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‘Clara is no use, you know that. The boys will simply run wild; no one will check them if you go.” “They do that already, pretty well; you have little authority, I have less, and John knows and cares nothing about them.” ‘Oh, John' You can’t count on him.” Up to that point the writer had only been conscious of the conversation to wish, as he often had occasion to before, that the conversers would be quick and go. But at the mention of his own name he suddenly knew what they were talking about. “He ought to count,” Katie was saying; “he ought to care. If he did his duty he would be a real head of the house, not a dreamer shut up with his own fancies.’ ‘My dear, he works all day for the family; writing is his hobby. He may just as well do that as play football or cricket or anything else. You don't understand men, Katie ; they are not like women, they must have some relaxation, and John's has at least the merit of cheapness.” ‘Oh, stuff!” Katie said impatiently. “I suppose he will think it our fault if the boys go to the devil. Oh, it is strong language, I dare say, but none too strong ' Who is going to manage them : I can't control them ; Clara only nags; and John, who might do something, shuts himself up when he is at home, or if he ever does come out he is so preoccupied and disagreeable he had better have stayed where he was.” Katie went out of the room as she delivered this judgment, and Sybil, after shutting a drawer and setting a chair straight, followed, leaving John to silence and such thoughts as made silence useless. He sat, the ink dry on his pen, the last word unfinished on his paper, staring straight before him and seeing there a vision of himself as others saw him. It hurt, hurt terribly ; and Sybil's calm relegation of his writing to the sphere of recreations, pastimes, and hobbies not less than Katie's more sweeping condemnation of himself. At first surprise and pain were stronger than anything else, then anger and injury and a feeling of misjudgment. But soon the well-developed conscience began to assert itself, the old plaguing questions and doubts came back. What if the sisters were right after all ? Were they right? He put the dry pen down and deliberately examined things; he recalled a hundred trivial trying incidents, his daily life in its daily detail; and everywhere and on every hand the hard judgment began to show just. He rose and began to pace the room; everything was wrong, he was wrong, life was absolutely and hopelessly wrong. But could he set it right 2 Could anyone He walked and walked, struggling with the hopeless tangle; then all at once, with an unconscious gesture as if he pushed it from him, he sat down again. He could do nothing immediately, there was nothing to be done at present; he must observe first, set a watch on himself and the others, and make quite, quite sure that a remedy was needed, and that, as Katie said, the remedy was really within his power. Acting on this determination, in the days that followed he made careful observations of himself and the others, and so came to learn one or two things. The first was that he was completely outside the real life of the family; no one told him anything, no one asked him anything. No one expected him to sympathise with joys or troubles or share work or play. The second was that he was irritable if interrupted at work: if disturbed by a pillow fight in the next room when writing in the early morning, inclined to went his feelings with unnecessary severity on the offenders; if called out to settle a dispute, more ready to stop it peremptorily than inquire into justice or the claim of either party. And the third discovery was that the five young brothers were badly behaved, badly trained, badly brought up, unchecked by their nother and beyond their sisters' control, going from bad to worse. There were other things he discovered, but they all tended the *ine way. Clearly he stood convicted ; clearly it was set before him that a remedy was indeed needed. It did not lie within the sisters' powers, or within anyone else's; it might or *ght not lie within his, but duty shouted aloud that he should at least try. Ay, but it was hard | There was but one thing for him to 9-let the writing go. He could not work and write and keep *mper and his sympathies too; he could not attend to his *ss and his unreal world and his brothers' morals; he could ot do his duty to his family and indulge his craving for ink as well. o: could not, in fact, have the cabbage garden under the ash . i. if it went it must be altogether, root and branch, every who h serely to leave off writing would not be enough for one * it in the blood as he had ; he must leave off thinking , aim b . dreaming of it, hoping for it. He must set some other eli . * himself, have some other standard and ideal; he must o block out any future dream concerning it, and even **XV-No. 149, N.s. 41

cut off the past, destroying, for fear of his own weakness, anything that spoke of it, that told what had been and so whispered what might be. He was no hero, and it was not at once that he came to this: it took a little time even genuinely to realise the need; but, being a simply honest sort of person, he reached that point comparatively soon. But the next was not easy; it was not easy to follow out the only possible course—it was bitterly, bitterly hard, for he loved the dream-people to whom he was called upon to say good-bye as he loved few real people; and the work, in spite of failure and weariness, was the one joy of a somewhat barren life. So he struggled and struggled, but in the end duty won; and, rightly or wrongly, necessarily or unnecessarily—and there may be some who say he sould have done his duty without this trouble—he gave himself the command that the ash tree must come down. The decision made, there was a sacrifice by fire. He chose an evening when the house was comparatively quiet and most of the family out. The one servant was out too, and the large kitchen— the best room in the old house—was empty. Down to the kitchen he carried his papers, his manuscripts, the Press notices of his first book, his own copy of it, even his blank paper, and there on the hearth he burned them. Close he stood, feeding the flames, stirring them when they sunk down, watching them flicker and blaze. Brightly they leapt, as hopes had leapt once; warmly glowing as fancy glowed then, building in their red hearts ephemeral faces, cities, palaces, as the words that were vanishing had built them once for the reader and the writer, the weaver of tales who would weave no more. And the fire shone ruddy on the red brick floor and the eight-day clock ticked solemn and loud, and the crickets cheeped cheerily under the old hearthstones, and the vanishing words, the vanishing life, mattered to no one at all The flames died down, for the last time they sank, the red ashes grew black, crumbled, fell. He stirred them for the last time; they did not glow again, there was no scrap of either red or white left, all was black; all was dust now, all dead. For a moment be stood looking, then he turned abruptly away, and, stumbling to a chair, stretched his arms upon the table and hid his face in thenThere was a black cat sitting before the fire; for a little it sat looking wisely at the charred papers; then it rose and, stretching. jumped on the table. Softly it rubbed itself against the extended arms, insinuatingly forced its nose under the bowed head. Doubtless it understood nothing, yet to utter loneliness the soft movement felt like sympathy. John moved a caressing hand, then raised his head. For a little he and the creature communed in silence, looking into each other's eyes, safe from incautious comment or too curious kind inquiry, seeing little but the afterglow of sunset. There were two old fruit trees at the back, all that was left of the beautiful garden that once surrounded the house. They stood clear, the villas behind sloped away so that the upper branches were outlined against the sky. They were in blossom now, delicate colours sharp against the sky, where the pure pale after-light still lingered. Some blackbird that mistook the two trees for country was singing a last good-night. John heard it, and, looking round, saw the trees and the rosy twilight, and for a moment his eyes grew dim. At least this was left him. It still was a world of sunsets, even in the city; of fruit blooms, of autumn glows, even in crowded streets; and sweet wild promises of springtime for old men and for young. This still was left, and not himself or another could take it from him. Thank God for that I

The sacrifice was made, but that was the beginning rather than the end of the difficulty. John found his next steps almost as hard as his last, for, though they were smaller matters, they depended on other people. To begin with, the family, not knowing about the sacrifice, mistook his intentions and rather resented his efforts; there were some of them who undoubtedly would rather have him out of the way writing. Then, too, he was shy and awkward; he found it difficult to make overtures, and more difficult still to re-make them when he was rebuffed. It cannot be said that he received much encouragement. Sybil was busy getting her trousseau; she probably never even realised that he was any different or trying to do any differently ; for so soon as the trousseau was ready she was married, and sailed for the Cape, amidst the lamentations of her mother. Katie, too, was busy at that time studying geology, perhaps with a view to the Professor, for before long her engagement to him was announced, also amidst the lamentations of her mother, who thought she might have done better. She was married in the following autumn, and went to New Zealand for a protracted and geological honeymoon. Clara, it is true, seemed at first inclined to appreciate John's overtures; but finding they did not bring her much in the way of gaiety, she soon grew tired of him and snubbed him back to his original position. With Mrs. Feversham John was not much more successful, partly because they mutually misunderstood one another and partly because he so often overlooked small things, and at first at all events could not realise that they made the sum total of the important in life to her. There remained, however, the five boys, and John comforted himself, whatever else befell, he could do his duty to them. They did not want him any more than the others, and he knew even less how to approach them or how to begin his self-appointed task; in despair he just seized on the first definite thing that occurred to him and did that. He took them to church ; they did not want to go, but he had a vague idea it might do them good. And fit did nothing else it insured that for an hour and a half each week they were quiet and considered things and conformed to someone's notion of decent behaviour. After the first few weeks he began to notice their outside appearance, and took it upon himself to see they were clean and tidy when they did go to church; which also they did not care about. He spent his evenings superintending their lessons—Katie was too busy now to do it; he recalled his forgotten Latin, and on his journeys to and from town relearnt Euclid so as to help those who had stuck in the first book. He began to give attention to their grievances too : studied the matteo under dispute and quelled the riots which occasionally occurred after interrogation and with a strict attention to justice. Later he did his best to moderate their language and otherwise super intend their moral welfare, even to the extent of calling in the old-fashioned remedy of the birch, which, to their credit it must be said, they thought quite fair and accepted in a sportsmanlike spirit when they could not honestly evade it in the same. B; November, when Katie was married, he had begun to have * certain amount of control; even he, disheartened by many do appointments, could see that. But it seemed to him he wo nothing but a necessary evil to his brothers; at first he found" very hard to be anything else, for he found it very difficult to ento nto their playtime. But by slow degrees he managed even that: his life was so desperately empty he craved for something to f it, and his interest in them, their schoolfellows, and any trio they would tell him was so genuine as, after a time, to attra" confidence. Besides, he soon found there were definite things he could do even here : on rare half-holidays he could take them to the pit at a pantomime or a circus, Oh! the excitement of

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