Part 6 out of 12
"It doesn't matter if they do,"--rejoined Maryllia--"I have never
been loved since my father's death,--so I don't mind being hated."
"_I_ love you!" said Cicely, with swift ardour--"Don't say you have
never been loved!"
Maryllia caught her hand tenderly and kissed it.
"I was not thinking of you, dear!" she said--"Forgive me! I was
thinking of men. They have admired me and flirted with me,--many of
them have wanted to marry me, in order to get hold of Aunt Emily's
fortune with me,--but none of them have ever loved me. Cicely,
Cicely, I want to be loved!"
"So do I!" said Cicely, with answering light in her eyes--"But I
don't see how it's going to be done in my case! You may possibly get
your wish, but I!--why, my dear, I see myself in futur-oe as a
'prima donna assoluta' perhaps, with several painted and padded
bassi and tenori making sham love to me in opera till I get
perfectly sick of cuore and amore, and cry out for something else by
way of a change! I am quite positive that love,--love such as we
read of in poetry and romance, doesn't really exist! And I have
another fixed opinion--which is, that the people who write most
about it have never felt it. One always expresses best, even in a
song, the emotions one has never experienced."
Maryllia looked at her in a little wonder.
"Do you really think that?"
"I do! It's not one of Gigue's sayings, though I know I often echo
She went to the window. "How lovely the garden is! Come out on the
lawn, Maryllia, and let us talk!" And as they sauntered across the
grass together with arms round each other's waists, she chattered
on--"People who write books and music are generally lonely,--and
they write best about love because they need it. They fancy it must
be much better than it is. But, after all, the grandest things go
unloved. Look at the sky, how clear it is and pure. Is it loved by
any other sky that we know of? And the sun up there, all alone in
its splendour,--I wonder if any other sun loves it? There are so
many lonely things in the universe! And it seems to me that the
loneliest are always the loveliest and grandest. It is only stupid
ephemera that are gregarious. Worms crawl along in masses,--mites
swarm in a cheese--flies stick in crowds on jam--and brainless
people shut themselves up all together within the walls of a city.
I'd rather be an eagle than a sparrow,--a star than one of a
thousand bonfire sparks,--and as a mere woman, I would rather ten
thousand times live a solitary life by myself till I die, than be
married to a rascal or a fool!"
"Exactly my sentiments,"--said Maryllia--"Only you put them more
poetically than I can. Do you know, Cicely, you talk very oddly
sometimes?--very much in advance of your age, I mean?"
"Do I?" And Cicely's tone expressed a mingling of surprise and
penitence--"I didn't know it. But I suppose I really can't help it,
Maryllia! I was a very miserable child--and miserable children age
rapidly. Perhaps I shall get younger as I grow older! You must
remember that at eleven years old I was scrubbing floors like any
charwoman in the Convent for two centimes an hour. I gained a lot of
worldly wisdom that way by listening to the talk of the nuns, which
is quite as spiteful and scandalous as anything one hears in outside
'wicked' society. Then I got into the Quartier Latin set with Gigue,
who picked me up because he heard me singing in the street,--and
altogether my experiences of life haven't been toys and bonbons. I
know I THINK 'old'--and I'm sure I feel old!"
"Not when you play or sing," suggested Maryllia.
"No--not then--never then! Then, all the youth of the world seems to
rush into me,--it tingles in my fingers, and throbs in my throat! I
feel as if I could reach heaven with sound!--yes! I feel that I
could sing to God Himself, if He would only listen!"
Her eyes glowed with passion,--the plainness of her features was
transformed into momentary beauty. Maryllia was silent. She knew
that the aspirations of genius pent up in this elf-like girl were
almost too strong for her, and that the very excitability and
sensitiveness of her nature were such as to need the greatest care
and tenderness in training and controlling. Tactfully she changed
the conversation to ordinary subjects, and in a little while Cicely
had learned all that Maryllia herself knew about the village of St.
Rest and its inhabitants. She was considerably interested in the
story of the rescue of the 'Five Sister' beeches, and asked with a
touch of anxiety, what had become of the dismissed agent, Oliver
"Oh, he is still in the neighbourhood,"--said Maryllia,
indifferently--"He works for Sir Morton Pippitt, and I believe has
found a home at Badsworth. His accounts are not yet all handed in to
my solicitors. But I have a new agent now,--a Mr. Stanways--he is
just married to quite a nice young woman,--and he has already begun
work. Mr. Stanways has splendid recommendations--so that will be all
"No doubt--so far as Mr. Stanways himself is concerned it will be
all right,"--rejoined Cicely, musingly--"But if, as you say, the man
Oliver Leach cursed you, it isn't pleasant to think he is hanging
"He isn't hanging round anywhere,"--declared Maryllia, easily--"He
is out of this beat altogether. He cursed me certainly,--but he was
in a temper,--and I should say that curses come naturally to him.
But, as the clergyman was present at the time, the curse couldn't
take any effect." She laughed. "You know Satan always runs away from
"Who is the clergyman, and what is he like?" asked Cicely.
"He's not at all disagreeable"--answered Maryllia, carelessly--
"Rather stiff perhaps and old-fashioned,--but he seems to be a great
favourite with all his parishioners. His name is John Walden. He has
restored the church here, quite at his own expense, and according to
the early original design. It is really quite wonderful. When I was
a child here, I only remember it as a ruin, but now people come from
far and near to see it. It will please you immensely."
"But you don't go to it," observed Cicely, suggestively.
"No. I haven't attended a service there as yet. But I don't say I
never will attend one. That will depend on circumstances."
"I remember you always hated parsons," said Cicely, thoughtfully.
"Yes, I always did!"
"And you always will, I suppose?"
"Well, I expect I shall have to tolerate Mr. Walden,"--Maryllia
answered lightly,--"Because he's really my nearest neighbour. But
he's not so bad as most of his class."
"I daresay he's a better type of man than Lord Roxmouth," said
Cicely. "By the way, Maryllia, that highly distinguished nobleman
has spread about a report that you are 'peculiar,' simply because
you won't marry him? The very nuns at the Convent have heard this,
and it does make me so angry! For when people get hold of the word
'peculiar,' it is made to mean several things."
"I know!" and for a moment Maryllia's fair brows clouded with a
shadow of perplexity and annoyance--"It is a word that may pass for
madness, badness, or any form of social undesirability. But I don't
mind! I'm quite aware that Roxmouth, if he cannot marry me, will
slander me. It's a way some modern men have of covering their own
rejection and defeat. The woman in question is branded through the
'smart set' as 'peculiar,' 'difficult,' 'impossible to deal with'--
oh yes!--I know it all! But I'm prepared for it--and just to
forestall Roxmouth a little, I'm going to have a few people down
here by way of witnesses to my '-peculiar' mode of life. Then they
can go back to London and talk."
"They can, and they will,--you may be sure of that!" said Cicely,
satirically--"Is this a 'dressed' county, Maryllia?"
Maryllia gave vent to a peal of laughter.
"I should say not,--but I really don't know!" she replied,--"People
have called on me, but I have not, as yet, returned their calls.
We'll do that in this coming week. The only person I have seen, who
poses as a 'county' lady, is an elderly spinster named Tabitha
Pippitt, only daughter of Sir Morton Pippitt, who is a colonial
manufacturer, and, therefore, not actually in the 'county' at all.
Miss Tabitha was certainly not 'dressed,' she was merely covered."
"That's the very height of propriety!" declared Cicely--"For, after
all, covering alone is necessary. 'Dress,' in the full sense of the
word, implies vanity and all its attendant sins. Gigue says you can
always pick out a very dull, respectable woman by the hidecmsness
of her clothes. I expect Miss Tabitha is dull."
"She is--most unquestionably! But I'm afraid she is only a reflex of
country life generally, Cicely. Country life IS dull,--especially in
"Then why do you go in for it?" queried Cicely, arching her black
"Simply to escape something even duller,"--laughed Maryllia--"London
society and its 'Souls'!"
Cicely laughed too, and shrugged her shoulders expressively. She
understood all that was implied. And with her whole heart she
rejoiced that her friend whom she loved with an almost passionate
adoration and gratitude, had voluntarily turned her back on the
'Smart Set,' and so, of her own accord, instead of through her
godfathers and godmothers, had 'renounced the devil and all his
works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world and all the sinful
lusts of the flesh.'
Within a very few days St. Rest became aware of Cicely's quaint
personality, for she soon succeeded in making herself familiar with
everybody in the place. She had a knack of winning friends. She
visited old Josey Letherbarrow, and made him laugh till he nearly
choked, so that Maryllia had to pat him vigorously on the back to
enable him to recover his breath--she cut jokes with Mrs. Tapple,--
chatted with the sexton, Adam Frost, and scattered 'sweeties' galore
among all his children,--and she furthermore startled the village
choir at practice by suddenly flitting into the church and asking
Miss Eden, the schoolmistress, to allow her to play the organ
accompaniment, and on Miss Eden's consenting to this proposition,
she played in such a fashion that the church seemed filled with
musical thunder and the songs of angels,--and the village
choristers, both girls and boys, became awestruck and nervous, and
huddled themselves together in a silent group, afraid to open their
mouths lest a false note should escape, and spoil the splendour of
the wonderful harmony that so mysteriously charmed their souls. And
then, calming the passion of the music down, she turned with
gentlest courtesy to Miss Eden, and asked: 'What were the children
going to sing?'--whereupon, being told that it waft a hymn called
'The Lord is my Shepherd,' she so very sweetly entreated them to
sing it with her, that none of them could refuse. And she led them
all with wondrous care and patience, giving to the very simple tune,
a tender and noble pathos such as they had never heard before, yet
which they unconsciously absorbed into their own singing, as they
lifted up their youthful voices in tremulous unison.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want,
He maketh me down to lie,
In pleasant fields where the lilies grow.
And the river runneth by.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; He feedeth me
In the depth of a desert land,
And lest I should in the darkness slip,
He holdeth me by the hand.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want,
My mind on Him is stayed,
And though through the Valley of Death I walk,
I shall not be afraid.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; O Shepherd sweet,
Leave me not here to stray;
But guide me safe to Thy heavenly fold,
And keep me there, I pray!"
John Walden, passing through the churchyard just at this time, heard
the rhythmic rise and fall of the quaint old melody with a strange
thrill at his heart. He had listened to the self-same hymn over and
over again,--every year the school-children re-studied and re-sang
it,--but there was something altogether new in its harmony this
time,--something appealing and pathetic which struck to the inmost
core of his sensitive nature. Noiselessly, he entered the church,
and for a moment or two stood unobserved, watching the little scene
before him. Cicely was at the organ, and her hands still rested on
the keys, but she was speaking to the members of the choir.
"That is very nicely done,"--she said, encouragingly--"But you must
try and keep more steadily together in tune, must they not, Miss
Eden?"--and she turned to the schoolmistress at her side, who, with
a smile, agreed. "You"--and she touched pretty Susie Prescott on the
arm,--"You sing delightfully! It is a little voice--but so very
Susie blushed deeply and curtsied. It had got about in the village
that Miss Vancourt's young friend from Paris was a musical
'prodigy,' and praise from her was something to be remembered.
"Now listen!" went on Cicely--"I'm not going to sing full voice,
because I'm not allowed to yet,--but this is how that hymn should
go!" And her pure tones floated forth pianissimo, with slow and
"The Lord is my Shepherd; O Shepherd sweet,
Leave me not here to stray;
But guide me safe to Thy heavenly fold,
And keep me there, I pray!
Silence followed. The children stood wonder-struck, and Miss Eden's
eyes filled with emotional tears.
"How beautiful!" she murmured--"How very beautiful!"
Cicely rose from the organ-stool, and turned round.
"Here is Mr. Walden," she said, in quite a matter-of-fact way as she
perceived him. "It IS Mr. Walden, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," replied John, advancing with a smile--"And very
fortunate Mr. Walden is to have heard such lovely singing!"
"Oh, that's not lovely," said Cicely, carelessly--"I was only
humming the last verse, just to put the expression right. I thought
it must be you!--though, of course, as I have not been introduced to
you, I couldn't be sure! Maryllia--Miss Vancourt--has told me all
about you,--and I know she has written twice since I've been here to
ask you up to the Manor--once to tea, and once to dinner. Why
haven't you come?" Walden was slightly embarrassed by this point-
blank question. It was perfectly true he had received two
invitations from the lady of the Manor, and had refused both. Why he
had refused, he could not himself have told.
"I suppose you didn't want to meet me!" said Cicely, showing all her
white teeth in a flashing smile--"But there's no escape for it, you
see,--here I am! I'm not such a rascal as I look, though! I've been
playing accompaniments for the children!--go on singing, please!"--
and she addressed Miss Eden and Susie Prescott, who collecting their
straying thoughts, began hesitatingly to resume the interrupted
practice--"It's a nice little organ--very full and sweet. The church
is perfectly exquisite! I come in every day to look at it except
"Why except Sundays?" asked Walden, amused.
She gave him a quaint side-glance.
"I'll tell you some day,--not now!"--she answered--"This is not the
fitting time or place." She moved to the altar rails, and hung over
them, looking at the alabaster sarcophagus "This thing has a
perfect fascination for me!" she went on--"I can't bear not to know
whose bones are inside! I wonder you haven't opened it."
"It was not meant to be opened by those who closed it," said Walden,
Cicely drooped her gipsy-bright eyes.
"That's one for me!" she thought--"He's just like what Maryllia says
he is,--very certain of his own mind, and not likely to move out of
his own way."
"I think," pursued Walden--"if you knew that someone very dear to
you had been laid in that sarcophagus 'to eternal rest,' you would
resent any disturbance of even the mere dust of what was once life,-
-would you not?"
"I might;" said Cicely dubiously--"But I have never had any 'someone
very dear to me' except Maryllia Vancourt. And if she died, I should
John was silent, but he looked at her with increased interest and
They walked out of the church together, and once in the open air, he
became politely conventional.
"And how is Miss Vancourt?" he enquired.
"She is very well indeed,"--replied Cicely--"But tremendously busy
just now with no end of household matters. The new agent, Mr.
Stanways, is going over every yard of the Abbot's Manor property
with her, and she is making any quantity of new rules. All the
tenants' rents are to be reduced, for one thing--I know THAT. Then
there are a lot of London people coming down to stay--big house-
parties in relays,--I've helped write all the invitations. We shall
be simply crowded at the end of June and all July. We mean to be
"And you will like that, of course?" queried Walden, indulgently,
while conscious of a little sense of hurt and annoyance, though he
knew not why.
"Naturally!" and Cicely shrugged her shoulders carelessly, "Doesn't
the Bible say 'the laughter of fools is like the crackling of thorns
under a pot'? I love to set the pot down and hear the thorns
What a weird girl she was! He looked at her in mute amaze, and she
"Do come up to tea some afternoon!" she said coaxingly, "We should
be so glad to see you! I know Maryllia would like it--she thinks you
are rather rude, you know! I'm to be here all the summer, but I'll
try to be good and not say things to vex you. And as you're a
clergyman, I can tell you all about myself--like the confessional
secrets! And when you hear some of my experiences, you won't wonder
a bit at my queer ways. I can't be like other girls of my age,--I
really CAN'T!--my life won't let me!"
Her tone was one of light banter, but her eyes were wistful and
pathetic. Walden was conscious of a sudden sympathy with this wild
little soul of song, and taking her hand, pressed it kindly.
"Wait till I see some of your 'queer ways,' as you call them!" he
said, with a genial laugh--"I know you sing very beautifully-is that
a 'queer way'?"
Cicely shook her mop-like tresses of hair back over her shoulders
with a careless gesture.
"It is--to people who can't do it!" she said. "Surely you know that?
For example, if you preach very well--I don't know that you do,
because I've never heard you, but Maryllia's housekeeper, Mrs.
Spruce, says you've got 'a mouth of angels'--she does really!" and,
as Walden laughed, she laughed with him--"Well, as I say, if you
preach very well with a mouth of angels, there must be several
parsons round here who haven't got that mouth, and who say of you,
of course metaphorically: 'He hath a devil'! Isn't it so?"
"No doubt opinions differ,"---he began.
"Oh, of course!--you can get out of it that way, if you like!" she
retorted, gaily--"You won't say uncharitable things of the rest of
your brethren if you can help it, but you know--yes, you must know
that parsons are as jealous of each other and as nasty to each other
as actors, singers, writers, or any other 'professional' persons in
the world. In fact, I believe if you were to set two spiteful
clergymen nagging at each other, they'd beat any two 'leading
ladies' on the operatic stage, for right-down malice and meanness!"
"The conversation is growing quite personal!" said Walden, a broad
smile lighting up his fine soft eyes--"Shall we finish it at the
Manor when I come up to tea?"
"But are you really coming?" queried Cicely--"And when?"
"Suppose I say this afternoon---" he began. Cicely clapped her
"Good! I'll scamper home and tell Maryllia! I'll say I have met you,
and that I've been as impudent as I possibly could be to you---"
"No, don't say that!" laughed Walden--"Say that I have found you to
be a very delightful and original young lady---"
"I'm not a young lady,"--said Cicely, decisively--"I was born a
peasant on the sea-coast of Cornwall--and I'm glad of it. A 'young
lady' nowadays means a milliner's apprentice or a draper's model. I
am neither. I am just a girl--and hope, if I live, to be a woman.
I'll take my own ideas of a suitable message from you to Maryllia--
don't YOU bother!" And she nodded sagaciously. "I won't make
ructions, I promise! Come about five!"
She waved her hand and ran off, leaving Walden in a mood between
perplexity and amusement. She was certainly an 'original,' and he
hardly knew what to make of her. There was something 'uncanny' and
goblin-like in her appearance, and yet her sallow face had a certain
charm when the smile illumined it, and the light of aspiration
burned up in the large wild eyes. In any case, she had persuaded him
in a moment, as it were, and almost involuntarily, to take tea at
the Manor that afternoon. Why he had consented to do what he had
hitherto refused, he could not imagine. Cicely's remark that Miss
Vancourt thought him 'rather rude,' worried him a little.
"Perhaps I have been rude"--he reflected, uneasily--"But I am not a
society man;--I'm altogether out of my element in the company of
ladies--and it seemed so much better that I should avoid being drawn
into any intimacy with persons who are not likely to have anything
in common with me--but of course I ought to be civil--in fact, I
suppose I ought to be neighbourly---"
Here a sudden irritation against the nature of his own thoughts
disturbed him. He was not arguing fairly with himself, and he knew
it. He was perfectly aware that ever since the day of their meeting
in the village post-office, he had wished to see Miss Vancourt
again. He had hoped she might pass the gate of the rectory, or
perhaps even look into his garden for a moment,--but his expectation
had not been realised. He had heard of Cicely Bourne's arrival,--and
he had received two charmingly-worded notes from Maryllia, inviting
him to the Manor,--which invitations, as has already been stated, he
had, with briefest courtesy, declined. Now, why,--if he indeed
wished to see her again,--had he deliberately refused the
opportunities given him of doing so? He could not answer this at all
satisfactorily to his own mind, and he was considerably annoyed with
himself to be forced to admit the existence of certain portions of
his mental composition which were apparently not to be probed by
logic, or measured by mathematics.
"Well, at any rate, as I have promised the little singer, I can go
up to tea just this once, and have done with it," he decided--"I
shall then be exonerated from 'rudeness'--and I can explain to Miss
Vancourt--quite kindly and courteously of course--that I am not a
visiting man,--that my habits are rather those of a recluse, and
then--for the future--she will understand."
Cicely Bourne, meanwhile, on her way back to the Manor through the
fields, paused many times to gather cowslips, which were blooming by
thousands in the grass at her feet, and as she recklessly pulled up
dozens of the pale-green stems, weighted with their nodding golden
honey-bells, she thought a good deal about John Walden.
"Maryllia never told me he was handsome,"--she mused; "But he is! I
wonder why she didn't mention it? So odd of her,--because really
there are very few good-looking men anywhere, and one in the shape
of a parson is a positive rarity and ought to go on exhibition! He's
clever too--and--obstinate? Yes, I should say he was obstinate! But
he has kind eyes. And he isn't married. What a comfort THAT is!
Parsons are uninteresting enough in themselves as a rule, but their
wives are the last possibility in the way of dullness. Oh, that
honeysuckle!" And she sprang over the grass to the corner of a hedge
where a long trail of the exquisitely-scented flower hung
temptingly, as it seemed within reach, but when she approached it,
she found it just too high above her to be plucked from the bough
where its tendrils twined. Looking up at it, she carolled softly:
"O Fortune capricieuse!
Comme tu es cruelle!
Pourquoi moques-tu ton esclave
Qui sert un destin immortel!"
Here a sudden rustle in the leaves on the other side of the hedge
startled her, and a curious-looking human head adorned profusely
with somewhat disordered locks of red hair perked up enquiringly.
Cicely jumped back with an exclamation.
"Saint Moses! What is it?"
"It is me! Merely me!" and Sir Morton Pippitt's quondam guest, Mr.
Julian Adderley, rose to his full lanky height, and turned his
flaccid face of more or less comic melancholy upon her--"Pray do not
be alarmed! I have been reposing under the trees,--and I was, or so
I imagine, in a brief slumber, when some dulcet warblings as of a
nightingale awoke me"--here, stooping to the ground for his hat, he
secured it, and waved it expressively--"and I have, I fear, created
some dismay in the mind of the interesting young person who, if I
mistake not, is a friend of Miss Vancourt?"
Cicely surveyed him with considerable amusement.
"Never mind who _I_ am!" she said, coolly--"Tell me who YOU are! My
faith!--you are as rough all over as a bear! What have you been
doing to yourself? Your clothes are covered with leaves!"
"Even as a Babe in the Wood!" responded Adderley, "Yes!--it is so!"
and he began to pick off delicately the various burs and scraps of
forest debris which had collected and clung to his tweed suit during
his open-air siesta--"To speak truly, I am a trespasser in these
domains,--they are the Manor woods, I know,--forbidden precincts,
and possibly guarded by spring-guns. But I heeded not the board
which speaks of prosecution. I came to gather bluebells,--innocent
bluebells!--merely that and no more, to adorn my humble cot,--I have
a cot not far from here. And as for my identity, my name is
Adderley--Julian Adderley--a poor scribbler of rhymes--a votre
He waved his hat with a grand flourish again, and smiled.
"Oh _I_ know!" said Cicely--"Maryllia has spoken of you--you've
taken a cottage here for the summer. Pick that bit of honeysuckle
for me, will you?--that long trail just hanging over you!"
"With pleasure!" and he gathered the coveted spray and handed it to
"Thanks!" and she smiled appreciatively as she took it. "How did you
get into that wood? Did you jump the hedge?"
"I did!" replied Adderley.
"Could you jump it again?"
"Then do it!"
Whereupon Adderley clapped his hat on his head, and resting a hand
firmly on one of the rough posts which supported the close green
barrier between them, vaulted lightly over it and stood beside her.
"Not badly done,"--said Cicely, eyeing him quizzically--"for 'a poor
scribbler of rhymes' as you call yourself. Most men who moon about
and write verse are too drunken, and vicious to even see a hedge,--
much less jump over it."
"Oh, say not so!" exclaimed Adderley--"You are too young to pass
judgment on the gods!"
"The gods!" exclaimed Cicely--"Whatever are you talking about? The
gods of Greece? They were an awful lot--perfectly awful! They
wouldn't have been admitted EVEN into modern society, and that's bad
enough. I don't think the worst woman that ever dined at a Paris
restaurant with an English Cabinet Minister would have spoken to
Venus, par exemple. I'm sure she wouldn't. She'd have drawn the line
"Gracious Heavens!" and Adderley stared in wonderment at his
companion, first up, then down,--at her wild hair, now loosened from
its convent form of pigtail, and scarcely restrained by the big sun-
hat which was tied on anyhow,--at her great dark eyes,--at her thin
angular figure and long scraggy legs,--legs which were still
somewhat too visible, though since her arrival at Abbot's Manor
Maryllia had made some thoughtful alterations in the dress of her
musical protegee which had considerably improved her appearance--"Is
it possible to hear such things---"
"Why, of course it is, as you've got ears and HAVE heard them!" said
Cicely, with a laugh--"Don't ask 'is it possible' to do a thing when
you've done it! That's not logical,--and men do pride themselves on
their logic, though I could never find out why. Do you like
cowslips?" And she thrust the great bunch she had gathered up
against his nose--"There's a wordless poem for you!"
Inhaling the fresh fine odour of the field blossoms, he still looked
at her in amazement, she meeting his gaze without the least touch of
"You can walk home with me, if you like!"--she observed
condescendingly--"I won't promise to ask you into the Manor, because
perhaps Maryllia won't want you, and I daresay she won't approve of
my picking up a young man in the woods. But it's rather fun to talk
to a poet,--I've never met one before. They don't come out in Paris.
They live in holes and corners, drinking absinthe to keep off
"Alas, that is so!" and Adderley began to keep pace with the thin
black-stockinged legs that were already starting off through the
long grass and flowers--"The arts are at a discount nowadays.
Poetry is the last thing people want to read."
"Then why do you write it?" and Cicely turned a sharp glance of
enquiry upon him--"What's the good?"
"There you offer me a problem Miss--er--Miss---"
"Bourne,"--finished Cicely--"Don't fight with my name--it's quite
easy--though I don't know how I got it. I ought to have been a Tre
or a Pol-I was born in Cornwall. Never mind that,--go on with the
"True--go on with the problem,"--said Julian vaguely, taking off his
hat and raking his hair with his fingers as he was wont to do when
at all puzzled--"The problem is--'why do I write poetry if nobody
wants to read it'--and 'what's the good'? Now, in the first place, I
will reply that I am not sure I write 'poetry.' I try to express my
identity in rhythm and rhyme--but after all, that expression of
myself may be prose, and wholly without interest to the majority.
You see? I put it to you quite plainly. Then as to 'what's the
good?'--I would argue 'what's the bad?' So far, I live quite
harmlessly. From the unexpected demise of an uncle whom I never saw,
I have a life-income of sixty pounds a year. I am happy on that--I
desire no more than that. On that I seek to evolve myself into
SOMETHING--from a nonentity into shape and substance--and if, as is
quite possible, there can be no 'good,' there may be a certain less
of 'bad' than might otherwise chance to me. What think you?"
Cicely surveyed him scrutinisingly.
"I'm not at all sure about that"--she said--"Poets have all been
doubtful specimens of humanity at their best. You see their lives
are entirely occupied in writing what isn't true--and of course it
tells' on them in the long run. They deceive others first, and then
they deceive themselves, though in their fits of 'inspiration' as
they call it, they may, while weaving a thousand lies, accidentally
hit on one truth. But the lies chiefly predominate. Dante, for
example, was a perfectly brazen liar. He DIDN'T go to Hell, or
Purgatory, or Paradise--and he DIDN'T bother himself about Beatrice
at all. He married someone else and had a family. Nothing could be
more commonplace. He invented his Inferno in order to put his
enemies there, all roasting, boiling, baking or freezing. It was
pure personal spite--and it is the very force of his vindictiveness
that makes the Inferno the best part of hid epic. The portraits of
Dante alone are enough to show you the sort of man he was. WHAT a
creature to meet in a dark lane at midnight!"
Here she made a grimace, drawing her mouth down into the elongated
frown of the famous Florentine, with such an irresistibly comic
effect that Adderley gave way to a peal of hearty, almost boyish
"That's right!" said Cicely approvingly--"That's YOU, you know! It's
natural to laugh at your age--you're only about six or seven-and-
twenty, aren't you?"
"I shall be twenty-seven in August,"--he said with a swift return to
solemnity--"That is, as you will admit, getting on towards thirty."
"Oh, nonsense! Everybody's getting on towards thirty, of course--or
towards sixty, or towards a hundred. I shall be fifteen in October,
but 'you will admit'"--here she mimicked his voice and accent--"that
I am getting on towards a hundred. Some folks think I've turned that
already, and that I'm entering my second century, I talk so 'old.'
But my talk is nothing to what I feel--I feel--oh!" and she gave a
kind of angular writhe to her whole figure--"like twenty Methusalehs
in one girl!"
"You are an original!"--said Julian, nodding at her with an air of
superior wisdom--"That's what you are!"
"Like you, Sir Moon-Calf"--said Cicely--"The word 'moon-calf,' you
know, stands for poet--it means a human calf that grazes on the
moon. Naturally the animal never gets fat,--nor will you; it always
looks odd--and so will you; it never does anything useful,--nor will
you; and it puts a kind of lunar crust over itself, under which
crust it writes verses. When you break through, its crust you find
something like a man, half-asleep--not knowing whether he's man or
boy, and uncertain, whether to laugh or be serious till some girl
pokes fun at him--and then---"
"And then?"--laughed Adderley, entering vivaciously into her humour-
"This, next!"--and Cicely pelted him full in the face with one of
her velvety cowslip-bunches--'And this,--catch me if you can!"
Away she flew over the grass, with Adderley after her. Through tall
buttercups and field daisies they raced each other like children,--
startling astonished bees from repasts in clover-cups--and shaking
butterflies away from their amours on the starwort and celandines.
The private gate leading into Abbot's Manor garden stood open,--
Cicely rushed in, and shut it against her pursuer who reached it
almost at the same instant.
"Too bad!" he cried laughingly--"You mustn't keep me out! I'm bound
to come inside!"
"Why?" demanded Cicely, breathless with her run, but looking all the
better for the colour in her cheeks and the light in her eyes--"I
don't see the line of argument at all. Your hair is simply dreadful!
You look like Pan, heated in the pursuit of a coy nymph of Delphos.
If you only wore skins and a pair of hoofs, the resemblance would be
"My dear Cicely!" said a dulcet voice at this moment,--"Where HAVE
you been all the morning! How do you do, Mr. Adderley? Won't you
Adderley took off his hat, as Maryllia came across to the gate from
the umbrageous shadow of a knot of pine-trees, looking the
embodiment of fresh daintiness, in a soft white gown trimmed with
wonderfully knotted tufts of palest rose ribbon, and wearing an
enchanting 'poke' straw hat with a careless knot of pink hyacinths
tumbling against her lovely hair. She was a perfect picture 'after
Romney,' and Adderley thought she knew it. But there he was wrong.
Maryllia knew little and cared less about her personal appearance.
"Where have you been?" she repeated, taking Cicely round the waist--
"You wild girl! Do you know it is lunch time? I had almost given you
up. Spruce said you had gone into the village--but more than that
she couldn't tell me."
"I did go to the village,"--said Cicely--"and I went into the
church, and played the organ, and helped the children sing a hymn.
And I met the parson, Mr. Walden, and had a talk with him. Then I
started home across the fields, and found this man"--and she
indicated Adderley with a careless nod of her head--"asleep in a
wood. I almost promised him some lunch--I didn't QUITE---"
"My dear Miss Vancourt,"--protested Adderley--"Pray do not think of
such a thing!--I would not intrude upon you in this unceremonious
way for the world!"
"Why not?" said Maryllia, smiling graciously--"It will be a pleasure
if you will stay to luncheon with us. Cicely has carte blanche here
you know--genius must have its way!"
"Of course it must!"--agreed Cicely--"If genius wants to etand on
its head, it must be allowed to make that exhibition of itself lest
it should explode. If genius asks the lame, halt, blind and idiotic
into the ancestral halls of Abbot's Manor, then the lame, halt,
blind and idiotic are bound to come. If genius summons the god Pan
to pipe a roundelay, pipings there shall be! Shall there not, Mr.
Her eyes danced with mirth and mischief, as they flashed from his
face to Maryllia's. "Genius,"--she continued--"can even call forth a
parson from the vasty deep if it chooses to do so,--Mr. Walden is
coming to tea this afternoon."
"Indeed!" And Maryllia's sweet voice was a trifle cold. "Did you
invite him, Cicely?"
"Yes. I told him that you thought it rather rude of him not to have
"Oh Cicely!" said Maryllia reproachfully--"You should not have said
"Why not? You did think him rude,--and so did I,--to refuse two kind
invitations from you. Anyhow he seemed sorry, and said he'd make up
for it this afternoon. He's really quite good-looking."
"Quite--quite!" agreed Julian Adderley--"I considered him
exceptionally so when I first saw him in his own church, opposing a
calm front to the intrusive pomposity and appalling ignorance of our
venerable acquaintance, Sir Morton Pippitt. I decided that I had
found a Man. So new!--so fresh! That is why I took a cottage for the
summer close by, that I might be near the rare specimen!"
"Are you not a man yourself?" she said.
"Not altogether!" he admitted,--"I am but half-grown. I am a raw and
impleasing fruit even to my own palate. John Walden is a ripe and
mellow creature,--moreover, he seems still ripening in constant
sunshine. I go every Sunday to hear him preach, because he reminds
me of so much that I had forgotten."
Here they went into luncheon. Maryllia threw off her hat as she
seated herself at the head of the table, ruffling her hair with the
action into prettier waves of brown-gold. Her cheeks were softly
flushed,--her blue eyes radiant.
"You are a better parishioner than I am, Mr. Adderley!"--she said--
"I have not been to church once since I came home. I never go to
"Naturally! I quite understand! Few people of any education or
intelligence can stand it nowadays," he replied--"The Christian myth
is well-nigh exploded. Yet one cannot help having a certain sympathy
and interest in men, who, like Mr. Walden, appear to still honestly
believe in it."
"The Christian myth!" echoed Cicely--"My word! You do lay down the
law! Where should we be without the 'myth' I wonder?"
"Pretty much where we are now,"--said Julian--"Two thousand years of
the Christian dispensation leaves the world still pagan. Self-
indulgence is still paramount. Wealth still governs both classes and
masses. Politics are still corrupt. Trade still plays its old game
of 'beggar my neighbour.' What would you! And in this day there is
no restraining influence on the laxity of social morals. Literature
is decadent,--likewise Painting;--Sculpture and Poetry are moribund.
Man's inborn monkeyishness is obtaining the upper hand and bearing
him back to his natural filth,--and the glimmerings of the Ideal as
shown forth in a few examples of heroic and noble living are like
the flash of the rainbow-arch spanning a storm-cloud,--beautiful,
"I'm afraid you are right"--said Maryllia, with a little sigh; "It
is very sad and discouraging, but I fear very true."
"It's nothing of the kind!"--declared Cicely, with quick vehemence--
"It's just absolute nonsense! It is! Ah, 'never shake thy gory locks
at me,' Sir Moon-Calf!" and she made a little grimace across the
table at Julian, who responded to it with a complacent smile--"You
can talk, talk, talk--of course! every man that ever sat in clubs,
smoking and drinking, can talk one's head off--but you've got to
LIVE, as well as talk! What do you know about self-indulgence being
'paramount,' except in your own case, eh? Do you think at all of the
thousands and thousands of poor creatures everywhere, who completely
sacrifice their lives to the needs of others?"
"Of course there are such--" admitted Adderley; "But---"
"No 'buts' come into the case," went on the young girl, her eyes
darkening with the earnestness of her thoughts--"I have seen quite
enough even in my time to know how good and kind to one another even
the poorest people can be. And I have had plenty of hardships to
endure, too! But I can tell you one thing--and that is, that the
Christian 'myth' as you call it, is just the one thing that makes MY
life worth living! I don't want to talk about religion--I never do,-
-I only just say this--that the great lesson of Christianity is
exactly what we most need to learn."
"In what way?" asked Julian, smiling indulgently.
"Why,--merely that if one is honest and true, one MUST be crucified.
Therefore one is prepared,--and there's no need to cry out when the
nails are driven in. The Christian 'myth' teaches us what to expect,
how to endure, and how at last to triumph!"
A lovely light illuminated her face, and Maryllia looked at her very
tenderly. Adderley was silent.
"Nothing does one so much good as to be hurt,"--went on Cicely in a
lighter tone--"You then become aware that you are a somebody whom
other bodies envy. You never know how high you have climbed till you
feel a few dirty hands behind you trying to pull you down! When I
start my career as a singer, I shall not be satisfied till I get
anonymous letters every morning, telling me what a fraud and failure
I am. Then I shall realise that I am famous!"
"Alas!" said Julian with a comically resigned air--"I shall never be
of sufficient importance for that! No one would waste a penny stamp
on me! All I can ever hope to win is the unanimous abuse of the
press. That will at least give me an interested public!"
"Is Mr. Marius Longford a great friend of yours?" enquired Maryllia.
"Ah, that I cannot tell!" replied Julian--"He may be friend, or he
may be foe. He writes for a great literary paper--and is a member of
many literary clubs. He has produced three books--all monstrously
dull. But he has a Clique. Its members are sworn to praise Longford,
or die. Indeed, if they do not praise Longford, they become
mysteriously exterminated, like rats or beetles. I myself have
praised Longford, lest I also get a dose of his unfailing poison. He
will not praise me--but no matter for that. If he would only abuse
me!--but he won't! His blame is far more valuable than his eulogy.
At present he stands like a kind of neutral whipping-post--very much
in my way!"
"He knows Lord Roxmouth, he tells me,"--went on Maryllia; whereat
Cicely's sharp glance flashed at her inquisitively--"Lord Roxmouth
is by way of being a patron of the arts."
The tone of her voice, slightly contemptuous, was not lost on
Adderley. He fancied he was on dangerous ground.
"I have never met Lord Roxmouth myself"--he said--"But I have heard
Longford speak of him. Longford however rather 'makes' for society.
I do not. Longford is quite at home with dukes and duchesses---"
"Or professes to be--" put in Maryllia, with a slight smile.
"Or professes to be,--I accept the correction!" agreed Adderley.
"Personally, I know nothing of him,"--said Maryllia--"I have never
seen him at any of the functions in London, and I should imagine him
to be a man who rather over-estimated himself. So many literary men
do. That is why most of them are such terrible social bores."
"To the crime of being a literary man I plead not guilty!" and
Julian folded his hands in a kind of mock-solemn appeal--"Moreover,
I swear never to become one!"
"Good boy!" smiled Cicely--"Be a modern Pan, and run away from all
the literary cliques, kicking up the dust behind you in their faces
as you go! Roam the woods in solitude and sing!
"'The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
The bees on the bells of thyme,
The birds on the myrtle bushes,
The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tinolus was,
Listening to my sweet pipings!'"
"Ah, Shelley!" cried Adderley--"Shelley the divine! And how divinely
you utter his lines! Do you know the last verse of that poem:--'I
sang of the dancing stars'?"
Cicely raised her hand, commanding attention, and went on:
"'I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the daedal Earth,
And of Heaven,--and the giant wars,
And Love and Death and Birth.
And then I changed my pipings,--
Singing, how down the vale of Menalus,
I pursued a maiden and clasped a reed,
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!
It breaks in our bosom and then we bleed;
All wept, as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood,
At the sorrow of my sweet pipings!'"
"Beau-tiful!--beau-tiful!" sighed Adderley--"But so remote!--so very
remote! Alas!--who reads Shelley now!"
"I do"--said Cicely--"Maryllia does. You do. And many more. Shelley
didn't write for free-libraries and public-houses. He wrote for the
love of Art,--and he was drowned. You do the same, and perhaps
you'll be hung! It doesn't much matter how you end, so long as you
begin to be something no one else can be."
"You have certainly begun in that direction!" said Julian.
Cicely shrugged her shoulders.
"I don't know! I am myself. Most people try to be what they're not.
Such a waste of time and effort! That's why I've taken a fancy to
the parson I met this morning, Mr. Walden. He is himself and no
other. He is as much himself as old Josey Letherbarrow is. Josey is
an individuality. So is Mr. Walden. So is Maryllia. So am I. And"--
here she pointed a witch-like finger at Adderley--"so would you bes
if you didn't 'pose' as much as you do!"
"Cicely!" murmured Maryllia, warningly, though she smiled.
A slight flush swept over Adderley's face. But he took the remark
without offence, thereby showing himself to be of better mettle than
the little affectations of his outward appearance indicated.
"You think so?" he said, placidly--"That is very dear of you!--very
young! You may be right--you may be wrong,--but from one so
unsophisticated as yourself it is a proposition worth considering--
to pose, or not to pose! It is so new--so fresh!"
Walden kept his promise and duly arrived to tea at the Manor that
afternoon. He found his hostess in the library with Cicely and
Julian. She was showing to the latter one or two rare 'first
editions,' and was talking animatedly, but she broke off her
conversation the moment he was announced, and advanced to meet him
with a bright smile.
"At last, Mr. Walden!" she said--"I am glad Cicely has succeeded
where I failed, in persuading you to accept the welcome that has
awaited you here for some time!"
The words were gracefully spoken, with just the faintest trace of
kindly reproach in their intonation. Simple as they were, they
managed to deprive John of all power to frame a suitable reply. He
bowed over the little white hand extended to him, and murmured
something which was inaudible even to himself, while he despised
what he considered his own foolishness, clumsiness and general
ineptitude from the bottom of his heart. Maryllia saw his
embarrassment, and hastened to relieve him of it.
"We have been talking books,"--she said, lightly--"Mr. Adderley has
almost knelt in adoration before my Shakespeare 'first folio.' It is
very precious, being uncalendared in the published lists of ordinary
commentators. I suppose you have seen it?"
"Indeed I have"--replied Walden, as he shook hands with Cicely and
nodded pleasantly to Julian--"I'm afraid, Miss Vancourt, that if you
knew how often I have sat alone in this library, turning over the
precious volumes, you might be very angry with me! But I have saved
one or two from the encroaches of damp, such as the illuminated
vellum 'Petrarch,' and some few rare manuscripts--so you must try to
forgive my trespass. Mrs. Spruce used to let me come in and study
here whenever I liked."
"Will you not do so still?" queried Maryllia, sweetly--"I can
promise you both solitude and silence."
Again a wave of awkwardness overcame him. What could he say in
response to this friendly and gentle graciousness!
"You are very kind,"--he murmured.
"Not at all. The library is very seldom used--so the kindness will
be quite on your side if you can make it of service. I daresay you
know more about the books than I do. My father was very proud of
"He had cause to be,"--said Walden, beginning to recover his
equanimity and ease as the conversation turned into a channel which
was his natural element--"It is one of the finest collections in
England. The manuscripts alone are worth a fortune." Here he moved
to the table where Adderley stood turning over a wondrously painted
'Book of Hours'--"That is perfect twelfth-century work"--he said--
"There is a picture in it which ought to please Miss Cicely," and he
turned the pages over tenderly--"Here it is,--the loveliest of Saint
Cecilias, in the act of singing!"
Cicely smiled with pleasure, and hung over the beautifully
illuminated figure, surrounded with angels in clouds of golden
"There's one thing about Heaven which everybody seems agreed upon,"-
-she said--"It's a place where we're all expected to sing!"
"Not a doubt of it!" agreed Walden--"You will be quite in your
"The idea of Heaven is remote--so very remote!" said Adderley--"But
if such a place existed, and I were bound to essay a vocal effort
there, I should transform it at once to Hell! The angels would never
"Let us go into the garden"--said Maryllia--"It is quite lovely just
now,--there are such cool deep shadows on the lawn."
Cicely at once ran out, beckoning Adderley to follow. Maryllia tied
on her hat with its pink strings and its bunch of pink hyacinths
tumbling against her small shell-like ear, and looked up from under
its brim with an entrancing smile.
"Will you come, Mr. Walden?"
John murmured something politely inarticulate in assent. He was, as
has already been stated, apt to be rather at a loss in the company
of women, unless they were well-seasoned matrons and grandames, with
whom he could converse on the most ordinary and commonplace topics,
such as the curing of hams, the schooling of children, or the best
remedies for rheumatism. A feminine creature who appeared to exist
merely to fascinate the eye and attract the senses, moved him to a
kind of mental confusion, which affected himself chiefly, as no one,
save the most intimate of his friends, would ever have noticed it,
or guessed that he was at any sort of pains to seem at ease. Just
now, as he took his soft shovel-hat, and followed his fair hostess
out on the lawn, his mind was more or less in a state of chaos, and
the thoughts that kept coming and going were as difficult to put
into consecutive order as a Chinese puzzle. One uncomfortable memory
however sat prominently in a corner of his brain like the mocking
phantasm of a mischievous Puck, pointing its jeering finger and
reminding him of the fact, not to be denied, that but a short while
ago, he had made up his mind to dislike, ay, even to detest, that
mysterious composition of white and rose, blue eyes and chestnut-
gold hair, called Maryllia Vancourt,--that he had resolved she would
be an altogether objectionable personage in the village--HIS
village--of St. Rest,--and that he had wished--Ah! what had he
wished? Back, O teazing reminder of the grudging and suspicious
spirit that had so lately animated the soul of a Christian cleric!
Yet it had to be admitted, albeit now reluctantly, that he had
actually wished the rightful mistress of Abbot's Manor had never
returned to it! Smitten with sorest compunction at the recollection
of his former blind prejudice against the woman he had then never
seen, he walked by her side over the warm soft grass, listening with
a somewhat preoccupied air to the remarks she was making concerning
Cicely Bourne, and the great hopes she entertained of the girl's
future brilliant career.
"Really," she declared, "the only useful thing I have ever done in
my life is to rescue Cicely from uncongenial surroundings, and
provide her with all she needs for her musical studies. To help
bring out a great genius gives ME some little sense of importance,
you see! In myself I am such an utter nonentity."
She laughed. Walden looked at her with an earnestness of which he
was scarcely conscious. She coloured a little, and her eyes fell.
Something in the sudden delicate flush of her cheeks and the quick
droop of her eyelashes startled him,--he felt a curious sense of
contrition, as though he had given her some indefinable, altogether
shadowy cause for that brief discomposure. The idea that she seemed,
even for a second, not quite so much at her ease, restored his own
nerve and self-possession, and it was with an almost paternal
gentleness that he said.
"Do you really consider yourself a nonentity, Miss Vancourt? I am
sure the society you have left behind you in London does not think
She opened her sea-blue eyes full upon him.
"Society? Why do you speak of it? Its opinion of me or of anyone
else, is surely the last thing a sensible man. or woman would care
for, I imagine! One 'season' of it was enough for me. I have
unfortunately had several 'seasons,' and they were all too many."
Again Walden looked at her, but this time she did not seem to be
aware of his scrutiny.
"Do you take me for a member of the 'smart' set, Mr. Walden?" she
queried, gaily--"You are very much mistaken if you do! I have
certainly mixed with it, and know all about it--much to my regret--
but I don't belong to it. Of course I like plenty of life and
amusement, but 'society' as London and Paris and New York express it
in their modes and manners and 'functions,' is to me the dullest
form of entertainment in the world."
Walden was silent. She gave him a quick side-glance of enquiry.
"I suppose you have been told something about me?" she said--
"Something which represents me otherwise than as I represent myself.
At this abrupt question John fairly started out of his semi-
abstraction in good earnest.
"My dear Miss Vancourt!" he exclaimed, warmly--"How can you think of
such a thing! I have never heard a word about you, except from good
old Mrs. Spruce who knew you as a child, and who loves to recall
He broke off, checking himself with a vexed gesture.
"And--er--and--er--who else?" said Maryllia, smiling---"Now don't
play tricks with ME, or I'll play tricks with YOU!"
His eyes caught and reflected her smile.
"Well,--Sir Morton Pippitt spoke of you once in my hearing"--he
said--"And a friend of his whom he brought to see the church, the
Duke of Lumpton. Also a clergyman in this neighbourhood, a Mr.
Leveson--rector at Badsworth--HE mentioned you, and presumed"--here
John paused a moment,--"yes, I think I may say presumed--to know yon
"Did he really! I never heard of him!" And she laughed merrily. "Mr.
Walden, if I were to tell you the number of people who profess to
know ME whom _I_ do not know and never WILL know, you would be
surprised! I never spoke to Sir Morton Pippitt in my life till the
other day, though he pretends he has met me,-but he hasn't. He may
have seen me perhaps by chance when I was a child in the nursery,
but I don't remember anything about him. My father never visited any
of the people here,--we lived very much to ourselves. As for the
Duke of Lumpton,--well!--nobody knows him that can possibly avoid
it--and I have never even so much as seen him. Aunt Emily may
possibly have spoken of me in these persons' hearing--that's quite
likely,--but they know nothing of me at first hand." She paused a
moment, "Look at Cicely!" she said--"How quickly she makes friends!
She and Mr. Adderley are chattering away like two magpies!"
Walden looked in the direction indicated, and saw the couple at some
distance off, under the great cedar-tree which was the chief
ornament of the lawn,--Cicely seated in a low basket-chair, and
Adderley stretched on the grass at her feet. Both were talking
eagerly, both were gesticulating excitedly, and both looked exactly
what they were, two very eccentric specimens of humanity.
"They seem perfectly happy!" he said, smiling--"Adderley is a
curious fellow, but I think he has a good heart. He puts on a
mannerism, because he has seen the members of a certain literary
'set' in London put it on--but he'll drop that in time,--when he is
a little older and wiser. He has been in to see me once or twice
since he took up his residence here for the summer. He tries to
discuss religion with me--or rather, I should say. irreligion. His
own special 'cult' is the easy paganism of Omar Kayyam."
"Is he clever?"
"I think he is. He has a more or less original turn of mind. He read
me some of his verses the other day."
"Poor you!" laughed Maryllia.
"Well, I was inclined to pity myself when he first began"--said
Walden, laughing also--"But I must confess I was agreeably
surprised. Some of his fancies are quite charming."
They had been walking slowly across the lawn, and were now within a
few steps of the big cedar-tree.
"I must take you into the rose-garden, Mr. Walden!"--and she raised
her eyes to his with that childlike confiding look which was one of
her special charms,--"The roses are just budding out, and I want you
to see them before the summer gets more advanced. Though I daresay
you know every rosebush in the place, don't you?"
"I believe I do!" he admitted--"You see an old fogey like myself is
bound to have hobbies, and my particular hobby is gardening. I love
flowers, and I go everywhere I can, or may, to see them and watch
their growth. So that for years I have visited your rose-garden,
Miss Vancourt! I have been a regular and persistent trespasser,--but
all the same, I have never plucked a rose."
"Well, I wish you had!" said Maryllia, feeling somewhat impatient
with him for calling himself an 'old fogey,'--why did he give
himself away?--she thought,--"I wish you had plucked them all and
handed them round in baskets to the villagers, especially to the old
and sick persons. It would have been much better than to have had
them sold at Riversford through Oliver Leach."
"Did he sell them?" exclaimed John, quickly--"I am not surprised!"
"He sold everything, and put the money in his own pocket"--said
Maryllia,--"But, after all, the loss is quite my own fault. I ought
to have enquired into the management of the property myself. And I
certainly ought not to have stayed away from home so many years. But
it's never too late to mend!" She smiled, and advancing a step or
two called "Cicely!"
Cicely turned, looking up from beneath her spreading canopy of dark
"Oh, Maryllia, we're having such fun!" she exclaimed--"Mr. Adderley
is talking words, and I'm talking music! We'll show you how it goes
"Do, please!" laughed Maryllia; "It must be delightful! Mr. Walden
and I are going into the rose-garden. We shall be back in a few
She moved along, her white dress floating softly over the green
turf, its delicate flounces and knots of rosy ribbon looking like a
trail of living flowers. Walden, walking at her side, nodded
smilingly as he passed close by Cicely and Julian, his tall athletic
figure contrasting well with Maryllia's fairy-like grace,--and
presently, crossing from the lawn to what was called the 'Cherry-
Tree Walk,' because the path led under an arched trellis work over
which a couple of hundred cherry-trees were trained to form a long
arbour or pergola, they turned down it, and drawing closer together
in conversation, under the shower of white blossoms that shed
fragrance above their heads, they disappeared. Cicely, struck by a
certain picturesqueness, or what she would have called a 'stage
effect' in the manner of their exit, stopped abruptly in the
pianissimo humming of a tune with which she declared she had been
suddenly inspired by some lines Adderley had just recited.
"Isn't she pretty!" she said, indicating with a jerk of her ever
gesticulating hand the last luminous glimmer of Maryllia's vanishing
gown--"She's like Titania,--or Kilmeny in Fairyland. Why don't you
write something about HER, instead of about some girl you 'imagine'
and never see?"
Adderley, lying at his ease on the grass, turned on his arm and
likewise looked after the two figures that had just passed, as it
seemed, into a paradise of snowy flowers.
"The girls I 'imagine' are always so much better than those I see,"-
-he replied, with uncomplimentary candour.
"Thank you!" said Cicely--"You are quite rude, you know! But it
He stared up at her in vague astonishment.
"Oh, I didn't mean you!" he explained--"You're not a girl."
"No, really!" ejaculated Cicely--"Then what am I, pray?"
He looked at her critically,--at her thin sallow little face with
the intense eyes burning like flame under her well-marked black
eyebrows,--at her drooping angular arms and unformed figure,
tapering into the scraggy, long black-stockinged legs which ended in
a pair of large buckled shoes that covered feet of a decidedly flat-
iron model,--then he smiled oddly.
"You are a goblin!"--he said--"An elf,--a pixie--a witch! You were
born in a dark cave where the sea dashed in at high tide and made
the rough stones roar with music. There were sea-gulls nesting above
your cradle, and when the wind howled, and you cried, they called to
you wildly in such a plaintive way that you stopped your tears to
listen to them, and to watch their white wings circling round you!
You are not a girl--no!--how can you be? For when you grew a little
older, the invisible people of the air took you away into a great
forest, and taught you to swing yourself on the boughs of the trees,
while the stars twinkled at you through the thick green leaves,--and
you heard the thrushes sing at morning and the nightingales at
evening, till at last you learned the trill and warble and the
little caught sob in the throat which almost breaks the heart of
those who listen to it? And so you have become what you are, and
what I say you always will be--a goblin--a witch!--not a girl, but a
He waved his hand with fantastic gesture and raked up his hair.
"That's all very well and very pretty,"--said Cicely, showing her
even white teeth in a flashing 'goblin' grin,--"But of course you
don't mean a word of it! It's merely a way of talking, such as
poets, or men that call themselves poets, affect when the 'fit' is
on them. Just a string of words,--mere babble! You'd better write
them down, though,--you musn't waste them! Publishers pay for so
many words I believe, whether they're sense or nonsense,--please
don't lose any halfpence on my account! Do you know you are smiling
up at the sky as if you were entirely mad? Ordinary people would say
you were,--people to whom dinner is the dearest thing in life would
suggest your being locked up. And me, too, I daresay! You haven't
answered my question,--why don't you write something about
"She, too, is not a girl,"--rejoined Adderley--"She is a woman. And
she is absolutely unwritable!"
"Too lovely to find expression even in poetry,"--said Cicely,
"No no!--not that! Not that!" And Adderley gave a kind of serpentine
writhe on the grass as he raised himself to a half-sitting posture--
"Gentle Goblin, do not mistake me! When I say that Miss Vancourt is
unwritable, I would fain point out that she is above and beyond the
reach of my Muse. I cannot 'experience' her! Yes--that is so! What a
poet needs most is the flesh model. The flesh model may be Susan, or
Sarah, or Jane of the bar and tap-room,--but she must have lips to
kiss, hair to touch, form to caress---"
"Saint Moses!" cried Cicely, with an excited wriggle of her long
"She must!" declared Julian, with decision--"Because when you have
kissed the lips, you have experienced a 'sensation,' and you can
write--'Ah, how sweet the lips I love.' You needn't love them, of
course,--you merely try them. She must be amenable and good-natured,
and allow herself to be gazed at for an hour or so, till you decide
the fateful colour of her eyes. If they are blue, you can paraphrase
George Meredith on the 'Blue is the sky, blue is thine eye' system--
if black, you can recall the 'Lovely as the light of a dark eye in
woman,' of Byron. She must allow you to freely encircle her waist
with an arm, so that having felt the emotion you can write--"How
tenderly that yielding form, Thrills to my touch!' And then,--even
as a painter who pays so much per hour for studying from the life,--
you can go away and forget her--or you can exaggerate her charms in
rhyme, or 'imagine' that she is fairer than Endymion's moon-goddess-
-for so long as she serves you thus she is useful,--but once her
uses are exhausted, the poet has done with her, and seeks a fresh
sample. Hence, as I say, your friend Miss Vancourt is above my
clamour for the Beautiful. I must content myself with some humbler
type, and 'imagine' the rest!"
"Well, I should think you must, if that's the way you go to work!"
said Cicely, with eyes brimful of merriment and mischief--"Why you
are worse than the artists of the Quartier Latin! If you must needs
'experience' your models, I wonder that Susan, Sarah and Jane of the
bar and tap-room are good enough for you!"
"Any human female suffices,"--murmured Julian, drowsily, "Provided
she is amenable,--and is not the mother of a large family. At the
spectacle of many olive branches, the Muse shrieks a wild farewell!"
Cicely broke into a peal of laughter.
"You absurd creature!" she said--"You don't mean half the nonsense
you talk--you know you don't!"
"Do I not? But then, what do I mean? Am I justified in assuming that
I mean anything?" And he again ran his fingers through his ruddy
locks abstractedly. "No,--I think not! Therefore, if I now make a
suggestion, pray absolve me from any serious intentions underlying
"'And yet'--what?" queried Cicely, looking at him with some
"Ah! 'And yet'! Such little words, 'and yet'!" he murmured--"They
are like the stepping-stones across a brook which divides one sweet
woodland dell from another! 'And yet'!" He sighed profoundly, and
plucking a daisy from the turf, gazed into its golden heart
meditatively. "What I would say, gentle Goblin, is this,--you call
me Moon-calf, therefore there can be no objection to my calling you
Goblin, I think?"
"Not the least in the world!" declared Cicely--"I rather like it!"
"So good of you!--so dear!" he said, softly--"Well!--'and yet'--as I
have observed, the Muse may, like the Delphic oracle, utter words
without apparent signification, which only the skilled proficient at
her altar may be able to unravel. Therefore,--in this precise
manner, my suggestion may be wholly without point,--or it may not."
"Please get on with it, whatever it is,"--urged Cicely, impatiently-
-"You're not going to propose to me, are you? Because, if so, it's
no use. I'm too young, and I only met you this morning!"
He threw the daisy he had just plucked at her laughing face.
"Goblin, you are delicious!" he averred--"But the ghastly spectre of
matrimony does not at present stand in my path, luring me to the
frightful chasms of domesticity, oblivion and despair. What was it
the charming Russian girl Bashkirtseff wrote on this very subject?
'Me marier et'---?"
"I can tell you!" exclaimed Cicely--"It was the one sentence in the
whole book that made all the men mad, because it showed such utter
contempt for them! 'Me marier et avoir des enfants? Mais--chaque
blanchisseuse peut en faire autant! Je veux la gloire!' Oh, how I
agree with her! Moi, aussi, je veux la gloire!"
Her dark eyes flamed into passion,--for a moment she looked almost
beautiful. Adderley stared languidly at her as he would have stared
at the heroine of an exciting scene on the stage, with indolent, yet
"Goblin incroyable!" he sighed--"You are so new!--so fresh!"
"Like salad just gathered," said Cicely, calming down suddenly from
his burst of enthusiasm--"And what of your 'suggestion'?"
"My suggestion," rejoined Adderley--"is one that may seem to you a
strange one. It is even strange to myself! But it has flashed into
my brain suddenly,--and even so inspiration may affect the dullard.
It is this: Suppose the Parson fell in love with the Lady, or the
Lady fell in love with the Parson? Either, neither, or both?"
Cicely sat up straight in her chair as though she had been suddenly
pulled erect by an underground wire.
"What do you mean?" she asked--"Suppose the parson fell in love with
the lady or the lady with the parson! Is it a riddle?"
"It may possibly become one;" he replied, complacently--"But to
speak more plainly--suppose Mr. Walden fell in love with Miss
Vancourt, or Miss Vancourt fell in love with Mr. Walden, what would
"Suppose a Moon-calf jumped over the moon!" said Cicely
disdainfully--"Saint Moses! Maryllia is as likely to fall in love as
I am,--and I'm the very last possibility in the way of sentiment.
Why, whatever are you thinking of? Maryllia has heaps of men in,
love with her,--she could marry to-morrow if she liked."
"Ay, no doubt she could marry--that is quite common--but perhaps she
could not love!" And Julian waved one hand expressively. "To love is
so new!--so fresh!"
"But Maryllia would never fall in love with a PARSON!" declared
Cicely, almost resentfully--"A parson!--a country parson too! The
idea is perfectly ridiculous!"
A glimmer of white in the vista of the flowering 'Cherry-Tree Walk'
here suddenly appeared and warned her that Maryllia and the Reverend
John were returning from their inspection of the rose-garden. She
cheeked herself in an outburst of speech and silently watched them
approaching. Adderley watched them too with a kind of lachrymose
interest. They were deep in conversation, and Maryllia carried a
bunch of white and blush roses which she had evidently just
gathered. She looked charmingly animated, and now and then a light
ripple of her laughter floated out on the air as sweet as the songs
of the birds chirming around them.
"The roses are perfectly lovely!" she exclaimed delightedly, as she
came under the shadow of the great cedar-tree; "Mr. Walden says he
has never seen the standards so full of bud." Here she held the
cluster she had gathered under Cicely's nose. "Aren't they
delicious! Oh, by the bye, Mr. Walden, I have promised you one! You
must have it, in return for the spray of lilac you gave me when I
came to see YOUR garden! Now you must take a rose from mine!" And,
laying all the roses on Cicely's lap, she selected one delicate
half-opened, blush-white bloom. "Shall I put it in your coat for
"If you will so far honour me!" answered Walden;--he was strangely
pale, and a slight tremor passed over him as he looked down at the
small fingers,--pink-tipped as the petals of the flower they so
deftly fastened in his buttonhole; "And how"--he continued, with an
effort, addressing Cicely and Julian--"How have Music and Poetry got
"Oh, we're not married yet,"--said Cicely, shaking off the dumb
spell which Adderley's 'suggestion' had for a moment cast upon her
mind--"We ought to be, of course,--for a real good opera. But we're
only just beginning courtship. Mr. Adderley has recited some lines
of his own composition, and I have improvised some music. You shall
hear the result some day."
"Why not now?" queried Maryllia, as she seated herself in another
chair next to Cicely's under the cedar boughs, and signed to Walden
to do the same.
"Why, because I believe that the tea is about to arrive. I saw the
majestic Primmins in the distance, wrestling with a table--didn't
you, Mr. Adderley?"
Adderley rose from his half recumbent position on the grass, and
shading his eyes from the afternoon sunshine, looked towards the
"Yes,--it is even so!" he replied--"Primmins and a subordinate are
on the way hither with various creature comforts. Music and Poetry
must pause awhile. Yet why should there be a pause? It is for this
that I am a follower of Omar Kayyam. He was a materialist as well as
a spiritualist, and his music admits of the aforesaid creature
comforts as much as the exalted and subtle philosophies and ironies
"Poor Omar!" said Walden,--"The pretty piteousness of him is like
the wailing of a lamb led to the slaughter. Grass is good to graze
on, saith lambkin,--other lambs are fair to frisk with,--but alas!--
neither grass nor lambs can last, and therefore as lambkin cannot
always be lambkin, it bleats its end in Nothingness! But, thank God,
there is something stronger and wiser in the Universe than lambkin!"
"True!" said Adderley, "But even lambkin has a right to complain of
"I think not,"--he rejoined--"No created thing has a right to
complain of its destiny. It finds itself Here,--and the fact that it
IS Here is a proof that there is a purpose for its existence. What
that purpose is we do not know yet, but we SHALL know!"
Adderley lifted dubious eyelids.
"You think we shall?"
"Most assuredly! What does Dante Rosetti say?--
'The day is dark and the night
To him that would search their heart;
No lips of cloud that will part
Nor morning song in the light;
Only, gazing alone
To him wild shadows are shown,
Deep under deep unknown,
And height above unknown height
Still we say as we go:
"Strange to think by the way
Whatever there is to know
That shall we know one day."'"
He recited the lines softly, but with eloquent emphasis. "You see,
those of us who take the trouble to consider the working and
progress of events, know well enough that this glorious Creation
around us is not a caprice or a farce. It is designed for a Cause
and moves steadily towards that Cause. There may be--no doubt there
are--many men who elect to view life from a low, material, or even
farcical standpoint--nevertheless, life in itself is serious and
Cicely's dark face lightened as with an illumination while she
listened to these words. Maryllia, who had taken up the roses she
had laid in Cicely's lap, and was now arranging them afresh, looked
"Yet there are many searching truths in the philosophy of Omar
Kayyam, Mr. Walden,"--she said--"Many sad facts that even our
religion can scarcely get over, don't you think so?"
He met her eyes with a gentle kindliness in his own.
"I think religion, if true and pure, turns all sad facts to
sweetness, Miss Vancourt,"--he said--"At least, so I have found it."
The clear conviction of his tone was like the sound of a silver bell
calling to prayer. A silence followed, broken only by the singing of
a little bird aloft in the cedar-tree, whose ecstatic pipings aptly
expressed the unspoilt joys of innocence and trust.
"One pretty verse of Omar I remember," then said Cicely, abruptly,
fixing her penetrating eyes on Walden,--"And it really isn't a bit
irreligious. It is this:--
'The Bird of Life is singing on the bough,
His two eternal notes of "I and Thou"--
O hearken well, for soon the song sings through,
And would we hear it, we must hear it Now!'"
A white rose slipped from the cluster Maryllia held, and dropped on
the grass. John stooped for it, and gave it back to her. Their hands
just touched as she smiled her thanks. There was nothing in the
simple exchange of courtesies to move any self-possessed man from
his normal calm, yet a sudden hot thrill and leap of the heart dazed
Walden's brain for a moment and made him almost giddy. A sick fear--
an indefinable horror of himself possessed him,--caught by this
mmameable transport of sudden and singular emotion, he felt he could
have rushed away, away!--anywhere out of reach and observation, and
have never entered the fair and halcyon gardens of Abbot's Manor
again. Why?--in Heaven's name, why? He could not tell,--but--he had
no right to be there!--no right to be there!--he kept on repeating
to himself;--he ought to have remained at home, shut up in his study
with his dog and his books,--alone, alone, always alone! The brief
tempest raged over his soul with soundless wind and fire,--then
passed, leaving no trace on his quiet features and composed manner.
But in that single instant an abyss had been opened in the depths of
his own consciousness,--an abyss into which he looked with amazement
and dread at the strange foolhardiness which had involuntarily led
him to its brink,--and he now drew back from it, nervously
"'And would we hear it, we must hear it Now!'" repeated Adderley,
with opportune bathos at this juncture--"As I have said, and will
always maintain, Omar's verse always fits in with the happy approach
of creature comforts! Behold the illustration and example!--Primmins
with the tea!"
"It is a pretty verse, though, isn't it?" queried Cicely, moving her
chair aside to make more space for the butler and footman as they
nimbly set out the afternoon tea-table in the deepest shade bestowed
by the drooping cedar boughs--"Isn't it?"
And her searching eyes fastened themselves pertinaciously upon
"Very pretty!" he answered, steadily--"And--so far-as it goes--very
After tea, they re-entered the house at Maryllia's request to hear
Cicely play. Arrived in the drawing-room they found the only truly
modern thing in it, a grand piano, of that noted French make which
as far surpasses the German model as a genuine Stradivarius
surpasses a child's fiddle put together yesterday, and, taking her
seat at this instrument, Cicely had transformed both herself and it
into unspeakable enchantment. The thing of wood and wire and ivory
keys had become possessed, as it were, with the thunder of the
battling clouds and the great rush of the sea,--and then it had
suddenly whispered of the sweetness of love and life, till out of
storm had grown the tender calm of a flowing melody, on which
wordless dreams of happiness glittered like rainbow bubbles on foam,
shining for a moment and then vanishing at a breath; it had caught
the voices of the rain and wind,--and the pattering drops and
sibilant hurricane had whizzed sharply through the scale of sound
till the very notes seemed alive with the wrath of nature,--and then
it had rolled all the wild clamour away into a sustained
magnificence of prayerful chords which seemed to plead for all
things grand, all things true, all things beautiful,--and to list
the soul of man in panting, labouring ecstasy up to the very
threshold of Heaven! And she--the 'goblin' who evoked all this
phantasmagoria of life set in harmony--she too changed as it seemed,
in nature and aspect,--her small meagre face was as the face of a
pictured angel, with the dark hair clustering round it in thick
knots and curling waves as of blackest bronze,--while the eyes, full
of soft passion and fire, glowed beneath the broad temples with the
light of youth's imperial dream of fame. What human creature could
accept the limited fact of being mere man, mere woman only, while
Cicely played? Such music as hers recalled and revealed the earliest
splendour of the days when Poesy was newly born,--when gods and
goddesses were believed to walk the world in large and majestic
freedom,--and when brave deeds of chivalry and self-sacrifice became
exalted by the very plenitude of rich imagination, into supernatural
facts of heaven conquering, hell-charming prowess. Not then was man
made to seem uncouth, or mean and savage in his attempts to dominate
the planet, but strong, fearless, and endowed with dignity and
power. Not then was every noble sentiment derided,--every truth
scourged,--every trust betrayed,-every tenderness mocked,--and every
sweet emotion made the subject of a slander or a sneer. Not then was
love mere lust, marriage mere convenience, and life mere
covetousness of gain. There was something higher, greater, purer
than these,--something of the inspiring breath of God, which,
according to the old Biblical narrative, was breathed into humanity
with the words--"Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness."
That 'image' of God was featured gloriously in the waves of music
which surged through Cicely's brain and fingers, out on the
responsive air,--and when she ceased playing there followed a dumb
spell of wonderment and awe, which those who had listened to her
marvellous improvisation were afraid to break by a word or movement.
And then, with a smile at their mute admiration and astonishment,
she had passed her small supple hands lightly again over the piano-
keys, evoking therefrom a playful prelude, and the pure silvery
sound of her voice had cloven the air asunder with De Musset's
"Adieu, Suzon, ma rose blonde,
Qui m'as aime pendant huit jours!
Les plus courts plaisirs de ce monde
Souvent font les meilleurs amours.
Sais-je au moment ou je te quitte
Ou m'entraine mon astre errant?
Je m'en vais pourtant, ma petite,
Bien loin, bien vite,
Was it possible for any man with a drop of warm blood flowing
through his veins, not to feel a quicker heart-beat, a swifter
pulse, at the entrancing, half-melancholy, half-mocking sweetness
she infused into these lines?
"Je pars, et sur ma levre ardente
Brule encor ton dernier baiser.
Entre mes bras, chere imprudente
Ton beau front vient de reposer.
Sens-tu mon coeur, comme il palpite?
Le tien, comme il battait gaiment!
Je m'en vais pourtant, ma petite,
Bien loin, bien vite
With the passion, fire and exquisite abandon of her singing of this
verse in tones of such youthful freshness and fervour as could
scarcely be equalled and never surpassed, Adderley could no longer
restrain himself, and crying 'Brava!--brava! Bravissima!' fell to
clapping his hands in the wildest ecstasy. Walden, less
demonstrative, was far more moved. Something quite new and strange
to his long fixed habit and temperament had insidiously crept over
him,--and being well accustomed to self-analysis, he was conscious
of the fact, and uneasy at finding himself in the grip of an emotion
to which he could give no name. Therefore, he was glad when,--the
music being ended, and when he had expressed his more or less
incoherent praise and thanks to Cicely for the delight her wonderful
gift had afforded him,--he could plead some business in the village
as an excuse to take his departure. Maryllia very sweetly bade him
"As often as you like,"--she said--"And I want you to promise me one
thing, Mr. Walden!--you must consent to meet some of my London
friends here one evening to dinner."
She had given him her hand in parting, and he was holding it in his
"I'm afraid I should be very much in the way, Miss Vancourt,"--he
replied, with a grave smile--"I am not a social acquisition by any
means! I live very much alone,--and a solitary life, I think, suits
She looked at him thoughtfully, and withdrew her hand.
"That means that you do not care to come,"--she said, simply--"I am
so sorry you do not like me!"
The blood rushed up to his brows.
"Miss Vancourt!" he stammered--"Pray--pray do not think---"
But here she turned aside to receive Adderley's farewells and thanks
for the charming afternoon he had spent in her company. After this,
and when Julian had made his exit, accompanied by Cicely who wanted
him to give her a written copy of certain verses he had composed,
Maryllia again spoke:
"Well, at any rate, I shall send you an invitation to one of my
parties, whether you come or not, Mr. Walden;" she said, playfully--
"Otherwise, I shall feel I have not done my social duty to the
minister of the parish! It will be for some evening during the
next three weeks. I hope you will be able to accept it. If not---"
A sudden resolve inspired John's hesitating soul. Taking the hand
she offered, he raised it lightly to his lips with all the gallantry
of an old-world courtier rather than a modern-time parson.
"If you wish me to accept it, it shall be accepted!"--he said, and
his voice shook a little--"Forgive me if in any way. I have seemed
to you discourteous, Miss Vancourt!--I am so much of a solitary,
that 'society' has rather an intimidating effect upon me,--but you
must never"--here he looked at her full and bravely--"You must never
say again or think that I do not like you! I DO like you!"
Her eyes met his with pure and candid earnestness.
"That is kind of you,"--she said--"And I am glad! Good-bye!"
And so he left her presence.
When he started to walk home across the fields, Adderley proffered
his companionship, which could not in civility be refused. They left
the Manor grounds together by the little wicket-gate, and took the
customary short-cut to the village. The lustrous afternoon light was
mellowing warmly into a deeper saffron glow,--a delicate suggestion
of approaching evening was in the breath of the cooling air, and
though the uprising orb of Earth had not yet darkened the first gold
cloud beneath the western glory of the sun, there was a gentle
murmur and movement among the trees and flowers and birds, which
indicated that the time for rest and sleep was drawing nigh. The
long grasses rustled mysteriously, and the smafl unseen herbs hidden
under them sent up a pungently sweet odour as the two men trod them
down on their leisurely way across the fields,--and it was with a
certain sense of relief from mental strain that Walden lifted his
hat and let the soft breeze fan his temples, which throbbed and
ached very strangely as though with a weight of pent-up tears. He
was very silent,--and Julian Adderley, generally accustomed to talk
for two, seemed disposed to an equal taciturnity. The few hours they
had spent in the society of Maryllia Vancourt and her weird
protegee, Cicely Bourne, had given both men subject for various
thoughts which neither of them were inclined to express to one
another. Walden, in particular, was aware of a certain irritation
and uneasiness of mind which troubled him greatly and he looked
askance at his companion with unchristian impatience. The long-
legged, red-haired poet was decidedly in his way at the present
moment,--he would rather have been alone. He determined in any case
not to ask him to enter the rectory garden,--more of his society
would be intolerable,--they would part at the gate,--
"I'm afraid I'm boring you, Mr. Walden,"--said the unconscious
object of his musings, just then--" I am dull! I feel myself under a
cloud. Pray excuse it!"
The expression of his face was comically lachrymose, and John felt a
touch of compunction at the nature of his own immediate mental
attitude towards the harmless 'moon-calf.'
"Don't apologise!" he said, with a frank smile--"I myself am not in
a companionable humour. I think Miss Bourne's music has not only put
something into us, but taken something out of us as well."
"You are right!" said Julian--"You are perfectly right. And you
express the emotion aptly. It was extraordinary music! But that
voice! That voice will be a wonder of the world!"
"It is a wonder already"--rejoined Walden--"If the girl keeps her
health and does not break down from nervous excitement and
overstrain, she will have a dazzling career. I think Miss Vancourt
will take every possible care of her."
"Miss Vancourt is very lovely,"--said Adderley reflectively, "I have
made up my mind on that point at last. When I first saw her, I was
not convinced. Her features are imperfect. But they are mobile and
expressive--and in the expression there is a subtle beauty which is
quite provocative. Then again, my own 'ideals' of women have always
been tall and queenly,--yet in Miss Vanconrt we have a woman who is
queenly without being tall. It is the regal air without the material
inches. And I am now satisfied that the former is more fascinating
than the latter. Though I admit that it was once my dream to die
upon the breast of a tall woman!"
Walden. laughed forcedly. He was vexed to be compelled to listen to
Adderley's criticism of Maryllia Vancourt's physical charms, yet he
was powerless to offer any remonstrance.
"But, after all," continued Julian, gazing up into the pink and
mauve clouds of the kindling sunset,--"The tall woman might
possibly, from the very coldness of her height, be unsympathetic.
She might be unclaspable. Juno seems even more repellent than Venus
or Psyche. Then again, there are so many large women. They are
common. They obstruct the public highway. They tower forth in
theatre-stalls, and nod jewelled tiaras from the elevation of opera-
boxes, blocking out the view of the stage. They are more often
assertive than lovable. Therefore let me not cling to an illusion
which will not bear analysis. For Miss Vancourt is not a tall
woman,--nor for that matter is she short,--she is indescribable, and
therefore entirely bewitching!"
John said nothing, but only walked on a trifle more quickly.
"You are perhaps not an admirer of the fair sex, Walden?" pursued
his companion--"And therefore my observations awaken no sympathy in
"I never discuss women,"--replied Walden, drily--"I am not a poet,
you see,--" and he smiled--"I am merely a middle-aged parson. You
can hardly expect me to share in your youthful enthusiasms,
Adderley! You are going up the hill of life,--I am travelling down.
We cannot see things from the same standpoint." Here, they left the
fields and came to the high road,--from thence a few more paces
brought them to the gate of the rectory. "But I quite agree with you
in your admiration of Miss Vancourt. She seems a most kindly and
charming lady--and--I believe--I am sure"--and his remarks become
somewhat rambling and disjointed--"yes--I am sure she will try to do
good in the village now that she has taken up her residence here.
That is, of course, if she stays. She may get tired of country life-
-that is quite probable--but--it is, of course, a good thing to have
a strong social influence in the neighbourhood--especially a woman's
influence--and I should say Miss Vancourt will make herself useful
and beloved in the parish---"
At this period he caught Adderley's eyes fixed upon him somewhat
quizzically, and realised that he was getting quite 'parochial' in
his talk. He checked himself abruptly and swung open his garden
"I'm sorry I can't ask you in just now,"--he said--"I have some
pressing work to do---"
"Don't mention it!" and Julian clasped him by the hand fervently--"I
would not intrude upon you for worlds! You must be alone, of course.
You are delightful!--yes, my dear Walden, you are delicious! So new-
-so fresh! It is a privilege to know you! Good-bye for the moment! I
may come and talk to you another time!"
"Oh, certainly! By all means!" And Walden, shaking hands with all
the vigour Adderley's grasp enforced upon him, escaped at last into
the sanctuary of his own garden, and hastened under the covering
shadow of the trees that bordered the lawn. Adderley watched him
disappear, and then went on his own way with a gratified air of
"Those who 'never discuss women' are apt to be most impressed by
them,"--he sagaciously reflected--"The writhings of a beetle on a
pin are not so complex or interesting as the writhings of a parson's
stabbed senses! Now a remarkable psychological study might be made--
My good friend! Kindly look where you are going!"
This last remark was addressed to a half-drunken man who pushed past
him roughly without apology, almost jostling him off the foot-path.
It was Oliver Leach, who hearing himself spoken to, glanced round
sullenly with a muttered oath, and stumbled on.
"That is Miss Vancourt's dismissed agent,"--said Adderley, pausing a
moment to watch his uncertain progress up the road. "What an
He walked on, and, his former train of thought being entirely
disturbed, he went to the 'Mother Huff,' where he was a frequent
visitor, his elaborate courtesies to Mrs. Buggins enabling him to
hear from that lady's pious lips all the latest news, scandal and
gossip, true or untrue, concerning the whole neighbourhood.
Walden, meanwhile, finding himself once more alone in his own
domain, breathed freely. The faithful Nebbie, who had passed all the
hours of his master's absence, 'on guard' by the window of the
vacant study, came running to meet him as he set foot upon the
lawn,--three or four doves that were brooding on the old tiled and
gabled roof of the rectory, rose aloft in a short flight and
descended again, cooing softly as though with satisfaction at his
return,--and there was a soothing silence everywhere, the work of
the day being done, and Bainton having left the garden trim and fair
to its own sweet solitude and calm. Gently patting his dog's rough
head, as the animal sprang up to him with joyous short barks of
welcome, John looked about him quietly for a moment or two with an
expression in his eyes that was somewhat dreamy and pathetic.
"I have known the old place so long and loved every corner of it!"--
he murmured--"And yet,--to-day it seems all strange and unfamiliar!"
The glow of the sunset struck a red flare against the walls of his
house, and beat out twinkling diamond flashes from the latticed
windows,--the clambering masses of honeysuckle and roses shone forth
in vivid clusters as though inwardly illuminated. The warmth and
ecstasy of life seemed palpitating in every flush of colour, every
shaft of light,--and the wild, voluptuous singing of unseen
skylarks, descending to their nests, and shaking out their songs, as
it seemed, like bubbles of music breaking asunder in the clear
empyrean, expressed the rapture of heaven wedded to the sensuous,
living, breathing joys of earth. The glamour and radiance of the air
affected Walden with a sudden unwonted sense of fatigue and pain,
and pressing one hand across his eyes, he shut out the dazzle of
blue sky and green grass for a moment's respite,--then went slowly,
and with bent head into his study. Here everything was very quiet,--
and, as it struck him then, curiously lonely,--on his desk lay
various notes and messages and accounts--the usual sort of paper
litter that accumulated under his hands every day,--two or three
visiting cards had been left for him during his absence,--one on the
part of the local doctor, a very clever and excellent fellow named
James Forsyth, who was familiarly called 'Jimmy' by the villagers,
and who often joined Walden of an evening to play a game of chess
with him,--and another bearing the neat superscription 'Mrs.
Mandeville Poreham. The Leas. At Home Thursdays,'--whereat he
smiled. Mrs. Mandeville Poreham was a 'county' lady, wife of a
gentleman-at-ease who did nothing but hunt, and who never had done
anything in all his life but hunt,--she was also the mother of five
marriageable daughters, and her calls on the Reverend John were
marked by a polite and patient persistency that seemed altogether
admirable. She lived some two miles out of St. Rest, but always
attended Walden's church regularly, driving thither with her family
in a solemnly closed private omnibus of the true 'county' type. She
professed great interest in all Church matters, on the ground that
she was herself the daughter of a dead-and-gone clergyman.
"My poor father!" she was wont to say, smoothing her sleek bandeaux
of grey hair on either side of her forehead with one long, pale,
thin finger--"He was such a good man! Ah yes!--and he had such a
lovely mind! My mother was a Beedle."
This last announcement, generally thrown in casually, was apt to be
startling to the uninitiated,--and it was not till the genealogy of
the Beedle family had been duly explained to the anxious enquirer,
that it was seen how important and allsufficing it was to have had a
Beedle for one's maternal parent. The Beedles were a noted 'old
stock' in Suffolk, so it appeared,--and to be connected with a
Suffolk Beedle was, to certain provincial minds of limited
perception, a complete guarantee of superior birth and breeding.
Walden was well accustomed to receiving a call from Mrs. Poreham
about every ten days or so, and he did his utmost best to dodge her
at all points. Bainton was his ready accomplice in this harmless
conspiracy, and promptly gave him due warning whenever the Poreham
''bus' or landau was seen weightily bearing down upon the village,
with the result that, on the arrival of the descendant of the
Beedles at the rectory door she was met by Hester Rockett, the
parlourmaid, with a demure smile and the statement,--'Mr. Walden is
out, mim.' Then, when Walden, according to the laws of etiquette,
had to return the lady's visit, Bainton again assisted him by
watching and waiting till he could inform him, ''as 'ow he'd seen