When she left the little beach, she felt as if someone had said to her:
’Your troubles are very little. There’s the sun, the sea, the air; enjoy them. They can’t take those from you.’
At the hospital she had to wait half an hour in a little bare room before George came.
“Nollie! Splendid. I’ve got an hour. Let’s get out of this cemetery. We’ll have time for a good stretch on the tops. Jolly of you to have come to me. Tell us all about it.”
When she had finished, he squeezed her arm. 348
“I knew it wouldn’t do. Your Dad forgot that he’s a public figure, and must expect to be damned accordingly. But though you’ve cut and run, he’ll resign all the same, Nollie.”
“Oh, no!” cried Noel.
George shook his head.
“Yes, he’ll resign, you’ll see, he’s got no worldly sense; not a grain.”
“Then I shall have spoiled his life, just as if—oh, no!”
“Let’s sit down here. I must be back at eleven.”
They sat down on a bench, where the green cliff stretched out before them, over a sea quite clear of haze, far down and very blue.
“Why should he resign,” cried Noel again, “now that I’ve gone? He’ll be lost without it all.”
“Found, my dear. He’ll be where he ought to be, Nollie, where the Church is, and the Churchmen are not—in the air!”
“Don’t!” cried Noel passionately.
“No, no, I’m not chaffing. There’s no room on earth for saints in authority. There’s use for a saintly symbol, even if one doesn’t hold with it, but there’s no mortal use for those who try to have things both ways—to be saints and seers of visions, and yet to come the practical and worldly and rule ordinary men’s lives. Saintly example yes; but not saintly governance. You’ve been his deliverance, Nollie.”
“But Daddy loves his Church.”
George frowned. “Of course, it’ll be a wrench. A man’s bound to have a cosey feeling about a place where he’s been boss so long; and there is something about a Church—the drone, the scent, the half darkness; there’s beauty in it, it’s a pleasant drug. But he’s not being asked to give up the drug habit; only to stop administering drugs to others. Don’t worry, Nollie; I don’t believe that’s ever suited him, it wants a thicker skin than he’s got.”
“But all the people he helps?”
“No reason he shouldn’t go on helping people, is there?”
“But to go on living there, without—Mother died there, you know!”
George grunted. “Dreams, Nollie, all round him; of the past and the future, of what people are and what he can do with them. I never see him without a skirmish, as you know, and yet I’m fond of him. But I should be twice as fond, and half as likely to skirmish, if he’d drop the habits of authority. Then I believe he’d have some real influence over me; there’s something beautiful about him, I know that quite well.”