Part 8 out of 10
understanding, not merely of women, but of the entire universe. He
could read Rodney, too, like a book. He knew that he was unhappy, and
he pitied him, and wished to help him.
"You say something and they--fly into a passion. Or for no reason at
all, they laugh. I take it that no amount of education will--" The
remainder of the sentence was lost in the high wind, against which
they had to struggle; but Denham understood that he referred to
Katharine's laughter, and that the memory of it was still hurting him.
In comparison with Rodney, Denham felt himself very secure; he saw
Rodney as one of the lost birds dashed senseless against the glass;
one of the flying bodies of which the air was full. But he and
Katharine were alone together, aloft, splendid, and luminous with a
twofold radiance. He pitied the unstable creature beside him; he felt
a desire to protect him, exposed without the knowledge which made his
own way so direct. They were united as the adventurous are united,
though one reaches the goal and the other perishes by the way.
"You couldn't laugh at some one you cared for."
This sentence, apparently addressed to no other human being, reached
Denham's ears. The wind seemed to muffle it and fly away with it
directly. Had Rodney spoken those words?
"You love her." Was that his own voice, which seemed to sound in the
air several yards in front of him?
"I've suffered tortures, Denham, tortures!"
"Yes, yes, I know that."
"She's laughed at me."
The wind blew a space between the words--blew them so far away that
they seemed unspoken.
"How I've loved her!"
This was certainly spoken by the man at Denham's side. The voice had
all the marks of Rodney's character, and recalled, with; strange
vividness, his personal appearance. Denham could see him against the
blank buildings and towers of the horizon. He saw him dignified,
exalted, and tragic, as he might have appeared thinking of Katharine
alone in his rooms at night.
"I am in love with Katharine myself. That is why I am here to-night."
Ralph spoke distinctly and deliberately, as if Rodney's confession had
made this statement necessary.
Rodney exclaimed something inarticulate.
"Ah, I've always known it," he cried, "I've known it from the first.
You'll marry her!"
The cry had a note of despair in it. Again the wind intercepted their
words. They said no more. At length they drew up beneath a lamp-post,
"My God, Denham, what fools we both are!" Rodney exclaimed. They
looked at each other, queerly, in the light of the lamp. Fools! They
seemed to confess to each other the extreme depths of their folly. For
the moment, under the lamp-post, they seemed to be aware of some
common knowledge which did away with the possibility of rivalry, and
made them feel more sympathy for each other than for any one else in
the world. Giving simultaneously a little nod, as if in confirmation
of this understanding, they parted without speaking again.
Between twelve and one that Sunday night Katharine lay in bed, not
asleep, but in that twilight region where a detached and humorous view
of our own lot is possible; or if we must be serious, our seriousness
is tempered by the swift oncome of slumber and oblivion. She saw the
forms of Ralph, William, Cassandra, and herself, as if they were all
equally unsubstantial, and, in putting off reality, had gained a kind
of dignity which rested upon each impartially. Thus rid of any
uncomfortable warmth of partisanship or load of obligation, she was
dropping off to sleep when a light tap sounded upon her door. A moment
later Cassandra stood beside her, holding a candle and speaking in the
low tones proper to the time of night.
"Are you awake, Katharine?"
"Yes, I'm awake. What is it?"
She roused herself, sat up, and asked what in Heaven's name Cassandra
"I couldn't sleep, and I thought I'd come and speak to you--only for a
moment, though. I'm going home to-morrow."
"Home? Why, what has happened?"
"Something happened to-day which makes it impossible for me to stay
Cassandra spoke formally, almost solemnly; the announcement was
clearly prepared and marked a crisis of the utmost gravity. She
continued what seemed to be part of a set speech.
"I have decided to tell you the whole truth, Katharine. William
allowed himself to behave in a way which made me extremely
Katharine seemed to waken completely, and at once to be in control of
"At the Zoo?" she asked.
"No, on the way home. When we had tea."
As if foreseeing that the interview might be long, and the night
chilly, Katharine advised Cassandra to wrap herself in a quilt.
Cassandra did so with unbroken solemnity.
"There's a train at eleven," she said. "I shall tell Aunt Maggie that
I have to go suddenly. . . . I shall make Violet's visit an excuse.
But, after thinking it over, I don't see how I can go without telling
you the truth."
She was careful to abstain from looking in Katharine's direction.
There was a slight pause.
"But I don't see the least reason why you should go," said Katharine
eventually. Her voice sounded so astonishingly equable that Cassandra
glanced at her. It was impossible to suppose that she was either
indignant or surprised; she seemed, on the contrary, sitting up in
bed, with her arms clasped round her knees and a little frown on her
brow, to be thinking closely upon a matter of indifference to her.
"Because I can't allow any man to behave to me in that way," Cassandra
replied, and she added, "particularly when I know that he is engaged
to some one else."
"But you like him, don't you?" Katharine inquired.
"That's got nothing to do with it," Cassandra exclaimed indignantly.
"I consider his conduct, under the circumstances, most disgraceful."
This was the last of the sentences of her premeditated speech; and
having spoken it she was left unprovided with any more to say in that
particular style. When Katharine remarked:
"I should say it had everything to do with it," Cassandra's
self-possession deserted her.
"I don't understand you in the least, Katharine. How can you behave as
you behave? Ever since I came here I've been amazed by you!"
"You've enjoyed yourself, haven't you?" Katharine asked.
"Yes, I have," Cassandra admitted.
"Anyhow, my behavior hasn't spoiled your visit."
"No," Cassandra allowed once more. She was completely at a loss. In
her forecast of the interview she had taken it for granted that
Katharine, after an outburst of incredulity, would agree that
Cassandra must return home as soon as possible. But Katharine, on the
contrary, accepted her statement at once, seemed neither shocked nor
surprised, and merely looked rather more thoughtful than usual. From
being a mature woman charged with an important mission, Cassandra
shrunk to the stature of an inexperienced child.
"Do you think I've been very foolish about it?" she asked.
Katharine made no answer, but still sat deliberating silently, and a
certain feeling of alarm took possession of Cassandra. Perhaps her
words had struck far deeper than she had thought, into depths beyond
her reach, as so much of Katharine was beyond her reach. She thought
suddenly that she had been playing with very dangerous tools.
Looking at her at length, Katharine asked slowly, as if she found the
question very difficult to ask.
"But do you care for William?"
She marked the agitation and bewilderment of the girl's expression,
and how she looked away from her.
"Do you mean, am I in love with him?" Cassandra asked, breathing
quickly, and nervously moving her hands.
"Yes, in love with him," Katharine repeated.
"How can I love the man you're engaged to marry?" Cassandra burst out.
"He may be in love with you."
"I don't think you've any right to say such things, Katharine,"
Cassandra exclaimed. "Why do you say them? Don't you mind in the least
how William behaves to other women? If I were engaged, I couldn't bear
"We're not engaged," said Katharine, after a pause.
"Katharine!" Cassandra cried.
"No, we're not engaged," Katharine repeated. "But no one knows it but
"But why--I don't understand--you're not engaged!" Cassandra said
again. "Oh, that explains it! You're not in love with him! You don't
want to marry him!"
"We aren't in love with each other any longer," said Katharine, as if
disposing of something for ever and ever.
"How queer, how strange, how unlike other people you are, Katharine,"
Cassandra said, her whole body and voice seeming to fall and collapse
together, and no trace of anger or excitement remaining, but only a
"You're not in love with him?"
"But I love him," said Katharine.
Cassandra remained bowed, as if by the weight of the revelation, for
some little while longer. Nor did Katharine speak. Her attitude was
that of some one who wishes to be concealed as much as possible from
observation. She sighed profoundly; she was absolutely silent, and
apparently overcome by her thoughts.
"D'you know what time it is?" she said at length, and shook her
pillow, as if making ready for sleep.
Cassandra rose obediently, and once more took up her candle. Perhaps
the white dressing-gown, and the loosened hair, and something unseeing
in the expression of the eyes gave her a likeness to a woman walking
in her sleep. Katharine, at least, thought so.
"There's no reason why I should go home, then?" Cassandra said,
pausing. "Unless you want me to go, Katharine? What DO you want me to
For the first time their eyes met.
"You wanted us to fall in love," Cassandra exclaimed, as if she read
the certainty there. But as she looked she saw a sight that surprised
her. The tears rose slowly in Katharine's eyes and stood there,
brimming but contained--the tears of some profound emotion, happiness,
grief, renunciation; an emotion so complex in its nature that to
express it was impossible, and Cassandra, bending her head and
receiving the tears upon her cheek, accepted them in silence as the
consecration of her love.
"Please, miss," said the maid, about eleven o'clock on the following
morning, "Mrs. Milvain is in the kitchen."
A long wicker basket of flowers and branches had arrived from the
country, and Katharine, kneeling upon the floor of the drawing-room,
was sorting them while Cassandra watched her from an arm-chair, and
absent-mindedly made spasmodic offers of help which were not accepted.
The maid's message had a curious effect upon Katharine.
She rose, walked to the window, and, the maid being gone, said
emphatically and even tragically:
"You know what that means."
Cassandra had understood nothing.
"Aunt Celia is in the kitchen," Katharine repeated.
"Why in the kitchen?" Cassandra asked, not unnaturally.
"Probably because she's discovered something," Katharine replied.
Cassandra's thoughts flew to the subject of her preoccupation.
"About us?" she inquired.
"Heaven knows," Katharine replied. "I shan't let her stay in the
kitchen, though. I shall bring her up here."
The sternness with which this was said suggested that to bring Aunt
Celia upstairs was, for some reason, a disciplinary measure.
"For goodness' sake, Katharine," Cassandra exclaimed, jumping from her
chair and showing signs of agitation, "don't be rash. Don't let her
suspect. Remember, nothing's certain--"
Katharine assured her by nodding her head several times, but the
manner in which she left the room was not calculated to inspire
complete confidence in her diplomacy.
Mrs. Milvain was sitting, or rather perching, upon the edge of a chair
in the servants' room. Whether there was any sound reason for her
choice of a subterranean chamber, or whether it corresponded with the
spirit of her quest, Mrs. Milvain invariably came in by the back door
and sat in the servants' room when she was engaged in confidential
family transactions. The ostensible reason she gave was that neither
Mr. nor Mrs. Hilbery should be disturbed. But, in truth, Mrs. Milvain
depended even more than most elderly women of her generation upon the
delicious emotions of intimacy, agony, and secrecy, and the additional
thrill provided by the basement was one not lightly to be forfeited.
She protested almost plaintively when Katharine proposed to go
"I've something that I want to say to you in PRIVATE," she said,
hesitating reluctantly upon the threshold of her ambush.
"The drawing-room is empty--"
"But we might meet your mother upon the stairs. We might disturb your
father," Mrs. Milvain objected, taking the precaution to speak in a
But as Katharine's presence was absolutely necessary to the success of
the interview, and as Katharine obstinately receded up the kitchen
stairs, Mrs. Milvain had no course but to follow her. She glanced
furtively about her as she proceeded upstairs, drew her skirts
together, and stepped with circumspection past all doors, whether they
were open or shut.
"Nobody will overhear us?" she murmured, when the comparative
sanctuary of the drawing-room had been reached. "I see that I have
interrupted you," she added, glancing at the flowers strewn upon the
floor. A moment later she inquired, "Was some one sitting with you?"
noticing a handkerchief that Cassandra had dropped in her flight.
"Cassandra was helping me to put the flowers in water," said
Katharine, and she spoke so firmly and clearly that Mrs. Milvain
glanced nervously at the main door and then at the curtain which
divided the little room with the relics from the drawing-room.
"Ah, Cassandra is still with you," she remarked. "And did William send
you those lovely flowers?"
Katharine sat down opposite her aunt and said neither yes nor no. She
looked past her, and it might have been thought that she was
considering very critically the pattern of the curtains. Another
advantage of the basement, from Mrs. Milvain's point of view, was that
it made it necessary to sit very close together, and the light was dim
compared with that which now poured through three windows upon
Katharine and the basket of flowers, and gave even the slight angular
figure of Mrs. Milvain herself a halo of gold.
"They're from Stogdon House," said Katharine abruptly, with a little
jerk of her head.
Mrs. Milvain felt that it would be easier to tell her niece what she
wished to say if they were actually in physical contact, for the
spiritual distance between them was formidable. Katharine, however,
made no overtures, and Mrs. Milvain, who was possessed of rash but
heroic courage, plunged without preface:
"People are talking about you, Katharine. That is why I have come this
morning. You forgive me for saying what I'd much rather not say? What
I say is only for your own sake, my child."
"There's nothing to forgive yet, Aunt Celia," said Katharine, with
apparent good humor.
"People are saying that William goes everywhere with you and
Cassandra, and that he is always paying her attentions. At the
Markhams' dance he sat out five dances with her. At the Zoo they were
seen alone together. They left together. They never came back here
till seven in the evening. But that is not all. They say his manner is
very marked--he is quite different when she is there."
Mrs. Milvain, whose words had run themselves together, and whose voice
had raised its tone almost to one of protest, here ceased, and looked
intently at Katharine, as if to judge the effect of her communication.
A slight rigidity had passed over Katharine's face. Her lips were
pressed together; her eyes were contracted, and they were still fixed
upon the curtain. These superficial changes covered an extreme inner
loathing such as might follow the display of some hideous or indecent
spectacle. The indecent spectacle was her own action beheld for the
first time from the outside; her aunt's words made her realize how
infinitely repulsive the body of life is without its soul.
"Well?" she said at length.
Mrs. Milvain made a gesture as if to bring her closer, but it was not
"We all know how good you are--how unselfish--how you sacrifice
yourself to others. But you've been too unselfish, Katharine. You have
made Cassandra happy, and she has taken advantage of your goodness."
"I don't understand, Aunt Celia," said Katharine. "What has Cassandra
"Cassandra has behaved in a way that I could not have thought
possible," said Mrs. Milvain warmly. "She has been utterly
selfish--utterly heartless. I must speak to her before I go."
"I don't understand," Katharine persisted.
Mrs. Milvain looked at her. Was it possible that Katharine really
doubted? That there was something that Mrs. Milvain herself did not
understand? She braced herself, and pronounced the tremendous words:
"Cassandra has stolen William's love."
Still the words seemed to have curiously little effect.
"Do you mean," said Katharine, "that he has fallen in love with her?"
"There are ways of MAKING men fall in love with one, Katharine."
Katharine remained silent. The silence alarmed Mrs. Milvain, and she
"Nothing would have made me say these things but your own good. I have
not wished to interfere; I have not wished to give you pain. I am a
useless old woman. I have no children of my own. I only want to see
you happy, Katharine."
Again she stretched forth her arms, but they remained empty.
"You are not going to say these things to Cassandra," said Katharine
suddenly. "You've said them to me; that's enough."
Katharine spoke so low and with such restraint that Mrs. Milvain had
to strain to catch her words, and when she heard them she was dazed by
"I've made you angry! I knew I should!" she exclaimed. She quivered,
and a kind of sob shook her; but even to have made Katharine angry was
some relief, and allowed her to feel some of the agreeable sensations
"Yes," said Katharine, standing up, "I'm so angry that I don't want to
say anything more. I think you'd better go, Aunt Celia. We don't
understand each other."
At these words Mrs. Milvain looked for a moment terribly apprehensive;
she glanced at her niece's face, but read no pity there, whereupon she
folded her hands upon a black velvet bag which she carried in an
attitude that was almost one of prayer. Whatever divinity she prayed
to, if pray she did, at any rate she recovered her dignity in a
singular way and faced her niece.
"Married love," she said slowly and with emphasis upon every word, "is
the most sacred of all loves. The love of husband and wife is the most
holy we know. That is the lesson Mamma's children learnt from her;
that is what they can never forget. I have tried to speak as she would
have wished her daughter to speak. You are her grandchild."
Katharine seemed to judge this defence upon its merits, and then to
convict it of falsity.
"I don't see that there is any excuse for your behavior," she said.
At these words Mrs. Milvain rose and stood for a moment beside her
niece. She had never met with such treatment before, and she did not
know with what weapons to break down the terrible wall of resistance
offered her by one who, by virtue of youth and beauty and sex, should
have been all tears and supplications. But Mrs. Milvain herself was
obstinate; upon a matter of this kind she could not admit that she was
either beaten or mistaken. She beheld herself the champion of married
love in its purity and supremacy; what her niece stood for she was
quite unable to say, but she was filled with the gravest suspicions.
The old woman and the young woman stood side by side in unbroken
silence. Mrs. Milvain could not make up her mind to withdraw while her
principles trembled in the balance and her curiosity remained
unappeased. She ransacked her mind for some question that should force
Katharine to enlighten her, but the supply was limited, the choice
difficult, and while she hesitated the door opened and William Rodney
came in. He carried in his hand an enormous and splendid bunch of
white and purple flowers, and, either not seeing Mrs. Milvain, or
disregarding her, he advanced straight to Katharine, and presented the
flowers with the words:
"These are for you, Katharine."
Katharine took them with a glance that Mrs. Milvain did not fail to
intercept. But with all her experience, she did not know what to make
of it. She watched anxiously for further illumination. William greeted
her without obvious sign of guilt, and, explaining that he had a
holiday, both he and Katharine seemed to take it for granted that his
holiday should be celebrated with flowers and spent in Cheyne Walk. A
pause followed; that, too, was natural; and Mrs. Milvain began to feel
that she laid herself open to a charge of selfishness if she stayed.
The mere presence of a young man had altered her disposition
curiously, and filled her with a desire for a scene which should end
in an emotional forgiveness. She would have given much to clasp both
nephew and niece in her arms. But she could not flatter herself that
any hope of the customary exaltation remained.
"I must go," she said, and she was conscious of an extreme flatness of
Neither of them said anything to stop her. William politely escorted
her downstairs, and somehow, amongst her protests and embarrassments,
Mrs. Milvain forgot to say good-bye to Katharine. She departed,
murmuring words about masses of flowers and a drawing-room always
beautiful even in the depths of winter.
William came back to Katharine; he found her standing where he had
"I've come to be forgiven," he said. "Our quarrel was perfectly
hateful to me. I've not slept all night. You're not angry with me, are
She could not bring herself to answer him until she had rid her mind
of the impression that her aunt had made on her. It seemed to her that
the very flowers were contaminated, and Cassandra's pocket-
handkerchief, for Mrs. Milvain had used them for evidence in her
"She's been spying upon us," she said, "following us about London,
overhearing what people are saying--"
"Mrs. Milvain?" Rodney exclaimed. "What has she told you?"
His air of open confidence entirely vanished.
"Oh, people are saying that you're in love with Cassandra, and that
you don't care for me."
"They have seen us?" he asked.
"Everything we've done for a fortnight has been seen."
"I told you that would happen!" he exclaimed.
He walked to the window in evident perturbation. Katharine was too
indignant to attend to him. She was swept away by the force of her own
anger. Clasping Rodney's flowers, she stood upright and motionless.
Rodney turned away from the window.
"It's all been a mistake," he said. "I blame myself for it. I should
have known better. I let you persuade me in a moment of madness. I beg
you to forget my insanity, Katharine."
"She wished even to persecute Cassandra!" Katharine burst out, not
listening to him. "She threatened to speak to her. She's capable of
it--she's capable of anything!"
"Mrs. Milvain is not tactful, I know, but you exaggerate, Katharine.
People are talking about us. She was right to tell us. It only
confirms my own feeling--the position is monstrous."
At length Katharine realized some part of what he meant.
"You don't mean that this influences you, William?" she asked in
"It does," he said, flushing. "It's intensely disagreeable to me. I
can't endure that people should gossip about us. And then there's your
cousin--Cassandra--" He paused in embarrassment.
"I came here this morning, Katharine," he resumed, with a change of
voice, "to ask you to forget my folly, my bad temper, my inconceivable
behavior. I came, Katharine, to ask whether we can't return to the
position we were in before this--this season of lunacy. Will you take
me back, Katharine, once more and for ever?"
No doubt her beauty, intensified by emotion and enhanced by the
flowers of bright color and strange shape which she carried wrought
upon Rodney, and had its share in bestowing upon her the old romance.
But a less noble passion worked in him, too; he was inflamed by
jealousy. His tentative offer of affection had been rudely and, as he
thought, completely repulsed by Cassandra on the preceding day.
Denham's confession was in his mind. And ultimately, Katharine's
dominion over him was of the sort that the fevers of the night cannot
"I was as much to blame as you were yesterday," she said gently,
disregarding his question. "I confess, William, the sight of you and
Cassandra together made me jealous, and I couldn't control myself. I
laughed at you, I know."
"You jealous!" William exclaimed. "l assure you, Katharine, you've not
the slightest reason to be jealous. Cassandra dislikes me, so far as
she feels about me at all. I was foolish enough to try to explain the
nature of our relationship. I couldn't resist telling her what I
supposed myself to feel for her. She refused to listen, very rightly.
But she left me in no doubt of her scorn."
Katharine hesitated. She was confused, agitated, physically tired, and
had already to reckon with the violent feeling of dislike aroused by
her aunt which still vibrated through all the rest of her feelings.
She sank into a chair and dropped her flowers upon her lap.
"She charmed me," Rodney continued. "I thought I loved her. But that's
a thing of the past. It's all over, Katharine. It was a dream--an
hallucination. We were both equally to blame, but no harm's done if
you believe how truly I care for you. Say you believe me!"
He stood over her, as if in readiness to seize the first sign of her
assent. Precisely at that moment, owing, perhaps, to her vicissitudes
of feeling, all sense of love left her, as in a moment a mist lifts
from the earth. And when the mist departed a skeleton world and
blankness alone remained--a terrible prospect for the eyes of the
living to behold. He saw the look of terror in her face, and without
understanding its origin, took her hand in his. With the sense of
companionship returned a desire, like that of a child for shelter, to
accept what he had to offer her--and at that moment it seemed that he
offered her the only thing that could make it tolerable to live. She
let him press his lips to her cheek, and leant her head upon his arm.
It was the moment of his triumph. It was the only moment in which she
belonged to him and was dependent upon his protection.
"Yes, yes, yes," he murmured, "you accept me, Katharine. You love me."
For a moment she remained silent. He then heard her murmur:
"Cassandra loves you more than I do."
"Cassandra?" he whispered.
"She loves you," Katharine repeated. She raised herself and repeated
the sentence yet a third time. "She loves you."
William slowly raised himself. He believed instinctively what
Katharine said, but what it meant to him he was unable to understand.
Could Cassandra love him? Could she have told Katharine that she loved
him? The desire to know the truth of this was urgent, unknown though
the consequences might be. The thrill of excitement associated with
the thought of Cassandra once more took possession of him. No longer
was it the excitement of anticipation and ignorance; it was the
excitement of something greater than a possibility, for now he knew
her and had measure of the sympathy between them. But who could give
him certainty? Could Katharine, Katharine who had lately lain in his
arms, Katharine herself the most admired of women? He looked at her,
with doubt, and with anxiety, but said nothing.
"Yes, yes," she said, interpreting his wish for assurance, "it's true.
I know what she feels for you."
"She loves me?"
"Ah, but who knows what I feel? How can I be sure of my feeling
myself? Ten minutes ago I asked you to marry me. I still wish it--I
don't know what I wish--"
He clenched his hands and turned away. He suddenly faced her and
demanded: "Tell me what you feel for Denham."
"For Ralph Denham?" she asked. "Yes!" she exclaimed, as if she had
found the answer to some momentarily perplexing question. "You're
jealous of me, William; but you're not in love with me. I'm jealous of
you. Therefore, for both our sakes, I say, speak to Cassandra at
He tried to compose himself. He walked up and down the room; he paused
at the window and surveyed the flowers strewn upon the floor.
Meanwhile his desire to have Katharine's assurance confirmed became so
insistent that he could no longer deny the overmastering strength of
his feeling for Cassandra.
"You're right," he exclaimed, coming to a standstill and rapping his
knuckles sharply upon a small table carrying one slender vase. "I love
As he said this, the curtains hanging at the door of the little room
parted, and Cassandra herself stepped forth.
"I have overheard every word!" she exclaimed.
A pause succeeded this announcement. Rodney made a step forward and
"Then you know what I wish to ask you. Give me your answer--"
She put her hands before her face; she turned away and seemed to
shrink from both of them.
"What Katharine said," she murmured. "But," she added, raising her
head with a look of fear from the kiss with which he greeted her
admission, "how frightfully difficult it all is! Our feelings, I mean
--yours and mine and Katharine's. Katharine, tell me, are we doing
"Right--of course we're doing right," William answered her, "if, after
what you've heard, you can marry a man of such incomprehensible
confusion, such deplorable--"
"Don't, William," Katharine interposed; "Cassandra has heard us; she
can judge what we are; she knows better than we could tell her."
But, still holding William's hand, questions and desires welled up in
Cassandra's heart. Had she done wrong in listening? Why did Aunt Celia
blame her? Did Katharine think her right? Above all, did William
really love her, for ever and ever, better than any one?
"I must be first with him, Katharine!" she exclaimed. "I can't share
him even with you."
"I shall never ask that," said Katharine. She moved a little away from
where they sat and began half-consciously sorting her flowers.
"But you've shared with me," Cassandra said. "Why can't I share with
you? Why am I so mean? I know why it is," she added. "We understand
each other, William and I. You've never understood each other. You're
"I've never admired anybody more," William interposed.
"It's not that"--Cassandra tried to enlighten him--"it's
"Have I never understood you, Katharine? Have I been very selfish?"
"Yes," Cassandra interposed. "You've asked her for sympathy, and she's
not sympathetic; you've wanted her to be practical, and she's not
practical. You've been selfish; you've been exacting--and so has
Katharine--but it wasn't anybody's fault."
Katharine had listened to this attempt at analysis with keen
attention. Cassandra's words seemed to rub the old blurred image of
life and freshen it so marvelously that it looked new again. She
turned to William.
"It's quite true," she said. "It was nobody's fault."
"There are many things that he'll always come to you for," Cassandra
continued, still reading from her invisible book. "I accept that,
Katharine. I shall never dispute it. I want to be generous as you've
been generous. But being in love makes it more difficult for me."
They were silent. At length William broke the silence.
"One thing I beg of you both, he said, and the old nervousness of
manner returned as he glanced at Katharine. "We will never discuss
these matters again. It's not that I'm timid and conventional, as you
think, Katharine. It's that it spoils things to discuss them; it
unsettles people's minds; and now we're all so happy--"
Cassandra ratified this conclusion so far as she was concerned, and
William, after receiving the exquisite pleasure of her glance, with
its absolute affection and trust, looked anxiously at Katharine.
"Yes, I'm happy," she assured him. "And I agree. We will never talk
about it again."
"Oh, Katharine, Katharine!" Cassandra cried, holding out her arms
while the tears ran down her cheeks.
The day was so different from other days to three people in the house
that the common routine of household life--the maid waiting at table,
Mrs. Hilbery writing a letter, the clock striking, and the door
opening, and all the other signs of long-established civilization
appeared suddenly to have no meaning save as they lulled Mr. and Mrs.
Hilbery into the belief that nothing unusual had taken place. It
chanced that Mrs. Hilbery was depressed without visible cause, unless
a certain crudeness verging upon coarseness in the temper of her
favorite Elizabethans could be held responsible for the mood. At any
rate, she had shut up "The Duchess of Malfi" with a sigh, and wished
to know, so she told Rodney at dinner, whether there wasn't some young
writer with a touch of the great spirit--somebody who made you believe
that life was BEAUTIFUL? She got little help from Rodney, and after
singing her plaintive requiem for the death of poetry by herself, she
charmed herself into good spirits again by remembering the existence
of Mozart. She begged Cassandra to play to her, and when they went
upstairs Cassandra opened the piano directly, and did her best to
create an atmosphere of unmixed beauty. At the sound of the first
notes Katharine and Rodney both felt an enormous sense of relief at
the license which the music gave them to loosen their hold upon the
mechanism of behavior. They lapsed into the depths of thought. Mrs.
Hilbery was soon spirited away into a perfectly congenial mood, that
was half reverie and half slumber, half delicious melancholy and half
pure bliss. Mr. Hilbery alone attended. He was extremely musical, and
made Cassandra aware that he listened to every note. She played her
best, and won his approval. Leaning slightly forward in his chair, and
turning his little green stone, he weighed the intention of her
phrases approvingly, but stopped her suddenly to complain of a noise
behind him. The window was unhasped. He signed to Rodney, who crossed
the room immediately to put the matter right. He stayed a moment
longer by the window than was, perhaps, necessary, and having done
what was needed, drew his chair a little closer than before to
Katharine's side. The music went on. Under cover of some exquisite run
of melody, he leant towards her and whispered something. She glanced
at her father and mother, and a moment later left the room, almost
unobserved, with Rodney.
"What is it?" she asked, as soon as the door was shut.
Rodney made no answer, but led her downstairs into the dining-room on
the ground floor. Even when he had shut the door he said nothing, but
went straight to the window and parted the curtains. He beckoned to
"There he is again," he said. "Look, there--under the lamp-post."
Katharine looked. She had no idea what Rodney was talking about. A
vague feeling of alarm and mystery possessed her. She saw a man
standing on the opposite side of the road facing the house beneath a
lamp-post. As they looked the figure turned, walked a few steps, and
came back again to his old position. It seemed to her that he was
looking fixedly at her, and was conscious of her gaze on him. She
knew, in a flash, who the man was who was watching them. She drew the
"Denham," said Rodney. "He was there last night too." He spoke
sternly. His whole manner had become full of authority. Katharine felt
almost as if he accused her of some crime. She was pale and
uncomfortably agitated, as much by the strangeness of Rodney's
behavior as by the sight of Ralph Denham.
"If he chooses to come--" she said defiantly.
"You can't let him wait out there. I shall tell him to come in."
Rodney spoke with such decision that when he raised his arm Katharine
expected him to draw the curtain instantly. She caught his hand with a
"Wait!" she cried. "I don't allow you."
"You can't wait," he replied. "You've gone too far." His hand remained
upon the curtain. "Why don't you admit, Katharine," he broke out,
looking at her with an expression of contempt as well as of anger,
"that you love him? Are you going to treat him as you treated me?"
She looked at him, wondering, in spite of all her perplexity, at the
spirit that possessed him.
"I forbid you to draw the curtain," she said.
He reflected, and then took his hand away.
"I've no right to interfere," he concluded. "I'll leave you. Or, if
you like, we'll go back to the drawing-room."
"No. I can't go back," she said, shaking her head. She bent her head
"You love him, Katharine," Rodney said suddenly. His tone had lost
something of its sternness, and might have been used to urge a child
to confess its fault. She raised her eyes and fixed them upon him.
"I love him?" she repeated. He nodded. She searched his face, as if
for further confirmation of his words, and, as he remained silent and
expectant, turned away once more and continued her thoughts. He
observed her closely, but without stirring, as if he gave her time to
make up her mind to fulfil her obvious duty. The strains of Mozart
reached them from the room above.
"Now," she said suddenly, with a sort of desperation, rising from her
chair and seeming to command Rodney to fulfil his part. He drew the
curtain instantly, and she made no attempt to stop him. Their eyes at
once sought the same spot beneath the lamp-post.
"He's not there!" she exclaimed.
No one was there. William threw the window up and looked out. The wind
rushed into the room, together with the sound of distant wheels,
footsteps hurrying along the pavement, and the cries of sirens hooting
down the river.
"Denham!" William cried.
"Ralph!" said Katharine, but she spoke scarcely louder than she might
have spoken to some one in the same room. With their eyes fixed upon
the opposite side of the road, they did not notice a figure close to
the railing which divided the garden from the street. But Denham had
crossed the road and was standing there. They were startled by his
voice close at hand.
"There you are! Come in, Denham." Rodney went to the front door and
opened it. "Here he is," he said, bringing Ralph with him into the
dining-room where Katharine stood, with her back to the open window.
Their eyes met for a second. Denham looked half dazed by the strong
light, and, buttoned in his overcoat, with his hair ruffled across his
forehead by the wind, he seemed like somebody rescued from an open
boat out at sea. William promptly shut the window and drew the
curtains. He acted with a cheerful decision as if he were master of
the situation, and knew exactly what he meant to do.
"You're the first to hear the news, Denham," he said. "Katharine isn't
going to marry me, after all."
"Where shall I put--" Ralph began vaguely, holding out his hat and
glancing about him; he balanced it carefully against a silver bowl
that stood upon the sideboard. He then sat himself down rather heavily
at the head of the oval dinner-table. Rodney stood on one side of him
and Katharine on the other. He appeared to be presiding over some
meeting from which most of the members were absent. Meanwhile, he
waited, and his eyes rested upon the glow of the beautifully polished
"William is engaged to Cassandra," said Katharine briefly.
At that Denham looked up quickly at Rodney. Rodney's expression
changed. He lost his self-possession. He smiled a little nervously,
and then his attention seemed to be caught by a fragment of melody
from the floor above. He seemed for a moment to forget the presence of
the others. He glanced towards the door.
"I congratulate you," said Denham.
"Yes, yes. We're all mad--quite out of our minds, Denham," he said.
"It's partly Katharine's doing--partly mine." He looked oddly round
the room as if he wished to make sure that the scene in which he
played a part had some real existence. "Quite mad," he repeated. "Even
Katharine--" His gaze rested upon her finally, as if she, too, had
changed from his old view of her. He smiled at her as if to encourage
her. "Katharine shall explain," he said, and giving a little nod to
Denham, he left the room.
Katharine sat down at once, and leant her chin upon her hands. So long
as Rodney was in the room the proceedings of the evening had seemed to
be in his charge, and had been marked by a certain unreality. Now that
she was alone with Ralph she felt at once that a constraint had been
taken from them both. She felt that they were alone at the bottom of
the house, which rose, story upon story, upon the top of them.
"Why were you waiting out there?" she asked.
"For the chance of seeing you," he replied.
"You would have waited all night if it hadn't been for William. It's
windy too. You must have been cold. What could you see? Nothing but
"It was worth it. I heard you call me."
"I called you?" She had called unconsciously.
"They were engaged this morning," she told him, after a pause.
"You're glad?" he asked.
She bent her head. "Yes, yes," she sighed. "But you don't know how
good he is--what he's done for me--" Ralph made a sound of
understanding. "You waited there last night too?" she asked.
"Yes. I can wait," Denham replied.
The words seemed to fill the room with an emotion which Katharine
connected with the sound of distant wheels, the footsteps hurrying
along the pavement, the cries of sirens hooting down the river, the
darkness and the wind. She saw the upright figure standing beneath the
"Waiting in the dark," she said, glancing at the window, as if he saw
what she was seeing. "Ah, but it's different--" She broke off. "I'm
not the person you think me. Until you realize that it's impossible--"
Placing her elbows on the table, she slid her ruby ring up and down
her finger abstractedly. She frowned at the rows of leather-bound
books opposite her. Ralph looked keenly at her. Very pale, but sternly
concentrated upon her meaning, beautiful but so little aware of
herself as to seem remote from him also, there was something distant
and abstract about her which exalted him and chilled him at the same
"No, you're right," he said. "I don't know you. I've never known you."
"Yet perhaps you know me better than any one else," she mused.
Some detached instinct made her aware that she was gazing at a book
which belonged by rights to some other part of the house. She walked
over to the shelf, took it down, and returned to her seat, placing the
book on the table between them. Ralph opened it and looked at the
portrait of a man with a voluminous white shirt-collar, which formed
"I say I do know you, Katharine," he affirmed, shutting the book.
"It's only for moments that I go mad."
"Do you call two whole nights a moment?"
"I swear to you that now, at this instant, I see you precisely as you
are. No one has ever known you as I know you. . . . Could you have
taken down that book just now if I hadn't known you?"
"That's true," she replied, "but you can't think how I'm divided--how
I'm at my ease with you, and how I'm bewildered. The unreality--the
dark--the waiting outside in the wind--yes, when you look at me, not
seeing me, and I don't see you either. . . . But I do see," she went
on quickly, changing her position and frowning again, "heaps of
things, only not you."
"Tell me what you see," he urged.
But she could not reduce her vision to words, since it was no single
shape colored upon the dark, but rather a general excitement, an
atmosphere, which, when she tried to visualize it, took form as a wind
scouring the flanks of northern hills and flashing light upon
cornfields and pools.
"Impossible," she sighed, laughing at the ridiculous notion of putting
any part of this into words.
"Try, Katharine," Ralph urged her.
"But I can't--I'm talking a sort of nonsense--the sort of nonsense one
talks to oneself." She was dismayed by the expression of longing and
despair upon his face. "I was thinking about a mountain in the North
of England," she attempted. "It's too silly--I won't go on."
"We were there together?" he pressed her.
"No. I was alone." She seemed to be disappointing the desire of a
child. His face fell.
"You're always alone there?"
"I can't explain." She could not explain that she was essentially
alone there. "It's not a mountain in the North of England. It's an
imagination--a story one tells oneself. You have yours too?"
"You're with me in mine. You're the thing I make up, you see."
"Oh, I see," she sighed. "That's why it's so impossible." She turned
upon him almost fiercely. "You must try to stop it," she said.
"I won't," he replied roughly, "because I--" He stopped. He realized
that the moment had come to impart that news of the utmost importance
which he had tried to impart to Mary Datchet, to Rodney upon the
Embankment, to the drunken tramp upon the seat. How should he offer it
to Katharine? He looked quickly at her. He saw that she was only half
attentive to him; only a section of her was exposed to him. The sight
roused in him such desperation that he had much ado to control his
impulse to rise and leave the house. Her hand lay loosely curled upon
the table. He seized it and grasped it firmly as if to make sure of
her existence and of his own. "Because I love you, Katharine," he
Some roundness or warmth essential to that statement was absent from
his voice, and she had merely to shake her head very slightly for him
to drop her hand and turn away in shame at his own impotence. He
thought that she had detected his wish to leave her. She had discerned
the break in his resolution, the blankness in the heart of his vision.
It was true that he had been happier out in the street, thinking of
her, than now that he was in the same room with her. He looked at her
with a guilty expression on his face. But her look expressed neither
disappointment nor reproach. Her pose was easy, and she seemed to give
effect to a mood of quiet speculation by the spinning of her ruby ring
upon the polished table. Denham forgot his despair in wondering what
thoughts now occupied her.
"You don't believe me?" he said. His tone was humble, and made her
smile at him.
"As far as I understand you--but what should you advise me to do with
this ring?" she asked, holding it out.
"I should advise you to let me keep it for you," he replied, in the
same tone of half-humorous gravity.
"After what you've said, I can hardly trust you--unless you'll unsay
what you've said?"
"Very well. I'm not in love with you."
"But I think you ARE in love with me. . . . As I am with you," she
added casually enough. "At least," she said slipping her ring back to
its old position, "what other word describes the state we're in?"
She looked at him gravely and inquiringly, as if in search of help.
"It's when I'm with you that I doubt it, not when I'm alone," he
"So I thought," she replied.
In order to explain to her his state of mind, Ralph recounted his
experience with the photograph, the letter, and the flower picked at
Kew. She listened very seriously.
"And then you went raving about the streets," she mused. "Well, it's
bad enough. But my state is worse than yours, because it hasn't
anything to do with facts. It's an hallucination, pure and simple--an
intoxication. . . . One can be in love with pure reason?" she
hazarded. "Because if you're in love with a vision, I believe that
that's what I'm in love with."
This conclusion seemed fantastic and profoundly unsatisfactory to
Ralph, but after the astonishing variations of his own sentiments
during the past half-hour he could not accuse her of fanciful
"Rodney seems to know his own mind well enough," he said almost
bitterly. The music, which had ceased, had now begun again, and the
melody of Mozart seemed to express the easy and exquisite love of the
"Cassandra never doubted for a moment. But we--" she glanced at him as
if to ascertain his position, "we see each other only now and then--"
"Like lights in a storm--"
"In the midst of a hurricane," she concluded, as the window shook
beneath the pressure of the wind. They listened to the sound in
Here the door opened with considerable hesitation, and Mrs. Hilbery's
head appeared, at first with an air of caution, but having made sure
that she had admitted herself to the dining-room and not to some more
unusual region, she came completely inside and seemed in no way taken
aback by the sight she saw. She seemed, as usual, bound on some quest
of her own which was interrupted pleasantly but strangely by running
into one of those queer, unnecessary ceremonies that other people
thought fit to indulge in.
"Please don't let me interrupt you, Mr.--" she was at a loss, as
usual, for the name, and Katharine thought that she did not recognize
him. "I hope you've found something nice to read," she added, pointing
to the book upon the table. "Byron--ah, Byron. I've known people who
knew Lord Byron," she said.
Katharine, who had risen in some confusion, could not help smiling at
the thought that her mother found it perfectly natural and desirable
that her daughter should be reading Byron in the dining-room late at
night alone with a strange young man. She blessed a disposition that
was so convenient, and felt tenderly towards her mother and her
mother's eccentricities. But Ralph observed that although Mrs. Hilbery
held the book so close to her eyes she was not reading a word.
"My dear mother, why aren't you in bed?" Katharine exclaimed, changing
astonishingly in the space of a minute to her usual condition of
authoritative good sense. "Why are you wandering about?"
"I'm sure I should like your poetry better than I like Lord Byron's,"
said Mrs. Hilbery, addressing Ralph Denham.
"Mr. Denham doesn't write poetry; he has written articles for father,
for the Review," Katharine said, as if prompting her memory.
"Oh dear! How dull!" Mrs. Hilbery exclaimed, with a sudden laugh that
rather puzzled her daughter.
Ralph found that she had turned upon him a gaze that was at once very
vague and very penetrating.
"But I'm sure you read poetry at night. I always judge by the
expression of the eyes," Mrs. Hilbery continued. ("The windows of the
soul," she added parenthetically.) "I don't know much about the law,"
she went on, "though many of my relations were lawyers. Some of them
looked very handsome, too, in their wigs. But I think I do know a
little about poetry," she added. "And all the things that aren't
written down, but--but--" She waved her hand, as if to indicate the
wealth of unwritten poetry all about them. "The night and the stars,
the dawn coming up, the barges swimming past, the sun setting. . . .
Ah dear," she sighed, "well, the sunset is very lovely too. I
sometimes think that poetry isn't so much what we write as what we
feel, Mr. Denham."
During this speech of her mother's Katharine had turned away, and
Ralph felt that Mrs. Hilbery was talking to him apart, with a desire
to ascertain something about him which she veiled purposely by the
vagueness of her words. He felt curiously encouraged and heartened by
the beam in her eye rather than by her actual words. From the distance
of her age and sex she seemed to be waving to him, hailing him as a
ship sinking beneath the horizon might wave its flag of greeting to
another setting out upon the same voyage. He bent his head, saying
nothing, but with a curious certainty that she had read an answer to
her inquiry that satisfied her. At any rate, she rambled off into a
description of the Law Courts which turned to a denunciation of
English justice, which, according to her, imprisoned poor men who
couldn't pay their debts. "Tell me, shall we ever do without it all?"
she asked, but at this point Katharine gently insisted that her mother
should go to bed. Looking back from half-way up the staircase,
Katharine seemed to see Denham's eyes watching her steadily and
intently with an expression that she had guessed in them when he stood
looking at the windows across the road.
The tray which brought Katharine's cup of tea the next morning
brought, also, a note from her mother, announcing that it was her
intention to catch an early train to Stratford-on-Avon that very day.
"Please find out the best way of getting there," the note ran, "and
wire to dear Sir John Burdett to expect me, with my love. I've been
dreaming all night of you and Shakespeare, dearest Katharine."
This was no momentary impulse. Mrs. Hilbery had been dreaming of
Shakespeare any time these six months, toying with the idea of an
excursion to what she considered the heart of the civilized world. To
stand six feet above Shakespeare's bones, to see the very stones worn
by his feet, to reflect that the oldest man's oldest mother had very
likely seen Shakespeare's daughter--such thoughts roused an emotion in
her, which she expressed at unsuitable moments, and with a passion
that would not have been unseemly in a pilgrim to a sacred shrine. The
only strange thing was that she wished to go by herself. But,
naturally enough, she was well provided with friends who lived in the
neighborhood of Shakespeare's tomb, and were delighted to welcome her;
and she left later to catch her train in the best of spirits. There
was a man selling violets in the street. It was a fine day. She would
remember to send Mr. Hilbery the first daffodil she saw. And, as she
ran back into the hall to tell Katharine, she felt, she had always
felt, that Shakespeare's command to leave his bones undisturbed
applied only to odious curiosity-mongers--not to dear Sir John and
herself. Leaving her daughter to cogitate the theory of Anne
Hathaway's sonnets, and the buried manuscripts here referred to, with
the implied menace to the safety of the heart of civilization itself,
she briskly shut the door of her taxi-cab, and was whirled off upon
the first stage of her pilgrimage.
The house was oddly different without her. Katharine found the maids
already in possession of her room, which they meant to clean
thoroughly during her absence. To Katharine it seemed as if they had
brushed away sixty years or so with the first flick of their damp
dusters. It seemed to her that the work she had tried to do in that
room was being swept into a very insignificant heap of dust. The china
shepherdesses were already shining from a bath of hot water. The
writing-table might have belonged to a professional man of methodical
Gathering together a few papers upon which she was at work, Katharine
proceeded to her own room with the intention of looking through them,
perhaps, in the course of the morning. But she was met on the stairs
by Cassandra, who followed her up, but with such intervals between
each step that Katharine began to feel her purpose dwindling before
they had reached the door. Cassandra leant over the banisters, and
looked down upon the Persian rug that lay on the floor of the hall.
"Doesn't everything look odd this morning?" she inquired. "Are you
really going to spend the morning with those dull old letters, because
The dull old letters, which would have turned the heads of the most
sober of collectors, were laid upon a table, and, after a moment's
pause, Cassandra, looking grave all of a sudden, asked Katharine where
she should find the "History of England" by Lord Macaulay. It was
downstairs in Mr. Hilbery's study. The cousins descended together in
search of it. They diverged into the drawing-room for the good reason
that the door was open. The portrait of Richard Alardyce attracted
"I wonder what he was like?" It was a question that Katharine had
often asked herself lately.
"Oh, a fraud like the rest of them--at least Henry says so," Cassandra
replied. "Though I don't believe everything Henry says," she added a
Down they went into Mr. Hilbery's study, where they began to look
among his books. So desultory was this examination that some fifteen
minutes failed to discover the work they were in search of.
"Must you read Macaulay's History, Cassandra?" Katharine asked, with a
stretch of her arms.
"I must," Cassandra replied briefly.
"Well, I'm going to leave you to look for it by yourself."
"Oh, no, Katharine. Please stay and help me. You see--you see--I told
William I'd read a little every day. And I want to tell him that I've
begun when he comes."
"When does William come?" Katharine asked, turning to the shelves
"To tea, if that suits you?"
"If it suits me to be out, I suppose you mean."
"Oh, you're horrid. . . . Why shouldn't you--?"
"Why shouldn't you be happy too?"
"I am quite happy," Katharine replied.
"I mean as I am. Katharine," she said impulsively, "do let's be
married on the same day."
"To the same man?"
"Oh, no, no. But why shouldn't you marry--some one else?"
"Here's your Macaulay," said Katharine, turning round with the book in
her hand. "I should say you'd better begin to read at once if you mean
to be educated by tea-time."
"Damn Lord Macaulay!" cried Cassandra, slapping the book upon the
table. "Would you rather not talk?"
"We've talked enough already," Katharine replied evasively.
"I know I shan't be able to settle to Macaulay," said Cassandra,
looking ruefully at the dull red cover of the prescribed volume,
which, however, possessed a talismanic property, since William admired
it. He had advised a little serious reading for the morning hours.
"Have YOU read Macaulay?" she asked.
"No. William never tried to educate me." As she spoke she saw the
light fade from Cassandra's face, as if she had implied some other,
more mysterious, relationship. She was stung with compunction. She
marveled at her own rashness in having influenced the life of another,
as she had influenced Cassandra's life.
"We weren't serious," she said quickly.
"But I'm fearfully serious," said Cassandra, with a little shudder,
and her look showed that she spoke the truth. She turned and glanced
at Katharine as she had never glanced at her before. There was fear in
her glance, which darted on her and then dropped guiltily. Oh,
Katharine had everything--beauty, mind, character. She could never
compete with Katharine; she could never be safe so long as Katharine
brooded over her, dominating her, disposing of her. She called her
cold, unseeing, unscrupulous, but the only sign she gave outwardly was
a curious one--she reached out her hand and grasped the volume of
history. At that moment the bell of the telephone rang and Katharine
went to answer it. Cassandra, released from observation, dropped her
book and clenched her hands. She suffered more fiery torture in those
few minutes than she had suffered in the whole of her life; she learnt
more of her capacities for feeling. But when Katharine reappeared she
was calm, and had gained a look of dignity that was new to her.
"Was that him?" she asked.
"It was Ralph Denham," Katharine replied.
"I meant Ralph Denham."
"Why did you mean Ralph Denham? What has William told you about Ralph
Denham?" The accusation that Katharine was calm, callous, and
indifferent was not possible in face of her present air of animation.
She gave Cassandra no time to frame an answer. "Now, when are you and
William going to be married?" she asked.
Cassandra made no reply for some moments. It was, indeed, a very
difficult question to answer. In conversation the night before,
William had indicated to Cassandra that, in his belief, Katharine was
becoming engaged to Ralph Denham in the dining-room. Cassandra, in the
rosy light of her own circumstances, had been disposed to think that
the matter must be settled already. But a letter which she had
received that morning from William, while ardent in its expression of
affection, had conveyed to her obliquely that he would prefer the
announcement of their engagement to coincide with that of Katharine's.
This document Cassandra now produced, and read aloud, with
considerable excisions and much hesitation.
". . . a thousand pities--ahem--I fear we shall cause a great deal of
natural annoyance. If, on the other hand, what I have reason to think
will happen, should happen--within reasonable time, and the present
position is not in any way offensive to you, delay would, in my
opinion, serve all our interests better than a premature explanation,
which is bound to cause more surprise than is desirable--"
"Very like William," Katharine exclaimed, having gathered the drift of
these remarks with a speed that, by itself, disconcerted Cassandra.
"I quite understand his feelings," Cassandra replied. "I quite agree
with them. I think it would be much better, if you intend to marry Mr.
Denham, that we should wait as William says."
"But, then, if I don't marry him for months--or, perhaps, not at all?"
Cassandra was silent. The prospect appalled her. Katharine had been
telephoning to Ralph Denham; she looked queer, too; she must be, or
about to become, engaged to him. But if Cassandra could have overheard
the conversation upon the telephone, she would not have felt so
certain that it tended in that direction. It was to this effect:
"I'm Ralph Denham speaking. I'm in my right senses now."
"How long did you wait outside the house?"
"I went home and wrote you a letter. I tore it up."
"I shall tear up everything too."
"I shall come."
"Yes. Come to-day."
"I must explain to you--"
"Yes. We must explain--"
A long pause followed. Ralph began a sentence, which he canceled with
the word, "Nothing." Suddenly, together, at the same moment, they said
good-bye. And yet, if the telephone had been miraculously connected
with some higher atmosphere pungent with the scent of thyme and the
savor of salt, Katharine could hardly have breathed in a keener sense
of exhilaration. She ran downstairs on the crest of it. She was amazed
to find herself already committed by William and Cassandra to marry
the owner of the halting voice she had just heard on the telephone.
The tendency of her spirit seemed to be in an altogether different
direction; and of a different nature. She had only to look at
Cassandra to see what the love that results in an engagement and
marriage means. She considered for a moment, and then said: "If you
don't want to tell people yourselves, I'll do it for you. I know
William has feelings about these matters that make it very difficult
for him to do anything."
"Because he's fearfully sensitive about other people's feelings," said
Cassandra. "The idea that he could upset Aunt Maggie or Uncle Trevor
would make him ill for weeks."
This interpretation of what she was used to call William's
conventionality was new to Katharine. And yet she felt it now to be
the true one.
"Yes, you're right," she said.
"And then he worships beauty. He wants life to be beautiful in every
part of it. Have you ever noticed how exquisitely he finishes
everything? Look at the address on that envelope. Every letter is
Whether this applied also to the sentiments expressed in the letter,
Katharine was not so sure; but when William's solicitude was spent
upon Cassandra it not only failed to irritate her, as it had done when
she was the object of it, but appeared, as Cassandra said, the fruit
of his love of beauty.
"Yes," she said, "he loves beauty."
"I hope we shall have a great many children," said Cassandra. "He
This remark made Katharine realize the depths of their intimacy better
than any other words could have done; she was jealous for one moment;
but the next she was humiliated. She had known William for years, and
she had never once guessed that he loved children. She looked at the
queer glow of exaltation in Cassandra's eyes, through which she was
beholding the true spirit of a human being, and wished that she would
go on talking about William for ever. Cassandra was not unwilling to
gratify her. She talked on. The morning slipped away. Katharine
scarcely changed her position on the edge of her father's
writing-table, and Cassandra never opened the "History of England."
And yet it must be confessed that there were vast lapses in the
attention which Katharine bestowed upon her cousin. The atmosphere was
wonderfully congenial for thoughts of her own. She lost herself
sometimes in such deep reverie that Cassandra, pausing, could look at
her for moments unperceived. What could Katharine be thinking about,
unless it were Ralph Denham? She was satisfied, by certain random
replies, that Katharine had wandered a little from the subject of
William's perfections. But Katharine made no sign. She always ended
these pauses by saying something so natural that Cassandra was deluded
into giving fresh examples of her absorbing theme. Then they lunched,
and the only sign that Katharine gave of abstraction was to forget to
help the pudding. She looked so like her mother, as she sat there
oblivious of the tapioca, that Cassandra was startled into exclaiming:
"How like Aunt Maggie you look!"
"Nonsense," said Katharine, with more irritation than the remark
seemed to call for.
In truth, now that her mother was away, Katharine did feel less
sensible than usual, but as she argued it to herself, there was much
less need for sense. Secretly, she was a little shaken by the evidence
which the morning had supplied of her immense capacity for--what could
one call it?--rambling over an infinite variety of thoughts that were
too foolish to be named. She was, for example, walking down a road in
Northumberland in the August sunset; at the inn she left her
companion, who was Ralph Denham, and was transported, not so much by
her own feet as by some invisible means, to the top of a high hill.
Here the scents, the sounds among the dry heather-roots, the
grass-blades pressed upon the palm of her hand, were all so
perceptible that she could experience each one separately. After this
her mind made excursions into the dark of the air, or settled upon the
surface of the sea, which could be discovered over there, or with
equal unreason it returned to its couch of bracken beneath the stars
of midnight, and visited the snow valleys of the moon. These fancies
would have been in no way strange, since the walls of every mind are
decorated with some such tracery, but she found herself suddenly
pursuing such thoughts with an extreme ardor, which became a desire to
change her actual condition for something matching the conditions of
her dream. Then she started; then she awoke to the fact that Cassandra
was looking at her in amazement.
Cassandra would have liked to feel certain that, when Katharine made
no reply at all or one wide of the mark, she was making up her mind to
get married at once, but it was difficult, if this were so, to account
for some remarks that Katharine let fall about the future. She
recurred several times to the summer, as if she meant to spend that
season in solitary wandering. She seemed to have a plan in her mind
which required Bradshaws and the names of inns.
Cassandra was driven finally, by her own unrest, to put on her clothes
and wander out along the streets of Chelsea, on the pretence that she
must buy something. But, in her ignorance of the way, she became
panic-stricken at the thought of being late, and no sooner had she
found the shop she wanted, than she fled back again in order to be at
home when William came. He came, indeed, five minutes after she had
sat down by the tea-table, and she had the happiness of receiving him
alone. His greeting put her doubts of his affection at rest, but the
first question he asked was:
"Has Katharine spoken to you?"
"Yes. But she says she's not engaged. She doesn't seem to think she's
ever going to be engaged."
William frowned, and looked annoyed.
"They telephoned this morning, and she behaves very oddly. She forgets
to help the pudding," Cassandra added by way of cheering him.
"My dear child, after what I saw and heard last night, it's not a
question of guessing or suspecting. Either she's engaged to him--or--"
He left his sentence unfinished, for at this point Katharine herself
appeared. With his recollections of the scene the night before, he was
too self-conscious even to look at her, and it was not until she told
him of her mother's visit to Stratford-on-Avon that he raised his
eyes. It was clear that he was greatly relieved. He looked round him
now, as if he felt at his ease, and Cassandra exclaimed:
"Don't you think everything looks quite different?"
"You've moved the sofa?" he asked.
"No. Nothing's been touched," said Katharine. "Everything's exactly
the same." But as she said this, with a decision which seemed to make
it imply that more than the sofa was unchanged, she held out a cup
into which she had forgotten to pour any tea. Being told of her
forgetfulness, she frowned with annoyance, and said that Cassandra was
demoralizing her. The glance she cast upon them, and the resolute way
in which she plunged them into speech, made William and Cassandra feel
like children who had been caught prying. They followed her
obediently, making conversation. Any one coming in might have judged
them acquaintances met, perhaps, for the third time. If that were so,
one must have concluded that the hostess suddenly bethought her of an
engagement pressing for fulfilment. First Katharine looked at her
watch, and then she asked William to tell her the right time. When
told that it was ten minutes to five she rose at once, and said:
"Then I'm afraid I must go."
She left the room, holding her unfinished bread and butter in her
hand. William glanced at Cassandra.
"Well, she IS queer!" Cassandra exclaimed.
William looked perturbed. He knew more of Katharine than Cassandra
did, but even he could not tell--. In a second Katharine was back
again dressed in outdoor things, still holding her bread and butter in
her bare hand.
"If I'm late, don't wait for me," she said. "I shall have dined," and
so saying, she left them.
"But she can't--" William exclaimed, as the door shut, "not without
any gloves and bread and butter in her hand!" They ran to the window,
and saw her walking rapidly along the street towards the City. Then
"She must have gone to meet Mr. Denham," Cassandra exclaimed.
"Goodness knows!" William interjected.
The incident impressed them both as having something queer and ominous
about it out of all proportion to its surface strangeness.
"It's the sort of way Aunt Maggie behaves," said Cassandra, as if in
William shook his head, and paced up and down the room looking
"This is what I've been foretelling," he burst out. "Once set the
ordinary conventions aside--Thank Heaven Mrs. Hilbery is away. But
there's Mr. Hilbery. How are we to explain it to him? I shall have to
"But Uncle Trevor won't be back for hours, William!" Cassandra
"You never can tell. He may be on his way already. Or suppose Mrs.
Milvain--your Aunt Celia--or Mrs. Cosham, or any other of your aunts
or uncles should be shown in and find us alone together. You know what
they're saying about us already."
Cassandra was equally stricken by the sight of William's agitation,
and appalled by the prospect of his desertion.
"We might hide," she exclaimed wildly, glancing at the curtain which
separated the room with the relics.
"I refuse entirely to get under the table," said William
She saw that he was losing his temper with the difficulties of the
situation. Her instinct told her that an appeal to his affection, at
this moment, would be extremely ill-judged. She controlled herself,
sat down, poured out a fresh cup of tea, and sipped it quietly. This
natural action, arguing complete self-mastery, and showing her in one
of those feminine attitudes which William found adorable, did more
than any argument to compose his agitation. It appealed to his
chivalry. He accepted a cup. Next she asked for a slice of cake. By
the time the cake was eaten and the tea drunk the personal question
had lapsed, and they were discussing poetry. Insensibly they turned
from the question of dramatic poetry in general, to the particular
example which reposed in William's pocket, and when the maid came in
to clear away the tea-things, William had asked permission to read a
short passage aloud, "unless it bored her?"
Cassandra bent her head in silence, but she showed a little of what
she felt in her eyes, and thus fortified, William felt confident that
it would take more than Mrs. Milvain herself to rout him from his
position. He read aloud.
Meanwhile Katharine walked rapidly along the street. If called upon to
explain her impulsive action in leaving the tea-table, she could have
traced it to no better cause than that William had glanced at
Cassandra; Cassandra at William. Yet, because they had glanced, her
position was impossible. If one forgot to pour out a cup of tea they
rushed to the conclusion that she was engaged to Ralph Denham. She
knew that in half an hour or so the door would open, and Ralph Denham
would appear. She could not sit there and contemplate seeing him with
William's and Cassandra's eyes upon them, judging their exact degree
of intimacy, so that they might fix the wedding-day. She promptly
decided that she would meet Ralph out of doors; she still had time to
reach Lincoln's Inn Fields before he left his office. She hailed a
cab, and bade it take her to a shop for selling maps which she
remembered in Great Queen Street, since she hardly liked to be set
down at his door. Arrived at the shop, she bought a large scale map of
Norfolk, and thus provided, hurried into Lincoln's Inn Fields, and
assured herself of the position of Messrs. Hoper and Grateley's
office. The great gas chandeliers were alight in the office windows.
She conceived that he sat at an enormous table laden with papers
beneath one of them in the front room with the three tall windows.
Having settled his position there, she began walking to and fro upon
the pavement. Nobody of his build appeared. She scrutinized each male
figure as it approached and passed her. Each male figure had,
nevertheless, a look of him, due, perhaps, to the professional dress,
the quick step, the keen glance which they cast upon her as they
hastened home after the day's work. The square itself, with its
immense houses all so fully occupied and stern of aspect, its
atmosphere of industry and power, as if even the sparrows and the
children were earning their daily bread, as if the sky itself, with
its gray and scarlet clouds, reflected the serious intention of the
city beneath it, spoke of him. Here was the fit place for their
meeting, she thought; here was the fit place for her to walk thinking
of him. She could not help comparing it with the domestic streets of
Chelsea. With this comparison in her mind, she extended her range a
little, and turned into the main road. The great torrent of vans and
carts was sweeping down Kingsway; pedestrians were streaming in two
currents along the pavements. She stood fascinated at the corner. The
deep roar filled her ears; the changing tumult had the inexpressible
fascination of varied life pouring ceaselessly with a purpose which,
as she looked, seemed to her, somehow, the normal purpose for which
life was framed; its complete indifference to the individuals, whom it
swallowed up and rolled onwards, filled her with at least a temporary
exaltation. The blend of daylight and of lamplight made her an
invisible spectator, just as it gave the people who passed her a
semi-transparent quality, and left the faces pale ivory ovals in which
the eyes alone were dark. They tended the enormous rush of the
current--the great flow, the deep stream, the unquenchable tide. She
stood unobserved and absorbed, glorying openly in the rapture that had
run subterraneously all day. Suddenly she was clutched, unwilling,
from the outside, by the recollection of her purpose in coming there.
She had come to find Ralph Denham. She hastily turned back into
Lincoln's Inn Fields, and looked for her landmark--the light in the
three tall windows. She sought in vain. The faces of the houses had
now merged in the general darkness, and she had difficulty in
determining which she sought. Ralph's three windows gave back on their
ghostly glass panels only a reflection of the gray and greenish sky.
She rang the bell, peremptorily, under the painted name of the firm.
After some delay she was answered by a caretaker, whose pail and brush
of themselves told her that the working day was over and the workers
gone. Nobody, save perhaps Mr. Grateley himself, was left, she assured
Katharine; every one else had been gone these ten minutes.
The news woke Katharine completely. Anxiety gained upon her. She
hastened back into Kingsway, looking at people who had miraculously
regained their solidity. She ran as far as the Tube station,
overhauling clerk after clerk, solicitor after solicitor. Not one of
them even faintly resembled Ralph Denham. More and more plainly did
she see him; and more and more did he seem to her unlike any one else.
At the door of the station she paused, and tried to collect her
thoughts. He had gone to her house. By taking a cab she could be there
probably in advance of him. But she pictured herself opening the
drawing-room door, and William and Cassandra looking up, and Ralph's
entrance a moment later, and the glances--the insinuations. No; she
could not face it. She would write him a letter and take it at once to
his house. She bought paper and pencil at the bookstall, and entered
an A.B.C. shop, where, by ordering a cup of coffee, she secured an
empty table, and began at vice to write:
"I came to meet you and I have missed you. I could not face William
and Cassandra. They want us--" here she paused. "They insist that we
are engaged," she substituted, "and we couldn't talk at all, or
explain anything. I want--" Her wants were so vast, now that she was
in communication with Ralph, that the pencil was utterly inadequate to
conduct them on to the paper; it seemed as if the whole torrent of
Kingsway had to run down her pencil. She gazed intently at a notice
hanging on the gold-encrusted wall opposite. ". . . to say all kinds
of things," she added, writing each word with the painstaking of a
child. But, when she raised her eyes again to meditate the next
sentence, she was aware of a waitress, whose expression intimated that
it was closing time, and, looking round, Katharine saw herself almost
the last person left in the shop. She took up her letter, paid her
bill, and found herself once more in the street. She would now take a
cab to Highgate. But at that moment it flashed upon her that she could
not remember the address. This check seemed to let fall a barrier
across a very powerful current of desire. She ransacked her memory in
desperation, hunting for the name, first by remembering the look of
the house, and then by trying, in memory, to retrace the words she had
written once, at least, upon an envelope. The more she pressed the
farther the words receded. Was the house an Orchard Something, on the
street a Hill? She gave it up. Never, since she was a child, had she
felt anything like this blankness and desolation. There rushed in upon
her, as if she were waking from some dream, all the consequences of
her inexplicable indolence. She figured Ralph's face as he turned from
her door without a word of explanation, receiving his dismissal as a
blow from herself, a callous intimation that she did not wish to see
him. She followed his departure from her door; but it was far more
easy to see him marching far and fast in any direction for any length
of time than to conceive that he would turn back to Highgate. Perhaps
he would try once more to see her in Cheyne Walk? It was proof of the
clearness with which she saw him, that she started forward as this
possibility occurred to her, and almost raised her hand to beckon to a
cab. No; he was too proud to come again; he rejected the desire and
walked on and on, on and on--If only she could read the names of those
visionary streets down which he passed! But her imagination betrayed
her at this point, or mocked her with a sense of their strangeness,
darkness, and distance. Indeed, instead of helping herself to any
decision, she only filled her mind with the vast extent of London and
the impossibility of finding any single figure that wandered off this
way and that way, turned to the right and to the left, chose that
dingy little back street where the children were playing in the road,
and so--She roused herself impatiently. She walked rapidly along
Holborn. Soon she turned and walked as rapidly in the other direction.
This indecision was not merely odious, but had something that alarmed
her about it, as she had been alarmed slightly once or twice already
that day; she felt unable to cope with the strength of her own
desires. To a person controlled by habit, there was humiliation as
well as alarm in this sudden release of what appeared to be a very
powerful as well as an unreasonable force. An aching in the muscles of
her right hand now showed her that she was crushing her gloves and the
map of Norfolk in a grip sufficient to crack a more solid object. She
relaxed her grasp; she looked anxiously at the faces of the passers-by
to see whether their eyes rested on her for a moment longer than was
natural, or with any curiosity. But having smoothed out her gloves,
and done what she could to look as usual, she forgot spectators, and
was once more given up to her desperate desire to find Ralph Denham.
It was a desire now--wild, irrational, unexplained, resembling
something felt in childhood. Once more she blamed herself bitterly for
her carelessness. But finding herself opposite the Tube station, she
pulled herself up and took counsel swiftly, as of old. It flashed upon
her that she would go at once to Mary Datchet, and ask her to give her
Ralph's address. The decision was a relief, not only in giving her a
goal, but in providing her with a rational excuse for her own actions.
It gave her a goal certainly, but the fact of having a goal led her to
dwell exclusively upon her obsession; so that when she rang the bell
of Mary's flat, she did not for a moment consider how this demand
would strike Mary. To her extreme annoyance Mary was not at home; a
charwoman opened the door. All Katharine could do was to accept the
invitation to wait. She waited for, perhaps, fifteen minutes, and
spent them in pacing from one end of the room to the other without
intermission. When she heard Mary's key in the door she paused in
front of the fireplace, and Mary found her standing upright, looking
at once expectant and determined, like a person who has come on an
errand of such importance that it must be broached without preface.
Mary exclaimed in surprise.
"Yes, yes," Katharine said, brushing these remarks aside, as if they
were in the way.
"Have you had tea?"
"Oh yes," she said, thinking that she had had tea hundreds of years
ago, somewhere or other.
Mary paused, took off her gloves, and, finding matches, proceeded to
light the fire.
Katharine checked her with an impatient movement, and said:
"Don't light the fire for me. . . . I want to know Ralph Denham's
She was holding a pencil and preparing to write on the envelope. She
waited with an imperious expression.
"The Apple Orchard, Mount Ararat Road, Highgate," Mary said, speaking
slowly and rather strangely.
"Oh, I remember now!" Katharine exclaimed, with irritation at her own
stupidity. "I suppose it wouldn't take twenty minutes to drive there?"
She gathered up her purse and gloves and seemed about to go.
"But you won't find him," said Mary, pausing with a match in her hand.
Katharine, who had already turned towards the door, stopped and looked
"Why? Where is he?" she asked.
"He won't have left his office."
"But he has left the office," she replied. "The only question is will
he have reached home yet? He went to see me at Chelsea; I tried to
meet him and missed him. He will have found no message to explain. So
I must find him--as soon as possible."
Mary took in the situation at her leisure.
"But why not telephone?" she said.
Katharine immediately dropped all that she was holding; her strained
expression relaxed, and exclaiming, "Of course! Why didn't I think of
that!" she seized the telephone receiver and gave her number. Mary
looked at her steadily, and then left the room. At length Katharine
heard, through all the superimposed weight of London, the mysterious
sound of feet in her own house mounting to the little room, where she
could almost see the pictures and the books; she listened with extreme
intentness to the preparatory vibrations, and then established her
"Has Mr. Denham called?"
"Did he ask for me?"
"Yes. We said you were out, miss."
"Did he leave any message?"
"No. He went away. About twenty minutes ago, miss."
Katharine hung up the receiver. She walked the length of the room in
such acute disappointment that she did not at first perceive Mary's
absence. Then she called in a harsh and peremptory tone:
Mary was taking off her outdoor things in the bedroom. She heard
Katharine call her. "Yes," she said, "I shan't be a moment." But the
moment prolonged itself, as if for some reason Mary found satisfaction
in making herself not only tidy, but seemly and ornamented. A stage in
her life had been accomplished in the last months which left its
traces for ever upon her bearing. Youth, and the bloom of youth, had
receded, leaving the purpose of her face to show itself in the
hollower cheeks, the firmer lips, the eyes no longer spontaneously
observing at random, but narrowed upon an end which was not near at
hand. This woman was now a serviceable human being, mistress of her
own destiny, and thus, by some combination of ideas, fit to be adorned
with the dignity of silver chains and glowing brooches. She came in at
her leisure and asked: "Well, did you get an answer?"
"He has left Chelsea already," Katharine replied.
"Still, he won't be home yet," said Mary.
Katharine was once more irresistibly drawn to gaze upon an imaginary
map of London, to follow the twists and turns of unnamed streets.
"I'll ring up his home and ask whether he's back." Mary crossed to the
telephone and, after a series of brief remarks, announced:
"No. His sister says he hasn't come back yet."
"Ah!" She applied her ear to the telephone once more. "They've had a
message. He won't be back to dinner."
"Then what is he going to do?"
Very pale, and with her large eyes fixed not so much upon Mary as upon
vistas of unresponding blankness, Katharine addressed herself also not
so much to Mary as to the unrelenting spirit which now appeared to
mock her from every quarter of her survey.
After waiting a little time Mary remarked indifferently:
"I really don't know." Slackly lying back in her armchair, she watched
the little flames beginning to creep among the coals indifferently, as
if they, too, were very distant and indifferent.
Katharine looked at her indignantly and rose.
"Possibly he may come here," Mary continued, without altering the
abstract tone of her voice. "It would be worth your while to wait if
you want to see him to-night." She bent forward and touched the wood,
so that the flames slipped in between the interstices of the coal.
Katharine reflected. "I'll wait half an hour," she said.
Mary rose, went to the table, spread out her papers under the
green-shaded lamp and, with an action that was becoming a habit,
twisted a lock of hair round and round in her fingers. Once she looked
unperceived at her visitor, who never moved, who sat so still, with
eyes so intent, that you could almost fancy that she was watching
something, some face that never looked up at her. Mary found herself
unable to go on writing. She turned her eyes away, but only to be
aware of the presence of what Katharine looked at. There were ghosts
in the room, and one, strangely and sadly, was the ghost of herself.
The minutes went by.
"What would be the time now?" said Katharine at last. The half-hour
was not quite spent.
"I'm going to get dinner ready," said Mary, rising from her table.
"Then I'll go," said Katharine.
"Why don't you stay? Where are you going?"
Katharine looked round the room, conveying her uncertainty in her
"Perhaps I might find him," she mused.
"But why should it matter? You'll see him another day."
Mary spoke, and intended to speak, cruelly enough.
"I was wrong to come here," Katharine replied.
Their eyes met with antagonism, and neither flinched.
"You had a perfect right to come here," Mary answered.
A loud knocking at the door interrupted them. Mary went to open it,
and returning with some note or parcel, Katharine looked away so that
Mary might not read her disappointment.
"Of course you had a right to come," Mary repeated, laying the note
upon the table.
"No," said Katharine. "Except that when one's desperate one has a sort
of right. I am desperate. How do I know what's happening to him now?
He may do anything. He may wander about the streets all night.
Anything may happen to him."
She spoke with a self-abandonment that Mary had never seen in her.
"You know you exaggerate; you're talking nonsense," she said roughly.
"Mary, I must talk--I must tell you--"
"You needn't tell me anything," Mary interrupted her. "Can't I see for
"No, no," Katharine exclaimed. "It's not that--"
Her look, passing beyond Mary, beyond the verge of the room and out
beyond any words that came her way, wildly and passionately, convinced
Mary that she, at any rate, could not follow such a glance to its end.
She was baffled; she tried to think herself back again into the height
of her love for Ralph. Pressing her fingers upon her eyelids, she
"You forget that I loved him too. I thought I knew him. I DID know
And yet, what had she known? She could not remember it any more. She
pressed her eyeballs until they struck stars and suns into her
darkness. She convinced herself that she was stirring among ashes. She
desisted. She was astonished at her discovery. She did not love Ralph
any more. She looked back dazed into the room, and her eyes rested
upon the table with its lamp-lit papers. The steady radiance seemed
for a second to have its counterpart within her; she shut her eyes;
she opened them and looked at the lamp again; another love burnt in
the place of the old one, or so, in a momentary glance of amazement,
she guessed before the revelation was over and the old surroundings
asserted themselves. She leant in silence against the mantelpiece.
"There are different ways of loving," she murmured, half to herself,
Katharine made no reply and seemed unaware of her words. She seemed
absorbed in her own thoughts.
"Perhaps he's waiting in the street again to-night," she exclaimed.
"I'll go now. I might find him."
"It's far more likely that he'll come here," said Mary, and Katharine,
after considering for a moment, said:
"I'll wait another half-hour."
She sank down into her chair again, and took up the same position
which Mary had compared to the position of one watching an unseeing
face. She watched, indeed, not a face, but a procession, not of
people, but of life itself: the good and bad; the meaning; the past,
the present, and the future. All this seemed apparent to her, and she
was not ashamed of her extravagance so much as exalted to one of the
pinnacles of existence, where it behoved the world to do her homage.
No one but she herself knew what it meant to miss Ralph Denham on that
particular night; into this inadequate event crowded feelings that the
great crises of life might have failed to call forth. She had missed
him, and knew the bitterness of all failure; she desired him, and knew
the torment of all passion. It did not matter what trivial accidents
led to this culmination. Nor did she care how extravagant she
appeared, nor how openly she showed her feelings.
When the dinner was ready Mary told her to come, and she came
submissively, as if she let Mary direct her movements for her. They
ate and drank together almost in silence, and when Mary told her to
eat more, she ate more; when she was told to drink wine, she drank it.
Nevertheless, beneath this superficial obedience, Mary knew that she
was following her own thoughts unhindered. She was not inattentive so
much as remote; she looked at once so unseeing and so intent upon some