Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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In silence all three bent their eyes on the baby.  His little fists, and nose, and forehead, even his little naked, crinkled feet, were thrust with all his feeble strength against his mother’s bosom, as though he were striving to creep into some hole away from life.  There was a sort of dumb despair in that tiny pushing of his way back to the place whence he had come.  His head, covered with dingy down, quivered with his effort to escape.  He had been alive so little; that little had sufficed.  Martin put his pipe back into his mouth.

“This won’t do, you know,” he said.  “He can’t stand it.  And look here!  If you stop feeding him, I wouldn’t give that for him tomorrow!” He held up the circle of his thumb and finger.  “You’re the best judge of what sort of chance you’ve got of going on in your present state of mind!” Then, motioning to Thyme, he went down the stairs.

CHAPTER XVI

BENEATH THE ELMS

Spring was in the hearts of men, and their tall companions, trees.  Their troubles, the stiflings of each other’s growth, and all such things, seemed of little moment.  Spring had them by the throat.  It turned old men round, and made them stare at women younger than themselves.  It made young men and women walking side by side touch each other, and every bird on the branches tune his pipe.  Flying sunlight speckled the fluttered leaves, and gushed the cheeks of crippled boys who limped into the Gardens, till their pale Cockney faces shone with a strange glow.

In the Broad Walk, beneath those dangerous trees, the elms, people sat and took the sun—­cheek by jowl, generals and nursemaids, parsons and the unemployed.  Above, in that Spring wind, the elm-tree boughs were swaying, rustling, creaking ever so gently, carrying on the innumerable talk of trees—­their sapient, wordless conversation over the affairs of men.  It was pleasant, too, to see and hear the myriad movement of the million little separate leaves, each shaped differently, flighting never twice alike, yet all obedient to the single spirit of their tree.

Thyme and Martin were sitting on a seat beneath the largest of all the elms.  Their manner lacked the unconcern and dignity of the moment, when, two hours before, they had started forth on their discovery from the other end of the Broad Walk.  Martin spoke: 

“It’s given you the hump!  First sight of blood, and you’re like all the rest of them!”

“I’m not, Martin.  How perfectly beastly of you!”

“Oh yes, you are.  There’s plenty of aestheticism about you and your people—­plenty of good intentions—­but not an ounce of real business!”

“Don’t abuse my people; they’re just as kind as you!”

“Oh, they’re kind enough, and they can see what’s wrong.  It’s not that which stops them.  But your dad’s a regular official.  He’s got so much sense of what he ought not to do that he never does anything; Just as Hilary’s got so much consciousness of what he ought to do that he never does anything.  You went to that woman’s this morning with your ideas of helping her all cut and dried, and now that you find the facts aren’t what you thought, you’re stumped!”

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