Denis had been called, but in spite of the parted curtains he had
dropped off again into that drowsy, dozy state when sleep becomes
a sensual pleasure almost consciously savoured. In this
condition he might have remained for another hour if he had not
been disturbed by a violent rapping at the door.
"Come in," he mumbled, without opening his eyes. The latch
clicked, a hand seized him by the shoulder and he was rudely
"Get up, get up!"
His eyelids blinked painfully apart, and he saw Mary standing
over him, bright-faced and earnest.
"Get up!" she repeated. "You must go and send the telegram.
Don't you remember?"
"O Lord!" He threw off the bed-clothes; his tormentor retired.
Denis dressed as quickly as he could and ran up the road to the
village post office. Satisfaction glowed within him as he
returned. He had sent a long telegram, which would in a few
hours evoke an answer ordering him back to town at once--on
urgent business. It was an act performed, a decisive step taken
--and he so rarely took decisive steps; he felt pleased with
himself. It was with a whetted appetite that he came in to
"Good-morning," said Mr. Scogan. "I hope you're better."
"You were rather worried about the cosmos last night."
Denis tried to laugh away the impeachment. "Was I?" he lightly
"I wish," said Mr. Scogan, "that I had nothing worse to prey on
my mind. I should be a happy man."
"One is only happy in action," Denis enunciated, thinking of the
He looked out of the window. Great florid baroque clouds floated
high in the blue heaven. A wind stirred among the trees, and
their shaken foliage twinkled and glittered like metal in the
sun. Everything seemed marvellously beautiful. At the thought
that he would soon be leaving all this beauty he felt a momentary
pang; but he comforted himself by recollecting how decisively he
"Action," he repeated aloud, and going over to the sideboard he
helped himself to an agreeable mixture of bacon and fish.
Breakfast over, Denis repaired to the terrace, and, sitting
there, raised the enormous bulwark of the "Times" against the
possible assaults of Mr. Scogan, who showed an unappeased desire
to go on talking about the Universe. Secure behind the crackling
pages, he meditated. In the light of this brilliant morning the
emotions of last night seemed somehow rather remote. And what if
he had seen them embracing in the moonlight? Perhaps it didn't
mean much after all. And even if it did, why shouldn't he stay?
He felt strong enough to stay, strong enough to be aloof,
disinterested, a mere friendly acquaintance. And even if he
weren't strong enough...
"What time do you think the telegram will arrive?" asked Mary
suddenly, thrusting in upon him over the top of the paper.
Denis started guiltily. "I don't know at all," he said.
"I was only wondering," said Mary, "because there's a very good
train at 3.27, and it would be nice if you could catch it,
"Awfully nice," he agreed weakly. He felt as though he were
making arrangements for his own funeral. Train leaves Waterloo
3.27. No flowers...Mary was gone. No, he was blowed if he'd let
himself be hurried down to the Necropolis like this. He was
blowed. The sight of Mr. Scogan looking out, with a hungry
expression, from the drawing-room window made him precipitately
hoist the "Times" once more. For a long while he kept it
hoisted. Lowering it at last to take another cautious peep at
his surroundings, he found himself, with what astonishment!
confronted by Anne's faint, amused, malicious smile. She was
standing before him,--the woman who was a tree,--the swaying
grace of her movement arrested in a pose that seemed itself a
"How long have you been standing there?" he asked, when he had
done gaping at her.
"Oh, about half an hour, I suppose," she said airily. "You were
so very deep in your paper--head over ears--I didn't like to
"You look lovely this morning," Denis exclaimed. It was the
first time he had ever had the courage to utter a personal remark
of the kind.
Anne held up her hand as though to ward off a blow. "Don't
bludgeon me, please." She sat down on the bench beside him. He
was a nice boy, she thought, quite charming; and Gombauld's
violent insistences were really becoming rather tiresome. "Why
don't you wear white trousers?" she asked. "I like you so much
in white trousers."
"They're at the wash," Denis replied rather curtly. This white-
trouser business was all in the wrong spirit. He was just
preparing a scheme to manoeuvre the conversation back to the
proper path, when Mr. Scogan suddenly darted out of the house,
crossed the terrace with clockwork rapidity, and came to a halt
in front of the bench on which they were seated.
"To go on with our interesting conversation about the cosmos," he
began, "I become more and more convinced that the various parts
of the concern are fundamentally discrete...But would you mind,
Denis, moving a shade to your right?" He wedged himself between
them on the bench. "And if you would shift a few inches to the
left, my dear Anne...Thank you. Discrete, I think, was what I
"You were," said Anne. Denis was speechless.
They were taking their after luncheon coffee in the library when
the telegram arrived. Denis blushed guiltily as he took the
orange envelope from the salver and tore it open. "Return at
once. Urgent family business." It was too ridiculous. As if he
had any family business! Wouldn't it be best just to crumple the
thing up and put it in his pocket without saying anything about
it? He looked up; Mary's large blue china eyes were fixed upon
him, seriously, penetratingly. He blushed more deeply than ever,
hesitated in a horrible uncertainty.
"What's your telegram about?" Mary asked significantly.
He lost his head, "I'm afraid," he mumbled, "I'm afraid this
means I shall have to go back to town at once." He frowned at
the telegram ferociously.
"But that's absurd, impossible," cried Anne. She had been
standing by the window talking to Gombauld; but at Denis's words
she came swaying across the room towards him.
"It's urgent," he repeated desperately.
"But you've only been here such a short time," Anne protested.
"I know," he said, utterly miserable. Oh, if only she could
understand! Women were supposed to have intuition.
"If he must go, he must," put in Mary firmly.
"Yes, I must." He looked at the telegram again for inspiration.
"You see, it's urgent family business," he explained.
Priscilla got up from her chair in some excitement. "I had a
distinct presentiment of this last night," she said. "A distinct
"A mere coincidence, no doubt," said Mary, brushing Mrs. Wimbush
out of the conversation. "There's a very good train at 3.27."
She looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. "You'll have nice
time to pack."
"I'll order the motor at once." Henry Wimbush rang the bell.
The funeral was well under way. It was awful, awful.
"I am wretched you should be going," said Anne.
Denis turned towards her; she really did look wretched. He
abandoned himself hopelessly, fatalistically to his destiny.
This was what came of action, of doing something decisive. If
only he'd just let things drift! If only...
"I shall miss your conversation," said Mr. Scogan.
Mary looked at the clock again. "I think perhaps you ought to go
and pack," she said.
Obediently Denis left the room. Never again, he said to himself,
never again would he do anything decisive. Camlet, West Bowlby,
Knipswich for Timpany, Spavin Delawarr; and then all the other
stations; and then, finally, London. The thought of the journey
appalled him. And what on earth was he going to do in London
when he got there? He climbed wearily up the stairs. It was
time for him to lay himself in his coffin.
The car was at the door--the hearse. The whole party had
assembled to see him go. Good-bye, good-bye. Mechanically he
tapped the barometer that hung in the porch; the needle stirred
perceptibly to the left. A sudden smile lighted up his
"'It sinks and I am ready to depart,'" he said, quoting Landor
with an exquisite aptness. He looked quickly round from face to
face. Nobody had noticed. He climbed into the hearse.
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