ANNE SEVERN AND THE FIELDINGS
III Anne and Jerrold
V Eliot and Anne
VIII Anne and Colin
XII Colin, Jerrold, and Anne
XIII Anne and Jerrold
XV Anne, Jerrold, and Maisie
XVI Anne, Maisie, and Jerrold
XVII Jerrold, Maisie, Anne, Eliot
XVIII Jerrold and Anne
XIX Anne and Eliot
XX Jerrold, Maisie, and Anne
ANNE SEVERN AND THE FIELDINGS
Anne Severn had come again to the Fieldings. This time it was because her mother was dead.
She hadn't been in the house five minutes before she asked "Where's Jerrold?"
"Fancy," they said, "her remembering."
And Jerrold had put his head in at the door and gone out again when he saw her there in her black frock; and somehow she had known he was afraid to come in because her mother was dead.
Her father had brought her to Wyck-on-the-Hill that morning, the day after the funeral. He would leave her there when he went back to India.
She was walking now down the lawn between the two tall men. They were taking her to the pond at the bottom where the goldfish were. It was Jerrold's father who held her hand and talked to her. He had a nice brown face marked with a lot of little fine, smiling strokes, and his eyes were quick and kind.
"You remember the goldfish, Anne?"
"I remember everything."
She had been such a little girl before, and they said she had forgotten.
But she remembered so well that she always thought of Mr. Fielding as Jerrold's father. She remembered the pond and the goldfish. Jerrold held her tight so that she shouldn't tumble in. She remembered the big grey and yellow house with its nine ball-topped gables; and the lawn, shut in by clipped yew hedges, then spreading downwards, like a fan, from the last green terrace where the two enormous peacocks stood, carved out of the yew.
Where it lay flat and still under the green wall she saw the tennis court. Jerrold was there, knocking balls over the net to please little Colin. She could see him fling back his head and laugh as Colin ran stumbling, waving his racquet before him like a stiff flag. She heard Colin squeal with excitement as the balls flew out of his reach.
Her father was talking about her. His voice was sharp and anxious.
"I don't know how she'll get on with your boys." (He always talked about Anne as if she wasn't there.) "Ten's an awkward age. She's too old for Colin and too young for Eliot and Jerrold."
She knew their ages. Colin was only seven. Eliot, the clever one, was very big; he was fifteen. Jerrold was thirteen.
She heard Jerrold's father answering in his quiet voice.
"You needn't worry. Jerry'll look after Anne all right."
"Oh yes, of course, Adeline." (Only somehow he made it sound as if she wouldn't.)
Adeline was Mrs. Fielding. Jerrold's mother.
Anne wanted to get away from the quiet, serious men and play with Jerrold; but their idea seemed to be that it was too soon. Too soon after the funeral. It would be all right to go quietly and look at the goldfish; but no, not to play. When she thought of her dead mother she was afraid to tell them that she didn't want to go and look at the goldfish. It was as if she knew that something sad waited for her by the pond at the bottom. She would be safer over there where Jerrold was laughing and shouting. She would play with him and he wouldn't be afraid.
The day felt like a Sunday, quiet, quiet, except for the noise of Jerrold's laughter. Strange and exciting, his boy's voice rang through her sadness; it made her turn her head again and again to look after him; it called to her to forget and play.
Little slim brown minnows darted backwards and forwards under the olive green water of the pond. And every now and then the fat goldfish came nosing along, orange, with silver patches, shining, making the water light round them, stiff mouths wide open. When they bobbed up, small bubbles broke from them and sparkled and went out.
Anne remembered the goldfish; but somehow they were not so fascinating as they used to be.
A queer plant grew on the rock border of the pond. Green fleshy stems, with blunt spikes all over them. Each carried a tiny gold star at its tip. Thick, cold juice would come out of it if you squeezed it. She thought it would smell like lavender.
It had a name. She tried to think of it.
Stonecrop. Stonecrop. Suddenly she remembered.
Her mother stood with her by the pond, dark and white and slender. Anne held out her hands smeared with the crushed flesh of the stonecrop; her mother stooped and wiped them with her pockethandkerchief, and there was a smell of lavender. The goldfish went swimming by in the olive-green water.
Anne's sadness came over her again; sadness so heavy that it kept her from crying; sadness that crushed her breast and made her throat ache.
They went back up the lawn, quietly, and the day felt more and more like Sunday, or like—like a funeral day.
"She's very silent, this small daughter of yours," Mr. Fielding said.
"Yes," said Mr. Severn.
His voice came with a stiff jerk, as if it choked him. He remembered, too.
The grey and yellow flagstones of the terrace were hot under your feet.
Jerrold's mother lay out there on a pile of cushions, in the sun. She was very large and very beautiful. She lay on her side, heaved up on one elbow. Under her thin white gown you could see the big lines of her shoulder and hip, and of her long full thigh, tapering to the knee.
Anne crouched beside her, uncomfortably, holding her little body away from the great warm mass among the cushions.
Mrs. Fielding was aware of this shrinking. She put out her arm and drew Anne to her side again.
"Lean back," she said. "Close. Closer."
And Anne would lean close, politely, for a minute, and then stiffen and shrink away again when the soft arm slackened.
Eliot Fielding (the clever one) lay on his stomach, stretched out across the terrace. He leaned over a book: Animal Biology. He was absorbed in a diagram of a rabbit's heart and took no notice of his mother or of Anne.
Anne had been at the Manor five days, and she had got used to Jerrold's mother's caresses. All but one. Every now and then Mrs. Fielding's hand would stray to the back of Anne's neck, where the short curls, black as her frock, sprang out in a thick bunch. The fingers stirred among the roots of Anne's hair, stroking, stroking, lifting the bunch and letting it fall again. And whenever they did this Anne jerked her head away and held it stiffly out of their reach.
She remembered how her mother's fingers, slender and silk-skinned and loving, had done just that, and how their touch went thrilling through the back of her neck, how it made her heart beat. Mrs. Fielding's fingers didn't thrill you, they were blunt and fumbling. Anne thought: "She's no business to touch me like that. No business to think she can do what mother did."
She was always doing it, always trying to be a mother to her. Her father had told her she was going to try. And Anne wouldn't let her. She would not let her.
"Why do you move your head away, darling?"
Anne didn't answer.
"You used to love it. You used to come bending your funny little neck and turning first one ear and than the other. Like a little cat. And now you won't let me touch you."
"No. No. Not—like that."
"Yes. Yes. Like this. You don't remember."
"I do remember."
She felt the blunt fingers on her neck again and started up. The beautiful, wilful woman lay back on her cushions, smiling to herself.
"You're a funny little thing, aren't you?" she said.
Anne's eyes were glassed. She shook her head fiercely and spilled tears.
Jerrold had come up on to the terrace. Colin trotted after him. They were looking at her. Eliot had raised his head from his book and was looking at her.
"It is rotten of you, mater," he said, "to tease that kid."
"I'm not teasing her. Really, Eliot, you do say things—as if nobody but yourself had any sense. You can run away now, Anne darling."
Anne stood staring, with wild animal eyes that saw no place to run to.
It was Jerrold who saved her.
"I say, would you like to see my new buck rabbit?"
He held out his hand and she ran on with him, along the terrace, down the steps at the corner and up the drive to the stable yard where the rabbits were. Colin followed headlong.
And as she went Anne heard Eliot saying, "I've sense enough to remember that her mother's dead."
In his worst tempers there was always some fierce pity.
Mrs. Fielding gathered herself together and rose, with dignity, still smiling. It was a smile of great sweetness, infinitely remote from all discussion.
"It's much too hot here," she said. "You might move the cushions down there under the beech-tree."
That, Eliot put it to himself, was just her way of getting out of it. To Eliot the irritating thing about his mother was her dexterity in getting out. She never lost her temper, and never replied to any serious criticism; she simply changed the subject, leaving you with your disapproval on your hands.
In this Eliot's young subtlety misled him. Adeline Fielding's mind was not the clever, calculating thing that, at fifteen, he thought it. Her one simple idea was to be happy and, as a means to that end, to have people happy about her. His father, or Anne's father, could have told him that all her ideas were simple as feelings and impromptu. Impulse moved her, one moment, to seize on the faithful, defiant little heart of Anne, the next, to get up out of the sun. Anne's tears spoiled her bright world; but not for long. Coolness was now the important thing, not Anne and not Anne's mother. As for Eliot's disapproval, she was no longer aware of it.
"Oh, to be cool, to be cool again! Thank you, my son."
Eliot had moved all the cushions down under the tree, scowling as he did it, for he knew that when his mother was really cool he would have to get up and move them back again.
With the perfect curve of a great supple animal, she turned and settled in her lair, under her tree.
Presently, down the steps and across the lawn, Anne's father came towards her, grave, handsome, and alone.
Handsome even after fifteen years of India. Handsomer than when he was young. More distinguished. Eyes lighter in the sallowish bronze. She liked his lean, eager, deerhound's face, ready to start off, sniffing the trail. A little strained, leashed now, John's eagerness. But that was how he used to come to her, with that look of being ready, as if they could do things together.
She had tried to find his youth in Anne's face; but Anne's blackness and whiteness were her mother's; her little nose was still soft and vague; you couldn't tell what she would be like in five years' time. Still, there was something; the same strange quality; the same forward-springing grace.
Before he reached her, Adeline was smiling again. A smile of the delicate, instinctive mouth, of the blue eyes shining between curled lids, under dark eyebrows; of the innocent white nose; of the whole soft, milk-white face. Even her sleek, dark hair smiled, shining. She was conscious of her power to make him come to her, to make herself felt through everything, even through his bereavement.
The subtle Eliot, looking over the terrace wall, observed her and thought, "The mater's jolly pleased with herself. I wonder why."
It struck Eliot also that a Commissioner of Ambala and a Member of the Legislative Council and a widower ought not to look like Mr. Severn. He was too lively, too adventurous.
He turned again to the enthralling page. "The student should lay open the theoracic cavity of the rabbit and dissect away the thymous gland and other tissues which hide the origin of the great vessels; so as to display the heart..."
Yearp, the vet, would show him how to do that.
"His name's Benjy. He's a butterfly smut," said Jerrold.
The rabbit was quiet now. He sat in Anne's arms, couching, his forepaws laid on her breast. She stooped and kissed his soft nose that went in and out, pushing against her mouth, in a delicate palpitation. He was white, with black ears and a black oval at the root of his tail. Two wing-shaped patches went up from his nose like a moustache. That was his butterfly smut.
"He is sweet," she said.
Colin said it after her in his shrill child's voice: "He is sweet." Colin had a habit of repeating what you said. It was his way of joining in the conversation.
He stretched up his hand and stroked Benjy, and Anne felt the rabbit's heart beat sharp and quick against her breast. A shiver went through Benjy's body.
Anne kissed him again. Her heart swelled and shook with maternal tenderness.
"Why does he tremble so?"
"He's frightened. Don't touch him, Col-Col."
Colin couldn't see an animal without wanting to stroke it. He put his hands in his pockets to keep them out of temptation. By the way Jerrold looked at him you saw how he loved him.
About Colin there was something beautiful and breakable. Dusk-white face; little tidy nose and mouth; dark hair and eyes like the minnows swimming under the green water. But Jerrold's face was strong; and he had funny eyes that made you keep looking at him. They were blue. Not tiresomely blue, blue all the time, like his mother's, but secretly and surprisingly blue, a blue that flashed at you and hid again, moving queerly in the set squareness of his face, presenting at every turn a different Jerrold. He had a pleasing straight up and down nose, his one constant feature. The nostrils slanted slightly upward, making shadows there. You got to know these things after watching him attentively. Anne loved his mouth best of all, cross one minute (only never with Colin), sweet the next, tilted at the corners, ready for his laughter.
He stood close beside her in his white flannels, straight and slender. He was looking at her, just as he looked at Colin.
"Do you like him?" he said.
"I love him."
"I'll give him to you if you'd like to have him."
"For my own? To keep?"
"Don't you want him?"
"Yes. But I'd like you to have him."
She knew he was giving her Benjy because her mother was dead.
"I've got the grey doe, and the fawn, and the lop-ear," he said.
"Oh—I shall love him."
"You mustn't hold him too tight. And you must be careful not to touch his stomach. If you squeeze him there he'll die."
"Yes. If you squeeze his stomach he'll die," Colin cried excitedly.
"I'll be ever so careful."
They put him down, and he ran violently round and round, drumming with his hind legs on the floor of the shed, startling the does that couched, like cats, among the lettuce leaves and carrots.
"When the little rabbits come half of them will be yours, because he'll be their father."
For the first time since Friday week Anne was happy. She loved the rabbit, she loved little Colin. And more than anybody or anything she loved Jerrold.
Yet afterwards, in her bed in the night nursery, when she thought of her dead mother, she lay awake crying; quietly, so that nobody could hear.
It was Robert Fielding's birthday. Anne was to dine late that evening, sitting beside him. He said that was his birthday treat.
Anne had made him a penwiper of green cloth with a large blue bead in the middle for a knob. He was going to keep it for ever. He had no candles on his birthday cake at tea, because there would have been too many.
The big hall of the Manor was furnished like a room.
The wide oak staircase came down into it from a gallery that went all around. They were waiting there for Mrs. Fielding who was always a little late. That made you keep on thinking about her. They were thinking about her now.
Up there a door opened and shut. Something moved along the gallery like a large light, and Mrs. Fielding came down the stairs, slowly, prolonging her effect. She was dressed in her old pearl-white gown. A rope of pearls went round her neck and hung between her breasts. Roll above roll of hair jutted out at the back of her head; across it, the foremost curl rose like a comb, shining. Her eyes, intensely blue in her milk-white face, sparkled between two dark wings of hair. Her mouth smiled its enchanting and enchanted smile. She was aware that her husband and John watched her from stair to stair; she was aware of their men's eyes, darkening. Then suddenly she was aware of John's daughter.
Anne was coming towards her across the hall, drawn by the magic, by the eyes, by the sweet flower smell that drifted (not lavender, not lavender). She stood at the foot of the staircase looking up. The heavenly thing swept down to her and she broke into a cry.
"Oh, you're beautiful. You're beautiful."
Mrs. Fielding stopped her progress.
"So are you, you little darling."
She stooped quickly and kissed her, holding her tight to her breast, crushed down into the bed of the flower scent. Anne gave herself up, caught by the sweetness and the beauty.
"You rogue," said Adeline. "At last I've got you."
She couldn't bear to be repulsed, to have anything about her, even a cat or a dog, that had not surrendered.
Every evening, soon after Colin's Nanna had tucked Anne up in her bed and left her, the door of the night nursery would open, letting a light in. When Anne saw the light coming she shut her eyes and burrowed under the blankets, she knew it was Auntie Adeline trying to be a mother to her. (You called them Auntie Adeline and Uncle Robert to please them, though they weren't relations.)
Every night she would hear Aunt Adeline's feet on the floor and her candle clattering on the chest of drawers, she would feel her hands drawing back the blankets and her face bending down over her. The mouth would brush her forehead. And she would lie stiff and still, keeping her eyes tight shut.
To-night she heard voices at the door and somebody else's feet going tip-toe behind Aunt Adeline's. Somebody else whispered "She's asleep." That was Jerrold. Jerrold. She felt him standing beside his mother, looking at her, and her eyelids fluttered; but she lay still.
"She isn't asleep at all," said Aunt Adeline. "She's shamming, the little monkey."
Jerrold thought he knew why. He turned into the old nursery that was the schoolroom now, and found Eliot there, examining a fly's leg under his microscope. It was Eliot that he wanted..
"I say, you know, Mum's making a jolly mistake about that kid. Trying to go on as if she was Anne's mother. You can see it makes her sick. It would me, if my mother was dead."
Eliot looked as if he wasn't listening, absorbed in his fly's leg.
"Somebody's got to tell her."
"Are you going to," said Eliot, "or shall I?"
"Neither. I shall get Dad to. He'll do it best."
Robert Fielding didn't do it all at once. He put it off till Adeline gave him his chance. He found her alone in the library and she had begun it.
"Robert, I don't know what to do about that child."
"Anne. She's been here five weeks, and I've done everything I know, and she hasn't shown me a scrap of affection. It's pretty hard if I'm to house and feed the little thing and look after her like a mother and get nothing. Nothing but half a cold little face to kiss night and morning. It isn't good enough."
"For me, my dear. Trying to be a mother to somebody else's child who doesn't love you, and isn't going to love you."
"Don't try then."
"Don't try and be a mother to her. That's what Anne doesn't like."
They had got as far as that when John Severn stood in the doorway. He was retreating before their appearance of communion when she called him back.
"Don't go, John. We want you. Here's Robert telling me not to be a mother to Anne."
"And here's Adeline worrying because she thinks Anne isn't going to love her."
Severn sat down, considering it.
"It takes time," he said.
She looked at him, smiling under lowered brows.
"Time to love me?"
"Time for Anne to love you. She—she's so desperately faithful."
The dressing-bell clanged from the belfry. Robert left them to finish a discussion that he found embarrassing.
"I said I'd try to be a mother to her. I have tried, John; but the little thing won't let me."
"Don't try too hard. Robert's right. Don't—don't be a mother to her."
"What am I to be?"
"Oh, anything you like. A presence. A heavenly apparition. An impossible ideal. Anything but that."
"Do you think she's going to hold out for ever?"
"Only against that. As long as she remembers. It puts her off."
"She doesn't object to Robert being a father to her."
"No. Because he's a better father than I am; and she knows it."
Adeline flushed. She understood the implication and was hurt, unreasonably. He saw her unreasonableness and her pain.
"My dear Adeline, Anne's mother will always be Anne's mother. I was never anywhere beside Alice. I've had to choose between the Government of India and my daughter. You'll observe that I don't try to be a father to Anne; and that, in consequence, Anne likes me. But she'll love Robert."
"And 'like' me? If I don't try."
"Give her time. Give her time."
He rose, smiling down at her.
"You think I'm unreasonable?"
"The least bit in the world. For the moment."
"My dear John, if I didn't love your little girl I wouldn't care."
"Love her. Love her. She'll love you too, in her rum way. She's fighting you now. She wouldn't fight if she didn't feel she was beaten. Nobody could hold out against you long."
She looked at the clock.
"Heavens! I must go and dress."
She thought: "He didn't hold out against me, poor dear, five minutes. I suppose he'll always remember that I jilted him for Robert."
And now he wanted her to see that if Anne's mother would be always Anne's mother, his wife would be always his wife. Was he desperately faithful, too? Always?
How could he have been? It was characteristic of Alice Severn that when she had to choose between her husband and her daughter she had chosen Anne. It was characteristic of John that when he had to choose between his wife and his Government, he had not chosen Alice. He must have had adventures out in India, conducted with the discretion becoming in a Commissioner and a Member of the Legislative Council, but adventures. Perhaps he was going back to one of them.
Severn dressed hastily and went into the schoolroom where Anne sat reading in her solitary hour between supper time and bed-time. He took her on his knee, and she snuggled there, rubbing her head against his shoulder. He thought of Adeline, teasing, teasing for the child's caresses, and every time repulsed.
"Anne," he said, "don't you think you can love Auntie Adeline?"
Anne straightened herself. She looked at him with candid eyes. "I don't know, Daddy, really, if I can."
"Can't you love her a little?"
"I—I would, if she wouldn't try—"
"To do like Mummy did."
Robert was right. He knew it, but he wanted to be sure.
Anne went on. "It's no use, you see, her trying. It only makes me think of Mummy more."
"Don't you want to think of her?"
"Yes. But I want to think by myself, and Auntie Adeline keeps on getting in the way."
"Still, she's awfully kind to you, isn't she?"
"And you mustn't hurt her feelings."
"Have I? I didn't mean to."
"You wouldn't if you loved her."
"You haven't ever hurt her feelings, have you, Daddy?"
"Well, you see, it's because I keep on thinking about Mummy. I want her back—I want her so awfully."
"I know, Anne, I know."
Anne's mind burrowed under, turning on its tracks, coming out suddenly.
"Do you love Auntie Adeline, Daddy?"
It was terrible, but he owned that he had brought it on himself.
"I can't say. I've known her such a long time; before you were born."
"Before you married Mummy!"
"Well, won't it do if I love Uncle Robert and Eliot and Colin? And Jerrold?"
That night he said to Adeline, "I know who'll take my place when I'm gone."
In another week he had sailed for India and Ambala.
* * * * *
Jerrold was brave.
When Colin upset the schoolroom lamp Jerrold wrapped it in the tablecloth and threw it out of the window just in time. He put the chain on Billy, the sheep-dog, when he went mad and snapped at everybody. It seemed odd that Jerrold should be frightened.
A minute ago he had been happy, rolling over and over on the grass, shouting with laughter while Sandy, the Aberdeen, jumped on him, growling his merry puppy's growl and biting the balled fists that pushed him off.
They were all out on the lawn. Anne waited for Jerry to get up and take her into Wyck, to buy chocolates.
Every time Jerrold laughed his mother laughed too, a throaty, girlish giggle.
"I love Jerry's laugh," she said. "It's the nicest noise he makes."
Then, suddenly, she stopped it. She stopped it with a word.
"If you're going into Wyck, Jerry, you might tell Yearp——"
He got up. His face was very red. He looked mournful and frightened too. Yes, frightened.
"You can perfectly well. Tell Yearp to come and look at Pussy's ears, I think she's got canker."
"She hasn't," said Jerry defiantly.
"She jolly well has," said Eliot.
"You only say that because you don't like to think she's got it."
"Eliot can go himself. He's fond of Yearp."
"You'll do as you're told, Jerry. It's downright cowardice."
"It isn't cowardice, is it, Daddy?"
"Well," said his father, "it isn't exactly courage."
"Whatever it is," his mother said, "you'll have to get over it. You go on as if nobody cared about poor Binky but yourself."
Binky was Jerry's dog. He had run into a motor-bicycle in the Easter holidays and hurt his back, so that Yearp, the vet, had had to come and give him chloroform. That was why Jerrold was afraid of Yearp. When he saw him he saw Binky with his nose in the cup of chloroform; he heard him snorting out his last breath. And he couldn't bear it.
"I could send one of the men," his father was saying.
"Don't encourage him, Robert. He's got to face it."
"Yes, Jerrold, you'd better go and get it over. You can't go on funking it for ever."
Jerrold went. But he went alone, he wouldn't let Anne go with him. He said he didn't want her to be mixed up with it.
"He means," said Eliot, "that he doesn't want to think of Yearp every time he sees Anne."
It was true that Eliot was fond of Yearp's society. He would spend hours with him, learning how to dissect frogs and rabbits and pigeons. He drove about the country with Yearp seeing the sick animals, the ewes at lambing time and the cows at their calving. And he spent half the midsummer holidays reading Animal Biology and drawing diagrams of frogs' hearts and pigeons' brains. He said he wasn't going to Oxford or Cambridge when he left Cheltenham; he was going to Barts. He wanted to be a doctor. But his mother said he didn't know what he'd want to be in three years' time. She thought him awful, with his frogs' hearts and horrors.
Next to Jerrold and little Colin Anne loved Eliot. He seemed to know when she was thinking about her mother and to understand. He took her into the woods to look for squirrels; he showed her the wildflowers and told her all their names: bugloss, and lady's smock and speedwell, king-cup, willow herb and meadow sweet, crane's bill and celandine.
One day they found in the garden a tiny egg-shaped shell made of gold-coloured lattice work. When they put it under the microscope they saw inside it a thing like a green egg. Every day they watched it; it put out two green horns, and a ridge grew down the middle of it, and one morning they found the golden shell broken. A long, elegant fly with slender wings crawled beside it.
When Benjy died of eating too much lettuce Eliot was sorry. Aunt Adeline said it was all put on and that he really wanted to cut him up and see what he was made of. But Eliot didn't. He said Benjy was sacred. That was because he knew they loved him. And he dug the grave and lined it with moss and told Aunt Adeline to shut up when she said it ought to have been lettuce leaves.
Aunt Adeline complained that it was hard that Eliot couldn't be nice to her when he was her favorite.
"Little Anne, little Anne, what have you done to my Eliot?" She was always saying things like that. Anne couldn't think what she meant till Jerrold told her she was the only kid that Eliot had ever looked at. The big Hawtrey girl from Medlicote would have given her head to be in Anne's shoes.
But Anne didn't care. Her love for Jerrold was sharp and exciting. She brought tears to it and temper. It was mixed up with God and music and the deaths of animals, and sunsets and all sorrowful and beautiful and mysterious things. Thinking about her mother made her think about Jerrold; but she never thought about Eliot at all when he wasn't there.
She would run away from Eliot any minute if she heard Jerrold calling. It was Jerrold, Jerrold, all the time, said Aunt Adeline.
And when Eliot was busy with his microscope and Jerrold had turned from her to Colin, there was Uncle Robert. He seemed to know the moments when she wanted him. Then he would take her out riding with him over the estate that stretched from Wyck across the valley of the Speed and beyond it for miles over the hills. And he would show her the reaping machines at work, and the great carthorses, and the prize bullocks in their stalls at the Manor Farm. And Anne told him her secret, the secret she had told to nobody but Jerrold.
"Some day," she said, "I shall have a farm, with horses and cows and pigs and little calves."
"Shall you like that?"
"Yes," said Anne. "I would. Only it can't happen till Grandpapa's dead. And I don't want him to die."
They were saying now that Colin was wonderful. He was only seven, yet he could play the piano like a grown-up person, very fast and with loud noises in the bass. And he could sing like an angel. When you heard him you could hardly believe that he was a little boy who cried sometimes and was afraid of ghosts. Two masters came out from Cheltenham twice a week to teach him. Eliot said Colin would be a professional when he grew up, but his mother said he should be nothing of the sort and Eliot wasn't to go putting nonsense like that into his head. Still, she was proud of Colin when his hands went pounding and flashing over the keys. Anne had to give up practising because she did it so badly that it hurt Colin to hear her.
He wasn't in the least conceited about his playing, not even when Jerrold stood beside him and looked on and said, "Clever Col-Col. Isn't he a wonderful kid? Look at him. Look at his little hands, all over the place."
He didn't think playing was wonderful. He thought the things that Jerrold did were wonderful. With his child's legs and arms he tried to do the things that Jerrold did. They told him he would have to wait nine years before he could do them. He was always talking about what he would do in nine years' time.
And there was the day of the walk to High Slaughter, through the valley of the Speed to the valley of the Windlode, five miles there and back. Eliot and Jerrold and Anne had tried to sneak out when Colin wasn't looking; but he had seen them and came running after them down the field, calling to them to let him come. Eliot shouted "We can't, Col-Col, it's too far," but Colin looked so pathetic, standing there in the big field, that Jerrold couldn't bear it.
"I think," he said, "we might let him come."
"Yes. Let him," Anne said.
"Rot. He can't walk it."
"I can," said Colin. "I can."
"I tell you he can't. If he's tired he'll be sick in the night and then he'll say it's ghosts."
Colin's mouth trembled.
"It's all right, Col-Col, you're coming." Jerrold held out his hand.
"Well," said Eliot, "if he crumples up you can carry him."
"I can," said Jerrold.
"So can I," said Anne.
"Nobody," said Colin "shall carry me. I can walk."
Eliot went on grumbling while Colin trotted happily beside them. "You're a fearful ass, Jerrold. You're simple ruining that kid. He thinks he can come butting into everything. Here's the whole afternoon spoiled for all three of us. He can't walk. You'll see he'll drop out in the first mile."
"I shan't, Jerrold."
And he didn't. He struggled on down the fields to Upper Speed and along the river-meadows to Lower Speed and Hayes Mill, and from Hayes Mill to High Slaughter. It was when they started to walk back that his legs betrayed him, slackening first, then running, because running was easier than walking, for a change. Then dragging. Then being dragged between Anne and Jerrold (for he refused to be carried). Then staggering, stumbling, stopping dead; his child's mouth drooping.
Then Jerrold carried him on his back with his hands clasped under Colin's soft hips. Colin's body slipped every minute and had to be jerked up again; and when it slipped his arms tightened round Jerrold's neck, strangling him.
At last Jerrold, too, staggered and stumbled and stopped dead.
"I'll take him," said Eliot. He forbore, nobly, to say "I told you so."
And by turns they carried him, from the valley of the Windlode to the valley of the Speed, past Hayes Mill, through Lower Speed, Upper Speed, and up the fields to Wyck Manor. Then up the stairs to the schoolroom, pursued by their mother's cries.
"Oh Col-Col, my little Col-Col! What have you done to him, Eliot?"
Eliot bore it like a lamb.
Only after they had left Colin in the schoolroom, he turned on Jerrold.
"Some day," he said, "Col-Col will be a perfect nuisance. Then you and Anne'll have to pay for it."
"Why me and Anne?"
"Because you'll both be fools enough to keep on giving in to him."
"I suppose," said Jerrold bitterly, "you think you're clever."
Adeline came out and overheard him and made a scene in the gallery before Pinkney, the footman, who was bringing in the schoolroom tea. She said Eliot was clever enough and old enough to know better. They were all old enough. And Jerrold said it was his fault, not Eliot's, and Anne said it was hers, too. And Adeline declared that it was all their faults and she would have to speak to their father. She kept it up long after Eliot and Jerrold had retreated to the bathroom. If it had been anybody but her little Col-Col. She wouldn't have him dragged about the country till he dropped.
She added that Col-Col was her favourite.
It was the last week of the holidays. Rain had come with the west wind. The hills were drawn back behind thick sheets of glassy rain. Shining spears of rain dashed themselves against the west windows. Jets of rain rose up, whirling and spraying, from the terrace. Rain ran before the wind in a silver scud along the flagged path under the south front.
The wind made hard, thudding noises as if it pounded invisible bodies in the air. It screamed high above the drumming and hissing of the rain.
It excited the children.
From three o'clock till tea-time the sponge fight stormed up and down the passages. The house was filled with the sound of thudding feet and shrill laughter.
Adeline lay on the sofa in the library. Eliot was with her there.
She was amused, but a little plaintive when they rushed in to her.
"It's perfectly awful the noise you children are making. I'm tired out with it."
Jerrold flung himself on her. "Tired? What must we be?"
But he wasn't tired. His madness still worked in him. It sought some supreme expression.
"What can we play at next?" said Anne.
"What can we play at next?" said Colin.
"Something quiet, for goodness sake," said his mother.
They were very quiet, Jerrold and Anne and Colin, as they set the booby-trap for Pinkney. Very quiet as they watched Pinkney's innocent approach. The sponge caught him—with a delightful, squelching flump—full and fair on the top of his sleek head.
Anne shrieked with delight. "Oh Jerry, did you hear him say 'Damn'?"
They rushed back to the library to tell Eliot. But Eliot couldn't see that it was funny. He said it was a rotten thing to do.
"When he's a servant and can't do anything to us."
"I never thought of that," said Jerrold. (It was pretty rotten.) ... "I could ask him to bowl to me and let him get me out."
"He'd do that in any case."
"Still—I'll have asked him."
But it seemed that Pinkney was in no mood to think of cricket, and they had to be content with begging his pardon, which he gave, as he said, "freely." Yet it struck them that he looked sadder than a booby-trap should have made him.
It was just before bed-time that Eliot told them the awful thing.
"I suppose you know," he said, "that Pinkney's mother's dying?"
"I didn't," said Jerrold. "But I might have known. I notice that when you're excited, really excited, something awful's bound to happen.... Don't cry, Anne. It was beastly of us, but we didn't know."
"No. It's no use crying," said Eliot. "You can't do anything."
"That's it," Anne sobbed. "If we only could. If we could go to him and tell him we wouldn't have done it if we'd known."
"You jolly well can't. It would only bother the poor chap. Besides, it was Jerry did it. Not you."
"It was me. I filled the sponge. We did it together."
What they had done was beastly—setting booby-traps for Pinkney, and laughing at him when his mother was dying—but they had done it together. The pain of her sin had sweetness in it since she shared it with Jerry. Jerry's arm was round her as she went upstairs to bed, crying. They sat together on her bed, holding each other's hands; they faced it together.
"You'd never have done it, Anne, if I hadn't made you."
"I wouldn't mind so much if we hadn't laughed at him."
"Well, we couldn't help that. And it wasn't as if we'd known."
"If only we could tell him—"
"We can't. He'd hate us to go talking to him about his mother."
"He'd hate us."
Then Anne had an idea. They couldn't talk to Pinkney but they could write. That wouldn't hurt him. Jerry fetched a pencil and paper from the schoolroom; and Anne wrote.
Dear Pinkney: We didn't know. We wouldn't have done it if we'd known. We are awfully sorry.
P.S. You aren't to answer this.
Half an hour later Jerrold knocked at her door.
"Anne—are you in bed?"
She got up and stood with him at the door in her innocent nightgown.
"It's all right," he said. "I've seen Pinkney. He says we aren't to worry. He knew we wouldn't have done it if we'd known."
"Was he crying?"
"No. Laughing.... All the same, it'll be a lesson to us," he said.
Robert Fielding called from the dogcart that waited by the porch. Eliot sat beside him, very stiff and straight, painfully aware of his mother who stood on the flagged path below, and made yearning faces at him, doing her best, at this last moment, to destroy his morale. Colin sat behind him by Jerrold's place, tearful but excited. He was to go with them to the station. Eliot tried hard to look as if he didn't care; and, as his mother said, he succeeded beautifully.
It was the end of the holidays.
"Adeline, you might see where Jerrold is."
She went into the house and saw Anne and Jerrold coming slowly down the stairs together from the gallery. At the turn they stopped and looked at each other, and suddenly he had her in his arms. They kissed, with close, quick kisses and then stood apart, listening.
Adeline went back. "The monkey," she thought; "and I who told her she didn't know how to do it."
Jerrold ran out, very red in the face and defiant. He gave himself to his mother's large embrace, broke from it, and climbed into the dogcart. The mare bounded forward, Jerrold and Eliot raised their hats, shouted and were gone.
Adeline watched while the long lines of the beech-trees narrowed on them, till the dogcart swung out between the ball-topped pillars of the Park gates.
Last time their going had been nothing to her. Today she could hardly bear it. She wondered why.
She turned and found little Anne standing beside her. They moved suddenly apart. Each had seen the other's tears.
Outside Colin's window the tree rocked in the wind. A branch brushed backwards and forwards, it tapped on the pane. Its black shadow shook on the grey, moonlit wall.
Jerrold's empty bed showed white and dreadful in the moonlight, covered with a sheet. Colin was frightened.
A narrow passage divided his room from Anne's. The doors stood open. He called "Anne! Anne!"
A light thud on the floor of Anne's room, then the soft padding of naked feet, and Anne stood beside him in her white nightgown. Her hair rose in a black ruff round her head, her eyes were very black in the sharp whiteness of her face.
"Are you frightened, Colin?"
"No. I'm not exactly frightened, but I think there's something there."
"It's nothing. Only the tree."
"I mean—in Jerry's bed."
"Oh no, Colin."
"Dare you," he said, "sit on it?"
"Of course I dare. Now you see. Now you won't be frightened."
"You know," Colin said, "I don't mind a bit when Jerrold's there. The ghosts never come then, because he frightens them away."
The clock struck ten. They counted the strokes. Anne still sat on Jerrold's bed with her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms clasped round them.
"I'll tell you a secret," Colin said. "Only you mustn't tell."
"Really and truly?"
"Really and truly."
"I think Jerrold's the wonderfullest person in the whole world. When I grow up I'm going to be like him."
"You couldn't be."
"Not now. But when I'm grown-up, I say."
"You couldn't be. Not even then. Jerrold can't sing and he can't play."
"I don't care."
"But you mustn't do what he can't if you want to be like him."
"When I'm singing and playing I shall pretend I'm not."
"You needn't. You won't ever be him."
"Col-Col, I don't want you to be like him. I don't want anybody else to be like Jerrold in the whole world."
"But," said Colin, "I shall be like him."
Every night Adeline still came to see Anne in bed. The little thing had left off pretending to be asleep. She lay with eyes wide open, yielding sweetly to the embrace.
To-night her eyelids lay shut, slack on her eyes, and Adeline thought "She's really asleep, the little lamb. Better not touch her."
She was going away when a sound stopped her. A sound of sobbing.
"Anne—Anne—are you crying?"
A tremulous drawing-in of breath, a shaking under the bed-clothes. On Anne's white cheek the black eyelashes were parted and pointed with her tears. She had been crying a long time.
Adeline knelt down, her face against Anne's face.
"What is it darling? Tell me."
"Oh Anne, I wish you loved me. You don't, ducky, a little bit."
"I do. I do. Really and truly."
"Then give me a kiss. The proper kind."
Anne gave her the tight, deep kiss that was the proper kind.
"Now—tell me what it is." She knew by Anne's surrender that, this time, it was not her mother.
"I don't know."
"You do know. Is it Jerry? Do you want Jerry?"
At the name Anne's crying broke out again, savage, violent.
Adeline held her close and let the storm beat itself out against her heart.
"You can't want him more than I do, little Anne."
"You'll have him when he comes back. And I shan't. I shall be gone."
"You'll come again, darling. You'll come again."
For the next two years Anne came again and again, staying four months at Wyck and four months in London with Grandmamma Severn and Aunt Emily, and four months with Grandpapa Everitt at the Essex Farm.
When she was twelve they sent her to school in Switzerland for three years. Then back to Wyck, after eight months of London and Essex in between.
Only the times at Wyck counted for Anne. Her calendar showed them clear with all their incidents recorded; thick black lines blotted out the other days, as she told them off, one by one. Three years and eight months were scored through in this manner.
Anne at fifteen was a tall girl with long hair tied in a big black bow at the cape of her neck. Her vague nose had settled into the forward-raking line that made her the dark likeness of her father. Her body was slender but solid; the strong white neck carried her head high with the poise of a runner. She looked at least seventeen in her clean-cut coat and skirt. Probably she wouldn't look much older for another fifteen years.
Robert Fielding stared with incredulity at this figure which had pursued him down the platform at Wyck and now seized him by the arm.
"Is it—is it Anne?"
"Of course it is. Why, didn't you expect me?"
"I think I expected something smaller and rather less grown-up."
"I'm not grown-up. I'm the same as ever."
"Well, you're not little Anne any more."
She squeezed his arm, hanging on it in her old loving way. "No. But I'm still me. And I'd have known you anywhere."
"What? With my grey hair?"
"I love your grey hair."
It made him handsome, more lovable than ever. Anne loved it as she loved his face, tanned and tightened by sun and wind, the long hard-drawn lines, the thin, kind mouth, the clear, greenish brown eyes, quick and kind.
Colin stood by the dogcart in the station yard. Colin was changed. He was no longer the excited child who came rushing to you. He stood for you to come to him, serious and shy. His child's face was passing from prettiness to a fine, sombre beauty.
"What's happened to Col-Col? He's all different?"
"Is he? Wait," Uncle Robert said, "till you've seen Jerrold."
"Oh, is Jerrold going to be different, too?"
"I'm afraid he'll look a little different."
"I don't care," she said. "He'll be him."
She wanted to come back and find everybody and everything the same, looking exactly as she had left them. What they had once been for her they must always be.
They drove slowly up Wyck Hill. The tree-tops meeting overhead made a green tunnel. You came out suddenly into the sunlight at the top. The road was the same. They passed by the Unicorn Inn and the Post Office, through the narrow crooked street with the church and churchyard at the turn; and so into the grey and yellow Market Square with the two tall elms standing up on the little green in the corner. They passed the Queen's Head; the powder-blue sign hung out from the yellow front the same as ever. Next came the fountain and the four forked roads by the signpost, then the dip of the hill to the left and the grey ball-topped stone pillars of the Park gates on the right.
At the end of the beech avenue she saw the house; the three big, sharp-pointed gables of the front: the little gable underneath in the middle, jutting out over the porch. That was the bay of Aunt Adeline's bed-room. She used to lean out of the lattice windows and call to the children in the garden. The house was the same.
So were the green terraces and the wide, flat-topped yew walls, and the great peacocks carved out of the yew; and beyond them the lawn, flowing out under banks of clipped yew down to the goldfish pond. They were things that she had seen again and again in sleep and memory; things that had made her heart ache thinking of them; that took her back and back, and wouldn't let her be. She had only to leave off what she was doing and she saw them; they swam before her eyes, covering the Swiss mountains, the flat Essex fields, the high white London houses. They waited for her at the waking end of dreams.
She had found them again.
A gap in the green walls led into the flower garden, and there, down the path between tall rows of phlox and larkspurs and anchusa, of blue heaped on blue, Aunt Adeline came holding up a tall bunch of flowers, blue on her white gown, blue on her own milk-white and blue. She came, looking like a beautiful girl; the same, the same; Anne had seen her in dreams, walking like that, tall among the tall flowers.
She never hurried to meet you; hurrying would have spoiled the beauty of her movement; she came slowly, absent-mindedly, stopping now and then to pluck yet another of the blue spires. Robert stood still in the path to watch her. She was smiling a long way off, intensely aware of him.
"Is that Anne?" she said.
"Yes, Auntie, really Anne."
"Well, you are a big girl, aren't you?"
She kissed her three times and smiled, looking away again over her flower-beds. That was the difference between Aunt Adeline and Uncle Robert. His eyes made you important; they held you all the time he talked to you; when he smiled, it was for you altogether and not for himself at all. Her eyes never looked at you long; her smile wandered, it was half for you and half for herself, for something she was thinking of that wasn't you.
"What have you done with your father?" she said.
"I was to tell you. Daddy's ever so sorry; but he can't come till to-morrow. A horrid man kept him on business."
"Oh?" A little crisping wave went over Aunt Adeline's face, a wave of vexation. Anne saw it.
"He is really sorry. You should have heard him damning and cursing."
They laughed. Adeline was appeased. She took her husband's arm and drew him to herself. Something warm and secret seemed to pass between them.
Anne said to herself: "That's how people look—" without finishing her thought.
Lest she should feel shut out he turned to her.
"Well, are you glad to be back again, Anne?" he said.
"Glad? I'm never glad to be anywhere else. I've been counting the weeks and the days and the minutes."
"Yes. In the train."
They had come up on to the flagged terrace. Anne looked round her.
"Where's Jerrold?" she said.
And they laughed again. "There's no doubt," said Uncle Robert, "about it being the same Anne."
A day passed. John Severn had come. He was to stay with the Fieldings for the last weeks of his leave. He had followed Adeline from the hot terrace to the cool library. When she wanted the sun again he would follow her out.
Robert and Colin were down at the Manor Farm. Eliot was in the schoolroom, reading.
Jerrold and Anne sat together on the grass under the beech trees, alone.
They had got over the shock of the first encounter, when they met at arms' length, not kissing, but each remembering, shyly, that they used to kiss. If they had not got over the "difference," the change of Anne from a child to a big girl, of Jerrold from a big boy to a man's height and a man's voice, it was because, in some obscure way, that difference fascinated them. The great thing was that underneath it they were both, as Anne said, "the same."
"I don't know what I'd have done, Jerrold, if you hadn't been."
"You might have known I would be."
"I did know."
"I say, what a thundering lot of hair you've got. I like it."
"Do you like what Auntie Adeline calls my new nose?"
She meditated. "Jerrold, do you remember Benjy?"
"Dear Benjy... Do you know, I can hardly believe I'm here. I never thought I should come again."
"But why shouldn't you?"
"I don't know. Only I think every time something'll happen to prevent me. I'm afraid of being ill or dying before I can get away. And they might send me anywhere any day. It's awful to be so uncertain."
"Don't think about it. You're here now."
"Oh Jerrold, supposing it was the last time—"
"It isn't the last time. Don't spoil it by thinking."
"You'd think if you were me."
"I say—you don't mean they're not decent to you?"
"Who, Grandmamma and Grandpapa? They're perfect darlings. So's Aunt Emily. But they're awfully old and they can't play at anything, except bridge. And it isn't the same thing at all. Besides, I don't—"
She paused. It wasn't kind to the poor things to say "I don't love them the same."
"Do you like us so awfully, then?"
"I'm glad you like us."
They were silent.
Up and down the flagged terrace above them Aunt Adeline and Uncle Robert walked together. The sound of his voice came to them, low and troubled.
Anne listened, "Is anything wrong?" she said. "They've been like that for ages."
"Daddy's bothered about Eliot."
"About his wanting to be a doctor."
"Is Auntie Adeline bothered?"
"No. She would be if she knew. But she doesn't think it'll happen. She never thinks anything will happen that she doesn't like. But it will. They can't keep him off it. He's been doing medicine at Cambridge because they won't let him go and do it at Bart's. It's just come out that he's been at it all the time. Working like blazes."
"Why shouldn't he be a doctor if he likes?"
"Because he's the eldest son. It wouldn't matter so much if it was only Colin or me. But Eliot ought to have the estate. And he says he won't have it. He doesn't want it. He says Daddy's got to leave it to me. That's what's worrying the dear old thing. He thinks it wouldn't be fair."
Jerrold laughed. "Why, to Eliot. He's got it into his dear old head that he ought to have it. He can't see that Eliot knows his own business best. It would be most awfully in his way... It's pretty beastly for me, too. I don't like taking it when I know Daddy wants Eliot to have it. That's to say, he doesn't want; he'd like me to have it, because I'd take care of it. But that makes him all the more stuck on Eliot, because he thinks it's the right thing. I don't like having it in any case."
"Why ever not?"
"Well, I can only have it if Daddy dies, and I'd rather die myself first."
"That's how I feel about my farm."
"Beastly, isn't it? Still, I'm not worrying. Daddy's frightfully healthy, thank Heaven. He'll live to be eighty at the very least. Why—I should be fifty."
"You're all right," said Anne. "But it's awful for me. Grandpapa might die any day. He's seventy-five now. It'll be ages before you're fifty."
"And I may never be it. India may polish me off long before that." He laughed his happy laugh. The idea of his own death seemed to Jerrold irresistibly funny.
He laughed again at her dismay.
"Rather. I'm going in for the Indian Civil."
"Oh Jerrold—you'll be away years and years, nearly all the time, like Daddy, and I shan't ever see you."
"I shan't start for ages. Not for five years. Lots of time to see each other in."
"Lots of time for not seeing each other ever again."
She sat staring mournfully, seeing before her the agony of separation.
"Nonsense," said Jerrold. "Why on earth shouldn't you come out to India too? I say, that would be a lark, wouldn't it? You would come, wouldn't you?"
"Like a shot," said Anne.
"Would you give up your farm to come?"
"I'd give up anything."
"That's all right. Let's go and play tennis."
They played for two hours straight on end, laughing and shouting. Adeline, intensely bored by Eliot and his absurd affairs, came down the lawn to look at them. She loved their laughter. It was good to have Anne there. Anne was so happy.
John Severn came to her.
"Did you ever see anything happier than that absurd boy?" she said. "Why can't Eliot be jolly and contented, too, like Jerrold?"
"Don't you think the chief reason may be that he isn't Jerrold?"
"Jerrold's adorable. He's never given me a day's trouble since he was born."
"No. It's other women he'll give trouble to," said John, "before he's done."
Colin was playing. All afternoon he had been practising with fury; first scales, then exercises. Then a pause; and now, his fingers slipped into the first movement of the Waldstein Sonata.
Secretly, mysteriously he began; then broke, sharply, impatiently, crescendo, as the passion of the music mounted up and up. And now as it settled into its rhythm his hands ran smoothly and joyously along.
The west window of the drawing-room was open to the terrace. Eliot and Anne sat out there and listened.
"He's wonderful, isn't he?" she said.
Eliot shook his head. "Not so wonderful as he was. Not half so wonderful as he ought to be. He'll never be good enough for a professional. He knows he won't."
"Nothing. That's just it. Nothing ever will happen. He's stuck. It's the same with his singing. He'll never be any good if he can't go away and study somewhere. If it isn't Berlin or Leipzig it ought to be London. But father can't live there and the mater won't go anywhere without him. So poor Col-Col's got to stick here doing nothing, with the same rotten old masters telling him things he knew years ago.... It'll be worse next term when he goes to Cheltenham. He won't be able to practice, and nobody'll care a damn.... Not that that would matter if he cared himself."
Colin was playing the slow movement now, the grave, pure passion, pressed out from the solemn bass, throbbed, tense with restraint.
"Oh Eliot, he does care."
"In a way. Not enough to keep on at it. You've got to slog like blazes, if you want to get on."
"Jerrold won't, ever, then."
"Oh yes he will. He'll get on all right, because he doesn't care; because work comes so jolly easy to him. He hasn't got to break his heart over it.... The trouble with Colin is that he cares, awfully, for such a lot of other things. Us, for instance. He'll leave off in the middle of a movement if he hears Jerrold yelling for him. He ought to be able to chuck us all; we're all of us in his way. He ought to hate us. He ought to hate Jerrold worst of all."
Adeline and John Severn came round the corner of the terrace.
"What's all this about hating?" he said.
"What do you mean, Eliot?" said she.
Eliot raised himself wearily. "I mean," he said, "you'll never be any good at anything if you're not prepared to commit a crime for it."
"I know what I'd commit a crime for," said Anne. "But I shan't tell."
"You needn't. You'd do it for anybody you were gone on."
"Well, I would. I'd tell any old lie to make them happy. I'd steal for them if they were hungry. I'd kill anybody who hurt them."
"I believe you would," said Eliot.
"We know who Anne would commit her crimes for."
"We don't. We don't know anything she doesn't want us to," said Eliot, shielding her from his mother's mischief.
"That's right, Eliot, stick up for her," said John. He knew what she was thinking of. "Would Jerrold commit a crime?" he said.
"Sooner than any of us. But not for the Indian Civil. He'd rob, butcher, lie himself black in the face for anything he really cared for."
"He would for Colin," said Anne.
"Rob? Butcher and lie?" Her father meditated.
"It sounds like Jerrold, doesn't it?" said Adeline. "Absurd children. Thank goodness they don't any of them know what they're talking about.... And here's tea."
Indoors the music stopped suddenly and Colin came out, ready.
"What's Jerrold doing?" he said.
It was, as Eliot remarked, a positive obsession.
Tea was over. Adeline and Anne sat out together on the terrace. The others had gone. Adeline looked at her watch.
"What time is it?" said Anne.
"Twenty past five."
Anne started up. "And I'm going to ride with Jerrold at half-past."
"Are you? I thought you were going to stay with me."
Anne turned. "Do you want me to, Auntie?"
"What do you think?"
"If you really want me to, of course I'll stay. Jerry won't mind."
"You darling... And I used to think you were never going to like me. Do you remember?"
"I remember I was a perfect little beast to you."
"You were. But you do love me a bit now, don't you?"
"What do you think?"
Anne leaned over her, covering her, supporting herself by the arms of the garden chair. She brought her face close down, not kissing her, but looking into her eyes and smiling, teasing in her turn.
"You love me," said Adeline; "but you'd cut me into little bits if it would please Jerrold."
Anne drew back suddenly, straightened herself and turned away.
"Run off, you monkey, or you'll keep him waiting. I don't want you ... Wait ... Where's Uncle Robert?"
"Down at the farm."
"Bother his old farm. Well—you might ask that father of yours to come and amuse me."
"I'll go and get him now. Are you sure you don't want me?"
"Quite sure, you funny thing."
Anne ran, to make up for lost time.
The sun had come round on to the terrace. Adeline rose from her chair. John Severn rose, stiffly.
She had made him go with her to the goldfish pond, made him walk round the garden, listening to him and not listening, detaching herself wilfully at every turn, to gather more and more of her blue flowers; made him come into the drawing-room and look on while she arranged them exquisitely in the tall Chinese jars. She had brought him out again to sit on the terrace in the sun; and now, in her restlessness, she was up again and calling to him to follow.
"It's baking here. Shall we go into the library?"
"If you like." He sighed as he said it.
As long as they stayed out of doors he felt safe and peaceful; but he was afraid of the library. Once there, shut in with her in that room which she was consecrating to their communion, heaven only knew what sort of fool he might make of himself. Last time it was only the sudden entrance of Robert that had prevented some such manifestation. And to-day, her smile and her attentive attitude told him that she expected him to be a fool, that she looked to his folly for her entertainment.
He had followed her like a dog; and as if he had been a dog her hand patted a place on the couch beside her. And because he was a fool and foredoomed he took it.
There was a silence. Then suddenly he made up his mind.
"Adeline, I'm very sorry, but I find I've got to go to-morrow."
"Go? Up to town?"
"But—you're coming back again."
"My dear John, you haven't been here a week. I thought you were going to stay with us till your leave was up."
"So did I. But I find I can't."
"Oh—there are all sorts of things to be seen to."
"Nonsense, what do you suppose Robert will say to you, running off like this?"
"Robert will understand."
"It's more than I do."
"You can see, can't you, that I'm going because I must, not because I want to."
"Well, I think it's horrid of you. I shall miss you frightfully."
"Yes, you were good enough to say I amused you."
"You're not amusing me now, my dear ... Are you going to take Anne away from me too?"
"Not if you'd like to keep her."
"Of course I'd like to keep her."
He paused, brooding, wrenching one of his lean hands with the other.
"There's one thing I must ask you—"
"Ask, ask, then."
"I told you Anne would care for you if you gave her time. She does care for you."
"Yes. Odd as it may seem, I really believe she does."
"Well—don't let her be hurt by it."
"Hurt? Who's going to hurt her?"
"You, if you let her throw herself away on you when you don't want her."
"Have I behaved as if I didn't want her?"
"You've behaved like an angel. All the same, you frighten me a little. You've a terrible fascination for the child. Don't use it too much. Let her feelings alone. Don't work on them for the fun of seeing what she'll do next. If she tries to break away don't bring her back. Don't jerk her on the chain. Don't—amuse yourself with Anne."
"So that's how you think of me?"
"Oh, you know how I think."
"Do I? Have I ever known? You say the cruellest things. Is there anything else I'm not to do to her?"
"Yes. For God's sake don't tease her about Jerrold."
"My dear John, you talk as if it was serious. I assure you Jerrold isn't thinking about Anne."
"And Anne isn't 'thinking' about Jerrold. They don't think, poor dears. They don't know what's happening to them. None of us know what's happening to us till it happens. Then it's too late."
"Well, I'll promise not to do any of these awful things if you'll tell me, honestly, why you're going."
He stared at her.
"Tell you? You know why. I am going for the same reason that I came. How can you possibly ask me to stay?"
"Of course, if you feel like that about it—"
"You'll say I'd no business to come if I feel like that. But I knew I wasn't hurting anybody but myself. I knew you were safe. There's never been anybody but Robert."
"Never. Never for a minute."
"I tell you I know that. I always have known it. And I understand it. What I can't understand is why, when that's that, you make it so hard for me."
"Do I make it hard for you?"
"You poor thing. But you'll get over it."
"I'm not young enough to get over it. Does it look like getting over it? It's been going on for twenty-two years."
"Oh come, not all the time, John."
"Pretty nearly. On and off."
"More off than on, I think."
"What does that matter when it's 'on' now? Anyhow I've got to go."
"Go, if you must. Do the best for yourself, my dear. Only don't say I made you."
"I'm not saying anything."
All the same her smile declared her profound and triumphant satisfaction with herself. It remained with her after he had gone. She would rather he had stayed, following her about, waiting for her, ready to her call, amusing her; but his going was the finer tribute to her power: the finest, perhaps, that he could have well paid. She hadn't been prepared for such a complete surrender.
Something had happened to Eliot. He sulked. Indoors and out, working and playing, at meal-times and bed-time he sulked. Jerrold said of him that he sulked in his sleep.
Two things made his behaviour inexplicable. To begin with, it was uncalled for. Robert Fielding, urged by John Severn in a last interview, had given in all along the line. Not only had Eliot leave to stick to his medicine (which he would have done in any case), but he was to go to Bart's to work for his doctor's degree when his three years at Cambridge were ended. His father had made a new will, leaving the estate to Jerrold and securing to the eldest son an income almost large enough to make up for the loss. Eliot, whose ultimate aim was research work, now saw all the ways before him cleared. He had no longer anything to sulk for.
Still more mysteriously, his sulking appeared to be related to Anne. He had left off going for walks alone with her in the fields and woods; he didn't show her things under his microscope any more. If she leaned over his shoulder he writhed himself away; if his hand blundered against hers he drew it back as if her touch burnt him. More often than not he would go out of the room if she came into it. Yet as long as she was there he couldn't keep his eyes off her. She would be sitting still, reading, when she would be aware, again and again, of Eliot's eyes, lifted from his book to fasten on her. She could feel them following her when she walked away.
One wet day in August they were alone together in the schoolroom, reading. Suddenly Anne felt his eyes on her. Their look was intent, penetrating, disturbing; it burned at her under his jutting, sombre eyebrows.
"Is there anything funny about me?" she said.
"Funny? No. Why?"
"Because you keep on looking at me."
"I didn't know I was looking at you."
"Well, you were. You're always doing it. And I can't think why."
"It isn't because I want to."
He held his book up so that it hid his face.
"Then don't do it," she said. "You needn't."
"I shan't," he snarled, savagely, behind his screen.
But he did it again and again, as if for the life of him he couldn't help it. There was something about it mysterious and exciting. It made Anne want to look at Eliot when he wasn't looking at her.
She liked his blunt, clever face, the half-ugly likeness of his father's with its jutting eyebrows and jutting chin, its fine grave mouth and greenish-brown eyes; mouth and eyes that had once been so kind and were now so queer. Eliot's face made her keep on wondering what it was doing. She had to look at it.
One day, when she was looking, their eyes met. She had just time to see that his mouth had softened as if he were pleased to find her looking at him. And his eyes were different; not cross, but dark now and unhappy; they made her feel as if she had hurt him.
They were in the library. Uncle Robert was there, sitting in his chair behind them, at the other end of the long room. She had forgotten Uncle Robert.
"Oh, Eliot," she said, "have I done anything?"
"Not that I know of." His face stiffened.
"You look as if I had. Have I?"
"Don't talk such putrid rot. As if I cared what you did. Can't you leave me alone?"
And he jumped up and left the room.
And there was Uncle Robert in his chair, watching her, looking kind and sorry.
"What's the matter with him?" she said. "Why is he so cross?"
"You mustn't mind. He doesn't mean it."
"No, but it's so funny of him. He's only cross with me; and I haven't done anything."
"It isn't that."
"What is it, then? I believe he hates me."
"No. He doesn't hate you, Anne. He's going through a bad time, that's all. He can't help being cross."
"Why can't he? He's got everything he wants."
Uncle Robert was smiling. And this time his smile was for himself. She didn't understand it.
Anne was going away. She said she supposed now that Eliot would be happy.
Grandmamma Severn thought she had been long enough running loose with those Fielding boys. Grandpapa Everitt agreed with her and they decided that in September Anne should go to the big girls' college in Cheltenham. Grandmamma and Aunt Emily had left London and taken a house in Cheltenham and Anne was to live with them there.
Colin and she were going in the same week, Colin to his college and Anne to hers.
They were discussing this prospect. Colin and Jerrold and Anne in Colin's room. It was a chilly day in September and Colin was in bed surrounded by hot water bottles. He had tried to follow Jerrold in his big jump across the river and had fallen in. He was not ill, but he hoped he would be, for then he couldn't go back to Cheltenham next week.
"If it wasn't for the hot water bottles," he said, "I might get a chill."
"I wish I could get one," said Anne. "But I can't get anything. I'm so beastly strong."
"It isn't so bad for you. You haven't got to live with the girls. It'll be perfectly putrid in my house now that Jerrold isn't there."
"Haven't you any friends, Col-Col?"
"Yes. There's little Rogers. But even he's pretty rotten after Jerry."
"He would be."
"And that old ass Rawly says I'll be better this term without Jerrold. He kept on gassing about fighting your own battles and standing on your own feet. You never heard such stinking rot."
"You're lucky it's Cheltenham," Jerrold said, "and not some other rotten hole. Dad and I'll go over on half-holidays and take you out. You and Anne."
"You'll be at Cambridge."
"Not till next year. And it isn't as if Anne wasn't there."
"Grannie and Aunt Emily'll ask you every week. I've made them. It'll be a bit slow, but they're rather darlings."
"Have they a piano?" Colin asked.
"Yes. And they'll let you play on it all the time."
Colin looked happier. But he didn't get his chill, and when the day came he had to go.
Jerrold saw Anne off at Wyck station.
"You'll look after Col-Col, won't you?" he said. "Write and tell me how he gets on."
"I'll write every week."
Jerrold was thoughtful.
"After all, there's something in that idea of old Rawlings', that I'm bad for him. He's got to do without me."
"So have I."
"You're different. You'll stand it, if you've got to. Colin won't. And he doesn't chum up with the other chaps."
"No. But think of me and all those awful girls—after you and Eliot" (she had forgotten Eliot's sulkiness) "and Uncle Robert. And Grannie and Aunt Emily after Auntie Adeline."
"Well, I'm glad Col-Col'll have you sometimes."
"So'm I... Oh, Jerrold, here's the beastly train."
It drew up along the platform.
Anne stood in her carriage, leaning out of the window to him.
His hand was on the ledge. They looked at each other without speaking.
The guard whistled. Carriage doors slammed one after another. The train moved forward.
Jerrold ran alongside. "I say, you'll let Col-Col play on that piano?"
Anne was gone.
ANNE AND JERROLD
"'Where have you been all the day, Rendal, my son? Where have you been all the day, my pretty one?...'"
Five years had passed. It was August, nineteen ten.
Anne had come again. She sat out on the terrace with Adeline, while Colin's song drifted out to them through the open window.
It was her first day, the first time for three years. Anne's calendar was blank from nineteen seven to nineteen ten. When she was seventeen she had left Cheltenham and gone to live with Grandpapa Everitt at the Essex farm. Grandpapa Everitt wanted her more than Grandmamma Severn, who had Aunt Emily; so Anne had stayed with him all that time. She had spent it learning to farm and looking after Grandpapa on his bad days. For the last year of his life all his days had been bad. Now he was dead, dead three months ago, and Anne had the farm. She was going to train for five years under the man who had worked it for Grandpapa; after that she meant to manage it herself.
She had been trying to tell Aunt Adeline all about it, but you could see she wasn't interested. She kept on saying "Yes" and "Oh" and "Really"? in the wrong places. She never could listen to you for long together, and this afternoon she was evidently thinking of something else, perhaps of John Severn, who had been home on leave and gone again without coming to the Fieldings.
"'I've been to my sweetheart, mother, make my bed soon, For I'm sick to my heart and I fain would lie down...'"
Mournful, and beautiful, Colin's song came through the windows, and Anne thought of Jerrold who was not there. He was staying in Yorkshire with some friends of his, the Durhams. He would be back to-morrow. He would have got away from the Durhams.
..."'make my bed soon...'"
"Who are the Durhams, Auntie?"
"He's Sir Charles Durham. Something important in the Punjaub. Some high government official. He'll be useful to Jerrold if he gets a job out there. They're going back in October. I suppose I shall have to ask. Maisie Durham before they sail."
Maisie Durham. Maisie Durham. But to-morrow he would have got away.
"'What will you leave your lover, Rendal, my son? What will you leave your lover, my pretty one? A rope to hang her, mother, A rope to hang her, mother, make my bed soon, For I'm sick to my heart and I fain would lie down.'"
"Sing something cheerful, Colin, for Goodness sake," said his mother. But Colin sang it again.
"'A rope to hang her'"
"Bless him, you'd think he'd known all the wicked women that ever were. My little Col-Col."
"You like him the best, don't you?"
"No. Indeed I do not. I like my laughing boy best. You wouldn't catch Jerry singing a dismal song like that."
"Darling, you used to say Colin was your favourite."
"No, my dear. Never. Never. It was always Jerrold. Ever since he was born. He never cried when he was a baby. Colin was always crying."
"There you are. Nobody'll ever say, 'Poor Jerrold'. I like happy people, Anne. In this tiresome world it's people's duty to be happy."
"If it was, would they be? Don't look at me as if I wasn't."
"I wasn't thinking of you, ducky... You might tell Pinkney to take all those tea-things off the terrace and put them back into the lounge."
The beech-trees stood in a half ring at the top of the highest field. Jerrold had come back. He and Anne sat in the bay of the beeches, looking out over the hills.
Curve after curve of many-coloured hills, rolling together, flung off from each other, an endless undulation. Rounded heads carrying a clump of trees like a comb; long steep groins packed with tree-tops; raking necks hog-maned with stiff plantations. Slopes that spread out fan-wise, opened wide wings. An immense stretching and flattening of arcs up to the straight blue wall on the horizon. A band of trees stood up there like a hedge.
Calm, clean spaces emerging, the bright, sharp-cut pattern of the fields; squares and fans and pointed triangles, close fitted; emerald green of the turnips; yellow of the charlock lifted high and clear; red brown and pink and purple of ploughed land and fallows; red gold of the wheat and white green of the barley; shimmering in a wash of thin air.
Where Anne and Jerrold sat, green pastures, bitten smooth by the sheep, flowed down below them in long ridges like waves. On the right the bright canary coloured charlock brimmed the field. Its flat, vanilla and almond scent came to them.
"What's Yorkshire like?"
"Not a patch on this place. I can't think what there is about it that makes you feel so jolly happy."
"But you'd always be happy, Jerrold, anywhere."
"Not like that. I mean a queer, uncanny feeling that you sort of can't make out."
"I know. I know... There's nothing on earth that gets you like the smell of charlock."
Anne tilted up her nose and sniffed delicately.
"Fancy seeing this country suddenly for the first time," he said.
"There's such a lot of it. You wouldn't see it properly. It takes ages just to tell one hill from another."
He looked at her. She could feel him meditating, considering.
"I say, I wonder what it would feel like seeing each other for the first time."
"Not half so nice as seeing each other now. Why, we shouldn't remember any of the jolly things we've done: together."
He had seen Maisie Durham for the first time. She wondered whether that had made him think of it.
"No, but the effect might be rather stunning—I mean of seeing you."
"It wouldn't. And you'd be nothing but a big man with a face I rather liked. I suppose I should like your face. We shouldn't know each other, Jerrold."
"No more we should. It would be like not knowing Dad or Mummy or Colin. A thing you can't conceive."
"It would be like not knowing anything at all ... Of course, the best thing would be both."
"Knowing each other and not knowing."
"You can't have it both ways," he said.
"Oh, can't you! You don't half know me as it is, and I don't half know you. We might both do anything any day. Things that would make each other jump."
"What sort of things?"
"That's the exciting part of it—we wouldn't know."
"I believe you could, Anne—make me jump."
"Wait till I get out to India."
"You're really going?"
"Really going. Daddy may send for me any day."
"I may be sent there. Then we'll go out together."
"Will Maisie Durham be going too?"
"O Lord no. Not with us. At least I hope not ... Poor little Maisie, I was a beast to say that."
"Is she little?"
"No, rather big. But you think of her as little. Only I don't think of her."
They stood up; they stood close; looking at each other, laughing. As he laughed his eyes took her in, from head to feet, wondering, admiring.
Anne's face and body had the same forward springing look. In their very stillness they somehow suggested movement. Her young breasts sprang forwards, sharp pointed. Her eyes had no sliding corner glances. He was for ever aware of Anne's face turning on its white neck to look at him straight and full, her black-brown eyes shining and darkening and shining under the long black brushes of her eyebrows. Even her nose expressed movement, a sort of rhythm. It rose in a slender arch, raked straight forward, dipped delicately and rose again in a delicately questing tilt. This tilt had the delightful air of catching up and shortening the curl of her upper lip. The exquisite lower one sprang forward, sharp and salient from the little dent above her innocent, rounded chin. Its edge curled slightly forward in a line firm as ivory and fine as the edge of a flower. As long as he lived he would remember the way of it.
And she, she was aware of his body, slender and tense under his white flannels. It seemed to throb with the power it held in, prisoned in the smooth, tight muscles. His eyes showed the colour of dark hyacinths, set in his clear, sun-browned skin. He smiled down at her, and his mouth and little fawn brown moustache followed the tilted shadow of his nostrils.
Suddenly her whole body quivered as if his had touched it. And when she looked at him she had the queer feeling that she saw him for the first time. Never before like that. Never before.
But to him she was the same Anne. He knew her face as he knew his mother's face or Colin's. He knew, he remembered all her ways.
And this was not what he wanted. He wanted some strange wonder and excitement; he wanted to find it in Anne and in nobody but Anne, and he couldn't find it. He wanted to be in love with Anne and he wasn't. She was too near him, too much a part of him, too well-known, too well-remembered. She made him restless and impatient, looking, looking for the strangeness, the mystery he wanted and couldn't find.
If only he could have seen her suddenly for the first time.
It was extraordinary how happy it made her to be with Aunt Adeline, walking slowly, slowly, with her round the garden, stretched out beside her on the terrace, following her abrupt moves from the sun into the shade and back again; or sitting for hours with her in the big darkened bedroom when Adeline had one of the bad headaches that attacked her now, brushing her hair, and putting handkerchiefs soaked in eau-de-cologne on her hot forehead.
Extraordinary, because this inactivity did violence to Anne's nature; besides, Auntie Adeline behaved as if you were uninteresting and unimportant, not attending to a word you said. Yet her strength lay in her inconsistency. One minute her arrogance ignored you and the next she came humbly and begged for your caresses; she was dependent, like a child, on your affection. Anne thought that pathetic. And there was always her fascination. That was absolute; above logic and morality, irrefutable as the sweetness of a flower. Everybody felt it, even the servants whom she tormented with her incalculable wants. Jerrold and Colin, even Eliot, now that he was grown-up, felt it. As for Uncle Robert he was like a young man in the beginning of first love.
Adeline judged people by their attitude to her. Anne, whether she listened to her or not, was her own darling. Her husband and John Severn were adorable, Major Markham of Wyck Wold and Mr. Hawtrey of Medlicote, who admired her, were perfect dears, Sir John Corbett of Underwoods, who didn't, was that silly old thing. Resist her and she felt no mean resentment; you simply dropped out of her scene. Thus her world was peopled with her adorers.
Anne couldn't have told you whether she felt the charm on its own account, or whether the pleasure of being with her was simply part of the blessed state of being at Wyck-on-the-Hill. Enough that Auntie Adeline was there where Uncle Robert and Eliot and Colin and Jerrold were; she belonged to them; she belonged to the house and garden; she stood with the flowers.
Anne was walking with her now, gathering roses for the house. The garden was like a room shut in by the clipped yew walls, and open to the sky. The sunshine poured into it; the flagged walks were pale with heat.
Anne's cat, Nicky, was there, the black Persian that Jerrold had given her last birthday. He sat in the middle of the path, on his haunches, his forelegs straight and stiff, planted together. His face had a look of sweet and solemn meditation.
"Oh Nicky, oh you darling!" she said.
When she stroked him he got up, arching his back and carrying his tail in a flourishing curve, like one side of a lyre; he rubbed against her ankles. A white butterfly flickered among the blue larkspurs; when Nicky saw it he danced on his hind legs, clapping his forepaws as he tried to catch it. But the butterfly was too quick for him. Anne picked him up and he flattened himself against her breast, butting under her chin with his smooth round head in his loving way.
And as Adeline wouldn't listen to her Anne talked to the cat.
"Clever little thing, he sees everything, all the butterflies and the dicky-birds and the daddy-long-legs. Don't you, my pretty one?"
"What's the good of talking to the cat?" said Adeline. "He doesn't understand a word you say."
"He doesn't understand the words, he says, but he feels the feeling ... He was the most beautiful of all the pussies, he was, he was."
"Nonsense. You're throwing yourself away on that absurd animal, for all the affection you'll get out of him."
"I shall get out just what I put in. He expects to be talked to."
"So do I."
"I've been trying to talk to you all afternoon and you won't listen. And you don't know how you can hurt Nicky's feelings. He's miserable if I don't tell him he's a beautiful pussy the minute he comes into my room. He creeps away under the washstand and broods. We take these darling things and give them little souls and hearts, and we've no business to hurt them. And they've such a tiny time to live, too... Look at him, sitting up to be carried, like a child."
"Oh wait, my dear, till you have a child. You ridiculous baby."
"Oh come, Jerrold's every bit as gone on him."
"You're a ridiculous pair," said Adeline.
"If Nicky purred round your legs, you'd love him, too," said Anne.
Uncle Robert was not well. He couldn't eat the things he used to eat; he had to have fish or chicken and milk and beef-tea and Benger's food. Jerrold said it was only indigestion and he'd be all right in a day or two. But you could see by the way he walked now that there was something quite dreadfully wrong. He went slowly, slowly, as if every step tired him out.
"Sorry, Jerrold, to be so slow."
But Jerrold wouldn't see it.
They had gone down to the Manor Farm, he and Jerrold and Anne. He wanted to show Jerrold the prize stock and what heifers they could breed from next year. "I should keep on with the short horns. You can't do better," he said.
Then they had gone up the fields to see if the wheat was ready for cutting yet. And he had kept on telling Jerrold what crops were to be sown after the wheat, swedes to come first, and vetch after the swedes, to crowd out the charlock.
"You'll have to keep the charlock down, Jerrold, or it'll kill the crops. You'll have the devil of a job." He spoke as though Jerrold had the land already and he was telling him the things he wanted him to remember.
They came back up the steep pasture, very slowly, Uncle Robert leaning on Jerrold's arm. They sat down to rest under the beech-trees at the top. They looked at the landscape, the many-coloured hills, rolling together, flung off from each other, an endless undulation.