Part 2 out of 5
"Yes, I am."
"It's dark, too; you wouldn't care for it a bit."
"How d'you know?"
"A clove carnation."
"But I do like it--only--not very much."
He nodded solemnly.
"I knew you wouldn't."
Then a silence fell between them. She had ceased to lean against
him, and he missed the cosy friendliness of it. Now that their
voices and the cawings of the rooks had ceased, there was nothing
heard but the dry rustle of the leaves, and the plaintive cry of a
buzzard hawk hunting over the little tor across the river. There
were nearly always two up there, quartering the sky. To the boy it
was lovely, that silence--like Nature talking to you--Nature always
talked in silences. The beasts, the birds, the insects, only
really showed themselves when you were still; you had to be awfully
quiet, too, for flowers and plants, otherwise you couldn't see the
real jolly separate life there was in them. Even the boulders down
there, that old Godden thought had been washed up by the Flood,
never showed you what queer shapes they had, and let you feel close
to them, unless you were thinking of nothing else. Sylvia, after
all, was better in that way than he had expected. She could keep
quiet (he had thought girls hopeless); she was gentle, and it was
rather jolly to watch her. Through the leaves there came the faint
far tinkle of the tea-bell.
She said: "We must get down."
It was much too jolly to go in, really. But if she wanted her tea--
girls always wanted tea! And, twisting the cord carefully round
the branch, he began to superintend her descent. About to follow,
he heard her cry:
"Oh, Mark! I'm stuck--I'm stuck! I can't reach it with my foot!
I'm swinging!" And he saw that she WAS swinging by her hands and
"Let go; drop on to the branch below--the cord'll hold you straight
till you grab the trunk."
Her voice mounted piteously:
"I can't--I really can't--I should slip!"
He tied the cord, and slithered hastily to the branch below her;
then, bracing himself against the trunk, he clutched her round the
waist and knees; but the taut cord held her up, and she would not
come to anchor. He could not hold her and untie the cord, which
was fast round her waist. If he let her go with one hand, and got
out his knife, he would never be able to cut and hold her at the
same time. For a moment he thought he had better climb up again
and slack off the cord, but he could see by her face that she was
getting frightened; he could feel it by the quivering of her body.
"If I heave you up," he said, "can you get hold again above?" And,
without waiting for an answer, he heaved. She caught hold
"Hold on just for a second."
She did not answer, but he saw that her face had gone very white.
He snatched out his knife and cut the cord. She clung just for
that moment, then came loose into his arms, and he hauled her to
him against the trunk. Safe there, she buried her face on his
shoulder. He began to murmur to her and smooth her softly, with
quite a feeling of its being his business to smooth her like this,
to protect her. He knew she was crying, but she let no sound
escape, and he was very careful not to show that he knew, for fear
she should feel ashamed. He wondered if he ought to kiss her. At
last he did, on the top of her head, very gently. Then she put up
her face and said she was a beast. And he kissed her again on an
After that she seemed all right, and very gingerly they descended
to the ground, where shadows were beginning to lengthen over the
fern and the sun to slant into their eyes.
The night after the wedding the boy stood at the window of his
pleasant attic bedroom, with one wall sloping, and a faint smell of
mice. He was tired and excited, and his brain, full of pictures.
This was his first wedding, and he was haunted by a vision of his
sister's little white form, and her face with its starry eyes. She
was gone--his no more! How fearful the Wedding March had sounded
on that organ--that awful old wheezer; and the sermon! One didn't
want to hear that sort of thing when one felt inclined to cry.
Even Gordy had looked rather boiled when he was giving her away.
With perfect distinctness he could still see the group before the
altar rails, just as if he had not been a part of it himself. Cis
in her white, Sylvia in fluffy grey; his impassive brother-in-law's
tall figure; Gordy looking queer in a black coat, with a very
yellow face, and eyes still half-closed. The rotten part of it all
had been that you wanted to be just FEELING, and you had to be
thinking of the ring, and your gloves, and whether the lowest
button of your white waistcoat was properly undone. Girls could do
both, it seemed--Cis seemed to be seeing something wonderful all
the time, and Sylvia had looked quite holy. He himself had been
too conscious of the rector's voice, and the sort of professional
manner with which he did it all, as if he were making up a
prescription, with directions how to take it. And yet it was all
rather beautiful in a kind of fashion, every face turned one way,
and a tremendous hush--except for poor old Godden's blowing of his
nose with his enormous red handkerchief; and the soft darkness up
in the roof, and down in the pews; and the sunlight brightening the
South windows. All the same, it would have been much jollier just
taking hands by themselves somewhere, and saying out before God
what they really felt--because, after all, God was everything,
everywhere, not only in stuffy churches. That was how HE would
like to be married, out of doors on a starry night like this, when
everything felt wonderful all round you. Surely God wasn't half as
small as people seemed always making Him--a sort of superior man a
little bigger than themselves! Even the very most beautiful and
wonderful and awful things one could imagine or make, could only be
just nothing to a God who had a temple like the night out there.
But then you couldn't be married alone, and no girl would ever like
to be married without rings and flowers and dresses, and words that
made it all feel small and cosy! Cis might have, perhaps, only she
wouldn't, because of not hurting other people's feelings; but
Sylvia--never--she would be afraid. Only, of course, she was
young! And the thread of his thoughts broke--and scattered like
beads from a string.
Leaning out, and resting his chin on his hands, he drew the night
air into his lungs. Honeysuckle, or was it the scent of lilies
still? The stars all out, and lots of owls to-night--four at
least. What would night be like without owls and stars? But that
was it--you never could think what things would be like if they
weren't just what and where they were. You never knew what was
coming, either; and yet, when it came, it seemed as if nothing else
ever could have come. That was queer-you could do anything you
liked until you'd done it, but when you HAD done it, then you knew,
of course, that you must always have had to . . . What was that
light, below and to the left? Whose room? Old Tingle's--no, the
little spare room--Sylvia's! She must be awake, then! He leaned
far out, and whispered in the voice she had said was still furry:
The light flickered, he could just see her head appear, with hair
all loose, and her face turning up to him. He could only half see,
half imagine it, mysterious, blurry; and he whispered:
"Isn't this jolly?"
The whisper travelled back:
"Aren't you sleepy?"
"No; are you?"
"Not a bit. D'you hear the owls?"
"Doesn't it smell good?"
"Perfect. Can you see me?"
"Only just, not too much. Can you?"
"I can't see your nose. Shall I get the candle?"
"No--that'd spoil it. What are you sitting on?"
"The window sill."
"It doesn't twist your neck, does it?"
"No--o--only a little bit."
"Are you hungry?"
"Wait half a shake. I'll let down some chocolate in my big bath
towel; it'll swing along to you--reach out."
A dim white arm reached out.
"Catch! I say, you won't get cold?"
"It's too jolly to sleep, isn't it?"
"Which star is yours? Mine is the white one over the top branch of
the big sycamore, from here."
"Mine is that twinkling red one over the summer house. Sylvia!"
"Oh! I couldn't--what was it?"
"No, but what WAS it?"
"Only my star. It's caught in your hair."
Silence, then, until her awed whisper:
And his floating down, dying away:
What had stirred--some window opened? Cautiously he spied along
the face of the dim house. There was no light anywhere, nor any
shifting blur of white at her window below. All was dark, remote--
still sweet with the scent of something jolly. And then he saw
what that something was. All over the wall below his window white
jessamine was in flower--stars, not only in the sky. Perhaps the
sky was really a field of white flowers; and God walked there, and
plucked the stars. . . .
The next morning there was a letter on his plate when he came down
to breakfast. He couldn't open it with Sylvia on one side of him,
and old Tingle on the other. Then with a sort of anger he did open
it. He need not have been afraid. It was written so that anyone
might have read; it told of a climb, of bad weather, said they were
coming home. Was he relieved, disturbed, pleased at their coming
back, or only uneasily ashamed? She had not got his second letter
yet. He could feel old Tingle looking round at him with those
queer sharp twinkling eyes of hers, and Sylvia regarding him quite
frankly. And conscious that he was growing red, he said to
himself: 'I won't!' And did not. In three days they would be at
Oxford. Would they come on here at once? Old Tingle was speaking.
He heard Sylvia answer: "No, I don't like 'bopsies.' They're so
hard!" It was their old name for high cheekbones. Sylvia
certainly had none, her cheeks went softly up to her eyes.
"Do you, Mark?"
He said slowly:
"On some people."
"People who have them are strong-willed, aren't they?"
Was SHE--Anna--strong-willed? It came to him that he did not know
at all what she was.
When breakfast was over and he had got away to his old greenhouse,
he had a strange, unhappy time. He was a beast, he had not been
thinking of her half enough! He took the letter out, and frowned
at it horribly. Why could he not feel more? What was the matter
with him? Why was he such a brute--not to be thinking of her day
and night? For long he stood, disconsolate, in the little dark
greenhouse among the images of his beasts, the letter in his hand.
He stole out presently, and got down to the river unobserved.
Comforting--that crisp, gentle sound of water; ever so comforting
to sit on a stone, very still, and wait for things to happen round
you. You lost yourself that way, just became branches, and stones,
and water, and birds, and sky. You did not feel such a beast.
Gordy would never understand why he did not care for fishing--one
thing trying to catch another--instead of watching and
understanding what things were. You never got to the end of
looking into water, or grass or fern; always something queer and
new. It was like that, too, with yourself, if you sat down and
looked properly--most awfully interesting to see things working in
A soft rain had begun to fall, hissing gently on the leaves, but he
had still a boy's love of getting wet, and stayed where he was, on
the stone. Some people saw fairies in woods and down in water, or
said they did; that did not seem to him much fun. What was really
interesting was noticing that each thing was different from every
other thing, and what made it so; you must see that before you
could draw or model decently. It was fascinating to see your
creatures coming out with shapes of their very own; they did that
without your understanding how. But this vacation he was no good--
couldn't draw or model a bit!
A jay had settled about forty yards away, and remained in full
view, attending to his many-coloured feathers. Of all things,
birds were the most fascinating! He watched it a long time, and
when it flew on, followed it over the high wall up into the park.
He heard the lunch-bell ring in the far distance, but did not go
in. So long as he was out there in the soft rain with the birds
and trees and other creatures, he was free from that unhappy
feeling of the morning. He did not go back till nearly seven,
properly wet through, and very hungry.
All through dinner he noticed that Sylvia seemed to be watching
him, as if wanting to ask him something. She looked very soft in
her white frock, open at the neck; and her hair almost the colour
of special moonlight, so goldy-pale; and he wanted her to
understand that it wasn't a bit because of her that he had been out
alone all day. After dinner, when they were getting the table
ready to play 'red nines,' he did murmur:
"Did you sleep last night--after?"
She nodded fervently to that.
It was raining really hard now, swishing and dripping out in the
darkness, and he whispered:
"Our stars would be drowned to-night."
"Do you really think we have stars?"
"We might. But mine's safe, of course; your hair IS jolly,
She gazed at him, very sweet and surprised.
Anna did not receive the boy's letter in the Tyrol. It followed
her to Oxford. She was just going out when it came, and she took
it up with the mingled beatitude and almost sickening tremor that a
lover feels touching the loved one's letter. She would not open it
in the street, but carried it all the way to the garden of a
certain College, and sat down to read it under the cedar-tree.
That little letter, so short, boyish, and dry, transported her
halfway to heaven. She was to see him again at once, not to wait
weeks, with the fear that he would quite forget her! Her husband
had said at breakfast that Oxford without 'the dear young clowns'
assuredly was charming, but Oxford 'full of tourists and other
strange bodies' as certainly was not. Where should they go? Thank
heaven, the letter could be shown him! For all that, a little stab
of pain went through her that there was not one word which made it
unsuitable to show. Still, she was happy. Never had her favourite
College garden seemed so beautiful, with each tree and flower so
cared for, and the very wind excluded; never had the birds seemed
so tame and friendly. The sun shone softly, even the clouds were
luminous and joyful. She sat a long time, musing, and went back
forgetting all she had come out to do. Having both courage and
decision, she did not leave the letter to burn a hole in her
corsets, but gave it to her husband at lunch, looking him in the
face, and saying carelessly:
"Providence, you see, answers your question."
He read it, raised his eyebrows, smiled, and, without looking up,
"You wish to prosecute this romantic episode?"
Did he mean anything--or was it simply his way of putting things?
"I naturally want to be anywhere but here."
"Perhaps you would like to go alone?"
He said that, of course, knowing she could not say: Yes. And she
answered simply: "No."
"Then let us both go--on Monday. I will catch the young man's
trout; thou shalt catch--h'm!--he shall catch--What is it he
catches--trees? Good! That's settled."
And, three days later, without another word exchanged on the
subject, they started.
Was she grateful to him? No. Afraid of him? No. Scornful of
him? Not quite. But she was afraid of HERSELF, horribly. How
would she ever be able to keep herself in hand, how disguise from
these people that she loved their boy? It was her desperate mood
that she feared. But since she so much wanted all the best for him
that life could give, surely she would have the strength to do
nothing that might harm him. Yet she was afraid.
He was there at the station to meet them, in riding things and a
nice rough Norfolk jacket that she did not recognize, though she
thought she knew his clothes by heart; and as the train came slowly
to a standstill the memory of her last moment with him, up in his
room amid the luggage that she had helped to pack, very nearly
overcame her. It seemed so hard to have to meet him coldly,
formally, to have to wait--who knew how long--for a minute with him
alone! And he was so polite, so beautifully considerate, with all
the manners of a host; hoping she wasn't tired, hoping Mr. Stormer
had brought his fishing-rod, though they had lots, of course, they
could lend him; hoping the weather would be fine; hoping that they
wouldn't mind having to drive three miles, and busying himself
about their luggage. All this when she just wanted to take him in
her arms and push his hair back from his forehead, and look at him!
He did not drive with them--he had thought they would be too
crowded--but followed, keeping quite close in the dust to point out
the scenery, mounted on a 'palfrey,' as her husband called the roan
with the black swish tail.
This countryside, so rich and yet a little wild, the independent-
looking cottages, the old dark cosy manor-house, all was very new
to one used to Oxford, and to London, and to little else of
England. And all was delightful. Even Mark's guardian seemed to
her delightful. For Gordy, when absolutely forced to face an
unknown woman, could bring to the encounter a certain bluff
ingratiation. His sister, too, Mrs. Doone, with her faded
gentleness, seemed soothing.
When Anna was alone in her room, reached by an unexpected little
stairway, she stood looking at its carved four-poster bed and the
wide lattice window with chintz curtains, and the flowers in a blue
bowl. Yes, all was delightful. And yet! What was it? What had
she missed? Ah, she was a fool to fret! It was only his anxiety
that they should be comfortable, his fear that he might betray
himself. Out there those last few days--his eyes! And now! She
brooded earnestly over what dress she should put on. She, who
tanned so quickly, had almost lost her sunburn in the week of
travelling and Oxford. To-day her eyes looked tired, and she was
pale. She was not going to disdain anything that might help. She
had reached thirty-six last month, and he would be nineteen to-
morrow! She decided on black. In black she knew that her neck
looked whiter, and the colour of her eyes and hair stranger. She
put on no jewellery, did not even pin a rose at her breast, took
white gloves. Since her husband did not come to her room, she went
up the little stairway to his. She surprised him ready dressed,
standing by the fireplace, smiling faintly. What was he thinking
of, standing there with that smile? Was there blood in him at all?
He inclined his head slightly and said:
"Good! Chaste as the night! Black suits you. Shall we find our
way down to these savage halls?"
And they went down.
Everyone was already there, waiting. A single neighbouring squire
and magistrate, by name Trusham, had been bidden, to make numbers
Dinner was announced; they went in. At the round table in a
dining-room, all black oak, with many candles, and terrible
portraits of departed ancestors, Anna sat between the magistrate
and Gordy. Mark was opposite, between a quaint-looking old lady
and a young girl who had not been introduced, a girl in white, with
very fair hair and very white skin, blue eyes, and lips a little
parted; a daughter evidently of the faded Mrs. Doone. A girl like
a silvery moth, like a forget-me-not! Anna found it hard to take
her eyes away from this girl's face; not that she admired her
exactly; pretty she was--yes; but weak, with those parted lips and
soft chin, and almost wistful look, as if her deep-blue half-eager
eyes were in spite of her. But she was young--so young! That was
why not to watch her seemed impossible. "Sylvia Doone?" Indeed!
Yes. A soft name, a pretty name--and very like her! Every time
her eyes could travel away from her duty to Squire Trusham, and to
Gordy (on both of whom she was clearly making an impression), she
gazed at this girl, sitting there by the boy, and whenever those
two young things smiled and spoke together she felt her heart
contract and hurt her. Was THIS why that something had gone out of
his eyes? Ah, she was foolish! If every girl or woman the boy
knew was to cause such a feeling in her, what would life be like?
And her will hardened against her fears. She was looking brilliant
herself; and she saw that the girl in her turn could not help
gazing at her eagerly, wistfully, a little bewildered--hatefully
young. And the boy? Slowly, surely, as a magnet draws, Anna could
feel that she was drawing him, could see him stealing chances to
look at her. Once she surprised him full. What troubled eyes! It
was not the old adoring face; yet she knew from its expression that
she could make him want her--make him jealous--easily fire him with
her kisses, if she would.
And the dinner wore to an end. Then came the moment when the girl
and she must meet under the eyes of the mother, and that sharp,
quaint-looking old governess. It would be a hard moment, that!
And it came--a hard moment and a long one, for Gordy sat full span
over his wine. But Anna had not served her time beneath the gaze
of upper Oxford for nothing; she managed to be charming, full of
interest and questions in her still rather foreign accent. Miss
Doone--soon she became Sylvia--must show her all the treasures and
antiquities. Was it too dark to go out just to look at the old
house by night? Oh, no. Not a bit. There were goloshes in the
hall. And they went, the girl leading, and talking of Anna knew
not what, so absorbed was she in thinking how for a moment, just a
moment, she could contrive to be with the boy alone.
It was not remarkable, this old house, but it was his home--might
some day perhaps be his. And houses at night were strangely alive
with their window eyes.
"That is my room," the girl said, "where the jessamine is--you can
just see it. Mark's is above--look, under where the eave hangs
out, away to the left. The other night--"
"Yes; the other night?"
"Oh, I don't--! Listen. That's an owl. We have heaps of owls.
Mark likes them. I don't, much."
"He's awfully keen, you see, about all beasts and birds--he models
them. Shall I show you his workshop?--it's an old greenhouse.
Here, you can see in."
There through the glass Anna indeed could just see the boy's quaint
creations huddling in the dark on a bare floor, a grotesque company
of small monsters. She murmured:
"Yes, I see them, but I won't really look unless he brings me
"Oh, he's sure to. They interest him more than anything in the
For all her cautious resolutions Anna could not for the life of her
"What, more than you?"
The girl gave her a wistful stare before she answered:
"Oh! I don't count much."
Anna laughed, and took her arm. How soft and young it felt! A
pang went through her heart, half jealous, half remorseful.
"Do you know," she said, "that you are very sweet?"
The girl did not answer.
"Are you his cousin?"
"No. Gordy is only Mark's uncle by marriage; my mother is Gordy's
sister--so I'm nothing."
"I see--just what you English call 'a connection.'"
They were silent, seeming to examine the night; then the girl said:
"I wanted to see you awfully. You're not like what I thought."
"Oh! And what DID you think?"
"I thought you would have dark eyes, and Venetian red hair, and not
be quite so tall. Of course, I haven't any imagination."
They were at the door again when the girl said that, and the hall
light was falling on her; her slip of a white figure showed clear.
Young--how young she looked! Everything she said--so young!
And Anna murmured: "And you are--more than I thought, too."
Just then the men came out from the dining-room; her husband with
the look on his face that denoted he had been well listened to;
Squire Trusham laughing as a man does who has no sense of humour;
Gordy having a curly, slightly asphyxiated air; and the boy his
pale, brooding look, as though he had lost touch with his
surroundings. He wavered towards her, seemed to lose himself, went
and sat down by the old governess. Was it because he did not dare
to come up to her, or only because he saw the old lady sitting
alone? It might well be that.
And the evening, so different from what she had dreamed of, closed
in. Squire Trusham was gone in his high dog-cart, with his famous
mare whose exploits had entertained her all through dinner. Her
candle had been given her; she had said good-night to all but Mark.
What should she do when she had his hand in hers? She would be
alone with him in that grasp, whose strength no one could see. And
she did not know whether to clasp it passionately, or to let it go
coolly back to its owner; whether to claim him or to wait. But she
was unable to help pressing it feverishly. At once in his face she
saw again that troubled look; and her heart smote her. She let it
go, and that she might not see him say good-night to the girl,
turned and mounted to her room.
Fully dressed, she flung herself on the bed, and there lay, her
handkerchief across her mouth, gnawing at its edges.
Mark's nineteenth birthday rose in grey mist, slowly dropped its
veil to the grass, and shone clear and glistening. He woke early.
From his window he could see nothing in the steep park but the soft
blue-grey, balloon-shaped oaks suspended one above the other among
the round-topped boulders. It was in early morning that he always
got his strongest feeling of wanting to model things; then and
after dark, when, for want of light, it was no use. This morning
he had the craving badly, and the sense of not knowing how weighed
down his spirit. His drawings, his models--they were all so bad,
so fumbly. If only this had been his twenty-first birthday, and he
had his money, and could do what he liked. He would not stay in
England. He would be off to Athens, or Rome, or even to Paris, and
work till he COULD do something. And in his holidays he would
study animals and birds in wild countries where there were plenty
of them, and you could watch them in their haunts. It was stupid
having to stay in a place like Oxford; but at the thought of what
Oxford meant, his roaming fancy, like a bird hypnotized by a hawk,
fluttered, stayed suspended, and dived back to earth. And that
feeling of wanting to make things suddenly left him. It was as
though he had woken up, his real self; then--lost that self again.
Very quietly he made his way downstairs. The garden door was not
shuttered, not even locked--it must have been forgotten overnight.
Last night! He had never thought he would feel like this when she
came--so bewildered, and confused; drawn towards her, but by
something held back. And he felt impatient, angry with himself,
almost with her. Why could he not be just simply happy, as this
morning was happy? He got his field-glasses and searched the
meadow that led down to the river. Yes, there were several rabbits
out. With the white marguerites and the dew cobwebs, it was all
moon-flowery and white; and the rabbits being there made it
perfect. He wanted one badly to model from, and for a moment was
tempted to get his rook rifle--but what was the good of a dead
rabbit--besides, they looked so happy! He put the glasses down and
went towards his greenhouse to get a drawing block, thinking to sit
on the wall and make a sort of Midsummer Night's Dream sketch of
flowers and rabbits. Someone was there, bending down and doing
something to his creatures. Who had the cheek? Why, it was
Sylvia--in her dressing-gown! He grew hot, then cold, with anger.
He could not bear anyone in that holy place! It was hateful to
have his things even looked at; and she--she seemed to be fingering
them. He pulled the door open with a jerk, and said: "What are you
doing?" He was indeed so stirred by righteous wrath that he hardly
noticed the gasp she gave, and the collapse of her figure against
the wall. She ran past him, and vanished without a word. He went
up to his creatures and saw that she had placed on the head of each
one of them a little sprig of jessamine flower. Why! It was
idiotic! He could see nothing at first but the ludicrousness of
flowers on the heads of his beasts! Then the desperation of this
attempt to imagine something graceful, something that would give
him pleasure touched him; for he saw now that this was a birthday
decoration. From that it was only a second before he was horrified
with himself. Poor little Sylvia! What a brute he was! She had
plucked all that jessamine, hung out of her window and risked
falling to get hold of it; and she had woken up early and come down
in her dressing-gown just to do something that she thought he would
like! Horrible--what he had done! Now, when it was too late, he
saw, only too clearly, her startled white face and quivering lips,
and the way she had shrunk against the wall. How pretty she had
looked in her dressing-gown with her hair all about her, frightened
like that! He would do anything now to make up to her for having
been such a perfect beast! The feeling, always a little with him,
that he must look after her--dating, no doubt, from days when he
had protected her from the bulls that were not there; and the
feeling of her being so sweet and decent to him always; and some
other feeling too--all these suddenly reached poignant climax. He
simply must make it up to her! He ran back into the house and
stole upstairs. Outside her room he listened with all his might,
but could hear nothing; then tapped softly with one nail, and,
putting his mouth to the keyhole, whispered: "Sylvia!" Again and
again he whispered her name. He even tried the handle, meaning to
open the door an inch, but it was bolted. Once he thought he heard
a noise like sobbing, and this made him still more wretched. At
last he gave it up; she would not come, would not be consoled. He
deserved it, he knew, but it was very hard. And dreadfully
dispirited he went up to his room, took a bit of paper, and tried
"It was most awfully sweet of you to put your stars on my beasts.
It was just about the most sweet thing you could have done. I am
an awful brute, but, of course, if I had only known what you were
doing, I should have loved it. Do forgive me; I deserve it, I
know--only it IS my birthday.
He took this down, slipped it under her door, tapped so that she
might notice it, and stole away. It relieved his mind a little,
and he went downstairs again.
Back in the greenhouse, sitting on a stool, he ruefully
contemplated those chapletted beasts. They consisted of a crow, a
sheep, a turkey, two doves, a pony, and sundry fragments. She had
fastened the jessamine sprigs to the tops of their heads by a tiny
daub of wet clay, and had evidently been surprised trying to put a
sprig into the mouth of one of the doves, for it hung by a little
thread of clay from the beak. He detached it and put it in his
buttonhole. Poor little Sylvia! she took things awfully to heart.
He would be as nice as ever he could to her all day. And,
balancing on his stool, he stared fixedly at the wall against which
she had fallen back; the line of her soft chin and throat seemed
now to be his only memory. It was very queer how he could see
nothing but that, the way the throat moved, swallowed--so white, so
soft. And HE had made it go like that! It seemed an unconscionable
time till breakfast.
As the hour approached he haunted the hall, hoping she might be
first down. At last he heard footsteps, and waited, hidden behind
the door of the empty dining-room, lest at sight of him she should
turn back. He had rehearsed what he was going to do--bend down and
kiss her hand and say: "Dulcinea del Toboso is the most beautiful
lady in the world, and I the most unfortunate knight upon the
earth," from his favourite passage out of his favourite book, 'Don
Quixote.' She would surely forgive him then, and his heart would
no longer hurt him. Certainly she could never go on making him so
miserable if she knew his feelings! She was too soft and gentle
for that. Alas! it was not Sylvia who came; but Anna, fresh from
sleep, with her ice-green eyes and bright hair; and in sudden
strange antipathy to her, that strong, vivid figure, he stood dumb.
And this first lonely moment, which he had so many times in fancy
spent locked in her arms, passed without even a kiss; for quickly
one by one the others came. But of Sylvia only news through Mrs.
Doone that she had a headache, and was staying in bed. Her present
was on the sideboard, a book called 'Sartor Resartus.' "Mark--from
Sylvia, August 1st, 1880," together with Gordy's cheque, Mrs.
Doone's pearl pin, old Tingle's 'Stones of Venice,' and one other
little parcel wrapped in tissue-paper--four ties of varying shades
of green, red, and blue, hand-knitted in silk--a present of how
many hours made short by the thought that he would wear the produce
of that clicking. He did not fail in outer gratitude, but did he
realize what had been knitted into those ties? Not then.
Birthdays, like Christmas days, were made for disenchantment.
Always the false gaiety of gaiety arranged--always that pistol to
the head: 'Confound you! enjoy yourself!' How could he enjoy
himself with the thought of Sylvia in her room, made ill by his
brutality! The vision of her throat working, swallowing her grief,
haunted him like a little white, soft spectre all through the long
drive out on to the moor, and the picnic in the heather, and the
long drive home--haunted him so that when Anna touched or looked at
him he had no spirit to answer, no spirit even to try and be with
her alone, but almost a dread of it instead.
And when at last they were at home again, and she whispered:
"What is it? What have I done?" he could only mutter:
"Nothing! Oh, nothing! It's only that I've been a brute!"
At that enigmatic answer she might well search his face.
"Is it my husband?"
He could answer that, at all events.
"What is it, then? Tell me."
They were standing in the inner porch, pretending to examine the
ancestral chart--dotted and starred with dolphins and little full-
rigged galleons sailing into harbours--which always hung just
"Tell me, Mark; I don't like to suffer!"
What could he say, since he did not know himself? He stammered,
tried to speak, could not get anything out.
"Is it that girl?"
Startled, he looked away, and said:
"Of course not."
She shivered, and went into the house. But he stayed, staring at
the chart with a dreadful stirred-up feeling--of shame and
irritation, pity, impatience, fear, all mixed. What had he done,
said, lost? It was that horrid feeling of when one has not been
kind and not quite true, yet might have been kinder if one had been
still less true. Ah! but it was all so mixed up. It felt all
bleak, too, and wintry in him, as if he had suddenly lost
everybody's love. Then he was conscious of his tutor.
"Ah! friend Lennan--looking deeply into the past from the less
romantic present? Nice things, those old charts. The dolphins are
It was difficult to remember not to be ill-mannered then. Why did
Stormer jeer like that? He just managed to answer:
"Yes, sir; I wish we had some now."
"There are so many moons we wish for, Lennan, and they none of them
come tumbling down."
The voice was almost earnest, and the boy's resentment fled. He
felt sorry, but why he did not know.
"In the meantime," he heard his tutor say, "let us dress for
When he came down to the drawing-room, Anna in her moonlight-
coloured frock was sitting on the sofa talking to--Sylvia. He kept
away from them; they could neither of them want him. But it did
seem odd to him, who knew not too much concerning women, that she
could be talking so gaily, when only half an hour ago she had said:
"Is it that girl?"
He sat next her at dinner. Again it was puzzling that she should
be laughing so serenely at Gordy's stories. Did the whispering in
the porch, then, mean nothing? And Sylvia would not look at him;
he felt sure that she turned her eyes away simply because she knew
he was going to look in her direction. And this roused in him a
sore feeling--everything that night seemed to rouse that feeling--
of injustice; he was cast out, and he could not tell why. He had
not meant to hurt either of them! Why should they both want to
hurt him so? And presently there came to him a feeling that he did
not care: Let them treat him as they liked! There were other
things besides love! If they did not want him--he did not want
them! And he hugged this reckless, unhappy, don't-care feeling to
him with all the abandonment of youth.
But even birthdays come to an end. And moods and feelings that
seem so desperately real die in the unreality of sleep.
If to the boy that birthday was all bewildered disillusionment, to
Anna it was verily slow torture; SHE found no relief in thinking
that there were things in life other than love. But next morning
brought readjustment, a sense of yesterday's extravagance, a
renewal of hope. Impossible surely that in one short fortnight she
had lost what she had made so sure of! She had only to be
resolute. Only to grasp firmly what was hers. After all these
empty years was she not to have her hour? To sit still meekly and
see it snatched from her by a slip of a soft girl? A thousand
times, no! And she watched her chance. She saw him about noon
sally forth towards the river, with his rod. She had to wait a
little, for Gordy and his bailiff were down there by the tennis
lawn, but they soon moved on. She ran out then to the park gate.
Once through that she felt safe; her husband, she knew, was working
in his room; the girl somewhere invisible; the old governess still
at her housekeeping; Mrs. Doone writing letters. She felt full of
hope and courage. This old wild tangle of a park, that she had not
yet seen, was beautiful--a true trysting-place for fauns and
nymphs, with its mossy trees and boulders and the high bracken.
She kept along under the wall in the direction of the river, but
came to no gate, and began to be afraid that she was going wrong.
She could hear the river on the other side, and looked for some
place where she could climb and see exactly where she was. An old
ash-tree tempted her. Scrambling up into its fork, she could just
see over. There was the little river within twenty yards, its
clear dark water running between thick foliage. On its bank lay a
huge stone balanced on another stone still more huge. And with his
back to this stone stood the boy, his rod leaning beside him. And
there, on the ground, her arms resting on her knees, her chin on
her hands, that girl sat looking up. How eager his eyes now--how
different from the brooding eyes of yesterday!
"So, you see, that was all. You might forgive me, Sylvia!"
And to Anna it seemed verily as if those two young faces formed
suddenly but one--the face of youth.
If she had stayed there looking for all time, she could not have
had graven on her heart a vision more indelible. Vision of Spring,
of all that was gone from her for ever! She shrank back out of the
fork of the old ash-tree, and, like a stricken beast, went
hurrying, stumbling away, amongst the stones and bracken. She ran
thus perhaps a quarter of a mile, then threw up her arms, fell down
amongst the fern, and lay there on her face. At first her heart
hurt her so that she felt nothing but that physical pain. If she
could have died! But she knew it was nothing but breathlessness.
It left her, and that which took its place she tried to drive away
by pressing her breast against the ground, by clutching the stalks
of the bracken--an ache, an emptiness too dreadful! Youth to
youth! He was gone from her--and she was alone again! She did not
cry. What good in crying? But gusts of shame kept sweeping
through her; shame and rage. So this was all she was worth! The
sun struck hot on her back in that lair of tangled fern, where she
had fallen; she felt faint and sick. She had not known till now
quite what this passion for the boy had meant to her; how much of
her very belief in herself was bound up with it; how much clinging
to her own youth. What bitterness! One soft slip of a white girl--
one YOUNG thing--and she had become as nothing! But was that
true? Could she not even now wrench him back to her with the
passion that this child knew nothing of! Surely! Oh, surely! Let
him but once taste the rapture she could give him! And at that
thought she ceased clutching at the bracken stalks, lying as still
as the very stones around her. Could she not? Might she not, even
now? And all feeling, except just a sort of quivering, deserted
her--as if she had fallen into a trance. Why spare this girl? Why
falter? She was first! He had been hers out there. And she still
had the power to draw him. At dinner the first evening she had
dragged his gaze to her, away from that girl--away from youth, as a
magnet draws steel. She could still bind him with chains that for
a little while at all events he would not want to break! Bind him?
Hateful word! Take him, hankering after what she could not give
him--youth, white innocence, Spring? It would be infamous,
infamous! She sprang up from the fern, and ran along the hillside,
not looking where she went, stumbling among the tangled growth, in
and out of the boulders, till she once more sank breathless on to a
stone. It was bare of trees just here, and she could see, across
the river valley, the high larch-crowned tor on the far side. The
sky was clear--the sun bright. A hawk was wheeling over that hill;
far up, very near the blue! Infamous! She could not do that!
Could not drug him, drag him to her by his senses, by all that was
least high in him, when she wished for him all the finest things
that life could give, as if she had been his mother. She could
not. It would be wicked! In that moment of intense spiritual
agony, those two down there in the sun, by the grey stone and the
dark water, seemed guarded from her, protected. The girl's white
flower-face trembling up, the boy's gaze leaping down! Strange
that a heart which felt that, could hate at the same moment that
flower-face, and burn to kill with kisses that eagerness in the
boy's eyes. The storm in her slowly passed. And she prayed just
to feel nothing. It was natural that she should lose her hour!
Natural that her thirst should go unslaked, and her passion never
bloom; natural that youth should go to youth, this boy to his own
kind, by the law of--love. The breeze blowing down the valley
fanned her cheeks, and brought her a faint sensation of relief.
Nobility! Was it just a word? Or did those that gave up happiness
She wandered for a long time in the park. Not till late afternoon
did she again pass out by the gate, through which she had entered,
full of hope. She met no one before she reached her room; and
there, to be safe, took refuge in her bed. She dreaded only lest
the feeling of utter weariness should leave her. She wanted no
vigour of mind or body till she was away from here. She meant
neither to eat nor drink; only to sleep, if she could. To-morrow,
if there were any early train, she could be gone before she need
see anyone; her husband must arrange. As to what he would think,
and she could say--time enough to decide that. And what did it
matter? The one vital thing now was not to see the boy, for she
could not again go through hours of struggle like those. She rang
the bell, and sent the startled maid with a message to her husband.
And while she waited for him to come, her pride began revolting.
She must not let him see. That would be horrible. And slipping
out of bed she got a handkerchief and the eau-de-Cologne flask, and
bandaged her forehead. He came almost instantly, entering in his
quick, noiseless way, and stood looking at her. He did not ask
what was the matter, but simply waited. And never before had she
realized so completely how he began, as it were, where she left
off; began on a plane from which instinct and feeling were as
carefully ruled out as though they had been blasphemous. She
summoned all her courage, and said: "I went into the park; the sun
must have been too hot. I should like to go home to-morrow, if you
don't mind. I can't bear not feeling well in other people's
She was conscious of a smile flickering over his face; then it grew
"Ah!" he said; "yes. The sun, a touch of that will last some days.
Will you be fit to travel, though?"
She had a sudden conviction that he knew all about it, but that--
since to know all about it was to feel himself ridiculous--he had
the power of making himself believe that he knew nothing. Was this
fine of him, or was it hateful?
She closed her eyes and said:
"My head is bad, but I SHALL be able. Only I don't want a fuss
made. Could we go by a train before they are down?"
She heard him say:
"Yes. That will have its advantages."
There was not the faintest sound now, but of course he was still
there. In that dumb, motionless presence was all her future. Yes,
that would be her future--a thing without feeling, and without
motion. A fearful curiosity came on her to look at it. She opened
her gaze. He was still standing just as he had been, his eyes
fixed on her. But one hand, on the edge of his coat pocket--out of
the picture, as it were--was nervously closing and unclosing. And
suddenly she felt pity. Not for her future--which must be like
that; but for him. How dreadful to have grown so that all emotion
was exiled--how dreadful! And she said gently:
"I am sorry, Harold."
As if he had heard something strange and startling, his eyes
dilated in a curious way, he buried that nervous hand in his
pocket, turned, and went out.
When young Mark came on Sylvia by the logan-stone, it was less
surprising to him than if he had not known she was there--having
watched her go. She was sitting, all humped together, brooding
over the water, her sunbonnet thrown back; and that hair, in which
his star had caught, shining faint-gold under the sun. He came on
her softly through the grass, and, when he was a little way off,
thought it best to halt. If he startled her she might run away,
and he would not have the heart to follow. How still she was, lost
in her brooding! He wished he could see her face. He spoke at
"Sylvia! . . . Would you mind?"
And, seeing that she did not move, he went up to her. Surely she
could not still be angry with him!
"Thanks most awfully for that book you gave me--it looks splendid!"
She made no answer. And leaning his rod against the stone, he
sighed. That silence of hers seemed to him unjust; what was it she
wanted him to say or do? Life was not worth living, if it was to
be all bottled up like this.
"I never meant to hurt you. I hate hurting people. It's only that
my beasts are so bad--I can't bear people to see them--especially
you--I want to please you--I do really. So, you see, that was all.
You MIGHT forgive me, Sylvia!"
Something over the wall, a rustling, a scattering in the fern--
deer, no doubt! And again he said eagerly, softly:
"You might be nice to me, Sylvia; you really might."
Very quickly, turning her head away, she said:
"It isn't that any more. It's--it's something else."
"Nothing--only, that I don't count--now--"
He knelt down beside her. What did she mean? But he knew well
"Of course, you count! Most awfully! Oh, don't be unhappy! I
hate people being unhappy. Don't be unhappy, Sylvia!" And he
began gently to stroke her arm. It was all strange and troubled
within him; one thing only plain--he must not admit anything! As
if reading that thought, her blue eyes seemed suddenly to search
right into him. Then she pulled some blades of grass, and began
Ah! He was not going to say: She doesn't! It would be caddish to
say that. Even if she didn't count--Did she still?--it would be
mean and low. And in his eyes just then there was the look that
had made his tutor compare him to a lion cub in trouble.
Sylvia was touching his arm.
He got up and took his rod. What was the use? He could not stay
there with her, since he could not--must not speak.
"Are you going?"
"Are you angry? PLEASE don't be angry with me."
He felt a choke in his throat, bent down to her hand, and kissed
it; then shouldered his rod, and marched away. Looking back once,
he saw her still sitting there, gazing after him, forlorn, by that
great stone. It seemed to him, then, there was nowhere he could
go; nowhere except among the birds and beasts and trees, who did
not mind even if you were all mixed up and horrible inside. He lay
down in the grass on the bank. He could see the tiny trout moving
round and round the stones; swallows came all about him, flying
very low; a hornet, too, bore him company for a little. But he
could take interest in nothing; it was as if his spirit were in
prison. It would have been nice, indeed, to be that water, never
staying, passing, passing; or wind, touching everything, never
caught. To be able to do nothing without hurting someone--that was
what was so ghastly. If only one were like a flower, that just
sprang up and lived its life all to itself, and died. But whatever
he did, or said now, would be like telling lies, or else being
cruel. The only thing was to keep away from people. And yet how
keep away from his own guests?
He went back to the house for lunch, but both those guests were
out, no one seemed quite to know where. Restless, unhappy,
puzzled, he wandered round and about all the afternoon. Just
before dinner he was told of Mrs. Stormer's not being well, and
that they would be leaving to-morrow. Going--after three days!
That plunged him deeper into his strange and sorrowful confusion.
He was reduced now to a complete brooding silence. He knew he was
attracting attention, but could not help it. Several times during
dinner he caught Gordy's eyes fixed on him, from under those puffy
half-closed lids, with asphyxiated speculation. But he simply
COULD not talk--everything that came into his mind to say seemed
false. Ah! it was a sad evening--with its glimmering vision into
another's sore heart, its confused gnawing sense of things broken,
faith betrayed; and yet always the perplexed wonder--"How could I
have helped it?" And always Sylvia's wistful face that he tried
not to look at.
He stole out, leaving Gordy and his tutor still over their wine,
and roamed about the garden a long time, listening sadly to the
owls. It was a blessing to get upstairs, though of course he would
But he did sleep, all through a night of many dreams, in the last
of which he was lying on a mountain side, Anna looking down into
his eyes, and bending her face to his. He woke just as her lips
touched him. Still under the spell of that troubling dream, he
became conscious of the sound of wheels and horses' hoofs on the
gravel, and sprang out of bed. There was the waggonette moving
from the door, old Godden driving, luggage piled up beside him, and
the Stormers sitting opposite each other in the carriage. Going
away like that--having never even said good-bye! For a moment he
felt as people must when they have unwittingly killed someone--
utterly stunned and miserable. Then he dashed into his clothes.
He would not let her go thus! He would--he must--see her again!
What had he done that she should go like this? He rushed
downstairs. The hall was empty; nineteen minutes to eight! The
train left at eight o'clock. Had he time to saddle Bolero? He
rushed round to the stables; but the cob was out, being shoed. He
would--he must get there in time. It would show her anyway that he
was not quite a cad. He walked till the drive curved, then began
running hard. A quarter of a mile, and already he felt better, not
so miserable and guilty; it was something to feel you had a tough
job in hand, all your work cut out--something to have to think of
economizing strength, picking out the best going, keeping out of
the sun, saving your wind uphill, flying down any slope. It was
cool still, and the dew had laid the dust; there was no traffic and
scarcely anyone to look back and gape as he ran by. What he would
do, if he got there in time--how explain this mad three-mile run--
he did not think. He passed a farm that he knew was just half-way.
He had left his watch. Indeed, he had put on only his trousers,
shirt, and Norfolk jacket; no tie, no hat, not even socks under his
tennis shoes, and he was as hot as fire, with his hair flying back--
a strange young creature indeed for anyone to meet. But he had
lost now all feeling, save the will to get there. A flock of sheep
came out of a field into the lane. He pushed through them somehow,
but they lost him several seconds. More than a mile still; and he
was blown, and his legs beginning to give! Downhill indeed they
went of their own accord, but there was the long run-in, quite
level; and he could hear the train, now slowly puffing its way
along the valley. Then, in spite of exhaustion, his spirit rose.
He would not go in looking like a scarecrow, utterly done, and make
a scene. He must pull himself together at the end, and stroll in--
as if he had come for fun. But how--seeing that at any moment he
felt he might fall flat in the dust, and stay there for ever! And,
as he ran, he made little desperate efforts to mop his face, and
brush his clothes. There were the gates, at last--two hundred
yards away. The train, he could hear no longer. It must be
standing in the station. And a sob came from his overdriven lungs.
He heard the guard's whistle as he reached the gates. Instead of
making for the booking-office, he ran along the paling, where an
entrance to the goods'-shed was open, and dashing through he fell
back against the honeysuckle. The engine was just abreast of him;
he snatched at his sleeve and passed it over his face, to wipe the
sweat away. Everything was blurred. He must see--surely he had
not come in time just not to see! He pushed his hands over his
forehead and hair, and spied up dizzily at the slowly passing
train. She was there, at a window! Standing, looking out! He
dared not step forward, for fear of falling, but he put out his
hand--She saw him. Yes, she saw him! Wasn't she going to make a
sign? Not one? And suddenly he saw her tear at her dress, pluck
something out, and throw it. It fell close to his feet. He did
not pick it up--he wanted to see her face till she was gone. It
looked wonderful--very proud, and pale. She put her hand up to her
lips. Then everything went blurred again and when he could see
once more, the train had vanished. But at his feet was what she
had thrown. He picked it up! All dry and dark, it was the flower
she had given him in the Tyrol, and stolen back from his
Creeping out, past the goods'-shed, he made his way to a field, and
lay down with his face pressed to that withered thing which still
had its scent. . . .
The asphyxiated speculation in his guardian's eyes had not been
without significance. Mark did not go back to Oxford. He went
instead to Rome--to live in his sister's house, and attend a school
of sculpture. That was the beginning of a time when nothing
counted except his work.
To Anna he wrote twice, but received no answer. From his tutor he
had one little note:
"MY DEAR LENNAN,
"So! You abandon us for Art? Ah! well--it was your moon, if I
remember--one of them. A worthy moon--a little dusty in these
days--a little in her decline--but to you no doubt a virgin
goddess, whose hem, etc.
"We shall retain the friendliest memories of you in spite of your
"Once your tutor and still your friend,
After that vacation it was long--very long before he saw Sylvia
Gleam of a thousand lights; clack and mutter of innumerable voices,
laughter, footsteps; hiss and rumble of passing trains taking
gamblers back to Nice or Mentone; fevered wailing from the violins
of four fiddlers with dark-white skins outside the cafe; and above,
around, beyond, the dark sky, and the dark mountains, and the dark
sea, like some great dark flower to whose heart is clinging a
jewelled beetle. So was Monte Carlo on that May night of 1887.
But Mark Lennan, at one of the little marble-topped tables, was in
too great maze and exaltation of spirit and of senses to be
conscious of its glare and babel, even of its beauty. He sat so
very still that his neighbours, with the instinctive aversion of
the human creature to what is too remote from its own mood, after
one good stare, turned their eyes away, as from something
ludicrous, almost offensive.
He was lost, indeed, in memory of the minutes just gone by. For it
had come at last, after all these weeks of ferment, after all this
strange time of perturbation.
Very stealthily it had been creeping on him, ever since that chance
introduction nearly a year ago, soon after he settled down in
London, following those six years of Rome and Paris. First the
merest friendliness, because she was so nice about his work; then
respectful admiration, because she was so beautiful; then pity,
because she was so unhappy in her marriage. If she had been happy,
he would have fled. The knowledge that she had been unhappy long
before he knew her had kept his conscience still. And at last one
afternoon she said: "Ah! if you come out there too!" Marvelously
subtle, the way that one little outslipped saying had worked in
him, as though it had a life of its own--like a strange bird that
had flown into the garden of his heart, and established itself with
its new song and flutterings, its new flight, its wistful and ever
clearer call. That and one moment, a few days later in her London
drawing-room, when he had told her that he WAS coming, and she did
not, could not, he felt, look at him. Queer, that nothing
momentous said, done--or even left undone--had altered all the
And so she had gone with her uncle and aunt, under whose wing one
might be sure she would meet with no wayward or exotic happenings.
And he had received from her this little letter:
"HOTEL COEUR D'OR,
"MY DEAR MARK,
"We've arrived. It is so good to be in the sun. The flowers are
wonderful. I am keeping Gorbio and Roquebrune till you come.
That letter was the single clear memory he had of the time between
her going and his following. He received it one afternoon, sitting
on an old low garden wall with the spring sun shining on him
through apple-trees in blossom, and a feeling as if all the desire
of the world lay before him, and he had but to stretch out his arms
to take it.
Then confused unrest, all things vague; till at the end of his
journey he stepped out of the train at Beaulieu with a furiously
beating heart. But why? Surely he had not expected her to come
out from Monte Carlo to meet him!
A week had gone by since then in one long effort to be with her and
appear to others as though he did not greatly wish to be; two
concerts, two walks with her alone, when all that he had said
seemed as nothing said, and all her sayings but ghosts of what he
wished to hear; a week of confusion, day and night, until, a few
minutes ago, her handkerchief had fallen from her glove on to the
dusty road, and he had picked it up and put it to his lips.
Nothing could take away the look she had given him then. Nothing
could ever again separate her from him utterly. She had confessed
in it to the same sweet, fearful trouble that he himself was
feeling. She had not spoken, but he had seen her lips part, her
breast rise and fall. And HE had not spoken. What was the use of
He felt in the pocket of his coat. There, against his fingers, was
that wisp of lawn and lace, soft, yet somehow alive; and stealthily
he took it out. The whole of her, with her fragrance, seemed
pressed to his face in the touch of that lawn border, roughened by
little white stars. More secretly than ever he put it back; and
for the first time looked round. These people! They belonged to a
world that he had left. They gave him the same feeling that her
uncle and aunt had given him just now, when they said good-night,
following her into their hotel. That good Colonel, that good Mrs.
Ercott! The very concretion of the world he had been brought up
in, of the English point of view; symbolic figures of health,
reason, and the straight path, on which at that moment, seemingly,
he had turned his back. The Colonel's profile, ruddy through its
tan, with grey moustache guiltless of any wax, his cheery, high-
pitched: "Good-night, young Lennan!" His wife's curly smile, her
flat, cosy, confidential voice--how strange and remote they had
suddenly become! And all these people here, chattering, drinking--
how queer and far away! Or was it just that he was queer and
remote to them?
And getting up from his table, he passed the fiddlers with the
dark-white skins, out into the Place.
He went up the side streets to the back of her hotel, and stood by
the railings of the garden--one of those hotel gardens which exist
but to figure in advertisements, with its few arid palms, its paths
staring white between them, and a fringe of dusty lilacs and
And there came to him the oddest feeling--that he had been there
before, peering through blossoms at those staring paths and
shuttered windows. A scent of wood-smoke was abroad, and some dry
plant rustled ever so faintly in what little wind was stirring.
What was there of memory in this night, this garden? Some dark
sweet thing, invisible, to feel whose presence was at once ecstasy,
and the irritation of a thirst that will not be quenched.
And he walked on. Houses, houses! At last he was away from them,
alone on the high road, beyond the limits of Monaco. And walking
thus through the night he had thoughts that he imagined no one had
ever had before him. The knowledge that she loved him had made
everything seem very sacred and responsible. Whatever he did, he
must not harm her. Women were so helpless!
For in spite of six years of art in Rome and Paris, he still had a
fastidious reverence for women. If she had loved her husband she
would have been safe enough from him; but to be bound to a
companionship that she gave unwillingly--this had seemed to him
atrocious, even before he loved her. How could any husband ask
that? Have so little pride--so little pity? The unpardonable
thing! What was there to respect in such a marriage? Only, he
must not do her harm! But now that her eyes had said, I love you!--
What then? It was simply miraculous to know THAT, under the stars
of this warm Southern night, burning its incense of trees and
Climbing up above the road, he lay down. If only she were there
beside him! The fragrance of the earth not yet chilled, crept to
his face; and for just a moment it seemed to him that she did come.
If he could keep her there for ever in that embrace that was no
embrace--in that ghostly rapture, on this wild fragrant bed that no
lovers before had ever pressed, save the creeping things, and the
flowers; save sunlight and moonlight with their shadows; and the
wind kissing the earth! . . .
Then she was gone; his hands touched nothing but the crumbled pine
dust, and the flowers of the wild thyme fallen into sleep.
He stood on the edge of the little cliff, above the road between
the dark mountains and the sea black with depth. Too late for any
passer-by; as far from what men thought and said and did as the
very night itself with its whispering warmth. And he conjured up
her face, making certain of it--the eyes, clear and brown, and wide
apart; the close, sweet mouth; the dark hair; the whole flying
Then he leaped down into the road, and ran--one could not walk,
feeling this miracle, that no one had ever felt before, the miracle
In their most reputable hotel 'Le Coeur d'Or,' long since
remodelled and renamed, Mrs. Ercott lay in her brass-bound bed
looking by starlight at the Colonel in his brass-bound bed. Her
ears were carefully freed from the pressure of her pillow, for she
thought she heard a mosquito. Companion for thirty years to one
whose life had been feverishly punctuated by the attentions of
those little beasts, she had no love for them. It was the one
subject on which perhaps her imagination was stronger than her
common sense. For in fact there was not, and could not be, a
mosquito, since the first thing the Colonel did, on arriving at any
place farther South than Parallel 46 of latitude, was to open the
windows very wide, and nail with many tiny tacks a piece of
mosquito netting across that refreshing space, while she held him
firmly by the coat-tails. The fact that other people did not so
secure their windows did not at all trouble the Colonel, a true
Englishman, who loved to act in his own way, and to think in the
ways of other people. After that they would wait till night came,
then burn a peculiar little lamp with a peculiar little smell, and,
in the full glare of the gaslight, stand about on chairs, with
slippers, and their eyes fixed on true or imaginary beasts. Then
would fall little slaps, making little messes, and little joyous or
doleful cries would arise: "I've got that one!" "Oh, John, I
missed him!" And in the middle of the room, the Colonel, in
pyjamas, and spectacles (only worn in very solemn moments, low down
on his nose), would revolve slowly, turning his eyes, with that
look in them of out-facing death which he had so long acquired, on
every inch of wall and ceiling, till at last he would say: "Well,
Dolly, that's the lot!" At which she would say: "Give me a kiss,
dear!" and he would kiss her, and get into his bed.
There was, then, no mosquito, save that general ghost of him which
lingered in the mind of one devoted to her husband. Spying out his
profile, for he was lying on his back, she refrained from saying:
"John, are you awake?" A whiffling sound was coming from a nose,
to which--originally straight--attention to military duties had
given a slight crook, half an inch below the level of grizzled
eyebrows raised a little, as though surprised at the sounds
beneath. She could hardly see him, but she thought: "How good he
looks!" And, in fact, he did. It was the face of a man incapable
of evil, having in its sleep the candour of one at heart a child--
that simple candour of those who have never known how to seek
adventures of the mind, and have always sought adventures of the
body. Then somehow she did say:
"John! Are you asleep?"
The Colonel, instantly alive, as at some old-time attack, answered:
"That poor young man!"
"Mark Lennan. Haven't you seen?"
"My dear, it was under your nose. But you never do see these
The Colonel slowly turned his head. His wife was an imaginative
woman! She had always been so. Dimly he perceived that something
romantic was about to come from her. But with that almost
professional gentleness of a man who has cut the heads and arms off
people in his time, he answered:
"He picked up her handkerchief."
"Olive's. He put it in his pocket. I distinctly saw him."
There was silence; then Mrs. Ercott's voice rose again, impersonal,
"What always astonishes me about young people is the way they think
they're not seen--poor dears!"
Still there was silence.
"John! Are you thinking?"
For a considerable sound of breathing, not mere whiffling now, was
coming from the Colonel--to his wife a sure sign.
And indeed he WAS thinking. Dolly was an imaginative woman, but
something told him that in this case she might not be riding past
Mrs. Ercott raised herself. He looked more good than ever; a
little perplexed frown had climbed up with his eyebrows and got
caught in the wrinkles across his forehead.
"I'm very fond of Olive," he said.
Mrs. Ercott fell back on her pillows. In her heart there was just
that little soreness natural to a woman over fifty, whose husband
has a niece.
"No doubt," she murmured.
Something vague moved deep down in the Colonel; he stretched out
his hand. In that strip of gloom between the beds it encountered
another hand, which squeezed it rather hard.
He said: "Look here, old girl!" and there was silence.
Mrs. Ercott in her turn was thinking. Her thoughts were flat and
rapid like her voice, but had that sort of sentiment which
accompanies the mental exercise of women with good hearts. Poor
young man! And poor Olive! But was a woman ever to be pitied,
when she was so pretty as that! Besides, when all was said and
done, she had a fine-looking man for husband; in Parliament, with a
career, and fond of her--decidedly. And their little house in
London, so close to Westminster, was a distinct dear; and nothing
could be more charming than their cottage by the river. Was Olive,
then, to be pitied? And yet--she was not happy. It was no good
pretending that she was happy. All very well to say that such
things were within one's control, but if you read novels at all,
you knew they weren't. There was such a thing as incompatibility.
Oh yes! And there was the matter of difference in their ages!
Olive was twenty-six, Robert Cramier forty-two. And now this young
Mark Lennan was in love with her. What if she were in love with
him! John would realize then, perhaps, that the young flew to the
young. For men--even the best, like John, were funny! She would
never dream of feeling for any of her nephews as John clearly felt
The Colonel's voice broke in on her thoughts.
"Nice young fellow--Lennan! Great pity! Better sheer off--if he's
And, rather suddenly, she answered:
"Suppose he can't!"
"Did you never hear of a 'grande passion'?"
The Colonel rose on his elbow. This was another of those occasions
that showed him how, during the later years of his service in
Madras and Upper Burmah, when Dolly's health had not been equal to
the heat, she had picked up in London a queer way of looking at
things--as if they were not--not so right or wrong as--as he felt
them to be. And he repeated those two French words in his own way,
"Isn't that just what I'm saying? The sooner he stands clear, the
But Mrs. Ercott, too, sat up.
"Be human," she said.
The Colonel experienced the same sensation as when one suddenly
knows that one is not digesting food. Because young Lennan was in
danger of getting into a dishonourable fix, he was told to be
human! Really, Dolly was--! The white blur of her new boudoir cap
suddenly impinged on his consciousness. Surely she was not
getting--un-English! At her time of life!
"I'm thinking of Olive," he said; "I don't want her worried with
that sort of thing."
"Perhaps Olive can manage for herself. In these days it doesn't do
to interfere with love."
"Love!" muttered the Colonel. "What? Phew!"
If one's own wife called this--this sort of--thing, love--then, why
had he been faithful to her--in very hot climates--all these years?
A sense of waste, and of injustice, tried to rear its head against
all the side of him that attached certain meanings to certain
words, and acted up to them. And this revolt gave him a feeling,
strange and so unpleasant. Love! It was not a word to use thus
loosely! Love led to marriage; this could not lead to marriage,
except through--the Divorce Court. And suddenly the Colonel had a
vision of his dead brother Lindsay, Olive's father, standing there
in the dark, with his grave, clear-cut, ivory-pale face, under the
black hair supposed to be derived from a French ancestress who had
escaped from the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Upright fellow
always, Lindsay--even before he was made bishop! Queer somehow
that Olive should be his daughter. Not that she was not upright;
not at all! But she was soft! Lindsay was not! Imagine him
seeing that young fellow putting her handkerchief in his pocket.
But had young Lennan really done such a thing? Dolly was
imaginative! He had mistaken it probably for his own; if he had
chanced to blow his nose, he would have realized. For, coupled
with the almost child-like candour of his mind, the Colonel had
real administrative vigour, a true sense of practical values; an
ounce of illustration was always worth to him a pound of theory!
Dolly was given to riding off on theories. Thank God! she never
acted on 'em!
He said gently:
"My dear! Young Lennan may be an artist and all that, but he's a
gentleman! I know old Heatherley, his guardian. Why I introduced
him to Olive myself!"
"What has that to do with it? He's in love with her."
One of the countless legion that hold a creed taken at face value,
into whose roots and reasons they have never dreamed of going, the
Colonel was staggered. Like some native on an island surrounded by
troubled seas, which he has stared at with a certain contemptuous
awe all his life, but never entered, he was disconcerted by thus
being asked to leave the shore. And by his own wife!
Indeed, Mrs. Ercott had not intended to go so far; but there was in
her, as in all women whose minds are more active than their
husbands', a something worrying her always to go a little farther
than she meant. With real compunction she heard the Colonel say:
"I must get up and drink some water."
She was out of bed in a moment. "Not without boiling!"
She had seriously troubled him, then! Now he would not sleep--the
blood went to his head so quickly. He would just lie awake, trying
not to disturb her. She could not bear him not to disturb her. It
seemed so selfish of her! She ought to have known that the whole
subject was too dangerous to discuss at night.
She became conscious that he was standing just behind her; his
figure in its thin covering looked very lean, his face strangely
"I'm sorry you put that idea into my head!" he said. "I'm fond of
Again Mrs. Ercott felt that jealous twinge, soon lost this time in
the motherliness of a childless woman for her husband. He must not
be troubled! He should not be troubled. And she said:
"The water's boiling! Now sip a good glass slowly, and get into
bed, or I'll take your temperature!"
Obediently the Colonel took from her the glass, and as he sipped,
she put her hand up and stroked his head.
In the room below them the subject of their discussion was lying
very wide awake. She knew that she had betrayed herself, made
plain to Mark Lennan what she had never until now admitted to
herself. But the love-look, which for the life of her she could
not keep back, had been followed by a feeling of having 'lost
caste.' For, hitherto, the world of women had been strictly
divided by her into those who did and those who did not do such
things; and to be no longer quite sure to which half she belonged
was frightening. But what was the good of thinking, of being
frightened?--it could not lead to anything. Yesterday she had not
known this would come; and now she could not guess at to-morrow!
To-night was enough! To-night with its swimming loveliness! Just
to feel! To love, and to be loved!
A new sensation for her--as different from those excited by the
courtships of her girlhood, or by her marriage, as light from
darkness. For she had never been in love, not even with her
husband. She knew it now. The sun was shining in a world where
she had thought there was none. Nothing could come of it. But the
sun was shining; and in that sunshine she must warm herself a
Quite simply she began to plan what he and she would do. There
were six days left. They had not yet been to Gorbio, nor to
Castellar--none of those long walks or rides they had designed to
do for the beauty of them. Would he come early to-morrow? What
could they do together? No one should know what these six days
would be to her--not even he. To be with him, watch his face, hear
his voice, and now and then just touch him! She could trust
herself to show no one. And then, it would be--over! Though, of
course, she would see him again in London.
And, lying there in the dark, she thought of their first meeting,
one Sunday morning, in Hyde Park. The Colonel religiously observed
Church Parade, and would even come all the way down to Westminster,
from his flat near Knightsbridge, in order to fetch his niece up to
it. She remembered how, during their stroll, he had stopped
suddenly in front of an old gentleman with a puffy yellow face and
eyes half open.
"Ah! Mr. Heatherley--you up from Devonshire? How's your nephew--
And the old gentleman, glaring a little, as it seemed to her, from
under his eyelids and his grey top hat, had answered: "Colonel
Ercott, I think? Here's the fellow himself--Mark!" And a young
man had taken off his hat. She had only noticed at first that his
dark hair grew--not long--but very thick; and that his eyes were
very deep-set. Then she saw him smile; it made his face all eager,
yet left it shy; and she decided that he was nice. Soon after, she
had gone with the Ercotts to see his 'things'; for it was, of
course, and especially in those days, quite an event to know a
sculptor--rather like having a zebra in your park. The Colonel had
been delighted and a little relieved to find that the 'things' were
nearly all of beasts and birds. "Very interestin'" to one full of
curious lore about such, having in his time killed many of them,
and finding himself at the end of it with a curious aversion to
killing any more--which he never put into words.
Acquaintanceship had ripened fast after that first visit to his
studio, and now it was her turn to be relieved that Mark Lennan
devoted himself almost entirely to beasts and birds instead of to
the human form, so-called divine. Ah! yes--she would have
suffered; now that she loved him, she saw that. At all events she
could watch his work and help it with sympathy. That could not be
wrong. . . .
She fell asleep at last, and dreamed that she was in a boat alone
on the river near her country cottage, drifting along among spiky
flowers like asphodels, with birds singing and flying round her.
She could move neither face nor limbs, but that helpless feeling
was not unpleasant, till she became conscious that she was drawing
nearer and nearer to what was neither water nor land, light nor
darkness, but simply some unutterable feeling. And then she saw,
gazing at her out of the rushes on the banks, a great bull head.
It moved as she moved--it was on both sides of her, yet all the
time only one head. She tried to raise her hands and cover her
eyes, but could not--and woke with a sob. . . . It was light.
Nearly six o'clock already! Her dream made her disinclined to
trust again to sleep. Sleep was a robber now--of each minute of
these few days! She got up, and looked out. The morning was fine,
the air warm already, sweet with dew, and heliotrope nailed to the
wall outside her window. She had but to open her shutters and walk
into the sun. She dressed, took her sunshade, stealthily slipped
the shutters back, and stole forth. Shunning the hotel garden,
where the eccentricity of her early wandering might betray the
condition of her spirit, she passed through into the road toward
the Casino. Without perhaps knowing it, she was making for where
she had sat with him yesterday afternoon, listening to the band.
Hatless, but defended by her sunshade, she excited the admiration
of the few connoisseurs as yet abroad, strolling in blue blouses to
their labours; and this simple admiration gave her pleasure. For
once she was really conscious of the grace in her own limbs,
actually felt the gentle vividness of her own face, with its nearly
black hair and eyes, and creamy skin--strange sensation, and very
In the Casino gardens she walked more slowly, savouring the
aromatic trees, and stopping to bend and look at almost every
flower; then, on the seat, where she had sat with him yesterday,
she rested. A few paces away were the steps that led to the
railway-station, trodden upwards eagerly by so many, day after day,
night after night, and lightly or sorrowfully descended. Above
her, two pines, a pepper-tree, and a palm mingled their shade--so
fantastic the jumbling of trees and souls in this strange place!
She furled her sunshade and leaned back. Her gaze, free and
friendly, passed from bough to bough. Against the bright sky,
unbesieged as yet by heat or dust, they had a spiritual look, lying
sharp and flat along the air. She plucked a cluster of pinkish
berries from the pepper-tree, crushing and rubbing them between her
hands to get their fragrance. All these beautiful and sweet things
seemed to be a part of her joy at being loved, part of this sudden
summer in her heart. The sky, the flowers, that jewel of green-
blue sea, the bright acacias, were nothing in the world but love.
And those few who passed, and saw her sitting there under the
pepper-tree, wondered no doubt at the stillness of this dame bien
mise, who had risen so early.
In the small hours, which so many wish were smaller, the Colonel
had awakened, with the affair of the handkerchief swelling visibly.
His niece's husband was not a man that he had much liking for--a
taciturn fellow, with possibly a bit of the brute in him, a man who
rather rode people down; but, since Dolly and he were in charge of
Olive, the notion that young Lennan was falling in love with her
under their very noses was alarming to one naturally punctilious.
It was not until he fell asleep again, and woke in full morning
light, that the remedy occurred to him. She must be taken out of
herself! Dolly and he had been slack; too interested in this queer
place, this queer lot of people! They had neglected her, left her
to. . . Boys and girls!--One ought always to remember. But it was
not too late. She was old Lindsay's daughter; would not forget
herself. Poor old Lindsay--fine fellow; bit too much, perhaps, of
the--Huguenot in him! Queer, those throw-backs! Had noticed in
horses, time and again--white hairs about the tail, carriage of the
head--skip generations and then pop out. And Olive had something
of his look--the same ivory skin, same colour of eyes and hair!
Only she was not severe, like her father, not exactly! And once
more there shot through the Colonel a vague dread, as of a
trusteeship neglected. It disappeared, however, in his bath.
He was out before eight o'clock, a thin upright figure in hard
straw hat and grey flannel clothes, walking with the indescribable
loose poise of the soldier Englishman, with that air, different
from the French, German, what not, because of shoulders ever
asserting, through their drill, the right to put on mufti; with
that perfectly quiet and modest air of knowing that, whatever might
be said, there was only one way of wearing clothes and moving legs.
And, as he walked, he smoothed his drooping grey moustache,
considering how best to take his niece out of herself. He passed
along by the Terrace, and stood for a moment looking down at the
sea beyond the pigeon-shooting ground. Then he moved on round
under the Casino into the gardens at the back. A beautiful spot!
Wonderful care they had taken with the plants! It made him think a
little of Tushawore, where his old friend the Rajah--precious old
rascal!--had gardens to his palace rather like these. He paced
again to the front. It was nice and quiet in the early mornings,
with the sea down there, and nobody trying to get the better of
anybody else. There were fellows never happy unless they were
doing someone in the eye. He had known men who would ride at the
devil himself, make it a point of honour to swindle a friend out of
a few pounds! Odd place this 'Monte'--sort of a Garden of Eden
gone wrong. And all the real, but quite inarticulate love of
Nature, which had supported the Colonel through deserts and
jungles, on transports at sea, and in mountain camps, awoke in the
sweetness of these gardens. His dear mother! He had never
forgotten the words with which she had shown him the sunset through
the coppice down at old Withes Norton, when he was nine years old:
"That is beauty, Jack! Do you feel it, darling?" He had not felt
it at the time--not he; a thick-headed, scampering youngster. Even
when he first went to India he had had no eye for a sunset. The
rising generation were different. That young couple, for instance,
under the pepper-tree, sitting there without a word, just looking
at the trees. How long, he wondered, had they been sitting like
that? And suddenly something in the Colonel leaped; his steel-
coloured eyes took on their look of out-facing death. Choking down
a cough, he faced about, back to where he had stood above the
pigeon-shooting ground. . . . Olive and that young fellow! An
assignation! At this time in the morning! The earth reeled. His
brother's child--his favourite niece! The woman whom he most
admired--the woman for whom his heart was softest. Leaning over
the stone parapet, no longer seeing either the smooth green of the
pigeon-shooting ground, or the smooth blue of the sea beyond, he
was moved, distressed, bewildered beyond words. Before breakfast!
That was the devil of it! Confession, as it were, of everything.
Moreover, he had seen their hands touching on the seat. The blood
rushed up to his face; he had seen, spied out, what was not
intended for his eyes. Nice position--that! Dolly, too, last
night, had seen. But that was different. Women might see things--
it was expected of them. But for a man--a--a gentleman! The
fullness of his embarrassment gradually disclosed itself. His
hands were tied. Could he even consult Dolly? He had a feeling of
isolation, of utter solitude. Nobody--not anybody in the world--
could understand his secret and intense discomfort. To take up a
position--the position he was bound to take up, as Olive's nearest
relative and protector, and--what was it--chaperon, by the aid of
knowledge come at in such a way, however unintentionally! Never in
all his days in the regiment--and many delicate matters affecting
honour had come his way--had he had a thing like this to deal with.
Poor child! But he had no business to think of her like that. No,
indeed! She had not behaved--as--And there he paused, curiously
unable to condemn her. Suppose they got up and came that way!
He took his hands off the stone parapet, and made for his hotel.
His palms were white from the force of his grip. He said to
himself as he went along: "I must consider the whole question
calmly; I must think it out." This gave him relief. With young
Lennan, at all events, he could be angry. But even there he found,
to his dismay, no finality of judgment. And this absence of
finality, so unwonted, distressed him horribly. There was
something in the way the young man had been sitting there beside
her--so quiet, so almost timid--that had touched him. This was
bad, by Jove--very bad! The two of them, they made, somehow, a
nice couple! Confound it! This would not do! The chaplain of the
little English church, passing at this moment, called out, "Fine
morning, Colonel Ercott." The Colonel saluted, and did not answer.
The greeting at the moment seemed to him paltry. No morning could
be fine that contained such a discovery. He entered the hotel,
passed into the dining-room, and sat down. Nobody was there. They
all had their breakfast upstairs, even Dolly. Olive alone was in
the habit of supporting him while he ate an English breakfast. And
suddenly he perceived that he was face to face already with this
dreadful situation. To have breakfast without, as usual, waiting
for her, seemed too pointed. She might be coming in at any minute
now. To wait for her, and have it, without showing anything--how
could he do that?
He was conscious of a faint rustling behind him. There she was,
and nothing decided. In this moment of hopeless confusion the
Colonel acted by pure instinct, rose, patted her cheek, and placed
"Well, my dear," he said; "hungry?"
She was looking very dainty, very soft. That creamy dress showed
off her dark hair and eyes, which seemed somehow to be--flying off
somewhere; yes--it was queer, but that was the only way to put it.
He got no reassurance, no comfort, from the sight of her. And
slowly he stripped the skin from the banana with which he always
commenced breakfast. One might just as well be asked to shoot a
tame dove or tear a pretty flower to pieces as be expected to take
her to task, even if he could, in honour. And he sought refuge in
"Been out?" Then could have bitten his tongue off. Suppose she
But she did not so answer. The colour came into her cheeks,
indeed, but she nodded: "It's so lovely!"
How pretty she looked saying that! He had put himself out of court
now--could never tell her what he had seen, after setting, as it
were, that trap for her; and presently he asked:
"Got any plans to-day?"
She answered, without flinching in the least:
"Mark Lennan and I were going to take mules from Mentone up to
He was amazed at her steadiness--never, to his knowledge, having
encountered a woman armoured at every point to preserve a love that
flies against the world. How tell what was under her smile! And
in confusion of feeling that amounted almost to pain he heard her
"Will you and Aunt Dolly come?"
Between sense of trusteeship and hatred of spoiling sport; between
knowledge of the danger she was in and half-pitying admiration at
the sight of her; between real disapproval of an illicit and
underhand business (what else was it, after all?) and some dim
perception that here was something he did not begin to be able to
fathom--something that perhaps no one but those two themselves
could deal with--between these various extremes he was lost indeed.
And he stammered out:
"I must ask your aunt; she's--she's not very good on a mule."
Then, in an impulse of sheer affection, he said with startling
suddenness: "My dear, I've often meant to ask, are you happy at
There was something sinister about the way she repeated that, as if
the word "home" were strange to her.
She drank her coffee and got up; and the Colonel felt afraid of
her, standing there--afraid of what she was going to tell him. He
grew very red. But, worse than all, she said absolutely nothing;
only shrugged her shoulders with a little smile that went to his
On the wild thyme, under the olives below the rock village of
Gorbio, with their mules cropping at a little distance, those two
sat after their lunch, listening to the cuckoos. Since their
uncanny chance meeting that morning in the gardens, when they sat
with their hands just touching, amazed and elated by their own good
fortune, there was not much need to say what they felt, to break
with words this rapture of belonging to each other--so shyly, so
wildly, so, as it were, without reality. They were like epicures
with old wine in their glasses, not yet tired of its fragrance and
the spell of anticipation.
And so their talk was not of love, but, in that pathetic way of
star-crossed lovers, of the things they loved; leaving out--each
It was the telling of her dream that brought the words from him at
last; but she drew away, and answered:
"It can't--it mustn't be!"
Then he just clung to her hand; and presently, seeing that her eyes
were wet, took courage enough to kiss her cheek.
Trembling and fugitive indeed that first passage of their love.
Not much of the conquering male in him, nor in her of the ordinary
And then they went, outwardly sober enough, riding their mules down
the stony slopes back to Mentone.
But in the grey, dusty railway-carriage when she had left him, he
was like a man drugged, staring at where she had sat opposite.
Two hours later, at dinner in her hotel, between her and Mrs.
Ercott, with the Colonel opposite, he knew for the first time what
he was faced with. To watch every thought that passed within him,
lest it should by the slightest sign betray him; to regulate and
veil every look and every word he spoke to her; never for a second
to forget that these other persons were actual and dangerous, not
merely the insignificant and grotesque shadows that they seemed.
It would be perhaps for ever a part of his love for her to seem not
to love her. He did not dare dream of fulfilment. He was to be
her friend, and try to bring her happiness--burn and long for her,
and not think about reward. This was his first real overwhelming
passion--so different to the loves of spring--and he brought to it
all that naivete, that touching quality of young Englishmen, whose
secret instinct it is to back away from the full nature of love,
even from admitting that it has that nature. They two were to
love, and--not to love! For the first time he understood a little
of what that meant. A few stolen adoring minutes now and then,