Bickley, growing furious
. "It is that you use your Christianity
as a cloak for bad manners. It teaches consideration
for others of which you seem to have none. Moreover, since you
talk of the death of people's wives, I will tell you something
about your own, as a doctor, which I can do as I never attended
her. It is highly probable
, in my opinion, that she will die
before Mrs. Arbuthnot, who is quite a healthy
person with a good
prospect of life."
"Perhaps," said Bastin. "If so, it will be God's will and I
shall not complain" (here Bickley snorted), "though I do not see
what you can know about it. But why should you cast reflections
on the early Christians who were people of strong principle
living in rough times, and had to wage war against an established
devil-worship? I know you are angry because they smashed up the
statues of Venus and so forth, but had I been in their place I
should have done the same."
"Of course you would, who doubts it? But as for the early
Christians and their iconoclastic performances--well, curse them,
that's all!" and he sprang
up and left the room.
I followed him.
Let it not be supposed
from the above scene that there was any
ill-feeling between Bastin and Bickley. On the contrary
much attached to each other, and this kind of quarrel meant no
more than the strong expression of their individual views to
which they were accustomed from their college days. For instance
Bastin was always talking about the early Christians and
missionaries, while Bickley loathed both, the early Christians
because of the destruction
which they had wrought
Italy, Greece and elsewhere
, of all that was beautiful; and the
missionaries because, as he said, they were degrading and
spoiling the native races and by inducing them to wear clothes,
rendering them liable
to disease. Bastin would answer that their
souls were more important than their bodies, to which Bickley
replied that as there was no such thing as a soul except in the
of priests, he differed entirely on the point.
As it was quite impossible for either to convince
there the conversation would end, or drift into something in
which they were mutually interested, such as natural history and
of the neighbourhood.
Here I may state that Bickley's keen professional
eye was not
mistaken when he diagnosed Mrs. Bastin's state of health as
dangerous. As a matter of fact she was suffering
disease that a doctor can often recognise by the colour of the
lips, etc., which brought about her death under the following
Her husband attended some ecclesiasticalfunction
at a town
over twenty miles away and was to have returned by a train which
would have brought him home about five o'clock. As he did not
arrive she waited at the station for him until the last train
came in about seven o'clock--without the beloved
Basil. Then, on
a winter's night she tore up to the Priory and begged me to lend
her a dog-cart in which to drive to the said town to look for
him. I expostulated against the folly of such a proceeding,saying
that no doubt Basil was safe enough but had forgotten to
telegraph, or thought that he would save the sixpence
Then it came out, to Natalie's and my intenseamusement
all this was the result of her jealous
nature of which I havespoken
. She said she had never slept a night away from her
husband since they were married and with so many "designing
persons" about she could not say what might happen if she did so,
especially as he was "such a favourite and so handsome." (Bastin
was a fine looking man in his rugged
I suggested that she might have a little confidence in him, to
which she replied darkly
that she had no confidence in anybody.
The end of it was that I lent her the cart with a fast horse
and a good driver, and off she went. Reaching the town in
question some two and a half hours later, she searched high and
low through wind and sleet, but found no Basil. He, it appeared,
had gone on to Exeter, to look at the cathedral
building was being done, and missing
the last train had there
slept the night.
About one in the morning, after being nearly locked up as a mad
woman, she drove back to the Vicarage, again to find no Basil.
Even then she did not go to bed but raged about the house in her
wet clothes, until she fell down utterly exhausted. When her
husband did return on the following morning, full of information
about the cathedral
, she was dangerously
ill, and actually
away while uttering a violent
tirade against him for his supposed
That was the end of this truly odious
In after days Bastin, by some peculiarmental
canonised her in his imagination
as a kind of saint. "So loving,"
he would say, "such a devoted
wife! Why, my dear Humphrey, I can
assure you that even in the midst of her death-struggle her last
thoughts were of me," words that caused Bickley to snort with
more than usual vigour
, until I kicked him to silence beneath the
Death and Departure
Now I must tell of my own terrible sorrow, which turned my life
and my hopes to ashes.
Never were a man and a woman happier together than I and
Natalie. Mentally, physically
, spiritually we were perfectly
mated, and we loved each other dearly
. Truly we were as one. Yet
there was something about her which filled me with vague fears,
especially after she found that she was to become a mother. I
would talk to her of the child, but she would sigh and shake her
head, her eyes filling with tears, and say that we must not count
on the continuance
of such happiness as ours, for it was too
I tried to laugh away her doubts, though whenever
I did so I
seemed to hear Bastin's slow voice remarking casually that she
might die, as he might have commented on the quality of the
claret. At last, however, I grew terrified and asked her bluntly
what she meant.
"I don't quite know, dearest," she replied, "especially as I am
wonderfully well. But--but--"
"But what?" I asked.
"But I think that our companionship
is going to be broken for a
"For a little while!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, Humphrey. I think that I shall be taken away from you--
you know what I mean," and she nodded towards the churchyard.
"Oh, my God!" I groaned.
"I want to say this," she added quickly, "that if such' a thing
should happen, as it happens every day, I implore
Humphrey, not to be too much distressed, since I am sure that you
will find me again. No, I can't explain how or when or where,
because I do not know. I have prayed for light, but it has not
come to me. All I know is that I am not talking of reunion
Bastin's kind of conventional
heaven, which he speaks about as
though to reach it one stumbled through darkness for a minute
into a fine new house next door, where excellent servants had
made everything ready for your arrival
and all the lights were
turned up. It is something quite different from that and very
much more real."
Then she bent down ostensibly to pat the head of a little black