`Do you?' she said, seating herself in her blue knitted dress, on a stump by the path.
`I do! this is the old England, the heart of it; and I intend to keep it intact.'
`Oh yes!' said Connie. But, as she said it she heard the eleven-o'clock hooters at Stacks Gate colliery. Clifford was too used to the sound to notice.
`I want this wood perfect...untouched. I want nobody to trespass in it,' said Clifford.
There was a certain pathos. The wood still had some of the mystery of wild, old England; but Sir Geoffrey's cuttings during the war had given it a blow. How still the trees were, with their crinkly, innumerable twigs against the sky, and their grey, obstinate trunks rising from the brown bracken! How safely the birds flitted among them! And once there had been deer, and archers, and monks padding along on asses. The place remembered, still remembered.
Clifford sat in the pale sun, with the light on his smooth, rather blond hair, his reddish full face inscrutable.
`I mind more, not having a son, when I come here, than any other time,' he said.
`But the wood is older than your family,' said Connie gently.
`Quite!' said Clifford. `But we've preserved it. Except for us it would go...it would be gone already, like the rest of the forest. One must preserve some of the old England!'
`Must one?' said Connie. `If it has to be preserved, and preserved against the new England? It's sad, I know.'
`If some of the old England isn't preserved, there'll be no England at all,' said Clifford. `And we who have this kind of property, and the feeling for it, must preserve it.'
There was a sad pause. `Yes, for a little while,' said Connie.
`For a little while! It's all we can do. We can only do our bit. I feel every man of my family has done his bit here, since we've had the place. One may go against convention, but one must keep up tradition.' Again there was a pause.
`What tradition?' asked Connie.
`The tradition of England! of this!'
`Yes,' she said slowly.
`That's why having a son helps; one is only a link in a chain,' he said.
Connie was not keen on chains, but she said nothing. She was thinking of the curious impersonality of his desire for a son.
`I'm sorry we can't have a son,' she said.
He looked at her steadily, with his full, pale-blue eyes.
`It would almost be a good thing if you had a child by another man, he said. `If we brought it up at Wragby, it would belong to us and to the place. I don't believe very intensely in fatherhood. If we had the child to rear, it would be our own, and it would carry on. Don't you think it's worth considering?'
Connie looked up at him at last. The child, her child, was just an `it' to him. It...it...it!
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