Part 10 out of 15
you don't know who you are. It is incredible. You would never give
yourself such airs if you hadn't something to go upon. And, besides, you
command respect naturally, as well-bred people do. And you have all the
manner and bearing of a man accustomed to good society. You have the
accent, too, and all the rest of it. The difficulty in your case is to
believe in the actress. She was a very superior kind of actress, I
suspect. And, at any rate, you must have been brought up and educated by
somebody. Do tell me, Israfil. I am burning to know."
"Your curiosity is quite womanish, Boy."
"That is quite the right word," the Boy answered glibly. "Women are
generous and elevated, and 'a generous and elevated mind is distinguished
by nothing more certainly than an eminent curiosity.'"
The Tenor changed his position slightly, and, in doing so, absently laid
his hand on the Boy's head: "What queer dry hair you have," he said.
The Boy drew back resentfully. "I wish you wouldn't touch my hair," he
said. "I know it's nasty dry hair. It's a sore point with me. I think you
should respect it."
"I beg your pardon," the Tenor answered. "I really didn't know you were so
sensitive on the subject. But why on earth do you come so close? You put
that remarkable head of yours under my hand, and then growl at me for
touching it. And really it is a temptation. If I were a man of science
instead of a simple artist I should like to examine it inside and out."
The Boy put both hands up to his head and laughed, delighted as usual by
any jest at his own expense. He had moved his footstool back a little now,
and sat, stroking his upper lip thoughtfully, and looking at the Tenor.
There was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, and he seemed to have
forgotten his desire to know the Tenor's secret history. "Why don't you
wear a moustache?" he said suddenly.
The Tenor looked at him lazily. "Well, I never did wear one," he said.
"But I could not in any case have worn one with a surplice."
The Boy nodded his head sagely. "I forgot," he said. "Of course that would
have been bad form. A parson is always vulgarized in appearance by wearing
a military moustache. The effect is as incongruous as a tail would be if
added to a figure with wings. But, tell me, do you think my moustache will
be the colour of my eyebrows when it comes?"
"Oh, Boy!" the Tenor exclaimed, "this is quite refreshing; especially from
you. You will be quite young in time if you go on."
The Boy grinned in his peculiar way, and then got up and began to walk
about the room. The Tenor thought from the expression of his face that he
was meditating mischief; but before he had time to put it into effect the
big bell boomed above them, striking the hour, and then came the chime.
The Boy hated the chime. He said it was flat; he said it was importunate,
like an ill-bred person; he said it mingled inopportunely with everything;
he declared it had a spite against him, and would do him an injury if it
could; when he was good he said it made him bad, and when he was bad it
made him worse. The Tenor had expected to hear him swear at it; but, oddly
enough, considering some of his aberrations, the Boy never swore. His
ideas were occasionally shocking, but, with the exception of certain
_boyishnesses_, in the expression of them he was a purist.
He went off now, however, anathematizing the chime, and the Tenor was
almost glad to get rid of him. The Boy's superabundant vitality alone was
fatiguing, and when he added, as he often did, a certain something of
manner to it which was perplexing and irritating in the extreme, he left
the Tenor not only fatigued, but jarred all over. Yet he spent the
interval which usually elapsed before the Boy returned in making excuses
for him, and also in making preparations.
The Tenor was obliged to leave the window of his sitting room which looked
out on the little grass plot in front of his house and the cathedral
opposite, open always now, rain, blow, or snow, for the convenience of the
Boy. The latter had changed, his mind about forcing an entrance. If the
Tenor, he said, would not make it quite evident that he wanted him by
leaving the window open so that he could come in his own way whenever he
chose, he should not come at all. The window was his way; and on one
occasion when he had found it shut he had gone home, intending, as he
afterward declared, never to return; but he had changed his mind and
reappeared after an unusually long interval, when the Tenor, to use the
Boy's own phrase, "caught it" for his want of hospitality. Of course, he
acknowledged, he might have come in by the door, or he might have knocked
at the window; but then he did not choose to come in by the door or knock
at the window, so that was all about it. If the Tenor wanted to see him he
knew how to make him feel he was welcome, and so on until, for the sake of
peace and quietness, the Tenor was again obliged to yield.
Oh, the moods of that terrible Boy! No two the same and none to be relied
on! Sometimes he was like a wild creature, there was no holding him, no
knowing what he would do next; and the Tenor used to tremble lest he
should carry out one of his impossible threats, among which serenading the
dean, upsetting the chime, climbing the cathedral spire on the outside, or
throwing stones at the stained-glass saints in the great west window, were
intentions so often expressed that there seemed some likelihood of one or
other of them being eventually put into execution. Then again he would
saunter in about midnight, and sit down in a dejected attitude, looking
unutterably miserable; he would hardly answer when the Tenor spoke to him,
and if he did not speak he resented it; neither would he eat, nor drink,
nor make music, and if the Tenor sang he sometimes burst into tears.
On other occasions he was the most commonplace creature imaginable. He
would talk about a book he had been reading, a new picture his "people"
had bought, the society in the neighbourhood; anything, in fact, to which
the Tenor would listen, and the latter was often astonished by the
acuteness of his perceptions, and the worldly wisdom of his conclusions.
The Tenor made every allowance for these changes of mood, which, if they
were trying at times--and certainly they were trying--were interesting
also and amusing. He knew what an affliction the sensitive, nervous,
artistic temperament is; what a power of suffering it hides beneath the
more superficial power to be pleased; and he pitied the Boy, who was an
artist in every sense. He also thought there had been mistakes made in his
"Did you ever go to a public school, Boy?" he asked one night.
"Well, no," the Boy rejoined. "I had the advantage of being educated with
Angelica. They kindly allowed me to share her tutor. I was thrown in, you
understand, just to fill up his time. And that is how it is I am so
refined and cultivated."
"But seriously?" said the Tenor.
The Boy raised his eyebrows. "Seriously?" he repeated. "But do you think
it delicate to question me so closely? Ah, I see, poor fellow! You don't
know any better. But really your curiosity is quite womanish. I will tell
you, however. I had the misfortune to sever my femoral artery when I was a
brat, and, although it seems to have come quite right now, it was not
thought advisable for me to rough it at a public school."
"But why on earth are they putting you in the army?" the Tenor asked.
"You mean I am much too pretty?" said the Boy, "not to mention my brains
and manners. Well, there I must agree with you. It does seem a sad waste
of valuable material. But it is only to fill up an interval. I shall be
put into a permanent billet of another kind eventually, whether I like it
"You mean you will be put into the earth to enrich it, I suppose?"
"Well, no. I was not so smart," said the Boy. "Now, that is rather a good
one for you. Oh, I suspect, if I could plumb your depth, I should find
myself but a simple, shallow child in comparison. No; what I meant was
that eventually a certain amount of earth would come to me to enrich me."
"But what does your father think about this military manoeuvre?"
"My father _think!_" roared the Boy. "O Lord! you don't know my
father!" and he fairly curled himself up in convulsions of silent
laughter, which the Tenor thought unseemly considering the subject of it,
but he said no more. He knew that there was nothing to be done with such a
boy but to wait and hope; and that was the attitude into which the Tenor
found himself most prone to fall in these days with regard to things in
general; being greatly cheered meanwhile by the sight of his lovely lady,
who smiled at him now without doubt, and was seldom absent from her
accustomed seat in the Canon's pew when he sang.
The Tenor looked better now, and more out of place than ever in the choir--
better, that is to say, in the sense of being more attractive; but he was
not looking strong, and the common faces about him seemed commoner still
when contrasted with the exceptional refinement of his own. The constant
self-denial he had been obliged to exercise in order to indulge the
fancies of that rapacious Boy, although a pleasure in itself, was
beginning to tell upon him. His features had sharpened a little, his skin
was transparent to a fault, and the brightness of his yellow hair, if it
added to the quite peculiar beauty, added something also to the too great
delicacy of his face. It was the brightness of his hair that suggested
such names for him as "Balder the Beautiful" and "Son of the Morning" to
the Boy, who invariably called him by some such fanciful appellation.
It was at this time, too, that a great painter came to Morningquest and
painted a picture called "_Music_," the interest of which centred in
the Tenor himself singing, while Angelica gazed at him as if she were
The Boy used to describe this picture to the Tenor while it was in
progress, but the latter, listening in his dreamy way, was under the
impression for some time that the work was one of his young friend's own
imagination only. By degrees, however, it dawned upon him that the picture
was an actual fact, and then he was displeased. He thought that the artist
had taken a liberty with regard to himself, and been guilty of an
impertinence so far as his lovely lady was concerned.
"Well, so I told him," said the Boy. "But you know, dear Israfil, that in
the interests of art as well as in the interests of science, men are
carried away to such an extent that they sometimes forget to be
scrupulous. It is curious," he broke off, gazing at the Tenor critically,
"that Angelica should specially admire your chin. It is your mouth that
appeals to me. You have a regular Rossitti-Burne-Jones-Dante's-Dream-and-
Blessed-Damosel kind of mouth, with full firm lips. I should think you're
the sort of fellow that women would like to kiss. Don't try to look as
if you wouldn't kiss a woman just once in a way, dear old chap! Women
hate men like priests, who mustn't kiss them if they would; and they have
no respect for other men who wouldn't kiss them if they could. I know
The last words were delivered from outside in the garden after the Boy had
made his escape through the window.
How long the Tenor's dream would have remained unbroken by action it is
hard to say. His want of personal ambition, his perfect serenity of mind,
and his thankfulness for a state of things so much more blissful than
anything he had ever expected to fall to his lot again; the languid summer
weather, and his affectionate anxiety for the Boy, all combined to keep
him in Morningquest, and to keep his indefinite plans for the future still
Other people, however, were not so apathetic. The dean's friendly
remonstrances had been redoubled of late; the Boy had become importunate;
and even the mild musicians of Morningquest, whose boast it was to have
that bright particular star in their own little firmament, ventured to
hint respectfully that he was not doing his duty by himself. All this
kindly interest in his future career was not without its effect upon him,
and if it did not actually rouse him to act, it put him in the mood to be
He was sitting alone one evening in his accustomed seat, beside the
fireplace, or rather beside the bank of ferns and flowering plants which
he had arranged before the fireplace so as to hide it, at the instigation
of the Boy. A shaded lamp stood on a table behind him, throwing its
softened light from over his shoulder on to the big book which lay open on
his knee. But he was not reading. He had placed his hands upon the book,
and was resting his head on the back of the chair. His yellow hair seemed
to shine out of the surrounding gloom with a light of its own; but his
face was in shadow.
The window at the further end of the room behind him was shut, and the
creepers outside brushed gently against it, tapping now and then, and
keeping up a continual soft rustle and murmur of leaves, like friendly
voices, soothing insensibly.
The other window was open as usual, and as he sat now he could see the old
cathedral opposite towering above him. It was a bright moonlight night;
the shadows were strong, and the details of the facade, flying buttress,
gargoyle and cornice, with a glimpse of the apse and spire, were all
distinct. But as the Tenor thoughtfully perused them, the whole fabric
suddenly disappeared from view, blotted out by an opaque body round which
the moonlight showed like a rim of silver, tracing in outline the slender
figure of the Boy. The Tenor had forgotten him for once, and was startled
from his reverie by the unexpected apparition; but he did not alter his
position or make any sign. The Boy preferred to come and go like that,
ungreeted and unquestioned, and the Tenor of course humoured this harmless
peculiarity with the rest.
The Boy sauntered in now in a casual way, arranged his hair at a mirror,
threw himself into an armchair, leant back, crossed his legs, folded both
hands on his hat, which lie held on his knee, and looked at the Tenor
In the little pause that followed, the Tenor glanced at his book again,
and then he closed it.
"Israfil," the Boy said suddenly, leaning forward to look at the book, as
if to make sure, and speaking in an awestruck voice--"is that the
_Bible_ you were reading?"
Any evidence of the Tenor's simple piety, which was neither concealed nor
displayed, because it was in no way affected but quite natural to him, and
he was, therefore, unconscious of it, had a peculiar effect upon the Boy.
It seemed to shock him. But whether it made him feel ashamed or not, it is
impossible to say. Sometimes, the first effect over, he would remain
thoughtful, as if subdued by it; but at others it appeared to have
irritated him, and made him aggressively cynical.
To-night he was all subdued.
"You believe it, Israfil, don't you?" he said. "'He watching' is a fact
The Tenor did not answer, except by folding his hands upon his book again,
and looking at the Boy.
"Now, _I_ don't believe a word of it," the latter pursued, "but it
makes me feel. I have my moments. The Bible is a wonderful book. I open it
sometimes, and read it haphazard. I did last night, and came upon--oh,
Israfil, the grand simplicity of it all! the wonderful solemn earnestness!
It brought me to my knees, and made me hold up my hands; but I could not
pray. I heard the chime, though, that night. It sounded insistent. It
seemed to assert itself in a new way. It was as if it spoke to me alone,
and I felt a strange sense of something pending--something for which I
shall have to answer. 'He watching.' Yes. I feel all that.
But"--dejectedly--"one feels so much more than one knows; and when I want
to know, I am never satisfied. Trying to find the little we know amongst
the lot that we feel is a veritable search for mignonette seeds in sand."
The Tenor continued silent and thoughtful for a time. "But do you never
pray, dear Boy?" he said at last.
The Boy shook his head.
"_Did_ you never?"
"Oh, yes,"--more cheerfully. "I used to believe in all the bogies at one
"I am afraid you have been brought under some bad influence, then. Tell
me, who was it?"
"Angelica," said the boy.
"Oh, Boy! your sister!"
"Ah, you don't know that young lady!" the Boy rejoined, with his cynical
chuckle. "She is very fascinating, I allow; but always, in her
conversation, 'the serpent hisses where the sweet bird sings.'"
The Tenor toyed with the cover of his book, and was silent.
After a time the Boy spoke diffidently. "But do _you_ pray, Israfil?"
"Yes," the Tenor answered. "I try to make prayer the attitude of my mind
always--I mean I try to be, and to do, and to think nothing that I could
not make a subject of prayer at any time. But I do not think that a direct
petition is the only or best way to pray. It seems to me that it is in a
certain attitude of mind we find the highest form of prayer, a reverential
attitude toward all things good and beautiful, by which we attain to an
inexpressible tenderness, that enemy of evil emotions, and also to rest
and peace and a great deep solemn joy which is permanent."
"I don't think I ever knew a man before who prayed regularly," the Boy
observed thoughtfully, rising as he spoke, and standing with his hat on:
"except the clergy, I suppose. But then that is their profession, and so
one thinks nothing of it. But I wonder if many men of the world pray? I
suppose they have to give up everything that makes life pleasant before
they can conscientiously begin."
"Far from it," said the Tenor, smiling. "But you are going early! Aren't
The Boy grinned as if the insinuation were flattering. "No, I am not
hungry," he answered. "I dined at home to-night for a wonder, and when I
do that I don't generally want any more for some time. By home I mean at
my grandad's, where they always have seven or eight courses, and I can't
resist any of them. I lose my self respect, but satisfy my voracity, which
has the effect of improving the greediness out of my mind. But I am in a
hurry this evening, and I have already outstayed my time. I only came in
for a moment to ask you if you are to sing to-morrow?"
The Tenor nodded.
"In that case I am to beg you for 'Waft her, Angels.' Angelica ventures to
make the request. Good-night!"
The words were scarcely spoken, and his flying footsteps were still
audible as he ran lightly up the Close, when the cathedral clock began to
strike. There was only one emphatic throb of the iron tongue, followed by
a long reverberation, and then came the chime.
The Tenor, who had risen, stood listening, with upturned face, until the
But the chime failed of its effect for once. There was something weary and
enigmatical in the old worn strain. Hitherto, it had always been a comfort
and an assurance to him, but to-night, for the first time, it was fraught
with some portentous meaning. Was there any cause for alarm in what was
happening? any reason for fear that should make it merciful to prepare him
with migivings? It was no new thing for the Tenor to be asked to sing
something special, and he tried to think such a request, although it came
from Angelica--if indeed it came from her, and was not a fabrication of
the Boy's--was a whim as trifling as the rest. But even if it were,
trifles, as all the world knows, are not to be despised. Someone has said
already that they made up the sum of life, and it may also be observed
that the hand of death is weighted by them.
The Tenor happened to be entering the cathedral next day for the afternoon
service just as Angelica was being handed from a carriage by a singular
looking man who wore _pince-nez_, was clean shaven, and had an
immense head of hair. Angelica very evidently called the attention of this
gentleman to the Tenor as he passed, and the latter heard the "Ach!" of
satisfaction to which the stranger gave utterance when he had adjusted his
_pince-nez_ with undisguised interest, and taken the Tenor in.
The latter felt that he had seen the man before, and while he was putting
on his surplice he remembered who he was, an _impresario_, well-known
by sight to regular opera goers and musicians generally. Having
established his identity, the reason of his presence there that afternoon
was at once apparent. The Tenor had been requested to sing a solo which
was admirably calculated to display the range and flexibility of his voice
to the best advantage, and the _impresario_ had been brought to hear
him. The mountain had come to Mahomet.
The Tenor never sang better than upon that occasion, and he had scarcely
reached his cottage after the service was over, when the _impresario_
burst in upon him, having, in his eagerness, omitted the ceremony of
knocking. He seized the Tenor's hand, exclaiming in broken English:--"Oh,
my tear froind, you are an ideal!" Then he flung his hat on the floor, and
curvetted about the room, alternately rubbing his hands and running his
fingers upward through his luxuriant hair till it stood on end all over
his head. "And have I found you?" he cried sentimentally, apostrophising
the ceiling. "Oh, have I found you? What a _Lohengrin!_ Ach Gott! it
is the prince himself. Boat"--and he stopped prancing in order to point
his long forefinger at the Tenor's chest--"boat you are an actor born, my
froind! You was the _Prince of Devotion_ himself jus' now. You do
that part as if you feel him too! Why"--jerking his head towards the
cathedral with a gesture which signified that if he had not seen the thing
himself he never could have believed it--"why, you loose yourself in there
kompletely!" Then he asked the Tenor to sing again, which the Tenor did,
being careful, however, not to give his excitable visitor too much lest
the intoxicating draught should bring on a fit.
The music-mad-one had come to make the Tenor golden offers, and he did not
leave him now until the Tenor had agreed to accept them.
The dean came in by chance in time to witness the conclusion of the
bargain, adding by his congratulations and good wishes to the Tenor's own
belief that such an opportunity was not to be lost. The drawings the Tenor
had been doing for the dean were all but finished now, and it was arranged
that the Tenor should enter upon his new engagement in one month's time.
When he found himself alone at last and could think the matter over, he
was thoroughly content with what he had done. There could be no doubt now
as to whose wish it was that he should go and make a name for himself; and
he felt sure that the step he was about to take would not lead to the
separation he dreaded, but rather to the union for which he might at last
without presumption; after such encouragement, venture to hope.
A few nights after the Tenor had signed the agreement the Boy burst in
upon him, exclaiming in guttural accents: "Oh, my tear froind! have I
found you?" Then he threw his hat on the floor and began to prance up and
down, waving his hands ecstatically.
The Tenor picked up a cushion and threw it at him. "You wretched Boy!" he
said laughing. "Who told you he did that?"
"Oh, my _dear_ Israfil!" the Boy replied. "Why on earth do you ask
who _told_ me? You must know by this time, and if you don't you
should, that genius does not require to be told. Given the man and the
circumstances, and we'll tell you exactly what he'll do, don't you know,"
and the Boy showed his teeth.
But the Tenor was not convinced. "Knowing your patience and zeal when
engaged in the pursuit of knowledge--I think that was the euphemism you
employed the last time you had to apologize for the unscrupulous
indulgence of your boundless curiosity," the Tenor, standing with his back
to the Boy, observed with easy deliberation, as he filled and lighted a
pipe, "I have little doubt that you assisted at the interview from some
safe coigne of 'vantage--to borrow another of your pet-expressions--perhaps
from the closet under the stairs there--"
"Or from behind the sofa," the Boy suggested, with that enigmatical grin
of his which the Tenor disliked, perhaps because it was enigmatical, "Like
my new suit, Israfil?" he demanded in exactly the same tone. He had on a
spotless flannel boating suit, with a silk handkerchief of many colours,
knotted picturesquely round his neck.
"It's too new," said the Tenor. "It looks as if you'd got it for private
theatricals, and taken great care of it."
The Boy laughed, and then, assuming another character, he began to
remonstrate with himself playfully in the Tenor's voice.
"Boy, will you never be more manly?" and "Don't mock, Boy!" and "Boy, you
have no soul!" and "Oh, Boy, you're not high-minded." Then he did a love
scene between the Tenor and Angelica. The Tenor tried to stop this last
performance, but he only made matters worse, for the Boy argued the
question out in Angelica's voice, taking the part of "dear Claude"--he
still insisted that his name was Claude--and ending with: "Dear Israfil,
we are so happy ourselves, I think Claude should have a little latitude
to-night. He studies so hard, poor boy, he deserves some indulgence."
When this amusement ceased to divert him, he announced his intention of
going on the stage, of not going home till morning, and of being rowed
down the river in the meantime.
"But where will you get a boat at this time of night?" the Tenor objected.
"You're not a man of much imagination," said the Boy, "or you wouldn't
have asked such a question. How do you suppose I come every night, after
all the world is barred and bolted out of your sacred Close, and the
alternative lies between the porter at the postern, whom you know I shun,
and the water-gate?"
"Do you mean to say you row yourself down the river, every time you come?"
"I do," said the Boy complacently.
"I didn't think you could!" was the Tenor's naive ejaculation.
The Boy was delighted. "It never struck you, I suppose," he chuckled,
"that my fragile appearance might be delusive? Haven't you noticed I never
"Yes," said the Tenor. "But I thought that you probably paid for these
nights of dissipation by days of languor."
The Boy laughed again. "Don't know the sensation," he declared. "Days of
laziness would be nearer the mark. I have plenty of them."
It was a lovely night, all pervaded by the fragrance of the flowers in the
gardens round about the Close.
They sauntered out, turning to the left from the Tenor's cottage, the
cathedral being on their right, the cloisters in front. The Boy walked up
to the latter and peeped in, "Come here, dear Israfil," he said
obligingly, "and I will show you the beauties of the place. These are the
cloisters, and, as you see, they form a hollow square, nearly two hundred
feet long, and twelve feet wide, Yon slowly rising moon shows the bare
quadrangle In the centre, and the tracery of the windows opposite; but the
exquisite groining of the roof, and the quaintly sculptured bosses, are
still hidden in deep darkness. The light, however, brightens in the
northeast corner, and--if you weren't in such a _hem_ hurry, Israfil--"
The Tenor had walked on, but the Boy stayed where he was, and now began
to improve the occasion at the top of his voice.
The Tenor returned hurriedly. "For Heaven's sake hold your tongue!" he
expostulated, "You'll wake the whole Close."
"I was calling your attention to the details of the architecture," the Boy
rejoined politely; and, as usual, for the sake of peace and quietness the
unfortunate Tenor was obliged to hear him out.
When he stopped, the Tenor exclaimed "Thank Heaven!" devoutly, then added,
"No fear for your exams, Boy, if you can cram like that. But I did not
know you were a cultivated archaeologist."
"Nor am I," said the Boy with a shiver. "I hate architecture, and I don't
want to know about it, but I can't help picking it up. It is horrid to
remember that that arch yonder was built in the time of William the
Conqueror. I never look at it without feeling the oppression of the ages
come upon me. And when I get into this bigoted Close and think of the
heathenish way the people live in it, shutting themselves in from the rest
of the citizens with unchristian ideas of their own superiority, I am
confirmed in my unbelief. I feel if there were any truth in that religion,
those who profess it would have begun to practise its precepts by this
time; they would not be content to teach it for ever without trying it
themselves. And oh!"--shaking his fist at the cathedral--"I loathe the
deeds of darkness that are done there in the name of the Lord."
"What unhappy experience are you alluding to, Boy?" said the Tenor,
"I was thinking of Edith--poor Edith Beale," the Boy replied, "But don't
ask me to tell you that story if you have not heard it. It makes my blood
boil with indignation."
"I have heard it," the Tenor answered sadly. "But, Boy, dear, every honest
man deplores such circumstances as much as you do."
"Then why do they occur?" the Boy asked hotly. "If the honest men were in
earnest, such blackguardism would not go unpunished. But don't let us talk
They went through the arm of the Close in the centre of which the lime
trees grew round a grassy space enclosed from the road by a light iron
railing. "This is grateful!" the Boy exclaimed, as they passed under the
old trees, lingering a while to listen to the rustle and murmur of the
leaves. Then they emerged once more into the moonlight, and took their way
down the little lane that led to the water-gate. Here they found an
elegant cockle-shell of a boat tied up, "a most ladylike craft," said the
"I'll steer," said the Boy, fixing the rudder, and then arranging the
cushions for himself, while the Tenor meekly took the oars.
With one strong stroke he brought the boat into mid-stream, then headed
her down the river toward the sea, and settled to his oars with a long
steady pull that roused the admiration of the Boy.
"You row like a 'Varsity man," he said.
"So I should," was the laconic rejoinder.
"_Are_ you a 'Varsity man?"
"Oxford, then, I'll bet. And did you take your degree?"
The Tenor nodded.
"Well, you _are_ a queer chap!" said the Boy. "Were you expelled?"
The Tenor shook his head. "Did you do _anything_ disgraceful?" The
Tenor again made a sign of negation. "Then why on earth did you come and
bury yourself alive in Morningquest?"
"That I might have the pleasure of rowing you down the river by moonlight,
apparently," the Tenor answered, but without a smile.
"I'd give my ears to know!" the Boy ejaculated.
"I quite believe you would!" said the Tenor, pausing to speak; after which
he bent to his oars with a will, and the banks became a moving panorama to
their vision as they passed. Now they swept under a light iron bridge that
crossed the river with one bold span, and connected a busy thoroughfare of
the city with a pleasant shady suburb beyond. Then they wound round a
curve, and on their left was a broad towing-path, and beautiful old trees,
and a high paling made of sleepers shutting out the view; while on the
right, those crowded dwellings of the poor which add so much to a picture,
especially by moonlight, and so little to the loveliness of life, rose
from the water's edge and straggled up the rising ground, tumbling over
each other in every sort of picturesque irregularity. Ahead of them, the
river was landlocked by a wooded hill; and, also facing them, was an old
round tower on the towing-path, above which the round moon shown in an
empty indigo sky.
"Stop a minute, Israfil," said the Boy, "and turn your head, Who does it
make you think of?"
"Old Chrome," the Tenor answered, looking over his shoulder. "It is
The river was quite narrow here, and on either side were long lines of
pleasure-boats moored to the bank, and an occasional flat tied-up for the
night, with its big brown sails, looking like webbed wings, hoisted to
dry. Further on they met a barge coming up the river, and the Boy wished
the man who was steering a polite good-night, and hoped he'd have a
pleasant passage and no bad weather; to which piece of facetiousness the
bargee replied good-humouredly, having mistaken the boy's contralto for a
woman's voice, an error of judgment at which the latter affected to rage,
much to the amusement of the Tenor.
But they were out of the city by this time. On their right was a
gentleman's park, well-wooded, and sloping up from the river to a gentle
eminence crowned by a crest of trees; on their left, across some fields,
the villas of that pleasant suburb before mentioned studded the rising
ground, appearing also among old trees, beneath which they and their quiet
gardens nestled peacefully. There were trees everywhere--beech and
laburnum and larch, horsechestnut and lime and poplar, as far as the eye
could reach, and the latter, standing straight up in the barer spots, were
a notable feature in the landscape, as were also the alder-cars and
occasional osier beds dotted about in marshy places.
The pleasant suburb straggled out to an ancient village, past which a
reach of the river wound, but the Boy kept the boat to the main stream.
They could see the village street, however, with the quaint church on the
level; and light warm airs brought them odours of roses and mignonette
from the gardens. It had been a long pull for a hot night, and the Tenor
shipped his oars here, and threw himself back in the bow to rest. He lay
looking up at the sky while they drifted back little by little with the
tide. The balmy air, the lop-lop of the water against the boat, the rock
and sway and sense of dreamy movement, and ever and anon the nightingales,
made a time of soft excitement, such as the Boy loved.
"O Israfil!" he burst out; "isn't it delicious just to be alive?"
He was lolling in the stern with his hat off, his legs stretched, out
before him, and a tiller rope in each hand, the image of indolent ease.
"Yes, this is perfect," he added; "it is paradise."
"Not for you, I should think," said the Tenor, "without an Eve."
"Now, there you mistake me," the Boy replied. "If there be one thing I
deprecate more than another it is the impertinent intrusion of _sex_
"You surprise me," the Tenor answered idly. "When I first had the pleasure
of meeting you, love was a favourite topic of yours."
"Ah! at that time, yes," said the Boy. "You see I was merely pandering
then to what I supposed to be your taste, in order to ingratiate myself
with you; but you may have noticed that since I knew you better I have
allowed the subject to drop--except, of course, when I wanted to draw
"That is true," said the Tenor upon reflection. "And yet you are the most
sensuous little brute I know."
"Sensuous, yes; not sensual," said the Boy. "I take my pleasures daintily,
and this scene satisfies me heart and soul; balmy air; moonlight with its
myriad associations; a murmurous multitude of sounds like sighs, all
soothing; the silent drift and gentle rocking of the boat; and the calm
human fellowship, the brotherly love undisturbed by a single violent
emotion, which is the perfection of social intercourse to me. I say the
scene is hallowed, and I'll have no sex in my paradise." The last words
were uttered irritably, and he sat up as he spoke, thrust his hands into
his pockets, and frowned at the silvery surface of the river. "Love!" he
ejaculated. "Rot! It is not love they mean. But don't let us desecrate a
night like this with any idea that lowers us to the level of a beastly
French novel reeking with sensuality."
"Amen, with all my heart," said the Tenor lazily. "But don't introduce the
disturbing element of violence either, dear Boy. Your sentiments may be
refined, but the same cannot be said for the expressions in which you
clothe them. In fact, to describe the latter, I don't think _coarse_
would be too strong a word."
"No, not coarse," said the Boy, with his uncanny grin. "Vigorous, you
mean, dear. But now shut up. I want to think."
"You don't. You want to feel," said the Tenor.
The Boy threw his cap at him.
Then they resettled themselves, lolling luxuriously, the one in the bows,
the other in the stern; and the Tenor's soul was uplifted, as was the case
with him in every pause of life, to the heaven of heavens which only could
contain it; while the Boy's roamed away to realms of poesy where it
revelled amid blossoming rhymes, or rested satisfied on full blown verses,
some of which he presently began to chant to himself monotonously.
"I like that," he broke off at last. "There is quite an idea in it--well
worked out too; don't you think so?"
"What is the thing?" the Tenor asked. "Who wrote it?"
"I wrote it myself," said the Boy.
The Tenor roused himself, and got out the oars, but sat resting on them
with a far-away look in his dreamy eyes. He was bareheaded, and the moon
played on his yellow hair, making it shine; a detail which did not escape
the Boy, whose pleasure in the Tenor's beauty never tired.
"I didn't know you were a poet as well as a musician," the latter said at
"Ah! you have much to learn," the Boy answered complacently, then
added--"I am extremely versatile."
"Jack of all trades," said the Tenor.
"Now, don't be coarse," said the Boy.
"Well, I hope that is not the best specimen of your powers in that line,"
the Tenor drily pursued.
"By no means," was the candid rejoinder; "but the most appropriate, seeing
that I just made it for the occasion, which is not a great occasion, don't
"I've heard something very like it before," said the Tenor,
"Yes," said the Boy, with a gratified smile, "'that is the beauty of it.
There is no new-fangled nonsense about me. My verses always tremble with
agreeable reminiscences. They set the sensitive sympathetic chords of
memory vibrating pleasurably. You can hardly read anything I write without
being reminded of some one or other of your best friends in the language.
I have written some verses which I can assure you were a triumph of this
art." He made an artistic pause here, shook his head, and then ejaculated
solemnly: "But, Lord! how I did rage when the fact was first pointed out
The Tenor got the boat round, and, with an occasional dip of the oars to
keep it in mid-stream, allowed it to drift slowly back toward
"I am afraid you are precocious, Boy," he said at last. "Don't be so if
you can help it. The thing is detestable."
"I really think I shall be obliged to avoid you, Israfil," the Boy
rejoined. "If I let you be intimate, you will be giving me good advice.
The Tenor turned hastily. But there was nothing wrong. It was only that
they had reached a point from which they could obtain a view that pleased
the Boy's excitable fancy; a bend of the river, a glimpse of upland
meadows, woods with the cathedral spire above them, and the square outline
of the castle overhanging the city from its dominant site on the hill, and
seeming to guard it as it slept.
The Tenor looked a little, then dipped his oars and rowed a stroke or two.
The Boy's mood had changed. He was keenly susceptible to the refining
influences of beautiful scenes. His countenance cleared and softened as he
gazed, and the Tenor knew that he would jeer no more that night.
Presently they heard the city clocks striking the hour. Both listened,
waiting for the chime. The Tenor rested on his oars, and after it had
sounded, muffled by distance, but quite distinct, he still sat so, gazing
thoughtfully into the water.
"Boy, shall I tell you something?" he said at last.
The Boy gravely responded with a nod.
"It was not far from where we are now," the Tenor continued, "that I first
heard the chime--oh, ever so many years ago!" and he brushed his hand back
over his hair.
"You were a boy then?"
"Yes, a lad like you--perhaps younger: I had been working in a colliery.
The work was too hard for me, and I was coming up the Morne on a barge, to
try and get something lighter to do in one of the towns. We came up very
slowly, and it was a hot day, and I idled about for hours, looking at the
water over the side, and at the banks of the river as we passed, but
without thinking of anything. What I saw made me feel. I was conscious of
various sensations--pleasure, wonder, amusement, and, above all, of a
dreamful ease; but I could not translate sensations into words at that
time; they suggested no ideas. There had been nothing in my life so far to
rouse my mental faculties, and I was conscious without being intelligent,
as I suppose the beasts of the field are. I must have been happy then, but
I did not know it. As we approached Morningquest I heard the chime. It was
very faint at first, for we were still a long way off; but the next time
it sounded we were nearer; and the next it was quite distinct. And it
seemed to me to mean something, so I asked the old bargee who was
steering, and he told me. I could neither read nor write at that time, and
I had never heard of Christ, but I loved music, and the idea of a great
beneficent being who slumbered not nor slept, but watched over us all
forever, took possession of my imagination, and I caught up the notes and
words and sang them with all my heart. And when we got to the outskirts of
the city, a gentleman who had been sitting on the towing-path, sketching
the old houses on the opposite side of the river, heard me, and hailed the
barge, and came on board. 'Which is your sweet singer?' he asked, and the
old fellow who was steering nodded toward me, and answered: 'The lad
there.' And the gentleman said if I would go away with him he would have
me taught music and make a great singer of me."
"And you went?"
"Yes," said the Tenor, with his habitual gesture.
"The gentleman was a bachelor," he resumed, "with few near relations. He
was very rich, very liberal, and passionately fond of art in all its
branches. That was why he took me at first, but by and by he began to like
me for myself. He had me educated as his own son might have been, and I
loved him as if he had been my father. Oh, Boy, he was a good man! You
never would have scoffed at religion and truth had you been brought up by
him. I rested on his affection as securely as you rely on the obligation
of your nearest of kin. I knew that, even if I had lost my voice or
otherwise disappointed him, it would have made no difference. Once my
friend he would always have been my friend. But I did not lose my voice,
nor did I otherwise disappoint him, I trust." The Tenor paused a moment.
"He was always sure that I was gentle by birth," he resumed, "and all my
tutors said I must have come of an educated race because I was so
teachable. Everything in the new life came to me naturally. I never had
any trouble. My friend tried hard to find my parents, but all that was
known of me in the place I came from was that a collier, who lived alone
in a little cottage, went home late one night and found me asleep on his
bed. They thought I was only a few days old then, and had kept my clothes,
which were such as a gentleman's child would have worn, but there was no
mark on any of them, nor any clue by which I could be identified, except
the name, David Julian Vanetemple, scrawled on a scrap of paper in a
woman's hand, an educated hand. The collier brought me up somehow, though
Heaven alone knows how, considering my age and his own occupation. Do you
know, Boy, one of the most weary things in life is the sense of an
obligation you can never repay. If I could only have done something to
prove my gratitude to my first foster father! But there! I must not think
of it. It is better to hope that all he did for me was a pleasure to
himself at the time, though there must have been much more trouble than
pleasure at first. But he was very kind, and I was very happy with him."
Here the Tenor, paused again for a while, and then resumed. "When I was
old enough he took me down to the pit occasionally, but he would not let
me work until I was much past the age at which the other boys began. He
said I was not one of them; my build was different, and I was quite unfit
for such rough labour; and so it proved, but I persevered as long as he
lived. It was not very long, however, for he was killed one day by an
explosion of gas down in the mine while trying to rescue some other poor
fellows who had been blocked up in a gallery for days by a fall. His dog
was killed at the same time. He liked to have his family with him, he
said, and we were generally both beside him when he was at work. But he
sent me off on an impossible errand to a neighbouring town that day. I did
not suspect it at the time, but I know now that it was to keep me out of
harm's way. And so I was left quite alone in the world, and I thought the
place where I had had a friend was more desolate than strange places with
which I had no such tender associations would be; and so I wandered away,
and wandered about until I was found by my next friend on the barge, and
the new life began for me."
"Then he never found out who you were?" the Boy exclaimed.
"And why did you leave him?"
The Tenor shipped his oars. "He had a place in Scotland to which we went
every autumn for shooting," he began to answer indirectly, and then
The Boy was leaning forward, with his eyes riveted on the Tenor's face;
his delicate features were pale and drawn with excitement and interest;
his lips were parted; he scarcely seemed to breathe. There was a long
pause. The moonlight still streamed down upon them. The water lapped
against the sides of the boat, and sparkled and rippled all around them,
its murmurs mingling with the rustle of leaves, the sighing of sleeping
cattle, the manifold "inarticulate voices of the night," above which a
nightingale in a copse hard by sang out at intervals divinely.
"My friend was not conventional in anything," the Tenor began again at
last. "When he went out shooting, for instance, he liked to find his own
game as he would have had to do in the wilds. All the sport of the thing
lay in that, he said; it was just the difference between nature and
artifice. We were therefore in the habit of going out alone--that is to
say, with a keeper or two and the dogs, but never with a party." Here
again the Tenor paused, and all the minor murmurs of the water and from
the land sounded aggressively, with that sort of sound which fills the
ears but seems nevertheless to emphasize the silence and solitude at
The Boy moved restlessly once or twice, making the little boat rock, and
the Tenor, yielding to the eager expectancy he saw in his eyes, resumed
"Toward the end of the season of which I have been speaking," he said, "we
had arranged an expedition for one particular morning; but just as we were
about to start my friend got a telegram from a man he knew, begging him as
a favour to be at home that day to receive a yachting party who were
anxious to come up and see the place, and had only a few hours to do it
in. I wanted to stay and help him to entertain them, but he would not hear
of it. My day's shooting was of more consequence to him than the
entertainment of many guests, and he made me go alone. But I went
reluctantly. I had been out alone often enough before, and had enjoyed it
thoroughly, but that day, somehow, I hated to leave him, and only went to
please him, he made such a point of it. Once fairly started, however, I
began, as was natural, to enjoy the tramp over the moors. We intended to
send back for any game we might shoot, so only one old gillie accompanied
me. I carried out the plans we had made the night before, going the way we
had intended to go. It was deer I was after, and as luck would have it I
had some splendid sport, and had begun to enter into it thoroughly before
we halted to refresh ourselves at noon. After a long rest we set off again
up a wooded glen. The keeper had noticed a herd of deer only the day
before feeding at the other side, and it seemed more than probable that we
should get a shot when we reached the brow of the hill, or we might
perhaps meet some of them coming down the glen to drink. The afternoon was
waning then, and we had turned our faces homeward. When we got to the head
of the glen the luck seemed still to be favouring us, for there, on our
right, was a splendid fellow lording it alone on the very crest of the
hill within range. I did not stop to consider, but raised my gun to my
shoulder and fired instantly. But just as I pulled the trigger, someone
sprang up from the heather between me and the stag--sprang up, uttered a
cry, and reeled and fell"--the last words were spoken with a gasp, and the
Tenor stopped for an instant, and then continued in a hoarse broken
whisper to which his companion had to listen intently, leaning forward to
do so, with his great eyes dilated, and his pale lips quivering. "'Lord,
sir,' the gillie exclaimed, 'you've shot the master!'"
"And you had?"
"I had. Yes, I had shot him," the Tenor repeated.
"O Israfil!" cried the Boy, flinging himself down impetuously before him,
and grasping his hands.
"When his guests had gone," the latter continued in a broken voice, "he
strolled out to meet me. He had not said anything about coming, but he
knew I meant to return by that glen. He did not, however, know on which
side I should be, and he had therefore taken up his position on the brow
of the hill from whence he could see every point at which I was likely to
appear. Probably he never saw the stag--it was behind him; and we--the
gillie and I--neither of us saw anything else. And, indeed, had there been
no game, we could hardly have distinguished him at that time of the day
from the hillside till he moved, for the suit he wore was just the colour
of the rocks and heather. We carried him home--but he was
dead--dead--quite dead," and the Tenor moaned, covering his face with his
"I remember now," the Boy said softly. "I heard all about it at the time,
and read the case in the papers, but I never thought of associating it
with you. Yet--how could I have been so dull? There was an inquest, and
they tried--" he hesitated.
"They tried to make out that I had some motive--something to gain by his
death," the Tenor went on; "but everyone, and most of all his nearest of
kin, his heir, came forward to exonerate me. He had provided for me in his
will by settling the allowance he always made me on me and my heirs
forever. But he always said that my voice was my fortune, and he had no
need to make enemies for me by giving me that which belonged by right to
others. He was a just man, singularly open in all his dealings, and it was
not hard to clear me, but still--oh!"--he broke off--"it was awful!
"And afterward?" the Boy ventured to ask.
"Afterward," the Tenor repeated slowly. "Afterward--for some months--I
wandered about. They were all very kind. They wanted me to stay with them
--they wanted to take me abroad--they would have done anything to help and
comfort me. But all I cared for was to be alone. At first there was a
blank--the faces about me had no meaning for me--the people when they
spoke could scarcely make me understand. I was mad in a way, but not mad
enough to be insensible to sorrow. I felt the fearful calamity that had
fallen upon me, but nothing else. I told myself every hour of the day that
he was dead--dead; cruelly cut off in the midst of his happy life by me
whom he loved--I could not have suffered more had I been guilty," the
Tenor broke off. "This lasted--I hardly know how long; but eventually I
began to fancy that he saw my agony of grief, and that it was a torment to
him not to be able to come and comfort me. Then one day--I was in Cornwall
at the time--sitting on the sea shore--and all at once--it was the
strangest thing in life--I heard the chime! I had not been thinking of it.
I doubt if I had thought of it a dozen times since I heard it first. But
it sounded for me then:
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
I heard it quite distinctly, and I got up and looked about me. It was the
first thing outside myself that had arrested my attention since I had seen
him drop on the moor. I went back to the inn I was staying at, and asked
about it: but I could scarcely make them understand what I meant, and
there was certainly no such chime in that neighbourhood. Then I felt it
was a message sent specially to me, and I made my man pack up my things,
and then I dismissed him, and started at once for Morningquest alone. It
was a long journey, and although I travelled with all possible speed, I
did not arrive until nearly forty-eight hours later. It was close on
midnight then, and the first thing I heard, when I found myself alone in
my room at the hotel, was the chime itself. Have you ever noticed--or is
it only my fancy?--that it seems to strike louder at midnight, and with
greater intensity of expression, as we ourselves strike final chords? It
sounded so to me then, and suggested something--I can't tell what, I can't
define it; but something that changed the current of my thoughts, and made
me feel I had done right to come. And from that moment my grief was less
self-centred, and the blessed power to feel for others began to return to
me. Almost immediately after my arrival, I heard of the tragedy in the
cathedral, the suicide of the tenor, and the trouble the dean and chapter
were having to find a substitute; and when I had seen the quiet shady
Close, and the beautiful old cathedral, and my little house with its
high-walled garden at the back, standing, as it were, on holy ground, I
longed to take up my abode there, where no one would know my story but
those to whom the secret would be sacred, and no one would intrude upon my
grief. So I applied for the tenor's place, and I knew as soon as I had
taken the step that it was a wise one. I thought, if any thing could
restore the balance of my mind, it would be the regular employment, the
quiet monotony, the something to do that I must do, the duty and
obligation, which were just sufficient without being any tax on my powers
to take me out of myself. And the being able to shut myself up from the
world in the Close, as I said before, was another inducement, though by
far the greatest were the daily services in the cathedral; while taking
part in them I always feel that I am nearer him. When I applied for the
place, and the dean heard who I was--of course, he knew the story; the
whole world knew it at that time--and heard how I yearned for a life of
devotion, he sympathized with me entirely, gladly acceded to my request,
and agreed to keep my secret. He has told me since that he always hoped
and believed the quiet regular life would restore me, and when it had he
intended to urge me to go away, and make the most of my powers. Dear, kind
old man! he has indeed been a good friend to me, and he is a good man
himself, if ever there were one. But I seem to have known none but good
men," the Tenor concluded thoughtfully.
"But your money, Israfil," the Boy said impatiently; "what did you do with
The question provoked the ghost of a smile. "Oh, Boy! that is so like
you!" the Tenor answered. "But since you wish to know I will tell you. My
income has all been disposed of for some years to come. It was a great
deal more than I should have required in any case, and a lay clerk with
such means would have been an anomaly not to be tolerated. But he meant
that I should enjoy it, and so I have. I have held it as a sacred trust
left to me for the benefit of those who are worse off than myself. I keep
the principal in my own hands, but I dispose of the interest. It does not
go very far, alas! in my profession, where want is the rule, but it
enables me to do something, and that, till I knew you. Boy, was my
greatest pleasure in life. I have earned my own living almost ever since I
came to Morningquest, and being obliged to do so has been a very good
thing for me."
"And all these pensioners--or whatever you like to call them--of yours, do
"As a rule my lawyers manage the business delicately," the Tenor answered,
smiling. He dipped his oars as he spoke, and began to row back with a
The Boy, shivering as if with cold, gathered up the tiller lines and
steered mechanically. They were both subdued, and scarcely spoke till the
boat touched the landing place at the water-gate, and then the Boy begged
the Tenor to get out, saying that he must row himself home.
The Tenor jumped ashore, and then, with a long grip of each other's hands,
and a long look into each other's eyes, they parted in silence.
The moon had set by this time, and the summer dawn was near.
The next night the Boy appeared again in his white boating suit, with his
sandy hair tumbled more than usual His restless eyes sparkled and glanced,
and there was a glow beneath his clear skin which answered in his to a
heightened colour in other complexions. He was evidently excited about
something, and the Tenor thought he had never seen him look so well. What
his mood was did not become immediately apparent. The Tenor had learnt
that the sparkle in his eyes either meant some mischievous design, or a
strong desire to "make music." But this evening he was long in coming to
the point. He began by pelting the Tenor with roses through the window,
and then he entered and danced an impromptu breakdown in the middle of the
room; but these preliminaries might have been an introduction to anything,
and it seemed as if his programme were not complete, for he next subsided
into his accustomed seat on the sofa up against the wall opposite the
fireplace, and remained there, with his hands in his pockets, looking at
the Tenor thoughtfully for at least ten minutes.
The Tenor was also in his accustomed seat beside the hearth--or rather
beside the stand of growing flowers and ferns that hid the hearth, with a
book on his knee. He was sitting there when the first rose whizzed in out
of the silence and solitude of night without warning upon him, announcing
the arrival of the Boy. It startled him somewhat, but he did not wince
from the shower that followed, nor did he move when the Boy chose to show
himself, but merely smiled and closed his book and then sat watching the
next part of the proceedings with the gravity of an eastern potentate. He
sat so now, looking up at the great cathedral, seen dimly through the open
window, towering above them, his profile turned to the Boy, and the roses
all about him--on the floor, on the back of his chair, one on his
shoulder, another on his book, and one he held in his hand. There were
dozens of them of every hue, from that deep crimson damask which is almost
black, to the purest white, fresh gathered from the trees apparently, with
the dew still glistening on their perfumed petals and on the polished
surface of the leaves. The Tenor, becoming conscious of the _Gloire de
Dijon_ he held in his hand, looked into its creamy depth with quiet
eyes. The beauty of the flower was a pleasure to him--though, for the
matter of that, everything was a pleasure to him now, He had no words to
tell it, but his face was irradiated by the gladness of the hope which he
cherished, from morning till night.
The Boy had been watching him admiringly. "You will be one of the beauties
when you come out, dear Israfil," he said. "They will photograph you and
put you into the shop windows, cabinet size two-and-sixpence. Sounds
rather vulgar, though, doesn't it? Savours of desecration, to my mind.
But, Israfil, you will certainly be the rage. One so seldom sees a
good-looking man! Good-looking women are common enough and they make
themselves still commoner nowadays," which remark coming from such a
quarter amused the Tenor, whereupon the Boy became irate. "Oh, jeer away!"
he exclaimed; "but when you know Angelica as well as I do you will respect
my knowledge of the subject."
But here the Tenor threw back his head, and groaned aloud.
"Boy, I protest!" he exclaimed. "I can endure your garrulousness, but I do
bar your cynicism. If you can't be agreeable, be still. You're in a horrid
bad temper"--and so saying the Tenor rose in his languid way, got a little
table which he placed beside his chair, spread out his pipes upon it, and
began to clean them with crows' quills, the Boy watching the operation the
while with cheerful intentness.
"Pipes and tobacco and roses!" he said at last. "What a mixture it sounds!
But it doesn't look bad, dear Israfil," he added encouragingly.
The Tenor made no remark; his pipes seemed to be all engrossing. He had
just filled the bowl of one with a number of fuseeheads, cut off short,
and now he popped in a light and corked them up. There was a tiny
explosion on the instant, followed by a rush of smoke through the shank of
the pipe, which swept it clean, and added musk and gunpowder to the
already heavy odour of roses that filled the room.
The Boy, still lolling on the sofa observing the Tenor's proceedings with
interest, drew up one leg, clasping his hands round it below the knee, and
began to sing to himself in a monotonous undertone as was his wont.
"By-the-bye," the Tenor said, like one who suddenly remembers, "I found
some verses after you were here the other night"--and he straightened
himself to feel in his pockets--"I suppose you dropped them. Here they
are." And then he leant back in his chair again and read aloud;
"When the winter storms were howling o'er the ocean,
Leafless trees and sombre landscape cold and drear,
Bitter winds, and driving rains, or white commotion
Of the whirling snow that drifted far and near;
Then my heart, which had been strong, was bowed and broken,
I was crushed with sudden sense of loss and fear,
Dull as silence passed the days and brought no token
Of a light to make the darkness disappear.
Would the grief that wrecked my life forever hold me?
Soon or later winter storms their ravage cease--
With the coming of the green leaves, something told me,
With the coming of the green leaves there is peace.
When the bursting buds proclaim'd the spring time nearing.
Song of birds and scent of flowers everywhere,
Drowsy drone of distant workers, and the cheering
Hum of honey-seeking bees in all the air;
Then my sorrow took swift wings and rose and left me;
And I knew no more the aching of despair;
Came again to me the joy that seemed bereft me,
And for hope I changed the dreary weight of care.
With the winter tempests pass'd the storms of feeling,
Soon and surely did their power to pain me cease,
And the sunshine-lighted summer rose revealing
With the coming of the green leaves there is peace."
The Tenor looked at the Boy when he had finished, shook his head
mournfully, struck a match, set fire to the paper upon which the verses
were written, and watched it burn with the air of a disappointed man.
"Don't make any more rhymes, Boy," he said; "don't write any more, at
least, until you get out of the sickly sentimental stage. I thought I was
prepared for the worst, but I really never imagined anything quite so bad
The Boy, although he had listened to the lines with a fine affectation of
enjoyment, was in no way discomposed by the Tenor's adverse criticism; he
seemed, on the contrary, to enjoy that too, for he chuckled and hugged
himself ecstatically before he replied.
"I should like to know," he said, with his uncanny grin, "how you found
out those lines were mine, for I certainly never told you that I wrote
The Tenor's mind misgave him.
"Didn't you?" he said, looking at the ashes.
The Boy threw himself back on the sofa.
"They were Angelica's!" he said, with a shout of laughter. "And now you
look as if you would like to have them back again. It will take you months
to get over that!"
The Tenor was certainly disconcerted, but he merely resumed his pipe,
folded his hands, and looked up at the cathedral. He had been blessed all
his life with the precious gift of silence. Outside the night was very
still. There was a fitful little breeze which rustled the leaves, and made
the creepers tap on the window panes, but, beyond this, there was no
sound, no sign of life or movement, nothing to remind them of the "whole
cityful" so close at hand.
The Tenor lay back in his chair, looking somewhat dispirited. The Boy got
up and began to wander about the room; a long pause followed which was
broken by the chime.
"I have been trying to say something all the evening, and now that beastly
chime has gone and made it impossible," the Boy exclaimed, as soon as he
could hear himself speak. "I hate it. I loathe it. It is cruel as eternal
damnation. It is condemnation without appeal. It is a judgment which
acknowledges none of the excuses we make for ourselves. I wish they would
change it. I wish they would make it say 'Lord, have mercy; Christ, have
mercy upon us.'"
The Tenor put down his pipe, rose slowly, and went upstairs. In a few
minutes he returned in flannels.
"You want exercise, Boy," he said. "You must come out. It is a lovely
night for the river, and I have been shut up in the Close all day."
The Boy sprang to his feet. "Yes, yes," he exclaimed with animation, "let
us go, and I'll bring my violin. Where's my hat?"
"You came without one to-night--or perhaps you hung it on the palings."
"No, I didn't," the Boy replied. I must have forgotten it altogether. But
it doesn't matter. I'd rather be without one. I always take it off when I
"So I have seen," said the Tenor, following him out.
As he walked through the Close, still a little behind the Boy, he could
not help noticing, by no means for the first time, but more particularly
than usual, what a graceful creature the latter was. His slender figure
showed to advantage in the light flannels. They made him look broader and
more manly while leaving room for the free play of limb and muscle. He had
knotted a crimson silk scarf round his neck, sailor fashion, and twisted a
voluminous cummerbund of the same round his waist, carelessly, so that one
heavily fringed end of it came loose, and now hung down to his knee,
swaying with his body as he moved. The Tenor remembered that his socks
were also of crimson silk, a detail which had caught his eye as the Boy
lolled on the sofa. It was evident that the costume had cost him a
thought, and, if somewhat theatrical, it was certainly picturesque, and
entirely characteristic. In one respect the Boy's art was perfect:
although he was quite conscious of his good looks, he never had the air of
being so; every movement was natural and spontaneous, like the movements
of a wild creature, and as agile. He seemed to rejoice in his own
strength, to delight in his own suppleness; and he walked on now with
healthy elastic step, his violin held to his shoulder, his clear cut cheek
leant down to it lovingly; his luxuriant light hair all tumbled and
tossed, while he kept time to an imaginary tune with the bow in his right
hand, now flourishing it in the air, and now drawing it across the
instrument, scarcely seeming to touch the strings, yet waking low AEolean
harplike murmurs, or deep thrilling tones, or bright melodious cadences;
making it respond to his touch like a living creature, and glancing back
over his shoulder at the Tenor as they proceeded, with a joyous face as if
sure of his sympathy, but anxious to see if he had it all the same.
"I feel more amiable now," he said, between cadence and cadence. "Kindly
consider that I have cancelled all my former misstatements. Cynicism can't
exist in a healthy sensorium with sounds like these"--and he executed a
magnificent _crescendo_ passage on his violin. "When I want to play I
feel that I must prepare myself. Making music is a religious rite to me,
which can only be performed by one in perfect charity with all men."
They were seated in the boat by this time, the Tenor at the oars.
"Row, brothers, row!"
the Boy played--"and steer yourself," he said. "I can do nothing but
And then he began in earnest, while the Tenor made the boat fly past river
bank and towing-path, and house and wharf; past bridge and tower and town--
it seemed but a flash, and they were out in the open country! flat meadows
on the left, and on their right the green and swelling upland, dotted with
slumbrous cattle and sheep, and shadowy with the heavy summer foliage of
old trees. The Tenor stopped there, exhausted.
"There is madness in your music, Boy," he said. "It puts me beside
The Boy laughed.
But in the pause that followed he shivered a little, and laid aside his
instrument. It was not such a very fine night on the river as it had
appeared to be in the Close. The moon would rise later, but at present
there was no sign of her, and the sky, though cloudless, was not clear,
the colour being that misty opaque gray which hangs low at the horizon on
summer nights when the light never wholly departs, and is accompanied by a
close and sultry atmosphere, surcharged with electricity, the harbinger of
storms. It was so that night. There were no stars to relieve the murky
heaviness, nor was it dark; a sort of twilight reigned, as comfortless as
tepid water, and there was no breeze now to rustle the leaves into life.
All seemed ghostly still save for the muffled rush of the river, and the
melancholy howling of a dog at some farm out of sight. And even the river
was not its usual merry self, but a sullen heavy body that slipped by
stealthily, making haste to the sea as if anxious to be away from the
spot, without a ripple to break its level surface, and without the musical
lop and gurgle and murmur with which it danced along at brighter times. In
spite of the heat--or perhaps because of it--the air was full of moisture,
and while the Tenor rested, a dead white mist began to appear above the
low-lying meadows. It rose thinly, a mere film at first, which, coming
suddenly, would have made a man brush his hand over his eyes, mistaking
the haze for some defect of vision; but gathering and gaining body
rapidly, and rising a certain height clear from the ground, then seeming
to hover, a thick cloud poised between earth and sky, not touching either,
but drawn horizontally over the fields like a pall with ragged edges
through which the trees showed in blurred outline, their leaves dripping
miserably with an intermittent patter of uncertain drops as the moisture
collected upon them and fell, and then collected again.
The fog was stationary for a time, and did not extend beyond the meadows,
but it rose at intervals, though the clearance was only momentary, and had
scarcely become perceptible before reinforcements of dull white vapour,
tainted with miasma, rolled up from the marshy ground, bringing dank
odours of standing water and weedy vegetation, half decayed, and gradually
encroaching on the river, the smooth surface of which glowed with a greasy
gleam beneath it, making it look like a river of oil.
"Let us go back," said the Boy. "My soul is sick with apprehension, and
the damp will ruin my violin."
"I thought it was making you feel as if something were going to happen,"
the Tenor observed as he got the boat round.
The Boy ruffled his flaxen hair, and laughed uneasily. "Get away quick,"
he said. "If the elements do sympathize with man, there'll be a tragedy
here before morning."
The Tenor pulled on steadily and in silence for some distance. But once
out of sight of the mist and the meadows, the Boy's ever varying spirits
rose again. He took up his violin, and drew soft sounds from it which
seemed to float away far out into the night.
"Sing something," he said at last, playing the prelude to the most
love-sweet song ever written.
"I arise from dreams of thee," the Tenor sang like one inspired.
The Boy uttered a deep sigh when he had finished; he was speechless with
But the Tenor went on. He sang of the sun and the sea, gliding from one
strain to another, and unconsciously keeping time to the measure as he
rowed, now making the little boat leap forward with a fine impulse, now
almost resting on his oars till their progress through the water was
scarcely perceptible, and now stopping altogether while he lingered on a
closing cadence, looking up.
People who chanced to wake, as the windings of the river brought the
singer past their homes that night, sat up in their beds and wondered. The
music made them think of old tales of weird enchantment, in which strains,
incomprehensibly sweet and thrilling like these, coming from nobody could
tell where, had played a part. And one poor creature, who had long been
dying in lingering pain, thought heaven had opened for her, and, smiling,
passed happily away.
It would have been no great stretch of the imagination to have supposed
that nature did sympathize with man in his moods just then, for gradually,
as if to the music, the murky clouds had parted like a curtain at a given
signal, and rolled away, leaving the vault of night high and bare and blue
above them, with here and there a diamond star or two sparsely sprinkled
from horizon to zenith, radiant at first, but presently paling before a
slender shaft of light that shot up in the east, and then, opening
fan-like was quickly followed by the great golden rim of the moon herself.
She rose from behind a hill crested with fir trees, which appeared for a
moment as if photographed on her disc, and then, mounting rapidly, hung
suspended in a clear indigo sky above the quiet woods, the river and the
little boat, which was motionless now--an ideal moon in an ideal world
with ideal music to greet her. But the Boy dropped the violin on his knee
and forgot to play as he watched this beautiful transformation scene, and
the Tenor's song sank to a murmur while he also gazed and waited, dipping
his oars to keep the boat in mid-stream mechanically. Joy and sadness are
near akin in music; they are like pleasure and happiness, the one is the
surface of feeling, the other its depth; and there is solemnity in every
phase of absolute beauty which cannot fail to influence such natures as
the Tenor's and the Boy's. It was the Tenor, though, that felt this moment
most. His nature, if not deeper, was more devout than the Boy's; pleasure
with him was a veritable uplifting of the spirit in praise and
thankfulness; and all the peace and quietness about them, the marvellous
light on hill and wood and vale, and even the nearness of the unseen city,
which he felt without perceiving it, and from which there came to him that
sense of fellowship and of the sacredness of human life in which all the
best qualities of man are rooted; these together sanctified the time.
Although, for the matter of that, to such a nature all times and seasons
are sanctified. For if ever a man's soul was purified on earth, his was;
and if ever a man deserved to see heaven, he did. Humanly speaking there
was no stain on him; in thought, word, and deed he was immaculate and true
as a little child, This moment was therefore peculiarly his own, a moment
of deep happiness, which found expression, as all pleasurable emotion did
with him, in music. He lifted up his voice, that wonderful voice which had
no equal then upon earth, and sang as he had sung once before on that very
spot when the first vague idea of the omnipresent majesty of a God
possessed him, sang with all his heart, and it was the litany of the
Blessed Virgin, the one he had heard in France in days gone by, the one he
had been singing when first he met the Boy, which recurred to him now--why
or wherefore it would be hard to say. He had not thought of it since. But
perhaps the moon, which was shining again as it had shone that night on
the old market-place, had helped to recall it, or perhaps it satisfied him
with a sense of appropriateness. For it was not a dismal, monotonous
product of mercenary dryness to which the words were set, but the
characteristic music of devotion by which the spirit of prayer is made
audible when words fail, as they always do, to express it in all its force
and fervour. The Boy listened a while with parted lips. It was a new
experience for him, and he was deeply moved. Then his musical instinct
awoke, and presently he took up the strain, voice and violin, accompanying
the Tenor, who rowed on once more, while the river banks resounded with,
"Christe audi nos, Christe exaudi nos," and re-echoed "Miserere nobis."
At one point as they approached, a lady appeared suddenly, and stood with
her hands clasped to her breast, looking and listening. She was a tall and
graceful woman, wrapped in a long cloak and bareheaded, as if she had
stepped out from somewhere just for the moment. She evidently recognized
the singer; and the Boy would have recognized the beautiful face, strong
in its calm, sad serenity, and compassionate, had he looked that way; but
he did not look that way, and they swept on, the music growing fainter and
fainter in the distance, till at last the boat was out of sight. Yet even
then a few high notes continued to float back; but these in turn quivered
into silence, and all was still--only for a moment, though, for the clocks
had struck unheeded, and now the chime rang out through the sultry air,
voice-like, clear, and resonant:
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
The lady listened, looking up as if the message were for her, but sighed.
"It will come right, I know," she said as she turned away. "But, Lord, how
Air perfumed with flowers; music, motion, warmth, and stillness; moonlit
meadows, shadowy woods, the river, and the boat; it had been a time of
delight too late begun and too soon ended. But exaltation cannot last
beyond a certain time at that height, and then comes the inevitable
reaction. It came upon the Tenor and the Boy quite suddenly, and for no
apparent reason. It was the Boy who felt it first, and left off playing,
then the song ceased, and the Tenor rowed on diligently. They were near
the landing place by this time, but the Tenor did not know it. He had not
noticed the landmarks as they passed, and thought they had still some
distance to go.
"Here, Boy," he said, breaking a long silence. "Take the oars and row. I
am tired. And it is your turn now."
"Oh!" the Boy exclaimed derisively. "Just as if I would row and blister my
lovely white hands when you are here to row me!"
"I cannot tolerate such laziness," the Tenor protested. "It is sparing the
rod and spoiling the child. Here, take the oars or I'll throw you
overboard," and he made a gesture toward him.
The Boy jumped up laughing, and flourishing his violin as if he would hit
the Tenor on the head with it. "Don't touch me," he cried, "or I'll--"
"Take care, for God's sake!" the Tenor exclaimed.
But too late. His excitable companion, in the middle of cutting a
fantastic caper, reeled, lost his balance, plunged head foremost into the
water, and sank like a stone.
Without a moment's delay the Tenor dived in after him, the cockleshell of
a boat, half capsizing as he went over, took in water enough to sink her
to the gunwale, and the whole thing happened so quickly that a spectator
on the bank who had seen the boat and its occupants one moment might have
looked in vain the next for any trace of either.
The Tenor came to the surface alone. His dive in the uncertain light had
been unsuccessful, and now he had the strength of mind to wait--in what
agony of suspense Heaven only knows!--till the Boy should rise. It could
only have been a few seconds, but it was long enough for the Tenor to lay
another man's death at his own door, to realize the loss to himself the
Boy would be, and his position when he would have to take the dreadful
news to the family, only one member of which in all probability knew of
their intimacy. She knew--But, good Heaven! would she not blame him? Oh,
he had been to blame, to blame!--It was only a few seconds, yet it was
time enough for the unfortunate Tenor to live over again the awful moment
when he had seen his best friend drop dead, only there was a double pang,
for time and space were confounded, and it was as if both father and
brother--as they had been to him--had gone down at once, and both by his
In that brief interval of suffering his face had become rigid and set, a
stony mask with no visible sign of emotion upon it; and yet the man's
strength and power of endurance were evident in this, that he had the
courage to wait.
And presently the Boy rose to the surface within easy reach.
With an exclamation of relief the Tenor grasped him, and struck out for
the shore--afraid at first that the Boy, who apparently could not swim,
would cling about him in his fright and hamper his movements; and then
afraid because the Boy did not cling about him, but suffered himself to be
dragged through the water, inert, like a log, helpless, lifeless--no, not
lifeless, the Tenor argued with himself. He could not be lifeless, you
know. He had not been in the water long enough for that. The Tenor noticed
that he had not let go of his violin, and thought: "The ruling passion
strong in--no, not in death. How could a dead hand hold on like that? Boy,
dear Boy!" But the Boy made no response. The Tenor had struck out for the
nearest bank which, as luck would have it, brought him to the landing
place at the watergate. His perception seemed singularly quickened; every
sense was actively alive to what was passing; nothing escaped him; and he
rendered an account to himself of all that occurred, feeling it strange
the while that he should be able to do so at such a time. He noticed some
detail of the stonework in the arch as he swam toward it; he noticed the
poplars, some three or four of different heights, which stood up all stiff
and vimineous as seen from below, beside it; he remembered the Boy once
saying they looked like hairy caterpillars standing on their heads, and
smiled even now at the quaint conceit. When he reached the steps and
clutched the handrail, it was with a sensation of joy that nearly
paralyzed him. It was curious, though, what odd and trivial phrases rose
to his lips, what irrelevant thoughts passed through his mind.
"Mustn't holloa till we're out of the wood," he warned himself, as he drew
the Boy from the water with difficulty, and, getting him over his shoulder
so that he could hold him with one hand and steady himself on the steep
steps with the other began to stagger up. "I wonder what the Boy would say
if he could see me now!" was his involuntary thought as he did so.
The Boy was heavier than his slender figure would have led one to suppose,
or else the Tenor was not so strong as he thought himself; at all events
he swayed under his burden as he carried him through the silent Close, now
putting out his hand flat against a wall to steady himself, and now
staggering up to the gnarled trunk of one of the old lime trees, and
pausing to take breath while he mentally calculated the distance between
that and the next support at which he could stop to rest, noticing in the
brief interval the blackness of the shadows; noticing also a little shiver
of leaves above him caused by a gust of air, the first forerunner of a
breeze that was rapidly rising; noticed this last fact particularly,
partly because the wind chilled him in his thin wet flannels, and partly
because it marked the change and contrast between the warm and happy time
just over, the anxious present moment, and the dread of what might be yet
to come. The next support was the corner of the wall which surrounded the
dean's garden; creeping on by that till it ended, he made an unsteady dash
across the road for the wall of the cathedral, and then from that across
again, zigzag, to his own little gate, where, gathering his strength for
the last effort, he took the Boy, whom he apostrophised as a perfect Old
Man of the Sea, in both arms, as a mother does her child, and a moment
afterward laid him on the floor of the long low room where they had spent
so many happy hours together, and from whence he had gone out a short time
before all life and strength and youth and beauty: "Gone to his death!"
The Tenor felt the phrase in his mind, but stifled it with a "Thank God!"
as he laid him down.
He had been fatigued by the long row when the accident happened, and was
now almost exhausted by excitement, terror for the Boy, and this last
effort; but still his mind went on with abnormal clearness noting every
trifle, and continuing to force him, as it were, to render an account of
each to himself. He noticed the perfume of roses, the roses the Boy had
showered in upon him--so short a time before--and he found himself
measuring the shortness of the interval again as if it would have been
easier to bear the catastrophe had it not jostled a happier state of
things so closely. He found himself wondering what the Boy would say if he
knew he had brought him in by the front door instead of by the window; he
was sure he would have insisted on the mode of entrance he so much
preferred had he been conscious, and felt as if he had taken a disloyal
advantage of the Boy's helpless condition.
But while these trivial thoughts flashed through his brain he lost no
time, not even in lighting a lamp, though the room was dark. What there
was to be done must be done promptly, and with the same extraordinary
lucidity of mind he remembered every simple remedy there was at his
disposal. He ran upstairs, three steps at a time, for the blankets off his
own bed. He had made up the kitchen fire, as was his wont, that evening,
for the Boy to cook if it pleased him, and fortunately it was burning
brightly still. He warmed the blankets there, and then returning, stripped
the light flannel clothing from the Boy, loosened his fingers from the
violin which he still clutched convulsively, rolled him up in them, and
then, with an effort, lifted him on to the sofa, where he had sat and
jested only a little while ago--and again the involuntary reckoning of
time, to consider the contrast between the then and now, smote the Tenor
to the heart with a cruel pang.
"Boy, dear Boy!" he called to him. He was kneeling beside him, but could
only see a dim outline of his face in the obscurity of the room, and
perhaps it was the darkness that made him look so rigid. "Boy, dear Boy!"
he cried again, but the Boy made no sign. "O God, spare him!" the stricken
man implored. And then he clasped the lad in his arms and pressed his
cheek to his in a burst of grief and tenderness not to be controlled. He
held him so for a few seconds, and it seemed as if in that close embrace,
his whole being had expressed itself in love and prayer, as if he had
wrestled with death itself and conquered, for all at once he felt the
Boy's limbs quiver through their clumsy wrappings, and then he heard him
sigh. Oh, the relief of it! The sudden reaction made him feel sick and
faint. But the precious life was not yet safe. "There's many a slip"--so
his mind began in spite of an effort to control it. Restoratives--heat,
stimulants, friction. He pulled the stand of ferns and flowering plants
half round from the fireplace roughly, so that the pots fell up against
each other, or rolled on the floor; then he fetched the burning coals from
the kitchen, and heaped them on till the grate was full. The kettle had
been boiling on the hob, so he brought it in now hissing, with brandy to
make a drink. But he must have more light. Where are the matches? Nowhere,
of course. They never are when they're wanted. However, it didn't matter,
a piece of paper would do as well, and he twisted a piece up and stooped
among the scattered roses to light it at the fire, and then he lit the
lamp and turned to look at the Boy. All this had been done in a moment, as
it seemed, and his face was still bright with hope, and prepared to smile
encouragement. But--"God in heaven!" he cried; under his breath, as a man
does who is too shocked to speak out.
Had some strange metamorphosis been brought about by that sudden
He pulled himself together with an effort, and walked to the other end of
the room, where he stood with his back to the sofa, and his hands upraised
to his head, trying to steady himself. Then he returned.
No, he had not been mistaken, he was not mad, he was not dreaming. It was
the Boy who had plunged into the water headforemost, but this---
"God in heaven!" he ejaculated again, under his breath, and then stood
gazing like one transfixed.
For this, with the handsome, strong young face upturned, the smooth white
throat, the dark brown braids pinned close to the head, all wet and
shining; this was not the Boy, but the Tenor's own lady, his ideal of
purity, his goddess of truth, his angel of pity, as, in his foolishly fond
way idealizing, he had been accustomed to consider her. It was Angelica
herself! Yet so complete had been the deception to his simple,
unsuspicious mind, so impossible to believe was the revelation, and so
used was he to associate some idea of the Boy with everything that
occurred, that now, with his first conscious mental effort, he began to
blame him as if her being there were due to some unpardonable piece of his
"The little wretch," he began, "how dare he"--he stopped there, realizing
the absurdity of it, realizing that there was no Boy; and no lady for the
matter of that, at least none such as he had imagined. It had all been a
cruel fraud from beginning to end.
It was a terrible blow, but the high-minded, self-contained dignity of the
man was never more apparent than in the way he bore it. His face was
unnaturally pale and set, but there was no other sign of what he suffered,
and, the first shock over, he at once resumed his anxious efforts to
restore--the girl--whose consciousness had scarcely yet returned, although
she breathed and had moved. It was curious how the new knowledge already
affected his attitude toward her. In preparing the hot drink he put half
the quantity of brandy he would have used five minutes before for the Boy,
and when he had to raise her head to make her swallow it, he did so
reluctantly. It was only a change of idea really, the Boy was a girl, that
was all; but what a difference it made, and would have made even if there
had been no question of love and marriage in the matter! At any other time
the Tenor himself might have marvelled at the place apart we assign in our
estimation to one of two people of like powers, passions, impulses, and
purposes, simply because one of them is a woman.
The stimulant revived the girl, and presently she opened her eyes and met
his as he bent over her.
"You are better now, I hope," he said coldly, moving away from her.
"I am better," she answered, and again their eyes met. But there was yet
another moment of dazed semi-consciousness before she was able to attach
any meaning to the change she saw in his face; and then it flashed upon
her. What she had hoped, feared, expected, and prevented every time they
met had come to pass. He knew at last, and she could see at once what he
thought of her. She would never again meet the tolerant loving glance he
had had for the Boy, nor note the tender reverence of his face when her
own name was mentioned. His idol was shattered, the dream and hope of his
life was over, and from all that remained of them, herself as she really
was, he shrank as from the dishonoured fragment of some once loved and
holy thing--a thing which is doubly painful to contemplate in its ruin
because of the importunate memories that cling about it.
Realizing something of this, she uttered a smothered ejaculation, and
covered her face with a gesture of intolerable shame. There was always
that saving grace of womanliness about Angelica, that when there was no
excuse for her conduct, she had the honesty to be ashamed of herself; in
consequence of which she was one of those who never erred in the same way
The Tenor turned to the fire, and then noticing her wet things scattered
about he gathered them up: "I will take them and dry them," he said, and
gladly made his escape. What he thought in the interval was: "I must marry
her now, I suppose,"--and he could not help smiling ironically at this new
way of putting it, nor wondering a little at the possibility of such a
sudden change of feeling as that which had all at once transformed the
dearest wish of his life into a distasteful, if not altogether repugnant,
When the things were dry he took them to her.
"I will leave you to put them on." he said, "Will you kindly call me when
you are ready?" And then he closed the window that looked out on the road,
drew down the blind, and once more left her.
No reproach could have chilled and frightened her as this stiff and
formal, yet cool acceptance of the position did. She feared it meant that
all was over between them in a way she had never thought possible. But
still she hoped to coax him round. She dreaded the next hour, the day of
reckoning, as it were, but did not try to escape it. On the contrary, she
hastened her dressing in order to get it over as quickly as possible.
"Israfil!" she called to him boldly, as soon as she was ready.
The Tenor returned.
She was standing in the middle of the room when he entered, and she looked
at him confidently, and just as the "Boy" would have done after a piece of
mischief which he had determined to brazen out. The Boy had two moods, the
defiant and the repentant; it seemed that the girl--but here the Tenor
checked his thoughts. It was very hard, though, to drop either of the two
individualities which had hitherto been so distinct and different, and to
realize that one of them at least had never existed.
She certainly brought more courage to the interview than he did, for he,
the wronged one, found as he faced her now that he had not a word to say
for himself. For the moment, she was master of the situation, and she
began at once as if the whole thing were a matter of course.
Catching an involuntary glance of the Tenor's, she put both hands up to
her head as the Boy would have done--so the Tenor, still confused between
the two, expressed it to himself; and the old familiar gesture sent
another pang through his heart. The water had washed the flaxen wig away,
but the thick braids of her hair were still pinned up tightly, accounting
for the shape of the _remarkable head_ about which the Boy had so
often, and, as was now evident, so recklessly, jested.
Her hair was very wet, and she began deliberately to take it down and
"I could not always make it--my head, you know--the same shape," she said,
answering his thought; "but you never noticed the difference, although you
often looked. I used to wonder how you could look so intelligently and see
so little"--and she glanced down at herself, so unmistakably a woman now
that he knew. She had been like a conundrum, the answer to which you would
never have guessed for yourself, but you see it at once when you hear it,
and then it seems so simple. She was rather inclined to speak to the Tenor
in a half pitying, patronizing way, as to a weak creature easily taken in;
but he had recovered himself by this time, and something in his look and
manner awed her, determined as she was, and she could not keep it up.
He moved farther from her, and then spoke in a voice made harsh by the
effort it cost him to control it.
"Why have you done this thing?" he said sternly.
Her heart began to beat violently. The colour left her lips, and she sank
into a chair, covered once more with shame and confusion. But, boy or
girl, the charm of her peculiar personality was still the same, and it had
its effect upon him even at that moment, indignant as he was, as she sat
there, her long hair falling behind her, looking up at him with timid eyes
and with tremulous mouth.
It was pitiful to see her so, and it softened him.
"What was your object?" he asked, relenting.
"Excitement--restlessness--if I had any," she faltered. "But I had no
object. I am inventing one now because you ask me; it is an afterthought.
I--I took the first step"--with a dry sob--"and then I--I just drifted on--
on, you know--from one thing to another."
"But tell me all about it," he persisted, taking a seat as he spoke. "Tell
me exactly how it began."
There was no help for it now. He was sitting in judgment upon her, and she
felt that she must make an effort to satisfy him.
"It began--oh, let me see! how am I to tell you?" and she twisted her
hands, frowning in perplexity. "I don't want to embellish the story so as
to make it picturesque and myself more interesting," and she looked at the
Tenor with slightly elevated eyebrows, as if pained already by her own
inaccuracy. There was something irresistibly comic in this candid avowal
of the force of habit, and all the more so because she was too much in
earnest for once to see the humour of it herself. The Tenor saw it,
however, but he made no sign.
"Well, begin," he said. "I ought to know your method sufficiently well by
this time to enable me to sift the wheat from the chaff."
Angelica considered a little, and then she answered, hesitating as if she
were choosing each word: "I see where the mistake has been all along.
There was no latitude allowed for my individuality. I was a girl, and
therefore I was not supposed to have any bent, I found a big groove ready
waiting for me when I grew up, and in that I was expected to live whether
it suited me or not. It did not suit me. It was deep and narrow, and gave
me no room to move. You see, I loved to make music. Art! That was it.
There is in my own mind an imperative monitor which urges me on always
into competition with other minds. I wanted to _do_ as well as to
_be_, and I knew I wanted to do; but when the time came for me to
begin, my friends armed themselves with the whole social system as it
obtains In our state of life, and came out to oppose me. They used to
lecture me and give me good advice, as if they were able to judge, and it
made me rage. I had none of the domestic virtues, and yet they would
insist upon domesticating me; and the funny part of it was that, side by
side with my natural aspirations was an innate tendency to conform to
their ideas while carrying out my own. I believe I could have satisfied
them--my friends--if only they had not thwarted me. But that was the
mistake. I had the ability to be something more than a young lady,
fiddling away her time on useless trifles, but I was not allowed to apply
it systematically, and ability is like steam--a great power when properly
applied, a great danger otherwise. Let it escape recklessly and the
chances are someone will be scalded; bottle it up and there will be an
explosion. In my case both happened. The steam was allowed to escape at
first instead of being applied to help me on in a definite career, and a
good deal of scalding ensued; and then, to remedy that mistake, the
dangerous experiment of bottling it up was tried, and only too
successfully. I helped a little in the bottling myself, I suppose, and
then came the explosion. This is the explosion,"--glancing round the
disordered room, and then looking down at her masculine attire. "I see it
all now," she proceeded in a spiritless way, looking fixedly into the
fire, as if she were trying to describe something she saw there. "I had
the feeling, never actually formulated in words, but quite easy to
interpret now, that if I broke down conventional obstacles--broke the
hampering laws of society, I should have a chance--"
"It is a common mistake," the Tenor observed, filling up the pause.
"But I did not know how," she pursued, "or where to begin, or what
particular law to break--until one evening. I was sitting alone at an open
window in the dark, and I was tired of doing nothing and very sorry for
myself, and I wanted an object in life more than ever, and then a great
longing seized me. I thought it an aspiration. I wanted to go out there
and then. I wanted to be free to go and come as I would. I felt a galling
sense of restraint all at once, and I determined to break the law that
imposed it; and that alone was a satisfaction--the finding of one law that
I could break. I didn't suppose I could learn much--there wasn't much left
to learn,"--this was said bitterly, as if she attached the blame of it to
somebody else--"but I should be amused, and that was something; and I
should see the world as men see it, which would be from a new point of
view for me, and that would be interesting. It is curious, isn't it?" she
reflected, "that what men call 'life' they always go out at night to see;
and what they mean by 'life' is generally something disgraceful?" It was
to the fire that she made this observation, and then she resumed: "It is
astonishing how importunate some ideas become--one now and then of all the
numbers that occur to you; how it takes possession of you, and how it
insists upon being carried into effect. This one gave me no peace. I knew
from the first I should do it, although I didn't want to, and I didn't
intend to, if you can understand such a thing. But my dress was an
obstacle. As a woman, I could not expect to be treated by men with as much
respect as they show to each other. I know the value of men's cant about
protecting the 'weaker' sex! Because I was a woman I knew I should be
insulted, or at all events hindered, however inoffensive my conduct; and
so I prepared this disguise. And I began to be amused at once. It amused
me to devise it. I saw a tailor's advertisement, with instructions how to
measure yourself; and I measured myself and sent to London for the
clothes--these thin ones are padded to make me look square like a boy. And
then, with some difficulty, I got a wig of the right colour. It fitted
exactly--covered all my own hair, you know, and was so beautifully made
that it was impossible for any unsuspicious person to detect it without
touching it; and the light shade of it, too, accounted for the fairness of
my skin, which would have looked suspiciously clear and delicate with
darker hair. The great difficulty was my hands and feet; but the different
shape of a boy's shoes made my feet pass; and I crumpled my hands up and
kept them out of sight as much as possible. But they are not of a
degenerated smallness," she added, looking at them critically; "it is more
their shape. However, when I dressed myself and put on that long ulster, I
saw the disguise would pass and felt pretty safe. But isn't it surprising
the difference dress makes? I should hardly have thought it possible to
convert a substantial young woman into such a slender, delicate-looking
boy as I make. But it just shows how important dress is."
The Tenor groaned. "Didn't you know the risk you were running?" he asked.
"Oh, yes!" she answered coolly. "I knew I was breaking a law of the land.
I knew I should be taken before a police magistrate if I were caught
masquerading, and that added excitement to the pleasure--the charm of
danger. But then you see it was danger without danger for me, because I
knew I should be mistaken for my brother. Our own parents do not know us
apart when we are dressed alike."
"Oh, then there _are_ two of you?" the Tenor said.
"Yes. I told you. They call us the Heavenly Twins," said Angelica.
"Yes, you told me," the Tenor repeated thoughtfully. "But then you told me
so many things."
"Well, I told you nothing that was not absolutely true," Angelica
answered--"from Diavolo's point of view. I assumed his manner and habits
when I put these things on, imitated him in everything, tried to think his
thoughts, and looked at myself from his point of view; in fact my
difficulty was to remember that I was not him. I used to forget sometimes--
and think I was. But I confess that I never was such a gentleman as
Diavolo is always under all circumstances. Poor dear Diavolo!" she added
regretfully; "how he would have enjoyed those fried potatoes!"
The Tenor slightly changed his position. He only glanced at her now and
then when he spoke to her, and for the rest he sat as she did, with his
calm deep eyes fixed on the fire, and an expression of patient sadness
upon his face that wrung her heart. Perhaps it was to stifle the pain of
it that she began to talk garrulously. "Oh, I am sorry for the trick I
have played you!" she exclaimed with real feeling. "I have been sorry all
along since I knew your worth, and I came to-night to tell you, to confess
and to apologize. When I first knew you all my _loving consciousness_
was dormant, if you know what that is; I mean the love in us for our
fellow-creatures which makes it pain to ourselves to injure them. But you
re-aroused that feeling, and strengthened and added to it until it had
become predominant, so that, since I have known you as you are, I have
hated to deceive you. This is the first uncomfortable feeling of that kind
I have ever had. But for the rest I did not care. I was bored. I was
always bored: and I resented the serene unconcern of my friends. Their
indifference to my aspirations, and the way they took it for granted that
I had everything I ought to want, and could therefore be happy if I chose,
exasperated me. To be bored seems a slight thing, but a world of suffering
is contained in the experience; and do you know, Israfil, I think it
dangerous to leave an energetic woman without a single strong interest or
object in life. Trouble is sure to come of it sooner or later--which
sounds like a truism now that I have said it, and truisms are things which
we habitually neglect to act upon. In my case nothing of this kind would
have happened "--and again her glance round the room expressed a
comprehensive view of her present situation--"if I had been allowed to
support a charity hospital with my violin--or something; made to feel
responsible, you know."
"But surely you must recognize the grave responsibility which attaches to
"In the abstract," Angelica interposed. "I know if things go wrong they
are blamed for it; if they go right the Church takes the credit. The value
attached to the influence of women is purely fictitious, as individuals
usually find when they come to demand a recognition of their personal
power. I should have been held to have done my duty if I had spent the
rest of my life in dressing well, and saying the proper thing; no one
would consider the waste of power which is involved in such an existence.
You often hear it said of a girl that she should have been a boy, which
being interpreted means that she has superior abilities; but because she
is a woman it is not thought necessary to give her a chance of making a
career for herself. I hope to live, however, to see it allowed that a
woman has no more right to bury her talents than a man has; in which days
the man without brains will be taught to cook and clean, while the clever
woman will be doing the work of the world well which is now being so
shamefully scamped. But I was going to say that I am sure all my vagaries
have arisen out of the dread of having nothing better to do from now until
the day of my death--as I once said to an uncle of mine--but to get up and
go to bed, after spending the interval in the elegant and useless way
ladies do--a ride, a drive, a dinner, a dance, a little music--trifling
all the time to no purpose, not even amusing one's self, for when
amusement begins to be a business, it ceases to be a pleasure. This has
not mended matters, I know," she acknowledged drearily; "but it has been a
distraction, and that was something while it lasted. Monotony, however
luxurious, is not less irksome because it is easy. A hardworking woman
would have rest to look forward to, but I hadn't even that, although I was
always wearied to death--as tired of my idleness or purposeless
occupations as anybody could possibly be by work. I think if you will put
yourself in my place, you will not wonder at me, nor at any woman under
the circumstances who, secure of herself and her position, varies the
monotony of her life with an occasional escapade as one puts sauce into
soup to relieve the insipidity. Deplore it if you will, but don't wonder
at it; it is the natural consequence of an unnatural state of things, and
there will be more of it still, or I am much mistaken."
Again the Tenor changed his position. "I cannot, _cannot_ comprehend
how you could have risked your reputation in such a way," he said, shaking
his head with grave concern.
"No risk to my reputation," she answered with the insolence of rank.
"Everybody knows who I am, and, if I remember rightly, 'That in the
captain's but a choleric word which in the soldier is rank blasphemy.'
What would be an unpardonable offence if committed by another woman less
highly placed than myself is merely an amusing eccentricity in me, so--for
_my_ benefit--conveniently snobbish is society. Since I grew up,
however, I find that I am not one of those who can say flippantly, 'You
can't have everything, and if people have talents they are not to be
expected to have characters as well.' Great talent should be held to be a
guarantee for good character; the loss of the one makes the possession of
the other dangerous. But what I do maintain is that I have done nothing by
which I ought in justice to be held to have jeopardised my character. I
have broken no commandment, nor should I under any circumstances. It is
only the idea of the thing that shocks your prejudices. You cannot bear to
see me decently dressed as a boy, but you would think nothing of it if you
saw me half undressed for a ball, as I often am; yet if the one can be
done with a modest mind, and you must know that it can, so can the other,
The Tenor was sitting sideways on his chair, his elbow resting on the
back, his head on his hand, his legs crossed, half turned from her and
listening without looking at her; and there was something in the way she
made this last remark that set a familiar chord vibrating not
unpleasantly. Perhaps, after the revelation, he had expected her to turn
into a totally different person; at all events he was somewhat surprised,
but not disagreeably, to perceive how like the Boy she was. This was the
Boy again, exactly, in a bad mood, and the Tenor sought at once, as was
his wont, to distract him rather than argue him out of it. This was the
force of habit, and it was also due to the fact that his mind was rapidly
adapting itself to a strange position and becoming easier in the new
attitude. The woman he had been idolizing was lost irretrievably, but the