But the divergences between them were great; the possibilities of friction many. Falloden was astonished to find that he disliked Otto’s little fopperies and eccentricities quite as much as he had ever done in college days; his finicky dress, his foreign ways in eating, his tendency to boast about his music, his country, and his forebears, on his good days, balanced by a brooding irritability on his bad days. And he was conscious that his own ways and customs were no less teasing to Radowitz; his Tory habits of thought, his British contempt for vague sentimentalisms and heroics, for all that panache means to the Frenchman, or “glory” to the Slav.
“Then why, in the name of common sense, are we living together?”
He could really give no answer but the answer of “necessity”—of a spiritual need—issuing from a strange tangle of circumstance. The helpless form, the upturned face of his dying father, seemed to make the centre of it, and those faint last words, so sharply, and, as it were, dynamically connected with the hateful memory of Otto’s fall and cry in the Marmion Quad, and the hateful ever-present fact of his maimed life. Constance too—his scene with her on the river bank—her letter, breaking with him—and then the soft, mysterious change in her—and that passionate, involuntary promise in her eyes and voice, as they stood together in her aunts’ garden—all these various elements, bitter and sweet, were mingled in the influence which was shaping his own life. He wanted to forgive himself; and he wanted Constance to forgive him, whether she married him or no. A kind of sublimated egotism, he said to himself, after all!
But Otto? What had really made him consent to take up daily life with the man to whom he owed his disaster? Falloden seemed occasionally to be on the track of an explanation, which would then vanish and evade him. He was conscious, however, that here also, Constance Bledlow was somehow concerned; and, perhaps, the Pole’s mystical religion. He asked himself, indeed, as Constance had already done, whether some presentiment of doom, together with the Christian doctrines of forgiveness and vicarious suffering, were not at the root of it? There had been certain symptoms apparent during Otto’s last weeks at Penfold known only to the old vicar, to himself and Sorell. The doctors were not convinced yet of the presence of phthisis; but from various signs, Falloden was inclined to think that the boy believed himself sentenced to the same death which had carried off his mother. Was there then a kind of calculated charity in his act also—but aiming in his case at an eternal reward?
“He wants to please God—and comfort Constance—by forgiving me. I want to please her—and relieve myself, by doing something to make up to him. He has the best of it! But we are neither of us disinterested.”
* * * * *
The manservant came out with a cup of coffee.