Immediately upon his uncle's departure, Godwin disappeared; Mrs. Peak caugh_nly a glimpse of him as he went by the parlour window. In a short time Olive_ame home, and, having learned what had happened, joined his mother and siste_n a dull, intermittent conversation on the subject of Godwin's futur_ifficulties.
'He won't go back to Whitelaw,' declared the lad. 'He said he wouldn't.'
'People must be above such false shame,' was Charlotte's opinion. 'I can't se_hat it will make the slightest difference in his position or his prospects.'
Whereupon her mother's patience gave way.
'Don't talk such nonsense, Charlotte! You understand perfectly well ho_erious it will be. I never knew anything so cruel.'
'I was never taught,' persisted the girl, with calm obstinacy, 'that one ough_o be ashamed of one's relatives just because they are in a humble position.'
Oliver brought the tedious discussion to an end by clamouring for supper. Th_able was laid, and all were about to sit down when Godwin presented himself.
To the general astonishment, he seemed in excellent spirits, and ate mor_eartily than usual. Not a word was spoken of Uncle Andrew, until Mrs. Pea_nd her elder son were left alone together; then Godwin remarked in a tone o_atisfied decision:
'Of course, this is the end of my work at Whitelaw. We must make new plans, mother.'
'But how can we, dear? What will Lady Whitelaw say?'
'I have to think it out yet. In a day or two I shall very likely write _etter to Lady Whitelaw. There's no need, you know, to go talking about thi_n Twybridge. Just leave it to me, will you?'
'It's not a subject I care to talk about, you may be sure. But I do hope yo_on't do anything rash, Godwin.'
'Not I. To tell you the truth, I'm not at all sorry to leave. It was a mistak_hat I went in for the Arts course—Greek, and Latin, and so on, you know; _ught to have stuck to science. I shall go back to it now. Don't be afraid.
I'll make a position for myself before long. I'll repay all you have spent o_e.'
To this conclusion had he come. The process of mind was favoured by his defea_n all the Arts subjects; in that direction he could see only the triumphan_hilvers, a figure which disgusted him with Greeks, Romans, and all the way_f literature. As to his future efforts he was by no means clear, but it ease_im greatly to have cast off a burden of doubt; his theorising intellect love_he sensation of life thrown open to new, however vague, possibilities. A_resent he was convinced that Andrew Peak had done him a service. In thi_here was an indication of moral cowardice, such as commonly connects itsel_ith intense pride of individuality. He desired to shirk the combat wit_hilvers, and welcomed as an excuse for doing so the shame which anothe_emper would have stubbornly defied.
Now he would abandon his B.A. examination,—a clear saving of money. Presentl_t might suit him to take the B.Sc. instead; time enough to think of that. Ha_e but pursued the Science course from the first, who at Whitelaw could hav_ome out ahead of him? He had wasted a couple of years which might have bee_ost profitably applied: by this time he might have been ready to obtain _osition as demonstrator in some laboratory, on his way perhaps to _rofessorship. How had he thus been led astray? Not only had his boyis_nstincts moved strongly towards science, but was not the tendency of the ag_n the same direction? Buckland Warricombe, who habitually declaimed agains_lassical study, was perfectly right; the world had learned all it could fro_hose hoary teachers, and must now turn to Nature. On every hand, the futur_as with students of the laws of matter. Often, it was true, he had bee_empted by the thought of a literary career; he had written in verse an_rose, but with small success. An attempt to compose the Prize Poem was soo_bandoned in discouragement; the essay he sent in had not been mentioned.
These honours had fallen to Earwaker, with whom it was not easy to compete o_uch ground. No, he was not born a man of letters. But in science, grante_air opportunity, he might make a name. He might, and he would!
On the morrow, splendour of sunshine drew him forth to some distance from th_own. He went along the lanes singing; now it was holiday with him, and fo_he first time he could enjoy the broad golden daylight, the genial warmth. I_ hollow of grassy fields, where he least expected to encounter a_cquaintance, it was his chance to come upon Christian Moxey, stretched a_ull length in the company of nibbling sheep. Since the dinner at Mr. Moxey's, he had neither seen nor heard of Christian, who, it seemed probable, was bac_t his work in Rotherhithe. As their looks met, both laughed.
'I won't get up,' said Christian; 'the effort would be too great. Sit down an_et us have a talk.'
'I disturb your thoughts,' answered Godwin.
'A most welcome disturbance; they weren't very pleasant just then. In fact, _ave come as far as this in the hope of escaping them. I'm not much of _alker, are you?'
'Well, yes, I enjoy a good walk.'
'You are of an energetic type,' said Christian, musingly. 'You will d_omething in life. When do you go up for Honours?'
'I have decided not to go in at all.'
'Indeed; I'm sorry to hear that.'
'I have half made up my mind not to return to Whitelaw.'
Observing his hearer's look of surprise, Godwin asked himself whether i_ignified a knowledge of his footing at Whitelaw. The possibility of thi_alled him; but it was such a great step to have declared, as it were i_ublic, an intention of freeing himself, that he was able to talk on wit_omething of aggressive confidence.
'I think I shall go in for some practical work of a scientific kind. It was _istake for me to pursue the Arts course.'
Christian looked at him earnestly.
'Are you sure of that?'
'Yes, I feel sure of it.'
There was silence. Christian beat the ground with his stick.
'Your state of mind, then,' he said at length, 'is more like my own than _magined. I, too, have wavered for a long time between literature and science, and now at last I have quite decided— quite—that scientific study is the onl_afe line for me. The fact is, a man must concentrate himself. Not only fo_he sake of practical success, but—well, for his own sake.'
He spoke lazily, dreamily, propped upon his elbow, seeming to watch the shee_hich panted at a few yards from him.
'I have no right,' he pursued, with a shadow of kindly anxiety on hi_eatures, 'to offer you advice, but—well, if you will let me insist on what _ave learned from my own experience. There's nothing like having a specia_ine of work and sticking to it vigorously. I, unfortunately, shall never d_nything of any account,—but I know so well the conflict between divergin_astes. It has played the deuce with me, in all sorts of ways. At Zurich _tterly wasted my time, and I've done no better since I came back to England.
Don't think me presumptuous. I only mean— well, it is so important to—to g_head in one line.'
His air of laughing apology was very pleasant. Godwin felt his heart open t_he kind fellow.
'No one needs the advice more than I,' he replied. 'I am going back to th_ine I took naturally when I first began to study at all.'
With ready tact Moxey led away from a subject which he saw was painful.
'Of course there are many other places where one can study just as well.'
'Do you know anything of the School of Mines in London?' Godwin inquired, abruptly.
'I worked there myself for a short time.'
'Then you could tell me about the—the fees, and soon?'
Christian readily gave the desired information, and the listener mused ove_t.
'Have you any friends in London?' Moxey asked, at length.
'No. But I don't think that matters. I shall work all the harder.' 'Perhap_o,' said the other, with some hesitation. And he added thoughtfully, 'I_epends on one's temperament. Doesn't answer to be too much alone—I speak fo_yself at all events. I know very few people in London—very few that I car_nything about. That, in fact, is one reason why I am staying here longer tha_ intended.' He seemed to speak rather to himself than to Godwin; the half- smile on his lips expressed a wish to disclose circumstances and motives whic_ere yet hardly a suitable topic in a dialogue such as this. 'I like th_tmosphere of a—of a comfortable home. No doubt I should get on better—wit_hings in general—if I had a home of my own. I live in lodgings, you know; m_ister lives with friends. Of course one has a sense of freedom, but then'—
His voice murmured off into silence, and again he beat the ground with hi_ane. Godwin was strongly interested in this broken revelation; he found i_ifficult to understand Moxey's yearning for domesticity, all his own impulse_eading towards quite a contrary ideal. To him, life in London lodgings mad_ich promise; that indeed would be freedom, and full of all manner of hig_ossibilities!
Each communed with his thoughts. Happening to glance at Christian, Godwin wa_truck with the graceful attitude in which the young man reclined; he himsel_quatted awkwardly on the grass, unable to abandon himself in natural repose, even as he found it impossible to talk with the ease of unconsciousness. Th_ontrast, too, between his garments, his boots, and those of the Londoner wa_ainful enough to him. Without being a dandy, Christian, it was evident, gav_ good deal of thought to costume. That kind of thing had always excite_odwin's contempt, but now he confessed himself envious; doubtless, to be wel_ressed was a great step towards the finished ease of what is called _entlemanly demeanour, which he knew he was very far from having attained.
'Well,' exclaimed Christian, unexpectedly, 'if I can be of ever so little us_o you, pray let me. I must get back to town in a few days, but you know m_ddress. Write to me, I beg, if you wish for any more information.'
The talk turned to less difficult topics. Godwin made inquiries about Zurich, then about Switzerland in general.
'Did you see much of the Alps?'
'Not as a climber sees them. That sort of thing isn't in my way; I haven't th_nergy—more's the pity. Would you like to see a lot of good photographs _rought back? I have them here; brought them to show the girls.'
In spite of the five Miss Moxeys and Christian's sister, Peak accepted th_nvitation to walk back with his companion, and presently they began to strol_owards Twybridge.
'I have an absurd tendency to dream—to lose myself amid ideals— I don't quit_now how to express it,' Christian resumed, when both had been silent for som_inutes. 'That's why I mean to go in earnestly for science—as a corrective.
Fortunately, I have to work for my living; otherwise, I should moon my lif_way—no doubt. My sister has ten times as much energy—she knows much more tha_ do already. What a splendid thing it is to be of an independent character! _ad rather be a self-reliant coal-heaver than a millionaire of uncertain will.
My uncle—there's a man who knows his own mind. I respect those stron_ractical natures. Don't be misled by ideals. Make the most of you_ircumstances. Don't aim at—but I beg your pardon; I don't know what right _ave to lecture you in this way.' And he broke off with his pleasant, kind- hearted laugh, colouring a little.
They reached Mr. Moxey's house. In a garden chair on the lawn sat Miss Janet, occupied with a book. She rose to meet them, shook hands with Godwin, and sai_o her cousin:
'The postman has just left a letter for you—forwarded from London.'
'Indeed? I'm going to show Mr. Peak my Swiss photographs. You wouldn't care t_ome and help me in the toil of turning them over?'
'O lazy man!'
Her laugh was joyous. Any one less prejudiced than Peak would have recognise_he beauty which transformed her homely features as she met Christian's look.
On the hall table lay the letter of which Janet had spoken. Christian took i_p, and Godwin, happening at that moment to observe him, caught the tremor o_ sudden emotion on lip and eyelid. Instantly, prompted by he knew not wha_erception, he turned his gaze to Janet, and in time to see that she also wa_ware of her cousin's strong interest in the letter, which was at once pu_way in Christian's pocket.
They passed into the sitting-room, where a large portfolio stood against th_ack of a chair. The half-hour which ensued was to Godwin a time o_neasiness. His pleasure in the photographs suffered disturbance from a subtl_tress on his nerves, due to something indeterminable in the situation, o_hich he formed a part. Janet's merry humour seemed to be subdued. Christia_as obviously forcing himself to entertain the guest whilst his thoughts wer_lsewhere. As soon as possible, Godwin rose to depart. He was just sayin_ood-bye to Janet, when Marcella entered the room. She stood still, an_hristian said, hurriedly:
'It's possible, Marcella, that Mr. Peak will be coming to London before long.
We may have the pleasure of seeing him there.'
'You will be glad, I'm sure,' answered his sister. Then, as if forcing hersel_o address Peak directly, she faced to him and added, 'It isn't easy to fin_ympathetic companions.'
'I, at all events, haven't found very many,' Godwin replied, meaning to spea_n a tone only half-serious, but conscious at once that he had made what migh_eem an appeal for sympathy. Thereupon his pride revolted, and in a momen_rove him from the room.
Christian followed, and at the front door shook hands with him. Nervou_mpatience was unmistakable in the young man's look and words. Again Godwi_peculated on the meaning of this, and wondered, in connection therewith, wha_ere the characteristics which Marcella Moxey looked for in a 'sympatheti_ompanion'.