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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWatersprings - Chapter 30. Cambridge Again
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Watersprings - Chapter 30. Cambridge Again Post by :johnnyk Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :2820

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Watersprings - Chapter 30. Cambridge Again


Howard was summoned to Cambridge in June for a College meeting. He was very glad to see Cambridge and the familiar faces; but he had not been parted from Maud for a day since their marriage, and he was rather amazed to find, not that he missed her, but how continuously he missed her from moment to moment; the fact that he could not compare notes with her about every incident seemed to rob the incidents of their savour, and to produce a curious hampering of his thoughts. A change, too, seemed to have passed over the College; his rooms were just as he had left them, but everything seemed to have narrowed and contracted. He saw a great many of the undergraduates, and indeed was delighted to find how they came in to see him.

Guthrie was one of the first to arrive, and Howard was glad to meet him alone. Howard was sorry to see that the cheerful youth had evidently been feeling acutely what had happened; he had not lost his spirits, but he had a rather worn aspect. He inquired about the Windlow party, and they talked of indifferent things; but when Guthrie rose to go, he said, speaking with great diffidence, "I wanted to say one thing to you, and now I do not know how to express it; it is that I don't want you to think I feel in any way aggrieved--that would be simply absurd--but more than that, I want to say that I think you behaved quite splendidly at Windlow--really splendidly! I hope you don't think it is impertinent for me to say that, but I want you to know how grateful I am to you--Jack told me what had happened--and I thought that if I said nothing, you might feel uncomfortable. Please don't feel anything of the kind--I only wish with all my heart that I could think I could behave as you did if I had been in your place, and I want to be friends."

"Yes indeed," said Howard, "I think it is awfully good of you to speak about it. You won't expect me," he added, smiling, "to say that I wish it had turned out otherwise; but I do hope you will be happy, with all my heart; and you will know that you will have a real welcome at Windlow if ever you care to come there."

The young man shook hands in silence with Howard, and went out with a smile. "Oh, I shall be all right," he said.

Jack sate up late with Howard and treated him to a long grumble.

"I do hope to goodness you will come back to Cambridge," he said. "You must simply make Maud come. You must use your influence, your beautiful influence, of which we hear so much. Seriously, I do miss you here very much, and so does everybody else. Your pupils are in an awful stew. They say that you got them through the Trip without boring them, and that Crofts bores them and won't get them through. This place rather gets on my nerves now. The Dons don't confide in me, and I don't see things from their angle, as my father says. I think you somehow managed to keep them reasonable; they are narrow-minded men, I think."

"This is rather a shower of compliments," said Howard. "But I think I very likely shall come back. I don't think Maud would mind."

"Mind!" said Jack, "why you wind that girl round your little finger. She writes about you as if you were an archangel; and look here, I am sorry I took a gloomy view. It's all right; you were the right person. Freddy Guthrie would never have done for Maud--he's in a great way about it still, but I tell him he may be thankful to have escaped. Maud is a mountain-top kind of girl; she could never have got on without a lot of aspirations, she couldn't have settled down to the country-house kind of life. You are a sort of privilege, you know, and all that; Freddy Guthrie would never have been a privilege."

"That's rather a horror!" said Howard; "you mustn't let these things out; you make me nervous!"

Jack laughed. "If your brother-in-law mayn't say this to you, I don't know who may. But seriously, really quite seriously, you are a bigger person than I thought. I'll tell you why. I had a kind of feeling that you ought not to let me speak to you as you do, that you ought to have snapped my head off. And then you seemed too much upset by what I said. I don't know if it was your tact; but you had your own way all the time, with me and with everybody; you seemed to give way at every point, and yet you carried out your programme. I thought you hadn't much backbone--there, the cat's out; and now I find that we were all dancing to your music. I like people to do that, and it amuses me to find that I danced as obediently as anyone, when I really thought I could make you do as I wished. I admire your way of going on: you make everyone think that you value their opinion, and yet you know exactly what you want and get it."

Howard laughed. "I really am not such a diplomatist as that, Jack! I am not a humbug; but I will tell you frankly what happens. What people say and think, and even how they look, does affect me very much at the time; but I have a theory that most people get what they really want. One has to be very careful what one wants in this world, not because one is disappointed, but because Providence hands it one with a smile; and then it often turns out to be an ironical gift--a punishment in disguise."

"Maud shall hear that," said Jack; "a punishment in disguise--that will do her good, and take her down a peg or two. So you have found it out already?"

"My dear Jack," said Howard, "if you say anything of the kind, you will repent it. I am not going to have Maud bothered just now with any nonsense. Do you hear that? The frankness of your family is one of its greatest charms--but you don't quite know how much the frankness of babes and sucklings can hurt--and you are not to experiment on Maud."

Jack looked at Howard with a smile. "Here's the real man at last--the tyrant's vein! Of course, I obey. I didn't really mean it; and I like to hear you speak like that; it's rather fine."

Presently Jack said, "Now, about the Governor--rather a douche, I expect? But I see you can take care of yourself; he's hugely delighted--the intellectual temperature rises in every letter I get from him. But I want to make sure of one thing. I'm not going to stay on here much longer. I don't want a degree--it isn't the slightest use, plain or coloured. I want to get to work. If you come up again next term, I can stand it, not otherwise."

"Very well," said Howard, "that's a bargain. I must just talk things over with Maud. If we come up to Cambridge in October, you will stay till next June. If we don't, you shall be planted in the business. They will take you in, I believe, at any time, but would prefer you to finish your time here."

"Yes, that's it," said Jack, "but I want work: this is all right, in a way, but it's mostly piffle. How all these Johnnies can dangle on, I don't know; it's not my idea of life."

"Well, there's no hurry," said Howard, "but it shall be arranged as you wish."

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