We 1 had known
the Ashburnhams 2 for nine seasons of
the town of Nauheim 3 with an extreme intimacy -- or , rather with an acquaintanceship as loose and easy and yet as close as a good glove 's with
your 4 hand .
I 0 knew
Captain and Mrs Ashburnham 2 as well as it was possible to know
anybody 16 , and yet , in another sense ,
we 1 knew nothing at all about
them 2 .
This is ,
I 0 believe , a state of things only possible with
English people 6 of whom , till today , when
I 0 sit down to puzzle out what
I 0 know of this sad affair ,
I 0 knew nothing whatever .
Six months ago
I 0 had never been to
England 7 , and , certainly ,
I 0 had never sounded the depths of an English heart .
I 0 had known the shallows .
I 0 do n't mean to say that
we 1 were not acquainted with many
English people 8 .
Living , as
we 1 perforce lived , in
Europe 9 , and being , as
we 1 perforce were ,
leisured Americans 129 , which is as much as to say that
we 1 were un-American ,
we 1 were thrown very much into the society of
the nicer English 10 .
Paris 11 ,
you 12 see , was
home 121 .
Bordighera 15 13
yearly winter quarters 125 for
us 1 , and
Nauheim 3 always received
us 1 from July to September .
You 17 will gather from this statement that had , as the saying is , a " heart " , and , from the statement that is dead , that
she 5 was
the sufferer 122 .
Captain Ashburnham 18 also had a heart .
But , whereas a yearly month or so at
Nauheim 3 tuned
him 18 up to exactly the right pitch for the rest of the twelvemonth , the two months or so were only just enough to keep poor
Florence 5 alive from year to year .
The reason for
his 18 heart was , approximately , polo , or too much hard sportsmanship in
his 18 youth .
The reason for poor
Florence 5 's broken years was a storm at
sea 19 upon
our 1 first crossing to
Europe 9 , and the immediate reasons for
our 1 imprisonment in
that continent 9 were
doctor 20 's orders .
They 21 said that even the short
Channel 22 crossing might well kill
the poor thing 5 .
we 23 all first met ,
Captain Ashburnham 18 , home on sick leave from
, was thirty-three ;
an India to which
was never to return 24
Mrs Ashburnham Leonora 25 -- was thirty-one .
I 0 was thirty-six and poor
Florence 5 thirty .
Florence 5 would have been thirty-nine and
Captain Ashburnham 18 forty-two ; whereas
I 0 am forty-five and
Leonora 25 forty .
You 26 will perceive , therefore , that
our 23 friendship has been a young-middle-aged affair , since
we 23 were all of
us 23 of quite quiet dispositions ,
the Ashburnhams 2 being more particularly what in
England 7 it is the custom to call "
quite good people 27 " .
They 2 were descended , as
you 28 will probably expect , from
, and , as
the Ashburnham who accompanied
Charles I 30
to the scaffold 29
you 31 must also expect with
this class of English people 32 ,
you 33 would never have noticed it .
Mrs Ashburnham 25 was
a Powys 34 ;
Florence 5 was
a Hurlbird 35 of
Stamford 36 ,
Connecticut 37 , where , as
you 38 know ,
they 39 are more old-fashioned than even
the inhabitants 40 of
Cranford 41 ,
England 42 , could have been .
myself 0 am
a Dowell 43 of
Philadelphia 44 ,
Pa. 45 , where , it is historically true , there are more
old English families 46 than
you 47 would find in any six
English counties 48 taken together .
I 0 carry about with
me 0 , indeed -- as if it were the only thing that invisibly anchored
me 0 to any spot upon the globe -- the title deeds of
farm , which once covered
several blocks between
Walnut Streets 52 50
These title deeds are of wampum , the grant of
an Indian chief 53 to
the first Dowell 54 , who left
Farnham 55 in
Surrey 56 in company with
William Penn 57 .
, as is so often the case with
, came from
the inhabitants of
Connecticut 37 59
the neighbourhood of Fordingbridge 60 , where
the Ashburnhams 2
' place 61
there 61 , at this moment ,
I 0 am actually writing .
You 62 may well ask why
I 0 write .
my 0 reasons are quite many .
For it is not unusual in
to desire to set down what
human beings who have witnessed the sack of
a city 63
or the falling to pieces of
a people 64 65
they 65 have witnessed for the benefit of
unknown heirs 66 or of
generations 67 infinitely remote ; or , if
you 68 please , just to get the sight out of
their 65 heads .
Some one 120 has said that the death of a mouse from cancer is the whole sack of
Rome 69 by
the Goths 70 , and
I 0 swear to
you 71 that the breaking up of
was such another unthinkable event .
little four-square coterie 23
you 72 should come upon
us 23 sitting together at one of the little tables in
the club house 74 73
us 75 say , at
Homburg 76 , taking tea of an afternoon and watching the miniature golf ,
you 77 would have said that , as human affairs go ,
we 23 were an extraordinarily safe castle .
We 23 were , if
you 78 will ,
, one of those things that seem the proudest and the safest of all the beautiful and safe things that
one of those tall ships with the white sails upon
a blue sea 79 126
God 80 has permitted the mind of
men 81 to frame .
Where better could one take refuge ?
Where better ?
I 0 ca n't believe it 's gone .
I 0 ca n't believe that that long , tranquil life , which was just stepping a minuet , vanished in four crashing days at the end of nine years and six weeks .
my 0 word , yes ,
our 23 intimacy was like a minuet , simply because on every possible occasion and in every possible circumstance
we 23 knew where to go , where to sit , which table
we 23 unanimously should choose ; and
we 23 could rise and go , all four together , without a signal from , always to the music of the Kur orchestra , always in the temperate sunshine , or , if it rained , in
discreet shelters 83 .
No , indeed , it ca n't be gone .
You 84 ca n't kill a minuet de la cour .
You 85 may shut up the music-book , close the harpsichord ; in the cupboard and presses the rats may destroy the white satin favours .
The mob 86 may sack
Versailles 87 ;
the Trianon 88 may fall , but surely the minuet -- the minuet itself is dancing itself away into the furthest stars , even as
our 23 minuet of
the Hessian bathing places 89 must be stepping itself still .
Is n't there any
heaven 90 where old beautiful dances , old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves ?
Is n't there any
Nirvana 91 pervaded by the faint thrilling of instruments that have fallen into the dust of wormwood but that yet had
frail , tremulous , and everlasting souls 92 ?
No , by
God 80 , it is false !
It was n't a minuet that
we 23 stepped ; it was
a prison 93 --
a prison full of
screaming hysterics 94
, tied down so that
might not outsound the rolling of
carriage wheels as
the shaded avenues of the
Taunus Wald 96 95
I 0 swear by the sacred name of that it was true .
It was true sunshine ; the true music ; the true splash of the fountains from the mouth of stone dolphins .
For , if for
we 23 were
four people with the same tastes , with the same desires , acting -- or , no , not acting -- sitting here and there unanimously 128 , is n't that the truth ?
If for nine years
I 0 have possessed a goodly apple that is rotten at the core and discover its rottenness only in nine years and six months less four days , is n't it true to say that for nine years
I 0 possessed a goodly apple ?
So it may well be with
Edward Ashburnham 18 , with
Leonora 25 and with poor dear
Florence 5 .
And , if
you 97 come to think of it , is n't it a little odd that the physical rottenness of at least two pillars of
never presented itself to
four-square house 23
my 0 mind as a menace to its security ?
It does n't so present itself now though are actually dead .
I 0 do n't know ... .
I 0 know nothing -- nothing in
the world 99 -- of the hearts of
men 100 .
I 0 only know that
I 0 am alone -- horribly alone .
No hearthstone will ever again witness , for
me 0 , friendly intercourse .
smoking-room 101 will ever be other than peopled with incalculable simulacra amidst smoke wreaths .
Yet , in the name of
God 80 , what should
I 0 know if
I 0 do n't know the life of the hearth and of
the smoking-room 102 , since
my 0 whole life has been passed in those
places 103 ?
The warm hearthside !
-- Well , there was
Florence 5 :
I 0 believe that for the twelve years
her 5 life lasted , after the storm that seemed irretrievably to have weakened
her 5 heart --
I 0 do n't believe that for one minute
she 5 was out of
my 0 sight , except when
she 5 was safely tucked up in bed and
I 0 should be
downstairs 104 , talking to
some good fellow 105 or other in
some lounge 106 or
smoking-room 107 or taking
my 0 final turn with a cigar before going to bed .
I 0 do n't ,
you 108 understand , blame
Florence 5 .
But how can
she 5 have known what
she 5 knew ?
she 5 have got to know it ?
To know it so fully .
There does n't seem to have been the actual time .
It must have been when
I 0 was taking
my 0 baths , and
my 0 Swedish exercises , being manicured .
Leading the life
I 0 did , of
the sedulous , strained nurse 109 ,
I 0 had to do something to keep
myself 0 fit .
It must have been then !
Yet even that ca n't have been enough time to get the tremendously long conversations full of worldly wisdom that
Leonora 25 has reported to
me 0 since
their 98 deaths .
And is it possible to imagine that during
our 110 prescribed walks in
Nauheim 3 and the
she 5 found time to carry on the protracted negotiations which
she 5 did carry on between
Edward Ashburnham 18 and ?
And is n't it incredible that during all that time
Edward 18 and
Leonora 25 never spoke a word to each other in private ?
What is one to think of humanity ?
I 0 swear to
you 112 that
they 2 were
the model couple 123 .
He 18 was as devoted as it was possible to be without appearing fatuous .
So well set up , with such honest blue eyes , such a touch of stupidity , such a warm goodheartedness !
she 25 -- so tall , so splendid in the saddle , so fair !
Leonora 25 was extraordinarily fair and so extraordinarily the real thing that
she 25 seemed too good to be true .
You 113 do n't ,
I 0 mean , as a rule , get it all so superlatively together .
the county family 114 , to look
the county family 115 , to be so appropriately and perfectly wealthy ; to be so perfect in manner -- even just to the saving touch of insolence that seems to be necessary .
To have all that and to be all that !
No , it was too good to be true .
And yet , only this afternoon , talking over the whole matter
she 25 said to
me 0 : " Once
I 25 tried to have
a lover 116 but
I 25 was so sick at the heart , so utterly worn out that
I 25 had to send
him 116 away . "
me 0 as the most amazing thing
I 0 had ever heard .
She 25 said "
I 25 was actually in
a man 116 's arms .
a nice chap 116 !
a dear fellow 116 !
I 25 was saying to
myself 25 , fiercely , hissing it between
my 25 teeth , as
they 117 say in novels -- and really clenching them together :
I 25 was saying to
myself 25 : ' Now ,
I 25 'm in for it and
I 25 'll really have a good time for once in
my 25 life -- for once in
my 25 life ! '
It was in the dark , in
a carriage 118 , coming back from a hunt ball .
we 119 had to drive !
And then suddenly the bitterness of the endless poverty , of the endless acting -- it fell on
me 25 like a blight , it spoilt everything .
I 25 had to realize that
I 25 had been spoilt even for the good time when it came .
I 25 burst out crying and
I 25 cried and
I 25 cried for the whole eleven miles .
me 25 crying !
And just imagine
me 25 making
a fool 124 of
the poor dear chap 116 like that .
It certainly was n't playing the game , was it now ? "