On Sunday Clifford wanted to go into the wood. It was a lovely morning, the pear-blossom and plum had suddenly appeared in the world in a wonder of white here and there.
It was cruel for Clifford, while the world bloomed, to have to be helped from chair to bath-chair. But he had forgotten, and even seemed to have a certain conceit of himself in his lameness. Connie still suffered, having to lift his inert legs into place. Mrs Bolton did it now, or Field.
She waited for him at the top of the drive, at the edge of the screen of beeches. His chair came puffing along with a sort of valetudinarian slow importance. As he joined his wife he said:
`Sir Clifford on his roaming steed!'
`Snorting, at least!' she laughed.
He stopped and looked round at the facade of the long, low old brown house.
`Wragby doesn't wink an eyelid!' he said. `But then why should it! I ride upon the achievements of the mind of man, and that beats a horse.'
`I suppose it does. And the souls in Plato riding up to heaven in a two-horse chariot would go in a Ford car now,' she said.
`Or a Rolls-Royce: Plato was an aristocrat!'
`Quite! No more black horse to thrash and maltreat. Plato never thought we'd go one better than his black steed and his white steed, and have no steeds at all, only an engine!'
`Only an engine and gas!' said Clifford.
`I hope I can have some repairs done to the old place next year. I think I shall have about a thousand to spare for that: but work costs so much!' he added.
`Oh, good!' said Connie. `If only there aren't more strikes!'
`What would be the use of their striking again! Merely ruin the industry, what's left of it: and surely the owls are beginning to see it!'
`Perhaps they don't mind ruining the industry,' said Connie.
`Ah, don't talk like a woman! The industry fills their bellies, even if it can't keep their pockets quite so flush,' he said, using turns of speech that oddly had a twang of Mrs Bolton.
`But didn't you say the other day that you were a conservative-anarchist,' she asked innocently.
`And did you understand what I meant?' he retorted. `All I meant is, people can be what they like and feel what they like and do what they like, strictly privately, so long as they keep the form of life intact, and the apparatus.'
Connie walked on in silence a few paces. Then she said, obstinately:
`It sounds like saying an egg may go as addled as it likes, so long as it keeps its shell on whole. But addled eggs do break of themselves.'
`I don't think people are eggs,' he said. `Not even angels' eggs, my dear little evangelist.'
He was in rather high feather this bright morning. The larks were trilling away over the park, the distant pit in the hollow was fuming silent steam. It was almost like old days, before the war. Connie didn't
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|