Part 5 out of 5
you can run--take a man like Geoffrey who can run you--and make you jolly
happy all the same! There--I can give advice too, you see--and you've no
right to be offended!"
Helena could not keep her features still. Her eyes shot fire, though of
what kind the fire might be Peter was not quite sure. The two young
creatures faced each other. There was laughter in each face, but
something else; something strenuous, tragic even; as though "Life at its
grindstone set" had been at work on the radiant pair, evoking the
Meredithian series of intellect from the senses,--"brain from blood";
with "spirit," or generous soul, for climax.
But unconsciously Peter had moved aside. In a flash Helena had slipped
past him, and was flying through the wood, homeward, looking back to mock
him, as he sped after her in vain.
A week had passed. Mrs. Friend at ten o'clock in the morning had just
been having a heart to heart talk with the landlady of the inn on the
subject of a decent luncheon for three persons, and a passable dinner for
four. Food at the inn was neither good nor well-cooked, and as criticism,
even the mildest, generally led to tears, Mrs. Friend's morning lot, when
any guest was expected, was not a happy one. It was a difficult thing
indeed to get anything said or settled at all; since the five-year old
Bobby was generally scrimmaging round, capturing his mother's broom and
threatening to "sweep out" Mrs. Friend, or brandishing the meat-chopper,
as a still more drastic means of dislodging her. The little villain,
having failed to drown himself, was now inclined to play tricks with his
small sister, aged eight weeks; and had only that morning, while his
mother's back was turned, taken the baby out of her cradle, run down a
steep staircase with her in his arms, and laid her on a kitchen chair,
forgetting all about her a minute afterwards. Even a fond mother had been
provoked to smacking, and the inn had been filled with howls and
roarings, which deadened even the thunder of the swollen stream outside.
Then Helena, her fingers in her ears, had made a violent descent upon the
kitchen, and carried off the "limb" to the river, where, being given
something to do in the shape of damming up a brook that ran into the main
stream, he had suddenly developed angelic qualities, and tied himself to
There they both were, on the river's pebbly bank, within hail, Helena in
a short white skirt with a green jersey and cap. She was alternately
helping Bobby to build the dam, and lying with her hands beneath her
head, under the shelter of the bank. Moderately fine weather had
returned, and the Welsh farmer had once more begun to hope that after all
he might get in his oats. The morning sun sparkled on the river, on the
freshly washed oak-woods, and on Bobby's bare curly head, as he sat
busily playing beside Helena.
What was Helena thinking of? Lucy Friend would have given a good deal to
know. On the little table before Lucy lay two telegrams: one signed
"Geoffrey" announced that he would reach Bettws station by twelve, and
the "Fisherman's Rest" about half an hour later. The other announced the
arrival of Lord Buntingford by the evening train. Lord Buntingford's
visit had been arranged two or three days before; and Mrs. Friend wished
it well over. He was of course coming to talk about plans with his ward,
who had now wasted the greater part of the London season in this
primitive corner of Wales. And both he and Geoffrey were leaving historic
scenes behind them in order to spend these few hours with Helena. For
this was Peace Day, when the victorious generals and troops of the
Empire, and the Empire's allies, were to salute England's king amid the
multitudes of London, in solemn and visible proof that the long nightmare
of the war had found its end. Buntingford had naturally no heart for
pageants; but Helena had been astonished by Geoffrey's telegram, which
had arrived the night before from the Lancashire town he represented in
Parliament. As an M.P. he ought surely to have been playing his part in
the great show. Moreover, she had not expected him so soon, and she had
done nothing to hurry his coming. His telegram had brought a great flush
of colour into her face. But she made no other sign.
"Oh, well, we can take them out to see bonfires!" she had said, putting
on her most careless air, and had then dismissed the subject. For that
night the hills of the north were to run their fiery message through the
land, blazoning a greater victory than Drake's; and Helena, who had by
now made close friends with the mountains, had long since decided on the
best points of view.
Since then Lucy had received no confidences, and asked no questions. A
letter had reached her, however; by the morning's post, from Miss Alcott,
giving an account of the situation at Beechmark, of the removal of the
boy to his father's house, and of the progress that had been made in
awakening his intelligence and fortifying his bodily health.
"It is wonderful to see the progress he has made--so far, entirely
through imitation and handwork. He begins to have some notion of counting
and numbers--he has learnt to crochet and thread beads---poor little lad
of fifteen!--he has built not only a tower but something like a house, of
bricks--and now his enthusiastic teacher is attempting to teach him the
first rudiments of speech, in this wonderful modern way--lip-reading and
the like. He has been under training for about six weeks, and certainly
the results are most promising. I believe his mother protested to Lord
Buntingford that he had not been neglected. Nobody can believe her, who
sees now what has been done. Apparently a brain-surgeon in Naples was
consulted as to the possibility of an operation. But when that was
dropped, nothing else was ever tried, no training was attempted, and the
child would have fared very badly, if it had not been for the old
_bonne_--Zelie--who was and is devoted to him. His mother was ashamed of
him, and came positively to hate the sight of him.
"But the tragic thing is that as his mind develops, his body seems to
weaken. Food, special exercise, massage--poor Lord Buntingford has been
trying everything--but with small result. It is pitiful to see him
watching the child, and hanging on the doctors. 'Shall we stop all the
teaching?' he said to John the other day in despair--'my first object is
that he should _live_,' But it would be cruel to stop the teaching now.
The child would not allow it. He himself has caught the passion of it.
He seems to me to live in a fever of excitement and joy, as one step
follows another, and the door opens a little wider for his poor prisoned
soul. He adores his father, and will sit beside him, stroking his silky
beard, with his tiny fingers, and looking at him with his large pathetic
eyes ... They have taken him to Beechmark, as you know, and given him a
set of rooms, where he and his wonderful little teacher, Miss
Denison--trained in the Seguin method, they say--and the old _bonne_
Zelie live. The nurse has gone.
"I am so sorry for Lady Cynthia--she seems to miss him so. Of course
she goes over to Beechmark a good deal, but it is not the same as
having him under her own roof. And she was so good to him! She looks
tired of late, and rather depressed. I wonder if her dragoon of a
sister has been worrying her. Of course Lady Georgina is enchanted to
have got rid of Arthur.
"I am very glad to hear Lord Buntingford is going to Wales. Miss Pitstone
has been evidently a great deal on his mind. He said to John the other
day that he had arranged everything at Beechmark so that, when you and
she came back, he did not think you would find Arthur in the way. The
boy's rooms are in a separate wing, and would not interfere at all with
visitors. I said to him once that I was sure Miss Helena would be very
fond of the little fellow. But he frowned and looked distressed. 'I
should scarcely allow her to see him,' he said. I asked why. 'Because a
young girl ought to be protected from anything irremediably sad. Life
should be always bright for her. And I can still make it bright for
Helena--I intend to make it bright.'
"Good-bye, my dear Mrs. Friend. John and I miss you very much."
A last sentence which gave Lucy Friend a quite peculiar pleasure. Her
modest ministrations in the parish and the school had amply earned it.
But it amazed her that anyone should attach any value to them. And that
Mr. Alcott should miss her--why, it was ridiculous!
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sight of Helena, returning to the
inn along the river bank, with Bobby clinging to her skirt.
"Take him in tow, please," said Helena through the window. "I am going to
walk a little way to meet Geoffrey."
Bobby's chubby hand held her so firmly that he could only be detached
from her by main force. He was left howling in Mrs. Friend's grasp, till
Helena, struck with compunction, turned back from the bend of the road,
to stuff a chocolate into his open mouth, and then ran off again,
laughing at the sudden silence which had descended on hill and stream.
Through the intermittent shade and sunshine of the day, Helena stepped
on. She had never held herself so erect; never felt so conscious of an
intense and boundless vitality. Yet she was quite uncertain as to what
the next few hours would bring her. Peter had given a hint--that she was
sure; and she was now, it seemed, to be wooed in earnest. On Geoffrey's
former visit, she had teased him so continuously, and put so many petty
obstacles of all kinds in his way, that he had finally taken his cue from
her, and they had parted, in a last whirlwind of "chaff," but secretly
angry, with each other or themselves.
"He might have held out a little longer," thought Helena. "When shall I
ever get a serious word from her?" thought French.
Slowly she descended the long and winding hill leading to the village.
From the few scattered cottages and farms in sight, flags were fluttering
out. Groups of school children were scattered along the road, waving
little flags and singing. Over the wide valley below her, with its woody
hills and silver river, floated great cloud-shadows, chasing and chased
by the sun. There were wild roses in the hedges, and perfume in every
gust of wind. The summer was at its height, and the fire and sap of it
were running full-tilt in Helena's pulses.
Far down the winding road she saw at last a man on a motor
bicycle--bare-headed, and long-bodied.
Up he came, and soon was near enough to wave to her, while Helena was
still scolding her own emotions. When he flung himself off beside her,
she saw at once that he had come in an exultant mood expecting triumph.
And immediately something perverse in her--or was it merely the old
primeval instinct of the pursued maiden--set itself to baffle him.
"Very nice to see you!" she smiled, as she gave him a passive hand--"but
why aren't you in the Mall?"
"My Sovereign had not expressed any burning desire for my presence. Can't
we go to-night and feed a bonfire?"
"Several, if you like. I have watched the building of three. But it
"That won't matter," he said joyously. "Nothing will matter!" And again
his ardent look challenged in her the Eternal Feminine.
"I don't agree. I hate a wet mackintosh dripping into my boots, and
Cousin Philip won't see any fun in it if it rains."
He drew up suddenly.
"Philip!" he said, with a frown of irritation. "What has Philip to
do with it?"
"He arrives to-night by the London train."
He resumed his walk beside her, in silence, pushing his bicycle. Had
she done it of malice prepense? No--impossible! He had only
telegraphed his own movements to her late on the previous evening,
much too late to make any sudden arrangement with Philip, who was
coming from an Eastern county.
"He is coming to find out your plans?"
"I suppose so. But I have no plans."
He stole a look at her. Yes--there was change in her, even since they had
met last:--a richer, intenser personality, suggested by a new
self-mastery. She seemed to him older--and a thought remote. Fears flew
through him. What had been passing in her mind since he had seen her
last? or in Philip's? Had he been fooled after all by those few wild
words from Peter, which had reached him in Lancashire, bidding him catch
his opportunity, or rue the loss of it for ever?
She saw the effervescence in him die down, and became gracious at once.
Especially because they were now in sight of the inn, and of Lucy
Friend sitting in the little garden beside the road. Geoffrey pulled
himself together, and prepared to play the game that Helena set him,
until the afternoon and the walk she could not deny him, should give
him his chance.
The little meal passed gaily, and after it Lucy Friend watched--not
without trepidation--Helena's various devices for staving off the crisis.
She had two important letters to write; she must go and watch Mr.
McCready sketching, as she had promised to do, or the old fellow would
never forgive her; and finally she invited the fuming M.P. to fish the
preserved water with her, accompanied by the odd-man as gilly. At this
Geoffrey's patience fairly broke. He faced her, crimson, in the inn
parlour; forgetting Lucy altogether and standing in front of the door, so
that Lucy could not escape and could only roll herself in a curtain and
look out of the window.
"I didn't come here to fish, Helena--or to sketch--but simply and solely
to talk to you! And I have come a long way. Suppose we take a walk?"
Helena eyed him. She was a little pale--but composed.
"At your service. Lead on, Sir Oracle!"
They went out together, Geoffrey taking command, and Lucy watched them
depart, across the foot-bridge, and by a green path that would lead them
before long to the ferny slopes of the mountain beyond the oak-wood. As
Helena was mounting the bridge, a servant of the inn ran out with a
telegram which had just arrived and gave it her.
Helena peered at the telegram, and then with a dancing smile thrust it
into her pocket without a word.
Her mood, as they walked on, was now, it seemed, eagerly political. She
insisted on hearing his own account of his successful speech in the
House; she wished to discuss his relations with the Labour party, which
were at the moment strained, on the question of Coal Nationalization; she
asked for his views on the Austrian Treaty, and on the prospects of the
Government. He lent himself to her caprice, so long as they were walking
one behind the other through a crowded oak-wood and along a narrow path
where she could throw her questions back over her shoulder, herself well
out of reach. But presently they came out on a glorious stretch of fell,
clothed with young green fern, and running up into a purple crag fringed
with junipers. Then he sprang to her side, and Helena knew that the hour
had come and the man. There was a flat rock on the slope below the crag,
under a group of junipers, and Helena presently found herself sitting
there, peremptorily guided by her companion, and feeling dizzily that she
was beginning to lose control of the situation, as Geoffrey sank down
into the fern beside her.
"At last!" he said, drawing a long breath--"_At last_!"
He lay looking up at her, his long face working with emotion--the face of
an intellectual, with that deep scar on the temple, where a fragment of
shrapnel had struck him on the first day of the Somme advance.
"Unkind Helena!" he said, in a low voice that shook--"_unkind Helena_!"
Her lips framed a retort. Then suddenly the tears rushed into her eyes,
and she covered them with her hands.
"I'm not unkind. I'm afraid!"
"Afraid of what?"
"I told you," she said piteously, "I didn't want to marry--I didn't want
to be bound!"
"And you haven't changed your mind at all?"
She didn't answer. There was silence a moment. Then she said abruptly:
"Do you want to hear secrets, Geoffrey?"
"I don't know. I expect I guess them."
"What do you guess?" She lifted a proud face. He touched her hand
"I guess that when you came here--you were unhappy?"
Her lip trembled.
"I was--very unhappy."
"And now?" he asked, caressing the hand he held.
"Well, now--I've walked myself back into--into common sense. There!--I
had it out with myself. I may as well have it out with you! Two months
ago I was a bit in love with Cousin Philip. Now, of course, I love him--I
always shall love him--but I'm not _in_ love with him!"
"Thank the Lord!" cried French--"since it has been the object of my life
for much more than two months to persuade you to be in love with me!"
"I don't think I am--yet," said Helena slowly.
Her look was strange--half repellent. On both sides indeed there was a
note of something else than prosperous love-making. On his, the
haunting doubt lest she had so far given her heart to Philip that full
fruition for himself, that full fruition which youth at its zenith
instinctively claims from love and fortune, could never be his. On
hers, the consciousness, scarcely recognized till now, of a moment of
mental exhaustion caused by mental conflict. She was half indignant
that he should press her, yet aware that she would miss the pressure if
it ceased; while he, believing that his cause was really won, and urged
on by Peter's hints, resented the barriers she would still put up
There was a short silence after her last speech. Then Helena said
"You haven't talked philosophy to me, Geoffrey, for such a long time!"
"What's the use?" said Geoffrey, who was lying on his face, his eyes
covered by his hands--"I'm not feeling philosophical."
"All the same, you made me once read half a volume of Bergson. I didn't
understand much of it, except that--whatever else he is, he's a great
poet. And I do know something about poetry! But I remember one sentence
very well--Life--isn't it Life?--is 'an action which is making itself,
across an action of the same kind which is unmaking itself.' And he
compares it to a rocket in a fire-works display rushing up in flame
through the falling cinders of the dead rockets."
"Give the cinders a little time to fall, Geoffrey!" she said in a
He looked up ardently.
"Why? It's only the living fire that matters! Darling--let's come to
close quarters. You gave a bit of your warm heart to Philip, and you
imagined that it meant much more than it really did. And poor Philip all
the time was determined--cribbed and cabined--by his past,--and now by
his boy. We both know that if he marries anybody it will be Cynthia
Welwyn; and that he would be happier and less lonely if he married her.
But so long as your life is unsettled he will marry nobody. He remembers
that your mother entrusted you to him in the firm belief that, in his
uncertainty about his wife, he neither could nor would marry anybody. So
that for these two years, at any rate, he holds himself absolutely bound
to his compact with her and you."
"And the moral of that is--" said Helena, flushing.
"Marry me!--Nothing simpler. Then the compact falls--and at one stroke
you bring two men into port."
The conflict of expressions passing through her features showed her
shaken. He waited.
"Very well, Geoffrey--" she said at last, with a long, quivering breath,
as though some hostile force rent her and came out.
"If you want me so much--take me!"
But as she spoke she became aware of the lover in him ready to spring.
She drew back instantly from his cry of joy, and his outstretched arms.
"Ah, but give me time--dear Geoffrey, give me time! You have my word."
He controlled himself, warned by her agitation, and her pallor.
"Mayn't we tell Philip--when he comes?"
"Yes, we'll tell Philip--and Lucy--to-night. Not a word!--till then." She
jumped up--"Are you going to climb that crag before tea? I am!"
She led him breathlessly up its steep side and down again. When they
regained the inn, Geoffrey had not even such a butterfly kiss to remember
as she had once given him in the lime-walk at Beechmark; and Lucy, trying
in her eager affection to solve the puzzle they presented her with, had
simply to give it up.
* * * * *
The day grew wilder. Great flights of clouds came up from the west and
fought the sun, and as the afternoon declined, light gusts of rain,
succeeded by bursts of sunshine, began to sweep across the oak-woods. The
landlord of the inn and his sons, who had been mainly responsible for
building the great bonfire on Moel Dun, and the farmers in their gigs who
stopped at the inn door, began to shake their heads over the prospects of
the night. Helena, Lucy Friend, and Geoffrey spent the afternoon chiefly
in fishing and wandering by the river. Helena clung to Lucy's side,
defying her indeed to leave her, and Geoffrey could only submit, and
count the tardy hours. They made tea in a green meadow beside the stream,
and immediately afterwards Geoffrey, looking at his watch, announced to
Mrs. Friend that he proposed to bicycle down to Bettws to meet Lord
Helena came with him to the inn to get his bicycle. They said little to
each other, till, just as he was departing, French bent over to her, as
she stood beside his machine.
"Do I understand?--I may tell him?"
"Yes." And then for the first time she smiled upon him; a smile that was
heavenly soft and kind; so that he went off in mounting spirits.
Helena retraced her steps to the river-side, where they had left Lucy.
She sat down on a rock by Lucy's side, and instinctively Lucy put down
some knitting she held, and turned an eager face--her soul in her eyes.
"Lucy--I am engaged to Geoffrey French."
Lucy laughed and cried; held the bright head in her arms and kissed the
cheek that lay upon her shoulder. Helena's eyes too were wet; and in both
there was the memory of that night at Beechmark which had made them
sisters rather than friends.
"And of course," said Helena--"you'll stay with me for ever."
But Lucy was far too happy to think of her own future. She had made
friends--real friends--in these three months, after years of loneliness.
It seemed to her that was all that mattered. And half guiltily her
memory cherished those astonishing words--"_Mr. Alcott_ and I miss you
A drizzling rain had begun when towards eight o'clock they heard the
sound of a motor coming up the Bettws road. Lucy retreated into the inn,
while Helena stood at the gate waiting.
Buntingford waved to her as they approached, then jumped out and followed
her into the twilight of the inn parlour.
"My dear Helena!" He put his arm round her shoulder and kissed her
heartily. "God bless you!--good luck to you! Geoffrey has given me the
best news I have heard for many a long day."
"You are pleased?" she said, softly, looking at him.
He sat down by her, holding her hands, and revealing to her his own
long-cherished dream of what had now come to pass. "The very day you came
to Beechmark, I wrote to Geoffrey, inviting him. And I saw you by chance
the day after the dance, together, in the lime-walk." Helena's start
almost drew her hands away. He laughed. "I wasn't eavesdropping, dear,
and I heard nothing. But my dream seemed to be coming true, and I went
away in tip-top spirits--just an hour, I think, before Geoffrey found
He released her, with an unconscious sigh, and she was able to see how
much older he seemed to have grown; the touches of grey in his thick
black hair, and the added wrinkles round his eyes,--those blue eyes
that gave him his romantic look, and were his chief beauty. But he
resumed at once:
"Well, now then, the sooner you come back to Beechmark the better. Think
of the lawyers--the trousseau--the wedding. My dear, you've no time to
waste!--nor have I. Geoffrey is an impatient fellow--he always was."
"And I shall see Arthur?" she asked him gently.
His look thanked her. But he did not pursue the subject.
Then Geoffrey and Lucy Friend came in, and there was much talk of plans,
and a merry dinner _a quatre_. Afterwards, the rain seemed to have
cleared off a little, and through the yellow twilight a thin stream of
people, driving or on foot, began to pour past the inn, towards the
hills. Helena ran upstairs to put on an oilskin hat and cape over her
"You're coming to help light the bonfire?" said Geoffrey,
Buntingford shook his head. He turned to Lucy.
"You and I will let the young ones go--won't we? I don't see you climbing
Moel Dun in the rain, and I'm getting too old! We'll walk up the road a
bit, and look at the people as they go by. I daresay we shall see as much
as the other two."
So the other two climbed, alone and almost in silence. Beside them and in
front of them, scattered up and along the twilight fell, were dim groups
of pilgrims bent on the same errand with themselves. It was not much past
nine o'clock, and the evening would have been still light but for the
drizzle of rain and the low-hanging clouds. As it was, those bound for
the beacon-head had a blind climb up the rocks and the grassy slopes that
led to the top. Helena stumbled once or twice, and Geoffrey caught her.
Thenceforward he scarcely let her go again. She protested at first,
mountaineer that she was; but he took no heed, and presently the warmth
of his strong clasp seemed to hypnotize her. She was silent, and let him
pull her up.
On the top was a motley crowd of farmers, labourers and visitors, with a
Welsh choir from a neighbouring village, singing hymns and patriotic
songs. The bonfire was to be fired on the stroke of ten, by a
neighbouring landowner, whose white head and beard flashed hither and
thither through the crowd and the mist, as he gave his orders, and
greeted the old men, farmers and labourers, he had known for a lifetime.
The sweet Welsh voices rose in the "Men of Harlech," "Land of My
Fathers," or in the magnificent "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the
Coming of the Lord." And when the moment arrived, and the white-haired
Squire, with his three chosen men, fired the four corners of the
high-built pile, out rushed the blaze, flaring up to heaven, defying the
rain, and throwing its crimson glow on the faces ringed round it. "God
Save the King!" challenged the dark, and then, hand in hand, the crowd
marched round about the pyramid of fire in measured rhythm, while "Auld
Lang Syne," sorrowfully sweet, echoed above the haunted mountain-top
where in the infancy of Britain, Celt and Roman in succession had built
their camps and reared their watch-towers. And presently from all
quarters of the great horizon sprang the answering flames from mountain
peaks that were themselves invisible in the murky night, while they sent
forward yet, without fail or break, the great torch-race of victory,
leaping on, invincible by rain or dark, far into the clouded north.
But Geoffrey's eyes could not tear themselves from Helena. He saw her
bathed in light, from top to toe, now gold, now scarlet, a fire-goddess,
inimitably beautiful. They danced hand in hand, intoxicated by the music,
and by the movement of their young swaying bodies. He felt Helena
unconsciously leaning on him, her soft breath on his cheek. Her eyes were
his now, and her smiling lips, just parted over her white teeth, tempted
him beyond his powers of resistance.
"Come!" he whispered to her, and with a quick turn of the hand he had
swung her out of the fiery circle, and drawn her towards the surrounding
dark. A few steps and they were on the mountainside again, while behind
them the top was still aflame, and black forms still danced round the
But they were safely curtained by night and the rising storm. After the
first stage of the descent, suddenly he flung his arms round her, his
mouth found hers, and all Helena's youth rushed at last to meet him as he
gathered her to his breast.
"Geoffrey--my Tyrant!--let me go!" she panted.
"Are you mine--are you mine, at last?--you wild thing!"
"I suppose so--" she said, demurely. "Only, let me breathe!"
She escaped, and he heard her say with low sweet laughter as though
"I seem at any rate to be following my guardian's advice!"
"What advice? Tell me! you darling, tell me everything. I have a right
now to all your secrets."
Darkness hid her eyes. Hand in hand they went down the hillside, while
the Mount of Victory still blazed behind them.
Philip and Lucy were waiting for them. And then, at last, Helena
remembered her telegram of the afternoon, and read it to a group of
"Right you are. I proposed last night to Jennie Dumbarton. Wedding,
October--Await reply. PETER."
"He shall have his reply," said Helena. And she wrote it with Geoffrey
Not quite twenty-four hours later, Buntingford was walking up through
the late twilight to Beechmark. After the glad excitement kindled in him
by Helena's and Geoffrey's happiness, his spirits had dropped steadily
all the way home. There before him across the park, rose his large
barrack of a house, so empty, but for that frail life which seemed now
part of his own.
He walked on, his eyes fixed on the lights in the rooms where his boy
was. When he reached the gate into the gardens, a figure came suddenly
out of the shrubbery towards him.
"Philip! We didn't expect you till to-morrow."
He turned back with her, inexpressibly comforted by her companionship.
The first item in his news was of course the news of Helena's engagement.
Cynthia's surprise was great, as she showed; so also was her relief,
which she did not show.
"And the wedding is to be soon?"
"Geoffrey pleads for the first week in September, that they may have time
to get to some favourite places of his in France before Parliament meets.
Helena and Mrs. Friend will be here to-morrow."
After a pause he turned to her, with another note in his voice:
"You have been with Arthur?"
She gave an account of her day.
"He misses you so. I wanted to make up to him a little."
"He loves you--so do I!" said Buntingford. "Won't you come and take
charge of us both, dear Cynthia? I owe you so much already--I would do my
best to pay it."
He took her hand and pressed it. All was said.
Yet through all her gladness, Cynthia felt the truth of Georgina's
remark--"When he marries it will be for peace--not passion." Well, she
must accept it. The first-fruits were not for her. With all his chivalry
he would never be able to give her what she had it in her to give him.
It was the touch of acid in the sweetness of her lot. But sweet it was
all the same.
When she told Georgina, her sister broke into a little laugh--admiring,
not at all unkind.
"Cynthia, you are a clever woman! But I must point out that Providence
has given you every chance."
Peace indeed was the note of Philip's mood that night, as he paced up and
down beside the lake after his solitary dinner. He was, momentarily at
least, at rest, and full of patient hope. His youth was over. He resigned
it, with a smile and a sigh; while seeming still to catch the echoes of
it far away, like music in some invisible city that a traveller leaves
behind him in the night. His course lay clear before him. Politics would
give him occupation, and through political life power might come to him.
But the real task to which he set his most human heart, in this moment of
change and reconstruction, was to make a woman and a child happy.