William Yeats.

John Sherman and Dhoya





They reset the men and began to play. Sherman relied most upon his bishops and queen. Howard was fondest of the knights. At first Sherman was the attacking party, but in his characteristic desire to scheme out his game many moves ahead, kept making slips, and at last had to give up, with his men nearly all gone and his king hopelessly cornered. Howard seemed to let nothing escape him. When the game was finished he leant back in his chair and said, as he rolled a cigarette

You do not play well. It gave him satisfaction to feel his proficiency in many small arts. You do not do any of these things at all well, he went on, with an insolence peculiar to him when excited. You have been really very badly brought up and stupidly educated in that intolerable Ballah. They do not understand there any, even the least, of the arts of life; they only believe in information. Men who are compelled to move in the great world, and who are also cultivated, only value the personal acquirements self-possession, adaptability, how to dress well, how even to play tennis decently you would be not so bad at that, by the by, if you practised or how to paint or write effectively. They know that it is better to smoke ones cigarette with a certain charm of gesture than to have by heart all the encyclopedias. I say this not merely as a man of the world, but as a teacher of religion. A man when he rises from the grave will take with him only the things that he is in himself. He will leave behind the things that he merely possesses, learning and information not less than money and high estate. They will stay behind with his house and his clothes and his body. A collection of facts will no more help him than a collection of stamps. The learned will not get into heaven as readily as the flute-player, or even as the man who smokes a cigarette gracefully. Now you are not learned, but you have been brought up almost as badly as if you were. In that wretched town they told you that education was to know that Russia is bounded on the north by the Arctic Sea, and on the west by the Baltic Ocean, and that Vienna is situated on the Danube, and that William the Third came to the throne in the year 1688. They have never taught you any personal art. Even chess-playing might have helped you at the day of judgment.

I am really not a worse chess-player than you. I am only more careless.

There was a slight resentment in Shermans voice. The other noticed it, and said, changing his manner from the insolent air of a young beauty to a self-depreciatory one, which was wont to give him at times a very genuine charm

It is really a great pity, for you Shermans are a deep people, much deeper than we Howards. We are like moths or butterflies on rather rapid rivulets, while you and yours are deep pools in the forest where the beasts go to drink. No! I have a better metaphor. Your mind and mine are two arrows. Yours has got no feathers, and mine has no metal on the point.

I dont know which is most needed for right conduct. I wonder where we are going to strike earth. I suppose it will be all right some day when the world has gone by and they have collected all the arrows into one quiver.

He went over to the mantlepiece to hunt for a match, as his cigarette had gone out. Sherman had lifted a corner of the blind and was gazing over the roofs shining from a recent shower, and thinking how on such a night as this he had sat with Mary Carton by the rectory fire listening to the rain without and talking of the future and of the training of village children.

Have you seen Miss Leland in her last new dress from Paris? said Howard, making one of his rapid transitions. It is very rich in colour, and makes her look a little pale, like St. Cecilia. She is wonderful as she stands by the piano, a silver cross round her neck. We have been talking about you. She complains to me. She says you are a little barbarous; you seem to look down on style, and sometimes you must forgive me even on manners, and you are quite without small talk. You must really try and be worthy of that beautiful girl, with her great soul and religious genius. She told me quite sadly, too, that you are not improving.

No, said Sherman, I am not going forward; I am at present trying to go sideways like the crabs.

Be serious, answered the other. She told me these things with the most sad and touching voice. She makes me her confidant, you know, in many matters, because of my wide religious experience. You must really improve yourself. You must paint or something.

Well, I will paint or something.

I am quite serious, Sherman. Try and be worthy of her, a soul as gentle as St. Cecilias.

She is very wealthy, said Sherman. If she were engaged to you and not to me you might hope to die a bishop.

Howard looked at him in a mystified way and the conversation dropped. Presently Howard got up and went to his room, and Sherman, resetting the chess-board, began to play again, and, letting longer and longer pauses of reverie come between his moves, played far into the morning, cheating now in favour of the red men now in favour of the white.

V

The next afternoon Howard found Miss Leland sitting, reading in an alcove in her drawing-room, between a stuffed paroquet and a blue De Morgan jar. As he was shown in he noticed, with a momentary shock, that her features were quite commonplace. Then she saw him, and at once seemed to vanish wrapped in an exulting flame of life. She stood up, flinging the book on to the seat with some violence.

I have been reading that sweet Imitation of Christ, and was just feeling that I should have to become a theosophist or a socialist, or go and join the Catholic Church, or do something. How delightful it is to see you again! How is my savage getting on? It is so good of you to try and help me to reform him.

They talked on about Sherman, and Howard did his best to console her for his shortcomings. Time would certainly improve her savage. Several times she gazed at him with those large dark eyes of hers, of which the pupils to-day seemed larger than usual. They made him feel dizzy and clutch tightly the arm of his chair. Then she began to talk about her life since childhood how they got to the subject he never knew and made a number of those confidences which are so dangerous because so flattering. To love there is nothing else worth living for; but then men are so shallow. She had never found a nature deep as her own. She would not pretend that she had not often been in love, but never had any heart rung back to her the true note. As she spoke her face quivered with excitement. The exulting flame of life seemed spreading from her to the other things in the room. To Howards eyes it seemed as though the bright pots and stuffed birds and plush curtains began to glow with a light not of this world to glimmer like the strange and chaotic colours the mystic Blake imagined upon the scaled serpent of Eden. The light seemed gradually to dim his past and future, and to make pale his good resolves. Was it not in itself that which all men are seeking, and for which all else exists?

He leant forward and took her hand, timidly and doubtingly. She did not draw it away. He leant nearer and kissed her on the forehead. She gave a joyful cry, and, casting her arms round his neck, burst out, Ah! you and I. We were made for each other. I hate Sherman. He is an egotist. He is a beast. He is selfish and foolish. Releasing one of her arms she struck the seat with her hand, excitedly, and went on, How angry he will be! But it serves him right! How badly he is dressing. He does not know anything about anything. But you you I knew you were meant for me the moment I saw you.

That evening Howard flung himself into a chair in the empty smoking-room. He lighted a cigarette; it went out. Again he lighted it; again it went out. I am a traitor and that good, stupid fellow, Sherman, never to be jealous! he thought. But then, how could I help it? And, besides, it cannot be a bad action to save her from a man she is so much above in refinement and feeling. He was getting into good-humour with himself. He got up and went over and looked at the photograph of Raphaels Madonna, which he had hung over the mantlepiece. How like Margarets are her big eyes!

VI

The next day when Sherman came home from his office he saw an envelope lying on the smoking-room table. It contained a letter from Howard, saying that he had gone away, and that he hoped Sherman would forgive his treachery, but that he was hopelessly in love with Miss Leland, and that she returned his love.

Sherman went downstairs. His mother was helping the servant to set the table.

You will never guess what has happened, he said. My affair with Margaret is over.

I cannot pretend to be sorry, John, she replied. She had long considered Miss Leland among accepted things, like the chimney-pots on the roof, and submitted, as we do, to any unalterable fact, but had never praised her or expressed liking in any way. She puts belladonna in her eyes, and is a vixen and a flirt, and I dare say her wealth is all talk. But how did it happen?

Her son was, however, too excited to listen.

He went upstairs and wrote the following note

My dear Margaret:

I congratulate you on a new conquest. There is no end to your victories. As for me, I bow myself out with many sincere wishes for your happiness, and remain,

Your friend,
John Sherman.

Having posted this letter he sat down with Howards note spread out before him, and wondered whether there was anything mean and small-minded in neatness he himself was somewhat untidy. He had often thought so before, for their strong friendship was founded in a great measure on mutual contempt, but now immediately added, being in good-humour with the world, He is much cleverer than I am. He must have been very industrious at school.

A week went by. He made up his mind to put an end to his London life. He broke to his mother his resolve to return to Ballah. She was delighted, and at once began to pack. Her old home had long seemed to her a kind of lost Eden, wherewith she was accustomed to contrast the present. When, in time, this present had grown into the past it became an Eden in turn. She was always ready for a change, if the change came to her in the form of a return to something old. Others place their ideals in the future; she laid hers in the past.

The only one this momentous resolution seemed to surprise was the old and deaf servant. She waited with ever-growing impatience. She would sit by the hour wool-gathering on the corner of a chair with a look of bewildered delight. As the hour of departure came near she sang continually in a cracked voice.

Sherman, a few days before leaving, was returning for the last time from his office when he saw, to his surprise, Howard and Miss Leland carrying each a brown paper bundle. He nodded good-humouredly, meaning to pass on.

John, she said, look at this brooch William gave me a ladder leaning against the moon and a butterfly climbing up it. Is it not sweet? We are going to visit the poor.

And I, he said, am going to catch eels. I am leaving town.

He made his excuses, saying he had no time to wait, and hurried off. She looked after him with a mournful glance, strange in anybody who had exchanged one lover for another more favoured.

Poor fellow, murmured Howard, he is broken-hearted.

Nonsense, answered Miss Leland, somewhat snappishly.

PART V.
JOHN SHERMAN RETURNS TO BALLAH

I

This being the homeward trip, SS. Lavinia carried no cattle, but many passengers. As the sea was smooth and the voyage near its end, they lounged about the deck in groups. Two cattle merchants were leaning over the taffrail smoking. In appearance they were something between betting men and commercial travellers. For years they had done all their sleeping in steamers and trains. A short distance from them a clerk from Liverpool, with a consumptive cough, walked to and fro, a little child holding his hand. Shortly he would be landed in a boat putting off from the shore for the purpose. He had come hoping that his native air of Teeling Head would restore him. The little child was a strange contrast her cheeks ruddy with perfect health. Further forward, talking to one of the crew, was a man with a red face and slightly unsteady step. In the companion house was a governess, past her first youth, very much afraid of seasickness. She had brought her luggage up and heaped it round her to be ready for landing. Sherman sat on a pile of cable looking out over the sea. It was just noon; SS. Lavinia, having passed by Tory and Rathlin, was approaching the Donegal cliffs. They were covered by a faint mist, which made them loom even vaster than they were. To westward the sun shone on a perfectly blue sea. Seagulls come out of the mist and plunged into the sunlight, and out of the sunlight and plunged into the mist. To the westward gannets were striking continually, and a porpoise showed now and then, his fin and back gleaming in the sun. Sherman was more perfectly happy than he had been for many a day, and more ardently thinking. All nature seemed full of a Divine fulfilment. Everything fulfilled its law fulfilment that is peace, whether it be for good or for evil, for evil also has its peace, the peace of the birds of prey. Sherman looked from the sea to the ship and grew sad. Upon this thing, crawling slowly along the sea, moved to and fro many mournful and slouching figures. He looked from the ship to himself and his eyes filled with tears. On himself, on these moving figures, hope and memory fed like flames.

Again his eyes gladdened, for he knew he had found his present. He would live in his love and the day as it passed. He would live that his law might be fulfilled. Now, was he sure of this truth? the saints on the one hand, the animals on the other, live in the moment as it passes. Thitherward had his days brought him. This was the one grain they had ground. To grind one grain is sufficient for a lifetime.

II

A few days later Sherman was hurrying through the town of Ballah. It was Saturday, and he passed down through the marketing country people, and the old women with baskets of cakes and gooseberries and long pieces of sugarstick shaped like walking-sticks, and called by children Peggies leg.

Now, as two months earlier he was occasionally recognized and greeted, and, as before, went on without knowing, his eyes full of unintelligent sadness because the mind was making merry afar. They had the look we see in the eyes of animals and dreamers. Everything had grown simple, his problem had taken itself away. He was thinking what he would say to Mary Carton. Now they would be married, they would live in a small house with a green door and new thatch, and a row of beehives under a hedge. He knew where just such a house stood empty. The day before he and his mother had discussed, with their host of the Imperial Hotel, this question of houses. They knew the peculiarities of every house in the neighbourhood, except two or three built while they were away. All day Sherman and his mother had gone over the merits of the few they were told were empty. She wondered why her son had grown so unpractical. Once he was so easily pleased the row of beehives and the new thatch did not for her settle the question. She set it all down to Miss Leland and the plays, and the singing, and the belladonna, and remembered with pleasure how many miles of uneasy water lay between the town of Ballah and these things.

She did not know what else beside the row of beehives and the new thatch her sons mind ran on as he walked among the marketing country people, and the gooseberry sellers, and the merchants of Peggies leg, and the boys playing marbles in odd corners, and the men in waistcoats with flannel sleeves driving carts, and the women driving donkeys with creels of turf or churns of milk. Just now she was trying to remember whether she used to buy her wool for knitting at Miss Peterss or from Mrs. Macalloughs at the bridge. One or other sold it a halfpenny a skein cheaper. She never knew what went on inside her sons mind, she had always her own fish to fry. Blessed are the unsympathetic. They preserve their characters in an iron safe while the most of us poor mortals are going about the planet vainly searching for any kind of a shell to contain us, and evaporating the while.

Sherman began to mount the hill to the vicarage. He was happy. Because he was happy he began to run. Soon the steepness of the hill made him walk. He thought about his love for Mary Carton. Seen by the light of this love everything that had happened to him was plain now. He had found his centre of unity. His childhood had prepared him for this love. He had been solitary, fond of favourite corners of fields, fond of going about alone, unhuman like the birds and the leaves, his heart empty. How clearly he remembered his first meeting with Mary. They were both children. At a school treat they watched the fire balloon ascend, and followed it a little way over the fields together. What friends they became, growing up together, reading the same books, thinking the same thoughts.

As he came to the door and pulled at the great hanging iron bell handle, the fire balloon reascended in his heart, surrounded with cheers and laughter.

III

He kept the servant talking for a moment or two before she went for Miss Carton. The old rector, she told him, was getting less and less able to do much work. Old age had come almost suddenly upon him. He seldom moved from the fireside. He was getting more and more absent-minded. Once lately he had brought his umbrella into the reading-desk. More and more did he leave all things to his children to Mary Carton and her younger sisters.

When the servant had gone Sherman looked round the somewhat gloomy room. In the window hung a canary in a painted cage. Outside was a narrow piece of shaded ground between the window and the rectory wall. The laurel and holly bushes darkened the window a good deal. On a table in the centre of the room were evangelistic books with gilded covers. Round the mirror over the mantlepiece were stuck various parish announcements, thrust between the glass and the gilding. On a small side table was a copper ear-trumpet.

How familiar everything seemed to Sherman. Only the room seemed smaller than it did three years before, and close to the table with the ear-trumpet, at one side of the fireplace before the arm-chair, was a new threadbare patch in the carpet.

Sherman recalled how in this room he and Mary Carton had sat in winter by the fire, building castles in the air for each other. So deeply meditating was he that she came in and stood unnoticed beside him.

John, she said at last, it is a great pleasure to see you so soon again. Are you doing well in London?

I have left London.

Are you married, then? You must introduce me to your wife.

I shall never be married to Miss Leland.

What?

She has preferred another my friend William Howard. I have come here to tell you something, Mary. He went and stood close to her and took her hand tenderly. I have always been very fond of you. Often in London, when I was trying to think of another kind of life, I used to see this fireside and you sitting beside it, where we used to sit and talk about the future. Mary Mary, he held her hand in both his you will be my wife?

You do not love me, John, she answered, drawing herself away. You have come to me because you think it your duty. I have had nothing but duty all my life.

Listen, he said. I was very miserable; I invited Howard to stay with us. One morning I found a note on the smoking-room table to say that Margaret had accepted him, and I have come here to ask you to marry me. I never cared for any one else.

He found himself speaking hurriedly, as though anxious to get the words said and done with. It now seemed to him that he had done ill in this matter of Miss Leland. He had not before thought of it his mind had always been busy with other things. Mary Carton looked at him wonderingly.

John, she said at last, did you ask Mr. Howard to stay with you on purpose to get him to fall in love with Miss Leland, or to give you an excuse for breaking off your engagement, as you knew he flirted with every one?

Margaret seems very fond of him. I think they are made for each other, he answered.

Did you ask him to London on purpose?

Well, I will tell you, he faltered. I was very miserable. I had drifted into this engagement I dont know how. Margaret glitters and glitters and glitters, but she is not of my kind. I suppose I thought, like a fool, I should marry some one who was rich. I found out soon that I loved nobody but you. I got to be always thinking of you and of this town. Then I heard that Howard had lost his curacy, and asked him up. I just left them alone and did not go near Margaret much. I knew they were made for each other. Do not let us talk of them, he continued, eagerly. Let us talk about the future. I will take a farm and turn farmer. I dare say my uncle will not give me anything when he dies because I have left his office. He will call me a neer-do-weel, and say I would squander it. But you and I we will get married, will we not? We will be very happy, he went on, pleadingly. You will still have your charities, and I shall be busy with my farm. We will surround ourselves with a wall. The world will be on the outside, and on the inside we and our peaceful lives.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7