“Yes,” murmured Noel fervently.
“He’s such a queer mixture,” mused George. “Clean out of his age; chalks above most of the parsons in a spiritual sense and chalks below most of them in the worldly. And yet I believe he’s in the right of it. The Church ought to be a forlorn hope, Nollie; then we should believe in it. Instead of that, it’s a sort of business that no one can take too seriously. You see, the Church spiritual can’t make good in this age—has no chance of making good, and so in the main it’s given it up for vested interests and social influence. Your father is a symbol of what the Church is not. But what about you, my dear? There’s a room at my boarding-house, and only one old lady besides myself, who knits all the time. If Grace can get shifted we’ll find a house, and you can have the baby. They’ll send your luggage on from Paddington if you write; and in the meantime Gracie’s got some things here that you can have.”
“I’ll have to send a wire to Daddy.”
“I’ll do that. You come to my diggings at half past one, and I’ll settle you in. Until then, you’d better stay up here.”
When he had gone she roamed a little farther, and lay down on the short grass, where the chalk broke through in patches. She could hear a distant rumbling, very low, travelling in that grass, the long mutter of the Flanders guns. ‘I wonder if it’s as beautiful a day there,’ she thought. ’How dreadful to see no green, no butterflies, no flowers-not even sky-for the dust of the shells. Oh! won’t it ever, ever end?’ And a sort of passion for the earth welled up in her, the warm grassy earth along which she lay, pressed so close that she could feel it with every inch of her body, and the soft spikes of the grass against her nose and lips. An aching sweetness tortured her, she wanted the earth to close its arms about her, she wanted the answer to her embrace of it. She was alive, and wanted love. Not death—not loneliness—not death! And out there, where the guns muttered, millions of men would be thinking that same thought!
Pierson had passed nearly the whole night with the relics of his past, the records of his stewardship, the tokens of his short married life. The idea which had possessed him walking home in the moonlight sustained him in that melancholy task of docketing and destruction. There was not nearly so much to do as one would have supposed, for, with all his dreaminess, he had been oddly neat and businesslike in all parish matters. But a hundred times that night he stopped, overcome by memories. Every corner, drawer, photograph, paper was a thread in the long-spun web of his life in this house. Some phase of his work, some vision of his wife or daughters started forth from each bit of furniture, picture, doorway. Noiseless, in his slippers, he stole up and down between the study, diningroom, drawing-room,