Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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PART II

CHAPTER I

GREGORY REOPENS THE CAMPAIGN

At one end of the walled garden which Mr. Pendyce had formed in imitation of that at dear old Strathbegally, was a virgin orchard of pear and cherry trees.  They blossomed early, and by the end of the third week in April the last of the cherries had broken into flower.  In the long grass, underneath, a wealth of daffodils, jonquils, and narcissus, came up year after year, and sunned their yellow stars in the light which dappled through the blossom.

And here Mrs. Pendyce would come, tan gauntlets on her hands, and stand, her face a little flushed with stooping, as though the sight of all that bloom was restful.  It was due to her that these old trees escaped year after year the pruning and improvements which the genius of the Squire would otherwise have applied.  She had been brought up in an old Totteridge tradition that fruit-trees should be left to themselves, while her husband, possessed of a grasp of the subject not more than usually behind the times, was all for newer methods.  She had fought for those trees.  They were as yet the only things she had fought for in her married life, and Horace Pendyce still remembered with a discomfort robbed by time of poignancy how she had stood with her back to their bedroom door and said, “If you cut those poor trees, Horace, I won’t live here!” He had at once expressed his determination to have them pruned; but, having put off the action for a day or two, the trees still stood unpruned thirty-three years later.  He had even come to feel rather proud of the fact that they continued to bear fruit, and would speak of them thus:  “Queer fancy of my wife’s, never been cut.  And yet, remarkable thing, they do better than any of the others!”

This spring, when all was so forward, and the cuckoos already in full song, when the scent of young larches in the New Plantation (planted the year of George’s birth) was in the air like the perfume of celestial lemons, she came to the orchard more than usual, and her spirit felt the stirring, the old, half-painful yearning for she knew not what, that she had felt so often in her first years at Worsted Skeynes.  And sitting there on a green-painted seat under the largest of the cherry-trees, she thought even more than her wont of George, as though her son’s spirit, vibrating in its first real passion, were calling to her for sympathy.

He had been down so little all that winter, twice for a couple of days’ shooting, once for a week-end, when she had thought him looking thinner and rather worn.  He had missed Christmas for the first time.  With infinite precaution she had asked him casually if he had seen Helen Bellew, and he had answered, “Oh yes, I see her once in a way!”

Secretly all through the winter she consulted the Times newspaper for mention of George’s horse, and was disappointed not to find any.  One day, however, in February, discovering him absolutely at the head of several lists of horses with figures after them, she wrote off at once with a joyful heart.  Of five lists in which the Ambler’s name appeared, there was only one in which he was second.  George’s answer came in the course of a week or so.  “My dear mother,

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