Read THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH : CHAPTER VII of The History of Sir Richard Calmady A Romance , free online book, by Lucas Malet, on


Godfrey Ormiston scudded along the terrace, past the dining-room windows, at the top of his speed, and Miss St. Quentin followed him at a hardly less unconventional pace. Together they burst, by the small, arched side-door, into the lobby. There ensued discussion lively though brief. Then, Winter setting wide the dining-room door in invitation, sight of Honoria was presented to the company assembled within. She, in brave attire of dark, red cloth, black braided and befrogged, heavy, silk cords and knotted, dangling tassels head-gear to match, dark red and black, a tall, stiff aigrette set at the side of it in all producing a something delightfully independent, soldierly, ruffling even, in her aspect, as she pushed the black-haired, bright-faced, slim-made lad, her two hands on his shoulders, before her into the room.

“May we come to luncheon as we are, Cousin Katherine?” she cried. “We’re scandalously late, but we’re also most ferociously hungry and ”

But here, although Lady Calmady turned on her a welcoming and far from unjoyful countenance, she stopped dead, while Godfrey incontinently gave vent to that which his younger brother sitting beside his mother, Mary Ormiston, at table, on Richard Calmady’s right described mentally as “the most awful squawk.” Which squawk, it may be added whatever its effect upon other members of the company as denoting involuntary and unceremonious descent from the high places of thirteen-year-old, public-school omniscience on the part of his elder, produced in eight-year-old Dick Ormiston such overflowings of unqualified rapture that, for a good two minutes, he had to forego assimilation of chocolate soufflet, and, slipping his hands beneath the table, squeeze them together just as hard as ever he could with both knees, to avoid disgracing himself by emission of an ecstatic giggle. For once he had got the whip hand of Godfrey! Having himself, for the best part of an hour now, been conversant with interesting developments, he found it richly diverting to behold his big brother thus incontinently bowled over by sudden disclosure of them. He repressed the giggle, with the help of squeezing knees and a certain squirming all down his neat, little back, but his blue eyes remained absolutely glued to Godfrey’s person, as the latter, recovering his presence of mind and good manners, proceeded solemnly up to the head of the table to greet his unlooked-for host.

Honoria, meanwhile, if guiltless of an audible squawk, had been as she subsequently reflected potentially alarmingly capable of some such primitive expression of feeling. For the shock of surprise which she suffered was so forcible, that it induced in her an absurd unreasoning instinct of flight. Indeed, that had happened, or rather was in process of happening, which revolutionised all her outlook. For that the unseen presence, consciousness of which had come to be so constant a quantity in her action and her thought, should thus declare itself in visible form, be materialised, become concrete, and that instantly, without prologue or preparation, projecting itself wholesale so to speak into the comfortable commonplaces of a Sunday luncheon after her slightly uproarious race home with a perfectly normal schoolboy, from morning church too affected her much as sudden intrusion of the supernatural might. It modified all existing relations, introducing a new and, as yet, incalculable element. Nor had she quite yet realised what power the unseen Richard Calmady, these many years, had exercised over her imagination, until Richard Calmady seen, was there evident, actually before her. Then all the harsh judgments she had passed upon him, all the disapproval of, and dislike she had felt towards, him, flashed through her mind. And that matter too of his cancelled engagement! The last time she had seen him was in the house in Lowndes Square, on the night of Lady Louisa Barking’s great ball, standing she could see all that now it was as if photographed upon her brain always would be and it turned her a little sick. Nevertheless it was impossible to pause any longer. It would be ridiculous to fly, so she must stick it out. That best of good Samaritans, Mary Ormiston, began talking to Julius March across the length of the table.

“Oh dear, yes, of course,” she was saying. “But I never realised she was a sister of your old Oxford friend. I wish I had. It would have been so pleasant to talk about you and about home in that far country! Her husband is in the Rifle Brigade, and she really is a nice, dear woman. I saw a great deal of her while we were at the Cape.”

And so, under cover of Mary’s kindly conversation, Miss St. Quentin settled down into her lazy, swinging stride. Her small head carried high, her pale, sensitive face very serious, her straight eyebrows drawn together by concentration of purpose, concentration of thought, she followed the boy up the long room.

As she came towards him, Richard Calmady looked full at her. His head was carried somewhat high too. His face was very still. His eyes with those curiously small pupils to them were very observant, in effect hiding rather than revealing his thought. His manner, as he held out his hand to her, was courteous, even friendly, and yet, notwithstanding her high and fearless spirit, Honoria for the first time in her life probably felt afraid. And then she began to understand how it came about that, whether he behaved well or ill, whether he was good or bad, cruel or kind, seen or unseen even, Richard, of necessity, could not but occupy a good deal of space in the lives of all persons brought into close contact with him. For she recognised in him a rather tremendous creature, self-contained, not easily accessible, possessed of a larger portion than most men of energy and resolution, possessed too and this, as she thought of it, again turned her a trifle sick of an unusual capacity of suffering.

“I am ashamed of being so dreadfully late,” she said as she slipped into the vacant place on his left. Godfrey Ormiston was beyond her, next to Julius March. Honoria was aware that her voice sounded slightly unsteady, in part from her recent scamper, in part from a queer emotion which seemed to clutch at her throat. “But we walked home over the fields and by the Warren, and just in that boggy bit where you cross the Welsh-road, Godfrey found the slot of a red-deer in the snow, and naturally we both had to follow it up.”

“Naturally,” Richard said.

“I’m not so sure it was a red-deer, Honoria,” the boy broke in.

“Oh yes, it was,” she declared as she helped herself to a cutlet. “It couldn’t have been anything else.”

“Why not?” Richard asked. He was interested by the tone of assurance in which she spoke.

“Oh, well, the tracks were too big for a fallow-deer to begin with. And then there’s a difference, you can’t mistake it if you’ve ever compared the two, in the cleft of the hoof.”

“And you have compared the two?”

“Oh, certainly,” Honoria answered. She was beginning to recover her nonchalance of manner and indolent slowness of speech. “I lose no opportunity of acquiring odds and ends of information. One never knows when they may come in handy.”

She looked at him as she spoke, and her upper lip shortened and her eyes narrowed into a delightful smile a smile, moreover, which had the faintest trace of an asking of pardon in it. And it struck Richard that there was in her expression and bearing a transparent sincerity, and that her eyes now narrowed as she smiled were not the clear, soft brown they appeared at a distance to be, but an indefinable colour, comparable only to the dim, yet clear, green gloom which haunts the under-spaces of an ilex grove upon a summer day. He turned his head rather sharply. He did not want to think about matters of that sort. He was grateful to this young lady for the devoted care she had bestowed on his mother but, otherwise her presence was only a part of that daily discipline which must be cheerfully undertaken in obedience to the exigencies of his new and fair idea.

“Probably it is a deer that has broken out of Windsor Great Park and traveled,” he said. “They do that sometimes, you know.”

But here small Dick Ormiston, whose spirits, lately pirouetting on giddy heights of felicity, had suffered swift declension bootwards at mention of his thrilling adventure in which, alas, he had neither lot nor part, projected himself violently into the conversational arena.

“Mother,” he piped, his words tumbling one over the other in his eagerness “Mother, I expect it’s the same deer that grandpapa was talking about when Lord Shotover came over to tea last Friday, and wanted to know if Honoria wasn’t back at Newlands again. And then he and grandpapa yarned, don’t you know. Because, Cousin Richard it must have been while you were away last year the buckhounds met at Bagshot and ran through Frimley and right across Spendle Flats ”

“No, they didn’t, Cousin Richard,” Godfrey interrupted. “They ran through the bottom of Sandyfield Lower Wood.”

“But they lost any way they lost, Cousin Richard,” the younger boy cried. “You weren’t there, Godfrey, so you can’t know what grandpapa said. He said they lost somewhere just into Brockhurst, and he told Lord Shotover how they beat up the country for nearly a week, and how they never found it, and had to give it up as a bad job and go home again. And and Lord Shotover said, rotten bad sport, stag-hunting, unless you get it on Exmoor, where they’re not carted and they don’t saw their antlers off. He said meets of the buckhounds ought to be called Stockbroker’s Parade, that was about all they amounted to. And so, Cousin Richard, I think, don’t you, mother that this must be that same deer?”

Whereat the elder Dick’s expression, which had grown somewhat dark at the mention of Lord Shotover, brightened sensibly again. And, for cause unknown, he looked at Honoria, smiling amusedly, before saying to the very voluble small sportsman:

“To be sure, Dick. Your arguments are unanswerable, convincingly sound. No reasonable man could have a doubt about it! Of course it’s the same deer.”

And so the luncheon finished gaily enough, though Miss St. Quentin was conscious her contributions to the cultivation of that same gaiety were but spasmodic. She dreaded the conclusion of the meal, fearing lest then she might be called upon to behold Richard Calmady once again, as she had beheld him now just on six years ago in the half dismantled house in Lowndes Square, on the night of Lady Louisa Barking’s ball. And from that she shrank, not with her former physical repulsion towards the man himself, but with the moral repulsion of one compelled against his will to gaze upon a pitifully cruel sight, the suffering of which he is powerless to lessen or amend. The short, light-made crutches, lying on the floor by the young man’s chair, shocked her as the callous exhibition of some unhappy prisoner’s shackling-irons might. It constituted an indignity offered to the Richard sitting here beside her, so much as to think of, let alone look at, that same Richard when on foot. Therefore it was with an oddly mingled relief and sense of playing traitor, that she rose with the rest of the little company and left him by himself. She was thankful to escape, though all the while her inherent loyalty tormented her with accusation of meanness, as of one who deserts a comrade in distress.

But here the small Dick, to whom such complex refinements of sensibility were as yet wholly foreign, created a diversion by prancing round from the far side of the table and forcibly seizing her hand. He was jealous of the large share Godfrey had to-day secured of her society. He meant to have his innings. So he rubbed his curly head against her much braided elbow, butting her lovingly in the exuberance of his affection as some nice, little ram-lamb might. But just as they reached the door, through which Lady Calmady and the rest of the party had already passed, the boy drew up short.

“I say, hold on half a minute, Honoria, please,” he said.

And then, turning round, his cheeks red as peonies, he marched back to where Richard sat alone at the head of the table.

“In case in case, don’t you know,” he began, stuttering in the excess of his excitement “in case, Cousin Richard, mummy didn’t quite take in what you said at the beginning of luncheon you did mean for really that I was to come and stay here in the summer holidays, and that you’d take me out, don’t you know, and show me your horses?”

And to Honoria, glancing at them, there was a singular, and almost tragic, comment on life in the likeness, yet unlikeness, of those two faces. The features almost identical, the same blue eyes, the two heads alike in shape, each with the same close-fitted, bright-brown cap of hair. But the boy’s face flushed, without afterthought or qualification of its eager happiness the man’s colourless, full of reserve, almost alarmingly self-contained and still.

Yet, when the elder Richard’s answer came, it was altogether gentle and kindly.

“Yes, most distinctly for really, Dick,” he said. “Let there be no mistake about it. Let it be clearly understood I want to have you here just as long, and just as often, as your mother and father will spare you. I’ll show you the horses, never fear, and let you ride them too.”

“A a a real big one?”

“Just as big a one as you can straddle.” Richard paused. “And I’ll show you other things, if all goes well, which I’m beginning to think and perhaps you’ll think so too some day are more important even than horses.”

He put his hand under the boy’s chin, tipped up the ruddy, beaming, little face and kissed it.

“It’s a compact,” he said. “Now cut along, old chap. Don’t you see you’re keeping Miss St. Quentin waiting?”

Whereupon the small Richard started soberly enough, being slightly impressed by something he knew not quite what only that it made him feel awfully fond, somehow, of this newly discovered cousin and namesake. But, about half-way down the room, that promise of a horse, a thorough-bred, and just as big as he could straddle, swept all before it, rendering his spirits uncontrollably explosive. So he made a wild rush and flung himself headlong upon the waiting Honoria.

“Oh! you want to bear-fight, do you? Two can play at that game,” she cried, “you young rascal!”

Then without apparent effort, or diminution of her lazy grace, the elder Richard saw her pick the boy up by his middle, and, notwithstanding convulsive wrigglings on his part, throw him across her shoulder and bear him bodily away through the lobby, into the hall, and out of sight.

Hence it fell out that not until quite late that evening did the moment so dreaded by Miss St. Quentin actually arrive. In furtherance of delay she practised a diplomacy not altogether flattering to her self-respect, coming down rather late for dinner, and retiring immediately after that meal to the Gun-Room, under plea of correspondence which must be posted at Farley in time for to-morrow’s day mail. She was even late for prayers in the chapel, so that, taking her accustomed place next to Lady Calmady in the last but one of the stalls upon the epistle-side, she found all the members of the household, gentle and simple alike, already upon their knees. The household mustered strong that night, a testimony, it may be supposed, to feudal as much as to religious feeling. In the seats immediately below her were an array of women-servants, declining from the high dignities of Mrs. Reynolds the housekeeper, the faithful Clara, and her own lanky and loyal north-country woman Faulstich, to a very youthful scullery maid, sitting just without the altar rails at the end of the long row. Opposite were not only Winter, Bates the steward, Powell, Andrews, and the other men-servants, but Chaplin, heading a detachment from the house stables, and unexampled occurrence! Gnudi the Italian chef, with his air of gentle and philosophic melancholy and his anarchic sentiments in theology and politics, liable, these last when enlarged on, to cause much fluttering in the dove-cote of the housekeeper’s room. “To hear Signer Gnudi talk sometimes made your blood run cold. It seemed as if you couldn’t be safe anywhere from those wicked foreign barricades and massacres,” as Clara put it. And yet, in point of fact, no milder man ever larded a woodcock or stuffed it with truffles.

Alone, behind all these, in the first of the row of stalls with their carven spires and dark vaulted canopies, sat Richard Calmady, whom all his people had thus come forth silently to welcome. But, through prayer and psalm and lesson alike, as Miss St. Quentin noted, he remained immovable, to her almost alarmingly cold and self-concentrated. Only once he turned his head, leaning a little forward and looking towards the purple, and silver, and fair, white flowers of the altar, and the clear shining of the altar lights.

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered and fed thee? or thirsty and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

The words were given out by Julius March, not only with an exquisite distinctness of enunciation, but with a ring of assurance, of sustaining and thankful conviction. Richard leaned back in his stall again, looking across at his mother. While Honoria, taken with a sensitive fear of inquiring into matters not rightfully hers to inquire into, hastily turned her eyes upon her open prayer-book. They must have many things to say to one another, that mother and son, as she divined, to-day, far be it from her to attempt to surprise their confidence!

She rose from her knees, cutting her final petitions somewhat short, directly the last of the men-servants had filed out of the chapel, and, crossing the Chapel-Room, a tall, pale figure in her trailing, white, evening dress, she pulled back the curtain of the oriel window, opened one of the curved, many-paned casements and looked out. She was curiously moved, very sensible of a deeper drama going forward around her, going forward in her own thought subtly modifying and transmuting it than she could at present either explain or place. The night was cloudy and very mild. A soft, sobbing, westerly wind, with the smell of coming rain in it, saluted her as she opened the casement. The last of the frost must be gone, by now, even in the hollows the snow wholly departed also. The spring, though young and feeble yet, puling like some ailing baby-child in the voice of that softly-complaining, westerly wind, was here, very really present at last. Honoria leaned her elbows on the stone window-ledge. Her heart went out in strong emotion of tenderness towards that moist wind which seemed to cry, as in a certain homelessness, against her bare arms and bare neck. “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren ”

But just then Katherine Calmady called to her, and that in a sweet, if rather anxious, tone.

“Honoria, dear child, come here,” she said. “Richard is putting me through the longer catechism regarding those heath fires in August year, and the state of the woods.”

Then, as the young lady approached her, Lady Calmady laid one hand on her arm, looking up in quick and loving appeal at the serious and slightly troubled face.

“My answers only reveal the woeful greatness of my ignorance. My geography has run mad. I am planting forests in the midst of corn-fields, so Dickie assures me, and making hay generally as you, my dear, would say of the map.”

Still her eyes dwelt upon Honoria’s in insistent and loving appeal.

“Come,” she said, “explain to him, and save me from further exposition of my own ignorance.”

Thus admonished the young lady sat down on the low sofa beside Richard Calmady. As she did so Katherine rose and moved away. Honoria determined to see only the young man’s broad shoulders, his irreproachable dress clothes, his strangely still and very handsome face. But, since there was no concealing rug to cover them, it was impossible that she should long avoid also seeing his shortened and defective limbs and oddly shod feet. And at that she winced and shrank a little, for all her high spirit and inviolate, maidenly strength.

“Oh yes! those fires!” she said hurriedly. “There were several you remember, Cousin Katherine? or I dare say you don’t, for you were ill all the time. But the worst was on Spendle Flats. You know that long three-cornered bit” she looked Richard bravely in the face again “which lies between the Portsmouth Road and our crossroad to Farley? It runs into a point just at the top of Star Hill.”

“Yes, I know,” Dickie said.

He had seen her wince. Well, that wasn’t wonderful! She could not very well do otherwise, if she had eyes in her head. He did not blame her. And then, though it was not easy to do so with entire serenity, this was precisely one of those small unpleasant incidents which, in obedience to his new code, he was bound to accept calmly, good-temperedly, just as part of the day’s work, in fact. He had done with malingering. He had done with the egoism of sulking and hiding even to the extent of a couvre-pieds. All right, here it was! Richard settled his shoulders squarely against the straight, stuffed back of the Chippendale sofa, and talked on.

“It’s a pity that bit is burnt,” he said. “I haven’t been over that ground for nearly six years, of course. But I remember there were very good trees there a plantation at the top end, just before you come to the big gravel-pits, and the rest self-sown. Are they all gone?”

“Licked as clean as the back of your hand,” Honoria replied, warming to her subject. “They hardly repaid felling for firewood. It made me wretched. Some idiot threw down a match, I suppose. There had been nearly a month’s drought, and the whole place was like so much tinder. There was an easterly breeze too. You can imagine the blaze! We hadn’t the faintest chance. Poor, old Iles lost his head completely, and sat down with his feet in a dry ditch and wept. There must be over two hundred acres of it. It’s a dreadful eyesore, perfectly barren and useless, but for a little sour grass even a gipsy’s donkey has to be hard up before he cares to eat!” Miss St. Quentin shifted her position with a certain impatience. “I can’t bear to see the land doing no work,” she said.

“Doing no work?” Dickie inquired. He began to be interested in the conversation from other than a purely practical and local standpoint.

“Of course,” she asserted. “The land has no more right to lie idle than any of the rest of us unless it’s a bit of tilth sweetening in fallow between two crops. That is reasonable enough. But for the rest,” she said, a certain brightness and self-forgetting gaining on her “let it contribute its share all the while, like an honest citizen of the universe. Let it work, most decidedly let it work.”

“And what about such trifles as the few hundred square miles of desert or mountain range?” Richard inquired, half amused, half and that rather unwillingly charmed. “They are liable to be a thorn in the side of the well, socialist.”

“Oh, I’ve no quarrel with them. They come under a different head.” Honoria’s manner had ceased to be in any degree embarrassed, though a slight perplexity came into her expression. For just then she remembered, somehow, her pacings of the station platform at Culoz, the salutation of the bleak, pure, evening wind from out the fastnesses of the Alps, and all her conversation there with her faithful admirer, Ludovic Quayle. And it occurred to her what singular contrast in sentiment that bleak evening wind offered to the mild, moist, westerly wind complaint of the homeless baby, Spring which had just now cried against her bosom! And again Honoria became conscious of being in contact, both in herself and in her surroundings, with more coercing, more vital drama than she could either interpret or place. Again something of fear invaded her, to combat which she hurried into speech. “No, I haven’t any quarrel with deserts and so on,” she repeated. “They’re uncommonly useful things for mankind to knock its head against invincible, unnegotiable, splendidly competent to teach humanity its place. You see we’ve grown not a little conceited so at least it seems to me on our evolutionary journey up from the primordial cell. We’re too much inclined to forget we’ve developed soul quite comparatively recently, and, therefore, that there is probably just as long a journey ahead of us before we reach the ultimate of intellectual and spiritual development as there is behind us physically from, say the parent ascidian, to you and me. And and somehow” Honoria’s voice had become full and sweet, and she looked straight at Dickie with a rare candour and simplicity “somehow those big open spaces remind one of all that. They drive one’s ineffectualness home on one. They remind one that environment, that mechanical civilisation, all the short cuts of applied science, after all count for little and inevitably come to the place called stop. And that braces one. It makes one the more eager after that which lies behind the material aspects of things, and to which these merely act as a veil.”

Honoria had bowed herself together. Her elbows were on her knees, her chin in her two hands, her charming face alight with a pure enthusiasm. And Richard watched her curiously. His acquaintance with women was fairly comprehensive, but this woman represented a type new to his experience. He wanted to tolerate her merely, to regard her as an element in his scheme of self-discipline. And it began to occur to him that, from some points of view, she knew as much about that, as much about the idea inspiring it, as he did. He leaned himself back in the angle of the sofa, and clasped his hands behind his head.

“All the same,” he said, “I am afraid those burnt acres on Spendle Flats are hardly extensive enough to afford an object for me to knock my head against, and so enforce salutary remembrance of the limitations of human science. Possibly that has already been sufficiently brought home to me in other ways.”

He paused a minute.

Honoria straightened herself up. Again she saw whether she would or no those defective shortened limbs and oddly shod feet. And again, somehow, that complaint of the moist spring wind seemed to cry against her bare arms and neck, begetting an overwhelming pitifulness in her.

“So, since it’s not necessary we should reserve it as an object lesson in general ineffectualness, Miss St. Quentin, what shall we do with it?”

“Oh, plant,” she said.

“With the ubiquitous Scotchman?”

“It wouldn’t carry anything else, except along the boundaries. There you might put in a row of horn-beam and oak. They always look rather nice against a background of firs. Only the stumps of the burnt trees ought to be stubbed.”

“Let them be stubbed,” Richard said.

“Where are you going to find the labour? The estate is very much under-manned.”

“Import it,” Richard said.

“No, no,” Honoria answered, again warming to her subject. “I don’t believe in imported labour. If you have men by the week, they must lodge. And the lodger is as the ten plagues of Egypt in a village. If a man comes by the day, he is tired and slack. His heart is not in his work. He does as little as he can. Moreover, in either case, the wife and children suffer. He’s certain to take them home short money. He’s pretty safe, being tired in the one case, or, in the other, on the loose, to drink.”

Dickie’s face gave. He laughed a little.

“We seem to have come to a fine impasse!” he remarked. “Though humiliatingly small, that tract of burnt land must clearly be kept to knock one’s head against.”

Honoria rose to her feet.

“Richard, I wish you’d build,” she said, in her earnestness unconscious of the unceremonious character of her address. “Iles ought to have done that before now. But he is old and timid, and his one idea has been to save. You know this Brockhurst property alone would carry eight or ten more families. There’s plenty of work. It needn’t be made. It is there ready to hand. Give them good gardens, allotments if you can, and leave to keep a pig. That’s infinitely better than extravagant wages. Root them down in the soil. Let them love the place tie them up to it ”

“Your socialism is rather quaintly crossed with feudalism, isn’t it?” Dickie remarked.

He drew himself forward, slipped down off the sofa, stood upright. And then, indeed, the cruel disparity between his stature and her own for tall though she was, he, by right of make and length of arm, should evidently have been by some two or three inches the taller and all the grotesqueness of his deformity, were fully disclosed to Honoria. For the second time that day, her tact, her presence of mind, her ready speech, deserted her. She backed a little away from him.

And Richard perceived that. It is not easy to be absolutely philosophic. Something of his old anger revived towards Miss St. Quentin. He shuffled forward a step or two, and, steadying himself with one hand on the arm of the sofa, reached down to pick up his crutches. But his grasp was not very sure just then. He secured one. To his intense annoyance the other escaped him, falling back on the floor with a rattle. Then, instantly, before he could make effort to recover it, Honoria’s white figure swept down on one knee in front of him. She laid hold of the crutch, gave it him silently, and rose to her full height again, pale, gallant, stately, but with a quivering of her lips and nostrils, and an amazement of regret and pity in her eyes, which very certainly had never found place there heretofore.

“Thanks,” Richard said. He waited just a minute. He too was amazed somehow. He needed to revise the position. “About those eight or ten happy families whom you wish to root so firmly in the soil, and the housing of them are you busy to-morrow morning?”

“Oh no no” Honoria declared, with rather unnecessary emphasis.

Generosity should surely be met by generosity. Dickie leaned his arm against the arm of the sofa, and looked up at the speaker. Her transparent sincerity, her superb chastity he could call it by no other word of manner and movement, even of outline the slight angularity of strong muscle as opposed to soft roundness of cushioned flesh these arrested and impressed him.

“I had Chifney up from the stables this afternoon and made my peace with him,” he said. “He was very full of your praises, Honoria for the cousinship may as well be acknowledged between us, don’t you think? You have supplemented my lapses in respect of him, as of a good deal else.” Richard looked away to the door of Lady Calmady’s bedroom. It stood open, and Katherine came from within with some books, and a silver candlestick, in her hands.

“My dears,” she said, “do you know it grows very late?”

“All right,” he answered, “we’re making out some plans for to-morrow.” He looked at Honoria again. “Chifney engaged he and Chaplin would find a horse, between them, which could be trusted to well to put up with me,” he said. “I promised to go down and have breakfast with dear Mrs. Chifney at the stables, but I can be back here by eleven. Would you be inclined to come out with me then? We could ride over to that burnt land and have a poke round for sites for your cottages.”

“Oh yes, indeed, I can come,” Honoria answered. Her delightful smile beamed forth, and it had a new and very delicate charm in it. For it so happened that the woman in her whom to use her own phrase she had condemned to solitary confinement in the back attic, beat very violently against her prison door just then in attempt to escape.

“Dear Cousin Katherine, good-night. Good-night, Richard,” she said hurriedly. She went out of the room, lazily, slowly, down the black, polished staircase, across the great, silent hall, and along the farther lobby. But she let the Gun-Room door bang to behind her and flung herself down in the armchair in which, by the way, the old bull-dog had died a year ago, broken-hearted by over long waiting for the homecoming of his absent master. And then Honoria, though the least tearful of women, wept not in petulant anger, or with the easy, luxuriously sentimental overflow common to feminine humanity, but reluctantly, with hard, irregular sobs which hurt, yet refused to be stifled, since the extreme limit of emotional and mental endurance had been reached.

“Oh, it’s fine!” she said, half aloud. “I can see that it’s fine but, dear God, is there no way out of it? It’s so horribly, so unspeakably sad.”

And Richard remained on into the small hours, sitting before the dying fire of the big hearth-place, at the eastern end of the gallery. Mentally he audited his accounts, the profit and loss of this day’s doing, and, on the whole, the balance showed upon the profit side. Verily it was only a day of small things, of very humble ambitions, of far from world-shaking successes! Still four persons, he judged, he had made a degree or so happier. His mother rejoiced, though with trembling as yet, at his return to the ordinary habits of the ordinary man. Sweet, dear thing, small wonder that she trembled! He had led her such a dance in the past, that any new departure must give cause for anxious questionings. Dickie sunk his head in his hands. God forgive him, what a dance he had led her! And Julius March was happier he, Richard, was pretty certain of that since Julius could not but understand that, in the present case at all events, neither fulfilment of prophecy nor answer to prayer had been disregarded. And the hard-bitten, irascible, old trainer, Tom Chifney, was happier probably really the happiest of the lot since he demanded nothing more recondite and far-reaching than restoration to favour, and due recognition of the importance of his calling and of the merits of his horses. And nice, funny, voluble, little Dick Ormiston was happier too. Richard’s heart went out strangely to the dear little lad! He wondered if it would be too much to ask Mary and Roger to give him the boy altogether? Then he put the thought from him, judging it savoured of the selfishness, the exclusiveness, and egoism, with which he had sworn to part company forever.

He stretched his hand out over the arm of the chair, craving for some creature, warm, sentient, dumbly sympathetic, to lay hold of. He remembered there used to be a man down near Alton, a hard-riding farmer, who bred bull-dogs white ones with black points, like Camp and Camp’s forefathers. He would tell Chifney to go down there and bespeak the two best of the next litter of puppies. Yes he wanted a dog again. It was foolish perhaps, but after all one did want something, and, since other things were denied, a dog must do and he wanted one badly. Yet the day had been a success on the whole. He had been true to his code. Only and Richard shrugged his shoulders rather wearily it had got to be begun all over again to-morrow, and next day, and next an endless perspective of to-morrows. And the poor flesh, with its many demands, its delicious and iniquitous passions, its enchantments, its revelations, its adorable languors, its drunken heats, must it have nothing, nothing at all? Must that whole side of things be ruled out forever? He had no more desire for mistresses, God forbid Helen, somehow, had cleansed him of all possibility of that. And he would never ask any woman to marry him. The sacrifice on her part would be too great. He thought of little Lady Constance. Simply, it was not right. So, practically, the emotional joys of life were reduced to this they must consist solely in giving giving giving of time, sympathy, thought and money! A far from ignoble programme no doubt, but a rather austere one for a man of liberal tastes, of varied experience, and of barely thirty. And he was as strong as a bull now. He knew that. He might live to be ninety. Yes, he thought he would ask for little Dick Ormiston. The boy would be an amusement and interest him. And then suddenly the vision of Honoria St. Quentin, in her red and black-braided gown, with that air of something ruffling and soldierly about it, whipping the small Dick up in her strong arms, throwing him across her shoulder and bearing him off bodily, and of Honoria later, her sensitive face all alight, as she discoursed of the ultimate aim and purpose of life and of living, came before him. Above her white dress, he could see her white and finely angular shoulders as she swept down to pick up that wretched crutch. Yes, she was a being of singular contrasts, of remarkable capacity, both mental and practical! And she might have a heart she might. Once or twice it had looked rather like it. But, after all, what did that matter? The feminine side of things was excluded. Besides he supposed she was half engaged to Ludovic Quayle.

Dickie yawned. He was sleepy. His meditations became unprofitable. He had best go to bed.

“And the devil fly away with all women, saving and excepting my well beloved mother,” he said.