Anne Severn had come again to the
Fieldings. This time it was because her mother
She hadn’t been in the house
five minutes before she asked “Where’s
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
“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
In his worst tempers there was always some fierce
Mrs. Fielding gathered herself together
and rose, with dignity, still smiling. It was
a smile of great sweetness, infinitely remote from
“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
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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“To do like Mummy did.”
Robert was right. He knew it, but he wanted to
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
“Still, she’s awfully kind to you, isn’t
“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
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
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
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.
“I can’t, Mother.”
“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
“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
“Whatever it is,” his
mother said, “you’ll have to get over it.
You go on as if nobody cared about poor Binky but
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
“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
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
“I think,” he said, “we might let
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“He’d do that in any case.”
“Still I’ll have asked
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
It was just before bed-time that Eliot told them the
“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
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
“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
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,
“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
“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
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
“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
“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,
Adeline held her close and let the
storm beat itself out against her heart.
“You can’t want him more than I do, little
“You’ll have him when he comes back.
And I shan’t. I shall be gone.”
“You’ll come again, darling. You’ll