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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Longest Journey - PART 1 - CAMBRIDGE - Chapter 11
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The Longest Journey - PART 1 - CAMBRIDGE - Chapter 11 Post by :laketahoeusa Category :Long Stories Author :E M Forster Date :March 2011 Read :925

Click below to download : The Longest Journey - PART 1 - CAMBRIDGE - Chapter 11 (Format : PDF)

The Longest Journey - PART 1 - CAMBRIDGE - Chapter 11

Cadover was not a large house. But it is the largest house with
which this story has dealings, and must always be thought of with
respect. It was built about the year 1800, and favoured the
architecture of ancient Rome--chiefly by means of five lank
pilasters, which stretched from the top of it to the bottom.
Between the pilasters was the glass front door, to the right of
them the drawing room windows, to the left of them the windows of
the dining-room, above them a triangular area, which the
better-class servants knew as a "pendiment," and which had in its
middle a small round hole, according to the usage of Palladio.
The classical note was also sustained by eight grey steps which
led from the building down into the drive, and by an attempt at a
formal garden on the adjoining lawn. The lawn ended in a Ha-ha
("Ha! ha! who shall regard it?"), and thence the bare land sloped
down into the village. The main garden (walled) was to the left
as one faced the house, while to the right was that laurel
avenue, leading up to Mrs. Failing's arbour.

It was a comfortable but not very attractive place, and, to a
certain type of mind, its situation was not attractive either.
>From the distance it showed as a grey box, huddled against
evergreens. There was no mystery about it. You saw it for miles.
Its hill had none of the beetling romance of Devonshire, none of
the subtle contours that prelude a cottage in Kent, but
profferred its burden crudely, on a huge bare palm. "There's
Cadover," visitors would say. "How small it still looks. We shall
be late for lunch." And the view from the windows, though
extensive, would not have been accepted by the Royal Academy. A
valley, containing a stream, a road, a railway; over the valley
fields of barley and wurzel, divided by no pretty hedges, and
passing into a great and formless down--this was the outlook,
desolate at all times, and almost terrifying beneath a cloudy
sky. The down was called "Cadbury Range" ("Cocoa Squares" if you
were young and funny), because high upon it--one cannot say "on
the top," there being scarcely any tops in Wiltshire--because
high upon it there stood a double circle of entrenchments. A bank
of grass enclosed a ring of turnips, which enclosed a second bank
of grass, which enclosed more turnips, and in the middle of the
pattern grew one small tree. British? Roman? Saxon? Danish? The
competent reader will decide. The Thompson family knew it to be
far older than the Franco-German war. It was the property of
Government. It was full of gold and dead soldiers who had fought
with the soldiers on Castle Rings and been beaten. The road to
Londinium, having forded the stream and crossed the valley road
and the railway, passed up by these entrenchments. The road to
London lay half a mile to the right of them.

To complete this survey one must mention the church and the farm,
both of which lay over the stream in Cadford. Between them they
ruled the village, one claiming the souls of the labourers, the
other their bodies. If a man desired other religion or other
employment he must leave. The church lay up by the railway, the
farm was down by the water meadows. The vicar, a gentle
charitable man scarcely realized his power, and never tried
to abuse it. Mr. Wilbraham, the agent, was of another mould. He
knew his place, and kept others to theirs: all society seemed
spread before him like a map. The line between the county and the
local, the line between the labourer and the artisan--he knew
them all, and strengthened them with no uncertain touch.
Everything with him was graduated--carefully graduated civility
towards his superior, towards his inferiors carefully graduated
incivility. So--for he was a thoughtful person--so alone,
declared he, could things be kept together.

Perhaps the Comic Muse, to whom so much is now attributed, had
caused his estate to be left to Mr. Failing. Mr. Failing was the
author of some brilliant books on socialism,--that was why his
wife married him--and for twenty-five years he reigned up at
Cadover and tried to put his theories into practice. He believed
that things could be kept together by accenting the similarities,
not the differences of men. "We are all much more alike than we
confess," was one of his favourite speeches. As a speech it
sounded very well, and his wife had applauded; but when it
resulted in hard work, evenings in the reading-rooms,
mixed-parties, and long unobtrusive talks with dull people, she
got bored. In her piquant way she declared that she was not going
to love her husband, and succeeded. He took it quietly, but his
brilliancy decreased. His health grew worse, and he knew that
when he died there was no one to carry on his work. He felt,
besides, that he had done very little. Toil as he would, he had
not a practical mind, and could never dispense with Mr.
Wilbraham. For all his tact, he would often stretch out the hand
of brotherhood too soon, or withhold it when it would have been
accepted. Most people misunderstood him, or only understood him
when he was dead. In after years his reign became a golden age;
but he counted a few disciples in his life-time, a few young
labourers and tenant farmers, who swore tempestuously that he was
not really a fool. This, he told himself, was as much as he
deserved.

Cadover was inherited by his widow. She tried to sell it; she
tried to let it; but she asked too much, and as it was neither a
pretty place nor fertile, it was left on her hands. With many a
groan she settled down to banishment. Wiltshire people, she
declared, were the stupidest in England. She told them so to
their faces, which made them no brighter. And their county was
worthy of them: no distinction in it--no style--simply land.

But her wrath passed, or remained only as a graceful fretfulness.
She made the house comfortable, and abandoned the farm to Mr.
Wilbraham. With a good deal of care she selected a small circle
of acquaintances, and had them to stop in the summer months. In
the winter she would go to town and frequent the salons of the
literary. As her lameness increased she moved about less, and at
the time of her nephew's visit seldom left the place that had
been forced upon her as a home. Just now she was busy. A
prominent politician had quoted her husband. The young generation
asked, "Who is this Mr. Failing?" and the publishers wrote, "Now
is the time." She was collecting some essays and penning an
introductory memoir.

Rickie admired his aunt, but did not care for her. She reminded
him too much of his father. She had the same affliction, the same
heartlessness, the same habit of taking life with a laugh--as if
life is a pill! He also felt that she had neglected him. He would
not have asked much: as for "prospects," they never entered his
head, but she was his only near relative, and a little kindness
and hospitality during the lonely years would have made
incalculable difference. Now that he was happier and could bring
her Agnes, she had asked him to stop at once. The sun as it rose
next morning spoke to him of a new life. He too had a purpose and
a value in the world at last. Leaning out of the window, he gazed
at the earth washed clean and heard through the pure air the
distant noises of the farm.

But that day nothing was to remain divine but the weather. His
aunt, for reasons of her own, decreed that he should go for a
ride with the Wonham boy. They were to look at Old Sarum, proceed
thence to Salisbury, lunch there, see the sights, call on a
certain canon for tea, and return to Cadover in the evening. The
arrangement suited no one. He did not want to ride, but to be
with Agnes; nor did Agnes want to be parted from him, nor Stephen
to go with him. But the clearer the wishes of her guests became,
the more determined was Mrs. Failing to disregard them. She
smoothed away every difficulty, she converted every objection
into a reason, and she ordered the horses for half-past nine.

"It is a bore," he grumbled as he sat in their little private
sitting-room, breaking his finger-nails upon the coachman's
gaiters. "I can't ride. I shall fall off. We should have been so
happy here. It's just like Aunt Emily. Can't you imagine her
saying afterwards, 'Lovers are absurd. I made a point of keeping
them apart,' and then everybody laughing."

With a pretty foretaste of the future, Agnes knelt before him and
did the gaiters up. "Who is this Mr. Wonham, by the bye?"

"I don't know. Some connection of Mr. Failing's, I think."

"Does he live here?"

"He used to be at school or something. He seems to have grown
into a tiresome person."

"I suppose that Mrs. Failing has adopted him."

"I suppose so. I believe that she has been quite kind. I do hope
she'll be kind to you this morning. I hate leaving you with her."

"Why, you say she likes me."

"Yes, but that wouldn't prevent--you see she doesn't mind what
she says or what she repeats if it amuses her. If she thought it
really funny, for instance, to break off our engagement, she'd
try."

"Dear boy, what a frightful remark! But it would be funnier for
us to see her trying. Whatever could she do?"

He kissed the hands that were still busy with the fastenings.
"Nothing. I can't see one thing. We simply lie open to each
other, you and I. There isn't one new corner in either of us that
she could reveal. It's only that I always have in this house the
most awful feeling of insecurity."

"Why?"

"If any one says or does a foolish thing it's always here. All
the family breezes have started here. It's a kind of focus for
aimed and aimless scandal. You know, when my father and mother
had their special quarrel, my aunt was mixed up in it,--I never
knew how or how much--but you may be sure she didn't calm things
down, unless she found things more entertaining calm."

"Rickie! Rickie!" cried the lady from the garden, "Your
riding-master's impatient."

"We really oughtn't to talk of her like this here," whispered
Agnes. "It's a horrible habit."

"The habit of the country, Agnes. Ugh, this gossip!" Suddenly he
flung his arms over her. "Dear--dear--let's beware of I don't
know what--of nothing at all perhaps."

"Oh, buck up!" yelled the irritable Stephen. "Which am I to
shorten--left stirrup or right?"

"Left!" shouted Agnes.

"How many holes?"

They hurried down. On the way she said: "I'm glad of the warning.
Now I'm prepared. Your aunt will get nothing out of me."

Her betrothed tried to mount with the wrong foot according to his
invariable custom. She also had to pick up his whip. At last they
started, the boy showing off pretty consistently, and she was
left alone with her hostess.

"Dido is quiet as a lamb," said Mrs. Failing, "and Stephen is a
good fielder. What a blessing it is to have cleared out the men.
What shall you and I do this heavenly morning?"

"I'm game for anything."

"Have you quite unpacked?"

"Yes."

"Any letters to write?" No.

"Then let's go to my arbour. No, we won't. It gets the morning
sun, and it'll be too hot today." Already she regretted clearing
out the men. On such a morning she would have liked to drive, but
her third animal had gone lame. She feared, too, that Miss
Pembroke was going to bore her. However, they did go to the
arbour. In languid tones she pointed out the various objects of
interest.

"There's the Cad, which goes into the something, which goes into
the Avon. Cadbury Rings opposite, Cadchurch to the extreme left:
you can't see it. You were there last night. It is famous for the
drunken parson and the railway-station. Then Cad Dauntsey. Then
Cadford, that side of the stream, connected with Cadover, this.
Observe the fertility of the Wiltshire mind."

"A terrible lot of Cads," said Agnes brightly.

Mrs. Failing divided her guests into those who made this joke and
those who did not. The latter class was very small.

"The vicar of Cadford--not the nice drunkard--declares the name
is really 'Chadford,' and he worried on till I put up a window to
St. Chad in our church. His Cambridge wife pronounces it
'Hyadford.' I could smack them both. How do you like Podge? Ah!
you jump; I meant you to. How do you like Podge Wonham?"

"Very nice," said Agnes, laughing.

"Nice! He is a hero."

There was a long interval of silence. Each lady looked, without
much interest, at the view. Mrs. Failing's attitude towards
Nature was severely aesthetic--an attitude more sterile than the
severely practical. She applied the test of beauty to shadow and
odour and sound; they never filled her with reverence or
excitement; she never knew them as a resistless trinity that may
intoxicate the worshipper with joy. If she liked a ploughed
field, it was only as a spot of colour--not also as a hint of the
endless strength of the earth. And today she could approve of one
cloud, but object to its fellow. As for Miss Pembroke, she was
not approving or objecting at all. "A hero?" she queried, when
the interval had passed. Her voice was indifferent, as if she had
been thinking of other things.

"A hero? Yes. Didn't you notice how heroic he was?"

"I don't think I did."

"Not at dinner? Ah, Agnes, always look out for heroism at dinner.
It is their great time. They live up to the stiffness of their
shirt fronts. Do you mean to say that you never noticed how he
set down Rickie?"

"Oh, that about poetry!" said Agnes, laughing. "Rickie would not
mind it for a moment. But why do you single out that as heroic?"

"To snub people! to set them down! to be rude to them! to make
them feel small! Surely that's the lifework of a hero?"

"I shouldn't have said that. And as a matter of fact Mr. Wonham
was wrong over the poetry. I made Rickie look it up afterwards."

"But of course. A hero always is wrong."

"To me," she persisted, rather gently, "a hero has always been a
strong wonderful being, who champions--"

"Ah, wait till you are the dragon! I have been a dragon most of
my life, I think. A dragon that wants nothing but a peaceful
cave. Then in comes the strong, wonderful, delightful being, and
gains a princess by piercing my hide. No, seriously, my dear
Agnes, the chief characteristics of a hero are infinite disregard
for the feelings of others, plus general inability to understand
them."

"But surely Mr. Wonham--"

"Yes; aren't we being unkind to the poor boy. Ought we to go on
talking?"

Agnes waited, remembering the warnings of Rickie, and thinking
that anything she said might perhaps be repeated.

"Though even if he was here he wouldn't understand what we are
saying."

"Wouldn't understand?"

Mrs. Failing gave the least flicker of an eye towards her
companion. "Did you take him for clever?"

"I don't think I took him for anything." She smiled. "I have been
thinking of other things, and another boy."

"But do think for a moment of Stephen. I will describe how he
spent yesterday. He rose at eight. From eight to eleven he sang.
The song was called, 'Father's boots will soon fit Willie.' He
stopped once to say to the footman, 'She'll never finish her
book. She idles: 'She' being I. At eleven he went out, and stood
in the rain till four, but had the luck to see a child run over
at the level-crossing. By half-past four he had knocked the
bottom out of Christianity."

Agnes looked bewildered.

"Aren't you impressed? I was. I told him that he was on no
account to unsettle the vicar. Open that cupboard, one of those
sixpenny books tells Podge that he's made of hard little black
things, another that he's made of brown things, larger and
squashy. There seems a discrepancy, but anything is better for a
thoughtful youth than to be made in the Garden of Eden. Let us
eliminate the poetic, at whatever cost to the probable." When for
a moment she spoke more gravely. "Here he is at twenty, with
nothing to hold on by. I don't know what's to be done. I suppose
it's my fault. But I've never had any bother over the Church of
England; have you?"

"Of course I go with my Church," said Miss Pembroke, who hated
this style of conversation. "I don't know, I'm sure. I think you
should consult a man."

"Would Rickie help me?"

"Rickie would do anything he can." And Mrs. Failing noted the
half official way in which she vouched for her lover. "But of
course Rickie is a little--complicated. I doubt whether Mr.
Wonham would understand him. He wants--doesn't he?--some one
who's a little more assertive and more accustomed to boys. Some
one more like my brother."

"Agnes!" she seized her by the arm. "Do you suppose that Mr.
Pembroke would undertake my Podge?"

She shook her head. "His time is so filled up. He gets a
boarding-house next term. Besides--after all I don't know what
Herbert would do."

"Morality. He would teach him morality. The Thirty-Nine Articles
may come of themselves, but if you have no morals you come to
grief. Morality is all I demand from Mr. Herbert Pembroke. He
shall be excused the use of the globes. You know, of course, that
Stephen's expelled from a public school? He stole."

The school was not a public one, and the expulsion, or rather
request for removal, had taken place when Stephen was fourteen. A
violent spasm of dishonesty--such as often heralds the approach
of manhood--had overcome him. He stole everything, especially
what was difficult to steal, and hid the plunder beneath a loose
plank in the passage. He was betrayed by the inclusion of a ham.
This was the crisis of his career. His benefactress was just then
rather bored with him. He had stopped being a pretty boy, and she
rather doubted whether she would see him through. But she was so
raged with the letters of the schoolmaster, and so delighted with
those of the criminal, that she had him back and gave him a
prize.

"No," said Agnes, "I didn't know. I should be happy to speak to
Herbert, but, as I said, his time will be very full. But I know
he has friends who make a speciality of weakly or--or unusual
boys."

"My dear, I've tried it. Stephen kicked the weakly boys and
robbed apples with the unusual ones. He was expelled again."

Agnes began to find Mrs. Failing rather tiresome. Wherever you
trod on her, she seemed to slip away from beneath your feet.
Agnes liked to know where she was and where other people were as
well. She said: "My brother thinks a great deal of home life. I
daresay he'd think that Mr. Wonham is best where he is--with you.
You have been so kind to him. You"--she paused--"have been to him
both father and mother."

"I'm too hot," was Mrs. Failing's reply. It seemed that Miss
Pembroke had at last touched a topic on which she was reticent.
She rang the electric bell,--it was only to tell the footman to
take the reprints to Mr. Wonham's room,--and then murmuring
something about work, proceeded herself to the house.

"Mrs. Failing--" said Agnes, who had not expected such a speedy
end to their chat.

"Call me Aunt Emily. My dear?"

"Aunt Emily, what did you think of that story Rickie sent you?"

"It is bad," said Mrs. Failing. "But. But. But." Then she
escaped, having told the truth, and yet leaving a pleasurable
impression behind her.

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