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The Great Good Place
by [?]

“Do you mean there’s too much, sir?”–Brown had sometimes these flashes.

“There’s too much. There’s too much. But you can’t help it, Brown.”

“No, sir,” Brown assented.”Can’t you?”

“I’m thinking–I must see. There are hours–!” Yes, there were hours, and this was one of them: he jerked himself up for another turn in his labyrinth, but still not touching, not even again meeting, his admonisher’s eye. If he was a genius for any one he was a genius for Brown; but it was terrible what that meant, being a genius for Brown. There had been times when he had done full justice to the way it kept him up; now, however, it was almost the worst of the avalanche.”Don’t trouble about me,” he went on insincerely and looking askance through his window again at the bright and beautiful world.”Perhaps it will rain–that may not be over. I do love the rain,” he weakly pursued.”Perhaps, better still, it will snow.”

Brown now had indeed a perceptible expression, and the expression was of fear.”Snow, sir–the end of May?” Without pressing this point he looked at his watch.”You’ll feel better when you’ve had breakfast.”

“I dare say,” said Dane, whom breakfast struck in fact as a pleasant alternative to opening letters.”I’ll come in immediately.”

“But without waiting–?”

“Waiting for what?”

Brown at last, under his apprehension, had his first lapse from logic, which he betrayed by hesitating in the evident hope his companion might by a flash of remembrance relieve him of an invidious duty. But the only flashes now were the good man’s own.”You say you can’t forget, sir; but you do forget–“

“Is it anything very horrible?” Dane broke in.

Brown hung fire.”Only the gentleman you told me you had asked–“

Dane again took him up; horrible or not it came back–indeed its mere coming back classed it.”To breakfast to-day? It was to-day; I see.” It came back, yes, came back; the appointment with the young man–he supposed him young–whose letter, the letter about–what was it?–had struck him.”Yes, yes; wait, wait.”

“Perhaps he’ll do you good, sir,” Brown suggested.

“Sure to–sure to. All right!” Whatever he might do he would at least prevent some other doing: that was present to our friend as, on the vibration of the electric bell at the door of the flat, Brown moved away. Two things in the short interval that followed were present to Dane: his having utterly forgotten the connexion, the whence, whither and why of his guest; and his continued disposition not to touch–no, not with the finger. Ah if he might never again touch! All the unbroken seals and neglected appeals lay there while, for a pause he couldn’t measure, he stood before the chimney-piece with his hands still in his pockets. He heard a brief exchange of words in the hall, but never afterwards recovered the time taken by Brown to reappear, to precede and announce another person–a person whose name somehow failed to reach Dane’s ear. Brown went off again to serve breakfast, leaving host and guest confronted. The duration of this first stage also, later on, defied measurement; but that little mattered, for in the train of what happened came promptly the second, the third. the fourth. the rich succession of the others. Yet what happened was but that Dane took his hand from his pocket, held it straight out and felt it taken. Thus indeed, if he had wanted never again to touch, it was already done.


He might have been a week in the place–the scene of his new consciousness–before he spoke at all. The occasion of it then was that one of the quiet figures he had been idly watching drew at last nearer and showed him a face that was the highest expression–to his pleased but as yet slightly confused perception–of the general charm. What was the general charm? He couldn’t, for that matter, easily have phrased it; it was such an abyss of negatives, such an absence of positives and of everything. The oddity was that after a minute he was struck as by the reflexion of his own very image in this first converser seated with him, on the easy bench, under the high clear portico and above the wide far-reaching garden, where the things that most showed in the greenness were the surface of still water and the white note of old statues. The absence of everything was, in the aspect of the Brother who had thus informally joined him–a man of his own age, tired distinguished modest kind–really, as he could soon see, but the absence of what he didn’t want. He didn’t want, for the time, anything but just to be there, to steep in the bath. He was in the bath yet, the broad deep bath of stillness. They sat in it together now with the water up to their chins. He hadn’t had to talk, he hadn’t had to think, he had scarce even had to feel. He had been sunk that way before, sunk–when and where?–in another flood; only a flood of rushing waters in which bumping and gasping were all. This was a current so slow and so tepid that one floated practically without motion and without chill. The break of silence was not immediate, though Dane seemed indeed to feel it begin before a sound passed. It could pass quite sufficiently without words that he and his mate were Brothers, and what that meant.