The Place of the Lion - Charles Williams - ebook

Platonic archetypes begin to appear around an English country town, wreaking havoc and drawing to the surface the spiritual strengths and flaws of individual characters.

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Charles Williams

The Place of the Lion

First digital edition 2016 by Anna Ruggieri


- 1. The Lioness

- 2. The Eidola And The Angeli

- 3. The Coming Of The Butterflies

- 4. The Two Camps

- 5. Servile Fear

- 6. Meditation of Mr. Anthony Durrant

- 7. Investigations Into A Religion

- 8. Marcellus Victorinus Of Bologna

- 9. The Fugitive

- 10. The Pit In The House

- 11. The Conversion Of Damaris Tighe

- 12. The Triumph Of The Angelicals

- 13. The Burning House

- 14. The Hunting Of Quentin

- 15. The Place Of Friendship

- 16. The Naming Of The Beasts

Chapter One - The Lioness

From the top of the bank, behind a sparse hedge of thorn, the lioness stared at theHertfordshire road. She moved her head from side to side, then suddenly she became rigid as if she had scented prey or enemy; she crouched lower, her body trembling, her tail swishing, but she made no sound.

Almost a mile away Quentin Sabot jumped from thegate on which he had been sitting and looked at his wrist-watch.

“I don’t see much sign of this bus of yours,” he said, glancing along the road.

Anthony Durrant looked in the same direction. “Shall we wander along and meet it?”

“Or go on and let it catchus up?” Quentin suggested. “After all, that’s our direction.”

“The chief use of the material world,” Anthony said, still sitting on the gate, “is that one can, just occasionally, say that with truth. Yes, let’s.” He got down leisurely and yawned. “I feel Icould talk better on top of a bus than on my feet just now,” he went on. “How many miles have we done, should you think?”

“Twenty-three?” Quentin hazarded.

“Thereabouts,” the other nodded, and stretched himself lazily. “Well, if we’re going on, let’s.” And as they began to stroll slowly along, “Mightn’t it be a good thing if everyone had to draw a map of his own mind — say, once every five years? With the chief towns marked, and the arterial roads he was constructing from one idea to another, and all the lovely and abandoned by-lanes that he never went down, because the farms they led to were all empty?”

“And arrows showing the directions he wanted to go?” Quentin asked idly.

“They’d be all over the place,” Anthony sighed. “Like that light which I see bobbing about in front of me now.”

“I see several,” Quentin broke in. “What are they — lanterns?”

“They look like them? three — five,” Anthony said. “They’re moving about, so it can’t be the road up or anything.”

“They may be hanging the lanterns on poles,” Quentin protested.

“But,” Anthony answered, as they drew nearer to the shifting lanterns, “they are not. Mortality, as usual, carries its own star.”

He broke off as a man from the group in front beckoned to them with something like a shout. “This is veryunusual,” he added. “Have I at last found someone who needs me?”

“They all seem very excited,” Quentin said, and had no time for more. There were some dozen men in the group the two had reached, and Quentin and Anthony stared at it in amazement. For all the men were armed — four or five with rifles, two with pitchforks; others who carried the lanterns had heavy sticks. One of the men with rifles spoke sharply, “Didn’t you hear the warning that’s been sent out?”

“I’m afraid we didn’t,” Anthony told him. “Ought we?”

“We’ve sent a man to all the cross-roads this half hour or more,” the other said. “Where have you come from that you didn’t meet him?”

“Well, for half an hour we’ve been sitting on a gate waiting for a bus,” Anthony explained, and was surprised tohear two or three of the men break into a short laugh, while another added sardonically, “And so you might wait.” He was about to ask further when the first speaker said sharply, “The fact is there’s a lioness loose somewhere round here, and we’re after it.”

“The devil there is!” Quentin exclaimed, while Anthony, more polite, said, “I see — yes. That does seem a case for warning people. But we’ve been resting down there and I suppose your man made straight for the cross-roads and missed us.” He waited to hear more.

“It got away from a damned wild beast show over there,” the other said, nodding across the darkening fields, “close by Smetham. We’re putting a cordon of men and lights round all the part as quickly as we can and warning the people in the houses.Everything on the roads has been turned away — that’s why you missed your bus.”

“It seems quite a good reason,” Anthony answered. “Was it a large lioness? Or a fierce one?”

“Fierce be damned,” said another man, who possibly belonged to the show. “It was astame as a white mouse, only some fool startled it.”

“I’ll make it a darn sight tamer if I get a shot at it,” the first man said. “Look here, you gentlemen had better get straight ahead as fast as you can. We’re going to meet some others and then beat across the fields to that wood — that’s where it’ll be.”

“Can’t we help you?” Anthony asked, looking round him. “It seems such a pity to miss the nearest thing to a lion hunt we’re ever likely to find.”

But the other had made up his mind. “You’ll be more use at the other end,” he said. “That’s where we want the numbers. About a mile up that way there’s the main road, and the more we’ve got there the better. It isn’t likely to be on any road — not even this one — unless it just dashes across, so you’ll be prettysafe, safer along here than you will be across the fields with us. Unless you’re used to country by night.”

“No,” Anthony admitted, “not beyond an occasional evening like this.” He looked at Quentin, who looked back with an expression of combined anxietyand amusement, murmuring, “I suppose we go on, then — as far as the main road.”

“Yoicks — and so on,” Anthony assented. “Good night then, unless we see you at the end. Good luck to your hunting.”

“It ought to be forbidden,” a man who had hitherto been silent said angrily. “What about the sheep?”

“O keep quiet,” the first man snapped back, and during the half-suppressed wrangle the two friends parted from the group, and stepped out, with more speed and more excitement than before, down the road in front of them.

“What enormous fun!” Anthony said, in an unintentionally subdued voice. “What do we do if we see it?”

“Bolt,” Quentin answered firmly. “I don’t want to be any more thrilled than I am now. Unless it’s going in the other direction.”

“What a day!” Anthony said. “As a matter of fact, I expect it’d be just as likely to bolt as we should.”

“It might think we were its owners,” Quentin pointed out, “and come trotting or lolloping or whatever they do up to us. Do you save me by luring it after you, or do I saveyou?”

“O you save me, thank you,” Anthony said. “These hedges are infernally low, aren’t they? What I feel I should like to be in is an express train on a high viaduct.”

“I hope you still think that ideas are more dangerous than material things,” Quentinsaid. “That was what you were arguing at lunch.”

Anthony pondered while glancing from side to side before he answered, “Yes, I do. All material danger is limited, whereas interior danger is unlimited. It’s more dangerous for you to hate than to kill, isn’tit?”

“To me or to the other fellow?” Quentin asked.

“To — I suppose one would have to say — to the world in general,” Anthony suggested. “But I simply can’t keep it up now. I think it’s splendid of you, Quentin, but the lioness, though a less, is a more pressing danger even than your intellectual errors. Hallo, here’s a gate. I suppose this is one of the houses they were talking about.”

They stopped before it; Quentin glanced back along the road they had come, and suddenly caught Anthony by the arm, exclaiming, “There! There!”

But his friend had already seen. A long low body had slithered down the right-hand bank some couple of hundred yards away, had paused for a moment turning its head and switching its tail, and had then begun to come leaping in their direction. It might have been mere friendliness or even ignorance — the two young men did not wait to see; they were through the gate and up the short garden path in a moment. In the dark shelter of the porch they paused. Anthony’s hand touched the knocker and stayed.

“Better not make a row perhaps,” he said. “Besides, all the windows were dark, did you notice? If there’s no one at home, hadn’t we better keep quiet?”

There was no reply unless Quentin’s renewed clasp of his arm could be taken for one. The straight path to the gate by which they had entered divided a broad lawn; on each side of it the grass stretched away and was lost in the shade of a row of trees which shut it off from the neighbouring fields. The moon was not high, and any movement under thetrees was invisible. But the moonlight lay faintly on the lawn, the gate, and the road beyond, and it was at the road that the two young men gazed. For there, halting upon her way, was the lioness. She had paused as if she heard or felt some attraction; her head was turned towards the garden, and she was lifting her front paws restlessly. Suddenly, while they watched, she swung round facing it, threw up her head, and sent out a long howl. Anthony felt feverishly at the door behind him, but he found no latchor handle — this was something more than the ordinary cottage and was consequently more hostile to strangers. The lioness threw up her head again, began to howl, and suddenly ceased, at the same instant that another figure appeared on the lawn. From theirright side came a man’s form, pacing as if in a slow abstraction. His hands were clasped behind him; his heavy bearded face showed no emotion; his eyes were directed in front of him, looking away towards the other side of the lawn. He moved slowly and paused between each step, but steps and pauses were coordinated in a rhythm of which, even at that moment of strain, the two young men were intensely aware. Indeed, as Anthony watched, his own breathing became quieter and deeper; his tightened body relaxed, and his eyes left turning excitedly towards the beast crouching in the road. In Quentin no such effect was observable, but even he remained in an attitude of attentiondevoted rather to the man than the beast. So the strange pattern remained until, always very slowly, the stranger came to the path down the garden, and made one of his pauses in its midst, directly between the human and the animal spectators. Anthony thought to himself, “I ought to warn him,” but somehow he could not; it would have seemed badmanners to break in on the concentrated silence of that figure. Quentin dared not; looking past the man, he saw the lioness and thought in hasty excuse, “If I make no noise at all she may keep quiet.”

At that moment a shout not very far away broke the silence, and at once the garden was disturbed by violent movement. The lioness as if startled made one leap over the gate, and her flying form seemed to collide with the man just as he also began to take another rhythmical step. Forms and shadows twisted and mingled for two or three seconds in the middle of the garden, a tearing human cry began and ceased as if choked into silence, a snarl broke out and died swiftly into similar stillness, and as if in answer to both sounds there came the roar of a lion — not very loud, but as if subdued by distance rather than by mildness. With that roar the shadows settled, the garden became clear. Anthony and Quentin saw before them the form of a man lying on the ground, and standing over him the shape of a full-grown and tremendous lion, its head flung back, its mouth open, its body quivering. It ceased to roar, and gathered itself back into itself. It was a lion such as the young men had never seen in any zoo or menagerie; it was gigantic and seemed to their dazed senses tobe growing larger every moment. Of their presence it appeared unconscious; awful and solitary it stood, and did not at first so much as turn its head. Then, majestically, it moved; it took up the slow forward pacing in the direction which the man had beenfollowing; it passed onward, and while they still stared it entered into the dark shadow of the trees and was hidden from sight. The man’s form still lay prostrate; of the lioness there was no sign.

Minutes seemed to pass; at last Anthony looked round at Quentin. “We’d better have a look at him, hadn’t we?” he whispered.

“What in God’s name has happened?” Quentin said. “Did you see . . . where’s the . . . Anthony, what’s happened?”

“We’d better have a look at him,” Anthony said again, but this time as a statement, not an enquiry. He moved very cautiously nevertheless, and looked in every direction before he ventured from the shelter of the doorway. Over his shoulder he said, “But there was a lioness? What did you think you saw?”

“I saw a lion,” Quentin stammered. “No, I didn’t; I saw . . . O my God, Anthony, let’s get out of it. Let’s take the risk and run.”

“We can’t leave him like this,” Anthony said. “You keep a watch while I run out and look, or drag him in here if I can. Shout if you see anything.”

Hedashed out to the fallen man, dropped on a knee by him, still glancing quickly round, bent over the body, peered at it, caught it, and rising tried to move it. But in a moment he desisted and ran back to his friend.

“I can’t move him,” he panted. “Will thedoor open? No. But there must be a back way. We must get him inside; you’ll have to give me a hand. But I’d better find the way in first. I can’t make it out; there’s no wound and no bruise so far as I can see: it’s the most extraordinary thing. You watchhere; but don’t go doing anything except shout — if you can. I won’t be a second.”

He slipped away before Quentin could answer — but nothing, no shout, no roar, no snarl, no human or bestial footfall, broke the silence until he returned. “I’ve found the door,” he began; but Quentin interrupted: “Did you see anything?”

“Damn all,” said Anthony. “Not a sight or a sound. No shining eyes, no — Quentin,didyou see a lion?”

“Yes,” Quentin said nervously.

“So did I,” Anthony agreed. “And did you see where the lioness went to?”

“No,” Quentin said, still shooting glances over the garden.

“Are there two escaped animals then?” Anthony asked. “Well, anyhow, the thing is to get this fellow into the house. I’ll take his head and you his — O my God, what’s that?”

His cry, however, was answered reassuringly. For the sound that had startled him was this time only the call of a human voice not far off, and it was answered by another still nearer. It seemed the searchers for the lioness were drawing closer. Lights, many lights, were moving across the field opposite; calls were heard on the road. Anthony turned hastily to Quentin, but before he could speak, a man had stopped at the gate and exclaimed. Anthony ran down the garden, and met him as, others gathering behind him, hecame through the gate.

“Hallo, what’s up here?” he said. “What — O is it you, sir?”

He was the man with whom the friends had talked before. He went straight to the prostrate man, bent over him, felt his heart and touched him here and there; then he lookedup in perplexity.

“Fainted, has he?” he said. “I thought it might — just possibly — have been this damned beast. But it can’t have been; he’d have been mauled if it had touched him — and I don’t suppose it would. Do you know what happened?”

“Not very well,” Anthony said. “Wedidsee the lioness, as it happened, in the road — and we more or less sprinted up here and then this man, whoever he is —”

“O, I know who he is,” the other said. “He lives here; his name’s Berringer. D’you suppose he sawthe creature? But we’d better move him, hadn’t we? Get him inside, I mean?”

“We were just going to,” Anthony said. “This door’s shut, but I’ve got the back one open.”

“Right ho!” the other answered. “I’d better slip in and warn his housekeeper, if she’s about. One or two of us will give you gentlemen a hand.” He waved to the small group by the gate, and they came in, to have explained what was needed. Then their leader went quickly round the house while Anthony, Quentin, and the rest began to lift the unconscious Mr. Berringer.

It was more difficult to do so than they had expected. To begin with, they seemed unable to get the proper purchase. His body was not so much heavy as immovable — and yet not rigid. It yielded to them gently, but however they tried to slip their arms underneath they could not at first manage to lift it. Quentin and Anthony had a similar difficulty with the legs; and indeed Anthony was so startled at the resistance where he had expected a light passivity that he almost fell forward. Atlast, however, their combined efforts did raise him. Once lifted, he could be carried easily enough along the front of the house, but when they tried to turn the corner they found an unplaceable difficulty in doing so. It wasn’t weight; it wasn’t wind; itwasn’t darkness; it was just that when they had all moved they seemed to be where they were before. Anthony, being in front, realised that something had gone wrong, and without being clear whether he were speaking to the body or the bearers, to himself orhis friend, said sharply and commandingly: “O comeon!” The general effort that succeeded took them round, and so at last they reached the back door, where the leader and a disturbed old woman whom Anthony assumed to be the housekeeper were waiting.

“Upstairs,” she said, “to his own bedroom. Look, I’ll show you. Dear, dear. O do be careful”— and so on till at last Berringer was laid on his bed, and, still under the directions of the housekeeper, undressed and got into it.

“I’ve telephoned to a doctor,” theleader said to Anthony, who had withdrawn from the undressing process. “It’s very curious: his breathing’s normal; his heart seems all right. Shock, I suppose. If he saw that damned thing — You couldn’t see what happened?”

“Not very well,” said Anthony. “We saw him fall, and — and —— It was a lioness that got away, wasn’t it? Not a lion?”

The other looked at him suspiciously. “Of course it wasn’t a lion,” he said. “There’s been no lion in these parts that I ever heard of, and only one lioness, and there won’t be that much longer. Damned slinking brute! What d’ye mean — lion?”

“No,” said Anthony, “quite. Of course, if there wasn’t a lion — I mean — O well, I mean there wasn’t if there wasn’t, was there?”

The face of the other darkened. “I daresay it all seems very funny to you gentlemen,” he said. “A great joke, no doubt. But if that’s what you think’s a joke —”

“No, no,” Anthony said hastily. “I wasn’t joking. Only —” He gave it up; it would have sounded too silly. After all, if they were looking for a lioness and found a lion . . . well, if they were looking for the lionessproperly, it presumably wouldn’t make much difference. Besides, anyhow, it couldn’t have been a lion. Not unless there were two menageries and two —“O God, what a day!” Anthony sighed; and turned to Quentin.

“The high road, I think,” he said. “And any kind of bus anywhere, don’t you? We’re simply in the way here. But, damn it!” he added to himself, “it was a lion.”

Chapter Two - The Eidola And The Angeli

Damaris Tighe had had a bad night. The thunder had kept her awake, and she particularly needed sleep just now, in order to be quite fresh every day to cope with her thesis aboutPythagorean Influences on Abelard. There were moments when she almost wished she had not picked anyone quite so remote as Abelard; only all the later schoolmen had been done to death by other writers, whereas Abelard seemed — so far as theses on Pythagorean Influences went — to have been left to her to do to death. But this tracing of thought between the two humanistic thinkers was a business for which she needed a particularly clear head. She had so far a list of eighteen close identifications, twenty-three cases of probable traditional views, and eighty-five less distinct relationships. And then there had been that letter to theJournal of Classical Studieschallenging a word in a new translation of Aristotle. She had been a little nervous about sending it. After all, she was more concerned about her doctorate of philosophy, for which the thesis was meant, than for the accuracy of the translation of Aristotle, and it would be very annoying if she made enemies — not, of course, the translator — but . . . well, anyone. And on top of all that had come that crash of thunder, every now andthen echoing all through the black sky. No lightning, no rain, only — at long intervals, just whenever she was going off to sleep at last — thunder, and again thunder. She had been unable to work all the morning. It looked, now, as if her afternoon wouldbe equally wasted.

“We hear,” Mrs. Rockbotham said, “that he’s quite comatose.”

“Dear me,” Damaris said coldly. “More tea?”

“Thank you, thank you, dear,” Miss Wilmot breathed. “Of course you didn’t really know himwell, did you?”

“I hardly know him at all,” Damaris answered.

“Such a wonderful man,” Miss Wilmot went on. “I’ve told you, haven’t I, how — well, it was really Elise who brought me into touch — but there, the instrument doesn’t matter — I mean,” she added, looking hastily over at Mrs. Rockbotham,“not in a human sense. Or really not in a heavenly. All service ranks the same with God.”

“The question is,” Mrs. Rockbotham said severely, “what is to be done to-night?”

“To-night?” Damaris asked.

“To-night is our monthly group,” Mrs. Rockbotham explained. “Mr. Berringer generally gives us an address of instruction. And with him like this —”

“It doesn’t look as if he would, does it?” Damaris said, moving the sugar-tongs irritably.

“No,” Miss Wilmot moaned, “no . . . no. But we can’t just let it drop, it’dbe too weak. I see that — Elise was telling me. Elise is so good at telling me. So if you would —”

“If I would what?” Damaris exclaimed, startled and surprised. What, what could she possibly have to do with these absurd creatures and their fantastic religion? She knew, from the vague gossip of the town, from which she was not altogether detached, that Mr. Berringer, who lived in that solitary house on the London Road, and took no more part in the town’s activities than she did herself, was the leader of a sort of study circle or something of that kind; indeed, she remembered now that these same two ladies who had broken in on her quiet afternoon with Abelard had told her of it. But she never attended to their chatter with more than a twentieth of her mind, no more than she gave to her father’s wearisome accounts of his entomological rambles. Religions and butterflies were necessary hobbies, no doubt, for some people who knew nothing about scholarship, but they would not be of the smallest use to Damaris Tighe, and therefore, as far as possible, Damaris Tighe very naturally left them out of her life. Occasionally her father’s enthusiasm broke through her defences and compelled attention; it always seemed extraordinary to Damaris that he could not in her politeness realise her boredom. And now . . .

Mrs. Rockbotham interrupted Miss Wilmot’s lengthier explanation. “You see,” she said, “we meet once a month at Mr. Berringer’s, and he gives us an Instruction — very instructive it always is — about thought-forms or something similar. But I suppose he won’t be able to this time, and none of us would like — I mean, it might seem pushing for any of us to take his place. But you, as an outsider. . . . And your studies are more or less about methods of thought, I understand?”

She paused, and Damaris supposed they were.

“I thought, if you would read us something, just to keep us in touch with — well, thehistoryof it, at least, if nothing else,” Mrs. Rockbotham ambiguously concluded, “we should all be greatly obliged.”

“But,” Damaris said, “if Mr. Berringer is . . . incapacitated, why not suspend the meeting?”

“No, I don’t want to do that,” Mrs. Rockbotham answered. “It would be very awkward, anyhow, to let everybody know before nine to-night — some of them live miles out —”

“You could telegraph,” Damaris put in.

“And in the second place,” Mrs. Rockbotham went on steadily, “I don’t think Mr. Berringer would like us to treat it as if it all depended on him. He always insists that it’s an individual effort. So we must, in thecircumstances, get someone else.”

“But where will you hold the meeting?” Damaris asked. She didn’t want to offend Mrs. Rockbotham who, though only a doctor’s wife, had influential relations, among whom was the owner of that literary weekly of which her cousin Anthony Durrant was a sub-editor or something of the sort. Damaris had had an occasional article, done for the public of course, printed there already, and she was anxious to keep the gate open. Indeed it occurred to her at once that if she could onlyfind among her various MSS. a suitable paper, she might use it both for that evening and forThe Two Camps, which was the name of the weekly. It had originally been meant to be symbolical of the paper’s effort to maintain tradition in art, politics and philosophy while allowing the expression of revolt; though Anthony insisted that it signified the division inthe contributors between those who liked it living and intelligent and those who preferred it dying and scholarly, represented by himself and Damaris. He had told her that in a moment’s exasperation, because she had insisted on talking of the paper instead of themselves. Anthony was always wanting to talk of themselves, which meant whether she loved him, and in what way, and how much, whereas Damaris, who disliked discussing other people’s personal affairs, preferred to talk of scholarship or abstract principles such as whether and how soonThe Two Campswould publish her essay onPlatonic Tradition at the Court of Charlemagne. Anthony had gone off in rather a bad temper finally, saying that she had no more notion of Plato than of Charlemagne, and that herreal subject wasDamaristic Tradition at the Court of Damaris; upon which he swore he would write a long highbrow article and publish it — Damaris being, for that purpose, a forgotten queen of Trebizond overthrown by the Saracen invasion.

“Nobody’ll know any better,” he had said, “and what you need very badly indeed is a thoroughly good Saracen invasion within the next fortnight.”

Mrs. Rockbotham was explaining that she had been talking to Mr. Berringer’s housekeeper on the telephone. The usual small arrangements had, of course, been made for the meeting, and the housekeeper, though a little reluctant, was under pressure compliant. Mr. Berringer was still lying quite quiet — unconscious, Dr. Rockbotham hadsaid. Mrs. Rockbotham and Miss Wilmot however both thought it more likely that the unconsciousness was of the nature of trance, Mr. Berringer’s soul or something having gone off into the spiritual world or somewhere, probably where time didn’t exist, and not realizing the inconvenient length of the period that was elapsing before its return.

“And suppose,” the over-suppressed Miss Wilmot broke out, “suppose he came backwhile we were there! What he might tell us! He’d even be able to tell you something, Elise, wouldn’t he?”

The whole thing sounded extremelydisagreeable to Damaris. The more she thought about it, the sillier it looked. But was it worth while, if Mrs. Rockbotham chose to be silly, refusing her request, and running the risk of a hostile word dropped in that influential relative’s ear?

“But whatsort of thing do you want?” she asked slowly.

Mrs. Rockbotham considered. “If you could tell us something about thought-forms, now,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to shape — I can’t go into it all — but perhaps a few remarks about . . . well, now, Plato? Mr. Berringer told us that Plato wrote a good deal about ideas, and didn’t you tell me you had several studies in Plato almost done?”

Damaris thought of the Charlemagne paper, but rejected it as being too historical for this purpose. She thought of afew other titles, and suddenly —

“If it would be any good to you,” she said, “I have some notes on the relation of Platonic and medieval thought — a little specialist, I’m afraid, but it would be the best I could do. If it’s really any use —”

Mrs. Rockbotham sat up with a delighted smile. “How good of you, Miss Tighe,” she exclaimed. “I knew you’d help us! It will be exactly right, I’m sure. I’ll call for you in the car at half-past eight. And thank you so much.”

She stood up and paused. “By the way,” she asked, “what’s your paper called?”

“The Eidola and the Angeli,” Damaris answered. “It’s just a comparison, you know; largely between the sub-Platonic philosophers on the one side and the commentators on Dionysius the Areopagite on the other, suggesting thatthey have a common pattern in mind. But some of the quotations are rather quaint and might attract your friends.”

“I’m perfectly certain it will be delightful,” Mrs. Rockbotham assured her. “The — the Eidola. What were they? But you’ll tell us that, won’tyou? It’s really too kind of you, Miss Tighe, and I only hope one day I shall be able to do something to show my appreciation. Good-bye till half-past eight.”

Damaris, with the firm intention that Mrs. Rockbotham should have her hope fulfilled by assisting, if necessary, to print the paper in question, said good-bye, and herself took her visitors to the car. Then she went back to her study and set to work to find the lecture. When she did, it appeared even more technical than she had supposed. The main thesis of a correspondence between the development of the formative Ideas of Hellenic philosophy and the hierarchic angelicals of Christian mythology was clearly stated. But most of the quotations were in their original Greek or Latin, and Damaris was compelled to sit down and translate them at once, for fear of later hesitation about an adequate word, into bearable English. She took the opportunity to modify it here and there in case she hurt Mrs. Rockbotham’s feelings, changing for example “superstitious slavery” into “credulous piety” and “emotional opportunism” into “fervent zeal.” Not that Mrs. Rockbotham was likely to be worried by any insult to the schoolmen or Dionysius the Areopagite — she added a couple of sentences explaining “Areopagite”— but Damaris had only the remotest notion what these ladies supposed themselves to be doing, and even in pure scholarship it was never worth while taking risks unless you were pretty sure. The highly intellectualized readers ofThe Two Campswere almost certain to befree from any prejudice in favour of either the eidola or the angeli, but with Mr. Berringer’s disciples one couldn’t tell. She altered “priestly oppression” into “official influence” almost automatically, however, recalling that Anthony had told her thata certain number of clergymen took in the periodical, and after a couple of hours’ work felt fairly ready. It would, at worst, give her a chance of reading her paper, which she liked doing; things sounded different when they were read aloud. At best — well, at best, one never knew; someone useful might be there. Damaris put the MS. ready and went down to dinner.

At dinner her father began talking. They sat opposite each other in the small dining-room into which two bookcases holding works on Proclus, Iamblichus, St. Anselm, and the Moorish culture in Spain had lately crept. The maid supplied them with food, and Damaris — to a less nourishing effect, but with a similar efficiency — supplied her father with conversation. He was more than usually thrilled today; never had he seen so many butterflies, and yet they had all escaped him.

“There was a great one on the oak at the top of the hill,” he said, “and it vanished — really vanished just as I moved. I can’t think what sort it was — I couldn’t recognize it; brown and gold it seemed. A lovely, lovely thing!”

He sighed and went on eating. Damaris frowned.

“Really, father,” she said, “if it was as beautiful as all that I don’t see how you can bear to go on eating mutton and potatoes so ordinarily.”

Her father opened his eyes at her. “But what else can I do?” he said. “Itwasa lovely thing; it was glinting and glowing there. This is very good mutton,” he added placidly. “I’m glad I didn’t miss this too — not without catching the other.”

Damaris looked at him. He was short and rather plump, and he was enjoying the mutton. Beauty! She didn’t know that she hated him, and certainly she didn’t know that she only hated him because he was her father. Nor did she realize that it was only when she was talking to him that thedivine Plato’s remarks on beauty were used by her as if they meant anything more than entries in a card-index. She had of course heard of “defence mechanisms”, but not as if they were anything she could have or need or use. Nor had love and Heloise ever appeared to her as more than a side-incident of Abelard’s real career. In which her judgment may have been perfectly right, but her sensations were wildly and entirely wrong.

“Plato says —” she began.

“O Plato!” answered Mr. Tighe, taking, as if rhythmically, more vegetables.

“— that,” Damaris went on, ignoring the answer, “one should rise from the phenomenal to the abstract beauty, and thence to the absolute.”

Mr. Tighe said he had no doubt that Plato was a very great man and could do it. “But personally,”he added, “I find that mutton helps butterflies and butterflies mutton. That’s why I like lunching out in the open. It was a marvel, that one on the oak. I don’t see what it can have been. Brown and gold,” he added thoughtfully. “It’s very curious. I’ve looked up all my books, and I can’t find anything like it. It’s a pity,” he added irrelevantly, “that you don’t like butterflies.”

Meaning to be patient, Damaris said, “But, you know, I can’t take up everything.”

“I thought that was what you just said Platotold you to do,” her father answered. “Isn’t the Absolute something like everything?”

Damaris ignored this; her father on Plato was too silly. People needed a long intellectual training to understand Plato and the Good. He would probably think that the Good was the same thing as God — like a less educated monk of the Dark Ages. Personification (which was one of her side subjects) was a snare to the unadept mind. In a rare mood of benignity, due to her hopes for her paper, she began to talk about the improvement in the maid’s cooking. If time had to be wasted, it had better be wasted onneutral instead of irritating subjects, and she competently wasted it until it was time to get ready for the meeting.

As she stepped into Mrs. Rockbotham’s car, she heard thethunder again — far away. She made conversation out of it.

“There’s the thunder,” she said. “Did it keep you awake last night?”

“It did rather,” Mrs. Rockbotham said, pressing the self-starter. “I kept on expecting to see the lightning, but there wasn’t asingle flash.”

“And not a drop of rain,” Damaris agreed. “Curious. It must be summer thunder, if there is such a thing! But I do hate lying awake at night.”

“Naturally — with all your brain-work,” the other said. “Don’t you find it very tiring?”

“O well, of course it gets rather tedious sometimes,” Damaris agreed. “But it’s interesting too — comparing different ways of saying things and noting the resemblances.”

“Like Shakespeare, I suppose?” Mrs. Rockbotham asked, and for a moment took Damaris by surprise.


“Haven’t they found out where he got all his lines from?” her friend said. “I remember reading an article in Two Camps a few weeks ago which showed that when he wrote, ‘Egypt, you are dying,’ he was borrowing from somebody else who said, ‘England is dying, because sheep are eating men.’ Marlowe or Sir Thomas More.”

“Really?” Damaris asked, with a light laugh. “Of course, Shakespeare’s not my subject. But what did he mean by sheep eating men?”

“It was something to do with agriculture,” Mrs. Rockbotham answered. “He didn’t mean it literally.”

“O of course not,” Damaris agreed. “But the lamb’s become so symbolical, hasn’t it?”

“Hasn’t it?” Mrs. Rockbotham assented, and with such prolonged intellectual conversation they reached The Joinings, as Mr. Berringer’s house was called, with some vague and forgotten reference to the cross-roads near by. The thunder crashed again, as they got out, much nearer this time, and the two ladies hurried into the house.

While Mrs. Rockbotham talked to the uncertainand uneasy housekeeper, Damaris looked at the assembled group. There were not very many members, and she did not much care for the look of any of them. Miss Wilmot was there, of course; most of therest were different improvisations either upon her ratheragitated futility or Mrs. Rockbotham’s masterful efficiency. Among the sixteen or seventeen women were four men — three of whom Damaris recognized, one as a Town Councillor and director of some engineering works, one as the assistant in the central bookshop of the town, the third as the nephew of one of the managing ladies, a Mrs. Jacquelin. Mrs. Jacquelin was almost county, the sister of a local Vicar lately dead; she called herself Mrs. Roche Jacquelin on the strength of a vague connexion with the Vendean family.

“However does this Mr. Berringer interest them all at once?” Damaris thought. “What a curious collection! And I don’t suppose they any of them know anything.” A warm consciousness of her own acquaintance with Abelard and Pythagoras stirred in hermind, as she smiled at the Town Councillor and sat down. He came over to her.

“Well, Miss Tighe,” he said briskly, “so I hear you are to be good enough to talk to us to-night. Very unfortunate, this collapse of Mr. Berringer’s, isn’t it?”

“Very indeed,” Damaris answered. “But I’m afraid I shan’t be very interesting, Mr. Foster. You see I know so little of what Mr. Berringer and you are doing.”

He looked at her a little sharply. “Probably you’re not very interested,” he said. “But we don’t really do anything, except listen. Mr. Berringer is a very remarkable man, and he generally gives us a short address on the world of principles, as one might call it.”

“Principles?” Damaris asked.

“Ideas, energies, realities, whatever you like to call them,” Mr. Foster answered. “The underlying things.”

“Of course,” Damaris said, “I know the Platonic Ideas well enough, but do you mean Mr. Berringer explains Plato?”

“Not so much Plato —” but there Mr. Foster was interrupted by Mrs. Rockbotham, who came up to Damaris.