The Return HTML version

"Look not for roses in Attalus his garden, or wholesome flowers in a venomous
plantation. And since there is scarce any one bad, but some others are the worse for him;
tempt not contagion by proximity and hazard not thyself in the shadow of corruption." --
The churchyard in which Arthur Lawford found himself wandering that mild and golden
September afternoon was old, green, and refreshingly still. The silence in which it lay
seemed as keen and mellow as the light--the pale, almost heatless, sunlight that filled the
air. Here and there robins sang across the stones, elvishly shrill in the quiet of harvest.
The only other living creature there seemed to Lawford to be his own rather fair, not
insubstantial, rather languid self, who at the noise of the birds had raised his head and
glanced as if between content and incredulity across his still and solitary surroundings.
An increasing inclination for such lonely ramblings, together with the feeling that his
continued ill-health had grown a little irksome to his wife, and that now that he was really
better she would be relieved at his absence, had induced him to wander on from home
without much considering where the quiet lanes were leading him. And in spite of a
peculiar melancholy that had welled up into his mind during these last few days, he had
certainly smiled with a faint sense of the irony of things on lifting his eyes in an
unusually depressed moodiness to find himself looking down on the shadows and peace
of Widderstone.
With that anxious irresolution which illness so often brings in its train he had hesitated
for a few minutes before actually entering the graveyard. But once safely within he had
begun to feel extremely loth to think of turning back again, and this not the less at
remembering with a real foreboding that it was now drawing towards evening, that
another day was nearly done. He trailed his umbrella behind him over the grass-grown
paths; staying here and there to read some time-worn inscription; stooping a little
broodingly over the dark green graves. Not for the first time during the long laborious
convalescence that had followed apparently so slight an indisposition, a fleeting sense
almost as if of an unintelligible remorse had overtaken him, a vague thought that behind
all these past years, hidden as it were from his daily life, lay something not yet quite
reckoned with. How often as a boy had he been rapped into a galvanic activity out of the
deep reveries he used to fall into--those fits of a kind of fishlike day-dream. How often,
and even far beyond boyhood, had he found himself bent on some distant thought or
fleeting vision that the sudden clash of self-possession had made to seem quite illusory,
and yet had left so strangely haunting. And now the old habit had stirred out of its long
sleep, and, through the gate that Influenza in departing had left ajar, had returned upon
'But I suppose we are all pretty much the same, if we only knew it,' he had consoled
himself. 'We keep our crazy side to ourselves; that's all. We just go on for years and years
doing and saying whatever happens to come up--and really keen about it too'--he had
glanced up with a kind of challenge in his face at the squat little belfry--'and then, without