Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 46

  • Esther seemed to have quite naturally accepted Woodview as a final stage. An_urther change in her life she did not seem to regard as possible o_esirable. One of these days her boy would get settled; he would come down no_nd again to see her. She did not want any more than that. No, she did no_ind the place lonely. A young girl might, but she was no longer a young girl;
  • she had her work to do, and when it was done she was glad to sit down to rest.
  • And, dressed in long cloaks, the women went for walks together; sometimes the_ent up the hill, sometimes into Southwick to make some little purchases. O_undays they walked to Beeding to attend meeting. And they came home along th_inter roads, the peace and happiness of prayer upon their faces, holdin_heir skirts out of the mud, unashamed of their common boots. They made n_cquaintances, seeming to find in each other all necessary companionship.
  • Their heads bent a little forward, they trudged home, talking of what the_ere in the habit of talking, that another tree had been blown down, that Jac_as now earning good money—ten shillings a week. Esther hoped it would last.
  • Or else Esther told her mistress that she had heard that one of Mr. Arthur'_orses had won a race. He lived in the North of England, where he had a smal_raining stable, and his mother never heard of him except through the sportin_apers. "He hasn't been here for four years," Mrs. Barfield said; "he hate_he place; he wouldn't care if I were to burn it down to-morrow…. However, _o the best I can, hoping that one day he'll marry and come and live here."
  • Mr. Arthur—that was how Mrs. Barfield and Esther spoke of him—did not draw an_ncome from the estate. The rents only sufficed to pay the charges and th_idow's jointure. All the land was let; the house he had tried to let, but i_ad been found impossible to find a tenant, unless Mr. Arthur would expen_ome considerable sum in putting the house and grounds into a state of prope_epair. This he did not care to do; he said that he found race-horses a mor_rofitable speculation. Besides, even the park had been let on lease; nothin_emained to him but the house and lawn and garden; he could no longer gallop _orse on the hill without somebody's leave, so he didn't care what became o_he place. His mother might go on living there, keeping things together as sh_alled it; he did not mind what she did as long as she didn't bother him. S_id he express himself regarding Woodview on the rare occasion of his visits,
  • and when he troubled to answer his mother's letters. Mrs. Barfield, whos_houghts were limited to the estate, was pained by his indifference; sh_radually ceased to consult him, and when Beeding was too far for her to wal_he had the furniture removed from the drawing-room and a long deal tabl_laced there instead. She had not asked herself if Arthur would object to he_nviting a few brethren of the neighbourhood to her house for meeting, o_ublishing the meetings by notices posted on the lodge gate.
  • One day Mrs. Barfield and Esther were walking in the avenue, when, to thei_urprise, they saw Mr. Arthur open the white gate and come through. The mothe_astened forward to meet her son, but paused, dismayed by the anger tha_ooked out of his eyes. He did not like the notices, and she was sorry that h_as annoyed. She didn't think that he would mind them, and she hastened by hi_ide, pleading her excuses. But to her great sorrow Arthur did not seem to b_ble to overcome his annoyance. He refused to listen, and continued hi_eproaches, saying the things that he knew would most pain her.
  • He did not care whether the trees stood or fell, whether the cement remaine_pon the walls or dropped from them; he didn't draw a penny of income from th_lace, and did not care a damn what became of it. He allowed her to liv_here, she got her jointure out of the property, and he didn't want t_nterfere with her, but what he could not stand was the snuffy little fol_rom the town coming round his house. The Barfields at least were county, an_e wished Woodview to remain county as long as the walls held together. H_asn't a bit ashamed of all this ruin. You could receive the Prince of Wale_n a ruin, but he wouldn't care to ask him into a dissenting chapel. Mrs.
  • Barfield answered that she didn't see how the mere assembling of a few friend_n prayer could disgrace a house. She did not know that he objected to he_sking them. She would not ask them any more. The only thing was that ther_as no place nearer than Beeding where they could meet, and she could n_onger walk so far. She would have to give up meeting.
  • "It seems to me a strange taste to want to kneel down with a lot of littl_hop-keepers…. Is this where you kneel?" he said, pointing to the long dea_able. "The place is a regular little Bethel."
  • "Our Lord said that when a number should gather together for prayer that H_ould be among them. Those are true words, and as we get old we feel more an_ore the want of this communion of spirit. It is only then that we feel tha_e're really with God…. The folk that you despise are equal in His sight. An_iving here alone, what should I be without prayer? and Esther, after her lif_f trouble and strife, what would she be without prayer?… It is ou_onsolation."
  • "I think one should choose one's company for prayer as for everything else.
  • Besides, what do you get out of it? Miracles don't happen nowadays."
  • "You're very young, Arthur, and you cannot feel the want of prayer as w_o—two old women living in this lonely house. As age and solitude overtake us,
  • the realities of life float away and we become more and more sensible to th_ystery which surrounds us. And our Lord Jesus Christ gave us love and praye_o that we might see a little further."
  • An expression of great beauty came upon her face, that unconscious resignatio_hich, like the twilight, hallows and transforms. In such moments the humbles_earts are at one with nature, and speaks out of the eternal wisdom of things.
  • So even this common racing man was touched, and he said—
  • "I'm sorry if I said anything to hurt your religious feelings."
  • Mrs. Barfield did not answer.
  • "Do you not accept my apologies, mother?"
  • "My dear boy, what do I care for your apologies; what are they to me? All _hink of now is your conversion to Christ. Nothing else matters. I shal_lways pray for that."
  • "You may have whom you like up here; I don't mind if it makes you happy. I'_shamed of myself. Don't let's say any more about it. I'm only down for th_ay. I'm going home to-morrow."
  • "Home, Arthur! this is your home. I can't bear to hear you speak of any othe_lace as your home."
  • "Well, mother, then I shall say that I'm going back to business to-morrow."
  • Mrs. Barfield sighed.