IN WHICH JULIUS MARCH BEHOLDS THE VISION OF THE NEW LIFE
He was aroused from these austere,
yet, to him, inspiring reflections by the click of
an opening door and the sound of women’s voices.
Mademoiselle de Mirancourt paused on the threshold,
one hand raised in quick admiration, the other resting
on Lady Calmady’s arm.
“But this is superb,”
she cried gaily. “Your charming King Richard,
Coeur d’ Or, has given you a veritable
palace to inhabit!”
“Ah yes! King Richard has
indeed given me a palace to live in. But, better
still, he has given me his dear heart of gold in which
to hide the life of my heart forever and a day.”
Katherine’s words came triumphantly,
more as song than as speech. She caught the elder
woman’s upraised hand gently and kissed it, looking
her, meanwhile, full in the face. “I
am happy, very, very happy, best and dearest,”
she said. “And it is so delicious to be
“Ah, my child, my beautiful
child,” Mademoiselle de Mirancourt cried.
There were tears in her pretty, patient
eyes. For if youth finds age pathetic with the
obvious pathos of spent body and of tired mind which
has ceased to greatly hope, how far more deeply pathetic
does age, from out its sad and settled wisdom, find
poor gallant youth and all its still unbroken trust
in the beneficence of destiny, its unbroken faith
in the enchantments of earth!
Meanwhile, Julius March product
as he was of an arbitrary system of thought and training,
and by so much divorced from the natural instincts
of youth and age alike, the confident joy of the one,
the mature acquiescence of the other in
overhearing this brief conversation suffered embarrassment
amounting almost to shame. For not only Katherine’s
words, but the vital gladness of her voice, the sweet
exuberance of her manner as she bent, in all her spotless
bravery of white and rose, above the elder woman’s
hand and kissed it, came to him as a revelation before
which he shrank with a certain fearful modesty.
Julius had read of love in the poets, of course; but,
in actual fact, he had never wooed a woman, nor heard
from any woman’s lips the language of intimate
devotion. The cold embraces of the Church a
church, as he too often feared, rendered barren by
schism and heresy were the only embraces
he had ever suffered. Things read of and things
seen, moreover, are singularly different in power.
And so he trembled now at the mystery of human love,
actual and concrete, here close beside him. He
was, indeed, moved to the point of losing his habitual
suavity of demeanour. He rose hastily and descended
the library steps, forgetful of the handful of chap-books,
which fell in tattered and dusty confusion upon the
Katherine looked round. Until
now she had been unobservant of his presence, innocent
of other audience than the old friend, to whom it
was fitting enough to confide dear secrets. For
an instant she hesitated, embarrassed too, her pride
touched to annoyance, at having laid bare the treasures
of her heart thus unwittingly. She was tempted
to retreat through the still open door, into the library,
and leave the review of the Long Gallery and its many
relics to a more convenient season. But it was
not Katherine’s habit to run away, least of all
from the consequences of her own actions. And
her sense of justice compelled her to admit that,
in this case, the indiscretion if indiscretion
indeed there was lay with her, in not having
seen poor Julius; rather than with him, in having
overheard her little outburst. So she called
to him in friendly greeting, and came swiftly towards
him down the length of the great room.
And Julius stood waiting for her,
leaning against the frame of the library ladder; a
spare, black figure, notably at variance with the
broad glory of sunshine and colour reigning out of
His usually quick instinct of courtesy
was in abeyance, shaken, as he still was, and confused
by the revelation that had just come to him. He
looked at Lady Calmady with a new and agitated understanding.
She made so fair a picture that he could only gaze
dumbly at it. Tall in fact, Katherine was rendered
taller by the manner careless of passing
fashion in which her hair was dressed.
The warm, brown mass of it, rolled up and back from
her forehead, showed all the perfect oval of her face.
Tender, lovely, smiling, her blue-brown eyes soft and
lustrous, with a certain wondering serenity in their
depths, there was yet something majestic about Katherine
Calmady. No poor or unworthy line marred the
nobility of her face or figure. The dark, arched
eyebrows, the well-chiselled and slightly aquiline
nose, the firm chin and throat, the shapely hands,
all denoted harmony and completeness of development,
and promised a reserve of strength, ready to encounter
and overcome if danger were to be met. Years
afterwards, the remembrance of Katherine as he just
then saw her would return upon Julius, as prophetic
of much. Quailing in spirit, still reluctant,
in his asceticism, to comprehend and reckon with her
personality in the fulness of its present manifestation,
he answered her at random, and with none of the pause
and playful evasiveness usual to his speech.
“I am very glad we have found
you,” Katherine said frankly. “I was
afraid, by the fact of your not coming to breakfast,
that you were overtired. We talked late last
night. Did we weary you too much?”
“Existence in itself is vexatiously
wearisome at times at least to feeble persons,
Katherine’s smile faded.
She looked at him with charming solicitude.
“Ah! you are not well,”
she declared. “Go out and enjoy the sunshine.
Leave all those stupid books. Go,” she repeated,
“order one of the horses. Go and meet Richard.
He has gone over to look at the new lodge. You
could ride all the way through the east woods in the
cool. See, I will put these tidy.”
And, as she spoke, Katherine stooped
to pick up the scattered chap-books from the ground.
But, in the last few moments, while looking at her,
yet further understanding had overtaken Julius March.
Not only the mystery of human love, but the mystery
of dawning motherhood had come close to him.
And he put Lady Calmady aside with a determination
of authority somewhat surprising.
“No, no, pardon me! They
are dusty, they will soil your hands. You must
not touch those books,” he said.
Katherine straightened herself up.
Her face was slightly flushed, her expression full
of kindly amusement.
“Dear Julius, you are very imperative.
Surely I may make my hands dirty, once in a way, in
a good cause? They will wash, you know, just
as well as your own, after all.”
“A thousand times better.
Still, I will ask you not to touch those books.
I have valid reasons. For one, an evil beast in
the form of a spider has dwelt among them. I
disturbed it and it fled, looking as though it had
grown old in trespasses and sins. It seemed to
me a thing of ill omen.”
He tried to steady himself, to treat
the matter lightly. Yet his speech struck Katherine
as hurried and anxious, out of all proportion to the
matter in hand.
“Poor thing and you
killed it? Yet it couldn’t help being ugly,
I suppose,” she answered, not without a touch
Julius was on his knees, his long,
thin fingers gathering up the tattered pages, ranging
them into a bundle, tying them together with the tag
of rusty, black ribbon aforesaid. For an unreasoning,
fierce desire was upon him very alien to
his usual gentle attitude of mind to shield
this beautiful woman from all acquaintance with the
foul story set forth in those little books. To
shield her, indeed, from more than merely that. For
a vague presentiment possessed him that she might,
in some mysterious way, be intimately involved in the
final developments of that same story which, though
august, were so full of suffering, so profoundly sad.
Meanwhile, in his excitement, he replied less to her
gently mocking question than to the importunities of
his own thought.
“No,” he said, “I
let it go. I begin to fear it is useless to attempt
to take short-cuts to the extinction of what is evil.
It does not cease, but merely changes its form.
Unwillingly I have learned that. No violent death
is possible to things evil.”
Julius rose to his feet.
“They must go on,” he
continued, “till, in the merciful providence
of God, their term is reached, till their power is
exhausted, till they have worn themselves out.”
Lady Calmady turned and moved thoughtfully
towards the far end of the room, where the sunshine
still slanted in through the open casements of the
bay window, and where the delicate, little spinster
lady stood awaiting her. Amorous pigeons cooed
below on the string-course. Bees droned sleepily
against the glass.
“But,” she said, in gentle
remonstrance, “that is a rather terrible doctrine,
Julius. Surely it is not quite just; for it would
seem to leave us almost hopelessly at the mercy of
the wrong-doing of others.”
“Yes, but are we not, just that all
of us at the mercy of the wrong-doing of others? The
courageous forever suffering for the cowardly, the
wise for the ignorant and brutish, the just for the
unjust? Is not this, perhaps, the very deepest
lesson of our religion?”
“Oh no, no!” Katherine
cried incredulously. “There is something
at once deeper and more comforting than that.
Remember, in the beginning, when God created all things
and reviewed His handiwork, He pronounced it very
Julius was recovering his suavity.
The little packet of chap-books rested safely in the
pocket of his coat.
“But that was a long time ago,” he said,
They reached the bay window.
Katherine took her old friend’s hand once again
and laid it caressingly upon her arm.
“Pardon me for keeping you waiting,
dearest,” she said. “Julius is in
fault. He will argue with me about the date of
the creation, and that takes time. He declares
it was so long ago that everything has had time to
grow very old and go very wrong. But, indeed,
he is mistaken. Agree with me, tell him he is
mistaken! The world is deliciously young yet.
It was only made a little over twenty-two years ago.
I must know, for I came into it then. And I found
it all as new as I was myself, and a thousand times
prettier quite adorably gay, adorably fresh.”
Katherine’s voice sank, grew
fuller in tone. She gazed out over the brilliant
garden to the woodland shimmering in the noontide heat.
Then she looked at Julius March, her eyes and lips
eloquent with joyous conviction.
“Indeed, I think, God makes
His whole creation over again for each one of us,
it is so beautiful. As in the beginning, so now,”
she said; “behold it is very good ah
yes! who can doubt that it is very good!”
“Amen. To you may it ever
so continue,” Julius murmured, bowing his head.
That evening there was a dinner party
at Brockhurst. Lord Denier brought his handsome
second wife. She was a Hellard, and took the judge
faute de mieux, so said the wicked world, rather
late in life. The Cathcarts of Newlands and their
daughter Mary came; and Roger Ormiston too, who, being
off duty, had run down from London for a few days’
partridge shooting, bringing with him his cousin Colonel
St. Quentin invalided home, to his own
immense chagrin, in the midst of the Afghan war.
On the terrace, after dinner, for the night was warm
enough for the whole company to take coffee out of
doors, Lady Calmady incited thereunto by
her brother had persuaded Mary Cathcart
to sing, accompanying herself on her guitar. The
girl’s musical gifts were of no extraordinary
order; but her young contralto was true and sweet.
The charm of the hour and the place, moreover, was
calculated to heighten the effect of the Jacobite
songs and old-world love ditties which she selected.
Roger Ormiston unquestionably found
her performance sufficiently moving. But then
the girl’s frank manner, her warm, gipsy-like
colouring, and the way in which she could sit a horse,
moved him also; had done so, indeed, ever since he
first saw her, as quite a child, some eight or nine
years ago, on one of his earliest visits to Brockhurst,
fighting a half-broken, Welsh pony that refused at
a grip by the roadside. The little maiden, her
face pale, for once, from concentration of purpose,
had forced the pony over the grip. Then, slipping
out of the saddle, she coaxed and kissed the rough,
unruly, little beast, with tears of apology for the
hard usage to which she had been obliged to subject
it. So stout, yet so tender, a heart, struck
Roger as an excellent thing in woman. And now,
listening to the full, rounded notes and thrumming
of the guitar strings, in the evening quiet under
the stars, he wished, remorsefully, that he had never
been guilty of any pleasant sins, that his record
was cleaner, his tastes less expensive; that he was
a better fellow all round, in short, than he was,
because, then, perhaps
And Julius March, too, found the singing
somewhat agitating, though to him the personality
of the singer was of small account. Another personality,
and a train of feeling evoked by certain new aspects
of it, had pursued him all the day long. Katherine,
mindful of her somewhat outspoken divergence of opinion
from his, in the morning, had been particularly thoughtful
of his pleasure and entertainment. At dinner
she directed the conversation upon subjects interesting
to him, and had thereby made him talk more unreservedly
than was his wont. Not even the most saintly
of human beings is wholly indifferent to social success.
Julius was conscious of a stirring of the blood, of
a subdued excitement. These sensations were pleasurable.
But his training had taught him to distrust pleasurable
sensations as too often the offspring of very questionable
parentage. And, while Mary Cathcart’s voice
still breathed upon the fragrant night air, he, standing
on the outskirts of the listening company, slipped
His study, a long narrow room occupying,
with his bedroom, the ground floor of the chapel wing
of the house, struck chill as he entered it.
Above the range of pigeon-holes and little drawers,
forming the back of the writing-table, two candles
burned on either side of a bronze pieta, which
Julius had brought back with him from Rome. On
the broad slab of the table below were the many quires
of foolscap forming the library catalogue, neatly
numbered and lettered; while his diary lay open upon
the blotting-pad, ready for the chronicle of the past
day. Beside it was the packet of chap-books,
still tied together with their tag of rusty ribbon.
It was Julius March’s habit
to exchange his coat for a cassock in the privacy
of his study. He did so now, and knotted a black
cord about his waist. Let no one underrate the
sustaining power of costume, whether it take the form
of ballet-skirt or monk’s frock. Human nature
is but a weak thing at best, and needs outward and
visible signs, not only to support its faith in its
deity, but even its faith in its own poor self!
Of persons of sensitive temperament and limited experience,
such as Julius, this is particularly true. Putting
off his secular garment, as a rule, he could put off
secular thoughts as well. Beneath the severe
and scanty folds of the cassock there was small space
for remembrance of the pomp and glory of this perishing
world. At least he hoped so. To-night, importuned
as he had been by scenes and emotions quite other
than ecclesiastical, Julius literally sought refuge
in his cassock. It represented “port after
stormy seas” home, after travel in
lands altogether foreign.
He took St. Augustine’s De
Civitate Dei from its place in the book shelves
lining one side of the room. There should be peace
in the soul, surely, emancipation from questioning
of transitory things in reading of the City of God?
But, alas, his attention strayed. That sense of
subdued excitement was upon him yet. He thought
of the conversation at dinner, of brilliant speeches
he might have made, of the encouragement of Katherine’s
smiling eyes and sympathetic speech, of the scene in
the gallery that morning, of Mary Cathcart’s
old-time love ditties. The City of God was far
off. All these were things very near at hand.
Notwithstanding the scanty folds of the cassock, they
importuned him still.
Pained at his own lack of poise and
seriousness, Julius returned the volume of St. Augustine
to its place, and, sitting down at the writing-table
prepared to chronicle the day’s events.
Perhaps by putting a statement of them on paper he
could rid himself of their all too potent influence.
But his thought was tumultuous, words refused to come
in proper order and sequence; and Julius abhorred that
erasures should mar the symmetry of his pages.
Impatiently he pushed the diary from him. Clearly
it, like the City of God, was destined to wait.
The guests had departed. He had
heard the distant calling of voices in friendly farewell,
the rumble of departing wheels. The night was
very soft and mild. He would go out and walk
the gray flags of the terrace, till this unworthy
restlessness gave place to reason and calm.
Passing along the narrow passage,
he opened the door on to the garden-hall. And
there paused. The hall itself, and the inner side
of the carven arches of the arcade were in dense shadow.
Beyond stretched the terrace bathed in moonlight,
which glittered on the polished leaves of the little
orange trees, on the leaded panes of the many windows,
and strangely transmuted the colours of the range of
pot-flowers massed beneath them along the base of
the house. It was a fairy world upon which Julius
looked forth. Nor did it need suitable inhabitants.
Pacing slowly down the centre of the terrace came
Richard and Katherine Calmady, hand in hand.
Tall, graceful, strong in the perfection of their
youth and their great devotion, amid that ethereal
brightness, they seemed as two heroic figures immortal,
fairy lovers moving through the lovely wonder of that
fairy-land. As they drew near, Katherine stopped,
leant with a superb abandon back
against her husband, resting her hand on his shoulder,
drew his arm around her waist for support, drew his
face down to her upturned face until their lips met,
while the moonlight played upon the jewels on her bare
arms and neck and gleamed softly on the surface of
her white, satin dress.
To true lovers the longest kiss is
all too sadly short a thing brief almost
in proportion to its sweetness. But to Julius
March, watching from the blackness of the doorway,
it seemed a whole eternity before Richard Calmady
raised his head. Then Julius turned and fled down
the passage and back into the chill study, where the
candles burned on either side the image of the Virgin
Mother cradling the dead Christ upon her knee.
Gentle persons, breaking from the
lines of self-restraint, run to a curious violence
in emotion. All day long, shrink from it, ignore
it, as he might, a moral storm had been brewing.
Now it broke. Not from those two lovers did Julius
turn thus in amazement and terror; but from just that
from which it is impossible for any one to turn in
actual fact namely from himself. He
was appalled by the narrowness of his own past outlook;
appalled by the splendour of that heritage which, by
his own act, he had forfeited. The cassock ceased,
indeed, to be a refuge, the welcome livery of home
and rest. It had become a prison-suit, a badge
of slavery, against which his whole being rebelled.
For the moment happily violence is short-lived,
only for a very little while do even the gentlest
persons “see red” asceticism
appeared to him as a blasphemy against the order of
nature and of nature’s God. His vow of
perpetual chastity, made with so passionate an enthusiasm,
for the moment appeared to him an act of absolutely
monstrous vanity and self-conceit. In his stupid
ignorance he had tried to be wiser than his Maker,
preferring the ordinances of man, to the glad and merciful
purposes of God. In so doing had he not, only
too possibly, committed the unpardonable sin, the
sin against the Holy Ghost?
Poor Julius, his thought had indeed
run almost humorously mad! Yet it was characteristic
of the man that the breaking of his self-imposed bonds
never occurred to him. Made in ignorance, unwitnessed
though his vow might be, it remained inviolable.
He never, even in this most heated hour of his trial,
Stretching out his arms, he clenched
his hands in anguish of spirit. The sacerdotal
pride, the subjective joys of self-consecration, the
mental luxury of feeling himself different from others,
singled out, set apart, all the Pharisee,
in short, in Julius March, was sick to
death. He had supposed he was living to God and
now it appeared to him he had lived only to himself.
He had trusted God too little, had come near reckoning
the great natural laws which, after all,
must be of God’s ordering common
and unclean. Katherine was right. The eternal
purpose is joy, not sorrow; youth and health, not age
and decay; thankful acceptance, not fastidious rejection
and fear. Katherine yes, Katherine and
there the young man’s wild tirade stopped
He flung himself down in front of
the writing-table, leaning his elbows on it, pressing
his face upon his folded arms. For in good truth,
what did it all amount to? Not outraged laws
of nature, not sins against the Holy Ghost; but just
simply this, that the common fate had overtaken him.
He loved a woman, and in so loving had, at last, found
The most vital experiences are beyond
language. When Julius looked up, his eyes rested
upon the bronze pieta, age-old witness to the
sanctity of motherhood and of suffering alike.
His face was wet with tears. He was faint and
weak; yet a certain calm had come to him. He no
longer quarreled though his attitude towards
them was greatly changed either with his
priestly calling or his rashly made vow. Not
as sources of pride did he now regard them; but as
searching discipline to be borne humbly and faithfully,
to the honour as he prayed both
of earthly and heavenly love. He loved Katherine,
but he loved her husband and that with the fulness
of a loyal and equal friendship. And so no taint
was upon his love, of this he felt certain. Indeed,
he asked nothing better than that things might continue
as they were at Brockhurst; and that he might continue
to warm his hands a little only a little in
the dear sunshine of Richard and Katherine Calmady’s
As Julius rose his knees gave under
him. He rested both hands heavily on the table,
looked down, saw the unsightly packet of dirty chap-books.
Again, and almost with a cry, he prayed that things
might continue as they were at Brockhurst.
“Give peace in my time, oh Lord!”
he said. Then he wrapped up the little bundle
carefully, sealed and labelled it, and locked it away
in one of the table-drawers.
Thus, kneeling before the image of
the stricken Mother and the dead Christ, did Julius
March behold the Vision of the New Life. But the
page of his diary, on which surely a matter of so great
importance should have been duly chronicled, remains
to this day a blank.