Having finished, he again began to pace the room, and coming suddenly on his daughter, stopped short. Touching her shoulder timidly, he said: “I was talking to you, I think, my dear; where were we?”
Bianca rubbed her cheek against his hand.
“In the air, I think.”
“Yes, yes,” said Mr. Stone, “I remember. You must not let me wander from the point again.”
“Lambs,” said Mr. Stone, “remind me at times of that young girl who comes to copy for me. I make her skip to promote her circulation before tea. I myself do this exercise.” Leaning against the wall, with his feet twelve inches from it, he rose slowly on his toes. “Do you know that exercise? It is excellent for the calves of the legs, and for the lumbar regions.” So saying, Mr. Stone left the wall, and began again to pace the room; the whitewash had also left the wall, and clung in a large square patch on his shaggy coat. “I have seen sheep in Spring,” he said, “actually imitate their lambs in rising from the ground with all four legs at once.” He stood still. A thought had evidently struck him.
“If Life is not all Spring, it is of no value whatsoever; better to die, and to begin again. Life is a tree putting on a new green gown; it is a young moon rising—no, that is not so, we do not see the young moon rising—it is a young moon setting, never younger than when we are about to die—”
Bianca cried out sharply: “Don’t, Father! Don’t talk like that; it’s so untrue! Life is all autumn, it seems to me!”
Mr. Stone’s eyes grew very blue.
“That is a foul heresy,” he stammered; “I cannot listen to it. Life is the cuckoo’s song; it is a hill-side bursting into leaf; it is the wind; I feel it in me every day!”
He was trembling like a leaf in the wind he spoke of, and Bianca moved hastily towards him, holding out her arms. Suddenly his lips began to move; she heard him mutter: “I have lost force; I will boil some milk. I must be ready when she comes.” And at those words her heart felt like a lump of ice.
Always that girl! And without again attracting his attention she went away. As she passed out through the garden she saw him at the window holding a cup of milk, from which the steam was rising.
THIRD PILGRIMAGE TO HOUND STREET
Like water, human character will find its level; and Nature, with her way of fitting men to their environment, had made young Martin Stone what Stephen called a “Sanitist.” There had been nothing else for her to do with him.
This young man had come into the social scheme at a moment when the conception of existence as a present life corrected by a life to come, was tottering; and the conception of the world as an upper-class preserve somewhat seriously disturbed.