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The Three Sisters by May Sinclair

Part 5 out of 8

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She held out her hand to him and looked at him.

And as if only then she had seen in his face the signs of a suffering
she had been unaware of, her eyes rounded in a sudden wonder of
distress. They said in their goodness and their candor, "Oh, I see how
horribly you've suffered. I didn't know and I'm so sorry." Then they
looked away, and it was like the quiet withdrawal of a hand that
feared lest in touching it should hurt him.

Mary began to talk of the weather and of Essy and of Essy's baby, as
if her eyes had never seen anything at all. Then, just as they parted,
she said, "When are you coming to see us again?" as if he had been to
see them only the other day.

He said he _would_ come as soon as he was asked.

And Mary reflected, as one arranging a multitude of engagements.

"Well, then--let me see--can you come to tea on Friday? Or Monday?
Father'll be at home both days."

And Rowcliffe said thanks, he'd come on Friday.

Mary went on to the cottage and Rowcliffe to his surgery.

He wondered why she hadn't said a word about Gwenda. He supposed it
was because she knew that there was nothing she could say that would
not hurt him.

And he said to himself, "What a nice girl she is. What a thoroughly
nice girl."

* * * * *

But what he wanted, though he dreaded it, was news of Gwenda. He
didn't know whether he could bring himself to ask for it, but he
rather thought that Mary would know what he wanted and give it him
without his asking.

That was precisely what Mary knew and did.

She was ready for him, alone in the gray and amber drawing-room, and
she did it almost at once, before Alice or her father could come in.
Alice was out walking, she said, and her father was in the study.
They would be in soon. She thus made Rowcliffe realise that if she was
going to be abrupt it was because she had to be; they had both of them
such a short time.

With admirable tact she assumed Rowcliffe's interest in Ally and the
Vicar. It made it easier to begin about Gwenda. And before she began
it seemed to her that she had better first find out if he knew. So she
asked him point-blank if he had heard from Gwenda?

"No," he said.

At her name he had winced visibly. But there was hope even in his hurt
eyes. It sprang from Mary's taking it for granted that he would be
likely to hear from her sister.

"We only heard--really," said Mary, "the other day."

"Is that so?"

"Of course she wrote; but she didn't say much, because, at first, I'm
afraid, there wasn't very much to say."

"And is there?"

Rowcliffe's hands were trembling slightly. Mary looked down at them
and away.

"Well, yes."

And she told him that Gwenda had got a secretaryship to Lady Frances

It would have been too gross to have told him about Gwenda's salary.
But it might have been the salary she was thinking of when she added
that it was of course an awfully good thing for Gwenda.

"And who," said Rowcliffe, "is Lady Frances Gilbey?"

"She's a cousin of my stepmother's."

He considered it.

"And Mrs.--er--Cartaret lives in London, doesn't she?"

"Oh, yes."

Mary's tone implied that you couldn't expect that brilliant lady to
live anywhere else.

There was a moment in which Rowcliffe again evoked the image of the
third Mrs. Cartaret who was "the very one." If anything could have
depressed him more, that did.

But he pulled himself together. There were things he had to know.

"And does your sister like living in London?"

Mary smiled. "I imagine she does very much indeed."

"Somehow," said Rowcliffe, "I can't see her there. I thought she liked
the country."

"Oh, you never can tell whether Gwenda really likes anything. She may
have liked it. She may have liked it awfully. But she couldn't go on
liking it forever."

And to Rowcliffe it was as if Mary had said that wasn't Gwenda's way.

"There's no doubt she's done the best thing. For herself, I mean."

Rowcliffe assented. "Perhaps she has."

And Mary, as if doubt had only just occurred to her, made a sudden
little tremulous appeal.

"You don't really think Garth was the place for her?"

"I don't really think anything about it," Rowcliffe said.

Mary was pensive. Her brooding look said that she laid a secret fear
to rest.

"Garth couldn't satisfy a girl like Gwenda."

Rowcliffe said no, he supposed it couldn't satisfy her. His dejection
was by this time terrible. It cast a visible, a palpable gloom.

"She's a restless creature," said Mary, smiling.

She threw it out as if by way of lightening his oppression, almost as
if she put it to him that if Gwenda was restless (by which Rowcliffe
might understand, if he liked, capricious) she couldn't help it. There
was no reason why he should be so horribly hurt. It was not as if
there was anything personal in Gwenda's changing attitudes. And
Rowcliffe did indeed say to himself, Restless--restless. Yes. That was
the word for her; and he supposed she couldn't help it.

* * * * *

The study door opened and shut. Mary's eyes made a sign to him that
said, "We can't talk about this before my father. He won't like it."

But Mr. Cartaret had gone upstairs. They could hear him moving in the
room overhead.

"How is your other sister getting on?" said Rowcliffe abruptly.

"Alice? She's all right. You wouldn't know her. She can walk for

"You don't say so?"

He was really astonished.

"She's off now somewhere, goodness knows where."

"Ha!" Rowcliffe laughed softly.

"It's really wonderful," said Mary. "She's generally so tired in the

It _was_ wonderful. The more he thought of it the more wonderful it

"Oh, well----" he said, "she mustn't overdo it."

It was Mary he suspected of overdoing it. On Ally's account, of
course. It wasn't likely that she would give the poor child away.

At that point Mrs. Gale came in with the tea-things. And presently the
Vicar came down to tea.

He was more than courteous this time. He was affable. He too greeted
Rowcliffe as if nothing had happened, and he abstained from any
reference to Gwenda.

But he showed a certain serenity in his restraint. Leaning back in
his armchair, his legs crossed, his hands joined lightly at the
finger-tips, his forehead smoothed, conversing affably, Mr. Cartaret
had the air of a man who might indeed have suffered through his
outrageous family, but for whom suffering was passed, a man without
any trouble or anxiety. And serenity without the memory of suffering
was in Mary's good and happy face.

The house was very still, it seemed the stillness of life that ran
evenly and with no sound. And it was borne in upon Rowcliffe as he sat
there and talked to them that this quiet and tranquillity had come
to them with Gwenda's going. She was a restless creature, and she had
infected them with her unrest. They had peace from her now.

Only for him there could be no peace from Gwenda. He could feel her in
the room. Through the open door she came and went--restless, restless!

He put the thought of her from him.

* * * * *

After tea the Vicar took him into his study. If Rowcliffe had a moment
to spare, he would like, he said, to talk to him.

Rowcliffe looked at his watch. The idea of being talked to frightened

The Vicar observed his nervousness.

"It's about my daughter Alice," he said.

And it was.

The Vicar wanted him to know and he had brought him into his study in
order to tell him that Alice had completely recovered. He went into
it. The girl was fit. She was happy. She ate well. She slept well (he
had kept her under very careful supervision) and she could walk for
miles. She was, in fact, leading the healthy natural life he had hoped
she would lead when he brought her into a more bracing climate.

Rowcliffe expressed his wonder. It was, he said, _very_ wonderful.

But the Vicar would not admit that it was wonderful at all. It was
exactly what he had expected. He had never thought for a moment that
there was anything seriously wrong with Alice--anything indeed in the
least the matter with her.

Rowcliffe was silent. But he looked at the Vicar, and the Vicar did
not even pretend not to understand his look.

"I know," he said, "the very serious view you took of her. But I
think, my dear fellow, when you've seen her you'll admit that you were

Rowcliffe said there was nothing he desired more than to have been
mistaken, but he was afraid he couldn't admit it. Miss Cartaret's
state, when he last saw her, had been distinctly serious.

"You will perhaps admit that whatever danger there may have been then
is over?"

"I haven't seen her yet," said Rowcliffe. "But"--he looked at him--"I
told you the thing was curable."

"That's my point. What is there--what can there have been to cure

Rowcliffe ignored the Vicar's point.

"Can you date it--this recovery?"

"I date it," said the Vicar, "from the time her sister left. She
seemed to pull herself together after that."

Rowcliffe said nothing. He was reviewing all his knowledge of the
case. He considered Ally's disastrous infatuation for himself. In the
light of his knowledge her recovery was not only wonderful, it was
incomprehensible. So incomprehensible that he was inclined to suspect
her father of lying for some reason of his own. Family pride, no
doubt. He had known instances.

The Vicar went on. He gave himself a long innings. "But that does not
account for it altogether, though it may have started it. I really put
it down to other things--the pure air--the quiet life--the absence of
excitement--the regular _work_ that _takes_ her _out_ of herself----"

Here the Vicar fell into that solemn rhythm that marked the periods of
his sermons.

He perorated. "The _simple_ following _out_ of _my_ prescription. You
will remember" (he became suddenly cheery and conversational) "that it
_was_ mine."

"It certainly wasn't mine," said Rowcliffe.

He saw it all. _That_ was why the Vicar was so affable. That was why
he was so serene.

And he wasn't lying. His state of mind was obviously much too simple.
He was serenely certain of his facts.

* * * * *

By courteous movement of his hand the Vicar condoned Rowcliffe's
rudeness, which he attributed to professional pique very natural in
the circumstances.

With admirable tact he changed the subject.

"I also wished to consult you about another matter. Nothing" (he again
reassured the doctor's nervousness) "to do with my family."

Rowcliffe was all attention.

"It's about--it's about that poor girl, Essy Gale."

"Essy," said Rowcliffe, "is very well and very happy."

The Vicar's sudden rigidity implied that Essy had no business to be

"If she is, it isn't your friend Greatorex's fault."

"I'm not so sure of that," said Rowcliffe.

"I suppose you know he has refused to marry her?"

"I understood as much. But who asked him to?"

"I did."

"My dear sir, if you don't mind my saying so, I think you made a
mistake--if you _want_ him to marry her. You know what he is."

"I do indeed. But a certain responsibility rests with the parson of
the parish."

"You can't be responsible for everything that goes on."

"Perhaps not--when the place is packed with nonconformists. Greatorex
comes of bad dissenting stock. I can't hope to have any influence with

He paused.

"But I'm told that _you_ have."

"Influence? Not I. I've a sneaking regard for Greatorex. He isn't half
a bad fellow if you take him the right way."

"Well, then, can't you take him? Can't you say a judicious word?"

"If it's to ask him to marry Essy, that wouldn't be very judicious,
I'm afraid. He'll marry her if he wants to, and if he doesn't, he

"But, my dear Dr. Rowcliffe, think of the gross injustice to that poor

"It might be a worse injustice if he married her. Why _should_ he
marry her if he doesn't want to, and if she doesn't want it? There
she is, perfectly content and happy with her baby. It's been a little
seedy lately, but it's absolutely sound. A very fine baby indeed, and
Essy knows it. There's nothing wrong with the baby."

Rowcliffe continued, regardless of the Vicar's stare: "She's
better off as she is than tied to a chap who isn't a bit too sober.
Especially if he doesn't care for her."

The Vicar rose and took up his usual defensive position on the hearth.

"Well, Dr. Rowcliffe, if those are your ideas of morality----?"

"They are not my ideas of morality, only my judgment of the individual

"Well--if that's your judgment, after all, I think that the less you
meddle with it the better."

"I never meddle," said Rowcliffe.

But the Vicar did not leave him. He had caught the sound of the
opening and shutting of the gate. He listened.

His manner changed again to a complete affability.

"I think that's Alice. I should like you to see her. If you--"

Rowcliffe gathered that the entrance of Alice had better coincide
with his departure. He followed the Vicar as he went to open the front

Alice stood on the doorstep.

She was not at first aware of him where he lingered in the
half-darkness at the end of the passage.

"Alice," said the Vicar, "Dr. Rowcliffe is here. You're just in time
to say good-bye to him."

"It's a pity if it's good-bye," said Alice.

Her voice might have been the voice of a young woman who is sanely and
innocently gay, but to Rowcliffe's ear there was a sound of exaltation
in it.

He could see her now clearly in the light of the open door. The Vicar
had not lied. Alice had all the appearances of health. Something had
almost cured her.

But not quite. As she stood there with him in the doorway, chattering,
Rowcliffe was struck again with the excitement of her voice and
manner, imperfectly restrained, and with the quivering glitter of her
eyes. By these signs he gathered that if Alice was happy her happiness
was not complete. It was not happiness in his sense of the word. But
Alice's face was unmistakably the face of hope.

Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with him. He saw that Alice's
eyes faced him now with the light, unseeing look of indifference, and
that they turned every second toward the wall at the bottom of the
garden. She was listening to something.

* * * * *

He was then aware of footsteps on the road. They came down the hill,
passing close under the Vicarage wall and turning where it turned
to skirt the little lane at the bottom between the garden and the
churchyard. The lane led to the pastures, and the pastures to the
Manor. And from the Manor grounds a field track trailed to a small
wicket gate on the north side of the churchyard wall. A flagged path
went from the wicket to the door of the north transept. It was a short
cut for the lord of the Manor to his seat in the chancel, but it was
not the nearest way for anybody approaching the church from the high

Now, the slope of the Vicarage garden followed the slope of the road
in such wise that a person entering the churchyard from the high road
could be seen from the windows of the Vicarage. If that person desired
to remain unseen his only chance was to go round by the lane to the
wicket gate, keeping close under the garden wall.

Rowcliffe heard the wicket gate click softly as it was softly opened
and shut.

And he could have sworn that Alice heard it too.

* * * * *

He waited twenty minutes or so in his surgery. Then, instead of
sending at once to the Red Lion for his trap, he walked back to the

Standing in the churchyard, he could hear the sound of the organ and
of a man's voice singing.

He opened the big west door softly and went softly in.


There is no rood-screen in Garth church. The one aisle down the middle
of the nave goes straight from the west door to the chancel-rails.

Standing by the west door, behind the font, Rowcliffe had an
uninterrupted view of the chancel.

The organ was behind the choir stalls on the north side. Alice was
seated at the organ. Jim Greatorex stood behind her and so that his
face was turned slantwise toward Rowcliffe. Alice's face was in pure
profile. Her head was tilted slightly backward, as if the music lifted

Rowcliffe moved softly to the sexton's bench in the left hand corner.
Sitting there he could see her better and ran less risk of being seen.

The dull stained glass of the east window dimmed the light at that
end of the church. The organ candles were lit. Their jointed brackets,
brought forward on each side, threw light on the music book and the
keys, also on the faces of Alice and Greatorex. He stood so close to
her as almost to touch her. She had taken off her hat and her hair
showed gold against the drab of his waist-coat.

On both faces there was a look of ecstasy.

It was essentially the same ecstasy; only, on Alice's face it was more
luminous, more conscious, and at the same time more abandoned, as if
all subterfuge had ceased in her and she gave herself up, willing and
exulting, to the unspiritual sense that flooded her.

On the man's face this look was more confused. It was also more tender
and more poignant, as if in soaring Jim's rapture gave him pain. You
would have said that he had not given himself to it, but that he was
driven by it, and that yet, with all its sensuous trouble, there
ran through it, secret and profoundly pure, some strain of spiritual

And in his thick, his poignant and tender half-barytone, half-tenor,
Greatorex sang:

"'At e-ee-vening e-er the soon was set,
The sick, oh Lo-ord, arou-ound thee laay--
Oh, with what divers pains they met,
And with what joy they went a-waay--'"

But Alice stopped playing and Rowcliffe heard her say, "Don't let's
have that one, Jim, I don't like it."

It might have passed--even the name--but that Rowcliffe saw Greatorex
put his hand on Alice's head and stroke her hair.

Then he heard him say, "Let's 'ave mine," and he saw that his hand was
on Alice's shoulders as he leaned over her to find the hymn.

"Good God!" said Rowcliffe to himself. "That explains it."

He got up softly. Now that he knew, he felt that it was horrible to
spy on her.

But Greatorex had begun singing again, and the sheer beauty of the
voice held Rowcliffe there to listen.

"'Lead--Kindly Light--amidst th' encircling gloo-oom,
Lead Thou me o-on.
Keep--Thou--my--feet--I do not aa-aassk too-oo see-ee-ee
Ther di-is-ta-aant scene, woon step enoo-oof for mee-eea.'"

Greatorex was singing like an angel. And as he sang it was as if two
passions, two longings, the earthly and the heavenly, met and
mingled in him, so that through all its emotion his face remained
incongruously mystic, queerly visionary.

"'O'er moor and fen--o'er crag and torrent ti-ill----'"

The evocation was intolerable to Rowcliffe.

He turned away and Greatorex's voice went after him.

"'And--with--the--morn tho-ose angel fa-a-ce-es smile
Which I-i--a-ave looved--long since--and lo-ost awhi-ile.'"

Again Rowcliffe turned; but not before he had seen that Greatorex had
his hand on Alice's shoulder a second time, and that Alice's hand had
gone up and found it there.

The latch of the west door jerked under Rowcliffe's hand with a loud
clashing. Alice and Greatorex looked round and saw him as he went out.

Alice got up in terror. The two stood apart on either side of the
organ bench, staring into each other's faces.

Then Alice went round to the back of the organ and addressed the small

"Go," she said, "and tell the choir we're waiting for them. It's five
minutes past time."

Johnny ran.

Alice went back to the chancel where Greatorex stood turning over the
hymn books of the choir.

"Jim," she said, "that was Dr. Rowcliffe. Do you think he saw us?"

"It doesn't matter if he did," said Greatorex. "He'll not tell."

"He might tell Father."

Jim turned to her.

"And if he doos, Ally, yo' knaw what to saay."

"That's no good, Jim. I've told you so. You mustn't think of it."

"I shall think of it. I shall think of noothing else," said Greatorex.

* * * * *

The choir came in, aggrieved, and explaining that it wasn't six yet,
not by the church clock.


As Rowcliffe went back to his surgery he recalled two things he had
forgotten. One was a little gray figure he had seen once or twice
lately wandering through the fields about Upthorne Farm. The other was
a certain interview he had had with Alice when she had come to ask him
to get Greatorex to sing. That was in November, not long before the
concert. He remembered the suggestion he had then made that Alice
should turn her attention to reclaiming Greatorex. And, though he had
no morbid sense of responsibility in the matter, it struck him with
something like compunction that he had put Greatorex into Alice's head
chiefly to distract her from throwing herself at his.

And then, he had gone and forgotten all about it.

He told himself now that he had been a fool not to think of it. And if
he was a fool, what was to be said of the Vicar, under whose nose this
singular form of choir practice had been going on for goodness knew
how long?

It did not occur to the doctor that if his surgery day had been a
Friday, which was choir practice day, he would have been certain to
have thought of it. Neither was he aware that what he had observed
this evening was only the unforeseen result of a perfectly innocent
parochial arrangement. It had begun at Christmas and again at Easter,
when it was understood that Greatorex, who was nervous about his
voice, should turn up for practice ten minutes before the rest of the
choir to try over his part in an anthem or cantata, so that, as Alice
said, he might do himself justice.

Since Easter the ten minutes had grown to fifteen or even twenty. And
twice in the last three weeks Greatorex, by collusion with Alice, had
arrived a whole hour before his time. Still, there was nothing in
this circumstance itself to alarm the Vicar. Choir practice was choir
practice, a mysterious thing he never interfered with, knowing himself
to be unmusical.

Rowcliffe had had good reason for refusing to urge Greatorex to marry
Essy Gale. But what he had seen in Garth church made him determined to
say something to Greatorex, after all.

He went on his northerly round the very next Sunday and timed it
so that he overtook his man on his way home from church. He gave
Greatorex a lift with the result (which he had calculated) that
Greatorex gave him dinner, as he had done once or twice before. The
after-dinner pipe made Jim peculiarly approachable, and Rowcliffe
approached him suddenly and directly. "I say, Greatorex, why don't you
marry? Not a bad thing for you, you know."

"Ay. Saw they tall me," said Greatorex amicably.

Rowcliffe went on to advise his marrying Essy, not on the grounds of
morality or of justice to the girl (he was a tactful person), but on
Greatorex's account, as the best thing Greatorex could do for himself.

"Yo mane," said Greatorex, "I ought to marry her?"

Rowcliffe said no, he wasn't going into that.

Greatorex was profoundly thoughtful.

Presently he said that he would speak to Essy.

* * * * *

He spoke to her that afternoon.

In the cottage down by the beck Essy sat by the hearth, nursing her
baby. He had recovered from his ailment and lay in her lap, gurgling
and squinting at the fire. He wore the robe that Mrs. Gale had brought
to Essy five months ago. Essy had turned it up above his knees, and
smiling softly she watched his little pink feet curling and uncurling
as she held them to the fire. Essy's back and the back of the baby's
head were toward the door, which stood open, the day being still warm.

Greatorex stood there a moment looking at them before he tapped on the

He felt no tenderness for either of them, only a sullen pity that was
half resentment.

As if she had heard his footsteps and known them, Essy spoke without
looking round.

"Yo' can coom in ef yo' want," she said.

"Thank yo'," he said stiffly and came in.

"I caan't get oop wi' t' baaby. But there's a chair soomwhere."

He found it and sat down.

"Are yo' woondering why I've coom, Essy?"

"Naw, Jim. I wasn't woondering about yo' at all."

Her voice was sweet and placable. She followed the direction of his

"'E's better. Ef thot's what yo've coom for."

"It isn' what I've coom for. I've soomthing to saay to yo', Essy."

"There's nat mooch good yo're saayin' anything, Jim. I knaw all yo'
'ave t' saay."

"Yo'll 'ave t' 'ear it, Essy, whether yo' knaw it or not. They're
tallin' mae I ought to marry yo'."

Essy's eyes flashed.

"Who's tallin' yo'?"

"T' Vicar, for woon."

"T' Vicar! 'E's a nice woon t' taalk o' marryin', whan 'is awn wife
caan't live wi' 'im, nor 'is awn daughter, neither. And 'oo alse
talled yo'? 'Twasn' Moother?"

"Naw. It wasn' yore moother."

"An' 'twasn' mae, Jim, and navver will bae."

"'Twas Dr. Rawcliffe."

"'E? 'E's anoother. 'Ooo's 'e married? Miss Gwanda? Nat' e!"

"Yo' let t' doctor bae, Essy. 'E's right enoof. Saw I ought t' marry
yo'. But I'm nat goain' to."

"'Ave yo' coom t' tall mae thot? 'S ef I didn' knaw it. 'Ave I avver
aassked yo' t' marry mae?"

"Haw, Essy."

"Yo' _can_ aassk mae; yo'll bae saafe enoof. Fer I wawn't 'ave yo'.
Woonce I med 'a' been maad enoof. I med 'a' said yes t' yo'. But I'd
saay naw to-day."

At that he smiled.

"Yo' wouldn' 'ave a good-fer-noothin' falla like mae, would yo, laass?
Look yo'--it's nat that I couldn' 'ave married yo'. I could 'ave
married yo' right enoof. An' it's nat thot I dawn' think yo' pretty.
Yo're pretty enoof fer me. It's--it's--I caan't rightly tall whot it

"Dawn' tall mae. I dawn' want t' knaw."

He looked hard at her.

"I might marry yo' yat," he said. "But yo' knaw you wouldn' bae happy
wi' mae. I sud bae crool t' yo'. Nat because I wanted t' bae crool,
but because I couldn' halp mysel. Theer'd bae soomthin' alse I sud bae
thinkin' on and wantin' all t' while."

"I knaw. I knaw. I wouldn' lat yo', Jim. I wouldn' lat yo'."

"I knaw there's t' baaby an' all. It's hard on yo', Essy. But--I dawn'
knaw--I ned bae crool to t' baaby, too."

Then she looked up at him, but with more incredulity than reproach.

"Yo' wudn'," she said. "Yo' cudn' bae crool t' lil Jimmy."

He scowled.

"Yo've called 'im thot, Essy?"

"An' why sudn' I call 'im? 'E's a right to thot naame, annyhow. Yo'
caann't taake thot awaay from 'im."

"I dawn' want t' taake it away from 'im. But I wish yo' 'adn'. I wish
you 'adn', Essy."

"Why 'alf t' lads in t' village is called Jimmy. Yo're called Jimmy
yourself, coom t' thot."

He considered it. "Well--it's nat as ef they didn' knaw--all of 'em."

"Oh--they knaws!"

"D'yo' mind them, Essy? They dawn't maake yo' feel baad about it, do

She shook her head and smiled her dreamy smile.

He rose and looked down at her with his grieved, resentful eyes.

"Yo' moosn' suppawse I dawn feel baad, Essy. I've laaid awaake manny a
night, thinkin' what I've doon t'yo'."

"What _'ave_ yo' doon, Jimmy? Yo' maade mae 'appy fer sex moonths.
An' there's t' baaby. I didn' want 'im before 'e coom--seemed like I'd
'ave t' 'ave 'im stead o' yo'. But yo' can goa right awaay, Jimmy, an'
I sudn' keer ef I navver saw yo' again, so long's I 'ad 'im."

"Is thot truth, Essy?"

"It's Gawd's truth."

He put out his hand and caressed the child's downy head as if it was
the head of some young animal.

"I wish I could do more fer 'im, Essy. I will, maaybe, soom daay."

"I wouldn' lat yo'. I wouldn' tooch yo're mooney now ef I could goa
out t' wark an' look affter 'im too. I wouldn' tooch a panny of it, I

"Dawn' yo' saay thot, Essy. Yo' dawn' want to spite mae, do yo'?"

"I didn' saay it t' spite yo', Jimmy. I said it saw's yo' sudn' feel
saw baad."

He smiled mournfully.

"Poor Essy," he said.

She gave him a queer look. "Yo' needn' pity _mae,_" she said.

* * * * *

He went away considerably relieved in his mind, but still suffering
that sullen uneasiness in his soul.


It was the last week in June.

Mary Cartaret sat in the door of the cottage by the beck. And in her
lap she held Essy's baby. Essy had run in to the last cottage in the
row to look after her great aunt, the Widow Gale, who had fallen out
of bed in the night.

The Widow Gale, in her solitude, had formed the habit of falling out
of bed. But this time she had hurt her head, and Essy had gone for the
doctor and had met Miss Mary in the village and Mary had come with her
to help.

For by good luck--better luck than the Widow Gale deserved--it was a
Wednesday. Rowcliffe had sent word that he would come at three.

It was three now.

And as he passed along the narrow path he saw Mary Cartaret in the
doorway with the baby in her lap.

She smiled at him as he went by.

"I'm making myself useful," she said.

"Oh, more than that!"

His impression was that Mary had made herself beautiful. He looked
back over his shoulder and laughed as he hurried on.

Up till now it hadn't occurred to him that Mary could be beautiful.
But it didn't puzzle him. He knew how she had achieved that momentary

He knew and he was to remember. For the effect repeated itself.

As he came back Mary was standing in the path, holding the baby in her
arms. She was looking, she said, for Essy. Would Essy be coming soon?

Rowcliffe did not answer all at once. He stood contemplating the
picture. It wasn't all Mary. The baby did his part. He had been
"short-coated" that month, and his thighs, crushed and delicately
creased, showed rose red against the white rose of Mary's arm. She
leaned her head, brooding tenderly, to his, and his head (he was a
dark baby) was dusk to her flame.

Rowcliffe smiled. "Why?" he said. "Do you want to get rid of him?"

As if unconsciously she pressed the child closer to her. As if
unconsciously she held his head against her breast. And when his
fingers worked there, in their way, she covered them with her hand.

"No," she said. "He's a nice baby. (Aren't you a nice baby? There!)
Essy's unhappy because he's going to have blue eyes and dark hair. But
I think they're the prettiest, don't you?"

"Yes," said Rowcliffe.

He was grave and curt.

And Mary remembered that that was what Gwenda had--blue eyes and dark

It was what Gwenda's children might have had, too. She felt that she
had made him think of Gwenda.

Then Essy came and took the baby from her.

"'E's too 'eavy fer yo', Miss," she said. She laughed as she took him;
she gazed at him with pride and affection unabashed. His one fault,
for Essy, was that, though he had got Greatorex's eyes, he had not got
Greatorex's hair.

Mary and Rowcliffe went back together.

"You're coming in to tea, aren't you?" she said.

"Rather." He had got into the habit again of looking in at the
Vicarage for tea every Wednesday. They were having tea in the orchard
now. And in June the Vicarage orchard was a pleasanter place than the

It was in fact a very pleasant place. Pleasanter than the gray and
amber drawing-room.

When Rowcliffe came to think of it, he owed the Cartarets many
pleasant things. So he had formed another habit of asking them back
to tea in his orchard. He had had no idea what a pleasant place his
orchard could be too.

Now, though Rowcliffe nearly always had tea alone with Mary at the
Vicarage, Mary never came to tea at Rowcliffe's house alone. She
always brought Alice with her. And Rowcliffe found that a nuisance.
For one thing, Alice had the air of being dragged there against
her will, so completely had she recovered from him. For another, he
couldn't talk to Mary quite so well. He didn't know that he wanted to
talk to Mary. He didn't know that he particularly wanted to be alone
with her, but somehow Alice's being there made him want it.

He was to be alone with Mary to-day, in the orchard.

* * * * *

The window of the Vicar's study raked the orchard. But that didn't
matter, for the Vicar was not at home this Wednesday.

The orchard waited for them. Two wicker-work armchairs and the little
round tea-table were set out under the trees. Mary's knitting lay in
one of the chairs. She had the habit of knitting while she talked, or
while Rowcliffe talked and she listened. The act of knitting disposed
her to long silences. It also occupied her, so that Rowcliffe, when he
liked, could be silent too.

But generally he talked and Mary listened.

They hadn't many subjects. But Mary made the most of what they had.
And she always knew the precise moment when Rowcliffe had ceased to
be interested in any one of them. She knew, as if by instinct, all his

They were talking now, at tea-time, about the Widow Gale. Mary wanted
to know how the poor thing was getting on. The Widow Gale had been
rather badly shaken and she had bruised her poor old head and one
hip. But she wouldn't fall out of bed again to-night. Rowcliffe had
barricaded the bed with a chest of drawers. Afterward there must be a
rail or something.

Mary was interested in the Widow Gale as long as Rowcliffe liked to
talk about her. But the Widow Gale didn't carry them very far.

What would have carried them far was Rowcliffe himself. But Rowcliffe
never wanted to talk about himself to Mary. When Mary tried to lead
gently up to him, Rowcliffe shied. He wouldn't talk about himself any
more than he would talk about Gwenda.

But Mary didn't want to talk about Gwenda either now. So that her face
showed the faintest flicker of dismay when Rowcliffe suddenly began to
talk about her.

"Have you any idea," he said, "when your sister's coming back?"

"She won't be long," said Mary. "She's only gone to Upthorne village."

"I meant your other sister."

"Oh, Gwenda----"

Mary brooded. And the impression her brooding made on Rowcliffe was
that Mary knew something about Gwenda she did not want to tell.

"I don't think," said Mary gravely, "that Gwenda ever will come back
again. At least not if she can help it. I thought you knew that."

"I suppose I must have known."

He left it there.

Mary took up her knitting. She was making a little vest for Essy's
baby. Rowcliffe watched it growing under her hands.

"As I can't knit, do you mind my smoking?"

She didn't.

"If more women knitted," he said, "it would be a good thing. They
wouldn't be bothered so much with nerves."

"I don't do it for nerves. I haven't any," said Mary.

He laughed. "No, I don't think you have."

She fell into one of her gentle silences. A silence not of her own
brooding, he judged. It had no dreams behind it and no imagination
that carried her away. A silence, rather, that brought her nearer to
him, that waited on his mood.

His eyes watched under half-closed lids the movements of her hands and
the pretty droop of her head. And he said to himself, "How sweet she
is. And how innocent. And good."

Their chairs were set near together in the small plot of grass. The
little trees of the orchard shut them in. He began to notice things
about her that he had not noticed before, the shape and color of her
finger nails, the modeling of her supple wrists, the way her ears were
curved and laid close to her rather broad head. He saw that her
skin was milk-white at the throat, and honey-white at her ears, and
green-white, the white of an elder flower, at the roots of her red

And as she unwound her ball of wool it rolled out of her lap and fell
between her feet.

She stooped suddenly, bringing under Rowcliffe's eyes the nape of her
neck, shining with golden down, and her shoulders, sun-warmed and rosy
under the thin muslin of her blouse.

They dived at the same moment, and as their heads came up again their
faces would have touched but that Rowcliffe suddenly drew back his

"I say, I _do_ beg your pardon!"

It was odd, but in the moment of his recoil from that imminent contact
Rowcliffe remembered the little red-haired nurse. Not that there was
much resemblance; for, though the little nurse was sweet, she was
not altogether innocent, neither was she what good people like Mary
Cartaret would call good. And Mary, leaning back in her chair with
the recovered ball in her lap, was smiling at his confusion with an
innocence and goodness of which he could have no doubt.

When he tried to account to himself for the remembrance he supposed it
must have been the red hair that did it.

And up to the end and to the end of the end Rowcliffe never knew
that, though he had been made subject to a sequence of relentless
inhibitions and of suggestions overpowering in their nature and
persistently sustained, it was ultimately by aid of that one
incongruous and irresistible association that Mary Cartaret had cast
her spell.

He had never really come under it until that moment.

* * * * *

July passed. It was the end of August. To the west Karva and Morfe
High Moor were purple. To the east the bare hillsides with their
limestone ramparts smouldered in mist and sun, or shimmered, burning
like any hillside of the south. The light even soaked into the gray
walls of Garth in its pastures. The little plum-trees in the Vicarage
orchard might have been olive trees twinkling in the sun.

Mary was in the Vicar's bedroom, looking now at the door, and now
at her own image in the wardrobe glass. It was seven o'clock in the
evening and she had chosen a perilous moment for the glass. She wore
a childlike frock of rough green silk; it had no collar but was cut
square at the neck showing her white throat. The square was bordered
with an embroidered design of peacock's eyes. The parted waves of her
red hair were burnished with hard brushing; its coils lay close, and
smooth as a thick round cap. It needed neither comb nor any ornament.

Mary had dressed, for Rowcliffe was coming to dinner. Such a thing had
never been heard of at the Vicarage; but it had come to pass. And as
Mary thought of how she had accomplished it, she wondered what Alice
could possibly have meant when she said to her "There are moments when
I hate you," as she hooked her up the back.

For it never could have happened if she had not persuaded the Vicar
(and herself as well) that she was asking Rowcliffe on Alice's

The Vicar had come gradually to see that if Alice must be married she
had better marry Rowcliffe and have done with it. He had got used to
Rowcliffe and he rather liked him; so he had only held out against
the idea for a fortnight or so. He had even found a certain austere
satisfaction in the thought that he, the doctor, who had tried to
terrify him about Ally's insanity, having thrown that bomb into
the peaceful Vicarage, should be blown up, as it were, with his own

The Vicar never doubted that it was Ally that Rowcliffe wanted. For
the idea of his wanting Gwenda was so unpleasant to him that he had
dismissed it as preposterous; as for Mary, he had made up his mind
that Mary would never dream of marrying and leaving him, and that, if
she did, he would put his foot down.

There had been changes in the Vicarage in the last two months. The
shabby gray and amber drawing-room was not all shabbiness and not all
gray and amber now. There were new cretonne covers on the chairs and
sofa, and pure white muslin curtains at the windows, and the lamp had
a new frilled petticoat. Every afternoon Mrs. Gale was arrayed in a
tight black gown and irreproachable cap and apron.

All day long Mary and Mrs. Gale had worked like galley slaves over
the preparations for dinner, and between them they had achieved
perfection. What was more they had produced an effect of achieving it
every day, clear soup, mayonnaise salad and cheese straws and all.

And the black coffee made by Mary and served in the orchard afterward
was perfection too.

And the impression made on Rowcliffe by the Vicarage was that of
a house and a household rehabilitated after a long period of
devastation, by the untiring, selfless labor of a woman who was good
and sweet.

After they had drunk Mary's coffee the Vicar strolled away to his
study so as to leave Rowcliffe alone with Mary, and Alice strolled
away heaven knew where so as to leave Mary alone with Rowcliffe. And
the Vicar said to himself, "Mary is really doing it very well. Ally
ought to be grateful to her."

But Ally wasn't a bit grateful. She said to herself, "I've half a
mind to tell him; only Gwenda would hate me." And she called over her
shoulder as she strolled away, "You'd better not stay out too long,
you two. It's going to rain."

Morfe High Moor hangs over Garth and a hot and swollen cloud was
hanging over Morfe High Moor. Above the gray ramparts the very east
was sultry. In the orchard under the low plum-trees it was as airless
as in a tent.

Rowcliffe didn't want to stay out too long in the orchard. He knew
that the window of the Vicar's study raked it. So he asked Mary if she
would come with him for a stroll. (His only criticism of Mary was that
she didn't walk enough.)

Mary thought, "My nice frock will be ruined if the rain comes." But
she went.

"Shall it be the moor or the fields?" he said.

Mary thought again, and said, "The fields."

He was glad she hadn't said "The moor."

They strolled past the village and turned into the pasture that lay
between the high road and the beck. The narrow paths led up a slope
from field to field through the gaps in the stone walls. The fields
turned with the turning of the dale and with that turning of the road
that Rowcliffe knew, under Karva. Instinctively, with a hand on her
arm he steered her, away from the high road and its turning, toward
the beck, so that they had their backs to the thunder storm as it came
up over Karva and the High Moor.

It was when they were down in the bottom that it burst.

There was shelter on the further side of the last field. They ran to
it, climbed, and crouched together under the stone wall.

Rowcliffe took off the light overcoat he wore and tried to put it
on her. But Mary wouldn't let him. She looked at his clothes, at the
round dinner jacket with its silk collar and at the beautiful evening
trousers with their braided seams. He insisted. She refused. He
insisted still, and compromised by laying the overcoat round both of

And they crouched together under the wall, sitting closer so that the
coat might cover them.

It thundered and lightened. The rain pelted them from the high
batteries of Karva. And Rowcliffe drew Mary closer. She laughed like a
happy child.

Rowcliffe sighed.

It was after he had sighed that he kissed her under the cover of the

* * * * *

They sat there for half an hour; three-quarters; till the storm ceased
with the rising of the moon.

* * * * *

"I'm afraid the pretty frock's spoiled," he said.

"That doesn't matter. Your poor suit's ruined."

He laughed.

"Whatever's been ruined," he said, "it was worth it."

Hand in hand they went back together through the drenched fields.

At the first gap he stopped.

"It's settled?" he said. "You won't go back on it? You _do_ care for
me? And you _will_ marry me?"



"Yes; soon."

At the last gap he stopped again.

"Mary," he said, "I suppose you knew about Gwenda?"

"I knew there was something. What was it?"

He had said to himself, "I shall have to tell her. I shall have to say
I cared for her."

What he did say was, "There was nothing in it. It's all over. It was
all over long ago."

"I knew," she said, "it was all over."

And the solemn white moon came up, the moon that Gwenda loved; it came
up over Greffington Edge and looked at them.


It was Sunday afternoon, the last Sunday of August, the first since
that evening (it was a Thursday) when Steven Rowcliffe had dined at
the Vicarage. Mary had announced her engagement the next day.

The news had an extraordinary effect on Alice and the Vicar.

Mary had come to her father in his study on Friday evening after
Prayers. She informed him of the bare fact in the curtest manner,
without preface or apology or explanation. A terrible scene had
followed; at least the Vicar's part in it had been terrible. Nothing
he had ever said to Gwenda could compare with what he then said to
Mary. Alice's behavior he had been prepared for. He had expected
anything from Gwenda; but from Mary he had not expected this. It was
her treachery he resented, the treachery of a creature he had depended
on and trusted. He absolutely forbade the engagement. He said it was
unheard of. He spoke of her "conduct" as if it had been disgraceful or
improper. He declared that "that fellow" Rowcliffe should never come
inside his house again. He bullied and threatened and bullied again.
And through it all Mary sat calm and quiet and submissive. The
expression of the qualities he had relied on, her sweetness and
goodness, never left her face. She replied to his violence, "Yes,
Papa. Very well, Papa, I see." But, as Gwenda had warned him, bully as
he would, Mary beat him in the end.

She looked meekly down at the hearth-rug and said, "I know how you
feel about it, Papa dear. I understand all you've got to say and I'm
sorry. But it isn't any good. You know it isn't just as well as I do."

It might have been Gwenda who spoke to him, only that Gwenda could
never have looked meek.

The Vicar had not recovered from the shock. He was convinced that
he never would recover from it. But on that Sunday he had found a
temporary oblivion, dozing in his study between two services.

There had been no scene like that with Alice. But what had passed
between the sisters had been even worse.

Mary had gone straight from the study to Ally's room. Ally was

Ally received the news in a cruel silence. She looked coldly, sternly
almost, and steadily at Mary.

"You needn't have told me that," she said at last. "I could see what
you were doing the other night."

"What _I_ was doing?"

"Yes, you. I don't imagine Steven Rowcliffe did it"

"Really Ally--what do you suppose I did?"

"I don't know what it was. But I know you did something and I know
that--whatever it was--_I_ wouldn't have done it."

And Mary answered quietly. "If I were you, Ally, I wouldn't show my
feelings quite so plainly."

And Ally looked at her again.

"It's not _my_ feelings--" she said.

Mary reddened. "I don't know what you mean."

"You'll know, some day," Ally said and turned her back on her.

* * * * *

Mary went out, closing the door softly, as if she spared her sick
sister's unreasonably irritated nerves. She felt rather miserable as
she undressed alone in her bedroom. She was wounded in her sweetness
and her goodness, and she was also a little afraid of what Ally might
take it into her head to say or do. She didn't try to think what
Ally had meant. Her sweetness and goodness, with their instinct of
self-preservation, told her that it might be better not.

The August night was warm and tender, and, when Mary had got into bed
and lay stretched out in contentment under the white sheet, she began
to think of Rowcliffe to the exclusion of all other interests; and
presently, between a dream and a dream, she fell asleep.

* * * * *

But Ally could not sleep.

She lay till dawn thinking and thinking, and turning from side to
side between her thoughts. They were not concerned with Gwenda or with
Rowcliffe. After her little spurt of indignation she had ceased to
think about Gwenda or Rowcliffe either. Mary's news had made her think
about herself, and her thoughts were miserable. Ally was so far like
her father the Vicar, that the idea of Mary's marrying was intolerable
to her and for precisely the same reason, because she saw no prospect
of marrying herself. Her father had begun by forbidding Mary's
engagement but he would end by sanctioning it. He would never sanction
_her_ marriage to Jim Greatorex.

Even if she defied her father and married Jim Greatorex in spite of
him there would be almost as much shame in it as if, like Essy, she
had never married him at all.

And she couldn't live without him.

Ally had suffered profoundly from the shock that had struck her down
under the arcades on the road to Upthorne. It had left her more than
ever helpless, more than ever subject to infatuation, more than ever
morally inert. Ally's social self had grown rigid in the traditions
of her class, and she was still aware of the unsuitability of her
intimacy with Jim Greatorex; but disaster had numbed her once poignant
sense of it. She had yielded to his fascination partly through
weakness, partly in defiance, partly in the sheer, healthy
self-assertion of her suffering will and her frustrated senses. But
she had not will enough to defy her father. She credited him with an
infinite capacity to crush and wound. And for a day and a half the
sight of Mary's happiness--a spectacle which Mary did not spare
her---had made Ally restless. Under the incessant sting of it her
longing for Greatorex became insupportable.

On Sunday the Vicar was still too deeply afflicted by the same
circumstance to notice Ally's movements, and Ally took advantage of
his apathy to excuse herself from Sunday school that afternoon. And
about three o'clock she was at Upthorne Farm. She and Greatorex had
found a moment after morning service to arrange the hour.

* * * * *

And now they were standing together in the doorway of the Farmhouse.

In the house behind them, in the mistal and the orchard, in the long
marshes of the uplands and on the brooding hills there was stillness
and solitude.

Maggie had gone up to her aunt at Bar Hill. The farm servants were
scattered in their villages.

Alice had just told Greatorex of Mary's engagement and the Vicar's

"Eh, I was lookin' for it," he said. "But I maade sure it was your
oother sister."

"So did I, Jim. So it was. So it would have been, only--"

She stopped herself. She wasn't going to give Mary away to Jim.

He looked at her.

"Wall, it's nowt t' yo, is it?"

"No. It's nothing to me--now. How did you know I cared for him?"

"I knew because I looved yo. Because I was always thinkin' of yo.
Because I watched yo with him."

"Oh Jim--would other people know?"

"Naw. Nat they. They didn't look at yo the saame as I did."

He became thoughtful.

"Wall--this here sattles it," he said presently. "Yo caann't be laft
all aloan in t' Vicarage. Yo'll _'ave_ t' marry mae."

"No," she said. "It won't be like that. It won't, really. If my father
won't let my sister marry Dr. Rowcliffe, you don't suppose he'll let
me marry you? It makes it more impossible than ever. That's what I
came to tell you."

"It's naw use yo're tallin' mae. I won't hear it."

He bent to her.

"Ally--d'yo knaw we're aloan here?"

"Yes, Jim."

"We're saafe till Naddy cooms back for t' milkin'. We've three hours."

She shook her head. "Only an hour and a half, Jim. I must be back for

"Yo'll 'ave tae here. Yo've had it before. I'll maake it for yo."

"I daren't, Jim. They'll expect me. They'll wonder."

"Ay, 'tis thot waay always. Yo're no sooner coom than yo've got to be
back for this, thot and toother. I'm fair sick of it."

"So am I."

She sighed.

"Wall then--yo must end it."

"How can I end it?"

"Yo knaw how."

"Oh Jim--darling--haven't I told you?"

"Yo've toald mae noothin' that makes a hap'orth o' difference to mae.
Yo've coom to mae. Thot's all I keer for."

He put his hand on her shoulder and turned her toward the house-place.

"Let me shaw yo t' house--now you've coom."

His voice pleaded and persuaded. In spite of its north-country accent
Ally loved his voice. It sounded musical and mournful, like the voices
of the mountain sheep coming from far across the moor and purified by

He took her through the kitchen and the little parlor at the end of
the house.

As he looked round it, trying to see it with her eyes, doubt came to
him. But Ally, standing there, looked toward the kitchen.

"Will Maggie be there?" she said.

"Ay, Maaggie'll be there, ready when yo want her."

"But," she said, "I don't want her."

He followed her look.

"I'll 'ave it all claned oop and paapered and paainted. Look yo--I
could have a hole knocked through t' back wall o' t' kitchen and a
winder put there--and roon oop a wooden partition and make a passage
for yo t' goa to yore awn plaace, soa's Maaggie'll not bae in yore

"You needn't. I like it best as it is."

"Do yo? D'yo mind thot Soonda yo caame laasst year? Yo've aassked mae
whan it was I started thinkin' of yo. It was than. Thot daay whan yo
sot there in thot chair by t' fire, taalkin' t' mae and drinkin' yore
tae so pretty."

She drew closer to him.

"Did you really love me then?"

"Ay--I looved yo than."

She pondered it.

"Jim--what would you have done if I hadn't loved you?"

He choked back something in his throat before he answered her. "What
sud I have doon? I sud have goan on looving yo joost the saame.

"We'll goa oopstairs now."

He took her back and out through the kitchen and up the stone stairs
that turned sharply in their narrow place in the wall. He opened the
door at the head of the landing.

"This would bae our room. 'Tis t' best."

He took her into the room where John Greatorex had died. It was the
marriage chamber, the birth-chamber, and the death-chamber of all the
Greatorexes. The low ceiling still bulged above the big double bed
John Greatorex had died in.

The room was tidy and spotlessly clean. The walls had been
whitewashed. Fresh dimity curtains hung at the window. The bed was
made, a clean white counterpane was spread on it.

The death room had been made ready for the living. The death-bed
waited for the bride.

Ally stood there, under the eyes of her lover, looking at those
things. She shivered slightly.

She said to herself, "It's the room his father died in."

And there came on her a horror of the room and of all that had
happened in it, a horror of death and of the dead.

She turned away to the window and looked out. The long marshland
stretched below, white under the August sun. Beyond it the green hills
with their steep gray cliffs rose and receded, like a coast line, head
after head.

To Ally the scene was desolate beyond all bearing and the house was

Her eyelids pricked. Her mouth trembled. She kept her back turned to
Greatorex while she stifled a sob with her handkerchief pressed tight
to her lips.

He saw and came to her and put his arm round her.

"What is it, Ally? What is it, loove?"

She looked up at him.

"I don't know, Jim. But--I think--I'm afraid."

"What are you afraid of?"

She thought a moment. "I'm afraid of father."

"Yo med bae ef yo staayed with him. Thot's why I want yo t' coom to

He looked at her.

"'Tisn' thot yo're afraid of. 'Tis soomthin' alse thot yo wawn't tall

"Well--I think--I'm a little bit afraid of this house. It's--it's so
horribly lonely."

He couldn't deny it.

"A'y; it's rackoned t' bae loanly. But I sall navver leaave yo.
I'm goain' t' buy a new trap for yo, soa's yo can coom with mae and
Daaisy. Would yo like thot, Ally?"

"Yes, Jim, I'd love it. But----"

"It'll not bae soa baad. Whan I'm out in t' mistal and in t' fields
and thot, yo'll have Maaggie with yo."

She whispered. "Jim--I can't bear Maggie. I'm afraid of her."

"Afraid o' pore Maaggie?"

He took it in. He wondered. He thought he understood.

"Maaggie sall goa. I'll 'ave anoother. An' yo sall 'ave a yooung laass
t' waait on yo. Ef it's Maaggie, shea sall nat stand in yore road."

"It isn't Maggie--altogether."

"Than--for Gawd's saake, loove, what is it?"

She sobbed. "It's everything. It's something in this house--in this

He looked at her gravely now.

"Naw," he said slowly, "'tis noon o' thawse things. It's mae. It's mae
yo're afraid of. Yo think I med bae too roough with yo."

But at that she cried out with a little tender cry and pressed close
to him.

"No--no--no--it isn't you. It isn't. It couldn't be."

He crushed her in his arms. His mouth clung to her face and passed
over it and covered it with kisses.

"Am I too roough? Tall mae--tall mae."

"No," she whispered.

He pushed back her hat from her forehead, kissing her hair. She took
off her hat and flung it on the floor.

His voice came fast and thick.

"Kiss mae back ef yo loove mae."

She kissed him. She stiffened and leaned back in the crook of his arm
that held her.

His senses swam. He grasped her as if he would have lifted her bodily
from the floor. She was light in his arms as a child. He had turned
her from the window.

He looked fiercely round the room that shut them in. His eyes lowered;
they fixed themselves on the bed with its white counterpane. They
saw under the white counterpane the dead body of his father stretched
there, and the stain on the grim beard tilted to the ceiling.

He loosed her and pushed her from him.

"We moost coom out o' this," he muttered.

He pushed her from the room, gently, with a hand on her shoulder, and
made her go before him down the stairs.

He went back into the room to pick up her hat.

He found her waiting for him, looking back, at the turn of the stair
where John Greatorex's coffin had stuck in the corner of the wall.

"Jim--I'm so frightened," she said.

"Ay. Yo'll bae all right downstairs."

They stood in the kitchen, each looking at the other, each panting,
she in her terror and he in his agony.

"Take me away," she said. "Out of the house. That room frightened me.
There's something there."

"Ay;" he assented. "There med bae soomthing. Sall we goa oop t'

* * * * *

The Three Fields looked over the back of Upthorne Farm. Naked and
gray, the great stone barn looked over the Three Fields. A narrow
track led to it, through the gaps, slantwise, from the gate of the

Above the fields the barren, ruined hillside ended and the moor began.
It rolled away southward and westward, in dusk and purple and silver
green, utterly untamed, uncaught by the network of the stone walls.

The barn stood high and alone on the slope of the last field, a long,
broad-built nave without its tower. A single thorn-tree crouched
beside it.

Alice Cartaret and Greatorex went slowly up the Three Fields. There
was neither thought nor purpose in their going.

The quivering air was like a sheet of glass let down between plain and

Slowly, with mournful cries, a flock of mountain sheep came down over
the shoulder of the moor. Behind them a solitary figure topped the
rise as Alice and Greatorex came up the field-track.

Alice stopped in the track and turned.

"Somebody's coming over the moor. He'll see us."

Greatorex stood scanning the hill.

"'Tis Nad, wi' t' dawg, drivin' t' sheep."

"Oh, Jim, he'll see us."

"Nat he!"

But he drew her behind the shelter of the barn.

"He'll come down the fields. He'll be sure to see us."

"Ef he doos, caann't I walk in my awn fealds wi' my awn sweetheart?"

"I don't want to be seen," she moaned.

"Wall--?" he pushed open the door of the barn. "Wae'll creep in here
than, tall he's paassed."

A gray light slid through the half-shut door and through the long,
narrow slits in the walls. From the open floor of the loft there came
the sweet, heavy scent of hay.

"He'll see the door open. He'll come in. He'll find us here."

"He wawn't."

But Jim shut the door.

"We're saafe enoof. But 'tis naw plaace for yo. Yo'll mook yore lil
feet. Staay there--where yo are--tell I tall yo."

He groped his way in the half darkness up the hay loft stair. She
heard his foot going heavily on the floor over her head.

He drew back the bolt and pushed open the door in the high wall. The
sunlight flooded the loft; it streamed down the stair. The dust danced
in it.

Jim stood on the stair. He smiled down at Alice where she waited

"Coom oop into t' haay loft, Ally."

He stooped. He held out his hand and she climbed to him up the stair.

They sat there on the floor of the loft, silent, in the attitude of
children who crouch hiding in their play. He had strewn for her a
carpet of the soft, sweet hay and piled it into cushions.

"Oh, Jim," she said at last. "I'm so frightened. I'm so horribly

She stretched out her arm and slid her hand into his.

Jim's hand pressed hers and let it go. He leaned forward, his elbows
propped on his knees, his hands clutching his forehead. And in his
thick, mournful voice he spoke.

"Yo wouldn't bae freetened ef yo married mae. There'd bae an and of
these scares, an' wae sudn't 'ave t' roon these awful risks."

"I can't marry you, darling. I can't."

"Yo caann't, because yo're freetened o' mae. I coom back to thot. Yo
think I'm joost a roough man thot caann't understand yo. But I do. I
couldn't bae roough with yo, Ally, anny more than Nad, oop yon, could
bae roough wi' t' lil laambs."

He was lying flat on his back now, with his arms stretched out above
his head. He stared up at the rafters as he went on.

"Yo wouldn't bae freetened o' mae ef yo looved mae as I loove yo."

That brought her to his side with her soft cry.

For a moment he lay rigid and still.

Then he turned and put his arm round her. The light streamed on them
where they lay. Through the open doorway of the loft they heard the
cry of the sheep coming down into the pasture.

* * * * *

Greatorex got up and slid the door softly to.


Morfe Fair was over and the farmers were going home.

A broken, straggling traffic was on the roads from dale to dale. There
were men who went gaily in spring carts and in wagons. There were men
on horseback and on foot who drove their sheep and their cattle before

A train of three were going slowly up Garthdale, with much lingering
to gather together and rally the weary and bewildered flocks.

Into this train there burst, rocking at full gallop, a trap drawn
by Greatorex's terrified and indignant mare. Daisy was not driven
by Greatorex, for the reins were slack in his dropped hands, she was
urged, whipped up, and maddened to her relentless speed. Her open
nostrils drank the wind of her going.

Greatorex's face flamed and his eyes were brilliant. They declared a
furious ecstasy. Ever and again he rose and struggled to stand upright
and recover his grip of the reins. Ever and again he was pitched
backward on to the seat where he swayed, perilously, with the swaying
of the trap.

Behind him, in the bottom of the trap, two young calves, netted in,
pushed up their melancholy eyes and innocent noses through the mesh.
Hurled against each other, flung rhythmically from side to side, they
shared the blind trouble of the man and the torment of the mare.

For the first two miles out of Morfe the trap charged, scattering men
and beasts before it and taking the curves of the road at a tangent.
With the third mile the pace slackened. The mare had slaked her thirst
for the wind of her going and Greatorex's fury was appeased. At the
risk of pitching forward over the step he succeeded in gathering up
the reins as they neared the dangerous descent to Garthdale.

He had now dropped from the violence of his ecstasy into a dream-like
state in which he was borne swaying on a vague, interminable road that
overhung, giddily, the bottomless pit and was flanked by hills that
loomed and reeled, that oppressed him with their horrible immensity.

He passed the bridge, the church, the Vicarage, the schoolhouse with
its beckoning tree, and by the mercy of heaven he was unaware of them.

At the turn of the road, On Upthorne hill, the mare, utterly sobered
by the gradient, bowed her head and went with slow, wise feet, taking
care of the trap and of her master.

As for Greatorex, he had ceased to struggle. And at the door of his
house his servant Maggie received him in her arms.

* * * * *

He stayed in bed the whole of the next day, bearing his sickness,
while Maggie waited on him. And in the evening when he lay under her
hand, weak, but clear-headed, she delivered herself of what was in her

"Wall--yo may thank Gawd yo're laayin' saafe in yore bed, Jim
Greatorex. It'd sarve yo right ef Daaisy 'd lat yo coom hoam oopside
down wi yore 'ead draggin' in t' road. Soom daay yo'll bae laayin'
there with yore nack brawken.

"Ay, yo may well scootle oonder t' sheets, though there's nawbody
but mae t' look at yo. Yo'd navver tooch anoother drap o' thot felthy
stoof, Jimmy, ef yo could sea yoreself what a sight yo bae. Naw
woonder Assy Gaale wouldn't 'ave yo, for all yo've laft her wi' t' lil

"Who toald yo she wouldn't 'ave mae?"

"Naybody toald mae. But I knaw. I knaw. I wouldn't 'ave yo myself ef
yo aassked mae. I want naw droonkards to marry mae."

Greatorex became pensive.

"Yo'd bae freetened o' mae, Maaggie?" he asked.

And Maggie, seeing her advantage, drove it home.

"There's more than mae and Assy thot's freetened t' marry yo," she

He darkened. "Yo 'oald yore tongue. Yo dawn't knaw what yo're saayin',
my laass."

"Dawn't I? There's more than mae thot knaws, Mr. Greatorex. Assy isn't
t' awnly woon yo've maade talk o' t' plaace."

"What do yo mane? Speaak oop. What d'yo mane----Yo knaw?"

"Yo'd best aassk Naddy. He med tall ye 'oo was with yo laasst Soonda
oop t' feald in t' girt byre."

"Naddy couldn't sae 'oo 't was. Med a been Assy. Med a been yo."

"'T wasn' mae, Mr. Greatorex, an' 't was n' Assy. Look yo 'ere. I tall
yo Assy's freetened o' yo."

"'Oo says she's freetened?"

"I saays it. She's thot freetened thot she'd wash yore sweet'eart's
dirty cleathes sooner 'n marry yo."

"She doesn't wash them?"

"Shea does. T' kape yore baaby, Jim Greatorex."

With that she left him.

* * * * *

For the next three months Greatorex was more than ever uneasy in his
soul. The Sunday after Maggie's outburst he had sat all morning and
afternoon in his parlor with his father's Bible. He had not even tried
to see Alice Cartaret.

For three months, off and on, in the intervals of seeing Alice, he
longed, with an intense and painful longing, for his God. He longed
for him just because he felt that he was utterly separated from him by
his sin. He wanted the thing he couldn't have and wasn't fit to have.
He wanted it, just as he wanted Alice Cartaret.

And by his sin he did not mean his getting drunk. Greatorex did not
think of God as likely to take his getting drunk very seriously,
any more than he had seemed to take Maggie and Essy seriously. For
Greatorex measured God's reprobation by his own repentance.

His real offense against God was his offense against Alice Cartaret.
He had got drunk in order to forget it.

But that resource would henceforth be denied him. He was not going
to get drunk any more, because he knew that if he did Alice Cartaret
wouldn't marry him.

Meanwhile he nourished his soul on its own longing, on the Psalms of
David and on the Book of Job.

Greatorex would have made a happy saint. But he was a most lugubrious


The train from Durlingham rolled slowly into Reyburn station.

Gwenda Cartaret leaned from the window of a third class carriage and
looked up and down the platform. She got out, handing her suit-case
to a friendly porter. Nobody had come to meet her. They were much too
busy up at the Vicarage.

From the next compartment there alighted a group of six persons, a
lady in widow's weeds, an elderly lady and gentleman who addressed her
affectionately as "Fanny, dear," and (obviously belonging to the pair)
a very young man and a still younger woman.

There was also a much older man, closely attached to them, but not
quite so obviously related.

These six people also looked up and down the platform, expecting to
be met. They were interested in Gwenda Cartaret. They gazed at her as
they had already glanced, surreptitiously and kindly, on the platform
at Durlingham. Now they seemed to be saying to themselves that they
were sure it must be she.

Gwenda walked quickly away from them and disappeared through the
booking-office into the station yard.

And then Rowcliffe, who had apparently been hiding in the general
waiting-room, came out on to the platform.

The six fell upon him with cries of joy and affection.

They were his mother, his paternal uncle and aunt, his two youngest
cousins, and Dr. Harker, his best friend and colleague who had taken
his place in January when he had been ill.

They had all come down from Leeds for Rowcliffe's wedding.

* * * * *

Rowcliffe's trap and Peacock's from Garthdale stood side by side in
the station-yard.

Gwenda in Peacock's trap had left the town before she heard behind her
the clanking hoofs of Rowcliffe's little brown horse.

She thought, "He will pass in another minute. I shall see him."

But she did not see him. All the way up Rathdale to Morfe the sound of
the wheels and of the clanking hoofs pursued her, and Rowcliffe still
hung back. He did not want to pass her.

"Well," said Peacock, "thot beats mae. I sud navver a thought thot t'
owd maare could a got away from t' doctor's horse. Nat ef e'd a mind
t' paass 'er."

"No," said Gwenda. She was thinking, "It's Mary. It's Mary. How could
she, when she _knew_, when she was on her honor not to think of him?"

And she remembered a conversation she had had with her stepmother two
months ago, when the news came. (Robina had seized the situation at a
glance and she had probed it to its core.)

"You wanted him to marry Ally, did you? It wasn't much good you're
going away if you left him with Mary."

"But," she had said, "Mary knew."

And Robina had answered, marvelously. "You should never have let her.
It was her knowing that did it. You were three women to one man, and
Mary was the one without a scruple. Do you suppose she'd think of Ally
or of you, either?"

And she had tried to be loyal to Mary and to Rowcliffe. She had said,
"If we _were_ three, we all had our innings, and he made his choice."

And Robina, "It was Mary did the choosing."

She had added that Gwenda was a little fool, and that she ought to
have known that though Mary was as meek as Moses she was that sort.

She went on, thinking, to the steady clanking of the hoofs.

"I suppose," she said to herself, "she couldn't help it."

The lights of Morfe shone through the November darkness. The little
slow mare crawled up the winding hill to the top of the Green;
Rowcliffe's horse was slower. But no sooner had Peacock's trap passed
the doctor's house on its way out of the village square, than the
clanking hoofs went fast.

Rowcliffe was free to go his own pace now.

* * * * *

"Which of you two is going to hook me up?" said Mary.

She was in the Vicar's room, putting on her wedding-gown before the
wardrobe glass. Her two sisters were dressing her.

"I will," said Gwenda.

"You'd better let me," said Alice. "I know where the eyes are."

Gwenda lifted up the wedding-veil and held it ready. And while Alice
pulled and fumbled Mary gazed at her own reflection and at Alice's.

"You should have done as Mummy said and had your frock made in London,
like Gwenda. They'd have given you a decent cut. You look as if you
couldn't breathe."

"My frock's all right," said Alice.

Her fingers trembled as she strained at the hooks and eyes.

And in the end it was Gwenda who hooked Mary up while Alice held the
veil. She held it in front of her. The long streaming net shivered
with the trembling of her hands.

* * * * *

The wedding was at two o'clock. The church was crowded, so were the
churchyard and the road beside the Vicarage and the bridge over the
beck. Morfe and Greffington had emptied themselves into Garthdale.
(Greffington had lent its organist.)

It was only when it was all over that somebody noticed that Jim
Greatorex was not there with the village choir. "Celebrating a bit too
early," somebody said.

And it was only when it was all over that Rowcliffe found Gwenda.

He found her in the long, flat pause, the half-hour of profoundest
realisation that comes when the bride disappears to put off her
wedding-gown for the gown she will go away in. She had come out to the
wedding-party gathered at the door, to tell them that the bride would
soon be ready. Rowcliffe and Harker were standing apart, at the end of

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