CONWAY (SIR RICHARD CONWAY) WOKE EARLY, and went to the window to have a look at the Trevor Donaldsons’ garden. Too green. A flight of mossy steps led up from the drive to a turfed amphitheatre. This contained a number of trees of the lead-pencil persuasion, and a number of flowerbeds, profuse with herbaceous promises which would certainly not be fulfilled that weekend. The summer was heavy-leaved and at a moment between flowerings, and the gardener, though evidently expensive, had been caught bending. Bounding the amphitheatre was a high yew hedge, an imposing background had there been any foreground, and behind the hedge a heavy wood shut the sky out. OF course what was wanted was colour. Delphinium, salvia, red-hot-poker, zinnias, tobacco-plant, anything. Leaning out of the baronial casement, Conway considered this, while he waited for his tea. He was not an artist, nor a philosopher, but he liked exercising his mind when he had nothing else to do, as on this Sunday morning, this country morning, with so much ahead to be eaten, and so little to be said.
The visit, like the view, threatened monotony. Dinner had been dull. His own spruce gray head, gleaming in the mirrors, really seemed the brightest object about. Trevor Donaldson’s head was mangy, Mrs Donaldson’s combed up into bastions of iron. He did not get unduly fussed at the prospect of boredom. He was a man of experience with plenty of resources and plenty of armour, and he was a decent human being too. The Donaldsons were his inferiors—they had not travelled or read or gone in for sport or love, they were merely his business allies, linked to him by a common interest in aluminium. Still, he must try to make things nice, since they had been so good as to invite him down.
“But it’s not so easy to make things nice for us business people,” he reflected, as he listened to the chonk of a blackbird, the clink of a milk-can, and the distant self-communings of an electric pump.” We’re not stupid or uncultivated, we can use our minds when required, we can go to concerts when we’re not too tired, we’ve invested—even Trevor Donaldson has—in the sense of humour. But I’m afraid we don’t get much pleasure out of it all. No. Pleasure’s been left out of our packet.” Business occupied him increasingly since his wife’s death. He brought an active mind to bear on it, and was quickly becoming rich.
He looked into the dull costly garden. It improved. A man had come into it from the back of the yew hedge. He had on a canary-coloured shirt, and the effect was exactly right. The whole scene blazed. That was what the place wanted—not a flowerbed, but a man, who advanced with a confident tread down the amphitheatre, and as he came nearer Conway saw that besides being proper to the colour scheme he was a very proper youth. His shoulders were broad, his face sensuous and open, his eyes, screwed up against the light, promised good temper. One arm shot out at an angle, the other supported a milk can. “Good morning, nice morning,” he called and he sounded happy.
“Good morning, nice morning,” he called back. The man continued at a steady pace, turned left, and disappeared in the direction of the servants’ entrance, where an outburst of laughter welcomed him.
Conway hoped he might return by the same route, and waited. “That is a nice-looking fellow, I do like the way he holds himself, and probably no nonsense about him,” he thought. But the vision had departed, the sunlight stopped, the garden turned stodgy and green again, and the maid came in with his tea. She said, “I’m sorry to be late, we were waiting for the milk, sir.” The man had not called him sir, and the omission flattered him. “Good morning, sir” would have been the more natural salutation to an elderly stranger, a wealthy customer’s guest. But the vigorous voice had shouted “Good morning, nice morning,” as if they were equals.
Where had he gone off to now, he and his voice? To finish his round, welcome at house after house, and then for a bathe perhaps, his shirt golden on the grass beside him. Ruddy brown to the waist he would show now. . . . What was his name? Was he a local? Sir Richard put these questions to himself as he dressed, but no vehemently. He was not a sentimentalist, there was no danger of him being shattered for the day. He would have liked to meet the vision again, and spend the whole of a Sunday with it, giving it a slap-up lunch at the hotel, hiring a car, which they would drive alternately, treating it to the pictures in the neighbouring town, and returning with it, after one drink too much, through dusky lanes. But that was sheer nonsense, even if the vision had been agreeable to the programme. He was staying with the Trevor Donaldsons; and he must not repay their hospitality by moping. Dressed in cheerful gray, he ran downstairs to the breakfast-room. Mrs Donaldson was already there, and she asked him how his daughters were getting on at their school.
Then his host followed, rubbing his hands together, and saying “Aha, aha!” and when they had eaten they went into the other garden, the one which sloped towards the water, and started talking business. They had not intended to do this, but there was also of their company a Mr Clifford Clarke, and when Trevor Donaldson, Clifford Clarke and Richard Conway got together it was impossible that aluminium should escape. Their voices deepened, their heads nodded or shook as they recalled vast sums that had been lost through unsound investments or misapplied advice. Conway found himself the most intelligent of the three, the quickest at taking a point, the strongest at following an argument. The moments passed, the blackbird chonk-chonked unheeded, unnoticed was the failure of the gardener to produce anything but tightly furled geraniums, unnoticed the ladies on the lawn, who wanted to get some golf. At last the hostess called, “Trevor! Is this a holiday or isn’t it?” and they stopped, feeling rather ashamed. The cars came round, and soon they were five miles away, on the course, taking their turn in a queue of fellow merrymakers. Conway was good at golf, and got what excitement he could from it, but as soon as the ball flew off he was aware of a slight sinking feeling. This occupied them till lunch. After coffee they walked down to the water, and played with the dogs—Mrs Donaldson bred Sealyhams. Several neighbours came to tea, and now the animation rested with Donaldson, for he fancied himself as a country magnate, and wanted to show how well he was settling into the part. There was a good deal of talk about local conditions, women’s institutes, education through discipline, and poaching. Conway found all this quite nonsensical and unreal. People who are not feudal should not play at feudalism, and all magistrates (this he said aloud) ought to be trained and ought to be paid. Since he was well-bred, he said it in a form which did not give offence. Thus the day wore away, and they filed in the interval before dinner by driving to see a ruined monastery. What on earth had they got to do with a monastery? Nothing at all. Nothing at all. He caught sight of Clifford Clarke looking mournfully at a rose-window, and he got the feeling that they were all of them looking for something which was not there, that there was an empty chair at the table, a card missing from the bridge-pack, a ball lost in the gorse, a stitch dropped in the shirt; that the chief guest had not come. On their way out they passed through the village, on their way back past a cinema, which was giving a Wild West stunt. They returned through darkling lanes. They did not say, “Thank you! What a delightful day!” That would be saved up for tomorrow’s departure. Every word would be needed then. “I have enjoyed myself, I have, absolutely marvelous!” the women would chant, and the men would grunt, as if moved beyond words, and the host and hostess would cry, “Oh but come again, then, come again.” Into the void the little unmemorable visit would fall, like a leaf it would fall upon similar leaves, but Conway wondered whether it hadn’t been, so to speak, specially negative, out of the way unflowering, whether a champion, one bare arm at an angle, hadn’t carried away to the servants’ quarters some refreshment which was badly needed in the smoking-room.
“Well, perhaps we shall see, we may yet find out,” he thought, as he went up to bed, carrying with him his raincoat.
For he was not one to give in and grumble. He believed in pleasure; he had a free mind and an active body, and he knew that pleasure cannot be won without courage and coolness. The Donaldsons were all very well, but they were not the whole of his life. His daughter were all very well, but the same held good of them. The female sex was all very well and eh was addicted to it, but permitted himself an occasional deviation. He set his alarm watch for an hour slightly earlier than the hour at which he had woken in the morning, and he put it under his pillow, and he fell asleep looking quite young.
Seven o’clock tinkled. He glanced into the passage, then put on his raincoat and thick slippers, and went to the window.
It was a silent sunless morning, and seemed earlier than it actually was. The green of the garden and of the trees was filmed with gray, as if it wanted wiping. Presently the electric pump started. He looked at his watch again, slipped down the stairs, out of the house, across the amphitheatre and through the yew hedge. He did not run in case he was seen and had to explain. He moved at the maximum pace possible for a gentleman, known to be an original, who fancies an early stroll in his pyjamas. “I thought I’d have a look at your formal garden, there wouldn’t have been time after breakfast” would have been the line. He had of course looked at it the day before, also at the wood. The wood lay before him now, and the sun was just tipping into it. There were two paths through the bracken, a broad and a narrow. He waited until he heard the milk-can approaching down the narrow path. Then he moved quickly, and they met, well out of sight of the Donaldsonian demesne.
“Hullo!” he called in his easy out-of-doors voice; he had several voices, and knew by instinct which was wanted.
“Hullo! Somebody’s out early!”
“You’re early yourself.”
“Me? Whor’d the milk be if I worn’t?” the milkman grinned, throwing his head back and coming to a standstill. Seen at close quarters he as coarse, very much of the people and of the thick-fingered earth; a hundred years ago his type was trodden into the mud, now it burst and flowered didn’t care a damn.
“You’re the morning delivery, eh?”
“Looks like it.” He evidently proposed to be facetious—the clumsy fun which can be so delightful when it falls from the proper lips. “O’m not the evening delivery anyway, and I’m not the butcher nor the grocer, nor’m I the coals.”
“Live around here?”
“Maybe. Maybe I don’t. Maybe I flop about in them planes.”
“You live around here, I bet.”
“What if I do?”
“If you do you do. And if I don’t I don’t.”
“This fatuous retort was a success, and was greeted with doubled-up laughter. “If you don’t you don’t! Ho, you’re a funny one! There’s a thing to say! If you don’t you don’t! Walking about in yer night things, too, you’re ketch a cold you will, that’ll be the end of you! Stopping back in the ‘otel, I suppose?”
“No. Donaldson’s. You saw me there yesterday.”
“Oh, Donaldson’s, that’s it. You was the old granfa’ at the upstairs window.”
“Old granfa’ indeed. . . . I’ll granfa’ you,” and he tweaked at the impudent nose. It dodged, it seemed used to this sort of thing. There was probably nothing the lad wouldn’t consent to if properly handled, partly out of mischief, partly to oblige. “Oh, by the way. . . .” and he felt the shirt as if interested in the quality of its material. “What was I going to say?” and he gave the zip at the throat a downward pull. Much slid into view. “Oh, I know—when’s this round of yours over?”
“’Bout eleven. Why?”
“’Bout eleven at night. Ha ha. Got yer there. Eleven at night. What you want to arst all them questions for? We’re strangers, aren’t we?”
“How old are you?”
“Ninety, same as yourself.”
“What’s your address?”
“There you go on! Hi! I like that. Arstin questions after I tell you No.”
“Got a girl? Ever heard of a pint? Ever heard of two?”
“Go on. Get out.” But he suffered his forearm to be worked between massaging fingers, and he set down his milk-can. He was amused. He was charmed. He was hooked, and a touch would land him.
“You look like a boy who looks all right,” the elder man breathed.
“Oh, stop it. . . . All right, I’ll go with you.”
Conway was entranced. Thus, exactly thus, should the smaller pleasures of life be approached. They understood one another with a precision impossible for lovers. He laid his face on the warm skin over the clavicle, hands nudged him behind, and presently the sensation for which he had planned so cleverly was over. It was part of the past. It had fallen like a flower upon similar flowers.
He heard “You all right?” It was over there too, part of a different past. They were lying deeper in the wood, where the fern was highest. He did not reply, for it was pleasant to lie stretched thus and to gaze up through bracken fronds at the distant treetops and the pale blue sky, and feel the exquisite pleasure fade.
“That was what you wanted, wasn’t it?” Propped on his elbows the young man looked down anxiously. All his roughness and pertness had gone, and he only wanted to know whether he had been a success.
“Yes. . . . Lovely.”
“Lovely? You say lovely?” he beamed, prodding gently with his stomach.
“Nice boy, nice shirt, nice everything.”
“That a fact?”
Conway guessed that he was vain, the better sort often are, and laid on the flattery thick to please him, praised his comeliness, his thrusting thrashing strength; there was plenty to praise. He liked to do this and to see the broad face grinning and feel the heavy body on him. There was no cynicism in the flattery, he was genuinely admiring and gratified.
“So you enjoyed that?”
“Pity you didn’t tell me yesterday.”
“I didn’t know how to.”
“I’d a met you down where I have my swim. You could ‘elped me strip, you’d like that. Still, we mustn’t grumble.” He gave Conway a hand and pulled him up, and brushed and tidied the raincoat like an old friend. “We could get seven years for his, couldn’t we?”
“Not seven years, still we’d get something nasty. Madness, isn’t it? What can it matter to anyone else if you and I don’t mind?”
“Oh, I suppose they’ve to occupy themselves with something or other,” and he took up the milk-can to go on.
“Half a minute, boy—do take this and get yourself some trifle with it.” He produced a note which he had brought on the chance.
“I didn’t do it fer that.”
“I know you didn’t.”
“Naow, we was each as bad as the other. . . . Naow . . . keep your money.”
“I’d be pleased if you would take it. I expect I’m better off than you and it might come in useful. To take out your girl, say, or towards your next new suit. However, please yourself, of course.”
“Can you honestly afford it?”
“Well, I’ll find a way to spend it, no doubt. People don’t always behave as nice as you, you know.”
Conway could have returned the compliment. The affair had been trivial and crude, and yet they both had behaved perfectly. They would never meet again, and they did not exchange names. After a hearty handshake, the young man swung away down the path, the sunlight and shadow rushing over his back. He did not turn round, but his arm, jerking sideways to balance him, waved an acceptable farewell. The green flowed over his brightness, the path bent, he disappeared. Back he went to his own life, and through the quiest of the morning his laugh could be heard as he whooped at the maids.
Conway waited for a few moments, as arranged, and then he went back too. His luck held. He met no one, either in the amphitheatre garden or on the stairs, and after had had been in his room for a minute the maid arrived with his early tea. “I’m sorry the milk was late again, sir,” she said. He enjoyed it, bathed and shaved and dressed himself for town. It was the figure of a superior city-man which was reflected in the mirror as he tripped downstairs. The car came round after breakfast to take him to the station, and he was completely sincere when he told the Trevor Donaldsons that he had had an out-of-the-way pleasant weekend. They believed him, and their faces grew brighter. “Come again then, come by all means again,” they cried as he slid off. In the train he read the papers rather less than usual and smiled to himself rather more. It was so pleasant to have been completely right over a stranger, even down to little details like the texture of the skin. It flattered his vanity. It increased his sense of power.
HE DID NOT SEE TREVOR DONALDSON for some weeks. Then they met in London at his club, for a business talk and a spot of lunch. Circumstances which they could not control had rendered them less friendly. Owing to regrouping in the financial world, their interests were now opposed, and if one of them stood to make money out of aluminium the other stood to lose. So the talk had been cautious. Donaldson, the weaker man, felt tired and worried after it. He had not, to his knowledge, made a mistake, but he might have slipped unwittingly, and be poorer, and have to give up his county state. He looked at his host with hostility and wished he could harm him. Sir Richard was aware of this, but felt no hostility in return. For one thing, he was going to win, for another, hating never interested him. This was probably the last occasion on which they would foregather socially; but he exercised his usual charm. He wanted, too, to find out during lunch how far Donaldson was aware of his own danger. Clifford Clarke (who was allied with him) had failed to do this.
After adjourning to the cloakroom and washing their hands at adjacent basins, they sat opposite each other at a little table. Down the long room sat other pairs of elderly men, eating, drinking, talking quietly, instructing the waiters. Inquiries were exchanged about Mrs Donaldson and the young Miss Conways, and there were some humorous references to golf. Then Donaldson said, with a change in his voice: “Golf’s all you say, and the great advantage of it in these days is that you get it practically anywhere. I sued to think our course was good, for a little country course, but it is far below the average. This is somewhat of a disappointment to us both, since we settled down there specially for the golf. The fact is, the country is not at all what it seems when you first go there.”
“So I’ve always heard.”
“My wife likes it, of course, she has her Sealyhams, she has her flowers, she has her local charities—though in these days one’s not supposed to speak of ‘charity’. I don’t know why. I should have thought it was a good word, charity. She runs the Women’s Institute, so far as it consents to be run, but Conway, Conway, you’d never believe how offhand the village women are in these days. They don’t elect Mrs Donaldson president yearly as a matter of course. She takes turn and turn with cottagers.”
“Oh, that’s the spirit of the age, of course. One’s always running into it in some form or other. For instance, I don’t get nearly the deference I did from my clerks.”
“But better work from them, no doubt,” said Donaldson gloomily.
“No. But probably they’re better men.”
“Well, perhaps the ladies at the Women’s Institute are becoming better women. But my wife doubts it. Of course, our village is particularly unfortunate, owing to that deplorable hotel. It has had such a bad influence. We had an extraordinary case before us on the Bench recently, connected with it.”
“That hotel did look too flash—it would attract the wrong crowd.”
“I’ve also had bother bother bother with the Rural District Council over the removal of tins, and another bother—a really maddening one—over a right of way through the church meadows. That almost made me lose my patience. And I really sometimes wonder whether I’ve been sensible in digging myself in in the country, and trying to make myself useful in local affairs. There is no gratitude. There is no warmth of welcome.”
“I quite believe it, Donaldson, and I know I’d never have a country place myself, even if the scenery is as pleasant as yours is, and even if I could afford it. I make do with a service flat in town, and I retain a small furnished cottage for my girls’ holidays, and when they leave school I shall partly take them and partly send them abroad. I don’t believe in undiluted England, nice as are sometimes the English. Shall we go up and have coffee?”
He ran up the staircase briskly, for he had found out what he wanted to know: Donaldson was feeling poor. He stuck him in a low leathern armchair, and had a look at him as closed his eyes. That was it: he felt he couldn’t afford his “little place”, and was running it down, so that no one should be surprised when he gave it up. Meanwhile, there was one point in the conversation it amused him to take up now that business was finished with: the reference to that “extraordinary case” connected with the local hotel.
Donaldson opened his eyes when asked, and they had gone prawn-like. “Oh, that was a case, it was a really really,” he said. “I knew such things existed, of course, but I assumed in my innocence they were confined to Piccadilly. However, it has all been traced back to the hotel, the proprietress has had a thorough fright, and I don’t think there will be any trouble in the future. Indecency between males.”
“Oh, good Lord!” said Sir Richard coolly. “Black or white?”
“White, please, it’s an awful nuisance, but I can’t take black coffee now, although I greatly prefer it. You see, some of the hotel guests—there was a bar, and some of the villagers used to go in there after cricket because they thought it smarter than that charming old thatched pub by the church—you remember that old thatched pub. Villagers are terrific snobs, that’s one of the disappointing discoveries one makes. The bar got a bad reputation of a certain type, especially at weekends, someone complained to the police, a watch was set, and the result was this quite extraordinary case. . . . Really, really, I wouldn’t have believed it. A little milk, please, Conway, if I may, just a little; I’m not allowed to take my coffee black.”
“So sorry. Have a liqueur.”
“No, no thanks, I’m not allowed that even, especially after lunch.”
“Come on, do—I will if you will. Waiter, can we have two double cognacs?”
“He hasn’t heard you. Don’t bother.”
“Conway had not wanted the waiter to hear him, he had wanted an excuse to be out of the room and have a minute alone. He was suddenly worried in case that milkman had got into a scrape. He had scarcely thought about him since—he had a very full life, and it included an intrigue with a cultivated woman, which was gradually ripening—but nobody could have been more decent and honest, or more physically attractive in a particular way. It had been a charming little adventure, and a remarkably lively one. And their parting had been perfect. Wretched if the lad had come to grief! Enough to make one cry. He offered up a sort of prayer, ordered the cognacs, and rejoined Donaldson with his usual briskness. He put on the Renaissance armour that suited him so well, and “How did the hotel case end?” he asked.
“We committed him for trial.”
“Oh! As bad as that?”
Well, we thought so. Actually a gang of about half a dozen were involved, but we only caught one of them. His mother, if you please, is president of the Women’s Institute, and hasn’t had the decency to resign! I tell you, Conway, these people aren’t the same flesh and blood as oneself. One pretends they are, but they aren’t. And what with this disillusionment, and what with the right of way, I’ve a good mind to clear out next year, and leave the so-called country to stew in its own juice. It’s utterly corrupt. This man made an awfully bad impression on the Bench and we didn’t feel that six months, which is the maximum we are allowed to impose, was adequate to the offence. And it was all so revoltingly commercial—his only motive was money.”
Conway felt relieved; it couldn’t be his own friend, for anyone less grasping. . .
“And another unpleasant feature—at least for me—is that he had the habit of taking his clients into my grounds.”
“How most vexatious for you!”
“It suited his convenience, and of what else should he think? I have a little wood—you didn’t see it—which stretches up to the hotel, so he could easily bring people in. A path my wife was particularly fond of—a mass of bluebells in springtime—it was there they were caught. You may well imagine this has helped to put me off the place.”
“Who caught them?” he asked, holding his glass up to the light; their cognacs had arrived.
“Our local bobby. For we do possess that extraordinary rarity, a policeman who keeps his eyes open. He sometimes commits errors of judgment—he did on this occasion—but he’s certainly observant, and as he was coming down one of the other paths, a public one, he saw a bright yellow shirt through the bracken—upsa! Take care!”
“Upsa!” were some drops of brandy, which Conway had split. Alas, alas, there could be no doubt about it. He felt deeply distressed, and rather guilty. The young man must have decided after their successful encounter to use the wood as a rendezvous. It was a cruel stupid world, and he was countenancing it more than he should. Wretched, wretched, to think of that good-tempered, harmless chap being bruised and ruined. . . the hwole thing so unnecessary—betrayed by the shirt he was so proud of. . . . Conway was not often moved, but this time he felt much regret and compassion.
“Well, he recognized that shirt at once. He had particular reasons for keeping a watch on its wearer. And he got him, he got him. But he lost the other man. He didn’t charge them straight away, as he ought to have done. I think he was genuinely startled and could scarcely believe his eyes. For one thing, it was so early in the morning—barely seven o’clock.”
“A strange hour!” said Conway, and put his glass down, and folded his hands on his knee.
“He caught sight of them as they were getting up after committing the indecency, also he saw money pass, but instead of rushing in there and then he made an elaborate and totally unnecessary plan for interrupting the youth on the further side of my house, and of course he could have got him any time, any time. A stupid error of judgment. A great pity. He never arrested him until 7.45.”
“Was there then sufficient evidence for an arrest?”
“There was an abundant evidence of a medical character, if you follow me—what a case, oh, what a case!—also there was the money on him, which clinched his guilt.”
“Mayn’t the money have been in connection with his round?”
“No. It was a note, and he only had small change in connection with his round. We established that from his employer. But how ever did you guess he was on a round?”
“You told me,” said Conway, who never became flustered when he made a slip. “You mentioned that he had a milk round and that the mother was connected with some local organization which Mrs Donaldson takes an interest in.”
“Yes, yes, the Women’s Institute. Well, having fixed all that up, our policeman then went on to the hotel, but it was far too late by that time, some of the guests were breakfasting, others had left, he couldn’t go round cross-questioning everyone, and no one corresponded to the description of the person whom he saw being hauled up out of the fern.”
“What was the description?”
“An old man in pyjamas and a mackintosh—our Chairman was awfully anxious to get hold of him—oh, you remember our Chairman, Ernest Dray, you met him at my little place. He’s determined to stamp this sort of thing out, once and for all. Hullo, it’s past three, I must be getting back to my grindstone. Many thanks for lunch. I don’t know why I’ve discoursed on this somewhat unsavoury topic. I’d have done better to consult you about the right of way.”
“You must another time. I did look up the subject once.”
“How about a spot of lunch with me this day week?” said Donaldson, remembering their business feud, and becoming uneasily jolly.
“This day week? Now can I? No, I can’t. I’ve promised this day week to go and see my little girls. Not that they’re little any longer. Time flies, doesn’t it? We’re none of us younger.”
“Sad but true,” said Donaldson, heaving himself out of the deep leather chair. Similar chairs, empty or filled with similar men, receded down the room, and far away a small fire smoked under a heavy mantelpiece. “But aren’t you going to drink your cognac? It’s excellent cognac.”
“I suddenly took against it—I do indulge in caprices.” Getting up, he felt faint, the blood rushed to his head and he thought he was going to fall. “Tell me,” he said, taking his enemy’s arm and conducting him to the door, “this old man in the mackintosh—how was it the fellow you caught never put you on his track?”
“He tried to.”
“Oh, did he?”
“Yes, indeed, and he was all the more anxious to do so, because we made it clear that he would be let off if he helped us to make a major arrest. But all he could say was what we knew already—that it was someone from the hotel.”
“Oh, he said that, did he? From the hotel.”
“Said it again and again. Scarcely said anything else, indeed almost went into a sort of fit. There he stood with his head thrown back and his eyes shut, barking at us, ‘Th’otel. Keep to th’otel. I tell you he come from th’otel.’ We advised him not to get so excited, whereupon he became insolent, which did him no good with Ernest Dray, as you may well imagine, and called the Bench a row of interfering bastards. He was instantly removed from the court and as he went he shouted back at us—you’ll never credit this—that if he and the old grandfather didn’t mind it why should anyone else. We talked the case over carefully and came to the conclusion it must go to Assizes.”
“What was his name?”
“But we don’t know, I tell you, we never caught him.”
“I mean the name of the one you did catch, the village boy.”
They had reached the top of the club staircase. Conway saw the reflection of his face once more in a mirror, and it was the face of an old man. He pushed Trevor Donaldson off abruptly, and went back to sit down by his liqueur-glass. He was safe, safe, he could go forward with his career as planned. But waves of shame came over him. Oh for prayer!—but whom had he to pray to, and what about? He saw that little things can turn into great ones, and he did not want greatness. He was not up to it. For a moment he considered giving himself up and standing his trial, however what possible good would that do? He would ruin himself and his daughters, he would delight his enemies, and he would not save his saviour. He recalled his clever manoeuvres for a little fun, and the good-humoured response, the mischievous face, the obliging body. It had all seemed so trivial. Taking a notebook from his pocket, he wrote down the name of his lover, yes, his lover who was going to prison to save him, in order that he might not forget it. Arthur Snatchfold. He had only heard the name once, and he would never hear it again.
E.M. Forster, OM, CH (1879-1970) was a British novelist, short story writer, essayist, and librettist. Maurice, his novel about a young man coming to terms with his sexuality in Edwardian England, was released after his death and was praised for its “non-condemnatory” portrait of homosexuality.