hurriedly at the swing and drew back. But it have thought I could talk to you about seems easy." "So it into his was you that persuaded MT. . me . and we were friends in a sec- ond. "It's all so hard to talk about. and gave Wolf a quick. But I'd heard the servants talking. . to take care of! I knew she was 'Home. "And you were only a child yourself. Malakite." She paused." . said. about Olwen. "I expect "It "I'm pretty hard to shock. furtive look. too. for she smiled faintly." she said in a low voice. she was such a sweet little thing! heard them talking about her.' the girl continued.BOS WOLF SOLENT He knows knows. . of course. you see . Wolf. In fact. Mattie dear. only fifteen. And I made Father take me to see her.

. till you it's see. I'm afraid. "They would be. to know. "I made cried." At that moment he . I Olwen and I both cried terribly and hugged each other. "Did Wolf?" And field." I she added. "No! No!" cried Mattie. was Miss Gault who opposed most. about children. "Besides." Wolf's mind reverted violently to the solitary grey feather in the "Urn Burial. too. if she tried to speak Olwen. " he "It's Miss Gault.. not Gerda herself could . But the last time her. round the she." said Wolf. . times. a fuss. Oh. with a nervous she really." she added gravely. when was young. .THE HORSE-FAIR Mattie gave a quaint little 309 chuckle." she said." father hard to persuade?" enquired Wolf. that it's some kind of instinct began ponderingly. I know it's me she might be here this afternoon. Wolf. "just I was mad about mad them. noisy young people around them." she said solemnly. looking about him from group to group of the start. Miss Gault!" "Christie told possible. "I was a pretty ob- stinate child. I in the little girl suppose. "Of course. "Was your The girl gave him one of her lowering sulkily-humorous glances." it's Olwen would hardly speak to Wolf frowned. don't know what. "Did she?" said Mattie. I Christie has seen her managed that for her! But Miss Gault I must have said something. "I cried It and it he agreed. felt as though not anyone . threw an anxious glance "I wouldn't like her feelings to be hurt. terrible how Miss Gault has made several the child hate Christie.

and you were silent almost all the time!" "Your mother wasn't very nice to me.310 WOLF SOLENT him from following it stop that fragile figure if he caught sight of in this crowd! But Mattie was now waving her hand to Olwen. They moved together towards the swing. he felt his forehead brushed by the floating ends of her loosened hair. "Would you it really give me one more? There! You pay to that Wolf over there. as soon as he set her She put her thin arms round him and hugged him down. As he lifted her out. and it some kind "Not exactly a guess. I tight love swinging so! I love swinging so!" she gasped. and Wolf rushed forward to help the child to the ground. Heavens! Mattie." she whispered. dear. "Aunt Mattie's spent every penny Grandfather gave her. He waited at her side till the ma- chinery started again and then returned to Mattie. whose airy boat had begun to slacken its speed. see me?" gave him a thrill of pleasure to what animation had come into her stolid countenance. "Would you gravely." he answered. even when you were silent. the one with the funny eyes!" handed over the coin and lifted the child back man into the painted boat. Her eyes shone with infinite gratitude. as though I understood you and followed your thoughts." . looking like to have another one?" he said at that down glowing little face. "But I did have of an odd feeling. "Didn't you have the least guess about you and the girl said. "Oh.

wasn't I?" the girl went on. and two fierce little hands clutched the sides of the olive-green boat as if they had been the sides of a war-chariot. 311 can one? People do feel rather odd in these situations. had such a touching expression at that moment an expression at once so thrilled and so puzzled that with a quick and sudden movement he flung Mattie's face his full arm round her neck and gave her on the mouth." he added "Oh. it was clear enough to his mind. "Mr. one can hardly blame her for that. burning eyes flashed down at him like two quivering poniards." he whispered hur- riedly in his companion's ear." "But I was nice to you. as he glanced at the face of the child in the swing. she'll think you've affectionately. laughing. you worry." she added faintly.THE HORSE-FAIR "Well. mustn't! Wolf!" she protested feebly. that their kiss had not been received very happily up there. "and so you have. . "And yet I couldn't bear to think that Father wasn't my real father. Two "That child of yours he added." when she knows me He moved up little girl to the as she whirled past swing and remained watching the him like a small angry- eyed comet." better. But though he laughed at her embarrassment. my dear. "You What will she think?" found a young man. "But don't last. "It won't is jealous. Solent! a brusque kiss." he replied. and though she laughed faintly with him.

and Lobbie Torp. For a time he was afraid that he had lost his quarry completely. we'll two birds with stone!" They moved off together. booths. but at young short-skirted gipsy who was dancing wildly to a tambourine. she beat her knees and threw bold. he came upon them. all was once more well. "You go on. provocative glances at her audience. so dense had the medley become around the with a sigh of relief. come with you. "We must "I'll go now and find your grandfather. crossing a gap among the people. but suddenly.312 WOLF SOLENT degrees his steady matter-of-fact attention disarmed By and when the swing stopped. so my mother one with Mr. but with a repeated "We'll meet later! Good-bye!" he swung off in clumsy haste." Smith." said said Wolf." little Both of his companions looked a hurt at this brusque departure. There's someone you two do you mind? We'll meet I must run after. Wolf approached the two boys unobserved and was conscious of a passing spasm of shameless sympathy when he caught the expression of entranced lechery in the concentrated eyes of the interest young grocer. As she danced. pushhis way so impetuously ing through the crowd. that he aroused both anger and derision. Wolf caught sight of Bob Weevil later. They were both watching with unashamed delight a last. "I left kill Mattie to Olwen. Lobbie Torp's was evidently distracted by the audacious leaps . that jealous heart. and he had gravely kissed her and handed her back to Mattie.

Redfern I mean. holding out her musical instrument with long. Mr." he remarked casually. 'twere along o' they loveyers us seed in Wil- lum's Lane ditch. bare arms. "Shut up. and Wolf would not have been surprised had the young man taken incontinently to his heels. In their hurried and rather ignominious treat they ran straight into Wolf's arms. Weevil gave him a furtive water-rat glance. Mr. Weevil could contemplate nothing but her These moving objects seemed to be on the point of causing him to howl aloud some obscene "Evoe!" For legs. but without a mo- ment's delay began to collect money. cried his friend indignantly. tell "What?" "If I did. "It's Mr. 'Twere enough to make a person kiss ." "I never kissed no tree. The girl stopped breathless at last. off re- "Lordie! Hullo!" stammered Lob. Solent. It tickled Wolf's fancy at this juncture to note the beaten-dog expression in Mr. "or I'll Mr. Weevil's countenance as he pulled Lobbie away with him and tried to shuffle unobserved." muttered Lob sulkily. "It's not easy to keep one's money in one's pocket on a day like this. you kid!" retorted the other. Solent how I caught you kissing a tree. Wolf gravely shook hands with them both. but Mr. ain't it?" said Bob Weevil." observed Lob slyly.THE HORSE-FAIR 313 and bounds of the gipsy-wench and by her jangling music. "Bob knows all about they gipoos when they do zither like moskilties. arid indulging in liberal and challenging smiles. his tion stood out mouth was wide open and great beads of perspiraupon his forehead.

" said Bob Weevil. all "Lob thinks we're ant leer. 'and do 'ee take I my for King Pha- raoh?'" Sir?" enquired the pompously interrupting Lobbie. elder youth. obstinate He kept trying to inveigle Wolf in unamiable game. Mr." he thought to himself." "I hope you have both enjoyed yourselves this after- noon." began Wolf again. on our bicycles. and 'twere ye what showed 'em to I. Weevil.314 his WOLF SOLENT wone self. Mr. you two expostulated Wolf. "Everyone knows were. "Where is she now. Certainly she is. what us did see. I was only wondering if Miss Malakite was out here today. then?" Wolf insisted. this his silly. I think. Weevil point-blank about her." "He'll answer ley us!' 'ee." it "What was you wanted to ask us." threw in Lobbie. "Certainly she's here. . "Oh." "Us came along o' she. Sir. with an unpleas"Don't 'ee listen to what his Mummy him!" cried Lob. afore old man Weevil paid Law- yer Pipe to write 'Whereas' in his girt book!" " "Listen. "Christie can't have come. quite a simple thing. Man- when said 'a cussed about his mother's gravestone. same as my dad answered Mr. "I want to ask you both a question. as simple as his Mummy in Chequers Street!" continued the youth. 'Bless dad. But Mr. Solent. "She went castle-way. and he wondered if he should ask Mr. Weevil was bent upon bullying of Lobbie.

"leaving a young lady." interjected Lobbie. to go off by herself! Well. "So. Weevil." echoed the boy. Solent! said she walked lonesome-like with her head hanging down. "I think you both behaved abominably. "I should say "What did you say?" asked Wolf. strode off in the direction indicated by the boys' It was towards the southern extremity of the fairhe now made his way." threw in Don't believe him. "I didn't. and I'll tell her what two when I've found her!" I think of you He words. long o' they ruings. That's when 'twere! Dursn't thee mind how thee said 'twas because Miss Malakite hadn't got no young the rest of they?" man that she went lop- piting off to they ruings 'stead of buying fairings like Wolf suddenly found himself losing his temper. I said when she was gone. Bob Weevil! Don't you man-monkey? No! remember what you said when us were looking at thik 'twere when us seed they girt can- nibals all covered with blue stripes. I'm going after her." he cried. you I little liar! hare. "that her reck- oned she'd have a quiet stroll-like. Mr. "He said her walked like a lame Lobbie. you deserted Miss Malakite?" he said sternly. in plain words." Wolf looked from one to the other." "That weren't all you said." mum- "When so!" she were gone. "Lob knows what bled Mr. where a dilapidated hedge and a forlorn little lane separated the castle-field field that .THE HORSE-FAIR "She said 315 to we. like that.

Stone. jiggled disconcertingly. how 'ee do coax a body! He do look and speak just as I was telling 'ee. Mrs." "Hark at him. and his first glance at their concentrated profiles revealed the fact that they were Mrs. Torp. like a man who hears the ice he is crossing bend and groan under him. Mrs. It gave him a queer shock malion shrew in rusty black to think that this tatterde- was actually Gerda's mother. Mrs. Stone?" to- The withered face ward her companion single glance Torp remained turned as she uttered this ambiguous wel- come. I'm glad to see you. But old Dimity retained Wolf's fingers quite a long while in her bony hand. He aptransfixed into attitudes of petrified proached them sideways. but he forced himself to walk straight up to them and salute them by name. wonder by the gesticulations of a couple of clowns. he became aware that two of those backs were obscurely familiar to him. have never known would of Mrs. ye'd 'ee. hanging from the battered bonnet on her head. She seemed unable to give Wolf so much as one from her little vixen eyes.316 WOLF SOLENT castle-ruins." gasped Gerda's mother. and with absorbed and searching . when. glancing a row of motionless human backs. For the least fragment of a second he was aware of a shiver of animal panic. now? If I hadn't told 'ee. it. "T'. however. honest to God. at from the He hadn't gotten far." he said cheerfully. Dimity? You and I haven't met for several long days. "Hark at him. "How do you do. don't 'ee. over which two artificial pansies. Torp and old Dimity Stone. how the gentleman spoke.

bled Gerda's mother. by any . rich Dorsetshire speech about them.THE HORSE-FAIR interest. What I've a-said to 'ee in neighbour-fashion I'd say now to 'ee on Bible-oath. have you. And because only the daft 'uns what'll old serve for his cantrips the girt bog-wuzzel 'ee is!" Wolf detected a very sagacious expression in Dimity's eye as she dropped his fingers at this." she added. and all how daft he were!' Squire Urquhart must have 'em to daft! Daft must they be for he. 'be the country do know that's . than a pond-pike be a gudgeon. . which sounded like the chatter of a pair of impudent parakeets amid the slow. it's as I said Torp. Torp. "but said to "I think of 'ee as one what speaks fair enough. "I've always known you were a deep one. "The gentleman be far from what thee or any others have reckoned. Wolf could not restrain himself from uttering at this juncture the question which so occupied his mind. broken only by the gibberish of the two clowns. Dimity. "I'm glad you think better of me than Mrs.' I said. Mr." grum'tis deeds / waits for. as if she 317 had been a fortune-teller. "By the way. "This gent hain't no more a Redfern." threw in Wolf. and he glanced anxiously over their heads toward the boundary of the field. Solent." There was a dead silence for a moment between the three of them. As I Torp this very mornin' young gent. Jane Torp. Mrs." repeated the crone slowly. she peered into his countenance. his mind full of the deserted Christie. 'Thy fair-spoken only another Redfern. Without pausing to think of the effect of his words on Gerda's mother. . Torp does.

hedge "Why did chance throw them both in my way at this same moment?" he thought. and hurrying away. He must find Christie! That was the one essential neceslittle sity." Mrs. He contented himself with taking off his wishing them a pleasant evening. Every step he took towards that ragged increased his nervous agitation. As he moved towards field. was malignity. and she'll let 'ee know it! Won't she. Dimity Stone? Hee! Hee! Hee! The gentleman from London must have a sweetheart for Wednes- day and a sweetheart for Thursday. Dimity Stone?" Wolf felt unable to decide whether this outburst. the southern boundary of the he found his mind beset with a burden of tumultu- ous misgiving. Torp ened over their bones they were as white as the skin of a toad-stool.318 WOLF SOLENT seen chance. And then a still more furtive and dangerous . Torp nudged her companion with the handle of her umbrella. Miss Malakite here this afternoon? I wanted to find her. are ye. Solent! Our Gerda hain't one for sharing her fairings. But you have a care. and he remembered with hardly less discomfort the queer look that the old Dimity had given him. Mrs. was just ordinary Blacksod humour or till hat. too. "So ye're after her. under tight- the pressure of which the thin cheeks of Mrs. as he walked automatically forward. Torp's malicious "Hee! Hee! Hee!" continued to croak like a devil's frog in the pit of his stomach. Mr. Mister? What do 'ee make o' that.

9' 319 'Why didn't I meet Christie first? to The ghastly treachery of this final speculation. As he came up wide-open eyes fixed itself upon him from the ground lifting the thing with a protesting appeal. it among young dock-leaves up by its ears. and. he nearly stumbled over a half-skinned. Then he leaned both his arms over the top of the the brambles. placed and the new shoots of hedge-parsley. He felt shamelessly like him! He felt as though his arms were swinging as his arms used to . recall every slightest sensa- had as One of these sensations he crossed that empty portion of the was a vivid awareness of the sardonic grimacing of that yard. half-eaten rabbit. more Long afterwards he could tion that he fair-field. as if freeing himself from a thicket of brambles. peered into the lane beyond.THE HORSE-FAIR whisper entered his mind.." only made him shake his head. He had the feeling that he was himself reproducing some precise piece of paternal misdoing. and stride forward with reckless resolution than ever. coming him on the very morrow of the "yellow bracken.. and was approaching the low thickset hedge that separated the from the castle-lane. his legs striding the very stride of his legs! He had now castle-field left the last tent far behind. one of whose glazed to the hedge. man in the church- The perversity of his father seemed physically to weigh upon him. Mechanically he stooped down. . raising himself on tiptoe. and.

. known better than ..320 WOLF SOLENT care- Ah! He had not then come to no purpose! A little way down the lane. but remained motionless. I ought . . .. he touched the top of her head with his lips... .. neatly divided by a carefully brushed parting. was so silky and fine that he felt as if his kiss had penetrated . I was a burden on them joy be all right in a minute.. just staring at him without a sign. "I'm . to . under a closed and fully wired gate leading to the castle-ruins. She lifted her head and saw him there. "I'll little . fallen to the ground... A couple of minutes later he was kneeling by her side on the grass. . . just like a hare!" I . The girl was on her knees. .. and bending down. fool!" she gasped faintly. they wanted . . I felt . struggling to Moving his hands to her shoulders. . to have have come here! The boys were kind but.. . I felt I couldn't . my dear . . . . bear it!" She pressed her face against hold back her tears. were her hat and some sort of paper parcel. his coat. . hadn't found you.. I don't know what I should have done if for you . .. But I've hunted you down like a hare. Her hair. anyway. her legs crooked under her and her hands clasped on her lap. Wolf tightened his long overcoat round his knees and forced his way straight through the thick brambles.. hugging her tear-stained face against his ribs and stroking her hair with his hands. By her side. "What did you come to this damned place for? Well! I've got you now.. of course. "I've had a hunt a hunt for you!" he panted. to enand then themselves. . crouched the unmistakable figure of Christie Malakite. a .

" he protested. 321 But she did not draw in away from him. There was a tuft of loosely-growing stitchwort in the this frail plant. changed his position. . She gave a . "unless you can but couldn't think aloud. so that his shoulders leant against the lower bars of the gate. too. ." she began. . . .THE HORSEHAIR to the very centre of her skull. as hedge by the gate-post. "It's better to be alone. and sat back. man before anything like this ever happened to that on the day after such an ecstasy felt he should feel as he now? I "I must be a monster!" he said to himself." . It's al- pity . She only buried her forehead deeper the folds of his heavy coat. "I used to tell myself stories if ." she went on. I think aloud until this moment. hug- ging her knees and staring at him. I've been walking about this fair-field all the afternoon and talking to everyone. . And. mingled with his Had ." he echoed. he now struggled desperately to justify himself. as a flower-scroll illuminates a monkish script. Gerda being so Christie lifted beautiful. "This feeling. a it he sur- across her crouching form. to be with you like this. searching his face intently as its lines. "that "I feel so difto tell would be easy you. He. it what she wanted to say lay hidden in ferent now. that's what it is! . little nod. . and veyed wild thoughts.. . going to begin snatching at the soul and body of every girl I meet down here?" "Am With the cluster of stitchwort still illuminating his thought. . "It's queer how natural it seems to be ." up her head now.." he said slowly. "is a different thing together. pity doesn't . of course." Once more her voice sank into silence.

. Two persistent sounds forced their identities into his first drugged consciousness. He knitted his heavy eyebrows and scowled at her in deep thought. was the brazen clamour the whistling The second was had already assumed that peculiar mellowness which meant that the sunrays were falling horizontally upon that spot. schoolgirlish smile. This latter sound It was impossible that this bird's voice could fail to bring to his mind the events of yesterday's twilight and that up-turned face at which he had gazed so exultantly in the gathering river-mists. To drown the blackbird's notes." he said. and that the long March afternoon was drawing to its close. "I wish you were a boy. Something in the peevish gravity of this must have free. they both instinctively shifted their position . "One thing I cannot understand.322 WOLF SOLENT They were both silent. Christie!" he brought out abruptly. tickled her fancy. her smile fading as quickly as had come. "I used to wish that myself. it and then she sighed. When he came to his conversation with Miss Gault. staring helplessly at each other. The of the whirligig engines. "Well?" she murmured." she murmured gently. and he found himself helping her to adjust the loosened belt of her old-fashioned cloak with a gesture that was almost paternal. he began hurriedly telling her one thing after another of his afternoon's adventures. of a blackbird. for she smiled at him with a unrestrained.

too. He avoided her eyes now. are. "Rooks' nests are . beyond the tree. gate. harassed consciousnesses. pinched intensity. and they're higher up. after a second's all sticks . even except her. . Christie turned and peered upwards." . and. appar"Why ently addressing the missel-thrush's nest. and Wolf automatlet fumbled for his go. he caught out to up "Is that a rook's nest?" he asked." With lifted heads they both stared into the elm-tree. think. same schoolgirlish simple amusement that had . And then.THE HORSE-FAIR "I cannot understand 323 how Olwen should feel towards you as they tell me she does. not at ease much "I think with the we are alike. as he looked away into the great elm-tree that sight of a large nest grew near the there." itself The girl's forehead wrinkled all into a strained. meeting by pure chance in we endless blue space and finding out that they have the same kind of mind?" Their heads sank down after ically this. Christie . "as two hunted. I "A missel-thrush's. ." he retorted bluntly. into the cold not take us as March sky. but she said was. pointing it her with upraised arm. and. "I could never take care of any child as well as Mattie Smith." she said quietly." he said slowly. with anyone as with except perhaps my mother." she said. hesitation." "I don't believe you. cigarettes and then consciously them "I've never felt as you. No.

He felt in that second that it madness to have wished that all this had been a piece of pure had happened bequick. and as he saw her and felt her.324 WOLF SOLENT struck him before. "I can easily find You needn't come." . discomfort. "Besides. and they stood rather awkwardly side by side. so pitfully devoid of all physical magnetism." Wolf rose too.' "I'll risk that if said. while the blackbird flew off with an angry scream. and she stretched out her thin arm and touched Wolf lightly on the knee. he could not resist a chilly recognition that something of the mysterious appeal that had drawn him to her had slipped away and got lost. I'm worse you've got at if a diseased conscience!" She didn't even smile wrinkling of her brow. I think. "We're too alike. "You must be what people to find that I haven't a trace of " lightly." she said. in the Lovelace stables." she prepared call the 'moral sense. I've got danger!" he retorted no conscience. as "I must get this sally. "Where is your bicycle?" he asked lamely." she said. With a quick under a twinge of physical feet. "It's it. searching look. she scrambled to her my bicycle. standing there by his side. "You must be prepared for one thing. "Father will be waiting for his supper." She glanced up at him with a Then she tightened her cloak resolutely round her. with a little shiver. fore yesterday's "yellow bracken. off still. to do much harm to anyone!" Her face grew suddenly grave.

threw over the cities little wear in old fantastic prints. 325 I'll come! I'll go with you and put you for and then I'll come back he said my mother. town the sort of glamour that under the anaesthesia of this diffused glory in the chilly air. . me when I ." . Vaguely. boys deserting you?" at all to this. "Absolutely." "What do you "Those silly think did it?" he blurted out clumsily.THE HORSE-FAIR "Of course on it. tell ." Gerda for good and all. please. the lane westward. . ." she answered firmly." "It's pity I feel. evidently recognizing that this allusion to her original trouble was a sign of a certain withdrawal in her companion. he marvelled at the into these mad chance lives that had plunged him to two girls' with this disturbing simultrying annihilate taneousness. practically never way like that. rising up from the River Lunt. He began furtively with his imagination first one life and then the other effort from his obstinate preoccupation. you that give hardly ever no. but a pity that had a quivering sweetness in it! "You're all right now?" he enquired abruptly. It's just pity They followed the fair-field. She made no reply and he experienced . . Only future "pity. futile! But the of the proved without hopelessly Gerda's loveliness was impossible. But equally was it impossible to cover up this strange new feeling. The sunset-mist. believe . "I've got I feel. as they crossed the railway-track. skirting the edge of When they reached the foot of "The Slopes. To conceive ." to himself." they saw the whole of Ramsgard outspread before them. "And I please.

" she said unexpectedly. These words of hers.. with a certain lenient tenuity. healing his momentary discomgave him such happiness. "You've been very kind in to a clear emphatic voice. . the to me . "What yard. with a flicker of her peculiar elfish humour. . . whole of my life. pronouncing the words as if each of them were a heavy bar of silver and she were an exhausted steve- dore emptying the hold of a ship. me. ." fort. . .. and it turned out to be the tone of these words beyond all others.. he furtively rubbed his hands together. And then she added very slowly. as he wheeled her bicycle out of the "I don't know about that!" she answered promptly. . "Kinder than anyone's ever been .. upon whose nature whatever impressions ways air! fall fell would al- with a certain mitigation. like the fall of water upon water. in . that remained with him when she was gone. . a good thing you came over here this after- noon. as they entered the Lovelace stables and she moved in front of him across the cobblestones." he said. just as he would have done if he had been alone. or of air upon . .326 WOLF SOLENT a wave of embarrassment that brought a hot prickling sensation into his cheeks. that. They had the tone of some sort of half-human personality some changeling out of the purer elements . .

but from a detachment so remote and far away as to seem almost outside both the flowing of first time and the compactness of personality. which his vividly was absolutely merged and He was aware of these momentary sensations in relation to other feelings of the same kind. Eight o'clock in the morning of the day of June his was what that timepiece said to him now. ticking. continuous sense in of personal identity. some mental. It was not a consciousness of the pass- ing of time as it affected his own life that arrested him. kept open the addition of years and at all. and mind paused upon the recognition of the vast company of clocks and watches all the world over. passageway as he stood above his kitchenand the old vivid mind and held consciousness of what time was and was not caught his it. bodily to self-consciousness weather-eye.CHRISTIE small parlour across the 1 HE CHEAP WOODEN CLOCK ON THE MANTELPIECE OF HIS made itself audible to the ears of Wolf little stove. some long past and some anticipated in his imagination. ticking. lost. so to speak. Eight times the clock struck. identity some physical. To himself he always seemed Indeed. but rather a series of disembodied sensations. of a living organism. of neither young that old. but he was accustomed to regard all these not from out of the skin. months upon his personal head he had nothing What he lived in was not any compact. . Of that kind of individual awareness he had scarcely any nor trace.

in tiny metallic beats. meditating on the mysterious simplicity of her especial kind of loveliness. He ran up the short peted with flight of creaking stairs. and he rubbed his hands together and a "face. moving it from A thrill of satisfaction ran through him when he had done made chin. vibrations into the depths of unthinkable ticking of space. girl was lying on her back spread out. lovely and sulky as a young animal after her abrupt awakening. he would be enjoying his breakfast at that kitchen-table with Gerda." drawing back his under-lip in the manner of a gargoyle. and with one resolute swing of his arms lifted her bodily from the bed. kissed her into consciousness. Her arms were outstretched above the coverlet. and with tence of a tap at the door entered their bedroom.328 WOLF SOLENT human computation sending up. He pushed open wooden spoon and the heat. loose and bright The fast asleep. the iron cover of the stove and jabbed fire with his poker at the inside. he thought. her fair hair in the sunshine. set her on her . and he stood for a while at her side. laughed at her scolding. His en- trance did not arouse her. across the indented pillow of her recent bedfellow. carthe merest pre- new linoleum. this. Then he took up a enamelled aside stirred the contents of an pot of porridge that stood there. Then he bent down. and one of her hands was hanging down over the side of the bed. and constricting the muscles of his In less than half-an-hour.

it He had to already discovered that was more delicious hold her like this." There was a movement under the twisted sheet. wash or do your hair. At last. and she as she was. young lady. "You're a wretch!" she gasped. "Breakfast will be ready in a quarter of an hour. you must Where's your dressing-gown?" you And he looked vaguely round the room. "There!" he cried. animal ecstasy. come down pen today. earthy. "Hurry up. gave him a rough. and hugged her to his heart. struggling to me go. o'clock. Wolf! Let you!" But he went on kissing her and if it caressing her as had been the first time he had ever taken her in his arms. I tell push him away. . than under any other circumstances. A pleasant element of the unhabitual and the predatory sweetened for him that particular embrace." For answer she only pulled the bedclothes more tightly round her neck. lifting her clean off her feet. "How does that feel?" But the girl turned round with her face to the wall and refused "Eight to speak. he put her back upon the bed and drew the bedclothes over her. he himself fully awake and dressed. with both arms under her body. now!" he added. "Don't. buttoned close up to her chin." he cried brusquely.CHRISTIE feet 329 on the floor. struggling and indignant. "Remember all that's going to hap"If you haven't time to as are. The warmth of her body under the child- ish white night-gown she wore. in a muffled voice. "Don't!" she cried.

Keep your scoldings till you get downstairs. Wolf!" at But he only laughed went out. In one warm inrushing wave the fragrance of the whole West Country seemed to flow through him as he came forth. with its orchards and dairies. regarded him with equivocal intentness. Sap-sweet emanations from the leafy recesses of all the Dorset to woods on that side of mingle at that moment High Sloy seemed with the rank. crossing the passage where his own grey overcoat and Gerda's creamcoloured cloak. . her. he opened the front-door and went out into the road.330 WOLF SOLENT I am. railings in front of that row of meagre. to the left Glastonbury. "Never mind what "What are you hiding up in your mind now? Tell his hand. waved and Running downstairs again. moved the steaming kettle to the side of the stove. and then. with its pastures and fens while the umbrageous "auras" of these two regions. he returned to the kitchen. merged into yet a third essence. I've got an exciting piece of news for you. turned little the spoon in the oatmeal. blending together in the air above the roofs of Blacksod. grassy breath of all the meadow-lands of Somerset. nonhouses opened upon the airy confluence of two descript vast provinces of leafiness and sunshine to the right The iron Melbury Bub. an essence sweeter than either the very soul of the whole wide land lying between the English Channel and the Bristol Channel. hanging side by side on their adjoining pegs. me quick! Tell me." This brought her round with a jerk.

He had long craved to establish himself in just ings on the outskirts of a town. seemed to intrude themselves. feeling that the such a nondescript row of unpretentious dwellHe had always had a magic of simple delights came with purer impact upon the mind when unalloyed by the "artistic" or the "picturesque. threw into beautiful relief life's every incident of his routine. actual eyes as he clicked the little What met Wolf's gate in the iron rail- ings and emerged upon the road. the very floor-scrubbing wherein he shared. except per- haps that of being easily kept very neat and clean. took on for him. and shop-assistants. with all their responsibilities of possession. two very distinct and contradictory odours assailed his nostrils. between his senses and the free. bricklayers.CHRISTIE 331 Thirty-Seven Preston Lane was the last house in a row of small workmen's cottages at the extreme Number western limit of the town of Blacksod. He moved out now into the middle of the road and surveyed the landscape. pretty houses and pretty gardens." Large houses and large gardens. His feeling about with the instinct the matter had something in that has created the common monk's cell only the cell that Wolf a preferred was a lath-and-plaster workman's villa. was only a small portion of the secret causes of his happiness that June morning. As he did so. unpersonalized beauty. Preparing food. pre- paring fires. clear flow of unconfined. just because of this absence of the deliberately "artistic. The fact of living here with Gerda under conditions identical with those of the Blacksod carpenters." a rarefied poetical glamour. There . place possessed of no single aesthetic quality.

and flooded the ginity. thus subtly mingled. set itself to review the most recent examples of this good fortune. grew clumps of honeysuckle and sprays of wild roses. "I and his mind must be born under a lucky star. Urquhart. his right as he stood facing the but on his left there grew in the meadow just beyond whose grey upcurving branches a thrush was wont to sing. an enormously high on the top of which. and beyond that. The pigsty was on ditch. The bird thrush-notes began singing now. The smell of these flowers contended oddly enough with the smell of pigs' dung. where no child could hedge. always increasing the vehemence of its ecstasy till the the hedge a large ash-tree a tree from among moment when the road grew quite dark. he began to meditate on the extraordinary good luck he had had ever since he had come to the West Country. He recalled the satisfactory manner in which his iron- willed mother had suddenly receded from all her opposition to his union with Gerda. had become for him a constant ac- companiment to the thoughts mind as he went in and out of that passed through his his tiny front-garden." he thought. reach. its made Wolf lost think of those wild blackbird-notes of Gerda. the recipient of sewage from an adjoining pig-yard.332 WOLF SOLENT were no houses across the way. satisfactory generosity of He recalled the equally forward with an offer to Mr. as they meadows on the day when she her vir- Thinking of Gerda as he stared up into the ash-tree. and the two odours. who had come let her go on living at Lenty . nothing but a foulsmelling ditch.

such as he had rarely experienced. "Luck! luck! luck!" he said in his heart. owner of the a ruffianly curmudgeon who earned his living in more than one disreputable way. where he was now earning a pound a week by giving lessons every morning in English and History. Wolf stopped aghast. me henceforth. but the sound of voracious gobbling which now reached his ears reassured him. that beat. threw an agitated glance toward that His first sinister little erection of tarred boardings. I must remember to the Just as he opened the iron gate gods!" and glanced at the two or three newly-budded plants in his little patch of garden. the that were coming out pigsty. and the fantastic idea came into would in some "I must his head that if he were to die now he subtle way this cheat death. ." he said to himself. remember "Whatever happens to this moment. turning his head. idea was that one of the animals was being slaughtered. took it into his head to pour out a great bucket of swill into the pig-trough. flooded his being. but had also introduced him to the authorities of the Blacksod Gram- mar School. He the recalled the extraordinary kindness displayed lent toward him by Darnley Otter. his heart almost ceasing to and. Through his thin indoor shoes the magnetism of the earth seemed at that moment pouring into every nerve of his body. Happiness.CHRISTIE 333 Cottage free of rent as long as Wolf himself remained his secretary. rubbing his hands together. an action that caused so ear-piercing a volley of bestial shrieks. who had not only him fifty pounds necessary to buy furniture. and be grateful moment.

The infantile sulkiness in Gerda's face only ened the green ribbon with which she had fastened her locks. You know what a hurry he's been in? But he now "Nothing. "Two-thirds of our income. then?" he said have been this if you don't realize how awkward it would this confounded book had come to an end Autumn. news. Wolf?" she enquired." he said to himself. with the indistinct voice of a greedy child. her cream-clogged spoon upside-down in her mouth. that Wolf forgot everything as he watched these movements. even if takes five years to finish. as she did so. and fixed upon him a cloudy. satiric frown. Where would we have got another hun- dred pounds from. "Yes. "What's the news. and entered the house." he retorted. last night that says he's decided to it make a complete job of it. a hundred pounds. turning. could be better. in fact.jug over his own oatmeal. sweetheart!" he said contentedly. emptying what was left of the cream." . "But silence. it so as to lick tell clean. "What's this you were going to me?" "Guess." deepened and with an impatient gesture she stretched out her arms and tossed back her head. She appeared so enchanting in her crossness.334 WOLF SOLENT "He's only feeding them. eh. and for a moment he just looked at her in "You don't think much of my presently. Urquhart announced he has decided to go slow with our History. Then she tightat his words. sweetheart? Tell me that!" "A hundred pounds!" the girl muttered sarcastically. In the kitchen he found Gerda already beginning her bowl of porridge.

and all to its . walk with her up the slope of Babylon and his pursuit of her among the earthworks of Poll's Camp. There's something much more amusing impatiently now. and I've got no clothes for an afternoon." She waited and he went on. "Oh.CHRISTIE 335 He refill rose and moved to the stove. and the corners of her under-lip drooped. "This is the "She's been twice to lunch. "People like your mother don't have the same things on in the morning as they do in the afterI "No clothes?" "You know what noon. He recalled Hill. of a whole region of interests and values that had nothing to do with romance. perfectly well. then. "Urquhart doesn't want me over there this afternoon and Mother's coming to tea. to get the kettle to their teapot. that's not all. "Darnley was here." The girl's sulkiness changed in a moment to something first like pitiful dismay. so "But you needn't look sour." he said. than that." she went on peevishly." Wolf watched her with narrowing that first eyelids. Why did all girls introduce into life an element of the conventional selves were the into that life of which they them- most mysterious expression? He became aware of the existence. in the beautiful head suddenly opposite him. too both times!" she gasped." mean. time. Wolf!" she exclaimed. Was do with love-making and nothing love itself." But Gerda's eyes remained troubled and very wide open. "We've never had her alone.

wherein women encountered one another. "Your mother's a woman." "Halfpenny buns!" she repeated contemptuously. "That's all you know!" she retorted." "I can't cut it! I never could cut it!" she cried helpher enormous grey eyes beginning to fill lessly. It with was then that Wolf began to realize that it was necessary to be as indulgent to the "realities" of this alien array of feelings as if they had been those of a being of a different planet. sweetheart. my sweet Gerda!" he cried reproachfully. of alien "How The absurd! What does it matter? It's only my mother. get some halfpenny buns or tea-cakes at Pimpernel's. isn't she?" Was there then some queer inner world. only a kind of full growths and unfamiliar soils? "Gerda. Wolf whose ritual life was completely unreal is so. "They're the very nicest silly How you are! But I don't care what you long as there's plenty of thin bread-and-butter. I only beg one thing of you.' the better for both Gerda to himself. He began things! get. tears. as to raise his voice. parallel to the one that was important to him. "If this and me!" "Well. He got up from his seat and walked round their square kitchen-table. to them? "God!" he thought the sooner I get the secret of this 'other reality." girl pouted and smiled scornfully. "and that is that you don't try and make those funny scones again that you I'll made for Christie. She must take us as she finds us.336 WOLF SOLENT magic gate leading into a land mysteries. and without stared at her." he went on aloud. a table .

And then he thought. he bent her head back with both his hands and kissed her many times. It seemed to him. knowing nothing of what was passing in his mind. The audible his ticking of his watch. Wolf!" she cried. "Don't be so annoying. Standing over the girl. "Time again!" he sighed. his watch in his hand. turned round in her chair and pushed him away with all the strength of her young arm. to find he had destroyed for both of them the whole shadow-scenery of their life. as he did this. Where had all this occurred before? A queer feeling came over him as if she and he were acting a part in some fantastic dream-world. He remained motionless behind her for a mo- ment when he had released her. as he concentrated mind upon it. and that he had only to make one enormous effort. But Gerda. Haven't you got any eggs for us?" He moved away obediently to the stove. and lifted his head. that he had done this very same thing in another room. he . answered the louder ticking of the clock in the parlour across the passage. I tell you. "There! I'm hungry. and even in another country. in front of each of when he had a china egg-cup them and had placed a brown egg within hers and a white one in his own. made his arrangements for boiling three eggs two for himself and one for her and remained there on guard. "But I've got the power to deal with far more a serious jolts to my set happiness than this finding out that girl's 'reality' is not my 'reality'!" In a minute or two.CHRISTIE that according to his 337 own caprice had been left bare of any covering. and had resumed found that his quick adjustment of the wheels his seat.

I'll have I don't want anyone door and find you like that. do go quick! knock at the cern at the back of his mind. He hated to think menage being a laughing-stock to all the Lob Torps and Bob Weevils of the town. for when she had satisfied her hunger lifted and filled her teacup with strong. fortable He had had some uncomwhen tradesmen's boys moments now and to the again." Wolf declared himself completely pect." Whatever machinery of her mind." she said. And I'll make toast. satisfied at this pros- "You go up now. ways Gerda had of adjusting the seemed to have been as suc- cessful as his own . Neither of us can really spoil anything secret as long as that's the case. she her head quite cheerfully. "I saw some- thing there yesterday that I'm sure your mother would like. but there was an element of con- There. sweet tea.338 WOLF SOLENT his and cogs of mind had proved successful." he thought. It was a complete puzzle to him the way in which Gerda made such a fuss about the conventions where his mother was concerned. had come of their door at an early hour. just as hers is to me. said. "and just finish up. while place she let to the Bob Weevils of the if down every barrier as completely as ." he dressing. My existence is necessary to her. "I'll go to Pimpernel's myself. sweetheart. and make the bed. "It doesn't matter in the least. "whether we understand each other or not. I'll wash time for to that. We've got to keep up the prestige of Preston Lane!" He spoke jestingly. That'll be just as nice as bread-and-butter.

Hurriedly gathering the dishes together on the edge of the sink. fumbling sort of way. forks. he caught a glimpse out of the window of a stunted little laburnum-tree. as he had seen her that day. to in their and he noticed. He proceeded to hold cups. that the West- Saxon Torp blood in her had been crossed at some very early stage with an altogether different strain. rubbing them and scraping them with his bare fingers. however. As he did this. in a sorrowful. covered now with heartgrew glossy and seemed shaped leaves.CHRISTIE she'd drifted into Blacksod 339 of from the primeval woods Arcady. he proceeded to do what would certainly not have passed unobserved by a more practical mistress of the house. On this occasion. thai afternoon at Poll's Camp. towel. bowls. it was hard to tell for what a craving that pierced him like the actual thrust of a . the sight of this forlorn branch brought vividly to his mind the figure of Christie Malakile. and then drying them vioas most of them were with ihc kitchenlently greasy plates. he remembered how the fancy had come into his mind. towards their neighbour's fence. there And with that a door had unexpectedly image in the remotest wall of his mind's fortress opened a to came him as if deep. for some unaccountable reason. and pots and pans under a tap of perfectly cold water. rushing upstairs like a young Maenad. knives. saucers. sickening craving. before. above which a sturdy lilac-bush. crouched in the castle-lane. As he watched her now. which grew back-yard. of its as he had often leafless noticed how one boughs was be stretching out.

and. just then. had. without further farewell. and walked with rapid steps the road. therefore. making anything else seem strained and unnatural. seen daily. was calling upon him for aid. burdened. he got a sense of being hemmed in. strange thoughts. He at the decided finally upon the latter course. and he hesi- tated as to whether to run out. and was to come. while some vague. down His way to the Grammar School led confectioner's shop. yet always differently. commenting upon what was. As he stood there. which abutted upon the same back-yard. privy-windows. or to go he generally did. with lost in hand upon the bannister. he let himself out of the house with deliberate quietness. scullery-windows. He moved his out to the foot of the staircase. something bottom of his mind. besieged. through bedroom- windows. possessed a curious interest for him. he rubbed the porridge-pot furiously with the greasy towel and emptied the hot kettle-water into it. stood motionless.340 spear. and at the sight of the him past the name "Pirn- . JPOLF SOLENT The bareness and tension of his that extended branch as had won sympathy before. the "little language" of Chance itself. but today. Snatching up his oakstick. These glimpses of certain fixed objects. indistinct appeal. as up and speak to her. the sight of the thing seemed to disturb the complacency of his whole being. A minute or two later. and is. hard to define. It was as if he got from them a sort of runic handwriting. from his childhood. he could hear Gerda moving about upstairs. when he saw it again from the window of their small privy.

It was too in late to already recognized. Torp's eyes.CHRISTIE 341 pernel" over the door. Gerda's mother had been engaged in persuading old retreat. second he found himself face to face with Mrs. Wolfs veins his rapid walk. Mrs. Wolf found himself propitiating the woman to the extreme limit of a somewhat unctuous geniality. I can't Torp. He was and another Ruth Pimpernel at half-price. namely. he had a tendency to exaggerate his natural bonhomie to a degree that was almost fatuous. He had often noticed that when his blood had been quickened by rapid walking. Shaking hands vigorously with this uncongenial apwhose shrewish aspect was not modified by the dirty black bonnet she wore balanced on the top of her head. It's get on without see- too ridiculous" so he blun- dered on. Torp. "Gerda and ing something of you. Not finding what he wanted. like the expression of a tethered dog "it's too ridiculous to leering at a hutch of tame hares have you in the same place and to see so little of you!" It was impossible even for the perspicacity of Joan Torp to put down by this blustering friendliness to its true account to the pleasant glow. "You haven't come to see us for such a long while. diffused through and so. he was on the point of going out again. he decided to run in for a mo- ment and he had in see for himself if the particular tea-cakes that mind were available that day." he cried. to sell her a loaf of yesterday's bread parition. in complete disregard of the sly expression in Mrs. with a nearer ap- . when he heard a familiar voice proceeding from the interior part of the shop.

Mr." all His mind. "as sure as us be standing here. go there in the morning. we must chance it and hope for the best!" And then. They're so funny. "She'll that manage he it somehow. Solent. Torp went over would be very pleased to see her. at Pres- The appearance destined for the of the shop-girl with the stale loaf Mr. asking questions about Edward Longshanks. "I'll leave it to Gerda. as fourth-form teas- Grammar School room.342 WOLF SOLENT proach to a benevolent grimace than he had ever seen on her grim features. about their houses. remained sat at his desk in the morning. her daughter Mrs. ingly preoccupied with this encounter." drop in for tea that very afternoon ton Lane. she assured him with unhesitating emphasis that she would. "It isn't her way to those two. with grim inscription. as he enlarged its to his class upon that for- midable black sarcophagus in Westminster Abbey. was. indeed. "She may not go there at all. the under-flow of his all the little incidents that mind kept had led to fretting against this annoying issue. Well." he thought to himself. now at once. only when he was hurrying out of the confectioner's shop that he had the wit to turn round and receipt It of this fling back a suggestion that if there. Torp abominated stale bread prevented the woman from detecting the cloud that descended on Wolf's brow on monument-maker's table prompt acceptance of his hospitality. "If I hadn't stayed so long at that confounded privy- . however." he thought.

the fire. it out and he himself escaped into it occurred to him that was curious how faint an impact upon his conscious- ness this business of teaching history made. And if I'd stopped to say good-bye to Gerda. to feel Darnley laid his free hand on his friend's arm. "What the devil do those boys think of me?" he won- dered grimly. and they moved down the street together. at that moment. "I forget their existence as soon as I'm out of sight of them. was he with a sudden question. the water. gaping like so occupied a crack in a hot stubble-field in the very floor of his mind. And then he became aware that had been Darnley speaking to him for some while. with his sweet bedfellow? "But very likely I could never be 'in love' in that sense with anyone. the dog." he said to himself as they walked along. he felt that peculiar sensation of relief which men are wont when they encounter each other after the confusion of sex-conflicts. and the old woman When his getting class home from let market." was the street at half-past twelve. she'd have gone before I got there at all. that had just then obtruded itself. issuing forth his Latin lesson with a pile of papers in his hand. Darnley greeted him with more than his usual cordiality. and as Wolf looked into his friend's strangelycoloured eyes. He was clever enough to do the whole job with the surface of his mind." He met Darnley from Otter. .CHRISTIE window. I 343 should have got out of Pimpernel's before she came in. Was he really "in love." in the proper sense of that word. Damn! It's like the rope. but for a while Wolf heard nothing of what he was saying.

. "I wasn't listening. "I would. like the . "Sorry." he was saying now. "But what were you saying?" "Nothing very startling. to now be- gan penetrate Wolf's consciousness. You're repeating to yourself what you'd like to have retorted to Rintoul Minor when he like that myself. "It's only I thought I'd take you with me to Christie's to lunch. the other like a shot.. "You're boy-drunk." protested the other. "It does take time to wear off." Darnley stroked his pointed beard and looked him up and down. She's a queer little oddity. I found that out long ago. Gerda won't mind." These words. pulling him forward by the arm. and other words before them. poor devil. . One has to be awfully careful." he murmured sympathetically. I'm not. standing stockstill on the pavement. from a thatched shed.344 WOLF SOLENT why I "I don't see shouldn't take you. "I . I'm often "No.. so low that his once in a way. But expect there's nothing in that! Perhaps you hurt her feelings in some way. The truth was that Darnley's suggestion had set thing vibrating violently deep down within him. as they might have done with a person recovering from an anaesthetic. if she hadn't I been so funny I day when talked about you." he muttered hesitatingly. will she?" Wolf drew startled gaze light his heavy eyebrows down gleamed out at his companion like lantern." made you feel a fool." said Darnley quietly. don't suppose some- so." he muttered apologetically.

" to Darnley looked hope?" he said. So was what things had been tending to since he had caught sight of that laburnum-branch? Darnley smiled and shrugged his shoulders." But Wolf held him with an appeal in his eye. "It's only that Gerda and I have got special things I'd do today." he cried. "Don't say any more. . "I see you don't want to come. they were friendly and sympathetic. eh?" And he recalled the only two occasions on which he had seen Christie alone since his marriage. across the surface brain.CHRISTIE thuds of a buried this 345 drum played by an earth-gnome. On to the both those occasions she had avoided all allusion day of the horse-show. of his shadows of rooks over a pond. I Wolf was like the silent. "No bad news. And though her allusions to Gerda were faint and slight. "Under ordinary conditions have loved to come. . One thing particularly he found himself dwelling upon. possessed and natural. at him gravely. then . Christie's expecting me. had laughed at his talked freely with had him about Mattie." he said at last. "Didn't seem friendly to me. All manner of queer fancies passed. Well! Off with you. back to your Saxon beauty. "Gerda has been a bit surprised. had not even drawn back from a passing reference to Olwen. But she had been selfjests. But Wolf remembered well how he had experienced a profound astonishment at the abysses of pride and reserve into which this frail being had the power of retreating. anyway." he said. .

some hot chocolate for you. have a come round She'll keep bit of lunch. that's certain.346 WOLF SOLENT observing that Darnley was growing impatient to be off." he said at last. Solent. "I'll do as you say. There'll be plenty of time for that. thinking of Mrs. and then both you and Gerda I'll to Christie's? tell her you're coming. a gleam of boyish eagerhere. Look and as he spoke. "We've got my mother coming to he said." he added. uncertain. Do go off now." he said curtly. tapping the ground with his stick. and be sure you bring Gerda." "Don't be an ass. anyway. But make plain to Christie that we're only coming for a very short time. Christie never goes out to see people." was his friend's farewell- remark as they turned to go their different ways. "All right. there's a It's good chap. "And perhaps someone else too. "if we get on her nerves. Solent" ness came into his face "why don't you run back home understand Christie better than now. That'll reassure her. "That's all right." he added sardonically. Tell her we've got to get back to tea. People have to come and see her. "That's silly of Gerda. not half-past two." hesitated." Wolf tea. We it shan't be long over our lunch. She makes splen- did hot chocolate. Torp. . "that a friend like Christie hasn't been in to see us more often." His companion freed his sleeve from the nervous clutch with which Wolf quite unconsciously had seized it. ill at ease." Wolf remained silent. "She ought to that.

he discovered. had concentrated itself Christie. full of gave him a voluptuous est hon- and natural desire. But he recognized now that there . direct. as he had seen her on the day of the Fair. Making no attempt this time to restrain his thoughts. Wolf walked along slowly. as he gave himself up to his mental disloyalty. a remote relative of Selena's. He came to a spot where the branches of a tall lime-tree just inside the lawyer's gar- den threw a dreamy pattern of motionless shadows upon the stones at his feet. stones that left room for the occasional out-croplarly ping of thin moss-soft blades of grass. huddled and crouched. And then again that drum-like beating in the depths of his heart brought up the vision of Christie Malakite.CHRISTIE It 347 took Wolf as a rule exactly twenty minutes to walk from the Grammar School gate to his own door. way by debouching into Monwhere there were no shops and scarcely traffic. earthy. He discovered that the peculiar him like a glamour which had always hovered for diaphanous cloud round the impersonal idea of girlhood. a curious emotional phenomenon. while those dark patterns upon the sunlit ground made that portion of the earth seem porous and insubstantial. as at those he stood on those cobblestones and stared dark shadows. upon the image of He plunged into a very strange aspect of his feelings. There he stood still. The thought of Gerda's warmth thrill. uneven cobblestones of this quiet alley. but this time he lengthened the mouth any Street. under the high brick wall which enclosed the pleasant garden of a certain Lawyer Gault. The hot June sun was shining down almost perpendicuon the warm.

before him he could catch lovely she was. in evasive aura of mysterious girlishness so to speak. coughing "Good Lord. the touch of her hand was vague. at this moment.348 WOLF SOLENT girl fact. her head bound up in a green scarf." expostulated." she I'll said. The ground chatter of a couple of starlings that sank to the behind the wall. which was the whole world. be doing the kitchen presently. him the most magical thing in young girls. of the mystery of all to something than that the platonic idea. He pulled down hat over his eyes and moved qff homewards. was vague in his memory. And yet it was Christie who had drawn into herself all those floating intimations of the mystery of a girl's soul. "You It's can't come in now. hovered over the personality of this other more subtle than this nothing less. the tones of her voice. her voice was vague. like cowslips in green valleys. which were above everything so precious to him. as he propped up . What had drawn him from the beginning to Gerda had been her wonderful beauty. and after that her original personality. brushing the floor of their parlour. It was hard to believe that he had ever had his arms about her. He could see Gerda's face now. on the contrary. his straw- brought him at last to himself. gath- ered here and there. her childish character. When he opened the door of Number Thirty-Seven. no good your going in there. he found Gerda covered from head to foot in a print apron. Christie's face. "unless you want to sit in the bedroom. quarrelling and scolding. as he held her He could feel how and caressed all her. child!" he and sneezing with exaggerated emphasis.

though what ." he murmured stupidly. to Her look seemed express resentment. He never altogether forgot that experience." And when he found that she still watched him with a sort of pondering detachment. have laid bare! "All right. Under her gaze Wolf felt his actual body stiffen into a pose of clumsy awkwardness. he made a hopeless effort to read her thoughts. It made a hole in his armour which never. "I'll go wherever you want me to go. The gaze she fixed upon him was the kind of gaze the Olympian dawn-goddess might have fixed upon her human lover at the moment when he first betrayed the tricky and shifty mortality of his race. "The place will be covered with dust! Why can't you let things alone? My It'll mother would never have noticed whether the room was brushed or not. to the end of his life. irony. take hours for all this to settle!" She rested on her great broom and surveyed him through her cloud of sun-illumined dust-motes. my dear. in all his thoughts of him- he had to allow for a weak and shaky spot in the very groundwork of his character a weakness that nothing short of the clairvoyance of a woman could ever self.CHRISTIE his stick in its 349 accustomed corner. It was one of those looks in which everything that is most obscure in the relation between two people sion in rises to the surface and can find no expres- human him words. and a treacherous fool. Henceforth. and a sort of pitiful indulgence. superiority. quite closed up. All he knew was that this look of hers let off and did not let him off. He felt like a fool. He experienced a sense of humiliating self-consciousness. and yet there was tenderness in it too.

watch furtively every one of her gestures. the contours of her young breasts under the tight-fitting apron assumed the nobility of Pheidian sculpture. This had not gone on very long before he became aware that she knew perfectly well exactly in what mood he was watching her. . and resumed her work without taking further notice of him. Gerda. with the duster still in his hand. She relaxed her reverie to turn at this. and then. Every now and then she would straighten her lifted body to rest her muscles. threw the whiteness of her skin and the softness of her flesh into extraordinary relief. secret thoughts that she could had been his that day. too. and "I'll made a motion to dust the chimneypiece. self- obliterating love to her. the bit of green muslin she had tied so quaintly around her head. and." he repeated lamely. as she her hands to readjust the green muslin at the back of her head. reckless. This enabled him round again.350 WOLF SOLENT know of the vague. She went on vigor- broom with her rounded arms. till Wolf ously wielding the began to forget everything except the voluptuous fas- cination of looking at her. Whenever she did this she glanced at him under dreamy. the movements which she made displaying the loveliness of her shoulders and the suppleness of her flanks. and in order to break this spell. he could not conceive! go anywhere you like. abstracted eyelids. And she seemed to know. he took up a cloth duster she had laid on the back of a chair. and she seemed know well that what that moment was just to of all things he wanted most at to make rough. The apron she'd twisted so tightly about her body.

es- caped round the edge of the parlour-table. and they both ran. stock-still. and. some indescribable advantage she had won over him would be altogether lost. But as they stood there. panting and hot. he pursued her obstinately. and the pride of his threat- about it. the thick dust-gendered sun-motes flashing and gyrating between them like the spilled golden sands of at some great overturned hour-glass. round and round that polished expanse of wood. But the atory girl slipped away from him. Across an unfathomable gulf she shot these glances him. driven throwing down the duster. it came into his head that if there had been nothing more subtle than that table between them. in a single flash of the dark-lantern of his self-esteem. exasperated desire. Wolf's heart contracted within him. laughing like a hunted At last. and breathing hard and fast. and he clumsy pursuit stumbled and almost fell over it. Under the pressure of his conflicting ened life-illusion gathered feelings. because. Then he gave up.CHRISTIE that if 351 she let him do that. panting like two animals and staring at each other across the polished wood. her. oread. he saw this whole inci- it. Red in the face now. from which she had removed the cloth. that mocked ing shield. he sprang towards by the blind. dent between them just as Bob Weevil would have seen had he been pressing his inquisitive face against their window-pane. just then. lifting her great broom between them. unconscious cunning of a predanimal and by sheer. In her flight she in his him like a shin- dropped the broom. . like broken bubbles of quicksilver gathering against the sides of a globe of crystal.

and her panting bosom. "What would I feel. along with that curi- was ous scent of honeysuckle mixed with pigs' dung which their familiar atmosphere." he said to himself. it's loving girls! It's getting out of getting too much for me!" my Through their open window came the clear. her profile toward him. I could. "But I could. Her face looked pale and a little sad. Bob Weevil or no Bob Weevil! Heavily he drew his breath. oh. watching the tiny drops of perspiration on her forehead. too. with her forehead resting upon one of her bare arms as it lay along the woodwork of the window." But he thought to himself: with a puzzled sigh.352 this WOLF SOLENT game of theirs would have been full of a rich de- light for both of them. . throwing himself into -a wicker-chair. with a melodious chuckle. ringing notes of the thrush in the ash-tree. a cigarette. She thinks I'm a pompous with a girl in that sort of and. balancing the broom against a chair. "You'll never catch "She thinks she's acting the naughty child. "if only damn all this business of control. Wolf. "She's a complete stranger to me!" he said to himself. lit naturally the table. and leaning there. and. "if she started whistling her blackbird-song now?" But Gerda displayed no desire for whistling." he thought. She thinks she's ruffled my dignity. who can't play way." He moved from ass. me like that. she seemed to be lost in concentrated thought. walked to the window and leaned against -the side of it. "so you'd better give up and admit you're beaten. heard the thrush." gasped Gerda. She.

Christ saw a man under a fig-tree. wild. "She can't be a witch! have the power to read a person's thoughts! Besides. at that ley's moment. rocking him up and down in swart desolation. or whatever it was. after all. dropped her hand to her side. felt His obscure distress swathed every one of the thrush's notes with a thick soot-coloured wrapping. That old trot must have come round. and I suppose a girl can see a man under a lime-tree and read his thoughts like a map!" . to her at the "I wish I'd gone straight just up window now. "I can't bear to have her looking like that. so that they him like so many black flags. what did I think? Nothing beyond what everyone thinks sometimes. and. went out without a word into the kitchen. crazy. and said abruptly: "Well! What about lunch. surely. outrageous nonsense! can't It She must be her mother. announce to her Darn- to plan? What he actually did was neither to go up to her nor tell her about the projected visit. "Damn!" he thought to himself." he said to himself." He resumed his seat in the wicker-chair.CHRISTIE 353 Wolf his felt a sudden longing to go across to her and comfort her comfort her about those errant feelings of it own that was impossible secret to believe she had inter- cepted in their passage through his brain! He couldn't. but he too miserable even to light a cigarette. On the gusts of hedge-scent and ditch-scent his discomfort rose and flapped at fell. my dear?" At this remark she lifted up her head from her arm with a jerk. He rose to his feet. giving him one quick look of unspeakable reproach.

and. combined with the ob- vious sincerity of his embrace. remark sugto- made a queer little helpless movement wards him. getting out the knives and forks from the dresser-drawer and uncorking a bottle of beer. making her ale. washed her hands at the sink. I'm not hungry. They remained thus for some seconds. tightly to his overcoming her weak pressing cheek. now quickly wet with tears. her. The mellowness filled her glass with foaming of the drink. against his own." Wolf had already taken instead of gested. leaving the parlourclock and the incorrigible thrush to deal as they pleased with the passing of time. seemed to drive away the unhappy mood that obsessed her. He mechanically started helping her. re- the muslin from her head. with their arms round each other.354 WOLF SOLENT off his He threw slowly into gloom as well as he could. This time he did know what to do. and hugged her resistance. stood wavering and helpless in the middle of the room." she announced. she his seat. "I think I'll go out for a breath of air. When moved the meal was ready she untied her apron. instead of taking her place opposite him. and then. There he found her absent- mindedly laying the table for a meal of bread and cheese. but without a word. She turned to the meal . and walked the kitchen. as her moving away from him. He jumped her up and sprang towards heart. sit down at the table. and. At length he withdrew his clasp. as she spoke. "I must have swallowed too much dust.

Torp." Wolf's spirits rose high as they left the house. getting up. when Bob and Lobbie were here. and Darnley's being there to makes an excuse. and then she yielded with the most charming grace." ought we to go to Christie's? She ought and see us!" "Why come "Gerda. We really owe Christie a visit. Let's go now . He chuckled sardonically in his heart at his own elation." . in to Pimpernel's "The truth infatuated with both of Christie must be. "All right. With one part of his heart he wished this project at the devil. As they ate they talked quietly of what they would prepare for his mother's tea. it wise at present to say nothing When they were satisfied. and after he had cigarette handed her a for it see the childishly incompetent always amused him to way Gerda smoked he plunged boldly into the matter of their visit to the bookseller's shop. Besides." he said to himself. "that I'm simply them that I want to snatch at and yet not lose my hold on my sweet Gerda. "If you're willing not to till wash up and not to dress we get back.CHRISTIE 355 before them and began eating with relish. we've only asked her that once. there's a dear girl ! We'll have plenty of time to get cleaned up before tea. but he said to himself it would be absurd to disappoint Darnley. you know how it is! You know what she's like." she said. however. we could easily go for just an hour." Gerda seemed to struggle with herself for a moment. "only we must run on the way. Wolf found of Mrs.

on the top of everything! too . but We tea this afternoon. so we'd better be prepared of this information was startling. which was in front of a butcher's shop. can't understand "Are you mad. "It won't be so very awful. Street. and well on gan: "Oh. pulling her into the butcher's porch avoid the crowd. she went off finally with the idea that I'd asked her to And I'm* afraid I didn't mention to her that my mother's coming." Gerda looked drew back as if at him with such flashing eyes that he she had hit him. He had But he said nothing till they were well out of the shop.356 WOLF SOLENT sight of the shop-girl in Pimpernel's. You come if you'd met a ghost. and he was staggered at the dismay upon her "Well?" he to it? said. however. will My mother can be adaptable and decent enough at a pinch. let the afternoon marketers jostle past them "You face. have asked . I can't remember how it came about. to tea!" she gasped. Torp.. many pegs. and they unheeded.." The effect drew her arm away from him and stopped dead-still where they were. . The brought down his happiness a great completely forgotten Mrs. . You drag me out here to see your friend. Gerda for her turning up. Mother . . . "I you today! What's the matter with you? rush off You back looking as cat! without a word this morning. and met your mother this morning. talked a I their way down High Then he be- bit. . Gerda. who wants me no more than It's a And now this. Wolf?" she whispered hoarsely.

going off in a known you wanted rage! But even as he stood hesitating. people "Gerda! Gerda darling!" he cried. go to her ever since she came that day with the boys. I tell you! That's where you belong. however. Wolf ran after her and caught her by the arm. her figure dis- appeared among the people. and then returning to the street in absent-minded gloom. regardless of the who were passing them. "I can't bear this. He till Preston Lane." And away from him and began rapidly retracing her steps. He turned wearily round then and resumed his walk down hardly knew what he was doing. but he had a vague idea of wandering about the streets for a time." he said to himself. It seemed impossible that that should be his Gerda. Let with you. then the thoughts which he believed at that moment in his were what dominated his action formed themselves brain into some such words as these: "I've absolutely no heart for seeing Christie now.CHRISTIE 357 much! I tell you it's too suiting her action to her words. Wolf remained motionless and stood watching her while long minutes passed over his head. And "In for a penny. she broke much! I'm going home. to make a scene in to won't! I the street? Go I've to Christie's. steadily on he found himself opposite the bookseller's shop. her face white and her eyes dazed and staring. Go! Go! Go! I worit have you with me!" And she started off almost at a run. Wolf. in for a pound. I me come back seeing Christie!" don't care a damn about I "I won't have you won't! Do you want me come with me. or Darnley either! But I . His feet carried him.

The stricken face of Gerda vanished completely.358 WOLF SOLENT it suppose would be an absurd piling up of misunderdisappointed them. and. as know that one possessed. Mr. evidently a stranger to the place. What did the days went on. without wailing for an answer: "You'll find her in the room upstairs. The effect upon him of this unexpected news of Darnley's departure was something beyond what he could possibly have foreseen. a child like Olwen. tearless stare in the very midst of the He found the old man doorway. the daughter of a daughter? Did the old man ever see Olwen? Did he know anything? anything of the child's thoughts? Did he want to know A chance movement made by the customer brought Wolf now into the bookseller's vision. hurriedly running up the little staircase. and Gerda herself became what his mother was. Malakite did not hear him enter." he said quietly." standings if I Grasping the handle of his stick tightly in his hand. and Wolf found himself looking with a queer bowed back and grizzled head. amidst a pile of books. or what his father's grave was one of the fixed landmarks in his life's landscape. Mr. Solent. but . A startled look passed for a second over the old man's face. knocked at Christie's door. but he betrayed no other sign of embarrassment. or what Miss Gault was. and seeing Gerda's stricken face and wild." Wolf passed through the shop. Otter has just gone. "Good-afternoon. only five miles away. which he was showing to a customer. he entered the shop. mur- muring with bent head over a volume bound in vellum. to interest at that it feel like. Mr. "Have you come to see me or to see Miss Malakite?" And then.

That hidden drum. "Mr. were rushing to- Several seconds passed before Christie had the power to make a move to find a chair for herself or to give a sign for him to be seated. and they had taken each other's hand. That word of the old man. that it seemed as if that oblong shape of discol- oured wood. And then. still talking of anything that came into his head. Wolf felt as if he had been doing nothing all his life but wait for this moment. knowing it. he suddenly found that those two nodding masks had vanished into thin air. "Mr. and that there was no barrier of any sort left between the real Wolf and the real Christie." kept repealing itself in his mind as he waited. Otter has gone. He had Christie did When the feeling that the to utter man and girl who now proceeded broken and fragmentary commonplaces to each other were acting as automatic figures behind whose two long-separated spirits gestures gether. Mr. beat so loudly as he waited at Christie's door. which was neither exactly in his heart nor exactly in the pit of his stomach. but when he did sink down at last. it a sense of such relief swept into his soul that was as if some spear-head.CHRISTIE 359 no longer the centre of his life. had suddenly been pulled out. Otter has gone. that had been in his flesh without his for days and weeks. without the least disturbance of the at- mosphere of that small room. Naturally and easily he . open the door. Otter has gone." The phrase became a floating cloud of tremulous expectation. were ready to open now upon something completely new to his experience. the very markings of which were voluble.

gave him a sensation completely different from anything he had ever known before. by this ease and naturalness with which the lightrecalled est thought flowed back and forth between them. had ever troubled him. And how he had been struck. directed diffused and toward some beautiful statue. Coming this sonality. What he really felt was that this was the first feminine creature with whom this he had ever been left alone. I'll leave everything And he suddenly discovered that he was talking all the freely and openly about people of his life. the contour of her half-averted face bending over a piece of needlework she had blindly taken up. He thought within himself: to her. legs. The slender little figure before him. permeating everything around them." bones within him. at the to melt his "a girl. too. his amorousness for Gerda seemed like playful lust. He discovered that to talk to Christie was like talking to himself or thinking aloud. with those thin into her per- hands and those touchingly thin drew moment." had always remained like a back of his mind precious well-watered . at that every secret of girlhood that to him like the fragrance of wood-mosses to a city-dweller. Those mystic syl"a young girl. and he about Gerda. And even as he was whimsically telling her about the unlucky tea-party arranged for that afternoon. the very first time they met. and the way her instep looked with the thin leather strap of her shoe across it. all the while.360 WOLF SOLENT found himself taking for granted this strange new discovery of what was between them. In comparison with thrilling feeling." "She knows everything. the consciousness that dreamlike figure was really alive and tangible seemed lables.

Nothhe now knew. actual living girl in all the earth. didn't it?" murmured was silent for a moment. legs. I think it. Christie nodded her head and smiled a little. and Wolf found himself. real." she said in a low voice. "I don't think so. her thin figure. to his surprise. but I don't believe it. even talking to her about Olwen. "that there never seemed to me anything strangely unnatural in it. her long eyelashes. I think from her earliest childhood there was a peculiar link between him and my sister. Christie it killed your mother. 361 bed empty of any living growth. But here. making everyenchanted and transparent by the difits fused loveliness of presence. This passive entity in front of him. this extraordinary topic agitating her. I don't think Mother ever was the right person for Father. "Everyone said so. The minutes slipped from by. but a ing. her faintly outlined childish was the only true. her.CHRISTIE flower-bed. "Were you old enough to realize what was going on between them?" Wolf asked her at last." "But Wolf. she So far seemed to find a deep relief in speaking of it. with her honey-pale oval face. pondering frown on her face. in the centre of that bed." she said gently. in his life with Gerda had stirred the earth of that mystic bed. was a it thing around living. "The odd thing is. It wasn't she who did These last words were hardly audible. a queer. Wolf pressed ." it had begun long before that. breathing plant.

no more than "My mother was tell in anything else!" he said. "She and Mr. When she turned them upon him. as she were scrutinizing some far-away mental image. Wolf?" "No wonder you're a bit inhuman. "I money to come back. "She used to us the wildest stories about her ancestors. she said. however." "Did Selena Gault do it?" asked Wolf." he said. He laughed "Oh. after a pause: "Did you and your sister write to each other after they sent her away? about 01 wen?" Christie's Was she unhappy brown eyes became if for a minute fixed upon vacancy. every flicker upon her face." would have had her here I'll in spite of them. passionately. If been as old as I am now. "Do you believe in spirits?" she asked. they should never have it show to sent her away. Her last letter I'd you one day was full of excitement. Did you know that. And then. The girl nodded. gave him the feeling that he was regarding a young . Once she actually told us she was descended from Merlin. a little." she added. Wolf got up from Every aspect of her his seat and stood regarding her. they had an angry and yet "I sent her humorous gleam. "Law or no law." she went on. figure. "Who then?" Christie looked at him gravely." She paused and drew a long breath. Merlin's mother was a nun." she cried. Welsh.362 WOLF SOLENT did it. "if I'd been older I'd have stopped them! I was too young. Smith. with flushed cheeks. They had the law on their side.

falling this way. and he noticed that she was turning this strip of muslin over and over between her out upon her lap. . and to loosen the spell he turned his head a little and glanced at the mantelpiece. as fluctuating." "I sent Darnley away." was all she said. now we're alone. can with you . His own mind kept dust-motes of the beating itself against the unknown to itself the against that fatal next moment which drew air. long-stalked primroses. first fingers. the warm wind blowing in through the open window. The poignancy of her shyness increased his awareness of the suspense between them. smoothing it one side and then the other. late. the scent of the wild-flowers. and as he stared at that bunch of flowers. on which was a china bowl. and pink campions and meadow-orchids. These words of hers hung suspended in the air between them. Christie's eye- drooped over the piece of sewing she held in her hands. syllable by syllable. "Will she let me make love to her? Will she let me?" was the burden of his thought. he felt as though the "to be or not to be" of that tense moment depended upon chance as inscru- table. They were so sweet to Wolf that he felt unwilling to make the least response.CHRISTIE aspen-tree. full of bluebells. porous to 363 wind-blown alternations of light and shadow. as the light. into the mid- summer warmth lids of that pleasant room. falling . especially at one solitary bluebell that hung down over the brim of the white bowl and had gathered a tinge of faint rose-carmine upon its hyacinthine bloom. "It's I wonderful to be able to talk freely to anyone as . He just allowed them to evaporate.

she frowned a little. so much older. campion-stalks. in the wind. now in his movement toward his purpose strugmind with that mysterious restraint. of the rassment. so girl's obscure embar- "Did you pick those flowers yesterday?" he broke out suddenly. and he was secretly surprised at the loudness of his own voice. and the rough earth-mould freedom of the ous." seemed to melt into that wild-flower bunch she had picked and placed there. just as is so much more lovely. Never had he been more aware of the miracle of flower-petals. without "The day before. as they would have done where she had actually picked them among the wood-rubble and the . of the absolute wonder of it this filmy vege- table fabric. as she fixed her steady gaze full upon him.364 that WOLF SOLENT way light and shadow wavering together upon that purple-blue at the bowl's edge. and closing her mouth. "I sent Darnley away. became the lucky solitude she had made for him! "Will she to risk let first me make love to her?" The longing the gled tenuous and yet so strong. His own eyes plunged once more into the green- shadowed depths of that midsummer nosegay. Its pale primroses seemed to sway. and the pallor of the primroses. the peril- arrowy faintness of their smell. then. over their crumpled leaves. which. in the history of our planet than the flesh of beasts or the feathers of birds or the scales of fishes! The girl's words." she murmured. became his desire for her. with the droop of her underlip. took on an almost vacant look. with their wood-sturdy pink buds.

where a wooden moss-covered dam prevents any spring-flood. untouched and virginal in the air about them. he deliberately steered the both those reefs. His feeling was like a brimming stream between reedy banks. bends the long. where the water. But. were the very secret of that "next moment. Two street. These also. with the cool greenery of the sturdy campions. tense face as images troubled him just a little Gerda's white. making its way round obstacle. his Wolf knew well enough the peculiar own nature. What was an excitement that trembled on the margin on the fluctuating fine edge between amorous desire as felt for the slim frame of this mysterious girl and the thrill- ing attraction of unexplored regions in her soul.CHRISTIE 365 stalks. skiff of his thought away from Suddenly he found himself risen from his seat and standing against the mantelpiece! He lifted the flowers . These also belonged to the embarrassment of that figure beside him. with the mocking sun-motes. submerged as it grasses before sweeps forward." which floated now. fungus-growths of their birthplace. it had looked when she left him on the and. but the edge of the it. in his intensely heightened consciousness of this "suspended" moment. seemed to carry his mind straight into the hazeldarkened spaces where she had found them. The moist bluebellso full of liquid greenness beneath their heavy blooms. with this. a vague uncomfortable memory of the figure on the Waterloo steps. He knew well enough is limitations of that surge of what called "passion" any great was as impossible to him he was any real remorse about making love.

she bent her neck so far round that it was that she slipped in her her cheek and not her lips he kissed. "You're not annoyed with me. The look she gave him now. he allowed caressingly I'm not right!" his hand to slide down her side. is "The bluebell-scent the murmured. WOLF SOLENT and then. and soon after away from him and sank down exhausted former seat. "What do you take . But when way he kissed her. and the his head that by making this gesture he was in soul of the girl occult way invading the very who had arranged them there. and a delicious predatory thrill was shivering through his nerves. like the water of a fantastic idea into sun-warmed pool. "You smell them." he if confusion he had made in her nosegay. drawing her slender body. There was a flicker of anger in her eyes at this. He came noticed that the water felt warm to his touch. putting down the bowl. was completely scrutable to him. with a scarcely perceptible pressure." she answered. At any rate.366 to his face. he now became aware that she was standing beside him. Christie?" he panted. His heart was beating fast now. swift touches was correcting the rough one that dominates. "Of course not. confused as they stared at each in- and out of breath. and with deft. against his own. the least attempt to extricate herself from his She permitted him to bend her slim body this and that way in his wanton excitement. he inserted it. Christie some may or may not have read his thoughts. Christie made not caresses. other. pressing them down between the stalks his fingers in into the water. and see As she leaned forward.

then?" he muttered. pealed. She not? lifted up her head from her work. approachher chair and standing over her. I never have been. disarmed and enchanted him. I don't know how they do it. He stooped down to her and stroked with the tips of his fingers the white blue-veined skin under her lace wristbands.CHRISTIE 367 me for? I'm not as mean as that. Girls arc supposed to carry off moments like this. "You make me we'd lost feel funny. Christie. "As if each other in a wood. ." at this She held her head very high defiant. and the complicated wistfulness of her expression." she re- "Well. ing "I'm not one least bit annoyed with you. . but as he looked at her now." His irritation increased as he found it impossible to follow her thought." he remarked." well. I'm not a puritanical fool. and her eyes grew "I know I'm no good at these things. "Well? Why We haven't known each other very long. Wolf. then ." Her words released his pent-up irritation. The faint flush that had now appeared in her cheeks. there was a certain virginal detachment about her thin ankles and about those lace-ruffled hands which irritated ness." he said. I seem to be completely lacking in that sort of tact. and provoked him by puzzle its inhuman remote- "You me completely. . returning rather awkwardly to his former seat and surveying her with a humorous frown.

through which the the summer wind gusts. By slow degrees. What were they doing. "What's the use of talking like this. and with this harmony there came in upon him from all that the green West Country landscape stretching away toward the Severn on one side and toward the Channel on the other. and the of her thin and the waving of the light curtains were the only movements in that flower-scented air. fading cuckoo-flowers by the banks of the Lunt.368 WOLF SOLENT sarcastically. It's are men so stupid?" she cried. room in little. "When I said real meant pretending something me. . eddying stir up her sewing. really angry Her brown eyes looked now. letting themselves be divided by such straws. wet and glittering. such puffballs of difference? From from brittle mother-of-pearl shells. so exquisitely adapted to understand each other. "Tact?" he re-echoed is the last "Good Lord! Tact thing I want from you. as he surreptitiously watched her." She spoke gravely now. and Wolf stared at the half-open window. Wolf? It's growing only too clear that we don't understand each other. who were. but with evident vexation. I self." His only retort to this was once more to murmur the word "tact" with a grim iteration." that wasn't my because I've been absolutely natural with you that you've got angry with They were both was blowing Christie took fingers into silent after this. he and this girl. harmony of his mind began to come back. inarticulate reproach. as he well divined. "Why that. a sort of dumb.

love the romance of being in love. for- "Forgive me. . between those waving curtains. which was all my fault. Wolf. "I'm not prudish or unfeeling in things like that." Christie began to smile. . better than anyone I've ever met. from the orange-speckled bellies of great newts in Lenty Pond. looking down at her lifted face. Times like this at best would be He could see himit self returning to his tea-party and letting all go! He could see Christie pouring out tea for her father and such was his pride and such letting it all go! Perhaps was hers this June afternoon." she said slowly. her hands folded in her lap. which might have been. Brief was his life .' I meant because we misunderstood each other. . Wolf.CHRISTIE 369 on the Weymouth sands." he said gravely. "No. its leaves drooping. "I didn't mean because of 'that." The girl looked up from her work. and I like you. made clear to him what her words implied. and I like it's only that you to make love to me. He got up from his chair and stood in front of her. It's only . "You don't mean. its sap all running out." she said. where he had caressed her. . "But I've a queer nature. as perfect as a green bough." he said. I . a speechless protest. there came to him. life. but for this trivial discord. "because of that?" of the head in the direction of the mantelfirst Her nod piece. brief was Christie Malakite's rare. "Please give me and don't think any more about it. . Christie. . would stand out in his memory peeled and jagged. with the life I've had and the mother I had I seem to .

looking across the entanglement of slate roofs to the it?" he remarked. what "Where does that lane go?" he asked. And I chance that you every secret thought I have in by God. stopping once more in front of her. "What a view you've got here!" he said. "So there we are! It appears that we're a fair pair! And if you want I feel to know what I feel at this moment. as there clutching her hand. "That's the corner of Babylon Hill. "North-northeast. "To the left of Poll's Camp. He threw his cigarette into the fire and walked to the window. when he thought of them afterwards. and these words.370 WOLF SOLENT girl's feelings in these things. brought back every he stood stiffly flicker of his feelings. green incline beyond." he said after a pause. You are a witch. but he pulled it down as far as it would go. Christie. and leaned out of it." girl questioned." she said. and presently he felt her fingers slip into his own." tell so. Christie. I will! It's an incredible should have found you. "Do you see I mean? That narrow little one below those Scotch "Over there?" the firs. isn't it?" The window was already open at the top. "The wind's northeast. and I don't wonder your mother maintained she was descended from Merlin. isn't She got up and came over to him and stood beside him. I feel I could the world. do you mean?" . "I'm queer myself." have none of an ordinary Wolf began pacing up and down the room. I'll tell you. deliciously happy.

did you say?" His voice sounded own ears. He even felt as if their irrelevant even to his felt as if ." She was that a second or two. and he realized crowded mass of personal memories was flowing lovely afternoons I've had. . "And it leads to a whole maze of lanes further on. 371 . "sit- through her mind. there . . remained silent. just there ." she answered. You hardly ever meet anyone there. I can smell the peculiar bitter smell now of the elder-leaves behind me. in the I Summer days when Father take my Gwent Lanes silent for a all day. with my parasol over my book. He. lunch and a book and stay I often never meet a soul." she went on. too. gence in egoistic recollections. "Some ting with parsley. I'm fond of going to the It's as Gwent Lanes. Sometimes on doesn't want me.CHRISTIE "Yes . this deliberate indul- "North-northeast." She drew her fingers away from him and made of her two hands a support for her chin upon the woodwork of the open window. and he was astonished to note how natural it seemed to both of them. . always sit inside the field. secret and solitary and personal. thinking of similar memories of his own. Wolf thought this chin of hers was the smallest he had ever seen. . where that clump of bushes is!" "That's Gwent Lane. if they had been designed to keep traffic away and strangers away. . In some queer way he he had been sharing these furtive physical memories with the girl at his side. I my back to a gate and looking at the hedge- When the corn's-yellow and the poppies are out.

no one!" life is And then he thought: "I believe if my going to open out now.. some god were unjustly favouring me . and I sitting there in the middle. my 'mythology. quite beyond my deserts. "You haven't been as happy in your mind as been in "but as if I've my I often feel as invisible mind.." he said with a kind of wistfulness. like a paperdoll reflected in hundreds of mirrors." she said. if I were unfairly privileged . "Do you ever feel. "I wouldn't put it like that. "as if one part of your soul belonged to a world altogether different from this world as if it were completely disillusioned about all the things that people make such a fuss over and yet were involved in something thai was very important?" She looked straight into his face. that made up " the "She would understand himself. echoing and echoing.' he said to "No one but had some she would. and once more sat down." he said. ." "I don't think you're as favoured as you fancy you . "But I've always known what it was to accept an enormous emptiness round me. he could share with this elfin creature a thousand feelings that no other person could possibly understand share with her all those profoundly physi- cal sensations real undercurrent of his and yet mystical.372 WOLF SOLENT subtle having shared them had been a kind of love-making more and He felt as if delicate than any erotic dalliance. as I really invisible tutelary Power directing me!" They turned away simultaneously from the window. ." Wolf screwed up his eyes and bit his under-lip. too whole life.

father wouldn't have been a man to at allow such scruples as these to impinge upon his mind such a juncture.' in fact . Sometimes ." know what you mean. "that Mattie wasn't Albert Smith's child?" "I soon saw the likeness to you. . warm "Oh. with a concentrated effort of his will. I hope Gerda is all right!" he thought. in Chris. as she looked at him." and her said the young girl hur- grew luminous riedly. from something deeper than pas- Wolf. an unutterable sense of happiness. "the first day Father brought you to see me. I'm sceptical about the reality of every- thing. if And then. with that indescribable excitement of mental sympathy eyes. one inside the other like Chi- nese boxes. I think that there are several 'Natures' verses. 373 But Wolf went on: "Do you know. enveloping under-tide in which great crimson seaweeds were swaying. Perhaps one her about like a my 'mythology'!" And there day I'll tell came over him. "I ." he said suddenly. with the ghost of a smile. as he received this intimation. that can bring tears sion. I think I'm especially favoured my scepticism. . said to himself: "I can think aloud with her. . with a humorous force." said Christie.CHRISTIE are. . . . anyway." . several 'Uni. as he were addressing a host of servile genii: "I command Gerda shall be all right!" It that occurred to him that his at that moment. . even about the reality of Nature." Christie replied evasively. . "Had you any idea.

" she said. opening the it door for him and holding both handles of hands. except for his mother. rather wearily. . with her will "Gerda two mothers leave be so thankful to have got through it." retorted Wolf grimly." stairs. and his mind took a London." "I should be afraid of Miss Gault's sending her Australia!" he said with a chuckle. Wolf dear. "Well. that when your she'll be radiant again. She kept the door open till he was half-way downand they nodded rather dolorously at each other across the banisters." "Don't make too much of it. I must be off. when these thoughts had finished their circle and had sunk down in the manner of birds on a bough. anycan't be said to me made way. and then off to felt curi- ously relieved to find that the grossness of this rather clumsy jest did not shock his companion. "but her resem- blance to anyone ever improve her looks. Has do you think?" love to her. "Well. and a pang passed through him." he went on. there was no one to whom he could have long flight to his years in talked as he had done this afternoon. to make up in case they haven't. so as to avoid any definite farewell. "I don't want many repetitions of this particular tea-party. "Nothing shocks her. you must be nice to her." "I hope she won't be too radiant before they leave." he said to himself. where. Christie laughed." he said. He heard the door shut as he en- tered the shop below. "I've got an uncomfortable home-coming before me. what with one thing and another.374 WOLF SOLENT "I like Mattie so much.

"and the love of girls is the only escape from its miseries." "It's not so short as all that." retorted the son.CHRISTIE 375 en- As he walked rapidly home. The skeleton under those obstinate plantains kept is grinning mockingly in reply to every argument. "and in every Paradise there is a snake!" . "Life short." said the skeleton. he found himself gaged in an imaginary dialogue with his father.

To his great surprise he discovered her standing by their kitchen-stove. to his amazement. my dear?" And Wolf beheld. "What do you think. and Gerda responding to this with a linger- ing. and there she was. such as he himself was wont to receive when the girl was in her most docile mood. pretty as a picture in her white shift. She was flushed if and happy laughing and jesting as they had parted the very best of friends. his mother putting one of her strong arms caressingly about Gerda's waist." went on ran straight up. helping to make the toast. Wolf? Do you know. "and . of his going off to see Miss Malakite when I've got of. "How's Christie?" she asked casually.THE TEA-PARTY E FOUND ON HIS ARRIVAL THAT HIS MOTHER HAD AL- ready appeared. she was upstairs. Solent. Mrs. and all the bed covered with frocks! She says she's had this one woman." company? I'm of his sure that's not what you'd approve "I don't approve saying nothing about that pretty frock you've got on! What do you think of it. crying her lovely eyes out? And all because she thought she hadn't a proper dress to welcome her grand motherin-law in! We soon settled that little job. He was still more surprised at the way Gerda received him. didn't we. "I heard her crying the elder up I there in her room. when I got here. provocative glance. with Gerda's apron over her dress.

but it suits her perfectly. "upon one leg. "She's told a good lady's-maid. Torp was as a book in which one could "read strange matters. doesn't Wolf?" Wolf surveyed the girl gravely. Never had she looked so enchanting. Wolf. creamy-white and covered with pale little roses. Gerda's apron removed. with the teapot in ." It became Wolf's destiny to stand for the next quarter of an hour. most approved manner. hovering about her round a purple orchid." continued Mrs. "You're certainly said solemnly. at Mother!" she cried length. one elegant "There's kettle. on that very parlour-table round which he had tea-tray at last. straight muslin dress. where's that loaf? I'll cut the bread-andbutter. "Fetch the Wolf!" The countenance of Mrs." while he watched what seemed to resemble the most piquant of flirtations going on between these two." as she contemplated the scene before her. in the The was "laid" pursued the girl in such troubled agitation so short a time before. She wore a long. Solent. "Now then. Mother. and Mrs. Solent. 377 was sixteen.THE TEA-PARTY since she it." he me you're expecting another mother this afternoon. with short sleeves. figuratively speaking. showed herself in the most fashionable of all her gardenparly gowns. frill like a slim white butterfly and then another. Gerda seemed unable to keep her eyes off and kept touching with the tips of her fingers first her. releasing Gerda and proceeding to arrange the slices of toast upon a plate.

378 JPOLF SOLENT kettle in the other. as aleet as lent's " Tis a very good some folks can afford. Mrs. She swallowed the sweet mixture in hurried gulps. vociferated a bois- one hand and the terous welcome. ma'am . Solent hadn't the heart to explain. Mr. plumb-down at the table. Gerdie. "I don't expect our Blacksod milk as good as yours This society-tone was so obviously put on to impress the young lady's mother. "How much at milk. murmured the visitor. Soold man that be our Gerdie's Dad. drowning the politer words of his mother. though in these which-way times 'tis hard cheeks. that she couldn't bear sugar. Solent briskly." away the taste by rapid mouthfuls of bread-and-butter. and favour'n about the body could reason there was some blood twixt ye. "How lent? My be thee's schoolmasterin' getting along. having removed Mrs. watching with some anxiety the unusual amount of sugar that Gerda was placing at the bottom of all the teacups. Solent?" enquired the girl is lightly." A "Well. straightening with a faaffectionate miliarly jerk the ribboned bonnet which adorned her head. "Don't 'ee fidget wi' me old hat. as they say all mothers do. Torp. till the time for her second cup. though maybe 'lain't So thee be Mr. So'a mummy. be 'ee? Well." hat. sat her Gerda. and Wolf chuckled to see her trying to take King's Barton. Torp's tasselled cloak. 'sknow! to speak for sure. that Mrs." threw out Mrs. we must do our best not to quarrel. Mrs.

" ." do calculate. to Parson Valley's. when 'ee were arter they. seems so. Bob Weevil." said. Solent wanted any cake. the last buryin' 'ee had. "but "Sons are troublesome beings. He be what the owl's pellet be doing!" Gerda hurriedly enquired in a ringing voice whether Mrs. "Pimpernel hadn't any fresh kinds except this. the say? Thee may well ask what Lob be do- young pert-mouthed limb! Dad's hoar hairs down that's bringing his to bedlam. out there again. what with one thing and t'other. Solent visitor expect you are so used to " in her fellow But the seemed more interested parent's conversation than in anything else just then. from what 'ee But they were more impident. do ing. them Grammar boys. whether human or otherwise. and mine wi 'em. Not that they were proper human-like bones . "What's Lobbie been doing lately.THE TEA-PARTY 379 do always say them Grammar boys be above theyselves. His Dad told 'en he'd lift the skin from's backside if he did it. for 'ee do always bury them religiousdeep. They were bosses' bones. but he was see'd. Mrs. "What has Lobbie been doing?" enquired Wolf. if 'ee understand . only last night. "He's been going over with that imp of Satan. He cotchit two on 'em.. Mother?" enquired the subject of Gerda.. Mrs. than if they'd been the bones of King Balaam. I London confectionery. less of heed- Gerda's frowns. Torp. 'ee "Lob... was inappropriate conscious that at that moment. feeling vaguely bones. stealing of they bones." she it's nice to have them.

it! drop to I think it was Mr. ain't got as Mrs. speaking in her most high-pitched voice. though I do say it! 'Tis pagan worse nor Paul on Corinthians. what's going on out at King's Barton." so much standing his own self wi' decent folk for him to be top-lofty. same as Lot's wife were salted for. ma'am. man. "Innocent thee deviltries. "Innocent!" cried Gerda's mother indignantly. "How do ter for the know what they call name. Solent. visiting a clergy- "It sounds very innocent. Wold Dimity." put in Gerda diplomatically. "but for heaven's sake let's it the subject's a teasing one. know what be!" "I expect Mrs. about King's Barton ways. Torp." remarked the lady. up I 'en? 'Tis small matto Otters'.380 WOLF SOLENT Torp. told I that one girt gummuk of a lad dressed 'isself up as Virgin I'd like to Mary." said Mrs." "Miracle-plays. glad for I be my part that I lives in a God-fearing daily- bread town like Blacksod. Urqu- hart who mentioned me. Mother. I tell *ee. and it if I remember right he took rather the same view of "Squire Urquhart the other. you know more'n we. but maybe. own they do play blasphemous play-actings out there. what drove poor young Redfern into's grave. Wolf." "By the way. "I did hear something about a miracle-play. "I met your friend Jason . Mrs." remarked "They do tell down our way 'twas that man's wicked tempers and sech-like. is it?" asked Wolf. If that hain't a blasphemous cantrip. as darter says. self." said if the visitor lightly. Solent knows better than any of us.

and the evening was so lovely quite charming." tell "Well. for she stretched out her arms and caught her by the waist and pulled her down upon her knee. Jason. gravely and politely. Solent." "I hope you enjoyed your walk. down where I do " live. This gesture was evidently adored by Mrs. It's not so much the drink they talk of. . "Do look.. 381 in Lenty Lane. you know? . Otter were sober as a jackdaw when 'a ma'am. He seems to have got into his head that the poor tried at first to disabuse agitated that I just let man spies upon him. for he is. Mother. but he got so him go on. Solent tied my sash!" The girl got up from her chair and turned herself round. along of he. I him of that idea. Roger Monk. I'd a-seen he. after the rain that I really enjoyed it all very much. voice when he recites. by one of those little field- day We paths. please!" interrupted Gerda.. I'm not saying he isn't a nicespoken gentleman. "I can't imagine you two together. In the end he became He recited to me a poem about a woodwhich I thought very pretty." said Gerda. He talked most of the time about my neighbour. Solent. how nicely Mrs." "Mr." said Mrs.. He has such a nice pecker. many a fine evenin'. "I can't quite whether my company pleased him or not. "How somehow did you and Jason get on?" asked Wolf. Mother. and we had quite a walk went as far as the ridge-road to Ramsgard . it's "Oh. "/ do know he.THE TEA-PARTY the other together. a-traipsin' home from Three Peewits.. Torp." "No doubt Mr. frowning at her mother. ma'am?" commented Mrs. walked with 'ee.

you sweet thing! You're soft as swan's-down. "You're light as a feather. jumping up in haste. Mummy. . Solent." Gerda cried nervously." he cried. I won't have it!" she cried. At that moment there was a loud knocking at the door. "But she enough. when she made heron the day us bundled she down church-aisle for christening. Mrs. God-sakes. so large a measure of the heart of a procuress.382 WOLF SOLENT "I shall spoil your lovely dress. little stiff room together. But the boy had turned to his own parent. "And she were light enough " "Hush. "Dad's corned home afore his time." said Mrs." "Shake hands with Mrs. embarrassed at the The young grocer looked a scene before him." said Gerda severely. "Afternoon. Wolf went across the passage and opened into the Bob Weevil and Lobbie hurried their caps in their hands." "She weren't that light. and made a bow to Mrs. and frontit. when she did play carryme-over wi' the lads!" light were All this while. Lob. Torp was bewhen Gerda. But Lobbie was quite unperturbed. Torp. Solent. ma'am. it Wolf was pondering had placed in the in his soul all how was that Nature minds of mothers." he muttered. "and 'a be mumbling about his supper. marm. refined or unrefined. self stiff as pikestaff. round the table and clapped her hand over her moulh. ran ginning again.

Valley and his goings-on. Lobbie?" And she put her hand on the boy's shoulder. Valley keeps us up till midnight. Lobbie? And if Mr. ye impident sprout! I've a-heerd too much of your Mr. I understand just what you feel. Mrs. ." "Mother . Weevil and Gerda. and I'll see that this young man comes to no harm. . what lived upon honey and the honeycomb!" "Ye'll live upon cabbage and the cabbage-stalk. . And I be John the Baptist. Torp. "Don't you worry. ye staring toad?" "Promission. Solent interrupted them." he said eagerly. and the incident appeared closed." Lob looked a little nervous at this prospect. won't we. Won't all I. I'll look after him. but he expressed his thanks politely. I satisfied. and all the gentry be coming. you shall sleep at Lenty Cottage. I'm going to that entertainment myself. ma'am. But Mrs. We'll keep each other in sight. Valley said I 383 right was to ask you proper and for promission. Mother!" protested the unabashed Lob. of course. "for thik girt play next Thursday. These clerical junketings are sometimes incredibly silly." grumbled the monumentif maker's wife. reckon I must be you answer for him. "Well. "promission for " "For what. The day arter tomorrow 'tis. Meanwhile Wolf overheard the following conversation going on between Mr. But you can trust me.THE TEA-PARTY "Mr. "Oh." the boy went on.

I quite look forward to it. Gerdie! But it do make anyone feel sort of queer to see the things you like this. Mrs. . You know? It's all brings up. Solent think ferry. flirting across the footlights!" "How did you get over today. Or if I can't. you and I. I'll get someone who can. Gerdie. years ago!" "Yes. Solent?" enquired Gerda. Weevil's memories with a fura movement that came tive little movement of her hand as rather a surprise to Wolf." "And to think of that! And to down those slippery steps at the how we climbed and how fright- ened you were of the green seaweed getting on you. Bob Weevil. "Oh. my . Mrs. Roger Monk drove me." repeated the lady in purple. Valley in order." "You got no more memory than a pig. "Well. . mother. don't you worry any more about it. what a person's clean forgotten. Fancy your remembering! Mrs. if that isn't the very frock you wore. the very same dress!" "Do you think I'm too old to wear it now. Lob shan't make a fool of himself. Gerdie." "Depends who and what and when." . We'll have a fine bit of sport together. when we went to Weymouth. and you couldn't abide the gun-firing out Portland-way." was the grocer's it retort. that grand excursion-day. Torp. Bob. as he noted it in passing. or disgrace either John the Baptist or you.384 WOLF SOLENT "Why. "I promise to keep Mr. Lobbie. and how we saw sea-anemones in the pools by Sandsfoot Castle. cutting short Mr. it is. made me put it on. Think of that. exclaimed Wolf's "And that reminds me what's the time. Bob?" "Ask me another.

"What's going to happen when the History's done. off. 385 Good Lord! I've kept the man waiting at the al- ready! I must go at once. Torp will let him stay?" Mother and son walked leisurely down the clattering Street. my dabchick?" woman Does ! she worry "Worry me. "Good-bye. Something about the determination of his mother's profile. Mother? Not one see her. don't if you keep him for supper. ! "But oh." admitted Wolf. glad to get a enough I know you'll excuse me." "No. your Gerda!" exclaimed the lady. Gerda? And Lobbie. after prolonged silence. High "She's certainly beautiful." There was another long pause between them. thank the Lord!" " "Wolf. Mrs. dear What an awful you much. Mother. "She is. dear may it "Well. . Mother! He's got really inat last. Mother. little bit! I very rarely you know." "I didn't know that she and this Weevil boy were such inflexible old friends. "It Wolf?" terested in never be done. I'm to meet him Three Peewits." "I'll walk down with you. Torp. Don't hurry chance of escape.THE TEA-PARTY son? . especially of her . Bob." Wolf swung his stick. . Why too." said Wolf. Mrs. Mother?" "I wouldn't let Gerda have a child for quite a long while yet.

he saw her safely mounted tall Mr. at that ing of rebellion in him. even with his eyes shaded by his hand. WOLF SOLENT moment. Instead of going straight home. Urquhart's dog-cart. Solent. in the slanting rays of the sinking sun." His voice had become high-pitched. "Don't talk too loud.386. Babylon He did not turn. roused an obscure feel- clear-cut chin. furtive little movement of the hand." "Even when they love a person?" he enquired. he reached that corner of the ascent which he had noted from Christie's window." "Why "Oh. "Don't take I it too seriously. only men never can be made know from old experience that to realize how susceptible women are except where they themselves are concerned. and he could do. silent." she said lightly. returned to him most teasingly. full of old familiarities. to identify the portion of the town where the book- was all . That curious." murmured his mother. He was in and the conversation between them till took a less personal tone. he walked meditatively at and slowly past the Malakite book-shop. Could he distinguish her house among the rest? He was not sure. I did you say that?" he asked. till. "Why Gerda the devil not?" he cried. treats him exactly as she treats her brother. The rays of the great June sun were almost horizontal. "We're not in Lenty Lane. don't know. "Bob's a mere kid. beside the man-servant. as it it sank down towards Glastonbury. "What is love?" said Mrs. and then a more rapid pace followed the road that led up Hill.

387 it to seeing Christie's window. whereas this strange new understanding with Christie sank so deep into his being that seemed like it invaded regions of which he himself had hardly been aware. The spirit of the evening fell upon him with a burden that was mysteriously sad sad with a multitude of gathering omens and indistinct threats. As sible. he felt he had more on his mind than he could disentangle. His life had become so agitated since his arrival at Ramsgard. With all the evening noises around him some of them faint as the sighing of in- visible reeds he became once more conscious that be- tween the iron-ribbed gaiety of his mother and the fixed grin of that paternal skull in the churchyard there was . noises. with his back and the pungent smell of herb-Robert in his nostrils. and finally reached the stile into the field-path that led to the turfy ramparts of Poll's Camp. he advanced obstinately still further up the road. tall.THE TEA-PARTY shop was. He soon found against that stile out. was impos- Annoyed by this refusal of Nature to humour his mood. to contend for that all that poetry of his first encounter with The extraordinary thing was Gerda something that had happened to some external portion of his nature. how far this new feeling had gone. as he sat there. that now. There he sat down among the uncut grasses of the wayside. and allowed the double stream of memories those connected with Poll's Camp and those connected with that invisible window below him the mastery in his thoughts. at this moment.

and he began to realize. but the skull answered him with nothing but cynical mockery." he thought to himself. "Only one life. He found himself turning restlessly towards his mother. murmurs soli- an immense tude descended upon him. as if this were not the real sun. and as he sat.388 WOLF SOLENT issues of an ambiguous struggle going on. and stared at the red orb before him. and I am proposing deI liberately to sacrifice in it the one thing that really want!" He hugged his knees with tightly clasped fingers. the mained dubious as life itself." he thought. . "If I do give up Christie for Gerda. which re- He found skull himself crying out to that irresponsible under the plantains. as he had never realized before. On and on he sat. For the first time in his mortal days this great diurnal spectacle seemed to his mind half-f antastic . sinking now over Christie's very roof. between two eternities of non-existence . And with this feeling there came over him a deep. the sun he had known all his life. and the evening gathering in his ears. "Only one life. . disa craving so intense that turbing craving for Christie the vision of all the length of all the days of his life without her seemed more than he could bear. with that sinking sun growing red- der and redder before him. that was descending. but he felt that just at the point where he needed her sympathy most the very basic rock of her nature flung him contemp- tuously back. "it will simply mean . how profoundly alone upon this planet each individual soul really is. nor the earth he had known all his life that was thus hiding it from his eyes.

he began to imagine would be like if he did make some wild. desperate move. . her complete de- pendence on him. imposThe existence of his mother. it was unthinkable. . . other. has been deliberately thrown his away. . bowing its head lower. all . there came upon him all his old childish clinging to that woman whose heart the licentiousness of his father had been unable to quell. for instance. one richly and flexibly covered and meagrely covered! Two of them sparsely with flesh.. but compared with his mother he was like an oak-sapling growing in the cleft of a rock.. ." he thought. . the Christie? What top of that stalk! Gerda? are they? Two skeletons covered . . "it matters no more whether beetle I leave Gerda for Christie than whether that reaches . Old Malakite would mother on somehow or His would ." He bowed head over his knees and watched the climbing of a tiny beetle up a bending stalk of grass.THE TEA-PARTY that the one unique experience destined for 389 me out of all others by the eternal gods. "To the universe. . still just two of them!" And then. The woman . Mr. so that the beetle and grass-stalk al- most what filled it up his whole vision. . is . tied his hands fast and tight! And then. Urquhart could hardly be exsible! pected to support her. He knew his own nature to be tough enough. . Well! What would his mother do? She had scarcely anything in the bank. with an overpowering surrender. No. hidden from all the world? Gerda would return get to her parents' house. if he were to carry Christie to London and get some job to support them both there. What would happen. one that his .

. Christie's. . . He had married her because he had mistaken a mixture of lust and ro- mance and if he hadn't found Christie. . Rocksmooth she was. where he was merely gnarled and knotted and earth-rooted. a vast fiery tunnel. Abruptly he lifted up his head. But as things were.390 WOLF SOLENT was adamant. No! He couldn't for love. and begin a patient descent. oh. It resembled. The sun was so low now that he could look straight into its great red circle suspended above the roofs of the town. directed full against him. BO they come good. fickle mad- Why her. tendermight. where he was merely obstinate. "Damn!" he muttered beetle turn to himself. There was no other issue. dear! How . All would have It was Christie's appearance that had changed everything and there it was Christie and he were bound . would have superseded romance. as he looked at it. come If his soul ill. as he watched the stalk's back resignedly within an inch of the It's point. how could he do it after three lovely and without cause or reason save his own ness? happy months. "Damn! weakness and habit!" just pure But. the mouth of some colossal piece of artillery. to the ness been well. could he desert Gerda . ! together now. were always being seduced! That was no get out of it. never have discovered his mistake! Affection would have superseded lust. he end of his days.. his life must remain! was must go on being his mother's and Gerda's. had he married her at all? That was the whole blunder! He had married girls her because he had seduced But reason.

so to say. and as he fronted it." he thought. and Wolf picked stick. "I must get home to Gerda. and the phantasm vanbrought ished. to him that a dusky figure took shape within a figure resembling Jason Oiler's abominable idol. the red up his hat and globe sank out of sight. with a visible sliding descent. "It must be long after eight." . There was something so atrocious in the idea of this at all it dusky demon being there leaped to his feel in being. His movement the blood from his head. the great orb's final expression as went down that he indignant protest. it seemed it. Slowly and inevitably.THE TEA-PARTY With sere wed-up blood-red 391 eyelids he returned the stare of this cannon-mouth.

He had exhausted a great deal of energy in less har- an attempt to entangle his mother in a more or monious conversation with Selena Gault. in converse with old Dimity Stone. A solitary wood-pigeon kept repeating its diapason of languid rapture from somewhere high up in the neighbouring trees. beto manifest themselves. cracked a upon a broken piece of brick. The trend of these developments began for the first time to grow clear to Wolf himself on the occasion of a small garden-party given by Mrs. on Mrs. He came upon him in the back-garden. quite close to where they snail sat. He shuffled by his side into a narrow passage between two cucumber-frames. all manner of strange life. unruffled by their presence. kitchen at his approach. and it was with a queer feeling of triumph that he left these old antagonists drinking tea side by side. who fled precipitately into her Wolf was rium as if as careful not to disturb the poet's equilib- he had been a leopard cajoling a nervous eland. Otter in her little front-garden. a thrush. long prepared for under the surface. In the gravel-path. to cross the grass so that he might speak to Jason.THE SLOW-WORM OF LENTY 1 HE NEXT TWO MONTHS BROUGHT NO OUTWARD CHANGE Wolf and the various people of his but when August arrived. Otter's lawn. and as Wolf made . in the existence of gan developments. where they both sat down. in their low chairs.

And once more in his delicately modulated poet began intoning: voice the ." "Do go on. When it's misty you can "It's easily imagine an elf or a nymph floating on its sur- face." "I'd love to hear it. "I go there sometimes in the evening. It'll seem funny to you. "It begins like this.THE SLOW -WORM OF LENTY 393 one desultory remark after another. And none curseth God but the Slow-Worm alone. head where the Lenty willow tears o'er the rain-elf's pillow." said Jason Otter. head from the heavy sod. to set his companion at ease. "but you probably won't like the way it ends. "Not quite. and it is rather funny." said Wolf. the drooping head by Wolf's side swayed slowly to the rhythm stanza : of the following The Slow." And in a voice almost as modu- lated as the wood-pigeon's own. Weeps green For the rain-elf's lover is fled and gone. composed a poem last night." replied the other." said Wolf. he found himself complacently squeezing with the tips of his fingers certain sticky little bubbles of tar that the heat of the afternoon sun drew forth from the warm wooden "I planks of the frame. too remote from your way of thinking. about the pond. if no one comes round the corner. I'll repeat it to you. since you're the only person "And who takes the least interest in what I do. but Lenty Pond is a funny place." "Is that all?" enquired Wolf.Worm He He lifts lifts his his of Lenty curses God." said Jason gravely.

It seemed that even this indication of normal feeling was distasteful to him. hidden all Space beyond. and the voice went on: But never again can God look down As He did of old upon country and town! In His huge heart. is it?" said Wolf. as if a glassy film separating the outward world from an inward abyss of desolation had suddenly melted away." remarked Jason Otter. for . They flash their tails to a mocking cry "Slow. "Do you want to hear the end?" said Jason Otter.Worm. Little care they for elf or willow. that her lover has fled away. slightly towards The man's head turned him. the purple loosestrife and watercress Whisper above her sorrowfulness. Wolf nodded. "Is there any more?" he asked.394 WOLF SOLENT For the newts and the tadpoles at their play Laugh Laugh at the rain-elf's tear -wet pillow.Worm of Lenty. Who pitied the elf on her tear-wet pillow. Her pillow woven of pond-weeds green Where And the willow's twigs made a leafy screen. the tapping of the thrush's beak and the indescribable contentment of the woodpigeon. The curse of the Slow." me a month "A person can't do more than he can. There bides the curse of Lenty Pond. and the sat. Once more the voice paused and Wolf listened to those two persistent summer sounds. by Lenty willow. "I like this style of writing better than what you used to read to ago. one grey eye which was visible from where Wolf passed through some extraordinary change. while the flickering ghost of a smile came and went at the corners of his mouth. prophesy!" "That's not the end.

"The other of Mukalog. stiff. His lips seemed to be mutterpocket." three next week. and shoved it demon on unceremoniously into his side-pocket. or to Dimity Stone. damn!" he thought again. Otter. Whether this referred to the thrush that had just then tell." he began. This movement of his arm made Wolf aware of the scent of incense. between the cucumber-frames and rubbing the back of his trousers with his hand. flown away. "while I think of it. "I can give off. "I don't care what happens. "if you'll let me come in with you now and rising to his put the thing in my pocket. as long as I dispose "Come on were they then." he thought." Wolf could not five you two pounds of that pounds straight he said. formal movement of his hand towards this when Wolf had thrown his arm roughly off." said Wolf. an expression of something like relief rippled down over his agitated countenance." "And feet the other three?" cried the man. and no sooner in the poet's room than Wolf boldly snatched the jade pedestal. "I must get that idol away from him. Jason made a queer. and Wolf fancied that they were explaining to the ." "By the way.THE SLOW-WORM OF LENTY 395 he hurriedly raised his hand in order to conceal it. "The chap's clothes must be saturated with the stuff. quick. "She'll be out again presently. "Oh. don't forget what you promised on the fair-ground!" Jason turned his head away." he remarked. before into They hurried at the little anyone sees!" the house together. thinking to himself. but ing.

From the hoof-marks where the cattle pass. And the Lenty Slow-Worm curses God For the sake of the rain-elf's pitifulness. No sooner were they safe back at the cucumber-frame than Wolf resumed his request for the end of the SlowWorm. He lifts his head from the quaker-grass. and grey. Cries. He lifts his head from the watercress. Hurriedly Wolf put the table. orange. come back to the laughing rain-elf. "Thank the Lord you managed to comfort that poor girl!" . worse than Mukalog. so Wolf imagined. He placed them side by side. glancing. the astonish- ing man obeyed him with docility. down two golden from placing them upon the empty jade pedestal. But her lover. "The Slow. close to an edition of the works of Vaughan the Silurist. "Lenty Pond has a prophet indeed!" rain-elf weeps no more to her pillow Woven of twigs of the weeping-willow. with lamentable anxiety at the empty pedestal. He lifts his head from the heavy sod. And under the loosestrife he curses God! And the newts and the tadpoles who where she lay Mocked her from bellies white. Cry now to willow and water and weed. like a child reciting a hymn. as if at any moment seven other devils.Worm of Lenty is God Himself!" For the "Bravo!" cried Wolf." murmured the other. not here. might take possession of it. "let's hear the end of that Slow- Worm poem!" "Not here. refrained He "And now.396 WOLF SOLENT its object in the stranger's pocket that devotee had only sovereigns on yielded to sheer force. Leaning back with his hands clasped meekly in front of him." he cried.

"It's only manure." "I hope you found my mother in her best mood. lady. rising with a flushed face. happily-timed inter- ruption. Miss Gault frowned a graciously. colouring a little." said Selena Gault." . boy. how well you and I I. ha?" was the Squire's greeting. came shuffling amiably towards them. thank you very much. did I. Otter?" at the complicated significance of the look that his employer fixed upon the agitated Jason." said Jason." she said.THE SLOW-WORM OF LENTY "She wasn't a girl. from having to an- objection by a sudden. and before the on together as fellow authors. "I must have trodden on something. Mr. escorting Selena Gault. Urquhart. Wolf was aghast lady could stop him. "Thank you. Mr. Solent. "But it's really Mr. Otter. Urquhart who be thanked by everybody for bringing you down to us at all." the poet hurriedly rapped out to Miss Gault. little and then smiled on him "Thank you ought to for helping us to renew our old acquaint- ance. "Our two young friends in the kitchen-garden. "I've just been telling Miss Gault. wiping one of her shoes with a handful of grass. he was down on his knees on the gravel. "How could she have a lover then?" protected." he said presently. "Your boots have got something nasty on them. 397 "Eh? What's that?" The poet was swer this ejaculated the other." said Wolf. get never got on so well with our poor dear Redfern. Mr. haven't I. however.

"but better to be dead in death than dead in life. whose pendulous . please. it's it's peated sternly. Otter. not me. as brushing in good time tomorrow. The old rogue knows exactly what suits us. "Throw those things away. ha? What?" Miss Gault lifted her eyebrows. "Be Solent." murmured Jason uneasily. isn't Otter." away Miss Gault's indiscretion." said Mr." "Not always. little Otter. "Not always." murmured the Squire. "Thank Redfern. "I'll come with you. When the life's gone that's the end." she re- upper-lip twitched. I've got a Wolf felt it hard to believe the word "Malakite" was something that he had heard many times before quite calmly and casually. Malakite sent it over. "What do they do where break 'em on?" commented him. Then he turned to Wolf." est tone. "It's quite an art. this business of leaving the world conveniently?" But Jason was occupied in picking up the bits of empty snail-shell left by the thrush. there aren't any stones to the Squire as he watched Miss Gault swept them both with her formidable gaze. "For the dead. book for you that's more racy than anything we've found yet. if making a deprecating gesture with his hand." if "I think I'd better go and see my mother wants me. Mr. It teased his mind now that it should even be uttered by this man.398 WOLF SOLENT said the Squire. Urquhart. in his silkiit. and her distorted the end.

But I've got the power of joining so as not to annoy. hesitating. When both women were gone. to re- semble the crumpled rattles of a rattlesnake. with the graciousness of a ducal personage. exin. Solent as far as Lenty Cottage an offer that was promptly accepted. "when a person pects you to do it. Wolf instinctively kept his hand in his side-pocket as they walked. now. "I don't like the way some people egg on that young fool Weevil to boast so grandly of what lecherous things he's done. puts . he led the lady back into the front-garden. on the harmless topic of Emma and the three cats. he little was surprised to hear Jason offering to walk a way with him towards Blacksod. and reddening a little. it's bad for everybody. "It's very difficult not to curse anyone. as he looked at them. and Wolf himself had bidden his hostess goodnight." Jason began. with an obstinate determination that nothing should induce him to return Mukalog to his idolater. offer to drive Mrs. while really I'm thinking just the opposite!" To himself Wolf explained this ambiguous remark by assuming that Mr. When people enIt courage an idiot like that. But the poet began again. Conversing sympathetically with Miss Gault. Urquhart had been secretly propitiating "the drunken individual at Pond Cottage" by disparaging to him his new secretary.THE SLOW -WORM OF LENTY 399 cheek-folds seemed to him. Here he was presently much amused by observing Miss Gault. But the poet's thoughts seemed running in a quite different direction.

Urquhart has been at work encouraging our friend Weevil in some pretty mischief. Ur- quhart was too snobbish to treat a Blacksod tradesman like an equal." "What's like a gadfly?" enquired Wolf. A person is allowed to talk about them. eh?" said Wolf.400 it WOLF SOLENT head to play tricks he'd never dare to think into his out for himself. "but this Squire of yours enjoys his whether it's with a young you. that into your head?" he cried. in an excited voice: "You married people think you know everything. that first tickles them and then stings them. whatever his age was!" "There is only one class." went on the poet. little bit of A "What put look of sheer pain came into Mr." "Ah!" thought Wolf "Now it's coming!" little jest. I've been talking about the general mass of people." "So you think Mr." man or a boy." . Solent. But no man ever knows what these girls are after." said Wolf. Otter's face." said the poet. "What's up now? Now we're beginning to learn something really curious!" And the poet continued. "I never myself talk of lechery to anyone." "Ho! Ho!" thought Wolf. such as in his heart. "that Mr. with an air of benign authority. "where these matters are concerned. this "The lust of your excellent young men. I expect he's a bit afraid of "I should have supposed. worthy Bob Weevil. or anyone / know. and I doubt if they know it themselves! It's like a gadfly. "I've not been talking about anyone you know.

and the idea of Death. "I'm not upbraiding you. and he almost whimpered as he implored Wolf to return his idol. sharded beetle. and take back my It piece of jade!" now was a transformed countenance that the poet turned to his companion. clutched tightly the handle of his thinking within himself: "He's capable of any- thing. like a flying. If you went it straight down on your knees to me wouldn't give up!" Jason Otter pushed his hat back from his forehead and stood for a moment with his eyes tight shut." he said gravely. struck them simultaneously in the face. and I've got his drug in my pocket!" For a perceptible passage of time. He's like a drug-addict." protested Wolf. idea what thoughts were passing through heavy head. "Look! There are none but very harmless people in there!" The wall by which they were now walking was indeed the wall of the churchyard." said Jason that suddenly. though it may have been no more than a few seconds. while a group of King's Barton chil- . man. "I don't like to be upbraided. "I think I'll cancel our bargain. who had no that stick. I tell you it's no I use. "and give you back money. "It's no use. Solent.THE SLOW-WORM OF LENTY "You're afraid that Roger behind that wall?" 401 Monk might be hiding The poet turned toward him his sorrowful grey eyes. Abysmal desolation had de- scended upon him. Wolf. they remained thus facing each other.

he overheard one of the children who were looking on say to another in a whisper: "It be only thik poor Mr. crying aloud for the return of the image. out of. till he was nearly a mile from Barton that he dared to reduce his speed and King's take his mental bearings. but nothing happened. good-night!" he repeated brusquely. o' they fits. Wolf saw him fallen prone in the white dust. however. Otter!" he called out to him. the middle of that eyeless mask of misery." I've got to walk fast now.402 WOLF SOLENT down the road. "Well. "If you don't mind I'll shog on! or Gerda will be worrying. good-night. present. "I'd better sheer off!" he thought. were muttering something something that sounded like an incantation. and stick. Otter. look-see T'other gent be a-going to hit he. For some distance he had an uncomfortable sensation in the back of his spine. The like a figure in front of him made a blind step forward somnambulist. and as he tight- ened his fingers round the handle of his stick. stopped dren. long-side the ear-hole!" took wi' one ! "Well. left With his hand fiercely clutching the thing in his pocket. his right hand swinging his ous but effective retreat. he strode off at a pace which it was not easy to keep from becoming a run. It he achieved an inglori- not. and turning on his heel. that the Then Wolf was aware man's lips. running with noisy shouts and stared at them open-mouthed. Even then his disturbed fancy was mistook the faint thudding of some tethered animal's . and in a rapid mental vision as definite as if it were a reality.

lying dim and misty. such as must have soothed the nerves of Romans and Cymri. but full of a most perilous relaxation of heart and will and spirit the image. when he paused for a moment. leaning over a gale. an image calm and peaceful enough. must have been half-past six before he began to recover himself and to look about him. as if all the earth rising again in the distance to the uplands of High gather Stoy. sloped cent in the treeless gard to in upwards to the high ridge along which ran the main road from RamsBlacksod. so as to the confused impressions of that crowded afternoon. of alarums and now of as completely forgotten as the death- mediaeval hernshaws in the talons of goshawks. There had fallen upon that portion of the West Country one of those luminous late- summer evenings. On his left. after wild pell-mells of advances and excursions. There was hardly It a breath of wind stirring. into Wolf was tempted to some kind of focus rest for a while. and . of a young Pond Cottage. of Saxons and Northmen. pearl-like and opaleshaze. but he found. a young man lying dead in a bedroom man with a shrouded face. yet swimming some strange way lustrous with an inner light of their had become one vast phosphorescent glow-worm. The fields of wheat and barley. rolled away from benealh that narrow lane the dew-soaked pastures of the Blackmore Vale. that the dew-wet herbage brought to his mind nothing but one persistent image.THE SLOW -WORM OF LENTY 403 hooves on the floor of a shed for the patter of Jason's steps in pursuit. in at fact. struggles retreats. own.

thin legs. and it was not long before the first houses of Blacksod began to appear. as if to dispel phantom. which mingled with the strange luminosity such as still queerly enough dows already emanated from earth and sky. and the heavy breath of the Blackmore pastures ceased to drug his senses. he found that what he had gone through that day was now slowly itself sifting out in the various layers of his consciousness. but plot with one another against someone. of his making use of the artificially acquired genial optimism of many a forgotten mental lour de force. But another a deeper layer in his mind made quite a different report. when they thus remained mere specks of yellow colour surrounded by pale greyness. And as he began to encounter the evening stir of the town's precincts." he thought. that's hostile to me and to my life. over there. these King's Barton people. when they broke up the complete darkness. Blacksod mind report on the doesn't lend itself to such whimsies. Good Lord! No wonder they . "There's something up. Wolf noted how different such spots of artificial light appeared. some of them with win- displaying lamplight. from what they would be in a brief while. "Either Urquhart is up to something." Thus did the outer surface situation. "or Jason has just invented the whole thing to satisfy his own strange mind! all are! God help us! I'm thankful I'm out of it What a crazy set they down here.404 WOLF SOLENT long. with a wave of his stick. Who was it who had told him that young Redfern was tall and thin? He moved this on. They seem to have nothing else to do.

Urquhart is a demon. Soon to he came where two crossroads branched off from the one he followed. and from Mukalo^ his mind rushed back to Jason. layer Anyone can see that." This second of his consciousness that he little seemed so found him- crowded with thoughts and surmises self standing stock-still outside a greengrocer's shop. is a good man. too. that he belonged to some primeval order of things. know. the oranges among and lettuces. The Slow-Worm of Lenty! That's about what had a feeling just now. the road to the to the right leading left up Baby- leading to that portion of . I me.THE SLOW-WORM OF LENTY finished off Redfern 405 ing to have to defend myself. existing before good and evil appeared at all. What a man Darnley is. And yet I don't know! I'm tempted very to think he'd be a match even for him much in the way some cold wet rain from the aboriginal chaos would discomfort the Devil!" He turned from the shop-window and moved on. But it's clear that Urquhart's ca- joled him somehow. A small ornament. for mother." he said to himself. I'd laugh at the whole lot of them. the better to get things clear. If weren't for her. thanks to Darnley. perched in the lighted window. compared with these madmen! They've wor- my ried him a lot though. the road lon Hill. so dependent on Urquhart. made him recall the idol in his pocket. Damn! It's mother being it up got there that's the rub. But Jason I baffles he is. "Valley. I've job at the school. when he stood with his eyes shut and his mouth gibbering. "I can't understand him. if it weren't among them all! I can see I'm goAnd easily could I do it.

406 WOLF SOLENT and return home the town where Christie's house was. past his father-in-law's The hesitation into yard? which he now fell an empty space in his mind.. that as he wavered he seemed actually to see before him the objects he would meet under either choice.. It was the nature of this particular case. as he from that! After his fashion he was? No. Ur- quhart. fill it. . . was not any way a very soothing destiny. between Gerda and Bob Weevil? He could not help remembering the exciting photograph of the girl astride of the tombstone which he had seen the two lads enjoying so for much. a lark set in motion by the sardonic Mr. it was difwas being faithful to Gerda. Had he the Did he demand that should be faithful to him . was a Still fantastic outrage. Weevil! To be cuckolded by Bob. The more rational now began a derisive criticism of both Gerda and Christie instincts of the lord of a seraglio? new mood. his he hesitated at these crossroads. teased beyond wont by the difficulty of deciding which way to go. and to feel the sensations he would experience under either. and at once there rose to the invisible depths of his being. He was so pulled at in both directions. It Mr. in fact. the scamp of Blacksod. that day he bought the sausages layers of Wolf's consciousness this Roger Monk. from new report Was there something upon more than Lane those old sea-beach afternoons. but to be cuckolded by Bob as a sort of schoolwas. boy-lark. Should he turn to the left that way? Or should he go left straight on. while he himself was ferent . quite a the events of that day. those Lovers' naughtinesses. .

for intimate habit to the one he had married all. at once puzzled and shamed him. in with the one he had not married his situation just then was sufficiently complicated. the way by Mr. that closure. how little he had March day when he turned what occurrences would be the good and into this enresult of it! Bound by love. The girl had in her night- certain very quaint and pretty ways of expressing her desire to be made love to. Torp's yard. and she had seldom been more excitable or more night. He walked on the familiar with rapid strides now. which lay hushed and rather ghastly pool of twilight. and as he passed in a Torp yard. whimsically provocative than she was that Though hunger had brought him so quickly home. in connection with the romance of passing close to Christie's room. because of a secret craving for food in the recesses of his stomach. He took the shorter way. This was increased by a delicious abandonment to unhindered amorousness when he discovered that Gerda was waiting for him at the kitchen-stove dress and dressing-gown. it was more than an hour after his return that they sat .THE SLOW-WORM OF LENTY 407 In the end a motive simpler than love or jealousy decided the point. he thought foreseen. But though this was his real motive. that he should have such a feeling at all. what he thought was his motive was jealousy over Bob Weevil. without all this bewildering turmoil of personalities in King's Barton! It was with an accumulated measure of sheer animal he found himself entering his own house at relief that last. And the idea of this.

Whether this would have been the case had Christie it been different from what she was. the admirable relative emotions of the identity of amorousness in itself." of the god Eros! What Wolf found to his no small content was that when this spiritual emanation of sweet delight had vanished away he was entirely free from any feeling of having commilted sacrilege against his love for Christie.408 WOLF SOLENT to their supper. Another side-issue that had a curious interest for him membered was the question whether the accident of his having rethat wicked tombstone-picture on his way completeness of himself the pe- home had had anything to do with the his pleasure! He had noted before in culiar role played in all these things! by queer out-of-the-way imaginations And finally but this thought did not come self at least how he caught himonce that night in a grim wondering as to far the sweet desirability of his companion had been to till him their meal was over enhanced for him by those sinister rumours of a rival . and during the lingered-out and shameless caresses which he enjoyed before he would down let her approach the stove. Wolf was compelled to come to the conclusion that erotic delight has in itself the power of becoming a kind of absolute. he found difficult to decide. though in the intervals of pleasant discourse with Gerda. the actual spiritual form. as they sat over their supper. he pondered deeply upon that nice point. He felt as if it became a sort of ultimate essence into which the merely two preoccupied ones sank indeed were so utterly lost that a new identity dominated the field of their united consciousness. or "psychic being.

too. devoid of this exigency. Wolf was never oblivious of his lack of what people have agreed to call by the name of "passion. As he listened to her evenly-drawn breathing. not without many mental adjustments. made it much easier for him. But he knew in his heart perfectly well that he was only happy because the deepest emotion he He was was capable of was satisfied by his nearness to Christie. all and felt. as far as he was able to tell. Wolf had arrived. Christie's inflexible pride and the faint. so that by their resemblance in this peculiarity the strange intensity of their love was not disturbed by his easy dalliance with Gerda. . seemed. and what he felt for the other one. happy. dur- ing the last two months. even though that rival 409 was this water-rat- featured seller of sausages! Gerda was the lay side first to by side. hardly-stirred pulse of her subnormal senses. An ness. go to sleep that night as they with the familiar odours of summer grass and pigsty drainage floating in upon them." Luckily enough Christie. Profoundly self-conscious as he was. to led him to get life instinctive unwillingintroduce any strain of all the contentment he could out of his with his lovely bedfellow. in his harsh idealism.THE SLOW-WORM OF LENTY in the field. the delicious relaxation of her exhausted limbs. too. In a sense what he had said to Selena Gault was true. thus lying with his arm stretched out beneath her. through love- his nerves. at a more or less satisfactory compromise between what he felt for this girl. own nature. he was conscious now more than ever that it was completely unthinkable that he should be guilty of making her unhappy by any drastic change.

he knew not which sleeping room that looked out upon Poll's Camp! There. His sensual nature tranquillized.410 WOLF SOLENT at this What Wolf moment felt. was a a tenderness which. above the books of that incestuous old man's shop. appeased. dreamless sleep. like delicious. satisfied. Was she satisfied in this ambiguous love of his? He preferred not to let himself dwell upon that aspect of the matter just then. with the cool night-airs blowing over was touched by rumours and intimations belonging itself. and holding Gerda fast. or waking. he let his mind sink into the plenary absolution of a deep. . hardly realizable to which now lay in the any concrete imagination. and inhaling the mingled nightairs. diffused tenderness the earth it. as he listened to the girl's soft breathing and held her in his arms. more elusive. gible. permitted his spirit to wander off freely less tan- towards that other girlish form. to another region. that other one was lying alone.

" Wolf knew that Mrs. Event followed event in harmonious and easy sequence." he said. Gerda's morning crossness was tempered by an enchanting aftermath of petulant willingness to be caressed. were too examinations to and the apto proaching summer holidays be as troublesome as usual.HOME FOR BASTARDS 1 HE NEXT DAY PROVED TO BE. His afternoon at King's Barton was devoted a concentrated perusal of the history of the unfortunate Lady Wyke of Abbotsbury. your mother or you care for the drive. So well-pleased with their progress was the Squire. crouch- ing at his elbow like a great silky Angora tom-cat. gard "Roger declares he wants to go over there. was too absorbed in their researches to indulge in more than a very few of his sidelong malignities. He never tells me anyBut if thing. and Mr. that while he and his secretary drank their tea at the library-window he asked Wolf if it would be any help to his mother if Roger Monk were to drive her to Ramsand back before dinner. ously anchored in the reign of the occupied with thoughts of whom first he had labori- Tudor. AS FAR AS THE WEATHER was concerned. in you can him to call for you. Urquhart. even more pleasant than its predecessor. "What he's up to I don't know. His boys at the Grammar School. Solent had tell her mind the notion of paying a formal call upon Miss Gault as a .

" he announced to the big dark"so. At his appearance her whole manner changed. Wolf had a word or two with him. and while he was at the garden-gate. but with no ulterior motive. desolate. Solent! Don't you make . She seemed delighted to have the chance of driving to Ramsgard with him. you might put in the back-seat for me. crumpled. won't weigh down your gig. with her outstretched hands pressed against the edge of the table and her gaze fixed upon emptiness. Urquhart didn't seem to know what you were up Ramsgard. Her brown eyes. as though in the indecent exposure of some secret deformity. and they chatted gaily till she went upstairs to get ready.412 WOLF SOLENT so he hurriedly sign of their reconciliation. indiscreetly enough. in the He caught a glimpse of her unobserved as he approached the window. He had a queer feeling of shame for having caught her thus. "Mr. this offer accepted and went I'll off at once. and even the contours of her formidable chin were relaxed. had a defeated." he remarked. helpless expression. to in "He knew right and fine. holding the horse till the lady came down. She was sitting motion- less. and he hurriedly and noisily entered the little house." He found his mother lingering over her tea parlour of the trim cottage. "I think go too. weary. Mr. Roger Monk did not keep them waiting. and it was rather a shock to him to observe a look in her face which he had never seen before. if it browed servant. from the angle at which he caught her.

"I would. their drive into Ramsgard was a great success. and he smiled broadly. dark. Roger Monk quickly recovered his good-humour under Mrs. if I knew for sure he wouldn't play some dog's trick on me I'd do a bunk tomorrow!" Wolf stared at him blankly. eh? What?" This rather ungentlemanly imitation of the Squire's favourite phrase tickled the swarthy giant's fancy.HOME FOR BASTARDS no mistake. while Wolf turned up the street with the intention of paying a visit to the Smiths. Solent's blandishments. the servant driving Mrs. Sir. " ing 'Tis a later his face grew good place with Squire. and by the time they reached the schoolgate they were all three in the best of spirits. Mr. Here they separated. "But I tell 'ee straight." he whispered." ." he repeated. "I'll tap the top of his black head for him one of these days if God Almighty doesn't do it first!" In spite of this somewhat ominous beginning. bend- down towards Wolf. with the scowl of a righteous executioner. Solent. as soon as they were alone in the cool. And then. and the brother and sister embraced affectionately. "Dad is out. "and we've only one servant now. There 413 isn't much that goes on up at House or out of House either. musty hall. The door was opened for him by Mattie herself. for that matter that he doesn't know!" "That must be rather uncomfortable sometimes. Solent towards Miss Gault's house. But a minute grave and worried." she whispered.

and they sat down together on two red leather "What's the trouble. and now he's hit. and with irritation. He may have got some mania. for the idea of Mr. He must have made tire!" a lot! about money. on her into the child should not hear his voice. "Do you know. holding her hand tightly. "It's worse than bad. releasing her hand from his clasp. people think. I believe Dad's ruined.414 WOLF SOLENT as she led him. my dear. so he shut the door very quietly chairs. finger empty dining : room. Wolf. I believe he's already . he's been at this job here for as long as can remember. "it's true! Can't you believe I know what I'm talking about? He's been investing in some He's never been as sensible as silly way. with her "One servant?" he echoed." cried. Mattie dear?" he murmured. and. It was clear to him that she was anxious that the lip." she said emphatically. "It's Dad. You ought to make him sell out and re- a certain "I tell you. "Good Lord. the great Hatter of Ramsgard School. the sedate Churchwarden of the Abbey. "He's been queer the days." she said in a low voice. Smith? I Why. knocked over." she said." It last few Wolf to repress a smile. Wolf. "Olwen's upstairs playing. being difficult for was in any kind of way "queer" struck him as grotesque. "What's up with him? Business bad?" Matlie sighed. folded her fingers lightly together." she said slowly. Albert Smith. child!" he believe it. "He can't be! I can't Mr.

from ." thought Wolf. straightening her frame to "She's got a fine figure. threw a grey shadow over His mind sank down into a desolate accept- ance of long years of stark endurance. of old. that her nose is so large!" full "What a shame Mattie's countenance did indeed seem.HOME FOR BASTARDS taken the rupt. as he looked at her staring steadily down at him out of her deep-set grey eyes. frowning. news. with the peculiar detached that phlegm familycallous. silver Something about that bined with his his sister's on the sideboard. and then he glanced away at the mahogany sideboard. rose to her feet and flung her hands its behind her head." As she spoke she height. that the gods didn't mould her face more carefully!" at He looked her as she fixed her eyes on the floor." first 415 to being bank- step. affairs!" she cried in a "And now tell me about yourself and your pretty Gerda. worn possessions have seen so many troubles that they have after the grown professionally manner of undertakers and sextons. the sort of endurance that wind-blown trees have to acquire when their branches become at last permanently bent. poor girl!" he thought. whatever that is. com- own life. helplessly. "Bankrupt?" repeated Wolf "So that's the state of our lighter tone. Smith's heavy pieces of polished silver met his gaze. where Mr. "How damnable just a little "She's been having a bad time. even less presentable than when he had seen her a few weeks ago.

in off a funny pair.416 WOLF SOLENT east. believe I'd be almost glad!" Wolf screwed up his eyes and regarded her closely." he said. And then. I laugh. Her eyes unexpectedly queer little flashed and she gave vent to a don't care!" she cried. than they've been doing for a long time. "You and I are believe we actually They mouth. "If so." he said lamely. "Listen. in fact." exchanged a long. confused look. "I have an idea that things are going to work out all right work out better for you. Mattie. at last." he said quietly." she said. I "I don't care! don't care! I "In fact. now you know the worst!" his sister murmured "It might he worse still. "I like to be driven and hunted. if it weren't for Olwen." She looked straight into his face and smiled. while one of her eyebrows rose humorously and twitched a little. I don't see why Madame Selena should have a monopoly of that spot!" . we must one day together and visit his grave. He suddenly became aware that this daughter of his father had something in her nature that he understood well enough. away from the north or the "Well. Then he pro- truded his under-lip and drew down the corners of his we know where we after-thought: get it. Wolf. slip a sudden "Look here. bowing sideways.

"But 417 She made a somewhat brusque and ungracious move- come Let's on. he was at when she reached the first landing.HOME FOR BASTARDS ment." he more nearly all related to Christie than I am be in Mr. we mustn't stay down here any more. He opened the door for her and they went hefr As he followed figure she would have had a sensual can to make her attraction for him. and a door was flung wide." he said to himself." she said. Urquhart's book!" might But the child pulled him into her room. I "And do what life happier. When at last he disentangled himself from her clinging hands. We garding Mattie completely. the thought came shamelessly into his head that had she been as lovely in face as she was flexible in together. "I don't like graves." up softly form up the dim staircase. pushing her into the stream of light that had come with her through the open door. Then she called out: "Olwen! Olwen! Here's a visitor for you!" "Olwen! Olwen!" echoed Wolf. go up and for keep- see Olwen. . he held her at a distance from him. Holding her in thought." Mattie paused. began hurriedly displaying before him every one of her treasures. "After all. "she's this way he searched her face with a stern scrutiny. There was a scream and a scramble. Wolf. She'll never forgive me even now ing you. and. disreto Mattie. The little girl ran out with her hair flying and rushed into her friend's arms. till her side. "But I'll I understand her well.

as invisible sea. He seemed to slip away. out of his human skin. in fact. no longer to be He had slid away somehow into some level of existence where human vision and human contact meant nothing at all. Ramsout- gard house. waver and hover against the old-fashioned wall-paper. as the three of them sat there. low straight-backed upon which her mother had sat to suckle her in her infancy Mattie sat with her hands clasped round her knees. from the pressure of the actual situation. out of the very confines of the sensation that he was outside life side death too. out of that old life itself. receded and swelled. no longer available. where forms and shapes and sounds had been left behind had changed into something else. Attenuated by the influence of these bodiless fancies. It was as if these two girls had become as unreal as his own intangible thoughts those thoughts like tiny twilight insects which passed without leaving a trace! . the palpable shapes of Mattie and Olwen seemed to thin themselves out into something more filmy than the stuff of dreams.418 WOLF SOLENT The summer night was already chilly. thrown by the candlelight. mechanically he smiled at his ter across the little girl's flushed face. if they were sails on an Crouching upon a nursery-chair the very chair. Mechanically he responded to Olwen's intense preoccupations. Wolf began to detach himself. and over the half-opened window the muslin curtains swelled and receded. sis- But he felt that his senses were trusted. from the awareness even of his own personality. watching the shadows of their three forms. that he was floating in He had that he was some airy region.

"what I am do I it aiming at. meddling with these peo- with the same voracity with which I eat honey or trample over grass." She opened the door. Excuse me. her thick nose." he thought. . followed by the opening of a door and by unsteady steps and anxious. a proceeding which delighted their little mistress. Wolf. 419 telling you? That's not . Then a chair creaked ominously and there was a sort of groan. Then all was silent. arm thrown round Wolf's There was a muttering and a shuffling downstairs. her corrugated brow. but remained also still listening. in the hall. why can't they slip into it?" He began automatically swinging both Gipsy and Antoinette from one hand to the other.HOME FOR BASTARDS "No! Didn't you hear me Gipsy . as did Olwen. "But why I did he ring? He never rings. as he contemplated Mattie's heavy. "What. "If we can slip out of reality. that's Antoinette!" scolded the little girl. a thin neck. patient features. Mattie jumped to her feet and stood listening. "Dolls dolls dolls!" thought Wolf. followed by the clang of a heavy stick falling on a tiled floor. clouded. must run down. I'm driven to it as if ple's lives? I were an omophagous demon! father did Is this the sort of thing my that scoundrel with his 'happy life'?" He was interrupted in his thoughts by the sound of a bell downstairs. as she snatched a miniature pillow from under one waxen head to insert it violently beneath another. intent "I believe that's Father!" she cried. . with wide-open startled eyes.

with her them. Both dolls' eyes. both of you! Mattie. tilted . and she ran hastily down the I must go!" cried stairs. "It's Father!" she whispered. stared up at him.420 WOLF SOLENT hand on the door. Wolf remembered afterwards every smallest incident of that occasion. turned round to Mattie. Olwen's little arm had a pulse in it that beat against his cheek like a tiny clock as she held him tighter and tighter. and in spite of the flickering of the candles he could see that her face had gone white. freeing himself and rushing to the door. He replaced Gipsy and side. down by her side with one of his absurdly. she continued to and evidently struck by waver in the door- way. Then there was a sudden scream that echoed sharply through the whole silent house. I must go down. some sort of panic. Antoi- arm stuck out awkwardly. "Stay where you are. "He's ill. and the light thus flung into the passage he saw Mattie on her knees before one of the hall-chairs. fingers He pushed it and creaked as he did so. however. They had by left the door of the dining-room open. sweetheart!" he cried. His eyes were open and conscious under his black felt hat. Smith. which. "Stay here." Still hesitating. one pair blue and one black. collapsed form of Mr. Antoinette on a chair by his half-consciously smoothing down nette's it their ruffled dresses. "Stay where you are!" But the little girl followed him like a shadow and was there by his side when he reached the hall. on which sprawled the stiff. "Wolf! Wolf!" came her voice.

Wolf hurriedly closed the front-door. "Mattie. proceeded to strike a match. I won't! Off! Off!" is it.HOME FOR BASTARDS 421 sideways. Father. "What are you doing. "No Off! no No doctor. Olwen. Father! Darling Father. "All thieves. "No. which had been left ajar. Mr. I'm here your Mattie. little hanging side by side with his own. gave him a grotesque. the man's hat and hung it carefully on He remembered afterwards the look of this hat. He'll be better in a minute. "What feet Father dear?" cried Mattie. You're all right now. drunken appearance. "do you want me to go and find a doctor?" But at the word "doctor" the man no! in the chair found his voice." he said. you don't want a doctor. what's the matter? What is it. Father? You're safe at home." he muttered. You're better now. calm and a supercilious. Father dearest. Wolf removed a peg. Smith's impassive hands. Wolf? Go away. so as to light the hall- lamp. Smith stared aren't at you?" her with a heavy confused stare. and then. as she went on rubbing Mr. I won't have one. with Olwen still clinging to him. what is it?" Mattie kept crying out in this way all manner of contradictory commands and appeals. tried to catch his sister's eye for permission to Wolf . Mattie was chafing his hands -with her own and murmur- ing wild endearments. as hats in that position always are. rising to her and pressing her hand against his forehead.

never. I tell . hay . was sobbing so violently as to make it unlikely that she could catch what he said. Ramsgard. 'ee! . . as she sobbed against his knees. . Dorset. . ger? My pricked your Home. confess. Draper and Hat-Dealer. fallen on her knees again now. "Oh. It had had some kind of natural reddish tint. .422 WOLP SOLENT was clear to him that Mr. Albert Smith of Ramsgard come home. as if the muscles of his neck and his head kept drooping sideno longer responded to his will. home for bastards. ." Mr Smith went "No. "Home . home no! for bastards. Smith had begun It's mumbling now. His face disobey the sick man. . Longburton barn your hair. my . Suddenly he "I'll lifted it with a spasmodic jerk. Smith stroke. but the girl seemed to have forgotten his existence. What? You fin- A . No in no She'll . Lorna! But never mind. hats for bastards. incoherently. . no. home. Albert Smith. . Suddenly he astonished them by calling out "Lorna! Lorna!" in a loud voice. wore now an un- ways. . and straw hay and straw . . dear . But Mr. I'll pay . It's your dear Mattie. . Albert Smith. . It ." Wolf was sure those were the words he used. but not inarticulately." . . . bending over him. your Mattie. very pretty hat! Hats for bastards. . . he's dying!" sobbed Mattie. . His head had sunk so low now as to be almost resting on Mattie's shoulder. . "Hats on. and long past eleven. ." she repeated. pay for the child! I've got the money. was to Longburton he took you. and he was relieved that Mattie. To the school. never . . . "That's Mother he wants. never.

Albert Smith.HOME FOR BASTARDS for 423 them all and say nothing. as Wolf cast a final woman in the glance at him. "I'll be really angry you make any move and the that we haven't discussed together. but he saw the quick. and he would have looked more closely at his father's sweetheart. to carry the body of Mr. Here." the landing by this time. on a little table by the bed. "Madam Lorna." This was really the end now. was a picture of a young chaste costume of the mid-Victorian epoch." he said. . Pay . my work with the Squire. . Draper and school. Wolf entered the room again with Mattie. . Hatter. To the . . .. but the presence of Mattie restrained him. will you. I suppose. who stood motionless. Don't commit yourself any plans till to any arrangements or we've seen how the land lies. protective glance she cast at Olwen. the head of the dead man had already assumed was about two hours after this that an expression of exhausted indifference. Smith up the staircase and It into his bedroom.. His body fell forward over the stooping girl. staring at the stiff. Close by his side. dead man like a fairy in a and he knew then that she pantomime at the was mistress of chief clown. Mattie?" he repeated emif phatically." he thought. pay all .. and Wolf was hard put to it to pull her away from between the prone forehead and the protruding knees. She helped him. . lying on his own high pillow.. pay. . "I'll "after come over tomorrow evening. For the moment he feared she would collapse. . They were out on . I tell 'ee! . . my dear. herself. You won't. without shrinking and without any more tears. .

I want him to see Gipsy and Antoinette! see them!" the child repeated. girl's By this faint flicker Wolf could see the little dark eyes shining with awe-struck intensity." she whispered." to the bed. You'll never get through the night if you don't eat something. with milk and biscuits upon it." . though she was immobile as an image. There was a tray. "Go "I to to sleep. "They are going to grandfather's funeral tomorrow. shall be all right. 01 wen!" cried Mattie." "We "Well. shall never get her to sleep. Wolf. "Don't they look sorry and good?" A minute or two later he bade his sister farewell at the front-door." she replied quietly. "She's so terribly excited I want him "Only for a minute. me to stay the night with "I shall sleep with Olwen. Mattie shook her head. "Come as I nearer! Come quite near! They're as awake am. He went up and there." They opened the door and went in.424 little WOLF SOLENT girl heard them speaking and called out to them from her room. were the two dolls. please!" whispered his sister. on the chest of drawers by Olwen's bed and near the tray a small night-light burning. lying on opposite sides of Olwen's pillow. "You're sure you don't want you?" he asked. remember you've had no supper. with black ribbons twisted tightly round them and their hair brushed smooth and straight.

The night was cool and cept as a faint diffused luminosity. I'll 425 stupid I am!" on get a drink at the Lovelace my way. his thoughts took many a queer turn. I the maid about it when we were Well. The sky was covered now by a grey film of feathery clouds.HOME FOR BASTARDS "What about you. saying that they could not wait for him. and as he strode between the phantasmal wheat-fields of that exposed upland. to Wolf decided home. Wolf? How "Oh. give her some kind of a shock. He enquired about the King's Barton coachman and found that Mrs. Smith's death and would Mr. what And had was to become of them? If it . said. but turned the world into a place of phantoms and shadows. see her tomorrow. "how the devil she heard? They must have actually come by it'll to the door and been told all upstairs. This was the highroad follow the shorter and easier way to Blacksod that ran along the top of the ridge dividing Dorset from Somerset." he thought. the question was. but that they had heard of Mr. which lifted the weight of darkness from the earth." he till "But remember no plans of any kind I've seen you again!" He was lace bar before the indeed only just in time to get into the LoveAbbey clock struck ten. Solent come and "I wonder. daresay but not very much!" He left the Lovelace after drinking a pint of Dor- fragrant. Solent had left a message at the hotel-office earlier in the evening. through which neither moon nor stars were visible ex- chester ale. So Mattie and Olwen were left penniless! That was evidently going to be the upshot of the hatter's death.

stretched out a semi-human hand across the tangled whose foliage of the roadside. as he pondered on it. all in a moment. largest branch. The chances were that the local authorities. a passionately protective . Then his mind reverted mother take them in? Roger Monk's house was certainly big enough. was the obvious solution! Selena was passionately fond of the little girl. somewhere in his consciousness Selena was a good woman. he thought of Selena Gault. There. no doubt. the natural course would have been for her father's dwelling. and it seemed unlikely that his Would the Squire would object if no one else did.426 WOLF SOLENT Olwen to return to not been for the child's insane hostility to Christie. Nature was always prolific of signs and omens to his mind. hints. He stared at a fantastic thorn-tree. would not interfere. Then. to his mother. As was his wont when con- fronted by a mental dilemma. obstinate re- sistance opposed itself such a solution? He tried to analyze what he felt. he stood stock-still and regarded this silent monitor. and it had become a custom with him to keep a region of his intelligence alert and passive for a thou- sand whispers. But good Lord! he couldn't visualize his mother living with another woman. obscure intimations that came to him to in this way. Who would educate her? at school! It was impossible to contemplate Olwen The problem seemed well-nigh insoluble. Why was it that a deep. unless Miss Gault took upon herself to meddle again. or indeed putting up with the waywardness and excitability of Olwen. bare of leaves and apparently quite dead. and Selena had a servant.

entitled .Christie Malakite! And yet. reasons comparatively external to his secret current. Damn! Why had Mr.HOME FOR BASTARDS woman. strug- gling to build bricks and mortar to build them up. but she probably hated Mattie as much as she did Christie. month by month. building up barriers between himself and Christie. here he was. and an equally obscure eternity of "something or other" lay in front of him. Smith fooled away his money and shuffled himself off in this awkward manner? "Home for bastards" truth that what gross outbursting of the literal was! Well. moving men and women them up! like . was why there should be. between his such an un- deepest desire and his complicated activity. Meanwhile. day by day. She might love Olwen. for reasons comparatively superlife- ficial. of that grey luminosity above him and of those diaphanous wraith - like corn-shocks. bridged gulf? fact. he was steadily. He had only one life. but there it 427 was! That interference in the case of the Malakites had lodged a deep distaste in his mind. simple. with only one single. and world-deep craving the craving to spend his days and his nights with that other mysterious and mortal consciousness. What he asked now. That was a basic and relentless An eternity of "something or other" lay behind him. it was his business now to take the and find just such a hatter's place home! That in the incorri- gibly complacent and grinning skull certainly cemetery had its managed to bequeath burdens to legitimate offspring which were not easy to fulfill! Wolf tree stuck out his under-lip at the oracular thorn- and strode on.

or corruption-sympathy. he found the explanation of it in a sort of dissolution-hypnosis. in the middle of the night. linking body of Albert Smith! him with the actual dead What he experienced was strange enough. as if the hard. "my soul is going to remain intact. something that resembled a mass of floating frog-spawn. a living human head. And it seemed to him that every revolting or secretive instinct he had ever had took on a material shape and became as an actual portion of his physical body.428 WOLF SOLENT villainously evil thought assailed A him as he walked along. monstrous and insane? Was his "mythology" itself only a projection of such selfishness? thought like a He carried this sardonic the pit of his demon-fox pressed against for nearly a mile. rending his nature in a desperate inward struggle. under that fox's black saliva. turning into something shapeless and nauseating. and it was just stomach. He had When. in fact. Were all his better actions only so many Pharisaic sops thrown one by one into the mouth of a Cerberus of selfishness. lying in his bed by Gerda's side. He found himself very soon clutching with his fingers one of the posts of that stile. while with his other hand he dug his stick savagely into the sun-baked earth. and precisely where he had first crossed that stile with Gerda. or it's going to dissolve into air!" reached the summit of Babylon Hill now. he stood at this moment. he recalled this evil experience. opaque crystal-circle of his inmost identity were. "Come. emerging ." he said to himself at last. you demon. He became.

free-will. that might obstruct its way. some actual physical body a body that had been troubling left its him." problem of the very existence of the And then. inorganic. like a great repulsive protuberance. with a crouching-wild-animal movement of his consciousness. . magnetic. there came flowing in upon him. into a space that was below and yet above. Above all he felt once more that his inmost identity was a hard. which had the power of forcing through any substance. as he came down the slope. within Hill. a greater flood of liberating peace than he had ever known before! He had having the sensation. the insoluble prob- lem of mystery called "will. the smug was in charlatan-prig at which the devils shrieked with laughter. in less than a second. The queer thing was that his brain moved at this moment with incredible rapidity. He felt lighter. He laid hold of his will as if it had been a lightning-conductor. or psychic. all in a moment. in a second. it some mysterious way comic. And this gross mass was not only foul and excremental . both by appearance and by its weight. liberated from the malice of matter. the head of this unspeakable body. was the joke of the abyss. as it had never done before. shaking it clear of his body.HOME FOR BASTARDS 429 from a monstrous agglomeration of all repulsiveness. thrust it forth into space. the he flung a savage defiance to all these doubts. as he it afterwards. opaque itself crystal. His brain debated. of behind. round. for example. and. so recalled seemed. on the top of Babylon Hill. out of those secret depths of which he was always more or less conscious. organic. and yet beyond Poll's Camp and Babylon it And then. He. freer.

en masse across the deep! . Christie did remain the great aim and purpose of his life. in fact. to Gerda His mind. his habits. This indeed so he said to himself was the solution of that dilemma on which he had been impaled. he found himself thinking shamelessly and contentedly of the pleasure of making love before he went to sleep. full of the exhalations of brack- ish mosses.430 WOLF SOLENT There were a few lights twinkling still among the Blacksod roofs. was as everything he did. and tant. as distinct from the smell of Dorsetshire far-off fragrance. As he approached Preston Lane through the deserted streets. the The personality It of Christie remained if to same through everything. Christie set her proud and careless seal. at this moment it A new fragrance filled the air as seemed unimporhe descended. his ways. after the experience he had gone through. Once in the town. he took without any hesitation though he did not forget that long vigil of the night in June the particular way that led past the Torp monument-yard. but these innumerable other people were part of the body of that life itself. his customs. his instincts. But he had no notion wJiether Christie's was among them. They were what he was. Somerthe which he defined to himself as the actual smell of setshire. seemed to float lightly and carelessly over every aspect of his existence. even to making love to Gerda. and arrow- pointed water-plants. his manias. of the salt-marshes of Sedgemoor. his impulses. amber-coloured peat-tussocks. and with all that he was he had now been drawn to Christie as if by a magnet strong su- enough to move a great slave-galleon of manias and perstitions.

but his soul. his soul seemed to have been liberated in some secret way from all that clogged and burdened it.HOME FOR BASTARDS 431 Airy and light as it now was. lifted his head. The slave-galleon of his manias rocked and tossed on a smooth albatross. Something unutterhad touched the dark bulk- heads of be this night-voyager. some signal. There was a strange singing from the galleon that itself. and ran upstairs. rode tide. like a careless on the masthead. At that moment Fate seemed so kind to him that its kindness was almost too great. What was it this clue? All he now was stupid. . something comic and together something grotesquely human as the sensations of an ichthyosaurus! all this. her about He and stopped when he was opposite the familiar pigsty. longing to it. Christie!" he cried in his heart. He was in such an exalted mood that he was hardly surprised at her first words. carrying liberated pilgrims to the harbour where they able. entered his house. His love for Christie seemed to touch with a kind of transparency everything that he looked at. breathing deeply. He found the room dark. humming and as it if the immense peace of summer night had turned into a trireme of deliverance. so that hereafter all might different. But once having accepted "Christie! tell everything was magically well. her head propped high on the two pillows. be. that meant the acceptance of with as knew about it something monnon- strously comic in his inmost being. but when he had lit a candle he saw that the girl was lying wide-awake. Rapidly he crossed the road. would some clue.

each with its own sky. . and He room was again dark." stooped and kissed her without attempting an answer. And was only because his own soul had been." she said. one of Wolf's final thoughts before he slept was of the vast conscious- unknown country its that every human ness includes in scope. had interrupted he knew no better now. But even so what it those thoughts of hers had been. tracts of as their dalliance sank into quiescence. it was as if they each found an opportunity in their embraces wherein to express an accumulated tide of feelings that spread out wide and far the spread out beyond beyond cheek so it he could feel for her. And now. in reality. "I'm almost sorry you've soon. come so but I've not first felt like this since that evening when you loved me in the river-fields. its own land and water. and seemed to him. lying side by side. to the superficial eye. that he his return. but. I've been looking through that window for hours and hours. Wolf. Wolf. Here. its own strange-blowing winds. What's happened to me I don't know. were two skulls. that he was able to feel as he felt at this moment. as he tasted tears on her all that all that she could feel for him. so to speak.432 WOLF SOLENT "Oh. here were two far-extending continents. washed clean of its body that day. than when first he by had entered her room and had blown out her candle. and when he held her presently in his arms.

of recovery that he And lit- was with a peculiar sense found himself seated side by side with Mr. and contemplated the rich mingling of asters. He had got on the track now of accounting for certain local cases of misbehaviour. He was. upon lawn below.CROOKED SMOKE IT WAS WITH A FAIRLY UNTROUBLED MIND THAT WODF set off the it following afternoon for King's Barton. . The upon him. the past Mr. Urquhart's profile. . those dead leaves is . For he had become aware that some screen. at this moment gathering all the material he could find about the famous "Cerne Giant. on the grounds of libidinous customs reverting to very remote times. As he looked down. what was that sig- nificance? "This day going to be a queer day for me. . past the old rogue had discovered a completely new stratum of obscene Dorset legends. Urquhart at the tered table in the great library-window. lobelias. ." he thought. and withered pantaloon-legs." whose phallic shamelessness seemed by no means confined to its harmless representation upon a chalkhill. and salpiglossis in Roger Monk's favourite flower-bed. Those sultry glowing ago purples . it seemed to Wolf that certain pre- maturely fallen leaves which he caught sight of down there upon the grass had struck his consciousness long with a tremendous significance. . Incredibly fragrant were the garden-scents that flowed in Squire's pendulous eye-folds. in fact. Napoleonic paunch.

behind which lived and moved in their little. . his most secret impressions back of his mind. eh? Lovelace was over here this morning. . A bad lookout for those two girls. . He bed . those dead leaves It That purple glow from the flowerwhy was there no dew . and a very curious expression came into his face. . . there? was autumn dew he was thinking about . "about Albert Smith? The old chap's kicked the bucket." he went know what you think. what? Lovelace even hints at suicide. wonder. . and he tells me the fellow died last night and left nothing but debts. to . . come back . "I'd like to "They talked of suicide when Redfern died. on. twilight. "how much room those undertakers left between old Smith's face and his coffin-lid?" And then he thought. . plish flowers I dead leaves Dark grass with purwith dew on them. Some telepathic wave must have passed from his secretary's wandering mind into his own. as a cold shiver went through him. . But Mr. "The most important things in my life. down that . had swung open a ." he said. Solent. . . himself." The Squire paused. me from' forgotten walks. . about this business of shuffling off without a word to anyone? D'ye . .434 WOLF SOLENT at the some casement. August day silvery mist upon purple flowers." he thought. when been alone. ." he said to "are what I've . "I wonder if old Smith ever noshifted ticed the look of dew upon dead leaves?" and he his position a little. . . kept staring down out of that library-window past his employer's profile. Urquhart now broke silence. "What's this news I hear.

of a time before they bring themselves to eh? Or do they sneak off like constipated beagles. . Never in his acquaintance with Mr. ha? Come. when you'd decided on it?" Wolf was spared the necessity of any retort to this by the appefarance of Roger Monk. not to tell me. Don't 'ee think so. Solent? dif- ferent then different. eh. Little things. Do they go through the devil it. .CROOKED SMOKE 435 think it's easy for 'em? D'ye think they do it with their brains cool and clear? D'ye think they have some pretty awful moments or not. Wolf peered at him with quizzical screwed-up eyes. and much But anyway. and bits of soap in soap-dishes. but what possible danger there could be to him from the man's words he was unable to see. Things must look nicer. I mean. gave him a hurried danger-signal. He couldn't help recalling that explosion of homicidal hatred which he had listened to outside Lenty Cottage. Solent. . "Do they mind it or don't they?" repeated the Squire. Urquhart had he felt so baflled by the drift of the man's mind. Something in himself. . "People pity 'em. to eat the long ditch-grass and ha' done with it?" Wolf tried in vain to catch his employer's equivocal eye as he listened to all this. but what does anyone know? Perhaps the only completely happy moments of a man's life are when he's decided different on it. Things like the handles of doors. and sponges on washing-stands! Wouldn't you want to squeeze out your sponge. Solent? different. rising up from very hidden depths. tell me! I hate know these things. and pick up the matches off the floor. The man came in without knocking and walked straight up to their table. Quite very different.

Urquhart interrupted him. Solent. Sir. Sir." final and dis- missing tone. having given him one quick swung round on his heels and left to Wolf. "I've no time now. "Eh? What's not mind. Roger. that you said something the other " night to them. that the interrogative look. There's nothing more. I daresay. discreet. Well. Probably catch nothing but a perch or two! Certainly. Urquhart at once assumed a blustering great man's tone of genial condescension. Sir. . Roger." Monk voice. Sir. Roger. Roger. as if he were addressing himself to the youths in question. Solent will "Weevil and young Torp. the room. "They did say. Do 'em good. That's last words were uttered in such a all. thank you. Monk? Speak up. I've no objection. eh. The Squire turned "A little sport for the populace. on a fine afternoon. about But Mr. round at the back.436 WOLF SOLENT But the gardener's countenance was impassive now as a human-faced rock. but not to trample down the rushes." But the man still remained where he was. Roger. Solent? strict Do 'em good." that. uttered the words in a low. Tell 'em to His be careful of the rushes. I'm busy with Mr. ha? we mustn't be too strict. Sir. Tell 'em to clear off and fish all they like. man. asking for leave to fish in Lenty Pond. colourless Mr. Mr. "Sporting young men. what? Doesn't pay to be too these days. Tell 'em to fish the pond from end to end. ha? Gay young truants.

"You mean after you'd decided upon it?" he Mr. Wolf did not reply.CROOKED SMOKE Seignorial rights and that sort o' thing fashioned. "You'd see 'em in a sort of said. was Mr. . full of an infinite weariness. Solent.. fairy-story light. . Then Mr. Urquhart suddenly uttered these strange words. would . be . ." remarked the Squire.. 437 grown a bit old- ha?" after this. It would be nice to see things like that.. the particular aspects of Dorset history which lent themselves to their work. very like that!" ... to see It . don't you think so? Stripped clear of the mischief . They worked on for nearly a whole hour after this. . . Urquhart's part to select. His voice assumed a languid and dreamy tone." he went on. anything . I fancy. from the mass of their material. after about half-an-hour's work. It was Wolf's busi- ness to purge and eral level of the style winnow and heighten these to which they had adopted. Solent. "much as infants see 'em... "It would be wonderful to see one's sponge and one's hair-brush as they'd look just then.. For some reason he lacked the faintest flicker of an author's pride in what they were doing. The conversation lapsed It and they returned to their investigations concerning the Cerne Giant. when they're so damned well -pleased with themselves that they chirp like grass-hoppers. the gen- "Every bibliophile in England'll have this book on his shelves one day. of custom? nice .. Urquhart nodded.." Wolf hurriedly gathered his wits together.

don't you think so. indifferent was a mere nothing. too.438 WOLF SOLENT it difficult to make any intelligent comown mind was worrying about many teasing Wolf found ment. It hand with a negligent. It's bathing he added emphatically. "Let's stroll round to Lenty Pond. . "much more than fishing. such as with regard to what he was to say to his mother Mattie and Olwen. Urqunot. but in some queer way it rather chilled Wolf's blood. "It must have been." he thought to himself." if they want to. they were entering the field above. however. after we've been over there. this gesture. and whether he should till go to Ramsgard between tea and dinner or wait in the evehing. and run round to my mother's?" his The man waved gesture. snatch a brief glance at his watch. Wolf could only "It's I He did. for all this hurry. Good for the rabble. Solent. reach Lenty hart walked. Sir. "exactly in that way that the high-priest waved his hand when he is uttered the mem- orable expression. nearly four. "You won't mind if leave you. Urquhart suddenly rose to his feet. Just as they the Otters' house." he said. They did Pond uninterrupted. His details just then. later Mr. and those lads they can bathe tell they really like. came unexpectedly upon Jason. Solent. to learn to swim?" patiently acquiesce. and Wolf was almost irri- by the unnecessary speed with which Mr. 'What that!'" that to us? See thou to They went out tated together.

both for coolness ' and for seclusion. with regard to shadows than a Sturminster goose has of the taste of Tangerine oranges. It's like the Latin words at the beginning of a psalm." "I hope. But Jason . They all proceeded therefore across the field. It makes fruit seem more than fruit something sacred. "And it was a very good idea of yours to to put netting over them." said fail to take Mr. propitiatory manner. "None of these country fools understand why your garden-seats arc between the yew-hedges and the privet-hedges. Urquhart. "that you will not advantage of all the shadows in my garden when you happen to be there. self- but he emerged from his retreat in comparative possession. "You've put your garden-seats in such a very wellchosen place. They've no more idea of how garden-seats should be arranged I mean. in an eager. and accepted Mr. Urquhart drily. Wolf forgetting his personal anxieties in his interest in the way his two companions treated each other. Thieves are afraid of touching netting. Urquhart's rather curt invitation to join them with quiet acquiescence. "Your peaches are very fine this year." said Jason the Squire." "You must make my gardener pick you some of the sacred fruit when you next explore my garden. I mean. and by its look of agitated annoyance." Wolf glanced at the Squire's was startled face as he spoke." went on the poet.CROOKED SMOKE The poet had as far as 439 Wolf could make out been sitting in the ditch." said Mr.

he was still more arrested by the change that now came over Mr. Urquhart's "populace" had not waited for any formal permission to substitute bathing for fishing. Otter. lads! You've done very wisely. In his earlier conclumen he had taken for granted that Jason was helpless in Mr. Otter's expressive face. "Take care of the benevolent unction. Urquhart. Untrimmed shrubberies are by far the best. and clinging to the branches of a submerged willow.440 WOLF SOLENT went on rapidly. I see. and a queer dark glow showing itself in his eyes. Silly old women walk about in them and God can't get into them. when you happen The tone be walking about in in my shrubberies. just because the bushes aren't trimmed. approaching the edge of the water and leaning on his cane. his cheeks growing more and more flushed. Children and can't fairies are safe there. Mr." said the lord of the manor. gesticulating. He had They now arrived at the edge of Lenty Pond." "I hope to you'll never hurt yourself. Urquhart's hands. It was clear that Mr. already begun to waver a little in this view. leeches. "Hullo. If you two!" cried Jason with strained Wolf had been previously struck by the manner in which the poet had rallied the unregreat man. and Wolf was amused by the sight of two naked figures. It had . It had been stonily self-centred when he came out of the ditch." which his employer uttered these words sions about these two did not altogether surprise Wolf. splashing. "There are idiots who can't enjoy that shrubbery of yours.

rather fool- ishly and self-consciously. but a palphosphorescent nebulosity. It now became suddenly suffused with a kind of abandoned sentimentality. staggered out of the water and sat down by the side of Jason on the bank. in high delight." cried Lobbie Torp. with a forced shiver. Every trace of nervousness passed out of it and every shadow of misery. such as might have accompanied the religious ecstasy of a worshipper of willlid. who himself. o'-the-wisps." called out Bob Weevil. "It's not too warm. as far as Wolf could see. "Why "He don't you take a swim.. Wolf noticed that the poet's expression assumed a look of almost beatific contentment as he proceeded to enter upon a whispered conversation with the small boy. not a radiant light. gentlemen. Lobbie Torp. swing himself round. and strike out boldly for the centre of the pond. by the tree-trunk in front of him. He's afeard of they girt water-snakes. watching the flexible muscles "Well done. dursn't. beating the his legs with a flies away from muddy willow-branch. It seemed to be illuminated by some soft inner light. was too occupied in casting awe-struck glances at the Squire to give the least attention to what was being said to him. Weevil?" enquired Mr.CROOKED SMOKE 441 been twitching with mischief as he talked. Urquhart blandly. his thin white figure streaked with green pond-weed. pulling himself up. Sir. Weevil! Well done!" cried out the Squire and slim . Bob Weevil's reply to this taunt was to drop his hold upon the tree.

superintending some species of athletic sports. liberated from to the pure ecstasies He himself began vaguely wondering. The presence of those two lads seemed to have drawn out of both his equivocal companions every ounce of black bile or complicated evil. while all went on. as the muddy ripples eddied round him. Weevil!" he went on. a hurried mental estimate of his own feel- and he frankly confessed it to himself in some queer way definitely uncomfortable and embarrassed. hover- ing with the gnats and midges above that pond. "Float now. was the too. that hitherto had remained The youthful dealer in sausages turned in terrified concealment. The air of excited well-being around him jarred ings. ill at ease. The Squire had the air of an innocent. and even something of a fool. "aura" of the situation seemed entirely natural and harmless. this There passed rapidly through Wolf's mind. saint. some species of electricity to which he was completely insensitive.442 WOLF SOLENT back of the swimmer. What puzzled him. Jason had the look of an enraptured earthly persecution and awakening of Paradise. fact that the psychic profoundly and annoyingly. He felt awkward. energetic school- master. felt He upon his nerves as if there were actually present. to rise and flap away through the thick reeds. "Let's see you float!" upon his back and beat the surface of the pond with arms and heels. as position Bob Weevil reversed his and with vigorous strokes ap- . causing a solitary moor-hen.

by the classic nakedness of the two youths. articulate itself in this some volcanic But moment. but such was the way he felt. a dualism in which every living thing was compelled to take part. a dualism descending to the profoundest gulfs of being. one of his own most permanent impressions had always been of the nature of an extreme dualism. . there existed that between himself and Mr. He knew very well why it had this effect.CROOKED SMOKE 443 preached the willow-tree. and seemed to menace with doubt and confusion one of the dominant motive- powers of his identity. He had been. His whole philosophy had been for years and years a deliberately subjective thing. At any rate. whether the numerous intimations of peril he had been receiving lately had any reality in them. and he thought he would never cease to feel like that. he found himself beginning to wonder if the whole idea of this psychic struggle were not a fancy of his brain. he knew sort well. The sense that this might be the case effect had an extremely disconcerting upon him. by the disturbed waters of Lenty Pond. half-hypnotized by the heavy sunshine." He had come more and more to regard "reality" as a mere ing and most vivid among life name given to the most lastall the various impressions of which each individual experiences. It might seem an insubstantial view of so solid a thing as what is called "truth". It was one of the fatalities of his tem- perament that he completely distrusted what is called "objective truth. Urquhart that ex- some at of subterranean struggle ultimately would plosion. taking for granted for many months.

Weevil. Sitting on the bank." Wolf said to himself. He was not was profoundly necessary But it to feel the impact of this mysterious struggle feel that and to him now he was taking part in it. "What would self. . Then all in a moment he asked I feel at this himself a very search- ing question. encouraging the silly manoeuvres of the sausageseller. his surmounted by impudent water-rat face." he said to himand Lobbie a little girl? be quite untroubled by this Giorso he answered his gione-like fete-champetre? No!" own question "I should feel just as uncomfortable even then at sex . he was content to rigid in his definito his life-illusion and obscure. What had come over as he watched the shining body of Mr. "He looks like a mediaeval bishop watching a tournament. .444 WOLF SOLENT this invisible struggle The essence of leave vague tions. hugging his knees. and he was struck by the purged and almost hieratic look which the man now wore. it's a question of something else it's a . And the placid sun- burnt sympathy he felt for the man's amiable passivity seemed seeping in upon him like a warm salt-tide a tide that was outside any "dualism" a tide that was threatening the banked-up discriminations of his whole life. "if I Weevil were a in that case girl moment. as he stood leaning upon his cane. he had time to watch the Squire. as the self- conscious youth once more began his gymnastics with the willow-tree. . It isn't a question of the . Should my complicity. . was a sort of moral atrophy. at a little distance from Jason and Lobbie.

Otter. to meet him." chill. Weevil! Good-bye. swoop of a pounced I at once on the main "That's what wanted to discuss with you. The stirring of the waters of Lerity to was evidently perilous him! He found hat. Lobbie! Don't stay in too long or you'll catch a shall get into trouble with the family. worldly sagacity and yet lessness. "I must rush off. full of a full of kind of humorous reck- . like the issue. "What's going to happen to those Smith girls?" She gave him one of her sharp. and a louder splash made by Lob as he made by Mr. his mother sitting over the tea-table in artificial Roger Monk's trim house." he cried. Weevil as he plunged Wolf's train of ideas. kestrel. It was a quarter to five. quick looks. Urquhart and Jason seemed as indifferent to his departure as if he had been an inquisitive Guernsey cow flick who had approached them and then gone off with a of her tail. interrupted He glanced at his watch." she said. however.CROOKED SMOKE question of 445 " A noisy splash still darted into the water. sewing their tea together poppies round her During he related all he chose to relate of the hatter's death. with her accustomed airy directness. As he walked across the field he had an uneasy sense that he was retreating from some occult arena where he had suffered an irreversible defeat. Sir? We'll meet again soon. and I Mr. His mother. Good-bye. "You'll excuse me. He scrambled to his feet and picked up his stick.

446 WOLF SOLENT "No one has the least idea. half -mischievous glance. a glance full of a sort of gloating tenderness that laughed at both uneasy. ironical. protruded itself in an extremely formidable manner. Fortunately she's got a very sweet nature. itself and its object. he felt obscurely "I hope. "that I shan't inflict my philanthropies on Gerda. to her seat. coming round the tahle. Solent's face. she went back again." A somewhat grim look passed over Mrs. Her adamantine chin was pushed forward. It was certainly a relief to him that this was so." she said lightly. "I wish I could do something for them. she kissed him with a series of little bird-like pecks. "There's no one like my Lambkin. round the table. as he met her warm." His mother looked mischievously and affectionately at him. and after that and ate more bread- Wolf received the impression that his obvious concern over Mattie and Olwen had for some reason given her a deep sense of satisfaction. "for being too good to live!" Having thus given him the it! feeling how well he knew thai the very deepest stretch of his spirit only ap- peared as a pretty little pet-dog trick to her cynical maternal eroticism. Suddenly." she said. like the under-lip of a carnivore. But I don't see how I can. and her under-lip. She drank more tea and-butter. and yet." he responded. ." he said at last. "I don't see your pretty Gerda putting herself out for anybody.

Solent. "I'm afraid you spoil us all." he retorted hotly." she said. to spoil her life. Solent rose to her flint. Pure snobbishness most And you'd like to hurt her. Mother! It's you who 'play your cards. such as not an- other girl in the world would show!" His mother's massive face. with a wicked. better to have gone back to Blacksod Wolf.' as hard-set as you call it." She had never spoken to him in this tone before. you are absolutely unfair!" he cried. darkened to a dull red. airy little laugh. Lambkin. "She knows you too well." she said. "She's utterly incapable of such a thing! I wish you'd learn the same sweet generosity. under her weight of silver hair. "It's to dare to thwart her generous nature!" he cried. You hate her for some unknown absurd likely! reason. with a trembling pure-and-simple magnanimity. That's why oh. "But your Gerda knows how to play her cards. "And you've always been unfair about Gerda. you. and her laugh was sardonic. "She's as anxious about them as I am." remarked Mrs. Mrs.CROOKED SMOKE Wolf began instantaneously to 447 grow angry far more angry than he could himself account for." feet. her face pale now and "You'd have done this afternoon. "if that's how you feel about me!" "Mother. I see it now! . to make her suffer. "Play her cards!" he cried in high indignation. Wolf. "It's lip. The magnetic current of his anger had touched an evil chord in her own nature.

it's all right! I don't You me and women complain. I'm growing an old woman. I've I good to her. not one crow's-feather. and yet. choke. nothing flatter . it was the same savage eroticism that dominated both these movements. cajole me. it rose to a terrible. as Wolf knew well. for your pretty. brainless Gerda!" she cried. all in a moment. and been made don't a fool of for my trouble.448 WOLF SOLENT up about Mattie. that it and you are glad should!" She came again round the table now. to please you . as she let herself be blind rush of accumulated self-pity. her left hand on the handle of the silver cake-basket tea-table. Wolf? Noth- . right! I can stand it!" she cried. you're so glad I'm fussed You think that will spoil everything for Gerda. and now I'm going . "I care nothing. this being shelved and superannuated while your feellittle girls! Oh. but with a very different purpose from her previous gesture. . like the sound of a great sea-bell in a violent storm. overwhelmed by a began to break and ringing intensity. since you married? Oh. and old aren't such pleasant companions as brainless a funny experience. little I . . nothing! You just come and me. "It's all . But you never stay! Do you realize you haven't stayed one night under the same roof with me. "I had plenty of practice with your father. count any more in your . standing quite close to him. it's all right! But it's ings are just as young as anyone's!" Her voice. know see how ing . Don't you think life. . if it which formed the centre of the hand opening and shutting as "I've been and her right were galvanized. and then.

Never had her handsome features looked more noble. . Wolf. its primordial simplicity. The nature of her feeling. while the other twitched frantically at her waist-band. ing. had vian image brated and endured through long centuries. Oh. its directness. to the outrage of his im- In the storm of her abandonment. felt weak. seemed to display a wild desire to strip herself naked before him. to overwhelm him with the wrath of her naked maternal body. reduced his own emotion to something ridiculous. falter- He felt like a finical attendant watching the splendid fury of some Sophoclean heroine. thing to be a woman!" to . such primeval passion.CROOKED SMOKE have the same thing with you. piece by glittering piece. Something impersonal rose up in its place. He became aware that her anger leaped up from some incalculable crevasse in the rock-crust of the universe. and fall tinkling upon the floor. bare piety. 449 . it's a cruel She pushed back her grey hair from her forehead with one hand. despicable. never had her whole personality projected such magnificent. so that it became no longer just a struggle between Wolf Solent of all the stricken maternal nerves that became a struggle between the body of Maternity itself and the bone of its bone! She broke now into desperate sobs and flung herself it and Ann Solent . the light irony that was her personal armour against life seemed to drop from her. as he watched her. clutching at her belt. such as he himself had never approached. She towered above him there with that grand convulsed face and those expanded breasts. while her fine hands.

pitiful howl . so grotesquely reduced. tress of it and one disarranged wavy grey hair hanging across her cheek. don't know . clumsy ishness. women . was the human animal out of whose entrails he had been this actual dragged into light and air. Something will do it . . oh. It's both! But. . and lifting herself up by her arms. prophetic. . menacing. long. Don't expect anything else. . . And came over him with a wave of remorseful shame that formidable being. straight towards him. . one day make you. Turning half-round towards Wolf. I . propping herself upon one of her arms. . was not a pure or simple emotion. . stupid.. dry. "It's that he who's doing all this to me! You needn't think you could do it alone! It's both of you. heavy.450 WOLF SOLENT face-down upon the sofa. . . Something. . But the demon that tore at her vitals was not yet content. however. to Wolfs consternation. you great. like a . . one strong leg exposed as high as the knee.. . of her abandonment shocked something him. The physical shamein lessness. she raised a trapped leopard in the jungle. His remorse. lumps of self. some vein of fastidious reverence. will Something. . will make you . too. . But his mother's . It was complicated by a kind of sulky indignation and by a bitter sense of injustice. what. women!" she cried aloud. Wolf surveyed her form as she lay there. one day and I shall be glad. some day. . . husky sobs. . her body heaving with long. . she held out the other with her firstfinger extended. I shall be glad!" in her She drew arm and buried her face in the sofa. "Women and then. .

the impression. the dis- ordered tress of ruffled hair that lay across He drew his hand from his mouth. so that. ironical brown eye was fixed upon him and was steadily regarding him regarding him through it. Her paroxysm roused something in him which. as he now sombrely contemplated those grey hairs. that one warm. namely. pulled her quickly. But he was mouth with his not yawning. than he had ever felt at the times when he admired her most and loved her most. and what he felt now he had felt a thousand times before felt in the earliest dawn of consciousness. This was an old automatic gesture of his: if to hand mouth was the one perhaps originally induced by his consciousness that his his weakest and most sensitive feature and by which the sufferings of his mind were most had quickly betrayed. bending down above up from a recumbent into a sitting posture. and. Then he suddenly became aware ceased. and that exposed knee. glowing. rose to his feet his mother.CROOKED SMOKE 451 cynicism had always shocked this element in his nature. He let himself sink down as in his chair and covered his hide a yawn. had she known it. don't!" he cried. "You're laughing at me. "Mother. she would have recognized as more dangerous than any responsive anger. But this feeling did not destroy his pity. and a second later that the sobs he received a most queer impression. you're pretending! And I might have done I don't know . What he would have out of the liked to do at that moment was just to slip room and out of the house. he felt a more poig- nant consciousness of what she was.

they both sat down again at the deserted tea-table. or the branches of two trees exhausted by a storm. intense. and frightening him out of his wits. and now you're laughing at me!" He fell on his knees in front of her and she touzled forehead sink let her down till it rested against his. Wolf was conscious desire of abandoning himself to a vast undisturbed peace a peace without thought. because you scared -me so. and finally kissing him with a hot. emptied the teapot into to his feet after that cups. and began spreading for themselves large mouthfuls of bread-and-butter with overflowing spoonfuls of red-currant jam. as though their mutual enjoyment of the sweet morsels they . and. her own glowing tear-stained cheeks against his chin. You've just been teasing your poor son. tyrannous kiss. full of unspoken reciprocities. hyp- notizing obliterating everything from his consciousness except a faint delicious feeling that everything had him been obliterated. or a peace that flowed over him from the dim reserlife. She raised her hands to his head and held back by his stubbly straw-coloured hair. He rose moved by their and so did she. as she did so.452 WOLF SOLENT what. pressing. Wolf felt as if this were in some way a kind of sacra- mental feast. a simultaneous impulse. and he even received a queer sensation. It was his mother herself who broke the it spell. their and there they remained for a while. aim. like the skulls of two animals out at pasture. a two skulls in happy trance of relaxed contact. soothing him. voirs of prenatal lulling him.

highway which he had followed on the pre- ceding night. his head full of Mr. Every object of the way took on an especial glamour. he came and gathering their experiences together as one might gather a bunch of ragwort or hemp-agrimony out of the dusty hedges. Roads and lanes! Lanes and roads! What a part these tracks for the feet of men and beasts. like a great flapping rook. and never had he enjoyed so deeply one peculiar trick of his mind. that day he drove over by the side of Darnley Otter. and then across the fields to the the broader left. had played in his mental consciousness! The thrill that this idea of roadways gave him was its a proof to him that his mind was returning to inde- nosis. unknown people's lives. sensuous sympathy he could it feel sometimes for completely their dwellings. . as he passed by He enjoyed now with especial satis- faction. muddy in Winter. Smith's death. after its plunge into that maternal hypHis spirit felt indeed deliciously free just then. he found himself glancing across toward the fields to his right.CROOKED SMOKE 453 swallowed so greedily were an obscure reversion to those forgotten diurnal nourishments wjiich he must have shared with her long before his flesh was separated from hers. pendent orbit. He recalled his first acquaintance with this road. This was a certain queer. toward the lane that led to the cemetery. and expanded its wings to its heart's content. Half-an-hour later he was walking leisurely towards Ramsgard along that now so familiar road. thinking of the people in each cottage to. and as he began to approach the town. dusty in Summer.

was not confined to the pinks in that hot little garden behind iron railings. Such a moment he himself felt presently. reverting to days when some remote ancestor of his. but what he enjoyed now.454 WOLF SOLENT Well enough did he know how many of these experiences were bitter and grotesque. used to in- hale day by day that particular sweetness? Or was it and more general than this? Certainly something larger what he felt just now. a fragrance that made him think of a certain little garden of old- fashioned pinks that he used to pass. there came some quick wandering breaths of cooler air. this emotion? Was it an inherited feeling. he was more stirred now by this far-off impression. brushing against his face and passing swiftly upon their way. sun-baked Where did it come from. just before the road he traversed entered the outskirts of Ramsgard. The pinks were meagre alley. misty evening. along with all these unknown people. as he leaned over a gate to rest. sensuous well-being. down a narrow West London stirred Mr. touched some chord of seminal memory that gave him just then a transporting thrill. It was much more . in cloister or market-place. full of what seemed to him a veritable diffused essence of gold-dust. little But the thought of them in their garden. so close to the hot pavement. If in enough in themselves. on his way to the place where he gave his lectures. Urquhart's library he had been by Roger Monk's flower-beds. was their moments of simple. carried a peculiar fragrance with them. Through the warm. as these cool-wafted airs came over the yellow stubble. and these breaths of air.

" expressions. stopping here of passage. as he strode along. of Christie Mala- fields like a thin spiral cloud! and in that shape went wavering away over the "These quaint words." he said to himself. these emanations trees. swinging his stick from side to side like a madman." he thought. sitiveness. from place like a bird it to place. philosopher Certain human were always fascinating dwell to Wolf. retains all these frail essences. from plants and roadsides and gardens. "to describe what we all feel. as if such things actually possessed immortal souls!" He turned from the gate and pursued his road. "There must be.CROOKED SMOKE as if he were enabled to enter. and repeating aloud. used by the men of old time. but never valued at true worth until had vanished away. to be drawn upon a by those who seek for them through the world ory that has the while it mem- power of obliterating infinite debris. meaning one thing to the and quite another thing to the populace. I must tell Christie that!" it And then it occurred to him how impossible would be to explain any living intelligence the faltering thoughts that had . the words "immortal souls. "im- mortal souls." until by a familiar transformation those formidable sounds took on a shadowy personality of their kite own took on the shape. in fact. "some deep race-memory in which these things are stored up. His mind began to now upon the actual syllables of this phrase. have more in them than people have any idea to of. into 455 by a lucky psychic sensome continuous stream of human awareand stopping its ness awareness of a beauty in the world that travelled lightly there.

he came bolt upon the passing old monastic conduit." he thought. of restoration." so talismanic to most people. Lenty Pond . had never. such as had hardly been drawn upon at all by the sons and daughters of men. 9 "Why is it." he "that this particular expression. faintest from his childhood. Malakite! kept hovering in front of his mind. essentially polytheistic! And yet.456 WOLF SOLENT ended by his invocation of the "soul" of a tiny London garden and his embodying it in the wraith of the daughter of Mr. airs of that as he passed summer evening wafted about now under the vast shadow were immense resources Abbey church. and my religion. however phrase. It must be that my world if I is essentially a manifold world. thought. possessed the magic for him! "It must be. in the melancholy drift of the world! With the cool him. spread abroad over the face of the earth. that became nothing. in matof good and evil" and he recalled his sensations at "I'm what they'd call a dualist. in this 'immortal as souls. should act upon my mind way?" And he moved slowly along now between the sculptured entrance to the School-House and the little low-roofed their confectionery. that scattered. as. he of the felt. "immortal souls" even after it had It still this its moorings. that there of renewal. I suppose. "that anything suggestive of metaphysical unity is distasteful to me. ters have any. that wilted. slipped like a boat from to all that flagged. There seemed a noble and defiant challenge in it to all that petered out. under a carved archway. shop where the straw-hatted boys of the School bought it occurred to him as curiously sig- nificant that the syllable "God.

under the out-jutting gables of a mediaeval hostelry. lad." he repeated. discreet. The traffic of the high-street passed him by. Romans some Ionian barrel-organ was ^eing played where the pavement widened. who danced to its jigging dualism. glowing-cheeked and intent. and groups of tall strawhatted schoolboys brushed past him. between the Late Gothic pillars. his fingers at that conduit-trough bling to bits and drifting away. tune. swung past Wolf's retreat. his mind* seemed to reject every single one of those traditional human catchwords. and laid his hand on the edge of the water-trough. turning off the water and throwing a nervous glance round him. in cold. one compelled to accept hopeless contra- dictions in the very depths of one's being!" He moved right in. like young market-place. lest his pro- . trying to retain the philosophical distinctions which he felt crum- "Polytheism . Directly one comes to putting feelings is into words. quiet who. 'mpassive expression of the old it man who little played contrasted with a couple of ragged children. and they served to give his thoughts an edge. under the carved roof of the old conduit. .CROOKED SMOKE Ay: It's 457 funny. A and Wolf couldn't help noticing how the ab- stracted. But as he fumbled with and turned automatically a leaden faucet so that water gushed out over his hand. with an arm round the neck of another. "I just told fell him it was all bloody rot!" The words upon his ears from the lips of a pale-faced. "All bloody rot!" he mumbled. remote. . haughty.

laid side by side on the great mahogany table. he had the feeling that his real self was engaged in an exciting maze of transactions. smiling and radiant at the presence of so much drama. admitted him after a long wait upon the doorstep. more in all this. completely different from those which just now occupied his senses and his will. all the same." And as he left the conduit and made his way up the street. and it was with but a languid interest that she busied herself with the black ribbons of Gipsy and Antoinette. it had become advisable in his to place the Hatter of Ramsgard elm-wood coffin without further delay. He found the Smith menage. Even Wolf's and he would have arrival did not really distract her. but due to the nature of his illness and the heat of the weather. bur- dened J)y the presence of two portly and extremely lo- quacious undertakers. when Mattie's little maid. Mattie herself seemed strangely lethargic as she drew . than any of these words implies. but more! More. but the child was nervous and preoccupied. Not less. That's the whole thing.458 WOLF SOLENT "But there's ceedings should have attracted attention. Mattie had brought Olwen so as to down into the dining-room. with the cushion from Mr. remove her from the sound of the hammering. Contrary to custom. I don't suppose I shall ever discover! But more of something. given much to know what the thoughts actually were that gave to her little oval face that sombre pallor and frowning intensity. Smith's chair under their waxen heads. though more of what.

" went the hammer room above. and Wolf found it difficult. . full. All the world over." he thought. But how many times had Mr. "There! That must have been the last! lence But what the devil are they doing now? This siis worse than the hammering. Well. "there'll be that pemould flung on the top of a wooden lid." thought Wolf. Smith heard that hammering and that rattle of earth-mould? Did he sit in this very place when they were nailing Lorna in? I must break this uncomfortable silence.CROOKED SMOKE 459 up one of the straight-backed leather-covered chairs and sat down by his side. Are they having a the doorbell. drink?" There was a sharp ring at and the three strained faces in that dusky dining-room glanced feet anxiously at one another. to broach the subject of her future. those same two sounds. "Would anyone know coffin- by that sound." he thought. minute later and they all rose hurriedly. knock . "that those were nails? There'll be another sound into the hole. knock. with which his mind was so . while the Mr. accompanied by is the low-toned rumble of conversation from the two intruders. not quite all the world over. . "Knock in the . Smith's white face dominated the slow passing of the minutes." so his when they put him culiar sound of loose. . while to their complete surprise Mrs. dry mind ran on. "Death weary indifference of a queer thing. while the patter of the maid's on the tiled floor responded to this new sound. as they both stared at the unsympathetic silver on the sideboard. Otter and Darnley were A .

My house my own. What came was this oh. . Mrs. Otter. "Sit down. Thank you. I wanted to come. "I am sure it's Mr. you've always been most kind to me. my to child. . I don't it! worry you now about Jason ." murmured Mattie. but my son . I My son was He got me a carriage." was all she said in reply. . Otter. He was surprised to observe that Mattie had only in the vaguest manner caught the drift of this speech. . but Darnley gave him a quick reassuring nod. . my mind. The were so sorry for you. I mean just as I liked. won't you? Sit down. in coming to you. hope you don't mind my coming. you know!" This last rather unexpected phrase was uttered with such a winning and whimsical smile that Wolf looked hastily at Mattie. No.. know whether I ought to . please. . . that's been broken for years. Otter." very nice of you. "was to ask a great I poor and say really rather a difficult favour.. Mrs." he heard Mrs. "We ushered into the room. "My son left everything completely in my hands. "Yes.460 WOLF SOLENT little lady seemed perturbed and embarrassed at the presence of Wolf. told me I might do . Otter say. . very anxis ious that she should say nothing to hurt this visitor's feelings." Wolf made a fumbling attempt to replace the piece of carved mahogany that had come off in his hand. This mechanical preoccupation enabled him to notice in silence the tie manner in which Darnley and Mat- had begun to "What I had in stare at each other.. "I heard by chance. Wolf.. Otter rapidly." began Mrs. very good.

She's wonderful in a crisis." The words came from 01 wen.. "That's just what I'm talking about. as movement of one of her hands towards Darnappealing to him for help." in the tone of an ancient voice play-goer commenting on an oft-repeated play. Mr. "Mattie doesn't know what ever we shall do. Well. and Wolf. "You were ous. But Darnley also seemed to have lost the drift of her remarks. . "She's wonderful in a crisis. You know what he Jason." he re- peated absent-mindedly. Otter went on.CROOKED SMOKE 461 Didn't he. wonderful in a crisis. last quite right. "She really is . There was a perplexed frown on her face now. "You're awfully wise when things are getting . . in such an eager tone that everyone turned towards her with full attention. my dear? What a poet he is. My son mean is very particular. .. and did little to help forward the general air of cloudiness into which the conversation had fallen. who now stood close to Wolf's chair. Otter. getting was. and the words served to bring matters to a head. "Our Dimity is I firmly. . Solent thinks he's a great poet. Darnley?" she repeated. Solent? ." she said Mattie. "Didn't he." he replied at ranseri- dom. "What I came to ask addressing herself to feeble and old. Mother. as he looked at the lethargic silver on the sideboard. is. Mr. and she made a feeble little if ley. what I . don't you. seemed to hear the of the cake-basket addressing the biscuit-bowl." to He addressed this it remark no one in particular. Darnley?" Mrs. and I'm not as strong as I you was this." said Mrs.

when was Wolf had already screwed his head round so as to snatch a glimpse of Olwen's face. too. I'm very I like. children that was thinking about. Of course. "It's her lessons I fond of teaching children. this one must come. She turned to Mattie hurriedly. but hurried on before Mattie could utter a word. Though I did set my . my dear. very kind of you. descending the who gave "Well.462 WOLF SOLENT to say is this. Mrs. I "Though very. "I couldn't. one they / and I've got all the fairy-stories. I've got the let wouldn't little. Mrs." me even see the pictures of. I mean. and of course we've got to think of her lessons. and he was surprised at the grave glow of unrestrained delight that was now slowly beginning to spread over it." she said. It came my help dear" would be such a pleasure to us all. But Mattie still shook her head. Otter. here she laid her grey-gloved hand lightly "if on Mattie's wrist me you know? little you'd come and live with us and help me with everything. Now I don't shake your head like that! know what you mean." she it's murmured in a faint voice. Olwen says she'll be good when I leave her and it not fret or be lonely. Otter glanced at Wolf. But could never think of such a thing. her a slight inclination of the head. "I don't want to rush you against your will into anything. Olwen and I have been talking about to and we've made up our minds that I must go work." At this moment there was a sound of heavy footsteps stairs. accompanied by a few muffled remarks of a facetious kind." The little lady drew a long breath.

And as he breathed this air. Those ponderous silver pieces seemed to Wolf now. and once more Wolf was aware of a most vivid sense of Mr. instead of the wraith of Christie Malakite. It resolute. but rather some spiritual essence from the presence of Death itself. but it was firm and There was another pause then among them all. as he frowned upon them. was very tender. He felt himself to be walking alone ." it 463 it and I've thought about from every poshand Mattie's answer to this was to stretch forth her and press tightly the gloved fingers of the little old lady. ter that associated itself it was the body of the hat- with that remembered scent not any repulsive odour of mortality emerging from those nailed-up boards. an air like that which he had been conscious of on his approach to Ramsgard. Smith's white. as he leaned over that gate. and with the noises of the street there entered and circled round him a deliciously cool air. comment- ing with a kind of desolating equanimity upon the events that were taking place. floated in and all became a vague humming manner of queer detached memories upon him. One of the windows behind Wolf's head was open. But the look which she gave her showed no sign of yielding. to be shaping themselves with shadowy persistence into funereal ornaments heaped up beside the dead hatter. set face.CROOKED SMOKE heart upon sible side. the voices of his companions in his ears. This time. detached. Once more the scent of pinks came quivering through his brain and he felt a shameless thrill of pleasure. exhausted. to be gathering themselves together in that darkening room.

Otter will be only too pleased I can't accept her offer if you talk like that. a merry reassured laugh. rushing to where Darnley was sitting." she murmured softly. "Mrs. The presence of Death and to touch them with clear. below him. "I want to do what she says! Why can't we do what she says? I'll be bad if you don't let us! I won't go to sleep. "You'll tell her what she must do when everyone's gone. with her eyes fixed upon his face. they would take him for tea during summer seemed jaunts from to re-create these things Weymouth. where. Otter and Wolf smiled at each other. lay their . nervous hand. I'll be far worse than Gipsy or Antoinette. Then she laughed. as a child. slid coaxingly upon his knee. and. she stroked his beard with her small. and there came into Wolfs mind those scenes in Homer where girlish suppliants. mortal as well as immortal. at the bottom of a green valley a mass of huddled grey roofs among meadows and streams round which the twilight was darkening. I'll I'll tear my hair out! bite my hand!" "Hush. Olwen!" he heard Mattie reply. such as used to be sold at a shop in Dorchester. Mrs. Along with all this he was conscious of the taste of a peculiar kind of baker's bread." The little girl gazed at her for a moment with a quaint. He was voice of roused from his trance by the Olwen arguing desperately with Mattie.464 WOLF SOLENT There was a town far along some high white road bordered by waving grasses and patches of yellow rock-rose. shrill a peculiar intensity. solemn scrutiny. and then.

my dear child. Olwen hastily snatched her dolls from the table all got and carried them the fireplace. and he felt convinced girl that if the Otters refused to accept her rejection of their scheme. bow to new visitor. "Well. the off to Mr. he got the impression that the longed to rush away and burst into a flood of crying. "you must not answer us in a hurry like this. but although there were on her cheek. The kindred blood in his veins made him clairvoyant. as Wolf kept surrepti- Mattie tiously glancing at her. Smith's big leather chair by Otter. firm tone for Miss Smith. "if she goes on refusing to let you live with us?" Wolf thought he had never seen Darnley 's eyes look so deeply luminous as they did while he uttered those words. for there came a second ring followed by the same impetuous rush little of the maid across the hall." he heard Mrs. tears still shook her head. . Otter saying. the whole expression of her face was relaxed and at peace.CROOKED SMOKE hands 465 upon the chins of those they are cajoling! "Would you tear my hair out as well as your own. and if only at the street-door. but not into unhappy crying. This time Wolf looked well- with dismay into his sister's face when he heard a known They voice asking in a loud. little one have already She stopped suddenly. up when Miss Gault was shown into the room. The presence of Wolf did not seem to be any surprise . Indeed." enquired Darnley. she would eventually be persuaded. You see what friends Darnley and your " become. after a hurried and Mrs. followed the child to that retreat and entered into a whispered conversation with her.

what do I know about them? . with one of her chance-flung felici- Nature was arranging a singularly appropriate stage for what at any rate was an exciting encounter between Darnley Otter and Mattie Smith. that. and he stood with his back propped against a bookcase. If so. he couldn't be .466 WOLF SOLENT She nodded at to the formidable lady. In the darkening twilight of the room for no one had thought of asking for a lamp the man's slim figure. Darnley himself seemed quite unas she perturbed by this coldness. . had the appearance of some old Van Dyck of those "Sundays at illustrations portrait come to life in a Victorian house." thought Wolf. Wolf. "But very likely never in her own house and probably never when they could really take in each other's personality. His strangely-coloured blue eyes remained fixed upon Mattie. Besides . embraced Mattie." whose the far-off must have solaced many a long evening in childhood of Albert Smith. as Wolf glanced sideways at him. like old display at the coming on of night. him familiarly. . All this before I came may have begun years ago the scene at all. . Behind his back the great heavily-bound editions Home" and "Leisure Hours. . what secretive demons they upon both have been!" He turned once more to his sister. "Darnley must have often met Mattie before. gathered the sumthat mer darkness about them with peculiar mystical solemnity which old books. became aware ties. Oh. toying with his watchchain. trees and old hedges. but her greeting to Darnley was stiff and formal. as he lis- And tened with amusement to the discourse of Selena Gault.

not gaudy" attire of a person quite oblivious of contemporary fashion. Wolf began to be conscious of the drift of the amazing discourse which the visitor was directing." doesn't take the old lady's offer. they had ramparted with their massive solemnities! And Wolf was astounded at the impertinence of what . with the words "History of the World" printed on it. the girl's heavy countenance. the dark-green curtains. but queer way it lent itself so well to the quality of that room. The gathering darkness It assisted at this strange play. what Jason did say when this And then. the enormous empty coal-scuttle combined together to give weight to child- the opinions of this aggressive woman. Smith's father. who now took a chair by his side. "Well! She'll be a little fool if she there. as transfigured. and in some in good taste it like. Selena's attire was enough indeed. whose own hood. the grotesque portrait of Mr. that it seemed to bring the furniture itself to life in support of everything she said. even in that to gloom. like a cannonade of lumbering artillery." the leather back of a draught-board. he thought. had a look that he could only describe self him- "There's certainly something up. was as if all the ponderous objects in that room in- cluding the silver. though. and accepting a cigarette from Darnley. I'd like to know. seated a little back scheme was suggested!" from Mattie and Miss Gault. like that of the silent person upstairs. the bronze horses on either side of the mantelpiece.CROOKED SMOKE mistaken ! 467 Why. the chairs. the leather backs of the "Sundays at Home" and the "Leisure Hours. it was superlatively ladywas the "rich. across the table into the ears of his sister.

because people don't hear of these things when they really want them. or Truth. of course. for another it's lucky I did. about Home. and of course Olwen is like your child now. ." making seem the very voice of that charitable institution which ac- cepted both mother and child. see you on Sundays. made them last year. "I shall be delighted to provide. but the darkened room was full of the echoes of it the whispering of Mrs. "And the little sum required by the authorities. But it was an indecent impertinence." she added.. I do.. "Wolf would be able to run over and see you on Sundays." little nod in Wolfs direction.. Otter. purpose. It resembled the absurd drapery covering the symbolic figure of Mercy. .. I now saying. Her voice sank. only a couple of hours by train. which dominated the great dining-room clock that stood in the middle of the marble chimneypiece. who was evi- dently telling resisted it. The beautiful thing about it is that they accept mother and child . and Another great advantage about is this plan is that Taunton so near us all She made a ." they repeated. being the only force that And while the dark-green curtains were delighted. or Righteousness. It was an impertinence covered up with bronze and brocade. the draught-board "History it of the like World" echoed the word "Sundays. "See you on Sundays . . "of having and me .. Olwen a story. but I couldn't . "I confess I first thought. recognize that it was against my advice that ." Miss Gault was to live with Olwen so this Emma I have her teasing the cats Home this is better. or pining for you have made a lot of enquiries ." Miss Gault continued. ....468 WOLF SOLENT Miss Gault did say.

CROOKED SMOKE

469

you adopted Olwen. But the child's naturally fond of you now; and I think it would be wrong to separate her from you, as would have to be done if you got employment here ... for the child couldn't be left alone all
day
.

.

.

Don't answer

and no doubt everything here will be sold. me just yet," the lady went on. "I want you,
all I've

Wolf, too, to hear
. . .

got to say

.

.

.

for, of

course
that

well!

there's
I

no need for me
I

to

enter into

.

.

.

but what
is

thought

would ask you now, Mattie
I

dear,

to tell

me what

particular things in this house
.
.

well! you're especially fond of; and then I should be able to be present at the auction
.

hope

that

whenever you do have a house of
well
!

... so your own they'll
at this point, as

be

...

they'll be, so to speak, still in the family."

She turned more boldly towards Wolf
if

to ensure his recognition of her old-fashioned tact.
at that

But Wolf's impulse
pulse of

King Claudius in the play.
still left

moment resembled the imHe felt a desire to
and the bronze

cry out in thundering tones, "Lights! lights! lights!" So
that
it

was

to the draught-board

clock to appreciate such delicacy and to have the last

word.

was not Wolf, but Darnley, however, who broke the spell thrown upon them by Miss Gault. He walked rapIt

idly over to his mother, whispered something in her ear,

took her hand, and brought her to Mattie's side. "You'll Be a dear girl and do what we want you to do?" said the old lady clearly and firmly, taking no notice of

Miss Gault.
in his

Wolf thought he caught an appealing glance
direction,

though

it

was so dark now

that his sister's face

470

WOLF SOLENT

was a mere blur of whiteness. But he rose hurriedly and came up to where they were all grouped. There was just
a half-second's pause, which enabled

him

to catch

an

impress of the whole queer scene before he spoke, to
catch the bewildered anger on Miss Gault's face, to observe
that

Olwen had possessed

herself

of

Darnley's

hand, to
chair
floor;

remark how Mrs. Otter was so nervous that the

upon which she had laid her fingers tapped on the and then he himself spoke out with all the weight
I
it

he could muster.

"I'm sorry, Miss Gault, and
grateful for your suggestion; but

know
had

Mattie's

most

all

been settled

before you came in. They're going to stay for the present with our good friends here. They're going to do what

when I first came to King's Barton. There'll be time enough later for other arrangements; but for the moment Mattie's going to accept Mrs. Otter's invitation,
/ did

and Olwen

too.

As

to the furniture here,

we needn't

de-

cide about that in any hurry. It

may

be that Mattie would

be happier to get completely rid of it. I know I should, in her case. But it's sweet of you to suggest buying back some of it. I'm sure Mattie appreciates that very much.

But the chief point just now is what she and Olwen are going to do; and that has been quite decided hasn't
Mattie? They're going to that hospitable Pond Cottage, where I went for my first night in Dorset!"
it,

Wolf's voice became more and more decisive as he

brought his declaration to a close; but with an instinct
for preventing any further protests

from Mattie, he hur-

riedly rushed out into the hall and began calling for the little maid.

CROOKED SMOKE

471

"Constantia!" he shouted. "Constantia! Please bring
us the lamp!"

What occurred

after

his

departure from that dark-

ened dining-room he never knew. His words seemed to have had the effect of the letting off of a gun in a soundless

wood. For from where he waited

at the kitchen-door

there

came

to

him an incoherent murmur of many conat last
it

fused voices.
his

When

he returned with the lamp in

hand and placed

in the centre of the table,

Olwen

was crying

in the leather armchair,

where Mattie and

Mrs. Otter were bending over her; while Miss Gault,
standing erect in the centre of the room, was asking Darnley in a strained, husky voice whether it was true
that they

had recently discovered

in the

Abbey-church

the actual bones of
fred.

King ^Ethelwolf, the brother of Alall of

"Good-bye, then. Good-bye,
in the

you!

I

mustn't be

way any longer." With this, Miss Gault bowed to Darnley, nodded in the direction of the weeping child,
hall.

and walked straight into the

From Wolf

she kept her eyes averted as she passed;

but the expression of her face shocked him, and he followed her to the street-door. As he bent forward to turn
the handle before she set her

own hand upon

it,

he

caught sight of that deformed lip of hers; and the look
of
it

appalled him.
it

To

see such a thing as that

was

bad enough; but
dinary visage, that
torted
itself,

became worse when

the extraor-

now was

face to face with him, con-

doorway before him, into a puckered mask of outrage. He felt a little ashamed of himself for the brutality of his observation at that mothere in the

472

WOLF SOLENT
childish contortion of her face

ment; but he couldn't help noticing that Miss Gault made
a

much more

when she

collapsed than his adamantine mother had done that same afternoon! His mother had "lifted up her voice,"
as the Scripture says,

"and wept"

;

but Wolf remembered
like a lioness

well how, even

when she was howling

with

a spear in her side, her fine clear-cut features had retained their dignity. Big tears had fallen, but they had
fallen like rain
it

upon a

tragic torso.

Very

different

was

with Miss Gault at this moment! Three times she

made

an attempt to speak to him, and three times her face

grew convulsed. "Wait a minute!" he blurted out
into the dining-room.

at last,

and ran back

There he shouted a loud good-bye to them all. "See you tomorrow, Mattie dear!" he cried. "I leave you in good hands, Olwen. Good-night, Mrs.
Otter!"
"I'll

come back and have dinner with you,
as

if I

may,"

he caught up Miss Gault on the streetpavement. "Listen! What's that striking now?" He laid his hand on her arm and held her motionless. "Seven

he

said,

ay? Well, you don't dine till eight; so do have a bit of a walk before going to your house."
o'clock,

let's

"Let's go to the grave, boy," she whispered hoarsely.

"We

can talk there.

My Emma
you
get

won't mind, even

if

we

are late. But

how

will

back

to

Blacksod?" she

added with concern.
"Oh,
I'll

take the ten-o'clock train," he said. "That'll

mean

that I shan't have

any more walking and shan't
that time, doesn't it?

keep Gerda up. It runs have they changed it?"

still at

Or

CROOKED SMOKE

473

But Miss Cault had already given to practical concerns all the energy she could spare just then.

"How
right

lovely this place

is at

night!" she said, as they
if

passed under the Abbey-wall. "I wonder

Mr. Otter

is

and

it

is

really the coffin of

King ^Ithelwolf

that

they've found." They reached the main entrance to the building, and
to their surprise they

found

it

open.

"Let's go in for a minute," said Wolf. His

companion

assented in silence and they entered together. "I would have liked to have that child to live with

me," murmured Miss Gault; "but
cruel to the cats
lately
.
.
.
. .

it

would have been

.

she's

grown

so rough to them

and

she's not

always polite to

Emma."

Wolf made no reply to this remark; and as they moved slowly up the central aisle, which was feebly
illuminated from somewhere between the choir-stalls, he

allowed his mind to wander away from Miss Gault and her thwarted philanthropies. The few lights that were burning hardly reached and then only with a dim, diffused lustre, like the interior of a sand-blurred motherthe high fan-tracery of the roof. Wolf felt strongly upon him once again that feeling of mystic
of-pearl shell

exultation which

had been hovering over him

all

day;

and when the presence of the light behind the choir was explained by a sudden burst of organ-notes, he felt such
a
thrill of

happiness that

it

brought with

it

a reaction of

sheer shame.

"Accident!" he muttered to himself. "Pure accident!"

he repeated, as they crossed in front of the altar and made their way to the lady-chapel behind it. And he

474

WOLF SOLENT
felt,

even
for

as he

fumbled about in the dim
the

light,

looking

some sign of

Saxon king's

coffin,

a sense of hav-

ing feloniously stolen his ecstasy from some treasurehouse of the human race! "Why should I," he thought, "be singled out by pure chance for this? That Waterloo-

no King ./Ethelwolf for him, no fan-tracery, steps face no scent of pinks Is my gratitude to the gods, then, a base and scurvy feeling?"

Even

as this thought crossed his

mind he stumbled
upon the southern

against some sort of glass framework floor of that lady-chapel.

"Here we
"Only,
I

are,

Miss Gault!" he whispered excitedly.
if

suppose we shall get into trouble

that or-

ganist hears us. Look here, though, for God's sake! This is the king's coffin!"

dim

went down on his knees and pulled aside in the light a piece of carpet that had been carefully spread over the glass frame. The unwieldy form of his comat his side,

He

panion was promptly now

kneeling too.

"Dare

I strike
!

a match, d'ye think?" he whispered.

"No, no, boy

You

mustn't do that. Wolf, you mustn't,

you really mustn't!" murmured the daughter of the Headmaster of Ramsgard School. But he disregarded her protest, and, fumbling in his
pocket, produced a match-box and struck a

wax

vesta.

yellow flame illuminated the glass-covered aperture in the floor and threw into such weird relief
little

The

the lineaments of Miss Gault as to almost divest

them

of their humanity. Only a

dim consciousness of

this as-

tounding countenance, so near his own, reached Wolf's

mind

just then.

He was

too excited. But afterwards,

when

CROOKED SMOKE

475

he recalled the whole incident, it came back distinctly upon him as one of those glimpses into something abominable, ghastly, in Nature's pranks, such as a person were wise to make note
of,

with the

rest, as

he went

through the world
a vision
for,

!

to

Here, in the mere possibility of such say the truth, Miss Gault's face by
less

that match-flare

was rendered nothing

than bestial

was an experience to be set against those chance-heard organ-notes that had mounted up so triumphantly among
the torn battle-flags.

Holding the match
tain

aloft with his hand,

he bent down

until his face actually touched the glass. Nothing. Cer-

interesting

chromatic

effects

.

.

.

certain

flickers

and blotches of colour that was no colour, of sparkles that were opaque, of outlines that were no outlines
.

.

.

and then the match burnt his hand and went
riedly he
lit

out.

Hur-

another and held
his face
glass.

it

up, his burnt
his

hand

smarting.

Down went
against
the

till

hooked nose was
black,

pressed

Sparkles,

wavering

spots, fluctuating blotches of reddish-yellow, little orbs

of blackness,

rimmed with lunar

rings;

and then again

darkness! Nothing! Angrily he scrambled to his feet, and with childish petulance thrust his smarting fingers into
his

mouth.

"The bones are there!" he whispered huskily. "The bones are there! /Ethelwolf himself! But it's no use. We
must come again by daylight.
that are so

organ's

still

one of those things while the damnably annoying. Quick! I know what these people are ... playing!
It's
.
. .

so touchy about their treasures. Let's get out of here!"

He

hurried his companion

down

the great silent nave

476

WOLF SOLENT

and out of the open doorway. He felt much more vexed and perturbed than the occasion warranted. The meaningless sparkles

from that tricky

coffin-lid

danced

like

imps across the back of
"I suppose
it's

his eye-sockets.

too late to go over there

now?" he

said, turning to her with his hat in

one hand and his

and a wavering helplessness emanatfrom his whole figure. ing "Not at all, boy not at all!" pronounced Miss Gault.
stick in the other,

"Emma

must keep supper waiting for us for once. You'll

have time for a bite anyway before you catch that train. Come along! You don't know how fast I can walk."

Wolf put on his hat and strode by her side in silence. The air began to smell of rain by the time they reached
the slaughter-house. There was a figure with a lantern

moving about

in the yard of the shed; and Miss Gault dragged heavily on his arm as they went past, strug-

gling with the rising wind.

"You'll get no meat with me, boy," she whispered.

"No meat
I'd

no meat.

It's

the only

way
.
.

to help them.
.

But

go and be hanged to help 'em neck" the wind caught her voice
scarcely audible

hanged by the and rendered it

"by the neck, boy!"

Wolf pondered to himself upon the contradictory nature of this woman. She would go to the death to put an
end to slaughter-houses; and yet she would pack off Mattie and Olwen to God knows what kind of an institution for paupers!

He

felt

a secret desire to punish her for this incon"It's really

sistency,

and he suddenly said:

amazingly

CROOKED SMOKE
good of the Otters
to take in our friends.

477

To

find such

a generous heart in a nervous old lady like that makes

you think better of the whole human race!"

A

portion of the impulse that led him to this speech as

they passed the slaughter-house was doubtless a throb
of his

own

conscience over this matter of eating meat.

The
ish

sight of that

man

with a lantern, like some ghoul-

wanderer

in a place of execution,

impressed
it

itself

by

no means pleasantly on
uttered these words,

his

mind; and

was the

electric

vibration of this discomfort that gave his voice, as he
a certain quivering pitch of un-

necessary emphasis.

The malice
from
his arm.

in his tone

communicated

itself like

a mag-

netic current to his

companion, and she took her hand

"The child has wheedled herself round Darnley. That's all it is. The mother is willing enough, because she sees
what a good unpaid servant Mattie will make. I won't talk about it any more, and I didn't mean to refer to it;
but
I

think you're simply

mad

to let her accept such a
it

humiliating position. But there

is!

The

girl can't

have

much made

pride, or nothing

you said or they said could have

her accept such charity!"

His remark having brought about this outburst, he was able to exclaim in his heart, "You rude, ill-bred old

woman! You
done
this,

rude, ill-bred old
felt quite

woman!"

and, having

he

friendly toward her again and

quite appeased.

He pretended to be sulking, however, for the whole time they remained in the cemetery; though in reality

478

WOLF SOLENT

he was thinking to himself, "What a spirited thing it was, after all, to stick by my father like that, when he was a
complete social outcast!"
to ten when they reached Aldhelm Street, only to find Emma in such an agitated temper that Selena had to go herself into the

They walked home in even deeper rapid pace. It was twenty-five minutes

silence

and

at

a

kitchen and bring out to
of curried eggs

him

in the sitting-room a plate

and a decanter of sherry.
this hot dish

He

sat

on her sofa and swallowed
it

with

hungry

relish, eating

in

unceremonious fashion with a

spoon, and tossing off so many glasses of wine that Selena glanced at him rather nervously as she herself

nibbled a biscuit.

"Emma

does cook well!" he said at

last,

as he rose

to go. "It's all right,

Miss Gault, dear.

so anxious. I've got a head of iron."
if to

You needn't look And immediately, as
felt it to

prove he had such a head, he

be incum-

bent upon him to say something affectionate and tender. "I believe," he burst out, "I must have just the same sort
of feeling for

you

that he

had!"
it

These were his parting words; but
he was

was not

until

sitting in a third-class smoking-carriage of the South- Western train that he began to wonder why it was

that Miss Gault's face

had such a wry smile upon

it

as

he shook hands with her at her door.

He was alone in the carriage, and, windy though it was, he kept the window open and sat facing the engine. The rush of air sobered him, and he observed with interest
the scattered lights of King's Barton as the train jolted

along

its

high embankment between that village and the

479 He wondered humorously to himself what Jason would say that evening when he learnt of the of his privacy. The muddy smell let of that sluggish water. like the col- our of river-mud. a little happen what may?" The train was now following an umbrageous embankment parallel with the river Lunt. mood saddened before the train stopped at Black- "If I knew I were only going to live five more years. "I would give away four of them if I were allowed to spend the other one. with Christie!" And then. men with lanterns in slaughter-house yards. and the pallid loins of Bob Weevil streaked with the green slime of Lenty Pond. the vision of the bed of pinks the very ." he thought. named "the it Bog-stream. the sweet emanation from body of death.. which the ently Ramsgard boys assailed his irrevernostrils.CROOKED SMOKE Evershott meadows." bringing with a feeling of obscure misery. As the locomotive slowly lessened its speed. ham- mering of nails into coffins. he tried ." he thought. day and night. as the cold wind made him shiver and turn up his coat-collar.. "whether I'm just weak and cowardly in not leaving them all and carrying Christie off to London. in vain to recall those moments of happiness . A chilli- ness in his bones. new invasion His sod. sparkles and blotches that bore no human meaning. "I wonder. . But in place of these things all he could think of was obdurate roots in clinging clay. . gave all the events of the now to day a sombre colour. a weariness in his brain.

They had brought their provisions in a basket and had made their meal in unusual contentment under the shelter of a group of small sycamores that grew on the western slope of the camp. she lay as motionless as the shadows about her. directly the breakfast-things had been washed up. They had explored do was to the country in this way in almost every direction. but he found that the easiest thing to of King's Barton. for some sort of rural expedition. one arm curved beneath her fair head and the other .ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP AUGUST WAS DRAWING TO the holidays of the Blacksod aristocrats of ITS END. manor without arriving Three days before the Grammar School was to reopen he had cajoled Gerda into accompanying him to Poll's Camp. overlooking the great Somersetshire plain. Gerda Wolf had lately got into the habit of persuading to start out with him. but the humbler pupils whom it was Wolf's destiny to teach were now on the eve of their their return to work. make the utmost of these precious mornnow so soon to be snatched from him. The young Ramsgard had several weeks more before new term began. Anxious to ings of leisure. WITH AUGUST. Stretched out upon her back. so that have some sort of picnic-lunch in the direction when they separated he could reach his afternoon's work at the too tired or too late. Grammar School. Gerda was now fast asleep. AND.

landmark than Cadbury Camp. watery green. so that what he looked at now. The green of of the meadows was a shy. in local legend. He and glanced at the sleeping figure of his companion. . The day was warm. this promontory . Wolf knew . for instance. blackish monotony. The verdure the elm-trees was a sombre. as he let his eyes wander over that great level expanse towards Glastonbury. and interspersed by squares of yellow stubble. that the mysterious movements of King Arthur rex had more than once quondam rex-que futurus crossed and recrossed. away to the They were less imposing than Maiden Castle. and not too scorching to the grass. away to the south. They were less of a northwest. pallid and lustreless. The earthworks of Poll's Camp were not as deeply dug or as loflily raised as many Roman-British ramparts in that portion of the West Country. But such as they were.ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP flung 481 upon a bed of moss. . it seemed to him that the milk-white delicacy of Gerda's face. . Wolf sat with his arms hugging his knees. as she lay there. The weather had been good for the wheat that Summer. surrounded by pollarded elms of a yet darker colour. was a vast chessboard of small green fields. but the fact that the sky was covered with a filmy veil of grey clouds gave to the vast plain before him the appearance of a landscape whose dominant characteristic consisted in a patient efface- ment of all emphatic or outstanding qualities. . The yellow of the stubble-land was a whitish yellow. and his back against a sycamore-trunk. of grassy ridges. had never been touched .

while a girl is dependent upon all manner subtle external forces emanating from nature and re- turning to nature? Certainly at this deliciously moment Gerda seemed to the air. Or is it. fly across not with any actual living companlight but with some shadowy as that dandelion-seed. it unobtrusive fly He as though he longed to across it in some impossible non-human essence. helpless craving possessed girl him felt as he turned from the strative.482 WOLF SOLENT it by a more tender bloom than vaporous. wore today. under this so light as to be almost imperher lips were just parted in a confiding abanceptible. which. the grey sky. while the rounded whiteness of the bare Her breathing was that youthful arm she had flung out upon the moss had charm of unconscious trust in the kindness it. and once more surveyed that undemondistance. one of these fragile beings "happy. to have most abandoned herself power of the grass." as the phrase runs. which at this moment he saw rising high . windless A sad. he thought." came upon him. whenever he noted struck as qualities. shape ion. that a man can create happiness by sheer obstinate force out of the machinery of his own of mind. windless sky. always one of the most touching of a young girl's of man and him nature. as he watched Gerda asleep. donment to a happy sleep. And sibility it upon him how terrible was when a man had once undertaken was borne in the responto "make. the warm. that a girl is much more committed to what is called "hapIt piness" than a man is.

with the inmost soul of Christie. melancholy happy nor unhappy. "I utter nothing else. With his eyes fixed upon its patient- sembled those neither coloured horizons. re- patient. something wistful and withdrawn." and only he could do this now. Looking burn men. where Dante met the souls of the great intellects in Limbo. had about it. by some occult manip- ulation of the laws of nature! Gerda's sleep was deep and sound. it . halfsmiling in her sleep. If am I. then he turned his gaze upon the beautiful girl happy in her time- dream-world. that in confronting infinite space could only utter the mysterious words. into some region outside these things. at her lying there. diffused into all this! merged. How mad it was that he couldn't plunge with Christie. where a moment was like a whole year under It of mortal life! The this vast expanse he looked at. And less lying there outstretched beside him. trusting nature. the bodiless. he and Christie might meet and escape. To her at this moment Time was nothing. formless iden- tity in that slim frame. it did not seem so crazy a notion that lost. fields. he thought what an ap- palling risk these lovers of "happiness" take.ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP 483 above him and floating away westward with some shadowy essence that at the same time was and was not Christie Malakite some essence that was what Christie was to her own inmost self. grey sky. trusting him. their ships when they and trust their lives to the caprice of As he contemplated the loveliness of her figure.

"that when they have been a man's bedfellow. as in when the immortal gods made love to the daughters of men." before he had the least notion that his though she lives inside proving itself. he found himself engaged in a passionate dispute with his father. "I suppose is true. as he looked at her. in this blind Gerda just because we have now months than it slept together for three to Christie." so his thoughts drifted really my love is primordial way. suppose. "that tree.484 WOLF SOLENT him struck as infinitely pathetic that even beauty such as hers should be so dependent on the sexual humours of this man or that man Beauty to like that. the strongest thing on earth. of blind matter. There fact that this was a cruel irony in the he of al men had been singled out to possess beauty as he he whose heart of hearts had been given to a different being! And silver pondered on all ihis it struck him as strange like that such rare loveliness should not protect her. against the shocks and outrages of life. and ought to have the power of protecting a girl's heart from the cruel inconstancies of it love. thoughts would drift in such a direction. could ever be pose it's my very soul! I supthe old fatalily of flesh to flesh. to more important. after all. possessor with super-human happiness. It was as if the dispute were actually going on down at the . like a poet's genius." he thought. Beauty as unusual as this was a high gift. armour. its for its adequate appreciation. ought endow the old legends. And then. he thought. some peculiar link establishes itself which it is as difficult to break as if one tore a grafted sapling from the I branch of a on. even for a few months.

It is made of mental landscapes. arguing with what although lost "in Wolf." in haste and as reeds But the skull answered him to him. sky in water opposite water in a sky. worm of my I had outgrown when I was in the Sixth at Ramsfolly. It's at the bottom of your pond. ing. in the darkness it. To turn the world again into mist and vapour is easy and weak. is no reality but is what the mind fashions out nothing but a mirror opposite a mirand a round crystal opposite a round crystal. to keep it real. "I am alive still. where men and women are as shaken by the wind." he felt as if he had become a lean worm down of that hollow skull. "nor of the sweet flesh of girls. though you're alive. it's skull. and a ror. "There of itself. hearing this. arguing with there. and you are though dead. lifted up his worm's-voice within that mocker and cried out upon its lewd clay-cold cunning. remained the pit." There "Ho Ho You worm ! ! of my folly. is the way of gods and demons. and spoke roughly "What you have found out today. and though he still found himself calling William Solent "Old Truepenny." cried worm. To keep it alive." still conscious and critical. gard and was seduced by Western Minor in the Headmaster's garden. to the skull of his father. am ." I laughed the hollow dead. trees walk- porous as air. This world is made of clouds and of is "This world not made of bread the shadows of clouds.ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP 485 bottom of that grave. For life is beyond your mirrors and your waters. to hold if at arm's length. the and honey." And Wolf.

if he was Mr. Fragment by fragment he collected what was over from their lunch and put it back in Gerda's basket. you worm of my folly. lie with the old. shuffling. and he pulled out his watch. Truepenny! You lie. it's it's in the dust of spaces. Life's in me still. though she still remained asleep. broke the current of his fancies. fever-smitten It's the foam-bubbles of your life-mania that you think so real. had ." He rose to his feet. "I won't have tea with him" he thought. rising erect upon his tail as he heard "You lie to yourself. with the end of his stick. "I'll have tea at the Otters'.486 in the WOLF SOLENT body of your sun. They're no more real than the dreams of the plantains that grow over your grave!" A movement up of Gerda. prodding into the soft earth of a mole-hill. It was time for him to start now. and honey is scrawls!" girls' flesh is sweet for sticky and tears are salt and yellow-hammers' eggs have mischievous crooked Wolf saw himself these words. in the eyes of weasels your starand the noses of rats and the pricks of nettles and the tongues of vipers and the spawn of frogs and the slime of snails. hot. Urquhart's house at the accustomed hour. and ever and ever. Then I'll find out if Mattie and Olwen Damn! to reach are still all right there. From the hushed indrawn beauty of the hour he gathered up new strength for the burden of human fate he seemed destined to carry. the bits of paper in which those things been tied up.

I can draw away from her!" And his eyes. stretching out his arms and seizing with each these two pliant limbs backwards and forwards. . as he actually beheld his companion in the very arms of the hill-god. and her body ibly quivered under her thin dress. settled on that quarter where he knew the roof of the book-shop to be. if in his fantastic irritation. "Very well!" he thought. shuddering sigh passed through her. wandering to the roofs of the town. the girl rolled over languidly at that moment and lay prone. He felt as if he were acsome legendary encounter between crafty super-human desire of to feel tually looking on at the body of Gerda and the some earth-god. "If she draws away from me. He began of Poll's an insidious jealousy its Camp. while his gaze upon the girl at his feet.ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP hand a branch of a young sycamore. he swung concentrated itself 487 Then. A deep. he won- dered. But as he did this the transparency ebbed away from the vision of his days. in this contact between the heathen soil and that sleeping figure? He smiled to himself and then frowned He began to feel obscurely piqued by the girl's uneasily. and inhaling deeply that hushed. burying both her outstretched hands in the soft moss. Was Gerda's sleep so deep and happy because of some occult affinity between her nerves and this historic hill? As if to give substance to his fancy. He tightened his hold upon two saplings. an obstinate hostility to mossy curves and grassy hollows. the. vis- Was there some strange non-human eroticism. warm air. he mentally swept off the roof of Christie's house. and a fantastic doubt assailed him. remoteness and inaccessibility.

have been covered by the sea. with the great Merlin at his side. well exercise a definite effect may very upon human nerves! The plain must. rising out of the plain. to a far earlier time." he thought. whereas the girl at his feet was in league with dominated whatever more remote and more heathen powers had this embattled hill. within measurable years. Even if its magnetism is purely chemical and free from it anything that reverts to the old religions. like the quality of old mediaeval pictures. And this recent emerging from the ocean cannot but have given a certain chastened quality. that he knew to be Glastonbury. "that this mass of earth is a far older portion of the planet's surface than the plain beneath it. "It must be. was in some way the child of that mystical plain down there. But Christie's "Arthur" be- longed to Glastonbury.m and WOLF SOLENT lifting the wraith-image of her high into the clouds he never visualized Christie's actual appearance in any of these cerebral excursions he whirled her away with him towards It that lonely cone-shaped hill.' " . for he felt that this airy wraith. that he indulged was a queer dalliance of the mind in just then. was associated with both. Gerda's. Where those elm-trees now grow there must have been shells and sand and swaying seaweeds and great sea-sponges and voyaging shoals of fish. to these 'chess-board fields. that was Christie Malakite. King Arthur's strangely involved personality. that "chess-board of King Arthur". Wolf's mind now began analyzing in a more rational hill manner this difference between the he stood upon and the landscape stretched out before him.

at the curves 489 and hol- "How many men. cool leaves of the trees. . But the valley ley perhaps just once bewildering and hostile to this unobtrusive.. me. frowning intently. there's power here that in is some queer way chemically .. of all!" is the thing I love best He his released the two pliable sycamore-branches and let hands sink down. it floating upon hidden waler . or of Merlin the magician. "I have an inkling that it is even now watching me with definite malignity." he wondered. have stood still." he thought. chastened val. "since the black cormorants and foolish guillemots screamed around these escarpments. making of this hill strange new cult of Mithras.. at . "The spirit of this hill escapes me. as I am doing now. forget both "a sacred place" for some Mithras and Apollo under this terrestrial magnetism this power that already was spreading abroad its influence long before Saturn was born of Uranus? "Poll's Camp is thought. and wrestled with the secret of this promontory?" Did any of the serfs of Arthur. . young so resilient and sturdy on their smooth purplish stalks. stark and stoical. while the thick. into motions of primal matter older than any gods? Did any of the Roman legionaries. lean here upon their spades and let their souls sink down and down. . .ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP He stared. . "and even a if heathen through and through. lows of Poll's Camp. like some immense sad-coloured flower oh.. flapped against his forehead." he the old gods never existed... But I can't understand the nature of .

to where Leo's Hill and Nevilton Hill broke the level expanse. it's like the pollen-bearing pistil of the whole lotus-vale! But this place .. ." he said to himself.490 WOLF SOLENT it what . . ." . though. "and as for Glastonbury. on my soul. is It's watching me. powers . . . And I believe at this moment it making love to Gerda!" He sighed and picked up his hat and oak-stick. "I must wake Gerda and be off." turned his eyes almost petulantly to the southwestern limits of the valley. it has something about it that makes me think of Mr. But is what chemical? .." he thought. "Those hills are not like this one. "1 shall be late as it is. There are powers here . Ur- He quhart. threatens. by God! they may be only chemical.

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