Part 5 out of 6
mastered his selfishness. He knew very well that Isobel would be a
great match for Godfrey, and he was by no means a man who underrated
money and position and their power. He guessed, too, that she really
loved him and would have made him the best of wives; that with her at
his side he might do almost anything in the world. But these
considerations did not in the least soften his loathing of the very
thought of such a marriage. Incredible as it may seem, he would rather
have seen Godfrey dead than the happy husband of Isobel.
Mr. Knight, drunk with rage, reeled rather than walked away from the
church door, wondering what he might do to baulk and shame that
living, loving pair who could kiss and cling even among the tombs. A
thought came to him, a very evil thought which he welcomed as an
inspiration sent straight from an offended Heaven. Sir John Blake had
come home; he knew it, for he had passed him on the road seated alone
in a fine motor-car, and they had waved their hands to each other not
ten minutes before. He would go and tell him all; in the character of
an upright man who does not like to see his rich neighbour harmed by
the entanglement of that neighbour's daughter in an undesirable
relationship. That Sir John would consider himself to be harmed, he
was sure enough, being by no means ignorant of his plans and
aspirations for the future of that daughter, who was expected to make
a great alliance in return for the fortune which she would bring to
No sooner said than done. In three minutes he was at the Hall and, as
it chanced, met Sir John by the front door.
"Hullo, Reverend! How are you? You look very wet and miserable; taking
refuge from the rain, I suppose, though it is clearing off now. Have a
brandy and soda, or a glass of port?"
"Thank you, Sir John, I am an abstainer, but a cup of hot tea would be
"Tea--ah! yes, but that takes time to make, so I should have to leave
you to drink it by yourself. Fact is I want to find my daughter. Some
of those blessed guests of mine, including Mounteroy, the young Earl,
you know, whom I wish her to meet particularly, are coming down
to-night by the last train and not to-morrow, so I must get everything
arranged in a hurry. Can't make out where the girl has gone."
"I think I can tell you, Sir John," said Mr. Knight with a sickly
smile; "at least I saw her a little while ago rather peculiarly
"Where, and how was she engaged?"
Without asking permission Mr. Knight entered the house and stepped
into a cloak-room that opened out of the hall. Being curious, Sir John
followed him. Mr. Knight shut the door and, supporting himself against
the frame of a marble wash-basin with gilded taps, said:
"I saw her in the chancel of the Abbey Church and she was kissing my
son, Godfrey; at least he was kissing her, and she seemed to be
responding to his infamous advances, for her arms were round his neck
and I heard sounds which suggested that this was so."
"Holy Moses!" ejaculated Sir John, "what in the name of hell are they
"Your question, stripped of its unnecessary and profane expletives,
seems easy to answer. I imagine that my immoral son has just proposed
to your daughter, and been accepted with--well, unusual emphasis."
"Perhaps you are right. But if he had I don't see anything
particularly immoral about it. If I had never done anything worse than
that I shouldn't feel myself called to go upon my knees and cry
/peccavi/. However, that ain't the point. The point is that a game of
this sort don't at all suit my book, but," here he looked at the
clergyman shrewdly, "why do /you/ come to tell about it? I should have
thought that under all the circumstances /you/ should have been glad.
Isobel isn't likely to be exactly a beggar, you know, so it seems
devilish queer that you should object, as I gather you do; unless it
is to the kissing, which has been heard of before."
"I do object most strongly, Sir John," replied Mr. Knight in his
iciest tones. "I disapprove entirely of your daughter, whose lack of
any Christian feeling is notorious, and whose corrupting influence
will, I fear, make my son as bad as herself."
"Damn her lack of Christian feeling, and damn yours and your impudence
too, you half-drowned church rat! Why don't you call her Jezebel at
once, and have done with it? One of the things I like about her is
that she has the pluck to snap her fingers at such as you and all your
ignorant superstitions. What are you getting at? That is what I want
"I put aside your insults to which as a clergyman it is my duty to
turn the other cheek," replied Mr. Knight, with a furious gasp. "As to
the rest I am trying to get at the pure and sacred truth."
"You look as though you would do better to get at the pure and sacred
brandy," remarked Sir John, surveying him critically, "but that's your
affair. Now, what is the truth?"
"Alas! that I must say it. I believe my son to be that basest of
creatures, a fortune-hunter. How did he get that money left to him by
"Don't know, I'm sure. Perhaps the old girl found the young chap
attractive, and wished to acknowledge favours received. Such things
have been known. You don't suppose he forged her will, do you?"
"You are ribald, Sir, ribald."
"Am I? Well, and you are jolly offensive. Thank God you weren't my
father. Now, from what I remember of that boy of yours, I shouldn't
have thought that he was a fortune-hunter. I should have thought that
he was a young beggar who wished to get hold of the girl he fancies,
and that's all. Still, you know him best, and I dare say you are
right. Anyway, for your own peculiar and crack-brained reasons, you
don't want this business, and I say at once you can't want it less
than I do. Do you suppose that I wish to see my only child, who will
have half a million of money and might be a countess, or half a dozen
countesses, to-morrow, married to the son of a beggarly sniveller like
you, for as you are so fond of the pure and sacred truth, I'll give it
you--a fellow who can come and peach upon your own boy and his girl."
"My conscience and my duty----" began Mr. Knight.
"Oh! drat your conscience and blow your duty. You're a spy and a
backbiting tell-tale, that's what you are. Did you never kiss a girl
"Never until after I was married, when we are specially enjoined by
the great Apostle----"
"Then I'm sorry for your wife, for she must have had a lot to teach
you. But let's stop slanging, we have our own opinions of each other
and there's an end. Now we have both the same object, you because you
are a pious crank and no more human than a dried eel, and I because I
am a man of the world who want to see my daughter where she ought to
be, wearing a coronet in the House of Lords. The question is: How is
the job to be done? You don't understand Isobel, but I do. If her back
is put up, wild horses won't move her. She'd snap her fingers in my
face, and tell me to go to a place that you are better acquainted with
than I am, or will be, and take my money with me. Of course, I could
hold her for a few months, till she is of age perhaps, but after that,
No. So it seems that the only chance is your son. Now, what's his weak
point? Can he be bought off?"
"Certainly not," said Mr. Knight.
"Oh! that's odd in one who, you say, is a fortune-hunter. Well, what
is it? Everyone has a weak point, and another girl won't do just now."
"His weakest point is his fondness for that treacherous and abominable
sex of which I have just had so painful an example; and in the church
too, yes, in my church."
"And a jolly good place to get to in such a rain, for of course they
didn't know that you were hiding under the pews. But I've told you
that cock won't fight at present. What's the next?"
At these accumulated insults Mr. Knight turned perfectly livid with
suppressed rage. But he did suppress it, for he had an object to gain
which, to his perverted mind, was the most important in the whole
world--namely, the final separation of his son and Isobel.
"His next bad point," he went on, "is his pride, which is abnormal,
although from childhood I have done my best to inculcate humility of
spirit into his heart. He cannot bear any affront, or even neglect.
For instance, he left me for some years just because he did not
consider that he was received properly on his return from Switzerland;
also because he went into a rage, for he has a very evil temper if
roused, when I suggested that he wanted to run after your daughter's
"Well, it wasn't a very nice thing to say, was it? But I think I see
light. He's proud, is he, and don't like allusions to fortune-hunting.
All right; I'll rub his nose in the dirt and make him good. I'm just
the boy for a job of that sort, as perhaps you will agree, my reverend
friend; and if he shows his airs to me, I'll kick him off the
premises. Come on! I dare say we shall find them still in the church,
where they think themselves so snug, although the rain has stopped."
So this precious pair started, each of them bent, though for different
reasons, upon as evil a mission as the mind of man can conceive. For
what is there more wicked than to wish to bring about the separation
and subsequent misery of two young people who, as they guessed well
enough, loved each other body and soul, and thereby to spoil their
lives? Yet, so strange is human nature, that neither of them thought
that they were committing any sin. Mr. Knight, now and afterwards,
justified himself with the reflection that he was parting his son from
a "pernicious" young woman of strong character, who would probably
lead him away from religion as it was understood by him. One also whom
he looked upon as the worst of outcasts, who deserved and doubtless
was destined to inhabit hell, because hastily she had rejected his
form of faith, as the young are apt to do, for reasons, however
hollow, that seemed to her sufficient.
He took no account of his bitter, secret jealousy of this girl, who,
as he thought, had estranged his son from him, and prevented him from
carrying out his cherished plans of making of him a clergyman like
himself, or of his innate physical hatred of women which caused him to
desire that Godfrey should remain celibate. These motives, although he
was well aware of them, he set down as naught, being quite sure, in
view of the goodness of his aims, that they would be overlooked or
even commended by the Power above Whom he pictured in his mind's eye
as a furious old man, animated chiefly by jealousy and a desire to
wreak vengeance on and torture the helpless. For it is the lessons of
the Old Testament that sink most deeply into the souls of Mr. Knight
and his kind.
Sir John's ends were quite different. He was the very vulgarest of
self-made men, coarse and brutal by nature, a sensualist of the type
that is untouched by imagination; a man who would crush anyone who
stood in his path without compunction, just because that person did
stand in his path. But he was extremely shrewd--witness the way he saw
through Mr. Knight--and in his own fashion very able--witness his
success in life.
Moreover, since a man of his type has generally some object beyond
the mere acquiring of money, particularly after it has been acquired,
he had his, to rise high, for he was very ambitious. His natural
discernment set all his own failings before him in the clearest light;
also their consequences. He knew that he was vulgar and brutal, and
that as a result all persons of real gentility looked down upon him,
however much they might seem to cringe before his money and power,
yes, though they chanced to be but labouring men.
For instance, his wife had done so, which was one of the reasons why
he hated her, as indeed had all her distinguished relatives, after
they came to know him, although he lent them money. He knew that even
if he became a peer, as he fully expected to do, it would be the same
story; outward deference and lip service, but inward dislike and
contempt. In short, there were limits which he could never hope to
pass, and therefore so far as he was concerned, his ambitious thirst
must remain unslaked.
But he had a daughter whom Nature, perhaps because of her mother's
blood, had set in quite a different class. She had his ability, but
she was gentle-born, which he was not, one who could mix with and be
welcomed by the highest in the world, and this without the slightest
question. If not beautiful, she was very distinguished; she had
presence and what the French call "the air." Further, she would be one
of the richest women in England. Considered from his point of view,
therefore, it was but natural that he should desire her to make a
brilliant marriage and found a great family, which he would thus have
originated--at any rate, to some extent. Night and day he longed that
this should come about, and it was the reason why the young Lord
Mounteroy was visiting Hawk's Hall.
Mounteroy had met Isobel at a dinner-party in London the other day and
admired her. He had told an old lady--a kind of society tout--who had
repeated it to Sir John, that he wished to get married, and that
Isobel Blake was the sort of girl he would like to marry. He was a
clever man, also ambitious, one who had hopes of some day ruling the
country, but to do this he needed behind him great and assured fortune
in addition to his ancient but somewhat impoverished rank. In short,
she suited his book, and he suited that of Sir John. Now, the thing to
do was to bring it about that he should also suit Isobel's book. And
just at the critical moment this accursed accident had happened. Oh!
it was too much.
No wonder that Sir John was filled with righteous wrath and a stern
determination to "make things hot" for the cause of the "accident" as,
led to the attack by the active but dripping Mr. Knight whom he
designated in his heart as that "little cur of a parson," much as an
overfed and bloated bloodhound might be by some black and vicious
mongrel, he tramped heavily towards the church. Indeed they made a
queer contrast, this small, active but fierce-faced man in his sombre,
shiny garments and dingy white tie, and the huge, ample-paunched
baronet with his red, flat face, heavy lips and projecting but
intelligent eyes, clothed in a new suit, wearing an enormous black
pearl in his necktie and a diamond ring on his finger; the very ideal
of Mammon in every detail of his person and of his carefully
Isobel, whose humour had its sardonic side, and who was the first to
catch sight of them when they reached the church, Mr. Knight tripping
ahead, and Sir John hot with the exercise in the close, moist air,
lumbering after him with his mouth open, compared them in her mind to
a fierce little pilot fish conducting an overfed shark to some
helpless prey which it had discovered battling with the waters of
circumstance; that after all, was only another version of the mongrel
and the bloodhound. Also she compared them to other things, even less
Yet none of these, perhaps, was really adequate, either to the evil
intentions or the repellent appearance of this pair as they advanced
upon their wicked mission of jealousy and hate.
LOVE AND LOSS
All unaware that they had been seen and by no friendly eyes, Godfrey
and Isobel remained embracing each other for quite a long while. At
length she wrenched herself away and, sinking on to a chancel bench,
motioned to him to seat himself beside her.
"Let us talk," she said in a new voice, a strange voice that was low
and rich, such as he had never heard her use, "let us talk, my dear."
"What of?" he asked almost in a whisper as he took his place, and her
hand, which he held against his beating heart. "My soul has been
talking to yours for the last five minutes, or is it five seconds or
five years? It does not seem to have anything more to say."
"Yet I think there is plenty to be said, Godfrey. Do you know that
while we were kissing each other there some very queer ideas got hold
of me, not only of the sort which might be expected in our case? You
remember that Plantagenet lady who lies buried beneath where we were
standing, she whose dress I once copied to wear at the ball when I
"Don't speak of that," he interrupted, "for then you were kissing
"It is not true. I never kissed anyone else in that way, and I do not
think I ever shall. I kissed a rose, that's all, and I gather that you
have done as much and very likely a great deal more. But it is of the
lady I am speaking, not of the ball. She seemed to come up from her
grave and enter into me, and say something."
"Well, what did she say, Isobel?" he asked dreamily.
"That's it, I don't know, although she talked to me as one might to
oneself. All I know is that it was of trouble and patience and great
joy, and war and tragedy in which I must be intimately concerned, and
--after the tragedy--of a most infinite rest and bliss."
"I expect she was telling you her own story, which seems to have ended
well," he replied in the same dreamy fashion.
"Yes, I think so, but also that she meant that her story would be my
story, copied you know, as I copied her dress. Of course it is all
nonsense, just the influence of the place taking hold of me when
overcome by other things, but at the time it seemed very real."
"So does a bad dream," said Godfrey, "but for all that it isn't real.
Still it is odd that everything important seems to happen to us within
a few feet of that lady's dust, and I can't quite disbelieve in
spirits and their power of impressing themselves upon us; I wish I
could. The strange thing is that /you/ should put any faith in them."
"I don't, though I admit that my views about such matters are
changing. You know I used to be sure that when we die everything is
over with us. Now I think differently, why I cannot say."
Then the subject dropped, because really they were both wrapped in the
great joy of a glorious hour and disinclined to dwell upon fancies
about a woman who had died five hundred years ago, or on metaphysical
speculations. Also the fear of what might follow upon that hour
haunted them more vividly than any hovering ghost, if such there were.
"My dear," said Isobel, "I am sorry, but I must say it; I am sure that
there will be trouble about this business."
"No doubt, Isobel; there always is trouble, at least where I am
concerned; also one can't be happy without paying. But what does it
matter so long as we stick to each other? Soon we shall both be of age
and can do what we like."
"One always thinks that, Godfrey, and yet, somehow, one never can.
Free will is a fraud in that sense as in every other."
"I have something, as you know, enough with my pay to enable us to get
on, even if you were disinherited, dear, though, of course, you could
not live as you have been accustomed to do."
"Oh! don't talk to me of money," she said impatiently, "though for the
matter of that, I have something, too, a little that comes to me from
my mother. Money won't divide us, Godfrey."
"Then what will, Isobel?"
"Nothing in the long run," she answered with conviction, "not even
death itself, since in a way we are one and part of each other and
therefore cannot be separated for always, whatever happens for a
while, as I am sure that something will happen which will make you
"I swear that I will never leave you, I will die with you first," he
exclaimed, springing up.
"Such oaths have been made often and broken--before the dawn," she
answered, smiling and shaking her head.
"I swear that I will always love you," he went on.
"Ah! now I believe you, dear!" she broke in again. "However badly you
may behave, you will always love me because you must."
"Well, and will you always love me however badly I behave?"
"Of course," she answered simply, "because I must. Oh! whatever we may
hear about each other, we may be quite certain that we still love each
other--because we must--and all your heaven and hell cannot make any
difference, no, not if they were both to join forces and try their
best. But that does not mean that necessarily we shall marry each
other, for I think that people who love like that rarely do marry,
because, you see, they would be too happy, which something is always
trying to prevent. It may mean, however," she added reflectively,
"that we shall not marry anybody else, though even that might happen
in your case--not in mine. Always remember, Godfrey, that I shall
never marry anybody else, not even if you took three wives one after
"Three wives!" gasped Godfrey.
"Yes, why not? It would be quite natural, wouldn't it, if you wouldn't
marry me, and even proper. Only I should never take one--husband, I
mean--not from any particular virtue, but just because I couldn't. You
see, it would make me ill. And if I tried I should only run away."
"Oh! stop talking nonsense," said Godfrey, "when so soon you will have
to go to see about those people," and he held out his arms.
She sank into them, and for a little while they forgot their doubts
The rain had ceased, and the triumphant sun shining gloriously through
the west window of stained glass, poured its rays upon them, dyeing
them all the colours of an angel's wings. Also incidentally it made
them extremely conspicuous in that dusky church, of which they had all
this while forgotten to shut the door.
"My word!" said Sir John to Mr. Knight in tones of savage sarcasm as
they surveyed the two through this door. "We've got here just at the
right time. Don't they look pretty, and don't you wish that you were
his age and that was someone else's daughter? I tell you, I do."
Mr. Knight gurgled something in his inarticulate wrath, for at that
moment he hated Isobel's father as much as he did Isobel, which was
saying a great deal.
"Well, my pretty pair of cooing turtle-doves," went on Sir John in a
sort of shout, addressing himself to them, "be so good as to stop
that, or I think I shall wring both your necks, damn you."
"Not in this Holy House, which these infamous and shameless persons
have desecrated with their profane embraces," interrupted Mr. Knight.
"Yes, according to your ideas it will be almost a case of re-
consecration. You'll have to write to the bishop about it, Mr. Parson.
Oh! confound you. Don't stand there like a couple of stuck pigs, but
come out of that and let us have a little chat in the churchyard."
Now, at the first words that reached their ears Godfrey and Isobel had
drawn back from each other and stood side by side quite still before
the altar, as a pair about to be married might do.
They were dumbfounded, and no wonder. As might be expected Isobel was
the first to recover herself.
"Come, my dear," she said in a clear voice to Godfrey, "my father and
yours wish to speak to us. I am glad we have a chance of explaining
matters so soon."
"Yes," said Godfrey, but in a wrathful voice, for he felt anger
stirring in him. Perhaps it was excited by that ancient instinct which
causes the male animal to resent the spying upon him when he is
courting his female as the deadliest of all possible insults, or
perhaps by some prescience of affronts which were about to be offered
to him and Isobel by these two whom he knew to be bitterly hostile. At
least his temper was rising, and like most rather gentle-natured men
when really provoked and cornered, he could be dangerous.
"Yes," he repeated, "let us go out and see this matter through."
So they went, Sir John and Mr. Knight drawing back a little before
them, till they were brought to a halt by the horrible memorial which
the former had erected over his wife's grave. Here they stood,
prepared for the encounter. Sir John was the first to take the lists,
"Perhaps you will explain, Isobel, why I found you, as I thought,
kissing this young fellow--like any village slut beneath a hedge."
Isobel's big eyes grew steely as she answered:
"For the same reason, Father. Like your village slut, I kissed this
man because he is my lover whom I mean to marry. If, as I gather, you
are not certain as to what you saw, I will kiss him again, here in
front of you."
"I have no doubt you will; just like your cheek!" ejaculated Sir John,
taken a little aback.
Then Mr. Knight took up the ball, addressing himself to his son:
"Could you find no other place for your immoral performances except
the church, Godfrey, and my chancel too?"
"No," answered Godfrey, "because it was raining and we sheltered
there. And what do you mean by your talk about immorality? Is it not
lawful for a man to love a woman? I should have thought that the
Bible, which you are always quoting, would have taught you otherwise.
Also, once you were married yourself else I should not be here, for
which I am not sure that I thank you; at least, I shouldn't were it
not for Isobel."
For a moment Mr. Knight could think of no answer to these arguments,
but Sir John having recovered his breath, attacked again:
"Look here, young fellow, I have no time to listen to jaw about the
Bible and moral and immoral and all that bosh, which you can have out
with your reverend parent afterwards. I am a plain man, I am, and want
a plain answer to a plain question. Do you think that you are going to
marry my daughter, Isobel?"
"Such is my desire and intention," replied Godfrey, with vague
recollections of the baptismal service, though of these at the moment
he was not aware.
"Oh, is it? Then you are jolly well mistaken in your desire and
intention. Let's make things clear. You are a beggarly youngster who
propose to enter the army at some future date, which you may or may
not do. And you have the impudence to wish to marry one of the biggest
heiresses in England against my will."
"And against mine," burst in Mr. Knight, "who consider her a most
pernicious young woman, one who rejects the Christian faith and will
lead you to perdition. That is why, when I chanced to espy you in such
a compromising position, I hastened to inform the lady's father."
"Oh! you did that, did you?" interposed Isobel, contemplating him
steadily. "Well, I am glad to know who could have been so cowardly,"
she added with withering contempt. "Now I begin to wonder whether a
letter which some years ago, I brought to the Abbey House to be
forwarded to Godfrey, was ever posted to him who did not receive it,
or whether, perhaps, it fell into the hands of--someone like you."
"It did," said Mr. Knight. "I read it and have it to this day. In my
discretion as a father I did not consider it desirable that my young
son should receive that letter. What I have witnessed this afternoon
shows me how right was my judgment."
"Thank you so much," said Isobel. "That takes a great weight off my
mind. Godfrey, my dear, I apologise to you for my doubts. The truth
did occur to me, but I thought it impossible that a clergyman," here
she looked again at Mr. Knight, "could be a thief also who did not
dare to own to his theft."
"Never mind all that," went on Sir John in his heavy, masterful voice.
"It stands like this. You," and he pointed a fat finger at Godfrey,
"are--well, I'll tell you what you are--you're just a cunning young
fortune-hunter. You found out that this property and a good bit
besides are coming to Isobel, and you want to collar the sag, like you
did that of the old woman out in Lucerne. Well, you don't do it, my
boy. I've other views for Isobel. Do you think I want to see her
married to--to--the son of a fellow like that--a canting snuffler who
prigs letters and splits on his own son?" and swinging the fat finger
round he thrust it almost into the face of Mr. Knight.
"What did you say?" gasped Godfrey. "That I am a fortune-hunter?"
"Yes, that's what I said, and I'll repeat it if you like."
"Then," went on Godfrey, speaking in a thick, low voice, for now his
temper had mastered him thoroughly, "I say that you are a liar. I say
that you are a base and vulgar man who has made money somehow and
thinks that this justifies him in insulting those who are not base or
vulgar, because they have less money."
"You infernal young scamp," shouted Sir John in a roar like to that of
an angry bull. "Do you dare to call me a liar? Apologise at once,
or----" and he stopped.
"I do not apologise. I repeat that you are a liar, the greatest liar I
ever met. Now--or what?"
Thus spoke Godfrey, drawing up his tall, slim young form to its full
height, his dark eyes flashing, his fine face alight with righteous
rage. Isobel, who was standing quite still and smiling a little,
rather contemptuously, looked at him out of the corners of her eyes
and thought that anger became him well. Never before had he seemed so
handsome to her approving judgment.
"Or this," bellowed Sir John, and, lifting the tightly rolled umbrella
he carried, he struck Godfrey with all his strength upon the side of
Godfrey staggered, but fortunately the soft hat he was wearing, upon
the brim of which the stroke fell, broke its weight to some extent, so
that he was not really hurt. Only now he went quite mad in a kind of
icy way, and, springing at Sir John with the lightness of a leopard,
dealt him two blows, one with his left hand and the next with his
They were good, straight blows, for boxing had been his favourite
amusement at Sandhurst where he was a middleweight champion. The first
caught Sir John upon his thick lips which were badly cut against the
teeth, causing him to stagger; while the second, that with the right,
landed on the bridge of his nose and blacked both his eyes. This, so
strong and heavy was it, notwithstanding Sir John's great weight,
knocked him clean off his feet. Back he went, and in his efforts to
save himself gripped Mr. Knight with one hand and with the other the
legs of the early Victorian angel that surmounted Lady Jane's grave
against which they were standing. Neither of these could withstand the
strain. The angel, which was only pinned by lead-coated rivets to its
base and the column behind, flew from its supports, as did Mr. Knight
from his, so that in another second, the men having tripped against
the surround of the grave, all three rolled upon the path, the marble
luckily falling clear of both of them.
"Now I've done it," said Godfrey in a reflective voice as he
contemplated the tangled ruin.
"Yes," exclaimed Isobel, "I think you have."
Then they remained grim and silent while the pair, who were not really
much injured, picked themselves up with groans.
"I am sorry that I knocked you down, since I am young and you are
not," said Godfrey, "but I repeat that you are a liar," he added by an
Sir John spat out a tooth, and began to mop the blood from his nose
with a silk pocket-handkerchief.
"Oh! you do, do you?" he said in a somewhat subdued voice. "Well,
you'll find out that I'm other things too before I'm done with you.
And I repeat that you are fortune-hunting young rascal and that I
would rather see my daughter dead than married to you."
"And I say, Godfrey, I would rather see you dead than married to her!"
broke in Mr. Knight, spitting out his words like an angry cat.
"I don't think that you need be afraid, Father," answered Godfrey
quietly, although his rage burned as fiercely as ever. "You have
worked this business well, and it seems a little impossible now,
doesn't it? Listen, Sir John Blake. Not even for the sake of Isobel
will I submit to such insults. I will not give her up, but I swear by
God that while you are alive I will not marry Isobel, nor will I write
to her or speak to her again. After you are dead, which I dare say
will be before so very long," and he surveyed the huge, puffy-fleshed
baronet with a critical eye, "then--if she cares to wait for me--I
will marry her, hoping that in the meanwhile you may lose your money
or dispose of it as you like."
Sir John stared, still mopping his face, but finding no words. He
feared death very much and this prophecy of it, spoken with such a
ring of truth, as though the speaker knew, frightened him. At that
moment in his heart he cursed the Reverend Mr. Knight and his tale-
bearing, and wished most earnestly that he had never been led into
interference with this matter. After all Godfrey was a fine young man
whom his daughter cared for, and might do well in life, and he had
struck him first after offering him intentional and pre-arranged
insult. Such were the thoughts that flashed through his somewhat
muddled brain. Also another, that they were too late. The evil was
done and never could be undone.
Then Isobel spoke in cold, clear tones, saying:
"Godfrey is quite right and has been right all through. Had you,
Father, and that man," and she pointed contemptuously at Mr. Knight,
"left us alone we should have come and told you what had happened
between us, and if you disapproved we would have waited until we were
of full age and have married as we should have been free to do. But
now that is impossible, for blows have passed between you. After
slandering him vilely, you struck Godfrey first, Father, and he would
not have been a man if he had not struck you back; indeed I should
have thought little of him afterwards. Well, he has made an oath, and
I know that he will keep it. Now I, too, make an oath which certainly
I shall keep. I swear in the presence of both of you, by myself and by
Godfrey, that neither in this world or in any other, should I live
again and have remembrance, will I marry any man or exchange
tendernesses with any man, except himself. So all your plans come to
nothing; yes, you have brought all this misery upon us for nothing,
and if you want to found a great family, as I know you do, you had
better marry again yourself and let me go my way. In any case, if I
should survive you and should Godfrey live, I will marry him after
your death, even if we have to wait until we are old to do so. As to
your fortune, I care nothing for it, being quite ready to work in the
world with the help of the little I have."
She paused as though for an answer, but none came, for if Sir John had
been frightened before, now he was terrified of this outraged young
woman who, tall, commanding and stern-eyed, looked to him like an
"There doesn't seem much more to say, does there?" she went on,
"except that I think, Father, you had better telegraph to your guests
that you are not well and cannot receive them, for I won't. So good-
bye, dearest Godfrey. I shall remember all that you have said, and you
will remember all that I have said, and as I believe, we shall live to
meet again one day. Meanwhile, don't think too bitterly of my father,
or of your own, because they have acted according to their natures and
lights, though where these will lead them I am sure I do not know.
Good-bye, dearest, dearest Godfrey. Do your best in the world and keep
out of troubles if you can. Oh! what a lot we shall have to tell each
other when we meet again."
Then before them both she kissed him, and he kissed her back, saying:
"I will remember. I am glad you think there was nothing else to be
done. God bless you, Isobel. Make the best of your life, as I will try
to do with mine. Good-bye."
"Good-bye, dear," she answered, "think of me always when you wake and
before you go to sleep, as I will think of you."
Then she turned and went, never looking behind her.
Godfrey watched her tall form vanish through the churchyard gate and
over the slope of a little hill that lay between it and Hawk's Hall,
and that was the last sight he had of her for many a year. When she
was quite lost to view, he spoke to the two men who still stood
irresolute before him.
"Isobel I shall meet again," he said, "but not either of you, for I
have done with you both. It is not for me to judge you. Judge yourself
and be judged."
Then he turned, too, and went.
"It's all right," said Sir John to Mr. Knight, "that is, he won't
marry her, at any rate at present, so I suppose that we should both be
pleased, if anyone can be pleased with cut lips and two black eyes.
And yet somehow we seem to have made a mess of it," and he glanced at
the shattered marble statue of the Victorian angel of which both the
wings were broken off.
"We have done our duty," replied Mr. Knight, pursing up his thin lips,
"and at least Godfrey is freed from your daughter."
"I'm not so sure of that, my reverend friend. But of one thing I am
sure, that I am freed from her also, or rather that she is freed from
me. Also you are freed from him. Don't you understand, you vicious
little viper, that you will never see that young man again, and that
thanks to your cursed advice I shall never see my daughter again, at
least not really? What devil was it that sent you to play upon my
weaknesses and ambition? If you had left things alone and they had
come to me in a natural way there would have been a row, of course,
but I dare say it would have ended all right. But you told me how to
work on him and I overdid the part. Now nothing can ever be all right
for either of us, or for them either, until we are both dead. Do you
understand also that we have made two young people who should have
been the supports of our old age desire above everything our deaths
because we have given them cause to hate us, and since they are of the
sort that keep their word, only by our deaths can they become free,
or, at any rate, by mine? Well, it doesn't matter what you understand,
you little bigot, but I know what I do."
"I have done my duty," repeated Mr. Knight sullenly, "and I don't care
what happens afterwards. '/Fiat justita ruat cúlum/,'" he added in the
"Oh, yes. Justice may say fie and the sky may be rude, and anything
else may happen, but we've dished our lives and theirs, my friend, and
--damn you! get out of my sight. Rows I am accustomed to with Isobel
and others, but this isn't a row, it's an earthquake; it's a
catastrophe, for which I have to thank you. Lord! how my mouth hurts,
and I can't see out of my right eye. Talk of a mailed fist, that young
beggar has one like a pole-axe. Now I must go to telegraph to all
those people. Temporary indisposition, yes--temporary indisposition,
that's it. Good-bye, my holy friend. You won't do as much mischief in
one day again in a hurry, spy as hard as you like."
Then Sir John departed, nursing his cut lips with one hand and his
broken umbrella with the other.
Mr. Knight watched him go, and said to himself:
"I thought that I disliked the daughter, but the father is worse.
Offensive, purse-proud, vulgar beast! How dare he speak to me like
that! I'm glad, yes, I'm glad Godfrey knocked him down, though I
suppose there will be a scandal. Well, my hands are clean; I have done
my duty, and I must not complain if it is unpleasant, since I have
dragged Godfrey back from the mouth of the pit. I think I'll take a
walk to steady my nerves; it may be as well not to meet Godfrey again
On his road to the house to pack his portmanteau Godfrey went a little
way round to arrange with a blacksmith, generally known as Tom, who
jobbed out a pony-trap, to drive him to the station to catch the 7.15
train. The blacksmith remarked that they would have to hurry, and set
to work to put the pony in, while Godfrey ran on to the Abbey House
and hurriedly collected his clothes. He got them packed and down into
the hall just as the trap arrived.
As he was entering it the servant put a letter into his hand which she
said had come for him by the afternoon post. He thrust it into his
pocket unlooked at, and off they went at the pony's best pace.
"You are going away oncommon quick, Master Godfrey. Coming back to
these parts soon?" queried the blacksmith.
"No, not for a long while, Tom."
"I think there must have been lightning with that rain," went on Tom,
after a pause, "although I heard no thunder. Else how ever did that
marble angel over poor Lady Jane's grave come down with such a smash?"
Godfrey glanced at him, but Tom remained imperturbable and went on:
"They du say it wor a wunnerful smash, what broke off both the wings
and nearly flattered out some as stood by. Rum thing, Master Godfrey,
that the lightning should have picked out the grave of so good a lady
to hit; ondiscriminating thing, lightning is."
"Stop talking humbug, Tom. Were you there?" asked Godfrey.
"Well, not exactly there, Master Godfrey, but I and one or two others
was nigh, having heard voices louder than the common, just looking
over the churchyard wall, to tell truth."
"Oh!" ejaculated Godfrey, and Tom continued in a reflective voice.
"My! they were two beuties, what you gave that old fat devil of a
squire. If he'd been a bull instead of only roaring like one, they'd
have brought him down, to say nothing of parson and the angel."
"I couldn't help it, Tom. I was mad."
"And no wonder, after being crumped on the nut with a tight umbrella.
Why, I'd have done the same myself, baronite or no baronite. Oh!
there's no need to explain; I knows everything about it, and so does
every babe in the village by now, not to mention the old women. Master
Godfrey, you take my advice, the next time you go a-courtin' shut the
door behind you, which I always made a point o' doing when I was
young. Being passing that way, I seed parson peeping in, and knowing
you was there, guessed why. Truth is I came to warn you after he'd
gone up to the Hall, but seein' how you was engaged, thought it a pity
to interrupt, though now I wish I had."
Godfrey groaned; there was nothing to say.
"Well, all the soot's in the cooking-pot now, so to speak," proceeded
Tom blandly, "and we're downright sad about it, we are, for as my
missus was saying, you'd make a pretty pair. But, Lord, Master
Godfrey, don't you take it too much to heart, for she's an upright
young lady, she is, and steadfast. Or if she ain't, there's plenty of
others; also one day follows another, as the saying goes, and the
worst of old varmints don't live for ever. But parson, he beats me,
and you his son, so they tell, though I never could think it myself.
If he ain't the meanest ferret I ever clapped eyes on, may the old
mare fall down and break my neck. Well, he'll hear about it, I can
promise him, especially if he meets my missus what's got a tongue in
her head, and is a chapel woman into the bargain. Lord! there comes
the train. Don't you fear, we'll catch her. Hold tight, Master
Godfrey, and be ready to jump out. No, no, there ain't nothing to pay.
I'll stick it on to parson's fare next time I've druve him. Good-bye,
Master Godfrey, and God bless you, if only for that there right and
left which warmed my heart to see, and mind ye," he shouted after him,
"there's more young women in the world than ye meets in an afternoon's
walk, and one nail drives another out, as being a smith by trade I
Godfrey bundled into an empty carriage with his portmanteau and his
coat, and covered his face with his hands that he might see no more of
that accursed station whence he seemed always to be departing in
trouble. So everything had been overheard and seen, and doubtless the
story would travel far and wide. Poor Isobel!
As a matter of fact it did, but it was not Isobel who suffered, since
public sympathy was strong on the side of her and of her lover. The
indignation of the neighbourhood concentrated itself upon the square
and the parson, especially the latter. Indeed the village showed its
sympathy with the victims and its wrath with the oppressors, by going
on strike. Few beaters turned up at Sir John's next shooting party,
and on the following Sunday Mr. Knight preached to empty benches, a
vacuum that continued from week to week. The end of it was he became
so unpopular and his strained relations with Sir John grew so
notorious that the bishop, who like everyone else knew the whole
story, gently suggested to him that a change of livings would be to
his advantage; also to that of the church in Monk's Acre and its
So Mr. Knight departed to another parish in a remote part of the
diocese which, having been inundated by the sea, was almost devoid of
inhabitants, and saw the Abbey and Hawk's Hall no more.
In searching his pockets for matches, Godfrey found the letter which
had been given to him as he left the Abbey. He knew the writing on the
envelope at once, and was minded not to open it, for this and the
foreign stamp told him that it came from Madame Riennes. Still
curiosity, or a desire to take his mind off the miseries by which it
was beset, prevailed, and he did open the envelope and read. It ran
"Ah! my little friend, my godson in the speerit, Godfrey
"I daresay you thought that poor old Madame was dead, gone to join
the Celestials, because you have not heard from her for so long a
while. Not a bit, my little Godfrey, though perhaps I should not
call you little, since my crystal shows me that you have grown
taller even than you were in the old days at Lucerne, and much
broader, quite a good-made man and nice to look at. Well, my
Godfrey, I hear things about you sometimes, for the most part from
the speerit called Eleanor who, I warn you, has a great bone to
pick with you. Because, you see, people do not change so much as
you think when they get to the other side. So a woman remains a
woman, and being a woman she stays jealous, and does not like it
when her affinity turns the back on her, as you have done on
Eleanor. Therefore she will give you a bad trick if she can, just
as a woman would upon the earth. Also I hear of you sometimes from
Miss Ogilvy or, rather, her speerit, for she is as fond of you as
ever, so fond that I think you must have mixed up together in a
previous life, because otherwise there is nothing to account for
it. She tries to protect you from Eleanor the indignant, with whom
she has, I gather, much row.
"Now for my message, which come to me from all these speerits. I
hear you have done very well in what they call examinations, and
have before you a shining future. But do not think that you will
be happy, my Godfrey, for you will not get that girl you want for
a long, long while, and then only for the shortest of time, just
enough to kiss and say, 'Oh! my pretty, how nice you are!' And
then /au revoir/ to the world of speerits. Meanwhile, being a
little fool, you will go empty and hungry, since you are not one
of those who hate the woman, which, after all, is the best thing
in life for the man while he is young, like, so the spirits tell
me, does your dear papa. And oh! how plenty this woman fruit hang
on every tree, so why not pluck and eat before the time come, when
you cannot, because if you still have appetite those nice plums
turn your stomach? So you have a bad time before you, my Godfrey,
waiting for the big fat plum far away which you cannot see or
touch and much less taste, while the other nice plums fall into
different hands, or wither--wither, waiting to be eaten.
"At end, when you get your big, fat plum, just as you set your
teeth in it, oh! something blow it out of your mouth, I know not
what, the speerits will not say, perhaps because they do not know,
for they have not prescience of all things. But of this be sure,
my Godfrey, when that happen, that it is your own fault, for had
you trusted to your godmamma Riennes it never would have chanced,
since she would have shown you how to get your plum and eat it to
the stone and then throw away the stone and get other plums and be
happy--happy and full instead of empty. Well, so it is, and as I
must I tell you. There is but one hope for you, unless you would
go sorrowful. To come back to your godmamma, who will teach you
how to walk and be happy--happy and get all you want. Also, since
she is now poor, you would do well to send her a little money to
this address in Italy, since that old humbug of a Pasteur, whom
she cannot harm because of the influences round him, still
prevents her from returning to Switzerland, where she has friends.
Now that big plum, it is very nice and you desire it much. Come to
your godmamma and she will show you how to get it off the tree
quickly. Yes, within one year. Or do not come and it will hang
there for many winters and shrivel as plums do, and at last one
bite and it will be gone. And then, my godson, then, my dear
Godfrey--well, perhaps I will tell you the rest another time. You
poor silly boy, who will not understand that the more you get the
more you will always have.
"Who love you still although you treat her so badly,
"The Countess of Riennes.
"(Ah! you did not know I had that title, did you, but in the
speerit world I have others which are much higher.)"
Godfrey thrust this precious epistle back into his pocket with a
feeling of physical and mental sickness. How did this horrible woman
know so much about him and his affairs, and why did she prophesy such
dreadful things? Further, if her knowledge was so accurate, although
veiled in her foreign metaphor, why should not her prophecies be
accurate also? And if they were, why should he be called upon to
suffer so many things?
He could find no answer to these questions, but afterwards he sent her
letter to the Pasteur, who in due course returned it with some upright
and manly comments both upon the epistle itself and the story of his
troubles, which Godfrey had detailed to him. Amongst much else he
wrote in French:
"You suffer and cannot understand why, my dear boy. Nor do I, but
it is truth that all who are worth anything are called upon to
suffer, to what end we do not know. Nothing of value is gained
except by suffering. Why, again we do not know. This wretched
woman is right in a way when she refers all solutions to another
world, only her other world is one that is bad, and her
solutions are very base. Be sure that there are other and better
ones that we shall learn in due time, when this little sun has set
for us. For it will rise elsewhere, Godfrey, in a brighter sky.
Meanwhile, do not be frightened by her threats, for even if they
should all be true, to those evils which she prophesies there is,
be sure, another interpretation. As I think one of your poets has
said, we add our figures until they come even. So go your way and
keep as upright as you can, and have no fear since God is over
all, not the devil."
Thus preached the Pasteur, and what he said gave Godfrey the greatest
comfort. Still, being young, he made one mistake. He did send Madame
Riennes some money, partly out of pity--ten pounds in a postal order
without any covering letter, a folly that did not tend to a cessation
of her epistolatory efforts.
On reaching town Godfrey went straight to Hampstead. There to his
surprise he found all prepared for his reception.
"I was expecting you, my dear," said Mrs. Parsons, "and even have a
little bit extra in the house in case you should come."
"Why, when I told you I had gone home for a month?" asked Godfrey.
"Why? For the same reason as I knows that oil and vinegar won't abide
mixed in the same bottle. I was sure enough that being a man grown,
you and your father could never get on together in one house. But
perhaps there is something else in it too," she added doubtfully.
Then Godfrey told her that there was something else, and indeed all
about the business.
"Well, there you are, and there's nothing to be said, or at least so
much that it comes to the same thing," remarked Mrs. Parsons, in a
reflective tone, when he had finished his story. "But what I want to
know," she went on, "is why these kind of things happen. You two--I
mean you and Miss Isobel--are just fitted to each other, appointed
together by Nature, so to speak, and fond as a couple of doves upon a
perch. So why shouldn't you take each other and have done? What is
there to come between a young man and a young woman such as you are?"
"I don't know," groaned Godfrey.
"No, nor don't I; and yet something does come between. What's the
meaning of it all? Why do things always go cussed in this 'ere world?
Is there a devil about what manages it, or is it just chance? Why
shouldn't people have what they want and when it's wanted, instead of
being forced to wait until perhaps it isn't, or can't be enjoyed, or
often enough to lose it altogether? You can't answer, and nor can't I;
only at times I do think, notwithstanding all my Christian teachings
and hundreds and hundreds of your father's sermons, that the devil,
he's top-dog here. And as for that there foreign woman whose letter
you've read to me, she's his housemaid. Not but what I'm sure it will
all come right at last," she added, with an attempt at cheerfulness.
"I hope so," replied Godfrey, without conviction, and went to bed.
Presently he descended from his room again, bearing a pill-box in
which was enclosed a certain ring that years before he had bought at
Lucerne, a ring set with two hearts of turquoise.
"I promised not to write," he said, "but you might address this to
her. She'll know what it is, for I told her about it."
"Yes," said Mrs. Parsons, "the young lady shall have that box of
pills. Being upset, it may do her good."
In due course Isobel did have it; also the box came back addressed to
Mrs. Parsons. In it was another ring, a simple band of ancient gold--
as a matter of fact, it was Roman, a betrothal ring of two thousand
years ago. Round it was a scrap of paper on which was written:
"This was dug up in a grave. My great-grandmother gave it to my
great-grandfather when they became engaged about a hundred years
ago, and he wore it all his life, as in a bygone age someone else
had done. Now the great-granddaughter gives it to another. Let him
wear it all his life, whatever happens to her, or to him. Then let
it go to the grave again, perhaps to be worn by others far
Godfrey understood and set it on the third finger of his left hand,
where it remained night and day, and year by year.
So that matter ended, and afterwards came silence and darkness which
endured for ten years or more. From his father he heard nothing, nor
on his part did he ever write to him again. Indeed the first news
concerning him which reached Godfrey was that of his death which
happened some seven years later, apparently after a brief illness.
Even of this he would not have learned, since no one took the trouble
to put it in any paper that he saw, had it not chanced that the Rev.
Mr. Knight died intestate, and that therefore his small belongings
descended to Godfrey as his natural heir. With them were a number of
papers, among which in the after days Godfrey found the very letter
that Isobel wrote to him which his father "posted" in his desk.
For his son there was no word, a circumstance that showed the
implacability of this man's character. Notwithstanding his continual
profession of the highest Christian principles he could never forget
or forgive, and this although it was he who was in fault. For what
wrong had Godfrey done to him in loving a woman whom he did not chance
to like? So he died silent, bearing his resentment to the grave. And
yet some odd sense of justice prevented him from robbing Godfrey of
his little inheritance, something under two thousand pounds, that came
on a policy of insurance and certain savings, a sum which in after
years when money was plentiful with him Godfrey appointed to the
repair and beautifying of the Abbey Church at Monk's Acre.
Strangely enough, although from his childhood they had been always
estranged, Godfrey felt this conduct of his father very much indeed.
It seemed dreadful to him that he should vanish thus into the
darkness, taking his wrath with him; and often he wondered if it still
animated him there. Also he wondered what could be the possible
purpose of it all, and indeed why his father was so fashioned that he
could grow venomous over such a matter. To all of which questions no
answer came, although one suggested itself to him--namely, that he was
the victim of some hereditary taint, and therefore not in fact to
In the case of Isobel the darkness was equally dense, for both of them
kept their word, and with the single exception of the episode of the
exchange of rings, neither attempted to communicate with the other
directly or indirectly. From Mrs. Parsons he heard that Hawk's Hall
was shut up, and that Sir John and his daughter lived mostly in London
or at a place that the former had bought in Scotland. Once indeed Mrs.
Parsons did write, or got someone else to write, to him that she had
seen Isobel drive past her in the street, and that she looked well,
though rather "stern and quiet-like."
That was all the news Godfrey had of Isobel during those ten years,
since she was not a person who advertised her movements in the papers,
although for her sake he became a great student of society gossip.
Also he read with care all announcements of engagements and marriages
in /The Times/, and the deaths, too, for the matter of that, but
happily quite without result. Indeed in view of her declaration he
ought to have been, and, in fact, was, ashamed of his research; but
then, who could be quite sure of anything in this world?
Sir John, he knew, was living, because from time to time he saw his
name in lists of subscriptions of a sort that appear under royal
patronage and are largely advertised.
So between these two swung a veil of darkness, although, had he but
known it, this was not nearly so impenetrable to Isobel as to himself.
Somehow--possibly Arthur Thorburn had friends with whom he
corresponded in England who knew Isobel--she acquired information as
to every detail of his career. Indeed when he came to learn everything
he was absolutely amazed at the particulars with which she was
acquainted, whereof there were certain that he would have preferred to
have kept to himself. But she had them all, with dates and surrounding
circumstances and the rest; thousands of miles of ocean had been no
bar to her searching gaze.
For his part he was not without consolations, since, strangely enough,
he never felt as if she were lost to him, or indeed far away; it was
always as though she were in the next room, or at any rate in the next
street. There are individuals of sensitive mind, and he was one of
them, who know well enough when such a total loss has occurred. It has
been well said that the dead are never really dead to us until they
are forgotten, and the same applies to the living. While they remember
us, they are never so very far away, and what is more we, or some of
us, are quite aware if they have ceased to remember, for then the door
is shut and the doorway built up and our hearts tell us that this has
In Godfrey's case with Isobel, not only did the doorway remained
unfilled--the door itself was always ajar. Although seas divided them
and over these no whisper came, yet he felt her thought leaping to him
across the world. Especially did this happen at night when he laid
himself down to sleep, perhaps because then his mind was most
receptive, and since their hours of going to rest must have been
different, he being in India and she in England, she could scarcely
have been reflecting on him as he fondly believed, at the moment when
she, too, entered into the world called sleep.
Therefore, either it was all imagination or he caught her waking
thoughts, or perhaps those that haunted her upon this border land were
delayed until his subtler being could interpret them. Who knows? At
least, unless something had happened to disturb him, those nights were
rare when as he was shutting his eyes, Godfrey did not seem to be
sensible of Isobel's presence. At any rate, he knew that she had not
forgotten; he knew that somewhere in the vast world she was ever
thinking of him with more intensity than she thought of any other man
or thing. And during all those lonely years this knowledge or belief
was his greatest comfort.
Not that Godfrey's life in India was in any way unhappy. On the
contrary it was a full and active life. He worked hard at his
profession and succeeded in it to a limited extent, and he had his
friends, especially his great friend Arthur Thorburn, who always clung
to him. He had his flirtations also; being a man of susceptibility who
was popular with women, how could they be avoided? For above all
things Godfrey was a man, not a hermit or a saint or an śsthete, but
just a man with more gifts of a sort than have some others. He lived
the life of the rest, he hunted, he shot tigers, doing those things
that the Anglo-Indian officer does, but all the same he studied.
Whether it were of his trade of soldiering, or of the natives, or of
Eastern thought and law, he was always learning something, till at
last he knew a great deal, often he wondered to what end.
And yet, with all his friends and acquaintances, in a way he remained
a very lonely man, as those who are a little out of the ordinary often
do. In the common groove we rub against the other marbles running down
it, but once we leap over its edge, then where are we? We cannot
wander off into space because of the attraction of the earth that is
so near to us, and yet we are alone in the air until with a bump we
meet our native ground. Therefore for the most of us the groove is
much better. And yet some who leave it have been carried elsewhere, if
only for a little while, like St. Paul into the third heaven.
Nothing so very remarkable happened to Godfrey during those ten years
of his life in India, or at least only one or two things. Thus once he
got into a scrape for which he was not really responsible, and got out
of it again, as he imagined, without remark, until Isobel showed her
common and rather painful intimacy with its details, of which she
appeared to take a somewhat uncharitable view, at any rate so far as
the lady was concerned.
The other matter was more serious, since it involved the loss of his
greatest friend, Arthur Thorburn. Briefly, what happened was this.
There was a frontier disturbance. Godfrey, who by now was a staff
officer, had been sent to a far outpost held by Thorburn with a
certain number of men, and there took command. A reconnaissance was
necessary, and Thorburn went out for that purpose with over half of
the available garrison of the post, having received written orders
that he was not to engage the enemy unless he found himself absolutely
surrounded. In the end Thorburn did engage the enemy with the result
that practically he and his force were exterminated, but not before
they had inflicted such a lesson on the said enemy that it sued for
peace and has been great friends with the British power ever since.
First however a feeble attack was made on Godfrey's camp that he beat
off without the loss of a single man, exaggerated accounts of which
were telegraphed home representing it as a "Rorke's Drift defence."
Godfrey was heartbroken; he had loved this man as a brother, more
indeed than brothers often love. And now Thorburn, his only friend,
was dead. The Darkness had taken him, that impenetrable, devouring
darkness out of which we come and into which we go. Religion told him
he should not grieve, that Thorburn doubtless was much better off
whither he had gone than he could ever have been on earth, although it
was true the same religion said that he might be much worse off, since
thither his failings would have followed him. Dismissing the latter
possibility, how could he be happy in a new world, Godfrey wondered,
having left all he cared for behind him and without possibility of
communication with them?
In short, all the old problems of which he had not thought much since
Miss Ogilvy died, came back to Godfrey with added force and left him
wretched. Nor was he consoled by the sequel of the affair of which he
was bound to report the facts. The gallant man who was dead was blamed
unjustly for what had happened, as perhaps he deserved who had not
succeeded, since those who set their blind eye to the telescope as
Nelson did must justify their action by success.
Godfrey, on the other hand, who had done little but defeat an attack
made by exhausted and dispirited men, was praised to the skies and
found himself figuring as a kind of hero in the English Press, which
after a long period of peace having lost all sense of proportion in
such matters, was glad of anything that could be made to serve the
purposes of sensation. Ultimately he was thanked by the Government of
India, made a brevet-Major and decorated with the D.S.O., of all of
which it may be said with truth that never were such honours received
with less pleasure.
So much did he grieve over this unhappy business that his health was
affected and being run down, in the end he took some sort of fever and
was very ill indeed. When at length he recovered more or less he went
before a Medical Board who ordered him promptly to England on six
Most men would have rejoiced, but Godfrey did not. He had little wish
to return to England, where, except Mrs. Parsons, there were none he
desired to see, save one whom he was sworn not to see. This he could
bear while they were thousands of miles apart, but to be in the same
country with Isobel, in the same town perhaps, and forbidden to hear
her voice or to touch her hand, how could he bear that? Still he had
no choice in this matter, arranged by the hand of Fate, and went,
reflecting that he would go to Lucerne and spent the time with the
Pasteur. Perhaps even he would live in the beautiful house that Miss
Ogilvy had left to him, or a corner of it, seeing that it was empty,
for the tenants to whom it had been let had gone away.
So he started at the end of the first week in July, 1914.
When his ship reached Marseilles it was to find that the world was
buzzing with strange rumours. There was talk of war in Europe. Russia
was said to be mobilising; Germany was said to be mobilising; France
was said to be mobilising; it was even rumoured that England might be
drawn into some Titanic struggle of the nations. And yet no accurate
information was obtainable. The English papers they saw were somewhat
old and their reports vague in the extreme.
Much excited, like everyone else, Godfrey telegraphed to the India
Office, asking leave to come home direct overland, which he could not
do without permission since he was in command of a number of soldiers
who were returning to England on furlough.
No answer came to his wire before his ship sailed, and therefore he
was obliged to proceed by long sea. Still it had important
consequences which at the moment he could not foresee. In the Bay the
tidings that reached them by Marconigram were evidently so carefully
censored that out of them they could make nothing, except that the
Empire was filled with great doubt and anxiety, and that the world
stood on the verge of such a war as had never been known in history.
At length they came to Southampton where the pilot-boat brought him a
telegram ordering him to report himself without delay. Three hours
later he was in London. At the India Office, where he was kept waiting
a while, he was shown into the room of a prominent and harassed
official who had some papers in front of him.
"You are Major Knight?" said the official. "Well, here is your record
before me and it is good, very good indeed. But I see that you are on
sick leave. Are you too ill for service?"
"No," answered Godfrey, "the voyage has set me up. I feel as well as
ever I did."
"That's fortunate," answered the official, "but there is a doctor on
the premises, and to make sure he shall have a look at you. Go down
and see him, if you will, and then come back here with his report,"
and he rang a bell and gave some orders.
Within half an hour Godfrey was back in the room with a clean bill of
health. The official read the certificate and remarked that he was
going to send him over to the War Office, where he would make an
appointment for him by telephone.
"What for, Sir?" asked Godfrey. "You see I am only just off my ship
and very ignorant of the news."
"The news is, Major Knight, that we shall be at war with Germany
before we are twelve hours older," was the solemn answer. "Officers
are wanted, and we are giving every good man from India on whom we can
lay our hands. They won't put you on the Staff, because you have
everything to learn about European work, but I expect they will find
you a billet in one of the expeditionary regiments. And now good-bye
and good luck to you, for I have lots of men to see. By the way, I
take it for granted that you volunteered for the job?"
"Of course," replied Godfrey simply, and went away to wander about the
endless passages of the War Office till at length he discovered the
man whom he must see.
A few tumultuous days went by, and he found himself upon a steamer
crossing to France, attached to a famous English regiment.
The next month always remained in Godfrey's mind as a kind of
nightmare in which he moved on plains stained the colour of blood,
beneath a sky black with bellowing thunder and illumined occasionally
by a blaze of splendour. It would be useless to attempt to set out the
experience and adventures of the particular cavalry regiment to which
he was attached as a major, since, notwithstanding their infinite
variety, they were such as all shared whose glory it was to take part
with what the Kaiser called the "contemptible little army" of England
in the ineffable retreat from Mons, that retreat which saved France
Godfrey played his part well, once or twice with heroism indeed, but
what of that amid eighty thousand heroes? Back he staggered with the
rest, exhausted, sleepless, fighting, fighting, fighting, his mind
filled alternately with horror and with wonder, horror at the deeds to
which men can sink and the general scheme of things that makes them
possible, wonder at the heights to which they can rise when lifted by
the inspiration of a great ideal and a holy cause. Death, he
reflected, could not after all mean so very much to man, seeing how
bravely it was met every minute of the day and night, and that the
aspect of it, often so terrible, did but encourage others in like
fashion to smile and die. But oh! what did it all mean, and who ruled
this universe with such a flaming, blood-stained sword?
Then at last came the turn of the tide when the hungry German wolf was
obliged to abandon that Paris which already he thought between his
jaws and, a few days after it, the charge, the one splendid, perfect
charge that consoled Godfrey and those with him for all which they had
suffered, lost and feared. He was in command of the regiment now, for
those superior to him had been killed, and he directed and accompanied
that charge. They thundered on to the mass of the Germans who were
retreating with no time to entrench or set entanglements, a gentle
slope in front, and hard, clear ground beneath their horses' feet.
They cut through them, they trod them down, they drove them by scores
and hundreds into the stream beyond, till those two battalions, or
what remained of them, were but a tangled, drowning mob. It was
finished; the English squadron turned to retreat as had been ordered.
Then of a sudden Godfrey felt a dull blow. For a few moments
consciousness remained to him. He called out some command about the
retirement; it came to his mind that thus it was well to die in the
moment of his little victory. After that--blackness!
When his sense returned to him he found himself lying in the curtained
corner of a big room. At least he thought it was big because of the
vast expanse of ceiling which he could see above the curtain rods and
the sounds without, some of which seemed to come from a distance.
There was a window, too, through which he caught sight of lawns and
statues and formal trees. Just then the curtain was drawn, and there
appeared a middle-aged woman dressed in white, looking very calm, very
kind and very spotless, who started a little when she saw that his
eyes were open and that his face was intelligent.
"Where am I?" he asked, and was puzzled to observe that the sound of
his voice seemed feeble and far away.
"In the hospital at Versailles," she answered in a pleasant voice.
"Indeed!" he murmured. "It occurred to me that it might be Heaven or
some place of the sort."
"If you looked through the curtain you wouldn't call it Heaven," she
said with a sigh, adding, "No, Major, you were near to 'going west,'
very near, but you never got to the gates of Heaven."
"I can't remember," he murmured again.
"Of course you can't, so don't try, for you see you got it in the
head, a bit of shell; and a nice operation, or rather operations, they
had over you. If it wasn't for that clever surgeon--but there, never
"Shall I recover?"
"Of course you will. We have had no doubt about that for the last
week; you have been here nearly three, you know; only, you see, we
thought you might be blind, something to do with the nerves of the
eyes. But it appears that isn't so. Now be quiet, for I can't stop
talking to you with two dying just outside, and another whom I hope to
"One thing, Nurse--about the war. Have the Germans got Paris?"
"That's a silly question, Major, which makes me think you ain't so
right as I believed. If those brutes had Paris do you think you would
be at Versailles? Or, at any rate, that I should? Don't you bother
about the war. It's all right, or as right as it is likely to be for
many a long day."
Then she went.
A week later Godfrey was allowed to get out of bed and was even
carried to sit in the autumn sunshine among other shattered men. Now
he learned all there was to know; that the German rush had been
stayed, that they had been headed off from Calais, and that the armies
were entrenching opposite to each other and preparing for the winter,
the Allied cause having been saved, as it were, by a miracle, at any
rate for the while. He was still very weak, with great pain in his
head, and could not read at all, which grieved him.
So the time went by, till at last he was told that he was to be sent
to England, as his bed was wanted and he could recover there as well
as in France. Two days later he started in a hospital train and
suffered much upon the journey, although it was broken for a night at
Boulogne. Still he came safely to London, and was taken to a central
hospital where next day several doctors held a consultation over him.
When it was over they asked him if he had friends in London and wished
to stay there. He replied that he had no friends except an old nurse
at Hampstead, if she were still there, and that he did not like
London. Then there was talk among them, and the word Torquay was
mentioned. The head doctor seemed to agree, but as he was leaving,
changed his mind.
"Too long a journey," he said, "it would knock him up. Give me that
list. Here, this place will do; quite close and got up regardless, I
am told, for she's very rich. That's what he wants--comfort and first-
class food," and with a nod to Godfrey, who was listening in an idle
fashion, quite indifferent as to his destination, he was gone.
Next day they carried him off in an ambulance through the crowded
Strand, and presently he found himself at Liverpool Street, where he
was put into an invalid carriage. He asked the orderly where he was
going, but the man did not seem to know, or had forgotten the name. So
troubling no more about it he took a dose of medicine as he had been
ordered, and presently went to sleep, as no doubt it was intended that
he should do. When he woke up again it was to find himself being
lifted from another ambulance into a house which was very dark,
perhaps because of the lighting orders, for now night had fallen. He
was carried in a chair up some stairs into a very nice bedroom, and
there put to bed by two men. They went away, leaving him alone.
Something puzzled him about the place; at first he could not think
what it was. Then he knew. The smell of it was familiar to him. He did
not recognise the room, but the smell he did seem to recognise, though
being weak and shaken he could not connect it with any particular
house or locality. Now there were voices in the passage, and he knew
that he must be dreaming, for the only one that he could really hear
sounded exactly like to that of old Mrs. Parsons. He smiled at the
thought and shut his eyes. The voice that was like to that of Mrs.
Parsons died away, saying as it went:
"No, I haven't got the names, but I dare say they are downstairs. I'll
go and look."
The door opened and he heard someone enter, a woman this time by her
tread. He did not see, both because his eyes were still almost closed
and for the reason that the electric light was heavily shaded. So he
just lay there, wondering quite vaguely where he was and who the woman
might be. She came near to the bed and looked down at him, for he
heard her dress rustle as she bent. Then he became aware of a very
strange sensation. He felt as though something were flowing from that
woman to him, some strange and concentrated power of thought which was
changing into a kind of agony of joy. The woman above him began to
breathe quickly, in sighs as it were, and he knew that she was
stirred; he knew that she was wondering.
"I cannot see his face, I cannot see his face!" she whispered in a
strained, unnatural tone. Then with some swift movement she lifted the
shade that was over the lamp. He, too, turned his head and opened his
Oh, God! there over him leant Isobel, clad in a nurse's robes--yes,
Isobel--unless he were mad.
Next moment he knew that he was not mad, for she said one word, only
one, but it was enough.
"Isobel!" he gasped. "Is it you?"
She made no answer, at least in words. Only she bent down and kissed
him on the lips.
"You mustn't do that," he whispered. "Remember--our promise?"
"I remember," she answered. "Am I likely to forget? It was that you
would never see me nor come into this house while my father lived.
Well, he died a month ago." Then a doubt struck her, and she added
swiftly: "Didn't you want to come here?"
"Want, Isobel! What else have I wanted for ten years? But I didn't
know; my coming here was just an accident."
"Are there such things as accidents?" she queried. "Was it an accident
when twenty years ago I found you sleeping in the schoolroom at the
Abbey and kissed you on the forehead, or when I found you sleeping a
few minutes ago twenty whole years later--?" and she paused.
"And kissed me--/not/ upon the forehead," said Godfrey reflective,
adding, "I never knew about that first kiss. Thank you for it."
"Not upon the forehead," she repeated after him, colouring a little.
"You see I have faith and take a great deal for granted. If I should
"Oh! don't trouble about that," he broke in, "because you know it
couldn't be. Ten years, or ten thousand, and it would make no
"I wonder," she mused, "oh! how I wonder. Do you think it possible
that we shall be living ten thousand years hence?"
"Quite," he answered with cheerful assurance, "much more possible than
that I should be living to-day. What's ten thousand years? It's quite
a hundred thousand since I saw you."
"Don't laugh at me," she exclaimed.
"Why not, dear, when there's nothing in the whole world at which I
wouldn't laugh at just now? although I would rather look at you. Also
I wasn't laughing, I was loving, and when one is loving very much, the
truth comes out."
"Then you really think it true--about the ten thousand years, I mean?"
"Of course, dear," he answered, and this time his voice was serious
enough. "Did we not tell each other yonder in the Abbey that ours was
the love eternal?"
"Yes, but words cannot make eternity."
"No, but thoughts and the will behind them can, for we reap what we
"Why do you say that?" she asked quickly.
"I can't tell you, except because I know that it is so. We come to
strange conclusions out yonder, where only death seems to be true and
all the rest a dream. What we call the real and the unreal get mixed."
A kind of wave of happiness passed through her, so obvious that it was
visible to the watching Godfrey.
"If you believe it I dare say that it is so, for you always had what
they call vision, had you not?" Then without waiting for an answer,
she went on, "What nonsense we are talking. Don't you understand,
Godfrey, that I am quite old?"
"Yes," he answered, "getting on; six months younger than I am, I
"Oh! it's different with a man. Another dozen years and I'm finished."
"Possibly, except for that eternity before you."
"Also," she continued, "I am even----"
"Even more beautiful than you were ten years ago, at any rate to me,"
he broke in.
"You foolish Godfrey," she murmured, and moved a little away from him.
Just then the door opened, and Mrs. Parsons, looking very odd in a
nurse's dress with the cap awry upon her grey hair, entered, carrying
a bit of paper.
"The hunt I had!" she began; "that silly, new-fangled kind of a girl-
clerk having stuck the paper away under the letter O--for officers,
you know, Miss--in some fancy box of hers, and then gone off to tea.
Here are the names, but I can't see without my specs."
At this point something in the attitude of the two struck her,
something that her instincts told her was uncommon, and she stood
irresolute. Isobel stepped to her as though to take the list, and,
bending down, whispered into her ear.
"What?" said Mrs. Parsons. "Surely I didn't understand; you know I'm
getting deaf as well as blind. Say the name again."
Isobel obeyed, still in a whisper.
"/Him/!" exclaimed the old woman, "him! Our Godfrey, and you've been
and let on who you were--you who call yourself a nursing Commandant?
Why, I dare say you'll be the death of him. Out you go, Miss, anyway;
I'll take charge of this case for the present," and as it seemed to
Godfrey, watching from the far corner, literally she bundled Isobel
from the room.
Then she shut and locked the door. Coming to the bedside she knelt
down rather stiffly, looked at him for a while to make sure, and
kissed him, not once, but many times.
"So you have come back, my dear," she said, "and only half dead. Well,
we won't have no young woman pushing between you and me just at
present, Commandant or not. Time enough for love-making when you are
stronger. Oh! and I never thought to see you again. There must be a
good God somewhere after all, although He did make them Germans."
Then again she fell to kissing and blessing him, her hot tears
dropping on his face and upsetting him ten times as much as Isobel had
Since in this topsy-turvy world often things work by contraries, oddly
enough no harm came to Godfrey from these fierce excitements. Indeed
he slept better than he had done since he found his mind again, and
awoke, still weak of course, but without any temperature or pains in
his head. Now it was that there began the most blissful period of all
his life. Isobel, when she had recovered her balance, made him
understand that he was a patient, and that exciting talk or acts must
be avoided. He on his part fell in with her wishes, and indeed was
well content to do so. For a while he wanted nothing more than just to
lie there and watch her moving in and out of his room, with his food
or flowers, or whatever it might be, for a burst of bad weather
prevented him from going out of doors. Then, as he strengthened she
began to talk to him (which Mrs. Parsons did long before that event),
telling him all that for years he had longed to know; no, not all, but
some things. Among other matters she described to him the details of
her father's end, which occurred in a very characteristic fashion.
"You see, dear," she said, "as he grew older his passion for money-
making increased more and more; why, I am sure I cannot say, seeing
that Heaven knows he had enough."
"Yes," said Godfrey, "I suppose you are a very rich woman."
She nodded, saying: "So rich that I don't know how rich, for really I
haven't troubled even to read all the figures, and as yet they are not
complete. Moreover, I believe that soon I shall be much richer. I'll
tell you why presently. The odd thing is, too, that my father died
intestate, so I get every farthing. I believe he meant to make a will
with some rather peculiar provisions that perhaps you can guess. But
this will was never made."
"Why not?" asked Godfrey.
"Because he died first, that's all. It was this way. He, or rather his
firm, which is only another name for him, for he owned three-fourths
of the capital, got some tremendous shipping contract with the
Government arising out of the war, that secures an enormous profit to
them; how much I can't tell you, but hundreds and hundreds of
thousands of pounds. He had been very anxious about this contract, for
his terms were so stiff that the officials who manage such affairs
hesitated about signing them. At last one day after a long and I
gather, stormy interview with I don't know whom, in the course of
which some rather strong language seems to have been used, the
contract was signed and delivered to the firm. My father came home to
this house with a copy of it in his pocket. He was very triumphant,
for he looked at the matter solely from a business point of view, not
at all from that of the country. Also he was very tired, for he had
aged much during the last few years, and suffered occasionally from
heart attacks. To keep himself up he drank a great deal of wine at
dinner, first champagne and then the best part of a bottle of port.
This made him talkative, and he kept me sitting there to listen to him
while he boasted, poor man, of how he had 'walked round' the officials
who thought themselves so clever, but never saw some trap which he had
set for them."
"And what did you do?" asked Godfrey.
"You know very well what I did. I grew angry, I could not help it, and
told him I thought it was shameful to make money wrongfully out of the
country at such a time, especially when he did not want it at all.
Then he was furious and answered that he did want it, to support the
peerage which he was going to get. He said also," she added slowly,
"that I was 'an ignorant, interfering vixen,' yes, that is what he
called me, a vixen, who had always been a disappointment to him and
thwarted his plans. 'However,' he went on, 'as you think so little of
my hard-earned money, I'll take care that you don't have more of it
than I can help. I am not going to leave it to be wasted on silly
charities by a sour old maid, for that's what you are, since you can't
get hold of your precious parson's son, who I hope will be sent to the
war and killed. I'll see the lawyers to-morrow, and make a will, which
I hope you'll find pleasant reading one day.'
"I answered that he might make what will he liked, and left the room,
though he tried to stop me.
"About half an hour later I saw the butler running about the garden
where I was, looking for me in the gloom, and heard him calling: 'Come
to Sir John, miss. Come to Sir John!'
"I went in and there was my father fallen forward on the dining-room
table, with blood coming from his lips, though I believe this was
caused by a crushed wineglass. His pocket-book was open beneath him,
in which he had been writing figures of his estate, and, I think,
headings for the will he meant to make, but these I could not read
since the faint pencilling was blotted out with blood. He was quite
dead from some kind of a stroke followed by heart failure, as the
"Is that all the pleasant story?" asked Godfrey.
"Yes, except that there being no will I inherited everything, or shall
do so. I tried to get that contract cancelled, but could not; first,
because having once made it the Government would not consent, since to
do so would have been a reflection on those concerned, and secondly,
for the reason that the other partners in the shipping business
objected. So we shall have to give it back in some other way."
Godfrey looked at her, and said:
"You meant to say that /you/ will have to give it back."
"I don't know what I meant," she answered, colouring; "but having said
/we/, I think I will be like the Government and stick to it. That is,
unless you object very much, my dear."
"Object! /I/ object!" and taking the hand that was nearest to him, he
covered it with kisses. As he did so he noted that for the first time
she wore the little ring with turquoise hearts upon her third finger,
the ring that so many years before he had bought at Lucerne, the ring
that through Mrs. Parsons he had sent her in the pill-box on the
evening of their separation.
This was the only form of engagement that ever passed between them,
the truth being that from the moment he entered the place it was all
taken for granted, not only by themselves, but by everyone in the
house, including the wounded. With this development of an intelligent
instinct, it is possible that Mrs. Parsons had something to do.
In that atmosphere of perfect bliss Godfrey's cure was quick. For
bliss it was, save only that there was another bliss beyond to be
attained. Remember that this man, now approaching middle life, had
never drunk of the cup of what is known as love upon the earth.
Some might answer that such is the universal experience; that true,
complete love has no existence, except it be that love of God to which
a few at last attain, since in what we know as God completeness and
absolute unity can be found alone. Other loves all have their flaws,
with one exception perhaps, that of the love of the dead which fondly
we imagine to be unchangeable. For the rest passion, however exalted,
passes or at least becomes dull with years; the most cherished
children grow up, and in so doing, by the law of Nature, grow away;
friends are estranged and lost in their own lives.
Upon the earth there is no perfect love; it must be sought elsewhere,
since having the changeful shadows, we know there is a sky wherein
shines the sun that casts them.
Godfrey, as it chanced, omitting Isobel, had walked little even in
these sweet shadows. There were but three others for whom he had felt
devotion in all his days, Mrs. Parsons, his tutor, Monsieur Boiset,
and his friend, Arthur Thorburn, who was gone. Therefore to him Isobel
was everything. As a child he had adored her; as a woman she was his
desire, his faith and his worship.
If this were so with him, still more was it the case with Isobel, who
in truth cared for no other human being. Something in her nature
prevented her from contracting violent female friendships, and to all
men, except a few of ability, each of them old enough to be her
father, she was totally indifferent; indeed most of them repelled her.
On Godfrey, and Godfrey alone, from the first moment she saw him as a
child she had poured all the deep treasure of her heart. He was at
once her divinity and her other self, the segment that completed her
life's circle, without which it was nothing but a useless, broken
So much did this seem to her to be so, that notwithstanding her lack
of faith in matters beyond proof and knowledge, she never conceived of
this passion of hers as having had a beginning, or of being capable of
an end. This contradictory woman would argue against the possibility
of any future existence, yet she was quite certain that her love for
Godfrey /had/ a future existence, and indeed one that was endless.
When at length he put it to her that her attitude was most illogical,
since that which was dead and dissolved could not exist in any place
or shape, she thought for a while and replied quietly:
"Then I must be wrong."
"Wrong in what?" asked Godfrey.
"In supposing that we do not live after death. The continuance of our
love I /know/ to be beyond any doubt, and if it involves our
continuance as individual entities--well, then we continue, that is
"We might continue as a single entity," he suggested.
"Perhaps," she answered, "and if so this would be better still, for it
must be impossible to lose one another while that remained alive,
Thus, and in these few words, although she never became altogether
orthodox, or took quite the same view of such mysteries as did
Godfrey, Isobel made her great recantation, for which probably there
would never have been any need had she been born in different
surroundings and found some other spiritual guide in youth than Mr.
Knight. As the cruelties and the narrow bitterness of the world had
bred unfaith in her, so did supreme love breed faith, if of an unusual
sort, since she learned that without the faith her love must die, and
the love she knew to be immortal. Therefore the existence of that
living love presupposed all the rest, and convinced her, which in one
of her obstinate nature nothing else could possibly have done, no, not
if she had seen a miracle. Also this love of hers was so profound and
beautiful that she felt its true origin and ultimate home must be
elsewhere than on the earth.
That was why she consented to be married in church, somewhat to
In due course, having practically recovered his health, Godfrey
appeared before a Board in London which passed him as fit for service,
but gave him a month's leave. With this document he returned to Hawk's
Hall, and there showed it to Isobel.
"And when the month is up?" she asked, looking at him.
"Then I suppose I shall have to join my regiment, unless they send me
"A month is a very short time," she went on, still looking at him and
turning a little pale.
"Yes, dear, but lots can happen in it, as we found out in France. For
instance," he added, with a little hesitation, "we can get married,
that is, if you wish."
"You know very well, Godfrey, that I have wished it for quite ten
"And you know very well, Isobel, that I have wished it--well, ever
since I understood what marriage was. How about to-morrow?" he
exclaimed, after a pause.
She laughed, and shook her head.
"I believe, Godfrey, that some sort of license is necessary, and it is
past post time. Also it would look scarcely decent; all these people
would laugh at us. Also, as there is a good deal of property
concerned, I must make some arrangements."
"What arrangements?" he asked.
She laughed again. "That is my affair; you know I am a great supporter
of Woman's Rights."
"Oh! I see," he replied vaguely, "to keep it all free from the
husband's control, &c."
"Yes, Godfrey, that's it. What a business head you have. You should
join the shipping firm after the war."
Then they settled to be married on that day week, after which Isobel
suggested that he should take up his abode at the Abbey House, where
the clergyman, a bachelor, would be very glad to have him as a guest.
When Godfrey inquired why, she replied blandly because his room was
wanted for another patient, he being now cured, and that therefore he
had no right to stop there.
"Oh! I see. How selfish of me," said Godfrey, and went off to arrange
matters with the clergyman, a friendly and accommodating young man,
with the result that on this night once more he slept in the room he
had occupied as a boy. For her part Isobel telephoned, first to her
dressmaker, and secondly to the lawyer who was winding up her father's
estate, requesting these important persons to come to see her on the
They came quickly, since Isobel was too valuable a client to be
neglected, arriving by the same train, with the result that the lawyer
was kept waiting an hour and a half by the dressmaker, a fact which he
remembered in his bill. When at last his turn came, Isobel did not
detain him long.
"I am going to be married," she said, "on the twenty-fourth to Major
Godfrey Knight of the Indian Cavalry. Will you kindly prepare two
documents, the first to be signed before my marriage, and the second,
a will, immediately after it, since otherwise it would be invalidated
by that change in my condition."
The lawyer stared at her, since so much legal knowledge was not common
among his lady clients, and asked for instructions as to what the
documents were to set out.
"They will be very simple," said Isobel. "The first, a marriage
settlement, will settle half my income free of my control upon my
future husband during our joint lives. The second, that is the will,
will leave to him all my property, real and personal."
"I must point out to you, Miss Blake," said the astonished lawyer,
"that these provisions are very unusual. Does Major Knight bring large
sums into settlement?"
"I don't think so," she answered. "His means are quite moderate, and
if they were not, it would never occur to him to do anything of the
sort, as he understands nothing about money. Also circumstanced as I
am, it does not matter in the least."
"Your late father would have taken a different view," sniffed the
"Possibly," replied Isobel, "for our views varied upon most points.
While he was alive I gave way to his, to my great loss and sorrow. Now
that he is dead I follow my own."
"Well, that is definite, Miss Blake, and of course your wishes must be
obeyed. But as regards this will, do not think me indelicate for
mentioning it, but there might be children."
"I don't think you at all indelicate. Why should I at over thirty
years of age? I have considered the point. If we are blessed with any
children, and I should predecease him, my future husband will make
such arrangements for their welfare as he considers wise and just. I
have every confidence in his judgment, and if he should happen to die
intestate, which I think very probable, they would inherit equally.
There is enough for any number of them."
"Unless he loses or spends it," groaned the lawyer.
"He is much more likely to save it from some mistaken sense of duty,
and to live entirely on what he has of his own," remarked Isobel. "If
so, it cannot be helped, and no doubt the poor will benefit. Now if
you thoroughly understand what I wish done, I think that is all. I
have to see the dressmaker again, so good-bye."
"Executors?" gasped the lawyer.
"Public Trustee," said Isobel, over her shoulder.
"They say that she is one of these Suffragette women, although she
keeps it dark. Well, I can believe it. Anyway, this officer is
tumbling into honey, and there's no fool like a woman in love," said
the lawyer to himself as he packed his bag of papers.
Isobel was quite right. The question of settlements never even
occurred to Godfrey. He was aware, however, that it is usual for a
bridegroom to make the bride a present, and going to London, walked
miserably up and down Bond Street looking into windows until he was
tired. At one moment he fixed his affections upon an old Queen Anne
porringer, which his natural taste told him to be quite beautiful; but
having learned from the dealer that it was meant for the mixing of
infant's pap, he retired abashed. Almost next door he saw in a
jeweller's window a necklace of small pearls priced at three hundred
pounds, and probably worth about half that amount. Having quite a
handsome balance at his back, he came to the conclusion that he could
afford this and, going in, bought it at once, oblivious of the fact
that Isobel already had ropes of pearls the size of marrowfat peas.
However, she was delighted with it, especially when she saw what it
had cost him, for he had never thought to cut the sale ticket from the
necklace. It was those pearls, and not the marrowfat peas, that Isobel
wore upon her wedding day. Save for the little ring with the two
turquoise hearts, these were her only ornament.
A question arose as to where the honeymoon, or so much as would remain
of one, was to be spent. Godfrey would have liked to go to Lucerne and
visit the Pasteur, but as this could not be managed in war time,
"Why London?" exclaimed Isobel.
"Only because most ladies like theatres, though I confess I hate them
"You silly man," she answered. "Do you suppose, when we can have only
a few days together, that I want to waste time in theatres?"
In the end it was settled that they would go to London for a night,
and then on to Cornwall, which they hoped fondly might be warm at that
time of year.
So at last, on the twenty-fourth day of December of that fateful year