pt: And Hendricks had been a good selection, with his virility and gentle, understanding firmness. He understood the problem. ‘You’ll do what no one else could,’ the anxious father told him, ‘for he worships you, and you can sting without hurting him. You’ll put life and interest into him if anybody in this world can. I have great hopes of this tour. I shall always be in your debt, Mr. Hendricks.’ And Hendricks had accepted the onerous duty in his big, high-minded way. He was ...
And Hendricks had been a good selection, with his virility and gentle, understanding firmness. He understood the problem. ‘You’ll do what no one else could,’ the anxious father told him, ‘for he worships you, and you can sting without hurting him. You’ll put life and interest into him if anybody in this world can. I have great hopes of this tour. I shall always be in your debt, Mr. Hendricks.’ And Hendricks had accepted the onerous duty in his big, high-minded way. He was conscientious to the backbone. This little side-trip was his sole deflection, if such it can be called even. ‘Life, light and cheerful influences,’ had been his instructions, ‘nothing dull or melancholy; an occasional fling, if he wants it—I’d welcome a fling as a good sign—and as much intercourse with decent people, and stimulating sight-seeing as you can manage—or can stand,’ the Marquess added with a smile. ‘Only you won’t overtax the lad, will you? Above all, let him think he chooses and decides, when possible.’
Villaret, however, hardly complied with these conditions; there was melancholy in it; Hendricks’ mind—whose reflexes the spongy nature of the empty lad absorbed too easily—would be in a minor key. Yet a night could work no harm. Whence came, he wondered, the fleeting notion that it might do good? Was it, perhaps, that Leysin, the vigorous old Pasteur, might contribute something? Leysin had been a considerable force in his own development, he remembered; they had corresponded a little since; Leysin was out of the common, certainly, restless energy in him as of the sea. Hendricks found difficulty in sorting out his thoughts and motives, but Leysin was in them somewhere—this idea that his energetic personality might help. His vitalising effect, at least, would counteract the melancholy.
For Villaret lay huddled upon unstimulating slopes, the robe of gloomy pine-woods sweeping down towards its poverty from bleak heights and desolate gorges. The peasants were morose, ill-living folk. It was a dark untaught corner in a range of otherwise fairy mountains, a backwater the sun had neglected to clean out. Superstitions, Hendricks remembered, of incredible kind still lingered there; a touch of the sinister hovered about the composite mind of its inhabitants. The Pasteur fought strenuously this blackness in their lives and thoughts; in the village itself with more or less success—though even there the drinking and habits of living were utterly unsweetened—but on the heights, among the somewhat arid pastures, the mountain men remained untamed, turbulent, even menacing. Hendricks knew this of old, though he had never understood too well. But he remembered how the English boys at la cure were forbidden to climb in certain directions, because the life in these scattered châlets was somehow loose and violent. There was danger there, the danger, however, never definitely stated. Those lonely ridges lay cursed beneath dark skies. He remembered, too, the savage dogs, the difficulty of approach, the aggressive attitude towards the plucky Pasteur’s visits to these remote upland pâturages. They did not lie in his parish: Leysin made his occasional visits as man and missionary; for extraordinary rumours, Hendricks recalled, were rife, of some queer worship of their own these lawless peasants kept alive in their distant, windy territory, planted there first, the story had it, by some renegade priest whose name was now forgotten.