HOLIDAY

Wilbraham came down to Royd for a week-end visit. It was all he could
spare from his arduous duties. He was thinner than he had been, but
seemed to have flourished under the severe course of work to which he
had submitted himself. He seemed harder and more self-reliant. Lady
Brent saw at the first glance that his old temptation had not troubled
him, or if it had troubled him that he had got the better of it.

Harry drove a dogcart to the station to meet him. The greeting was warm
between them. Wilbraham looked him up and down. “I can’t say they’ve
smartened you up,” he said, “because you didn’t want it. But they’ve
turned you into a soldier. I hope you haven’t forgotten all your
classics.”

Harry laughed, but made no reply. When they had driven out of the
little town and were on the long lonely country road, he said: “I wanted
to see you first. Of course you’ll be talking me over with Granny.
There are some things I don’t want said.”

“If you mean about Viola,” said Wilbraham after a pause. “I’ve kept my
own counsel—and yours—for nearly two years. I’ve never been quite sure
that I was right to do it. I believe it might have been better for you
if Lady Brent had known. But at any rate, I have kept silence, and it
isn’t my affair now. It’s yours. I quite recognize that.”

“Have you seen her?”

“Viola? Since you came home, you mean. You know that I saw her
occasionally before. Yes, I’ve seen her. Of course she wants you.
You’re going up next week, aren’t you? Have you arranged that here?”

“Not yet. I told mother that I should be going to London, but I haven’t
said when yet.”

“They won’t like it, I suppose. You won’t give them any reason for
going. They’ll think you just want to get away from here to amuse
yourself as other young men do who are home on leave.”

“I’m afraid they must think what they like. I hate all this secrecy—and
deception. I won’t deceive them more than I can help. They must let me
go my own way, and not ask questions. But it’s deception all the same.
Why did you let me in for it?”

“Let you in for it? _I_ let you in for it! What on earth do you mean,
Harry?”

“Not you chiefly. But you were in it. You kept me knowing nothing.
Supposing it hadn’t been Viola I fell in love with! Oh, I’ve learnt a
lot since you and I met last. I know what men are, and I’m not
different from others at bottom, though there’s miles between me and
them in some ways. It’s Viola I owe everything to—not Granny or mother
or you. I don’t know how I should have lived through it if it hadn’t
been for her. I should have lost everything that I was.” He spoke more
slowly. “Viola is everything in the world to me,” he said, “everything
in this world or the next. I want you to understand that. I loved her
before, but I love her a thousand times more, now that I know. All
this—Royd, and Granny and mother—everything that it all meant to me, is
nothing to me now, apart from her. Whatever there is that’s real in it—I
can’t explain it, but it’s as if she’d have to give it back to me before
I can make it anything again. If you can see that, then you may be able
to help a little. Viola is to come first in everything, but until it’s
all straightened out I want Granny—and mother—to be as little troubled
about me as possible. Make it look natural to them, my going to London;
don’t let them think that I’m tired of them, or of Royd. I’m not, only
it’s all very little to me beside Viola.”

“I think you’re unjust to us,” said Wilbraham. “Say we hadn’t prepared
you for what you’ve been through—what nobody could have foreseen.”

“Oh, it would have been just the same if I’d gone straight to
Sandhurst—perhaps worse—if I hadn’t known Viola.”

“Well, that’s where you’re unjust. It was only Viola—or somebody like
her—that you could have fallen in love with, as you did. We’d done that
for you.”

Harry thought this over. Wilbraham breathed more freely the longer his
silence lasted. He recognized with gratitude that old sense of fairness
and reasonableness which had never been absent in his dealings with
Harry. “It’s what you have to think of when you feel inclined to blame
your grandmother,” he said.

“I don’t think I’m inclined to blame her,” Harry answered to this. “I’m
very sorry for her. That’s why I want to let her down as easily as I
can. Afterwards everything will be right for her, and she’ll see—she’s
quite wise enough—that it was right that I should take my life into my
own hands. That’s what I’m going to do. I had to do it once before.”

“She accepted that, you know.”

“Yes, in a wonderful way, I think. And she’ll accept Viola. But not
now. I should have to ask her for Viola, and I’m not going to do that.
Besides, she’s got other ideas in her head for me.”

“Lady Sidney, I suppose you mean. From what your mother has written,
you seem to want her to think that her wishes are being carried out.”

“Sidney and I understand one another. She knows about Viola. I’m very
glad she’s here. I couldn’t have stayed here without her and little
Jane. I suppose the beastly world would say that I’m just amusing
myself with a pretty girl, as I can’t be with the girl I love. They
might even think there’s some danger in it. But the world doesn’t know
love as I know it.” He turned to Wilbraham with a smile. “What you
did, my friend, you and Granny between you, was to unfit me for the
society of men. After being with nobody but men for all this time, I’m
glad enough to have two girls as my friends before I go back to it. As
for Granny, she’s arranged all that for me, as she’s used to arrange
everything, and if she’s disappointed with the outcome of it, I’m afraid
it can’t be helped. It’s just that arranging that I have to make my
stand against, with as little bother about it as possible.”

“I’ve said already, and I’ll say it again, that you’re hard on Lady
Brent. I fully believe that if you were to tell her about
Viola—now—she’d accept it. Then all the secrecy you say you hate would
be over.”

“I think it’s quite possible that she might. I don’t think my mother
would. In any case, there’d be questions and difficulties. Viola would
be discussed and reckoned up in a way I can’t bear to think of. When
the time comes I shall bring Viola here and say: ’This is the girl I
love, and she loves me, though I’m not worth anything beside her.’ Then
there’ll be no questions and no difficulties, and Viola will take her
place here, and we shall be happy for the rest of our lives.”

“You mean that she’ll take Lady Brent’s place here, I suppose. It’s no
good blinking matters.”

Harry laughed at him. “You always were a persistent old thing,” he
said, “but I’m very glad to see you again. Tell me about Viola, and
what she said to you.”

Wilbraham found himself, somewhat to his surprise in spite of the
preparation he had had, in an atmosphere of serenity, and almost of
gaiety. There had been nothing like it in all the years he had lived at
Royd Castle. He told himself that unless he had known how it was with
Harry he would certainly have thought that the pleasure he obviously
took in Sidney’s society was leading to something else. The Grants were
there when he arrived. It was a little intimate friendly happy party of
which no single member seemed to have a care upon his or her shoulders.
Only Mrs. Brent seemed rather out of the stream. Wilbraham saw that he
would be invited on the first opportunity to listen to the tale of Mrs.
Brent’s dissatisfaction.

It was Grant, however, to whom he first talked alone, walking in the
garden. Grant could see nothing on the horizon but a prospective
marriage between Sir Harry Brent and Lady Sidney Pawle, which appeared
to him eminently as one that should give satisfaction to all parties
concerned.

“Of course they won’t want to be married yet awhile,” he said, “but
we’re expecting an engagement any day. I must say that it has all
turned out in a most extraordinarily satisfactory way. Supposing the
boy had done what his father did! He’d seen nobody here; he might very
well have got taken in by somebody who wouldn’t have been the right sort
of person for him to marry when he cut himself loose. And there was
just the chance of this one girl being here when he came home. One is
inclined to think of Lady Brent managing everything, but she didn’t
actually manage that. It just came about.”

Wilbraham listened to all this, his own thoughts running all the time.
Sidney and Jane and Harry were in another part of the garden, out of
sight, but not out of hearing. A burst of laughter punctuated the close
of the Vicar’s speech. “Wouldn’t they want to get away by themselves if
it’s as you think?” Wilbraham asked.

“Ah, my boy, you don’t recognize the march of the great passion,” said
Grant. “I’ve loved watching those three together, because it is all
going as I should have expected.”

“Copy in it,” suggested Wilbraham.

“Well, that’s your way of putting it. But of course one takes in
everything that passes before one’s eyes, and if it doesn’t come out
exactly like it, it’s——”

“Near enough to look like it. Well, I suppose you’ve made a study of
it, and all the old women who read your immortal works will shiver down
their spines and say, ’It was just like that with me.’ But I’d rather
take Jane’s opinion about it than yours.”

“Would you? Well, Jane’s having the time of her life. They’re awfully
nice to her. Of course they’re just in the state when it’s gratifying
to have somebody like Jane with them, who thinks there never was anybody
like either of them. They flatter each other through her.”

“Oh, that’s how it’s going to be worked out, is it? The old women will
love that. It’s a new touch, and they’ll wish they’d thought of it for
themselves, in time. Did Jane tell you it was like that, or was it your
own mighty brain?”

“You’re jealous of my success, Wilbraham. But I don’t mind your jibes.
I don’t write for the highbrows like you, and I do touch the hearts of
thousands. Jane talks to her mother. I shouldn’t expect her to talk to
me about it.”

“Well, what does Mrs. Grant say? She’s got some sense.”

“She keeps rather quiet about it. I think she’s just thankful that
Harry has somebody to keep him bright and cheerful while he’s at home.
You made a mistake, you know, before, in not letting him have young
people to play with.”

“He had your two.”

“As it happened, yes. But they were only children. Jane is older now,
but not old enough, fortunately, to have the danger of complications.
Apart altogether from the question of a love affair with Lady Sidney, I
believe it’s the best thing that could happen for him to have those two
with him while he’s here. It’s an awful welter of blood and horror out
there, you know, Wilbraham. None of the young fellows who come home talk
much about it, but it doesn’t need much imagination to see what a
healing process it is for anybody like Harry to spend a few weeks with
people like those two girls as his chief companions, in a quiet lovely
place like this.”

“Now you’re talking sense yourself for a change. Here’s Mrs. Brent
coming. Don’t leave me alone with her. It’s an awful welter of red
tape and incompetence where I’ve just come from, but I don’t want her as
a healing process till I feel a little stronger.”

But the Grants had to be going very shortly, and Mrs. Brent was not to
be denied.

Her first address to Wilbraham, however, was not on the subject of her
grievances. “Oh, I forgot to tell you when I wrote,” she said. “You
know that artist—Bastian—who came down here two summers ago?”

“Yes,” said Wilbraham, with his heart in his mouth.

“Well, I’ve found out that he married a great friend of mine—oh, years
ago, but I hadn’t forgotten her. She died, poor girl, but of course the
daughter who was with Mr. Bastian here was hers. I wish I’d known. I’d
have gone to see them.”

“You wouldn’t have wanted to bring that time up, would you?” said
Wilbraham, scarcely knowing what to say.

She was all bristles at once. “I think I was very badly treated about
all that,” she said. “I’d nothing whatever to be ashamed of in what I
came from, and all the time it was made to look as if I had. I half
believed it myself, but now I know better. Every one of my family is
doing well. They’re not in the position I’m in, of course, but there’s
no need to be ashamed of any of them. In fact, I’ve made up my mind to
introduce Harry to his relations on my side of the family. I’m going to
ask him to take me up to London before he goes back. Then he’ll see for
himself.”

“Do you think you’re wise?” said Wilbraham, relieved at having got away
from the subject of the Bastians.

“What do you mean?” she asked. “What’s the objection?”

“Well, you say they’re not equal to you. They may be very good sort of
people; I dare say they are; but what’s the sense of dragging them in at
this time of the day—after twenty years—to mark the difference?”

“What difference?”

“Well, the difference between them and Lady Brent.”

“Lady Brent! How can you talk like that? It’s just that I’m so mad
with Lady Brent that I——”

“I know it is. All you can think of is to score off her. You’re not
thinking of Harry; you’re not even thinking of yourself. What are you
going to get, out of going back on everything you’ve stood for for the
last twenty years? Harry thinks of you as belonging to Royd, in the
same sort of way as Lady Brent does. Why should he have ever thought of
you as anything different? Now you’re proposing to show him the
difference. You say yourself they _are_ different. You’re going to
show him the difference between Lady Brent and them. Which is likely to
come out of it best? I don’t know; I’m asking you.”

“Oh, you’re just trying to aggravate me,” she said. “You always were
like that. I don’t know why I talk to you at all.”

“Well, if you’ve finished, I think I’ll go in. I want a peaceful time
as long as I’m here. You’re the only person who doesn’t seem to be
comfortable and happy. I’d rather be with those of them who are.”

“I’m not at all happy. I’m just miserable. Harry doesn’t love me any
more, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

They had come to the bowling alley where Wilbraham had thought out his
difficulties two summers before. She sank down on to the seat and cried.

Wilbraham felt very sorry for her, but determined to prevent her from
making mischief if he could. “Look here,” he said, “I don’t think it
really much matters whether you introduce Harry to your people or not.
He’s grown up now, and all that idea of keeping things from him is over.
Do what you like about it. Lady Brent won’t try to stop you; I’m pretty
certain of that. She has given up trying to direct his life. Why can’t
you?”

Her sobs increased. “I’m his mother,” she said. “I’ve had so little of
him. I can’t give him up now.”




“You had him during the whole of his childhood, more than most mothers
have their sons. Lady Brent may have been a bit jealous of you; I dare
say she was; she’s got her weaknesses like all the rest of us. But she
didn’t try to get him away from you. I was here most of the time, and I
could see that plainly enough. You know it too. You’ll be much happier
about things if you try to be fair to her, as she’s tried to be fair to
you.”

“Oh, of course it’s her you’re thinking of all the time. I don’t come in
at all.”

“Yes, you do come in. I’m trying to help you to get things straight.
The fact is your nose has been put out of joint by this girl who’s here.
It isn’t Lady Brent at all, though you heap it all back on her. You
can’t expect a boy of Harry’s age to go about tied to his mother’s apron
strings, when there’s somebody young for him to play with. You like the
girl all right, don’t you?”

She had dried her eyes and sat leaning forward in an attitude of
picturesque misery. “It doesn’t seem to matter whether I like her or
not,” she said. “Harry won’t talk to me about her. If he told me he
was in love with her I should do my best to sympathize with him. I want
to be everything to my son.”

“Of course you do; and of course you can’t be. If he hasn’t told you
he’s in love with her, it’s because he isn’t. For goodness’ sake let
him be happy while he’s here, and in his own way. He’ll be going back
soon enough, and you won’t want him to think of his holiday spoiled by
your complaints. You’re selfish, you know. It’s yourself you’re
thinking of all the time, not him. You used not to be like that.”

“Oh, well,” she said, rising, “I suppose I must put up with it. It’s
the common lot of mothers. I shan’t talk about it any more, to you or
anybody.”

“That’s right,” said Wilbraham, as they strolled towards the house.
“And don’t make complaints to Harry, either. It’s not the way to get
what you want from him. Of course you know that really, as well as I
do. Only it’s difficult, isn’t it?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. With the end of her emotion she seemed to
have entered a mood almost of indifference. “If I’ve stood what I have
all these years, and kept myself under as I have, I suppose I can go on
doing it. It’s coming down here that has upset me. I’ve been happy
enough in London. Of course I’ve wanted to hear about Harry, but he’s
promised me now that he’ll write to me regularly. I shall be better
off, in a way, than I’ve ever been. I’m _somebody_ there, you see.
Here I’m nobody. I shan’t stay here a moment longer than Harry does. I
hate the place now. Why have you never been to see me in London?”

“I don’t know that you’ve ever asked me. Where do you live?”

She told him. She was sharing a flat with an old friend, a woman who
had been on the stage with her, had had an unhappy married life, but had
got on in her profession.

“Margaret Creedy?” said Wilbraham. “I’ve seen her act. She’s very
good.”

“Yes, you wouldn’t have thought she began in the chorus, would you? She
never had much voice, which was perhaps just as well for her, or she’d
have been in musical comedy still. She doesn’t like it remembered, and
of course I don’t want it known either; but we often talk over old
times. It was from her, by the by, that I heard about Mrs. Bastian.
She married a gentleman, like I did; but he’d come down in the world.
Bastian isn’t his real name, you know.”.

“What is his real name?”

“I don’t know. I meant to find out about him, and go and see what the
girl is like. You never told me much about her, but if she’s like her
mother she ought to be very pretty.”

“She is very pretty, but——”

“Oh, you mean I ought not to let them know who I was, as they’ve been
here. Perhaps I shan’t. I don’t want to give _her_ any handles against
me.”

“By _her_ I suppose you mean Lady Brent. Everything comes back to her.
You’ll think better of all that some day. I wish you’d think better of
it now. Royd would be a less prickly house to live in.”

“Oh, I shall behave myself, never you fear,” she said as she left him.

He thought it probable that she would. He had made an impression on
her, though she was not of the sort that would acknowledge it. She was
evidently making her own life, and even if she had dropped all pretence
of war work, for which she had gone to London, it was not a life that
would let the name of Brent down, as he had rather feared. Margaret
Creedy was an actress of some distinction, and would be very careful not
to jeopardize the social position she had won for herself. And Mrs.
Brent, for all her independent talk, was guided by a sense of her own
importance in the world. Probably the joint establishment was as rigidly
respectable as any in London.

As for possible complications with the Bastians, Wilbraham could do
nothing. If the revelation came in that way, it must come, and for
himself he didn’t care when it came. He was tired of all the secrecy,
and thought too that Harry was wrong in keeping his secret; or, at any
rate, right or wrong in being unwilling to disclose it himself, that it
would be better for him if it were known.

He was inclined to dread the talk that he saw coming with Lady Brent.
He badly wanted a recreative rest himself, and hated the idea of
exercising his brain in steering clear of admissions to her, hated also
the idea of deceiving her by doing so, when all the time he was in
sympathy with her in her doubts and disappointments. What was done was
done. Harry was what he was, and if she had made any mistake in his
upbringing, which he did not admit, it would do no good now to dwell on
it with regret. Harry was working it all out for himself, and as far as
Wilbraham could see, was not making such a bad job of it. He would tell
her that, when she began to discuss him, and cut the conversation as
short as he conveniently could. Then he would be free to enjoy himself,
in the company of the people he liked best in the world, and in the
place which seemed to him, coming back to it, a haven of peace and
beauty.

But apparently that was all that Lady Brent wanted of him. She told him
that Harry seemed much more his old self now that he had been home a
week or more, and that she was glad that there was young companionship
for him, and beyond that she did not discuss him at all.

So Wilbraham enjoyed his two days at Royd, and went back to his work
greatly refreshed, and with most of his doubts about Harry set at rest.
He might be longing for Viola all the time, as he had said he was, but
he managed to hide it effectually and seemed to be enjoying his holiday
as much as anybody.