Part 3 out of 7
enough, but her heart beat fast beneath her breast.
"I want to ask you," he said, speaking slowly and thickly, "if you
will be my wife?"
Beatrice opened her lips to speak, then, seeing that he had only
paused because his inward emotion checked his words, shut them again,
and went on digging little holes. She wished to rely on the whole
case, as a lawyer would say.
"I want to ask you," he repeated, "to be my wife. I have wished to do
so for some years, but I have never been able to bring myself to it.
It is a great step to take, and my happiness depends on it. Do not
answer me yet," he went on, his words gathering force as he spoke.
"Listen to what I have to tell you. I have been a lonely man all my
life. At sea I was lonely, and since I have come into this fortune I
have been lonelier still. I never loved anybody or anything till I
began to love you. And then I loved you more and more and more; till
now I have only one thought in all my life, and that thought is of
you. While I am awake I think of you, and when I am asleep I dream of
you. Listen, Beatrice, listen!--I have never loved any other woman, I
have scarcely spoken to one--only you, Beatrice. I can give you a
great deal; and everything I have shall be yours, only I should be
jealous of you--yes, very jealous!"
Here she glanced at his face. It was outwardly calm but white as
death, and in the blue eyes, generally so placid, shone a fire that by
contrast looked almost unholy.
"I think that you have said enough, Mr. Davies," Beatrice answered. "I
am very much obliged to you. I am much honoured, for in some ways I am
not your equal, but I do not love you, and I cannot marry you, and I
think it best to tell you so plainly, once and for all," and
unconsciously she went on digging the holes.
"Oh, do not say that," he answered, almost in a moan. "For God's sake
don't say that! It will kill me to lose you. I think I should go mad.
Marry me and you will learn to love me."
Beatrice glanced at him again, and a pang of pity pierced her heart.
She did not know it was so bad a case as this. It struck her too that
she was doing a foolish thing, from a worldly point of view. The man
loved her and was very eligible. He only asked of her what most women
are willing enough to give under circumstances so favourable to their
well-being--herself. But she never liked him, he had always repelled
her, and she was not a woman to marry a man whom she did not like.
Also, during the last week this dislike and repulsion had hardened and
strengthened. Vaguely, as he pleaded with her, Beatrice wondered why,
and as she did so her eye fell upon the pattern she was automatically
pricking in the sand. It had taken the form of letters, and the
letters were G E O F F R E--Great heaven! Could that be the answer?
She flushed crimson with shame at the thought, and passed her foot
across the tell-tale letters, as she believed, obliterating them.
Owen saw the softening of her eyes and saw the blush, and
misinterpreted them. Thinking that she was relenting, by instinct,
rather than from any teaching of experience, he attempted to take her
hand. With a turn of the arm, so quick that even Elizabeth watching
with all her eyes saw nothing of the movement, Beatrice twisted
"Don't touch me," she said sharply, "you have no right to touch me. I
have answered you, Mr. Davies."
Owen withdrew his hand abashed, and for a moment sat still, his chin
resting on his breast, a very picture of despair. Nothing indeed could
break the stolid calm of his features, but the violence of his emotion
was evident in the quick shivering of his limbs and his short deep
"Can you give me no hope?" he said at last in a slow heavy voice. "For
God's sake think before you answer--you don't know what it means to
me. It is nothing to you--you cannot feel. I feel, and your words cut
like a knife. I know that I am heavy and stupid, but I feel as though
you had killed me. You are heartless, quite heartless."
Again Beatrice softened a little. She was touched and flattered. Where
is the woman who would not have been?
"What can I say to you, Mr. Davies?" she answered in a kinder voice.
"I cannot marry you. How I can I marry you when I do not love you?"
"Plenty of women marry men whom they do not love."
"Then they are bad women," answered Beatrice with energy.
"The world does not think so," he said again; "the world calls those
women bad who love where they cannot marry, and the world is always
right. Marriage sanctifies everything."
Beatrice laughed bitterly. "Do you think so?" she said. "I do not. I
think that marriage without love is the most unholy of our
institutions, and that is saying a good deal. Supposing I should say
yes to you, supposing that I married you, not loving you, what would
it be for? For your money and your position, and to be called a
married woman, and what do you suppose I should think of myself in my
heart then? No, no, I may be bad, but I have not fallen so low as
that. Find another wife, Mr. Davies; the world is wide and there are
plenty of women in it who will love you for your own sake, or who at
any rate will not be so particular. Forget me, and leave me to go my
own way--it is not your way."
"Leave you to go your own way," he answered almost with passion--"that
is, leave you to some other man. Oh! I cannot bear to think of it. I
am jealous of every man who comes near you. Do you know how beautiful
you are? You are too beautiful--every man must love you as I do. Oh,
if you took anybody else I think that I should kill him."
"Do not speak like that, Mr. Davies, or I shall go."
He stopped at once. "Don't go," he said imploringly. "Listen. You said
that you would not marry me because you did not love me. Supposing
that you learned to love me, say in a year's time, Beatrice, would you
marry me then?"
"I would marry any man whom I loved," she answered.
"Then if you learn to love me you will marry me?"
"Oh, this is ridiculous," she said. "It is not probable, it is hardly
possible, that such a thing should happen. If it had been going to
happen it would have happened before."
"It might come about," he answered; "your heart might soften towards
me. Oh, say yes to this. It is a small request, it costs you nothing,
and it gives me hope, without which I cannot live. Say that I may ask
you once more, and that then if you love me you will marry me."
Beatrice thought for a moment. Such a promise could do her no harm,
and in the course of six months or a year he might get used to the
idea of living without her. Also it would prevent a scene. It was weak
of her, but she dreaded the idea of her having refused Owen Davies
coming to her father's ears.
"If you wish it, Mr. Davies," she said, "so be it. Only I ask you to
understand this, I am in no way tied to you. I give you no hope that
my answer, should you renew this offer a year hence or at any other
time, will differ from that I give you to-day. I do not think there is
the slightest probability of such a thing. Also, it must be understood
that you are not to speak to my father about this matter, or to
trouble me in any way. Do you consent?"
"Yes," he answered, "I consent. You have me at your mercy."
"Very well. And now, Mr. Davies, good-bye. No, do not walk back with
me. I had rather go by myself. But I want to say this: I am very sorry
for what has happened. I have not wished it to happen. I have never
encouraged it, and my hands are clean of it. But I am sorry, sorry
beyond measure, and I repeat what I said before--seek out some other
woman and marry her."
"That is the cruellest thing of all the cruel things which you have
said," he answered.
"I did not mean it to be cruel, Mr. Davies, but I suppose that the
truth often is. And now good-bye," and Beatrice stretched out her
He touched it, and she turned and went. But Owen did not go. He sat
upon the rock, his head bowed in misery. He had staked all his hopes
upon this woman. She was the one desirable thing to him, the one star
in his somewhat leaden sky, and now that star was eclipsed. Her words
were unequivocal, they gave but little hope. Beatrice was scarcely a
woman to turn round in six months or a year. On the contrary, there
was a fixity about her which frightened him. What could be the cause
of it? How came it that she should be so ready to reject him, and all
he had to offer her? After all, she was a girl in a small position.
She could not be looking forward to a better match. Nor would the
prospect move her one way or another. There must be a reason for it.
Perhaps he had a rival, surely that must be the cause. Some enemy had
done this thing. But who?
At this moment a woman's shadow fell athwart him.
"Oh, have you come back?" he cried, springing to his feet.
"If you mean Beatrice," answered a voice--it was Elizabeth's--"she
went down to the beach ten minutes ago. I happened to be on the cliff,
and I saw her."
"Oh, I beg your pardon, Miss Granger," he said faintly. "I did not see
who it was."
Elizabeth sat down upon the rock where her sister had sat, and, seeing
the little holes in the breach, began indolently to clear them of the
sand which Beatrice had swept over them with her foot. This was no
difficult matter, for the holes were deeply dug, and it was easy to
trace their position. Presently they were nearly all clear--that is,
the letters were legible.
"You have had a talk with Beatrice, Mr. Davies?"
"Yes," he answered apathetically.
Elizabeth paused. Then she took her bull by the horns.
"Are you going to marry Beatrice, Mr. Davies?" she asked.
"I don't know," he answered slowly and without surprise. It seemed
natural to him that his own central thought should be present in her
mind. "I love her dearly, and want to marry her."
"She refused you, then?"
Elizabeth breathed more freely.
"But I can ask her again."
Elizabeth frowned. What could this mean? It was not an absolute
refusal. Beatrice was playing some game of her own.
"Why did she put you off so, Mr. Davies? Do not think me inquisitive.
I only ask because I may be able to help you."
"I know; you are very kind. Help me and I shall always be grateful to
you. I do not know--I almost think that there must be somebody else,
only I don't know who it can be."
"Ah!" said Elizabeth, who had been gazing intently at the little holes
in the beach which she had now cleared of the sand. "Of course that is
possible. She is a curious girl, Beatrice is. What are those letters,
He looked at them idly. "Something your sister was writing while I
talked to her. I remember seeing her do it."
"G E O F F R E--why, it must be meant for Geoffrey. Yes, of course it
is possible that there is somebody else, Mr. Davies. Geoffrey!--how
"Why is it curious, Miss Granger? Who is Geoffrey?"
Elizabeth laughed a disagreeable little laugh that somehow attracted
Owen's attention more than her words.
"How should I know? It must be some friend of Beatrice's, and one of
whom she is thinking a great deal, or she would not write his name
unconsciously. The only Geoffrey that I know is Mr. Geoffrey Bingham,
the barrister, who is staying at the Vicarage, and whose life Beatrice
saved." She paused to watch her companion's face, and saw a new idea
creep across its stolidity. "But of course," she went on, "it cannot
be Mr. Bingham that she was thinking of, because you see he is
"Married?" he said, "yes, but he's a man for all that, and a very
"Yes, I should call him handsome--a fine man," Elizabeth answered
critically; "but, as Beatrice said the other day, the great charm
about him is his talk and power of mind. He is a very remarkable man,
and the world will hear of him before he has done. But, however, all
this is neither here nor there. Beatrice is a curious woman, and has
strange ideas, but I am sure that she would never carry on with a
"But he might carry on with her, Miss Elizabeth."
She laughed. "Do you really think that a man like Mr. Bingham would
try to flirt with girls without encouragement? Men like that are as
proud as women, and prouder; the lady must always be a step ahead. But
what is the good of talking about such a thing? It is all nonsense.
Beatrice must have been thinking of some other Geoffrey--or it was an
accident of something. Why, Mr. Davies, if you for one moment really
believed that dear Beatrice could be guilty of such a shameless thing
as to carry on a flirtation with a married man, would you have asked
her to marry you? Would you still think of asking such a woman as she
must be to become your wife?"
"I don't know; I suppose not," he said doubtfully.
"You suppose not. I know you better than you know yourself. You would
rather never marry at all than take such a woman as she would be
proved to be. But it is no good talking such stuff. If you have a
rival you may be sure it is some unmarried man."
Owen reflected in his heart that on the whole he would rather it was a
married one, since a married man, at any rate, could not legally take
possession of Beatrice. But Elizabeth's rigid morality alarmed him,
and he did not say so.
"Do you know I feel a little upset, Miss Elizabeth," he answered. "I
think I will be going. By the way, I promised to say nothing of this
to your father. I hope that you will not do so, either."
"Most certainly not," said Elizabeth, and indeed it would be the last
thing she would wish to do. "Well, good-bye, Mr. Davies. Do not be
downhearted; it will all come right in the end. You will always have
me to help you, remember."
"Thank you, thank you," he said earnestly, and went.
Elizabeth watched him round the wall of rock with a cold and ugly
smile set upon her face.
"You fool," she thought, "you fool! To tell /me/ that you 'love her
dearly and want to marry her;' you want to get that sweet face of
hers, do you? You never shall; I'd spoil it first! Dear Beatrice, she
is not capable of carrying on a love affair with a married man--oh,
certainly not! Why, she's in love with him already, and he is more
than half in love with her. If she hadn't been, would she have put
Owen off? Not she. Give them time, and we shall see. They will ruin
each other--they /must/ ruin each other; it won't be child's play when
two people like that fall in love. They will not stop at sighs, there
is too much human nature about them. It was a good idea to get him
into the house. And to see her go on with that child Effie, just as
though she was its mother--it makes me laugh. Ah, Beatrice, with all
your wits you are a silly woman! And one day, my dear girl, I shall
have the pleasure of exposing you to Owen; the idol will be unveiled,
and there will be an end of your chances with him, for he can't marry
you after that. Then my turn will come. It is a question of time--only
a question of time!"
So brooded Elizabeth in her heart, madded with malicious envy and
passionate jealousy. She loved this man, Owen Davies, as much as she
could love anybody; at the least, she dearly loved the wealth and
station of which he was the visible centre, and she hated the sister
whom he desired. If she could only discredit that sister and show her
to be guilty of woman's worst crime, misplaced, unlegalised affection,
surely, she thought, Owen would reject her.
She was wrong. She did not know how entirely he desired to make
Beatrice his wife, or realise how forgiving a man can be who has such
an end to gain. It is of the women who already weary them and of their
infidelity that men are so ready to make examples, not of those who do
not belong to them, and whom they long for night and day. To these
they can be very merciful.
Meanwhile Beatrice was walking homewards with an uneasy mind. The
trouble was upon her. She had, it is true, succeeded in postponing it
a little, but she knew very well that it was only a postponement. Owen
Davies was not a man to be easily shaken off. She almost wished now
that she had crushed the idea once and for all. But then he would have
gone to her father, and there must have been a scene, and she was weak
enough to shrink from that, especially while Mr. Bingham was in the
house. She could well imagine the dismay, not to say the fury, of her
money-loving old father if he were to hear that she had refused--
actually refused--Owen Davies of Bryngelly Castle, and all his wealth.
Then there was Elizabeth to be reckoned with. Elizabeth would
assuredly make her life a burden to her. Beatrice little guessed that
nothing would suit her sister's book better. Oh, if only she could
shake the dust of Bryngelly off her feet! But that, too, was
impossible. She was quite without money. She might, it was true,
succeed in getting another place as mistress to a school in some
distant part of England, were it not for an insurmountable obstacle.
Here she received a salary of seventy-five pounds a year; of this she
kept fifteen pounds, out of which slender sum she contrived to dress
herself; the rest she gave to her father. Now, as she well knew, he
could not keep his head above water without this assistance, which,
small as it was, made all the difference to their household between
poverty and actual want. If she went away, supposing even that she
found an equally well-paid post, she would require every farthing of
the money to support herself, there would be nothing left to send
home. It was a pitiable position; here was she, who had just refused a
man worth thousands a year, quite unable to get out of the way of his
importunity for the want of seventy-five pounds, paid quarterly. Well,
the only thing to do was to face it out and take her chance. On one
point she was, however, quite clear; she would /not/ marry Owen
Davies. She might be a fool for her pains, but she would not do it.
She respected herself too much to marry a man she did not love; a man
whom she positively disliked. "No, never!" she exclaimed aloud,
stamping her foot upon the shingle.
"Never what?" said a voice, within two yards of her.
She started violently, and looked round. There, his back resting
against a rock, a pipe in his mouth, an open letter on his knee, and
his hat drawn down almost over his eyes, sat Geoffrey. He had left
Effie to go home with Mr. Granger, and climbing down a sloping place
in the cliff, had strolled along the beach. The letter on his knee was
one from his wife. It was short, and there was nothing particular in
it. Effie's name was not even mentioned. It was to see if he had not
overlooked it that he was reading the note through again. No, it
merely related to Lady Honoria's safe arrival, gave a list of the
people staying at the Hall--a fast lot, Geoffrey noticed, a certain
Mr. Dunstan, whom he particularly disliked, among them--and the number
of brace of partridges which had been killed on the previous day. Then
came an assurance that Honoria was enjoying herself immensely, and
that the new French cook was "simply perfect;" the letter ending "with
"Never what, Miss Granger?" he said again, as he lazily folded up the
"Never mind, of course," she answered, recovering herself. "How you
startled me, Mr. Bingham! I had no idea there was anybody on the
"It is quite free, is it not?" he answered, getting up. "I thought you
were going to trample me into the pebbles. It's almost alarming when
one is thinking about a Sunday nap to see a young lady striding along,
then suddenly stop, stamp her foot, and say, 'No, never!' Luckily I
knew that you were about or I should really have been frightened."
"How did you know that I was about?" Beatrice asked a little
defiantly. It was no business of his to observe her movements.
"In two ways. Look!" he said, pointing to a patch of white sand.
"That, I think, is your footprint."
"Well, what of it?" said Beatrice, with a little laugh.
"Nothing in particular, except that it is your footprint," he
answered. "Then I happened to meet old Edward, who was loafing along,
and he informed me that you and Mr. Davies had gone up the beach;
there is his footprint--Mr. Davies's, I mean--but you don't seem to
have been very sociable, because here is yours right in the middle of
it. Therefore you must have been walking in Indian file, and a little
way back in parallel lines, with quite thirty yards between you."
"Why do you take the trouble to observe things so closely?" she asked
in a half amused and half angry tone.
"I don't know--a habit of the legal mind, I suppose. One might make
quite a romance out of those footprints on the sand, and the little
subsequent events. But you have not heard all my thrilling tale. Old
Edward also informed me that he saw your sister, Miss Elizabeth, going
along the cliff almost level with you, from which he concluded that
you had argued as to the shortest way to the Red Rocks and were
putting the matter to the proof."
"Elizabeth," said Beatrice, turning a shade paler; "what can she have
been doing, I wonder."
"Taking exercise, probably, like yourself. Well, I seat myself with my
pipe in the shadow of that rock, when suddenly I see Mr. Davies coming
along towards Bryngelly as though he were walking for a wager, his hat
fixed upon the back of his head. Literally he walked over my legs and
never saw me. Then you follow and ejaculate, 'No, never!'--and that is
the end of my story. Have I your permission to walk with you, or shall
I interfere with the development of the plot?"
"There is no plot, and as you said just now the beach is free,"
Beatrice answered petulantly.
They walked on a few yards and then he spoke in another tone--the
meaning of the assignation he had overheard in the churchyard grew
clear to him now.
"I believe that I have to congratulate you, Miss Granger," he said,
"and I do so very heartily. It is not everybody who is so fortunate as
Beatrice stopped, and half turning faced him.
"What /do/ you mean, Mr. Bingham?" she said. "I do not understand your
"Mean! oh, nothing particular, except that I wished to congratulate
you on your engagement."
"My engagement! what engagement?"
"It seems that there is some mistake," he said, and struggle as he
might to suppress it his tone was one of relief. "I understood that
you had become engaged to be married to Mr. Owen Davies. If I am wrong
I am sure I apologise."
"You are quite wrong, Mr. Bingham; I don't know who put such a notion
into your head, but there is no truth in it."
"Then allow me to congratulate you on there being no truth in it. You
see that is the beauty of nine affairs matrimonial out of ten--there
are two or more sides of them. If they come off the amiable and
disinterested observer can look at the bright side--as in this case,
lots of money, romantic castle by the sea, gentleman of unexceptional
antecedents, &c., &c, &c. If, on the other hand, they don't, cause can
still be found for thankfulness--lady might do better after all,
castle by the sea rather draughty and cold in spring, gentlemen most
estimable but perhaps a little dull, and so on, you see."
There was a note of mockery about his talk which irritated Beatrice
exceedingly. It was not like Mr. Bingham to speak so. It was not even
the way that a gentleman out of his teens should speak to a lady on
such a subject. He knew this as well as she did and was secretly
ashamed of himself. But the truth must out: though Geoffrey did not
admit it even to himself he was bitterly and profoundly jealous, and
jealous people have no manners. Beatrice could not, however, be
expected to know this, and naturally grew angry.
"I do not quite understand what you are talking about, Mr. Bingham,"
she said, putting on her most dignified air, and Beatrice could look
rather alarming. "You have picked up a piece of unfounded gossip and
now you take advantage of it to laugh at me, and to say rude things of
Mr. Davies. It is not kind."
"Oh, no; it was the footsteps, Miss Granger, /and/ the gossip, /and/
the appointment you made in the churchyard, that I unwillingly
overheard, not the gossip alone which led me into my mistake. Of
course I have now to apologise."
Again Beatrice stamped her foot. She saw that he was still mocking
her, and felt that he did not believe her.
"There," he went on, stung into unkindness by his biting but
unacknowledged jealousy, for she was right--on reflection he did not
quite believe what she said as to her not being engaged. "How
unfortunate I am--I have said something to make you angry again. Why
did you not walk with Mr. Davies? I should then have remained
guiltless of offence, and you would have had a more agreeable
companion. You want to quarrel with me; what shall we quarrel about?
There are many things on which we are diametrically opposed; let us
It was too much, for though his words were nothing the tone in which
he spoke gave them a sting. Beatrice, already disturbed in mind by the
scene through which she had passed, her breast already throbbing with
a vague trouble of which she did not know the meaning, for once in her
life lost control of herself and grew hysterical. Her grey eyes filled
with tears, the corners of her sweet mouth dropped, and she looked
very much as though she were going to burst out weeping.
"It is most unkind of you," she said, with a half sob. "If you knew
how much I have to put up with, you would not speak to me like that. I
know that you do not believe me; very well, I will tell you the truth.
Yes, though I have no business to do it, and you have no right--none
at all--to make me do it, I will tell you the truth, because I cannot
bear that you should not believe me. Mr. Davies did want me to marry
him and I refused him. I put him off for a while; I did this because I
knew that if I did not he would go to my father. It was cowardly, but
my father would make my life wretched----" and again she gave a half-
Much has been said and written about the effect produced upon men by
the sight of a lady in, or on the border line of tears, and there is
no doubt that this effect is considerable. Man being in his right mind
is deeply moved by such a spectacle, also he is frightened because he
dreads a scene. Now most people would rather walk ten miles in their
dress shoes than have to deal with a young lady in hysterics, however
modified. Putting the peculiar circumstances of the case aside,
Geoffrey was no exception to this rule. It was all very well to cross
spears with Beatrice, who had quite an equal wit, and was very capable
of retaliation, but to see her surrender at discretion was altogether
another thing. Indeed he felt much ashamed of himself.
"Please don't--don't--be put out," he said. He did not like to use the
word "cry." "I was only laughing at you, but I ought not to have
spoken as I did. I did not wish to force your confidence, indeed I did
not. I never thought of such a thing. I am so sorry."
His remorse was evidently genuine, and Beatrice felt somewhat
appeased. Perhaps it did not altogether grieve her to learn that she
could make him feel sorry.
"You did not force my confidence," she said defiantly, quite
forgetting that a moment before she had reproached him for making her
speak. "I told you because I did not choose that you should think I
was not speaking the truth--and now let us change the subject." She
imposed no reserve on him as to what she had revealed; she knew that
there was no necessity to do so. The secret would be between them--
another dangerous link.
Beatrice recovered her composure and they walked slowly on.
"Tell me, Mr. Bingham," she said presently, "how can a woman earn her
living--I mean a girl like myself without any special qualifications?
Some of them get on."
"Well," he answered, "that depends upon the girl. What sort of a
living do you mean? You are earning a living now, of a kind."
"Yes, but sometimes, if only I could manage it, I think that I should
like to get away from here, and take another line, something bigger. I
do not suppose that I ever shall, but I like to think of it
"I only know of two things which a woman can turn to," he said, "the
stage and literature. Of course," he added hastily, "the first is out
of the question in your case."
"And so is the other, I am afraid," she answered shaking her head,
"that is if by literature you mean imaginative writing, and I suppose
that is the only way to get into notice. As I told you I lost my
imagination--well, to be frank, when I lost my faith. At one time I
used to have plenty, as I used to have plenty of faith, but the one
went with the other, I do not understand why."
"Don't you? I think I do. A mind without religious sentiment is like a
star without atmosphere, brighter than other stars but not so soft to
see. Religion, poetry, music, imagination, and even some of the more
exalted forms of passion, flourish in the same soil, and are, I
sometimes think, different manifestations of the same thing. Do you
know it is ridiculous to hear you talk of having lost your faith,
because I don't believe it. At the worst it has gone to sleep, and
will wake up again one day. Possibly you may not accept some
particular form of faith, but I tell you frankly that to reject all
religion simply because you cannot understand it, is nothing but a
form of atrocious spiritual vanity. Your mind is too big for you, Miss
Granger: it has run away with you, but you know it is tied by a string
--it cannot go far. And now perhaps you will be angry again."
"No, indeed, why should I be angry? I daresay that you are quite
right, and I only hope that I may be able to believe again. I will
tell you how I lost belief. I had a little brother whom I loved more
than anything else in the world, indeed after my mother died he was
the only thing I really had to love, for I think that my father cares
more for Elizabeth than he does for me, she is so much the better at
business matters, and Elizabeth and I never quite got on. I daresay
that the fault is mine, but the fact remains--we are sisters but we
are not intimate. Well, my brother fell ill of a fever, and for a long
time he lay between life and death, and I prayed for him as I never
prayed for anybody or anything before--yes, I prayed that I might die
instead of him. Then he passed through the crisis and got better, and
I thanked God, thinking that my prayers had been answered; oh, how
happy I was for those ten days! And then this happened:--My brother
got a chill, a relapse followed, and in three days he was dead. The
last words that he spoke to me were, 'Oh, don't let me die, Bee!'--he
used to call me Bee--'Please don't let me die, dear Bee!' But he died,
died in my arms, and when it was over I rose from his side feeling as
though my heart was dead also. I prayed no more after that. It seemed
to me as though my prayers had been mocked at, as though he had been
given back to me for a little while in order that the blow might be
more crushing when it fell."
"Don't you think that you were a little foolish in taking such a
view?" said Geoffrey. "Have you not been amused, sometimes, to read
about the early Christians?--how the lead would not boil the martyr,
or the lion would not eat him, or the rain from a blue sky put out the
fire, and how the pagan king at once was converted and accepted a
great many difficult doctrines without further delay. The Athanasian
Creed was not necessarily true because the fire would not light or the
sword would not cut, nor, excuse me, were all your old beliefs wrong
because your prayer was unanswered. It is an ancient story, that we
cannot tell whether the answering of our petitions will be good or ill
for us. Of course I do not know anything about such things, but it
seems to me rash to suppose that Providence is going to alter the
working of its eternal laws merely to suit the passing wishes of
individuals--wishes, too, that in many cases would bring unforeseen
sorrows if fulfilled. Besides I daresay that the poor child is happier
dead than he would have been had he lived. It is not an altogether
pleasant world for most of us."
"Yes, Mr. Bingham, I know, and I daresay that I should have got over
the shock in time, only after that I began to read. I read the
histories of the religions and compared them, and I read the works of
those writers who have risen up to attack them. I found, or I thought
that I found, the same springs of superstition in them all--
superstitions arising from elementary natural causes, and handed on
with variations from race to race, and time to time. In some I found
the same story, only with a slightly altered face, and I learned,
moreover, that each faith denied the other, and claimed truth for
"After that, too, I went to the college and there I fell in with a
lady, one of the mistresses, who was the cleverest woman that I ever
knew, and in her way a good woman, but one who believed that religion
was the curse of the world, and who spent all her spare time in
attacking it in some form or other. Poor thing, she is dead now. And
so, you see, what between these causes and the continual spectacle of
human misery which to my mind negatives the idea of a merciful and
watching Power, at last it came to pass that the only altar left in my
temple is an altar to the 'Unknown God.'"
Geoffrey, like most men who have had to think on these matters, did
not care to talk about them much, especially to women. For one thing,
he was conscious of a tendency to speech less reverent than his
thought. But he had not entered Beatrice's church of Darkness, indeed
he had turned his back on it for ever, though, like most people, he
had at different periods of his past life tarried an hour in its
porch. So he ventured on an objection.
"I am no theologian," he said, "and I am not fond of discussion on
such matters. But there are just one or two things I should like to
say. It is no argument, to my mind at least, to point to the existence
of evil and unhappiness among men as a proof of the absence of a
superior Mercy; for what are men that such things should not be with
them? Man, too, must own some master. If he has doubts let him look up
at the marshalling of the starry heaven, and they will vanish."
"No," said Beatrice, "I fear not. Kant said so, but before that
Molière had put the argument in the mouth of a fool. The starry
heavens no more prove anything than does the running of the raindrops
down the window-pane. It is not a question of size and quantity."
"I might accept the illustration," answered Geoffrey; "one example of
law is as good as another for my purpose. I see in it all the working
of a living Will, but of course that is only my way of looking at it,
"No; I am afraid," said Beatrice, "all this reasoning drawn from
material things does not touch me. That is how the Pagans made /their/
religions, and it is how Paley strives to prove his. They argued from
the Out to the In, from the material to the spiritual. It cannot be;
if Christianity is true it must stand upon spiritual feet and speak
with a spiritual voice, to be heard, not in the thunderstorm, but only
in the hearts of men. The existence of Creative Force does not
demonstrate the existence of a Redeemer; if anything, it tends to
negative it, for the power that creates is also the power which
destroys. What does touch me, however, is the thought of the multitude
of the Dead. /That/ is what we care for, not for an Eternal Force,
ever creating and destroying. Think of them all--all the souls of
unheard-of races, almost animal, who passed away so long ago. Can ours
endure more than theirs, and do you think that the spirit of an
Ethiopian who died in the time of Moses is anywhere now?"
"There was room for them all on earth," answered Geoffrey. "The
universe is wide. It does not dismay me. There are mysteries in our
nature, the nature we think we know--shall there be none in that which
we know not? Worlds die, to live again when, after millions of ages,
the conditions become once more favourable to life, and why should not
a man? We are creatures of the world, we reflect its every light and
shadow, we rejoice in its rejoicing, its every feature has a tiny
parallel in us. Why should not our fate be as its fate, and its fate
is so far as we know eternal. It may change from gas to chaos, from
chaos to active life, from active life to seeming death. Then it may
once more pass into its elements, and from those elements back again
to concrete being, and so on for ever, always changing, but always the
same. So much for nature's allegory. It is not a perfect analogy, for
Man is a thing apart from all things else; it may be only a hint or a
type, but it is something.
"Now to come to the question of our religion. I confess I draw quite a
different conclusion from your facts. You say that you trace the same
superstitions in all religions, and that the same spiritual myths are
in some shape present in almost all. Well, does not this suggest that
the same great /truth/ underlies them all, taking from time to time
the shape which is best suited to the spiritual development of those
professing each. Every great new religion is better than the last. You
cannot compare Osirianism with Buddhism, or Buddhism with
Christianity, or Mahomedanism with the Arabian idol worship. Take the
old illustration--take a cut crystal and hold it in the sun, and you
will see many different coloured rays come from its facets. They look
different, but they are all born of the same great light; they are all
the same light. May it not be so with religion? Let your altar be to
the 'Unknown God,' if you like--for who can give an unaltering
likeness to the Power above us?--but do not knock your altar down.
"Depend upon it, Miss Granger, all indications to the contrary
notwithstanding, there is a watching Providence without the will of
which we cannot live, and if we deliberately reject that Providence,
setting up our intelligence in its place, sorrow will come of it, even
here; for it is wiser than we. I wish that you would try and look at
the question from another point of view--from a higher point of view.
I think you will find that it will bear a great deal of examination,
and that you will come to the conclusion that the dictum of the wise-
acre who says there is nothing because he can see nothing, is not
necessarily a true one. There, that is all I have to say, and I wish
that I could say it better."
"Thank you," said Beatrice, "I will. Why here we are at home; I must
go and put Effie to bed."
And here it may be stated that Geoffrey's advice was not altogether
thrown away. Beatrice did try looking at the question again, and if
Faith did not altogether come back to her at least Hope did, and "the
greatest of these, which is Charity," had never deserted her. Hope
came slowly back, not by argument probably, but rather by example. In
the sea of Doubt she saw another buoyed up, if it were but on broken
pieces of the ship. This encouraged her. Geoffrey believed, and she--
believed in Geoffrey. Indeed, is not this the secret of woman's
philosophy--even, to some extent, of that of such a woman as Beatrice?
"Let the faith or unfaith of This, That, or the other Rabbi answer for
me," she says--it is her last argument. She believes in This, or That,
or some other philosopher: that is her creed. And Geoffrey was the
person in whom Beatrice began to believe, all the more wholly because
she had never believed in any one before. Whatever else she was to
lose, this at least she won when she saved his life.
On the day following their religious discussion an accident happened
which resulted in Geoffrey and Beatrice being more than ever thrown in
the company of each other. During the previous week two cases of
scarlatina had been reported among the school children, and now it was
found that the complaint had spread so much that it was necessary to
close the school. This meant, of course, that Beatrice had all her
time upon her hands. And so had Geoffrey. It was his custom to bathe
before breakfast, after which he had nothing to do for the rest of the
day. Beatrice with little Effie also bathed before breakfast from the
ladies' bathing-place, a quarter of a mile off, and sometimes he would
meet her as she returned, glowing with health and beauty like Venus
new risen from the Cyprian sea, her half-dried hair hanging in heavy
masses down her back. Then after breakfast they would take Effie down
to the beach, and her "auntie," as the child learned to call Beatrice,
would teach her lessons and poetry till she was tired, and ran away to
paddle in the sea or look for prawns among the rocks.
Meanwhile the child's father and Beatrice would talk--not about
religion, they spoke no more on that subject, nor about Owen Davies,
but of everything else on earth. Beatrice was a merry woman when she
was happy, and they never lacked subjects of conversation, for their
minds were very much in tune. In book-learning Beatrice had the
advantage of Geoffrey, for she had not only read enormously, she also
remembered what she read and could apply it. Her critical faculty,
too, was very keen. He, on the other hand, had more knowledge of the
world, and in his rich days had travelled a good deal, and so it came
to pass that each could always find something to tell the other. Never
for one second were they dull, not even when they sat for an hour or
so in silence, for it was the silence of complete companionship.
So the long morning would wear away all too quickly, and they would go
in to dinner, to be greeted with a cold smile by Elizabeth and
heartily enough by the old gentleman, who never thought of anything
out of his own circle of affairs. After dinner it was the same story.
Either they went walking to look for ferns and flowers, or perhaps
Geoffrey took his gun and hid behind the rocks for curlew, sending
Beatrice, who knew the coast by heart, a mile round or more to some
headland in order to put them on the wing. Then she would come back,
springing towards him from rock to rock, and crouch down beneath a
neighbouring seaweed-covered boulder, and they would talk together in
whispers, or perhaps they would not talk at all, for fear lest they
should frighten the flighting birds. And Geoffrey would first search
the heavens for curlew or duck, and, seeing none, would let his eyes
fall upon the pure beauty of Beatrice's face, showing so clearly
against the tender sky, and wonder what she was thinking about; till,
suddenly feeling his gaze, she would turn with a smile as sweet as the
first rosy blush of dawn upon the waters, and ask him what /he/ was
thinking about. And he would laugh and answer "You," whereon she would
smile again and perhaps blush a little, feeling glad at heart, she
knew not why.
Then came tea-time and the quiet, when they sat at the open window,
and Geoffrey smoked and listened to the soft surging of the sea and
the harmonious whisper of the night air in the pines. In the corner
Mr. Granger slept in his armchair, or perhaps he had gone to bed
altogether, for he liked to go to bed at half-past eight, as the old
Herefordshire farmer, his father, had done before him; and at the far
end of the room sat Elizabeth, doing her accounts by the light of a
solitary candle, or, if they failed her, reading some book of a
devotional and inspired character. But over the edge of the book, or
from the page of crabbed accounts, her eyes would glance continually
towards the handsome pair in the window-place, and she would smile as
she saw that it went well. Only they never saw the glances or noted
the smile. When Geoffrey looked that way, which was not often, for
Elizabeth--old Elizabeth, as he always called her to himself--did not
attract him, all he saw was her sharp but capable-looking form bending
over her work, and the light of the candle gleaming on her straw-
coloured hair and falling in gleaming white patches on her hard
And so the happy day would pass and bed-time come, and with it
Geoffrey thought no ill of all this, as of course he ought to have
thought. He was not the ravening lion of fiction--so rarely, if ever,
to be met with in real life--going about seeking whom he might devour.
He had absolutely no designs on Beatrice's affections, any more than
she had on his, and he had forgotten that first fell prescience of
evil to come. Once or twice, it is true, qualms of doubt did cross his
mind in the earlier days of their intimacy. But he put them by as
absurd. He was no believer in the tender helplessness of full-grown
women, his experience having been that they are amply capable--and,
for the most part, more than capable--of looking after themselves. It
seemed to him a thing ridiculous that such a person as Beatrice, who
was competent to form opinions and a judgment upon all the important
questions of life, should be treated as a child, and that he should
remove himself from Bryngelly lest her young affections should become
entangled. He felt sure that they would never be entrapped in any
direction whatsoever without her full consent.
Then he ceased to think about the matter at all. Indeed, the mere idea
of such a thing involved a supposition that would only have been
acceptable to a conceited man--namely, that there was a possibility of
this young lady's falling in love with him. What right had he to
suppose anything of the sort? It was an impertinence. That there was
another sort of possibility--namely, of his becoming more attached to
her than was altogether desirable--did, however, occur to him once or
twice. But he shrugged his shoulders and put it by. After all, it was
his look out, and he did not much care. It would do her no harm at the
worst. But very soon all these shadowy forebodings of dawning trouble
vanished quite. They were lost in the broad, sweet lights of
friendship. By-and-by, when friendship's day was done, they might
arise again, called by other names and wearing a sterner face.
It was ridiculous--of course it was ridiculous; he was not going to
fall in love like a boy at his time of life; all he felt was gratitude
and interest--all she felt was amusement in his society. As for the
intimacy--felt rather than expressed--the intimacy that could already
almost enable the one to divine the other's thought, that could shape
her mood to his and his to hers, that could cause the same thing of
beauty to be a common joy, and discover unity of mind in opinions the
most opposite--why, it was only natural between people who had
together passed a peril terrible to think of. So they took the goods
the gods provided, and drifted softly on--whither they did not stop to
One day, however, a little incident happened that ought to have opened
the eyes of both. They had arranged, or rather there was a tacit
understanding, that they should go out together in the afternoon.
Geoffrey was to take his gun and Beatrice a book, but it chanced that,
just before dinner, as she walked back from the village, where she had
gone to buy some thread to mend Effie's clothes, Beatrice came face to
face with Mr. Davies. It was their first meeting without witnesses
since the Sunday of which the events have been described, and,
naturally, therefore, rather an awkward one. Owen stopped short so
that she could not pass him with a bow, and then turned and walked
beside her. After a remark or two about the weather, the springs of
conversation ran dry.
"You remember that you are coming up to the Castle this afternoon?" he
said, at length.
"To the Castle!" she answered. "No, I have heard nothing of it."
"Did not your sister tell you she made an engagement for herself and
you a week or more ago? You are to bring the little girl; she wants to
see the view from the top of the tower."
Then Beatrice remembered. Elizabeth had told her, and she had thought
it best to accept the situation. The whole thing had gone out of her
"Oh, I beg your pardon! I do remember now, but I have made another
plan--how stupid of me!"
"You had forgotten," he said in his heavy voice; "it is easy for you
to forget what I have been looking forward to for a whole week. What
is your plan--to go out walking with Mr. Bingham, I suppose?"
"Yes," answered Beatrice, "to go out with Mr. Bingham."
"Ah! you go out with Mr. Bingham every day now."
"And what if I do?" said Beatrice quickly; "surely, Mr. Davies, I have
a right to go out with whom I like?"
"Yes, of course; but the engagement to come to the Castle was made
first; are you not going to keep it?"
"Of course I am going to keep it; I always keep my engagements when I
"Very well, then; I shall expect you at three o'clock."
Beatrice went on home in a curiously irritated condition of mind. She
did not, naturally, want to go to the Castle, and she did want to go
out with Geoffrey. However, there was no help for it.
When she came in to dinner she found that Geoffrey was not there. He
had, it seemed, gone to lunch with Dr. Chambers, whom he had met on
the beach. Before he returned they were all three starting for the
Castle, Beatrice leaving a message to this effect with Betty.
About a quarter of an hour afterwards, Geoffrey came back to fetch his
gun and Beatrice, but Beatrice was gone, and all that he could extract
from Betty was that she had gone to see Mr. Davies.
He was perfectly furious, though all the while he knew how
unreasonable was his anger. He had been looking forward to the
expedition, and this sudden change of plan was too much for his
temper. Off he started, however, to pass a thoroughly miserable
afternoon. He seemed to miss Beatrice more each step and gradually to
grow more and more angry at what he called her "rudeness." Of course
it never occurred to him that what he was really angry at was her
going to see Mr. Davies, or that, in truth, her society had become so
delightful to him that to be deprived of it even for an afternoon was
to be wretched. To top everything, he only got three good shots that
afternoon, and he missed them all, which made him crosser than ever.
As for Beatrice, she enjoyed herself just as little at the Castle as
Geoffrey did on the beach. Owen Davies took them through the great
unused rooms and showed them the pictures, but she had seen them
before, and though some of them were very fine, did not care to look
at them again--at any rate, not that afternoon. But Elizabeth gazed at
them with eager eyes and mentally appraised their value, wondering if
they would ever be hers.
"What is this picture?" she asked, pointing to a beautiful portrait of
a Dutch Burgomaster by Rembrandt.
"That," answered Davies heavily, for he knew nothing of painting and
cared less, "that is a Velasquez, valued for probate at £3,000--no,"
referring to the catalogue and reading, "I beg your pardon, the next
is the Velasquez; that is a Rembrandt in the master's best style,
showing all his wonderful mastery over light and shade. It was valued
for probate at £4,000 guineas."
"Four thousand guineas!" said Elizabeth, "fancy having a thing worth
four thousand guineas hanging on a wall!"
And so they went on, Elizabeth asking questions and Owen answering
them by the help of the catalogue, till, to Beatrice's relief, they
came at length to the end of the pictures. Then they took some tea in
the little sitting room of the master of all this magnificence. Owen,
to her great annoyance, sat opposite to Beatrice, staring at her with
all his eyes while she drank her tea, with Effie sitting in her lap,
and Elizabeth, observing it, bit her lip in jealousy. She had thought
it well to bring her sister here; it would not do to let Mr. Davies
think she was keeping Beatrice out of his way, but his mute idol
worship was trying to her feelings. After tea they went to the top of
the tower, and Effie rejoiced exceedingly in the view, which was very
beautiful. Here Owen got a word with Elizabeth.
"Your sister seems to be put out about something," he said.
"I daresay," she answered carelessly; "Beatrice has an uncertain
temper. I think she wanted to go out shooting with Mr. Bingham this
Had Owen been a less religious person he might have sworn; as it was,
he only said, "Mr. Bingham--it is always Mr. Bingham from morning to
night! When is he going away?"
"In another week, I believe. Beatrice will be sorry, I think; she
makes a great companion of him. And now I think that we must be
getting home," and she went, leaving this poisoned shaft to rankle in
After they had returned to the vicarage and Beatrice had heard Effie
her prayers and tucked her up in her small white bed, she went down to
the gate to be quiet for a little while before supper. Geoffrey had
not yet come in.
It was a lovely autumn evening; the sea seemed to sleep, and the
little clouds, from which the sunset fires had paled, lay like wreaths
of smoke upon the infinite blue sky. Why had not Mr. Bingham come
back, she wondered; he would scarcely have time to dress. Supposing
that an accident had happened to him. Nonsense! what accident could
happen? He was so big and strong he seemed to defy accidents; and yet
had it not been for her there would be little enough left of his
strength to-day. Ah! she was glad that she had lived to be able to
save him from death. There he came, looming like a giant in the
There was a small hand-gate beside the large one on which she leant.
Geoffrey stalked straight up to it as though he did not see her; he
saw her well enough, but he was cross with her.
She allowed him to pass through the gate, which he shut slowly,
perhaps to give her an opportunity of speaking, if she wished to do
so; then thinking that he did not see her she spoke in her soft,
"Did you have good sport, Mr. Bingham?"
"No," he answered shortly; "I saw very little, and I missed all I
"I am so sorry, except for the birds. I hate the birds to be killed.
Did you not see me in this white dress? I saw you fifty yards away."
"Yes, Miss Granger," he answered, "I saw you."
"And you were going by without speaking to me; it was very rude of you
--what is the matter?"
"Not so rude as it was of you to arrange to walk out with me and then
to go and see Mr. Davies instead."
"I could not help it, Mr. Bingham; it was an old engagement, which I
"Quite so, ladies generally have an excuse for doing what they want to
"It is not an excuse, Mr. Bingham," Beatrice answered, with dignity;
"there is no need for me to make excuses to you about my movements."
"Of course not, Miss Granger; but it would be more polite to tell me
when you change your mind--next time, you know. However, I have no
doubt that the Castle has attractions for you."
She flashed one look at him and turned to go, and as she did so his
heart relented; he grew ashamed.
"Miss Granger, don't go; forgive me. I do not know what has become of
my manners, I spoke as I should not. The fact is, I was put out at
your not coming. To tell you the honest truth, I missed you
"You missed me. That is very nice of you; one likes to be missed. But,
if you missed me for one afternoon, how will you get on a week hence
when you go away and miss me altogether?"
Beatrice spoke in a bantering tone, and laughed as she spoke, but the
laugh ended in something like a sigh. He looked at her for a moment,
looked till she dropped her eyes.
"Heaven only knows!" he answered sadly.
"Let us go in," said Beatrice, in a constrained voice; "how chill the
air has turned."
Five more days passed, all too quickly, and once more Monday came
round. It was the 22nd of October, and the Michaelmas Sittings began
on the 24th. On the morrow, Tuesday, Geoffrey was to return to London,
there to meet Lady Honoria and get to work at Chambers. That very
morning, indeed, a brief, the biggest he had yet received--it was
marked thirty guineas--had been forwarded to him from his chambers,
with a note from his clerk to the effect that the case was expected to
be in the special jury list on the first day of the sittings, and that
the clerk had made an appointment for him with the solicitors for 5.15
on the Tuesday. The brief was sent to him by his uncle's firm, and
marked, "With you the Attorney-General, and Mr. Candleton, Q.C.," the
well-known leader of the Probate and Divorce Court Bar. Never before
had Geoffrey found himself in such honourable company, that is on the
back of a brief, and not a little was he elated thereby.
But when he came to look into the case his joy abated somewhat, for it
was one of the most perplexing that he had ever known. The will
contested, which was that of a Yorkshire money-lender, disposed of
property to the value of over £80,000, and was propounded by a niece
of the testator who, when he died, if not actually weak in his mind,
was in his dotage, and superstitious to the verge of insanity. The
niece to whom all the property was left--to the exclusion of the son
and daughter of the deceased, both married, and living away from home
--stayed with the testator and looked after him. Shortly before his
death, however, he and this niece had violently quarrelled on account
of an intimacy which the latter had formed with a married man of bad
repute, who was a discharged lawyer's clerk. So serious had been the
quarrel that only three days before his death the testator had sent
for a lawyer and formally, by means of a codicil, deprived the niece
of a sum of £2,000 which he had left her, all the rest of his property
being divided between his son and daughter. Three days afterwards,
however, he duly executed a fresh will, in the presence of two
servants, by which he left all his property to the niece, to the
entire exclusion of his own children. This will, though very short,
was in proper form and was written by nobody knew whom. The servants
stated that the testator before signing it was perfectly acquainted
with its contents, for the niece had made him repeat them in their
presence. They also declared, however, that he seemed in a terrible
fright, and said twice, "It's behind me; it's behind me!"
Within an hour of the signing of the will the testator was found dead,
apparently from the effects of fear, but the niece was not in the room
at the time of death. The only other remarkable circumstance in the
case was that the disreputable lover of the niece had been seen
hanging about the house at dusk, the testator having died at ten
o'clock at night. There was also a further fact. The son, on receiving
a message from the niece that his father was seriously worse, had
hurried with extraordinary speed to the house, passing some one or
something--he could not tell what--that seemed to be running,
apparently from the window of the sick man's room, which was on the
ground floor, and beneath which footmarks were afterwards found. Of
these footmarks two casts had been taken, of which photographs were
forwarded with the brief. They had been made by naked feet of small
size, and in each case the little joint of the third toe of the right
foot seemed to be missing. But all attempts to find the feet that made
them had hitherto failed. The will was contested by the next of kin,
for whom Geoffrey was one of the counsel, upon the usual grounds of
undue influence and fraud; but as it seemed at present with small
prospect of success, for, though the circumstances were superstitious
enough, there was not the slightest evidence of either. This curious
case, of which the outlines are here written, is briefly set out,
because it proved to be the foundation of Geoffrey's enormous practice
and reputation at the Bar.
He read the brief through twice, thought it over well, and could make
little of it. It was perfectly obvious to him that there had been foul
play somewhere, but he found himself quite unable to form a workable
hypothesis. Was the person who had been seen running away concerned in
the matter?--if it was a person. If so, was he the author of the
footprints? Of course the ex-lawyer's clerk had something to do with
it, but what? In vain did Geoffrey cudgel his brains; every idea that
occurred to him broke down somewhere or other.
"We shall lose this," he said aloud in despair; "suspicious
circumstances are not enough to upset a will," and then, addressing
Beatrice, who was sitting at the table, working:
"Here, Miss Granger, you have a smattering of law, see if you can make
anything of this," and he pushed the heavy brief towards her.
Beatrice took it with a laugh, and for the next three-quarters of an
hour her fair brow was puckered up in a way quaint to see. At last she
finished and shut the brief up. "Let me look at the photographs," she
Geoffrey handed them to her. She very carefully examined first one and
then the other, and as she did so a light of intelligence broke out
upon her face.
"Well, Portia, have you got it?" he asked.
"I have got something," she answered. "I do not know if it is right.
Don't you see, the old man was superstitious; they frightened him
first of all by a ghostly voice or some such thing into signing the
will, and then to death after he had signed it. The lawyer's clerk
prepared the will--he would know how to do it. Then he was smuggled
into the room under the bed, or somewhere, dressed up as a ghost
perhaps. The sending for the son by the niece was a blind. The thing
that was seen running away was a boy--those footprints were made by a
boy. I have seen so many thousands on the sands here that I could
swear to it. He was attracted to the house from the road, which was
quite near, by catching sight of something unusual through the blind;
the brief says there were no curtains or shutters. Now look at the
photographs of the footprints. See in No. 1, found outside the window,
the toes are pressed down deeply into the mud. The owner of the feet
was standing on tip-toe to get a better view. But in No. 2, which was
found near where the son thought he saw a person running, the toes are
spread out quite wide. That is the footprint of some one who was in a
great hurry. Now it is not probable that a boy had anything to do with
the testator's death. Why, then, was the boy running so hard? I will
tell you: because he was frightened at something he had seen through
the blind. So frightened was he, that he will not come forward, or
answer the advertisements and inquiries. Find a boy in that town who
has a joint missing on the third toe of the right foot, and you will
soon know all about it."
"By Jove," said Geoffrey, "what a criminal lawyer you would make! I
believe that you have got it. But how are we to find this boy with the
missing toe-joint? Every possible inquiry has already been made and
failed. Nobody has seen such a boy, whose deficiency would probably be
known by his parents, or schoolfellows."
"Yes," said Beatrice, "it has failed because the boy has taken to
wearing shoes, which indeed he would always have to do at school. His
parents, if he has any, would perhaps not speak of his disfigurement,
and no one else might know of it, especially if he were a new-comer in
the neighbourhood. It is quite possible that he took off his boots in
order to creep up to the window. And now I will tell you how I should
set to work to find him. I should have every bathing-place in the
river running through the town--there is a river--carefully watched by
detectives. In this weather" (the autumn was an unusually warm one)
"boys of that class often paddle and sometimes bathe. If they watch
close enough, they will probably find a boy with a missing toe joint
among the number."
"What a good idea," said Geoffrey. "I will telegraph to the lawyers at
once. I certainly believe that you have got the clue."
And as it turned out afterwards Beatrice had got it; her suppositions
were right in almost every particular. The boy, who proved to be the
son of a pedlar who had recently come into the town, was found wading,
and by a clever trick, which need not be detailed, frightened into
telling the truth, as he had previously frightened himself into
holding his tongue. He had even, as Beatrice conjectured, taken off
his boots to creep up to the window, and as he ran away in his fright,
had dropped them into a ditch full of water. There they were found,
and went far to convince the jury of the truth of his story. Thus it
was that Beatrice's quick wit laid the foundations of Geoffrey's great
This particular Monday was a field day at the Vicarage. Jones had
proved obdurate; no power on earth could induce him to pay the £34
11s. 4d. due on account of tithe. Therefore Mr. Granger, fortified by
a judgment duly obtained, had announced his intention of distraining
upon Jones's hay and cattle. Jones had replied with insolent defiance.
If any bailiff, or auctioneer, or such people came to sell his hay he
would kill him, or them.
So said Jones, and summoned his supporters, many of whom owed tithe,
and none of whom wished to pay it, to do battle in his cause. For his
part, Mr. Granger retained an auctioneer of undoubted courage who was
to arrive on this very afternoon, supported by six policemen, and
carry out the sale. Beatrice felt nervous about the whole thing, but
Elizabeth was very determined, and the old clergyman was now bombastic
and now despondent. The auctioneer arrived duly by the one o'clock
train. He was a tall able-bodied man, not unlike Geoffrey in
appearance, indeed at twenty yards distance it would have been
difficult to tell them apart. The sale was fixed for half-past two,
and Mr. Johnson--that was the auctioneer's name--went to the inn to
get his dinner before proceeding to business. He was informed of the
hostile demonstration which awaited him, and that an English member of
Parliament had been sent down especially to head the mob, but being a
man of mettle pooh-poohed the whole affair.
"All bark, sir," he said to Geoffrey, "all bark and no bite; I'm not
afraid of these people. Why, if they won't bid for the stuff, I will
buy it in myself."
"All right," said Geoffrey, "but I advise you to look out. I fancy
that the old man is a rough customer."
Then Geoffrey went back to his dinner.
As they sat at the meal, through a gap in the fir trees they saw that
the great majority of the population of Bryngelly was streaming up
towards the scene of the sale, some to agitate, and some to see the
"It is pretty well time to be off," said Geoffrey. "Are you coming,
"Well," answered the old gentleman, "I wished to do so, but Elizabeth
thinks that I had better keep away. And after all, you know," he added
airily, "perhaps it is as well for a clergyman not to mix himself up
too much in these temporal matters. No, I want to go and see about
some pigs at the other end of the parish, and I think that I shall
take this opportunity."
"You are not going, Mr. Bingham, are you?" asked Beatrice in a voice
which betrayed her anxiety.
"Oh, yes," he answered, "of course I am. I would not miss the chance
for worlds. Why, Beecham Bones is going to be there, the member of
Parliament who has just done his four months for inciting to outrage.
We are old friends; I was at school with him. Poor fellow, he was mad
even in those days, and I want to chaff him."
"I think that you had far better not go, Mr. Bingham," said Beatrice;
"they are a very rough set."
"Everybody is not so cowardly as you are," put in Elizabeth. "I am
going at any rate."
"That's right, Miss Elizabeth," said Geoffrey; "we will protect each
other from the revolutionary fury of the mob. Come, it is time to
And so they went, leaving Beatrice a prey to melancholy forebodings.
She waited in the house for the best part of an hour, making pretence
to play with Effie. Then her anxiety got the better of her; she put on
her hat and started, leaving Effie in charge of the servant Betty.
Beatrice walked quickly along the cliff till she came in sight of
Jones's farm. From where she stood she could make out a great crowd of
men, and even, when the wind turned towards her, catch the noise of
shouting. Presently she heard a sound like the report of a gun, saw
the crowd break up in violent confusion, and then cluster together
again in a dense mass.
"What could it mean?" Beatrice wondered.
As the thought crossed her mind, she perceived two men running towards
her with all their speed, followed by a woman. Three minutes more and
she saw that the woman was Elizabeth.
The men were passing her now.
"What is it?" she cried.
"/Murder!/" they answered with one voice, and sped on towards
Another moment and Elizabeth was at hand, horror written on her pale
Beatrice clutched at her. "/Who/ is it?" she cried.
"Mr. Bingham," gasped her sister. "Go and help; he's shot dead!" And
she too was gone.
Beatrice's knees loosened, her tongue clave to the roof of her mouth;
the solid earth spun round and round. "Geoffrey killed! Geoffrey
killed!" she cried in her heart; but though her ears seemed to hear
the sound of them, no words came from her lips. "Oh, what should she
do? Where should she hide herself in her grief?"
A few yards from the path grew a stunted tree with a large flat stone
at its root. Thither Beatrice staggered and sank upon the stone, while
still the solid earth spun round and round.
Presently her mind cleared a little, and a keener pang of pain shot
through her soul. She had been stunned at first, now she felt.
"Perhaps it was not true; perhaps Elizabeth had been mistaken or had
only said it to torment her." She rose. She flung herself upon her
knees, there by the stone, and prayed, this first time for many years
--she prayed with all her soul. "Oh, God, if Thou art, spare him his
life and me this agony." In her dreadful pangs of grief her faith was
thus re-born, and, as all human beings must in their hour of mortal
agony, Beatrice realised her dependence on the Unseen. She rose, and
weak with emotion sank back on to the stone. The people were streaming
past her now, talking excitedly. Somebody came up to her and stood
Oh, Heaven, it was Geoffrey!
"Is it you?" she gasped. "Elizabeth said that you were murdered."
"No, no. It was not I; it is that poor fellow Johnson, the auctioneer.
Jones shot him. I was standing next him. I suppose your sister thought
that I fell. He was not unlike me, poor fellow."
Beatrice looked at him, went red, went white, then burst into a flood
A strange pang seized upon his heart. It thrilled through him, shaking
him to the core. Why was this woman so deeply moved? Could it be----?
Nonsense; he stifled the thought before it was born.
"Don't cry," Geoffrey said, "the people will see you, Beatrice" (for
the first time he called her by her christian name); "pray do not cry.
It distresses me. You are upset, and no wonder. That fellow Beecham
Bones ought to be hanged, and I told him so. It is his work, though he
never meant it to go so far. He's frightened enough now, I can tell
Beatrice controlled herself with an effort.
"What happened," he said, "I will tell you as we walk along. No, don't
go up to the farm. He is not a pleasant sight, poor fellow. When I got
up there, Beecham Bones was spouting away to the mob--his long hair
flying about his back--exciting them to resist laws made by brutal
thieving landlords, and all that kind of gibberish; telling them that
they would be supported by a great party in Parliament, &c., &c. The
people, however, took it all good-naturedly enough. They had a
beautiful effigy of your father swinging on a pole, with a placard on
his breast, on which was written, 'The robber of the widow and the
orphan,' and they were singing Welsh songs. Only I saw Jones, who was
more than half drunk, cursing and swearing in Welsh and English. When
the auctioneer began to sell, Jones went into the house and Bones went
with him. After enough had been sold to pay the debt, and while the
mob was still laughing and shouting, suddenly the back door of the
house opened and out rushed Jones, now quite drunk, a gun in his hand
and Bones hanging on to his coat-tails. I was talking to the
auctioneer at the moment, and my belief is that the brute thought that
I was Johnson. At any rate, before anything could be done he lifted
the gun and fired, at me, as I think. The charge, however, passed my
head and hit poor Johnson full in the face, killing him dead. That is
all the story."
"And quite enough, too," said Beatrice with a shudder. "What times we
live in! I feel quite sick."
Supper that night was a very melancholy affair. Old Mr. Granger was
altogether thrown off his balance; and even Elizabeth's iron nerves
"It could not be worse, it could not be worse," moaned the old man,
rising from the table and walking up and down the room.
"Nonsense, father," said Elizabeth the practical. "He might have been
shot before he had sold the hay, and then you would not have got your
Geoffrey could not help smiling at this way of looking at things, from
which, however, Mr. Granger seemed to draw a little comfort. From
constantly thinking about it, and the daily pressure of necessity,
money had come to be more to the old man than anything else in the
Hardly was the meal done when three reporters arrived and took down
Geoffrey's statement of what had occurred, for publication in various
papers, while Beatrice went away to see about packing Effie's things.
They were to start by a train leaving for London at half-past eight on
the following morning. When Beatrice came back it was half-past ten,
and in his irritation of mind Mr. Granger insisted upon everybody
going to bed. Elizabeth shook hands with Geoffrey, congratulating him
on his escape as she did so, and went at once; but Beatrice lingered a
little. At last she came forward and held out her hand.
"Good-night, Mr. Bingham," she said.
"Good-night. I hope that this is not good-bye also," he added with
"Of course not," broke in Mr. Granger. "Beatrice will go and see you
off. I can't; I have to go and meet the coroner about the inquest, and
Elizabeth is always busy in the house. Luckily they won't want you;
there were so many witnesses."
"Then it is only good-night," said Beatrice.
She went to her room. Elizabeth, who shared it, was already asleep, or
pretending to be asleep. Then Beatrice undressed and got into bed, but
rest she could not. It was "only good-night," a last good-night. He
was going away--back to his wife, back to the great rushing world, and
to the life in which she had no share. Very soon he would forget her.
Other interests would arise, other women would become his friends, and
he would forget the Welsh girl who had attracted him for a while, or
remember her only as the companion of a rough adventure. What did it
mean? Why was her heart so sore? Why had she felt as though she should
die when they told her that he was dead?
Then the answer rose in her breast. She loved him; it was useless to
deny the truth--she loved him body, and heart and soul, with all her
mind and all her strength. She was his, and his alone--to-day,
to-morrow, and for ever. He might go from her sight, she might never,
never see him more, but love him she always must. And he was married!
Well, it was her misfortune; it could not affect the solemn truth.
What should she do now, how should she endure her life when her eyes
no longer saw his eyes, and her ears never heard his voice? She saw
the future stretch itself before her as a vision. She saw herself
forgotten by this man whom she loved, or from time to time remembered
only with a faint regret. She saw herself growing slowly old, her
beauty fading yearly from her face and form, companioned only by the
love that grows not old. Oh, it was bitter, bitter! and yet she would
not have it otherwise. Even in her pain she felt it better to have
found this deep and ruinous joy, to have wrestled with the Angel and
been worsted, than never to have looked upon his face. If she could
only know that what she gave was given back again, that he loved her
as she loved him, she would be content. She was innocent, she had
never tried to draw him to her; she had used no touch or look, no
woman's arts or lures such as her beauty placed at her command. There
had been no word spoken, scarcely a meaning glance had passed between
them, nothing but frank and free companionship as of man with man. She
knew he did not love his wife and that his wife did not love him--this
she could /see/. But she had never tried to win him from her, and
though she sinned in thought, though her heart was guilty--oh, her
hands were clean!
Her restlessness overcame her. She could no longer lie in bed.
Elizabeth, watching through her veil of sleep, saw Beatrice rise, put
on a wrapper, and, going to the window, throw it wide. At first she
thought of interfering, for Elizabeth was a prudent person and did not
like draughts; but her sister's movements excited her curiosity, and
she refrained. Beatrice sat down on the foot of her bed, and leaning
her arm upon the window-sill looked out upon the lovely quiet night.
How dark the pine trees massed against the sky; how soft was the
whisper of the sea, and how vast the heaven through which the stars
What was it, then, this love of hers? Was it mere earthly passion? No,
it was more. It was something grander, purer, deeper, and quite
undying. Whence came it, then? If she was, as she had thought, only a
child of earth, whence came this deep desire which was not of the
earth? Had she been wrong, had she a soul--something that could love
with the body and through the body and beyond the body--something of
which the body with its yearnings was but the envelope, the hand or
instrument? Oh, now it seemed to Beatrice that this was so, and that
called into being by her love she and her soul stood face to face
acknowledging their unity. Once she had held that it was phantasy:
that such spiritual hopes were but exhalations from a heart
unsatisfied; that when love escapes us on the earth, in our despair,
we swear it is immortal, and that we shall find it in the heavens. Now
Beatrice believed this no more. Love had kissed her on the eyes, and
at his kiss her sleeping spirit was awakened, and she saw a vision of
Yes, she loved him, and must always love him! But she could never know
on earth that he was hers, and if she had a spirit to be freed after
some few years, would not his spirit have forgotten hers in that far
hereafter of their meeting?
She dropped her brow upon her arm and softly sobbed. What was there
left for her to do except to sob--till her heart broke?
Elizabeth, lying with wide-open ears, heard the sobs. Elizabeth,
peering through the moonlight, saw her sister's form tremble in the
convulsion of her sorrow, and smiled a smile of malice.
"The thing is done," she thought; "she cries because the man is going.
Don't cry, Beatrice, don't cry! We will get your plaything back for
you. Oh, with such a bait it will be easy. He is as sweet on you as
you on him."
There was something evil, something almost devilish, in this scene of
the one watching woman holding a clue to and enjoying the secret
tortures of the other, plotting the while to turn them to her innocent
rival's destruction and her own advantage. Elizabeth's jealousy was
indeed bitter as the grave.
Suddenly Beatrice ceased sobbing. She lifted her head, and by a sudden
impulse threw out the passion of her heart with all her concentrated
strength of mind towards the man she loved, murmuring as she did so
some passionate, despairing words which she knew.
At this moment Geoffrey, sleeping soundly, dreamed that he saw
Beatrice seated by her window and looking at him with eyes which no
earthly obstacle could blind. She was speaking; her lips moved, but
though he could hear no voice the words she spoke floated into his
"Be a god and hold me
With a charm!
Be a man and fold me
With thine arm.
Teach me, only teach, Love!
As I ought
I will speak thy speech, Love,
Think thy thought--
Meet, if thou require it,
Laying flesh and spirit
In thy hands.
That shall be to-morrow
I must bury sorrow
Out of sight.
Must a little weep, Love,
And so fall asleep, Love,
Loved by thee."
Geoffrey heard them in his heart. Then they were gone, the vision of
Beatrice was gone, and suddenly he awoke.
Oh, what was this flood of inarticulate, passion-laden thought that
beat upon his brain telling of Beatrice? Wave after wave it came,
utterly overwhelming him, like the heavy breath of flowers stirred by
a night wind--like a message from another world. It was real; it was
no dream, no fancy; she was present with him though she was not there;
her thought mingled with his thought, her being beat upon his own. His
heart throbbed, his limbs trembled, he strove to understand and could
not. But in the mystery of that dread communion, the passion he had
trodden down and refused acknowledgment took life and form within him;
it grew like the Indian's magic tree, from seed to blade, from blade
to bud, and from bud to bloom. In that moment it became clear to him:
he knew he loved her, and knowing what such a love must mean, for him
if not for her, Geoffrey sank back and groaned.
And Beatrice? Of a sudden she ceased speaking to herself; she felt her
thought flung back to her weighted with another's thought. She had
broken through the barriers of earth; the quick electric message of
her heart had found a path to him she loved and come back answered.
But in what tongue was that answer writ? Alas! she could not read it,
any more than he could read the message. At first she doubted; surely
it was imagination. Then she remembered it was absolutely proved that
people dying could send a vision of themselves to others far away; and
if that could be, why not this? No, it was truth, a solemn truth; she
knew he felt her thought, she knew that his life beat upon her life.
Oh, here was mystery, and here was hope, for if this could be, and it
/was/, what might not be? If her blind strength of human love could so
overstep the boundaries of human power, and, by the sheer might of its
volition, mock the physical barriers that hemmed her in, what had she
to fear from distance, from separation, ay, from death itself? She had
grasped a clue which might one day, before the seeming end or after--
what did it matter?--lay strange secrets open to her gaze. She had
heard a whisper in an unknown tongue that could still be learned,
answering Life's agonizing cry with a song of glory. If only he loved
her, some day all would be well. Some day the barriers would fall.
Crumbling with the flesh, they would fall and set her naked spirit
free to seek its other self. And then, having found her love, what
more was there to seek? What other answer did she desire to all the
problems of her life than this of Unity attained at last--Unity
attained in Death!
And if he did not love her, how could he answer her? Surely that
message could not pass except along the golden chord of love, which
ever makes its sweetest music when Pain strikes it with a hand of
The troubled glory passed--it throbbed itself away; the spiritual
gusts of thought grew continually fainter, till, like the echoes of a
dying harp, like the breath of a falling gale, they slowly sank to
nothingness. Then wearied with an extreme of wild emotion Beatrice
sought her bed again and presently was lost in sleep.
When Geoffrey woke on the next morning, after a little reflection, he
came to the decision that he had experienced a very curious and moving
dream, consequent on the exciting events of the previous day, or on
the pain of his impending departure. He rose, packed his bag--
everything else was ready--and went in to breakfast. Beatrice did not
appear till it was half over. She looked very pale, and said that she
had been packing Effie's things. Geoffrey noticed that she barely
touched his fingers when he rose to shake hands with her, and that she
studiously avoided his glance. Then he began to wonder if she also had
Next came the bustle of departure. Effie was despatched in the fly
with the luggage and Betty, the fat Welsh servant, to look after her.
Beatrice and Geoffrey were to walk to the station.
"Time for you to be going, Mr. Bingham," said Mr. Granger. "There,
good-bye, good-bye! God bless you! Never had such charming lodgers
before. Hope you will come back again, I'm sure. By the way, they are
certain to summon you as a witness at the trial of that villain
"Good-bye, Mr. Granger," Geoffrey answered; "you must come and see me
in town. A change will do you good."
"Well, perhaps I may. I have not had a change for twenty-five years.
Never could afford it. Aren't you going to say good-bye to Elizabeth?"
"Good-bye, Miss Granger," said Geoffrey politely. "Many thanks for all
your kindness. I hope we shall meet again."
"Do you?" answered Elizabeth; "so do I. I am sure that we shall meet
again, and I am sure that I shall be glad to see you when we do, Mr.
Bingham," she added darkly.
In another minute he had left the Vicarage and, with Beatrice at his
side, was walking smartly towards the station.
"This is very melancholy," he said, after a few moments' silence.
"Going away generally is," she answered--"either for those who go or
those who stay behind," she added.
"Or for both," he said.
Then came another pause; he broke it.
"Miss Beatrice, may I write to you?"
"Certainly, if you like."
"And will you answer my letters?"
"Yes, I will answer them."
"If I had my way, then, you should spend a good deal of your time in
writing," he said. "You don't know," he added earnestly, "what a
delight it has been to me to learn to know you. I have had no greater
pleasure in my life."
"I am glad," Beatrice answered shortly.
"By the way," Geoffrey said presently, "there is something I want to
ask you. You are as good as a reference book for quotations, you know.
Some lines have been haunting me for the last twelve hours, and I
cannot remember where they come from."
"What are they?" she asked, looking up, and Geoffrey saw, or thought
he saw, a strange fear shining in her eyes.
"Here are four of them," he answered unconcernedly; "we have no time
for long quotations:
"'That shall be to-morrow,
I must bury sorrow
Out of sight.'"
Beatrice heard--heard the very lines which had been upon her lips in
the wild midnight that had gone. Her heart seemed to stop; she became
white as the dead, stumbled, and nearly fell. With a supreme effort
she recovered herself.
"I think that you must know the lines, Mr. Bingham," she said in a low
voice. "They come from a poem of Browning's, called 'A Woman's Last
Geoffrey made no answer; what was he to say? For a while they walked
on in silence. They were getting close to the station now. Separation,
perhaps for ever, was very near. An overmastering desire to know the
truth took hold of him.
"Miss Beatrice," he said again, "you look pale. Did you sleep well
"No, Mr. Bingham."
"Did you have curious dreams?"
"Yes, I did," she answered, looking straight before her.
He turned a shade paler. Then it was true!
"Beatrice," he said in a half whisper, "what do they mean?"
"As much as anything else, or as little," she answered.
"What are people to do who dream such dreams?" he said again, in the
same constrained voice.
"Forget them," she whispered.
"And if they come back?"
"Forget them again."
"And if they will not be forgotten?"
She turned and looked him full in the eyes.
"Die of them," she said; "then they will be forgotten, or----"
"Or what, Beatrice?"
"Here is the station," said Beatrice, "and Betty is quarrelling with
Five minutes more and Geoffrey was gone.
THE FLAT NEAR THE EDGWARE ROAD
Geoffrey's journey to town was not altogether a cheerful one. To begin
with, Effie wept copiously at parting with her beloved "auntie," as
she called Beatrice, and would not be comforted. The prospect of
rejoining her mother and the voluble Anne had no charms for Effie.
They all three got on best apart. Geoffrey himself had also much to
think about, and found little satisfaction in the thinking. He threw
his mind back over the events of the past few weeks. He remembered how
he had first seen Beatrice's face through the thick mist on the Red
Rocks, and how her beauty had struck him as no beauty ever had before.
Then he thought of the adventure of their shipwreck, and of the
desperate courage with which she had saved his life, almost at the
cost of her own. He thought, too, of that scene when on the following
day he had entered the room where she was asleep, when the wandering
ray of light had wavered from her breast to his own, when that strange
presentiment of the ultimate intermingling of their lives had flashed
upon him, and when she had awakened with an unearthly greeting on her
lips. While Effie slowly sobbed herself to silence in the corner
opposite to him, one by one, he recalled every phase and scene of
their ever-growing intimacy, till the review culminated in his
mysterious experience of the past night, and the memory of Beatrice's
Of all men Geoffrey was among those least inclined to any sort of
superstition; from boyhood he had been noted for common sense, and a
somewhat disbelieving turn of mind. But he had intellect, and
imagination which is simply intellect etherealised. Without these,
with his peculiar mental constitution, he would, for instance,
probably have been a religious sceptic; having them, he was nothing of
the sort. So in this matter of his experience of the previous night,
and generally of the strange and almost unnatural sympathy in which he
found himself with this lady, common sense and the results of his
observation and experience pointed to the whole thing being nonsense--
the result of "propinquity, Sir, propinquity," and a pretty face--and
But here his intellect and his imagination stepped in, telling him
plainly that it was not nonsense, that he had not merely made a donkey
of himself over an hysterical, or possibly a love-sick girl. They told
him that because a thing is a mystery it is not necessarily a folly,
though mysteries are for the most part dealt in by fools. They
suggested that there may be many things and forces above us and around
us, invisible as an electric current, intangible as light, yet
existent and capable of manifestation under certain rare and
And was it not possible that such conditions should unite in a woman
like Beatrice, who combined in herself a beauty of body which was only
outpassed by the beauty of her mind? It was no answer to say that most
women could never inspire the unearthly passion with which he had been
shaken some ten hours past, or that most men could never become aware
of the inspiration. Has not humanity powers and perceptions denied to
the cattle of the fields, and may there not be men and women as far
removed from their fellows in this respect as these are from the
But the weak point of mysterious occurrences is that they lead
nowhere, and do not materially alter the facts of life. One cannot,
for instance, plead a mystery in a court of law; so, dropping the
imaginative side of the question as one beyond him, Geoffrey came to
its practical aspect, only to find it equally thorny.
Odd as it may seem, Geoffrey did not to this moment know the exact
position which he occupied in the mind of Beatrice, or that she
occupied in his. He was not in love with her, at least not in a way in
which he had ever experienced the influence of that, on the whole,
inconvenient and disagreeable passion. At any rate he argued from the
hypothesis that he was not in love with her. This he refused to admit
now in the light of day, though he had admitted it fully in the
watches of the night. It would not do to admit it. But he was forced
to acknowledge that she had crept into his life and possessed it so
completely that then and for months afterwards, except in deep sleep
or in hours of severe mental strain, not a single half hour would pass
without bringing its thought of Beatrice. Everything that was
beautiful, or grand, or elevating, reminded him of her--and what
higher compliment could a mistress have? If he listened to glorious
music, the voice of Beatrice spoke to him through the notes; if he
watched the clouds rolling in heavy pomp across a broken sky he
thought of Beatrice; if some chance poem or novel moved him, why
Beatrice was in his mind to share the pleasure. All of which was very
interesting, and in some ways delightful, but under our current system
not otherwise than inconvenient to a married man.
And now Beatrice was gone, and he must come back to his daily toil,
sweetened by Honoria's bitter complaints of their poverty, and see her
no more. The thought made Geoffrey's heart ache with a physical pain,
but his reason told him that it was best so. After all, there were no
bones broken; there had been no love scenes, no kiss, no words that
cannot be recalled; whatever there was lay beneath the surface, and
while appearances were kept up all was well. No doubt it was an
hypocrisy, but then hypocrisy is one of the great pillars of
civilization, and how does it matter what the heart says while the
lips are silent? The Recording Angel can alone read hearts, and he
must often find them singularly contradictory and untrustworthy
Die of them, die of her dreams! No, Beatrice would not die of them,
and certainly he should not. Probably in the end she would marry that
pious earthly lump, Owen Davies. It was not pleasant to think of, it
was even dreadful, but really if she were to ask him his opinion, "as
a friend," he should tell her it was the best thing that she could do.
Of course it would be hypocrisy again, the lips would give his heart
the lie; but when the heart rises in rebellion against the
intelligence it must be suppressed. Unfortunately, however, though a
small member, it is very strong.
They reached London at last, and as had been arranged, Anne, the
French /bonne/, met them at the station to take Effie home. Geoffrey
noticed that she looked smarter and less to his taste than ever.
However, she embraced Effie with an enthusiasm which the child
scarcely responded to, and at the same time carried on an ocular
flirtation with a ticket collector. Although early in the year for
yellow fogs, London was plunged in a dense gloom. It had been misty
that morning at Bryngelly, and become more and more so as the day
advanced; but, though it was not yet four o'clock, London was dark as
night. Luckily, however, it is not far from Paddington to the flat
near the Edgware Road, where Geoffrey lived, so having personally
instructed the cabman, he left Anne to convoy Effie and the luggage,
and went on to the Temple by Underground Railway with an easy mind.
Shortly after Geoffrey reached his chambers in Pump Court the
solicitor arrived as had been arranged, not his uncle--who was, he
learned, very unwell--but a partner. To his delight he then found that
Beatrice's ghost theory was perfectly accurate; the boy with the
missing toe-joint had been discovered who saw the whole horrible
tragedy through a crack in the blind; moreover the truth had been
wrung from him and he would be produced at the trial--indeed a proof
of his evidence was already forthcoming. Also some specimens of the
ex-lawyer's clerk's handwriting had been obtained, and were declared
by two experts to be identical with the writing on the will. One
thing, however, disturbed him: neither the Attorney-General nor Mr.
Candleton was yet in town, so no conference was possible that evening.
However, both were expected that night--the Attorney-General from
Devonshire and Mr. Candleton from the Continent; so the case being
first on the list, it was arranged that the conference should take
place at ten o'clock on the following morning.
On arriving home Geoffrey was informed that Lady Honoria was dressing,
and had left a message saying he must be quick and do likewise as a
gentleman was coming to dinner. Accordingly he went to his own room--
which was at the other end of the flat--and put on his dress clothes.
Before going to the dining-room, however, he said good-night to Effie
--who was in bed, but not asleep--and asked her what time she had
"At twenty minutes past five, daddy," Effie said promptly.
"Twenty minutes past five! Why, you don't mean to say that you were an
hour coming that little way! Did you get blocked in the fog?"
"No, daddy, but----"
"But what, dear?"
"Anne did tell me not to say!"
"But I tell you to say, dear--never mind Anne!"
"Anne stopped and talked to the ticket-man for a long, long time."
"Oh, did she?" he said.
At that moment the parlourmaid came to say that Lady Honoria and the
"gentleman" were waiting for dinner. Geoffrey asked her casually what
time Miss Effie had reached home.
"About half-past five, sir. Anne said the cab was blocked in the fog."
"Very well. Tell her ladyship that I shall be down in a minute."
"Daddy," said the child, "I haven't said my prayers. Mother did not
come, and Anne said it was all nonsense about prayers. Auntie did
always hear me my prayers."
"Yes, dear, and so will I. There, kneel upon my lap and say them."
In the middle of the prayers--which Effie did not remember as well as
she might have done--the parlourmaid arrived again.
"Please, sir, her ladyship----"
"Tell her ladyship I am coming, and that if she is in a hurry she can
go to dinner! Go on, love."
Then he kissed her and put her to bed again.
"Daddy," said Effie, as he was going, "shall I see auntie Beatrice any
"I hope so, dear."
"And shall you see her any more? You want to see her, don't you,
daddy? She did love you very much!"
Geoffrey could bear it no longer. The truth is always sharper when it
comes from the mouth of babes and sucklings. With a hurried good-night
In the little drawing-room he found Lady Honoria, very well dressed,
and also her friend, whose name was Mr. Dunstan. Geoffrey knew him at
once for an exceedingly wealthy man of small birth, and less breeding,
but a burning and a shining light in the Garsington set. Mr. Dunstan
was anxious to raise himself in society, and he thought that
notwithstanding her poverty, Lady Honoria might be useful to him in
this respect. Hence his presence there to-night.
"How do you do, Geoffrey?" said his wife, advancing to greet him with
a kiss of peace. "You look very well. But what an immense time you
have been dressing. Poor Mr. Dunstan is starving. Let me see. You know
Mr. Dunstan, I think. Dinner, Mary."
Geoffrey apologised for being late, and shook hands politely with Mr.
Dunstan--Saint Dunstan he was generally called on account of his
rather clerical appearance and in sarcastic allusion to his somewhat
shady reputation. Then they went in to dinner.
"Sorry there is no lady for you, Geoffrey; but you must have had
plenty of ladies' society lately. By the way, how is Miss--Miss
Granger? Would you believe it, Mr. Dunstan? that shocking husband of
mine has been passing the last month in the company of one of the
loveliest girls I ever saw, who knows Latin and law and everything
else under the sun. She began by saving his life, they were upset
together out of a canoe, you know. Isn't it romantic?"