Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler.

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sleeves - because they had always got something up them."

Annabel was as literal as ever. "I don't think so, Reggie; I really
don't know the origin of Bishops having those full sleeves. I know
when it was the fashion for ladies to have large sleeves they were
called 'Bishops' sleeves' after the Bishops; but why the Bishops
originally had them I haven't a notion. I must try to find out. It is
so interesting and instructive to learn the reason and the origin of
things like that. But Deans don't have large sleeves, do they?" she
added, her wandering thoughts turning once more Arthurwards.

"No; but they have beautiful arrangements about the legs - aprons and
breeches and gaiters, and goodness knows what! They are Bishops below
the waist and men above it, like the Centaurs, don't you know?"

"But the Centaurs were half horses - not half Bishops, Reggie."

"I know: but the principle is the same."

"And not big sleeves, you are sure?"

"Quite. Deans do not burn the candles at both ends, so to speak, as
Bishops do: they are content to take care of the legs, and leave the
arms to take care of themselves."

Annabel smiled the tolerant smile of elder-sisterhood. "How funny you
are, Reggie! It is nice to hear you making jokes again."

And she went out of the room happy in the conviction that I was what
she would have called, "getting over it."

Arthur came over to the Manor in the afternoon, and confirmed what
Annabel had said. He had indeed been offered the Deanery of
Lowchester: but had not yet decided, as Annabel had, that he should
accept it. I was amazed at his hesitancy, considering what a splendid
offer it was for a man still comparatively young, and also - as Annabel
had pointed out - what a grand scope it would give him for his hitherto
wasted powers of organisation: but slowly the reason for this hesitancy
dawned upon me.

"To put it in plain English, old man," I said, after we had discussed
the question in all its bearings, and light was beginning to penetrate
the mists of my confusion, "the only reason you really have against
accepting this offer is _me_."

Arthur blushed: a rare indulgence with him. "Well, I don't know that I
should put it as bluntly as that, Reggie - - " he began in his
deliberate way.

I interrupted him. "But _I_ should. It is always best to put things
in the bluntest way possible, and to look at them as they really are.
I learnt that from Fay. She taught me to have a horror of everything
that she designated by the inclusive term 'flapdoodle.'"

I made a point of bringing my wife's name into a conversation now and
again: it seemed somehow to narrow the gulf between us. Nobody, except
Ponty, ever voluntarily mentioned Fay's name to me (and perhaps that
was the reason why I still found a certain amount of comfort in Ponty's
society, and why I allowed my old nurse to take such egregious
liberties with me): so that unless I spoke sometimes of my lost
darling, she would have been altogether put away out of remembrance.

In the same way I have always hated the custom which obtains amongst
many people, of never speaking at all of those who have "crossed the
flood," or else of speaking of them in an entirely unnatural tone of
voice, and making use of such prefixes as "dear" or "poor." Such a
custom, to my mind, gives the indirect lie to all Christian teaching as
to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, and
is only fit for those who sorrow without hope. I maintain that those
whom we falsely call our dead should be spoken of as naturally and as
frequently as those whom we - making a distinction without a
difference - choose to call our living. It always irritates me when
Annabel says "dear Papa" and "poor Mamma": she would never have dreamed
of using either adjective in the days when our parents were still with
us at Restham: and to do it now creates a sort of artificial atmosphere
about them, which I, for one, resent.

"I dare say it is awfully vain and presumptuous on my part," Arthur
continued, "to think that my coming or going would make much difference
to you: but if I was any comfort to you at all, I should hate to take
it away from you just when you have had and are having such a rough
time."

I was touched by Arthur's unselfishness: and also remorseful at the
realisation of what little difference his or anybody else's coming or
going made to me now.

I put my hand on his arm, as we sat smoking by the library fire. "You
mustn't get that notion into your head, old man: it would make me ever
so much more miserable than I am at present if I felt I had in any way
hindered your career. It is always bad policy to throw good money
after bad; and I am bad money and you are good, as far as economic
currency is concerned. Don't think me ungrateful for all you have done
for me, because I am not."

"Rubbish!" growled Arthur. "I've done nothing for you at all."

"Yes, you have: you've been as true a friend to me as man ever had.
You've done a lot for me during the beastly time I've gone through."

"Then let me stay on here, and go on doing a lot for you. I ask for
nothing better."

Then I felt it was time to be brutal and to speak the unvarnished
truth. "You've done all you can for me, old man: I hate to say it, but
it's the truth. If you stayed on here, you won't do me any more good,
and you'd have spoilt your career for nothing. You did help me at
first, I admit, and I shall be always grateful for it. But to be
perfectly candid with you - though I hate candour, mind you, and would
never employ such a painful weapon unless I felt it to be absolutely
necessary - neither you nor anybody else can help me now."

"Except Fay," suggested Arthur, hardly above a whisper, as if he were
referring to some one who had been buried for years.

I shook my head. "I doubt if even she could help me now. Even if she
came back - which she never will - things could never be the same between
us as they used to be. I haven't forgiven her - I cannot forgive
her - and I couldn't live with her and be at enmity with her at the same
time. Life would be unendurable in such circumstances."

Arthur smoked in silence for some minutes: then he said: "Is that why
you have never come to Holy Communion now?"

"Yes. I cannot say that I am in love and charity with my neighbours as
long as I haven't forgiven Fay and Frank. But I haven't; and I don't
feel as if I ever could; and I cannot take the Blessed Sacrament until
I do. That is another thing I owe to Frank," I added bitterly; "he has
cut me off from the means of grace as well as from the hope of glory.
For the more I think of it the more I am convinced that it was entirely
his doing that Fay left me."

Again Arthur smoked for some time in silence, and then he said: "I
think you are right, Reggie: you are beyond my help altogether, and if
I stayed on here I shouldn't do you any good."

"I am past all human help," I replied.

"Yes, I think you are," said Arthur in his slow way; "but human help
doesn't count for much after all. There's plenty of the Other Sort
left - more than you or anybody else can ever need."

"Not for me: I have forfeited my claim to it," I groaned in the anguish
of my heart, as I remembered how I had cried in vain by old Parkins's
sick bed for the Help That never came.

Arthur did not speak, but he smiled the smile that I used to see on my
mother's face when I was a little boy, and on Fay's in the days when I
was pretending that I didn't love her - a smile which said as plainly as
if it had been put into words: "You don't know what you are talking
about," but said it with a tenderness that it was beyond the power of
any words to express.

I think the ruler of the synagogue must have seen that same
Smile - intensified a thousandfold - when his servants met him and said:
"Thy daughter is dead: why trouble thou the Master any further": and
the Answer came: "Be not afraid: only believe."




CHAPTER XIX

A SURPRISE

So Arthur Blathwayte was made Dean of Lowchester, and at once began his
preparations for vacating Restham Rectory; while his promotion
gradually subsided from a nine days' wonder into an ordinary and
commonplace event.

But there was still a greater surprise in store for me and for Restham.

Annabel came into the library one morning with the ominous words: "I've
got something to say to you, Reggie."

I looked up from the letter I was writing, and wondered indifferently
what fresh vexation was in store. Nothing had any longer the power to
vex me very much: but I could guess from Annabel's expression that
something was coming which would vex me as much as it was able.

"Well, what is it?" I asked.

Annabel remained standing opposite to me on the other side of the
writing-table.

"I expect it will surprise you a good deal, Reggie."

"Well, out with it. Has Blathwayte been offered another Deanery, or
has the cook given notice? And don't you think you'd better sit down?"

Annabel sat down on the most uncomfortable chair within reach. "Mr.
Blathwayte has asked me to marry him, and I've accepted," she blurted
out.

She was right. It did surprise me more than I had thought I could ever
be surprised again. It fairly took my breath away.

"Good Heavens, Annabel!" I gasped, when my breath returned to me.
"This is astounding news indeed."

The murder being out, Annabel was herself again, and went on explaining
with her accustomed volubility: "I was surprised myself, Reggie, when
Arthur (I shall call him Arthur now) proposed to me, as I had given up
the idea of marrying years ago. Just at first the notion seemed to me
ridiculous. But after I'd thought it over for a bit, I saw how
necessary it was for anybody as important as a Dean to have a wife at
his elbow to tell him what to do, and what not to do. It didn't matter
while he was only Rector of a small village like this, though even here
he rarely acted without my advice: but I don't see how he could
possibly manage to be Dean of Lowchester all by himself, do you?"

I admitted the difficulties of undertaking such a situation
single-handed, and my sister continued: "Although I have the greatest
respect - I think I may say the deepest affection - for Mr. Bl - - Arthur
(I find it a little difficult to remember to say Arthur at present, but
I shall soon get into the way), I cannot blind my eyes to the fact that
he is inclined to have ritualistic tendencies, and a cathedral, I
consider, is just the place to encourage that sort of thing, what with
the anthems and daily services, and goodness knows what! So different
from the quiet routine of a mere parish church. But, you see, if I was
there, he couldn't give himself over altogether to ritualism."

I did see that - clearly - in spite of my dazed condition.

"I should be dreadfully vexed," Annabel went on, as I was still more or
less speechless with amazement, "if after having got such a splendid
appointment, Mr. Blathwayte, I mean Arthur, spoilt it all by ritualism
or any folly of that kind. It would be such a dreadful pity! I have
often noticed that people wait for a thing for years, and then when
they get it at last, they do something that makes you wish they had
never had it at all. And I should blame myself if Arthur did anything
of that kind."

I winced. I had waited for forty-three years for the happiness that
comes to most men in their twenties, and then somebody had done
something that made me wish I had never had it at all: but I was as yet
far from seeing that that somebody was myself.

"And then, of course," continued Annabel, with a change in her voice,
"there is you."

"Yes, there is me," I replied grimly. I wondered how Annabel was going
to explain me away.

"At first I felt I really couldn't leave you - especially now you are
quite alone; and that I must refuse Mr. Blath - Arthur, in consequence.
But on thinking the matter over and looking at it sensibly, I
remembered that a man must leave his father and mother and cleave to
his wife, which of course includes a woman and her brother. And, when
all's said and done, you married, so why shouldn't I?"

By this time I had recovered my speech, and also my better feelings.
At the first shock the idea of Annabel's marriage was revolting to me:
I do not attempt to deny it: and the thought of her leaving me seemed
Fate's final blow. But as I pulled myself together I realised that the
selfishness of sorrow was swallowing me up, and I determined to escape
from it before it was too late.

Much is said on behalf of the sweetening uses of adversity; but, for my
part, when people talk about the discipline of suffering, I always want
to substitute the word "temptation" for "discipline," as I know few
greater temptations to selfishness than bodily sickness and mental
anguish. I cannot believe that either sickness or sorrow in itself
makes men better: but if men grow better in spite of sickness and
sorrow, then they are conquerors indeed. When we are told that the
Captain of our Salvation was made "perfect through suffering," I do not
think it is a proof of the beauty of suffering, but of the Divinity of
Christ. Even that crowning temptation was powerless to hurt Him. And
if He could be perfect in spite of the things He suffered, so can we,
provided that we abide in Him and He in us.

But I was not abiding in Him just then. I had gone out into the far
country, because the one restriction of the Father's House was too hard
for me: that restriction which I had persistently set aside: "If ye
forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your
trespasses."

Still there was enough Grace left in me to enable me to struggle,
however vainly, against the wave of selfishness which was overwhelming
my tortured soul, and I struggled. "You are quite right, Annabel, in
saying and thinking that you have as much right to marry as I had; and
it would be abominable selfishness on my part to say a word to dissuade
you from any course which tended to your happiness."

Here Annabel's sense of justice interrupted me. "Still, Reggie, I did
say no end of words to try to dissuade you: there's no shutting your
eyes to that fact; and therefore you have a perfect right to say
anything you like to dissuade me. But I think I can honestly say that
when I tried to prevent you from marrying Fay, I was thinking of your
happiness rather than of my own."

"I'd take my oath on that," I said warmly.

"And of course I'd no idea that things would turn out as they have,"
Annabel continued, "or else I should have tried to dissuade you much
more strongly than I did. It would have been my duty to do so. Just
as it would be your duty to do anything you could to prevent me from
marrying Mr. Blath - Arthur, if you thought there was any probability of
his running off to Australia and going on to the stage."

I was again able to take my oath that I apprehended no such dangers.
"But do you love him?" I added. "That is the main thing."

"Well, I should hardly like to apply such a term as 'love' to the
feelings of a woman of my age, but I must admit that I am sincerely
attached to Arthur, and have the greatest respect for his character.
And I must also admit that the lot he asks me to share presents the
greatest attractions to me. I don't wish to appear conceited, but I do
think that I am rather wasted on a small place like this, just as
Arthur is. I mean there is more work in me than Restham requires."

"You mean that, like Mrs. Figshaw's daughter, you also want a 'scoop'?"

"A _scope_, Reggie: that is what I do mean. I love arranging things,
and I've arranged and planned and organised here till there's nothing
left to plan or arrange or organise. And we shan't be far off - only
about an hour's ride in the car; so that you can always come over and
consult me about anything, and I can come over here constantly and keep
my eye on your servants. I really don't see that with me within an
hour's motor-ride they can go very far wrong."

"Nor do I. Moreover, Ponty's eye is almost as all-seeing as yours."

"Of course," added Annabel thoughtfully, "Mr. Blathwayte, I mean
Arthur, is five years younger than I am: but if he doesn't mind that, I
don't see why you should."

"I don't," I hastened to assure her: "that is nobody's business but his
and yours. And the experience of life has taught me that there are
distinct disadvantages to a woman in having a husband older than
herself. But, Annabel," I added, getting up from my seat and going
across to where she sat and laying my hand on her shoulder, "although I
am naturally surprised at what you have told me, and am very sorry to
lose you, I am very glad as well: for I am sure it would be impossible
for any woman to have a better husband than old Arthur. I hope you
will be very happy, and, what is more, I am sure you will."

"Thank you, Reggie: and as for leaving you I feel I can do it more
easily now than I could before you were married. I'm nothing like so
necessary to you now as I was then."

I hastened to disclaim this accusation; but underneath my disclaimer I
was haunted by a lurking consciousness that Annabel's common sense had,
as usual, hit the mark. She was not as necessary to my happiness as
she had been before my marriage: nobody was, except Fay, and I feared
that she was lost to me for ever.

I cannot deny that Annabel's engagement was a tremendous surprise to
me: but as I became accustomed to the surprise, I was shocked to find
hidden beneath it an unholy little mixture of relief. I hated myself
for the knowledge, and violently battled against it, but all the same I
could not help knowing that Restham Manor without Annabel would be a
much more easy and restful abode than it had ever been before. And at
the very back of my mind - so far back that I was scarcely conscious of
it - there sprang up a tiny and indefinite hope that - with Annabel
gone - Fay might come back to me once more. But not with Frank: even
though it might be possible for me sometime to forgive my wife, it
could never be possible for me to forgive her brother: of that I felt
certain: He had injured me far too deeply. But though the possibility
of Fay's return crept into the realm of practical politics, I was too
proud to ask her to come back to me. She had left me of her own free
will, and she should come back to me of her own free will or not at
all. And this was not entirely selfish pride on my part, though
doubtless to a great extent it was. Much as I loved my wife, much as I
longed for her, I did not wish her to return until she felt she could
be happy with me. Once again - as before I proposed to her - I was not
willing to purchase my own happiness at the cost of Fay's.

Of course the marriage of Annabel to Blathwayte was a nine days' wonder
in Restham - a wonder which I shared with my humbler neighbours.
However devoted to his sisters a man may be, the fact that other men
want to marry them never fails to appeal to his sense of humour: and
the appeal is by no means minimised if the sister happens to have
attained to her fiftieth year. In spite of all the sorrow through
which I had passed and was still passing, I was still sufficiently a
boy at heart to laugh at the idea of good old Arthur's marrying Annabel.

I did not - I could not - believe that the attachment dated from
Blathwayte's youthful days, since the difference between twenty-five
and thirty is much greater than that between forty-four and forty-nine.
My explanation of the phenomenon was that he was suddenly faced with
the prospect of doing without Annabel, and found he couldn't stand it;
and so - necessity being the mother of invention - it occurred to him to
marry her instead. I think she had become as much an integral part of
his scheme of things as the sun or the moon or the General Post Office;
and although one might not spontaneously think of marrying the sun or
the moon or the General Post Office, it is conceivable that one might
even go to that length rather than do without them altogether.

But so inconsistent is human nature, although my higher self struggled
against any selfish desire to keep Annabel at Restham, and my lower
self was secretly relieved at the prospect of her departure, I was
nevertheless hurt that she should wish to leave me. Once again I was
brought face to face with the old problem, how is it that the people
always behave so much better to other people than other people ever
behave to them? To which I believe the real answer is that we all
expect so much more of each other than we are prepared to give in
return.

My unholy relief at the transference of Annabel's beneficent yoke from
my shoulders to Arthur's was shared to the fullest extent by Ponty, and
in her case it assumed no secret or surreptitious form.

"It'll be a good thing for Miss Annabel to have a house and a husband
of her own at last," she remarked, "to order about as she pleases; and
leave you and me to do what we like at the Manor, Master Reggie."

"But you seem to forget that she is taking a vow of obedience to her
husband," I suggested, "which she certainly never took with regard to
you and me."

Ponty shook her old head. "Vows or no vows, Miss Annabel will always
wear the breeches."

"Which in this case happens to be gaiters as well," I added: "but I've
no doubt that she will wear them all, with the apron thrown in."

"I shan't so much mind Miss Annabel having everything her own way at
the Deanery, Master Reggie, because when all's said and done it's the
course of nature for a woman to rule her own husband; but no woman was
ever intended to rule her brother, and particularly her brother's wife,
and it's against nature that she should. And what's against nature
always ends in trouble sooner or later, mark my words! There was a man
at Poppenhall when I was a girl who suddenly took it into his head to
leave off eating meat, and lived instead upon nuts. He said there was
a lot of nourishment in a nut, which it stands to reason there couldn't
be, it all being made of what you might call wood, and indigestible at
that. But anyway, he hadn't lived on nuts for more than a year when
he, fell off a rick he was thatching and broke his neck. Which was
nothing but a judgment upon him for going against nature. And for
months before he died, you could hear the nuts rattling inside him,
like a baby's rattle."

"A terrible fate!" I said gravely. "But I may add for your comfort
that if it is natural, as you say, for every woman to rule her own
husband, there is no fear of Miss Annabel's going against nature: and I
am sure that the Dean will make her an excellent husband."

"None better: he's one in a thousand is Mr. Blathwayte, and always has
been. And Miss Annabel won't make a bad wife either, for them as like
those masterful, managing sort of wives. She'll always have her house
kept beautiful; and she'll be Dean of Lowchester and Chapter too, if
they don't take care."

"But she'll be a very good Dean and Chapter, Ponty."

"Yes, Master Reggie, you have the right of it there. Whatever Miss
Annabel sets herself to do, she'll do well: no manner of doubt on that
point. She's always from a child been one to do her duty: I will say
that for her. It's only when she sets about doing other people's duty
that she begins to get troublesome."

"The Dean and Chapter may possibly find it troublesome when she begins
to do their duty," I suggested.

"That's their business and not mine, Master Reggie. Miss Annabel has
been my business for close on fifty years, and I'm glad to hand her on
to somebody else. Not that I'm not fond of her, for I am, and have
been ever since I took her on from the monthly nurse forty-nine years
ago: but she was a handful from a baby, though always a fine child,
with a skin as fair as a lily, and hair that curled quite easy and kept
in curl, though I can't pretend as it ever curled natural, because it
didn't. But I'd no trouble in curling it as some folks have. I
remember a woman at Poppenhall, whose children's hair was as straight
as never was, though she put it in curling-papers every night of their
lives, feeling she didn't like to be bested by her own children's hair,
as you might say. But instead of taking the curl any better, it all
came off, the curling-papers having stopped the natural growth; and
those children's heads were as bare as billiard-balls. I suppose it
was a judgment on her for going against nature."

"But you went against nature in curling Miss Annabel's hair, and yet no
judgment seems to have fallen upon you," said I, as I thought


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