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- Once Aboard The Lugger - 6/75 -
pretty in her white dress: at her breast a rose, the poem fluttering in her hand.
"Yes; for once before you."
George's tone did not give back her mood, purposely keyed high. She played on it again: "Turning a new leaf?"
He drummed at the turf with his heel: "Yes--for to-day." He threw out a hand towards her: "But in the same old book. I've had eight--nine years of it, and now there are three more months."
"Poor George! But only three months, think how they will fly!"
He was desperately gloomy: "I haven't your imagination. Each single day of them will mean a morning--here; a night--here."
"Oh, is it so hard?"
"Yes, now. It's pretty deadly now. You know, when I wasn't precisely killing myself with overwork, I didn't mind so much. When it was three or four years, anyway, before I could possibly be free, a few extra months or so through failing an exam, didn't trouble me. But this is different. I was right up against getting clear of all this"--he comprehended garden and house in a sweep of the hand--"counted it a dead certainty--and here I am pitched back again."
"But, George, you did work so hard this time. It isn't as though you had to blame yourself." She put a clinging hand into his arm. "You can suffer no--remorse. That is what makes failure so dreadful--the knowledge that things might have been otherwise if one had liked."
George laughed quite gaily. Gloom never lay long upon this young man.
"You're a sweet little person," he said. "You ought to be right, but you are wrong. When I didn't work I didn't mind failing. It's when I've tried that I get sick."
Margaret's eyes brightened. There was melancholy here.
"Oh, I know what you mean. I know so well. I have felt that. You mean the--the haunting fear that you may never be able to succeed; that you have not the--the talent, the capacity." She continued pleadingly: "Oh, you mustn't think that. You can--you _will_ succeed next time, you know."
"Rather!" responded George brightly.
Margaret was quite pained. She would have had him express doubt, despondently sigh; would have heartened him with her poem. The confident "rather!" jarred. She hurried from its vigour.
She asked: "What had you intended to do?"
"I was to have got a _locum tenens_. I think it would have developed into a permanency. A big, rough district up in Yorkshire with a man who keeps six horses going. His second assistant--a pal of mine--wants to chuck it."
"Why? Oh, partly because he's fed up with it, partly because he wants a practice of his own."
"Ah! ... But, George, don't you want a practice of your own? You don't want to be another man's assistant, do you?"
George laughed. "I can't choose, Margi. You know, if you imagine there are solid groups of people all over England anxiously praying for the arrival of a doctor, you must adjust that impression, as your father would say. These things have to be bought. I've got about three pounds, so I'm not bidding. They seldom go so cheap."
Margaret never bantered. She had no battledore light enough to return an airy shuttlecock. Now, as always, when this plaything came buoyantly towards her she swiped it with heavy force clean out of the conversational field.
She said gravely: "Ah, I know what you mean. You mean that father ought to buy you a practice--ought to set you up when you are qualified. I can't discuss that, can I? It wouldn't be loyal."
"Of course not. I don't ask you."
They moved towards the sound of the breakfast bell.
"You think," Margaret continued, "that father ought to buy you a practice because your mother left him money for the purpose?"
"I know she left him nearly five thousand pounds for my education and all that. I think I may have cost him three thousand, possibly four-- _so_ I think I am entitled to something, _but_ I shan't get it, _therefore_ I don't worry. My hump is gone; in three months I shall be gone. Forward: I smell bacon!"
Margaret smiled the wan smile of an invalid watching vigorous youth at sport. Firmly she banged the shuttlecock out of sight.
"How bright you are!" she told him. "Look, here is a little poem I wrote for you last night. It's about failure and success. Don't read it now."
George was very fond of his cousin. "Oh, but I must!" he cried. "I think this was awfully nice of you. He's not down yet. Let's sit on this seat and read it together."
"Oh, not aloud. It's a silly little thing--really."
He smoothed the paper. She pressed against him; thrilled as she regarded the written lines. George begged her read. She would not-- well, she would. She paused. Modesty and pride gathered on her cheeks, tuned her voice low. She read:
"So you have tried--So you have known The burning effort for success, The quick belief in your own prowess and your skill, The bitterness of failure, and the joy Of sweet success."
"'Burning effort,'" George said. "That's fine!"
"I'm glad you like that. And 'quick belief'--you know what I mean?"
The poet warmed again over her words.
"So you have tried-- So you have known The blind-eyed groping towards the goal That flickers on the far horizon of Attempt, Gleaming to sudden vividness, anon Fading from sight."
"Sort of blank verse, isn't it?" George asked.
"Well, sort of," the poet allowed. "Not exactly, of course."
"Of course not," George agreed firmly.
Margaret breathed the next fine lines.
"So you have tried-- So you have known The bitter-sweetness of Attempt, The quick determination and the dread despair That grapple and possess you as you strive For imagery."
George questioned: "Imagery...?"
"That verse is more for me than you," the poet explained. "'For imagery'--to get the right word, you know."
"Rather!" said George. "It does for me too--in exams, when one is floored, you know."
"Yes," Margaret admitted doubtfully. "Ye-es. Don't interrupt between the verses, dear."
Now emotion swelled her voice.
"Success be yours! May you achieve To heights you do not dream you'll ever touch; The power's to your hand, the road before you lies-- Forward! The gods not always frown; anon They'll kindly smile."
"Why, that's splendid!" George cried. He put a cousinly arm about the poet; squeezed her to him. "Fancy you writing that for me! What a sympathetic little soul you are--and how clever!"
Breathless she disengaged herself: "I'm so glad you like it. It's a silly little thing--but it's _real_, isn't it? Come, there's father."
She paused against denial of the poem's silliness, affirmation of its truth; but George, moody beneath Mr. Marrapit's eye, glinting behind the window, had moved forward.
Margaret thrust the paper in her bosom, tucked in where heart might warm against heart's child. Constantly during breakfast her mind reverted to it, drummed its rare lines.
Upon Modesty In Art: And Should Be Skipped.
Yet Margaret had called her poem silly. Here, then, was mock-modesty by diffidence seeking praise. But this mock-modesty, which horribly abounds to-day, is only natural product of that furious modesty which has come to be expected in all the arts.
Modesty should have no place in true art. The author or the painter,
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