Weekly classic film-related e-books from Meredy.com

Friday, February 27, 2009

Weekly Meredy.com E-book - Random Harvest

I love reading the books on which many classic flicks are based. In fact, I collect them. I thought you might like to read them, too. So, I'm starting something new. A free classic movie-related e-book will be featured weekly on my blog.

For today, I've chosen an old favorite of mine: Random Harvest by James Hilton.

I also like to listen to OTR programs like Lux Radio Theater, so today I'm featuring the January 31, 1944 Lux Radio Theater version of Random Harvest starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson.

James Hilton (September 9, 1900 – December 20, 1954) was an Oscar-winning English novelist, and author of several best-sellers including Lost Horizon (which popularized the mythical Shangri-La), Good-bye Mr. Chips and Random Harvest.

Random Harvest was published in 1941. Like previous Hilton works, the novel was immensely popular, placing second on The New York Times list of bestselling novels for the year.

The novel was successfully adapted into a film of the same name in 1942 under the direction of Mervyn LeRoy. Claudine West, George Froeschel and Arthur Wimperis adapted the novel for the screen, and received an Academy Award nomination for their work. Though the film departs from the novel's narrative in several significant ways, the novel would have proved nearly impossible to transfer to film otherwise. The film starred Ronald Colman and Greer Garson in the lead roles.

Colman and Garson reprised their roles in a radio version on the Lux Radio Theater, airing January 31, 1944.

A Meredy.com E-book

Title: Random Harvest (1941)
Author: James Hilton
Edition: 1
Language: English
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Date first posted: February 2009
Date most recently updated: February 2009

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Random Harvest (1941)
James Hilton

"According to a British Official Report, bombs fell at Random."



On  the  morning  of  the  eleventh  of  November,  1937,  precisely at eleven o'clock, some well-meaning busybody consulted his watch and loudly
announced  the  hour,  with  the  result  that  all of us in the dining-car felt constrained to put aside drinks and newspapers and spend the two
minutes'  silence  in  rather  embarrassed  stares at one another or out of the window. Not that anyone had intended disrespect--merely that in a
fast-moving  train  we  knew no rules for correct behaviour and would therefore rather not have behaved at all. Anyhow, it was during those tense
uneasy seconds that I first took notice of the man opposite. Dark-haired, slim, and austerely good-looking, he was perhaps in his early or middle
forties; he wore an air of prosperous distinction that fitted well with his neat but quiet standardized clothes. I could not guess whether he had
originally  moved  in  from a third- or a first-class compartment. Half a million Englishmen are like that. Their inconspicuous correctness makes
almost a display of concealment.

As  he  looked  out  of the window I saw something happen to his eyes--a change from a glance to a gaze and then from a gaze to a glare, a sudden
sharpening  of  focus,  as  when  a person thinks he recognizes someone fleetingly in a crowd. Meanwhile a lurch of the train spilt coffee on the
table  between us, providing an excuse for apologies as soon as the two minutes were over; I got in with mine first, but by the time he turned to
reply  the  focus  was  lost, his look of recognition unsure. Only the embarrassment remained, and to ease it I made some comment on the moorland
scenery,  which  was  indeed  sombrely beautiful that morning, for overnight snow lay on the summits, and there was one of them, twin-domed, that
seemed to keep pace with the train, moving over the intervening valley like a ghostly camel. "That's Mickle," I said, pointing to it.

Surprisingly he answered: "Do you know if there's a lake--quite a small lake--between the peaks?"

Two  men  at the table across the aisle then intervened with the instant garrulousness of those who overhear a question put to someone else. They
were  also,  I  think,  moved by a common desire to talk down an emotional crisis, for the entire dining-car seemed suddenly full of chatter. One
said  there WAS such a lake, if you called it a lake, but it was really more of a swamp; and the other said there wasn't any kind of lake at all,
though  after  heavy  rain  it might be "a bit soggy" up there, and then the first man agreed that maybe that was so, and presently it turned out
that though they were both Derbyshire men, neither had actually climbed Mickle since boyhood.

We listened politely to all this and thanked them, glad to let the matter drop. Nothing more was said till they left the train at Leicester; then
I  leaned across the table and said: "It doesn't pay to argue with local inhabitants, otherwise I'd have answered your question myself--because I
was on top of Mickle yesterday."

A gleam reappeared in his eyes. "YOU were?"

"Yes, I'm one of those eccentric people who climb mountains for fun all the year round."

"So you saw the lake?"

"There wasn't a lake or a swamp or a sign of either."

"Ah. . . ." And the gleam faded.

"You sound disappointed?"

"Well, no--hardly that. Maybe I was thinking of somewhere else. I'm afraid I've a bad memory."

"For mountains?"

"For names too. MICKLE, did you say it was?" He spoke the word as if he were trying the sound of it.

"That's the local name. It isn't important enough to be on maps."

He  nodded  and  then,  rather  deliberately, held up a newspaper throughout a couple of English counties. The sight of soldiers marching along a
Bedfordshire  lane  gave us our next exchange of remarks--something about Hitler, the European situation, chances of war, and so on. It led to my
asking if he had served in the last war.


"Then there must be things you wish you HAD forgotten?"

"But I have--even THEM--to some extent." He added as if to deflect the subject from himself: "I imagine you were too young?"

"Too young for the last, but not for the next, the way things are going."

"Nobody will be either too young or too old for the next."

Meanwhile men's voices were uprising further along the car in talk of Ypres and Gallipoli; I called his attention and commented that thousands of
other  Englishmen  were  doubtless  at  that  moment reminiscing about their war experiences. "If you've already forgotten yours, you're probably

"I didn't say I'd forgotten EVERYTHING."

He  then  told  me  a  story which I shall summarize as follows: During the desperate months of trench warfare in France an English staff officer
reasoned that if some spy whom the Germans had learned to trust were to give them false details about a big attack, it might have a better chance
of  success.  The  first  step  was to establish the good faith of such a spy, and this seemed only possible by allowing him, over a considerable
period,  to  supply  true  information.  Accordingly, during several weeks before the planned offensive, small raiding parties crawled across no-
man's-land  at night while German machine-gunners, having been duly tipped off as to time and place, slaughtered them with much precision. One of
these  doomed  detachments was in charge of a youth who, after enlisting at the beginning of the war, had just begun his first spell in the front
line.  Quixotically  eager  to  lead  his men to storybook victory, he soon found that his less inspiring task was to accompany a few wounded and
dying  survivors  into  a  shell-hole  so close to the enemy trenches that he could pick up snatches of German conversation. Knowing the language
fairly  well, he connected something he heard with something he had previously overheard in his commanding officer's dugout; so that presently he
was  able  to  deduce  the  whole  intrigue  of plot and counterplot. It came to him as an additional shock as he lay there, half drowned in mud,
delirious  with  the  pain of a smashed leg, and sick with watching the far greater miseries of his companions. Before dawn a shell screamed over
and burst a few yards away, killing the others and wounding him in the head so that he saw, heard, and could think no more.

"What happened to him afterwards?"

"Oh,  he  recovered pretty well--except for partial loss of memory. . . . He's still alive. Of course, when you come to think about it logically,
the  whole  thing was as justifiable as any other piece of wartime strategy. The primary aim is to frustrate the enemy's knavish tricks. Anything
that does so is the thing to do, even if it seems a bit knavish itself."

"You say that defensively, as if you had to keep on convincing yourself about it."

"I wonder if you're right."

"I wonder if you're the survivor who's still alive?"

He  hesitated a moment, then answered with an oblique smile: "I don't suppose you'd believe me even if I said no." I let it go at that, and after
a  pause  he  went  on: "It's curious to reflect that one's death was planned by BOTH sides--it gives an extra flavour to the life one managed to
sneak away with, as well as a certain irony to the mood in which one wears a decoration."

"So I should imagine."

I  waited  for  him to make some further comment but he broke a long silence only to summon the waiter and order a whiskey-and-soda. "You'll have
one with me?"

"No, thanks."

"You don't drink?"

"Not very often in the morning."

"Neither do I, as a rule. Matter of fact, I don't drink much at all."

I  felt  that  these  trivial  exchanges  were to cover an inner stress of mind he was trying to master. "Coming back to what you were saying," I
coaxed,  eventually,  but he interrupted: "No, let's NOT come back to it--no use raking over these things. Besides, everybody's so bored with the
last war and so scared of the next that it's almost become a social gaffe to bring up the matter at all."

"Except on one day of the year--which happens to be today. Then the taboos are lifted."

"Thanks to the rather theatrical device of the two minutes' silence?"

"Yes, and 'thanks' is right. Surely we English need some release from the tyranny of the stiff upper lip."

He smiled into his drink as the waiter set it before him. "So you think it does no harm--once a year?"

"On the contrary, I think it makes a very healthy purge of our normal--which is to say, our ABNORMAL--national inhibitions."

Another smile. "Maybe--if you like psycho-analyst's jargon."

"Evidently YOU don't."

"Sorry. If you're one of them, I apologize."

"No, I'm just interested in the subject, that's all."

"Ever studied it--seriously?"

I  said  I  had, which was true, for I had written several papers on it for the Philosophical Society. He nodded, then read again for a few score
miles.  The  train was travelling fast, and when next he looked up it was as if he realized that anything he still had to say must be hurried; we
were already streaking past the long rows of suburban back gardens. He suddenly resumed, with a touch of his earlier eagerness: "All right then--
listen  to  this--and don't laugh . . . it may be up your street. . . . Sometimes I have a feeling of being--if it isn't too absurd to say such a
thing--of  being HALF SOMEBODY ELSE. Some casual little thing--a tune or a scent or a name in a newspaper or a look of something or somebody will
remind  me,  just  for a second--and yet I haven't time to get any grip of what it DOES remind me of--it's a sort of wisp of memory that can't be
trapped  before it fades away. . . . For instance, when I saw that mountain this morning I felt I'd been there--I almost KNEW I'd been there. . .
.  I  could see that lake between the summits--why, I'd BATHED in it--there was a slab of rock jutting out like a diving-board--and the day I was
there  I fell asleep in the shade and woke up in the sun . . . but I suppose I've got to believe the whole thing never happened, just because you
say there isn't a lake there at all. . . . Does all this strike you as the most utter nonsense?"

"By no means. It's not an uncommon experience."

"Oh, it ISN'T?" He looked slightly dismayed, perhaps robbed of some comfort in finding himself not unique.

"Dunne  says  it's  due to a half-remembered dream. You should read his book An Experiment with Time. He says--this, of course, is condensing his
theory  very  crudely--that dreams DO foretell the future, only by the time they come true, we've forgotten them--all except your elusive wisp of

"So I once dreamed about that mountain?"

"Perhaps. It's an interesting theory even if it can't be proved. Anyhow, the feeling you have is quite a normal one."

"I don't feel that it IS altogether normal, the way I have it."

"You mean it's beginning to worry you?"

"Perhaps sometimes--in a way--yes." He added with a nervous smile: "But that's no reason why I should worry YOU. I can only plead this one-day-a-
year excuse--the purging of the inhibitions, didn't you call it? Let's talk about something else--cricket--the Test Match. . . . Wonder what will
happen to England . . . ?"

"Somehow today that doesn't sound like cricket talk."

"I know. After the silence there ARE overtones . . . but all I really wanted to prove was that I'm not a complete lunatic."

"Most people have a spot of lunacy in them somewhere. It's excusable."

"Provided they don't inflict it on strangers."

"Why not, if you feel you want to?"

"I don't want to--not consciously."

"Unconsciously then. Which makes it worst of all. Not that in your case it sounds very serious."

"You don't think so? You don't think these--er--peculiarities of memory--are--er--anything to worry about?"

"Since you ask me, may I be perfectly frank?"

"Of course."

"I don't know what your work is, but isn't it possible you've been overdoing things lately--not enough rest--relaxation?"

"I don't need a psycho-analyst to tell me that. My doctor does--every time I see him."

"Then why not take his advice?"

"THIS  is why." He pulled a small notebook from his vest pocket. "I happen to be in what is vaguely called public life--which means I'm on a sort
of treadmill I can't get off until it stops--and it won't stop." He turned over the pages. "Just to show you--a sample day of my existence. . . .
Here, you can read it--it's typed." He added, as I took the book: "My secretary--very neat. SHE wouldn't let me forget anything."

"But she can't spell 'archaeological.'"

"Why  does she have to?" He snatched the book back for scrutiny and I had the feeling he was glad of the excuse to do so and keep it. "Calderbury
Archaeological  and Historical Society? . . . Oh, they're my constituents--I have to show them round the House--guide-book stuff--an awful bore .
. . that's this afternoon. This evening I have an Embassy reception; then tomorrow there's a board meeting, a lunch party, and in the evening I'm
guest speaker at a dinner in Cambridge."

"Doesn't look as if there's anything you could cut except possibly tomorrow's lunch."

"I  expect  I'll  do that, anyway--even though it's at my own house. There'll be a crowd of novelists and actors and titled people who'd think me
surly because I wouldn't talk to them half as freely as I'm talking to you now."

I  could  believe it. So far he had made no move towards an exchange of names between us, and I guessed that, on his side, the anonymity had been
not only an encouragement to talk, but a temptation to reveal himself almost to the point of self-exhibition. And there had been a certain impish
exhilaration in the way he had allowed me to glance at his engagement book for just those few seconds, as if teasing me with clues to an identity
he  had  neither  wish  nor  intention  to disclose. Men in whom reticence is a part of good form have fantastic ways of occasional escape, and I
should have been the last to embarrass an interesting fellow traveller had he not added, as the train began braking into St. Pancras: "Well, it's
been a pleasant chat. Some day--who knows?--we might run into each other again."

Spoken  as if he sincerely half meant it, the remark merely emphasized the other half sense in which he did not mean it at all; and this, because
I  already liked him, irked me to the reply: "If it's the Swithin's Dinner tomorrow night we may as well introduce ourselves now as then, because
I'll be there too. My name's Harrison. I'm on the Reception Committee."

"Oh, really?"

"And I don't know what your plans are, but after the show I'd be delighted if you'd come up to my rooms and have some coffee."

"Thanks," he muttered with sudden glumness, gathering up his newspapers and brief-case. Then I suppose he realized it would be pointless, as well
as discourteous, to refuse the name which I should inevitably discover so soon. He saved it for a last unsmiling afterthought as he jumped to the
platform. "My name's Rainier . . . Charles Rainier."

* * * * *

Rainier nodded rather coldly when I met him again the following day. In his evening clothes and with an impressive array of decorations he looked
what  he  was--a  guest  of  honour  about  to perform his duties with the touch of apathy that so effectively disguises the British technique of
authority.  Not  necessarily an aristocratic technique. I had already looked him up in reference books and found that he was the son of a longish
line  of manufacturers--no blue blood, no title (I wondered how he had evaded that), a public school of the second rank, Parliamentary membership
for  a  safe  Conservative  county.  I  had  also  mentioned  his  name  to  a few people I knew; the general impression was that he was rich and
influential,  and  that  I  was  lucky  to  have  made  such  a  chance  encounter.  He did not, however, belong to the small group of well-known
personalities  recognizable  by  the  man-in-the-street either in the flesh or in Low cartoons. On the contrary, he seemed neither to seek nor to
attract  the  popular  sort  of  publicity,  nor  yet  to  repel it so markedly as to get in reverse; it was as if he deliberately aimed at being
nondescript.  A  journalist  told  me  he would be difficult to build up as a newspaper hero because his personality was "centripetal" instead of
"centrifugal";  I  was not quite certain what this meant, but Who's Who was less subtle in confiding that his recreations were mountaineering and

On  the  whole  I  secured  a fair amount of information without much real enlightenment; I hoped for more from a second meeting and travelled to
Cambridge  in  a  mood  of considerable anticipation. It was the custom of the secretary and committee of the Swithin's Society to receive guests
informally  before  dining  in  the  College  Hall;  so we gathered first in the Combination Room, where we made introductions, drank sherry, and
exchanged  small  talk.  It  is really hard to know what to say to distinguished people when you first meet them--that is, it is hard to think of
talk  small enough to be free from presumption. Rainier, for instance, had lately been in the financial news in connection with a proposed merger
of  cement  companies,  a  difficult  achievement  for which negotiations were still proceeding; but it was impossible to say "How is your merger
getting on?" as one might say "How are your chrysanthemums?" to a man whom you knew to be an enthusiastic gardener. Presently, to my relief, some
other  guests  arrived whom I had to attend to, and it was perhaps a quarter of an hour before I saw him edging to me through the crowd. "Sorry,"
he  began,  "but I've got to let you down--awful toothache--where's the nearest dentist?" I hustled him out as inconspicuously as possible and at
the  door of the taxi received his promise to return to the dinner if he felt equal to it. Then I went back and explained to the company what had
happened. Somehow it did not sound very convincing, and none of us really expected to see him again. But we did. An hour later he took the vacant
place we had left at the High Table and was just in time to reply to the toast with one of the best after-dinner speeches I had ever heard. Maybe
the  escape  from  physical  pain plus the Cambridge atmosphere, with its mingling of time-honoured formality and youthful high spirits, suited a
mood  in which he began with badinage about toothache and ended with a few graceful compliments to the College and University. Among other things
I  remember  him  recalling  that  during  his undergraduate days he had had an ambition to live at Cambridge all his life, as a don of some sort
(laughter),  but  exactly  what  sort  he  hadn't stayed long enough to decide (laughter), because fate had called him instead to be some sort of
business-man  politician,  but  even  what  sort  of  THAT  he  hadn't  yet  entirely made up his mind (more laughter). . . . "So because of this
fundamental  indecision,  I  still  hope  that  some  day I shall throw off the cares of too many enterprises and seek the tranquillity of a room
overlooking  a  quadrangle  and  an  oak  that  can be sported against the world." (Prolonged laughter in which the speaker joined.) After he had
finished,  we  all  cheered  uproariously  and  then,  relaxing,  drank  and  argued and made a night of it in the best Swithin's tradition; when
eventually the affair broke up, it was Rainier himself who asked if my invitation to coffee still held good.

"Why, of course--only I thought maybe after the dentist you'd feel--"

"My dear boy, don't ever try to imagine what my feelings are."

But  he  smiled  in  saying  it,  and I gathered he had forgiven not so much me as himself for having taken part in our train conversation. A few
friends  adjourned  to my rooms near by, where we sat around and continued discussions informally. Again he charmed us by his talk, but even more
by  his  easy  manners and willingness to laugh and listen; long after most of the good-nights he still lingered chatting, listening, and smoking
cigarette after cigarette. I didn't know then that he slept badly and liked to stay up late, that he enjoyed young company and jokes and midnight
argument, that he had no snobbisms, and that public speaking left him either very dull and listless or very excitable and talkative, according to
the audience. Towards three in the morning, when we found ourselves sole survivors, I suggested more coffee, and at that he sank into an armchair
with  a  sigh of content and put his feet against the mantelpiece as if the place belonged to him--which, in a sense, it did, as to any Swithin's
man  since  the  reign  of Elizabeth the Foundress. "I've been in these rooms before--often. Fellow with the disarming name of Pal had them in my
time--'native of Asia or Africa not of European parentage,' as the University regulations so tactfully specify. High-caste Hindoo. Mathematician-
-genius  in  his  own line--wonder what he's doing now?--probably distilling salt out of sea-water or lying down in front of trains or some other
blind-alley  behaviour.  Used to say he felt algebra emotionally--told me once he couldn't read through the Binomial Theorem without tears coming
into his eyes--the whole concept, he said, was so shatteringly beautiful. . . . Wish I could have got into his world, somehow or other. And there
are other worlds, too--wish sometimes I could get into any of them--out of my own."

"What's so wrong about your own?"

He  laughed  defensively.  "Now  there  you've got me. . . . Maybe, as you hinted yesterday, just a matter of overwork. But it's true enough that
talking to all you young fellows tonight made me feel terribly ancient and envious."

"Not  ENVIOUS,  surely?  It's  we  who are envious of you--because you've made a success of life. We're a pretty disillusioned crowd when we stop
laughing--we know there won't be jobs for more than a minority of us unless a war comes to give all of us the kind of job we don't want."

He  mused  over  his  coffee  for a moment and then continued: "Yes, that's true--and that's probably why I feel how different everything is here
instead  of  how  much  the  same--because  my  Cambridge days WERE different. The war was just over then, and our side had won, and we all of us
thought that winning a great war ought to mean something, either towards making our lives a sort of well-deserved happy-ever-after--a long golden
afternoon  of  declining  effort and increasing reward--or else to give us chances to rebuild the world this way or that. It all depended whether
one  were  tired  or  eager  after  the strain. Most of us were both--tired of the war and everything connected with it, eager to push ahead into
something  new.  We soon stopped hating the Germans, and just as soon we began to laugh at the idea of anyone caring enough about the horrid past
to  ask us that famous question on the recruiting posters--'What did you do in the Great War?' But even the most cynical of us couldn't see ahead
to a time when the only logical answer to that question would be another one--'WHICH Great War?'

"There  was a room over a fish shop in Petty Cury where some of us met once a week to talk our heads off--we called ourselves the Heretics, but I
can't  remember  anything said at those meetings half so well as I can remember the smell of fish coming up from the shop below. And J. M. Keynes
was  lecturing  in  the  Art  School,  politely  suggesting  that  Germany mightn't be able to pay off so many millions in reparations, or was it
billions?--in  those days one just thought of a number and stuck as many naughts as one fancied after it. And there were Holland Rose on Napoleon
and  Pigou  on  Diminishing  Returns,  and  Bury  still  explaining  the  Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and one evening Pal and I--sounds
sentimental,  doesn't  it,  Pal and I?--lined up in a queue that stretched half-way round Trinity Great Court to hear a lecture by a fellow named
Eddington about some new German fellow named Einstein who had a theory about light bending in the middle--that brought the house down, of course-
-roars  of  laughter--just as you heard tonight only more so--good clean undergraduate fun at its best. And behind us on the wall the portrait of
Catholic  Mary scowled down on this modern audience that scoffed at science no less than at religion. Heretics indeed--and laughing heretics! But
my pal Pal didn't laugh--he was transfixed with a sort of ecstasy about the whole thing.

"I  did  a  good  deal of reading on the river, and also at the Orchard at Grantchester--you remember Rupert Brooke's poem? Brooke would be fifty
today,  if  he'd  lived--think of that. . . . Still stands the clock at ten to three, but Rupert Brooke is late for tea--confined to his bed with
rheumatism  or  something--that's  what  poets get for not dying young. The woman at the Orchard who served the teas remembered Brooke--she was a
grand  old  chatterbox  and  once  I  got  to  know her she'd talk endlessly about undergraduates and professors past and present--many a yarn, I
daresay,  that  I've forgotten since and that nobody else remembered even then. . . . Trivial talk--just as trivial as the way I'm talking to you
now.  Nineteen-twenty,  that  was--Cambridge  full  of demobilized old-young men still wearing dyed officers' overcoats--British warms sent up to
Perth  and  returned  chocolate-brown--full  of  men  still  apt  to go suddenly berserk in the middle of a rag and turn it into a riot, or start
whimpering during a thunderstorm--after-effects of shell-shock, you know. Plenty of us had had that--including myself."

"As a result of the head injury you mentioned yesterday?"

"I suppose so."

"You had a pretty bad time?"

"No, I was one of the lucky ones--comparatively, that is. But when you're blown up, even if you're not physically smashed to bits . . ." He broke
off awkwardly. "I'm sorry. It isn't Armistice Day any more. These confessions are out of place."

"Not at all. I'm interested. It's so hard for my generation to imagine what it was like."

"Don't worry--you'll learn soon enough."

"How long was it before you were rescued?"

"Haven't the faintest idea. I suppose I was unconscious."

"But you must have recovered consciousness later?"

"Presumably. I don't remember when or where or any of the details. But I've some reason to believe I was taken prisoner."

"Reason to believe? That's a guarded way of putting it."

"I  know--but it happens to be just about all I can say. You see, I literally don't remember. From that moment of being knocked out my memory's a
complete blank till years later when I found myself lying on a park seat in Liverpool."

"YEARS later?"

"Getting  on for three years, but of course I didn't know that at first. And it was a wet day, as luck would have it." He smiled. "You don't find
my story very plausible?"

"I might if you'd tell me the whole of it--without gaps."

"But there ARE gaps--that's just the trouble."

"What were you doing in Liverpool?"

"Once again, I haven't the faintest idea. I didn't even know it was Liverpool at first. The main thing was to know WHO I was--where and when were
easy enough to find out later."

"Do you mean you'd been going by some other name until then?"

"Maybe.  I  suppose  so.  That's  another  of  the  things I don't know. It's as if . . . well, I've sometimes worked it out this way--there were
different rooms in my mind, and as soon as the light came on in one it had to go out in the other."

"Well, what did you do when you realized who you were?"

"What  anybody  else would do. I went home. I felt in my pockets and found I had a small sum in cash, so I bought a new outfit of clothes, took a
bath at a hotel, and then went to the railway station. It was as simple as that, because along with knowing my own name it had come to me without
apparent  effort  that  I  lived  at Stourton, that my father owned the Rainier Steelworks and all the other concerns, that we had a butler named
Sheldon,  and any other details I cared to recall. In fact I knew all about myself in a perfectly normal way up to the moment of that shell-burst
near Arras in 1917."

"Your father must have got a very pleasant shock."

"He was too ill to be allowed it, but the family got one all right. Of course, since I'd been reported missing in the casualty lists, they'd long
since given me up for dead."

"It's a very remarkable story."

"Remarkable's a well-chosen word. It doesn't give you away."

I thought for a moment; then I said: "But the Army authorities must have had some record of your coming back to England?"

"None--not under the name of Rainier."

"But wasn't there a disc or something you had to wear all the time on active service?"

"There  was,  but if you'd ever experienced levitation by high explosive you wouldn't put much faith in a bit of metal tied round your neck. It's
quite possible there was nothing the Germans could identify me by when they took me prisoner."

"What makes you think you were ever in Germany at all?"

"Surely if I'd been dragged in by my own men they'd have known who I was?"

"H'm, yes, I suppose so."

He  went on, after a pause: "I don't blame you at all if you don't believe a word of all this. And it's just as well you're the first person I've
confided  in  for years--just as well for my reputation as a sober citizen." He laughed with self-protective cynicism. "It's been a conspiracy of
events  to  make  me  talk like this--Armistice Day--our meeting on the train--and then something the dentist said tonight when I came out of his
nitrous oxide."

"The dentist? What's he got to do with it?"

"He  was making polite conversation while I spat blood. One of the things he said was, 'So you were a prisoner in Germany?' I asked him what gave
him  that  idea, and he answered, 'Because I notice you have a tooth filled with a substitute metal German dentists were having to use during the
latter part of the war'--apparently he'd come across other instances of it."

We  were silent for a moment. I could hear the first stir of early morning traffic beginning along King's Parade. Rainier heard it too, and as at
a signal rose to go. "A strange business, the war. The English told the Germans exactly where I was, so that the Germans could kill me . . . then
the  Germans  did  half  kill  me, patched me up, and saw that my teeth were properly cared for . . . after which the English gave me a medal for
having  displayed  what  they  called  'conspicuous gallantry in the field.'" He fingered it on his lapel, adding: "I wear it at shows like this,
along  with  the  Most  Noble  Order of Something-or-Other which the Greeks gave me for arranging a loan on their currant crop in 1928." He began
putting  on  his overcoat, heedless of my assurance that there was no hurry and that I often sat up till dawn myself. "Please don't bother to see
me out--I'll take a bath at my hotel and be in time for the first train."

On his way across the room he paused at my shelves of books and asked what tripos I was taking.

"Economics. I took the first part of the History last year."

"Really? I did the same when I was here. But where does the psycho-analysis come in?"

"Oh, that's only a side-line."

"I see. Made any plans for when you go down?"

"I'd like to be a journalist."

He nodded, shaking hands at the door. "Well, I've got a few contacts in Fleet Street. Write to me when you're ready for a job--I might be able to
do something for you."

* * * * *

Early  the  following year I took a Ph.D. and began looking around for the post which, it seemed to me then, ought to drop snugly into the lap of
any  bright young man who had written a two-hundred-page thesis on "The Influence of Voltaire on the English Laissez-Faire Economists." Cambridge
had  deemed this worthy of a doctorate; nobody in Fleet Street, however, held it worth a regular job. I had a very small private income and could
therefore  afford to cadge snippets of highbrow reviewing from some of the more illustrious and penurious weeklies, reckoning myself well-paid if
the books themselves were expensive and could be sold for more cash to Mr. Reeves of the Strand; but the newspaper world at that time was full of
journalists out of work through amalgamations, and the chance of getting on the staffs of any of the big dailies was not encouraging. Of course I
remembered  Rainier's  offer,  but apart from my reluctance to bother him, he was abroad--in South America on some financial business. But by the
time  he returned I had been disappointed often enough to feel I should take him at his word. He replied instantly to my note, asking me to lunch
the next day.

Thus  I made my first trip to Kenmore. "Near the World's End pub," Rainier used to say, and it was the fashion among certain guests to pretend it
was  at some actual world's end if not beyond it--the world in this super-sophisticated sense being that part of London within normal taxi range.
I  went  by  bus,  which  puts  you down at the corner of the road with only a hundred yards or so to walk. I had no idea how notable, not to say
notorious,  those  Kenmore  lunches  were;  indeed,  since the invitation had come so promptly, I had beguiled myself with visions of an intimate
foursome  composed  of  host  and hostess with perhaps a press magnate summoned especially to meet me. I did not know then that Mrs. Rainier gave
lunches  for ten or twelve people two or three times a week, enticing every temporary or permanent celebrity to meet other temporary or permanent
celebrities at her house, and that these affairs were as frequently joked about as they were infrequently declined. She functioned, in fact, as a
kind of liaison officer between Society and Bohemia, with a Maecenas glance at moneyless but personable young men; and though there is no kind of
social service I would less willingly undertake myself, there are few that I respect more when competently performed by someone else.

Searching my memory for impressions of that first arrival, I find I cannot put Mrs. Rainier into the picture at all. She was there, she must have
been; but she was so busy making introductions that she could not have given me more than a few words, and those completely unimportant. I came a
little  late  and  found  myself  ushered into a drawing-room full of initiates, all talking with great gusto, and all--so it seemed to me (quite
baselessly, of course)--resentful of intrusion by a stranger who had neither written a banned novel nor flown somewhere and back in an incredibly
short  time.  I  say this because one of the guests HAD written such a novel, and another HAD made such a flight, and it was my fate to be seated
between  them while they talked either to their outside neighbours or across me to each other. There was an empty place at the head of the table,
and  presently I gathered from general conversation that Rainier often arrived late and sometimes not at all, so that he was never on any account
waited for. I had already written off the whole affair as a rather profitless bore when the guests rose, murmured hasty good-byes, and dashed out
to  waiting  cars  and taxis. (Mrs. Rainier's lunches were always like that--one-fifteen sharp to two-fifteen sharp and not too much to drink, so
that you did not kill your afternoon.) Just as I was following the crowd, a touch on my arm accompanied the whisper: "Stay a moment if you aren't
in a hurry."

Mrs. Rainier led me a few paces back along the hall after the others had gone. "I didn't quite catch your name--"


"Oh yes. . . . You're a friend of Charles's--it's too bad he couldn't get here--he's so busy nowadays."

I murmured something vague, polite, and intended to be reassuring.

"It's  a  pity  people who can fly half-way round the world haven't any manners," she went on, and I answered: "Well, I suppose there are quite a
number of people who have manners and couldn't fly half-way round the world."

"But  having  manners  is  so  much  more  important," she countered. "Tell me . . . what . . . er . . . I mean, are you a . . . let me see . . .

I  smiled--suddenly  and rather incomprehensibly at ease with her. "You're trying to recall a Harrison who's written something, married somebody,
or  been  somewhere,"  I  said.  "But  it's  a  waste  of  time--I'm not THAT Harrison, even if he exists. I'm just--if I call myself anything--a

"Oh  .  .  .  then  you  must come again when we have really LITERARY parties," she replied, with an eagerness I thought charming though probably
insincere.  I  promised  I would, with equal eagerness, and every intention of avoiding her really LITERARY parties like the plague. Then I shook
hands,  left  the  house,  and on the bus back to Fleet Street suddenly realized that it had been a very good lunch from one point of view. I had
never tasted better eggs Mornay.

The  next  afternoon  Rainier  telephoned,  profuse  in  apologies  for  his absence from the lunch, and though the matter could hardly have been
important  to  him, I thought I detected a note of sincerity. "I gather you didn't have a very good time," he said, and before I could reply went
on:  "I'm  not  keen on the mob, either, but Helen's a born hostess--almost as good as an American--she can take in twenty new names all in a row
and never make a mistake."

"She didn't take in mine. In fact it was pretty clear she didn't know me from Adam."

"My fault, I expect. Must have forgotten to tell her."

"So a perfect stranger could walk into your house and get a free lunch?"

"They're  doing  that  all  the time--though most of 'em have invitations. . . . Look here, if you're not busy just now, why not come over to the
House for tea?"

I  said  I  would,  and took the bus again to Chelsea. But at Kenmore the maid told me that Rainier hadn't been in since morning and never by any
chance took tea at home; and just then, while we were arguing on the doorstep (I insisting I had been invited less than twenty minutes ago), Mrs.
Rainier came up behind me and began to laugh. "He meant the House of Commons," she said, passing into the hall. "You'd better let my car take you

Extraordinary  how  stupid one can be when one would prefer to impress by being knowledgeable. I knew quite well that the House of Commons, along
with  the  Stock  Exchange and Christ Church, Oxford, was called "the House," yet somehow, when Rainier had used the phrase over the telephone, I
could only think of Kenmore. Most of the way to Westminster in the almost aggressively unostentatious Daimler (so impersonal you could believe it
part  of  an undertaker's fleet), I cursed my mistake as a poor recommendation for any kind of job. I had feared Rainier might be waiting for me,
and  was  relieved  when, after sending in my name, I had to kill time for half an hour before a policeman led me through devious passages to the
Terrace, where Rainier greeted me warmly. But his appearance was slightly disconcerting; there was a twitch about his mouth and eyes as he spoke,
and  a general impression of intense nervous energy in desperate need of relaxation. During tea he talked about his South American trip, assuming
far  too modestly that I had read nothing about it in the papers. Presently the division bell rang and only as we hurried across the Smoking Room
did  he  broach the matter I had really come about. "I inquired from a good many people after I got your letter, Harrison, but there doesn't seem
to be a thing doing in Fleet Street just now."

"That was my own experience too."

"So I wondered if you'd care for a secretary's job until something else turns up?"

I hadn't really thought about such a thing, and maybe hesitation revealed my disappointment.

He  said,  patting  my  arm: "Well, think it over, anyway. I've had a girl up to now, but she's due to get married in a few weeks--time enough to
show you the ropes . . . that is, of course, if you feel you'd like the job at all. . . ."

* * * * *

So  I  became  Rainier's secretary, and Miss Hobbs showed me the ropes. It had been flattery to call her a girl. She was thin, red-faced, middle-
aged,  and  so worshipful of Rainier that no husband could hope to get more than a remnant of any emotion she was capable of; indeed, I felt that
the  chance of marriage was tempting her more because she feared it might be her last than because she was certain she wanted it. She hinted this
much  during our first meeting. "I almost feel I'm deserting HIM," she said, and the stress on "him" was revealing. Presently, showing me how she
filed  his  correspondence, she added: "I'm so relieved he isn't going to have another LADY secretary. I'd be afraid of some awful kind of person
coming here and--perhaps--INFLUENCING him."

I said I didn't imagine Rainier was the type to be influenced by that kind of woman.

"Oh, but you never know what kind of a woman will influence a man."

We  went  on inspecting the filing system. "The main thing is to see he doesn't forget his appointments. He doesn't do much of his correspondence
here--he has another secretary at his City office. So it won't matter a great deal if you don't know shorthand and typewriting."

I said I did know shorthand and typewriting.

"Well,  so  much  the  better,  of course. You'll find him wonderful to work with--at least _I_ always have, though of course we're more like old
friends  than  employer and secretary. I call him Charles, you know, when we're alone together. And he always calls me Elsie, whether we're alone
or not. We've been together now for nearly fifteen years, so it's really quite natural, don't you think?"

During  the  next  few hours she gave me her own version of the entire Rainier ménage. "Of course the marriage never has been all it should be--I
daresay  you  can  imagine  that. Mrs. Rainier isn't the right kind of wife for a man like Charles. He's so tired of all those parties she gives,
especially  the  house-parties  at  Stourton--that's  their big place in the country, you know . . . they have no children--that's another thing,
because he'd love children, and I don't know why they don't have them, maybe there's a reason. When you've worked with him for a time you'll feel
how  restless  he  is--I  do blame her for THAT--she doesn't give him a proper home--Kenmore's just a hotel with different guests every day. I do
believe  there's only one room he feels really comfortable in, and that's this one--with his poor little secretary slaving away while he smokes--
and  he  shouldn't  smoke  either,  so he's been told. . . . D'you know, he often locks himself in when he wants to work, because the rest of the
house is so full of Goyas and Epsteins and what not that people wander in and out of all the rooms as if it were a museum. Of course there really
are  priceless  things  in  it--why not?--he gives her the money to spend, and I suppose she has taste--that is if you LIKE a house that's like a
museum. I sometimes wonder if Charles does."

After a pause during which I made no comment she turned to the writing-desk. "Charles gets hundreds of letters from complete strangers--about one
thing  and  another,  you know. If they're abusive we take no notice--in fact, whatever they are, HE doesn't bother much about them, but I'll let
you  into  a  secret--something  he  doesn't  suspect and never will unless you tell him, and I'm sure you won't--I always write a little note of
thanks  to  anyone who sends a NICE letter . . . of course I write as if he'd dictated it. . . . I really think a good secretary SHOULD do little
things like that on her own, don't you?"

I said nothing.

"Really,  if he were to ask me to stay, I believe I would, marriage or no marriage--I mean, it would be so hard to refuse him anything--but then,
he's  too fine and generous to ask--as soon as he knew about it he urged me not to delay my happiness on his account--just as if his own marriage
had brought HIM happiness. . . . Not that Charles would be an easy man to MAKE happy, even if he HAD got the right woman. But he isn't happy NOW-
-that I DO know--there's always a look in his eyes as if he were searching for something and couldn't find it."

For two or three days Miss Hobbs continued to show me the ropes; Rainier was away in Lancashire. During this time Mrs. Rainier gave several lunch
parties to which I was not invited, though I was in the house at the time and was even privileged to give assistance to a foreign plenipotentiary
who  spoke  little  English  and  had  strayed  into the study in search of a humbler apartment. I could better understand after that why Rainier
sometimes locked the door.

Then he returned, having wired me to meet his train at Euston. As soon as we had found a taxi and were driving out of the station he asked me how
I'd been getting on, and added, without waiting for an answer: "I don't suppose you'll find it hard to be as good as your predecessor."

I said I should certainly hope to be.

"Then you've already found out a few of the things I've been putting up with?"

"Yes, but not why you HAVE put up with them, for so many years."

"Pure  sentiment,  plus  the  fact  that  I've  always  had a submerged sympathy with crazy people, and Elsie's crazy enough. She used to work at
Stourton in my father's time, then she worked for my brother, and when he naturally wanted to get rid of her there was no one fool enough to take
her  but  me.  I  made  her  my social secretary--because in those days I had no social life and it didn't matter. But after I married there were
social things for her to do and she did them with a peculiar and fascinating idiocy. D'you know, I've found out she writes long letters to people
I've never heard of and signs my name to them? . . . And by the way, did she tell you I'm not happy with my wife?"


"Don't believe it. My wife and I are the best of friends. I suppose she also hinted it was a marriage of convenience?"

I felt this was incriminating Miss Hobbs too much and was beginning a non-committal answer when he interrupted: "Well, THAT happens to be true. I
married her because it seemed to me she'd be just the person to turn a tired business man into a thumping success. She WAS and she DID. . . . Can
you think of a better reason?"

"There's generally considered to be ONE better reason."

He switched the subject suddenly, pointing out of the window to a news placard that proclaimed, in letters a foot high: "Collapse of England." At
that  moment  I  felt  that  one  thing  Miss  Hobbs had said about him WAS true--that look in his eyes as if he were searching for something and
couldn't  find  it.  He  began to talk rapidly and nervously, apropos of the placard: "Odd to think of some foreigner translating without knowing
it's only about cricket . . . it was something you said about that on a train that first made me want to know you better--but really, in a sense,
it  doesn't refer to cricket at all, but to how God-damned sure we are of ourselves--you can't imagine the same phrase in the streets of Paris or
Berlin--it  would begin panic or riots or something. . . . Just think of it--'Débâcle de la France' or 'Untergang Deutschlands.' . . . Impossible
.  .  .  but  here  it  means  nothing  because  we don't believe it could ever happen--and that's not wishful thinking--it's neither wishing nor
thinking, but a kind of inbreathed illusion. . . . Reminds me of that last plenary session of the London Conference when it was quite clear there
was  to  be  no  effective disarmament by anybody and we were all hard at work covering up the failure of civilization's last hope with a mess of
smeary  platitudes  .  .  . Lord, how tired I was, listening to strings of words that meant nothing in any language and even less when you had to
wait  for  an  interpreter to turn 'em into two others . . . and all the time the dusty sunlight fell in slabs over the pink bald heads--godheads
from  the  power entrusted to them and gargoyles from the way I hated 'em . . . and during all that morning, full of the trapped sunlight and the
distant  drone  of  traffic  past  the Cenotaph, there was only one clean eager thing that happened--young Drexel whispering to me during a tepid
outburst  of  applause:  'See  the old boy in the third row--fifth from the end--Armenia or Irak or some place . . . but did you ever see anybody
more  like  Harry  Tate?' . . . And by Jove, he WAS like Harry Tate, and Drexel and I lived on it for the rest of the session--lived on it and on
our  own  pathetic  fancy  that foreigners were strange and at best amusing creatures, rather like music-hall comedians or one's French master at
school--tolerable  if  they  happen  to  be musicians or dancers or ice-cream sellers--but definitely to be snubbed if they venture on the really
serious business of governing the world. . . . Look--there's another!" It was a later placard, proclaiming in letters equally large, "England Now
Without  Hope."  Rainier laughed. "Maybe some fussy archaeologist of the twenty-fifth century--a relative of Macaulay's sketching New Zealander--
will  dig  this  up from a rubbish-heap and say it establishes definite proof that we'd all been well warned in advance . . . . Has my wife got a
party tonight?"


"What sort of a crowd?"

"Mostly sporting and dramatic, I think."

"Then I'll dine and sleep at the Club. Borotra's the only dramatic sportsman I care about, and he probably won't come."

He  put his head out of the cab window, giving the change of address, and also telling the man to drive more slowly. I could see he was nervously
excited,  and I was beginning to know by now that when he was in such a mood he talked a good deal in an attempt to race his thoughts--an attempt
which  usually failed, leaving a litter of unfinished sentences, mixed metaphors, and unpolished epigrams, with here and there some phrase worthy
of  one  of  his  speeches,  but  flung  off  so carelessly that if the hearer did not catch it at the time Rainier himself could never recall it
afterwards.  I  have  tried  to  give an impression of this kind of talk, but even the most faithful reportage would miss a curious excitement of
voice  and  gesture,  the orchestration of some inner emotion turbulent under the surface. Nor, one felt, would such emotion wear out in fatigue,
but  rather increase to some extinguishing climax as an electric globe burns brighter before the final snapping of the filament. It was of this I
felt suddenly afraid, and he noticed the anxious look I gave him.

"Sorry  to be a chatterer like this, Harrison, but it's after a bout of public speech-making--I always feel I have to use up the words left over,
or perhaps the words I couldn't use. . . . I suppose you'd call me a rather good speaker?"

I said I certainly should.

"And you'd guess that it comes easily to me?"

"It always sounds like it."

He  laughed.  "That's  what  practice  can  do.  I  LOATHE  speaking  in public--I'm always secretly afraid I'm going to break down or stammer or
something. Stammering especially . . . of course I never do. . . . By the way, you remember that mountain in Derbyshire I thought I recognized?"


"The  same sort of thing happened in Lancashire, only it wasn't quite so romantic. Just a house in a row. I was helping Nixon in the Browdley by-
election--we held meetings at street corners, then Nixon dragged me round doing the shake-hands and baby-kissing stuff--that's the way his father
got into the Gladstone Parliaments, so Nixon still does it. I admit I'm pretty cynical about elections--the very look of the voting results, with
two  rows  of  figures  adding  neatly  up to a third one, gives me the same itch as a company balance-sheet, exact to the last penny . . . whose
penny? Was there ever a penny? . . . My own majority in Lythamshire, for instance--precisely twelve--but who WERE the twelve? Twelve good men and
true,  maybe,  or  twelve  drunken illiterates . . . ? Don't you sometimes feel how FALSE it all is, and how falsely reassuring--this nineteenth-
century gloss of statistical accuracy, as if the flood tide of history could run in rivulets tidy enough for garden irrigation, safe enough for a
million taps in suburban bathrooms . . . but when the storm does come, who'll give a damn if the rows of little figures still add up--who'll care
if the sums are all wrong provided one man knows a right answer?"

"You were talking about a house."

"Oh yes. . . . Just an ordinary four-room working-man's house--tens of thousands like it. A cold day, and as we stood waiting at the door I could
see  a  great  yellow glow of firelight behind the lace curtains of the parlour window. Nothing extraordinary in that, either, and yet . . . it's
hard  to describe the feelings I had, as if that house were waiting for me--a welcome--out of the wintry dusk and into the warm firelight . . . a
welcome home."

His eyes were full of eagerness, and I said, trying to hasten his story before we reached the end of the journey: "Did the feeling disappear when
a stranger answered the door?"

"I'm coming to that. . . . There were three of us, Nixon, myself, and Ransome, the local party secretary, nice little man. We knocked and knocked
and  nobody  came.  Then  I, saw Ransome fumbling in his pocket. 'Can't think where she is,' he said, 'but I expect she'll be back in a jiffy.' I
realized  then  that  it  was HIS house, and that we were being invited in. He found a key, unlocked the door, and we entered. No lobby or hall--
straight  into the warmth and firelight. There was a kettle steaming on the hob, cups and saucers set out, plates of bread and butter. Everything
spotlessly  neat,  furniture  that  shone,  a clock ticking loudly somewhere. It was all so beautiful, this warm small room. The man kept talking
about  his  wife--how  proud she'd been at the thought of having two such men as Nixon and myself to tea in her home--such an honour--she'd never
forget  it--and how embarrassed she'd be when she came back and found us already there. 'I'll bet she's gone round the corner for a Dundee cake,'
he  laughed.  But  as  time passed he began to be a bit embarrassed himself, and presently suggested having tea ourselves without waiting for his
wife.  So we did--I sat in a rocking-chair by the fireside, and the flames were still leaping up so brightly we didn't need any other light, even
though it was quite dark outside by the time we left."

"So you never saw his wife at all?"

"No,  she didn't come back in time. . . . But that room--the feeling I had in it--of comfort, of being WANTED there . . . It's just another thing
of the same kind. That part of my life--well, you remember what I told you at Cambridge."

"Why do you worry about it so much?"

"I wouldn't if it would leave me alone. But it keeps on teasing me--with clues. So what can I do?"

"I still say--more rest and less work."

He  patted  my  arm.  "It's  good to know I can talk to you whenever I'm in this mood. Watson to my Sherlock, eh? Or perhaps that's not much of a

"Not to yourself, anyhow. Watson was at least an HONEST idiot."

He  smiled.  "That  must be the Higher Criticism. Of course you were born too late to feel as I did--Sherlock's in Baker Street, all's right with
the world."

"Since we now realize that most things are wrong with the world--"

"I  know--that was part of the illusion. I remember Sheldon taking me on a trip to London when I was six or seven years old . . . The first place
I asked to see was Baker Street, and being a sympathetic fellow he didn't tell me that the stories were just stories. We walked gravely along the
pavement  one  afternoon  early  in the century--a small boy and his father's butler--looking up at the tall houses with respectful hero worship.
Distant  thrones  might  totter, anarchists might throw bombs, a few lesser breeds might behave provokingly in odd corners of the world, but when
all  was said and done, there was nothing to fear while the stately Holmes of England, doped and dressing-gowned for action, readied his wits for
the  final  count  with  Moriarty! And who the deuce WAS this Moriarty? Why, just a big-shot crook whom the honest idiot romanticized in order to
build  up  his  hero's reputation! Nothing but a middle-aged stoop-shouldered Raffles! And that, mind you, was the worst our fathers' world could
imagine  when  it  talked  about Underground Forces and Powers of Evil! . . . Ah, well, happy days. You'd better keep the cab to go home in. Good

* * * * *

I  hadn't taken Rainier's problem very seriously till then. For one thing, loss of memory is normal. We all forget things, and are equally likely
to  be reminded of them long after we think they have been forgotten for good. Often, too, the reminder is faint enough to be no more than a clue
which  we  fail  to  follow  up  because  the  matter  does not seem important. The unusual part of Rainier's experience was that he DID think it
important, so that from something merely puzzling it was already on the way to becoming an obsession.

Some  part of his story could doubtless be verified, and I already felt enough curiosity to make the attempt. I said nothing to him, but the next
time  the chance occurred I led Miss Hobbs to talk in a general way about her employer's early life and career. She was more than willing--except
for  a  continual  tendency  to drift into later and somewhat disparaging gossip about Mrs. Rainier. "Wasn't he in the war?" I began, putting the
leading question that anyone might have asked.

"Oh yes. He got a medal--didn't you know that? And the strange thing was--they thought he was dead. So it was given post--post--"


"Yes,  that's  it. But you couldn't blame them, because after the attack he was reported missing and nothing was heard about him till--oh, it was
years later, when he suddenly arrived home without any warning. And then it turned out he'd lost his memory."

"Seems to me the sort of story for headlines."

"You mean in the papers? Oh no, it was kept out--the family didn't want any publicity."

"That wouldn't have been enough reason for most of the journalists I know."

"Ah, but Sheldon arranged it."


"He's the butler at Stourton. You haven't been to Stourton yet, have you?"


"It's really a marvellous place."

"Sheldon sounds a marvellous butler if he knows how to stop journalists from getting a good story and editors from printing it."

"Well,  he  IS rather marvellous, and I don't suppose there's much he doesn't know--not about the family, anyhow. He really rules Stourton--lives
there all the year round, even during the winter when the family never go out of town. I really owe him a good deal--I was only just a local girl
in  those days, I used to do bookkeeping and secretarial work at the house, and that brought me into contact with Sheldon constantly." She added,
rather  coyly: "You know--or perhaps you don't know--how difficult it can be for a girl employed in a big house if the butler isn't all he should

I said I could imagine it.

"Sheldon was always a gentleman. Never a word--or a gesture--that anyone could object to."

I said nothing.

"And  later,  when  Mr. Charles took over Stourton, Sheldon personally asked him if he could do anything for me, otherwise I don't suppose I'd be

"I see. . . . But coming back to the time when Mr. Rainier--OUR Mr. Rainier, I mean--suddenly returned to Stourton. Were you working there then?"

"Not  JUST  then.  It  was  Christmas  and as old Mr. Rainier was ill they cancelled the usual parties and gave me a holiday. It was parties that
always kept me busy--writing out invitations and place cards and things."

"What was Mr. Rainier like when he returned?"

"I  didn't see him till a good while afterwards, but I do know there was a lot of trouble about it, one way and another--Sheldon would never tell
us half that went on."

So  there  the trail ended; she didn't know much of what had actually happened; and since then a great many years had passed, old Mr. Rainier was
dead,  and  probably  the  same  fate  had  overtaken most of the personnel from whom any elucidating inquiries might have been made at the time.
Perhaps  there  were traces somewhere, a dossier preserved in forgotten files, memoranda hidden away in official archives; but there seemed small
chance of unearthing them, or even of finding if they existed at all.

"Quite a mystery," I commented. "Didn't Mr. Rainier himself ever try to solve it?"

"You mean, did he try to remember things?"

"Well, more than that--didn't he ever consult anybody--specialists, psycho-analysts, or anyone?"

"You  don't  know  him,  or  you  wouldn't ask that. The last thing he'd ever do is to go to anybody and tell them things about himself. The only
person he ever did talk to was someone he'd known at Cambridge, some professor--Freeman, I think his name was."

"You mean DR. Freeman--THE Dr. Freeman?"

"Maybe he was a doctor."

"A tall white-haired man with a stoop?"

"Yes, that was him--he used to visit Charles a good deal before the marriage. You know him?"

"Slightly. Why not since the marriage?"

"He didn't like parties, and I don't think he liked Mrs. Rainier for beginning all that sort of life for Charles. She's very ambitious, you know.
People say she'll make him Prime Minister before she's finished."

I  laughed--having  heard similar remarks myself, followed as a rule by some ribald comment on her party-giving technique. Miss Hobbs added: "Not
that she isn't a good hostess--that I WILL say."

Since the point was raised, it seemed to me that Mrs. Rainier was TOO good, and that for this reason she might miss the secret English bull's-eye
that  can  only  be  hit  by guns sighted to a 97 or 98 per cent degree of accuracy. Anything more than that, even if achievable, is dangerous in
England,  because English people mistrust perfection, regarding it in manners as the stigma of foreigners, just as they suspect it in teeth to be
the product of dentistry. All this, of course, I did not discuss with Miss Hobbs.

I saw Freeman a few days later. He had been a rather impressive figure at Cambridge, in my time as well as Rainier's, but had recently retired to
live  at  Richmond with an unmarried sister. It was probably a lonely life, and he seemed glad to hear my voice on the telephone and to accept an
invitation  to dinner. I had known him fairly well, since he had long been president of the Philosophical Society and I in my last year its vice-
president,  and though he had written several standard works on psychology he was not psychologist enough to suspect an ulterior motive behind my
apparent eagerness to look him up and talk over old times.

We met at Boulestin's that same evening.

After waiting patiently till the inevitable question as to what I was doing with myself nowadays, I said that I had become Rainier's secretary.

"Ah, Rainier--yes," he muttered, as if raking over memories. And he added, with a thin cackle: "Well, history won't repeat itself."

"How do you mean?"

"He married one of them."

"You mean MRS. Rainier? You mean she was his secretary before Miss Hobbs?"

"Oh, the Hobbs woman was with him all the time--a family heirloom. Must be forty now, if she's a day. What did she do at last--retire?"

"She's leaving to get married."

"Heavens--I never thought her turn would come. Who's the lucky man? . . . But I can answer that myself--Rainier is, to get rid of her."

"You know her then?"

"Hardly  at  all,  I'm  glad to say. But she used to write me the most ridiculous notes whenever Rainier made an appointment to see me. They were
supposed  to  be  from him, but I found out quite casually afterwards that she forged his name to 'em. . . . ABSURD notes--it interested me, as a
psychologist, that she should have thought them appropriate."

"But to come back to Mrs. Rainier--"

"Oh, she worked in his CITY office, I think. A different dynasty. These great magnates have platoons of secretaries."

"Queer Miss Hobbs never mentioned it. I should have thought it was something she'd have liked to drive home."

"On  a  point  of psychology I think you're wrong. She'd prefer to conceal the fact that though they were both, so to say, equal at the starting-
post, the other woman won."

"Maybe. I gather you know Rainier rather well?"

"I used to. You see, I began with the initial advantage of meeting him anonymously."

"I'm not quite clear what you mean."

He  expanded over a further glass of brandy. "Rainier's a peculiar fellow. He has a curious fear of his own identity. He lets you get to know him
best  when  he  doesn't  think  you know who he is. . . . It's an interesting kink, psychologically. I first met him through Werneth, who was his
tutor at St. Swithin's. Apparently he told Werneth about--er--well, perhaps I ought not to discuss it, but it was something interesting to me--as
a  psychologist--but  not particularly to Werneth, who was a mere historian." Again the cackle. "Anyhow, Werneth could only get his permission to
pass  it  on  to  me  by  promising not to divulge his name, and on hearing what it was all about I was so interested that we actually arranged a
meeting--again  anonymously--I  wasn't  supposed  to  know  who  he  was.  . . . But I'll let you into a, secret--Werneth HAD told me, privately,
beforehand--unscrupulous  fellow,  Werneth. And then one morning several months later I couldn't find my bicycle outside the college gate after a
lecture, but in its place was a similar model with the name 'Charles Rainier' on it. I made his mistake an excuse to call on him--and I must say-
-after the opening embarrassment--we very soon became friends." He added: "And now, of course, I know what you're going to ask me, but being less
unscrupulous than Werneth I can't tell you."

"I don't think you need, because I already know about Rainier's--er--peculiarity. I suppose it WAS that."

"Suppose you tell me first of all what THAT is."

"The blank patch in his life that he can't remember."

"A rather inexact description."

"No doubt, and that's why I'd very much like to hear your own."

He  smiled.  "It  was an unusual case--but I've heard of several similar ones. They're recorded, you know, in technical journals. Rainier had--if
one  might  so  put  it--certain threads of recollection about the blank period, though they were so faint as to be almost non-existent at first.
After  he  left Cambridge we didn't meet again for ten years--by that time the threads had become a little less faint. It was my aim, when I came
to  know  Rainier  again after the ten-year interval, to sort out those threads, to disentangle them--to expand them, as it were, into a complete
corpus of memory."

"I understand. But you didn't succeed."

"Are you asking me that or telling me?"

"Both, in a way."

He  said,  smiling:  "My expectation all along had been that his full memory would eventually return--a little bit here, a little bit there--till
finally,  like  a  key  turning in a lock, or like the last few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the whole thing would slip into position. But I gather
that it hasn't yet happened?"

"The bits are still being assembled, but nowhere near to completion."

"Tell  me,  Harrison,  if  I may ask the question--why are you taking such a keen interest in this matter? Hardly within the scope of secretarial
duties. . . . Or IS it?"

"I like him and I hate to see him bothered by it as he still is. That's the only reason."

"A good one."

"Now YOU tell ME something--have you any theories about the blank patch?"

"Theories?  I  can only guess it was a pretty bad time. He was injured, if I remember rightly, just above the left parietal bone of the . . ." He
went  off  into  a  medical  survey  that  conveyed  nothing to me. "It was an injury that would require operative treatment--perhaps a series of
operations. That's why it's perhaps a pity that he still bothers, as you say he does. Even if complete recollection were to return to him now, it
would probably be only of pain, unhappiness, boredom."

"On the other hand, even such memories might be better than an increasing obsession about the loss of them?"


We were silent for a time after that. Presently I said: "You know he was taken prisoner by the Germans?"

"Oh  yes.  But  German  or English--all hospitals are unhappy places, especially for a man who can't tell anyone who he is. I imagine the Germans
treated  him  namelessly or by error under someone else's name, and eventually returned him to England under the same condition. Then there would
be  other  hospitals  in England, full of experiences nobody would wish to remember. There were a great many shell-shock and loss-of-memory cases
that  took  years--some of them are still taking years, God help them. The whole thing happened so long ago I don't see how we can ever expect to
know all the details. Tell me YOUR theory, if you have one."

"That's the trouble, I haven't."

"The real trouble, of course, is Mrs. Rainier."

Curious,  the  way people sooner or later led the talk to her. Freeman, reticent at first about a former friend, saw no reason now to conceal his
opinion of a former friend's wife. "She's an unusual sort of woman, Harrison."

"Well, he's not so usual, either."

"They get on well together? Is that your impression?"

I answered guardedly: "I think she makes a good politician's wife."

"And I suppose, by the same token, you think he makes a good politician?"

"He has some of the attributes. Clever speaker and a good way with people."

"When he's in the mood. He isn't always. . . . Did you ever hear about the Bridgelow Antiquarian Dinner?"

I shook my head.

"It  was--oh,  several years ago. He was supposed to be helping the candidate, and during the campaign we asked him to our annual beano--strictly
non-party--just  a semi-learned society, with the accent on the semi. I was president at the time, and Rainier was next to me at the table. Half-
way  through  his  speech,  which  began  pretty  well, there was a bit of a disturbance caused by old General Wych-Furlough fumbling in late and
apologizing--his  car  had  broken down or something. He talked rather loudly, like most deaf people, and of course it WAS annoying to a speaker,
but  the  whole  incident  was  over  in a minute, most people would have passed it off. Rainier, however, seemed to freeze up suddenly, couldn't
conceal the way he felt about it, finished his speech almost immediately and left the table rather sooner than he decently could. I went out with
him  for a moment, told him frankly I thought his behaviour had been rather childish--surely age and infirmity entitled people to some latitude--
it  wasn't as if there'd been any intentional discourtesy. He said then, in a rather panicky way: 'It wasn't that--it was something in the fellow
himself--something chemical, maybe, in the way we react to each other.' I thought his explanation even more peculiar than his behaviour."

I checked myself from commenting, and Freeman, noticing it, said: "Go on--what was it you were going to ask?"

"I was just wondering--is it possible he had one of those submerged memories--of having met the General before?"

"I  thought  of  that  later  on, but it didn't seem likely they could ever have met. He didn't even know the General's name. And if they HAD met
before,  I  still  can't  think  of  any  reason  for antagonism--the old boy was just a fussy, simple-minded, stupid fellow with a distinguished
military career and a repertoire of exceptionally dull stories about hunting."

"Was Mrs. Rainier at the dinner?"

"No, she wouldn't come to anything _I_ was president of--that's very certain." He added, as if glad to get back to the subject: "A strange woman.
I'm  not  sure  I altogether trust her--and that isn't because I don't particularly like her. It's something deeper. She always seems to me to be
hiding something. I suppose it's part of my job to have these psychic feelings about people. . . . You know about her famous parties?"

"Who doesn't? I've sampled them."

"Mind you, let's be fair. She's not a snob in the ordinary sense--I mean about birth or money. Of course it would be too ridiculous if she were--
since  she began with neither herself. But what exactly IS it that she goes for? Brains? Celebrity? Notoriety? I went to Kenmore once, and I must
admit  she  plays  the game loathsomely well. But all this relentless celebrity-hunting and party-giving doesn't make a home--and I'm damned if I
know what it DOES make."

"Some people say it's made Rainier's career."

"I've heard that too--from people who don't like him. The people who don't like HER will tell you her methods have actually held him back. Still,
I don't deny she's a good mate for a man of affairs. The real point is whether Rainier's life ought to be cluttered up with business and politics
at all."

"What do you mean?"

"Simply that I've always considered him--abstractly--one of the rare spirits of our time, so that success of the kind he has attained and may yet
attain becomes a detestable self-betrayal."

"So you think the marriage was a mistake?"

"Not at all, if he felt he had to have that sort of life."

"What other sort of life COULD he have had?"

"Out  of my province to say. I'm talking about the QUALITY of the man, not his opportunities. I suppose it wasn't his fault his father left him a
small  industrial  empire  to  look  after--steelworks and newspapers and interlocking holding companies and what not--all more or less bankrupt,
though people didn't know it at the time. Even the seat in Parliament was a sort of family inheritance he had to take over."

"Like Miss Hobbs?"

"Yes,  like HER--just as idiotic but not so loyal. He only scraped in by twelve votes last time. . . . But since you mention the Hobbs woman, let
me assure you she's a modernistic jewel compared with the old butler they keep at Stourton . . . Sheldon, I think his name is."

"You don't like him either?"

Freeman  shrugged.  "It  isn't  that  I  mind his eccentric impertinences--Scottish servants are like that and one takes it from them--even Queen
Victoria had to. What makes me really uncomfortable is the same feeling I have about Mrs. Rainier--that he's hiding something."

"Maybe they're hiding something together?"

His  smile  was  of  another kind and did not answer mine. "You haven't been to Stourton yet, have you? It's an amazing hiding-place for anything
they've got to hide."

Miss Hobbs left during the week that followed and I settled down to the task of becoming her successor. It was not quite as simple as she had led
me  to  believe.  Rainier's  interests  were manifold; besides holding directorships of important companies he was a member of many societies and
organizations--all  this,  of  course,  on top of his political work. I had plenty to do, and he expected it done quickly and efficiently. We had
little  chance  to talk on other than business matters, and for the time he seemed to have dropped completely the preoccupation that had begun to
interest me. One thing happened that I had not after Freeman's remarks anticipated: Mrs. Rainier invited me to another of her lunch parties. This
time  it  was  really LITERARY, as she had promised (Maurice Baring, Charles Morgan, Louis Bromfield, Henry Bernstein, Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, H. G.
Wells,  and  a  pale  young  man  whose name I have forgotten who wrote highbrow detective novels whose names I have also forgotten), and despite
initial  misgivings I found the whole affair quite pleasant. Once more there was the empty chair for Rainier, if he should turn up, but he failed
to,  and  nobody  seemed  surprised.  Again  also  Mrs. Rainier asked me to stay a moment after the others had gone, but now the request was less
remarkable, since I had work in the same house. "Can you spare time to look at my garden?" she said, leading me to the back of the hall where the
French windows were open.

We  sauntered  across  the  lawn to a door in the high surrounding wall; unlocking it, she watched my face as I showed surprise, for within was a
second  garden,  not  much bigger than a large room, but so enclosed by trees and carpeted with flowers that one could hardly have believed it to
exist  in  the  middle  of a London borough. "It's a secret," she confided. "I only show it to close friends--or to those who I hope are going to

I murmured something polite that might equally have referred to her last remark or to the garden itself.

"You  see," she went on, "I never cared for Miss Hobbs. I don't think Charles did, either, but he was too kind to get rid of her. If she told you
things against me, and I'm sure she did, just suspend judgment till you know me better."

I went on saying polite things.

"You and Charles first met on a train, didn't you?" She stooped to a vase. "One of those chance meetings--I've had them myself--when you tell all
your secrets to a perfect stranger because you're certain you'll never meet him again. . . . Something like that?"

I said guardedly: "I don't know about secrets, but we certainly found it easy to talk."

"And you like your work here?"

"Very much."

"I'm glad. It will be wonderful if you can really help Charles--apart from just office work. He needs the right sort of companionship sometimes--
he  has  difficult moods, you know. Or perhaps you don't know--YET. Anyhow, the thing to do is not to take him too seriously when he has them." I
waited  for  her  to  continue,  knowing  that  she  too was waiting for me; even if I were willing to suspend judgment I was also, like Freeman,
unwilling  to  trust  her completely. She suddenly smiled. "Well, now you know MY secret. Keep it for me." And she added, leading me back through
the  doorway:  "THIS,  I  mean. It used to be the place where the gardener threw all the rubbish. I planned it myself--I do most of the work here
still.  Charles  never looks in--hasn't time. Hasn't time for my lunches either--not that I mind that so much, but I do wish--sometimes--I'd find
him sitting here--quietly--alone--like men you sometimes see outside their cottages in the country--at peace. He never is, you know."

I  felt she would like to tell me something if I already knew enough to make it advisable, but she wasn't certain I did know, so she hesitated. I
asked her why she thought he was never at peace.

"For one thing, he's so terribly overworked."

"Yes, I know, but apart from that?"

"Oh, well, it's hard for anyone to feel at peace these days. Don't you think so?"

"What about the men you sometimes see outside their cottages in the country?"

She  smiled, suddenly on the defensive, sure now that I didn't know as much as she had half suspected, and for that reason anxious not to give me
any  further  opening.  "They're  probably  not really at peace at all--just too old and tired to worry about things any more." As we entered the
house  the social manner closed about her like the fall of a curtain. "Now that we're becoming friends you must come to Stourton for week-ends as
soon as we open it up. There's a REAL secret garden there--I mean one that everybody knows about."

* * * * *

I  hadn't  expected  Stourton  to  be quite so overwhelming. We drove there a few weeks later in four Daimlers--"like a high-speed funeral," said
Rainier,  who  was  in a macabre mood altogether; three of them packed with luggage and servants from Kenmore, the first one containing ourselves
and  an  elegant  young  man  named Woburn, who was coming to catalogue the Stourton library. Most guests would arrive the following day--perhaps
twenty-odd:  politicians, peers, actors, novelists, crack tennis-players, celebrities of all kinds. It was a warm morning and as we drove through
Reading  and  Newbury  the  sun broke through the haze and kindled the full splendour of an English summer, with its ever-changing greens under a
dappled sky.

Presently  we  turned  off  the  main  road and curved for a mile between high hedges; then suddenly, in a distant fold of the downs, a vision in
cream-coloured  stone broke through heavy parkland trees. Woburn, who had not seen it before, joined me in a little gasp of admiration. "You were
intended  to  do  that,"  said  Rainier. "In fact the architect and road-builder conspired about it two hundred years ago. My brother Julian, who
fancied  himself  as  a  phrase-maker,  once  called  it  'a  stucco  prima  donna making a stage entrance.' Now, you see, it goes out of sight."
Intervening  upland  obscured  the  house for another mile or so until, at a new turn of the road, it reappeared so much more intimately that one
could  only  give it a nod of respectful recognition. "But here we are again, and for the rest of the way we simply have to give it all the stars
in Baedeker." We swooped into the final half-mile stretch that ended in a wide Palladian portico. "A house like this is like some kinds of women-
-too  expensive  even  to  cast  off.  Of  course  what  you really pay for isn't the thing itself, but the illusion--the sense of ownership, the
intangible  Great  I  Am. Nowadays a bankrupt illusion--the farms don't pay, the hills that belong to me are just as free for anyone else to roam
over,  the  whole idea of POSSESSING this place is just a legal fiction entitling me to pay bills. I think it would sooner possess me, if I'd let
it. . . . Hello, Sheldon."

Sheldon  was  waiting on the top step to welcome us. Neither plump nor cadaverous, obsequious nor pompous, he shook the hand that Rainier offered
him,  bowed  to Mrs. Rainier, and gave Woburn and myself a faintly appraising scrutiny until Rainier made the introductions. Then he said: "Well,
Mr.  Harrison, if this is your first visit to Stourton it probably won't be your last. Mr. Rainier keeps his secretaries a long time." The remark
struck  me as rather offhandedly familiar as well as a somewhat gauche reminder of Mrs. Rainier's former position, but there was a general laugh,
from  which I gathered that Sheldon enjoyed privileges of this kind, perhaps on account of age. He was certainly a well-preserved antiquity, with
an  air of serene yet somehow guarded responsibility; in different clothes he might have looked a cabinet minister, in contradistinction to those
cabinet ministers who, even in their own clothes, look like butlers.

By  the  time I had been shown to my room in the East Wing (Stourton, like every grand house of its period, had to have wings) the sun was almost
down over the rim of the hills and the slow magic of a summer twilight was beginning to unfold; through my window the vista of formal gardens and
distant skyline was entrancingly beautiful. I was admiring it as Rainier entered with Woburn, whom he had been showing round the library. "I hope
you  don't  object  to views," he said. "I know it's the latest artistic fad to consider them rather vulgar. I put in these large windows myself,
against  all  the  advice  of  architects who said this sort of house shouldn't have them. Otherwise, except for a few extra bathrooms, I haven't
touched the place."

Behind  the  two  of  them  stood  Sheldon,  announcing  that  our  baths  were ready; Rainier turned then and led us across the corridor into an
extraordinary  room  of  Moorish  design  embellished with fluted columns and Arabic gargoyles and a high domed ceiling. He watched our faces and
seemed to derive a certain satisfaction. "My father built this," he explained, "as what he called an extra billiard-room. He made the bulk of his
fortune  during  the  Edwardian  era,  when  the social hallmark was to have a billiard-room, and during the last year of the war, when money was
coming  in  so fast he didn't know what to do with it, he conceived the idea of an EXTRA billiard-room as a symbol of utter superfluity. . . . At
least,  that's  the  only  theory I can imagine. I don't think a single game of billiards was ever played in it, and I turned it into a bathhouse
without  any  feeling  of  impiety."  We  passed  through  the  room, which was furnished with divans and sun-ray lamps, into a further apartment
containing  a  row  of  small but quite modern cubicle bathrooms, three of which Sheldon was already preparing for our use. "There were only four
bathrooms  in  the  entire house before I made these," Rainier continued. "One was in the servants' quarters and Sheldon had actually paid for it
out  of  his  own  pocket. That gives you some idea of the times, even as late as 1919." He added, after a pause and another glance at our faces:
"And  of  my  father too--I know that's what you're thinking. But it wasn't really niggardliness. He gave a great deal during his lifetime to the
more  orthodox  charities.  What he mostly suffered from were a few strikingly wrong notions. One of them was doubtless that servants didn't need
bathrooms.  Another  was that he was really an English gentleman. And another was that the remaining saga of mankind would be largely a matter of
tidying  up  the  jungle  and making the whole earth a well-administered English colony under a Liberal government. I think when the war ended he
assumed that's what was going to be done to Germany."

"Maybe  it  should  have  been," said Woburn quietly. He had done little but smile until then, and I noticed Rainier give him a look of sharpened
interest.  Then we went into our respective cubicles, but the walls were only neck-high and conversation rose easily with the steam. I could hear
Rainier and Woburn veering on to a political argument, while in my own cubicle Sheldon, arranging towels, saw me notice the slightly brown colour
of  the  water  as  it  filled  the tub. "Won't harm you," he remarked. "We tell some of our guests it's due to mineral springs that are good for
rheumatism, but as you're one of the family I'll let you into a family secret--IT'S JUST THE RUST IN THE PIPES."

He was going out chuckling when I retorted, quite without secondary meaning: "I hope all the family secrets are as innocent."

The chuckle ended sharply as he turned on me a look that evidently reassured him, for his mouth slanted into a slow smile as he resumed his exit.
"I trust you will find them so, Mr. Harrison."

Meanwhile  Rainier  had  come back to the subject of Stourton, and I heard him saying to Woburn: "My father bought it after it had bankrupted the
Westondales,  and the Westondales inherited it from ancestors who had built it out of profits from the African slave trade. This made my father's
purchase  almost  appropriate,  since  my great-great-grandfather made his pile out of the first steam-driven cotton mills in Lancashire. You may
imagine Stourton, therefore, peopled with the ghosts of Negroes and little children."

A  short  while  later  we dressed and dined in the vast room that would have seated fifty with ease, instead of our four selves. Mrs. Rainier, I
noticed,  was  particularly gracious to Woburn, whom she probably felt to be shy in surroundings of such unaccustomed grandeur. There was talk of
how  he  would  set  about  the  library-cataloguing job; most of the books, it appeared, had been taken over from the Westondales along with the
house.  "My  father  was  not  a  great reader, but he had a curious knack of reading the right things. One day he read that some pine forests in
Hampshire  were  supposed  to  be  healthy to live amongst, so he promptly bought several hundred acres of them--on which part of Bournemouth now
stands.  Quite  an  interesting  man, my father. He played the cornet, and he also cried over all Dickens's deathbed scenes--Little Nell and Paul
Dombey, especially. He liked to have them read to him, for preference, and his favourite reader was an old governess of mine named Miss Ponsonby,
who  hated  him  and  used to come out of one of those tearful séances muttering 'The old humbug!' But he WASN'T altogether a humbug--at least no
more  than  most of us are. I'm not quite certain WHAT he was. . . . Somebody ought to write a really good biography of him some day. He did have
one written just before he died, but it was a commissioned job and made him into a not very convincing plaster saint--and, of course, it would be
easy  to  write the other sort, showing him as a sinister capitalistic villain. . . . But in between, somewhere, is probably the truth--if anyone
thought it worth while to make the search."

"Why shouldn't Mr. Woburn try?" asked Mrs. Rainier.

"Not a bad idea, if he wants to. But let him finish the cataloguing first. Ever write anything, Woburn?"

"A few stories, Mr. Rainier. You read one of them--probably you've forgotten it--"

"Ah yes, of course. The one about the unfortunate Russian?"

Woburn nodded, and the somewhat mysterious reference was not explained. After coffee Mrs. Rainier said she was tired and would go to bed; Rainier
mentioned letters he had to write; so there seemed nothing left for Woburn and me but to pass the evening together, somehow or other.

Sheldon  suggested  the library, ushering us into the fine sombre room with a touch of evident pride, and obligingly switching on a radio in time
for  the  news  summary  of  a Hitler speech delivered in Berlin earlier that day. We listened awhile, then Woburn snapped off the machine with a
gesture--the  meagre  residuum  of protest to which modern man has been reduced. "I hope there isn't a war this year," he remarked, as one hoping
the weather would stay fine. "You see, as soon as I finish this job I have another with the Kurtzmayers--they have a big collection at Nice and I
daresay  I  shall spend all the autumn there--unless," he added with a half-smile, "Mr. Hitler's plans interfere with mine." I smiled back with a
touch  of  the uncomfortableness that afflicts me when some facetious travel-film commentator refers to "Mr. and Mrs. Hippopotamus" and waits for
the  laugh.  I  was thinking of this, and also wondering how a youngster like Woburn (at least ten years my junior) had managed to establish this
cataloguing  racket  amongst  the rich and eminent, when he disarmingly told me all about it. "It was the Rainiers who gave me an introduction to
the Kurtzmayers--they've been rather good at putting things in my way."

I asked him how long he had known the Rainiers.

"Only a few months. And you?"

"About two years. I met him first--quite by accident--in a train."

"I met him first in a public library."

"By accident?"

"No, I had a job there and he came to see me. Mrs. Rainier sent him."

"MRS. Rainier?"

"Yes, I met her before him. It was her idea I should do the Stourton job--that's why she sent him to see me."

"I should have thought she'd have asked you to see him."

"So  should  I,  but  it seems he had a queer idea he wanted to see me first without either of us knowing who the other was, so that if he didn't
like me the whole thing could be dropped."

"I see."

"Haven't you ever noticed that for all his glib speech and ease of manner he's really shy of meeting new people--in a rather odd way?"

I said perhaps I had, and asked him how his own meeting had happened.

"He  didn't  have far to come--the library was only just across the river in Lambeth. Of course I took him for just an ordinary visitor. He first
of all asked at the counter if we had any illustrated books on English villages. It's the sort of vague request you fairly often get from people,
so  I  picked a few books off the shelves and left him at a table with them. Presently he handed them back with a few words of thanks, and out of
politeness  I then asked if he'd found what he'd been looking for. He said, well, no, not exactly--he'd just thought the pictures and photographs
in  some  illustrated book might happen to include one of a place he'd once seen but had forgotten the name of. They hadn't though, and it didn't

"You must have thought it curious."

"Yes,  but  the  really curious thing was that I'd just written a short story based on a similar idea. He seemed quite interested when I told him
this  and  we  talked  on  for  a  while--then  finally he stared round rather vaguely and said, 'I'm supposed to see a man who works here called
Woburn.'  I  said  I  was  Woburn and he pretended to be surprised and pleased, but somehow I felt he had known all the time, though his pleasure
seemed genuine. He then said his wife had talked about me and thought I might do some cataloguing, and of course he had to say then who he was. I
told him I'd be very glad, and he said that was fine, he'd let me know; then he shook hands hurriedly and left."

"Did he let you know?"

"Not immediately. After a few weeks I wrote to him, because I really wanted the job if I could get it--I was only earning three pounds a week. Of
course  I'd found out all about him in the interval--about his Fleet Street interests--that's really why I sent him that short story I'd written,
because  I  thought  maybe  he'd  pass it on to one of his editors." Woburn smiled. "He returned it a few days later, without comment, but said I
could begin the cataloguing any time I liked."

"Tell me about the story."

"Oh, it was nothing much--just a rather feeble yarn about a Russian soldier returning from the front after the Revolution."

"What happened to him?"

"Nothing exciting. He just roamed about the country trying to find where he lived."

"Had he--had he lost his memory?"

"No,  he  was  just  a  simple  fellow--couldn't read and write--all he could give was the name of the village and a description of it that might
equally  have applied to ten thousand other Russian villages. The government officials wouldn't bother with him, because he couldn't fill out the
proper forms, so he just had to go on wandering vaguely about trying to find the place."

"And did he--eventually?"

"He  was  run  over by a train and carried to a neighbouring village where he died without knowing that it actually was the one he'd been looking
for . . . of course you might have guessed that."

"Having read Gogol and Chekhov, I think I might."

"I  know, it was just an imitation. I haven't any real originality--only a technique. I suppose Rainier realized that. So I'd better stick to the

It seemed to me a courageous, but also a rather desolate thing for a young writer to admit.

"Why not try the biography, if they give you the chance?"

"I  might,  but  I  doubt  if  it  would work out. You can't be sure they'd really WANT anyone to be impartial. That's why it's an affectation of
Rainier's  to run down his ancestors. A sort of inverted snobbery put on to impress people because the direct kind isn't fashionable anymore. . .
. Mind you, I like him IMMENSELY."

"And her?"

"Oh,  she's  marvellous,  isn't  she?  The  way she can remember dozens of names when she introduces people. . . ." I remembered Rainier had once
commented  on that too. But Woburn added: "Rather a mistake, though, in English life--never to make a mistake. Like knowing too much--such as the
names of all the states in America. Stamps one as a bit of an outsider."

"You seem to have sized things up pretty well."

"Probably because I AM an outsider."

"So  am  I.  So  are  most  of  the people who come here. So are half the names in Debrett. Come to think about it, that's one healthy symptom of
English so-called society--its inside is full of outsiders."

"I suppose the Rainiers are outsiders--in a sense."

"Well, they haven't a title, but that makes no difference. Owning Stourton's almost a title in itself."

"Yes, it's a wonderful place. There's an odd atmosphere here, though, don't you think?"

"Do YOU think so?"

"You don't know everything, you don't know everything--that's what the place seems to say."

"Maybe those ghosts of Negroes and little children?"

"They haven't got any children, have they?"


"Did they ever have?"

"I don't know. One somehow doesn't get to know things like that."

"Do you think they're happy?"

Before  I could attempt an answer we both turned sharply to see Sheldon carrying in a tray with siphon, glasses, and whiskey decanter. "I thought
perhaps  you  two  gentlemen  might like to help yourselves, either now or later." Without offering to serve us he placed the tray on a table and
walked out of the room, pausing at the door to deliver a quizzical good-night.

We  returned the salutation and then, as soon as the door closed, looked at each other rather uneasily. "I didn't hear him come in," said Woburn,
after a pause. "He didn't knock."

"Good servants don't--except at bedroom doors."

"Oh? I don't know things like that. My mother never had a servant."

"Now  who's  being  an  inverted  snob? My mother had ONE servant, whom we called the skivvy. That sets us both pretty equal so far as Stourton's

"You probably went to a good school, though."

I  mentioned  the  name of my school and agreed that it was generally considered fairly good. "As good as Netherton, which is where Rainier went.
Anyhow, from a social angle, the main thing is the accent--which you and I both seem to have. Nobody's going to ask us where we picked it up."

"I don't mind if they do. I was at a board school up to the age of twelve--then I won a scholarship to a suburban grammar school. I took a London
degree last year, working in the evenings. I never try to conceal the truth."

"CONCEAL it? I should think you'd boast about it."

"I suppose that's really what I AM doing. Will you have a drink?"

"Yes, please."

He began to mix them and presently, while working off a certain embarrassment, added: "How does that fellow Sheldon strike you?"

I  said  I  thought  he  was  the  kind  of  person  one could avoid a decision about by calling him a character. "Maybe the keeper of the family
skeleton," I added.

"No--because if there were one, Rainier would take a perverse delight in dragging it out of the cupboard for everyone to stare at."

We laughed and agreed that that might well be so.

It  was  past  eleven before we yawned our way upstairs. When I reached my room I found it full of cool air and moonlight; in the vagrant play of
moving  curtain  shadows I did not at first see Rainier sitting by the window in an armchair. He spoke as I approached: "Don't let me scare you--
I'm only admiring your view. It's exactly the same as mine, so that isn't much of an excuse. . . . How did you and Woburn get along?"

"Quite well. I like him. An intelligent young fellow."

"Spoken with all the superiority of thirty to twenty?"

"No, I don't think so. I DO like him, anyhow."

"He's  my wife's protégé. She wants to see him get on in the world--made me root him out of a municipal library to do this card-indexing job. . .
. Yes, he might go far, as they say, if there's anywhere far to go these days."

"That's the trouble, and he probably realizes it as much as we do."

"Well,  we can't change the world for him, but it's nice to have him around--company for Helen, if nothing else. I like him too, for that matter.
I like most boys of his age--and of your age. Wish I had an army of 'em."

"What would you do with an army of them?"

"Something  better,  I  hope,  than  have  them catalogue books or write biographies of my ancestors." He read my thoughts enough to continue: "I
daresay  you're  rather  surprised at my lack of enthusiasm for the family tree. That may be because I didn't have a very satisfactory home life.
When  I  was  a  small  boy  my father was just something distant and booming and Olympian--a bit of a bully in the house, or at least a bit of a
Bultitude (if you remember your Vice-Versa)--all of which made it fortunate for the family that he wasn't much in the home at all. My mother died
when I was ten."

"But you liked HER?"

"I  loved her very dearly. She was a delicate, soft-voiced, kind-hearted, sunny-minded, but rather helpless woman--but then most women would have
been  helpless against my father. HE loved her, I've no doubt, in his own possessive way. Perhaps a less loving and more thoughtful husband would
have  sent  her to a warmer climate during the winters, but my father wasn't thoughtful--at best his thoughtlessness became comradely, as when he
insisted on taking her for brisk walks over the hills on January days. It was a cherished saying of his that fresh air would blow the cobwebs out
of  your  lungs. It also blew the life out of my mother's lungs, for it was after one of those terrible walks, during which she gasped and panted
while  my  father shouted Whitmanesque encouragement, that she called in Sanderstead, our local doctor, who diagnosed t.b. My father was appalled
from  that  moment  and  spent  a small fortune on all kinds of cures, but it was too late--she died within the year, and my father, I have since
felt,  promptly  did  something about her in his mind that corresponded to winding up or writing off or some other operation that happens even in
the best financial circles."

He suddenly stood up and moved to the open window, staring out as if facing something that challenged him. "Those are the hills where he made her
walk. You can see the line of them against the sky." Then he turned abruptly and said he was sure I was tired and would want to go to bed.

I assured him I wasn't sleepy at all.

"But you came in yawning."

"Maybe, but I'm wide-awake now. The breeze is so fresh . . . You must have hated your father."

He answered slowly: "Yes, I suppose I did. Freud would say so, anyhow. But of course when I was a boy and even up to my undergraduate days people
only admitted the politer emotions."

"The war changed all that."

"Yes, indeed, and so many other things too."

He  was  silent  for  a moment; then I went on: "You once told me about a certain day, sometime after the war ended, when you found yourself on a
park seat in Liverpool."

"When  did  I  tell you that?" He controlled a momentary alarm, then added with a smile: "Ah yes, I remember--in your rooms at St. Swithin's. I'm
always  garrulous  after public speeches. . . . Well, if I told you, you know. That's how it was. And don't ask me about anything BEFORE the park
seat because I can't answer."

"But how about AFTER the park seat?"

He seemed relieved. "AFTER? Oh I can stand any amount of cross-examination there--I'm on safe ground from about noon on December 27, 1919."

"I wish you'd begin your story there, then, and bring it up to date."

"But there IS no story--except my life story."

"That's what I'd like to hear."

"How I Made Good? From Park Seat to Parliament?"

"If you like to call it that."

He laughed. "It's mostly a lot of sordid business details and family squabbles. You don't know the family, either."

"All  the  same, I wish you'd tell me. The effort of setting it all out might even help you towards the other memory--if you're still anxious for

I could see the response to that in his eyes as he entered the light again.

"So  you really think memory's like an athlete--keep it in training--take it for cross-country runs? H'm, might be something in the idea. When do
we start?"

"Now, if you're not too sleepy. I'm not. . . . Go back to that park seat in Liverpool."

"But I told you about that once."

"Tell me again. And then go on."

So he began, and as it makes a fairly long story, it goes better in the third person.


He  found  himself lying on that park seat. He had opened his eyes to see clouds and drenched trees, and to feel the drops splashing on his face.
After a while his position began to seem more and more odd, so he raised himself to a sitting angle, and was immediately aware of sodden clothes,
stiff  limbs,  a terrific headache, and a man stooping over him. His first thought was that he must have been drunk the night before, but he soon
rejected  it,  partly because he could not remember the night before at all, partly because he somehow did not think he was the sort of young man
to have had that sort of night, but chiefly because of a growing interest in what the man stooping over him was saying. It was a kind of muttered
chorus--"That's  right,  mister--take  it  easy. Didn't 'ardly touch yer--it was the wet roadway, you sort o' slipped. Cheer up, mister, no bones
broke--you'll be all right--wouldn't leave you 'ere, I wouldn't, if I didn't know you'd be all right. . . ."

Presently,  suggested  by  the  muttered  chorus  and supported by the fact that his clothes were not only sopping wet but also muddied and torn,
another hypothesis occurred to him--that he had been run down by a car whose driver had brought him into the park and was now leaving him there.

But  WHERE?  His  brain  refused  an  answer,  and when pressed offered a jumble of memories connected only with war--shell-fire for headaches, a
smashed leg for stiffness, no-man's-land for all the mud and rain in the world.

He  stood  up,  feeling  dizzy,  swayed  and almost fell. The man had gone, was now nowhere to be seen. Then he noticed he had been lying down on
sheets  of  newspaper. He stooped to peel one off the seat, hoping it might afford some clue, but the top of the page that would have contained a
name  and date was an unreadable mush, and the rest was rapidly softening under the heavy rain. He peered at it, nevertheless, searching for some
helpful  word  or  phrase  before the final disintegration. Most of the letterpress seemed to be news about floods and flood damage--rescues from
swollen rivers, people stranded in upper floors, rowboats in streets, and so on.

Then  suddenly  his  eyes caught a paragraph headed "Rainier Still in Germany"--one of those mock-cheerful items that tired sub-editors put in to
fill an odd corner--something about soaked holiday crowds taking comfort from the thought that somebody somewhere was faring even worse.

Now it is curious how one's own name, or the name of one's home, or a word like "cancer," will sometimes leap out of a page as if it were printed
in  red  ink.  It  was like that for the young man as he staggered through the deserted park towards a gate he could see in the distance. Rainier
Still in Germany--Rainier Still in Germany. It was a challenge, something he had to answer; and the answer came. "IMPOSSIBLE--I'm HERE, reading a
newspaper, and the newspaper's in English--therefore this can't be Germany."

Presently  he passed through the park gate into a busy thoroughfare. A tram came along, mud-splashed to its upper windows and sluicing swathes of
water  from  the  rails to the gutters. It was difficult to see through the spray of mud and rain, but on the side of the tram as it passed by he
could just read the inscription--"Liverpool City Corporation."

He  walked along by the high railings till the park came to an end and shops began. Meanwhile he had been feeling in his pockets, finding money--
coins and several treasury notes, amounting in all to over four pounds. Reaching a newsagent's shop he went inside and asked for a paper.

"Post or Courier, sir?"

"Doesn't matter."

A paper was handed over. "Looks like you've had a fall, sir? Terribly slippery after all this rain. . . . Like me to give you a bit of a brush?"

"Er . . . thanks."

"Why, you're wet through--if I was you I'd get home and to bed as quick as I could. Like me to get you a cab?"

"No, that wouldn't help. I don't live here. But if there's a tailor nearabouts--"

"Two doors ahead, sir. He'll fix you up. Say I sent you."


He walked out, glancing at the paper as he did so. He saw that the date was December 27, 1919.

So now he knew three important things: Who, Where, and When.

Two hours later Charles Rainier was in a train to London. He had had a hot bath and a meal; his clothes did not fit well, but were dry; and after
a lightning headache-cure across a chemist's counter he felt somewhat drowsily relieved.

Beside  him were several more newspapers and magazines. As it was the end of December, some contained résumés of the events of 1919; and these at
first  he  had  found  very  astonishing.  Biggest  of all surprises was to find that the war had been over for more than a year and had ended in
complete  victory  for  the  Allies;  this  was surprising because his last recollected idea on the subject had been that the Allies were just as
likely  to lose. But that dated back to a certain night in 1917 when he lay in a shell-hole near Arras, half delirious with the pain of a smashed
leg,  watching shell after shell dig other holes round about him, until finally one came that seemed to connect by a long dark throbbing corridor
with his headache that morning.

Charles arrived in London towards dusk, in time to catch the last train that would get him to Stourton that night. The train was late in reaching
Fiveoaks,  which is the station for Stourton, and three miles away from it, as anyone knows who has ever received a letter on Stourton notepaper.
From  Fiveoaks  he walked, because all the cabs were taken before he reached the station yard, and also because he hoped the cold air might clear
that still-surviving headache. He was glad they were putting out the lamps as he gave up his ticket at the barrier, so that the collector did not
recognize him.

He  realized that his return was bound to come as a shock, and he hardly knew what reason he could give anyone for his long and peculiar absence;
he hardly knew yet what reason he could give himself. He was puzzled, too, by an absence of joy in his heart at the prospect of home and familiar
faces;  more than by any excitement he was possessed by a deep and unutterable numbness of spirit, a numbness so far without pain yet full of the
hint of pain withdrawn and waiting.

Presently he turned off the main road. He remembered that turn, and the curve of the secondary road over the hill to the point where suddenly, in
daylight, the visitor caught his first glimpse of the house. Often, as a boy, he had met such visitors at Fiveoaks, hoping that when they reached
that particular point of the drive they would not be so immersed in conversation as to miss the view.

Now  when  he  came  to  the  view there was nothing to see, nothing to hear but an owl hooting, nothing to feel but the raw air blowing from the

He was glad he had sent no wire to tell them of his arrival. He had refrained because he felt the shock might be greater that way than if he were
to  see  Sheldon  first,  and  also because he hardly knew how much or how little to say in a wire; but now he perceived another advantage in not
having  sent  any  message--it  preserved  for  a  few extra minutes the curious half-way comfortableness of being alive only in the first person

Towards  midnight  he reached the wrought-iron gates of the main entrance; they were closed and locked, of course, but there was a glow in one of
the  adjacent  windows,  and  as he approached the small square-built lodge a gap in a curtain revealed a lighted Christmas tree. Odd, because he
remembered  Parsloe  as a tight-fisted bachelor unlikely to spend money on that sort of thing--unless, of course, he had married in the interval;
but that was odder still to contemplate--Parsloe married!

It was not Parsloe, however, who opened the door to his persistent ringing, but a half-dressed stranger--middle-aged, suspicious, challenging.

"Well, young man?"

"I'd like to go up to the house, if you'll let me through."

"We don't admit anyone, not without you give your name and business."

"I  know,  but  you  see  . . ." He hesitated, realizing the difficulties ahead--his story, told cold with no corroborations, would sound sheerly
incredible. Eventually he added, rather weakly: "If Parsloe were here, he'd know me."

"Maybe he would, but he ain't here--having been dead these fifteen months. You'd better be off, sir, dragging people out of bed at this hour."

The "sir" was some progress anyway; a social acknowledgment that, drunk or sober, honest or fraudulent, at least one had the right accent.

"Perhaps I could see Sheldon, then--"

"You can't disturb Mr. Sheldon either--especially now."

"You mean there's a party?" (Of course there would be--there were always big parties at Stourton through Christmas and New Year.)

Suddenly the question: "You wouldn't be Dr. Astley, by any chance?"

Charles was about to ask who Dr. Astley was when he thought better of it and replied hastily, perhaps too hastily: "Yes, that's who I am."

But  the  lodge-keeper  was  still  suspicious. Moving over to a telephone just inside the door, he wound up the instrument, listened, then began
muttering something inaudible. Afterwards he turned to beckon Charles inside. "Mr. Sheldon says he'd like a word with you first, sir."

"Certainly. I'll be glad of one with him, too."

Good old Sheldon--taking no chances. The voice at the other end was impersonally wary. "Dr. Astley? Have you come alone?"

No need to say anything but: "Sheldon, it isn't Dr. Astley--whoever he is. It's Charles--you know, CHARLES."


"Charles who was . . . Oh, God, I don't want to have to go into all that, but remember the Left-Handed Room? . . . THAT Charles."

"Mr. Charles?"


Long pause. Then: "I'll--I'll come along--immediately--if--if you'll wait there--for me."

"Good--but first of all say something to this fellow--he thinks I'm a fake. Don't tell him anything--just say it's all right."

He  handed  the  receiver  to  the lodge-keeper, who took it, listened a moment, then hung up with more puzzlement than satisfaction. "Well, sir,
you'd better wait here, seeing as how Mr. Sheldon says so."

"Thanks. And please understand that I don't blame you in the least. One can't be too careful."

Somewhat mollified, the man brought forward a chair, then accepted a cigarette that Charles proffered. "Marsh is my name, sir. If you're a friend
of the family, you'll know of course there's no parties this year on account of old Mr. Rainier being ill."

"ILL? No, I--er--I didn't know that."

"That's why I thought you might be Dr. Astley. He's a London doctor they're expecting."

"But what about Sanderstead?"

"Dr. Sanderstead wanted to consult with Dr. Astley, sir."

"Sounds serious."

"Yes, sir, I'm afraid so. Of course he's an old man, getting to be. It's his heart."

"Where's the family?"

"They're all here, sir, except Mrs. Jill and Mr. Julian."

"Where are they?"

"On their way back from abroad, I think, sir."

Strange  to  be edging one's way into such realizations. The sick man was his father, and yet, somehow, the springs of his emotion were dried up,
could  offer nothing in response to the news but an intensification of that feeling of numbness. He went on smoking thoughtfully. Really, when he
came  to  think  of it, Sheldon was the person he came nearest to any warm desire to see. . . . Marsh continued after a pause: "I could get you a
nip  of  something,  sir, if you wanted. It'll take Mr. Sheldon twenty minutes at least to come down--all the cars are locked up, and it's a good
mile to walk."

(As if he didn't know it was a good mile to walk!) He answered: "That's not a bad idea."

Marsh went to an adjoining room and came back with two stiff drinks. "Thought you looked a bit pale, sir, that's why I suggested it."

"DO I look pale?"

"Just a bit, sir. Or maybe it's the light."

Charles walked over to a near-by mirror and stood for a moment examining himself. Yes--there was a queer look; one could call it pallor, for want
of  an exacter word. Actually, he felt overwhelmingly tired, tired after the long and troubled journey, tired after that knock on the head in the
early  morning,  tired  after  something else that was difficult--impossible--to analyse. He sipped the whiskey and relaxed as he felt it warming
him.  "By  the way, Marsh--it's some time since I was here last . . . any particular changes? You told me of one of them just now, for instance--
Parsloe dead. Anything else?"

"You mean among the staff, sir? I've only been here fifteen months."

"Well, the staff or--oh, anything." He hardly liked to ask direct questions.

"There's been a few changes in the house, sir--maybe you'll notice. Mr. Rainier pulled down the old billiard-room and built two new ones."

"TWO new billiard-rooms? Good God!"

"Well, one of them isn't much used. There's just a table in it, in case anyone wants to play. And of course since Mr. Rainier took ill--"

"He's been ill a long time?"

"Six months, sir, just about. Sort of gradual, it's been . . ."

And  so  on; so that when, eventually, the knock came at the door and Marsh opened it, recognition was silent, tight-lipped, almost wordless till
they were alone together. Just "Hello, Sheldon"--and "Good evening!"

Leaving Marsh more puzzled than before, they turned into the darkness of the long curving drive. Out of earshot Charles stopped a moment, feeling
for the other's hand and shaking it rather clumsily.

"Sorry  to  be  sentimental,  Sheldon, but that's how glad I am to see you. Matter of fact, it's too dark to see you, but I've a feeling you look
exactly the same."

"I--I can't quite collect myself yet, Mr. Charles--but--I--I'd like to be the first to--to congratulate you!"

"Thanks--though I don't know whether congratulation's quite the word."

"It's so--extraordinary--to have you back with us. I can hardly believe it--"

"Neither  can I, Sheldon, so don't press me for details. All I can tell you is that I was in Liverpool this morning--and don't ask why Liverpool,
because  I  don't know any more than you. But I had some money as well as the devil of a headache from having been run down by a car, maybe . . .
that's all the evidence, so help me God. Before that I can't remember a thing since--since all sorts of things I don't WANT to remember--the war-
-lying  between  the  lines with shells bursting . . . years ago, I realize. There's a sort of dark corridor between then and this morning--don't
ask me about that, either. What you and I've got to decide now is how to go about the job of reintroducing me, as it were. . . . Any ideas?"

"If you'll give me a little time, Mr. Charles--I'm still rather--"

"I know--bumfoozled is the word old Sarah used to use."

"Fancy you remembering that."

"What's happened to her?"

"She's still living in the village. Of course she's very feeble."

"Poor old girl. . . . And too bad about Parsloe--how did that happen?"

"Pneumonia after the flu. Very sudden. We had quite an epidemic about a year ago."

"The new man seems all right."

"Marsh? Oh yes. Used to be one of the gardeners."

"Don't remember him. . . . God, what are we gossiping like this for?"

"Just  what  I  was  thinking,  sir,  because there ARE more important things I must tell you about. I'm afraid you'll find the house in a rather
disturbed condition--"

"I know. I realize I couldn't have turned up at a more awkward moment--in some ways. Much rather have come when it's quiet--nobody here--"

"You mean the family?"

"Well, yes--bit of a problem, how to let them know."

"We have to face it, sir."

"THEY have to face it, you mean."

"Naturally they'll be delighted to see you once they get over the--the surprise."

"The surprise of finding I'm still alive?"

"Well, after such an interval, and with no news--"

"I know. For God's sake don't think I'm blaming anybody."

"May I say, sir, speaking for myself--"

"I  know, I know, and I'm grateful--think it was marvellous the way you kept your head in front of Marsh. Of course he'll have to know soon, like
everybody  else,  but  I  was glad you postponed the--er--the sensation. Funny . . . when I wanted to say something over the telephone that would
make  you know I was genuine and yet wouldn't mean a thing to him, the only thing I could think of was the Left-Handed Room--remember how we used
to call it that because the door opened the other way?"

"You remember those days very clearly, sir."

"So clearly it's like--like head-lamps along a road on a dark night. TOO clearly, that is--everything a bit out of focus. It'll all come right, I

"I hope so, sir."

"Well, let's not talk about it. . . . We've got this other problem to settle, and my suggestion is what we always used to say when we were kids--
leave it to Sheldon."

"I was about to suggest that too."

"Well,  go ahead--any way you like. And in the meantime if you'll find me a bedroom that's a bit off the map I'll get a good night's sleep before
making my bow at the breakfast table."

"I'm afraid--er--Mr. Rainier doesn't come down to breakfast nowadays."

"I know, Marsh said he was ill. I'm sorry. You'd better go easy when you tell him--the shock, I mean." He caught Sheldon's glance and interpreted
it. "Don't worry about me, Sheldon--I know you're thinking I'm not behaving according to formula, but I can't help it--I'm too dead tired to face
any reunions tonight."

After  a  pause  Sheldon  answered:  "I doubt if there IS any formula for what you must be feeling, Mr. Charles. I could give you a bed in my own
apartments if that would suit."

"Excellent. . . . Thank heaven something's settled. . . . Been having decent weather here lately?"

"Fairly, sir, for the time of the year. I noticed the barometer's rising."

"Good. It was raining in Liverpool this morning."

He  slept  a heavy troubled sleep, full of dreams he could not clarify, but which left him vaguely restless, unsatisfied. December sunlight waked
him  by  pouring  on to his bed; he stared round, wondering where he was, then remembering. But he could not recognize the room--somewhere in the
servants'  wing,  he  supposed,  and  he  confirmed  this by leaning up to the window. The central block of Stourton faced him grandly across the
courtyard--there  was  the  terrace,  the  big  curving windows of the dining-room, the East Wing with its corner turret. The spectacle found and
fitted  into a groove of his mind--somehow like seeing a well-known place and deciding it was reasonably like its picture postcards. . . . He was
still musing when Sheldon came in with a tray.

"Good morning, Mr. Charles. I brought you some tea."


"The barometer's still rising. Did you sleep well?"

"Pretty well. What time is it?"

"Eight  o'clock. The family usually begin to come down about nine, but perhaps this morning--we stayed up rather late, you see . . . on the other
hand, they may be anxious. . . ."

"I understand. You can't ever be certain how people will react, can you?"

"No, sir."

"You should have brought an extra cup for yourself. Sit down and tell me all about it. What time did YOU go to bed? You look fagged out."

"To  tell you the truth, I haven't been to bed at all. There were so many things to do--I had to talk to Dr. Sanderstead--and then your clothes--
you'd hardly wish to wear them again, I think."


"I took the liberty of borrowing a suit from Mr. Chetwynd--"

"Look here, never mind about all that--let's have first things first. You told them all?"

"Not your father, sir--but I told the others."

"How did they take it?"

"They were naturally surprised--in fact they could hardly believe me at first."

"And then?"

"Well, I suppose they DID believe me--eventually. They expect to see you at breakfast."

"Good . . . but you say you haven't yet told my father?"

"That was why I went to see Dr. Sanderstead--to ask his advice."

"Ah yes, of course. You always think of the sensible things, Sheldon."

"He was rather troubled about the danger of giving the old gentleman a shock--he says he'd like to have a talk with you about it first."

"All right, if he says so."

"I also took the liberty of telephoning to Mr. Truslove."


"It seemed to me that--er--he ought to be informed also, as soon as possible."

"Well, maybe that's sensible too, though it hadn't occured to me. . . . How about a bath?"

"Already waiting for you--if you'll follow me."

"What about the servants, if I meet any of them?"

"They  don't  know yet, except Wilson and Lucas--I shall call the others together during the morning and tell them. And Mr. Truslove will be here
for lunch--along with Dr. Sanderstead and Dr. Astley from London."

By that time they were at the door of the bathroom. "Quite elegant, Sheldon--new since I was here, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir."

"From which I gather the family income remains--er--not so bad?"

A wrinkled smile. "Like the barometer, sir--still rising. . . ."

He  bathed, smoked a cigarette, and put on the clothes Sheldon had laid out for him. Brown tweeds--Chet had always favoured them, and they fitted
pretty  well--as children he and Chet could generally wear each other's suits. And a Netherton tie--trust Sheldon to think of details. NETHERTON;
and  a whole cloud of memories assailed him suddenly: strapping on cricket pads in front of the pavilion; strawberries and cream in the tuckshop;
the  sunlight  slanting  into  the  chapel during Sunday services; hot cocoa steaming over the study gas-ring in wintertime; the smell of mud and
human bodies in a Rugby scrum. . . . Netherton. And then Cambridge. And then the cadet school. And then France. And then . . . the full stop. . .
. He controlled himself, leading his thoughts back from the barrier, gently insinuating them into the immediate future. He found he could best do
this  by adopting a note of sardonic self-urging: come along--trousers, waistcoat, tie, shoes, coat--button up for the great family reunion. "All
aboard  for  the  Skylark"--which set him recollecting holidays with his mother as a small boy--never with his father; his father had always been
too  busy. They used to rent a house at Brighton, in Regency Square, taking servants with them--Miss Ponsonby and a maid named Florrie, and every
morning  they  would  walk  along  the  front  not  quite as far as Portslade, turning back so inevitably that Portslade became for him a sort of
mysterious  place  beyond human access--until, one afternoon while his mother was having a nap, he escaped from the house and reached Portslade a
dauntless but somewhat disappointed explorer.

"I hope the clothes will do for the time being, Mr. Charles."

"Fine--just a bit loose in front. Chet must be putting on weight."

"I'll have a talk with Mr. Masters sometime today. He has your old measurements, but it might be safer to have him visit you again."

"Much safer, I'm sure. You think I've changed a lot, Sheldon?"

"Not in appearance, sir. You look very fit."

"And yet there IS a difference?"

"In your manner, perhaps. But that's natural. It's a nervous strain one can well understand after all you've been through."

"I'd understand it better if I knew what I HAVE been through. But never mind that. Time for breakfast."

He  walked across the courtyard, entering the house from the terrace. No one had yet appeared; the usual new-lit fire was burning, the usual blue
flames  distilling  a  whiff  of  methylated  spirit  from  under the copper dishes. The Morning Post and Times on the little table. A cat on the
hearthrug--a  new  cat,  who  looked  up indifferently and then resumed a comprehensive toilet. Wilson was standing by the dishes, trying hard to
behave as if the return of a long-lost son were one of the ordinary events of an English household.

"Good morning, Mr. Charles."

"Morning, Wilson."

"What can I get you, sir? Some kedgeree--or ham and eggs--kipper--kidneys--"

"Suppose I have a look."

He eased a little of his embarrassment by the act of serving himself. He knew Wilson must be staring at him all the time. As he carried his plate
back  to  the table he said: "Well, it's good to be back." It was a remark without meaning--a tribute to a convention that did not perfectly fit,
like Chetwynd's clothes, but would do for the time being.

"Yes, indeed, sir. Very glad to see you again."

"Thanks." And he opened The Times, the dry and crinkly pages engaging another memory. "You still warm the paper in front of the fire, Wilson?"

"Yes, sir. I always had to when Mr. Rainier used to come down--it's got to be a sort of habit, I suppose."

"Queer how one always associates big things with little things. I get the whole picture of my childhood from the smell of toasted printer's ink."

"Yes, sir."

He  ate his ham and eggs, scanning the inside news page. Trouble in Europe--the usual Balkan mix-up. Trouble in Ireland, and that was usual too--
British  officers  assassinated.  Not  much  of  a  paper  after  the  holiday--never was. The usual chatty leader about Christmas, full of Latin
quotations  and schoolmasterly facetiousness--dear old Times. A long letter from somebody advocating simplified spelling--God, were they still at
that?  Now  that  the  war  was  over, it seemed both reassuring and somehow disappointing that England had picked up so many old threads and was
weaving them into the same pattern.

Then Chetwynd, eldest of the brothers, began the procession.

"Hello, old chap, how are you?"

(What a thing to say! But still, what else?)

(Miss Ponsonby, his old governess, had once adjured him: When people say "How are you?" the correct answer is "How are YOU?" If you tell them how
you  are,  you  show  yourself a person of inferior breeding. . . . "But suppose, Miss Ponsonby," he had once asked, "you really WANT to know how
somebody else is, mustn't they ever tell you?")

However, he answered: "Hello, Chet. How are YOU?"

"Want you to meet my wife, Lydia. . . . Lydia . . . this is Charlie."

An oversized good-looking woman with small, rather hostile eyes.

And  then  Julia,  plumper  than  when  he  had  seen  her  last,  but still the same leathery scarecrow--red-complexioned, full of stiff outdoor

"Hel-LO, Charles! Sheldon told us ALL about it, and it's just too wonderful. I can't TELL you how--"

But  then,  as  he  kissed  her,  the fire went out like a damp match and they neither of them knew what to say to each other. He and Chet almost
collided in their eagerness to serve her with food; Chet beat him to it; he slipped back into his chair.

"Kidneys, Julia?"

"Only scrambled eggs, please, Chet."

"Not even a little piece of bacon?"

"No, really, Chet."

"Any news of Father this morning?"

"I saw one of the nurses as I came down--she said he'd had a fairly good night and was about the same."

"Oh, good. . . . Quite sure about the bacon, Julia?"

"Quite sure."

"Charles, what about you while I'm here? You don't seem to have much on your plate."

"Nothing more for me, thanks."

"Well,  must  be  my turn then, and I don't mind admitting I'm hungry. Thrilling events always take me that way. . . . Too bad Father's ill--we'd
have had a party or something to celebrate."

"I'm sorry he's ill, but not for that reason, I assure you."

"No?  Well  .  .  ."  Chet  came  to  the  table  with his plate, having deliberately delayed at the sideboard till he heard the voices of others
approaching. Now he looked up as if in surprise. "Morning, George. . . . Morning, Bridget. . . ."

George,  a nervous smile on his plump moustached face; Bridget, the youngest of the family, sweet and shy, always ready to smile if you looked at
her  or  she thought you were likely to look at her. George's wife Vera, and Julia's husband . . . an introduction necessary here--"Charles, this
is Dick Fontwell"--"Ahdedoo, ahdedoo"--a tall, long-nosed fellow who threw all his embarrassment into a fierce handshake.

Breakfast  at Stourton was a hard meal at the best of times, only mitigated by ramparts of newspapers and unwritten permission to be as morose as
one  wished. But this morning they all felt that such normal behaviour must be reversed--everybody had to talk and go on talking. Charles guessed
that  they  were all feeling as uncomfortable as he, with the additional drawback of having had less sleep. During the interchange of meaningless
remarks  about the weather, the news in the paper, Christmas, and so on, he meditated a little speech which he presently made to them when Wilson
had left to bring in more coffee.

He  began, clearing his throat to secure an audience: "Er . . . I really do feel I owe you all sorts of explanations, but the fact is, this whole
business  of  coming  back  here is in many ways as big a mystery to me as it must be to you--I suppose loss of memory's like that--but what I DO
want  to  tell  you  is  that in spite of all the mystery I'm a perfectly normal person so far as everyday things are concerned--I'm not ill, you
don't  have  to  be  afraid  of me or treat me with any special consideration. . . . So just carry on here as usual--I'm anxious not to cause any
additional upset at a moment when we're all of us bound to be upset anyhow."

He  hoped  that was a helpful thing to have said, but for a moment after he had finished speaking he caught some of their eyes and wondered if it
had been wise to say anything at all. Then Bridget leaned over and touched his hand.

"That's all right, Charles."

Chet  called out huskily from the far end of the table: "Quite understand, old chap. We're all more pleased than we can say, God bless. Of course
with the old man being ill we can't exactly kill the fatted calf, but--but--"

"I'll consider it killed," he interrupted, just as Wilson arrived with more coffee. They all smiled or laughed, and the situation seemed eased.

Dr.  Sanderstead had been expected for lunch, but he arrived a good deal earlier, along with Dr. Astley. Sanderstead was a wordy, elderly, fairly
efficient  general  practitioner  who could still make a good living out of his private patients, leaving a more efficient junior partner to take
care  of  the  rest.  He  had  been  the  Stourton  doctor ever since the family were children. Accompanied by the London heart specialist, whose
herringbone tweeds for a country visit were almost too formally informal, he spent over an hour in the sickroom, after which Astley left and gave
him a chance to talk to Charles alone.

They  shook  hands  gravely,  then  at  the  doctor's  suggestion  began  walking  in  the  garden.  Five  minutes  were occupied by a see-saw of
congratulations, expressions of pleasure, thanks, and acknowledgments. Charles became more and more silent as these proceeded, eventually leading
to  a  blank  pause  which Sanderstead broke by exclaiming: "Don't be afraid I'm going to ask you questions--none of my business, anyhow. Sheldon
told  me  all  that  you  told  him--it's a very peculiar case, and I know very little about such things. There are some who claim to, and if you
wished to consult--"

"At the moment, no."

"Well, I don't blame you--get settled down first, not a bad idea. All the same, though, if ever you want--"

"That's very kind of you, but I'd rather you tell me something about my father."

"I was coming to that. I'm afraid he's quite ill."

They walked on a little way in silence; then Sanderstead continued: "I'm sure the first thing you wished to do on coming back to us in this--er--
remarkable way was to see him, and for that reason I'm grateful to you for deferring the matter at my request."

Charles did not think there was any particular cause for gratitude. He said: "Tell me frankly how things are."

"That's  what I want to talk to you about. In a man of his age, and suffering from his complaint, complete recovery can't exactly be counted on--
but  we  can  all hope for some partial improvement that will enable him to--to--face a situation which will undoubtedly give him a great deal of
pleasure once the initial shock has been--er--overcome."

Charles  was beginning to feel irritated. "You don't have to break things gently with ME, Sanderstead. What you're hinting at, I take it, is that
my father shouldn't learn of my existence till he's a good deal better than he is at present."


"To save you the trouble of arguing the point, I may as well tell you I entirely agree and I'm willing to wait as long as you think fit."

"I don't know how to express my appreciation--"

"You  don't  have to. Naturally I'd like to see my father, but if you say he's not well enough, that settles it. After all this time I daresay we
can both wait a bit longer."

They  did  not  talk  much  after  that. Charles was aware he had rumpled the doctor's feelings by not living up to the conventional pattern of a
dutiful  son; but he began to feel increasingly that he could not live up to any conventional pattern, still less could he be "himself," whatever
that  was;  all  he  could do was to cover his inner numbness with a façade of slightly cynical objectivity. It was the only attitude that didn't
seem a complete misfit.

A further problem arose later in the morning, but Sheldon broached it, and somehow he found it easier to talk to HIM.

"Dr. Sanderstead tells me you've agreed to his suggestion that for the time being--"

"Yes, I agreed."

"I'm  afraid  that  opens  up  another matter, sir. Now that the servants know--which of course is inevitable--I don't see how we can prevent the
story from leaking out."

"I don't suppose you can, nor do I see why you should. I'm not breaking any local by-laws by being alive, am I?"

"It  isn't that, Mr. Charles, but your father sometimes asks to see a paper, and I'm afraid that once the story gets around it'll attract quite a
considerable amount of attention."

"Headlines, you mean?"

"Yes, sir."

"I wouldn't like that for my own sake, let alone my father's."

"It would doubtless be very unpleasant. A young man from the Daily Post was on the telephone just now."

"ALREADY? Well, if they think they're going to make a national hero of me, they're damn well mistaken. I won't see ANYBODY."

"I'm afraid that might not help, sir. It's their job to get the news and they usually manage it somehow or other."

"Well, what do you suggest?"

"I was thinking that if somebody were to explain the matter personally on the telephone, giving the facts and using Mr. Rainier's state of health
as ground for the request--"

"You mean get in touch with all the editors?"

"No, not the editors, sir--the owners. You see, Mr. Rainier has a large newspaper interest himself, and that makes for a certain--"

"Owns a paper, does he? I never knew that."

"It was acquired since your time, sir. The Evening Record."

"Well, if you think it'll do any good, let's try. Who do you think should do the talking--George or Chet? Better Chet, I'd say."

"Well, yes, Mr. Chetwynd would perhaps explain it more convincingly than Mr. George. But what I really had in mind--"


"Lord  Borrell  has  stayed  here several times, sir--bringing his valet, a very intelligent man named Jackson. So I thought perhaps if I were to
telephone Jackson--"

An hour later Chet came up to Charles with a beaming smile.

"Everything  fixed, old boy. Sheldon wangled it through Borrell of the International Press--there won't be a word anywhere. Censorship at source.
Borrell was puzzled at first, but eventually he said he'd pass the word round. All of which saves me a job, God bless."

So the story, which became one for curious gossip throughout the local countryside as well as in many a London club, was never hinted at by Fleet
Street.  The  only  real difficulty was with the editor of the Stourton and District Advertiser, a man of independent mind who did not see why he
should  not  offer  as  news  an  item of local interest that was undoubtedly true and did not libel anybody. A personal visit by Chetwynd to the
landlord  of the premises in which the Advertiser housed its printing plant was necessary before the whole matter could be satisfactorily cleared

Charles  spent  the  morning in a wearying and, he knew, rather foolish attempt to play down the congratulations. Every servant who had known him
from earlier days sought him out to say a few halting, but demonstrably sincere words. It rather surprised as well as pleased him to realize that
he  had  been  remembered  so  well;  but  the continual smiling and handshaking became a bore. There were new faces too, recent additions to the
Stourton  staff,  whom he caught staring at him round corners and from doorways. They all knew his story by now and wished to see the hero of it;
the whole thing was doubtless more exciting than a novel because more personal in their lives, something to save up for relatives when they wrote
the weekly letter or took their next day off.

Once,  on his way through the house, he passed the room on the first floor where his father lay ill. It was closed, of course, but the door of an
adjoining room was open, and through it he could see two young nurses chatting volubly over cups of tea. They stared as he went by, and from that
he knew that they too had heard and were excited over the news.

When  he  appeared  at  lunch,  he  found  Sanderstead  and Truslove in the midst of what was evidently a sharp argument. Truslove was the family
solicitor, a sallow sharp-faced man in his late fifties. During the little hiatus of deferential how-d'ye-dos and handshaking, the doctor and the
lawyer  continued  to  glare at each other as if eager to make an end of the truce. It came as soon as Charles said: "Don't let me interrupt your

"What  I was saying, Mr. Charles," resumed Truslove, eager for an ally, "is that the problem has a legal as well as a medical side. Naturally one
would  prefer  to  spare  your father any kind of shock, but can we be certain that he himself would wish to be spared--when the alternatives are
what they are?"

"All I can say," Sanderstead growled, "is that in his present state a shock might kill him."

"But we have Mr. Charles to think about," urged Truslove; which made Charles interject: "Oh, for heaven's sake don't bother about ME."

"Very  natural  of  you  to  say  that, Mr. Charles, but as a lawyer I'm bound to take a somewhat stricter viewpoint. There's the question of the
WILL."  He spoke the word reverentially, allowing it to sink in before continuing: "None of us should forget that we're dealing with an estate of
very  considerable  value.  We should bear in mind what would be your father's wishes if he were to know that you were so--so happily restored to

"We should also bear in mind that he's a very sick man," retorted Sanderstead.

"Precisely--and  all  the  more  reason  that  his  desire,  which I am sure would be to make certain adjustment necessary for the fair and equal

Charles drummed his fingers on the table. "I get your point, Truslove, but I'm really not interested in that side of it."

"But it's my duty, Mr. Charles--my duty to your father and to the family quite as much as to you. If I feel morally sure that a client of mine--"

Sanderstead  interrupted:  "If changing his will is what you're thinking about, he could no more do that than address a board meeting! And that's
apart from the question of shock!"

"Isn't  it  possible  that  a  shock  caused  by  good  news  might  give him sudden strength--just enough to do what he would feel at once to be

"Thanks for the interesting theory, Truslove. When you want any advice about law, just come to ME."

Charles intervened with a slightly acid smile. "I don't know why you two should quarrel. You may be right, either of you--but suppose I claim the
casting  vote?  I don't want to see my father if there's any chance the shock might be bad for him, and I don't give a damn whether I'm in or out
of his will. . . . Now are you both satisfied?"

But  of  course they were not, and throughout lunch, which was a heavy affair with nobody quite knowing what to talk about, he was aware that the
two men were engrossed in meditations of further argument.

During  the  afternoon he tried for a little quiet in the library, but Chet found him there and seemed anxious to express HIS point of view. "You
see, old chap, I can understand how Truslove feels. Legally you're--well, I won't say DEAD exactly--but not normally alive. He's bound to look at
things  from that angle. What I mean is, if anything were to happen to the old man--let's hope it won't, but you never can tell--you wouldn't get
a  look  in. Now that's not fair to you, especially as there's plenty for everybody, God bless. That's why I think Truslove's right--surely there
must be a way of breaking good news gently--Sheldon, for instance--"

"Yes,  we all think of Sheldon in emergencies. But I do hope, Chet, you won't press the matter. Truslove tells me there'll be no difficulty about
my resuming the income we all had from Mother--"

"But good God, man, you can't live on five hundred a year!"

"Oh, I don't know. Quite a number of people seem to manage on it."

"But--my dear chap--WHERE? What would you DO?"

"Don't know exactly. But I daresay I should find something."

"Of course if you fancied a salaried job in one of the firms--"

"I rather feel that most jobs in firms wouldn't appeal to me."

"You wouldn't have to take it very seriously."

"Then it would probably appeal to me even less. . . . But we don't have to decide it now, do we?"

"No, of course not. Have a drink?"

"No, thanks."

"I think I will. Tell you the truth, all this is just about wearing me down. Gave me an appetite at first, but now I feel sort of--"

"You mean all the fuss connected with my return?"

"Oh, not YOUR fault, old chap. After all, what else could you do? But you know what families are like--and wives. Argue a man off his head."

"But what could there have been any argument about?"

"Well,  Truslove  and  Sanderstead--like  cat  and dog all day. Personally, as I told you, I back Truslove--but Lydia--well, she's never seen you
before--she  can't  help feeling there's something a bit fishy about it--and of course, old chap, you must admit you haven't explained everything
down to the last detail."

"I'm aware of that. If the last detail were available, I should be very glad to know it myself."

"Don't  misunderstand  me,  though.  Far more things in heaven and earth than--than something or other--know what I mean? I accept your statement

"But I haven't made any statement."

"Well, at breakfast you did--you said you were all right--NORMAL, I mean. And I'm prepared to take your word for it whatever anyone else thinks."

"Meaning that your wife believes I'm a fake?"

"A fake or else . . . Well, if she does, she's wrong, that's all I can tell her."

"I hope you won't bother to."

"Nice of you to put it that way, but still . . . Sure you won't have a drink?"

"No, thanks."

"Cheerio, then. God bless. . . ."

By  evening  he  had  decided  to  leave.  It  was  not that anyone had been unkind to him--quite the contrary, but he felt that he was causing a
disturbance,  and  the  disturbance  disturbed  him  just  as  much  as the others. He had given Truslove and Sanderstead his decision; it merely
irritated  him that they continued to wrangle. "The fact is, Sheldon, my remaining here is just an added complication at the moment, affording no
pleasure  either to myself or anyone else--so I'll just fold my tent and silently steal away. But I won't go far and I'll leave you my address so
that  you  can  get  in  touch  with  me if there's any need--if, for instance, Sanderstead decides my father's well enough to see me. Don't tell
Truslove  where I am--I don't want any messages from HIM--and as for what you say to the others, I simply leave it to you, except that I'd rather
they didn't take my departure as a sign of either disgust or--er--abdication. . . . Perhaps you could think of something casual enough? And while
I'm in Brighton I'll warm your heart by buying a few good suits of clothes."

"BRIGHTON, sir?"

"Yes,  I  always  did  like Brighton. I'll be all right alone--don't worry. If you could pack a bag for me, and get hold of a little pocket-money
from the family vault or archives or wherever it's kept--I suppose the hardest thing is to find any spare cash in a rich man's house. . . ."

"I can advance it, sir, with pleasure."

"Good . . . and put a few books in the bag, some of my old college books if you can find them."

"Maybe you oughtn't to overtax your mind, sir?"

"On  the  contrary,  I feel rather inclined to treat my mind as one does a clock when it won't go--give it a shake-up and see what happens. . . .
Oh,  and  one  other thing--I'd prefer to have the car drive me to Scoresby for the train. I'm so tired of shaking hands with people, and most of
the station staff at Fiveoaks--"

"I understand." Sheldon hesitated a moment and then said: "You really ARE going to Brighton? I mean, you're not--er--thinking of--er--"

Charles  laughed.  "Not a bit of it, Sheldon. Put detectives on me if you like. And to show you it's all open and aboveboard, you can send a wire
booking a room for me at the Berners Hotel."

"BERNERS? I don't think that's one of the--"

"I  know,  but I looked it up in the back of the railway guide and it's in Regency Square--where my mother and Miss Ponsonby used to rent a house
for the summer when I was a small boy."

So  much  for  sentiment;  actually  when  he got there he found the Berners Hotel in Regency Square not quite comfortable enough, and moved to a
better one the next day, notifying Sheldon of the change. It teased him to realize that though he did not care for grandeur and did not insist on
luxury,  he  yet inclined to a certain standard in hotels--a standard above that of the clothes in which he had arrived at Stourton. He wished he
hadn't  told  the  Liverpool  tailor  to  throw  away his original torn and rain-sodden suit; it might have afforded some clue to the mystery. He
pondered  over  it  intermittently,  but the effort merely tired him and brought nearer to the surface an always submerged sadness, that sense of
bewildering,  pain-drenched  loss.  He was afraid of that, and found relief in recollecting earlier clear-seen days of childhood and boyhood, the
pre-war years during which he had grown up to be--as Miss Ponsonby would have said (only a governess could say such a thing outright)--an English

Sheldon  had  packed  a  few books, chosen almost at random; a further selection, more carefully made, arrived from Stourton two days later. They
included  several  he  remembered  studying  in preparation for Cambridge--Stubbs's Constitutional History of England, Bryce's Holy Roman Empire,
Gibbon's  Decline  and  Fall.  Good  meaty  reading,  a  little tough in places, suitable for whole mornings on the Promenade in one of the glass
shelters;  equally  suitable  for  wet days in the hotel lounge. One morning, walking along the cliffs towards Rottingdean, he met an elderly man
with  a  dog;  interest  in  a  wreck  on  the  beach below drew them into a conversation which presently veered to books and politics. For three
successive mornings afterwards he took the same walk, met the same man, and continued the same conversation, each time more interestingly; but on
the  fourth morning the man didn't appear, nor on any subsequent morning when Charles took the same walk. He didn't particularly mind; indeed, it
almost comforted him to think of such mutual contacts as possible without the foolish establishment of names and identities.

Sheldon  wrote  to  him regularly, giving him news of Stourton, but there wasn't much to relate: Mr. Rainier kept about the same; Sanderstead and
Truslove  were  still  quarrelling; while the family chafed more restively, finding Stourton rather dull to do nothing in, and wondering how long
they  must  wait  before they could decently decide to return to their respective homes. Not, of course, that they wanted the old man to die, but
they  clearly  felt  they  shouldn't have been sent for so soon; on top of which Charles's return had somehow disturbed their equilibrium, for if
there  is  one  thing  more  mentally  upsetting to a family than death, it must be (on account of its rarity) resurrection. All of which Charles
either  deduced  from or read between the lines of Sheldon's direct reportage of facts--such as that Truslove had had an unsatisfactory interview
with Dr. Astley, that Chet's wife was no longer on speaking terms with Bridget, that Chet had taken to spending most of his time practising shots
in  the  billiard-room,  that  the  local  vicar  had  paid  a discreet visit hoping to see Charles, and that the weather was still fine, but the
barometer beginning to fall.

One  morning  at  breakfast,  while  he  was in the midst of reading Sheldon's latest assurance that things were still about the same, a page-boy
brought a wire informing him at a glance that things were no longer the same at all. His father had died suddenly a few hours before.

He  packed  his  bag and left for Stourton by the next train, arriving at Fiveoaks towards late afternoon. There he acknowledged the greetings of
several of the station staff (noting with relief that the sensation value of his own existence had considerably diminished), and hurried into the
waiting car. This time the skies were darkening as the moment of the "view" appeared, but the great house still made its bow impressively.

Sheldon was waiting at the open door to receive him; within the house, in the deliberately half-lit hall, Chet stood holding a whiskey and soda.

"Hello,  old  chap.  Had  a good time? Sheldon says you've been dosing yourself with sea air--don't blame you. . . . Turned chilly these last few
hours--what about a drink?"

Charles  said  he  would  have  one,  so Chet marched him into the dining-room, where the liquor was kept. "You know, I once went to see a man in
London--somewhere  in  Campden Hill, I think it was--sort of artist's studio--but the chap had built a regular bar, like a pub, at one end of his
dining-room--awfully good idea, don't you think? . . . Well, God bless."

Charles  asked for details of his father's death and received them; then, alone, he went upstairs and entered the room where the old man lay. The
numbness  in  his heart almost stirred; he touched the dead hand, feeling a little dead himself as he did so. Then he went downstairs to meet the
others  of the family, among them three recent arrivals, Jill with Kitty, and Julian. Jill was a heavily built, smartly dressed woman in her late
forties,  the eldest of the family and the widow of a civil servant who had left her with a daughter by an earlier marriage of his own. Kitty was
fourteen  and  generally  described,  even by those who did not dislike her, as "a bit of a handful." Julian, back from Cannes, where he had been
spending  the winter, gave Charles a languid salutation and a remark evidently well prepared in advance. "How charming to see you again, Charles!
I understand that when you regained your memory you found yourself in Liverpool on a wet day! Your only consolation must have been that it wasn't

Epigrams  of  this  kind  had  established  Julian's  reputation  as  the  family  wit, but they lacked spontaneity and his opening remark in any
conversation  was  generally on a level, however disputable, to which he did not afterwards attain. In appearance he was tall, lean, and handsome
in  a  rather  saturnine,  over-elegant way; he lived most of his life in fashionable resorts where he played a little tennis, indulged in little
friendships, and painted little pictures of scenery which his friends said were "not so bad."

So  now  they  were  all  gathered  together, the Rainier family, in descending order of age, as follows: Jill, Chetwynd, George, Julia, Charles,
Julian,  and Bridget. It was a stale family joke to say that they were seven. Like many families who have dispersed, they found conversation hard
except  in  exchanges  of  news  about their own affairs--troubles with servants, new houses, business squabbles, and so on. During the difficult
interval  between  death  and  the  funeral  it was Sheldon who took control like some well-built machine slipping into a particularly silent but
effective gear. Charles was grateful for this, and especially, too, that Sheldon had arranged a quiet room for him, his old turret room, in which
he  could  rest  and  read  a good deal of the time. He was aware that all the family viewed him with curiosity and some with suspicion, and that
intimacy with any of them would probably lead to questions about himself that he could not answer.

A  minor  but on the whole welcome diversion was caused by the revelation that during the last twelve months of his life old Mr. Rainier had been
having  his  biography  written.  The author was a young and unknown man named Seabury, who had apparently made a business of persuading rich men
that  posterity would regret the absence of any definitive story of their lives. Rainier, usually a shrewd detector of flattery, had in this case
succumbed,  so  that  the  book  had  been commissioned, a sum paid to Seabury there and then, and a further sum promised "on completion" and "if
approved."  When  the  old  man's  state of health became serious, Seabury had evidently begun to fear for the balance of his payment, and so had
hurried  his  manuscript  into final shape, hoping perhaps to impress the assembled relatives by a certain fulsomeness of treatment that might be
considered additionally appropriate in the circumstances.

The  manuscript, neatly typed and with a covering letter, was brought to Stourton by special messenger on the evening before the funeral; Sheldon
accepted  it  and  placed  it on the hall table; Charles, passing by an hour later, opened it at random. He happened to light on a description of
Cowderton, where the Rainier steelworks were situated, and read:--

But  what  has  been  sacrificed  in  the  sylvan  peace  of  its surroundings has been gained in the town's prevalent atmosphere of optimism and
prosperity;  and for these gifts, connected so visibly with the firm of Rainier, Cowderton must thank the dreams of a lad who was himself born in
the heart of rural England.

Charles  smiled slightly and did not read any more. He felt that the book, if it were all in such a vein, would probably have pleased his father,
while at the same time affording him the additional pleasure of not being taken in by it.

Others  of  the family, however, got hold of the manuscript and read enough of it to decide it was rather good, though of course they had to be a
little  patronizing about a mere writer, especially an unknown one, while at the same time nourishing the secret wonderment of all healthy-minded
Philistines that the act of writing can be protracted throughout three hundred pages. But the manuscript's chief value lay in its usefulness as a
subject  for  conversation  during  the rather hard-going lunch-party that assembled towards half-past two the following afternoon. Those who had
just  seen  old  Mr. Rainier's remains lowered into their final resting-place in Stourton Churchyard were relaxing after the strain of the ordeal
while  steeling  themselves  for  another--the  reading  of  the will; and there, at the table, with all the secrets in his pocket, sat Truslove,
somehow  larger  now  than  life,  munching  saddle  of  mutton  in  full  awareness  that his moment was about to arrive, and striking the exact
professional balance between serious-mindedness and good-humour--prepared to respond to a joke if one were offered, or to commiserate with a tear
if one were let fall.

It  seemed  to  be  a family convention--unwritten, unspoken, even in a sense not consciously thought about--that Sheldon was one of them at such
moments,  and that as soon as the other servants had left the dining-room his own remaining presence need impose no censorship. Chetwynd had been
talking  business optimism with Truslove. "What we've got to do now, old chap, is to plan for peace as efficiently as we planned for war, because
there's  going  to be no limit to what British industry can do in the future--why, only during the last few weeks one of our war factories turned
to  making  motor-cycles--we're  snowed  under  with  orders already, simply can't cope with them." This was vaguely pleasant news to the family,
though business was always tiresome--and yet, what else was there to talk about? Then somebody thought of the biography, and George asked Sheldon
his opinion of it.

"I looked it over, sir, and it seemed quite respectably written."

"Respectably--or respectfully?" put in Julian, staking out his epigram rather faster than usual.

"Both, I think, sir."

Sheldon  smiled,  and  then all of them, except Charles, began to laugh, as if suddenly realizing that there was no reason why they shouldn't. In
the midst of the laughter Chetwynd glanced across the table and caught a ready eye. "How about an adjournment to the library, Truslove?"

Half  an hour later the secrets were known, and there was nothing very startling about them. The bulk of Henry Rainier's fortune, amounting after
payment  of  death  duties to over one million eight hundred thousand pounds, was divided equally between six of the children enumerated by name,
except  that  Chetwynd,  because  of  seniority  and closer contacts with the industrial firms, took over a few additional controlling interests.
Stourton was also left to him, as well as the town house in London. A few heirlooms went to various members of the family; there were bequests to
servants and a few small gifts to charity. Charles, of course, was not mentioned.

The  whole revelation was so unspectacular that when Truslove had folded up the will and replaced it in his pocket there was a general feeling of
relief  and  anticlimax. Any faint fears the family might have entertained (and there always are such faint fears where money is concerned) could
now be disbanded; they were all going to stay comfortably rich for the rest of their lives--even richer than most of them had anticipated.

Sheldon  had  not  been  present during the actual will-reading, but when he next entered Chetwynd was the first to address him, almost jauntily:
"Well, Sheldon, he remembered you. You get a thousand."

"That was very generous of Mr. Rainier."

"And  if you take my advice you'll put it back in the firm--wonderful chance to double or treble it. . . . However, we can discuss that later. By
the way, I'm taking it for granted you'll stay with me here?"

"I shall be very pleased to do so, Mr. Chetwynd."

Chet,  it  was  clear,  was  already seeing himself an Industrial Magnate, Master of Stourton, and Supreme Arbiter of Family Affairs. There was a
touch  of  childishness in his attitude that prevented it from being wholly unpleasant. Having made his gesture, he now turned to Truslove, whose
eye still watchfully waited. "Now, old chap, before we close the meeting, I think you've something else to say."

Truslove rose, cleared his throat, and began by remarking that it was perhaps appropriate at such a moment to turn from a sad event to one which,
by  being  almost  contemporaneous,  had undoubtedly served to balance pleasure against pain, gain against loss. Indeed, had the late Mr. Rainier
been  permitted  to  learn  of  it, who knows but what . . . However, they knew his views about THAT, and the differences that had arisen between
himself and Dr. Sanderstead; death had put an end to them, so it was perhaps unnecessary to refer to them again. What he did feel was undoubtedly
what  they  all  felt--a  desire to welcome Mr. Charles to their midst and to assure him of their unbounded joy at the extraordinary good fortune
that  had befallen him. "We don't pretend to understand exactly how it happened, Mr. Charles, but a very famous hymn informs us that God moves in
a mysterious way." A little titter all around the room. "And if our congratulations may have seemed either belated or lacking in expression, I am
sure you will make allowances at this troubled time."

Charles  bowed  slightly.  He  did  not think their congratulations either belated or lacking in expression--indeed, his chief complaint was that
there had been so many of them so many times repeated.

The  lawyer  continued: "Now I come to a matter nearer to my own province, and one that I must deal with directly and briefly. It has seemed both
to  Mr. Chetwynd, as the future head of the family concerns, and to myself, as representing in some sense the wishes which I feel would have been
those  of  the late Mr. Rainier, a man whom it was my privilege to know for over forty years, and whose probable intentions I can therefore speak
of with some justification . . ."

And  so  on.  What  had  happened,  clearly,  was  that  Truslove,  having lost his battle with the doctors, had talked the family into an equity
settlement--each  of them agreeing to sacrifice a seventh part of his or her bequest in order that Charles should acquire an equal share. Dressed
up  in  legal jargon, and with a good deal of smooth talk about "justice" and "common fairness," the matter took ten minutes to enunciate, during
which  time Charles sat back in his chair, glancing first at one face and then at another, feeling that nothing could have been less enthusiastic
than  (except  for  Chet's  and  Bridget's)  their  occasional  smiles  of  approval. Chet was expansive, like Santa Claus basking in an expected
popularity;  Bridget  was  sweet  and  ready  with a smile, as always. But the others were grimly resigned to doing their duty in the most trying
possible  circumstances--each  of  them saying goodbye to forty thousand pounds with a glassy determination and a stiff upper lip. They were like
boys  at  a  good  English school curbing their natural inclinations in favour of what had been successfully represented to them as "the thing to
do."  Truslove  must have given them a headmasterly pi-jaw, explaining just where their duty lay and how inevitably they must make up their minds
to  perform  it;  Chet  had probably backed him up out of sheer grandiloquence--"Damn it all, we MUST give the fellow a square deal"; begun under
such  auspices  the  campaign  could not have failed. But when Charles looked at George, and Julia, and Jill, and Julian, and Lydia, he knew they
were  all  desperately  compelling  themselves to swallow something unpleasant and get it over; which gave him a key to the mood in which he felt
most of them regarded him: he was just a piece of bad luck, like the income tax or a horse that comes in last.

Suddenly  he  found  himself  on  his feet and addressing them; it was almost as if he heard his own voice, spoken by another person. "I'm sure I
thank you all very much, and you too, Truslove. The proposal you've outlined is extremely generous--TOO generous, in fact. I'm a person of simple
tastes--I  need  very  little  to live comfortably on--in fact the small income I already have is ample. So I'm afraid I can't accept your offer,
though I do once again thank you for making it."

He  looked  round  their  faces again, noting the sudden amazement and relief in the eyes of some of them--especially Chet's wife, Lydia. Clearly
they  had  never  contemplated  the  possibility  of his refusing. That began to amuse him, and then he wondered whether his refusal had not been
partly  motivated  by  a curiosity to see how they would take it. He really hadn't any definite inclination, either to have the money or not; but
his lack of desire for it himself was certainly not balanced by any particular wish that they should be enriched.

Truslove  and  Chetwynd  were on their feet with an instant chorus of objections. Truslove's were doubtless sincere--after all, he had nothing to
lose.  But  Chet--was  it  possible  that  HIS  protests  were waging sham war against an imperceptible hope that had dawned in him, a hope quite
shamelessly  reflected  in  the eyes of his wife? Was he seeking to employ just a featherweight too little persuasion to succeed? Charles did not
believe  that  Chet would have attempted this balancing act if left to himself, but there was Lydia by his side, and he was undoubtedly afraid of
her.  Nevertheless  he kept up the protesting, and Charles kept up the refusal; the whole family then began to argue about it, with more vehement
generosity now that they felt the issue was already decided; but they made the mistake of keeping it up too long, for Charles suddenly grew tired
and exclaimed: "All right then, if you all insist, I'll agree to take it."

Truslove beamed on what he imagined to be his own victory; Chet, after a second's hesitation, came across the room and shook Charles by the hand.
"Fine,  old  chap.  . . . Now we're all set and Truslove can do the rest." But the others could only stare in renewed astonishment as they forced
deadly smiles into the supervening silence.

There  were  papers  they all had to sign; then Charles escaped upstairs. His room was the one he had slept in as a boy, though it had since been
refurnished  more  opulently;  it expanded at one corner into a sort of turret, windowed for three-fourths of the circle, and from this viewpoint
the  vista  of  gardens and skyline was beautiful even towards dusk on a gray day. He was staring at it when Kitty entered. "Oh, Uncle Charles, I
MUST show you this--it's in today's Times. . . ." She held out the paper, folded at the column of obituary appreciations. The item she pointed to
ended as follows:--

A lifelong individualist, there was never any wavering in his political and economic outlook, while his contributions to the cause of Free Trade,
both  financially  and  by  utterance,  were continual and ungrudging. A man whose character more easily won him the respect of his foes than the
applause  of  the  multitude,  he  rightly  concentrated  on  an industrial rather than a political career, and though his representation of West
Lythamshire  in the Conservative interest had been in the strictest sense uneventful, his influence behind the political scene was never entirely
withdrawn, nor did his advice go long unsought.

"Uncle Charles, what does it mean?"

"It's just something--that somebody's written."

"But I can't understand it--at least, I can understand some of the words, but they don't seem to mean anything. It's about HIM, isn't it?"

He  answered  then,  forgetting  whom  he  was  addressing: "It's a charming letter about my father from a man who probably knew him slightly and
disliked him intensely."

"Why did he dislike him?"

He tried to undo the remark. "Stupid of me to say that--maybe he didn't dislike him at all. . . . Run along--haven't you had tea?"

When he had been her age there had been a schoolroom high tea, with Miss Ponsonby dispensing bread and jam and cakes.

"They're serving it now on the terrace. Aren't you coming down?"

Self-possessed little thing; not quite spoilt yet.

"I'll probably miss tea today."

"Don't you feel well?"

"Oh, I'm all right."

"Did it upset you, going to the funeral?"

"Funerals are always rather upsetting."

She still stood by, as if she wanted to be friendly. Suddenly she said: "Julian's very funny, isn't he?"

"Yes, he's quite the humorist of the family."

"He's going back to Cannes tonight."

"Oh, is he?"

"Do you mind if I smoke a cigarette?"

"A cigarette? Well--"

"I  do  smoke,  you  know--most  of  the  girls at Kirby do as soon as they get into the sixth." She had taken a cigarette out of her bag and was
already lighting it. "You don't mind, do you?"

"Not particularly."

"I knew you wouldn't. You don't give a damn about anything."

"Do they also say 'damn' in the sixth?"

"No--that's what Mother said to Uncle Chet about you."

"I see. . . . Well . . ."

"But I've got to stay here now till I finish it. . . . Don't you think Sheldon's rather marvellous?"

"Not only rather, but quite."

"I think he's the one who really ought to write a book about Grandfather."

"Not a bad idea--why don't you tell him?"

"I  did, but he only smiled. He's so nice to everybody, isn't he? We had a wonderful Christmas party here last year, before Grandfather was ill--
we  had  charades  and one of them was his name--SHELL, you know, and then DONE--but of course everybody guessed it--it was far too easy. Then we
had  Buffalo--BUFF,  the  colour,  and  then a Frenchman answering the telephone--and then the whole word BUFFALO in America. . . . No, it wasn't
Christmas, it was New Year, because Bridget and I had an argument about who had the darkest hair to let the New Year in with . . . but I did it."

"You would, I'm sure."

"Will Uncle Chet have any New Year's party this year?"

"I shouldn't think so. . . . Here's an ash-tray."

"What I really came for was to say good-bye. Mother wants to get away this evening." She held out her hand.

"Good-bye, Kitty--nice of you to come up."

He led her to the door. Then:--

"Uncle Charles, is it true you don't remember a thing that's happened to you for over two years?"

"Perfectly true."

"But how marvellous. Then ANYTHING might have happened to you?"

He  laughed  at  that  and patted her on the shoulder. "Yes, and forgetfulness may have its points. For instance, I daresay you'd rather I forgot
that you smoked a cigarette--or don't you mind?"

"Perhaps I'm like you--I don't give a damn," she answered, scampering out of the room. "Good-bye, Uncle Charles!"

When  she  had  gone he decided he had behaved pretty badly, encouraging her to smoke and swear; there was some imp of mischief in him that drove
him to such things, except that "imp" and "mischief" were far too cheerful words for it.

Dinner,  a  little later, proved another difficult meal. Julian, Jill, and Kitty had already left; others were planning a departure the following
day. Julia and her husband had agreed to stay over the New Year, "helping" Chet and Lydia. Lydia said: "Jill and Julian were anxious to say good-
bye to you, Charles, but they felt you mightn't want to be disturbed, especially as Kitty said you weren't coming down for tea."

He  smiled  and  said  he perfectly understood. Chet talked business again with Truslove, who was staying the night; Chet also drank too much and
said  that British business was headed for the biggest boom in history, by Jove, always provided the government would keep off their backs. Which
led  to  politics  and the family constituency of West Lythamshire: "I'm no politician, old chap, but still if the local association were to make
the suggestion . . . of course it's too early yet even to think of it."

But Chet evidently WAS thinking of it, readying himself for the doing of his duty, wherever it might lead him.

The  following  morning,  when  George  and  his wife had left immediately after breakfast, taking Bridget with them, Charles suddenly decided to
return  to  London with Truslove, who had a car. They drove away together, amidst noisy farewells from Chet and a few quiet words from Sheldon as
the latter stowed away the bags.

"Do you propose to stay in London, Mr. Charles?"

"I'll let you know, Sheldon. I'll be all right, anyway."

"I hope so."

During  the  journey  through Reading and Maidenhead he told Truslove he had been quite sincere in his original refusal of the equity settlement,
and had only agreed to it because it was what the family said they wanted, so if they now cared to go back on the decision; it would still be all
right with him.

Truslove, of course, replied that that was out of the question. "In fact, Mr. Charles, you seem to have given this matter far too little thought.
A quarter of a million pounds is not to be treated lightly."

"That's just the point. I don't know HOW to treat it."

Truslove  assured  him, entirely without irony, that there would be no trouble attaching to the inheritance. "The bulk of it's invested in shares
of the company--you'll merely receive the regular dividends."

"That  leads  me  to what I wanted to say. I'd rather not be connected with the family business at all. I'm not a business man. If I HAVE to have
the money, I'd like to sell the shares immediately and invest the proceeds in government stock."

"But, Mr. Charles, I--I really don't advise--"

"Why not? Isn't it possible to do that?"

"POSSIBLE, of course--the shares command a very ready market. But I couldn't ADVISE it--not as things are."

"That's  odd--I  always  thought you lawyers had a passion for government stocks. Aren't they supposed to be safer than anything else? What about

Truslove  seemed  disturbed  at  the  prospect of having to assess the relative merits of consols and Rainier ordinaries. "Naturally I've nothing
against  government  securities--no  one CAN have, and I should be the first to advise such prudence in investment, but for . . . well, perhaps I
may  let  you  into  a  secret--of course the whole matter's very technical and hasn't been settled yet, but it was on the cards when your father
passed  away and I think events will go forward a little quicker now . . . it's a question of refloating the entire group of Rainier companies on
terms  that  would  of  course  be very favourable to present holders. I can't give you any details, but you'll realize why it would be unwise to
dispose of anything at the present moment."

"Still,  I'd  rather you sell. I'm not interested in speculation and share movements. I really mean what I say, so don't wait for me to change my

"Of  course  if  you  give me direct instructions, I can't refuse. But you realize that, in addition to any question of capital value, the income
from government stocks will be very much less?"

"I  don't  mind  that,  either.  I'll  probably live very well on a fraction of it. Matter of fact, you might as well know my plans. I'm going to


"I  was  going to go there, you know, when war broke out--I'd already taken the entrance examination. Not a bad idea to go on where you left off,
especially if you can't think of anything else to do."

* * * * *

His  rooms at St. Swithin's overlooked the river and the Backs, and from the first January day when he settled in, he felt peace surrounding him.
It  was  not that he himself was at peace--often the contrary; but he always felt the rooms and the college weighing WITH him, as it were, in the
silent  pressures  of his mind. His rooms were rather austerely furnished when he took possession; he made them less so by books, pictures, and a
couple of easy-chairs, yet they still remained--as Herring, his gyp, remarked--a READING gentleman's rooms. After half a century of experience as
a college servant, Herring counted himself fortunate whenever a newcomer to his staircase entered that category.

Charles  had  visited Cambridge for a week during his last term at Netherton; he had then put up in back-street lodgings while taking the Little-
go,  which  had left him no time to make acquaintances or get much impression of the place except that he thought he was going to like it. He was
glad  of  this now, for it meant that no one remembered him and that his past life was neither known nor inquired about. To be a younger son of a
rich  industrialist  counted  for  nothing  among  dons and fellow undergraduates; that he had served in the war merely placed him among the vast
majority; and that he made few friends and liked to be left alone was, after all, the not unusual characteristic of reading gentlemen.

He  told  his  Senior  Tutor,  a  harassed  little man named Bragg, that he would like to take history; and a further interview with Werneth, the
history  don,  decided  him  to try for the tripos instead of an ordinary degree. So he acquired the necessary books, began to attend recommended
lectures,  and  dined  in  Hall  for  the  required nights each week--which is about all a Cambridge life need consist of structurally, until the
scaffolding is removed later and one sees how much else there must have been.

Sheldon  sent  him  news  from  Stourton fairly often, generally to say there wasn't any news. Still reading, however, between the lines, Charles
gathered  that  Chet and Lydia were failing to evolve a well-controlled household, and that Sheldon was less comfortable than in the earlier days
of  despotism.  Truslove  also  wrote,  reporting progress in his own sphere; transfers of property took time, and it was March before the lawyer
could  notify  him  that he no longer possessed any financial interest in the Rainier enterprises. The shares had been sold for seventy shillings
(fifteen  more  than the price at Christmas), and the purchaser had been none other than Chetwynd, who had apparently been glad to add to his own
already  large  holding. Truslove added that he regarded the price as satisfactory, though he still thought the sale unwise in view of a probably
much higher price eventually.

Charles wrote back that he was perfectly satisfied, and that if his "unwise" action had been the means of obliging Chet, so much the better. Just
about  then  came  the Easter vacation; he did not visit Stourton or see any of the family, but spent the three weeks in an unplanned trip around
northern  France,  visiting  Chartres, Lisieux, Caen, and Rouen. Returning to London the day before the Cambridge summer term began, he bought an
evening  paper  at  Victoria Station and glanced through what had come to be the almost usual news of famine and revolution somewhere or other on
the  Continent;  not  till  late at night, in his hotel room, did he happen to notice a headline on the financial page--"Rainier's Still Soaring:
Reported  Terms  of  Bonus."  He  read  that  the  shares  had  topped  five  pounds and that there was talk of an issue of new stock to existing
shareholders in the proportion of two for one. It wasn't all very clear to him, for he never studied the financial columns and did not understand
their  jargon;  but  he  realized that, from the point of view of immediate profit, Truslove and Chet had been right, and he himself wrong; which
didn't trouble him at all. He was almost glad for his own sake, as well as Chet's, for he would have had no use for the extra money, whereas Chet
enjoyed  both  spending  and the chance to say "I told you so, old chap." In fact he felt so entirely unregretful about what had happened that he
sent both Chet and Truslove short notes of congratulation.

The  next  day  he went to Cambridge and completely lost track of financial news amidst the many more interesting pursuits of term-time. He still
did  not  make friends easily, but he joined the "Heretics" and sometimes attended the weekly debating sessions over the fish shop in Petty Cury;
he  also  came  to  know  the  occupant of the rooms next to his on the same staircase--a high-caste Hindoo named Pal who was a mathematician and
perhaps  also  a  genius.  Pal claimed to feel numerals emotionally and to find them as recognizable as human faces; Charles took him first as an
oddity, then as a personality, later as a friend. He formed a habit of having coffee in Pal's rooms once or twice a week.

As  summer  came,  he  did most of his reading on the river, generally on the Upper Cam at Grantchester, and sometimes he would portage the canoe
across  the roadway to the deep tranquil reach beyond the Old Mill. One morning, having done this, he turned to the right, along a tributary; the
going  was  difficult,  for  he had to slide over sunken logs and push away branches that trailed in the water, but after an arduous yard-by-yard
struggle he was suddenly able to paddle into a dark pool overhung with willows; and there, as he rested, a feeling of discovery came over him, as
if  it  were  the  Congo  or  the Amazon instead of a little English stream; he felt strangely happy and stayed there all day till it was time to
return  for  tea at the Orchard, which was the Grantchester resort patronized by undergraduates. He was on friendly terms with the old lady there
who  served  strawberries  and  cream  under the apple trees, and when he showed his scratched arms and said where he had been, she answered very
casually:  "Oh,  you  must have been up the Bourne--Rupert Brooke used to say how beautiful it was there--HE got his arms scratched too." Somehow
the  whole incident, with its hint of something seen by no human eye between Brooke's and his own (highly unlikely, but tempting to contemplate),
gave him a curious pleasure which he felt he would spoil by ever going there again; so he never did.

He  got  on  well with lecturers and tutors, and soon acquired one of those intangible reputations, breathed in whispers across High Tables, that
rest  on  anything  except  past  achievement;  he  lived retiringly and took hardly any part in University activities, yet it had already become
expected  that  he  would  do  well.  Werneth  had  even consented to his taking the first part of the history tripos in July--after two terms of
preparation  for  an  examination  for  which most students took three, and some even six. "But you have a good background of knowledge," he told
Charles, adding with a smile: "And also a good memory."

On  an  impulse  he could not check quickly enough Charles answered: "It's odd you should compliment me on my memory, because--" And then he told
Werneth about his war injury, and the strange gap of years which he had christened in his own mind the Dark Corridor.

Werneth  listened  with  an abstract attention beyond the range of mere inquisitiveness. After the brief account was finished, he tore a sheet of
paper  from  a  pad  on  his desk and drew a large rectangle. "Not exactly my province, as a historian, but nevertheless quite a teasing problem,
Rainier. Your life, from what you say, appears to be divided into three parts--like Caesar's Gaul?"

"Or like Regent Street," Charles interjected, beginning to be amused.

"Or like a Victorian novel," capped Werneth, delightedly.

"Or like an artichoke," recapped Charles.

That  put  them both in a highly agreeable mood. "Let us call the parts A, B, and C," resumed Werneth, drawing verticals across the rectangle and
lettering  the  segments.  "A is your life before the war injury; B is your life between that injury and the moment in Liverpool last December 27
when,  according  to  your statement, you suddenly remembered your name and identity; C is your life since then. Now it is demonstrably true that
during Period C--that is to say, at the present time--you enjoy a normally clear recollection of both Period C and Period A, but not of Period B.
Am I right?"


"And it must also be inferentially clear that during Period B you could not have had any recollection at all of Period A?"

"Naturally not."

"Thank  you.  .  .  . There's only one thing more I should like to ask--and that is if I might send this diagram to my friend Dr. Freeman, of St.
Jude's, along with a brief résumé of the facts which it illustrates?"

When Charles hesitated before replying Werneth added: "I won't mention your name if you'd prefer not."

Charles  then  consented.  The matter was not referred to at his next meeting with Werneth, but some weeks later the history don asked Charles to
stay behind after a lecture. "As I expected, my friend Freeman found my notes on your case extremely teasing. In fact he'd very much like to meet
you if you haven't any objection. You probably know his reputation as a philosopher and psychologist."

Again  Charles was reluctant, and again consented on the understanding that his name was not to be divulged; so the curious meeting took place in
Werneth's rooms. The eminent authority talked to Charles for over an hour in a completely detached and anonymous way, stating as his opinion that
Period  B  would  probably  return,  though there could be no certainty about it or prophecy as to the time required. Charles had several further
interviews  with  Freeman, and began to take a certain pleasure in consulting an expert thus obliquely; he thought it typical of the amenities of
Cambridge civilization that such a plan could have been worked out to suit him. At the same time he came to like Freeman personally, so that when
his own identity became later revealed through an accident, it did not bother him much.

Charles  took  a  First  Class  in  the  first  part  of  the history tripos, which was quite a brilliant achievement in the circumstances. After
consultations with Bragg and Werneth, he decided to switch over to economics during the following year--an effective piece of specialization, for
he  had already gone a certain way in economic history. He was increasingly interested in the background of knowledge and theory behind the lives
of men, and the astounding clumsiness of world behaviour compared with the powers of the planning mind. To use Werneth's favourite word, he found
the paradox teasing.

During  the Long Vacation he stayed in Cambridge, putting in mornings and evenings of study interspersed with afternoons on the river or walks to
Granchester  through  the meadows; he liked Cambridge during vacation time--the quieter streets, the air of perpetual Sunday, the August sunlight
bleaching  the  blinds in many a shop that would not pull them up until term-time. Most of the bookshops remained open, however, and there were a
few good concerts. The two months passed very quickly.

Sheldon  wrote  to him every week, but with no news except of domestic trouble at Stourton--an outbreak of petty thefts due (Charles could judge)
to  Chet's refusal to back up Sheldon in some earlier trouble with one of the gardeners. Now that it was too late, Chet seemed to be handling the
matter  rather unfortunately, dealing out wholesale dismissals to servants who had given years of service, and leaving a staff both too small and
too  disgruntled  to work well. Chet also wrote, giving his side of the question, casting doubts on Sheldon's efficiency, and asking how Charles,
as  one of the family, would feel about selling the place. Charles replied instantly that Chet should sell by all means; Stourton was far too big
for any modern uses, and family sentiment should not weigh against common sense. Chet did not reply to that, but a few weeks later, at Cambridge,
Charles heard from Truslove that Stourton was on the market, but wouldn't be easy to sell "in these days."

Then  one  Saturday,  returning  to  his  rooms from a lecture, he found Kitty sprawled on a sofa and Herring teetering doubtfully in the pantry.
"Hello, Uncle Charles," she cried loudly, and then added in a whisper: "That's for HIS benefit. He didn't believe me--I could see that."

"But why didn't you tell me you were coming?" Charles began, trying to infuse a note of mild pleasure into his astonishment.

"Because you'd probably have told me not to," she answered promptly.

He admitted he probably would, and then asked why she HAD come.

"It's my birthday."

"Is it? But--well, many happy returns--but--"

"Uncle  Chet  promised me a big party at Stourton, but he cancelled it at the last moment because he said Aunt Lydia wasn't very well, and as I'd
already got leave of absence from Kirby I didn't feel I could WASTE the week-end."

"But you're not intending to stay here for the whole week-end, are you?"

"Oh yes, I've taken a room at the Bull. Surprising what a girl can do by herself these days."

"But if they find out--at Kirby--"

"That  I've  been visiting one uncle instead of another? Will it matter? And I don't really care if they DO find out--I'm tired of school anyway.
I'd like to go to Newnham."

"Anything wrong with Somerville at Oxford?"

"Oh, how you'd loathe to have me anywhere around, wouldn't you?"

He began to laugh and suggested taking her to lunch.

"Can't I have lunch here--in the college?"


"Well, that's better than the little German at our school who pretends to be French and gives us art lessons--he gets in an awful temper and then
says, 'In one word I vill not have it.'"

They  lunched  at  Buol's,  in  King's  Parade,  and  afterwards he said: "Now, young lady, having invited yourself here, you'll have to take the
consequences.  My  usual way of spending an afternoon is to punt up the river, and I don't care how dull you find it, it's either that or off you
go on your own."

"But I don't mind at all--I can punt awfully well."

"You won't get the chance--I'LL do the punting."

But  she lazed quite happily during the hour-long journey, chatting all the time about school, life, the family, herself, and himself. "It's made
a  great  difference,  you  passing that examination, Uncle Charles. I believe the family had an idea you were a bit queer till you did that--now
they still think you're queer, but a marvel too. You've quite pushed Uncle Julian off the shelf as the one in the family with brains."

He  made  no  comment;  the  effort of digging the pole in and out of the river-bed gave him an easy excuse for silence. He didn't dislike Kitty,
indeed there were certain qualities in her--or perhaps there was only one quality--that definitely attracted him.

She went on: "Of course the family don't really RESPECT brains--they just have a scared feeling that brains might come in handy some day."

"What makes you say that?"

"Oh, I don't know--just the general atmosphere before Mother went away. She's at Cannes, you know--staying with Uncle Julian."

They  had  tea at the Orchard and then returned to her hotel for dinner. "I'm glad you're showing up with me here," she said, as they entered the
lobby, he in cap and gown as prescribed by University regulations for all undergraduates after dark. "It lets them know I'm respectable even if I
AM only fifteen. . . . By the way, how old are YOU?"


"Do you FEEL twenty-six?"

"Sometimes I feel ninety-six--so I try not to bother about how I feel."

"Are you HAPPY?"

"Oh, happy enough."

"Can you remember ever being TERRIBLY happy?"

He  pondered.  "Once  when  I  was  a small boy and Sheldon visited us at Brighton for some reason, and HE took me for a walk along the Promenade
instead of Miss Ponsonby." He laughed. "Such a thrill."

She  laughed also. "And I was happiest once when I'd had a toothache and it began to stop. Before it FINISHED stopping. I really enjoyed the last
bit of the pain."

"Morbid creature."

"But pain is part of love, isn't it?"

He was studying the menu. "At the moment I'm rather more concerned with the question of steak versus lamb chops."

"You  WOULD say that, but you don't really mean it. . . . Oh, and another time I was happy was Armistice Night, at school. So wonderful, to think
the  war  was all over, wasn't it? Like waking up on end-of-term morning and realizing it's really come. But somehow everything's been a bit of a
let-down  since,  don't you think? I mean, if you stop now and say to yourself, the war's over, the war's over, it can't keep on making you happy
as it did that first night, can it?"

"I've practically decided on steak. What about you?"

"Uncle Charles, are you sorry I came here to see you?"

"Well, I'm a little puzzled about what to do with you tomorrow."

"I'd like to do whatever you were going to do."

"That's well meant, but I don't think it would work. I intended to read most of the day and go to a concert in the afternoon."

"I'd love the concert."

"I don't expect you would. Beethoven Quartets make no attempt to be popular."

"Neither do you, Uncle Charles, but _I_ don't mind."

He  smiled,  appreciating  the repartee whilst resolute to make no concessions throughout the rest of the evening and the following day; he would
teach  her to play truant from school and fasten herself on him like that. After a long and, he hoped, exhausting walk on Sunday morning, he took
her to the concert in the afternoon, and in the evening saw her off on the train with much relief and a touch of wry amusement.

"Uncle Charles, you've been so SWEET to me."

"I haven't been aware of it."

"Would you really mind if I were to come to Newnham?"

"It isn't in my power to stop you. But don't imagine you'd see much of me--the Newnham rules wouldn't allow it, for one thing."

"Do you think Newnham would be good for me?"

"Another question is would you be good for Newnham?"

"Won't you be serious a moment? I wish you'd write to Mother and tell her it would be good for me."

"Oh, I don't know that I could do that. It's for her and you to decide."

"She says she doesn't think she can afford it these days."

"Not  AFFORD  it?  Surely--"  But  that, after all, wasn't his business either. If Jill thought she could afford expensive cruises and winterings
abroad, and yet decided to economize on her daughter's education--well, it still remained outside his province.

The  girl  added, as the train came in: "It's because trade's not so good, or something. I think that's really why Uncle Chet cancelled my party,
not because of Aunt Lydia." She mimicked Chet as she added: "Time for economies, old chap."

"I don't think you really know anything about it. After all, a party wouldn't cost--"

"I  know,  but  Uncle  Chet wouldn't think of that. There's nobody worse than a scared optimist." She gave him a look, then added: "I suppose you
think I heard somebody say that? Well, I didn't--I thought it out myself. I'm not the fool you think I am."

"I don't think you're a fool at all. But I don't see how you can know much about financial matters."

"Oh,  can't  I? Uncle Chet used to rave so much about Rainier shares whenever I saw him that I and a lot of other girls at Kirby clubbed together
and bought some. We look at the price every morning."

He  said  sternly: "I think you're very foolish. You and your friends should have something better to spend your time on--and perhaps your money,
too. . . . Good-bye."

The train was moving. "Good-bye, Uncle Charles."

Returning to St. Swithin's in the mellow October twilight he pondered on that phrase "in these days." Truslove had used it in connection with the
possible  sale of Stourton, and now Jill also, about the expense of sending Kitty to college. Always popular as an excuse for action or inaction,
and  uttered by Englishmen in 1918 and 1919 with a hint of victorious pride, it had lately--during 1920--turned downwards from the highest notes.
There  was  nothing  gloomy yet, nothing in the nature of a dirge; just an allegro simmering down to andante among business men and stockbrokers.
Trade,  of  course,  had been so outrageously and preposterously good that there was nothing for the curve to do except flatten; the wild boom on
the  markets could not continue indefinitely. Charles looked up Rainier shares in The Times when he got back to his rooms; he found they stood at
four  pounds after having been higher--which, allowing for the bonus, really meant that the shares he had sold to Chet for seventy shillings were
now  more than twice the price. Chet shouldn't worry--and yet, according to Kitty, he WAS worrying--doubtless because there had been a small fall
from the peak. Her comment had been shrewd--nobody like a scared optimist.

The  next  morning  at  breakfast  his  thoughts  were enough on the subject for him to glance at the later financial news, which informed him by
headline  that  Rainier's  had  announced  an interim dividend of 10 per cent, as against 15 the previous year. It seemed to him good enough, and
nothing  for  anyone  to  worry  about,  but by evening as he walked along Petty Cury the newsboys were carrying placards, "Slump on 'Change" and
"Rainier Jolts Markets." He found that the reduced dividend had tipped over prices rather as an extra brick on a child's toy tower will send half
of  it  toppling. Rainier's had fallen thirty shillings during the day's trading, and other leading shares proportionately. It had been something
that sensational journalism delighted to call a "Black Monday."

Still he did not think there was anything much to worry about. The theoretical study of economics was far removed from the practical guesswork of
Throgmorton  Street,  and his reading of Marshall and Pigou had given him no insight into the psychology of speculation. For a week afterwards he
ignored  the  financial  pages,  being  temperamentally as well as personally disinterested in them; not till he received an alarming letter from
Sheldon  did he search the financial lists again to discover that in the interval Rainier ordinaries had continued their fall from two pounds ten
to seventeen shillings. And even then his first thought was a severely logical one--that they were either worth more than that, or else had never
been worth the higher prices at all.

Sheldon wrote that Chet was terribly worried, had been having long consultations with bank and Stock Exchange people, and had stayed all night in
his  City  office on several occasions. Charles could not understand that; what had bank or Stock Exchange people got to do with the firm? Surely
the  Rainier  business  was  principally carried on at Cowderton and other places, not in the City of London; and as for the falling price of the
shares,  what did it matter what the price of something was, if you didn't have either to buy or to sell? He replied to Sheldon somewhat on these
lines, half wishing he could write a similar note to Chet, but as Chet had not approached him, he did not care to offer comment or advice.

But  towards the beginning of December a letter from Chet did arrive; and it was, when one reached the last page, an appeal for a loan. He didn't
say  how  much,  but  no  sum,  it  appeared,  would  be  either  too small or too great; he left the choice to Charles with a touch of his vague
expansiveness,  assuring him that it was a merely temporary convenience and would soon be repaid. Charles was puzzled, unable to imagine how much
Chet needed--surely it couldn't be a small sum, a few hundreds, and if it were a matter of thousands, what could he possibly want it for? He felt
he  had  a  right to inquire, and did so. Back came a franker, longer, and much more desperate appeal, again saving its pith until the last page,
wherein  Chet admitted he had been speculating heavily in the shares of the firm, borrowing from banks in order to do so. At first the result had
been  highly  successful; his own constant buying on a rising market had given him huge profits, and with those (uncashed, of course) as security
he  had  borrowed  and purchased more. Then the inevitable had happened. Chet didn't put it in this way; he seemed to think that a conjunction of
bad trade, falling share prices, and a request by the bank for him to begin repayment of loans was some malign coincidence instead of a series of
causes and effects. If only Charles could help him out with ten or twelve thousand--he'd pay interest, let's call it a short-term investment, old
chap,  the  badness  of  trade  could  only  be  exceptional, Rainier shares were destined to far higher levels eventually--hadn't they once been
"talked"  to twenty pounds? And Chet added that he hated making such a request, and only did so because there was much more at stake than his own
personal affairs; Rainier's was a family concern, there were Julian and Jill and Bridget and Julia and all the others to think about. If he threw
his  own  shares  on  the  market,  it  would  make  for a further fall in the price, and that would be bad for the firm itself and so affect the
stability of the family property and livelihood.

The  letter  arrived on a Friday; Charles answered it that same evening, enclosing a cheque for as large a round figure as he happened to have on
hand, and promising more in a few days. But by the following morning the affairs of Rainier's had already broken out of the financial columns and
were  invading  the  news  pages  of  all the daily papers. Apparently the shares had crashed in the "Street" after the Stock Exchange closed the
previous  evening,  the  final  price  being a very nominal half-crown. Accompanying the collapse were wild rumours--some of them, according to a
discreet reporter, "of a serious nature."

That  sent  him  to  Bragg  to  ask for leave of absence; he then wired Sheldon and left immediately for Stourton, reaching the house in the late
afternoon.  From  the cars outside he guessed there was a family conclave before Sheldon told him who had arrived. He found them assembled in the
library,  already  in the midst of stormy argument. Bridget, who was near the door, said "Hello, Charlie," but the others were too preoccupied to
hear  this,  even  to  see  him  at first. It was curious to note the utter disintegration of formal manners in face of such a crisis; to watch a
favoured  few, long accustomed to regard the family business as a rock of ages cleft for them, suddenly contemplating phenomena so normal in most
people's  lives--the  uncertainties  of  the  future.  Charles stayed close to the door, reluctant to intervene; so far as he could make out, the
family  had  been heckling Chet for some time, for his temper was considerably frayed, and at one question he suddenly lost it and shouted: "Look
here,  I'm  not going to shoulder the blame for everything! You were all damned glad to leave things in my hands as long as you thought they were
going well--"

"As long as we thought you knew what you were up to--we never guessed you were monkeying like this--"

"God damn it, Jill--what did YOU ever do except draw dividends and spend 'em on Riviera gigolos?"

"How DARE you say that!"

"Well, if you can suggest there's been anything crooked in the way I've--"

Jill  was  on the verge of hysteria. "I know my life isn't stuffy and narrow-minded like yours--but did I have to travel all the way here just to
be  insulted? Julian knows what a lie it is--he LIVES there--he's been at Cannes all the season except when we went to Aix for a month--Julian, I
appeal to you--are you going to stay here and allow things like this to be said--JULIAN--"

George interposed feebly: "Steady now, steady--both of you."

Julia said, with cold common sense: "I think we might as well stick to the point, which isn't Jill's morals, but our money."

Jill was still screaming: "Julian can tell you--JULIAN--"

Everybody  stared at Julian, who couldn't think of a sufficiently clever remark and was consequently silent. Meanwhile Chet's anger rose to white
heat.  "Look  at ME--don't look at Julian! _I_ haven't had a decent sleep for weeks, while you've all been gallivanting about in Cannes or Aix or
God knows where! LOOK at me! I've put on ten years--that's what they say at the office!" And he added, pathetically: "To say nothing of it giving
Lydia a breakdown."

It  was  also  pathetic that he should have asked them to look at him, for his claim was a clear exaggeration; he certainly looked tired--perhaps
also  in  need of a Turkish bath and a shave; but his hair had failed to turn white after any number of sleepless nights. He was still expansive,
even in self-pity. Charles felt suddenly sorry for him, as much because as in spite of this.

Julian, having now thought of something, intervened in his sly, high-pitched voice: "I'm afraid it wasn't your looks we were all relying on, Chet
. . ."

Then  Julia, glancing towards the door, spotted Charles. "Ah, here's the mystery man arrived! Hello, darling! How wise you were to sell Rainier's
at three pounds ten and buy War Loan, you shrewd man! Come to gloat over us?"

It  was the interpretation Charles had feared. He stepped forward, nodded slightly to the general assembly. "You're quite wrong, Julia. . . . How
are you, Chet?"

Chet,  on  the  verge of tears after his outburst, put out his hand rather as a dog extends an interceding paw; he murmured abjectly: "Hello, old
chap--God  bless.  Caught  us  all at a bad moment. . . . And thanks for your letter--damn nice of you, but I'm afraid it's a bit late--a sort of
tide in the affairs of men, you know--"

Charles, not fully aware what Chet was talking about, answered for want of anything else to say: "I should have come earlier, but I just missed a

"You missed Chet's news, too," Jill cried, still half-hysterical. "Such SPLENDID news! I've been travelling all night to hear it--so has Julian--
would somebody mind repeating it for Charles's benefit?"

"I'LL tell him," Julia interrupted, venomously. "We're all on the rocks, and Chet's just the most wonderful financier in the world!"

"Except," added Julian, "a certain undergraduate who thoughtfully added a quarter of a million to Chet's bank loan by demanding cash."

Charles swung round on him. "What on earth do you mean by that?"

"Well, you sold your stuff to Chet, didn't you?"

"He wanted to buy--I didn't ask him to."

"But he paid you in cash."

"Naturally--what else?"

"Well, where d'you suppose he found the cash? In his pocket?"

"You mean he had to borrow from the bank to pay me?" Charles then turned on Chet. "Is this true?"

"'Fraid it is, Charlie. After all, you WANTED the cash."

"Well, YOU wanted the shares."

"Wasn't exactly that I wanted 'em, old chap, but I had to take 'em."

"But--I don't see that--surely I could have sold them to someone else?"

"Not  at  that  price.  You  try  dumping sixty thousand on the market and see what happens. I had to take 'em to keep the price firm. Isn't that
right, Truslove?"

Charles  peered  beyond  the  faces;  Truslove  was  standing in the shadows, fingering the embroidery at the back of a chair; leaning forward he
answered: "That was your motive, undoubtedly, Mr. Chetwynd. But I think we can hardly blame Mr. Charles for--"

"Is it a matter for blaming anybody?" Charles interrupted, with tightened lips. "I can only say that I--I--"

And  then  he stopped. What COULD he say? That he was sorry? That had he known Chet was having to borrow he would have insisted on selling in the
market?  That  if he could have forecast a crisis like this, he would have held on to his shares, just to be one of the family in adversity? None
of these things was true, except the first. He said, lamely: "I feel at a disadvantage--not having known of these things before."

"Well, whose fault was that?" Jill shouted at him.

"My own, I'm perfectly well aware. I took no interest in them."

"It doesn't cost you anything to admit it now, does it?"

There was such bitterness in her voice that he stared with astonishment. "I--I don't know what you mean, Jill."

"Oh, don't put on that Cambridge air--we're not all fools! And we haven't all got queer memories either! If you want my opinion, you can have it-
-you're morally liable to return that cash--"

Truslove stepped forward with unexpected sprightliness. "I must say I consider that a most unfair and prejudiced remark--"

Jill  screamed  on:  "I  said  MORALLY, Truslove, not LEGALLY! Isn't that the way you argued us all into the equity settlement with Charles after
Father died? We didn't HAVE to do it then! He doesn't HAVE to do it now! But what he OUGHT is another matter!"

Nobody  said anything to that, but Julian stroked his chin thoughtfully, while Julia stared across at Jill with darkly shining eyes. It was as if
the  family  were  at  last  converging  on  a more satisfying emotion than that of blaming Chet, who, after all, was only one of themselves. But
Charles  was  different.  He  took in their various glances, accepting--even had he never done so before--the position of utter outsider. His own
glance  hardened  as  he  answered  quietly:  "I'm still rather hazy about what's happened. Can't I talk to somebody:--alone, for preference, and
without all this shouting? How about you, Chet? . . . Or you, Julian?" Chet shifted weakly; Julian did not stir. "Truslove, then?"

The  room  was  silent as he and the lawyer passed through the French windows on to the terrace. They did not speak till they were well away from
the  house,  half-way  to  the  new  and expensive tennis-courts that Chet had had installed just before he decided to sell Stourton if he could.
Truslove began by saying how distressed he was at such a scene, as well as at the events leading up to it; in all his experience with the family,
over forty years . . . Charles cut him short. "I don't think this is an occasion for sentiment, Truslove."

"But  perhaps, Mr. Charles, you'll allow me to say that I warned Mr. Chetwynd a great many times during recent months, but in vain--he fancied he
had the Midas touch--there was no arguing with him. . . . I only wish he had more of your own level-headedness."

"No compliments either, please. I want facts, that's all. First, is the firm bankrupt?"

"That's  hard  to  say,  Mr.  Charles.  Many  a firm would be bankrupt if its creditors all jumped at the same moment, and that's just what often
happens  when  things begin to go wrong. I daresay the firm's still making profits, but there are loans of various kinds and if they're called in
just now, as they may be with the shares down to half a crown--"

"Is that a fair price for what they're worth?"

"Well, there again it's hard to say--always hard to separate price from worth."

"What will happen if the loans are called in?"

"The company will have to look for new money--if it can find any."

"And if it can't?"

"Then, of course, there'd be nothing for it but a receivership, or at any rate some sort of arrangement with creditors."

"May I ask you, though you needn't answer if you don't want--did Chet speculate with any of the firm's money?"

"Again,  it's  hard  to  draw  a  line  between  speculation and legitimate business practice. Mr. Chetwynd bought rather large quantities of raw
materials, thinking prices would continue to rise. In that he made the same mistake as a great many very shrewd and reputable people."

"Will HE be forced into bankruptcy?"

"A  good  deal  depends  on  what happens to the firm. If it weathers the storm the bank would probably give him a chance--subject, of course, to
mortgaging Stourton and cutting down personal expenses to the bone. That applies to the others also."

"I  see. . . . Now may I ask you one final question? You were saying just now that the firm will need new money. You know how much I have myself.
Would such a sum be any use in weathering the storm, as you put it?"

"That also is hard to say, Mr. Charles. I hardly care to advise you in--"

"I'm  not  asking for advice. I want to know how much the firm needs, so that I can judge whether it's even possible for me to save the situation
at all."

"I--I can't say, Mr. Charles. The whole matter's very complicated. We should have to see accountants, and find out certain things from the banks-
-it's quite impossible for me to make an estimate offhand."

"Well,  thanks  for  telling  me all you can. Perhaps we could return by the side gate--I'd like to escape any more of the family wrangle if it's
still in progress. . . ."

He  drove  away  from  Stourton  an hour later, without seeing the family again; but he left a note for Chet with Sheldon, saying he would get in
touch  within  a  day or two. After a dash across London he was just in time to catch the last train from Liverpool Street and be in his rooms at
St.  Swithin's by midnight. He had already decided to help if his help could do any vital amount of good. He couldn't exactly say why he had come
to this decision; it certainly wasn't any sense of the moral obligation that Jill had tried to thrust on him. And he didn't think it could be any
sentimental  feeling  about  the family, whom (except for Chet and Bridget) he didn't particularly like, and whose decline to the status of those
who had to earn their own living would not wring from him a tear. If sentiment touched him at all it was more for Sheldon and other servants whom
he  knew,  as  well  as  for  the  thousands  of Rainier employees whom he didn't know, but whom he could imagine in their little houses sleeping
peacefully  without  knowledge that their future was being shaped by one man's decision in a Cambridge college room. That aspect of the thing was
fantastic,  but  it was true, nevertheless. But perhaps strongest of all the arguments was the fact that the money didn't matter to him; even the
income  from it was more than he could ever spend; if he could put it to some act, however debatable, at least it would not be useless, as it was
and  always  would be in his possession. For his own personal future had already begun to mould itself; he would probably stay at Cambridge after
obtaining  a  degree.  Werneth  had  once  hinted  at  a  fellowship,  and  if this should happen, he would be enabled to live frugally but quite
comfortably on his own earnings.

End  of  term came a couple of days later; he returned to London and took a room at a hotel. Having conveyed his conditional decision to Chet and
to Truslove, he had now only to discover if his money had any chance to perform the necessary miracle. This meant interviews in City offices with
bank officials and chartered accountants, long scrutinies of balance-sheets and many wearisome hours in the Rainier Building, demanding documents
and  statements  that  took  so  long  to  unearth and were frequently so confusing that he soon realized how far Chet's slackness had percolated
downwards into all departments.

One  of the accountants took him aside after an interview. "It's no business of mine, Mr. Rainier, but I know something of the situation and what
you're thinking of doing, and my advice to you would be to keep out of it--don't send good money after bad!"

"Thanks for the tip," Charles answered, with no other comment.

During  the  next  two weeks it became a matter of some absorption to him to discover exactly what Chet had been up to. So far he hadn't detected
any actual crookedness--only the grossest negligence and the most preposterous--well, EXPANSIVENESS was perhaps again the word. Chet had not only
bought shares at absurd prices and in absurd quantities; he had done the same with office desks, with electric lamps, even with pen nibs. A small
change, apparently fancied by him, in the firm's style of notepaper heading had condemned enormous stacks of the original kind to waste-paper. An
ugly  marble  mantelpiece  in  Chet's  private  office had cost six hundred pounds. And so far as Charles could judge from his somewhat anomalous
position  of  privileged  outsider,  every  department  was  staffed by well-paid sycophants whose most pressing daily task was to convince their
immediate superior that they were indispensable.

By  Christmas  Charles  had  almost reached the same opinion as the accountant--that it would be folly to send good money after bad. Even a total
repayment  of loans would not alone suffice to lift the firm from the trough of depression into which the entire trade of the country was rapidly
sinking;  nothing  could  save an enterprise of such complexity but completely centralized and economical control. Without that a cash loan could
only stave off the inevitable for a few months.

On  one  of  those  oddly unbusinesslike days between Christmas and the New Year he lunched with Chet and Truslove in Chet's office and told them
this.  "I  must  be  frank,  Chet. I've spent a fortnight looking into every corner I could find, and I'm not much of an optimist as a result. It
isn't only new MONEY that the firm needs, it's new--well, new other things."

Chet  nodded  with an air of magnanimous comprehension. "You're probably right, old chap. How about a new boss? Suppose I were to swap round with
George on the board?" Charles smiled gently. "I know my faults," Chet ran on. "I'm a fair-weather pilot--good when everything's on the up-and-up.
Nobody  can  act and think bigger when times are right for it. But these days you want a chap who can act and think SMALL. That's what put George
in my mind."

Charles  was  quite willing to subscribe to a theory that left Chet holding all the laurels, but he felt he had to say more. "I'm afraid it isn't
just  a  matter  of changing the pilot. You've got to change a good deal of the ship. And you also may have to change the voyage--or perhaps even
lie up in harbour for a time and make no voyages at all."

"Just a figure of speech, old chap--don't press it too far."

"All  right, I won't . . . but take this lunch as an example. Although I'm a guest, you'll perhaps forgive me for saying it's a pretty bad lunch.
And  I know where it comes from--the canteen, as they call it, downstairs. And I've seen the prices on the menu, so I know your canteen is either
badly managed or a swindle or both."

"Well, maybe--but surely it's not so important--"

"It's one thing with another. The whole place wants reorganizing from top to bottom, and I can't exactly see George as the new broom."

"Well,  let's  assume  you're right--but the more urgent issue still remains. The banks don't give a damn whether the canteen serves good food or
not. They just won't wait for their money. What do YOU say, Truslove?"

Truslove  temporized  as  usual.  "I think we owe Mr. Charles a deep debt of gratitude for devoting two weeks of his Christmas vacation to making
this inquiry. I'm sure everything he has said is very valuable."

"But some of his cash would be more valuable still--don't we agree, old chap?"

"That, I understand, is why Mr. Charles has met us here--to give us his decision."

Both  of  them  looked  to  Charles,  who answered, rather hesitantly: "I was hoping you'd see what I'm driving at without forcing me to a direct
reply. In my opinion a loan or even a gift wouldn't help unless you completely reorganize the firm. That's all I can say."

"You mean your answer's a definite 'no'?"

"If you insist on putting it that way, but you've heard my reasons."

"Well,  I'm  damned."  Chet stared gloomily at the tablecloth for a moment, while the waitress came in with coffee. Transferring his stare to the
cup,  he  suddenly  turned  on her with a vehemence that almost made her drop the tray. "Call this COFFEE? Take it back and bring something worth
drinking. And what's the cause of the rotten meals we get here? Send up the canteen manager to my office afterwards . . . and let me look at your
hands! Why . . . damn it, I won't have this sort of thing--get your week's wages and don't come here again!"

Throughout all this Truslove and Charles had looked on uncomfortably. As soon as the girl, too startled and upset to make any reply, had left the
room, Charles said quietly: "I'm not sure that was very fair of you, Chet. She wasn't responsible."

"What more can I do? Her hands--you should have seen them."

"Yes, yes . . . I daresay."

There was a long silence. Then Chet exploded:--

"Well,  have  I  done anything WRONG? You talk about reorganization--what do you MEAN by it? If it isn't just a word, TELL me. Unless it's merely
that  you haven't got the courage to say outright that you're not going to risk your precious cash. I'd respect you more for saying that than for
hiding behind all this reorganization pi-jaw."

("Pi-jaw"--that was the word they used at Netherton for interviews with the head master. It stirred in him a little instant pity for Chet.)

"I'm not hiding behind anything."

"You mean you'd lend the money if we DID reorganize?"

Charles  was  silent  a  moment; Chet went on: "That's a fair question, isn't it, Truslove? Let him answer, then we'll know where we stand. Let's
have a straight 'yes' or 'no,' for God's sake."

"Very well, then . . . probably I would."

Chet  beamed.  "Fine, old chap. I take back any aspersions, God bless. NOW all you've got to tell us is what you'd call reorganizing. What have I
got to do? Or what's anybody got to do? And for that matter, who's got to be the fellow to do it?"

"I--I can't easily answer those questions, Chet. I'm not a business expert. It's hardly possible for me to suggest a new board, new managers, new
heads of departments--all out of the blue--in a couple of minutes."

"You think we ought to have new ones--all of them?"

"I do."

"You mean you've seen enough during these last two weeks to get an idea who's not pulling his weight?"

"To some extent, yes."

Then Chet, beaming again, played his trump card. "Well, all I've got to say, old chap, is--come here and do the job yourself." He kept on beaming
throughout  their stare of immediate astonishment. "Why not? Lend the money, then come and look after it. What could give you a better safeguard?
You  say  you're  not  a business man, but you know enough to have found out what's wrong--that's a good deal of the way to knowing what's right.
Truslove, arrange a board meeting or whatever there has to be and get it all fixed up. I'll resign, and then--"

Charles got up from the table and strode to the window, interrupting as he stared over the City rooftops. "But I don't WANT such a job--can't you
understand that? I've got my work at Cambridge--"

"You could go back there afterwards--putting things straight mightn't take you more than a few weeks, once you got down to it."

"But I've no desire to get down to it!"

"Then  it's  damnably selfish of you! Worse than that, it's nothing but hypocrisy the way you've led us on into thinking you'd help us! First you
make terms for getting us all out of a hole--then we agree to the terms--then you go back on them--"

"But I never made such terms! I never hinted at tackling a job like this myself! I don't even know that I could do it, anyhow."

Chet  shrugged his shoulder, turning round to the lawyer. "Well, that's his second 'no'--I suppose we'll just have to let the little tick go back
to his study books."

("Tick"--the  worst  term  of  Netherton  opprobrium,  and  one  that Charles had never used, even at school, because he had always considered it
childish.) Afterwards, walking disconsolately along Cheapside and through Paternoster Row to Ludgate Hill and his hotel in the Strand, he felt he
had considerably bungled the entire interview. He should have said "no" from the first; then there would have had to be only one "no."

Charles took over control of the Rainier firms in January 1921. To do so he obtained a term's leave of absence from St. Swithin's, smiling at the
tense in Bragg's remark: "You would have done very well here, you know."

"WOULD have? I still intend to."

"Well, we shall see, we shall see."

He  practically  lived  in  Chet's  office in Old Broad Street--no longer Chet's, of course, but he refused to put his own name on the door. At a
special  board  meeting  he  had  been  appointed  managing  director  with the consent of the bank creditors, to whom he had turned over his own
government  securities.  The  bank  men  doubtless smiled over the arrangement, since it was one by which they could not possibly lose; while the
family,  faced with even a thousand-to-one chance, grabbed it gladly if not gratefully. They could not get it out of their minds that Charles was
somehow taking advantage of them, instead of they of him; but if (as Kitty had said) they had ever had a scared feeling that brains might come in
handy  some  day,  this  was undoubtedly the day. The scared feeling developed until they actually believed in him a little, but without reasoned
conviction and certainly without affection--rather as if he were some kind of astrologer whose abracadabra might, after all, perform some miracle
of  market  manipulation. That, of course, was their only criterion of success; and it so happened that the mere closing of bear accounts sent up
the price of Rainier shares from half a crown to six shillings within a month of his taking control, a rise that considerably helped his prestige
though  he  made  no  attempt  to  claim  any.  Less  popular was his early insistence on economies in their personal lives, but after one or two
suggestions  had  been  badly  taken,  he  contented  himself  with  sending  each member of the family a personal note, merely conveying advance
information that the preference dividend that year would not be paid. (The preference shares were all held by the family.) Expected protests came
in  the  form  of a personal visit from Chet, telephone calls from Jill, Julia, and George, and a strong letter from Julian in Cannes. He took no
notice of any of them, his only concession being an offer to Jill to pay for Kitty's college education, if she still wanted one.

Kitty  came  to  his  office  to  thank him. "Sweet of you, Uncle Charles. But of course you don't mind my going to Newnham now you're not at St.
Swithin's--isn't that it?"

"Not altogether. Besides, I hope I'll be back there soon."

"You mean you haven't taken on this as a life-work?"

"Good heavens, no!"

"I hear you're dismissing everybody."


"And nobody wants to buy Stourton."

"That doesn't surprise me."

"Where do you live?"

"In a little apartment near the British Museum."

"How appropriate! Can I visit you there?"

"You wouldn't find me in. I work late most evenings."

"Won't you take me to lunch?"

"I was just going to ask you. But there's no TAKING--we have it here--on my desk. And it's pretty bad--though not so bad as it used to be."

She chattered on about her personal affairs, the new and smaller house Jill and she had had to move into--a little suburban villa at Hendon, with
only one maid--"and there's a house further along the road where a little man kisses his wife on the doorstep every morning at three minutes past
eight and comes running past our house to catch the eight-seven--just like you read about in the comic papers."

"I'm glad you live so near a station. It must be very convenient."

"I know--you think I'm a snob."

"Not exactly."

"Then what?"

"I'm not quite certain."

"You mean you haven't made up your mind?"

"That would be too flattering to your sense of importance."

"I believe you DO think about me, sometimes."

"Obviously--that's why it occurred to me you might go to college."

"Uncle Charles . . . what's going to happen to everybody . . . whether they go to college or not?"

"I don't think I know what you mean."

"I get terribly upset thinking about it sometimes. The little man who runs for the train every day--I'm not really a snob about him, I think he's
wonderful,  and  it's beautiful the way you can always tell the time by him, and the way he always catches the train--at least I hope he does, in
case somebody like you goes round his firm dismissing everyone who's late. . . . Oh, but what's going to happen, Uncle Charles--eventually?"

"You mean will he stop running?"

"Yes,  or  will  the  train  stop running, or will he stop kissing his wife, or will you stop being able to dismiss people?--I don't know, it all
seems so fragile--the least touch--"

"I've had that feeling."

"Oh, you HAVE?" Then pleadingly: "Don't make a joke about too much to drink, or lobster for supper. Please don't make a joke."

"I wasn't going to. There isn't any joke."

She said sombrely: "I know that too, and I'm only seventeen."

A  tap  came  at  the  door  and  a  young  man  entered  with  a sheaf of papers. When he had gone Charles scanned them through, then apologized
perfunctorily for having done so. "But you see, Kitty, I'm terribly busy."

"Perhaps I'd better leave you to it then?"

"If  you  wouldn't  mind." He smiled, escorting her to the door and saying as she left him: "I'm really glad you're going to Newnham. Write to me
when you're there and tell me what it's like."

Then  he went back to his desk. The papers included a list of names, over a hundred, of employees who would have to go that week. He glanced down
the list, initialed his approval of it, and passed on to another job.

(But what would happen to them? And yet, on the other hand, what else could he do?)

By Easter he had made economies everywhere, yet the continuing malaise of trade kept up a tragic pace. There were few positive signs that his job
could  be  regarded  as  approaching  an end, and it was small satisfaction to know that without his efforts the whole concern would have already
foundered  like  a waterlogged ship. As it was, the pumps were just a few gallons ahead of the still-encroaching ocean. Even the very energies he
devoted  to  the task, his frequent feelings of thanklessness and exasperation, fought for a continuance of effort; he was giving the job so much
that he had to give it more, because "if you work hard enough at something, it begins to make itself part of you, even though you hate it and the
part  isn't real." He wrote that in a letter to Kitty, explaining why he would have to postpone returning to Cambridge for another term. He found
he could write to her more freely than he could talk to her, and more freely than he could talk to anyone except Sheldon.

He  was  still  at  his desk in the Rainier office when Kitty left Newnham in 1924. The desk was the same, one of Chet's fantastic purchases that
were  really more economical to keep and use than to sell in exchange; but the office was different--no longer opulent in Old Broad Street within
a few yards of the Stock Exchange, but tucked away in an old shabby building off St. Mary Axe. Convenient, though--within easy reach of Mark Lane
Station, and near enough to the river to get the smell of the tide and an occasional whiff of tobacco from the big bonding warehouses.

Much  had  happened  since 1921. He had pulled Rainier's out of the depths into shallow water; there had even, during the second half of 1923 and
first  few months of 1924, been a few definite pointers to dry land. The preference dividend was now being paid again, while the ordinary shares,
dividendless  and  without  sign  of  any,  stood  at  twelve  shillings and were occasionally given a run up to sixteen or seventeen. Chet had a
continuing  order  with a broker to sell a couple of thousand at the higher figure and buy back at the lower; it was the only speculation Charles
would allow, but Chet derived a good deal of pleasure from it, imagining himself a titan of finance whenever he made the price of a new car. Chet
still lived at Stourton, though part of the place was closed up; it was really cheaper to live in a house one couldn't sell than rent another.

The  rest  of  the family had had to make similar economies, but the real pressure had been relaxed by the resumption of the preference dividend,
and they were all comfortably off by any standards except those of the really rich. Jill could afford once more her cruises and flirtations, with
no  handicaps  to the latter except advancing middle age and none to the former save an increasing difficulty in finding new places to cruise to.
Julia  and  her husband lived in Cheltenham, playing golf and breeding Sealyhams; George and Vera preferred town life and had taken a newly built
maisonnette  in  Hampstead.  Julian was at Cannes, doing nothing in particular with his usual slightly sinister elegance; once or twice a year he
turned up in London, took Charles for lunch to the Reform Club, and worked off a few well-polished epigrams. Bridget had married an officer in an
Irish  regiment and lived in a suburb of Belfast. She had had one child, a boy, and was expecting another. With George's girl and Julia's boy and
girl,  this  made  a  problematical  five as against seven of the previous generation, unless (as Chet put it) Charles hurried up. They were not,
however, at all anxious for Charles to hurry up; and as both Lydia and Jill were past the age when any amount of hurry might be expected to yield
result,  and  as  Vera  was sickly and Julia (so she boasted) had nothing to do with her husband any more, the ratio really depended on Bridget--
plus, of course, an outside chance from Charles. Nobody even considered Julian in such a connection.

Much  more,  though,  had  happened  between 1921 and 1924. The ancient Irish problem had apparently been settled; a conference at Washington had
arranged limitation of naval armaments between England, Japan, France, and the United States; someone had almost climbed Everest; the German mark
had  collapsed  and  French  troops  had  entered  the  Ruhr;  Mussolini  was rebuilding Italy and had already bombarded Corfu; there had been an
earthquake  in Japan, there had almost been another war with Turkey, there was still a war in Morocco, and there was going to be an exhibition at

By  1924  Charles  also  had changed a little. It was not so much that he looked older--rather that he seemed to have reached the beginnings of a
certain  agelessness that might last indefinitely. He kept himself fit with careful living and week-ends by the sea; faithful to memories, he had
bought  a  small house in Portslade that was not too expensive to keep up in addition to his London apartment--no longer the one near the British
Museum,  but  a  service  flat  in  Smith  Square. He worked long office hours, and had to make frequent journeys to Rainier factories throughout
England;  there  were  certain hotels where he always stayed, and to the staffs of these he was satisfyingly known as the kind of man who gave no
trouble,  drank  little,  tipped  generously  but not lavishly, and always appeared to be wearing the same perfectly neat but nondescript suit of
clothes.  The  fact  that he was head of the Rainier firm merely added, if it added at all, to the respect they would have felt for such a man in
any case.

In  1924  Charles  was thirty and Kitty nineteen. She had done well at Newnham, obtaining a second in the men's tripos examination, but of course
she  could  not take a degree. On the day that she finally left the college she went direct from Liverpool Street Station to the Rainier offices,
hoping Charles might be free for lunch; he was out, but found her still waiting in his private room on his return during the late afternoon.

"Oh,  Uncle  Charles, did you mind? I felt I must call--I feel so sad, I don't know what to do with my life--I've said good-bye to so many people
there seems nobody left in the world but you!"

He  laughed  and telephoned for tea. "I'm glad I never had the experience of leaving Cambridge knowing it would be for good. It was only going to
be for a term, and then two terms, and then a year . . ."

"And what now? Don't say you've given it up altogether."

"It must have given me up, anyway."

"But  that's  so  awful  to  think  of.  You  fitted Cambridge life, somehow. Remember that day I came from Kirby and waited in your rooms at St.
Swithin's--just like this, except that the chair was more comfortable?"

"I don't hold with too comfortable chairs in offices."

"But you DO remember that day?"

"Yes--and so does Herring, I'm sure."

"God,  I  always thought it was a shame to drag you from what you wanted to do to run a business, but I must say you've done it pretty well--even
Mother  admits that, but I'll tell you something that'll amuse you--just because YOU'VE done it she thinks it couldn't have been so very hard and
probably other people could have done it just as well."

"Probably they could. Anyhow, if it releases your mother from any embarrassment of gratitude, it's a thought worth thinking. Where is she now, by
the way?"

"Somewhere in mid-Mediterranean, drinking cocktails. Chet asked me down to Stourton for the week-end. Why don't you come?"

"To be quite frank, because when I do go there, I'm usually bored."

"You mightn't be if I were there too."

He  laughed and said he'd think about it, and after thinking about it several times during the next twenty-four hours he rang up Chet and said he
was  coming.  Chet  was  delighted. Apparently Kitty was in the same room with him when the conversation took place, because he heard her excited
voice in the background, then a scuffle to grab the instrument, and finally a torrent of enthusiasm which he cut short by asking to speak to Chet

He  enjoyed  himself at Stourton that week-end, and his lack of boredom was not entirely due to Kitty, for there was another guest, a man who had
travelled in China and was interesting to listen to if difficult to talk to--a division of labour which suited Charles; and there were also local
people,  agreeable  enough, who played tennis in the afternoons and stayed to dinner. Actually he did not see much of Kitty, who seemed generally
to  be  surrounded by handsome young men in white flannels, and when chances came to join her group he did not do so. He wondered why he did not,
and  with  a  touch  of  quizzical  self-scrutiny was prepared to diagnose even a twinge of jealousy; he would really have liked to, just for the
chance  to  laugh  at himself, but honestly he could not. Naturally the girl liked people of her own age; but there was another sense in which he
had  to  realize  now  how old as well as young she was; those youths treated her with such obvious worship, it would not be fair for him to come
along  with his usual offhand badinage as to a child, and so deflate her adult prestige. And yet that was the only way he knew HOW to treat her--
casually, unsparingly, never very politely. Perhaps that made up the chief reason he kept out of her way.

As  soon  as  the  dinner  guests  had  left on the Sunday evening, he began to make his own farewells, for he intended to drive off early in the
morning to reach his office by nine. Leaving Chet, Lydia, and Kitty in the drawing-room, he sidestepped into the library for something to read in
bed.  It  was  a superb July night; he did not feel sleepy, yet he knew he must sleep--he had a busy day tomorrow. One of the library windows was
open  to  admit  the warm breeze; there was a full moon, and the illumination, tricked by flapping curtains, played over the books like something
alive  and  restless.  He was fumbling along the wall for a switch when he heard a sound behind him. "Uncle Charles--don't put on any lights." He
turned round, startled. She went on: "Why have you been avoiding me? And don't say you haven't."

"Of course I won't. I have. I know I have. And this is why. I can tell you very clearly, because I've been thinking it out myself."

He made his point about her age, and the young men, and his own offhand manner. When he had finished she said: "It's TOO clear, too INGENIOUS."

"But don't you think one's subconscious mind does work ingeniously?"

"Maybe yours does. I'll bet it would."

"You see, Kitty, you're no longer a child."

"Oh, God--for YOU to tell me that!"

Suddenly  the  wind  dropped, the curtains ceased flapping, the moonlight seemed to focus in a stilled and breathless glare upon her face. It was
not  exactly a beautiful face, but he knew at that moment it held something for him, touched a chord somewhere, very distantly. He said, smiling:
"I'll try to practise company manners for a future occasion."

"No,  NEVER  do  that. Be yourself--as you were in all those letters. And if you'd rather have the Cambridge life than run the firm, then give it
up--before it's too late!"

"NOW what are you talking about?"

"You--YOU--because I'm always thinking about you. You're not happy--you're not REAL! But those letters you wrote were real--when you felt crushed
and  hopeless  and things had gone wrong all day, and you used to sit in your office when everyone had gone home and type them yourself, with all
the mistakes. . . . I suppose I'm being sentimental. The little college girl, treasuring letters from the beloved uncle who saved the family from
ruin.  .  .  .  But  haven't  you  FINISHED  that  yet?  Haven't you done enough for us? You pulled the firm through the worst years--now trade's
improving,  Chet  says,  so NOW'S your time to get free! Don't you realize that? You still hanker after the other kind of life, don't you--study,
books, all that sort of thing? When I came in just now and saw you in the moonlight peering along the shelves I could have cried."

"I don't see why. I was only looking for the lights and hoping there was a detective novel I hadn't read."

"But--but don't you want--Cambridge--any more?"

"I  wonder,  sometimes,  if  I do. . . . To grow old in a cultured groove, each year knowing more and more about less and less, as they say about
those specialist dons, till at last one's mental equipment becomes an infinitely long and narrow strip leading nowhere in particular--"

"Like the Polish Corridor!"

He laughed. "How do you think of such things?"

"My subconscious--like yours--ingenious. But never mind that--what DO you want to do?"

"You talk as if I'd been complaining. Far from it. I'm quite satisfied to go on doing what I am."

"Managing  the  firm,  increasing the dividends, refloating the companies, a regular Knight of the Prospectus, Saviour of the Mites of Widows and

"Now you're being sarcastic."

"Can't you think of anything you've ever wanted passionately and still--would like?"

He  said  after  a pause: "Yes, I can, but it's rather trivial. When I was at school I had a great ambition to paddle down the Danube in a canoe,
but my father didn't approve of the idea and wouldn't let me have the money for it."

"Oh, but that's not trivial--it's wonderful. And you can afford it now all right."

"The money, perhaps, but not the time."

"You ought to MAKE the time."

He  laughed. "If I can steal a quiet fortnight at Portslade I'll be lucky this year." He took her arm and led her towards the door. "And now, I'm
afraid, since I have to leave so early in the morning--"

"I know. You want to look for a book." She suddenly took his hand and pressed it over the switch. "Good night, Uncle Charles."

As  he  went  back to the shelves he heard her footsteps fading through the house--no longer a child, that was true, but she still scampered like
one. He searched for a while without finding anything he wanted to read.

Nineteen  twenty-five  was  another  improving  year,  the  year of Locarno, the false dawn. It was a year perhaps typical of the twenties in its
wishful  optimism  backed  by  no  growth of overtaking realism; another sixpence off the income tax, another attempt to harness a vague shape of
things  to  come  with the even vaguer shapes of things that had been. For the public would not yet look squarely into that evil face (publishers
were still refusing "war books") and few also were those who feared the spectre might return. The England hoped for by the majority of Englishmen
was  a harking back to certain frugalities of the past (lower and lower income tax, smaller and smaller government expenditure) in order to enjoy
more  and  more  the  pleasures  of  the  present;  the  Europe  they  dreamed of was a continent in which everybody placidly "saw reason," while
cultivating  summer schools, youth hostels, and peasant-costume festivals in the best tradition of Hampstead Garden Suburb; in exchange for which
the  City  would  make  loans, trade would thus be encouraged, and taxes fall still further. Mixed up with this almost mystic materialism was the
eager, frightened idealism of the Labour Party (both the eagerness and the fright came to a head a year later, in the General Strike); the spread
of  the  belief  that  the  League  of Nations never would be much good but was probably better than nothing, a belief that effectively converted
Geneva  into  a  bore  and  anyone  who  talked  too  much about it into a nuisance. Meanwhile a vast and paralysing absence of hostility gripped
Englishmen  from  top to bottom of the social scale, not a toleration on principle but a muteness through indifference; they were not AGAINST the
League of Nations, they were not AGAINST Russia, they were not AGAINST disarmament, or the Treaty of Versailles, or the revision of the Treaty of
Versailles,  or  the  working classes, or Mussolini--who had, after all, made the Italian trains run on time. Their favourite gesture was to give
credit  to  an opponent ("You'll find a good many of those Labour chaps are quite decent fellows"); their favourite conclusion to an argument the
opinion that, "Ah, well, these things'll probably right themselves in time."

And amidst such gestures and opinions the post-war England took physical shape and permitted itself limited expression. By 1925 the main features
were  apparent:  arterial  roads  along which the speculative builder was permitted to put up his £6oo houses and re-create the problem the roads
themselves  had  been  designed  to  solve;  the  week-end trek to the coasts and country through the bottle-necks of Croydon and Maidenhead; the
blossoming  of  the  huge  motor coach, and the mushrooming of outer suburbs until London almost began where the sprawling coast towns left off--
while  in  bookshops  and  theatres the rage was for Michael Arlen and Noel Coward, two men whose deft orchestrations of nerves without emotions,
cynicism without satire, achieved a success that must have increased even their own disillusionment.

In  this  same  year  1925  Rainier's made a profit that could have paid a small dividend on the ordinary shares; but Charles chose not to do so,
despite  appeals and protests from the family. And in that same year Lydia died of pneumonia, and Bridget had another baby, and Kitty got herself
engaged  to  a  young  man named Walter Haversham, who preached Communism at London street corners and had been to Russia. For six months she was
swept  by  an  enthusiasm  which  considerably  shocked  the  family,  but somehow did not especially disturb Charles. He saw her once carrying a
pictorial  banner with Wal (they called him Wal) in a May Day procession; when he met her some weeks later he chaffed her gently about it, saying
that  workmen  on banners always had enormous fists, whether for fraternization or for assault and battery he could never be quite certain--maybe
both.  He  smiled  as  he said it, but she suddenly flew into a rage, accusing him of being a coward who took refuge in cynicism from the serious
issues  of  the world. "And don't tell me I've lost my sense of humour. I have--I KNOW I have. There isn't any room for humour in the world as it
is today. And it's that English sense of humour, which everybody boasts about, that really prevents things from being done."

"You're probably right. But think of all the things that are better left undone."

"The day will come when men may be KILLED for laughing."

"And that will also be the day when men laugh at killing."

She  went  out  of  his office, banging the door. He did not see her again for several months--till after the General Strike in 1926. One day she
rang him up on the telephone. "Uncle Charles, may I come and talk to you?"

"Of  course."  He was about to add an invitation to lunch when the receiver was banged down at the other end. Two minutes later she came bounding
into his office.

"I rang up from just outside. I thought you might not want to see me after our last meeting."

"I don't think I should ever not want to see you. What's been happening to you all this while?"

"Not much. But I've got my sense of humour back."

"Where's Wal?"

"He's  gone to Russia--for good. You know, I really ADMIRE him. He has the courage of what he believes, he's going to become a Russian citizen if
they  let  him.  He  wanted  me  to  go with him--as his wife, but I just couldn't. I'm weak--I couldn't live in a little cubicle and learn a new
language  and  wear rough clothes--I'd die of misery, even if I really loved him--which I'm beginning to doubt, now that he's gone. I saw him off
at  Tilbury  and  felt  awful,  and then I went into a little pub near the docks and a fellow was standing in the doorway, playing a mandolin and
singing  with  his mouth all crooked,--you know the way they do,--and inside the bar there was a workman sitting over a glass of beer and looking
up at the other man with a funny sort of adoring expression, same as you see people looking up at the Madonna in Catholic pictures, and presently
he  said  to  me, quite casual, as if he'd known me for years--'Gawd, I wish I could do that'. . . and I wanted to laugh and cry together. I know
I'll never leave England as long as I live, so here I am--and Wal's in Moscow."

Nineteen  twenty-six  went  by,  the  year of the General Strike, and Germany's admission to the League of Nations; of an Imperial Conference and
trouble  in  Shanghai;  of  large  Socialist  gains  in municipal polls throughout England, and of Hitler's climb towards power in Germany. Trade
remained  good;  the stock market pushed up Rainier's to twenty-five shillings in anticipation of a dividend which Charles again declined to pay.
Nineteen  twenty-seven  brought  riots  in Vienna and executions in Russia; while for once Englishmen found themselves suddenly and astonishingly
AGAINST  something--they  were  against the Revised Prayer Book, proposed by the Church Assembly and sent to the House of Commons to be voted on,
according  to  the curious English custom by which a political majority decides the dogmatic beliefs of a religious minority. And during the next
year,  1928,  the House of Commons again turned down the Revised Prayer Book, as if it tremendously mattered. But this flurry of against-ness was
soon  exhausted,  and  Englishmen,  including  Members  of  Parliament,  resumed  their  benevolence towards most things that continued to happen
throughout the world.

And in that same year 1928 Bridget had another baby, her fourth, and Kitty got herself engaged again, to a young man named Roland Turner, who had
advanced  ideas  about  the  "cinema,"  and was understood to be working on a scenario or something or other that he hoped to sell for a fabulous
price to somebody or other, but was otherwise romantically out of a job--romantically, because he wasn't eligible for the dole yet managed to run
a car.

"And I suppose if he DID draw the dole and COULDN'T run a car, that would be prosaic?" Charles queried, when she told him.

"You still think I'm a snob, don't you? But I'm not--it isn't that at all--I'm just lost in amazement, because he always dresses well and goes to
the best restaurants, and has a sweet little studio off Ebury Street--I don't know WHERE he gets the money from, but I do wish you could find him
something to do."

"But I don't want any scenarios today, thank you."

"Not  THAT, of course, but he can do all kinds of other things--write and paint, for instance--he does marvellous frescoes, at least they say the
one he did was marvellous, but most of it came off during the damp weather. . . . He can paint machinery, too."

"Unfortunately we don't paint our machinery."

"Pictures  of  machinery,  I mean--he did one for an exhibition, symbolizing something--but I'm sure he could do a serious one, if you wanted it.
Don't you ever have illustrated catalogues?"

Charles smiled. "Suppose you bring him to lunch?"

They  met  at  the Savoy Grill; Roland Turner proved to be rather tall and thin ("lissom" was almost the word); his clothes were impeccable, with
just  a  faintly  artistic  note  in  his silk bow tie; his manners were perfect and his choices of food delicate; even his talk was sufficiently
intelligent  and  modulated  to what Charles felt to be an exactly determined mean between independence and obsequiousness in the presence of Big
Business.  Immediately  after  coffee  the  youth  mentioned an afternoon appointment and decorously bowed himself out, leaving Kitty and Charles

Laughing,  she  said:  "He's got no appointment, he's just being tactful--giving me a chance to do the Don't-you-think-he's-wonderful stuff." She
paused for a few seconds, then added: "Well, DON'T you?"

"He's a very personable young man, and if you like him, that's the main thing."

"PERSONABLE? What exactly do you mean by that?"


"Are you sure it's not something nice to say about someone you don't care for?"

"Not at all. I like him all right, and if there's anything he could do that I wanted done, I'd be glad to give him the job."

"He was wondering about Stourton--do you think I could take him down there to see Uncle Chet?"

"With what in mind?"

"You're so suspicious, aren't you? Well, he has ideas about landscape gardening. . . . Of course he knows Chet and you aren't my real uncles."

"I don't see how he knows that, unless you told him, and I don't see that it matters, anyway."

"I  had  to  tell  him--indirectly. You see, Mother discovered him first of all--in Mentone. He was staying with somebody there and they danced a
lot--Mother  and  him,  I mean. I think she rather fell for him, because when he came on to London she had him to stay at the house, with me as a
sort  of chaperon. We weren't attracted at all in the beginning, but I began to be awfully sorry for him when I saw how bored he was with Mother.
He has nice feelings, you know--I don't think he'd have found it easy to switch over if she'd REALLY been my mother."

"I'm afraid the point is too subtle for me to grasp."

"Well--like The Vortex, you know. . . . Of course Mother was furious."

"The whole situation must have amused you a good deal."

"Well, it had its funny side. . . . Of course his friends don't like me--they never thought he'd pick up a girl."

"Are you in love with him?"

"Yes,  I  think  I  am.  .  .  .  By the way, he's having an exhibition of paintings at the Coventry Galleries--you WILL come, won't you, and buy

He  promised  he  would,  and  went  to the private view the following week. He didn't think much of the pictures, but his private view of Roland
Turner  was  worth  the  journey--that suave young man, again impeccably dressed, saying the impeccably correct things about his own paintings to
patrons who greeted him as they walked around, striking another exactly determined mean, Charles felt--this time between modesty and self-esteem.
To  please  Kitty  he bought a picture for five guineas--a view of an English country house as Botticelli might have painted it if he had painted
English country houses rather badly.

"It's  really very odd, Mr. Rainier," said the young man, as Kitty proudly stuck the red star on the corner of the canvas, "but you've chosen the
best thing I've ever done!"

"Very odd indeed," Charles answered, "because I know almost nothing about painting."

Afterwards he took them both to dinner at Kettner's, encouraging them in a rather vulgar way to choose all the expensive items--caviare and quail
and  plenty  of champagne. Of course the young man was a poseur, but half-way through the meal he became aware that he himself was posing just as
artificially as the Philistine industrialist and champagne uncle. When Turner talked about Stourton (Kitty had evidently taken him there) and how
wonderful  it  was  to  own  such a place, Charles answered: "Oh, it's an awfully white elephant, really. The house is uneconomical and the farms
don't  pay.  If it were nearer London my brother could carve it up into building plots, but as it's only England's green and pleasant land nobody
wants it and nobody can afford it and nobody will pay a decent price for anything that grows on it."

"But it's a privilege, all the same, to keep up these old family possessions."

"It isn't an old family possession--at least not of OUR family. My father bought it cheap because the other family couldn't afford it."

"Well, he must have admired the place or he wouldn't have wanted to buy it at any price."

"Oh, I don't know. He liked buying things cheap. He once bought a shipload of diseased sharkskins because they were cheap and he thought he could
make a profit."

"And did he?"

"You bet he did."

"A business man, then?"

"Yes--like  myself.  But  rather  more  successful  because he had a better eye for a bargain and also because he lived most of his life during a
rising market."

Turner gave a somewhat puzzled sigh. "Well, well, I suppose that's the system."

"Except in Russia," Kitty interposed. Then brightly: "Roland's been to Russia too." She must have been remembering Wal.

With a slight awakening of interest as he also remembered Wal, Charles said: "Oh, indeed? And what made YOU go there, Mr. Turner?"

"I wanted to see what it was like."

"And what WAS it like?"

The young man smiled defensively. "I don't think I could answer that in a single sentence."

"Many people do. They say it's all marvellous or else it's all horrible."

"I didn't see all of it, Mr. Rainier, and I didn't think what I did see was either."

"So you don't believe in the coming Revolution?"

"I  daresay  it's  coming,  but  I  don't  particularly  believe in it." And he added, with a gulp of champagne: "Just as you, Mr. Rainier, don't
particularly believe in capitalism, though you go on trying to make it work."

"I wonder if that's true."

"The fact is, Mr. Rainier--perhaps we can both admit it after a few drinks--we neither of us believe in a damn thing."

Afterwards  Charles  regretted  the  conversation  and his own pose throughout it, but he remained vaguely troubled whenever he thought of Roland
Turner  and  Kitty; he slightly disapproved of that young man, and felt avuncular in so doing. He did not see them again that year, for they were
abroad  most  of  the  time,  and he himself had many other things to worry about. By April of 1929 he was so exhausted from overwork that, after
settling  an especially troublesome labour dispute at the Cowderton works, he went to Switzerland for a holiday, despite the fact that it was not
a  good  time  of the year--past the snow season, and before the end of the thaw. He stayed at Interlaken, in an almost empty hotel, and while he
was  there  a  letter  came from Kitty, forwarded from an address in Provence through London. He wondered what she was doing in Provence until he
read that she was with Roland Turner, who was engaged in painting a portrait of an Indian rajah. "He's a very fat rajah," she reported, "and he's
given  Roland  five hundred pounds to go on with, which I expect will be all he'll get out of it, because the picture gets less and less like the
rajah  every  sitting."  Charles  replied  from Interlaken, expressing pleasure that her fiancé had found such profitable employment--to which he
could  not help adding that the fee was much higher than the Rainier firm could ever have paid for catalogue illustrations. Two days later came a

During  the  intervening  day  he wondered at the possible cause of her visit, though capricious changes of plan were really nothing to wonder at
where  Kitty  was  concerned; the theory he considered likeliest was that the portrait commission had fallen through, and that she and Roland had
decided  to touch him, as it were, for a Swiss holiday. (He had already discovered, from other sources, that Turner's never-failing affluence was
bound up with his never-failing debts and geared by his skill and charm in cadging.) He did not mind, particularly; after all, he could always go
back to London if the situation became tiresome.

It  was  a  cold  bright day when he waited on the Interlaken platform. There was still a litter of shovelled snow in the gutters and against the
railings,  and  the train came in white-roofed from fresh falls in the Simplon-Lötschberg. She was dressed in a long mackintosh with a little fur
hat,  like  a  fez,  and  as  she  jumped from the train before it quite stopped, it was as if something in his heart jumped also before it quite

"Oh, Uncle Charles, I'm so happy--I was afraid you'd take fright and leave before I got here! It seems ages since I saw you. How ARE you?"

"I'm fine." (Breaking Miss Ponsonby's old rule.) "And it IS ages since you saw me--nearly a year. Where's Roland?"

"Not with me. I've left him. Take me somewhere for a drink--there was no diner on the train."

In  a  deserted  restaurant-café  opposite  the station she told him more about it. "I found myself getting SILLY--saying silly things to all his
silly  crowd--there's  a regular colony of them wherever he goes. But more than that--after all, I don't mind so much saying silly things myself,
but  it  got to the point where I didn't notice when things THEY said were silly. Softening of the brain--" She tapped her head. "I simply HAD to
take  it  in time. And I felt sorry for the poor old rajah. He was pretty awful to look at, but at least he knew what's what with women--which is
more than most of Roland's friends do."

"So I rather imagined."

"Of course YOU really fixed it--that night at Kettner's."

"_I_ fixed it?"

"I could see you didn't like him."

"On the contrary, I think I began to like him then--just slightly--and for the first time. He has his wits about him."

"He'd better have--they're what he lives by. But it's no good denying it--you DON'T like him. I could feel that."

"Well, I'm not as keen on him as you are."


"Oh, is it WERE? Well, in that case there couldn't be a better reason for breaking off the engagement."

"But it never pleased you to think of me marrying him. Did it now?"

"Why should that matter to you?"

"Because it DOES matter! I can't bear to do things you don't want, except when you don't want them to my face--like forcing myself on you here, I
don't  mind  THAT--"  She  suddenly  lowered her head into her hands and looked up a few seconds later with eyes streaming. "Can't you see you've
spoilt me for other men?"

"But, my dear--that's ridiculous!"

She  went  on:  "I'm  not  asking for anything. I can go back by the next train if you'd prefer it. I'll probably marry someone eventually and be
quite  happy,  but  it'll  have  to  be  a  man  whom you like fairly well, and who doesn't sneer because you do an honest job of work instead of
battening on rich people."

"Battening on poor people is more in my line--according to your former fiancé."

"Poor  Wal--I  often  wonder  what's happened to him--I really liked him more than Roland. . . . By the way, I saw the papers--you've been having
strikes at Cowderton, haven't you? Was it very serious?"

"While it lasted. That's really why I came out here--for a rest."

"Oh God, why don't you give the whole thing up? You've got enough money, haven't you?"

"For what?"

"To live on, for the rest of your life, at about a thousand a year."

"Depends  on  several  things--how long I live, how much a thousand a year will continue to be worth, and how long people will pay me anything at
all for not working. . . . But that's not the whole point, in any case."

"You  mean  you WANT to stay with the firm? It's still a game, as you said in one of those letters--a game you want to win even if it isn't worth
playing? Haven't you won enough? . . . Or maybe it's more than a game now--it's become the life-work?"

He  smiled. "Perhaps it's somewhere between the two--more than a game, but not quite a life-work yet. You know, when I first took over the job it
was  with  all kinds of reluctance--because I'd been more or less jockeyed into it by the family crying out to be saved. Well, that was the idea,
originally--to  save  'em  and  then be off quick, before they needed more saving. Rainier's was just something that kept the family going, and I
didn't  respect  it enormously for that. But then, when I began to look into things personally, I found it kept a good many other families going.
Over three thousand, to be precise."

"I see. Responsibility. Uncle Atlas."

"You  can  laugh  at  me  if  you like, provided you believe me sincere. I'm not a sentimentalist. I don't call the firm the House of Rainier, or
myself  a  Captain  of  Industry,  or  any  of that nonsense. But there IS a responsibility, no use denying it, in owning a three-thousand-family
business. If I can contrive a little security for those people--"

"But  there  ISN'T any security--as you said yourself when I asked you about your thousand a year. It's an illusion put up by banks and insurance
companies  and  lawyers and building societies and everybody who goes without what he wants today because he thinks he'll enjoy it more later on.
Supposing some day we all find out there isn't any 'later on'?"

"Then, my dear, will come Wal's revolution."

"And we shall all make a grab for what we can get?"

"Provided there IS anything to get by then. If the whole thing's an illusion, then the rewards may fade equally."

"Then you try to comfort those three thousand families by encouraging them to believe in a future that doesn't exist?"

"They  don't  believe in it. Every street-corner speaker warns them not to at the top of his voice. What I DO comfort them with, since you put it
that  way,  is enough of a regular wage to buy food and pay their rent and smoke cigarettes and go to the local cinema. That keeps them satisfied
to go on waiting."

"For the big grab?"

"Or for the discovery that there isn't anything left to grab."

"Which makes you one degree more cynical than they are. They don't believe in the security they accept because they're looking to the revolution,
but YOU don't believe in either the security of the present or the revolution of the future!"

"Your other ex-fiancé put it even more simply, my dear, when he said I didn't believe in a damn thing."

"Well, don't you?"

"That's what I've been asking myself very carefully and for a long time, and I still can't find an answer."

"Probably  because you've been asking it TOO long and TOO carefully. The answer to that sort of question ought to FLY out--like a child when he's
asked  what he wants for his birthday--he always knows instantly without having to think--either a bicycle or a toy-train or something. . . . Oh,
I'm  quite  happy  again  now.  I don't miss Roland a bit. Just talking to you freely like this makes the difference, though you don't talk to ME
freely--there always seems a brake on--I can hardly believe you once sent me those letters."

"Curious--I don't remember much about them. If you kept any, I'd like to--"

"Oh,  no, NEVER! That would be a really awful thing to do! And of course I know why you were so free in THEM--because you thought I was too young
to understand. I was only the vehicle--the letter-box, so to speak--where you posted them to another address."

A gleam came into his eyes. "What on earth are you talking about?"

"Well,  what  more  could  I have been in those days? Letters to a schoolgirl. . . . Of course I was crazy about you--always have been ever since
that  time  at Stourton when I came up to your room and smoked a cigarette. Remember? . . . It might be fun if you loved me now--we'd have a good
deal in common. I sometimes wonder why you don't."

"In my slow and careful way I've been wondering that too--ever since you stepped off the train."

"Well, why don't you--just to be curious?"

"I haven't said I don't."

"Oh NO!"

"Would it be so very incredible?"

"It would be FANTASTIC!"

"Then it IS fantastic."

"Darling, you don't mean--" She seized his hand across the table. "You're not saying it just to be kind?"

"I don't feel a bit kind. I fed--well, let's stick to fantastic."

"But I--I--I don't know what else to say for the moment."

"You don't have to say anything."

They  sat  in silence, his hand changing places over hers. A train entered the station opposite; the tick of its electric engine was like a clock
measuring the seconds. Presently she said: "There's the oddest thing in my mind for us to do--if it's all real and not a dream. Let's go down the
Danube in a canoe, as you always wanted."

"Yes, we'll do that. And up the Amazon too, if you like." His face was very pale. "I'll take a year off--from the firm and the City and the three
thousand families and everything else. Let someone else have his turn. . . ."

Back at his hotel that night he could hardly believe in the changed future; it was almost as if he had been another person during the day and was
now  perusing  with  amazement  a report of what had happened to someone else. He was not regretful--far from it--but a little bemused at so many
decisions  made  all  at  once,  somewhat  startled that they must all have been his own, yet ready to accept them with a loyalty that might well
become more enthusiastic when he had had a chance to think them over.

At  breakfast he compared notes and found that her emotions had been similar only as far as a doubt as to whether he could really have meant what
he  said  enough  to go on meaning it; he assured her laughingly that he had and did, and immediately happiness blazed across the rolls and honey
between  them  as they planned the trivial details of the day. The future was still fantastic to talk about, even to think about, and they agreed
for  the  time being not to give themselves the even heavier task of explaining it to others. No one expected him in London before the end of the
month  (the  Rainier board meeting was on the thirtieth), and no one knew she was not still in Provence, except Roland and his crowd, who did not
count.  Jill  was in the Aegean, cruising among the antiquities but taking (one suspected) very little notice of them. He and Kitty could have at
least  two  weeks  in Switzerland before returning to announce the astonishing news to the family and to the world. Of course they could send the
news  by letter, but somehow to pull the lever that would release all the commotion even at a distance required a certain fortitude; they decided
to enjoy those two weeks first of all.

And so began an interlude that might have been in another world, and almost was. They stayed for the first week in Interlaken, making it a centre
for  mountain  trips into the high Oberland. The weather improved after the last big snowfall of the year; the sun dried the drenched meadows, so
that  they  were  able  to  walk by the lakeside to Giessbach, and up the Lauterbrunnen Valley as far as the lower slopes of the Roththal. It was
pleasant  to  see  the industrious Swiss polishing up their ballrooms and cocktail bars and funicular railways in readiness for what was to come;
but  pleasanter  still  to  tramp along the cleared roadways in face of the sun and snow. During the second week they discovered the hotel on the
two-mile-high  Jungfraujoch,  where there was nothing to do but talk and absorb the physical atmosphere of being above and beyond the earth. They
liked it enough to stay there till the last day before the necessary return to England.

That  last  day  came,  and with it the descent to natural levels--a curious deflation of mood that was easy to interpret as sadness at leaving a
place where they had been so happy. Throughout the long rail journey through Berne and Basle to Boulogne the mood persisted--seemed impossible to
shake off, being perhaps a physical effect of the changed altitude, they both agreed. They reached London amidst driving rain and had dinner in a
restaurant near Victoria Station, saying all the time and over and over again how wonderful it had been in Switzerland and how sorry they were to
have  returned.  The  Rainier board meeting was four days away, and it was understood that no announcement of future plans should be hinted at to
anyone until then.

The  board  meeting  came, and with it all the commotion. He had not guessed how considerable it would be. He had suspected that the family would
not  be  altogether  pleased,  but  he hadn't realized they would have so many reasons for being displeased. He soon found that they regarded his
year's absence from Rainier's as a form of abdication amounting almost to desertion--in spite of the fact that they had long been jealous of what
they  called his "domineering" over the firm's affairs. Then also, those who had hoped their children would inherit his personal fortune strongly
resented his marriage to anybody at all; he hadn't anticipated that, even remotely. And finally, all except Jill (and in one sense even including
Jill)  were  manifestly  and desperately jealous of his choice. Only Chet seemed to have any genuine tolerance of the idea--a tolerance not quite
reaching  the  point  of  enthusiasm. He had so long joked about the need for Charles to "hurry up" that now Charles WAS hurrying up he could not
withhold somewhat rueful good wishes.

The party at Stourton to celebrate the engagement was not a successful affair.

Then,  in June, quite suddenly, Chet died after a heart attack, and plans for the marriage in July were postponed till autumn; it would have been
impossible, in any event, to leave England during all the legal complications that ensued.

The  marriage  was  finally fixed for October. Charles took Kitty to dine at Kettner's again one night in late September, and for some reason the
same  mood  came upon them as during the journey back from Switzerland five months before. She suggested that, on his side, it was due to news in
the evening paper--a big stock-market crash in New York, with inevitable repercussions in London.

He  was  too  honest with her to accept that as a reason. "I'm not a speculator. Rainier's dropped five shillings today, I notice, but it doesn't
affect  me  or  the  firm--they  can  go down ten times as much before it'll begin to worry me. Matter of fact, everything's been pushed too high
lately, especially in America. I could make a lot of money now if I backed my opinion."

"What opinion?"

"That the fall will go much further."

"How would you make money by backing your opinion?"

"Selling short, as they call it. That means--"

"I know--I learnt all about it at Kirby when we used to gamble in Rainier shares. Remember?"

"You must have lost everything."

"Nearly everything. About thirty-two pounds all together." She laughed. "Well, why DON'T you sell short?"

"I will, if it amuses you. But I'd have no other reason."

"Yes, do it--to amuse me. Please, Charles."

"Then  there's  two  things I have to do at the office tomorrow morning." He took out his notebook and made a pretence of writing something down.
"Sell short to amuse Kitty. Also get Miss Hanslett to send out the wedding invitations."

"Who's Miss Hanslett?"

"My new secretary. You saw her last time you called."

"Oh, that quiet girl?"

"I suppose she's quiet. I certainly wouldn't want her to be noisy."

"Darling, how soon can we leave--afterwards?"

"You  mean  for  our  world  tour? Maybe next month. It'll be too late for the Danube, though, this year. We'd better do the Amazon first. Or the

"No, not the Nile--Jill's there."

"What's she doing?"

"Looking at the tombs, I suppose, and having a good time."

But  the  laugh  they  rallied themselves into failed to shift the mood that made him, as soon as dinner was over, confess that he felt tired and
would prefer an early night in bed. He dropped her at Jill's new house in St. John's Wood, where she was living with a cook-housekeeper, and kept
the  taxi  for  his  own  journey  to  Smith Square. But his apartment seemed so inexplicably cheerless that after a drink and an attempt to feel
sleepy,  he  called  another  cab and drove round the West End till he found a film that looked tolerable enough for whiling away the rest of the
evening. He stayed in the cinema less than an hour, his restlessness increasing all the time, so that at last he walked out and paced up and down
the  thronged  pavements  till past midnight, longing suddenly for the sun and snow of the Jungfraujoch, yet knowing that it was only a mirage of
what he would still long for if by some miracle he were to be transplanted there.

Usually  when he could not sleep he was quite satisfied to stay up reading, often until dawn; but that night he felt he would be far too restless
to  concentrate  on any book, so he bought tablets and took several on his return to Smith Square. They gave him a heavy unrefreshing sleep, from
which  he  woke about noon to find a pencilled letter from Kitty at his bedside. It had been delivered by hand early that morning, and contained,
in effect, the breaking of their engagement and an announcement that she was leaving immediately to join her stepmother in Luxor.


The first gray smudge was peering over the hills and it seemed that we both saw it together.

"Well, we've talked all night--and for the second time. Aren't you sleepy yet?"

"No. . . . You were telling me about that letter, the one Kitty left for you. Didn't it give any reasons?"

"Plenty. But I really think we'd better go to bed if we're to be in any decent condition tomorrow. The crowd will soon be on us, worse luck."

"Then why do you have them here?"

"That's part of another story. Well, I must have a nightcap, even if it IS morning. Have one with me?"

We  went  down to the library, feeling our way in the dim dawn shadows without switching on any of the house lights. Meanwhile he continued: "I'd
show  you  that letter if I had it here, but it's locked up in my safe in the City. I admit I'm sentimental about it--a little puzzled also. It's
the  last  word  I  ever  had from her, except picture postcards from all kinds of places. What happened to her afterwards is what she said would
happen--except  that  it  didn't last for long. She married a man she met in Egypt--she was quite happy--and he was a man I liked when I met him,
but  I  didn't  meet him till after she was dead. He had plantations in the F.M.S. and she went out with him there and died of malaria within six

He  bent  over  the decanter, his shape and movements ghostly against the gray pallor from the windows. The moon had gone down, and it was darker
than at midnight.

"And then?" I said.

He handed me a drink and raised his own.

"The  rest," he declaimed half-mockingly, "is a simple saga of success. I flung myself into business with renewed but disciplined abandon: I sold
short  and  made  more  money out of the slump than I'd ever done out of ordinary trading; I accepted directorships in other companies and became
what they call 'a figure in the City'--I even assumed the burden of two other family heritages, by taking over Stourton and by allowing myself to
stand  for my father's old Parliamentary seat of West Lythamshire. And a few years later, my affairs having more than survived the storms of 1931
and  the  doldrums of 1932, I married a lady who had become quite indispensable to me in this struggle for fresh fame and fortune--Miss Hanslett,
the  quiet  girl.  That again turned out to be an astonishing success. You never know what these quiet girls can do. From being quiet, she became
one of the busiest and cleverest of London's hostesses--and the miracle is, she's STILL quiet--you'd hardly know the machine's running at all."

"So different from Miss Hobbs--but that, I suppose, is because you chose her yourself."

"Or  else  SHE  chose  HERSELF.  She  was just a girl in the general office first of all, until one evening I was working late and she invaded my
private  office to ask outright if she could work for me personally. Said she knew the other girl was leaving and she was certain she'd be better
than anyone else. After that I simply had to give her either the sack or the job."

"Anyhow, YOU made the right choice there."

He  laughed.  "Oh yes, and I soon knew it. She was everything she promised. I've nothing but praise for her. I'd never have made so much money or
acquired  such  style  in after-dinner oratory but for her. She's intensely loyal, tremendously ambitious for me, and personally charming. I love
her  more  than  most  men  love  their  wives.  She's  guided my career--in fact she's almost made a personally conducted tour of it. I never do
anything, in politics or business, without seeking her advice. She runs Stourton and Kenmore like a pair of clocks--she doesn't care if I'm in or
out  to lunch or dinner, or if I go to India or South America for six months or merely to Brighton for a week-end. She's everything a man like me
could  wish for in a wife--always provided--" He paused and took a drink, then added: "Always provided he's completely satisfied to be a man like

"And aren't you?"

He  took my arm. "Let's save up something for another night. I'm going to bed, and after all this, I really think I shall sleep. Tell Sheldon not
to wake me till the guests begin to arrive."

The  guests began to arrive in groups during the following afternoon, but I did not see Rainier till tea-time, when he appeared on the terrace to
greet  the  assembly;  and  from then throughout the week-end I had no chance to talk with him alone. Nor with Woburn either, for that young man,
after  initial  shyness,  turned  into  a  considerable  social  success.  Observing  him from time to time I felt there was a certain scientific
detachment  in his obvious effort to make good at his first fashionable house-party (he had told me it was his first, and that he had never mixed
in that class of society before); it was as if he were exploring himself, discovering his own powers; experimenting with the careless flatteries,
the  insincere attentions that make up the small change of such occasions; finding that he could do it just as well as people born to it, perhaps
even  a  little  better after practice. He was clearly a very adaptable and cool-headed young man, and the whole party was a good deal pleasanter
for  his  being  always at hand to pass interesting conversational cues, to make up a bridge four, to play a not offensively good game of tennis,
and  to  dance with otherwise unpartnered matrons. One could almost read in his face the question, too wondering to be smug: Is this all there is
to it?

Mrs.  Rainier was the perfect hostess as usual, and I should have been lost in admiration at everything she did had it not been a repetition on a
larger  scale  of  what she habitually did at Kenmore. All, in fact, was as gay and brilliant and smooth-running as usual, but something else was
not  QUITE  as  usual--and  I  don't know how to describe it except as a faint suspicion that the world was already swollen with destiny and that
Stourton  was no longer the world--a whiff of misgiving too delicate to analyse, as when, in the ballroom of an ocean liner, some change of tempo
in the engines far below communicates itself to the revellers for a phantom second and then is lost behind the rhythms of the orchestra.

The  simile  was Rainier's as we drove back to London on Monday evening, leaving Woburn and Mrs. Rainier at Stourton. Within a few weeks the same
misgiving,  many  times  magnified,  had  become  a headline commonplace; trenches were being dug in the London parks; the curve of the September
crisis  rose  to  its  monstrous  peak.  Rainier lived at his Club during those fateful days and we were both kept busy at all hours transcribing
reports,  telephoning  officials, and listening to the latest radio bulletins. Diplomatic machinery had swung into the feverish gear of guesswork
and  divination:  Was  Hitler  bluffing?  What sort of country was this new Germany? Would Russia support the Czechs? When would the bombers come
over? Every chatterer could claim an audience; journalists back from Europe were heard more eagerly than ambassadors; the fact that all seemed to
depend on the workings of one abnormal human mind gave every amateur psychologist an equal chance with politicians and crystal-gazers. And behind
this  mystery came fear, fear of a kind that had brought earlier peoples to their knees before eclipses and comets--fear of the unknown, based on
an  awareness  that  the  known  was  no  longer  impregnable.  The  utter destruction of civilization, which had seemed a fantastic thing to our
grandfathers,  had  become  a  commonplace  of schoolboys' essays, village debating societies, and after-dinner small talk; for the first time in
human history a sophisticated society faced its own extinction not theoretically in the future, but by physical death perhaps tomorrow. There was
a  dreadful acceptance of doom in all our eyes as we sat around, in restaurants and at conference tables and beside innumerable radios, listening
and talking and drinking, the only three things to do that one could go on doing--paralysed as we were into a belief that it was too late to act,
and clinging to a last desperate hope that somehow the negation of an act might serve as well.

That  negation  was performed, if performed is the word; talking, listening, and drinking then merged into a sigh of exhausted relief, and only a
few Cassandra voices, among whom was Rainier's, murmured that no miracle had really happened at all. But national hysteria urged that it had, and
that one must not say otherwise, even if it hadn't. Anyhow, the crisis passed, the rains of autumn soaked into half-dug trenches, and as the days
shortened  and  darkened  the Kenmore lamplight glowed again in the faces of diseuses and diplomats--Sir Somebody This and the Maharanee of That,
the  successful  novelist  and  the Wimbledon winner, delegates from somewhere-or-other to the something-or-other conference, as well as visiting
Americans who thought they were experiencing a real pea-souper fog because the sun of a November midday had turned red over the roofs.

I  went  to  a good many of those lunches, and somehow, I don't remember exactly when, it became a recognized thing that I should have a place at
all of them unless my duties with Rainier called me elsewhere.

Often they did. Many days during that strange, almost somnambulist winter of 1938-1939 I sat in the Gallery of the House of Commons, listening to
dull debates and hearing Big Ben chime the quarters till I saw Rainier get up and push his way through the swing doors with that casualness which
is  among  the  specialties  of  House  procedure--a  form  of  self-removal that implies neither rudeness nor even indifference to the speech in
progress.  Then he would dictate letters in a Committee Room, or order tea, or we might stroll along the usually empty Terrace, watching the last
spears  of sunset fade from the windows of St. Thomas's Hospital, or staring over the parapet at a train of coal barges on their way upstream. It
was  at  such  moments  that I came to know him most intimately, and to feel, more from his presence than from words, that the years he no longer
talked  about were still haunting; that he was still, as two women had said, vainly searching for something and never at rest. Yet outwardly, and
to  others,  there  were  few signs of it. Indeed, the disfavour into which he fell as a result of his attitude towards official policy seemed to
come  rather  as  a release than as a suppression. It was not that he blamed the government for what had happened at Munich; such blame, he said,
when history assessed it, would doubtless be spread over many years and many personages, of which the men of 1938 were but last in a tragic line.
He did, however, blame those who had stepped out of panic only to sink back into hypnosis. "These are the last days," he said to me once. "We are
like  people  in  a  trance--even  those  of  us who can see the danger ahead can do nothing to avert it--like the dream in which you drive a car
towards  a  precipice  and  your foot is over the brake but you have no physical power to press down. We should be arming now, if we had sense,--
arming  day and night and seven days of the week,--for if the Munich pact had any value at all it was not as a promise of peace to come, but as a
last-minute  chance  to  prepare for the final struggle. And we are doing NOTHING--caught in the net of self-delusion and self-congratulation. We
don't  realize  the  skill  and  magnitude  of  the  conspiracy--the attempt to reverse, by lightning strokes, the whole civilized verdict of two
thousand years."

Such  talk, during the winter of 1938-1939, was heresy in a country that permitted heresy, but could not regard it as in good taste. People began
to  remark,  in  advance  of  any  argument  about  him,  that they LIKED Rainier--this also was a bad sign in a society where likings are rarely
expressed  except  by  way of fair-minded prelude to disparagement. And one reflected that there had always been something against his chances of
attaining  high office--something expressed by his political enemies when they praised him as "brilliant," and by his political friends when they
doubted if he were altogether "safe." Such doubts were now running high.

In  the  City,  however,  safety  and  brilliance were not held as incompatibles by gatherings of grateful shareholders at annual meetings in the
Rainier  Building.  Here  also  it  was  my  duty  to  accompany  him,  handing  out  appropriate documents and keeping his memory jogged against
forgetfulness  of  such things as--"You will be glad to know that during the past year we have opened a new factory at West Bromwich where we are
now  manufacturing  a model especially designed for the Colonies." He made such announcements with a solemnity in which only I, perhaps, detected
any  ironic  note;  similarly  there seemed to me a touch of disdain in his bent for handling complicated masses of figures, a touch that did not
detract  from  the enormous confidence reposed in him by enriched but usually mystified investors. Nor was that confidence misplaced. Once I said
to  him:  "Leaving  sentiment  out  of  it,  you  haven't  done  so badly. You saved the family inheritance, you rescued the money of hundreds of
outsiders, and you kept intact the jobs of a whole army of workpeople. You did, in fact, everything you set out to do."

"There's  only  one  thing  more  important,"  he  answered, "and that is, after you've done what you set out to do, to feel that it's been worth

That  was  the day when he took me down to the sub-basement of the Rainier Building to show me the result of certain constructional work that had
been in progress there for several weeks. "I've allowed it to be supposed that these are new storage vaults," he told me, as we entered the first
of  a  series  of  empty  catacombs,  "but actually I had another thought in mind--and one that it would be too bad to thrust on a group of happy
dividend collectors. But the fact is--and entirely at my own personal expense--I've made this place bombproof. So you see, SOMETHING'S been worth
doing." He walked me round like an estate agent. "Comfort, as well as safety,--there's an independent heating plant,--because it's no good saving
people  from high explosive just to have them die of influenza. And another reason--the greatest man of the twentieth century may have to be born
in  a  place  like this, so let's make it as decent as we can for him. A steel and concrete Manger--sixty feet below ground . . . that's why I've
had to keep it a big secret, because you couldn't expect the investing public to swallow THAT."

But  we liked the City--"the City of Meticulous Nonsense," he called it once, after an annual meeting at which somebody had used the adjective in
praise  of  his  own  attention  to  the firm's affairs. "METICULOUS," he echoed, afterwards, "really meaning TIMID--and how right that it should
nowadays  be  used  as  a  compliment,  since  so  many  of  the most complimented people nowadays deserve it! Meticulous little people attending
meticulous meetings, passing meticulous votes of thanks for meticulous behaviour!"

One rainy Saturday we waited several minutes while the homeward rush-hour crowd swarmed in front of the car, taking no notice of the horn until a
man,  just  an  ordinary  mackintoshed  fellow  with  (I  remember)  a piece of garden trellis under his arm, called out: "'Ere, give the bloke a
chawnce!"--whereat  the  crowd,  heeding  just  as casually as they had been heedless before, made way for us to pass. There was no resentment in
their  faces  because  we  had  an  expensive car or because we kept them waiting a few seconds longer in the rain, no social significance in the
appeal  to  give  the bloke a chance, no indication of who the bloke was--I or Rainier or the chauffeur. The very absence of all these things was
English, Rainier said--something offhand but good-humoured, free but obedient, careless but never heartless.

"But  tell  that," he added, "to the Indians in Amritsar, to the Chinese who read the notice in a Shanghai park, 'No Dogs or Chinese Allowed,' to
the  tribesmen  in  Irak,  to  the  peasant in County Cork, to the . . ." But then he laughed. "God, how we're hated! It isn't so much because we
really  deserve  it.  Even  at the bottom of the charge-sheet I could quote Santayana's remark that the world never had sweeter masters. SWEET--a
curious  adjective--and yet there IS a sweetness in the English character, something that's almost perfect when it's just ripe--like an apple out
of  an  English  orchard. No, we're not hated altogether by logic. It's more because the world is TIRED of us--BORED with us--sickened by a taste
that  to some already seems oversweet and hypocritical, to others sour and stale. I suppose the world grew tired of the Romans like that, till at
last  the barbarians were excused for barbarism more readily than the Caesars were forgiven for being tough. There come such moments in the lives
of  nations, as of persons, when they just can't do anything right, and the world turns on them with the awful ferocity of a first-night audience
rejecting, not so much a play it doesn't want, as a playwright it doesn't want any more. . . . But wait till they've experienced the supplanters-
-if  we  are supplanted. A time may come when a cowed and brutalized world may look back on the period of English domination as one of the golden
ages of history. . . ."

I  remember  that  afternoon  particularly  because  as  we  were waiting for the traffic lights in Whitehall we saw Nixon at the kerbside vainly
signalling  a taxi and Rainier had the car stopped to offer him a lift. Bound for Victoria to catch a train, he chattered all the time during the
short  drive,  finally  and  quite casually remarking: "Oh, you remember that fellow Ransome who took us to tea at his house in Browdley that day
when his wife wasn't there?"

Rainier looked up sharply.

"Rather sad business," Nixon continued. "She'd gone out to buy a cake, as Ransome thought--must have been hurrying back, because she was carrying
it as she ran into the bus . . . killed instantly . . . poor chap was in a terrible state, so I heard. Only been married about a year."

We drove on in silence after dropping Nixon in the station yard; Rainier's face was strained, tense, as if he had suffered a personal blow. Half-
way  to  Kenmore he tapped on the window and ordered the chauffeur to turn and drive back. "Let's hear somebody play the piano," he said. "That's
the best cure for the mood I'm in."

We  drove  to  the  West  End,  while  I  searched  the  Telegraph for recital announcements. The only one I could find was of the first and only
appearance  in  London  of  Casimir  Navoida, who would give a mixed programme of Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and Ravel at the Selsdon Hall. I had
never  heard  of  Navoida,  and the fact that Rainier hadn't either lent no optimism to my expectations. We found a photograph on the rain-sodden
posters  outside  the  Hall--the  conventionally  sombre,  heavy-lidded profile brooding over the keys. That too was not encouraging, nor was the
obviously  "paper"  audience  of  only  a few score. Nor, for that matter, were the explanatory notes in the printed programme--composed, Rainier
grimly  suggested,  by some schoolgirl in a mood of bibulous Schwärmerei. With less distaste we read a paragraph about the performer, though even
that  was  vague  enough--merely  mentioning  a Continental reputation, tuition under Leschetizky (misspelt), a prix-de-somewhere, and an ancient
press-agent  anecdote  beginning--"One  morning,  at the So-and-so Conservatoire . . ." Then the door at the rear of the platform opened and this
fellow Navoida walked to the piano, gave a hinge-like bow to half-hearted applause, and began. He did not look much like his photograph, though a
description  could  not have omitted the same points--the gloomy profile, wrinkled nape, and upflung hair. We listened with tolerance, soon aware
that  his  playing  was  not exactly bad. When the interval came I noticed a woman in the seat beyond Rainier's fumbling for a dropped programme;
presently he stooped and retrieved it for her. She thanked him with a foreign accent and added: "You think he plays well?"

Rainier answered: "He might be good if he weren't out of practice."

"You are a critic?"

"Only to myself."

"You are not on one of the newspapers?"

"Oh dear, no."

She seemed both relieved and disappointed. "I thought you might be. I suppose they ARE here."

Rainier  looked  round and included me in the conversation by saying: "Notice anybody? _I_ don't . . . I'm afraid Saturday afternoon's a bad time
in London."

Then  Navoida  came  on  again and played the Chopin group. At the next interval she said: "You are quite right. He is out of practice. He played
cards till four this morning."

Rainier laughed. "Stupid of him, surely?"

"Oh, he doesn't care. He lost much money, also. If only people would realize that he CAN play so much better than this--"

"Why SHOULD they? If he chooses to drink and gamble the night before a concert--"

"Oh no, not DRINK. He NEVER drinks."


"But  gambling  is  in  his blood. It is in the blood of all the Navoidas. If he travels by autobus he will bet on how many people get in at each

Rainier looked slightly interested. "How do you know all this about him?"

She had just time to reply, as the piano began again: "I am his wife."

I could judge that throughout the Brahms Sonata Rainier was feeling somewhat embarrassed at having discussed the pianist so frankly, but when the
next  interval  came  she gave him no time to apologize. "Oh, I could KILL him for being so bad! The foolish boy. . . . Maybe it was a mistake to
come to England at all."

Rainier answered: "Oh, no need to feel that. But your husband's concert agent ought to have chosen a better day for a first appearance. Londoners
like to get away to the country at week-ends."

"Even when it rains?"

"My goodness, we never bother about rain."

"Ach, yes, your London climate . . . when it is not rain, it is fog. . . . I understand."

I  winked  at  him,  apropos  of  this  foreign  belief that English weather is the worst in the world; it is not, Rainier had once said, but the
convention  is  useful  in  that  it  enables  an  Englishman  to  appear modest by conceding something that, whether true or false, is of little
consequence.  All  the time that Madame Navoida was bemoaning London rain and fog I was glancing at her sideways and judging her to be forty-five
or  so--younger, at any rate in looks, than her husband. The light in the concert hall was not particularly kind, and her make-up had either been
put  on  hurriedly or else had got blurred by raindrops; her eyes were brown and rather small, but her forehead had a generous width that somehow
compensated; it was an interesting face.

During  the  Ravel  I  whispered  this to Rainier and received his reply: "I don't give a damn about her face. And I don't give a damn about this
Ravel either. I only know she amuses me and I'm more cheerful than I was an hour ago. . . ."

For  the  next few minutes I heard the two of them in whispered conversation; then he turned to me. "They're Hungarians, but she lived for a long
time  in Singapore--hence the English. She also speaks French and German--besides, of course, Hungarian. Writes poetry in all four, so she'd have
you  believe.  Also  worships  Romance  with  a  capital  R.  Reads Dekobra and D' Annunzio, but prefers Dekobra--so do I, for that matter. . . .
Altogether  rather  like a female spy in a magazine story--every minute I expect her to say 'Hein' and produce a bundle of stolen treaties out of
her  corsage.  And  she says such delicious things--like--'Ach, your English climate--' and that bit about gambling being in the blood of all the
Navoidas. . . . I'm trying to think of something half as good as what she'll say next--remember that game we used to play?"

That  was one of the fooleries we would sometimes indulge in during our morning car journeys to the City. There was a certain newspaper shop at a
street  corner  in Pimlico, and outside it, every Tuesday, appeared a picture poster advertising that week's issue of a publication called Judy's
Paper; and this poster always showed an evening-clothed couple in some highly dramatic situation, captioned by such a sentence as "He refused her
a  ring"  or "She lied to save him." Most Tuesdays, before we reached the shop, Rainier and I would try to invent something even triter than what
we  should  presently  discover, but we never succeeded, so hard is it for the sophisticated mind to think in the natural idiom of the ingenuous.
But it made an amusing diversion, for all that.

After  further  whispering  he turned to me excitedly. "She's SAID it! I KNEW she would! She's just told me that we English are so COLD!" At that
moment  Navoida finished the Ravel and Rainier was able to answer her amidst the applause. I heard him say: "Madame, we are NOT cold--it's merely
that we have to be warmed up, especially on wet Saturdays. So I beg you to make allowances for us during the rest of your stay here."

"We are leaving tomorrow."

"So soon?"

"Casimir has a concert in Ostend on Wednesday."

"You'd better take care of him there. It's a great place for gambling."

"Oh,  that will be all right. We shall go to the Casino and have champagne and Casimir will be lucky--he always is at roulette. It is cards he is
no good at--especially poker." (She pronounced it "pokker.") "When I saw him playing poker with some Americans at the hotel last night, I knew he
would be a bad boy today."

"I thought you said he didn't drink?"

"Only  champagne.  But  of  course it is so expensive in England. When we were in Singapore we drank nothing but Heidsieck all the time. A bottle
every meal. It prevented him from being dysenteric."

"Probably it also prevented him from being Paderewski."

"You  mean  it  is  not  good  for him? But consider--if it pleases him, is he not entitled to it? What is the life of a concert artist nowadays?
Nobody  cares--there  is  no musical life as it used to be--in Berlin, in Leipzig, in Wien. Only in America they pay an artist well, but I do not
want him to go there again."

"Why not?"

She whispered something in Rainier's ear and then added: "Of course I forgave him afterwards. He was faithful according to his fashion."

Rainier let out a shout of sheer glee. "What's that? WHAT?"

She  repeated  the sentence. "Do you not know the poem by one of your English poets, Ernest Dowson?" And she began to recite the whole thing from
beginning  to  end,  while Casimir, in whom I was beginning to feel a deeper interest after these varied revelations, appeared on the platform to
play  the  Chopin  "Black Key Study" as an encore, muffing the final octaves and finishing on a triumphantly wrong note in the bass. "Perhaps you
would now like to meet him?" she concluded.

So  we  trooped  round  to the little room at the back of the platform where a few mournfully mackintoshed women were loitering while the pianist
scrawled  his  signature across their programmes in a mood of equal mournfulness. The entrance of Madame Navoida brought a touch of life to these
proceedings,  and  I noticed then a certain vital quality that made her still an attractive woman, despite sagging lines and the bizarre make-up.
As  soon  as the autograph-seekers left she approached Casimir as one making a stage entrance, kissed him resoundingly on both cheeks, and cried:
"Casimir,  mon cher, tu étais magnifique!" Then, for a moment, she gabbled something incomprehensible and turned to Rainier. "He speaks Hungarian
best.  I  have to tell him he is wonderful now, but soon I shall tell him he was awful--ATROCIOUS! Poor boy, he is always tired after a concert--
please excuse him. He says he has a headache."

Rainier answered: "That's too bad! I was about to suggest that you both had dinner with us somewhere--that is, if you had nothing else to do."

Her  face  lit  up.  "Oh, but we should be ENCHANTED! It is so kind of you. I am sure his headache will get better. But there is one thing I must
tell  you beforehand--he will not dress. Not even a smoking. Only for the casinos where they will not admit him otherwise--and then he curses all
the time. So if you do not mind--"

"Not at all. We probably wouldn't dress ourselves, anyway."

"Then he will be delighted." She turned to her husband. "Casimir, this is--" And of course another turn. "But I do not know your name?"

I  had  guessed  it would come to that, and I remembered that moment on Armistice Day when all Rainier's pleasure had disappeared at the enforced
disclosure of his identity. I wondered if it would be different with foreigners to whom his name would almost certainly be unknown.

But he answered, with a sort of gleeful solemnity: "Lord Frederic Verisopht--and this"--with a bow to me--"is Sir Mulberry Hawk. . . ."

Having  arranged  to  meet  them  at  seven  at Poldini's we spent the interval at Rainier's club, where his spirits soared fantastically. When I
reminded  him  of  an  engagement  to  speak that evening at the Annual Dinner of the Gladstone Society he told me to wire them a cancellation on
account  of  urgent  political business. "That's all very well," I answered, "but then somebody will see us dining at Poldini's with a couple who
look like a rather seedy croupier and a soubrette out of a pre-war musical comedy."

He laughed. "Not if we do what nobody else does nowadays--engage a private room."

"And what was the idea of introducing me as Sir Somebody or other?"

"To find out whether she reads Dickens. YOU evidently don't. . . . Well, that was PARTLY the reason. The other was to give her a thrill. I'm sure
titles  do.  Poldini's will too--it's got that air of having seen better and more romantic days. I rarely go there, so the waiters don't know me,
and  I've  never been in one of their private rooms since my uncle took me when I was twelve years old. That's a story in itself. I don't think I
ever  told you about him--he was a charming and very shortsighted archdeacon, and the only one out of my large collection of uncles whom I really
liked. He liked me too, I think--we often used to spend a day together. One evening during the Christmas holidays, we felt hungry after a matinée
of  Jack  and  the  Beanstalk,  so  as  we  were  walking  to the nearest Underground station he said, 'Let's go in here for a snack'--and it was
Poldini's. I think he mistook it for some sort of cheap but respectable tea-shop--anyhow, we walked in, all among the pretty ladies and the young
men-about-town;  we were the cynosure of every eye, as novelists in those days used to write--because it wasn't at all the kind of place a Church
of England dignitary would normally take his schoolboy nephew to, and my uncle, with his white hair and flashing eyes (the drops he had to put in
them  made  them flash), must have looked rather like Hall Caine's Christian about to create a disturbance. . . . Anyhow, old Poldini,--he's dead
now,--scenting  something  funny  about  us, pretended all his tables were booked and asked if we'd mind dining upstairs--so up we went, my uncle
blinking his way aloft without a word of protest, and presently Poldini showed us into a cosy little room furnished in blue and gold, with a very
thick  carpet  and  a  convenient  chaise-longue  against the wall and gilt cupids swarming in a suggestive manner all over the ceiling--in fact,
Poldini  took charge of us completely, recommending à la carte dishes and serving them himself, and as the meal progressed my uncle grew more and
more  surprised  and  delighted--still under the impression it was an A.B.C. or some such place; and when the bill came I snatched it up and said
I'd  stand  treat,  and  he  said,  'My  boy, that's very generous of you'--and by God, it was, for it took all the money he'd just given me as a
Christmas  present.  But  I never let him know, and to the end of his life he always used to tell people he'd never enjoyed a better meal than at
that  eating-house  off the Strand . . . EATING-HOUSE, mind you!" He took a long breath and added: "So that's where we'll dine tonight--among the
ghosts of the past--a couple of milords entertaining the toast of the town--and rather battered toast, if you'll pardon two bad puns at once."

When  I  look  back on that evening I remember chiefly, of course, the incident that crowned it; but I can see now that the entire masquerade was
somehow  Rainier's last and rather preposterous effort to tease a way into self-knowledge, and that the climax, though completely accidental, was
yet  a  fitting  end to the attempt. I realized also, even if never before, how near he was to some catastrophic breakdown--partly from overwork,
but  chiefly  from  the  fret  of things that could not be forgotten because they had never been remembered. And all that day, ever since meeting
Nixon, the fret had strengthened behind an increasing randomness of acts and words.

We  drove to Poldini's through the rain, and were glad to find the place reasonably unchanged--still with its private rooms upstairs, little used
by  a generation that no longer needs such an apparatus of seduction, and therefore slightly melancholy until gardenias and ice-buckets revived a
more  festive  spirit.  Then,  with  some  commotion, the Navoidas arrived, the pianist rather pale and glum in a long overcoat with an astrakhan
collar,  and  Madame very florid and voluble with heavy gold bangles and ancient but good-quality furs, obviously bewitched (but by no means ill-
at-ease)  at  the  prospect of dining intimately with English nobility. We soon discovered that both of them were equally accomplished champagne-
bibbers, but whereas Madame grew livelier and gayer with every glass, her husband sank after the first half-dozen into a settled gloom from which
he  could  only  stir  himself  at intervals to murmur to the waiter a demand for "trouts"--for there had been some confusion over his order, due
perhaps  to the waiter's reluctance to believe that anyone in 1939 would ask for truites bleues in addition to Beluga caviare, steak tartare, and
English  rosbif.  But all that too, and to Rainier's feverish delight, was in the halcyon tradition--the age of monstrous dinners and fashionable
appendicitis, the one most often the result of the others.

Presently,  after  the  popping  of the fourth magnum, Madame grew sentimental and talked of her romantic adventures in all parts of the world--a
recital garnished with copious quotations from the poets, of whom she knew so many in various languages that I began to think it really must be a
passion  with her quite as genuine as that for Heidsieck; she liked amorous poetry best, and there was something perhaps a little charming in the
way  she  obviously  did  not know which was too hackneyed to quote, so that from a worn-out tag of Shakespeare she would swerve into a line from
Emily Brontë or Beddoes. A few words she wrongly pronounced or did not understand; she would then ask us to correct her, quite simply and with an
absence of self-consciousness that made almost piquant her theatrical gestures and overstudied rhythms. Suddenly I realized, in the mood of half-
maudlin  pity that comes after a few drinks yet is none the less percipient, that she was a sadly disappointed woman, getting little out of later
life  that  she really craved for, without a home, a wanderer between hotels and casinos, listening to the same old Brahms and Beethoven in half-
empty  concert halls, tied for the rest of her days to a flabby maestro, yet alive in her illusion that the world was still gay and chivalrous as
a novelette.

After  Rainier  had called for more cognac he asked if she had any ideas for spending the rest of the evening, because he'd be glad to go on to a
show if she fancied any particular play. She answered, with enthusiasm: "Oh yes, it is so kind of you--there is one place I have always wanted to
go because I have heard so much about it--your famous old English music-hall!"

Rainier  said  how  unfortunate  that was, because the famous old English music-hall no longer existed; there were only assortments of vaudeville
turns and dance bands.

"Then perhaps we could go to see Berty Lowe."

"Berty Lowe?"

"A  man  at  the  hotel told me this morning he was acting in London somewhere, and I should like to see him because I once knew an Englishman in
Budapest who used to do imitations of him. He always said Berty Lowe was the greatest comedian of the famous old English music-hall."

Rainier had asked the waiter for an evening paper and was now glancing down the list. "Yes, he used to be quite funny, but I haven't heard of him
in  London  for  years--he's  a  bit  passé,  you  know  .  .  . well, he's not at the Coliseum or the Holborn Empire. . . that rather limits the
possibilities . . . wait a minute, though--'Berty Lowe in Salute the Flag Twice Nightly at the Banford Hippodrome'--"

She clapped her hands ecstatically. "Oh, I should love to go there!"

"But  it's  miles away in the suburbs--" he was beginning, but suddenly then I could see the mere caprice of the idea seize hold of him; to drive
out  to Banford to see Berty Lowe at the local Hippodrome was in the right key of fantasy for such an evening. He handed me the paper. "They call
it a riot of rip-roaring rib-tickling--doesn't that sound awful? Wish you'd ring 'em up and book a box for four at the second house."

"Salute  the  Flag,"  echoed  Madame,  with  hands  clasped.  "Oh, I know I am going to love it if it is about soldiers. The Englishman I knew in
Budapest  was  a  soldier.  It  was during the war, but he wasn't interned at first, because the Hungarians always liked the English, but when he
began  to  send  me flowers every day with little notes hidden in them--written in English, of course--the police arrested him for espionage, but
when  they translated the notes--oh, mon dieu, you should have seen their faces--and HIS--and MINE--because, you see, he was crazily in love with
me--CRAZILY--not  a  bit  like  an  Englishman!  Oh,  how I wish I had made them give me back those notes. . . . Casimir, of course, was mad with

Casimir,  no longer capable of being mad with jealousy, looked up as a dog will on hearing his name mentioned, then shook his head with a bemused
belch over his unfinished crêpes Suzette.

I went out to telephone.

An  hour later we were sitting on four very uncomfortable cane chairs as the curtain rose on Salute the Flag. It had been a mistake, I could see,
to  have  engaged  a box; the orchestra seats would have been much more comfortable, and further away from certain plush hangings which, on being
merely  touched, shook out clouds of dubious-looking dust. I gathered from the way we were escorted to our seats, and also from the fact that the
other  boxes were empty, that our arrival had created a little stir; it would be odd, I thought, but perhaps not absolutely catastrophic, if some
member  of the audience were to recognize Rainier. However, no one did, despite the fact that some of the actors played at us outrageously--even,
by  the  end  of the show, making jokes about "the gentleman in the box who's fast asleep." It was true; Casimir was fast asleep. Madame awakened
him several times, but he slumped forward again almost immediately; soon she gave it up as a bad job.

As  for the play, it had been (I guessed) an originally serious melodrama on a wartime theme, dating probably from 1914 or 1915; its villains had
then  been  Germans of impossible villainy and its heroes English soldiers of equally impossible saintliness. A quarter of a century of lucrative
adaptation,  however,  had  merged both the villainy and the saintliness into a common mood of broad comedy burlesque; such patriotic speeches as
remained were spoken now only to be laughed at, while the hero's first appearance was in the always comic uniform of a scoutmaster.

But  Madame was puzzled. During the intermission she said: "I cannot understand why they laugh at some of the lines. When the recruiting sergeant
made that speech about the British Empire, what was funny about it?"

"It's  just our English sense of humour," Rainier explained. "We think recruiting sergeants ARE funny. We think long speeches are also funny. The
British Empire has its funny side too. So put them all together and you can't help making an Englishman laugh."

"But it was a PATRIOTIC speech!"

"Englishmen think them the funniest of all."

"But in Austria, if anyone laughed at a patriotic speech there would be a riot and the man would be arrested."

"That just proves something I have long suspected--that Austria isn't England."

"You know Austria?"

"I once spent a few days in Vienna on business."

"Ah, you should have stayed longer and gone to the Semmering and then to Pressburg down the Danube in a steamboat."

"Curious you should mention it, but that was one of my boyhood ambitions. But in a canoe, not a steamboat."

"Oh, but that would be more wonderful still! Why did you not do it?"

"Because  when I first wanted to, I hadn't enough money--then later, when I had enough money, I hadn't the time . . . and today, whatever I have,
there isn't any Austria."

"Ah, yes, it is so sad. But let us not think about it--see, the curtain rises!"

She  said  that  so much like a musical-comedy cue that I almost expected to see her jump down to the stage and begin a song. However, Salute the
Flag  was  doubtless  better  entertainment.  It  continued  to  be  equally  hilarious during its second half, though Berty Lowe, as the heavily
moustached  German  general, was actually less funny than some of the smaller parts; there was one especially that had the audience holding their
sides--when an English subaltern entered his colonel's tent (the colonel being a German spy in disguise) to exclaim, between chattering teeth and
amidst  paroxysms  of  stammering--"The enemy advances--give the order to attack, or, by heaven, sir, I will myself!" As a rule I do not care for
jokes  based  on  any  physical  defect, but I must admit that this particular player brought the house down by some of the most ludicrous facial
contortions  I  have  ever  seen--the  whole episode being topped by the final gag of a door-knob coming off and rolling across the stage when he
banged his exit.

It  was difficult to keep up or down to such a level, but the play romped on with a good deal of vulgar gusto until the last scene, evidently the
dramatic  high-spot  of  the  original  play,  when  the  heroine, threatened by the villain with a revolver, cried: "You cannot fire on helpless
womankind!"--whereat  another  woman,  of  suggestive  male  appearance and elephantine proportions, invaded the stage from the wings brandishing
weapons  of  all kinds from tomahawk to Mills bomb. Crude, undoubtedly; but the Banford audience loved it, and were still laughing throughout the
perfunctory finale in which all the cast rushed on to the stage to chase off the villain and line up for a closing chorus.

As we left the theatre I saw that Rainier's mood had changed. He almost bundled Madame and her husband into the car, and spoke very little during
the  ride back to London; she chattered to me for a while, but Rainier's moods had a queer way of enforcing their atmosphere upon others, and she
also was somewhat subdued by the time we reached their hotel in Russell Square and set the two of them down on the pavement.

"Good-bye, my lord," she said to Rainier, evidently remembering her manners but not the name. But she remembered mine. "Good-bye, Sir Hawk."

Casimir nodded grumpily as she took his arm to help him up the hotel steps. The last we saw was her effort to get him through the revolving door.
It should have been funny, but perhaps we had had enough laughter for one evening; it wasn't funny, therefore, it was somehow rather sad.

"Of course she's ruined him," Rainier commented, as we drove away towards Chelsea.

"What makes you think that?"

"His playing. I could tell he was good once."

"Well,  he's ruined her too. She can't get much fun out of life, watching over him wherever they go. Incidentally, I think she was rather shocked
by our rough island humour."

"Probably it was too unsanitary and not sexy enough for her."

"And then that fellow's stammer. I suppose on the Vienna stage you couldn't have an officer stammering--only a private."

"God, yes--that stammer . . . they kept it in--and the door-knob coming off as well. . . . But the gag at the end was new."

"Sounds as if you've seen the show before."

He was thoughtful. "Yes, I think I have."

"Not surprising. It's been played up and down everywhere for years."

"But  more  than that--more than SEEING it before--I--I--" He turned to me with a curious abrupt eagerness. "Do you mind if we drive around for a
while before going home?"

"Of  course  not.  .  .  .  But what's happened? You look--" I stopped, but he cut in sharply: "Yes, TELL me--what's the matter with me--HOW do I

I  said,  meeting  his  eyes  and  speaking with as little excitement as I could: "You look as you did when I first saw you staring at a mountain
because you thought you recognized it--through the train windows that Armistice Day."

"ARMISTICE DAY," he repeated. Then he added, quietly, almost casually: "I was in hospital . . . I mean on that first Armistice Day--the first one
of all. The REAL one." He suddenly clutched my sleeve. "Yes, I remember--I was at Melbury!"

I said nothing, anxious not to break any thread of recollection he was about to unravel, and afraid of the tension in my voice were I to speak at

"There  were so many hospitals," he went on. "I was at Sennelager first--then Hanover. Then they exchanged the shell-shock and t.b. cases through
Switzerland. So back home--Birmingham for a time--then Hastings--and another place near Manchester . . . then Melbury. That was the last of them.
. . . I'd like to go to Melbury."

I  still couldn't answer; I was afraid of breaking some kind of spell. He seemed to read this into my silence, for he went on, in a kindly voice:
"Do you mind? Or are you very tired?"

"No,  I'm not tired." My voice was all right, but I was still apprehensive, and more so than ever when I realized he wanted to go to Melbury that
very  night,  immediately. I added something about Hanson being probably tired, even if we weren't--after all he'd driven us to Banford and back,
and to ask him now to make another excursion into the distant suburbs . . .

"Yes, of course--glad you thought of it." He was always considerate to servants. "We'll drop him here and send him home by taxi. Then I'll drive-
-or  perhaps  you'd  better  if  you  think  I've  had  too  much to drink." He was already reaching for the speaking-tube, and had given the new
instructions  before  I  could  think of anything else to say at all, much less frame an objection. Hanson pulled up at the kerb, showing no more
curiosity  than  a good servant should. But it was still pouring with rain, and he must have thought it odd to choose such a night for a pleasure

Rainier moved next to me in the chauffeur's seat; as I drove off he said he hoped I knew the way.

"Through Stepney and Stratford, isn't it?"

"Don't ask me--I've never been there since--since the morning I left."

"You remember it was a MORNING?"

He turned to me excitedly. "Did I say morning? Yes, it WAS . . . and if I can only SEE the place again--"

"You won't see much tonight, I'm afraid."

"I  didn't  see  much  last  time, either--it was too foggy. God--that's something else. . . . Just let me talk on anyhow. Don't feel you have to
answer--I know it's hard to drive these juggernauts on a wet night--why does my wife always buy such monsters?--and we have four of them."

"Nothing to stop you buying a small car yourself if you wanted."

"But I'm not interested in buying cars."

I  laughed  and  said: "Well, you can't have it both ways. If you're not interested in cars, you can't blame Mrs. Rainier for buying the kind she
thinks is suitable for a rich man who isn't interested in cars."

"True, true. . . ." The side issue had lowered the tension.

We  drove  through  the almost deserted City, past Aldgate and along the wide, brilliant, rococo Mile End Road. It was midnight as we crossed Bow
Bridge,  five  minutes  past  as we reached the fork of the road in Stratford Broadway; I had to drive slowly because of the slippery tram-rails.
Once I stopped to inquire from some men drinking at a coffee-stall; they waved us on into the deepening hinterland of the suburbs. The slums here
lost  their  sinister  picturesqueness,  became  more  and  more drably respectable: long vistas of lamplit roads, with here and there a block of
elementary  schools  rising  like  a  fortress  over  the  rooftops, and at every shopping centre the same names in a different order--Woolworth,
Maypole,  Sainsbury, Home and Colonial, Lyons. We passed an old-fashioned church with a new-fashioned sign outside it, proclaiming the subject of
next  Sunday's sermon--"Why Does God Permit War?"--and that set Rainier improvising on the kind of sermon it would be--"very cheerful and chummy,
proving that God isn't such a bad sort when you get to know Him"; and then abruptly, in the tangential way so characteristic when he was inwardly
excited,  he talked again of his favourite uncle the archdeacon. "HE never preached a sermon on 'Why Does God Permit War?' To begin with, I don't
suppose he ever thought about it, and if he had, he'd probably have answered 'Why shouldn't He?' He took it for granted that the Deity minded His
own  business,  and that 'God's in His Heaven' was just Browning's way of putting it. All this craze for bringing Him down to earth and appealing
to  Him  at every turn would have struck my uncle as weak-kneed as well as in appallingly bad taste. And yet, in his way, and on the outskirts of
Cheltenham,  he lived an almost saintly life. He would never kill insects that strayed into the house, but would trap them in match-boxes and set
them  free in the garden. He approved of hunting, though, and thought the smearing of a girl's face with fox blood after her first ride to hounds
was a rather charming custom. All in all, I don't suppose he was any more inconsistent than the modern parson who tries to combine Saint Francis,
Lenin, and Freud into one all-embracing muddle."

We drove on through Leytonstone; there the tram-lines ended and we could put on a little speed. It was just after one o'clock when we reached the
market  square  in  the  centre of Melbury; I pulled up and looked to him for further instructions. He was peering through the window and after a
moment  I wound the window down on my side. The rain had increased to the dimensions of a storm, and a solitary policeman sheltering under a shop
awning called out to us: "Looking for somewhere?"

Rainier turned at the sound of the stranger's voice.

"Yes, the hospital," he answered. "Where's the hospital?"

"You mean the new one or the old one, sir?"

"The old one, I think." Then in a sudden rush: "It's on a hill--has big gates and a high wall all round it."

The  policeman  looked  puzzled. "That don't sound much like either of 'em." Then, as I was about to thank him and drive off, he came towards the
car, leaned in, and said, with a glance across me to Rainier: "You wouldn't be meanin' the ASYLUM, would you, sir?"


He  was  so  tired  of stammering out to a succession of doctors all he knew about himself that eventually he jotted it down on a single sheet of
notepaper  for  them to refer to at will. He had recently been transferred to Melbury from another military hospital, and the change had somewhat
upset  him,  because  it  meant  beginning everything all over again--contacts with new doctors, nurses, and patients, the effort to find another
corner  of existence where people would presently leave him alone. Besides, he didn't like the place--it was too big, too crowded, and altogether
too  permanent-looking.  Overworked  psychiatrists  gave him treatments that were supposed to have done well in similar cases, but perhaps it was
part of his own case that he didn't feel any similar cases existed, though he admitted there were many worse ones; he also felt that the doctors-
-grand fellows all of them, he had no specific complaints--aimed at raising a statistical average of success rather than his own individual cure.

That  particular  morning  in November he began the regulation mile along the cinder paths, glad that the fog had kept most of his fellow victims
indoors.  Only  alone  did  his  various  symptoms  ever  approach vanishing point, and amidst the fog this sense of aloneness was intensified so
reassuringly  that  as  he  continued to walk he began to feel a curious vacuum of sensation that might almost be called contentment. Walking was
part  of the encouraged regimen at Melbury; extensive grounds surrounded by a fifteen-foot spiked wall permitted it, while an army greatcoat kept
the cold air from penetrating his thinnish hospital uniform.

Suddenly, as he neared the main entrance where the name had been painted over (though it was still readable in burnt letters on brooms and garden
tools--"Property  of  the  So-and-so  County  Asylum")--suddenly,  as  the heavily scrolled ironwork of the gates loomed through the fog, a siren
screamed across the emptiness beyond--a factory siren, already familiar at certain hours, but this was not one of them, nor did the sound stay on
the  single  level  note,  but began soaring up and down in wild flurries. A few seconds later another siren chimed in, and then a third; by that
time he was near enough to the gates to see two uniformed porters rush hatless out of the lodge, shouting excitedly as they raced up the shrouded
driveway.  For  the  moment--and he realized it without any answering excitement--there was no one left on guard, no one to stop him as he passed
through  the  lodge  into the outer world, no one to notice him as he walked down the lane towards the town. Behind his mute acceptance of things
done  to  him,  there was a slow-burning inclination to do things for himself, an inclination fanned now into the faint beginnings of initiative;
but they were only faint, he had no will for any struggle, and if anyone ran after him to say "Come back" he would go back.

Nobody  ran  after him. The lane turned into the main road at the tram terminus; a small crowd was already gathering there in groups, chattering,
laughing,  greeting  each  newcomer  with  eager  questions.  Nor  had  the sirens stopped; they were louder now, and joined by tram bells, train
whistles,  a  strange  awakening murmur out of the distance. He walked on, still downhill, edging into the roadway to avoid people, glad that the
fog  was  thickening as he descended. Soon he was aware of some approaching vortex of commotion, of crowds ahead that might cover all the roadway
and  envelop  him completely; he felt as well as heard them, and a nagging pinpoint of uneasiness expanded until, to relieve it even momentarily,
he turned into a shop at the corner of a street.

The inside was dark, as he had hoped, revealing only vague shapes of counter, shelves, and merchandise; it seemed to be a small neglected general
store,  smelling  of  its own shabbiness. The opening door had tinkled a bell, and presently, as his eyes grew used to the dimness, he saw an old
woman  watching  from behind the counter--thin-faced, gray-haired, rather baleful. He tried to ask for cigarettes and began to stammer. He always
did  when  he talked to others, though he could chatter to himself without much trouble--that was one of the points he had noted for the doctors,
though  he  suspected  they  didn't  believe  him, and of course it was something he couldn't prove. Just now, with all the extra excitement, his
stammer  was  worse  than  ever--not  a mere tongue-tie, but a nervous tic that convulsed his entire head and face. He stood there, trembling and
straining  for  speech,  at  last  managing to explode a word; the woman said nothing in answer, but after a long scrutiny began sidling away. He
relaxed  when  she had gone, hoping she would just return with the cigarettes and not oblige him to say more, wondering if she would think it odd
if  he  stayed  to  smoke  one of them in the shop. Anyhow, it was good to be alone again. Then suddenly he realized he was not alone. A girl had
entered,  or  else  had  been  there  all the time and he hadn't noticed; she too was waiting at the counter, but now she turned to him and began
urgently whispering. "She's gone to fetch somebody--she knows where you're from."

He stared hard, trying to isolate her face from the surrounding shadows.

"You ARE, aren't you?"

He nodded.

"She knows you're not supposed to be out."

He nodded again.

"Not  that  I'd  blame  anybody  for anything today. The war's over--you know that? Isn't it wonderful . . . ? And you certainly don't LOOK as if
you'd do any harm." She smiled to soften the phrase.

He shook his head and smiled back.

"Well, if you HAVE given them the slip, I wouldn't stay here, old boy, that's all."

He smiled again, a little bewildered; somebody was talking to him normally, casually, yet personally too. It was a pleasant experience, he wished
it could go on longer, but then he heard the old woman's footsteps returning from some inner room behind the shop; with a final smile he summoned
enough  energy  to walk away. A few seconds later he stood on the pavement, blinking to the light, aware of the prevalent atmosphere as something
pungent,  an  air he could not breathe, a spice too hot for his palate. Shouts were now merging into a steady sequence of cheers, and through the
pale fog he saw a tram approach, clanging continuously as it discharged a load of yelling school-children. He turned away from the clamour into a
side street where two rows of small houses reached upwards like flying buttresses astride a hill; presently he came to a house with a dingy brass
plate  outside--"H. T. Sheldrake, Teacher of Music." He spoke the name, Sheldrake, to himself--he always tested names like this, hoping that some
day one of them would fit snugly into an empty groove in his mind. No, not Sheldrake. There was the sound of a piano playing scales; he listened,
calming  himself  somewhat,  till the playing stopped and shrill voices began. That made him move on up the hill, but he felt tired after a short
distance and held to a railing for support. Just then the same girl caught up with him.

"What's the matter?"

He smiled.

"I followed you. Thought you looked a bit off-colour."

He  shook  his head valiantly, observing her now for the first time. She was dressed in a long mackintosh and a little fur hat, like a fez, under
which brown straight hair framed a face of such friendly eagerness that he suddenly felt it did not matter if she saw and heard his struggles for
speech;  rather that than have her think him worse than he was. He wanted to say: You should see some of the other fellows up there--what's wrong
with me is NOTHING--just a stammer and not being able to remember things.

While he was planning to say all this she took his arm. "Lean on me if you like. And talk or not, whichever you want. Don't be nervous."

After that he decided to say merely that he was not really ill, but only tired after walking further than usual; he began bracing himself to make
the  effort, smiling beforehand to console her for the ordeal of watching and listening. Then a curious thing happened; it was like taking a rush
at  a  door  to  break  through  when all the time the door was neither locked nor even latched. He just opened his mouth and found that he could
speak.  Not  perfectly,  of  course, but almost as easily as if he were talking to himself. It made him gasp with an astonishment so overwhelming
that for the moment he expected her to share it.

"Did you hear THAT? I wasn't so bad THEN, was I?"

"Of course you weren't. Didn't I tell you not to be nervous?"

"But you don't know what a job I have, as a rule."

"Oh yes, I do. I heard you in the shop. But that old woman would scare anybody. Where d'you want to go?"

"I don't know."

"Well, this street doesn't lead anywhere."

"I was just--walking."

"But weren't you trying to get away?"

"Not--not exactly. I hadn't any real plans. I just came out because--well, because there was nobody at the gate."

"Do they look after you all right?"

"Oh yes."

"I've heard they're a bit rough with some."

"Not with me."

"All the same, you don't really LIKE the place?"

"Not--not very much."

"Then you oughtn't to be in it, surely?"

"There's nowhere else, until I get all right again."

"How can you get all right again when you're not happy in a place?"

He had often asked himself the same question, but he answered, parrying the idea: "Perhaps I wouldn't be very happy anywhere--just now."

"But the war's over--doesn't that make any difference?" She came near to abrupt tears, then dashed a hand to her eyes and began to laugh. "Silly,
that's  what  I am--everybody's gone silly today. Seems an awful morning to end the war on, doesn't it?--I mean, you'd almost think the sun ought
to shine--blue skies--like a picture. . . ." She almost cried again. "Shall we stroll down?"

She  gripped  his  arm  as  they slowly descended the hill. His walk was pretty good, and he was suddenly proud of it--just the faintest shuffle,
nobody would notice. When they reached the piano-teacher's house he hesitated. "I'd rather not get mixed up with the crowd--if you don't mind."

"Righto--we'll keep well away." She added: "So you don't like crowds?"

"Not very much."

"Or hospitals?"

He smiled and shook his head.

"Well, that's fine. If I keep on trying I'll really get to know you."

They both laughed; then she said: "There's a place where we could get some hot coffee, if you like THAT."

The  Coronation Café was a cheap little place along the Bockley Road, patronized mostly by tramway men on duty who stopped their vehicles outside
and  dashed  in with empty jugs, leaving them to be filled in readiness for the return trip. All day long these swift visitations continued, with
barely  time  for an exchange of words across the counter. But today, the eleventh of November, 1918, drivers and conductors chatted boisterously
as  if  they were in no hurry at all, and passed cheery remarks to the couple who sat at the marble-topped table in the window alcove. They could
see  the  man  was a soldier by his greatcoat, and it was a good day for saying cheery things to soldiers. "Wonder 'ow long it'll take to git the
rest  of  you boys 'ome, mate?" . . . "Maybe they'll march 'em to Berlin now and shoot the Old Kaiser." . . . "Seems queer to 'ave the war end up
like this--right on the dot, as you might say." . . . "Wouldn't surprise me if it's just a rumour, like them Russians comin' through." . . . "But
it's  all  in the papers, see--it sez the Germans 'ave signed a what's-a-name--means PEACE, don't it?" All this and much else in snatches of news
and  comment.  The  proprietor always answered: "You're right there, mister"--"That's just what I always said meself," or, if the remark had been
especially  emphatic: "You 'it the nail straight on the 'ead that time, mister." Towards noon the fog grew very thick indeed and drivers reported
crowds  still increasing at the busy centres; workpeople had been sent home from offices and factories, as well as children from all the schools.
Then  the trams stopped running, impeded by fog and crowds equally, and as there were no more customers at the Coronation Café the proprietor set
to  work behind his counter, polishing a large tea-urn till it glowed in the gloom like a copper sun. Presently he came over to the table. He was
a little man, pale-faced, bald, with watery eyes and a drooping moustache.

"Wouldn't you two like a bite o' somethin'?"

The girl looked to her companion, saw him frame a word and then begin to struggle with it; she intervened quickly: "Sounds a good idea. What have
you got?"

"Eggs, that's about all. 'Ow d'yer like 'em--soft or 'ard?"

Again she looked across the table before answering. "Oh, middling'll do."

"That's the ticket. That's 'ow I like 'em meself. And two more coffees?"


"Keep yer warmed-up a day like this. War's over, they say, but anybody can die of pewmonia."

"That's a fact, so bring those coffees quick."

He went away chuckling; then the girl leaned across the table and said: "Don't look so scared. He won't bite."

"I know. But I'm always like that with strangers--at first. And besides--I don't think I've enough money."

"Well, who cares about that? I have."


"Now don't start being the gentleman. You were telling me about yourself when that fellow came up. Go on with the story." He stared at her rather
blankly till she added: "Unless you'd rather not. Your mind's on something else, I can see."

"I'd  just  noticed that sign outside." He pointed through the window to a board overhanging the pavement above the café doorway--the words "Good
Pull-Up for Carmen" were dimly readable through the fog. "CARMEN," he muttered. "That gives me something--why, yes . . . MELBA."

"MELBA? Oh, you mean the opera?" She began to laugh. "And Melba gives me peaches. What IS this--a game?"

"Sort  of.  I  have  to keep on doing it, one of the doctors says--part of his treatment. You see, I've lost my memory about certain things. It's
like being blind and having to feel around for shapes and sizes."

"I'm terribly sorry. I didn't realize, or I wouldn't have laughed."

"Oh, that's all right--I'd rather you laugh. I wish everybody would laugh. . . . Now what was it you were asking me before?"

"Well, I was wondering why you had to be in a hospital at all, but now of course I understand."

"Yes--till I get thoroughly better. I daresay I will--eventually."

"And then your memory'll come back?"

"That's what they think."

"But in the meantime what are you going to do?"

"Just wait around till it happens, I suppose."

"Isn't there some way of tracing any of your relatives and friends? Advertising for them, or something like that?"

"They've tried. Some people did come to see me at the hospital once, but--I wasn't their son."

"I'll bet they were disappointed. You'd make a nice son for somebody."

"Well, _I_ was disappointed too. I'd like to have belonged to them--to have had a home somewhere."

He  then  gave  her  some  of  the  facts  he had written out for the doctors--that he had been blown up by a shell during 1917, and that when he
recovered  consciousness  he was in a German hospital somewhere, unidentified and unidentifiable. Later there had been an exchange of wounded and
shell-shocked  prisoners  through  Switzerland, and by this means the problem had been passed on to the English--but with no more success. He had
been  a  pretty  bad  case  at first, with loss of speech and muscular co-ordination, but those things had gradually returned--perhaps the memory
would  follow  later. Altogether he had spent over a year in various hospitals, of which he liked the one at Melbury least of all. "Mind you," he
added,  seizing  the  chance  to  say  what he thought of saying before, "I'm miles better than some of the others. You'd think so too if you saw

"And that's why YOU shouldn't see them at all. Doesn't exactly help you, does it?"

"No, but I suppose all the hospitals are so crowded--there's no chance to separate us properly."

The  proprietor, coming up with the coffee and eggs, saw them break off their conversation suddenly. "Gettin' a bit dark in 'ere--I'll give yer a
light,"  he murmured, to satisfy a dawning curiosity. Standing on a bench he pulled the chain under a single incandescent burner in the middle of
the ceiling; it sent a pale greenish glow over their faces. He stared at them both. "You don't look so chirpy, mite. Feelin' bad?"

"He's just tired, that's all." And then, to get the fellow out: "Bring a packet of cigarettes, will you?"

When he had gone she leaned across. "That's what you were trying to ask for in the shop, wasn't it?"

"Yes, but I didn't really need them."

"Oh, come, I know what you need more than you do yourself. Don't be scared of that little chap--he means all right."

The  proprietor  returned  to their table with the cigarettes. "Looks to me as if 'e might 'ave the flu, miss. Lots o' flu abart 'ere. Dyin' like
flies, they was, up at the 'orspital a few weeks ago."

When he had gone again she comforted: "There now, don't worry. If you don't like it here, let's eat and then we'll be off."

"It isn't that I don't like it, only--only I'd rather them not come after me, that's all."

"Why should they?"

"He  mentioned the hospital. He knows I'm from there, just as you did when you first saw me. It's in my face--the way I look at people. I haven't
a chance--even if I knew where to go. They come round the wards every night at six. If I get back by then there'll be no trouble."

"You really mean to go back?"

"There's nothing else to do." He smiled wanly. "You've been very kind to bring me here."

"Oh, don't talk like that."

"But you have. I'm grateful. Maybe I'll be more satisfied now, because I shall know I'm not really well enough to be on my own--YET."

They  ate  in silence for a few moments after that; then she went up to the counter and paid the bill. "One and tenpence, miss. Can't make it any
more or I would. An' if I were you, I'd get your pal 'ome pretty quick. 'E don't look as if 'e ought to be aht, an' that's a fact."

A  moment  later  the  fog was curling round them in swathes, fanning the sound of cheers over distant invisible roofs. She took his arm again as
they  walked  to  the  next  corner,  then  turned  through  quiet  residential roads away from the centre of the town. But at one place jubilant
householders  were  dancing round a bonfire, and to avoid passing through the blaze of light they made a second detour, along alleys that twisted
more  and  more  confusingly till, with a sudden rush of sound, they were back in the main street, caught in a madder, wilder throng. Already the
war  had been over for several hours, and the first shock of exultation was yielding to a hysteria that disguised an anticlimax. The war was over
.  .  . but now what? The dead were still dead; no miracle of human signature could restore limbs and sight and sanity; the grinding hardships of
those  four  years  could not be wiped out by a headline. Emotions were numb, were to remain half-numbed for a decade, and relief that might have
eased them could come no nearer than a fret to the nerves. A few things were done, symbolically; men climbed street-lamps to tear away the shades
that  had  darkened  them since the first air raids in human history; shop windows suddenly blazed out with new globes in long-empty sockets. The
traffic  centre  at  Melbury was like a hundred others in and around London that day; the crowds, the noise, the light, the fog. Beyond a certain
limit  of  expression there was nothing to say, nothing much even to do; yet the urge to say and to do was self-torturing. So, as the day and the
night  wore  on,  throngs  were  swayed  by  sharp caprices--hoisting shoulder-high some chance-passing soldier on leave, smashing the windows of
tradesmen  rumoured  to have profiteered, making a fire of hoardings that proclaimed slogans for winning the now-extinct war, booing the harassed
police  who tried to keep such fires in check. From cheers to jeers, from applause to anger, were but a finger touch of difference in the play of
events on taut nerves.

Presently  a  girl  summoning  help for a soldier in hospital uniform who had fainted provided a new thrill--compassion; within a few seconds the
crowd was entirely swept by it, pressing in on the two donors with cries of pity, indignation, and advice to do this and that.

"Give  'im  air!  Keep back there! Pick 'im up and carry 'im inside--I got some whiskey--give the poor chap a nip. . . . No, 'e shouldn't 'ave no
alco'ol, not without a doctor. . . . Phone the 'orspital, they'll send an amberlance. . . . Christ, I wouldn't let 'im go there if 'e was my boy-
-they kill 'em, that's what they do up there."

Presently  a  few  men carried the soldier from the pavement into a grocery, whose owner nervously unbarred his front door to repeated knockings.
Inside the shop the stream of advice would have continued indefinitely, but for the girl, who kept saying she would take him home.

"Better 'ave a doctor first, miss."

"I'll get a doctor when he's home."

"Where's 'e live?"

"Not far away."

"Wounded badly, was 'e?"

"No, he's all right--just fainted, that's all. See, he's coming round now--if I can get him home--"

"Your 'usband, lidy?"

"That make any difference?"

"Come to think of it, I seem to 'ave seen your face before."

"Maybe you have, old boy, but that doesn't mean I'll stand any of your lip. Come on now, and give me a hand. If I could get a cab--"

"Not much chance o' that, miss, not on a night like this."

But  the  shopkeeper,  anxious to get them all off his premises, whispered to her, while the others were still arguing the point: "I've got a van
and my son'll drive you. Think your friend can walk to it?"

"Oh yes, I'm certain he can. Let's try."

It  proved  to  be a large van, smelling of miscellaneous foods and soaps; its driver was a thin youth who easily made room for them on the front
seat.  After  he  had  inched  his  way out of the yard he lit a cigarette and began proudly: "You ain't supposed to drive these vans till you're
eighteen, but Dad don't tell nobody. Where to, miss?"

"D'you know the Owl--the other side of Bockley?"

"You bet I do. Biffer's place?"

"That's it. But stop in the lane just before you get there."

"Right you are. Won't arf be a journey though, in this fog. 'Ow's the patient?"

"Fine. You keep your eye on the road."

"That's all right. I could drive round 'ere blindfold. Aren't you on at the Empire this week?"

"If there's any show at all. They said there wouldn't be tonight."

"I saw the show in Bockley last week. Jolly good."

"Think so? I thought it was rotten. Look where you're driving."


"Good of you to take us, anyhow, even if we do get killed on the way."

"Don't mention it. Be in the army meself next year."

"Not now the war's over, will you?"

"Won't they 'ave me because of that?" He looked puzzled and rather disappointed.

"Maybe they will--if you live that long."

"Pretty  quick, ain't you, miss? Reminds me of that scene you 'ad in the play, when you kept tellin' orf that fat old gent with the moustaches. I
could 'ave larfed."

"Why the devil didn't you then? You were supposed to."

"My  dad'll  stare  when  I  tell  'im  it was Paula Ridgeway. 'E didn't recognize you. Went to the show same as I did, only 'e don't see so well

They  drove  on,  slowly,  gropingly,  chattering  meanwhile, avoiding the main streets as far as possible, and especially the road junctions and
shopping  centres where crowds were likely. Melbury and Bockley were adjacent suburbs, completely built over in a crisscross of residential roads
that  afforded  an infinity of routes; but once beyond Bockley the rows of identical houses came to an end with the abruptness of an army halted,
and the wider highways narrowed and twisted into lanes. They pulled up eventually at the side of a hedge.

"'Ere y'are, miss. The Owl's just rahnd the corner. Sure I can't tike yer no further?"

"This'll do fine. We can walk now."

He helped them out. "Sure you know where y'are?"

"Yes--and  thanks."  She  was fishing in her bag for a coin when he stopped her. "No, miss--you send me a signed picture of yourself, that's what
I'd rather 'ave. . . . 'Is nibs feelin' better? That's good. Well, it's bin a pleasure. Good luck to both of you. Good night, miss."

She waved to him and he drove off, leaving them alone.

"Where are we going?"

"Home--at least it'll do for one."

"But--I--I have to get back to the hospital!"

"We'll see about that tomorrow."

"But this place--I don't understand--"

"It's the Owl Hotel if you like the word. Call it a pub to be on the safe side. I know the landlord."

"Will he mind?"

"The odds are he won't even know, old boy, not in the state he'll be in tonight."

She  guided  him  a  little  way along the lane, then through a side gate into a garden where the shapes of trees loomed up at regular intervals.
"Lovely here when the summer comes--they serve teas and there's a view."

"What name was it he called you?"

"Paula Ridgeway. It's not my real name, though. What's yours?"

"Smith--but that's not real either."

"You don't remember your real name?"

He shook his head.

"Well, Smith's good enough. Come on, Smithy."

As  they  found their way along a path, the silent blanket of fog was pierced by a murmur and then by a paleness ahead, the two presently merging
into a vague impression of the Owl on this night of November the eleventh, 1918. A two-storied, ivy-clustered, steep-roofed building, ablaze with
light  from  every  downstairs  room,  and  already  packed  with shouting celebrants of victory; a friendly pub, traditional without being self-
consciously  old-world.  Established  in the forties, when neighbouring Bockley was a small country town, it had kept its character throughout an
age  that  had  seen the vast obliterating spread of the suburbs and the advent of motor traffic; it had kept, too, the sacred partitions between
"private"  and  "public" bars--divisions rooted in the mythology of London life, and still acceptable because they no longer signify any snobbish
separation,  but merely an etiquette of occasion, dress, and a penny difference in the price of a pint of beer. Even the end of a great war could
not  shatter  this etiquette; but with the sacred partitions still between, the patrons of both bars found community in songs that were roared in
unison  above  the  shouting and laughter and clatter of glasses. They were not especially patriotic songs; most were from the music-halls of the
nineties,  a  few  were  catchy  hits from the recent West End revues. But by far the most popular of all was "Knees Up, Mother Brown," a roaring
chorus that set the whole crowd stamping into the beer-soaked sawdust.

On the threshold of the Owl Smith felt a renewal of nervousness, especially as the girl's entry was the signal for shouts of welcome from within.
She  pushed  him  into  a chair in an unlighted corner of the lobby. "Stay there, Smithy--I won't be long." A group of men pressed out of the bar
towards  her,  dragging  her  back  with them; he could hear their greetings, and her own in answer. He sat there, waiting, trying to collect his
thoughts,  to  come  to  terms  with  the  strange sequence of events that had brought him to a noisy public-house in company with a girl who was
something  on  the stage. A few people passed without noticing him; that was reassuring, but he suspected it was only because they were drunk. He
decided that if anyone spoke to him he would pretend to be drunk also, and with the safeguarding decision once made the waiting became easier. He
watched the door into the bar, expecting her to emerge amidst a corresponding roar of farewells, but when she did come, it was quietly, silently,
and from another direction. "I managed to get away, old boy, and believe me it wasn't easy. Come on--let's go before they find us."

She led him through another door close by, and up a back staircase to the first floor, turning along a corridor flanked by many rooms; she opened
one  of  them  and  put  a  match  to  a  gas-jet just inside. It showed up a square simple apartment, containing an iron bed and heavy Victorian
furniture. He stared around, then began to protest: "But how can I stay here? I can't afford--"

"Listen,  Smithy--the  war  stopped  this morning. If that's possible, anything else ought to be. And you've got to stay somewhere." She began to
laugh. "You're safe here--nobody's going to bother you. I told you I know the man who runs this place--Biffer Briggs--used to be a prize-fighter,
but don't let that frighten you. . . . It's cold, though--wish there was a fire."

She suddenly knelt at his feet and began to unlace his boots. Again he protested.

"Well, you MUST take your boots off--that's only civil, on a clean bed. I'll come up again soon and bring you some tea."

He  took  off  his  boots  as soon as she had gone, but the effort tired him more than he could have imagined. The day's strains and stresses had
utterly  exhausted him, in fact; he almost wished he were back at the hospital, because that at least promised the likelihood of a known routine,
whereas  here,  in this strange place. . . but he fell asleep amidst his uneasiness. When he woke he saw her standing in front of him, carrying a
cup  of  tea. She placed the cup on the side table, then fixed the blankets here and there to cover him more warmly. She was about to tiptoe away
when he reached out his hand in a wordless gesture of thanks.

"Awake, Smithy?"

"Have I been asleep?"

"I  should  think  you  have.  Four solid hours, and this is the third cup of tea I've made for you, just in case. . . . God, I'm tired--tell you
what, old boy, I've had just about enough of it downstairs."

"It's late, I suppose."

"One A.M. and they're still hard at it."

"Do you live here?"

"Not  me--I  just  know  the  Biffer,  that's  all.  I reckon EVERYBODY'S living here tonight, though. Hope the noise won't keep you awake--it'll
probably go on till morning."

"I shan't mind."

"You sleep well?"


"Lie awake thinking about things?"


"About who you are and all that?"


Her  voice  softened  with curiosity as she looked down at him. "Drink it up, Smithy. What does it feel like--to think of the time before--before
you can remember?"

"Like trying to remember before I was born."

She  gave  his  hand an answering touch. "Well, you're born again now. So's everybody. So's the whole world. That's the way to look at it. That's
why there's all this singing and shouting. That's why I'm drunk."

"Are you?"

"Well,  not  really  with drinks, though I have had a few. It's just the thought of it all being over--I've seen so many nice boys like yourself,
having  a  good  time  one week and then by the next . . . Oh, well, mustn't talk about THAT--better not talk any more about anything; you're too
sleepy, and so am I. How about making a bit of room?"

Without  undressing,  except  to slip off her shoes, she lifted the blankets and lay down beside him. He felt her nearness slowly, luxuriously, a
relaxation  of  every  nerve.  "Tell  you  what, old boy, I'm just like a mother tonight, so cuddle up close as you like and keep warm . . . Good
night, Smithy."

"Good night."

"And Paula's the name, in case you've forgotten that as well."

But  he  felt no need to answer, except by a deeper tranquillity he drew from her, feeling that she was offering it. The crowd were still singing
"Knees  Up,  Mother  Brown"  in  the  bars  below.  It  sounded new to him, both words and tune, and he wondered if it were something else he had
forgotten.  He  did  not  know  that  no  one  anywhere  had heard it before--that in some curious telepathic way it sprang up all over London on
Armistice  Night,  in  countless  squares and streets and pubs; the living improvisation of a race to whom victory had come, not with the trumpet
notes  of  a  Siegfried,  but  as  a  common  earth touch--a warm bawdy link with the mobs of the past, the other victorious Englands of Dickens,
Shakespeare, Chaucer.

Presently, as he lay listening, he fell asleep in her arms.

In  the  morning  he had a temperature of 103. He didn't know it; all he felt was a warm, almost cosy ache of all his limbs, as well as a trance-
like  vagueness of mind. She didn't know it either, but his flushed face and incoherent speech made her telephone for a doctor. A majority of the
other  occupants  of  the Owl on that first morning of Peace were also flushed and incoherent, though from a different cause. The Biffer himself,
sprawling, dishevelled, and half undressed, snored loudly on a sofa in the little room behind the private bar; Frank, the bar-tender, boastful of
never  having  touched  a  drop,  languished  in sober but melancholy stupor on the bench in the public bar, watching the maids sweep sawdust and
broken  glasses  into heaps. Other persons, including a second bar-tender, a waiter, and several dilatory patrons who had either declined or been
unable  to go home, were not only fast asleep in various rooms and corridors, but likely to remain so till many more hours were past. It had been
a night in the history of the Owl, as of the world.

The  only  doctor  who  heeded the call proved, on arrival, to be extremely bad-tempered. As she met him in the lobby he took a sharp look round,
eyeing  distastefully  the prostrate figures visible through doorways. "Daresay you know how busy I am--three Bockley doctors down with the flu--
I'm  trying  to  do the work of five men myself, so I hope you haven't brought me here for nothing. I know Briggs--known him for years--he drinks
too  much  and  I've  told him he'll die of it--what more can I do? A man has a right to die as well as live the way he chooses--anyhow, a doctor
can't stop him." By this time she had led him upstairs and into the bedroom. He walked across to the bed, took one look, and swung round angrily.
"What's the idea? Who is he?"

"He's been a soldier. He's ill."

"But I thought it was Briggs. . . . You had no right to drag me out here--who ARE you?"

"A friend of the Biffer--like yourself."

"Well, I've no time for new cases."

"But he's ILL. Can't you see that?"

"How much did he drink?"

"Nothing. It isn't that."

"How do you know?"

"I was with him."

"You're his wife?"


"Well,  what  IS  he  to  you? And what's he doing here? You call me away from my regular patients--you tell me it's urgent--I hurry here because
Briggs is an old friend--" But by this time he had drawn back the blankets. "Why, God bless my soul, the man's in his uniform. . . ."

"I told you--he's been a soldier."

"He's still a soldier--he belongs to a hospital."

"Aren't you going to help him at all?"

"Can't interfere in a military case--all I can do is notify the authorities. What's the fellow's name? . . . Ah, here it is--"

"But he's TERRIBLY ill."

"He'll be sent for."

"But you can't leave him like this!"

"You don't need to instruct me in my duty."

Smith  half heard all this as he lay on the bed, his mind tremulous with fever and his body drenched in perspiration; he heard the door close and
then saw her face coming towards him out of a mist.

"I bungled that, Smithy. I'm afraid the old boy's gone back to tell 'em you're here."

He  smiled.  He didn't care. She seemed to read that in his face. She went on: "Yes, you think it doesn't matter, you'd just as soon go back--but
WOULD you, when you once got there? You don't really WANT to be in a hospital again. . . . Or DO you?"

He smiled again, more faintly. He was too ill to speak.

"Well, if you die, it'll be pretty hard to explain you being here, but if you weren't going to die I wouldn't be so pleased at having let you go.
So you'd just better stay here and not die, Smithy."

He kept smiling as if the whole thing increasingly amused him.

Thus  it  happened  that  when,  towards twilight, the doctor revisited the Owl, striding into the lobby in an even greater hurry and temper than
before, she met him there with answers rehearsed and ready.

"Well, young lady, I've made arrangements about that man. The Melbury Hospital will send an ambulance this evening."

"But he's gone!"


She repeated: "He's gone."

The  doctor flushed and seemed on the verge of an outburst, then suddenly began to cough. She thought he looked rather ill himself. When he could
regain breath he said more quietly: "You'd better do some explaining. Where has he gone? How did he get away?"

She offered him a chair. "Maybe he wasn't so ill. Perhaps he was just drunk, as you said."

"Nonsense!  He's  a  shell-shock case, if you know what that is--has delusions that people are against him. Men like that can be dangerous--might
have a crazy fit or something." He began to cough again. "Now come on, don't waste any more of my time. Tell me where he is."

She was facing him steadily when all at once his coughing became worse; he struggled with it for a while and then gasped: "Where's Briggs? Let me
talk to HIM about this."

"He's out."

"Well,  I'll  call  again later when I've finished my round." He seemed to have a renewal of both energy and anger as he stalked out of the room,
for he shouted from the doorway: "It's all a pack of lies you've been telling--I know that much!"

But he did not call back later when he had finished his round. In fact he never did finish his round. He collapsed over the wheel of his car half
an  hour later, summoning just enough final strength to pull up by the roadside. It was a lonely road and they did not find him till he was dead.
The flu of 1918 was like that.

Later  in the evening a military ambulance drove up to the Owl and drove away again after a few minutes. The Biffer was emphatic in his assurance
that  there must have been some mistake--nobody on his premises was ill. But he called the driver and the two attendants into the private bar and
hospitably stood them drinks.

The  flu had other victims: Biffer Briggs himself, Frank the bar-tender, Annie the maid; they recovered. But an old man named Tom who for decades
had  odd-jobbed  in  the  Owl garden died quietly, like ten millions more throughout Europe; indeed the war during all its years had not taken so
many.  But  because  the  larger  claims  were made without horror they were surrendered without concern, and the Owl was far less perturbed when
three-fourths of its occupants were ill and near to death than on a night some months before when a German air raider had dropped a solitary bomb
in a meadow miles away.

Meanwhile  Lloyd George was organizing his khaki election; the world grew loud with promises; the ex-Kaiser was to be hanged; the losers must pay
the  whole  cost of the war; the armies of the victors were all to come home and find work waiting for them; the new world was to be one of peace
and  plenty  for Englishmen. Among all the promises a few things were real and immediate: a vote for the women, and gratuities to the men as they
put  off  their  uniforms--sums  in  cash  that ranged from the field-marshal's fortune to the private soldier's pittance. The morning these were
announced  Paula  took  the  newspaper  upstairs along with the breakfast tray, but said nothing till she was holding a thermometer to the light.
"Well,  Smithy,  you're  down to nearly normal, so I reckon I can tell you the other good news--the government owes you some money." She read him
the details and added: "So stop worrying--you'll be able to pay for everything soon."

"But in the meantime?"

"NOW what's bothering you?"

"I hate to seem inquisitive, but--I mean--you--you probably aren't so well off as--as to be able to afford--to help me--"

"Darling, I'm not well off at all, but helping you isn't bankrupting me, either. And why should you hate to seem inquisitive?"

She  sat  on the bed waving the thermometer happily. "I'm afraid you're too much of a gentleman, old boy. After all, you don't know WHAT you are,
do you? Maybe you're a lord or an earl or something. Can't you remember going to Eton? You talked a good bit lately while you were in a delirium,
but it was all war stuff--not very helpful. You've been pretty bad, incidentally--know that? This morning's the first time you've dropped below a
hundred." She poured out a cup of tea. "All the others caught it too--good job _I_ didn't."

"You've been living here?"

"Living and life-saving. The flu closed the theatre so I'd have had nothing else to do, anyway."

"I still don't see how you can afford to help me like this."

"Darling,  I'll let you into a secret--I'm not paying for your room, but if it makes you feel better, you can turn over anything you like as soon
as the government gives you the money."

"That's another trouble. I can't be demobilized till I'm officially discharged from hospital."

"Well, hurry up and get better, then they'll discharge you quick enough."

"But--in the meantime--don't you see?--I can't HIDE--like this--in somebody else's house!"

"But you don't have to hide. I've talked to the Biffer about you already."

"You mean he knows I'm here--and where I come from?"

"Yes, and he doesn't mind. Doesn't give a damn, in fact. I knew I could fix it."

"But--why does he think you're doing all this for me?"

"Well,  why  do  YOU  think I am?" She laughed. "It's just a hobby of mine. Now listen to this--it's the Biffer's idea, not mine. He says for the
time  being--when you've got over this flu and are strong enough--why don't you do a bit in the garden same as old Tom used to? If you LIKE, that
is.  Might  be  good for you to have a quiet job in the fresh air--you wouldn't have to talk to people much. And it's lovely here when the summer

Something flicked against his memory. "You said that once before."

"Did I?"

"The night we came here--as we walked through the garden in the fog. You said--'It's lovely here when the summer comes.'"

"Well, it certainly is, but I don't remember saying it. And you're the one who's supposed to forget things!"

"That's why I'm always trying to remember them--things that have happened before."

The  Biffer's  not  minding  was a mild way of expressing his willingness to co-operate. He was, in truth, delighted to join in any outwitting of
authority, which he visualized as the same malign power that had placed so many restrictions on his wartime management of the Owl. Jovial, obese,
and  somewhat  thick-witted  after  the  hundreds  of  collisions  his  skull had withstood in years gone by, he remained the product of an early
education  that  had  taught him to read printed words with difficulty and to believe them with ease; so that he did indeed believe the things he
could  read with least difficulty--which included the sporting pages of the daily papers, Old Moore's predictions, and "powerful articles" by the
more down-writing journalists of the day. He had a few fierce hatreds (for such things as red tape, government interference, and Mrs. Grundy) and
a  few  equally  fierce affections, such as for Horatio Bottomley, "good old Teddy" (meaning the late King Edward the Seventh), and Oxford in the
Boat  Race.  He  took  pride in the oft-repeated claim that "there ain't a more gentlemanly House than the Owl in all London," and that it should
shelter  a  victim of the things he most hated added zest to a naturally generous impulse. "Pack of Burercratic busybodies," he exclaimed, during
his  first meeting with the victim. "Just let 'em come 'ere, that's all. I've still got strength to give 'em what I gave the Gunner!" What he had
given  the  Gunner (at Shoreditch on May 17, 1902) was a straight left in the fourteenth round--this being the peak of his career, and one which,
in  money  and  fame,  he  had  never afterwards approached. But he had bought the Owl with the money, and the fame, carefully husbanded too, had
survived pretty well within a ten-mile radius of his own brass-bound beer engines.

So  Smith began to work in the garden of the Owl; and in the meantime President Wilson crossed the Atlantic to be cheered as a new Messiah in the
streets  of  London,  Rome,  and Paris; English, French, and American troops held the Rhine bridgeheads; the first trains crept again through the
defiles of the Brenner; and in the great cities of central and eastern Europe revolution and famine stalked together.

It  was the Biffer's second-favourite boast that from the garden of the Owl you could see "the Palace" on a clear day--the Alexandra Palace, that
was, seven miles west across the Lea Valley; in the other direction the trees of Epping Forest made a darkly etched panorama that grew brown, and
then  suddenly  green,  as  spring  advanced.  There was only preparatory gardening to be done until that time, but then the grass grew long in a
single week and a line of daffodils flowered in every window-box. Hardly anyone visited the garden during the daytime, and by evening, when a few
already  preferred  to  take their drinks out of doors, Smith was in bed and asleep, except on Sundays, when Paula would generally pay a visit if
her show were playing in or near London.

Of  course he knew she didn't come to see him only, but chiefly the Biffer and the crowd in the bar, who all seemed to be her friends and greeted
her  with vociferous cordiality; naturally she spent a good deal of the time with them, and it wasn't easy to get away for a solitary chat with a
semi-invalid.  She  managed  it, though, as a rule, meeting him in the garden and walking with him along the Forest paths as far as the big beech
trees.  He  enjoyed such walks, because it was dark and he still shrank from meeting people; but he also shrank from the thought that he might be
dragging her away from much livelier company in the bar. He tried to tell her this.

"Don't you worry, Smithy. I won't let you bore me."

"But you have such a good time with the crowd."

"I  know--that's  because I like people. Can't help it. But don't think so little of yourself--you're included. Gives me plenty of fun to see you
getting better like this, week by week."

"Yes, I think I AM getting better."

"You only THINK you are?"

"I  still  don't  like  to  talk  to people, though." He tried to explain. "It isn't so much fear of them as a sort of uneasiness--as if I really
oughtn't  to  be  alive, and everybody knows it and wonders why I still am. I know that's foolish, but it isn't enough to know--I've got to FEEL,
before I can free myself."

"You will, Smithy. You'll suddenly feel you're free as air one of these days."

"If I do, I'll have you to thank--chiefly. You've given me so much of your time."

"Oh  God,  don't  start being grateful. Listen, I'll tell you something. If you oughtn't to be here, neither should I, and I wouldn't be, but for
luck.  A  house  I  was  living in was hit by a bomb--I was asleep in one room and two people were killed in the next. I wasn't going to tell you
that--thought  it  might upset you to be reminded of the war, but now maybe it'll cheer you up to think we're both like that. They did their best
to  finish us off, Smithy, but we managed to trick 'em somehow or other. That's the way to feel, and it's easier now the war's over and there's a

"I'd like to feel that, if I could."

"You will. You'll go on getting better, and then one night I'll see you in the front row of the stalls, watching the show."

"Yes, I'd like to see you act."

"Oh, don't come for that reason. I don't act--I'm just a comic."

"I WILL come, when I'm better."

"That's a promise, now!"

There wasn't only the question of his reluctance to meet strangers. Any prospective employer, no matter how sympathetic, would ask for details of
his  history,  his  army discharge papers and so on, and if it came out that he'd escaped from a mental hospital, the authorities would certainly
send  him  back there, at least for tests and observation, and if he WERE sent back, even for a short time, he felt terribly certain he would get
worse  again.  There  was nothing for it but to stay where he was and be thankful for such a sanctuary; it was really an astounding piece of good
fortune  ever  to  have  found it. So he stayed, pottering about the Owl garden and gradually returning to the world of ordinary awareness. There
came  a  day  when  he could open a newspaper and face whatever catastrophe the turn of a page might reveal; another day when he could pick up an
exciting novel without perilously identifying himself with one or other of the characters. He was recovering.

Sometimes  while he was busy in the garden the landlord, puffing and sweating in his shirt-sleeves, would bring out a couple of pints of beer. He
took  a  naïve,  childlike  interest  in  his protégé. "Easy does it, mate--don't work your head off. Seen the paper? They 'aven't 'anged the old
Kaiser yet, but it looks like they'll do for this chap Landru--supposed to have murdered twenty women--what d'you think of that?"

Smith  didn't  have  to  answer  much,  because  the  Biffer  was always glad to talk, especially about his favourite diversion, which was a word
competition in a well-known weekly paper. He usually sent in several entries; they consisted of some supposedly apt comment on a selected phrase.
The  prize-winning  comment  generally had wit, or at least a double meaning; but the Biffer could never grasp that, and his hard-wrought efforts
were  invariably  trite,  and  just  as  invariably  failed  to  score. But every night in the private bar he would discuss them with his regular
customers,  and  in the daytime he was glad enough to add the new gardener to his list of consultants. The latter, encouraged to take a rest from
work and study the weekly contest, soon developed an inkling of what might stand a chance, and from time to time made suggestions that the Biffer
dutifully incorporated into his own efforts. Suddenly one of them won a prize of a hundred pounds, and never since his epic fight with the Gunner
had  anything  happened  to give the Biffer a greater feeling of elation. His first response was to insist on an equal split, paid over there and
then  in  five-pound notes, for he believed (more truly than he realized) that the gardener's emendation might have helped. But that was not all.
In  the  Owl  bar  that  same  evening,  under  stress  of many drinks and congratulations, he could not withhold credit as well as cash from his
collaborator.  "Quiet well-spoken sort of chap--stammers a bit--been shell-shocked in the war. Matter of fact, they 'ad 'im locked up in that big
guv'ment  hospital at Melbury till the poor chap got away. I reckon that's a fine joke on them guv'ment busybodies--a feller they make out is off
'is  chump  goes  and thinks up something that wins a hundred quid!" And the more the Biffer contemplated this extremely ironic circumstance, the
more he repeated and elaborated it over a period of several hours and before changing audiences.

A  few evenings later Smith was tidying up in the greenhouse; but it was a Sunday and there had not been much to do. It was hardly time for Paula
to  come yet, even if she did come; he knew she was at Selchester that week--perhaps it was too far away. The uncertainty as to whether she would
come  or  not  made  a  curious  little fret inside him; it didn't matter so much if she wasn't coming provided he hadn't looked forward to it in
advance.  That  brought  him  to a realization of how much he did look forward to her visits. Of course, now that he was getting better he didn't
expect  to  see her so much; she had been kind while he was ill, he mustn't trade on that. And another thing was curious--his memory of the night
she  had  brought  him  to  the  Owl,  every  word she had said, little intimacies of physical presence, details that swung like lamps amidst the
background  of fever and delirium. He could hardly believe that certain things had happened at all, that she had so comforted him throughout that
long  night  of  Armistice.  There had been no other nights like that, there never would be, neither in his life nor in the world's. He could not
expect  it;  and  it  was  natural  that their relationship, begun in such a wild vacuum of despair and ecstasy, should by now have become a more
normal one.

Suddenly  the  greenhouse  door  opened  and  she stood there in the sunlight, breathless. "Oh, Smithy, you've got to go--immediately! Drop those
things  and  don't stay here a moment longer. I'll pack your bag--I'll find where everything is--meet me in the Forest by the beech trees in half
an hour! But go NOW--don't waste any time--"

"But what's the matter? What on earth's happened?"

"Two men from Melbury Hospital talking to Biffer in the bar. They've come for you."

"For ME?" He stared at her, bewildered at first, then enraged and indignant. "They want to take me BACK? They STILL want to get me?"

She  ran  to  him,  holding  him,  trying  to  stop  his  cries. "Don't shout--and don't argue--just go as I tell you!" She pulled him out of the
greenhouse and across the garden to the side gate. "Wait for me--you know where--I shan't be long."

They  met  again,  under the trees. He was calmer; he had waited, smoking cigarettes and thinking things out. The day had been hot and pockets of
warm  air  lingered amidst the fast-cooling shades. The Forest was very beautiful, and something in him was beginning to respond to beauty, as to
anger  and  indignation  also. He sprang to eagerness as he saw her approach, carrying bags and parcels. They stood still for a moment, while she
regained  her  breath.  "It's  all right--nobody saw you--we're safe so far. The men have gone--the Biffer got mad and said he'd give 'em what he
gave  the Gunner." She laughed. "But of course that wouldn't help--they've got the law on their side--the law and the doctors. . . . I didn't say
much  to  Biffer.  He  means well, but as soon as he's had a few drinks he tells all he knows, which isn't much as a rule, but it's too much just
now. So he'd better not know about us till he finds out."


"Well, of course. We're going together, aren't we?"

"But how can--I mean--"

"Are you being the little gentleman again?"

"It's not that, but isn't it time--"

"Listen, Smithy, I'm only trying to help you--"

"I know that, but it's time I began helping myself."

"What a moment to think of it!"

"It isn't that I'm not grateful, but--"

"I  know,  you  feel  independent.  Well,  go on your own then, but where will it take you? You haven't an idea. One place is as good as another,
what's  wrong  with Selchester then? I'm there for the week and after I've gone you can do as you like. . . . You've got those ten fivers in your
pocket, haven't you?"


"Then hand over half to me."

He did so, willingly and seriously; she took them with a laugh. "Thanks, Smithy--you'll feel better now."

They  reached  Selchester  late  at  night,  after a confused journey by various trains and buses; but all the way he had been aware of a barrier
rising  between  them, so that at Selchester Station she summoned a cab and did not suggest that he accompany her. "You'll be all right, Smithy--
the  town's  full  of pubs and lodgings--I reckon you'd rather choose one yourself. I lodge with the company, of course. Well, good night--you're
safe  here  if you look after yourself, and you will, won't you?" She leaned up and gave him a sudden kiss--the first she had ever given him, but
he knew it meant less than her hand touch the first time they had met. "Good night, old boy," she repeated.

"Good night, Paula."

When her cab turned the corner and he was left alone with the crowd of strangers in the station yard, he felt suddenly, hopelessly lost. It was a
sensation  of  sheer  panic  for the moment, but he conquered it--as if he had seen a loathed insect and shudderingly ground it with his heel. He
walked  into  a  near-by  hotel and engaged a cheap room under the name of Smith. They gave him a very small attic with dormer windows and a view
over the railway goods yard; throughout the night he kept waking up with a start whenever express trains screamed by, but somehow he did not mind
that kind of panic; it was the inner kind that paralysed him--or rather, could not quite paralyse him any more, since he had fought it, alone and
so  terribly,  after  she  had  gone.  How  comforting,  as well as fearful, that word ALONE was; he wanted aloneness, because it was the hardest
training  ground for the kind of strength he also wanted; and yet, once he had that strength, he knew he would not wish to be alone. And he knew,
too,  that his feeling for Paula was no longer an eagerness to submit, like a child; but something positive, strong enough to demand equality, if
there  were ever to be any further relationship between them at all. He knew there probably could not be. That warm outpouring pity had saved his
life,  but he could only keep his life from now on by refusing it. Lying awake that night in the Station Hotel, he made up his mind that he would
not try to see her in Selchester that week; she would be busy, no doubt, with rehearsals and performances; and he, too, ought to be busy--looking
for a job if the town offered any, and if not, deciding where else to go.

For  five  days  he  walked about Selchester alone. He visited the Cathedral, sat for hours in the Close under the trees, spent an afternoon in a
very  dull  municipal  museum,  watched the trains in and out of the railway station, read the papers in the free library. None of these pursuits
involved  conversation,  and--except  to  waitresses  and  the maid at the hotel--he did not utter a word for anyone to hear. Sometimes, however,
during  walks  in  the surrounding country, he talked to himself a little--not from eccentricity, but to reassure himself of the power of speech.
There  were  a few factories also that he scouted around, wondering if he should ask for a job, but sooner or later he always found a door with a
notice "No Hands Wanted." He knew that subconsciously he was glad, because he still feared the ordeal of cross-examination by strangers.

One rainy afternoon he sat in the refreshment room at the railway station, drinking a third cup of tea that he did not want and staring at an old
magazine  that he was not reading. Curious how one had to simulate some normal activity or purpose in life, even if one hadn't one, or especially
if  one had a secret one; in a town café he could not have stayed so long without attracting attention, but at the station it was merely supposed
he was waiting for a train. Trains were things people waited hours for; one did not, unless one were peculiar, wait hours for a desire to clarify
itself.  But  that  was  what HE was waiting for. It was Saturday; he had been in Selchester almost a week. He had a definite desire to go to the
theatre and see the show, but he could not decide until he felt certain what his desire signified. If it were weakness, an urge to go back on his
pledge to himself, he would not give way; he could endure plenty more of the aloneness, it would not break him. But, on the other hand, supposing
it  were  not weakness but strength--supposing it meant that he could now walk into a theatre as normally as into a library or museum, could face
the crowd and the lights and the excitement without a qualm?

He  had  walked  past  the  theatre  several times and had judged the kind of show it was from bills and photographs; nothing very uplifting, but
probably  good  entertainment,  and  it would be interesting to see what she was capable of. Thus, he made his desire seem casual, normal, almost
unimportant,  until  suddenly he decided he was strong and not weak enough to go. He got up and walked briskly to the counter to pay for the tea.
"Gettin' tired of waitin'?" remarked the girl, with mild interest. "The Winton train's late today."

"Yes," he said, smiling. "I think I'll get a breath of fresh air."

He left the station and walked through the rain to the centre of the city, feeling more and more confident.

It  was  an  odd thing, this loss of memory; he could not remember personal things about himself, yet he had a background of experience that gave
him  a  certain maturity of judgment. He had probably been to many theatres before, just as he had probably been to schools and received a decent
education.  There were things he knew that he could only have picked up from school books, other things that he could only have learned from some
forgotten  event.  It  was  as  if  his  memory existed, but was submerged; as if he could lower a net and drag something up, but only blindfold,
haphazardly,  without  the power of selection. He could not stare into the past; he could only grope. But by some kind of queer compensation, his
eyes for the present were preternaturally bright; like a child's eyes, naïve, ingenuous, questioning.

In  such a mood he sat in the third row at the first house of the Selchester Hippodrome that night and looked upon a show called Salute the Flag,
described  on  the  programme as "a stirring heart-gripping drama, pulsating with patriotism and lit by flashes of sparkling comedy." Actually it
was a hangover from wartime, having begun in 1914 as a straight melodrama with no comedy at all, but with many rousing speeches that audiences in
those  days had liked to cheer. Then, as the war progressed and the popular mood changed from that of Rupert Brooke to that of Horatio Bottomley,
the  patriotic  harangues  were  shortened to make room for the writing in of a comic part, which speedily became such a success that by 1918 the
show  had  developed  into  a series of clowning episodes behind which the dramatic structure of what had once been a very bad play appeared only
intermittently.  Nobody  knew the authorship of the original, or of any of the later accretions; successive actors had added a gag here and a gag
there;  every  now  and  then  the  show became too long, and the parts left out were naturally those that elicited neither laughs nor cheers, no
matter  how  essential they were to the original plot. But nobody minded that--least of all the audiences who paid their ninepences and shillings
in  the  few remaining small-town English theatres that had so far escaped conversion into cinema houses. Salute the Flag had certainly helped to
preserve  the  very  existence of such a minority; it had also made a great deal of money for a great many people. Probably, in the aggregate, it
had been more profitable than many a better-known and well-advertised West End success.

Smith  found it endurable, even before the moment when Paula appeared. Her part in the play was trivial, that of an impudent girl at a hotel desk
who  got  people's  bedrooms  mixed up, but in one of the other scenes she stepped out of the part for a few impersonations in front of the drop-
curtain;  he  thought them pretty good, not from any definite competence to judge, but because of the warm vitality that came over the footlights
with  them,  her  own rich personality, full of giving--even to a twice-nightly audience. Evidently the audience too were aware of this, for they
cheered uproariously, despite the likelihood that few had seen the originals, which included Gerald du Maurier, Gladys Cooper, Mrs. Pat Campbell,
and  the  ex-Kaiser.  They  cheered so much that she came on again to give an impression of a society woman telephoning her lover, all smiles and
simperings,  in the midst of grumbling at her maid, all scowls and snarls--a bit of broad unsubtle farce that demanded, however, a sure technique
of  changed  accents and facial expressions. She did not appear again till the final scene in the last act, when the heroine, a nurse, unfolded a
huge  and  rather dirty flag in front of her, and with the words "You kennot fahr on helpless womankind" defied the villain, who wore the uniform
of  a  German  army officer, until such time as the entire rest of the company rushed on to the stage to hustle him off under arrest and to bring
down  the  curtain  with the singing of a patriotic chorus. Smith was half-way down the aisle on his way out of the theatre when an usher touched
him on the arm. "Excuse me, sir, one of the artists would like you to go behind, if you'd care to. She says you'd know who it was."

He hesitated a moment, then answered: "Why, of course."

"This way, sir."

He  was  led  back towards the stage, stooping under the brass rail into the orchestra, stepping warily amidst music-stands and instruments, then
stooping  again  to  descend  a narrow staircase leading under the stage into an arena of ropes and canvas. The usher piloted him beyond all this
into  a  corridor lined by doors; on one of them he tapped. "The gentleman's here, miss." A moment's pause. "I expect she's dressing, sir--you'll
excuse me, I've got to get back."

Again,  after  the usher had left him, he felt the beginnings of panic, but it was different now--an excitement that he fought only as much as he
wanted to fight it. And the door opened before he could either yield or conquer to any extent.

"Oh, Smithy--Smithy--you kept your promise!"

She  dragged  him  into the room with both hands and closed the door. It was a shabby little dressing-room, with one fierce light over a mirrored
table  littered with paints and cosmetics; playbills and an old calendar on the wall; clothes thrown across a chair; a mixture of smells--grease-
paint, burnt hair, cigarettes, cheap perfume, lysol. She wore a dressing-gown over the skimpy costume in which she was soon to appear again.

"I didn't see you till the end--glad I didn't--I'd have been so excited I'd have ruined the show."

He said, smiling: "I enjoyed it very much--especially your part."

"Oh  no, Smithy, you don't have to say things like that. . . . Tell me how you are! Better, I can see--or you wouldn't be here. But what have you
been doing with yourself all week?"

"Oh, just looking around. Have to find some sort of a job, you know."

"Any luck?"

"Not so far. I somehow don't feel Selchester's a very good place to try."

"We're going on to Rochby next week. More chance in a place like that, maybe."

"I daresay I'll get something somewhere."

"And you FEEL better?"

"Oh yes--fine."

The call-boy shouted through the door, "Five minutes, miss."

"That means I've only got five minutes." She paused, then laughed. "I do say intelligent things, don't I?"

He laughed also. "They keep you pretty busy--two shows a night."

"Yes, but this is Saturday, thank heaven. You'd be surprised what a rest Sunday is, even if you spend most of it in trains."

"You leave in the morning?"

"Ten o'clock."

"But it isn't far."

"About three hours. We have a long wait at Bletchley. Somehow that always happens. I seem to have spent days of my life waiting at Bletchley."

"I don't think I know Bletchley."

"Well,  you  haven't missed much. There's nothing outside the station except a pub that never seems to be open. Oh God, what are we talking about
Bletchley for? . . . I've got some money of yours, you know that? Or did you forget?"

"No, but--"

"Well,  I'd  better  give it back since I'm off in the morning." She began to fumble in her dress. "I carry it about with me--doesn't do to leave
fivers lying loose."

"Oh, but you mustn't--"

"Well, you don't think I'm going to KEEP it, do you?"

"I--I--never thought about it, but--"

"DID you think I was going to keep it?"

"Well--I don't know--it would have been quite fair--after all, you'd done so much--"

"Listen, you little gentleman--I kept it because I thought I'd have to help you again, and I thought you'd feel better if I was spending your own
money!  But now you ARE better, thank God, and you don't need my help, so here you are!" She pushed the notes into his pocket. "I've got to go on
again in two minutes, so don't make me angry! You'll need that cash if you're looking for a job. . . . What sort are you looking for?"

"Any kind, really--"

"Outdoor or indoor?"

"I'm not particular about that, provided--well, you know some of the difficulties--"

"You're scared they'll ask you too many questions? What you'd really like is for someone to stop you in the street and say--'I don't know who you
are, or what you've been, and I don't care either, but if you want a job, come with me.' Isn't that the idea?"

He laughed. "Yes, that's exactly the idea, if anyone would."

"You wouldn't mind what the job turned out to be, though?"

"I think I could do anything that I'd have even the faintest chance of getting."

"Figures? Keeping books?"

"Oh yes."

"A bit of talk now and again--even to strangers--in that charming way you have?"

"I wouldn't CHOOSE that sort of job, but of course--"

"You mean you're still bothered about meeting people?"

He hesitated. She went on: "Well, leave that out. What about a bit of carpentry mixed up with the bookkeeping?"

"Why carpentry?"

"Why  not? . . . Back at the intelligent conversation, aren't we?" The call-boy knocked again. "Well . . . I suppose it's got to be good-bye till
we meet again--unless you want to see the show through twice--you'd be a fool if you did."

"Perhaps I could meet you somewhere afterwards?"

"We  always  have  supper together on Saturday nights--all the company, I mean--it's a sort of regular custom, wherever we are. Of course I could
take you as my guest, but there'd be a crowd of strangers." Abruptly her manner changed. "Smithy, would you really come?"

"Do you WANT me to come?"

"_I_  wouldn't  mind  a  bit, it's what YOU want that matters. You're free as air now--that's how you always hoped to be. And they can be a rowdy
gang sometimes. So please yourself, I'm not inviting you anywhere any more . . . but if you ARE coming, say so now, then I can tell them."

He felt suddenly bold, challenging, almost truculent. "I'll come, and I don't care how rowdy they are."

She  flashed  him  a  smile  as she slipped off the dressing-gown and put final touches to her make-up. "Number 19, Enderby Road--that's near the
cattle  market--about eleven-thirty. You don't need to hang around here for me--just go straight to the house at the time. I'll come sharp--ahead
of the others. See you then."

The  rain  had  stopped;  he took a long walk in the washed evening air, then sat on a seat in the Cathedral Close and smoked cigarettes till the
chime  of  eleven.  He  could not quell his nervousness at the thought of meeting so many strange people for the sort of evening party that was a
weekly custom of theirs--that in itself made him an outsider. He half wished he hadn't said he would go, and it occurred to him that of course he
didn't  have  to--if  he  failed  to turn up, that would be the end of it. But the reflection, though tantalizing up to a point, had the stinging
afterthought that he would then not see her again.

Enderby  Road  was a quiet cul-de-sac of Edwardian houses, most of them let to boarders; Number 19 looked no different from the others, but had a
gas  lamp  outside the front gate. He waited there, watching for her after the Cathedral clock chimed the half-hour; it was comforting to reflect
that  nobody  knew  him  yet--he  was just an anonymous man standing under a lamp-post. Presently she turned the corner, her walk breaking into a
scamper  as  she saw him. "On time, Smithy--I mean YOU are, I'M not. But I hurried to be ahead of the others--I didn't even stop to clean off the

She led him into the house. "Wait in the hall while I go up and finish."

He  waited  about  ten  minutes;  the hall was dark and smelt of floor polish with an added flavour--which he took practically the entire time to
detect--of  pickled  walnuts. Near him stood a bamboo hall-stand overloaded with hats and coats; the staircase disappeared upwards into the gloom
with  thin  strips of brass outlining the ascent. Voices came from a downstairs room. He wondered what he should say if anyone came out of one of
the  rooms  and  accosted  him, but when the thing happened it turned out to be no problem at all; the voices stopped, a thin old man with a high
domed  forehead  suddenly  emerged  through  one  of  the doors, collided with him, murmured "Pardon," and disappeared along the passage. After a
moment, he returned, collided again, murmured "Pardon" again, and re-entered the room. Then the voices were resumed.

Soon after that she came down the stairs two at a time, to whisper excitedly: "Now I'm ready."

They  entered the room, in which--despite the voices--there was only one person, the thin old dome-headed man; he was sitting at the dining-table
with a large book open before him, propped against the cruet. The domed head rose over the book as from behind a rampart.

"Mr. Lanvin--this is Mr. Smith."

"A  pleasure to meet you, my dear sir." He smiled, but did not offer to shake hands. Then he closed the book slowly, and Smith could see it was a
Braille edition. Somehow that gave him peculiar confidence; Lanvin could not SEE him, could only judge him by his voice; so for the time being he
had only one thing to concentrate on.

Lanvin  was  placing the book exactly in its place on a shelf; it was clear he knew by touch and feeling every inch of the geography of the room.
"So you are to join the weekly celebration, Mr. Smith?"

"That seems to be the idea. I hope you don't mind."

"Mind?  I'm  a guest like yourself, though I've been one before. I warn you--they're a noisy lot--though no noisier than I used to be in my young
days. If they weary you later on, come over and talk to me."

Smith  said  he certainly would, and Mr. Lanvin began to talk about Shakespeare. It seemed he had been reading The Merchant of Venice, taking the
various parts in various voices. "I used to be quite a good Shylock, though I say it myself--and of course it's a fine acting part, and the trial
scene  has  wonderful  moments. But taking it all in all, you know, it's a bad play--a bad play. Why do they always choose it for school use? The
pound  of  flesh--gruesome. The Jewish villain--disgustingly anti-Semitic. And a woman lawyer--stark feminism. . . . Oh, a bad play, my dear sir.
You're not a schoolmaster, by any chance?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Because  if you were, I should like to . . . but never mind that. Since my eyes compelled me to retire from the stage I've spent a great deal of
my  time  reading,  and do you know, the Braille system gives one a really new insight into literature. You see, you can't skip--you have to read
every word, and that gives you time to think for yourself, to criticize, to revalue--"

Meanwhile the door had reopened and a heavily built, red-faced, pouchy-eyed man stood in the entrance, waiting till he was quite sure he had been
seen before stepping further into the room. Eventually he did so, exclaiming: "Paula, my angel, so THIS is the friend you spoke of?"

She  completed  the  introduction;  the  red-faced man's name was Borley. He lost no time in dominating the scene. "Fine to have you with us, old
chap." And then, dropping his voice to an almost secret parenthesis and leaning over the table with the gesture of one about to unveil something:
"I  don't  know  if  you've  ever  noticed, but the food in English boarding-houses is always in inverse proportion to the size of the cruet. The
larger  the cruet, that is, the worse the food. Now this is a perfectly ENORMOUS cruet." He gave it a highly dramatic long-range scrutiny. "You'd
think  it  ought  to  light up or play music or something--it's really more like a municipal bandstand than a receptacle for Mrs. Gregory's stale

Just late enough to miss these remarks the landlady entered with a trayful of small meat pies. Smith had to be introduced to her also, and it was
Mr.  Borley  who  made  haste  to  do this. "Mrs. Gregory, I was just remarking on the quality of your food, and I perceive from yonder succulent
morsels  that  all  I  have said will soon be amply demonstrated!" Whereupon Mr. Borley delivered a portentous wink all round the room while Mrs.
Gregory  bounced the tray on the table without much response. She looked so completely indifferent to the bogus compliment that Mr. Borley's joke
was somewhat dulled. "Glad to serve you all," she muttered. "I do my best, as the saying goes--consequently is, I keep my reg'lars."

"You not only keep us, Mrs. Gregory, but WE keep YOU--and proud to do it!"

She shuffled out of the room, leaving Mr. Borley to proffer the dish of pies with an air of controlled distaste. "Well, the risk's yours, Smithy.
Don't mind if I call you Smithy, do you? That's what SHE calls you."

Rather  to  his surprise, after all this, Smith found the pies excellent. He said so to Mr. Borley, adding that he was even hungry enough to have

"Right  you  are,  then--and  fortified by your example I'll even try one myself." Mr. Borley then began eating and hardly stopped throughout the
entire rest of the evening. He added, with his mouth full: "But if you're a hungry man, God help you at Mrs. Beagle's!"

Smith  did  not  see  how the food at Mrs. Beagle's, whoever and wherever she was, could be any concern of his, but he had no time to explore the
point  because  another  member  of the party had just arrived--a young man in tweeds, puffing at a pipe, almost like a magazine advertisement of
either  the  tweeds  or  the  pipe;  he  had  a  pink, over-handsome, rather weak face to which only premature dissipation had begun to lend some
interest. Once again Mr. Borley officiated at the introduction, and while he was still performing two other persons entered, one a pale thin girl
with  a  large nose and spotty complexion, the other an elderly silver-haired man of such profoundly sorrowful appearance that the beholder could
not  keep back a first response of sympathy. Mr. Borley had to summon all his technical powers to hold attention against such competition, but he
did his best by shouting the further introductions.

The  silver-haired man smiled and bowed, while the girl marched on Smith, delivered a crunching handshake, strode to the window, stared out for a
moment  as  if  deeply meditating, then swung round with husky intensity. "Oh, Mr. Smith, hasn't it been a wonderful day? I'm SURE you're a rain-
lover like me!"

Smith  felt  somewhat cheered by a feeling that in this encounter all the others were standing round to see fair play, especially when the tweedy
youth nudged him in the ribs. "Don't worry about her--she's always like that. Why Tommy married her nobody can imagine--not even Tommy any more .
. . can you, Tommy?"

Here  a  sharp-nosed,  jockey-sized  man  with  bloodshot  blue  eyes  and straw-coloured hair came across the room to be introduced, shook hands
wordlessly  and  continued  to  do  so  while  he  glanced  around with concentrated expressionlessness. Presently, turning his eyes on Smith, he
whispered: "What made you first take an interest in slumming?" He went on, before Smith could think of any reply: "We're just a low vulgar crowd.
Rogues  and  vagabonds,  they  called  us  in  Shakespeare's time--am I right, Lanvin? We have no homes, we live in dingy lodging-houses in every
middle-sized  town  in England, we know which landlady counts the potatoes, which theatre's full of fleas, and which has a roof that leaks on the
stage  when  it rains. None of your high-class West End stuff for us--we lure the coppers, the orange peel, and the monkey-nuts, and we spend our
one-day-a-week holiday chewing stale sandwiches in Sunday trains."

Mrs.  Gregory then came in with what was evidently the main dish--quantities of fried fish, chip potatoes, and hot peas; meanwhile Mr. Borley had
been  out and now reappeared carrying a crate of bottled beer. The party began to find places at the table while the sorrowful-looking man, whose
name  was  Margesson and whom one would have expected to speak like an archbishop, boomed across the table, quite unsorrowfully and with the zest
and  accent  of an auctioneer: "Ladies and gentlemen, may I remind you that we shall soon be at the mercy of Mrs. Beagle." Here followed a chorus
of  groans  and  catcalls. "So I'm not going to keep you from the really serious business of the evening, which is to eat the last decent meal we
shall  have for a week. Before we begin, though, and speaking as the senior member of this company,--bar Lanvin, who's a permanent resident,--may
I  offer  you a welcome, Mr. Smith, and beg you to take no further notice of that truncated nitwit Tommy Belden, nor of that moon-faced stew-pan,
Richard  Borley,  nor of . . ." He had an insult for each of them, culminating in the arrival of a fat over-powdered woman with a large smile she
bestowed  upon  everyone from the doorway, whereupon Margesson turned on her and exclaimed: "Now, Miss Donovan, you old bag of bones, don't stand
there ogling the men--come and meet our guest, Mr. Smith, commonly called Smithy--"

And  so  it  went  on.  Not  till  weeks  later,  when  he  had got to know them as human beings, did he realize that they had behaved with extra
extravagance  that  evening in order to put him at his ease, and that the insults were a convention in which they took particular pride--the more
horrific and ingenious, the warmer the note of friendliness indicated. A climax came when Margesson, at the end of dinner, rose to make an appeal
on  behalf  of  an  actor  whom they had formerly known and who had fallen on bad times. Margesson's speech began: "Ladies and gentlemen, if such
there  still  are  among this depraved and drink-sodden gathering--some of you, even in your cups, may remember Dickie Mason, one of the dirtiest
dogs who ever trod the boards of a provincial hippodrome--"

The  party  lasted till after three in the morning, and was only then dissolved at the energetic request of Mrs. Gregory, who said the neighbours
were being disturbed. Towards the end of it, Margesson took Smith aside and said: "Well? Can you stand us?"

Smith answered with a laugh: "I think so. I'm having quite a good time, anyhow."

"The train's at ten tomorrow morning."

"Yes, Paula told me."

"Some people sleep late, that's all."

That seemed another odd remark, but he didn't begin to grasp its significance till later on when several people shook hands or clapped him on the
back with the remark: "See you tomorrow, Smithy."

Paula walked with him to the corner of the road. He said: "I'm really glad I came--they're a warm-hearted lot, and it's nice of them to expect me
to see them off in the morning."

"I'd better tell you what else they expect. They think you're coming with us--to Rochby and all the other places."


"Now  don't  begin  to argue. Maybe I've bungled again--you've only got to say so, and the whole idea's dropped. But there's a job for you if you
want  it.  In fact it's just about a hundred jobs rolled into one--you'll find that out, if you take it on, and if you don't like it or something
better turns up, then you're free to go like a shot."

He said quietly: "What did you tell them about me?"

"Just  part  of  the truth. I said you'd been ill, that you were better now, that you were a friend of mine, and that you wanted a job. . . . But
all that didn't get it for you--don't worry."

"What did, then?"

She  laughed  in his face. "I may as well go on telling the truth, even if you hate me for it. I think it was probably because they could all see
you were such a gentleman."

Afterwards  he  realized the meaning behind the remark. The other members of the company were NOT gentlemen, nor ladies either, in the restricted
sense  of the word. They could act the part, successfully--even terrifically; no duke or baronet ever wore an opera cloak or swung a gold-knobbed
cane with such superb nonchalance as Mr. Borley--indeed, it is extremely probable that many a duke and baronet never possessed an opera cloak, or
swung  a  gold-knobbed  cane  at all. And that, of course, was the point. The gentlemen in Salute the Flag lived up to the ninepenny-seat idea of
gentlemen; they were much realer than the real thing. So also in speech and accent nobody could approach Paula for aristocratic hauteur: when, in
her  impersonation  of a duchess, she exclaimed to a footman, "Do my bidding, idiot!" the blue blood became almost as translucent in her veins as
in  those  of  Mr.  Borley  when the latter addressed the German officer--"You contemptible hound--you unmitigated cur--you spawn of a degenerate

In  private  life,  so  far  as  members  of a second-rate touring company could enjoy any, they tended to keep up the manners and moods of their
professional  parts,  combining  them with a loud geniality expressed by a profusion of "old boys" and hearty back-slappings; yet behind all that
they  well  knew  the  difference  between  the  real and the too real, and how the same difference was apt to be recognized by others. Hence the
usefulness  of  Smith.  He  had  a  way with him, despite--or perhaps BECAUSE of--his shyness, diffidence, embarrassments, hesitations. Where Mr.
Borley's  loud  and  overconfident  "Trust me till the end of the week, old chap" failed to impress a country tradesman, Smith could enter a shop
where he wasn't known and ask for what he wanted to be sent to his hotel without even mentioning payment. And where even Mr. Margesson could not,
with  all  his  sorrowful  glances,  persuade  a small-town editor to print as news a column of disguised and badly composed puffery, Smith could
rewrite the stuff and have the newspapers eager for it.

No  doubt  it  was  for somewhat similar reasons that Nicholas Nickleby became a success with the company of Vincent Crummles--except, of course,
that  Nicholas  graduated  as  an actor. Smith did not aspire to that, but he speedily became almost everything else--advance press agent, scene-
painter,  bookkeeper,  copy-writer, toucher-up of scenes that were either too long or too short or not wholly successful, general handy man, odd-
jobber,  negotiator,  public  representative,  and  private  adviser. He was always busy, yet never hurried; always pleasant, yet never effusive;
always reserved, yet never disdainful. In short, a perfect gentleman.

There  certainly  could not have been devised a more likely cure for all that remained of his mental and temperamental difficulties. The constant
meetings with strangers, the continual handling of new problems and thinking out of extempore solutions, the travelling from one town to another,
the  settlement  in  new lodgings--all combined to break down the pathological part of his shyness; yet shyness still remained, and with it there
developed  an  almost  ascetic  enjoyment  of  certain things--of rainy hours on railway platforms with nothing to do but watch the manoeuvres of
shunting  in  a  goods  yard,  of  reading  the  numbers  on  houses  in a strange town late at night, knowing that one of them hid a passing and
unimportant  destiny.  His  work also brought him into contact with average citizens of these many provincial towns--the barber, the tobacconist,
the  stationmaster,  the  shopkeepers who were given a couple of free seats in exchange for a playbill exhibited in their windows, the parson who
sometimes  preached  a sermon attacking the show as indecent (good publicity if you could get it), sometimes the parson who came himself with his
wife  and  children,  but  most  often  the  parson who neither attacked nor patronized, but just passed by in the street with a preoccupied air,
recognizing  the  smartly  dressed  strangers  as  "theatricals"  and therefore in some vaguely opposite but no longer warring camp. One of these
clerics,  with  whom  Smith got into conversation, commented that the Church and the theatre were now potential allies, being both sufferers from
the  same  public  indifference--"Your  leaky  roof  and my leaky roof are the price paid for the new cathedrals of Mammon." Whereupon he pointed
across the street to a new cinema advertising a film which, so it turned out after further conversation, they had both of them recently enjoyed.

Smith  saw  a  good  deal  of  Paula  during these busy days and even busier evenings, but somehow their relationship did not seem to progress to
anything  warmer  or  more  intimate.  Outwardly  he became just as friendly with a few of the others, especially with young Ponderby, the tweedy
youth,  whom  he  grew  to like. Ponderby was not much of an actor; his job depended entirely on the possessing of astoundingly conventional good
looks.  In  Salute  the  Flag all he had was a couple of lines; he rushed into the general's headquarters with the cry, "The enemy are attacking!
Give  the  order  to advance!"--whereupon the general, who was a spy in disguise, was supposed to look sinister while Ponderby backed towards the
door,  delivering  his  second  line  as  an  exit: "Or if you don't, sir, then, by heaven, I will myself!" This was designed to bring a round of
applause,  and  by  careful  attention to timing and movement Ponderby usually got one. Margesson, who managed the company, was very strict about
everyone getting his "round." There was a technique about such things: you stood in the doorway, hand on the door-knob, staring hard and throwing
your  voice  up to the farthest corner of the gallery--if the "round" didn't come, or came too sluggishly, you rattled the door-knob and repeated
the final line with greater emphasis.

One  Saturday,  in  the town of Fulverton, Ponderby spent the morning drinking in an attempt to destroy the effect of too much drinking the night
before; by mid-afternoon, when he and Smith happened to be alone together in the lodging-house, it was clear that he could perform in the evening
only  with  extreme  hazard, if at all. He had done this sort of thing several times before, so Smith neither believed nor disbelieved a story of
bad  news from home; but he felt some sympathy for the youth, especially as he knew this latest offence would probably cost him his job. Ponderby
knew  this  too,  and  as  the  hour  approached for the first show he took quantities of aspirin and pick-me-ups, all of which only added to his
symptoms  of  physical  illness. By six o'clock he was begging Smith to take over his part, as the only way by which Margesson might be placated;
after  all,  provided  the show wasn't interfered with, Margesson might not care--the part was so small, and the clothes would fit too. Smith was
reluctant  to  agree;  he didn't feel he would be any good as an actor, even in the least possible part; but then Ponderby wasn't good either, so
that  argument  didn't  carry far. And it was undoubtedly true that the part, though small, was structurally important, so that a last-minute cut
would be extremely awkward; and Saturday, also, was the best night for Fulverton audiences. Everything forced him to an eventual consent, subject
to Margesson's approval; but he still did not like the idea.

He  went  to  the theatre earlier than usual and found Margesson in the midst of some trouble with scene-shifters; when he said that Ponderby was
ill and he himself could take his part, Margesson merely answered in a hurry: "Had too much to drink again, I suppose. . . . All right then--mind
you get your round."

He  did  not  have any chance to tell Paula about it, but the news that he was taking Ponderby's part caused little surprise; he was such a handy
man, and the part was only two lines--there seemed nothing very remarkable about the arrangement.

He  was  a  trifle  nervous as he changed into the uniform of a British second lieutenant, but not more so than he often was at times when people
would never guess it. Quite a natural nervousness too; he knew that many actors and public speakers were always like that, it was really abnormal
not  to  be. Something in the look of himself in the mirror struck a half-heard chord in his submerged memory; he did not come on till the middle
of  the  last act, so he had time to smoke cigarettes and try to catch the chord again, but that was stupid; the more he stared at himself in the
mirror, the less he could remember anything at all. Then suddenly, with a frightening stab of panic, he asked himself what Ponderby's lines were-
-he had never thought of memorizing them, because he assumed he knew them so well; he practically knew the whole show by heart, for that matter--
they  all  did.  But  now,  when  he  sought to speak them to himself, what the devil were they? He tried to visualize that part of the play: the
general  at  his  desk,  twirling  his moustaches and muttering "Hein" under his breath--that was to show he was a spy in disguise; then Ponderby
rushing  in--"The enemy are attacking! Give the order to advance!" Now why should a second lieutenant tell a general what to do? Never mind--that
was  part  of  the play. Anyhow, Ponderby backed across the stage--not too quick, though--give the general time to give some more twirls and look
suspicious;  then  on the exit--"Or if you don't, sir, then, by heaven, I will myself!" That was it; and wait for the round. . . . He said it all
over again to himself: "The enemy are attacking--give the order to advance--or, if you don't, sir, then, by heaven, I will myself!" Twenty words-
-the smallest part in the show. Saying them over a third time, he heard the call-boy's "Ready, sir."

He  went  out  into  the wings, standing where he could see the general at his desk. The general (little Tommy made up with comic moustaches) was
rifling  drawers  with  a terrific amount of noise (exactly as a spy wouldn't do), glancing through piles of paper in search of a stolen treaty--
even if it were there, he was going through them so fast that he couldn't possibly find it; but that again had to be done or nobody would get the
point--anything  else  was  what Margesson called "this damsilly West End pansy-stuff where you come on the stage and light a cigarette with your
back to the audience and call it acting." Smith stood there, waiting for the cue, which was the word "Hein." He felt a little queer; he was going
to  do  something he had never done before; it would be awful if he did it badly, or didn't get his round; the only comfort was that Ponderby did
it pretty badly himself.

Suddenly  he  heard the general say "Hein." It electrified him, like a word spoken inside his own head; he felt his feet as items of luggage that
didn't  belong  to him as he marshalled them for the forward rush. His first impression was of a dazzling brilliance and of the curious fact that
there was no audience at all; then, as he stared to verify this, faces swam out of the darkness towards him: row upon row, stalls, boxes, circle,
balcony,  all  were returning his stare from tens of thousands of eyes--quizzically, he thought at first, as if they were aware that this was the
supreme  moment  of  all drama and were anxious to compare his performance with previous ones by Irving, Coquelin, and Forbes-Robertson . . . but
then,  with a flash of uneasiness, he saw malevolence too, as if they hated him for not being Irving, even for not being Ponderby. He knew he had
to  conquer  this  uneasiness or it would conquer him, just as he knew he had to rush up to the general's desk and say "The enemy are attacking--
give  the  order to advance!" He saw Tommy eyeing him watchfully--that was part of the play, but Tommy's eye held an extra watchfulness, as if he
were hating him too--for not being somebody else.

And  then a very dreadful thing happened; he began to stammer. It was the old, the tragic stammer--the one that made his face twist and twitch as
if  he  were in a dentist's chair; he stood there, facing the general, facing the audience, facing God, it almost seemed, and all he could do was
wrestle with the words until they came, one after the other, each one fighting to the last.

The  audience  began to titter, and when he crossed the stage to struggle with the rest of the words they were already yelling with laughter. "Or
if  y-y-you  d-d-don't,  sir,  then,  b-b-by  G-g-god,  I  w-w-will  m-m-myself!" The laughter rose to a shriek as he still stood there, waiting,
trembling,  with  lips  curving  grotesquely  and hand fumbling at the door; and when he finally rattled at the knob till it broke off and rolled
across the stage into the footlights, the whole house burst into hilarious shouting while the lads in the gallery stamped their feet and whistled
through two fingers for over a minute.

He got his "round" all right.

He  left  the  stage  in a daze, somehow finding himself in the wings, passing faces he knew without a word, yet noting for agonized recollection
later  that  some  looked  anxious, others puzzled, a few were actually convulsed with laughter. Alone at last in the dressing-room he closed the
door,  locked  it, and for several minutes fought down an ancient resurrected hell of fear, mental darkness, and humiliation. Several knocks came
at  the door, but he did not answer them. Later, when the wave had passed over and he knew he was not drowned but merely swimming exhausted in an
angry  sea,  he  summoned  enough  energy to change his clothes. By that time the play had reached the final scene in which all the company would
later  be on the stage--he waited for the cue, "You cannot fire on helpless womankind," followed by the cheers and rough-and-tumble of the rescue
party.  Back-stage  would  be deserted now; he unlocked his way into the corridor and escaped through the stage door into an alley by the side of
the  fire  staircase.  As  he  turned  the  corner  he could see a long queue already forming for the second performance, which reminded him that
Ponderby's  part  must  be  played  by someone else in that; Margesson would have to arrange it; anyhow, that was a trifle to worry about, a mere
pinhole of trouble compared with the abyss of despair that he himself was facing.

Of  course  he  must  leave;  they  would  not  wish him to stay; he could offer no explanation, because there was none that would not repeat his
humiliation a hundredfold.

Hurrying across Fulverton that night, across the brightly lit Market Street full of shoppers, through the side roads where happy people lived, it
seemed to him that someone was always following, footsteps that hastened under dark trees and dodged to avoid street-lamps; an illusion, perhaps,
but  one  that stirred the nag and throb of countless remembered symptoms, till it was not so much the ignominy of what had happened that weighed
him  down as the awareness of how thinly the skin had grown across the scar, of how near his mind still was to the chaos from which it had barely
emerged.  He  hurried  on--eager  to  pack  his  bag  and  be off, away from Fulverton and the troubled self he hoped to leave by the same act of
movement;  for  surely  place  and self had some deep association, so that he could not now think of Melbury without . . . and then the renascent
fear  in  his  soul took shape; they were STILL trying to get him back to Melbury--they had been trying all the time, while he, falsely confident
during  those  few  weeks  of  respite,  had  gone  about  with  an  increasing boldness until that very night of self-betrayal. And such stupid,
unnecessary  self-betrayal  before  a thousand onlookers, among whom was one, perhaps, who did not laugh, but rose from his seat and quietly left
the  theatre, taking his stand on the pavement where he could watch every exit. . . . Suddenly Smith began to run. They should not get him--never
again.  He stopped abruptly in the next patch of darkness, and surely enough the footsteps that had been following at a scamper then also stopped
abruptly.  He  ran  on again, dodging traffic at a corner and almost colliding with several passers-by. It was man to man, as yet--the enemy were
attacking,  give  the  order  to  advance!  He  turned  into the short cut that led directly to his lodgings--a paved passage-way under a railway
viaduct. Then he saw there was a rope stretched across the entrance and a man standing in front of it.

"Sorry, sir--can't get by this way tonight."

"But--I--what's the idea? Why not?"

"Can't be helped, sir--it's the law--one day a year we have to keep it closed, otherwise the railway company loses title."

"But I must go--I'm in a hurry!"

"Now come on, sir, I'm only doing my duty--don't give me no trouble--"

Suddenly  he  realized  that there was more than one enemy; this man was another; there were thousands of them, everywhere; they probably had the
district surrounded already. . . .

"Come along, sir, act peaceable--"

"PEACEABLE? Then why are you carrying that gun?"

"GUN? Why, you're off your chump--I've got no gun! D'you mean this pipe?"

But  he  wasn't  taken  in by that, any more than by the nonsense about the railway company and its title; he jumped the rope, hurling the fellow
aside, and ran along the passage-way; in a couple of minutes he had reached the lodging-house, whereas it would have taken ten by the road.

He  had  hoped  to  have  the place to himself, knowing that on Saturday nights most landladies did their week-end shopping. But he had forgotten
Ponderby, who shouted a slurred greeting from the sitting-room as he passed by to climb the stairs. "Hello, Smithy--get along all right? Knew you
would--nothing to it--damn nice of you, though, to help me out. . . ."

He heard Ponderby staggering into the lobby and beginning to follow him upstairs, but the youth was very drunk and made long pauses at each step,
continuing  to  shout meanwhile: "Was Margie wild? I'll bet he would have been but for you. Why don't you come down and have a drink with me--you
deserve  it. . . . Friend indeed and a friend in need--that's what you are--no, I'M the friend in need and YOU'RE the . . . oh, well, never could
understand the thing properly. What're you doing up there? Not going to bed yet surely? What time is it? Maybe I'D better go to bed, then they'll
all know I've been ill. . . . What's that? Can't hear what you say. . . ."

Smith repeated: "No, don't come up, I'm coming down."

"All right, Smithy--I'll go down too and get you a little drink. Must have a little drink--you deserve it."

By this time Smith had packed; he was naturally a tidy person, and having to do so regularly had made him expert and the job almost automatic. As
he  descended  the  stairs he felt calmer, readier to do battle with the forces arrayed against him; and that made him feel a little warm towards
the weak healthy boy who never did battle at all, but just drank and debauched himself in a bored, zestless way. He turned into the sitting-room,
where Ponderby lay sprawled again on the sofa, head buried in the cushions.

"Hello, old boy--was just mixing you a drink when this awful headache came on again. Don't mind me--sit down and give me all the news."

Smith  did  not sit down, but he took the tumbler, which was almost half full of neat whiskey, poured most of it back into the bottle, and sipped
the  remainder.  He  did not usually drink, but he hoped now it might help to steady his nerves, might give him greater calmness for the journey,
wherever that was to be.

"Tell me all the news, Smithy. Don't mind me--I've got an awful head, but I'm listening."

Smith said there was no particular news to tell.

"Oh,  I  don't  mean  the theatre--damn the theatre--I mean NEWS. Heard the paper-boy in the street an hour ago--shouting something--went out and
bought one--there it is--couldn't read it, though--my eyes gave out on me. What's been happening in the world?"

Smith  stooped  to  pick  up  the paper with momentary excitement; was it possible that already . . . no, of course not--an hour ago was actually
before  the  thing happened, apart from the time it would take to make a report and get it printed. He glanced at the headlines. "Seems those two
fellows have flown across the Atlantic--Alcock and Brown."

"Flown across the Atlantic? That's a damn silly thing to do--but I'll tell you what, it's better than being an actor. Well, drink a toast to 'em,
old boy--what d'you say their names are?"

"Alcock and Brown."

"Alcock,  Brown, Smith, and Ponderby--drink to the lot of us. Sounds like a lawyer's office--that's the job I used to have--in a lawyer's office.
Damn good lawyers, too--wouldn't touch anything dirty. That's why they got so they wouldn't touch me. Rude health like mine in a lawyer's office-
-out  of  place,  old boy--sheer bad taste--frightens the clients. So one fine day I did a skedaddle from all that messuage. Know what a messuage
is? Lawyer's word. . . ."

Smith said he must go, if Ponderby would excuse him.

"GO? Not yet, surely--wait till the others come--don't like to be left alone, Smithy."

"I'm sorry, but I really must go now."

Then Ponderby raised his head and stared.

"Right you are, then . . . but, good God, what's the matter? Been in a fight or something?"

"I've got to go. Good night, Ponderby."

"Nighty night, Smithy. And don't think I'll ever forget what you've done."

You  won't  and  neither will anyone else, Smith reflected, picking up his bag and hat in the lobby and walking out of the house. Nobody saw him.
The  night  was warm and dark. He wondered why Ponderby had asked if he had been in a fight, and at the first shop window he stopped and tried to
catch his reflection in the glass. He smiled--he had forgotten to comb his hair; it showed even under his hat, rumpled as if--well, yes, as if he
had  been  in  a  fight.  That  was easy to repair, since he carried a pocket comb, and at the same time he took out his handkerchief to wipe the
perspiration  from  his  forehead. Then he did more than smile, he actually laughed, because of the colour of the handkerchief afterwards. He had
forgotten  to  clean  off the makeup. All the way across Fulverton, then, he must have been looking like that--if anyone had seen him, but nobody
had--until Ponderby. Oh yes, there was the man with the gun--but it had been very dark just there, under the viaduct. He wiped off the makeup and
threw the handkerchief over a fence.

He  knew  they would go to Fulverton Station first of all, especially for the night train to London; but he was not such a fool as to do anything
so  obvious.  There  was a station about twelve miles away, on a different line--Crosby Magna it was called; if he walked throughout the night he
would  be  near  the place by dawn and could take the first train wherever it went. He did not feel particularly tired; the whiskey had fortified
him,  and  a  certain  rising exultation as he left the outskirts of Fulverton kept him tramping at a steady three miles an hour. It must be just
about  the  close of the second performance by now; they would be taking curtain calls, then chattering in the dressing-rooms, looking forward to
the  usual Saturday supper at the lodging-house. A decent crowd; he had been happy with them. He began to look back upon that life with a certain
historic  detachment;  it  was all over, and it would have had to be over soon, anyway, for a reason that now, for the first time, he admitted to
himself.  He had been growing too fond of that girl; gradually but insidiously the feeling had been growing in him, so that soon the only freedom
he  could  have  found  would  have  been either away from her or with her altogether; it would soon have become impossible to keep on seeing her
continually  and  meaninglessly  in  trains,  dining-rooms,  theatre  back-stages: impossible much longer to have suppressed the anxieties he had
already  begun  to  feel about all the chance contacts of their daily lives--whether she would be in or out at a certain hour, or would happen to
sit  next  to  him  here  or there, or who the man was who met and talked with her so long after the show. Such things had not mattered to him at
first,  partly  because  he  had  been so humble about himself--why should she bother about him at all, what had he to offer? She loved life, she
loved  people--be  honest  about  it,  she  loved  men.  He  had even, at first, experienced a sardonic pleasure in seeing her warm to the chance
encounters  that  fill  the  spare moments of stage life--his look, as he said good-night to her when he was going home to bed and she to a party
somewhere,  had  often contained the message--Have a good time, you've done all you can for me, the rest I must do myself; so thank you again and
good luck.

That  was  his  message to her now, as he walked from Fulverton to Crosby Magna and heard the chime of midnight from a distant clock. But he knew
that  it  could  not  have been so had he stayed with the company, so that actually his leaving was well timed, an escape from bondage that would
soon have become intolerable.

He  reached  Crosby  Magna  towards  dawn--a  small  deserted  country  station  on a single line. There was a time-table pasted up from which he
discovered that the first train was a local to Fellingham at ten minutes past five. He had over an hour to wait, and spent it leaning against his
bag on the station platform. He felt rather drowsy; it was pleasant to rest there, with the sunrise on his face. Presently he realized that a man
was staring down at him.

"Waiting for the train, sir?"


"It's due in now. I'll get you a ticket. Where to, sir?"

"Er . . . Fellingham . . . single . . ."

He dragged himself to his feet and followed the man into the small booking-hall.

"Fellingham, there you are, sir. Not travelling with the company this time?"


"Couldn't  help  recognizing  you,  sir--I  was at the theatre in Fulverton last night. Very funny indeed you was, sir--funniest bit in the whole
show. Well, here's your train, sir."

He  insisted  on  carrying  Smith's  bag and choosing a compartment for him, though the train was practically empty. It was, indeed, one of those
trains  that  seem  to exist for no reason at all except to wander through the English countryside at hours when no one wants to travel, stopping
here  and  there  at places where no one could possibly have any business, especially on a Sunday morning, and all with an air of utter vagrancy,
like  that  of  cattle  browsing  or  a woman polishing her nails--a halt here for several minutes, then an interval of movement, even a burst of
speed,  then a slow-down to hardly a pace at all, and so on. Fellingham was only forty-odd miles from Crosby Magna, but the journey, according to
the  time-table, would take over two hours. But it was pleasant enough to look out of the window on field and farmstead in the early morning, the
lonely  roads disappearing into a hazy distance, a stop for the guard to throw out a parcel to a man who stood by a crossing gate waiting for it,
long  manoeuvres  of  shunting  in  and  out  of  sidings to detach various empty wagons. No sound when the train stopped save that of the brakes
creaking  off  the wheels and the breeze rippling the grasses in near-by fields. Whenever he put his head out of the window at a station, another
head,  red-haired  and  a  boy's, was leaning out three coaches in front, and this somehow began to suggest that he and the boy were alone on the
train--final survivors of something or else first pioneers of something else.

Presently  the  horizon  began  to  show a long, low-lying cloud, but a few further miles revealed it as a line of hills--rather high hills, they
looked, but he knew they could not be, because there were no high hills in that part of England.

Of  course  he  would  not  go  all  the  way  to Fellingham; that would make the trail too easy, especially after the porter at Crosby Magna had
recognized him--unfortunate, that had been. He would get out at some intermediate station and make his way elsewhere across country.

The  train had stopped again by the time the hills became clear--a station called Worling. He thought this would do as well as any other, and was
just  about  to  jump  down to the platform when his bag flew open, spilling some of the contents on to the compartment floor; by the time he had
them repacked the train was off again. But it did not really matter; one place was as good as another.

The  train  cantered on, like horses now more than cattle, steadily, at a good pace, as if anxious to reach some friendly stable; the track wound
more  closely  into  the  uplands  and  soon  entered  a long shallow valley under a ridge that rose rather steeply at one point into two rounded
summits;  you  could  not  tell  which  was the higher, but neither was very high--maybe seven or eight hundred feet, with a saucer-shaped hollow
between. Just under the hill the roofs of a village showed amongst the trees, but the train turned capriciously away from it, choosing to stop at
a  station  called  Rolyott that was nothing but a shed in the middle of fields. He got out there, handing his ticket to the solitary porter, who
stared at it for a moment and then said something about Fellingham being three stations further on; Smith smiled and said that was all right, and
as  the  train  moved  off  again the red-headed boy who was always looking out of the window saw him smiling and smiled back. That made him feel
suddenly cheerful. And besides, the air was warm, blended with scents of hay and flowers, and the tree-hidden village looked tempting even at the
end of a long road; he set out, walking briskly. A few hundred yards from the station, withdrawn into a hedge so that no one could see it save by
search  or chance, a broken signpost pointed to the ground, and he had to climb through nettles to decipher its stained and weather-worn letters:
"To Beachings Over, 1 Mile."

He walked on, murmuring the name to himself, as he always did with names--Beachings Over, Beachings Over; and then Beachings Over came into view-
-a group of gray old cottages fronting a stream over which slabs of stone made bridges. There was a square-towered church as well, a public-house
called  for  some  undiscoverable reason the "Reindeer"--a ledge in the stream where the water sparkled as it curled over green reeds. And beyond
the village rose the sunlit ridge--one hill now quite clearly higher than the other, but only a little higher, and between them that gentle turfy

He  crossed  one of the stone bridges. A man coming out of a house stared with friendly curiosity and said "Good morning." A fluff of wind blew a
line  of  hollyhocks  towards  him.  An  old  man was clipping a yew hedge along the vicarage wall. A sheep-dog stirred in the shade and opened a
cautious eye as he passed. He felt: This is home; if they will let me stay here, I shall be at peace. He turned off the road by a path towards an
open field that climbed steeply. Near at hand was a cottage, with a buxom elderly woman tending the garden. "There'll be a nice view from the top
this morning," she said knowingly as he came near. "Five counties they say you can see, on a clear day." He smiled and then she said: "Leave your
bag here if you like--it'll be quite safe."

"Good idea. . . . Thanks very much. And could I--perhaps--trouble you for a glass of water?"

"Water if you like, sir, but cider if you prefer."

"Well, yes, indeed, if it's no trouble."

"No trouble at all, sir--I'll just have to go round to the stillage."


"That's where we keep it, sir, being that cool off the stone, you'll be surprised."

She came back with a pint-sized mug, which he drained gratefully.

"Glad you're enjoying it, sir--it's good cider, that I do say, though I brewed it myself."

He  wondered  if  he  should  offer  to pay her, but she saw his look of hesitation and added with swift tact: "Don't you worry, sir--you're very
welcome.  Maybe  when you've climbed up and down again you'll feel like some cold beef and pickles and a nice raspberry tart--we serve meals, you
know, all day on Sundays."

"You get many visitors?"

"Hardly a one, but we're ready for 'em if they come. Gentleman once told me this was the prettiest village in all England."

"Certainly it might be. . . . Well, thank you again--perhaps I will want that meal."

He  resumed the climb, feeling glowingly free after the drink and without his bag. The sky was dappled with clouds like sails, the smell of earth
and  grass  rose in a hot sweetness. He walked steadily, stopping only to look back when a chime floated upwards from the church tower; Beachings
Over,  its  gardens and roofs, lay in the fold of the valley as if planted there. He climbed on till the ridge was close at hand, beyond the next
field  and  the next stone wall, the two hills curving against the sky. After a little time he reached the saddle between, and there, hidden till
the last moment, lay a pool of blue water, blown into ripples under passing cloud shadows. It looked so cool he took his clothes off and bathed--
there  in  sight of all the five counties, so it amused him to think. Then he lay in the sun till he was dry, feeling the warmth of sun and cider
soaking into every nerve. Presently he dressed, found a shady spot under a tree, and closed his eyes.

The  sun  on  his face woke him; it had moved round the sky but was near the horizon and no longer hot. His glance followed the curve of the hill
and  came  to rest on the already graying pool; he was surprised to see a girl there, perched on a jutting rock and paddling her feet. He watched
her  for  a  moment,  quietly fitting the picture into his mind before recognition came, and with it a curious mounting anger because he suddenly
knew  why  it  was  he  had grown so desperately in love with her; it was because she had made him so, because she followed him about everywhere,
because, from the moment of their first meeting, she had never let him go--despite all acting and casual behaviour and false appearances. And she
had followed him even to Beachings Over.

Aware that he was watching her, she turned and then came towards him, high-stepping barefoot over the grass.

"Smithy--you're  really  awake? Why did you run off like that? Were you ill? What's been the matter? . . . The woman at the cottage said you were
here--said  you'd left your bag, so you'd have to come down, but I didn't want to wait, and yet I have waited--hours--while you've been asleep. .
. ."


"For  keeping  me  waiting? It's MY fault--I could have wakened you any time, but you looked so tired and you hadn't shaved--I guessed you'd been
out all night somewhere."

"But I'm so terribly sorry--no, not for that--for what happened before then--at the theatre--"

"Oh,  THAT?  Darling,  you  shouldn't ever have taken it on, but it didn't matter--got the biggest laugh in the whole show--Margie even said he'd
change  the part if Ponderby could do it that way, but he was afraid he couldn't. Anyhow, he's going to keep in the bit where the door-knob comes
off--that's good for a laugh any time."

"But do they think I did it DELIBERATELY?"

"I  told them you did--I swore you fixed the whole thing with Ponderby just for a gag; Ponderby said you had too, I made him--they all thought it
was marvellous, but then they think you ARE marvellous, anyhow."


"Well,  you  know--unpredictable.  One of those shy ones who suddenly blaze out and startle everybody and then go shy again. What'll you do next?
Maybe  fly  the  Atlantic  like  those  two  fellows.  Maybe  murder somebody or elope with a duchess. It's all part of being a gentleman. You're
privileged--like the boys on Boat Race Night."

"Paula--why do you talk like that?"

"Well, it's true, isn't it?" She bent over him. "There's such an indefinable je ne sais quoi about you, darling."

"What did you follow me here for?"

"To bring you back, of course."

"But I'm not coming back."

"Oh, it's only Sunday evening--there's no show-till six tomorrow night in Polesby--you don't have to make up your mind till tomorrow afternoon."

"I'm not coming back. I CAN'T go back. Don't you realize how I felt--"

"I  know--don't  try  to  tell me--I saw you on the stage and I was the only person who knew for certain you weren't acting--because I'd seen you
like that before, in the shop at Melbury. Remember?"

He said grimly: "It wouldn't be very easy to forget--any more than last night."

"Except  that you're not BOUND to go on the stage, ever again, so what does it matter? Whereas at Melbury you were like that all the time--except
with me."

"Yes, except with you."

"Maybe there's something about me too--so far as you're concerned."

He moved restlessly. "There was something then, but there's a barrier between us now, compared with how we were in those days."

"There's  only this between us, Smithy--I remember when you needed me, and I'm sure I'm not going to hang around when you don't need me any more.
But I thought you might need me today--that's why I'm here."

"_I_  feel  just  the opposite--you were so generous when I DID need you I've hated to feel you could still do things out of pity as you're doing

"That's not just the opposite--it's the same."

"It's why I've kept away from you, anyhow, because I CAN do without you, I know I can, I MUST."

"Oh  God, don't boast. I can do without you too, for that matter. Let's be independent as hell. Let's each fly in different directions and wonder
why for the rest of our lives." She began to pull on her stockings. "Aren't you hungry?"

"Now you mention it."

"Let's go down. The woman at the cottage said she could give us--"

He interrupted, laughing: "I know. Cold beef and pickles and raspberry tart."

"I said we'd have it."

"You're right about that."

He helped her to her feet and they stared about them for a moment.

"Smithy, how DID you manage to find such a heavenly place?"

"As so many things happen--pure chance. My bag flew open as I was going to get out of the train somewhere else. How did you find I was here?"

"Darling, it was so EASY. I asked at Fulverton Station, and they said you hadn't been there, so of course I thought of Crosby Magna--"

"OF COURSE? Why of course?"

"Well,  it  was  pretty obvious you'd think it WASN'T so obvious--and then the porter there remembered you, and the guard remembered you'd walked
towards  the  village,  and  the  woman  at  the  cottage  said  you were up here staring at the five counties,--it IS five, isn't it?--everybody
remembered you, old boy. You aren't terribly good at making people forget you."

"They certainly won't forget my performance last night."

"Back again on the same old subject? I told you they all thought it was marvellous."

"Then why did they think I didn't stay for the second show?"

"I  told them it was because you suddenly got scared of how Margie would take it--I said it was just like you, to put on a gag like that and then
get scared about it."

"Seems to me you thought of EVERYTHING."

They  began  the  descent  amidst  the  gathering twilight, striding down upon Beachings Over as from the sky. A curl of blue smoke rose from the
huddle  of  roofs,  the  church bell was ringing for evening service. Something in the calm of that darkening panorama kept them silent till they
were within sight of the cottage; then she said: "Oh, by the way--I told the woman you were my husband."


"Because she'd have thought it queer for me to be chasing up a hill after any man who wasn't."

"Is there anything ELSE you've told anybody about me?"

"There isn't yet, Smithy, but there might have to be. I'm always ready."

She  took his arm as he unlatched the gate that led through an avenue of hollyhocks to the cottage. It was small and four-square, with windows on
either  side  of  the  front  door; at one side of the porch a board announced "Good Accommodation for Cyclists." The woman who had given him the
cider  led  them  smilingly  into  a  room that opened off the flagged lobby; it was evidently the parlour, crowded with old-fashioned furniture,
pictures,  and photographs. A yellow piano with a fretwork front lined with faded silk occupied most of one wall; an oval mahogany table stood in
the centre. The single window was tightly closed, yet the room smelt fresh and pleasant. He opened the piano and struck a few of the yellow keys;
the  strings  twanged  almost  inaudibly. Inside the closed space of the room they felt embarrassed to begin a conversation, especially while the
woman  kept  chattering in and out as she prepared the table. She told them her name was Mrs. Deventer and that her husband had been a sailor, so
badly  injured  at  Jutland,  poor man, it was a mercy he died. "But there, there, that's all over now and never no more, as the saying is. . . .
You'll take some nice ripe tomatoes with your beef, perhaps, sir? And how about a drop of something to drink?--there's my own cider, but if you'd
prefer  anything  else  my girl can run over to the Reindeer and fetch it. . . . 'Tain't far, you know--nothing's very far in the village--that's
what  I always feel when I go into Chelt'nam--that's our nearest town, you know--I go there oncet a year, or maybe twice--it's a wonderful place,
but  my, it does so make you tired walking through all them streets--we ain't got only the one street here, and that's plenty when you're gettin'
old. . . ."

She talked and talked, bringing in everything she could think of till the table was crowded with tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, a huge loaf of bread,
a pot of tea in case they wanted it, and a jar of chutney, her own special make. At length there could not possibly be anything else to bring in,
and she left them reluctantly, with a slow smile from the doorway.

He said: "Well?"

"Well, Smithy?"

"You look thoughtful, that's all."

"Darling, I was just wondering what you had against me."

But the door opened again--Mrs. Deventer bringing in a lighted lamp. "I thought you'd maybe want it. Longest day of the year, round about, but it
still  gets  dark.  .  .  . Maybe you'll be stayin' the night? You've missed the last train either way by now, I suppose you know that. Of course
there's rooms at the Reindeer, but mine's as good, I always say, and cheaper too."

The yellow lamplight glowed between their faces after she had gone.

"Possessive woman," he remarked. "MY cider, MY girl, MY chutney, MY rooms."

"Room, she SAID. Didn't you see the notice outside--'Good Accommodation for Cyclists'? But I don't suppose one has to be a cyclist."

He said, after a pause: "I don't know why you should wonder about me like that. How could I have anything against you? Except for the same reason
that I couldn't."

"Too subtle, darling, unless you tell me what the reason is."

"I love you."

Her  voice  leapt  to  the reply: "Smithy, you DO? You do REALLY? I've loved you ever since I first set eyes on you--as soon as I saw you in that
shop  I  thought--there's  my  man. Because I'm possessive too--MY man, MY chutney, MY room--all mine." And suddenly she took his hand and leaned
down with her cheek close to it. "I could have killed you, though, while you lay on top of that hill, fast asleep. KILLED you. . . . Oh, God, I'm
so happy. . . . What's the name of this place?"

"Beachings Over."

"Beachings Over. . . . I'll get US from THAT--for ever. Remember the game you used to play with names?"

Later,  in  a  room  so consecrated to cyclism that even the pictures were of groups of pioneer free-wheelers, he asked her if--when he had fully
recovered--if  he  did fully recover, of course--and if he found a job that could support them both--if and when all those things happened--would
she marry him?

She said she would, of course, but without the delay. "I think it's only two weeks they make you wait."

"But--"  He  seemed  bewildered by her having stolen, as usual, the initiative. Then he said, slowly and with difficulty: "I'm not RIGHT yet. I'm
not  even  as near to it as I thought I was. For half an hour last night I felt the return of everything bad again--black--terrifying. I'm better
now, but less confident."

She said she didn't mind, she would look after him, because she had just as much confidence as ever.

"And there's another thing--"

"ANOTHER, Smithy?" She was trying to mock him out of his mood.

"Wouldn't they ask me a lot of questions at the registry office?"

"You mean questions about yourself that you couldn't answer?"


"They might ask you one question _I_ never have--and that is if you've been married before."

"Of course I haven't."

"How can you be certain, old boy, with that awful memory of yours?"

He  pondered  to himself--yes, how COULD he be certain? He hadn't any logical answer, and yet he felt fairly certain. When people had visited him
in  those  hospitals,  relatives  of  missing  men who hoped he might turn out to be someone belonging to them, HE had similar hopes, but only of
finding a home, parents--never a wife. Did that prove anything?

She watched the look on his face, then added with a laugh: "Don't worry--I'll take a chance on it if you will."

Eventually  it was agreed that they should go to Polesby the next day, announce their plans to the company, and ask for a few weeks' holiday. She
was  sure  Margesson would agree, if they approached him fairly and squarely; he liked both of them, and the slack season was on. They rose early
and  took  a walk to the end of the village, discussing a future of which Beachings Over seemed already to have become a part. "Oh, Smithy, isn't
it  beautiful? I didn't see it like this yesterday--I was so worried about finding you--but it's just the sort of place I've always dreamed of. I
know  that's sentimental--but stage people are--they love the sweet little cottage idea, though most of them would be bored to death if they ever
got one--mercifully they don't, as a rule--they either die in the poorhouse or save enough to buy a pub on the Brighton Road. . . ."

She  chattered  on, and soon it was time to walk back to the cottage for Mrs. Deventer's excellent breakfast, pay their bill, and assure her they
would  return  soon for a longer stay. The old lady was delighted, keeping up the farewell greetings all the way down the avenue of hollyhocks to
the  front gate. By the time they passed the post-office the morning papers were just being unloaded; Smith bought one and scanned the front page
during  the  mile-long  tramp  to the railway station. Mostly about Brown and Alcock, he told her, summarizing the newly announced details of the
first  Atlantic  flight  in  history.  Not  till  they  were settled in the train did she glance at the paper herself. Then, after a few moments'
desultory reading, she looked up with a suddenly changed expression. "SMITHY!"

"What's the matter?"

"I don't want it to come as a shock to you, but there's something here that looks as if--" she hesitated and then gave a short laugh--"as if they
can't come up to you . . . for being crazy."

"Who can't?"

"Brown and Alcock."

"But I don't know what you mean."

"Better read this--and don't let it upset you--probably it's not anything serious."

She  handed  him  the  paper,  pointing to a small paragraph on an inside page. It was headed "Assault under Viaduct--Fulverton Man Injured," and

That  he was assaulted by an unknown man was the story told to the Fulverton police last night by Thomas Atwill, railway policeman, who was found
unconscious under the Marshall Street viaduct at a late hour. Taken to the Cottage Hospital, Atwill stated that he had been on plain-clothes duty
to  prevent  pedestrians  from using the footpath under the viaduct, it being necessary to do this for one day each year in order to preserve the
company's  legal  title to the right of way. Shortly after nine o'clock a man endeavoured to break through the temporary barrier erected for this
purpose,  and  when Atwill sought to remonstrate with him, he received a severe blow on the head. Describing his assailant as young, rather tall,
and  clean-shaven,  Atwill  said  he  was a gentleman, not a "rough." The police are investigating the unexplained disappearance of a member of a
local theatrical touring company.

He  put  aside the paper, stared at her for a moment, then let his head fall slowly into his hands. When he looked up he was very pale. The train
was  stopping at Worling, where a crowd of farm workers waited on the platform. She had only time to say: "Darling, if anyone gets in, don't look
like that."

Nobody got in, and his controlled features relaxed.

"Oh, Smithy . . . you don't remember?"

"I remember jumping over--it wasn't a barrier--just a rope. And if I hit the fellow, it was accidental--a push that made him fall, maybe with his
head on the pavement--I didn't look back, I was running." He added, leaning forward with both hands on her knees: "I do want you to know that I'm
not  a  homicidal  maniac rushing about committing crimes and then forgetting about them. When I said that last night for half an hour I felt the
return  of  all the bad things, I meant things in my own mind--fears that I had to fight down . . . but they were in my own mind, and I DID fight
them down, I NEVER lost control. I want you to believe that--no matter who else disbelieves it."

"I believe it, Smithy. But there are--as you say--people who wouldn't."

"I know that."

"We mustn't go to Polesby."

"_I_ mustn't. YOU can. You're in no danger--on your own." He cried out, with sharp bitterness: "Perhaps you'll stay clear of me after this."

Ignoring that, she said: "Probably the man isn't seriously injured if he recovered consciousness so soon--"

"You don't need to comfort me."

"But  it's true--the whole thing'll blow over if he's not badly hurt--and also if we don't go to Polesby. London's a better idea. If we change at
Saxham  we  can get a London train from there. We'll find somewhere to stay--where no one will know who we are. London's the best place for that.
We both have enough money to last for a time."

"But what about you--your job? They'll expect you at Polesby tonight. They'll know we're together."

"They'd  be  fools  not to know that, anyway. I swore I'd never come back unless I brought you with me. . . . Darling, don't look so anxious. _I_
believe  you. This is just bad luck--it somehow doesn't count. . . ." She took his troubled head in her arms and rocked it gently against her. "I
can't help laughing, though, at one thing." She picked up the paper and re-read, crooningly, as to a child: "'Atwill said he was a gentleman, not
a rough.' That's you all over, Smithy--I always said so."

They left the train at Saxham, but had just missed the best London train of the day; four hours to wait for the next. The interval was pleasantly
spent  in strolling about the ancient town. The second London train came in late, and they were told to change again at Santley Junction--"but it
all  helps,"  she  said, "if anyone were trying to follow us." They reached Santley towards dusk and had to cross a platform crowded with waiting
passengers.  When  the  next  train  came  in,  also late, it was already so full that only tussling and scrimmaging could make further room; but
eventually  this  was  accomplished  and  they  found  themselves in a compartment occupied by an uncountable number of shouting children, all in
nominal  charge of an elderly, shabby, but bright-eyed clergyman who gestured apologies for his own inability to subdue the din. "It's been their
great  day,"  he  explained,  forcing  a way for the newcomers. Then he helped them, quite unnecessarily, to put up their bags and parcels on the
rack,  adding  with a smile: "Not hostile--only heedless." As soon as the train re-started the children shouted with renewed abandon, leaning out
of  the  windows, jumping on the seats, breaking into song choruses that were taken up by other children in adjacent compartments until the whole
train,  nearing  London,  became one long pandemonium streaking through suburb after suburb, over bridges across blazing highways, through smoke-
filled  tunnels,  past  rows  of  back  gardens  from  which shirt-sleeved householders watering their flowers looked up to wave good-humouredly,
alongside commons where lovers did not stir as the sudden crescendo engulfed them. At short range, however, it was harder to ignore, a sheer wall
of sound behind which three adults, lips to ear and then ear to lips, could only contrive an intermittent mouthing of words.

"It's their annual outing," said the parson, still feeling some need to apologize. "We aim at discipline but--" He gave a little wrinkled smile.

Smith  nodded,  and  Paula,  from  the  other side, whispered loudly in his ear: "If this bothers you, let's get out at the next station and find
another compartment."

"No, no, it's all right."

And later, from the parson: "I hope you don't find their high spirits too exhausting."

"THEY don't, evidently," she answered.

"I know--amazing, isn't it? Don't believe I ever shouted like that when I was a boy. TERRIFIC!"

"Good thing you keep a sense of humour about it."

"Oh  yes.  I  don't mind the row so much, but I'm scared when they lean out like that--I've warned them over and over again but I can't make them

Smith  suddenly intervened: "Do you think _I_ could? Perhaps coming from someone else--a stranger? . . . Now, boys, supposing you stand away from
those windows!"

The  different  voice,  pitched over the wall of sound, somehow reached its goal; the swarming clusters turned, sharply disconcerted, nonplussed,
ready for rebellion but sensing control; then the different voice continued, releasing them a little: "That's right, sit down--plenty of room for
all of us. What about another song?"

From  further  along  the  train  came the chorus of "Keep the Home Fires Burning"; they joined in it, one by one, a gradual deafening surrender,
while  the  stations  flashed  by  more  frequently  and  the  suburbs  merged  into the slums. She whispered in his ear exultantly: "Smithy, how
marvellous! And to think I was afraid they were bothering you!"

The parson was also pleased. "I really am extremely obliged to you, sir."

"Not at all."


"Just as much to me, I assure you. I didn't know I could deal with 'em."

"You must have a knack. . . . I haven't any--with children. You're going to London?"


"In a great hurry when you arrive?"

"Not particularly."

"I wonder whether you could spare, then--say five minutes? I always have trouble with them at railway stations, and the Mission's only across the
street. If you would . . ."

"Certainly--if I can. The magic may not work the second time."

"Let's have faith that it will."

At  the  terminus  it  was  as  if the whole train burst open, a human explosion on to the platform, yells and bangings of doors while the parson
watched Smith bring gradual order out of the chaos. Then began the slow marshalling of two hundred youngsters into line, their realization that a
new  personality  was  in  command, and their acceptance of the inevitable--truculent at first, then indifferent, finally quite cheerful. But the
operation  took  considerably more than five minutes; it was over a quarter of an hour before the children had all been escorted through the busy
station precincts to a side street whence they could be safely dismissed to their homes.

The parson stood beaming on the pavement. "I really cannot express my gratitude. I hope you haven't been too much delayed."

"Oh no."

"You mean you had no plans for--the evening?"

"Well--er--nothing special."

"Then I wonder--if you REALLY have nothing else to do--it would give me great pleasure if you'd both dine with me--"

It was Paula who answered, in the instant way in which she decided everything: "Why, yes, we'd be glad."

The  parson  wrinkled  another  smile  and  began  fumbling his way through a passage running by the side of the Mission building into an unkempt
garden;  beyond  it  stood  a  large  ugly soot-black three-story house. He unlocked the front door, admitting them into a lofty hall-way totally
unfurnished  down  to  the bare boards of the floor. "I don't think names are at all important," he said, ushering them further into a room, "but
mine is Blampied."

"Smith," said Paula.

He  offered  them  chairs, following their glances round the room with a perverse pride. "Isn't this a terrible house? It was built in 1846, when
parsons  were supposed to live in style. Twenty rooms--I only use five. Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, this, and my housekeeper's. This is the best.
We live in squalor punctuated by small simple meals of excellent quality--onion soup tonight, if you happen to like it."

Meanwhile  an  elderly  gaunt-faced  woman was preparing the table, showing neither surprise nor any other emotion at the presence of guests, and
needing  no  instructions from the parson. Presently the three were sitting down before big bowls of the soup; there was nothing else but cheese,
he  warned  them,  but  they  could  have more soup if they wanted. It was so good that they did, and asked for it with enthusiasm. Meanwhile the
parson chattered on, a cordial, increasingly inquisitive host.

"You two people have much further to go?"

Smith said: "No, not very far."

"You live here in London?"

"Er . . . yes."

"Don't let me keep you, but don't go till you want to."

She said: "Oh, there's plenty of time." It was as if she were reluctant to leave.

"Yes, the buses and trams run late. I expect you can get to your home that way."

"I--I think so."

"You only THINK so?"

"Matter of fact, we haven't got a home--yet. We've got to look for one."

Smith flashed her a warning glance, but she went on: "I don't suppose it'll be very hard."

The  parson's  curiosity  seemed  to  become  less rather than more as he responded: "If it's the slightest help to you, please stay here for the
night. My housekeeper can find you bedding, and there are fifteen rooms to choose from."

"That's awfully kind of you, but--"

"Just as you please, of course. Only I thought your husband looked tired."

"He's not my husband--yet."

The parson smiled. "To be sure . . . but after all--fifteen rooms? Enough--one would think."

Then  suddenly she said: "Maybe, as you've got a sense of humour, you can help us. . . . We want to get married, but it has to be quiet--we don't
want anyone to know--"


"Yes, that's it . . . maybe you know of a registry office somewhere near?"

"There's  an  office  nearly across the street, but for sheer quietness, why don't you allow me to marry you in my own church? Hardly anyone ever
comes to any of the services--it would be the most unnoticed marriage I could possibly imagine. . . ."

So  they  were  married at St. Clement's, Vale Street, London, N.W., and as they left the church after the ceremony newsboys were racing down the
street  offering  extra  editions--"Peace  Treaty Signed at Versailles." It was June 28, 1919. The bridegroom bought one of the papers on his way
with  his bride to their home further along Vale Street--a tall Victorian house that possessed the initial advantage of being owned by a deaf old
woman  who  lived  in the basement and offered the higher floors for rent. She had agreed to let them have two big furnished rooms, plus bath and
kitchenette,  for a pound a week; there was also an oblong walled garden they could share with other tenants, but of course they never did. After
several  weeks  of  living  in the house they still hadn't said more than "Good morning" and "Good evening" to the people who occupied the floors
above and below; and an especially odd thing was that the man who lived above was a policeman.

But  they  were  happy.  It  was strange, in a way; they had hardly any money and so far no jobs, and they were half scared of every knock on the
door,  because a daily visit to the newsroom of the free library revealed that the police were still probing what had already attained some small
renown  as  "the  Fulverton  case."  The  victim was said to be "still improving," but that began to seem almost ominous, since anything short of
recovery  showed  how  seriously  he  had  been  hurt;  and  one morning there was an even worse sound in the news item: "Hospital authorities at
Fulverton  report  no change in the condition of Thomas Atwill, who is still suffering from head injuries as a result of an assault by an unknown
man under a railway viaduct three weeks ago."

The  unknown  man  felt sincere remorse over the fate of the innocent Atwill, but even that could not dim the joys of a partnership that was half
fun,  half  fear,  so  that every falling asleep was like an unspoken prayer for safety and every waking up a miracle of survival. Sometimes they
would  hear  the  policeman clumping down the stairs and back again in his heavy boots, and she would run to the window to look out and come back
saying--"It's  all  right, Smithy--it's there--go to sleep." That was a joke between them, because they had once agreed that nothing in the world
could be more reassuring than a London policeman, half dressed, going downstairs at midnight to put out an empty milk-bottle on a front doorstep-
-a symbol that no harm would come, that God was somewhere over the policeman's roof and theirs.

They  felt  their  chief  danger  might come from a chance recognition in the streets, and for this reason they avoided the better-known parts of
London  where  country  visitors  might  be  expected  to sight-see; they also kept indoors most of the day, discovering almost with surprise how
quickly  the time passed and how little the restrictions bothered them, provided they were together. They would do most of their shopping late at
night,  economy  combining  then  with  prudence,  for  just before closing time in those unfashionable districts the butcher and greengrocer and
fishmonger  would sell off cheap what was left of their day's supplies. While she was bargaining Smith would often stop to listen to some street-
corner  orator  haranguing  the multitude--the multitude consisting, as a rule, of a few apathetic onlookers, working-men with one hand round the
bowl  of  a  pipe  and  the  other  in a trouser pocket. "The typical English attitude," Blampied commented afterwards, "good-humoured, tolerant,
vaguely  sceptical--sceptical just as much of the truth as of lies. What a lot it will take to move men like that, but when they DO move--IF they
ever move--what a cataclysm!"

They  were beginning to feel a friendly intimacy with the parson, all the friendlier because his attitude was such a quaint mixture of particular
inquisitiveness and general incuriosity. He could put the most intimate questions--once he asked: "Are you and your wife so united that you could
use  the  same toothbrush?" Yet he never mentioned or fished for information about Smith's background or parentage, until one day, when they were
having  dinner  with  him  as they had come to do rather often, he suddenly asked: "What shall I say if somebody traces you here and questions me
about you?"

They stared at him with such disconcerted blankness that he added: "Didn't you say it was a runaway marriage?"

They  knew  him so well by then that they did not particularly mind having betrayed themselves by the startled stare; and the fact that his later
remark  gave  them  an  easy cue for evasion tempted them all the more to tell him nothing but the truth. Paula looked across the table to Smith,
caught  and  exchanged  a  glance, then began: "Yes, it was certainly runaway, but probably not the kind you're imagining. We aren't likely to be
troubled by objecting parents. Mine are both dead, and his are . . ." She looked again at Smith.

Blampied nodded, as if satisfied, but Smith addressed him with a smile: "There wouldn't be much point in deceiving you, would there?"

"Depends what you want me to do. If you want me to lie about you to others, at least you must tell me the truth about yourself."

"That sounds a rather unusual standpoint--for a clergyman."

"Perhaps I'm a rather unusual clergyman."

"Well, here's an unusual story."

"Good . . . go ahead."

Smith  then  spoke  briefly of his war injury and resultant lack of memory. He called it a LACK now, not LOSS--"because I don't FEEL any loss. It
doesn't  really  bother  me  any  more--there are days and nights when I never even think about it . . . but there it is, all the same. Perhaps I
ought to have told you when you married us."


"Well, signing my name in the register. Smith may not be the true one."

The  parson,  sitting  at  the head of the table, half rose and extended his arms over their shoulders. "But it was YOU I married," he said, "not
your names."

"So it doesn't matter?"

"Not a bit. And it's perfectly legal and binding. Is that all you have on your conscience?"

"Not  quite  all."  Encouraged  by  a  further look from Paula, Smith went on to relate the incongruous mishap to Thomas Atwill under the railway
viaduct.  Blampied  listened  with  increasing  interest;  once or twice his face twisted into a smile; they were so accustomed to his taking the
oddest possible view of things that it did not surprise, although it considerably relieved them when at the end of the recital he began to laugh.
"It's the idea of a RAILWAY COMPANY having a right of way that tickles me! Know anything about rights of way?"

This seemed a side issue, but most of Blampied's conversations avoided anything in the direct line of argument. Smith said no, not very much.

"They're  trying  to  close  them  all over England. You must come with me sometime on one of my crusades. I make a nuisance of myself on village
greens  every now and again--just by way of a holiday from London. I inform the villagers of their ancient heritage--the commons and the pastures
and  the  paths across the fields that the landlords have stolen and will go on stealing, whenever they get the chance. A clerical predecessor of
mine,  John  Ball by name, made a similar nuisance of himself six hundred years ago or thereabouts--but I think he must have been much more of an
oratorical spellbinder." He added, coming back to the point, "So THAT'S why you two children are in hiding? You're afraid that if anything should
happen to Thomas Atwill--"

"Oh,  he'll get better all right," Paula intervened hastily, "but even when he does it could be troublesome if we were traced because--because--"
She looked across the table, adding: "We've told you so much we may as well finish--don't you think so, Smithy?"

Smith  said:  "I  mentioned  that  the  war  injury affected my memory. It also--at one time--had other effects. They sent me to Melbury--the big
hospital for shell-shock cases. I was on their dangerous list."

"You mean liable to die?"

"Well, no--liable to live--but dangerously."

Again Blampied laughed. "I see. I really begin to see."

They both joined him in laughing, glad to ease their embarrassment by so doing. Then the parson came behind Smith, putting his arm affectionately
round  the  young  man's shoulders. "You needn't worry. The reputation of crank and misfit gives me a certain freedom of reply. If, for instance,
I'm asked if I know anyone named Smith, and I say I never heard the name before, it'll merely give rise to an extra legend. . . ."

The  more  they  came  to know Blampied the more they realized his remarkableness and the less they felt they completely understood him. At their
first  meeting  in  the  train  he had seemed just the timid, unworldly parson of fiction, almost of caricature, bearing his cross in the form of
Mission  boys he could not control and summer outings he must have loathed. Later he showed himself more perplexingly as a mixture of ascetic and
gourmet--only  onion  soup  for dinner, but how good it had to be. Later still, when he described "crusades" that had sometimes led to rough-and-
tumble  fights on village greens and once at least to his own imprisonment, he almost became the conventionally unconventional "fighting parson."
And  beyond  that,  but  by no means finally, there was the visionary, the mystic. It was not easy to analyse or estimate the sum-total, and many
persons  with  whom  he came into contact had long since given up the task as either hopeless or unprofitable. But one could not meet and talk to
him  for  ten  minutes, in any one of his moods, without an impression of stature--mental, moral, psychic, or perhaps some blending of all three.
And he had also (as Smith found out when he came to work for him) an astoundingly various collection of intimate friends.

Most  of  these  friends lived abroad, so that occasions for personal meetings were rare; but he corresponded, regularly and voluminously, and it
was  this  task that had lately made him aware of failing eyesight, and so of the need for someone to help him with it. Smith gladly volunteered,
and it became a habit that two or three mornings a week Blampied would dictate slowly while the other took down in a longhand that soon developed
into  a private shorthand, marked by curious abbreviations and a general meaninglessness to the outsider. Afterwards, at his leisure, Smith would
rewrite or type the letters in full. They went to most of the corners of the world--a hotelkeeper in Yokohama, a university professor in Idaho, a
train  conductor  on the Orient Express, an Austrian soldier lying wounded in a hospital in Salzburg, an editor in Liverpool, a rubber planter in
Johore,  a  woman  head  of  an  advertising  agency in Brisbane . . . these were a few out of the twenty-odd. All, it appeared, were people whom
Blampied had met at one time or another. "I used to travel a good deal, before the war put an end to it, and now, I fear, I have neither the zest
nor  the  money  to  resume.  But  for  a few shillings' worth of stamps each week, I can almost achieve the same object. . . . This morning, for
instance, I shall write to M'sieur Gaston Auriac, Rue Henri Quatre, Antananarivo, Madagascar. We met only once--on a steamer between Capetown and
Durban,  but we talked for long enough to make the discovery of each other. Maybe you were surprised when I asked you whether you and Paula could
use  the  same toothbrush? You see, I have never married, so I don't know whether physical oneness goes as far as that--but I do know that in the
realm of mental and spiritual things there can be a similar oneness--the knowledge that yours and mine are no longer yours and mine, but OURS for
every  possible  use.  And  this awareness, once acknowledged by both parties, lasts for ever. Gaston and I may disagree about this and that, but
because  our  thought  processes  are  in  the  same  world,  there's  a  sense  in which we can use each other's minds. We're both impervious to
sentimentality and mob optimism, and both of us also, if I may so express it, are accustomed to think proudly. . . . We found that out during our
three-hour  talk  seven years ago, and though we have never met since, we both know that it must still be true, despite all the changes that have
taken  place  in  the  world about us. . . . Just now, we're in the midst of an argument as to the right way to treat Germany now the war's over.
Gaston thinks the Allied armies should have pushed on to Berlin, even at the cost of an extra year of fighting, and then have broken Germany into
fragments,  acting  with  ruthless  severity on the lines of delenda est Carthago. . . . I, on the other hand, would have offered terms of simply
astounding  generosity--lifting  the  blockade  the day after the Armistice, forbearing to ask for meaningless and uncollectable reparations, and
inviting  all  the defeated countries into an immediate conference on equal terms to discuss the disarmament and rehabilitation of Europe. As you
can  imagine,  we're  enjoying as violent a discussion as the somewhat intermittent mails to Madagascar will permit. But the point is: both of us
are  still  thinking  proudly.  Gaston  is  no frenzied sadist wishing to destroy for the sake of destroying; I am no milk-and-water humanitarian
yearning  over  a  defeated  enemy  merely  because  he  is defeated and has been an enemy. Both of us have the same aim in view--the cure of the
thousand-year-old  European  disease; both methods have succeeded at various times throughout history--his, I admit, more often than mine. Either
might  succeed  today.  But  what  will  NOT  succeed,  and what we both know will not succeed, is the unhappy mean between the two--the half-way
compromise between sentiment and vengeance--the policy of SAFE men playing for SAFETY." He added, smiling: "So you see, Mr. Smith, why it did not
shock me the other day to hear that you had been classed at one time as a dangerous man. All my friends are dangerous men."

Smith came to enjoy the work of transcribing these letters, and sometimes also he helped with Church and Mission activities, especially those for
which  Blampied had little ability, such as children's organizations. He found that his experience on the train had been no fluke, but the result
of  an  apparently  inborn  aptitude for handling youngsters. Even the most stubborn, and from the worst slum homes, responded to his instinctive
offering  of  ease  and  discipline;  in  fact it was the most stubborn who liked him and whom he liked the most. He began holding classes in the
Mission  building,  classes that did not invade the religious field (which he did not feel either the inclination or the authority to enter), but
touched  it  variously and from neglected angles--classes on civics, on local history, on London and English traditions. He was so happy over all
this  that it came to him with a sense of retrospective discovery that he must LIKE children--not sentimentally, but with a simple, almost casual
affection. "You'd have made a good schoolmaster," Blampied once said, and then, when Smith replied he wasn't sure he'd care to spend all his time
with children, the other added: "Exactly. Good schoolmasters don't. Anyhow, you can help to make up for the fact that I'm a bad parson."

"Do you really think you are?"

"Oh yes. Ask anybody round here. People don't take to me. I haven't an ounce of crowd magnetism. And then I'm lazy. Only physically, I think, but
then that's the only kind of laziness most people recognize."

"I think you're old enough, if you don't mind my saying so, to be forgiven a certain amount of physical laziness."

"Yes, but I'm not lazy in the forgivable ways. If I went to Lord's to watch the cricket they'd think I was a sweet old clergyman who deserved his
afternoon off, but as I'm only lazy enough sometimes to go without a shave--"

Smith  laughed,  knowing  what  he meant, for while it could not be said that the parson neglected his professional duties, it was certainly true
that  he  made no effort to make himself either a worldly success or a beloved failure--the two classifications that claim a roughly equal number
of adherents among the clergy. Nor, despite the fact that he inclined to High Church fashions, did he join the fanatical brotherhood of those who
systematically  disobey  their  bishops;  his own disobediences were personal, casual, almost careless--wherefore his bishop disliked him all the
more.  So did various influential parishioners to whom he refused to toady; while the poor, to whom he also refused to toady, rewarded him with a
vast  but  genial indifference. A few devoted lay workers ran the adjacent Mission, but they were not devoted to HIM, and when they pushed on him
such  tasks  as  the supervision of the annual outing it was with the knowledge and hope that he would have a bad time. Nor did they care for his
church  services,  which  they thought cold and formal; they realized, correctly, that he was not the kind of cleric to "drag the people in," and
from time to time they plotted, more or less openly, to have him supplanted by some energetic slum parson who would unite both Church and Mission
into  a  single  buzzing hive. But it is by no means easy to dislodge a parson of the Church of England, and Blampied had suffered no more than a
gradual reduction of dues and stipend during his twelve years of office.

He  was,  in  fact, though he hardly realized it because his wants were so few, very close to the poverty line. He wore the shabbiest clothes; he
lived  on  the  simplest and cheapest of foods, though always well cooked; he paid cash to tradespeople, but owed large sums to local authorities
for  taxes  and bills of various kinds. About a month after his first meeting with Smith, his housekeeper fell suddenly ill and died within a few
days; he was a good deal upset by that, but admitted that it had saved him from having to get rid of her, since he could no longer afford the few
weekly  shillings for her part-time services. It was then he suggested to Smith and Paula that they should move into the house and live rent-free
in return for similar help; they were glad to consent, since their own money was rapidly dwindling.

Out  of the unused fifteen they chose two large attic rooms with a view over roof-tops northward as far as Hampstead and Highgate, and it was fun
to begin buying the bare necessities of furniture and utensils, searching the Caledonian Market for broken-down chairs that could be repaired and
re-upholstered,  discarded  shop  fittings  usable  as  bookshelves,  an  old school desk that showed mahogany under its coating of ink and dirt.
Gradually  the  rooms became a home, and the entirely vacant floor beneath encouraged a kinship with roofs and sky rather than with the walls and
pavements of the streets.

Towards  the end of September Blampied received a quarterly payment which he chose to devote to a crusading holiday rather than to paying arrears
of  his  borough  council  rates;  having  invited Smith and Paula to join the expedition, he took them for a week into rural Oxfordshire "making
trouble  wherever  we  go,"  as  the parson put it, though that was an exaggeration. The question of country footpaths was, he admitted, his King
Charles's  Head--every  man,  he added, should have some small matter to which he attaches undue importance, always provided that he realizes the
undueness.  Realizing  it  all  the  time, Blampied would puzzle over ancient maps in bar parlours, inquiring from villagers whether it was still
possible to make the diagonal way across the fields from Planter's End to Marsh Hollow, and generally receiving the answer that no one ever did--
it was much quicker to go round by the road, and so on. "I reckon you could if you tried, mister, but you'd 'ave a rare time gettin' through them
nettles."  A  few  more pints of beer would perhaps elicit the information that "I remember when I was a kid I used to go to school that way, but
'twouldn't be no help now, not with the new school where it is." Yet those, as the parson emphasized, drinking his beer as copiously as the rest,
were  the  paths  their  forefathers  had  trod,  the  secret  short cuts across hill and valley, the ways by which the local man could escape or
intercept  while the armed stranger tramped along the high roads. All of which failed to carry much weight with the Oxfordshire men of 1919, many
of  whom,  as  armed strangers, had tramped the high roads of other countries. They obviously regarded the parson as an oddity, but being country
people they knew that men, like trees and unlike suburban houses, were never exactly the same, and this idea of unsameness as the pattern of life
meant that (as Blampied put it) they didn't think there was anything VERY odd in anyone being a LITTLE odd.

Several  times  the  parson  spoke on village greens to small, curious, unenthusiastic audiences, most of whom melted away when he suggested that
there  and then they should march over the ancient ground, breaking down any barriers that might have been erected during the past century or so;
but in one village there was a more active response, due to the fact that the closing of a certain path had been recent and resented. It was then
that  Blampied showed a certain childlike pugnacity; he clearly derived enormous enjoyment from leading a crowd of perhaps fifty persons, many of
them  youngsters out for a lark, through Hilltop Farm and up Long Meadow to the gap in the hedge that was now laced with fresh barbed wire. Smith
found he could best be useful in preventing the children from destroying crops or tearing their clothes; he thought the whole expedition a trifle
silly  but  pleasingly  novel.  Actually this particular onslaught had quite an exciting finish; the owner of the property, a certain General Sir
Richard  Hawkesley Wych-Furlough, suddenly appeared on the scene, backed by a menacing array of servants and gamekeepers. Everything pointed to a
battle,  but all that finally developed was a long and wordy argument between the General and the parson, culminating in retirement by both sides
and a final shout from the General: "What the hell's it got to do with YOU, anyway? You don't live here!"

"And that," as Blampied said afterwards, "from a man who used to be Governor of so many islands he could only visit a few of them once a year--so
that any islander might have met his administrative decisions with the same retort--'What's it got to do with YOU? You don't live here!'"

The  notion continued to please him as he added: "I was a missionary on one of those islands--till I quarrelled with the bosses. I always quarrel
with bosses. . . ."

Gradually Smith and Paula began to piece together Blampied's history. Born of a wealthy family whom he had long ago given up no less emphatically
than  they  had him, he had originally entered the Church as a respectable and sanctioned form of eccentricity for younger sons. Later, even more
eccentrically  and  with a good deal more sincerity, he had served as a missionary in the South Seas until his employers discovered him to be not
only heretical, but a bad compiler of reports. After that he had come home to edit a religious magazine, resigning only when plunging circulation
led  to  its  bankruptcy.  For a time after that he had dabbled in politics, joining the early Fabians, with whom he never quarrelled at all, but
from  whom  he became estranged by a widening gulf of mutual exasperation. "The truth is, Smith," he confessed, "I never could get along with all
the  Risers-to-Second-That  and  the  On-a-Point-of-Orderers. If I were God, I'd say--Let there be Light. But as I'm not God, I'd rather spend my
time plotting for Him in the dark than in holding committee meetings in a man-made blaze of publicity!"

He formed the habit of talking with the two of them for an hour or so most evenings, especially as summer lagged behind and coal began to burn in
a  million  London  grates.  To roof-dwellers it was a rather dirty but strangely comforting transition--the touch of smoke-laden fog drifting up
from  the  river, the smell of smouldering heaps in parks and gardens, the chill that seemed the perfect answer to a fire, as the fire was to the
chill.  For  London,  Blampied claimed, was of all cities in the world the most autumnal--its mellow brickwork harmonizing with fallen leaves and
October  sunsets,  just  as  the  etched  grays  of November composed themselves with the light and shade of Portland stone. There was a charm, a
deathless  charm,  about  a  city  whose inhabitants went about muttering, "The nights are drawing in," as if it were a spell to invoke the vast,
sprawling  creature-comfort  of winter. Indeed no phrase, he once said, better expressed the feeling of curtained enclosure, of almost stupefying
cosiness,  that  blankets London throughout the dark months--a sort of spiritual central heating, warm and sometimes weepy, but not depressing--a
Dickensian, never a Proustian fug.

Those  were  the  happy  days  when  Smith  began to write. As most real writers do, he wrote because he had something to say, not because of any
specific ambition to be a writer. He turned out countless articles and sketches that gave him pleasure only because they contained a germ of what
was  in his mind; but he was never fully satisfied with them himself and consequently never more than slightly disappointed when editors promptly
returned  them.  He  did not grasp that, because he was a person of no importance, nobody wanted to read his opinions at all. Presently, by sheer
accident, he wrote something that fitted a formula; it was promptly accepted and--even more important for him at the time--paid for.

After  he  had  worked  all morning he would often set out in the afternoon with Paula on a planless excursion decided by some chance-met bus; or
sometimes  they  would  tramp haphazardly first to the left, then to the right, mile after mile, searching for books or furniture in old, gas-lit
shops,  and  returning  late  at  night through the narrow defiles of the City. They liked the City, the City with a capital C, and especially at
dusk, when all the tea-shops filled with men, a curious democracy within a plutocracy--silk-hatted stockbrokers buying twopenny cups while at the
same  table  two-pounds-a-week clerks drank similar cups and talked of wireless or motor bicycles or their suburban back gardens. And afterwards,
as  Paula  took  his  arm on the pavement outside, they would be caught in the human current sweeping along Old Broad Street in a single eastward
stream,  then  crossing  Liverpool  Street  like a flood tide into the vast station delta. He loved to see those people, so purposeful and yet so
gentle,  so  free  and  yet so disciplined, hurrying towards the little moving boxes that would carry them home to secret suburbs--secret because
they  were  so  unknown  to  one another, so that a bus shuttling all day between Putney and Homerton gave one a mystical curiosity about all the
people  in  Homerton who had never seen Putney, and all the people in Putney for whom Homerton was as strange as--perhaps stranger than--Paris or
New  York.  There  was  something  fantastic,  too,  in that morning and evening migration, huger in man-miles than any movement of the hordes of
Tamerlane,  something  that might well be incomprehensible to the urban masses of the future, schooled to garden cities and decentralization. But
there  could  never  be  such  romance  as in the pull of steam through the Bishopsgate tunnels, or faces that stared in friendly indifference as
trains raced parallel out of Waterloo.

He  wrote  of  such things, and he wrote as he saw--a little naïvely, as if things had never been seen before--like the line drawings of a child,
with  something  of the same piercing simplicity. It probably helped him, as Blampied said, to have forgotten so much about himself, because into
that  absence came an awareness far beyond the personal reach--the idea of the past as something to be apprehended in vision rather than explored
in  memory.  He  wrote, too, of the countryside as he had seen it: of the men in the pubs with their red faces shy over mugs of beer--old couples
outside  their  cottages  on  summer  evenings,  silent  and close, yet in that silence and closeness telling all there is in the world--a pedlar
unlatching  a  gate with slow steps towards a lonely house--farm workers at midday, asleep under trees--a little road over the hill, curving here
and  there for no reason at all . . . scene after scene, as a child turns pages in a loved picture book, yet behind the apocalyptic wonderment of
it  all  there  was  something  to which talks with Blampied had added shape and quality--the vision of a new England rooted far back in the old,
drawing its strength from a thousand years instead of its weaknesses from a hundred.

"Follow  that  vision,"  Blampied once said. "Follow it wherever it leads. Think it out. Write it down. I'd say PREACH it if the word hadn't been
debased by so many of my own profession."

"I couldn't preach, anyhow. No more public appearances for me after the last one."

"But preaching doesn't need a pulpit. All it needs is what you have--a faith."

"Is yours the same faith?"

"You  have  your vision of England, I have mine of the world--but your England will fit into my world." He added, after a pause: "Does that sound
arrogant?  Maybe.  We mustn't be afraid of a secret arrogance. After all, we are spies of God, mapping out territory lost to the enemy when faith
was lost." His eyes twinkled as he touched his collar. "It isn't THIS, you know, that makes me say so. Religion's only one of the things that can
die  without faith. Take another, for the sake of something you may feel I'm more impartial about--take the League of Nations. It's sickening now
of  that  deadliest  of modern diseases--popular approval without private faith; it will die because it demanded a crusade and we gave it a press
campaign,  because  it's  worth our passion and we deluge it with votes of confidence and acts of indifference. It might have sprung alive out of
the  soul  of  a  saint;  it  could only be stillborn out of a clause in a treaty. It should have been preached until we were all aflame with it;
instead  of which it's been flattered and fawned upon till most of us are already bored with it. Sometimes I've even thought we should have given
it  ritual--a  gesture  to be made whenever the name's mentioned, like the sign of the Cross for the faithful, or--for the faithless--blowing out
the  match after the second man's cigarette." As if reminded by that he pulled out his pipe and began to fill it as he continued: "This is a good
moment to say how much I hope you'll stay with me here--both of you. That is, if you're happy."

"We're very happy. But I have to think of how to make a living."

"Life's  more  important  than  a  living.  So many people who make a living are making death, not life. Don't ever join them. They're the grave-
diggers of our civilization--the safe men, the compromisers, the money-makers, the muddlers-through. Politics is full of them, so is business, so
is  the  Church.  They're  popular,  successful--some of them work hard, others are slack, but all of them can tell a good story. Never were such
charming  grave-diggers  in  the  world's history--and part of their charm is that they don't know what they are, just as they don't know what WE
are, either. They set us down as cranks, oddities, social outsiders, harmless freaks who can't be lured by riches or placated by compliments. But
a  time  may  come when we, the dangerous men, shall either be killed or made kings--because a time may also come when it won't be enough to love
England  as a tired business man loves a nap after lunch. We may be called upon to love her as the Irish love Ireland--darkly, bitterly, and with
a hatred for some who have loved her less and themselves more."

After  another  of  their  talks  he  told  Smith  of  a  friend  of  his in Liverpool, editor of a provincial paper with a small but influential
circulation. Apparently Blampied, unknown to Smith, had sent some of his literary work for this man to see; and now had come a request to see not
only more of the work, but the writer of it. "So I hope you'll pay him a visit, because whatever project he has in mind, or even if he hasn't one
at all, I know you'll like him personally."

"Another dangerous man?" Smith queried.

Blampied nodded with an answering smile.

Smith  was  eager to go as soon as possible; after further communication an appointment was made for just after Christmas. Paula and he spent the
intervening  week  in a glow of anticipation, culminating in a Christmas dinner in their own attic room, with Blampied as a guest. They decorated
the place like children and found him like a third child in his own enjoyment of the meal and the occasion. Later in the evening he gave them, to
their  complete  astonishment,  an  almost  professional display of conjuring tricks; after which Paula offered some of her stage impersonations,
including one of a very prim Victorian wife trying to convey to her equally prim Victorian husband the fact that she rather thought she was going
to have a child. Towards midnight, when Blampied had drunk a last toast with them and gone down to his rooms below, they sat on the hearth-rug in
the  firelight  happily reviewing the events of the evening, and presently Smith remarked that her impersonation of the Victorian wife was new to
him--he didn't remember her ever doing it on the stage, but he thought it would have gone very well if she had.

"But  it wasn't written then," she answered. "I write all my own sketches--I always did--and I wrote this one last night when you were downstairs
talking  to  Blampied.  I  suppose it was on my mind--the subject, I mean--because I'm in the same position, except that I'm not going to be prim
about it."

He took her into his arms quietly, sexlessly, as they sat before the fire. Those were the happy hours.

The  next  day, as if their happiness were not enough, Blampied brought them news of another kind. It was now many weeks since they had last seen
any  mention of the Fulverton case, and though they felt easier about it they still opened newspapers with a qualm. But that morning Blampied had
been  searching  old  papers  for  something  he wished to trace and by sheer accident had come across something else. "It seems that your Thomas
Atwill left hospital more than a month ago, and though of course that doesn't mean the case is closed, I daresay the news will be a load off your

It  so  definitely  was  that the idea occurred to them to celebrate by doing things they had been nervous of for so long--a regular evening out.
They asked Blampied to join them, but he excused himself on the score of work; before they left the house, however, he shook hands with Smith and
wished  him a pleasant trip, for it had been arranged that he should leave that night for Liverpool. Even though it would only be for a few days,
the  impending  separation  added  spice  to the evening. They went first to the Holborn Empire to see Little Tich, then for supper to an Italian
restaurant  in  Soho.  When  they  emerged,  still  with  a couple of hours until train time, he saw a hansom cab swinging along Coventry Street,
temptingly  out  of  place on a cold December night, but for that very reason he waved to it, telling the man to take them anywhere, just for the
ride.  Under  the  windy  sky the blaze of Christmas still sparkled in the shops as they drove away, jingling north and west along Regent Street,
through  Hanover  Square and past Selfridge's to Baker Street, with ghosts of Londoners stepping out of their tall houses ("And if I mistake not,
my  dear  Watson,  here is our client just arriving"), bidding them godspeed into the future; and because they both had faith in that future they
were drenched in a sort of wild ecstasy, and had the cabby drive them round and round Regent's Park while they talked and laughed and whistled to
the parrots every time they passed the Zoo.

Those were the happy moments.

Later,  on  the  platform  at  Euston,  walking  up  and down beside the train, she said she wished she were going with him, though she knew they
couldn't afford it, the little money he was beginning to make by writing wasn't nearly enough for such unnecessary jaunts. "I know that, darling,
but  I still wish I were going with you, and if you were just to say the word, like the crazy man you are, I'd rush to the booking-office and buy
a  ticket--which  would be stupid. I don't really mean it, Smithy--I'm only joking, of course. But I'm part of you--I'll only be half alive while
you're away--we belong to the same world, as Blampied says about his friends--"

"I know that too. There's something RIGHT about us--about our being together here. And Blampied wants us to stay."

"I'd like to stay too. I love that old ugly house."

"So do I. And d'you know, I don't WANT to remember anything now--anything I've ever forgotten. It would be so--so unimportant. My life began with
you, and my future goes on with you--there's nothing else, Paula."

"Oh, what a lovely thing to tell me! And by the way, HE said he hoped you wouldn't remember."


"Yes. He's devoted to you."

"I  should  be proud to think so, because I'm equally devoted to him." He kissed her laughingly. "Must we spend these last few seconds talking of
someone else?"

"But he isn't altogether someone else. He's part of us--part of our happiness--don't you feel that?"

"Darling, I do--and I also love you!"

"I love you too. ALWAYS."

"The whistle's going--I'd better get inside. Good-bye, Paula."

"Good-bye, old boy."

"That's the first time you've said 'old boy' for weeks!"

"I know, I'm dropping it. Now I'm not a touring-company actress I don't have to talk like one. I can impersonate anybody, you know--even the wife
of a writer on a secret errand to an editor in Liverpool. . . ." The train began to move. "Oh, DARLING--come back soon!"

"I will! Good-bye!"

He reached Liverpool in the early morning. It was raining, and in hurrying across a slippery street he stumbled and fell.


Rainier began to tell me most of this during the drive back from Melbury that night; a few minor details, obtained afterwards from other sources,
I  have since fitted in. We drove to his Club, because Mrs. Rainier was at Stourton; after perfunctory greetings to a few members in the lobby he
ordered drinks to be sent up to the suite he usually lived in when Kenmore was not in use.

He  had  talked rapidly during the car journey, but now, in quieter surroundings, he seemed to accept more calmly the fact that there was much to
tell  that  he  could at last quite easily recall. Once, when I thought he was growing tired and might remember more if he rested for a while, he
brushed  the suggestion aside. "You see, I want to tell you all I can in case I ever forget it again, and if I do, you must remind me--you MUST--
understand?"  I  promised,  and he continued: "Not that I think I shall--it's too clear in my mind ever to be lost again. I could find Blampied's
old  house in Vale Street now if I tried--Number 73, I think it was--or maybe 75--that much I HAVE forgotten, but I suppose I can't expect memory
to come back without the normal wear-and-tear of years. Or can I? Has it been in a sort of cold storage, with every detail kept fresh?"

We  laughed,  glad  of  an  excuse  to  do so, and I said it raised an interesting point which I wasn't expert enough to decide. He then resumed:
"Because  I  actually  FEEL as if it all happened only the other day, instead of twenty years ago. That house of Blampied's, for instance--it had
four  dreadful  bay  windows,  one  on  each side of the front door and two others immediately above in the room that wasn't occupied--the attics
hadn't  got any bay windows. There was a pretty grim sort of basement, too, where the housekeeper lived--she didn't have to, she chose it because
she was crazy enough to like it. She was a queer woman altogether--God knows where Blampied picked her up or how long she'd been with him, but he
cried  when  she  died,  and  looked  after  her cat--which was also a queer animal, an enormous tabby--spent most of its life sleeping, probably
because  of  its weight--it had won a prize as the biggest cat north of the Thames." He added, smiling: "I daresay you think I'm inventing this--
that  there  aren't  prizes  for  big  cats.  But  some newspaper ran a competition as a stunt--two first prizes, for North and South London--and
Blampied's housekeeper's cat won one of them."

No,  I thought--you're not inventing; you're just enjoying yourself rather indiscriminately, as a child frolics in the sand when he first reaches
the seashore; I could see how, in the first flush of recollection, the mere placement of the past, the assembling of details one after the other,
was giving him an intense pleasure, and one by no means discountenanced by his use of words like "grim" and "dreadful."

He went on like that for some time, going back over his story, picking out details here and there for random intricate examination; and carefully
avoiding the issue that was foremost in my thoughts. Then, once again, I saw that we had talked till dawn and well past it, for there was already
a  pale edge to the window. I switched off his bedroom light and pulled the curtains; far below us the early morning trams were curving along the
Embankment.  We  watched  the scene for a moment; then he touched my arm affectionately. "Time for an adjournment, I think. I know what's in your
mind,  it's  in  mine,  too,  but it's too big to grasp--I'm collecting the small things first. You've been good to listen to me. What have we on

My thoughts were so far away I could not give an immediate answer, though of course I knew. He laughed at my hesitation, saying he hoped I should
not  lose  my  memory  just  because  he had regained his. By then I had remembered and could tell him: "Anglo-American Cement--ten-thirty at the
Cannon Street Hotel." To which he replied, almost gaily: "The perfect closure to all our conversation. . . ."

"Don't you want me for anything tomorrow?"

"No, I'll sleep most of the day . . . at least I hope so. . . . Good night."

If  this is a difficult story to tell, it may be pleaded in partial defence that the human mind is a difficult territory to explore, and that the
world  it  inhabits  does  not always fit snugly into any other world. I must admit that I found the fitting a hard one as, some thirty-six hours
later,  I  watched  the  sunlight stream through stained-glass windows to dazzle the faces of Anglo-American Cement shareholders. From the report
afterwards sent out with the dividend I find that Rainier spoke as follows:--

"You  will  be glad to know that our sales have continued to increase throughout the year, after a somewhat slow beginning, and that prospects of
continued  improvement are encouraging. The government's national defence preparations during the September crisis of last year led to additional
consumption of cement throughout the country, and this, at prices we were able to obtain, resulted in generally satisfactory business. During the
year  we  opened  a  new  plant  at Nottingham which we expect to enhance production very considerably during the coming year. Your directors are
constantly watchful for any opportunities of further economies, either by technical developments or by the absorption of competing companies, and
with  these  aims  in  view,  it  is  proposed,  in addition to the usual dividend of 10 per cent, to issue new shares at forty-two shillings and
sixpence in the proportion of one to five held by existing shareholders." (Loud applause.)

We  had  had  no  chance  for private conversation on our way to the meeting, for the secretary of the company had driven with us; and afterwards
there was a directors' hotel lunch that did not disperse until almost three o'clock. As I went to retrieve our hats at the cloak-room I overheard
comments  on  how  Rainier  had  been in grand form, looking so much better; wonderful year it had been; wonderful the way he'd pulled the Anglo-
American out of its earlier doldrums--remember when the shares were down to five bob?--nice packet anyone could have made who'd helped himself in
those days--well, maybe Rainier did, why not?--after all, he'd had faith in himself, faith in the business, faith in the country--that's what was
wanted, pity more people didn't have it.

Later, as we were driving away, I repeated the compliments to Rainier, thinking they might please him. He shook his head sombrely. "Don't call it
faith.  I haven't had FAITH in anything for years. That artist fellow, Kitty's young man, told me that when he was drunk--and he was right. Faith
is  something  deeper,  more  passionate,  less derisive, more tranquil than anything I've ever felt in board-rooms and offices--that's why peace
won't come to me now. . . God, I'm tired."

"Why don't you go home and rest?"

He  stared at me ironically. "So simple, isn't it? Just go home and rest. Like a child. . . . Or like an old man. The trouble is, I'm neither. Or
else both." He suddenly patted my arm. "Sorry--don't take any notice of my bad temper."

"I don't think you're bad-tempered."

"By  the  way,"  he said smiling, "I've just thought of something--it's a queer coincidence, don't you think?--two of my best friends I first met
quite accidentally on trains . . . Blampied and yourself. . . ."

"I'm pleased you should class me with him."

"Why not? He talked to me--you listen to me--even when I want to talk all night. That's another thing I ought to apologize for--"

"Not at all--in fact if it helps you now to go on talking--to continue the recollections--"

"I don't think I've much more to say, unless there's anything you'd particularly like to know?"

There  were  many  things I wanted to know, but for the present I felt I could only mention one of them. "Those articles you wrote, some of which
were published--"


"What papers did they appear in?"

"The Northern Evening Post took two or three--the worst. The others--don't know what happened to them. Maybe they fell in the gutter when the car
hit me."

"You were carrying them--THEN?"

"Yes, I was on my way to see the editor."

"A pity you hadn't taken copies."

"It was before the days I bothered about carbon paper. You see, I never behaved like a full-dress author. I used Blampied's typewriter because he
had  one,  but  I didn't card-index anything or call the room where I worked a study or self-consciously burn any midnight oil. Matter of fact, I
was in bed by ten on most nights, and I wrote if and when I felt like it. I never thought of the word 'inspiration' as having anything to do with
me--it  was  a  continual  vision of life that mattered more than words in print, but if I did get into print I had more ambition to be alive for
half a day in a local paper than to be embalmed for ever between covers on a library shelf."

"All the same, though, those articles might have been collected in book form."

"Blampied  thought  of  that,  and  Paula  and  I once made a choice of what we thought were the best--but I wasn't very keen on the idea, and it
certainly  wasn't  likely  any publisher would have been either. I remember it chiefly because the evening we were choosing them Blampied came in
and found us huddled together on the floor with the typed pages surrounding us. He asked, 'What are you two planning--the book or your future?'--
and Paula laughed and answered 'Both.'"

We  had  entered  Palace  Yard,  passing  the  saluting policeman and a swarm of newsboys carrying posters about Hitler. As we left the car a few
seconds  later  Rainier added: "It's odd to reflect, isn't it, that at that very moment a few hundred miles away a man whom we had never heard of
was also planning a book--and our future."

We crossed the pavement and entered the Gothic doorway; the House, as always, seemed restful, almost soporific, on a summer afternoon.

"And you've never written anything like those articles since?" I queried, after a pause.

"I've  been too busy, Sir Hawk, as the lady called you, and possibly also my prose style isn't what it used to be. I did write one book, though--
or perhaps Sherlock would have called it a monograph--the title was Constructive Monetary Policy and an International Cartel--I hope you've never
heard of it."

I said I had not only heard of it but read it.

"Then I hope you didn't buy it when it first came out, because I came across it the other day on a barrow in the Farringdon Road, marked 'Choice'
and going for fourpence."

I  smiled, recognizing the familiar self-ridicule by which he worked himself out of his moods. We walked on through cool corridors to the Terrace
and  found  a  table. As nearly always, a breeze blew over the parapet, bringing tangs of the sea and of wharves, a London mixture that added the
right  flavour  to  tea  and  buttered  toast  and the special edition of the Evening Standard. More bother about Danzig; Hitler had made another
speech.  Some  Members  came along, stopped at our table to exchange a few words of greeting; one, of them, seeing the headlines, exclaimed: "Why
don't  they  let him have it, then maybe we'll all get some peace?"--but another retorted indignantly: "My dear fellow, we CAN'T let him have any
more,  that's  just  the  point,  we've GOT to make a stand--eh, Rainier?" Rainier said: "We've got to have peace and we've got to make a stand--
that's  exactly the policy of the government." They passed on, uncertain whether he had been serious or cynical (and that uncertainty, now I come
to think of it, was part of the reason why he hadn't climbed the higher rungs of the Parliamentary ladder).

He looked so suddenly exhausted after they had gone that I asked if he had been able to sleep at all during the previous day and night.

"Not much. A few hours yesterday morning after you left. The rest of the day I devoted to an investigation."


"I  went to Vale Street to look for Blampied's old house. It's disappeared--been pulled down to make room for one of those huge municipal housing
schemes. All that part of London seems to be changed--and it's certainly no loss, except in memories. I couldn't even find anybody who REMEMBERED

"That's not very surprising."

"Why not?" He stared at me sharply, then added: "D'you mean you don't believe he ever existed?"

"Oh, he existed all right. But he died such a long time ago."


"In 1920."

"Good God! Within a year--of--of my--leaving--like that."

"Not only within a year. Within a month. JANUARY 1920."

"How do you know all this?"

"I  also  spent  part  of yesterday investigating. I searched the obituaries in newspaper files and found this." I handed him a sheet of paper on
which I had copied out the following from the Daily Gazette of January 17, 1920:--

We  regret  to  announce  the  death  at  the age of seventy-four of the Reverend John Sylvester Blampied, for many years Rector of St. Clement's
Church,  Vale  Street,  North  London.  Pneumonia  following  a  chill  ended a career that had often attracted public attention--particularly in
connection  with  the  preservation of ancient footpaths, a cause of which Mr. Blampied had been a valiant if sometimes tempestuous champion. His
death took place in Liverpool, and funeral services will be held at St. Clement's on Friday.

Rainier  stared at the paragraph long enough to read it several times, then handed it back. His face was very pale. "LIVERPOOL? What was he doing

"It doesn't say."

"I--I think I can guess. He'd gone to look for me."

"We don't KNOW that."

"But isn't it probable?"

"It's--it's possible. But you couldn't help it. You couldn't help finding out who you were."

"I can't help comparing what I found with what I lost!"

"You didn't lose permanently. You've got it all back now."

"But too late." He waved his arm with sudden comprehensive emphasis. "ISN'T it too late? I'm down to ask a question in the House shortly, but not
THAT  question, yet it's the only one worth asking or answering . . . isn't EVERYTHING too late? I should have stayed in that London attic. There
were  things  to  do  in those days if one had vision to do them, but now there's neither time nor vision, but only this whiff of putrefying too-
lateness.  It  was  almost  too  late  even  then, except that by a sort of miracle there came a gap in long-gathering clouds--an incredibly last
chance--a golden shaft along which England might have climbed back to glory."

"Less lyrically, you mean you'd like to set the clock back?"

"Yes,  set it back, and set it right, and then wind it up, because it's been running down ever since Englishmen were more interested in the price
of things on the market than what they could grow in their own gardens."

"I see. A back-to-the-land movement?"

"Back  anywhere  away from the unrealness of counting able-bodied men as a national burden just because they're listed as unemployed, and figures
in  bank  ledgers  as  assets just because they're supposed to represent riches. Back anywhere from the mood in which poor men beg me for jobs in
Rainier factories and rich men for tips about Rainier shares."

"All the same, though--and you've often said it yourself--the Rainier firm gives steady employment to thousands--"

"I know, I know. But I know too that the way that made Rainiers rich was the opposite of the way to make England strong."

"Yet if war comes, won't the riches of Rainier have been of some benefit? After all, the new steelworks you were able to build two years ago, and
the mass-production motor plant--"

"True--and what a desolate irony! But only HALF true, because strength is only half in tanks and steel. The other half is faith, wisdom--"

A  House  servant  approached and said something in his ear; he answered, consulting his watch: "Oh yes. I'll come at once." Then he added to me:
"It's time for that question."

We  left  the  table and walked through the Smoking Room to the Lobby; then we separated, he to enter the Chamber, I to watch and listen from the
Strangers' Gallery.

Again,  as  earlier at the Cement meeting, I was in no mood for correct secretarial concentration; from where I sat the main thing that impressed
me  was his strained pallor on rising to speak; in the green-yellow glow that came on as dusk fell his face took on a curious transparency, as if
some  secret  hidden  self  were  flooding  outwards  and  upwards.  But that, I knew, was a mere trick of artificial light; the House of Commons
illumination  flatters  in  such  a  way,  often  gilding with spirituality a scene which is not, in itself, VERY remarkable--a few Members going
through  the formality which would later entitle them to boast of having "raised the matter in the House," than which, except for writing letters
to  The  Times,  fortunate generations of Englishmen were never called upon to do more. That afternoon the benches were thinly populated, nothing
important was expected, and I find from newspaper reports that the following took place:--

Mr.  Charles  Rainier  (Conservative:  West  Lythamshire)  asked  whether  a consignment of trade catalogues dispatched by a business firm in his
constituency  had  been  confiscated by the port authorities at Balos Blanca, and whether this was not contrary to Section 19 of the recent Trade
Convention signed at Amazillo.

The  Right  Honourable  Sir George Smith-Jordan (Conservative: Houghley), replying for the Government, said he had been informed by His Majesty's
Consul  at  Balos  Blanca that the reported confiscation had been only partial and temporary, affecting a certain section of the catalogues about
which  there appeared to have been some linguistic misunderstanding, and that the greater part of the consignment had since been delivered to the
addressees.  As to whether the action of the port authorities had or had not been an infringement of any clause of the Amazillo Trade Convention,
he was not in a position to say until further information had been received.

Mr.  Jack  Wells  (Labour:  Mawlington)  asked whether, having regard to the general unsatisfactoriness of the incident, His Majesty's Government
would  consider  the  omission  of  Balos Blanca from the scheduled list of ports of call during the proposed Good-Will Tour of the British Trade
Delegation in 1940.

The Right Honourable Sir George Smith-Jordan: No, sir.

Immediately  after that, Rainier picked up his papers and walked out, leaving the Mother of Parliaments to struggle along with barely more than a
quorum  till  after  the  dinner hour. Meanwhile I left the Gallery, in which a small crowd of provincial and foreign visitors had been defiantly
concealing  their  disappointment  at  the proceedings below, and met him in the Lobby; he was gossiping with strangers, but behind the façade of
casualness  I  saw  how  haggard  he looked, his face restlessly twitching in and out of smiles. Seeing me approach he made a sign for me to wait
while  he detached himself from the crowd--they were constituents, he explained later, and constituents had to be humoured, especially when one's
majority  had  been only twelve last time. "They're so proud because they heard me ask about that catalogue business--they have a touching belief
that a question in Parliament pulls invisible wires, sets invisible forces in motion, works invisible miracles all over the world."

Passing through the Smoking Room again on the way to the Terrace we saw the name "McAlister" on the notice-board that announced current speakers;
Rainier  smiled and said that was fine--McAlister always gave one a chance to stroll for half an hour with the certainty of not missing anything.
"By the way, I'm dining at the Historians' Club, so I don't think I'll need you for the rest of the evening."

"Are you down to speak?"

"I'm not on the programme, but I daresay I'll be asked."

"You don't have to go if you'd rather not. I can make up some excuse."

"What's the idea--encouraging me to shirk?"

"I thought--perhaps--you might be feeling rather exhausted."

"Not a bit of it NOW. I'm game for more than a speech at a Club dinner. You'd be surprised if you knew what's in my mind."

We  stepped into the cool evening air and began walking towards Westminster Bridge. He had given me a cue to say what I had been planning most of
the day.

"My  advice  would  be to put the whole thing OUT of your mind, now that it's happened at last, and there isn't a gap any longer. You ought to be

"SATISFIED?" He swung round on me. "When you say that I wonder if--if you quite realize--what it all amounts to?"

"Oh yes, I do. It means that so far as there was ever anything abnormal in your life, you're now completely cured."

We  came near the Bridge, a blaze of illumination from lines of trams, and in that light I saw such anguish in his eyes that I could only repeat,
with an emphasis that somehow drained away as the words were spoken: "Utterly and completely cured."

"You don't REALLY think that's all it amounts to? You must know there's only one thing that matters--only one thing left for me to do."

"And that is?"

"I must find her."

So  there  it  was  squarely  before  us,  the  issue  that  had  of course been in my mind, that I had done a pathetic best to make him shirk by
conscientiously shirking it myself. We walked a little way in silence.

"After all these years," I said at length, "it doesn't seem very likely."

"I must try."

"It was up to her, surely, to look for you--yet apparently she never did."

"Maybe. Maybe not. I don't care. And besides--there's my son. She was going to have a child."

"But even a return of memory can't prove it was a boy."

He smiled. "No, but I hope so. I've always wanted a boy. He'd be eighteen now. I must find him . . . both of them."

"And if by chance--not that I think there IS much chance--but just for the sake of argument--if you SHOULD happen to succeed, what then?"

He answered with a certain impregnable simplicity: "Then I should be happy again."

"Possibly, but apart from your own personal happiness . . . Look here, why not think it over--not now--but later--calmly--when you're alone?"

"I'm  calm  now, and it doesn't particularly help me to be alone when I think. I was thinking it over very clearly all the time I was asking that
question in the House."

"Yes, I could see you were--but that doesn't meet my point, which is that you haven't--you can't have--reckoned with all the complications--"

"COMPLICATIONS? You'll be telling me next I ought to consult old Truslove!"

"Actually  I wasn't thinking of legal complications at all, though they doubtless exist. It's other kinds you'd find most disagreeable--newspaper
publicity, gossip and scandal that wouldn't do you any good politically."

"I think I've had enough good done to me politically."

"And then of course there's your wife. Whatever your private feelings are, and of course it's none of my business, you ought at least to consider
HER position."

"Anything I ought to do now is nothing compared with what I ought to have done before."

"But that's in the past--IRREVOCABLE."

"No, not if she and I can find each other again."

"It seems to me we're talking about different persons."

"Oh, I see."

We walked on for another spell of silence. Then I said: "But you don't even know that the . . . the other woman's ALIVE?"

He was silent for a while. "DO you?" I pressed.

"No,  that's true." Then suddenly: "But if she is, and I can find her, then nothing on earth will stop me--neither publicity, nor politics, nor .
.  ."  He  turned  to  me  abruptly. "I don't want to be dramatic. Let's leave that to the journalists who'll have the job of making a nine days'
wonder of it."

"Maybe they won't. Maybe they'll have more important news, the way events are going."

As  we  turned  into the Smoking Room the board showed that McAlister was still speaking. A group of Members at one of the tables greeted Rainier
chaffingly  and  asked  him  to join them; as if relieved to be rid of the argument he gave me a nod of friendly farewell and sat down with them,
completely  master  of  himself so far as voice and manner were concerned. But I heard one of them say, just as I was entering the corridor: "You
look pretty washed-out, Rainier--what's the matter? Hitler getting on your nerves?"

I went back to my rooms in Bedford Square and spent the evening with the latest editions of the papers. But I could not keep my mind on the fast-
developing  European crisis; my thoughts were full of Rainier and his story; I mused upon his whole life as I now knew it: childhood at Stourton,
with  the  despotic father and adored mother; schooldays; then the war, the hospitals, the brief unmemoried idyll; then the return to the routine
struggle  that  had brought him wealth, power, and a measure of fame. I could not but feel his personal drama near to me as I turned on the radio
for the larger drama of our times, for that too had reached a moment of desperate retrospect.

About  midnight  I  strolled into Tottenham Court Road and watched the crowd pouring out of theatres and restaurants; when I returned there was a
letter pushed under the door. It was from Rainier, enclosing another letter. He wrote:--

I  said  I  would let you see that last note Kitty wrote me; here it is, and whatever it means to you, to me, re-reading it just now, it meant as
much more as you can possibly imagine. Yrs. C. R.

The letter from Kitty, dated September 30, 1929, was as follows:--


I'm  writing  this in a hurry, but after thinking things out as slowly and carefully as even you could--in fact I've been gathering together many
thoughts  I began to have the moment we left the Jungfraujoch last April, in the train and on the boat, and then again off and on ever since, and
especially in the restaurant tonight--Dearest, it wasn't the weather or the altitude or the stock market--it was our own hearts sinking a little,
and I'm going to face that frankly, because I doubt if you ever would or could. I can't marry you, Charles dear--that's what it amounts to. We've
had  marvellous times, we'd still go on having them, we have so much in common, the same way of seeing things, the same kind of craziness (though
you  keep  yours  in  check  more than I do)--you could make me perfectly happy if only I were selfish enough not to care or stupid enough not to
notice that at some point in the final argument you waver and turn away. So here's my decision--No, darling, while it's still not quite too late;
and here are my plans--I'm leaving London immediately, I'll have gone before you read this--I shall probably join Jill (wherever she is, Luxor, I
think)--not  tragically,  but in a mood to see what fun I can find--and I usually can. I'm sending this by special messenger because I want it to
reach  you  before you go to the office, so that you won't send out those invitations and then have to cancel them--as for selling short to amuse
me,  it  wouldn't  amuse  me,  I'm  afraid, but if you think it would amuse you, why don't you do it? Dear Charles, I want you to be happy, to be
amused,  to  do  things because you desire them, not because you're urged or tempted; I wish we could be and do all we talked of on the mountain,
but  the  fact  is,  I'm not the one for you, though God knows the mistake was excusable for both of us, because I'm NEARLY the one--I claim that
much  and  it's  something  to  go  on  being proud of. But "nearly" isn't enough for a lifetime--it would be too hard to strain after the hidden
difference.  And there's something else that may sound utterly absurd, but let me say it--sometimes, especially when we've been closest, I've had
a  curious  feeling  that  I REMIND YOU OF SOMEONE ELSE--someone you may have met or may yet meet--because with that strange memory of yours, the
tenses get mixed up--or don't they? But Charles, because I AM so nearly the one, and because I love you more than anyone I shall ever marry, will
you forgive me for this upset and stay friends?--K.

I  went  to his City office the following morning and waited till after ten o'clock (he usually arrived at nine); then I rang up his Club and was
told  he  had left very early, giving no forwarding address. It was a day of such important engagements that I went over to the Club immediately,
hoping to find out more than they would tell me over the telephone.

The porter, who knew me, said he had left about six, by car.

"Hanson was with him then?"

"No, sir, he drove alone. It wasn't his usual car--quite a small one, a brown two-seater."

"But he hasn't got a two-seater."

"Well, he went away in one--that's all I can tell you, sir. I think it was an Austin, but I'm not sure."

"And he left no message for me?"

"No,  sir--no  message  for anybody, except that he'd be away till he got back. That was his phrase. He seemed in a very cheerful mood. I thought
maybe he had some good news, but it don't look like it from today's papers."

"Well,  I expect I'll hear from him--it's all right." I went away as if I thought it really was, because I was anxious not to start gossip at the
Club.  Then I went back to the City office and pretended the mystery was cleared up--he'd had to go away for a few days on an important political
errand; I telephoned to cancel all his appointments for the day, giving the same story, except that to those in the political world I made out it
was  a  business  errand.  There  were  certain  advantages  in  belonging to two worlds. I wondered if I should hear from him, by either wire or
telephone,  as  the  day  proceeded, but no message came, and in the late afternoon I drove to Stourton. There were several cars outside the main
entrance, but none was a brown two-seater; I hadn't really expected it. Woburn met me on the threshold. "What are YOU doing here?" he greeted me,
as if he owned the place.

"What are YOU doing here, for that matter? Still on the catalogue?"

"No, I've finished that and several more since. I'm just a guest."

"Well, that's very nice."

"There's going to be a big party this week-end."

There was, and that was what I had come about. "Where's Mrs. Rainier?"

"On the terrace--dispensing cocktails and small talk with her usual glassy proficiency. Just a local crowd--they'll go soon."

"Let's join them."

I  realized  then, as soon as I saw her in the distance, how keenly my sympathies had been enlisted for a woman whose glassiest proficiency could
hardly  help  her  much in the situation that was now so rapidly developing. As we shook hands she seemed to me rather like a pathetic tight-rope
walker doing her tricks in confident unawareness that the rope was about to be cut.

The  crowd were mostly neighbours whom I had met before, but there was one fresh face--Sir William Somebody, whom I knew to be a retired diplomat
who  lived  on  his  pension in a farmhouse rented from the Rainiers. Mrs. Rainier introduced me with the remark that perhaps, having just driven
from London, I could give him the latest news. "Sir William thinks the situation's far worse than people realize."

I  passed  on  what  news  there was; then a girl called Cynthia exclaimed: "We mustn't miss the wireless bulletin. Hasn't he been making another
speech today?" (It had come to the point where an unrelated "he" could only refer to Hitler.)

"Just words, nothing but words," someone else muttered.

"Better than actions, anyhow."

Mrs.  Rainier  intervened  lazily:  "Oh, I'm not so sure of that as I used to be. I mean, when you're waiting for something to happen, and rather
dreading  it  .  . ." She went on: "Have you ever been going somewhere with a crowd and you're certain it's the wrong road and you tell them, but
they won't listen, so you just have to plod along in what you know is the wrong direction till somebody more important gets the same idea?"

"A parable, darling. Please interpret."

She  seemed  embarrassed  by  being the focus of attention--which was unusual of her. "No, thanks, Cynthia. That's been enough words for ME." She
laughed and came round with the cocktail-shaker, refilling the glasses, including her own.

Sir  William  resumed:  "Well,  if  he  DOES  march  into Poland, we shall fight." Then suddenly he pointed to the great avenue of elms for which
Stourton  was famous. "Look at those trees--planted two centuries ago, deliberately, by someone who thought of a time when someone else would see
them  like  this.  Who  could do such a thing today?" Nobody informed him, and after a pause to deposit an olive stone in an ash-tray he went on:
"The most we do is to bury things under foundation-stones so that future civilizations can dig into our ruins and wonder."

We  all  laughed,  because  after a few drinks what can one do but laugh; then in ones and twos the party dispersed and drove away in its cars. I
went  to  the  library  and  turned on the radio for the news bulletin; Hitler's speech had been just another threat to march. Somehow one didn't
believe  he  would;  there  had been crises before, ending up in a deal; so that one had the half-cynical suspicion that both sides were secretly
arranging  another deal and that the wordy warfare was just shadow-boxing, face-saving, anything but a prelude to the guns. While I was listening
Sheldon entered to announce that dinner would be almost immediately, and that Mrs. Rainier had said "not dress."

"Good--since I haven't brought anything."

"I think Mrs. Rainier anticipated that."

"Very thoughtful of her."

"You left Mr. Rainier in the City?"

"Er . . . yes."

"Then you'll be going back in the morning?"

"I expect so."

He nodded and went to the door, then turned and asked: "What's going to happen, do you think?"

"Can't tell yet, but it looks pretty serious."

He said, still standing in the doorway: "I mean what's going to happen to Mr. Rainier?"

He went on, facing my stare: "You said he's in the City."

"I didn't say that. I said I left him there."

"Don't you know where he is now?"


"Isn't that rather peculiar?"

"Many things are peculiar, Sheldon."

"Are you worried about him? . . . You must excuse me, I have a special reason for asking."

"I'm sure you have. It might even be the same reason I have for not answering."

He came back into the room. "Mr. Harrison . . . has he gone away to look for somebody?"

"I really don't think I can discuss--" Then something in his glance made me add: "But supposing he had--then what?"

He smiled his slow slanting smile. "Then you don't need to worry."

"I didn't say I was worrying at all. But why don't I need to?"

"Because he won't succeed in finding the person he's looking for."

"How do you know?"

"Because he never has succeeded."

He  left  me  then,  and a few minutes later the dinner-gong sounded. When I joined Mrs. Rainier in the dining-room, with Sheldon standing at the
sideboard, I had a feeling they had been exchanging glances if not words about me, but I could not say much during dinner, on account of Woburn's
presence.  As  if  by  tacit agreement we left him most of the talking, which he kept up very agreeably throughout the meal--he was really a very
adaptable  young  man,  you  would  have thought him born and bred at Stourton, except that most of those who had been were so much less smoothly
articulate.  I  was  wondering how I could shake him off afterwards, but Mrs. Rainier did it for me, saying outright that she expected I had some
business to talk over, so if Woburn would excuse us . . .

"Do  you  mind  if  we  have  a  fire?"  she asked, as soon as we were alone in the drawing-room. I helped her to remove the heavy screen, saying
something about the night being cold for the eve of September.

"It  isn't  that,"  she  answered,  kneeling  on  the  hearth-rug.  "But  it  makes a more cheerful background when so many uncheerful things are

Looking  at her then, I realized for the first time how much more she was than merely vivacious and attractive; her face had a beauty that poured
into  it  from  within--a  secret,  serene  radiance.  She  went  on, stooping to the fire: "You've saved me the trouble of calling at the office
tomorrow--I wanted to ask about something."

"Good job you didn't, because I'm not sure Mr. Rainier will be there."

"Oh? He's gone away somewhere?"

"Yes."  I  remembered  him  saying she was never surprised at any of his movements. "And as I don't know when exactly he'll be coming back, I was
wondering about the week-end plans."

"The political situation's so serious I doubt if we'd have had the party anyway. Yes, let's cancel it."

"That's what I was going to suggest."

"Nice of you, but why didn't you telephone?" She added hastily: "Not that I'm not pleased to see you--I always am--but it gave you the journey."

"Oh, I didn't mind. I'm equally pleased to see YOU."

She laughed. "Now we've had the exchange of compliments--"

She  didn't  know  what else to say, I could see that; and after a pause I resumed: "What was it you wanted to ask about if you had called at the

"Oh yes, maybe you can tell me just as well. Why did you and Charles drive out to Melbury the other night?"

The sheer unexpectedness of the question nonplussed me for a moment. In the meantime she went on: "And don't blame Hanson--he wasn't to know he'd
overheard such a tremendous secret!" She was laughing.

"Oh, not--er--exactly a secret."

"Well, a mystery."

I said to gain time: "And you were going to pay a special visit just to ask that?"

"Yes, indeed--I've been terribly curious ever since I heard about it."

"Then it's my turn to say why didn't you telephone?"

"Perhaps  because I wanted to see your faces when I asked you--it's so much harder to hide something that way!" She laughed again. "Won't you let
me in on the puzzle? Melbury's such an odd place for anyone to make a trip to."

It suddenly occurred to me that she had to know, and now was the chance to tell her. I said: "Mr. Rainier was once in a hospital at Melbury."

In  the  blaze  of  fresh firelight I could see the laughter drain away from her face and a sudden pallor enter it; but in another second she was
smiling again.

"Well,  it  seems a queer reason for driving somewhere in pouring rain in the middle of the night. For that matter Charles was at other hospitals
too--he  was  pretty  badly hurt in the war, you know. It even affected his memory for a time. I never knew quite how much you had gathered about
all that--" She was striving to seem very casual.

"Just the main facts, that's all."

"He told you them himself?"


The  smile remained as if fixed to her face. "Oh, I'm so glad, because it shows how close you must have been to him as a friend. He doesn't often
talk about it to anybody. And to me he NEVER talks about it."


"No,  never.  Isn't  that strange? But then he's so little with me--and mostly we have business or politics to talk about. Our marriage is a very
happy one, but it's never been--well, CLOSE is perhaps the word. We've never even had a close quarrel."

"But you love him?"

"Well,  what  do  you  think?  I  adore  him--most  women do. Haven't you noticed that? All his life he could always have had any pretty woman he

"So it isn't surprising that he GOT the pretty woman he wanted."

"More compliments? . . . Oh, but you should have seen the girl he was engaged to when I first became his secretary. I WAS his secretary--you knew
that  too,  I  suppose? She was much prettier than me, AND younger. Kitty, her name was. She married somebody else and died--I can't think why--I
mean  why  she  married  somebody  else, not why she died--she died of malaria--I suppose there's no reason at all for that, except mosquitoes. I
think  they'd  have  been  very happy--she and Charles, I mean, not the mosquitoes--but she'd have tried to make him give up the business. I know
that, because she told me."

I could catch a note of hysteria subdued behind her forced facetiousness; I said, as calmly as I could: "You knew her well, then?"

"Only by talking to her while she used to wait in the office for Charles."

"Tell me--if it isn't impertinent to ask--were you also in love with him then?"

She  laughed.  "Of  course.  Right  from  the first moment I set eyes on him. . . . But that didn't make me jealous of Kitty--only a bit envious,
perhaps. I wonder how it would have worked out--Charles without all the business and politics. Of course he found out later I was the one to help
him in that, and so I have--I've done my best to give him everything he wants--success--his ambitions . . . and yet sometimes lately I've thought
. . . well, like my parable."


"Cynthia called it that during cocktails, don't you remember? About going somewhere with someone and having doubts about it being the right road,
but  there's  nothing you can do but plod along until the other person begins to doubt. And then, of course, if you admit that you had doubts all
the time, as likely as not he turns on you and says--well, why didn't you warn me?"

"Well, why didn't you?"

"Because he wouldn't have taken any notice if I had. In fact he might not even have married me--and I WANTED him to marry me. After Kitty died he
threw  himself  into business more than ever--which gave me my chance--oh, I admit I was quite designing about it. So was he. He found how good I
was--what a valuable merger it would be. He was always clever about mergers. . . ."

"Did that entirely satisfy you?"

"No, but I thought it might lead to something that would--to the REAL closeness. But it's hard to get close when so many things are in the way. .
. . May I have a light?" She was reaching for a cigarette on the side table and I could see that her hand was trembling. She added, as I held the
match: "Do you want a drink in exchange?"

"I think I'd rather wait till later."

"Later? Well, how long do you expect to sit up and talk parables?"

I said then: "Mrs. Rainier, I think I'd better tell you more about the visit to Melbury."

"Oh yes, the mystery--do PLEASE tell me everything! What did you find there?"

She was smiling as I began to tell her, and the smile grew faint as I proceeded, then appeared again in time for the end. I told her all that was
important  for  her  to  know--the fact of his earlier marriage, his life during those brief months immediately afterwards, and how that life had
come to an abrupt finish. I did not try to make it easier for her by a gingerly approach to the problem, or by minimizing its complexities. And I
told  her  how he had reacted to the recent return of memory--his first excitement, then his calmer determination and bitter regret for the years
between.  Finally  I  told  her that though it seemed to me highly unlikely that after two decades he would succeed in tracing someone who hadn't
apparently  succeeded  in  the  much easier task of tracing him during the same interval, and though the gap of years gave legal as well as every
other kind of sanction to what had happened since, she must be prepared for the faint possibility; and that if it happened the publicity would be
neither pleasant for her nor helpful to his position.

"He must know that too."

"Yes, but in his present mood he doesn't care."

"Oh,  HE  DOESN'T  CARE?"  She  said that so softly, so gently, still smiling. I tried to think of something to express the wave of sympathy that
overcame me; in the end I could only give her my silence. Presently she touched my hand and said: "Thank you for telling me all this."

"I must say you take it very well."

"Did you expect me to make a scene?"

"No, but . . . when I try to imagine your feelings . . ."

"I don't feel anything yet, at least not much, but I keep on thinking of what you said--that HE DOESN'T CARE!"

"I know it's terrible, but--"

"Oh, no, it's WONDERFUL! He'd throw over everything--his future--his ambitions--EVERYTHING--if he could find her!"

"In his present mood he thinks so."

"Don't keep saying 'in his present mood.' Maybe his present mood is himself, and all the other moods were false. . . . How do we know?"

"There's one thing we do know--that people are remembered as they were last seen--and twenty years is a long time."

She turned to me with brightly shining eyes.

"How sad that is, and how true."

"And from your point of view--how fortunate."

"Oh  no,  no--I wish she were still as he remembers her. I wish there WERE such a miracle. If all of us could go back twenty years--how different
the world would be! I want him to be happy, I always have. . . . Now will you have your drink?"

"If you will too."

She  went  over  to the table and mixed them; I could see she was glad of something to do. Stooping over the glasses she continued: "I suppose he
told you a great deal more than you've told me?"

"Only details."

"Ah, but the details--those are what I want to hear. Did he remember things very clearly?"


"Places and people?"


"Tell me some of them."

I  hesitated, again catching the note of hysteria in her voice; she added: "It doesn't hurt me--as much as you think. Tell me some of them. . . .
You say he met her first at Melbury?"

"Yes--on that first Armistice Day."

"And they were married in London?"


"Where did he propose to her? Did he tell you that?"

"A village in the country somewhere--I think it was called Beachings Over."

"Beachings Over . . . an odd name."

"England is full of them."

"I  know--like  Nether Wallop and Shallow Bowells. . . ." She turned round with my drink. "And war coming to them all again. Do you think there's
still a chance of avoiding it?"

"There's always a chance of postponing it."

"No--we've had enough of that."

"I think so too."

"But we're not ready yet, are we?"

"We're  terribly  unready. We missed our ways years ago and found a wide, comfortable road, fine for sleep-walkers, but it had the major drawback
of wandering just anywhere, at random."

"Charles always thought that, but as a rich man it wasn't easy for him to say so. Being rich tied his hands and stopped his mouth and took up his
time--so that the wasted years wasted him too. . . ."

"I think he's begun to realize that."

"Yes, he's sure of something at last. . . . Another drink?"

"No, thanks."

A long pause. "There's nothing we can do about it now, is there?"

"Are you talking about--er--the country--or--er--"

"Both, in a way."

"I think one can make up for lost time, but one can't salvage it. That's why HIS quest is so hopeless."

Her voice softened. "So you think that's where he's gone--to look for her?"

"It's possible. . . . But to look for her as she WAS, and that's impossible."

The hysteria touched her voice again. "Tell me another detail--no matter how small or trivial--please tell me--"

"I think you're needlessly upsetting yourself."

"No, it isn't upsetting--it's--it's almost helping me in a way--tell me something--"

"I'd rather not, and besides, it's hard to think--"

"Oh,  but  you said he talked all night and you've only talked for an hour so far. There must be hundreds of things--names of places or incidents
that happened here or there--or how she looked. . . ."

"Well . . . let me see . . ."

"How DID she look? Did he remember her well?"

"He seemed to, though he never described her exactly--but he did say--I believe he said when they first met she was wearing a little fur hat like
a fez. . . . Or no, I may have mixed things up--that was Kitty when she stepped out of the train at Interlaken."


"They had a holiday there--he and Kitty."

"I know. And SHE was wearing a little fur hat like a fez? Or the other one? Or both, maybe--but wouldn't that be rather improbable?"

"Yes, of course. I'm sorry--it was like me to choose a detail I'd get confused over."

She put her hand in mine. "It doesn't matter. You've been very kind. I wish I'd known you better--and earlier. Thank you again."

"You understand that I'm anxious to help BOTH of you?"

"Yes, I understand. But I don't know how you can."

"Anyhow, there's a sort of chilly comfort in thinking how unimportant all one's personal affairs are these days."

She  got  up  and  began walking to the door. "Yes, but when that sort of comfort has chilled one quite thoroughly, the warmth comes--the feeling
that nothing matters EXCEPT personal feelings . . . the what-if-the-world-should-end-tonight mood."

We shook hands at the doorway, and there she added, smiling: "Perhaps our world IS ending tonight. . . ."

* * * * *

I  stayed  in  the  drawing-room  a little while after she had gone; then I thought it would be only civil to find Woburn. He was in the library,
listening to the radio. "Still nothing definite. You know, if there's a war, I want to get in the Air Force." We had another drink and talked for
about an hour before going upstairs.

I  had  asked  Sheldon  to  call  me at seven; he did so, bringing in a cup of tea. "I thought you'd wish to know the news--it just came over the
wireless." Then he told me.

I  got  up  hurriedly. It was a perfect late-summer morning, cool and fresh, with a haze of mist over the hills. Woburn had brought a small radio
into  the  breakfast  room;  we  hardly  exchanged  a  greeting, but sat in front of the instrument, listening as the first reports came through.
Presently  Mrs.  Rainier  entered, stood in the doorway to hear a few sentences, then joined us with the same kind of whispered perfunctory good-
morning. The bulletin ended with a promise of more news soon, then merged into music.

That  was  how  we had breakfast on that first morning of the second war--to the beat of a dance band and with the sunlight streaming through the
windows of Stourton.

After  breakfast  we  heard  the news repeated, and found the strain almost intolerable. We strayed about the gardens, the three of us, then came
back to the radio again; this time there were a few extra items, reports of half the world's grim awakening.

The newspapers came, but they were already old--printed hours before.

I telephoned the City office, and had to wait twenty minutes before the line was clear.

Then  Woburn,  after wandering restlessly in and out of rooms, said he would take a long walk. I think he would have liked either Mrs. Rainier or
myself or both of us to suggest accompanying him, but we stayed each other with a glance. "He's a nice boy," she said, when he had gone.

"Yes, very."

"Does Charles like him?"

"Yes, I think so."

"I always hoped he would. I feel we've almost adopted him, in one sense."

"I sometimes think he feels that too."

"I'd like him to feel that . . . I once had a child, a boy, but he died. . . ."

"I never knew that."

"Charles would have made a good father, don't you think?"

"Yes . . . he must have been terribly disappointed."

"What will Woburn do now?"

"He said he'd join the Air Force."

She  moved restlessly to the radio, where the music had suddenly stopped. Another news item: the Germans had crossed the Polish frontiers at many
places; the war machine was already clanking into gear.

"I can't stand this--I half wish now we'd gone with him for the walk. Don't leave me alone here--you don't have to return to the City, do you?"

"No, not yet, anyhow. I just rang up the office. They haven't had any news or message."

"Oh . . . let's go somewhere then. I'll drive you. There's nothing else to do--we'll go mad if we sit over the radio all day."

We  took  her  car, which was an open sports Bentley, and set out. The Stourton parkland had never looked more wonderful; it was as if it had the
mood  to  spread  its  beauty  as a last temptation to remain at peace, or, failing that, as a last spendthrift offering to a thankless world. We
passed  quickly,  then  threaded  the  winding  gravel  roads  over  the estate to an exit I had not known of before--it opened on to the road to
Faringdon.  Through  the still misty morning we raced westward and northward; but at Lechlade the sun was bright and the clock showed ten minutes
past  ten.  A  few  miles beyond Burford the country rolled into uplands, and presently we left the main road altogether, slowing for tree-hidden
corners and streams that crossed the lanes in wide sandy shallows, till at last in the distance we saw a rim of green against the blue.

"Perhaps it will be a simpler England after the war," was one of the things she said.

"You're already thinking of AFTER the war?"

"Of course. The NEXT Armistice Day, whenever it comes."

"It'll  be a different England, that's very certain. Not so rich, and not so snobbish--but maybe we can do without some of the riches and all the

She nodded: "Maybe we can do without Stourton--and Bentleys."

"And two-for-one bonus issues."

"And guinea biographies like the one somebody once wrote about Charles's father."

"And parties for His Excellency to meet the winners of the Ladies' Doubles."

She laughed. "And champagne when you've already had enough champagne."

"How CAN we be so absurd--on a day like this?"

"Maybe it isn't so absurd."

"Where are you taking me?"

"Oh, just somewhere in England, as the war bulletins may say one of these days."

We  drove  on,  mile  after  mile,  till at a turn of the road the hills ahead of us sharpened into a ridge and at the same turn also there was a
signpost which made me cry out, with a sudden catch of breath: "Did you see THAT?"

"I know. I wanted to come here."

"But--you shouldn't--it's only torturing yourself--"

"No, no. I promise I won't be upset--see, I'm quite calm."

"But all this probing of the past--"

"That's where the future will take us, maybe--back to the past. A simpler England. Old England."

And  then  we  came  upon  the gray cottages fronting the stream, the square-towered church, the ledge in the stream where the water sparkled. We
parked  our car by the church and walked along the street. A postman late on his morning rounds stared with friendly curiosity at us and the car,
then  said "Good morning." A fluff of wind blew tall hollyhocks towards us. Somebody was clipping a hedge; an old dog loitered into a fresh patch
of shade. Little things--but I shall remember them long after much else has been forgotten.

There seemed no special significance anywhere, no sign that a war had begun.

But  as we neared the post-office I caught sight of something that to me was most significant of all--a small brown two-seater car. I walked over
to it; a man saw me examining the licence. "If you're looking for the tall gentleman," he came over to say, "I think he took a walk up the hill."

I turned to Mrs. Rainier. "CHARLES?" was all she whispered.

"Might be. It meets the Club porter's description and it was hired from a London firm."

We  turned  off  the  main road by a path crossing an open field towards the hill; as we were climbing the chime of three quarters came up to us,
blown  faint  by  the  breeze. The slope was too steep for much talk, but when we came within a few yards of the ridge she halted to gain breath,
gazing down over the village.

"Looks as if it has never changed."

"I don't suppose it has, much, in a thousand years."

"That makes twenty seem only yesterday."

"If we meet him, what are you going to say?"

"I don't know. I can't know--before I see him."

"He'll wonder why on earth we've come HERE, of all places."

"Then we'll ask him why on earth HE'S here. Perhaps we'll both have to pretend we came to look at the five counties."

She  resumed  the  climb,  and  in  another moment we could see that the summit dipped again to a further summit, perhaps higher, and that in the
hollow  between  lay  a little pond. There was a man lying beside it with arms outstretched, as if he had flung himself there after the climb. He
did not move as we approached, but presently we saw smoke curling from a cigarette between his fingers.

"He's not asleep," I said. "He's just resting."

I saw her eyes and the way her lips trembled; something suddenly occurred to me. "By the way, how did you know there were FIVE counties?"

But  she didn't answer; already she was rushing down the slope. He saw her in time to rise to his feet; she stopped then, several yards away, and
for  a few seconds both were staring at each other, hard and still and silent. Then he whispered something I couldn't hear; but I knew in a flash
that  the  gap was closed, that the random years were at an end, that the past and the future would join. She knew this too, for she ran into his
arms calling out: "Oh, Smithy--Smithy--it may not be too late!"

End of this Meredy.com E-book Random Harvest by James Hilton

Listen to the January 31, 1944 Lux Radio Theater version of Random Harvest starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson.