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The Go-Between : Popular Penguins : Popular Penguins - L. P. Hartley

The Go-Between : Popular Penguins

Popular Penguins

Paperback

Published: 28th June 2010
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When one long, hot summer, young Leo is staying with a school-friend at Brandham Hall, he beings to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, the beautiful young woman up at the hall. He becomes drawn deeper and deeper into their dangerous game of deceit and desire, until his role brings him to a shocking and premature revelation. The haunting story of a young boy's awakening into the secrets of the adult world, The Go-Between is also an unforgettable evocation of the boundaries of Edwardian society.

About The Author

Leslie Poles Hartley was born in Wittlesey, Cambridgeshire, in 1895 and was educated at Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford. During the First World War he was a junior officer in the British Army, though he was never on active service. For more than thirty years from 1923 he was an indefatigable fiction reviewer for such periodicals as the Spectator, the Saturday Review, the Sketch, the Observer and Time and Tide. He published his first book, a collection of short stories entitled Night Fears, in 1924. The Shrimp and the Anemone, his first full-length novel, did not appear until 1944.

The first volume of a trilogy, it was followed by The Sixth Heaven (1946) and Eustace and Hilda (1947), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and is also the title by which the whole work is generally known. It was recognized immediately as a major contribution to contemporary English fiction. His other novels include The Boat (1949) and The Go-Between (1953), which was awarded the Heinemann Foundation Prize of the Royal Society of Literature in 1954 and was later made into an internationally successful film, while the film version of The Hireling won the principal award at the 1973 Cannes festival. In 1967 he published The Novelist's Responsibility, a collection of critical essays. His later books include My Sister's Keeper (1970), Mrs Carteret Receives (1971) and The Harness Room (1971). He was awarded the CBE in the New Year's Honours List in 1956.

L. P. Hartley died in 1972. Lord David Cecil described him as 'One of the most distinguished of modern novelists; and one of the most original. For the world of his creation is composed of such diverse elements. On the one hand he is a keen and accurate observer of the processes of human thought and feeling; he is also a sharp-eyed chronicler of the social scene. But his picture of both is transformed by the light of a Gothic imagination that reveals itself now in a fanciful reverie, now in the mingled dark and gleam of a mysterious light and a mysterious darkness ... Such is the vision of life presented in [his] novels.'

CHAPTER 1

The eighth of July was a Sunday and on the following Monday I left West Hatch, the village where we lived near Salisbury, for Brandham Hall. My mother arranged that my Aunt Charlotte, a Londoner, should take me across London. Between bouts of stomach-turning trepidation I looked forward wildly to the visit.

The invitation came about in this way. Maudsley had never been a special friend of mine, as witness the fact that I have forgotten his Christian name. Perhaps it will come to me later: it may be one of the things that my memory fights shy of. But in those days schoolboys seldom called each other by their first names. These were regarded simply as a liability, though not such a heavy liability as one's middle name, which it was just foolhardy to reveal. Maudsley was a dark-haired, sallow, round-faced boy, with a protruding upper lip that showed his teeth; he was a year younger than I was, and distinguished neither in work nor games, but he managed to get by, as we should say. I knew him pretty well because he was a member of my dormitory, and just before the affair of the diary we discovered a mild liking for each other, chose each other as companions for walks (we walked out in a crocodile), compared some of our personal treasures and imparted to each other scraps of information more intimate, and therefore more fraught with peril, than schoolboys usually exchange. One of these confidences was our respective addresses; he told me his home was called Brandham Hall and I told him mine was called Court Place, and of the two he was the more impressed, for he was, as I afterwards discovered, a snob, which I had not begun to be, except in the world of the Heavenly Bodies – there, I was a super-snob.

The name Court Place predisposed him in my favour, as I suspect it also did his mother. But they were mistaken, for Court Place was quite an ordinary house, set a little back in the village street, behind looped chains, of which I was rather proud. Well, not quite ordinary, for part of the house was reputed to be very old; the bishops of Salisbury, it was said, once held their court there; hence the name. Behind the house we had an acre of garden, intersected by a stream, which a jobbing gardener attended to three days a week. It was not a Court in the grandiloquent sense of the word, such as Maudsley, I fancy, believed it to be.

All the same, my mother did not find it easy to keep up. My father was, I suppose, a crank. He had a fine, precise mind which ignored what it was not interested in. Without being a misanthrope he was unsociable and non-conforming. He had his own unorthodox theories of education, one of which was that I should not be sent to school. As far as he could he educated me himself with the help of a tutor who came out from Salisbury. I should never have gone to school if he had had his way, but my mother always wanted me to and so did I, and as soon as was possible after his death I went. I admired him and revered his opinions, but my temperament had more in common with my mother's.

His talents went into his hobbies, which were book-collecting and gardening; for his career he had accepted a routine occupation and was quite content to be a bank manager in Salisbury. My mother fretted at his lack of enterprise, and was a little jealous and impatient of his hobbies, which enclosed him in himself, as hobbies do, and, so she thought, got him nowhere. In this she turned out to be wrong, for he was a collector of taste and foresight, and his books made a sum that astonished us when they were sold; indeed, I owe to them my immunity from the more pressing cares of life. But this was long after; at the time my mother fortunately never thought of selling his books: she cherished the things he had been fond of, partly from a feeling that she had been unfair to him; and we lived on her money, and the pension from the bank, and the little he had been able to put by.

My mother, though unworldly, was always attracted by the things of the world; she felt that if circumstances had been different, she could have taken her place in it; but thanks to my father's preferring objects to people she had very little chance. She liked gossip, she liked social occasions and to be dressed right for them; she was sensitive to public opinion in the village, and an invitation to some function in Salisbury would always set her a-flutter. To mix with well-dressed people on some smooth lawn, with the spire of the Cathedral soaring above, to greet and be greeted by them, to exchange items of family news and make timid contributions to political discussions – all this gave her a tremulous pleasure; she felt supported by the presence of acquaintances, she needed a social frame. When the landau arrived (there was a livery stable in the village) she stepped into it with a little air of pride and self-fulfilment very different from her usual diffident and anxious manner. And if she had persuaded my father to go with her, she looked almost triumphant.

After he died what little social consequence we had diminished; but at no time was it such as anyone with a delicate sense of social nuances would have associated with the name Court Place.

I did not tell Maudsley this, of course – not from any wish for concealment, but because our code discouraged personal disclosures. Bragging about the wealth and grandeur of one's parents was not unknown, but Maudsley was not one of those who did it. In some ways he was precociously sophisticated; his corners must have been rubbed off before he came to school. I never understood him very deeply; perhaps there was little to understand, except an instinctive responsiveness to public opinion, a savoir-faire that enabled him to be, without appearing to seek it, on the winning side.

During the diary episode, he had remained neutral, which was all that one could hope for from one's friends. (This is not cynicism; belonging to a lower age group they could have done nothing for me effectively.) But when I was the winning side he made no secret of his pleasure at my success and, I afterwards learned, he told his family about it. He took lessons from me in magic and I remember drawing up for him, free, certain curses that he could use if he was in a tight place – though I never thought he would be in one. He looked up to me and I felt that his esteem was decidedly worth having. Once in an expansive moment he confided to me that he was going to Eton, and he was like a premature Etonian, easy, well-mannered, sure of himself.

The last weeks of the Easter term were the happiest of my school-days so far, and the holidays were irradiated by them. For the first time I felt that I was someone. But when I tried to explain my improved status to my mother she was puzzled. Success in work she would have understood (and happily I was able to report this also) or success in games (of this I could not boast, but I had hopes of the cricket season). But to be revered as a magician! She gave me a soft, indulgent smile and almost shook her head. In a way she was religious: she had brought me up to think about being good, and to say my prayers, which I always did, for our code permitted it as long as it was done in a perfunctory manner: soliciting divine aid did not count as sneaking. Perhaps she would have understood what it meant to me to be singled out among my fellows if I could have told her the whole story: but I had to edit and bowdlerize it to such a degree that very little of the original was left; and least of all the intoxicating transition from a trough of persecution to a pedestal of power. A few of the boys had been a little unkind, now they were all very kind. Because of something I had written in my diary which was rather like a prayer, the unkind boys had hurt themselves and of course I couldn't help being glad about it. 'But ought you to have been glad?' she asked anxiously. 'I think you ought to have been sorry, even if they were a little unkind. Did they hurt themselves badly?' 'Rather badly,' I said, 'but you see they were my enemies.' But she refused to share my triumph and said uneasily, 'But you oughtn't to have enemies at your age.' In those days a widow was still a figure of desolation; my mother felt the responsibility of bringing me up, and thought that firmness should come into it, but she never quite knew when or how to apply it. 'Well, you must be nice to them when they come back,' she sighed; 'I expect they didn't mean to be unkind.'

Jenkins and Strode, who had had some bones broken, did not in fact return until the autumn. They were very much subdued, and so was I, and we had no difficulty in being nice to each other.

My mother was mistaken if she thought that I gloated over their downfall; it was the rise in my own stock that enlarged my spirit. But I was sensitive to atmosphere, and under my mother's half-hearted sympathy my dreams of greatness did not thrive. I began to wonder if they were something to be ashamed of, and when I went back to school it was in a private capacity, not as a magician. But my friends and clients had not forgotten; to my surprise they were as eager as ever to profit by my proficiency in the Black Arts. I was still the vogue and any scruples of conscience I retained soon fled. I was urged to put out more spells, one of which was that we should be given a whole holiday. Into this last I put all the psychic force I had, and I was rewarded. Soon after the beginning of June we had an outbreak of measles. By half-term more than half the school was down with it, and soon after came the dramatic announcement that we were to break up.

The delight of the survivors, of whom I was one and Maudsley another, can be imagined. The spiritual and emotional intoxication, which normally took thirteen weeks to brew, was suddenly engendered after seven; and added to it was the thrilling sense of having been favoured by fortune, for only once before in the history of the school had such a crowning mercy been vouchsafed.

The appearance at my bedside of my shiny black trunk with its imposing, rounded roof, flanked by my father's brown wooden tuck-box which still showed, by a patch of darker paint, where my initials had been painted over his – this ocular proof that we were really going back had an effect on my spirits more overwhelming than the Headmaster's brief announcement after prayers the previous evening. And not only the sight, the smell: the smell of home exhaled by the trunk and tuck-box, drowning the smell of school. For the whole of one day the vessels of salvation stood empty, and as long as they were empty there was always the fear that J. C., as we called him, might change his mind. The matron and her assistant were engaged in other dormitories. But our turn came, and, at last, stealing upstairs to look, I saw the trunk with its lid pushed back and its tray foaming with the tissue-paper in which were wrapped my lighter and more breakable possessions. This was a supreme moment: nothing that came afterwards surpassed it in pure bliss, although excitement steadily mounted.

Two brakes, instead of three, were drawn up before the school front-door. The apathy on the drivers' faces contrasted strongly but rather agreeably with the joy on ours. They knew the procedure, however; they did not start off as soon as the last small boy (even to me he looked extremely small) had climbed into his place. There was a last rite to perform – the only flourish we allowed ourselves, for we were not an emotional school. The head boy stood up and looking round him cried 'Three cheers for Mr Cross, Mrs Cross, and the baby!' How the baby came to be included I never knew: perhaps it was the spontaneous, facetious afterthought of a former head boy. Late in life (or so it seemed to us) Mr and Mrs Cross had been blessed with a third daughter. The other two were already, to our eyes, grown up, and them we did not cheer. For that matter the baby was no longer a baby; she was nearly four, but for some reason it delighted us to cheer her, as it plainly delighted her to be lifted up between her parents and to wave her hand. We waited for this to happen and when it did we laughed and nudged each other, relieved, as Englishmen, at not having to take our cheering too seriously.

The volume of sound was thin compared with normal times, but it lacked nothing in fervour nor did we stop to think how it would sound to the suffering prisoners in the San. The 'baby's' acknowledgement left nothing to be desired: it was comically regal. The drivers raised their whips without raising their faces, and we were off.

How long did the ecstasy of escape continue? It was at its height in the train. Both coming and going, the school was allotted a special coach. It was a saloon of a kind not found now, upholstered in deep red plush, the seats facing each other the whole length of the compartment. They were impregnated with a most searching smell of train smoke and tobacco, which, on the outward journey, at once turned my stomach. But going home it was the very breath of freedom and acted like an aperitif. Joy shone on every face; playful punches were exchanged; new variations were found of the theme of the South-Eastern and Smashem Railway. Nonchalantly I took out my diary and began to decorate the date – it was Friday the 15th of June – with a red pencil. Covertly my neighbours watched me. Was a new spell being cast? Presently I tired of arabesques and whirligigs and decided to paint the whole day red.

Did I really believe that I had been responsible for the epidemic? Modestly, I took some credit for it, and in certain quarters credit was given me. My pretensions were not exploded, far from it; but the awe with which I had been regarded was now tempered with a certain good-natured banter that might easily have turned to ridicule had the term gone on. I expect I had got a little above myself, not, I prefer to think, in manner, but in my outlook on life. Once I had been too self-distrustful; now I was over-confident. I expected things to go my way, and without much conscious effort on my part. I had only to wish them to serve me, and they would. I had forgotten the era of persecution; I had relaxed and withdrawn the sentries. I felt myself to be invulnerable. I did not believe that my happiness was contingent on anything: I felt that the laws of reality had been suspended on my behalf. My dreams for the year 1900, and for the twentieth century, and for myself, were coming true.

It never occurred to me, for instance, that I might get measles, and it astonished me that my mother regarded this as not only possible but probable. 'You will tell me, won't you,' she said anxiously, 'the first moment that you don't feel well?' I smiled. 'Of course I shall be all right,' I assured her. 'I hope so too,' she said. 'But don't forget last year, and how ill you were.'

Last year, the year 1899, had been a disastrous year. In January my father died after a brief illness and in the summer I had diphtheria, with complications; almost all July and August I had spent in bed. They were phenomenally hot months; but what I recollected of the heat was my own fever, of which the heat in my room seemed only another aggravating aspect; heat was my enemy, the sun something to be kept out. I dreaded it; and whenever I heard people saying what a wonderful summer it had been, almost the hottest within living memory, I could not understand what they meant – I only thought of my aching throat and the desperate search of my fretful limbs for a cool place in the bedclothes. I had good reason to wish the century over.

The summer of 1900 would be a cool one, I decided; I should arrange for that. And the Clerk of the Weather hearkened to me. On July 1st the temperature was in the sixties and we had only had three hot days – the 10th, the 11th and the 12th of June. I had marked them in my diary with a cross.

The first of July also brought Mrs Maudsley's invitation, for in those days we still had a post on Sundays. My mother showed me the letter: it was written in a large, bold, sloping hand. I had just reached the age when I could read handwriting that was unfamiliar to me, and this accomplishment gave me some pride. Mrs Maudsley did not ignore the possibility of measles though she took it more light-heartedly than my mother did. 'If neither of our boys has come out in spots by July 10th,' she wrote, 'I should be so very pleased if you would allow Leo to spend the rest of the month with us. Marcus'– ah, that was his name – 'has told me quite a lot about him, and I am most anxious to make his acquaintance, if you can spare him. It will be very nice for Marcus to have a boy of his own age to play with as he is the baby of the family, and a little apt to feel left out.

I understand that Leo is an only child and I promise you we will take great care of him. The Norfolk air . . .' etc. She ended up: 'You may be surprised that we should be spending the Season in the country but neither my husband nor I have been very well, and Town is no place for a small boy in the summer.'

I pored over the letter and soon committed it to memory. I imagined that its conventional phrases implied a deep and sympathetic interest in my personality; it was almost the first time I had felt myself real to somebody who didn't know me.

At first I was all agog to go and couldn't understand my mother's hesitation in accepting for me. 'Norfolk is such a long way off,' she would say, 'and you've never been away from home before, to stay with strangers, I mean.' 'But I've been to school,' I argued. She had to admit that. 'But I wish you weren't going for so long,' she said. 'You may not like it, and then what will you do?' 'I'm sure I shall enjoy myself,' I told her. 'And you will be there for your birthday,' she said. 'We've always been together for your birthday.' I said nothing to that, I had forgotten about my birthday and was visited by a pang of premature nostalgia. 'Promise me you'll let me know if you're not happy,' she said. I didn't like to say again I knew I should be happy, so I promised. But still she wasn't satisfied. 'Perhaps you'll get measles after all,' she told me hopefully, 'or Marcus will.'

A dozen times a day I asked her if she had written saying I might go until in the end she quite lost patience with me. 'Don't worry me - have written,' she said at last.

Preparations followed – what should I take with me? One thing I shouldn't need, I said, was summer clothes. 'I know it won't be hot.' And the weather bore me out – cool day followed cool day. My mother saw eye to eye with me in this: she believed that thick clothes were somehow safer than thin ones. And she had another motive: economy. The hot months of last year I had spent in bed, so I had no hot-weather outfit suitable to my size. I was growing fast: the outlay would be considerable and perhaps money thrown away: my mother yielded to me. 'But try not to get hot,' she said. 'Getting hot is always a risk. You needn't do anything violent, need you?' We looked at each other in perplexity, and dismissed the idea that I should have to do anything violent.

In imagination, often in apprehension, she tried to foresee the kind of life I should lead. One day she said, apropos of nothing, 'Try to go to church if you can. I don't know what sort of people they are - perhaps they don't go to church. If they do, I expect they drive.' Her face grew wistful, and I knew she wished she was going with me.

I shouldn't have wanted that. I was haunted by the schoolboy's fear that my mother wouldn't look right, do right, be right in the eyes of the other boys and their parents. She would be socially unacceptable; she would make a bloomer. I could bear humiliation for myself, I thought, more easily than I could for her.

But as the day of departure drew nearer my feelings underwent a change. Now it was I who wanted to get out of going, and my mother who held me to it. 'You could so easily say I had got measles,' I pleaded. She was horrified. 'I couldn't say such a thing,' she cried indignantly. 'And besides they would know. You were out of quarantine yesterday.' My heart sank: I tried a spell for making spots come out on my chest, but it didn't work. On the last evening my mother and I sat together in the drawing-room on the two-humped settee which reminded me of a dromedary in profile. The room faced the street and was a little stuffy, for we used it seldom and when it was not in use the windows were fastened to keep out the dust which, in the dry weather, rose in clouds whenever a vehicle went by. It was our one formal room and I think my mother may have chosen it for its moral effect; its comparative strangeness would be a step towards the strangeness I should feel in another house. Also I suspect she had something special to say, which the room would lend weight to, but she never said it, for I was too near to tears to be open to practical or moral counsels.

ISBN: 9780141195162
ISBN-10: 0141195169
Series: Popular Penguins
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 292
Published: 28th June 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 18.0 x 11.2  x 2.0
Weight (kg): 0.19
Edition Number: 1