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The History of Sir Richard Calmady: a Romance . Malet, Lucas, 1852–1931.
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BOOK VI

THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH

CHAPTER I

IN WHICH MISS ST. QUENTIN BEARS WITNESS TO THE FAITH THAT IS IN HER

HONORIA divested herself of her travelling‐cap, thrust her hands into the pockets of her frieze ulster, and thus, bare‐headed, a tall, supple, solitary figure, paced the railway platform in the dusk. Above the gentle undulations of the western horizon splendours of rose‐crimson sunset were outspread, veiled, as they flamed upward, by indigo cloud of the texture and tenuity of finest gauze. And those same rose‐crimson splendours found repetition upon the narrow, polished surface of the many lines of rails, causing them to stand out, as though of red‐hot metal, from the undeterminate grey‐drab of the track where it curved away, south‐eastward, across the darkening country towards the Savoy Alps. And from out the fastnesses of these last, quick with the bleak purity of snow, came a breathing of evening wind. To Honoria it brought refreshing emphasis of silence, and of immunity from things human and things mechanical. It spoke to her of virgin and unvisited spaces, ignorant of mankind and of obligation to his so many and so insistent needs. And there being in Honoria herself a kindred defiance of subjection, a determination, so to speak, of physical and emotional chastity, she welcomed these intimations of the essential inviolability of nature, finding in them justification and support of her own mental attitude—of the entire wisdom of which she had, it must be owned, grown slightly suspicious of late.

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And this was the more grateful to her, not only as contrast to the noise and dust of a lengthy and hurriedly‐undertaken journey; but because that same journey had been suddenly, and, in a sense violently, imposed upon one whom she held in highest regard, by another whom she had long since agreed with herself to hold in no sort of regard at all. Since the highly‐regarded one set forth, she—Honoria—of course, set forth likewise. And yet, in good truth, the whole affair rubbed her not a little the wrong way! She recognised in it a particularly flagrant example of masculine aggression. Some persons, as she reflected, are permitted an amount of elbow‐room altogether disproportionate to their deserts. Be sufficiently selfish, sufficiently odious, and everybody becomes your humble servant, hat in hand! That is unfair. It is, indeed, quite extensively exasperating to the dispassionate onlooker. And, in Miss St. Quentin’s case, exasperation was by no means lessened by the fact that candour compelled her to admit doubt not only as to the actuality of her own dispassionateness, but, as has already been stated, as to the wisdom of her mental attitude generally. She wanted to think and feel one way. She was more than half afraid she was much disposed to think and feel quite another way. This was worrying. And, therefore, it came about that Honoria hailed the present interval of silence and solitude, striving to put from her remembrance both the origin and object of her journey, while filling her lungs with the snow‐fed purity of the mountain wind and yielding her spirit to the somewhat serious influences of surrounding nature. All too soon the great Paris‐express would thunder into the station. The heavy, horse‐box‐like sleeping‐car—now standing on the Culoz‐Geneva‐Bâle siding—would be coupled to the rear of it. Then the roar and rush would begin again—from dark to dawn, and on through the long, bright hours to dark once more, by mountain gorge, and stifling tunnel, and broken woodland, and smiling coast‐line, and fertile plain, past Chambéry, and Turin, and Bologna, and mighty Rome herself, until the journey was ended and distant Naples reached at last.

But Miss St. Quentin’s communings with nature were destined to speedy interruption. Ludovic Quayle’s elongated person, clothed to the heels in a check travelling‐coat, detached itself from the company of waiting passengers, and blue‐linen‐clad porters, upon the central platform before the main block of station buildings, and made its light and active way across the intervening lines of crimson‐stained metals.

“If I am a nuisance mention that chastening fact without hesitation,” he said, standing on the railway track and looking page: 492 up at her with his air of very urbane intelligence. “Present circumstances permit us the privilege—or otherwise—of laying aside restraints of speech, along with other small proprieties of behaviour commonly observed by the polite. So don’t spare my feelings, dear Miss St. Quentin. If I am a bore, tell me so; and I will return, and that without any lurking venom in my breast, whence I came.”

“Do anything you please,” Honoria replied, “except be run over by the Paris train.”

“The Paris train, so I have just learned, is an hour late, consequently its arrival hardly enters into the question. But, since you are graciously pleased to bid me do as I like, I stay,” Mr. Quayle returned, stepping on to the platform and turning to pace beside her.—“What a gaol delivery it is to get into the open! That last engine of ours threw ashes to a truly penitential extent. My mouth and throat still claim unpleasantly close relation to a neglected, kitchen grate. And if our much vaunted wagon‐lits is the last word of civilisation in connection with travel, then all I can say is that, in my humble opinion, civilisation has yet a most exceedingly long way to go. It really is a miraculously uncomfortable vehicle. And how Lady Calmady contrives to endure its eccentricities of climate and of motion, I’m sure I don’t know.”

“In her case the end would make any sort of means supportable,” Honoria answered.

Her pacings had brought her to the extreme end of the platform where it sloped to the level of the track. She stood there a moment, her head thrown back, snuffing the wind as a hind, breaking covert, stands and snuffs it. A spirit of questioning possessed her, though not—as in the hind’s case—of things concrete and material. It is true she could have dispensed with Mr. Quayle’s society. She did not want him. But he had shown himself so full of resource, so considerate and helpful, ever since the news of Sir Richard Calmady’s desperate state had broken up the peace of the little party at Ormiston Castle, now five days ago, that she forgave him even his preciousness of speech, even his slightly irritating superiority of manner. She had ceased to be on her guard with him during these days of travel, had come to take his presence for granted and to treat him with the comfortable indifference of honest good‐fellowship. So, it happened that now, speaking with him, she continued to follow out her existing train of thought.

“I’m by no means off my head about poor Dickie Calmady,” she said presently,—“specially where Cousin Katherine is con‐ page: 493 cerned. I couldn’t go on caring about anybody, irrespective of their conduct, just because they were they. And yet I can’t help seeing it must be tremendously satisfying to feel like that.”

“A thousand pardons,” Ludovic murmured, “but like what?”

“Why as Cousin Katherine feels—just whole‐heartedly, without analysis, and without alloy—to feel that no distance, no fatigue, no nothing in short, matters, so long as she gets to him in time. I don’t approve of such a state of mind, and yet”—Honoria wheeled round, facing the glory of colour dyeing all the west—“and yet, I’m untrue enough to my own principles rather to envy it.”

She sighed, and that sigh her companion noted and filed for reference. Indeed, an unusually expansive cheerfulness became perceptible in Mr. Quayle.

“By‐the‐bye, is there any further news?” she inquired.

“General Ormiston has just had a telegram.”

“Anything fresh?”

“Still unconscious, strength fairly maintained.”

“Oh! we know that by heart!” Honoria said.

“We do. And we know the consequences of it—the sweet little see‐saw of hope and fear, productive of unlimited discussion and anxiety. No weak letting one stand at ease about that telegram! It keeps one’s nose hard down on the grindstone.”

“If he dies,” Honoria said slowly, “if he dies—poor, dear Cousin Katherine!—When can we hear again?”

“At Turin,” Mr. Quayle replied.

Then they both fell silent until the far end of the platform was reached. And there, once more, Honoria paused, her small head carried high, her serious eyes fixed upon the sunset. The rosy light falling upon her failed to disguise the paleness of her face or its slight angularity of line. She was a little worn and travel‐stained, a little dishevelled even. Yet to her companion she had rarely appeared more charming. She might be tired, she might even be somewhat untidy; but her innate distinction remained—nay, gained, so he judged, by suggestion of rough usage endured. Her absolute absence of affectation, her unselfconsciousness, her indifference to adventitious prettinesses of toilet, her transparent sincerity, were very entirely approved by Ludovic Quayle.

“Yes, that see‐saw of hope and fear must be an awful ordeal, feeling as she does,” Miss St. Quentin said presently. “And yet, even so, I am uncertain. I can’t help wondering which really is best!”

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“Again a thousand pardons,” the young man put in, “but I venture to remind you that I was not cradled in the fore‐court of the temple of the Pythian Apollo, but only in the nursery of a conspicuously philistine, English country‐house.”

For the first time during their conversation Honoria looked full at him. Her glance was very friendly, yet it remained meditative, even a trifle sad.

“Oh! I know, I’m fearfully inconsequent,” she said. “But my head is simply rattled to pieces by that beastly wagon‐lits. I had gone back to what I was thinking about before you joined me, and to what we were saying just now about Cousin Katherine.”

“Yes—yes, exactly,” Ludovic put in tentatively. She was going to give herself away—he was sure of it. And such giving away might make for opportunity. In spirit, the young man proceeded to take his shoes from off his feet. The ground on which he stood might prove to be holy. Moreover Miss St. Quentin’s direct acts of self‐revelation were few and far between. He was horribly afraid those same shoes of his might creak, so to speak, thereby startling her into watchfulness, making her draw back. But Honoria did not draw back. She was too much absorbed by her own thought. She continued to contemplate the glory of the flaming west, her expression touched by a grave and noble exaltation.

“I suppose one can’t help worrying a little at times—it’s laid hold of me very much during the last month or two—as to what is really the finest way to take life. One wants to arrive at that fairly early; not by a process of involuntary elimination, on the burnt‐child‐fears‐the‐fire sort of principle, when the show’s more than half over, as so many people do. One wants to get hold of the stick by the right end now, while one’s still comparatively young, and then work straight along. I want my reason to be the backbone of my action, don’t you know, instead of merely the push of society and friendship, and superficial odds and ends of so‐called obligation to other people.”

“Yes,” Mr. Quayle put in again.

“Now, it seems to me, that”—Honoria extended one hand towards the sunset—“is Cousin Katherine’s outlook on life and humanity, full of colour, full of warmth. It burns with a certain prodigality of beauty, a superb absence of economy in giving. And that”—with a little shrug of her shoulders she turned towards the severe, and sombre, eastern landscape—“that, it strikes me, comes a good deal nearer my own. Which is best?”

Mr. Quayle congratulated himself upon the removal of his page: 495 shoes. The ground was holy—holy to the point of embarrassment even to so unabashable and ready‐tongued a gentleman as himself. He answered with an unusual degree of diffidence.

“An intermediate position is neither wholly inconceivable nor’ wholly untenable, perhaps.”

“And you occupy it? Yes, you are very neatly balanced. But then, do you really get anywhere?”

“Is not that a rather knavish speech, dear Miss St. Quentin?” the young man inquired mildly.

“I don’t know,” she answered, “I wish to goodness I did.”

Now was here god‐given opportunity, or merely a cunningly devised snare for the taking of the unwary? Ludovic pondered the matter. He gently kicked a little pebble from the dingy grey‐drab of the asphalt on to the permanent way. It struck one of the metals with a sharp click. A blue‐linen‐clad porter, short of stature and heavy of build, lighted the gas lamps along the platform. The flame of these wavered at first, and flickered, showing thin and will‐o’‐the‐wisp‐like against the great outspread of darkening country across which the wind came with a certain effect of harshness and barrenness—the inevitable concomitant of its inherent purity. And the said wind treated Miss St. Quentin somewhat discourteously, buffeting her, obliging her to put up both hands to push back stray locks of hair. Also the keen breath of it pierced her, making her shiver a little. Both of which things her companion noting took heart of grace.

“Is it permitted to renew a certain petition?” he asked, in a low voice.

Honoria shook her head.

“’ Better not, I think,” she said.

“And yet, dear Miss St. Quentin, pulverised though I am by the weight of my own unworthiness, I protest that petition is not wholly foreign to the question you did me the honour to ask me just now.”

“Oh! dear me! You always contrive to bring it round to that!” she exclaimed, not without a hint of petulance.

“Far from it,” the young man returned. “For a good, solid eighteen months, now, I have displayed the accumulated patience of innumerable asses.”

“Of course, I see what you’re driving at,” she continued hastily. “But it is not original. It’s just every man’s stock argument.”

“If it bears the hall‐mark of hoary antiquity, so much the better. I entertain a reverence for precedent. And honestly, as common sense goes, I am not ashamed of that of my sex.”

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Miss St. Quentin resumed her walk.

“You really think it stands in one’s way,” she said reflectively, “you really think it a disadvantage, to be a woman?”

“Oh! good Lord!” Mr. Quayle ejaculated, softly yet with an air so humorously aghast that it could leave no doubt as to the nature of his sentiments. Then he cursed himself for a fool. His shoes indeed had made a mighty creaking! He expected an explosion of scornful wrath. He admitted he deserved it. It did not come.

Miss St. Quentin looked at him, for a moment, almost piteously. He fancied her mouth quivered and that her eyes filled with tears. Then she turned and swung away with her long, easy, even stride. Mentally the young man took himself by the throat, conscience‐stricken at having humiliated her, at having caused her to fall, even momentarily, from the height of her serene, maidenly dignity. For once he became absolutely uncritical, careless of appearances. He fairly ran after her along the platform.

“Dear Miss St. Quentin,” he called to her, in tones of most persuasive apology.

But Honoria’s moment of piteousness was past. She had recovered all her habitual lazy and gallant grace when he came up with her.

“No—no,” she said. “Hear me. I began this rather foolish conversation. I laid myself open to—well to a snubbing. I got one, anyhow!”

“In mercy don’t rub it in!” Mr. Quayle murmured contritely.

“But I did,” Honoria returned. “Now it’s over and I’m going to pick up the pieces and put them back in their places‐just where they were before.”

“But I protest!—I hailed a new combination. I discover in myself no wild anxiety to have the pieces put back just where they were before.”

“Oh yes, you do!” Honoria declared. “At least, you certainly will when I explain it to you.”—She paused.—“You see,” she said, “it is like this. Living with and watching Cousin Katherine, I have come to know all that side of things at its very finest.”

“Forgive me.—It? What? May I recall to you the fact of the philistine nursery?”

The young lady’s delicate face straightened.

“You know perfectly well what I mean,” she said.—“ That which we all think about so constantly, and yet affect to speak page: 497 of as a joke or a slight impropriety—love, marriage, motherhood.”

“Yes, Lady Calmady is a past‐master in those arts,” Mr. Quayle replied.—Again the ground was holy. He was conscious his pulse quickened.

“The beauty of it all, as one sees it in her case, breaks one up a little. There is no laugh left in one about those things. One sees that to her they are of the nature of religion—a religion pure and undefiled, a new way of knowing God and of bringing oneself into line with the truth as it is in Him. But, having once seen that, one can decline upon no lower level. One grows ambitious. One will have it that way or not at all.”

Honoria paused again. The bleak wind buffeted her. But she was no longer troubled or chilled by it, rather did it brace her to greater fearlessness of resolve and of speech.

“You are contemptuous of women,” she said.

“I have betrayed characteristics of the ass, other than its patience,” Ludovic lamented.

“Oh! I didn’t mean that,” Honoria returned, smiling in friendliest fashion upon him. “Every man worth the name really feels as you do, I imagine. I don’t blame you. Possibly I am growing a trifle shaky as to feminine superiority, and woman spelled with a capital letter, myself. I’m awfully afraid she is safest—for herself and others—under slight restraint, in a state of mild subjection. She’s not quite to be trusted, either intellectually or emotionally—at least, the majority of her isn’t. If she got her head, I’ve a dreadful suspicion she would make a worse hash of creation generally than you men have made of it already, and that”—Honoria’s eyes narrowed, her upper lip shortened, and her smile shone out again delightfully—“that’s saying a very great deal, you know.”

“My spirits rise to giddy heights,” Mr. Quayle exclaimed. “I endorse those sentiments. But whence, oh, dear lady, this change of front?”

“Wait a minute. We’ve not got to the end of my contention yet.”

“The Paris train is late. There is time. And this is all excellent hearing.”

“I’m not quite so sure of that,” Honoria said. “For, you see, just in proportion as I give up the fiction of her superiority, and admit that woman already has her political, domestic, and social deserts, I feel a chivalry towards her, poor, dear thing, which I never felt before. I even feel a chivalry towards the woman in myself. She claims my pity and my care in a quite new way.”

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“So much the better,” Mr. Quayle observed, outwardly discreetly urbane, inwardly almost riotously jubilant.

“Ah! wait a minute,” she repeated. Her tone changed, sobered. “I don’t want to spread myself, but you know I can meet men pretty well on their own ground. I could shoot and fish as well as most of you, only that I don’t think it right to take life except to provide food, or in self‐defence. There’s not so much happiness going that one’s justified in cutting any of it short. Even a jack‐snipe may have his little affairs of the heart, and a cock‐salmon his gamble. But I can ride as straight as you can. I can break any horse to harness you choose to put me behind. I can sail a boat and handle an axe. I can turn my hand to most practical things—except a needle. I own I always have hated a needle worse—well, worse than the devil! And I can organise, and can speak fairly well, and manage business affairs tidily. And have I not even been known—low be it spoken—to beat you at lawn tennis, and Lord Shotover at billiards?”

“And to overthrow my most Socratic father in argument. And outwit my sister Louisa in diplomacy—vide our poor, dear Dickie Calmady’s broken engagement, and the excellent, scatterbrain Decies’ marriage.”

“But Lady Constance is happy?” Honoria put in hastily.

“Blissful, positively blissful, and with twins too! Think of it!—Decies is blissful also. His sense of humour has deteriorated since his marriage, from constant association with good, little Connie who was never distinguished for ready perception of a joke. He regards those small, simultaneous replicas of himself with unqualified complacency, which shows his appreciation of comedy must be a bit blunted.”

“I wonder if it does?” Miss St. Quentin observed reflectively. Whereat Mr. Quayle permitted. himself a sound as nearly approaching a chuckle as was possible to so superior a person.

“A thousand pardons,” he murmured, “but really, dear lady, you are so very much off on the other tack.”

“Am I?” Miss St. Quentin said. “Well, you see—to go back to my demonstration—I’ve none of the quarrel with your side of things most women have, because I’m not shut out from it, and so I don’t envy you. I can amuse and interest myself on your lines. And therefore I can afford to be very considerate and tender of the woman in me. I grow more and more resolved that she shall have the very finest going, or that she shall have nothing, in respect of all which belongs to her special province—in regard to love and marriage. In them she shall have what page: 499 Cousin Katherine has had, and find what Cousin Katherine has found, or all that shall be a shut book to her forever. Even if discipline and denial make her a little unhappy, poor thing, that’s far better than letting her decline upon the second best.”

Honoria’s voice was full and sweet. She spoke from out the deep places of her thought. Her whole aspect was instinct with a calm and reasoned enthusiasm. And, looking upon her, it became Ludovic Quayle’s turn to find the evening wind somewhat bleak and barren. It struck chill, and he turned away and moved westwards towards the sunset. But the rose‐crimson splendours had become faint and frail; while the indigo cloud had gathered into long, horizontal lines as of dusky smoke, so that the remaining brightness was seen as through prison bars. A sadness, indeed, seemed to hold the west, even greater than that which held the east, since it was a sadness not of beauty unborn, but of beauty dead. And this struck home to the young man. He did not care to speak. Miss St. Quentin walked beside him in silence, for a time. When at last she spoke it was very gently.

“Please don’t be angry with me,” she pleaded. “I like you so much that—that I’d give a great deal to be able to think less of my duty to the tiresome woman in me.”

“I would give a great deal too,” he declared, regardless of grammar.

“But I’m not the only woman in the world, dear Mr. Quayle,” she protested presently.

“But I, unfortunately, have no use for any other,” he returned.

“Ah, you distress me!” Honoria cried.

“Well, I don’t know that you make me superabundantly cheerful.”

Just then the far‐away shriek of a locomotive and dull thunder of an approaching train. Mr. Quayle looked once more towards the western horizon.

“Here’s the Paris‐express!” he said. “We must be off if we mean to get round before our horse‐box is shunted.”

He jumped down on to the permanent way. Miss St. Quentin followed him, and the two ran helter‐skelter across the many lines of metals, in the direction of the Culoz‐Geneva‐Bâle siding. That somewhat childish and undignified proceeding ministered to the restoration of good‐fellowship.

“Great passions are rare,” Mr. Quayle said, laughing a little. His circulation was agreeably quickened. How surprisingly page: 500 fast this nymph‐like creature could get over the ground, and that gracefully, moreover, rather in the style of a lissome, long‐limbed youth than in that of a woman!

“Rare? I know it,” she answered, the words coming short and sharply. “But I accept the risk. A thousand to one the book remains shut forever.”

“And I, meanwhile, am not too proud to pass the time of day with the second best, and take refuge in the accumulated patience of innumerable asses.”

And, behind them, the express train thundered into the station.

CHAPTER II

TELLING HOW, ONCE AGAIN, KATHERINE CALMADY LOOKED ON HER SON

THE bulletin received at Turin was sufficiently disquieting. Richard had had a relapse. And when at Bologna, just as the train was starting, General Ormiston entered the compartment occupied by the two ladies, there was that in his manner which made Miss St. Quentin lay aside the magazine she was reading and, rising silently from her place opposite Lady Calmady, go out on to the narrow passage‐way of the long sleeping‐car. She was very close to the elder woman in the bonds of a dear and intimate friendship, yet hardly close enough, so she judged, to intrude her presence if evil‐tidings were to be told. A man going into battle might look, so she thought, as Roger Ormiston looked now—very stern and strained. It was more fitting to leave the brother and sister alone together for a little space.

At the far end of the passage‐way the servants were grouped—Clara, comely of face and of person, neat notwithstanding the demoralisation of feminine attire incident to prolonged travel. Winter, the Brockhurst butler, clean‐shaven, grey‐headed, suggestive of a distinguished Anglican ecclesiastic in mufti. Miss St. Quentin’s lady’s‐maid, Faulstich by name, a North‐Country woman, angular of person and of bearing, loyal of heart. Zimmermann, the colossal German‐Swiss courier, with his square, yellow beard and hair en brosse.—An air of discouragement pervaded the party, involving even the polyglot conductor of the wagon‐lits, a small, quick, sandy‐complexioned, young fellow of uncertain nationality, with a gold band round his peaked cap. He respected this family which could afford to take a page: 501 private railway‐carriage half across Europe. He shared their anxieties. And these were evidently great. Clara wept. The old butler’s mouth twitched, and his slightly pendulous cheeks quivered. The door at the extreme end of the car was set wide open. Ludovic Quayle stood upon the little, iron balcony smoking. His feet were planted far apart, yet his tall figure, swayed and curtseyed queerly as the heavy carriage bumped and rattled across the points. High walls, overtopped by the dark spires of cypresses, overhung by radiant wealth of lilac wistaria, and of roses, red, yellow, and white, reeled away in the keen sunshine to left and right. Then, clearing the outskirts of the town, the train roared southward across the fair, Italian landscape beneath the pellucid, blue vault of the fair, Italian sky. And to Honoria there was something of heartlessness in all that fair outward prospect. Here, in Italy, the ancient gods reigned still surely, the gods who are careless of human woe.

“Is there bad news, Winter?” she asked.

“Mr. Bates telegraphs to the General that it would be well her ladyship should be prepared for the worst.”

“It’ll kill my lady. For certain sure it will kill her! She never could be expected to stand up against that. And just as she was getting round from her own illness so nicely too”—

Audibly Clara wept. Her tears so affected the sandy‐complexioned, polyglot conductor that he retired into his little pantry and made a most unholy clattering among the plates and knives and forks. Honoria put her hand upon the sobbing woman’s shoulder and drew her into the comparative privacy of the adjoining compartment, rendered not a little inaccessible by a multiplicity of rugs, travelling‐bags, and hand‐luggage.

“Come, sit down, Clara,” she said. “Have your cry out. And then pull yourself together. Remember Lady Calmady will want just all you can do for her if Sir Richard—if”—and Honoria was aware somehow of a sharp catch in her throat—“if he does not live.”

And, meanwhile, Roger Ormiston, now in sober and dignified middle‐age, found himself called upon to repeat that rather sinister experience of his hot and rackety youth, and, as he put it bitterly, “act hangman to his own sister.” For, as he approached her, Katherine, leaning back against the piled‐up cushions in the corner of the railway carriage, suddenly sat bolt‐upright, stretching out her hands in swift fear and entreaty, as in the state‐bedroom at Brockhurst nine‐and‐twenty years ago.

“Oh, Roger, Roger!” she cried, “tell me, what is it?”

“Nothing final as yet, thank God,” he answered. “But it page: 502 would be cruel to keep the truth from you, Kitty, and let you buoy yourself up with false hopes.”

“He is worse,” Katherine said.

“Yes, he is worse. He is a good deal weaker. I’m afraid the state of affairs has become very grave. Evidently they are apprehensive as to what turn the fever may take in the course of the next twelve hours.”

Katherine bowed herself together as though smitten by sharp pain. Then she looked at him hurriedly, fresh alarms assaulting her.

“You are not trying to soften the blow to me? You are not keeping anything back?”

“No, no, no, my dear Kitty. There—see—read it for yourself. I telegraphed twice, so as to have the latest news. Here’s the last reply.”

Ormiston unfolded the blue paper, crossed by white strips of printed matter, and laid it upon her lap. And as he did so it struck him, aggravating his sense of sinister repetition, that she had on the same rings and bracelets as on that former occasion, and that she wore stone‐grey silk too—a long travelling sacque, lined and bordered with soft fur. It rustled as she moved. A coif of black lace covered her upturned hair, framed her sweet face, and was tied soberly under her chin. And, looking upon her, Ormiston yearned in spirit over this beautiful woman who had borne such grievous sorrows, and who, as he feared, had sorrow yet more grievous still to bear.—“For ten to one the boy won’t pull through—he won’t pull through,” he said to himself. “Poor, dear fellow, he’s nothing left to fall back upon. He’s lived too hard.” And then he took himself remorsefully to task, asking himself whether, among the pleasures and ambitions and successes of his own career, he had been quite faithful to the dead, and quite watchful enough over the now dying, Richard Calmady? He reproached himself, for, when Death stands at the gate, conscience grows very sensitive regarding any lapses, real or imagined, of duty towards those for whom that dread ambassador waits.

Twice Katherine read the telegram, weighing each word of it. Then she gave the blue paper back to her brother.

“I will ask you all to let me be alone for a little while, dear Roger,” she said. “Tell Honoria, tell Ludovic, tell my good Clara. I must turn my face to the wall for a time, so that, when I turn it upon you dear people again, it may not be too unlovely.”

And Ormiston bent his head and kissed her hand, and page: 503 went out, closing the door behind him; while the train roared southward, through the afternoon sunshine, southward towards Chiusi and Rome.

And Katherine Calmady sat quietly amid the noise and violent, on‐rushing movement, squaring accounts with her own motherhood. That she might never see Dickie again, she herself dying, was an idea which had grown not unfamiliar to her during these last sad years. But that she should survive, only to see Dickie dead, was a new idea, and one which joined hands with despair, since it constituted a conclusion big with the anguish of failure to the tragedy of their relation, hers and his. Her whole sense of justice, of fitness, rebelled under it, rebelled against it. She implored a space, however brief, of reconciliation and reunion before the supreme farewell was said. But it had become natural to Katherine’s mind, so unsparingly self‐trained in humble obedience to the divine ordering, not to stay in the destructive, but pass on to the constructive stage. She would not indulge herself with rebellion, but rather fashion her thought without delay to that which should make for inward peace. And so now, turning her eyes, in thought, from the present, she went back on the baby‐love, the child‐love which, notwithstanding the abiding smart of Richard’s deformity, had been so very exquisite to her. Upon the happier side of all that she had not dared to dwell during this prolonged period of estrangement. It was too poignant, too deep‐seated in the springs of her physical being. To dwell on it enervated and unnerved her. But now, Richard the grown man dying, she gave herself back to Richard the little child. It solaced her to do so. Then he had been wholly hers. And he was wholly hers still, in respect of that early time. The man she had lost, so it seemed, how far through fault of her own she could not tell. And just now she refused to analyse all that. Upon all which strengthened endurance, upon gracious memories engendering thankfulness, could her mind alone profitably be fixed. And so, as the train roared southward, and the sun declined and the swift dusk spread its mantle over the face of the classic landscape, Katherine cradled a phantom baby on her knee, and sat in the oriel‐window of the Chapel‐Room, at Brockhurst, with the phantom of her boy beside her, while she told him old‐time legends of war, and of high endeavour, and of gallant adventure, watching the light dance in his eyes as her words awoke in him emulation of those masters of noble deeds whose exploits she recounted. And in this she found comfort, and a chastened calm. So that, when at length General Ormiston— page: 504 incited thereto by the faithful Clara, who protested that her ladyship must and should dine—returned to her, he found her storm‐tossed no longer, but tranquil in expression and solicitous for the comfort of others. She had conquered nature by grace,—conquered, in that she had compelled herself to unqualified submission. If this cup might not pass from her, still would she praise Almighty God and bless His Holy Name, asking not that her own, but His will, be done.

It followed that the evening, spent in that strangely noisy, oscillating, onward‐rushing dwelling‐place of a railway‐carriage, was not without a certain subdued brightness of intercourse and conversation. Katherine was neither preoccupied nor distrait, nor unamused even by the small accidents and absurdities of travel. Later, while preparations were being made by the servants for the coming night, she went out, with the two gentlemen and Honoria St. Quentin, on to the iron platform at the rear of the swaying car, and stood there under the stars. The mystery of these last, and of the dimly discerned and sleeping land, offered penetrating contrast to the sleeplessness of the hurrying train with its long, sinuous line of lighted windows, and to the sleeplessness of her own heart. The fret of human life is but as a little island in the great ocean of eternal peace—so she told herself—and then bade that sleepless heart of hers both still its passionate beating and take courage. And when, at length, she was alone, and lay down in her narrow berth, peace and thankfulness remained with Katherine. The care and affection of brother, friends, and servants, were very grateful to her, so that she composed herself to rest whether slumber was granted her or not. The event was in the hands of God—that surely was enough.

And in the dawn, reaching Rome, the news was so far better that it was not worse. Richard lived. And when, some seven hours later, the train steamed into Naples station, and Bates, the house‐steward—the marks of haste and keen anxiety upon him—pushed his way up to the carriage door, he could report there was this amount of hope even yet, that Richard still lived, though his strength was as that of an infant and whether it would wax or wane wholly none as yet could say.

“Then we are in time, Bates?” Lady Calmady had asked, desiring further assurance.

“I hope so, my lady. But I would advise your coming as quickly as possible.”

“Is he conscious?”

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“He knew Captain Vanstone this morning, my lady, just before I left.”

The man‐servant shouldered the crowd aside unceremoniously, so as to force a passage for Lady Calmady.

“Her ladyship should go up to the villa at once, sir,” he said to General Ormiston. “I had better accompany her. I will leave Andrews to make all arrangements here. The carriage is waiting.”

Then, Honoria beside her, Katherine was aware of the hot glare and hard shadow, the grind and clatter, the violent colour, the strident vivacity of the Neapolitan streets, as with voice and whip, Garçia sprung the handsome, long‐tailed, black horses up the steep ascent. This, followed by the impression of a cool, spacious, and lofty interior, of mild, diffused light, of pale, marble floors and stairways, of rich hangings and distinguished objects of art, of the soft, green gloom of ilex and myrtle, the languid drip of fountains. And this last served to mark, as with raised finger, the hush—bland, yet very imperative—which held all the place. After the ceaseless jar and tumult of that many‐days’ journey, here, up at the villa, it seemed as though urgency were absurd, hot haste of affection a little vulgar, a little contemptible, all was so composed, so very urbane.

And that urbanity so bland, so, in a way, supercilious, affected Honoria St. Quentin unpleasantly. She was taken with unreasoning dislike of the place, finding something malign, trenching on cruelty even, in its exalted serenity, its unchanging, inaccessible, masklike smile. Very certainly the ancient gods held court here yet, the gods who are careless of human tears, heedless of human woe! And she looked anxiously at Lady Calmady, penetrated by fear that the latter was about to be exposed to some insidious danger, to come into conflict with influences antagonistic and subtly evil. Wicked deeds had been committed in this fair place, wicked designs nourished and brought to fruition here. She was convinced of that. Was convinced further that those designs had connection with and had been directed against Lady Calmady. The thought of Helen de Vallorbes, exquisite and vicious,—as she now reluctantly admitted her to be—was very present to her. As far as she knew, it was quite a number of years since Helen had set foot in the villa. Yet it spoke of her, spoke of the more dangerous aspects of her nature.—Honoria sighed over her friend. Helen had gone, latterly, very much to the bad, she feared. And as all this passed rapidly through her mind it provoked all her knight‐ page: 506 errantry, raising a strongly protective spirit in her. She questioned just how much active care she might take of Lady Calmady without indiscretion of over‐forwardness.

But even while she thus debated, opportunity of action was lost. Quietly, a great simplicity and singleness of purpose in her demeanour, without word spoken, without looking back, Katherine followed the house‐steward across the cool, spacious hall, through a doorway and out of sight.

And that singleness of purpose, so discernible in her outward demeanour, possessed Katherine’s being throughout. She was as one who walks in sleep, pushed by blind impulse. She was not conscious of herself, not conscious of joy or fear, or any emotion. She moved forward dumbly, and without volition, towards the event. Her senses were confused by this transition to stillness from noise, by the immobility of all surrounding objects after the reeling landscape on either hand the swaying train, by the bland and tempered light after the harsh contrasts of glare and darkness so constantly offered to her vision of late. She was dazed and faint, moreover, so that her knees trembled. Her sensibility, her powers of realisation and of sympathy, were for the time being atrophied.

The house‐steward ushered her into a large, square room. The low, darkly‐painted, vaulted ceiling of it produced a cavernous effect. An orderly disorder prevailed, and a somewhat mournful dimness of closed, green‐slatted shutters and half‐drawn curtains. The furniture, costly in fact, but dwarfed, in some cases actually legless, was ranged against the squat, carven bookcases that lined the walls leaving the middle of the room vacant, save for a low, narrow camp‐bed. The bed stood at right angles to the door by which Katherine entered, the head of it towards the shuttered, heavily‐draped windows, the foot towards the inside wall of the room. At the bedside a man knelt on one knee; and his appearance aroused, in a degree, Katherine’s dormant powers of observation. He had a short, crisp, black beard and crisp, black hair. He was alert and energetic of face and figure, a man of dare‐devil, humorous, yet kindly eyes. He wore a blue serge suit with brass buttons to it. He was in his stocking‐feet. The wristbands and turn‐down collar of his white shirt were immaculate. Katherine, lost, trembling, the support of the habitual taken from her, a stranger in a strange land, liked the man. He appeared so admirable an example of physical health. He inspired her with confidence, his presence seeming to carry with it assurance of that which is wholesome, normal, and sane. He glanced at her sharply, page: 507 not without hint of criticism, and of command. Authoritatively he signed to her to remain silent, to stand at the head of the bed, and well clear of it, out of sight. Katherine did not resent this. She obeyed.

And standing thus, rallying her will to conscious effort, she looked steadily, for the first time, at the bed and that which lay upon it. And so doing she could hardly save herself from falling, since she saw there precisely that which the shape of the room and the disarray of it, along with vacant space and the low camp‐bed in the centre of that space, had foretold—notwithstanding her dumbness of feeling, deadness of sympathy—she most assuredly must see.—All these last four‐and‐twenty hours she had solaced herself with the phantom society of Dickie the baby‐child, of Dickie the eager boy, curious of many things. But here was one different from both these. Different, too, from the young man, tremendous in arrogance, and in revolt against the indignity put on him by fate, from whom she had parted in such anguish of spirit nearly five years back. For, in good truth, she saw now, not Richard Calmady her son, her anxious charge, whose debtor—in that she had brought him into life disabled—she held herself eternally to be; but Richard Calmady her husband, the desire of her eyes, the glory of her youth—saw him, worn by suffering, disfigured by unsightly growth of beard, pallid, racked by mortal weakness, the sheet expressing the broad curve of his chest, the sheet and light blanket disclosing the fact of that hideous maiming he had sustained—saw him now, as on the night he died.

Captain Vanstone, meanwhile, reassured as to the newcomer’s discretion and docility, applied his mind to his patient.

“See here, sir,” he said, banteringly yet tenderly, “we were just getting along first‐rate with these uncommonly mixed liquors. You mustn’t cry off again, Sir Richard.”

He slipped his arm under the pillows, dexterously raising the young man’s head, and held the cup to his lips.

“My dear, good fellow, I wish you would let me be,” Dickie murmured faintly.

He spoke courteously, yet there were tears in his voice for very weakness. And, hearing him, it was as though something stirred within Katherine which had long been bound by bitterness of heavy frost.

Vanstone shook his head.—“Very sorry, Sir Richard,” he replied. “Daren’t let you off. I’ve got my orders, you see.”

The bold and kindly eyes had a certain magnetic efficacy of compulsion in them. The sick man drank, swallowed with page: 508 difficulty, yet drank again. Then he lay back, for a while, his eyes closed, resting. And Katherine stood at the head of the bed, out of sight, waiting till her time should come. She folded her hands high upon her bosom. Her thought remained inarticulate, yet she began to understand that which she had striven so sternly to uproot, that which she had supposed she had extirpated, still remained with her. Once more, with a terror of joyful amazement, she began to scale the height and sound the depth of human love.

Presently the voice—whether that of husband or of son she did not stay to discriminate—it gripped her very vitals—reached her from the bed. She fancied it rang a little stronger.

“It is contemptibly futile, and therefore conspicuously in keeping with the rest, to have taken all this trouble about dying only, in the end, to sneak back.”

“Oh! well, sir, after all you’re not so very far on the return voyage yet,” Vanstone put in consolingly.

Richard opened his eyes. Katherine’s vision was blurred. She could not see very clearly, but she fancied he smiled.

“Yes, with luck, I may still give you all the slip,” he said.

“Now, a little more, sir, please. Yes, you can if you try.”

“But I tell you I don’t care about this business of sneaking back. I don’t want to live.”

“Very likely not. But I’m very much mistaken if you want to die like a cat, in a cupboard, here ashore. Mend enough to get away on board the yacht to sea. There’ll be time enough then to argue the question out, sir. Half a mile of blue water under your feet sends up the value of life most considerably.”

As he spoke the sailor looked at Katherine Calmady. His glance enjoined caution, yet conveyed encouragement.

“Here, take down the rest of it, Sir Richard,” he said persuasively. “Then I swear I won’t plague you any more for a good hour.”

Again he raised the sick man dexterously, and as he did so Katherine observed that a purple scar, as of a but newly healed wound, ran right across Dickie’s cheek from below the left eye to the turn of the lower jaw. And the sight of it moved her strangely, loosening the last of that binding as of frost. A swift madness of anger against whoso had inflicted that ugly hurt arose in Katherine; while her studied resignation, her strained passivity of mental attitude, went down before a passion of violent and primitive emotion. The spirit of battle became dominant in her, along with an immense necessity of loving and of being loved. Tender phantoms of past joy ceased to solace. The actual, the page: 509 concrete, the immediate, compelled her with a certain splendour of demand. Katherine appeared to grow taller, more regal of presence. The noble energy of youth and its limitless generosity returned to her. Instinctively she unfastened her pelisse at the throat, took the lace coif from her head, letting it fall to the ground, and moved nearer.

Richard pushed the cup away from his lips.

“There’s someone in the room, Vanstone!” he said, his voice harsh with anger. “’Some woman—I heard her dress. I told you all—whatever happened—I would have no woman here.”

But Katherine, undismayed, came straight on to the bedside. She loved. She would not be gainsaid. With the whole force of her nature she refused denial of that love.—For a brief space Richard looked at her, his face ghastly and rigid as that of a corpse. Then he raised himself in the bed, stretching out both arms, with a hoarse cry that tore at his throat and shuddered through all his frame. And, as he would have fallen forward, exhausted by the effort to reach her and the lovely shelter of her, Katherine caught and, kneeling, held him, his poor hands clutching impotently at her shoulders, his head sinking upon her breast. While, in that embrace, not only all the motherhood in her leapt up to claim the sonship in him, but all the womanhood in her leapt up to claim the manhood in him, thereby making the broken circle of her being once more wholly perfect and complete, so that carrying the whole dear burden of his fever‐wasted body in her encircling arms and upon her breast, even as she had carried, long since, that dear fruit of love, the unborn babe, within her womb, Katherine was taken with a very ecstasy and rapture of content.

“My beloved is mine—is mine!” she cried,—“and I am his.”

Captain Vanstone was on his feet and half way across the room.

“Man alive, but it hurts like merry hell!” he said, as he softly closed the door.

CHAPTER III

CONCERNING A SPIRIT IN PRISON

UPON those moments of rapture followed days of trembling, during which the sands of Richard Calmady’s life ran very low, and his brain wandered in delirium, and he spoke unwittingly of many matters of which it was unprofitable to page: 510 hear. Periods of unconsciousness, when he lay as one dead; periods of incessant utterance—now violent in unavailing repudiation, now harsh with unavailing remorse—alternated. And, at this juncture, much of Lady Calmady’s former very valiant pride asserted itself. In tender jealousy for the honour of her beloved one she shut the door of that sick‐room, of sinister aspect, against brother and friend, and even against the faithful Clara. None should see or hear Richard in his present alienation and abjection, save herself and those who had hitherto ministered to him. He should regain a measure, at least, of his old distinction and beauty before any, beyond these, looked on his face. And so his own men‐servants—Captain Vanstone, capable, humorous, and alert—and Price, the red‐headed, Welsh first mate, of varied and voluminous gift of invective—continued to nurse him. These men loved him. They would be loyal in silence, since, whatever his lapses, Dickie was and always had been, as Katherine reflected, among the number of those happily‐endowed persons who triumphantly give the lie to the cynical saying that “no man is a hero to his valet de chambre.”

To herself Katherine reserved the right to enter that sinister sick‐room whenever she pleased, and to sit by the bedside, waiting for the moment—should it ever come—when Richard would again recognise her, and give himself to her again. And those vigils proved a searching enough experience, notwithstanding her long apprenticeship to service of sorrow—which was also the service of her son. For, in the mental and moral nudity of delirium, he made strange revelation, not only of acts committed, but of inherent tendencies of character and of thought. He spoke, with bewildering inconsequence and intimacy, of incidents and of persons with whom she was unacquainted, causing her to follow him—a rather brutal pilgrimage—into regions where the feet of women, bred and nurtured like herself, but seldom tread. He spoke of persons with whom she was well acquainted also, and whose names arrested her attention with pathetic significance, offering, for the moment, secure standing ground amid the shifting quicksand of his but‐half‐comprehended words. He spoke of Morabita, the famous prima donna, and of gentle Mrs. Chifney down at the Brockhurst racing‐stables. He grew heated in discussion with Lord Fallowfeild. He petted little Lady Constance Quayle. He called Camp, coaxed and chaffed the dog merrily—whereat Lady Calmady rose from her place by the bedside and stood at one of the dim, shuttered windows for a while. He spoke of places, too, and of happenings in them, from Westchurch to Constantinople, from a nautch at Singapore to a page: 511 country fair at Farley Row. But, recurrent through all his wanderings were allusions, unsparing in revolt and in self‐abasement, to a woman whom he had loved and who had dealt very vilely with him, putting some unpardonable shame upon him, and to a man whom he himself had very basely wronged. The name, neither of man nor woman, did Katherine learn.—Madame de Vallorbes’ name, for which she could not but listen, he never mentioned, nor did he mention her own.—And recurrent, also, running as a black thread through all his speech, was lament, not unmanly but very terrible to hear—the lament of a creature, captive, maimed, imprisoned, perpetually striving, perpetually frustrated in the effort to escape. And, noting all this, Katherine not only divined very dark and evil pages in the history of her beloved one; but a struggle so continuous and a sorrow so abiding that, in her estimation at all events, they cancelled and expiated the darkness and evil of those same pages. While the mystery, both of wrong done and sorrow suffered, so wrought upon her that, having, in the first ecstasy of recovered human love, deserted and depreciated the godward love a little, she now ran back imploring assurance and renewal of that last, in all penitence and humility, lest, deprived of the counsel and sure support of it, she should fail to read the present and deal with the future aright—if, indeed, any future still remained for that beloved one other than the yawning void of death and inscrutable silence of the grave!

The better part of a week passed thus; and then, one fair morning, Winter, bringing her breakfast to the ante‐room of that same sea‐blue, sea‐green bed‐chamber—sometime tenanted by Helen de Vallorbes—disclosed a beaming countenance.

“Mr. Powell wishes me to inform your ladyship that Sir Richard has passed a very good night. He has come to himself, my lady, and has asked for you.”

The butler’s hands shook as he set down the tray.

“I hope your ladyship will take something to eat before you go downstairs,” he added. “Mr. Powell told Sir Richard that it was still early; and he desired that on no consideration should you be hurried.”

Which little word of thoughtfulness on Dickie’s part brought a roundness to Katherine’s cheek and a soft shining into her sweet eyes; so that Honoria St. Quentin, sauntering into the room just then with her habitual lazy grace, stood still a moment in pleased surprise noting the change in her friend’s appearance.

“Why, dear Cousin Katherine,” she asked, “what’s happened? All’s right with the world!”

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“Yes,” Katherine answered. “God’s very much in His heaven, to‐day, and all’s right with all the world, because things are a little more right with one man in it.—That is the woman’s creed—always has been, I suppose, and I rather hope always will be. It is frankly personal and individualistic, I know. Possibly it is reprehensibly narrow‐minded. Still I doubt if she will readily find another which makes for greater happiness or fulness of life. You don’t agree, dearest, I know—nevertheless pour out my tea for me, will you? I want to dispose of this necessary evil of breakfast with all possible despatch. Richard has sent for me. He has slept and is awake.”

And as Miss St. Quentin served her dear friend, she pondered this speech curiously, saying to herself:—“Yes, I did right; though I never liked Ludovic Quayle better than now, and never liked any other man as well as I like Ludovic Quayle. But that’s not enough. I’m getting hold of the appearance of the thing, but I haven’t got hold of the thing itself. And so the woman in me must continue to be kept in the back attic. She shall be denied all further development. She shall have nothing unless she can have the whole of it, and repeat Cousin Katherine’s creed from her heart.”

Richard did not speak when Lady Calmady crossed the room and sat down at the bedside. He barely raised his eyelids. But he felt out for her hand across the surface of the sheet. And she took the proffered hand in both hers and fell to stroking the palm of it with her finger‐tips. And this silent greeting, and confiding contact of hand with hand, was to her exquisitely healing. It gave an assurance of nearness and acknowledged ownership, more satisfying and convincing than many eloquent phrases of welcome. And so she, too, remained silent, only indeed permitting herself, for a little while, to look at him, lest so doing she should make further demand upon his poor quantity of strength. A folding screen in stamped leather, of which age had tempered the ruby and gold to a sober harmony of tone, had been placed round the head of the bed, throwing this last into clear, quiet shadow. The bed linen was fresh and smooth. Richard had made a little toilet. His silk shirt, open at the throat, was also fresh and smooth. He was clean shaven, his hair cropped into that closely‐fitting, bright‐brown cap of curls. Katherine perceived that his beauty had begun to return to him, though his face was distressingly worn and emaciated, and the long, purplish line of that unexplained scar still disfigured his cheek. His hands were little more than skin and bone. Indeed he was fragile, she feared, as any person could be who page: 513 yet had life in him, and she wondered, rather fearfully, if it was yet possible to build up that life again into any joy of energy and of activity. But she put such fears from her as unworthy. For were they not together, he and she, actually and consciously reunited? That was sufficient. The rest could wait.

And to‐day, as though lending encouragement to gracious hopes, the usually gloomy and cavernous room had taken to itself a quite generous plenishing of air and light. The heavy curtains were drawn aside. The casements of one of the square, squat windows were thrown widely open. The slatted shutters without were partially opened likewise. A shaft of strong sunshine slanted in and lay, like a bright highway, across the rich colours of the Persian carpet. The air was hot, but nimble and of a vivacious and stimulating quality. It fluttered some loose papers on the writing‐table near the open window. It fluttered the delicate laces and fine muslin frills of Lady Calmady’s morning‐gown. There was a sprightly mirthfulness in the touch of it not unpleasing to her. For it seemed to speak of the ever‐obtaining youth, the incalculable power of recuperation, the immense reconstructive energy resident in nature and the physical domain. And there was comfort in that thought. She turned her eyes from the bed and its somewhat sorrowful burden—the handsome head, the broad, though angular, shoulders, the face, immobile and masklike, with closed eyelids and unsmiling lips, reposing upon the whiteness of the pillows—and fixed them upon that radiant space of outer world visible between the dark‐framing of the half‐open shutters. Beyond the dazzling, black‐and‐white chequer of the terrace and balustrade, they rested on the cool green of the formal garden, the glistering dome and slender columns of the pavilion set in the angle of the terminal wall. And this last reminded her quaintly of that other pavilion, embroidered, with industry of innumerable stitches, upon the curtains of the state‐bed at home—that pavilion, set for rest and refreshment in the midst of the tangled ways of the Forest of This Life, where the Hart may breathe in security, fearless of Care, the pursuing leopard, which follows all too close behind.—Owing to her position and the sharp drop of the hillside, Naples itself, the great painted city, its fine buildings and crowded shipping, was unseen; but, far away, the lofty promontory of Sorrento sketched itself in palest lilac upon the azure of sea and sky.

And, as Katherine reasoned, if this fair prospect, after so many ages of tumultuous history and shock of calamitous events, after battle, famine, terror of earthquake and fire, devastation by page: 514 foul disease, could still recover and present such an effect of triumphant youthfulness, such an at once august and mirthful charm, might not her beloved one, lying here broken in health and in spirit, likewise regain the glory of his manhood and the delight of it, notwithstanding present weakness and mournful eclipse?—Yes, it would come right—come right—Katherine told herself, thereby making one of those magnificent acts of faith which go so far to produce just that which they prophesy. God could not have created so complex and beautiful a creature, and permitted it so to suffer, save to the fulfilment of some clear purpose which would very surely be made manifest at last. God Almighty should be justified of His strange handiwork and she of her love before the whole of the story was told.—And, stirred by these thoughts, and by the fervour of her own pious confidence, Katherine’s finger‐tips travelled more rapidly over the palm of that outstretched and passive hand. Then, on a sudden, she became aware that Richard was looking fixedly at her. She turned her head proudly, the exaltation of a living faith very present in her smile.

“You are the same,” he said slowly. His voice was low, toneless, and singularly devoid of emotion.—“ Deliciously the same. You are just as lovely. You still have your pretty colour. You are hardly a day older”—

He paused, still regarding her fixedly.

“I’m glad you have got on one of those white, frilly things you used to wear. I always liked them.”

Katherine could not speak just then. This sudden and complete intimacy unnerved her. It was so long since anyone had spoken to her thus. It was very dear to her, yet the toneless voice gave a strange unreality to the tender words.

“It’s a matter for congratulation that you are the same,” Richard went on, “since everything else, it appears, is destined to continue the same. One should have one thing it is agreeable to contemplate in that connection, considering the vast number of things altogether the reverse of agreeable and which one fondly hoped one was rid of forever, which intrude themselves.”

He shifted himself feebly on the pillows, and the flicker of a smile crossed his face.

“Poor, dear mother,” he said, “you see again, without delay, the old bad habit of grumbling!”

“Grumble on, grumble on, my best beloved,” Katherine murmured, while her finger‐tips travelled softly over his palm.

“Verily and indeed, you are the same!” Richard rejoined. page: 515 Once more he lay looking full at her, until she became almost abashed by that unswerving scrutiny. It came over her that the plane of their relation had changed. Richard was, as never heretofore, her equal, a man grown.

Suddenly he spoke.

“Can you forgive me?”

And so far had Katherine’s thought journeyed from the past, so absorbed was it in the present, that she answered, surprised:—

“My dearest, forgive what?”

“Injustice, ingratitude, desertion,” Richard said, “neglect, systematic cruelty. There is plenty to swell the list. All I boasted I would do I have done—and more.”—His voice, until now so even and emotionless, faltered a little. “I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

Katherine’s hand closed down on his firmly.

“All that, as far as I am concerned, is as though it was not and never had been,” she answered.—“So much for judgment on earth, dearest.—While in heaven, thank God, we know there is more joy over the one sinner who repents than over the ninety‐and‐nine just persons who need no repentance.”

“And you really believe that?” Richard said, speaking half indulgently, half ironically, as if to a child.

“Assuredly I believe it.”

“But supposing the sinner is not repentant, but merely cowed?”—Richard straightened his head on the pillows and dosed his eyes. “You gave me leave to grumble—well, then, I am so horribly disappointed. Here have life and death been sitting on either side of me for the past month, and throwing with dice for me. I saw them as plainly as I can see you. The queer thing was they were exactly alike, yet I knew them apart from the first. Day and night I heard the rattle of the dice—it became hideously monotonous—and felt the mouth of the dice‐box on my chest when they threw. I backed death heavily. It seemed to me there were ways of loading the dice. I loaded them. But it wasn’t to be, mother. Life always threw the highest numbers—and life had the last throw.”

“I praise God for that,” Katherine said, very softly.

“I don’t, unfortunately,” he answered. “I hoped for a neat little execution—a little pain, perhaps, a little shedding of blood, without which there is no remission of sins—but I suppose that would have been letting me off too easy.”

He drew away his hand and covered his eyes.

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“When I had seen you I seemed to have made my final peace. I understood why I had been kept waiting till then. Having seen you, I flattered myself I might decently get free at last. But I am branded afresh, that’s all, and sent back to the galleys.”

Lady Calmady’s eyes sought the radiant prospect—the green of the garden, the graceful columns of the airy pavilion, the lilac land set in the azure of sea and sky. No words of hers could give comfort as yet, so she would remain silent. Her trust was in the amiable ministry of time, which may bring solace to the tormented, human soul, even as it reclothes the mountain‐side swept by the lava stream, or cleanses and renders gladly habitable the plague‐devastated city.

But there was a movement upon the bed. Richard had turned on his side. He had recovered his self‐control, and once more looked fixedly at her.

“Mother,” he said calmly, “is your love great enough to take me back, and to give yourself to me again, though I am not fit so much as to kiss the hem of your garment?”

“There is neither giving nor taking, my beloved,” she answered, smiling upon him. “In the truth of things, you have never left me, neither have I ever let you go.”

“Ah! but consider these last four years and their record!” he rejoined. “I am not the same man that I was. There’s no getting away from fact, from deeds actually done, or words actually said, for that matter. I have kept my singularly repulsive infirmity of body, and to it I have added a mind festering with foul memories. I have been a brute to you, a traitor to a friend who trusted me. I have been a sensualist, an adulterer. And I am hopelessly broken in pride and self‐respect. The conceit, the pluck even, has been licked right out of me.”—Richard paused, steadying his voice which faltered again.—“I only want, since it seems I’ve got to go on living, to slink away somewhere out of sight, and hide myself and my wretchedness and shame from everyone I know.—Can you bear with me, soured and invalided as I am, mother? Can you put up with my temper, and my silence, and my grumbling, useless log as I must continue to be?”

“Yes—everlastingly yes,” Katherine answered.

Richard threw himself flat on his back again.

“Ah! how I hate myself—my God, how I hate myself!” he exclaimed.

“And how beyond all worlds I love you,” Katherine put in quietly.

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He felt out for her hand across the sheet, found and held it. There were footsteps upon the terrace to the right, the scent of a cigar, Ludovic Quayle’s voice in question, Honoria St. Quentin’s in answer, both with enforced discretion and lowness of tone. General Ormiston joined them. Miss St. Quentin laughed gently. The sound was musical and sweet. Footsteps and voices died away. A clang of bells and the hooting of an outward‐bound liner came up from the city and the port.

Richard’s calm had returned. His expression had softened.

“Will those two marry?” he asked presently.

Lady Calmady paused before speaking.

“I hope so—for Ludovic’s sake,” she said. “He has served, if not quite Jacob’s seven years, yet a full five for his love.”

“If for Ludovic’s sake, why not for hers?” Dickie asked.

“Because two halves don’t always make a whole in marriage,” Katherine said.

“You are as great an idealist as ever!”—He paused, then raised himself, sitting upright, speaking with a certain passion.

“Mother, will you take me away, away from everyone, at once, just as soon as possible? I never want to see this room, or this house, or Naples again. The climax was reached here of disillusion, and of iniquity, and of degradation. Don’t ask what it was. I couldn’t tell you. And, mercifully, only one person, whose lips are sealed in self‐defence, knows exactly what took place besides myself. But I want to get away, away alone with you, who are perfectly unsullied and compassionate, and who have forgiven me, and who still can love. Will you come? Will you take me? The yacht is all ready for sea.”

“Yes,” Katherine said.

“I asked this morning who was here with you, and Powell told me. I can’t see them, mother, simply I can’t! I haven’t the nerve. I haven’t the face. Can you send them away?”

“Yes,” Katherine said.

Richard’s eyes had grown dangerously bright. A spot of colour burned on either cheek. Katherine leaned over him.

“My dearest,” she declared, “you have talked enough.”

“Yes, they’re beginning to play again, I can hear the rattle of the dice.—Mother, take me away, take me out to sea, away from this dreadful place.—Ah! you poor darling, how horribly selfish I am!—But let me get out to sea, and then later, take me home—to Brockhurst. The house is big. Nobody need see me.”

“No, no,”’ Katherine said, laying him back with tender force page: 518 upon the pillows.—“No one has seen you, no one shall see you. We will be alone, you and I, just as long as you wish. With me, my beloved, you are very safe.”

CHAPTER IV

DEALING WITH MATTERS OF HEARSAY AND MATTERS OF SPORT

ONE raw, foggy evening, early in the following December, the house at Newlands presented an unusually animated scene. On the gravel of the carriage‐sweep, without, grooms walked breathed and sweating horses—the steam from whose bodies and nostrils showed white in the chill dusk—slowly up and down. In the hall, within, a number of gentlemen, more or less mud‐bespattered, regaled themselves with cheerful conversation, with strong waters of unexceptionable quality, and with their host, Mr. Cathcart’s, very excellent cigars. They moved stiffly and stood in attitudes more professional than elegant. The long, clear‐coloured drawing‐room beyond offered a perspective of much amiable comfort. The glazed surfaces of its flowery‐patterned chintzes gave back the brightness of candles and shaded lamps, while drawn curtains shut out the somewhat mournful prospect of sodden garden, bare trees, and grey, enshrouding mist. At the tea‐table, large, mild, reposeful, clothed in wealth of black silk and black lace, was Mrs. Cathcart. Lord Fallowfeild, his handsome, infantile countenance beaming with good‐nature and good‐health above his blue‐and‐white, bird’s‐eye stock and scarlet hunting‐coat, sat by her discoursing with great affability and at great length. Mary Ormiston stood near them, an expression of kindly diversion upon her face. Her figure had grown somewhat matronly in these days, and there were lines in her forehead and about the corners of her rather large mouth; but her crisp hair was still untouched by grey, her bright, gipsylike complexion had retained its freshness, she possessed the same effect of wholesomeness and good sense as of old, while her honest, brown eyes were soft with satisfied mother‐love as they met those of the slender, black‐headed boy at her side.—Godfrey Ormiston was in his second term at Eton, and had come to Newlands to‐day for his exeat.—The little party was completed by Lord Shotover, who stood before the fire warming that part of his person which by the lay mind, unversed in such mysteries, might have been judged to be already more than sufficiently warmed page: 519 by the saddle, his feet planted far apart and a long glass of brandy and soda in his hand. For this last he had offered good‐tempered apology.

“I know I’ve no business to bring it in here, Mrs. Cathcart,” he said, “and make your drawing‐room smell like a pot‐house. But, you see, there was a positive stampede for the hearth‐rug in the hall. A modest man, such as myself, hadn’t a chance. There’s a regular rampart, half the county in fact, before that fire. So I thought I’d just slope in here, don’t you know. It looked awfully warm and inviting. And then I wanted to pay my respects to Mrs. Ormiston too, and talk to this young chap about Eton in peace.”

Whereat Godfrey flushed up to the roots of his hair, being very sensibly exalted. Since what young male creature who knew anything really worth knowing—that was Godfrey’s way of putting it at least—did not know that Lord Shotover had been a mighty sportsman from his youth up, and upon a certain famous occasion had won the Grand National on his own horse?

“Only tea for me, Mrs. Cathcart,” Lord Fallowfeild was saying. “Capital thing tea. Never touch spirits in the daytime and never have. No reflection upon other men’s habits.”—He turned an admiring, fatherly glance upon the tall, well‐made Shotover.—“Other men know their own business best. Always have been a great advocate for believing every man knows his own business best. Still stick to my own habits. Like to be consistent. Very steadying, sobering thing to be consistent, very strengthening to the character. Always have told all my children that. As you begin, so you should go on. Always have tried to begin as I was going on. Haven’t always succeeded, but have made an honest effort. And it is something, you know, to make an honest effort. Try to bear that in mind, you young gentleman,”—this, genially, to Godfrey Ormiston. “Not half a bad rule to start in life with, to go on as you begin, you know.”

“Always provided you begin right, you know, my dear fellow,” Shotover observed, patting the boy’s shoulder with his disengaged hand, and looking at the boy’s mother with a humorous suggestion of self‐depreciation. Now, as formerly, he entertained the very friendliest sentiments towards all good women, yet maintained an expensively extensive acquaintance with women to whom that adjective is not generically applicable.

But Lord Fallowfeild was fairly under weigh. Words flowed from him, careless of comment or of interruption. He was innocently and conspicuously happy. He had enjoyed a fine page: 520 day’s sport in company with his favourite son, whose financial embarrassments were not, it may be added, just now in a critical condition. And then access of material prosperity had recently come to Lord Fallowfeild in the shape of a considerable coal‐producing property in the north of Midlandshire. The income derived from this—amounting to from ten to twelve thousand a year—was payable to him during his lifetime, with remainder, on trust, in equal shares to all his children. There were good horses in the Whitney stables now, and no question of making shift to let the house in Belgrave Square for the season, while the amiable nobleman’s banking‐account showed a far from despicable balance. And consciousness of this last fact formed an agreeable undercurrent to his every thought. Therefore was he even more than usually garrulous according to his own kindly and innocent fashion.

“Very hospitable and friendly of you and Cathcart, to be sure,” he continued, “to throw open your house in this way. Kindness alike to man and beast, man and beast, for which my son and I are naturally very grateful.”

Lord Shotover looked at Mary again, smiling.—“Little mixed that statement, isn’t it,” he said, “unless we take for granted that I’m the beast?”

“I was a good deal perplexed, I own, Mrs. Cathcart, as to how we should get home without giving the horses a rest and having them gruelled. Fourteen miles”—

“A precious long fourteen too,” put in Shotover.

“So it is,” his father agreed, “a long fourteen. And my horse was pumped, regularly pumped. I can’t bear to see a horse as done as that. It distresses me, downright distresses me. Hate to over‐press a horse. Hate to over‐press anything that can’t stand up to you and take its revenge on you. Always feel ashamed of myself if I’ve over‐pressed a horse. But I hadn’t reckoned on the distance.”

“’The pace was too hot to inquire,’” quoted Shotover.

“So it was. Meeting at Grimshott, you see, we very rarely kill so far on this side of the country.”

“Breaking just where he did, I’d have bet on that fox doubling back under Talepenny wood and making across the vale for the earths in the big Brockhurst warren,” Lord Shotover declared.

“Would you, though?” said his father. “Very reasonable forecast, very reasonable, indeed. Quite the likeliest thing for him to do, only he didn’t do it. Don’t believe that fox belonged to this side of the country at all. Don’t understand his tactics. page: 521 If it had been in my poor friend Denier’s time, I might have suspected him of being a bagman.”

Lord Fallowfeild chuckled a little.

“Ran too straight for a bagman,” Shotover remarked. “Well, he gave us a rattling good spin whose‐ever fox he was.”

“Didn’t he, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild genially.—He turned sideways in his chair, threw one shapely leg across the other, and addressed himself more exclusively to his hostess. “Haven’t had such a day for years,” he continued. “And a very pleasant thing to have such a day just when my son’s down with me—very pleasant, indeed. It reminds me of my poor, dear friend Henniker’s time. Good fellow Henniker. I liked Henniker. Never had a better master than Tom Henniker, very tactful, nice‐feeling man, and had such an excellent manner with the farmers—Ah! here’s Cathcart—and Knott. How d’ye do, Knott? Always glad to see you.—Very pleasant meeting such a number of friends. Very pleasant ending to a pleasant day, eh, Shotover? Mrs. Cathcart and I were just speaking of poor Tom Henniker. You used to hunt then, Cathcart. Do you remember a run, just about this time of year?—It may have been a little earlier. I tell you why. It was the second time the hounds met after my poor friend Aldborough’s funeral.”

“Lord Aldborough died on the twenty‐seventh of October,” John Knott said. The doctor limped in walking. He suffered a sharp twinge of sciatica and his face lent itself to astonishing contortions.

“Plain man Knott,” Lord Fallowfeild commented inwardly. “Monstrously able fellow, but uncommonly plain. So’s Cathcart for that matter. Well‐dressed man and very well‐preserved as to figure, but remarkably like an orang‐outang now his eyes are sunk and his eyebrows have grown so tufty.”—Then he glanced anxiously at Lord Shotover to assure himself of the entire absence of simian approximations in the case of his own family.—“Oh! ah! yes,” he remarked aloud, and somewhat vaguely. “Quite right, Knott. Then of course it was earlier. Record run for that season. Seldom had a better. We found a fox in the Grimshott gorse and ran to Water End without a check.”

“And Lemuel Image got into the Tilney brook,” Mary Ormiston said, laughing a little.

“So he did, though!” Lord Fallowfeild rejoined, beaming. And then suddenly his complacency suffered eclipse. For, looking at the speaker, he became disagreeably aware of having, on some occasion, said something highly inconvenient concerning page: 522 this lady to one of her near relations. He rushed into speech again:—“Loud‐voiced, blustering kind of fellow Image. I never have liked Image. Extraordinary marriage that of his with a connection of poor Aldborough’s. Never have understood how her people could allow it.”

“Oh! money’ll buy pretty well everything in this world except brains and a sound liver,” Dr. Knott said, as he lowered himself cautiously on to the seat of the highest chair available.

“Or a good conscience,” Mrs. Cathcart observed, with mild dogmatism.

“I am not altogether so sure about that,” the doctor answered. “I have known the doubling of a few charitable subscriptions work extensive cures under that head. Depend upon it there’s an immense deal more conscience‐money paid every year than ever finds its way into the coffers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

“So there is, though!” said Lord Fallowfeild, with an air of regretful conviction. “Never put it as clearly as that myself, Knott, but must own I am afraid there is.”

Mr. Cathcart, who had joined Lord Shotover upon the hearth‐rug, here intervened. He had a tendency to air local grievances, especially in the presence of his existing noble guest, whom he regarded, not wholly without reason, as somewhat lukewarm and dilatory in questions of reform.

“I own to sharing your dislike of Image,” he remarked. “He behaved in an anything but straightforward manner about the site for the new cottage hospital at Parson’s Holt.”

“Did he, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild.

“Yes.—I supposed it had been brought to your notice.”

Lord Fallowfeild fidgeted a little.—“Rather too downright Cathcart,” he said to himself. “Gets you into a corner and fixes you. Not fair, not at all fair in general society.—Oh! ah!‐cottage hospital, yes,” he added aloud. “Very tiresome, vexatious business about that hospital. I felt it very much at the time.”

“It was a regular job,” Mr. Cathcart continued.

“No, not a job, not a job, my dear fellow. Unpleasant word job. Nothing approaching a job, only an oversight, at most an unfortunate error of judgment,” Lord Fallowfeild protested.—He glanced at his son inviting support, but that gentleman was engaged in kindly conversation with bright‐eyed, little Godfrey Ormiston. He glanced at Mary—remembered suddenly that his unfortunate remark regarding that lady had been connected with her resemblance to her father, and the latter’s striking defect of personal beauty. He glanced at the doctor. But John Knott sat page: 523 all hunched together, watching him with an expression rather sardonic than sympathetic.

“There was culpable negligence somewhere, in any case,” his persecutor, Mr. Cathcart, went on. “It was obvious Image pressed that bit of land at Waters End on the committee simply because no one would buy it for building purposes. His affectation of generosity as to price was a piece of the most transparent hypocrisy.”

“I suppose it was,” Lord Fallowfeild agreed mildly.

“A certain anonymous donor had promised a second five hundred pounds, if the hospital was built on high ground with a subsoil of gravel.”

“It is on gravel,” put in Lord Fallowfeild anxiously. “Saw it myself—distinctly remember seeing gravel when the heather had been pared before digging the foundations—bright yellow gravel.”

“Yes, and with a ten‐foot bed of blue clay underneath. Most dangerous soil going,”—this from Dr. Knott, grimly.

“Is it, though?” Lord Fallowfeild inquired, with an amiable effort to welcome unpalatable, geological information.

“Not a doubt of it. The surface water and generally the sewage—for we are very far yet from having discovered a drainpipe which is impeccable in respect of leakage—soak through the porous cap down to the clay and lie there; to rise again, not at the Last Day by any means, but on the evening of the very first one that’s been hot enough to cause evaporation.”

“Do they, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild. He was greatly impressed.—“Capable fellow Knott, wonderful thing science,” he commented inwardly and with praiseworthy humility.

But Mr. Cathcart returned to the charge.

“The hospital was disastrously the loser, in any case,” he remarked. “As a matter of course, the conditions having been disregarded, Lady Calmady withdrew her promise of a second donation.”

“Oh! ah! Lady Calmady, really!” the simple‐minded nobleman exclaimed. “Very interesting piece of news and very generous intention, no doubt, on the part of Lady Calmady. But give you my word, Cathcart, that until this moment I had no notion that the anonymous donor of whom we heard so much from one or two members of the committee—heard too much, I thought, for I dislike mysteries—foolish, unprofitable things mysteries—always turn out to be nothing at all in the finish—oh! ah! yes—well, that the anonymous donor was Lady Calmady!”

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And thereupon he shifted his position with as much assumption of hauteur as his inherent kindliness permitted. He turned his chair sideways, presenting an excellently flat, if somewhat broad, scarlet‐clad back to his persecutor upon the hearth‐rug.‐“Sorry to set a man down in his own house,” he said to himself, “but Cathcart’s a little wanting in taste sometimes. He presses a subject home too closely. And if I was bamboozled by Image, it really isn’t Cathcart’s place to remind me of it.”

He turned a worried and puckered countenance upon his hostess, upon Dr. Knott, upon the drawing‐room door. In the hall, beyond, one or two guests still lingered. A lady had just joined them, notably straight and tall, and lazily graceful of movement. Lord Fallowfeild knew her, but could not remember her name.

“Oh! ah! Shotover,” he said, over his shoulder, “I don’t want to hurry you, my dear boy, but perhaps it would be as well if you’d just go round to the stables and take a look at the horses.”

Then, as the gentleman addressed moved away, escorted by his host and followed in admiring silence by Godfrey Ormiston, he repeated, almost querulously:—“Foolish things mysteries. Nothing in them, as a rule, when you thrash them out. Mares’ nests generally. And that reminds me, I hear young”—Lord Fallowfeild’s air of worry became accentuated—“young Calmady’s got home again at last.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Cathcart said, “Richard and his mother have been at Brockhurst nearly a month.”

“Have they, though?” exclaimed Lord Fallowfeild. He fidgeted. “It’s a painful subject to refer to, but I should be glad to know the truth of these nasty, uncomfortable rumours about young Calmady. You see there was that question of his and my youngest daughter’s marriage. I never approved. Shotover backed me up in that. He didn’t approve either. And in the end Calmady behaved in a very high‐minded, straightforward manner. Came to me himself and exhibited very good sense and very proper feeling, did Calmady. Admitted his own disabilities with extraordinary frankness, too much frankness, I was inclined to think at the time. It struck me as a trifle callous, don’t you know. But afterwards, when he left home in that singular manner and went abroad, and we all lost sight of him, and heard how reckless he had become and all that, it weighed on me. I give you my word, Mrs. Cathcart, it weighed very much on me. I’ve seldom been more upset by anything in my life than I was by the whole affair of that wedding.”

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“I am afraid it was a great mistake throughout,” Mrs. Cathcart said. She folded her plump, white hands upon her ample lap and sighed gently.

“Wasn’t it, though? So I told everybody from the start you know,” commented Lord Fallowfeild.

“It caused a great deal of unhappiness.”

“So it did, so it did,” the good man said. He looked crestfallen, his kindly and well‐favoured countenance being overspread by an expression of disarmingly innocent penitence.—“It weighed on me. I should be glad to be able to forget it, but now it’s all cropping up again. You see there are these rumours that poor, young Calmady’s gone under very much one way and another, that his health’s broken up altogether, and that he is shut up in two rooms at Brockhurst because—it’s a terribly distressing thing to mention, but that’s the common talk, you know—because he’s a little touched here”—the speaker tapped his smooth and very candid forehead—“a little wrong here! Horrible thing insanity,” he repeated.

At this point Dr. Knott, who had been watching first one person and then another present from under his shaggy eyebrows with an air of somewhat harsh amusement, roused himself.

“Pardon me, all a pack of lies, my lord,” he said, “and stupid ones into the bargain. Sir Richard Calmady’s as sane as you are yourself.”

“Is he, though?” the other exclaimed, brightening sensibly. “Thank you, Knott. It is a very great relief to me to hear that.”

“Only a man with a remarkably sound constitution could have pulled round. I quite own he’s been very hard hit, and no wonder. Typhoid and complications”—

“Ah! complications?” inquired Lord Fallowfeild, who rarely let slip an opportunity of acquiring information of a pathological description.

“Yes, complications. Of the sort that are most difficult to deal with, emotional and moral—beginning with his engagement to Lady Constance”—

“Oh, dear me!”—this, piteously, from that lady’s father.

“And ending—his Satanic Majesty knows where! I don’t. It’s no concern of mine, nor of anyone else’s in my opinion. He has paid his footing—every man has to pay it sooner or later—to life and experience, and a personal acquaintance with the thou shall not which, for cause unknown, goes for so almighty much in this very queer business of human existence. He has had a rough time, never doubt that, with his high‐strung, arrogant, sensitive nature and the dirty trick played on him by page: 526 that heartless jade, Dame Fortune, before his birth. For the time, this illness had knocked the wind out of him. If he sulks for a bit, small blame to him. But he’ll come round. He is coming round day by day.”

As he finished speaking the doctor got on to his feet somewhat awkwardly. His subject had affected him more deeply than he quite cared either to own to himself or to have others see.

“That plaguy sciatic nerve again,” he growled.

Lord Fallowfeild had risen also.—“Capable man Knott, but rather rough at times, rather too didactic,” he said to himself, as he turned to greet Miss St. Quentin. She had strolled in from the hall. Her charming face was full of merriment. There was something altogether gallant in the carriage of her small head.

“I was so awfully glad to see Lord Shotover!” she said, as she gave her hand to that gentleman’s father. “It’s an age since he and I have met.”

“Very pleasant hearing, my dear young lady, for Shotover, if he was here to hear it! Lucky fellow Shotover.”—The kindly nobleman beamed upon her. He was nothing if not chivalrous. Mentally, all the same, he was much perplexed. “Of course, I remember who she is. But I understood it was Ludovic,” he said to himself. “Made sure it was Ludovic. Uncommonly attractive, high‐bred woman. Very striking looking pair, she and Shotover. Can’t fancy Shotover settled, though. Say she’s a lot of money. Wonder whether it is Shotover?—Uncommonly fine run, best run we’ve had for years,” he added aloud. “Pity you weren’t out, Miss St. Quentin.—Well, good‐bye, Mrs. Cathcart. I must be going. I am extremely grateful for all your kindness and hospitality. It is seldom I have the chance of meeting so many friends this side of the country.—Good‐day to you, Knott—good‐bye, Miss St. Quentin.—Wonder if I’d better ask her to Whitney,” he thought, “on the chance of its being Shotover? Better sound him first, though. Never let a man in for a woman unless you’ve very good reason to suppose he wants her.”

Honoria, meanwhile, thrusting her hands into the pockets of her long, fur‐lined, tan, cloth driving‐coat sat down on the arm of Mary Ormiston’s flowery‐patterned, chintz‐covered chair.

“I left you all in a state of holy peace and quiet,” she said, smiling, “and a fine show you’ve got on hand by the time I come back.”

“They ran across the ten‐acre field and killed in the shrubbery,” Mrs. Ormiston put in.

John Knott limped forward. He stood with his hands behind him looking down at the two ladies. Some months had elapsed page: 527 since he and Miss St. Quentin had met. He was very fond of the young lady. It interested him to meet her again. Honoria glanced up at him smiling.

“Have you been out too?” she asked.

“Not a bit of it. I’m too busy mending other people’s brittle anatomy to have time to risk breaking any part of my own. I’m ugly enough already. No need to make me uglier. I came here for the express purpose of calling on you.”

“You saw Katherine?” Mary asked.

“Oh yes! I saw Cousin Katherine.”

“How is she?”

“An embodiment of faith, hope, and charity, as usual; but with just that pinch of malice thrown in which gives the compound a flavour. In short, she is enchanting. And then she looks so admirably well.”

“That six months at sea was a great restorative,” Mary remarked.

“Yet it really is rather wonderful when you consider the state she was in before we went to you at Ormiston, and how frightened we were at her undertaking the journey to Naples.”

“Her affections are satisfied,” Dr. Knott said, and his loose lips worked into a smile, half sneering, half tender. “I am an old man, and I have had a good lot to do with women—at second hand. Feed their hearts, and the rest of the mechanism runs easy enough. Anything short of organic disease can be cured by that sort of nourishment. Even organic disease can be arrested by it. And what’s more, I have known disease develop in an apparently perfectly healthy subject simply because the heart was starved. Oh! I tell you, you’re marvellous beings.”

“And yet you know I feel so abominably sold,” Honoria declared, “when I consider the way in which we all—Roger, Mr. Quayle, and I—acted bodyguard, attended Cousin Katherine to Naples, wrapped her in cotton wool, dear thing, sternly determined to protect her at all costs and all hazards from—well, I am ashamed to say I had no name bad enough at that time for Richard Calmady! And then this very person, whom we regarded as her probable destruction, proves to be her absolute salvation, while she proceeds to turn the tables upon us in the smartest fashion imaginable. She showed us the door and entreated us, in the most beguiling manner, to return whence we came and leave her wholly at the mercy of the enemy. I was furious”—Miss St. Quentin laughed—“downright furious! And Roger’s temper, for all his high‐mightiness, was a thing to swear at, rather than swear by, the morning he and I left Naples. With page: 528 the greatest difficulty we persuaded her even to keep Clara. She had a rage, dear thing, for getting rid of the lot of us. Oh! we had a royal skirmish and no mistake.”

“So Roger told me.”

Honoria stretched herself a little, lolled against the back of the chair, steadying herself by laying one hand affectionately on the other woman’s shoulder. And John Knott, observing her, noted not only her nonchalant and almost boyish grace, but a swift change in her humour from light‐hearted laughter to a certain, and as he fancied, half‐unwilling enthusiasm.

“But to‐day,” she went on, “when Cousin Katherine told me about it, I confess the whole situation laid hold of me. I could not help seeing it must have been finely romantic to go off like that—those two alone—caring as she cares, and after the long separation. It sounds like a thing in some Elizabethan ballad. There’s a rhythm in it all which stirs one’s blood. She says the yacht’s crew were delightful to her, and treated her as a queen. One can fancy that—the stately, lovely queen‐mother, and that strange only son!—They called in at the North African ports, and at Gib and Madeira, and the Cape de Verds, and then ran straight for Rio. Then they steamed up the coast to Pernambuco, and on to the West Indies. Richard never went ashore, Cousin Katherine only once or twice. But they squattered about in the everlasting summer of tropic harbours, fringed with palms and low, dim, red‐roofed, tropic houses—just sampled it all, the colour, and light, and beauty, and far‐awayness of it—and then, when the fancy took them, got up steam and slipped out again to sea. And the name of the yacht is the Reprieve. That’s in the picture, isn’t it?”

Honoria paused. She leaned forward, her chin in her hands, her elbows on her knees. She looked up at John Knott, and there was a singular expression in her clear and serious eyes.

“I used to pity Cousin Katherine,” she said. “I used to break my heart over her. And now—now, upon my word, I believe I envy her.—And see here, Dr. Knott, she has asked me to go on to Brockhurst from here. It seems that though Richard refuses to see anyone, except you of course and Julius March, he fusses at his mother being so much alone. What ought I to do? I feel rather uncertain. I have fought him, I own I have. We have never been friends, he and I. He doesn’t like me. He’s no reason to like me—anything but! What do you say? Shall I refuse or shall I go?”

And the doctor reflected a little, drawing his great, square hand down over his mouth and heavy, bristly chin.

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“Yes, go,” he answered. “Go and chance it. Your being at Brockhurst may work out in more of good than we now know.”

CHAPTER V

TELLING HOW DICKIE CAME TO UNTIE A CERTAIN TAG OF RUSTY, BLACK RIBBON

YET, as those grey, midwinter weeks went on to Christmas, and the coming of the New Year, it became undeniable there was that in the aspect of affairs at Brockhurst which might very well provoke curious comment. For the rigour of Richard Calmady’s self‐imposed seclusion, to which Miss St. Quentin had made allusion in her conversation with Dr. Knott, was not relaxed. Rather, indeed, did it threaten to pass from the accident of a first return, after long absence and illness, into a matter of fixed and accepted habit. For those years of lonely wandering and spasmodic rage of living, finding their climax in deepening disappointment, disillusion, and the shock of rudely inflicted insult and disgrace, had produced in Richard a profound sense of alienation from society and from the amenities of ordinary intercourse. Since he was apparently doomed to survive, he would go home; but go home very much as some trapped or wounded beast crawls back to hide in its lair. He was master in his own house, at least, and safe from intrusion there. The place offered the silent sympathy of things familiar, and therefore, in a sense, uncritical. It is restful to look on that upon which one has already looked a thousand times. And so, after his reconciliation with his mother, followed, in natural sequence, his reconciliation with Brockhurst. Here he would see only those who loved him well enough—in their several stations and degrees—to respect his humour, to ask no questions, to leave him to himself. Richard was gentle in manner at this period, courteous, humorous even. But a great discouragement was upon him. It seemed as though some string had snapped, leaving half his nature broken, unresponsive, and dumb. He had no ambitions, no desire of activities. Sport and business were as little to his mind as society.

More than this.—At first the excuse of fatigue had served him, but very soon it came to be a tacitly admitted fact that Richard did not leave the house. Surely it was large enough, he said, to afford space for all the exercise he needed? Refusing to occupy page: 530 his old suite of rooms on the ground‐floor, he had sent orders, before his arrival, that the smaller library, adjoining the Long Gallery, should be converted into a bed‐chamber for him. It had been Richard’s practice, when on board ship, to steady his uncertain footsteps, on the slippery or slanting plane of the deck, by the use of crutches. And this practice he in great measure retained. It increased his poor powers of locomotion. It rendered him more independent. Sometimes, when secure that Lady Calmady would not receive visitors, he would make his way by the large library, the state drawing‐room, and stair‐head, to the Chapel‐Room and sit with her there. But more often his days were spent exclusively in the Long Gallery. He had brought home many curious and beautiful objects from his wanderings. He would add these to the existing collection. He would examine the books too, procure such volumes as were needed to complete any imperfect series; and, in the departments of science, literature, and travel, bring the library up to date. He would devote his leisure to the study of various subjects—specially natural science—regarding which he was conscious of a knowledge deficient, or merely empirical.

“I really am perfectly contented, mother,” he said to Lady Calmady more than once. “Look at the length and breadth of the gallery! It is as a city of magnificent distances, after the deck of the dear, old yacht and my twelve‐foot cabin. And I’m not a man calculated to occupy so very much space after all. Let me potter about here with my books and my bibelots. Don’t worry about me, I shall keep quite well, I promise you. Let me hybernate peacefully until the spring, anyhow. I have plenty of occupation. Julius is going to amend the library catalogue with me, and there are those chests of deeds, and order‐books, and diaries, which really ought to be looked over. As it appears pretty certain I shall be the last of the family, it would be only civil, I think, to bestow a little of my ample leisure upon my forefathers, and set down some more or less comprehensive account of them and their doings. They appear to have been given to rather dramatic adventures.—Don’t you worry, you dear sweet! As I say, let me hybernate until the birds of passage come and the young leaves are green in the spring. Then, when the days grow long and bright, the sea will begin to call again, and, when it calls you and I will pack and go.”

And Katherine yielded, being convinced that Richard could treat his own case best. If healing, complete and radical, was to be effected, it must come from within and not from without. page: 531 Her wisdom was to wait in faith. There was much that had never been told, and never would be told. Much which had not been explained, and never would be explained. For, notwithstanding the very gracious relation existing between herself and Richard, Katherine realised that there were blank spaces not only in her knowledge of his past action, but in her knowledge of the sentiments which now animated him. As from a far country his mind, she perceived, often travelled to meet hers. “There was a door to which she found no key;” but Katherine, happily, could respect the individuality even of her best beloved. Unlike the majority of her sex she was incapable of intrusion, and did not make affection an excuse for familiarity. Love, in her opinion, enjoins obligations of service, rather than confers rights of examination and direction. She had learned the condition in which his servants had found Richard, in the opera box of the great theatre at Naples, lying upon the floor, unconscious, his face disfigured, cut, and bleeding. But what had produced this condition, whether accident or act of violence, she had not learned. She had also learned that her niece, Helen de Vallorbes, had stayed at the villa just before the commencement of Richard’s illness—he merely passing his days there, and spending his nights on board the yacht in the harbour, where, no doubt, that same illness had been contracted. But she resisted the inclination to attempt further discovery. She even resisted the inclination to speculate regarding all this. What Richard might elect to tell her, that, and that only, would she know, lest, seeking further, bitter and vindictive thoughts should arise in her and mar the calm, pathetic sweetness of the present and her deep, abiding joy in the recovery of her so‐long‐lost delight. She refused to go behind the fact—the glad fact that Richard once more was with her, that her eyes beheld him, her ears heard his voice, her hands met his. Every little act of thoughtful care, every pretty word of half‐playful affection, confirmed her thankfulness and made the present blest. Even this somewhat morbid tendency of his to shut himself away from the observation of all acquaintance, conferred on her such sweetly exclusive rights of intercourse that she could not greatly quarrel with his secluded way of life. As to the business of the estate and household, this had become so much a matter of course to her that it caused her but small labour. If she could deal with it when Richard was estranged and far away, very surely she could deal with it now, when she had but to open the door of that vast, silvery‐tinted, pensively fragrant, many‐windowed room, and entering, among its many strange and costly treasures, find him—a treasure as strange, and page: 532 if counted by her past suffering, as costly, as ever ravished and tortured a woman’s heart.

And so it came about that, to such few friends as she received, Katherine could show a serene countenance. Shortly before Christmas, Miss St. Quentin came to Brockhurst; and coming stayed, adapting herself with ready tact to the altered conditions of life there. Katherine found not only pleasure, but support, in the younger woman’s presence, in her devoted yet unexacting affection, in her practical ability, and in the sight of so graceful a creature going to and fro. She installed her guest in the Gun‐Room suite. And, by insensible degrees, permitted Honoria to return to many of her former avocations in connection with the estate; so that the young lady took over much of the outdoor business, riding forth almost daily, by herself or in company with Julius March, to superintend matters of building or repairing, of road‐mending, hedging, copsing, or forestry; and not infrequently cheering Chifney—a somewhat sour‐minded man just now and prickly‐tempered, since Richard asked no word of him or of his horses—by visits to the racing‐stables.

“I had better step down and have a crack with the poor old dear, Cousin Katherine,” she would say, “or those unlucky little wretches of boys will catch it double tides, which really is rather superfluous.”

And all the while, amid her very varied interests and occupations, remembrance of that hidden, twilight life, going forward upstairs in the well‐known rooms which she now never entered, came to Honoria as some perpetually recurrent and mournful harmony, in an otherwise not ungladsome piece of music, might have come. It exercised a certain dominion over her mind; so that Richard Calmady, though never actually seen by her, was never wholly absent from her thought. All the orderly routine of the great house, all the day’s work and the sentiment of it, was subtly influenced by awareness of the actuality of his invisible presence. And this affected her strongly, causing her hours of repulsion and annoyance, and again hours of abounding, if reluctant pity, when the unnatural situation of this man—young as herself, endowed with a fine intelligence, an aptitude for affairs, the craving for amusement common to his age and class—and the pathos inherent in that situation, haunted her imagination. His self‐inflicted imprisonment appeared a reflection upon, in a sense a reproach to, her own freedom of soul and pleasant liberty of movement. And this troubled her. It touched her pride somehow. It produced page: 533 in her a false conscience, as though she were guilty of an unkindness, a lack of considerateness and perfect delicacy.

“Whether he behaves well or ill, whether he is good or bad, Richard Calmady invariably takes up altogether too much room,” she would tell herself half angrily—to find herself within half an hour, under plea of usefulness to his mother, warmly interested in some practical matter from which Richard Calmady would derive, at least indirectly, distinct advantage and benefit!

This, then, was the state of affairs one Saturday afternoon late in February. With poor Dickie himself the day had been marked by superabundant discouragement. He was well in body. The restfulness of one quiet, uneventful week following another had steadied his nerves, repaired the waste of fever, and restored his physical strength. But along with this return of health had come a growing necessity to lay hold of some idea, to discover some basis of thought, some incentive to action, which should make life less purposeless and unprofitable. Richard, in short, was beginning to generate more energy than he could place. The old order had passed away, and no new order had, as yet, effectively disclosed itself. He had not formulated all this, or even consciously recognised the modification of his own attitude. Nevertheless he felt the gnawing ache of inward emptiness. It effectually broke up the torpor which had held him. It made him very restless. It re‐awoke in him an inclination to speculation and experiment.

Snow had fallen during the earlier hours of the day, and, the surface of the ground being frost‐bound, it, though by no means deep, remained unmelted. The whiteness of it, given back by the ceiling and pale panelling of walls of the Long Gallery, notwithstanding the generous fires burning in the two ornate, high‐ranging chimney‐places, produced, as the day waned, an effect of rather stark cheerlessness in the great room. This was at once in unison with Richard’s somewhat bleak humour, and calculated to increase the famine of it.

All day long he had tried to stifle the cry of that same famine, that same hunger of unplaced energy, by industrious work. He had examined, noted, here and there transcribed, passages from deeds, letters, order‐books, and diaries offering first‐hand information regarding former generations of Calmadys. It happened that studies he had recently made in contemporary science, specially in obtaining theories of biology, had brought home to him what tremendous factors in the development and fate of the individual are both evolution and heredity. At first idly, and as a mere pastime, then with increasing eagerness—in the vague page: 534 hope his researches might throw light on matters of moment to himself and of personal application—he had tried to trace out tastes and strains of tendency common to his ancestors. But under this head he had failed to make any very notable discoveries. For these courtiers, soldiers, and sportsmen were united merely by the obvious characteristics of a high‐spirited, free‐living race. They were raised above the average of the country gentry, perhaps, by a greater appreciation than is altogether common of literature and art. But, as Richard soon perceived, it was less any persistent peculiarity of mental and physical constitution, than a similarity of outward event which united them. The perpetually repeated chronicle of violence and accident which he read, in connection with his people, intrigued his reason, and called for explanation. Is it possible, he began to ask himself, that a certain heredity in incident, in external happening, may not cling to a race? That these may not by some strange process be transmissible, as are traits of character, temperament, of stature, colouring, feature, or face? And if this—as matter of speculation merely—is the case, must there not exist some antecedent cause to which could be referred such persistent effect? Might not an hereditary fate in external events take its rise in some supreme moral or spiritual catastrophe, some violation of law? The Greek dramatists held it was so. The writers of the Old Testament held it was so, too.

Sitting at the low writing‐table, near the blazing fire, that stark whiteness reflected from off the snow‐covered land all around him, Richard debated this point with himself. He admitted the theory was not scientific, according to the reasoning of modern physical science. It approached an outlook theological rather than rationalistic; yet he could not deny the conception, admission. The vision of a doomed family arose before him—starting in each successive generation with brilliant prospects and high hope, only to find speedy extinction in some more or less brutal form of death; a race dwindling, moreover, in numbers as the years passed, until it found representation in a single individual, and that individual maimed and incomplete! Heredity of accident, heredity of disaster, finding final expression in himself—this confronted Richard. He had reckoned himself, heretofore, a solitary example of ill‐fortune. But, mastering the contents of these records, he found himself far from solitary. He merely participated, though under a novel form, in the unlucky fate of all the men of his race. And then arose the question—to him, under existing circumstances, of vital importance—what stood behind all that—blind chance, cynical indifference, wanton page: 535 and arbitrary cruelty, or some august, far‐reaching necessity of, as yet, unsatisfied justice?

Richard pushed the crackling, stiffly‐folded parchments, the letters frayed and yellow with age, the broken‐backed, discoloured diaries and order‐books, away from him, and sat, his elbows on the table, his forehead in his hands, thinking. And the travail of his spirit was great, as it needs must be, at times, with every human being who dares live at first, not merely at second hand—who dares attempt a real, and not merely a nominal assent—who dares deal with earthly existence, the amazing problems and complexities of it, immediately, refusing to accept—with indolent timidity—tradition, custom, hearsay, convenience, as his guides.—Oh! for some sure answering, some unimpeachable assurance, some revelation not relative and symbolic, but absolute; some declaration above all suspicion of cunningly‐devised opportunism, concerning the dealings of the unknown force man calls God, with the animal man calls man!—And then Richard turned upon himself contemptuously. For it was childish to cry out thus. The heavens were dumb above him as the snow‐bound earth was dumb beneath. There was no sign. Never had been. Never would be, save in the fond imaginations of religious enthusiasts, crazed by superstition, by austerities and hysteria, duped by ignorance, by hypocrites and quacks.

With long‐armed adroitness he reached down and picked up those light‐made, stunted crutches, slipped from his chair and adjusted them. For a long while he had used them as a matter of course without criticism or thought. But now they produced in him a swift disgust. His hands, grasping the lowest crossbar of them, were in such disproportionate proximity to the floor! For the moment he was disposed to fling them aside. Then again he turned upon himself with scathing contempt. For this too was childish. What did the use of them matter, since, used or not, the fact of his crippled condition remained? And so, with a renewal of bitterness and active rebellion, lately unknown to him, he moved away down the great room—past bronze athlete and marble goddess, past oriental jars, tall as himself, uplifted on the squat, carven, ebony stands, past strangely‐painted, half‐fearful, lacquer cabinets, past porcelain bowls filled with faint sweetness of dried rose leaves, bay, lavender, and spice, past trophies of savage warfare and, hardly less savage, civilised sport, towards the wide mullion‐window of the eastern bay. But just before reaching it, he came opposite to a picture by Velasquez, set on an easel across the corner of the room. It represented a hideous and mis‐shapen dwarf, holding a couple page: 536 of graceful greyhounds in a leash—an unhappy creature who had made sport for the household of some Castilian grandee, and whose gorgeous garments, of scarlet and gold, were ingeniously designed so as to accentuate the physical degradation of its contorted person. Richard had come, of late, to take a sombre pleasure in the contemplation of this picture. The desolate eyes, looking out of the marred and brutal face, met his own with a certain claim of kinship. There existed a tragic free‐masonry between himself and this outcasted being, begotten of a common knowledge, and common experience. As a boy Richard hated this picture, studiously avoided the sight of it. It had suggested comparisons which wounded his self‐respect too shrewdly and endangered his self‐security. He hated it no longer, finding grim solace, indeed, in its sad society.

And it was thus, in silent parley with this rather dreadful companion, as the blear February twilight descended upon the bare, black trees and snow‐clad land without, and upon the very miscellaneous furnishings of the many‐windowed gallery within, that Julius March now discovered Richard Calmady. He had returned, across the park, from one of the ancient brick‐and‐timber cottages just without the last park gate, at the end of Sandyfield Church‐lane. A labourer’s wife was dying, painfully enough, of cancer; and he had administered the Blessed Sacrament to her, there, in her humble bed‐chamber. The august promises and adorable consolations of that mysterious rite remained very sensibly present to him on his homeward way. His spirit was uplifted by the confirmation of the divine compassion therein perpetually renewed, perpetually made evident. And, it followed, that to come now upon Richard Calmady alone, here, in the stark, unnatural pallor of the winter dusk, holding silent communion with that long‐ago victim of merciless practices and depraved tastes, not only caused him a painful shock, but also moved him with fervid desire to offer comfort and render help. Yet, what to say, how to approach Richard without risk of seeming officiousness and consequent offence, he could not tell. The young man’s experiences and his own were so conspicuously far apart. For a moment he stood uncertain and silent, then he said:—

“That picture always fills me with self‐reproach.”

Richard looked round with a certain lofty courtesy by no means encouraging. And, as he did so, Julius March was conscious of receiving yet another, and not less painful, impression. For Richard’s face was very still, not with the stillness of repose, but with that of fierce emotion held resolutely in check, page: 537 while in his eyes was a desolation rivalling that of the eyes portrayed by the great Spanish artist upon the canvas close at hand.

“When I first came to Brockhurst, that picture used to hang in the study,” he continued, by way of explanation.

“Ah! I see, and you turned it out!” Richard observed, not without an inflection of scorn.

“Yes. In those days I am afraid I did not discriminate very justly between refinement of taste and self‐indulgent fastidiousness. While pluming myself upon an exalted standard of sensibility and sentiment, I rather basely spared myself acquaintance with that, both in nature and in art, which might cause me distress or disturbance of thought. I was a mental valetudinarian, in. short. I am ashamed of my defect of moral courage and charity in relation to that picture.”

Richard shifted his position slightly, looked fixedly at the canvas and then down at his own hands in such disproportionate proximity to the floor.

“Oh! you were not to blame,” he said. “It is obviously a thing to laugh at, or run from, unless you happen to have received a peculiar mental and physical training. Anyhow, the poor devil has found his way home now and come into port safely enough, at last!”

He glanced back at the picture, over his shoulder, as he moved across the room.

“Perhaps he’s even found a trifle of genuine sympathy—so don’t vex your righteous soul over your repudiation of him, my dear Julius. The lapses of the virtuous may make, indirectly, for good. And your instinct, after all, was both the healthy and the artistic one. Velasquez ought to have been incapable of putting his talent to such vile uses; and the first comer, with a spark of true philanthropy in him, ought to have knocked that poor little monstrosity on the head.”

Richard came to the writing‐table, glanced at the papers which encumbered it, made for an arm‐chair drawn up beside the fire.

“Sit down, Julius,” he said. “There is something quite else about which I want to speak to you.—I have been working through all these documents, and they give rise to speculations neither strictly scientific nor strictly orthodox, yet interesting all the same. You are a dealer in ethical problems. I wonder if you can offer any solution of this one, of which the basis conceivably is ethical. As to these various owners of Brockhurst—Sir Denzil, the builder of the house, is a delightful person, and appears page: 538 to have prospered mightily in his undertakings, as so liberal‐minded and ingenious a gentleman had every right to prosper. But after him—from the time, at least, of his grandson, Thomas—everything—seems to have gone to rather howling grief here. We have nothing but battle, murder, and sudden death. These become positively monotonous in the pertinacity of their repetition. Of course one may argue that adventurous persons expose themselves to an uncommon number of dangers, and consequently pay an uncommon number of forfeits. I daresay that is the reasonable explanation. Only the persistence of the thing gets hold of one rather. The manner of their dying is very varied, yet there are two constant quantities in each successive narrative, namely violence and comparative youth.”

Richard’s speech had become rapid and imperative. Now he paused.

“Think of my father’s death, for instance,” he said.

His narrow, black figure crouched together, Julius March knelt on one knee before the fire. He held his thin hands outspread, so as to keep the glow of the burning logs from his face. He was deeply moved, debating a certain matter with himself.

“To all questions supremely worth having answered, there is no answer—I take that for granted,” the young man continued. “And yet one is so made that it is impossible not to go on asking. I can’t help wanting to get at the root of this queer recurrence of accident, and all the rest of it, which clings to my people. I can’t help wanting to make out whether there was any psychological moment which determined the future, and started them definitely on the down‐grade. What happened—that’s what I want to arrive at—what happened at that moment? Had it any reasonable and legitimate connection with all which has followed?”

As he held them out‐spread, between his face and the glowing fire, Julius March’s hands trembled. He found himself confronted by a situation which he had long foreseen, long and earnestly prayed to avoid. The responsibility was so great of either giving or withholding the answer, as he knew it, to that question of Dickie’s. A way of rendering possible help opened before him. But it was a way beset with difficulties, a way at once fantastic and coarsely realistic, a way along which the sublime and the ridiculous jostled each other with somewhat undignified closeness of association, a way demanding childlike faith, not to say childish credulity, coupled with a great fearlessness and self‐abnegation before ever a man’s steps could be profitably set in it. If presented to Richard, would he not turn angrily from it as page: 539 an insult offered to his intellect and his breeding alike? Indeed, the hope of effecting good showed very thin. The danger of provoking evil bulked very big. What was his duty? He suffered an agony of indecision. And again with a slight inflection of mockery in his tone, Richard spoke.

“All blind chance, Julius? I declare I get a little weary of this Deity of yours. He neglects His business so flagrantly. He really is rather scandalously much of an absentee. And He would be so welcome if He would condescend to deal a trifle more openly with one, and satisfy one’s intelligence and moral sense. If, for instance, He would afford me some information regarding this same psychological moment which I need so badly just now as a peg to hang a theory of causality upon. I am ambitious—as much in the interests of His reputation as in those of my own curiosity—to get at the logic of the affair, to get at the why and wherefore of it, and lay my finger on the spot where differentiation sets in.”

Julius March stood upright. Richard’s scorn hurt him. It also terminated his indecision. For a little space he looked out into the stark whiteness of the snowy dusk, and then down at the young man, leaning back in the low chair, there close before him. To Julius’ short‐sighted eyes, in the uncertain light, Dickie’s face bore compelling resemblance to Lady Calmady’s. This touched him with the memory of much, and he went back on the thought of the divine compassion, perpetually renewed, perpetually made evident in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Man may rail, yet God is strong and faithful to bless. Perhaps that way was neither too fantastic, nor too humble, after all, for Richard to walk in.

“Has no knowledge of the received legend about this subject ever reached you?”

“No—never—not a word.”

“I became acquainted with it accidentally, long ago, before your birth. It is inadmissible, according to modern canons of thought, as such legends usually are. And events, subsequent to my acquaintance with it, conferred on it so singular and painful a significance that I kept my knowledge to myself. Perhaps when you grew up I ought to have put you in possession of the facts. They touch you very nearly.”

Richard raised his eyebrows.

“Indeed,” he said coldly.

“But a fitting opportunity—at least, so I judged, being, I own, backward and reluctant in the matter—never presented itself. In this, as in much else, I fear I have betrayed my trust page: 540 and proved an unprofitable servant—if so may God forgive me.”

“It would have gone hard with Brockhurst without you, Julius,” Richard said, a sudden softening in his tone.

“I will bring you the documents the last thing to‐night, when—your mother has left you. They are best read, perhaps, in silence and alone.”

CHAPTER VI

A LITANY OF THE SACRED HEART

RICHARD drew himself up on to the wide, cushioned bench below the oriel‐window. The February day was windless and very bright. And although in sheltered, low‐lying places, where the frost held, the snow still lingered, in the open it had already disappeared, and that without unsightliness of slush—shrinking and vanishing, cleanly burned up and absorbed by the genial heat. A sabbath‐day restfulness held the whole land. There was no movement of labour, either of man or beast. And a kindred restfulness pervaded the house. The rooms were vacant. None passed to and fro. For it so happened that good Mr. Caryll’s successor, the now rector of Sandyfield, had been called away to deliver certain charity sermons at Westchurch, and that to‐day Julius March officiated in his stead. Therefore Lady Calmady and Miss St. Quentin, and the major part of the Brockhurst household, had repaired by carriage or on foot to the little, squat, red‐brick, Georgian church whose two bells rang out so friendly and fussy an admonition to the faithful to gather within its walls.

Richard had the house to himself. And this accentuation of solitude, combined with wider space wherein he could range without fear of observation, was far from unwelcome to him. Last night he had untied the tag of rusty, black ribbon binding together the packet of tattered, dog’s‐eared, little chap‐books which, for so long, had reposed in the locked drawer of Julius March’s study table beneath the guardianship of the bronze pietà. With very conflicting feelings he had mastered the contents of those same untidy, little volumes, and learned the sordid, and probably fabulous, tale set forth in them in meanest vehicle of jingling verse. Vulgarly told to catch the vulgar ear, pandering to the popular superstitions of a somewhat ignoble age, it proved repugnant enough—as Julius had anticipated— page: 541 both to Richard’s reason and to his taste. The critical faculty rejected it as an explanation absurdly inadequate. The cause was wholly disproportionate to the effect, as though the mouse should bring forth a mountain instead of the mountain a mouse. At least that was how the matter struck Richard at first. For the story was, after all, as he told himself, but a commonplace of life in every civilised community. Many a man sins thus, and many a woman suffers, and many bastards are yearly born into the world without—perhaps unfortunately—subsequent manifestation of the divine wrath and signal chastisement of the sinner, or of his legitimate heirs, male or female. Affiliation orders are as well known to magistrates’ clerks, as are death‐certificates of children bearing the maiden‐name of their mother to those of the registrar.

All that Richard could dispose of, if with a decent deploring of the frequency of it, yet composedly enough. But there remained that other part of it. And this he could not dispose of so cursorily. His own unhappy deformity, it is true, was amply accounted for on lines quite other than the fulfilment of prophecy, offering, as it did, example of a class of pre‐natal accident which, if rare, is still admittedly recurrent in the annals of obstetrics and embryology. Nevertheless, the foretelling of that strange Child of Promise, whose outward aspect and the circumstances of whose birth—as set forth in the sorry rhyme of the chap‐book—bore such startling resemblance to his own, impressed him deeply. It astonished, it, in a sense, appalled him. For it came so very near. It looked him so insistently in the face. It laid strong hands on him from out the long past, claiming him, associating itself imperatively with him, asserting, whether he would or no, the actuality and inalienability of its relation to himself. Science might pour contempt on that relation, exposing the absurdity of it both from the moral and physical point of view. But sentiment held other language. And so did that nobler morality which takes its rise in considerations spiritual rather than social and economic; and finds the origins and ultimates alike, not in things seen and temporal, but in things unseen and eternal—things which, though they tarry long for accomplishment, can neither change, nor be denied, nor, short of accomplishment, can pass away.

And it was this aspect of the whole, strange matter—the thought, namely, of that same Child of Promise who, predestined to bear the last and heaviest stroke of retributive justice, should, bearing it rightly, bring salvation to his race—which obtained with Richard on the fair Sunday morning in question. It refused to quit him. It affected him through all his being. It appealed page: 542 to the poetry, the idealism, of his nature—a poetry and idealism not dead, as he had bitterly reckoned them, though sorely wounded by ill‐living and by the disastrous issues of his passion for Helen de Vallorbes. He seemed to apprehend the approach of some fruitful, far‐ranging, profoundly‐reconciling and beneficent event. As in the theatre at Naples when Morabita sang, and, to his fever‐stricken, brain‐sick fancy the dull‐coloured multitude in the parterre murmured, buzzing remonstrant as angry swarming bees, so now a certain exaltation of feeling, exaltation of hope, came upon him.—Yet having grown, through determined rebellion and unlovely experience, not a little distrustful of all promise of good, he turned on himself bitterly enough, asking if he would never learn to profit by hardly‐bought, practical knowledge? If he would never contrive to cast the simpleton wholly out of him? He had been fooled many times, fooled there at Naples to the point of unpardonable insult and degradation. What so probable as that he would be fooled again, now?

And so, in effort to shake off both the dominion of unfounded hope, and the gnawing ache of inward emptiness which made that hope at once so cruel and so dear, as the sound of wheels dying away along the lime avenue assured him that the goodly company of church‐goers had, verily and indeed, departed, he set forth on a pilgrimage through the great, silent house. Passing through the two libraries, the ante‐chamber and state drawing‐room—with its gilded furniture, fine pictures and tapestries‐he reached the open corridor at the stair‐head. Here the polished, oak floor, the massive balusters, and tall, carven newel‐posts—each topped by a guardian griffin, long of tail, ferocious of beak, and sharp of claw—showed with a certain sober mirthfulness in the pleasant light. For, through all the great windows of the eastern front, the sun slanted in obliquely. While in the Chapel‐Room beyond, situated in the angle of the house and thus enjoying a southern as well as eastern aspect, Richard found a veritable carnival of misty brightness; so that he moved across to the oriel‐window—whose grey stone mullions and carved transoms showed delicately mellow of tone between the glittering, leaded panes—in a glory of welcoming warmth and sunlight. Frost and snow might linger in the hollows, but here in the open, on the upland, spring surely had already come.

With the help of a brass ring, riveted by a stanchion into the space of panelling below the stone window‐sill—placed there long ago, when he was a little lad, to serve him in such case as the present—Richard drew himself up on to the cushioned bench. page: 543 He unfastened one of the narrow, curved, iron‐framed casements, and, leaning his elbows on the sill, looked out. The air was mild. The smell of the earth was sweet, with a cleanly, wholesome sweetness. The sunshine covered him. And somehow, whether he would or no, hope reasserted its dominion; and that exaltation of feeling entered into possession of him once again, as he rested, gazing away over the familiar home scene, over this land which, as far as sight carried, had belonged to his people these many generations, and was now his own.

Directly below, at the foot of the descending steps of the main entrance, lay the square, red‐walled space of gravel and of turf. He looked at it curiously, for there, with the maiming and death of Thomas Calmady’s bastard, if legend said truly, all this tragic history of disaster had begun. There, too, the Clown, racehorse of merry name and mournful memory, had paid the penalty of wholly involuntary transgression just thirty years ago. That last was a rather horrible incident, of which Richard never cared to think. Chifney had told him about it once, in connection with the parentage of Verdigris—had told him just by chance. To think of it, even now, made a lump rise in his throat. Across the turf—offering quaint contrast to those somewhat bloody memories—the peacocks, in all their bravery of royal blue‐purple, living green and gold, led forth their sober‐clad mates. They had come out from the pepper‐pot summer‐houses to sun themselves. They stepped mincingly, with a worldly and disdainful grace; and, reaching the gravel, their resplendent trains swept the rounded pebbles, making a small, dry, rattling sound, which, so deep was the surrounding quiet, asserted itself to the extent of saluting Richard’s ears. Beyond the red wall the parallel lines of the elm avenue swept down to the blue and silver levels of the Long Water, the alder copses bordering which showed black‐purple, and the reed‐beds rusty as a fox, against thin stretches of still unmelted snow. The avenue climbed the farther ascent to the wide archway of the red and grey gate‐house, just short of the top of the long ridge of bare moorland. The grass slopes of the park, to the left, were backed by the dark, sawlike edge of the fir forest; and a soft gloom of oak woods, grey‐brown and mottled as a lizard’s belly and back, closed the end of the valley eastward. On the right the terraced gardens, with their ranges of glittering conservatories, fell away to the sombre pond in the valley, home of loudly‐discoursing companies of ducks. The gentle hillside above was clothed by plantations, and by a grove of ancient beech trees, whose pale, smooth boles stood out from among undergrowth of lustrous hollies and the warm russet page: 544 of fallen leaves. And over it all brooded the restfulness of the sabbath, and the gladness of a fair and equal light.

And the charm of the scene worked upon Richard, not with any heat of excitement, but with a temperate and reasonable grace. For the spirit of it all was a spirit of temperance, of moderation, of secure tranquillity—a spirit stoic rather than epicurean, ascetic rather than hedonic; yet generous, spacious, nobly reasonable, giving ample scope for very sincere, if soberly‐clad pleasures, and for activities by no means despicable or unmanly, though of a modest, unostentatious sort. Richard had tried not a few desperate adventures, had conformed his thought and action to not a few glaring patterns, rushing to violences of extreme colour, extreme white and black. All that had proved pre‐eminently unsuccessful, a most poisonous harvest of Dead Sea fruit. What, he began to ask himself, if he made an effort to conform it to the pattern actually presented to him—mellow, sun‐visited, with the brave red of weather‐stained masonry in it, blue and silver of water and sky, lustre of sturdy hollies, as well as the solemnity of leafless woods, finger of frost in the hollows, and bleakness of snow?

And, as he sat meditating thus, breathing the clear air, feeling the tempered, yet genial, sun‐heat, many questions began to resolve themselves. He seemed to look—as down a long, cloudy vista—beyond the tumult and unruly clamour, the wayward resistance and defiant sinning, the craven complainings, the ever‐repeated suspicions and misapprehensions of man, away into the patient, unalterable purposes of God. And looking, for the moment, into those purposes, he saw this also—namely that sorrow, pain, and death are sweet to whosoever dares, instead of fighting with or flying from them, to draw near, to examine closely, to inquire humbly, into their nature and their function. He began to perceive that these three reputed enemies, hated and feared of all men, are, after all, the fashioners and teachers of humanity; to whom it is given to keep hearts pure, godly, and compassionate, to purge away the dross of pride, hardness, and arrogance, to break the iron bands of ambition, self‐love, and vanity, to purify by endurance and by charity, welding together—as with the cunning strokes of the master‐craftsman’s hammer—the innumerable individual atoms into a corporate whole, of fair form, of supreme excellence of proportion, the image and example of a perfect brotherhood, of a republic more firmly based and more beneficent than even that pictured by the divine Plato himself—since that was consolidated by the exclusion, this by the inclusion and pacification of those three things which men most page: 545 dread.—Perceived that, without the guiding and chastening of these three lovely terrors, humanity would, indeed, wax wanton, and this world become the merriest court of hell, lust and corruption have it all their own foul way, the flesh triumph, and all bestial things come forth to flaunt themselves gaudily, greedily, without remonstrance and without shame in the light of day.—Perceived, in these three, a Trinity of Holy Spirits, bearing forever the message of the divine mercy and forgiveness.—Perceived how, of necessity, only the Man of Sorrows can truly be the Son of God.

And, perceiving all this, Richard’s attitude towards his own unhappy deformity began to suffer modification. The sordid, yet extravagant, chap‐book legend no longer outraged either his moral or his scientific sense. He recalled his emotions in the theatre at Naples when Morabita sang, remembering how wholly welcome had then been to him that imagined approaching‐act of retributive justice. He recalled, too, the going forth of love towards his supposed executioners which he had experienced, his reverence for, and yearning towards, the dull‐coloured working‐bees of the parterre. How he had longed to be at one with them, partaker of their corporate action and corporate strength! How he had rejoiced in the conviction that the final issues are subject to their ruling, that the claims of want are stronger than those of wealth, that labour is more honourable than sloth, intelligence more enduring than privilege, liberty more abiding than tyranny, the idea of equality, of fellowship, more excellent than the aristocratic idea, that of born master and of born serf! And both that welcome of the accomplishment of a signal act of justice, and that desire to participate in the eternal strength of the children of labour as against the ephemeral and fictitious strength of the children of idleness and wealth, found strange confirmation in the chap‐book legend.

For it seemed to Richard that, taking all that singular matter both of prophecy and of cure simply—as believers take some half‐miraculous, scripture tale—he had already, in his own person, in right of the physical uncomeliness of it, paid part, at all events, of the price demanded by the Eternal Justice for his ancestors’ sinning and for his own. It was not needful that the bees should swarm and the dull‐coloured multitude revenge itself on the indolent, full‐fed larvæ peopling the angular honey‐cells, as far as he, Richard Calmady, was concerned. That revenge had been taken long ago, in a mysterious and rather terrible manner, before his very birth. While, in the stern denunciation, the adhering curse, of the outraged and so‐soon‐to‐be‐childless page: 546 mother, he found the just and age‐old protest, the patient faith in the eventual triumph of the proletariat—of the defenceless poor as against the callous self‐seeking and sensuality of the securely buttressed rich. By the fact of his deformity he was emancipated from the delusions of his class; was made one, in right of the suffering and humiliation of it, with the dull‐coloured multitudes whose corporate voice declares the ultimate verdict, who are the architects and judges of civilisation, of art, even of religion, even, in a degree, of nature herself. Salvation, according to the sorry yet inspiring rhyme of the chap‐book, was contingent upon precisely this recognition of brotherhood with, and practice of willing service towards, all maimed and sorrowful creatures. His America was here or nowhere, his vocation clearly indicated, his work immediate and close at hand.

How the Eternal Justice might see fit to deal with other souls, why he had been singled out for so peculiar and conspicuous a fate, Richard did not pretend to say. All that had become curiously unimportant to him. For he had ceased to call that fate a cruel one. It had changed its aspect. It had come suddenly to satisfy both his conscience and his imagination. With a movement at once of wonder and of deep‐seated thankfulness, he, for the first time, held out his hands to it, accepting it as a comrade, pledging himself to use rather than to spurn it. He looked at it steadfastly and, so looking, found it no longer abhorrent but of mysterious virtue and efficacy, endued with power to open the gates of a way, closed to most men, into the heart of humanity, which, in a sense, is nothing less than the heart of Almighty God Himself. It was as though, like the saint of old, daring to kiss the scabs and sores of the leper, he found himself gazing on the divine lineaments of the risen Christ. And this brought to him a sense of almost awed repose. It released him from the vicious circle of self, of sharp‐toothed disappointment and leaden‐heavy discouragement, in which he had so long fruitlessly turned. He seemed consciously to slough off the foul and ragged garment of the past and all its base, unprofitable memories, as the snake sloughs off her old skin in the warm May weather and glides forth, glittering, in a coat of untarnished, silver mail. The whole complexion of his thought regarding his personal disfigurement was changed.

Not that he flattered himself the discomfort, the daily vexation and impediment of it, had passed away. On the contrary these very actually remained, and would remain to the end. And the consequences they entailed remained also, the restrictions and deprivations they inflicted. They put many things, page: 547 dear to every sane and healthy‐minded man, hopelessly out of his reach, very much upon the shelf. Love and marriage were shelved thus, in his opinion, let alone lesser and more ephemeral joys. Only the ungrudging acceptance of the denial of those joys, whether small or great, was a vital part of that idea to the evolution of which he now dedicated himself—that Whole which, in process of its evolution, would make for a sober and temperate well‐being, formed on the pattern, sober yet nobly spacious, very fair and wholesome, of the sun‐visited landscape there without. He had just got to discipline himself into harmony with the idea newly revealed to him. And that, as he told himself, not without a sense of the humour of the situation in certain of its aspects, meant in more than one department, plenty of work!—And he had to spend himself and go on, through good report and ill, through gratitude and, if needs be, through abuse and detraction, still spending himself, actively, untiringly, in the effort to make some one person—it hardly mattered whom, but for choice, those who like himself had been treated unhandsomely by nature or by accident—just a trifle happier day by day.

But, while Richard rested thus in the quiet sunshine, he lost count of time. High‐noon came and passed, finding and leaving him in absorbed contemplation of his own thought. At last a barking of dogs, and the sound of wheels away on the north side of the house, broke up the silence. Then a faint echo of voices, a boy’s laughter in the great hall below. Then footsteps, which he took to be Lady Calmady’s, coming lightly up the grand staircase. At the stair‐head those footsteps paused for a little space, as though in indecision whither to turn. And Richard, pushed by an impulse of considerateness somewhat, it must be owned, new to him, called:—

“Mother, is that you? Do you want me? I’m here.”

Whereat the footsteps came forward, in at the open door and through the soft glory of the all‐pervading sunshine, with an effect of gentle urgency and haste. Katherine’s grey, silk pelisse was unfastened, showing the grey, silk gown, its floating ribbons, pretty frills and flounces, beneath. Every detail of her dress was very fresh and very finished, a demure daintiness in it, from the topmost, grey plume and upstanding, velvet bow of her bonnet to the pretty shoes upon her feet. Along with a lace handkerchief and her church books, she carried a bunch of long‐stalked violets. Her face was delicately flushed, a great surprise, touching upon anxiety, tempering the quick pleasure of her expression.

“My dearest,” she said, “this is as delightful as it is unexpected. What brings you here?”

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And Richard smiled at her without reserve, no longer as though putting a force upon himself or of set purpose, but naturally, spontaneously, as one who entertains pleasant thoughts. He took her hand and kissed it with a certain courtliness and reverent fervour.

“I came to look for something here,” he said, “which I have looked for many times and in very various places, yet never somehow managed to find.”

But Katherine, at once tenderly charmed and rendered yet more anxious by a quality in his manner and his speech unfamiliar to her, the purport of which she failed at once to gauge, answered him literally.

“My dearest, why didn’t you tell me? I would have looked for it before I went to church, and saved you the trouble of the journey from the gallery here.”

“Oh! the journey wasn’t bad for me, I rather enjoyed it,” Dickie said. “And then to tell you the truth, you’ve spent the better part of your dear life in looking for that same something which I could never manage to find! Poor sweet mother, no thanks to me, so far, that you haven’t utterly worn yourself out in the search for it.”—He paused, and gazed away out of the open casement.—“But I have a good hope that’s all over and done with now, and that at last I’ve found the thing myself.”

And Katherine, still charmed, still anxious, looked down at him wondering, for there was a perceptible under‐current of emotion beneath the lightness of his speech.

“However, all that will keep,” he continued.—“How did you enjoy your church? Did dear old Julius distinguish himself? How did he preach?”

And Katherine, still wondering, again answered literally.

“Very beautifully,” she said, “with an unusual force and pathos. He took the congregation not a little by storm. He fairly carried us away. He was eloquent, and that with a simplicity which made one question whether he did not speak out of some pressing personal experience.”—Katherine’s manner was touched by a pretty edge of pique.—“Really I believed I knew all about Julius and his doings by this time, but it seems I don’t! I think I must find out. It would vex me that anything should happen in which he needed sympathy, and that I did not offer it.—His subject was the answer to prayer and the fulfilment of prophecy—and how both come, come surely and directly, yet often in so different a form to that which, in our narrowness of vision and dulness of sense, we anticipate, that we fail to recognise either the answer or the fulfilment; and so miss the page: 549 blessing they must needs bring, and which is so richly, so preciously, ours if we had but the wit to understand and lay hold of it.”

Whereupon Richard smiled again.

“Yes,” he said, “very probably Julius did speak out of personal experience, or rather vicarious experience. However, I don’t think he need worry this time, at least I hope not. The answer to prayer and fulfilment of prophecy, when they’re good enough to come along, don’t always get the cold shoulder.”—Then his expression changed, hardened a little, his lips growing thin and his jaw set.—“Look here, mother,” he added, “I think perhaps I have been rather playing the fool lately, since we came home. I propose to take to the ordinary habits of civilised, christian man again. If it doesn’t bother you, would you kindly let the servants know that I’m coming down to luncheon?”

“Oh! my dearest, how stupid of me, I’m so grieved!” Katherine cried. She sat down beside him on the cushioned bench, dropping service books, handkerchief, and violets, in the extremity of her gentle and apologetic distress.—“It never occurred to me that you might like to come down. The Newlands people came over to church, and I brought Mary and the two boys back. Godfrey is over from Eton for the Sunday, and little Dick has had a cold and has not gone back to school yet. What can we do? It would be so lovely to have you, and yet I don’t quite know how I can send them away again.”

“But why on earth should they be sent away?” Richard said, touched and amused by her earnestness. “Mary’s always a dear. And I’ve been thinking lately I shouldn’t mind seeing something of that younger boy. He is my godson, isn’t he? And Knott tells me he is curiously like you and Uncle Roger. You see it’s about time to select an heir‐apparent for Brockhurst. Luckily I’ve a free hand. My life’s the last in the entail.”

Then, looking at him, Lady Calmady’s lips trembled a little. Health had returned and with it his former good looks, but matured, spiritualised, as it seemed to her just now. The livid line of the scar had died out too, and was nearly gone. And all this, taken in connection with his words just uttered, affected her to so great and poignant a love, so great and poignant a fear of losing him, that she dared not trust herself to make any comment on those same words lest the flood‐gates of emotion should be opened and she should lose her self‐control.

“Very well, Dickie,” she said, bowing her head.—Then she page: 550 added quickly, with a little gasp of renewed distress and apology:—“But—but, oh! dear me, Honoria is here too!”

Whereat Richard laughed outright. He could not help it, she was so vastly engaging in her distress.

“All right,” he said, “I am equal to accepting Honoria St. Quentin into the bargain. In short, mother dear, I take over the lot; and if anybody else turns up between now and two o’clock I’ll take them over as well.—Why, why, you dear sweet, don’t look so scared! There’s nothing to trouble about. I’m not too good to live, never fear. On the contrary, I am prepared to do quite a fine amount of living—only on new and more modest lines perhaps. But we won’t talk about that just yet, please. We’ll wait to give it a name until we’re a little more sure how it promises to work out.”

CHAPTER VII

WHEREIN TWO ENEMIES ARE SEEN TO CRY QUITS

GODFREY ORMISTON scudded along the terrace, past the dining‐room windows, at the top of his speed, and Miss St. Quentin followed him at a hardly less unconventional pace. Together they burst, by the small, arched side‐door, into the lobby. There ensued discussion lively though brief. Then, Winter setting wide the dining‐room door in invitation, sight of Honoria was presented to the company assembled within.—She, in brave attire of dark, red cloth, black braided and befrogged, heavy, silk cords and knotted, dangling tassels,—head‐gear to match, dark red and black, a tall, stiff aigrette set at the side of it,—in all producing a something delightfully independent, soldierly, ruffling even, in her aspect, as she pushed the black‐haired, bright‐faced, slim‐made lad, her two hands on his shoulders, before her into the room.

“May we come to luncheon as we are, Cousin Katherine?” she cried. “We’re scandalously late, but we’re also most ferociously hungry and”—

But here, although Lady Calmady turned on her a welcoming and far from unjoyful countenance, she stopped dead; while Godfrey incontinently gave vent to that which his younger brother—sitting beside his mother, Mary Ormiston, at table, on Richard Calmady’s right—described mentally as “the most awful squawk.” Which squawk, it may be added,—whatever its effect page: 551 upon other members of the company,—as denoting involuntary and unceremonious descent from the high places of thirteen‐year‐old, public‐school omniscience on the part of his elder, produced in eight‐year‐old Dick Ormiston such over‐flowings of unqualified rapture that, for a good two minutes, he had to forego assimilation of chocolate soufflet, and, slipping his hands beneath the table, squeeze them together just as hard as ever he could with both knees, to avoid disgracing himself by emission of an ecstatic giggle. For once he had got the whip hand of Godfrey!—Having himself, for the best part of an hour now, been conversant with interesting developments, he found it richly diverting to behold his big brother thus incontinently bowled over by sudden disclosure of them. He repressed the giggle, with the help of squeezing knees and a certain squirming all down his neat, little back; but his blue eyes remained absolutely glued to Godfrey’s person, as the latter, recovering his presence of mind and good manners, proceeded solemnly up to the head of the table to greet his unlooked‐for host.

Honoria, meanwhile, if guiltless of an audible squawk, had been—as she subsequently reflected—potentially, alarmingly capable of some such primitive expression of feeling. For the shock of surprise which she suffered was so forcible, that it induced in her an absurd unreasoning instinct of flight. Indeed, that had happened, or rather was in process of happening, which revolutionised all her outlook. For that the unseen presence, consciousness of which had come to be so constant a quantity in her action and her thought, should thus declare itself in visible form, be materialised, become concrete, and that instantly, without prologue or preparation, projecting itself wholesale, so to speak, into the comfortable commonplaces of a Sunday luncheon—after her slightly uproarious race home with a perfectly normal schoolboy, from morning church too—affected her much as sudden intrusion of the supernatural might. It modified all existing relations, introducing a new and, as yet, incalculable element. Nor had she quite realised what power the unseen Richard Calmady, these many years, had exercised over her imagination, until Richard Calmady seen, was there evident, actually before her. Then all the harsh judgments she had passed upon him, all the disapproval of, and dislike she had felt towards, him, flashed through her mind. And that matter too of his cancelled engagement!—The last time she had seen him was in the house in Lowndes Square, on the night of Lady Louisa Barking’s great ball, standing—she could see all that now—it was as if photographed upon her brain—always would be—and it turned page: 552 her a little sick.—Nevertheless it was impossible to pause any longer. It would be ridiculous to fly, so she must stick it out. That best of good Samaritans, Mary Ormiston, began talking to Julius March across the length of the table.

“Oh dear, yes, of course,” she was saying. “But I never realised she was a sister of your old Oxford friend. I wish I had. It would have been so pleasant to talk about you and about home in that far country! Her husband is in the Rifle Brigade, and she really is a nice, dear woman. I saw a great deal of her while we were at the Cape.”

And so, under cover of Mary’s kindly conversation, Miss St. Quentin settled down into her lazy, swinging stride. Her small head carried high, her pale, sensitive face very serious, her straight eyebrows drawn together by concentration of purpose, concentration of thought, she followed the boy up the long room.

As she came towards him, Richard Calmady looked full at her. His head was carried somewhat high too. His face was very still. His eyes—with those curiously small pupils to them—were very observant, in effect hiding rather than revealing his thought. His manner, as he held out his hand to her, was courteous, even friendly; and yet, notwithstanding her high and fearless spirit, Honoria—for the first time in her life probably—felt afraid. And then she began to understand how it came about that, whether he behaved well or ill, whether he was good or bad, cruel or kind, seen or unseen even, Richard, of necessity, could not but occupy a good deal of space in the lives of all persons brought into close contact with him. For she recognised in him a rather tremendous creature, self‐contained, not easily accessible, possessed of a larger portion than most men of energy and resolution, possessed too—and this, as she thought of it, again turned her a trifle sick—of an unusual capacity of suffering.

“I am ashamed of being so dreadfully late,” she said as she slipped into the vacant place on his left, Godfrey Ormiston was beyond her, next to Julius March.—Honoria was aware that her voice sounded slightly shaky, in part from her recent scamper, in part from a queer emotion which seemed to clutch at her throat.—“ But we walked home over the fields and by the Warren, and just in that boggy bit where you cross the Welsh‐road, Godfrey found the slot of a red‐deer in the snow, and naturally we both had to follow it up.”

“Naturally,” Richard said.

“I’m not so sure it was a red‐deer, Honoria,” the boy broke in.

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“Oh yes, it was,” she declared as she helped herself to a cutlet. “It couldn’t have been anything else.”

“Why not?” Richard asked. He was interested by the tone of assurance in which she spoke.

“Oh, well, the tracks were too big for a fallow‐deer to begin with. And then there’s a difference, you can’t mistake it if you’ve ever compared the two, in the cleft of the hoof.”

“And you have compared the two?”

“Oh, certainly,” Honoria answered.—She was beginning to recover her nonchalance of manner and indolent slowness of speech. “I lose no opportunity of acquiring odds and ends of information. One never knows when they may come in handy.”

She looked at him as she spoke, and her upper lip shortened and her eyes narrowed into a delightful smile—a smile, moreover, which had the faintest trace of an asking of pardon in it. And it struck Richard that there was in her expression and bearing a transparent sincerity, and that her eyes—now narrowed as she smiled—were not the clear, soft brown they appeared at a distance to be, but an indefinable colour, comparable only to the dim, yet clear, green gloom which haunts the under‐spaces of an ilex grove upon a summer day. He turned his head rather sharply. He did not want to think about matters of that sort. He was grateful to this young lady for the devoted care she had bestowed on his mother; but, otherwise, her presence was only a part of that daily discipline which must be cheerfully undertaken in obedience to the exigencies of his new and fair idea.

“Probably it is a deer that has broken out of Windsor Great Park and travelled,” he said. “They do that sometimes, you know.”

But here small Dick Ormiston, whose spirits, lately pirouetting on giddy heights of felicity, had suffered swift declension bootwards at mention of this thrilling adventure in which he, alas, had neither lot nor part, projected himself violently into the conversational arena.

“Mother,” he piped, his words tumbling one over the other in his eagerness—“Mother, I expect it’s the same deer that grandpapa was talking about when Lord Shotover came over to tea last Friday, and wanted to know if Honoria wasn’t back at Newlands again. And then he and grandpapa yarned, don’t you know. Because, Cousin Richard—it must have been while you were away last year—the buckhounds met at Bagshot and ran through Frimley and right across Spendle Flats ”—

“No, they didn’t, Cousin Richard,” Godfrey interrupted. “They ran through the bottom of Sandyfield Lower Wood.”

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“But they lost—any way they lost, Cousin Richard,” the younger boy cried.—“You weren’t there, Godfrey, so you can’t know what grandpapa said. He said they lost somewhere just into Brockhurst, and he told Lord Shotover how they beat up the country for nearly a week, and how they never found it, and had to give it up as a bad job and go home again. And—and—Lord Shotover said, rotten bad sport, stag‐hunting, unless you get it on Exmoor, where they’re not carted and they don’t saw their antlers off. He said meets of the buckhounds ought to be called Stockbrokers’ Parade, that was about all they amounted to. And so, Cousin Richard, I think—don’t you, mother?—that this must be that same deer.”

Whereat the elder Dick’s expression, which had grown somewhat dark at the mention of Lord Shotover, brightened sensibly again. And, for cause unknown, he looked at Honoria, smiling amusedly, before saying to the very voluble, small sportsman:—

“To be sure, Dick. Your arguments are unanswerable, convincingly sound. No reasonable man could have a doubt about it! Of course it’s the same deer.”

Thereupon the luncheon went forward gaily enough, though Miss St. Quentin was conscious her contributions to the cultivation of that same gaiety were but spasmodic. She dreaded the conclusion of the meal, fearing lest then she might be called upon to behold Richard Calmady once again, as she had beheld him—now nearly six years ago—in the half‐dismantled house in Lowndes Square, on the night of Lady Louisa Barking’s ball. And from that she shrank, not with her former physical repulsion towards the man himself, but with the moral repulsion of one compelled against his will to gaze upon a pitifully cruel sight, the suffering of which he is powerless to lessen or amend. The short, light‐made crutches, lying on the floor by the young man’s chair, shocked her as the callous exhibition of some unhappy prisoner’s shackling‐irons might. It constituted an indignity offered to the Richard sitting here beside her, so much as to think of, let alone look at, that same Richard when on foot. Therefore it was with an oddly mingled relief and sense of playing traitor, that she rose with the rest of the little company and left him by himself. She was thankful to escape, though all the while her inherent loyalty tormented her with accusation of meanness, as of one who deserts a comrade in distress.

But here the small Dick, to whom such complex refinements of sensibility were as yet wholly foreign, created a diversion by prancing round from the far side of the table and forcibly page: 555 seizing her hand. He was jealous of the large share Godfrey had to‐day secured of her society. He meant to have his innings. So he rubbed his curly head against her much braided elbow, butting her lovingly in the exuberance of his affection as some nice, little ram‐lamb might. But just as they reached the door, through which Lady Calmady and the rest of the party had already passed, the boy drew up short.

“I say, hold on half a minute, Honoria, please,” he said.

And then, turning round, his cheeks red as peonies, he marched back to where Richard sat alone at the head of the table.

“In case—in case, don’t you know,” he began, stuttering in the excess of his excitement—“in case, Cousin Richard, mummy didn’t quite take in what you said at the beginning of luncheon—you did mean for really that I was to come and stay here in the summer holidays, and that you’d take me out, don’t you know, and show me your horses?”

And to Honoria, glancing at them, there was a singular, and almost tragic, comment on life in the likeness, yet unlikeness, of those two faces—the features almost identical, the same blue eyes, the two heads alike in shape, each with the same close‐fitted, bright‐brown cap of hair. But the boy’s face flushed, without afterthought or qualification of its eager happiness; the man’s colourless, full of reserve, almost alarmingly self‐contained and still.

Yet, when the elder Richard’s answer came, it was altogether gentle and kindly.

“Yes, most distinctly for really, Dick,” he said. “Let there be no mistake about it. Let it be clearly understood I want to have you here just as long, and just as often, as your mother and father will spare you. I’ll show you the horses, never fear, and let you ride them too.”

“A—a—a real big one?”

“Just as big a one as you can straddle.” Richard paused.—“And I’ll show you other things, if all goes well, which I’m beginning to think—and perhaps you’ll think so too some day—are more important even than horses.”

He put his hand under the boy’s chin, tipped up the ruddy, beaming, little face and kissed it.

“It’s a compact,” he said.—“Now cut along, old chap. Don’t you see you’re keeping Miss St. Quentin waiting?”

Whereupon the small Richard started soberly enough, being slightly impressed by something—he knew not quite what—only that it made him feel awfully fond, somehow, of this newly dis‐ page: 556 covered cousin and namesake. But, about half‐way down the room, that promise of a horse, a thorough‐bred, and just as big as he could straddle, swept all before it, rendering his spirits uncontrollably explosive. So he made a wild rush and flung himself headlong upon the waiting Honoria.

“Oh! you want to bear‐fight, do you? Two can play at that game,” she cried, “you young rascal!”

Then, without apparent effort or diminution of her lazy grace, the elder Richard saw her pick the boy up by his middle, and, notwithstanding convulsive wrigglings on his part, throw him across her shoulder and bear him bodily away through the lobby, into the hall, and out of sight.

Hence it fell out that not until quite late that evening did the moment so dreaded by Miss St. Quentin actually arrive. In furtherance of delay she practised a diplomacy not altogether flattering to her self‐respect, coming down rather late for dinner, and retiring immediately after that meal to the Gun‐Room, under plea of correspondence which must be posted at Farley in time for to‐morrow’s day mail. She was even late for prayers in the chapel, so that, taking her accustomed place next to Lady Calmady in the last but one of the stalls upon the epistle‐side, she found all the members of the household, gentle and simple alike, already upon their knees. The household mustered strong that night, a testimony, it may be supposed, to feudal as much as to religious feeling. In the seats immediately below her were an array of women‐servants, declining from the high dignities of Mrs. Reynolds the housekeeper, the faithful Clara, and her own lanky and loyal North‐Country woman Faulstich, to a very youthful scullery‐maid, sitting just without the altar rails at the end of the long row. Opposite were not only Winter, Bates the steward, Powell, Andrews, and the other men‐servants; but Chaplin, heading a detachment from the house stables, and—unexampled occurrence!—Gnudi the Italian chef, with his air of gentle and philosophic melancholy and his anarchic sentiments in theology and politics, liable,—these last,—when enlarged on, to cause much fluttering in the dove‐cot of the housekeeper’s room. “To hear Signor Gnudi talk sometimes made your blood run cold. It seemed as if you couldn’t be safe anywhere from those wicked foreign barricades and massacres,” as Clara put it. And yet, in point of fact, no milder man ever larded a woodcock or stuffed it with truffles.

Alone, behind all these, in the first of the row of stalls with their carven spires and dark‐vaulted canopies, sat Richard Calmady, whom all his people had thus come forth silently to page: 557 welcome. But, through prayer and psalm and lesson, as Miss St. Quentin noted, he remained immoveable, to her almost alarmingly cold and self‐concentrated. Only once he turned his head, leaning a little forward and looking towards the purple, and silver, and fair, white flowers of the altar, and the clear shining of the altar lights,

—“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

The words were given out by Julius March, not only with an exquisite distinctness of enunciation, but with a ring of assurance, of sustaining and thankful conviction. Richard leaned back in his stall again, looking across at his mother. While Honoria, taken with a sensitive fear of inquiring into matters not rightfully hers to inquire into, hastily turned her eyes upon her open prayer‐book. They must have many things to say to one another, that mother and son, as she divined, to‐day,—far be it from her to attempt to surprise their confidence!

She rose from her knees, cutting her final petitions somewhat short, directly the last of the men‐servants had filed out of the chapel; and, crossing the Chapel‐Room, a tall, pale figure in her trailing, white, evening dress, she pulled back the curtain of the oriel‐window, opened one of the curved, many‐paned casements and looked out. She was curiously moved, very sensible of a deeper drama going forward around her, going forward in her own thought—subtly modifying and transmuting it—than she could at present either explain or place. The night was cloudy and very mild. A soft, sobbing, westerly wind, with the smell of coming rain in it, saluted her as she opened the casement. The last of the frost must be gone, by now, even in the hollows; the snow wholly departed also. The spring, though young and feeble yet, puling like some ailing baby‐child in the voice of that softly‐complaining, westerly wind, was here, very really present at last. Honoria leaned her elbows on the stone window‐ledge. Her heart went out in strong emotion of tenderness towards that moist wind which seemed to cry, as in a certain homelessness, against her bare arms and bare neck.—“Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren”—

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But just then Katherine Calmady called to her, and that in a sweet, if rather anxious, tone.

“Honoria, dear child, come here,” she said. “Richard is putting me through the longer catechism regarding those heath fires in August last year, and the state of the woods.”

Then, as the young lady approached her, Lady Calmady laid one hand on her arm, looking up in quick and loving appeal at the serious and slightly troubled face.

“My answers only reveal the woful greatness of my ignorance. My geography has run mad. I am planting forests in the midst of cornfields, so Dickie assures me; and making hay generally—as you, my dear, would say—of the map.”

Still her eyes dwelt upon Honoria’s in insistent and loving appeal.

“Come,” she said, “explain to him, and save me from further exposition of my own ignorance.”

Thus admonished the young lady sat down on the low sofa beside Richard Calmady. As she did so Katherine rose and moved away. Honoria determined to see only the young man’s broad shoulders, his irreproachable dress clothes, his strangely still and very handsome face. But, since there was no concealing rug to cover them, it was impossible that she should long avoid also seeing his shortened and defective limbs and oddly shod feet. And at that she winced and shrank a little, for all her high spirit and inviolate, maidenly strength.

“Oh yes! those fires!” she said hurriedly. “There were several—you remember, Cousin Katherine?—or I daresay you don’t, for you were ill at the time. But the worst was on Spendle Flats. You know that long, three‐cornered bit”—she looked Richard bravely in the face again—“which lies between the Portsmouth Road and our cross‐road to Farley? It runs into a point just at the top of Star Hill.”

“Yes, I know,” Dickie said.

He had seen her wince.—Well, that wasn’t wonderful! She could not very well do otherwise, if she had eyes in her head. He did not blame her. And then, though it was not easy to do so with entire serenity, this was precisely one of those small unpleasant incidents which, in obedience to his new code, he was bound to accept calmly, good‐temperedly, just as part of the day’s work, in fact. He had done with malingering. He had done with the egoism of sulking and hiding—even to the extent of a couvre‐pieds. All right, here it was!—Richard settled his shoulders squarely against the straight, stuffed back of the Chippendale sofa, and talked on.

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“It’s a pity that bit is burnt,” he said. “I haven’t been over that ground for nearly six years, of course. But I remember there were very good trees there—a plantation at the top end, just before you come to the big gravel‐pits, and the rest self‐sown. Are they all gone?”

“Licked as clean as the back of your hand,” Honoria, replied, warming to her subject. “They hardly repaid felling for firewood. It made me wretched. Some idiot threw down a match, I suppose. There had been nearly a month’s drought, and the whole place was like so much tinder. There was an easterly breeze too. You can imagine the blaze! We hadn’t the faintest chance. Poor, old Iles lost his head utterly, and sat down with his feet in a dry ditch and wept. There must be over two hundred acres of it. It’s a dreadful eyesore, perfectly barren and useless, but for a little sour grass even a gipsy’s donkey has to be hard up before he cares to eat!”—Miss St. Quentin shifted her position with a certain impatience. “I can’t bear to see the land doing no work,” she said.

“Doing no work?” Dickie inquired. He began to be interested in the conversation from other than a purely practical and local standpoint.

“Of course,” she asserted. “The land has no more right to lie idle than any of the rest of us—unless it’s a bit of tilth sweetening in fallow between two crops. That is reasonable enough. But for the rest,” she said, a certain brightness and self‐forgetting gaining on her—“let it contribute its share all the while, like an honest citizen of the universe. Let it work, most decidedly let it work.”

“And what about such trifles as the few hundred square miles of desert or mountain range?” Richard inquired, half amused, half, and that rather unwillingly, charmed. “They are liable to be a thorn in the side of the—well, socialist.”

“Oh, I’ve no quarrel with them. They come under a different head.”—Honoria’s manner had ceased to be in any degree embarrassed, though a slight perplexity came into her expression. For just then she remembered, somehow, her pacings of the station platform at Culoz, the salutation of the bleak, pure, evening wind from out the fastnesses of the Alps, and all her conversation there with her faithful admirer, Ludovic Quayle. And it occurred to her what singular contrast in sentiment that bleak, evening wind offered to the mild, moist, westerly wind‐complaint of the homeless baby, Spring—which had just now cried against her bosom!—And again Honoria became conscious of being in contact, both in. herself and in her surround‐ page: 560 ings, with more coercing, more vital drama than she could either interpret or place. Again something of fear invaded her, to combat which she hurried into speech.—“No, I haven’t any quarrel with deserts and so on,” she repeated. “They’re uncommonly useful things for mankind to knock its head against—invincible, unnegotiable, splendidly competent to teach humanity its place. You see we’ve grown not a little conceited—so at least it seems to me—on our evolutionary journey up from the primordial cell. We’re too much inclined to forget we’ve developed soul quite comparatively recently, and therefore that there is probably just as long a journey ahead of us—before we reach the ultimate of intellectual and spiritual development—as there is behind us physically from, say the parent ascidian, to you and me. And—and somehow”—Honoria’s voice had become full and sweet, and she looked straight at Dickie with a rare candour and simplicity—“somehow those big open spaces remind one of all that. They drive one’s ineffectualness home on one. They remind one that environment, that mechanical civilisation, all the short cuts of applied science, after all count for little and inevitably come to the place called stop. And that braces one. It makes one the more eager after that which lies behind the material aspects of things, and to which these merely act as a veil.”

Honoria had bowed herself together. Her elbows were on her knees, her chin in her two hands, her charming face alight with a pure enthusiasm. And Richard watched her curiously. His acquaintance with women was fairly comprehensive, but this woman represented a type new to his experience. He wanted to tolerate her merely, to regard her as an element in his scheme of self‐discipline. And it began to occur to him that, from some points of view, she knew as much about all that, as much about the idea inspiring it, as he did. He leaned himself back in the angle of the sofa, and clasped his hands behind his head.

“All the same,” he said, “I am afraid those burnt acres on Spendle Flats are hardly extensive enough to afford an object for me to knock my head against, and so enforce salutary remembrance of the limitations of human science. Possibly that has already been sufficiently brought home to me in other ways.”

He paused a minute.

Honoria straightened herself up. Again she saw—whether she would or no—those defective shortened limbs and oddly shod feet. And again, somehow, that complaint of the moist spring wind seemed to cry against her bare arms and neck, begetting an overwhelming pitifulness in her.

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“So, since it’s not altogether necessary we should reserve it as an object‐lesson in general ineffectualness, Miss St. Quentin, what shall we do with it?”

“Oh, plant,” she said.

“With the ubiquitous Scotchman?”

“It wouldn’t carry anything else, except along the boundaries. There you might put in a row of horn‐beam and oak. They always look rather nice against a background of firs.—Only the stumps of the burnt trees ought to be stubbed.”

“Let them be stubbed,” Richard said.

“Where are you going to find the labour? The estate is very much under‐manned.”

“Import it,” Richard said.

“No, no,” Honoria answered, again warming to her subject. “I don’t believe in imported labour. If you have men by the week, they must lodge. And the lodger is as the ten plagues of Egypt in a village. If a man comes by the day, he is tired and slack. His heart is not in his work. He does as little as he can. Moreover, in either case, the wife and children suffer. He’s certain to take them home short money. He’s pretty safe, being tired in the one case, or in the other, on the loose, to drink.”

Dickie’s face gave. He laughed a little.

“We seem to have come to a fine impasse!” he remarked. “Though humiliatingly small, that tract of burnt land must clearly be kept to knock one’s head against after all.”

Honoria rose to her feet.

“Richard, I wish you’d build,” she said, in her earnestness unconscious of the unceremonious character of her address. “Iles ought to have done that before now. But he is old and timid, and his one idea has been to save. You know this Brockhurst property alone would carry eight or ten more families. There’s plenty of work. It needn’t be made. It is there ready to hand. Give them good gardens, allotments if you can, and leave to keep a pig. That’s infinitely better than extravagant wages. Root them down in the soil. Let them love the place—tie them up to it”—

“Your socialism is rather quaintly crossed with feudalism, isn’t it?” Dickie remarked.

He drew himself forward, slipped down off the sofa, stood upright. And then, indeed, the cruel disparity between his stature and her own—for tall though she was, he, by right of make and length of arm, should evidently have been by some two or three inches the taller—and all the grotesqueness of his page: 562 deformity, were fully disclosed to Honoria. For the second time that day, her tact, her presence of mind, her ready speech, deserted her. She backed a little away from him.

And Richard perceived that. It is not easy to be absolutely philosophic. Something of his old anger revived towards Miss St. Quentin. He shuffled forward a step or two, and, supporting himself with one hand on the arm of the sofa, reached down to pick up his crutches. But his grasp was not very sure just then. He secured one. To his intense annoyance the other escaped him, falling back on the floor with a rattle. Then, instantly, before he could make effort to recover it, Honoria’s white figure swept down on one knee in front of him. She laid hold of the crutch, gave it him silently, and rose to her full height again, pale, gallant, stately, but with a quivering of her lips and nostrils, and an amazement of regret and pity in her eyes, which very certainly had never found place there heretofore.

“Thanks,” Richard said.—He waited just a minute. He too was amazed somehow. He needed to revise the position.—“About those eight or ten happy families whom you wish to root so firmly in the soil, and the housing of them—are you busy to‐morrow morning?”

“Oh no—no ”—Honoria declared, with rather unnecessary emphasis.

Generosity should surely be met by generosity. Dickie leaned his back against the arm of the sofa, and looked up at the speaker. Her transparent sincerity, her superb chastity—he could call it by no other word—of manner and movement, even of outline—the slight angularity of strong muscle as opposed to soft roundness of cushioned flesh—these arrested and impressed him.

“I had Chifney up from the stables this afternoon and made my peace with him,” he said. “He was very full of your praises, Honoria—for the cousinship may as well be acknowledged between us, don’t you think? You have supplemented my lapses in respect of him, as of a good deal else.”—Richard looked away to the door of Lady Calmady’s bedroom. It stood open, and Katherine came from within with some books, and a silver candlestick, in her hands.

“My dears,” she said, “do you know it grows very late?”

“All right,” he answered, “we’re making out some plans for to‐morrow.”—He looked at Honoria again.—“Chifney engaged that he and Chaplin would find a horse, between them, which could be trusted to—well—to put up with me,” he said. “I promised to go down and have breakfast with dear Mrs. Chifney page: 563 at the stables, but I can be back here by eleven. Would you be inclined to come out with me then? We could ride over that burnt land and have a poke round for sites for your cottages.”

“Oh yes, indeed, I can come,” Honoria answered. Her delightful smile beamed forth, and it had a new and very delicate charm in it. For it so happened that the woman in her whom—to use her own phrase—she had condemned to solitary confinement in the back attic, beat very violently against her prison door just then in attempt to escape.

“Dear Cousin Katherine, good‐night. Good‐night, Richard,” she said hurriedly.—She went out of the room, lazily, slowly, down the black, polished staircase, across the great, silent hall, and along the farther lobby. But she let the Gun‐Room door bang to behind her and flung herself down in the arm‐chair—in which, by the way, the old bull‐dog had died a year ago, broken‐hearted by over long waiting for the home‐coming of his absent master. And then Honoria, though the least tearful of women, wept—not in petulant anger, or with the easy, luxuriously sentimental overflow common to feminine humanity; but reluctantly, with hard, irregular sobs which hurt, yet refused to be stifled, since the extreme limit of emotional and mental endurance had been reached.

“Oh, it’s fine!” she said, half aloud. “I can see that it’s fine—but, dear God, is there no way out of it? It’s so horribly, so unspeakably sad.”

And Richard remained on into the small hours, sitting before the dying fire of the big hearth‐place, at the eastern end of the gallery. Mentally he audited his accounts, the profit and loss of this day’s doing, and, on the whole, the balance showed upon the profit side. Verily it was only a day of small things, of very humble ambitions, of far from world‐shaking successes! Still four persons, he judged, he had made a degree or so happier.—His mother rejoiced, though with trembling as yet, at his return to the ordinary habits of the ordinary man. Sweet, dear thing, small wonder that she trembled! He had led her such a dance in the past, that any new departure must give cause for anxious questionings. Dickie sunk his head in his hands.—God forgive him, what a dance he had led her!—And Julius March was happier—he, Richard, was pretty certain of that—since Julius could not but understand that, in the present case at all events, neither fulfilment of prophecy nor answer to prayer had been disregarded.—And the hard‐bitten, irascible, old trainer, Tom Chifney, was happier—probably really the happiest page: 564 of the lot—since he demanded nothing more recondite and far‐reaching than restoration to favour, and due recognition of the importance of his calling and of the merits of his horses.—And nice, funny, voluble, little Dick Ormiston was happier too. Richard’s heart went out strangely to the dear little lad! He wondered if it would be too much to ask Mary and Roger to give him the boy altogether? Then he put the thought from him, judging it savoured of the selfishness, the exclusiveness and egoism, with which he had sworn to part company forever.

He stretched his hand out over the arm of the chair, craving for some creature, warm, sentient, dumbly sympathetic, to lay hold of.—He remembered there used to be a man down near Alton, a hard‐riding farmer, who bred bull‐dogs—white ones with black points, like Camp and Camp’s forefathers. He would tell Chifney to go down there and bespeak the two best of the next litter of puppies.—Yes—he wanted a dog again. It was foolish perhaps, but after all one did want something, and, since other things were denied, a dog must do and he wanted one badly.—Yet the day had been a success on the whole. He had been true to his code. Only—and Richard shrugged his shoulders rather wearily—it had got to be begun all over again to‐morrow, and next day, and next—an endless perspective of to‐morrows. And the poor flesh, with its many demands, its delicious and iniquitous passions, its enchantments, its revelations, its adorable languors, its drunken heats, must it have nothing, nothing at all?—Must that whole side of things be ruled out forever? He had no more desire for mistresses, God forbid—Helen, somehow, had cleansed him of all possibility of that. And he would never ask any woman to marry him. The sacrifice on her part would be too great.—He thought of little Lady Constance.—Simply, it was not right.—So, practically, the emotional joys of life were reduced to this—they must consist solely in giving—giving—giving, of time, sympathy, thought and money. A far from ignoble programme no doubt, but a rather austere one for a man of liberal tastes, of varied experience, and of barely thirty.—And he was as strong as a bull now. He knew that. He might live to be ninety.—Yes, he thought he would ask for little Dick Ormiston. The boy would be an amusement and interest him. And then suddenly the vision of Honoria St. Quentin, in her red and black‐braided gown, with that air of something ruffling and soldierly about it, whipping the small Dick up in her strong arms, throwing him across her shoulder and bearing him off bodily; and of Honoria again later, her sensitive face all alight, as she discoursed of the ultimate aim and purpose of page: 565 life and of living, came before him. Above her white dress, he could see her white and finely angular shoulders as she swept down to pick up that wretched crutch.—Yes, she was a being of singular contrasts, of remarkable capacity, both mental and practical! And she might have a heart—she might. Once or twice it had looked rather like it.—But, after all, what did that matter? The feminine side of things was excluded. Besides he supposed she was half engaged to Ludovic Quayle.

Dickie yawned. He was sleepy. His meditations became unprofitable. He had best go to bed.

“And the devil fly away with all women, saving and excepting my best‐beloved mother,” he said.

CHAPTER VIII

CONCERNING THE BROTHERHOOD FOUNDED BY RICHARD CALMADY, AND OTHER MATTERS OF SOME INTEREST

IT was still very sultry. All the windows of the red drawing‐room stood wide open. Outside the thunder rain fell, straight as ram‐rods, in big globular drops, which spattered upon the grey quarries and splashed on the pink and lilac, lemon‐yellow, scarlet and orange of the pot plants,—hydrangeas, pelargoniums, and early‐flowering chrysanthemums,—set three‐deep along the base of the house wall, the whole length of the terrace front. The atmosphere was thick. Masses of purple cloud, lurid light crowning their summits, boiled up out of the south‐east. But the worst of the storm was already over, and the parched land, grateful for the downpour of rain, exhaled a whiteness of smoke—as in thanksgiving from off some altar of incense. On the grass slopes of the near park a flight of rooks had alighted. They stalked and strode over the withered turf with a self‐important, quaintly clerical air, seeking provender, but, so far, finding none, since the moisture had not yet sufficiently penetrated the hardened soil for earth‐worms and kindred creeping‐things to move surfacewards.

Within, the red drawing‐room had suffered conspicuous change. For, on Richard moving downstairs to his old quarters in the south‐western wing of the house, Lady Calmady had judged it an act of love, rather than of desecration, to restore this long‐disused apartment to its former employment. Adjoining the dining‐room—connecting this last with the billiard‐ page: 566 room, summer‐parlour, and garden‐hall—this room was convenient to assemble in before, and sit in for a while after, meals. Richard would thereby be saved superfluous journeys upstairs. And this act of restitution, which was also in a sense an act of penitence, once decided upon, Katherine carried it forward with a certain gentle ardour, renewing crimson carpets and hangings and disposing the furniture according to its long‐ago positions. The memory of what had once been should remain forever here enshrined, but with the glad colours of life, not the faded ones of unforgiven death upon it. It satisfied her conscience to do this. For it appeared to her that so very much of good had been granted her of late, so large a measure of peace and hope vouchsafed to her, that it was but fitting she should bear testimony to her awareness of all that by obliteration of the last outward sign of the rebellion of her sorrowful youth. The Richard of to‐day, homestaying, busy with much kindness, thoughtful of her comfort, honouring her with delicate courtesies—which to whoso receives them makes her womanhood a privilege rather than a burden—yet teasing her not a little, too, in the security of a fair and equal affection, bore such moving resemblance to that other Richard, first master of her heart, that Katherine could afford to cancel the cruelty of certain memories, retaining only the lovelier portion of them, and could find a peculiar sweetness in frequentation of this room, formerly devoted wholly to sense of injury and blackness of hate.

And on the day in question, Katherine’s presence exhaled a specially tender brightness, even as the thirsty earth, refreshed by the thunder‐rain, sent up a rare whiteness as of incense smoke. For she had been somewhat anxious about Dickie lately. To her sensitive observation of him, his virtue, his evenness of temper, his reasonableness, had come to have in them a pathetic element. He was lovely and pleasant in his ways. But sometimes, when tired or off his guard, she had surprised an expression on his face, a constrained patience of speech, even of attitude, which made her fear he had given her but that half of his confidence calculated to cheer, while he kept the half calculated to sadden rather rigorously to himself. And, in good truth, Richard did suffer not a little at this period. The first push of enthusiastic conviction had passed, while his new manner of conduct and of thought had not yet acquired the stability of habit. The tide was low. Shallows and sand‐bars disclosed themselves. He endured the temptations arising from the state known to saintly writers as “spiritual dryness,” and found those temptations of an inglorious and wholly unheroic sort. And, though he held his page: 567 peace, Katherine feared for him—feared that the way he elected to walk in was over strait, and that, though resolution would hold, health might be overstrained.

“My darling, you never grumble now,” she had said to him a few days back.

To which he answered:—

“Poor, dear mother, have I cheated you of one of your few, small pleasures? Was it so very delightful to listen to that same grumbling?”

“I begin to believe it was,” Katherine declared. “It conferred a unique distinction upon me, you see, because I had a comfortable conviction you grumbled to nobody else. One is jealous of distinction. Yes—I think I miss it, Dickie.”

Whereupon he laughed and kissed her, and swore he’d grumble fast enough if there was anything—which positively there wasn’t—to grumble about. All of which, though it charmed Katherine, appeased her anxiety but moderately. The young man worked too hard. His opportunities of amusement were too scant. Katherine cast about in thought, and in prayer, for some lightening of his daily life, even if such lightening should lessen the completeness of his dependence upon herself. And it was just at this juncture that Miss St. Quentin wrote proposing to come to Brockhurst for a week. She had not been there since the Whitsuntide recess. She wrote from Ormiston, where she was staying on her way south, after paying a round of country‐house visits in Scotland. It was now September. She would probably go to Cairo for the winter with young Lady Tobermory—grand‐niece by marriage of her late god‐mother and benefactress—whose lungs were pronounced to be badly touched. Might she, therefore, come to Brockhurst to say good‐bye?

And to this proposed visit Richard offered no opposition, though he received the announcement of it without any marked demonstration of approval.—Oh, by all means let her come! Of course it must be a pleasure to his mother to have her. And he’d got on very well with her in the spring—unquestionably he had.—Richard’s expression was slightly ironical.—But he did really like her?—Oh dear, yes, he liked her exceedingly. She was quite curiously clever, and she was sincere, and she was rather beautiful too, in her own style—he had always thought that. By all means have her.—After which conversation Richard went for a long ride, inspected cottages in building at Sandyfield, and visited a house, undergoing extensive internal alterations, which stands back from Clerke’s Green, about a hundred yards short of Appleyard, the saddler’s shop at Farley Row. He came in late. Unusual page: 568 silence held him during dinner. And Lady Calmady took herself to task, reproaching herself with selfishness. Honoria was very dear to her, and so, only too probably, she had overrated the friendliness of Dickie’s attitude towards the young lady. But they had seemed to get on so extremely well in the spring, and very fairly well at Whitsuntide! Yet, perhaps, in that, as in so much else, Richard put a constraint upon himself, obeying conscience rather than inclination. Katherine was perturbed. Nor had her perturbations suffered diminution yesterday, upon Miss St. Quentin’s arrival. Richard remained unexpansive. Today, however, matters had improved. Something—possibly the thunderstorm—seemed to have thawed his coldness, broken up his reticence of manner. Therefore Katherine gave thanks and moved with a lighter heart.

As for Miss St. Quentin herself, an innate gladsomeness pervaded her aspect not easy to resist. Lady Calmady had been sensible of it when the young lady first greeted her that morning. It remained by her now, as she stood after luncheon at one of the open windows, watching the up‐rolling thunder‐cloud, the spattering raindrops, the quaintly solemn behaviour of the stalking, striding rooks. Honoria was easily entertained to‐day. She felt well‐disposed towards every living creature. And the rooks diverted her extremely. Profanely they reminded her of certain archiepiscopal garden‐parties; with this improvement on the human variant, that here wives and daughters also were condemned to decent sables instead of being at liberty to array themselves according to self‐invented canons of remarkably defective taste. But, though diverted, it must be owned she gave her attention the more closely to all that outward drama of storm and rain and to the antics of the rooks, because she was very conscious of the fact that Richard Calmady had followed her and his mother into the red drawing‐room, and it hurt her‐though she had now, of necessity, witnessed it many times—it hurt, it still very shrewdly distressed her, to see him walk. As she heard the soft thud and shuffle of his onward progress, followed by the little clatter of the crutches as he laid them upon the floor beside his chair, the brightness died out of Honoria’s face. She registered sharp annoyance against herself, for she had not anticipated that this would continue to affect her so much. She supposed she had grown accustomed to it during her last two visits to Brockhurst, and that, this time, it would occasion her no shock. But the sadness of the young man’s deformity remained present as ever. The indignity of it offended her. The desire by some, by any, means to mitigate the woful circumscription of page: 569 liberty and opportunity which it inflicted, wrought upon her almost painfully. And so she looked very hard at the hungry, anticking rooks, both to secure time for recovery of her equanimity, and also to spare Richard smallest suspicion that she avoided beholding his advance and installation.

“We needn’t start until four, mother,” she heard him say. “But I’m afraid it is clearing.”

Honoria turned from the window.

“Yes, it is clearing,” she remarked, “incontestably clearing! You won’t escape the Grimshott function after all.”

“It’s a nuisance having to go,” Richard replied. “But you see this is an old engagement. People are wonderfully civil and kind. I wish they were less so. They waste one’s time. But it doesn’t do to be ungracious, and we needn’t stay more than half an hour, need we, mother?”

He looked up at Honoria.

“Don’t you think, on the whole, you’d better come too?” he said.

But the young lady shook her head smilingly. She stood close beside Lady Calmady.

“Oh dear, no,” she answered. “I am quite absolutely certain I hadn’t better come too.”

Richard continued to look up at her.

“Half the county will be there. Everything will be richly, comprehensively dull. Think of it. Do come,” he repeated, “it would be so good for your soul.”

“Oh, my soul’s in the humour to be nobly careless of personal advantage,” Honoria replied. “It’s in a state of almost perilously full‐blown optimism regarding the security of its own salvation to‐day, somehow.”—Her glance rested very sweetly upon Lady Calmady.—“And then all the rest of and not impossibly my soul has a word to say in that connection too—cries out to go and tramp over the steaming turf and breathe the scent of the fir woods again.”

Honoria sat down lazily on the arm of a neighbouring easy‐chair, against the crimson cover of which her striped blue‐and‐white, shirting dress showed excellently distinct and clear. Richard’s prolonged and quiet scrutiny oppressed her slightly, necessitating change of attitude and place.

“And then,” she continued, “I want to go down to the paddocks and have a look at the yearlings. How are they coming on? Have you anything good?”

“Two or three promising fillies. They’re in the paddock nearest the Long Water. You’ll find them as quiet as sheep. page: 570 But I’ll ask you not to go in among the brood‐mares and foals unless Chifney is with you. They may be a bit savage and shy, and it is not altogether safe for a lady.”

He stretched out his hand, taking Lady Calmady’s hand for a moment.

“Dear mother, you look tired. You’ll have to put up with Grimshott. The weather’s not going to let us off. Go and rest till we start.”

And when, a few minutes later, Katherine, departing, closed the door behind her, he addressed Miss St. Quentin again.

“How do you think my mother is?”

“Beautifully well.”

“Not worried?”

“No,” Honoria said.

“You are really quite contented about her, then?”

The question both surprised and touched his hearer, as a friendly and gracious admission that she possessed certain rights.

“Oh dear, yes,” she said. “I am more than contented about her. No one can fail to be so who, loving her, sees her now. There was just one thing she wanted. Now she has it, and so all is well.”

“What one thing?” Dickie asked, with a hint of irony in his manner and his voice.

“Why, you—you, Richard,” Honoria said.

She drew herself up proudly, a little alarmed by, a little defiant of, the directness of her own speech, perceiving, so soon as she had uttered it, that it might be construed as indirect reproach. And to administer reproach had been very far from her purpose. She fixed her eyes upon the domes of the great oaks, crowning an outstanding knoll at the far end of the lime avenue. The foliage of them, deep green shading into russet, was arrestingly solid and metallic, offering a rather magnificent scheme of stormy colour taken in connection with the hot purple of the uprolling cloud. Framed by the stone work of the open window, the whole presented a fine picture in the manner of Salvator Rosa. A few bright raindrops splashed and splattered, and the thunder growled far away in the north. The atmosphere was heavy. For a time neither spoke. Then Honoria said, gently, as one asking a favour:—

“Richard, will you tell me about that home of yours? Cousin Katherine was speaking of it to me last night.”

And it seemed to her his thought must have journeyed to some far distance, and found difficulty in returning thence, it page: 571 was so long before he answered her, while his face had become set, and showed colourless as wax against the surrounding crimson of the room.

“Oh, the home!” he exclaimed, shrugging his shoulders just perceptibly. “It doesn’t amount to very much. My mother in her dear unwisdom of faith and hope magnifies the value of it. It’s just an idle man’s fad.”

“A fad with an uncommon amount of backbone to it, apparently.”

“That depends on its eventual success. It’s a thing to be judged not by intentions but by results.”

“What made you think of it?”

Richard looked full at her, spreading out his hands, and again shrugging his shoulders slightly. Again Miss St. Quentin accused herself of a defect of tact.

“Isn’t it rather obvious why I should think of it?” he asked. “It seemed to me that, in a very mild and limited degree, it was calculated to meet a want.”—He smiled upon her, quite sweet‐temperedly, yet once more there was a flavour of irony in his tone.—“Of course hideous creatures and disabled creatures are an eyesore. We pity, but we look the other way. I quite accept that. They are a nuisance, since they are a standing witness to the fact that things, here below, very far from always work smoothly and well, and that there are disasters beyond the power of applied science to put right. The ordinary human being doesn’t covet to be forcibly reminded of that by means of a living object‐lesson.”

Richard shifted his position, clasped his hands behind his head. He had begun speaking without idea of self‐revelation; but the relief of speech, after long self‐repression, took him, goading him on. Old strains of feeling, kept under by conscious exercise of will, asserted themselves. He asked neither sympathy nor help. He simply called from off those shallows and sand‐bars laid bare by the ebbing tide of his first enthusiasm. He protested, wearied by the spiritual dryness which had caused all effort to prove so joyless of late. To have sought relief in words before his mother would have been unpardonable he held. She had borne enough from him in the past, and more than enough. But to permit it himself in the presence of this young, strong, capable woman of the world, was very different. She came out of the swing of society and of affairs, of large interests in politics and in thought. She would go back into those again very shortly, so what did it matter? She captivated him and incensed him alike. His relation to her had been so page: 572 fertile of contradictions—at once singularly superficial and fugitive, and singularly vital. He did not care to analyse his own feelings in respect of her. He had, so he told himself, never quite cared to do that. She had wounded his pride shrewdly at times, still he had unquestioning faith in her power of comprehending his meaning as she sat there, graceful, long‐limbed, indolent, in her pale dress, looking towards the window, the light on her face revealing the fine squareness of the chiselling of her profile, of her jaw, her nostril, and brow. She appeared so free of spirit, so untrammelled, so excellently exalted above all that is weak, craven, smirched by impurity, capable of baseness or deceit.

“But naturally with me the case is different,” he went on, his voice growing deeper, his utterance more measured. “It is futile to resent being reminded of that which, in point of fact, you never forget. It’s childish for the pot to call the kettle black. And so I came to the conclusion, a few months ago, to put away all such childishness, and set myself to gain whatever advantage I could from—well—from my own blackness.”

Honoria turned her head, averting her face yet farther. Richard could only see the outline of her cheek. She had never before heard him make so direct allusion to his own deformity, and it frightened her a little. Her heart beat curiously quick. For it was to her as though he compelled her to draw near and penetrate a region in which, gazing thitherward questioningly from afar, she had divined the residence of stern and intimate miseries, inalienable, unremittent, taking their rise in an almost alarming remoteness of time and fundamentality of cause.

“You see, in plain English,” he said, “I view all such unhappy beings from the inside, not, as the rest of you do, merely from the out. I belong to them and they to me. It is not an altogether flattering connection. Only recently, I am afraid, have I had the honesty to acknowledge it! But, having once done so, it seems only reasonable to look up the members of my unlucky family and take care of them, and if possible put them through—not on the lines of a charitable institution, which must inevitably be a rather mechanical, step‐mother kind of arrangement at best, but on the lines of family affection, of personal friendship.”

He paused a moment.

“Does that strike you as too unpractical and fantastic, contrary to sound, philanthropic principle and practice?”

Honoria shook her head.

“It is based on a higher law than any of modern organised philanthropy,” she said, and her voice had a queer unsteadiness page: 573 in it. “It goes back to the Gospels—to the matter of giving your life for your friend.”

As she spoke, Honoria rose. She went across and stood at the window. Furtively she dabbed her pocket handkerchief against her eyes.

“Well, after all, one must give one’s life for something or other, you know,” Richard remarked, “or the days would become a little too intolerably dull, and then one might be tempted to make short work of life altogether.”

Honoria returned to her chair again and sat down—this time not on the arm of it but in ordinary conventional fashion. She faced Richard. He observed that her eyelids were slightly swollen, slightly red. This gave an extraordinary effect of gentleness to her expression.

“How do you find them—the members of your sad family?” she asked.

“Oh, in all sorts of ways and of places! Knott swears it is contrary to reason, an interfering with the beneficent tendency of nature to kill off the unfit. Yet he works like a horse to help me—even talks of giving up his practice and moving to Farley Row, so as to be near the headquarters of my establishment. The lease of a rather charming, old house there fell in this year. Fortunately the tenant did not want to renew, so I am having that made comfortable for them.”

Richard smiled. A greater sense of well‐being animated him. Out of the world she had come, back into the world she would go. Meanwhile she was nobly fair to look upon, she was pure of heart, intercourse with her made for the justification of high purposes and unselfish experiment—so he thought.

“I am growing as keen on bagging a fine cripple as another man might be on bagging a fine tiger,” he said. “The whole matter at bottom, I suspect, turns on the instinct of sport.— Only the week before last I acquired a rather terribly superior specimen—a lad of eighteen, a factory hand in Westchurch. He was caught by some loose gearing and swept into the machinery. What is left of him—if it survives, which it had much better not, and yet I can’t help hoping it will, he is such a plucky, sweet‐natured fellow—will require a nurse for the rest of its life. So I am pushing on the work at Farley, that the home may be ready when we get him out of hospital.—By the way, I must go to‐morrow and stir up the workmen—Do you care to come and see it all, if the afternoon is fine and not too hot?”

And Honoria agreed. Nor did she shrink when Richard slipping out of his chair picked up his crutches.—“I suppose it page: 574 is about time to get ready for the Grimshott function,” he said.—She walked beside him to the door, opened it and passed into the neutral‐tinted, tapestry‐hung dining‐room. There the young man waited a moment. He looked not at her but straight before him.

“Honoria,” he said suddenly, almost harshly, “you and Helen de Vallorbes used to be great friends. For more than a year I have held no communication with her, except through my lawyers. Can you tell me anything about her?”

Miss St. Quentin hesitated.

“Nothing very direct—I heard from de Vallorbes about three months ago. I don’t think I am faithless—indeed I held on to her as long as I could, Richard! I am not squeamish, and then I always prefer to stand by the woman. But whatever de Vallorbes may have been, he pulled himself together rather admirably from the time he went into the army. He wanted to keep straight and to live respectably. And—I hate to say so—but she treated him a little too flagrantly. And then—and then”—

Honoria put her hands over her eyes and shook back her head angrily.

“It wasn’t one man, Richard.”

Dickie went white to the lips.

“I know that,” he said.

He moved forward a few steps.

“Who is it now? Destournelle?”

“Oh no—no”—Honoria said. “Some Russian—from the extreme east—Kazan, I think—prince, millionaire, drunken savage. But he adores her. He squanders money upon her, surrounds her with barbaric state. This is de Vallorbes’ version of the affair. The scandal is open and notorious. But she and her prince together have great power. Something will eventually be arranged in the way of a marriage. She will not come back.”

CHAPTER IX

TELLING HOW LUDOVIC QUAYLE AND HONORIA ST. QUENTIN WATCHED THE TROUT RISE IN THE LONG WATER

SOME hour and a half later Miss St. Quentin passed down the flight of stone steps, leading from the southern end of the terrace to the grass slopes of the park. Arrived at the lowest step she gathered the skirt of her dress up over one arm, thereby page: 575 securing greater freedom of movement, and displaying a straight length of pink and white petticoat. Thus prepared she fared forth over the still smoking turf. The storm had passed, but the atmosphere remained thick and humid. A certain opulence of colour obtained in the landscape. The herbs in the grass, wild‐thyme, wild‐balm, and star‐flowered camomile, smelt strongly aromatic as she trod them under foot, while the beds of bracken, dried and yellowed by the drought, gave off a sharp, woody scent.

Usually, when thus alone and in contact with nature, such matters claimed Honoria’s whole attention, ministering to her love of earth‐lore and of Mother Earth—producing in her silent worship of those primitive deities who at once preside over and inhabit the waste‐land and the tilth, the untamed forest and the pastures where heavy‐uddered, sweet‐breathed cows lie in the deep, meadow grass, the garden ground, all pleasant orchard places, and the broad promise of the waving crops. But this afternoon, although the colour, odour, warmth, and all the many voices praising the refreshment of the rain, were sensibly present to her, Honoria’s thought failed to be engrossed by them. For she was in process of worshipping younger and more compassionate deities, sadder, because more human ones, whose office lies not with Nature in her eternal repose and fecundity, but with man in his eternal failure and unrest. Not august Ceres, giver of the golden harvest‐fields, or fierce Cybele, the goddess of the many paps, but spare, brown‐habited St. Francis, serving his brethren with bleeding hands and feet, held empire over her meditations.—In imagination she saw—saw with only too lively realisation of detail—that eighteen‐year‐old lad, in the factory at Westchurch, drawn up—all the unspent hopes and pleasures of his young manhood active in him—by the loose gearing, into the merciless vortex of revolving wheels; and there, without preparation, without pause of warning, without any dignity of shouting multitude, of arena or of stake, martyred—converted in a few horrible seconds from health and wholeness into a formless lump of human waste. And up and down the land, as she reflected, wherever the great systems of trade and labour, which build up the mechanical and material prosperity of our day, go forward, kindred things happen—let alone question of all those persons who are born into the world already injured, or bearing the seeds of foul and disfiguring diseases in their organs and their blood. Verily Richard Calmady’s sad family was a rather terribly large one, well calculated to maintain its numbers, even to increase! For neither the age of human page: 576 sacrifice nor of cannibalism is really done with; nor is the practice of them limited to savage peoples in distant lands or far‐away isles of the sea. They form the basis actually, though in differing of outward aspect, of all existing civilisations, just as they formed the basis of all past civilisations—a basis, moreover, perpetually recemented and relaid. And, as she considered—being courageous and fair‐minded—it was inevitable that this should be so, unthinkable that it should be otherwise, since it made, at least indirectly, for the prosperity of the majority and development of the race. Considering which—the apparently cruel paradox and irony of it—Honoria swung down past the scattered hawthorns, thick with ruddy fruit, across the fragrant herbs and short, sweet turf, through the straggling fern‐brakes, which impeded her progress plucking at her skirts, careless of the rich colour and ample beauty out‐spread before her.

But soon, as a bird after describing far‐ranging circles drops at last upon the from at‐first‐determined spot, so her thought settled down with relief yet in a way unwillingly—and that not out of any lingering repulsion, but rather from a certain proud modesty and self‐respect—upon Richard Calmady himself. Not only did he apprehend all this, far more clearly, more intimately than she could—had he not spoken of the advantages of a certain blackness?—Honoria’s vision became somewhat indistinct—but he set out to deal with it in a practical manner. And in this connection she began to understand how it had come about that through years of ingratitude and neglect, and of loose‐living on his part, his mother could still remain patient, could endure, and supremely love. For behind the obvious, the almost coarse, tragedy and consequent appeal of the man’s deformity, there was the further appeal of something very admirable in the man himself, for the emergence and due blossoming of which it would be very possible, very worth while, for whoso once recognised its existence to wait. John Knott had been right in his estimate of Richard. Ludovic Quayle had been right. Lady Calmady had been right.—Honoria had begun to believe that, even before Richard had come forth from his self‐imposed seclusion, in the spring. The belief had increased during her subsequent intercourse with him, had been reinforced during her few days’ visit at Whitsuntide. Yet, until now, she had never freely and openly admitted it. She wondered why? And then hastily she put such wondering from her. Again a certain proud modesty held her back. She did not want to think of herself in relation to him, or of him in relation to herself. She wished, for a reason she refused to define, to exclude the personal page: 577 element. Doing that she could permit herself larger latitude of admiration. His acknowledgment of fellowship with, and obligation of friendship towards, all victims of physical disaster kindled her enthusiasm. She perceived that it was contrary to the man’s natural arrogance, natural revolt against the humiliation put upon him—a rather superb overcoming, in short, of nature by grace. Nor was it the outgrowth of any morbid or sentimental emotion. It had no tincture of the hysteric element. It took its rise in conviction and in experiment. For Richard, though still young, struck her as remarkably mature. He had lived his life, sinned his sins—she did not doubt that—suffered unusual sorrows, bought his experience in the open market and at a sufficiently high price. And this was the result! It pleased her imagination by its essential unworldliness, its idealism and individuality of outlook. She went back on her earlier judgment of him, first formulated as a complaint,—he was strong, whether for good or evil, now unselfishly for good; and Honoria, being herself among the strong, supremely valued and welcomed strength. And so it happened that the tone of her meditations altered, being increasingly attuned to a serious, but very real congratulation; for she perceived that the tragedy of human life also constitutes the magnificence of human life, since it affords, and always must afford, supreme opportunity of heroism.

She had traversed the open space of turf, and come to the tall, iron hurdles enclosing the paddock. She folded her arms on the topmost bar of the iron gate and stood there. She wanted to rest a little in these thoughts that had come to her. She was not quite sure of them as yet. But, if they meant anything, if they were other than mere rhetoric, they must mean a very great deal, into harmony with which it would be necessary to bring her thought upon many other subjects. She was conscious of an excitement, a reaching out towards some but‐half‐disclosed glory, some new and very exquisite fulness of life. But was it new, after all? Was it not rather the at‐last‐permitted activity of faculties and sensibilities hitherto refused development, voluntarily, perhaps cowardly, held in check and repressed? She appeared to be making acquaintance with unexpected depths of apprehension and emotion in herself. And this, for cause unknown, brought her into more lively commerce with her immediate surroundings and the sentiment of them. Her eyes rested upon them questioningly, as though they might afford a tally to, perhaps an explanation of, the strange, yet lovely emotion which had invaded her.

page: 578

Here in the valley, notwithstanding the recent drought, the grass was lush. Across the paddock, just within the circuit of the far railings, a grove of large beech trees broke the expanse of living green. Beyond, seen beneath their down‐sweeping branches, the surface of the Long Water repeated the hot purple, the dun‐colour and silver‐pink, of the sky. On the opposite slope, extending from the elm avenue to the outlying masses of the woods and upward to the line of oaks which run parallel with the park palings, were cornlands. The wheat, a red‐gold, was already for the most part bound in shocks. A company of women, wearing lilac and pink sun‐bonnets and all‐round, blue, linen aprons faded by frequent washing to a fine clearness of tone, came down over the blond stubble. They carried, in little baskets and shining tins, tea for the white‐shirred harvesters who were busy setting up the storm‐fallen sheaves. They laughed and talked together, and their voices came to Honoria with a pleasant quality of sound. Two stumbling baby‐children, hand in hand, followed them, as did a small, white‐and‐tan spotted dog. One woman was bare‐headed and wore a black bodice, which gave a singular value to her figure amid the all‐obtaining yellow of the corn.

The scene in its simple and homely charm held the poetry of that happier side of labour, of that most ancient of all industries—the husbandman’s—and of the generous giving of the soil. Set in a frame of opulently coloured woodland and sky, the stately red‐brick and freestone house crowning the high land and looking forth upon it all, the whole formed, to Honoria’s thinking, a very noble picture. And then, of a sudden, in the midst of her quiet enjoyment of it and a tenderness which the sight of it somehow begot in her, she was seized by sharp, unreasoning regret that she must so soon leave it. Unreasoning regret that she had engaged to go abroad this winter, with poor, pretty, frivolous, young Lady Tobermory—spoilt child of society and of wealth—now half‐crazed, rendered desperate, by the fear that disease, which had laid a threatening finger on her, might lay its whole hand, cutting short her playtime and breaking her many toys. Of anything other than toys and playtime she had no conception.—“Those brutes of doctors tell Tobermory I must give up low gowns,” she wrote. “And I adore my neck and shoulders. Everyone always has admired them. It makes me utterly miserable to cover them up. And now that I am thinner I could have my gowns cut lower than ever, nearly down to my waist, which makes it all the more intolerable. I went to Dessaix about it, went over to Paris on page: 579 purpose, though Tobermory was wild at my travelling in the heat. He—Dessaix, I mean, not poor T.—was just as nice as possible, and promised to invent new styles. Still, of course, I must look dowdy at night in a high gown. Everybody does. I shall feel exactly like our clergyman’s wife at Ellerhay, when she comes to dine with us at Christmas and Easter and once in the summer. I refuse to have her oftener than that. She has a long back and about fourteen children, which she seems to think a great credit to her. I don’t, as they are ugly, and she is dreadfully poor. She wears her Sunday silk with lace wound about, don’t you know, but wound tight. That means full dress. I am buying some lace, Duchesse at three and a half guineas a yard. I suppose I shall come to winding that of an evening. Then I shall look like her. It makes me cry dreadfully, and, as I tell Tobermory, that is worse for me than any number of lungs. Darling H., if you really love me in the least, bring nothing but high gowns. Perhaps I mayn’t mind quite so much if I never see you in a low one.”—There had been much more to the same effect, pathetic in its inadequacy and egoism. Only, as Honoria reflected, that is a style of pathos dangerously liable to pall upon one. She sighed, for the prospect of spending the winter participating in the frivolities, and striving to restrain the indiscretions of this little, damaged butterfly, did not smile upon her. She might have stayed on here, stayed on at Brockhurst, and worked over the dear place as she had so often done before—helping Lady Calmady. Why had she promised?—Well—because she had been rather restless, unsettled, and at loose ends of late—

Whereupon the young lady bent down and unfastened the padlock with a certain decision of movement, closed the gate, relocking it carefully behind her; and started off across the deep grass of the paddock, her pale face very serious, her small head held high. She would keep faith with Evelyn Tobermory. Of course she would keep faith with her. It was not only a matter of honour, but of expediency. It was much, very much, better to go. Yet whence this sudden heat proceeded, and why the Egyptian journey assumed suddenly such paramount desirability, she carefully did not stay to inquire—an omission not, perhaps, without significance.

The half‐dozen dainty fillies, meanwhile, who had eyed her shyly from their station beneath the beech trees, trotted gently towards her with friendly whinnyings, their fine ears pricked, their long tails carried well away in a sweeping curve. Honoria went on to meet them. She was glad of something to occupy her hands, some outside, concrete thing to occupy her thought. page: 580 She took the foremost, a dark bay, by the nose‐strap of its leather head‐stall, patted the beast’s sleek neck, looked into its prominent, heavy‐lidded eyes,—the blue film over the velvet‐like iris and pupil of them giving a singular softness of effect,—drew down the fine, aristocratic head, and kissed the little star where the hair turned in the centre of the smooth, hard forehead. It was as perfectly bred as she was herself—so clean, so fresh, that to touch it was wholly pleasant! Then she backed away from it, holding it at arm’s‐length, noting how every line of its limbs and body was graceful and harmonious, full of the promise of easy strength, easy freedom of movement. That it was a trifle blown out in barrel, from being at grass, only gave its contours an added suavity. It was a lovely beast, a delicious beast! Honoria smiled upon it, talked to, parted and coaxed it. While another young beauty, waxing brave, pushed its black muzzle under her arm, and lipped at her jacket pockets in search of bread and of apples. And, these good things once discovered, the rest of the drove came about her, civilly, a trifle proudly, as befitted such fine ladies, with no pushings and hustlings of vulgar greed. And they charmed her. She was very much at one with them. She fed them fearlessly, thrusting one aside in favour of another, giving each reward in due turn. She passed her hands down over their slender limbs. The warm colours and the gloss of them were pleasant to her eyes. And they smelt sweet, as did the trampled grass beneath their unshod hoofs. For a while the human problem—its tragedy, magnificence, inadequacy alike‐ceased to trouble her. The poetry of these beautiful, innocent, clean‐feeding beasts was, for the moment, sufficient in and by itself.

But, even while she thus played with and rejoiced in them, remembrance of their owner came back to her, his maiming, as against their perfection of finish, the lamentable disparity between his physical equipment and theirs. Honoria’s expression lost its nonchalant gaiety. She pushed her gentle, equine comrades away to left and right, not that they ceased to please but that the human problem and the tragedy of it once more became dominant. She walked on across the paddock rapidly, while the fillies, forming up behind her, followed in single file treading a sinuous pathway through the grass, the foremost one still pushing its black muzzle, now and again, under her elbow and nibbling insinuatingly at her empty jacket pockets.—If only that horrible misfortune had not befallen Richard Calmady! If—if— But then, had it not befallen him, would he ever have been excited to so admirable effort, would he ever have attained so page: 581 absorbing and vigorous a personality as he actually had? Again her thought turned on itself, to provocation of momentary impatience.—Honoria unfastened the second padlock with a return of her former decision. There were conclusions she wished instinctively to avoid, from which she instinctively desired escape. She forced aside the all‐too‐affectionate, bay filly who crowded upon her, shot back the bar of the gate and relocked it. Then, once again, she kissed the pretty beast on the forehead as it stretched its neck over the top of the gate.

“Good‐bye, dear lass,” she said. “Win your races and, when the time comes, drop foals as handsome as yourself; and thank your stars you’re under orders, and so have small chance to muddle your affairs—as with your good looks, my dear, you most assuredly would, like all the rest of us.”

With which excellent advice she swung away down the last twenty yards of the avenue and out on to the roadway of the red‐brick and freestone bridge. Here in the open, above the water, the air was sensibly fresher. From the paddock the deserted fillies whinnied to her. The voices of the harvesters came cheerily from the cornland. The men sat in the blond stubble, backed by a range of upstanding sheaves. The women, bright in those frail blues, clear pinks, and lilacs, knelt serving their meal. She of the black bodice stood apart, her hands upon her hips, looking towards the bridge and its solitary occupant. The tan‐and‐white spotted dog ran to and fro chasing field‐mice and yapped. The baby‐children staggered after it, uttering excited squeakings and cries. The lower cloud had parted in the west, disclosing an upper stratum of pale gold, which widened upward and outward as the minutes passed. Save immediately below, in the shadow of the bridge, this found reflection in the water, overlaying it as with the blond of the stubble and warmer tones of the sheaves. Honoria sat down sideways on the coping of the parapet. She watched the moor‐hens, dark of plumage, a splash of fiery orange on their jaunty little heads, swim out with restless, jerky motion from the edge of the reed‐beds and break up the shining surface with diverging lines of rippling, brown shadow. In the shade cast by the bridge, trout rose at the dancing gnats and flies. She could see them rush upward through the brown water. Sometimes they leapt clear of it, exposing their silver bellies, pink‐spotted sides, and the olive‐green of their backs. They dropped again with a flop, and rings circled outward from the place of their disappearing.

All this Honoria saw, but dreamily, pensively. She realised, page: 582 as never before, that, much as she might love this place and the life of it, she was a guest only, a pilgrim and sojourner. The absoluteness of her own independence ceased to please.—“Me this unchartered freedom tries.” As she quoted the line, Honoria smiled. These were, indeed, new aspects of herself! Where would they carry her, both in thought and in action? It was a little alarming to contemplate that. And then her pensiveness increased, a strange nostalgia taking her—amounting almost to physical pain—for that same but‐half‐disclosed glory, that same new and very exquisite fulness of life, apprehension of which had lately been vouchsafed to her. If she could remain very still and undisturbed, if she could empty her consciousness of all else, bend her whole will to an act at once of determination and of reception, perhaps, it would be given her clearly to see and understand. The idealist, the mystic, were very present in Honoria just then. She fixed her eyes upon the shining surface of the water. A conviction grew upon her that, could she maintain a certain mental and emotional equilibrium, something of permanent and very vital importance must take place.

Suddenly she heard footsteps upon the gravel of the roadway. She started, turned deliberately, holding in check the agitation which possessed her, to find herself confronted by the tall, pre‐eminently modern and mundane figure of Ludovic Quayle. Honoria gave herself a little shake of uncontrollable impatience. For less than twopence‐halfpenny she could have given the very gentlemanlike intruder a shake too! He let her down with a bump, so to speak, from regions mysterious and supernal, to regions altogether social and of this world worldly. And yet she knew that such feelings were not a little hard and unjust as entertained towards poor Mr. Quayle.

The young man, in any case, was happily ignorant of having offended. He sauntered out on to the bridge, hat in hand, his head a trifle on one side, his long neck directed slightly forward, his expression that of polite and intimate amusement—but whether amusement at his own, or his fellow‐creatures’ expense, it would have been difficult to declare.

“At last, I find you, my dear Miss St. Quentin,” he said. “And I have sought for you as for lost treasure. Forgive a biblical form of address—a reminiscence merely of my father’s morning ministrations to my unmarried sisters, the footmen, and the maids. He reads them the most surprising little histories at times, which make me positively blush; but that’s a detail. To account for my invasion of your idyllic solitude—I learned page: 583 incidentally you proposed coming here from Ormiston this week. I thought I would venture on an early attempt to find you. But I drew the house blank, though assisted by Winter—the terrace also blank. Then from the troco‐ground I beheld that which looked promising, coquetting with Dickie’s yearlings. So I followed on to know—my father and the maids again—followed on to—to my reward.”

Mr. Quayle stood directly in front of her. He spoke with admirable urbanity, yet with even greater rapidity than usual. His beautifully formed mouth pursed itself up between the sentences, with that effect of indulgent superiority which was at once so attractive and so excessively provoking. But, for all that, Honoria perceived that for once in his life the young man was distinctly, not to say acutely, nervous.

“The reward will be limited I’m afraid,” she replied, “for my temper is unaccountably out of sorts this afternoon.”

“And, if one may make bold to inquire, why out of sorts, dear Miss St. Quentin?”

He sat down on the parapet near her, crossed his legs, and fell to nursing his left knee. The woman of the black bodice went up across the pale stubble to her companions. She talked to them, nodding her head in the direction of the bridge.

“I have promised to do a certain thing, and, having promised, of course I must do it.”

Honoria looked away towards the harvesters up there among the gold of the corn.

“And yet, now I have committed myself, thinking it over I find I dislike doing it warmly.”

“The statement of the case is just a trifle vague,” Mr. Quayle remarked. “But—if one may brave a suggestion—supersede a first duty by a second and, of course, a greater. With a little exercise of imagination, a little goodwill, a little assistance from a true friend thrown in perhaps, it is generally quite possible to manage that, I think.”

“And you are prepared to play the part of the true friend?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Then go to Cairo for the winter with Evelyn Tobermory. You must take no low gowns—ah! poor little soul, it is pathetic, though—she’s forbidden to wear them. And—let me stay here,” Honoria said.

Ludovic gazed at his hands as they clasped his knee, then he looked sideways at his companion.

“Here, meaning—meaning Brockhurst, dear Miss St. Quentin?” he asked very sweetly.

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“Meaning England,” she declared.

“England?—ah! really. That pleases me better. Patriotism is an excellent virtue. The remark is not a wholly original one, but it comes in handy just now, all the same.”

The young lady’s head went up. She was displeased. Turning sideways, she leaned both hands on the stonework and stared down into the water. But speedily she repented.

“See how the fish rise,” she said. “It really is a pity one hasn’t a fly‐rod.”

“I was under the impression you once told me that you objected to taking life, except in self‐defence or for purposes of commissariat. The trout would almost certainly be muddy. And I am quite unconscious of being exposed to any danger—at least from the trout.”

Miss St. Quentin kept her eyes fixed upon the water.

“I told you my temper was out of sorts,” she said.

“Is that a warning?” Ludovic inquired, with the utmost mildness.

Honoria was busy feeling in her jacket pockets. At the bottom of them a few crumbs remained. She emptied these on to the surface of the water, by the simple expedient of turning the pockets inside out.

“I know nothing about warnings,” she said. “I state a plain fact. You can make of it what you please.”

The young man rose leisurely from his place, sauntered across the roadway, and stood with his back to her, looking down the valley. The. harvesters, their meal finished, moved away towards the farther side of the great cornfield. The women followed them slowly, gleaning as they went. It was very quiet. And again there came to Honoria that ache of longing for the but‐half‐disclosed glory and fulness of life. It was there, an actuality—could she but find it, had she but the courage and the wit. Then, from the open moorland beyond the park palings came the sound of horses trotting sharply. Ludovic Quayle turned and recrossed the road. He smiled, but his superfine manner, his effect of slight impertinence were, for the moment, in abeyance.

“Miss St. Quentin,” he said, “what is the use of fencing any longer? 1 have done that which I engaged to do, namely displayed the patience of innumerable asses. And—if I may be pardoned mentioning such a thing—the years pass. Really they do. And I seem to get no forwarder! My position becomes slightly ludicrous.”

“I know it, I know it,” Honoria cried penitently.

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“That I am ludicrous?”

“No, no,” she protested, “that I have been unreasonable and traded on your forbearance, that I have done wrong in allowing you to wait.”

“That you could not very well help,” he said, “since I chose to wait. And, indeed, I greatly preferred waiting as long as there seemed to be a hope there was something—anything, in short—to wait for.”

“Ah! but that is precisely what I have never been sure about myself—whether there really was anything to wait for or not.”

She sat straight on the coping of the parapet again. Her face bore the most engaging expression. There was a certain softness in her aspect to‐day. She was less of a youth, a comrade, so it seemed to Mr. Quayle, more distinctly, more consciously a woman. But now, to the sound of trotting horse‐hoofs was added that of wheels. With a clang the lodge‐gates were thrown open.

“And are you still uncertain? In the back of your mind is there still a trifle of doubt?—If so, give me the benefit of it,” the young man pleaded, half laughingly, half brokenly.

A carriage passed under the grey archway of the red‐brick and freestone lodges. Rapidly it came on down the wide, smooth, string‐coloured road—a space of neatly kept turf on either side—under the shade of the heavy‐foliaged elm trees. Mr. Quayle glanced at it, and paused with raised eyebrows.

“I call you to witness that I do not swear, dear Miss St. Quentin, though men have been known to become blasphemous on slighter provocation than this,” he said. “However, the rather violently‐approaching interruption will be soon over, I hope and believe; since the driving is that of Richard Calmady of Brockhurst when his temper, like your own, being somewhat out of sorts, he, as Jehu the son of Nimshi of old—my father’s morning ministrations to the maids again—driveth furiously.”

Then, with an air of humorous resignation, his mouth working a little, his long neck directed forward as in mildly surprised inquiry, he stood watching the approaching mail‐phaeton. The wheels of it made a hollow rumbling, the tramp of the horses was impetuous, the pole‐chains rattled, as it swung out on to the bridge and drew up. The grooms whipped down and ran round to the horses’ heads. And these stood, a little extended, still and rigid as of bronze, the red of their open nostrils and the silver mounting of their harness very noticeable. Lady Calmady page: 586 called to Mr. Quayle. The young man passed round at the back of the carriage, and, standing on the far side of the roadway, talked with her.

Honoria St. Quentin remained sitting on the parapet of the bridge.

A singular disinclination to risk any movement had come upon her. Not the present situation in relation to Ludovic Quayle, but that other situation of the but‐half‐disclosed glory, the new and exquisite fulness of life, oppressed her, penetrating her whole being to the point of physical weakness. Questioningly, yet with entire unself‐consciousness, she looked up at Richard Calmady. And he, from the exalted height of the driving‐seat, looked down at her. A dark, cloth rug was wrapped tight round him from the waist downward. It concealed the high driving‐iron against which his feet rested. It concealed the strap which steadied him in his place. His person appeared finely proportioned. His head and face were surprisingly handsome seen thus from below—though it must be conceded the expression of the latter was very far from angelic.

“You were well advised to stay at home, Honoria,” he said. There was a grating tone in his voice.

“The function was even more distinguished for dulness than you expected?”

“On the contrary, it was not in the least dull. It was actively objectionable, ingeniously unpleasant. Whereas this”—

His face softened a little. He glanced at the golden water and cornland, the lush green of the paddock, the rich, massive colouring of woodland and sky. Honoria glanced at it likewise, and, so doing, rose to her feet. That nostalgia of things new and glorious ached in her. Yet the pain of it had a strange and intimate charm, making it unlike any pain she had ever yet felt. It hurt her very really, it made her weak, yet she would not have had it cease.

“Yes, it is all very lovely, isn’t it?” she said.

She laid her hand on the folded leather of the carriage hood. Again she looked up.

“It is a good deal to have this—always—your own, to come back to, Richard.”

She spoke sadly, almost unwillingly. Dickie did not answer, but he looked down, a certain violence and energy very evident in him, his blue eyes hard, and, in the depth of them, desolate as the sky of a winter night. Calmly, yet in a way desperately as those who dare inquiry beyond the range of permitted human speech, the young man and woman looked at one another. Lady page: 587 Calmady’s sweet voice, meanwhile, went on in kindly question. Ludovic Quayle’s in well‐placed, slightly elaborate answer. The near horse threw back its head and the pole‐chains rattled smartly.—Honoria’s lips parted, but the words, if words indeed there were, died in her throat. She raised her hands, as though putting a tangible and actual presence away from her. She did not change colour; but for the moment her delicate features appeared thickened, as by a rush of blood. She was almost plain. Yet the effect was inexpressibly touching. It was as though she had received some mysterious injury which she was dumb, incapable to express. She let her hands drop at her sides, turned away and walked to the far end of the bridge.

Suddenly Richard’s voice came to her, aggressive, curt.

“Look out, Ludovic—stand clear of the wheel.”

The horses sprang forward, the grooms scrambled up at the back, and the carriage swung away from the brightness of the open to the gloom of the avenue and up the long hill to the house.

Mr. Quayle contemplated it for a minute or so. Then, with an air of amused toleration, he followed Miss St. Quentin across the bridge.

“Poor, dear Dickie Calmady, poor, dear Dickie!” he said. “He attempts the impossible. Fails to attain it—as a matter of course; and, meanwhile, misses the possible—equally as a matter of course. It is all very magnificent, no doubt, but it is also not a little uncomfortable, at times, for other people.—However that trifle of criticism is, after all, beside the mark. Now that the whirlwind has ceased, Miss St. Quentin, may the still, small voice of my own affairs presume to make itself”—

But there he stopped abruptly.

“My dear friend,” he asked in quick anxiety, “what is the matter? Pardon me, but what on earth has happened to you?”

For Honoria leaned both elbows on the low, carved pillar terminating the masonry of the parapet. She covered her face with her hands. And, incontestably, she shuddered queerly from head to foot.

“Wait half a second,” she said, in a stifled voice. “It’s nothing—I’m all right.”

Slowly she raised herself, and took a long breath. Then she turned to her faithful lover, showing him a brave, if somewhat drawn and tired, countenance.

“Ludovic,” she said gently, “don’t, don’t please let us talk any more about all that. And don’t, I entreat you, wait any longer. If there was any uncertainty, if there was a doubt in the back of my mind, it’s gone. Forgive me—this must sound brutal page: 588 —but there is no more doubt. I can’t marry you. I am sorry, horribly sorry—for you have been as charming to me as a man could be—but I shall never be able to marry you.”

Mr. Quayle’s expression retained its sweetness, even its effect of amusement, though his lips quivered, and his eyelids were a little red.

“I do not come up to the requirements of the grand passion?” he said. “Alas! poor me”—

“No, no, it isn’t that,” Honoria protested.

“Ah, then,”—he paused, with an air of extraordinary intelligence—“perhaps someone else does?”

“Yes,” she said simply, “I don’t like it, but it’s there, and so I’ve got to go through with it—someone else does.”

“In that case it is indeed hopeless! I give it up,” he cried.

He moved aside and stood gazing at the rising trout in the golden‐brown water. Then he raised his head sharply, as in obedience to a thought suddenly occurring to him, and gazed at Brockhurst House. The brightness of the western sky found reflection in its many windows. A noble cheerfulness seemed to pervade it, as it crowned the hillside amid its gardens and far‐ranging woods.

“By all that’s”—Mr. Quayle began. But he repressed the exclamation, and his expression was wholly friendly as he returned to Miss St. Quentin.

“Good‐bye,” he said.—“I am glad, honestly glad, you have found the grand passion, though the object of it can’t, in the first blush of the affair, be altogether persona grata to myself. But, to show that really I have a little root of magnanimity in me, I am quite prepared to undertake a winter at Cairo, plus Evelyn Tobermory and minus low dresses, if that will enable you to stay on here—I mean in England—of course.”

He pursed up his beautiful mouth, he carried his head on one side with the liveliest effect of provocation, as he held the young lady’s hand while bidding her farewell.

“Out of my heart I hope you will be very happy,” he said.

“I shall never be anything but Honoria St. Quentin,” she answered rather hastily. Then she softened, forgiving him.—“Oh! why,” she said, “why will you make me quarrel with you just now, just at the last?”

“Because—because”—Mr. Quayle’s voice broke, though his superior smile remained to him.—“I think I will not prolong the interview,” he said. “To be frank with you, dear Miss St. Quentin, I am about as miserable as is consonant with com‐ page: 589 plete sanity and excellent health. I do not propose to blow my brains out, but I think—yes, thanks—you appreciate the desirability of that course of action too?—I think it is about time I went.”

CHAPTER X

CONCERNING A DAY OF HONEST WARFARE AND A SUNSET HARBINGER NOT OF THE NIGHT BUT OF THE DAWN

THAT episode, upon the bridge spanning the Long Water, brought Richard would‐be saint, Richard pilgrim along the great white road which leads onward to Perfection, into lively collision with Richard the natural man, not to mention Richard the “wild bull in a net.” These opposing forces engaged battle, with the consequence that the carriage horses took the hill at a rather breakneck pace. Not that Dickie touched them, but that, he being vibrant, they felt his mood down the length of the reins and responded to it.

“Ludovic need hardly have been in such a prodigious hurry,” he broke out. “He might have allowed one a few days’ grace. It was a defect of taste to come over immediately; but then all that family’s taste is liable to lapses.”

Promptly he repented, ashamed both of his anger and such self‐revealing expression of it.

“I daresay it’s all for the best though. Better a thing should be nipped in the bud than in the blossom. And this puts it all on a right footing. One might easily drift into depending too much upon Honoria. I own I was dangerously near doing that this spring. I don’t mind telling you so now, mother, because this, you see, disposes finally of the matter.”

His voice contended oddly with the noise of the wheels, rattle of the pole‐chains, pounding of the hoofs of the pulling horses. The sentences came to Lady Calmady’s ears disjointed, difficult to follow and interpret. Therefore she answered slightly at random.

“My dearest, I could have kept, her longer in the spring if I had only known,” she said, a disquieting suspicion of lost opportunity assailing her. “But, from certain things which you said, I thought you preferred our being alone.”

“So I did. I wanted her to go because I wanted her to stay. Do you see?”

“Ah, yes! I see,” Katherine replied. And at that moment, page: 590 it must be conceded, her sentiments were not conspicuously pacific towards her devoted adherent, Mr. Quayle.

“We’ve a good many interests in common,” Dickie went on, “and there seemed a chance of one’s settling down into a rather charming friendship with her. It was a beguiling prospect. And, for that very reason, it was best she should depart. The prospect, in all its beguilingness, renewed itself to‐day after luncheon.”‐He paused, handling the plunging horses.—“And so, after all, Ludovic shall be reckoned welcome; for, as I say, I might have come to depend on her. And one’s a fool—I ought to have learnt that salutary lesson by this time—a rank fool, to depend on anybody or anything, save oneself, simply and solely oneself”—his tone softened—“and upon you, most dear and long‐suffering mother.—Therefore the dream of friendship goes overboard along with all the rest of one’s little illusions. And every illusion one rids oneself of is so much to the good. It lightens the ship. It lessens the chances of foundering. Clearly it is so much pure gain.”

That evening, pleading—unexampled occurrence in her case—a headache as excuse, Miss St. Quentin did not put in an appearance at dinner. Nor did Richard put in an appearance at breakfast next morning. At an early hour he had received a communication earnestly requesting his presence at the Westchurch Infirmary. His mission promised to be a melancholy one, yet he was not sorry for the demand made by it upon his time and thought. For, notwithstanding the philosophic tone he had adopted with Lady Calmady in speaking of that friendship which, if not nipped in the bud, might have reached perils of too luxuriant blossoming, the would‐be saint and the natural man, the pilgrim on the highroad to Perfection and that very inconvenient animal “the wild bull in a net,” kept up warfare within Richard Calmady. They were hard at it even yet, when, in the fair freshness of the September morning—the grasses and hedge‐fruit, the wild flowers, and low‐growing, tangled coppices by the roadside, still heavy with dew—he drove over to Westchurch. The day was bright, with flying cloud and a westerly breeze. The dust was laid, and the atmosphere, cleared by the storm of the preceding afternoon, had a smack of autumn in it. It was one of those delicious, yet distracting, days when the sea calls, and when whosoever loves sea‐faring grows restless, must seek movement, seek the open, strain his eyes towards the margin of the land—be the coast‐line never so far distant—tormented by desire for sight of the blue water, and the strong and naked joys of the mighty ridge and furrow where go the gallant ships.

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With the upspringing of the wind at dawn, that calling of the sea had made itself heard to Richard. At first it suggested only the practical temptation of putting the Reprieve into commission, and engaging Lady Calmady to go forth with him on a three or four months’ cruise. But that, as he speedily convinced himself, was but a pitifully cheap expedient, a shirking of voluntarily assumed responsibility, a childish cheating of discontent, rather than an honestly attempted cure of it. If cure was to be achieved, the canker must be excised, boldly cut out, not overlaid merely by some trifle of partially concealing plaster. For he knew well enough, as all sea‐lovers know—and, as he drove through the dappled sunlight and shadow, frankly admitted—that though the sea itself very actually and really called, yet its calling was the voice and symbol of much over and above itself. For in it speaks the eternal necessity of going forward, that hunger and thirst for the absolute and ultimate which drives every human creature whose heart and soul and intellect are truly animate. And to him, just now, it spoke more particularly of the natural instincts of his manhood—of ambition, of passion, of headlong desire of sensation, excitement, adventure, of just all that, in fact, which he had forsworn, had agreed with himself to cast aside and forget. And, thinking of this, suspicion assailed him that forswearing had been slightly insincere and perfunctory. He accused himself of nourishing the belief that giving he would also receive,—and that in kind,—while that any sacrifice which he offered would be returned to him doubled in value. Casting his bread upon the waters, he accused himself of having expected to find it, not “after many days,” but immediately—a full baker’s dozen ready to hand in his pocket. His motives had not been wholly pure. Actually, though not at the time consciously, he had essayed to strike a bargain with the Almighty.

Just as he reached the top of the long, straight hill leading down into Westchurch, Richard arrived at these unflattering conclusions. On either side the road, upon the yellow surface of which the sunlight played through the tossing leaves of the plane trees, were villas of very varied and hybrid styles of architecture. They were, for the most part, smothered in creepers, and set in gardens gay with blossom. Below lay the sprawling, red‐brick town, blotted with purple shadow. A black canal meandered through the heart of it, crossed by mean, humpbacked bridges. The huge, amorphous buildings of its railway station—engine sheds, goods warehouses, trailing of swiftly dispersed white smoke—the grime and clamour of all that, its factory buildings and tall chimneys, were very evident, as were the pale towers of page: 592 its churches. And beyond the ugly, pushing, industrial commonplace of it, striking a very different note, the blue ribbon of the still youthful Thames, backed by high‐lying chalk‐lands fringed with hanging woods, traversed a stretch of flat, green meadows. Richard’s eyes rested upon the scene absently, since thought just now had more empire over him than any outward seeing. For he perceived that he must cleanse himself yet further of self‐seeking. Those words, “if thou wilt be perfect sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and follow thou me,” have not a material and objective significance merely. They deal with each personal desire, even the apparently most legitimate; with each indulgence of personal feeling, even the apparently most innocent; with the inward attitude and the atmosphere of the mind even more closely than with outward action and conduct. And so Richard reached the conclusion that he must strip himself yet nearer to the bone. He must digest the harsh truth that virtue is its own reward in the sense that it is its only reward, and must look for nothing beyond that. He had grown slack of late, seduced by visions of pleasant things permitted most men but to him forbidden; and wearied, too, by the length of the way and inevitable monotony of it now first heat of enthusiasm had evaporated. Well—it was all very simple. He must just re‐dedicate himself. And in this stern and chastened frame of mind he drove through the bustle of the country town—Saturday, market day, its streets unusually alive—nodding to an acquaintance here and there in passing, two or three of his tenant farmers, Mr. Cathcart of Newlands in on county business, Goodall the octogenarian miller from Parson’s Holt, and Lemuel Image the brewer, bursting out of an obviously new suit of very showy tweeds. Then, at the main door of the Infirmary, helped by the stalwart, hospital porter, he got down from the dog‐cart; and subsequently—raked by curious eyes, saluted by hardly repressed tittering from the out‐patients waiting en queue for admission to the dispensary—he made his slow way along the bare, vaultlike, stone passage to the accident ward, in the far corner of which a bed was shut off from the rest by an arrangement of screens and of curtains.

And it was in the same chastened frame of mind that, some four or five hours later, Richard entered the dining‐room at Brockhurst. The two ladies had nearly finished luncheon and were about to rise from the table. Lady Calmady greeted him very gladly; but abstained from inquiry as to his doings or from comment on the lateness of the hour, since experience had long ago taught her that of all known animals man is the one of whom page: 593 it is least profitable for woman to ask questions. Dickie was here at home, alive, intact, her eyes were rejoiced by the sight of him, that was sufficient. If he had anything to tell her, no doubt he would tell it later. For the rest, she had something to tell him; but that too must wait until time and circumstance were propitious, since the conveying of it involved delicate diplomacies. It must be handled lightly. For the life of her she must avoid all appearance of eagerness, all appearance of attaching serious importance to the communication. Lady Calmady had learned, this morning, that Honoria St. Quentin did not propose to marry Ludovic Quayle. The young lady, whose charming nonchalance was curiously in eclipse to‐day, had given her to understand so much; but very briefly, the subject evidently being rather painful to her. She was silent and a little distrait; but she was also very gentle, displaying a disposition to follow Katherine about wherever she went, and a pretty zeal in doing small odd jobs for her. Katherine was touched and tenderly amused by her manner, which was as that of a charming child coveting assurance that it need not be ashamed of itself, and that it has not really done anything naughty! But Katherine sighed too, watching this strong, graceful, capable creature; for, if things had been otherwise with Dickie, how thankfully she would have given the keeping of his future into this woman’s hands. She had ceased to be jealous even of her son’s love. Gladly, gratefully, would she have shared that love, accepting the second place, if only—but all that was beyond possibility of hope. Still the friendship of which he had spoken somewhat bitterly yesterday—poor darling—remained. Ludovic Quayle’s pretensions—she felt very pitifully towards that accomplished gentleman, all his good qualities had started into high relief—but, his pretensions no longer barring the way to that friendship, she pledged herself to work for the promotion of it. Dickie was too severe in self‐repression, was over‐strained in stoicism; and, ignoring the fact that in his fixity of purpose, his exaggerations of self‐abnegation, he proved himself very much her own son, she determined secretly, cautiously, lovingly, to combat all that.

It was, therefore, with warm satisfaction that, as Honoria was about to rise from the table, she observed Richard emerge, in a degree, from his abstraction, and heard him say:—

“You told me you’d like to ride over to Farley this afternoon and see the home for my crippled people. Are you too tired after your headache, or do you still care to go?”

“Oh! I’m not tired, thanks,” Honoria answered. Then she hesitated; and Richard, looking at her, was aware, as on the page: 594 bridge yesterday, of a sudden and singular thickening of her features, which, while marring her beauty, rendered her aspect strangely pathetic, as of one who sustains some mysterious hurt. And to him it seemed, for the moment, as though both that hurt and the infliction of it bore subtle relation to himself. Common sense discredited the notion as unpermissibly fantastic, still it influenced and softened his manner.

“But you know you are looking frightfully done up yourself, Richard,” she went on, with a charming air of half‐reluctant protest. “Isn’t he, Cousin Katherine? Are you sure you want to ride this afternoon? Please don’t go out just on my account.”

“Oh! I’m right enough,” he answered. “I’d infinitely rather go out.”

He pushed back his chair and reached down for his crutches. Still the fantastic notion that, all unwittingly, he had been guilty of doing Honoria some strange injury, clung to him. He was sensible of the desire to offer reparation. This made him more communicative than he would otherwise have been.

“I saw a man die this morning—that’s all,” he said. “I know it’s stupid; but one can’t help it, it knocks one about a bit. You see he didn’t want to die, poor fellow, though, God knows, he’d little enough to live for—or to live with, for that matter.”

“Your factory hand?” Honoria asked.

Richard slipped out of his chair and stood upright.

“Yes, my factory hand,” he answered. “Dear, old Knott was fearfully savage about it. He was so tremendously keen on the case, and made sure of pulling him through. But the poor boy had been sliced up a little too thoroughly.”—Richard paused, smiling at Honoria. “So all one could do was to go with him just as far as is permitted out into the great silence, and then—then come home to luncheon. The home at Farley loses its point, rather, now he is dead. Still there are others, plenty of others, enough to satisfy even Knott’s greed of riveting broken human crockery.—Oh yes! I shall enjoy riding over, if you are still good to come. Four o’clock—that’ll suit you? I’ll order the horses.”

And so, in due course, the two rode forth together into the brightness of the September afternoon. The sea still called; but Dickie’s ears were deaf to all dangerous allurements and excitations resident in that calling. It had to him, just now, only the pensive charm of a far‐away melody, which, though no doubt of great and immediate import to others, had ceased to be any concern of his. Beside the deathbed in the hospital page: 595 ward he had renewed his vows, and the efficacy of that renewal was very present with him. It made for repose. It laid the evil spirit of defiance, of self‐consciousness, of humiliation, so often obtaining in his intercourse with women—a spirit begotten by the perpetual prick of his deformity, and in part, too, by his determined adoption of the ascetic attitude in regard to the affections. He was spent by the emotions of the morning, but that also made for repose. For the time being devils were cast out. He was tranquil, yet exalted. His eyes had a smile in them, as though they looked beyond the limit of things transitory and material into the regions of the Pure Idea, where the eternal values are disclosed and Peace has her dwelling. And, precisely because of all this, he could take Honoria’s presence lightly, be chivalrously solicitous of her entertainment and well‐being, and talk to her with greater freedom than ever heretofore. He ceased to be on his guard with her because, in good truth, it seemed to him there ceased to be anything to guard against. For the time being, at all events, he had got to the other side of all that; and so she and his relation to her, had become part of that charming but far‐away melody which was no concern of his—though mighty great and altogether worthy concern of others, of Ludovic Quayle, for example.—And in his present tranquil humour he could listen to the sweetness of that melody ungrudgingly. It was pleasant. He could enjoy it without envy, though it was none of his.

But to Honoria’s seeing it must be owned, matters shaped themselves very differently. For the usually unperturbed, the chaste and fearless soul of her endured violent assaults, violent commotions, the origin of which she but partially understood. And these Richard’s frankness, his courteous, in some sort brotherly, good‐fellowship, served to intensify rather than allay. The feeling of the noble horse under her, the cool, westerly wind in her face, went to brace her nerves, and restore the self‐possession, courage of judgment, and clearness of thought, which had been lacking to her during the past twenty‐four hours. Nevertheless she rode as through a but‐newly‐discovered country, familiar objects displaying alien aspects, familiar phases assuming unlooked‐for significance, a something challenging and fateful meeting her everywhere. The whole future seemed to hang in the balance: and she waited, dreading yet longing, to see the scale turn.

This afternoon the harvesters were carrying the corn. Red‐painted waggons, drawn by sleek, heavy‐made, cart‐horses, crawled slowly across the blond stubble. It was pretty to see the rusty‐ page: 596 gold sheaves tossed up from the shining prongs of the pitchforks on to the mountainous load. Honoria and Richard watched this, a little minute, from the grass‐ride bordering the roadway beneath the elms. Next came the high‐lying moorland, beyond the lodges. The fine‐leaved heath was thick with red‐purple blossom. Patches of dusky heather were frosted with dainty pink. Spikes of genista and beds of needle‐furze showed sharply yellow, vividly green, and a fringe of blue campanula, with frail, quivering bells, outlined all open spaces. The face of the land had been washed by the rain. It shone with an inimitable cleanliness, as though consciously happy in relief from all soil of dust. And it was here, the open country stretching afar on all sides, that Dickie began talking, not, as at first, in desultory fashion, but of matters nearly pertaining and closely interesting to himself.

“You know,” he said, as they walked the horses quietly, neck to neck, along the moorland road, “I don’t go in for system‐making or for reforms on any big scale. That doesn’t come within my province. I must leave that to politicians and to men who are in the push of the world. I admire it. I rejoice in the hot‐headed, narrow‐brained, whole‐hearted agitator, who believes that his system adopted, his reform carried through, the whole show will instantly be put straight. Such faith is very touching.”

“And the reformer has sometimes done some little good after all,” Honoria commented.

“Of course he has,” Dickie agreed. “Only as a rule, poor dear, he can’t be contented but that his special reform should be the final one, that his system should be the universal panacea. And in point of fact no reform is final this side of death, and no panacea is universal, save that which the Maker of the Universe chooses to work out—is working out now, if we could any way grasp it—through the slow course of unnumbered ages. Let the reformer do all he can, but don’t let him turn sour because his pet reform, his pet system, sinks away and is swallowed up in the great sea of things—sea of human progress, if you like. Every system is bound to prove too small, every reform ludicrously inadequate—be it never so radical—because material conditions are perpetually changing, while man in his mental, emotional and physical aspects remains always precisely the same.”

They passed from the breezy upland into the high‐banked lane which, leading downwards, joins the great London and Portsmouth Road just beyond Farley Row.

page: 597

“And—and that is where I come in!” Richard said, turning a little in the saddle and smiling sweet‐temperedly, yet with a suggestion of self‐mockery, upon his companion. “Just because, in essential respects, mankind remains—notwithstanding modifications of his environment—substantially the same, from the era of the Pentateuch to the era of the Rougon‐Macquarts, there must always be a lot of wreckage, of waste, and refuse humanity. The inauguration of each new system, each new reform—religious, political, educational, economic—practically they’re all in the same boat—let alone the inevitable breakdown or petering out of each, necessarily produces a fresh crop of such waste and refuse material. And in that a man like myself, who does not aspire to cure or to construct, but merely to alleviate and to pick up the pieces, finds his chance.”

And Honoria listened, musing—approved, enthusiasm gaining her; yet protested, since, even while she admired, she rebelled a little on his account, and for his sake.

“But it is rather a hard life, surely, Richard,” she said, “which you propose to yourself? Always the pieces, the thing broken and spoiled, never the thing in its beauty, full of promise, and whole!”

“It is less hard for me than for most,” he answered, “or should be so. After all, I am to the manner born—a bit of human wreckage myself, with which, but for the accident of wealth, things would have gone pretty badly. I used to be horribly scared sometimes, as a small boy, thinking to what uses I might be put if the kindly, golden rampart ever gave.”

He became silent. As for Honoria, she had neither courage. to look at or to answer him just then.

“And you see, I’m absolutely free,” he added presently.—“ I am alone, always shall be so. If the life is hard, I ask no one to share it, so I may make it what I like.”

“Oh! no, no—you misunderstand, Richard! I didn’t mean that,” Honoria cried quickly, half under her breath.

Again he looked at her, smiling.

“Didn’t you? All the kinder of you,” he said.

Thereupon regret, almost intolerable in its poignancy, invaded Miss St. Quentin that she would have to go away, to go back to the world and all the foolish obtaining fashions of it; that she should have to take that pre‐eminently well‐cushioned and luxurious winter’s journey to Cairo. She longed inexpressibly to remain here, to assist in these experiments made in the name of Holy Charity. She longed inexpressibly to— And there Honoria paused, even in thought. Yet she glanced at the page: 598 young man riding beside her—at the handsome profile, still and set in outline, the suggestion, it was no more, of a scar running downward across the left cheek; at the well‐made, upright, broad‐shouldered figure, and then at the saddle, peaked, back and front, with oddly‐shaped appendages to it resembling old‐fashioned holsters.—And, as yesterday upon the bridge, the ache of a pain at once sweet and terrible laid hold of her, making her queerly hint. The single street, sun‐covered, sleepy, empty save for a brewer’s dray and tax‐cart or two standing before the solid Georgian portals of the White Lion Inn, for a straggling tail of children bearing home small shoppings and jugs of supper beer, for a flock of grey geese proceeding with aggressively self‐righteous demeanour along the very middle of the roadway and lowering long necks to hiss defiance at the passer‐by, and for an old black retriever dozing peacefully beneath one of the rustling sycamores in front of Josiah Appleyard, the saddler’s shop—all these, as she looked at them, became uncertain in outline, and reeled before Honoria’s eyes. For the moment she experienced a difficulty in keeping steady in the saddle. But the horses still walked quietly, neck to neck, their shadows, and those of their riders growing longer, narrower, outstretched before them as the sun declined in the west. All the future hung in the balance; but the scale had not turned as yet.

Then Richard’s voice took up its parable again.

“Perhaps it’s a rather fraudulently comfortable doctrine, yet it does strike one that the justification of disaster, in all its many forms, is the opportunity it affords the individualist. He may use it for self‐aggrandisement, or for self‐devotion—though I rather shy at so showy a word as that last. However, the use he makes of it isn’t the point. What is the point, to my mind at least is this—though it doesn’t sound magnificent, it hardly indeed sounds cleanly—that whatever trade fails, whatever profession, thanks to the advance of civilisation, becomes obsolete, that of the man with the dust‐cart, of the scavenger, of the sweeper, won’t.”

Once more Richard smiled upon his companion charmingly, yet with something of self‐mockery.

“And so, you see, having knocked about enough to grow careless of niceties of prejudice, and to acquire an immense admiration for any vocation which promises permanence, I join hands with the dustman. In the light of science, and in that of religion alike, nothing really is common or unclean. And then—then, if you are beyond the pale in any case, as some of us are, it’s a little too transparently cheap to be afraid of soiling”—He broke off.— page: 599 “Away there to the left, Honoria,” he said. “You see the house? The yellow‐washed one, with the gables and tiled roofs—there, back on the slope.—Bagshaw, the Bond Street poulterer, had it for years. His lease ran out in the spring, and happily he didn’t care to renew. Had bought himself an up‐to‐date, villa residence somewhere in the suburbs—Chislehurst, I believe. So I took the place over. It will do for a beginning—the small end of the wedge of my scavenger’s business. There are over five acres of garden and orchard, and plenty of rooms on each floor, which gives good range for the disabled to move about in—and the stairs, only one flight, are easy. One has to think of these details. And—well, the house commands a magnificent view of Clerke’s Green, and the geese on it, than which nothing clearly can be more exciting!”

The groom rode forward and opened the gate. Before the square, outstanding porch Richard drew up.

“I should like to come in with you,” he said. “But you see it’s rather a business getting off one’s horse, and I can’t very well manage the stairs. So I’ll wait about till you are ready. Don’t hurry. I want you to see all the arrangements, if it doesn’t bore you, and make suggestions. The carpenters are there, doing overtime. They’ll let you through if the caretaker’s out.”

Thus admonished, Miss St. Quentin dismounted and made her way into the house. A broad passage led straight through it. The open door at the farther end disclosed a vista of box‐edged path and flower‐borders where, in gay ranks, stood tall sunflowers, holly‐hocks, Michaelmas‐daisies, and such like. Beyond was orchard, the round‐headed apple‐trees, bright with polished fruit, rising from a carpet of grass. The rooms, to left and right of the passage, were pleasantly sun‐warmed and mellow of aspect, the ceilings of them crossed by massive beams. Honoria visited them, dutifully observant. She encountered the head carpenter, an acquaintance and ally during those four years so great part of which she had spent at Brockhurst. She talked with him, making inquiries concerning wife, children, and trade, incident to such a meeting, her face very serious all the while, the skirt of her habit gathered up in one hand, her gait a trifle stiff and measured owing to her high riding‐boots. But, though she acquitted herself in all kindliness of conversation, though she conscientiously inspected each separate apartment, and noted the cheerful comeliness of orchard and garden, it must be owned all these remained singularly distant from her actual emotion and thought. She was glad to be alone. She was glad to be away from Richard Calmady, though zealously obedient to his page: 600 wishes in respect of this inspection. For his presence became increasingly oppressive from the intensity of feeling it produced in her, and which she was, at present, powerless to direct toward any reasonable and definite end. This rendered her tongue‐tied, and, as she fancied, stupid. Her unreadiness mortified her. She, usually indifferent enough to the impression she produced on others, was sensible of a keen desire to appear at her best. She did in fact, so she believed, appear at her worst, slow of understanding and of sympathy.—But then all the future hung in the balance. The scale delayed to turn. And the strain of waiting became agitating to the point of distress.

At last the course of her so‐dutiful survey brought her to a quaint, little chamber, situated immediately over the square, outstanding porch. It was lighted by a single, hooded window placed in the centre of the front wall. It was evidently designed for a linen room, and was in process of being fitted with shelves and cupboards of white pine. The floor was deep in shavings, long, curly, wafer‐coloured, semi‐transparent. They rustled like fallen leaves when Honoria stepped among them. The air was filled with the odour of them, dry and resinous as that of the fir forest. Ever after that odour affected Honoria with a sense of half‐fearful joy and of impending fate. She stood in the middle of the quaint, little chamber. The ceiling was low. She had to bend her head to avoid violent contact between the central beam of it and the crown of her felt hat. But circumscribed though the space, and uncomfortable though her posture, she had an absurd longing to lock the door of the little room, never to come out, to stay here forever! Here she was safe. But outside, on the threshold, stood something she dared not name. It drew her with a pain at once terrible and lovely. She dreaded it. Yet once close to it, once face to face with it, she knew it would have her; that it would not take no for an answer. Her pride, her chastity, was in arms. Was this, she wondered, what men and women speak of so lightly, laugh and joke about? Was this love?—To her it seemed wholly awe‐inspiring. And so she clung strangely to the shelter of the quaint, little room with its sea of rustling, resinous shavings. On the other side the door of it waited that momentous decision which would cause the scale to turn. Yet the minutes passed. To prolong her absence became impossible.

Just then there was a movement below, a crunching of the gravel, as though of a horse growing restless, impatient of standing. Honoria moved forward, opened the window, pushing back the casement against a cluster of late‐blossoming, red roses, page: 601 the petals of which floated slowly downward describing fluttering circles. Richard Calmady was just below. Honoria called to him.

“I am coming, Richard, I am coming!” she said.

He turned in the saddle and looked up at her smiling—a smile at once courageous and resigned. Yet, notwithstanding that smile, Honoria once again discovered in his eyes the chill desolation and homelessness of the sky of the winter night. Then the scale turned, turned at last; for that same lovely pain grew lovelier, more desirable than any possibility of ease, until such time as that desolation should pass, that homelessness be cradled to content in some sure harbourage.—Here was the thing given her to do, and she must do it! She would risk all to win all. And, with that decision, her serenity and freedom of soul returned. The white light of a noble self‐devotion, reckless of self‐spending, reckless of consequence, the joy of a great giving, illuminated her face.

As to Richard, he, looking up at her, though ignorant of her purpose, misreading the cause of that inspired aspect, still thought he had never witnessed so graciously gallant a sight. The nymph whom he had first known, who had baffled and crossed him, was here still, strong, untamed, elusive, remote. But a woman was here too, of finest fibre, faithful and loyal, capable of undying tenderness, of an all‐encircling and heroic love. Then the desires of the natural man stirred somewhat in Richard, just because—paradox though it undoubtedly was—she provoked less the carnal, perishing passion of the flesh, than the pure and imperishable passion of the spirit. Irrepressible envy of Ludovic Quayle, her lover, seized him, irrepressible demand for just all those things which that other Richard, the would‐be saint, had so sternly condemned himself to repudiate, to cast aside and forget. And the would‐be saint triumphed—beating down thought of all that, trampling it under foot—so that after briefest interval he called up to her cheerily enough.

“Well, what do you make of the dust‐cart? Rather fascinating, isn’t it? Notwithstanding its uncleanly name, it’s really rather sweet.”

To which she answered, speaking from out the wide background of her own emotion and purpose:—

“Yes, yes—it’s sad in a way, Richard, penetratingly, splendidly sad. But one wouldn’t have it otherwise; for it is splendid, and it is sweet, abundantly sweet.”—Then her tone changed.—“I won’t keep you waiting any longer, I’m coming,” she said.

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Honoria looked round the quaint, little room, with its half‐adjusted shelves and cupboards, the floor of it deep in resinous, semi‐transparent, wafer‐coloured shavings, bidding it adieu. For good or evil, happiness or sorrow, she was sensible it told for much in her life’s experience. Then, something delicately militant in her carriage, she swung away downstairs and out of the house. She was going forth to war indeed, to a war which in no shape or form had she ever waged as yet. Many men had wooed her, and their wooing had left her cold. She had never wooed any man. Why should she? To her no man had ever mattered one little bit.

So she mounted, and they rode away.—A spin across the level turf to hearten her up, satisfy the fulness of sensation which held her, and shake her nerves into place. It was exhilarating. She grew keen and tense, her whole economy becoming reliable and well‐knit by the strong exercise and sense of the superbly healthy and unperplexed vitality of the horse under her. Honoria could have fought with dragons just then, had such been there to fight with! But, in point of fact, nothing more aggressively dangerous presented itself for encounter than the shallow ford which divides the parish of Farley from that of Sandyfield and the tithing of Brockhurst. Snorting a little, the horses splashed through the clear, brown water and entered upon the rough, rutted road, grass‐grown in places, which, ending beneath a broken avenue of ancient, stag‐headed oaks, leads to the entrance of the Brockhurst woods. These, crowned by the dark, ragged line of the fir forest, rose in a soft, dense mass against the western sky, in which showed promise of a fair pageant of sunset. A covey of partridges ran up the sandy ruts before the horses, and, rising at last with a long‐drawn whir of wings, skimmed the top of the crumbling bank and dropped in the stubble‐field on the right. A pause, while the keeper’s wife ran out to open the white gate,—the dogs meanwhile, from their wooden kennels under the Spanish chestnuts upon the hillock behind the lodge, pulling at their chains and keeping up a vociferous chorus. Thus heralded, the riders passed into the mysteriously whispering quiet of the great woods.

The heavy, summer foliage remained as yet untouched by the hectic of autumn. Diversity was observable in form rather than in tint, and from this resulted a remarkable effect of unity, a singleness of intention, and of far‐reaching secrecy. The multitudinous leaves and the all‐pervading green gloom of them around, above, seemed to engulf horses and riders. It was as though they rode across the floor of ocean, the green tides page: 603 sweeping overhead. Yet the trees of the wood asserted their intelligent presence now and again. Audibly they talked together, bent themselves a little to listen and to look, as though curious of the aspect and purposes of these wandering mortals. And all this, the unity and secrecy of the place, affected both Richard and Honoria strangely, circling them about with something of earth‐magic, removing them far from ordinary conditions of social intercourse, and thus rendering it possible, inevitable even, that they should think such thoughts and say such words as part company with subterfuge and concealment, go naked, and speak uttermost truth. For, with only the trees of the wood to listen, with that sibilant whisper of the green tide overhead, with strong emotion compelling them—in the one case towards death of self, in the other towards giving of self—in the one towards austere passivity, in the other towards activity taxing all capital of pride, of delicacy, and of tact—developments became imminent, and those of the most vital sort.

The conversation had been broken, desultory; but now, by tacit consent, the pace became quiet again, the horses were permitted to walk. To have gone other than softly through the living heart of the greenwood must have savoured of desecration. Yet Richard was not insensible to a certain danger. He tried, rousing himself to conversation, to rouse himself also to the practical and commonplace.

“I am glad you liked my house,” he said. “But I hear the aristocracy of the Row laments. It shies at the idea of being invaded by more or less frightful creatures. But I remain deaf. I really can’t bother about that. It is so immeasurably more unpleasant to be frightful than to see that which is so, that I’m afraid my sympathies remain rather pig‐headedly one‐sided. I propose to educate the Row in the grace of pity. It may lay up merit by due exercise of that.”

Richard took off his hat and rode bare‐headed, looking away into the delicious, green gloom. Here, where the wood was thickest, oak and beech shutting out the sky, clasping hands overhead, the ground beneath them deep in moss and fern, that gloom was exactly like the colour of Honoria’s eyes. He wished it wasn’t so. He tried to forget it. But the resemblance haunted him. Look where he might, still he seemed to look into those singular and charming eyes. He talked on determinedly, putting a force upon himself, too often saying that which, no sooner was it out of his mouth, than he wished unsaid.

“I don’t want to be too hard on the Row, though. It has a page: 604 right, after all, to its little prejudices. Only you see for those who, poor souls, are different to other people it becomes of such supreme importance to keep in touch with the average. I have found that out in practice. And so I refuse to shut my waste humanity away. They must neither hide themselves nor be hidden, be spared seeing how much other people enjoy from which they are debarred, nor grow over‐conscious of their own ungainliness. That is why I’ve planted them and their gardens, and their pigs and their poultry—we’ll have a lot of live stock, a second generation, even of chickens, offers remarkable consolations—on the highroad, at the entrance of the little town, where, on a small scale at all events, they’ll see the world that’s straight‐backed and has its proper complement of limbs and senses, go by. Envy, hatred, and malice, and the seven devils of morbidity are forever lying in wait for them—well—for us—for me and those like me, I mean. In proportion as one’s brought up tenderly—as I was—one doesn’t realise the deprivation and disgust of one’s condition at the start. But once realised, one’s inclination is to kill. At least a man’s is. A woman may accept it more quietly, I suppose.”

“Richard,” Honoria said slowly, “are you sure you don’t greatly exaggerate all—all that?”

He shook his head.

“Thirty years’ experience—no, I don’t exaggerate! Each time one makes a fresh acquaintance, each time a pretty woman is just that bit kinder to one than she would dare be to any man who was not out of it, each time people are manifestly interested—politely, of course—and form a circle, make room for one as they did at that particularly disagreeable Grimshott garden‐party yesterday, each time—I don’t want to drivel, but so it is—one sees a pair of lovers—oh! well, it’s not easy to retain one’s philosophy, not to obey the primitive instincts of any animal when it’s ill‐used and hurt, and to revenge oneself—to want to kill, in short.”

“You—you don’t hate women, then?” Honoria said, still slowly.

Richard stared at her for a moment. “Hate them?” he said. “I only wish to goodness I did.”

“But in that case,” she began bravely, “why”—

“This is why,” he broke in.—“You may remember my engagement to Lady Constance Quayle, and the part you, very properly, took in the cancelling of it? You know better than I do—though my imagination is pretty fertile in dealing with the page: 605 situation—what instincts and feelings prompted you to take that part.”

The young lady turned to him, her arms outstretched, notwithstanding bridle‐reins and whip, her face, and those strange eyes which seemed so integral a part of the fair greenwood, full of sorrowful entreaty and distress.

“Richard, Richard,” she cried, “will you never forgive me that? She didn’t love you. It was horrible, yet in doing that which I did, I believed—I believe so still—I did what was right by you both.”

“Undoubtedly you did right, and that justifies my contention. In doing that which you did you gave voice to the opinion of all wholesome‐minded people. That’s exactly where it is. You felt the whole business to be outrageous. So it was. I heartily agree.”—He paused, and the trees talked softly together, bending down a little to listen and to look.—“As you say, she wasn’t in love. Poor child, how could she be? No woman ever will be—at least not in love of the nobler sort, of the sort which if one cannot have it, one had a vast deal better have no love at all.”

“But I am not so sure of that,” Honoria said stoutly. “You rush to conclusions. Isn’t it rather a reflection on all the rest of us to take little Lady Constance as the measure of the insight and sensibility of the whole sex? And then she had already lost all her innocent, little heart to Captain Decies. Indeed you’re not fair to us.—Wait”—

“Like Ludovic Quayle?”

Miss St. Quentin straightened herself in the saddle.

“Oh! dear no, not the least like Ludovic Quayle!” she said. Which enigmatic reply produced silence for a while on Dickie’s part. For there were various ways in which it might be interpreted, some flattering, some eminently unflattering, to himself. And from every point of view it was wisest to accept that last form of interpretation. The whole conversation had been perilous in character. It had been too intimate, had touched him too nearly, taking place here in the clear glooms of the greenwood moreover which bore such haunting kinship to those singularly sincere, and yet mysterious, eyes. It is dangerous to ride across the floor of ocean with the whispering tides sweeping overhead, and in such gallant company, besides, that to ride thus forever could hardly come amiss!—Richard, in his turn, straightened himself up in the saddle, opened his chest, taking a long breath, carried his head high, said a stern “get thee behind me, Satan,” to encroaching sentiment and emotion, and to those fair visions which his companion’s presence and page: 606 her somewhat daring talk had conjured up. He defied the earth‐magic, defied those sylvan deities who, as he divined, sought to enthral him. For the moment he confounded Honoria’s influence with theirs. It was something of a battle, and not the first one he had fought to‐day. For the great, white road which leads onward to Perfection looked dusty and arid enough—no reposeful shadow, no mystery, no beguiling green glooms over it. Stark, straight, hard, it stretched on endlessly, as it seemed, ahead. To travel it was slow and tedious work, in any case; and to travel it on crutches!—But it was worse than useless to play with such thoughts as these. He would put a stop to this disintegrating talk. He turned to Honoria and spoke lightly, with a return of self‐mockery.

“Oh! your first instinct was the true one, depend upon it,” he said. “Though I don’t deny it contributed, indirectly, to giving me a pretty rough time.”

“Oh! dear me!” Honoria cried, almost piteously. Then she added:—“ But I don’t see, why was that?”

“Because, I suppose, I had a sort of unwilling belief in you,” he said, smiling.—Oh! this accursed conversation, why would it insistently drift back into intimacy thus!

“Have I justified that belief?” she asked, with a certain pride yet a certain eagerness.

“More than justified it,” Dickie answered. “My mother, who has a touchstone for all that is of high worth, knew you from the first. Like the devils, I—I believed and trembled—at least that is how I see it all now. So your action came as a rather searching revelation and condemnation. When I perceived all that it involved—oh, well! first I went to the dogs, and then”—

The horses walked side by side. Honoria stretched out her hand impulsively, laid it on his arm.

“Richard, Richard, for pity’s sake don’t! You hurt me too much. It’s terrible to have been the cause of such suffering.”

“You weren’t the cause,” he said. “Lies were the cause, behind which, like a fool, I’d tried to shelter myself. You’ve been right, Honoria, from first to last. What does it matter after all?—Don’t take it to heart. For it’s over now, all over, thank God, and I have got back into normal relations with things and with people.”—He looked at her very charmingly, and spoke with a fine courtesy of tone.—“One way and another you have taught me a lot, and I am grateful. And, in the future, though the conditions will be altered, I hope you’ll come back here often, Honoria, and just see for yourself that my mother is content; and give my schemes and fads a kindly look in at the page: 607 same time. And perhaps give me a trifle of sound advice. I shall need it safe enough. You see what I want to get at is temperance—temperance all round, towards everything and everybody—not fanaticism, which, in some respects, is a much easier attitude of mind.”

Richard looked up into the whispering, green tide overhead.

“Yes, one must deny oneself the luxury of fanaticism, if possible,” he said, “deny oneself the vanity of eccentricity. One must take everything simply, just in the day’s work. One must keep in touch. Keep in touch with your world, the great world, the world which cultivates pleasure and incidentally makes history, as well as with the world of the dust‐cart—I know that well enough—if one’s to be quite sane. You see loneliness, a loneliness of which I am thankful to think you can form no conception, is the curse of persons like myself. It inclines one to hide, to sulk, to shut oneself away and become misanthropic. To hug one’s misery becomes one’s chiefest pleasure—to nurse one’s grief and one’s sense of injury. Oh! I’m wary, very wary now, I tell you,” he added, half laughing. “I know all the insidious temptations, the tricks and frauds and pit‐falls of this affair. And so I’ll continue to go to Grimshott garden‐parties as discipline now and then, while I gather my disabled and decrepit family very closely about me and say words of wisdom to it—wisdom derived from a mature and extensive personal experience.”

There was a pause before Miss St. Quentin spoke. Then she said slowly.

“And you refuse to let anyone help? You, you refuse to let anyone share the cares of that disabled family?”

Again Dickie stared at her, arrested by her speech and doubtful of the intention of it. He could have sworn there were tears in her voice, that it shook. But her face was averted, and he could see no more than the slightly angular outline of her cheek and chin.

“Isn’t that a rather superfluous question?” he remarked. “As you pointed out a little while ago, mine is not a superabundantly cheerful programme. No one would volunteer for such service—at least no one likely to be acceptable to my mother, or indeed likely to satisfy my own requirements. I admit, I’m a little fastidious, a little critical and exacting, when it comes to close quarters and—well—permanent association, even yet.”

“I am very glad to hear that,” Honoria said. Her face remained averted, but there was a change in her attitude, a decision in the pose of her figure, suggestive both of challenge and of triumph.

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Richard was nonplussed, but his blood was up. This conversation had gone far enough—indeed too far. Very certainly he would make an end of it.

“But God forbid,” he exclaimed, “that I should ever fall to such a depth of selfishness as to invite any person who would satisfy my taste, my demands, to share my life! I mayn’t amount to very much, but at least I have never used my personal ill‐luck to trade on a woman’s generosity and pity. What I have had from women, I’ve paid for, in hard cash. In that respect my conscience is clear. It has been a bargain, fair and square and above board, and all my debts are settled in full. You hardly think at this time of day I should use my proposed schemes of philanthropy as a bait?”

Richard sent his horse forward at a sharp trot.

“No, no, Honoria,” he said, “let it be understood that side of things is over forever.”

But here came relief from the green glooms of the greenwood and the dangerous magic of them. For the riders had reached the summit of the hill, and entered upon the levels of the great tableland, at the edge of which Brockhurst House stands. Here was the open, the fresh breeze, the long‐drawn, sighing song of the fir forest—a song more austere, more courageous, more virile, than any ever sung by the trees of the wood which drop their leaves for fear of the sharp‐toothed winter, and only put them forth again beneath the kisses of soft‐lipped spring. Covering all the western sky were lines of softly‐rounded, broken cloud, rank behind rank, in endless perspective, the whole shaped like a mighty fan. The under side of them was flushed with living rose. The clear spaces behind them paved with sapphire at the zenith, and palest topaz where they skirted the far horizon.

“How very beautiful it is!” Honoria cried, joyously. “Richard, let us see this.”

She turned her horse at the green ride which leads to the white Temple, situated situate on that outstanding spur of hill. She rode on quickly till she reached the platform of turf before the summer‐house. Richard followed her with deliberation. He was shaken. His calm was broken up, his whole being in tumult. Why had she pressed just all those matters home on him which he had agreed with himself to cast aside and forget? It was a little cruel, surely, that temptation should assail him thus, and the white road towards Perfection be made so difficult to tread, just when he had re‐dedicated himself and renewed his vows? He looked after her. It was here he had met her first—after the time when, as a little maid, she had proved too swift of foot, page: 609 leaving him so far behind that it sorely hurt his small dignity and caused him to see her depart without regret. She was still swift of foot. She left him behind now. For the moment he was ready to swear that not only without regret but with actual thankfulness, he could again witness her departure.—Yes, he wanted her to go, because he so desperately wanted her to stay —that was the truth. For not only Dickie the natural man, but Dickie “the wild bull in a net,” had a word to say just then. God in heaven what hard work it is to be good!

Miss St. Quentin kicked her left foot out of the stirrup, threw her right leg over the pommel, turned, and slipped straight out of the saddle. She stood there a somewhat severely tall, dark figure, strong and positive in effect, against the immense and reposeful landscape—far‐ranging, purple distance, golden harvest‐fields, silver glint of water in the hollows, all the massive grandeur of the woods, and that superb pageant of sunset sky.

The groom rode forward, took her horse, led it away to the far side of the grass platform behind the Temple. Those ranks of rosy cloud in infinite perspective, with spaces of clearest topaz and sapphire light between, converged to the glowing glory of the sun, the rim of which now touched the margin of the world. They were as ranks of worshippers, of blessèd souls redeemed and sainted, united in a common act of adoration, every form clothed by reflection of His glory, every heart, every thought centred upon God.—Richard looked at all that, but it failed to speak to him. Then he saw Honoria resolutely turn her back upon the glory. She came directly towards him. Her face was very thin, her manner very calm. She laid her left hand on the peak of his saddle. She looked him full in the eyes.

“Richard,” she said, “be patient a minute and listen. It comes to this, that a woman—your equal in position, of your own age, and not without money—does volunteer to share your work. It’s no forlorn hope. She is not disappointed. On the contrary she has, and can have, pretty well all the world’s got to give. Only—perhaps very foolishly, for she doesn’t know much about the matter, having been rather cold‐blooded so far—she has fallen in love.”

There was a silence, save that the wind came out of the west, out of the majesty of the sunset; and with it came the calling of the sea—not only of the blue water, or of those green tides that sweep above wandering mortals in the magic greenwood, but of the sea of faith, of the sea of love—love human, love divine, love universal—which circles not only this, but all possible states of being, all possible worlds.

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Presently Richard spoke hoarsely, under his breath.

“With whom?” he said.

“With you”—

Dickie went white to the lips. He sat absolutely still for a little space, his hands resting on his thighs.

“Tell her to think,” he said, at last.—“She proposes to do that which the world will condemn, and rightly from its point of view. It will misread her motives. It won’t spare disagreeable comment. Tell her to think.—Tell—tell her to look.—Cripple, dwarf, the last, as he ought to be, of an unlucky race—a man who’s carried up and down stairs like a baby, who’s strapped to the saddle, strapped to the driving‐seat—who is cut off from most forms of activity and of sport—a man who will never have any sort of career; who has given himself, in expiation of past sins, to the service of human beings a degree more unfortunate than himself.—No, no, stop—hear me out.—She must know it all!—A man who has lived far from cleanly, who has evil memories and evil knowledge of life—no—listen. A man whom you—yes, you yourself, Honoria—have condemned bitterly; from whom, notwithstanding your splendid nerve and pluck, so hateful is his deformity, you have shrunk a hundred times.”

“She has thought of all that,” Honoria answered calmly. “But she has thought of this too—that, going up and down the world to find the most excellent thing in it, she has found this thing, love. And so to her, Richard, your crippling has come to be dearer than any other man’s wholeness. Your wrong doings—may God forgive her—dearer than any other man’s virtue. Your virtues so wholly beautiful that—that”—

The tears came into her eyes, her lips quivered, she backed away a little from rider and horse.

“Richard,” she cried fiercely, “if you don’t care for me, if you don’t want me, be honourable, tell me so straight out and let us have done with it! I am strong enough, I am man enough, for that. For Heaven’s sake don’t take me out of pity. I would never forgive you. There’s a good deal of us both, one way and another, and we should give each other a hell of a time if I was in love and you were not. But”—she put her hand on the peak of that very ugly saddle again—“but, if you do care, here I am. I have never failed anyone yet. I will never fail you. I am yours body and soul. Marry me,” she said.

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CHAPTER XI

IN WHICH RICHARD CALMADY BIDS THE LONG‐SUFFERING READER FAREWELL

THE midsummer dusk had fallen, drawing its soft, dim mantle over the face of the land. The white light walked the northern sky from west to east. A nightingale sang in the big, Portugal laurel at the corner of the troco‐ground; and was answered by another singer from the coppice, across the valley, bordering the trout stream that feeds the Long Water. A fox barked sharply out in the Warren. Beetles droned, flying conspicuously upright, straight on end, through the warm air. The churring of the night‐hawks, as they flitted hither and thither over the beds of bracken and dog‐roses, like gigantic moths, on quick, silent wings, formed a continuous accompaniment, as of a spinning‐wheel, to the other sounds. And Dick Ormiston laughed consumedly, doubling himself together now and again and holding his slim sides in effort to moderate his explosive merriment. He was in uproarious spirits.—Back from school to‐day, and that nearly a month earlier than could by the most favourable process of calculation have been anticipated, thanks to development of measles on the part of some much‐to‐be‐commended schoolfellows. How he blessed those praiseworthy young sufferers! And how he laughed, watching the two heavy‐headed, lolloping, half‐grown, bull‐dog puppies describe crazy circles upon the smooth turf in the deepening dusk. Seen thus in the half‐light they appeared more than ever gnome‐like, humorously ugly and awkward. They trod on their own ears, tumbled over one another, sprawled on the grass, panting and grinning, until their ecstatic owner incited them to further gyrations. To Dick this was a night of unbridled licence. Had he not dined late? Had he not leave to sit up till half‐past ten o’clock? Was he not going out, bright and early, tomorrow morning to see the horses galloped? Could life hold greater complement of good for a brave, little, ten‐year‐old soul, and serviceable, little, ten‐year‐old body emulous of all manly virtues and manly pastimes?

So the boy laughed; and the sound of his laughter reached the ears both of the elder and the younger Lady Calmady, as they slowly paced the straight walk between the grey balustrade and the edge of the turf. On their left the great outstretch of valley page: 612 and wood lay drowned in the suave uncertainties of the summer night. Before them was the whole terrace‐front of the house, its stacks of twisted chimneys clear cut against the sky. Bright light shone out from the windows of the red drawing‐room, and from those of the hall, bringing flowers, sections of grey pavement, and like details into sharp relief. There were passing lights in the range of windows above, suggesting cheerful movement within the great house. At the southern end of the terrace, just below the arcade of the garden‐hall—which showed pale against the shadow within and brickwork above—two men were sitting. Their voices reached the ladies now and then in quiet yet animated talk. A spirit of peace, of security, of firmly‐planted hope, seemed to pervade all the scene, all the place. Waking or sleeping, fear was banished. All was strong to work to‐morrow, therefore to‐night all could calmly yield itself to rest.

And it was a sense of just this, and a tender anxiety lest the fulness of the gracious content of it should be in any degree marred to her dear companion, which made Honoria Calmady say presently:—

“You don’t mind little Dick’s racketting with those ridiculous puppies, do you, Cousin Katherine? If it bothers you I’ll stop him like a shot.”

But Katherine shook her head.

“My dearest child, why stop him?” she said. “The foolishnesses of young creatures at play is delicious; and laughter, so long as it is not cruel, I reckon among the good gifts of God.”—She paused a moment. “Dear Marie de Mirancourt tried to teach me that long ago, but I was culpably dull of hearing in these days where spiritual truth was concerned, and I failed to grasp her meaning. I believe we never really love, either man or Almighty God, until we can both laugh ourselves and let others laugh. Of all false doctrines that of the sour‐faced, joyless puritan is the falsest. His mere outward aspect is a sin against the Holy Ghost.”

And Honoria smiled, patting the hand which lay on her arm very tenderly.

“How I love your heavenly rage!” she said. They moved on a few steps in silence. Then, careless of all the rapture its notification of the passing of time might cut short, the clock at the house stables chimed the half‐hour. Honoria paused in her gentle walk.

“Bed‐time, Dick,” she cried.

“All right,” the boy returned. He pursued, and laid hold of, page: 613 the errant puppies, stowing them, not without kickings and strugglings on their part, one under either arm. They were large and heavy, just as much as he could carry; and he staggered across the grass with them, presenting the effect of a small, black donkey between a pair of very big, white panniers.

“I say, they are awfully stunning though, you know, Honoria,” he said rather breathlessly as he came up to her.

“Very soul‐satisfying, aren’t they, Dick?” she replied. “Richard foresaw as much. That is why he got them for you.”

“If I put them down do you suppose they’ll follow? Carrying them does make my arms ache.”

“Oh, they’ll follow fast enough,” Honoria said.

He lowered the puppies circumspectly on to the gravel.

“They’ll be whoppers when they’re grown,” he remarked.

“What shall you call them?”

“Adam and Eve I think, because they’re the first of my lot. They’re pedigree dogs—and later I may want to show, don’t you see.”

“Yes, I see,” Honoria said.

He came close to her, putting his face up half shyly to be kissed. Then as young Lady Calmady, somewhat ghostly in her trailing, white, evening dress, bent her charming head, the boy, suddenly overcome with the manifold excitements of the day, flung his arms round her.

“Oh! oh!” he gasped, “how awfully ripping it is to be back here again with you and Cousin Richard and Aunt Katherine! I wish number‐four dormitory would get measles the middle of every term!—Only I forgot—perhaps I ought not to touch you, Honoria, after messing about with the dogs. Do you mind?”

“Not a bit,” she said.

“But, Honoria,”—he rubbed his cool cheek against her bare neck—“I say, don’t you think you might come and see me, just for a little weeny while, after I’m in bed to‐night?”

And young Lady Calmady, thus coaxed, held the slight figure close. She had a very special place in her heart for this small Dick, who in face, and as she hoped in nature also, bore such comfortable resemblance to that elder and altogether well‐beloved Dick, who was the delight of her life.

“Yes, dear, old chap, I’ll come,” she said. “Only it must really be for a little weeny while, because you must go to sleep. By the way, who’s going to valet you these holidays? Clara or Faulstich?”

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“Oh, neither,” the boy answered. “I think I’m rather old for women now, don’t you know, Honoria.”—At which statement she laughed, his cheek being again tucked tight into the turn of her neck. “I shall have Andrews in future. I asked Cousin Richard about it. He’s a very civil‐mannered fellow, and he knows about yachts and things, and he says he likes being up before five o’clock.”

“Does he? Excellently veracious young man!” Honoria remarked.

But thereupon, exuberance of joy demanding active expression, the boy broke away with a whoop and set off running. The puppies lolloped away at his heels. And young Lady Calmady—whom such giddy fancies still took at times, notwithstanding nearly three years of marriage—flew after the trio, the train of her dress floating out behind her to most admired extravagance of length as she skimmed along the path. Fair lady, boy, and dogs disappeared, with sounds of merriment, into the near garden‐hall; reappeared upon the terrace, bearing down, but at sobering pace, upon the occupants of the chairs set at the end of it. One man rose to his feet, a tall, narrow, black figure. The other remained seated. The light shining forth from the great bay‐window of the hall touched the little group, conferring a certain grandeur upon the graceful, white‐clad Honoria. Her satin dress shimmered as she moved. There was, as of old, a triumph of high purity, of freedom of soul, in her aspect. Her voice came, with a fine gladness yet soft richness of tone, across that intervening triangular space of sloping turf upon which terrace and troco‐ground alike looked down. The nightingale, who had fallen silent during the skirmish, took up his passionate singing again, and was answered delicately, a song not of the flesh but of the spirit, by the bird from across the valley.

Katherine Calmady stood solitary, watching, listening, her hands folded rather high on her bosom. The caressing suavity of the summer night enfolded her. And remembrance came to her of another night, nearly four‐and‐thirty years ago, when, standing in this same spot, she, young, untried, ambitious of unlimited joys, had felt the first mysterious pangs of motherhood, and told her husband of that new, unseen life which was at once his and her own. And of yet another night, when, after long experience of sorrow, solitude, and revolt, her husband had come to her once again; but come, even as the bird’s song came from across the valley, etherealised, spiritualised, the same yet endowed with qualities of unearthly beauty—and how that page: 615 strange and exquisite communion with the dead had fortified her to endure an anguish even greater than any she had yet known. She had prayed that night that she might behold the face of her well‐beloved, and her prayer had been granted. She had prayed that, without reservation, she might be absorbed by and conformed to, the Divine Will. And that prayer had, as she humbly trusted, been in great measure granted also. But then the Divine Will had proved so very merciful, the Divine Intention so wholly beneficent, there was small credit in being conformed to either! Katherine bowed her head in thanksgiving. The goodness of the Almighty towards her had been abundant beyond asking or fondest hope.

She was aroused from her gracious meditation by the sound of footsteps—measured, a little weary perhaps—approaching her. She looked up to see Julius March. And a point of gentle anxiety pricked Katherine. For it occurred to her that Julius had failed somewhat in health and in energy of late. She reproached herself lest, in the interest of watching those vigorous, young lives so dear to her, participating in their schemes, basking in the sunshine of their love, she had neglected Julius and failed to care for his comfort as she might. To those that have shall be given—even of sympathy, even of strength. In that there is an ironical as well as an equitable truth and she was to blame perhaps in the ironical application of it. It followed, therefore, that she greeted him now with a quickening both of solicitude and of affection.

“Come and pace, dear Julius, come and pace,” she said, “as in times past. Yet not wholly as in the past, for then often I must have distressed and troubled you, since my pacings were too often the outcome of restlessness and of unruly passion, while now”—

Katherine broke off, gazing at the little company gathered upon the terrace.

“Surely they are very happy?” she said, almost involuntarily.

And he, smiling at his dear lady’s incapacity of escape from her fixed idea, replied:—

“Yes, very surely.”

Katherine tied the white, lace coif she wore a little tighter beneath her chin.

“In their happiness I renew that of my own youth,” she said gently, “as it is granted to few women, I imagine, to renew it. But I renew it with a reverence for them; since my own happiness was plain sailing enough, obvious, incontestable, whilst theirs is nobler, and rises to a higher plane. For its roots, after all, are page: 616 planted in very mournful fact, to which it has risen superior, and over which it has triumphed.”

But he answered, jealous of his dear lady’s self‐depreciation:—

“I can hardly admit that. To begin in unclouded promise of happiness, to decline to searching and unusual experience of sorrow, and then, by self‐discipline and obedience, to attain your present altitude of tranquillity and assurance of faith, is surely a greater trial, a greater triumph, than to begin—as they—with difficulties, with much, I admit, to overcome and resist, but to succeed as they are succeeding and be granted the high land of happiness which they even now possess? They are young, fortune smiles on them. Above all, they have one another”—

“Ah yes!” she said, “they have one another. Long may that last. It is a very perfect marriage of true minds, as well as true hearts. I had, and they have, all that love can give,”—Lady Calmady turned at the end of the walk. “But it troubles me, as a sort of emptiness and waste, dear Julius, that you have never had that. It pains me that you, who possess so noble a power of disinterested and untiring friendship, should never have enjoyed that other, and nearer, relation which transcends friendship even as to‐morrow’s dawn will transcend in loveliness the chastened restfulness of this evening’s dusk.”

Katherine moved onward with a certain sweet dignity of manner.

“Tell me—is she still alive, Julius, this lady whom you so loved?”

“Yes, thank God,” he said.

“And you have never tried to elude that vow which—as you once told me—you made long ago before you knew her?”

“Never,” he replied. “Without it I could not have served her as I have been able to serve her. I am wholly thankful for it. It made much possible which must have otherwise been impossible.”

“And have you never told her that you loved her—even yet?”

“No,” he replied, “because, had I told her, I must have ceased to serve her. I must have left her, Katherine, and I did not think God required that of me.”

Lady Calmady walked on in silence, her head a little bent. At the end of the path she stood a moment, listening to the answering songs of the two nightingales.

“Ah!” she said softly, “how greatly I have under‐rated the beauty of the dusk! To submit to dwell in the borderland, to stand on the dim bridge thus between day and night, page: 617 demands perhaps the very finest courage conceivable. You have shown me, Julius, how exquisite and holy a thing it is.—And, as to her whom you have so faithfully loved, I think, could she know, she would thank you very deeply for never telling her the truth. She would entreat you to keep your secret to the end. But to remain near her, to let her seek counsel of you when in perplexity or distress; to talk with her both of those you and she love, and have loved, and of the promise of fair things beyond and above our present seeing—pacing with her at times—even as you and I, dear friend, pace together here to‐night amid the restrained and solemn beauty of the dusk. Would she not do this?”

“It is enough that you have done it for her, Katherine,” he answered. “With your ruling I am wholly, unendingly content.”

“Perhaps Richard and Honoria’s dear works of mercy and the noonday tide of energy which flows through the house, have caused us to see less of each other than of old,” Lady Calmady continued with a charming lightness. “That is a mistake needing correction. The young to the young, dear Julius. You and I, who go at a quieter pace, will enjoy our peaceful friendship to the full. I shall not tire of your company, I promise you, if you do not of mine. Long may you be spared to me. God keep you, most loyal friend. Good‐night.”

Then Lady Calmady, deeply touched, yet unmoved from her altitude of thankfulness and calm, musing of many matters and of the working out of them to a beneficent and noble end, slowly went the length of the terrace to where, at the foot of the steps of the garden‐hall, Richard still sat. As she came near he held out his hand to her.

“Dear, sweet mother,” he said, “how I like to see you walk in that stately fashion, the whole of you—body, mind, and spirit, somehow evident—gathered up within the delicious compass of yourself! As far back as I can remember anything, I remember that. When I watched you it always made me feel safe. It seemed more like music heard, somehow, than something seen.”

“Dickie, Dickie,” she exclaimed, flushing a little, “don’t make me vain in my old age!”

“But it’s true,” he said. “And why shouldn’t one tell the pretty truths as well as the plain ones?—Isn’t it a positively divine night? Look at the moon just clearing the top of the firs there! It is good to be alive. Mother—may I say it? am very grateful to you for having brought me into the world.”

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“Ah! but, my poor darling”—Katherine cried.

“No, no,” he said, “put that out of your dear head once and for all. I am grateful, being as I am; grateful for everything, it being as it is. I don’t believe I would have anything—not anything—save those four years when I left you—altered, even if I could. I’ve found my work, and it enlarges its borders in all manner of directions; and it prospers. And I have money to put it through. And I have that boy. He’s a dear, little chap—and it is wonderfully good of Uncle Roger and Mary to give him to me. But he’s getting a trifle too fond of horses. I can’t break poor, old Chifney’s heart; but when his days are numbered, those of the stables—as far as training racers goes—are numbered likewise, I think. I’ll keep on the stud farm. But I grow doubtful about the rest. I wish it wasn’t so, but so it is. Sport is changing hands, passing from those of romance into those of commerce.—Well, the stables served their turn. They helped to bring me through. But now perhaps they’re a little out of the picture.”

Richard drew her hand nearer and kissed it, leaning back in his chair, and looking up at her.

“And I have you”—he said, “you, most perfect of mothers.—And—ah! here comes Honoria!”

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