Other Kingdom by E. M. Forster
"Quem, whom; fugis, are you avoiding; ab demens, you silly ass;
habitarunt di quoque, gods too have lived in; silvas, the woods.' Go
I always brighten the classics—it is part of my system—and therefore I
translated demens by "silly ass." But Miss Beaumont need not have made
a note of the translation, and Ford, who knows better, need not have
echoed after me. "Whom are you avoiding, you silly ass, gods too have
lived in the woods."
"Ye—es," I replied, with scholarly hesitation. "Ye—es.
Silvas—woods, wooded spaces, the country generally. Yes. Demens, of
course, is de—mens. 'Ah, witless fellow! Gods, I say, even gods have
dwelt in the woods ere now.'"
"But I thought gods always lived in the sky," said Mrs. Worters,
interrupting our lesson for I think the third-and-twentieth time.
"Not always," answered Miss Beaumont. As she spoke she inserted "witless
fellow" as an alternative to "silly ass."
"I always thought they lived in the sky."
"Oh, no, Mrs. Worters," the girl repeated. "Not always." And finding her
place in the note-book she read as follows: "Gods. Where. Chief
deities—Mount Olympus. Pan—most places, as name implies.
Oreads—mountains. Sirens, Tritons, Nereids—water (salt). Naiads
—water (fresh). Satyrs, Fauns, etc.—woods. Dryads—trees."
"Well, dear, you have learnt a lot. And will you now tell me what good
it has done you?"
"It has helped me—" faltered Miss Beaumont. She was very earnest over
her classics. She wished she could have said what good they had done
Ford came to her rescue, "Of course it's helped you. The classics are
full of tips. They teach you how to dodge things."
I begged my young friend not to dodge his Virgil lesson.
"But they do!" he cried. "Suppose that long-haired brute Apollo wants to
give you a music lesson. Well, out you pop into the laurels. Or
Universal Nature comes along. You aren't feeling particularly keen on
Universal Nature so you turn into a reed."
"Is Jack mad?" asked Mrs. Worters.
But Miss Beaumont had caught the allusions—which were quite ingenious
I must admit. "And Croesus?" she inquired. "What was it one turned into
to get away from Croesus?"
I hastened to tidy up her mythology. "Midas, Miss Beaumont, not Croesus.
And he turns you—you don't turn yourself: he turns you into gold."
"There's no dodging Midas," said Ford.
"Surely—" said Miss Beaumont. She had been learning Latin not quite a
fortnight, but she would have corrected the Regius Professor.
He began to tease her. "Oh, there's no dodging Midas! He just comes, he
touches you, and you pay him several thousand per cent, at once. You're
gold—a young golden lady—if he touches you."
"I won't be touched!" she cried, relapsing into her habitual frivolity.
"Oh, but he'll touch you."
Miss Beaumont took up her Virgil and smacked Ford over the head with it.
"Evelyn! Evelyn!" said Mrs. Worters. "Now you are forgetting yourself.
And you also forget my question. What good has Latin done you?"
"Mr. Ford—what good has Latin done you?"
"Mr. Inskip—what good has Latin done us?"
So I was let in for the classical controversy. The arguments for the
study of Latin are perfectly sound, but they are difficult to remember,
and the afternoon sun was hot, and I needed my tea. But I had to justify
my existence as a coach, so I took off my eye-glasses and breathed on
them and said, "My dear Ford, what a question!"
"It's all right for Jack," said Mrs. Worters. "Jack has to pass his
entrance examination. But what's the good of it for Evelyn? None at
"No, Mrs. Worters," I persisted, pointing my eye-glasses at her. "I
cannot agree. Miss Beaumont is—in a sense—new to our civilization. She
is entering it, and Latin is one of the subjects in her entrance
examination also. No one can grasp modern life without some knowledge of
"But why should she grasp modern life?" said the tiresome woman.
"Well, there you are!" I retorted, and shut up my eye-glasses with a
"Mr. Inskip, I am not there. Kindly tell me what's the good of it all.
Oh, I've been through it myself: Jupiter, Venus, Juno, I know the lot of
them. And many of the stories not at all proper."
"Classical education," I said drily, "is not entirely confined to
classical mythology. Though even the mythology has its value. Dreams if
you like, but there is value in dreams."
"I too have dreams," said Mrs. Worters, "but I am not so foolish as to
mention them afterwards."
Mercifully we were interrupted. A rich virile voice close behind us
said, "Cherish your dreams!" We had been joined by our host, Harcourt
Worters—Mrs. Worters' son, Miss Beaumont's fiance. Ford's guardian, my
employer: I must speak of him as Mr. Worters.
"Let us cherish our dreams!" he repeated. "All day I've been fighting,
haggling, bargaining. And to come out on to this lawn and see you all
learning Latin, so happy, so passionless, so Arcadian——"
He did not finish the sentence, but sank into the chair next to Miss
Beaumont, and possessed himself of her hand. As he did so she sang: "Ah
yoù sílly àss góds lìve in woóds!"
"What have we here?" said Mr. Worters with a slight frown.
With the other hand she pointed to me.
"Virgil—" I stammered. "Colloquial translation——"
"Oh, I see; a colloquial translation of poetry." Then his smile
returned. "Perhaps if gods live in woods, that is why woods are so dear.
I have just bought Other Kingdom Copse!"
Loud exclamations of joy. Indeed, the beeches in that copse are as fine
as any in Hertfordshire. Moreover, it, and the meadow by which it is
approached, have always made an ugly notch in the rounded contours of
the Worters estate. So we were all very glad that Mr. Worters had
purchased Other Kingdom. Only Ford kept silent, stroking his head where
the Virgil had hit it, and smiling a little to himself as he did so.
"Judging from the price I paid, I should say there was a god in every
tree. But price, this time was no object." He glanced at Miss Beaumont.
"You admire beeches, Evelyn, do you not?"
"I forget always which they are. Like this?"
She flung her arms up above her head, close together, so that she looked
like a slender column. Then her body swayed and her delicate green dress
quivered over it with the suggestion of countless leaves.
"My dear child!" exclaimed her lover.
"No: that is a silver birch," said Ford,
"Oh, of course. Like this, then." And she twitched up her skirts so that
for a moment they spread out in great horizontal layers, like the layers
of a beech.
We glanced at the house, but none of the servants were looking. So we
laughed, and said she ought to go on the variety stage.
"Ah, this is the kind I like!" she cried, and practised the beech-tree
"I thought so," said Mr. Worters. "I thought so. Other Kingdom Copse is
"Mine——?" She had never had such a present in her life. She could not
"The purchase will be drawn up in your name. You will sign the deed.
Receive the wood, with my love. It is a second engagement ring."
"But is it—is it mine? Can I—do what I like there?"
"You can," said Mr. Worters, smiling.
She rushed at him and kissed him. She kissed Mrs. Worters. She would
have kissed myself and Ford if we had not extruded elbows. The joy of
possession had turned her head.
"It's mine! I can walk there, work there, live there. A wood of my own!
Mine for ever."
"Yours, at all events, for ninety-nine years."
"Ninety-nine years?" I regret to say there was a tinge of disappointment
in her voice.
"My dear child! Do you expect to live longer?"
"I suppose I can't," she replied, and flushed a little. "I don't know."
"Ninety-nine seems long enough to most people. I have got this house,
and the very lawn you are standing on, on a lease of ninety-nine years.
Yet I call them my own, and I think I am justified. Am I not?"
"Ninety-nine years is practically for ever. Isn't it?"
"Oh, yes. It must be."
Ford possesses a most inflammatory note-book. Outside it is labelled
"Private," inside it is headed "Practically a book." I saw him make an
entry in it now, "Eternity: practically ninety-nine years."
Mr. Worters, as if speaking to himself, now observed: "My goodness! My
goodness! How land has risen! Perfectly astounding."
I saw that he was in need of a Boswell, so I said: "Has it, indeed?"
"My dear Inskip. Guess what I could have got that wood for ten years
ago! But I refused. Guess why."
We could not guess why.
"Because the transaction would not have been straight." A most becoming
blush spread over his face as he uttered the noble word. "Not straight.
Straight legally. But not morally straight. We were to force the hands
of the man who owned it. I refused. The others—decent fellows in their
way—told me I was squeamish. I said, 'Yes. Perhaps I am. My name is
plain Harcourt Worters—not a well-known name if you go outside the City
and my own country, but a name which, where it is known, carries, I
flatter myself, some weight. And I will not sign my name to this. That
is all. Call me squeamish if you like. But I will not sign. It is just a
fad of mine. Let us call it a fad.'" He blushed again. Ford believes
that his guardian blushes all over—if you could strip him and make him
talk nobly he would look like a boiled lobster. There is a picture of
him in this condition in the note-book.
"So the man who owned it then didn't own it now?" said Miss Beaumont,
who had followed the narrative with some interest.
"Oh, no!" said Mr. Worters.
"Why no!" said Mrs. Worters absently, as she hunted in the grass for her
knitting-needle. "Of course not. It belongs to the widow."
"Tea!" cried her son, springing vivaciously to his feet. "I see tea and
I want it. Come, mother. Come along, Evelyn. I can tell you it's no
joke, a hard day in the battle of life. For life is practically a
battle. To all intents and purposes a battle. Except for a few lucky
fellows who can read books, and so avoid the realities. But I——"
His voice died away as he escorted the two ladies over the smooth lawn
and up the stone steps to the terrace, on which the footman was placing
tables and little chairs and a silver kettle-stand. More ladies came out
of the house. We could just hear their shouts of excitement as they also
were told of the purchase of Other Kingdom.
I like Ford. The boy has the makings of a scholar and—though for some
reason he objects to the word—of a gentleman. It amused me now to see
his lip curl with the vague cynicism of youth. He cannot understand the
footman and the solid silver kettle-stand. They make him cross. For he
has dreams—not exactly spiritual dreams: Mr. Worters is the man for
those—but dreams of the tangible and the actual robust dreams, which
take him, not to heaven, but to another earth. There are no footmen in
this other earth, and the kettle-stands, I suppose, will not be made of
silver, and I know that everything is to be itself, and not practically
something else. But what this means, and, if it means anything, what the
good of it is, I am not prepared to say. For though I have just said
"there is value in dreams," I only said it to silence old Mrs. Worters.
"Go ahead, man! We can't have tea till we've got through something."
He turned his chair away from the terrace, so that he could sit looking
at the meadows and at the stream that runs through the meadows, and at
the beech-trees of Other Kingdom that rise beyond the stream. Then, most
gravely and admirably, he began to construe the Eclogues of Virgil.
Other Kingdom Copse is just like any other beech copse, and I am
therefore spared the fatigue of describing it. And the stream in front
of it, like many other streams, is not crossed by a bridge in the right
place, and you must either walk round a mile or else you must paddle.
Miss Beaumont suggested that we should paddle.
Mr. Worters accepted the suggestion tumultuously. It only became evident
gradually that he was not going to adopt it.
"What fun! what fun! We will paddle to your kingdom. If only—if only it
wasn't for the tea-things."
"But you can carry the tea-things on your back."
"Why, yes! so I can. Or the servants could,"
"Harcourt—no servants. This is my picnic, and my wood. I'm going to
settle everything. I didn't tell you: I've got all the food. I've been
in the village with Mr. Ford."
"In the village——?"
"Yes, We got biscuits and oranges and half a pound of tea. That's all
you'll have. He carried them up. And he'll carry them over the stream. I
want you just to lend me some tea-things—not the best ones. I'll take
care of them. That's all."
"Evelyn," said Mrs. Worters, "how much did you and Jack pay for that
"For the half-pound, tenpence."
Mrs. Worters received the announcement in gloomy silence.
"Mother!" cried Mr. Worters. "Why, I forgot! How could we go paddling
"Oh, but, Mrs. Worters, we could carry you over."
"Thank you, dearest child. I am sure you could."
"Alas! alas! Evelyn. Mother is laughing at us. She would sooner die than
be carried. And alas! there are my sisters, and Mrs. Osgood: she has a
cold, tiresome woman. No: we shall have to go round by the bridge."
"But some of us——" began Ford. His guardian cut him short with a quick
So we went round—a procession of eight. Miss Beaumont led us. She was
full of fun—at least so I thought at the time, but when I reviewed her
speeches afterwards I could not find in them anything amusing. It was
all this kind of thing: "Single file! Pretend you're in church and don't
talk. Mr. Ford, turn out your toes. Harcourt—at the bridge throw to the
Naiad a pinch of tea. She has a headache. She has had a headache for
nineteen hundred years." All that she said was quite stupid. I cannot
think why I liked it at the time.
As we approached the copse she said, "Mr. Inskip, sing, and we'll sing
after you: Ah yoù silly àss góds lìve in woóds." I cleared my throat and
gave out the abominable phrase, and we all chanted it as if it were a
litany. There was something attractive about Miss Beaumont. I was not
surprised that Harcourt had picked her out of "Ireland" and had brought
her home, without money, without connections, almost without
antecedents, to be his bride. It was daring of him, but he knew himself
to be a daring fellow. She brought him nothing; but that he could
afford, he had so vast a surplus of spiritual and commercial goods. "In
time," I heard him tell his mother, "in time Evelyn will repay me a
thousandfold." Meanwhile there was something attractive about her. If it
were my place to like people, I could have liked her very much.
"Stop singing!" she cried. We had entered the wood. "Welcome, all of
you." We bowed. Ford, who had not been laughing, bowed down to the
ground. "And now be seated. Mrs. Worters—will you sit there—against
that tree with a green trunk? It will show up your beautiful dress."
"Very well, dear, I will," said Mrs. Worters.
"Anna—there. Mr. Inskip next to her. Then Ruth and Mrs. Osgood. Oh,
Harcourt—do sit a little forward, so that you'll hide the house. I
don't want to see the house at all."
"I won't!" laughed her lover, "I want my back against a tree, too."
"Miss Beaumont," asked Ford, "where shall I sit?" He was standing at
attention, like a soldier.
"Oh, look at all these Worters!" she cried, "and one little Ford in the
middle of them!" For she was at that state of civilization which
appreciates a pun.
"Shall I stand. Miss Beaumont? Shall I hide the house from you if I
"Sit down. Jack, you baby!" cried his guardian, breaking in with
needless asperity. "Sit down!"
"He may just as well stand if he will," said she. "Just pull back your
soft hat, Mr. Ford. Like a halo. Now you hide even the smoke from the
chimneys. And it makes you look beautiful."
"Evelyn! Evelyn! You are too hard on the boy. You'll tire him. He's one
of those bookworms. He's not strong. Let him sit down."
"Aren't you strong?" she asked.
"I am strong!" he cried. It is quite true. Ford has no right to be
strong, but he is. He never did his dumb-bells or played in his school
fifteen. But the muscles came. He thinks they came while he was reading
"Then you may just as well stand, if you will."
"Evelyn! Evelyn! childish, selfish maiden! If poor Jack gets tired I
will take his place. Why don't you want to see the house? Eh?"
Mrs. Worters and the Miss Worters moved uneasily. They saw that their
Harcourt was not quite pleased. Theirs not to question why. It was for
Evelyn to remove his displeasure, and they glanced at her.
"Well, why don't you want to see your future home? I must say—though I
practically planned the house myself—that it looks very well from here.
I like the gables. Miss! Answer me!"
I felt for Miss Beaumont. A home-made gable is an awful thing, and
Harcourt's mansion looked like a cottage with the dropsy. But what would
She said nothing.
It was as if he had never spoken. She was as merry, as smiling, as
pretty as ever, and she said nothing. She had not realized that a
question requires an answer.
For us the situation was intolerable. I had to save it by making a
tactful reference to the view, which, I said, reminded me a little of
the country near Veii. It did not—indeed it could not, for I have never
been near Veii. But it is part of my system to make classical allusions.
And at all events I saved the situation.
Miss Beaumont was serious and rational at once. She asked me the date of
Veii. I made a suitable answer.
"I do like the classics," she informed us. "They are so natural. Just
writing down things."
"Ye—es," said I. "But the classics have their poetry as well as their
prose. They're more than a record of facts."
"Just writing down things," said Miss Beaumont, and smiled as if the
silly definition pleased her.
Harcourt had recovered himself. "A very just criticism," said he. "It is
what I always feel about the ancient world. It takes us but a very
little way. It only writes things down."
"What do you mean?" asked Evelyn.
"I mean this—though it is presumptuous to speak in the presence of Mr.
Inskip. This is what I mean. The classics are not everything. We owe
them an enormous debt; I am the last to undervalue it; I, too, went
through them at school. They are full of elegance and beauty. But they
are not everything. They were written before men began to really feel."
He coloured crimson. "Hence, the chilliness of classical art—its lack
of—of a something. Whereas later things—Dante—a Madonna of
Raphael—some bars of Mendelssohn——" His voice tailed reverently away.
We sat with our eyes on the ground, not liking to look at Miss Beaumont.
It is a fairly open secret that she also lacks a something. She has not
yet developed her soul.
The silence was broken by the still small voice of Mrs. Worters saying
that she was faint with hunger.
The young hostess sprang up. She would let none of us help her: it was
her party. She undid the basket and emptied out the biscuits and oranges
from their bags, and boiled the kettle and poured out the tea, which was
horrible. But we laughed and talked with the frivolity that suits the
open air, and even Mrs. Worters expectorated her flies with a smile.
Over us all there stood the silent, chivalrous figure of Ford, drinking
tea carefully lest it should disturb his outline. His guardian, who is a
wag, chaffed him and tickled his ankles and calves.
"Well, this is nice!" said Miss Beaumont. "I am happy."
"Your wood, Evelyn!" said the ladies.
"Her wood for ever!" cried Mr. Worters. "It is an unsatisfactory
arrangement, a ninety-nine years' lease. There is no feeling of
permanency. I reopened negotiations. I have bought her the wood for
ever—all right, dear, all right: don't make a fuss."
"But I must!" she cried. "For everything's perfect! Every one so
kind—and I didn't know most of you a year ago. Oh, it is so
wonderful—and now a wood—a wood of my own—a wood for ever. All of you
coming to tea with me here! Dear Harcourt—dear people—and just where
the house would come and spoil things, there is Mr. Ford!"
"Ha! ha!" laughed Mr. Worters, and slipped his hand up round the boy's
ankle. What happened I do not know, but Ford collapsed on to the ground
with a sharp cry. To an outsider it might have sounded like a cry of
anger or pain. We, who knew better, laughed uproariously.
"Down he goes! Down he goes!" And they struggled playfully, kicking up
the mould and the dry leaves.
"Don't hurt my wood!" cried Miss Beaumont.
Ford gave another sharp cry. Mr. Worters withdrew his hand. "Victory!"
he exclaimed. "Evelyn! behold the family seat!" But Miss Beaumont, in
her butterfly fashion, had left us, and was strolling away into her
We packed up the tea-things and then split into groups. Ford went with
the ladies. Mr. Worters did me the honour to stop by me.
"Well!" he said, in accordance with his usual formula, "and how go the
"Does Miss Beaumont show any ability?"
"I should say that she does. At all events she has enthusiasm."
"You do not think it is the enthusiasm of a child? I will be frank with
you, Mr. Inskip. In many ways Miss Beaumont's practically a child. She
has everything to learn: she acknowledges as much herself. Her new life
is so different—so strange. Our habits—our thoughts—she has to be
initiated into them all."
I saw what he was driving at, but I am not a fool, and I replied: "And
how can she be initiated better than through the classics?"
"Exactly, exactly," said Mr. Worters. In the distance we heard her
voice. She was counting the beech-trees. "The only question is—this
Latin and Greek—what will she do with it? Can she make anything of it?
Can she—well, it's not as if she will ever have to teach it to
"That is true." And my features might have been observed to become
"Whether, since she knows so little—I grant you she has enthusiasm. But
ought one not to divert her enthusiasm—say to English literature? She
scarcely knows her Tennyson at all. Last night in the conservatory I
read her that wonderful scene between Arthur and Guinevere. Greek and
Latin are all very well, but I sometimes feel we ought to begin at the
"You feel," said I, "that for Miss Beaumont the classics are something
of a luxury."
"A luxury. That is the exact word, Mr. Inskip. A luxury. A whim. It is
all very well for Jack Ford. And here we come to another point. Surely
she keeps Jack back? Her knowledge must be elementary."
"Well, her knowledge is elementary: and I must say that it's
difficult to teach them together. Jack has read a good deal, one way and
another, whereas Miss Beaumont, though diligent and enthusiastic——"
"So I have been feeling. The arrangement is scarcely fair on Jack?"
"Well, I must admit——"
"Quite so. I ought never to have suggested it. It must come to an end.
Of course, Mr. Inskip, it shall make no difference to you, this
withdrawal of a pupil."
"The lessons shall cease at once, Mr. Worters."
Here she came up to us. "Harcourt, there are seventy-eight trees. I have
had such a count."
He smiled down at her. Let me remember to say that he is tall and
handsome, with a strong chin and liquid brown eyes, and a high forehead
and hair not at all gray. Few things are more striking than a photograph
of Mr. Harcourt Worters.
"Are you pleased?"
I began to pack up the tea-things. They both saw and heard me. It was
their own fault if they did not go further.
"I'm looking forward to the bridge," said he. "A rustic bridge at the
bottom, and then, perhaps, an asphalt path from the house over the
meadow, so that in all weathers we can walk here dry-shod. The boys come
into the wood—look at all these initials—and I thought of putting a
simple fence, to prevent any one but ourselves——"
"A simple fence," he continued, "just like what I have put round my
garden and the fields. Then at the other side of the copse, away from
the house, I would put a gate, and have keys—two keys, I think—one for
me and one for you—not more; and I would bring the asphalt path——"
"I—I don't want an asphalt path."
"No? Perhaps you are right. Cinders perhaps. Yes. Or even gravel."
"But Harcourt—I don't want a path at all. I—I—can't afford a path."
He gave a roar of triumphant laughter. "Dearest! As if you were going to
be bothered? The path's part of my present."
"The wood is your present," said Miss Beaumont. "Do you know—I don't
care for the path. I'd rather always come as we came to-day. And I don't
want a bridge. No—nor a fence either. I don't mind the boys and their
initials. They and the girls have always come up to Other Kingdom and
cut their names together in the bark. It's called the Fourth Time of
Asking. I don't want it to stop."
"Ugh!" He pointed to a large heart transfixed by an arrow. "Ugh! Ugh!" I
suspect that he was gaining time.
"They cut their names and go away, and when the first child is born they
come again and deepen the cuts. So for each child. That's how you know:
the initials that go right through to the wood are the fathers and
mothers of large families, and the scratches in the bark that soon close
up are boys and girls who were never married at all."
"You wonderful person! I've lived here all my life and never heard a
word of this. Fancy folk-lore in Hertfordshire! I must tell the
Archdeacon: he will be delighted——"
"And Harcourt, I don't want this to stop."
"My dear girl, the villagers will find other trees! There's nothing
particular in Other Kingdom."
"Other Kingdom shall be for us. You and I alone. Our initials only." His
voice sank to a whisper.
"I don't want it fenced, in." Her face was turned to me; I saw that it
was puzzled and frightened. "I hate fences. And bridges. And all paths.
It is my wood. Please: you gave me the wood."
"Why, yes!" he replied, soothing her. But I could see that he was angry.
"Of course. But aha! Evelyn, the meadow's mine; I have a right to fence
there—between my domain and yours!"
"Oh, fence me out if you like! Fence me out as much as you like! But
never in. Oh Harcourt, never in. I must be on the outside, I must be
where any one can reach me. Year by year—while the initials deepen—the
only thing worth feeling—and at last they close up—but one has felt
"Our initials!" he murmured, seizing upon the one word which he had
understood and which was useful to him. "Let us carve our initials now.
You and I—a heart if you like it, and an arrow and everything.
"H.W.," she repeated, "and E.B."
He took out his penknife and drew her away in search of an unsullied
tree. "E.B., Eternal Blessing. Mine! Mine! My haven from the world! My
temple of purity. Oh the spiritual exaltation—you cannot understand it,
but you will! Oh, the seclusion of Paradise. Year after year alone
together, all in all to each other—year after year, soul to soul, E.B.,
He stretched out his hand to cut the initials. As he did so she seemed
to awake from a dream. "Harcourt!" she cried, "Harcourt! What's that?
What's that red stuff on your finger and thumb?"
Oh, my goodness! Oh, all ye goddesses and gods! Here's a mess. Mr.
Worters has been reading Ford's inflammatory note-book.
"This my own fault," said Ford. "I should have labelled it 'Practically
Private.' How could he know he was not meant to look inside?"
I spoke out severely, as an employé should. "My dear boy, none of
that. The label came unstuck. That was why Mr. Worters opened the book.
He never suspected it was private. See—the label's off."
"Scratched off," Ford retorted grimly, and glanced at his ankle.
I affect not to understand. "The point is this. Mr. Worters is thinking
the matter over for four-and-twenty hours. If you take my advice you
will apologize before that time elapses."
"And if I don't?"
"You know your own affairs of course. But don't forget that you are
young and practically ignorant of life, and that you have scarcely any
money of your own. As far as I can see, your career practically depends
on the favour of Mr. Worters. You have laughed at him. He does not like
being laughed at. It seems to me that your course is obvious."
"And if I don't?"
He sat down on the stone steps and rested his head on his knees. On the
lawn below us was Miss Beaumont, draggling about with some croquet
balls. Her lover was out in the meadow, superintending the course of the
asphalt path. For the path is to be made, and so is the bridge, and the
fence is to be built round Other Kingdom after all. In time Miss
Beaumont saw how unreasonable were her objections. Of her own accord,
one evening in the drawing-room, she gave her Harcourt permission to do
what he liked. "That wood looks nearer," said Ford.
"The inside fences have gone: that brings it nearer. But my dear
boy—you must settle what you're going to do."
"How much has he read?"
"Naturally he only opened the book. From what you showed me of it, one
glance would be enough."
"Did he open at the poems?"
"Did he speak of the poems?"
"No. Were they about him?"
"They were not about him."
"Then it wouldn't matter if he saw them."
"It is sometimes a compliment to be mentioned," said Ford, looking up at
me. The remark had a stinging fragrance about it—such a fragrance as
clings to the mouth after admirable wine. It did not taste like the
remark of a boy. I was sorry that my pupil was likely to wreck his
career; and I told him again that he had better apologize.
"I won't speak of Mr. Worters' claim for an apology. That's an aspect
on which I prefer not to touch. The point is, if you don't apologize,
"To an aunt at Peckham."
I pointed to the pleasant, comfortable land-scape, full of cows and
carriage-horses out at grass, and civil retainers. In the midst of it
stood Mr. Worters, radiating energy and wealth, like a terrestrial sun.
"My dear Ford—don't be heroic! Apologize."
Unfortunately I raised my voice a little, and Miss Beaumont heard me,
down on the lawn.
"Apologize?" she cried. "What about?" And as she was not interested in
the game, she came up the steps towards us, trailing her croquet mallet
behind her. Her walk was rather listless. She was toning down at last.
"Come indoors!" I whispered. "We must get out of this."
"Not a bit of it!" said Ford.
"What is it?" she asked, standing beside him on the step.
He swallowed something as he looked up at her. Suddenly I understood. I
knew the nature and the subject of his poems. I was not so sure now that
he had better apologize. The sooner he was kicked out of the place the
In spite of my remonstrances, he told her about the book, and her first
remark was: "Oh, do let me see it!" She had no "proper feeling" of any
kind. Then she said: "But why do you both look so sad?"
"We are awaiting Mr. Worters' decision," said I.
"Mr. Inskip! What nonsense! Do you suppose Harcourt'll be angry?"
"Of course he is angry, and rightly so."
"Ford has laughed at him."
"But what's that!" And for the first time there was anger in her voice.
"Do you mean to say he'll punish some one who laughs at him? Why, for
what else—for whatever reason are we all here? Not to laugh at each
other! I laugh at people all day. At Mr. Ford. At you. And so does
Harcourt. Oh, you've misjudged him! He won't—he couldn't be angry with
people who laughed."
"Mine is not nice laughter," said Ford. "He could not well forgive me."
"You're a silly boy." She sneered at him. "You don't know Harcourt. So
generous in every way. Why, he'd be as furious as I should be if you
apologized. Mr. Inskip, isn't that so?"
"He has every right to an apology, I think."
"Right? What's a right? You use too many new words.
'Rights'—'apologies'—'society'—'position'—I don't follow it. What
are we all here for, anyhow?"
Her discourse was full of trembling lights and shadows—frivolous one
moment, the next moment asking why Humanity is here. I did not take the
Moral Science Tripos, so I could not tell her.
"One thing I know—and that is that Harcourt isn't as stupid as you two.
He soars above conventions. He doesn't care about 'rights' and
'apologies.' He knows that all laughter is nice, and that the other nice
things are money and the soul and so on."
The soul and so on! I wonder that Harcourt out in the meadows did not
have an apoplectic fit.
"Why, what a poor business your life would be," she continued, "if you
all kept taking offence and apologizing! Forty million people in England
and all of them touchy! How one would laugh if it was true! Just
imagine!" And she did laugh. "Look at Harcourt though. He knows better.
He isn't petty like that. Mr. Ford! He isn't petty like that. Why, what
's wrong with your eyes?"
He rested his head on his knees again, and we could see his eyes no
longer. In dispassionate tones she informed me that she thought he was
crying. Then she tapped him on the hair with her mallet and said:
"Cry-baby! Cry-cry-baby! Crying about nothing!" and ran laughing down
the steps. "All right!" she shouted from the lawn. "Tell the cry-baby to
stop. I'm going to speak to Harcourt!"
We watched her go in silence. Ford had scarcely been crying. His eyes
had only become large and angry. He used such swear-words as he knew,
and then got up abruptly, and went into the house. I think he could not
bear to see her disillusioned. I had no such tenderness, and it was with
considerable interest that I watched Miss Beaumont approach her lord.
She walked confidently across the meadow, bowing to the workmen as they
raised their hats. Her languor had passed, and with it her suggestion of
"tone." She was the same crude, unsophisticated person that Harcourt had
picked out of Ireland—beautiful and ludicrous in the extreme, and:—if
you go in for pathos—extremely pathetic.
I saw them meet, and soon she was hanging on his arm. The motion of his
hand explained to her the construction of bridges. Twice she interrupted
him: he had to explain everything again. Then she got in her word, and
what followed was a good deal better than a play. Their two little
figures parted and met and parted again, she gesticulating, he most
pompous and calm. She pleaded, she argued and—if satire can carry half
a mile—she tried to be satirical. To enforce one of her childish points
she made two steps back. Splash! She was floundering in the little
That was the dénouement of the comedy. Harcourt rescued her, while the
workmen crowded round in an agitated chorus. She was wet quite as far as
her knees, and muddy over her ankles. In this state she was conduced
towards me, and in time I began to hear words; "Influenza—a slight
immersion—clothes are of no consequence beside health—pray, dearest,
don't worry—yes, it must have been a shock—bed! bed! I insist on bed!
Promise? Good girl. Up the steps to bed then."
They parted on the lawn, and she came obediently up the steps. Her face
was full of terror and bewilderment.
"So you've had a wetting, Miss Beaumont!"
"Wetting? Oh, yes. But, Mr. Inskip—I don't understand: I've failed."
I expressed surprise.
"Mr. Ford is to go—at once. I've failed."
"I've failed with Harcourt. He's offended. He won't laugh. He won't let
me do what I want. Latin and Greek began it: I wanted to know about gods
and heroes and he wouldn't let me: then I wanted no fence round Other
Kingdom and no bridge and no path—and look! Now I ask that Mr. Ford,
who has done nothing, sha'n't be punished for it—and he is to go away
"Impertinence is not 'nothing,' Miss Beaumont." For I must keep in with
"Impertinence is nothing!" she cried. "It doesn't exist. It's a sham,
like 'claims' and 'position' and 'rights.' It's part of the great
"What 'great dream'?" I asked, trying not to smile.
"Tell Mr. Ford—here comes Harcourt; I must go to bed. Give my love to
Mr. Ford, and tell him 'to guess.' I shall never see him again, and I
won't stand it. Tell him to guess. I am sorry I called him a cry-baby.
He was not crying like a baby. He was crying like a grown-up person, and
now I have grown up too."
I judged it right to repeat this conversation to my employer.
The bridge is built, the fence finished, and Other Kingdom lies tethered
by a ribbon of asphalt to our front door. The seventy-eight trees
therein certainly seem nearer, and during the windy nights that followed
Ford's departure we could hear their branches sighing, and would find in
the morning that beech-leaves had been blown right up against the house.
Miss Beaumont made no attempt to go out, much to the relief of the
ladies, for Harcourt had given the word that she was not to go out
unattended, and the boisterous weather deranged their petticoats. She
remained indoors, neither reading nor laughing, and dressing no longer
in green, but in brown.
Not noticing her presence, Mr. Worters looked in one day and said with a
sigh of relief: "That's all right. The circle's completed."
"Is it indeed!" she replied.
"You there, you quiet little mouse? I only meant that our lords, the
British workmen, have at last condescended to complete their labours,
and have rounded us off from the world. I—in the end I was a naughty,
domineering tyrant, and disobeyed you. I didn't have the gate out at the
further side of the copse. Will you forgive me?"
"Anything, Harcourt, that pleases you, is certain to please me."
The ladies smiled at each other, and Mr. Worters said: "That's right,
and as soon as the wind goes down we'll all progress together to your
wood; and take possession of it formally, for it didn't really count
that last time."
"No, it didn't really count that last time," Miss Beaumont echoed.
"Evelyn says this wind never will go down," remarked Mrs. Worters. "I
don't know how she knows."
"It will never go down, as long as I am in the house."
"Really?" he said gaily. "Then come out now, and send it down with me."
They took a few turns up and down the terrace. The wind lulled for a
moment, but blew fiercer than ever during lunch. As we ate, it roared
and whistled down the chimney at us, and the trees of Other Kingdom
frothed like the sea. Leaves and twigs flew from them, and a bough, a
good-sized bough, was blown on to the smooth asphalt path, and actually
switchbacked over the bridge, up the meadow, and across our very lawn.
(I venture to say "our," as I am now staying on as Harcourt's
secretary.) Only the stone steps prevented it from reaching the terrace
and perhaps breaking the dining-room window. Miss Beaumont sprang up
and, napkin in hand, ran out and touched it.
"Oh, Evelyn——" the ladies cried.
"Let her go," said Mr. Worters tolerantly. "It certainly is a remarkable
incident, remarkable. We must remember to tell the Archdeacon about it."
"Harcourt," she cried, with the first hint of returning colour in her
cheeks, "mightn't we go up to the copse after lunch, you and I?"
Mr. Worters considered.
"Of course, not if you don't think best."
"Inskip, what's your opinion?"
I saw what his own was, and cried, "Oh, let's go!" though I detest the
wind as much as any one.
"Very well. Mother, Anna, Ruth, Mrs. Osgood—we'll all go."
And go we did, a lugubrious procession; but the gods were good to us for
once, for as soon as we were started, the tempest dropped, and there
ensued an extraordinary calm. After all, Miss Beaumont was something of
a weather prophet. Her spirits improved every minute. She tripped in
front of us along the asphalt path, and ever and anon turned round to
say to her lover some gracious or alluring thing. I admired her for it.
I admire people who know on which side their bread's buttered.
"Evelyn, come here!"
"Come here yourself."
"Give me a kiss."
"Come and take it then."
He ran after her, and she ran away, while all our party laughed
"Oh, I am so happy!" she cried. "I think I've everything I want in all
the world. Oh dear, those last few days indoors! But oh, I am so happy
now!" She had changed her brown dress for the old flowing green one, and
she began to do her skirt dance in the open meadow, lit by sudden gleams
of the sunshine. It was really a beautiful sight, and Mr. Worters did
not correct her, glad perhaps that she should recover her spirits, even
if she lost her tone. Her feet scarcely moved, but her body so swayed
and her dress spread so gloriously around her, that we were transported
with joy. She danced to the song of a bird that sang passionately in
Other Kingdom, and the river held back its waves to watch her (one might
have supposed), and the winds lay spell-bound in their cavern, and the
great clouds spell-bound in the sky. She danced away from our society
and our life, back, back through the centuries till houses and fences
fell and the earth lay wild to the sun. Her garment was as foliage upon
her, the strength of her limbs as boughs, her throat the smooth upper
branch that salutes the morning or glistens to the rain. Leaves move,
leaves hide it as hers was hidden by the motion of her hair. Leaves move
again and it is ours, as her throat was ours again when, parting the
tangle, she faced us crying, "Oh!" crying, "Oh Harcourt! I never was so
happy. I have all that there is in the world."
But he, entrammelled in love's ecstasy, forgetting certain Madonnas of
Raphael, forgetting, I fancy, his soul, sprang to inarm her with,
"Evelyn! Eternal Bliss! Mine to eternity! Mine!" and she sprang away.
Music was added and she sang, "Oh Ford! oh Ford, among all these
Worters, I am coming through you to my Kingdom. Oh Ford, my lover while
I was a woman, I will never forget you, never, as long as I have
branches to shade you from the sun," and, singing, crossed the stream.
Why he followed her so passionately, I do not know. It was play, she was
in his own domain which a fence surrounds, and she could not possibly
escape him. But he dashed round by the bridge as if all their love was
at stake, and pursued her with fierceness up the hill. She ran well, but
the end was a foregone conclusion, and we only speculated whether he
would catch her outside or inside the copse. He gained on her inch by
inch; now they were in the shadow of the trees; he had practically
grasped her, he had missed; she had disappeared into the trees
themselves, he following.
"Harcourt is in high spirits," said Mrs. Osgood, Anna, and Ruth.
"Evelyn!" we heard him shouting within.
We proceeded up the asphalt path.
"He's not caught her yet, evidently."
"Where are you, Evelyn?"
"Miss Beaumont must have hidden herself rather cleverly."
"Look here," cried Harcourt, emerging, "have you seen Evelyn?"
"Oh, no, she's certainly inside."
"So I thought."
"Evelyn must be dodging round one of the trunks. You go this way, I
that. We'll soon find her."
We searched, gaily at first, and always with a feeling that Miss
Beaumont was close by, that the delicate limbs were just behind this
bole, the hair and the drapery quivering among those leaves. She was
beside us, above us; here was her footstep on the purple-brown
earth—her bosom, her neck—she was everywhere and nowhere. Gaiety
turned to irritation, irritation to anger and fear. Miss Beaumont was
apparently lost. "Evelyn! Evelyn!" we continued to cry. "Oh, really, it
is beyond a joke."
Then the wind arose, the more violent for its lull, and we were driven
into the house by a terrific storm. We said, "At all events she will
come back now." But she did not come, and the rain hissed and rose up
from the dry meadows like incense smoke, and smote the quivering leaves
to applause. Then it lightened. Ladies screamed, and we saw Other
Kingdom as one who claps the handsy and heard it as one who roars with
laughter in the thunder. Not even the Archdeacon can remember such a
storm. All Harcourt's seedlings were ruined, and the tiles flew off his
gables right and left. He came to me presently with a white, drawn face,
saying: "Inskip, can I trust you?"
"You can, indeed."
"I have long suspected it; she has eloped with Ford."
"But how——" I gasped.
"The carriage is ready—we'll talk as we drive." Then, against the rain
he shouted: "No gate in the fence, I know, but what about a ladder?
While I blunder, she's over the fence, and he——"
"But you were so close. There was not the time."
"There is time for anything," he said venomously, "where a treacherous
woman is concerned. I found her no better than a savage, I trained her,
I educated her. But I'll break them both. I can do that; I'll break them
soul and body."
No one can break Ford now. The task is impossible. But I trembled for
We missed the train. Young couples had gone by it, several young
couples, and we heard of more young couples in London, as if all the
world were mocking Harcourt's solitude. In desperation we sought the
squalid suburb that is now Ford's home. We swept past the dirty maid and
the terrified aunt, swept upstairs, to catch him if we could red-handed.
He was seated at the table, reading the Oedipus Coloneus of Sophocles.
"That won't take in me!" shouted Harcourt. "You've got Miss Beaumont
with you, and I know it."
"No such luck," said Ford.
He stammered with rage. "Inskip—you hear that? 'No such luck'! Quote
the evidence against him. I can't speak."
So I quoted her song. "'Oh Ford! Oh Ford, among all these Worters, I am
coming through you to my Kingdom! Oh Ford, my lover while I was a woman,
I will never forget you, never, as long as I have branches to shade you
from the sun.' Soon after that, we lost her."
"And—and on another occasion she sent a message of similar effect.
Inskip, bear witness. He was to 'guess' something."
"I have guessed it," said Ford.
"So you practically——"
"Oh, no, Mr. Worters, you mistake me. I have not practically guessed. I
have guessed. I could tell you if I chose, but it would be no good, for
she has not practically escaped you. She has escaped you absolutely, for
ever and ever, as long as there are branches to shade men from the sun."