Part 9 out of 15
"Well, hardly," said the Tenor, fixing his steady eyes upon the man in a
way that made him wince. "I have some business to attend to in the town,"
he added. "Pray make yourself at home so long as it pleases you to
remain;" with which he brushed his hand back over his glossy hair, put on
his hat, and sauntered out, leaving his gentle guest to ruminate.
The interest which the Tenor had begun by exciting in the breasts of the
quiet inhabitants of Morningquest did not diminish all at once, as might
have been expected. He was only a lay clerk, to be sure, but then he was
so utterly unlike any other lay clerk. He was always so carefully dressed,
for one thing, and maintained so successfully that suggestion of good
breeding which had been their first impression of him; was altogether so
distinguished in appearance that it was a pleasure to hear strangers
exclaim: "Who _is_ that?" and to be able to surprise them with the
off-hand rejoinder: "Oh, that is only our tenor."
Then he was a stranger from nobody knew where; he went by the name of
"Jones," which was not believed to be his; he had a magnificent voice, and
he remained in Morningquest in an obscure position, making nothing of it.
True, he must have means; but what after all were the means which he
appeared to possess compared with the means which he might be enjoying?
And further--and this was considered the most extraordinary circumstance
of all--there was his attitude in the cathedral. He followed the services
devoutly; and such a thing as attention, let alone devotion, on the part
of a lay clerk had never been heard of in Morningquest. There was not even
a remote tradition in existence to prepare anybody's mind for such a
So that altogether the man was a mystery; a mystery, however, toward which
the kindly people were well-disposed. And no wonder. For the Tenor's
manners were as attractive as his appearance, and his ways were not at all
mysterious when considered apart from the points already indicated, but,
on the contrary, simple in the extreme: the ways of one who is kindly
courteous and considerate on all occasions, paying proper respect to every
man, and also rigorously exacting from each the respect that was due to
himself. He would always see people who called upon him, and though it was
believed that he would rather not have been disturbed, he was too much of
a gentleman to show it. In fact, it was agreed that he was a gentleman
before everything, and not at all like a "Jones"; and therefore, acting on
some instinctive perception of the fitness of things, the citizens dropped
the offensive appellation altogether and called him "the Tenor" simply, as
they might have called him "the Duke."
There was at first a good deal of wonder as to where the money came from
with which he furnished his little house in the Close. How did he manage
to buy so many books and pictures? and how could he afford to give so much
away in charity? For it was known beyond a doubt that he had on more than
one occasion relieved the families of the other singers, and had relieved
them, too, in a most substantial way. It was evident that he had means;
but if he had means, why did he sing in the choir? This question was the
Alpha and Omega of ail that concerned him.
It was asked everywhere and by everybody; but no one could answer it save
the dean, who was not to be approached upon the subject. Finally, however,
people grew tired of forming conjectures which were neither denied nor
affirmed, and, becoming accustomed to the Tenor's presence amongst them,
they ceased as a regular thing to discuss his affairs.
But this was not the case until a story had been circulated about him
which was generally believed, although nobody knew from whence it
emanated. He was, according to the story, the illegitimate son of an
actress, and some great--in-the-sense-of-having-a-title--man, from whom
he inherited his aristocratic appearance and a small income. His mother,
it was said, had been an opera singer, which accounted for his voice; and
shame, they declared, on the discovery of his birth, had driven him into
his present retirement, and caused him to renounce the world. As this
story accounted in the most satisfactory manner for all that was strange
about him, it was regarded in every respect as authentic; and, after the
wickedness of titled men and the frailty of acting women had been freely
commented upon with much sage shaking of the head, as if only titled men
were wicked and acting women frail, and Morningquest itself was a saintly
city, innocent of any deed not strictly in accordance with its word, the
matter was allowed to drop, and the Tenor was left to "gang his ain gait,"
which he would have done in any case, probably, but which he continued to
do in a quiet, earnest, regular way that won him a friendly feeling from
most men, and more than his share of sympathy and attention from the good
women who had not self-love enough to be wounded by his indifference.
Unsophisticated little maidens, just budding into womanhood, would peep
after him shyly from the old-fashioned houses sometimes, and would feel in
their tender little hearts a gentle pity for one who was so handsome and
so unfortunate. Like the true hero of romance, he was believed by them to
be supremely unhappy, and all they asked was to be allowed to comfort him;
but he noticed none of them. And so the little maidens blushed at first
for having thought of him at all, and then forgot him for somebody else;
or, if the somebody else did not come quickly, they began to regard the
Tenor with a totally different feeling--almost as if he had wronged them
in some way. But the Tenor continued to "gang his ain gait," and was alike
indifferent to their pity or their spite.
His little house, like most of those in the Close, had an old walled
garden behind it, a large garden for the size of the house, and so
sheltered that many things grew there which would not grow elsewhere in
the open. The house itself was picturesque on that side, having a bright
south aspect favourable to the growth of creepers, with which it was
thickly covered, jasmine, clematis, honeysuckle, and roses succeeding each
other in their regular order; and the garden was always full of flowers.
It was here that the Tenor spent much of his time, hard at work. He had
evidently a passion for flowers, and was a most successful gardener, the
conservatory and orchid house, which he had had built soon after his
arrival, being always lovely even in the winter. The building of these two
houses was considered an extravagance, and had caused the Close to point
the finger at him for a while; but when someone declared that the
unfortunate Tenor had probably inherited much of his mother's
recklessness, and was not therefore responsible as other people were, the
suggestion was considered reasonable enough, and from that time forward
the Tenor's expensive tastes were held to be separate matter for
commiseration; the truth being that Morningquest could not bear to be on
bad terms with the Tenor, and would have found an excuse for him had he
outraged the best preserved prejudices it ever held.
It was only necessary to glance at the Tenor's books to perceive that he
was a student. Many valuable works in many languages were scattered about
his house, and it was a well-known fact that he spent much of his leisure
in poring over these. To what end his studies might be directed no one, of
course, could tell, but it was assumed that he had acquired a respectable
amount of knowledge from the fact that the dean, himself a learned man,
delighted not a little in his conversation. When this fact had been fully
ascertained by careful observation, smouldering curiosity blazed up
afresh, and surmise was once more busy with the Tenor's name. Did he write
for the magazines, they wondered? It seemed likely enough, for it was
notorious in Morningquest that people who did that kind of thing were not
like the rest of the world; and it soon came to pass that certain articles
relating to various things, such as drainage, deep sea fishery, the
coinage of Greece, competitive examinations in China, and essays on other
subjects likely to interest an artistic man, were confidently assumed to
be his. And the shy little girls in the old-fashioned houses, who never
looked at anything in the magazines but the pictures and the poetry, were
wont to credit him with certain passionate lays from which they got quite
new ideas of eyes and dies and sighs, and other striking rhymes to musical
metres which made their little hearts throb pleasurably. But nothing more
definite was known of the Tenor's labours than was known of anything else
concerning him; and, fortunately for himself, there was that in his
bearing which preserved him from being personally annoyed by impertinent
curiosity, so that he was most probably pretty nearly the only person in
the city who had no idea of the interest he himself excited.
Two years had glided by in great apparent tranquillity since the day the
Tenor entered the choir; two years, during which he had trodden the path
of life so uprightly, and so purely, that not even a suspicion of
wrong-doing was ever breathed against him by gentle or simple, good or
bad. It was a calm and passionless existence that he led, the life of an
ascetic, but of a cultivated ascetic, devoted to the highest intellectual
pursuits, and actuated by the belief that their value consisted, not in
their market price, nor in the amount of attention called fame, which they
might attract to himself, but in the pleasure they gave and in the good
they did. Many a weary man whose life had been wasted in the toil of
bringing himself before the world, when he had reached the summit of his
ambition, might well have envied the Tenor his placid countenance and
untroubled lot; some might even have perceived that there was more of
poetry than of commonplace in the quiet life which glided on so evenly,
soothed by the cathedral services, cheered by the chime, and guarded by
the shadow of its gray protecting walls.
The Tenor's cheeks had been haggard and worn when he first settled in
Morningquest, and dark circles round his eyes had betokened sleepless
nights, and the ceaseless gnawing ache of a great grief. But all that had
passed as the days wore on, giving place to a settled expression of peace--
peace tinged with a certain sadness, but dignified by resignation.
Gradually, too, although he remained slender, he ceased to be emaciated,
and his cheeks assumed a healthy hue that very well became them.
It was thought at first that the dean's intimacy with the new Tenor arose
from a sense of duty sharpened by the feeling of self-reproach with which
he had regarded his fancied neglect of the old one; but, however that
might have been, it was continued from a genuine liking for the man
himself. No one in Morningquest knew the Tenor half so well as the dean
did, no one could have had a truer regard for him, or watched the passing
of his trouble with more affectionate interest, or noted the change for
the better which had been wrought by the regular occupation of those
peaceful days with greater satisfaction, The dean knew the Tenor's story,
so that their relations might be called confidential; but for two years no
allusion had been made by either of them to the past, neither had any
plans been formed for the future.
At the end of that time, however, the dean noticed signs of awakening
energy in his friend. The Tenor performed his duties less mechanically.
His apathy was broken by fits of restlessness. He had found the mornings
long lately; he had thought the afternoons objectless; and when evening
came and the lamps were lighted, he wearied of his books and music, and
chafed a little for something, not change exactly; but he was conscious of
a desire--and this he only felt at times--a desire for some trifling human
interest which should make the life he was leading fuller. He had
awakened, in fact, from his long lethargy, and found himself alone.
The Dean of Morningquest was a remarkable man. He had the fine physique,
the high-breeding, and the scholarly reputation common to that order of
divines who keep up the dignity of the Church without doing much for
Christianity. In person he was tall, but stooped from the shoulders. He
had white hair, a fine intellectual face; fresh, and with that young look
in it which has been called saint-like, and is only seen on the faces of
those in whom passion has not died a natural death as the vital powers
decay, but has been brought into subjection, and made to do good work
instead of evil. No man consorted more habitually with his equals, or
seldomer entertained the notion that there were such people in the world
as his inferiors. He practised his religion to the last letter of church
law, and worshipped Christ the Son of God; but there is no doubt that he
would have turned his exclusive back on Christ the carpenter's son, and
had him prosecuted for an impostor had he presented himself with no better
pedigree. He could tell the story of the Saviour's sufferings with
infinite pathos because he knew who the Saviour was; but he could not have
told the same story with the same power had the hero of it been merely one
common man sacrificing his life for others. What affected the dean was the
enormous condescension. It was the greatness of the Man, not the greatness
of the deed, that appealed to him. A poor tradesman might sacrifice his
life nobly also; but, then, what is the life of a tradesman comparatively
People called the dean proud and worldly wise, but this was not true of
him. He may have believed that all the people of Palestine belonged to
county families, and were therefore called the chosen people, but he never
said so. A certain gentle humility of demeanour always distinguished him,
no matter to whom he spoke; and he was without doubt a thoroughly good
nineteenth century churchman, living at his own level, of course, and true
to his caste, toward the weaknesses of which he exercised much charity and
forbearance, while he expressed his condemnation of its sins by rigorously
excluding from his family circle any member of it who had been openly
convicted of disgraceful conduct, just as he excluded professional men and
other common citizens when they held no official position which he was
obliged to recognize, and were not connected with the landed gentry. But
these were the characteristics of his position, for as a dean he was
required to be the slave of precedent; as a man, however, he was known to
be just and generous, and an excellent good friend to all who had any
claim upon him, from the bishop who governed him down to the humblest
chorister in the cathedral which he governed.
It was in the early spring when the dean first noticed what he took to be
a change for the better in the Tenor's attitude toward life at large. The
dean was susceptible himself to kindly changes in the season; so much so,
indeed, that, contrary to all precedent, he allowed himself to be tempted
out after dark one night into the Close by the balmy mildness of the
weather: His mind had been running all day upon the Tenor, and, noticing
as he passed his little house that the blind was up, and the sitting room
window wide open, showing the lamplit interior, and the object of his
thoughts pacing restlessly to and fro, he determined to go in and have a
chat. The Tenor received him cordially, but his manner was somewhat
absent, and for a wonder the conversation flagged.
"Are you well?" the dean asked at last. "You look somewhat fatigued, I
think, and pale."
"Yes, I am well, thank you," the Tenor answered, brushing his hand back
over his forehead and hair, a gesture which was habitual. "But I fancy,"
he added smiling, "that I am beginning to be a little"--he did not know
"Ah!" said the dean, looking at him with the grave, critical air of an
anxious physician, and ruminating before he pronounced his diagnosis, "You
have shown most extraordinary perseverance in the course of life you
marked out for yourself," he finally observed; "and I trust your
resolution is well recompensed by having obtained for you that peace of
mind which you sought. But there is one thing I should like to be
permitted to point out to you. I do not venture to advise, because, in the
first place, it is always a difficult matter to decide on What would be
best for another man's welfare; and, in the second"--the dean always spoke
with great deliberation--"a man who has proved himself so capable of
acting with prudence and determination, so competent to judge, and so firm
in carrying out his convictions as you have been, might well consider
advice from anyone presumptuous. And, therefore, I am merely going to
observe that, lately, it has seemed to me to be a pity that your life
should continue much longer to be a life of inaction. I hope, and indeed I
think, that the years you have spent so well in this quiet way have been
even more beneficial than you yourself imagine; that they have not only
reconciled you to life, but have given you back the confidence and energy
which should belong to your character and abilities, and the ambition to
succeed in the world which should belong to your age. For some time past
it has seemed to me that you are more restless than you used to be; and I
have fancied, indeed I may say I have hoped, that you are at last
beginning to long for change."
The Tenor sat silent and thoughtful for a while.
"No," he began at last, "I do not even yet long for change, as you would
understand the longing. I have begun to feel a want, though I scarcely
know of what--of companionship, perhaps, of some new interest; but I have
no inclination for any change that would take me away from here. After the
storm I passed through, this place has been for me a perfect haven of rest;
and now that my peace of mind has returned to me, do you think it would
be wise, by any voluntary act, to alter the present course of my life,
seeing that it is so well with me as it is? When a man is content it does
not seem to me that any change can be for the better; and, trifles apart,
I really am content."
"God grant it may last," the dean responded earnestly. "Only I would warn
you to be ready for change in case it comes to you in spite of yourself. I
would warn you not to feel too secure. For I have noticed this, that, for
some mysterious reason which no mortal can fathom, it appears to be the
will of Heaven that when a man is able to say sincerely, 'I am happy';
when he is most confident, believing his happiness to be as firmly placed
as earthly happiness can be, then is the time for him to be most watchful,
for then is change most likely to be at hand. Indeed, it has seemed to me
that this feeling of security, or rather of content with things as they
are, is in itself an indication of coming change."
As he finished speaking the cathedral clock above them began to strike the
hour. Slowly the mellow notes followed each other, filling the night with
sound, and dying away in a long reverberation when the twelfth had struck.
Then came silence, then the chime, voicelike, clear, and resonant:
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
After which all was so still that the Tenor, looking up through the open
window at the moonlit cathedral, towering above him, gray, shadowy, and
mysterious, felt as if the world itself had stopped, and all the life in
it had been resolved into a moment of intense self-consciousness, of
illimitable passionate yearning for something not to be expressed.
The next day was Saturday, and in the afternoon the Tenor had to sing.
There is human nature, both literally and figuratively speaking, in
Wagner's method of setting a character to a tune of its own; for, although
our lives can hardly be said to order themselves to one consistent
measure, our days often do.
For months now, "When the orb of day departs," Schubert's song, had
accompanied the Tenor. It had soothed him, it had irritated him; it had
expressed passionate longing, it had been the utterance of despairing
apathy; it had marked the vainest regret, and it had Suggested hope; it
had wearied him, it had comforted him; but it had never left him. That
Saturday morning, however, when he awoke, his mind was set to another
measure. Schubert's song had gone as it had come, without conscious effort
on his part; but it had left a substitute, for the Tenor, as he lingered
over his morning's work, found himself continually murmuring whole phrases
of a chant which he had heard once upon a time when he was staying in an
old town in France, It was the Litany of the Blessed Virgin sung at
Benediction by some unseen singer with a wonderfully sympathetic
mezzo-soprano voice. The Tenor had gone again and again to hear her in
this chant, the music of which suited her as well as it did the theme. The
words of adoration, "Sancta Maria, Sancta Dei Genetrix, Sancta Virgo
virginum," were uttered evenly on notes that admitted of the tenderest
expression, while the supplication, the "Ora pro nobis," rose to the full
compass of the singer's voice, and was delivered in tones of passionate
entreaty. At the end, in the "Agnus Dei," the music changed, dropping into
the minor with impressive effect, the effect of earnestness wearied by
effort but still unshaken; and it was this final appeal in all its
pathetic beauty that now recurred to the Tenor. He had not thought of the
chant for years, nor had there been anything apparently to recall it now;
but all that day it possessed him, and at intervals he caught himself
involuntarily singing it aloud:
"Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis Domine,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mimdi, exaudi nos Domine,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis."
He sang it while he was dressing; he whistled it with his hands in his
pockets while he walked up and down the room waiting for his breakfast;
and at breakfast, with the newspaper before him, he hummed it to himself
steadily. He began it again as he crossed the road to enter the cathedral
for the early morning service; he continued it while he was putting on his
surplice; he marched to it in the procession, and he rapped it out on his
music book when he had taken his seat in the choir. He opened the book to
study his solo for the afternoon service, but before he was halfway
through his mind was busily rendering, not the music before him, but
"Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis Domine."
The haunting strain had become an intolerable nuisance by this time, and
he made a vigorous effort to get rid of it by giving his mind to what was
going on around him, and interesting himself in the people as they entered
and took their places in stall and choir, and canon's pew, chancel and
transept. Being Saturday, there was a good attendance even at this early
service. Strangers from a distance came in to see the cathedral, and
people in the place came in to see the strangers; so that there was plenty
to observe, especially for one who (unlike the Tenor) was a little behind
the scenes or had peeped beneath the surface and beheld the various
incidents of the life-dramas which were constantly being enacted in the
sacred edifice itself from service to service in the midst and with the
help of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, prayers and sermons, under
the dean's very nose, and often in the presence of the bishop. The world
at worship is a worldly sight, and there was a certain appropriateness in
the Tenor's _miserere_; but he failed to apply it although it kept
him company to the end, and was still faithful when he sallied forth from
the gloom of the cathedral and went on his way with the rest in the
sunshine and freshness of a glad new day.
As the time for the afternoon service approached, the people began again
to flock to the cathedral, but in crowds now, for it had been rumoured
that the Tenor was to sing.
The choir, from their lateral position on either side of the aisle, were
able to look up and down the church, having on the one hand and opposite
the distinguished visitors who were accommodated with seats in the stalls,
the canon's and dean's pews; and on the other the officiating clergy and
the congregation generally. It was an advantageous position for those who
came to observe, but the Tenor had not hitherto been one of these. The
music, when it was interesting, absorbed him; and when it was dull the
monotony soothed him, so that he noticed nothing. It had done so this
afternoon. During all the first part of the service he neither saw nor
heard, but did his work mechanically like one in a dream; and in every
pause of it the old chant recurred to him, filling his heart with a
separate undercurrent of solemn supplication, now in French: "Agneau de
Dieu, qui effacez les peches du monde, ayez pitie de nous," and now in
Latin: "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis."
The dean preached a _sermonette_ on Saturday afternoon, which he took
the precaution to deliver before the anthem, so that the people might
still have something to look forward to and keep their seats. The
_sermonette_ over, the organ played the opening bars of the Tenor's
solo, and the choir stood up.
While he waited for the note, the Tenor absently fixed his eyes on a lady
in the canon's pew. The spell of the old chant was still upon him, and
instead of preparing his mind for his task, he let it murmur on: "Agnus
Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis Domine"--while a rapt silence
fell upon the congregation--not a ribbon rustled; the expression of
expectation was most intense. One would scarcely have expected the Tenor
to take up the note at the right moment, his mind being preoccupied by
another strain, but he did. The lady in the canon's pew held the music of
the anthem before her, and had been following that; but when the first
clear notes of the Tenor's voice rang through the building she looked up
as if in surprise, their eyes met, and with a shock the Tenor awoke from
his lethargy, faltered for a moment, and then stopped. The organ played
on, however, and he quickly recovered; but the pause had been quite
perceptible and the people were amazed. It was the first time that such a
thing had happened with their Tenor, which made it a matter of moment; and
the wonder of it grew, parties being formed, the one to excuse the slip
and call it nothing, the other to blame him for his carelessness, as
people who never disappoint us are blamed, with bitterness, if for once by
chance they err.
That night the Tenor's restlessness grew to a head. He was engaged upon a
piece of work he wished to finish, but he could not settle to it; and
after making an ineffectual effort to concentrate his attention upon it,
he took up his hat and strolled out.
It was a lovely moonlight night. The line of trees in the Close were in
flower, and their sweetness was overpowering. He did not stay there,
however, but wandered out into the city, with his hat pushed back from his
forehead, and his hands in his pockets. The gas was not lighted in the
streets as the moon was near the full; and beneath her rays, all common
objects, however obtrusively vulgar by daylight, were refined into beauty
for the moment.
"Pater de coelis Deus, miserere nobis;
Fili Redemptor mundi Deus, miserere nobis,
Spiritus sancte Deus, miserere nobis;
Sancte Trinitas unus Deus, miserere nobis"--
the Tenor sang softly to himself as he slowly pursued his way.
He had some sort of a vague idea that he would like to go and look at the
quaint old market-place by moonlight; and when he reached it, he stopped
at the corner, interrupting his song to gaze in artistic appreciation at
the silent scene before him, at the heavy masses of shade interspersed
with intervals of mellow moonlight, and the angles of roof and spire and
ornament cut clean as cameos against "the dark and radiant clarity of the
beautiful night sky."
The market-place was an irregular square, picturesquely enclosed by tall
houses of different heights and most original construction, among them the
east end of a church and part of a public building of ancient date were
crowded in; without incongruous effect, however, the moonlight, crisp,
cool, and clear, having melted hue and form of all alike into one
harmonious whole, to the charm of which even the covered stalls, used in
the day's dealings and now packed in the middle of the square, and the
deserted footways added something.
A tall, slender lad of sixteen or seventeen was standing on the edge of
the pathway, just in front of the Tenor. He was the only other person
about, and on that account the Tenor had looked at him a second time. As
he did so, a young woman came suddenly round the corner, and accosted the
"Qu'il est beau!" she exclaimed, laying her hand on his arm, and smiling
up into his face admiringly.
The Boy stepped back to avoid her, with an unmistakable gesture of
disgust, and in doing so, he accidentally stumbled up against the Tenor.
He turned round, and apologised confusedly.
The Tenor raised his hat, and answered courteously. They were standing
together side by side now, and remained so for some seconds, silently
surveying the scene; and then the Tenor all unconsciously began again to
"Sancta Maria," he entreated, "Sancta Dei Genetrix, Sancta Virgo virginum,
ora pro nobis."
The girl had been wandering off again, but at the first note of the
supplication she stopped. A chord of memory stirred. She knew the words,
she knew the tune. She had sung them both herself often and often at home
in France. She was a Child of Mary then--and now?
As the Tenor finished the last note of the phrase and paused, she clasped
her hands convulsively, and gasped: "O mon Dieu! mon Dieu! ayez pitie de
Her half-inarticulate cry did not reach the Tenor and the Boy, neither had
they observed her distress, for just at that moment, the city clock struck
one, and both had raised their heads involuntarily In expectation of the
chime. And presently out upon the night it rolled, a great wave of sound,
swelling and spreading, muffled by distance somewhat, but still distinctly
sweet and insistent:
[Illustration: (musical notation); lyrics: He, watch-ing o-ver Is--ra--el,
slumbers not, nor sleeps.]
"Do you believe it?" said the Boy, glancing toward the girl, and repeating
the gesture of disgust with which he had shrunk from her when she accosted
The Tenor lifted his hat, and brushed his hand back over his hair. "Do I
believe it in spite of _that?_ you would say," he answered,
considering the girl with quiet eyes, "Yes, I believe it," he declared,
"in spite of _that_, which has puzzled older heads than yours."
With which he turned to retrace his steps, taking up the Litany of the
Blessed Virgin once more as he went, the supplication: "Agnus Dei, qui
tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis," being audible long after he was out
The Boy remained as he had left him for some time, apparently lost in
thought; and the girl still stood a little way off in a dejected attitude,
her hands clasped before her, her eyes fixed on the ground. She looked ill
and spiritless. The Boy, glancing at her carelessly, wondered at the
intent expression of her face; he did not perceive that she was praying,
but she was,
The midnight stillness deepened about those two; there was not another
living creature to be seen. The irregular old buildings on every side
looked ruinous in the shadowy moonlight, and the whole market-place
presented to the Boy a picture of desolation which chilled him. He was
about to turn away with a last cursory glance at the other solitary
figure, when something suddenly occurred which arrested his attention. It
seemed to startle him too, for he sprang back, with prompt agility, into a
dark doorway behind him, from whence he watched what followed with the
keenest interest, being careful, however, to conceal himself the while. He
had not felt any movement of pity or kindly compassion for the girl;
perfect indifference had succeeded the first sensation of repugnance; he
would have left her there to any fate that might await her, and would have
expected all right-minded people to do the same. It was therefore with
unmitigated astonishment that he beheld the scene which was now being
enacted before him. They were no longer alone. A tall and graceful lady of
most dignified bearing, with a countenance of peculiar serenity and
sweetness, had approached from the opposite direction, and was standing
beside the girl, speaking to her evidently, but the Boy was too far off to
hear what was said. He could see, however, that the girl's whole attitude
had changed. She was no longer dejected, but eager: and she gazed in the
lady's face as she listened to her words with an expression of admiration
and wonder, one had almost said of adoration, upon her own, as though it
were a heavenly visitant who had hailed her. The lady, as she spoke,
pointed to a street opposite, and the girl cast a quick glance in that
direction; she seemed to be measuring a distance she was impatient to
traverse, and moved a step forward at the same time, uttering some short
sentence with rapid gesticulation. The pantomime was perfectly
intelligible to the Boy, who understood that she was feverishly anxious to
carry out some intention on the instant. The lady seemed to hesitate,
then, laying her beautiful white ungloved hand on the girl's shoulder, and
looking into her face, she spoke again earnestly. The girl answered with
passionate protestations, and then the lady smiled, satisfied apparently,
and led the way in the direction to which she had pointed, the girl
following in haste. Her hat had fallen back, her hair was loosened, her
countenance beamed with enthusiasm, as the Boy observed. He was stealing
softly after them, skipping from shadow to shadow, in great enjoyment of
the whole adventure.
The lady took the girl to a long low rambling house beside a church, at
the door of which she knocked. It was opened immediately by a singularly
venerable looking old man, evidently a priest, with a fine though rugged
face, instinct with zeal and benevolence. He had his hat in his hand, and
was just coming out; but when he saw who had knocked, he stopped short,
and bowed deferentially. The girl sank down upon the doorstep as if
"I have brought Marie Cruchot home, father," the lady said.
"Ah, my daughter, is that you? We have been expecting you for many days,"
the old man exclaimed in French, taking the girl's hand and raising her
gently as he spoke. "I have prayed for you day and night without ceasing,
and only just now, as I passed the convent, I went to ask the night
portress for tidings of our wandering sheep, and specially mentioned you.
But enter. The good sisters are waiting for you, and will welcome you with
One of two sisters of charity, who were standing behind the priest, now
came forward and kissed the girl. The old man raised his hat, and, looking
up into the clear depths of the quiet sky, murmured a blessing, and went
his way. And then the door was closed.
"Humph!" said the Boy, who was lurking up an entry opposite. "So that is
what they do at night, is it? and that is the young person who sold her
sister Louise to Mosley Menteith. Now I am beginning to know the world;
and what an extraordinary old world it is, to be sure! One half seems to
be always kept busy mending the mischief the other half has made."
He peeped cautiously out of the entry, looking for the lady, but she had
disappeared, and night and silence reigned supreme.
All that the Tenor had witnessed of the scene in the market-place made
little or no impression on him, and he would probably never have thought
of it again had he not encountered the Boy a few nights later, standing,
idly observant as before, at the same time and almost in the same place.
The Tenor's first impulse was to pass on without speaking, but the Boy
looked at him, and there was something in the look, half shy, half
appealing, which caused him to stop, and having stopped, he was obliged to
To his first commonplace remark the Boy answered nervously, and with quick
glances instantly averted, as if he were afraid to meet the Tenor's eyes.
The latter continued to talk, however, and after a little the Boy's
timidity wore off, and his manner became assured.
"This is a curious old place, is it not?" he remarked; "and curiously
named if you consider how very little _quest_ there is for
_morning_ here, for the new day which would bring the light of truth
after the darkness of error."
"It never struck me that the name could have any allegorical
significance," the Tenor answered prosaically. "I believe it used to be
Morn and Quest. It stands at the junction of the two rivers, you know, or
rather just below it. They run their united race from hence to the sea."
"I know," said the Boy. "But it really is a romantic old place, especially
by moonlight; and it teems with historical associations, as the guidebook
has it, with its cathedral, cloisters, castle, and close--the closest in
England, they say. Don't you feel remote from the world when you get in
there, and the four old gates are shut upon you? The water-gate is the
most interesting to me."
"Two of the others are architecturally beautiful where they haven't been
spoilt by restoration," the Tenor rejoined.
"Ah!" the Boy ejaculated, and then continued boyishly: "You're not a
native evidently, or you wouldn't speak so moderately. The inhabitants
boast themselves black in the face about everything in the city. They made
me believe that the whole earth began here originally, and that it was
also the point of departure for the sea. It did wash their walls on the
southern side once upon a time; but the sinfulness of the people compelled
it to retire ages ago, and it has since enjoyed a purer moral atmosphere
twenty miles away."
"Indeed," said the Tenor. "I did not know that the sea was so fastidious!"
"Oh, yes, it is, naturally," the Boy declared; "but it cannot choose its
position for itself always any more than we can. But people are more
entertaining than places," he pursued; "don't you think so? Now these
people, how Godfearing and orthodox they are, and how admirably they make
religion part of their daily life in the matter of stretching a point and
using the right of Christian charity to be lenient when a too rigorous
adhesion to principle would injure their interest. Their chief
confectioner retired from business the other day, but they would not give
their custom to his successor at first because of his religious opinions.
They forsook him for his atheism, in fact; but in a very short time they
returned to him for his ice-creams, which are excellent. If you ever feel
any doubt about life being worth living, go and get one. It will reassure
They had been strolling on as they talked, and now the Tenor turned to
look at his companion, being about to answer him, when something in the
Boy's face struck him as familiar, and he paused, knitting his brows in a
perplexed effort to think what it was. Measured beside himself the Boy was
rather taller than he looked, but very slender, and his hands and feet
were too small. He had dark eyebrows, peculiarly light luxuriant hair,
and, as a natural accompaniment, a skin of extreme fairness and delicacy.
In fact, he was too fair for his age, it made him look effeminate; and had
it not been for the dark eyebrows and eyelashes his colouring would have
been insipid. As it was, however, there was no lack of character in his
face; and you would have called him "a pretty boy" while thinking it high
time he had grown out of his prettiness. This was the Tenor's reflection,
but his too earnest gaze apparently disconcerted the Boy, who returned it
with one quick anxious glance, then seemed to fake fright, and finally
bolted, leaving the Tenor alone in the road. "That young rascal is out
without leave, and is afraid of being recognized," he concluded.
It was some weeks before they met again, and during the interval the Tenor
often thought of the Boy with curiosity and interest. There was something
unusual in his manner and appearance which would have attracted attention
even if his conversation had not been significant, and that it was
significant the Tenor discovered by the continual recurrence to his mind
of some one or other of the Boy's observations. He had not tried to find
out who the Boy was, interest not having stirred his characteristic apathy
in such matters to that extent, but he looked for him continually both by
day and night, his thoughts being pretty equally divided between him and
the lady whose brilliant glance had had such a magical effect upon him the
first time he encountered it. She came to the cathedral regularly now, and
always sat in the canon's pew; and always when he sang she looked at him,
and he knew that the look was an expression of appreciation and thanks. He
knew, too, that the day she did not come would be a blank day for him.
The moon had grown old, but the nights were still scented by the
lime-trees when the Tenor met the Boy again. He had begun to believe that
the Boy did not live in Morningquest; and, as often happens, he was
thinking of him less than usual on this particular occasion, and hence he
came upon him unawares.
The Boy was lolling against the iron railings that enclosed the grassy
space round which the old lime-trees grew, in the middle of one arm of the
Close. It was a bright, clear night, but chilly, and he was wrapped up in
a greatcoat which lent a little substance to his slender figure. The Tenor
would have passed him without recognizing him, but for his sandy hair,
which shone out palely against the bark of one of the trees.
"I was waiting for you," the Boy said. "Why are you so late to-night?"
"How do you know I am later than usual to-night?" he asked.
"Because, generally, you come out about ten o'clock, and it is nearly
"How do you happen to know I generally come out about ten o'clock?"
"Oh," the Boy answered coolly, "I watched you.' I have been studying your
habits in order to find out what manner of man you are; and I think you'll
do," he added patronizingly, with a wise shake of the head. "I guess you
were looking for me too, weren't you?"
The Tenor smiled again, and, lifting his hat, brushed his hand back over
his hair. "What makes you think so?" he asked.
"I am accustomed to that sort of thing," the Boy replied, with a twinkle
in his eyes. "People who meet me once try, as a rule, to cultivate my
acquaintance," with which he raised himself from his lolling posture, and
added: "I'll walk up and down with you, if you like, but you must give me
your arm. I require support."
"Why? are you tired? What have you been doing to-day?" the Tenor asked as
he acquiesced, smiling in his grave way, for the Boy pleased him.
"Oh, well"--considering--"I got up this morning."
"That was a serious business!"
"It was"--with emphasis--"for I had to settle a serious question before I
arose. I had to make up my mind about free will and predestination. If I
could believe in predestination I thought I might have breakfast in bed
without self-reproach; but if it were a matter of free will, I felt I
should be obliged to get up."
"And how did you settle it?" The tenor asked.
"I didn't settle it," the Boy replied, "for just as I was coming to a
conclusion the breakfast bell rang, and the force of habit compelled me to
jump out of bed in a hurry. I don't call _that_ free will! And I
think, on the whole, predestination had the best of it, perhaps, for my
breakfast was sent up to me after all, without any action on my part, and
I partook of it in the silence and solitude of my own chamber, with an
easy conscience, and the luxuries of an open window and a book. I suppose
you can do that every day if you like? You have no one to interfere with
"I have no one to interfere with me," the Tenor repeated, thoughtfully,
"Perhaps it would be better for me if I had."
"By better you mean happier," the Boy responded, clasping both hands round
the Tenor's arm.
The latter looked down at him, wondering a little, but not displeased.
They were walking in the shadow of the houses just then, and could not see
each other's faces, but the Tenor's heart warmed more and more to this
curious Boy, and he pressed the hand that rested on his arm a little
closer. It was a long time since the grave, large-hearted, earnest man had
known anyone so young and spontaneous, or felt a touch of human sympathy,
and in both he found refreshment--a something of that something which he
knew he needed but could not name.
They took a turn up and down in silence, and then the Boy began again,
boyishly: "I say, do you suffer from nerves? You made rather a bungle of
it the other day, didn't you?"
"You mean when I broke down in that anthem? Were you there? Where did you
"With the distinguished strangers, of course."
"I did not see you."
"Did you look behind you?"
"No. But are you a stranger here?"
"Well, not exactly," said the Boy, with a great affectation of candour.
They had passed out into the open now, and the Tenor could see the Boy's
face. He had glanced at him as we do at the person we speak to, but
something he saw arrested his glance, and caused him to look again keenly
and closely--the something that had perplexed him before.
The Boy returned his gaze smiling and unabashed. "She put you out, didn't
she?" he asked with a grin. "Verily, she hath eyes--at least, I've been
told so; but I am no judge of such things myself."
The puzzled look passed from the Tenor's face. "I know what it is," he
said. "You are exactly like her."
The Boy laughed. "I meant to keep it a secret. I was going to make a
mystery of myself," he said; "but faculties like yours are not to be
baffled, and since you have observed so much, I might as well confess that
there are two of us, twins. They call us the Heavenly Twins."
"What, signs of the Zodiac?" said the Tenor.
"No, signs of the times," said the Boy.
There was a little pause and then the Tenor observed: "I should hardly
have thought you were twins, except for the likeness. Your sister looks
older than you do."
"Well, you see, she's so much more depraved," said the Boy. "And her
lovely name is Angelica--excuse me. I must laugh." He slipped his hand
from the Tenor's arm, leant his back against a railing, and exploded.
"Excuse me," he repeated, when he could contain himself. "I have suffered
from this affliction all my life. I can't help laughing."
"So it seems," said the Tenor, "May I ask what provoked this last attack
of your malady?"
Before he could answer, they were accosted by a respectable looking man, a
small farmer from a distance probably, who was making the most of a rare
opportunity by trying to see as much as he could of the cathedral in the
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said--the Boy was all gravity in a
moment--"but could you tell me what flying buttresses are."
"A sign of rain," said the Boy, whereupon the Tenor seized him by the
scruff of the neck and shook him incontinently. For a moment after he was
released, the Boy seemed to be overcome by astonishment; but this was
rapidly succeeded by an attack of the malady he had declared to be
congenital, apparently brought on by the shock of the chastisement, and
the Tenor, who had walked on a little way with the countryman answering
his questions, left him laughing all over. He waited, leaning against the
railing, until the Tenor returned.
"You little wretch--" the latter began.
"That's right, don't make a stranger of me," the Boy interrupted. "Treat
me like a younger brother. You make me feel that I have succeeded in
establishing confidential relations between us, which is what I want."
The Tenor was about to reply, but his voice was drowned by a sudden
clangour of the bells above them. The clock struck, the chime rang, and
while they waited listening, the Tenor raised his hat. They were standing
at the corner of the cloisters, looking up to the clock tower and its
tapering spire, which surmounted the Norman facade and entrance to the
"I must go," the Boy said, when he could hear himself speak.
"Will you not come in--to my house--I am afraid I am very wanting in
hospitality," the Tenor exclaimed. "I should have asked you before. I live
close by. I should be so glad--"
"Not to-night," the Boy interrupted hastily; "another time. Good-bye!"
When next the Tenor saw Angelica after he had learnt that she was the
Boy's sister, he felt that a new interest had been added to her
It was on a Saturday afternoon in the cathedral, as usual, and she came in
late. But almost as soon as she had taken her seat she looked at the Tenor
with an earnest, anxious glance that reminded him of her brother, and her
colour deepened. The Boy had told her then, the Tenor thought, and he was
glad she knew that they had met; it was a bond of union which seemed to
bring her nearer.
He noticed now how like in feature the brother and sister were. The girl
looked taller as well as older, and was altogether on a larger scale, her
figure being amply developed for her age, while the Boy's was fragile to a
fault; her hair was dark too, while his was light; but with these slight
differences there was likeness enough to show that they were twins. They
both had the same shaped eyes, the same straight, well-defined, dark
eyebrows and long lashes, the same features, the same clear skin and even
teeth; but the expression was different. There was never any devilment in
the girl's face; it was always pale and tranquil, almost to sadness, as
the Tenor saw it, standing out in fair relief against the dark oak carving
of the stalls. Her movements were all made, too, with a certain quiet
dignity that seemed habitual. In the Boy, on the contrary, there was no
trace of that graceful attribute. He threw himself about, lolled,
lollopped, and gesticulated, with as much delight in the free play of his
muscles as if he were only let out to exercise them occasionally; and it
seemed as if he must always be at daggers drawn with dignity. But such a
slender intellectual creature could not without absurdity acquire the
ponderous movements and weight of manner of smaller wits and duller
brains. In the girl, quiescence was the natural outcome of womanly reserve;
in the Boy, it would have been mere affectation. His lightness and
brightness were his great charm at present, a charm, however, which was
much enhanced by moments of thoughtfulness, which gave glimpses of another
nature beneath, with more substantial qualities. The Tenor had soon
perceived that he was not all mischief, romp, and boyishness; all that was
on the surface; but beneath there was a strong will at work with some
purpose, or the Tenor, was much mistaken; and there was daring, and there
was originality. This was the Tenor's first impression, and further
acquaintance only confirmed it.
Having formed his opinion of the Boy's abilities, the Tenor began to make
plans for his future, and the selflessness of the man's nature showed
itself in nothing more clearly, perhaps, than in the consideration he gave
to the lad's career. His own had not cost him so much as a thought for
years; but now he roused himself and became ambitious all at once for the
Boy! He believed that there was the making of a distinguished man in him,
and he allowed the hope of being able to influence him in some worthy
direction to become as much a part of his daily life as another hope had
become--a hope which was strongly felt but not yet acknowledged, except in
so far as it took the form of a desire to see her, and made known its
presence with force in the pang of disappointment which he suffered if by
chance she failed to come as usual to the service on Saturday afternoon.
He saw in the girl an ideal, and had found soul enough in the
laughter-loving Boy to make him eager to befriend him.
And thus into the Tenor's life two new interests had found their way, and
something which had hitherto been wanting to make the music of it perfect
was heard at last in his wonderful voice when he sang.
About this time the weather changed; the nights were wet for a week, and
when it cleared up the Tenor had begun to do some work for the dean which
kept him at home in the evenings, so that he had no opportunity of seeing
the Boy, who only seemed to come abroad at night, for some little time. He
saw his sister, however, in the cathedral regularly once a week, and
always she gave him a friendly glance, by which his days were rounded as
by a blessing, and he felt content. His being so was entirely
characteristic. Another man in his place would have lost the charm of the
present in anxiety to reach some future which should be even more
complete. But the Tenor took no thought for the morrow; each day as it
came was a joy to him, and his hopes, if he had any, were a part of his
The work he was doing for the dean was interesting. He was making drawings
to illustrate a history of Anglo-Norman times which the dean was writing.
He drew well and with great facility; but these drawings, many of which
were architectural, required special care and accuracy, with the closest
attention to detail, which made the work fatiguing, particularly as he had
to do it at night, his only leisure time just then; and more than once he
had tired himself out, and been obliged to put it away and rest. On one of
these occasions, instead of going to bed, he stretched himself in an
easy-chair beside the open French window which looked out upon the
cathedral, and prepared to indulge in the quiet luxury of a pipe while he
rested his weary eyes. The great cathedral towered above him, and from
where he sat the Tenor caught a beautiful glimpse of it anglewise, of the
south transept and tower and spire; the rich perpendicular windows of the
clerestory, the bold span of the flying buttresses rising out of the plain
but solid Norman base, every detail of which he knew and appreciated.
It was a fair, still, starry night without, and the light air that blew in
upon him was sweet and refreshing. His mind wandered from subject to
subject--a sleepy sign--as he smoked, and presently he put down his pipe
and closed his eyes. He thought then that he had fallen asleep and was
dreaming, and in his dream he fancied he heard himself sing. "This is a
queer dream," he was conscious of saying. "That is my voice exactly. I
have often wondered how it sounded to other people, and now I am listening
to it myself, which is strange." But the strangest part of it was that the
words to which the music shaped itself in his mind were not the words of
any song he knew, but that expression of human nature which contains in
itself some of the grandest harmony in the language:
"These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself;
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a wreck behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."
The last words repeated themselves over and over again, on different notes
and in another key each time, and with such powerful emphasis that at last
it aroused the Tenor, upon whose sleepy brain the fact that it was not a
voice but a violin to which he had been listening, dawned gradually, while
his trained ear further recognized the tone of a rare instrument, and the
touch of a master hand. He got up and went to the window. "Oh!" he
exclaimed, "is it you?" and there was a world of pleasure in the
exclamation. "Come in."
The Boy, who was standing in the road, opened the little garden gate, and
entered. "I am glad you have relented," he said; "for I meant to play
until I had softened your heart, and had persuaded you to take me in; and
the hope deferred was making me sick."
"I was asleep," the Tenor answered. "Why didn't you come in? You must have
known you would be welcome. Here is an easy-chair. Sit down. And, tell me,
why do we only meet at night? What do you do with yourself all day?"
"I am not a daylight beauty," the Boy declared. "I look best at night."
"But seriously?" the Tenor persisted.
"Oh, my tutor, you know--Sandhurst--exams--and that kind of thing."
"You are going into the army then?"
But the Boy, smiling, put the question by. The easy, pleasure-loving,
sensuous side of his nature was evidently uppermost, and when that was the
case it was so natural for him to shirk a disagreeable subject, that the
Tenor had not the heart to pursue it further.
"Won't you take your hat off?" he said presently.
The Boy put up both hands to it. "My head's a queer shape," he said,
tapping it. "You won't want to examine it phrenologically, will you?"
"No," the Tenor answered, smiling. "Not if you object."
"I do object. I don't like to be touched."
The Tenor, still smiling, watched, him as he carefully removed his hat.
His head was rather a peculiar shape. It was too broad at the back, and
too large altogether for his slight frame, though probably the thickness
of his fluffy light hair, which stood up all over it, innocent of parting
as the Tenor's own, added considerably to this last defect. There was
nothing so very extraordinary about it, however, and the Tenor did not see
why he should be sensitive on the subject, and rather suspected that the
boy was gravely poking fun at him; but as he could not be sure of this,
and would not have hurt his feelings for the world, he forebore to make
The Boy glanced round the room. "What a wealthy luxurious fellow you are,"
"These appearances of wealth, as you call it, are delusive," the Tenor
answered. "I just happened to have money enough to furnish my house when I
came here; but I am a very poor man now. I have little or nothing, in
fact, but my salary for singing in the choir."
"Oh," said the Boy. "And you might be so rich with your voice."
The Tenor brushed his hand back over his hair.
"Are you lazy?" the Boy demanded.
"No." he answered, smiling again. The Boy kept him smiling perpetually.
"What is it, then? Why don't you work?"
"Well, I do work," the Tenor answered him.
"I mean, why don't you make money?"
"Oh--because I have no one to make it for."
"If you had"--and the Boy leant forward eagerly--"would you? Would you
work for a lady who loved you if she gave herself to you?"
"I would work for my wife," said the Tenor.
"Are you engaged?" the Boy asked. There seemed no limit to his capacity
The Tenor shook his head, and shook the ashes out of his pipe at the same
"Are you in love?" the Boy persisted.
The Tenor made no reply to this impertinence, but a glow spread over his
face, forehead and chin and throat.
The Boy, whom nothing escaped, leant back satisfied. "I know what it is,"
he said, "She's married, and you don't like to ask her to run away with
you. I expect she would, you know, if you did."
The Tenor threw himself back in his chair and laughed.
His mirth seemed to jar on the Boy, who got up and began to pace about the
room, frowning and dissatisfied.
"You look pale," the Tenor said. "Have you been ill since; I saw you?"
"No--yes," the Boy answered. "I had a bad cold. I was very sorry for
The Tenor took up his violin, and examined it. "Where did you study?" he
"Everywhere," was the ungraciously vague reply.
"I wish you would play again," the Tenor said, taking no notice of his
ill-humour. "It would be a rare treat for a hermit like me."
"No," was the blunt rejoinder. "I don't want to make music. I want to
"Well, make yourself at home," the Tenor said, humouring him
"_Make_ me at home," the Boy replied. "Confidential relations, you
know. You may smoke if you like."
"Oh, thank you," the Tenor answered politely, sitting down in his
easy-chair, from which he had risen to look at the violin, and taking up
his pipe again.
The Boy was rummaging about now, and, finding much to interest him, he
presently recovered his temper, and began to banter his host. But even
this outlet was scarcely sufficient for his superfluous life and energy,
so he emphasized his remarks by throwing a stray cushion or two at the
Tenor; he jumped over the chairs instead of walking round them, and
performed an occasional _pas seul_, or pirouette, in various parts of
the room. When these innocent amusements palled upon him, he took up his
violin and played a plaintive air, to which he chanted:
"There was a merry dromedary
Waltzing on the plain;
Dromedary waltzing, dromedary prancing.
And all the people said, it is a sign of rain,
When they saw the good beast dancing;"
executing grotesque steps himself at the same time in illustration.
"Oh, Boy, forbear!" the Tenor exclaimed at last, "or you will be the death
"That's it," the Boy responded cheerfully. "I mean to be life or death to
After this he sat down on a high-backed chair, with his hands in his
pockets, his legs stretched out before him, and his chin on his chest,
looking up from under his eyebrows at the Tenor thoughtfully. It was an
interval of great gravity, and when he spoke again the Tenor looked for
"I say," he began at last.
The Tenor took his pipe from his mouth and waited, interrogatively.
"I say, I'm hungry."
The Tenor looked his dismay.
"Boys always are, you know," the youth added, encouragingly.
"And if there should be nothing in the house!" the poor Tenor ejaculated.
"I'll go and see."
He returned quite crestfallen. "There _is_ nothing," he said; "at
least nothing but bread--no butter even."
"I don't believe you," said the Boy, rousing himself from his indolent
"Boy, you mustn't say you don't believe me."
"But I don't," said the Boy. "I don't believe you know where to look. Are
the servants out?"
"Yes, my solitary attendant doesn't sleep here."
"Then I'll go and look myself."
"Oh, do, if you like," said the Tenor, much amused. And thinking the Boy
would enjoy himself best if he were left to rummage at his own sweet will,
he took up a book, brushed his hand back over his shining hair, and was
soon absorbed, But presently he was startled by a wild cry of distress
from the kitchen, and, jumping up hastily, he went to see what was the
He found the Boy standing at one end of the kitchen, clutching a vegetable
dish, and gazing with a set expression of absolute horror at some object
quite at the other end. The Tenor strained his own eyes in the same
direction, but could not at first make anything out. At last, however, he
distinguished a shining black thing moving, which proved to be a small
"Well, you _are_ a baby!" he exclaimed.
"I'm not," the Boy snapped. "It's an idiosyncrasy. I can't bear creepy
crawly things. They give me fits."
"I begin to perceive, Boy, that you have a reason for everything," the
Tenor observed, as he disposed of the innocent object of the Boy's
"Put it out of sight," the latter entreated, looking nauseated.
But as soon as the Tenor had accomplished his mandate, his good humour
returned, and he began to beam again. "What a duffer you are!" he said,
taking the lid off the dish he held in his hand. "You have no imagination.
You never lifted a dish cover. Why, I've found a dozen eggs--fresh, for I
broke one into a cup to see; and here are a whole lot of cold potatoes."
"It doesn't sound appetizing; cold potatoes and raw eggs!"
"Sound! It isn't sound you judge by in matters of this kind. Just you
wait, and you shall see, smell, and taste."
"Well, if it please you," the Tenor answered lazily. "I see something
already. You have lighted a fire."
"Yes, and I've used all the dry sticks," said the Boy, with great glee.
"Won't the old woman _swear_ when she comes in the morning!"
The Tenor returned to his book, reflecting, as he prepared to resume it,
on the wonderful provision of nature which endows the growing animal not
only with such strong instincts of self-preservation, but with the power
to gratify them, and to take itself off at the same time and be happy in
so doing, thus saving those who have outgrown these natural proclivities
from some of their less agreeable consequences.
Presently a hot red face appeared at the door. "Did you say you liked your
eggs turned?" the Boy wanted to know.
"I didn't say; but I do, if you're frying them."
"And hard or soft?"
"How many can you eat?"
"Half-a-dozen at least," the Tenor returned at random.
"And I can eat three"--with great gravity--"that will make nine, and leave
three for your breakfast in the morning. I daresay you won't want more
after such a late supper, I don't think I should myself."
"But do you mean me to understand that the voracity of the growing animal
will be satisfied with less than I can eat?"
"Well, you see," the Boy explained apologetically, "the heat of the fire
has taken a lot out of me."
"But the waste must be repaired."
"Yes, but the expenditure has been followed by a certain amount of
exhaustion, and the power to repair the waste has yet to be generated; it
will come as a sort of reaction of the organs which can only set in after
a proper period of repose--a sort of interregnum of their energies, you
The Tenor threw back his golden head. "Oh, Boy!" he expostulated, "don't
make me laugh again to-night, don't, please!"
The Boy was very busy for the next ten minutes, arranging the table, and
quite in his element; cooing as he proceeded, and giving little muttered
reasons to himself, in his soft contralto voice, for everything he did.
That voice of his was wonderfully flexible; he could make it harsh,
grating, gruffly mannish, and caressing as a woman's, at will, but the
tone that seemed natural to it was the deep, mellow contralto into which
he always relapsed when not thinking of himself. The Tenor thought it
hardly rough enough for a boy of his age, but it was in harmony with his
fragile form, and delicate, effeminate features.
"Whom the gods love die young," flashed through his mind as he watched him
now, coming and going; and he sighed, it seemed so likely; and felt
already that he should miss the Boy; and wondered, with retrospective
self-pity, how he had managed to live at all with no such interest.
"A golden-headed, gray-eyed, white-toothed, fine-skinned son of the
morning must be a sybarite," the Boy observed, entering the room at that
moment; "so I bring flowers, and also salad, just cut and crisp."
"May I ask how you knew there was salad in my garden?"
"Well, you may _ask_," the Boy responded cheerfully; "but--let me
see, though--perhaps I had better tell you. I found that out the last time
I was here. Perhaps you don't know that I came? I wanted to discover the
resources of the place, so I took advantage of your temporary absence on
business one day, and inspected it."
"Where was I?" the Tenor asked.
"You were busy at the fire insurance office opposite."
"Do you mean the cathedral? Boy, I will not let you mock."
The Boy grinned. "It was the only time I could be at all sure of you," he
pursued. "You were going to sing a solo. I saw it advertised in the paper,
and laid my plans accordingly. But I _was_ in a fright! I thought you
might just happen to feel bad and be obliged to come out, and catch me. I
felt that strongly when I was picking your flowers in the greenhouse."
He left the room before the Tenor recovered, and returned with a tray on
which was the result of his enterprise.
"If you don't like eggs and potatoes fried as I fry them, you'll never
like anything again in this world," he asserted confidently, helping the
Tenor as he spoke. "The thing is to have the dripping boiling to begin
with, you know," he continued--"(I'll only give you two eggs at a
time)--then plunge them in, and as they brown take them off one by one and
put them on a hot dish--I'm speaking of the potatoes now; but don't cover
them up, it makes them flabby, and the great thing is to keep them crisp."
"They really are good," said the Tenor. But he had overestimated his
capacity, and could only dispose of three of the eggs.
The Boy was disgusted. However, he said it did not matter, since he was
there to sacrifice himself in the interests of science, and preserve the
balance of nature by eating the rest himself, a feat he accomplished
"Now this is what I call good entertainment for man and beast," he
"May I ask which is the beast?" the Tenor ventured.
"Why, I am, of course," said the Boy. "Did you ever know a boy who wasn't
half a beast?"
"Yes. It is all a matter of early association and surroundings."
"Well, if you knew the kind of moral atmosphere I have to breathe at home,
you would know also how little you ought to expect of me. But what shall
"There is some beer, I believe," the Tenor said dubiously.
"Burgundy is more in my line."
"Burgundy! A boy like you shouldn't know the difference.
"A _boy_ like me wouldn't, probably."
The Tenor smiled. "And what do you call yourself, pray? A man?" he asked.
"No; a bright particular spirit."
It was not inappropriate, the Tenor thought, and he got up. "It does not
often happen so," he said; "but now I think of it I believe I have some
Burgundy in the house. The dean sent me a dozen the last time I was out of
sorts, and there is some left."
"I know," said the Boy. "It is in the cupboard under the stairs on the
left hand side."
When the Tenor came back with the Burgundy the Boy settled himself in an
easy-chair with a glass on the table beside him, and it was evident that
his mood had changed. He was thoughtful for a little, sitting with solemn
eyes, looking out at the cathedral opposite.
There was only one rose-shaded lamp left alight in the long low room, and
the dimness within made it possible to see out into the clear night and
distinguish objects easily.
"When I look out at that great pile and realize its antiquity, I suffer,"
the Boy said at last, "Do you know what it is, the awful oppression of the
The Tenor did not answer for a moment, then he said:
"I never see you at church."
"I should think not," the Boy replied, still speaking seriously. "You
never see anyone but Angelica."
The Tenor flushed.
"Why do you never speak to that sweet young lady?" the Boy asked
tentatively, after a little pause.
"I! How could I?"
"I fancy you ought to," the Boy went on, endeavouring to "draw" the Tenor.
"You can't expect her to make up to you, you know."
"Oh, Boy! how can you be so young!" the Tenor exclaimed, with a gesture of
impatience, but still amused.
The Boy sipped his wine, and gazed into the glass, delighting in the rich
deep colour. "I should think she would be delighted to make the
acquaintance of so great an artist," he said.
The Tenor bowed ironically. "May I ask if you are pursuing your
investigations as to what manner of man I am?" he asked.
"Well, yes," was the candid rejoinder; "I was. I suppose you think that
you ought not to speak without an introduction. Well, say I gave you one."
The Tenor laughed. He felt that he ought to let the subject drop, and at
the same time yielded to temptation.
"What would your introduction be worth?" he asked.
"Everything," the Boy rejoined. "I am on excellent terms with Angelica. We
have always been inseparable, and I get on with her capitally; and she's
not so easy to get on with, I can tell you," he added, as if taking credit
"When she is good she is very good indeed,
But when she is naughty she is horrid.
"And just now she's mostly naughty. She isn't very happy."
The interest expressed in the Tenor's attitude was intensified, and
inquiry came into his eyes.
"She is not very happy," the Boy pursued with extreme deliberation,
"because you come no nearer."
"Boy, you are romancing," the Tenor said, with a shade of weariness in his
"I am not," the Boy replied. "I know all that Angelica thinks, and it is
"Hush!" the Tenor exclaimed. "You must not tell me."
"I will not allow it."
"Well, there then, don't bite," said the Boy; "and I won't tell you
against your will that she thinks a great deal about you"--this
_presto_, in order to get it out before the Tenor could stop him.
"But I will tell you on my own account that I don't know the woman who
A vivid flush suffused the Tenor's face, and he turned away.
"I hope you never say things like that to your sister," he objected, after
The Boy grinned. "Sometimes I do," he said, "only they're generally more
There was a long silence after this, during which the Tenor changed his
attitude repeatedly. He was much disturbed, and he showed it. The Boy made
a great pretence of sipping his wine, but he had not in reality taken much
of it. He was watching the Tenor, and it was curious how much older he
looked while so engaged. The Tenor must have noticed the change in him,
which was quite remarkable, giving him an entirely different character,
but for his own preoccupation. As it was, however, he noticed nothing.
"Boy," he began at last, in a low voice and hesitating, "I want you to
promise me something." The Boy leant forward all attention. "I want you to
promise that you will not say anything like that--anything at all about me
"To Angelica?" The Boy seemed to think. "I will promise," he slowly
decided, "if you will promise me one thing in return."
"What is it?"
"Will you promise to tell me everything you think about her."
The Tenor laughed.
"You might as well," the Boy expostulated. "I've got to look after you
both and see that you don't make fools of yourselves. The youngness of
people in love is a caution!" And I should like to see Angelica safely
settled with you. A man with a voice like yours is a match for anyone.
There are obstacles, of course; but they can be got over--if you will
"Oh, you impossible child!" the Tenor exclaimed.
"It is you who are impossible," the Boy said, in dudgeon. "You are too
ideal, too content to worship from afar off as Dante worshipped Beatrice.
I believe that was what killed her. If Dante had come to the scratch, as
he should have done, she would have been all right."
"Beatrice was a married woman," the Tenor observed.
The Boy shrugged his shoulders, but just then the cathedral clock struck
three, and he hastily finished his wine.
"I'll disperse," he said, when the chime was over. "Take care of my
fiddle. You'll find the case under the sofa. I left it the last time I was
here. By-the-bye, you should make the old woman stay at home to look after
the place when you're out. Unscrupulous people might walk in uninvited,
you know. Ta, ta," and the Tenor found himself alone.
It was no use to go to bed, he could not rest. His heart burned within
him. It was no use to tell himself that the Boy was only a boy. He knew
what he was saying, and he spoke confidently. He was one of those who are
wiser in their generation than the children of light. And he had
said--what was it he had said? Not much in words, perhaps, but he had
conveyed an impression. He had made the Tenor believe that she thought of
him. He believed it, and he disbelieved it. If she thought of him--he
threw himself down on the sofa, and buried his face in the cushions. The
bare supposition made every little nerve in his body tingle with joy. He
ought not to indulge in hope, perhaps; but, as the Boy himself might have
observed, you can't expect much sense from a man in that state of mind.
A few days later the Tenor saw his lady again in the canon's pew, and he
was sure, quite sure, she tried to suppress a smile.
"That little wretch has told her, and she is laughing at my presumption,"
was his distressed conclusion. "I'll wring his neck for him when he comes
But when the service was over, and he had taken his surplice off, she
passed him in the nave, so close that he might have touched her, and
looked at him with eyes just like the Boy when he was shy; gave him a
quick half-frightened look, and blushed vividly; gave him time to speak,
too, had he chosen. But the Tenor was not the man to take advantage of a
When he went home, however, he was glad. And he opened his piano and sang
like one-inspired. "I am gaining more power in everything," he said to
himself, "I could make a position for her yet."
A few nights later the Tenor went out for a stroll, leaving the windows
of his sitting room closed but not fastened, and the lamp turned down. On
his return he was surprised to find the window wide open and the room lit
up. The little garden gate was shut and bolted, He could easily have
reached over and opened it from the outside, but knowing that it creaked,
and not wanting to disturb his nocturnal visitor until he had ascertained
his occupation, he jumped over it lightly, walked across the grass plot to
the window, and looked in.
It was the Boy, of course. The Tenor recognized him at once, although all
he could see of him at first were his legs as he knelt on the floor with
his back to him and his head and shoulders under a sofa. "What, in the
name of fortune, is he up to now?" the Tenor wondered.
Just then the boy got up, frowning, and flushed with stooping. He stamped
his foot impatiently, and looked all round the room in search of
something. Suddenly his face cleared. He had discovered his violin oh the
top of a bookshelf above him, and that was apparently what he wanted, for
he made a dash at it, and took it down, and hugged it affectionately.
The Tenor smiled, and stepped down into the room. He did not wish to take
his visitor unawares, but the carpet was soft and thick, and his quick
step as he crossed to where the boy was standing with his back to him,
absorbed in the contemplation of his beloved instrument, made no noise, so
that when the Tenor laid his hand on the Boy's shoulder he did startle him
considerably. The Boy did not drop his instrument, but he uttered an
almost womanish shriek, and faced round with such a scared white look that
the Tenor thought he was going to faint. He recovered immediately,
however, and then exclaimed angrily: "How dare you startle me so?
Everybody knows I can't bear to be startled. If you are nothing but a
blunderer you will spoil everything. And I bolted the gate too. It would
have made a noise if you had opened it as you ought to have done, and then
I should have known, I've a good mind to go away now, and never come back
"I am very sorry," said the Tenor. "But how was I to know it was you? It
might have been a thief."
"Thieves don't come to steal grand pianos and armchairs in lighted
chambers with the windows open and the blinds up," the Boy retorted.
"Don't you feel mean, spying around like that?"
"Are you an American?" the Tenor interrupted blandly.
"Yes, I am"--with asperity--"and you must have known quite well it was me.
Who else could get into the Close after the gates were shut?"
"I never thought of that," said the Tenor. "And how _do_ you get in,
pray? By the postern?"
"No," was the answer, "I come by the water-gate;" and his face cleared as
he saw the Tenor's puzzled glance at his garments.
"I'm not wet," he said. "I don't swim."
"But the ferry does not cross after six."
"No, but I do, you see. And now let us make music," he added, his good
humour restored by the Tenor's mystification. "If you will be so good as
to accompany me with your piano, I will give you a treat. I brought my
music the last time I was here;" and there it was, piled up, on a chair
beside the instrument.
The Tenor could have sworn that neither chair nor music was there when he
went out that evening, but what was the use of swearing? He felt sure that
the Boy in his present mood would have outsworn him without scruple had it
pleased him to maintain his assertion, so he opened his piano in silence,
and the music began. And it was a rare treat indeed which the Tenor
enjoyed that night. The Boy played with great technical mastery of the
instrument, but even that was not so remarkable as the originality of his
interpretations. He possessed that sympathetic comprehension of the
masters' ideas which is the first virtue of a musician; but even when he
was most true to it, he managed to throw some of his strong individuality
into the rendering, and hence the originality which was the special charm
of his playing. As an artist, he certainly satisfied; even the sensitive
soul of the Tenor was refreshed when he played; but in other respects he
was obviously deficient. So long as things were pleasant it was a question
whether he would ever stop to ask himself if they were right. Acts which
lead to no bodily evil, such as sickness or that lowering of the system
which lessens the power of enjoyment, he was not likely in his present
phase to see much objection to; and for the truth, for verbal accuracy in
his assertions that is, he had no particular respect. All this, however,
the Tenor was more reluctant to acknowledge, perhaps, than slow to
perceive. He was one of those who expect a great soul to accompany great
gifts, and what he did know of the Boy's shortcomings he condoned. He
believed the young tone-poet's power was in itself an indication of high
aspirations, and those he thought were only temporarily suppressed by a
boyish affectation of cynicism.
But the Boy did not give the Tenor much time to think. His mind was
quick-glancing, like his eyes when he was animated, and he carried the
Tenor along with him from one occupation to another with distracting glee.
When he was tired of making music, as he called it, he demanded food, and,
so long as he could cook it and serve it himself, he delighted in bacon
and eggs, as much as he did in Bach and Beethoven.
The Tenor tried to wean him of his nocturnal habits, but to this the Boy
would not listen. He said he liked to sit up all night, and when he said
he liked a thing, he seemed to think he had adduced an unanswerable
argument in its favour. The Tenor complained of fatigue. The long nights
affected his voice, he said, and made him unfit for work; but the Boy only
grinned at this, and told him he'd get used to it. Then he threatened to
shut up the house and go to bed if the Boy did not come in proper time,
and on one occasion he carried out his threat; but when the Boy arrived he
made night hideous with horrid howls until the Tenor could stand it no
longer, and was obliged to get up, and let him in, to preserve the peace
of the neighbourhood. After which the Tenor ceased to remonstrate, and it
became one of the pleasures of his life to prepare for this terrible
hungry Boy. He worked in his garden early and late, cultivating the
succulent roots which the latter loved, the fruits and the vegetables,
and, last, but not least, the flowers, for he never could feed without
flowers, be said, and the Tenor ministered to this exaction with the rest.
"He is dainty because he is delicate," the Tenor thought, always excusing
him. "When he is older and stronger he will grow out of all these
epicurean niceties of taste, I must make him dig, too, and fence, and row.
He'll soon develop more manliness."
That he was spoiling the Boy in the meantime never occurred to him, not
even when he noticed that the latter took all these kindnesses as a matter
of course, and only grumbled when some accustomed attention was omitted.
The Tenor was vexed sometimes, and obliged to find fault, but the Boy
could always soothe him. "I am sure you love me," he would say. "Your life
was not worth living until I came, and you could not live without me now.
I am a horrid little brute I know, but I have my finer feelings too, my
capacity for loving, and that raises me.
"All love is sweet
Given or returned."
When the Boy quoted or recited anything he really felt, he had a way of
lingering over the words as if each syllable were a pleasure to him. The
deep contralto of his voice was at its sweetest then, and he seldom failed
to make his own mood felt as he intended.
The Tenor, justly incensed by some wicked piece of mischief, was often
obliged to turn away that he might maintain his authority and not be seen
to soften. But he never deceived the Boy, who could gauge the effect of
his persuasion to a nicety, and would grin like a fiend behind the Tenor's
back at the success of his own eloquence. No matter what he had done, by
hook or by crook he always managed to bring about a reconciliation before
they parted. He knew the Tenor's weak point--Angelica--and when everything
else failed he would play upon that unmercifully. But he had a way of
speaking of his sister which often made the Tenor seriously angry. He did
not believe the Boy meant half the disrespect with which he mentioned her,
but it galled him, nevertheless; and, on one occasion, when the Boy had
repeated some scandalous gossip to which the Tenor objected, and afterward
excused himself by saying that it was not his but his sister's story, the
Tenor's indignation overflowed, and he lectured him severely.
"You should never forget that your sister is an innocent girl," he said,
"and it is degrading to her even to have her name associated with such
But the Boy only grinned. "Bless you," he retorted, "don't make so much
ado about nothing. She's quite as wise as we are."
The Tenor's eyes flashed. "I call that disloyal," he said. "Even if it
were true--and it is not true--it would be disloyal; and I am ashamed of
you. If you ever dare to speak of your sister in that light way to me
again, I'll thrash you."
For a moment the Boy was astonished by the threat. His jaw dropped, and he
stared at the Tenor; but, quickly recovering himself, he burst into an
uncontrollable fit of laughter. "Oh, my!" he exclaimed. "What a
brother-in-law you would be! How do you know she is such a saint?"
"You are a little brute," was all the answer the Tenor vouchsafed. But the
question made him think. He could picture her to himself at any time as he
saw her in the canon's pew, and the pale proud purity of her face, with
the unvarying calm of her demeanour, were assurances enough for him. His
dear lady. His delicate-minded girl. He would stop it. He would make this
scapegrace brother of hers respect her, even as he had threatened, if
"Do you know what she calls you?" that youth asked presently, breaking in
upon the Tenor's meditation in a confident way, as if he could not be
mistaken about the subject of it.
But the Tenor was not to be beguiled all at once. "I have already
requested you not to mention your sister to me," he said.
"I know," was the cool rejoinder. "But I promised on my word of honour to
tell you what she calls you. She calls you Israfil--Is-ra-fil," he
repeated, "the angel of song, you know."
But the Tenor made no sign. The Boy watched him a moment, and then
continued unabashed, "I shall call you Israfil myself, I think, for the
future. But I like your own name too!" he added. "I have only just found
it out. Everybody here calls you the Tenor, you know."
"And how did you find it out, pray, if I may ask?"
"I looked everywhere," said the Boy, glancing round him comprehensively;
"and at last I found it on the back of an old envelope that was in that
Bible you keep in your bedroom. Here it is," and he took it out of his
pocket-book. "David Julian Vanetemple, Esq., Haysthorpe Castle, Hays,
A painful spasm contracted the Tenor's face, "Oh, Boy," he said, in a deep
stern voice that made the latter quail for once; "have you no sense of
honour at all? You must give that back to me immediately."
The Boy returned it without a word, and the Tenor went upstairs. His step
was listless, and when he came back he looked pale and disheartened. He
sat down in his accustomed seat beside the fireplace farthest from the
window that looked out upon the cathedral, but facing it himself, and
rested his elbow on the arm of the chair and his head on his hand, taking
no notice of the Boy, however, who waited a while, casting anxious glances
at him, and then rose softly and stole away.
When the Tenor roused himself he found a slip of paper on the table beside
him, on which was written, "Dear Israfil, I beg your pardon. I did it
without thinking. I will never hurt you like that again, only forgive me."
And the Tenor forgave him.
On another occasion, when there was peace between them, and they were both
in a merry mood, the Boy said he had a grievance, and when the Tenor asked
what it was, he complained that the Tenor had never taken interest enough
in him to ask him his name.
"No, now you mention it," the Tenor answered. "I never thought of your
having a name."
"Do you mean to say you think me such a nonentity?"
"Just the opposite. Your individuality is so strongly marked that you
don't seem to require to be labelled like other people, By-the-bye, what
is your name?"
The Tenor laughed ironically. "Oh, no," he said, "it is Maude you mean;
delicate, dainty, white-fingered Maude."
But the Boy only roared. This kind of insinuation never roused his
resentment; on the contrary, it delighted him. "Imagine the feelings of
the flowers," he said, with a burst of laughter that convulsed him, "if my
remarkable head, sunning over with curls, were to shine out on them
suddenly, and want to be their sun!"
"I am afraid you are incorrigible," the Tenor answered. "You seem to glory
in being effeminate. If wholesome ridicule has no effect, you'll die an
old woman in the opprobrious sense of the word."
"I'll make you respect these delicate fingers of mine, though," the Boy
irritably interposed, and then he took up his violin. "I'll make you
He drew a long melodious wail from the instrument, then lightly ran up the
chromatic scale and paused on an upper note for an instant before he
began, with perfect certainty of idea and marvellous modulations and
transitions in the expression of it, to make music that steeped the
Tenor's whole being in bliss.
The latter had noticed before that it was to his senses absolutely, not at
all to his intellect, that the Boy's playing always appealed; but he did
not quarrel with it on that account, for music was the only form of
sensuous indulgence he ever rioted in, and besides, once under the spell
of the Boy's playing, he could not have resisted it even if he would, so
completely was he carried away. The Boy's white fingers were certainly not
out of place at such work. "Do I play like an old woman in the opprobrious
sense of the word?" he demanded, mimicking the Tenor.
"Oh, Boy!" the latter exclaimed, with a deep drawn sigh of satisfaction.
"Yon have genius. When you play you are like that creature in the 'Witch
A sexless thing it was, and in its growth
It seemed to have developed no defect
Of either sex, yet all the grace of both."
But the Boy frowned for a moment at the definition, and then he said: "Is
that what you call genius? Now I make it something like that, only
different. I believe it is the attributes of both minds, masculine and
feminine, perfectly united in one person of either sex."
The Tenor, lolling in his easy-chair, smiled at him lazily. There was no
end to his indulgence of the Boy; but still he led him, by example
principally, but also by suggestion, as on one occasion when the Boy had
been sketching out a scheme of life in which self was all predominant, and
the Tenor asked: "Do you never feel any impulse to do something for your
To which the Boy at first rejoined derisively: "Am I not one of the best
of their benefactors? Would you say that a fellow who plays as I can does
nothing for his fellow-creatures? To make music is my vocation, and I
follow it like a man."
But after a moment's thought he confessed; "Once indeed I did try to do
some good in the world, but I failed disastrously,"
"What did you try?"
"I took a class in a Sunday school." He waited to enjoy the effect of this
announcement on the Tenor. "I did, indeed," he protested; "but--eh--I
cannot say that success attended the effort. In fact, both I and my class
were forcibly ejected from the building before the school closed. You see,
I had no vocation, and it was foolish to experiment."
The Tenor said no more on the subject and did not mean to, but the Boy
returned to it himself eventually, and it was evident that the wish to do
something for somebody was taking possession of him seriously. This was
the Tenor's tactful way with him; and from such slight indications of
awakening thought he continued to augur well for the Boy.
So time passed on, changing all things greatly, or with infinitesimal
changes, according to their nature. The colours worn in crowded
thoroughfares varied with the varying fashions; the tint of the summer
foliage with sun and rain and dust. Doors, closed the whole long winter,
were opened now and left so, and the young people passed to and fro,
thronging to river banks, but lately deserted; to the cricket fields,
garden, or wood, or lawn. The very faces of the streets were changing,
enlivened by plaster and paint and polish: the face of the land with the
certain advance of the season; the faces of friends with something not to
be named, but visible, strange, and, for the most part, disheartening. It
was the old story for ever and ever; all things changed always; but the
chime was immutable.
As the days grew gradually to weeks, his one connecting link with the
outer world became dearer and dearer to the lonely Tenor. The nights that
brought the Boy were happy nights, looked forward to with eagerness, and
prepared for with difficulty. For at this time the Tenor denied himself
some of the bare necessaries of life, that he might buy him the Burgundy
he loved to sip: he did no more than sip, and, therefore, the Tenor
indulged him; drink was not to be one of his vices, evidently.
The Tenor, although he would not have acknowledged it, held that the Boy
was a creature apart, and one, therefore, whom it was not fair to measure
by the common standard. Doubtless the manner of their meeting had
something to do with this idea. The Boy was associated in the Tenor's mind
with many sweet associations; with the beautiful still night; with the
Tenor's far off ideal of all that is gracious and womanly; with the music
that was in him; and, further, with a sympathetic comprehension of those
moments when gray glimpses of the old cathedral, or a warm breath of
perfumed air from the garden, or some slight sound, such as the note of a
night bird breaking the silence, fired a train of deep emotion, and set
his whole poetic nature quivering, to the unspeakable joy of it; joy
sanctified by reverence, and enlarged beyond comparison by love.
With such moods as these the Boy's own mood was always in harmony; so much
so indeed that the Tenor thought it was then that he was himself, and that
those wild ebullitions of spirits were only affected to disguise some
deeper feeling of which, boy-like, he was ashamed. As their intimacy
ripened there were times when, not only his whole demeanour, but his very
nature seemed to change; when he craved for dimness and quiet; and when he
would work upon the Tenor with little caressing ways that won his heart
and drew from him, although he was habitually undemonstrative, expressions
of tenderness which were almost paternal.
In his quieter moods the Boy would sit in the dim lamplight on a footstool
beside the Tenor's chair, leaning his head against the arm of it, while
the latter smoked, and the tap, tap, tap, of the clematis and honeysuckle
on the window pane kept time to the thoughts of each. Long intervals of
silence were natural to the Tenor, and it was generally the Boy who broke
the charm. He would talk seriously then, and often about his sister, and
was not to be silenced until he had had his say. He conquered the Tenor as
usual by his persistence, but the latter was not much influenced by what
he said at first. Gradually, however, and by dint of constant iteration,
some of the Boy's assertions became impressed upon his mind. He began to
believe that Angelica did wish to make his acquaintance, and to admit to
himself that there might be a possibility of winning her regard eventually;
but his high mindedness shrank from approaching a girl whose social
position was so far above his own--in the matter of money that is. For of
course the Tenor had a proper respect for art. He knew that to be a great
artist, with the will and power to make his art elevating, is to be great
in the greatest way; and he also knew that his own gift was second to
none. But would she link her lot with his? He yearned for some assurance.
He had no ambition whatever for himself, but he would have toiled to
succeed for her. It was his weakness to require someone to work for as he
was working for the Boy; a purely personal ambition seemed to him a
vexing, vain, and insufficient motive for action. All selfless people
suffer from indolence when only their own interests are in question; they
require a strong incentive from without to arouse them. Such incentive as
the Tenor had was in itself a pleasure to him, a refinement of pleasure
which might be coarsened, which certainly would be impaired by any change.
He had, however, begun to make plans. He was determined to go and take his
place amongst the singers of the world; but when, exactly, he had not
decided. As the Boy declared, when it came to the point he found it
difficult to tear himself away from Morningquest. Of course he would go,
in fact he felt he must go, soon--say, when these drawings for his good
friend the dean were finished.
"By the way, Boy," he asked one night, "what is your family name? and who
are your people?"
"My family name is Wells," the boy answered demurely. "My father has a
little place in the neighbourhood, and my grandfather lives here too."
"Wells," the Tenor repeated. "I seem to know the name."
"Oh, doubtless," the Boy observed. "This is a hotbed of Wellses. Israfil,"
he pleaded--he was nestling beside the Tenor in the dim half light,
watching the latter smoke--"Israfil, tell me all about yourself? Tell me
about that old castle in the North to which your letter was addressed.
Tell me who you are? I want your sympathy."
"You have it all, dear Boy," the Tenor said.
"I shall not feel that I have until you ask for mine. You would not deny
me this if you knew what a stranger I am to the luxury of loving. I want
to cultivate the power to care for others. Just now I don't seem to be
able to sympathise with anyone for more than a moment, and that is the
cause of all you object to in me. But if you would confide in me, if you
would make me feel that I am nearer to you than anybody else is, I believe
I could be different."
The Tenor reflected for a little. "If I were to make you my confidant,
Boy, would you respect my confidence?" he said at last.
"Assuredly," the Boy replied. "I promise on my honour. You shall tell her
The Tenor ignored this last impertinence, but the Boy was not abashed.
"Israfil," he pursued, "they say you are the son of an actress and some
great nobleman, and that when you found it out, your intolerable pride
made you give up your profession, and come and bury yourself alive in
Morningquest because you could not bear the stigma. Are you the son of
such parents, Israfil?"
The Tenor brushed his hand back over his hair. "Has your sister heard
these reports?" he asked.
"And what does she say?"
"Oh, _she_ doesn't mind! She rather leans to the nobleman theory; and
when people of that kind--I mean the nobility and gentry," he exclaimed
with a grin--"(the worst of being in society is that you are forced to
know so many disreputable people); when they come to our house--and they
do come in shoals, Angelica being the attraction, you know--then we
speculate. Angelica feels quite sure that the Duke of Morningquest himself
is your father. He was a loose old fish, they say. And there is a sort of
family likeness between you. Angelica thinks you came here that your
presence might be a continual reproach to him."
"Not a very worthy thought," said the Tenor drily.
"Well," said the Boy with much candour. "I could not swear it was
Angelica's. It has a strong family likeness to some of my own."
"It has," said the Tenor.
He was lolling in his deep easy-chair with his hands folded on his vest
and his legs crossed, and now he laid his sunny head back wearily against
the cushion, and looked up at the ceiling. It was his accustomed attitude
in moments of abstraction, and the Boy let him alone for a little,
watching him quietly. Then he grew impatient, and broke the silence:
"_Is_ it true, Israfil?" he asked.
"Is what true?" lowering his eyes to look at him without changing his
"Is it true that you are the son of an actress and a duke?"
"Probably," the Tenor answered; "anything is probable where the most
absolute uncertainty prevails."
"Then you don't know who you are?" the Boy exclaimed, in a tone of deep
disgust due to baffled curiosity.
"I haven't the most remote idea," said the Tenor.
"I don't believe you."
"Boy, I have already told you that I will not have my word doubted."
"I know," said the Boy. "You are always autocratic. But I can't believe