05 November 2013

In Which Leaves Rot by August

They were in the tide of Fleet Street, pushed apart by foot passengers and separated by traffic. With some of the imperiousness of the officer of those days, Christopher barged across through motor-buses and paper lorries. With the imperiousness of the head of a department, Mark said:

'Here, policeman, stop these damn things and let me get over.' But Christopher was over much the sooner and waited for his brother in the gateway of the Middle Temple. His mind was completely swallowed up in the endeavour to imagine the embraces of Valentine Wannop. He said to himself that he had burnt his boats.

Mark, coming alongside him, said:

'You'd better know what our father wanted.'

Christopher said:

'Be quick then. I must get on.' He had to rush through his War Office interview to get to Valentine Wannop. They would have only a few hours in which to recount the loves of two lifetimes. He saw her golden head and her enraptured face. He wondered how her face would look, enraptured. He had seen on it humour, dismay, tenderness, in the eyes--and fierce anger and contempt for his, Christopher's, political opinions. His militarism!

Nevertheless they halted by the Temple fountain. That respect was due to their dead father. Mark had been explaining. Christopher had caught some of his words and divined the links. Mr Tietjens had left no will, confident that his desires as to the disposal of his immense fortune would be carried out meticulously by his eldest son. He would have left a will, but there was the vague case of Christopher to be considered. Whilst Christopher had been a youngest son you arranged that he had a good lump sum and went, with it, to the devil how he liked. He was no longer a youngest son: by the will of God.

'Our father's idea,' Mark said by the fountain, 'was that no settled sum could keep you straight. His idea was that if you were a bloody pimp living on women...You don't mind?'

'I don't mind your putting it straightforwardly,' Christopher said. He considered the base of the fountain that was half full of leaves. This civilization had contrived a state of things in which leaves rotted by August. Well, it was doomed!

'If you were a pimp living on women,' Mark repeated, 'it was no good making a will. You might need uncounted thousands to keep you straight. You were to have 'em. You were to be as debauched as you wanted, but on clean money. I was to see how much in all probability that would be and arrange the other legacies to scale...

--Ford Madox Ford, Some Do Not, Book I of the tetralogy Parade's End (or "The Tietjens Novels").

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