It was not long. After the first few words he read it quickly, the breath coming harshly through his nostrils.
As to the heaviest of these troubles, I will say a word in vindication of myself and of the way I handled it in my work. In the pages of Can You Forgive Her? the girl’s first love is introduced — beautiful, well-born, and utterly worthless. To save a girl from wasting herself, and an heiress from wasting her property on such a scamp, was certainly the duty of the girl’s friends. But it must ever be wrong to force a girl into a marriage with a man she does not love — and certainly the more so when there is another whom she does love. In my endeavour to teach this lesson I subjected the young wife to the terrible danger of overtures from the man to whom her heart had been given. I was walking no doubt on ticklish ground, leaving for a while a doubt on the question whether the lover might or might not succeed. Then there came to me a letter from a distinguished dignitary of our Church, a man whom all men honoured, treating me with severity for what I was doing. It had been one of the innocent joys of his life, said the clergyman, to have my novels read to him by his daughters. But now I was writing a book which caused him to bid them close it! Must I also turn away to vicious sensation such as this? Did I think that a wife contemplating adultery was a character fit for my pages? I asked him in return, whether from his pulpit, or at any rate from his communion-table, he did not denounce adultery to his audience; and if so, why should it not be open to me to preach the same doctrine to mine. I made known nothing which the purest girl could not but have learned, and ought not to have learned, elsewhere, and I certainly lent no attraction to the sin which I indicated. His rejoinder was full of grace, and enabled him to avoid the annoyance of argumentation without abandoning his cause. He said that the subject was so much too long for letters; that he hoped I would go and stay a week with him in the country — so that we might have it out. That opportunity, however, has never yet arrived.
'Don't YOU see a wasting and a wearing in him, Miss Wickfield?' inquired Mrs. Heep.
Bond made up his mind. "All right. Well, all this comes under the Official Secrets Act, of course. We suspect that the underbidder, presumably to you, will be a Soviet Agent. My job is to establish his identity. Can't tell you any more, I'm afraid. And you don't actually need to know any more. All I want is to go with you to Sotheby's tomorrow night and for you to help me spot the man. No medals, I'm afraid, but we'd be extremely grateful."
I kissed her, and my baby brother, and was very sorry then; but not sorry to go away, for the gulf between us was there, and the parting was there, every day. And it is not so much the embrace she gave me, that lives in my mind, though it was as fervent as could be, as what followed the embrace.
M. WRITES :
'I feel it more,' said Mrs. Gummidge.
On it came.
At last war came. I have told how, in the theme of darkness it resulted in the destruction of man’s most promising society. In the theme of light the issue was far otherwise. Not only had the empires been effectively undermined by the missionaries, so that rebellions were frequent; more important was the fact that the servants of the light in all countries, and specially in Tibet, were armed with an inner certainty of victory. As in the darker theme, the Tibetan frontier was defended by microbes which reduced the invaders to infantilism. But whereas in the dark theme the respite thus secured was used merely for strengthening the defence, in the theme of the triumphing light it was turned into an opportunity for attack. Against all probability, the small but highly trained and highly mechanized Tibetan army, supported by its small but well-appointed air force, pushed forward into the imperial territory of Kashmir. There it attacked before the Russians had had time to recover from the effects of the microbe, and it gained a surprising victory. The Russian imperialists hastily concentrated vast new armies and air forces upon the invaders; but owing to a combination of inefficiency, corruption, and above all half-heartedness and positive disloyalty the imperial armies put up a feeble resistance, and were presently retreating in disorder, closely pursued by the Tibetans, and constantly attacked by the natives themselves. Organized revolt had of course broken out in Kashmir, and the imperialists’ defeat ensured its success. The whole of this mountainous land was soon freed. A temporary government was set up by the Kashmiri servants of the light, and the new state formed a close alliance with Tibet.
I said gratefully, "Yes, please tell me. And I promise. Cross my heart."
The girl moved closer to him. She said, "I'm sorry, James. I hope it will go away. You're not angry with me about anything?"
The critics will again say that all this may be very well as to the rough work of the author’s own brain, but it will be very far from well in reference to the style in which that work has been given to the public. After all, the vehicle which a writer uses for conveying his thoughts to the public should not be less important to him than the thoughts themselves. An author can hardly hope to be popular unless he can use popular language. That is quite true; but then comes the question of achieving a popular — in other words, I may say, a good and lucid style. How may an author best acquire a mode of writing which shall be agreeable and easily intelligible to the reader? He must be correct, because without correctness he can be neither agreeable nor intelligible. Readers will expect him to obey those rules which they, consciously or unconsciously, have been taught to regard as binding on language; and unless he does obey them, he will disgust. Without much labour, no writer will achieve such a style. He has very much to learn; and, when he has learned that much, he has to acquire the habit of using what he has learned with ease. But all this must be learned and acquired — not while he is writing that which shall please, but long before. His language must come from him as music comes from the rapid touch of the great performer’s fingers; as words come from the mouth of the indignant orator; as letters fly from the fingers of the trained compositor; as the syllables tinkled out by little bells form themselves to the ear of the telegraphist. A man who thinks much of his words as he writes them will generally leave behind him work that smells of oil. I speak here, of course, of prose; for in poetry we know what care is necessary, and we form our taste accordingly.