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Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy

Part 3 out of 6

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furtively watching Lady Constantine with the hope that she might not
see him. But that she had already done, though she did not reveal
it, and, fearing that the latter words of their conversation had
been overheard, they spoke not till they had passed the next

She stretched out her hand to his. 'This must not go on,' she said
imploringly. 'My anxiety as to what may be said of such methods of
meeting makes me too unhappy. See what has happened!' She could
not help smiling. 'Out of the frying-pan into the fire! After
meanly turning to avoid the parson we have rushed into a worse
publicity. It is too humiliating to have to avoid people, and
lowers both you and me. The only remedy is not to meet.'

'Very well,' said Swithin, with a sigh. 'So it shall be.'

And with smiles that might more truly have been tears they parted
there and then.


The summer passed away, and autumn, with its infinite suite of
tints, came creeping on. Darker grew the evenings, tearfuller the
moonlights, and heavier the dews. Meanwhile the comet had waxed to
its largest dimensions,--so large that not only the nucleus but a
portion of the tail had been visible in broad day. It was now on
the wane, though every night the equatorial still afforded an
opportunity of observing the singular object which would soon
disappear altogether from the heavens for perhaps thousands of

But the astronomer of the Rings-Hill Speer was no longer a match for
his celestial materials. Scientifically he had become but a dim
vapour of himself; the lover had come into him like an armed man,
and cast out the student, and his intellectual situation was growing
a life-and-death matter.

The resolve of the pair had been so far kept: they had not seen
each other in private for three months. But on one day in October
he ventured to write a note to her:--

'I can do nothing! I have ceased to study, ceased to observe. The
equatorial is useless to me. This affection I have for you absorbs
my life, and outweighs my intentions. The power to labour in this
grandest of fields has left me. I struggle against the weakness
till I think of the cause, and then I bless her. But the very
desperation of my circumstances has suggested a remedy; and this I
would inform you of at once.

'Can you come to me, since I must not come to you? I will wait to-
morrow night at the edge of the plantation by which you would enter
to the column. I will not detain you; my plan can be told in ten

The night after posting this missive to her he waited at the spot

It was a melancholy evening for coming abroad. A blusterous wind
had risen during the day, and still continued to increase. Yet he
stood watchful in the darkness, and was ultimately rewarded by
discerning a shady muffled shape that embodied itself from the
field, accompanied by the scratching of silk over stubble. There
was no longer any disguise as to the nature of their meeting. It
was a lover's assignation, pure and simple; and boldly realizing it
as such he clasped her in his arms.

'I cannot bear this any longer!' he exclaimed. 'Three months since
I saw you alone! Only a glimpse of you in church, or a bow from the
distance, in all that time! What a fearful struggle this keeping
apart has been!'

'Yet I would have had strength to persist, since it seemed best,'
she murmured when she could speak, 'had not your words on your
condition so alarmed and saddened me. This inability of yours to
work, or study, or observe,--it is terrible! So terrible a sting is
it to my conscience that your hint about a remedy has brought me

'Yet I don't altogether mind it, since it is you, my dear, who have
displaced the work; and yet the loss of time nearly distracts me,
when I have neither the power to work nor the delight of your

'But your remedy! O, I cannot help guessing it! Yes; you are going

'Let us ascend the column; we can speak more at ease there. Then I
will explain all. I would not ask you to climb so high but the hut
is not yet furnished.'

He entered the cabin at the foot, and having lighted a small
lantern, conducted her up the hollow staircase to the top, where he
closed the slides of the dome to keep out the wind, and placed the
observing-chair for her.

'I can stay only five minutes,' she said, without sitting down.
'You said it was important that you should see me, and I have come.
I assure you it is at a great risk. If I am seen here at this time
I am ruined for ever. But what would I not do for you? O Swithin,
your remedy--is it to go away? There is no other; and yet I dread
that like death!'

'I can tell you in a moment, but I must begin at the beginning. All
this ruinous idleness and distraction is caused by the misery of our
not being able to meet with freedom. The fear that something may
snatch you from me keeps me in a state of perpetual apprehension.'

'It is too true also of me! I dread that some accident may happen,
and waste my days in meeting the trouble half-way.'

'So our lives go on, and our labours stand still. Now for the
remedy. Dear Lady Constantine, allow me to marry you.'

She started, and the wind without shook the building, sending up a
yet intenser moan from the firs.

'I mean, marry you quite privately. Let it make no difference
whatever to our outward lives for years, for I know that in my
present position you could not possibly acknowledge me as husband
publicly. But by marrying at once we secure the certainty that we
cannot be divided by accident, coaxing, or artifice; and, at ease on
that point, I shall embrace my studies with the old vigour, and you

Lady Constantine was so agitated at the unexpected boldness of such
a proposal from one hitherto so boyish and deferential that she sank
into the observing-chair, her intention to remain for only a few
minutes being quite forgotten.

She covered her face with her hands. 'No, no, I dare not!' she

'But is there a single thing else left to do?' he pleaded, kneeling
down beside her, less in supplication than in abandonment. 'What
else can we do?'

'Wait till you are famous.'

'But I cannot be famous unless I strive, and this distracting
condition prevents all striving!'

'Could you not strive on if I--gave you a promise, a solemn promise,
to be yours when your name is fairly well known?'

St. Cleeve breathed heavily. 'It will be a long, weary time,' he
said. 'And even with your promise I shall work but half-heartedly.
Every hour of study will be interrupted with "Suppose this or this
happens;" "Suppose somebody persuades her to break her promise;"
worse still, "Suppose some rival maligns me, and so seduces her
away." No, Lady Constantine, dearest, best as you are, that element
of distraction would still remain, and where that is, no sustained
energy is possible. Many erroneous things have been written and
said by the sages, but never did they float a greater fallacy than
that love serves as a stimulus to win the loved one by patient

'I cannot argue with you,' she said weakly.

'My only possible other chance would lie in going away,' he resumed
after a moment's reflection, with his eyes on the lantern flame,
which waved and smoked in the currents of air that leaked into the
dome from the fierce wind-stream without. 'If I might take away the
equatorial, supposing it possible that I could find some suitable
place for observing in the southern hemisphere,--say, at the Cape,--
I MIGHT be able to apply myself to serious work again, after the
lapse of a little time. The southern constellations offer a less
exhausted field for investigation. I wonder if I might!'

'You mean,' she answered uneasily, 'that you might apply yourself to
work when your recollection of me began to fade, and my life to
become a matter of indifference to you?. . Yes, go! No,--I cannot
bear it! The remedy is worse than the disease. I cannot let you go

'Then how can you refuse the only condition on which I can stay,
without ruin to my purpose and scandal to your name? Dearest, agree
to my proposal, as you love both me and yourself!'

He waited, while the fir-trees rubbed and prodded the base of the
tower, and the wind roared around and shook it; but she could not
find words to reply.

'Would to God,' he burst out, 'that I might perish here, like
Winstanley in his lighthouse! Then the difficulty would be solved
for you.'

'You are so wrong, so very wrong, in saying so!' she exclaimed
passionately. 'You may doubt my wisdom, pity my short-sightedness;
but there is one thing you do know,--that I love you dearly!'

'You do,--I know it!' he said, softened in a moment. 'But it seems
such a simple remedy for the difficulty that I cannot see how you
can mind adopting it, if you care so much for me as I do for you.'

'Should we live. . . just as we are, exactly, . . . supposing I
agreed?' she faintly inquired.

'Yes, that is my idea.'

'Quite privately, you say. How could--the marriage be quite

'I would go away to London and get a license. Then you could come
to me, and return again immediately after the ceremony. I could
return at leisure and not a soul in the world would know what had
taken place. Think, dearest, with what a free conscience you could
then assist me in my efforts to plumb these deeps above us! Any
feeling that you may now have against clandestine meetings as such
would then be removed, and our hearts would be at rest.'

There was a certain scientific practicability even in his love-
making, and it here came out excellently. But she sat on with
suspended breath, her heart wildly beating, while he waited in open-
mouthed expectation. Each was swayed by the emotion within them,
much as the candle-flame was swayed by the tempest without. It was
the most critical evening of their lives.

The pale rays of the little lantern fell upon her beautiful face,
snugly and neatly bound in by her black bonnet; but not a beam of
the lantern leaked out into the night to suggest to any watchful eye
that human life at its highest excitement was beating within the
dark and isolated tower; for the dome had no windows, and every
shutter that afforded an opening for the telescope was hermetically
closed. Predilections and misgivings so equally strove within her
still youthful breast that she could not utter a word; her intention
wheeled this way and that like the balance of a watch. His
unexpected proposition had brought about the smartest encounter of
inclination with prudence, of impulse with reserve, that she had
ever known.

Of all the reasons that she had expected him to give for his urgent
request to see her this evening, an offer of marriage was probably
the last. Whether or not she had ever amused herself with
hypothetical fancies on such a subject,--and it was only natural
that she should vaguely have done so,--the courage in her protege
coolly to advance it, without a hint from herself that such a
proposal would be tolerated, showed her that there was more in his
character than she had reckoned on: and the discovery almost
frightened her. The humour, attitude, and tenor of her attachment
had been of quite an unpremeditated quality, unsuggestive of any
such audacious solution to their distresses as this.

'I repeat my question, dearest,' he said, after her long pause.
'Shall it be done? Or shall I exile myself, and study as best I
can, in some distant country, out of sight and sound?'

'Are those the only alternatives? Yes, yes; I suppose they are!'
She waited yet another moment, bent over his kneeling figure, and
kissed his forehead. 'Yes; it shall be done,' she whispered. 'I
will marry you.'

'My angel, I am content!'

He drew her yielding form to his heart, and her head sank upon his
shoulder, as he pressed his two lips continuously upon hers. To
such had the study of celestial physics brought them in the space of
eight months, one week, and a few odd days.

'I am weaker than you,--far the weaker,' she went on, her tears
falling. 'Rather than lose you out of my sight I will marry without
stipulation or condition. But--I put it to your kindness--grant me
one little request.'

He instantly assented.

'It is that, in consideration of my peculiar position in this
county,--O, you can't understand it!--you will not put an end to the
absolute secrecy of our relationship without my full assent. Also,
that you will never come to Welland House without first discussing
with me the advisability of the visit, accepting my opinion on the
point. There, see how a timid woman tries to fence herself in!'

'My dear lady-love, neither of those two high-handed courses should
I have taken, even had you not stipulated against them. The very
essence of our marriage plan is that those two conditions are kept.
I see as well as you do, even more than you do, how important it is
that for the present,--ay, for a long time hence--I should still be
but the curate's lonely son, unattached to anybody or anything, with
no object of interest but his science; and you the recluse lady of
the manor, to whom he is only an acquaintance.'

'See what deceits love sows in honest minds!'

'It would be a humiliation to you at present that I could not bear
if a marriage between us were made public; an inconvenience without
any compensating advantage.'

'I am so glad you assume it without my setting it before you! Now I
know you are not only good and true, but politic and trustworthy.'

'Well, then, here is our covenant. My lady swears to marry me; I,
in return for such great courtesy, swear never to compromise her by
intruding at Welland House, and to keep the marriage concealed till
I have won a position worthy of her.'

'Or till I request it to be made known,' she added, possibly
foreseeing a contingency which had not occurred to him.

'Or till you request it,' he repeated.

'It is agreed,' murmured Lady Constantine,


After this there only remained to be settled between them the
practical details of the project.

These were that he should leave home in a couple of days, and take
lodgings either in the distant city of Bath or in a convenient
suburb of London, till a sufficient time should have elapsed to
satisfy legal requirements; that on a fine morning at the end of
this time she should hie away to the same place, and be met at the
station by St. Cleeve, armed with the marriage license; whence they
should at once proceed to the church fixed upon for the ceremony;
returning home independently in the course of the next two or three

While these tactics were under discussion the two-and-thirty winds
of heaven continued, as before, to beat about the tower, though
their onsets appeared to be somewhat lessening in force. Himself
now calmed and satisfied, Swithin, as is the wont of humanity, took
serener views of Nature's crushing mechanics without, and said, 'The
wind doesn't seem disposed to put the tragic period to our hopes and
fears that I spoke of in my momentary despair.'

'The disposition of the wind is as vicious as ever,' she answered,
looking into his face with pausing thoughts on, perhaps, other
subjects than that discussed. 'It is your mood of viewing it that
has changed. "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking
makes it so."'

And, as if flatly to stultify Swithin's assumption, a circular
hurricane, exceeding in violence any that had preceded it, seized
hold upon Rings-Hill Speer at that moment with the determination of
a conscious agent. The first sensation of a resulting catastrophe
was conveyed to their intelligence by the flapping of the candle-
flame against the lantern-glass; then the wind, which hitherto they
had heard rather than felt, rubbed past them like a fugitive.
Swithin beheld around and above him, in place of the concavity of
the dome, the open heaven, with its racing clouds, remote horizon,
and intermittent gleam of stars. The dome that had covered the
tower had been whirled off bodily; and they heard it descend
crashing upon the trees.

Finding himself untouched Swithin stretched out his arms towards
Lady Constantine, whose apparel had been seized by the spinning air,
nearly lifting her off her legs. She, too, was as yet unharmed.
Each held the other for a moment, when, fearing that something
further would happen, they took shelter in the staircase.

'Dearest, what an escape!' he said, still holding her.

'What is the accident?' she asked. 'Has the whole top really gone?'

'The dome has been blown off the roof.'

As soon as it was practicable he relit the extinguished lantern, and
they emerged again upon the leads, where the extent of the disaster
became at once apparent. Saving the absence of the enclosing
hemisphere all remained the same. The dome, being constructed of
wood, was light by comparison with the rest of the structure, and
the wheels which allowed it horizontal, or, as Swithin expressed it,
azimuth motion, denied it a firm hold upon the walls; so that it had
been lifted off them like a cover from a pot. The equatorial stood
in the midst as it had stood before.

Having executed its grotesque purpose the wind sank to comparative
mildness. Swithin took advantage of this lull by covering up the
instruments with cloths, after which the betrothed couple prepared
to go downstairs.

But the events of the night had not yet fully disclosed themselves.
At this moment there was a sound of footsteps and a knocking at the
door below.

'It can't be for me!' said Lady Constantine. 'I retired to my room
before leaving the house, and told them on no account to disturb

She remained at the top while Swithin went down the spiral. In the
gloom he beheld Hannah.

'O Master Swithin, can ye come home! The wind have blowed down the
chimley that don't smoke, and the pinning-end with it; and the old
ancient house, that have been in your family so long as the memory
of man, is naked to the world! It is a mercy that your grammer were
not killed, sitting by the hearth, poor old soul, and soon to walk
wi' God,--for 'a 's getting wambling on her pins, Mr. Swithin, as
aged folks do. As I say, 'a was all but murdered by the elements,
and doing no more harm than the babes in the wood, nor speaking one
harmful word. And the fire and smoke were blowed all across house
like a chapter in Revelation; and your poor reverent father's
features scorched to flakes, looking like the vilest ruffian, and
the gilt frame spoiled! Every flitch, every eye-piece, and every
chine is buried under the walling; and I fed them pigs with my own
hands, Master Swithin, little thinking they would come to this end.
Do ye collect yourself, Mr. Swithin, and come at once!'

'I will,--I will. I'll follow you in a moment. Do you hasten back
again and assist.'

When Hannah had departed the young man ran up to Lady Constantine,
to whom he explained the accident. After sympathizing with old Mrs.
Martin Lady Constantine added, 'I thought something would occur to
mar our scheme!'

'I am not quite sure of that yet.'

On a short consideration with him, she agreed to wait at the top of
the tower till he could come back and inform her if the accident
were really so serious as to interfere with his plan for departure.
He then left her, and there she sat in the dark, alone, looking over
the parapet, and straining her eyes in the direction of the

At first all was obscurity; but when he had been gone about ten
minutes lights began to move to and fro in the hollow where the
house stood, and shouts occasionally mingled with the wind, which
retained some violence yet, playing over the trees beneath her as on
the strings of a lyre. But not a bough of them was visible, a cloak
of blackness covering everything netherward; while overhead the
windy sky looked down with a strange and disguised face, the three
or four stars that alone were visible being so dissociated by clouds
that she knew not which they were. Under any other circumstances
Lady Constantine might have felt a nameless fear in thus sitting
aloft on a lonely column, with a forest groaning under her feet, and
palaeolithic dead men feeding its roots; but the recent passionate
decision stirred her pulses to an intensity beside which the
ordinary tremors of feminine existence asserted themselves in vain.
The apocalyptic effect of the scene surrounding her was, indeed, not
inharmonious, and afforded an appropriate background to her

After what seemed to her an interminable space of time, quick steps
in the staircase became audible above the roar of the firs, and in a
few instants St. Cleeve again stood beside her.

The case of the homestead was serious. Hannah's account had not
been exaggerated in substance: the gable end of the house was open
to the garden; the joists, left without support, had dropped, and
with them the upper floor. By the help of some labourers, who lived
near, and Lady Constantine's man Anthony, who was passing at the
time, the homestead had been propped up, and protected for the night
by some rickcloths; but Swithin felt that it would be selfish in the
highest degree to leave two lonely old women to themselves at this
juncture. 'In short,' he concluded despondently, 'I cannot go to
stay in Bath or London just now; perhaps not for another fortnight!'

'Never mind,' she said. 'A fortnight hence will do as well.'

'And I have these for you,' he continued. 'Your man Green was
passing my grandmother's on his way back from Warborne, where he had
been, he says, for any letters that had come for you by the evening
post. As he stayed to assist the other men I told him I would go on
to your house with the letters he had brought. Of course I did not
tell him I should see you here.'

'Thank you. Of course not. Now I'll return at once.'

In descending the column her eye fell upon the superscription of one
of the letters, and she opened and glanced over it by the lantern
light. She seemed startled, and, musing, said, 'The postponement of
our--intention must be, I fear, for a long time. I find that after
the end of this month I cannot leave home safely, even for a day.'
Perceiving that he was about to ask why, she added, 'I will not
trouble you with the reason now; it would only harass you. It is
only a family business, and cannot be helped.'

'Then we cannot be married till--God knows when!' said Swithin
blankly. 'I cannot leave home till after the next week or two; you
cannot leave home unless within that time. So what are we to do?'

'I do not know.'

'My dear, dear one, don't let us be beaten like this! Don't let a
well-considered plan be overthrown by a mere accident! Here's a
remedy. Do YOU go and stay the requisite time in the parish we are
to be married in, instead of me. When my grandmother is again well
housed I can come to you, instead of you to me, as we first said.
Then it can be done within the time.'

Reluctantly, shyly, and yet with a certain gladness of heart, she
gave way to his proposal that they should change places in the
programme. There was much that she did not like in it, she said.
It seemed to her as if she were taking the initiative by going and
attending to the preliminaries. It was the man's part to do that,
in her opinion, and was usually undertaken by him.

'But,' argued Swithin, 'there are cases in which the woman does give
the notices, and so on; that is to say, when the man is absolutely
hindered from doing so; and ours is such a case. The seeming is
nothing; I know the truth, and what does it matter? You do not
refuse--retract your word to be my wife, because, to avoid a
sickening delay, the formalities require you to attend to them in
place of me?'

She did not refuse, she said. In short she agreed to his entreaty.
They had, in truth, gone so far in their dream of union that there
was no drawing back now. Whichever of them was forced by
circumstances to be the protagonist in the enterprise, the thing
must be done. Their intention to become husband and wife, at first
halting and timorous, had accumulated momentum with the lapse of
hours, till it now bore down every obstacle in its course.

'Since you beg me to,--since there is no alternative between my
going and a long postponement,' she said, as they stood in the dark
porch of Welland House before parting,--'since I am to go first, and
seem to be the pioneer in this adventure, promise me, Swithin,
promise your Viviette, that in years to come, when perhaps you may
not love me so warmly as you do now--'

'That will never be.'

'Well, hoping it will not, but supposing it should, promise me that
you will never reproach me as the one who took the initiative when
it should have been yourself, forgetting that it was at your
request; promise that you will never say I showed immodest readiness
to do so, or anything which may imply your obliviousness of the fact
that I act in obedience to necessity and your earnest prayer.'

Need it be said that he promised never to reproach her with that or
any other thing as long as they should live? The few details of the
reversed arrangement were soon settled, Bath being the place finally
decided on. Then, with a warm audacity which events had encouraged,
he pressed her to his breast, and she silently entered the house.
He returned to the homestead, there to attend to the unexpected
duties of repairing the havoc wrought by the gale.

That night, in the solitude of her chamber, Lady Constantine
reopened and read the subjoined letter--one of those handed to her
by St. Cleeve:--

October 15, 18--.

'DEAR VIVIETTE,--You will be surprised to learn that I am in
England, and that I am again out of harness--unless you should have
seen the latter in the papers. Rio Janeiro may do for monkeys, but
it won't do for me. Having resigned the appointment I have returned
here, as a preliminary step to finding another vent for my energies;
in other words, another milch cow for my sustenance. I knew nothing
whatever of your husband's death till two days ago; so that any
letter from you on the subject, at the time it became known, must
have miscarried. Hypocrisy at such a moment is worse than useless,
and I therefore do not condole with you, particularly as the event,
though new to a banished man like me, occurred so long since. You
are better without him, Viviette, and are now just the limb for
doing something for yourself, notwithstanding the threadbare state
in which you seem to have been cast upon the world. You are still
young, and, as I imagine (unless you have vastly altered since I
beheld you), good-looking: therefore make up your mind to retrieve
your position by a match with one of the local celebrities; and you
would do well to begin drawing neighbouring covers at once. A
genial squire, with more weight than wit, more realty than weight,
and more personalty than realty (considering the circumstances),
would be best for you. You might make a position for us both by
some such alliance; for, to tell the truth, I have had but in-and-
out luck so far. I shall be with you in little more than a
fortnight, when we will talk over the matter seriously, if you don't
object.--Your affectionate brother,

It was this allusion to her brother's coming visit which had caught
her eye in the tower staircase, and led to a modification in the
wedding arrangement.

Having read the letter through once Lady Constantine flung it aside
with an impatient little stamp that shook the decaying old floor and
casement. Its contents produced perturbation, misgiving, but not
retreat. The deep glow of enchantment shed by the idea of a private
union with her beautiful young lover killed the pale light of cold
reasoning from an indifferently good relative.

'Oh, no,' she murmured, as she sat, covering her face with her hand.
'Not for wealth untold could I give him up now!'

No argument, short of Apollo in person from the clouds, would have
influenced her. She made her preparations for departure as if
nothing had intervened.


In her days of prosperity Lady Constantine had often gone to the
city of Bath, either frivolously, for shopping purposes, or musico-
religiously, to attend choir festivals in the abbey; so there was
nothing surprising in her reverting to an old practice. That the
journey might appear to be of a somewhat similar nature she took
with her the servant who had been accustomed to accompany her on
former occasions, though the woman, having now left her service, and
settled in the village as the wife of Anthony Green, with a young
child on her hands, could with some difficulty leave home. Lady
Constantine overcame the anxious mother's scruples by providing that
young Green should be well cared for; and knowing that she could
count upon this woman's fidelity, if upon anybody's, in case of an
accident (for it was chiefly Lady Constantine's exertions that had
made an honest wife of Mrs. Green), she departed for a fortnight's

The next day found mistress and maid settled in lodgings in an old
plum-coloured brick street, which a hundred years ago could boast of
rank and fashion among its residents, though now the broad fan-light
over each broad door admitted the sun to the halls of a lodging-
house keeper only. The lamp-posts were still those that had done
duty with oil lights; and rheumatic old coachmen and postilions,
that once had driven and ridden gloriously from London to Land's
End, ornamented with their bent persons and bow legs the pavement in
front of the chief inn, in the sorry hope of earning sixpence to
keep body and soul together.

'We are kept well informed on the time o' day, my lady,' said Mrs.
Green, as she pulled down the blinds in Lady Constantine's room on
the evening of their arrival. 'There's a church exactly at the back
of us, and I hear every hour strike.'

Lady Constantine said she had noticed that there was a church quite

'Well, it is better to have that at the back than other folks'
winders. And if your ladyship wants to go there it won't be far to

'That's what occurred to me,' said Lady Constantine, 'IF I should
want to go.'

During the ensuing days she felt to the utmost the tediousness of
waiting merely that time might pass. Not a soul knew her there, and
she knew not a soul, a circumstance which, while it added to her
sense of secrecy, intensified her solitude. Occasionally she went
to a shop, with Green as her companion. Though there were purchases
to be made, they were by no means of a pressing nature, and but
poorly filled up the vacancies of those strange, speculative days,--
days surrounded by a shade of fear, yet poetized by sweet

On the thirteenth day she told Green that she was going to take a
walk, and leaving the house she passed by the obscurest streets to
the Abbey. After wandering about beneath the aisles till her
courage was screwed to its highest, she went out at the other side,
and, looking timidly round to see if anybody followed, walked on
till she came to a certain door, which she reached just at the
moment when her heart began to sink to its very lowest, rendering
all the screwing up in vain.

Whether it was because the month was October, or from any other
reason, the deserted aspect of the quarter in general sat especially
on this building. Moreover the pavement was up, and heaps of stone
and gravel obstructed the footway. Nobody was coming, nobody was
going, in that thoroughfare; she appeared to be the single one of
the human race bent upon marriage business, which seemed to have
been unanimously abandoned by all the rest of the world as proven
folly. But she thought of Swithin, his blonde hair, ardent eyes,
and eloquent lips, and was carried onward by the very reflection.

Entering the surrogate's room Lady Constantine managed, at the last
juncture, to state her errand in tones so collected as to startle
even herself to which her listener replied also as if the whole
thing were the most natural in the world. When it came to the
affirmation that she had lived fifteen days in the parish, she said
with dismay--

'O no! I thought the fifteen days meant the interval of residence
before the marriage takes place. I have lived here only thirteen
days and a half. Now I must come again!'

'Ah--well--I think you need not be so particular,' said the
surrogate. 'As a matter of fact, though the letter of the law
requires fifteen days' residence, many people make five sufficient.
The provision is inserted, as you doubtless are aware, to hinder
runaway marriages as much as possible, and secret unions, and other
such objectionable practices. You need not come again.'

That evening Lady Constantine wrote to Swithin St. Cleeve the last
letter of the fortnight:--

'MY DEAREST,--Do come to me as soon as you can. By a sort of
favouring blunder I have been able to shorten the time of waiting by
a day. Come at once, for I am almost broken down with apprehension.
It seems rather rash at moments, all this, and I wish you were here
to reassure me. I did not know I should feel so alarmed. I am
frightened at every footstep, and dread lest anybody who knows me
should accost me, and find out why I am here. I sometimes wonder
how I could have agreed to come and enact your part, but I did not
realize how trying it would be. You ought not to have asked me,
Swithin; upon my word, it was too cruel of you, and I will punish
you for it when you come! But I won't upbraid. I hope the
homestead is repaired that has cost me all this sacrifice of
modesty. If it were anybody in the world but YOU in question I
would rush home, without waiting here for the end of it,--I really
think I would! But, dearest, no. I must show my strength now, or
let it be for ever hid. The barriers of ceremony are broken down
between us, and it is for the best that I am here.'

And yet, at no point of this trying prelude need Lady Constantine
have feared for her strength. Deeds in this connexion demand the
particular kind of courage that such perfervid women are endowed
with, the courage of their emotions, in which young men are often
lamentably deficient. Her fear was, in truth, the fear of being
discovered in an unwonted position; not of the act itself. And
though her letter was in its way a true exposition of her feeling,
had it been necessary to go through the whole legal process over
again she would have been found equal to the emergency.

It had been for some days a point of anxiety with her what to do
with Green during the morning of the wedding. Chance unexpectedly
helped her in this difficulty. The day before the purchase of the
license Green came to Lady Constantine with a letter in her hand
from her husband Anthony, her face as long as a fiddle.

'I hope there's nothing the matter?' said Lady Constantine.

'The child's took bad, my lady!' said Mrs. Green, with suspended
floods of water in her eyes. 'I love the child better than I shall
love all them that's coming put together; for he's been a good boy
to his mother ever since twelve weeks afore he was born! 'Twas he,
a tender deary, that made Anthony marry me, and thereby turned
hisself from a little calamity to a little blessing! For, as you
know, the man were a backward man in the church part o' matrimony,
my lady; though he'll do anything when he's forced a bit by his
manly feelings. And now to lose the child--hoo-hoo-hoo! What shall
I doo!'

'Well, you want to go home at once, I suppose?'

Mrs. Green explained, between her sobs, that such was her desire;
and though this was a day or two sooner than her mistress had wished
to be left alone she consented to Green's departure. So during the
afternoon her woman went off, with directions to prepare for Lady
Constantine's return in two or three days. But as the exact day of
her return was uncertain no carriage was to be sent to the station
to meet her, her intention being to hire one from the hotel.

Lady Constantine was now left in utter solitude to await her lover's


A more beautiful October morning than that of the next day never
beamed into the Welland valleys. The yearly dissolution of leafage
was setting in apace. The foliage of the park trees rapidly
resolved itself into the multitude of complexions which mark the
subtle grades of decay, reflecting wet lights of such innumerable
hues that it was a wonder to think their beauties only a repetition
of scenes that had been exhibited there on scores of previous
Octobers, and had been allowed to pass away without a single dirge
from the imperturbable beings who walked among them. Far in the
shadows semi-opaque screens of blue haze made mysteries of the
commonest gravel-pit, dingle, or recess.

The wooden cabin at the foot of Rings-Hill Speer had been furnished
by Swithin as a sitting and sleeping apartment, some little while
before this time; for he had found it highly convenient, during
night observations at the top of the column, to remain on the spot
all night, not to disturb his grandmother by passing in and out of
the house, and to save himself the labour of incessantly crossing
the field.

He would much have liked to tell her the secret, and, had it been
his own to tell, would probably have done so; but sharing it with an
objector who knew not his grandmother's affection so well as he did
himself, there was no alternative to holding his tongue. The more
effectually to guard it he decided to sleep at the cabin during the
two or three nights previous to his departure, leaving word at the
homestead that in a day or two he was going on an excursion.

It was very necessary to start early. Long before the great eye of
the sun was lifted high enough to glance into the Welland valley,
St. Cleeve arose from his bed in the cabin and prepared to depart,
cooking his breakfast upon a little stove in the corner. The young
rabbits, littered during the foregoing summer, watched his
preparations through the open door from the grey dawn without, as he
bustled, half dressed, in and out under the boughs, and among the
blackberries and brambles that grew around.

It was a strange place for a bridegroom to perform his toilet in,
but, considering the unconventional nature of the marriage, a not
inappropriate one. What events had been enacted in that earthen
camp since it was first thrown up, nobody could say; but the
primitive simplicity of the young man's preparations accorded well
with the prehistoric spot on which they were made. Embedded under
his feet were possibly even now rude trinkets that had been worn at
bridal ceremonies of the early inhabitants. Little signified those
ceremonies to-day, or the happiness or otherwise of the contracting
parties. That his own rite, nevertheless, signified much, was the
inconsequent reasoning of Swithin, as it is of many another
bridegroom besides; and he, like the rest, went on with his
preparations in that mood which sees in his stale repetition the
wondrous possibilities of an untried move.

Then through the wet cobwebs, that hung like movable diaphragms on
each blade and bough, he pushed his way down to the furrow which led
from the secluded fir-tree island to the wide world beyond the

He was not a stranger to enterprise, and still less to the
contemplation of enterprise; but an enterprise such as this he had
never even outlined. That his dear lady was troubled at the
situation he had placed her in by not going himself on that errand,
he could see from her letter; but, believing an immediate marriage
with her to be the true way of restoring to both that equanimity
necessary to serene philosophy, he held it of little account how the
marriage was brought about, and happily began his journey towards
her place of sojourn.

He passed through a little copse before leaving the parish, the
smoke from newly lit fires rising like the stems of blue trees out
of the few cottage chimneys. Here he heard a quick, familiar
footstep in the path ahead of him, and, turning the corner of the
bushes, confronted the foot-post on his way to Welland. In answer
to St. Cleeve's inquiry if there was anything for himself the
postman handed out one letter, and proceeded on his route.

Swithin opened and read the letter as he walked, till it brought him
to a standstill by the importance of its contents.

They were enough to agitate a more phlegmatic youth than he. He
leant over the wicket which came in his path, and endeavoured to
comprehend the sense of the whole.

The large long envelope contained, first, a letter from a solicitor
in a northern town, informing him that his paternal great-uncle, who
had recently returned from the Cape (whither he had gone in an
attempt to repair a broken constitution), was now dead and buried.
This great-uncle's name was like a new creation to Swithin. He had
held no communication with the young man's branch of the family for
innumerable years,--never, in fact, since the marriage of Swithin's
father with the simple daughter of Welland Farm. He had been a
bachelor to the end of his life, and had amassed a fairly good
professional fortune by a long and extensive medical practice in the
smoky, dreary, manufacturing town in which he had lived and died.
Swithin had always been taught to think of him as the embodiment of
all that was unpleasant in man. He was narrow, sarcastic, and
shrewd to unseemliness. That very shrewdness had enabled him,
without much professional profundity, to establish his large and
lucrative connexion, which lay almost entirely among a class who
neither looked nor cared for drawing-room courtesies.

However, what Dr. St. Cleeve had been as a practitioner matters
little. He was now dead, and the bulk of his property had been left
to persons with whom this story has nothing to do. But Swithin was
informed that out of it there was a bequest of 600 pounds a year to
himself,--payment of which was to begin with his twenty-first year,
and continue for his life, unless he should marry before reaching
the age of twenty-five. In the latter precocious and objectionable
event his annuity would be forfeited. The accompanying letter, said
the solicitor, would explain all.

This, the second letter, was from his uncle to himself, written
about a month before the former's death, and deposited with his
will, to be forwarded to his nephew when that event should have
taken place. Swithin read, with the solemnity that such posthumous
epistles inspire, the following words from one who, during life, had
never once addressed him:-

'DEAR NEPHEW,--You will doubtless experience some astonishment at
receiving a communication from one whom you have never personally
known, and who, when this comes into your hands, will be beyond the
reach of your knowledge. Perhaps I am the loser by this life-long
mutual ignorance. Perhaps I am much to blame for it; perhaps not.
But such reflections are profitless at this date: I have written
with quite other views than to work up a sentimental regret on such
an amazingly remote hypothesis as that the fact of a particular pair
of people not meeting, among the millions of other pairs of people
who have never met, is a great calamity either to the world in
general or to themselves.

'The occasion of my addressing you is briefly this: Nine months ago
a report casually reached me that your scientific studies were
pursued by you with great ability, and that you were a young man of
some promise as an astronomer. My own scientific proclivities
rendered the report more interesting than it might otherwise have
been to me; and it came upon me quite as a surprise that any issue
of your father's marriage should have so much in him, or you might
have seen more of me in former years than you are ever likely to do
now. My health had then begun to fail, and I was starting for the
Cape, or I should have come myself to inquire into your condition
and prospects. I did not return till six months later, and as my
health had not improved I sent a trusty friend to examine into your
life, pursuits, and circumstances, without your own knowledge, and
to report his observations to me. This he did. Through him I
learnt, of favourable news:--

'(1) That you worked assiduously at the science of astronomy.
'(2) That everything was auspicious in the career you had chosen.

'Of unfavourable news:--

'(1) That the small income at your command, even when eked out by
the sum to which you would be entitled on your grandmother's death
and the freehold of the homestead, would be inadequate to support
you becomingly as a scientific man, whose lines of work were of a
nature not calculated to produce emoluments for many years, if ever.
'(2) That there was something in your path worse than narrow means,
and that that something was a WOMAN.

'To save you, if possible, from ruin on these heads, I take the
preventive measures detailed below.

'The chief step is, as my solicitor will have informed you, that, at
the age of twenty-five, the sum of 600 pounds a year be settled on
you for life, provided you have not married before reaching that
age;--a yearly gift of an equal sum to be also provisionally made to
you in the interim--and, vice versa, that if you do marry before
reaching the age of twenty-five you will receive nothing from the
date of the marriage.

'One object of my bequest is that you may have resources sufficient
to enable you to travel and study the Southern constellations. When
at the Cape, after hearing of your pursuits, I was much struck with
the importance of those constellations to an astronomer just pushing
into notice. There is more to be made of the Southern hemisphere
than ever has been made of it yet; the mine is not so thoroughly
worked as the Northern, and thither your studies should tend.

'The only other preventive step in my power is that of exhortation,
at which I am not an adept. Nevertheless, I say to you, Swithin St.
Cleeve, don't make a fool of yourself, as your father did. If your
studies are to be worth anything, believe me, they must be carried
on without the help of a woman. Avoid her, and every one of the
sex, if you mean to achieve any worthy thing. Eschew all of that
sort for many a year yet. Moreover, I say, the lady of your
acquaintance avoid in particular. I have heard nothing against her
moral character hitherto; I have no doubt it has been excellent.
She may have many good qualities, both of heart and of mind. But
she has, in addition to her original disqualification as a companion
for you (that is, that of sex), these two serious drawbacks: she is
much older than yourself--'

'MUCH older!' said Swithin resentfully.

'--and she is so impoverished that the title she derives from her
late husband is a positive objection. Beyond this, frankly, I don't
think well of her. I don't think well of any woman who dotes upon a
man younger than herself. To care to be the first fancy of a young
fellow like you shows no great common sense in her. If she were
worth her salt she would have too much pride to be intimate with a
youth in your unassured position, to say no worse. She is old
enough to know that a liaison with her may, and almost certainly
would, be your ruin; and, on the other hand, that a marriage would
be preposterous,--unless she is a complete goose, and in that case
there is even more reason for avoiding her than if she were in her
few senses.

'A woman of honourable feeling, nephew, would be careful to do
nothing to hinder you in your career, as this putting of herself in
your way most certainly will. Yet I hear that she professes a great
anxiety on this same future of yours as a physicist. The best way
in which she can show the reality of her anxiety is by leaving you
to yourself. Perhaps she persuades herself that she is doing you no
harm. Well, let her have the benefit of the possible belief; but
depend upon it that in truth she gives the lie to her conscience by
maintaining such a transparent fallacy. Women's brains are not
formed for assisting at any profound science: they lack the power
to see things except in the concrete. She'll blab your most secret
plans and theories to every one of her acquaintance--'

'She's got none!' said Swithin, beginning to get warm.

'--and make them appear ridiculous by announcing them before they
are matured. If you attempt to study with a woman, you'll be ruled
by her to entertain fancies instead of theories, air-castles instead
of intentions, qualms instead of opinions, sickly prepossessions
instead of reasoned conclusions. Your wide heaven of study, young
man, will soon reduce itself to the miserable narrow expanse of her
face, and your myriad of stars to her two trumpery eyes.

'A woman waking a young man's passions just at a moment when he is
endeavouring to shine intellectually, is doing little less than
committing a crime.

'Like a certain philosopher I would, upon my soul, have all young
men from eighteen to twenty-five kept under barrels; seeing how
often, in the lack of some such sequestering process, the woman sits
down before each as his destiny, and too frequently enervates his
purpose, till he abandons the most promising course ever conceived!

'But no more. I now leave your fate in your own hands. Your well-
wishing relative,
Doctor in

As coming from a bachelor and hardened misogynist of seventy-two,
the opinions herein contained were nothing remarkable: but their
practical result in restricting the sudden endowment of Swithin's
researches by conditions which turned the favour into a harassment
was, at this unique moment, discomfiting and distracting in the
highest degree.

Sensational, however, as the letter was, the passionate intention of
the day was not hazarded for more than a few minutes thereby. The
truth was, the caution and bribe came too late, too unexpectedly, to
be of influence. They were the sort of thing which required
fermentation to render them effective. Had St. Cleeve received the
exhortation a month earlier; had he been able to run over in his
mind, at every wakeful hour of thirty consecutive nights, a private
catechism on the possibilities opened up by this annuity, there is
no telling what might have been the stress of such a web of
perplexity upon him, a young man whose love for celestial physics
was second to none. But to have held before him, at the last
moment, the picture of a future advantage that he had never once
thought of, or discounted for present staying power, it affected him
about as much as the view of horizons shown by sheet-lightning. He
saw an immense prospect; it went, and the world was as before.

He caught the train at Warborne, and moved rapidly towards Bath; not
precisely in the same key as when he had dressed in the hut at dawn,
but, as regarded the mechanical part of the journey, as
unhesitatingly as before.

And with the change of scene even his gloom left him; his bosom's
lord sat lightly in his throne. St. Cleeve was not sufficiently in
mind of poetical literature to remember that wise poets are
accustomed to read that lightness of bosom inversely. Swithin
thought it an omen of good fortune; and as thinking is causing in
not a few such cases, he was perhaps, in spite of poets, right.


At the station Lady Constantine appeared, standing expectant; he saw
her face from the window of the carriage long before she saw him.
He no sooner saw her than he was satisfied to his heart's content
with his prize. If his great-uncle had offered him from the grave a
kingdom instead of her, he would not have accepted it.

Swithin jumped out, and nature never painted in a woman's face more
devotion than appeared in my lady's at that moment. To both the
situation seemed like a beautiful allegory, not to be examined too
closely, lest its defects of correspondence with real life should be

They almost feared to shake hands in public, so much depended upon
their passing that morning without molestation. A fly was called
and they drove away.

'Take this,' she said, handing him a folded paper. 'It belongs to
you rather than to me.'

At crossings, and other occasional pauses, pedestrians turned their
faces and looked at the pair (for no reason but that, among so many,
there were naturally a few of the sort who have eyes to note what
incidents come in their way as they plod on); but the two in the
vehicle could not but fear that these innocent beholders had special
detective designs on them.

'You look so dreadfully young!' she said with humorous fretfulness,
as they drove along (Swithin's cheeks being amazingly fresh from the
morning air). 'Do try to appear a little haggard, that the parson
mayn't ask us awkward questions!'

Nothing further happened, and they were set down opposite a shop
about fifty yards from the church door, at five minutes to eleven.

'We will dismiss the fly,' she said. 'It will only attract idlers.'

On turning the corner and reaching the church they found the door
ajar; but the building contained only two persons, a man and a
woman,--the clerk and his wife, as they learnt. Swithin asked when
the clergyman would arrive.

The clerk looked at his watch, and said, 'At just on eleven

'He ought to be here,' said Swithin.

'Yes,' replied the clerk, as the hour struck. 'The fact is, sir, he
is a deppity, and apt to be rather wandering in his wits as regards
time and such like, which hev stood in the way of the man's getting
a benefit. But no doubt he'll come.'

'The regular incumbent is away, then?'

'He's gone for his bare pa'son's fortnight,--that's all; and we was
forced to put up with a weak-talented man or none. The best men
goes into the brewing, or into the shipping now-a-days, you see,
sir; doctrines being rather shaddery at present, and your money's
worth not sure in our line. So we church officers be left poorly
provided with men for odd jobs. I'll tell ye what, sir; I think I'd
better run round to the gentleman's lodgings, and try to find him?'

'Pray do,' said Lady Constantine.

The clerk left the church; his wife busied herself with dusting at
the further end, and Swithin and Viviette were left to themselves.
The imagination travels so rapidly, and a woman's forethought is so
assumptive, that the clerk's departure had no sooner doomed them to
inaction than it was borne in upon Lady Constantine's mind that she
would not become the wife of Swithin St. Cleeve, either to-day or on
any other day. Her divinations were continually misleading her, she
knew: but a hitch at the moment of marriage surely had a meaning in

'Ah,--the marriage is not to be!' she said to herself. 'This is a

It was twenty minutes past, and no parson had arrived. Swithin took
her hand.

'If it cannot be to-day, it can be to-morrow,' he whispered.

'I cannot say,' she answered. 'Something tells me no.'

It was almost impossible that she could know anything of the
deterrent force exercised on Swithin by his dead uncle that morning.
Yet her manner tallied so curiously well with such knowledge that he
was struck by it, and remained silent.

'You have a black tie,' she continued, looking at him.

'Yes,' replied Swithin. 'I bought it on my way here.'

'Why could it not have been less sombre in colour?'

'My great-uncle is dead.'

'You had a great-uncle? You never told me.'

'I never saw him in my life. I have only heard about him since his

He spoke in as quiet and measured a way as he could, but his heart
was sinking. She would go on questioning; he could not tell her an
untruth. She would discover particulars of that great-uncle's
provision for him, which he, Swithin, was throwing away for her
sake, and she would refuse to be his for his own sake. His
conclusion at this moment was precisely what hers had been five
minutes sooner: they were never to be husband and wife.

But she did not continue her questions, for the simplest of all
reasons: hasty footsteps were audible in the entrance, and the
parson was seen coming up the aisle, the clerk behind him wiping the
beads of perspiration from his face. The somewhat sorry clerical
specimen shook hands with them, and entered the vestry; and the
clerk came up and opened the book.

'The poor gentleman's memory is a bit topsy-turvy,' whispered the
latter. 'He had got it in his mind that 'twere a funeral, and I
found him wandering about the cemetery a-looking for us. However,
all's well as ends well.' And the clerk wiped his forehead again.

'How ill-omened!' murmured Viviette.

But the parson came out robed at this moment, and the clerk put on
his ecclesiastical countenance and looked in his book. Lady
Constantine's momentary languor passed; her blood resumed its
courses with a new spring. The grave utterances of the church then
rolled out upon the palpitating pair, and no couple ever joined
their whispers thereto with more fervency than they.

Lady Constantine (as she continued to be called by the outside
world, though she liked to think herself the Mrs. St. Cleeve that
she legally was) had told Green that she might be expected at
Welland in a day, or two, or three, as circumstances should dictate.
Though the time of return was thus left open it was deemed
advisable, by both Swithin and herself, that her journey back should
not be deferred after the next day, in case any suspicions might be
aroused. As for St. Cleeve, his comings and goings were of no
consequence. It was seldom known whether he was at home or abroad,
by reason of his frequent seclusion at the column.

Late in the afternoon of the next day he accompanied her to the Bath
station, intending himself to remain in that city till the following
morning. But when a man or youth has such a tender article on his
hands as a thirty-hour bride it is hardly in the power of his
strongest reason to set her down at a railway, and send her off like
a superfluous portmanteau. Hence the experiment of parting so soon
after their union proved excruciatingly severe to these. The
evening was dull; the breeze of autumn crept fitfully through every
slit and aperture in the town; not a soul in the world seemed to
notice or care about anything they did. Lady Constantine sighed;
and there was no resisting it,--he could not leave her thus. He
decided to get into the train with her, and keep her company for at
least a few stations on her way.

It drew on to be a dark night, and, seeing that there was no serious
risk after all, he prolonged his journey with her so far as to the
junction at which the branch line to Warborne forked off. Here it
was necessary to wait a few minutes, before either he could go back
or she could go on. They wandered outside the station doorway into
the gloom of the road, and there agreed to part.

While she yet stood holding his arm a phaeton sped towards the
station-entrance, where, in ascending the slope to the door, the
horse suddenly jibbed. The gentleman who was driving, being either
impatient, or possessed with a theory that all jibbers may be
started by severe whipping, applied the lash; as a result of it, the
horse thrust round the carriage to where they stood, and the end of
the driver's sweeping whip cut across Lady Constantine's face with
such severity as to cause her an involuntary cry. Swithin turned
her round to the lamplight, and discerned a streak of blood on her

By this time the gentleman who had done the mischief, with many
words of regret, had given the reins to his man and dismounted.

'I will go to the waiting-room for a moment,' whispered Viviette
hurriedly; and, loosing her hand from his arm, she pulled down her
veil and vanished inside the building.

The stranger came forward and raised his hat. He was a slightly
built and apparently town-bred man of twenty-eight or thirty; his
manner of address was at once careless and conciliatory.

'I am greatly concerned at what I have done,' he said. 'I sincerely
trust that your wife'--but observing the youthfulness of Swithin, he
withdrew the word suggested by the manner of Swithin towards Lady
Constantine--'I trust the young lady was not seriously cut?'

'I trust not,' said Swithin, with some vexation.

'Where did the lash touch her?'

'Straight down her cheek.'

'Do let me go to her, and learn how she is, and humbly apologize.'

'I'll inquire.'

He went to the ladies' room, in which Viviette had taken refuge.
She met him at the door, her handkerchief to her cheek, and Swithin
explained that the driver of the phaeton had sent to make inquiries.

'I cannot see him!' she whispered. 'He is my brother Louis! He is,
no doubt, going on by the train to my house. Don't let him
recognize me! We must wait till he is gone.'

Swithin thereupon went out again, and told the young man that the
cut on her face was not serious, but that she could not see him;
after which they parted. St. Cleeve then heard him ask for a ticket
for Warborne, which confirmed Lady Constantine's view that he was
going on to her house. When the branch train had moved off Swithin
returned to his bride, who waited in a trembling state within.

On being informed that he had departed she showed herself much

'Where does your brother come from?' said Swithin.

'From London, immediately. Rio before that. He has a friend or two
in this neighbourhood, and visits here occasionally. I have seldom
or never spoken to you of him, because of his long absence.'

'Is he going to settle near you?'

'No, nor anywhere, I fear. He is, or rather was, in the diplomatic
service. He was first a clerk in the Foreign Office, and was
afterwards appointed attache at Rio Janeiro. But he has resigned
the appointment. I wish he had not.'

Swithin asked why he resigned.

'He complained of the banishment, and the climate, and everything
that people complain of who are determined to be dissatisfied,--
though, poor fellow, there is some ground for his complaints.
Perhaps some people would say that he is idle. But he is scarcely
that; he is rather restless than idle, so that he never persists in
anything. Yet if a subject takes his fancy he will follow it up
with exemplary patience till something diverts him.'

'He is not kind to you, is he, dearest?'

'Why do you think that?'

'Your manner seems to say so.'

'Well, he may not always be kind. But look at my face; does the
mark show?'

A streak, straight as a meridian, was visible down her cheek. The
blood had been brought almost to the surface, but was not quite
through, that which had originally appeared thereon having possibly
come from the horse. It signified that to-morrow the red line would
be a black one.

Swithin informed her that her brother had taken a ticket for
Warborne, and she at once perceived that he was going on to visit
her at Welland, though from his letter she had not expected him so
soon by a few days. 'Meanwhile,' continued Swithin, 'you can now
get home only by the late train, having missed that one.'

'But, Swithin, don't you see my new trouble? If I go to Welland
House to-night, and find my brother just arrived there, and he sees
this cut on my face, which I suppose you described to him--'

'I did.'

'He will know I was the lady with you!'

'Whom he called my wife. I wonder why we look husband and wife

'Then what am I to do? For the ensuing three or four days I bear in
my face a clue to his discovery of our secret.'

'Then you must not be seen. We must stay at an inn here.'

'O no!' she said timidly. 'It is too near home to be quite safe.
We might not be known; but IF we were!'

'We can't go back to Bath now. I'll tell you, dear Viviette, what
we must do. We'll go on to Warborne in separate carriages; we'll
meet outside the station; thence we'll walk to the column in the
dark, and I'll keep you a captive in the cabin till the scar has

As there was nothing which better recommended itself this course was
decided on; and after taking from her trunk the articles that might
be required for an incarceration of two or three days they left the
said trunk at the cloak-room, and went on by the last train, which
reached Warborne about ten o'clock.

It was only necessary for Lady Constantine to cover her face with
the thick veil that she had provided for this escapade, to walk out
of the station without fear of recognition. St. Cleeve came forth
from another compartment, and they did not rejoin each other till
they had reached a shadowy bend in the old turnpike road, beyond the
irradiation of the Warborne lamplight.

The walk to Welland was long. It was the walk which Swithin had
taken in the rain when he had learnt the fatal forestalment of his
stellar discovery; but now he was moved by a less desperate mood,
and blamed neither God nor man. They were not pressed for time, and
passed along the silent, lonely way with that sense rather of
predestination than of choice in their proceedings which the
presence of night sometimes imparts. Reaching the park gate, they
found it open, and from this they inferred that her brother Louis
had arrived.

Leaving the house and park on their right they traced the highway
yet a little further, and, plunging through the stubble of the
opposite field, drew near the isolated earthwork bearing the
plantation and tower, which together rose like a flattened dome and
lantern from the lighter-hued plain of stubble. It was far too dark
to distinguish firs from other trees by the eye alone, but the
peculiar dialect of sylvan language which the piny multitude used
would have been enough to proclaim their class at any time. In the
lovers' stealthy progress up the slopes a dry stick here and there
snapped beneath their feet, seeming like a shot of alarm.

On being unlocked the hut was found precisely as Swithin had left it
two days before. Lady Constantine was thoroughly wearied, and sat
down, while he gathered a handful of twigs and spikelets from the
masses strewn without and lit a small fire, first taking the
precaution to blind the little window and relock the door.

Lady Constantine looked curiously around by the light of the blaze.
The hut was small as the prophet's chamber provided by the
Shunammite: in one corner stood the stove, with a little table and
chair, a small cupboard hard by, a pitcher of water, a rack
overhead, with various articles, including a kettle and a gridiron;
while the remaining three or four feet at the other end of the room
was fitted out as a dormitory, for Swithin's use during late
observations in the tower overhead.

'It is not much of a palace to offer you,' he remarked, smiling.
'But at any rate, it is a refuge.'

The cheerful firelight dispersed in some measure Lady Constantine's
anxieties. 'If we only had something to eat!' she said.

'Dear me,' cried St. Cleeve, blankly. 'That's a thing I never
thought of.'

'Nor I, till now,' she replied.

He reflected with misgiving.

'Beyond a small loaf of bread in the cupboard I have nothing.
However, just outside the door there are lots of those little
rabbits, about the size of rats, that the keepers call runners. And
they are as tame as possible. But I fear I could not catch one now.
Yet, dear Viviette, wait a minute; I'll try. You must not be

He softly let himself out, and was gone some time. When he
reappeared, he produced, not a rabbit, but four sparrows and a

'I could do nothing in the way of a rabbit without setting a wire,'
he said. 'But I have managed to get these by knowing where they

He showed her how to prepare the birds, and, having set her to roast
them by the fire, departed with the pitcher, to replenish it at the
brook which flowed near the homestead in the neighbouring Bottom.

'They are all asleep at my grandmother's,' he informed her when he
re-entered, panting, with the dripping pitcher. 'They imagine me to
be a hundred miles off.'

The birds were now ready, and the table was spread. With this fare,
eked out by dry toast from the loaf, and moistened with cups of
water from the pitcher, to which Swithin added a little wine from
the flask he had carried on his journey, they were forced to be
content for their supper.


When Lady Constantine awoke the next morning Swithin was nowhere to
be seen. Before she was quite ready for breakfast she heard the key
turn in the door, and felt startled, till she remembered that the
comer could hardly be anybody but he. He brought a basket with
provisions, an extra cup-and-saucer, and so on. In a short space of
time the kettle began singing on the stove, and the morning meal was

The sweet resinous air from the firs blew in upon them as they sat
at breakfast; the birds hopped round the door (which, somewhat
riskily, they ventured to keep open); and at their elbow rose the
lank column into an upper realm of sunlight, which only reached the
cabin in fitful darts and flashes through the trees.

'I could be happy here for ever,' said she, clasping his hand. 'I
wish I could never see my great gloomy house again, since I am not
rich enough to throw it open, and live there as I ought to do.
Poverty of this sort is not unpleasant at any rate. What are you
thinking of?'

'I am thinking about my outing this morning. On reaching my
grandmother's she was only a little surprised to see me. I was
obliged to breakfast there, or appear to do so, to divert suspicion;
and this food is supposed to be wanted for my dinner and supper.
There will of course be no difficulty in my obtaining an ample
supply for any length of time, as I can take what I like from the
buttery without observation. But as I looked in my grandmother's
face this morning, and saw her looking affectionately in mine, and
thought how she had never concealed anything from me, and had always
had my welfare at heart, I felt--that I should like to tell her what
we have done.'

'O no,--please not, Swithin!' she exclaimed piteously.

'Very well,' he answered. 'On no consideration will I do so without
your consent.' And no more was said on the matter.

The morning was passed in applying wet rag and other remedies to the
purple line on Viviette's cheek; and in the afternoon they set up
the equatorial under the replaced dome, to have it in order for
night observations.

The evening was clear, dry, and remarkably cold by comparison with
the daytime weather. After a frugal supper they replenished the
stove with charcoal from the homestead, which they also burnt during
the day,--an idea of Viviette's, that the smoke from a wood fire
might not be seen more frequently than was consistent with the
occasional occupation of the cabin by Swithin, as heretofore.

At eight o'clock she insisted upon his ascending the tower for
observations, in strict pursuance of the idea on which their
marriage had been based, namely, that of restoring regularity to his

The sky had a new and startling beauty that night. A broad,
fluctuating, semicircular arch of vivid white light spanned the
northern quarter of the heavens, reaching from the horizon to the
star Eta in the Greater Bear. It was the Aurora Borealis, just
risen up for the winter season out of the freezing seas of the
north, where every autumn vapour was now undergoing rapid

'O, let us sit and look at it! ' she said; and they turned their
backs upon the equatorial and the southern glories of the heavens to
this new beauty in a quarter which they seldom contemplated.

The lustre of the fixed stars was diminished to a sort of blueness.
Little by little the arch grew higher against the dark void, like
the form of the Spirit-maiden in the shades of Glenfinlas, till its
crown drew near the zenith, and threw a tissue over the whole waggon
and horses of the great northern constellation. Brilliant shafts
radiated from the convexity of the arch, coming and going silently.
The temperature fell, and Lady Constantine drew her wrap more
closely around her.

'We'll go down,' said Swithin. 'The cabin is beautifully warm. Why
should we try to observe tonight? Indeed, we cannot; the Aurora
light overpowers everything.'

'Very well. To-morrow night there will be no interruption. I shall
be gone.'

'You leave me to-morrow, Viviette?'

'Yes; to-morrow morning.'

The truth was that, with the progress of the hours and days, the
conviction had been borne in upon Viviette more and more forcibly
that not for kingdoms and principalities could she afford to risk
the discovery of her presence here by any living soul.

'But let me see your face, dearest,' he said. 'I don't think it
will be safe for you to meet your brother yet.'

As it was too dark to see her face on the summit where they sat they
descended the winding staircase, and in the cabin Swithin examined
the damaged cheek. The line, though so far attenuated as not to be
observable by any one but a close observer, had not quite
disappeared. But in consequence of her reiterated and almost
tearful anxiety to go, and as there was a strong probability that
her brother had left the house, Swithin decided to call at Welland
next morning, and reconnoitre with a view to her return.

Locking her in he crossed the dewy stubble into the park. The house
was silent and deserted; and only one tall stalk of smoke ascended
from the chimneys. Notwithstanding that the hour was nearly nine he
knocked at the door.

'Is Lady Constantine at home?' asked Swithin, with a
disingenuousness now habitual, yet unknown to him six months before.

'No, Mr. St. Cleeve; my lady has not returned from Bath. We expect
her every day.'

'Nobody staying in the house?'

'My lady's brother has been here; but he is gone on to Budmouth. He
will come again in two or three weeks, I understand.'

This was enough. Swithin said he would call again, and returned to
the cabin, where, waking Viviette, who was not by nature an early
riser, he waited on the column till she was ready to breakfast.
When this had been shared they prepared to start.

A long walk was before them. Warborne station lay five miles
distant, and the next station above that nine miles. They were
bound for the latter; their plan being that she should there take
the train to the junction where the whip accident had occurred,
claim her luggage, and return with it to Warborne, as if from Bath.

The morning was cool and the walk not wearisome. When once they had
left behind the stubble-field of their environment and the parish of
Welland, they sauntered on comfortably, Lady Constantine's spirits
rising as she withdrew further from danger.

They parted by a little brook, about half a mile from the station;
Swithin to return to Welland by the way he had come.

Lady Constantine telegraphed from the junction to Warborne for a
carriage to be in readiness to meet her on her arrival; and then,
waiting for the down train, she travelled smoothly home, reaching
Welland House about five minutes sooner than Swithin reached the
column hard by, after footing it all the way from where they had


From that day forward their life resumed its old channel in general
outward aspect.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature in their exploit was its
comparative effectiveness as an expedient for the end designed,--
that of restoring calm assiduity to the study of astronomy. Swithin
took up his old position as the lonely philosopher at the column,
and Lady Constantine lapsed back to immured existence at the house,
with apparently not a friend in the parish. The enforced narrowness
of life which her limited resources necessitated was now an
additional safeguard against the discovery of her relations with St.
Cleeve. Her neighbours seldom troubled her; as much, it must be
owned, from a tacit understanding that she was not in a position to
return invitations as from any selfish coldness engendered by her
want of wealth.

At the first meeting of the secretly united pair after their short
honeymoon they were compelled to behave as strangers to each other.
It occurred in the only part of Welland which deserved the name of a
village street, and all the labourers were returning to their midday
meal, with those of their wives who assisted at outdoor work.
Before the eyes of this innocent though quite untrustworthy group,
Swithin and his Viviette could only shake hands in passing, though
she contrived to say to him in an undertone, 'My brother does not
return yet for some time. He has gone to Paris. I will be on the
lawn this evening, if you can come.' It was a fluttered smile that
she bestowed on him, and there was no doubt that every fibre of her
heart vibrated afresh at meeting, with such reserve, one who stood
in his close relation to her.

The shades of night fell early now, and Swithin was at the spot of
appointment about the time that he knew her dinner would be over.
It was just where they had met at the beginning of the year, but
many changes had resulted since then. The flower-beds that had used
to be so neatly edged were now jagged and leafy; black stars
appeared on the pale surface of the gravel walks, denoting tufts of
grass that grew unmolested there. Lady Constantine's external
affairs wore just that aspect which suggests that new blood may be
advantageously introduced into the line; and new blood had been
introduced, in good sooth,--with what social result remained to be

She silently entered on the scene from the same window which had
given her passage in months gone by. They met with a concerted
embrace, and St. Cleeve spoke his greeting in whispers.

'We are quite safe, dearest,' said she.

'But the servants?'

'My meagre staff consists of only two women and the boy; and they
are away in the other wing. I thought you would like to see the
inside of my house, after showing me the inside of yours. So we
will walk through it instead of staying out here.'

She let him in through the casement, and they strolled forward
softly, Swithin with some curiosity, never before having gone beyond
the library and adjoining room. The whole western side of the house
was at this time shut up, her life being confined to two or three
small rooms in the south-east corner. The great apartments through
which they now whisperingly walked wore already that funereal aspect
that comes from disuse and inattention. Triangular cobwebs already
formed little hammocks for the dust in corners of the wainscot, and
a close smell of wood and leather, seasoned with mouse-droppings,
pervaded the atmosphere. So seldom was the solitude of these
chambers intruded on by human feet that more than once a mouse stood
and looked the twain in the face from the arm of a sofa, or the top
of a cabinet, without any great fear.

Swithin had no residential ambition whatever, but he was interested
in the place. 'Will the house ever be thrown open to gaiety, as it
was in old times?' said he.

'Not unless you make a fortune,' she replied laughingly. 'It is
mine for my life, as you know; but the estate is so terribly saddled
with annuities to Sir Blount's distant relatives, one of whom will
succeed me here, that I have practically no more than my own little
private income to exist on.'

'And are you bound to occupy the house?'

'Not bound to. But I must not let it on lease.'

'And was there any stipulation in the event of your re-marriage?'

'It was not mentioned.'

'It is satisfactory to find that you lose nothing by marrying me, at
all events, dear Viviette.'

'I hope you lose nothing either--at least, of consequence.'

'What have I to lose?'

'I meant your liberty. Suppose you become a popular physicist
(popularity seems cooling towards art and coquetting with science
now-a-days), and a better chance offers, and one who would make you
a newer and brighter wife than I am comes in your way. Will you
never regret this? Will you never despise me?'

Swithin answered by a kiss, and they again went on; proceeding like
a couple of burglars, lest they should draw the attention of the
cook or Green.

In one of the upper rooms his eyes were attracted by an old chamber
organ, which had once been lent for use in the church. He mentioned
his recollection of the same, which led her to say, 'That reminds me
of something. There is to be a confirmation in our parish in the
spring, and you once told me that you had never been confirmed.
What shocking neglect! Why was it?'

'I hardly know. The confusion resulting from my father's death
caused it to be forgotten, I suppose.'

'Now, dear Swithin, you will do this to please me,--be confirmed on
the present occasion?'

'Since I have done without the virtue of it so long, might I not do
without it altogether?'

'No, no!' she said earnestly. 'I do wish it, indeed. I am made
unhappy when I think you don't care about such serious matters.
Without the Church to cling to, what have we?'

'Each other. But seriously, I should be inverting the established
order of spiritual things; people ought to be confirmed before they
are married.'

'That's really of minor consequence. Now, don't think slightingly
of what so many good men have laid down as necessary to be done.
And, dear Swithin, I somehow feel that a certain levity which has
perhaps shown itself in our treatment of the sacrament of marriage--
by making a clandestine adventure of what is, after all, a solemn
rite--would be well atoned for by a due seriousness in other points
of religious observance. This opportunity should therefore not be
passed over. I thought of it all last night; and you are a parson's
son, remember, and he would have insisted on it if he had been
alive. In short, Swithin, do be a good boy, and observe the
Church's ordinances.'

Lady Constantine, by virtue of her temperament, was necessarily
either lover or devote, and she vibrated so gracefully between these
two conditions that nobody who had known the circumstances could
have condemned her inconsistencies. To be led into difficulties by
those mastering emotions of hers, to aim at escape by turning round
and seizing the apparatus of religion--which could only rightly be
worked by the very emotions already bestowed elsewhere--it was,
after all, but Nature's well-meaning attempt to preserve the honour
of her daughter's conscience in the trying quandary to which the
conditions of sex had given rise. As Viviette could not be
confirmed herself, and as Communion Sunday was a long way off, she
urged Swithin thus.

'And the new bishop is such a good man,' she continued. 'I used to
have a slight acquaintance with him when he was a parish priest.'

'Very well, dearest. To please you I'll be confirmed. My
grandmother, too, will be delighted, no doubt.'

They continued their ramble: Lady Constantine first advancing into
rooms with the candle, to assure herself that all was empty, and
then calling him forward in a whisper. The stillness was broken
only by these whispers, or by the occasional crack of a floor-board
beneath their tread. At last they sat down, and, shading the candle
with a screen, she showed him the faded contents of this and that
drawer or cabinet, or the wardrobe of some member of the family who
had died young early in the century, when muslin reigned supreme,
when waists were close to arm-pits, and muffs as large as smugglers'
tubs. These researches among habilimental hulls and husks, whose
human kernels had long ago perished, went on for about half an hour;
when the companions were startled by a loud ringing at the front-
door bell.


Lady Constantine flung down the old-fashioned lacework, whose
beauties she had been pointing out to Swithin, and exclaimed, 'Who
can it be? Not Louis, surely?'

They listened. An arrival was such a phenomenon at this
unfrequented mansion, and particularly a late arrival, that no
servant was on the alert to respond to the call; and the visitor
rang again, more loudly than before. Sounds of the tardy opening
and shutting of a passage-door from the kitchen quarter then reached
their ears, and Viviette went into the corridor to hearken more
attentively. In a few minutes she returned to the wardrobe-room in
which she had left Swithin.

'Yes; it is my brother!' she said with difficult composure. 'I just
caught his voice. He has no doubt come back from Paris to stay.
This is a rather vexatious, indolent way he has, never to write to
prepare me!'

'I can easily go away,' said Swithin.

By this time, however, her brother had been shown into the house,
and the footsteps of the page were audible, coming in search of Lady

'If you will wait there a moment,' she said, directing St. Cleeve
into a bedchamber which adjoined; 'you will be quite safe from
interruption, and I will quickly come back.' Taking the light she
left him.

Swithin waited in darkness. Not more than ten minutes had passed
when a whisper in her voice came through the keyhole. He opened the

'Yes; he is come to stay!' she said. 'He is at supper now.'

'Very well; don't be flurried, dearest. Shall I stay too, as we

'O, Swithin, I fear not!' she replied anxiously. 'You see how it
is. To-night we have broken the arrangement that you should never
come here; and this is the result. Will it offend you if--I ask you
to leave?'

'Not in the least. Upon the whole, I prefer the comfort of my
little cabin and homestead to the gauntness and alarms of this

'There, now, I fear you are offended!' she said, a tear collecting
in her eye. 'I wish I was going back with you to the cabin! How
happy we were, those three days of our stay there! But it is
better, perhaps, just now, that you should leave me. Yes, these
rooms are oppressive. They require a large household to make them
cheerful. . . . Yet, Swithin,' she added, after reflection, 'I will
not request you to go. Do as you think best. I will light a night-
light, and leave you here to consider. For myself, I must go
downstairs to my brother at once, or he'll wonder what I am doing.'

She kindled the little light, and again retreated, closing the door
upon him.

Swithin stood and waited some time; till he considered that upon the
whole it would be preferable to leave. With this intention he
emerged and went softly along the dark passage towards the extreme
end, where there was a little crooked staircase that would conduct
him down to a disused side door. Descending this stair he duly
arrived at the other side of the house, facing the quarter whence
the wind blew, and here he was surprised to catch the noise of rain
beating against the windows. It was a state of weather which fully
accounted for the visitor's impatient ringing.

St. Cleeve was in a minor kind of dilemma. The rain reminded him
that his hat and great-coat had been left downstairs, in the front
part of the house; and though he might have gone home without either
in ordinary weather it was not a pleasant feat in the pelting winter
rain. Retracing his steps to Viviette's room he took the light, and
opened a closet-door that he had seen ajar on his way down. Within
the closet hung various articles of apparel, upholstery lumber of
all kinds filling the back part. Swithin thought he might find here
a cloak of hers to throw round him, but finally took down from a peg
a more suitable garment, the only one of the sort that was there.
It was an old moth-eaten great-coat, heavily trimmed with fur; and
in removing it a companion cap of sealskin was disclosed.

'Whose can they be?' he thought, and a gloomy answer suggested
itself. 'Pooh,' he then said (summoning the scientific side of his
nature), 'matter is matter, and mental association only a delusion.'
Putting on the garments he returned the light to Lady Constantine's
bedroom, and again prepared to depart as before.

Scarcely, however, had he regained the corridor a second time, when
he heard a light footstep--seemingly Viviette's--again on the front
landing. Wondering what she wanted with him further he waited,
taking the precaution to step into the closet till sure it was she.

The figure came onward, bent to the keyhole of the bedroom door, and
whispered (supposing him still inside), 'Swithin, on second thoughts
I think you may stay with safety.'

Having no further doubt of her personality he came out with
thoughtless abruptness from the closet behind her, and looking round
suddenly she beheld his shadowy fur-clad outline. At once she
raised her hands in horror, as if to protect herself from him; she
uttered a shriek, and turned shudderingly to the wall, covering her

Swithin would have picked her up in a moment, but by this time he
could hear footsteps rushing upstairs, in response to her cry. In
consternation, and with a view of not compromising her, he effected
his retreat as fast as possible, reaching the bend of the corridor
just as her brother Louis appeared with a light at the other

'What's the matter, for heaven's sake, Viviette?' said Louis.

'My husband!' she involuntarily exclaimed.

'What nonsense!'

'O yes, it is nonsense,' she added, with an effort. 'It was

'But what was the cause of your cry?'

She had by this time recovered her reason and judgment. 'O, it was
a trick of the imagination,' she said, with a faint laugh. 'I live
so much alone that I get superstitious--and--I thought for the
moment I saw an apparition.'

'Of your late husband?'

'Yes. But it was nothing; it was the outline of the--tall clock and
the chair behind. Would you mind going down, and leaving me to go
into my room for a moment?'

She entered the bedroom, and her brother went downstairs. Swithin
thought it best to leave well alone, and going noiselessly out of
the house plodded through the rain homeward. It was plain that
agitations of one sort and another had so weakened Viviette's nerves
as to lay her open to every impression. That the clothes he had
borrowed were some cast-off garments of the late Sir Blount had
occurred to St. Cleeve in taking them; but in the moment of
returning to her side he had forgotten this, and the shape they gave
to his figure had obviously been a reminder of too sudden a sort for
her. Musing thus he walked along as if he were still, as before,
the lonely student, dissociated from all mankind, and with no shadow
of right or interest in Welland House or its mistress.

The great-coat and cap were unpleasant companions; but Swithin
having been reared, or having reared himself, in the scientific
school of thought, would not give way to his sense of their
weirdness. To do so would have been treason to his own beliefs and

When nearly home, at a point where his track converged on another
path, there approached him from the latter a group of indistinct
forms. The tones of their speech revealed them to be Hezzy Biles,
Nat Chapman, Fry, and other labourers. Swithin was about to say a
word to them, till recollecting his disguise he deemed it advisable
to hold his tongue, lest his attire should tell a too dangerous tale
as to where he had come from. By degrees they drew closer, their
walk being in the same direction.

'Good-night, strainger,' said Nat.

The stranger did not reply.

All of them paced on abreast of him, and he could perceive in the
gloom that their faces were turned inquiringly upon his form. Then
a whisper passed from one to another of them; then Chapman, who was
the boldest, dropped immediately behind his heels, and followed
there for some distance, taking close observations of his outline,
after which the men grouped again and whispered. Thinking it best
to let them pass on Swithin slackened his pace, and they went ahead
of him, apparently without much reluctance.

There was no doubt that they had been impressed by the clothes he
wore; and having no wish to provoke similar comments from his
grandmother and Hannah, Swithin took the precaution, on arriving at
Welland Bottom, to enter the homestead by the outhouse. Here he
deposited the cap and coat in secure hiding, afterwards going round
to the front and opening the door in the usual way.

In the entry he met Hannah, who said--

'Only to hear what have been seed to-night, Mr. Swithin! The work-
folk have dropped in to tell us!'

In the kitchen were the men who had outstripped him on the road.
Their countenances, instead of wearing the usual knotty
irregularities, had a smoothed-out expression of blank concern.
Swithin's entrance was unobtrusive and quiet, as if he had merely
come down from his study upstairs, and they only noticed him by
enlarging their gaze, so as to include him in the audience.

'We was in a deep talk at the moment,' continued Blore, 'and Natty
had just brought up that story about old Jeremiah Paddock's crossing
the park one night at one o'clock in the morning, and seeing Sir
Blount a-shutting my lady out-o'-doors; and we was saying that it
seemed a true return that he should perish in a foreign land; when
we happened to look up, and there was Sir Blount a-walking along.'

'Did it overtake you, or did you overtake it?' whispered Hannah

'I don't say 'twas IT,' returned Sammy. 'God forbid that I should
drag in a resurrection word about what perhaps was still solid
manhood, and has to die! But he, or it, closed in upon us, as

'Yes, closed in upon us!' said Haymoss.

'And I said "Good-night, strainger,"' added Chapman.

'Yes, "Good-night, strainger,"--that wez yer words, Natty. I
support ye in it.'

'And then he closed in upon us still more.'

'We closed in upon he, rather,' said Chapman.

'Well, well; 'tis the same thing in such matters! And the form was
Sir Blount's. My nostrils told me, for--there, 'a smelled. Yes, I
could smell'n, being to leeward.'

'Lord, lord, what unwholesome scandal's this about the ghost of a
respectable gentleman?' said Mrs. Martin, who had entered from the

'Now, wait, ma'am. I don't say 'twere a low smell, mind ye. 'Twere
a high smell, a sort of gamey flaviour, calling to mind venison and
hare, just as you'd expect of a great squire,--not like a poor man's
'natomy, at all; and that was what strengthened my faith that 'twas
Sir Blount.'

('The skins that old coat was made of,' ruminated Swithin.)

'Well, well; I've not held out against the figure o' starvation
these five-and-twenty year, on nine shillings a week, to be afeard
of a walking vapour, sweet or savoury,' said Hezzy. 'So here's

'Bide a bit longer, and I'm going too,' continued Fry. 'Well, when
I found 'twas Sir Blount my spet dried up within my mouth; for
neither hedge nor bush were there for refuge against any foul spring
'a might have made at us.'

''Twas very curious; but we had likewise a-mentioned his name just
afore, in talking of the confirmation that's shortly coming on,'
said Hezzy.

'Is there soon to be a confirmation?'

'Yes. In this parish--the first time in Welland church for twenty
years. As I say, I had told 'em that he was confirmed the same year
that I went up to have it done, as I have very good cause to mind.
When we went to be examined, the pa'son said to me, "Rehearse the

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