And this is what he remembered.
On the first of May, after their last year together at college, Frank Ashurst and his friend Robert Garton were on a tramp. They had walked that day from Brent, intending to make Chagford, but Ashurst’s football knee had given out, and according to their map they had still some seven miles to go. They were sitting on a bank beside the-road, where a track crossed alongside a wood, resting the knee and talking of the universe, as young men will. Both were over six feet, and thin as rails; Ashurst pale, idealistic, full of absence; Garton queer, round-the-corner, knotted, curly, like some primeval beast. Both had a literary bent; neither wore a hat.
Ashurst’s hair was smooth, pale, wavy, and had a way of rising on either side of his brow, as if always being flung back; Carton’s was a kind of dark unfathomed mop. They had not met a soul for miles.
“My dear fellow,” Garton was saying, “pity’s only an effect of self-consciousness; it’s a disease of the last five thousand years. The world was happier without.”
Ashurst, following the clouds with his eyes, answered:
“It’s the pearl in the oyster, anyway.”
“My dear chap, all our modern unhappiness comes from pity. Look at animals, and Red Indians, limited to feeling their own occasional misfortunes; then look at ourselves—never free from feeling the toothaches of others. Let’s get back to feeling for nobody, and have a better time.”
“You’ll never practise that.”
Garton pensively stirred the hotch-potch of his hair.
“To attain full growth, one mustn’t be squeamish. To starve oneself emotionally’s a mistake. All emotion is to the good—enriches life.”
“Yes, and when it runs up against chivalry?”
“Ah! That’s so English! If you speak of emotion the English always think you want something physical, and are shocked. They’re afraid of passion, but not of lust—oh, no!—so long as they can keep it secret.”
Ashurst did not answer; he had plucked a blue floweret, and was twiddling it against the sky. A cuckoo began calling from a thorn tree. The sky, the flowers, the songs of birds! Robert was talking through his hat! And he said: