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thing lived close to another paganism and the art of life. world, and they they thought No people have ever known bravely of death. It doesn't better the secret of a bland matter who they were-Cru- happiness. Look at Fullsaders or Elizabethans or circle. There are no dark Puritans-they had all poetry corners there. The man that in them and the heroic and built it knew all there was a great unworldliness. They to be known about how to had marvellous spirits, and live. . . . The trouble was that plenty of joys and triumphs; they did not know how to but they had also their hours die. That was the one shadow of black gloom. Their lives on the glass. So they prowere like our weather-storm and sun. One thing they never feared death. He walked too near them all their days to be a bogey. "But the Restoration was a sharp break. It brought paganism into England England
vided for it in a pagan way. They tried magic. They never became true Catholics-they were always pagan to the end, but they smuggled a priest into their lives. He was a kind of insurance premium against unwelcome mystery."
It was not till nearly two years later that I saw the Giffens again. The May-fly was about its close, and I had snatched a day on a certain limpid Cotswold river. There was another man on the same beat, fishing from the opposite bank, and I watched him with some anxiety, for a duffer would have spoilt my day. To my relief I recognised Giffen. With him it was easy to come to terms, and presently the water was parcelled out between us.
We forgathered for luncheon, and I stood watching while he neatly stalked, rose, and landed a trout. I confessed to some surprise-first that Giffen should be a fisherman at all, for it was not in keeping with my old notion
of him; and second, that he should oast such a workmanlike line. As we lunched together, I observed several changes. He had shaved his fluffy beard, and his face was notably less lean, and had the clear even sunburn of the countryman. His clothes, too, were different. They also were workmanlike, and looked as if they belonged to him-no more the uneasy knickerbockers of the Sunday golfer.
"I'm desperately keen," he told me. "You see it's only my second May-fly season, and last year I was no better than a beginner. I wish I had known long ago what good fun fishing was. Isn't this a blessed place?" And he looked up through the canopy of flowering chestnuts to the June sky.
"I'm glad you've taken to sport," I said. "Even if you only come here for the week-ends, sport lets you into the secrets of the countryside."
"Oh, we don't go much to London now," was his answer. "We sold our Hampstead house a year ago. I can't think how I ever could stick that place. Ursula takes the same view. . . . I wouldn't leave Oxfordshire just now for a thousand pounds. Do you smell the hawthorn? Last week this meadow was scented like Paradise. D'you know, Leithen's a queer fellow?" I asked why.
"He once told me that this countryside in June made him sad. He said it was too perfect a thing for fallen humanity. I call that morbid. Do you see any sense in it?"
I knew what Leithen meant, but it would have taken too long to explain.
the junction. So we extricated a little two-seater from a thioket of lilacs, and he drove me through four miles of sweetscented dusk, with nightingales shouting in every thicket. I changed into a suit of his flannels in a bedroom looking out on the little lake where trout were rising, and I remember that I whistled from pure light-heartedness. In that adorable house one seemed to be still breathing the air of the spring meadows,
Dinner was my first big surprise. It was admirable plain but perfectly cooked, and with that excellence of basio material which is the glory of a well-appointed country house. There was wine too, which, I am certain, was a new thing. Giffen gave me a bottle of sound claret, and afterwards some more than decent port. My second surprise was my hostess. Her clothes, like her husband's, must have changed, for I did not notice what she was wearing, and I had noticed it only too clearly the last time we met. More remark
"I feel warm and good and happy here," he went on. "I used to talk about living olose to nature. Rot! I didn't know what nature meant. able still was the difference Now" He broke off. "By Jove, there's a kingfisher. That is only the second I've seen this year. They're getting uncommon with us."
"With us "I liked the phrase. He was becoming a true countryman.
We had a good day-not extravagantly successful, but satisfactory, and he persuaded me to come home with him to Fullcircle for the night, explaining that I could catch an early train next morning at
in her face. For the first time I realised that she was a pretty woman. The contours had softened and rounded, and there was a charming wellbeing in her eyes very different from the old restlessness. She looked content-infinitely content.
I asked about her Mothers' Cottages. She laughed cheerfully.
"I gave them up after the first year. They didn't mix well with the village people.
I'm quite ready to admit my mistake, and it was the wrong kind of charity. The Londoners didn't like it-felt lonesome and sighed for the friedfish shop; and the village women were shy of them afraid of infectious complaints, you know. Julian and I have decided that our business is to look after our own people."
It may have been malicious, but I said something about the wonderful scheme of village education.
"Another relic of Cockneyism," laughed the lady; but Giffen looked a trifle shy.
"I gave it up because it didn't seem worth while. What is the use of spoiling a perfectly wholesome scheme of life by introducing unnecessary complications? Medicine is no good unless a man is sick, and these people are not sick. Education is the only eure for certain diseases the modern world has engendered, but if you don't find the disease the remedy is superfluous. The fact is, I hadn't the face to go on with the thing. I wanted to be taught rather than to teach. There's a whole world round me of which I know very little, and my first business is to get to understand it. Any village poacher can teach me more of the things that matter than I have to tell him.”
"Besides, we have so much to do," his wife added. "There's the house and the garden, and the home-farm and the property. It isn't
large, but it takes a lot of looking after."
The dining-room was leng and low-ceilinged, and had a white panelling in bold relief. Through the windows came odours of the garden and a faint tinkle of water. The dusk was deepening, and the engravings in their rosewood frames were dim, but sufficient light remained to reveal the picture above the fireplace. It showed a middle-aged man in the clothes of the later Carolines. The plump tapering fingers of one hand held a book, the other was hidden in the folds of a flowered waistcoat. The long-curled wig framed a delicate face, with something of the grace of youth left to it. There were quizzical lines about the mouth, and the eyes smiled pleasantly yet very wisely. It was the face of a man I should have liked to dine with. He must have been the best of company.
Giffen answered my question. "That's the Lord Carteron who built the house. No. No relation. Our people were the Applebys, who came in in 1753. We've both fallen so deep in love with Fullcirole that we wanted to see the man who conceived it. I had some trouble getting it. It came out of the Minster Carteron sale, and I had to give a Jew dealer twice what he paid for it.
It's a jolly thing to live
It was indeed a curiously charming picture. I found my eyes straying to it till the dusk obseured the features. It was the face of one wholly at home
in a suave world, learned in all the urbanities. A good friend, I thought, the old lord must have been, and a superlative companion. I could imagine neat Horatian tags coming ripely from his lips. Not a strong face, but somehow a dominating one. The portrait of the long-dead gentleman had still the atmosphere of life. Giffen raised his glass of port to him as we rose from table, as if to salute a comrade.
We moved to the room across the hall, which had once been the Giffens' workroom, the cradle of earnest committees and weighty memoranda. This was my third surprise. Baizecovered table and raw-wood shelves had disappeared. The place was now half smokingroom, half library. On the walls hung a fine collection of coloured sporting prints, and below them were ranged low Hepplewhite bookcases. The
lamplight glowed on the ivory walls, and the room, like everything else in the house, was radiant. Above the mantelpiece was a stag's head-a fair eleven-pointer.
Giffen nodded proudly towards it. "I got that last year at Machray. My first stag."
There was a little table with an array of magazines and weekly papers. Some amusement must have been visible in my face as I caught sight of various light-hearted sporting journals, for he laughed apologetically. "You mustn't think that Ursula and I take in that stuff for ourselves. It amuses our guests, you know."
I dared say it did, but I was convinced that the guests were no longer Dr Swope and Mr Peroy Blaker.
One of my many failings is that I can never enter a room containing books without scanning the titles. Giffen's collection won my hearty approval. There were the very few novelists I can read myself
Miss Austen and Sir Walter and the admirable Marryat; there was a shelf full of Memoirs, and a good deal of 17th and 18th century poetry; there was a set of the classics in fine editions, Bodonis and Baskervilles and such-like; there was much county history, and one or two valuable old Herbals and Itineraries. was certain that two years before Giffen would have had no use for literature except some muddy Russian oddments, and I am positive that he would not have known the name of Surtees. Yet there stood the tall ootavos recording the unedifying careers of Mr Jorrooks, Mr Facey Romford, and Mr Soapy Sponge.
I was a little bewildered as I stretched my legs in a very deep arm-chair. Suddenly I had a strong impression of looking on at a play. hosts seemed to be automata, moving docilely at the orders of a masterful stage-manager, and yet with no sense of bondage. And as I looked on they faded off the scene, and there was only one personality
that house so serene and secure, smiling at our modern antios, but weaving all the
while an iron spell over its lovers. For a second I felt an oppression as of something to be resisted. But no. There was no oppression. The house was too well-bred and disdainful to seek to captivate. Only those who fell in love with it could know its mastery, for all love exacts a price. It was far more than a thing of stone and lime; it was a creed, an art, a scheme of life-older than any Carteron, older than England. Somewhere far back in time-in Rome, in Attica, or in an Ægean island-there must have been such places; and then they called them temples, and gods dwelt in them.
I was roused by Giffen's voice discoursing of his books. "I've been rubbing up my classics again," he was saying. "Queer thing, but ever since I left Cambridge I have been out of the mood for them. And I'm shockingly ill-read in English literature. I wish I had more time for reading, for it means a lot to me."
"There is such an embarrassment of riches here," said his wife. "The days are far too short for all there is to do. Even when there is nobody staying in the house I find every hour occupied. It's delicious to be busy over things one really cares for."
"All the same I wish I could do more reading," said Giffen. "I've never wanted to se much before."
"But you come in tired from shooting and sleep sound till dinner,” said the lady, laying
an affectionate hand on his shoulder.
They were happy people, and I like happiness. Selfabsorbed perhaps, but I prefer selfishness in the ordinary way of things. We are most of us selfish dogs, and altruism makes us uncomfortable. But I had somehow in my mind a shade of uneasiness, for I was the witness of a transformation too swift and violent to be wholly natural. Years, no doubt, turn our eyes inward and abate our heroics, but not a trifle of two or three. Some agency had been at work here, some agency other and more potent than the process of time. The thing fascinated and partly frightened me. For the Giffens - though I scarcely dared to admit ithad deteriorated. They were far pleasanter people. I liked them infinitely better. I hoped to see them often again. I detested the type they used to represent, and shunned it like the plague. They were wise new, and mellow, and most agreeable human beings. But some virtue had gone out of them. An uncomfortable virtue, no doubt, but a virtue, something generous and adventurous. Aforetime their faces had had a sort of wistful kindness. Now they had geniality-which is not the same thing.
What was the agency of this miracle? It was all around me: the ivory panelling, the olive-wood staircase, the lovely pillared hall. I got up to go to bed with a kind of awe on me. As Mrs Giffen lit my