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The Three Sisters by May Sinclair

Part 2 out of 8

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Incredible that she should have wanted to see and to know this person.
But now, that she didn't want to, of course she was going to see him.

* * * * *

At the bend of the road, within a mile of Morfe, Mary came riding on
Gwenda's bicycle. Large parcels were slung from her handle bars. She
had been shopping in the village.

Mary, bowed forward as she struggled with an upward slope, was not
aware of Gwenda. But Gwenda was aware of Mary, and, not being in the
mood for her, she struck off the road on to the moor and descended
upon Morfe by the steep lane that leads from Karva into Rathdale.

It never occurred to her to wonder what Mary had been doing in Morfe,
so evident was it that she had been shopping.


The doctor was at home, but he was engaged, at the moment, in the

The maid-servant asked if she would wait.

She waited in the little cold and formal dining-room that looked
through two windows on to the Green. So formal and so cold, so utterly
impersonal was the air of the doctor's mahogany furniture that her
fear left her. It was as if the furniture assured her that she would
not really _see_ Rowcliffe; as for knowing him, she needn't worry.

She had sent in her card, printed for convenience with the names of
the three sisters:

Miss Cartaret.
Miss Gwendolen Cartaret.
Miss Alice Cartaret.

She felt somehow that it protected her. She said to herself, "He won't
know which of us it is."

* * * * *

Rowcliffe was washing his hands in the surgery when the card was
brought to him. He frowned at the card.

"But--You've brought this before," he said. "I've seen the lady."

"No, sir. It's another lady."

"Another? Are you certain?"

"Yes, sir. Quite certain."

"Did she come on a bicycle?"

"No, sir, that was the lady you've seen. I think this'll be her

Rowcliffe was still frowning as he dried his hands with fastidious

"She's different, sir. Taller like."


"Yes, sir."

Rowcliffe turned to the table and picked up a probe and a lancet and
dropped them into a sterilising solution.

The maid waited. Rowcliffe's absorption was complete.

"Shall I ask her to call again, sir?"

"No. I'll see her. Where is she?"

"In the dining-room, sir."

"Show her into the study."

* * * * *

Nothing could have been more distant and reserved than Rowcliffe's
dining-room. But, to a young woman who had made up her mind that she
didn't want to know anything about him, Rowcliffe's study said too
much. It told her that he was a ferocious and solitary reader; for in
the long rows of book shelves the books leaned slantwise across the
gaps where his hands had rummaged and ransacked. It told her that his
gods were masculine and many--Darwin and Spencer and Haeckel, Pasteur,
Curie and Lord Lister, Thomas Hardy, Walt Whitman and Bernard
Shaw. Their photogravure portraits hung above the bookcase. He was
indifferent to mere visible luxury, or how could he have endured
the shabby drugget, the cheap, country wall-paper with its design of
dreadful roses on a white watered ground? But the fire in the grate
and the deep arm-chair drawn close to it showed that he loved warmth
and comfort. That his tastes made him solitary she gathered from the
chair's comparatively unused and unworn companion, lurking and sulking
in the corner where it had been thrust aside.

The one window of this room looked to the west upon a little orchard,
gray trunks of apple trees and plum trees against green grass, green
branches against gray stone, gray that was softened in the liquid
autumn air, green that was subtle, exquisite, charmingly austere.

He could see his little orchard as he sat by his fire. She thought she
rather liked him for keeping his window so wide open.

She was standing by it looking at the orchard as he came in.

* * * * *

He was so quiet in his coming that she did not see or hear him till he
stood before her.

And in his eyes, intensely quiet, there was a look of wonder and of
incredulity, almost of concern.

Greetings and introductions over, the unused arm-chair was brought out
from its lair in the corner. Rowcliffe, in his own arm-chair, sat in
shadow, facing her. What light there was fell full on her.

"I'm sorry you should have had to come to me," he said, "your sister
was here a minute or two ago."

"My sister?"

"I think it _must_ have been your sister. She said it was _her_ sister
I was to go and see."

"I didn't know she was coming. She never told me."

"Pity. I was coming out to see you first thing tomorrow morning."

"Then you know? She told you?"

"She told me something." He smiled. "She must have been a little
overanxious. You don't look as if there was very much the matter with

"But there isn't. It isn't me."

"Who is it then?"

"My other sister."

"Oh. I seem to have got a little mixed."

"You see, there are three of us."

He laughed.

"Three! Let me get it right. I've seen Miss Cartaret. You are Miss
Gwendolen Cartaret. And the lady I am to see is--?

"My youngest sister, Alice."

"Now I understand. I wondered how you managed those four miles. Tell
me about her."

She began. She was vivid and terse. He saw that she made short cuts
to the root of the matter. He showed himself keen and shrewd. Once or
twice he said "I know, I know," and she checked herself.

"My sister has told you all that."

"No, she hasn't. Nothing like it. Please go on."

She went on till he interrupted her. "How old is she?"

"Just twenty-three."

"I see. Yes." He looked so keen now that she was frightened.

"Does that make it more dangerous?" she said.

He laughed. "No. It makes it less so. I don't suppose it's dangerous
at all. But I can't tell till I've seen her. I say, you must be tired
after that long walk."

"I'm never tired."

"That's good."

He rang the bell. The maid appeared.

"Tell Acroyd I want the trap. And bring tea--at once."

"For two, sir?"

"For two."

Gwenda rose. "Thanks very much, I must be going."

"Please stay. It won't take five minutes. Then I can drive you back."

"I can walk."

"I know you can. But--you see--" His keenness and shrewdness went
from him. He was almost embarrassed. "I _was_ going round to see
your sister in the morning. But--I think I'd rather see her to-night.
And--" He was improvising freely now--"I ought, perhaps, to see you
after, as you understand the case. So, if you don't _mind_ coming back
with me--"

She didn't mind. Why should she?

She stayed. She sat in Rowcliffe's chair before his fire and drank his
tea and ate his hot griddle-cakes (she had a healthy appetite, being
young and strong). She talked to him as if she had known him a long
time. All these things he made her do, and when he talked to her he
made her forget what had brought her there; he made her forget Alice
and Mary and her father.

When he left her for a moment she got up, restless and eager to be
gone. And when he came back to her she was standing by the open window
again, looking at the orchard.

Rowcliffe looked at _her_, taking in her tallness, her slenderness,
the lithe and beautiful line of her body, curved slightly backward as
she leaned against the window wall.

Never before and never again, afterwards, never, that was to say, for
any other woman, did Rowcliffe feel what he felt then. Looking back on
it (afterward) he could only describe it as a sense of certainty. It
lacked, surprisingly, the element of surprise.

"You like my north-country orchard?" (He was certain that she did.)

She turned, smiling. "I like it very much."

They had been a long time over tea. It was half-past five before they
started. He brought an overcoat and put it on her. He wrapped a rug
round her knees and feet and tucked it well in.

"You don't like rugs," he said (he knew she didn't), "but you've got
to have it."

She did like it. She liked his rug and his overcoat, and his little
brown horse with the clanking hoofs. And she liked him, most decidedly
she liked him, too. He was the sort of man you could like.

They were soon out on the moor.

Rowcliffe's youth rose in him and put words into his mouth.

"Ripping country, this."

She said it was ripping.

For the life of them they couldn't have said more about it. There were
no words for the inscrutable ecstasy it gave them.

As they passed Karva Rowcliffe smiled.

"It's all right," he said, "my driving you. Of course you don't
remember, but we've met--several times before."


"I'll show you where. Anyhow, that's your hill, isn't it?"

"How did you know it was?"

"Because I've seen you there. The first time I ever saw you--No,
_that_ was a bit farther on. At the bend of the road. We're coming to

They came.

"Just here," he said.

And now they were in sight of Garthdale.

"Funny I should have thought it was you who were ill."

"I'm never ill."

"You won't be as long as you can walk like that. And run. And jump--"

A horrid pause.

"You did it very nicely."

Another pause, not quite so horrid.

And then--"Do you _always_ walk after dark and before sunrise?"

And it was as if he had said, "Why am I always meeting you? What do
you do it for? It's queer, isn't it?"

But he had given her her chance. She rose to it.

"I've done it ever since we came here." (It was as if she had said
"Long before _you_ came.") "I do it because I like it. That's the best
of this place. You can do what you like in it. There's nobody to see

("Counting me," he thought, "as nobody.")

"I should like to do it, too," he said--"to go out before sunrise--if
I hadn't got to. If I did it for fun--like you."

He knew he would not really have liked it. But his romantic youth
persuaded him in that moment that he would.


Mary was up in the attic, the west attic that looked on to the road
through its shy gable window.

She moved quietly there, her whole being suffused exquisitely with a
sense of peace, of profound, indwelling goodness. Every act of hers
for the last three days had been incomparably good, had been, indeed,
perfect. She had waited on Alice hand and foot. She had made the
chicken broth refused by Alice. There was nothing that she would not
do for poor little Ally. When little Ally was petulant and sullen,
Mary was gentle and serene. She felt toward little Ally, lying there
so little and so white, a poignant, yearning tenderness. Today she
had visited all the sick people in the village, though it was not
Wednesday, Dr. Rowcliffe's day. (Only by visiting them on other days
could Mary justify and make blameless her habit of visiting them on
Wednesdays.) She had put the house in order. She had done her shopping
in Morfe to such good purpose that she had concealed even from herself
the fact that she had gone into Morfe, surreptitiously, to fetch the

Of course Mary was aware that she had fetched him. She had been driven
to that step by sheer terror. All the way home she kept on saying to
herself, "I've saved Ally." "I've saved Ally." That thought, splendid
and exciting, rushed to the lighted front of Mary's mind; if the
thought of Rowcliffe followed its shining trail, it thrust him back,
it spread its luminous wings to hide him, it substituted its heavenly
form for his.

So effectually did it cover him that Mary herself never dreamed that
he was there.

Neither did the Vicar, when he saw her arrive, laden with parcels,
wholesomely cheerful and reddened by her ride. He had said to her
"You're a good girl, Mary," and the sadness of his tone implied that
he wished her sister Gwendolen and her sister Alice were more like
her. And he had smiled at her under his austere moustache, and carried
in the biggest parcels for her.

The Vicar was pleased with his daughter Mary. Mary had never given him
an hour's anxiety. Mary had never put him in the wrong, never made him
feel uncomfortable. He honestly believed that he was fond of her. She
was like her poor mother. Goodness, he said to himself, was in her

There had been goodness in Mary's face when she went into Alice's room
to see what she could do for her. There was goodness in it now, up in
the attic, where there was nobody but God to see it; goodness at peace
with itself, and utterly content.

She had been back more than an hour. And ever since teatime she had
been up in the attic, putting away her summer gowns. She shook them
and held them out and looked at them, the poor pretty things that she
had hardly ever worn. They hung all limp, all abashed and broken in
her hands, as if aware of their futility. She said to herself,
"They were no good, no good at all. And next year they'll all be
old-fashioned. I shall be ashamed to be seen in them." And she folded
them and laid them by for their winter's rest in the black trunk. And
when she saw them lying there she had a moment of remorse. After
all, they had been part of herself, part of her throbbing, sensuous
womanhood, warmed once by her body. It wasn't their fault, poor
things, any more than hers, if they had been futile and unfit. She
shut the lid down on them gently, and it was as if she buried them
gently out of her sight. She could afford to forgive them, for she
knew that there was no futility nor unfitness in her. Deep down in her
heart she knew it.

She sat on the trunk in the attitude of one waiting, waiting in the
utter stillness of assurance. She could afford to wait. All her being
was still, all its secret impulses appeased by the slow and orderly
movements of her hands.

Suddenly she started up and listened. She heard out on the road the
sound of wheels, and of hoofs that struck together. And she frowned.
She thought, He might as well have called today, if he's passing.

The clanking ceased, the wheels slowed down, and Mary's peaceful heart
moved violently in her breast. The trap drew up at the Vicarage gate.

She went over to the window, the small, shy gable window that looked
on to the road. She saw her sister standing in the trap and Rowcliffe
beneath her, standing in the road and holding out his hand. She saw
the two faces, the man's face looking up, the woman's face looking
down, both smiling.

And Mary's heart drew itself together in her breast. Through her shut
lips her sister's name forced itself almost audibly.


* * * * *

Suddenly she shivered. A cold wind blew through the open window. Yet
she did not move to shut it out. To have interfered with the attic
window would have been a breach of compact, an unholy invasion of her
sister's rights. For the attic, the smallest, the coldest, the
darkest and most thoroughly uncomfortable room in the whole house,
was Gwenda's, made over to her in the Vicar's magnanimity, by way of
compensation for the necessity that forced her to share her room with
Alice. As the attic was used for storing trunks and lumber, only two
square yards of floor could be spared for Gwenda. But the two square
yards, cleared, and covered with a strip of old carpet, and furnished
with a little table and one chair; the wall-space by the window with
its hanging bookcase; the window itself and the corner fireplace near
it were hers beyond division and dispute. Nobody wanted them.

And as Mary from among the boxes looked toward her sister's territory,
her small, brooding face took on such sadness as good women feel in
contemplating a character inscrutable and unlike their own. Mary was
sorry for Gwenda because of her inscrutability and unlikeness.

Then, thinking of Gwenda, Mary smiled. The smile began in pity for her
sister and ended in a nameless, secret satisfaction. Not for a moment
did Mary suspect its source. It seemed to her one with her sense of
her own goodness.

When she smiled it was as if the spirit of her small brooding face
took wings and fluttered, lifting delicately the rather heavy corners
of her mouth and eyes.

Then, quietly, and with no indecorous haste, she went down into the
drawing-room to receive Rowcliffe. She was the eldest and it was her

By the mercy of Heaven the Vicar had gone out.

* * * * *

Gwenda left Rowcliffe with Mary and went upstairs to prepare Alice for
his visit. She had brushed out her sister's long pale hair and platted
it, and had arranged the plats, tied with knots of white ribbon, one
over each low breast, and she had helped her to put on a little white
flannel jacket with a broad lace collar. Thus arrayed and decorated,
Alice sat up in her bed, her small slender body supported by huge
pillows, white against white, with no color about her but the dull
gold of her hair.

Gwenda was still in the room, tidying it, when Mary brought Rowcliffe

It was a Rowcliffe whom she had not yet seen. She had her back to him
as he paused in the doorway to let Mary pass through. Ally's bed faced
the door, and the look in Ally's eyes made her aware of the change in
him. All of a sudden he had become taller (much taller than he really
was) and rigid and austere. His youth and its charm dropped clean away
from him. He looked ten years older than he had been ten minutes ago.
Compared with him, as he stood beside her bed, Ally looked more than
ever like a small child, a child vibrating with shyness and fear, a
child that implacable adult authority has found out in foolishness and
naughtiness; so evident was it to Ally that to Rowcliffe nothing was
hidden, nothing veiled.

It was as a child that he treated her, a child who can conceal
nothing, from whom most things--all the serious and important
things--must be concealed. And Ally knew the terrible advantage that
he took of her.

It was bad enough when he asked her questions and took no more notice
of her answers than if she had been a born fool. That might have been
his north-country manners and probably he couldn't help them. But
there was no necessity that Ally could see for his brutal abruptness,
and the callous and repellent look he had when she bared her breast to
the stethescope that sent all her poor secrets flying through the long
tubes that attached her heart to his abominable ears. Neither (when
he had disentangled himself from the stethescope) could she understand
why he should scowl appallingly as he took hold of her poor wrist to
feel her pulse.

She said to herself, "He knows everything about me and he thinks I'm

It was anguish to Ally that he should think her awful.

And (to make it worse, if anything could make it) there was Mary
standing at the foot of the bed and staring at her. Mary knew
perfectly well that he was thinking how awful she was. It was what
Mary thought herself.

If only Gwenda had stayed with her! But Gwenda had left the room when
she saw Rowcliffe take out his stethescope.

And as it flashed on Ally what Rowcliffe was thinking of her, her
heart stopped as if it was never going on again, then staggered, then
gave a terrifying jump.

* * * * *

Rowcliffe had done with Ally's little wrist. He laid it down on the
counterpane, not brutally at all, but gently, almost tenderly, as if
it had been a thing exquisitely fragile and precious.

He rose to his feet and looked at her, and then, all of a sudden,
as he looked, Rowcliffe became young again; charmingly young, almost
boyish. And, as if faintly amused at her youth, faintly touched by
her fragility, he smiled. With a mouth and with eyes from which all
austerity had departed he smiled at Alice.

(It was all over. He had done with her. He could afford to be kind to
her as he would have been kind to a little, frightened child.)

And Alice smiled back at him with her white face between the pale
gold, serious bands of platted hair.

She was no longer frightened. She forgot his austerity as if it had
never been. She saw that he hadn't thought her awful in the least. He
couldn't have looked at her like that if he had.

A sense of warmth, of stillness, of soft happiness flooded her body
and her brain, as if the stream of life had ceased troubling and
ran with an even rhythm. As she lay back, her tormented heart seemed
suddenly to sink into it and rest, to be part of it, poised on the

Then, still looking down at her, he spoke.

"It's pretty evident," he said, "what's the matter with you."

"_Is_ it?"

Her eyes were all wide. He had frightened her again.

"It is," he said. "You've been starved."

"Oh," said little Ally, "is _that_ all?"

And Rowcliffe smiled again, a little differently.

Mary said nothing. She had found out long ago that silence was her
strength. Her small face brooded. Impossible to tell what she was

"What has become of the other one, I wonder?" he said to himself.

He wanted to see her. She was the intelligent one of the three
sisters, and she was honest. He had said to her quite plainly that he
would want her. Why, on earth, he wondered, had she gone away and left
him with this sweet and good, this quite exasperatingly sweet and good
woman who had told him nothing but lies?

He was aware that Mary Cartaret was sweet and good. But he had found
that sweet and good women were not invariably intelligent. As for
honesty, if they were always honest they would not always be sweet and

Through the door he opened for the eldest sister to pass out the other
slipped in. She had been waiting on the landing.

He stopped her. He made a sign to her to come out with him. He closed
the door behind them.

"Can I see you for two minutes?"


They whispered rapidly.

At the head of the stairs Mary waited. He turned. His smile
acknowledged and paid deference to her sweetness and goodness, for
Rowcliffe was sufficiently accomplished.

But not more so than Mary Cartaret. Her face, wide and candid,
quivered with subdued interrogation. Her lips parted as if they said,
"I am only waiting to know what I am to do. I will do what you like,
only tell me."

Rowcliffe stood by the bedroom door, which he had opened for her
to pass through again. His eyes, summoning their powerful pathos,
implored forgiveness.

Mary, utterly submissive, passed through.

* * * * *

He followed Gwendolen Cartaret downstairs to the dining-room.

He knew what he was going to say, but what he did say was unexpected.

For, as she stood there in the small and old and shabby room, what
struck him was her youth.

"Is your father in?" he said.

He surprised her as he had surprised himself.

"No," she said. "Why? Do you want to see him?"

He hesitated. "I almost think I'd better."

"He won't be a bit of good, you know. He never is. He doesn't even
know we sent for you."

"Well, then--"

"You'd better tell me straight out. You'll have to, in the end. Is it

"No. But it will be if we don't stop it. How long has it been going

"Ever since we came to this place."

"Six months, you said. And she's been worse than this last month?"

"Much worse."

"If it was only the anaemia--"

"Isn't it?"

"Yes--among other things."

"Not--her heart?"

"No--her heart's all right." He corrected himself. "I mean there's
no disease in it. You see, she ought to have got well up here in this
air. It's the sort of place you send anaemic people to to cure them."

"The dreadful thing is that she doesn't like the place."

"Ah--that's what I want to get at. She isn't happy in it?"

"No. She isn't happy."

He meditated. "Your sister didn't tell me that.'

"She couldn't."

"I mean your other sister--Miss Cartaret."

"_She_ wouldn't. She'd think it rather awful."

He laughed. "Heaps of people think it awful to tell the truth. Do you
happen to know _why_ she doesn't like the place?"

She was silent. Evidently there was some "awfulness" she shrank from.

"Too lonely for her, I suppose?"

"Much too lonely."

"Where were you before you came here?"

She told him.

"Why did you leave it?"

She hesitated again. "We couldn't help it."

"Well--it seems a pity. But I suppose clergymen can't choose where
they'll live."

She looked away from him. Then, as if she were trying to divert her
from the trail he followed, "You forget--she's been starving herself.
Isn't that enough?"

"Not in her case. You see, she isn't ill because she's been starving
herself. She's been starving herself because she's ill. It's a
symptom. The trouble is not that she starves herself--but that she's
been starved."

"I know. I know."

"If you could get her back to that place where she was happy--"

"I can't. She can never go back there. Besides, it wouldn't be any
good if she did."

He smiled. "Are you quite sure?"


"Does she know it?"

"No. She never knew it. But she _would_ know it if she went back."

"That's why you took her away?"

She hesitated again. "Yes."

Rowcliffe looked grave.

"I see. That's rather unfortunate."

He said to himself: "She doesn't take it in _yet_. I don't see how I'm
to tell her."

To her he said: "Well, I'll send the medicine along to-night."

As the door closed behind Rowcliffe, Mary appeared on the stairs.

"Gwenda," she said, "Ally wants you. She wants to know what he said."

"He said nothing."

"You look as if he'd said a great deal."

"He said nothing that she doesn't know."

"He told her there was nothing the matter with her except that she'd
been starving herself."

"He told me she'd been starved."

"I don't see the difference."

"Well," said Gwenda. "_He_ did."

* * * * *

That night the Vicar scowled over his supper. And before it was ended
he broke loose.

"Which of you two sent for Dr. Rowcliffe?"

"I did," said Gwenda.

Mary said nothing.

"And what--do you--mean by doing such a thing without consulting me?"

"I mean," said Gwenda quietly, "that he should see Alice."

"And _I_ meant--most particularly--that he shouldn't see her. If I'd
wanted him to see her I'd have gone for him myself."

"When it was a bit too late," said Gwenda.

His blue eyes dilated as he looked at her.

"Do you suppose I don't know what's the matter with her as well as he

As he spoke the stiff, straight moustache that guarded his mouth
lifted, showing the sensual redness and fulness of the lips.

And of this expression on her father's face Gwenda understood nothing,
divined nothing, knew nothing but that she loathed it.

"You may know what's the matter with her," she said, "but can you cure

"Can he?" said the Vicar.


The next day, which was a Tuesday, Alice was up and about again.
Rowcliffe saw her on Wednesday and on Saturday, when he declared
himself satisfied with her progress and a little surprised.

So surprised was he that he said he would not come again unless he was
sent for.

And then in three days Alice slid back.

But they were not to worry about her, she said. There was nothing the
matter with her except that she was tired. She was so tired that she
lay all Tuesday on the drawing-room sofa and on Wednesday morning she
was too tired to get up and dress.

And on Wednesday afternoon Dr. Rowcliffe found a note waiting at the
blacksmith's cottage in Garth village, where he had a room with a
brown gauze blind in the window and the legend in gilt letters:


Dr. S. Rowcliffe, M.D., F.R.C.S.

Hours of Attendance
Wednesday, 2.30-4.30.

The note ran:

"DEAR DR. ROWCLIFFE: Can you come and see me this afternoon? I think
I'm rather worse. But I don't want to frighten my people--so perhaps,
if you just looked in about teatime, as if you'd called?

"Yours truly,


Essy Gale had left the note that morning.

Rowcliffe looked at it dubiously. He was honest and he had the
large views of a man used to a large practice. His patients couldn't
complain that he lengthened his bills by paying unnecessary visits. If
he wanted to add to his income in that way, he wasn't going to begin
with a poor parson's hysterical daughter. But as the Vicar of Garth
had called on him and left his card on Monday, there was no reason why
he shouldn't look in on Wednesday about teatime. Especially as he knew
that the Vicar was in the habit of visiting Upthorne and the outlying
portions of his parish on Wednesday afternoons.

* * * * *

All day Alice lay in her little bed like a happy child and waited.
Propped on her pillows, with her slender arms stretched out before her
on the counterpane, she waited.

Her sullenness was gone. She had nothing but sweetness for Mary and
for Essy. Even to her father she was sweet. She could afford it. Her
instinct was now sure. From time to time a smile flickered on her
small face like a light almost of triumph.

* * * * *

The Vicar and Miss Cartaret were out when Rowcliffe called at the
Vicarage, but Miss Gwendolen was in if he would like to see her.

He waited in the crowded shabby gray and amber drawing-room with the
Erard in the corner, and it was there that she came to him.

He said he had only called to ask after her sister, as he had heard in
the village that she was not so well.

"I'm afraid she isn't."

"May I see her? I don't mean professionally--just for a talk."

The formula came easily. He had used it hundreds of times in the
houses of parsons and of clerks and of little shopkeepers, to whom
bills were nightmares.

She took him upstairs.

On the landing she turned to him.

"She doesn't _look_ worse. She looks better."

"All right. She won't deceive me."

She did look better, better than he could have believed. There was a
faint opaline dawn of color in her face.

Heaven only knew what he talked about, but he talked; for over a
quarter of an hour he kept it up.

And when he rose to go he said, "You're not worse. You're better.
You'll be perfectly well if you'll only get up and go out. Why waste
all this glorious air?"

"If I could live on air!" said Alice.

"You can--you do to a very large extent. You certainly can't live
without it."

Downstairs he lingered. But he refused the tea that Gwenda offered
him. He said he hadn't time. Patients were waiting for him.

"But I'll look in next Wednesday, if I may."

"At teatime?"

"Very well--at teatime."

* * * * *

"How's Alice?" said the Vicar when he returned from Upthorne.

"She's better."

"Has that fellow Rowcliffe been here again?"

"He called--on you, I think."

(Rowcliffe's cards lay on the table flap in the passage, proving
plainly that his visit was not professional.)

"And you made him see her?" he insisted.

"He saw her."


"He says she's all right. She'll be well if only she'll go out in the
open air."

"It's what I've been dinning into her for the last three months. She
doesn't want a doctor to tell her that."

He drew her into the study and closed the door. He was not angry. He
had more than ever his air of wisdom and of patience.

"Look here, Gwenda," he said gravely. "I know what I'm doing. There's
nothing in the world the matter with her. But she'll never be well as
long as you keep on sending for young Rowcliffe."

But his daughter Gwendolen was not impressed. She knew what it
meant--that air of wisdom and of patience.

Her unsubmissive silence roused his temper.

"I won't have him sent for--do you hear?"

And he made up his mind that he would go over to Morfe again and give
young Rowcliffe a hint. It was to give him a hint that he had called
on Monday.

* * * * *

But the Vicar did not call again in Morfe. For before he could brace
himself to the effort Alice was well again.

Though the Vicar did not know it, Rowcliffe had looked in at teatime
the next Wednesday and the next after that.

Alice was no longer compelled to be ill in order to see him.


"'Oh Gawd, our halp in a-ages paasst,
Our 'awp in yeears ter coom,
Our shal-ter from ther storm-ee blaasst,
And our ee-tarnal 'oam!'"

"'Ark at 'im! That's Jimmy arl over. T' think that 'is poor feyther's
not in 'is graave aboove a moonth, an' 'e singin' fit t' eave
barn roof off! They should tak' an' shoot 'im oop in t' owd powder
magazine," said Mrs. Gale.

"Well--but it's a wonderful voice," said Gwenda Cartaret.

"I've never heard another like it, and I know something about voices,"
Alice said.

They had gone up to Upthorne to ask Mrs. Gale to look in at the
Vicarage on her way home, for Essy wasn't very well.

But Mrs. Gale had shied off from the subject of Essy. She had done it
with the laughter of deep wisdom and a shake of her head. You couldn't
teach Mrs. Gale anything about illness, nor about Essy.

"I knaw Assy," she had said. "There's nowt amiss with her. Doan't you

And then Jim Greatorex, though unseen, had burst out at them with his
big voice. It came booming from the mistal at the back.

Alice told the truth when she said she had never heard anything like
it; and even in the dale, so critical of strangers, it was admitted
that she knew. The village had a new schoolmaster who was no musician,
and hopeless with the choir. Alice, as the musical one of the family,
had been trained to play the organ, and she played it, not with
passion, for it was her duty, but with mechanical and perfunctory
correctness, as she had been taught. She was also fairly successful
with the village choir.

"Mebbe yo 'aven't 'eard anoother," said Mrs. Gale. "It's rackoned
there isn't anoother woon like it in t' daale."

"But it's just what we want for our choir--a big barytone voice. Do
you think he'd sing for us, Mrs. Gale?"

Alice said it light-heartedly, for she did not know what she was
asking. She knew nothing of the story of Jim Greatorex and his big
voice. It had been carefully kept from her.

"I doan knaw," said Mrs. Gale. "Jim, look yo, 'e useter sing in t'
Choorch choir."

"Why ever did he leave it?"

Mrs. Gale looked dark and tightened up her face. She knew perfectly
well why Jim Greatorex had left. It was because he wasn't going to
have that little milk-faced lass learning _him_ to sing. His pride
wouldn't stomach it. But not for worlds would Mrs. Gale have been the
one to let Miss Alice know that.

Her eyes sought for inspiration in a crack on the stone floor.

"I can't rightly tall yo', Miss Olice. 'E sang fer t' owd
schoolmaaster, look yo, an' wann schoolmaaster gaave it oop, Jimmy, 'e
said 'e'd give it oop too."

"But don't you think he'd sing for _me_, if I were to ask him?"

"Yo' may aask 'im, Miss Olice, but I doan' knaw. Wann Jim Greatorex is
sat, 'e's sat."

"There's no harm in asking him."

"Naw. Naw 'aarm there isn't," said Mrs. Gale doubtfully.

"I think I'll ask him now," said Alice.

"I wouldn', look yo, nat ef I wuss yo, Miss Olice. I wouldn' gaw to
'im in t' mistal all amoong t' doong. Yo'll sha-ame 'im, and yo'll do
nowt wi' Jimmy ef 'e's sha-amed."

"Leave it, Ally. We can come another day," said Gwenda.

"Thot's it," said Mrs. Gale. "Coom another daay."

And as they turned away Jim's voice thundered after them from his
stronghold in the mistal.

"From av-ver-lasstin'--THOU ART GAWD!
To andless ye-ears ther sa-ame!"

The sisters stood listening. They looked at each other.

"I say!" said Gwenda.

"Isn't he gorgeous? We'll _have_ to come again. It would be a sin to
waste him."

"It would."

"When shall we come?"

"There's heaps of time. That voice won't run away."

"No. But he might get pneumonia. He might die."

"Not he."

But Alice couldn't leave it alone.

"How about Sunday? Just after dinner? He'll be clean then."

"All right. Sunday."

But it was not till they had passed the schoolhouse outside Garth
village that Alice's great idea came to her.

"Gwenda! The Concert! Wouldn't he be ripping for the Concert!"


But the concert was not till the first week in December; and it was
in November that Rowcliffe began to form the habit that made him
remarkable in Garth, of looking in at the Vicarage toward teatime
every Wednesday afternoon.

Mrs. Gale, informed by Essy, was the first to condole with Mrs.
Blenkiron, the blacksmith's wife, who had arranged to provide tea for
Rowcliffe every Wednesday in the Surgery.

"Wall, Mrs. Blenkiron," she said, "yo' 'aven't got to mak' tae for
yore doctor now?"

"Naw. I 'aven't," said Mrs. Blenkiron. "And it's sexpence clane gone
out o' me packet av'ry week."

Mrs. Blenkiron was a distant cousin of the Greatorexes. She had
what was called a superior manner and was handsome, in the slender,
high-nosed, florid fashion of the Dale.

"But there," she went on. "I doan't groodge it. 'E's yoong and you
caann't blaame him. They's coompany for him oop at Vicarage."

"'E's coompany fer they, I rackon. And well yo' med saay yo' doan't
groodge it ef yo knawed arl we knaw, Mrs. Blenkiron. It's no life fer
yoong things oop there, long o' t' Vicar. Mind yo"--Mrs. Gale
lowered her voice and looked up and down the street for possible
eavesdroppers--"ef 'e was to 'ear on it, thot yoong Rawcliffe wouldn't
be 'lowed t' putt 's nawse in at door agen. But theer--there's
nawbody'd be thot crool an' spittiful fer to goa an' tall 'im. Our
Assy wouldn't. She'd coot 'er toong out foorst, Assy would."

"Nawbody'll get it out of _mae_, Mrs. Gale, though it's wae as 'as to
sooffer for 't."

"Eh, but Dr. Rawcliffe's a good maan, and 'e'll mak' it oop to yo',
naw feear, Mrs. Blenkiron."

"And which of 'em will it bae, Mrs. Gaale, think you?"

"I caann't saay. But it woonna bae t' eldest. Nor t'

"Well--the lil' laass isn' breaaking 'er 'eart fer him, t' joodge by
the looks of 'er. I naver saw sech a chaange in anybody in a moonth."

"'T assn' takken mooch to maake 'er 'appy," said Mrs. Gale. For Essy,
who had informed her, was not subtle.

* * * * *

But of Ally's happiness there could be no doubt. It lapped her, soaked
into her like water and air. Her small head flowered under it and put
out its secret colors; the dull gold of her hair began to shine again,
her face showed a shallow flush under its pallor; her gray eyes were
clear as if they had been dipped in water. Two slender golden arches
shone above them. They hadn't been seen there for five years.

"Who would have believed," said Mary, "that Ally could have looked so

Ally's prettiness (when she gazed at it in the glass) was delicious,
intoxicating joy to Ally. She was never tired of looking at it, of
turning round and round to get new views of it, of dressing her hair
in new ways to set it off.

"Whatever have you done your hair like that for?" said Mary on a
Wednesday when Ally came down in the afternoon with her gold spread
out above her ears and twisted in a shining coil on the top of her

"To make it grow better," said Ally.

"Don't let Papa catch you at it," said Gwenda, "if you want it to grow
any more."

Gwenda was going out. She had her hat on, and was taking her
walking-stick from the stand. Ally stared.

"You're _not_ going out?"

"I am," said Gwenda.

And she laughed as she went. She wasn't going to stay at home for
Rowcliffe every Wednesday.

* * * * *

As for Ally, the Vicar did catch her at it. He caught her the very
next Wednesday afternoon. She thought he had started for Upthorne when
he hadn't. He was bound to catch her.

For the best looking-glass in the house was in the Vicar's bedroom. It
went the whole length and width of the wardrobe door, and Ally could
see herself in it from head to foot. And on the Vicar's dressing-table
there lay a large and perfect hand-glass that had belonged to Ally's
mother. Only by opening the wardrobe door and with the aid of the
hand-glass could Ally obtain a satisfactory three-quarters view of her
face and figure.

Now, by the Vicar's magnanimity, his daughters were allowed to use his
bedroom twice in every two years, in the spring and in the autumn,
for the purpose of trying on their new gowns; but this year they
were wearing out last winter's gowns, and Ally had no business in the
Vicar's bedroom at four o'clock in the afternoon.

She was turning slowly round and round, with her head tilted back over
her left shoulder; she had just caught sight of her little white nose
as it appeared in a vanishing profile and was adjusting her head at
another and still more interesting angle when the Vicar caught her.

He was well in the middle of the room, and staring at her, before she
was aware of him. The wardrobe door, flung wide open, had concealed
his entrance, but if Ally had not been blinded and intoxicated with
her own beauty she would have seen him before she began smiling,
full-face first, then three-quarters, then sideways, a little tilted.

Then she shut to the door of the wardrobe (for the back view that was
to reassure her as to the utter prettiness of her shoulders and
the nape of her neck), and it was at that moment that she saw him,
reflected behind her in the long looking-glass.

She screamed and dropped the hand-glass. She heard it break itself at
her feet.

"Papa," she cried, "how you frightened me!"

It was not so much that he had caught her smiling at her own face, it
was that _his_ face, seen in the looking-glass, was awful. And besides
being awful it was evil. Even to Ally's innocence it was evil. If it
had been any other man Ally's instinct would have said that he looked
horrid without Ally knowing or caring to know what her instinct meant.
But the look on her father's face was awful because it was mysterious.
Neither she nor her instinct had a word for it. There was cruelty in
it, and, besides cruelty, some quality nameless and unrecognisable,
subtle and secret, and yet crude somehow and vivid. The horror of it
made her forget that he had caught her in one of the most
deplorably humiliating situations in which a young girl can be
caught--deliberately manufacturing smiles for her own amusement.

"You've no business to be here," said the Vicar.

He picked up the broken hand-glass, and as he looked at it the cruelty
and the nameless quality passed out of his face as if a hand had
smoothed it, and it became suddenly weak and pathetic, the face of
a child whose precious magic thing another child has played with and

Then Alice remembered that the hand-glass had been her mother's.

"I'm sorry I've broken it, Papa, if you liked it."

Her voice recalled him to himself.

"Ally," he said, "what am I to think of you? Are you a fool--or what?"

The sting of it lashed Ally's brain to a retort. (All that she had
needed hitherto to be effective was a little red blood in her veins,
and she had got it now.)

"I'd be a fool," she said, "if I cared two straws what you think of
me, since you can't see what I am. I'm sorry if I've broken your old
hand-glass, though I didn't break it. You broke it yourself."

Carrying her golden top-knot like a crown, she left the room.

The Vicar took the broken hand-glass and hid it in a drawer. He was
sorry for himself. The only impression left on his mind was that his
daughter Ally had been cruel to him.

* * * * *

But Ally didn't care a rap what he thought of her, or what impression
she had left on his mind. She was much too happy. Besides, if you once
began caring what Papa thought there would be no peace for anybody.
He was so impossible that he didn't count. He wasn't even an effective
serpent in her Paradise. He might crawl all over it (as indeed he did
crawl), but he left no trail. The thought of how he had caught her at
the looking-glass might be disagreeable, but it couldn't slime those
holy lawns. Neither could it break the ecstasy of Wednesday, that
heavenly day. Nothing could break it as long as Dr. Rowcliffe
continued to look in at tea-time and her father to explore the
furthest borders of his parish.

The peace of Paradise came down on the Vicarage every Wednesday
the very minute the garden gate had swung back behind the Vicar. He
started so early and he was back so late that there was never any
chance of his encountering young Rowcliffe.

* * * * *

To be sure, young Rowcliffe hardly ever said a word to her. He always
talked to Mary or to Gwenda. But there was nothing in his reticence to
disturb Ally's ecstasy. It was bliss to sit and look at Rowcliffe and
to hear him talk. When she tried to talk to him herself her brain
swam and she became unhappy and confused. Intellectual effort was
destructive to the blessed state, which was pure passivity, untroubled
contemplation in its early stages, before the oncoming of rapture.

The fact that Mary and Gwenda could talk to him and talk intelligently
showed how little they cared for him or were likely to care, and
how immeasurably far they were from the supreme act of adoration.
Similarly, the fact that Rowcliffe could talk to Mary and to Gwenda
showed how little _he_ cared. If he had cared, if he were ever going
to care as Ally understood caring, his brain would have swum like hers
and his intellect would have abandoned him.

Whereas, it was when he turned to Ally that he hadn't a word to say,
any more than she had, and that he became entangled in his talk, and
that the intellect he tried to summon to him tottered and vanished at
his call.

Another thing--when he caught her looking at him (and though Ally was
careful he did catch her now and then) he always either lowered his
eyelids or looked away. He was afraid to look at her; and _that_, as
everybody knew, was an infallible sign. Why, Ally was afraid to look
at _him_, only she couldn't help it. Her eyes were dragged to the
terror and the danger.

So Ally reasoned in her Paradise.

For when Rowcliffe was once gone her brain was frantically busy. It
never gave her any rest. From the one stuff of its dreams it span an
endless shining thread; from the one thread it wove an endless web of
visions. From nothing at all it built up drama after drama. It was all
beautiful what Ally's brain did, all noble, all marvelously pure. (The
Vicar would have been astonished if he had known how pure.) There
was no sullen and selfish Ally in Ally's dreams. They were all of
sacrifice, of self-immolation, of beautiful and noble things done for
Rowcliffe, of suffering for Rowcliffe, of dying for him. All without
Rowcliffe being very palpably and positively there.

It was only at night, when Ally's brain slept among its dreams, that
Rowcliffe's face leaned near to hers without ever touching it, and his
arms made as if they clasped her and never met. Even then, always
at the first intangible approach of him, she woke, terrified because
dreams go by contraries.

"Is your sister always so silent?" Rowcliffe asked that Wednesday (the
Wednesday when Ally had been caught).

He was alone with Mary.

"Who? Ally? No. She isn't silent at all. What do you think of her?"

"I think," said Rowcliffe, "she looks extraordinarily well."

"That's owing to you," said Mary. "I never saw her pull round so fast

"No? I assure you," said Rowcliffe, "I haven't anything to do with
it." He was very stiff and cold and stern.

Rowcliffe was annoyed because it was two Wednesdays running that
he had found himself alone with the eldest and the youngest Miss
Cartaret. The second one had gone off heaven knew where.


The Vicar of Garth considered himself unhappy (to say the least of it)
in his three children, but he had never asked himself what, after all,
would he have done without them? After all (as they had frequently
reminded themselves), without them he could never have lived
comfortably on his income. They did the work and saved him the
expenses of a second servant, a housekeeper, an under-gardener, an
organist and two curates.

The three divided the work of the Vicarage and parish, according to
the tastes and abilities of each. At home Mary kept the house and
did the sewing. Gwenda looked after the gray and barren garden, she
trimmed the narrow paths and the one flower-bed and mowed the small
square of grass between. Alice trailed through the lower rooms,
dusting furniture feebly; she gathered and arranged the flowers when
there were any in the bed. Outside, Mary, being sweet and good, taught
in the boys' Sunday-school; Alice, because she was fond of children,
had the infants. For the rest, Mary, who was lazy, had taken over
that small portion of the village that was not Baptist or Wesleyan or
Congregational. Gwenda, for her own amusement, and regardless of sect
and creed, the hopelessly distant hamlets and the farms scattered
on the long, raking hillsides and the moors. Alice declared herself
satisfied with her dominion over the organ and the village choir.

Alice was behaving like an angel in her Paradise. No longer listless
and sullen, she swept through the house with an angel's energy. A
benign, untiring angel sat at the organ and controlled the violent
voices of the choir.

The choir looked upon Ally's innocent art with pride and admiration
and amusement. It tickled them to see those little milk-white hands
grappling with organ pieces that had beaten the old schoolmaster.

Ally enjoyed the pride and admiration of the choir and was unaware of
its amusement. She enjoyed the importance of her office. She enjoyed
the massive, voluptuous vibrations that made her body a vehicle for
the organ's surging and tremendous soul. Ally's body had become a
more and more tremulous, a more sensitive and perfect medium for
vibrations. She would not have missed one choir practice or one

And she said to herself, "I may be a fool, but Papa or the parish
would have to pay an organist at least forty pounds a year. It costs
less to keep me. So he needn't talk."

* * * * *

Then in November came the preparations for the village concert.

They were stupendous.

All morning the little Erad piano shook with the Grande Valse and the
Grande Polonaise of Chopin. The diabolic thing raged through the shut
house, knowing that it went unchallenged, that its utmost violence was
licensed until the day after the concert.

Rowcliffe heard it whenever he drove past the Vicarage on his way over
the moors.


Rowcliffe was now beginning to form that other habit (which was to
make him even more remarkable than he was already), the hunting down
of Gwendolen Cartaret in the open.

He was annoyed with Gwendolen Cartaret. When she had all the rest of
the week to walk in she would set out on Wednesdays before teatime and
continue until long after dark. He had missed her twice now. And on
the third Wednesday he saw her swinging up the hill toward Upthorne as
he, leaving his surgery, came round the corner of the village by the

"I believe," he thought, "she's doing it on purpose. To avoid me."

He was determined not to be avoided.

* * * * *

"The doctor's very late this afternoon," said Mary. "I suppose he's
been sent for somewhere."

Alice said nothing. She couldn't trust herself to speak. She lived in
sickening fear that on some Wednesday afternoon he would be sent for.
It had never happened yet, but that made it all the more likely that
it had happened now.

They waited till five; till a quarter-past.

"I really can't wait any longer," said Mary, "for a man who doesn't

* * * * *

By that time Rowcliffe and Gwenda were far on the road to Upthorne.

He had overtaken her about a hundred yards above the schoolhouse,
before the road turned to Upthorne Moor.

"I say, how you do sprint up these hills!"

She turned.

"Is that you, Dr. Rowcliffe?"

"Of course it's me. Where are you off to?"

"Upthorne. Anywhere."

"May I come too?"

"If you want to."

"Of course I want to."

"Have you had any tea?"


"Weren't they in?"

"I didn't stop to ask."

"Why not?"

"Because I saw you stampeding on in front of me, and I swore I'd
overtake you before you got round that corner. And I have overtaken

"Shall we go back? We've time."

He frowned. "No. I never turn back. Let's get on. Get on."

They went on at a terrific pace. And as she persisted in walking about
half a foot in front of him he saw the movement of her fine long limbs
and the little ripple of her shoulders under the gray tweed.

Presently he spoke.

"It wasn't you I heard playing the other night?"

"No. It must have been my youngest sister."

"I knew it wasn't you."

"It might have been for all you knew."

"It couldn't possibly. If you played you wouldn't play that way."

"What way?"

"Your sister's way. Whatever you wanted to do you'd do it beautifully
or not at all."

She made no response. She did not even seem to have heard him.

"I don't mean to say," he said, "that your sister doesn't play

She turned malignly. He liked her when she turned.

"You mean that she plays abominably."

"I didn't mean to _say_ it."

"Why shouldn't you say it?"

"Because you don't say those things. It isn't polite."

"But I know Alice doesn't play well--not those big things. The wonder
is she can play them at all."

"Why does she attempt--the big things?"

"Why does anybody? Because she loves them. She's never heard them
properly played. So she doesn't know. She just trusts to her feeling."

"Is there anything else, after all, you _can_ trust?"

"I don't know. You see, Alice's feeling tells her it's all right to
play like that, and _my_ feeling tells me it's all wrong."

"You can trust _your_ feelings."

"Why mine more than hers?"

"Because _your_ feelings are the feelings of a beautifully sane and
perfectly balanced person."

"How can you possibly tell? You don't know me."

"I know your type."

"My type isn't me. You can't tell by that."

"You can if you're a physiologist."

"Being a physiologist won't tell you anything about _me_."

"Oh, won't it?"

"It can't."

"Why not?"

"How can it?"

"You think it can't tell me anything about your soul?"

"Oh--my soul----" Her shoulders expressed disdain for it.

"Do you dislike my mentioning it? Would you rather we didn't talk
about it? Perhaps you're tired of having it talked about?"

"No; my poor soul has never done anything to get itself talked about."

"I only thought that as your father, perhaps, specialises in souls--"

"He doesn't specialise in mine. He knows nothing about it."

"The specialist never does. To know anything--the least little
thing--about the soul, you must know everything--everything you _can_
know--about the body. So that you're wrong even about your soul. Being
a physiologist tells me that your sort of body--a transparently clean
and strong and utterly unconscious body--goes with a transparently
clean and strong and utterly unconscious soul."

"Utterly unconscious?"

He was silent a moment and then answered:

"Utterly unconscious."

They walked on in silence till they came in sight of the marshes and
the long gray line of Upthorne Farm.

"That's where I met you once," he said. "Do you remember? You were
coming out of the door as I went in."

"You seem to have been always meeting me."

"Always meeting you. And then---always missing you. Just when I
expected most to find you."

"If we go much farther in this direction," said Gwenda, "we shall meet

"Well--I suppose some day I shall have to meet him. Do you realise
that I've never met him yet?"

"Haven't you?"

"No. Always I've been on the point of meeting him, and always some
malignant fate has interfered."

She smiled. He loved her smile.

"Why are you smiling?"

"I was only wondering whether the fate was really so malignant."

"You mean that if he met me he'd dislike me?"

"He always _has_ disliked anybody we like. You see, he's a very funny

"All fathers," said Rowcliffe, "are more or less funny."

She laughed. Her laughter enchanted him.

"Yes. But _my_ father doesn't mean to be as funny as he is."

"I see. He wouldn't really mean to dislike me. Then, perhaps, if I
regularly laid myself out for it, by years of tender and untiring
devotion I might win him over?"

She laughed again; she laughed as youth laughs, for the pure joy of
laughter. She looked on her father as a persistent, delightful jest.
He adored her laughter.

It proved how strong and sane she was--if she could take him like
that. Rowcliffe had seen women made bitter, made morbid, driven into
lunatic asylums by fathers who were as funny as Mr. Cartaret.

"You wouldn't, you wouldn't," she said. "He's funnier than you've any
idea of."

"Is he ever ill?"


"That of course makes it difficult."

"Except colds in his head. But he wouldn't have you for a cold in his
head. He wouldn't have you for anything if he could help it."

"Well--perhaps--if he's as funny as all that, we'd better turn."

They turned.

They were walking so fast now that they couldn't talk.

Presently they slackened and he spoke.

"I say, shall you ever get away from this place?"

"Never, I think."

"Do you never want to get away?"

"No. Never. You see, I love it."

"I know you do." He said it savagely, as if he were jealous of the

"So do you," she answered.

"If I didn't I suppose I should have to."

"Yes, it's better, if you've got to live in it."

"That wasn't what I meant."

After that they were silent for a long time. She was wondering what he
did mean.

When they reached the Vicarage gate he sheered off the path and held
out his hand.

"Oh--aren't you coming in for tea?" she said.

"Thanks. No. It's a little late. I don't think I want any."

He paused. "I've got what I wanted."

He stepped backward, facing her, raising his cap, then he turned and
hurried down the hill.

Gwenda walked slowly up the flagged path to the house door. She stood
there, thinking.

"He's got what he wanted. He only wanted to see what I was like."


Rowcliffe had ten minutes on his hands while they were bringing his
trap round from the Red Lion.

He was warming his hands at the surgery fire when he heard voices in
the parlor on the other side of the narrow passage. One voice pleaded,
the other reserved judgment.

"Do you think he'd do it if I were to go up and ask him?" It was Alice
Cartaret's voice.

"I caann't say, Miss Cartaret, I'm sure."

"Could you persuade him yourself, Mrs. Blenkiron?"

"It wouldn't be a bit of good me persuadin' him. Jim Greatorex wouldn'
boodge _that_ mooch for me."

A pause. Alice was wavering, aware, no doubt, of the folly of her
errand. Rowcliffe had only to lie low and she would go.

"Could Mr. Blenkiron?"

No. Rowcliffe in the surgery smiled all to himself as he warmed his
hands. Alice was holding her ground. She was spinning out the time.

"Not he. Mr. Blenkiron's got soomat alse to do without trapseing after
Jim Greatorex."


Alice's voice was distant and defensive. He was sorry for Alice. She
was not yet broken in to the north country manner, and her softness
winced under these blows. There was nobody to tell her that Mrs.
Blenkiron's manner was a criticism of her young kinsman, Jim

Mrs. Blenkiron presently made this apparent.

"Jim's sat oop enoof as it is. You'd think there was nawbody in this
village good enoof to kape coompany wi' Jimmy, the road he goas. Ef I
was you, Miss Olice, I should let him be."

"I would, but it's his voice we want. I'm thinking of the concert,
Mrs. Blenkiron. It's the only voice we've got that'll fill the room."

Mrs. Blenkiron laughed.

"Eh--he'll fill it fer you, right enoof. You'll have all the yoong
laads and laasses in the Daale toomblin' in to hear Jimmy."

"We want them. We want everybody. You Wesleyans and all."

Another pause. Rowcliffe was interested. Alice was really displaying
considerable intelligence. Almost she persuaded him that her errand
was genuine.

"Do you think Essy Gale could get him to come?"

In the surgery Rowcliffe whistled inaudibly. _That_ was indeed a
desperate shift.

Rowcliffe had turned and was now standing with his back to the fire.
He was intensely interested.

"Assy Gaale? He would n' coom for Assy's asskin', a man like

Mrs. Blenkiron's blood, the blood of the Greatorexes, was up.

"Naw," said Jim Greatorex's kinswoman, "if you want Greatorex to sing
for you as bad as all that, Miss Cartaret, you'd better speak to the

Rowcliffe became suddenly grave. He watched the door.

"He'd mebbe do it for him. He sats soom store by Dr. Rawcliffe."

"But"--Ally's voice sounded nearer--"he's gone, hasn't he?"

(The minx, the little, little minx!)

"Naw. But he's joost goin'. Shall I catch him?"

"You might."

Mrs. Blenkiron caught him on the threshold of the surgery.

"Will you speak to Miss Cartaret a minute, Dr. Rawcliffe?"


Mrs. Blenkiron withdrew. The kitchen door closed on her flight. For
the first time in their acquaintance Rowcliffe was alone with Alice
Cartaret, and though he was interested he didn't like it.

"I thought I heard your voice," said he with reckless geniality.

They stood on their thresholds looking at each other across the narrow
passage. It was as if Alice Cartaret's feet were fixed there by an
invisible force that held her fascinated and yet frightened.

Rowcliffe had paused too, as at a post of vantage, the better to
observe her.

A moment ago, warming his hands in the surgery, he could have sworn
that she, the little maneuvering minx, had laid a trap for him. She
had come on her fool's errand, knowing that it was a fool's errand,
for nothing on earth but that she might catch him, alone and
defenseless, in the surgery. It was the sort of thing she did, the
sort of thing she always would do. She didn't want to know (not she!)
whether Jim Greatorex would sing or not, she wanted to know, and
she meant to know, why he, Steven Rowcliffe, hadn't turned up that
afternoon, and where he had gone, and what he had been doing, and the
rest of it. There were windows at the back of the Vicarage. Possibly
she had seen him charging up the hill in pursuit of her sister, and
she was desperate. All this he had believed and did still believe.

But, as he looked across at the little hesitating figure and the
scared face framed in the doorway, he had compassion on her. Poor
little trapper, so pitifully trapped; so ignorant of the first rules
and principles of trapping that she had run hot-foot after her prey
when she should have lain low and lured it silently into her snare.
She was no more than a poor little frightened minx, caught in his
trap, peering at him from it in terror. God knew he hadn't meant to
set it for her, and God only knew how he was going to get her out of

"Poor things," he thought, "if they only knew how horribly they
embarrass me!"

For of course she wasn't the first. The situation had repeated itself,
monotonously, scores of times in his experience. It would have been
a nuisance even if Alice Cartaret had not been Gwendolen Cartaret's
sister. That made it intolerable.

All this complex pity and repugnance was latent in his one sense of
horrible embarrassment.

Then their hands met.

"You want to see me?"

"I _did_--" She was writhing piteously in the trap.

"You'd better come into the surgery. There's a fire there."

He wasn't going to keep her out there in the cold; and he wasn't going
to walk back with her to the Vicarage. He didn't want to meet the
Vicar and have the door shut in his face. Rowcliffe, informed by Mrs.
Blenkiron, was aware, long before Gwenda had warned him, that he ran
this risk. The Vicar's funniness was a byword in the parish.

But he left the door ajar.

"Well," he said gently, "what is it?"

"Shall you be seeing Jim Greatorex soon?"

"I might. Why?"

She told her tale again; she told it in little bursts of excitement
punctuated with shy hesitations. She told it with all sorts of twists
and turns, winding and entangling herself in it and coming out again
breathless and frightened, like a lost creature that has been dragged
through the brake. And there were long pauses when Alice put her head
on one side, considering, as if she held her tale in her hands and
were looking at it and wondering whether she really could go on.

"And what is it you want me to do?" said Rowcliffe finally.

"To ask him."

"Hadn't you better ask him yourself?"

"Would he do it for me?"

"Of course he would."

"I wonder. Perhaps--if I asked him prettily--"

"Oh, then--he couldn't help himself."

There was a pause. Rowcliffe, a little ashamed of himself, looked at
the floor, and Alice looked at Rowcliffe and tried to fathom the full
depth of his meaning from his face. That there was a depth and that
there was a meaning she never doubted. This time Rowcliffe missed the
pathos of her gray eyes.

An idea had come to him.

"Look here--Miss Cartaret--if you can get Jim Greatorex to sing for
you, if you can get him to take an interest in the concert or in any
mortal thing besides beer and whisky, you'll be doing the best day's
work you ever did in your life."

"Do you think I _could_?" she said.

"I think you could probably do anything with him if you gave your mind
to it."

He meant it. He meant it. That was really his opinion of her. Her
lifted face was radiant as she drank bliss at one draught from the cup
he held to her. But she was not yet satisfied.

"You'd _like_ me to do it?"

"I should very much."

His voice was firm, but his eyes looked uneasy and ashamed.

"Would you like me to get him back in the choir?"

"I'd like you to get him back into anything that'll keep him out of

She raised her chin. There was a more determined look on her small,
her rather insignificant face than he would have thought to see there.

She rose.

"Very well," she said superbly. "I'll do it."

He held out his hand.

"I don't say, Miss Cartaret, that you'll reclaim him."

"Nor I. But--if you want me to, I'll try."

They parted on it.

Rowcliffe smiled as he closed the surgery door behind him.

"That'll give her something else to think about," he said to himself.
"And it'll take her all her time."


The next Sunday, early in the afternoon, Alice went, all by herself,
to Upthorne.

Hitherto she had disliked going to Upthorne by herself. She had no
very subtle feeling for the aspects of things; but there was something
about the road to Upthorne that repelled her. A hundred yards or so
above the schoolhouse it turned, leaving behind it the wide green
bottom and winding up toward the naked moor. To the north, on her
right, it narrowed and twisted; the bed of the beck lay hidden. A
thin scrub of low thorn trees covered the lower slopes of the further
hillside. Here and there was a clearing and a cottage or a farm. On
her left she had to pass the dead mining station, the roofless walls,
the black window gaps, the melancholy haunted colonnades, the three
chimneys of the dead furnaces, square cornered, shooting straight and
high as the bell-towers of some hill city of the South, beautiful and
sinister, guarding that place of ashes and of ruin. Then the sallow
winter marshes. South of the marshes were the high moors. Their flanks
showed black where they have been flayed by the cuttings of old mines.
At intervals, along the line of the hillside, masses of rubble rose in
hummocks or hung like avalanches, black as if they had been discharged
by blasting. Beyond, in the turn of the Dale, the village of Upthorne
lay unseen.

And hitherto, in all that immense and inhuman desolation nothing (to
Alice) had been more melancholy, more sinister, more haunted than the
house where John Greatorex had died. With its gray, unsleeping face,
its lidless eyes, staring out over the marshes, it had lost (for
Alice) all likeness to a human habitation. It repudiated the living;
it remembered; it kept a grim watch with its dead.

But Alice's mind, acutely sensitive in one direction, had become
callous in every other.

* * * * *

Greatorex was in the kitchen, smoking his Sunday afternoon pipe in
the chimney corner, screened from the open doorway by the three-foot
thickness of the house wall.

Maggie, his servant, planted firmly on the threshold, jerked her head
over her shoulder to call to him.

"There's a yoong laady wants to see yo, Mr. Greatorex!"

There was no response but a sharp tapping on the hob, as Greatorex
knocked the ashes out of his pipe.

Maggie stood looking at Alice a little mournfully with her deep-set,
blue, pathetic eyes. Maggie had once been pretty in spite of her
drab hair and flat features, but where her high color remained it had
hardened with her thirty-five years.

"Well yo' coom?"

Maggie called again and waited. Courageous in her bright blue Sunday
gown, she waited while her master rose, then, shame-faced as if driven
by some sharp sign from him, she slunk into the scullery.

Jim Greatorex appeared on his threshold.

On his threshold, utterly sober, carrying himself with the assurance
of the master in his own house, he would not have suffered by
comparison with any man. Instead of the black broadcloth that Alice
had expected, he wore a loose brown shooting jacket, drab corduroy
breeches, a drab cloth waistcoat and brown leather leggings, and he
wore them with a distinction that Rowcliffe might have envied. His
face, his whole body, alert and upright, had the charm of some shy,
half-savage animal. When he stood at ease his whole face, with all
its features, sensed you and took you in; the quivering eyebrows were
aware of you; the nose, with its short, high bridge, its fine, wide
nostrils, repeated the sensitive stare of the wide eyes; his mouth,
under its golden brown moustache, was somber with a sort of sullen
apprehension, till in a sudden, childlike confidence it smiled. His
whole face and all its features smiled.

He was smiling at Alice now, as if struck all of a sudden by her

"I've come to ask a favor, Mr. Greatorex," said Alice.

"Ay," said Greatorex. He said it as if ladies called every day to ask
him favors. "Will you coom in, Miss Cartaret?" It was the mournful
and musical voice that she had heard sometimes last summer on the road
outside the back door of the Vicarage.

She came in, pausing on the threshold and looking about her, as if
she stood poised on the edge of an adventure. Her smallness, and the
delicious, exploring air of her melted Jim's heart and made him smile
at her.

"It's a roough plaace fer a laady," he said.

"It's a beautiful place, Mr. Greatorex," said Alice.

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