“I believe myself to be one,” said Mrs. Graves; “and no doubt you will say, ‘Why do you live in wealth and comfort?’ That’s a difficulty, because Christ meant us to be poor. But if one hands over one’s money to Christian institutions now, one is subsidising the forces of the world—at least so I think. It’s very difficult. Christ said that we should bestow our goods upon the poor; but if I were to divide my goods to-morrow among my neighbours, they would be only injured by it—it would not be Christian of them to take them—they have enough. If they have not, I give it them. It does less harm to me than to them. But this I know is very irrational; and the point is not to be affected by that. I could live in a cottage tomorrow, if there was need.”
“Yes, I believe you could,” said Howard.
“As long as one is not dependent upon money,” said Mrs. Graves, “it doesn’t very much matter. The real point is to take the world as it comes, and to be sure that one is on the side of what is true and simple and sincere; but I do not pretend to have solved everything, and I am hoping to learn more. I do learn more every day. One can’t interfere with the lives of people; poverty is not the worst evil. It is nice to be clean, but I sometimes think that the only good I get from money is cleanliness—and that is only a question of habit! The real point is to be in life, to watch life, to love it, to live it; to be in direct relations with everyone, not to be superior, not to be kind—that implies superiority. I just plod along, believing, fearing, hoping, loving, glad to live while I may, not afraid to die when I must. The only detachment worth having is the detachment from the idea of making things one’s own. I can’t appropriate the sunset and the spring, the loves and cares of others; it is all divided up, more fairly than we think. I have had many sorrows and sufferings; but I am more interested than ever in life, glad to help and be helped, ready to change, desiring to change. It isn’t a great way of living; but one must not want that— and believe me, dear Howard, it is the only way.”
The first day or two of Howard’s stay at Windlow seemed like a week, the succeeding week seemed like a day, as soon as he had settled down to a certain routine of life. He became aware of a continued sympathetic and quite unobtrusive scrutiny of him, his ways, his tastes, his thoughts, on the part of his aunt—her questions were subtle, penetrating, provocative enough for him to wish to express an opinion. He did not dislike it, and used no diplomacy himself; he found his aunt’s mind shrewd, fresh, unaffected, and at the same time inspiring. She habitually spoke with a touch of irony—not bitter irony, but the irony that is at once a compliment and a sign of affection, such as Socrates used to the handsome boys that came about him. She was