Part 4 out of 6
articles of thy belief." Mr. Blount (as he was then) was nighest
me, and he whispered, "Women and wine." "Women and wine," says I to
the pa'son: and for that I was sent back till next confirmation,
Sir Blount never owning that he was the rascal.'
'Confirmation was a sight different at that time,' mused Biles.
'The Bishops didn't lay it on so strong then as they do now. Now-a-
days, yer Bishop gies both hands to every Jack-rag and Tom-straw
that drops the knee afore him; but 'twas six chaps to one blessing
when we was boys. The Bishop o' that time would stretch out his
palms and run his fingers over our row of crowns as off-hand as a
bank gentleman telling money. The great lords of the Church in them
days wasn't particular to a soul or two more or less; and, for my
part, I think living was easier for 't.'
'The new Bishop, I hear, is a bachelor-man; or a widow gentleman is
it?' asked Mrs. Martin.
'Bachelor, I believe, ma'am. Mr. San Cleeve, making so bold, you've
never faced him yet, I think?'
Mrs. Martin shook her head.
'No; it was a piece of neglect. I hardly know how it happened,' she
'I am going to, this time,' said Swithin, and turned the chat to
Swithin could not sleep that night for thinking of his Viviette.
Nothing told so significantly of the conduct of her first husband
towards the poor lady as the abiding dread of him which was revealed
in her by any sudden revival of his image or memory. But for that
consideration her almost childlike terror at Swithin's inadvertent
disguise would have been ludicrous.
He waited anxiously through several following days for an
opportunity of seeing her, but none was afforded. Her brother's
presence in the house sufficiently accounted for this. At length he
ventured to write a note, requesting her to signal to him in a way
she had done once or twice before,--by pulling down a blind in a
particular window of the house, one of the few visible from the top
of the Rings-Hill column; this to be done on any evening when she
could see him after dinner on the terrace.
When he had levelled the glass at that window for five successive
nights he beheld the blind in the position suggested. Three hours
later, quite in the dusk, he repaired to the place of appointment.
'My brother is away this evening,' she explained, 'and that's why I
can come out. He is only gone for a few hours, nor is he likely to
go for longer just yet. He keeps himself a good deal in my company,
which has made it unsafe for me to venture near you.'
'Has he any suspicion?'
'None, apparently. But he rather depresses me.'
'How, Viviette?' Swithin feared, from her manner, that this was
'I would rather not tell.'
'But-- Well, never mind.'
'Yes, Swithin, I will tell you. There should be no secrets between
us. He urges upon me the necessity of marrying, day after day.'
'For money and position, of course.'
'Yes. But I take no notice. I let him go on.'
'Really, this is sad!' said the young man. 'I must work harder than
ever, or you will never be able to own me.'
'O yes, in good time!' she cheeringly replied.
'I shall be very glad to have you always near me. I felt the gloom
of our position keenly when I was obliged to disappear that night,
without assuring you it was only I who stood there. Why were you so
frightened at those old clothes I borrowed?'
'Don't ask,--don't ask!' she said, burying her face on his shoulder.
'I don't want to speak of that. There was something so ghastly and
so uncanny in your putting on such garments that I wish you had been
more thoughtful, and had left them alone.'
He assured her that he did not stop to consider whose they were.
'By the way, they must be sent back,' he said.
'No; I never wish to see them again! I cannot help feeling that
your putting them on was ominous.'
'Nothing is ominous in serene philosophy,' he said, kissing her.
'Things are either causes, or they are not causes. When can you see
In such wise the hour passed away. The evening was typical of
others which followed it at irregular intervals through the winter.
And during the intenser months of the season frequent falls of snow
lengthened, even more than other difficulties had done, the periods
of isolation between the pair. Swithin adhered with all the more
strictness to the letter of his promise not to intrude into the
house, from his sense of her powerlessness to compel him to keep out
should he choose to rebel. A student of the greatest forces in
nature, he had, like many others of his sort, no personal force to
speak of in a social point of view, mainly because he took no
interest in human ranks and formulas; and hence he was as docile as
a child in her hands wherever matters of that kind were concerned.
Her brother wintered at Welland; but whether because his experience
of tropic climes had unfitted him for the brumal rigours of Britain,
or for some other reason, he seldom showed himself out of doors, and
Swithin caught but passing glimpses of him. Now and then Viviette's
impulsive affection would overcome her sense of risk, and she would
press Swithin to call on her at all costs. This he would by no
means do. It was obvious to his more logical mind that the secrecy
to which they had bound themselves must be kept in its fulness, or
might as well be abandoned altogether.
He was now sadly exercised on the subject of his uncle's will.
There had as yet been no pressing reasons for a full and candid
reply to the solicitor who had communicated with him, owing to the
fact that the payments were not to begin till Swithin was one-and-
twenty; but time was going on, and something definite would have to
be done soon. To own to his marriage and consequent
disqualification for the bequest was easy in itself; but it involved
telling at least one man what both Viviette and himself had great
reluctance in telling anybody. Moreover he wished Viviette to know
nothing of his loss in making her his wife. All he could think of
doing for the present was to write a postponing letter to his
uncle's lawyer, and wait events.
The one comfort of this dreary winter-time was his perception of a
returning ability to work with the regularity and much of the spirit
of earlier days.
One bright night in April there was an eclipse of the moon, and Mr.
Torkingham, by arrangement, brought to the observatory several
labouring men and boys, to whom he had promised a sight of the
phenomenon through the telescope. The coming confirmation, fixed
for May, was again talked of; and St. Cleeve learnt from the parson
that the Bishop had arranged to stay the night at the vicarage, and
was to be invited to a grand luncheon at Welland House immediately
after the ordinance.
This seemed like a going back into life again as regarded the
mistress of that house; and St. Cleeve was a little surprised that,
in his communications with Viviette, she had mentioned no such
probability. The next day he walked round the mansion, wondering
how in its present state any entertainment could be given therein.
He found that the shutters had been opened, which had restored an
unexpected liveliness to the aspect of the windows. Two men were
putting a chimney-pot on one of the chimney-stacks, and two more
were scraping green mould from the front wall. He made no inquiries
on that occasion. Three days later he strolled thitherward again.
Now a great cleaning of window-panes was going on, Hezzy Biles and
Sammy Blore being the operators, for which purpose their services
must have been borrowed from the neighbouring farmer. Hezzy dashed
water at the glass with a force that threatened to break it in, the
broad face of Sammy being discernible inside, smiling at the onset.
In addition to these, Anthony Green and another were weeding the
gravel walks, and putting fresh plants into the flower-beds.
Neither of these reasonable operations was a great undertaking,
singly looked at; but the life Viviette had latterly led and the
mood in which she had hitherto regarded the premises, rendered it
somewhat significant. Swithin, however, was rather curious than
concerned at the proceedings, and returned to his tower with
feelings of interest not entirely confined to the worlds overhead.
Lady Constantine may or may not have seen him from the house; but
the same evening, which was fine and dry, while he was occupying
himself in the observatory with cleaning the eye-pieces of the
equatorial, skull-cap on head, observing-jacket on, and in other
ways primed for sweeping, the customary stealthy step on the winding
staircase brought her form in due course into the rays of the
bull's-eye lantern. The meeting was all the more pleasant to him
from being unexpected, and he at once lit up a larger lamp in honour
of the occasion.
'It is but a hasty visit,' she said when, after putting up her mouth
to be kissed, she had seated herself in the low chair used for
observations, panting a little with the labour of ascent. 'But I
hope to be able to come more freely soon. My brother is still
living on with me. Yes, he is going to stay until the confirmation
is over. After the confirmation he will certainly leave. So good
it is of you, dear, to please me by agreeing to the ceremony. The
Bishop, you know, is going to lunch with us. It is a wonder he has
promised to come, for he is a man averse to society, and mostly
keeps entirely with the clergy on these confirmation tours, or
circuits, or whatever they call them. But Mr. Torkingham's house is
so very small, and mine is so close at hand, that this arrangement
to relieve him of the fuss of one meal, at least, naturally
suggested itself; and the Bishop has fallen in with it very readily.
How are you getting on with your observations? Have you not wanted
me dreadfully, to write down notes?'
'Well, I have been obliged to do without you, whether or no. See
here,--how much I have done.' And he showed her a book ruled in
columns, headed 'Object,' 'Right Ascension,' 'Declination,'
'Features,' 'Remarks,' and so on.
She looked over this and other things, but her mind speedily winged
its way back to the confirmation. 'It is so new to me,' she said,
'to have persons coming to the house, that I feel rather anxious. I
hope the luncheon will be a success.'
'You know the Bishop?' said Swithin.
'I have not seen him for many years. I knew him when I was quite a
girl, and he held the little living of Puddle-sub-Mixen, near us;
but after that time, and ever since I have lived here, I have seen
nothing of him. There has been no confirmation in this village,
they say, for twenty years. The other bishop used to make the young
men and women go to Warborne; he wouldn't take the trouble to come
to such an out-of-the-way parish as ours.'
'This cleaning and preparation that I observe going on must be
rather a tax upon you?'
'My brother Louis sees to it, and, what is more, bears the expense.'
'Your brother?' said Swithin, with surprise.
'Well, he insisted on doing so,' she replied, in a hesitating,
despondent tone. 'He has been active in the whole matter, and was
the first to suggest the invitation. I should not have thought of
'Well, I will hold aloof till it is all over.'
'Thanks, dearest, for your considerateness. I wish it was not still
advisable! But I shall see you on the day, and watch my own
philosopher all through the service from the corner of my pew!. . .
I hope you are well prepared for the rite, Swithin?' she added,
turning tenderly to him. 'It would perhaps be advisable for you to
give up this astronomy till the confirmation is over, in order to
devote your attention exclusively to that more serious matter.'
'More serious! Well, I will do the best I can. I am sorry to see
that you are less interested in astronomy than you used to be,
'No; it is only that these preparations for the Bishop unsettle my
mind from study. Now put on your other coat and hat, and come with
me a little way.'
The morning of the confirmation was come. It was mid-May time,
bringing with it weather not, perhaps, quite so blooming as that
assumed to be natural to the month by the joyous poets of three
hundred years ago; but a very tolerable, well-wearing May, that the
average rustic would willingly have compounded for in lieu of Mays
occasionally fairer, but usually more foul.
Among the larger shrubs and flowers which composed the outworks of
the Welland gardens, the lilac, the laburnum, and the guelder-rose
hung out their respective colours of purple, yellow, and white;
whilst within these, belted round from every disturbing gale, rose
the columbine, the peony, the larkspur, and the Solomon's seal. The
animate things that moved amid this scene of colour were plodding
bees, gadding butterflies, and numerous sauntering young feminine
candidates for the impending confirmation, who, having gaily
bedecked themselves for the ceremony, were enjoying their own
appearance by walking about in twos and threes till it was time to
Swithin St. Cleeve, whose preparations were somewhat simpler than
those of the village belles, waited till his grandmother and Hannah
had set out, and then, locking the door, followed towards the
distant church. On reaching the churchyard gate he met Mr.
Torkingham, who shook hands with him in the manner of a man with
several irons in the fire, and telling Swithin where to sit,
disappeared to hunt up some candidates who had not yet made
Casting his eyes round for Viviette, and seeing nothing of her,
Swithin went on to the church porch, and looked in. From the north
side of the nave smiled a host of girls, gaily uniform in dress,
age, and a temporary repression of their natural tendency to 'skip
like a hare over the meshes of good counsel.' Their white muslin
dresses, their round white caps, from beneath whose borders hair-
knots and curls of various shades of brown escaped upon their low
shoulders, as if against their will, lighted up the dark pews and
grey stone-work to an unwonted warmth and life. On the south side
were the young men and boys,--heavy, angular, and massive, as indeed
was rather necessary, considering what they would have to bear at
the hands of wind and weather before they returned to that mouldy
nave for the last time.
Over the heads of all these he could see into the chancel to the
square pew on the north side, which was attached to Welland House.
There he discerned Lady Constantine already arrived, her brother
Louis sitting by her side.
Swithin entered and seated himself at the end of a bench, and she,
who had been on the watch, at once showed by subtle signs her
consciousness of the presence of the young man who had reversed the
ordained sequence of the Church services on her account. She
appeared in black attire, though not strictly in mourning, a touch
of red in her bonnet setting off the richness of her complexion
without making her gay. Handsomest woman in the church she
decidedly was; and yet a disinterested spectator who had known all
the circumstances would probably have felt that, the future
considered, Swithin's more natural mate would have been one of the
muslin-clad maidens who were to be presented to the Bishop with him
When the Bishop had arrived and gone into the chancel, and blown his
nose, the congregation were sufficiently impressed by his presence
to leave off looking at one another.
The Right Reverend Cuthbert Helmsdale, D.D., ninety-fourth occupant
of the episcopal throne of the diocese, revealed himself to be a
personage of dark complexion, whose darkness was thrown still
further into prominence by the lawn protuberances that now rose upon
his two shoulders like the Eastern and Western hemispheres. In
stature he seemed to be tall and imposing, but something of this
aspect may have been derived from his robes.
The service was, as usual, of a length which severely tried the
tarrying powers of the young people assembled; and it was not till
the youth of all the other parishes had gone up that the turn came
for the Welland bevy. Swithin and some older ones were nearly the
last. When, at the heels of Mr. Torkingham, he passed Lady
Constantine's pew, he lifted his eyes from the red lining of that
gentleman's hood sufficiently high to catch hers. She was
abstracted, tearful, regarding him with all the rapt mingling of
religion, love, fervour, and hope which such women can feel at such
times, and which men know nothing of. How fervidly she watched the
Bishop place his hand on her beloved youth's head; how she saw the
great episcopal ring glistening in the sun among Swithin's brown
curls; how she waited to hear if Dr. Helmsdale uttered the form
'this thy child' which he used for the younger ones, or 'this thy
servant' which he used for those older; and how, when he said, 'this
thy CHILD,' she felt a prick of conscience, like a person who had
entrapped an innocent youth into marriage for her own gratification,
till she remembered that she had raised his social position
thereby,--all this could only have been told in its entirety by
As for Swithin, he felt ashamed of his own utter lack of the high
enthusiasm which beamed so eloquently from her eyes. When he passed
her again, on the return journey from the Bishop to his seat, her
face was warm with a blush which her brother might have observed had
he regarded her.
Whether he had observed it or not, as soon as St. Cleeve had sat
himself down again Louis Glanville turned and looked hard at the
young astronomer. This was the first time that St. Cleeve and
Viviette's brother had been face to face in a distinct light, their
first meeting having occurred in the dusk of a railway-station.
Swithin was not in the habit of noticing people's features; he
scarcely ever observed any detail of physiognomy in his friends, a
generalization from their whole aspect forming his idea of them; and
he now only noted a young man of perhaps thirty, who lolled a good
deal, and in whose small dark eyes seemed to be concentrated the
activity that the rest of his frame decidedly lacked. This
gentleman's eyes were henceforward, to the end of the service,
continually fixed upon Swithin; but as this was their natural
direction, from the position of his seat, there was no great
strangeness in the circumstance.
Swithin wanted to say to Viviette, 'Now I hope you are pleased; I
have conformed to your ideas of my duty, leaving my fitness out of
consideration;' but as he could only see her bonnet and forehead it
was not possible even to look the intelligence. He turned to his
left hand, where the organ stood, with Miss Tabitha Lark seated
It being now sermon-time the youthful blower had fallen asleep over
the handle of his bellows, and Tabitha pulled out her handkerchief
intending to flap him awake with it. With the handkerchief tumbled
out a whole family of unexpected articles: a silver thimble; a
photograph; a little purse; a scent-bottle; some loose halfpence;
nine green gooseberries; a key. They rolled to Swithin's feet, and,
passively obeying his first instinct, he picked up as many of the
articles as he could find, and handed them to her amid the smiles of
Tabitha was half-dead with humiliation at such an event, happening
under the very eyes of the Bishop on this glorious occasion; she
turned pale as a sheet, and could hardly keep her seat. Fearing she
might faint, Swithin, who had genuinely sympathized, bent over and
whispered encouragingly, 'Don't mind it, Tabitha. Shall I take you
out into the air?' She declined his offer, and presently the sermon
came to an end.
Swithin lingered behind the rest of the congregation sufficiently
long to see Lady Constantine, accompanied by her brother, the
Bishop, the Bishop's chaplain, Mr. Torkingham, and several other
clergy and ladies, enter to the grand luncheon by the door which
admitted from the churchyard to the lawn of Welland House; the whole
group talking with a vivacity all the more intense, as it seemed,
from the recent two hours' enforced repression of their social
qualities within the adjoining building.
The young man stood till he was left quite alone in the churchyard,
and then went slowly homeward over the hill, perhaps a trifle
depressed at the impossibility of being near Viviette in this her
one day of gaiety, and joining in the conversation of those who
Not that he felt much jealousy of her situation, as his wife, in
comparison with his own. He had so clearly understood from the
beginning that, in the event of marriage, their outward lives were
to run on as before, that to rebel now would have been unmanly in
himself and cruel to her, by adding to embarrassments that were
great enough already. His momentary doubt was of his own strength
to achieve sufficiently high things to render him, in relation to
her, other than a patronized young favourite, whom she had married
at an immense sacrifice of position. Now, at twenty, he was doomed
to isolation even from a wife; could it be that at, say thirty, he
would be welcomed everywhere?
But with motion through the sun and air his mood assumed a lighter
complexion, and on reaching home he remembered with interest that
Venus was in a favourable aspect for observation that afternoon.
Meanwhile the interior of Welland House was rattling with the
progress of the ecclesiastical luncheon.
The Bishop, who sat at Lady Constantine's side, seemed enchanted
with her company, and from the beginning she engrossed his attention
almost entirely. The truth was that the circumstance of her not
having her whole soul centred on the success of the repast and the
pleasure of Bishop Helmsdale, imparted to her, in a great measure,
the mood to ensure both. Her brother Louis it was who had laid out
the plan of entertaining the Bishop, to which she had assented but
indifferently. She was secretly bound to another, on whose career
she had staked all her happiness. Having thus other interests she
evinced to-day the ease of one who hazards nothing, and there was no
sign of that preoccupation with housewifely contingencies which so
often makes the hostess hardly recognizable as the charming woman
who graced a friend's home the day before. In marrying Swithin Lady
Constantine had played her card,--recklessly, impulsively,
ruinously, perhaps; but she had played it; it could not be
withdrawn; and she took this morning's luncheon as an episode that
could result in nothing to her beyond the day's entertainment.
Hence, by that power of indirectness to accomplish in an hour what
strenuous aiming will not effect in a life-time, she fascinated the
Bishop to an unprecedented degree. A bachelor, he rejoiced in the
commanding period of life that stretches between the time of waning
impulse and the time of incipient dotage, when a woman can reach the
male heart neither by awakening a young man's passion nor an old
man's infatuation. He must be made to admire, or he can be made to
do nothing. Unintentionally that is how Viviette operated on her
Lady Constantine, to external view, was in a position to desire many
things, and of a sort to desire them. She was obviously, by nature,
impulsive to indiscretion. But instead of exhibiting activities to
correspond, recently gratified affection lent to her manner just now
a sweet serenity, a truly Christian contentment, which it puzzled
the learned Bishop exceedingly to find in a warm young widow, and
increased his interest in her every moment. Thus matters stood when
the conversation veered round to the morning's confirmation.
'That was a singularly engaging young man who came up among Mr.
Torkingham's candidates,' said the Bishop to her somewhat abruptly.
But abruptness does not catch a woman without her wit. 'Which one?'
she said innocently.
'That youth with the "corn-coloured" hair, as a poet of the new
school would call it, who sat just at the side of the organ. Do you
know who he is?'
In answering Viviette showed a little nervousness, for the first
time that day.
'O yes. He is the son of an unfortunate gentleman who was formerly
curate here,--a Mr. St. Cleeve.'
'I never saw a handsomer young man in my life,' said the Bishop.
Lady Constantine blushed. 'There was a lack of self-consciousness,
too, in his manner of presenting himself, which very much won me. A
Mr. St. Cleeve, do you say? A curate's son? His father must have
been St. Cleeve of All Angels, whom I knew. How comes he to be
staying on here? What is he doing?'
Mr. Torkingham, who kept one ear on the Bishop all the lunch-time,
finding that Lady Constantine was not ready with an answer, hastened
to reply: 'Your lordship is right. His father was an All Angels'
man. The youth is rather to be pitied.'
'He was a man of talent,' affirmed the Bishop. 'But I quite lost
sight of him.'
'He was curate to the late vicar,' resumed the parson, 'and was much
liked by the parish: but, being erratic in his tastes and
tendencies, he rashly contracted a marriage with the daughter of a
farmer, and then quarrelled with the local gentry for not taking up
his wife. This lad was an only child. There was enough money to
educate him, and he is sufficiently well provided for to be
independent of the world so long as he is content to live here with
great economy. But of course this gives him few opportunities of
'Yes, naturally,' replied the Bishop of Melchester. 'Better have
been left entirely dependent on himself. These half-incomes do men
little good, unless they happen to be either weaklings or geniuses.'
Lady Constantine would have given the world to say, 'He is a genius,
and the hope of my life;' but it would have been decidedly risky,
and in another moment was unnecessary, for Mr. Torkingham said,
'There is a certain genius in this young man, I sometimes think.'
'Well, he really looks quite out of the common,' said the Bishop.
'Youthful genius is sometimes disappointing,' observed Viviette, not
believing it in the least.
'Yes,' said the Bishop. 'Though it depends, Lady Constantine, on
what you understand by disappointing. It may produce nothing
visible to the world's eye, and yet may complete its development
within to a very perfect degree. Objective achievements, though the
only ones which are counted, are not the only ones that exist and
have value; and I for one should be sorry to assert that, because a
man of genius dies as unknown to the world as when he was born, he
therefore was an instance of wasted material.'
Objective achievements were, however, those that Lady Constantine
had a weakness for in the present case, and she asked her more
experienced guest if he thought early development of a special
talent a good sign in youth.
The Bishop thought it well that a particular bent should not show
itself too early, lest disgust should result.
'Still,' argued Lady Constantine rather firmly (for she felt this
opinion of the Bishop's to be one throwing doubt on Swithin),
'sustained fruition is compatible with early bias. Tycho Brahe
showed quite a passion for the solar system when he was but a youth,
and so did Kepler; and James Ferguson had a surprising knowledge of
the stars by the time he was eleven or twelve.'
'Yes; sustained fruition,' conceded the Bishop (rather liking the
words), 'is certainly compatible with early bias. Fenelon preached
'He--Mr. St. Cleeve--is not in the church,' said Lady Constantine.
'He is a scientific young man, my lord,' explained Mr. Torkingham.
'An astronomer,' she added, with suppressed pride.
'An astronomer! Really, that makes him still more interesting than
being handsome and the son of a man I knew. How and where does he
'He has a beautiful observatory. He has made use of an old column
that was erected on this manor to the memory of one of the
Constantines. It has been very ingeniously adapted for his purpose,
and he does very good work there. I believe he occasionally sends
up a paper to the Royal Society, or Greenwich, or somewhere, and to
'I should have had no idea, from his boyish look, that he had
advanced so far,' the Bishop answered. 'And yet I saw on his face
that within there was a book worth studying. His is a career I
should very much like to watch.'
A thrill of pleasure chased through Lady Constantine's heart at this
praise of her chosen one. It was an unwitting compliment to her
taste and discernment in singling him out for her own, despite its
Her brother Louis now spoke. 'I fancy he is as interested in one of
his fellow-creatures as in the science of astronomy,' observed the
'In whom?' said Lady Constantine quickly.
'In the fair maiden who sat at the organ,--a pretty girl, rather. I
noticed a sort of by-play going on between them occasionally, during
the sermon, which meant mating, if I am not mistaken.'
'She!' said Lady Constantine. 'She is only a village girl, a
dairyman's daughter,--Tabitha Lark, who used to come to read to me.'
'She may be a savage, for all that I know: but there is something
between those two young people, nevertheless.'
The Bishop looked as if he had allowed his interest in a stranger to
carry him too far, and Mr. Torkingham was horrified at the
irreverent and easy familiarity of Louis Glanville's talk in the
presence of a consecrated bishop. As for Viviette, her tongue lost
all its volubility. She felt quite faint at heart, and hardly knew
how to control herself.
'I have never noticed anything of the sort,' said Mr. Torkingham.
'It would be a matter for regret,' said the Bishop, 'if he should
follow his father in forming an attachment that would be a hindrance
to him in any honourable career; though perhaps an early marriage,
intrinsically considered, would not be bad for him. A youth who
looks as if he had come straight from old Greece may be exposed to
many temptations, should he go out into the world without a friend
or counsellor to guide him.'
Despite her sudden jealousy Viviette's eyes grew moist at the
picture of her innocent Swithin going into the world without a
friend or counsellor. But she was sick in soul and disquieted still
by Louis's dreadful remarks, who, unbeliever as he was in human
virtue, could have no reason whatever for representing Swithin as
engaged in a private love affair if such were not his honest
She was so absorbed during the remainder of the luncheon that she
did not even observe the kindly light that her presence was shedding
on the right reverend ecclesiastic by her side. He reflected it
back in tones duly mellowed by his position; the minor clergy caught
up the rays thereof, and so the gentle influence played down the
The company soon departed when luncheon was over, and the remainder
of the day passed in quietness, the Bishop being occupied in his
room at the vicarage with writing letters or a sermon. Having a
long journey before him the next day he had expressed a wish to be
housed for the night without ceremony, and would have dined alone
with Mr. Torkingham but that, by a happy thought, Lady Constantine
and her brother were asked to join them.
However, when Louis crossed the churchyard and entered the vicarage
drawing-room at seven o'clock, his sister was not in his company.
She was, he said, suffering from a slight headache, and much
regretted that she was on that account unable to come. At this
intelligence the social sparkle disappeared from the Bishop's eye,
and he sat down to table, endeavouring to mould into the form of
episcopal serenity an expression which was really one of common
In his simple statement Louis Glanville had by no means expressed
all the circumstances which accompanied his sister's refusal, at the
last moment, to dine at her neighbour's house. Louis had strongly
urged her to bear up against her slight indisposition--if it were
that, and not disinclination--and come along with him on just this
one occasion, perhaps a more important episode in her life than she
was aware of. Viviette thereupon knew quite well that he alluded to
the favourable impression she was producing on the Bishop,
notwithstanding that neither of them mentioned the Bishop's name.
But she did not give way, though the argument waxed strong between
them; and Louis left her in no very amiable mood, saying, 'I don't
believe you have any more headache than I have, Viviette. It is
some provoking whim of yours--nothing more.'
In this there was a substratum of truth. When her brother had left
her, and she had seen him from the window entering the vicarage
gate, Viviette seemed to be much relieved, and sat down in her
bedroom till the evening grew dark, and only the lights shining
through the trees from the parsonage dining-room revealed to the eye
where that dwelling stood. Then she arose, and putting on the cloak
she had used so many times before for the same purpose, she locked
her bedroom door (to be supposed within, in case of the accidental
approach of a servant), and let herself privately out of the house.
Lady Constantine paused for a moment under the vicarage windows,
till she could sufficiently well hear the voices of the diners to be
sure that they were actually within, and then went on her way, which
was towards the Rings-Hill column. She appeared a mere spot, hardly
distinguishable from the grass, as she crossed the open ground, and
soon became absorbed in the black mass of the fir plantation.
Meanwhile the conversation at Mr. Torkingham's dinner-table was not
of a highly exhilarating quality. The parson, in long self-
communing during the afternoon, had decided that the Diocesan Synod,
whose annual session at Melchester had occurred in the month
previous, would afford a solid and unimpeachable subject to launch
during the meal, whenever conversation flagged; and that it would be
one likely to win the respect of his spiritual chieftain for himself
as the introducer. Accordingly, in the further belief that you
could not have too much of a good thing, Mr. Torkingham not only
acted upon his idea, but at every pause rallied to the synod point
with unbroken firmness. Everything which had been discussed at that
last session--such as the introduction of the lay element into the
councils of the church, the reconstitution of the ecclesiastical
courts, church patronage, the tithe question--was revived by Mr.
Torkingham, and the excellent remarks which the Bishop had made in
his addresses on those subjects were quoted back to him.
As for Bishop Helmsdale himself, his instincts seemed to be to
allude in a debonair spirit to the incidents of the past day--to the
flowers in Lady Constantine's beds, the date of her house--perhaps
with a view of hearing a little more about their owner from Louis,
who would very readily have followed the Bishop's lead had the
parson allowed him room. But this Mr. Torkingham seldom did, and
about half-past nine they prepared to separate.
Louis Glanville had risen from the table, and was standing by the
window, looking out upon the sky, and privately yawning, the topics
discussed having been hardly in his line.
'A fine night,' he said at last.
'I suppose our young astronomer is hard at work now,' said the
Bishop, following the direction of Louis's glance towards the clear
'Yes,' said the parson; 'he is very assiduous whenever the nights
are good for observation. I have occasionally joined him in his
tower, and looked through his telescope with great benefit to my
ideas of celestial phenomena. I have not seen what he has been
'Suppose we stroll that way?' said Louis. 'Would you be interested
in seeing the observatory, Bishop?'
'I am quite willing to go,' said the Bishop, 'if the distance is not
too great. I should not be at all averse to making the acquaintance
of so exceptional a young man as this Mr. St. Cleeve seems to be;
and I have never seen the inside of an observatory in my life.'
The intention was no sooner formed than it was carried out, Mr.
Torkingham leading the way.
Half an hour before this time Swithin St. Cleeve had been sitting in
his cabin at the base of the column, working out some figures from
observations taken on preceding nights, with a view to a theory that
he had in his head on the motions of certain so-called fixed stars.
The evening being a little chilly a small fire was burning in the
stove, and this and the shaded lamp before him lent a remarkably
cosy air to the chamber. He was awakened from his reveries by a
scratching at the window-pane like that of the point of an ivy leaf,
which he knew to be really caused by the tip of his sweetheart-
wife's forefinger. He rose and opened the door to admit her, not
without astonishment as to how she had been able to get away from
'Dearest Viv, why, what's the matter?' he said, perceiving that her
face, as the lamplight fell on it, was sad, and even stormy.
'I thought I would run across to see you. I have heard something
so--so--to your discredit, and I know it can't be true! I know you
are constancy itself; but your constancy produces strange effects in
'Good heavens! Nobody has found us out--'
'No, no--it is not that. You know, Swithin, that I am always
sincere, and willing to own if I am to blame in anything. Now will
you prove to me that you are the same by owning some fault to me?'
'Yes, dear, indeed; directly I can think of one worth owning.'
'I wonder one does not rush upon your tongue in a moment!'
'I confess that I am sufficiently a Pharisee not to experience that
'Swithin, don't speak so affectedly, when you know so well what I
mean! Is it nothing to you that, after all our vows for life, you
have thought it right to--flirt with a village girl?'
'O Viviette!' interrupted Swithin, taking her hand, which was hot
and trembling. 'You who are full of noble and generous feelings,
and regard me with devoted tenderness that has never been surpassed
by woman,--how can you be so greatly at fault? _I_ flirt, Viviette?
By thinking that you injure yourself in my eyes. Why, I am so far
from doing so that I continually pull myself up for watching you too
jealously, as to-day, when I have been dreading the effect upon you
of other company in my absence, and thinking that you rather shut
the gates against me when you have big-wigs to entertain.'
'Do you, Swithin?' she cried. It was evident that the honest tone
of his words was having a great effect in clearing away the clouds.
She added with an uncertain smile, 'But how can I believe that,
after what was seen to-day? My brother, not knowing in the least
that I had an iota of interest in you, told me that he witnessed the
signs of an attachment between you and Tabitha Lark in church, this
'Ah!' cried Swithin, with a burst of laughter. 'Now I know what you
mean, and what has caused this misunderstanding! How good of you,
Viviette, to come at once and have it out with me, instead of
brooding over it with dark imaginings, and thinking bitter things of
me, as many women would have done!' He succinctly told the whole
story of his little adventure with Tabitha that morning; and the sky
was clear on both sides. 'When shall I be able to claim you,' he
added, 'and put an end to all such painful accidents as these?'
She partially sighed. Her perception of what the outside world was
made of, latterly somewhat obscured by solitude and her lover's
company, had been revived to-day by her entertainment of the Bishop,
clergymen, and, more particularly, clergymen's wives; and it did not
diminish her sense of the difficulties in Swithin's path to see anew
how little was thought of the greatest gifts, mental and spiritual,
if they were not backed up by substantial temporalities. However,
the pair made the best of their future that circumstances permitted,
and the interview was at length drawing to a close when there came,
without the slightest forewarning, a smart rat-tat-tat upon the
'O I am lost!' said Viviette, seizing his arm. 'Why was I so
'It is nobody of consequence,' whispered Swithin assuringly.
'Somebody from my grandmother, probably, to know when I am coming
They were unperceived so far, for the only window which gave light
to the hut was screened by a curtain. At that moment they heard the
sound of their visitors' voices, and, with a consternation as great
as her own, Swithin discerned the tones of Mr. Torkingham and the
Bishop of Melchester.
'Where shall I get? What shall I do?' said the poor lady, clasping
Swithin looked around the cabin, and a very little look was required
to take in all its resources. At one end, as previously explained,
were a table, stove, chair, cupboard, and so on; while the other was
completely occupied by a diminutive Arabian bedstead, hung with
curtains of pink-and-white chintz. On the inside of the bed there
was a narrow channel, about a foot wide, between it and the wall of
the hut. Into this cramped retreat Viviette slid herself, and stood
trembling behind the curtains.
By this time the knock had been repeated more loudly, the light
through the window-blind unhappily revealing the presence of some
inmate. Swithin threw open the door, and Mr. Torkingham introduced
The Bishop shook hands with the young man, told him he had known his
father, and at Swithin's invitation, weak as it was, entered the
cabin, the vicar and Louis Glanville remaining on the threshold, not
to inconveniently crowd the limited space within.
Bishop Helmsdale looked benignantly around the apartment, and said,
'Quite a settlement in the backwoods--quite: far enough from the
world to afford the votary of science the seclusion he needs, and
not so far as to limit his resources. A hermit might apparently
live here in as much solitude as in a primeval forest.'
'His lordship has been good enough to express an interest in your
studies,' said Mr. Torkingham to St. Cleeve. 'And we have come to
ask you to let us see the observatory.'
'With great pleasure,' stammered Swithin.
'Where is the observatory?' inquired the Bishop, peering round
'The staircase is just outside this door,' Swithin answered. 'I am
at your lordship's service, and will show you up at once.'
'And this is your little bed, for use when you work late,' said the
'Yes; I am afraid it is rather untidy,' Swithin apologized.
'And here are your books,' the Bishop continued, turning to the
table and the shaded lamp. 'You take an observation at the top, I
presume, and come down here to record your observations.'
The young man explained his precise processes as well as his state
of mind would let him, and while he was doing so Mr. Torkingham and
Louis waited patiently without, looking sometimes into the night,
and sometimes through the door at the interlocutors, and listening
to their scientific converse. When all had been exhibited here
below, Swithin lit his lantern, and, inviting his visitors to
follow, led the way up the column, experiencing no small sense of
relief as soon as he heard the footsteps of all three tramping on
the stairs behind him. He knew very well that, once they were
inside the spiral, Viviette was out of danger, her knowledge of the
locality enabling her to find her way with perfect safety through
the plantation, and into the park home.
At the top he uncovered his equatorial, and, for the first time at
ease, explained to them its beauties, and revealed by its help the
glories of those stars that were eligible for inspection. The
Bishop spoke as intelligently as could be expected on a topic not
peculiarly his own; but, somehow, he seemed rather more abstracted
in manner now than when he had arrived. Swithin thought that
perhaps the long clamber up the stairs, coming after a hard day's
work, had taken his spontaneity out of him, and Mr. Torkingham was
afraid that his lordship was getting bored. But this did not appear
to be the case; for though he said little he stayed on some time
longer, examining the construction of the dome after relinquishing
the telescope; while occasionally Swithin caught the eyes of the
Bishop fixed hard on him.
'Perhaps he sees some likeness of my father in me,' the young man
thought; and the party making ready to leave at this time he
conducted them to the bottom of the tower.
Swithin was not prepared for what followed their descent. All were
standing at the foot of the staircase. The astronomer, lantern in
hand, offered to show them the way out of the plantation, to which
Mr. Torkingham replied that he knew the way very well, and would not
trouble his young friend. He strode forward with the words, and
Louis followed him, after waiting a moment and finding that the
Bishop would not take the precedence. The latter and Swithin were
thus left together for one moment, whereupon the Bishop turned.
'Mr. St. Cleeve,' he said in a strange voice, 'I should like to
speak to you privately, before I leave, to-morrow morning. Can you
meet me--let me see--in the churchyard, at half-past ten o'clock?'
'O yes, my lord, certainly,' said Swithin. And before he had
recovered from his surprise the Bishop had joined the others in the
shades of the plantation.
Swithin immediately opened the door of the hut, and scanned the nook
behind the bed. As he had expected his bird had flown.
All night the astronomer's mind was on the stretch with curiosity as
to what the Bishop could wish to say to him. A dozen conjectures
entered his brain, to be abandoned in turn as unlikely. That which
finally seemed the most plausible was that the Bishop, having become
interested in his pursuits, and entertaining friendly recollections
of his father, was going to ask if he could do anything to help him
on in the profession he had chosen. Should this be the case,
thought the suddenly sanguine youth, it would seem like an
encouragement to that spirit of firmness which had led him to reject
his late uncle's offer because it involved the renunciation of Lady
At last he fell asleep; and when he awoke it was so late that the
hour was ready to solve what conjecture could not. After a hurried
breakfast he paced across the fields, entering the churchyard by the
south gate precisely at the appointed minute.
The inclosure was well adapted for a private interview, being
bounded by bushes of laurel and alder nearly on all sides. He
looked round; the Bishop was not there, nor any living creature save
himself. Swithin sat down upon a tombstone to await Bishop
While he sat he fancied he could hear voices in conversation not far
off, and further attention convinced him that they came from Lady
Constantine's lawn, which was divided from the churchyard by a high
wall and shrubbery only. As the Bishop still delayed his coming,
though the time was nearly eleven, and as the lady whose sweet voice
mingled with those heard from the lawn was his personal property,
Swithin became exceedingly curious to learn what was going on within
that screened promenade. A way of doing so occurred to him. The
key was in the church door; he opened it, entered, and ascended to
the ringers' loft in the west tower. At the back of this was a
window commanding a full view of Viviette's garden front.
The flowers were all in gayest bloom, and the creepers on the walls
of the house were bursting into tufts of young green. A broad
gravel-walk ran from end to end of the facade, terminating in a
large conservatory. In the walk were three people pacing up and
down. Lady Constantine's was the central figure, her brother being
on one side of her, and on the other a stately form in a corded
shovel-hat of glossy beaver and black breeches. This was the
Bishop. Viviette carried over her shoulder a sunshade lined with
red, which she twirled idly. They were laughing and chatting gaily,
and when the group approached the churchyard many of their remarks
entered the silence of the church tower through the ventilator of
The conversation was general, yet interesting enough to Swithin. At
length Louis stepped upon the grass and picked up something that had
lain there, which turned out to be a bowl: throwing it forward he
took a second, and bowled it towards the first, or jack. The
Bishop, who seemed to be in a sprightly mood, followed suit, and
bowled one in a curve towards the jack, turning and speaking to Lady
Constantine as he concluded the feat. As she had not left the
gravelled terrace he raised his voice, so that the words reached
'Do you follow us?' he asked gaily.
'I am not skilful,' she said. 'I always bowl narrow.'
The Bishop meditatively paused.
'This moment reminds one of the scene in Richard the Second,' he
said. 'I mean the Duke of York's garden, where the queen and her
two ladies play, and the queen says--
"What sport shall we devise here in this garden,
To drive away the heavy thought of care?"
To which her lady answers, "Madam, we'll play at bowls."'
'That's an unfortunate quotation for you,' said Lady Constantine;
'for if I don't forget, the queen declines, saying, "Twill make me
think the world is full of rubs, and that my fortune runs against
'Then I cite mal a propos. But it is an interesting old game, and
might have been played at that very date on this very green.'
The Bishop lazily bowled another, and while he was doing it
Viviette's glance rose by accident to the church tower window, where
she recognized Swithin's face. Her surprise was only momentary; and
waiting till both her companions' backs were turned she smiled and
blew him a kiss. In another minute she had another opportunity, and
blew him another; afterwards blowing him one a third time.
Her blowings were put a stop to by the Bishop and Louis throwing
down the bowls and rejoining her in the path, the house clock at the
moment striking half-past eleven.
'This is a fine way of keeping an engagement,' said Swithin to
himself. 'I have waited an hour while you indulge in those
He fumed, turned, and behold somebody was at his elbow: Tabitha
Lark. Swithin started, and said, 'How did you come here, Tabitha?'
'In the course of my calling, Mr. St. Cleeve,' said the smiling
girl. 'I come to practise on the organ. When I entered I saw you
up here through the tower arch, and I crept up to see what you were
looking at. The Bishop is a striking man, is he not?'
'Yes, rather,' said Swithin.
'I think he is much devoted to Lady Constantine, and I am glad of
it. Aren't you?'
'O yes--very,' said Swithin, wondering if Tabitha had seen the
tender little salutes between Lady Constantine and himself.
'I don't think she cares much for him,' added Tabitha judicially.
'Or, even if she does, she could be got away from him in no time by
a younger man.'
'Pooh, that's nothing,' said Swithin impatiently.
Tabitha then remarked that her blower had not come to time, and that
she must go to look for him; upon which she descended the stairs,
and left Swithin again alone.
A few minutes later the Bishop suddenly looked at his watch, Lady
Constantine having withdrawn towards the house. Apparently
apologizing to Louis the Bishop came down the terrace, and through
the door into the churchyard. Swithin hastened downstairs and
joined him in the path under the sunny wall of the aisle.
Their glances met, and it was with some consternation that Swithin
beheld the change that a few short minutes had wrought in that
episcopal countenance. On the lawn with Lady Constantine the rays
of an almost perpetual smile had brightened his dark aspect like
flowers in a shady place: now the smile was gone as completely as
yesterday; the lines of his face were firm; his dark eyes and
whiskers were overspread with gravity; and, as he gazed upon Swithin
from the repose of his stable figure it was like an evangelized King
of Spades come to have it out with the Knave of Hearts.
To return for a moment to Louis Glanville. He had been somewhat
struck with the abruptness of the Bishop's departure, and more
particularly by the circumstance that he had gone away by the
private door into the churchyard instead of by the regular exit on
the other side. True, great men were known to suffer from absence
of mind, and Bishop Helmsdale, having a dim sense that he had
entered by that door yesterday, might have unconsciously turned
thitherward now. Louis, upon the whole, thought little of the
matter, and being now left quite alone on the lawn, he seated
himself in an arbour and began smoking.
The arbour was situated against the churchyard wall. The atmosphere
was as still as the air of a hot-house; only fourteen inches of
brickwork divided Louis from the scene of the Bishop's interview
with St. Cleeve, and as voices on the lawn had been audible to
Swithin in the churchyard, voices in the churchyard could be heard
without difficulty from that close corner of the lawn. No sooner
had Louis lit a cigar than the dialogue began.
'Ah, you are here, St. Cleeve,' said the Bishop, hardly replying to
Swithin's good morning. 'I fear I am a little late. Well, my
request to you to meet me may have seemed somewhat unusual, seeing
that we were strangers till a few hours ago.'
'I don't mind that, if your lordship wishes to see me.'
'I thought it best to see you regarding your confirmation yesterday;
and my reason for taking a more active step with you than I should
otherwise have done is that I have some interest in you through
having known your father when we were undergraduates. His rooms
were on the same staircase with mine at All Angels, and we were
friendly till time and affairs separated us even more completely
than usually happens. However, about your presenting yourself for
confirmation.' (The Bishop's voice grew stern.) 'If I had known
yesterday morning what I knew twelve hours later, I wouldn't have
confirmed you at all.'
'Indeed, my lord!"
'Yes, I say it, and I mean it. I visited your observatory last
'You did, my lord.'
'In inspecting it I noticed something which I may truly describe as
extraordinary. I have had young men present themselves to me who
turned out to be notoriously unfit, either from giddiness, from
being profane or intemperate, or from some bad quality or other.
But I never remember a case which equalled the cool culpability of
this. While infringing the first principles of social decorum you
might at least have respected the ordinance sufficiently to have
stayed away from it altogether. Now I have sent for you here to see
if a last entreaty and a direct appeal to your sense of manly
uprightness will have any effect in inducing you to change your
course of life.'
The voice of Swithin in his next remark showed how tremendously this
attack of the Bishop had told upon his feelings. Louis, of course,
did not know the reason why the words should have affected him
precisely as they did; to any one in the secret the double
embarrassment arising from misapprehended ethics and inability to
set matters right, because his word of secrecy to another was
inviolable, would have accounted for the young man's emotion
'I am very sorry your lordship should have seen anything
objectionable,' said Swithin. 'May I ask what it was?'
'You know what it was. Something in your chamber, which forced me
to the above conclusions. I disguised my feelings of sorrow at the
time for obvious reasons, but I never in my whole life was so
'At what, my lord?'
'At what I saw.'
'Pardon me, Bishop Helmsdale, but you said just now that we are
strangers; so what you saw in my cabin concerns me only.'
'There I contradict you. Twenty-four hours ago that remark would
have been plausible enough; but by presenting yourself for
confirmation at my hands you have invited my investigation into your
Swithin sighed. 'I admit it,' he said.
'And what do I find them?'
'You say reprehensible. But you might at least let me hear the
'I can do more, sir. I can let you see it!'
There was a pause. Louis Glanville was so highly interested that he
stood upon the seat of the arbour, and looked through the leafage
over the wall. The Bishop had produced an article from his pocket.
'What is it?' said Swithin, laboriously scrutinizing the thing.
'Why, don't you see?' said the Bishop, holding it out between his
finger and thumb in Swithin's face. 'A bracelet,--a coral bracelet.
I found the wanton object on the bed in your cabin! And of the sex
of the owner there can be no doubt. More than that, she was
concealed behind the curtains, for I saw them move.' In the
decision of his opinion the Bishop threw the coral bracelet down on
'Nobody was in my room, my lord, who had not a perfect right to be
there,' said the younger man.
'Well, well, that's a matter of assertion. Now don't get into a
passion, and say to me in your haste what you'll repent of saying
'I am not in a passion, I assure your lordship. I am too sad for
'Very well; that's a hopeful sign. Now I would ask you, as one man
of another, do you think that to come to me, the Bishop of this
large and important diocese, as you came yesterday, and pretend to
be something that you are not, is quite upright conduct, leave alone
religious? Think it over. We may never meet again. But bear in
mind what your Bishop and spiritual head says to you, and see if you
cannot mend before it is too late.'
Swithin was meek as Moses, but he tried to appear sturdy. 'My lord,
I am in a difficult position,' he said mournfully; 'how difficult,
nobody but myself can tell. I cannot explain; there are insuperable
reasons against it. But will you take my word of assurance that I
am not so bad as I seem? Some day I will prove it. Till then I
only ask you to suspend your judgment on me.'
The Bishop shook his head incredulously and went towards the
vicarage, as if he had lost his hearing. Swithin followed him with
his eyes, and Louis followed the direction of Swithin's. Before the
Bishop had reached the vicarage entrance Lady Constantine crossed in
front of him. She had a basket on her arm, and was, in fact, going
to visit some of the poorer cottages. Who could believe the Bishop
now to be the same man that he had been a moment before? The
darkness left his face as if he had come out of a cave; his look was
all sweetness, and shine, and gaiety, as he again greeted Viviette.
The conversation which arose between the Bishop and Lady Constantine
was of that lively and reproductive kind which cannot be ended
during any reasonable halt of two people going in opposite
directions. He turned, and walked with her along the laurel-
screened lane that bordered the churchyard, till their voices died
away in the distance. Swithin then aroused himself from his
thoughtful regard of them, and went out of the churchyard by another
Seeing himself now to be left alone on the scene, Louis Glanville
descended from his post of observation in the arbour. He came
through the private doorway, and on to that spot among the graves
where the Bishop and St. Cleeve had conversed. On the tombstone
still lay the coral bracelet which Dr. Helmsdale had flung down
there in his indignation; for the agitated, introspective mood into
which Swithin had been thrown had banished from his mind all thought
of securing the trinket and putting it in his pocket.
Louis picked up the little red scandal-breeding thing, and while
walking on with it in his hand he observed Tabitha Lark approaching
the church, in company with the young blower whom she had gone in
search of to inspire her organ-practising within. Louis immediately
put together, with that rare diplomatic keenness of which he was
proud, the little scene he had witnessed between Tabitha and Swithin
during the confirmation, and the Bishop's stern statement as to
where he had found the bracelet. He had no longer any doubt that it
belonged to her.
'Poor girl!' he said to himself, and sang in an undertone--
'Tra deri, dera,
L'histoire n'est pas nouvelle!'
When she drew nearer Louis called her by name. She sent the boy
into the church, and came forward, blushing at having been called by
so fine a gentleman. Louis held out the bracelet.
'Here is something I have found, or somebody else has found,' he
said to her. 'I won't state where. Put it away, and say no more
about it. I will not mention it either. Now go on into the church
where you are going, and may Heaven have mercy on your soul, my
'Thank you, sir,' said Tabitha, with some perplexity, yet inclined
to be pleased, and only recognizing in the situation the fact that
Lady Constantine's humorous brother was making her a present.
'You are much obliged to me?'
'Well, Miss Lark, I've discovered a secret, you see.'
'What may that be, Mr. Glanville?'
'That you are in love.'
'I don't admit it, sir. Who told you so?'
'Nobody. Only I put two and two together. Now take my advice.
Beware of lovers! They are a bad lot, and bring young women to
'Some do, I dare say. But some don't.'
'And you think that in your particular case the latter alternative
will hold good? We generally think we shall be lucky ourselves,
though all the world before us, in the same situation, have been
'O yes, or we should die outright of despair.'
'Well, I don't think you will be lucky in your case.'
'Please how do you know so much, since my case has not yet arrived?'
asked Tabitha, tossing her head a little disdainfully, but less than
she might have done if he had not obtained a charter for his
discourse by giving her the bracelet.
'Fie, Tabitha! '
'I tell you it has not arrived!' she said, with some anger. 'I have
not got a lover, and everybody knows I haven't, and it's an
insinuating thing for you to say so!'
Louis laughed, thinking how natural it was that a girl should so
emphatically deny circumstances that would not bear curious inquiry.
'Why, of course I meant myself,' he said soothingly. 'So, then, you
will not accept me?'
'I didn't know you meant yourself,' she replied. 'But I won't
accept you. And I think you ought not to jest on such subjects.'
'Well, perhaps not. However, don't let the Bishop see your
bracelet, and all will be well. But mind, lovers are deceivers.'
Tabitha laughed, and they parted, the girl entering the church. She
had been feeling almost certain that, having accidentally found the
bracelet somewhere, he had presented it in a whim to her as the
first girl he met. Yet now she began to have momentary doubts
whether he had not been labouring under a mistake, and had imagined
her to be the owner. The bracelet was not valuable; it was, in
fact, a mere toy,--the pair of which this was one being a little
present made to Lady Constantine by Swithin on the day of their
marriage; and she had not worn them with sufficient frequency out of
doors for Tabitha to recognize either as positively her ladyship's.
But when, out of sight of the blower, the girl momentarily tried it
on, in a corner by the organ, it seemed to her that the ornament was
possibly Lady Constantine's. Now that the pink beads shone before
her eyes on her own arm she remembered having seen a bracelet with
just such an effect gracing the wrist of Lady Constantine upon one
occasion. A temporary self-surrender to the sophism that if Mr.
Louis Glanville chose to give away anything belonging to his sister,
she, Tabitha, had a right to take it without question, was soon
checked by a resolve to carry the tempting strings of coral to her
ladyship that evening, and inquire the truth about them. This
decided on she slipped the bracelet into her pocket, and played her
voluntaries with a light heart.
Bishop Helmsdale did not tear himself away from Welland till about
two o'clock that afternoon, which was three hours later than he had
intended to leave. It was with a feeling of relief that Swithin,
looking from the top of the tower, saw the carriage drive out from
the vicarage into the turnpike road, and whirl the right reverend
gentleman again towards Warborne. The coast being now clear of him
Swithin meditated how to see Viviette, and explain what had
happened. With this in view he waited where he was till evening
Meanwhile Lady Constantine and her brother dined by themselves at
Welland House. They had not met since the morning, and as soon as
they were left alone Louis said, 'You have done very well so far;
but you might have been a little warmer.'
'Done well?' she asked, with surprise.
'Yes, with the Bishop. The difficult question is how to follow up
our advantage. How are you to keep yourself in sight of him?'
'Heavens, Louis! You don't seriously mean that the Bishop of
Melchester has any feelings for me other than friendly?'
'Viviette, this is affectation. You know he has as well as I do.'
She sighed. 'Yes,' she said. 'I own I had a suspicion of the same
thing. What a misfortune!'
'A misfortune? Surely the world is turned upside down! You will
drive me to despair about our future if you see things so awry.
Exert yourself to do something, so as to make of this accident a
stepping-stone to higher things. The gentleman will give us the
slip if we don't pursue the friendship at once.'
'I cannot have you talk like this,' she cried impatiently. 'I have
no more thought of the Bishop than I have of the Pope. I would much
rather not have had him here to lunch at all. You said it would be
necessary to do it, and an opportunity, and I thought it my duty to
show some hospitality when he was coming so near, Mr. Torkingham's
house being so small. But of course I understood that the
opportunity would be one for you in getting to know him, your
prospects being so indefinite at present; not one for me.'
'If you don't follow up this chance of being spiritual queen of
Melchester, you will never have another of being anything. Mind
this, Viviette: you are not so young as you were. You are getting
on to be a middle-aged woman, and your black hair is precisely of
the sort which time quickly turns grey. You must make up your mind
to grizzled bachelors or widowers. Young marriageable men won't
look at you; or if they do just now, in a year or two more they'll
despise you as an antiquated party.'
Lady Constantine perceptibly paled. 'Young men what?' she asked.
'Say that again.'
'I said it was no use to think of young men; they won't look at you
much longer; or if they do, it will be to look away again very
'You imply that if I were to marry a man younger than myself he
would speedily acquire a contempt for me? How much younger must a
man be than his wife--to get that feeling for her?' She was resting
her elbow on the chair as she faintly spoke the words, and covered
her eyes with her hand.
'An exceedingly small number of years,' said Louis drily. 'Now the
Bishop is at least fifteen years older than you, and on that
account, no less than on others, is an excellent match. You would
be head of the church in this diocese: what more can you require
after these years of miserable obscurity? In addition, you would
escape that minor thorn in the flesh of bishops' wives, of being
only "Mrs." while their husbands are peers.'
She was not listening; his previous observation still detained her
'Louis,' she said, 'in the case of a woman marrying a man much
younger than herself, does he get to dislike her, even if there has
been a social advantage to him in the union?'
'Yes,--not a whit less. Ask any person of experience. But what of
that? Let's talk of our own affairs. You say you have no thought
of the Bishop. And yet if he had stayed here another day or two he
would have proposed to you straight off.'
'Seriously, Louis, I could not accept him.'
'I don't love him.'
'Oh, oh, I like those words!' cried Louis, throwing himself back in
his chair and looking at the ceiling in satirical enjoyment. 'A
woman who at two-and-twenty married for convenience, at thirty talks
of not marrying without love; the rule of inverse, that is, in which
more requires less, and less requires more. As your only brother,
older than yourself, and more experienced, I insist that you
encourage the Bishop.'
'Don't quarrel with me, Louis!' she said piteously. 'We don't know
that he thinks anything of me,--we only guess.'
'I know it,--and you shall hear how I know. I am of a curious and
conjectural nature, as you are aware. Last night, when everybody
had gone to bed, I stepped out for a five minutes' smoke on the
lawn, and walked down to where you get near the vicarage windows.
While I was there in the dark one of them opened, and Bishop
Helmsdale leant out. The illuminated oblong of your window shone
him full in the face between the trees, and presently your shadow
crossed it. He waved his hand, and murmured some tender words,
though what they were exactly I could not hear.'
'What a vague, imaginary story,--as if he could know my shadow!
Besides, a man of the Bishop's dignity wouldn't have done such a
thing. When I knew him as a younger man he was not at all romantic,
and he's not likely to have grown so now.'
'That's just what he is likely to have done. No lover is so extreme
a specimen of the species as an old lover. Come, Viviette, no more
of this fencing. I have entered into the project heart and soul--so
much that I have postponed my departure till the matter is well
'Louis--my dear Louis--you will bring me into some disagreeable
position!' said she, clasping her hands. 'I do entreat you not to
interfere or do anything rash about me. The step is impossible. I
have something to tell you some day. I must live on, and endure--'
'Everything except this penury,' replied Louis, unmoved. 'Come, I
have begun the campaign by inviting Bishop Helmsdale, and I'll take
the responsibility of carrying it on. All I ask of you is not to
make a ninny of yourself. Come, give me your promise!'
'No, I cannot,--I don't know how to! I only know one thing,--that I
am in no hurry--'
'"No hurry" be hanged! Agree, like a good sister, to charm the
'I must consider!' she replied, with perturbed evasiveness.
It being a fine evening Louis went out of the house to enjoy his
cigar in the shrubbery. On reaching his favourite seat he found he
had left his cigar-case behind him; he immediately returned for it.
When he approached the window by which he had emerged he saw Swithin
St. Cleeve standing there in the dusk, talking to Viviette inside.
St. Cleeve's back was towards Louis, but, whether at a signal from
her or by accident, he quickly turned and recognized Glanville;
whereupon raising his hat to Lady Constantine the young man passed
along the terrace-walk and out by the churchyard door.
Louis rejoined his sister. 'I didn't know you allowed your lawn to
be a public thoroughfare for the parish,' he said.
'I am not exclusive, especially since I have been so poor,' replied
'Then do you let everybody pass this way, or only that illustrious
youth because he is so good-looking?'
'I have no strict rule in the case. Mr. St. Cleeve is an
acquaintance of mine, and he can certainly come here if he chooses.'
Her colour rose somewhat, and she spoke warmly.
Louis was too cautious a bird to reveal to her what had suddenly
dawned upon his mind--that his sister, in common with the (to his
thinking) unhappy Tabitha Lark, had been foolish enough to get
interested in this phenomenon of the parish, this scientific Adonis.
But he resolved to cure at once her tender feeling, if it existed,
by letting out a secret which would inflame her dignity against the
'A good-looking young man,' he said, with his eyes where Swithin had
vanished. 'But not so good as he looks. In fact a regular young
'What do you mean?'
'Oh, only a little feature I discovered in St. Cleeve's history.
But I suppose he has a right to sow his wild oats as well as other
'Tell me what you allude to,--do, Louis.'
'It is hardly fit that I should. However, the case is amusing
enough. I was sitting in the arbour to-day, and was an unwilling
listener to the oddest interview I ever heard of. Our friend the
Bishop discovered, when we visited the observatory last night, that
our astronomer was not alone in his seclusion. A lady shared his
romantic cabin with him; and finding this, the Bishop naturally
enough felt that the ordinance of confirmation had been profaned.
So his lordship sent for Master Swithin this morning, and meeting
him in the churchyard read him such an excommunicating lecture as I
warrant he won't forget in his lifetime. Ha-ha-ha! 'Twas very
He watched her face narrowly while he spoke with such seeming
carelessness. Instead of the agitation of jealousy that he had
expected to be aroused by this hint of another woman in the case,
there was a curious expression, more like embarrassment than
anything else which might have been fairly attributed to the
subject. 'Can it be that I am mistaken?' he asked himself.
The possibility that he might be mistaken restored Louis to good-
humour, and lights having been brought he sat with his sister for
some time, talking with purpose of Swithin's low rank on one side,
and the sordid struggles that might be in store for him. St. Cleeve
being in the unhappy case of deriving his existence through two
channels of society, it resulted that he seemed to belong to either
this or that according to the altitude of the beholder. Louis threw
the light entirely on Swithin's agricultural side, bringing out old
Mrs. Martin and her connexions and her ways of life with luminous
distinctness, till Lady Constantine became greatly depressed. She,
in her hopefulness, had almost forgotten, latterly, that the bucolic
element, so incisively represented by Messrs. Hezzy Biles, Haymoss
Fry, Sammy Blore, and the rest entered into his condition at all; to
her he had been the son of his academic father alone.
But she would not reveal the depression to which she had been
subjected by this resuscitation of the homely half of poor Swithin,
presently putting an end to the subject by walking hither and
thither about the room.
'What have you lost?' said Louis, observing her movements.
'Nothing of consequence,--a bracelet.'
'Coral?' he inquired calmly.
'Yes. How did you know it was coral? You have never seen it, have
He was about to make answer; but the amazed enlightenment which her
announcement had produced in him through knowing where the Bishop
had found such an article, led him to reconsider himself. Then,
like an astute man, by no means sure of the dimensions of the
intrigue he might be uncovering, he said carelessly, 'I found such a
one in the churchyard to-day. But I thought it appeared to be of no
great rarity, and I gave it to one of the village girls who was
'Did she take it? Who was she?' said the unsuspecting Viviette.
'Really, I don't remember. I suppose it is of no consequence?'
'O no; its value is nothing, comparatively. It was only one of a
pair such as young girls wear.' Lady Constantine could not add
that, in spite of this, she herself valued it as being Swithin's
present, and the best he could afford.
Panic-struck by his ruminations, although revealing nothing by his
manner, Louis soon after went up to his room, professedly to write
letters. He gave vent to a low whistle when he was out of hearing.
He of course remembered perfectly well to whom he had given the
corals, and resolved to seek out Tabitha the next morning to
ascertain whether she could possibly have owned such a trinket as
well as his sister,--which at present he very greatly doubted,
though fervently hoping that she might.
The effect upon Swithin of the interview with the Bishop had been a
very marked one. He felt that he had good ground for resenting that
dignitary's tone in haughtily assuming that all must be sinful which
at the first blush appeared to be so, and in narrowly refusing a
young man the benefit of a single doubt. Swithin's assurance that
he would be able to explain all some day had been taken in
'He may be as virtuous as his prototype Timothy; but he's an
opinionated old fogey all the same,' said St. Cleeve petulantly.
Yet, on the other hand, Swithin's nature was so fresh and ingenuous,
notwithstanding that recent affairs had somewhat denaturalized him,
that for a man in the Bishop's position to think him immoral was
almost as overwhelming as if he had actually been so, and at moments
he could scarcely bear existence under so gross a suspicion. What
was his union with Lady Constantine worth to him when, by reason of
it, he was thought a reprobate by almost the only man who had
professed to take an interest in him?
Certainly, by contrast with his air-built image of himself as a
worthy astronomer, received by all the world, and the envied husband
of Viviette, the present imputation was humiliating. The glorious
light of this tender and refined passion seemed to have become
debased to burlesque hues by pure accident, and his aesthetic no
less than his ethic taste was offended by such an anti-climax. He
who had soared amid the remotest grandeurs of nature had been taken
to task on a rudimentary question of morals, which had never been a
question with him at all. This was what the exigencies of an
awkward attachment had brought him to; but he blamed the
circumstances, and not for one moment Lady Constantine.
Having now set his heart against a longer concealment he was
disposed to think that an excellent way of beginning a revelation of
their marriage would be by writing a confidential letter to the
Bishop, detailing the whole case. But it was impossible to do this
on his own responsibility. He still recognized the understanding
entered into with Viviette, before the marriage, to be as binding as
ever,--that the initiative in disclosing their union should come
from her. Yet he hardly doubted that she would take that initiative
when he told her of his extraordinary reprimand in the churchyard.
This was what he had come to do when Louis saw him standing at the
window. But before he had said half-a-dozen words to Viviette she
motioned him to go on, which he mechanically did, ere he could
sufficiently collect his thoughts on its advisability or otherwise.
He did not, however, go far. While Louis and his sister were
discussing him in the drawing-room he lingered musing in the
churchyard, hoping that she might be able to escape and join him in
the consultation he so earnestly desired.
She at last found opportunity to do this. As soon as Louis had left
the room and shut himself in upstairs she ran out by the window in
the direction Swithin had taken. When her footsteps began crunching
on the gravel he came forward from the churchyard door.
They embraced each other in haste, and then, in a few short panting
words, she explained to him that her brother had heard and witnessed
the interview on that spot between himself and the Bishop, and had
told her the substance of the Bishop's accusation, not knowing she
was the woman in the cabin.
'And what I cannot understand is this,' she added; 'how did the
Bishop discover that the person behind the bed-curtains was a woman
and not a man?'
Swithin explained that the Bishop had found the bracelet on the bed,
and had brought it to him in the churchyard.
'O Swithin, what do you say? Found the coral bracelet? What did
you do with it?'
Swithin clapped his hand to his pocket.
'Dear me! I recollect--I left it where it lay on Reuben Heath's
'Oh, my dear, dear Swithin!' she cried miserably. 'You have
compromised me by your forgetfulness. I have claimed the article as
mine. My brother did not tell me that the Bishop brought it from
the cabin. What can I, can I do, that neither the Bishop nor my
brother may conclude _I_ was the woman there?'
'But if we announce our marriage--'
'Even as your wife, the position was too undignified--too I don't
know what--for me ever to admit that I was there! Right or wrong, I
must declare the bracelet was not mine. Such an escapade--why, it
would make me ridiculous in the county; and anything rather than
'I was in hope that you would agree to let our marriage be known,'
said Swithin, with some disappointment. 'I thought that these
circumstances would make the reason for doing so doubly strong.'
'Yes. But there are, alas, reasons against it still stronger! Let
me have my way.'
'Certainly, dearest. I promised that before you agreed to be mine.
My reputation--what is it! Perhaps I shall be dead and forgotten
before the next transit of Venus!'
She soothed him tenderly, but could not tell him why she felt the
reasons against any announcement as yet to be stronger than those in
favour of it. How could she, when her feeling had been cautiously
fed and developed by her brother Louis's unvarnished exhibition of
Swithin's material position in the eyes of the world?--that of a
young man, the scion of a family of farmers recently her tenants,
living at the homestead with his grandmother, Mrs. Martin.
To soften her refusal she said in declaring it, 'One concession,
Swithin, I certainly will make. I will see you oftener. I will
come to the cabin and tower frequently; and will contrive, too, that
you come to the house occasionally. During the last winter we
passed whole weeks without meeting; don't let us allow that to
'Very well, dearest,' said Swithin good-humouredly. 'I don't care
so terribly much for the old man's opinion of me, after all. For
the present, then, let things be as they are.'
Nevertheless, the youth felt her refusal more than he owned; but the
unequal temperament of Swithin's age, so soon depressed on his own
account, was also soon to recover on hers, and it was with almost a
child's forgetfulness of the past that he took her view of the case.
When he was gone she hastily re-entered the house. Her brother had
not reappeared from upstairs; but she was informed that Tabitha Lark
was waiting to see her, if her ladyship would pardon the said
Tabitha for coming so late. Lady Constantine made no objection, and
saw the young girl at once.
When Lady Constantine entered the waiting-room behold, in Tabitha's
outstretched hand lay the coral ornament which had been causing
Viviette so much anxiety.
'I guessed, on second thoughts, that it was yours, my lady,' said
Tabitha, with rather a frightened face; 'and so I have brought it
'But how did you come by it, Tabitha?'
'Mr. Glanville gave it to me; he must have thought it was mine. I
took it, fancying at the moment that he handed it to me because I
happened to come by first after he had found it.'
Lady Constantine saw how the situation might be improved so as to
effect her deliverance from this troublesome little web of evidence.
'Oh, you can keep it,' she said brightly. 'It was very good of you
to bring it back. But keep it for your very own. Take Mr.
Glanville at his word, and don't explain. And, Tabitha, divide the
strands into two bracelets; there are enough of them to make a
The next morning, in pursuance of his resolution, Louis wandered
round the grounds till he saw the girl for whom he was waiting enter
the church. He accosted her over the wall. But, puzzling to view,
a coral bracelet blushed on each of her young arms, for she had
promptly carried out the suggestion of Lady Constantine.
'You are wearing it, I see, Tabitha, with the other,' he murmured.
'Then you mean to keep it?'
'Yes, I mean to keep it.'
'You are sure it is not Lady Constantine's? I find she has one like
'Quite sure. But you had better take it to her, sir, and ask her,'
said the saucy girl.
'Oh, no; that's not necessary,' replied Louis, considerably shaken
in his convictions.
When Louis met his sister, a short time after, he did not catch her,
as he had intended to do, by saying suddenly, 'I have found your
bracelet. I know who has got it.'
'You cannot have found it,' she replied quietly, 'for I have
discovered that it was never lost,' and stretching out both her
hands she revealed one on each, Viviette having performed the same
operation with her remaining bracelet that she had advised Tabitha
to do with the other.
Louis was mystified, but by no means convinced. In spite of this
attempt to hoodwink him his mind returned to the subject every hour
of the day. There was no doubt that either Tabitha or Viviette had
been with Swithin in the cabin. He recapitulated every case that
had occurred during his visit to Welland in which his sister's
manner had been of a colour to justify the suspicion that it was
she. There was that strange incident in the corridor, when she had
screamed at what she described to be a shadowy resemblance to her
late husband; how very improbable that this fancy should have been
the only cause of her agitation! Then he had noticed, during
Swithin's confirmation, a blush upon her cheek when he passed her on
his way to the Bishop, and the fervour in her glance during the few
moments of the imposition of hands. Then he suddenly recalled the
night at the railway station, when the accident with the whip took
place, and how, when he reached Welland House an hour later, he had
found no Viviette there. Running thus from incident to incident he
increased his suspicions without being able to cull from the
circumstances anything amounting to evidence; but evidence he now
determined to acquire without saying a word to any one.
His plan was of a cruel kind: to set a trap into which the pair
would blindly walk if any secret understanding existed between them
of the nature he suspected.
Louis began his stratagem by calling at the tower one afternoon, as
if on the impulse of the moment.
After a friendly chat with Swithin, whom he found there (having
watched him enter), Louis invited the young man to dine the same
evening at the House, that he might have an opportunity of showing
him some interesting old scientific works in folio, which, according
to Louis's account, he had stumbled on in the library. Louis set no
great bait for St. Cleeve in this statement, for old science was not
old art which, having perfected itself, has died and left its secret
hidden in its remains. But Swithin was a responsive fellow, and
readily agreed to come; being, moreover, always glad of a chance of
meeting Viviette en famille. He hoped to tell her of a scheme that
had lately suggested itself to him as likely to benefit them both:
that he should go away for a while, and endeavour to raise
sufficient funds to visit the great observatories of Europe, with an
eye to a post in one of them. Hitherto the only bar to the plan had
been the exceeding narrowness of his income, which, though
sufficient for his present life, was absolutely inadequate to the
requirements of a travelling astronomer.
Meanwhile Louis Glanville had returned to the House and told his
sister in the most innocent manner that he had been in the company
of St. Cleeve that afternoon, getting a few wrinkles on astronomy;
that they had grown so friendly over the fascinating subject as to
leave him no alternative but to invite St. Cleeve to dine at Welland
the same evening, with a view to certain researches in the library
'I could quite make allowances for any youthful errors into which he
may have been betrayed,' Louis continued sententiously, 'since, for
a scientist, he is really admirable. No doubt the Bishop's caution
will not be lost upon him; and as for his birth and connexions,--
those he can't help.'
Lady Constantine showed such alacrity in adopting the idea of having
Swithin to dinner, and she ignored his 'youthful errors' so
completely, as almost to betray herself. In fulfilment of her
promise to see him oftener she had been intending to run across to
Swithin on that identical evening. Now the trouble would be saved
in a very delightful way, by the exercise of a little hospitality
which Viviette herself would not have dared to suggest.
Dinner-time came and with it Swithin, exhibiting rather a blushing
and nervous manner that was, unfortunately, more likely to betray
their cause than was Viviette's own more practised bearing.
Throughout the meal Louis sat like a spider in the corner of his
web, observing them narrowly, and at moments flinging out an artful
thread here and there, with a view to their entanglement. But they
underwent the ordeal marvellously well. Perhaps the actual tie
between them, through being so much closer and of so much more
practical a nature than even their critic supposed it, was in itself
a protection against their exhibiting that ultra-reciprocity of
manner which, if they had been merely lovers, might have betrayed
After dinner the trio duly adjourned to the library as had been
planned, and the volumes were brought forth by Louis with the zest
of a bibliophilist. Swithin had seen most of them before, and
thought but little of them; but the pleasure of staying in the house
made him welcome any reason for doing so, and he willingly looked at
whatever was put before him, from Bertius's Ptolemy to Rees's
The evening thus passed away, and it began to grow late. Swithin
who, among other things, had planned to go to Greenwich next day to
view the Royal Observatory, would every now and then start up and
prepare to leave for home, when Glanville would unearth some other
volume and so detain him yet another half-hour.
'By George!' he said, looking at the clock when Swithin was at last
really about to depart. 'I didn't know it was so late. Why not
stay here to-night, St. Cleeve? It is very dark, and the way to
your place is an awkward cross-cut over the fields.'
'It would not inconvenience us at all, Mr. St. Cleeve, if you would
care to stay,' said Lady Constantine.
'I am afraid--the fact is, I wanted to take an observation at twenty
minutes past two,' began Swithin.
'Oh, now, never mind your observation,' said Louis. 'That's only an
excuse. Do that to-morrow night. Now you will stay. It is
settled. Viviette, say he must stay, and we'll have another hour of
these charming intellectual researches.'
Viviette obeyed with delightful ease. 'Do stay, Mr St. Cleeve!' she
'Well, in truth I can do without the observation,' replied the young
man, as he gave way. 'It is not of the greatest consequence.'
Thus it was arranged; but the researches among the tomes were not
prolonged to the extent that Louis had suggested. In three-quarters
of an hour from that time they had all retired to their respective
rooms; Lady Constantine's being on one side of the west corridor,
Swithin's opposite, and Louis's at the further end.
Had a person followed Louis when he withdrew, that watcher would
have discovered, on peeping through the key-hole of his door, that
he was engaged in one of the oddest of occupations for such a man,--
sweeping down from the ceiling, by means of a walking-cane, a long
cobweb which lingered on high in the corner. Keeping it stretched
upon the cane he gently opened the door, and set the candle in such
a position on the mat that the light shone down the corridor. Thus
guided by its rays he passed out slipperless, till he reached the
door of St. Cleeve's room, where he applied the dangling spider's
thread in such a manner that it stretched across like a tight-rope
from jamb to jamb, barring, in its fragile way, entrance and egress.
The operation completed he retired again, and, extinguishing his
light, went through his bedroom window out upon the flat roof of the
portico to which it gave access.
Here Louis made himself comfortable in his chair and smoking-cap,
enjoying the fragrance of a cigar for something like half-an-hour.
His position commanded a view of the two windows of Lady
Constantine's room, and from these a dim light shone continuously.
Having the window partly open at his back, and the door of his room
also scarcely closed, his ear retained a fair command of any noises
that might be made.
In due time faint movements became audible; whereupon, returning to
his room, he re-entered the corridor and listened intently. All was
silent again, and darkness reigned from end to end. Glanville,
however, groped his way along the passage till he again reached
Swithin's door, where he examined, by the light of a wax-match he
had brought, the condition of the spider's thread. It was gone;
somebody had carried it off bodily, as Samson carried off the pin
and the web. In other words, a person had passed through the door.
Still holding the faint wax-light in his hand Louis turned to the
door of Lady Constantine's chamber, where he observed first that,
though it was pushed together so as to appear fastened to cursory
view, the door was not really closed by about a quarter of an inch.
He dropped his light and extinguished it with his foot. Listening,
he heard a voice within,--Viviette's voice, in a subdued murmur,
though speaking earnestly.
Without any hesitation Louis then returned to Swithin's door, opened
it, and walked in. The starlight from without was sufficient, now
that his eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, to reveal that
the room was unoccupied, and that nothing therein had been
With a heavy tread Louis came forth, walked loudly across the
corridor, knocked at Lady Constantine's door, and called 'Viviette!'
She heard him instantly, replying 'Yes' in startled tones.
Immediately afterwards she opened her door, and confronted him in
her dressing-gown, with a light in her hand. 'What is the matter,
Louis?' she said.
'I am greatly alarmed. Our visitor is missing.'
'Missing? What, Mr. St. Cleeve?'
'Yes. I was sitting up to finish a cigar, when I thought I heard a
noise in this direction. On coming to his room I find he is not
'Good Heaven! I wonder what has happened!' she exclaimed, in
apparently intense alarm.
'I wonder,' said Glanville grimly.
'Suppose he is a somnambulist! If so, he may have gone out and
broken his neck. I have never heard that he is one, but they say
that sleeping in strange places disturbs the minds of people who are
given to that sort of thing, and provokes them to it.'
'Unfortunately for your theory his bed has not been touched.'
'Oh, what then can it be?'
Her brother looked her full in the face. 'Viviette!' he said
She seemed puzzled. 'Well?' she replied, in simple tones.
'I heard voices in your room,' he continued.
'Yes, you may have done so. It was mine.'