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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Longest Journey - PART 2 - SAWSTON - Chapter 24
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The Longest Journey - PART 2 - SAWSTON - Chapter 24 Post by :JackieC Category :Long Stories Author :E M Forster Date :March 2011 Read :2328

Click below to download : The Longest Journey - PART 2 - SAWSTON - Chapter 24 (Format : PDF)

The Longest Journey - PART 2 - SAWSTON - Chapter 24

The coming months, though full of degradation and anxiety, were
to bring him nothing so terrible as that night. It was the crisis
of this agony. He was an outcast and a failure. But he was not
again forced to contemplate these facts so clearly. Varden left
in the morning, carrying the fatal letter with him. The whole
house was relieved. The good angel was with the boys again, or
else (as Herbert preferred to think) they had learnt a lesson,
and were more humane in consequence. At all events, the
disastrous term concluded quietly.

In the Christmas holidays the two masters made an abortive
attempt to visit Italy, and at Easter there was talk of a cruise
in the Aegean. Herbert actually went, and enjoyed Athens and
Delphi. The Elliots paid a few visits together in England. They
returned to Sawston about ten days before school opened, to find
that Widdrington was again stopping with the Jacksons.
Intercourse was painful, for the two families were scarcely on
speaking terms; nor did the triumphant scaffoldings of the new
boarding-house make things easier. (The party of progress had
carried the day.) Widdrington was by nature touchy, but on this
occasion he refused to take offence, and often dropped in to see
them. His manner was friendly but critical. They agreed he was a
nuisance. Then Agnes left, very abruptly, to see Mrs. Failing,
and while she was away Rickie had a little stealthy intercourse.

Her absence, convenient as it was, puzzled him. Mrs. Silt, half
goose, half stormy-petrel, had recently paid a flying visit to
Cadover, and thence had flown, without an invitation, to Sawston.
Generally she was not a welcome guest. On this occasion Agnes had
welcomed her, and--so Rickie thought--had made her promise not to
tell him something that she knew. The ladies had talked
mysteriously. "Mr. Silt would be one with you there," said Mrs.
Silt. Could there be any connection between the two visits?

Agnes's letters told him nothing: they never did. She was too
clumsy or too cautious to express herself on paper. A drive to
Stonehenge; an anthem in the Cathedral; Aunt Emily's love. And
when he met her at Waterloo he learnt nothing (if there was
anything to learn) from her face.

"How did you enjoy yourself?"

"Thoroughly."

"Were you and she alone?"

"Sometimes. Sometimes other people."

"Will Uncle Tony's Essays be published?"

Here she was more communicative. The book was at last in proof.
Aunt Emily had written a charming introduction; but she was so
idle, she never finished things off.

They got into an omnibus for the Army and Navy Stores: she wanted
to do some shopping before going down to Sawston.

"Did you read any of the Essays?"

"Every one. Delightful. Couldn't put them down. Now and then he
spoilt them by statistics--but you should read his descriptions
of Nature. He agrees with you: says the hills and trees are
alive! Aunt Emily called you his spiritual heir, which I thought
nice of her. We both so lamented that you have stopped writing."
She quoted fragments of the Essays as they went up in the Stores'
lift.

"What else did you talk about?"

"I've told you all my news. Now for yours. Let's have tea first."

They sat down in the corridor amid ladies in every stage of
fatigue--haggard ladies, scarlet ladies, ladies with parcels that
twisted from every finger like joints of meat. Gentlemen were
scarcer, but all were of the sub-fashionable type, to which
Rickie himself now belonged.

"I haven't done anything," he said feebly. "Ate, read, been rude
to tradespeople, talked to Widdrington. Herbert arrived this
morning. He has brought a most beautiful photograph of the
Parthenon."

"Mr. Widdrington?"

"Yes."

"What did you talk about?"

She might have heard every word. It was only the feeling of
pleasure that he wished to conceal. Even when we love people, we
desire to keep some corner secret from them, however small: it is
a human right: it is personality. She began to cross-question
him, but they were interrupted. A young lady at an adjacent table
suddenly rose and cried, "Yes, it is you. I thought so from your
walk." It was Maud Ansell.

"Oh, do come and join us!" he cried. "Let me introduce my wife."
Maud bowed quite stiffly, but Agnes, taking it for ill-breeding,
was not offended.

"Then I will come!" she continued in shrill, pleasant tones,
adroitly poising her tea things on either hand, and transferring
them to the Elliots' table. "Why haven't you ever come to us,
pray?"

"I think you didn't ask me!"

"You weren't to be asked." She sprawled forward with a wagging
finger. But her eyes had the honesty of her brother's. "Don't you
remember the day you left us? Father said, 'Now, Mr. Elliot--' Or
did he call you 'Elliot'? How one does forget. Anyhow, father
said you weren't to wait for an invitation, and you said,
'No, I won't.' Ours is a fair-sized house,"--she turned somewhat
haughtily to Agnes,--"and the second spare room, on account of a
harp that hangs on the wall, is always reserved for Stewart's
friends."


"How is Mr. Ansell, your brother?"
Maud's face fell. "Hadn't you heard?" she said in awe-struck
tones.

"No."

"He hasn't got his fellowship. It's the second time he's failed.
That means he will never get one. He will never be a don, nor
live in Cambridge and that, as we had hoped."

"Oh, poor, poor fellow!" said Mrs. Elliot with a remorse that was
sincere, though her congratulations would not have been. "I am so
very sorry."

But Maud turned to Rickie. "Mr. Elliot, you might know. Tell me.
What is wrong with Stewart's philosophy? What ought he to put in,
or to alter, so as to succeed?"

Agnes, who knew better than this, smiled.

"I don't know," said Rickie sadly. They were none of them so
clever, after all.

"Hegel," she continued vindictively. "They say he's read too much
Hegel. But they never tell him what to read instead. Their own
stuffy books, I suppose. Look here--no, that's the 'Windsor.'"
After a little groping she produced a copy of "Mind," and handed
it round as if it was a geological specimen. "Inside that there's
a paragraph written about something Stewart's written about
before, and there it says he's read too much Hegel, and it seems
now that that's been the trouble all along." Her voice trembled.
"I call it most unfair, and the fellowship's gone to a man who
has counted the petals on an anemone."

Rickie had no inclination to smile.

"I wish Stewart had tried Oxford instead."

"I don't wish it!"

"You say that," she continued hotly, "and then you never come to
see him, though you knew you were not to wait for an invitation."

"If it comes to that, Miss Ansell," retorted Rickie, in the
laughing tones that one adopts on such occasions, "Stewart won't
come to me, though he has had an invitation."

"Yes," chimed in Agnes, "we ask Mr. Ansell again and again, and
he will have none of us."

Maud looked at her with a flashing eye. "My brother is a very
peculiar person, and we ladies can't understand him. But I know
one thing, and that's that he has a reason all round for what he
does. Look here, I must be getting on. Waiter! Wai-ai-aiter!
Bill, please. Separately, of course. Call the Army and Navy
cheap! I know better!"

"How does the drapery department compare?" said Agnes sweetly.

The girl gave a sharp choking sound, gathered up her parcels, and
left them. Rickie was too much disgusted with his wife to speak.

"Appalling person!" she gasped. "It was naughty of me, but I
couldn't help it. What a dreadful fate for a clever man! To fail
in life completely, and then to be thrown back on a family like
that!"

"Maud is a snob and a Philistine. But, in her case, something
emerges."

She glanced at him, but proceeded in her suavest tones, "Do let
us make one great united attempt to get Mr. Ansell to Sawston."

"No."

"What a changeable friend you are! When we were engaged you were
always talking about him."

"Would you finish your tea, and then we will buy the linoleum for
the cubicles."

But she returned to the subject again, not only on that day but
throughout the term. Could nothing be done for poor Mr. Ansell?
It seemed that she could not rest until all that he had once held
dear was humiliated. In this she strayed outside her nature: she
was unpractica1. And those who stray outside their nature invite
disaster. Rickie, goaded by her, wrote to his friend again. The
letter was in all ways unlike his old self. Ansell did not answer
it. But he did write to Mr. Jackson, with whom he was not
acquainted.

"Dear Mr. Jackson,--

I understand from Widdrington that you have a large house. I
would like to tell you how convenient it would be for me to come
and stop in it. June suits me best.--

Yours truly,

Stewart Ansell


To which Mr. Jackson replied that not only in June but during the
whole year his house was at the disposal of Mr. Ansell and of any
one who resembled him.

But Agnes continued her life, cheerfully beating time. She, too,
knew that her marriage was a failure, and in her spare moments
regretted it. She wished that her husband was handsomer, more
successful, more dictatorial. But she would think, "No, no; one
mustn't grumble. It can't be helped." Ansell was wrong in sup-
posing she might ever leave Rickie. Spiritual apathy prevented
her. Nor would she ever be tempted by a jollier man. Here
criticism would willingly alter its tone. For Agnes also has her
tragedy. She belonged to the type--not necessarily an elevated
one--that loves once and once only. Her love for Gerald had not
been a noble passion: no imagination transfigured it. But such as
it was, it sprang to embrace him, and he carried it away with him
when he died. Les amours gui suivrent sont moins involuntaires:
by an effort of the will she had warmed herself for Rickie.

She is not conscious of her tragedy, and therefore only the gods
need weep at it. But it is fair to remember that hitherto she
moves as one from whom the inner life has been withdrawn.

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