The Secret Places of the Heart

Chapter the Fifth

In the Land of the Forgotten Peoples

H.G. Wells

§ 1

A GUST of confidence on the part of a person naturally or habitually reserved will often be followed by a phase of recoil. At breakfast next morning their overnight talk seemed to both Sir Richmond and Dr. Martineau like something each had dreamt about the other, a quite impossible excess of intimacy. They discussed the weather, which seemed to be settling down to the utmost serenity of which the English spring is capable, they talked of Sir Richmond’s coming car and of the possible routes before them. Sir Richmond produced the Michelin maps which he had taken out of the pockets of the little Charmeuse. The Bath Road lay before them, he explained, Reading, Newbury, Hungerford, Marlborough, Silbury Hill which overhangs Avebury. Both travellers discovered a common excitement at the mention of Avebury and Silbury Hill. Both took an intelligent interest in archaeology. Both had been greatly stimulated by the recent work of Elliot Smith and Rivers upon what was then known as the Heliolithic culture. It had revived their interest in Avebury and Stonehenge. The doctor moreover had been reading Hippisley Cox’s Green Roads of England.

Neither gentleman had ever seen Avebury, but Dr. Martineau had once visited Stonehenge.

“Avebury is much the oldest,” said the doctor. “They must have made Silbury Hill long before 2000 B.C. It may be five thousand years old or even more. It is the most important historical relic in the British Isles. And the most neglected.”

They exchanged archaeological facts. The secret places of the heart rested until the afternoon.

Then Sir Richmond saw fit to amplify his confessions in one particular.


§ 2

The doctor and his patient had discovered a need for exercise as the morning advanced. They had walked by the road to Marlow and had lunched at a riverside inn, returning after a restful hour in an arbour on the lawn of this place to tea at Maidenhead. It was as they returned that Sir Richmond took up the thread of their overnight conversation again.

“In the night,” he said, “I was thinking over the account I tried to give you of my motives. A lot of it was terribly out of drawing.”

“Facts?” asked the doctor.

“No, the facts were all right. It was the atmosphere, the proportions. . . .  I don’t know if I gave you the effect of something Don Juanesque? . . . ”

“Vulgar poem,” said the doctor remarkably. “I discounted that.”


“Intolerable. Byron in sexual psychology is like a stink in a kitchen.”

Sir Richmond perceived he had struck upon the sort of thing that used to be called a pet aversion.

“I don’t want you to think that I run about after women in an habitual and systematic manner. Or that I deliberately hunt them in the interests of my work and energy. Your questions had set me theorizing about myself. And I did my best to improvise a scheme of motives yesterday. It was, I perceive, a jerry-built scheme, run up at short notice. My nocturnal reflections convinced me of that. I put reason into things that are essentially instinctive. The truth is that the wanderings of desire have no single drive. All sorts of motives come in, high and low, down to sheer vulgar imitativeness and competitiveness. What was true in it all was this, that a man with any imagination in a fatigue phase falls naturally into these complications because they are more attractive to his type and far easier and more refreshing to the mind, at the outset, than anything else. And they do work a sort of recovery in him, They send him back to his work refreshed—so far, that is, as his work is concerned.”

“At the outset they are easier,” said the doctor.

Sir Richmond laughed. “When one is fagged it is only the outset counts. The more tired one is the more readily one moves along the line of least resistance. . . . 

“That is one footnote to what I said. So far as the motive of my work goes, I think we got something like the spirit of it. What I said about that was near the truth of things. . . . 

“But there is another set of motives altogether,” Sir Richmond went on with an air of having cleared the ground for his real business, “that I didn’t go into at all yesterday.”

He considered. “It arises out of these other affairs. Before you realize it your affections are involved. I am a man much swayed by my affections.”

Mr. Martineau glanced at him. There was a note of genuine self-reproach in Sir Richmond’s voice.

“I get fond of people. It is quite irrational, but I get fond of them. Which is quite a different thing from the admiration and excitement of falling in love. Almost the opposite thing. They cry or they come some mental or physical cropper and hurt themselves, or they do something distressingly little and human and suddenly I find they’ve got me. I’m distressed. I’m filled with something between pity and an impulse of responsibility. I become tender towards them. I am impelled to take care of them. I want to ease them off, to reassure them, to make them stop hurting at any cost. I don’t see why it should be the weak and sickly and seamy side of people that grips me most, but it is. I don’t know why it should be their failures that gives them power over me, but it is. I told you of this girl, this mistress of mine, who is ill just now. She’s got me in that way; she’s got me tremendously.”

“You did not speak of her yesterday with any morbid excess of pity,” the doctor was constrained to remark.

“I abused her very probably. I forget exactly what I said. . . . ”

The doctor offered no assistance.

“But the reason why I abuse her is perfectly plain. I abuse her because she distresses me by her misfortunes and instead of my getting anything out of her, I go out to her. But I do go out to her. All this time at the back of my mind I am worrying about her. She has that gift of making one feel for her. I am feeling that damned carbuncle almost as if it had been my affair instead of hers.

“That carbuncle has made me suffer frightfully. . . .  Why should I? It isn’t mine.”

He regarded the doctor earnestly. The doctor controlled a strong desire to laugh.

“I suppose the young lady—” he began.

“Oh! She puts in suffering all right. I’ve no doubt about that.

“I suppose,” Sir Richmond went on, “now that I have told you so much of this affair, I may as well tell you all. It is a sort of comedy, a painful comedy, of irrelevant affections.”

The doctor was prepared to be a good listener. Facts he would always listen to; it was only when people told him their theories that he would interrupt with his “Exactly.”

“This young woman is a person of considerable genius. I don’t know if you have seen in the illustrated papers a peculiar sort of humorous illustrations usually with a considerable amount of bite in them over the name of Martin Leeds?

“Extremely amusing stuff.”

“It is that Martin Leeds. I met her at the beginning of her career. She talks almost as well as she draws. She amused me immensely. I’m not the sort of man who waylays and besieges women and girls. I’m not the pursuing type. But I perceived that in some odd way I attracted her and I was neither wise enough nor generous enough not to let the thing develop.”

“H’m,” said Dr. Martineau.

“I’d never had to do with an intellectually brilliant woman before. I see now that the more imaginative force a woman has, the more likely she is to get into a state of extreme self-abandonment with any male thing upon which her imagination begins to crystallize. Before I came along she’d mixed chiefly with a lot of young artists and students, all doing nothing at all except talk about the things they were going to do. I suppose I profited by the contrast, being older and with my hands full of affairs. Perhaps something had happened that had made her recoil towards my sort of thing. I don’t know. But she just let herself go at me.”

“And you?”

“Let myself go too. I’d never met anything like her before. It was her wit took me. It didn’t occur to me that she wasn’t my contemporary and as able as I was. As able to take care of herself. All sorts of considerations that I should have shown to a sillier woman I never dreamt of showing to her. I had never met anyone so mentally brilliant before or so helpless and headlong. And so here we are on each other’s hands!”

“But the child?

“It happened to us. For four years now things have just happened to us. All the time I have been overworking, first at explosives and now at this fuel business. She too is full of her work.

“Nothing stops that though everything seems to interfere with it. And in a distraught, preoccupied way we are abominably fond of each other. ‘Fond’ is the word. But we are both too busy to look after either ourselves or each other.

“She is much more incapable than I am,” said Sir Richmond as if he delivered a weighed and very important judgment.

“You see very much of each other?”

“She has a flat in Chelsea and a little cottage in South Cornwall, and we sometimes snatch a few days together, away somewhere in Surrey or up the Thames or at such a place as Southend where one is lost in a crowd of inconspicuous people. Then things go well—they usually go well at the start—we are glorious companions. She is happy, she is creative, she will light up a new place with flashes of humour, with a keenness of appreciation. . . . ”

“But things do not always go well?”

“Things,” said Sir Richmond with the deliberation of a man who measures his words, “are apt to go wrong. . . .  At the flat there is constant trouble with the servants; they bully her. A woman is more entangled with servants than a man. Women in that position seem to resent the work and freedom of other women. Her servants won’t leave her in peace as they would leave a man; they make trouble for her. . . .  And when we have had a few days anywhere away, even if nothing in particular has gone wrong—”

Sir Richmond stopped short.

“When they go wrong it is generally her fault,” the doctor sounded.

“Almost always.”

“But if they don’t?” said the psychiatrist.

“It is difficult to describe. . . .  The essential incompatibility of the whole thing comes out.”

The doctor maintained his expression of intelligent interest.

“She wants to go on with her work. She is able to work anywhere. All she wants is just cardboard and ink. My mind on the other hand turns back to the Fuel Commission. . . . ”

“Then any little thing makes trouble.”

“Any little thing makes trouble. And we always drift round to the same discussion; whether we ought really to go on together.”

“It is you begin that?”

“Yes, I start that. You see she is perfectly contented when I am about. She is as fond of me as I am of her.”

“Fonder perhaps.”

“I don’t know. But she is—adhesive. Emotionally adhesive. All she wants to do is just to settle down when I am there and go on with her work. But then, you see, there is my work.”

“Exactly. . . .  After all it seems to me that your great trouble is not in yourselves but in social institutions. Which haven’t yet fitted themselves to people like you two. It is the sense of uncertainty makes her, as you say, adhesive. Nervously so. If we were indeed living in a new age Instead of the moral ruins of a shattered one—”

“We can’t alter the age we live in,” said Sir Richmond a little testily.

“No. Exactly. But we can realize, in any particular situation, that it is not the individuals to blame but the misfit of ideas and forms and prejudices.”

“No,” said Sir Richmond, obstinately rejecting this pacifying suggestion; “she could adapt herself. If she cared enough.”

“But how?”

“She will not take the slightest trouble to adjust herself to the peculiarities of our position. . . .  She could be cleverer. Other women are cleverer. Any other woman almost would be cleverer than she is.”

“But if she was cleverer, she wouldn’t be the genius she is. She would just be any other woman.”

“Perhaps she would,” said Sir Richmond darkly and desperately. “Perhaps she would. Perhaps it would be better if she was.”

Dr. Martineau raised his eyebrows in a furtive aside.

“But here you see that it is that in my case, the fundamental incompatibility between one’s affections and one’s wider conception of duty and work comes in. We cannot change social institutions in a year or a lifetime. We can never change them to suit an individual case. That would be like suspending the laws of gravitation in order to move a piano. As things are, Martin is no good to me, no help to me. She is a rival to my duty. She feels that. She is hostile to my duty. A definite antagonism has developed. She feels and treats fuel—and everything to do with fuel as a bore. It is an attack. We quarrel on that. It isn’t as though I found it so easy to stick to my work that I could disregard her hostility. And I can’t bear to part from her. I threaten it, distress her excessively and then I am overcome by sympathy for her and I go back to her. . . .  In the ordinary course of things I should be with her now.”

“If it were not for the carbuncle?”

“If it were not for the carbuncle. She does not care for me to see her disfigured. She does not understand—” Sir Richmond was at a loss for a phrase—“that it is not her good looks.”

“She won’t let you go to her?”

“It amounts to that. . . .  And soon there will be all the trouble about educating the girl. Whatever happens, she must have as good a chance as—anyone. . . . ”

“Ah! That is worrying you too!”

“Frightfully at times. If it were a boy it would be easier. It needs constant tact and dexterity to fix things up. Neither of us have any. It needs attention. . . . ”

Sir Richmond mused darkly.

Dr. Martineau thought aloud. “An incompetent delightful person with Martin Leeds’s sense of humour. And her powers of expression. She must be attractive to many people. She could probably do without you. If once you parted.”

Sir Richmond turned on him eagerly.

“You think I ought to part from her? On her account?”

“On her account. It might pain her. But once the thing was done—”

“I want to part. I believe I ought to part.”


“But then my affection comes in.”

“That extraordinary—tenderness of yours?”

“I’m afraid.”

“Of what?”

“Anyone might get hold of her—if I let her down. She hasn’t a tithe of the ordinary coolheaded calculation of an average woman. . . .  I’ve a duty to her genius. I’ve got to take care of her.”

To which the doctor made no reply.

“Nevertheless the idea of parting has been very much in my mind lately.”

“Letting her go free?”

“You can put it in that way if you like.”

“It might not be a fatal operation for either of you.”

“And yet there are moods when parting is an intolerable idea. When one is invaded by a flood of affection. . . .  And old habits of association.”

Dr. Martineau thought. Was that the right word,—affection? Perhaps it was.

They had come out on the towing path close by the lock and they found themselves threading their way through a little crowd of boating people and lookers-on. For a time their conversation was broken. Sir Richmond resumed it.

“But this is where we cease to be Man on his Planet and all the rest of it. This is where the idea of a definite task, fanatically followed to the exclusion of all minor considerations, breaks down. When the work is good, when we are sure we are all right, then we may carry off things with a high hand. But the work isn’t always good, we aren’t always sure. We blunder, we make a muddle, we are fatigued. Then the sacrificed affections come in as accusers. Then it is that we want to be reassured.”

“And then it is that Miss Martin Leeds—?”

“Doesn’t,” Sir Richmond snapped.

Came a long pause.

“And yet—It is extraordinarily difficult to think of parting from Martin.”


§ 3

In the evening after dinner Dr. Martineau sought, rather unsuccessfully, to go on with the analysis of Sir Richmond.

But Sir Richmond was evidently a creature of moods. Either he regretted the extent of his confidences or the slight irrational irritation that he felt at waiting for his car affected his attitude towards his companion, or Dr. Martineau’s tentatives were ill-chosen. At any rate he would not rise to any conversational bait that the doctor could devise. The doctor found this the more regrettable because it seemed to him that there was much to be worked upon in this Martin Leeds affair. He was inclined to think that she and Sir Richmond were unduly obsessed by the idea that they had to stick together because of the child, because of the look of the thing and so forth, and that really each might be struggling against a very strong impulse indeed to break off the affair. It seemed evident to the doctor that they jarred upon and annoyed each other extremely. On the whole separating people appealed to a doctor’s mind more strongly than bringing them together. Accordingly he framed his enquiries so as to make the revelation of a latent antipathy as easy as possible.

He made several not very well-devised beginnings. At the fifth Sir Richmond was suddenly conclusive. “It’s no use,” he said, “I can’t fiddle about any more with my motives to-day.”

An awkward silence followed. On reflection Sir Richmond seemed to realize that this sentence needed some apology. “I admit,” he said, “that this expedition has already been a wonderfully good thing for me. These confessions have made me look into all sorts of things—squarely. But—I’m not used to talking about myself or even thinking directly about myself. What I say, I afterwards find disconcerting to recall. I want to alter it. I can feel myself wallowing into a mess of modifications and qualifications.”

“Yes, but—”

“I want a rest anyhow. . . . ”

There was nothing for Dr. Martineau to say to that.

The two gentlemen smoked for some time in a slightly uncomfortable silence. Dr. Martineau cleared his throat twice and lit a second cigar. They then agreed to admire the bridge and think well of Maidenhead. Sir Richmond communicated hopeful news about his car, which was to arrive the next morning before ten—he’d just ring the fellow up presently to make sure—and Dr. Martineau retired early and went rather thoughtfully to bed. The spate of Sir Richmond’s confidences, it was evident, was over.


§ 4

Sir Richmond’s car arrived long before ten, brought down by a young man in a state of scared alacrity—Sir Richmond had done some vigorous telephoning before turning in,—the Charmeuse set off in a repaired and chastened condition to town, and after a leisurely breakfast our two investigators into the springs of human conduct were able to resume their westward journey. They ran through scattered Twyford with its pleasant looking inns and through the commonplace urbanities of Reading, by Newbury and Hungerford’s pretty bridge and up long wooded slopes to Savernake forest, where they found the road heavy and dusty, still in its war-time state, and so down a steep hill to the wide market street which is Marlborough. They lunched in Marlborough and went on in the afternoon to Silbury Hill, that British pyramid, the largest artificial mound in Europe. They left the car by the roadside and clambered to the top and were very learned and inconclusive about the exact purpose of this vast heap of chalk and earth, this heap that men had made before the temples at Karnak were built or Babylon had a name.

Then they returned to the car and ran round by a winding road into the wonder of Avebury. They found a clean little inn there kept by pleasant people, and they garaged the car in the cowshed and took two rooms for the night that they might the better get the atmosphere of the ancient place. Wonderful indeed it is, a vast circumvallation that was already two thousand years old before the dawn of British history; a great wall of earth with its ditch most strangely on its inner and not on its outer side; and within this enclosure gigantic survivors of the great circles of unhewn stone that, even as late as Tudor days, were almost complete. A whole village, a church, a pretty manor house have been built, for the most part, out of the ancient megaliths; the great wall is sufficient to embrace them all with their gardens and paddocks; four cross-roads meet at the village centre. There are drawings of Avebury before these things arose there, when it was a lonely wonder on the plain, but for the most part the destruction was already done before the Mayflower sailed. To the southward stands the cone of Silbury Hill; its shadow creeps up and down the intervening meadows as the seasons change. Around this lonely place rise the Downs, now bare sheep pastures, in broad undulations, with a wart-like barrow here and there, and from it radiate, creeping up to gain and hold the crests of the hills, the abandoned trackways of that forgotten world. These trackways, these green roads of England, these roads already disused when the Romans made their highway past Silbury Hill to Bath, can still be traced for scores of miles through the land, running to Salisbury and the English Channel, eastward to the crossing at the Straits and westward to Wales, to ferries over the Severn, and southwestward into Devon and Cornwall.

The doctor and Sir Richmond walked round the walls, surveyed the shadow cast by Silbury upon the river flats, strolled up the down to the northward to get a general view of the village, had tea and smoked round the walls again in the warm April sunset. The matter of their conversation remained prehistoric. Both were inclined to find fault with the archaeological work that had been done on the place. “Clumsy treasure hunting,” Sir Richmond said. “They bore into Silbury Hill and expect to find a mummified chief or something sensational of that sort, and they don’t, and they report nothing. They haven’t sifted finely enough; they haven’t thought subtly enough. These walls of earth ought to tell what these people ate, what clothes they wore, what woods they used. Was this a sheep land then as it is now, or a cattle land? Were these hills covered by forests? I don’t know. These archaeologists don’t know. Or if they do they haven’t told me, which is just as bad. I don’t believe they know.

“What trade came here along these tracks? So far as I know, they had no beasts of burthen. But suppose one day someone were to find a potsherd here from early Knossos, or a fragment of glass from Pepi’s Egypt.”

The place had stirred up his imagination. He wrestled with his ignorance as if he thought that by talking he might presently worry out some picture of this forgotten world, without metals, without beasts of burthen, without letters, without any sculpture that has left a trace, and yet with a sense of astronomical fact clear enough to raise the great gnomon of Silbury, and with a social system complex enough to give the large and orderly community to which the size of Avebury witnesses and the traffic to which the green roads testify.

The doctor had not realized before the boldness and liveliness of his companion’s mind. Sir Richmond insisted that the climate must have been moister and milder in those days; he covered all the downlands with woods, as Savernake was still covered; beneath the trees he restored a thicker, richer soil. These people must have done an enormous lot with wood. This use of stones here was a freak. It was the very strangeness of stones here that had made them into sacred things. One thought too much of the stones of the Stone Age. Who would carve these lumps of quartzite when one could carve good oak? Or beech—a most carvable wood. Especially when one’s sharpest chisel was a flint. “It’s wood we ought to look for,” said Sir Richmond. “Wood and fibre.” He declared that these people had their tools of wood, their homes of wood, their gods and perhaps their records of wood. “A peat bog here, even a few feet of clay, might have pickled some precious memoranda. . . .  No such luck. . . .  Now in Glastonbury marshes one found the life of the early iron age—half way to our own times—quite beautifully pickled.”

Though they wrestled mightily with the problem, neither Sir Richmond nor the doctor could throw a gleam of light upon the riddle why the ditch was inside and not outside the great wall.

“And what was our Mind like in those days?” said Sir Richmond. “That, I suppose, is what interests you. A vivid childish mind, I guess, with not a suspicion as yet that it was Man ruling his Planet or anything of that sort.”

The doctor pursed his lips. “None,” he delivered judicially. “If one were able to recall one’s childhood—at the age of about twelve or thirteen—when the artistic impulse so often goes into abeyance and one begins to think in a troubled, monstrous way about God and Hell, one might get something like the mind of this place.”

“Thirteen. You put them at that already? . . .  These people, you think, were religious?”

“Intensely. In that personal way that gives death a nightmare terror. And as for the fading of the artistic impulse, they’ve left not a trace of the paintings and drawings and scratchings of the Old Stone people who came before them.”

“Adults with the minds of thirteen-year-old children. Thirteen-year-old children with the strength of adults—and no one to slap them or tell them not to. . . .  After all, they probably only thought of death now and then. And they never thought of fuel. They supposed there was no end to that. So they used up their woods and kept goats to nibble and kill the new undergrowth. Did these people have goats?”

“I don’t know,” said the doctor. “So little is known.”

“Very like children they must have been. The same unending days. They must have thought that the world went on for ever—just as they knew it—like my damned Committee does. . . .  With their fuel wasting away and the climate changing imperceptibly, century by century. . . .  Kings and important men followed one another here for centuries and centuries. . . .  They had lost their past and had no idea of any future. . . . They had forgotten how they came into the land . . . . When I was a child I believed that my father’s garden had been there for ever. . . . 

“This is very like trying to remember some game one played when one was a child. It is like coming on something that one built up with bricks and stones in some forgotten part of the garden. . . . ”

“The life we lived here,” said the doctor, “has left its traces in traditions, in mental predispositions, in still unanalyzed fundamental ideas.”

“Archaeology is very like remembering,” said Sir Richmond. “Presently we shall remember a lot more about all this. We shall remember what it was like to live in this place, and the long journey hither, age by age out of the south. We shall remember the sacrifices we made and the crazy reasons why we made them. We sowed our corn in blood here. We had strange fancies about the stars. Those we brought with us out of the south where the stars are brighter. And what like were those wooden gods of ours? I don’t remember. . . .  But I could easily persuade myself that I had been here before.”

They stood on the crest of the ancient wall and the setting sun cast long shadows of them athwart a field of springing wheat.

“Perhaps we shall come here again,” the doctor carried on Sir Richmond’s fancy; “after another four thousand years or so, with different names and fuller minds. And then I suppose that this ditch won’t be the riddle it is now.”

“Life didn’t seem so complicated then,” Sir Richmond mused. “Our muddles were unconscious. We drifted from mood to mood and forgot. There was more sunshine then, more laughter perhaps, and blacker despair. Despair like the despair of children that can weep itself to sleep. . . .  It’s over. . . .  Was it battle and massacre that ended that long afternoon here? Or did the woods catch fire some exceptionally dry summer, leaving black hills and famine? Or did strange men bring a sickness—measles, perhaps, or the black death? Or was it cattle pest? Or did we just waste our woods and dwindle away before the new peoples that came into the land across the southern sea? I can’t remember. . . . ”

Sir Richmond turned about. “I would like to dig up the bottom of this ditch here foot by foot—and dry the stuff and sift it—very carefully. . . .  Then I might begin to remember things.”


§ 5

In the evening, after a pleasant supper, they took a turn about the walls with the moon sinking over beyond Silbury, and then went in and sat by lamplight before a brightly fussy wood fire and smoked. There were long intervals of friendly silence.

“I don’t in the least want to go on talking about myself,” said Sir Richmond abruptly.

“Let it rest then,” said the doctor generously.

“To-day, among these ancient memories, has taken me out of myself wonderfully. I can’t tell you how good Avebury has been for me. This afternoon half my consciousness has seemed to be a tattooed creature wearing a knife of stone. . . . ”

“The healing touch of history.”

“And for the first time my damned Committee has mattered scarcely a rap.”

Sir Richmond stretched himself in his chair and blinked cheerfully at his cigar smoke.

“Nevertheless,” he said, “this confessional business of yours has been an excellent exercise. It has enabled me to get outside myself, to look at myself as a Case. Now I can even see myself as a remote Case. That I needn’t bother about further. . . .  So far as that goes, I think we have done all that there is to be done.”

“I shouldn’t say that—quite—yet,” said the doctor.

“I don’t think I’m a subject for real psychoanalysis at all. I’m not an overlaid sort of person. When I spread myself out there is not much indication of a suppressed wish or of anything masked or buried of that sort. What you get is a quite open and recognized discord of two sets of motives.”

The doctor considered. “Yes, I think that is true. Your libido is, I should say, exceptionally free. Generally you are doing what you want to do—overdoing, in fact, what you want to do and getting simply tired.”

“Which is the theory I started with. I am a case of fatigue under irritating circumstances with very little mental complication or concealment.”

“Yes,” said the doctor. “I agree. You are not a case for psychoanalysis, strictly speaking, at all. You are in open conflict with yourself, upon moral and social issues. Practically open. Your problems are problems of conscious conduct.”

“As I said.”

“Of what renunciations you have consciously to make.”

Sir Richmond did not answer that. . . . 

“This pilgrimage of ours,” he said, presently, “has made for magnanimity. This day particularly has been a good day. When we stood on this old wall here in the sunset I seemed to be standing outside myself in an immense still sphere of past and future. I stood with my feet upon the Stone Age and saw myself four thousand years away, and all my distresses as very little incidents in that perspective. Away there in London the case is altogether different; after three hours or so of the Committee one concentrates into one little inflamed moment of personality. There is no past any longer, there is no future, there is only the rankling dispute. For all those three hours, perhaps, I have been thinking of just what I had to say, just how I had to say it, just how I looked while I said it, just how much I was making myself understood, how I might be misunderstood, how I might be misrepresented, challenged, denied. One draws in more and more as one is used up. At last one is reduced to a little, raw, bleeding, desperately fighting, pin-point of self. . . .  One goes back to one’s home unable to recover. Fighting it over again. All night sometimes. . . .  I get up and walk about the room and curse. . . .  Martineau, how is one to get the Avebury frame of mind to Westminster?”

“When Westminster is as dead as Avebury,” said the doctor, unhelpfully. He added after some seconds, “Milton knew of these troubles. ‘Not without dust and heat’ he wrote—a great phrase.”

“But the dust chokes me,” said Sir Richmond.

He took up a copy of The Green Roads of England that lay beside him on the table. But he did not open it. He held it in his hand and said the thing he had had in mind to say all that evening. “I do not think that I shall stir up my motives any more for a time. Better to go on into the west country cooling my poor old brain in these wide shadows of the past.”

“I can prescribe nothing better,” said Dr. Martineau. “Incidentally, we may be able to throw a little more light on one or two of your minor entanglements.”

“I don’t want to think of them,” said Sir Richmond. “Let me get right away from everything. Until my skin has grown again.”

The Secret Places of the Heart - Contents    |     Chapter the Sixth - The Encounter at Stonehenge

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