company from towns might well cry out: Monotony!
True, they got their holidays; true, they had more
social life—a point that might well be
raised at Becket: Holidays and social life for
men on the soil! But—and suddenly
Felix thought of the long, long holiday that was before
the laborer Tryst. ’Twiddle his thumbs’—in
the words of the little humanitarian—twiddle
his thumbs in a space twelve feet by seven! No
sky to see, no grass to smell, no beast to bear him
company; no anything—for, what resources
in himself had this poor creature? No anything,
but to sit with tragic eyes fixed on the wall before
him for eighty days and eighty nights, before they
tried him. And then—not till then—would
his punishment for that moment’s blind revenge
for grievous wrong begin! What on this earth
of God’s was more disproportioned, and wickedly
extravagant, more crassly stupid, than the arrangements
of his most perfect creature, man? What a devil
was man, who could yet rise to such sublime heights
of love and heroism! What a ferocious brute,
the most ferocious and cold-blooded brute that lived!
Of all creatures most to be stampeded by fear into
a callous torturer! ’Fear’—thought
Felix—’fear! Not momentary panic,
such as makes our brother animals do foolish things;
conscious, calculating fear, paralyzing the reason
of our minds and the generosity of our hearts.
A detestable thing Tryst has done, a hateful act;
but his punishment will be twentyfold as hateful!’
And, unable to sit and think of it, Felix rose and
walked on through the fields. . . .
He was duly at Transham station in time for the London
train, and, after a minute consecrated to looking
in the wrong direction, he saw his mother already
on the platform with her bag, an air-cushion, and a
beautifully neat roll.
‘Travelling third!’ he thought.
‘Why will she do these things?’
Slightly flushed, she kissed Felix with an air of
“How good of you to meet me, darling!”
Felix pointed in silence to the crowded carriage from
which she had emerged. Frances Freeland looked
a little rueful. “It would have been delightful,”
she said. “There was a dear baby there
and, of course, I couldn’t have the window down,
so it was rather hot.”
Felix, who could just see the dear baby, said dryly:
“So that’s how you go about, is it?
Have you had any lunch?”
Frances Freeland put her hand under his arm.
“Now, don’t fuss, darling! Here’s
sixpence for the porter. There’s only one
trunk—it’s got a violet label.
Do you know them? They’re so useful.
You see them at once. I must get you some.”
“Let me take those things. You won’t
want this cushion. I’ll let the air out.”
“I’m afraid you won’t be able, dear.
It’s quite the best screw I’ve ever come
across—a splendid thing; I can’t get