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

THE CLOWN

CHAPTER I

ACQUAINTING THE READER WITH A FAIR DOMAIN AND THE MAKER THEREOF

IN that fortunate hour of English history, when the cruel sights and haunting insecurities of the Middle Ages had passed away, and while, as yet, the fanatic zeal of Puritanism had not cast its blighting shadow over all merry and pleasant things, it seemed good to one Denzil Calmady, esquire, to build himself a stately red‐brick and freestone house upon the southern verge of the great plateau of moorland which ranges northward to the confines of Windsor Forest and eastward to the Surrey Hills. And this he did in no vainglorious spirit, with purpose of exalting himself above the county gentlemen, his neighbours, and showing how far better lined his pockets were than theirs. Rather did he do it from an honest love of all that is ingenious and comely, and as the natural outgrowth of an inquiring and philosophic mind. For Denzil Calmady, like so many another son of that happy age, was something more than a mere wealthy country squire, breeder of beef and brewer of ale. He was a courtier and traveller; and, if tradition speaks truly, a poet, who could praise his mistress’s many charms, or wittily resent her caprices, in well‐turned verse. He was a patron of art, having brought back ivories and bronzes from Italy, pictures and china from the Low Countries, and page: 2 enamels from France. He was a student, and collected the many rare and handsome, leather‐bound volumes telling of curious arts, obscure speculations, half‐fabulous histories, voyages, and adventures, which still constitute the almost unique value of the Brockhurst library. He might claim to be a man of science, moreover—of that delectable old‐world science which has no narrow‐minded quarrel with miracle or prodigy, wherein angel and demon mingle freely, lending a hand unchallenged to complicate the operations both of nature and of grace—a science which, even yet, in perfect good faith, busied itself with the mysteries of the Rosy Cross, mixed strange ingredients into a possible Elixir of Life, ran far afield in search for the Philosopher’s Stone, gathered herbs for the confection of simples during auspicious phases of the moon, and beheld in comet and meteor awful forewarnings of public calamity or of Divine Wrath.

From all of which it may be premised that when, like the wise king, of old, in Jerusalem, Denzil Calmady “builded him houses, made him gardens and orchards, and planted trees in them of all kind of fruits,” when he “made him pools of water to water therewith the wood that bringe forth trees,” when he “gathered silver and gold, and the treasure of provinces,” and got him singers, and players of musical instruments, and “the delights of the sons of men,”—he did so that, having tried and sifted all these things, he might, by the exercise of a ripe and untrammelled judgment, decide what amongst them is illusory and but a passing show, and what—be it never so small a remnant—has in it the promise of eternal subsistence, and therefore of vital worth; and that, having so decided and thus gained an even mind, he might prepare serenely to take leave of the life he had dared so largely to live.

Commencing his labours at Brockhurst during the closing years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Denzil Calmady completed them in 1611 with a royal house‐warming. For the space of a week, during the autumn of that year,—the last autumn, as it unhappily proved, that graceful and scholarly prince was fated to see,—Henry, Prince of Wales, condescended to be his guest. He was entertained at Brockhurst—as contemporary records inform the curious—with “much feastinge and many joyous masques and gallant pastimes,” including “a great slayinge of deer and divers beastes and fowl in the woods and coverts thereunto adjacent.” It is added, with unconscious irony, that his host, being a “true lover of all wild creatures, had caused a fine bear‐pit to be digged beyond the outer garden wall to the page: 3 west.” And that, on the Sunday afternoon of the Prince’s visit, there “was held a most mighty baitinge,” to witness which “many noble gentlemen of the neighbourhood did visit Brockhurst and lay there two nights.”

Later it is reported of Denzil Calmady, who was an excellent churchman,—suspected even, notwithstanding his little turn for philosophy, of a greater leaning towards the old Mass‐Book than towards the modern Book of Common Prayer,—that he notably assisted Laud, then Bishop of St. David’s, in respect of certain delicate diplomacies. Laud proved not ungrateful to his friend; who, in due time, was honoured with one of King James’s newly instituted baronetcies, not to mention some few score, seedling, Scotch firs, which, taking kindly to the light, moorland soil, increased and multiplied exceedingly and sowed themselves broadcast over the face of the surrounding country.

And, save for the vigorous upgrowth of those same fir trees, and for the fact that bears and bear‐pit had long given place to racehorses and to a great square of stable‐buildings in the hollow lying back from the main road across the park, Brockhurst was substantially the same, in the year of grace 1842, when this truthful history actually opens, as it had been when Sir Denzil’s workmen set the last tier of bricks of the last twisted chimney‐stack in its place. The grand, simple masses of the house—Gothic in its main lines, but with much of Renaissance work in its details—still lent themselves to the same broad effects of light and shadow, as it crowned the southern and western sloping hillside amid its red‐walled gardens and pepper‐pot summerhouses, its gleaming ponds and watercourses, its hawthorn dotted paddocks, its ancient avenues of elm, of lime, and oak. The same panellings and tapestries clothed the walls of its spacious rooms and passages. The same quaint treasures adorned its fine Italian cabinets. The same air of large and generous comfort pervaded it. As the child of true lovers is said to bear through life, in a certain glad beauty of person and of nature, witness to the glad hour of its conception, so Brockhurst, on through the accumulating years, still bore witness to the fortunate historic hour in which it was planned.

Yet, since in all things material and mortal there is always a little spot of darkness, a germ of canker, at least the echo of a cry of fear—lest life being too sweet, man should grow proud to the point of forgetting he is, after all, but a pawn upon the board, but the sport and plaything of destiny and the vast purposes of God—all was not quite well with Brockhurst. At a given moment of time, the diabolic element had of necessity page: 4 intruded itself. And, in the chronicles of this delightful dwelling‐place, even as in those of Eden itself, the angels are proven not to have had things altogether their own gracious way.

The pierced stone parapet, which runs round three sides of the house and constitutes architecturally one of its most noteworthy features, is broken in the centre of the north front by a tall, stepped and sharply pointed, gable, flanked on either hand by slender, four‐sided pinnacles. From the niche in the said gable, arrayed in sugarloaf hat, full doublet and trunk hose, his head a trifle bent so that the tip of his pointed beard rests on the pleatings of his marble ruff, a carpenter’s rule in his right hand, Sir Denzil Calmady gazes meditatively down. Delicate, coral‐like tendrils of the Virginian creeper, which covers the house walls and strays over the bay‐windows of the Long Gallery below, twine themselves yearly about his ankles and his square‐toed shoes. The swallows yearly attempt to fix their grey, mud nests against the flutings of the scallop‐shell canopy sheltering his bowed head; and are yearly ejected by cautious gardeners, armed with imposing array of ladders and conscious of no little inward reluctance to face the dangers of so aërial a height.

And here, it may not be unfitting to make further mention of that same little spot of darkness, germ of canker, echo of the cry of fear, that had come to mar the fair records of Brockhurst. For very certain it was that among the varying scenes, moving merry or majestic, upon which Sir Denzil had looked down during the two and a quarter centuries of his sojourn in the lofty niche of the northern gable, there was one his eyes had never yet rested upon—one matter, and that a very vital one, to which, had he applied his carpenter’s rule, the measure of it must have proved persistently and grievously short.

Along the straight walks, across the smooth lawns, and beside the brilliant flower‐borders of the formal gardens, he had seen generations of babies toddle and stagger, with gurglings of delight, as they clutched at glancing bird or butterfly far out of reach. He had seen healthy, clean‐limbed, boisterous lads and dainty, little maidens laugh and play, quarrel, kiss, and be friends again. He had seen ardent lovers—in glowing June twilights, while the nightingales shouted from the laurels, or from the coppices in the park below—driven to the most desperate straits, to visions of cold poison, of horse‐pistols, of immediate enlistment, or the consoling arms of Betty the housemaid, by the coquetries of some young lady captivating page: 5 in powder and patches, or arrayed in the high‐waisted, agreeably‐revealing costume which our grandmothers judged it not improper to wear in their youth. He had seen husband and wife, too, wandering hand in hand at first, tenderly hopeful and elate. And then, sometimes, as the years lengthened,—growing somewhat sated with the ease of their high estate,—he had seen them hand in hand no longer, waxing cold and indifferent, debating even, at moments, reproachfully whether they might not have invested the capital of their affections to better advantage elsewhere.

All this, and much more, Sir Denzil had seen, and doubtless measured, for all that he appeared so immovably calm and apart. But that which he had never yet seen was a man of his name and race, full of years and honours, come slowly forth from the stately house to sun himself, morning or evening, in the comfortable shelter of the high, red‐brick, rose‐grown, garden walls.—Looking the while, with the pensive resignation of old age, at the goodly, wide‐spreading prospect. Smiling again over old jokes, warming again over old stories of prowess with horse and hound, or rod and gun. Feeling the eyes moisten again at the memory of old loves, and of those far‐away first embraces which seemed to open the gates of paradise and create the world anew; at remembrances of old hopes too, which proved still‐born, and of old distresses, which often enough proved still‐born likewise,—the whole of these simplified now, sanctified, the tumult of them stilled, along with the hot, young blood which went to make them, by the kindly torpor of increasing age and the approaching footsteps of greatly reconciling Death.

For Sir Denzil’s male descendants, one and all,—so says tradition, so say too the written and printed family records, the fine monuments in the chancel of Sandyfield church, and more than one tombstone in the yew‐shaded churchyard,—have displayed a disquieting incapacity for living to the permitted “threescore years and ten”—let alone fourscore—and dying decently, in ordinary, commonplace fashion, in their beds. Mention is made of casualties surprising in number and variety; and not always, it must be owned, to the moral credit of those who suffered them. It is told how Sir Thomas, grandson of Sir Denzil, died miserably of gangrene, caused by a tear in the arm from the antler of a wounded buck. How his nephew Zachary—who succeeded him—was stabbed, during a drunken brawl, in an eating‐house in the Strand. How the brother of the said Zachary, a gallant, young soldier, was killed at the battle of Ramillies in 1706. Duelling, lightning during a summer storm, page: 6 even the blue‐brown waters of the Brockhurst Lake, in turn claim a victim. Later it is told how a second Sir Denzil, after hard fighting to save his purse, was shot by highwaymen on Bagshot Heath, when riding with a couple of servants—not notably distinguished, as it would appear, for personal valour—from Brockhurst up to town.

Lastly comes Courtney Calmady, who, living in excellent repute until close upon sixty, seemed destined by Providence to break the evil chain of the family fate. But he too goes the way of all flesh, suddenly enough, after a long run with the hounds, owing to the opening of a wound, received when he was little more than a lad, at the taking of Frenchtown under General Proctor, during the second American war. So he too died, and they buried him with much honest mourning, as befitted so kindly and honourable a gentleman; and his son Richard—of whom more hereafter—reigned in his stead.

CHAPTER II

GIVING THE VERY EARLIEST INFORMATION OBTAINABLE OF THE HERO OF THIS BOOK

IT happened in this way, towards the end of August 1842. In the grey of the summer evening, as the sunset faded and the twilight gathered, spreading itself tenderly over the pastures and cornfields,—over the purple‐green glooms of the fir forest—over the open moors, whose surface is scored for miles by the turf‐slane of the cottager and squatter—over the clear, brown streams that trickle out of the pink and emerald mosses of the peat‐bogs, and gain volume and rigour as they sparkle away by woodside, and green‐lane, and village street—and over those secret, bosky places, in the heart of the great common‐lands, where the smooth, white stems and glossy foliage of the self‐sown hollies spring up between the roots of the beech trees, where plovers cry, and stoat and weazel lurk and scamper, while the old poacher’s lean, ill‐favoured, rusty‐coloured lurcher picks up a shrieking hare, and where wandering bands of gypsies—those lithe, onyx‐eyed children of the magic East—still pitch their dirty, little, fungus‐like tents around the camp fire,—as the sunset died and the twilight thus softly widened and deepened, Lady Calmady found herself, for the first time during all the long summer day, alone.

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For, though no royal personage had graced the occasion with his presence, nor had bears suffered martyrdom to promote questionably amiable mirth, Brockhurst, during the past week, had witnessed a series of festivities hardly inferior to those which marked Sir Denzil’s historic house‐warming. Young Sir Richard Calmady had brought home his bride, and it was but fitting the whole countryside should see her. So all and sundry received generous entertainment according to their degree.—Labourers, tenants, school‐children. Weary old‐age from Pennygreen poorhouse, taking its pleasure of cakes and ale half suspiciously in the broad sunshine. The leading shopkeepers of Westchurch, and their humbler brethren from Farley Row. All the country gentry too.—Lord and Lady Fallowfeild and a goodly company from Whitney Park, Lord Denier and a large contingent from Grimshott Place, the Cathcarts of Newlands, and many more persons of undoubted consequence—specially perhaps in their own eyes. Not to mention a small army of local clergy—who ever display a touching alacrity in attending festivals, even those of a secular character—with camp‐followers, in the form of wives and families, galore.

And now, at last, all was over,—balls, sports, theatricals, dinners—the last, in the case of the labourers, with the unlovely adjunct of an ox roasted whole. Even the final garden‐party, designed to include such persons as it was, socially speaking, a trifle difficult to place—Image, owner of the big Shotover brewery, for instance, who was shouldering his way so vigorously towards fortune and a seat on the bench of magistrates; the younger members of the firm of Goteway & Fox, solicitors of Westchurch; Goodall, the Methodist miller from Parson’s Holt, and certain sporting yeoman farmers with their comely womankind—even this final entertainment, with all its small triumphs and heart‐burnings, flutterings of youthful inexperience, aspirations, condescensions, had gone, like the rest of the week’s junketings, to swell the sum of things accomplished, of all that which is past and done with and will never come again.

Fully an hour ago, Dr. Knott, under plea of waiting cases, had hitched his ungainly, thick‐set figure into his high gig.

“Plenty of fine folks, eh, Timothy?” he said to the ferret‐faced groom beside him, as he gathered up the reins, and the brown mare, knowing the hand on her mouth, laid herself out to her work. “Handsome young couple as anybody need wish to see. Not much business doing there for me, I fancy, unless it lies in the nursery line.”

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“Say those Brockhurst folks mostly dies airly though,”. remarked Timothy, with praiseworthy effort at professional encouragement.

“Eh! so you’ve heard that story too, have you?”—and John Knott drew the lash gently across the hollow of the mare’s back.

“This ’ere Sir Richard’s the third baronet I’ve a‐seen, and I bean’t so very old neither.”

The doctor looked down at the spare little man with a certain snarling affection, as he said:—“Oh no! I’m not kept awake o’ nights by the fear of losing you, Timothy. Your serviceable old carcass ’ll hang together for a good while yet.”—Then his rough eyebrows drew into a line, and he stared thoughtfully down the long space of the clean gravel road under the meeting branches of the lime trees.

The Whitney char à bancs had driven off but a few minutes later, to the admiration of all beholders; yet not, it must be admitted, without a measure of inward perturbation on the part of that noble charioteer, Lord Fallowfeild. Her Ladyship was constitutionally timid, and he was none too sure of the behaviour of his leaders in face of the string of very miscellaneous vehicles waiting to take up. However, the illustrious party happily got off without any occasion for Lady Fallowfeild’s screaming. Then the ardour of departure became universal, and in broken procession the many carriages, phætons, gigs, traps, pony‐chaises streamed away from Brockhurst House, north, south, and east, and west.

Lady Calmady had bidden her guests farewell at the side‐door opening on to the terrace, before they passed through the house to the main entrance in the south front. Last to go, as he had been first to come, was that worthy person, Thomas Caryll, the rector of Sandyfield. Mild, white‐haired, deficient in chin, he had a natural leaning towards women in general, and towards those of the upper classes in particular. Katherine Calmady’s radiant youth, her courtesy, her undeniable air of distinction, and a certain gracious gaiety which belonged to her, had, combined with unaccustomed indulgence in claret cup, gone far to turn the good man’s head during the afternoon. Regardless of the slightly flustered remonstrances of his wife and daughters, he lingered, expending himself in innocently confused compliment, supplemented by prophecies regarding the blessings destined to descend upon Brockhurst and the mother parish of Sandyfield in virtue of Lady Calmady’s advent.

But at length he also departed. Katherine waited, her eyes full of laughter, until Mr. Caryll’s footsteps died away on the page: 9 stone quarries of the great hall within. Then she gently drew the heavy door to, and stepped out on to the centre of the terrace. The grass slopes of the park—dotted with thorn trees and beds of bracken,—the lime avenue running along the ridge of the hill, the ragged edge of the fir forest to the east, and the mass of the house, all these were softened to a vagueness—as the landscape in a dream—by the deepening twilight. An immense repose pervaded the whole scene. It affected Katherine to a certain seriousness. Social excitements and responsibilities, the undoubted success that had attended her maiden essay as hostess during the past week, shrank to trivial proportions. Another order of emotion arose in her. She became sensible of a necessity to take counsel with herself.

She moved slowly along the terrace, paused in the arcaded garden‐hall at the end of it—the carven stone benches and tables of which showed somewhat ghostly in the dimness—to put off her bonnet and push back the lace scarf from her shoulders. An increasing solemnity was upon her. There were things to think of—things deep and strange. She must needs place them, make an effort, anyhow, to do so. And, in face of this necessity, came an instinct to rid herself of all small impeding conventionalities even in the matter of dress. For there was in Katherine that inherent desire of harmony with her surroundings, that natural sense of fitness, which—given certain technical aptitudes—goes to make a great dramatic artist. But, since in her case such technical aptitudes were either non‐existent or wholly latent, it followed that, save in nice questions of private honour, she was quite the least self‐conscious and self‐critical of human beings. Now, as she passed out under the archway on to the square lawn of the troco‐ground, bare‐headed, in her pale dress, a sweet seriousness filling all her mind, even as the sweet, summer twilight filled all the valley and veiled the gleaming surface of the Long Water far below, she felt wholly in sympathy with the aspect and sentiment of the place. Indeed it appeared to her, just then, that the four months of her marriage, the five months of her engagement, even the twenty‐two years which made up all the sum of her earthly living, were a prelude merely to the present hour and to that which lay immediately ahead.

Yet the prelude had, in truth, been a pretty enough piece of music. Katherine’s experience had but few black patches in it as yet. Furnished with a fair and healthy body, with fine breeding, with a character in which the pride and grit of her North Country ancestry were tempered by the poetic instincts and quick page: 10 wit which came to her with her mother’s Irish blood, Katherine Ormiston started better furnished than most to play the great game that all are bound to play—whether they will or no—with fate. Mrs. Ormiston, still young and beloved, had died in bringing this, her only daughter, into the world; and her husband had looked somewhat coldly upon the poor baby in consequence. There was an almost misanthropic vein in the autocratic land‐owner and iron‐master. He had three sons already, and therefore found but little use for this woman‐child. So, while pluming himself on his clear judgment and unswerving reason, he resented, most unreasonably, her birth, since it took his wife from him. Such is the irony of things, forever touching man on the raw, proving his weakness in that he holds his strongest point! In fact, however, Katherine suffered but slightly from the poor welcome that greeted her advent in the grey, many‐towered house upon the Yorkshire coast. For her great‐aunt, Mrs. St. Quentin, speedily gathered the small creature into her still beautiful arms, and lavished upon it both tenderness and wealth, along—as it grew to a companionable age—with the wisdom of a mind ripened by wide acquaintance with men and with public affairs. Mrs. St. Quentin—famous in Dublin, London, Paris, as a beauty and a wit—had passed her early womanhood amid the tumult of great events. She had witnessed the horrors of the Terror, the splendid amazements of the First Empire; and could still count among her friends and correspondents, politicians and literary men of no mean standing. A legend obtains that Lord Byron sighed for her—and in vain. For, as Katherine came to know later, this woman had loved once, daringly, finally, yet without scandal—though the name of him whom she loved, and who loved her, was not, it must be owned, St. Quentin. And perhaps it was just this, this hidden and somewhat tragic romance, which kept her so young, so fresh; kept her unworldly, though moving so freely in the world; had given her that exquisite sense of relative values and that knowledge of the heart, which leads, as the divine Plato has testified, to the highest and most reconciling philosophy.

Thus, the delicately brilliant old lady and the radiant young lady lived together delightfully enough, spending their winters in Paris in a pretty apartment in the rue de Rennes—shared with one Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, whose friendship with Mrs. St. Quentin dated from their schooldays at the convent of the Sacré Cœur. Spring and autumn found Katherine and her great‐aunt in London. While, in summer, there was always a long visit to Ormiston Castle, looking out from the cliff‐edge page: 11 upon the restless North Sea. Lovers came in due course. For over and above its own shapeliness—which surely was reason enough—Katherine’s hand was well worth winning from the worldly point of view. She would have money; and Mrs. St. Quentin’s influence would count for much in the case of a great‐nephew‐by‐marriage who aspired to a parliamentary or diplomatic career. But the lovers also went, for Katherine asked a great deal—not so much of them, perhaps, as of herself. She had taken an idea, somehow, that marriage, to be in the least satisfactory, must be based on love; and that love, worth the name, is an essentially two‐sided business. Indirectly the girl had learnt much on this difficult subject from her great‐aunt; and with characteristic directness had agreed with herself to wait till her heart was touched, if she waited a lifetime—though of exactly in what either her heart, or the touching of it, consisted she was deliciously innocent as yet.

And then, in the summer of 1841, Sir Richard Calmady came to Ormiston. He and her brother Roger had been at Eton together. Katherine remembered him, years ago, as a well‐bred and courteously contemptuous schoolboy, upon whose superior mind, small female creatures—busy about dolls, and victims of the athletic restrictions imposed by petticoats—made but slight impression. Latterly Sir Richard’s name had come to be one to conjure with in racing circles, thanks to the performances of certain horses bred and trained at the Brockhurst stables; though some critics, it is true, deplored his tendency to neglect the older and more legitimate sport of flat‐racing in favour of steeple‐chasing. It was said he aspired to rival the long list of victories achieved by Mr. Elmore’s Gaylad and Lottery, and the successes of Peter Simple the famous grey. This much Katherine had heard of him from her brother. And, having her naughty turns—as what charming woman has not?—had set him down as probably a rough sort of person, notwithstanding his wealth and good connections, a kind of gentleman‐jockey, upon whom it would be easy to take a measure of pretty revenge for his boyish indifference to her existence. But the meeting and the young man, alike, turned out quite other than she had anticipated. For she found a person as well furnished in all polite and social arts as herself, with no flavour of the stable about him. She had reckoned on one whose scholarship would carry him no further than a few stock quotations from Horace, and whose knowledge of art would begin and end with a portrait of himself presented by the members of a local hunt. Therefore it was a little surprising—possibly a little mortifying to her—to page: 12 hear him talking over obscure passages in Spenser’s Faerie Queene with Mrs. St. Quentin, before the end of the dinner, and nicely apprising the relative merits of the water‐colour sketches, by Turner, that hung on either side the drawing‐room fireplace.

Nor did Katherine’s surprises end here. An unaccountable something was taking place within her, that opened up a whole new range of emotion. She, the least moody of young women, had strange fluctuations of temper, finding herself buoyantly happy one hour, the next pensive, filled with timidity and self‐distrust—not to mention little fits of gusty anger, and purposeless jealousy which took her, hurting her pride shrewdly. She grew anxiously solicitous as to her personal appearance. This dress would not please her nor that. The image of her charming, oval face and well‐set head ceased to satisfy her. Surely a woman’s hair should be either positively blond or black, not this undeterminate brown, with warm lights in it? She feared her mouth was not small enough, the lips too full and curved for prettiness. She wished her eyes less given to change, under their dark lashes, from clear grey‐blue to a nameless colour, like the gloom of the pools of a woodland stream, as her feelings changed from gladness to distress. She feared her complexion was too bright, and then not bright enough. And, all the while, a certain shame possessed her that she should care at all about such trivial matters; for life had grown suddenly larger and more august. Books she had read, faces she had watched a hundred times, the vast horizon looking eastward over the unquiet sea, all these gained a new value and meaning which at once enthralled and agitated her thought.

Sir Richard Calmady stayed a fortnight at Ormiston. And the two ladies crossed to Paris earlier, that autumn, than was their custom. Katherine was not in her usual good health, and Mrs. St. Quentin desired change of air and scene on her account. She took Mademoiselle de Mirancourt into her confidence, hinting at causes for her restlessness and wayward, little humours unacknowledged by the girl herself. Then the two elder women wrapped Katherine about with an atmosphere of—if possible—deeper tenderness than before; mingling sentiment with their gaiety, and gaiety with their sentiment, and the delicate respect which refrains from question with both.

One keenly bright, October afternoon Richard Calmady called in the rue de Rennes. It appeared he had come to Paris with the intention of remaining there for an indefinite period. He called again and yet again, making himself charming—a touch of page: 13 deference tempering his natural suavity—alike to his hostesses and to such of their guests as he happened to meet. It was the fashion of fifty years ago to conduct affairs, even those of the heart, with a dignified absence of precipitation. The weeks passed, while Sir Richard became increasingly welcome in some of the very best houses in Paris.—And Katherine? It must be owned Katherine was not without some heartaches, which she proudly tried to deny to herself and conceal from others. But eventually—it was on the morning after the ball at the British Embassy—the man spoke and the maid answered, and the old order changed, giving place to new, in the daily life of the pretty apartment of the rue de Rennes.

About five months later the marriage took place in London; and Sir Richard and Lady Calmady started forth on a wedding journey of the old‐fashioned type. They travelled up the Rhine, and posted, all in the delicious, early summer weather, through Northern Italy, as far as Florence. They returned by Paris. And there, Mrs. St. Quentin watching—in almost painful anxiety—to see how it fared with her recovered darling, was wholly satisfied, and gave thanks. For she perceived that, in this case at least, marriage was no legal, conventional connection leaving the heart emptier than it found it—the bartering of precious freedom for a joyless bondage—an obligation, weary in the present, and hopeless of alleviation in the future, save by the reaching of that far‐distant, heavenly country, concerning which it is comfortably assured us “that there they neither marry nor are given in marriage.” For the Katherine who came back to her was at once the same, and yet another Katherine—one who carried her head more proudly and stepped as though she was mistress of the whole fair earth, but whose merry wit had lost its little edge of sarcasm, whose sympathy was quicker and more instinctive, whose voice had taken fuller and more caressing tones, and in whose sweet eyes sat a steady content good to see. Then, suddenly, Mrs. St. Quentin began to feel her age as she had never, consciously, felt it before; and to be very willing to fold her hands and recite her Nunc Dimittis. For, in looking on the faces of the bride and bridegroom, she had looked once again on the face of Love itself, and had stood within the court of the temple of that Uranian Venus whose unsullied glory is secure here and hereafter, since to her it is given to discover to her worshippers the innermost secret of existence, thereby fencing them forever against the plagues of change, delusion, and decay. Love began gently to loosen the cords of life, and to draw Lucia St. Quentin home—home to that dear dwelling‐place which, as page: 14 we fondly trust—since God Himself is Love—is reserved for all true lovers beyond the grave and Gates of Death. Thus one flower falls as another opens, and to‐day, however sweet, is only won across the corpse of yesterday.

And it was some perception of just this—the ceaseless push of event following on event, the ceaseless push of the yet unborn struggling to force the doors of life—which moved Katherine to seriousness, as she stood alone on the smooth expanse of the troco‐ground, in the soft, all‐covering twilight, at the close of the day’s hospitality.

On her right the house, and its delicate, twisted chimneys, showed dark against the fading rose of the western sky. The air, rich with the fragrance of the red‐walled gardens behind her,—with the scent of jasmine, heliotrope and clove carnations, ladies‐lilies and mignonette,—was stirred, now and again, by wandering winds, cool from the spaces of the open moors. While, as the last roll of departing wheels died out along the avenues, the voices of the woodland began to reassert themselves. Wild‐fowl called from the alder‐fringed Long Water. Night‐hawks churred as they beat on noiseless wings above the beds of bramble and bracken. A cock pheasant made a most admired stir and keckling in seeing his wife and brood to roost on the branches of one of King James’s age‐old Scotch firs.

And this sense of nature coming back to claim her own, to make known her eternal supremacy, now that the fret of man’s little pleasuring had passed, was very grateful to Katherine Calmady. Her soul cried out to be free, for a time, to contemplate, to fully apprehend and measure, its own happiness. It needed to stand aside, so that the love given and all given with that love—even these matters of house and gardens, of men‐servants and maid‐servants, of broad acres, all the poetry, in short, of great possessions—might be seen in perspective. For Katherine had that necessity—in part intellectual, in part practical, and common to all who possess the gift for rule—to resist the confusing importunity of detail, and to grasp intelligently the Whole, which alone gives to detail coherence and purpose. Her mind was not one—perhaps unhappily—which is contented to merely play with bricks, but which demands the plan of the building into which those bricks should grow. And she wanted, just now, to lay hold of the plan of the fair building of her own life. And to this end the solitude, the evening quiet, the restful unrest of the forest and its wild creatures, should surely have ministered. She moved forward page: 15 and sat on the broad, stone balustrade which, topping the buttressed masonry that supports it above the long downward slope of the park, encloses the troco‐ground on the south.

The landscape lay drowned in the mystery of the summer night. And Katherine, looking out into it, tried to think clearly, tried to range the many new experiences of the last few months and to reckon with them. But her brain refused to work obediently to her will. She felt strangely hurried for all the surrounding quiet.

One train of thought, which she had been busy enough by day and honestly sleepy enough at night to keep at arm’s length during this time of home‐coming and entertaining, now invaded and possessed her mind—filling it at once with a new and overwhelming movement of tenderness yet, for all her high courage, with a certain fear. She cried out for a little space of liberty, a little space in which to take breath. She wanted to pause, here in the fulness of her content. But no pause was granted her. She was so happy, she asked nothing more. But something more was forced upon her. And so it happened that, in realising the ceaseless push of event on event, the ceaseless dying of dear to‐day in the service of unborn to‐morrow, her gentle seriousness touched on regret.

How long she remained lost in such pensive reflections Lady Calmady could not have said. Suddenly the terrace door slammed. A moment later a man’s footsteps echoed across the flags of the garden‐hall.

“Katherine,” Richard Calmady called, somewhat imperatively, “Katherine, are you there?”

She turned and stood watching him as he came rapidly across the turf.

“Yes, I am here,” she said. “Do you want me?”

“Do I want you?” he answered curtly. “Don’t I always want you?”

A little sob rose in her throat—she knew not why, for, hearing the tone of his voice, her sadness was strangely assuaged.

“I could not find you,” he went on. “And I got into an absurd state of panic—sent Roger in one direction, and Julius in another, to look for you.”

“Whereupon Roger, probably, posted down to the stables, and Julius up to the chapel to search. Where the heart dwells there the feet follow. Meanwhile, you came straight here and found me yourself.”

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“I might have known I should do that.”

The importunate thought returned upon Katherine, and with it a touch of her late melancholy.

“Ah! one knows nothing for certain when one is frightened,” she said. She moved closer to him, holding out her hand. “Here,” she continued, “you are a little too shadowy, too unsubstantial, in this light, Dick. I would rather make more sure of your presence.”

Richard Calmady laughed very gently. Then the two stood silent, looking out over the dim valley, hand in hand.—The scent of the gardens was about them. Moving lights showed through the many windows of the great house. The water‐fowl called sleepily. The churring of the night‐hawks was continuous, soothing as the hum of a spinning‐wheel. Somewhere, away in the Warren, a fox barked. In the eastern sky, the young moon began to climb above the ragged edge of the firs.—When they spoke again it was very simply, in broken sentences, as children speak. The poetry of their relation to one another and the scene about them were too full of meaning, too lovely, to call for polish of rhetoric, or pointing by epigram.

“Tell me,” Katherine said, “were you satisfied? Did I entertain your people prettily?”

“Prettily? You entertained them as they had never been entertained before—like a queen—and they knew it. But why did you stay out here alone?”

“To think—and to look at Brockhurst.”

“Yes, it’s worth looking at now,” he said. “It was like a body wanting a soul till you came.”

“But you loved it?” Katherine reasoned.

“Oh yes! because I believed the soul would come some day. Brockhurst, and the horses, and the books, all helped to make the time pass while I was waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

“Why, for you, of course, you dear, silly sweet! Haven’t I always been waiting for you—just precisely and wholly you, nothing more or less—all through my life, all through all conceivable and inconceivable lives, since before the world began?”

Katherine’s breath came with a fluttering sigh. She let her head fall back against his shoulder. Her eyes closed involuntarily. She loved these fond exaggerations—as what woman does not who has had the good fortune to hear them? They pierced her with a delicious pain. And—perhaps therefore, perhaps not unwisely—she believed them true.

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“Are you tired?” he asked presently.

Katherine looked up smiling, and shook her head.

“Not too tired to be up early to‐morrow morning and come out with me to see the horses galloped? Sultan will give you no trouble. He is well‐seasoned and merely looks on at things in general with intelligent interest, goes like a lamb and stands like a rock.”

While her husband was speaking Katherine straightened herself up, and moved a little from him though still holding his hand. Her languor passed, and her eyes grew large and black.

“I think, perhaps, I had better not go to‐morrow, Dick,” she said slowly.

“Ah! you are tired, you poor dear! No wonder, after the week’s work you have had. Another day will do just as well. Only I want you to come out sometimes in the first blush of the morning, before the day has had time to grow commonplace, while the gossamers are still hung with dew, and the mists are in hollows, and the horses are heady from the fresh air and the light. You will like it all, Kitty. It is rather inspiring. But it will keep. To‐morrow I’ll let you rest in peace.”

“Oh no! it is not that,” Katherine said quickly.—The importunate thought was upon her again, clamouring, not only to be recognised, but fairly owned to and permitted to pass the doors of speech. And a certain modesty made her shrink from this. To know something in the secret of your own heart, to tell it, thereby making it a hard, concrete fact, outside yourself, over which, in a sense, you cease to have control, are two such very different matters! Katherine trembled on the edge of her confession; though that to be confessed was, after all, but the natural crown of her love.

“I think I ought not to ride now—for a time, Dick.” All the blood rushed into her face and throat, and then ebbed, leaving her very white in the growing darkness.—“You have given me a child,” she said.

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CHAPTER III

TOUCHING MATTERS CLERICAL AND CONTROVERSIAL

BROCKHURST had rarely appeared more blessed by spacious sunshine and stately cheerfulness than during the remaining weeks of that summer. A spirit of unclouded serenity possessed the place, both indoors and out. If rain fell, it was only at night. And this, as so much else, Julius March noted duly in his diary.

For that was the period of elaborate private chronicles, when persons of intelligence and position still took themselves, their doings, and their emotions, with most admired seriousness. Natural science, the great leveller, had hardly stepped in as yet. Therefore it was that already Julius’s diary ran into many stout, manuscript volumes, each in turn soberly but richly bound, with silver clasp and lock complete, so soon as its final page was written. Begun when he first went up to Oxford, some thirteen years earlier, it formed an intimate history of the influences of the Tractarian Movement upon a scholarly mind and delicately spiritual nature. At the commencement of his Oxford career he had come into close relations with some of the leaders of the movement. And the conception of an historic church, endowed with mystic powers,—conveyed through an unbroken line of priests from the age of the apostles—the orderly round of vigil, fast, and festival, the secret, introspective joys of penance and confession, the fascinations of the strictly religious life as set before him in eloquent public discourse or persuasive private conversation,—had combined to kindle an imagination very insufficiently satisfied by the lean spiritual meats offered it during an Evangelical childhood and youth. Julius yielded himself up to his instructors with passionate self‐abandon. He took orders, and remained on at Oxford—being a fellow of his college—working earnestly for the cause he had so at heart. Eventually he became a member of the select band of disciples that dwelt, uncomfortably, supported by visions of reactionary reform at once austere and beneficent, in the range of disused stable‐buildings at Littlemore.

Of the storm and stress of this religious war, its triumphs, its defeats, its many agitations, Julius’s diaries told with a deep, if chastened, enthusiasm. His was a singularly pure nature, unmoved by the primitive desires which usually inflame young page: 19 blood. Ideas heated him; while the lust of the eye and the pride of life left him almost scornfully cold. He strove earnestly, of course, to bring the flesh into subjection to the spirit; which was, calmly considered, a slight waste of time, since the said flesh showed the least possible inclination towards revolt. The earlier diaries contain pathetic exaggerations of the slightest indiscretion. Innocent and virtuous persons have ever been prone to such little manias of self‐accusation! Later, the flesh did assert itself, though in a hardly licentious manner. Oxford fogs and damp, along with plain living and high thinking, acting upon a constitution naturally far from robust, produced a commonplace but most disabling nemesis in the form of colds, coughs, and chronic asthma. Julius did not greatly care. He was in that exalted frame of mind in which martyrdom, even by phthisis or bronchial affections, is immeasurably preferable to no martyrdom at all. Perhaps fortunately his relations, and even his Oxford friends, took a quite other view of the matter, and insisted upon his using all legitimate means to prolong his life.

Julius left Oxford with intense regret. It was the Holy City of the Tractarian Movement; and at this moment the progress of that Movement was the one thing worth living for, if live indeed he must. He went forth bewailing his exile and enforced idleness, as a man bewails the loss of the love of his youth. For a time he travelled in Italy and in the south of France. On his return to England he went to stay with his friend and cousin, Sir Richard Calmady. Brockhurst House had always been extremely congenial to him. Its suites of handsome rooms, the inlaid, marble chimneypieces of which reach up to the frieze of the heavily‐moulded ceilings, its wide passages and stairways, their carved balusters and newel‐posts, the treasures of its library—now overflowing the capacity of the two rooms originally designed for them, and filling ranges of bookcases between the bay‐windows of the Long Gallery which runs the whole length of the first floor from east to west, the chapel in the southern wing, its richly furnished altar and the glories of its famous, stained‐glass windows—all these were very grateful to his taste. While the light, dry, upland air and near neighbourhood of the fir forest eased the physical discomforts from which, at times, he still suffered shrewdly.

He found the atmosphere of the place both soothing and steadying. And of precisely this he stood sorely in need just now. For it must be admitted that a change had come over the spirit of Julius March’s great, ecclesiastical dream. Absence from Oxford and foreign travel had tended at once to widen page: 20 and modify his thought. He had seen the Tractarian Movement from a distance, in due perspective. He had also seen Catholicism at close quarters. He had realised that the logical consequence of the teaching of the former could be nothing less than unqualified submission to the latter. On his return to England he learned that more than one of his Oxford friends was arriving, reluctantly, at the same conclusion. Then there arose within him the fiercest struggle his gentle nature had ever yet known. He was torn by the desire to go forward, risking all, with those whom he reverenced; yet was restrained by a sense of honour. For there was, in Julius, a strain of obstinate, almost fanatic, loyalty. To the Anglican Church he had pledged himself. Through her ministry he had received illumination. To the work of her awakening he had given all his young enthusiasm. How then could he desert her? Her rites might be maimed. The scandal of schism might tarnish her fair fame. Accusations of sloth and lukewarmness might not unjustly be preferred against her. All this he admitted. And it was very characteristic of the man that, just because he did admit it, he remained within her fold.

Yet the decision was dislocating to all his thought, even as the struggle had been. It left him bruised. It cruelly shook his self‐confidence. For he was not one of those persons upon whom the shipwreck of long‐cherished hopes and purposes have a stimulating effect, filling them merely with a buoyant satisfaction at the opportunity afforded them of beginning all over again! Julius was oppressed by the sense of a great failure. The diaries of this period are but sorrowful reading. He believed he should go softly all his days; and, from a certain point of view, in this he was right.

And it was here that Sir Richard Calmady intervened. He had watched his cousin’s struggle, had accepted its reality, sympathising through friendship rather than through moral or intellectual agreement. For he was one of those fortunate mortals who, while possessing a strong sense of God, have but small necessity to define Him. Many of Julius’s keenest agonies appeared to him subjective, a matter of words and phrases. Yet he respected them, out of the sincere regard he bore the man who suffered them. He did more. He tried a practical remedy. Courteously, as one asking rather than conferring a favour, he invited Julius to remain at Brockhurst, on a fair stipend, as domestic chaplain and librarian.

“In the fulness of your generosity towards me you are creating a costly sinecure,” Julius had remonstrated.

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“Not in the least. I am selfishly trying to secure myself a most welcome companion, by asking you to undertake a very modest cure of souls and to catalogue my books, when you might be filling some important post and qualifying for a bishopric.”

Julius had shaken his head sadly enough. “The high places of the Church are not for me,” he said, “neither are her great adventures.”

Thus did Julius March, somewhat broken both in health and spirit, become a carpet‐priest. The trumpet blasts of controversy reached him as echoes merely, while his days passed in peaceful, if pensive, monotony. He read prayers morning and evening to the assembled household in the chapel; reduced the confusion of the library shelves, doing a fair amount of study, both secular and theological, during the process; rode with his cousin on fine afternoons to distant farms, by high‐banked lanes in the lowland, or across the open moors; visited the lodges, or the keepers’ and gardeners’ cottages within the limits of the park, on foot. Now and again he took a service, or preached a sermon, for good Mr. Caryll of Sandyfield, in whose amiable mind instinctive admiration of those, even distantly, related to persons of wealth and position jostled an equally instinctive terror of Mr. March’s “well‐known Romanising tendencies.” And in that there was, surely, a touch of the irony of fate! Lastly, Julius did his utmost to exercise an influence for good over the twenty and odd boys at the racing stables—an unpromising generation at best, the majority of whom, he feared, accepted his efforts for their moral and spiritual welfare with the same somewhat brutish philosophy with which they accepted Tom Chifney, the trainer’s rough‐and‐ready system of discipline, and the thousand and one vagaries of the fine‐limbed, queer‐tempered horses which were at once the glory and torment of their young lives.

Things had gone on thus for rather more than a year, when Richard Calmady married. Julius was perhaps inclined, beforehand, to underrate the importance of that event. He was singularly innocent, so far, of the whole question of woman. He had no sisters. At Oxford he had lived exclusively among men, while the Tractarian Movement had offered a sufficient outlet to all his emotion. The severe and exquisite verses of the “Lyra Apostolica” fitly expressed the passions of his heart. To the Church, at once his mother and his mistress, he had wholly given his first love. He had gone so far, indeed, in a rapture of devotion one Easter Day, during the celebration of page: 22 the Holy Eucharist, as to impose upon himself a vow of lifelong celibacy. This he did—let it be added—without either the sanction or knowledge of his spiritual advisers. The vow, therefore, remained unwitnessed and unratified, but he held it inviolable nevertheless. And it lay but lightly upon him, joyfully almost—rather as a ridding of himself of possible perturbations and obsessions, than as an act of most austere self‐renunciation. In his ignorance he merely went forward with an increased freedom of spirit. All of which is set down, not without underlying pathos, in the diary of that date.

And that freedom of spirit remained by him, notwithstanding his altered circumstances. It even served—indirectly, since none knew the fact of his self‐dedication save himself—as a basis of pleasant intercourse with the women of his own social standing whom he now met. It served him thus in respect of Lady Calmady, who accepted him as a member of her new household with charming kindliness, treating him with a gentle solicitude born of pity for his far from robust health and for the mental struggles which she understood him to have passed through.

Many persons, it must be owned, described Julius as remarkably ugly. But he did not strike Katherine thus. His heavy, black hair, beardless face and sallow skin—rendered dull and colourless, his features thickened, though not actually scarred, by small‐pox which he had had as a child,—his sensitive mouth, and the questioning expression of his short‐sighted, brown eyes, reminded her of a fifteenth‐century, Florentine portrait that had always challenged her attention when she passed it in the vestibule of a certain obscure, yet aristocratic, Parisian hotel, on the left bank—well understood—of the Seine.

The man of the portrait was narrow‐chested, clothed in black. So was Julius March. He had long‐fingered, finely shaped hands. So had Julius. He gave her the impression of a person endowed with a capacity of prolonged and silent self‐sacrifice. So did Julius. She wondered about his story. For Julius, at least—little as she or he then suspected it—the deepest places of the story still lay ahead.

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CHAPTER IV

RAISING PROBLEMS WHICH IT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS HISTORY TO RESOLVE

IT was not without a movement of inward thanksgiving that, the festivities connected with Sir Richard and Lady Calmady’s home‐coming being over, Julius March returned to his labours in the Brockhurst library. Humanity at first hand, whatever its social standing or its pursuits, was, in truth, always slightly disturbing to him. He felt more at home when dealing with conclusions than with the data that go to build up those conclusions, with the thoughts of men printed and bound, than with the urgent raw material from which those thoughts arise. Revelation, authority—these were still his watchwords. And, in face of them, even the harmless spectacle of a country neighbourhood at play, let alone the spectacle of the human comedy generally, is singularly confusing.

He sought the soothing companionship of books with even heightened relief one fair morning some three weeks later. For Mrs. St. Quentin and Mademoiselle de Mirancourt had arrived at Brockhurst the day previously, and Julius had been sensible of certain perturbations of mind in meeting these two ladies, one of whom was a devout Catholic by inheritance and personal conviction, while the other, though nominally a member of his own communion, was known to temper her religion with a wide, if refined, philosophy. Conversation had drifted towards serious subjects in the course of the evening, and Mrs. St. Quentin had admitted, with a playful deprecation of her dear friend’s rigid religious attitude, that no one creed, no one system, offered an adequate solution of the infinite mystery and complexity of life—as she knew it. The serene adherence of one charming and experienced woman to an authority which he had rejected, the almost equally serene indifference on the part of the other to the revelation he held as absolute and final, troubled Julius. Small wonder then, that early, after a solitary breakfast, he retired upon the society of the odd volumes cluttering the shelves of the Long Gallery, that he sorted, arranged, catalogued, grateful for that dulling of thought which mechanical labour brings with it.

But fate was malicious, and elected to make a sport of Julius this morning. Unexpectedly importunate human drama obtruded itself, the deep places of the story—such as, in the innocence page: 24 of his ascetic refinement, he had never dreamed of—began to reveal themselves.

He had climbed the wide, carpeted steps of the library ladder and seated himself on the topmost one, at right angles to a topmost shelf the contents of which he proposed to investigate, duster and notebook in hand. The vast perspective of the gallery lengthened out before him, cool, faint‐tinted, full of a diffused and silvery light. The self‐coloured, unpainted panelling of the walls and bookcases—but one shade warmer in tone than that of the stone mullions and transoms of the lofty windows‐gave an indescribable delicacy of effect to the atmosphere of the room. Through the many‐paned, leaded lights of the eastern bay, the sunshine—misty, full of dancing notes—streamed in obliquely, bringing into quaint prominence of light and shadow a very miscellaneous collection of objects.—A marble Buddha, benign of aspect, his right hand raised in blessing, seated cross‐legged upon the many‐petalled lotus. A pair of cavalier’s jack‐boots, standing just below, most truculent and ungainly of foot‐gear, wooden, hinged, leather‐covered. A trophy of Polynesian spears, shields, and canoe paddles. A bronze Antinous, seductive of bearing and dainty of limb, but roughened by green rust. A collection of old sporting‐prints, softly coloured, covering a bare space of wall, beneath a moose skull, from the broad flat antlers of which hung a pair of Canadian snow‐shoes. Along the inside wall of the great room, placed at regular intervals, were consol tables bearing tall, oriental jars and huge bowls of fine porcelain, filled with potpourri; so that the scent of dried rose‐leaves, bay, verbena, and many spices impregnated the air. The place was, in short, a museum. Whatever of strange, grotesque, and curious, Calmadys of past generations had collected in their wanderings, by land and sea, found lodgment here. It was a home of half‐forgotten histories, of valorous deeds grown dim through the lapse of years; a harbour of refuge for derelict gods, derelict weapons, derelict volumes, derelict instruments which had once discoursed sweet enough music, but the fashion of which had now passed away. The somewhat obsolete sentiment of the place harmonised with the thin, silvery light and the thin sweetness of spices and dead roses which pervaded it. It seemed to smile, as with the pitying tolerance of the benign image of Buddha, upon the heat and flame, the untempered scarlet and purple of the fleeting procession of individual lives, that had ministered to its furnishing. For how much vigorous endeavour, now over and done with, never to be recalled, had indeed gone to supply the furnishing of that room! page: 25 —And, after all, is not the most any human creature dare hope for the more or less dusty corner of some such museum shelf at last? The passion of the heart testified to by some battered trinket, the sweat of the brain by some maggot‐eaten manuscript, the agony of death, at best, by some round shot turned up by the ploughshare? And how shall anyone dare complain of this, since have not empires before now only been saved from oblivion by a few buried potsherds, and whole races of mankind by childish picture‐scratchings on a reindeer bone? Tout lasse, tout passe, tout casse. The individual—his arts, his possessions, his religion, his civilisation —is always as an envelope, merely, to be torn asunder and cast away. Nothing subsists, nothing endures, but life itself, endlessly self‐renewed, endlessly one, through all the endless divergencies of its manifestations. And, as Julius March was to find, hide from it, deny it, strive to elude it as we may, the recognition of just that is bound to grip us sooner or later and hold us with a fearful and dominating power from which there is no escape.

Meanwhile, his occupation was tranquil enough, comfortably remote, as it seemed, from all such profound and disquieting matters. For the top shelf proved not very prolific of interest. One book after another, examined and rejected as worthless, was dropped—with a reproachful flutter of pages and final thud—into the capacious paper‐basket standing on the floor below. Then, at the far end of the said shelf, he came unexpectedly upon a collection of those quaint chap‐books which commanded so wide a circulation during the eighteenth century.

Julius, with the true bibliophile’s interest in all originals, examined his find carefully. The tattered and dogs‐eared, little volumes, coarsely printed and embellished by a number of rough, square woodcuts, had, he knew, a distinct value. He soon perceived that they formed a very representative selection. He glanced at The famous History of Guy of Warwick; at that of Sir Bevis of Southampton; at Joaks upon Joaks, a lively work regarding the manners and customs of the aristocracy at the period of the Restoration; at the record of the amazing adventures of that lusty serving‐wench, Long Meg of Westminster; and at that refreshing piece of comedy known as Merry Tales concerning the Sayings and Doings of the Wise Men of Gotham.

Finally, hidden behind the outstanding frame of the bookcase, he discovered four tiny volumes tied together with a rusty, black ribbon. A heavy coating of dust lay upon them. A large spider, moreover, darted from behind them. Dust clung un‐ page: 26 pleasantly to its hairy and ill‐favoured person. It was a matter of principle with Julius never to take life; yet instinctively he drew back his hand from the books in disgust.

Araignée du matin, chagrin,” he said, involuntarily, while he watched the insect make good its escape over the top of the bookcase.

Then he flicked uneasily at the little parcel with his duster, causing a cloud of grey atoms to float up and out into the room. Julius was perhaps absurdly open to impressions. It took him some seconds to recover from his sense of repulsion and to untie the rusty ribbon around the little books. They all proved to be ragged and imperfect copies of the same work. The woodcuts in them were splotched with crude colour. The title page was printed in assorted type—here a line of Roman capitals, there one in italics or old English letters. The inscription, consequently, was difficult to decipher, causing him to hold the tattered page very close to his short‐sighted eyes. It ran thus—

“Setting forth a true and particular account of the dealings of Sir Thomas Calmady with the Forester’s Daughter and the bloudy death of her Only Child. To which is added her Prophecy and Curse.”

Julius had been standing, so as to reach the length of the shelf. Now he sat down on the top step of the ladder again. A whole rush of memories came upon him. He remembered vaguely how, long ago, in his childhood, he had heard legends of this same curse. Staying here at Brockhurst as a baby‐child with his mother, maids had hinted at it, gossiping over the nursery fire at night; and his mind, irresistibly attracted, even then, by the supernatural, had been filled at once by desperate curiosity and by panic fear. He paused, thinking back, singularly moved, as one on the edge of the satisfaction of long‐desired knowledge, yet slightly contemptuous, both of his own emotion and of the rather vulgar means by which that knowledge promised to be obtained.

The shafts of sunshine fell more obliquely across the eastern end of the gallery. Benign Buddha had passed into shadow; while a painting by Velasquez, standing on an easel near by, caught the light, starting into arresting reality. It represented a hideous and mis‐shapen dwarf, holding a couple of graceful greyhounds in a leash—an unhappy creature who had made sport for the household of some Castilian grandee, and whose gorgeous garments were ingeniously designed to emphasise the physical degradation of his contorted body. This painting, appearing to page: 27 Julius too painful for habitual contemplation, had, at his request, been removed from his study downstairs to its present station. Just now he fancied it looked forth at him queerly insistent. At this distance he could distinguish little more than a flare of scarlet and cloth‐of‐gold, and the white of the hounds’ flanks and bellies, under the strong sunlight. But he knew the picture in all its details; and was oppressed by the remembrance of tragic eyes in a brutal face, eyes that protested dumbly against cruelty inflicted by nature and by mankind alike. He, Julius, was not, so he feared, quite guiltless in this matter. For had there not been a savour of cruelty in his ejection of the portrait of this unhappy being from his peaceful study?

And thinking of this his discomfort augmented. He was assailed by an unreasoning nervousness of something malign, something sinister, about to befall or to become known to him.

Araignée du matin, chagrin,” he repeated involuntarily.

He laid the four little chap‐books back hastily behind the outstanding woodwork of the bookshelf, descended the steps, walked the length of the gallery, and leaning against one of the stone mullions of the great, eastern bay‐window looked out of the wide‐open casement.

The prospect was, indeed, reassuring enough. The softly‐green square of the troco‐ground, the brilliant beds and borders of the brick‐walled gardens, the grey flags of the great terrace —its row of little orange trees, heavy with flower and fruit, set in blue painted tubs—lay below him in a blaze of August sunshine. From the direction of the Long Water in the valley, Richard Calmady rode up, between the thorn trees and the beds of bracken, across the turf slopes of the park. It was a joy to see him ride. The rider and horse were one in vigour and in the repose which comes of vigour—a something classic in the natural beauty and sympathy of rider and of horse. Half‐way up the slope Richard swerved, turned towards the house, sat looking up, hat in hand, while Katherine stood at the edge of the terrace looking down, speaking with him. The warm breeze fluttered her full, muslin skirts, rose and white, and the white lace of her parasol. The rich tones of her voice and the ring of her laughter came up to Julius, as he leant against the stone mullion, along with the droning of innumerable bees, and the cooing of the pink‐footed pigeons—that bowed to one another, spreading their tails, drooping their wings amorously, upon the broad, grey string‐course running along the house‐front just beneath. Mademoiselle de Mirancourt, a small, neat, grey and page: 28 black figure, was beside Katherine, and, now and again, he heard the pretty staccato of her foreign speech. Then Richard Calmady rode onward, turning half round in the saddle, looking up for a moment at the woman he loved. His horse broke into a canter, bearing him swiftly in and out of the shadow of the glistening, domed oaks and ancient, stag‐headed, Spanish chestnuts which crowned the ascent, and on down the long, softly‐shaded vista of the lime avenue. While Camp, the bull‐dog, who had lain panting in the bracken, streaked like a white flash up the hillside in pursuit of his well‐beloved master.

And Julius March moved away from the open window with a sigh. Yet what, after all, of malign or sinister was perceptible, conceivable even, in respect of this glorious morning and these happy people—unless, as he reflected, something of pathos is of necessity ever resident in all beauty, all happiness, the world being sinful, and existence so prolific of pain and melancholy happenings? So he went back, climbed the library steps again, and taking the little bundle of chap‐books from their dusty resting‐place, set himself, in a somewhat penitential spirit, to master their contents. If the occupation was distasteful to him, the more wholesome to pursue it! So, supplying the deficiencies of torn or defaced pages by reference to another of the copies, he arrived by degrees at a clear understanding of the whole matter. The story was set forth in rhyming doggerel. The poet was not blessed with a gift of melody or of style. Absence of scansion tortured the ear. Coarseness of diction offended the taste. And yet, as he read on, Julius reluctantly admitted that the cruel tale gained credibility and moral force from the very homeliness of the language in which it was chronicled.

Thus Julius learned how, during the closing years of the Commonwealth, the young royalist gentleman, Sir Thomas Calmady, dwelling in enforced seclusion at Brockhurst, relieved the tedium of country life by indulgence in divers amours. He was large‐hearted, apparently, and could not see a comely face without attempting intimate acquaintance with the possessor of it. Among other damsels distinguished by his attentions was his head forester’s handsome daughter, whom, under reiterated promise of marriage, he seduced. In due time she bore him a child, ideally beautiful, according to the poet of the chap‐book, blessed with “red‐gold hair and eyes of blue,” and many charms of infantile healthfulness. And yet, notwithstanding the noble looks of her little son, the forester’s page: 29 daughter still remained unwed. For just now came the Restoration, and, along with it, a notable change in the outlook of Sir Thomas Calmady and many another lusty, young gallant; since the event in question not only restored Charles the Second to the arms of his devoted subjects, but restored such loyal gentlemen to the by no means too strait‐laced society of town and court. Thence, some few years later, Sir Thomas—amiably willing in all things to oblige his royal master—brought home a bride, whose rank and wealth, according to the censorious chap‐book, were extensively in excess of her youth and virtue.

Julius lingered a little in contemplation of the quaint woodcut representing the arrival of this lady at Brockhurst. Clothed in a bottle‐green bodice—very generously décolletée—her head adorned by a portentous erection of coronet and feathers, a sanguine dab of colour on her cheek, she craned a skinny neck out of the window of the family coach. Apparently she was engaged in directing the movements of persons—presumably footmen—clad in canary‐coloured coats and armed with long staves. With these last, they treated a female figure, in blue, to, as it seemed, sadly rough usage. And the context informed Julius, in jingling verse, how that poor Hagar, the forester’s daughter, conveniently defiant of custom and of common sense, had stoutly refused to be cast forth into the social wilderness, along with her small Ishmael and a few pounds sterling as price of her honour and content, until she had stood face to face with Sarah, the safely church‐wed, if none too reputable, wife. It informed him, further, how the said small Ishmael—whether alarmed by the violence of my lady’s men‐servants, or wanting merely, childlike, to welcome his returning father—ran to the coach door and clambered on the step; whence, thanks to a vicious thrust —so declares the chap‐book—from “the painted Jezebel within,” he fell, while the horses plunging forward caused the near hind wheel of the heavy, lumbering vehicle to pass over his legs, almost severing them from his body just above the knee.

Thereupon—and here the homely language of the gutter poet rose to a level of rude eloquence—the outraged mother, holding the mangled and dying child in her arms, cursed the man who had brought this ruin upon her—cursed him and, his descendants, to the sixth and seventh generation, good and bad alike. Declaring, moreover, that as judgment on his perfidy and lust, no owner of Brockhurst should reach the life limit set by the Psalmist, and die quiet and page: 30 christianly in his bed, until a somewhat portentous event should have taken place.—Namely, until, as the jingling rhyme set forth:— “—a fatherless babe to the birth shall have come, Of brother or sister shall he have none, But red‐gold hair and eyes of blue And a foot that will never know stocking or shoe. If he opens his purse to the lamenter’s cry, Then the woe shall lift and be laid for aye.”

Julius March, his spare, black figure crouched together, sat on the top step of the library ladder musing. His first movement had been one of refined and contemptuous disgust. Sensuality, and the tragedies engendered by it, were so wholly foreign to his nature and mental outlook, that it was difficult to him to reckon with them seriously and admit the very actual and permanent part which they play, and always have played, in the great drama of human life. It distressed, it, in a sense, annoyed him that the legend of Brockhurst, which had caused him elaborate imaginative terrors during his childhood, should belong to this gross and vulgar order of history. Yet indubitably—as he reluctantly admitted—each owner of Brockhurst had, very certainly, found death in the midst of life, and that according to some rather brutal and bloody pattern. This might, of course, be judged the result of merest coincidence. Had he leisure and opportunity to search them out, he could find, no doubt, plausible explanation of the majority of cases. Only that fact of persistent violence, persistent accident, did remain. It stared him in the face, so to speak, defiant of denial. And the deduction, consequent upon it, stared him in the face likewise. He was constrained to confess that the first clause of the deeply‐wronged mother’s prediction had found ample fulfilment.—Julius paused, shifted his position uneasily, somewhat fearful of the conclusions of his own reasoning.

For how about the second clause of that same prediction? How about the advent of that strange Child of Promise, who pre‐ordained in his own flesh to bear the last and heaviest stroke at the hands of retributive justice, should, rightly bearing it, bring salvation both to himself and to his race? Behind the coarse and illiterate presentment of the chap‐book, Julius began dimly to apprehend a somewhat majestic moral and spiritual tragedy, a tragedy of vicarious suffering crowned by triumphant emancipation. Thus has God, as he reflected with a self‐condemnatory emotion of humility, chosen the base things of the page: 31 world and those which are despised—yea, and the things which are not, to bring to nought the things which are!—His heart, hungry of all martyrdom; all saintly doings, went forth to welcome the idea. But then, he asked himself almost awed, in this sceptical, rationalistic age, are such semi‐miraculous moral examples still possible? And answered, with strong exultation—as one finding practical justification of a long, though silently, cherished conviction—yes, that even now, nineteen centuries after the death of that divine Saving Victim to whose service he had devoted his life and the joys of his manhood, such nobly sad and strange happenings may still be.

And, even while he thus answered, his eyes were drawn involuntarily to the portrait of the unsightly dwarf, painted by Velasquez. The broad shaft of sunlight had crept backward, away from it, leaving the canvas unobtrusive, no longer harshly evident either in violence of colour or grotesqueness of form. It had become part of the great whole merely, modulated to gracious harmony with the divers objects surrounding it, and, like them, softly overlaid by a diffused and silvery light.

CHAPTER V

IN WHICH JULIUS MARCH BEHOLDS THE VISION OF THE NEW LIFE

HE was aroused from these austere, yet, to him, inspiring reflections by the click of an opening door and the sound of women’s voices. Mademoiselle de Mirancourt paused on the threshold, one hand raised in quick admiration, the other resting on Lady Calmady’s arm.

“But this is superb!” she cried gaily. “Your charming King Richard, Cœur d’Or has given you a veritable palace to inhabit!”

“Ah yes! King Richard has indeed given me a palace to live in. But, better still, he has given me his dear heart of gold in which to hide the life of my heart for ever and a day.”

Katherine’s words came triumphantly, more as song than as speech. She caught the elder woman’s upraised hand gently and kissed it, looking her, meanwhile, full in the face.—“I am happy, very, very happy, best and dearest,” she said. “And it is so delicious to be happy.”

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“Ah, my child, my beautiful child!” Mademoiselle de Mirancourt cried.

There were tears in her pretty, patient eyes. For if youth finds age pathetic with the obvious pathos of spent body, and of tired mind which has ceased to greatly hope, how far more deeply pathetic does age, from out its sad and settled wisdom, find poor, gallant youth and all its still unbroken trust in the beneficence of destiny, its unbroken faith in the enchantments of earth!

Meanwhile, Julius March—product as he was of an arbitrary system of thought and training, and by so much divorced from the natural instincts of youth and age alike, the confident joy of the one, the mature acquiescence of the other—in overhearing this brief conversation suffered embarrassment amounting almost to shame. For not only Katherine’s words, but the vital gladness of her voice, the sweet exuberance of her manner as she bent, in all her spotless bravery of white and rose, above the elder woman’s hand and kissed it, came to him as a revelation before which he shrank with a certain fearful modesty. Julius had read of love in the poets, of course. But, in actual fact, he had never wooed a woman, nor heard from any woman’s lips the language of intimate devotion. The cold embraces of the Church—a church, as he too often feared, rendered barren by schism and heresy—were the only embraces he had ever suffered. Things read of and things seen, moreover, are singularly different in power. And so he trembled now at the mystery of human love, actual and concrete, here close beside him. He was, indeed, moved to the point of losing his habitual suavity of demeanour. He rose hastily and descended the library steps, forgetful of the handful of chap‐books, which fell in tattered and dusty confusion upon the floor.

Katherine looked round. Until now she had been unobservant of his presence, innocent of other audience than the old friend, to whom it was fitting enough to confide dear secrets. For an instant she hesitated, embarrassed too, her pride touched to annoyance, at having laid bare the treasures of her heart thus unwittingly. She was tempted to retreat through the still open door, into the library, and leave the review of the Long Gallery and its many relics to a more convenient season. But it was not Katherine’s habit to run away, least of all from the consequences of her own actions. And her sense of justice compelled her to admit that, in this case, the indiscretion—if indiscretion indeed there was—lay with her, in not having seen poor Julius; rather than with him, in having overheard her little outburst. So page: 33 she called to him in friendly greeting, and came swiftly towards him down the length of the great room.

And Julius stood waiting for her, leaning against the frame of the library ladder—a spare, black figure, notably at variance with the broad glory of sunshine and colour reigning out of doors.

His usually quick instinct of courtesy was in abeyance, shaken, as he still was, and confused by the revelation that had just come to him. He looked at Lady Calmady with a new and agitated understanding. She made so fair a picture that he could only gaze dumbly at it. Tall in fact, Katherine was rendered taller by the manner—careless of passing fashion—in which her hair was dressed. The warm, brown mass of it, rolled up and back from her forehead, showed all the perfect oval of her face. Tender, lovely, smiling, her blue‐brown eyes soft and lustrous, with a certain wondering serenity in their depths, there was yet something majestic about Katherine Calmady. No poor or unworthy line marred the nobility of her face or figure. The dark, arched eyebrows, the well‐chiselled and slightly aquiline nose, the firm chin and throat, the shapely hands, all denoted harmony and completeness of development, and promised a reserve of strength, ready to encounter and overcome if danger were to be met. Years afterwards the remembrance of Katherine as he just then saw her would return upon Julius, as prophetic of much. Quailing in spirit, still reluctant, in his asceticism, to comprehend and reckon with her personality in the fulness of its present manifestation, he answered her at random and with none of the pause and playful evasiveness usual to his speech.

“I am very glad we have found you,” Katherine said frankly. “I was afraid, by the fact of your not coming to breakfast, that you were overtired. We talked late last night. Did we weary you too much?”

“Existence in itself is vexatiously wearisome at times—at least to feeble persons, like myself.”

Katherine’s smile faded. She looked at him with charming solicitude.

“Ah! you are not well,” she declared. “Go out and enjoy the sunshine. Leave all those stupid books. Go,” she repeated, “order one of the horses. Go and meet Richard. He has gone over to look at the new lodge. You could ride all the way through the east woods in the cool.—See, I will put these tidy.”

And, as she spoke, Katherine stooped to pick up the page: 34 scattered chap‐books from the ground. But, in the last few moments, while looking at her, yet further understanding had overtaken Julius March. Not only the mystery of human love, but the mystery of dawning motherhood had come close to him. And he put Lady Calmady aside with a determination of authority somewhat surprising.

“No, no, pardon me! They are dusty, they will soil your hands. You must not touch those books,” he said.

Katherine straightened herself up. Her face was slightly flushed, her expression full of kindly amusement.

“Dear Julius, you are very imperative. Surely I may make my hands dirty, once in a way, in a good cause? They will wash, you know, just as well as your own, after all.”

“A thousand. times better. Still, I will ask you not to touch those books. I have valid reasons. For one, an evil beast in the form of a spider has dwelt among them. I disturbed it and it fled, looking as though it had grown old in trespasses and sins. It seemed to me a thing of ill omen.”

He tried to steady himself, to treat the matter lightly. Yet his speech struck Katherine as hurried and anxious, out of all proportion to the matter in hand.

“Poor thing—and you killed it? Yet it couldn’t help being ugly, I suppose,” she answered, not without a touch of malice.

Julius was on his knees, his long, thin fingers gathering up the tattered pages, ranging them into a bundle, tying them together with the tag of rusty, black ribbon aforesaid. For an unreasoning, fierce desire was upon him—very alien to his usual gentle attitude of mind—to shield this beautiful woman from all acquaintance with the foul story set forth in those little books. To shield her, indeed, from more than merely that. For a vague presentiment possessed him that she might, in some mysterious way, be intimately involved in the final development of that same story which, though august, was so full of suffering, so profoundly sad. Meanwhile, in his excitement, he replied, less to her gently mocking question than to the importunities of his own thought.

“No,” he said, “I let it go. I begin to fear it is useless to attempt to take short‐cuts to the extinction of what is evil. It does not cease, but merely changes its form. Unwillingly I have learned that. No violent death is possible to things evil.”

Julius rose to his feet.

“They must go on,” he continued, “till, in the merciful providence of God, their term is reached, till their power is exhausted, till they have worn themselves out.”

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Lady Calmady turned and moved thoughtfully towards the far end of the room, where the sunshine still slanted in through the open casements of the bay‐window, and where the delicate, little, spinster lady stood awaiting her. Amorous pigeons cooed below on the string‐course. Bees droned sleepily against the glass.

“But,” she said, in gentle remonstrance, “that is a rather terrible doctrine, Julius. Surely it is not quite just; for it would seem to leave us almost hopelessly at the mercy of the wrong‐doing of others.”

“Yes, but are we not, just that—all of us at the mercy of the wrong‐doing of others?—The courageous forever suffering for the cowardly, the wise for the ignorant and brutish, the just for the unjust? Is not this, perhaps, the very deepest lesson of our religion?”

“Oh no, no!” Katherine cried incredulously. “There is something at once deeper and more comforting than that. Remember, in the beginning, when God created all things and reviewed His handiwork, He pronounced it very good.”

Julius was recovering his suavity. The little packet of chap‐books rested safely in the pocket of his coat.

“But that was a long time ago,” he said, smiling.

They reached the bay‐window. Katherine took her old friend’s hand once again and laid it caressingly upon her arm.

“Pardon me for keeping you waiting, dearest,” she said. “Julius is in fault. He will argue with me about the date of the creation, and that takes time. He declares it was so long ago that everything has had time to grow very old and go very wrong. But, indeed, he is mistaken. Agree with me, tell him he is mistaken! The world is deliciously young yet. It was only made a little over twenty‐two years ago. I must know, for I came into it then. And I found it all as new as I was myself, and a thousand times prettier—quite adorably gay, adorably fresh.”

Katherine’s voice sank, grew fuller in tone. She gazed out over the brilliant garden to the woodland shimmering in the noontide heat. Then she looked at Julius March, her eyes and lips eloquent with joyous conviction.

“Indeed, I think, God makes His whole creation over again for each one of us, it is so beautiful. As in the beginning, so now,” she said; “behold it is very good—ah yes! who can doubt that—it is very good!”

“Amen. To you may it ever so continue,” Julius murmured, bowing his head.

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That evening there was a dinner party at Brockhurst. Lord Denier brought his handsome second wife. She was a Hellard, and took the judge faute de mieux, so said the wicked world, rather late in life. The Cathcarts of Newlands and their daughter Mary came; and Roger Ormiston too, who, being off duty, had run down from London for a few days’ partridge shooting, bringing with him his cousin Colonel St. Quentin—invalided home, to his own immense chagrin, in the midst of the Afghan war. On the terrace, after dinner, for the night was warm enough for the whole company to take coffee out of doors, Lady Calmady—incited thereunto by her brother—had persuaded Mary Cathcart to sing, accompanying herself on her guitar. The girl’s musical gifts were of no extraordinary order, but her young contralto was true and sweet. The charm of the hour and the place, moreover, was calculated to heighten the effect of the Jacobite songs and old‐world love‐ditties which she selected.

Roger Ormiston unquestionably found her performance sufficiently moving. But then the girl’s frank manner, her warm, gipsy‐like colouring, and the way in which she could sit a horse, moved him also; had done so, indeed, ever since he first saw her, as quite a child, some eight or nine years ago, on one of his earliest visits to Brockhurst, fighting a half‐broken, Welsh pony that refused at a grip by the roadside. The little maiden, her face pale, for once, from concentration of purpose, had forced the pony over the grip. Then, slipping out of the saddle, she coaxed and kissed the rough, unruly, little beast, with tears of apology for the hard usage to which she had been obliged to subject it. So stout, yet so tender, a heart, struck Roger as an excellent thing in woman. And now, listening to the full, rounded notes and thrumming of the guitar strings, in the evening quiet under the stars, he wished, remorsefully, that he had never been guilty of any pleasant sins, that his record was cleaner, his tastes less expensive, that he was a better fellow all round, in short, than he was, because, then, perhaps—

And Julius March, too, found the singing somewhat agitating, though to him the personality of the singer was of small account. Another personality, and a train of feeling evoked by certain new aspects of it, had pursued him all the day long. Katherine, mindful of her somewhat outspoken divergence of opinion from his, in the morning, had been particularly thoughtful of his pleasure and entertainment. At dinner she directed the conversation upon subjects interesting to him, and had thereby made him talk more unreservedly than was his wont. Not even the most saintly of page: 37 human beings is wholly indifferent to social success. Julius was conscious of a stirring of the blood, of a subdued excitement. These sensations were pleasurable. But his training had taught him to distrust pleasurable sensations as too often the offspring of very questionable parentage. And, while Mary Cathcart’s voice still breathed upon the fragrant night air, he, standing on the outskirts of the listening company, slipped away unperceived.

His study, a long, narrow room occupying, with his bedroom, the ground floor of the chapel wing of the house, struck chill as he entered it. Above the range of pigeon‐holes and little drawers, forming the back of the writing‐table, two candles burned on either side of a bronze pietà, which Julius had brought back with him from Rome. On the broad slab of the table below were the many quires of foolscap forming the library catalogue, neatly numbered and lettered; while his diary lay open upon the blotting‐pad, ready for the chronicle of the past day’s events. Beside it was the packet of chap‐books, still tied together with their tag of rusty ribbon.

It was Julius March’s habit to exchange his coat for a cassock in the privacy of his study. He did so now, and knotted a black cord about his waist. Let no one underrate the sustaining power of costume, whether it take the form of ballet‐skirt or monk’s frock. Human nature is but a weak thing at best, and needs outward and visible signs, not only to support its faith in its deity, but even its faith in its own poor self! Of persons of sensitive temperament and limited experience, such as Julius, this is particularly true. Putting off his secular garment, as a rule he could put off secular thoughts as well. Beneath the severe and scanty folds of the cassock there was small space for remembrance of the pomp and glory of this perishing world. At least he hoped so. To‐night, importuned as he had been by scenes and emotions quite other than ecclesiastical, Julius literally sought refuge in his cassock. It represented “port after stormy seas,”—home, after travel in lands altogether foreign.

He took St. Augustine’s De Civitate Dei from its place in the bookshelves lining one side of the room. There should be peace to the soul, surely, emancipation from questioning of transitory things, in reading of the City of God? But, alas, his attention strayed. That sense of subdued excitement was upon him yet. He thought of the conversation at dinner, of brilliant speeches he might have made, of the encouragement of Katherine’s smiling eyes and sympathetic speech, of the scene in the gallery that morning, of Mary Cathcart’s old‐time love‐ditties. page: 38 The City of God was far off. All these were things very near at hand. Notwithstanding the scanty folds of the cassock, they importuned him still.

Pained at his own lack of poise and seriousness, Julius returned the volume of St. Augustine to its place, and, sitting down at the writing‐table prepared to chronicle the day’s events. Perhaps by putting a statement of them on paper he could rid himself of their all too potent influence. But his thought was tumultuous, words refused to come in proper order and sequence; and Julius abhorred that erasures should mar the symmetry of his pages. Impatiently he pushed the diary from him. Clearly it, like the City of God, was destined to wait.

The guests had departed. He had heard the distant calling of voices in friendly farewell, the rumble of departing wheels. The night was very soft and mild. He would go out and walk the grey flags of the terrace, till this unworthy restlessness gave place to reason and calm.

Passing along the narrow passage, he opened the door on to the garden‐hall. And there paused. The hall itself, and the inner side of the carven arches of the arcade, were in dense shadow. Beyond stretched the terrace bathed in moonlight, which glittered on the polished leaves of the little orange trees, on the leaded panes of the many windows, and strangely transmuted the colours of the range of pot‐flowers massed beneath them along the base of the house. It was a fairy world upon which Julius looked forth. Nor did it need suitable inhabitants. Pacing slowly down the centre of the terrace came Richard and Katherine Calmady, hand in hand. Tall, graceful, strong in the perfection of their youth and of their great devotion, amid that ethereal brightness, they seemed as two heroic figures—immortal, fairy lovers moving through the lovely wonder of that fairyland. As they drew near, Katherine stopped, leant—with a superb abandon—back against her husband, resting her hand on his shoulder, drew his arm around her waist for support, drew his face down to her upturned face until their lips met, while the moonlight played upon the jewels on her bare arms and neck and gleamed softly on the surface of her white, satin dress.

To true lovers the longest kiss is all too sadly short—a thing brief almost in proportion to its sweetness. But to Julius March, watching from the blackness of the doorway, it seemed a whole eternity before Richard Calmady raised his head. Then Julius turned and fled down the passage and back into the chill study, where the candles burned on either side the image of the Virgin Mother cradling the dead Christ upon her knee.

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Gentle persons, breaking from the lines of self‐restraint, run to a curious violence in emotion. All day long, shrink from it, ignore it, as he might, a moral storm had been brewing. Now it broke. Not from those two lovers did Julius turn thus in amazement and terror; but from just that from which it is impossible for anyone to turn in actual fact—namely from himself. He was appalled by the narrowness of his own past outlook; appalled by the splendour of that heritage which, by his own act, he had forfeited. The cassock ceased, indeed, to be a refuge, the welcome livery of home and rest. It had become a prison‐suit, a badge of slavery, against which his whole being rebelled. For the moment—happily violence is shortlived, only for a very little while do even the gentlest persons “see red”—asceticism appeared to him as a blasphemy against the order of nature and of nature’s God. His vow of perpetual chastity, made with so passionate an enthusiasm, for the moment appeared to him an act of absolutely monstrous vanity and self‐conceit. In his stupid ignorance he had tried to be wiser than his Maker, preferring the ordinances of man to the glad and merciful purposes of God. In so doing had he not, only too possibly, committed the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost?

Poor Julius, his thought had indeed run almost humorously mad! Yet it was characteristic of the man that the breaking of his self‐imposed bonds never occurred to him. Made in ignorance, unwitnessed though his vow might be, it remained inviolable. He never, even in this most heated hour of his trial, doubted that.

Stretching out his arms, he clenched his hands in anguish of spirit. The sacerdotal pride, the subjective joys of self‐consecration, the mental luxury of feeling himself different from others, singled out, set apart,—all the Pharisee, in short, in Julius March,—was sick to death. He had supposed he was living to God—and now it appeared to him he had lived only to himself. He had trusted God too little, had come near reckoning the great natural laws—which, after all, must be of God’s ordering‐common and unclean. Katherine was right. The eternal purpose is joy, not sorrow; youth and health, not age and decay; thankful acceptance, not fastidious rejection and fear. Katherine—yes, Katherine—and there the young man’s wild tirade stopped—

He flung himself down in front of the writing‐table, leaning his. elbows on it, pressing his face upon his folded arms. For in good truth, what did it all amount to? Not outraged laws of nature, not sins against the Holy Ghost; but just simply this, page: 40 that the common fate had overtaken him. He loved a woman, and in so loving had, at last, found himself.

The most vital experiences are beyond language. When Julius looked up, his eyes rested upon the bronze pietà, age‐old witness to the sanctity of motherhood and of suffering alike. His face was wet with tears. He was faint and weak; yet a certain calm had come to him. He no longer quarrelled—though his attitude towards them was greatly changed—either with his priestly calling or his rashly made vow. Not as sources of pride did he now regard them; but as searching discipline to be borne humbly and faithfully, to the honour—as he prayed‐both of earthly and heavenly love. He loved Katherine, but he loved her husband, and that with the fulness of a loyal and equal friendship. And so no taint was upon his love, of this he felt assured. Indeed, he asked nothing better than that things might continue as they were at Brockhurst; and that he might continue to warm his hands a little—only a little—in the dear sunshine of Richard and Katherine Calmady’s perfect love.

As Julius rose, his knees gave under him. He rested both hands heavily on the table, looked down, saw the unsightly packet of dirty chap‐books. Again, and almost with a cry, he prayed that things might continue as they were at Brockhurst.

“Give peace in my time, O Lord!” he said. Then he wrapped up the little bundle carefully, sealed and labelled it, and locked it away in one of the table‐drawers.

Thus, kneeling before the image of the stricken Mother and the dead Christ, did Julius March behold the Vision of the New Life. But the page of his diary, on which surely a matter of so great importance should have been duly chronicled, remains to this day a blank.

CHAPTER VI

ACCIDENT OR DESTINY, ACCORDING TO YOUR HUMOUR

ON the 18th of October that year, St. Luke’s day, a man died, and this was the manner of his passing.

There was nothing more to be done. Dr. Knott had gone out of the red drawing‐room on the ground floor into the tapestry‐hung dining‐room next door, which struck cold as the small hours drew on towards the dawn. And Julius March, after reciting the prayer in which the Anglican Church page: 41 commends the souls of her departing children to the merciful keeping of the God who gave them, had followed him. The doctor was acutely distressed. He hated to lose a patient. He also hated to feel emotion. It made him angry. Moreover, he was intolerant of the presence of the clergy and of their ministrations in sick‐rooms. He greeted poor Julius rather snarlingly.

“So your work’s through as well as mine,” he said. “No disrespect to your cloth, Mr. March, but I’m not altogether sorry. I daresay I’m a bit of a heathen; but I can’t help fancying the dying know more of death, and the way to meet it, than any of us can teach them.”

A group of men‐servants stood about the open door, at the farther end of the room, with Iles, the steward, and Mr. Tom Chifney, the trainer from the racing‐stables. The latter advanced a little and, clearing his throat, inquired huskily:—

“No hope at all, doctor?”

“Hope?” he returned impatiently.—The lamp on the great bare dining‐table burned low, and John Knott’s wide mouth, conical skull and thick, ungainly person looked ogreish, almost brutal in the uncertain light.—“There never was a grain of hope from the first, except in Sir Richard’s fine constitution. He is as sound as only a clean‐living man of thirty can be,—I wish there were a few more like him, though your beastly diseases do put money into my pocket,—that offered us a bare chance, and we were bound to act on that chance”—his loose lips worked into a bitterly humorous smile—“and torture him. Well, I’ve seen a good many men under the knife before now, and I tell you I never saw one who bore himself better. Men and horses alike, it’s breeding that tells when it comes to the push. You know that, eh, Chifney?”

In the red drawing‐room, where the drama of this sad night centred, Roger Ormiston had dropped into a chair by the fireside, his head sunk on his chest and his hands thrust into his pockets. He was very tired, very miserable. A shocking thing had happened, and, in some degree, he held himself responsible for that happening. For was it not he who had been so besotted with the Clown, and keen about its training? Therefore the young man cursed himself, after the manner of his kind; and cursed his luck too, in that, if this thing was to happen, it had not happened to him instead of to Richard Calmady.

Mrs. Denny, the housekeeper, had retired to a straight‐backed chair stationed against the wall. She sat there, waiting till the next call should come for her skilful nursing, upright, her hands page: 42 folded upon her silk apron, her attitude a model of discreet and self‐respecting repose. Mrs. Denny knew her place, and had a considerable capacity for letting other persons know theirs. She ruled the large household with unruffled calm. But, to‐night, even her powers of self‐control were heavily taxed; and though she carried her head high, she could not help tears coursing slowly down her cheeks, and falling sadly to the detriment of the goffered frills of her white, lawn cross‐over.

And Richard Calmady, meanwhile, lay still and very fairly peaceful upon the narrow, camp bed in the middle of the room. He had lain there, save during one hour,—the memory of which haunted Katherine with hideous and sickening persistence,—ever since Tom Chifney, the head‐lad from the stables and a couple of grooms, had carried him in, on a hurdle, from the steeplechase course four days ago.

The crimson‐covered chairs and sofas, and other furniture of the large square room, had been pushed back against the walls in a sort of orderly confusion, leaving a broad passage‐way between the doors at either end, and a wide vacant space round the bed. At the head of this stood a high, double‐shelved what‐not, bearing medicine bottles, cups, basins, rolled bandages, dressings of rag and lint, a spirit‐lamp over which simmered a vessel containing vinegar, and a couple of shaded candles in a tall, branched, silver candlestick. The light from these fell, in intersecting circles, upon the white bed, upon the man’s brown, close‐curled hair, upon his handsome face—drawn and sharpened by suffering—and its rather ghastly three days’ growth of beard.

It fell, too, upon Katherine, as she sat facing her husband, the side of her large easy‐chair drawn up parallel to the side of the bed.

Silently, unlooked for, as a thief in the night, the end of Katherine’s fair world had come. There had been no time for forethought or preparation. At one step she had been called upon to pass from the triumph to the terror of mortal life. But she was a valiant creature, and her natural courage was reinforced by the greatness of her love. She met the blow standing, her brain clear, her mind strong to help. Only once had she faltered—during the hideous hour when she waited, pacing the dining‐room in the dusk, four evenings back. For, after consultation with Dr. Jewsbury and Mr. Thorns of Westchurch, John Knott had told her—with a gentleness and delicacy a little surprising in so hard‐bitten a man—that, owing to the shattered page: 43 condition of the bone, amputation of the right leg was imperative. He added that, only too probably, the left would have eventually to go too. They must operate, he said, and operate immediately. Katherine had pleaded to be present; but Dr. Knott was obdurate.

“My dear lady, you don’t know what you ask,” he said. “As you love him, let him be. If you are there it will just double the strain. He’d suffer for you as well as himself. Believe me he will be far best alone.”

It must be remembered that in 1842 anæsthetics had not robbed the operating‐room of half its horrors. The victim went to execution wide‐awake, with no mercy of deadened senses and dulled brain. And so Katherine had paced the dining‐room, hearing at intervals, through the closed doors, the short peremptory tones of the surgeons, fearing she heard more and worse sounds than those. They were hurting him, sorely, sorely, dismembering and disfiguring the dear, living body which she loved. A tempest of unutterable woe swept over her. Breaking fiercely away from her brother and Denny—who strove to comfort her—she beat her poor, lovely head against the wall. But that, so far, had been her one moment of weakness. Since then she had fought steadily, with a certain lofty cheerfulness, for the life she so desired to save. The horror of the second operation had been spared her; but only because it might but too probably hasten, rather than retard, the approaching footsteps of death. Mortification had set in, in the bruised and mangled limb forty‐eight hours ago. And now the scent of death was in the air. The awful presence drew very near. Yet only when doctor and priest alike rose and went, when her brother moved away, and even the faithful housekeeper stepped back from the bedside, did Katherine’s mind really grasp the truth. Her well‐beloved lay dying; and human tenderness, human skill, be they never so great, ceased to avail.

She was worn by the long vigil. Her face was colourless. Yet perhaps Katherine’s beauty had never been more rare and sweet than as she sat there, leaning a little forward in the eagerness of her watchfulness. The dark circles about her eyes made them look very large and sombre. The corners of her mouth turned down and her under‐lip quivered now and then, giving her expression a childlike piteousness of appeal. There was no trace of disorder in her appearance. Her white dressing‐gown and all its pretty ribbons and laces were spotlessly fresh. Her hair was carefully dressed as usual—high at the back, showing the nape of her neck, her little ears, and the noble poise page: 44 of her head. Katherine was not one of those women who appear to imagine that slovenliness is the proper exponent of sorrow.

Still, for all her high courage, as the truth came home to her, her spirit began to falter for the second time. It is comparatively easy to endure while there is something to be done; but it is almost intolerable, specially to the young when life is strong in them, merely to sit by and wait. Katherine’s overwrought nerves began to play cruel tricks upon her, carrying her back in imagination to that other hideous hour of waiting, in the dining‐room, four evenings ago. Again she seemed to hear the short, peremptory tones of the surgeons, and those worse things—the stifled groan of one in the extremity of physical anguish, and the grate of a saw. These maddened her with pity, almost with rage. She feared that now, as then, she might lose her self‐mastery and do some wild and desperate thing. She tried to keep her attention fixed on the quick, irregular rise and fall of the linen sheet expressing the broad, full curve of the young man’s chest, as he lay flat on his back, his eyes closed, but whether in sleep or in unconsciousness she did not know. As long as the sheet rose and fell he was alive at all events, still with her. But she was too exhausted for any sustained effort of will. And her glance wandered back to, and followed with agonised comprehension, the formless, motionless elevation and depression of that same sheet towards the foot of the bed.

The air of the room seemed to grow more oppressive, the silence to deepen, and with it the terrible tension of her mind increased. Suddenly she started to her feet. The logs burning in the grate had fallen together with a crash, sending a rush of ruddy flame and an innumerable army of hurrying sparks up the wide chimney. All the mouldings of the ceiling—all the crossing bars and sinuous lines of the richly‐worked pattern, all the depending bosses and roses of it, all the foliations of the deep cornice—sprang into bold relief, outlined, splashed, and stained with living scarlet. And this universal redness of carpet, curtains, furniture, and now of ceiling, even of white‐draped bed, suggested to Katherine’s distracted fancy another thing—unseen, yet known during her other hour of waiting—namely blood.

Roused by the crash of the falling logs and the rustle of Katherine’s garments as she sprang up, Richard Calmady opened his eyes. For a few seconds his glance wavered in vague distress and perplexity. Then, as fuller consciousness returned of how it all was with him, with a slight lifting of the eyebrows his glance steadied upon Katherine and he smiled.

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“Ah! my poor Kitty,” he whispered, “it takes a long time, doesn’t it, this business of dying?”

Katherine’s evil fancies vanished. As soon as the demand for action came she grew calm and sane. The ceiling and sheets were white again and her mind was clear.

“Are you easy, my dearest?” she asked. “In less pain?”

“No,” he said, “no, I’m not in pain. But everything seems to sink away from me, and I float right out. It’s all dream and mist—except—except just now your face.”

Katherine’s lips quivered too much for speech. She moved swiftly across to the what‐not at the head of the bed. If he did not suffer, there could be no selfishness, surely, in trying to keep death at bay for a little space yet? But, alas, with what grotesquely paltry and inadequate weapons are all—even the most gallant—reduced to fighting death at the last! Here, on the one hand, a half wine glass of champagne in a china feeding‐cup, with a teapot‐like spout to it, or a few spoonfuls of jelly, backed by the passion of a woman’s heart. And, on the other hand, ranged against this pitiful display of absurdly limited resources,—as the hosts of the Philistines against the little army of Israel,—resistless laws of nature, incalculably far‐reaching forces, physical and spiritual, the interminable progression of cause and effect!

Denny joined Lady Calmady at the table. The two women held brief consultation. Then the housekeeper went round to the farther side of the bed, and slipping her arm under the pillows gently raised Richard’s head and shoulders, while Katherine, kneeling beside him, held the spout of the feeding‐cup to his lips.

“Must I? I don’t think I can manage it,” he said, drawing away slightly and closing his eyes.

But Katherine persisted.

“Oh! try to drink it,” she pleaded, “never mind how little—only try. Help me to keep you here just as long as I can.”

The young man’s glance steadied on to her once again, and his eyes and lips smiled the same faint, wholly gracious smile.

“All right, my beloved,” he said. “A little higher, Denny, please.”

Not without painful effort and a choking contraction of the throat, he swallowed a few drops. But the greater part of the draught spilt out sideways, and would have dribbled down on to the pillows had not Katherine held her handkerchief to his mouth.

Ormiston, who had been standing at the foot of the bed in the hope of rendering some assistance, ground his teeth together page: 46 with a half‐audible imprecation, and went slowly over to the fireplace again. He had supposed himself as miserable as he well could be before. But this incident of the feeding‐cup was the climax, somehow. It struck him as an intolerable humiliation and outrage that Richard Calmady, splendid fellow as he was, gifted, high‐bred gentleman, should, of all men, come to this sorry pass! He was filled with impotent fury. And was it this pass, indeed, he asked himself, to which every human creature must needs come one day? Would he, Roger Ormiston, one day, find himself thus weak and broken, his body—now so lively a source of various enjoyment—degraded into a pest‐house, a mere dwelling‐place of suffering and corruption? The young man gripped the high, narrow mantelshelf with both hands and pressed his forehead down between them. He really had not the nerve to watch what was going forward over there any longer. It was too painful. It knocked all the manhood out of him. But for very shame, before those two calm, devoted women, he would have broken down and wept.

Presently Richard’s voice reached him, feeble yet uncomplaining.

“I am so sorry, but you see it’s no use, Kitty. The machinery won’t work. Let me lie flat again, Denny, please. That’s better, thanks.”

Then after a few moments of laboured breathing, he added:—

“You mustn’t trouble any more, it only disappoints you. We have just got to submit to fact, my beloved. I’ve taken my last fence.”

Ormiston’s shoulders heaved convulsively as he leaned his forehead against the cold, marble edge of the chimneypiece. His brother‐in‐law’s words brought the whole dreadful picture up before him. Oh! that cursed slip and fall, that struggling, plunging, frenzied horse!—And how the horse had plunged and struggled, good God! It seemed as though Chifney, the grooms, all of them, would never get hold of it or draw Richard out from beneath the pounding hoofs. And then Ormiston went over his own share in the business again, lamenting, blaming himself. Yet what more natural, after all, than that he should have set his affections on the Clown? Chifney believed in the horse too—a five‐year‐old brother of Touchstone, resembling, in his black‐brown skin and intelligent, white‐reach face, that celebrated horse, and inheriting—less enviable distinction—the high shoulders and withers of his sire Camel. If the Clown did not make a name, Captain Ormiston had sworn, by all the gods of sport, he would never judge a horse again. And, Heaven help page: 47 us, was this the ghastly way the Clown’s name was to be made, then?

The room grew very quiet again, save for a strange gurgling, rattling sound Richard Calmady made, at times, in breathing. Mrs. Denny had retired beyond the circle of firelight. And Katherine, having drawn her chair a little farther forward so that the foot of the bed might be out of sight, sat holding her husband’s hand, softly caressing his wrist and palm with her finger‐tips. Soon the slow movement of her fingers ceased, while she felt, in quick fear, for the fluttering, intermittent pulse. Richard’s breathing had become more difficult. He moved his head restlessly and plucked at the sheet with his right hand. It was a little more than flesh and blood could bear.

Katherine called to him softly under her breath:—“Richard, Dick, my darling!”

“All right, I’m coming.”

He opened his eyes wide, as in sudden terror.

“Oh! I say, though, what’s happened? Where am I?”

Katherine leant down, kissed his hand, caressed it.

“Here, my dearest,” she said, “at home, at Brockhurst, with me.”

“Ah yes!” he said, “of course, I remember, I’m dying.” He waited a little space, and then, turning his head on the pillow so as to have a better view of her, spoke again:—“I was floating right out—the under‐tow had got me—it was sucking me down into the deep sea of mist and dreams. I was so nearly gone—and you brought me back.”

“But I wanted you so—I wanted you so,” Katherine cried, smitten with sudden contrition. “I could not help it. Do you mind?”

“You silly sweet, could I ever mind coming back to you?” he asked wistfully. “Don’t you suppose I would much rather stay here at Brockhurst, at home, with you—than sink away into the unknown?”

“Ah! my dear,” she said, swaying herself to and fro in the misery of tearless grief.

“And yet I have no call to complain,” he went on. “I have had thirty years of life and health. It is not a small thing to have seen the sun, and to have rejoiced in one’s youth. And I have had you”—his face hardened and his breath came short—“you, most enchanting of women.”

“My dear! my dear!” Katherine cried, again bowing her head.

“God has been so good to me here that—I hope it is not presumptuous—I can’t be much afraid of what is to follow. The page: 48 best argument for what will be, is what has been. Don’t you think so?”

“But you go and I stay,” she said. “If I could only go too, go with you.”

Richard Calmady raised himself in the bed, looked hard at her, spoke as a man in the fulness of his strength.

“Do you mean that? Would you come with me if you could—come through the deep sea of mist and dreams, to whatever lies beyond?”

For all answer Katherine bent lower, her face suddenly radiant, notwithstanding its pallor. Sorrow was still so new a companion to her that she would dare the most desperate adventures to rid herself of its hateful presence. Her reason and moral sense were in abeyance, only her poor heart spoke. She laid hold of her husband’s hands and clasped them about her throat.

“Let us go together, take me,” she prayed. “I love you, I will not be left. Closer, Dick, closer!”

“Thank God, I am strong enough even yet!” he said fiercely, while his jaw set, and his grasp tightened somewhat dangerously upon her throat. Katherine looked into his eyes and laughed. The blood was tingling through her veins.

“Ah! dear love,” she panted, “if you knew how delicious it is to be a little hurt!”

But her ecstasy was shortlived, as ecstasy usually is. Richard Calmady unclasped his hands and dropped back against the pillows, putting her away from him with a certain authority.

“My beloved one, do not tempt me,” he said. “We must remember the child. The devil of jealousy is very great, even when one lies, as I do now, more than half dead.”—He turned his head away, and his voice shook. “Ten years hence, twenty years hence, you will be as beautiful—more so, very likely—than ever. Other men will see you, and I”—

“You will be just what you were and always have been to me,” Katherine interrupted. “I love you, and shall love.”

She answered bravely, taking his hand again and caressing it, while he looked round and smiled at her. But she grew curiously cold. She shivered, and had a difficulty in controlling her speech. Her new companion, Sorrow, refused to be tricked and to leave her, and the breath of sorrow is as sharp as a wind blowing over ice.

“You have made me perfectly content,” Richard Calmady said presently. “There is nothing I would have changed. No hour of day—or night—ah, my God! my God!—which I could page: 49 ask to have otherwise.” He paused, fighting a sob which rose in his throat. “Still you are quite young”—

“So much the worse for me,” Katherine said.

“Oh! I don’t know about that,” he put in quietly. “Anyhow, remember that you are free, absolutely and unconditionally free. I hold a man a cur who, in dying, tries to bind the woman he loves.”

Katherine shivered. Despair had possession of her.

“Why reason about it?” she asked. “Don’t you see that to be bound is the only comfort I shall have left?”

“My poor darling,” Richard Calmady almost groaned.

His own helplessness to help her cut him to the quick. Wealth, and an inherent graciousness of disposition, had always made it so simple to be of service and of comfort to those about him. It was so natural to rule, to decide, to alleviate, to give little trouble to others and take a good deal of trouble on their behalf, that his present and final incapacity in any measure to shield even Katherine, the woman he worshipped, amazed him. Not pain, not bodily disfigurement,—though he recoiled, as every sane being must, from these,—not death itself, tried his spirit so bitterly as his own uselessness. All the pleasant, kindly activities of common intercourse were over. He was removed alike from good deeds and from bad. He had ceased to have part or lot in the affairs of living men. The desolation of impotence was upon him.

For a little time he lay very still, looking up at the firelight playing upon the mouldings of the ceiling, trying to reconcile himself to this. His mind was clear, yet, except when actually speaking, he found it difficult to keep his attention fixed. Images, sensations, began to chase each other across his mental field of vision; and his thought, though definite as to detail, grew increasingly broken and incoherent, small matters in unseemly fashion jostling great. He wondered concerning those first steps of the disembodied spirit, when it has crossed the threshold of death; and then, incontinently, he passed to certain time‐honored jokes and impertinent follies at Eton, over which he, and Roger, and Major St. Quentin, had laughed a hundred times. They amused him greatly even yet. But he could not linger with them. He was troubled about the attics of the new lodge, now in building at the entrance to the east woods. The windows were too small, and he disliked that blind, north gable. There were letters to be answered too. Lord Fallowfeild wanted to know about something—he could not remember what—Fallowfeild’s inquiries had a habit of being vague. And page: 50 through all these things—serious or trivial—a terrible yearning over Katherine and her baby—the new, little, human life which was his own life, and which yet he would never know or see. And through all these things also, the perpetual, heavy ache of those severed nerves and muscles, flitting pains in the limb of which, though it was gone, he had not ceased to be aware.—He dozed off, and mortal weakness closed down on him, floating him out and out into vague spaces. And then suddenly, once more, he felt a horse under him and gripped it with his knees. He was riding, riding, whole and vigorous, with the summer wind in his face, across vast, flowering pastures towards a great light on the far horizon, which streamed forth, as he knew, from the throne of Almighty God.

Choking, with the harsh rattle in his throat, he awoke to the actual and immediate—to the familiar, square room and its crimson furnishings, to Katherine’s sweet, pale face and the touch of her caressing fingers, to someone standing beside her, whom he did not immediately recognise. It was Roger—Roger worn with watching, grown curiously older. But a certain exhilaration, born of that strange ride, remained by Richard Calmady. Both ache of body and distress of mind had abated. He felt a lightness of spirit, an eagerness, as of one setting forth on a promised journey, who—not unlovingly, yet with something of haste—makes his dispositions before he starts.

“Look here, darling,” he said, “you’ll let the stables go on just as usual. Chifney will take over the whole management of them. You can trust him implicitly. And—that is you, Roger, isn’t it?—you’ll keep an eye on things, won’t you, so that Kitty shall have no bother? I should like to know nothing was changed at the stables. They’ve been a great hobby of mine, and if—if the baby is a boy, he may take after me and care for them. Make him ride straight, Roger. And teach him to love sport for its own sake, dear old man, as a gentleman should, not for the money that may come out of it.”

He waited, struggling for breath, then his hand closed on Katherine’s.

“I must go,” he said. “You’ll call the boy after me, Kitty, won’t you? I want there to be another Richard Calmady. My life has been very happy, so, please God, the name will bring luck.”

A spasm took him, and he tried convulsively to push off the sheet. Katherine was down on her knees, her right arm under his head, while with her left hand she stripped the bedclothes away from his chest and bared his throat.

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“Denny, Denny!” she cried, “come—tell me—is this death?”

And Ormiston, impelled by an impulse he could hardly have explained, crossed the room, dragged back the heavy curtains, and flung one of the casements wide open.

The soft light of autumn dawn flowed in through the great mullioned window, quenching the redness of fire and candles, spreading, dim and ghostly, over the white dress and bowed head of the woman, over the narrow bed and the form of the maimed and dying man. The freshness of the morning air, laden with the soothing murmur of the fir forest swaying in the breath of a mild, westerly breeze; laden too with the moist fragrance of the moorland,—of dewy grass, of withered bracken and fallen leaves,—flowed in also, cleansing the tainted atmosphere of the room. While, from the springy turf of the green ride—which runs eastward, parallel to the lime avenue—came the thud and suck of hoofs, and the voices of the stable boys, as they rode the long string of dancing, snorting racehorses out to the training ground for their morning exercise.

Richard Calmady opened his eyes wide.

“Ah, it’s daylight!” he cried, in accents of joyfulness. “I am glad. Kiss me, my beloved, kiss me.—You dear—yes, once more. I have had such a queer night. I dreamt I had been fearfully knocked about somehow, and was crippled, and in pain. It is good to wake, and find you, and know I’m all right after all. God keep you, my dearest, you and the boy. I am longing to see him—but not just now—let Denny bring him later. And tell them to send Chifney word I shall not be out to see the gallops this morning. I really believe those dreams half frightened me. I feel so absurdly used up. And then—Kitty, where are you?—put your arms round me and I’ll go to sleep again.”

He smiled at her quite naturally and stroked her cheek.

“My sweet, your face is all wet and cold!” he said. “Make Richard a good boy. After all that is what matters most—Julius will help you—Ah! look at the sunrise—why—why”—

An extraordinary change passed over him. To Katherine it seemed like the upward leap of a livid flame. Then his head fell back and his jaw dropped.

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CHAPTER VII

MRS. WILLIAM ORMISTON SACRIFICES A WINE GLASS TO FATE

MRS. ST. QUENTIN’S health became increasingly fragile that autumn; and the weight of the sorrow which had fallen upon Brockhurst bowed her to the earth. Her desire was to go to Lady Calmady, wrap her about with tenderness and strengthen her in patience. But, though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. Daily she assured Mademoiselle de Mirancourt that she was better, that she would be able to start for England in the course of the next week. Yet day after day, week after week, passed by, and still the two ladies lingered in the pretty apartment of the rue de Rennes. Day by day, and week by week, moreover, the elder lady grew more feeble, left her bed later in the morning, sought it earlier at night, finally resigned the attempt to leave it at all. The keepers of Lucia St. Quentin’s house of life trembled, desire—even of gentle ministries—began to fail, the sound of the grinding was low. Yet neither she, nor her lifelong friend, nor her doctor, nor the few intimate acquaintances who were still privileged to visit her, admitted that she would never set forth on that journey to England at all, but only on that quite other journey,—upon which Richard Calmady had already set forth in the fulness of his manhood,—and upon which, the manifold uncertainties of human existence notwithstanding, we are, each one of us, so perfectly certain to set forth at last. Silently they agreed with her to treat her increasing weakness with delicate stoicism, to speak of it—if at all—merely as a passing indisposition, so allowing no dreary, lamentable element to obtrude itself. Sad Mrs. St. Quentin might be, bitterly sad at heart, perplexed by the rather incomprehensible dealings of God with man. Yet, to the end, she would remain charming, gently gay even, both out of consideration for others and out of a fine self‐respect, since she held it the mark of a cowardly and ignoble nature to let anything squalid appear in her attitude towards grief, old age, or death.

But Brockhurst she would never see again. The way was too great for her. And so it came about that when Lady Calmady’s child was born, towards the end of the following March, no more staid and responsible woman‐creature of her family was at hand to support her than that lively, young lady, her brother, William Ormiston’s wife.

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Meanwhile, the parish of Sandyfield rejoiced. Thomas Caryll, the rector, had caused the church bells to be rung immediately on receipt of the good news; while he selected, as text for his Sunday‐morning sermon, those words, usually reserved to another and somewhat greater advent—“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Good Mr. Caryll was innocent of the remotest intention of profanity. But his outlook was circumscribed, his desire to please abnormally large, and his sense of relative values slight. While that Lady Calmady should give birth to a son and heir was, after all, a matter of no small moment—locally considered at all events.

Brockhurst House rejoiced also, yet it did so not without a measure of fear. For there had been twenty‐four hours of acute anxiety regarding Katherine Calmady. And even now, on the evening of the second day, although Dr. Knott declared himself satisfied both as to her condition and that of the baby, an air of mystery surrounded the large, state bedroom—where she lay, white and languid, slowly feeling her way back to the ordinary conditions of existence—and the nursery next door. Mrs. Denny, who had taken possession by right divine of long and devoted service, not only did not encourage, but positively repulsed visitors. Her ladyship must not be disturbed. She, the nurse, the baby, in turn, were sleeping. According to Denny the god of sleep reigned supreme in those stately, white‐panelled chambers, looking away, across the valley and the long lines of the elm avenue, to the faint blue of the chalk downs rising against the southern sky.

John Knott had driven over, for the second time that day, in the windy March sunset. He fell in very readily with Mrs. Ormiston’s suggestion that he should remain to dinner. That young lady’s spirits were sensibly on the rise. It is true that she had wept copiously at intervals while her sister‐in‐law’s life appeared to be in danger—keeping at the same time as far from the sick‐room as the ample limits of Brockhurst House allowed, and wishing herself a thousand and one times safe back in Paris, where her devoted and obedient husband occupied a subordinate post at the English Embassy. But Mrs. Ormiston’s tears were as easily stanched as set flowing. And now, in her capacity of hostess, with three gentlemen—or rather “two and a half, for you can’t,” as she remarked, “count a brother‐in‐law for a whole one”—as audience, she felt remarkably cheerful. She had been over to Newlands during the afternoon, and insisted on Mary Cathcart returning with her. Mrs. Ormiston was a Desmolyns. The Cathcarts are distantly connected with that family. And, page: 54 when the girl had protested that this was hardly a suitable moment for a visit to Brockhurst, Charlotte Ormiston had replied, with that hint of a brogue which gave her ready speech its almost rollicking character:—

“But, my dear child, propriety demands it. I depart myself to‐morrow. And, now that we’re recovering our tone, I daren’t be left with such a houseful of men on my hands any longer. While we were tearing our hair over poor Kitty’s possible demise, and agonising as to the uncertain sex of the baby, it did not matter. But now even that dear creature, Saint Julius, is beginning to pick up, and looks less as if his diet was mouldy peas and his favourite plaything a cat‐o’‐nine‐tails. Scourge?—Yes, of course, but it’s all the same in the application of the instrument, you know. And then in your secret soul, Mary dear,” she added, not unkindly, “there’s no denying it’s far from obnoxious to you to spend a trifle of time in the society of Roger.”

Mrs. Ormiston carried her point. It may be stated, in passing, that this sprightly, young matron was brilliantly pretty, though her facial angle might be deemed too acute, leaving somewhat to be desired in the matter of forehead and of chin. She was plump, graceful, and neat waisted. Her skin was exquisitely white and fine, and a charming colour flushed her cheeks under excitement. Her hair was always untidy, her hairpins displaying abnormal activity in respect of escape and independent action. Her eyes were round and very prominent, suggestive of highly‐polished, brown agates. She was not the least shy or averse to attracting attention. She laughed much, and practised, as prelude to her laughter, an impudently, coquettish, little stare.—And that, finally, as he sat on her right at dinner, her rattling talk and lightness of calibre generally struck John Knott as rather cynically inadequate to the demands made by her present position. Not that he underrated her good‐nature or was insensible to her personal attractions. But the doctor was in search of an able coadjutor just then, blessed with a steady brain and a tongue skilled in tender diplomacies. For there were trying things to be said and done, and he needed a woman of a fine spirit to do and say them aright.

“Head like an eft,” he said to himself, as course followed course and, while bandying compliments with her, he watched and listened. “As soon set a harlequin to lead a forlorn hope. Well it’s to be trusted her husband’s some use for her—that’s more than I have anyhow, so the sooner we see her off the premises the better. Suppose I shall have to fall back on Ormiston. Bit of a rake, I expect, though in looks he is so page: 55 curiously like that beautiful, innocent, young thing upstairs. Wonder how he’ll take it? No mistake, it’s a facer!”

Dr. Knott settled himself back squarely in his chair and pushed his cheese‐plate away from him, while his shaggy eyebrows drew together as he fixed his eyes on the young man at the head of the table.

“A facer!” he repeated to himself. “Yes, the ancients knew what they were about in these awkward matters. The modern conscience is disastrously anæmic.”

Although it looks on the terrace, the dining‐room at Brockhurst is among the least cheerful of the living rooms. The tapestry with which it is hung—representing French hunting scenes, each panel set in a broad border pattern of birds, fruits and leaves, interspersed with classic urns and medallions—is worked in neutral tints of brown, blue, and grey. The chimney‐piece, reaching the whole height of the wall, is of liver‐coloured marble. At the period in question, it was still the fashion to dine at the modestly early hour of six; and, the spring evenings being long, the curtains had been left undrawn, so that the dying daylight without and the lamplight within contended rather mournfully for mastery, while a wild, south‐easterly wind, breaking in gusts against the house front, sobbed at the casements and made a loose pane, here and there, click and rattle.

And it was in the midst of a notably heavy gust, when dessert had been served and the servants had left the room, that Captain Ormiston leaned across the table and addressed his sister‐in‐law.

The young soldier had been somewhat gloomy and silent during dinner. He was vaguely anxious about Lady Calmady. The news of Mrs. St. Quentin was critical, and he cherished a very true affection for his great‐aunt. Had she not been his confidante ever since his first term at Eton? Had she not, moreover, helped him on several occasions when creditors displayed an incomprehensibly foolish pertinacity regarding payment for goods supplied? He was burdened too by a prospective sense of his own uncommon righteousness. For, during the past five months while he had been on leave at Brockhurst, assisting Katherine to master the details of the very various business of the estate, Ormiston had revised his position and decided on heroic measures of reform. He would rid himself of debt, forswear expensive London habits, and those many pleasant iniquities which every great city offers liberally to such handsome, fine gentlemen as himself. He actually proposed, just so soon as Katherine could conveniently spare him, to decline from the splendid inactivity of the Guards, upon page: 56 the hard work of some line regiment under orders for foreign service. Ormiston was quite affected by contemplation of his own good resolutions. He appeared to himself in a really pathetic light. He would like to have told Mary Cathcart all about it and have claimed her sympathy and admiration. But then, she was just precisely the person he could not tell, until the said resolutions had, in a degree at all events, passed into accomplished fact! For—as not infrequently happens—it was not so much a case of being off with the old love before being on with the new, as of being off with the intermediate loves, before being on with the old one again. To announce his estimable future, was, by implication at all events, to confess a not wholly estimable past. And so Roger Ormiston, sitting that night at dinner beside the object of his best and most honest affections, proved but poor company; and roused himself, not without effort, to say to his sister‐in‐law:—

“It’s about time to perform the ceremony of the evening, isn’t it, Charlotte, and drink that small boy’s health?”

“By all manner of means. I’m all for the observance of ancient forms and ceremonies. You can never be sure how much mayn’t lie at the bottom of them, and it’s best to be on the safe side of the unseen powers. You’ll agree to that now, Mr. March, won’t you?”—She took a grape skin from between her neat teeth and flicked it out on to her plate.—“So, for myself,” she went on, “I curtsey nine times to the new moon, though the repeated genuflexion is perniciously likely to give me the backache; touch my hat in passing to the magpies; wish when I behold a piebald; and bless my neighbour devoutly if he sneezes.”

At the commencement of this harangue she met her brother‐in‐law’s rather depreciative scrutiny with her bold little stare—in his present mood Ormiston found her vivacity tedious, though he was usually willing enough to laugh at her extravagancies—then she whipped Julius in with a side glance, and concluded with her round eyes set on Dr. Knott’s rough‐hewn and weather‐beaten countenance.

“I’m afraid you are disgracefully superstitious, Mrs. Ormiston,” the latter remarked.

She was a feather‐headed chatterbox, he reflected, but her chatter served to occupy the time. And the doctor was by no means anxious the time should pass too rapidly. He felt slightly self‐contemptuous; but in good truth he would be glad to put away some few glasses of sound port before administering the aforementioned facer to Captain Ormiston.

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“Superstitious?” she returned. “Well, I trust my superstition is not chronic, but nicely intermittent like all the rest of my many virtues. Charity begins at home, you know, and I would not like to keep any of the poor, dear creatures on guard too long for fear of tiring them out. But I give every one of them a turn, Dr. Knott, I assure you.”

“And that’s more than most of us do,” he said, smiling rather savagely. “The majority of my acquaintance have a handsome power of self‐restraint in the practice of virtue.”

“And I’m the happy exception! Well, now, that’s an altogether pretty speech,” Mrs. Ormiston cried, laughing. “But to return to the matter in hand, to this hero of a baby—I dote on babies, Dr. Knott. I’ve one of my own of six months old, and she’s a charming child I assure you.”

“I don’t doubt that for an instant, having the honour of knowing her mother. Couldn’t be otherwise than charming if she tried,” the doctor said, reaching out his hand again to the decanter.

Mrs. Ormiston treated him to her little stare, and then looked round the table, putting up one plump, bare arm as she pushed in a couple of hairpins.

“Ah! but she’s a real jewel of a child,” she said audaciously. “She’s the comfort of my social existence. For she doesn’t resemble me in the least, and therefore my reputation’s everlastingly safe, thanks to her. Why, before the calumniating thought has had time to arise in your mind, one look in that child’s face will dissipate it, she’s so entirely the image of her father.”

There was a momentary silence, but for the sobbing of the gale and rattling of the casements. Then Captain Ormiston broke into a rather loud laugh. Even if they sail near the wind, you must stand by the women of your family.

“Come, that will do, I think; Charlotte,” he said. “You won’t beat that triumphant bull in a hurry.”

“But, my dear boy, so she is. Even at her present tender age, she’s the living picture of your brother William.”

“Oh, poor William!” Roger said hastily.

He turned to Mary Cathcart. The girl had blushed up to the roots of her crisp, black hair. She did not clearly understand the other woman’s speech, nor did she wish to do so. She was admirably pure‐minded. But, like all truly pure‐minded persons, she carried a touchstone that made her recoil, directly and instinctively, from that which was of doubtful quality. The twinkle in Dr. Knott’s grey eyes, as he sipped his port, still more the tone of Roger Ormiston’s laugh, she did understand some‐ page: 58 how. And this last jarred upon her cruelly. It opened the flood‐gates of doubt which Mary—like so many another woman in respect of the man she loves—had striven very valiantly to keep shut. All manner of hints as to his indiscretions, all manner of half‐told tales as to his debts, his extravagance, which rumour had conveyed to her unwilling ears, seemed suddenly to gather weight and probability, viewed in the moral light—so to speak—of that laugh. Great loves mature and deepen under the action of sorrow and the necessity to forgive; yet it is a shrewdly bitter moment, when the heart of either man or woman first admits that the god of its idolatry has, after all, feet of but very common clay. Her head erect, her eyes moist, Mary turned to Julius March and asked him of the welfare of a certain labourer’s family that had lately migrated from Newlands to Sandyfield. But Ormiston’s voice broke in upon the inquiries with a determination to claim her attention.

“Miss Cathcart,” he said, “forgive my interrupting you. I can tell you more about the Spratleys than March can. They’re all right. Iles has taken the man on as carter at the home‐farm, and given the eldest boy a job with the woodmen. I told him to do what he could for them as you said you were interested in them. And now, please, I want you to drink my small nephew’s health.”

The girl pushed forward her wine glass without speaking, and, as he filled it, Ormiston added in a lower tone:—

“He, at all events, unlike some of his relations, is guiltless of foolish words or foolish actions. I don’t pretend to share Charlotte’s superstitions, but some people’s good wishes are very well worth having.”

Unwillingly Mary Cathcart raised her eyes. Her head was still carried a little high and her cheeks were still glowing. Her god might not be of pure gold throughout—such gods rarely are, unfortunately—yet she was aware she still found him a very worshipful kind of deity.

“Very well worth having,” he repeated. “And so I should like that poor, little chap to have your good wishes, Miss Cathcart. Wish him all manner of nice things, for his mother’s sake as well as his own. There’s been a pretty bad run of luck here lately, and it’s time it changed. Wish him better fortune than his forefathers. I’m not superstitious, as I say, but Richard Calmady’s death scared one a little. Five minutes beforehand it seemed so utterly improbable. And then one began to wonder if there could be any truth in the old legend. And that was ugly, you know.”

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Dr. Knott glanced at the speaker sharply.—“Oh! that occurred to you, did it?” he said.

“Bless me! why, it occurred to everybody!” Ormiston answered impatiently. “Some idiot raked the story up, and it was canvassed from one end of the county to the other last autumn till it made me fairly sick.”

“Poor boy!” cried Mrs. Ormiston. “And what is this wonderful story that so nauseates him, Dr. Knott?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you,” the doctor answered slowly. A nervous movement on the part of Julius March had attracted his attention. “I have never managed to get hold of the story as a whole, but I should like to do so uncommonly.”

Julius pushed back his chair, and groped hurriedly for the dinner‐napkin which had slipped to the ground from his knees. The subject of the conversation agitated him. The untidy, little chap‐books, tied together with the tag of rusty ribbon, had lain undisturbed in the drawer of his library table ever since the—to him—very memorable evening, when, kneeling before the image of the stricken Mother and the dead Christ, he had found the man’s heart under the priest’s cassock and awakened to newness of life. Much had happened since then; and Julius had ranged himself, accepting, open‐eyed, the sorrows and alleviations of the fate he had created for himself. But to‐night he was tired. The mental and emotional strain of the last few days had been considerable. Moreover, John Knott’s presence always affected him. The two men stood, indeed, at opposing poles of thought—the one spiritual and ideal, the other material and realistic. And, though he struggled against the influence, the doctor’s rather brutal common sense and large knowledge of physical causes, gained a painful ascendency over his mind at close quarters. Knott, it must be owned, was slightly merciless to his clerical acquaintances. He loved to bait them, to impale them on the horns of some moral or theological dilemma. And it was partly with this purpose of harrying and worrying that he continued now:—

“Yes, Mrs. Ormiston, I should like to hear the story just as much as you would. And—it strikes me, if he pleased, Mr. March could tell it to us. Suppose you ask him to!”

Promptly the young lady fell upon Julius, regardless of Ormiston’s hardly concealed displeasure.

“Oh! you bad man, what are you doing,” she cried, “trying to conceal thrilling family legends from the nearest relatives? Tell us all about it, if you know, as Dr. Knott declares you do. I dote on terrifying stories—don’t you, Mary?—that send the page: 60 cold shivers all down my back. And if they deal with the history of my nearest and dearest, why, there’s an added charm to them. Now, Mr. March, we’re all attention. Stand and deliver, and make it all just as bad as you can.”

“I am afraid I am not an effective improvisatore,” he replied. “And the subject, if you will pardon my saying so, seems to me too intimate for mirth. A curse is supposed to rest on this place. The owners of Brockhurst die young and by violent means.”

“We know that already, and look to you to tell us something more, Mr. March,” Dr. Knott said dryly.

Julius was slightly nettled at the elder man’s tone and manner. He answered with an accentuation of his usual refinement of enunciation and suavity of manner.

“There is a term to the curse—a saviour who, according to the old prediction, has the power, should he also have the will, to remove it altogether.”

“Oh, really, is that so? And when does this saviour put in an appearance?” the doctor asked again.

“That is not revealed.”

Julius would very gladly have said nothing further. But Dr. Knott’s expression was curiously intent and compelling as he sat fingering the stem of his wine glass. All the ideality of Julius’s nature rose in revolt against the half‐sneering rationalism he seemed to read in that expression. Mrs. Ormiston, who had an hereditary racial appreciation of anything approaching a fight, turned her round eyes first on one speaker and then on the other provokingly, inciting them to more declared hostilities, while she bit her lips in the effort to avoid spoiling sport by untimely laughter or speech.

“But unhappily,” Julius proceeded, yielding under protest to these opposing forces, “the saviour comes in so questionable a shape, that I fear, whenever the appointed time may be, his appearance will only be welcomed by the discerning few.”

“That’s a pity,” Dr. Knott said. He paused a minute, passed his hand across his mouth.—“Still, if we are to believe the Bible, and other so‐called sacred histories, it’s been the way of saviours from the beginning to try the faith of ordinary mortals by presenting themselves under rather queer disguises.”—He paused again, drawing in his wide lips, moistening them with his tongue. “But since you evidently know all about it, Mr. March, may I make bold to inquire in what special form of fancy dress the saviour in question is reported as likely to present himself?”

“He comes as a child of the house,” Julius answered, with page: 61 dignity. “A child who in person—if I understand the wording of the prophecy aright—is half angel, half monster.”

John Knott opened his mouth as though to give passage to some very forcible exclamation. Thought better of it and brought his jaws together with a kind of grind. His heavy figure seemed to hunch itself up as in the recoil from a blow.

“Curious,” he said quietly. Yet Julius, looking at him, could have fancied that his weather‐beaten face went a trifle pale.

But Mrs. Ormiston, in the interests of a possible fight, had contained herself just as long as was possible. Now she clapped her hands, and broke into a little scream of laughter.

“That’s just the most magnificently romantic thing I ever heard!” she cried. “Come now, this requires further investigation. What’s our baby like, Dr. Knott? I’ve seen nothing but an indistinguishable mass of shawls and flannels. Have we, by chance, got an angelic monstrosity upstairs without being aware of it?”

“Charlotte!” Roger Ormiston called out sternly. The young man looked positively dangerous. “This conversation has gone quite far enough. I agree with March, it may all be stuff and nonsense, not worth a second thought, still it isn’t a thing to joke about.”

“Very well, dear boy, be soothed then,” she returned, making a little grimace and putting her head on one side coquettishly. “I’ll be as solemn as nine owls. But you must excuse a momentary excitement. It’s all news to me, you know. I’d no notion Katherine had married into such a remarkable family. I’m bound to learn a little more. Do you believe it’s possible at all, Dr. Knott, now tell me?”

“The fulfilment of prophecy is rather a wide and burning question to embark on,” he said. “With Captain Ormiston’s leave, I think we’d better go back to the point we started from and drink the little gentleman’s health. I have my patient to see again, and it is getting rather late.”

The lady addressed, laughed, held up her glass, and stared round the table with a fine air of bravado, looking remarkably pretty.

“Fire away, Roger, dear fellow,” she said. “We’re loaded, and ready.”

Thus admonished, Ormiston raised his glass too. But his temper was not of the sweetest, just then, he spoke forcedly.

“Here’s to the boy,” he said; “good luck, and good health, page: 62 and,” he added hastily, “please God he’ll be a comfort to his mother.”

“Amen,” Julius said softly.

Dr. Knott contemplated the contents of his glass, for a moment, whether critically or absently it would have been difficult to decide. But all the harshness had gone out of his face, and his loose lips worked into a smile pathetic in quality.

“To the baby.—And I venture to add a clause to your invocation of that heartless jade, Dame Fortune. May he never lack good courage and good friends. He will need both.”

Julius March set down his wine untasted. He had received a very disagreeable impression.

“Come, come, it appears to me, we are paying these honours in a most lugubrious spirit,” Mrs. Ormiston broke in. “I wish the baby a long life and a merry one, in defiance of all prophecies and traditions belonging to his paternal ancestry. Go on, Mr. March, you’re shamefully neglecting your duty. No heel taps.”

She threw back her head, showing the whole of her white throat, drained her glass and then flung it over her shoulder. It fell on the black, polished boards, beyond the edge of the carpet, shivered into a hundred pieces, that lay glittering, like scattered diamonds in the lamplight. For the day had died altogether. Fleets of dark, straggling cloud chased each other across spaces of pallid sky, against the earthward edge of which dusky tree‐tops strained and writhed in the force of the tearing gale.

Mrs. Ormiston rose, laughing, from her place at table.

“That’s the correct form,” she said, “it ensures the fulfilment of the wish. You ought all to have cast away your glasses regardless of expense. Come, Mary, we will remove ourselves. Mind and bid me good‐bye before you go, Dr. Knott, and report on Lady Calmady. It’s probably the last time you’ll have the felicity of seeing me. I’m off at cock‐crow to‐morrow morning.”

CHAPTER VIII

ENTER A CHILD OF PROMISE

AFTER closing the door behind the two ladies, Ormiston paused by the near window and gazed out into the night. The dinner had been, in his opinion, far from a success. He feared his relation to Mary Cathcart had retrograded rather than page: 63 progressed. He wished his sister‐in‐law would be more correct in speech and behaviour. Then he held the conversation had been in bad taste. The doctor should have abstained from pressing Julius with questions. He assured himself, again, that the story was not worth a moment’s serious consideration; yet he resented its discussion. Such discussion seemed to him to tread hard on the heels of impertinence to his sister, to her husband’s memory, and to this boy, born to so excellent a position and so great wealth. And the worst of it was that, like a fool, he had started the subject himself!

“The wind’s rising,” he remarked at last. “You’ll have a rough drive home, Knott.”

“It won’t be the first one. And my beauty’s of the kind which takes a lot of spoiling.”

The answer did not please the young man. He sauntered across the room and dropped into his chair, with a slightly insolent demeanour.

“All the same, don’t let me detain you,” he said, “if you prefer seeing Lady Calmady at once and getting off.”

“You don’t detain me,” Dr. Knott answered. “I’m afraid it’s just the other way about and that I must detain you, Captain Ormiston, and that on rather unpleasant business.”

Julius March had risen to his feet. “You—you have no fresh cause for anxiety about Lady Calmady?” he said hurriedly.

The doctor glanced up at the tall, spare, black figure and dark, sensitive face with a half‐sneering, half‐pitying smile.

“Oh no, no!” he replied; “Lady Calmady’s going on splendidly. And it is to guard, just as far as we can, against cause for anxiety later, that I want to speak to Captain Ormiston now. We’ve got to be prepared for certain contingencies. Don’t you go, Mr. March. You may as well hear what I’ve to say. It will interest you particularly, I fancy, after one or two things you have told us to‐night!”

“Sit down, Julius, please.”—Ormiston would have liked to maintain that same insolence of demeanour, but it gave before an apprehension of serious issues. He looked hard at the doctor, cudgelling his brains as to what the latter’s enigmatic speech might mean—divined, put the idea away as inadmissible, returned to it, then said angrily:—“There’s nothing wrong with the child, of course?”

Dr. Knott turned his chair sideways to the table and shaded his face with his thick, square hand.

“Well, that depends on what you call wrong,” he slowly replied.

“It’s not ill?” Ormiston said.

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“The baby’s as well as you or I—better, in fact, than I am, for I am confoundedly touched up with gout. Bear that in mind, Captain Ormiston—that the child is well, I mean, not that I am gouty. I want you to definitely remember that, you and Mr. March.”

“Well, then, what on earth is the matter?” Ormiston asked sharply. “You don’t mean to imply it is injured in any way, deformed?”

Dr. Knott let his hand drop on the table. He nodded his head. Ormiston perceived, and it moved him strangely, that the doctor’s eyes were wet.

“Not deformed,” he answered. “Technically you can hardly call it that, but maimed.”

“Badly?”

“Well, that’s a matter of opinion. You or I should think it bad enough, I fancy, if we found ourselves in the same boat.” He settled himself back in his chair.—“You had better understand it quite clearly,” he continued, “at least as clearly as I can put it to you. There comes a point where I cannot explain the facts but only state them. You have heard of spontaneous amputation?”

Across Ormiston’s mind came the remembrance of a litter of puppies he had seen in the sanctum of the veterinary surgeon of his regiment. A lump rose in his throat.

“Yes, go on,” he said.

“It is a thing that does not happen once in most men’s experience. I have only seen one case before in all my practice and that was nothing very serious. This is an extraordinary example. I need not remind you of Sir Richard Calmady’s accident and the subsequent operation?”

“Of course not—go on,” Ormiston repeated.

“In both cases the leg is gone from here,” the doctor continued, laying the edge of his palm across the thigh immediately above the knee. “The foot is there—that is the amazing part of it—and, as far as I can see, is well formed and of the normal size, but so embedded in the stump that I cannot discover whether the ankle‐joint and bones of the lower leg exist in a contracted form or not.”

Ormiston poured himself out a glass of port. His hand shook so that the lip of the decanter chattered against the lip of the glass. He gulped down the wine and, getting up, walked the length of the room and back again.

“God in heaven,” he murmured, “how horrible! Poor Kitty, how utterly horrible!—Poor Kitty.”

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For the baby, in his own fine completeness, he had as yet no feeling but one of repulsion.

“Can nothing be done, Knott?” he asked at last.

“Obviously nothing.”

“And it will live?”

“Oh! bless you, yes! It’ll live fast enough if I know a healthy infant when I see one. And I ought to know ’em by now. I’ve brought them into the world by dozens for my sins.”

“Will it be able to walk?”

“Umph—well—shuffle,” the doctor answered, smiling savagely to keep back the tears.

The young man leaned his elbows on the table, and rested his head on his hands. All this shocked him inexpressibly—shocked him almost to the point of physical illness. Strong as he was he could have fainted, just then, had he yielded by ever so little. And this was the boy whom they had so longed for then! The child on whom they had set such fond hopes, who was to be the pride of his young mother, and restore the so rudely shaken balance of her life! This was the boy who should go to Eton, and into some crack regiment, who should ride straight, who was heir to great possessions!

“The saviour has come, you see, Mr. March, in as thorough‐paced a disguise as ever saviour did yet,” John Knott said cynically.

“He had better never have come at all!” Ormiston put in fiercely, from behind his hands.

“Yes—very likely—I believe I agree,” the doctor answered. “Only it remains that he has come, is feeding, growing, stretching, and bellowing too, like a young bull‐calf, when anything doesn’t suit him. He is here, very much here, I tell you. And so we have just got to consider how to make the best of him, both for his own sake and for Lady Calmady’s. And you must understand he is a splendid, little animal, clean skinned and strong, as you would expect, being the child of two such fine young people. He is beautiful,—I am old fashioned enough, perhaps scientific enough, to put a good deal of faith in that notion,—beautiful as a child only can be who is born of the passion of true lovers.”

He paused, looking somewhat mockingly at Julius.

“Yes, love is an incalculably great, natural force,” he continued. “It comes uncommonly near working miracles at times, unconscious and rather deplorable miracles. In this case it has worked strangely against itself—at once for irreparable injury and for perfection. For the child is perfect, is superb, but for the one thing.”

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“Does my sister know?” Ormiston asked hoarsely.

“Not yet; and, as long as we can keep the truth from her she had better not know. We must get her a little stronger, if we can, first. That woman, Mrs. Denny, is worth her weight in gold, and her weight’s not inconsiderable. She has her wits about her, and has contrived to meet all difficulties so far.”

Ormiston sat in the same dejected attitude.

“But my sister is bound to know before long.”

“Of course. When she is a bit better she’ll want to have the baby to play with, dress and undress it and see what the queer little being is made of. It’s a way young mothers have, and a very pretty way too. If we keep the child from her she will grow suspicious, and take means to find out for herself, and that won’t do. It must not be. I won’t be responsible for the consequences. So as soon as she asks a definite question, she must have a definite answer.”

The young man looked up quickly.

“And who is to give the answer?” he said.

“Well, it rests chiefly with you to decide that. Clearly she ought not to hear this thing from a servant. It is too serious. It needs to be well told—the whole kept at a high level, if you understand me. Give Lady Calmady a great part and she will play it nobly. Let this come upon her from a mean, wet‐nurse, hospital‐ward sort of level, and it may break her. What we have to do is to keep up her pluck. Remember we are only at the beginning of this business yet. In all probability there are many years ahead. Therefore this announcement must come to Lady Calmady from an educated person, from an equal, from somebody who can see all round it. Mrs. Ormiston tells me she leaves here to‐morrow morning?”

“Mrs. Ormiston is out of the question anyhow,” Roger exclaimed rather bitterly.

Here Julius March, who had so far been silent, spoke, and, in speaking, showed what manner of spirit he was of. The doctor agitated him, treated him, moreover, with scant courtesy. But Julius put this aside. He could afford to forget himself in his desire for any possible mitigation of the blow which must fall on Katherine Calmady. And, listening to his talk, he had, in the last quarter of an hour, gained conviction not only of this man’s ability, but of his humanity, of his possession of the peculiar gentleness which so often, mercifully, goes along with unusual strength. As the coarse‐looking hand could soothe, touching delicately, so the hard intellect and rough tongue could, page: 67 he believed, modulate themselves to very consoling and inspiring tenderness of thought and speech.

“We have you, Dr. Knott,” he said. “No one, I think, could better break this terrible sorrow to Lady Calmady, than yourself.”

“Thank you—you are generous, Mr. March,” the other answered cordially; adding to himself:—“Got to revise my opinion of the black coat. Didn’t quite deserve that after the way you’ve badgered him, eh, John Knott?”

He shrugged his big shoulders a little shamefacedly.

“Of course, I’d do my best,” he continued. “But you see ten to one I shan’t be here at the moment. As it is, I have neglected lingering sicknesses and sudden deaths, hysterical girls, croupy children, broken legs, and all the other pretty little amusements of a rather large practice, waiting for me. Suppose I happen to be twenty miles away on the far side of Westchurch, or seeing after some of Lady Fallowfeild’s numerous progeny engaged in teething or measles? Lady Calmady might be kept waiting, and we cannot afford to have her kept waiting in this crisis.”

“I wish to God my aunt, Mrs. St. Quentin, was here!”’ Ormiston exclaimed. “But she is not, and won’t be, alas!”

“Well, then, who remains?”

As the doctor spoke he pressed his fingers against the edge of the table, leaned forward, and looked keenly at Ormiston. He was extremely ugly just then, ugly as the weather‐worn gargoyle on some mediæval church tower, but his eyes were curiously compelling.

“Good heavens! you don’t mean that I’ve got to tell her?” Ormiston cried.

He rose hurriedly, thrust his hands into his pockets, and walked a little unsteadily across to the window, crunching the shining pieces of Mrs. Ormiston’s sacrificial wine glass under foot. Outside the night was very wild. In the colourless sky stars reeled among the fleets of racing cloud. The wind hissed up the grass slopes and shouted among the great trees crowning the ridge of the hill. The prospect was not calculated to encourage. Ormiston turned his back on it. But hardly more encouraging was the sombre, grey‐blue‐walled room. The vision of all that often returned to him afterwards in very different scenes—the tall lamps, the two men, so strangely dissimilar in appearance and temperament, sitting on either side the dinner‐table with its fine linen and silver, wines and fruits, waiting. silently for him to speak.

“I can’t tell her,” he said, “I can’t. Damn it all, I tell you, page: 68 Knott, I daren’t. Think what it will be to her! Think of being told that about your own child!”—Ormiston lost control of himself. He spoke violently. “I’m so awfully fond of her and proud of her,” he went on. “She’s behaved so splendidly ever since Richard’s death, laid hold of all the business, never spared herself, been so able and so just. And now the baby coming, and being a boy, seemed to be a sort of let up, a reward to her for all her goodness. To tell her this horrible thing will be like doing her some hideous wrong. If her heart has to be broken, in common charity don’t ask me to break it.”

There was a pause. He came back to the table and stood behind Julius March’s chair.

“It’s asking me to be hangman to my own sister,” he said.

“Yes, I know it is a confoundedly nasty piece of work. And it’s rough on you, very rough. Only, you see, this hanging has to be put through—there’s the nuisance. And it is just a question whether your hand won’t be the lightest after all.”

Again silence obtained, but for the rush and sob of the gale against the great house.

“What do you say, Julius?” Ormiston demanded at last.

“I suppose our only thought is for Katherine—for Lady Calmady?” he said. “And in that case I agree with Dr. Knott.”

Roger took another turn to the window, stood there awhile struggling with his natural desire to escape from so painful an embassy.

“Very well, if you are not here, Knott, I undertake to tell her,” he said at last. “Please God, she mayn’t turn against me altogether for bringing her such news. I’ll be on hand for the next few days, and—you must explain to Denny that I am to be sent for whenever I am wanted. That’s all—I suppose we may as well go now, mayn’t we?”

Julius knelt at the faldstool, without the altar rails of the chapel, till the light showed faintly through the grisaille of the stained‐glass windows and outlined the spires and carven canopies of the stalls. At first his prayers were definite, petitions for mercy and grace to be outpoured on the fair, young mother and her, seemingly, so cruelly afflicted child; on himself, too, that he might be permitted to stay here, and serve her through the difficult future. If she had been sacred before, Katherine was doubly sacred to him now. He bowed himself, in reverential awe, before the thought of her martyrdom. How page: 69 would her proud and naturally joyous spirit bear the bitter pains of it? Would it make, eventually, for evil or for good? And then—the ascetic within him asserting itself, notwithstanding the widening of outlook produced by the awakening of his heart—he was overtaken by a great horror of that which we call matter; by a revolt against the body, and those torments and shames, mental, moral, and physical, which the body brings along with it. Surely the dualists were right? It was unregenerate, a thing, if made by God, yet wholly fallen away from grace and given over to evil, this fleshly envelope wherein the human soul is seated, and which, even in the womb, may be infected by disease or rendered hideous by mutilation? Then, as the languor of his long vigil overcame him, he passed into an ecstatic contemplation of the state of that same soul after death, clothed with a garment of incorruptible and enduring beauty, dwelling in clear, luminous spaces, worshipping among the ranks of the redeemed, beholding its Lord God face to face.

John Knott, meanwhile, after driving home beneath the reeling stars, through the roar of the forest and shriek of the wind across the open moors, found an urgent summons awaiting him. He spent the remainder of that night, not in dreams of paradise and of spirits redeemed from the thraldom of the flesh, but in increasing the population of this astonishing planet, by assisting to deliver a scrofulous, half‐witted, shrieking servant‐girl of twins—illegitimate—in the fusty atmosphere of a cottage garret, right up under the rat‐eaten thatch.

CHAPTER IX

IN WHICH KATHERINE CALMADY LOOKS ON HER SON

MORE than a week elapsed before Ormiston was called upon to redeem his promise. For Lady Calmady’s convalescence was slow. An apathy held her, which was tranquillising rather than tedious. She was glad to lie still and rest. She found it very soothing to be shut away from the many obligations of active life for a while; to watch the sunlight, on fair days, shift from east by south to west, across the warm fragrant room; to see the changing clouds in the delicate, spring sky, and the slow‐dying crimson and violet of the sunset; to hear the sudden hurry of failing rain, the subdued voices of the women in the page: 70 adjoining nursery, and, sometimes, the lusty protestations of her baby when—as John Knott had put it—“things didn’t suit him.” She felt a little jealous of the comely, young wet‐nurse, a little desirous to be more intimately acquainted with this small, new Richard Calmady, on whom all her hopes for the future were set. But, immediately, she was very submissive to the restrictions laid by Denny and the doctor upon her intercourse with the child. She only stood on the threshold of motherhood as yet. While the inevitable exhaustion, following on the excitement of her spring and summer of joy, her autumn of bitter sorrow, and her winter of hard work, asserted itself now that she had time and opportunity for rest.

The hangings and coverlet of the great, ebony, half‐tester bed were lined with rose silk, and worked, with many coloured worsteds on a white ground, in the elaborate Persian pattern so popular among industrious ladies of leisure in the reign of good Queen Anne. It may be questioned whether the parable, wrought out with such patience of innumerable stitches, was closely comprehensible or sympathetic to the said ladies; since a particularly wide interval, both of philosophy and practice, would seem to divide the temper of the early eighteenth century from that of the mystic East. Still the parable was there, plain to whoso could read it; and not—perhaps rather pathetically—without its modern application.

The Powers of Evil, in the form of a Leopard, pursue the soul of man, symbolised by a Hart, through the Forest of This Life. In the midst of that same forest stands an airy, domed pavilion, in which—if so be it have strength and fleetness to reach it—the panting, hunted creature may, for a time, find security and repose. Above this resting‐place the trees of the forest interlace their spreading branches, loaded with amazing leaves and fruit; while companies of rainbow‐hued birds, standing very upright upon nothing in particular, entertain themselves by holding singularly indigestible looking cherries and mulberries in their yellow beaks.

And so, Katherine, resting in dreamy quiet within the shade of the embroidered curtains, was even as the Hart pasturing in temporary security before the quaint pavilion. The mark of her bereavement was upon her sensibly still—would be so until the end. Often in the night, when Denny had at last left her, she would wake suddenly and stretch her arms out across the vacant space of the wide bed, calling softly to the beloved one who could give no answer, and then, recollecting, would sob herself again to sleep. Often, too, as Ormiston’s step sounded page: 71 through the Chapel‐Room when he came to pay her those short, frequent visits, bringing the clean freshness of the outer air along with him, Katherine would look up in a wondering gladness, cheating herself for an instant with unreasoning delight—look up, only to know her sorrow, and feel the knife turn in the wound. Nevertheless these days made, in the main, for peace and healing. On more than one occasion she petitioned that Julius March should come and read to her, choosing, as the book he should read from, Spenser’s Faerie Queene. He obeyed, in manner calm, in spirit deeply moved. Katherine spoke little. But her charm was great, as she lay, her eyes changeful in colour as a moorland stream, listening to those intricate stanzas, in which the large hope, the pride of honourable deeds, the virtue, the patriotism, the masculine fearlessness, the ideality, the fantastic imagination, of the English Renaissance so nobly finds voice. They comforted her mind, set by instinct and training to welcome all splendid adventures of romance, of nature, and of faith. They carried her back, in dear remembrance, to the perplexing and enchanting discoveries which Richard Calmady’s visit to Ormiston Castle—the many‐towered, grey house looking eastward across the unquiet sea—had brought to her. And specially did they recall to her that first evening—even yet she grew hot as she thought of it—when the supposed gentleman‐jockey, whom she had purposed treating with gay and reducing indifference, proved not only fine scholar and fine gentleman, but absolute and indisputable master of her heart.

Dr. Knott came to see her, too, almost daily—rough, tender‐hearted, humorous, dependable, never losing sight, in his intercourse with her, of the matter in hand, of the thing which immediately is.

Thus did these three men, each according to his nature and capacity, strive to guard the poor Hart, pasturing before the quaint pavilion, set—for its passing refreshment—in the midst of the Forest of This Life, and to keep, just so long as was possible, the pursuing Leopard at bay. Nevertheless the Leopard gained, despite of their faithful guardianship—which was inevitable, the case standing as it did.

For one bright afternoon, about three o’clock, Mrs. Denny arrived in the gun‐room, where Ormiston sat smoking, while talking over with Julius the turf‐cutting claims of certain squatters on Spendle Flats—arrived, not to summon the latter to further readings of the great Elizabethan poet, but to say to the former:—

“Will you please come at once, sir? Her ladyship is sitting page: 72 up. She is a little difficult about the baby—only, you know, sir, if I can say it with all respect, in her pretty, teasing way. But I am afraid she must be told.”

And Roger rose and went—sick at heart. He would rather have faced an enemy’s battery, vomiting out shot and shell, than gone up the broad, stately staircase, and by the silent, sunny passage‐ways, to that fragrant, white‐panelled room.

On the stands and tables were bowls full of clear‐coloured, spring flowers—early primrose, jonquil, and narcissus. A wood‐fire burned upon the blue‐and‐white tiled hearth. And on the sofa, drawn up at right angles to it, Katherine sat, wrapped in a grey, silk dressing‐gown bordered with soft, white fur. She flushed slightly as her brother came in, and spoke to him with an air of playful apology.

“I really don’t know why you should have been dragged up here, just now, dear old man! It is some fancy of Denny’s. I’m afraid in the excess of her devotion she makes me rather a nuisance to you. And now, not contented with fussing about me, she has taken to being absurdly mysterious about the baby”—

She stopped abruptly. Something in the young man’s expression and bearing impressed her, causing her to stretch out her hands to him in swift fear and entreaty.

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

And he told her, repeating, with but a few omissions, the statement made to him by the doctor ten days ago. He dared not look at her while he spoke, lest seeing her should unnerve him altogether.

Katherine was very still. She made no outcry. Yet her very stillness seemed to him the more ominous, and the horror of the recital grew upon him. His voice sounded to him unnaturally loud and harsh in the surrounding quiet. Once her silken draperies gave a shuddering rustle—that was all.

At last it was over. At last he dared to look at her. The colour and youthful roundness had gone out of her face. It was grey as her dress, fixed and rigid as a marble mask. Ormiston was overcome with a consuming pity for her and with a violence of self‐hatred. Hangman, and to his own sister—in truth, it seemed to him to have come to that! He knelt down in front of her, laying hold of both her knees.

“Kitty, can you ever forgive me for telling you this?” he asked hoarsely.

Even in this extremity Katherine’s inherent sweetness asserted page: 73 itself. She would have smiled, but her frozen lips refused. Her eyelids quivered a little and closed.

“I have nothing to forgive you, dear,” she said. “Indeed, it is good of you to tell me, since—since so it is.”

She put her hands upon his shoulders, gripping them fast, and bowed her head. The little flames crackled, dancing among the pine logs, and the silk of her dress rustled as her bosom rose and fell.

“It won’t make you ill again?” Roger asked anxiously.

Katherine shook her head.

“Oh no!” she said, “I have no more time for illness. This is a thing to cure, as a cautery cures—to burn away all idleness and self‐indulgent, sick‐room fancies. See, I am strong, I am well.”

She stood up, her hands slipping down from Ormiston’s shoulders and steadying themselves on his hands as he too rose. Her face was still ashen, but purpose and decision had come into her eyes.

“Do this for me,” she said, almost imperiously. “Go to Denny, tell her to bring me the baby. She is to leave him with me. And tell her, as she loves both him and me,—as she values her place here at Brockhurst,—she is not to speak.”

As he looked at her Ormiston turned cold. She was terrible just then.

“Katherine,” he said quickly, “what on earth are you going to do?”

“No harm to my baby in any case—you need not be alarmed. I am quite to be trusted. Only I cannot be reasoned with or opposed, still less condoled with or comforted, yet. I want my baby, and I must have him, here, alone, the doors shut—locked if I please.”—Her lips gave, the corners of her mouth drooped. And watching her Ormiston swore a little under his breath.—“We have something to say to each other, the baby and I,” she went on, “which no one else may hear. So do what I ask you, Roger. And come back—I may want you—in about an hour, if I do not send for you before.”

Alone with her child, Lady Calmady moved slowly across and bolted both the nursery and the Chapel‐Room doors. Then she drew a low stool up in front of the fire and sat down, laying the infant upon her lap. It was a delicious, dimpled creature, with a quantity of silky, golden‐brown hair, that curled in a tiny crest along the top of its head. It was but half awake yet, the rounded cheeks pink with the comfort of food and slumber. And as the beautiful, young mother, bending that set, ashen page: 74 face of hers above it, laid the child upon her knees, it stretched, clenching soft, baby fists and rubbing them into its blue eyes.

Katherine unwrapped the shawls, and took off one small garment after another—delicate gossamer‐like things of fine flannel, lawn and lace, such as women’s fingers linger over in the making with tender joy. Once her resolution failed her. She wrapped the half‐dressed child in its white shawls again, rose from her place and walked over to the sunny window, carrying it in the hollow of her arm—it staring up, meanwhile, with the strange wonder of baby eyes, and cooing, as though holding communication with gracious presences haunting the moulded ceiling above. Katherine gazed at it for a few seconds. But the little creature’s serene content, its absolute unconsciousness of its own evil fortune, pained her too greatly. She went back, sat down on the stool again, and completed the task she had set herself.

Then, the baby lying stark naked on her lap, she studied the fair, little face, the pencilled eyebrows and fringed eyelids—dark like her own,—the firm, rounded arms, the rosy‐palmed hands, their dainty fingers and finger‐nails, the well‐proportioned and well‐nourished body, without smallest mark or blemish upon it, sound, wholesome, and complete. All these she studied long and carefully, while the dancing glow of the firelight played over the child’s delicate flesh, and it extended its little arms in the pleasant warmth, holding them up, as in act of adoration, towards those gracious unseen presences, still, apparently, hovering above the flood of instreaming sunshine against the ceiling overhead. Lastly she turned her eyes, with almost dreadful courage, upon the mutilated, malformed limbs, upon the feet—set right up where the knee should have been, thus dwarfing the child by a fourth of his height. She observed them, handled, felt them. And, as she did so, her mother‐love, which, until now, had been but a part and consequence—since the child was his gift, the crown and outcome of their passion, his and hers—of the great love she bore her husband, became distinct from that, an emotion by itself, heretofore unimagined, pervasive of all her being. It had none of the sweet self‐abandon, the dear enchantments, the harmonising sense of safety and repose, which that earlier passion had. This was altogether different in character, and made quite other demands on mind and heart. For it was fierce, watchful, anxious, violent with primitive instinct; the roots of it planted far back in that unthinkable remoteness of time, when the fertile womb of the great Earth Mother began to bring forth the first blind, simple forms of page: 75 those countless generations of living creatures which, slowly differentiating themselves, slowly developing, have peopled this planet from that immeasurable past to the present hour. Love between man and woman must be forever young, even as Eros, Cupid, Krishna, are forever youthful gods. But mother‐love is of necessity mature, majestic, ancient, from the stamp of primal experience which is upon it.

And so, at this juncture, realising that which her motherhood meant, her immaturity, her girlhood, fell away from Katherine Calmady. Her life and the purpose of it moved forward on another plane.

She bent down and solemnly kissed the unlovely, shortened limbs, not once or twice but many times, yielding herself up with an almost voluptuous intensity to her own emotion. She clasped her hands about her knees, so that the child might be enclosed, over‐shadowed, embraced on all sides, by the living defences of its mother’s love. Alone there, with no witnesses, she brooded over it, crooned to it, caressed it with an insatiable hunger of tenderness.

“And yet, my poor pretty, if we had both died, you and I, ten days ago,” she murmured, “how far better! For what will you say to me when you grow older—to me who have brought you, without any asking or will of yours, into a world in which you must always be at so cruel a disadvantage? How will you bear it all when you come to face it for yourself, and I can no longer shield you and hide you away as I can do now? Will you have fortitude to endure, or will you become sour, vindictive, misanthropic, envious? Will you curse the hour of your birth?”

Katherine bowed her proud head still lower.

“Ah! don’t do that, my darling,” she prayed in piteous entreaty, “don’t do that. For I will share all your trouble, do share it even now, beforehand, foreseeing it, while you still lie smiling unknowing of your own distress. I shall live through it many times, by day and night, while you live through it only once. And so you must be forbearing towards me, my dear one, when you come”—

She broke off abruptly, her hands fell at her sides, and she sat rigidly upright, her lips parted, staring blankly at the dancing flames.

In repeating Dr. Knott’s statement Ormiston had purposely abstained from all mention of Richard Calmady’s accident and its tragic sequel. He could not bring himself to speak to Katherine of that. Until now, dominated by the rush of her page: 76 emotion, she had only recognised the bare terrible fact of the baby’s crippled condition, without attempting to account for it. But, now, suddenly the truth presented itself to her. She understood that she was herself, in a sense, accountable—that the greatness of her love for the father had maimed the child.

As she realised the profound irony of the position, a blackness of misery fell upon Katherine. And then, since she was of a strong, undaunted spirit, an immense anger possessed her, a revolt against nature which could work such wanton injury, and against God, who, being all‐powerful, could sit by and permit it so to work. All the foundations of faith and reverence were, for the time being, shaken to the very base.

She gathered the naked baby up against her bosom, rocking herself to and fro in a paroxysm of rebellious grief.

“God is unjust!” she cried aloud. “He takes pleasure in fooling us. God is unjust!”

CHAPTER X

THE BIRDS OF THE AIR TAKE THEIR BREAKFAST

ORMISTON’S first sensation on re‐entering his sister’s room was one of very sensible relief. For Katherine leaned back against the pink, brocade cushions in the corner of the sofa, with the baby sleeping peacefully in her arms. Her colour was more normal too, her features less masklike and set. The cloud which had shadowed the young man’s mind for nearly a fortnight lifted. She knew—therefore, he argued, the worst must be over. It was an immense gain that this thing was fairly said. Yet, as he came nearer and sat down on the sofa beside her, Ormiston, who was a keen observer both of horses and women, became aware of a subtle change in Katherine. He was struck—he had never noticed it before—by her likeness to her—and his—father, whose stern, high‐bred, clean‐shaven face and rather inaccessible bearing and manner impressed his son, even to this day, as somewhat alarming. People were careful not to trifle with old Mr. Ormiston. His will was absolute in his own house, with his tenants, and in the great iron‐works—almost a town in itself—which fed his fine fortune. While from his equals—even from his fellow‐members of that not over‐reverent or easily impressible body, the House of Commons—he required and received a degree of deference such as men yield page: 77 only to an unusually powerful character. And there was now just such underlying energy in Katherine’s expression. Her eyes were dark, as a clear, midnight sky is dark, her beautiful lips compressed, but with concentration of purpose not with weakness of sorrow. The force of her motherhood had awakened in Katherine a latent, titanic element. Like “Prometheus Bound,” chained to the rock, torn, her spirit remained unquelled. For good or evil—as the event should prove—she defied the gods.

And something of all this—though he would have worded it very differently in the vernacular of passing fashion—Ormiston perceived. She was unbroken by that which had occurred, and for this he was thankful. But she was another woman to her who had greeted him in pretty apology an hour ago. Yet, even recognising this, her first words produced in him a shock of surprise.

“Is that horse, the Clown, still at the stables?” she asked.

Ormiston thrust his hands into his pockets, and, sitting on the edge of the sofa with his knees apart, stared down at the carpet. The mention of the Clown always cut him, and raised in him a remorseful anger.—Yes she was like his father, going straight to the point, he thought. And, in this case, the point was acutely painful to him personally. Ormiston’s moral courage had been severely taxed, and he had a fair share of the selfishness common to man. It was all very well, but he wished to goodness she had chosen some other subject than this. Yet he must answer.

“Yes,” he said; “Willy Taylor has been leading the gallops for the two‐year‐olds on him for the last month.”—He paused. “What about the Clown?”

“Only that I should be glad if you would tell Chifney he must find some other horse to lead the gallops.”

Ormiston turned his head. “I see—you wish the horse sold,” he said, over his shoulder.

Katherine looked down at the sleeping baby, its round head, crowned by that delicious crest of silky hair, cuddled in against her breast. Then she looked in her brother’s eyes full and steadily.

“No,” she answered. “I don’t want it sold. I want it shot—by you, here, to‐night.”

“By Jove!” the young man exclaimed, rising hastily and standing in front of her.

Katherine gazed up at him, and held the child a little closer to her breast.

page: 78

“I have been alone with my baby. Don’t you suppose I see how it has come about?” she asked.

“Oh, damn it all!” Ormiston cried. “I prayed at least you might be spared thinking of that.”

He flung himself down on the sofa again—while the baby clenching its tiny fist, stretched and murmured in its sleep—and bowed himself together, resting his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands.

“I’m at the bottom of it. It’s all my fault,” he said. “I am haunted by the thought of that day and night, for, if ever one man loved another, I loved Richard. And yet if I hadn’t been so cursedly keen about the horse all this might never have happened. Oh! if you only knew how often I’ve wished myself dead since that ghastly morning. You must hate me, Kitty. You’ve cause enough. Yet how the deuce could I foresee what would come about?”

For the moment Katherine’s expression softened. She laid her left hand very gently on his bowed head.

“I could never hate you, dear old man,” she said. “You are innocent of Richard’s death. But this last thing is different.”—Her voice became fuller and deeper in tone. “And whether I am equally innocent of his child’s disfigurement, God only knows—if there is a God, which perhaps, just now, I had better doubt, lest I should blaspheme too loudly, hoping my bitter words may reach His hearing.”

Yet further disturbed in the completeness of its comfort, as it would seem, by the seriousness of her voice, the baby’s mouth puckered. It began to fret. Katherine rose and stood rocking it, soothing it—a queenly, young figure in her clinging grey and white draperies, which the instreaming sunshine touched, as she moved, to a delicate warmth of colour.

“Hush, my pretty lamb,” she crooned—and then softly yet fiercely to Ormiston:—“You understand, I wish it. The Clown is to be shot.”

“Very well,” he answered.

“Sleep—what troubles you, my precious,” she went on. “I want it done, now, at once.—Hush, baby, hush.—The sun shall not go down upon my wrath, because my wrath shall be somewhat appeased before the sunset.”

Katherine swayed with a rhythmic motion, holding the baby a little away from her in her outstretched arms.

“Tell Chifney to bring the horse up to the square lawn, here, right in front of the house.—Hush, my kitty sweet.—He is to bring the horse himself. None of the stable boys or helpers are page: 79 to come. It is not to be an entertainment, but an execution. I wish it done quietly.”

“Very well,” Ormiston repeated. He hesitated, strong protest rising to his lips, which he could not quite bring himself to utter. Katherine, the courage and tragedy of her anger, dominated him as she moved to and fro in the sunshine soothing her child.

“You know it’s a valuable horse?” he remarked, at last, tentatively.

“So much the better. You do not suppose I should care to take that which costs me nothing? I am quite willing to pay.—Sleep, my pet, so—is that better?—I do not propose to defraud—hush, baby darling, hush—Richard’s son of any part of his inheritance. Tell Chifney to name a price for the Clown, an outside price. He shall have a cheque to‐morrow, which he is to enter with the rest of the stable accounts.—Now go, please. We understand each other clearly, and it is growing late.—Poor honey love, what vexes you?—You will shoot the Clown, here, before sunset. And, Roger, it must lie where it falls to‐night. Let some of the men come early to‐morrow, with a float. It is to go to the kennels.”

Ormiston got up, shaking his shoulders as though to rid himself of some encumbering weight. He crossed to the fire‐place and kicked the logs together.

“I don’t half like it,” he said. “I tell you I don’t. It seems such a cold‐blooded butchery. I can’t tell if it’s wrong or right. It seems merciless. And it is so unlike you, Kitty, to be merciless.”

He turned to her as he spoke, and Katherine—her head erect, her eyes full of the sombre fire of her profound alienation and revolt—drew her hand slowly down over the fine lawn and lace of the baby’s long, white robe, and held it flat against the soles of the child’s hidden feet.

“Look at this,” she said. “Remember, too, that the delight of my life has gone from me, and that I am young yet. The years will be many—and Richard is dead. Has much mercy been shown to me, do you think?”

And the young man seeing her, knowing the absolute sincerity of her speech, felt a lump rise in his throat. After all, when you have acted hangman to your own sister, as he reasoned, it is but a small matter to act slaughterman to a horse.

“Very well,” he answered, huskily enough. “It shall be as you wish, Kitty. Only go back to the sofa, and stay there, please. If I think you are watching, I can’t be quite sure of page: 80 myself. Something may go wrong, and we don’t want a scene which will make talk. This is a business which should be got through as quickly and decently as possible.”

The sun was but five minutes high and no longer brightened the southern house‐front, though it spread a ruddy splendour over the western range of gables, and lingered about the stacks of slender, twisted chimneys, and cast long, slanting shadows across the lawns and carriage drives, before Lady Calmady’s waiting drew to a close. From the near trees of the elm avenue, and from the wood overhanging the pond below the terraced kitchen‐gardens, came the singing of blackbirds and thrushes—whether raised as evening hymn in praise of their Creator, or as love‐song each to his mate, who shall say? Possibly as both, since in simple minds—and that assuredly is matter for thankfulness—earthly and heavenly affections are bounded by no harsh dividing line. The chorus of song found its way in at the windows of Katherine’s room—fresh as the spring flowers which filled it, innocent of hatred and wrong as the face of the now placid baby, his soft cheeks flushed with slumber, as he nestled in against his mother’s bosom.

Indeed a long time had passed. Twice Denny had looked in and, seeing that quiet reigned, had noiselessly withdrawn. For Katherine, still physically weak, drained, moreover, by the greatness of her recent emotion, her senses lulled to rest by the warm contact and even breathing of the child, had sunk away into a dreamless sleep.

The questioning neigh of a stallion, a scuffle of horse hoofs, footsteps approaching round the corner of the house, passing across the broad, gravelled, carriage sweep and on to the turf, aroused her. And these sounds were so natural, full of vigorous outdoor life and the wholesome gladness of it, that for a moment she came near repentance of her purpose. But then feeling, as he rested on her arm, her baby’s shortened, malformed limbs, and thinking of her well‐beloved dying, maimed and spent, in the fulness of his manhood, her face took on that ashen pallor again and all relenting left her. There was a satisfaction of wild justice in the act about to be consummated. And Katherine raised herself from the pink, brocade cushions and sat erect, her lips parted in stern excitement, her forehead contracted in the effort to hear, her eyes fixed on the wide, carven, ebony bed and its embroidered hangings. The poor Hart had, indeed, ceased to pasture in reposeful security before the quaint pavilion, set—for its passing refreshment—in the midst of the Forest of This Life. Now it fled, desperate, by crooked, tangled ways, over page: 81 rocks, through briars, while Care, the Leopard, followed hard behind.

First Roger Ormiston’s voice reached her in brief direction, and the trainer’s in equally brief reply. The horse neighed again—a sound strident and virile, the challenge of a creature of perfect muscle, hot desire, and proud, quick‐coursing blood. Afterwards, an instant’s pause, and Chifney’s voice again—“So‐ho—my beauty—take it easy—steady there, steady, good lad”—and the slap of his open hand on the horse’s shoulder straightening it carefully into place. While, behind and below all this, in sweet incongruous undertone of uncontrollable joy, arose the carolling of the blackbirds and thrushes praising, according to their humble powers, God, life, and love.

Finally, as climax of the drama, the sharp report of a pistol, ringing out in shattering disturbance of the peace of the fair spring evening, followed by a dead silence, the birds all scared and dumb—a silence so dead, that Katherine Calmady held her breath, almost awed by it, while the hissing and crackling of the little flames upon the hearth seemed to obtrude as an indecent clamour. This lasted a few seconds. Then the noise of a plunging struggle and the muffled thud of something falling heavily upon the turf.

Dr. Knott had been up all night. But his patient, Lord Denier’s second coachman, would pull through right enough, so he started on his homeward journey in a complacent frame of mind. He reckoned it would save him a couple of miles, let alone the long hill from Farley Row up to Spendle Flats, if on his way back from Grimshott he went by Brockhurst House. It is stretching a point, he admitted, to drive under even your neighbour’s back windows at five o’clock in the morning. But the doctor being himself unusually amiable, was inclined to accredit others with a like share of good temper. Moreover, the natural man in him cried increasingly loudly for food and bed.

John Knott was not given to sentimental rhapsodies over the beauties of nature. Like other beauties she had her dirty enough moods, he thought. Still, in his own half‐snarling fashion, he dearly loved this forest country in which he had been born and bred, while he was too keen a sportsman to be unobservant of any aspect of wind and weather, any movement of bird or beast. With the collar of his long, drab driving‐coat turned up about his ears, and the stem of a well‐coloured, meerschaum pipe between his teeth, he sat huddled together in the high, swinging gig, with Timothy, the weasel‐faced, old groom, by his side, while the pageant of the opening day unfolded itself page: 82 before his somewhat critical gaze. He noted that it would be fine, though windy. In the valley, over the Long Water, spread beds of close, white mist. The blue of the upper sky was crossed by curved winrows of flaky, opalescent cloud. In the east, above the dusky rim of the fir woods on the edge of the high‐lying tableland, stretched a blinding blaze of rose‐saffron, shading through amber into pale primrose‐colour above. The massive house‐front, and the walls fencing the three sides of the square enclosure before it, with the sexagonal, pepper‐pot summer‐houses at either corner, looked pale and unsubstantial in that diffused, unearthly light. At the head of the elm avenue, passing through the high, wrought‐iron gates and along the carriage drive which skirts the said enclosure,—the great, square grass plot on the right hand, the red wall of the kitchen‐gardens on the left,—Dr. Knott had the reins nearly jerked out of his hand. The mare started and swerved, grazing the off wheel against the brickwork, and stopped, her head in the air, her ears pricked, her nostrils dilated showing the red.

“Hullo, old girl, what’s up? Seen a ghost?” he said, drawing the whip quietly across the hollow of her back.

But the mare only braced herself more stiffly, refusing to move, while she trembled and broke into a sudden sweat. The doctor was interested and looked about him. He would first find out the cause of her queer behaviour, and give her a good dressing down afterwards if she deserved it.

The smooth, slightly up‐sloping lawn was powdered with innumerable dewdrops. In the centre of it, neck outstretched, the fine legs doubled awkwardly together, the hind quarters and barrel rising, as it lay on its side, in an unshapely lump, grey from the drenching dew, was a dead horse. Along the top of the farther wall a smart and audacious party of jackdaws had stationed themselves, with much ruffling of grey, neck feathers, impudent squeakings and chatter. While a pair of carrion crows hopped slowly and heavily about the carcass, flapping up with a stroke or two of their broad wings in sudden suspicion, then settling down again nearer than before.

“Go to her head, Timothy, and get her by as quietly as you can. I’ll be after you in a minute, but I’m bound to see what the dickens they’ve been up to here.”

As he spoke Dr. Knott hitched himself down from off the gig. He was cramped with sitting, and moved forward awkwardly, his footsteps leaving a track of dark irregular patches upon the damp grass. As he approached, the jackdaws flung themselves gleefully upward from the wall, the sun glinting on their glossy page: 83 plumage as they circled and sailed away across the park. But the crow, who had just begun work in earnest, stood his ground notwithstanding the warning croak of his more timid mate. He grasped the horse’s skull with his claws, and tore away greedily at the fine skin about the eye‐socket with his strong, black beak.

“How’s this, my fine gentleman, in too much of a hurry this morning to wait for the flavour to get into your meat?” John Knott said, as the bird rose sullenly at last. “Got a small hungry family at home, I suppose, crying ‘give, give.’ Well, that’s taught better men than you, before now, not to be too nice, but to snatch at pretty well anything they can get.”

He came close and stood looking meditatively down at the dead racehorse—recognised its long, white‐reach face, the colour and make of it, while his loose lips worked with a contemptuous yet pitying smile.

“So that’s the way my lady’s taken it, has she?” he said presently. “On the whole I don’t know that I’m sorry. In some cases much benefit unquestionably is derivable from letting blood. This shows she doesn’t mean to go under, if I know her, and that’s a mercy, for that poor, little beggar, the baby’s sake.”

He turned and contemplated the stately facade of the house. The ranges of windows, blind with closed shutters and drawn curtains, in the early sunshine gave off their many panes a broad dazzle of white light.

“Poor, little beggar,” he repeated, “with his forty thousand a year and all the rest of it. Such a race to run and yet so badly handicapped!”

He stooped down, examined the horse, found the mark of the bullet.

“Contradictory beings, though, these dear women,” he went on. “So fanciful and delicate, so sensitive you’re afraid to lay a finger on them. So unselfish, too, some of them, they seem too good for this old rough and tumble of a world. And yet touch ’em home, and they’ll show an unscrupulous savagery of which we coarse brutes of men should be more than half ashamed. God Almighty made a little more than He bargained for when He made woman. She must have surprised Him pretty shrewdly, one would think, now and then since the days of the apple and the snake.”

He moved away up the carriage drive, following Timothy, the sweating, straining mare, and swinging gig. The carrion crow flapped back, with a croak, and dropped on the horse’s skull page: 84 again. Hearing that bodeful sound the doctor paused a moment, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, and looked round at the bird and its ugly work set as foreground to that pure glory of the sunrises and the vast and noble landscape, misty valley, dewy grassland, far‐ranging hillside crowned with wood.

“The old story,” he muttered, “always repeating itself! And it strikes one as rather a wasteful, clumsy contrivance, at times. Life forever feeding on death—death forever breeding life.”

Thus ended the Clown, own brother to Touchstone, racehorse of merry name and mournful memory, paying the penalty of wholly involuntary transgressions. From which ending another era dated at Brockhurst, the most notable events of which it is the purpose of the ensuing pages duly to set forth.

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