THE ENTERTAINMENT OF MR. DIRECK REACHES A CLIMAX
Breakfast was in the open air, and a sunny, easy-going feast. Then the
small boys laid hands on Mr. Direck and showed him the pond and the
boats, while Mr. Britling strolled about the lawn with Hugh, talking
rather intently. And when Mr. Direck returned from the boats in a state
of greatly enhanced popularity he found Mr. Britling conversing over his
garden railings to what was altogether a new type of Britisher in Mr.
Direck's experience. It was a tall, lean, sun-bitten youngish man of
forty perhaps, in brown tweeds, looking more like the Englishman of the
American illustrations than anything Mr. Direck had met hitherto. Indeed
he came very near to a complete realisation of that ideal except that
there was a sort of intensity about him, and that his clipped moustache
had the restrained stiffness of a wiry-haired terrier. This gentleman
Mr. Direck learnt was Colonel Rendezvous. He spoke in clear short
sentences, they had an effect of being punched out, and he was refusing
to come into the garden and talk.
"Have to do my fourteen miles before lunch," he said. "You haven't seen
Manning about, have you?"
"He isn't here," said Mr. Britling, and it seemed to Mr. Direck that
there was the faintest ambiguity in this reply.
"Have to go alone, then," said Colonel Rendezvous. "They told me that he
had started to come here."
"I shall motor over to Bramley High Oak for your Boy Scout festival,"
said Mr. Britling.
"Going to have three thousand of 'em," said the Colonel. "Good show."
His steely eyes seemed to search the cover of Mr. Britling's garden for
the missing Manning, and then he decided to give him up. "I must be
going," he said. "So long. Come up!"
A well-disciplined dog came to heel, and the lean figure had given Mr.
Direck a semi-military salutation and gone upon its way. It marched with
a long elastic stride; it never looked back.
"Manning," said Mr. Britling, "is probably hiding up in my rose garden."
"Curiously enough, I guessed from your manner that that might be the
case," said Mr. Direck.
"Yes. Manning is a London journalist. He has a little cottage about a
mile over there"--Mr. Britling pointed vaguely--"and he comes down for
the week-ends. And Rendezvous has found out he isn't fit. And everybody
ought to be fit. That is the beginning and end of life for Rendezvous.
Fitness. An almost mineral quality, an insatiable activity of body,
great mental simplicity. So he takes possession of poor old Manning and
trots him for that fourteen miles--at four miles an hour. Manning goes
through all the agonies of death and damnation, he half dissolves, he
pants and drags for the first eight or ten miles, and then I must admit
he rather justifies Rendezvous' theory. He is to be found in the
afternoon in a hammock suffering from blistered feet, but otherwise
unusually well. But if he can escape it, he does. He hides."
"But if he doesn't want to go with Rendezvous, why does he?" said Mr.
"Well, Rendezvous is accustomed to the command of men. And Manning's
only way of refusing things is on printed forms. Which he doesn't bring
down to Matching's Easy. Ah! behold!"
Far away across the lawn between two blue cedars there appeared a
leisurely form in grey flannels and a loose tie, advancing with manifest
"He's gone," cried Britling.
The leisurely form, obviously amiable, obviously a little out of
condition, became more confident, drew nearer.
"I'm sorry to have missed him," he said cheerfully. "I thought he might
come this way. It's going to be a very warm day indeed. Let us sit about
somewhere and talk.
"Of course," he said, turning to Direck, "Rendezvous is the life and
soul of the country."
They strolled towards a place of seats and hammocks between the big
trees and the rose garden, and the talk turned for a time upon
Rendezvous. "They have the tidiest garden in Essex," said Manning. "It's
not Mrs. Rendezvous' fault that it is so. Mrs. Rendezvous, as a matter
of fact, has a taste for the picturesque. She just puts the things about
in groups in the beds. She wants them, she says, to grow anyhow. She
desires a romantic disorder. But she never gets it. When he walks down
the path all the plants dress instinctively.... And there's a tree near
their gate; it used to be a willow. You can ask any old man in the
village. But ever since Rendezvous took the place it's been trying to
present arms. With the most extraordinary results. I was passing the
other day with old Windershin. 'You see that there old poplar,' he said.
'It's a willow,' said I. 'No,' he said, 'it did used to be a willow
before Colonel Rendezvous he came. But now it's a poplar.'... And, by
Jove, it is a poplar!"...
The conversation thus opened by Manning centred for a time upon Colonel
Rendezvous. He was presented as a monster of energy and self-discipline;
as the determined foe of every form of looseness, slackness, and
"He's done wonderful work for the local Boy Scout movement," said
"It's Kitchenerism," said Britling.
"It's the army side of the efficiency stunt," said Manning.
There followed a digression upon the Boy Scout movement, and Mr. Direck
made comparisons with the propaganda of Seton Thompson in America.
"Colonel Teddyism," said Manning. "It's a sort of reaction against
everything being too easy and too safe."
"It's got its anti-decadent side," said Mr. Direck.
"If there is such a thing as decadence," said Mr. Britling.
"If there wasn't such a thing as decadence," said Manning, "we
journalists would have had to invent it."...
"There is something tragical in all this--what shall I call
it?--Kitchenerism," Mr. Britling reflected "Here you have it rushing
about and keeping itself--screwed up, and trying desperately to keep the
country screwed up. And all because there may be a war some day somehow
with Germany. Provided Germany _is_ insane. It's that war, like some
sort of bee in Rendezvous' brains, that is driving him along the road
now to Market Saffron--he always keeps to the roads because they are
severer--through all the dust and sunshine. When he might be here
"And you know, I don't see that war coming," said Mr. Britling. "I
believe Rendezvous sweats in vain. I can't believe in that war. It has
held off for forty years. It may hold off forever."
He nodded his head towards the German tutor, who had come into view
across the lawn, talking profoundly with Mr. Britling's eldest son.
"Look at that pleasant person. There he is--_Echt Deutsch_--if anything
ever was. Look at my son there! Do you see the two of them engaged in
mortal combat? The thing's too ridiculous. The world grows sane. They
may fight in the Balkans still; in many ways the Balkan States are in
the very rear of civilisation; but to imagine decent countries like this
or Germany going back to bloodshed! No.... When I see Rendezvous
keeping it up and keeping it up, I begin to see just how poor Germany
must be keeping it up. I begin to realise how sick Germany must be
getting of the high road and the dust and heat and the everlasting drill
and restraint.... My heart goes out to the South Germans. Old Manning
here always reminds me of Austria. Think of Germany coming like
Rendezvous on a Sunday morning, and looking stiffly over Austria's
fence. 'Come for a good hard walk, man. Keep Fit....'"
"But suppose this Balkan trouble becomes acute," said Manning.
"It hasn't; it won't. Even if it did we should keep out of it."
"But suppose Russia grappled Austria and Germany flung herself suddenly
upon France--perhaps taking Belgium on the way."
"Oh!--we should fight. Of course we should fight. Could any one but a
congenital idiot suppose we shouldn't fight? They know we should fight.
They aren't altogether idiots in Germany. But the thing's absurd. Why
_should_ Germany attack France? It's as if Manning here took a hatchet
suddenly and assailed Edith.... It's just the dream of their military
journalists. It's such schoolboy nonsense. Isn't that a beautiful pillar
rose? Edith only put it in last year.... I hate all this talk of wars
and rumours of wars.... It's worried all my life. And it gets worse and
it gets emptier every year...."
Now just at that moment there was a loud report....
But neither Mr. Britling nor Mr. Manning nor Mr. Direck was interrupted
or incommoded in the slightest degree by that report. Because it was too
far off over the curve of this round world to be either heard or seen at
Matching's Easy. Nevertheless it was a very loud report. It occurred at
an open space by a river that ran through a cramped Oriental city, a
city spiked with white minarets and girt about by bare hills under a
blazing afternoon sky. It came from a black parcel that the Archduke
Francis Ferdinand of Austria, with great presence of mind, had just
flung out from the open hood of his automobile, where, tossed from the
side of the quay, it had descended a few seconds before. It exploded as
it touched the cobbled road just under the front of the second vehicle
in the procession, and it blew to pieces the front of the automobile and
injured the aide-de-camp who was in it and several of the spectators.
Its thrower was immediately gripped by the bystanders. The procession
stopped. There was a tremendous commotion amongst that brightly-costumed
crowd, a hot excitement in vivid contrast to the Sabbath calm of
Mr. Britling, to whom the explosion was altogether inaudible, continued
his dissertation upon the common-sense of the world and the practical
security of our Western peace.
Lunch was an open-air feast again. Three visitors had dropped in; they
had motored down from London piled up on a motor-cycle and a side-car; a
brother and two sisters they seemed to be, and they had apparently
reduced hilariousness to a principle. The rumours of coming hockey that
had been floating on the outskirts of Mr. Direck's consciousness ever
since his arrival, thickened and multiplied.... It crept into his mind
that he was expected to play....
He decided he would not play. He took various people into his
confidence. He told Mr. Britling, and Mr. Britling said, "We'll make you
full back, where you'll get a hit now and then and not have very much to
do. All you have to remember is to hit with the flat side of your stick
and not raise it above your shoulders." He told Teddy, and Teddy said,
"I strongly advise you to dress as thinly as you can consistently with
decency, and put your collar and tie in your pocket before the game
begins. Hockey is properly a winter game." He told the maiden aunt-like
lady with the prominent nose, and she said almost enviously, "Every one
here is asked to play except me. I assuage the perambulator. I suppose
one mustn't be envious. I don't see why I shouldn't play. I'm not so old
as all that." He told Hugh, and Hugh warned him to be careful not to get
hold of one of the sprung sticks. He considered whether it wouldn't be
wiser to go to his own room and lock himself in, or stroll off for a
walk through Claverings Park. But then he would miss Miss Corner, who
was certain, it seemed, to come up for hockey. On the other hand, if he
did not miss her he might make himself ridiculous in her eyes, and
efface the effect of the green silk stuff with the golden pheasants.
He determined to stay behind until she arrived, and explain to her that
he was not going to play. He didn't somehow want her to think he wasn't
perfectly fit to play.
Mr. Carmine arrived in an automobile with two Indians and a gentleman
who had been a prospector in Alaska, the family who had danced overnight
at the Dower House reappeared, and then Mrs. Teddy, very detached with a
special hockey stick, and Miss Corner wheeling the perambulator. Then
came further arrivals. At the earliest opportunity Mr. Direck secured
the attention of Miss Corner, and lost his interest in any one else.
"I can't play this hockey," said Mr. Direck. "I feel strange about it.
It isn't an American game. Now if it were baseball--!"
He left her to suppose him uncommonly hot stuff at baseball.
"If you're on my side," said Cecily, "mind you pass to me."
It became evident to Mr. Direck that he was going to play this hockey
"Well," he said, "if I've got to play hockey, I guess I've got to play
hockey. But can't I just get a bit of practice somewhere before the game
So Miss Corner went off to get two sticks and a ball and came back to
instruct Mr. Direck. She said he had a good eye. The two small boys
scenting play in the air got sticks and joined them. The overnight
visitor's wife appeared from the house in abbreviated skirts, and
wearing formidable shin-guards. With her abundant fair hair, which was
already breaking loose, so to speak, to join the fray, she looked like a
short stout dismounted Valkyr. Her gaze was clear and firm.
Hockey as it was played at the Dower House at Matching's Easy before the
war, was a game combining danger, physical exercise and kindliness in a
very high degree. Except for the infant in the perambulator and the
outwardly calm but inwardly resentful aunt, who wheeled the child up and
down in a position of maximum danger just behind the unnetted goal,
every one was involved. Quite able-bodied people acquainted with the
game played forward, the less well-informed played a defensive game
behind the forward line, elderly, infirm, and bulky persons were used
chiefly as obstacles in goal. Several players wore padded leg-guards,
and all players were assumed to have them and expected to behave
Proceedings began with an invidious ceremony called picking up. This was
heralded by Mr. Britling, clad in the diaphanous flannels and bearing a
hockey stick, advancing with loud shouts to the centre of the hockey
field. "Pick up! Pick up!" echoed the young Britlings.
Mr. Direck became aware of a tall, drooping man with long hair and long
digressive legs in still longer white flannel trousers, and a face that
was somehow familiar. He was talking with affectionate intimacy to
Manning, and suddenly Mr. Direck remembered that it was in Manning's
weekly paper, _The Sectarian_, in which a bitter caricaturist enlivened
a biting text, that he had become familiar with the features of
Manning's companion. It was Raeburn, Raeburn the insidious, Raeburn the
completest product of the party system.... Well, that was the English
way. "Come for the pick up!" cried the youngest Britling, seizing upon
Mr. Direck's elbow. It appeared that Mr. Britling and the overnight
dinner guest--Mr. Direck never learnt his name--were picking up.
Names were shouted. "I'll take Cecily!" Mr. Direck heard Mr. Britling
say quite early. The opposing sides as they were picked fell into two
groups. There seemed to be difficulties about some of the names. Mr.
Britling, pointing to the more powerful looking of the Indian gentlemen,
said, "_You_, Sir."
"I'm going to speculate on Mr. Dinks," said Mr. Britling's opponent.
Mr. Direck gathered that Mr. Dinks was to be his hockey name.
"You're on _our_ side," said Mrs. Teddy. "I think you'll have to play
forward, outer right, and keep a sharp eye on Cissie."
"I'll do what I can," said Mr. Direck.
His captain presently confirmed this appointment.
His stick was really a sort of club and the ball was a firm hard cricket
ball.... He resolved to be very gentle with Cecily, and see that she
didn't get hurt.
The sides took their places for the game, and a kind of order became
apparent to Mr. Direck. In the centre stood Mr. Britling and the
opposing captain, and the ball lay between them. They were preparing to
"bully off" and start the game. In a line with each of them were four
other forwards. They all looked spirited and intent young people, and
Mr. Direck wished he had had more exercise to justify his own alert
appearance. Behind each centre forward hovered one of the Britling boys.
Then on each side came a vaguer row of three backs, persons of gentler
disposition or maturer years. They included Mr. Raeburn, who was
considered to have great natural abilities for hockey but little
experience. Mr. Raeburn was behind Mr. Direck. Mrs. Britling was the
centre back. Then in a corner of Mr. Direck's side was a small girl of
six or seven, and in the half-circle about the goal a lady in a motoring
dust coat and a very short little man whom Mr. Direck had not previously
remarked. Mr. Lawrence Carmine, stripped to the braces, which were
richly ornamented with Oriental embroidery, kept goal for our team.
The centre forwards went through a rapid little ceremony. They smote
their sticks on the ground, and then hit the sticks together. "One,"
said Mr. Britling. The operation was repeated. "Two," ... "Three."
Smack, Mr. Britling had got it and the ball had gone to the shorter and
sturdier of the younger Britlings, who had been standing behind Mr.
Direck's captain. Crack, and it was away to Teddy; smack, and it was
coming right at Direck.
"Lordy!" he said, and prepared to smite it.
Then something swift and blue had flashed before him, intercepted the
ball and shot it past him. This was Cecily Corner, and she and Teddy
were running abreast like the wind towards Mr. Raeburn.
"Hey!" cried Mr. Raeburn, "stop!" and advanced, as it seemed to Mr.
Direck, with unseemly and threatening gestures towards Cissie.
But before Mr. Direck could adjust his mind to this new phase of
affairs, Cecily had passed the right honourable gentleman with the same
mysterious ease with which she had flashed by Mr. Direck, and was
bearing down upon the miscellaneous Landwehr which formed the "backs" of
Mr. Direck's side.
"_You_ rabbit!" cried Mr. Raeburn, and became extraordinarily active in
pursuit, administering great lengths of arm and leg with a centralised
efficiency he had not hitherto displayed.
Running hard to the help of Mr. Raeburn was the youngest Britling boy, a
beautiful contrast. It was like a puff ball supporting and assisting a
conger eel. In front of Mr. Direck the little stout man was being alert.
Teddy was supporting the attack near the middle of the field, crying
"Centre!" while Mr. Britling, very round and resolute, was bouncing
straight towards the threatened goal. But Mrs. Teddy, running as swiftly
as her sister, was between Teddy and the ball. Whack! the little short
man's stick had clashed with Cecily's. Confused things happened with
sticks and feet, and the little short man appeared to be trying to cut
down Cecily as one cuts down a tree, she tried to pass the ball to her
centre forward--too late, and then Mrs. Teddy had intercepted it, and
was flickering back towards Mr. Britling's goal in a rush in which Mr.
Direck perceived it was his duty to join.
Yes, he had to follow up Mrs. Teddy and pick up the ball if he had a
chance and send it in to her or the captain or across to the left
forwards, as circumstances might decide. It was perfectly clear.
Then came his moment. The little formidably padded lady who had dined at
the Dower House overnight, made a gallant attack upon Mrs. Teddy. Out of
the confusion of this clash the ball spun into Mr. Direck's radius.
Where should he smite and how? A moment of reflection was natural.
But now the easy-fitting discipline of the Dower House style of hockey
became apparent. Mr. Direck had last observed the tall young Indian
gentleman, full of vitality and anxious for destruction, far away in the
distance on the opposing right wing. But now, regardless of the more
formal methods of the game, this young man had resolved, without further
delay and at any cost, to hit the ball hard, and he was travelling like
some Asiatic typhoon with an extreme velocity across the remonstrances
of Mr. Britling and the general order of his side. Mr. Direck became
aware of him just before his impact. There was a sort of collision from
which Mr. Direck emerged with a feeling that one side of his face was
permanently flattened, but still gallantly resolved to hit the
comparatively lethargic ball. He and the staggered but resolute Indian
clashed sticks again. And Mr. Direck had the best of it. Years of
experience couldn't have produced a better pass to the captain....
Apparently from one of the London visitors.
But this was _some_ game!
The ball executed some rapid movements to and fro across the field. Our
side was pressing hard. There was a violent convergence of miscellaneous
backs and suchlike irregulars upon the threatened goal. Mr. Britling's
dozen was rapidly losing its disciplined order. One of the sidecar
ladies and the gallant Indian had shifted their activities to the
defensive back, and with them was a spectacled gentleman waving his
stick, high above all recognised rules. Mr. Direck's captain and both
Britling boys hurried to join the fray. Mr. Britling, who seemed to Mr.
Direck to be for a captain rather too demagogic, also ran back to rally
his forces by loud cries. "Pass outwardly!" was the burthen of his
The struggle about the Britling goal ceased to be a game and became
something between a fight and a social gathering. Mr. Britling's
goal-keeper could be heard shouting, "I can't see the ball! _Lift your
feet!_" The crowded conflict lurched towards the goal posts. "My shin!"
cried Mr. Manning. "No, you _don't!_"
Whack, but again whack!
Whack! "Ah! _would_ you?" Whack.
"Goal!" cried the side-car gentleman.
"Goal!" cried the Britling boys....
Mr. Manning, as goal-keeper, went to recover the ball, but one of the
Britling boys politely anticipated him.
The crowd became inactive, and then began to drift back to loosely
"It's no good swarming into goal like that," Mr. Britling, with a faint
asperity in his voice, explained to his followers. "We've got to keep
open and not _crowd_ each other."
Then he went confidentially to the energetic young Indian to make some
restrictive explanation of his activities.
Mr. Direck strolled back towards Cecily. He was very warm and a little
blown, but not, he felt, disgraced. He was winning.
"You'll have to take your coat off," she said.
It was a good idea.
It had occurred to several people and the boundary line was already
dotted with hastily discarded jackets and wraps and so forth. But the
lady in the motoring dust coat was buttoning it to the chin.
"One goal love," said the minor Britling boy.
"We haven't begun yet, Sunny," said Cecily.
"Sonny! That's American," said Mr. Direck.
"No. We call him Sunny Jim," said Cecily. "They're bullying off again."
"Sunny Jim's American too," said Mr. Direck, returning to his place....
The struggle was resumed. And soon it became clear that the first goal
was no earnest of the quality of the struggle. Teddy and Cecily formed a
terribly efficient combination. Against their brilliant rushes,
supported in a vehement but effective manner by the Indian to their
right and guided by loud shoutings from Mr. Britling (centre), Mr.
Direck and the side-car lady and Mr. Raeburn struggled in vain. One
swift advance was only checked by the dust cloak, its folds held the
ball until help arrived; another was countered by a tremendous swipe of
Mr. Raeburn's that sent the ball within an inch of the youngest
Britling's head and right across the field; the third resulted in a
swift pass from Cecily to the elder Britling son away on her right, and
he shot the goal neatly and swiftly through the lattice of Mr. Lawrence
Carmine's defensive movements. And after that very rapidly came another
goal for Mr. Britling's side and then another.
Then Mr. Britling cried out that it was "Half Time," and explained to
Mr. Direck that whenever one side got to three goals they considered it
was half time and had five minutes' rest and changed sides. Everybody
was very hot and happy, except the lady in the dust cloak who was
perfectly cool. In everybody's eyes shone the light of battle, and not a
shadow disturbed the brightness of the afternoon for Mr. Direck except a
certain unspoken anxiety about Mr. Raeburn's trousers.
You see Mr. Direck had never seen Mr. Raeburn before, and knew nothing
about his trousers.
They appeared to be coming down.
To begin with they had been rather loose over the feet and turned up,
and as the game progressed, fold after fold of concertina-ed flannel
gathered about his ankles. Every now and then Mr. Raeburn would seize
the opportunity of some respite from the game to turn up a fresh six
inches or so of this accumulation. Naturally Mr. Direck expected this
policy to end unhappily. He did not know that the flannel trousers of
Mr. Raeburn were like a river, that they could come down forever and
still remain inexhaustible....
He had visions of this scene of happy innocence being suddenly blasted
by a monstrous disaster....
Apart from this worry Mr. Direck was as happy as any one there!
Perhaps these apprehensions affected his game. At any rate he did
nothing that pleased him in the second half, Cecily danced all over him
and round and about him, and in the course of ten minutes her side had
won the two remaining goals with a score of Five-One; and five goals is
"game" by the standards of Matching's Easy.
And then with the very slightest of delays these insatiable people
picked up again. Mr. Direck slipped away and returned in a white silk
shirt, tennis trousers and a belt. This time he and Cecily were on the
same side, the Cecily-Teddy combination was broken, and he it seemed was
to take the place of the redoubtable Teddy on the left wing with her.
This time the sides were better chosen and played a long, obstinate,
even game. One-One. One-Two. One-Three. (Half Time.) Two-Three. Three
all. Four-Three. Four all....
By this time Mr. Direck was beginning to master the simple strategy of
the sport. He was also beginning to master the fact that Cecily was the
quickest, nimblest, most indefatigable player on the field. He scouted
for her and passed to her. He developed tacit understandings with her.
Ideas of protecting her had gone to the four winds of Heaven. Against
them Teddy and a sidecar girl with Raeburn in support made a memorable
struggle. Teddy was as quick as a cat. "Four-Three" looked like winning,
but then Teddy and the tall Indian and Mrs. Teddy pulled square. They
almost repeated this feat and won, but Mr. Manning saved the situation
with an immense oblique hit that sent the ball to Mr. Direck. He ran
with the ball up to Raeburn and then dodged and passed to Cecily. There
was a lively struggle to the left; the ball was hit out by Mr. Raeburn
and thrown in by a young Britling; lost by the forwards and rescued by
the padded lady. Forward again! This time will do it!
Cecily away to the left had worked round Mr. Raeburn once more. Teddy,
realising that things were serious, was tearing back to attack her.
Mr. Direck supported with silent intentness. "Centre!" cried Mr.
"Mr. Direck!" came her voice, full of confidence. (Of such moments is
the heroic life.) The ball shot behind the hurtling Teddy. Mr. Direck
stopped it with his foot, a trick he had just learnt from the eldest
Britling son. He was neither slow nor hasty. He was in the half-circle,
and the way to the goal was barred only by the dust-cloak lady and Mr.
Lawrence Carmine. He made as if to shoot to Mr. Carmine's left and then
smacked the ball, with the swiftness of a serpent's stroke, to his
He'd done it! Mr. Carmine's stick and feet were a yard away.
Then hard on this wild triumph came a flash of horror. One can't see
everything. His eye following the ball's trajectory....
Directly in its line of flight was the perambulator.
The ball missed the legs of the lady with the noble nose by a kind of
miracle, hit and glanced off the wheel of the perambulator, and went
spinning into a border of antirrhinums.
"Good!" cried Cecily. "Splendid shot!"
He'd shot a goal. He'd done it well. The perambulator it seemed didn't
matter. Though apparently the impact had awakened the baby. In the
margin of his consciousness was the figure of Mr. Britling remarking:
"Aunty. You really mustn't wheel the perambulator--_just_ there."
"I thought," said the aunt, indicating the goal posts by a facial
movement, "that those two sticks would be a sort of protection.... Aah!
_Did_ they then?"
Never mind that.
"That's _game!_" said one of the junior Britlings to Mr. Direck with a
note of high appreciation, and the whole party, relaxing and crumpling
like a lowered flag, moved towards the house and tea.
"We'll play some more after tea," said Cecily. "It will be cooler then."
"My word, I'm beginning to like it," said Mr. Direck.
"You're going to play very well," she said.
And such is the magic of a game that Mr. Direck was humbly proud and
grateful for her praise, and trotted along by the side of this creature
who had revealed herself so swift and resolute and decisive, full to
overflowing of the mere pleasure of just trotting along by her side. And
after tea, which was a large confused affair, enlivened by wonderful and
entirely untruthful reminiscences of the afternoon by Mr. Raeburn, they
played again, with fewer inefficients and greater skill and swiftness,
and Mr. Direck did such quick and intelligent things that everybody
declared that he was a hockey player straight from heaven. The dusk,
which at last made the position of the ball too speculative for play,
came all too soon for him. He had played in six games, and he knew he
would be as stiff as a Dutch doll in the morning. But he was very, very
The rest of the Sunday evening was essentially a sequel to the hockey.
Mr. Direck changed again, and after using some embrocation that Mrs.
Britling recommended very strongly, came down in a black jacket and a
cheerfully ample black tie. He had a sense of physical well-being such
as he had not experienced since he came aboard the liner at New York.
The curious thing was that it was not quite the same sense of physical
well-being that one had in America. That is bright and clear and a
little dry, this was--humid. His mind quivered contentedly, like sunset
midges over a lake--it had no hard bright flashes--and his body wanted
to sit about. His sense of intimacy with Cecily increased each time he
looked at her. When she met his eyes she smiled. He'd caught her style
now, he felt; he attempted no more compliments and was frankly her
pupil at hockey and Badminton. After supper Mr. Britling renewed his
suggestion of an automobile excursion on the Monday.
"There's nothing to take you back to London," said Mr. Britling, "and we
could just hunt about the district with the little old car and see
everything you want to see...."
Mr. Direck did not hesitate three seconds. He thought of Gladys; he
thought of Miss Cecily Corner.
"Well, indeed," he said, "if it isn't burthening you, if I'm not being
any sort of inconvenience here for another night, I'd be really very
glad indeed of the opportunity of going around and seeing all these
The newspapers came next morning at nine, and were full of the Sarajevo
Murders. Mr. Direck got the _Daily Chronicle_ and found quite animated
headlines for a British paper.
"Who's this Archduke," he asked, "anyhow? And where is this Bosnia? I
thought it was a part of Turkey."
"It's in Austria," said Teddy.
"It's in the middle ages," said Mr. Britling. "What an odd, pertinaceous
business it seems to have been. First one bomb, then another; then
finally the man with the pistol. While we were strolling about the rose
garden. It's like something out of 'The Prisoner of Zenda.'"
"Please," said Herr Heinrich.
Mr. Britling assumed an attentive expression.
"Will not this generally affect European politics?"
"I don't know. Perhaps it will."
"It says in the paper that Serbia has sent those bombs to Sarajevo."
"It's like another world," said Mr. Britling, over his paper.
"Assassination as a political method. Can you imagine anything of the
sort happening nowadays west of the Adriatic? Imagine some one
assassinating the American Vice-President, and the bombs being at once
ascribed to the arsenal at Toronto!... We take our politics more sadly
in the West.... Won't you have another egg, Direck?"
"Please! Might this not lead to a war?"
"I don't think so. Austria may threaten Serbia, but she doesn't want to
provoke a conflict with Russia. It would be going too near the powder
magazine. But it's all an extraordinary business."
"But if she did?" Herr Heinrich persisted.
"She won't.... Some years ago I used to believe in the inevitable
European war," Mr. Britling explained to Mr. Direck, "but it's been
threatened so long that at last I've lost all belief in it. The Powers
wrangle and threaten. They're far too cautious and civilised to let the
guns go off. If there was going to be a war it would have happened two
years ago when the Balkan League fell upon Turkey. Or when Bulgaria
Herr Heinrich reflected, and received these conclusions with an
expression of respectful edification.
"I am naturally anxious," he said, "because I am taking tickets for my
holidays at an Esperanto Conference at Boulogne."
"There is only one way to master such a thing as driving an automobile,"
said Mr. Britling outside his front door, as he took his place in the
driver's seat, "and that is to resolve that from the first you will take
no risks. Be slow if you like. Stop and think when you are in doubt. But
do nothing rashly, permit no mistakes."
It seemed to Mr. Direck as he took his seat beside his host that this
was admirable doctrine.
They started out of the gates with an extreme deliberation. Indeed twice
they stopped dead in the act of turning into the road, and the engine
had to be restarted.
"You will laugh at me," said Mr. Britling; "but I'm resolved to have no
blunders this time."
"I don't laugh at you. It's excellent," said Mr. Direck.
"It's the right way," said Mr. Britling. "Care--oh damn! I've stopped
the engine again. Ugh!--ah!--_so!_--Care, I was saying--and calm."
"Don't think I want to hurry you," said Mr. Direck. "I don't...."
They passed through the tillage at a slow, agreeable pace, tooting
loudly at every corner, and whenever a pedestrian was approached. Mr.
Direck was reminded that he had still to broach the lecture project to
Mr. Britling. So much had happened--
The car halted abruptly and the engine stopped.
"I thought that confounded hen was thinking of crossing the road," said
Mr. Britling. "Instead of which she's gone through the hedge. She
certainly looked this way.... Perhaps I'm a little fussy this
morning.... I'll warm up to the work presently."
"I'm convinced you can't be too careful," said Mr. Direck. "And this
sort of thing enables one to see the country better...."
Beyond the village Mr. Britling seemed to gather confidence. The pace
quickened. But whenever other traffic or any indication of a side way
appeared discretion returned. Mr. Britling stalked his sign posts,
crawling towards them on the belly of the lowest gear; he drove all the
morning like a man who is flushing ambuscades. And yet accident overtook
him. For God demands more from us than mere righteousness.
He cut through the hills to Market Saffron along a lane-road with which
he was unfamiliar. It began to go up hill. He explained to Mr. Direck
how admirably his engine would climb hills on the top gear.
They took a curve and the hill grew steeper, and Mr. Direck opened the
They rounded another corner, and still more steeply the hill rose before
The engine began to make a chinking sound, and the car lost pace. And
then Mr. Britling saw a pleading little white board with the inscription
"Concealed Turning." For the moment he thought a turning might be
concealed anywhere. He threw out his clutch and clapped on his brake.
Then he repented of what he had done. But the engine, after three
Herculean throbs, ceased to work. Mr. Britling with a convulsive clutch
at his steering wheel set the electric hooter snarling, while one foot
released the clutch again and the other, on the accelerator, sought in
vain for help. Mr. Direck felt they were going back, back, in spite of
all this vocalisation. He clutched at the emergency brake. But he was
too late to avoid misfortune. With a feeling like sitting gently in
butter, the car sank down sideways and stopped with two wheels in the
Mr. Britling said they were in the ditch--said it with quite unnecessary
This time two cart horses and a retinue of five men were necessary to
restore Gladys to her self-respect....
After that they drove on to Market Saffron, and got there in time for
lunch, and after lunch Mr. Direck explored the church and the churchyard
and the parish register....
After lunch Mr. Britling became more cheerful about his driving. The
road from Market Saffron to Blandish, whence one turns off to Matching's
Easy, is the London and Norwich high road; it is an old Roman Stane
Street and very straightforward and honest in its stretches. You can see
the cross roads half a mile away, and the low hedges give you no chance
of a surprise. Everybody is cheered by such a road, and everybody drives
more confidently and quickly, and Mr. Britling particularly was
heartened by it and gradually let out Gladys from the almost excessive
restriction that had hitherto marked the day. "On a road like this
nothing can happen," said Mr. Britling.
"Unless you broke an axle or burst a tyre," said Mr. Direck.
"My man at Matching's Easy is most careful in his inspection," said Mr.
Britling, putting the accelerator well down and watching the speed
indicator creep from forty to forty-five. "He went over the car not a
week ago. And it's not one month old--in use that is."
Yet something did happen.
It was as they swept by the picturesque walls under the big old trees
that encircle Brandismead Park. It was nothing but a slight
miscalculation of distances. Ahead of them and well to the left, rode a
postman on a bicycle; towards them, with that curious effect of
implacable fury peculiar to motor cycles, came a motor cyclist. First
Mr. Britling thought that he would not pass between these two, then he
decided that he would hurry up and do so, then he reverted to his former
decision, and then it seemed to him that he was going so fast that he
must inevitably run down the postman. His instinct not to do that pulled
the car sharply across the path of the motor cyclist. "Oh, my God!"
cried Mr. Britling. "My God!" twisted his wheel over and distributed his
feet among his levers dementedly.
He had an imperfectly formed idea of getting across right in front of
the motor cyclist, and then they were going down the brief grassy slope
between the road and the wall, straight at the wall, and still at a good
speed. The motor cyclist smacked against something and vanished from the
problem. The wall seemed to rush up at them and then--collapse. There
was a tremendous concussion. Mr. Direck gripped at his friend the
emergency brake, but had only time to touch it before his head hit
against the frame of the glass wind-screen, and a curtain fell upon
He opened his eyes upon a broken wall, a crumpled motor car, and an
undamaged motor cyclist in the aviator's cap and thin oilskin overalls
dear to motor cyclists. Mr. Direck stared and then, still stunned and
puzzled, tried to raise himself. He became aware of acute pain.
"Don't move for a bit," said the motor cyclist. "Your arm and side are
rather hurt, I think...."
In the course of the next twelve hours Mr. Direck was to make a
discovery that was less common in the days before the war than it has
been since. He discovered that even pain and injury may be vividly
interesting and gratifying.
If any one had told him he was going to be stunned for five or six
minutes, cut about the brow and face and have a bone in his wrist put
out, and that as a consequence he would find himself pleased and
exhilarated, he would have treated the prophecy with ridicule; but here
he was lying stiffly on his back with his wrist bandaged to his side and
smiling into the darkness even more brightly than he had smiled at the
Essex landscape two days before. The fact is pain hurts or irritates,
but in itself it does not make a healthily constituted man miserable.
The expectation of pain, the certainty of injury may make one hopeless
enough, the reality rouses our resistance. Nobody wants a broken bone or
a delicate wrist, but very few people are very much depressed by getting
one. People can be much more depressed by smoking a hundred cigarettes
in three days or losing one per cent. of their capital.
And everybody had been most delightful to Mr. Direck.
He had had the monopoly of damage. Mr. Britling, holding on to the
steering wheel, had not even been thrown out. "Unless I'm internally
injured," he said, "I'm not hurt at all. My liver perhaps--bruised a
Gladys had been abandoned in the ditch, and they had been very kindly
brought home by a passing automobile. Cecily had been at the Dower
House at the moment of the rueful arrival. She had seen how an American
can carry injuries. She had made sympathy and helpfulness more
delightful by expressed admiration.
"She's a natural born nurse," said Mr. Direck, and then rather in the
tone of one who addressed a public meeting: "But this sort of thing
brings out all the good there is in a woman."
He had been quite explicit to them and more particularly to her, when
they told him he must stay at the Dower House until his arm was cured.
He had looked the application straight into her pretty eyes.
"If I'm to stay right here just as a consequence of that little shake
up, may be for a couple of weeks, may be three, and if you're coming to
do a bit of a talk to me ever and again, then I tell you I don't call
this a misfortune. It isn't a misfortune. It's right down sheer good
And now he lay as straight as a mummy, with his soul filled with
radiance of complete mental peace. After months of distress and
confusion, he'd got straight again. He was in the middle of a real good
story, bright and clean. He knew just exactly what he wanted.
"After all," he said, "it's true. There's ideals. _She's_ an ideal. Why,
I loved her before ever I set eyes on Mamie. I loved her before I was
put into pants. That old portrait, there it was pointing my destiny....
It's affinity.... It's natural selection....
"Well, I don't know what she thinks of me yet, but I do know very well
what she's _got_ to think of me. She's got to think all the world of
me--if I break every limb of my body making her do it.
"I'd a sort of feeling it was right to go in that old automobile.
"Say what you like, there's a Guidance...."
He smiled confidentially at the darkness as if they shared a secret.