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"Other Kingdom shall be for us. You and I alone. Our initials only." His voice sank to a whisper.
"I don't want it fenced in." Her face was turned to me; I saw that it was puzzled and frightened. "I hate fences. And bridges. And all paths. It is my wood. Please: you gave me the wood."
"Why, yes!" he replied, soothing her. But I could see that he was angry. "Of course. But aha! Evelyn, the meadow's mine; I have a right to fence there-between my domain and yours!"
"Oh, fence me out if you like! Fence me out as much as you like! But never in. Oh, Harcourt, never in. I must be on the outside, I must be where any one can reach me. Year by year-while the initials deepenthe only thing worth feeling-and at last they close up-but one has felt them."
"Our initials!" he murmured, seizing upon the one word which he had understood and which was useful to him. "Let us carve our initials now. You and I-a heart if you like it, and an arrow and everything. H. W.-E. B." "H. W.," she repeated, "and E.
after year, soul to soul, E. B., Everlasting Bliss!"
He stretched out his hand to cut the initials. As he did so she seemed to awake from a dream. "Harcourt!" she cried, "Harcourt! What's that? What's that red stuff on your finger and thumb?"
Oh, my goodness! Oh, all ye goddesses and gods! Here's a mess. Mr. Worters has been reading Ford's inflammatory note-book.
"It is my own fault," said Ford. "I should have labelled it 'Practically Private.' How could he know he was not meant to look inside?"
I spoke out severely, as an employé should. "My dear boy, none of that. The label came unstuck. That was why Mr. Worters opened the book. He never suspected it was private. See the label's off."
"Scratched off," Ford retorted grimly, and glanced at his calf.
I affected not to understand. "The point is this. Mr. Worters is thinking the matter over for four-andtwenty hours. If you take my advice you will apologize before that time elapses."
balls. Her lover was out in the meadow, superintending the course of the asphalt path. For the path is to be made, and so is the bridge, and the fence is to be built round Other Kingdom after all. In time Miss Beaumont saw how unreasonable were her objections. Of her own accord, one evening in the drawing-room, she gave her Harcourt permission to do what he liked. "That wood looks nearer," said Ford.
"The inside fences have gone: that brings it nearer. But my dear boyyou must settle what you're going to do."
"How much has he read?"
"Naturally he only opened the book. From what you showed me of it, one glance would be enough." "Did he open at the poems?" "Poems?"
"Did he speak of the poems?" "No. Were they about him?" "They were not about him." "Then it wouldn't matter if he saw them."
"It is sometimes a compliment to be mentioned," said Ford, looking up at me. The remark had a stinging fragrance about it-such a fragrance as clings to the mouth after admirable wine. It did not taste like the remark of a boy. I was sorry that my pupil was likely to wreck his career; and I told him again that he had better apologize.
"I won't speak of Mr. Worters' claim for an apology. That's an aspect on which I prefer not to touch. The point is if you don't apologize, you go-where?"
"To an aunt at Peckham."
I pointed to the pleasant, comfortable landscape, full of cows and carriage-horses out at grass, and civil retainers. In the midst of it stood Mr. Worters, radiating energy and wealth, like a terrestrial sun. "My dear Ford -don't be heroic! Apologize.”
Unfortunately I raised my voice a little, and Miss Beaumont heard me, down on the lawn.
"Apologize?" she cried. "What about?" And as she was not interested in the game, she came up the steps towards us, trailing her croquet mallet behind her. Her walk was rather listless. She was toning down at last.
"Come indoors!" I whispered. "We must get out of this."
"Not a bit of it!" said Ford.
"What is it?" she asked, standing beside him on the step.
He swallowed something as he looked up at her. Suddenly I understood. I knew the nature and the subject of his poems. I was not so sure now that he had better apologize. The sooner he was kicked out of the place the better.
In spite of my remonstrances, he told her about the book, and her first remark was: "Oh, do let me see it!" She had no "proper feeling" of any kind. Then she said: "But why do you both look so sad?"
"We are awaiting Mr. Worters' decision," said I.
"Mr. Inskip! What nonsense! Do you suppose Harcourt'll be angry?"
"Of course he is angry, and rightly so."
"Ford has laughed at him."
"But what's that!" And for the first time there was anger in her voice. "Do you mean to say he'll punish some one who laughs at him? Why, for what else-for whatever reason are we all here? Not to laugh at each other! I laugh at people all day. At Mr. Ford. At you. And so does Harcourt. Oh, you've misjudged him! He won't-he couldn't be angry with people who laughed."
"Mine is not nice laughter," said Ford. "He could not well forgive me."
"You're a silly boy." She sneered at him. "You don't know Harcourt. So generous in every way. Why he'd be as furious as I should be, if you apologized. Mr. Inskip, isn't that so?" "He has every right to an apology, I think."
"Right? What's a right? You use too many new words. 'Rights''apologies' 'society' 'position' I don't follow it. What are we all here for, anyhow?"
Her discourse was full of trembling lights and shadows-frivolous one moment, the next moment asking why Humanity is here. I did not take the Moral Science Tripos, so I could not tell her.
"One thing I know-and that is that Harcourt isn't as stupid as you two. He soars above conventions. He doesn't care about 'rights' and 'apologies.' He knows that all laughter is nice, and that the other nice things are money and the soul and so on."
The soul and so on! I wonder that Harcourt out in the meadows did not have an apoplectic fit.
"Why, what a poor business your life would be," she continued, "if you all kept taking offence and apologizing! Forty million people in England and all of them touchy! How one would laugh if it was true! Just imagine!" And she did laugh. "Look at Harcourt though. He knows better. He isn't petty like that. Mr. Ford! He isn't petty like that. Why, what's wrong with your eyes?"
We watched her go in silence. Ford had scarcely been crying. His eyes had only become large and angry. He used such swear-words as he knew, and then got up abruptly, and went into the house. I think he could not bear to see her disillusioned. I had no such tenderness, and it was with considerable interest that I watched Miss Beaumont approach her lord.
She walked confidently across the meadow, bowing to the workmen as they raised their hats. Her languor had passed, and with it her suggestion of "tone." She was the same crude, unsophisticated person that Harcourt had picked out of America-beautiful and ludicrous in the extreme, and-if you go in for pathos-extremely pathetic.
I saw them meet, and soon she was hanging on his arm. The motion of his hand explained to her the construction of bridges. Twice she interrupted him: he had to explain everything again. Then she got in her word, and what followed was a good deal better than a play. Their two little figures parted and met and parted again, she gesticulating, he most pompous and calm. She pleaded, she argued and-if satire can carry half a mile-she tried to be satirical. Το enforce one of her childish points she made two steps back. Splash! She was floundering in the little stream.
That was the dénouement of the comedy. Harcourt rescued her, while the workmen crowded round in an agitated chorus. She was wet quite as far as her knees, and muddy over her ankles. In this state she was conducted towards me, and in time I began to hear words; "Influenza-a slight immersion-clothes are of no consequence beside health-pray, dearest, don't worry-yes, it must have been a shock-bed! bed! I insist on bed! Promise? Good girl. Up the steps to bed then."
They parted on the lawn, and she came obediently up the steps. Her face was full of terror and bewilderment.
"So you've had a wetting, Miss Beaumont!"
"Wetting? Oh, yes. But, Mr. Inskip-I don't understand: I've failed." I expressed surprise.
"Mr. Ford is to go-at once. failed."
"I've failed with Harcourt. He's offended. He won't laugh. He won't let me do what I want. Latin and Greek began it: I wanted to know about gods and heroes and he wouldn't let me: then I wanted no fence round Other Kingdom and no bridge and no path-and look! Now I ask that Mr. Ford, who has done nothing, sha'n't be punished for it-and he is to go away for ever."
"Impertinence is not 'nothing,' Miss Beaumont." For I must keep in with Harcourt.
"Impertinence is nothing!" she cried. "It doesn't exist. It's a sham, like 'claims' and 'position' and 'rights.' It's part of the great dream."
"What 'great dream'?" I asked, trying not to smile.
"Tell Mr. Ford-here comes Harcourt; I must go to bed. Give my love to Mr. Ford, and tell him 'to guess.' I shall never see him again, and I won't stand it. Tell him to guess. I am sorry I called him a cry-baby. He was not crying like a baby. He was crying like a grown-up person, and I too have grown up now."
I judged it right to repeat this conversation to my employer.
The bridge is built, the fence finished, and Other Kingdom lies tethered by a ribbon of asphalt to our front door. The seventy-eight trees therein certainly seem nearer, and
during the windy nights that followed Ford's departure we could hear their branches sighing, and would find in the morning that beech-leaves had been blown right up against the house. Miss Beaumont made no attempt to go out, much to the relief of the ladies, for Harcourt had given the word that she was not to go out unattended, and the boisterous weather deranged their petticoats. She remained indoors neither reading nor laughing, and dressing no longer in green, but in brown.
Not noticing her presence, Mr. Worters looked in one day and said with a sigh of relief: "That's all right. The circle's completed."
"Is it indeed!" she replied.
"You there, you quiet little mouse? I only meant that our lords, the British workmen, have at last condescended to complete their labors, and have rounded us off from the world. I-in the end I was a naughty, domineering tyrant, and disobeyed you. I didn't have the gate out at the further side of the copse. Will you forgive me?"
"Anything, Harcourt, that pleases you, is certain to please me."
The ladies smiled at each other, and Mr. Worters said: "That's right, and as soon as the wind goes down we'll all process together to your wood, and take possession of it formally, for it didn't really count that last time."
"No, it didn't really count that last time," Miss Beaumont echoed.
"Evelyn says this wind never will go down," remarked Mrs. Worters. "I don't know how she knows."
"It will never go down, as long as I am in the house."
"Really?" he said gaily. "Then come out now, and send it down with me."
They took a few turns up and down the terrace. The wind lulled for the moment, but blew fiercer than ever
As we ate, it roared
and whistled down the chimney at us, and the trees of Other Kingdom frothed like the sea. Leaves and twigs flew from them, and a bough, a good-sized bough, was blown on to the smooth asphalt path, and actually switch-backed over the bridge, up the meadow, and across our very lawn. (I venture to say "our," as I am now staying on as Harcourt's private secretary.) Only the stone steps prevented it from reaching the terrace and perhaps breaking the dining-room window. Miss Beaumont sprang up and, napkin in hand, ran out and touched it.
"Oh, Evelyn-" the ladies cried. "Let her go," said Mr. Worters tolerantly. "It certainly is a remarkable incident, remarkable. We must remember to tell the Archdeacon about it."
"Harcourt," she cried, with the first hint of returning color in her cheeks, "mightn't we go up to the copse after lunch, you and I?"
Mr. Worters considered.
"Of course, not if you don't think best."
"Inskip, what's your opinion?"
I saw what his own was, and cried, "Oh, let's go!" though I detest the wind as much as any one.
"Very well. Mother, Anna, Ruth, Mrs. Osgood-we'll all go."
And go we did, a lugubrious procession; but the gods were good to us for once, for as soon as we were started, the tempest dropped, and there ensued an extraordinary calm. After all, Miss Beaumont was something of a weather prophet. Her spirits improved every minute. She tripped in front of us along the asphalt path, and ever and anon turned round to say to her lover some gracious or alluring thing. I admired her for it. I admire people who know on which side their bread's buttered.
"Evelyn, come here!" "Come here yourself." "Give me a kiss." "Come and take it then."
He ran after her, and she ran away, while all our party laughed melodiously.
"Oh, I am so happy!" she cried. "I think I've everything I want in all the world. Oh dear, those last few days indoors! But oh, I am so happy now!" She had changed her brown dress for the old flowing green one, and she began to do her skirt dance in the open meadow, lit by sudden gleams of the sunshine. It was really a beautiful sight, and Mr. Worters did not correct her, glad perhaps that she should recover her spirits, even if she lost her tone. Her feet scarcely moved, but her body so swayed and her dress spread so gloriously around her, that we were transported with joy. She danced to the song of a bird that sang passionately in Other Kingdom, and the river held back its waves to watch her (one might have supposed), and the winds lay spell-bound in their cavern, and the great clouds spell-bound in the sky. She danced away from our SOciety and our life, back, back through the centuries till houses and fences fell and the earth lay wild to the sun. Her garment was as foliage upon her, the strength of her limbs as boughs, her throat the smooth upper branch that salutes the morning or glistens to the rain. Leaves move, leaves hide it as hers was hidden by the motion of her hair. Leaves move again and it is ours, as her throat was ours again when, parting the tangle, she faced us crying, "Oh!" crying, "Oh Harcourt! I never was so happy. I have all that there is in the world."
But he, entrammelled in love's ecstasy, forgetting certain Madonnas of Raphael, forgetting, I fancy, his soul,