Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Three Sisters by May Sinclair

Part 3 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

And she did actually think it was beautiful with its stone floor, its
white-washed walls, its black oak dresser and chest and settle;
not because of these things but because it was on the border of her
Paradise. Rowcliffe had sent her there. Jim Greatorex had glamour
for her, less on his own account than as a man in whom Rowcliffe was

"You'd think it a bit loansoom, wouldn' yo', ef yo' staayed in it
yeear in and yeear out?"

"I don't know," said Alice doubtfully. "Perhaps--a little," she
ventured, encouraged by Greatorex's indulgent smile.

"An' loansoom it is," said Greatorex dismally.

Alice explored, penetrating into the interior.

"Oh--but aren't you glad you've got such a lovely fireplace?"

"I doan' knaw as I've thought mooch about it. We get used to our own."

"What are those hooks for in the chimney?"

"They? They're fer 'angin' the haams on--to smoak 'em."

"I see."

She would have sat there on the oak settle but that Greatorex was
holding open the door of an inner room.

"Yo'd better coom into t' parlor, Miss Cartaret. It'll be more
coomfortable for you."

She rose and followed him. She had been long enough in Garth to know
that if you are asked to go into the parlor you must go. Otherwise you
risk offending the kind gods of the hearth and threshold.

The parlor was a long low room that continued the line of the house
to its southern end. One wide mullioned window looked east over the
marsh, the other south to the hillside across a little orchard of
dwarfed and twisted trees.

To Alice they were the trees of her Paradise and the hillside was its

Greatorex drew close to the hearth the horsehair and mahogany armchair
with the white antimacassar.

"Sit yo' down and I'll putt a light to the fire."

"Not for me," she protested.

But Greatorex was on his knees before her, lighting the fire.

"You'll 'ave wet feet coomin' over t' moor. Cauld, too, yo'll be."

She sat and watched him. He was deft with his great hands, like a
woman, over his fire-lighting.

"There--she's burning fine." He rose, turning triumphantly on his
hearth as the flame leaped in the grate.

"Yo'll let me mak' yo' a coop of tae, Miss Cartaret."

There was an interrogative lilt at the end of all his sentences, even
when, as now, he was making statements that admitted of no denial. But
his guest missed the incontrovertible and final quality of what was

"Please don't trouble."

"It's naw trooble--naw trooble at all. Maaggie'll 'ave got kettle on."

He strode out of his parlor into his kitchen. "Maaggie! Maaggie!" he
called. "Are yo' there? Putt kettle on and bring tae into t' parlor."

Alice looked about her while she waited.

Though she didn't know it, Jim Greatorex's parlor was a more tolerable
place than the Vicarage drawing-room. Brown cocoanut matting covered
its stone floor. In front of the wide hearth on the inner wall was a
rug of dyed sheepskin bordered with a strip of scarlet snippets. The
wooden chimney-piece, the hearth-place, the black hobs, the straight
barred grate with its frame of fine fluted iron, belonged to a period
of simplicity. The oblong mahogany table in the center of the room,
the sofa and chairs, upholstered in horsehair, were of a style austere
enough to be almost beautiful. Down the white ground of the wall-paper
an endless succession of pink nosegays ascended and descended between
parallel stripes of blue.

There were no ornaments to speak of in Greatorex's parlor but the
grocer's tea-caddies on the mantelshelf and the little china figures,
the spotted cows, the curly dogs, the boy in blue, the girl in pink;
and the lustre ware and the tea-sets, the white and gold, the blue
and white, crowded behind the diamond panes of the two black oak
cupboards. Of these one was set in the most conspicuous corner, the
other in the middle of the long wall facing the east window, bare
save for the framed photographs of Greatorex's family, the groups,
the portraits of father and mother and of grandparents, enlarged from
vignettes taken in the seventies and eighties--faces defiant, stolid
and pathetic; yearning, mournful, tender faces, slightly blurred.

All these objects impressed themselves on Ally's brain, adhering
to its obsession and receiving from it an immense significance and

* * * * *

She heard Maggie's running feet, and the great leisurely steps of
Greatorex, and his voice, soft and kind, encouraging Maggie.

"Theer--that's t' road. Gently, laass--moor' 'aaste, less spead. Now
t' tray--an' a clane cloth--t' woon wi' laace on 't. Thot's t' road."

Maggie whispered, awestruck by these preparations:

"Which coops will yo' 'ave, Mr. Greatorex?"

"T' best coops, Maaggie."

Maggie had to fetch them from the corner cupboard (they were the white
and gold). At Greatorex's command she brought the little round oak
table from its place in the front window and set it by the hearth
before the visitor. Humbly, under her master's eye, yet with a sort of
happy pride about her, she set out the tea-things and the glass dishes
of jam and honey and tea-cakes.

Greatorex waited, silent and awkward, till his servant had left the
room. Then he came forward.

"Theer's caake," he said. "Maaggie baaked un yesterda'. An' theer's

He made no servile apologies for what he set before her. He was giving
her nothing that was not good, and he knew it.

And he sat down facing her and watched her pour out her tea and help
herself with her little delicate hands. If he had been a common man, a
peasant, his idea of courtesy would have been to leave her to herself,
to turn away his eyes from her in that intimate and sacred act of
eating and drinking. But Greatorex was a farmer, the descendant of
yeomen, and by courtesy a yeoman still, and courtesy bade him watch
and see that his guest wanted for nothing.

That he did not sit down at the little table and drink tea with her
himself showed that his courtesy knew where to draw the dividing line.

"But why aren't you having anything yourself?" said Alice. She really

He smiled. "It's a bit too early for me, thank yo'. Maaggie'll mak' me
a coop by and bye."

And she said to herself, "How beautifully he did it."

He was indeed doing it beautifully all through. He watched her little
fingers, and the very instant they had disposed of a morsel he offered
her another. It was a deep and exquisite pleasure to him to observe
her in that act of eating and drinking. He had never seen anything
like the prettiness, the dainty precision that she brought to it. He
had never seen anything so pretty as Ally herself, in the rough gray
tweed that exaggerated her fineness and fragility; never anything so
distracting and at the same time so heartrending as the gray muff and
collar of squirrel fur, and the little gray fur hat with the bit of
blue peacock's breast laid on one side of it like a folded wing.

As he watched her he thought, "If I was to touch her I should break

* * * * *

Then the conversation began.

"I was sorry," he said, "to hear yo was so poorly, Miss Cartaret."

"I'm all right now. You can see I'm all right."

He shook his head. "I saw yo' a moonth ago, and I didn't think then I
sud aver see yo' at Oopthorne again."

He paused.

"'E's a woonderful maan, Dr. Rawcliffe."

"He is," said Alice.

Her voice was very soft, inaudible as a breath. All the blood in
her body seemed to rush into her face and flood it and spread up her
forehead to the roots of the gold hair that the east wind had crisped
round the edges of her hat. She thought, "It'll be awful if he
guesses, and if he talks." But when she looked at Greatorex his face
reassured her, it was so utterly innocent of divination. And the next
moment he went straight to the matter in hand.

"An' what's this thing you've coom to aassk me, Miss Cartaret?"

"Well"--she looked at him and her gray eyes were soft and charmingly
candid--"it _was_ if you'd be kind enough to sing at our concert.
You've heard about it?"

"Ay, I've heard about it, right enoof."

"Well--_won't_ you? You _have_ sung, you know."

"Yes. I've soong. But thot was in t' owd schoolmaaster's time. Yo'
wouldn't care to hear my singin' now. I've got out of the way of it,

"You haven't, Mr. Greatorex. I've heard you. You've got a magnificent
voice. There isn't one like it in the choir."

"Ay, there's not mooch wrong with my voice, I rackon. But it's like
this, look yo. I joost soong fer t' schoolmaaster. He was a friend--a
personal friend of mine. And he's gone. And I'm sure I doan' knaw--"

"I know, Mr. Greatorex. I know exactly how you feel about it. You
sang to please your friend. He's gone and you don't like the idea of
singing for anybody else--for a set of people you don't know."

She had said it. It was the naked truth and he wasn't going to deny

She went on. "We're strangers and perhaps you don't like us very much,
and you feel that singing for us would be like singing the Lord's song
in a strange country; you feel as if it would be profanation--a kind
of disloyalty."

"Thot's it. Thot's it." Never had he been so well interpreted.

"It's that--and it's because you miss him so awfully."

"Wall--" He seemed inclined, in sheer honesty, to deprecate the
extreme and passionate emotion she suggested. I would n' saay--O'
course, I sort o' miss him. I caann't afford to lose a friend--I
'aven't so many of 'em."

"I know. It's the waters of Babylon, and you're hanging up your
voice in the willow tree." She could be gay and fluent enough with
Greatorex, who was nothing to her. "But it's an awful pity. A willow
tree can't do anything with a big barytone voice hung up in it."

He laughed then. And afterward, whenever he thought of it, he laughed.

She saw that he had adopted his attitude first of all in resentment,
that he had continued it as a passionate, melancholy pose, and that he
was only keeping it up through sheer obstinacy. He would be glad of a
decent excuse to abandon it, if he could find one.

"And your friend must have been proud of your voice, wasn't he?"

"He sat more store by it than what I do. It was he, look yo, who
trained me so as I could sing proper."

"Well, then, he must have taken some trouble over it. Do you think
he'd like you to go and hang it up in a willow tree?"

Greatorex looked up, showing a shamefaced smile. The little lass had
beaten him.

"Coom to think of it, I doan' knaw as he would like it mooch."

"Of course he wouldn't like it. It would be wasting what he'd done."

"So 't would. I naver thought of it like thot."

She rose. She knew the moment of surrender, and she knew, woman-like,
that it must not be overpassed. She stood before him, drawing on her
gloves, fastening her squirrel collar and settling her chin in the
warm fur with the movement of a small burrowing animal, a movement
that captivated Greatorex. Then, deliberately and finally, she held
out her hand.

"Good-bye, Mr. Greatorex. It's all right, isn't it? You're coming to
sing for _him,_ you know, not for _us_."

"I'm coomin'," said Greatorex.

She settled her chin again, tucked her hands away in the squirrel muff
and went quickly toward the door. He followed.

"Let me putt Daasy in t' trap, Miss Cartaret, and drive yo' home."

"I wouldn't think of it. Thank you all the same."

She was in the kitchen now, on the outer threshold. He followed her

"Miss Cartaret--"

She turned. "Well?"

His face was flushed to the eyes. He struggled visibly for expression.
"Yo' moosn' saay I doan' like yo'. Fer it's nat the truth."

"I'm glad it isn't," she said.

He walked with her down the bridle path to the gate. He was dumb after
his apocalypse.

They parted at the gate.

With long, slow, thoughtful strides Greatorex returned along the
bridle path to his house.

* * * * *

Alice went gaily down the hill to Garth. It was the hill of Paradise.
And if she thought of Greatorex and of how she had cajoled him into
singing, and of how through singing she would reclaim him, it was
because Greatorex and his song and his redemption were a small, hardly
significant part of the immense thought of Rowcliffe.

"How pleased he'll be when he knows what I've done!"

And her pure joy had a strain in it that was not so pure. It pleased
her to please Rowcliffe, but it pleased her also that he should
realise her as a woman who could cajole men into doing for her what
they didn't want to do.

* * * * *

"I've got him! I've got him!" she cried as she came, triumphant, into
the dining-room where her father and her sisters still sat round the
table. "No, thanks. I've had tea."

"Where did you get it?" the Vicar asked with his customary suspicion.

"At Upthorne. Jim Greatorex gave it me."

The Vicar was appeased. He thought nothing of it that Greatorex should
have given his daughter tea. Greatorex was part of the parish.


Rowcliffe was coming to the concert. Neither floods nor tempests, he
declared, would keep him away from it.

For hours, night after night, of the week before the concert, Jim
Greatorex had been down at Garth, in the schoolhouse, practicing with
Alice Cartaret until she assured him he was perfect.

Night after night the schoolhouse, gray in its still yard, had a door
kept open for them and a light in the solemn lancet windows. The tall
gray ash tree that stood back in the angle of the porch knew of their
coming and their going. The ash tree was friendly. When the north wind
tossed its branches it beckoned to the two, it summoned them from up
and down the hill.

And now the tables and blackboards had been cleared out of the big
schoolroom. The matchboarding of white pine that lined the lower half
of its walls had been hung with red twill, with garlands of ivy and
bunches of holly. Oil lamps swung from the pine rafters of the ceiling
and were set on brackets at intervals along the walls. A few boards
raised on joists made an admirable platform. One broad strip of red
felt was laid along the platform, another hid the wooden steps that
led to it. On the right a cottage piano was set slantwise. In the
front were chairs for the principal performers. On the left, already
in their places, were the glee-singers chosen from the village choir.
Behind, on benches, the rest of the choir.

Over the whole scene, on the chalk white of the dado, the blond yellow
of varnished pinewood, the blazing scarlet of the hangings, the dark
glitter of the ivy and the holly; on the faces, ruddy and sallow,
polished with cleanliness, on the sleek hair, on the pale frocks of
the girls, the bright neckties of the men, the lamplight rioted and
exulted; it rippled and flowed; it darted; it lay suave and smooth as
still water; it flaunted; it veiled itself. Stately and tall and in a
measured order, the lancet windows shot up out of the gray walls, the
leaded framework of their lozenges gray on the black and solemn night
behind them.

A smell of dust, of pine wood, of pomade, of burning oil, of an iron
stove fiercely heated, a thin, bitter smell of ivy and holly; that
wonderful, that overpowering, inspiring and revolting smell, of
elements strangely fused, of flying vapors, of breathing, burning,
palpitating things.

Greatorex, conspicuous in his front seat on the platform, drew it
in with great heavings of his chest. He loved that smell. It fairly
intoxicated him every time. It soared singing through his nostrils
into his brain, like gin. There could be no more violent and
voluptuous contrast of sensations than to come straight from the cold,
biting air of Upthorne and to step into that perfect smell. It was a
thick, a sweet, a fiery and sustaining smell. It helped him to face
without too intolerable an agony the line of alien (he deemed them
alien) faces in the front row of the audience: Mr. Cartaret and Miss
Cartaret (utter strangers; he had never got, he never would get used
to them) and Dr. Rowcliffe (not altogether a stranger, after what he
had done one night for Greatorex's mare Daisy); then Miss Gwendolen
(not a stranger either after what she had done, and yet formidably
strange, the strangest, when he came to think of it, and the queerest
of them all). Rowcliffe, he observed, sat between her and her sister.
Divided from them by a gap, more strangers, three girls whom Rowcliffe
had driven over from Morfe and afterward (Greatorex observed that
also, for he kept his eye on him) had shamelessly abandoned.

If Greatorex had his eye on Rowcliffe, Rowcliffe had his eye, though
less continuously, on him. He did not know very much about Greatorex,
after all, and he could not be sure that his man would turn
up entirely sober. He was unaware of Greatorex's capacity for
substituting one intoxication for another. He had no conception of
what the smell of that lighted and decorated room meant for this man
who lived so simply and profoundly by his senses and his soul. It was
interfused and tangled with Greatorex's sublimest feelings. It was the
draw-net of submerged memories, of secret, unsuspected passions. It
held in its impalpable web his dreams, the divine and delicate things
that his grosser self let slip. He would forget, forget for ages,
until, in the schoolroom at concert time, at the first caress of the
magical smell, those delicate and divine, those secret, submerged, and
forgotten things arose, and with the undying poignancy and subtlety of
odors they entered into him again. And besides these qualities which
were indefinable, the smell was vividly symbolic. It was entwined with
and it stood for his experience of art and ambition and the power to
move men and women; for song and for the sensuous thrill and spiritual
ecstasy of singing and for the subsequent applause. It was the only
form of intoxication known to him that did not end in headache and in

Suddenly the charm that had sustained him ceased to work.

Under it he had been sitting in suspense, waiting for something,
knowing and not daring to own to himself what it was he waited
for. The suspense and the waiting seemed all part of the original

Then Alice Cartaret came up the room.

Her passage had been obscured and obstructed by the crowd of villagers
at the door. But they had cleared a way for her and she came.

She carried herself like a crowned princess. The cords of her cloak
(it was of dove color, lined with blue) had loosened in her passage,
and the cloak had slipped, showing her naked shoulders. She wore a
little dove-gray gown with some blue about it and a necklace of pale
amber. Her white arms hung slender as a child's from the immense puffs
of the sleeves. Her fair hair was piled in front of a high amber comb.

As she appeared before the platform Rowcliffe rose and took her cloak
from her (Greatorex saw him take it, but he didn't care; he knew more
about the doctor than the doctor knew himself). He handed her up the
steps on to the platform and then turned, like a man who has done all
that chivalry requires of him, to his place between her sisters. The
hand that Rowcliffe had let go went suddenly to her throat, seizing
her necklace and loosening it as if it choked her. Rowcliffe was not
looking at her.

Still with her hand at her throat, she smiled and bowed to the
audience, to the choir, to Greatorex, to the schoolmaster who came
forward (Greatorex cursed him) and led her to the piano.

She sat down, wiped her hands on her handkerchief, and waited,
enduring like an angel the voices of the villagers and the shuffling
of their feet.

Then somebody (it was the Vicar) said, "Hush!" and she began to play.
In her passion for the unattainable she had selected Chopin's Grande
Valse in A Flat, beginning with the long shake of eight bars.

Greatorex did not know whether she played well or badly. He only knew
it looked and sounded wonderful. He could have watched forever her
little hands that were like white birds. He had never seen anything
more delicious and more amusing than their fluttering in the long
shake and their flying with spread wings all over the piano.

Then the jumping and the thumping began; and queer noises, the like of
which Greatorex had never heard, came out of the piano. It jarred him;
but it made him smile. The little hands were marvelous the way they
flew, the way they leaped across great spaces of piano.

Alice herself was satisfied. She had brought out the air; she had made
it sing above the confusion of the bass and treble that evidently had
had no clear understanding when they started; as for the bad bits, the
tremendous crescendo chords that your hands must take at a flying leap
or miss altogether, Rowcliffe had already assured her that they were
impracticable anyhow; and Rowcliffe knew.

Flushed and softened with the applause (Rowcliffe had joined in
it), she took her place between Greatorex and the schoolmaster. The
glee-singers, two men and two women, came forward and sang their
glees, turning and bowing to each other like mummers. The schoolmaster
recited the "Pied Piper of Hamelin." A young lady who had come over
from Morfe expressly for that purpose sang the everlasting song about
the miller.

Leaning stiffly forward, her thin neck outstretched, her brows bent
toward Rowcliffe, summoning all that she knew of archness to her eyes,
she sang.

"Oh miller, miller, miller, miller, miller, let me go!"

sang the young lady from Morfe. Alice could see that she sang for
Rowcliffe and at Rowcliffe; she sang into his face until he turned it
away, and then, utterly unabashed, she sang into his left ear.

The presence and the song of the young lady from Morfe would have been
torture to Alice, but that her eyelids and her face were red as if
perpetually smitten by the east wind and scarified with weeping. To
Alice, at the piano, it was terrible to be associated with the song of
the young lady from Morfe. She felt that Rowcliffe was looking at her
(he wasn't) and she strove by look and manner to detach herself.
As the young lady flung herself into it and became more and more
intolerably arch, Alice became more and more severe. She purified the
accompaniment from all taint of the young lady's intentions. It grew
graver and graver. It was a hymn, a solemn chant, a dirge. The dirge
of the last hope of the young lady from Morfe.

When it ceased there rose from the piano that was its grave the
Grande Polonaise of Chopin. It rose in splendor and defiance; Alice's
defiance of the young lady from Morfe. It brought down the schoolhouse
in a storm of clapping and thumping, of "Bravos" and "Encores." Even
Rowcliffe said, "Bravo!"

But Alice, still seated at the piano, smiled and signaled.

And Jim Greatorex stood up to sing.

* * * * *

He stood facing the room, but beside her, so that she could sign to
him if anything went wrong.

"'Oh, that we two-oo were May-ing
Down the stream of the so-oft spring breeze,
Like children with vi-olets pla-aying.'"

Greatorex's voice was a voice of awful volume and it ranged somewhere
from fairly deep barytone almost to tenor. It was at moments
unmanageable, being untrained, yet he seemed to do as much with it as
if it had been bass and barytone and tenor all in one. It had grown
a little thick in the last year, but he brought out of its very
thickness a brooding, yearning passion and an intolerable pathos.

The song, overladen with emotion, appealed to him; it expressed as
nothing else could have expressed the passions that were within him at
that moment. It swept the whole range of his experiences, there were
sheep in it and a churchyard and children (his lady could never be
anything more to him than a child).

"'Oh, that we two-oo were ly-ing
In our nest in the chu-urch-yard sod,
With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth's breast,
And our souls--at home--with God!'"

That finished it. There was no other end.

And as he sang it, looking nobly if a little heavily over the heads of
his audience, he saw Essy Gale hidden away, and trying to hide herself
more, beside her mother in the farthest corner of the room.

He had forgotten Essy.

And at the sight of her his nobility went from him and only his
heaviness remained.

It didn't matter that they shouted for him to sing again, that they
stamped and bellowed, and that he did sing, again and again, taking
the roof off at the last with "John Peel."

Nothing mattered. Nothing mattered. Nothing could matter now.

And then something bigger than his heart, bigger than his voice,
something immense and brutal and defiant, asserted itself and said
that Come to that Essy didn't matter. She had put herself in his way.
And Maggie had been before and after her. And Maggie didn't matter

* * * * *

For the magical smell had wrapped itself round Alice Cartaret, and her
dove-gray gown and dove-gray eyes, and round the thought of her. It
twined and tangled her in the subtle mesh. She was held and embalmed
in it forever.


It was Wednesday, the day after the concert.

Mr. Cartaret was standing before the fire in his study. He had just
rung the bell and now he waited in an attitude of wisdom and of
patience. It was only ten o'clock in the morning and wisdom and
patience should not be required of any man at such an hour. But the
Vicar had a disagreeable duty to perform.

Whenever the Vicar had a disagreeable duty to perform he performed
it as early as possible in the morning, so that none of its
disagreeableness was lost. The whole day was poisoned by it.

He waited a little longer. And as he waited his patience began to
suffer imperceptibly, though his wisdom remained intact.

He rang again. The bell sounded through the quiet house, angry and

In another moment Essy came in. She had on a clean apron.

She stood by the roll-top desk. It offered her a certain cover and
support. Her brown eyes, liquid and gentle, gazed at him. But for all
her gentleness there was a touch of defiance in her bearing.

"Did you not hear me ring?" said the Vicar.

"Naw, sir."

Nothing more clear and pure than the candor of Essy's eyes. They
disconcerted him.

"I have nothing to say to you, Essy. You know why I sent for you."

"Naw, sir." She thought it was a question.

He underlined it.


"Naw. I doan' knaw, sir."

"Then, if you don't know, you must find out. You will go down to the
surgery this afternoon and see Dr. Rowcliffe, and he will report on
your case."

She started and the red blood rose in her face.

"I s'all not goa and see him, Mr. Cartaret."

She was very quiet.

"Very good. Then I shall pay you a month's wages and you will go on

It was then that her mouth trembled so that her eyes shone large
through her tears.

"I wasn't gawn to staay, sir--to be a trooble. I sud a gien yo'
nawtice in anoother moonth."

She paused. There was a spasm in her throat as if she swallowed with
difficulty her bitter pride. Her voice came thick and hoarse.

"Woan't yo' kape me till th' and o' t' moonth, sir?" Her voice cleared
suddenly. "Than I can see yo' trow Christmas."

The Vicar opened his mouth to speak; but instead of speaking he
stared. His open mouth stared with a supreme astonishment. Up till
now, in his wisdom and his patience, he had borne with Essy, the Essy
who had come before him one evening in September, dejected and afraid.
He hated Essy and he hated her sin, but he had borne with her then
because of her sorrow and her shame.

And here was Essy with not a sign of sorrow or of shame about her,
offering (in the teeth of her deserved dismissal), actually offering
as a favor to stay over Christmas and to see them through. The naked
impudence of it was what staggered him.

"I have no intention of keeping you over Christmas. You will take your
notice and your wages from to-day, and you will go on Saturday."

"Yes, sir."

In her going Essy turned.

"Will yo' taake me back, sir, when it's all over?"

"No. No. I shouldn't think of taking you back."

The Vicar hid his hands in his pockets and leaned forward, thrusting
his face toward Essy as he spoke.

"I'm afraid, my girl, it never will be all over, as long as you regard
your sin as lightly as you do."

Essy did not see the Vicar's face thrust toward her. She was sidling
to the door. She had her hand on the doorknob.

"Come back," said the Vicar. "I have something else to say to you."

Essy came no nearer. She remained standing by the door.

"Who is the man, Essy?"

At that Essy's face began to shake piteously. Standing by the door,
she cried quietly, with soft sobs, neither hiding her face nor drying
her tears as they came.

"You had better tell me," said the Vicar.

"I s'all nat tall yo'," said Essy, with passionate determination,
between the sobs.

"You must."

"I s'all nat--I s'all nat."

"Hiding it won't help you," said the Vicar.

Essy raised her head.

"I doan' keer. I doan' keer what 'appens to mae. What wae did--what
wae did--lies between him and mae."

"Did he tell you he'd marry you, Essy?"

Essy sobbed for answer.

"He didn't? Is he going to marry you?"

"'Tisn' likely 'e'll marry mae. An' I'll not force him."

"You think, perhaps, it doesn't matter?"

She shook her head in utter helplessness.

"Come, make a clean breast of it."

Then the storm burst. She turned her tormented face to him.

"A clane breast, yo' call it? I s'all mak' naw clane breasts, Mr.
Cartaret, to yo' or anybody. I'll 'ave nawbody meddlin' between him
an' mae!"

"Then," said the Vicar, "I wash my hands of you."

But he said it to an empty room. Essy had left him.

* * * * *

In the outer room the three sisters sat silent and motionless. Their
faces were turned toward the closed door of the study. They were
listening to the sounds that went on behind it. The burden of Essy
hung heavy over them.

The study door opened and shut. Then the kitchen door.

"Poor Essy," said Gwenda.

"Poor Essy," said Alice. She was sorry for Essy now. She could afford
to be sorry for her.

Mary said nothing, and from her silence you could not tell what she
was thinking.

The long day dragged on to prayer time.

The burden of Essy hung heavy over the whole house.

* * * * *

That night, at a quarter to ten, fifteen minutes before prayer time,
Gwenda came to her father in his study.

"Papa," she said, "is it true that you've sacked Essy at three days'

"I have dismissed Essy," said the Vicar, "for a sufficient reason."

"There's no reason to turn her out before Christmas."

"There is," said the Vicar, "a very grave reason. We needn't go into

He knew that his daughter knew his reason. But he ignored her
knowledge as he ignored all things that were unpleasant to him.

"We must go into it," said Gwenda. "It's a sin to turn her out at
three days' notice."

"I know what I'm doing, Gwenda, and why I'm doing it."

"So do I. We all do. None of us want her to go--yet. You could easily
have kept her another two months. She'd have given notice herself."

"I am not going to discuss it with you."

The Vicar put his head under the roll top of his desk and pretended to
be looking for papers. Gwenda seated herself familiarly on the arm of
the chair he had left.

"You'll have to, I'm afraid," she said. "Please take your head out of
the desk, Papa. There's no use behaving like an ostrich. I can see you
all the time. The trouble is, you know, that you won't _think_. And
you _must_ think. How's Essy going to do without those two months'
wages she might have had? She'll want every shilling she can lay her
hands on for the baby."

"She should have thought of that before."

The Vicar was answering himself. He did not acknowledge his daughter's
right to discuss Essy.

"She'll think of it presently," said Gwenda in her unblushing calm.
"Look here, Papa, while you're trying how you can make this awful
thing more awful for her, what do you think poor Essy's bothering
about? She's not bothering about her sin, nor about her baby. She's
bothering about how she's landed _us_."

The Vicar closed his eyes. His patience was exhausted. So was his

"I am not arguing with you, Gwenda."

"You can't. You know perfectly well what a beastly shame it is."

That roused him.

"You seem to think no more of Essy's sin than Essy does."

"How do you know what Essy thinks? How do I know? It isn't any
business of ours what Essy thinks. It's what we do. I'd rather do what
Essy's done, any day, than do mean or cruel things. Wouldn't you?"

The Vicar raised his eyebrows and his shoulders. It was the gesture of
a man helpless before the unspeakable.

He took refuge in his pathos.

"I am very tired, Gwenda; and it's ten minutes to ten."

* * * * *

It may have been because the Vicar was tired that his mind wandered
somewhat that night during family prayers.

Foremost among the many things that the Vicar's mind refused to
consider was the question of the status, of the very existence, of
family prayers in his household.

But for Essy, though the Vicar did not know it, it was doubtful
whether family prayers would have survived what he called his
daughters' godlessness. Mary, to be sure, conformed outwardly. She was
not easily irritated, and, as she put it, she did not really _mind_
prayers. But to Alice and Gwendolen prayers were a weariness and
an exasperation. Alice would evade them under any pretext. By her
father's action in transporting her to Gardale, she considered that
she was absolved from her filial allegiance. But Gwendolen was loyal.
In the matter of prayers, which--she made it perfectly clear to Alice
and Mary--could not possibly annoy them more than they did her, she
was going to see Papa through. It would be beastly, she said, not to.
They couldn't give him away before Essy.

But of the clemency and generosity of Gwendolen's attitude Mr.
Cartaret was not aware. He believed that the custom of prayers was
maintained in his household by his inflexible authority and will. He
gloried in them as an expression of his power. They were a form of
coercion which it seemed he could apply quite successfully to his
womenkind, those creatures of his flesh and blood, yet so alien and
intractable. Family prayers gave him a keener spiritual satisfaction
than the church services in which, outwardly, he cut a far more
imposing figure. In a countryside peopled mainly by abominable
Wesleyans and impure Baptists (Mr. Cartaret spoke and thought of
Wesleyans and Baptists as if they were abominable and impure pure) he
had some difficulty in procuring a congregation. The few who came
to the parish church came because it was respectable and therefore
profitable, or because they had got into the habit and couldn't well
get out of it, or because they liked it, not at all because his
will and his authority compelled them. But to emerge from his
study inevitably at ten o'clock, an hour when the souls of Mary
and Gwendolen and Alice were most reluctant and most hostile to the
thought of prayers, and by sheer worrying to round up the fugitives,
whatever they happened to be doing and wherever they happened to be,
this (though he said it was no pleasure to him) was more agreeable to
Mr. Cartaret than he knew. The very fact that Essy was a Wesleyan
and so far an unwilling conformist gave a peculiar zest to the

It was always the same. It started with a look through his glasses,
leveled at each member of his household in turn, as if he desired to
satisfy himself as to the expression of their faces while at the same
time he defied them to protest. For the rest, his rule was that of his
father, the schoolmaster, before him. First, a chapter from the Bible,
the Old Testament in the morning, the New Testament in the evening,
working straight through from Genesis to Revelation (omitting
Leviticus as somewhat unsuitable for family reading). Then prayers
proper, beginning with what his daughter Gwendolen, seventeen years
ago, had called "fancy prayers," otherwise prayers not lifted from
the Liturgy, but compiled and composed in accordance with the freer
Evangelical taste in prayers. Then (for both Mr. Cartaret and the
schoolmaster, his father, held that the Church must not be ignored)
there followed last Sunday's Collect, the Collect for Grace, the
Benediction, and the Lord's Prayer.

Now, as his rule would have it, that evening of the fifth of December
brought him to the Eighth chapter of St. John, in the one concerning
the woman taken in adultery, which was the very last chapter which
Mr. Cartaret that evening could have desired to read. He had always
considered that to some minds it might be open to misinterpretation as
a defense of laxity.

"'Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?'

"She said, 'No man, Lord.' And Jesus said unto her, 'Neither do I
condemn thee.'"

Mr. Cartaret lowered his voice and his eyes as he read, for he felt
Gwendolen's eyes upon him.

But he recovered himself on the final charge.

"'Go'"--now he came to think of it, that was what he had said to
Essy--"'and sin no more.'"

(After all, he was supported.)

Casting another and more decidedly uneasy glance at his family, he
knelt down. He felt better when they were all kneeling, for now he had
their backs toward him instead of their faces.

He then prayed. On behalf of himself and Essy and his family he prayed
to a God who (so he assumed his Godhead) was ever more ready to hear
than they to pray, a God whom he congratulated on His ability to
perform for them far more than they either desired or deserved; he
thanked him for having mercifully preserved them to the close of
another blessed day (as in the morning he would thank him for having
spared them to see the light of another blessed day); he besought him
to pardon anything which that day they had done amiss; to deliver them
from disobedience and self-will, from pride and waywardness (he had
inserted this clause ten years ago for Gwendolen's benefit) as well as
from the sins that did most easily beset them, for the temptations to
which they were especially prone. This clause covered all the things
he couldn't mention. It covered his wife, Robina's case; it covered
Essy's; he had dragged Alice's case as it were from under it; he had a
secret fear that one day it might cover Gwendolen's.

Gwendolen was the child who, he declared and believed, had always
given him most trouble. He recalled (perversely) a certain thing that
(at thirteen) she had said about this prayer.

"It oughtn't to be prayed," she had said. "You don't really think you
can fool God that way, Papa? If I had a servant who groveled to me
like that I'd tell him he must learn to keep his chin up or go."

She had said it before Robina who had laughed. And Mr. Cartaret's
answer to it had been to turn his back on both of them and leave the
room. At least he thought it was his answer. Gwendolen had thought
that in a flash of intellectual honesty he agreed with her, only that
he hadn't quite enough honesty to say so before Mummy.

All this he recalled, and the question she had pursued him with about
that time. "_What_ are the sins that do most easily beset us? _What_
are the temptations to which we are especially prone?" And his own
evasive answer. "Ask yourself, my child."

Another year and she had left off asking him questions. She drew back
into herself and became every day more self-willed, more solitary,
more inaccessible.

And now, if he could have seen things as they really were, Mr.
Cartaret would have perceived that he was afraid of Gwenda. As it was,
he thought he was only afraid of what Gwenda might do.

Alice was capable of some things; but Gwenda was capable of anything.

* * * * *

Suddenly, to Gwenda's surprise, her father sighed; a dislocating sigh.
It came between the Benediction and the Lord's Prayer.

For, even as he invoked the blessing Mr. Cartaret suddenly felt sorry
for himself again. His children were no good to him.

By which he meant that his third wife, Robina, was no good.

But he did not know that he visited his wife's shortcomings on their
heads, any more than he knew that he hated Essy and her sin because he
himself was an enforced, reluctant celibate.


The next day at dusk, Essy Gale slipped out to her mother's cottage
down by the beck.

Mrs. Gale had just cleared the table after her tea, had washed up
the tea-things and was putting them away in the cupboard when Essy
entered. She looked round sharply, inimically.

Essy stood by the doorway, shamefaced.

"Moother," she said softly, "I want to speaak to yo."

Mrs. Gale struck an attitude of astonishment and fear, although she
had expected Essy to come at such an hour and with such a look, and
only wondered that she had not come four months ago.

"Yo're nat goain' t' saay as yo've got yoresel into trooble?"

For four months Mrs. Gale had preserved an innocent face before her
neighbors and she desired to preserve it to the last possible moment.
And up to the last possible moment, even to her daughter, she was
determined to ignore what had happened.

But she knew and Essy knew that she knew.

"Doan yo saay it, Assy. Doan yo saay it."

Essy said nothing.

"D'yo 'ear mae speaakin' to yo? Caann't yo aanswer? Is it thot, Assy?
Is it thot?"

"Yas, moother, yo knaw 'tis thot."

"An' yo dare to coom 'ear and tell mae! Yo dirty 'oossy! Toorn an'
lat's 'ave a look at yo."

Now that the innocence of her face was gone, Mrs. Gale had a stern
duty to perform by Essy.

"They've gien yo t' saack?"

"T' Vicar give it mae."

"Troost'im! Whan did 'e gie it yo?"


"T'moonth's nawtice?"

"Naw. I aassked 'im t' kape me anoother two moonths an' 'e woonna.
I aassked 'im t' kape me over Christmas an' 'e woonna. I'm to leaave

"Did yo expact 'im t' kape yo, yo gawpie? Did yo think you'd nowt to
do but t' laay oop at t' Vicarage an' 'ave th yoong laadies t' do yore
wark for yo, an' t' waait on yo 'and an' foot? Miss Gwanda t' mak'
yore bafe-tae an' chicken jally and t' Vicar t' daandle t' baaby?

"'Oo's goan t' kape yo? Mae? I woonna kape yo an' I canna' kape yo. Yo
ain' t' baaby! I doan' waant naw squeechin', squallin' brats mookin'
oop t' plaace as faast as I clanes it, An' '_E_ woonna kape yo--ef
yo're raakonin' on 'im. Yo need na tall mae oo t' maan is. I knaw."

"'Tis'n 'im, Moother. 'Tis'n 'im."

"Yo lil blaack liar! '_Tis_ 'im. Ooo alse could it bae? Yo selly!
Whatten arth possessed yo t' goa an' tak oop wi' Jim Greatorex? Ef yo
mun get into trooble yo medda chawsen battern Jim. What for did I tak'
yo from t' Farm an' put yo into t' Vicarage ef 't wasn't t' get yo out
o' Jimmy's road? '_E_'ll naver maarry yo. Nat 'e! Did 'e saay as 'e'd
maarry yo? Naw, I warrant yo did na waat fer thot. Yo was mad t' roon
affter 'im afore 'e called yo. Yo dirty cat!"

That last taunt drew blood. Essy spoke up.

"Naw, naw. 'E looved mae. 'E wanted mae bad."

"'E wanted yo? Coorse 'e wanted yo. Yo sud na 'ave gien in to 'im, yo
softie. D'yo think yo're the only woon thot's tampted? Look at mae. I
could 'a got into trooble saven times to yore woonce, ef I 'ad'n kaped
my 'ead an' respected mysel. Yore Jim Greatorex! Ef a maan like Jim
'ad laaid a 'and on mae, 'e'd a got soomthin' t' remamber afore I'd
'a gien in to 'im. An' yo've naw 'scuse for disgracin' yoresel. Yo was
brought oop ralegious an' respactable. Did yo aver 'ear saw mooch aa a
bad woord?"

"It's doon, Moother, it's doon. There's naw good taalkin'."

"Eh! Yo saay it's doon, it's doon, an' yo think nowt o' 't. An' nowt
yo think o' t' trooble yo're brengin' on mae. I sooppawse yo'll be
tallin' mae naxt yo looved 'im! Yo looved'im!"

At that Essy began to cry, softly, in her manner.

"Doan' yo tall mae _thot_ taale."

Mrs. Gale suddenly paused in her tirade and began to poke the fire
with fury.

"It's enoof t' sicken t' cat!"

She snatched the kettle that stood upon the hob; she stamped out to
the scullery and re-filled it at the tap. She returned, stamping, and
set it with violence upon the fire.

She tore out of the cupboard a teapot, a cup and a saucer, a loaf on
a plate and a jar of dripping. Still with violence (slightly modulated
to spare the comparative fragility of the objects she was handling)
she dashed them one by one upon the table where Essy, with elbows
planted, propped her head upon her hands and wept.

Mrs. Gale sat down herself in the chair facing her, and kept one
eye on the kettle and the other on her daughter. From time to time
mutterings came from her, breaking the sad rhythm of Essy's sobs.

"Eh dear! I'd like t' knaw what I've doon t' ave _this_ trooble!"--

--"'Tis enoof t' raaise yore pore feyther clane out of 'is graave!"--

--"'E'd sooner 'ave seed yo in yore coffin, Assy."--

She rose and took down the tea-caddy from the chimney-piece and flung
a reckless measure into the tea-pot.

"Ef 'e'd 'a been a-livin', 'E'd a _killed_ yo. Thot's what 'e'd 'a

As she said it she grasped the kettle and poured the boiling water
into the tea-pot.

She set the tea-pot before Essy.

"There's a coop of tae. An' there's bread an' drippin'. Yo'll drink it

But Essy, desolated, shook her head.

"Wall," said Mrs. Gale. "I doan' want ter look at yo. 'T mak's mae

As if utterly revolted by the sight of her daughter, she turned from
her and left the kitchen by the staircase door.

Her ponderous stamping could be heard going up the staircase and
on the floor overhead. There was a sound as of drawers opening and
shutting and of a heavy box being dragged from under the bed.

Essy poured herself out a cup of tea, tried to drink it, choked and
pushed it from her.

She was still weeping when her mother came to her.

Mrs. Gale came softly.

All alone in the room overhead she had evidently been doing something
that had pleased her. The ghost of a smile still haunted her bleak
face. She carried on her arm tenderly a pile of little garments.

These she began to spread out on the table before Essy, having first
removed the tea-things.

"There!" she said. "'Tis the lil cleathes fer t' baaby. Look, Assy,
my deear--there's t' lil rawb, wi' t' lil slaves, so pretty--an' t'
flanny petticut--an' t' lil vasst--see. 'Tis t' lil things I maade fer
'ee afore tha was born."

But Essy pushed them from her. She was weeping violently now.

"Taake 'em away!" she cried. "I doan' want t' look at 'em."

Mrs. Gale sat and stared at her.

"Coom," she said, "tha moos'n' taake it saw 'ard, like."

Between the sobs Essy looked up with her shining eyes. She whispered.

"Will yo kape mae, Moother?"

"I sail 'ave t' kape yo. There's nawbody 'll keer mooch fer thot job
but yore moother."

But Essy still wept. Once started on the way of weeping, she couldn't

Then, all of a sudden, Mrs. Gale's face became distorted.

She got up and put her hand heavily on her daughter's shoulder.

"There, there, Assy, loove," she said. "Doan' tha taake on thot road.
It's doon, an' it caann't be oondoon."

She stood there in a heavy silence. Now and again she patted the
heaving shoulder, marking time to Essy's sobs. Then she spoke.

"Tha'll feel batter whan t' lil baaby cooms."

Profoundly disturbed and resentful of her own emotion Mrs. Gale seized
upon the tea-pot as a pretext and shut herself up with it in the

* * * * *

Essy, staggering, rose and dried her eyes. For a moment or so she
stared idly at the square window with the blue-black night behind it.

Then she looked down. She smiled faintly. One by one she took the
little garments spread out in front of her. She folded them in a pile.

Her face was still and dreamy.

She opened the scullery door and looked in.

"Good-night, Moother."

"Good-night, Assy."

* * * * *

It was striking seven as she passed the church.

Above the strokes of the hour she heard through the half-open door a
sound of organ playing and of a big voice singing.

And she began to weep again. She knew the singer, and the player too.


Christmas was over and gone.

It was the last week in January.

All through December Rowcliffe's visits to the Vicarage had continued.
But in January they ceased. That was not to be wondered at. Even Ally
couldn't wonder. There was influenza in every other house in the Dale.

Then, one day, Gwenda, walking past Upthorne, heard wheels behind
her and the clanking hoofs of the doctor's horse. She knew what would
happen. Rowcliffe would pull up a yard or two in front of her. He
would ask her where she was going and he would make her drive with him
over the moor. And she knew that she would go with him. She would not
be able to refuse him.

But the clanking hoofs went by and never stopped. There were two men
in the trap. Acroyd, Rowcliffe's groom, sat in Rowcliffe's place,
driving. He touched his hat to her as he passed her.

Beside him there was a strange man.

She said to herself, "He's away then. I think he might have told me."

And Ally, passing through the village, had seen the strange man too.

"Dr. Rowcliffe must be away," she said at tea-time. "I wonder if he'll
be back by Wednesday."

Wednesday, the last day in January, came, but Rowcliffe did not come.
The strange man took his place in the surgery.

Mrs. Gale brought the news into the Vicarage dining-room at four

She had taken her daughter's place for the time being. She was a just
woman and she bore no grudge against the Vicar on Essy's account. He
had done no more than he was obliged to do. Essy had given trouble
enough in the Vicarage, and she had received a month's wages that she
hadn't worked for. Mrs. Gale was working double to make up for it.
And the innocence of her face being gone, she went lowly and humbly,
paying for Essy, Essy's debt of shame. That was her view.

"Sall I set the tae here, Miss Gwanda," she enquired. "Sence doctor
isn't coomin'?"

"How do you know he isn't coming?" Alice asked.

Mrs. Gale's face was solemn and oppressed. She turned to Gwenda,
ignoring Alice. (Mary was upstairs in her room.)

"'Aven't yo 'eerd, Miss Gwanda?"

Gwenda looked up from her book.

"No," she said. "He's away, isn't he?"

"Away? 'El'll nat get away fer long enoof. 'E's too ill."

"Ill?" Alice sent the word out on a terrified breath. Nobody took any
notice of her.

"T' poastman tell mae," said Mrs. Gale. "From what 'e's 'eerd, 'twas
all along o' Nad Alderson's lil baaby up to Morfe. It was took wi'
the diptheery a while back. An' doctor, 'e sat oop wi' 't tree nights
roonin', 'e did. 'E didn' so mooch as taak 's cleathes off. Nad
Alderson, 'e said, 'e'd navver seen anything like what doctor 'e doon
for t' lil' thing."

Mrs. Gale's face reddened and she sniffed.

"'E's saaved Nad's baaby for 'm, right enoof, Dr. Rawcliffe 'as. But
'e's down wi't hissel, t' poastman says."

It was at Gwenda that she gazed. And as Gwenda made no sign, Mrs.
Gale, still more oppressed by that extraordinary silence, gave her own
feelings way.

"Mebbe wae sall navver see 'im in t' Daale again. It'll goa 'ard, look
yo, wi' a girt man like 'im, what's navver saaved 'isself. Naw, 'e's
navver saaved 'issel."

She ceased. She gazed upon both the sisters now. Alice, her face white
and averted, shrank back in the corner of the sofa. Gwenda's face was
still. Neither of them had spoken.

* * * * *

Mary had tea alone that afternoon.

Alice had dragged herself upstairs to her bedroom and locked herself
in. She had flung herself face downward on her bed. She lay there
while the room grew gray and darkened. Suddenly she passed from a
violent fit of writhing and of weeping into blank and motionless
collapses. From time to time she hiccoughed helplessly.

But in the moment before Mary came downstairs Gwenda had slipped on
the rough coat that hung on its peg in the passage. Her hat was lying
about somewhere in the room where Alice had locked herself in. She
went out bareheaded.

There was a movement in the little group of villagers gathered on the
bridge before the surgery door. They slunk together and turned their
backs on her as she passed. They knew where she was going as well as
she did. And she didn't care.

She was doing the sort of thing that Alice had done, and had suffered
for doing. She knew it and she didn't care. It didn't matter what
Alice had done or ever would do. It didn't matter what she did
herself. It was quite simple. Nothing mattered to her so long as
Rowcliffe lived. And if he died nothing would ever matter to her

* * * * *

For she knew now what it was that had happened to her. She could no
longer humbug herself into insisting that it hadn't happened. The
thing had been secret and treacherous with her, and she had been
secret and treacherous with it. She had refused to acknowledge it,
not because she had been ashamed of it but because, with the dreadful
instance of Alice before her eyes, she had been afraid. She had
been afraid of how it would appear to Rowcliffe. He might see in it
something morbid and perverted, something horribly like Ally. She
went in terror of the taint. Where it should have held its head up
defiantly and beautifully, it had been beaten back; it cowered and
skulked in the dark places and waited for its hour.

And now that it showed itself naked, unveiled, unarmed, superbly
defenseless, her terror of it ceased.

It had received a sanction that had been withheld from it before.

Until half an hour ago (she was aware of it) there had been something
lacking in her feeling. Mary and Ally (this she was not aware of) got
more "out of" Rowcliffe, so to speak, than she did. Gwenda had known
nothing approaching to Mary's serene and brooding satisfaction or
Ally's ecstasy. She dreaded the secret gates, the dreamy labyrinths,
the poisonous air of the Paradise of Fools. In Rowcliffe's presence
she had not felt altogether safe or altogether happy. But, if she
stood on the edge of an abyss, at least she _stood_ there, firm on the
solid earth. She could balance herself; she could even lean forward
a little and look over, without losing her head, thrilled with the
uncertainty and peril of the adventure. And of course it wasn't as if
Rowcliffe had left her standing. He hadn't. He had held out his hand
to her, as it were, and said, "Let's get on--get on!" which was as
good as saying that, as long as it lasted, it was _their_ adventure,
not hers. He had drawn her after him at an exciting pace, along the
edge of the abyss, never losing _his_ head for a minute, so that she
ought to have felt safe with him. Only she hadn't. She had said to
herself, "If I knew him better, if I saw what was in him, perhaps I
should feel safe."

There was something she wanted to see in him; something that her
innermost secret self, fastidious and exacting, demanded from him
before it would loosen the grip that held her back.

And now she knew that it _was_ there. It had been told her in four
words: "He never saved himself."

She might have known it. For she remembered things, now; how he had
nursed old Greatorex like a woman; how he had sat up half the night
with Jim Greatorex's mare Daisy; how he kept Jim Greatorex from
drinking; and how he had been kind to poor Essy when she had the face
ache; and gentle to little Ally.

And now Ned Alderson's ridiculous baby would live and Rowcliffe would
die. Was _that_ what she had required of him? She felt as if somehow
_she_ had done it; as if her innermost secret self, iniquitously
exacting, had thrown down the gage into the arena and that he had
picked it up.

"He saved others. Himself he"--never saved.

He had become god-like to her.

And the passion she had trampled on lifted itself and passed into
the phase of adoration. It had received the dangerous sanction of the

* * * * *

She turned off the high road at the point where, three months ago,
she had seen Mary cycling up the hill from Morfe. Now, as then, she
descended upon Morfe by the stony lane from the moor below Karva.

It came over her that she was too late, that she would see rows of
yellow blinds drawn down in the long front of Rowcliffe's house.

The blinds were up. The windows looked open-eyed upon the Green. She
noticed that one of them on the first floor was half open, and she
said to herself, "He is up there, in that room, dying of diphtheria."

The sound of the bell, muffled funereally, at the back of the house,
fulfilled her premonition.

The door opened wide. The maid stood back from it to let her pass in.

"How is Dr. Rowcliffe?"

Her voice sounded abrupt and brutal, as it tore its way from her tense

The maid raised her eyebrows. She held the door wider.

"Would you like to see him, miss?"


Her throat closed on the word and choked it.

Down at the end of the passage, where it was dark, a door opened, the
door of the surgery, and a man came out, went in as if to look for
something, and came out again.

As he moved there in the darkness she thought it was the strange
doctor and that he had come out to forbid her seeing Rowcliffe. He
would say that she mustn't risk the infection. As if she cared about
the risk.

Perhaps he wouldn't see her. He, too, might say she mustn't risk it.

While the surgery door opened and shut, opened and shut again, she saw
that her seems him was of all things the most unlikely. She remembered
the house at Upthorne, and she knew that Rowcliffe was lying dead in
the room upstairs.

And the man there was coming out to stop her.

* * * * *

Only--in that case--why hadn't they drawn the blinds down?


She was still thinking of the blinds when she saw that the man who
came towards her was Rowcliffe.

He was wearing his rough tweed suit and his thick boots, and he had
the look of the open air about him.

"Is that you, Miss Cartaret? Good!"

He grasped her hand. He behaved exactly as if he had expected her. He
never even wondered what she had come for. She might have come to say
that her father or one of her sisters was dying, and would he go at
once; but none of these possibilities occurred to him.

He didn't want to account for her coming to him. It was natural and
beautiful that she should come.

Then, as she stepped into the lighted passage, he saw that she was
bareheaded and that her eyelashes were parted and gathered into little
wet points.

He took her arm gently and led her into his study and shut the door.
They faced each other there.

"I say--is anything wrong?"

"I thought you were ill."

She hadn't grasped the absurdity of it yet. She was still under the
spell of the illusion.

"I? Ill? Good heavens, no!"

"They told me in the village you'd got diphtheria. And I came to know
if it was true. It _isn't_ true?"

He smiled; an odd little embarrassed smile; almost as if he were
owning that it was or had been true.

"_Is_ it?" she persisted as he went on smiling.

"Of course it isn't."

She frowned as if she were annoyed with him for not being ill.

"Then what was that other man here for?"

"Harker? Oh, he just took my place for a day or two while I had a sore

"You _had_ a throat then?"

Thus she accused him.

"And you _did_ sit up for three nights with Ned Alderson's baby?"

She defied him to deny it.

"That's nothing. Anybody would. I had to."

"And--you saved the baby?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. Some thing or other pulled
the little beggar through."

"And you might have got it?"

"I might but I didn't."

"You _did_ get a throat. And it _might_ have been diphtheria."

Thus by accusing him she endeavored to justify herself.

"It might," he said, "but it wasn't. I had to knock off work till I
was sure."

"And you're sure now?"

"I can tell you _you_ wouldn't be here if I wasn't."

"And they told me you were dying."

(She was utterly disgusted.)

At that he laughed aloud. An irresistible, extravagantly delighted
laugh. When he stopped he choked and began all over again; the idea of
his dying was so funny; so was her disgust.

"That," she said, "was why I came."

"Then I'm glad they told you."

"I'm not," said she.

He laughed again at her sudden funny dignity. Then, as suddenly, he
was grave.

"I say--it _was_ nice of you."

She held out her hand.

"And now--as you're not dead--I'm off."

"Oh no, you're not. You're going to stay and have tea and I'm going to
walk back with you."

She stayed.

* * * * *

They walked over the moor by Karva. And as they went he talked to her
as he hadn't talked before. It was all about himself and his tone
was very serious. He talked about his work and (with considerable
reservations and omissions) about his life in Leeds, and about his
ambition. He told her what he had done and why he had done it and what
he was going to do. He wasn't going to stay in Garthdale all his life.
Not he. Presently he would want to get to the center of things. (He
forgot to mention that this was the first time he had thought of it.)
Nothing would satisfy him but a big London practice and a name. He
might--ultimately--specialise. If he did he rather thought it would be
gynaecology. He was interested in women's cases. Or it might be nervous
diseases. He wasn't sure. Anyhow, it must be something big.

For under Gwenda Cartaret's eyes his romantic youth became fiery and
turbulent inside him. It not only urged him to tremendous heights,
it made him actually feel that he would reach them. For a solid
three-quarters of an hour, walking over the moor by Karva, he had
ceased to be one of the obscurest of obscure little country doctors.
He was Sir Steven Rowcliffe, the great gynaecologist, or the great
neurologist (as the case might be) with a row of letters after his
name and a whole column under it in the Medical Directory.

And Gwenda Cartaret's eyes never for a moment contradicted him. They
agreed with every one of his preposterous statements.

She didn't know that it was only his romantic youth and that he
never had been and never would be more youthful than he was for that
three-quarters of an hour. On the contrary, to _her_ youth he seemed
to have left youth behind him, and to have grown suddenly serious and
clear-sighted and mature.

And then he stopped, right on the moor, as if he were suddenly aware
of his absurdity.

"I say," he said, "what must you think of me? Gassing about myself
like that."

"I think," she said, "it's awfully nice of you."

"I don't suppose I shall do anything really big. Do you?"

She was silent.

"Honestly now, do you think I shall?"

"I think the things you've done already, the things that'll never be
heard of, are really big."

His silence said, "They are not enough for me," and hers, "For me they
are enough."

"But the other things," he insisted--"the things I want to do----Do
you think I'll do them?"

"I think"--she said slowly--"in fact I'm certain that you'll do them,
if you really mean to."

"That's what you think of me?"

"That's what I think of you."

"Then it's all right," he said. "For what I think of _you_ is that
you'd never say a thing you didn't really mean."

They parted at the turn of the road, where, as he again reminded her,
he had seen her first.

Going home by himself over the moor, Rowcliffe wondered whether he
hadn't missed his opportunity.

He might have told her that he cared for her. He might have asked her
if she cared. If he hadn't, it was only because there was no need to
be precipitate. He felt rather than knew that she was sure of him.

Plenty of time. Plenty of time. He was so sure of _her_.


Plenty of time. The last week of January passed. Through the first
weeks of February Rowcliffe was kept busy, for sickness was still in
the Dale.

Whether he required it or not, Rowcliffe had a respite from decision.
No opportunity arose. If he looked in at the Vicarage on Wednesdays
it was to drink a cup of tea in a hurry while his man put his horse
in the trap. He took his man with him now on his longer rounds to save
time and trouble. Once in a while he would meet Gwenda Cartaret or
overtake her on some road miles from Garth, and he would make her get
up and drive on with him, or he would give her a lift home.

It pleased her to be taken up and driven. She liked the rapid motion
and the ways of the little brown horse. She even loved the noise he
made with his clanking hoofs. Rowcliffe said it was a beastly trick.
He made up his mind about once a week that he'd get rid of him. But
somehow he couldn't. He was fond of the little brown horse. He'd had
him so long.

And she said to herself. "He's faithful then. Of course. He would be."

It was almost as if he had wanted her to know it.

Then April came and the long spring twilights. The sick people had got
well. Rowcliffe had whole hours on his hands that he could have spent
with Gwenda now, if he had known.

And as yet he did not altogether know.

There was something about Gwenda Cartaret for which Rowcliffe with
all his sureness and all his experience was unprepared. Their
whole communion rested and proceeded on undeclared, unacknowledged,
unrealised assumptions, and it was somehow its very secrecy that made
it so secure. Rather than put it to the test he was content to leave
their meetings to luck and his own imperfect ingenuity. He knew
where and at what times he would have the best chance of finding her.
Sometimes, returning from his northerly rounds, he would send the trap
on, and walk back to Morfe by Karva, on the chance. Once, when the
moon was up, he sighted her on the farther moors beyond Upthorne, when
he got down and walked with her for miles, while his man and the trap
waited for him in Garth.

Once, and only once, driving by himself on the Rathdale moors beyond
Morfe, he overtook her, picked her up and drove her through Morfe (to
the consternation of its inhabitants) all the way to Garth and to the
very gate of the Vicarage.

But that was reckless.

* * * * *

And in all those hours, for his opportunities counted by hours now,
he had never found his moment. There was plenty of time, and their
isolation (his and hers) in Garthdale left him dangerously secure. All
the same, by April Rowcliffe was definitely looking for the moment,
the one shining moment, that must sooner or later come.

It was, indeed, always coming. Over and over again he had caught
sight of it; it signaled, shining; he had been ready to seize it, when
something happened, something obscured it, something put him off.

He never knew what it was at the time, but when he looked back on
these happenings he discovered that it was always something that
Gwenda Cartaret did. You would have said that no scene on earth could
have been more favorable to a lover's enterprise than these long,
deserted roads and the vast, twilit moors; and that a young woman
could have found nothing to distract her from her lover there.

But it was not so. On the open moors, as often as not, they had to go
single file through the heather, along a narrow sheep track, Rowcliffe
leading; and it is difficult, not to say impossible, to command the
attention of a young woman walking in your rear. And a thousand things
distracted Gwenda: the cry of a mountain sheep, the sound and
sight of a stream, the whirr of dark wings and the sudden
"Krenk-er-renk-errenk!" of the grouse shooting up from the heather.
And on the high roads where they went abreast she was apt to be
carried away by the pageant of earth and sky; the solid darkness
that came up from the moor; the gray, aerial abysses of the dale; the
awful, blank withdrawal of Greffington Edge into the night. She was
off, Heaven knew where, at the lighting of a star in the thin blue;
the movement of a cloud excited her; or she was held enchanted by
the pale aura of moonrise along the rampart of Greffington Edge. She
shared the earth's silence and the throbbing passion of the earth as
the orbed moon swung free.

And in her absorption, her estranging ecstasy, Rowcliffe at last found
something inimical.

* * * * *

He told himself that it was an affectation in her, or a lure to draw
him after her, as it would have been in any other woman. The little
red-haired nurse would have known how to turn the earth and the moon
to her own purposes and his. But all the time he knew that it was not
so. There was no purpose in it at all, and it was unaware of him and
of his purposes. Gwenda's joy was pure and profound and sufficient to
itself. He gathered that it had been with her before he came and that
it would remain with her after he had gone.

He hated to think that she should know any joy that had not its
beginning and its end in him. It took her from him. As long as it
lasted he was faced with an incomprehensible and monstrous rivalry.

And as a man might leave a woman to his uninteresting rival in
the certainty that she will be bored and presently return to him,
Rowcliffe left Gwenda to the earth and moon. He sulked and was silent.

* * * * *

Then, suddenly, he made up his mind.


It was one night in April. He had met her at the crossroads on Morfe
Green, and walked home with her by the edge of the moor. It had blown
hard all day, and now the wind had dropped, but it had left darkness
and commotion in the sky. The west was a solid mass of cloud that
drifted slowly in the wake of the departing storm, its hindmost part
shredded to mist before the path of the hidden moon.

For, mercifully, the moon was hidden. Rowcliffe knew his moment.

He meditated--the fraction of a second too long.

"I wonder----" he began.

Just then the rear of the cloud opened and cast out the moon, sheeted
in the white mist that she had torn from it.

And then, before he knew where he was, he was quarreling with Gwenda.

"Oh, look at the moon!" she cried. "All bowed forward with the cloud
wrapped round her head. Something's calling her across the sky, but
the mist holds her and the wind beats her back--look how she staggers
and charges head-downward. She's fighting the wind. And she goes--she

"She doesn't go," said Rowcliffe. "At least you can't see her going,
and the cloud isn't wrapped round her head, it's nowhere near her. And
the wind isn't driving her, it's driving the cloud on. It's the cloud
that's going. Why can't you see things as they are?"

She was detestable to him in that moment.

"Because nobody sees them as they are. And you're spoiling the idea."

"The idea being so much more valuable than the truth."

He longed to say cruel and biting things to her.

"It isn't valuable to anybody but me, so you might have left it to

"Oh, I'll leave it to you, if you're in love with it."

"I'm not in love with it because it's mine. Anyhow, if I _am_ in love
I'm in love with the moon and not with my idea of the moon."

"You don't know how to be in love with anything--even the moon. But I
suppose it's all right as long as you're happy."

"Of course I'm happy. Why shouldn't I be?"

"Because you haven't got anything to make you happy."

"Oh, haven't I?"

"You might have. But you haven't. You're too obstinate to be happy."

"But I've just told you that I _am_ happy."

"What have you _got?_" he persisted.

"I've got heaps of things. I've got my two hands and my two feet. I've
got my brain----"

"So have I. And yet----"

"It's absurd to say I've 'got' these things. They're me. Happiness
isn't in the things you've got. It's either in you or it isn't."

"It generally isn't. Go on. What else? You've got the moon and your
idea of the moon. I don't see that you've got much more."

"Anyhow, I've got my liberty."

"Your liberty--if that's all you want!"

"It's pretty nearly all. It covers most things."

"It does if you're an incurable egoist."

"You think I'm an egoist? And incurable?"

"It doesn't matter what I think."

"Not much. If you think that."

Silence. And then Rowcliffe burst out again.

"There are two things that I can't stand--a woman nursing a dog and
a woman in love with the moon. They mean the same thing. And it's


"Because if it's humbug she's a hypocrite, and if it's genuine she's a

"And if I'm in love with the moon--and you said I was----"

"I didn't. You said it yourself."

"Not at all. I said _if_ I was in love with the moon, I'd be in love
with _it_ and not with my idea of it. I want reality."

"So do I. We're not likely to get it if we can't see it."

"No. If you're only in love with what you see."

"Oh, you're too clever. Too clever for me."

"Am I too clever for myself?"


He laughed abominably.

"I don't see the joke."

"If you don't see it this minute you'll see it in another ten years."

"Now," she said, "you're too clever for _me_."

They walked on in silence again. The mist gathered and dripped about

Abruptly she spoke.

"Has anything happened?"

"No, it hasn't."

"I mean--anything horrid?"

Her voice sounded such genuine distress that he dropped his hostile
and contemptuous tone.

"No," he said, "why should it?"

"Because I've noticed that, when people are unusually horrid, it
always means that something horrid's happened to them."


"Papa, for instance, is only horrid to us because Mummy--my
stepmother, you know--was horrid to him."

"What did Mummy do to him?"

"She ran away from him. It's always that way. People aren't horrid on
purpose. At least I'm sure _you_ wouldn't be."

"_Was_ I horrid?"

"Well--for the last half-hour----"

"You see, I find you a little exasperating at times."

"Not always?"

"No. Not by any means always."

"Can I tell when I am? Or when I'm going to be?"

He laughed (not at all abominably). "No. I don't think you can. That's
rather what I resent in you."

"I wish I could tell. Then perhaps I might avoid it. You might just
give me warning when you think I'm going to be it."

"I did give you warning."


"When it began."

"There you are. I don't know when it did begin. What were we talking

"I wasn't talking about anything. You were talking about the moon."

"It was the moon that did it."

"I suppose it was the moon."

"I see. I bored you. How awful."

"I didn't say you bored me. You never have bored me. You couldn't bore

"No--I just irritate you and drive you mad."

"You just irritate me and drive me mad."

The words were brutal but the voice caressed her. He took her by the
arm and steered her amicably round a hidden boulder.

"Do you know many women?" she asked.

The question was startling by reason of its context. The better to
consider it Rowcliffe withdrew his protecting arm.

"No," he said, "not very many."

"But those you do know you get on with? You get on all right with

"Yes. I get on all right with 'Mary.'"

"You'd be horrid if you didn't. Mary's a dear."

"Well--I know where I am with _her_."

"And you get on all right--really--with Papa, as long as I'm not

"As long as you're not there, yes."

"So that," she pursued, "_I'm_ the horrid thing that's happened to
you? It looks like it."

"It feels like it. Let's say you're the horrid thing that's happened
to me, and leave it at that."

They left it.

Rowcliffe had a sort of impression that he had said all that he had
had to say.


The Vicar had called Gwenda into his study one day.

"What's this I hear," he said, "of you and young Rowcliffe scampering
about all over the country?"

The Vicar had drawn a bow at a venture. He had not really heard
anything, but he had seen something; two forms scrambling hand in hand
up Karva; not too distant to be recognisable as young Rowcliffe and
his daughter Gwenda, yet too distant to be pleasing to the Vicar. It

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest