Part 11 out of 15
charm which had been the Boy's remained to him, and he had already begun
to reconcile himself to the idea of a wrong-headed girl who must be helped
and worked for, instead of a wrong-headed boy.
"But why should you have chosen this impossible form of amusement in
particular?" he said. "Why could you not interest yourself in the people
about you--do something for them?"
"I did think of that, I did try," she answered petulantly. "But it is
impossible for a woman to devote herself to people for whom there is
nothing to be done, who don't want her devotion; and, besides, devotion
wasn't my vocation. But, after all," she broke off, defending herself, "I
only arrived at this by slow degrees, and I never should have come so far
at all if Diavolo had stuck to me; but he got into a state of
don't-care-and-can't-be-bothered, and separated his work from mine by
going to Sandhurst. Then I found myself alone, and you cannot think how a
woman, must suffer from the awful loneliness of a life like mine when I
had no one near me in the sense in which Diavolo has always been near, a
life that is full of acquaintances as a cake is full of currants, no two
of which ever touch each other."
The Tenor's habitual quiescence seemed to have deserted him. He changed
his position incessantly, and did so now again; it was the only sign he
made of being disturbed at all; and as he moved he brushed his hand back
over his hair, but did not speak.
"I kept my disguise a long time before I used it," she began again,
another morsel of incident and motive recurring to her. "I don't think I
had any very distinct notion of what I should do with it when I got it.
The pleasure of getting it had been everything for the moment, and having
succeeded in that and tried the dress, I hid it away carefully and
scarcely ever thought of it--never dreamt of wearing it certainly until
one night--it was quite an impulse at last. That night, you know, the
first time we met--it was such a beautiful night! I was by myself and had
nothing to do as usual, and it tempted me sorely, I thought I should like
to see the market-place by moonlight, and then all at once I thought I
_would_ see it by moonlight. That was my first weighty reason for
changing my dress. But having once assumed the character, I began to love
it; it came naturally; and the freedom from restraint, I mean the
restraint of our tight uncomfortable clothing, was delicious. I tell you I
was a genuine boy. I moved like a boy, I felt like a boy; I was my own
brother in very truth. Mentally and morally, I was exactly what you
thought me, and there was little fear of your finding me out, although I
used to like to play with the position and run the risk."
"It was marvellous," the Tenor said.
"Not at all," she answered, "not a bit more marvellous in real life than
it would have been upon the stage--a mere exercise of the actor's faculty
under the most favourable circumstances; and not a bit more marvellous
than to create a character as an author does in a book; the process is
analogous. But the same thing has been done before. George Sand, for
instance; don't you remember how often she went about dressed as a man,
went to the theatres and was introduced to people, and was never found out
by strangers? And there was that woman who was a doctor in the army for so
long--until she was quite old. James Barry, she called herself, and none
of her brother officers, not even her own particular chum in the regiment
she first belonged to, had any suspicion of her sex, and it was not
discovered until after her death, when she had been an Inspector General
of the Army Medical Department for many years. And there have been women
in the ranks too, and at sea. It was really not extraordinary that an
unobservant and unsuspicious creature like yourself should have been
This recalled the patronizing manner of the Boy at times, and the Tenor
"The meeting with you was an accident, of course," Angelica proceeded with
her disjointed narrative; "but I thought I would turn it to account. I
was, as you used to say, devoured by curiosity, and my mind is always
tentative. I wanted to hear how men talk to each other. I didn't believe
in goodness in a man, and I wanted to see badness from the man's point of
view. I expected to find you corrupt in some particular, to see your hoofs
and your horns sooner or later, and I tried to make you show them: but
that of course you never did, and I soon realized my mistake. I had a
standing quarrel with your sex, however, and at first it pleased me to
deceive you simply because you were a man. That was only at the very
first, for, as soon as I began to appreciate your worth, I felt ashamed of
myself. Don't you see, Israfil, you have been raising me all along. It has
been a very gradual process, though, but still I _did_ wish to
undeceive you. I would have done so at once if you had not been so far
above me. If you had spoken to me when I gave you that chance--in the
cathedral after the service, don't you remember?--it would have been
stepping down from your pedestal; we should have been on the same level
then, and I need not have dreaded your righteous indignation. But as it
was you maintained your high position, and I was afraid--and I could not
give you up. It was delightful to look at myself--an ideal self--from afar
off with your eyes; it made me feel as if I could be all you thought me;
it made me wish to be so; and it also made me more sorry than anything to
have you think so highly of me when I did not deserve it. All these were
signs of awakening which I recognized myself--and I did try over and over
again to undeceive you about my character, but you never would listen to
me. I wish--I wish you had!"
"Do you love me then?" the Tenor asked her, and was startled himself as
soon as he had spoken by the immediate effect of the question upon her. It
was evident that she had received a terrible shock. She changed colour and
countenance, and swayed for a moment as if she were about to faint, and he
sprang up to catch her in his arms, but she recovered herself sufficiently
to check the impulse: "No, no," she exclaimed hoarsely,--"stop! stop! you
don't know--My God! how could I have put myself in such a position?--I
mean--let me tell you--" She shut her eyes and waited, the Tenor looking
at her in pained surprise. He sank again on to the seat from which he had
risen, and waited also, wondering.
Presently she opened her eyes and looked at him: "The charm--the charm,"
she faltered, "has all been in the delight of associating with a man
intimately who did not know I was a woman. I have enjoyed the benefit of
free intercourse with your masculine mind undiluted by your masculine
prejudices and proclivities with regard to my sex. Had you known that I
was a woman--even you--the pleasure of your companionship would have been
spoilt for me, so unwholesomely is the imagination of a man affected by
ideas of sex. The fault is in your training; you are all of you educated
deliberately to think of women chiefly as the opposite sex. Your manner to
me has been quite different from that of any other man I ever knew. Some
have fawned on me, degrading me with the supposition that I exist for the
benefit of man alone, and that it will gratify me above all else to know
that I please him; and some few, such as yourself, have embarrassed me by
putting me on a pedestal, which is, I can assure you, an exceedingly
cramped and uncomfortable position. There is no room to move on a
pedestal. Now, with you alone of all men, not excepting Diavolo, I almost
think I have been on an equal footing; and it has been to me like the free
use of his limbs to a prisoner after long confinement with chains." The
expression which the Tenor's abrupt question had called into her
countenance passed off as she spoke, and with it the impression it had
made upon the Tenor. He mistook the remarks she had just been making for a
natural girlish evasion of the subject, and he did not return to it,
partly because he felt it to be an inopportune time, but also because he
was pretty sure of her feeling for him, and thought that he would have
ample leisure by and by, the leisure of a lifetime, to press the question.
There were other explanations to be asked for too, which it seemed
advisable to him to get over at once and have done with.
"But how have you managed to get out night after night," he asked,
"without being missed?"
"Not night after night," she answered. "If you remember, there were often
long intervals. But I have told you, I was constantly alone. The house is
large, none of the servants sleep near my room, and my husband--"
"Your--_what_?" the Tenor demanded, turning round on his chair to
face her, every vestige of colour gone from his countenance, yet not
convinced. "What did you say?" he repeated, aghast.
"My--husband," she faltered. "Mr. Kilroy, of Ilverthorpe."
Hitherto, he had uttered no reproach, but she knew that this reticence was
due to self-respect rather than to any lingering remnant of deference, and
now when she saw his face ablaze she was prepared for an outburst of
wrath. All he said, however, was, speaking with quiet dignity: "You need
not have allowed that part of the deception to go on. You should have told
me that at once; why did you not?"
For the first time Angelica lost her presence of mind. "I--I forgot," she
The Tenor threw back his sunny head and laughed bitterly.
"It is a curious fact," Angelica remarked upon reflection, and as if
speaking to herself, "but I really had forgotten."
The Tenor looked at the fire, and in the little pause that ensued Angelica
suddenly lost her temper.
"If you are deceived in me you have deceived yourself," she burst out,
"for I have tried my utmost to undeceive you. You go and fall in love with
a girl you have never spoken to in your life, you endow her gratuitously
with all the virtues you admire without asking if she cares to possess
them; and when you find she is not the peerless perfection you require her
to be, you blame her! oh! isn't that like a man? You all say the same
thing: 'It wasn't me!'"
"What will your husband say?" the Tenor ejaculated in an undertone.
"Well, you see the bargain was when I asked him to marry me--"
"When you _what?_" said the Tenor.
"Asked him to marry me," Angelica calmly repeated. "The bargain was that
he should let me do as I liked, there being a tacit understanding between
us, of course, that I should do nothing morally wrong. I could not under
any circumstances do anything morally wrong--not, I confess, because I am
particularly high-minded, but because I cannot imagine where the charm and
pleasure of the morally wrong comes in. The best pleasures in life are in
art, not in animalism; and all the benefit of your acquaintance, I repeat,
has consisted in the fact that you were unaware of my sex. I knew that
directly you became aware of it another element would be introduced into
our friendship which would entirely spoil it so far as I am concerned."
It is a noteworthy fact, as showing how hopelessly involved man's moral
perceptions are with his prejudices and faith in custom even when
reprehensible, that the Tenor was if anything more shocked by Angelica's
outspoken objection to grossness than he would have been by a declaration
of passion on her part. The latter lapse is not unprecedented, and
therefore might have been excused as natural; but the unusual nature of
the declaration she had made put it into the category to which all things
out of order are relegated to be taken exception to, irrespective of their
ethical value. But he said nothing, only he turned from her once more, and
gazed sorrowfully into the fire.
Angelica looked at him with a dissatisfied frown on her face. "I wish you
would speak," she said to him under her breath; and then she began again
herself with her accustomed volubility: "Oh, yes, I married. That was what
was expected of me. Now, my brother when he grew up was asked with the
most earnest solicitude what he would like to be or to do; everything was
made easy for him to enter upon any career he might choose, but nobody
thought of giving me a chance. It was taken for granted that I should be
content to marry, and only to marry, and when I expressed my objection to
being so limited nobody believed I was in earnest. So here I am. And I
won't deny," she confessed with her habitual candour, "that it did occur
to me that I might have cared for you as a lover had I not been married.
But of course the thought did not disturb me. It was merely a passing
glimpse of a might-have-been. When one has a husband one must be loyal to
him, even in thought, whatever terms we are on."
The Tenor rose abruptly and walked to the farther end of the room, and
stood there for a little leaning against the window-frame with his back to
her, looking out at the cathedral. He felt sick and faint, and found the
fire and the smell of the roses overpowering. But presently he recovered,
and then he returned to her. His face was set now, white and passionless,
as it had been while he waited to rescue her from the river, and when he
spoke there was no tone in his voice; it was as if he were repeating some
dry fact by rote.
"There is no excuse for you then," he said; and she perceived with
surprise that until he knew she was married he had tried to believe that
there was. "You were playing with me, cheating me, mocking me all the
Angelica looked at him in dismay. "Israfil! Israfil?" she pleaded,
springing to her feet and clasping his arm with both hands, her better
nature thoroughly aroused, "O Israfil! forgive me!" She almost shook him
in her vehemence, then flung him from her, and pressed her hands to her
eyes for an instant. "Mocking you? Oh, no!" she protested. "Believe
me--believe me if you can. I respected you almost from the first; I
reverenced you at last. I used to tease you about myself to begin with, I
repeat, because it did not occur to me that you could care seriously for a
girl to whom you had never spoken. Then I began to perceive my mistake.
Then I felt anxious to get you to go away and return, and be properly
introduced to us."
"And so you schemed--"
"I arranged a future for you that is worthy of you. O Israfil, I have some
conscience. I am not so bad as you think me. Even if I had not dared to
tell you to-night, I should have sent you a full explanation as soon as
you had gone. I thought when once you were engaged upon a new career, you
would forget--all this."
"I am surprised to hear that you did not expect me to enjoy the joke at my
own expense--the trick you have played me."
Angelica changed countenance; it was exactly what she had expected.
"Don't speak bitterly to me," she exclaimed. "It is not natural for you to
do so. Oh! I should know--I know only too well--all your good qualities.
My heart has been wrung a hundred times--by the thought--of all--I
have--lost--by my folly." She raised her hands with a despairing gesture.
"Don't imagine that you suffer--alone--or more than I do. There is hope
for you; there is none for me. But one thing has been a comfort. I knew
you only cared for an ideal creature, not at all like me. I was not afraid
you would break your heart for a phantom that had never existed. And for
me as I am, I knew you could have no regard. I see"--she broke off--"I see
all the contradictions that are involved in what I have said and am
saying, and yet I mean it all. In separate sections of my consciousness
each separate clause exists at this moment, however contradictory, and
there is no reconciling them; but there they are. I can't understand it
myself, and I don't want you to try. All I ask you is to believe me--to
There was an interval of silence after this, and then the Tenor spoke
"It is nearly morning," he said. "I will see you safely home."
The Boy had been allowed to come and go as he liked, but with her it was
different; and the altered position made itself again apparent in this
new-found need for an escort. It was evident, too, from the way the Tenor
had allowed the subject to drop, tacitly agreeing to the assertion: "For
me as I am I knew you could have no regard," that he considered there was
nothing more to be said; but Angelica retained her childish habit of
talking everything out, and this did not satisfy her, it was such a lame
She got up now, however, to accompany him. "My hair!" she exclaimed,
recollecting. "What am I to do with my hair? I suppose my wig is lost."
Then she burst out passionately: "Oh, why did you save my life!" and wrung
her hands--"or why aren't you different now you know? Can't you say
something to restore my self-respect? Won't you forgive me?"
The Tenor's face contracted as with a spasm of pain. He had much to
forgive, and he may be pardoned if he showed no eagerness; but he spoke at
last. "I do forgive you," he said. Then all at once his great tender heart
swelled with pity. "Poor misguided girl!" he faltered with a broken voice;
"may God in heaven forgive you, and help you, and keep you safe, and make
you good and true and pure now and always."
She sank down at that, and clasped his feet and burst into a paroxysm of
tears, which were as a fervent _Amen_ to the Tenor's prayer.
"Come!" he said, raising her. "Come, before it is too late. You must do
something with your hair."
But she could not plait it, her hands trembled so, and he was obliged to
help her. He got her a hat to roll it up under.
"The light is uncertain," he said, "and it is raining now. Even if we do
meet anyone, I don't think they would notice--especially if I can find an
umbrella for you."
He hunted one up from somewhere, and then he hurried her away, ferried her
across the river, and left her at the lodge gate safely, his last words
being:--"You will do some good in the world--you will be a good woman yet,
I know--I know you will."
END OF BOOK IV
MRS. KILROY OF ILVERTHORPE.
Face to face in my chamber, my silent chamber, I saw her:
God and she and I only, there I sat down to draw her Soul through
The clefts of confession--"Speak, I am holding thee fast,
As the angel of recollection shall do it at last!"
"My cup is blood-red
With my sin," she said,
"And I pour it out to the bitter lees.
As if the angel of judgment stood over me strong at last
Or as thou wert as these,"
--_Elizabeth Barrett Browning_.
Howbeit all is not lost
The warm noon ends in frost
And worldly tongues of promise,
Like sheep-bells die from us
On the desert hills cloud-crossed:
Yet through the silence shall
Pierce the death-angel's call,
And "Come up hither," recover all.
Heart, wilt thou go?
Broken hearts triumph so.
Half an hour after the Tenor parted from Angelica, she was sleeping
soundly, not because she was dedolent but because she was exhausted; and
when that is the case sleep is the blessed privilege of youth and
strength, let what will have preceded it. She lay there in her luxurious
bed, with one hand under her head, her thick dark hair--just as the Tenor
had braided it--in contrast to the broad white pillow; her smooth face, on
which no emotion of any kind had written a line as yet, placid as a little
child's; to all appearance an ideal of innocence and beauty. And while she
slept the rain stopped, the misty morning broke, the clouds had cleared
away, and the sun shone forth, welcomed by a buzz of insects and chirrup
of birds; the uprising of countless summer scents, and the opening of
rainbow flowers. It was one of those radiant days, harmonizing best with
tranquil or joyous moods, when, if we are disconsolate, nature seems to
mock our misery, and callous earth rejoices forgetful of storms, making us
wonder with a deeper discontent why we, too, cannot forget.
Angelica slept a heavy dreamless sleep, and when she did awake late in the
morning, it was not gradually, with that pleasant dreamy languor which
precedes mental activity in happy times, but with a sudden start that
aroused her to full consciousness in a moment, and the recollection of all
that had occurred the night before. Black circles round her eyes bore
witness to the danger, fatigue, and emotion of her late experiences; she
had a sharp pain in her head, too, and she was unaccustomed to physical
pain; but she felt it less than the dull ache she had at her heart, and a
general sense of things gone wrong that oppressed her, but which she
strove with stubborn determination to stifle.
Her maid was busy in the dressing room, the door of which was open, and
she called her.
"Yes, ma'am," and the maid appeared, smiling.
She was a good-looking woman of thirty or thereabouts. She had come to
Angelica when the latter got out of her nurse's hands, and remained with
her ever since, Angelica being one of those mistresses who win the hearts
of their servants by recognizing the human nature in them, and
appreciating the kindness there is in devotion rather than accepting it as
a necessary part of the obligation to earn wages.
"Bring me a cup of coffee, Elizabeth."
"Yes, ma'am," the maid rejoined, "It shall be ready for you as soon as you
have had your bath."
"But I want it now," said Angelica, springing out of bed energetically,
and holding first one slim foot and then the other out to be shod.
There was a twinkle in the maid's eye as she answered: "Please, ma'am, you
made me promise never to give it to you, however much you might wish it,
until you had had your bath. You said you'd be sure to ask for it, and I
was to refuse, because hot coffee was bad for you just before a cold bath,
and you really enjoyed it more afterward, only you hadn't the strength of
mind to wait."
"Quite so," said Angelica. "You're a treasure, Elizabeth, really. But did
I say you were to begin to-day?"
"No, ma'am; not to-day in particular. But the last time I brought it to
you early you scolded me after you had taken it, and said if ever I let
myself be persuaded again, you'd dismiss me on the spot. And you warned me
that you'd be artful and get it out of me somehow if I didn't take care."
"So I did," said Angelica.
She had been brought up with a pretty smart shock the night before, and
was suffering from the physical effects of the same that morning; the
mental were still in abeyance. She felt a strange lassitude for one thing,
and was strongly inclined to indulge it by being indolent. She breakfasted
in her own room, but could not eat, neither could she read. She turned her
letters over; then tried a book; then going back to her letters again, she
picked one out which she had overlooked before. It was from her husband,
and as she read it she changed countenance somewhat, but it would be
impossible to say what the change betokened, whether pleasure or the
"Elizabeth," she said, speaking evenly as usual, "your master is coming
back to-day. He will be here for lunch."
The sickening sense of loss and pain which had assailed her when she awoke
that morning did not diminish as the day wore on, nor did her thoughts
grow less importunate; but she steadily refused to entertain any of them,
or to let her mental discomfort interfere with her occupations. After
reading her husband's letter she finished dressing, had a long interview
with her housekeeper, went round the premises as was her daily habit, to
see that all was in order, and then retired to her morning room, and set
to work methodically to write orders, see to accounts, and answer letters.
It was a busy day with her, and she had only just finished when Mr. Kilroy
arrived. She went to meet him pleasantly, held up her cheek to be kissed,
and said she was glad he was in time for lunch. There was no sign of the
joy or effusion with which young wives usually receive their husbands
after an absence, but the greeting was eminently friendly. Angelica had
always had a strong liking for Mr. Kilroy, and, as she told him, marriage
had not affected this in any way. She had made a friend of him while she
was still in the schoolroom, and confided to him many things which she
would not have mentioned to anyone else, not even excepting Diavolo; and
she continued to do so still. She was sure of his sympathy, sure of his
devotion, and she respected him as sincerely as she trusted him. In fact,
had there been any outlet for her superfluous mental energy, any
satisfactory purpose to which the motive power of it might have been
applied, she would have made Mr. Kilroy an excellent wife. She was not in
love with him, but she probably liked him all the better on that account,
for she must have been disappointed in him sooner or later had she ever
discovered in him those marvellous fascinations which passion projects
from itself on to the personality of the most commonplace person. As it
was, however, she had always left him out of her day-dreams altogether.
She quite believed that pleasure is the end of life, but then her ideal of
pleasure was nice in the extreme. Nothing so vulgar and violent as passion
entered into it, and nothing so transient, so enervating, corroding, and
damaging both to the intellectual powers and the capacity for permanent
enjoyment; and nothing so repulsive either in its details, its
self-centred egotistical exaltation, and the self-abasement which arrives
with that final sense of satiety which she perceived to be inevitable.
That part of her nature had never been roused into active life, partly
because it was not naturally strong, but also because the more refined and
delicately sensuous appreciation of beauty in life, which is so much a
characteristic of capable women nowadays, dominated such animalism as she
was equal to, and made all coarser pleasures repugnant. It had been
suggested to her that she might, with her position and wealth, form a
salon and lay herself out to attract, but she said: "No, thank you. One
sees in the history of French salons the effect of irresponsible power on
the women who formed them, I am bad enough naturally, without applying for
a licence to become worse, by making myself so agreeable that everybody
will excuse me if I do. And as to being a great beauty and nothing else,
one might as well be a great cow; the comfort would be the same and the
anxiety less, the amount of attention received not depending on a clear
complexion or an increase of figure, and therefore necessitating no limit
in the enjoyment of such good things as come with the varying seasons, the
winter wurzel and summer state of being in clover."
It was to Mr. Kilroy that these remarks were made one day when she wanted
a target to talk at, for her appreciation of her husband did not amount to
any adequate comprehension of the extent to which he understood her. The
truth was, however, that he understood her better than anybody else did,
the complete latitude he gave to her to do as she liked being evidence of
the fact, if only she could have interpreted it; but she had failed to do
so, his quiet undemonstrative manner having sufficed to deceive her
superficial observation of him as effectually as the treacherous
smoothness of her own placid face when in repose, upon the unruffled
surface of which there was neither mark nor sign to indicate the current
of changeful moods, ambitious projects, and poetical fancies, which
coursed impetuously within, might excusably have imposed upon him. He was
twenty years older than Angelica and looked it, but more by reason of his
grave demeanour than from any actual mark of age, for his life had been
well ordered and as free from care as it had been from corruption. Mr.
Kilroy was not a talkative man, and what he did say was neither original
nor brilliant, yet he was generally trusted, and his advice oftener asked
and followed than that of people whose reputations were at least as good,
and whose abilities were infinitely better; the explanation of which was
probably to be found in the good feeling which he brought to the
consideration of all subjects. Some people whose brains would be at fault
if they were asked to judge, are enabled by qualities of heart to feel
their way to the most praiseworthy conclusions. Mr. Kilroy was one of
those people, well-born and of ample means, whom society recognizes as its
own, but without enthusiasm, the sterling qualities which make them such
an addition to its ranks being less appreciated than the wealth and
position which they contribute to its resources; still, in his case it was
customary for women to describe him as "a thoroughly nice man," while "an
exceedingly good fellow" was the corresponding masculine, verdict.
He was in parliament now, and was consequently obliged to be in London
continually, but latterly Angelica had refused to accompany him. She loved
their place near Morningquest, and she had begun to appreciate the ancient
city with its kindly, benighted, unchristian ways, its picturesqueness,
and all that was odd and old-world about it. There, too, she was somebody,
but in crowded London she lost all sense of her own identity; though, to
do her justice, she disliked it less for that than for itself, for its hot
rooms, society gossip, vapid men and spiteful women. Mr. Kilroy could
rarely persuade her to accompany him, and never induce her to stay. Having
her with him was just the one thing that he was a little persistent about,
and her wilfulness in this respect had been a real trouble to him. He had
come now to see if she continued obdurate, and he came meekly and with
conciliation in his whole attitude. She thought, however, that she knew
how to get rid of him, how to make him return alone in a week of his own
accord, so far as he himself knew anything about it, and that, too,
without thinking her horrid; and she laid her plans accordingly. This was
something to do; and so irksome did she find the purposeless existence
which the misfortune of having been born a woman compelled her to lead,
that even such an object was a relief, and her spirits rose.
Something--anything for an occupation; that was the state to which she was
reduced. She began at once, and began by talking. All through lunch she
discoursed admirably, and at first Mr. Kilroy listened fascinated, but by
and by his attention became strained. He found himself forced to listen;
it was an effort, and yet he could not help himself. He tried to check
Angelica by assuming an absent look, but she recalled him with a sharp
exclamation. He even took a letter out of his pocket and read the
superscription, but put it away again shamefacedly, upon her gently
apologizing for monopolizing so much of his attention.
"You see it is so long since I saw you," she said. "You must forgive me if
I have too much to say."
When lunch was over the carriage came round, and Angelica, all radiant
smiles, took it for granted that Mr. Kilroy would go with her for a drive.
Now, if there were one thing which he disliked more than another it was a
stupid drive there and back without an object, but Angelica seemed so
uncommonly glad to see him he did not like to refuse. He had many things
to attend to, but he felt that it would be bad policy not to humour her
mood, especially as it was such an extremely encouraging one, so he went
to please her with perfect good grace, although he could not help thinking
regretfully of the precious time he was losing, of the accumulation of
things there were to be seen to about his own place, and of some important
letters he ought to have written that afternoon. Angelica beguiled him
successfully on the way out, however, so that he did not notice the
distance, but on the way back her manner changed. So far she had been all
brightness and animation; now she became lugubrious, and took a morbid
view of things. She talked of all the men of middle age who had died
lately, and of what they had died of, showing that most of them were taken
off suddenly when in perfect health apparently, and usually without any
premonitory symptoms of disease. It was all the result of some change of
habits, she said, which was always dangerous in the case of men of middle
age; and Mr. Kilroy began to feel uneasy in spite of himself, for he had
been obliged to alter his own habits considerably when he married, and he
was apt to be a little nervous about his health. Consequently he was much
depressed when they returned, and finding that he had missed the post did
not tend to raise his spirits. Angelica came down to dinner dressed in
pale green, with something yellow on her head. Mr. Kilroy admired her
immensely; she was the only subject upon which he ever became poetical,
and somehow the combination of colours she wore on this occasion, with her
lithe young figure and milk-white skin, made him think of an arum lily,
and he told her so, and was very pleased with the pretty compliment when
he had paid it, and with the dinner, and everything. The fatal age was
forgotten, and he allowed himself to be cheered by hopes of success in his
present mission. He had not yet mentioned it, but when they were left
alone at dessert he began.
"Is my Chatelaine tired of seclusion, and willing to return with me to the
great wicked city?" he ventured with an affectation of playfulness, which
rather betrayed than concealed his very real anxiety. "A wife's place is
by her husband."
"Your Chatelaine is not tired of seclusion," she answered in a cheerful
matter of fact tone; "and it is a wife's duty to look after her husband's
house and keep it well for him, especially in his absence. But how much
will you give me to go? My private purse is empty."
Mr. Kilroy laughed. "It always is, so far as I can make out," he said.
"But a mercenary arum lily! what an anomaly! I will give you a hundred
pounds to buy dolls, if you will go back with me next week."
Angelica appeared to reflect. "I will take fifty, thank you, and stay
where I am," she answered with decision.
Mr. Kilroy's countenance fell. "If you will not come back with me, you
shall not have any," he said, with equal firmness.
"Then I shall be obliged to make it," she rejoined, with a schoolgirl grin
This threat to make money with her violin had kept her purse full ever
since her marriage--not that it was ever really empty, for she had had a
handsome settlement. Mr. Kilroy, however, was not the kind of man to
inspect his wife's bank-book; and besides, whether she had money or not,
if it amused her to obtain more, he never could be quite sure that she
would not carry out that dreadful threat and try to make it. He knew she
would be only too glad of an excuse, knew, too, that if ever she tried she
would be certain to succeed, what with her talent, presence, family
_prestige_, and the interest which the ill-used young wife of an
elderly curmudgeon (that was the character she meant to assume, she said)
was sure to excite.
She did not care for money. It was the pleasure of the chase that
delighted her, the fun of extorting it. If Mr. Kilroy had given her all
she asked for without any trouble, she would have soon left off asking;
but he felt it his duty to refuse, by way of discipline. Seeing that she
was so young, he did not think it right to indulge her extravagance, and
he did his best to curb the inclination gently before it became a
After dinner he went to the library to write those important letters, and
Angelica retired to the drawing room. The night was close, doors and
windows stood wide open, and she got a violin and began to tune it. She
was too good a musician not to be able to make the instrument an
instrument of torture if she chose, and now she did choose. She made it
screak; she made it wail; she set her own teeth on edge with the horrid
discords she drew from it. It crowed like a cock twenty-five times
running, with an interval of half a minute between each crow. It brayed
like two asses on a common, one answering the other from a considerable
distance. And then it became ten cats quarreling _crescendo_, with a
pause after every violent outburst, broken at well-judged intervals by an
Mr. Kilroy endured the nuisance up to that point heroically; but at last
he felt compelled to send a servant to tell Angelica that he was writing.
"Oh," she observed, perversely choosing to misinterpret the purport of
this tactful message, "then I need not wait for him any longer, I suppose.
Bring me my coffee, please."
The man withdrew, and she proceeded with the torture. Mr. Kilroy
good-naturedly shut his doors and windows, hoping to exclude the sound,
when he found the hint had been lost upon her. In vain! The library was
near the drawing room, and every note was audible.
Angelica was stumbling over an air now, a dismal minor thing which would
have been quite bad enough had she played it properly, but as it was,
being apparently too difficult for her, she made it distracting, working
her way up painfully to one particular part where she always broke down,
then going back and beginning all over again twenty times at least, till
Mr. Kilroy got the thing on the brain and found himself forced to wait for
the catastrophe each time she approached the place where she stumbled.
Presently he appeared at the drawing-room door with a pen in his hand, and
a deprecating air. He suspected no malice, and only came to remonstrate
"Angelica, my dear," he began, "I am sorry to disturb you, but I really
cannot write--I have been overworked lately--or I am tired with the
journey down--or something. My head is a little confused, in fact, and a
trifle distracts me. Would you mind--"
Angelica put down her violin with an injured air.
"Oh, I don't mind, of course," she protested in a tone which contradicted
the assertion flatly. "But it is very hard." She took out her
handkerchief. "You are so seldom at home; and when you _are_ here you
do nothing but write stupid letters, and never come near me. And this time
you are horrid and cross about everything. It is such a disappointment
when I have been looking forward to your return." Her voice broke. "I wish
I had never asked you to marry me. You ought not to have done so--it was
not right of you, if you only meant to neglect me and make me miserable.
You won't do anything for me now--not even give yourself the trouble to
write out a cheque for fifty pounds, though it would not take you a
minute." Two great tears overflowed as she spoke, and she raised her
handkerchief with ostentatious slowness to dry them.
Mr. Kilroy was much distressed. "My _dear_ child!" he exclaimed,
sitting down beside her. "There, there, Angelica, now don't, please"--for
Angelica was shivering and crying in earnest, a natural consequence of her
immersion on the previous night, and the state of mind which had ensued.
"I am obliged to write these letters. I am indeed. I ought to have done
them this afternoon, but I went out with you, you know. You really are
unjust to me. I have often told you that I do not think it is right for
you to be so much alone, but you will not listen to me. Come and sit with
me now in the library. I would much rather have you with me, I would have
asked you before, but I was afraid it might bore you. Come now, do!"
"No, I should only fidget and disturb you," she answered, but in a
"Well, then," he replied, "I will go and finish as fast as I can, and come
back to you here. And don't fret, my dear child. You know there is nothing
in reason I would not do for you." In proof of which he sent the butler a
little later, by way of breaking the length of his absence agreeably, with
what looked like a letter on a silver salver. Angelica opened it, and
found a cheque for a hundred pounds. When she was alone again, she beamed
round upon the silent company of chairs and tables, much pleased. Then her
conscience smote her. "He is really very good," she said to herself--"far
too good for me. I don't think I ever could have married anybody else."
But there was something dubious, that resembled a question, in this last
The next day was hopelessly miserable out of doors--raining, gusty, cold.
Mr. Kilroy was not sorry. He had a good deal of business connected with
his property to attend to, and did not want to go out. And Angelica was
not sorry. She had some little plans of her own to carry out, which a wet
day rather favoured than otherwise.
Having finished her accustomed morning's work, and being obliged to stay
in, it was natural that she should try to amuse herself, also natural that
she should try something in the way of exercise. So she collected some
dozen curs she kept about the place, demonstrative mongrels for the most
part, but all intelligent; and brought them into the hall, where she made
them run races for biscuits, the _modus operandi_ being to place a
biscuit on the top step of a broad flight of stairs there was at one end
of the hall, then to collect the dogs at the other, make them stand, in a
row--a difficult task to begin with, but easy enough when they understood,
which was very soon, although not without much shrieking of orders from
Angelica, and responsive barking on their part--and then start them with a
whip. The first to arrive at the top of the stairs took the biscuit as a
matter of course, and the others fought him for it. It was indescribably
funny to see the whole pack tear up all eagerness, and then come down
again, helter-skelter, tumbling over each other in the excitement of the
scrimmage, some of them losing their tempers, but all of them enjoying the
game; returning of their own accord to the starting point, waiting with
yelps of excitement and eyes brightly intent, ears pricked, jaws open,
tongues hanging, tails wagging, sides panting, till another biscuit was
placed, then off once more--sometimes after a false start or two, caused
by the impetuosity of a little yapping terrier, which _would_ rush
before the signal was given, and had to be brought back with the whip, the
other dogs looking disgusted meanwhile, like honourable gentlemen at a cad
who won't play fair. Angelica, shouting and laughing, made as much noise
in her way as the dogs did in theirs, and the din was deafening; an
exasperating kind of din too, not incessant, but intermittent, now
swelling to a climax, now lulling, until there seemed some hope that it
would cease altogether, then bursting out again, whip cracking, dogs
howling and barking, feet scampering, Angelica shrieking worse than ever.
Presently, Mr. Kilroy appeared, with remonstrance written on every line of
"My dear Angelica," he said, unable to conceal his quite justifiable
annoyance. "I can do nothing if this racket continues. And"--
deprecatingly--"is it--is it quite seemly for you--?"
"I used to do it at home," Angelica answered.
"But you are not at home now"--quick as light she turned and looked at him
with her great grieved eyes. "I mean"--he grew confused in his haste to
correct himself--"of course you are at home--very much so indeed, you
know. But what I want to say is--as the mistress of a large establishment--
dignity--setting an example, and all that sort of thing, don't you see?"
"None of the servants are about at this hour," Angelica answered. "It is
their dinner time. But I apologize for my thoughtlessness if I have
disturbed you." She smiled up at him as she spoke, and poor Mr. Kilroy
retired to the library quite disarmed by her gentleness, and blaming
himself for a selfish brute to have interfered with her innocent
amusement. In future, he determined, he would make more allowance for her
Angelica, meanwhile, had collected her dogs and disappeared. But presently
she returned, and followed Mr. Kilroy to the library. He was busy writing,
and she went and stood in the window, looking idly out at the rain, and
drumming--absently, as it seemed--on the panes with ten strong fingers,
till he could bear it no longer.
"My dear child!" he exclaimed at last, "can't you get something to do?"
Angelica stopped instantly. If her thoughtlessness was exasperating, her
docility was exemplary. But she seemed disheartened; then she seemed to
consider; then she brightened a little; then she got some letters, sat
down, and began to write--scratch, scratch, scratch, squeak, squeak,
squeak, on rough paper with a quill pen, writing in furious haste at a
table just behind her husband. Why did she choose the library, his own
private _sanctum_, for the purpose, when there were half a dozen
other rooms at least where she might have been quite as comfortable? Mr.
Kilroy fidgeted uneasily, but he bore this new infliction silently, though
with an ever-increasing sense of irritation, for some time. Finally,
however, an exclamation of impatience slipped from him unawares.
"Do I worry you with my scribbling?" Angelica demanded with hypocritical
concern. "I'm sorry. But I've just done,"--and she went away with some
half dozen notes for the post.
When they met again at lunch she told him triumphantly that she had
refused all the invitations which had come for him since his arrival, on
account of his health. She had told everybody that he had come home for
perfect rest and quiet, which he much needed after the strain of his
parliamentary duties; and as one of the notes at least would be read at a
public meeting to explain his absence therefrom, and would afterward
appear in the papers probably, she had made it impossible for him to go
anywhere during his stay. Mr. Kilroy could not complain, however, for had
he not himself said only last night that he was suffering from the effects
of overwork, and so alarmed her? and he would not have complained in any
case when he saw her so joyfully triumphant in the belief that she had
cleverly eased him from an oppressing number of duties; but he determined
to pick his excuses more carefully another time, for the prospect of a
prolonged _tete-a-tete_ with Angelica in her present humour somewhat
appalled his peace-loving soul, and the thought of it did just stir him
sufficiently for the moment to cause him to venture to suggest that in
future it might be as well for her to consult him before she answered for
him in any matter. Angelica replied with an intelligent nod and smile. She
was altogether charming in these days in spite of her perverseness, and
Mr. Kilroy, while groaning inwardly at her irritating tricks, was also
touched and flattered by the anxiety she displayed for his comfort and
He hoped to enjoy a quiet cigar and a book after luncheon, but Angelica
had another notion in her head. She went to the drawing room, opened doors
and windows, sat down to the piano, and began to sing--shakes, scales,
intervals, the whole exercise book through apparently from beginning to
end, and with such good will that her voice resounded throughout the
house. She had eaten nothing since breakfast so as to be able to produce
it with the desired effect, and there was no escape from the sound. But
poor Mr. Kilroy did not like to interfere with her industry as he had done
with her idleness. He was afraid he had shown too much impatience already
for one day, so he endured this further trial without exhibiting a sign of
suffering; but after an hour or two of it, he found himself sighing for
the undisturbed repose of his house in town, in a way that would have
satisfied Angelica had she known it. At dinner she looked very nice, but
she did not talk much. Conversation was not Mr. Kilroy's strong point, but
he was good at anecdotes, and now he racked his brains for something new
to tell her. She listened, however, without seeming to see the point of
some, and others caused her to stare at him in wide-eyed astonishment as
if shocked, which made him pause awkwardly to consider, half fearing to
find some impropriety which his coarser masculine mind had hitherto failed
This caused the flow of reminiscences to languish, and presently to cease.
Then Angelica began to make bread pills. She set them in a row, and
flipped them off the table one by one deliberately when the servants left
the room. This amusement ended, she pulled flowers to pieces between the
courses, and hummed a little tune. Mr. Kilroy fidgeted. He felt as if he
had been saying "Don't!" ever since he came home, and he would not now
repeat it, but the self-repression disagreed with him, and so did his
dinner, dyspepsia having waited on appetite in lieu of digestion.
After dinner Angelica induced him to go with her to the drawing room, and
when she had got him comfortably seated, and had given him his coffee and
a paper, and just peace enough to let him fall into a pleasurably drowsy
state, accompanied by a strong disinclination to move, she began to pick
out the "Dead March" in "Saul" and kindred melodies with one finger on the
piano. Mr. Kilroy bore this infliction also; but when she brought a
cookery book and insisted on reading the recipes aloud, he went to bed in
If the first and second days at home were failures so far as Mr. Kilroy's
comfort was concerned, the third was as bad, if not worse. It was a
continual case of "Please don't!" from morning till night, and Angelica
herself was touched at last by the kindly nature which could repeat the
remonstrance so often and so patiently; but all the same she did not
forbear. All that day, however, Mr. Kilroy made every allowance for her.
Angelica was thoughtless, very thoughtless; but it was only natural that
she should be so, considering her youth. On the next day, however, it did
occur to him that she was far too exacting, for she would not let him
leave her for a moment if she could help it; and on the next he was
sufficiently depressed to acknowledge that Angelica was trying; and if he
did not actually sigh for solitude, he felt, at all events, that it would
cost him no effort to resign himself to it if she should again prove
refractory and refuse to go back with him--and Angelica knew that he had
arrived at this state just as well as if he had told her; but still she
was far from content. She wanted him to go, and she wanted him to
stay--she did not know what she wanted. She teased him with as much zeal
as at first, but the amusement had ceased to distract her in the least
degree. It had become quite a business now, and she only kept it up
because she could think of nothing else to do. She was conscious of some
change in herself, conscious of a racking spirit of discontent which
tormented her, and of the fact that, in spite of her superabundant
vitality, she had lost all zest for anything. Outwardly, and also as a
matter of habit, when she was with anybody who might have noticed a
change, she maintained the dignity of demeanour which she had begun to
cultivate in society upon her marriage; but inwardly she raged--raged at
herself, at everybody, at everything; and this mood again was varied by
two others, one of unnatural quiescence, the other of feverish
restlessness. In the one she would sit for hours at a time, doing nothing,
not even pretending to occupy herself; in the other, she would wander
aimlessly up and down, would walk about the room, and look at the pictures
without seeing them, or go upstairs for nothing and come down again
without perceiving the folly of it all. And she was forever thinking.
Diavolo was at Sandhurst--if only he had been at Ilverthorpe! She might
have talked to him. She tried the effect of a letter full of allusions
which should have aroused his curiosity if not his sympathetic interest,
but he made no remark about these in his reply, and only wrote about
himself and his pranks, which seemed intolerably childish and stupid to
Angelica in her present mood; and about his objection to early rising and
regular hours, all of which she knew, so that the repetition only
irritated her. She considered Mr. Kilroy obtuse, and thought bitterly that
anyone with a scrap of intelligent interest in her must have noticed that
she had something on her mind, and won her confidence.
This reflection occurred to her in the drawing room one night after
dinner, and immediately afterward she caught him looking at her with a
grave intensity which should have puzzled her if it did not strike her as
significant of some deeper feeling than that to which the carnal
admiration for her person which she expected and despised, would have
given rise; but she was too self-absorbed to be more observant than she
gave him the credit of being.
The result of Mr. Kilroy's observation was an effort to take her out of
herself. He began by asking her to play to him. Not very graciously, she
got out a violin, remarking that she was sorry it was not her best one.
"Where is your best one?" he asked.
"It is not at home," she answered. "I left it with Israfil, my fair-haired
friend, you know." She spoke slowly, holding the end of the violin, and
tightening the strings as she did so, the effort causing her to compress
her lips so that the words were uttered disjointedly; and as she finished
speaking, she raised the instrument to her shoulder and her eyes to Mr.
Kilroy's face, into which she gazed intently as she drew her bow across
the strings, testing them as to whether they were in tune or not, and
seeming rather to listen than to look, as she did so. Mr. Kilroy, still
quietly observing her, noticed that her equanimity had been suddenly
restored; but whether it was the mellow tones of her violin or some happy
thought that had released the tension he could not tell. It was as much
relief, however, to him to see her brighten, as it was to her to feel when
she answered him that a great weight had been lifted from her mind, and
she would now be able "to talk it out," this trouble that oppressed her,
unrestrainedly, as was natural to her.
When Mr. Kilroy accepted the terms upon which she proposed to marry him,
namely, that he should let her do as she liked, she had voluntarily
promised to tell him everything she did, and she had kept her word as was
her wont, telling him the exact truth as on this occasion, but mixing it
up with so many romances that he never knew which was which. He was in
town when she first met the Tenor, but when he returned, she told him all
that had happened, and continued the story from time to time as the
various episodes occurred, making it extremely interesting, and also
almost picturesque. Mr. Kilroy knew the Tenor by reputation, of course,
and was much entertained by what he believed to be the romance which
Angelica was weaving about his interesting personality. He suggested that
she should write it just as she told it. "I have not seen anything like it
anywhere," he said; "nothing half so lifelike."
"Oh, but then, you see, this is all _true_" she gravely insisted.
"Oh, of course," he answered, smiling. And now when she answered that she
had left her best violin with the Tenor, it reminded him: "By the by,
yes," he said. "How does the story progress? I was thinking about it in
the train on my way home, but I forgot to ask you--other things have put
it out of my head since I arrived."
"And out of mine, too," said Angelica thoughtfully--"at least I forgot to
tell you--which is extraordinary, by the way, for matters are now so
complicated between us that I can think of nothing else. It will be quite
a relief to discuss the subject with you."
She drew up a little chair and sat down opposite to him, with her violin
across her knee, and began immediately, and with great earnestness,
looking up at him as she spoke. She described all that had happened on
that last sad occasion minutely--the row down the river, the moonrise, the
music, the accident, the rescue, the discovery, and its effect upon the
Tenor; and all with her accustomed picturesqueness, speaking in the first
person singular, and with such force and fluency that Mr. Kilroy was
completely carried away, and declared, as on previous occasions, that she
set the whole thing before him so vividly he found it impossible not to
believe every word of it.
"And what are you going to do now?" he asked with his indulgent smile,
when she had told him all that there was to tell at present. "You cannot
end it there, you know, it would be such a lame conclusion."
"That was just what I thought," she answered, "and I wanted to ask you. As
a man of the world, what would you advise me to do?"
"Well," he began--then he rose and held out his hand to help her up from
her little chair. "Will you come out and sit on the terrace," he said,
"and allow me to smoke? The night is warm."
Angelica nodded, and preceded him through one of the open windows.
"Well," Mr. Kilroy resumed, when he had lit his cigar, and settled himself
in a cane chair comfortably, with Angelica in another opposite. "What a
lovely night it is after the rain yesterday"--this by way of parenthesis.
"Rather close, though," he observed, and then he returned to the subject.
"I suppose you mean that you do not want it to be all over between you?"
"_Between the Tenor and the Boy_," she corrected. "The whole charm of
the acquaintance, don't you see, for me, consisted in that footing--I
don't know how to express it, but perhaps you can grasp what I mean."
Mr. Kilroy reflected. "I am afraid," he said at last, "that footing cannot
be resumed. The influences of sex, once the difference is recognized, are
involuntary. But, if he has no objection, I do not see why you should not
be friends, and intimate friends too; and with that sort of man you might
make some advance, especially as you are entirely in the wrong. I am not
saying, you know, that this would be the proper thing to do as a rule; but
here are exceptional circumstances, and here is an exceptional man."
"Now, that is significant," said Angelica, jeering. "Society is so
demoralized that if a man is caught conducting himself with decency and
honour on all occasions when a woman is in question, you involuntarily
exclaim that he is an exceptional man!"
Mr. Kilroy smoked on in silence for some time with his eyes fixed on the
quiet stars. His attitude expressed nothing but extreme quiescence, yet
Angelica felt reproved.
"Don't snub me, Daddy," she exclaimed at last. "I came to you in my
difficulty, and you do not seem to care."
Mr. Kilroy looked at his cigar, and flicked the ash from the end of it.
"Tell me how to get out of this horrid dilemma," Angelica pursued. "I
shall never know a moment's peace until we have resumed our acquaintance
on a different footing, and I have been able to make him some reparation."
"Ah--reparation?" said Mr. Kilroy dubiously.
"Do you think it is impossible?" Angelica demanded.
"Not impossible, perhaps, but very difficult," he answered. "Really,
Angelica," he broke off laughingly, "I quite forget every now and again
that we are romancing. You must write this story for me.".
"We are _not_ romancing," she said impatiently, "and I couldn't write
it, it is too painful. Besides, we don't seem to get any further."
"Let me see where we were?" Mr. Kilroy replied, humouring her
good-naturedly. "It is a pity you cannot unmarry yourself. You see, being
married complicates matters to a much greater extent than if you had been
single. A girl might, under certain circumstances, be forgiven for an
escapade of the kind, but when a married woman does such a thing it is
very different. Still, if you can get well out of it, of course the
difficulty will make the _denouement_ all the more interesting."
"But I don't see how I am to get well out of it--unless you will go to him
yourself, and tell him you know the whole story, and do whatever your tact
and goodness suggest to set the matter right." She bent forward with her
arms folded on her lap, looking up at him eagerly as she spoke, and
beating a "devil's tattoo," with her slender feet, on the ground
impatiently the while.
"No," he answered deliberately, "that would not be natural. You see,
either you must be objectionable or your husband must; and upon the whole
I think you had better sacrifice the husband, otherwise you lose your
"Make _you_ objectionable, Daddy!" Angelica exclaimed. "The thing is
not to be done! I could never have asked you to marry me if you had been
objectionable. And I don't see why I should be so either--entirely, you
know. If I had been quite horrid, I should not have appreciated you, and
the Tenor and Uncle Dawne and Dr. Galbraith--oh, dear! Why is it, when
good men are so scarce, that I should know so many, and yet be tormented
with the further knowledge that you are all exceptional, and crime and
misery continue because it is so? What is the use of knowing when one can
Again Mr. Kilroy looked up at the quiet stars; but Angelica gave him no
time to reflect.
"I don't see why I should be severely consistent," she said. "Let me be a
mixture--not a foul mixture, but one of those which eventually result in
something agreeable, after going through a period of fermentation, during
which they throw up an unpleasant scum that has to be removed."
"That would do," Mr. Kilroy responded gravely.
"But just now," Angelica resumed, "it seems as if I should be obliged to
let matters take their course and do nothing, which is intolerable."
"Oh, but you must do something," Mr. Kilroy decided; "and the first thing
will be to go to him."
"Go to him!" she ejaculated.
"Well, yes," he rejoined. "Naturally you will feel it. Now that you are no
longer _The Boy_ made courageous by his unsuspicious confidence--I
mean the Tenor's--it is quite proper for you to be shy and ashamed of
yourself. As a woman, of course, you are not wanting in modesty. But there
is no help for it; he would never come to you, so you must go to him. I
quite think that you owe him any reparation you can make. And, knowing the
sort of man he is--you have made his character well known in the place,
have you not?"
Angelica nodded. "Well, then, a visit from a lady of your rank will create
no scandal, nor even cause any surprise, I should think, if you go quite
openly; for you are known to be a musician, and might therefore reasonably
be supposed to have business with one of the profession. I wish,
by-the-bye, you had made him an ugly man, with kind eyes, you know; it
would have been more original, I think. But you will find out who he is,
"No. I hardly think so." Angelica answered. "But you would advise me to go
to him?"--this by way of bringing him back to the subject.
"Yes"--with a vigorous attempt to draw his cigar to life again, it having
gone all but out--"I should advise you to go to him boldly, by day, of
course; and just make him forgive you. Insist on it; you will find he
cannot resist you. Then you will start afresh on a new footing as you
wish, and the whole thing will end happily."
"You forget though, he did forgive me."
"There are various kinds of forgiveness," Mr. Kilroy replied. "There is
the forgiveness that washes its hands of the culprit and refuses to be
further troubled on his behalf--the least estimable form of forgiveness;
and there is that which proves itself sincere by the effort which is
afterward made to help the penitent, that is the kind of forgiveness you
should try to secure."
"But somehow it still seems unfinished," Angelica grumbled.
"If you had been single now," Mr. Kilroy suggested, "you would, in the
natural course of events, have married the Tenor."
"Oh, no!" Angelica vigorously interposed. "I should never have wanted to
marry him. Can't I make you understand? The side of my nature which I
turned to him as _The Boy_ is the only one he has touched, and I
could never care for him in any other relation."
"Well, I don't know," Mr. Kilroy observed thoughtfully. "It may be so, of
course, but it is unusual."
"And so am I unusual," Angelica answered quickly; "but there will be
plenty more like me by and by. Now don't look 'Heaven forbid!' at me in
"That was not in the least what I intended to express," he answered with
his kindly smile--indulgent. "And I am inclined to think that your own
idea of loving him without being in love with him is the best; it is so
much less commonplace. But what do you think."--speaking as if struck by a
bright idea--"what do you think of putting him under a great obligation
which will bind him to you in gratitude, and secure his friendship? You
might, with great courage and devotion, and all that sort of thing, you
know, find out all about him, prove him to be a prince or something--the
heir to great estates and hereditary privileges, with congenial duties
attached. The idea is not exactly new, but your treatment of it would be
sure to be original--"
Angelica interrupted him by a decisive shake of her head. "But about going
to him?" she demanded--"you do not think, speaking as a man of the world
yourself, and remembering that he knows the world too although he
_is_ such a saint; you do not think such a proceeding on my part will
lower me still further in his estimation?"
"Well, no," Mr. Kilroy replied. "I feel quite sure it will have just the
opposite effect. As a man of the world he will know what it has cost a
young lady like you to humble herself to that extent; as a saint he will
appreciate the act, looking at it in the light of a penance, which, in
point of fact, it would be; and as a human being he will be touched by
your confidence in him, and the value you set upon his esteem. So that,
altogether, I am convinced it is the proper thing to do."
Angelica made no reply, but got up languidly after a moment's thought,
carefully ruffled his hair with both hands as she passed, called him "Dear
old Daddy!" and retired.
Mr. Kilroy did not like to have his hair ruffled in that way, particularly
as he was apt to forget, and appear in public with it all standing up on
end; but he bore the infliction as it was intended for a caress,
Angelica's caresses always took some such form; she assured him he would
like them in time, and he sincerely hoped he might, but the time had not
The following evening they were again in the drawing room together. Mr.
Kilroy was reading the papers, Angelica was sitting with her hands before
her doing nothing--not even listening, though she affected to do so, when
he read aloud such news as he thought would interest her. The week was
nearly over, and nothing more had been said about her return to town. She
was just wondering now if Mr. Kilroy had found the week a long one. She
had given him more than enough of her company and made him feel--at least
so she hoped, slipping back to the mood in which he had found her upon his
arrival--made him feel how pleasant a thing it is to dwell alone in your
own house with no one to trouble you; and she quite expected to find, when
it came to the point, that he would cheerfully take no for an answer.
Presently she rose, went to a mirror that was let into the wall, and
looked at herself critically for some seconds.
"Should you think it possible for anybody to fall so hopelessly in love
with my appearance that, when love was found to be out of the question,
friendship would also be impossible?" she demanded in a tone of contempt
for herself, turning half round from the mirror to look at Mr. Kilroy as
Mr. Kilroy glanced at her over his _pince-nez_. That same appearance
which she disliked to be valued for was a never-failing source of pleasure
to him, but he took good care to conceal the fact. On this occasion,
however, he fell into the natural mistake of supposing that she was
coquettishly trying to extricate a compliment from him for once, an
amusing feminine device to which she seldom condescended.
"Well, I should think it extremely probable," he replied--"if he were not
already in love with another woman."
"Or an idea?" Angelica suggested with a yawn; and Mr. Kilroy, perceiving
that he had somehow missed the point, took up his paper, and finished the
paragraph he had been reading. Then he said, looking up at her again with
admiring eyes: "I do not think I quite like that red frock of yours. It
seems to me that it is making you look alarmingly pale."
Angelica returned to the mirror, and once more looked at herself
deliberately. "Perhaps it does," she answered; "but at any rate you shall
not see it again." And having spoken she sauntered out on to the terrace
with a listless step, and from thence she wandered off into the gardens,
where the scent of roses set her thinking, thinking, thinking. She sought
to change the direction of her thoughts, but vainly; they would go on in
spite of her, and they were always busy with the same subject, always
working at the one idea. Israfil! Israfil! There was nobody like him, and
how badly she had treated him, and how good he had always been to her, and
how could she go on day after day like this with no hope of ever seeing
him again in the old delightful intimate way? and oh! if she had not done
this! and oh! if she had not done that! It might all have been so
different if only _she_ had been different; but now how could it come
right? A hopeless, hopeless, hopeless, case. She had lost his respect
forever. And not to be respected! A woman and not respected!
She went down to the lodge gate where they had parted, and remembered the
chill misery of the moment, the gray morning light, the pelting rain.
Ah--with a sudden pang--she only thought of it now. How wet he must have
been! He had lent her his one umbrella, and she had kept it; she had it
still; she had allowed him to walk back in the rain without wrap or
protection, of any kind.
And now she came to think of it, he had never changed his things after he
had rescued her. He never did think of himself--the most selfless man
alive; and she, alas! had never thought of him--never considered his
comfort in anything. Oh, remorse! If only she could have those times all
over again, or even one of those times so recklessly misspent! He might
have lost his life through that wetting. Or what if he lost his voice?
Singers have notoriously delicate throats. But happily nothing so untoward
had resulted; she was saved the blame of a crowning disaster--she knew,
because she had heard of him going to the cathedral as usual; she had
taken the trouble to inquire, not daring to go herself, and she had seen
in that day's paper that he would sing the anthem to-morrow, so evidently
he had not suffered, which was some comfort--and yet--how could he go to
the cathedral every day and sing as usual, just as if nothing had
happened? It might be fortitude, but, considering the circumstances, it
was far more likely to be indifference. And so she continued to torment
herself; thinking, always thinking, without any power to stop.
The next day Mr. Kilroy returned to town alone. He had only once again
alluded to his wish that she should accompany him, and that he did quite
casually, for she had succeeded in making him content that she should
refuse. She had convinced him that her exuberant spirits were altogether
too much for him. He had not had an hour's peace since his arrival, though
the place would have held a regiment comfortably; and what would it be if
he shut her up in London, in a confined space comparatively speaking, and
against her will too? He left by an early afternoon train, and she drove
to the station with him to see him off. She had enjoyed his visit very
much--so she said--especially the last part of it, when she had surpassed
herself in ingenious devices to exact attention. All that, while it
lasted, really had distracted her; but the occupation was not
happiness--far from it! It was a sort of intoxicant rather, which made her
oblivious for the moment of her discontent. At every pause, however,
remorse possessed her, remorse for the past; yet it never occurred to her
that her present misdemeanours would be past in time, and might also
entail consequences which would in turn come to be causes of regret.
But, now, when she had succeeded in getting rid of Mr. Kilroy, she was
sorry. She stood on the platform watching the train until it was out of
sight, and then she returned to her carriage with a distinct feeling of
loss and pain. What should she do with the rest of the day? She even
thought of the next, and the next, and the next; a long vista of weary
days, through which she must live alone and to no purpose, a waste of
life, a waste of life--a barren waste, a land of sand and thorns. She
wished she was a child again playing pranks with Diavolo; and she also
wished that she had never played pranks, since it was so hard to break
herself of the habit; yet she enjoyed them still, and assured herself that
she was only discontented now because she had absolutely nobody left to
torment. Then she tried to imagine what it would be to have Diavolo with
her in her present mood, and instantly a squall of conflicting emotions
burst in her breast, angry emotions for the most part, because he was no
longer with her in either sense of the word, because he was indifferent to
all that concerned her inmost soul, and was content to live like a lady
himself, a trivial idle life, the chief business of which was pleasure,
unremunerative pleasure, upon which he would have had her expend her
highest faculties in return for what? Admiring glances at herself--and her
"But what should she do with the rest of the day?" Her handsome horses
were prancing through Morningquest as she asked herself the question; and
there was a little milliner on the footway looking up with kindly envy at
the lady no older than herself, sitting alone in her splendid carriage
with her coachman and footman and _everything_--nothing to do
included, very much included, being, in fact, the principal item.
"I should be helping her," thought Angelica. "She is ill-fed, overworked,
and weakly, while I am pampered and strong; but there is no rational way
for me to do it. If I took her home with me and kept her in luxurious
idleness for the rest of her days, as I could very well afford to do, I
should only have dragged her down from the dignity of her own honest
exertions into the slough of self-indulgence in which I find myself, and
made bad worse. _She_ should have more and _I_ should have less;
but how to arrive at that? Isolated efforts seem to be abortive--yet--"
she stopped the carriage, and looked back. The girl had disappeared. She
desired the coachman to return, and kept him driving up and down some time
in the hope of finding her, but the girl was nowhere to be seen, nor could
they trace her upon inquiry. "Another opportunity lost," thought Angelica.
"A few pounds in her pocket would have been a few weeks' rest for her, a
few good meals, a few innocent pleasures--she would have been strengthened
and refreshed; and I should have been the better too for the recollection
of a good deed done."
The carriage had pulled up close to the curb, and the footman stood at the
door waiting for orders.
"What is there to do?" thought Angelica. "Where shall I go? Not home. The
house is empty. Calls? I might as well waste time in that way as any
other." She gave the order, and passed the next two hours in making calls.
Toward the end of the afternoon, she found herself within about a mile of
Hamilton House, and determined to go and see her mother. There was no real
confidence between them, but Lady Adeline's presence was soothing, and
Angelica thought she would just like to go and sit in the same room with
her, have tea there, and not be worried to talk. These peaceful intentions
were frustrated, however, by the presence of some visitors who were there
when she arrived, and of others who came pouring in afterward in such
numbers, that it seemed as if the whole neighbourhood meant to call that
afternoon. Mr. Hamilton-Wells was making tea, and talking as usual with
extreme precision. Angelica found him seated at a small but solid black
ebony table, with a massive silver tea-service before him. He folded his
hands when she entered, and, without rising, awaited the erratic kiss
which it was her habit to deposit somewhere about his head when she met
him; which ceremony concluded, he gravely poured her out a cup of tea,
with sugar _and_ milk, but _no_ cream, as he observed; and then
he peeped into the teapot, and proceeded to fill it up from the great urn
which was bubbling and boiling in front of him. He always made tea in his
own house; it was a fad of his, and the more people he had to make it for
the better pleased he was. A servant was stationed at his elbow, whose
duty it was to place the cups as his master filled them on a silver salver
held by another servant, who took them to offer to the visitors who were
seated about the room. Angelica knew the ceremony well, and slipped away
into a corner, as soon as she could escape from her father's punctilious
inquiries about her own health and her husband's; and there she became
wedged by degrees, as the room grew gradually crowded. Beside her was a
mirror, in which she could see all who arrived and all that happened, and
involuntarily she became a silent spectator, the medium of the mirror
imparting a curious unreality to the scene, which invested it with all the
charm of a dream; and, as in a dream, she looked and listened, while
clearly, beneath the main current of conversation, and unbroken by the
restless change and motion of the people, her own thoughts flowed on
consciously and continuously. Half turned from the rest of the room, she
sat at a table, listlessly turning the leaves of an album, at which she
glanced when she was not looking into the mirror.
She saw the party from Morne enter the room--Aunt Fulda and her eternal
calm! She looked just the same in the market-place at Morningquest, that
unlucky night when the Tenor met the Boy. She was always the same. Is it
human to be always the same?
"Who is that lady?" Angelica heard a girl ask of a benevolent looking
elderly clergyman who was standing with his back to her. "Oh, that is Lady
Fulda Guthrie, the youngest daughter of the Duke of Morningquest," he
replied. 'She is a Roman Catholic, a pervert as we say, but still a very
noble woman. Religious, too, in spite of the errors of Rome, one must
confess it. A pity she ever left us, a great pity--but of course
_her_ loss as well as ours. We require such women now, though; but
somehow we do not keep them. And I cannot think why."
"Too cold," Angelica's thoughts ran on. "Hollow, shallow,
inconsistent--loveless. Catholicism equals a modern refinement of pagan
principles with all the old deities on their best behaviour thrown in;
while Protestantism is an ecclesiastical system founded on fetish--"
"You are a stranger in the neighbourhood?" the benevolent old clergyman
was saying. "Only on a visit? Ah! then of course you don't know. They are
a remarkable family, somewhat eccentric. Ideala, as they call her, is no
relation, only an intimate friend of Lady Claudia Beaumont's, and of the
Marquis of Dawne. The three are usually together. The New Order is an
outcome of their ideas, a sort of feminine _vehmgericht_ so well as I
can make out. But no good can come out of that kind of thing, and I trust
as you are a very young lady--"
"Not so young--I am twenty-two."
"Indeed!" with a smile and a bow--"I should not have thought you more than
nineteen. But twenty-two is not a great age either! and I do hope you will
not be drawn into that set. They are sadly misguided. The ladies scoff at
the wisdom of men, look for inconsistencies, and _laugh_ at
them--actually! It is very bad taste, you know; and they call it an
impertinence for us to presume to legislate exclusively in matters which
specially concern their sex, and also object to the interference of the
Church, as being a distinctly masculine organization, in the regulation of
their lives. Men, they declare, have always said that they do not
understand women, and it is of course the height of folly for them to
presume to express opinions upon a subject they do not understand. Now,
can anything be more absurd? And it is dangerous besides--absolutely
"Yet I hear that they are very good women," the girl ventured, and
Angelica thought that she detected a note of derision, levelled at the
clerical exponent of these reprehensible ideas, beneath the demure remark.
"Oh, saintlike!" he answered cordially; "but still to blame. Misguided,
you know, so I venture to warn you. How can they presume to reject proper
direction? Their pride is excessive, but the Church will receive them, and
extend her benefits to them still if only they will humble themselves--"
Conversation over the room entered upon a _crescendo_ passage at this
moment, and Angelica lost the rest of the sentence in the general
A new voice presently claimed her attention. The speaker was a young man
addressing another young man, and both had their backs turned to her, and
were looking hard at a portrait of herself hung so low on the wall that
they had to stoop to look into it.
"Painted by a good man," were the first words she heard.
"Rather fine face; who is it?"
"Daughter of the house, don't you know? Old duke's granddaughter. Married
old Kilroy of Ilverthorpe."
"Ah! Then that was done some time ago, I expect."
"Oh, dear, no! Only last year. It was exhibited in the last Academy."
"Then she's still young?" He peered into the portrait once more with an
evident increase of interest. "She looks as if she might be larky."
"Can't make her out, on my word," was the response, delivered in a tone of
strong disapproval. "Married to an elderly chap--not old exactly, but a
good twenty years older than herself; who gives her her head to an
unlimited extent, yet she says she doesn't care to have a lot of men
bothering about, and, by Jove! she acts as if she meant it. It's beastly
unnatural, you know."
"Well, I must say I like a woman to be a woman," the other rejoined,
surveying the portrait from this new point of view. "But that's the way
with all that Guthrie lot--and you know Dawne himself is _pi_!"--so
what can you expect of the rest? the tone implied.
Suddenly Angelica felt her face flush. One of her ungovernable fits of
fury was upon her. She sprang to her feet, upsetting her chair with a
crash, and turned upon the two young men, who, recognizing her, changed
colour and countenance, and shrank back apologetically.
Her uncle, seeing something wrong, had hurried across the room to her with
"Who are those people?" she asked him, indicating the two young men.
Lord Dawne, always all courtesy and consideration himself, was shocked by
"I think you have met Captain Leicester before," he gravely reminded her.
"Let me introduce--"
"No, for Heaven's sake!" Angelica broke forth, glaring angrily at the
She walked away abruptly with the words on her lips, leaving Lord Dawne to
settle with the delinquents as he thought fit. Her mother, who was seated
at the farther end of the room talking to a charming-looking old lady
Angelica did not know, stretched out a hand to her as she approached, and
drew her to a seat beside her; and instantly Angelica felt herself in
another moral atmosphere.
"This is my daughter, Mrs. Kilroy of Ilverthorpe," Lady Adeline said to
the old lady, then added smiling: "There are so many Mrs. Kilroys in this
neighbourhood, one is obliged to specify. Angelica, dear, Mrs. Power."
Angelica bowed, and then leaned back in her chair so that she might not
have to join in the conversation, but she listened in an absent sort of
way, feeling soothed the while by the tone of refinement, of earnestness
and sincerity, in which every word was uttered: "No, I am sure," Lady
Adeline was saying, "I am sure no one who can judge would mistake that
lineless calm for a device to cover all emotion."
"I never have done so myself," Mrs. Power rejoined, "although I do not
know her history. But I should say, judging merely from observation, that
the fineness of her countenance, which consists more in the expression of
it than in either form or feature, though both are good, is the result of
long self-repression, self-denial, and stern discipline, the evidence of a
true and beautiful soul, and of a noble mind at rest after some heavy
sorrow, or some great temptation, which, being resisted, has proved a
blessing and a source of strength."
Angelica wondered of whom they were speaking, and, following the
direction, of their eyes, met those of Ideala fixed a little sadly, a
little wistfully, upon herself. Young people, as they grow up, find their
own life's history so absorbingly interesting that they think little of
what may have happened, or may be happening, to those whom they have
always known as "grown up"; and it had never occurred to Angelica that any
one of the placid, gentle-mannered women among whom she had always lived,
in contrast to them herself as a comet is to the fixed stars, had ever
experienced any extremes of emotion. Now, however, she felt as if her eyes
had been suddenly opened, and she looked with a new interest at her old
familiar friends, and wondered, her mind busy for the moment with what she
had just heard. She could not keep it there, however; involuntarily it
slipped away--back--back to that first attempt of hers to see the hidden
wheels of life go round--the market-place, the Tenor.
Suddenly she felt as if she must suffocate if she did not get out into the
air, and rising quickly she stole from the room, and out of the house
unobserved. But the babble of voices seemed to pursue her. She stood for a
moment on the steps and felt as if the people were all preparing to stream
out of the drawing room after her, to surround her, and keep up the
distracting buzz in her ears by their idle inconsequent talk. Their horses
were prancing about the drive; their empty carriages, with cushions awry
and wraps flung untidily down on the seats, or even hanging over the doors
and grazing the dusty wheels, gave her a sense of disorder and discomfort
from which she felt she must fly.
"Where to, ma'am, please?" the footman asked, touching his hat when he had
closed the door.
"Fountain Towers," Angelica answered. She would go and see Dr. Galbraith.
When the carriage drew up under the porch at Fountain Towers, she sat some
time as if unaware of the fact; but the footman's patient face as he
waited with his hand on the handle of the door, ready to help her to
descend, recalled her.
She walked into the house as she had always been accustomed to do, and
instantly thoughts of Diavolo came crowding. Why had Diavolo ceased to be
all in all to her? She asked herself the question through a mist of tears
which gathered in her eyes, but did not fall, and at the same moment her
busy mind took note of the singular appearance of a statue on the
staircase as she beheld it in blurred outline through her bedimmed vision.
She found Dr. Galbraith in the library sitting at his writing table. The
door was half open, so she entered without knocking, and walked up to him.
He turned at the sound of her step, rose smiling, and held out his hand
when he saw who it was.
"I have been thinking about you this afternoon," he remarked. "Sit down."
But before she had settled herself his practised eyes had detected
something wrong. "What is it?" he asked.
"Nerves," she answered. "Give me something."
He went to an inner room, and returned presently with a colourless draught
in a medicine glass. She took it from him and drank it mechanically, and
then he placed a cushion for her, and she leant back in the deep armchair,
and closed her eyes. Dr. Galbraith looked at her for a few seconds
seriously, and then returned to his writing. Presently Lord Dawne came in,
and raised his eyebrows inquiringly when he saw Angelica, who seemed to be
"Overwrought," Dr. Galbraith replied to the silent inquiry.
"There was a _fracas_ at Hamilton House just now," her uncle
observed. "But how is all this going to end?"
"Well, of course; but you had better leave her to me."
Lord Dawne quietly withdrew.
"Oh, the blessed rest and peace of this place!" Angelica exclaimed shortly
Dr. Galbraith, who had resumed his writing, put down his pen again, and
turned to her.
"Talk to me," she said. "I've lost my self-respect. I've lost heart. I'm a
good-for-nothing worthless person. How am I to get out of this dreadful
"Live for others. Live openly," he answered slowly, looking up beyond her--
into futurity--with a kindly light in his deep gray eyes, a something of
hope, of confidence, of encouragement expressed in his strong plain face.
Angelica bowed her head. The familiar phrases had a new significance now,
and diverted the stream of her reflections into another channel. She
folded her hands on her lap and sat motionless once more, with her eyes
fixed on the ground.
Dr. Galbraith was a specialist in mental maladies. He knew exactly how
much to say, and when to say it. If a text were as much as the patient
required or could bear, he never made the mistake of preaching a sermon
upon it in addition; and so for the third time he took up his pen and
returned to his work, leaving Angelica engaged in sober thought, and
It was late when at last she went home, but the drive of many miles in the
fresh evening air helped to revive her. She had dreaded the return. The
place seemed empty to her imagination, and strange and chill, as a south
room in which we have sat and been glad with friends all the bright
morning does, if by chance we return alone when the sun has departed.
And the place was dismal. There was no one to welcome her. Even her
well-trained servants were out of the way for once, and she felt her heart
sink as she crossed the deserted hall to go upstairs, and saw long lines
of doors, shut for the most part, or, if open, showing big rooms beyond
silent and tenantless. As she passed the library she had noticed her
husband's chair half turned from his writing table, just as he had left
it, probably, that very morning. It seemed a long time since then. He must
have come to his journey's end--ages ago. She wondered if he had felt it
as dreary on arriving as she did now, and an unaccustomed wish to be with
him, in order to make things pleasanter for him, here obtruded itself. It
was one of the least selfish thoughts she had had lately, and this was
also one of the very few occasions on which his leaving her had not
occasioned her a sense of liberty restored, which was the one unmixed
delight she had hitherto experienced.
Her mind was racked by inconsistencies, but she did not perceive it
herself, otherwise she must also have observed that she was running up the
whole gamut of her past moods and experiences, only to find how
unsatisfactory in its unstableness and futility was each. And she might
still further have perceived how fatal the habit of living from day to day
without any settled purpose, a mere cork of a creature on the waters of
life at the mercy of every current of impulse, is to that permanent
content to which a steady effort to do right at all events whatever else
we may not do, and right only whatever happens, alone gives rise, making
thereof a sure foundation of quiet happiness out of which countless
pleasures, known only to those who possess it, spring perceptibly--or to
which they come like butterflies to summer flowers, enriching them with
their beauty and vitality while they stay, and leaving them none the
poorer when they depart, but rather, it may be, gainers, by the
fertilizing memories which remain.
Angelica had gone to her room to dress for the evening as usual. She had
no idea of shirking the ordinary routine of daily life because her mind
was perturbed. But that duty over, she descended to the drawing room to
wait until dinner should be announced, and so found herself alone with her
own thoughts once more. She went to one of the fireplaces, and stood with
her hands folded on the edge of the mantelpiece, and her forehead resting
on them, looking down at the flowers and foliage plants which concealed
"You cannot go on like this, you know," she mentally ejaculated,
Then she became conscious of a great sense of loneliness, the kind of
loneliness of the heart from which there is no escape except in the
presence of one who knows what the trouble is and can sympathize. She had
been half inclined to confide in Dr. Galbraith, and now she regretted she
had not, but presently, passing into a contrary mood, she was glad; what
good could he have done? And as for her husband, an empty house was better
than a bad tenant. This was before dinner was announced; but afterward, at
dinner, sitting in solitary state with the servants behind her, and a book
to keep her in countenance, she made a grievance of his absence, and then
sighed for such company as the seven more who were entertained in that
house which was swept and garnished for another purpose, she fancied, but
she could not recollect what, and it was too much trouble to try--so her
thoughts rambled on uncontrolled--only she believed they were merry, and
that was what she was not; but she would be very soon in spite of
everything--in pursuance of which resolve she wrote several notes after
dinner, asking people she knew well enough to kindly dispense with the
ceremony of a long invitation and come and lunch with her to-morrow; and
she dispatched a groom on horseback with the notes that there might be no
delay. She even thought of making up a house party, but here her interest
and energy flagged, and she left the execution of that project till next
Then she relapsed into her regretful discontented mood. If only--if only
that wretched accident had never occurred, how different would her
feelings have been at this moment, was one of her reflections as she sat
alone on the terrace outside the great deserted reception rooms. She would
have been waiting now till the house was quiet, and then she would have
dashed up to her room to dress, with that exquisite sense of freedom which
made the whole delight of the thing, and in half an hour she might have
been the _Boy_ with Israfil.
"You cannot go on like this, you know," Angelica repeated to herself. "You
must do something."
But what? Involuntarily her mind returned to the Tenor. If she could win
his respect she felt she could start afresh with a clear conscience and a
steadfast determination to--what was it Dr. Galbraith had suggested? "Live
openly. Live for others."
But how to win the Tenor back to tolerate her? If she would make him her
friend she knew that she must be entirely true--in thought, word, and deed;
to every duty, to every principle of right; and how could she be that if
there were any truth in the theory of hereditary predisposition, coming as
she did of a race foredoomed apparently to the opposite course? It was
folly to contend with fate when fate took the form of a long line of
ancestors who had made a family commandment for themselves, which was: "Be
decent to all seeming! but sin all the same to your heart's content," and
had kept it courageously--at least the men had--but then the women had
been worthy--in which thought she suddenly perceived that there was food
for reflection; for was not this contradictious fact a proof that it was a
good deal a matter of choice after all? And here the Tenor's parting words
recurred to her, and with them came the recollection of the impression
made at the moment by the deep yet diffident tone of earnest conviction in
which he had uttered that last assurance: "You will do some good in the
world--you will be a good woman yet, I know--I know you will."
Should she? was the question she now asked herself. Were the words
prophetic? she wondered. And from that moment her thoughts took a new
departure, and she was able, as it were, to stand aloof and look back at
herself as she had been, and forward to herself as she might yet become.
In this quiet hour of retrospect she was quite ready to confess her sins.
She was sincerely sorry she had deceived the Tenor. But why was she sorry?
Why, simply because he had found her out; simply because there was an end
of a charming adventure--though less on that account than on others; for
of course she knew that the end was near, that they must have parted soon
in any case. It was the manner of the parting that caused her such regret.
She had lost his affection, lost his confidence--lost the pleasure of his
acquaintance, she supposed, which was more than she could bear. If he met
her in the street he would probably look the other way. Would he? Oh! The
very notion stung her. She sprang to her feet and threw up her hands; and
then, as if goaded by a lash, but without any distinct idea, she ran down
the steps headlong into the garden, and so on through the park till she
came to the river. When she got there, she stopped at the landing place,
not knowing why she had come, and as she stood there, trying to collect
her thoughts, the absence of some familiar object forced itself upon her
attention--her boat! It must have been lost the night of the accident. She
did not know whether it had sunk or not, but there was no name on it, so
that, even if it had been found, it could not have been restored to her
unless she had claimed it. And while she thought this, she was conscious
of another pang of regret. She knew that had the boat been there, her next
impulse would have been to go to the Tenor just as she was, bareheaded,
and in her thin evening dress. With what object, though? To beg for the
honour of his acquaintance, she supposed! But, alas! she could not sneer
in earnest, or laugh in earnest, at any absurdity she chose to think there
was in the idea. For she acknowledged--in her heart of hearts she
knew--that the acquaintance of such a man _was_ an honour, especially
to her, as she humbly insisted, although she had not broken any of the
commandments, and never would, and never could.
Slowly she returned to the house. A servant met her on the terrace, and
asked her if she should require anything more that night. Then she
discovered the lateness of the hour, ordered the household to bed, and
retired to her own room. There she extinguished the lights, threw the
windows wider open, and sat looking out into the dim mysterious night.
Angelica loved the night. No matter what her mood might be she felt its
charm, and something also of the pride-subduing, hallowed influence which
is peculiarly its own; and now, as she leant, looking out, all the beauty
of it, and its heavenly purity, began to steal into her heart and to
soften it. Slowly, as the tide goes out when the sea is tempestuous, the
waves returning again and again with angry burst and flow to cover the
same spot, as if loath to leave it, but receding inevitably till in the
further distance their harsh impetuous roar sinks to a babble when heard
from the place where they lately raged, which itself seems the safer for
the contrast between the now of quiet and firmness and the then of
shifting sand and watery fury; so it was with Angelica's turmoil of mind,
the foaming discontent, the battling projects--by slow degrees, they all
subsided; and after the storm of uncertainty there came something like the
calm of a settled purpose. To be good, to ascend to the higher life--if
that meant to feel like this always she would be good--if in her lay such
power. She could not be wholly without religion, because she found in
herself a reverence for what was religion in others. And what after all is
religion? An attitude of the mind which develops in us the power to love,
reverence, and practise all that constitutes moral probity. But how to
attain to this? By trying and trusting. Faith, that was it, faith in the
power of goodness. Upon the recognition of this simple truth, her spirit
wings unfurled, and slowly, as her senses ceased to be importunate, she
became possessed by some idea of deathless love and longing which fired
her soul with its heroism, and filled her heart with its pathos, until
both mind and hands together unconsciously assumed the attitude of prayer.
She did not go to bed at all that night, but just sat there by the open
window, patiently waiting for the dawn. Nor did she feel the time long.
Her whole being thrilled to this new sensation and was subdued by it, so
that she remained motionless and rapturously absorbed. It might only last
till daybreak; but while it did last, it was certainly intense.
It lasted longer than that, however. It even survived the day and the
luncheon party to which she had in a rash moment invited her friends. She
had determined to go to the Tenor that very afternoon in the way her
husband had suggested.
At first she thought she would drive, but it was a long way round by the
road, much longer than by the river, and so she decided to walk, although
the weather was inclined to be tempestuous. She crossed by the ferry,
thinking she would, if possible, meet the Tenor as he came away from the
afternoon service. In that hope, however, she was disappointed, for when
she got to the cathedral she found the service over, the congregation
dispersed, and the doors locked. There was nothing for it then but to go
to his own house. With a fast beating heart she crossed the road, and
paused at the little gate. She felt now that she had made a mistake. She
should have taken her husband's advice and come in state; she would not
have felt half so frightened and awkward if she could have sat in her
carriage, and sent the footman to inquire if the Tenor would do her the
favour to allow her to speak to him for a moment. And what would he say to
her now? And what should she say? Suppose he refused to see her at all,
should she ever survive it? Could she take him by storm as the Boy would
have done, and demand his friendship and kind consideration as a right?
Oh! for some of the unblushing assurance which had distinguished the Boy!
It must have been part of the costume. But surely her confidence would
return at the right moment, and then she would be able to face him boldly.
Having to knock at the door and ask for him was like the first plunge into
cold water. Just to think of it took her breath away. But the window was
doubtless unfastened as usual; should she go in by that? No. It was
absurd, though, how she hesitated, especially after all that had happened;
but be deterred by this most novel and uncomfortable shyness she would
not! She had come so far, and it should not be for nothing. She would not
go back until--
But now, at last, with a smile at her qualms and nervous tremors, she
knocked resolutely. There was a little interval before the knock was
answered, and she filled it with hope. She knew just how radiant she would
feel as she came away successful. She experienced something of the relief
and pleasure which should follow upon this pain, and then the door was
opened by the Tenor's elderly housekeeper. The woman had that worn and
worried look upon her face which is common among women of her class.
"Is your master at home?" Angelica asked, not recollecting for the moment
by what name he was known.
The woman looked at her curiously, as if to determine her social status
before she committed herself. The question seemed to surprise her.
"He's gone," she answered dolefully. "Didn't you know?"
"Gone," Angelica echoed blankly. "Where?"
"Gone home," the woman answered.
"Gone home!" Angelica exclaimed, unable to conceal her dismay. "He has no
home but this. Where is his home?"
The woman gave her another curious look, took a moment to choose her
words, then blurted out: "He's dead, miss--didn't you know--and buried
The lonely man, after leaving Angelica that night, had returned to the
Close, walking "like one that hath aweary dream." When he entered his
little house, and the sitting room where the lamp was still burning, its
yellow light in sickly contrast to the pale twilight of the summer dawn
which was beginning to brighten by that time, the discomfort consequent on
disorder struck a chill to his heart.
The roses still lay scattered about the floor, but they had been trampled
under foot and their beauty had suffered, their freshness was marred, and
their perfume, rising acrid from bruised petals, greeted him unwholesomely
after the fresh morning air, and rendered the atmosphere faint and
oppressive. The stand with the flower pots, much disarranged, stood as he
had left it when he pulled it roughly aside to get at the grate, and the
fire had burnt out, leaving blackened embers to add to the general air of
dreariness and desertion. Angelica's violin lay under the grand piano
where he had heedlessly flung it when he loosed it from her rigid grasp;
and there were pipes and glasses and bottles about, chairs upset and
displaced; books and papers, music and magazines, piled up in heaps
untidily to be out of the way--all the usual signs, to sum up, which
suggest that a room has been used over night for some unaccustomed
purpose, convivial or the reverse, a condition known only to the early
house-and-parlour maid as a rule, and therefore acting with peculiarly
dismal effect upon the chance observer; but more dismal now to the weary
Tenor than any room he had ever seen under similar circumstances by reason
of the associations that clung about it.
He opened the window wide, extinguished the lamp, and began mechanically
to put things away and arrange the chairs. The habit of doing much for
himself prompted all this; anything that was not a matter of habit he
never thought of doing. His things were drying on him, and he had
forgotten that they had ever been wet. He had forgotten too that the night
was past and over. He was heart sick and weary, yet did not feel that
there was any need of rest. The extraordinary lucidity of mind of which he
had been conscious while his much loved "Boy" was in danger had left him
now, and only a blurred recollection as of many incidents crowding thickly
upon each other without order or sequence recurred to him. He suffered
from a sense of loss, from an overpowering grief--the kind of grief which
is all the worse to bear because it has not come in the course of nature
but by the fault of man, a something that might have been helped as when a
friend is killed by accident, or lost to us otherwise than by death the
consequence of disease. But one persistent thought beset him, the same
thing over and over again, exhausting him by dint of forced reiteration.
The girl he had been idolizing--well, there was no such person, and there
never had been; that was all--yet what an _all_! In the first moment
of the terrible calamity that had befallen him, it seemed now that there
could have been nothing like the misery of this home returning--the
barren, black despair of it. It was the hopeless difference between pain
and paralysis; then he had suffered, but at least he could feel; now he
felt nothing except that all feeling was over.
When he had finished the simple arrangement of his room, he still paced
restlessly up and down, shaking back his yellow hair, and brushing his
hand up over it as if the gesture eased the trouble of his mind.
"If even the Boy had been left me!" he thought, and it was the one
distinct regret he formulated.
After a while his housekeeper arrived, a pleasant elderly woman who had
attended him ever since he came to Morningquest.
It was not in his nature to let any personal matter, whether it were pain
or pleasure, affect the temper of his intercourse with those about him,
and the force of habit helped him now again to rouse himself and greet the
woman in his usual kindly, courteous way, so that, being unobservant, she
noticed no change in him except that he was up earlier than usual; but
then he was always an early riser. She therefore set about her work
unsuspiciously, and presently drove him out of the sitting room with her
dust-pan and brush, and he went upstairs. There, happening to catch a
glimpse of his own haggard face and discreditable flannels in the mirror,
he began to change mechanically, and dressed himself with all his habitual
neatness and precision. Then a little choir boy came to be helped with his
music. It was the one who sang the soprano solos in the cathedral, a boy
with a lovely voice and much general as well as musical ability, both of
which the Tenor laboured to help him to develop. He came every morning for
lessons, and the Tenor gave him these, and such a breakfast also as a
small boy loves; but the little fellow, to do him justice, cared more for
the Tenor than the breakfast.
There were three services in the cathedral that day, and the Tenor went to
each, but he did not sing. He seemed to have taken cold and was hoarse,
with a slight cough, and a peculiar little stab in his chest and catching
of the breath, which, however, did not trouble him much to begin with. But
as the day advanced every bone in his body ached with a dull wearying
pain, and he was glad to go to bed early. Once there, the sense of fatigue
was overpowering, yet he could not sleep until long past midnight, when he
dropped off quite suddenly; or rather, as it seemed to him, when all at
once he plunged headlong into the river to rescue the Boy, and began to go
down, down, down, to a never-ending depth, the weight of the water above
him becoming greater and greater till the pressure was unbearable, and a
horrid sense of suffocation, increasing every instant, impelled him to
struggle to the surface, but vainly, He could not rise--and down, down, he
continued to descend, reaching no bottom, yet dropping at last, before he
could help himself, on a sharp stake, pointed like a dagger, that ran
right through his chest. The pain aroused him with a great start, but the
impression had been so vivid, that it was some time before he could shake
off the sensation of descending with icy water about him; and even when he
was wide awake, and although he was bathed in perspiration, the feeling of
cold remained, and so did the pain.
It was during that night that the weather changed.
The next day it was blowing a gale. Heavy showers began to fall at
intervals, chilling the atmosphere, and finally settled into a steady
downpour, such as frequently occurs in the middle of summer, making
everything indoors humid and unwholesome, and causing colds and sore
throats and other unseasonable complaints.
The Tenor taught his little choir boy as usual in the morning, went to the
three services, getting more or less wet each time, and then came home and
tried to do some work, but was not equal to it--his head ached; then tried
to smoke, but the pipe nauseated him; and finally resigned himself to
idleness, and just sat still in his lonely room, lonely of heart himself,
yet with his hands patiently folded, dreamily watching the rain as it beat
upon the old cathedral opposite, and streamed from eave and gargoyle, and
splashed from the narrow spouting under the roof, making spreading
pathways of dark moisture for itself on the gray stone walls wherever it
overflowed. It was all "His Will" to the Tenor, and for his sake there was
nothing he would not have borne heroically.
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
His cough was much worse that day, the pain in his chest was more acute,
and his temperature rose higher and higher, yet he did not complain. He
knew he was suffering from something serious now, but he derived from his
perfect faith in the beneficence of the Power that orders all things an
almost superhuman fortitude.
But as he sat there with his hands folded, his mind, busy with many
things, returned inevitably to the old weary theme, just as, at the same
time, Angelica's own was doing, but from the opposite point of view.
Always, after a startling event, those who have been present as
spectators, or taken some part in it, repeat their experiences, and make
some remark upon them, again and again in exactly the same words, their
minds working upon the subject like heat upon water that boils, forming it
into bubbles which it bursts and re-forms incessantly. He began each time
with that remark of Angelica's about the change which mere dress effects,
and went on to wonder at the transformation of a strong young woman into a
slender delicate-looking boy by it; and then went on to accept her
conclusion that it was natural he should have been deceived seeing that,
in the first place, he had not the slightest suspicion, and in the second
he had never seen the "Boy" except in his own dimly lighted room, or out
of doors at night--besides, it was not the first time that a boy had been
successfully personated by a girl, a man by a woman; but here he found
himself obliged to rehearse the instances which Angelica had quoted. Then
he would reconsider the fact that the part had been well played; not only
attitudes and gestures, but ideas and sentiments, and the proper
expression of them had been done to perfection--which led up again to
another assertion of hers, She had been a boy for the time being, there
was no doubt about that. And yet if he had had the slightest suspicion!
There had been the shyness at first, which had worn off as it became
apparent that the disguise was complete; the horror of being touched or
startled, of anything, as he now perceived, which might have caused a
momentary forgetfulness, and so have led to self-betrayal; the
boyishnesses which, alternating with older moods, might have suggested
something, but had only charmed him; the womanishnesses of which, alas!
there had been too few as seen by the light of this new revelation; the
physical differences--but they had been cleverly concealed, as she said,
by the cut of her clothing, and pads; the "funny head," however, about
which they had both jested so often--oh, dear! how sick he was of the
whole subject! If only it would let him alone! But what pretty ways he had
had--the "Boy"! What a dear, dear lad he had been with all his faults!
Alas! alas! if only the Boy had been left him!
Then a pause. Then off again. He had been enchanted, like Reymond of
Lusignan in olden times, by a creature that was half a monster. The Boy
had been a reality to him, but the lady had never been more than a lovely
dream, and the monster--well, the monster had not yet appeared, for that