Tag Archive: burden

The Burden -3

“No. My views in the main are unchanged. I dislike seeing God put on a commercial basis.”

“Even by a commercial people in a commercial age? Do we not always bring to God the fruits in season?”een the two men there was already a curious sense of intimacy which had, indeed, existed from the first moment of their meeting. It was as though the fact that neither of them had anything in common with the other-nationality, upbringing, way of life, beliefs-made them therefore ready to accept each other without the usual barriers of reticence or conventionality. They were like men marooned together on a desert island, or afloat on a raft for an indefinite period. They could speak to each other frankly, almost with the simplicity of children.

He was a good talker, with a wide range of subjects. Not only had he travelled extensively, and in many unknown parts of the globe, but he had the gift of making all he himself had seen and experienced equally real to the person who was listening to him.

If you wanted to go to the Gobi Desert, or to the Fezzan, or to Samarkand, when you had talked of those places with Richard Wilding, you had been there.

It was not that he lectured, or in any way held forth. His conversation was natural and spontaneous.

Quite apart from his enjoyment of Wilding’s talk, Llewellyn found himself increasingly interested by the personality of the man himself. His charm and magnetism were undeniable, and they were also, so Llewellyn judged, entirely unself-conscious. Wilding was.not exerting himself to radiate charm; it was natural to him. He was a man of parts, too, shrewd, intellectual without arrogance, a man with a vivid interest in ideas and people as well as in places. If he had chosen to specialise in some particular subject-but that, perhaps, was his secret: he never had so chosen, and never would. That left him human, warm, and essentially approachable.

And yet, it seemed to Llewellyn, he had not quite answered his own question-a question as simple as that put by a child. “Why do I like this man so much?”

The answer was not in Wilding’s gifts. It was something in the man himself.

And suddenly, it seemed to Llewellyn, he got it. It was because, with all his gifts, the man himself was fallible. He was a man who could, who would, again and again prove himself mistaken. He had one of those warm, kindly emotional natures that invariably meet rebuffs because of their untrustworthiness in making judgments.

Here was no clear, cool, logical appraisal of men and things; instead there were warm-hearted impulsive beliefs, mainly in people, which were doomed to disaster because they were based on kindliness always rather than on fact. Yes, the man was fallible, and being fallible, he was also lovable. Here, thought Llewellyn, is someone whom I should hate to hurt.

They were back again now in the library, stretched out in two big arm-chairs. A wood fire had been lit, more to convey the sense, of a hearth, than because it was needed. Outside the sea murmured, and the scent of some nightbloom.

“Not from you. You wonder about your fellow human beings because you care for them and are therefore interested in them.”

“Yes, that’s true.” He paused. Then he said: “If one can help a fellow human being, that seems to me the most worthwhile thing in the world.”

“If,” said Llewellyn.

The other looked at him sharply.

“That seems oddly sceptical, coming from you.”

“No, it’s only a recognition of the enormous difficulty of what you propose.”

“Is it so difficult? Human beings want to be helped.”

“Yes, we all tend to believe that in some magical manner others can attain for us what we can’t-or don’t want to-attain for ourselves.”

“Sympathy-and belief,” said Wilding earnestly. “To believe the best of someone is to call the best into being. People respond to one’s belief in them. I’ve found that again and again.”

“For how long?”

Wilding winced, as though something had touched a sore place in him.

“You can guide a child’s hand on the paper, but when you take your hand away the child still has to learn to write himself. Your action may, indeed, have delayed the process.”

“Are you trying to destroy my belief in human nature?”

Llewellyn smiled as he said:

“I think I’m asking you to have pity on human nature.”

“To encourage people to give of their best-“

“Is forcing them to live at a very high altitude; to keep up being what someone expects you to be is to live under a great strain. Too great a strain leads eventually to collapse.”

“Must one then expect the worst of people?” asked Wilding satirically.

“One should recognise that probability.”

‘Be still and know that I am God.’

Behind the normal fac,ade of daily life, a fear, a dread of something that he himself did not understand. He was more conscious of this fear when he was alone, and he had, therefore, thrown himself eagerly into community life.

“I don’t know really-anything about myself.”

He knew now that something he had always known would happen was about to happen. He knew fear again, but not the fear he had felt before, that had been the fear of resistance. This time he was ready to accept-there was emptiness within him, swept and garnished, ready to receive a Presence. He was afraid only because in all humility he knew what a small and insignificant entity he was.

It was not easy to explain to Wilding what came next.

“Because, you see, there aren’t any words for it. But I’m quite clear as to what it was. It was the recognition of God. I can express if best by saying that it was as though a blind man who believed in the sun from literary evidence, and who had felt its warmth on his hand, was suddenly to open his eyes and see it.

“I had believed in God, but now I knew. It was direct personal knowledge, quite indescribable. And a most terrifying experience for any human being.

I understood then why, in God’s approach to man, He has to incarnate Himself in human flesh.

“I didn’t know what I was going to say. I didn’t think-or expound my own beliefs. The words were there in my head. Sometimes they got ahead of me, I had to speak faster to catch up, to say them before I lost them. I can’t describe to you what it was like-if I said it was like flame and like honey, would you understand at all? The flame seared me, but the sweetness of the honey was there too, the sweetness of obedience. It is both a terrible and a lovely thing to be the messenger of God.”

“Man cannot be trusted with power. It rots him-from within. How much longer could I have gone on without the taint creeping in? I suspect that already it had begun to work. Those moments when I spoke to those vast crowds of people-wasn’t I beginning to assume that it was I who was speaking, I who was giving them a message, I who knew just what they should or should not do, I who was no longer just God’s messenger, but God’s representative? You see? Promoted to Vizier, exalted, a man set above other men!” He added quietly: “God in His goodness has seen fit to save me from that.”

There is no doubt Christie is a master in the study of human nature – she is an observer , not a judge , of human nature and is mature enough to be aware of its imperfections . the reader herself becomes aware of christie’s genius when she reads her poirot or marple series ……… first you read it because of you are fan of mysteries and whodunits ( I wonder who is not ) but as u read a series of them in succession …….u realize that though  Christie doesn’t always succeed as well as conan doyle does with holmes ,  in creating a gr8 suspense , u  realize , as I said as u progress in ur study of christie’s prolific  literature that she is a master story teller  and I repeat a master in the study of human nature . so it’s no wonder that she has written a string of novels on the subject indicating her knowledge of it . I read ‘absent in the spring’ a long time back and now ‘the burden’ and as mary westmacott there’s always a bit of tragedy or sadness in her novels………………… but as human as we are , it is our tendency to hope that even if all’s not well in the beginning , it will end well in the end , so we may be left with a tinge of sadness in the end . although her profound observations in the subject gives one second-hand experience of life (good fiction always does)which triumphs over the  negative emotions.

So coming to ‘the burden’ the first half is fine ………no complaints whatsoever and the chapter introducing knox is excellent……..especially his childhood and the emphasis on following the human instinct…………………all this I’m afraid raises the expectation of the ending……which  didn’t satisfy me at all. Even in the case of laura – who we sympathise with from the beginning  and hope a happy ending for,Christie  disappoints in the end . I totally buy ac’s explanation for laura’s murder of henry………………but why make Shirley pay for it. But  the actual tragedy is that Wilding is the one who really pays for it , though Shirley has suffered on account of henry and laura…….it is no excuse to inflicther pain upon Wilding who has suffered as much in the case of his first wife , still retainng his sympathetic disposition . why does christie deny Wilding And Shirley  , both of whom suffered on account of their first spouses a chance at happiness ???? ao in the end it is hard to feel as happy as we would really like to for Laura and Llewellyn , as as it is equally hard to believe that laura would be really happy when  she knows in the end, that Shirley might have committed suicide out of unhappiness …………………………………….

“Laura’s a dear child, of course, but rather a dull child.” And she had accepted the justice of that with the honesty of the hopeless.She was small and pale and her hair didn’t curl, and the things she said never made people laugh-as they laughed at Charles. She was good and obedient and caused nobody trouble, but she was not and, she thought, never would be, important.

“A dog,” said Mr. Baldock, in his lecture-room style, which was capable of rousing almost anybody to violent irritation, “has an extraordinary power of bolstering up the human ego. To a dog, the human being who owns him is a god to be worshipped, and not only worshipped but, in our present decadent state of civilisation, also loved.

“The trouble about the second child,” said Mr. Baldock didactically, “is that it’s usually an anti-climax. The first child’s an adventure. It’s frightening and it’s painful; the woman’s sure she’s going to die, and the husband (Arthur here, for example) is equally sure you’re going to die. After it’s all over, there you are with a small morsel of animate flesh yelling its head off, which has caused two people all kinds of hell to produce!  Naturally they value it accordingly! It’s new, it’s ours, it’s wonderful! And then, usually rather too soon, Number Two comes along-all the caboodle over again-not so frightening this time, much more boring. And there it is, it’s yours, but it’s not a new experience, and since it hasn’t cost you so much, it isn’t nearly so wonderful.””Bachelors know everything,” she murmured ironically. “And isn’t that equally true of Number Three and Number Four and all the rest of them?””Not quite. I’ve noticed that there’s usually a gap  before Number Three. Number Three is often produced because the other two are getting independent, and it would be ‘nice to have a baby in the nursery again.’ Curious taste; revolting little creatures, but biologically a sound instinct, I suppose. And so they go on, some nice and some nasty, and some bright and some dull, but they pair off and pal up more or less, and finally comes the afterthought which like the first-born gets an undue share of attention.”

Laura was elated and excited. Mr. Baldock, who had a Chair at the University fourteen miles away, had a small cottage in the village where he spent the vacations and occasional week-ends. He declined to behave in a social manner, and affronted Bellbury by refusing, usually impolitely, their many invitations. Arthur Franklin was his only friend-it was a friendship of many years standing. John Baldock was not a friendly man. He treated his pupils with such ruthlessness and irony that the best of them were goaded into distinguishing themselves, and the rest perished by the wayside. He had written several large and abstruse volumes on obscure phases of history, written in such a way that very few people could understand what he was driving at. Mild appeals from his publishers to write in a more readable fashion were turned down with a savage glee, Mr. Baldock pointing out that the people who could appreciate his books were the only readers of them who were worthwhile! He was particularly rude to women, which enchanted many of them so much that they were always coming back for more. A man of savage prejudices, and over-riding arrogance, he had an unexpectedly kindly heart which was always betraying his principles.

“Children and one’s social inferiors never know when to say good-bye. One has to say it for them.”

. “How do you read a book? Begin at the beginning and go right through?”

“Yes. Don’t you?”

“No,” said Mr. Baldock. “I take a look at the start, get some idea of what it’s all about, then I go on to the end and see where the fellow has got to, and what he’s been trying to prove. And then, then I go back and see how he’s got there and what’s made him land up where he did. Much more interesting.”

Laura looked interested but disapproving.

“I don’t think that’s the way the author meant his book to be read,” she said.

“Of course he didn’t.”

“I think you should read the book the way the author meant.”

“Ah,” said Mr. Baldock. “But you’re forgetting the party of the second part, as the blasted lawyers put it. There’s the reader. The reader’s got his rights, too. The author writes his book the way he likes. Has it all his own way. Messes up the punctuation and fools around with the sense any way he pleases. And the reader reads the book the way he wants to read it, and the author can’t stop him.”

“You make it sound like a battle,” said Laura.

“I like battles,” said Mr. Baldock. “The truth is, we’re all slavishly obsessed by Time. Chronological sequence has no significance whatever. If you consider Eternity, you can jump about in Time as you please. But no one does consider Eternity.”

“You women!” he said. “Trouble with all of you is, you make such a song and dance about things. How is one ever to know what’s wise or not? If young Shirley goes to London and picks up with an Egyptian student and has a coffee-coloured baby in Bloomsbury, you’ll say it’s all your fault, whereas it will be entirely Shirley’s and possibly the Egyptian’s. And if she trains and gets a good job as a secretary and marries her boss, then you’ll say you were justified. All bunkum! You can’t arrange other people’s lives for them. Either Shirley’s got some sense or she hasn’t. Time will show. If you think this London idea is a good plan, go ahead with it, but don’t take it so seriously. That’s the whole trouble with you, Laura, you take life seriously. It’s the trouble with a lot of women.”

“And you don’t?”

“I take bindweed seriously,” said Mr. Baldock, glaring down balefully at the heap on the path. “And greenfly. And I take my stomach seriously, because it gives me hell if I don’t. But I never dream of taking other people’s lives seriously. I’ve too much respect for them, for one thing.”

“You don’t understand. I couldn’t bear it if Shirley made a mess of her life and was unhappy.”

“Fiddle de dee,” said Mr. Baldock rudely. “What does it matter if Shirley’s unhappy? Most people are, off and on. You’ve got to stick being unhappy in this life, just as you’ve got to stick everything else. You need courage to get through this world, courage and a gay heart.”


e looked a

“Fiddle de dee,” said Mr. Baldock rudely. “What does it matter if Shirley’s unhappy? Most people are, off and on. You’ve got to stick being unhappy in this life, just as you’ve got to stick everything else. You need courage to get through this world, courage and a gay heart.”

Mr. Baldock suddenly grinned and closed one eyelid.

“Laura,” he said, “you’re a push-over for hard luck stories. Anyone who’s sorry for himself doesn’t need you to be sorry for him as well. Self-pity is practically a full-time occupation.”

Llewellyn Knox threw open the shutters of the hotel windows and let in the sweet-scented night air. Below him were the twinkling lights of the town, and beyond them the lights of the harbour.

For the first time for some weeks, Llewellyn felt relaxed and at peace. Here, perhaps, in the island, he could pause and take stock of himself and of the future. The pattern of the future was clear in outline, but blurred as to detail. He had passed through the agony, the emptiness, the weariness. Soon, very soon now, he should be able to begin life anew. A simpler, more undemanding life, the life of a man like any other man-with this disadvantage only: he would be beginning it at the age of forty.


It had none of the exotic languor of the tropics. Its warmth was just sufficient to relax tension. The accentuated tempo of civilisation was left behind here. It was as though in the island one went back to an earlier age, an age where the people went about their business slowly, with due thought, without hurry or stress, but where purpose was still purpose. There would be poverty here, and pain, and the various ills of the flesh, but not the jangled nerves, the feverish haste; the apprehensive thoughts of to-morrow, which are the constant goads of the higher civilisations of the world. The hard faces of the career women, the ruthless faces of mothers, ambitious for their young, the worn grey faces of business executives fighting incessantly so that they and theirs should not go down and perish, the anxious tired faces of multitudes fighting for a better existence to-morrow or even to retain the existence they had-all these were absent from the people who passed him by. Most of them glanced at him, a good-mannered glance that registered him as a foreigner, and then glanced away, resuming their own lives. They walked slowly, without haste. Perhaps they were just taking the air. Even if they were bent upon some particular course, there was no urgency. What was not done today could be done to-morrow; friends who awaited their arrival would always wait a little longer, without annoyance.

A grave, polite people, Llewellyn thought, who smiled seldom, not because they were sad, but because to smile one must be amused. The smile here was not used as a social weapon.