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Chapter 3

  • Peak lost no time in leaving Exeter. To lighten his baggage, and to get rid o_ossessions to which hateful memories attached, he sold all his books that ha_ny bearing on theology. The incomplete translation of Bibel und Natur h_ommitted to the flames in Mrs Roots's kitchen, scattering its black remnant_ith savage thrusts of the poker. Whilst engaged in packing, he debated wit_imself whether or not he should take leave of the few acquaintances to who_e was indebted for hospitality and other kindness. The question was: Ha_uckland Warricombe already warned these people against him? Probably it ha_eemed to Buckland the wiser course to be content with driving the hypocrit_way; and, if this were so, regard for the future dictated a retirement fro_xeter which should in no way resemble secret flight. Sidwell's influence wit_er parents would perhaps withhold them from making his disgrace known, and i_ few years he might be glad that he had behaved with all possible prudence.
  • In the end, he decided to write to Mr. Lilywhite, saying that he was oblige_o go away at a moment's notice, and that he feared it would be necessar_ltogether to change the scheme of life which he had had in view. This was th_est way. From the Lilywhites, other people would hear of him, and perchanc_heir conjectures would be charitable.
  • Without much hesitation he had settled his immediate plans. To London he woul_ot return, for he dreaded the temptations to which the proximity of Sidwel_ould expose him, and he had no mind to meet with Moxey or Earwaker. As it wa_ow imperative that he should find work of the old kind, he could not d_etter than go to Bristol, where, from the safe ground of a cheap and obscur_odging, he might make inquiries, watch advertisements, and so on. He alread_new of establishments in Bristol where he might possibly obtain employment.
  • Living with the utmost economy, he need not fall into difficulties for mor_han a year, and before then his good repute with the Rotherhithe firm woul_nsure him some position or other; if not in Bristol, then at Newcastle, St.
  • Helen's—any great centre of fuming and malodorous industry. He was ready t_ork, would delight in work. idleness was now the intolerable thing.
  • So to Bristol he betook himself, and there made his temporary abode. Afte_pending a few weeks in fruitless search for an engagement, he at length pai_is oft-postponed visit to Twybridge. In the old home he felt completely _tranger, and his relatives strengthened the feeling by declaring him s_hanged in appearance that they hardly knew his face. With his mother onl_ould he talk in anything like an intimate way, and the falsehoods with whic_e was obliged to answer her questions all but destroyed the pleasure he woul_therwise have found in being affectionately tended. His sister, Mrs Cusse, was happy in her husband, her children, and a flourishing business. Oliver wa_aking money, and enjoyed distinction among the shopkeeping community. Hi_unt still dealt in millinery, and kept up her acquaintance with respectabl_amilies. To Godwin all was like a dream dreamt for the second time. He coul_ot acknowledge any actual connection between these people and himself. Bu_heir characteristics no longer gravely offended him, and he willingl_ecognised the homespun worth which their lives displayed. It was clear to hi_hat by no possible agency of circumstances could he have been held in norma_elations with his kinsfolk. However smooth his career, it must have wafte_im to an immeasurable distance from Twybridge. Nature had decreed that he wa_o resemble the animals which, once reared, go forth in complete independenc_f birthplace and the ties of blood. It was a harsh fate, but in what had no_ate been harsh to him? The one consolation was that he alone suffered. Hi_other was no doubt occasionally troubled by solicitude on his account, bu_he could not divine his inward miseries, and an assurance that he had n_aterial cares sufficed to set her mind at ease.
  • 'You are very like your father, Godwin,' she said, with a sigh. 'He couldn'_est, however well he seemed to be getting on. There was always something h_anted, and yet he didn't know what it was.'
  • 'Yes, I must be like him,' Godwin replied, smiling.
  • He stayed five days, then returned to Bristol. A week after that, his mothe_orwarded to him a letter which had come to Twybridge. He at once recognise_he writing, and broke the envelope with curiosity.
  • 'If you should be in London [the note began], I beg you to let me see you.
  • There is something I have to say. To speak to you for a few minutes I woul_ome any distance. Don't accuse me of behaving treacherously; it was not m_ault. I know you would rather avoid me, but do consent to hear what I have t_ay. If you have no intention of coming to London, will you write and let m_now where you are living?
  • What could Marcella have to say to him? Nothing surely that he at all cared t_ear. No doubt she imagined that he might be in ignorance of the circumstance_hich had led to Buckland Warricombe's discovery; she wished to defend hersel_gainst the suspicion of 'treachery'. He laughed carelessly, and threw he_ote aside.
  • Two months passed, and his efforts to find employment were still vain, thoug_e had received conditional promises The solitude of his life grew burdensome.
  • Several times he began a letter to Sidwell, but his difficulty in writing wa_o great that he destroyed the attempt. In truth, he knew not how to addres_er. The words he penned were tumid, meaningless. He could not sen_rofessions of love, for his heart seemed to be suffering a paralysis, and th_aborious artificiality of his style must have been evident. The only excus_or breaking silence would be to let her know that he had resumed honest work; he must wait till the opportunity offered. It did not distress him to b_ithout news of her. If she wished to write, and was only withheld b_gnorance of his whereabouts, it was well; if she had no thought of sendin_im a word, it did not matter. He loved her, and consciously nourished hope, but for the present there was nothing intolerable in separation. His state o_ind resulted partly from nervous reaction, and in part from a sense that onl_y silent suffering could his dignity in Sidwell's eyes be ultimatel_estored. Between the evil past and the hopeful future must be a complet_reak.
  • His thoughts kept turning to London, though not because Sidwell might still b_here. He felt urgent need of speaking with a friend. Moxey was perhaps n_onger to be considered one; but Earwaker would be tolerant of huma_eaknesses. To have a long talk with Earwaker would help him to recover hi_ental balance, to understand himself and his position better. So one mornin_n March, on the spur of the moment, he took train and was once more in th_etropolis. On his way he had determined to send a note to Earwaker befor_alling at Staple Inn. He wrote it at a small hotel in Paddington, where h_ook a room for the night, and then spent the evening at a theatre, as th_est way of killing time.
  • By the first post next morning came a card, whereon Earwaker had written: 'B_ere, if you can, at two o'clock. Shall be glad to see you.'
  • 'So you have been new-furnishing!' Godwin remarked, as he was admitted to th_hambers. 'You look much more comfortable.'
  • 'I'm glad you think so. It is the general opinion.'
  • They had shaken hands as though this were one of the ordinary meetings of ol_ime, and their voices scarcely belied the appearance. Peak moved about th_tudy, glancing at pictures and books, Earwaker eyeing him the while with no_nfriendly expression. They were sincerely glad to see each other, and whe_eak seated himself it was with an audible sigh of contentment.
  • 'And what are you doing?' he inquired.
  • The journalist gave a brief account of his affairs, and Peak brightened wit_leasure.
  • 'This is good news. I knew you would shake off the ragamuffins before long.
  • Give me some of your back numbers, will you? I shall be curious to examin_our new style.'
  • 'And you?—Come to live in London?'
  • 'No; I am at Bristol, but only waiting. There's a chance of an analyst's plac_n Lancashire; but I may give the preference to an opening I have heard of i_elgium. Better to go abroad, I think.'
  • 'Perhaps so.'
  • 'I have a question to ask you. I suppose you talked about that Critica_rticle of mine before you received my request for silence?'
  • 'That's how it was,' Earwaker replied, calmly.
  • 'Yes; I understood. It doesn't matter.'
  • The other puffed at his pipe, and moved uneasily.
  • 'I am taking for granted,' Peak continued, 'that you know how I have spent m_ime down in Devonshire.'
  • 'In outline. Need we trouble about the details?'
  • 'No. But don't suppose that I should feel any shame in talking to you abou_hem. That would be a confession of base motive. You and I have studied eac_ther, and we can exchange thoughts on most subjects with mutua_nderstanding. You know that I have only followed my convictions to thei_ogical issue. An opportunity offered of achieving the supreme end to which m_ife is directed, and what scruple could stand in my way? We have nothing t_o with names and epithets. Here are the facts of life as I had known it; there is the existence promised as the reward of successful artifice. To liv_as to pursue the object of my being. I could not feel otherwise; therefore, could not act otherwise. You imagine me defeated, flung back into the gutter.'
  • His words came more quickly, and the muscles of his face worked under emotion.
  • 'It isn't so. I have a great and reasonable hope. Perhaps I have gaine_verything I really desired. I could tell you the strangest story, but there _cruple does interpose. If we live another twenty years—but now I can onl_alk about myself.'
  • 'And this hope of which you speak,' said Earwaker, with a grave smile, 'point_ou at present to sober work among your retorts and test-tubes?'
  • 'Yes, it does.'
  • 'Good. Then I can put faith in the result.'
  • 'Yet the hope began in a lie,' rejoined Peak, bitterly. 'It will always b_leasant to look back upon that, won't it? You see: by no conceivable hones_ffort could I have gained this point. Life utterly denied to me th_atisfaction of my strongest instincts, so long as I plodded on without caus_f shame; the moment I denied my faith, and put on a visage of brass, grea_ossibilities opened before me. Of course I understand the moralist'_osition. It behoved me, though I knew that a barren and solitary track woul_e my only treading to the end, to keep courageously onward. If I can'_elieve that any such duty is imposed upon me, where is the obligation t_ersevere, the morality of doing so? That is the worst hypocrisy. I have bee_onest, inasmuch as I have acted in accordance with my actual belief.'
  • 'M—m—m,' muttered Earwaker, slowly. 'Then you have never been troubled with _winge of conscience?'
  • 'With a thousand! I have been racked, martyred. What has that to do with it?
  • Do you suppose I attach any final significance to those torments? Conscienc_s the same in my view as an inherited disease which may possibly break out o_ny most innocent physical indulgence.—What end have I been pursuing? Is i_riminal? Is it mean? I wanted to win the love of a woman—nothing more. To d_hat, I have had to behave like the grovelling villain who has no desire bu_o fill his pockets. And with success!—You understand that, Earwaker? I hav_ucceeded! What respect can I have for the common morality, after this?'
  • 'You have succeeded?' the other asked, thoughtfully. 'I could have imagine_hat you had been in appearance successful'——
  • He paused, and Peak resumed with vehemence:
  • 'No, not in appearance only. I can't tell you the story'——
  • 'I don't wish you to'——
  • 'But what I have won is won for ever. The triumph no longer rests on deceit.
  • What I insist upon is that by deceit only was it rendered possible. If _tarving man succeeds in stealing a loaf of bread, the food will benefit hi_o less than if he had purchased it; it is good, true sustenance, no matte_ow he got it. To be sure, the man may prefer starvation; he may have s_trong a metaphysical faith that death is welcome in comparison with what h_alls dishonour. I —I have no such faith; and millions of other men in thi_ountry would tell the blunt truth if they said the same. I have used means, that's all. The old way of candour led me to bitterness and cursing; b_issimulation I have won something more glorious than tongue can tell.'
  • It was in the endeavour to expel the subtlest enemy of his peace that Godwi_welt so defiantly upon this view of the temptation to which he had yielded.
  • Since his farewell interview with Sidwell, he knew no rest from the torment o_ mocking voice which bade him bear in mind that all his dishonour had bee_uperfluous, seeing that whilst he played the part of a zealous Christian, Sidwell herself was drifting further and further from the old religion. Thi_oice mingled with his dreams, and left not a waking hour untroubled. H_efused to believe it, strove against the suggestion as a half-despairing ma_oes against the persistent thought of suicide. If only he could obtai_arwaker's assent to the plan he put forward, it would support him i_isregard of idle regrets.
  • 'It is impossible,' said the journalist, 'for anyone to determine whether tha_s true or not—for you, as much as for anyone else. Be glad that you hav_haken off the evil and retained the good, no use in saying more than that.'
  • 'Yes,' declared the other, stubbornly, 'there is good in exposing false view_f life. I ought to have come utterly to grief and shame, and instead'——
  • 'Instead——? Well?'
  • 'What I have told you.'
  • 'Which I interpret thus: that you have permission to redeem your character, i_ossible, in the eyes of a woman you have grievously misled.'
  • Godwin frowned.
  • 'Who suggested this to you, Earwaker?'
  • 'You; no one else. I don't even know who the woman is of whom you speak.'
  • 'Grant you are right. As an honest man, I should never have won her faintes_nterest.'
  • 'It is absurd for us to talk about it. Think in the way that is most helpfu_o you,—that, no doubt, is a reasonable rule. Let us have done with all thes_bscurities, and come to a practical question. Can I be of any use to you?
  • Would you care, for instance, to write an article now and then on som_cientific matter that has a popular interest? I think I could promise to ge_hat kind of thing printed for you. Or would you review an occasional boo_hat happened to be in your line?'
  • Godwin reflected.
  • 'Thank you,' he replied, at length. 'I should be glad of such work —if I ca_et into the mood for doing it properly. That won't be just yet; but perhap_hen I have found a place'——
  • 'Think it over. Write to me about it.'
  • Peak glanced round the room.
  • 'You don't know how glad I am,' he said, 'that your prosperity shows itself i_his region of bachelordom. If I had seen you in a comfortable house, marrie_o a woman worthy of you—I couldn't have been sincere in my congratulations: _hould have envied you so fiercely.'
  • 'You're a strange fellow. Twenty years hence—as you said just now —you wil_ne way or another have got rid of your astounding illusions. At fifty—well, let us say at sixty—you will have a chance of seeing things without thes_reposterous sexual spectacles.'
  • 'I hope so. Every stage of life has its powers and enjoyments. When I am old, I hope to perceive and judge without passion of any kind. But is that an_eason why my youth should be frustrated? We have only one life, and I want t_ive mine throughout.'
  • Soon after this Peak rose. He remembered that the journalist's time wa_aluable, and that he no longer had the right to demand more of it than coul_e granted to any casual caller. Earwaker behaved with all friendliness, bu_heir relations had necessarily suffered a change. More than a year o_eparation, spent by the one in accumulating memories of dishonour, had give_he other an enviable position among men; Earwaker had his place in the socia_ystem, his growing circle of friend, his congenial labour; perhaps— notwithstanding the tone in which he spoke of marriage—his hopes of domesti_appiness. All this with no sacrifice of principle. He was fortunate in hi_emper, moral and intellectual; partly directing circumstances, partly guide_y their pressure, he advanced on the way of harmonious development. Nothin_reat would come of his endeavours, but what he aimed at he steadil_erfected. And this in spite of the adverse conditions under which he bega_is course. Nature had been kind to him; what more could one say?
  • When he went forth into the street again, Godwin felt his heart sink. Hi_olitude was the more complete for this hour of friendly dialogue. No othe_ompanionship offered itself; if he lingered here, it must be as one of th_rifting crowd, as an idle and envious spectator of the business and pleasur_ife about him. He durst not approach that quarter of the town where Sidwel_as living —if indeed she still remained here. Happily, the vastness of Londo_nabled him to think of her as at a great distance; by keeping to the distric_n which he now wandered he was practically as remote from her as when h_alked the streets of Bristol.
  • Yet there was one person who would welcome him eagerly if he chose to visi_er. And, after all, might it not be as well if he heard what Marcella had t_ay to him? He could not go to the house, for it would be disagreeable t_ncounter Moxey; but, if he wrote, Marcella would speedily make a_ppointment. After an hour or two of purposeless rambling, he decided to as_or an interview. He might learn something that really concerned him; in an_ase, it was a final meeting with Marcella, to whom he perhaps owed this muc_ourtesy.
  • The reply was as prompt as that from Earwaker. By the morning post came _etter inviting him to call upon Miss Moxey as soon as possible before noon.
  • She added, 'My brother is away in the country; you will meet no one here.'
  • By eleven o'clock he was at Notting Hill; in the drawing-room, he sat alon_or two or three minutes. Marcella entered silently, and came towards hi_ithout a smile; he saw that she read his face eagerly, if not with a light o_riumph in her eyes. The expression might signify that she rejoiced at havin_een an instrument of his discomfiture; perhaps it was nothing more tha_ladness at seeing him again.
  • 'Have you come to live in London?' she asked, when they had shaken hand_ithout a word.
  • 'I am only here for a day or two.'
  • 'My letter reached you without delay?'
  • 'Yes. It was sent from Twybridge to Bristol. I didn't reply then, as I had n_rospect of being in London.'
  • 'Will you sit down? You can stay for a few minutes?'
  • He seated himself awkwardly. Now that he was in Marcella's presence, he fel_hat he had acted unaccountably in giving occasion for another scene betwee_hem which could only end as painfully as that at Exeter. Her emotion gre_vident; he could not bear to meet the look she had fixed upon him.
  • 'I want to speak of what happened in this house about Christmas time,' sh_esumed. 'But I must know first what you have been told.'
  • 'What have you been told?' he replied, with an uneasy smile. 'How do you kno_hat anything which happened here had any importance for me?'
  • 'I don't know that it had. But I felt sure that Mr. Warricombe meant to spea_o you about it.'
  • 'Yes, he did.'
  • 'But did he tell you the exact truth? Or were you led to suppose that I ha_roken my promise to you?'
  • Unwilling to introduce any mention of Sidwell, Peak preferred to simplify th_tory by attributing to Buckland all the information he had gathered.
  • 'I understood,' he replied, 'that Warricombe had come here in the hope o_earning more about me, and that certain facts came out in genera_onversation. What does it matter how he learned what he did? From the da_hen he met you down in Devonshire, it was of course inevitable that the trut_hould sooner or later come out. He always suspected me.'
  • 'But I want you to know,' said Marcella, 'that I had no willing part in it. _romised you not to speak even to my brother, and I should never have done s_ut that Christian somehow met Mr. Warricombe, and heard him talk of you. O_ourse he came to me in astonishment, and for your own interest I thought i_est to tell Christian what I knew. When Mr. Warricombe came here, neithe_hristian nor I would have enlightened him about—about your past. It happene_ost unfortunately that Mr. Malkin was present, and he it was who began t_peak of the Critical article—and other things. I was powerless to preven_t.'
  • 'Why trouble about it? I quite believe your account.'
  • 'You do believe it? You know I would not have injured you?'
  • 'I am sure you had no wish to,' Godwin replied, in as unsentimental a tone a_ossible. And, he added after a moment's pause, 'Was this what you were s_nxious to tell me?'
  • 'Yes. Chiefly that.'
  • 'Let me put your mind at rest,' pursued the other, with quiet friendliness. '_m disposed to turn optimist; everything has happened just as it should hav_one. Warricombe relieved me from a false position. If he hadn't done so, _ust very soon have done it for myself. Let us rejoice that things wor_ogether for such obvious good. A few more lessons of this kind, and we shal_cknowledge that the world is the best possible.'
  • He laughed, but the tense expression of Marcella's features did not relax.
  • 'You say you are living in Bristol?'
  • 'For a time.'
  • 'Have you abandoned Exeter?'
  • The word implied something that Marcella could not utter more plainly. He_ace completed the question.
  • 'And the clerical career as well,' he answered.
  • But he knew that she sought more than this, and his voice again broke th_ilence.
  • 'Perhaps you have heard that already? Are you in communication with Mis_oorhouse?'
  • She shook her head.
  • 'But probably Warricombe has told your brother——?'
  • 'What?'
  • 'Oh, of his success in ridding Exeter of my objectionable presence.'
  • 'Christian hasn't seen him again, nor have I.'
  • 'I only wish to assure you that I have suffered no injury. My experiment wa_oomed to failure. What led me to it, how I regarded it, we won't discuss; _m as little prepared to do so now as when we talked at Exeter. That chapte_n my life is happily over. As soon as I am established again in a place lik_hat I had at Rotherhithe, I shall be quite contented.'
  • 'Contented?' She smiled incredulously. 'For how long?'
  • 'Who can say? I have lost the habit of looking far forward.'
  • Marcella kept silence so long that he concluded she had nothing more to say t_im. It was an opportunity for taking leave without emotional stress, and h_ose from his chair.
  • 'Don't go yet,' she said at once. 'It wasn't only this that I'——
  • Her voice was checked.
  • 'Can I be of any use to you in Bristol?' Peak asked, determined to avoid th_rial he saw approaching.
  • 'There is something more I wanted to say,' she pursued, seeming not to hea_im. 'You pretend to be contented, but I know that is impossible. You talk o_oing back to a dull routine of toil, when what you most desire is freedom. _ant—if I can—to help you.'
  • Again she failed to command her voice. Godwin raised his eyes, and wa_stonished at the transformation she had suddenly undergone. Her face, instea_f being colourless and darkly vehement, had changed to a bright warmth, _miling radiance such as would have become a happy girl. His look seemed t_ive her courage.
  • 'Only hear me patiently. We are such old friends—are we not? We have so ofte_roclaimed our scorn of conventionality, and why should a conventional fea_inder what I want to say? You know— don't you?—that I have far more mone_han I need or am ever likely to. I want only a few hundreds a year, and _ave more than a thousand.' She spoke more and more quickly, fearful of bein_nterrupted. 'Why shouldn't I give you some of my superfluity? Let me help yo_n this way. Money can do so much. Take some from me, and use it as yo_ill—just as you will. It is useless to me. Why shouldn't someone whom I wis_ell benefit by it?'
  • Godwin was not so much surprised as disconcerted. He knew that Marcella'_ature was of large mould, and that whether she acted for good or evil it_romptings would be anything but commonplace. The ardour with which sh_leaded, and the magnitude of the benefaction she desired to bestow upon him, so affected his imagination that for the moment he stood as if doubting wha_eply to make. The doubt really in his mind was whether Marcella ha_alculated upon his weakness, and hoped to draw him within her power by th_orce of such an obligation, or if in truth she sought only to appease he_eart with the exercise of generosity.
  • 'You will let me?' she panted forth, watching him with brilliant eyes. 'Thi_hall be a secret for ever between you and me. It imposes no debt o_ratitude—how I despise the thought! I give you what is worthless t_e,—except that it can do you good. But you can thank me if you will. I am no_bove being thanked.' She laughed unnaturally. 'Go and travel at first, as yo_ished to. Write me a short letter every month—every two months, just that _ay know you are enjoying your life. It is agreed, isn't it?'
  • She held her hand to him, but Peak drew away, his face averted.
  • 'How can you give me the pain of refusing such an offer?' he exclaimed, wit_emonstrance which was all but anger. 'You know the thing is utterl_mpossible. I should be ridiculous if I argued about it for a moment.'
  • 'I can't see that it is impossible.'
  • 'Then you must take my word for it. But I have no right to speak to you i_hat way,' he added, more kindly, seeing the profound humiliation which fel_pon her. 'You meant to come to my aid at a time when I seemed to you lonel_nd miserable. It was a generous impulse, and I do indeed thank you. I shal_lways remember it and be grateful to you.'
  • Marcella's face was again in shadow. Its lineaments hardened to an expressio_f cold, stern dignity.
  • 'I have made a mistake,' she said. 'I thought you above common ways o_hinking.'
  • 'Yes, you put me on too high a pedestal,' Peak answered, trying to spea_umorously. 'One of my faults is that I am apt to mistake my own position i_he same way.'
  • 'You think yourself ambitious. Oh, if you knew really great ambition! Go bac_o your laboratory, and work for wages. I would have saved you from that.'
  • The tone was not vehement, but the words bit all the deeper for thei_nimpassioned accent. Godwin could make no reply.
  • 'I hope,' she continued, 'we may meet a few years hence. By that time you wil_ave learnt that what I offered was not impossible. You will wish you ha_ared to accept it. I know what your ambition is. Wait till you are old enoug_o see it in its true light. How you will scorn yourself! Surely there wa_ever a man who united such capacity for great things with so mean an ideal.
  • You will never win even the paltry satisfaction on which you have set you_ind—never! But you can't be made to understand that. You will throw away al_he best part of your life. Meet me in a few years, and tell me the story o_he interval.'
  • 'I will engage to do that, Marcella.'
  • 'You will? But not to tell me the truth. You will not dare to tell the truth.'
  • 'Why not?' he asked, indifferently. 'Decidedly I shall owe it you in retur_or your frankness to-day. Till then—good-bye.'
  • She did not refuse her hand, and as he moved away she watched him with a smil_f slighting good-nature.
  • On the morrow Godwin was back in Bristol, and there he dwelt for another si_onths, a period of mental and physical lassitude. Earwaker corresponded wit_im, and urged him to attempt the work that had been proposed, but such effor_as beyond his power.
  • He saw one day in a literary paper an announcement that Reusch's Bibel un_atur was about to be published in an English translation. So someone else ha_uccessfully finished the work he undertook nearly two years ago. He amuse_imself with the thought that he could ever have persevered so long in suc_rofitless labour, and with a contemptuous laugh he muttered 'Thohu wabohu.'
  • Just when the winter had set in, he received an offer of a post in chemica_orks at St. Helen's, and without delay travelled northwards. The appointmen_as a poor one, and seemed unlikely to be a step to anything better, but hi_esources would not last more than another half year, and employment o_hatever kind came as welcome relief to the tedium of his existence.
  • Established in his new abode, he at length wrote to Sidwell. She answered hi_t once in a short letter which he might have shown to anyone, so calm wer_ts expressions of interest, so uncompromising its words of congratulation. I_egan 'Dear Mr. Peak', and ended with 'Yours sincerely'. Well, he had used th_ame formalities, and had uttered his feelings with scarcely more of warmth.
  • Disappointment troubled him for a moment, and for a moment only. He was so fa_rom Exeter, and further still from the life that he had led there. It seeme_o him all but certain that Sidwell wrote coldly, with the intention o_iscouraging his hopes. What hope was he so foolish as to entertain? Hi_osition poorer than ever, what could justify him in writing love-letters to _irl who, even if willing to marry him, must not do so until he had a suitabl_ome to offer her?
  • Since his maturity, he had never known so long a freedom from passion. One da_e wrote to Earwaker: 'I begin to your independence with regard to women. I_ould be a strange thing if I became a convert to that way of thinking, bu_nce or twice of late I have imagined that it was happening. My mind has al_ut recovered its tone, and I am able to read, to think—I mean really t_hink, not to muse. I get through big and solid books. Presently, if you_ffer still hold good, I shall send you a scrap of writing on something o_ther. The pestilent atmosphere of this place seems to invigorate me. Las_aturday evening I took train, got away into the hills, and spent the Sunda_eologising. And a curious experience befell me,—one I had long, long ago, i_he Whitelaw days. Sitting down before some interesting strata, I lost mysel_n something like nirvana, grew so subject to the idea of vastness i_eological time that all human desires and purposes shrivelled to ridiculou_nimportance. Awaking for a minute, I tried to realise the passion which no_ong ago rent and racked me, but I was flatly incapable of understanding it.
  • Will this philosophic state endure? Perhaps I have used up all my emotiona_nergy? I hardly know whether to hope or fear it.'
  • About midsummer, when his short holiday (he would only be released for _ortnight) drew near, he was surprised by another letter from Sidwell.
  • 'I am anxious [she wrote] to hear that you are well. It is more than half _ear since your last letter, and of late I have been constantly expecting _ew lines. The spring has been a time of trouble with us. A distant relative, an old and feeble lady who has passed her life in a little Dorsetshir_illage, came to see us in April, and in less than a fortnight she was seize_ith illness and died. Then Fanny had an attack of bronchitis, from which eve_ow she is not altogether recovered. On her account we are all going to Royat, and I think we shall be away until the end of September. Will you let me hea_rom you before I leave England, which will be in a week's time? Don't refrai_rom writing because you think you have no news to send. Anything tha_nterests you is of interest to me. If it is only to tell me what you hav_een reading, I shall be glad of a letter.'
  • It was still 'Yours sincerely'; but Godwin felt that the letter meant more. I_e-reading it he was pleasantly thrilled with a stirring of the old emotions.
  • But his first impulse, to write an ardent reply, did not carry him away; h_eflected and took counsel of the experience gained in his studious solitude.
  • It was evident that by keeping silence he had caused Sidwell to throw of_omething of her reserve. The course dictated by prudence was to maintain a_ttitude of dignity, to hold himself in check. In this way he would regai_hat he had so disastrously lost, Sidwell's respect. There was a distinc_leasure in this exercise of self-command; it was something new to him; i_lattered his pride. 'Let her learn that, after all, I am her superior. Le_er fear to lose me. Then, if her love is still to be depended upon, she wil_efore long find a way to our union. It is in her power, if only she will_t.'
  • So he sat down and wrote a short letter which seemed to him a model o_ignified expression.