Cathedral | Hugh Walpole | Historical Fiction, Religious Fiction | Sound Book | English | 1/9

Cathedral | Hugh Walpole | Historical Fiction, Religious Fiction | Sound Book | English | 1/9

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Sir Hugh Seymour Walpole, CBE (1884 – 1941) was an English novelist. He was the son of an Anglican clergyman, intended for a career in the church but drawn instead to writing. Among those who encouraged him were the authors Henry James and Arnold Bennett. His skill at scene-setting, vivid plots, and high profile as a lecturer brought him a large readership in the United Kingdom and North America. He was a best-selling author in the 1920s and 1930s, but has been largely neglected since his death…. One of Walpole’s major novels of the early post-war period was The Cathedral, which unlike much of his fiction was not dashed off but worked on across four years, beginning in 1918. The story of an arrogant 19th-century archdeacon in conflict with other clergy and laity was certain to bring comparisons with Trollope’s Barchester Towers (The Manchester Guardian ’s review was headed “Polchester Towers”), but unlike the earlier work, The Cathedral is wholly uncomic…. The reviewer Ivor Brown commented that Walpole had earlier charmed many with his cheerful tales of Mayfair, but that in this novel he showed a greater side to his art: “This is a book with little happiness about it, but its stark strength is undeniable. The Cathedral is realism, profound in its philosophy and delicate in its thread.” The Illustrated London News said, “No former novelist has seized quite so powerfully upon the cathedral fabric and made it a living character in the drama, an obsessing individuality at once benign and forbidding. …The Cathedral is a great book.” The Jubilee which plays an important part in the story is the national celebration in 1897 of Queen Victoria’s sixty years on the throne. Summary by Wikipedia and david wales

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book 1 chapter 1 of the cathedral this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit recording by david wales the cathedral by Hugh Walpole book 1 prelude thou shalt have done other gods but me chapter 1 Brandon's Adam Brandon was born at little mton in Kent in 1839 he was educated at the king's school canterbury and at pembroke college cambridge ordained in 1863 he was first curate at st. martin's portsmouth then chaplain to the bishop of worcester in the year 1875 he accepted the living of pomfritt in Wiltshire and was there for 12 years it was in 1887 that he came to our town he was first canon and afterwards Archdeacon 10 years later he had by personal influence and strength of character acquired so striking a position amongst us that he was often alluded to as the king of Porchester his power was the greater because both our Bishop Bishop Percel and our Dean Dean Sampson during that period were men of retiring habits of life a better man a greater saint than bishop Percel has never lived but in 1896 he was 86 years of age and preferred study and the sanctity of his wonderful library at carpal tonneau the publicity and turmoil of a public career Dean Sampson gentle and amiable as he was was not intended by nature for a molder of men he was however one of the best botanists in the county and his little book on gleb sir ferns is I believe an authority in its own line Archdeacon Brandon was of course greatly helped by his magnificent physical presence magnificent is not I think too strong a word six feet two or three in height he had the figure of an athlete light blue eyes and his hair was still when he was 58 years of age thick and fair and curly like that of a boy he looked indeed marvelously young and his energy and grace of movement might indeed have belonged to a youth still in his teens it is not difficult to imagine how startling an effect his first appearance in pol Chester created many of the pol Chester ladies thought that he was like a Greek god the fact that they had never seen one gave them the greater competence and miss Doble who was the best read of all the ladies in our town called him the Viking this stuck to him being an easy and emphatic word and pleasantly cultured indeed had Brandon come to pol Chester as a single man there might have been many broken hearts however in 1875 he had married Amy Broughton then a young girl of 20 he had by her two children a boy Falcon now 21 years of age and a girl Joan just 18 Branden therefore was safe from the feminine Pole Chester world our town is famous among cathedral cities for the morality of its upper class it would not have been possible during all these years for Brandon to have remained unconscious of the remarkable splendor of his good looks he was very well aware of it but anyone who called him conceited and everyone has his enemies did him a grave injustice he was not conceited at all he simply regarded himself as a completely exceptional person he was not elated that he was exceptional he did not flatter himself because it was so God had seen fit in a moment of boredom perhaps at the number of insignificant and misshaped human beings he was forced to create to fling into the world for once a truly fine specimen fine embody fine insole fine in intellect Brandon had none of the sublime egoism of sir Willoughby pattern he thought of others and was kindly and often unselfish but he did like sir Willoughby believed himself to be of quite another clay from the rest of mankind he was intended to rule God had put him into the world for that purpose and rule he would to the glory of God and a little if it must be so to the glory of himself he was a very simple person as indeed were most of the men and women in the pole Chester of 1897 he did not analyze motives whether his own or anyone else's he was aware that he had weaknesses his uncover nerble temper was a source of real distress to him at times at other times he felt that it had its uses on the whole however he was satisfied with himself his appearance his abilities his wife his family and above all his position and Paul Chester this last was very splendid his position in the cathedral in the precincts in the chapter in the town was unshakable he trusted in God of course but like a wise man he trusted also in himself it happened that on a certain wild and stormy afternoon in October 1896 Brandon was filled with a great exultation as he stood for a moment at the door of his house in the precincts before crossing the green to the cathedral he looked up at the sky obscured with flying rack of cloud felt the rain drive across his face heard the Elms and the neighboring garden creaking and groaning saw the lights of the town far beneath the low wall that bounded the precincts sway and blink in the storm his heartbeat was such pride and happiness that it threatened to burst the body that contained it there had not been perhaps that day anything especially magnificent to relate him he had one at the chapter meeting that morning a cheap and easy victory over Kannan foster the only cannon and pole Chester who still showed at times a wretched pugnacious resistance to his opinion he had met mrs. Combermere afterwards in the high street and on the strength of his chapter victory had dealt with her haughtily he had received an especially kind note from ladies aunt Leith asking him to dinner early next month but all these events were of two usual a nature to excite his triumph no there had descended upon him this afternoon that a special ecstasy that is surrendered once and again by the gods two men to lead them maybe into some special blunder or to sharpen four Olympian humor the contrast of some swiftly approaching anguish brandon stood for a moment his head raised his chest out his soul in flight feeling the sharp sting of the raindrops upon his cheek then with a little breath of pleasure and happiness he crossed the green to the little dark door of st. margaret's chapel the cathedral hung over him as he stood feeling in his pocket for his key a huge black shadow vast indeed today as it mingled with the gray sky and seemed to be taking part in the directing of the wildness of the storm two little gargoyles perched on the porch of st. Margaret's door lead down upon the Archdeacon the rain trickled down over there naked twisted bodies running and rivulets behind their outstanding ears lodging for a moment on the projection of their hideous nether lips they grinned down upon the Archdeacon amused that he should have difficulty there in the rain in finding his ski paw they heard him mutter and then perhaps something worse the key was found and he had then to bend his great height to squeeze through the little door once inside he was at the corner of the same margarit chapel and could see in the faint half light the rosy colors of the beautiful st. Margaret window that glimmered ever so dimly upon the rows of cane bottoms chairs the dingy red Hassocks and the brass tablets from the grey stone walls he walked through picking his way carefully in the dusk saw for an instant the high vast expanse of the nave with its few twinkling lights that blew in the wind the air then turned to the left into the vestry closing the door behind him even as he closed the door he could hear high high above him the ringing of the Bell for even song in the vestry he found cannon Doble and cannon Rogers Doble the minor cannon who was singing the service was a short round chubby clergyman 38 years of age whose great aim in life was to have an easy time and agree with everyone he lived with a sister in a little house in the precincts and gave excellent dinners very different was canon Rogers a thin aesthetic man with black bushy eyebrows a slight stoop and thin brown hair he took life with grim seriousness he was a stupid man but obstinate dogmatic and given to the condemnation of his fellow men he hated innovations as strongly as the Archdeacon himself but with his clinging to old forms and rituals there went no self exaltation he was a cold-blooded man although his obstinacy seemed sometimes to point to a fiery fanaticism but he was not a fanatic any more than a mule as one when he plants his feet for square and refuses to go forward no compliments nor threats could move him he would have lived had he had a spark of asceticism a hermit far from the haunts of men but even that withdrawal would have implied devotion he was devoted to no one to no cause to no religion to no ambition he spent his days in maintaining things as they were not because he loved them simply because he was obstinate Brandon quite frankly hated him in the farther room the choirboys were standing in their surpluses whispering and giggling the sound of the Bell was suddenly emphatic Kenan Rogers stood his hands folded motionless gazing in front of him doble smiling so that a dimple appeared in each cheek said and his chuckling whispered to Brandon Rhonda comes today doesn't he Rhonda brandon repeated coming abruptly out of his secret exultation yes hart smith successor oh yes I believe he does Kabat the Verger with his gold staff appeared in the vestry door a tall handsome man he had been in a service of the cathedral as man and boy for fifty years he had his private ambitions the main one being that old Lawrence the head Verger in his opinion a silly old fool should die and permit his own legitimate succession another ambition was that he should save enough money to buy another three cottages down in C town he owned already six there but no one observing his magnificent impassivity he was famous for this throughout ecclesiastical glib sure would have supposed that he had any thought other than those connected with ceremony as he appeared the organ began its voluntary the music stealing through the thick gray walls creeping past the stout gray pillars that had listened with so impervious and immobility to an endless succession of voluntaries the Archdeacon prayed the choir responded with a long Amen and the procession filed out the boys with faces pious and wistful the choir men moving with nonchalance their Restless eyes wandering over the scene so absolutely known to them then came Rogers like a martyr doble a gaily as though he were enjoying some little of his own last of all Brandon a superb encourage in dignity in his magnificent recognition of the value of ceremony because today was simply an ordinary afternoon with an ordinary anthem and an ordinary service Martin in F the congregation was small the gates of the great screen closed with a clang behind the choir and the nave purple gray unto the soft light of the candlelit choir was shut out into Twilight in the high carved seats behind and beyond the choir the congregation was sitting miss noble who never missed a service that her brother was singing with her pinched white face and funny old-fashioned bonnet lost between the huge arms of her seat mrs. Combermere with a friend stiff and majestic mrs. Cole and her sister-in-law Amy Cole a few tourists a man or two major Drake who liked to join in the Psalms with his deep bass and little mr. Thompson one of the Masters at the school who loved music and always came to even song when he could there they were then and the Archdeacon looking at them from his stall could not but feel that they were rather a poor lot not that he exactly despised them he felt kindly towards them and would have done no single one of them an injury but he knew them all so well mrs. Combermere miss Doble mrs. cole dray Thompson they were shadows before him if he looked hard at them they seemed to disappear the exultation that he had felt as he stood outside his house door increased with every moment that passed it was strange but he had never perhaps in his life been so happy as he was at that hour he was driven by the sense of it too that with him rarest of all things introspection why should he feel like this why did his heart beat thickly why were his cheeks flushed with a triumphant Heat it could not but be that he was realizing today how everything was well with him and why should he not realize it looking up to the high vaulted roofs above him he greeted God greeted him as an equal and thanked him as a fellow companion who had helped him through a difficult and dusty journey he thanked him for his health for his bodily vigor and strength for his beauty for his good brain for his successful married life for his wife poor Amy for his house and furniture for his garden and tennis lawn for his carriage and horses for his son for his position in the town his dominance in the chapter his authority on the school council his importance in the district for all these things he thanked God and he greeted him with an outstretched hand as one power to another his soul cried greetings you have been a true and loyal friend to me anything that I can do for you I will do the time came for him to read the first lesson he crossed to the lectern and was conscious that the tourists were whispering together about him he read aloud in his splendid voice something about battles and vengeance plagues and punishment God's anger and the trembling Israelites he might himself have been an avenging God as he read he was uplifted with the glory of power and the exultation of personal dominion he crossed back to his seat and as they began the Magnificat his eyes alighted on the tomb of the black bishop in the volume on pole chester in chimes cathedral series fourth edition 1910 page 52 you will find this description of the black bishops tomb it stands between the pillars at the far east end of the choir in the 8th Bay from the choir screen the stone screen which surrounds the tomb is of most elaborate workmanship it has in certain White's the effect of delicate lace the canopy over the tomb has pinnacles which rise high above the level of the choir stalls the tomb itself is made from a solid block of a dark blue stone the figure of the bishop carved in black marble lies with his hands folded across his breast clothed in his Episcopal robes and mitre and grows here on his shoulder at his feet are a visor and a pair of gauntlets these also carved in black marble on one finger of his right hand is a ring carved from some green stone his head is raised by angels and at his feet beyond the visor and gauntlets are tiny figures of four knights fully armed a small arcade runs around the tomb with a series of shields in the spaces and these shields have his motto God give a strength and the arms of the sea of pol Chester his epitaph in brass round the edge of the tomb has thus been translated here having surrendered himself back to God lies henry of arden his life which was distinguished for its great piety its unfailing generosity it's a noble statesmanship was rudely taken in the nave of this Cathedral by men who feared neither the punishment of their fellows nor the just vengeance of an irate God he died bravely defending this great House of Prayer and is now in eternal happiness fulfilling the reward of all good and faithful servants at his master's side it has often been remarked by visitors to the cathedral how curiously this tomb catches light from all sides of the building but this is undoubtedly in the main due to the fact that the blue stone of which it is chiefly composed responds immediately to the purple and violet lights that fall from the Great East window on a summer day the blue of the tomb seems almost opaque as though it were made of blue glass and the gilt on the background the screens and the brasses of the groins glitter and sparkle like fire Brandon today wrapped in his strange mood of almost mystical triumph felt as though he were indeed a reincarnation of the great bishop as the Magnificat proceeded he seemed to enter into the very tomb and share in the bishops dust I stood beside you he might almost have cried when in the last savage encounter you faced them on the very steps of the altar striking down two of them with your fists falling at last bleeding from a hundred wounds but crying at the very end God is my right as he stared across at the tomb he seemed to see the great figure deserted by all his terrified adherents lying in his blood in the now deserted Cathedral he saw the colored dusk creep forward and covering him and then in the darkness of the night the two faithful servants who crept in and carried away his body to keep it in safety until his day should come again born in 1100 Henry of Auden had been the first bishop to give pol Chester dignity in power what William of Wickham was to Winchester that Henry of Arden was to the C of pol Chester through all the wild days of the quarrel between Stephen and Matilda he had stood triumphant yielding at last only to the mad overwhelming attacks of his private enemies of those he had had many it had been said of him that he thought himself God the proudest prelate on earth proud he may have been but he had loved his bishopric it was in his time that the st. margaret's chapel had been built through his energy that the two Great Western towers had risen because of him that pol Chester now could boast one of the richest revenues of any Cathedral in Europe men said that he had plundered stolen the land of powerless men himself headed for raise against neighbouring villages and even castles had done it for the greater glory of God they had been trouble us times it had been every man for himself he had told his people that he was God's chief servant it was even said that he had once in the plenitude of his power cried that he was God himself his figure remained to this very day dominating pol Chester vast in stature black-bearded rejoicing in his physical strength he could kill they used to say an ox with his fists the gloria rang triumphantly up into the shadows of the nave brandon moved once more across to the lectern he read of the casting of the money changers out of the temple his voice quivered with pride and exultation so that Kabat who had acquired after many years practice the gift of sleeping during the lessons and sermon with his eyes open woke up with a start and wondered what was the matter Brandon's mood when he was back in his own drawing room did not leave him it was rather intensified by the coziness and security of his own lying back in his large armchair in front of the fire his long legs stretched out before him he could hear the rain beating on the window panes and beyond that the murmur of the organ Brocket the organist was practising as he often did after evensong the drawing-room was a long narrow one with many windows it was furnished in excellent taste the carpet and the curtains and the dark blue coverings to the chairs were all a little faded but this only gave them an addition of dignity and repose there were two large portraits of himself and mrs. Brandon painted at the time of their marriage some low white bookshelves a large copy of Christ in the temple plenty of space flowers light mrs. Brandon was at this time a woman of 42 but she looked very much less than that she was slight dark pale quite undistinguished she had large gray eyes that looked on to the ground when you spoke to her she was considered a very shy woman negative in every way she agreed with everything that was said to her and seemed to have no opinions of her own she was simply the wife of the Archdeacon mrs. Combermere considered her a poor little fool she had no real friends in pol Chester and it made little difference to any gathering whether she were there or not she had been only once known to lose her temper in public once in the marketplace she had seen a farmer beat his horse over the eyes she had actually gone up to him and struck him afterwards she had said that she did not like to see animals ill treated the Archdeacon had apologized for her and no more had been said about it the farmer had borne her no grudge she sat now at the little tea table her eyes screwed up over the serious question of giving the Archdeacon his tea exactly as he wanted it her whole mind was apparently engaged on this problem and the Archdeacon did not care today that she did not answer his questions and support his comments because he was very very happy the whole of his being thrilling with security and success and innocent pride Joan Brandon came in in appearance she was as mrs. Sampson said insignificant you would not look at her twice any more than you would have looked at her mother twice her figure was slight and her legs she was wearing long skirts this year for the first time too long her hair was dark brown and her eyes dark brown she had nice rosy cheeks but they were inclined to freckle she smiled a good deal and laughed when in company more noisily than was proper a bit of a tomboy I'm afraid was what one used to hear about her but she was not really a tomboy she moved quietly and her own bedroom was always neat and tidy she had very little pocket money and only seldom new clothes not because the Archdeacon was mean but because Joan was so often forgotten and left out of the scheme of things it was surprising that the only girl in the house should be so often forgotten but the Archdeacon did not care for girls and mrs. Brandon did not appear to think very often of anyone except the Archdeacon Falk joins brother now at Oxford when he was at home had other things to do than consider Joan she had gone ever since she was 12 to the pol Chester High School for Girls and there she was popular and might have made many friends had it not been that she could not invite her companions to her home her father did not like noise in the house she had been captain of the hockey team the small girls in the school had all adored her she had left the place six months ago and had come home to help her mother she had had in honest fact six months loneliness although no one knew that except herself her mother had not wanted her help there had been nothing for her to do and she had felt herself too young to venture into the company of older girls in the town she had been rather blue and had looked back on see field house the high school with longing and then suddenly one morning for no very clear reason she had taken a new view of life everything seemed delightful and even thrilling commonplace things that she had known all her days the High Street keeping her rooms tidy spending or saving the Manute monthly allowance the cathedral the river she was all in a moment aware that something very delightful would shortly occur what it was she did not know and she laughed at herself for imagining that anything extraordinary could ever happen to anyone so commonplace as herself but there the strange feeling was and it would not go away today as always when her father was there she came in very quietly sat down near her mother saw that she made no sort of interrupt to the archdeacon's flow of conversation she found that he was in a good humour today and she was glad of that because it would please her mother she herself had a great interest in all that he said she thought him a most wonderful man and secretly was swollen with pride that she was his daughter it did not hurt her at all that he never took any notice of her why should he nor did she ever feel jealous of Faulk her father's favorite that seemed to her quite natural she had the idea now almost thoroughly exploded but then universally held in pol gesture that women were greatly inferior to men she did not read the more advanced novels written by Madame Sarah grande and mrs. Lynne Linton I am ashamed to say that her favorite authors were miss Alcott and Miss Charlotte Mary young moreover she herself admired Faulk extremely he seemed to her a hero and always right in everything that he did her father continued to talk and behind the reverberation of his deep voice the role of the organ like an approving echo could faintly be heard there was a moment when I thought Foster was going to interfere I've been against the garden roller from the first they've got one and what do they want another for and anyway he thinks I meddle with the school's affairs too much who wants to meddle with the school's affairs I'm sure they're nothing but a nuisance but someone's got to prevent the place from going to wrack and ruin and if they leave it to me I can't very well refuse it can I yeah no dear you see what I mean yes dear well then as though mrs. Brandon had just been overcome in an argument in which she had shown the greatest obstinacy there you are it would be false modesty to deny that I've got the chapter more or less in my pocket and why shouldn't I have as anyone worked harder for this place and the cathedral than I have no dear well there's this new fellow Ron Durr coming today don't know much about him but he won't give much trouble I expect trouble in the way of delaying things I mean what we want his work done expeditiously I've just about got that chapter moving at last 10 years hard work deserve a VC or something at yes dear I'm sure you do the Archdeacon gave one of his well known roars of laughter a laugh famous throughout the county a laugh described by his admirers as Homeric by his enemies as ear-splitting there was however enemies or no enemies something sympathetic in that laughs something boyish and simple and honest he suddenly pulled himself up bringing his long legs closed against his broad chest no letter from folk today was there no dear hmm that's three weeks we haven't heard hope there's nothing wrong what could be wrong dear nothing of course well Joan and what have you been doing with yourself all day it was only in his most happy and resplendent moods that the Archdeacon held a jocular conversation with his daughter these conversations had been in the past moments of agony and terror to her but since that morning when she had suddenly woken to a realization of the marvelous possibilities in life her terror had left her there were other people in the world besides her father nevertheless a little her agitation was still with her she looked up at him smiling oh I don't know father I went to the library this morning to change the books for mother novels I suppose no one ever reads anything but trash nowadays they hadn't anything that mother put down they never have miss Milton sits on the new novels and keeps them for mrs. Sampson and mrs. Combermere sits on them yes really sits on them I saw her take one from under her skirt the other day when mrs. Sampson asked for it it was one that mother has wanted a long time the Archdeacon was angry I never heard anything so scandalous I'll just see to that what's the use of being on the library committee if that kind of thing happens that woman shall go oh no father of course she shall go I never heard anything so dishonest in my life Joan remembered that little conversation until the end of her life and with reason the door was flung open someone came hurriedly in then stopped with a sudden arrested impulse looking at them it was Foulke Foulke was a very good-looking man fair hair light blue eyes like his father's slim and straight and quite obviously fearless it was that quality of courage that struck everyone who saw him it was not only that he feared it seemed no one and nothing but that he went a step further than that spending his life in defying everyone and everything as a practiced dueler might challenge everyone he met in order to keep his play in practice I don't like young Brandon mrs. Sampson said he snorts contempt at you he was only 21 a contemptuous age he looked as though he had been living in that house for weeks although as a fact he had just driven up after a long and tiresome journey in an ancient cab through the pouring rain the Archdeacon gazed at his son and a bewildered confused amaze as though he convinced skeptic were suddenly confronted in broad daylight with an undoubted ghost what's the matter he said at last why are you here I've been sent down said Fulke it was characteristic of the relationship in the family that at that statement mrs. Brandon and Joan did not look at Falk but at the Archdeacon sent down yes for ragging they wanted to do at last term sent down the Archdeacon shot to his feet his voice suddenly lifted into a cry and you have the impertinence to come here and tell me you walk in as though nothing had and you walk in you're angry said Fulke smiling of course I knew you would be you might hear me out first but I'll come along when I've unpacked and you're a bit cooler I wanted some tea but I suppose that will have to wait you just listened father and you'll find it isn't so bad Oxford's a rotten place for anyone who wants to be on his own and anyway you won't have to pay my bills anymore Falk turned and went the Archdeacon as he stood there felt a dim mysterious pain as though an adversary whom he completely despised had found suddenly with his weapon a joint in his Armour end of book one chapter one book 1 chapter 2 of the cathedral by Hugh Walpole this LibriVox recording is in the public domain chapter 2 Ron ders the Train that brought Falk Brandon back to Paul Chester brought also the Ron ders Frederick R under newly Canon of poll Chester and his aunt miss Alice Ron der about them the station gathered in a black cloud dirty obscure lit by flashes of light and flame shaken with screams rumblings the crashing of carriage against carriage the rattle of cab wheels on the cobbles outside today also there was the hiss and scatter of the rain upon the glass roof the Ron ders stood not bewildered for that they never were but thinking what would be the best the new cannon was a round man round shouldered round faced round stomached round leg a fair height he was not ludicrous but it seemed that if you laid him down he would roll naturally still smiling to the farthest end of the station he wore large very round spectacles his black clerical coat and trousers and hat were scrupulously clean and smartly cut he was not a dandy but he was not shabby he smiled a great deal not nervously as spirits are supposed to smile not effusive ly but simply with geniality his aunt was a contrast thin straight stiff white collar little black bowtie coat like a man's skirt with no nonsense about it no nonsense about her anywhere she was not an amiable perhaps but business came first well what do we do he asked we collect our bags and find the cab she answered briskly they found their bags and there were a great many of them miss Rhonda having seen that they were all there and that there was no nonsense about the porter moved off to the barrier followed by her nephew as they came into the station square all smelling of hay the rain the deluge slowly withdrew its forces recalling them gradually so that the drops whispered now patter patter pit-pat a vision hovered down and pecked at the cobbles faint color threaded the thick blotting paper gray old faucet himself had come to the station to meet them why had he felt it to be an occasion god only knows a new Canon was nothing to him he very seldom now being over 80 with a strange wormy pain in his left ear took his horses out himself he saved his money and counted it over by his fireside to see that his old woman didn't get in the of it he hated his old woman and in a vaguely superstitious thoroughly glib sure fashion half believed that she had cast a spell over him and was really responsible for his wormy ear why had he come he didn't himself know perhaps Rhonda was going to be of importance in the place he had come from London and they all had money in London he licked his purple protruding lips greedily as he saw the generous man yes kindly and generous he looked they got into the Musti cab and rattled away over the cobbles I hope mrs. clay got the telegram all right miss rounders thin bosom was a little agitated beneath its white waistcoat you'll never forgive me if things aren't looking as though we'd lived in the place for months Alice rendre was over sixty and as active as a woman of forty rhonda looked at her and laughed never forgive you what words do I ever cherish grievances no but I do like to be comfortable well everything was all right a week ago I've slaved at the place as you know and mrs. clays a jewel but she complains of the pole Chester maids says there isn't one that's any good oh I want my tea I want my tea they were climbing up from the marketplace into the high street Rhonda looked about him with a genial curiosity nice he said I believe I can be comfortable here if you aren't comfortable you certainly won't stay she answered him sharply well then I must be comfortable he replied to laughing he laughed a great deal but absent mindedly as though his thoughts were elsewhere it would have been interesting to a student of human nature to have been there and watched him as he sat back in the cab looking through the window indeed but seeing apparently nothing he seemed to be gazing through his round spectacles very short-sighted Lee his eyes screwed up and dim his fat soft hands were planted solidly on his thick knees the observer would have been interested because he would soon have realized that rhonda saw everything nothing however insignificant escaped him but he seemed to see with his brain as though he had learned the trick of forcing it to some new function that did not properly belong to it the broad white forehead under the soft black clerical hat was smooth unwrinkled mild and calm he had trained it to be so the High Street was like any High Street of a small Cathedral town in the early evening the pavements were sleek and shiny after the rain people were walking with the air of being unusually pleased with the world always the human expression when the storms have withdrawn and there is peace and color in the sky there were lights behind the solemn panes of Bennett's the booksellers that fine shop whose first master had seen Sir Walter Scott in London and spoken to Byron in his window were rows of the classics in caf and first editions of the Surtees books and dr. syntax at the very top of the high street was Malick's the pastry cooks gay with its gas rich with its famous saffron buns it's still more famous gingerbread cake and most famous of all its lemon biscuits even as the Ronda's cab paused for a moment before it turned to pass under the dark arden gate onto the asphalt of the precincts the great mrs. Melek herself round and rubicund came to the door and looked about her at the weather an errand boy passed whistling down the hill a stiff military looking gentleman with white mustaches mounted majestically the steps of the Conservative Club then they rattled under the black archway echoed for a moment on the noisy cobbles then slipped into the quiet solemnity of the precincts asphalt it was Brandon who had insisted on the asphalt old residents had complained that to take away the cobbles would be to rid the precincts of all its atmosphere I don't care about atmosphere said the Archdeacon I want to sleep at night very quiet here not a sound penetrated the cathedral was a huge shadow above its darkened lawns not a human soul was to be seen the cab stopped with a jerk at number eight the bell was rung by old Fawcett who stood on the top step looking down at Ron der and the wondering how much he dared to ask him ask him too much now and perhaps he would not deal with him in the future moreover although the man wore large spectacles and was fat he was probably not a fool Fawcett could not tell why he was so sure but there was something mrs. clay was at the door smiling and ordering a small frightened girl to hurry up now Miss Ron der disappeared into the house rhonda stood for a moment looking about him as though he were a spy in enemy country and must let nothing escape him whose is that big place there he asked Fawcett pointing to a house that stood by itself at the farther corner of the precincts Archdeacon Brandon sir Oh Rhonda mounted the steps goodnight he said to Fawcett mrs. clay paid the cabman please the Ron durs had taken this house a month ago for two months before that it heads to a desolate wisps of paper and straw blowing about it it's to let notice creaking and screaming in every wind the Honorable mrs. Pentecost an eccentric old lady had lived there for many years and had died in the middle of a game of patience her worn and tattered furniture had been sold at auction and the house had remained unlit for a considerable period because people in the town said that the ghost of mrs. Pentecost skat a famous blue Persian walked there the Ronda's cared nothing for ghosts the house was exactly what they wanted it had two paneled rooms two powder closets and a little walled garden at the back with fruit trees it was quite wonderful what miss Ronda had done in a month she had abandoned Eaton square for a week worked in the pole Chester house like a slave then retired back to Eaton square again leaving mrs. clay her aide-de-camp to manage the rest mrs. clay had managed very well she would not have been in the service of the Ronda's for nearly fifteen years had she not had a gift for managing Ronda washed and brushed came down to tea looked about him and saw that all was good I congratulate you on tallis he said excellent miss Ronda very slightly flushed there are a lot of things still to be done she said nevertheless she was immensely pleased the drawing-room was charming the stenciled walls the cushions of the chairs the cover of a gateleg table the curtains of the molle and windows were of a warm dark blue and whatever in the room was not blue seemed to be white or wood in its natural color or polished brass books ran round the room in low white bookcases in one corner a pure white Ernies stood on a pedestal with tiny wings outspread there was only one picture an excellent copy of Rembrandt's mother the windows looked out to the garden now veiled by the dusk of evening tea was on a little table close to the white tiled fireplace a little square brass clock chimed the half hour as rhonda came in I suppose Ellen will be over Ronda said he drank in the details of the room with a quiet sensual pleasure he went over to the hermé and lifted it holding it for a moment in his pudgy hands you beauty he whispered aloud he put it back turned round to his aunt of course Ellen will be over he repeated of course miss Rhonda repeated picking up the old square black lacquer tea caddy and peering into it he picked up the books on the table two novels sentimental Tommy by JM Barrie and Sir George Tresa tea by mrs. Humphrey Ward mr. Swinburne's tale of Balin and the works of Max bierbaum last of all Leslie Stevens a social rights and duties he looked at them all with their light yellow moody labels they're fresh bindings then slowly and very carefully put them back on the table he always handled books as though they were human beings he came and sat down by the fire I won't see over the place until tomorrow he said what have you done about the other books the bookcases are in it's the best room in the house looks over the river and gets most of the light the books are as you packed them I haven't dared touch them in fact I've left that room entirely for you to arrange well he said if you've done the rest of this house as well as this room you'll do it's jolly it really is I'm going to like this place and you hated the very idea of it I hated the discomfort that it be before we settled in but the settling in is going to be easier than I thought of course we don't know yet how the land lies Ellen will tell us they were silent for a while then he looked at her with a puzzled half humorous half ironical glance it's a bit of a blow to you on Tallis burying yourself down here London was the breadth of your nostrils what did you come for love of me she looked steadily back at him not love exactly curiosity perhaps I want to see at firsthand what you'll do you're the most interesting human being I've ever met and that isn't prejudice aunts do not as a rule find their nephews interesting and what have you come here for I assure you I haven't the least idea the door was opened by mrs. clay miss Stiles she said Miss Stiles who came in was not handsome she was large and fat with a round red face like a son and she wore colours too bright for her size she had a slow soft voice like The Melancholy Moo of a cow she was not a bad woman but temperamental II was made unhappy by the success or good fortune of others were you in distress she would love you cherish you never abandon you she would share her last penny with you run to the end of the world for you defend you before the whole of humanity were you however in robust health she would hint to everyone of a possible cancer were you popular it would worry her terribly and she would discover a thousand faults in your character were you successful in your work she would pray for your approaching failure lest you should become arrogant she gossiped without cessation and always as it were to restore the proper balance of the world to pull down the mighty from their high places to lift the humble only that they and their return might be pulled down she played fluently and exocrine on the piano she spent her day in running from house to house she had independent means lived four months of the year in pol Chester she had been born there and her family had been known there for many generations before her four months in London and the rest of the year abroad she had met Alice Rhonda in London and attached herself to her she liked the rounders because they never boasted of their successes because Alice had a weak heart because Rhonda who knew her character half humorously deprecated his talents which were as he knew well enough no mean ones she bored Alice Rhonda but Rhonda found her useful she told him a great deal that he wanted to know and although she was never accurate in her info Meishan he could separate the wheat from the chaff she was a walking mischief maker but meant no harm to a living soul she prided herself on her honesty on saying exactly what she thought to everyone she was kindness itself to her servants who adored her as did railway Porter's cabman and newspaperman she over-tipped wherever she went because she could not bear not to be liked in our poll tester world as she was an important factor she was always the first to hear any piece of news in our town and she gave it a wrong twist just as fast as she could she was really delighted to see the Rhonda's and told them so with many assurances of affection but she was a little distressed to find the room so neat and settled she would have preferred them to be in a thorough mess and badly in need of her help my dear Alice how quick you've been how clever you are at the same time I think you'll find there's a good deal to arrange still the Paul Chester girls are so slow and always breaking things I suppose some things have been smashed in the move nothing very valuable I hope lots of things Ellen said Rhonda laughing we've had the most awful time and badly need your help it's only this room that Aunt Alice got straight just to have something to show you no and our journey down I can't tell you what it was hardly room to breathe and coming up here in the rain oh you poor things what a welcome to Paul Chester you must simply have hated the look of the whole place such a bad introduction and everything looking as gloomy and depressing as possible I expect you wished yourselves well out of it I don't wonder you're depressed I hope you're not feeling your heart Alice dear well I am a little acknowledged miss Rhonda but I shall go to bed early and get a good night you poor dear I was afraid you'd be absolutely done up now you're not to get up in the morning and I'll run about and do your shopping for you I in list how's mrs. clay a little grumpy at having so much to do said Rhonda but she'll get over it I'm afraid she's a little ill-tempered at time said miss Stiles with satisfaction I thought when I came in that she looked out of sorts troubles never come singly of course all was well now and miss Stiles completely satisfied she admired the room and the armées and prophesied that after a week or two they would probably find things not so bad after all she drank several cups of tea and passed on to general conversation it was obvious very soon that she was bursting with a piece of news I can see Ellen said Rhonda humorously observing her that you're longing to tell us something well it is interesting what do you think Faulk Brandon has been sent down from Oxford for misbehavior and who is Faulk Brandon asked rounder the Archdeacon son his only boy I've told you about Archdeacon Brandon many times he thinks he runs the town and has been terribly above himself for a long while this will pull him down a little I must say although I don't want to be uncharitable that I'm glad of it it's too absurd the way that he's been having everything his own way here all the cannons are over 90 and simply given to him about everything when did this happen oh it's only just happened he arrived by your train I saw young George Lascelles as I was on my way up to you he met him at the station Faulk I mean and he didn't pretend to disguise it George said hello Brandon what are you doing here and Faulk said oh I've been sent down just like that didn't pretend to disguise it he's always been as brazen as anything he'll give his father a lot of trouble before he's done there's nothing very terrible said Rhonda laughing and being sent down from Oxford I've known plenty of good fellows who were miss Stiles looked annoyed oh but you don't know it will be terrible for his father he's the proudest man in England some people call it conceit but however that may be he thinks there's nothing like his family even poor mrs. Brandon he's proud of when she isn't there it will be awful for him that everyone should know Rhonda said nothing you know said miss Styles who felt that her news had fallen flat you'll have to fight him or give in to him there's no other way here I hope you'll fight him I said Rhonda why I never fight anybody I'm much too lazy then you'll never be comfortable here that's all he can't bear being crossed he must have his own way about everything if the bishop weren't so old and the Dean so stupid what we want here is a little life in the place you needn't look to us for that Ellen said Rhonda we've come here to rest peace perfect peace I don't believe you said miss Stiles tossing her head I'd be disappointed to think it of you Alice Rhonda gave her nephew a curious look half of amusement half of expectation is quite true Ellen she said now if you finished your tea come and look at the rest of the house end of book one chapter two book one chapter three of the cathedral by Hugh Walpole this LibriVox recording is in the public domain chapter three one of Joan's days I find it difficult now to realize how apart from the life of the world Paul Chester was in those days even now when the war has shaken up and jostled together every small village in Great Britain Paul Chester still has some shreds of its isolation left to it but then why it might have been a walled-in fortress of medieval times for all its connection with the outside world the isolation was quite deliberately maintained I don't mean of course that mrs. Combermere and Brandon and old authentic major and mrs. Sampson said to themselves in so many words we will keep this to our sells and defend its walls against every new invader every new idea new custom new impulse we will all be butchered rather than allow one old form tradition superstition to go it was not as conscious as that but in effect it was that that it came to and they were wonderfully assisted by circumstances it is true that the mainline ran through pol Chester from dry mouth what its travellers were hurrying south and only a few tripperz a few Americans a few sentimentalists stayed to see the cathedral and those who stayed found the bull and impossibly inconvenient and uncomfortable hostelry and did not come again it is true that even then in 1897 there were many agitations by sharp businessmen like Crosby and the John Allen prophet and Fred Barnstable to make the place more widely known more commercially attractive it was not until later that the golf course was laid out and the st. Leith Hotel Rose on Paul Hill but other things were tried steamers on the pole sharra banks to various places of local interest and so on but at this time all these efforts failed the cathedral was too strong for them above all Brandon and mrs. Combermere were too strong for them nothing was done to encourage strangers I shouldn't wonder if mrs. Combermere didn't pay old Jolliffe of the ball so much a year to keep his hotel inconvenient and insanitary the men on the town council were for the most part like the cannons aged and conservative it is true that it was in 1897 that Barnstable was elected mayor but without Ron der I doubt whether even he would have been able to do very much the town then revolved so to speak entirely on its own axis it revolved between the two great events of the year the summer Paul Chester fair the Winter County ball and those two great Affairs were conducted in every detail in particular they had been conducted a hundred years before I find a strange writing from the angle of today to conceive it possible that so short a time ago anything in England could have been so conservative I myself was only 13 years of age when rendre came to our town and saw all grown figures with the exaggerated colour and romance that local inquisitive age bestows about my own contemporaries young Jeremy Cole for instance there was no color at all but the older figures were strange gigantic almost mythological mrs. Combermere the Dean the Archdeacon mrs. Sampson Cannon Ron der moved about the town to my young eyes like a gods and goddesses and it was not until after my return to Paul Chester at the end of my first Cambridge year that I saw clearly how small a town it was and how tiny the figures in it Joan Brandon thought her father a marvelous man as I have already said but she had seen him too often that lose his temper too often snub her mother too often be upset by trivial and unimportant details to conceive him romantically Falk her brother was romantic to her because she had seen so much less of him her father she knew too well for some time after folks returned from Oxford nothing happened Joan did not know what exactly she had expected to happen but she had an uneasy sense that more was going on behind the scenes than she knew the Archdeacon did not speak to Falk unless he were compelled but Falk did not seem to mind this in the least his handsome defiant face flashed scorn at the whole family he was out of the house most of the day came down to breakfast when everyone else had finished and often was not present at dinner in the evening the Archdeacon had said that breakfast was not to be kept for him but nevertheless breakfast was there on the table however late he was the cook and indeed all the servants adored him because I suppose he had no sense of class difference at all and laughed and joked with anyone if he was in a good temper all these first days he spoke scarcely one word to Joan It was as though the whole family were in his black books for some disgraceful act they were the guilty ones and not he Joan blamed herself for feeling so light-hearted and gay during this family crisis but she could not help it a very short time ago the knowledge that battle was engaged in the very heart of the house would have made her miserable and apprehensive but now it seemed to be all outside her and unconnected with her as though she had a life of her own that no one could touch her courage seemed to grow with every half hour of her life some months passed and then one morning she came into the drawing room and found her mother rather bewildered and distressed oh dear I really don't know what to do said her mother it was so seldom that Joan was appealed to for advice that her heart now beat with pride what's the matter mother she asked trying to look dignified and unconcerned mrs. Brandon looked at her with a frightened and startled look as though she had been speaking to herself and had not wished to be overheard Oh Joan I didn't know that you were there what's the matter is it anything I can help about oh no dear nothing really I didn't know that you were there but you must let me help mother Joan marveled at her own boldness as she spoke it's nothing you can do dear but it's sure to be something I can do do you know that I've been home for months and months simply with the idea of helping you and I'm never allowed to do anything oh really Joan I don't think that's quite the way to speak no but mother it's true I want to help I'm grown-up I'm going to dinner at the castle and I must help you or or I shall go away and earn my own living this last was so startling and fantastic that both Joan and her mother stared at one another in a kind of horrified amazement Oh no I didn't mean that of course Joan said hurriedly recovering herself but you must see that I must have some work to do I don't know what your father would say said mrs. Brandon still bewildered oh never mind father said Joan quickly this is a matter just between you and me I'm here to help you and you must let me do something now what's the trouble today I don't know dear there's no trouble exactly things are so difficult just now the fact is that I promised to go to tea with Miss Bernette this afternoon and now your father wants me to go with him to the Deanery so provoking Miss Bernette caught me in the street where it's always difficult to speak of excuses let me go to miss Burnett's instead said Joan it's quite time I took on some of the calling for you I've never seen mr. Morris and I hear he's very nice very well dear said mrs. Brandon suddenly beginning as her way was when there was any real opposition to capitulate on all sides at once suppose you do go dear I'm sure it's very kind of you and you might take those books back to the circulating library as well it's market day are you sure you won't mind the horses and cows and dogs Joan laughed I believe you think I'm still five years old mother that's splendid I'll start off after lunch Joan went up to her room elated truly this was a great set forward it occurred to her on further reflection that something very serious indeed must be going on behind the scenes to cause her mother to give in so quickly she sat on her old faded rocking chair her hands crossed behind her head thinking it all out did she once begin calling on her own account she was grown-up indeed what would these Morrises be like she found now that she was beginning to be a little frightened mr. Morris was the new rector of st. James the little church over by the cattle market he had not been in pole Chester very long and was said to be a shy timid man but a good preacher he was a widower and his sister-in-law kept house for him Joan considered further on the great importance of these concessions it made all the difference to everything she was now to have a life of her own and every kind of adventure and romance was possible for her she was suddenly so happy that she sprang up and did a little dance round her room a sort of polka that became so vehement that the pictures and the little rickety table rattled I'll be so grown up at the Morrises this afternoon that they'll think I've been calling for years she said to herself she had need of all her courage and optimism at luncheon for it was a gloomy meal only her father and mother were present they were all very silent after lunch she went upstairs put on her hat and coat picked up the three library books and started off it was a sunny day with shadows chasing one another across the cathedral green there was as there so often is in Paul Chester a smell of the sea in the air cold and invigorating she paused for a moment and looked across at the cathedral she did not know why but she had always been afraid of the cathedral she had never loved it and had always wished that they could go on Sundays to some little church like st. James for most of her conscious life the cathedral had hung over her with its dark menacing shadow forbidding her as it seemed to her to be gay or happy or careless today the thought suddenly came to her that place is going to do us harm I hate it and for a moment she was depressed and uneasy but when she came out from the ardan gate and saw the High Street all shining with the Sun running down the hill into glittering distance she was gloriously cheerful once more there the second wonderful thing that day happened to her she had taken scarcely a step down the hill when she came upon mrs. Sampson there was nothing wonderful about that mrs. Sampson being the wife of a Dean who was much more retiring than he should be was be seen in public at all times and seasons having to do as it were the work of two rather than one know the wonderful thing was that Joan suddenly realized that her terror of mrs. Sampson a terror that had always been a real thorn in her flesh was completely gone it was as though a charm an abracadabra had been whispered over mrs. Sampson and she had been changed immediately into a rabbit it had never been mrs. Samson's fault that she was alarming to the young she was a good woman but she was cursed with two sad burdens a desperate shyness and a series unrelenting unmitigated mysterious desperate of nervous headaches her headaches were a feature of Porchester life and those who were old enough to understand editor and offered her many remedies but the young cannot be expected to realize that there can be anything physically wrong with the old and mrs. Samson's sharpness of manner her terrifying habit of wrapping out a yes or a No her gloomy view of boisterous habits and healthy appetites made her one most truly to be avoided before today Joan would have willingly walked a mile out of her way to escape her today she only saw a nervous pale-faced little woman in an ill-fitting blue dress for whom she could not be anything but sorry good morning mrs. Sampson oh good morning Joan isn't it a nice day it's cold I think is your mother well very well thank you give her my love I will mrs. Sampson goodbye goodbye mrs. Sampson snows that would take on a blue color on a cold day quivered her thin mouth shut with a snap and she was gone but I wasn't afraid of her she was almost frightened at this new spirit that had come to her and feeling rather that in another moment she would be punished for her piratical audacity she turned up the steps into the circulating library it was the custom in those days that far away from the dust the grimy shelves in the very middle of the room there was a table with all the latest works of fiction in there gaudy bindings a few volumes of poetry and a few memoirs close to this table miss Milton sat rapt in the warmest weather in a thick shawl and knitting endless stockings she hated children myself in particular she was also a snob of the snobs and thanked God on her knees every night for ladies at Leith mrs. Combermere and mrs. Sampson by whose graces she was left in her present position Joan was still too near childhood to be considered very seriously and it was well known that her father did not take her very seriously either she was always there for on the rare occasions when she entered the library snubbed by miss Milton it must be confessed that today in spite of her success with mrs. Sampson she was nervous she was nervous partly because she hated miss Milton's red-rimmed eyes and never looked at them if she could help it but in the main because she knew that her mother was returning the library books too quickly and had moreover insisted that she should ask for mr. Barry's sentimental Tommy and mr. Seaton Merriman's the sewers both of them books that had been asked for for weeks and as steadily and persistently refused Joe knew that miss Milton would say that they might be in next week but she couldn't be sure was Joan strong enough now in her newfound glory to fight for them she did not know she advanced to the table smiling miss Milton did not look up but continued to knit one of her horrible stockings good morning miss Milton mother has sent back these books they were not quite what she wanted I'm sorry for that miss Milton took the books into her chillblains protection it's a little difficult I must say to know what mrs. Brandon prefers well there's sentimental Tommy began Joan but miss Milton was an old general oh that's out I'm afraid now here's a sweetly pretty book Roger varible wife by Adeline Sargent it's only just out or there's the so errs said Joan caught against her will by the red-rimmed eyes and staring at them oh that's out I'm afraid there are several books here you promised mother said Joan that she should have sentimental Tommy this week you promised her a month ago it's about time that mother had a book that she cares for really said miss Milton wide-eyed at Joan's audacity you seem to be charging me with some remissness miss Brandon if you have any complaint I'm sure the library committee will attend to it it's to them I have to answer when the book is in you shall have it I can promise no more I am only human you have said that now for three months said Joan beginning to her own surprise delight to be angry surely the last reader hasn't been three months over it I thought subscribers were only allowed to keep a book a week miss Milton's crimson coloring turned to a deep purple the book is out she said both books are out they are in great demand I have no more to say the library door opened and a young man came in Joan was still too young to wish for scenes in public she must give up the battle for today when however she saw who it was she blushed it was young lord saint Leith Johnny Saint Leith as he was known to his familiars who were many and of all sorts and conditions Joan hated herself for blushing especially before the odious miss Milton but there was a reason one day in last October after morning service Joan and her mother had waited in the cloisters to avoid a shower of rain scent leaf had also waited and very pleasantly had talked to them both there was nothing very alarming and this but as the rain cleared and mrs. Brandon had moved forward across the green he had suddenly with a that had seemed to her charming asked Joan whether one day they might not meet again he had given her one look straight in the eye tried to say something more failed and turned away down the cloisters Joan had never before been asked by any young man to meet him again she had told herself that this was nothing but the merest most obvious politeness nevertheless the look that he had given her remained now as she saw him advancing towards her there was the thought was it not on that very morning that her new courage and self-confidence had come to her the thought was so absurd that she flung it at miss Milton but the blush remained johnny was an ungainly young man with a red face freckles a large mouth and a bull terrier a conventional British type I suppose saved nevertheless from conventionality by his affection for his three plain sisters his determination to see things as they were and his sense of humor the last of these something quite his own and always appearing in unexpected places the bull terrier in spite of the notice on the library door that no dogs were admitted advanced breathlessly and dribbling with excitement for miss Milton's large black felt slippers here and drooled man heel heel said Johnny and drew however quite naturally concluded that this was only an approval of his intentions and there might have followed an awkward scene had his master not caught him by the collar and held him suspended in midair to his own indignant surprise and astonishment Joan laughed and miss Milton quivering between indignation fear and snobbery dropped the stalking that she was knitting Andrew burst from his master's clutches rushed the stalking into the farthest recesses of the library and proceeded there to enjoy it Johnny apologized oh it's quite all right Lord saveth said to miss Milton what a fine animal yes he is said Johnny skewing the stalking he's as strong as Lucifer here Andrew you devil I'll break every bone in your body during this little scene Johnny had smiled at Joan and in so pleasant a way that she was compelled to smile back at him how do you do miss Brandon he had recalled Andrew now and the dog was slobbering happily at his feet jolly day isn't it yes said Joan and stood there awkwardly feeling that she ought to go but not knowing quite how to do so he also seemed embarrassed and turned abruptly to miss Milton I say look here mother asked me to come in and get that book you promised her what's the name of the thing I've got it written down he fumbled in his pocket and produced a bit of paper here it is sentimental Tommy by a man named Barry silly name but mother's always reading the most awful stuff Joan turned toward miss Milton how funny she said that's the book I've just been asking for it's out miss Milton's face was a curious purple well that's odd said Johnny mother told me that you'd sent her a line to say it was in whenever she sent for it it's been out three months said Joan staring now straight into Miss Milton's angry eyes I've been keeping said miss Milton that is there's a special coffee lady saintly specially asked is it in or isn't it Astor John II there is a copy Lord st. lieth with confused fingers miss Milton searched in a drawer she produced the book you told me said Joan forgetting now in her anger st. Leif and all the world that there wouldn't be a copy for weeks if you told me you were keeping one for st. Leif that would have been different you shouldn't have told me a lie do you mean to say said Johnny opening his eyes very widely indeed that you refused this copy to miss Brandon certainly said miss Milton breathing very hard as though she had been running a long distance I was keeping it for you mother while I'm damned said Johnny I beg your pardon miss Brandon but I never heard such a thing does my mother pay a larger subscription than other people certainly not then what right had you to tell miss Brandon a lie miss Milton in spite of long training in the kind of warfare attaching if necessary to circulating libraries was very near to tears also murder she would have been delighted to pierce Joan's heart with a bright stiletto had such a weapon been handy she saw the softest easiest idlest job in the world slipping out of her fingers she saw herself a desolate and Haggard virgin begging her bread on the pole Chester streets she saw Oh but never mind her visions they were terrible ones she had recourse to her only defense if I have misunderstood my duty she said in a trembling voice there is the library committee oh never mind said Joan whose anger had disappeared it doesn't matter a bit we'll have the book after lady st. Leith indeed you won't said Johnny ceasing the volume and forcing it upon Joan Mother can wait I never heard of such a thing he turned fiercely upon miss Milton my mother shall know exactly what has happened I'm sure she'd be horrified if she understood that you were keeping books from other subscribers in order that she might have them good afternoon he strode from the room at the door he paused can I shall we are you going down the high street miss Brandon yes said Joan they went out of the room and down the library steps together in the shiny sunny Street they paused the dark cobwebs of the library hung behind Joan's consciousness like the sudden breaking of a mischievous spell she was so happy that she could have embraced Andrew who was however already occupied with a distant aura of a white poodle on the other side of the street Johnny was driven by the impulse of his indignation down the hill Joan rather breathlessly followed him I say said Johnny did you ever hear of such a woman she ought to be poisoned she ought indeed no poisonings too good for her hung drawn and quartered that's what she ought to be she'll get into trouble over that oh no said Joan please Lord saint Leith please don't say any more about it she has a difficult time I expect everybody wanting the same books after all a promise is a promise but she'd promised your mother no she never really did she always said that it would be in in a day or two she never properly promised I expect we'd have had it next the snob the rotten snob Johnny paused and raised his stick I hate women like that no she's not doing her job properly she oughtn't to be there so Swift had been their descent that they arrived in a moment at the market because today was market day there was a fine noise confusion and splendor carts rattling in and out sheep and cows driven hither and thither the wooden stalls bright with flowers and vegetables the demarcate looming behind the square filled with mysterious riches they could not talk very much here and Joan was glad she was too deeply excited to talk at one moment Saint Leith took her arm to guide her past a confused mob of the wildered sheep the Glebe sheer peasant on marketing day has plenty of conversation old wrinkled women stout red-faced farmers boys and girls all shouted together and above the scene the light driving clouds flung their transparent shadows like weaving shuttles across the Sun oh do let's stop here a moment said Joan peering into one of the arcades I've always loved this one all my life I've never been able to resist it this was the toy arcade now I'm afraid gone the way of so many other romantic things it had been to all of us the most wonderful spot and Paul Chester from the very earliest days this partly because of the toys themselves partly because it was densest and darkest of all the arcades never utterly to be pierced by our youthful eyes partly because only two doors away were the sinister rooms of mr. Dawson the dentist here not only was there every kind of toy dolls soldiers horses carts games tops hooves dogs elephants but also sweets chocolates jujubes caramels and the best suite in the whole world the Paul Chester bullseye they went in together mrs. magnet now with God an old woman like a berry always in a bonnet with green flowers smiled and bobbed the colours of the toys jumbled against the dark walls were like patterns in a carpet what do you say miss Brandon said Johnny if I give you a toy will you give me one yes said Joan afraid a little of mrs. magnets piercing black eye you're not to see what I get turn your back a moment Joan turned around as she waited she could hear the hi hi whoa of the market cries the bleating of the sheep the lowing of a cow here you are then she turned he presented her with a Japanese doll gay in a pink cotton frock his waist girdled with a sash of gold tissue now you turn your back she said in a kind of happy desperation she seized a nigger with bold red cheeks a white jacket and crimson trousers mrs. magnate wrapped the presence up they paid and walked out into the Sun again I'll keep that doll said Johnny just as long as you keep yours goodbye said Joan hurriedly I've got to call it a house on the other side of the market goodbye she felt the pressure of his hand on hers then clutching her parcel hurried almost ran indeed through the market stalls she did not look back when she had crossed the square she turned down into a little side street the plan of pol Chester is very simple it is built as it were on the side of a rock running finally to a flat top on which is the Cathedral down the side of the rock there are broad ledges and it is on one of these that the marketplace is built at the bottom of the rock lies the jumble of cottages known most erroneously as see town and around the rock runs the river pool slipping away at last through woods and hills and valleys into the sea at high tide you can go all the way to the river by the sea and in the summer this makes a pleasant and beautiful excursion it is because of this that sea town has perhaps some right to its name because in one way in another sailors collect in the cottages and at the dog and pilchard that Pleasant and democratic hostelry of which in 1897 samuel Hogg was landlord many visitors have been known to declare that sea town was too sweet for anything and that it would be really wicked to knock down the Ducks of cottages but the Ducks of cottages were the foul list and most insanitary dwelling places in the south of England and it has always been to me amazing that the pol Chester town council allowed them to stand so long as they did in 1902 as all the Gleaves your world knows there was the great battle of sea town ending in the cottages destruction in 1897 those evil dwelling places glory din their full magnificence of sweet corruption nor did a periodical attacks of typhoid alarm in the least the citizens of the upper town once and again gentlemen from other parts paid mysterious official visits but we had ways in old times of dealing with inquisitive meddlers from the outside world because the marketplace was half way down the rock and because the rectory of st. James was just below the marketplace the upper windows of that house commanded a wonderful view both of the Hill High Street and cathedral above it and of c-town River and woods below it it was said that it was up this very rocky Street from the river through the market and up the high street that the armed enemies of the black Bishop had fought their way to the Cathedral on that great day when the bishop had gone to meet his God and a piece of rock is still shown to innocent visitors as the place whence some of his enemies in full armor were flung down many thousand feet to the waters of the pool Joan had often longed to see the view from the windows of st. James rectory but she had not known old dr. burrows the former rector a cross man with gout and rheumatism she walked up some steps and found the house the last of three all squeezed together on the edge of the hill the rectory because it was the last stood Square to all the winds of heaven and Joan fancied what it must be in wild wintry weather soon she was in the drawing-room shaking hands with Miss Bernette who was mr. Morris's sister-in-law and kept house for him miss Bernette was a stout negative woman whose whole mind was absorbed in the business of housekeeping prices of food wickedness and ingratitude of servants maliciousness of shopkeepers and so on the house with all her managing was neither tidy nor clean as Joan quickly saw miss Bernette was not by temperament methodical nor had she ever received any education her mind so far as a perception of the outside world and its history went was some way behind that of a Hottentot or a South Sea Islander she had from the day of her birth been told by everyone around her that she was stupid and after a faint struggle she had acquiesced in that judgment she knew that her younger sister afterwards mrs. Morris was pretty and accomplished and that she would never be either of those things she was not angry nor jealous at this the note of her character was acquiescence and when Agatha had died of pleurisy it had seemed the natural thing for her to come and keep house for the distressed widower if mr. Morris had since regretted the arrangement he had at any rate never said so miss Burnett's method of conversation was to say something about the weather and then to lapse into a surprised and distressed stare if her visitor made some statement she crowned it with well now that was just what I was going to say her nose when she talked twinkled at the nostrils apprehensively and many of her visitors found this fascinating so that they suddenly with hot confusion realised that they too had been staring in a most offensive manner Joan had not been out in the world long enough to enable her to save a difficult situation by brilliant talk and she very quickly found herself staring at miss Burnett's nose and wanting to say something about it as for instance what a strong nose you've got miss Bernette see how it twitches or if you'll allow me miss Burnett I just like to study your nose for a minute when she realized this horrible desire in herself she blushed crimson and I gazed about the untidy and entangled drawing-room in real desperation she could see nothing in the room that was likely to save her she was about to rise and depart although she had only been there five minutes when mr. Morris came in Joan realized at once that this man was quite different from anyone whom she had ever known he was a stranger to her Pole Chester world and body soul and spirit as though a foreigner from some far distant country he had been shipwrecked and cast upon an inhospitable shore so strangely did she feel this that she was quite surprised when he did not speak with a foreign accent oh he must be a poet was her second thought about mr. Morris not because he dressed oddly or had long hair she could not tell whence the impression came unless it were in his strange bewildered lost blue eyes lost bewildered yes that was what he was with every movement of his slim straight body the impulse with which he brushed back his untidy fair hair from his forehead he seemed like a man only just awake a man needing care and protection because he simply would not be able to look after himself so ridiculously did she have this impression that she almost cried look out when he moved forward as though he would certainly knock himself against a chair or a table how strange she thought that this man should live with Miss Bernette what does he think of her she was excited by her discovery of him but that meant very little because just now she was being excited by everything she found at once that talking to him was the easiest thing in the world mr. Morris did not say very much he smiled gently and when Miss Bernette awaking suddenly from her torpor said you'll have some tea miss Brandon won't you he smiling softly repeated the invitation thank you said to Joan I will how strange it is she went on that you are so close to the market and even on market day you don't hear a sound and it was strange as though the house were bewitched and had suddenly even as Joan entered it gathered around it a dark wood for its protection yes said Mr Morris we found it strange at first but it's because we are the last house and the three others protect us we get the wind and rain though you should hear this place in a storm but the house is strong enough it's very stoutly built not aboard creaks in the wildest weather only the windows rattle and the wind comes roaring down the chimneys how long have you been here asked Joan nearly a year and we still feel strangers we were near Ashford and Kent for 12 years and the Glebe sure people are very different well said Joan who was a little irritated because she felt that his voice was a little sadder than it ought to be I think you'll like Paul Chester I'm sure you will and you've come in a good year too they're sure to be a lot going on this year because of the Jubilee mr. Morris did not seem to be as thrilled he should be by the thought of the Jubilee so Joan went on it's so lucky for us that it comes just at the pole jester feast time we always have a tremendous week at the feast the horticultural show and a ball in the Assembly Rooms and all sorts of things is going to be my first of all this year although I've really come out already she laughed festivities start tomorrow with the arrival of Maki mark he repeated mr. Morris politely oh don't you know Marky he is the greatest circus in England he comes to pol Chester every year and they have a procession through the town elephants and camels and Britannia in her chariot and sometimes a cage with the Lions and the Tigers last year they had the sweetest little ponies four of them no higher than st. Bernard's and there are the clowns – in a band she was suddenly afraid that she was talking too much silly – in her childish enthusiasms she remembered that she was in reality deputizing for her mother who would never have talked about the circus fortunately at that moment the tea came in it was brought by a flushed and contemptuous maid who put the tray down on a little table with a bang tossed her head as though she despised them all and slammed the door behind her Miss Bernette was upset by this and her nose twitch more violently than ever Joan saw that her hand trembled as she poured out the tea and she was at once sorry for her mr. Moore has talked about Kent and London and he was drunk and the saffron cake praised and Joan thought it was time to go at the last however she turned to mr. Morris and said do you like the cathedral it's wonderful he answered you should see it from our window upstairs oh I hate it said Joan why Morris asked her there was a curious challenge in his voice they were both standing facing one another I suppose that's a silly thing to say only you don't live as close to it as we do and you haven't lived here so long as we have it seems to hang right over you and it never changes and I hate to think it will go on just the same years after we're dead have you seen the view from our window Morris Astor no said Joan I was never in this house before come and see it he said I'm sure said Miss Bernette heavily miss Brandon doesn't want to be bothered when she's seen the cathedral all her life – of course I'd love to see it said Joan laughing to tell you the truth that's what I've always wanted I looked at this house again and again when the old cannon burrows was skier and thought there must be a wonderful view she said goodbye to miss Burnett my mother does hope you will soon come and see us she said I have just met mrs. Brandon for a moment at mrs. Combermere said mr. Morris will be very glad to come she went out with him it's up these stairs he said two flights I hope you don't mind they climbed on to the second landing at the end of the passage there was a window the evening was grey and only little faint wisps of blue still lingered above the dusk but the white sky threw up the cathedral towers now black and sharp-edged in magnificent relief truly it was of you the window was in such a position that through it you gazed behind the neighboring houses above some low roofs straight up the twisting High Street to the cathedral the great building seemed to be perched on the very edge of the rock almost you felt swinging in midair and that so precariously that with one push of the finger you might send it staggering into space Joan had never seen it so dominating so commanding so fierce in its disregard of the tiny clustered world beneath it so near to the Stars so majestic and alone yes it's wonderful she said oh but you should see it he cried as it can be it's dull today the sky is gray and there's no sunset but when it's flaming red all the window shining or when all the stars are out or in moonlight is like a great ship sometimes and sometimes like a cloud and sometimes like a fiery palace sometimes it's in mist and you can only see just the top of the towers I don't like it said Joan turning away it doesn't care what happens to us why should it he answered think of all it's seen the battles and the fights and the plunder and it doesn't care we can do what we like and it will remain just the same people could come and knock it down Joan said I believe it would still be there if they did the rock would be there and the spirit of the Cathedral what do people matter beside a thing like that why we're ants he stopped suddenly you'll think me foolish miss Brandon he said you have known the Cathedral so long he paused I think I know what you mean about fearing it he saw her to the door goodbye he said smiling come again I liked him she thought as she walked away what a splendid day she had had end of book one chapter three you


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