Part 1 out of 9
I. THE EVENTS OF THIRTY YEARS
II. THE EVENTS OF A FORTNIGHT
III. THE EVENTS OF EIGHT DAYS
IV. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
V. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
VI. THE EVENTS OF TWELVE HOURS
VII. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS
VIII. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS
IX. THE EVENTS OF TEN WEEKS
X. THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT
XI. THE EVENTS OF FIVE DAYS
XII. THE EVENTS OF TEN MONTHS
XIII. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
XIV. THE EVENTS OF FIVE WEEKS
XV. THE EVENTS OF THREE WEEKS
XVI. THE EVENTS OF ONE WEEK
XVII. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
XVIII. THE EVENTS OF THREE DAYS
XIX. THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT
XX. THE EVENTS OF THREE HOURS
XXI. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN HOURS
The following story, the first published by the author, was written
nineteen years ago, at a time when he was feeling his way to a
method. The principles observed in its composition are, no doubt,
too exclusively those in which mystery, entanglement, surprise, and
moral obliquity are depended on for exciting interest; but some of
the scenes, and at least one of the characters, have been deemed not
unworthy of a little longer preservation; and as they could hardly
be reproduced in a fragmentary form the novel is reissued complete--
the more readily that it has for some considerable time been
reprinted and widely circulated in America.
To the foregoing note I have only to add that, in the present
edition of 'Desperate Remedies,' some Wessex towns and other places
that are common to the scenes of several of these stories have been
called for the first time by the names under which they appear
elsewhere, for the satisfaction of any reader who may care for
consistency in such matters.
This is the only material change; for, as it happened that certain
characteristics which provoked most discussion in my latest story
were present in this my first--published in 1871, when there was no
French name for them it has seemed best to let them stand unaltered.
I. THE EVENTS OF THIRTY YEARS
1. DECEMBER AND JANUARY, 1835-36
In the long and intricately inwrought chain of circumstance which
renders worthy of record some experiences of Cytherea Graye, Edward
Springrove, and others, the first event directly influencing the
issue was a Christmas visit.
In the above-mentioned year, 1835, Ambrose Graye, a young architect
who had just begun the practice of his profession in the midland
town of Hocbridge, to the north of Christminster, went to London to
spend the Christmas holidays with a friend who lived in Bloomsbury.
They had gone up to Cambridge in the same year, and, after
graduating together, Huntway, the friend, had taken orders.
Graye was handsome, frank, and gentle. He had a quality of thought
which, exercised on homeliness, was humour; on nature,
picturesqueness; on abstractions, poetry. Being, as a rule,
broadcast, it was all three.
Of the wickedness of the world he was too forgetful. To discover
evil in a new friend is to most people only an additional
experience: to him it was ever a surprise.
While in London he became acquainted with a retired officer in the
Navy named Bradleigh, who, with his wife and their daughter, lived
in a street not far from Russell Square. Though they were in no
more than comfortable circumstances, the captain's wife came of an
ancient family whose genealogical tree was interlaced with some of
the most illustrious and well-known in the kingdom.
The young lady, their daughter, seemed to Graye by far the most
beautiful and queenly being he had ever beheld. She was about
nineteen or twenty, and her name was Cytherea. In truth she was not
so very unlike country girls of that type of beauty, except in one
respect. She was perfect in her manner and bearing, and they were
not. A mere distinguishing peculiarity, by catching the eye, is
often read as the pervading characteristic, and she appeared to him
no less than perfection throughout--transcending her rural rivals in
very nature. Graye did a thing the blissfulness of which was only
eclipsed by its hazardousness. He loved her at first sight.
His introductions had led him into contact with Cytherea and her
parents two or three times on the first week of his arrival in
London, and accident and a lover's contrivance brought them together
as frequently the week following. The parents liked young Graye,
and having few friends (for their equals in blood were their
superiors in position), he was received on very generous terms. His
passion for Cytherea grew not only strong, but ineffably exalted:
she, without positively encouraging him, tacitly assented to his
schemes for being near her. Her father and mother seemed to have
lost all confidence in nobility of birth, without money to give
effect to its presence, and looked upon the budding consequence of
the young people's reciprocal glances with placidity, if not actual
Graye's whole impassioned dream terminated in a sad and
unaccountable episode. After passing through three weeks of sweet
experience, he had arrived at the last stage--a kind of moral Gaza--
before plunging into an emotional desert. The second week in
January had come round, and it was necessary for the young architect
to leave town.
Throughout his acquaintanceship with the lady of his heart there had
been this marked peculiarity in her love: she had delighted in his
presence as a sweetheart should do, yet from first to last she had
repressed all recognition of the true nature of the thread which
drew them together, blinding herself to its meaning and only natural
tendency, and appearing to dread his announcement of them. The
present seemed enough for her without cumulative hope: usually,
even if love is in itself an end, it must be regarded as a beginning
to be enjoyed.
In spite of evasions as an obstacle, and in consequence of them as a
spur, he would put the matter off no longer. It was evening. He
took her into a little conservatory on the landing, and there among
the evergreens, by the light of a few tiny lamps, infinitely
enhancing the freshness and beauty of the leaves, he made the
declaration of a love as fresh and beautiful as they.
'My love--my darling, be my wife!'
She seemed like one just awakened. 'Ah--we must part now!' she
faltered, in a voice of anguish. 'I will write to you.' She
loosened her hand and rushed away.
In a wild fever Graye went home and watched for the next morning.
Who shall express his misery and wonder when a note containing these
words was put into his hand?
'Good-bye; good-bye for ever. As recognized lovers something
divides us eternally. Forgive me--I should have told you before;
but your love was sweet! Never mention me.'
That very day, and as it seemed, to put an end to a painful
condition of things, daughter and parents left London to pay off a
promised visit to a relative in a western county. No message or
letter of entreaty could wring from her any explanation. She begged
him not to follow her, and the most bewildering point was that her
father and mother appeared, from the tone of a letter Graye received
from them, as vexed and sad as he at this sudden renunciation. One
thing was plain: without admitting her reason as valid, they knew
what that reason was, and did not intend to reveal it.
A week from that day Ambrose Graye left his friend Huntway's house
and saw no more of the Love he mourned. From time to time his
friend answered any inquiry Graye made by letter respecting her.
But very poor food to a lover is intelligence of a mistress filtered
through a friend. Huntway could tell nothing definitely. He said
he believed there had been some prior flirtation between Cytherea
and her cousin, an officer of the line, two or three years before
Graye met her, which had suddenly been terminated by the cousin's
departure for India, and the young lady's travelling on the
Continent with her parents the whole of the ensuing summer, on
account of delicate health. Eventually Huntway said that
circumstances had rendered Graye's attachment more hopeless still.
Cytherea's mother had unexpectedly inherited a large fortune and
estates in the west of England by the rapid fall of some intervening
lives. This had caused their removal from the small house in
Bloomsbury, and, as it appeared, a renunciation of their old friends
in that quarter.
Young Graye concluded that his Cytherea had forgotten him and his
love. But he could not forget her.
2. FROM 1843 TO 1861
Eight years later, feeling lonely and depressed--a man without
relatives, with many acquaintances but no friends--Ambrose Graye met
a young lady of a different kind, fairly endowed with money and good
gifts. As to caring very deeply for another woman after the loss of
Cytherea, it was an absolute impossibility with him. With all, the
beautiful things of the earth become more dear as they elude
pursuit; but with some natures utter elusion is the one special
event which will make a passing love permanent for ever.
This second young lady and Graye were married. That he did not,
first or last, love his wife as he should have done, was known to
all; but few knew that his unmanageable heart could never be weaned
from useless repining at the loss of its first idol.
His character to some extent deteriorated, as emotional
constitutions will under the long sense of disappointment at having
missed their imagined destiny. And thus, though naturally of a
gentle and pleasant disposition, he grew to be not so tenderly
regarded by his acquaintances as it is the lot of some of those
persons to be. The winning and sanguine receptivity of his early
life developed by degrees a moody nervousness, and when not
picturing prospects drawn from baseless hope he was the victim of
indescribable depression. The practical issue of such a condition
was improvidence, originally almost an unconscious improvidence, for
every debt incurred had been mentally paid off with a religious
exactness from the treasures of expectation before mentioned. But
as years revolved, the same course was continued from the lack of
spirit sufficient for shifting out of an old groove when it has been
found to lead to disaster.
In the year 1861 his wife died, leaving him a widower with two
children. The elder, a son named Owen, now just turned seventeen,
was taken from school, and initiated as pupil to the profession of
architect in his father's office. The remaining child was a
daughter, and Owen's junior by a year.
Her christian name was Cytherea, and it is easy to guess why.
3. OCTOBER THE TWELFTH, 1863
We pass over two years in order to reach the next cardinal event of
these persons' lives. The scene is still the Grayes' native town of
Hocbridge, but as it appeared on a Monday afternoon in the month of
The weather was sunny and dry, but the ancient borough was to be
seen wearing one of its least attractive aspects. First on account
of the time. It was that stagnant hour of the twenty-four when the
practical garishness of Day, having escaped from the fresh long
shadows and enlivening newness of the morning, has not yet made any
perceptible advance towards acquiring those mellow and soothing
tones which grace its decline. Next, it was that stage in the
progress of the week when business--which, carried on under the
gables of an old country place, is not devoid of a romantic sparkle-
-was well-nigh extinguished. Lastly, the town was intentionally
bent upon being attractive by exhibiting to an influx of visitors
the local talent for dramatic recitation, and provincial towns
trying to be lively are the dullest of dull things.
Little towns are like little children in this respect, that they
interest most when they are enacting native peculiarities
unconscious of beholders. Discovering themselves to be watched they
attempt to be entertaining by putting on an antic, and produce
disagreeable caricatures which spoil them.
The weather-stained clock-face in the low church tower standing at
the intersection of the three chief streets was expressing half-past
two to the Town Hall opposite, where the much talked-of reading from
Shakespeare was about to begin. The doors were open, and those
persons who had already assembled within the building were noticing
the entrance of the new-comers--silently criticizing their dress--
questioning the genuineness of their teeth and hair--estimating
their private means.
Among these later ones came an exceptional young maiden who glowed
amid the dulness like a single bright-red poppy in a field of brown
stubble. She wore an elegant dark jacket, lavender dress, hat with
grey strings and trimmings, and gloves of a colour to harmonize.
She lightly walked up the side passage of the room, cast a slight
glance around, and entered the seat pointed out to her.
The young girl was Cytherea Graye; her age was now about eighteen.
During her entry, and at various times whilst sitting in her seat
and listening to the reader on the platform, her personal appearance
formed an interesting subject of study for several neighbouring
Her face was exceedingly attractive, though artistically less
perfect than her figure, which approached unusually near to the
standard of faultlessness. But even this feature of hers yielded
the palm to the gracefulness of her movement, which was fascinating
and delightful to an extreme degree.
Indeed, motion was her speciality, whether shown on its most
extended scale of bodily progression, or minutely, as in the
uplifting of her eyelids, the bending of her fingers, the pouting of
her lip. The carriage of her head--motion within motion--a glide
upon a glide--was as delicate as that of a magnetic needle. And
this flexibility and elasticity had never been taught her by rule,
nor even been acquired by observation, but, nullo cultu, had
naturally developed itself with her years. In childhood, a stone or
stalk in the way, which had been the inevitable occasion of a fall
to her playmates, had usually left her safe and upright on her feet
after the narrowest escape by oscillations and whirls for the
preservation of her balance. At mixed Christmas parties, when she
numbered but twelve or thirteen years, and was heartily despised on
that account by lads who deemed themselves men, her apt lightness in
the dance covered this incompleteness in her womanhood, and
compelled the self-same youths in spite of resolutions to seize upon
her childish figure as a partner whom they could not afford to
contemn. And in later years, when the instincts of her sex had
shown her this point as the best and rarest feature in her external
self, she was not found wanting in attention to the cultivation of
finish in its details.
Her hair rested gaily upon her shoulders in curls and was of a
shining corn yellow in the high lights, deepening to a definite nut-
brown as each curl wound round into the shade. She had eyes of a
sapphire hue, though rather darker than the gem ordinarily appears;
they possessed the affectionate and liquid sparkle of loyalty and
good faith as distinguishable from that harder brightness which
seems to express faithfulness only to the object confronting them.
But to attempt to gain a view of her--or indeed of any fascinating
woman--from a measured category, is as difficult as to appreciate
the effect of a landscape by exploring it at night with a lantern--
or of a full chord of music by piping the notes in succession.
Nevertheless it may readily be believed from the description here
ventured, that among the many winning phases of her aspect, these
were particularly striking:--
During pleasant doubt, when her eyes brightened stealthily and
smiled (as eyes will smile) as distinctly as her lips, and in the
space of a single instant expressed clearly the whole round of
degrees of expectancy which lie over the wide expanse between Yea
During the telling of a secret, which was involuntarily
accompanied by a sudden minute start, and ecstatic pressure of the
listener's arm, side, or neck, as the position and degree of
When anxiously regarding one who possessed her affections.
She suddenly assumed the last-mentioned bearing in the progress of
the present entertainment. Her glance was directed out of the
Why the particulars of a young lady's presence at a very mediocre
performance were prevented from dropping into the oblivion which
their intrinsic insignificance would naturally have involved--why
they were remembered and individualized by herself and others
through after years--was simply that she unknowingly stood, as it
were, upon the extreme posterior edge of a tract in her life, in
which the real meaning of Taking Thought had never been known. It
was the last hour of experience she ever enjoyed with a mind
entirely free from a knowledge of that labyrinth into which she
stepped immediately afterwards--to continue a perplexed course along
its mazes for the greater portion of twenty-nine subsequent months.
The Town Hall, in which Cytherea sat, was a building of brown stone,
and through one of the windows could be seen from the interior of
the room the housetops and chimneys of the adjacent street, and also
the upper part of a neighbouring church spire, now in course of
completion under the superintendence of Miss Graye's father, the
architect to the work.
That the top of this spire should be visible from her position in
the room was a fact which Cytherea's idling eyes had discovered with
some interest, and she was now engaged in watching the scene that
was being enacted about its airy summit. Round the conical
stonework rose a cage of scaffolding against the blue sky, and upon
this stood five men--four in clothes as white as the new erection
close beneath their hands, the fifth in the ordinary dark suit of a
The four working-men in white were three masons and a mason's
labourer. The fifth man was the architect, Mr. Graye. He had been
giving directions as it seemed, and retiring as far as the narrow
footway allowed, stood perfectly still.
The picture thus presented to a spectator in the Town Hall was
curious and striking. It was an illuminated miniature, framed in by
the dark margin of the window, the keen-edged shadiness of which
emphasized by contrast the softness of the objects enclosed.
The height of the spire was about one hundred and twenty feet, and
the five men engaged thereon seemed entirely removed from the sphere
and experiences of ordinary human beings. They appeared little
larger than pigeons, and made their tiny movements with a soft,
spirit-like silentness. One idea above all others was conveyed to
the mind of a person on the ground by their aspect, namely,
concentration of purpose: that they were indifferent to--even
unconscious of--the distracted world beneath them, and all that
moved upon it. They never looked off the scaffolding.
Then one of them turned; it was Mr. Graye. Again he stood
motionless, with attention to the operations of the others. He
appeared to be lost in reflection, and had directed his face towards
a new stone they were lifting.
'Why does he stand like that?' the young lady thought at length--up
to that moment as listless and careless as one of the ancient
Tarentines, who, on such an afternoon as this, watched from the
Theatre the entry into their Harbour of a power that overturned the
She moved herself uneasily. 'I wish he would come down,' she
whispered, still gazing at the skybacked picture. 'It is so
dangerous to be absent-minded up there.'
When she had done murmuring the words her father indecisively laid
hold of one of the scaffold-poles, as if to test its strength, then
let it go and stepped back. In stepping, his foot slipped. An
instant of doubling forward and sideways, and he reeled off into the
air, immediately disappearing downwards.
His agonized daughter rose to her feet by a convulsive movement.
Her lips parted, and she gasped for breath. She could utter no
sound. One by one the people about her, unconscious of what had
happened, turned their heads, and inquiry and alarm became visible
upon their faces at the sight of the poor child. A moment longer,
and she fell to the floor,
The next impression of which Cytherea had any consciousness was of
being carried from a strange vehicle across the pavement to the
steps of her own house by her brother and an older man.
Recollection of what had passed evolved itself an instant later, and
just as they entered the door--through which another and sadder
burden had been carried but a few instants before--her eyes caught
sight of the south-western sky, and, without heeding, saw white
sunlight shining in shaft-like lines from a rift in a slaty cloud.
Emotions will attach themselves to scenes that are simultaneous--
however foreign in essence these scenes may be--as chemical waters
will crystallize on twigs and wires. Even after that time any
mental agony brought less vividly to Cytherea's mind the scene from
the Town Hall windows than sunlight streaming in shaft-like lines.
4. OCTOBER THE NINETEENTH
When death enters a house, an element of sadness and an element of
horror accompany it. Sadness, from the death itself: horror, from
the clouds of blackness we designedly labour to introduce.
The funeral had taken place. Depressed, yet resolved in his
demeanour, Owen Graye sat before his father's private escritoire,
engaged in turning out and unfolding a heterogeneous collection of
papers--forbidding and inharmonious to the eye at all times--most of
all to one under the influence of a great grief. Laminae of white
paper tied with twine were indiscriminately intermixed with other
white papers bounded by black edges--these with blue foolscap
wrapped round with crude red tape.
The bulk of these letters, bills, and other documents were submitted
to a careful examination, by which the appended particulars were
First, that their father's income from professional sources had
been very small, amounting to not more than half their expenditure;
and that his own and his wife's property, upon which he had relied
for the balance, had been sunk and lost in unwise loans to
unscrupulous men, who had traded upon their father's too open-
Second, that finding his mistake, he had endeavoured to regain
his standing by the illusory path of speculation. The most notable
instance of this was the following. He had been induced, when at
Plymouth in the autumn of the previous year, to venture all his
spare capital on the bottomry security of an Italian brig which had
put into the harbour in distress. The profit was to be
considerable, so was the risk. There turned out to be no security
whatever. The circumstances of the case tendered it the most
unfortunate speculation that a man like himself--ignorant of all
such matters--could possibly engage in. The vessel went down, and
all Mr. Graye's money with it.
Third, that these failures had left him burdened with debts he
knew not how to meet; so that at the time of his death even the few
pounds lying to his account at the bank were his only in name.
Fourth, that the loss of his wife two years earlier had
awakened him to a keen sense of his blindness, and of his duty by
his children. He had then resolved to reinstate by unflagging zeal
in the pursuit of his profession, and by no speculation, at least a
portion of the little fortune he had let go.
Cytherea was frequently at her brother's elbow during these
examinations. She often remarked sadly--
'Poor papa failed to fulfil his good intention for want of time,
didn't he, Owen? And there was an excuse for his past, though he
never would claim it. I never forget that original disheartening
blow, and how that from it sprang all the ills of his life--
everything connected with his gloom, and the lassitude in business
we used so often to see about him.'
'I remember what he said once,' returned the brother, 'when I sat up
late with him. He said, "Owen, don't love too blindly: blindly you
will love if you love at all, but a little care is still possible to
a well-disciplined heart. May that heart be yours as it was not
mine," father said. "Cultivate the art of renunciation." And I am
going to, Cytherea.'
'And once mamma said that an excellent woman was papa's ruin,
because he did not know the way to give her up when he had lost her.
I wonder where she is now, Owen? We were told not to try to find
out anything about her. Papa never told us her name, did he?'
'That was by her own request, I believe. But never mind her; she
was not our mother.'
The love affair which had been Ambrose Graye's disheartening blow
was precisely of that nature which lads take little account of, but
girls ponder in their hearts.
5. FROM OCTOBER THE NINETEENTH TO JULY THE NINTH
Thus Ambrose Graye's good intentions with regard to the
reintegration of his property had scarcely taken tangible form when
his sudden death put them for ever out of his power.
Heavy bills, showing the extent of his obligations, tumbled in
immediately upon the heels of the funeral from quarters previously
unheard and unthought of. Thus pressed, a bill was filed in
Chancery to have the assets, such as they were, administered by the
'What will become of us now?' thought Owen continually.
There is in us an unquenchable expectation, which at the gloomiest
time persists in inferring that because we are OURSELVES, there must
be a special future in store for us, though our nature and
antecedents to the remotest particular have been common to
thousands. Thus to Cytherea and Owen Graye the question how their
lives would end seemed the deepest of possible enigmas. To others
who knew their position equally well with themselves the question
was the easiest that could be asked--'Like those of other people
Then Owen held a consultation with his sister to come to some
decision on their future course, and a month was passed in waiting
for answers to letters, and in the examination of schemes more or
less futile. Sudden hopes that were rainbows to the sight proved
but mists to the touch. In the meantime, unpleasant remarks,
disguise them as some well-meaning people might, were floating
around them every day. The undoubted truth, that they were the
children of a dreamer who let slip away every farthing of his money
and ran into debt with his neighbours--that the daughter had been
brought up to no profession--that the son who had, had made no
progress in it, and might come to the dogs--could not from the
nature of things be wrapped up in silence in order that it might not
hurt their feelings; and as a matter of fact, it greeted their ears
in some form or other wherever they went. Their few acquaintances
passed them hurriedly. Ancient pot-wallopers, and thriving
shopkeepers, in their intervals of leisure, stood at their shop-
doors--their toes hanging over the edge of the step, and their obese
waists hanging over their toes--and in discourses with friends on
the pavement, formulated the course of the improvident, and reduced
the children's prospects to a shadow-like attenuation. The sons of
these men (who wore breastpins of a sarcastic kind, and smoked
humorous pipes) stared at Cytherea with a stare unmitigated by any
of the respect that had formerly softened it.
Now it is a noticeable fact that we do not much mind what men think
of us, or what humiliating secret they discover of our means,
parentage, or object, provided that each thinks and acts thereupon
in isolation. It is the exchange of ideas about us that we dread
most; and the possession by a hundred acquaintances, severally
insulated, of the knowledge of our skeleton-closet's whereabouts, is
not so distressing to the nerves as a chat over it by a party of
half-a-dozen--exclusive depositaries though these may be.
Perhaps, though Hocbridge watched and whispered, its animus would
have been little more than a trifle to persons in thriving
circumstances. But unfortunately, poverty, whilst it is new, and
before the skin has had time to thicken, makes people susceptible
inversely to their opportunities for shielding themselves. In Owen
was found, in place of his father's impressibility, a larger share
of his father's pride, and a squareness of idea which, if coupled
with a little more blindness, would have amounted to positive
prejudice. To him humanity, so far as he had thought of it at all,
was rather divided into distinct classes than blended from extreme
to extreme. Hence by a sequence of ideas which might be traced if
it were worth while, he either detested or respected opinion, and
instinctively sought to escape a cold shade that mere sensitiveness
would have endured. He could have submitted to separation,
sickness, exile, drudgery, hunger and thirst, with stoical
indifference, but superciliousness was too incisive.
After living on for nine months in attempts to make an income as his
father's successor in the profession--attempts which were utterly
fruitless by reason of his inexperience--Graye came to a simple and
sweeping resolution. They would privately leave that part of
England, drop from the sight of acquaintances, gossips, harsh
critics, and bitter creditors of whose misfortune he was not the
cause, and escape the position which galled him by the only road
their great poverty left open to them--that of his obtaining some
employment in a distant place by following his profession as a
He thought over his capabilities with the sensations of a soldier
grinding his sword at the opening of a campaign. What with lack of
employment, owing to the decrease of his late father's practice, and
the absence of direct and uncompromising pressure towards monetary
results from a pupil's labour (which seems to be always the case
when a professional man's pupil is also his son), Owen's progress in
the art and science of architecture had been very insignificant
indeed. Though anything but an idle young man, he had hardly
reached the age at which industrious men who lack an external whip
to send them on in the world, are induced by their own common sense
to whip on themselves. Hence his knowledge of plans, elevations,
sections, and specifications, was not greater at the end of two
years of probation than might easily have been acquired in six
months by a youth of average ability--himself, for instance--amid a
bustling London practice.
But at any rate he could make himself handy to one of the
profession--some man in a remote town--and there fulfil his
indentures. A tangible inducement lay in this direction of survey.
He had a slight conception of such a man--a Mr. Gradfield--who was
in practice in Budmouth Regis, a seaport town and watering-place in
the south of England.
After some doubts, Graye ventured to write to this gentleman, asking
the necessary question, shortly alluding to his father's death, and
stating that his term of apprenticeship had only half expired. He
would be glad to complete his articles at a very low salary for the
whole remaining two years, provided payment could begin at once.
The answer from Mr. Gradfield stated that he was not in want of a
pupil who would serve the remainder of his time on the terms Mr.
Graye mentioned. But he would just add one remark. He chanced to
be in want of some young man in his office--for a short time only,
probably about two months--to trace drawings, and attend to other
subsidiary work of the kind. If Mr. Graye did not object to occupy
such an inferior position as these duties would entail, and to
accept weekly wages which to one with his expectations would be
considered merely nominal, the post would give him an opportunity
for learning a few more details of the profession.
'It is a beginning, and, above all, an abiding-place, away from the
shadow of the cloud which hangs over us here--I will go,' said Owen.
Cytherea's plan for her future, an intensely simple one, owing to
the even greater narrowness of her resources, was already marked
out. One advantage had accrued to her through her mother's
possession of a fair share of personal property, and perhaps only
one. She had been carefully educated. Upon this consideration her
plan was based. She was to take up her abode in her brother's
lodging at Budmouth, when she would immediately advertise for a
situation as governess, having obtained the consent of a lawyer at
Aldbrickham who was winding up her father's affairs, and who knew
the history of her position, to allow himself to be referred to in
the matter of her past life and respectability.
Early one morning they departed from their native town, leaving
behind them scarcely a trace of their footsteps.
Then the town pitied their want of wisdom in taking such a step.
'Rashness; they would have made a better income in Hocbridge, where
they are known! There is no doubt that they would.'
But what is Wisdom really? A steady handling of any means to bring
about any end necessary to happiness.
Yet whether one's end be the usual end--a wealthy position in life--
or no, the name of wisdom is seldom applied but to the means to that
II. THE EVENTS OF A FORTNIGHT
1. THE NINTH OF JULY
The day of their departure was one of the most glowing that the
climax of a long series of summer heats could evolve. The wide
expanse of landscape quivered up and down like the flame of a taper,
as they steamed along through the midst of it. Placid flocks of
sheep reclining under trees a little way off appeared of a pale blue
colour. Clover fields were livid with the brightness of the sun
upon their deep red flowers. All waggons and carts were moved to
the shade by their careful owners, rain-water butts fell to pieces;
well-buckets were lowered inside the covers of the well-hole, to
preserve them from the fate of the butts, and generally, water
seemed scarcer in the country than the beer and cider of the
peasantry who toiled or idled there.
To see persons looking with children's eyes at any ordinary scenery,
is a proof that they possess the charming faculty of drawing new
sensations from an old experience--a healthy sign, rare in these
feverish days--the mark of an imperishable brightness of nature.
Both brother and sister could do this; Cytherea more noticeably.
They watched the undulating corn-lands, monotonous to all their
companions; the stony and clayey prospect succeeding those, with its
angular and abrupt hills. Boggy moors came next, now withered and
dry--the spots upon which pools usually spread their waters showing
themselves as circles of smooth bare soil, over-run by a net-work of
innumerable little fissures. Then arose plantations of firs,
abruptly terminating beside meadows cleanly mown, in which high-
hipped, rich-coloured cows, with backs horizontal and straight as
the ridge of a house, stood motionless or lazily fed. Glimpses of
the sea now interested them, which became more and more frequent
till the train finally drew up beside the platform at Budmouth.
'The whole town is looking out for us,' had been Graye's impression
throughout the day. He called upon Mr. Gradfield--the only man who
had been directly informed of his coming--and found that Mr.
Gradfield had forgotten it.
However, arrangements were made with this gentleman--a stout,
active, grey-bearded burgher of sixty--by which Owen was to commence
work in his office the following week.
The same day Cytherea drew up and sent off the advertisement
'A YOUNG LADY is desirous of meeting with an ENGAGEMENT as GOVERNESS
or COMPANION. She is competent to teach English, French, and Music.
Satisfactory references--Address, C. G., Post-Office, Budmouth.'
It seemed a more material existence than her own that she saw thus
delineated on the paper. 'That can't be myself; how odd I look!'
she said, and smiled.
2. JULY THE ELEVENTH
On the Monday subsequent to their arrival in Budmouth, Owen Graye
attended at Mr. Gradfield's office to enter upon his duties, and his
sister was left in their lodgings alone for the first time.
Despite the sad occurrences of the preceding autumn, an unwonted
cheerfulness pervaded her spirit throughout the day. Change of
scene--and that to untravelled eyes--conjoined with the sensation of
freedom from supervision, revived the sparkle of a warm young nature
ready enough to take advantage of any adventitious restoratives.
Point-blank grief tends rather to seal up happiness for a time than
to produce that attrition which results from griefs of anticipation
that move onward with the days: these may be said to furrow away
the capacity for pleasure.
Her expectations from the advertisement began to be extravagant. A
thriving family, who had always sadly needed her, was already
definitely pictured in her fancy, which, in its exuberance, led her
on to picturing its individual members, their possible
peculiarities, virtues, and vices, and obliterated for a time the
recollection that she would be separated from her brother.
Thus musing, as she waited for his return in the evening, her eyes
fell on her left hand. The contemplation of her own left fourth
finger by symbol-loving girlhood of this age is, it seems, very
frequently, if not always, followed by a peculiar train of romantic
ideas. Cytherea's thoughts, still playing about her future, became
directed into this romantic groove. She leant back in her chair,
and taking hold of the fourth finger, which had attracted her
attention, she lifted it with the tips of the others, and looked at
the smooth and tapering member for a long time.
She whispered idly, 'I wonder who and what he will be?
'If he's a gentleman of fashion, he will take my finger so, just
with the tips of his own, and with some fluttering of the heart, and
the least trembling of his lip, slip the ring so lightly on that I
shall hardly know it is there--looking delightfully into my eyes all
'If he's a bold, dashing soldier, I expect he will proudly turn
round, take the ring as if it equalled her Majesty's crown in value,
and desperately set it on my finger thus. He will fix his eyes
unflinchingly upon what he is doing--just as if he stood in battle
before the enemy (though, in reality, very fond of me, of course),
and blush as much as I shall.
'If he's a sailor, he will take my finger and the ring in this way,
and deck it out with a housewifely touch and a tenderness of
expression about his mouth, as sailors do: kiss it, perhaps, with a
simple air, as if we were children playing an idle game, and not at
the very height of observation and envy by a great crowd saying,
"Ah! they are happy now!"
'If he should be rather a poor man--noble-minded and affectionate,
but still poor--'
Owen's footsteps rapidly ascending the stairs, interrupted this
fancy-free meditation. Reproaching herself, even angry with herself
for allowing her mind to stray upon such subjects in the face of
their present desperate condition, she rose to meet him, and make
Cytherea's interest to know how her brother had been received at Mr.
Gradfield's broke forth into words at once. Almost before they had
sat down to table, she began cross-examining him in the regular
'Well, Owen, how has it been with you to-day? What is the place
like--do you think you will like Mr Gradfield?'
'O yes. But he has not been there to-day; I have only had the head
draughtsman with me.'
Young women have a habit, not noticeable in men, of putting on at a
moment's notice the drama of whosoever's life they choose.
Cytherea's interest was transferred from Mr. Gradfield to his
'What sort of a man is he?'
'He seems a very nice fellow indeed; though of course I can hardly
tell to a certainty as yet. But I think he's a very worthy fellow;
there's no nonsense in him, and though he is not a public school man
he has read widely, and has a sharp appreciation of what's good in
books and art. In fact, his knowledge isn't nearly so exclusive as
most professional men's.'
'That's a great deal to say of an architect, for of all professional
men they are, as a rule, the most professional.'
'Yes; perhaps they are. This man is rather of a melancholy turn of
mind, I think.'
'Has the managing clerk any family?' she mildly asked, after a
while, pouring out some more tea.
'Well, dear Owen, how should I know?'
'Why, of course he isn't married. But there happened to be a
conversation about women going on in the office, and I heard him say
what he should wish his wife to be like.'
'What would he wish his wife to be like?' she said, with great
apparent lack of interest.
'O, he says she must be girlish and artless: yet he would be loth
to do without a dash of womanly subtlety, 'tis so piquant. Yes, he
said, that must be in her; she must have womanly cleverness. "And
yet I should like her to blush if only a cock-sparrow were to look
at her hard," he said, "which brings me back to the girl again: and
so I flit backwards and forwards. I must have what comes, I
suppose," he said, "and whatever she may be, thank God she's no
worse. However, if he might give a final hint to Providence," he
said, "a child among pleasures, and a woman among pains was the
rough outline of his requirement."'
'Did he say that? What a musing creature he must be.'
'He did, indeed.'
3. FROM THE TWELFTH TO THE FIFTEENTH OF JULY
As is well known, ideas are so elastic in a human brain, that they
have no constant measure which may be called their actual bulk. Any
important idea may be compressed to a molecule by an unwonted
crowding of others; and any small idea will expand to whatever
length and breadth of vacuum the mind may be able to make over to
it. Cytherea's world was tolerably vacant at this time, and the
young architectural designer's image became very pervasive. The
next evening this subject was again renewed.
'His name is Springrove,' said Owen, in reply to her. 'He is a
thorough artist, but a man of rather humble origin, it seems, who
has made himself so far. I think he is the son of a farmer, or
something of the kind.'
'Well, he's none the worse for that, I suppose.'
'None the worse. As we come down the hill, we shall be continually
meeting people going up.' But Owen had felt that Springrove was a
little the worse nevertheless.
'Of course he's rather old by this time.'
'O no. He's about six-and-twenty--not more.'
'Ah, I see. . . . What is he like, Owen?'
'I can't exactly tell you his appearance: 'tis always such a
difficult thing to do.'
'A man you would describe as short? Most men are those we should
describe as short, I fancy.'
'I should call him, I think, of the middle height; but as I only see
him sitting in the office, of course I am not certain about his form
'I wish you were, then.'
'Perhaps you do. But I am not, you see.'
'Of course not, you are always so provoking. Owen, I saw a man in
the street to-day whom I fancied was he--and yet, I don't see how it
could be, either. He had light brown hair, a snub nose, very round
face, and a peculiar habit of reducing his eyes to straight lines
when he looked narrowly at anything.'
'O no. That was not he, Cytherea.'
'Not a bit like him in all probability.'
'Not a bit. He has dark hair--almost a Grecian nose, regular teeth,
and an intellectual face, as nearly as I can recall to mind.'
'Ah, there now, Owen, you HAVE described him! But I suppose he's
not generally called pleasing, or--'
'I scarcely meant that. But since you have said it, is he
'His tout ensemble is striking?'
'Yes--O no, no--I forgot: it is not. He is rather untidy in his
waistcoat, and neck-ties, and hair.'
'How vexing!. . . it must be to himself, poor thing.'
'He's a thorough bookworm--despises the pap-and-daisy school of
verse--knows Shakespeare to the very dregs of the foot-notes.
Indeed, he's a poet himself in a small way.'
'How delicious!' she said. 'I have never known a poet.'
'And you don't know him,' said Owen dryly.
She reddened. 'Of course I don't. I know that.'
'Have you received any answer to your advertisement?' he inquired.
'Ah--no!' she said, and the forgotten disappointment which had
showed itself in her face at different times during the day, became
Another day passed away. On Thursday, without inquiry, she learnt
more of the head draughtsman. He and Graye had become very
friendly, and he had been tempted to show her brother a copy of some
poems of his--some serious and sad--some humorous--which had
appeared in the poets' corner of a magazine from time to time. Owen
showed them now to Cytherea, who instantly began to read them
carefully and to think them very beautiful.
'Yes--Springrove's no fool,' said Owen sententiously.
'No fool!--I should think he isn't, indeed,' said Cytherea, looking
up from the paper in quite an excitement: 'to write such verses as
'What logic are you chopping, Cytherea? Well, I don't mean on
account of the verses, because I haven't read them; but for what he
said when the fellows were talking about falling in love.'
'Which you will tell me?'
'He says that your true lover breathlessly finds himself engaged to
a sweetheart, like a man who has caught something in the dark. He
doesn't know whether it is a bat or a bird, and takes it to the
light when he is cool to learn what it is. He looks to see if she
is the right age, but right age or wrong age, he must consider her a
prize. Sometime later he ponders whether she is the right kind of
prize for him. Right kind or wrong kind--he has called her his, and
must abide by it. After a time he asks himself, "Has she the
temper, hair, and eyes I meant to have, and was firmly resolved not
to do without?" He finds it is all wrong, and then comes the
'Do they marry and live happily?'
'Who? O, the supposed pair. I think he said--well, I really forget
what he said.'
'That IS stupid of you!' said the young lady with dismay.
'But he's a satirist--I don't think I care about him now.'
'There you are just wrong. He is not. He is, as I believe, an
impulsive fellow who has been made to pay the penalty of his
rashness in some love affair.'
Thus ended the dialogue of Thursday, but Cytherea read the verses
again in private. On Friday her brother remarked that Springrove
had informed him he was going to leave Mr. Gradfield's in a
fortnight to push his fortunes in London.
An indescribable feeling of sadness shot through Cytherea's heart.
Why should she be sad at such an announcement as that, she thought,
concerning a man she had never seen, when her spirits were elastic
enough to rebound after hard blows from deep and real troubles as if
she had scarcely known them? Though she could not answer this
question, she knew one thing, she was saddened by Owen's news.
4. JULY THE TWENTY-FIRST
A very popular local excursion by steamboat to Lulstead Cove was
announced through the streets of Budmouth one Thursday morning by
the weak-voiced town-crier, to start at six o'clock the same day.
The weather was lovely, and the opportunity being the first of the
kind offered to them, Owen and Cytherea went with the rest.
They had reached the Cove, and had walked landward for nearly an
hour over the hill which rose beside the strand, when Graye
recollected that two or three miles yet further inland from this
spot was an interesting mediaeval ruin. He was already familiar
with its characteristics through the medium of an archaeological
work, and now finding himself so close to the reality, felt inclined
to verify some theory he had formed respecting it. Concluding that
there would be just sufficient time for him to go there and return
before the boat had left the shore, he parted from Cytherea on the
hill, struck downwards, and then up a heathery valley.
She remained on the summit where he had left her till the time of
his expected return, scanning the details of the prospect around.
Placidly spread out before her on the south was the open Channel,
reflecting a blue intenser by many shades than that of the sky
overhead, and dotted in the foreground by half-a-dozen small craft
of contrasting rig, their sails graduating in hue from extreme
whiteness to reddish brown, the varying actual colours varied again
in a double degree by the rays of the declining sun.
Presently the distant bell from the boat was heard, warning the
passengers to embark. This was followed by a lively air from the
harps and violins on board, their tones, as they arose, becoming
intermingled with, though not marred by, the brush of the waves when
their crests rolled over--at the point where the check of the
shallows was first felt--and then thinned away up the slope of
pebbles and sand.
She turned her face landward and strained her eyes to discern, if
possible, some sign of Owen's return. Nothing was visible save the
strikingly brilliant, still landscape. The wide concave which lay
at the back of the hill in this direction was blazing with the
western light, adding an orange tint to the vivid purple of the
heather, now at the very climax of bloom, and free from the
slightest touch of the invidious brown that so soon creeps into its
shades. The light so intensified the colours that they seemed to
stand above the surface of the earth and float in mid-air like an
exhalation of red. In the minor valleys, between the hillocks and
ridges which diversified the contour of the basin, but did not
disturb its general sweep, she marked brakes of tall, heavy-stemmed
ferns, five or six feet high, in a brilliant light-green dress--a
broad riband of them with the path in their midst winding like a
stream along the little ravine that reached to the foot of the hill,
and delivered up the path to its grassy area. Among the ferns grew
holly bushes deeper in tint than any shadow about them, whilst the
whole surface of the scene was dimpled with small conical pits, and
here and there were round ponds, now dry, and half overgrown with
The last bell of the steamer rang. Cytherea had forgotten herself,
and what she was looking for. In a fever of distress lest Owen
should be left behind, she gathered up in her hand the corners of
her handkerchief, containing specimens of the shells, plants, and
fossils which the locality produced, started off to the sands, and
mingled with the knots of visitors there congregated from other
interesting points around; from the inn, the cottages, and hired
conveyances that had returned from short drives inland. They all
went aboard by the primitive plan of a narrow plank on two wheels--
the women being assisted by a rope. Cytherea lingered till the very
last, reluctant to follow, and looking alternately at the boat and
the valley behind. Her delay provoked a remark from Captain Jacobs,
a thickset man of hybrid stains, resulting from the mixed effects of
fire and water, peculiar to sailors where engines are the propelling
'Now then, missy, if you please. I am sorry to tell 'ee our time's
up. Who are you looking for, miss?'
'My brother--he has walked a short distance inland; he must be here
directly. Could you wait for him--just a minute?'
'Really, I am afraid not, m'm.' Cytherea looked at the stout,
round-faced man, and at the vessel, with a light in her eyes so
expressive of her own opinion being the same, on reflection, as his,
and with such resignation, too, that, from an instinctive feeling of
pride at being able to prove himself more humane than he was thought
to be--works of supererogation are the only sacrifices that entice
in this way--and that at a very small cost, he delayed the boat till
some among the passengers began to murmur.
'There, never mind,' said Cytherea decisively. 'Go on without me--I
shall wait for him.'
'Well, 'tis a very awkward thing to leave you here all alone,' said
the captain. 'I certainly advise you not to wait.'
'He's gone across to the railway station, for certain,' said another
'No--here he is!' Cytherea said, regarding, as she spoke, the half
hidden figure of a man who was seen advancing at a headlong pace
down the ravine which lay between the heath and the shore.
'He can't get here in less than five minutes,' a passenger said.
'People should know what they are about, and keep time. Really, if-
'You see, sir,' said the captain, in an apologetic undertone, 'since
'tis her brother, and she's all alone, 'tis only nater to wait a
minute, now he's in sight. Suppose, now, you were a young woman, as
might be, and had a brother, like this one, and you stood of an
evening upon this here wild lonely shore, like her, why you'd want
us to wait, too, wouldn't you, sir? I think you would.'
The person so hastily approaching had been lost to view during this
remark by reason of a hollow in the ground, and the projecting cliff
immediately at hand covered the path in its rise. His footsteps
were now heard striking sharply upon the flinty road at a distance
of about twenty or thirty yards, but still behind the escarpment.
To save time, Cytherea prepared to ascend the plank.
'Let me give you my hand, miss,' said Captain Jacobs.
'No--please don't touch me,' said she, ascending cautiously by
sliding one foot forward two or three inches, bringing up the other
behind it, and so on alternately--her lips compressed by
concentration on the feat, her eyes glued to the plank, her hand to
the rope, and her immediate thought to the fact of the distressing
narrowness of her footing. Steps now shook the lower end of the
board, and in an instant were up to her heels with a bound.
'O, Owen, I am so glad you are come!' she said without turning.
'Don't, don't shake the plank or touch me, whatever you do. . . .
There, I am up. Where have you been so long?' she continued, in a
lower tone, turning round to him as she reached the top.
Raising her eyes from her feet, which, standing on the firm deck,
demanded her attention no longer, she acquired perceptions of the
new-comer in the following order: unknown trousers; unknown
waistcoat; unknown face. The man was not her brother, but a total
Off went the plank; the paddles started, stopped, backed, pattered
in confusion, then revolved decisively, and the boat passed out into
One or two persons had said, 'How d'ye do, Mr. Springrove?' and
looked at Cytherea, to see how she bore her disappointment. Her
ears had but just caught the name of the head draughtsman, when she
saw him advancing directly to address her.
'Miss Graye, I believe?' he said, lifting his hat.
'Yes,' said Cytherea, colouring, and trying not to look guilty of a
surreptitious knowledge of him.
'I am Mr. Springrove. I passed Corvsgate Castle about an hour ago,
and soon afterwards met your brother going that way. He had been
deceived in the distance, and was about to turn without seeing the
ruin, on account of a lameness that had come on in his leg or foot.
I proposed that he should go on, since he had got so near; and
afterwards, instead of walking back to the boat, get across to
Anglebury Station--a shorter walk for him--where he could catch the
late train, and go directly home. I could let you know what he had
done, and allay any uneasiness.'
'Is the lameness serious, do you know?'
'O no; simply from over-walking himself. Still, it was just as well
to ride home.'
Relieved from her apprehensions on Owen's score, she was able
slightly to examine the appearance of her informant--Edward
Springrove--who now removed his hat for a while, to cool himself.
He was rather above her brother's height. Although the upper part
of his face and head was handsomely formed, and bounded by lines of
sufficiently masculine regularity, his brows were somewhat too
softly arched, and finely pencilled for one of his sex; without
prejudice, however, to the belief which the sum total of his
features inspired--that though they did not prove that the man who
thought inside them would do much in the world, men who had done
most of all had had no better ones. Across his forehead, otherwise
perfectly smooth, ran one thin line, the healthy freshness of his
remaining features expressing that it had come there prematurely.
Though some years short of the age at which the clear spirit bids
good-bye to the last infirmity of noble mind, and takes to house-
hunting and investments, he had reached the period in a young man's
life when episodic periods, with a hopeful birth and a disappointing
death, have begun to accumulate, and to bear a fruit of
generalities; his glance sometimes seeming to state, 'I have already
thought out the issue of such conditions as these we are
experiencing.' At other times he wore an abstracted look: 'I seem
to have lived through this moment before.'
He was carelessly dressed in dark grey, wearing a rolled-up black
kerchief as a neck-cloth; the knot of which was disarranged, and
stood obliquely--a deposit of white dust having lodged in the
'I am sorry for your disappointment,' he continued, glancing into
her face. Their eyes having met, became, as it were, mutually
locked together, and the single instant only which good breeding
allows as the length of such a look, became trebled: a clear
penetrating ray of intelligence had shot from each into each, giving
birth to one of those unaccountable sensations which carry home to
the heart before the hand has been touched or the merest compliment
passed, by something stronger than mathematical proof, the
conviction, 'A tie has begun to unite us.'
Both faces also unconsciously stated that their owners had been much
in each other's thoughts of late. Owen had talked to the young
architect of his sister as freely as to Cytherea of the young
A conversation began, which was none the less interesting to the
parties engaged because it consisted only of the most trivial and
commonplace remarks. Then the band of harps and violins struck up a
lively melody, and the deck was cleared for dancing; the sun dipping
beneath the horizon during the proceeding, and the moon showing
herself at their stern. The sea was so calm, that the soft hiss
produced by the bursting of the innumerable bubbles of foam behind
the paddles could be distinctly heard. The passengers who did not
dance, including Cytherea and Springrove, lapsed into silence,
leaning against the paddle-boxes, or standing aloof--noticing the
trembling of the deck to the steps of the dance--watching the waves
from the paddles as they slid thinly and easily under each other's
Night had quite closed in by the time they reached Budmouth harbour,
sparkling with its white, red, and green lights in opposition to the
shimmering path of the moon's reflection on the other side, which
reached away to the horizon till the flecked ripples reduced
themselves to sparkles as fine as gold dust.
'I will walk to the station and find out the exact time the train
arrives,' said Springrove, rather eagerly, when they had landed.
She thanked him much.
'Perhaps we might walk together,' he suggested hesitatingly. She
looked as if she did not quite know, and he settled the question by
showing the way.
They found, on arriving there, that on the first day of that month
the particular train selected for Graye's return had ceased to stop
at Anglebury station.
'I am very sorry I misled him,' said Springrove.
'O, I am not alarmed at all,' replied Cytherea.
'Well, it's sure to be all right--he will sleep there, and come by
the first in the morning. But what will you do, alone?'
'I am quite easy on that point; the landlady is very friendly. I
must go indoors now. Good-night, Mr. Springrove.'
'Let me go round to your door with you?' he pleaded.
'No, thank you; we live close by.'
He looked at her as a waiter looks at the change he brings back.
But she was inexorable.
'Don't--forget me,' he murmured. She did not answer.
'Let me see you sometimes,' he said.
'Perhaps you never will again--I am going away,' she replied in
lingering tones; and turning into Cross Street, ran indoors and
The sudden withdrawal of what was superfluous at first, is often
felt as an essential loss. It was felt now with regard to the
maiden. More, too, after a meeting so pleasant and so enkindling,
she had seemed to imply that they would never come together again.
The young man softly followed her, stood opposite the house and
watched her come into the upper room with the light. Presently his
gaze was cut short by her approaching the window and pulling down
the blind--Edward dwelling upon her vanishing figure with a hopeless
sense of loss akin to that which Adam is said by logicians to have
felt when he first saw the sun set, and thought, in his
inexperience, that it would return no more.
He waited till her shadow had twice crossed the window, when,
finding the charming outline was not to be expected again, he left
the street, crossed the harbour-bridge, and entered his own solitary
chamber on the other side, vaguely thinking as he went (for
'One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother.'
III. THE EVENTS OF EIGHT DAYS
1. FROM THE TWENTY-SECOND TO THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF JULY
But things are not what they seem. A responsive love for Edward
Springrove had made its appearance in Cytherea's bosom with all the
fascinating attributes of a first experience, not succeeding to or
displacing other emotions, as in older hearts, but taking up
entirely new ground; as when gazing just after sunset at the pale
blue sky we see a star come into existence where nothing was before.
His parting words, 'Don't forget me,' she repeated to herself a
hundred times, and though she thought their import was probably
commonplace, she could not help toying with them,--looking at them
from all points, and investing them with meanings of love and
faithfulness,--ostensibly entertaining such meanings only as fables
wherewith to pass the time, yet in her heart admitting, for detached
instants, a possibility of their deeper truth. And thus, for hours
after he had left her, her reason flirted with her fancy as a kitten
will sport with a dove, pleasantly and smoothly through easy
attitudes, but disclosing its cruel and unyielding nature at crises.
To turn now to the more material media through which this story
moves, it so happened that the very next morning brought round a
circumstance which, slight in itself, took up a relevant and
important position between the past and the future of the persons
At breakfast time, just as Cytherea had again seen the postman pass
without bringing her an answer to the advertisement, as she had
fully expected he would do, Owen entered the room.
'Well,' he said, kissing her, 'you have not been alarmed, of course.
Springrove told you what I had done, and you found there was no
'Yes, it was all clear. But what is the lameness owing to?'
'I don't know--nothing. It has quite gone off now . . . Cytherea,
I hope you like Springrove. Springrove's a nice fellow, you know.'
'Yes. I think he is, except that--'
'It happened just to the purpose that I should meet him there,
didn't it? And when I reached the station and learnt that I could
not get on by train my foot seemed better. I started off to walk
home, and went about five miles along a path beside the railway. It
then struck me that I might not be fit for anything today if I
walked and aggravated the bothering foot, so I looked for a place to
sleep at. There was no available village or inn, and I eventually
got the keeper of a gate-house, where a lane crossed the line, to
take me in.'
They proceeded with their breakfast. Owen yawned.
'You didn't get much sleep at the gate-house last night, I'm afraid,
Owen,' said his sister.
'To tell the truth, I didn't. I was in such very close and narrow
quarters. Those gate-houses are such small places, and the man had
only his own bed to offer me. Ah, by-the-bye, Cythie, I have such
an extraordinary thing to tell you in connection with this man!--by
Jove, I had nearly forgotten it! But I'll go straight on. As I was
saying, he had only his own bed to offer me, but I could not afford
to be fastidious, and as he had a hearty manner, though a very queer
one, I agreed to accept it, and he made a rough pallet for himself
on the floor close beside me. Well, I could not sleep for my life,
and I wished I had not stayed there, though I was so tired. For one
thing, there were the luggage trains rattling by at my elbow the
early part of the night. But worse than this, he talked continually
in his sleep, and occasionally struck out with his limbs at
something or another, knocking against the post of the bedstead and
making it tremble. My condition was altogether so unsatisfactory
that at last I awoke him, and asked him what he had been dreaming
about for the previous hour, for I could get no sleep at all. He
begged my pardon for disturbing me, but a name I had casually let
fall that evening had led him to think of another stranger he had
once had visit him, who had also accidentally mentioned the same
name, and some very strange incidents connected with that meeting.
The affair had occurred years and years ago; but what I had said had
made him think and dream about it as if it were but yesterday. What
was the word? I said. "Cytherea," he said. What was the story? I
asked then. He then told me that when he was a young man in London
he borrowed a few pounds to add to a few he had saved up, and opened
a little inn at Hammersmith. One evening, after the inn had been
open about a couple of months, every idler in the neighbourhood ran
off to Westminster. The Houses of Parliament were on fire.
'Not a soul remained in his parlour besides himself, and he began
picking up the pipes and glasses his customers had hastily
relinquished. At length a young lady about seventeen or eighteen
came in. She asked if a woman was there waiting for herself--Miss
Jane Taylor. He said no; asked the young lady if she would wait,
and showed her into the small inner room. There was a glass-pane in
the partition dividing this room from the bar to enable the landlord
to see if his visitors, who sat there, wanted anything. A curious
awkwardness and melancholy about the behaviour of the girl who
called, caused my informant to look frequently at her through the
partition. She seemed weary of her life, and sat with her face
buried in her hands, evidently quite out of her element in such a
house. Then a woman much older came in and greeted Miss Taylor by
name. The man distinctly heard the following words pass between
'"Why have you not brought him?"
'"He is ill; he is not likely to live through the night."
'At this announcement from the elderly woman, the young lady fell to
the floor in a swoon, apparently overcome by the news. The landlord
ran in and lifted her up. Well, do what they would they could not
for a long time bring her back to consciousness, and began to be
much alarmed. "Who is she?" the innkeeper said to the other woman.
"I know her," the other said, with deep meaning in her tone. The
elderly and young woman seemed allied, and yet strangers.
'She now showed signs of life, and it struck him (he was plainly of
an inquisitive turn), that in her half-bewildered state he might get
some information from her. He stooped over her, put his mouth to
her ear, and said sharply, "What's your name?" "To catch a woman
napping is difficult, even when she's half dead; but I did it," says
the gatekeeper. When he asked her her name, she said immediately--
'"Cytherea"--and stopped suddenly.'
'My own name!' said Cytherea.
'Yes--your name. Well, the gateman thought at the time it might be
equally with Jane a name she had invented for the occasion, that
they might not trace her; but I think it was truth unconsciously
uttered, for she added directly afterwards: "O, what have I said!"
and was quite overcome again--this time with fright. Her vexation
that the woman now doubted the genuineness of her other name was
very much greater than that the innkeeper did, and it is evident
that to blind the woman was her main object. He also learnt from
words the elderly woman casually dropped, that meetings of the same
kind had been held before, and that the falseness of the soi-disant
Miss Jane Taylor's name had never been suspected by this dependent
or confederate till then.
'She recovered, rested there for an hour, and first sending off her
companion peremptorily (which was another odd thing), she left the
house, offering the landlord all the money she had to say nothing
about the circumstance. He has never seen her since, according to
his own account. I said to him again and again, "Did you find any
more particulars afterwards?" "Not a syllable," he said. O, he
should never hear any more of that! too many years had passed since
it happened. "At any rate, you found out her surname?" I said.
"Well, well, that's my secret," he went on. "Perhaps I should never
have been in this part of the world if it hadn't been for that. I
failed as a publican, you know." I imagine the situation of gateman
was given him and his debts paid off as a bribe to silence; but I
can't say. "Ah, yes!" he said, with a long breath. "I have never
heard that name mentioned since that time till to-night, and then
there instantly rose to my eyes the vision of that young lady lying
in a fainting fit." He then stopped talking and fell asleep.
Telling the story must have relieved him as it did the Ancient
Mariner, for he did not move a muscle or make another sound for the
remainder of the night. Now isn't that an odd story?'
'It is indeed,' Cytherea murmured. 'Very, very strange.'
'Why should she have said your most uncommon name?' continued Owen.
'The man was evidently truthful, for there was not motive sufficient
for his invention of such a tale, and he could not have done it
Cytherea looked long at her brother. 'Don't you recognize anything
else in connection with the story?' she said.
'What?' he asked.
'Do you remember what poor papa once let drop--that Cytherea was the
name of his first sweetheart in Bloomsbury, who so mysteriously
renounced him? A sort of intuition tells me that this was the same
'O no--not likely,' said her brother sceptically.
'How not likely, Owen? There's not another woman of the name in
England. In what year used papa to say the event took place?'
'Eighteen hundred and thirty-five.'
'And when were the Houses of Parliament burnt?--stop, I can tell
you.' She searched their little stock of books for a list of dates,
and found one in an old school history.
'The Houses of Parliament were burnt down in the evening of the
sixteenth of October, eighteen hundred and thirty-four.'
'Nearly a year and a quarter before she met father,' remarked Owen.
They were silent. 'If papa had been alive, what a wonderful
absorbing interest this story would have had for him,' said Cytherea
by-and-by. 'And how strangely knowledge comes to us. We might have
searched for a clue to her secret half the world over, and never
found one. If we had really had any motive for trying to discover
more of the sad history than papa told us, we should have gone to
Bloomsbury; but not caring to do so, we go two hundred miles in the
opposite direction, and there find information waiting to be told
us. What could have been the secret, Owen?'
'Heaven knows. But our having heard a little more of her in this
way (if she is the same woman) is a mere coincidence after all--a
family story to tell our friends if we ever have any. But we shall
never know any more of the episode now--trust our fates for that.'
Cytherea sat silently thinking.
'There was no answer this morning to your advertisement, Cytherea?'
'I could see that by your looks when I came in.'
'Fancy not getting a single one,' she said sadly. 'Surely there
must be people somewhere who want governesses?'
'Yes; but those who want them, and can afford to have them, get them
mostly by friends' recommendations; whilst those who want them, and
can't afford to have them, make use of their poor relations.'
'What shall I do?'
'Never mind it. Go on living with me. Don't let the difficulty
trouble your mind so; you think about it all day. I can keep you,
Cythie, in a plain way of living. Twenty-five shillings a week do
not amount to much truly; but then many mechanics have no more, and
we live quite as sparingly as journeymen mechanics. . . It is a
meagre narrow life we are drifting into,' he added gloomily, 'but it
is a degree more tolerable than the worrying sensation of all the
world being ashamed of you, which we experienced at Hocbridge.'
'I couldn't go back there again,' she said.
'Nor I. O, I don't regret our course for a moment. We did quite
right in dropping out of the world.' The sneering tones of the
remark were almost too laboured to be real. 'Besides,' he
continued, 'something better for me is sure to turn up soon. I wish
my engagement here was a permanent one instead of for only two
months. It may, certainly, be for a longer time, but all is
'I wish I could get something to do; and I must too,' she said
firmly. 'Suppose, as is very probable, you are not wanted after the
beginning of October--the time Mr. Gradfield mentioned--what should
we do if I were dependent on you only throughout the winter?'
They pondered on numerous schemes by which a young lady might be
supposed to earn a decent livelihood--more or less convenient and
feasible in imagination, but relinquished them all until advertising
had been once more tried, this time taking lower ground. Cytherea
was vexed at her temerity in having represented to the world that so
inexperienced a being as herself was a qualified governess; and had
a fancy that this presumption of hers might be one reason why no
ladies applied. The new and humbler attempt appeared in the
'NURSERY GOVERNESS OR USEFUL COMPANION. A young person wishes to
hear of a situation in either of the above capacities. Salary very
moderate. She is a good needle-woman--Address G., 3 Cross Street,
In the evening they went to post the letter, and then walked up and
down the Parade for a while. Soon they met Springrove, said a few
words to him, and passed on. Owen noticed that his sister's face
had become crimson. Rather oddly they met Springrove again in a few
minutes. This time the three walked a little way together, Edward
ostensibly talking to Owen, though with a single thought to the
reception of his words by the maiden at the farther side, upon whom
his gaze was mostly resting, and who was attentively listening--
looking fixedly upon the pavement the while. It has been said that
men love with their eyes; women with their ears.
As Owen and himself were little more than acquaintances as yet, and
as Springrove was wanting in the assurance of many men of his age,
it now became necessary to wish his friends good-evening, or to find
a reason for continuing near Cytherea by saying some nice new thing.
He thought of a new thing; he proposed a pull across the bay. This
was assented to. They went to the pier; stepped into one of the
gaily painted boats moored alongside and sheered off. Cytherea sat
in the stern steering.
They rowed that evening; the next came, and with it the necessity of
rowing again. Then the next, and the next, Cytherea always sitting
in the stern with the tiller ropes in her hand. The curves of her
figure welded with those of the fragile boat in perfect
continuation, as she girlishly yielded herself to its heaving and
sinking, seeming to form with it an organic whole.
Then Owen was inclined to test his skill in paddling a canoe.
Edward did not like canoes, and the issue was, that, having seen
Owen on board, Springrove proposed to pull off after him with a pair
of sculls; but not considering himself sufficiently accomplished to
do finished rowing before a parade full of promenaders when there
was a little swell on, and with the rudder unshipped in addition, he
begged that Cytherea might come with him and steer as before. She
stepped in, and they floated along in the wake of her brother. Thus
passed the fifth evening on the water.
But the sympathetic pair were thrown into still closer
companionship, and much more exclusive connection.
2. JULY THE TWENTY-NINTH
It was a sad time for Cytherea--the last day of Springrove's
management at Gradfield's, and the last evening before his return
from Budmouth to his father's house, previous to his departure for
Graye had been requested by the architect to survey a plot of land
nearly twenty miles off, which, with the journey to and fro, would
occupy him the whole day, and prevent his returning till late in the
evening. Cytherea made a companion of her landlady to the extent of
sharing meals and sitting with her during the morning of her
brother's absence. Mid-day found her restless and miserable under
this arrangement. All the afternoon she sat alone, looking out of
the window for she scarcely knew whom, and hoping she scarcely knew
what. Half-past five o'clock came--the end of Springrove's official
day. Two minutes later Springrove walked by.
She endured her solitude for another half-hour, and then could
endure no longer. She had hoped--while affecting to fear--that
Edward would have found some reason or other for calling, but it
seemed that he had not. Hastily dressing herself she went out, when
the farce of an accidental meeting was repeated. Edward came upon
her in the street at the first turning, and, like the Great Duke
Ferdinand in 'The Statue and the Bust'--
'He looked at her as a lover can;
She looked at him as one who awakes--
The past was a sleep, and her life began.'
'Shall we have a boat?' he said impulsively.
How blissful it all is at first. Perhaps, indeed, the only bliss in
the course of love which can truly be called Eden-like is that which
prevails immediately after doubt has ended and before reflection has
set in--at the dawn of the emotion, when it is not recognized by
name, and before the consideration of what this love is, has given
birth to the consideration of what difficulties it tends to create;
when on the man's part, the mistress appears to the mind's eye in
picturesque, hazy, and fresh morning lights, and soft morning
shadows; when, as yet, she is known only as the wearer of one dress,
which shares her own personality; as the stander in one special
position, the giver of one bright particular glance, and the speaker
of one tender sentence; when, on her part, she is timidly careful
over what she says and does, lest she should be misconstrued or
under-rated to the breadth of a shadow of a hair.
'Shall we have a boat?' he said again, more softly, seeing that to
his first question she had not answered, but looked uncertainly at
the ground, then almost, but not quite, in his face, blushed a
series of minute blushes, left off in the midst of them, and showed
the usual signs of perplexity in a matter of the emotions.
Owen had always been with her before, but there was now a force of
habit in the proceeding, and with Arcadian innocence she assumed
that a row on the water was, under any circumstances, a natural
thing. Without another word being spoken on either side, they went
down the steps. He carefully handed her in, took his seat, slid
noiselessly off the sand, and away from the shore.
They thus sat facing each other in the graceful yellow cockle-shell,
and his eyes frequently found a resting-place in the depths of hers.
The boat was so small that at each return of the sculls, when his
hands came forward to begin the pull, they approached so near to her
that her vivid imagination began to thrill her with a fancy that he
was going to clasp his arms round her. The sensation grew so strong
that she could not run the risk of again meeting his eyes at those
critical moments, and turned aside to inspect the distant horizon;
then she grew weary of looking sideways, and was driven to return to
her natural position again. At this instant he again leant forward
to begin, and met her glance by an ardent fixed gaze. An
involuntary impulse of girlish embarrassment caused her to give a
vehement pull at the tiller-rope, which brought the boat's head
round till they stood directly for shore.
His eyes, which had dwelt upon her form during the whole time of her
look askance, now left her; he perceived the direction in which they
'Why, you have completely turned the boat, Miss Graye?' he said,
looking over his shoulder. 'Look at our track on the water--a great
semicircle, preceded by a series of zigzags as far as we can see.'
She looked attentively. 'Is it my fault or yours?' she inquired.
'Mine, I suppose?'
'I can't help saying that it is yours.'
She dropped the ropes decisively, feeling the slightest twinge of
vexation at the answer.
'Why do you let go?'
'I do it so badly.'
'O no; you turned about for shore in a masterly way. Do you wish to
'Yes, if you please.'
'Of course, then, I will at once.'
'I fear what the people will think of us--going in such absurd
directions, and all through my wretched steering.'
'Never mind what the people think.' A pause. 'You surely are not
so weak as to mind what the people think on such a matter as that?'
Those words might almost be called too firm and hard to be given by
him to her; but never mind. For almost the first time in her life
she felt the charming sensation, although on such an insignificant
subject, of being compelled into an opinion by a man she loved.
Owen, though less yielding physically, and more practical, would not
have had the intellectual independence to answer a woman thus. She
replied quietly and honestly--as honestly as when she had stated the
contrary fact a minute earlier--
'I don't mind.'
'I'll unship the tiller that you may have nothing to do going back
but to hold your parasol,' he continued, and arose to perform the
operation, necessarily leaning closely against her, to guard against
the risk of capsizing the boat as he reached his hands astern. His
warm breath touched and crept round her face like a caress; but he
was apparently only concerned with his task. She looked guilty of
something when he seated himself. He read in her face what that
something was--she had experienced a pleasure from his touch. But
he flung a practical glance over his shoulder, seized the oars, and
they sped in a straight line towards the shore.
Cytherea saw that he noted in her face what had passed in her heart,
and that noting it, he continued as decided as before. She was
inwardly distressed. She had not meant him to translate her words
about returning home so literally at the first; she had not intended
him to learn her secret; but more than all she was not able to
endure the perception of his learning it and continuing unmoved.
There was nothing but misery to come now. They would step ashore;
he would say good-night, go to London to-morrow, and the miserable
She would lose him for ever. She did not quite suppose what was the
fact, that a parallel thought was simultaneously passing through his
They were now within ten yards, now within five; he was only now
waiting for a 'smooth' to bring the boat in. Sweet, sweet Love must
not be slain thus, was the fair maid's reasoning. She was equal to
the occasion--ladies are--and delivered the god--
'Do you want very much to land, Mr. Springrove?' she said, letting
her young violet eyes pine at him a very, very little.
'I? Not at all,' said he, looking an astonishment at her inquiry
which a slight twinkle of his eye half belied. 'But you do?'
'I think that now we have come out, and it is such a pleasant
evening,' she said gently and sweetly, 'I should like a little
longer row if you don't mind? I'll try to steer better than before
if it makes it easier for you. I'll try very hard.'
It was the turn of his face to tell a tale now. He looked, 'We
understand each other--ah, we do, darling!' turned the boat, and
pulled back into the Bay once more.
'Now steer wherever you will,' he said, in a low voice. 'Never mind
the directness of the course--wherever you will.'
'Shall it be Creston Shore?' she said, pointing to a stretch of
beach northward from Budmouth Esplanade.
'Creston Shore certainly,' he responded, grasping the sculls. She
took the strings daintily, and they wound away to the left.
For a long time nothing was audible in the boat but the regular dip
of the oars, and their movement in the rowlocks. Springrove at
'I must go away to-morrow,' he said tentatively.
'Yes,' she replied faintly.
'To endeavour to advance a little in my profession in London.'
'Yes,' she said again, with the same preoccupied softness.
'But I shan't advance.'
'Why not? Architecture is a bewitching profession. They say that
an architect's work is another man's play.'
'Yes. But worldly advantage from an art doesn't depend upon
mastering it. I used to think it did; but it doesn't. Those who
get rich need have no skill at all as artists.'
'What need they have?'
'A certain kind of energy which men with any fondness for art
possess very seldom indeed--an earnestness in making acquaintances,
and a love for using them. They give their whole attention to the
art of dining out, after mastering a few rudimentary facts to serve
up in conversation. Now after saying that, do I seem a man likely
to make a name?'
'You seem a man likely to make a mistake.'
'To give too much room to the latent feeling which is rather common
in these days among the unappreciated, that because some remarkably
successful men are fools, all remarkably unsuccessful men are
'Pretty subtle for a young lady,' he said slowly. 'From that remark
I should fancy you had bought experience.'
She passed over the idea. 'Do try to succeed,' she said, with
wistful thoughtfulness, leaving her eyes on him.
Springrove flushed a little at the earnestness of her words, and
mused. 'Then, like Cato the Censor, I shall do what I despise, to
be in the fashion,' he said at last. . . 'Well, when I found all
this out that I was speaking of, what ever do you think I did? From
having already loved verse passionately, I went on to read it
continually; then I went rhyming myself. If anything on earth ruins
a man for useful occupation, and for content with reasonable success
in a profession or trade, it is the habit of writing verses on
emotional subjects, which had much better be left to die from want
'Do you write poems now?' she said.
'None. Poetical days are getting past with me, according to the
usual rule. Writing rhymes is a stage people of my sort pass
through, as they pass through the stage of shaving for a beard, or
thinking they are ill-used, or saying there's nothing in the world
worth living for.'
'Then the difference between a common man and a recognized poet is,
that one has been deluded, and cured of his delusion, and the other
continues deluded all his days.'
'Well, there's just enough truth in what you say, to make the remark
unbearable. However, it doesn't matter to me now that I "meditate
the thankless Muse" no longer, but. . .' He paused, as if
endeavouring to think what better thing he did.
Cytherea's mind ran on to the succeeding lines of the poem, and
their startling harmony with the present situation suggested the
fancy that he was 'sporting' with her, and brought an awkward
contemplativeness to her face.
Springrove guessed her thoughts, and in answer to them simply said
'Yes.' Then they were silent again.
'If I had known an Amaryllis was coming here, I should not have made
arrangements for leaving,' he resumed.
Such levity, superimposed on the notion of 'sport', was intolerable
to Cytherea; for a woman seems never to see any but the serious side
of her attachment, though the most devoted lover has all the time a
vague and dim perception that he is losing his old dignity and
frittering away his time.
'But will you not try again to get on in your profession? Try once
more; do try once more,' she murmured. 'I am going to try again. I
have advertised for something to do.'
'Of course I will,' he said, with an eager gesture and smile. 'But
we must remember that the fame of Christopher Wren himself depended
upon the accident of a fire in Pudding Lane. My successes seem to
come very slowly. I often think, that before I am ready to live, it
will be time for me to die. However, I am trying--not for fame now,
but for an easy life of reasonable comfort.'
It is a melancholy truth for the middle classes, that in proportion
as they develop, by the study of poetry and art, their capacity for
conjugal love of the highest and purest kind, they limit the
possibility of their being able to exercise it--the very act putting
out of their power the attainment of means sufficient for marriage.
The man who works up a good income has had no time to learn love to
its solemn extreme; the man who has learnt that has had no time to
'And if you should fail--utterly fail to get that reasonable
wealth,' she said earnestly, 'don't be perturbed. The truly great
stand upon no middle ledge; they are either famous or unknown.'
'Unknown,' he said, 'if their ideas have been allowed to flow with a
sympathetic breadth. Famous only if they have been convergent and
'Yes; and I am afraid from that, that my remark was but
discouragement, wearing the dress of comfort. Perhaps I was not
quite right in--'
'It depends entirely upon what is meant by being truly great. But
the long and the short of the matter is, that men must stick to a
thing if they want to succeed in it--not giving way to over-much
admiration for the flowers they see growing in other people's
borders; which I am afraid has been my case.' He looked into the
far distance and paused.
Adherence to a course with persistence sufficient to ensure success
is possible to widely appreciative minds only when there is also
found in them a power--commonplace in its nature, but rare in such
combination--the power of assuming to conviction that in the
outlying paths which appear so much more brilliant than their own,
there are bitternesses equally great--unperceived simply on account
of their remoteness.
They were opposite Ringsworth Shore. The cliffs here were formed of
strata completely contrasting with those of the further side of the
Bay, whilst in and beneath the water hard boulders had taken the
place of sand and shingle, between which, however, the sea glided
noiselessly, without breaking the crest of a single wave, so
strikingly calm was the air. The breeze had entirely died away,
leaving the water of that rare glassy smoothness which is unmarked
even by the small dimples of the least aerial movement. Purples and
blues of divers shades were reflected from this mirror accordingly
as each undulation sloped east or west. They could see the rocky
bottom some twenty feet beneath them, luxuriant with weeds of
various growths, and dotted with pulpy creatures reflecting a
silvery and spangled radiance upwards to their eyes.
At length she looked at him to learn the effect of her words of
encouragement. He had let the oars drift alongside, and the boat
had come to a standstill. Everything on earth seemed taking a
contemplative rest, as if waiting to hear the avowal of something
from his lips. At that instant he appeared to break a resolution
hitherto zealously kept. Leaving his seat amidships he came and
gently edged himself down beside her upon the narrow seat at the
She breathed more quickly and warmly: he took her right hand in his
own right: it was not withdrawn. He put his left hand behind her
neck till it came round upon her left cheek: it was not thrust
away. Lightly pressing her, he brought her face and mouth towards
his own; when, at this the very brink, some unaccountable thought or
spell within him suddenly made him halt--even now, and as it seemed
as much to himself as to her, he timidly whispered 'May I?'
Her endeavour was to say No, so denuded of its flesh and sinews that
its nature would hardly be recognized, or in other words a No from
so near the affirmative frontier as to be affected with the Yes
accent. It was thus a whispered No, drawn out to nearly a quarter
of a minute's length, the O making itself audible as a sound like
the spring coo of a pigeon on unusually friendly terms with its
mate. Though conscious of her success in producing the kind of word
she had wished to produce, she at the same time trembled in suspense
as to how it would be taken. But the time available for doubt was
so short as to admit of scarcely more than half a pulsation:
pressing closer he kissed her. Then he kissed her again with a
It was the supremely happy moment of their experience. The 'bloom'
and the 'purple light' were strong on the lineaments of both. Their
hearts could hardly believe the evidence of their lips.
'I love you, and you love me, Cytherea!' he whispered.
She did not deny it; and all seemed well. The gentle sounds around
them from the hills, the plains, the distant town, the adjacent
shore, the water heaving at their side, the kiss, and the long kiss,
were all 'many a voice of one delight,' and in unison with each
But his mind flew back to the same unpleasant thought which had been
connected with the resolution he had broken a minute or two earlier.
'I could be a slave at my profession to win you, Cytherea; I would
work at the meanest, honest trade to be near you--much less claim
you as mine; I would--anything. But I have not told you all; it is
not this; you don't know what there is yet to tell. Could you
forgive as you can love?' She was alarmed to see that he had become
pale with the question.
'No--do not speak,' he said. 'I have kept something from you, which
has now become the cause of a great uneasiness. I had no right--to
love you; but I did it. Something forbade--'
'What?' she exclaimed.
'Something forbade me--till the kiss--yes, till the kiss came; and
now nothing shall forbid it! We'll hope in spite of all. . . I
must, however, speak of this love of ours to your brother. Dearest,
you had better go indoors whilst I meet him at the station, and
Cytherea's short-lived bliss was dead and gone. O, if she had known
of this sequel would she have allowed him to break down the barrier
of mere acquaintanceship--never, never!
'Will you not explain to me?' she faintly urged. Doubt--indefinite,
carking doubt had taken possession of her.
'Not now. You alarm yourself unnecessarily,' he said tenderly. 'My
only reason for keeping silence is that with my present knowledge I
may tell an untrue story. It may be that there is nothing to tell.
I am to blame for haste in alluding to any such thing. Forgive me,
sweet--forgive me.' Her heart was ready to burst, and she could not
answer him. He returned to his place and took to the oars.
They again made for the distant Esplanade, now, with its line of
houses, lying like a dark grey band against the light western sky.