Read CHAPTER II - ERNEST HENRY of The Golden Scarecrow, free online book, by Hugh Walpole, on ReadCentral.com.

I

Young Ernest Henry Wilberforce, who had only yesterday achieved his second birthday, watched, with a speculative eye, his nurse.  He was seated on the floor with his back to the high window that was flaming now with the light of the dying sun; his nurse was by the fire, her head, shadowed huge and fantastic on the wall, nodded and nodded and nodded.  Ernest Henry was, in figure, stocky and square, with a head round, hard, and covered with yellow curls; rather light and cold blue eyes and a chin of no mean degree were further possessions.  He was wearing a white blouse, a white skirt, white socks and shoes; his legs were fat and bulged above his socks; his cold blue eyes never moved from his nurse’s broad back.

He knew that, in a very short time, disturbance would begin.  He knew that doors would open and shut, that there would be movement, strange noises, then an attack upon himself, ultimately a removal of him to another place, a stripping off him of his blouse, his skirt, his socks and his shoes, a loathsome and strangely useless application of soap and water it was only, of course, in later years that he learned the names of those abominable articles and, finally, finally darkness.  All this he felt hovering very close at hand; one nod too many of his nurse’s head, and up she would start, off she would go, off he would go....  He watched her and stroked very softly his warm, fat calf.

It was a fine, spacious room that he inhabited.  The ceiling very, very far away was white and glimmering with shadowy spaces of gold flung by the sun across the breast of it.  The wallpaper was dark-red, and there were many coloured pictures of ships and dogs and snowy Christmases, and swans eating from the hands of beautiful little girls, and one garden with roses and peacocks and a tumbling fountain.  To Ernest Henry these were simply splashes of colour, and colour, moreover, scarcely so convincing as the bright blue screen by the fire, or the golden brown rug by the door; but he was dimly aware that, as the days passed, so did he find more and more to consider in the shapes and sizes between the deep black frames....  There might, after all, be something in it.

But it was not the pictures that he was now considering.

Before his nurse’s descent upon him he was determined that he would walk not crawl, but walk in his socks and shoes from his place by the window to the blue screen by the fire.  There had been days, and those not so long ago, when so hazardous an Odyssey had seemed the vainest of Blue Moon ambitions; it had once been the only rule of existence to sprawl and roll and sprawl again; but gradually some further force had stirred his limbs.  It was a finer thing to be upright; there was a finer view, a more lordly sense of possession could be summoned to one’s command.  That, then, once decided, upright one must be and upright, with many sudden and alarming collapses, Ernest Henry was.

He had marked out, from the first, the distance from the wall to the blue screen as a very decent distance.  There was, half-way, a large rocking-chair that would be either a danger or a deliverance, as Fate should have it.  Save for this, it was, right across the brown, rose-strewn carpet, naked country.  Truly a perilous business.  As he sat there and looked at it, his heart a little misgave him; in this strange, new world into which he had been so roughly hustled, amongst a horde of alarming and painful occurrences, he had discovered nothing so disconcerting as that sudden giving of the knees, that rising of the floor to meet you, the collapse, the pain, and above all the disgrace.  Moreover, let him fail now, and it meant, in short, banishment banishment and then darkness.  There were risks.  It was the most perilous thing that, in this new country, he had yet attempted, but attempt it he would....  He was as obstinate as his chin could make him.

With his blue eyes still cautiously upon his nurse’s shadow he raised himself very softly, his fat hand pressed against the wall, his mouth tightly closed, and from between his teeth there issued the most distant relation of that sound that the traditional ostler makes when he is cleaning down a horse.  His knees quivered, straightened; he was up.  Far away in the long, long distance were piled the toys that yesterday’s birthday had given him.  They did not, as yet, mean anything to him at all.  One day, perhaps when he had torn the dolls limb from limb, twisted the railways until they stood end upon end in sheer horror, disembowelled the bears and golliwogs so that they screamed again, he might have some personal feeling for them.  At present there they lay in shining impersonal newness, and there for Ernest Henry they might lie for ever.

For an instant, his hand against the wall, he was straight and motionless; then he took his hand away, and his journey began.  At the first movement a strange, an amazing glory filled him.  From the instant, two years ago, of his first arrival he had been disturbed by an irritating sense of inadequacy; he had been sent, it seemed, into this new and tiresome condition of things without any fitting provisions for his real needs.  Demands were always made upon him that were, in the absurd lack of ways and means, impossible of fulfilment.  But now, at last, he was using the world as it should be used....  He was fine, he was free, he was absolutely master.  His legs might shake, his body lurch from side to side, his breath come in agitating gasps and whistles; the wall was now far behind him, the screen most wonderfully near, the rocking-chair almost within his grasp.  Great and mighty is Ernest Henry Wilberforce, dazzling and again dazzling the lighted avenues opening now before him; there is nothing, nothing, from the rendings of the toys to the deliberate defiance of his nurse and all those in authority over him, that he shall not now perform....  With a cry, with a wild wave of the arms, with a sickening foretaste of the bump with which the gay brown carpet would mark him, he was down, the Fates were upon him the disturbance, the disrobing, the darkness.  Nevertheless, even as he was carried, sobbing, into the farther room, there went with him a consciousness that life would never again be quite the dull, purposeless, monotonous thing that it had hitherto been.

II

After a long time he was alone.  About him the room, save for the yellow night-light above his head, was dark, humped with shadows, with grey pools of light near the windows, and a golden bar that some lamp beyond the house flung upon the wall.  Ernest Henry lay and, now and again, cautiously felt the bump on his forehead; there was butter on the bump, and an interesting confusion and pain and importance round and about it.  Ernest Henry’s eyes sought the golden bar, and then, lingering there, looked back upon the recent adventure.  He had walked; yes, he had walked.  This would, indeed, be something to tell his Friend.

His friend, he knew, would be very shortly with him.  It was not every night that he came, but always, before his coming, Ernest Henry knew of his approach knew by the happy sense of comfort that stole softly about him, knew by the dismissal of all those fears and shapes and terrors that, otherwise, so easily beset him.  He sucked his thumb now, and felt his bump, and stared at the ceiling and knew that he would come.  During the first months after Ernest Henry’s arrival on this planet his friend was never absent from him at all, was always there, drawing through his fingers the threads of the old happy life and the new alarming one, mingling them so that the transition from the one to the other might not be too sharp reassuring, comforting, consoling.  Then there had been hours when he had withdrawn himself, and that earlier world had grown a little vaguer, a little more remote, and certain things, certain foods and smells and sounds had taken their place within the circle of realised facts.  Then it had come to be that the friend only came at night, came at that moment when the nurse had gone, when the room was dark, and the possible beasts the first beast, the second beast, and the third beast began to creep amongst those cool, grey shadows in the hollow of the room.  He always came then, was there with his arm about Ernest Henry, his great body, his dark beard, his large, firm hands all so reassuring that the beasts might do the worst, and nothing could come of it.  He brought with him, indeed, so much more than himself brought a whole world of recollected wonders, of all that other time when Ernest Henry had other things to do, other disciplines, other triumphs, other defeats, and other glories.  Of late his memory of the other time had been untrustworthy.  Things during the day-time would remind him, but would remind him, nevertheless, with a strange mingling of the world at present about him, so that he was not sure of his visions.  But when his friend was with him the memories were real enough, and it was the nurse, the fire, the red wallpaper, the smell of toast, the taste of warm milk, that were faint and shadowy.

His friend was there, just as always, suddenly sitting there on the bed with his arm round Ernest Henry’s body, his dark beard just tickling Ernest Henry’s neck, his hand tight about Ernest Henry’s hand.  They told one another things in the old way without tiresome words and sounds; but, for the benefit of those who are unfortunately too aged to remember that old and pleasant intercourse, one must make use of the English language.  Ernest Henry displayed his bump, and explained its origin; and then, even as he did so, was aware that the reality of the bump made the other world just a little less real.  He was proud that he had walked and stood up, and had been the master of his circumstance; but just because he had done so he was aware that his friend was a little, a very little farther away to-night than he had ever been before.

“Well, I’m very glad that you’re going to stand on your own, because you’ll have to.  I’m going to leave you now leave you for longer, far longer than I’ve ever left you before.”

“Leave me?”

“Yes.  I shan’t always be with you; indeed, later on you won’t want me.  Then you’ll forget me, and at last you won’t even believe that I ever existed until, at the end of it all, I come to take you away. Then it will all come back to you.”

“Oh, but that’s absurd!” Ernest Henry said confidently.  Nevertheless, in his heart he knew that, during the day-time, other things did more and more compel his attention.  There were long stretches during the day-time now when he forgot his friend.

“After your second birthday I always leave you more to yourselves.  I shall go now for quite a time, and you’ll see that when the old feeling comes, and you know that I’m coming back, you’ll be quite startled and surprised that you’d got on so well without me.  Of course, some of you want me more than others do, and with some of you I stay quite late in life.  There are one or two I never leave at all.  But you’re not like that; you’ll get on quite well without me.”

“Oh, no, I shan’t,” said Ernest Henry, and he clung very tightly and was most affectionate.  But he suddenly put his fingers to his bump, felt the butter, and his chin shot up with self-satisfaction.

“To-morrow I’ll get ever so much farther,” he said.

“You’ll behave, and not mind the beasts or the creatures?” his friend said.  “You must remember that it’s not the slightest use to call for me.  You’re on your own.  Think of me, though.  Don’t forget me altogether.  And don’t forget all the other world in your new discoveries.  Look out of the window sometimes.  That will remind you more than anything.”

He had kissed him, had put his hand for a moment on Ernest Henry’s curls, and was gone.  Ernest Henry, his thumb in his mouth, was fast asleep.

III

Suddenly, with a wild, agonising clutch at the heart, he was awake.  He was up in bed, his hands, clammy and hot, pressed together, his eyes staring, his mouth dry.  The yellow night-light was there, the bars of gold upon the walls, the cool, grey shadows, the white square of the window; but there, surely, also, were the beasts.  He knew that they were there one crouching right away there in the shadow, all black, damp; one crawling, blacker and damper, across the floor; one yes, beyond question one, the blackest and cruellest of them all, there beneath the bed.  The bed seemed to heave, the room flamed with terror.  He thought of his friend; on other nights he had invoked him, and instantly there had been assurance and comfort.  Now that was of no avail; his friend would not come.  He was utterly alone.  Panic drove him; he thought that there, on the farther side of the bed, claws and a black arm appeared.  He screamed and screamed and screamed.

The door was flung open, there were lights, his nurse appeared.  He was lying down now, his face towards the wall, and only dry, hard little sobs came from him.  Her large red hand was upon his shoulder, but brought no comfort with it.  Of what use was she against the three beasts?  A poor creature....  He was ashamed that he should cry before her.  He bit his lip.

“Dreaming, I suppose, sir,” she said to some one behind her.  Another figure came forward.  Some one sat down on the edge of the bed, put his arm round Ernest Henry’s body and drew him towards him.  For one wild moment Ernest Henry fancied that his friend had, after all, returned.  But no.  He knew that these were the conditions of this world, not of that other.  When he crept close to his friend he was caught up into a soft, rosy comfort, was conscious of nothing except ease and rest.  Here there were knobs and hard little buttons, and at first his head was pressed against a cold, slippery surface that hurt.  Nevertheless, the pressure was pleasant and comforting.  A warm hand stroked his hair.  He liked it, jerked his head up, and hit his new friend’s chin.

“Oh, damn!” he heard quite clearly.  This was a new sound to Ernest Henry; but just now he was interested in sounds, and had learnt lately quite a number.  This was a soft, pleasant, easy sound.  He liked it.

And so, with it echoing in his head, his curly head against his father’s shoulder, the bump glistening in the candle-light, the beasts defeated and derided, he tumbled into sleep.

IV

A pleasant sight at breakfast was Ernest Henry, with his yellow curls gleaming from his bath, his bib tied firmly under his determined chin, his fat fingers clutching a large spoon, his body barricaded into a high chair, his heels swinging and kicking and swinging again.  Very fine, too, was the nursery on a sunny morning the fire crackling, the roses on the brown carpet as lively as though they were real, and the whole place glittering, glowing with size and cleanliness and vigour.  In the air was the crackling smell of toast and bacon, in a glass dish was strawberry jam, through the half-open window came all the fun of the Square the sparrows, the carts, the motor-cars, the bells, and horses....  Oh, a fine morning was fine indeed!

Ernest Henry, deep in the business of conveying securely his bread and milk from the bowl a beautiful bowl with red robins all round the outside of it to his mouth, laughed at the three beasts.  Let them show themselves here in the sunlight, and they’d see what they’d get.  Let them only dare!

He surveyed, with pleased anticipation, the probable progress of his day.  He glanced at the pile of toys in the farther corner of the room, and thought to himself that he might, after all, find some diversion there.  Yesterday they had seemed disappointing; to-day in the glow of the sun they suggested, adventure.  Then he looked towards that stretch of country that wall-to-screen marathon and, with an eye upon his nurse, meditated a further attempt.  He put down his spoon, and felt his bump.  It was better; perchance there would be two bumps by the evening.  And then, suddenly, he remembered....  He felt again the terror, saw the lights and his nurse, then that new friend....  He pondered, lifted his spoon, waved it in the air; and then smiling with the happy recovery of a pleasant, friendly sound, repeated half to himself, half to his nurse:  “Damn!  Damn!  Damn!”

That began for him the difficulties of his day.  He was hustled, shaken; words, words, words were poured down upon him.  He understood that, in some strange, unexpected, bewildering fashion he had done wrong.  There was nothing more puzzling in his present surroundings than that amazingly sudden transition from serenity to danger.  Here one was, warm with food, bathed in sunlight, with a fine, ripe day in front of one....  Then the mere murmur of a sound, and all was tragedy.

He hated his toys, his nurse, his food, his world; he sat in a corner of the room and glowered....  How was he to know?  If, under direct encouragement, he could be induced to say “dada,” or “horse,” or “twain,” he received nothing but applause and, often enough, reward.  Yet, let him make use of that pleasant new sound that he had learnt, and he was in disgrace.  Upon this day, more than any other in his young life, he ached, he longed for some explanation.  Then, sitting there in his corner, there came to him a discovery, the force of which was never, throughout all his later life, to leave him.  He had been deserted by his friend.  His last link with that other life was broken.  He was here, planted in the strangest of strange places, with nothing whatever to help him.  He was alone; he must fight for his own hand.  He would from that moment, seated there beneath the window, Ernest Henry Wilberforce challenged the terrors of this world, and found them sawdust he would say “damn” as often as he pleased.  “Damn, damn, damn, damn,” he whispered, and marked again, with meditative eye, the space from wall to screen.

After this, greatly cheered, he bethought him of the Square.  Last night his friend had said to him that when he wished to think of him, and go back for a time to the other world, a peep into the Square would assist him.  He clambered up on to the window-seat, caught behind him those sounds, “Now, Master Ernest,” which he now definitely connected with condemnation and disapproval, shook his curls in defiance, and pressed his nose to the glass.  The Square was a dazzling sight.  He had not as yet names for any of the things that he saw there, nor, when he went out on his magnificent daily progress in his perambulator did he associate the things that he found immediately around him with the things that he saw from his lofty window; but, with every absorbed gaze they stood more securely before him, and were fixed ever more firmly in his memory.

This was a Square with fine, white, lofty houses, and in the houses were an infinite number of windows, sometimes gay and sometimes glittering.  In the middle of the Square was a garden, and in the middle of the garden, very clearly visible from Ernest Henry’s window, was a fountain.  It was this fountain, always tossing and leaping, that gave Ernest Henry the key to his memories.  Gazing at it he had no difficulty at all to find himself back in the old life.  Even now, although only two years had passed, it was difficult not to reveal his old experiences by means of terms of his new discoveries.  He thought, for instance, of the fountain as a door that led into the country whose citizen he had once been, and that country he saw now in terms of doors and passages and rooms and windows, whereas, in reality, it had been quite otherwise.

But now, perched up there on the window-sill, he felt that if he could only bring the fountain in with him out of the Square into his nursery, he would have the key to both existences.  He wanted to understand to understand what was the relation between his friend who had left last night, why he might say “dada,” but mustn’t say “damn,” why, finally, he was here at all.  He did not consciously consider these things; his brain was only very slightly, as yet, concerned in his discoveries; but, like a flowing river, beneath his movements and actions, the interplay of his two existences drove him on through, his adventure.

There were, of course, many other things in the Square besides the fountain.  There was, at the farther corner, just out of the Square, but quite visible from Ernest Henry’s window, a fruit-shop with coloured fruit piled high on the boards outside the windows.  Indeed, that side street, of which one could only catch this glimpse, promised to be most wonderful always; when evening came a golden haze hovered round and about it.  In the garden itself there were often many children, and for an hour every afternoon Ernest Henry might be found amongst them.  There were two statues in the Square one of a gentleman in a beard and a frock-coat, the other of a soldier riding very finely upon a restless horse; but Ernest Henry was not, as yet, old enough to realise the meaning and importance of these heroes.

Outside the Square there were many dogs, and even now as he looked down from his window he could see a number of them, black and brown and white.

The trees trembled in a little breeze, the fountain flashed in the sun, somewhere a barrel-organ was playing....  Ernest Henry gave a little sigh, of satisfaction.

He was back!  He was back!  He was slipping, slipping into distance through the window into the street, under the fountain, its glittering arms had caught him; he was up, the door was before him, he had the key.

“Time for you to put your things on, Master Ernest.  And ’ow you’ve dirtied your knees!  There!  Look!”

He shook himself, clambered down from the window, gave his nurse what she described as “One of his old, old looks.  Might be eighty when he’s like that....  They’re all like it when they’re young.”

With a sigh he translated himself back into this new, tiresome existence.

V

But after that morning things were never again quite the same.  He gave himself up deliberately to the new life.

With that serious devotion towards anything likely to be of real practical value to him that was, in his later years, never to fail him, he attacked this business of “words.”  He discovered that if he made certain sounds when certain things were said to him he provoked instant applause.  He liked popularity; he liked the rewards that popularity brought him.  He acquired a formula that amounted practically to “Wash dat?” And whenever he saw anything new he produced his question.  He learnt with amazing rapidity.  He was, his nurse repeatedly told his father, “a most remarkable child.”

It could not truthfully be said that during these weeks he forgot his friend altogether.  There were still the dark hours at night when he longed for him, and once or twice he had cried aloud for him.  But slowly that slipped away.  He did not look often now at the fountain.

There were times when his friend was almost there.  One evening, kneeling on the floor before the fire, arranging shining soldiers in a row, he was aware of something that made him sharply pause and raise his head.  He was, for the moment, alone in the room that was glowing and quivering now in the firelight.  The faint stir and crackle of the fire, the rich flaming colour that rose and fell against the white ceiling might have been enough to make him wonder.  But there was also the scent of a clump of blue hyacinths standing in shadow by the darkened window, and this scent caught him, even as the fountain had caught him, caught him with the stillness, the leaping fire, the twisted sense of romantic splendours that came, like some magician’s smoke and flame, up to his very heart and brain.  He did not turn his head, but behind him he was sure, there on the golden-brown rug, his friend was standing, watching him with his smiling eyes, his dark beard; he would be ready, at the least movement, to catch him up and hold him.  Swiftly, Ernest Henry turned.  There was no one there.

But those moments were few now; real people were intervening.  He had no mother, and this was doubtless the reason why his nurse darkly addressed him as “Poor Lamb” on many occasions; but he was, of course, at present unaware of his misfortune.  He had an aunt, and of this lady he was aware only too vividly.  She was long and thin and black, and he would not have disliked her so cordially, perhaps, had he not from the very first been aware of the sharpness of her nose when she kissed him.  Her nose hurt him, and so he hated her.  But, as he grew, he discovered that this hatred was well-founded.  Miss Wilberforce had not a happy way with children; she was nervous when she should have been bold, and secret when she should have been honesty itself.  When Ernest Henry was the merest atom in a cradle, he discovered that she was afraid of him; he hated the shiny stuff of her dress.  She wore a gold chain that when you pulled it snapped and hit your fingers.  There were sharp pins at the back of her dress.  He hated her; he was not afraid of her, and yet on that critical night when his friend told him of his departure, it was the fear of being left alone with the black cold shiny thing that troubled him most; she bore of all the daylight things the closest resemblance to the three beasts.

There was, of course, his nurse, and a great deal of his time was spent in her company; but she had strangely little connection with his main problem of the relation of this, his present world, to that, his preceding one.  She was there to answer questions, to issue commands, to forbid.  She had the key to various cupboards to the cupboard with pretty cups and jam and sugar, to the cupboard with ugly things that tasted horrible, things that he resisted by instinct long before they arrived under his nose.  She also had certain sounds, of which she made invariable use on all occasions.  One was, “Now, Master Ernest!” Another:  “Mind-what-you’re-about-now!” And, at his “Wash dat!” always “Oh-bother-the-boy!” She was large and square to look upon, very often pins were in her mouth, and the slippers that she wore within doors often clipclapped upon the carpet.  But she was not a person; she had nothing to do with his progress.

The person who had to do with it was, of course, his father.  That night when his friend had left him had been, indeed, a crisis, because it was on that night that his father had come to him.  It was not that he had not been aware of his father before, but he had been aware of him only as he had been aware of light and heat and food.  Now it had become a definite wonder as to whether this new friend had been sent to take the place of the old one.  Certainly the new friend had very little to do with all that old life of which the fountain was the door.  He belonged, most definitely, to the new one, and everything about him the delightfully mysterious tick of his gold watch, the solid, firm grasp of his hand, the sure security of his shoulder upon which Ernest Henry now gloriously rode these things were of this world and none other.

It was a different relationship, this, from any other that Ernest Henry had ever known, but there was no doubt at all about its pleasant flavour.  Just as in other days he had watched for his friend’s appearance, so now he waited for that evening hour that always brought his father.  The door would open, the square, set figure would appear....  Very pleasant, indeed.  Meanwhile Ernest Henry was instructed that the right thing to say on his father’s appearance was “Dada.”

But he knew better.  His father’s name was really “Damn.”

VI

The days and weeks passed.  There had been no sign of his friend....  Then the crisis came.

That old wall-to-screen marathon had been achieved, and so contemptuously banished.  There was now the great business of marching without aid from one end of the room to the other.  This was a long business, and always hitherto somewhere about the middle of it Ernest Henry had sat down suddenly, pretending, even to himself, that his shoe hurt, or that he was bored with the game, and would prefer some other.

There came, then, a beautiful spring evening.  The long low evening sun flooded the room, and somewhere a bell was calling Christian people to their prayers, and somewhere else the old man with the harp, who always came round the Square once every week, was making beautiful music.

Ernest Henry’s father had taken the nurse’s place for an hour, and was reading a Globe with absorbed attention by the window; Mr. Wilberforce, senior, was one of London’s most famous barristers, and the Globe on this particular afternoon had a great deal to say about this able man’s cleverness.  Ernest Henry watched his father, watched the light, heard the bell and the harp, felt that the hour was ripe for his attempt.

He started, and, even as he did so, was aware that, after he had succeeded in this great adventure, things that is, life would never be quite the same again.  He knew by now every stage of the first half of his journey.  The first instalment was defined by that picture of the garden and the roses and the peacocks; the second by the beginning of the square brown nursery table; and here there was always a swift and very testing temptation to cling, with a sticky hand, to the hard and shining corner.  The third division was the end of the nursery table where one was again tempted to give the corner a final clutch before passing forth into the void.  After this there was nothing, no rest, no possible harbour until the end.

Off Ernest Henry started.  He could see his father, there in the long distance, busied with his paper; he could see the nursery table, with bright-blue and red reels of cotton that nurse had left there; he could see a discarded railway engine that lay gaping there half-way across, ready to catch and trip him if he were not careful.  His eyes were like saucers, the hissing noise came from between his teeth, his forehead frowned.  He passed the peacock, he flung contemptuously aside the proffered corner of the table; he passed, as an Atlantic liner passes the Eddystone, the table’s other end; he was on the last stretch.

Then suddenly he paused.  He lifted his head, caught with his eye a pink, round cloud that sailed against the evening blue beyond the window, heard the harpist, heard his father turn and exclaim, as he saw him.

He knew, as he stood there, that at last the moment had come.  His friend had returned.

All the room was buzzing with it.  The dolls fell in a neglected heap, the train on the carpet, the fire behind the fender, the reels of cotton that were on the table they all knew it.

His friend had returned.

His impulse was, there and then, to sit down.

His friend was whispering:  “Come along!...  Come along!...  Come along!” He knew that, on his surrender, his father would make sounds like, “Well, old man, tired, eh?  Bed, I suggest.”  He knew that bed would follow.  Then darkness, then his friend.

For an instant there was fierce battle between the old forces and the new.  Then, with his eyes upon his father, resuming that hiss that is proper only to ostlers, he continued his march.

He reached the wall.  He caught his father’s leg.  He was raised on to his father’s lap, was kissed, was for a moment triumphant; then suddenly burst into tears.

“Why, old man, what’s the matter?”

But Ernest Henry could not explain.  Had he but known it he had, in that rejection of his friend, completed the first stage of his “Pilgrimage from this world to the next.”