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difference in our ages, but from the difference in our characters. I
have known parents and children - who, though separated by a generation,
were similar in character - enjoy exactly the same things. And I do not
think that the difference in years between my wife and myself affected
this diversity of tastes, except in so far as my age prevented me from
becoming one with her in mind, as I already was in heart. I could
control my words and my actions, but I could not help my thoughts and
my feelings: nobody can who is over forty, but I believe that to youth
even this miracle is possible. The very diversities of character which
make for love militate against friendship, and therefore the sooner
they are done with the better, after courtship is over and marriage
begins. But the tragedy of my life lay in the fact that I was too old
to do away with them on my part, and I could not expect Fay to do for
me what I was unable (however willing, and Heaven knows I was willing
enough) to do for her. So although - or rather, because - I could not
throw myself into her world, I would not ask her to throw herself into
mine.

Doubtless I was wrong in this - I evidently was, as subsequent events
proved, and as Annabel did not hesitate to point out to me. But I did
what seemed to me to be right at the time, as I always try to do; and
the fact that what I think right at the time almost invariably turns
out to be wrong afterwards seems to be rather more my misfortune than
my fault: just part of that instinct of failure which has haunted me
all my life.

A strong man - as Annabel was never tired at pointing out to me
afterwards - would have made his own world and his own interest so
paramount and absorbing that his wife would have been compelled,
willy-nilly, to make them hers; but I was not a strong man. Morever I
fully recognised the truth that if you take anything from anybody,
especially anybody young, you must supply something in its place:
nature abhors a vacuum, and youth abhors it still more; therefore if I
had succeeded in weaning Fay from her passion for acting and all the
pleasure and excitement it involved, I should have been bound in honour
to give her in its place other and equally absorbing interests, and
these it was not in my power to supply. What pleasure could the calm
country life of Restham - which so exactly suited Annabel and me - offer
to a youthful and ardent spirit such as Fay's? None at all, except of
a very passive sort, and the passive tense has no charm for any one
under thirty. So I had not the heart to take away from my darling
anything that added to the joy of a life that I feared might prove to
be a little dull for her, and for her dear sake I swallowed the Loxleys
and everything else connected with amateur theatricals.

After weeks of rehearsals of the village children and a further influx
of visitors (old friends of the twins), to take the part of the Duke
and the other mortals, the great day dawned at last. It was glorious
weather, as Fay felt sure it would be, for she assured me that she and
Frank were always lucky where weather was concerned, and there were two
performances - one in the afternoon, and another by moonlight assisted
by Chinese lanterns. The places were all filled, and the audience was
most enthusiastic; even Annabel (who with Arthur and myself had been
banished from all the rehearsals) applauded heartily and beamed with
approbation. The young local talent had been admirably trained, and
the leading actors performed their parts with an ease that savoured
more of the professional than of the amateur. (But this idea I locked
up in my own breast: no expression of it would I have breathed to
Annabel for worlds.) The village band, led by the organist on the
drawing-room piano, which had been driven into the shrubbery for the
purpose, conducted itself admirably, and discoursed music that was
undeniably sweet. And the glamour of Shakspere and of Summer - the two
greatest interpreters of beauty the world has ever known - was upon
everything.

But to me the climax of the whole affair - the crowning gem of the
performance to which all the rest was but an adequate setting - was the
fairy-dance introduced by Fay and Frank, as Titania and Puck. I shall
not attempt to describe it, for how can mere words convey the
indescribable and elusive charm of the perfection of grace and motion?
It gave me the same sensations as I had experienced nearly a year ago
when the twins danced the dance of the Needlework Guild, but greatly
intensified, of course, by the beauty of their dress and the
effectiveness of their surroundings. It was a sight to fill the
onlookers with the joy of life, and to make the old feel young again.

And as my blood throbbed in my veins at this vision of the incarnation
of youth and joy and all the fulness of life, I understood why Wildacre
had fallen in love with a dancer.




CHAPTER XIII

THE GARDEN OF DREAMS

After the excitement of the Pastoral Play had subsided into calm
satisfaction with the handsome sum of money which it had provided for
supplying the future needs of the Parish Nurse, Fay and I went off for
a second little honeymoon by our two selves. I urged Annabel to come
with us, as she had been baulked by my marriage of her usual trip
abroad with me in the spring; but she declined, preferring to visit
some old friends of hers who had a place in Scotland. In the depths of
my selfish and undisciplined heart there was hidden an unholy relief
and joy at the thought of having Fay to myself for a time; but I
loyally strove to hide and quench this unbrotherly feeling, of which I
was glad to know I was thoroughly ashamed. How could I shut out my
sister from any happiness of mine, when I was confident that she would
never exclude me from any joy of hers? Nay, more than this, I was
convinced that Annabel was incapable of finding happiness, or even
pleasure in anything that she did not share with me.

We had decided to go for two or three weeks to an hotel in a little
village on the East Coast, where Annabel and I had once spent a month
some few years previously, and had found the air wonderfully
invigorating. It is marvellous, that East Coast air, for blowing
cobwebs out of tired brains, and making the weak grow strong and the
old feel young again.

"I am sorry that Annabel will not come with us," I said to Fay one
glorious afternoon in early August as we were sitting in the garden at
home; and my secret knowledge that I really was not as sorry as I ought
to have been made me say it all the more vehemently: "she has had a
tiring summer, and it would have done her good."

Fay happened to be in one of her unresponsive moods. "She is going to
Scotland," she said.

"I know she is; but she will not find Scotland as bracing as Bythesea.
In fact, I always think the Macdonalds' place decidedly relaxing."

"Well, she had her choice. She could have come with us if she had
wanted to. You asked her."

It occurred to me that perhaps Fay was a little hurt at Annabel's
having preferred, for the time being, the Macdonalds' society to ours;
so I hastened to put this right. "You mustn't misjudge Annabel, my
darling, and think that her refusal to go with us to Bythesea shows any
want of affection for you, or any lack of appreciation of your dear
society, because I know it really isn't so."

"I never thought anything of the kind," replied Fay, and her usually
gay voice sounded a little flat.

"I expect that it was really her unselfishness that made her refuse to
come with us. Annabel always puts other people's pleasure before her
own. She evidently thought we should enjoy a bit of time to ourselves."

"Well, we shall, shan't we?"

I agreed with Fay to the bottom of my heart; but I would not let her
see that I did. I felt it would be disloyal to Annabel. "Of course we
shall, darling; but we should also have enjoyed it if Annabel had been
there, and I could not bear to feel that we took our pleasure at the
expense of hers."

"Still, she may think that a change of society is rather jolly
sometimes. You are always such a one for sending out whole families
together, Reggie, as if they were in Noah's Ark."

"I am sure Annabel would not think that as far as you and I are
concerned," I answered; "she loves to be with us."

Fay did not reply, so I still thought she was hurt by Annabel's
refusal. Then suddenly another possible cause for her lack of
enthusiasm struck me, and I hastened to say: "Would you like us to take
Frank with us, darling? We certainly will if you would like it. It
would be rather a good plan, I think, as it would be so much more
cheerful for you." Of course that was what had vexed Fay, I thought to
myself: I had asked Annabel to go with us, and had not thought of
asking Frank. How stupid I had been! And I tried hard to stifle that
selfish longing on my part to have Fay all to myself. "By all means
let us take Frank."

"But he is supposed to be reading with Mr. Blathwayte." To my surprise
Fay did not jump at the suggestion.

"Bother his reading! Frank's education doesn't matter half as much as
your pleasure. I'll go and ask him at once," I said, attempting to
rise from my seat.

But Fay pulled me down again. "You'll do nothing of the kind, Reggie.
We won't have either Frank or Annabel, but only just our two selves,
and we'll talk nonsense and make love to each other all the time."

And then that selfish longing, which I had tried to stifle so hard,
rose up full grown, and I could have shouted for joy to know that my
darling wanted nobody except me, just as I wanted nobody except her.
There is something shockingly exclusive about love!

So Fay and I went to Bythesea together, and had a glorious time. The
days were not half long enough for all we had to do and say in them.
We walked by the blue North Sea, and breathed the strong North wind,
and felt that it was indeed a good thing to be alive. Being left
exclusively to ourselves, we grew nearer to each other, and gazed into
each other's souls with no wall of partition between.

I have always loved Bythesea, ever since I first went there with
Annabel, and I call it the Place of the Two Gardens, for with two
gardens it is always associated in my mind.

The first garden is the Garden of Sleep. On the very edge of the cliff
stands - or rather, there stood when last I was there, and for aught I
know to the contrary there is still standing to-day - the tower of a
ruined church. The rest of the church fell into the sea years ago, but
the tower still remains, its wall on one side running down sheer with
the cliff. Such of the churchyard as the encroaching sea has not yet
swallowed lies to the backward of the tower, and all around it are
fields, which in their season are clothed with scarlet and other
delights, for it is the land of poppies.

"It was rather cruel of the sea to wake up all the sleeping people when
they were resting so peacefully," said Fay with a shiver, as we sat in
the sunshine on the low bank which encloses what is left of the
churchyard.

I hastened to comfort her. "It didn't wake them up, sweetheart. They
wakened up long ago, and had been living and serving and praising
somewhere else, years before the sea washed away their worn-out,
cast-off bodies."

"I feel as if they had been drowned," Fay persisted: "drowned in their
sleep."

"Silly little child," I said, putting my arms round her, "to think that
the people themselves were washed away with their poor old bodies! And
they weren't even the bodies they were wearing at the time: they were
old, worn-out things. And do you think, too, that when the church was
washed away, the Spirit that sanctified the church was washed away
also?"

Fay nestled up to me. "Of course not."

"No," I continued: "as the Spirit which sanctified this old church
still lives and moves and works among men to-day, so the spirits which
inhabited those old bodies live and move and work to-day, either here
on earth or in other spheres. The temples made with hands, and the
temples not made with hands, may pass away and perish; but the Life
that transformed them from mere dwelling-places into temples of God
abides for ever."

"You really are very comforting, Reggie, and have such beautiful
thoughts. I really think you've got an awfully nice mind - much nicer
than most people's."

"Not a millionth part as nice as yours, sweetheart."

"Much, _much_ nicer. I really haven't got a very nice one, as minds
go. I'm jealous, and selfish and frivolous, and all sorts of horrid
things."

I put my hand over the small scarlet mouth. "Hush, hush! I cannot
allow anybody - not even you - to say a word against my wife."

The other garden at Bythesea I called, in opposition to the Garden of
Sleep, the Garden of Dreams: and a wonderful garden it was. It was as
young as the other garden was old, and as carefully tended as the other
was neglected. It also was situated on the edge of the cliff, and was
more like a garden out of the Arabian Nights which had been called into
being in one night by some beneficent Djin, than a garden in
matter-of-fact England. It was a garden of infinite variety and of
constant surprises, where nothing grew but the unexpected; but where
the unexpected flourished in great profusion and luxuriance. It was a
most inconsequent garden, and to wander through its changing scenes was
like wandering through the exquisite inconsistencies of a delightful
dream. The dream began on a velvety lawn, where the velvet was edged
with gay flowers and still gayer flowering shrubs, and the blue sea
made an effective background. Then it turned into a formal garden,
with paved paths between the square grass-plots, and a large fountain
in the middle lined with sky-blue tiles, as if a bit of sky had fallen
down to earth and had found earth so fascinating that it could not tear
itself away again. Then the dream took a more serious turn, and led
along sombre cloisters veiled with creepers. But it could not keep
serious for long: it soon floated back into the sunlight, and dipped
into a sunk garden paved with coral and amethyst, as only pink and
purple flowers were allowed to grow therein. Then it changed into a
rosery where it was always the time of roses, and where roses red and
roses white, roses pink and roses yellow, ran riot in well-ordered
confusion. Then the dream took quite another turn, and passed into a
Japanese garden of streams and pagodas and strange bright flowers, till
the dreamer felt as if he were living on a willow-pattern plate. But
he soon came back to England again, and found himself in an ideal
fruit-garden, where the pear-trees and the apple-trees were woven into
walls and arches and architraves of green and gold. Then a
wrought-iron gateway led him still nearer to the heart of England, for
there lay a cricket field surrounded by large trees: and beyond that
again stretched the grassy alleys and shady paths of dream-land till
they culminated in the very centre of the dream - a huge herbaceous
border so glorious in its riot of colour that the dreamer's heart
leaped up, like Wordsworth's, to behold a rainbow: but this time not a
rainbow in the sky, but on the ground.

The house belonging to this wonderful garden was more or less to match.
It had begun life quite as a small house: but the magic of the garden
had lured it on to venture farther and farther into the enchanted
ground, until finally it grew into a very large house indeed. And one
could not really blame it for stretching out longing arms and pointing
willing feet towards all the beauty which surrounded it: one felt that
one would have done exactly the same in its place.

Fay and I had many excursions into this modern fairyland, as the
chatelaine thereof was an old friend of ours who loved to share with
others the joy of her Garden of Dreams; so we went there often. But
one special excursion stands out in my memory above all the rest.

It was on a Saturday afternoon, and Fay and I had been having tea in
the Garden of Dreams. It was glorious weather, and there were many
interesting people there - as indeed there usually were: choice spirits
flourished in the Garden of Dreams as well as choice flowers. We were
all grouped about near the sky-paved fountain after tea, holding sweet
converse with friends new and old, when a man and a woman came round
the corner of the house to greet our hostess. They were by no means
young; on the sunny side of fifty, I should say, by which, as an old
Bishop once explained, he meant the side nearest heaven. Fay would
consider them quite old, I felt sure: but I saw the old youth in them,
which I had known when I was little more than a boy and they in the
full zenith of their successful career, and so they would never seem
old to me.

The man had a worn, tired face, and the woman was plump and cheerful
and well dressed. But the sight of them carried me back to the time
when he was a rising star in the political firmament, and she an
equally brilliant planet in the constellation of society: and when I
lived in London, and read for the Bar, and waited for the briefs that
never came.

His name in those days had been Paul Seaton, and his success had been
brilliant and rapid. He was a nobody when he entered Parliament; but
his marked talents and undoubted ability soon made him a name in the
House of Commons, while his marriage to a woman of position and fortune
and considerable charm assured his position in society. He was one of
those brilliant young politicians who start life with the intention of
setting the Thames on fire and the world in order, and exchanging old
lamps for new, wherever they have the chance; but although he succeeded
in attaining a place in the Government, and then a seat in the Cabinet,
the Thames remained too damp to ignite, the world became increasingly
out of order, and the new lamps lost infinitely more in magical
properties than they gained in additional candle-power.

It would be untrue to say that Paul Seaton's vaulting ambition
"o'er-leaped itself and tumbled down on t'other." It did nothing of
the kind. It raised him to the respected elevation of the high-table,
and bade him feast and make merry above the salt; but as to those
rose-tinted mountain-tops, which he had beheld in the light of dawn,
and which he had then fondly imagined he was going to scale - well, they
were practically as far above the high-table as they were above the
ground.

The tide which Paul Seaton had taken at the flood and which had
therefore led him on to fortune, in due season began to ebb: the
reforms, on which he had spent his enthusiastic youth, had either
materialised into the impedimenta of practical politics, or else had
faded into the mist of forgotten dreams: younger men with newer schemes
hurried past him along the road which seemed to lead to the
mountain-tops; and he sat still and watched them go by, wishing them
God-speed with all his heart, since he also had passed that way: yet
knowing all the time that they too, in their turn, would watch the
rose-colour fade from those peaks which were inaccessible to the foot
of man.

So he who had marched to battle with the vanguard stayed at home by the
stuff, and occupied himself in safeguarding those institutions which he
had once fondly hoped to sweep away. From a dangerously daring pioneer
he had developed into a steady and unswerving follower. He was
therefore chosen as one of the new peers whose creation lends glory to
a Coronation; and he strove as conscientiously to keep back his Party
in the Lords as he had once striven to urge it forward in the Commons.

As for his wife, I could not judge her as dispassionately as I judged
him, since I knew her so much better. She was considerably older than
I, and I adored her in the days when she was a grown-up young lady, and
I a shy and awkward schoolboy. She was an orphan and lived with her
uncle, Sir Benjamin Farley: and Sir Benjamin and my father were old and
fast friends. When I was about fourteen I made up my mind that when I
grew up I would marry the exact counterpart of Isabel Carnaby, as Mrs.
Paul Seaton was called in that prehistoric time: and after I became a
man and she a married woman, she still ranked among my most admired
friends. Of late years I had not seen much of her, she being a busy
woman and I an idle man; but we kept a book-marker in the volume of our
friendship, and always began again exactly where we left off. She
changed outwardly very little, and inwardly not at all. She was the
same woman as Mrs. Seaton that she had been as Isabel Carnaby, and the
same as Lady Chayford that she had been as Mrs. Seaton.

Life had not shattered her illusions as it had those of her husband,
because - even in her young days - she had so few to shatter. She had
always been one of those clear-sighted people who see things pretty
much as they are. But she too had her disappointments and her
unsatisfied yearnings. The Coronation peerage was ordained by an
inscrutable Providence to remain merely a life-peerage. There were no
children to fill their mother's large heart, and (incidentally) to
carry on their father's well-earned honours.

As soon as Isabel had greeted her hostess, she came straight across the
paved court to me with outstretched hands. "My dear Reggie, how
delightful to see you again! I had no idea you were here. And you've
been and got married and done no end of foolish things since I saw you
last, and I know you are dying to tell me all about them, just as I am
dying to hear."

"Of course I am; and it is more than delightful to meet again in this
unexpected fashion," I responded; "I had no idea you were here, either."

"Well, we aren't really," she replied, sitting down on the chair next
to the one from which I had just risen to greet her, and which I at
once resumed, for fear somebody should come between us. "We've taken a
cottage here to which we rush for weary weekends, and return to town
like giants refreshed: and we only came down to-day. And now tell me
all about your wife. I hear she is younger than anybody ever was
before, and much more beautiful, and I am simply expiring with
curiosity to see her."

"I shall be only too pleased to introduce her to you, Lady Chayford."

Isabel gave a little scream. "Oh, for mercy's sake, don't call me by
that absurd name: it makes me feel like a relic of an effete
civilisation. Of the multitudes that once called me _Isabel_ there are
only a few survivors left, and I beseech them to continue the habit, or
else my Christian name will be forgotten as completely as the Christian
name of the Sphinx. And now let me see if I can guess which is your
wife," she went on, casting her blue eyes over the various groups
dotted about the garden. "I think it must be that fairy-like sylph in
green: there is nobody else here who in the least answers to the
description I have heard."

"You've hit the right nail on the head as usual," I replied: "that is
Fay."

"Oh, Reggie, how lovely she is! And how clever it was of you to
discover anybody so exquisite! Very few men do."

"But they all think that they do: which comes to the same thing as far
as they are concerned."

"Not they, and you know they don't. But they think that we think that
they do, and that again comes to the same thing as far as they are
concerned. And now you shall trundle me round the garden for fear
anybody else should come and talk to us before you've told me how
Annabel is, and how Restham is looking, and how you like being married,
and everything you've done since I saw you last, and all the other
things that we haven't time to write letters to each other about, and
shouldn't know how to spell if we tried."

So Isabel and I started on a pilgrimage through the Garden of Dreams,
and soon succeeded in bringing ourselves abreast of each other's times.
She was always such an easy woman to talk to, in spite of the fact that
she talked almost incessantly herself: but one felt that she could
always listen at the same time.

"And so you have taken a country house here," I said, after we had
treated each other to a _résumé_ of all that had happened to us since
we last met.

"Only for this year. We have secured a ninety-nine years' lease of
what is called 'a desirable site,' and are going to build a house on it
after our own hearts, which will give us unalloyed joy in the building
and acute disappointment when it is finished. But the joy will
outweigh the disappointment, as it really always does."

"Then shall you spend the autumn here?" I asked as we wended our way


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