Howard sat amazed at the fire and glow of the words that came to him. He did not fully understand all that was said, but he had a sense of being brought into touch with a very tremendous and overwhelming force indeed. But he could not for the moment revise his impressions; he only perceived that he had come unexpectedly upon a calm and radiating centre of energy, and it seemed in his mind that the pool which he had seen that morning was an allegory of what he had now heard. The living water, breaking up so clearly from underground in the grassy valley, and passing downwards to gladden the earth! It would be used, be tainted, be troubled, but he saw that no soil or stain, no scattering or disruption, could ever really intrude itself into that elemental purity. The stream would reunite itself, the impregnable atom would let the staining substance fall unheeded. He would have to consider all that, scrutinise his life in a new light. He felt that he had been living on the surface of things, relying on impression, living in impression, missing the strong central current all the time. He rose, and taking his aunt’s hand, kissed her cheek.
“Those are my thanks!” he said smiling. “I can’t express my gratitude, but you have given me so much to think about and to ponder over that I can say no more now. I do indeed feel that I have missed what is perhaps the greatest thing in the world. But I ask myself, Can I attain to this, is it for me? Am I not condemned by temperament to live in the surface-values?”
“No, dear child,” said Mrs. Graves, looking at him, so that for an instant he felt like a child indeed at a mother’s knee; “we all come home thus, sooner or later; and the time has come for you. I knew it the moment I opened your letter. He is at the gate, I said, and I may have the joy of being beside him when the door is opened.”
ON THE DOWN
Howard was very singularly impressed by this talk. It seemed to him, not certainly indeed, but possibly, that he had stumbled, almost as it were by accident, upon a great current of force and emotion running vehemently through the world, under the calm surface of things. How many apparently unaccountable events it might explain! one saw frail people doing fine things, sensitive people bearing burdens of ill-health or disappointment, placidly and even contentedly, men making gallant, unexpected choices, big expansive natures doing dull work and living cheerfully under cramped conditions. He had never troubled to explain such phenomena, beyond thinking that for some reason such a course of action pleased and satisfied people. Of course everyone did not hide the struggle; there were men he knew who had a grievance against the world, for ever parading a valuation of themselves with which no one concurred. But there were many people who had the material for far worse grievances, who never