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HOME > Classical Novels > The Shuttle50 > CHAPTER 35 THE TIDAL WAVE
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 There was only one man to speak to, and it being the nature of the beast—so he harshly put it to himself—to be absolutely impelled1 to speech at such times, Mount Dunstan laid bare his breast to him, tearing aside all the coverings pride would have folded about him. The man was, of course, Penzance, and the laying bare was done the evening after the story of Red Godwyn had been told in the laurel walk.  
They had driven home together in a profound silence, the elder man as deep in thought as the younger one. Penzance was thinking that there was a calmness in having reached sixty and in knowing that the pain and hunger of earlier years would not tear one again. And yet, he himself was not untorn by that which shook the man for whom his affection had grown year by year. It was evidently very bad—very bad, indeed. He wondered if he would speak of it, and wished he would, not because he himself had much to say in answer, but because he knew that speech would be better than hard silence.
“Stay with me to-night,” Mount Dunstan said, as they drove through the avenue to the house. “I want you to dine with me and sit and talk late. I am not sleeping well.”
They often dined together, and the vicar not infrequently slept at the Mount for mere2 companionship's sake. Sometimes they read, sometimes went over accounts, planned economies, and balanced expenditures3. A chamber4 still called the Chaplain's room was always kept in readiness. It had been used in long past days, when a household chaplain had sat below the salt and left his patron's table before the sweets were served. They dined together this night almost as silently as they had driven homeward, and after the meal they went and sat alone in the library.
The huge room was never more than dimly lighted, and the far-off corners seemed more darkling than usual in the insufficient6 illumination of the far from brilliant lamps. Mount Dunstan, after standing7 upon the hearth8 for a few minutes smoking a pipe, which would have compared ill with old Doby's Sunday splendour, left his coffee cup upon the mantel and began to tramp up and down—out of the dim light into the shadows, back out of the shadows into the poor light.
“You know,” he said, “what I think about most things—you know what I feel.”
“I think I do.”
“You know what I feel about Englishmen who brand themselves as half men and marked merchandise by selling themselves and their houses and their blood to foreign women who can buy them. You know how savage9 I have been at the mere thought of it. And how I have sworn——”
“Yes, I know what you have sworn,” said Mr. Penzance.
It struck him that Mount Dunstan shook and tossed his head rather like a bull about to charge an enemy.
“You know how I have felt myself perfectly10 within my rights when I blackguarded such men and sneered11 at such women—taking it for granted that each was merchandise of his or her kind and beneath contempt. I am not a foul-mouthed man, but I have used gross words and rough ones to describe them.”
“I have heard you.”
Mount Dunstan threw back his head with a big, harsh laugh. He came out of the shadow and stood still.
“Well,” he said, “I am in love—as much in love as any lunatic ever was—with the daughter of Reuben S. Vanderpoel. There you are—and there I am!”
“It has seemed to me,” Penzance answered, “that it was almost inevitable12.”
“My condition is such that it seems to ME that it would be inevitable in the case of any man. When I see another man look at her my blood races through my veins13 with an awful fear and a wicked heat. That will show you the point I have reached.” He walked over to the mantelpiece and laid his pipe down with a hand Penzance saw was unsteady. “In turning over the pages of the volume of Life,” he said, “I have come upon the Book of Revelations.”
“That is true,” Penzance said.
“Until one has come upon it one is an inchoate14 fool,” Mount Dunstan went on. “And afterwards one is—for a time at least—a sort of madman raving15 to one's self, either in or out of a straitjacket—as the case may be. I am wearing the jacket—worse luck! Do you know anything of the state of a man who cannot utter the most ordinary words to a woman without being conscious that he is making mad love to her? This afternoon I found myself telling Miss Vanderpoel the story of Red Godwyn and Alys of the Sea-Blue Eyes. I did not make a single statement having any connection with myself, but throughout I was calling on her to think of herself and of me as of those two. I saw her in my own arms, with the tears of Alys on her lashes16. I was making mad love, though she was unconscious of my doing it.”
“How do you know she was unconscious?” remarked Mr. Penzance. “You are a very strong man.”
Mount Dunstan's short laugh was even a little awful, because it meant so much. He let his forehead drop a moment on to his arms as they rested on the mantelpiece.
“Oh, my God!” he said. But the next instant his head lifted itself. “It is the mystery of the world—this thing. A tidal wave gathering17 itself mountain high and crashing down upon one's helplessness might be as easily defied. It is supposed to disperse18, I believe. That has been said so often that there must be truth in it. In twenty or thirty or forty years one is told one will have got over it. But one must live through the years—one must LIVE through them—and the chief feature of one's madness is that one is convinced that they will last forever.”
“Go on,” said Mr. Penzance, because he had paused and stood biting his lip. “Say all that you feel inclined to say. It is the best thing you can do. I have never gone through this myself, but I have seen and known the amazingness of it for many years. I have seen it come and go.”
“Can you imagine,” Mount Dunstan said, “that the most damnable thought of all—when a man is passing through it—is the possibility of its GOING? Anything else rather than the knowledge that years could change or death could end it! Eternity19 seems only to offer space for it. One knows—but one does not believe. It does something to one's brain.”
“No scientist, howsoever profound, has ever discovered what,” the vicar mused20 aloud.
“The Book of Revelations has shown to me how—how MAGNIFICENT life might be!” Mount Dunstan clenched21 and unclenched his hands, his eyes flashing. “Magnificent—that is the word. To go to her on equal ground to take her hands and speak one's passion as one would—as her eyes answered. Oh, one would know! To bring her home to this place—having made it as it once was—to live with her here—to be WITH her as the sun rose and set and the seasons changed—with the joy of life filling each of them. SHE is the joy of Life—the very heart of it. You see where I am—you see!”
“Yes,” Penzance answered. He saw, and bowed his head, and Mount Dunstan knew he wished him to continue.
“Sometimes—of late—it has been too much for me and I have given free rein22 to my fancy—knowing that there could never be more than fancy. I was doing it this afternoon as I watched her move about among the people. And Mary Lithcom began to talk about her.” He smiled a grim smile. “Perhaps it was an intervention23 of the gods to drag me down from my impious heights. She was quite unconscious that she was driving home facts like nails—the facts that every man who wanted money wanted Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter—and that the young lady, not being dull, was not unaware24 of the obvious truth! And that men with prizes to offer were ready to offer them in a proper manner. Also that she was only a brilliant bird of passage, who, in a few months, would be caught in the dazzling net of the great world. And that even Lord Westholt and Dunholm Castle were not quite what she might expect. Lady Mary was sincerely interested. She drove it home in her ardour. She told me to LOOK at her—to LOOK at her mouth and chin and eyelashes—and to make note of what she stood for in a crowd of ordinary people. I could have laughed aloud with rage and self-mockery.”
Mr. Penzance was resting his forehead on his hand, his elbow on his chair's arm.
“This is profound unhappiness,” he said. “It is profound unhappiness.”
Mount Dunstan answered by a brusque gesture.
“But it will pass away,” went on Penzance, “and not as you fear it must,” in answer to another gesture, fiercely impatient. “Not that way. Some day—or night—you will stand here together, and you will tell her all you have told me. I KNOW it will be so.”
“What!” Mount Dunstan cried out. But the words had been spoken with such absolute conviction that he felt himself become pale.
It was with the same conviction that Penzance went on.
“I have spent my quiet life in thinking of the forces for which we find no explanation—of the causes of which we only see the effects. Long ago in looking at you in one of my pondering moments I said to myself that YOU were of the Primeval Force which cannot lose its way—which sweeps a clear pathway for itself as it moves—and which cannot be held back. I said to you just now that because you are a strong man you cannot be sure that a woman you are—even in spite of yourself—making mad love to, is unconscious that you are doing it. You do not know what your strength lies in. I do not, the woman does not, but we must all feel it, whether we comprehend it or no. You said of this fine creature, some time since, that she was Life, and you have just said again something of the same kind. It is quite true. She is Life, and the joy of it. You are two strong forces, and you are drawing together.”
He rose from his chair, and going to Mount Dunstan put his hand on his shoulder, his fine old face singularly rapt and glowing.
“She is drawing you and you are drawing her, and each is too strong to release the other. I believe that to be true. Both bodies and souls do it. They are not separate things. They move on their way as the stars do—they move on their way.”
As he spoke25, Mount Dunstan's eyes looked into his fixedly26. Then they turned aside and looked down upon the mantel against which he was leaning. He aimlessly picked up his pipe and laid it down again. He was paler than before, but he said no single word.
“You think your reasons for holding aloof27 from her are the reasons of a man.” Mr. Penzance's voice sounded to him remote. “They are the reasons of a man's pride—but that is not the strongest thing in the world. It only imagines it is. You think that you cannot go to her as a luckier man could. You think nothing shall force you to speak. Ask yourself why. It is because you believe that to show your heart would be to place yourself in the humiliating position of a man who might seem to her and to the world to be a base fellow.”
“An impudent
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