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Night and Day

CHAPTER IX
Katharine disliked telling her mother about Cyril's misbehavior quite as much as
her father did, and for much the same reasons. They both shrank, nervously, as
people fear the report of a gun on the stage, from all that would have to be said
on this occasion. Katharine, moreover, was unable to decide what she thought of
Cyril's misbehavior. As usual, she saw something which her father and mother
did not see, and the effect of that something was to suspend Cyril's behavior in
her mind without any qualification at all. They would think whether it was good or
bad; to her it was merely a thing that had happened.
When Katharine reached the study, Mrs. Hilbery had already dipped her pen in
the ink.
"Katharine," she said, lifting it in the air, "I've just made out such a queer, strange
thing about your grandfather. I'm three years and six months older than he was
when he died. I couldn't very well have been his mother, but I might have been
his elder sister, and that seems to me such a pleasant fancy. I'm going to start
quite fresh this morning, and get a lot done."
She began her sentence, at any rate, and Katharine sat down at her own table,
untied the bundle of old letters upon which she was working, smoothed them out
absent-mindedly, and began to decipher the faded script. In a minute she looked
across at her mother, to judge her mood. Peace and happiness had relaxed
every muscle in her face; her lips were parted very slightly, and her breath came
in smooth, controlled inspirations like those of a child who is surrounding itself
with a building of bricks, and increasing in ecstasy as each brick is placed in
position. So Mrs. Hilbery was raising round her the skies and trees of the past
with every stroke of her pen, and recalling the voices of the dead. Quiet as the
room was, and undisturbed by the sounds of the present moment, Katharine
could fancy that here was a deep pool of past time, and that she and her mother
were bathed in the light of sixty years ago. What could the present give, she
wondered, to compare with the rich crowd of gifts bestowed by the past? Here
was a Thursday morning in process of manufacture; each second was minted
fresh by the clock upon the mantelpiece. She strained her ears and could just
hear, far off, the hoot of a motor-car and the rush of wheels coming nearer and
dying away again, and the voices of men crying old iron and vegetables in one of
the poorer streets at the back of the house. Rooms, of course, accumulate their
suggestions, and any room in which one has been used to carry on any particular
occupation gives off memories of moods, of ideas, of postures that have been
seen in it; so that to attempt any different kind of work there is almost impossible.
Katharine was unconsciously affected, each time she entered her mother's room,
by all these influences, which had had their birth years ago, when she was a
child, and had something sweet and solemn about them, and connected
themselves with early memories of the cavernous glooms and sonorous echoes
of the Abbey where her grandfather lay buried. All the books and pictures, even
the chairs and tables, had belonged to him, or had reference to him; even the
china dogs on the mantelpiece and the little shepherdesses with their sheep had
 
 
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