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Title: Plashers Mead - A Novel
Author: MacKenzie, Compton, 1883-1972
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Plashers Mead_

Compton Mackenzie



PLASHERS MEAD



[Illustration: GUY AND PAULINE]



PLASHERS MEAD


BY
COMPTON MACKENZIE

AUTHOR OF _CARNIVAL_


[Illustration]


HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK & LONDON


Copyright, 1915, by Harper & Brothers


TO
GENERAL
SIR IAN HAMILTON
G.C.B., D.S.O.
AND THE GENERAL STAFF OF THE
MEDITERRANEAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE

     I.  AUTUMN
         SEPTEMBER: OCTOBER: NOVEMBER                                  3

    II.  WINTER
         DECEMBER: JANUARY: FEBRUARY                                  55

   III.  SPRING
         MARCH: APRIL: MAY                                            99

    IV.  SUMMER
         JUNE: JULY: AUGUST                                          155

     V.  ANOTHER AUTUMN
         SEPTEMBER: OCTOBER: NOVEMBER                                205

    VI.  ANOTHER WINTER
         DECEMBER: JANUARY: FEBRUARY                                 253

   VII.  ANOTHER SPRING
         MARCH: APRIL: MAY                                           297

  VIII.  ANOTHER SUMMER
         JUNE: JULY: AUGUST                                          339

    IX.  EPIGRAPH
         GUY: PAULINE                                                371



AUTUMN



SEPTEMBER


The slow train puffed away into the unadventurous country; and the bees
buzzing round the wine-dark dahlias along the platform were once again
audible. The last farewell that Guy Hazlewood flung over his shoulder to
a parting friend was more casual than it would have been had he not at
the same moment been turning to ask the solitary porter how many cases
of books awaited his disposition. They were very heavy, it seemed; and
the porter, as he led the way towards the small and obscure purgatory
through which every package for Shipcot must pass, declared he was
surprised to hear these cases contained merely books. He would not go so
far as to suggest that hitherto he had never faced the existence of
books in such quantity, for the admission might have impugned official
omniscience; yet there was in his attitude just as much incredulity
mingled with disdain of useless learning as would preserve his dignity
without jeopardizing the financial compliment his services were owed.

"Ah, well," he decided, as if he were trying to smooth over Guy's
embarrassment at the sight of these large packing-cases in the
parcel-office. "You'll want something as'll keep you busy this
winter--for you'll be the gentleman who've come to live down Wychford
way?"

Guy nodded.

"And Wychford is mortal dead in winter. Time walks very lame there, as
they say. And all these books, I suppose, were better to come along of
the 'bus to-night?"

Guy looked doubtful. It was seeming a pity to waste this afternoon
without unpacking a single case. "The trap...." he began.

But the porter interrupted him firmly; he did not think Mr. Godbold
would relish the notion of one of these packing-cases in his new trap.

"I could give you a hand...." Guy began again.

The porter stiffened himself against the slight upon his strength.

"It's not the heffort," he asserted. "Heffort is what I must look for
every day of my life. It's Mr. Godbold's trap."

The discussion was given another turn by the entrance of Mr. Godbold
himself. He was not at all concerned for his trap, and indeed by an
asseverated indifference to its welfare he conveyed the impression that,
new though it were, it was so much firewood, if the gentleman wanted
firewood. No, the trap did not matter, but what about Mr. Hazlewood's
knees?

"Ah, there you are," said the porter, and he and Mr. Godbold both stood
dumb in the presence of the finally insuperable.

"I suppose it must be the 'bus," said Guy. On such a sleepy afternoon he
could argue no longer. The books must be unpacked to-morrow; and the
word lulled like an opiate the faint irritation of his disappointment.
The porter's reiterated altruism was rewarded with a fee so absurdly in
excess of anything he had done, that he began to speak of a possibility
if, after all, the smallest case might not be squeezed ... but Mr.
Godbold flicked the pony, and the trap rattled up the station road at a
pace quite out of accord with the warmth of the afternoon. Presently he
turned to his fare:

"Mrs. Godbold said to me only this morning, she said, 'You ought to have
had a luggage-flap behind and that I shall always say,' And she was
right. Women is often right, what's more," the husband postulated.

Guy nodded absently; he was thinking about the books.

"Very often right," Mr. Godbold murmured.

Still Guy paid no attention.

"Very often," he repeated, but as Guy would neither contradict nor agree
with him, Mr. Godbold relapsed into meditation upon the justice of his
observation. The pony had settled down to his wonted pace and jogged on
through the golden haze of fine September weather. Soon the village of
Shipcot was left behind, and before them lay the long road winding
upward over the wold to Wychford. Guy thought of the friend who had left
him that afternoon and wished that Michael Fane were still with him to
enjoy this illimitable sweep of country. He had been the very person to
share in the excitement of arranging a new house. Guy could not remember
that he had ever made a suggestion for which he had not been asked; nor
could he call to mind a single occasion when his appreciation had
failed. And now to-night, when for the first time he was going to sleep
in his own house, his friend was gone. There had been no hint of
departure during the six weeks of preparation they had spent together at
the Stag Inn, and it was really perverse of Michael to rush back to
London now. Guy jumped down from the trap, which was climbing the hill
very slowly, and stretched his long legs. He was rather bored by his
loneliness, but as soon as he had stated so much to himself, he was
shocked at the disloyalty to his ambition. After all, he reassured
himself, he was not going back to a dull inn-parlor; to-night he was
going to sleep in an hermitage for the right to enjoy the seclusion of
which he had been compelled to fight very hard. It was weak to imagine
he was lonely already, and to fortify himself against this mood he
pulled out of his pocket his father's last letter and read it again
while he walked up the hill behind the trap.

  FOX HALL, GALTON, HANTS,
  _September 10th_.

     DEAR GUY,--I agree with some of what you say, but I disagree with
     a good deal more, and I am entirely opposed to your method of
     procedure, which is to put it very mildly rather casual. Your
     degree was not so good as it ought to have been, but I did not
     reproach you, because in the Consular Service you had chosen a
     career which did not call specially for a first. At the same time
     you could, if you had worked, have got a first quite easily. Your
     six months with the Macedonian Relief people seems to have knocked
     all your consular ambitions on the head rather too easily, I
     confess, to make me feel very happy about your future. And now
     without consulting me you take a house in the country for the
     purpose of writing poetry! You imply in answer to my remonstrances
     that I am unable to appreciate the "necessity" for your step. That
     may be, but I cannot help asking where you would be now if I at
     your age, instead of helping my father with his school, had gone
     off to Oxfordshire to write poetry. Perhaps I had ambitions to
     make a name for myself with the pen. If I had, I quenched them in
     order to devote myself to what I considered my duty. I do not
     reproach you for refusing to carry on the school at Fox Hall. Your
     dear mother's last request was that I should not urge you to be a
     schoolmaster, unless you were drawn to the vocation. Her wishes I
     have respected, and I repeat that I am not hurt at your refusal.
     At the same time I cannot encourage what can only be described as
     this whim of yours to bury yourself in a remote village where,
     having saddled yourself with the responsibilities of a house, you
     announce your intention of living by poetry! I am the last person
     to underestimate the value of poetry, but as a livelihood it seems
     to me as little to be relied upon as the weather. However, you are
     of age. You have £150 a year of your own. You are with the
     exercise of the strictest economy independent. And this brings me
     to the point of your last letter in which you ask me to supplement
     your own income with an allowance of £150 a year from me. This
     inclination to depend upon your father is not what I conceive to
     be the artist's spirit of independence. This overdrawing upon your
     achievement fills me with dismay for the future. However, since I
     do not wish you to begin hampered by debt and as you assure me
     that you have spent all your own money on this idiotic house, I
     will give you £150, to be paid in quarterly instalments of £37
     10_s_, as from the 21st of this month for one year. Furthermore,
     at the end of next year if you find that poetry is less profitable
     than even you expect, I will offer you a place at Fox Hall,
     thereby securing for you the certainty of a life moderately free
     from financial worries. After all, even a schoolmaster has some
     spare time, and I dare say our greatest poets did much of their
     best work in their spare time. The idea of writing poetry all day
     and every day appeals to me as enervating and ostentatious.

  Your affectionate father,
  JOHN HAZLEWOOD.

Guy stood still when he had finished the letter, and execrated mutely
the damnable dependence that compelled him to accept gratefully and
humbly this gift of £150. Yet with no money of his own coming in till
December, with actually a housekeeper on her way from Cardiff and his
house already furnished, he must accept the offer. In a year's time he
would have proved the reasonableness of his request; and he began to
compose a scene between them, in which his father would almost on bended
knees beg him to accept an allowance of £300 a year in consideration of
the magnificent proof he had afforded to the world of being in the
direct line of English poets.

"And I mustn't forget to send him a sonnet on his birthday," said Guy to
himself.

This notion restored his dignity, and he hurried on to overtake the trap
which was waiting on the brow of the hill.

"You were saying something about women being right," he reminded Mr.
Godbold, as he sat down again beside him. "Has it ever struck you that
fathers are nearly always wrong?"

"That wouldn't do for me at all," said Mr. Godbold, shaking his head.
"You see I'm the father of nine, and if I wasn't always right, sir, I
shouldn't be no better than a bull in a china-shop where I live. I've
_got_ to be right, Mr. Hazlewood."

"I suppose that's what the Pope felt," Guy murmured.

"Now do you reckon this here Pope they speak of really exists in a
manner of speaking?" Mr. Godbold asked, as the trap bowled along the
level stretch of upland road. "You know there's some of these
narrow-minded mortals at Wychford as will have it that Mr. Grey, our
parson, is in with the Pope, and I said to one or two of them the other
night while we were arguing in the post-office, I said, 'Have any of you
wise men of Gotham ever seen this Pope as you're so knowing about?'"

"And had they?" asked Guy, encouragingly.

"Not one of them," said Mr. Godbold. "And I thought to myself as I was
walking up home, I thought now what if there wasn't no such thing as a
Pope any more than there's women with fish-tails and all this rubbish
you read of in books. If you ask my opinion of books, Mr. Hazlewood, I
tell you that I think books is as bad for some people as wireworms is
for carnations. They seem to regular eat into them."

Guy laughed. Misgivings about the wisdom of his choice vanished, and he
was being conscious of a very intimate pleasure in thus driving back to
Wychford from the station. The country tossed for miles to right and
left in great stretches of pasturage, and when Mr. Godbold pulled up for
a moment to look at a trace, the air, brilliantly dusted with autumnal
gold, seemed to endow him with the richness of its silence; along the
sparse hedgerow chicory flowers burned with the pale intense blue of the
September sky above, and Guy felt like them, worshipful of the cloudless
scene. The road ran along the upland for half a mile before it dipped
suddenly down into the valley of the Greenrush, from which the spire of
Wychford church came delicately up into the air, like a coil of smoke
ascending from the opalescent corona that hung over the small town
clustered against the farther hillside. Down in that valley close to the
church was Plashers Mead, and Guy watched eagerly for the first sight of
his long, low house. Already the sparkle of the more distant curves of
the Greenrush was visible; but Plashers Mead was still hidden by the
slope of the bank. Presently this broke away to a ragged hedge, and the
house displayed itself as much an integral part of the landscape as an
outcrop of stone.

"Tasty little place," commented Mr. Godbold while the trap jolted
cautiously down the last twist of the hilly road. "But I reckon old
Burrows was glad to let it. You're young, though, and I dare say you
won't mind being flooded out in winter. Two years ago Burrows's son's
wife's nephew was floating paper boats in the front hall. But you're
young, and I dare say you'll enjoy it."

The pony swept round the corner and pulled up with a jerk at the wooden
gateway in the gray wall overhung by lime-trees that concealed from the
highroad the moist fields and garden of Plashers Mead.

"I'm sleeping here to-night, you know, for the first time," said Guy. He
had tried all the way back not to make this announcement, but the sight
of his own gateway destroyed his reserve.

"Well, you'll have a fine night, that's one good job," Mr. Godbold
predicted.

"And the moon only just past the full," said Guy.

"That's right," Mr. Godbold agreed; and the tenant passed through the
gateway into the garden, where every path had its own melody of running
water. He examined with proprietary solicitude the espaliers of
apple-trees, and admired for the twentieth time the pledge they offered
by their fantastic forms of his garden's antiquity. He pinched several
pippins that seemed ripe, but they were still hard; and he could find
nothing over which to exert his lordship until he saw by the edge of
the path a piece of groundsel. Having solemnly exterminated the weed,
Guy felt that the garden must henceforth recognize him as master, and he
walked on through a mass of dropsical cabbages and early kale until he
came face to face with the house, the sudden view of which like this
never failed to give him a peculiar pleasure. The tangled garden, long
and narrow, was bounded on the right, as one entered, by the Greenrush,
over which hung a thicket of yews that completely shut out the first
straggling houses of Wychford. On the left the massed espaliers ended
abruptly in a large water-meadow reaching to the foot of the hill along
which the highroad climbed in a slow diagonal. By the corner of the
house the garden had narrowed to the apex of a thin triangle, so that
the windows looked out over the water-meadow and, beyond, up the wide
valley of the Greenrush to where the mighty western sky rested on
rounded hills. At this apex the Greenrush flung a tributary stream to
wash the back of the house and one side of the orchard, whence it wound
in extravagant curves towards the easterly valley. The main branch,
damned up to form a deep and sluggish mill-stream, flowed straight on,
dividing Guy's domain from the churchyard. At the end of the orchard on
this side was a lock-gate through which a certain amount of water
continuously escaped from the mill-stream, enough, indeed, to make the
orchard an island, as it trickled in diamonded shallows to reinforce the
idle tributary. Somewhere in the farther depths of the eastern valley
all vagrant waters were united, and somewhere still more remote they
came to a confluence with their father the Thames.

Guy sat upon the parapet of the well under the shade of a sycamore-tree
and regarded with admiration and satisfaction the exterior of his house.
He looked at the semicircular porch of stone over the front door and
venerated the supporting cherubs who with puffed-out cheeks had blown
defiance at wind and rain since the days of Elizabeth. He counted the
nine windows, five above and four below, populating with the shapes of
many friends the rooms they lightened. He looked at the steep roof of
gray-stone tiles rich with the warm golden green of mossy patterns. He
looked at the four pear-trees against the walls of the house barren now
for many years. He looked at himself in silhouette against the silver
sky of the well-water; and then he went indoors.

The big stone-paved hall was very cool, and the sound of the stream at
the back came babbling through lattices open to the light of a green
world. Guy could not make up his mind whether the inside of the house
smelled very dry or very damp, for there clung about it that odor
peculiar to rustic age, which may be found equally in dry old barns and
in damp potting-sheds. He wished he could furnish the hall worthily. At
present it contained only a high-back chair, an alleged contemporary of
Cromwell, which was doddering beside the hooded fireplace; a
warming-pan; and an oak chest which remained a chest only so long as
nobody either sat upon it or lifted the lid. There was also a
grandfather-clock which had suffered an abrupt resurrection of four
minutes' duration when it was recently lifted out of the furniture-van,
but had now relapsed into the silence of years. Leading out of the hall
was a small, empty room which had been dedicated to the possession of
his friend Michael Fane; together they had planned to paper it with gold
and paint the ceiling black. Michael, however, had still another year at
Oxford, and the room with an obelisk of lining-paper standing upright on
the bare floor was now a little desolate. On the other side of the hall
was the dining-room, which Guy, by taxing his resources, had managed to
furnish very successfully. It was a square room painted emerald-green
above the white wainscot. Two inset cupboards were filled with glass and
china: there were four Chippendale chairs and an oval Sheraton table,
curtains of purple silk, some old English water-colors, and two
candlesticks of Sheffield plate. Beyond the dining-room was the kitchen,
the corridor to which was endowed with a swinging baize door considered
by the landlord to be the finest feature of the house. The problem of
equipping the kitchen had seemed insoluble until Guy heard of a sale in
the neighborhood. He had bicycled over to this and bought the contents
of the large kitchen at auction. The result was that the dresser
encroached upon the table, that the table had one leg in the fender, and
that a row of graduated dish-covers, the largest of which would have
sheltered two turkeys, occupied whatever space was left. All that
remained of Guy's own money had been invested in his kitchen, and he
accounted for the large size of everything by the fact of the auction's
having been held in the open air, where everything had looked so much
smaller. Now, as he contemplated dubiously the result, he wondered what
Miss Peasey would say to it. She and the books would arrive together at
half past nine to-night. He hoped his unknown housekeeper would not be
irritated by these dish-covers, and as a precautionary measure he
unhooked the largest, carried it up-stairs, and deposited it on the
floor of an unfurnished bedroom. The staircase ran steep and straight up
from the hall into a long corridor with more casements opening on the
orchard behind. The bedroom at one end was dedicated to the hope of
Michael Fane's occupation and was always referred to in letters as his:
"_By the way I put the largest dish-cover in your bedroom._" The next
two bedrooms were also empty and belonged in spirit to the friends with
whom Guy had lived during his last year at Oxford. The fourth was his
own, very simply and sparsely furnished in comparison with the bedroom
up in the roof which was intended for Miss Peasey. The preparation of
that for an elderly unmarried woman had involved a certain
voluptuousness of rep and fumed oak and heavily decorated china, the
fruit of the second-best bedroom in the house of the dish-covers. As
Guy went up the crooked stairs and knocked his head on three successive
beams, he hoped Miss Peasey would not be as disproportionately large as
the kitchen dresser. Her handwriting had been spidery enough, and he
pictured her hopefully as small and wizened. Miss Peasey's bower with
the big dormer window surveying the tree-tops of the orchard was
certainly a success, and Guy saw that Michael had with happy intuition
of female aspiration hung on the wall opposite her bed a large
steel-engraving of Doré's Martyrs, which had been included with two
hammocks and a fishing-rod in one of the odd lots lightly bid for at the
auction. There did not seem anything else she could want; so, having
killed a bluebottle with a tartan pincushion, he came down-stairs.

Guy had left his own room to the last, partly because he regretted so
much the delay in the arrival of those books and partly because, however
inadequately equipped was the rest of the house, this room was always
the final justification of his tenancy. It was a larger room than any of
the others, for the corridor did not cut off its share of the back. It
possessed, in addition to the usual window looking out over the western
side of the valley, a very large bay which hung right over the stream,
with a view of the orchard, of the church steeple, of the water-meadows
beyond, and of the wold rolling across the horizon. This morning Michael
and he had pushed the furniture into place, had set in order the great
wicker chairs and nailed against the wall the frames of green canvas.
The floor was covered with a sweet-smelling mat of Abingdon rushes; and
the curtains of his old rooms in Balliol were hung in place, dim green
curtains sown with golden fleurs-de-lys. The ivory image of an emaciated
saint standing on the mantelshelf between candlesticks of old wrought
iron was probably a Spanish Virgin, but Guy preferred to say she was
Saint Rose of Lima because "_O Rose of Lima_" seemed a wonderful
apostrophe to begin a poem. Nothing indeed remained for the room's
perfection but to fill the new bookshelves on either side of the
fireplace. Why had he not hired a cart in Shipcot? They would have been
here by now, and he would actually have been able to begin work
to-night, setting thus a noble period to these last six weeks of
preparation.

Guy dragged a chair into the bay window and, balancing his long legs on
the sill, he made numerous calculations in which Miss Peasey's wages,
the weekly bills for food, and the number of times he would have to go
up to London were set against £150 a year. When he woke up, the
lime-trees that bordered the highroad had flung their shadows half-way
across the meadow, and the air was a fume of golden gnats against the
dipping sun. Within ten minutes the sun vanished, and the mists began to
rise. Guy, feeling rather chilly and ashamed of himself for falling
asleep, rose hurriedly and went up into the town. He interviewed the
driver of the omnibus and told him to look out for his books, and as an
afterthought he mentioned the arrival of Miss Peasey. He wished now he
had written and told his housekeeper to spend the night in Oxford; and
he hoped she would not be prejudiced against Plashers Mead by a
five-mile drive in a cold omnibus after her tiring journey from Cardiff.
He dawdled about the steep village street for a while, gossiping with
tradesmen at their doors and watching the warmth fade out of the gray
houses in the falling dusk. Then he went to eat his last meal in the
Stag Inn.

After supper Guy returned to Plashers Mead, wandering round the house,
dropping a great deal of candle-grease everywhere, and working himself
up into a state of anxiety over Miss Peasey's advent. It would be
terrible if she demanded her fare back to Wales the moment she arrived;
and to propitiate her he put the best lamp in the kitchen, whence (as
with such illumination it looked more than ever protuberant) he took
another dish-cover up to Michael's bedroom. Since it was still but a
few minutes after eight and the omnibus would not come for another hour
and a half, he lit all the wax candles in his own room and wondered what
to do. The tall shadows wavering in the draught were seeming cold and
uncomfortable without a fire, so he restlessly threw back the curtains
of the bay window to watch the rising of the moon. At that instant her
rim appeared above the black hills, and presently a great moon of
dislustered gold swam along the edge of the earth. Although she appeared
to shed no light, the valley responded to her presence, and Guy was
lured from his room to walk for a while in the dews.

Out in the orchard a heavy mist wrapped him in wet folds of silver; yet
overhead there was clear starlight, and he could watch the slow
burnishing of the moon's face in her voyage up the sky. It was a queer
country in which he found himself, where all the tree-tops seemed to be
floating away from invisible trunks, and where for a while no sound was
audible but his own footsteps making a music almost of violins in the
saturated grass. The moon wrought upon the vapors a shifting damascene;
and far behind, as it seemed, a rufous stain showed where the candles in
his room were still alight. Gradually a variety of sounds began to play
upon the silence. He could hear the dry squeak of a bat and cows
munching in the meadows on the other side of the stream. The stream
itself babbled and was still, babbled and was still; while along the
bank voles were taking the water with splashes that went up and down a
scale like the deep notes of a dulcimer. Far off, an owl hooted, an
otter barked; and then as he crossed the middle of the orchard he was
hearing nothing but apples fall with solemn thud, until the noise of the
lock-gate swallowed all lighter sounds. Here the mist had temporarily
dissolved, and in the moonlight he could see water gushing forth like an
arch of lace and the long bramble-sprays combing the shallows below.
Soon the orchard was left behind and he was in the mist of a wide
meadow, where all was silent again except for the faint sobbing of the
grass to his footsteps. He walked straight into the moon's face,
stumbling from time to time over molehills with an eery fragrance of
fresh-turned soil, and wishing he could ever say in verse a little of
the magic this autumnal night was shedding upon his fancy.

"By gad! if I can't write here, I ought to be shot," he declared.

The church clock struck the half-hour as appositely as if his own father
had said something about the need for hurrying up and showing what he
could do.

"Ah, but I'm not going to be hurried," said Guy, aloud. And since the
clock could not answer him again, it was as good as having the best of
an argument.

Guy walked on, and after a while could hear once more the purling of the
stream. He thought there was something strangely human about this river
in the way it wandered so careless of direction. When he had left these
banks, they had been going away from him: now here they were coming back
like himself towards the moon, so that presently he was able without
changing his course to walk under their border of willows. The mist had
drifted away from the stream, leaving the spires of loosestrife plainly
visible, and more dimly on the other side the forms of huge cattle at
pasture. There was, too, a smell of meadowsweet softening with a summer
languor the sharp September night. The willows gave way to overhanging
thickets of hawthorn, as the river suddenly swept round to make a noose
that was completed but a few yards ahead of where he was standing. He
could not see on account of the bushes the size of the peninsula so
formed, and when suddenly he heard from the depths a sound of laughter,
so full was his brain of moonshine that if he had come face to face with
a legendary queen of fairies, he would hardly have been surprised. It
was with the deliberate encouragement of a vision surpassing all the
fantasies of moon and mist that Guy stopped; and, indeed, on a sensuous
impulse to pamper his imagination with an unsolved mystery he had almost
turned round to go back. Curiosity, however, was too strong; for, as he
paused irresolute, the fairy mirth tinkling again from the recesses of
that bewitched inclosure died away upon the murmur of a conversation,
and he could not leave any longer inviolate that screen of hawthorns.

In the apogee of the river's noose two girls, clearly seen against the
silver glooms beyond, were bending over a basket. Their heads were close
together, and it was not until Guy was almost on top of them that he
realized how impertinent his intrusion might seem. He drew back,
blushing, just as one of the girls became aware of his presence and
jumped up with an "oh" that floated away from her as lightly as a moth
upon the moonshine. Her sister (Guy decided at once they were sisters)
jumped up also and, luckily for him, since it offered the opportunity of
a natural apology, overturned the basket. For a moment the three of them
gazed at one another over the mushrooms that were tumbled upon the grass
to be an elfin city of the East, so white and cold were their cupolas
under the moon.

"Can't I help to pick them up?" Guy asked, wondering to himself why on
this night of nights that was the real beginning of Plashers Mead he
should be blessed by this fortunate encounter. The two girls were
wearing big white coats of some rough tweed or frieze on which the mist
lay like gossamer; and, as neither of them had a hat, Guy could see that
one was very dark and the other fair.

"We wondered who you were," said the dark one.

"I live at Plashers Mead," said Guy.

"I know; I've seen you often," she answered.

"And Father says every day, 'My dears, I really must call upon that
young man.'"

It was the fair one who spoke, and Guy recognized that it was her
laughter he had first heard.

"My other sister is somewhere close by," said the dark one.

Guy was kneeling down to gather up the mushrooms, and he looked round to
see another white figure coming towards them.

"Oh, Margaret, do let's introduce him to Monica. It will be such fun,"
cried the fair sister.

Guy saw that Margaret was shaking her head, but nevertheless when the
third sister came near enough she did introduce him. Monica was more
like Margaret, but much fairer than the first fair sister; and with her
reserve and her pale-gold hair she seemed, as she greeted him, to be
indeed a wraith of the moon.

"Shall I carry the mushrooms back for you?" Guy offered.

"Oh no, thanks," said Monica, quickly. "The Rectory is quite out of your
way."

He felt the implication of an eldest sister's disapproval, and not
wishing to spoil the omens of romance, he left the three sisters by the
banks of the Greenrush and was soon on his way home through the webs of
mist.

How extraordinary that he and Michael should have spent six weeks at
Wychford without realizing that the Rector had three such daughters.
Godbold had gossiped about him only this afternoon, reporting that he
was held by some of his parishioners to be in with the Pope: they might
more justly suspect him of being in with Titania. Monica, Margaret ...
he had not heard the name of the third. Monica had seemed a little
frigid, but Margaret and ... really when the omnibus arrived he must
find out the name of the Rector's third daughter, of that one so
obviously the youngest, with her light-brown hair and her laugh of which
even now, as he paused, he fancied he could still hear the melodious
echo. Monica, Margaret, and ... Rose, perhaps, for there had been
something of a dewy eglantine about her. Surely that was indeed the echo
of their voices; but, as upon distance the wayward sound eluded him,
the belfry clock with whir and buzz and groan made preparation to strike
the hour. Nine strokes boomed, leaving behind them a stillness absolute.
The poet thought of time before him, of the three sisters by the river,
of fame to come, and of his own fortune in finding Plashers Mead. Four
months ago he had been in Macedonia, full of pro-consular romance, and
now he was in England with a much keener sense of every moment's
potentiality than he had ever known in the dreams of Oriental dominion.
This sublunary adventure indicated how great a richness of pastoral life
lay behind the slumber of a forgotten town; and it was seeming more than
ever a pity Michael had not waited until to-night, so that he also might
have met Monica and Margaret and that smallest innominate sister with
the light-brown hair. Guy could not help arranging with himself for his
friend to fall in love with one of them; and since he at once allotted
Monica to Michael, he knew that he himself preferred one of the others.
But which? Oh, it was ridiculous to ask such questions after seeing
three girls for three minutes of moonlight. Perhaps it really had been
sorcery, and in the morning, when he met them in Wychford High Street,
they would appear dull and ordinary. They could not be so beautiful as
he thought they were, he decided, since if they were he must have heard
of their beauty. Nevertheless, it was in a mood of almost elated
self-congratulation that Guy found himself hurrying through the orchard
towards the candle-light of his room.

The arrival of Miss Peasey, now that it was upon him, banished
everything else; and instead of dreaming deliciously of that encounter
in the water-meadows, he stood meditating on the failure of the kitchen.
As he regarded the enormous dresser, the table trampling upon the
fender, the seven dish-covers mocking his poor crockery, Guy had little
hope that Miss Peasey would stay a week; and then suddenly, worse than
any failure of equipment, he remembered that she might be hungry. He
looked at his watch. A quarter past nine. Of course she would be hungry.
She probably had eaten nothing but a banana since breakfast in Cardiff.
Guy rushed out and surprised the landlord of the Stag by begging him to
send the hostler down at once with cold beef and stout and cheese.

"There's the 'bus," he cried. "Don't forget. At once. My new
housekeeper. Long journey. And salad. Forgot she'd be hungry. Salt and
mustard. I've got plates."

The omnibus went rumbling past, and Guy followed at a jog-trot down the
street, saw it cross the bridge, and, making a spurt, caught it up just
as a woman alighted by the gate of Plashers Mead.

"Ah, Miss Peasey," said Guy, breathlessly. "I went up the street to see
if the 'bus was coming. Have you had a comfortable journey?"

"Mr. Hazlewood?" asked the new housekeeper, blinking at him.

The guard of the omnibus at this moment informed Guy that he had some
cases for Plashers Mead.

"Where is Mr. Hazlewood, then?" asked Miss Peasey, turning sharply.

Over her shoulder Guy saw that the guard was apparently punching the
side of his head, and he said, more loudly:

"I'm Mr. Hazlewood."

"I thought you were. I'm a little bit deaf after traveling, so you'll
kindly speak slightly above the usual, Mr. Hazlewood."

"I hope you've had a comfortable journey," Guy shouted.

"Oh yes, I think I shall," she said with what Guy fancied was meant to
be an encouraging smile. "I hope you haven't lost any of my parcels,
young man," she continued, with a severe glance at the guard.

"Four and a string-bag. Is that right, mum?" he bellowed. "She's as deaf
as an adder, Mr. Hazlewood," he explained, confidentially. "We had a
regular time getting of her into the 'bus before we found out she
couldn't hear what was being said to her. Oh, very obstinate she was."

"This is the garden," Guy shouted, as they passed in through the gate.

"Yes, I dare say," Miss Peasey replied, ambiguously.

Guy wondered how she would ever be got up-stairs to her room.

"This is the hall," he shouted. "Rather unfurnished I'm afraid."

"Oh yes, I'm quite used to the country," said Miss Peasey.

Guy was now in a state of nervous indecision. Just as he was going to
shout to Miss Peasey that the kitchen was through the baize door the
hostler from the Stag came up to know whether mutton would do instead of
beef, and just as he said pork would be better than nothing the guard
arrived with Miss Peasey's tin box and wanted to know where he should
put it. The hall seemed to be thronged with people.

"You'd like your boxes up-stairs, wouldn't you?" he shouted to the
housekeeper.

"Oh, do you want to come up-stairs?" she said, cheerfully.

"No, your boxes. The kitchen's in here."

He really hustled her into the kitchen and, having got her at last in a
well-lighted room, he begged her to sit down and expect her supper. By
this time two men who had been summoned by the driver of the omnibus to
bring in Guy's books were staggering and sweating into the hall.
However, the confusion relaxed in time; and before the clock struck ten
Guy was alone with Miss Peasey and without an audience was managing to
make her understand most of what he was saying.

"I'll come down in about half an hour," he told her, "and show you your
room."

"It's a long way," said Miss Peasey, when the moment was arrived to
conduct her up the winding staircase to her bower in the roof. Guy had
calculated that she would miss all the beams, and so from a desire to
make the best of the staircase he had not mentioned them. He sighed with
relief when she passed into her bedroom, unbumped.

"Oh, quite nice," she pronounced, looking round her.

"In the morning we'll talk over everything," said Guy, and with a
hurried good-night he rushed away.

In the hall he attacked with a chisel the first packing-case. One by one
familiar volumes winked at him with their gold lettering in the
candle-light. He chose Keats to take up-stairs, and, having read "St.
Agnes' Eve," stood by the window of his bedroom poring upon the moonlit
valley.

In bed his mind skipped the stress of Miss Peasey's arrival and fled
back to the meadows where he had been walking.

"Monica, Margaret...." he began, dreamily. It was a pity he had
forgotten to find out the name of that sister who was so like a wild
rose. Never mind; he would find out to-morrow. And for the second time
that day the word lulled him like an opiate.



OCTOBER


It was a blowy afternoon early in October, and Pauline was sitting by
the window of what at Wychford Rectory was still called the nursery. The
persistence of the old name might almost be taken as symbolic of the way
in which time had glided by that house unrecognized, for here were
Monica, Margaret, and Pauline grown up before any one had thought of
changing its name even to school-room. And with the old name it had
preserved the character childhood had lent it. There was not a chair
that did not appear now like the veteran survivor of childish wars and
misappropriations, nor any table nor cupboard that did not testify to an
affectionate ill-treatment prolonged over many years. On the walls the
paper which had once been vivid in its expression of primitive gaiety
was now faded; but the pattern of berries, birds, and daisies still
displayed that eternally unexplored tangle as freshly as once it was
displayed for childish fancies of adventure. Pauline had always loved
the window-seat, and from here she had always seen before any one else
at the Rectory the first flash of Spring's azure eyes, the first graying
of Winter's locks. So now on this afternoon she could see the bullying
southwest wind thunderous against whatever laggards of Summer still
tried to shelter themselves in the Rectory garden. Occasionally a few
raindrops seemed to effect a frantic escape from the fierce assault and
cling desperately to the window-panes, but since nobody could call it a
really wet day Pauline had been protesting all the afternoon against
her sisters' unwillingness to go out. Staying indoors was such a
surrender to the season.

"We ought to practise that Mendelssohn trio," Monica argued.

"I hate Mendelssohn," Pauline retorted.

"Well, I shall practise the piano part."

"Oh, Monica, it will sound so dreadfully empty," cried Pauline. "Won't
it, Margaret?"

"I'm reading _Mansfield Park_. Don't talk," Margaret murmured. "If I
could write like Jane Austen," she went on, dreamily, "I should be the
happiest person in the world."

"Oh, but you are the happiest person already," said Pauline. "At least
you ought to be, if you'd only...."

"You know I hate you to talk about him," Margaret interrupted.

Pauline was silent. It was always a little alarming when Margaret was
angry. With Monica one took for granted the disapproval of a fastidious
nature, and it was fun to tease her; but Margaret with her sudden
alternations of hardness and sympathy, of being great fun and
frightfully intolerant, it was always wiser to propitiate. So Pauline
stayed in the window-seat, pondering mournfully the lawn mottled with
leaves, and the lily-pond that was being seamed and crinkled by every
gust of the wind that skated across the surface. The very high gray wall
against which the Japanese quinces spread their peacock-tails of foliage
was shutting her out from the world to-day, and Pauline wished it were
Summer again so that she could hurry through the little door in the wall
and across the paddock to the banks of the Greenbush. In the Rectory
punt she would not have had to bother with sisters who would not come
out for a walk when they were invited.

The tall trees on either side of the lawn roared in the wind and
showered more leaves upon the angry air. What a long time it was to
Summer, and for no reason that she could have given herself Pauline
began to think about the man who had taken Plashers Mead. Of course it
was obvious he would fall in love either with Monica or with Margaret,
and really it must be managed somehow that he should choose Monica.
Everybody fell in love with Margaret, which was so hard on poor Richard
out in India, who was much the nicest person in the world, and whom
Margaret must never give up. Pauline looked at her sister and felt
afraid the new tenant of Plashers Mead would fall in love with her, for
Margaret was so very adorable with her slim hands and her somber hair.

"Really almost more like a lily than a girl," thought Pauline. Somehow
the comparison reassured her, since it was impossible to think of any
one's rushing to gather a lily without a great deal of hesitation.

"I wish poor Richard would write and tell her she is like a lily,
instead of always writing such a lot about the bridge he is building,
though I expect it's a very wonderful bridge."

After all, Monica with her glinting evanescence was just as beautiful as
Margaret, and even more mysterious; and if she only would not be so
frightening to young men, who would not fall in love with her! Pauline
wondered vaguely if she could not persuade Margaret to go away for a
month, so that the new tenant of Plashers Mead might have had time to
fall irremediably in love with Monica before she came back. Richard
would certainly be dreadfully worried out in India when he heard of a
young man at Plashers Mead, and certainly rather ... yes, certainly in
church on Sunday he had appeared rather charming. It was only last
Spring that poor Richard had wished he could be living in Plashers Mead
himself, and they had had several long discussions which never shed any
light upon the problem of how such an ambition would be gratified.

"I expect Monica will be like ice, and Margaret will seem so much easier
to talk to, and if I dared to suggest that Monica should unbend a
little she would freeze me as well. Oh, it's all very difficult," sighed
Pauline to herself, "and perhaps I'd better not try to influence things.
Only, if he does seem to like Margaret much better than Monica, I shall
have to bring poor Richard into the conversation, which always makes
Margaret cross for days."

As she came to this resolution Pauline looked half apprehensively at her
sister reading in the tumble-down arm-chair by the fire. How angry
Margaret would be if she guessed what was being plotted, and Pauline
actually jumped when she suddenly declared that _Mansfield Park_ was
almost the best book Jane Austen ever wrote.

"Is it, darling Margaret?" said Pauline, with a disarming willingness to
be told again that it certainly was.

"Or perhaps _Emma_," Margaret murmured, and Pauline hid herself behind
the curtains. How droll Father had been about the "new young creature"
at Plashers Mead! It had been so difficult to persuade him to interrupt
one precious afternoon of planting bulbs to do his duty either as a
neighbor or as Rector of the parish. And when he came back all he would
say of the visit was:

"Very pleasant, my dears. Oh yes, he showed me everything, and he really
has a most remarkable collection of dish-covers--quite remarkable. But I
ought not to have deserted those irises that Garstin sent me from the
Taurus. Now perhaps we shall manage that obstinate little plum-colored
brute which likes the outskirts of a pine forest, so they tell me."

Just as Pauline was laughing to herself at the memory of her father's
visit, the Rector himself appeared on the lawn. He was in his
shirt-sleeves; his knees were muddy with kneeling; and Birdwood, the
gardener, all blown about by the wind, was close behind him, carrying an
armful of roots.

Pauline threw up the window with a crash and called out:

"Father, Father, what a darling you look, and your hair will be swept
right away, if you aren't careful."

The Rector waved his trowel remotely, and Pauline blew him kisses until
she was made aware of protests in the room behind her.

"Really," exclaimed Monica. "You are so noisy. You're almost vulgar."

"Oh no, Monica," cried Pauline, dancing round the room. "Not vulgar. Not
a horrid little vulgar person!"

"And what a noise you do make," Margaret joined in. "Please, Pauline,
shut the window."

At this moment Mrs. Grey opened the door and loosed a whirlwind of
papers upon the nursery.

"Who's vulgar? Who's vulgar?" asked Mrs. Grey, laughing absurdly. "Why,
what a tremendous draught!"

"Mother, shut the door--the door," expostulated Margaret and Monica,
simultaneously. "And do tell Pauline to control herself sometimes."

"Pauline, control yourself," said Mrs. Grey.

When the papers were settling down, Janet, the maid, came in to say
there was a gentleman in the drawing-room, and in the confusion of the
new whirlwind her entrance raised Janet was gone before any one knew who
the gentleman was.

"Ugh!" Margaret grumbled. "I never can be allowed to read in peace."

"I was practising the Mendelssohn trio, Mother," said Monica,
reproachfully.

"Let us all practise. Let us all practise," Mrs. Grey proposed, beaming
enthusiastically upon her daughters. "That would be charming."

"Father is so sweet," said Pauline. "He's simply covered with mud."

"Has he got his kneeler?" asked Mrs. Grey.

Pauline rushed to the window again.

"Mother says 'have you got your kneeler?'"

The Rector paused vaguely, and Birdwood tried to indicate by kicking
himself that he had the kneeler.

"Ah, thoughtful Birdwood," said Mrs. Grey in a satisfied voice.

"And now do you think we might have the window shut?" asked Margaret,
resignedly.

Monica was quite deliberately thumping at the piano part she was
practising. Mrs. Grey sat down and began to tell a long story in which
three poor people of Wychford got curiously blended somehow into one, so
that Pauline, who was the only daughter that ever listened, became very
sympathetic over a fourth poor person who had nothing to do with the
tale.

"And surely Janet came in to say something about the drawing-room," said
Mrs. Grey, as she finished.

"She said a gentleman," Pauline declared.

"Oh, how vague you all are!" exclaimed Margaret, jumping up.

"Well, Margaret, you were here," Pauline said. "And so was Monica."

"But I was practising," said Monica, primly. "And I didn't hear a word
Janet said."

There was always this preliminary confusion at the Rectory when a
stranger was announced, and it always ended in the same way by Mrs. Grey
and Monica going down first, by Pauline rushing after them and banging
the door as they were greeting the visitor, and by Margaret strolling in
when the stage of comparative ease had been attained. So it fell out on
this occasion, for Monica's skirt was just disappearing round the
drawing-room door when Pauline, horrified at the idea of having to come
in by herself, cleared the last three stairs of the billowy flight with
a leap and sent Monica spinning forward as the door propelled her into
the room.

"Monica, I am so sorry."

"Pauline! Pauline!" said Mrs. Grey, reprovingly. "So like an avalanche
always."

Guy, who had by now been waiting nearly a quarter of an hour, came
forward a little shyly.

"How d'ye do, how d'ye do," said Mrs. Grey, quickly and nervously.
"We're so delighted to see you. So good of you ... charming really.
Pauline is always impetuous. You've come to study farming at Wychford,
haven't you? Most interesting. Don't tug at me, Pauline. Monica, do ring
for tea. Are you fond of music?"

Pauline withdrew from the conversation after the whispered attempt to
correct her mother about Mr. Hazlewood's having taken Plashers Mead in
order to be a farmer. She wanted to contemplate the visitor without
being made to involve herself in the confusions of politeness. "Was he
dangerous to Richard?" she asked herself, and alas, she had to tell
herself that indeed it seemed probable he might be. Of course he was
inevitably on the way to falling in love with Margaret, and as she
looked at him with his clear-cut, pale face, his tumbled hair and large
brown eyes which changed what seemed at first a slightly cynical
personality to one that was almost a little wistful, Pauline began to
speculate if Margaret might not herself be rather attracted to him. This
was an unforeseen complication, for Margaret so far had only accepted
homage. Pauline definitely began to be jealous for Richard, whose homage
had been the most prodigal of any; and as Guy drawled on about his first
adventure of housekeeping she told herself he was affected. The
impression, too, of listening to some one more than usually
self-possessed and cynical revived in her mind; and those maliciously
drooping lids were obliterating the effect of the brown eyes. Sitting by
herself in the oriel window, Pauline was nearly sure she did not like
him. He had no business to be at the Rectory when Richard was building a
bridge out in India; and now here was Margaret strolling graciously in,
and almost at once obviously knowing so well how to get on with this
idler. Oh, positively she disliked him. So cold and so cruel was that
mouth, and so vain he was, as he sat there bending forward over
hand-clasped, long, stupid, crossed legs. What right had he to laugh
with Margaret about their father's visit? This stranger had assuredly
never appreciated him. He was come here to spoil the happiness of
Wychford, to destroy the immemorial perfection of life at the Rectory.
And why would he keep looking up at herself? Margaret could be pleasant
to anybody, but this intruder would soon find that she herself was loyal
to the absent. Pauline wished that, when he met them all on that night
of the moon, she had been so horridly rude as to make him avoid the
family for ever. How could Margaret sit there talking so unconcernedly,
when Richard might be dying of sunstroke at this very moment? Margaret
was heartless, and this stranger with his drawl and his undergraduate
affectation would encourage her to sneer at everything.

"What's the matter, Pauline dearest?" her mother turned round to ask.

"Nothing," answered Pauline, biting her lips to keep back surely the
most unreasonable tears she had ever felt were springing.

"You're not cross with me for calling you a landslide?" persisted Mrs.
Grey, smiling at her from the midst of a glory momentarily shed by a
stormy ray of sunshine.

"Oh, Mother," said Pauline, now fairly in the midway between laughter
and tears. "It was an avalanche you called me."

"Why do you always sit near a window?" asked Monica.

"She always rushes into a corner," said Margaret.

Pauline jumped up from her chair and would have run out of the room
forthwith; but in passing the first table she knocked from it a silver
bowl of potpourri and scattered the contents over the carpet. Down she
knelt to hide her confusion and repair the damage, and at the same
moment Guy plunged down beside her to help. She caught his eyes so
tenderly humorous that she too laughed.

"I think it must be my fault," he said. "Don't you remember how, last
time we met, your sister upset the mushrooms?"

Pauline knew she was blushing, and when the rose-leaves were all
gathered up, tea came in. Her attention was now entirely occupied by
preventing her mother from doing the most ridiculous things with cakes
and sugar and milk, and when tea was over Guy got up to go.

There was a brief discussion after his departure, in which Margaret was
so critical of his dress and of his absurdities that Pauline was
reassured, and presently, indeed, found herself taking their visitor's
part against her sisters.

"Quite right, quite right, Pauline," said Mrs. Grey. "He's charming ...
charming ... charming! Margaret and Monica so critical. Always so
critical."

Presently the family hurried out into the drive to protest against the
Rector's planting any more bulbs, to tell him how unkind he had been not
to come up to tea, and to warn him that the bell would sound for
Evensong in two minutes. He was dragged out of the shrubbery where he
had been superintending a clearance of aucubas, preparatory to planting
a drift of new and very deep yellow primroses.

"Really, my dears, I have never seen _Primula vulgaris_ so fine in
texture or color. My friend Gilmour has spent ten years working up the
stock. As large as florins."

So he boasted of new wonders next Spring in the Rectory garden, while
his wife and daughters brushed him and dusted him and helped to button
up his cassock.

"Doesn't Father look a darling?" demanded Pauline, as they watched the
tall, handsome dreamer striding along the drive towards the sound of the
bell, that was clanging loud and soft in its battle with the wind.

"Oh, Pauline, run after him," said Mrs. Grey, "and remind him it's the
Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity. He started wrong last Sunday, and
to-day's Wednesday, and it so offends some of the congregation."

Pauline overtook her father in the church porch, and he promised he
would be careful to read the right collect. She had not stayed to get a
hat, and therefore must wait for him outside.

"Very well, my dear child; I sha'n't be long. Do go and see if those
sternbergias I planted against the south porch are in flower. Dear me,
they should be, you know, after this not altogether intolerably overcast
summer. Sun, though, sun! they want sun, poor dears!"

"But, Father, I can't remember what sternbergias look like."

"Oh yes, you can," said the Rector. "_Sternbergia lutea._ Amaryllidaceæ.
A perfectly ordinary creature." And he vanished in the gloom of the
priest's door.

As Pauline came round the corner the wind was full in her face, and
under the rose-edged wrack of driving clouds the churchyard looked
desolate and savage. There were no flowers to be seen but beaten-down
Michaelmas daisies and bedabbled phlox. The bell had stopped immediately
when the Rector arrived; and the wind seemed now much louder as it went
howling round the great church or rasping through the yews and junipers.
The churchyard was bounded on the northerly side by the mill-stream,
along which ran a wide path between a double row of willows now hissing
and whistling as they were whipped by the blasts. Pauline walked slowly
down this unquiet ambulatory, gazing curiously over to the other bank of
the stream, where the orchard of Plashers Mead was strewn with red
apples. There in the corner by the house that was just visible stood the
owner, playing with a dog, a bobtail, too, which was the kind Pauline
liked best. She wanted very much to wave, but, of course, it was
impossible for the Rector's daughter to do anything like that in the
churchyard. Yet if he did chance to walk in her direction, she would,
whatever happened, shout to him across the stream to bring the dog next
time he came to the Rectory. Pauline walked four times up and down the
path, but first the dog disappeared and then the owner followed him, and
presently Pauline discovered that the path beside the abandoned stream
was very dreary. The crooked tombstones stood up starkly; the wind
sighed across the green graves of the unknown; the fiery roses were
fallen from the clouds. Pauline turned away from the path and went to
take shelter behind the east end of the church. From here, as she
fronted the invading night, she could see the gray wall of the Rectory
garden and the paddock sloping down to the river. How sad it was to
think of the months that must pass before that small meadow would be
speckled with fritillaries or with irises blow white and purple. The
wind shrieked with a sudden gust that seemed more violent, because where
she was standing not a blade of grass twitched. Pauline looked up to
reassure herself that the steeple was not toppling from the tower; as
she did so a gargoyle grinned down at her. The grotesque was frightening
in the dusk, and she hurried round to the priest's door. The Rector came
out as she reached it, and accepted vaguely the information that there
were no flowers to be seen but Michaelmas daisies and phlox.

"Ah, I told Birdwood to confiscate those abominable dahlias which
wretched Mrs. Godbold will plant every year. I gave her some of that new
saxifrage I raised. What more does the woman want?"

Pauline hung upon his arm while they walked back to the Rectory through
the darkling plantation.

"Isn't it a perfect place?" she murmured, hugging his arm closer when
they came to the end of the mossy path and saw the twinkling of the
drawing-room's oriel on the narrow south side, and the eleven steep
gables that cleft the now scarcely luminous sky, one after another all
the length of the house.

"I doubt if anything but this confounded cotoneaster would do well
against this wall," replied the Rector.

He never failed to make this observation when he reached his front door;
and his family knew that one day the cotoneaster would be torn down for
a succession of camellias to struggle with the east winds of unkind
Oxfordshire. In the hall Mrs. Grey and Margaret were bending over a
table.

"Guy has left his card," said Margaret.

"Is that the man who came to see me about the rats?" asked the Rector.

"No, no, Francis," said Mrs. Grey. "Guy is the young man at Plashers
Mead."

"Isn't Francis sweet?" cried Pauline, reaching up to kiss him.

"Hush, Pauline. Pauline, you must not call your father Francis in the
hall," said Mrs. Grey.

"How touching of Guy to leave a card," Pauline murmured, looking at the
oblong of pasteboard shimmering in the gloom.

"Now we've just time to practise the Mendelssohn trio before dinner,"
declared Mrs. Grey. "And that will make you warm."

The Rector wandered off to his library. Margaret and Pauline went with
their mother up shadowy staircases and through shadowy corridors to the
great music-room that ran half the length of the roof. Monica was
already seated at the piano, all white and golden herself in the
candle-light. Languidly Margaret unpacked her violoncello; Pauline tuned
her violin. Soon the house was full of music, and the wind in the night
was scarcely audible.



NOVEMBER


When Guy left the Rectory that October afternoon, he felt as if he had
put back upon its shelf a book the inside of which, thus briefly glanced
at, held for him, whenever he should be privileged to open it again, a
new, indeed an almost magical, representation of life. On his fancy the
Greys had impressed themselves with a kind of abundant naturalness; but
however deeply he tried to think he was already plunged into the heart
of their life, he realized that it was only in such a way as he might
have dipped into the heart of a book. The intimacy revealed was not
revealed by any inclusion of himself within the charm; and he was a
little sad to think how completely he must have seemed outside the
picture. Hence his first aspiration with regard to the family was
somehow to become no longer a spectator, but actually a happy player in
their representation of existence. Ordinarily, so far as experience had
hitherto carried him, it had been easy enough to find himself on terms
of intimacy with any group of human beings whose company was
sufficiently attractive. For him, perhaps, it had even been particularly
easy, so that he had never known the mortification of a repulse. No
doubt now by contriving to be himself and relying upon the interest that
was sure to be roused by his isolation and poetic ambitions, he would
very soon be accorded the freedom of the Rectory. Yet such a prospect,
however pleasant to contemplate, did not satisfy him, and he was already
troubled by a faint jealousy of the many unknown friends of the Greys,
to whom in the past the privilege of that freedom must have been
frequently accorded. Guy wanted more than that; in the excess of his
appreciation he wanted them to marvel at a time when they had not been
aware of his existence; in fact, he was anxious to make himself
necessary to their own sense of their own completeness. As he entered
his solitary hall he was depressed by the extravagance of such a desire,
saying to himself that he might as well sigh to become an integral
figure of a pastoral by Giorgione, or of any work of art the life of
which seems but momentarily stilled for the pleasure of whomsoever is
observing it.

Guy was for a while almost impatient even of his own room, for he felt
it was lacking in any atmosphere except the false charm of novelty. He
had been here three weeks now, he and deaf Miss Peasey; and were the two
of them swept away to-morrow Plashers Mead would adapt itself to
new-comers. There was nothing wrong with the house; such breeding would
survive any occupation it might be called upon to tolerate. On the other
hand, were chance to sweep the Greys from Wychford, so essentially did
the Rectory seem their creation that already it was unimaginable to Guy
apart from them. And as yet he had only dipped into the volume. Who
could say what exquisite and intimate paragraphs did not await a more
leisurely perusal? Really, thought Guy, he might almost suppose himself
in love with the family, so much did the vision of them in that shadowy
drawing-room haunt his memory. Indeed, they were become a picture that
positively ached in his mind with longing for the moment of its
repetition. For some days he spent all his time in the orchard, throwing
sticks for his new bobtail; denying himself with an absurd
self-consciousness the pleasure of walking so far along the mill-stream
even as the bank opposite to the Rectory paddock; denying himself a
fortuitous meeting with any of the family in Wychford High Street; and
on Sunday denying himself the pleasure of seeing them in church,
because he felt it might appear an excuse to be noticed. The vision of
the Rectory obsessed him, but so elusively that when in verse he tried
to state the emotion merely for his own satisfaction, he failed, and he
took refuge from his disappointment by nearly always being late for
meals. Often he would see Miss Peasey walking about the orchard with
desolate tinkle of a Swiss sheep-bell, the only instrument of summons
that the house possessed. Miss Peasey herself looked not unlike a
battered old bellwether as she wandered searching for him in the wind;
and Guy used to watch her from behind a tree-trunk, laughing to himself
until Bob the dog trotted from one to another, describing anxious
circles round their separation.

"Your dinner's been waiting ten minutes, Mr. Hazlewood!"

"Doesn't matter," Guy would shout.

"Mutton to-day," Miss Peasey would say, and, "a little variety," she
always added.

Miss Peasey's religion was variety, and her tragedy was an invention
that never kept pace with aspiration. For three weeks Guy had been given
on Sunday roast beef which lasted till Wednesday; while on Thursday he
was given roast mutton, which as a depressing cold bone always went out
from the dining-room on Saturday night. Every morning he was asked what
he would like for dinner, to which he always replied that he left it to
her. Once, indeed, in a fertile moment he had suggested a curry, and
Miss Peasey, brightening wonderfully, had chirped:

"Ah yes, a little variety."

But in the evening the taste of hot tin that represented Miss Peasey's
curry made him for ever afterwards leave the variety to her own fancy,
thereby preserving henceforth that immutable alternation of roast beef
and roast mutton which was the horizon of her housekeeping.

These solitary meals were lightened by the thought of the Rectory.
Neither beef nor mutton seemed of much importance when his mind's eye
could hold that shadowy drawing-room. There was Monica with her
pale-gold hair in the stormy sunlight, cold and shy, but of such a
marble purity of line that but to sit beside her was to admire a statue
whose coldness made her the more admirable. There was Margaret, carved
slimly out of ivory, very tall, with weight of dusky hair, and slow,
fastidious voice that spoke dreamily of the things Guy loved best. There
was Pauline sitting away from the others in the window-seat, away in her
shyness and wildness. Was not the magic of her almost more difficult to
recapture than any? A brier rose she was whose petals seemed to fall at
the touch of definition, a brier rose that was waving out of reach, even
of thought. Guy wished he could visualize the Rector in his own
drawing-room; but instead he had to set him in Plashers Mead, of which
no doubt he had thought the owner a young ass; and Guy blushed to
remember the nervous idiocy which had let him take the Rector solemnly
into the kitchen to look at dish-covers in a row, and deaf Miss Peasey
sitting by as much fire as the table would yield to her chair. But if
the Rector were missing from the picture, at any rate he could picture
Mrs. Grey, shy like her daughters and with a delicious vagueness all her
own. She was most like Pauline, and indeed in Pauline Guy could see her
mother, as the young moon holds in her lap the wraith of the old
moon....

"Why, you haven't eaten anything," remonstrated Miss Peasey, breaking in
upon his vision. "And I've made you a rice pudding for a little
variety."

The shadowy drawing-room faded with the old chintz curtains and fragile,
almost immaterial silver; the china bowls of Lowestoft; the dull, white
paneling and faintly aromatic sweetness. Instead remained a rice pudding
that smelled and looked as solid as a pie.

However, that very afternoon Guy was greatly encouraged to get an
invitation to dinner at the Rectory from the hands of the gardener.
Birdwood was one of those servants who seem to have accepted with the
obligations of service the extreme responsibilities of paternity; and
Guy hastened to take advantage of the chance to establish himself on
good terms with one who might prove a most powerful ally.

"Not much of a garden, I'm afraid," he said, deprecatingly, to Birdwood,
as they stood in colloquy outside. The gardener shook his head.

"It wouldn't do for the Rector to see them cabbages and winter greens.
'I won't have the nasty things in my garden,' he says to me, and he'll
rush at them regular ferocious with a fork. 'I won't have them,' he
says. 'I can't abear the sight of them,' he says. Well, of course I
knows better than go for to contradict him when he gets a downer on any
plant, don't matter whether it's cabbage or calceolaria. But last time,
when he'd done with his massacring of them, I popped round to Mrs. Grey,
and I says, winking at her very hard, but of course not meaning any
disrespectfulness, winking at her very hard, I says, 'Please, mum, I
want one of these new allotments from the glebe.' 'Good Heavings,
Birdwood,' she says, 'whatever on earth can you want with for an
allotment?' With that I winks very hard again and says in a low voice
right into her ear as you might say, 'To keep the wolf from the door,
mum, with a few winter greens.' That's the way we grow our vegetables
for the Rectory, out of an allotment, though we have got five acres of
garden. Now you see what comes of being a connosher. You take my advice,
Mr. Hazlenut, and clear all them cabbages out of sight before the Rector
comes round here again."

"I will certainly," Guy promised. "But you know it's a bit difficult for
me to spend much money on flowers."

"_We_ don't spend money over at the Rectory," said Birdwood, smiling in
a superior way.

"No?"

"_We_ don't spend a penny. _We_ has every mortal plant and seed and
cutting given to us. And not only that, but we gives in our turn. Look
here, Mr. Hazlenut, I'm going to hand you out a bit of advice. The first
time as you go round our garden with the Rector, when you turn into the
second wall-garden, and see a border on your right, you catch hold of
his arm and say, 'Why, good Heavings, if that isn't a new berberis.'"

"Yes, but I don't know what an old berberis looks like," said Guy,
hopelessly, "let alone a new one."

"Never mind what the old ones look like. It's the new I'm telling you
of. Don't you understand that everyone who comes down, from Kew even,
says, 'That's a nice healthy little lot of _Berberis Knightii_ as you've
got a hold of.' 'Ha,' says the Rector. 'I thought as you'd go for to say
that. But it ain't Knightii,' he chuckles, 'and what's more, it ain't
got a name yet, only a number, being a new importation from China,' he
says. You go and call out what I told you, and he'll be so pleased, why,
I wouldn't say he won't shovel half of the garden into your hands
straight off."

"Do the young ladies take an interest in flowers?" Guy asked.

"Of course they try," said Birdwood, condescendingly. "But neither them
nor their mother don't seem to learn nothing. They think more of a good
clump of dellyphiniums than half a dozen meconopises as some one's gone
mad to discover, with a lot of murderous Lammers from Tibbet ready to
knife him the moment his back's turned."

"Really?"

"Oh, I was like that myself once. I can remember the time when I was as
fond of a good dahlia as anything. Now I goes sniffing the ground to see
if there's any _Mentha requieni_ left over from the frost."

"Sniffing the ground?"

"That's right. It's so small that if it wasn't for the smell any one
wouldn't see it. That's _worth_ growing, that is. Only, if you'll
understand me, it takes any one who's used to looking at peonies and
such like a few years to find out the object of a plant that isn't any
bigger than a pimple on an elephant."

Guy was reluctant to let Birdwood go without bringing him to talk more
directly of the family and less of the flowers. At the same time he felt
it would be wiser not to rouse in the gardener any suspicion of how much
he was interested in the Rectory; he was inclined to think he might
resent it, and he wanted him as a friend.

"Who is working in your garden?" asked Birdwood, as he turned to go.

"Well, nobody just at present," said Guy, apologetically.

"All right," Birdwood announced. "I'll get hold of some one for you in
less than half a pig's whisper."

"But not all the time," Guy explained, quickly. He was worried by the
prospect of a gardener's wages coming out of his small income.

"Once a week he'll come in," said Birdwood.

Guy nodded.

"What's his name?"

"Graves he's called, but, being deaf and dumb, his name's not of much
account."

"Deaf and dumb?" repeated Guy. "But how shall I explain what I want
done?"

"I'll show you," said Birdwood. "I'll come round and put you in the way
of managing him. Work? I reckon that boy would work any other mortal in
Wychford to the bone. Work? Well, he can't hear nothing, and he can't
say nothing, so what else can he do? And he does it. Good afternoon, Mr.
Hazlenut."

And Birdwood retired, whistling very shrilly as he went down the path to
the gate.

Two nights later Guy, with lighted lantern in his hand, set out to the
Rectory. He did not venture to go by the orchard and the fields and so,
crossing the narrow bridge over the stream, enter by way of the garden.
Such an approach seemed too familiar for the present stage of his
friendship, and he took the more formal route through an alley of
medieval cottages that branched off Wychford High Street. Mysterious
lattices blinked at him, and presently he felt the wind coming fresh in
his face as he skirted the churchyard. The road continued past the back
of a long row of almshouses, and when he saw the pillared gate of the
Rectory drive, over which high trees were moaning darkly, Guy wondered
if he were going to a large dinner-party. No word had been said of any
one else's coming, but with Mrs. Grey's vagueness that portended
nothing. He hoped that he would be the only guest, and, swinging his
lantern with a pleased expectancy, he passed down the drive. Suddenly a
figure materialized from the illumination he was casting and hailed him
with a questioning "hullo?"

"Hullo," Guy responded.

"Oh, beg your pardon," exclaimed the other. "I thought it was Willsher."

"My name's Hazlewood," said Guy, a little stiffly.

"Mine's Brydone. We may as well hop in together."

Guy rather resented the implication of this birdlike intrusion in
company with the doctor's son, a lanky youth whom he had often noticed
slouching about Wychford in a cap ostensibly alive with artificial
flies. Apparently Willsher must also be expected, against whom Guy had
already conceived a violent prejudice dating from the time he called at
his father's office to sign the agreement for the tenancy of Plashers
Mead. It was of ill augury that the Greys should apparently be supposing
that he would make a trio with Brydone and Willsher.

"Brought a lantern, eh?" said Brydone.

"Yes, this is a lantern," Guy answered, coldly.

"You'll never see me with a lantern," Brydone declared.

Guy would have liked to retort that he hoped he would never even see
Brydone without one. But he contented himself by saying, with all that
Balliol could bring to his aid of crushing indifference:

"Oh, really?"

Somebody behind them was running down the drive and shouting, "Hoo-oo,"
in what Guy considered a very objectionable voice. It probably was
Willsher.

"Hullo, Charlie," said Brydone.

"Hullo, Percy," said Willsher, for it was he.

"Know this gentleman? Mr. Hazlewood?"

"Only officially. Pleased to meet you," said the new-comer.

"Not at all," answered Guy. He felt furious to think that the Greys
would suppose he had arranged to arrive with these two fellows.

"Done any fishing yet?" asked Brydone.

"No, not yet," said Guy.

"Well, your bit of river has been spoilt. Old Burrows let every one go
there. But when you want some good fishing, Willsher and I rent about a
mile of stream further up and we'll always be glad to give you a day.
Eh, Charlie?"

Charlie replied with much cordiality that Percy had taken the very words
of invitation out of his mouth; and Guy, unable any longer to be frigid,
said that he had some books at which they might possibly care to come
and look one afternoon. Mr. Brydone and Mr. Willsher both declared they
would be delighted, and the latter added in the friendliest way that he
knew an old woman in Wychford who was very anxious to sell a Milton
warranted to be a hundred years old at least. Was that anything in Mr.
Hazlewood's way? Guy explained that a Milton of so recent a date was not
likely to be much in his way, and Mr. Brydone remarked that no doubt if
it had been a Stilton it would have been another matter. His friend
laughed very heartily indeed at this joke, and in an atmosphere of
almost hilarious good-fellowship, that was to Guy still a little
mortifying, they rang the Rectory bell.

None of the family had reached the drawing-room when they were shown in,
and Guy was afraid they were rather early.

"Always like this," said Brydone. "Absolutely no notion of time.
Shouldn't be surprised if we had to wait another quarter of an hour.
Known them for years, and they've always been like this. Eh, Charlie?"

The solicitor's son shook his head gravely. He seemed to feel that as a
man of business he should display a slight disapproval of such a casual
family.

"Ever since I was a kid I can remember it," he said.

Guy tried to tell himself that all this talk of intimacy was merely due
to the accidental associations of country life over many years. But it
was with something very like apprehension that he waited for the Greys
to come down. It would be dreadful to find that Brydone and Willsher had
a status in the Rectory. When, however, their hosts appeared, Guy
realized with a tremendous relief that Brydone and Willsher obviously
existed outside his picture of the Rectory. To be sure, they were
Charlie and Percy to Monica, Margaret, and Pauline; but galling as this
was, Guy told himself that after a lifelong acquaintance nothing else
could be expected.

It pleased Guy really that the dinner was not a great success, for he
was able to fancy that the Greys were encumbered by the presence of
Brydone and Willsher. Monica was silent; Margaret was deliberately
talking about things that could not possibly interest either of the
young men; and Pauline was trying to save the situation by wild
enthusiasms which were continually being repressed by her sisters. Mrs.
Grey alternated between helping to check Pauline and behaving in exactly
the same way herself. As for the Rector, he sat silent with a twinkle in
his eye. Guy wished regretfully, when the time came to depart, that he
could have stayed another few minutes to mark his superiority to the
other guests; but alas, he was still far from that position, and no
doubt he would never attain to it.

"Oh, have you brought a lantern?" asked Pauline, excitedly, in the hall.
"Oh, I wish I could walk back with you. I love lantern-light."

"Pauline! Pauline! Do think what you're saying," Mrs. Grey protested.

"I like lantern-light, too," Margaret proclaimed.

"When you come to see us again," said Pauline, "will you bring your
dog?"

"Oh, I say, shall I?" asked Guy, flushing with pleasure.

"Such a lamb, Margaret," said Pauline, kissing her sister impulsively
and being straightly reproved for doing so.

The good-nights were all said, and Guy walked up the drive with Brydone
and Willsher.

"Queer family, aren't they?" commented the doctor's son.

"Extraordinarily charming," said Guy.

"I've known them all my life," said Willsher, a little querulously. "And
yet I never seem to know them any better."

Guy was so much elated by this admission that he repeated more warmly
his invitation to come and see him and his books, and parted from the
two friends very pleasantly.

Two or three days later Guy thought he might fairly make his dinner
call, and with much forethought did not take Bob with him, so that soon
there might be an excuse to come again to effect that introduction. Mrs.
Grey and Monica were out; and Guy was invited to have tea in the nursery
with Margaret and Pauline. He was conscious that an honor had been paid
to him, partly by intuition, partly because neither of the girls said a
conventional word about not going into the drawing-room. He felt, as he
sat in that room fragrant with the memories of what must have been an
idyllic childhood, the thrill that, as a child, he used to feel when he
read, "_The Queen was in her parlor eating bread and honey._" This was
such another parlor infinitely secluded from the world; and he thought
he had never experienced a more breathless minute of anticipation than
when he followed the girls along the corridor to their nursery. The
matting worn silky with age seemed so eternally unprofaned, and on the
wall outside the door the cuckoo calling five o'clock was like a
confident bird in some paradise where neither time nor humanity was of
much importance. Janet, the elderly parlor-maid, came stumping in behind
them with the nursery tea-things; and, as Guy sat by the small hob-grate
and saw the moist autumnal sun etherealize with wan gold the tattered
volumes of childhood, the very plum cake on the tea-table was endowed
with the romantic perfection of a cake in a picture-book. When the sun
dipped behind the elms Guy half expected that Margaret and Pauline would
vanish too, so exactly seemed they the figures that, were this room a
mirage, he would expect to find within as guardians of the rare
seclusion. Guy never could say what was talked about that afternoon; for
when he found himself outside once again in the air of earth, he was
bemused with the whole experience, as if suddenly released from
enchantment. Out of a multitude of impressions, which had seemed at the
time most delicately strange and potent, only a few incidents quite
commonplace haunted his memory tangibly enough to be seized and
cherished. Tea-cups floating on laughter against that wall-paper of
berries, birds, and daisies; a pair of sugar-tongs clicking to the
pressure of long, white fingers (so much could he recapture of
Margaret); crumpets in a rosy mist (so much was Pauline); a copper
kettle singing; the lisp of the wind; a disarray of tambour-frames and
music, these were all that kept him company on his way back to Plashers
Mead through the colorless twilight.

Chance favored Guy next day by throwing him into the arms of the Rector,
who asked if he were fond enough of flowers to look round the garden at
a dull season of the year. Guy was so much elated that, if love of
flowers meant more frequent opportunities of going to the Rectory, he
would have given up poetry to become a professional gardener. Of course
there was nothing to see, according to the Rector--a few nerines of
his own crossing in the greenhouse; a _Buddleia auriculata_
honeycomb-scented in the angle of two walls; the double Michaelmas
daisy, an ugly brute already condemned to extermination; a white
red-hot-poker, evidently a favorite of the Rector's by the way he gazed
upon it and said so casually _Kniphofia multiflora_, as if it were not
indeed a treasure blooming in Oxfordshire's dreary Autumn.

"Tulips to go in next week," said the Rector, rolling the prospect upon
his tongue with meditative enjoyment. "A friend of mine has just sent me
some nice fellows from Bokhara and Turkestan. I ought to get them in
this week, but Birdwood must finish with these roses. And I've got a lot
of clusiana too that ought to be in. I am going to try her in
competition with shrubbery roots and see if _they'll_ make her behave
herself."

"Could I come in and help?" offered Guy.

"Well, now that would certainly be most kind," said the Rector; and his
thin, handsome face lit up with the excitement of infecting Guy with his
own passion. "But aren't you busy?"

"Oh no. I usually work at night."

So Guy came to plant tulips, and from planting tulips to being asked to
lunch was not far, and from finishing off a few left over to being asked
to tea was not far, either. Moreover, when the tulips were all planted
there were gladioli to be sorted and put away. Incidentally, too, the
punt had to be calked and the boat-house had to be strengthened, so that
in the end it was half-way into November before Guy realized he had been
coming to the Rectory almost every day. The more he came, however, the
more he was fascinated by the family. They still eluded him, and he was
always aware, particularly between Margaret and Pauline, of a life in
which as yet he hardly shared. At the same time, so familiar now were
the inner places of the house and most of all the nursery, he felt as if
happily there would come a day when to none of the sisters would he seem
more noticeable than one of their tumble-down arm-chairs.

Once or twice he stayed to dinner, and the long dining-room with the
sea-gray wall-paper and curtains of the strawberry-thief design was
always entered with a particular contentment of spirit. The table was
very large, for somebody always forgot to take out the extra leaf put in
for a dinner sometime last summer, or perhaps two summers ago. The
result was that the Rector was far away in the shadows at one end; Mrs.
Grey equally remote at the other; while Guy would in turn be near to
Margaret or Pauline or even Monica in the middle. Old-fashioned glasses
with spirals of green and white blown in their stems; silver that was
nearly diaphanous with use and age; candlesticks solid as the Ionic
columns they counterfeited, or tapering and fluted with branches that
carried the candle-flames like flowers, everything seemed as if it had
been created for this room alone. From the wall a lacquered clock as
round and big and benign as the setting sun wavered in the coppery
shadows of the fire, and with scarcely the sound of a tick showed forth
time. Guy had never appreciated the sacredness of eating in good company
until he dined casually like this at the Rectory. He never knew what he
ate and always accepted what was put before him like manna; yet he was
always conscious of having enjoyed the meal, and next morning he used to
face, unabashed, Miss Peasey's tale of ruined tapioca which had waited
for him too long.

The seal of perfection was generally set on these unexpected dinners by
chamber-music afterwards, when under the arched roof of the big
music-room for an hour or more of trios and quartets Guy contemplated
that family. The Greys could not have revealed the design of their life
with anything but chamber-music, and setting aside any expression of
inward things, thought Guy, how would it be possible to imagine them
more externally decorative than seated so at this formal industry of
art? He liked best perhaps the trios, when he and Mrs. Grey, each in a
Caroline chair with tall wicker back, remained outside, and yet withal
as much in the picture as two donors painted by an old Florentine.
Monica in a white dress sat straight and stiff, with pale-gold hair that
seemed the very color of the refined, the almost rarefied accompaniment
upon which her fingers quivered and rippled. Something of her own
coldness and remoteness and crystalline severity she brought to her
instrument, as if upon a windless day a fountain played forth its
pattern. Margaret's amber dress deepened from the shade of Monica's
hair, and Margaret's eyes glowed deep and solemn as the solemn depths of
the violoncello over which she hung with a thought of motherhood in the
way she cherished it. Was it she, wondered Guy, who was the ultimate
lure of this house, or was it Pauline? Of her, as she swayed to the
violin, nothing could be said but that from a rose-bloomed radiance
issued a sound of music. And how clearly in the united effect of the
three sisters was written the beauty of their lives. Guy could almost
see every hour of their girlhood passing in orderly pattern as the
divine Houris dance along a Grecian frieze. There was neither passion
nor sentiment in the music; there was neither sorrow nor regret. It was
heartless in its limpid beauty; it was remote as a cloud against the
sunrise; cold as water was it, and incommunicable as a dream; yet in
solitude when Guy reconjured the sound afterwards, it returned to his
memory like fire.

A great occasion for Guy was the afternoon when first the Greys came to
tea with him at Plashers Mead. Himself went into Wychford and bought
the cakes, so many that Miss Peasey held up her hands with that
ridiculously conventional gesture of surprise she used, exclaiming:

"Oh, dear, this _is_ a variety!"

Guy led them solemnly round the house and furnished the empty rooms with
such vivid descriptions that their emptiness was scarcely any longer
perceptible. In his own room he waited anxiously for judgment. Margaret
was, of course, the first to declare an opinion. She did not like his
curtains nor his green canvas, and she was by no means willing to accept
his excuse that they were relics of undergraduate taste.

"If you don't like them now, why do you have them? Why not plain white
for the walls and no curtains at all, until you can get ones you really
do like?"

Pauline was afraid his feelings would be hurt and declared with such
transparent dishonesty how greatly she loved everything in the room that
Guy, grateful though he was to her intended sweetness, was more
discouraged than ever. Monica objected to his having Our Lady on the
mantelshelf, and would not admit her as Saint Rose of Lima; but Guy was
enough in awe of Monica not to justify the identification with Saint
Rose by his desire for a poetic apostrophe. As for Mrs. Grey, she
behaved as she always did when Monica and Margaret were being
critical--that is, by firing off "charmings!" in a sort of benevolent
musketry; but if Guy was not convinced by her "charmings!" he could not
resist her when she said:

"I think Guy's room is charming ... charming!"

He felt his room could be an absolute failure if from the ashes of its
reputation he were alluded to actually for the first time as "Guy." Gone
then was Mr. Hazlewood; fled were those odious "misses." He turned to
Pauline and said, momentously, boldly:

"I say, Pauline, you haven't seen my new kitten."

She blushed, and Guy stood breathless with the attainment of the first
peak. Then triumphantly he turned to Mrs. Grey:

"Monica and Margaret are very severe, aren't they?"

How easy it was, after all, and he wished he had addressed them directly
by their christian names instead of taking refuge in a timid reference.
Now all that was wanting for his pleasure was that Monica, Margaret, or
Pauline should call him Guy. He wondered which would be the first. And
vaguely he asked himself which he wanted to be the first.

Pauline was talking to Margaret in the bay window.

"Do you remember," she was saying, "when Richard came to look at
Plashers Mead and we pretended he was going to take it?"

Margaret frowned at her for answer; but for Guy the afternoon so lately
perfected was spoiled again; and when they were gone, all the evening he
glowered at phantom Richards who, whether Adonises or Calibans, were all
equally obnoxious and more than obnoxious, positively minatory. Next day
he felt he had no heart to make an excuse to visit the Rectory; and he
was drearily eating some of the cakes of the tea-party when Mr. Brydone
and Mr. Willsher paid him their first call. Guy did not think they would
appreciate the empty rooms, however eloquently he narrated their future
glories; so he led his visitors forthwith to the cakes, listening to the
talk of trout and jack. After a while he asked with an elaborate
indifference if either of them had lately been round to the Rectory.

"Too clever for me," said Brydone, shaking his head. "Besides, Pauline
kicked up a fuss a fortnight ago because we asked if we could have the
otter-meet in their paddock."

"They were never sporting, those Rectory kids," said Willsher, gloomily.

"Never," his friend agreed, shaking his head. "Do you remember when
Margaret egged on young Richard Ford to punch your head because your
old terrier chivied the Greys' cat round the churchyard?"

"I punched _his_ head, I remember," said Willsher in wrathful
reminiscence.

"Does Richard Ford live here?" Guy asked.

"His father's the Vicar of Little Fairfield, the next parish, you know.
Richard's gone to India. He's an engineer, awfully nice chap and head
over heels in love with the fair Margaret. I believe there's a sort of
engagement."

In that moment by the lightening of his heart Guy knew that he was in
love with Pauline.

Outside the November night hung humid and oppressive.

"I thought we should get it soon," said Willsher, and as the two friends
vanished in the mazy garden Guy, looking up, felt rain falling softly
yet with gathering intensity. He stood for a while in his doorway, held
by the whispering blackness. Then suddenly in a rapture of realization
he slammed the door and, singing at the top of his voice, marched about
the hall. Once upon a time "to-morrow" had been wont to drowse him; now
the word sounded upon his imagination like a golden trumpet.



WINTER



DECEMBER


The rain which began the day after the Greys' visit to Plashers Mead
went on almost without a break for a whole week. December with what it
could bring of deadness, gloom, and moisture came drearily down on
Wychford, and Pauline, as she sat high in her window-seat, lamented the
interminable soak.

"I can't think why Guy hasn't been near the Rectory lately," she
grumbled.

"I expect he's tired of us," said Margaret.

"You don't really think so," Pauline contradicted. "You're much, much,
_much_ too conceited to think so really."

Margaret laughed.

"You don't mind a bit when I call you conceited," Pauline went on,
challenging her sister. "I believe you're so conceited that you're proud
even of being conceited. Why doesn't Guy come and see us, I wonder?"

"Why should he come?" Monica asked, rather severely. "Perhaps he's doing
some work for a change."

"I believe he's hurt," Pauline declared.

"Hurt?" repeated her sisters.

"Yes, because you were both so frightfully critical of his room. Oh, I
_am_ glad that Mother and I aren't critical."

"Well, if he's hurt because I said he oughtn't to have an image of Our
Lady on his mantelshelf," said Monica, "I really don't think we need
bother any more about him. Was I to encourage him in such stupid little
Gothic affectations?"

"Oh, oh!" cried Pauline. "I think he's frightened of you, Monica dear,
and of your long sentences, for I'm sure I am."

"He wasn't at all frightened of me," Monica asserted. "Didn't you hear
him call me Monica?"

"And surely," Margaret put in, "you didn't really like those stupid mock
medieval curtains. No design, just a lot of meaningless fleurs-de-lys
looking like spots. It's because I think Guy has got a glimmering of
taste that I gave him my honest opinion. Otherwise I shouldn't have
bothered."

"No, I didn't like the curtains," Pauline admitted. "But I thought they
were rather touching. And, oh, my dears, I can't tell you how touching I
think the whole house is, with that poor woman squeezing her way about
that enormous kitchen furniture!"

Pauline looked out of the window as she spoke, and there at last was
Guy, standing on the lawn with her father, who was explaining something
about a root which he held in his hand. On the two of them the rain
poured steadily down. Pauline threw up the sash and called out that they
were to come in at once.

"I am glad he's.... Why, what's the matter, Margaret?" she asked, as she
saw her sister looking at her with an expression of rather emphatic
surprise.

"Really," commented Margaret. "I shouldn't have thought it was necessary
to soothe his ruffled feelings by giving him the idea that you've been
watching at the window all the week for his visit."

"Oh, Margaret, you are unkind," and, since words would all too soon have
melted into tears, Pauline rushed from the nursery away to her own white
fastness at the top of the house. She did not pause in her headlong
flight to greet her mother in the passage; nor even when she entangled
herself in Janet's apron could she say a word.

"Good gracious, Miss Pauline!" gasped Janet. "And only just now the cat
went and run between my legs in the hall."

Pauline's bedroom was immediately over the nursery; but so roundabout
was the construction of the Rectory that, to reach the one from the
other, all sorts of corridors and twisting stairways had to be passed;
and when finally she flung herself down in her small arm-chair she was
breathless. Soon, however, the tranquillity of the room restored her.
The faded blue linen, so cool to her cheeks, quieted all the passionate
indignation. On the wall Saint Ursula, asleep in her bed, seemed
inconsistent with a proud rage; nor did Tobit, laughing in the angel's
company, encourage her to sulk. Therefore, almost before Guy had taken
off his wet overcoat, Pauline had rushed down-stairs again, had kissed
Margaret, and had put three stitches in the tail of the scarlet bird
that occupied her tambour-frame. Certainly when he came into the
drawing-room she was as serene as her two sisters, and much more serene
than Mrs. Grey, who had just discovered that she had carefully made the
tea without a spoonful in the pot, besides mislaying a bottle of
embrocation she had spent the afternoon in finding for an old
parishioner's rheumatism.

Pauline, however, soon began to worry herself again because Guy was
surely avoiding her most deliberately, and not merely avoiding her, but
paying a great deal of attention to Margaret. Of course she was glad for
him to like Margaret, but Richard out in India must be considered. She
could not forget that promise she had made to Richard last June, when
they were paddling up-stream into the sunset. Guy was charming; in a way
she could be almost as fond of him as of Richard, but what would she say
to Richard if she let Guy carry off Margaret? Besides, it was unkind not
to have a word for her when she was always such a good listener to his
tales of Miss Peasey, and when they could always laugh together at the
same absurdities of daily life. Perhaps he had felt that Margaret, who
had been so critical over his curtains, must be propitiated--and yet now
he was already going without a word to herself; he was shaking hands
with her so formally that, though she longed to tease him for wearing
silk socks with those heavy brogues, she could not. He seemed to be
angry with her ... surely he was not angry because she had Hailed him
from the window?

"What was the matter with Guy?" she asked when he was gone, and, when
everybody looked at her sharply, Pauline felt herself on fire with
blushes, made a wild stitch in the tail of the scarlet bird, and then
rushed away to look for the lost embrocation, refusing to hear when they
called after her that Mother had been sitting on it all the afternoon.

The windows along the corridors were inky blue, almost turning black, as
she stared at them, half frightened in the unlighted dusk; outside, the
noise of the rain was increasing every moment. She would sit up in her
bedroom till dinner-time and write a long letter to India. By
candle-light she wrote to Richard, seated at the small desk that was
full of childish things.

  WYCHFORD RECTORY, OXON. _Tuesday_.

     MY DEAR RICHARD,--Thank you for your last letter, which was very
     interesting. I should think your bridge was wonderful. Will you
     come back to England when it's finished? There is not much to tell
     you except that a man called Guy Hazlewood has taken Plashers
     Mead. He is very nice, or else I should have hated him to take the
     house you wanted. He is very tall--not so tall as father, of
     course--and he is a poet. He has a very nice bobtail and a
     touching housekeeper who is deaf. Birdwood likes him very much; so
     I expect you would, too. Birdwood wants to know if it's true that
     people in India--oh, bother, now I've forgotten what it was, only
     he's got a bet with Godbold's nephew about it. Guy--you mustn't be
     jealous that we call him Guy because he really is very nice--has
     just been in to tea. Margaret is a darling, but I wish you'd take
     my advice and write more about her when you write. Of course I
     don't know what you do write, and I'm sure she really is
     interested in your bridge, but of course you must remember that
     she's not used to the kind of bridges you're building. But she's a
     darling and I'm simply longing for you to be married so that I can
     come and stay with you when I'm an old maid which I've quite made
     up my mind I'm going to be. Guy has been gardening with Father a
     good deal. Father says he's _fairly_ intelligent. Isn't Father
     sweet? He drank your health at dinner the other night without
     anybody's reminding him it was your birthday. I think Guy likes
     Monica best. I don't think he cares at all for Margaret except of
     course he must admire her--Margaret is such a darling! Oh, a merry
     Christmas because it will be Christmas before you get this letter.
     Percy Brydone and Charlie Willsher came to dinner last month. They
     were so touching and bored.

  Lots of love from Your loving
  PAULINE.

     Don't forget about writing to Margaret more about herself.

Pauline put the letter in its crackling envelope with a sigh for the
unformed hand in which it was written. Nothing brought home to her so
nearly as this handwriting of hers the muddle she was always apt to make
of things. How it sprawled across the page, so unlike Monica's that was
small and neat and exquisitely formed, or Margaret's that was decorated
with fantastic and beautiful affectations of manner. It was obvious, of
course, that her sisters must always be the favorites of everybody, but
it had been rather unkind of Guy to avoid her so obviously to-day.
Richard had always realized that even if she were impulsive and foolish
she was also tremendously sympathetic.

"For I really am sympathetic," she assured her image in the glass, as
she tried to make the light-brown hair look tidy enough to escape
Margaret's remonstrances at dinner. If Guy were hopelessly in love with
Margaret, how sympathetic she would be; and she would try to explain to
him how interesting an unhappy love-affair always made people. For
instance, there was Miss Verney, whom everybody thought was just a
cross old maid; but if they had only seen, as she had seen, that cracked
miniature, what romance even her cats would possess! She must take Guy
to see Miss Verney or bring Miss Verney to see Guy; a meeting must
somehow be arranged between these two, who would surely be drawn
together by their misfortunes in love. Guy was exactly the person whom
an unhappy love-affair would become. It would be so interesting in ten
years' time, when she would be nearly thirty and old enough to be Guy's
confidante without anybody's interference, to keep back the inquisitive
world from Plashers Mead. No doubt by then Guy would be famous; he
always spoke with such confidence of fame. Monica and Margaret would
both be married, and she would still be living at the Rectory with her
father and mother. Pauline, as she pictured the future, saw no change in
them, but rather sacrificed to the ravages of time her own appearance
and Guy's, so that at thirty she fancied both herself and him as already
slightly gray. The gong sounded from the depths of the house, and
hastily she snatched from her wardrobe the first frock she found; it
happened to be a white one, more suitable to June than to December, with
a skirt of many flounces all stiffly starched. After rustling down
passages and stairs she reached the dining-room just as the others were
going in to dinner.

"Pauline, how charming you look in that frock!" her mother exclaimed.
"Why, it's like Summer just to see you!"

Pauline was very happy that night because her mother and sisters petted
her with the simple affection for which she was always longing.

The next day seemed fine enough to justify Mrs. Grey, Margaret, and
Monica in making an expedition into Oxford to see about Christmas
presents; and in the afternoon, while Pauline was sitting alone in the
nursery, Guy was shown in by Janet. Pauline felt very shy and blushful
when she met him so intimately as this, after all her plans for him on
the night before. He, too, seemed ill at ease, and she was sadly
positive he missed Margaret. The sense of embarrassment lasted until
tea-time, when Janet came in to say that the Rector, hearing of Mr.
Hazlewood's arrival, had decided to have tea in the nursery.

"Oh, what fun!" cried Pauline, clapping her hands. "Janet, do give him
the mug with 'A PRESENT FOR A GOOD BOY' on it!"

"Dear me, Miss Pauline, what things you do think of, I do declare. Well,
did you ever? Tut-tut! Fancy, for your father, too!"

Nevertheless Janet sedately put the mug on the tray. When she was gone
Pauline turned to Guy and said:

"I'm sure Father thinks he ought to come and chaperon us. Isn't he
sweet?"

Presently the Rector appeared, looking very tall in the low doorway. He
nodded cheerfully to Guy:

"Seen Vartani? You know he's that pale, blue fellow from Nazareth. Very
often he's a washy lilac, but this is genuinely blue."

"No, I don't think I noticed it--him, I mean," said Guy, apologetically.

"Oh, Father, of course he didn't! It's a tiny iris," she explained to
Guy, "and Father puts in new roots every year...."

"Bulbs, my dear, bulbs," corrected Mr. Grey. "It's one of the Histrio
lot."

"Well, bulbs. And every year one flower comes out in the middle of the
Winter rain and lasts about ten minutes, and then all the Summer
Birdwood and Father grub about looking for the bulb, which they never
find, and then Father gets six new ones."

They talked on, the three of them, about flowery subjects while the
Rector drank his tea from the mug without a word of comment on the
inscription. Then he went off to write a letter, and Guy, with a
regretful glance at the room, supposed he ought to go.

"Oh no! Stay a little while," said Pauline. "Look, it's raining again."

It was only a shower through which the declining sun was lancing silver
rays. As they watched it from the window without speaking, Pauline
wondered if she ought to have given so frank an invitation to stay
longer. Would Margaret have frowned? And how odd Guy was this afternoon.
Why did he keep looking at her so intently as if about to speak, and
then turn away with a sigh and nothing said?

"I do love this room," said Guy at last.

"I love it, too," Pauline agreed.

"May I ask you something?"

"Yes, of course."

"You spoke to Margaret the other day about some one called Richard. Do
you like him very much?"

"Yes, of course. Only you mustn't ask me about him. Please don't. I've
promised Margaret I wouldn't talk about him. Please, please, don't ask
me any more."

"But leaving Margaret out of it, do you like him ... well ... very much
better than me, for instance?"

Guy used himself for comparison with such an assumption of carelessness
as might give the impression that only by accident did he mention
himself instead of the leg of the table, or the kitten.

"Oh, I couldn't tell you that. Because if I said I liked you even as
much, I should feel disloyal to Richard, and he's the best friend I've
got. Oh, do let's talk about something else. Please do, Mr. Hazlewood."

"Oh, look here, I'm going!" exclaimed Guy; and he went instantly.

Pauline felt unhappy to think she had hurt his feelings; but he should
not expect her to like him better than Richard. If Richard were married
to Margaret, it might be different; but suppose that Margaret fell in
love with Guy? Pauline felt her heart almost stop beating at the
notion, and she made up her mind that if such a calamity befell it would
be entirely her fault. The idea that she should so betray Richard's
confidence made her miserable for the rest of the evening. Yet, though
she was unhappy about Richard, it was always the picture of Guy hurrying
from the nursery and his reproachful backward look that was visibly
before her mind. And in the morning, when she woke up, it was with a
strange unsatisfactory feeling such as she had never known before.
Yesterday came back to her remembrance with a great emptiness, seeming
to her a day which had somehow never been properly finished. Here was
the rain again raining, raining; and the old prospect of dreary weather
that would not change for months.

A week went by without any sign of Guy. There were no amusing evenings
now when he stayed to dinner; there were no delightful days of planting
bulbs in the garden; there was nothing indeed to do but visit bedridden
old ladies to whom fine or bad weather no longer mattered. Yet nobody
else except herself seemed at all unhappy about it. Actually not one of
the family commented upon Guy's absence.

"I really am afraid that Margaret _is_ heartless," said Pauline to her
image in the glass. "She doesn't seem to care a bit whether he is here
or not."

Then suddenly the weather changed. The country sparkled with hoar-frost,
and everybody forgot about the rain, asking if ever before such weather
had been known for Christmas. Guy was invited to dinner at the Rectory,
and Pauline forgot about her problems in the pleasure that the jolly
afternoon brought. Self-consciousness under the critical glances of
Monica and Margaret vanished in the atmosphere of intimacy shed by the
occasion. She could laugh and make a great noise without being reproved,
and Guy himself was obviously more at home than he had ever been. There
seemed a likelihood that now, once again the progress of simple
friendship would advance undisturbed by the complications of love, and
Pauline was glad to be able to assure herself that Guy did not that
afternoon display the slightest sign of a hopeless passion for Margaret.
He was more in his mood and demeanor of last month, and diverted them
greatly with an account of struggling to explain to Graves, the
deaf-and-dumb gardener, what he wanted done in the garden.

"But didn't Birdwood help you?" they asked, laughing.

"Well, Birdwood showed me what I ought to do," said Guy. "But it seemed
such a rough method of information that I hadn't the heart to adopt it.
You see, as far as I could make out, it consisted of pulling up a
cabbage by the root, hitting Graves on the head with it, and then
nodding violently. That meant 'clear away these cabbages,' Or if
Birdwood wanted to say, 'Plant broccoli here,' he dug Graves in the ribs
with the dibbler and rubbed his nose in the unthinned seedlings."

"What does Miss Peasey say?" asked Pauline, who was in a state of the
highest amusement, because deaf-and-dumb Graves was one of the villagers
who lived under her particular patronage.

"Well, at first Miss Peasey was rather huffed, because she thought
Graves was mocking her by pretending to be deaf. Now, however, she comes
out and watches him at work and hopes that next Spring there'll be a
little more variety in the garden."

The sunny, sparkling weather lasted for a few days after Christmas; and
one morning Pauline, walking by herself on Wychford down, met Guy.

"I wondered if I should see you," he said.

"Did you expect to see me, then?"

"Well, I knew you often came here, and this morning I couldn't resist
coming here myself."

Pauline felt a sudden impulse to run away; and yet most unaccountably
the impulse led her into walking along with Guy at a brisk pace over the
close-cropped glittering turf. Round them trotted Bob in eddies of
endless motion.

"Listen," said Guy. "I'm sure I heard a lark singing."

They stopped, and Pauline thought that never was there so sweet a
silence as here upon the summit of this green down. Guy's lark could not
be heard. There was not even the faint wind that sighs across high
country. There was nothing but gorse and turf and a turquoise sky
floating on silver deeps and distances above the Winter landscape.

"When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing's out of fashion," he said,
pointing to a golden spray.

Pauline had heard the jingle often enough, but spoken solemnly like this
by Guy on Wychford down, it flooded her cheeks with blushes, and in a
sort of dear alarm the truth of it declared itself. She was startlingly
aware of a new life, as it were demanding all sorts of questions of her.
She felt a shyness that nearly drove her to run away from her companion,
and yet at the same moment brought a complete incapacity for movement of
any kind, an incapacity too that was full of rapture. She longed for him
to say something of such convincing ordinariness as would break the
spell and prove to her that she was still Pauline Grey; while with all
her desire for the spell to be broken, she was wondering if every moment
she were not deliberately offering herself to enchantment.

"Have you ever felt," Guy was asking, "a long time after you've met
somebody, as if you had suddenly met that person again for the first
time?"

Pauline shook her head vaguely. Then with an effort she recaptured her
old self and said, laughing:

"But then, you see, I never think about anything."

"Sleeping beauty, sleeping beauty," said Guy.

And with an abrupt change of manner he began to throw sticks for Bob, so
that the lucid air was soon loud with continuous barking.

"I wonder if we shall ever meet again on Wychford down?" said Guy, as
together they swung along the rolling highroad towards the village.

A horse and trap caught them up before Pauline could answer the
speculation, and Mr. Godbold, as he passed, wished them both a very good
morning.

"Godbold seems extraordinarily interested in us," Guy remarked, when for
the third time before he turned the corner Mr. Godbold looked back at
them.

"Oh, I wonder...." Pauline began, expressing with her lips sudden
apprehension.

"You mean he thought it strange to see us together?"

"People in the country...." she began again.

"Why don't you hurry on alone?" Guy asked. "And I'll come in to Wychford
later."

"Don't be stupid. What do the Wychford people matter? Besides, I should
hate to do anything like that."

She was half angry with Guy for the suggestion. It seemed to cast a
shadow on the morning.

When Pauline got back home she told them all about her meeting with Guy;
nobody had a word of disapproval, not even Margaret, and the faint
malaise of uncertainty vanished.

After tea, however, Mrs. Grey came in, looking rather agitated.

"Pauline," she began at once, "you must not meet Guy alone like that
again."

"Oh, darling Mother, you _are_ looking so pink and flustered," said
Pauline.

"No, there's nothing to laugh at. Nothing at all. I was most annoyed.
Four of the people I visited actually had the impertinence to ask me if
you and Guy were engaged."

Pauline went off into peals of laughter and danced about the room; but
when she was alone and thought again of what the gossips were saying,
she suddenly realized it was not altogether for Richard's sake that she
had dreaded the idea of Guy's falling in love with Margaret.



JANUARY


Plashers Mead and the Rectory were not the only romantic houses in
Wychford. Indeed, the little town as a whole had preserved by reason of
its remoteness from railways and important highroads the character given
to it during the many years of prosperity which lasted until the reign
of Charles the First. From that time it had slowly declined; and now
with a stagnation that every year was more deeply accentuated by modern
conditions it was still declining. New houses were never built, and even
the King's Head, a pledge of commercial confidence in the Hanoverian
succession, seemed to flaunt with an inappropriate modernity its red
bricks mellowed by the passage of two centuries. Apart from this rival
to the Stag Inn the fabric of Wychford was uniformly gray, to which,
notwithstanding Miss Peasey's declaration of sameness, variety was amply
secured by the character of the architecture. Gables and mullions; oaken
eaves and corbels carefully ornamented; latticed oriels and sashed bows;
roofs of steep unequal pitch to which age had often added strange
undulations; chimney stacks of stone and Gothic entries--all these gave
variety enough; and if the whole effect was too sober for Miss Peasey's
taste, the little town on the hillside was now safe for ever from the
brightening of the dolls-house spirit.

Wychford could still be called a town, for it possessed a few
side-streets, along the grass-grown cobbles of which there still existed
many houses of considerable beauty and dignity. These had lapsed into a
more apparent decay, because a dwindling population had avoided their
direct exposure to the bleak country and had left them empty. In the
High Street this melancholy of bygone fame was less noticeable, and here
scarcely a house was unoccupied. Some buildings, indeed, had been
degraded to unworthy usages; and it was sad to see Perpendicular
fireplaces filled with cheap lines in drapery, or to find an ancient
chantry trodden by pigs and fowls. Generally, however, the High Street
to the summit of its steep ascent had an air of sedate prosperity that
did not reflect the reality of a slow depopulation.

About half-way up the hill on the other side of the town from Plashers
Mead and the Rectory was a side-street called Abbey Lane that, instead
of leading to open country, was bounded by a high stone wall. This
blocked the thoroughfare except so far as to allow a narrow path to
skirt its base and give egress along some untidy cottage gardens to a
cross-road farther up the hill.

In the middle of the wall confronting the street two columns surmounted
with huge round finials showed where there had once been a gate wide
enough to admit a coach. Above the wall a belt of high trees obscured
the view and gave a dank shadow to the road beneath. At one corner a
small wooden wicket with a half-obliterated proclamation of privacy
enabled any one to pass through the wall and enter the grounds of
Wychford Abbey. This wicket opened directly on a path that wound through
a plantation of yews interspersed with tall beeches and elms, whose
overarching tops intensified even in Wintry leaflessness the prevalent
gloom. The silence of this plantation made Wychford High Street seem in
remembrance a noisy, cheerful place, and the mere crackling of twigs and
beech-mast induced the visitor to walk more quietly, fearful of
profaning the mysteriousness even by so slight an indication of human
presence. The plantation continued in tiers of trees down the hill to
the Greenrush, which had been deepened by a dam to support this gloom of
overhanging branches with slow and solemn stream. The path, however,
kept to the level ground and emerged presently upon a large square of
pallescent grass the farther side of which was bounded by a deserted
house.

There were no ruins of the ecclesiastical foundation to fret a Gothic
moonlight, but Wychford Abbey did not require these to justify the
foreboding approach; and the great Jacobean pile, whose stones the
encroaching trees had robbed of warmth and vitality, brooded in the
silence with a monstrous ghostliness that was scarcely heightened by the
signs of material decay. Nevertheless, the casements whose glass was
filmy like the eyes of blind men or sometimes diced with sinister gaps;
the cracks and fissures in the external fabric; the headless supporters
of the family coat; and the roof slowly being torn tile from tile by
ivy--did consummate the initial impression. Within, the desolation was
more marked. A few rotten planks had been nailed across the front door,
but these had been kicked down by inquisitive explorers, and the hall
remained perpetually open to the weather. In some of the rooms the
floors had jagged pits, and there was not one which was not defiled by
jackdaws, owls, and bats. Strands of sickly ivy, which had forced an
entrance through the windows, clawed the dusty air. A leprosy had
infected the plaster ceilings so that the original splendor of their
moldings had become meaningless and scarcely any longer discernible; and
the marble of the florid mantelpieces was streaked with abominable damp.
The back of the house seemed to go beyond the rest in the expression of
utter abandonment. Crumbling walls with manes of ivy inclosed a series
of gardens rank with docks and nettles and almost impenetrable on
account of the matted briers. As if to add the final touch of melancholy
the caretaker (for somewhere in the depths of the house existed
ironically a caretaker) had cultivated in this wilderness some dreary
patches of potatoes. Beyond the forsaken parterres stretched a great
unkempt shrubbery where laurels, peterswort, and hollies struggled in
disorderly and overgrown profusion for the pleasure of numberless birds,
and where a wide path still maintained its slow diagonal down the
hillside to the river's edge.

Such were the surroundings Guy chose to embower the doubts and
hesitations that followed close upon the morning when on Wychford down
he had been so nearly telling Pauline he loved her. Perhaps the almost
savage gloom of this place helped to confirm his profound hopelessness.
A black frost had succeeded the sparkle of Christmastide. The banks of
the river in such weather were impossible, for the wind came biting
across the water-meadows and piped in the withered reeds and rushes with
an intolerable melancholy. Here in the grounds of Wychford Abbey there
was comparative warmth, and the desolation suited the unfortunate end he
was predicting for his hopes. To begin with, it was extremely improbable
that Pauline cared about him. His assay with regard to Richard had not
been encouraging, and his worst fears of being too late for real
inclusion within the charm of the Rectory were surely justified. He had
known all along how much exaggerated were his ambitions, and he wished
now that in the first moment of their springing he had ruthlessly
strangled them. Moreover, even if Pauline did ultimately come to care
for him, how much farther was he advanced upon the road of a happy
issue? It were presumptuous and absurd with only £150 a year to propose
marriage, and if he gave up living here and became a schoolmaster at
home, he knew that the post would be made conditional upon a willingness
to wait as many years for marriage as the wisdom of age decreed.
Besides, he could not take Pauline from Wychford and imprison her at Fox
Hall to dose little boys with Gregory's Powder or check the schedule of
their underclothing. The only justification for taking Pauline away from
the Rectory would be to make her immortal in poetry. Yet encouraging as
lately one or two epithets had certainly been, he was still far from
having written enough to fill even a very thin book; and really as he
came to review the past three months he could not say that he had done
much more or much better than in the days when Plashers Mead was
undiscovered. Time had lately gone by very fast, not merely on account
of the jolly days at the Rectory, but also because weeks that were
terminated by weekly bills seemed to be endowed with a double swiftness.

"I really must eat less meat," said Guy to himself. "It's ridiculous to
spend eleven shillings and sixpence every week on meat ... that's
roughly £30 a year. Why, it's absurd! And I don't eat it. Bother Miss
Peasey! What an appetite she has got."

He wondered if he could break through the barrier of his housekeeper's
deafness so far as to impress upon her the fact that she ate too much
meat. She spent too much, also, on small things like pepper and salt.
This reckless buying of pepper and salt made the grocer's bill an
eternal irritation, for it really seemed absurd to be spending all one's
money on pepper and salt. Yet people did live on £150 a year. Coleridge
had married with less than that and apparently had got on perfectly
well, or would have if he had not been foolish in other ways. How on
earth was it done? He really must try and find out how much, for
instance, Birdwood spent every week on the necessities of life. That was
the worst of Oxford ... one came down without the slightest idea of the
elementary facts of domestic economy. There had been a lot of soda
bought last week. He remembered seeing it in one of those horrid little
slippery tradesmen's books. Soda? What was it for? Vaguely Guy thought
it was used to soften water, but there were plenty of rain-tubs at
Plashers Mead, and soda must be an unjustifiable extravagance. Then Miss
Peasey herself was getting £18 a year. It seemed very little--so little,
indeed, that when he paid her every month he felt inclined to apologize
for the smallness of the amount, but little as it was it only left him
with £132. Knock off £30 for meat and he had £102; £18 must go in rent,
and there was left £84. Then there was milk and bread and taxes and the
subscription to the cricket-club and the subscription to all the other
vice-presidencies to which the town had elected him. There was also
Graves, his deaf-and-dumb gardener, and a new bucket for the well. Books
and clothes, of course, could be obtained on credit, but even so some
time or other bills came in. Guy made a number of mental calculations,
but by no device was he able to make the amount required come to less
than £82. That left £2 for Pauline, and then, by the way, there was the
dog-license which he had forgotten. Thirty-two and sixpence for Pauline!
Guy roamed through the sad arbors of Wychford Abbey in the depths of
depression, and watched with a cynical amusement the birds searching for
grubs in the iron ground. He began to feel a positive sense of injury
against love which had descended with proverbial wantonness to
complicate mortal affairs. He tried to imagine the Rectory without
Pauline, and when he did so all the attraction was gone. Yet distinctly
when he had first met the Greys he had not thought more often of Pauline
than of her sisters. What perversity of circumstance had introduced
love?

"It's being alone," said Guy. "I feed myself upon dreams. Michael was
perfectly right. Wychford is a place of dreams."

He would cure this love-sickness. That was an idea for a sonnet. Damn!
"_I attempt from love's sickness to fly._" It need not be said again. At
the same time, poem or not, he would avoid the Rectory and shut himself
close in that green room which Margaret and Monica had thought so crude
with undergraduate taste. If this cold went on, there would be skating;
and he began to picture Pauline upon the ice. The vision flashed like a
diamond through these gloomy groves, and with the soughing of the skates
in his ears and the thought of Pauline's hands crisscross in his own,
Guy's first attack on love ended in complete surrender. Skating meant
long talks with never a curious eye to cast dismay; and in long talks
and rhythmic motion possibly she might come to love him. Guy's footsteps
began to ring out upon the iron-bound walk, and of all the sad ghosts
that should have haunted his path there was not one who walked now
beside him; for, as he dreamed upon the vision of Pauline, the
melancholy of that forsaken place was lightened with a sort of April
exultation and the promise of new life to gladden the once populous
gardens where lovers might have been merry in the past.

However, when he was back in his house, Guy's earlier mood returned, and
he made up his mind anew not to go to the Rectory. Nothing would do for
him but the metaphysics and passion of Dr. John Donne; and on the dreary
evening when the frost yielded to rain before there had been one day's
skating, Guy was as near as any one may ever have been to conversing
with that old lover's ghost who died before the god of Love was born.
All his plans wore mourning, and the bills that week rose
two-and-sixpence-halfpenny higher than their highest total so far. Guy
moped in his green library and, as he read through the manuscripts of
poetry that with the progress of the night seemed to him worse and
worse, he wished he could recapture some of that self-confidence which
had carried him so serenely through Oxford; and he asked himself if
Pauline's love would endow him once more with that conviction of
ultimate fame, to the former safe tenure of which he now looked back as
from a disillusioned old age.

Another week passed, and Guy wondered what they were thinking of him at
the Rectory for his neglect of all they might justly suppose had been
offered him. Absence from Pauline did not seem to have effected much so
far except a complete paralysis of his power to work with that diligence
he had always preached as the true threshold of art. Perhaps he had been
always a little too insistent upon the merit of academic industry, too
conscious of a deliberate embarkation upon a well-built career, too
careful of mere equipment in his exploration of Parnassus. So long as he
had been exercising his technical accomplishment, everything had seemed
to be advancing securely towards the moment when inspiration should
vitalize the promise of his craftsmanship. Now inspiration was at hand,
and accomplishment had betrayed him. These effusions of restless love
which he had lately produced were surely the most wretched cripples ever
sent to climb the Heliconian slope. Guy looked at his note-book and
marked how many apostrophes, the impulses to declaim which had seemed to
scorch his imagination with bright ardors, had, alas, failed to kindle
his uninflammable pencil. He derived a transient consolation from
Browning's "Pauline," which was surely as inadequate as his own verse to
celebrate the name. "_Pauline, mine own, bend o'er me._" That opening
half-line was the only one which moved him. But, after all, Browning did
not esteem his own Pauline, and had written it when he was twenty.
Himself was twenty-two, and could not declare his passion in one lyric.
A graceful sonnet for his father's birthday would not compensate for
this dismaying failure. Moreover, in rhymes, thought Guy, Pauline was no
niggard; and with a flicker of sardonic humor he recalled how many
Swinburne had found for Faustine.

It was Godbold who fed the vexations and torments of untried love with
the bitterest medicine of all. He had come down to see Guy about an old
chair that had to be fetched from a neighboring village, and, when his
business was over, seemed inclined to chat for a while.

"Have you ever noticed, Mr. Hazlewood," he began, "as there's a lot of
people in this world who know more than a man knows himself?"

Guy indicated that the fact had struck him.

"Well, now, just because I happen to see you with Miss Pauline the other
morning, there's half a dozen wise gabies in Wychford who've almost
married you to her out of hand."

Guy tried not to look annoyed.

"Oh, you may well frown, Mr. Hazlewood, for, as I said to them, it's
nothing more than nonsense to tie up a young man and a young woman just
because they happen to take a walk together on a fine morning."

"I hope this sort of intolerable gossip isn't still going on," said Guy,
savagely.

"Oh, well, you see, sir, Wychford is a middling place for gossip. And if
it wasn't one of the Miss Greys it would be some other young miss
roundhereabouts. Human nature, like pigeons, is set on mating."

"I hope you'll contradict this ridiculous rumor," said Guy.

"Oh, I have done already. In fact, I may say that one of my principles,
Mr. Hazlewood, is to contradict everything. As I said to them, when they
was talking about it in the post-office the other night, and that
post-office is a rare place of gossip! Perhaps you've noticed that the
nosiest man in a town always gets made postmaster? Where had I got
to?--ah, yes, I said to them, 'You know a great lot about other people's
business,' I said, 'but when I tell you that old Mrs. Mathers who lives
in the last cottage but one in Rectory Lane says she's taken particular
note as Mr. Hazlewood has never been near the Rectory for the last
fortnight unless it was once when she heard footsteps and hadn't time to
get to the window to see who it was on account of the kettle being on
the boil at that moment, where's your Holy Matrimony?' I said. With that
up speaks Miss Burge from the back of The shop whose father used to keep
the King's Head before he dropped dead of the apoplexy on Shipcot
platform. 'That doesn't say he hasn't gone round by the field the same
as Mr. Burrows's servant used to when she was being courted by
We'll-mention-no-names.' 'No, and that he hasn't, either,' said I,
smacking the counter, for I was feeling a bit angry by now at all this
poking about in other people's business, 'that he hasn't,' I said,
'because the Rectory cook asked me most particular if there was anything
the matter down at Plashers Mead, seeing as Mr. Hazlewood hadn't been
near the Rectory for a fortnight. That doesn't look like Holy
Matrimony,' I said, and with that I walked out of the post-office. Mr.
Hazlewood," Godbold concluded, very earnestly, "the gossip of Wychford
is something as no one would believe, if they hadn't heard it, as I
have, every mortal day of my life."

Guy could have laughed on his own account, but the notion of Pauline's
being dragged into the chatter made him furious. Yet what could he do?
If he went frequently to the Greys' house he must be engaged, according
to Wychford. And if he did not go....

"I suppose they'll be saying next that the engagement has been broken
off," he inquired, with cold sarcasm.

"Oh, they have said it. Depend upon it, Mr. Hazlewood, it undoubtedly
has been said."

It began to appeal to Guy as extremely undignified--the way in which he
had let Godbold chatter on like this.

"I'm afraid I must be getting back to my work," he said, curtly.

"That's right. Work's the best answer to talk. Did you feel it much here
in that rainy spell?"

"The meadows were a bit splashy, of course, but the water never got
anywhere near the house."

"But it will. Don't you make any mistake. It will. Only, of course,
we've had a dry Autumn. Why, last June year Miss Peasey could have been
fishing for minnows in her kitchen. Now that seems a nice upstanding
sort of woman. A Wesleen, they tell me? I haven't seen her in church
that I can remember, and which would account for it. But I never talk to
the chapel folk, they being that uncivilized. She's rather deaf, isn't
she?"

"Yes, and therefore cannot gossip," Guy snapped.

"Well, I don't know," said Godbold, doubtfully. "Some of the most
unnatural scandals I ever heard were made by deaf women. Though that
doesn't mean I'm saying Miss Peasey is a talker."

"I'm sure she isn't," Guy agreed. "Good night, Mr. Godbold."

"Good night, Mr. Hazlewood. Don't you be discouraged by the gossip in
Wychford. I always say, if you believe nothing you hear, next to nothing
of what you read, and only half of what you see, no one can touch you.
Good night once more, sir. And don't you fret over what people say. I
remember they once said I tried to work a horse which had the blind
staggers, and Mrs. Godbold was that aggravated she went and washed a
shirt of mine twice over, worrying herself. Good night, Mr. Hazlewood."

This time the red-bearded carrier of Wychford (not an inappropriate
profession for him) really departed, leaving Guy in a state of
considerable resentment at the thought of the Wychford commentary.

That night the raw drizzle turned to snow; and when he looked out of his
window next morning it was lying thick over the country and was making
his bedroom seem as gray as the loaded clouds above. That exhilaration
of a new landscape which comes with snow drove away some of Guy's
depression, and after breakfast he went out, curious to contemplate its
effect upon the Abbey. In the black frost the great pile had seemed to
possess scarcely more substance than a shredded leaf; and when it lay
sodden beneath the dripping trees, a manifest decay had made extinction
infamous with the ooze of a rotting fungus. The weather now had brought
a strange restoration to the abandoned house, and so completely had the
covering of snow hidden most of the signs of dissolution that Wychford
Abbey seemed no longer dead, but asleep in the quiet of a Winter
morning. The lawn in front stretched before it in decent whiteness, and
the veiling of the ragged, unhealthy grass took away from the front of
the house that air of wan caducity, endowing the stones by contrast with
tinted warmth and richness. The decrepit roof was hidden, and Wychford
Abbey dreamed under its weight of snow with all the placid romance of a
house on a Christmas card. The dark plantation was deprived of its
gloom, and what was usually a kind of haunted stillness was now
aspectful peace. Guy went over the crinching ground and strolled down
the broad walk through the shrubbery. Everywhere the snow glistened with
the footprints of many birds, but not a single call broke a silence
which was cold and absolute except for the powdery whisper of the snow
where it was sliding from the holly leaves.

When Guy reached the bottom of the shrubbery he sat down on a fallen
trunk by a backwater, which dried up here in the drift of dead leaves;
and he watched the surface of it glazing perceptibly, yet not so fast
but that the faint motion of the freezing air could write upon the
smoothness a tremulous reticulation. He had not been resting long when
he saw Margaret coming towards him down the walk, and with so light a
tread that in her white coat she might have been a figment created for
his fancy by the snow. He wondered if a sense of the added beauty her
presence gave the scene were in her mind. Probably it was, for Margaret
had a discreet vanity that would never gratify itself so well as when
she was alone; and plainly she must suppose herself alone, since here on
this snowy morning she would not have expected to meet anybody. Guy
thought it would be considerate to draw aside without spoiling her
dream, whatever the subject of the meditation. However, as he rose from
the log to take the narrow path along the backwater and so turn
homeward across the fields by the river, Margaret saw him and waved with
a feathery gesture. As Guy went up the path to greet her he was thinking
how much her hair was like a dark leaf that had shaken off the snow, so
easily might her blanched attire have fallen upon her from the clouds;
then, as he came close, every charming fancy was suddenly spoiled by a
remembrance of Wychford gossip, and he turned hastily round to see if
there were prying glances in the laurels.

"What are you looking at?" she asked.

"A squirrel," said Guy, quickly. He would not have had his absence from
the Rectory ascribed to any fear of gossip; moreover, since a meeting
with Margaret did not make his conscience the thrall of public opinion,
he would not have her discreet vanity at all impaired. Therefore it was
a squirrel he saw.

"We've been wondering what has become of you," she said.

"Well, I've been working rather hard; and as a matter of fact I was
going to the Rectory this afternoon. Isn't the snow jolly after the
rain? Especially here, don't you think?"

She nodded.

"I've got to go and visit an old woman who lives almost in Little
Fairfield, and I thought I'd avoid as much as I could of the highroad."

"Shall I come with you?" asked Guy, but in so doubtful a voice that
Margaret laughingly declared she was sure he was in a state of being
offended with the Rectory.

"Oh, Margaret, don't be absurd. Offended?"

"Over the curtains?" she asked.

"Why, if it wouldn't betray a gross insensibility to your opinion, I
should tell you I thought no more about what you said. Besides, we've
had reconciling Christmas since then."

"Ah, but you see, Pauline is always impressing on Monica and me our
cruelty to you, and by this time Mother has been talked into believing
in our hard and impenitent hearts."

"Pauline is...." Guy broke off and saw another squirrel. He could not
trust himself to speak of Pauline, for in this stillness of snow he felt
that the lightest remark would reveal his love; and there was in nature
this morning a sort of suspense that seemed to rebuke unuttered secrets.

"Well, as you're walking with me to Fairfield--or nearly to
Fairfield--your neglect of us shall be forgiven," Margaret promised.
"Here we are out of the warm trees already. I'm glad I came this way,
though I think it was rather foolish. Look how deep the snow seems on
that field we've got to cross."

"It isn't really," said Guy, vaulting over the fence that ran round the
confines of the Abbey wood.

"Ah, now you've spoiled it," she exclaimed. But Margaret did not pause a
moment to regret the ruffling of that sheeted expanse, and they walked
on silently, watching the toes of their boots juggle with the snow.

"It generally is a pity," said Guy, after a while.

"What?"

"Impressing one's existence on so lovely and inviolate a thing as this."
He indicated the untrodden field in front of them.

"But look behind you," said Margaret. "Don't you think our footprints
look very interesting?"

"Interesting, perhaps," Guy admitted. "Yet footprints in snow never seem
to be going anywhere."

"Now I know quite well what you're doing," Margaret protested. "You're
making that poor little wabbly track of ours try to bear all sorts of
mysterious and symbolic intensities of meaning. Just because you're
feeling annoyed with a sonnet, footprints in the snow mustn't lead
anywhere. Why, Guy, if I told you what sentimental import my 'cello
sometimes gives to a simple walk before lunch.... I mean, of course,
when I've been playing badly."

She sighed, and Guy wondered if the violoncello had been used with as
little reference as a sonnet to the real cause of the mood.

"Why did you sigh just now?" he asked after another minute or two of
silent progress.

"I wonder whether I'll tell you. No, I don't think I will. And yet...."

"And yet perhaps, after all, you will," said Guy, eagerly. "And if you
do, I'll tell you something in turn."

"That's no bribe," said Margaret, laughing. "You foolish creature, don't
you think I know what you'll tell me?"

Guy shook his head.

"I don't think you do. You may suspect. But for that matter, so may I.
Isn't what you might have told me something that might most suitably be
told on the way to Fairfield?"

"You've been talking about me to Pauline," said Margaret, angrily.

"Never," he declared. "But you don't suppose you can have all these
mysterious allusions to Richard without my guessing that his father is
Vicar of Fairfield. Dear Margaret, forgive me for guessing and tell me
what you were going to tell."

"Have you heard I was engaged to Richard Ford?" she asked.

"I heard he was in love with you."

"Oh, he is, he is," she murmured, and Guy, thinking of Richard in India,
wondered if he ever dreamed of Margaret walking like this in a snowy
England. The clock in Fairfield church struck eleven with an icy tinkle
that on the muted air sounded very thinly. "But the problem for me,"
Margaret went on, "is whether I'm in love with him, or if Richard is
merely the nicest person who has been in love with me so far."

"Well, if you'd asked me that three months ago," Guy said, "I would have
answered decidedly that you weren't in love with him if you had one
doubt. But now ... well, you know really now I'm rather in the state of
mind that wants everybody to be in love. And why do you think you're not
in love with him?"

"I haven't really explained well," said Margaret. "What I'm sure of is
that I'm not as much in love with him as I want to be in love."

"You're living opposite a looking-glass," said Guy. "That's what is the
matter."

They had reached the stile leading over into the highroad, and Margaret
gazed back wistfully at the footprints in the snow, before they crossed
it and went on their way.

"Yes," she said. "I am conceited. But my conceit is really cowardice. I
long for admiration, and when I am admired I despise it. I lie in bed
thinking how well I play the 'cello, and when I have the instrument by
me I don't believe I can play even moderately well. I am really fond of
him, but the moment I think that anybody else is thinking about my being
fond of him I almost hate his name. I can't bear the idea of going to
live in India, and I detest bridges--you know he builds bridges--and yet
I couldn't possibly write to him and say that he must think no more
about me. I'm really a mixture of Monica and Pauline, and so I'm not as
happy as either of them."

"Yes, I suppose Pauline is very happy," said Guy in a depressed voice.

"What am I to do?" Margaret asked.

"I'm sure you're much more in love than you think," he declared,
quickly, for he had the ghost of a temptation to tell her she was
foolish to think any more of a love so uncertain as hers. There was
enough jealousy of his standing at the Rectory to give him the impulse
to rob Richard of his foothold, but the meanness destroyed itself on
this virginal morning almost before Guy realized it had tried to exist.
"Yes, I'm sure you're really in love," he repeated. "I think I can
understand what you feel."

"Do you?" said Margaret, shaking her head a little sadly. "I'm afraid
it's only a very willing sympathy on your part, for I'm sure I don't
understand myself. That's why I'm conceited, perhaps. I'm trying to
build up a Margaret Grey for other people to look at, which I admire
like any pretty thing one makes oneself, and perhaps why I can't fall
really in love is because I'm afraid of some one's understanding me and
showing me to myself."

"You'd have to be very clever to disappoint that person," said Guy. "And
why shouldn't Richard Ford be the one?"

"Oh, he'll never discover me," said Margaret. "That's what's so dull."

"Aren't you a little unreasonable?" Guy asked.

"Of course I am. Now don't let's talk about me any more; I'm really not
worth discussing--only just because my family is so exquisite and
because I adore them, I never talk about Richard to them. Here's the old
woman's cottage. I sha'n't be more than a few minutes."

Guy felt honored by Margaret's confidence, but his heart was so full of
Pauline that he transferred all the substance of what she had been
saying to suit his own case. Would Pauline never know if she were in
love? Would he be doomed to the position of Richard? Or worse, would
Pauline fly from his love in terror of anything so disturbing to the
perfection of her life at present? On the whole he was inclined to think
that this was exactly what she would do; and he felt he would never have
the courage to startle her with the question. When he thought of the
girls to whom in the past of long vacations he had made protestations of
devotion that were light as the thistle-down in the summery meadows
where they were uttered, it was incredible that the asking of Pauline
should speed his heart like this. With other girls he had always
imagined them slightly in love with him, but for Pauline to be in love
with him seemed hopeless, though he qualified his humility by assuring
himself that she could be in love with nobody. Did Margaret really have
a suspicion that he was in love with Pauline? If she had, why had she
not drawn his confidence before she gave her own? She came out from the
cottage as he propounded this, and he told her, when their faces were
set towards Wychford and a chilly wind that was rising, how he had been
thinking about her confidence all the while she was in the cottage.
Moreover, he was under the impression this was the truth.

"But don't think about me any more," she commanded.

"Never?"

"Not until I speak first. Isn't it cold? You must have been frozen
waiting for me."

They hurried along, talking mostly, though how the topic arose Guy never
knew, about whether _Alice in Wonderland_ were better than _Alice
Through the Looking-glass_ or not. The quotations that went to sustain
the argument were so many that they arrived back very quickly, it
seemed, at the stile leading into the snowy field.

"Will you go home the same way?" Guy suggested. "Look, nobody has
spoiled our tracks. They're jollier than ever, and do you see those
rooks farther down the field? It will snow again this afternoon and our
footprints will vanish."

By the time they reached the Abbey wood Guy had made up his mind that as
they walked up through the shrubbery, unless people were listening
there, he would tell Margaret how deeply he was in love with Pauline.
The resolution taken, his throat seemed to close up with nervousness,
and, vaulting over the fence, he tripped and fell in a snow-drift.

"Why this violent activity all of a sudden?" Margaret asked.

He laughed gloomily and vowed it was the exhilarating weather. Up the
broad walk they went slowly, and every yard was bringing them dreadfully
nearer to Wychford High Street and the profanation of this snowy
silence. Abruptly a robin began to sing from a bough almost overhead;
and Guy, realizing half-unconsciously that unless he told Margaret now,
his words would die upon that robin's rathe melody, said:

"Margaret, you'll probably be angry, but I must tell you that I'm in
love with your sister."

He drove his stick deep into the snow to give his eyes the excuse of
looking down.

"With Pauline?" she said, softly.

He congratulated himself upon the cunning with which he had at least
thrown something on Margaret of the responsibility, as he almost called
it. Had she said Monica it would have killed his hope at once.

"Of course I know it must sound ridiculous, but...."

"Is she in love with me?" asked Margaret, with tender mockery. "Well, I
think she may be. Perhaps I'm almost sure she is."

"Margaret," said Guy, seizing her hand. "I hope you'll be the happiest
person in the world always. You know, don't you, that I'm dying for you
to be happy?"

There may have been tears in her eyes as she responded with faintest
pressure of her hand to his affection.

"And you won't forget all about me and take no more interest in what
will seem my maddening indecision, when you and Pauline are happy?"

"My dear, as if I could!" he exclaimed.

"Lovers can forget very easily," said Margaret. "You see I've thought
such a lot about being in love that I've got every one else's conduct
clearly mapped out in my mind."

Guy stopped dead; and, as he stopped, the robin now far behind them
ceased his song, and even the flute of the wind sounding on distant
hollows and horizons cracked in the frost so that the stillness was
sharp as ice itself.

"Margaret, what makes you think Pauline cares for me? How dare I be so
fortunate?"

"Because you know you are fortunate," said Margaret, nor could falling
snow have touched his arm more lightly than she. "Why do you suppose I
told you about Richard if it was not because I thought you appreciated
Pauline?"

"Ah, how I shall always love the snow," Guy exclaimed, grinding the
slippery ball upon his heel to powder.

"But now I've got a disappointment for you," said Margaret. "Pauline and
Monica are going into Oxford to-day for a week."

"You won't tell anybody what I've told you?" he begged.

"Of course not. Secrets are much too fascinating not to be kept as long
as possible."

He opened the wicket, and presently they parted in the High Street.

"I shall come in this afternoon," he called after her. "Unless you're
bored with me."

She invited him with her muff, and seemed to float out of sight.
Suddenly Guy remembered that sometime this morning (it seemed as long
ago as when Wychford Abbey was alive) Bob had been with him. He was glad
of an excuse to go back and look for the dog in those now consecrated
arbors. There the robin still sang his rather pensive tune; and there
from a high ash-bough a missel-thrush, wearing full ermine of the
Spring, saluted the vestal day.



FEBRUARY


Pauline started to Oxford with Monica, feeling rather disappointed she
had not seen Guy before she went; for Margaret had come home with news
of having walked with him to Fairfield, and it was tantalizing, indeed a
little disturbing, to leave him behind with Margaret.

"Nothing is said to Margaret," Pauline protested at lunch, "when _she_
goes out for a walk with Guy. Father, don't you think it's unfair?"

"Well, darling Pauline," interrupted Mrs. Grey, with an anxious glance
towards her second daughter, "you see, Margaret is in a way engaged."

"I'm not engaged," Margaret declared.

"But I'm asking Father," Pauline persisted. "Father, don't you think
it's unfair?"

The Rector was turning over the pages of a seed-catalogue and answered
Pauline's question with that engaging irrelevancy to which his family
and parish were accustomed.

"It's disgraceful for these people to offer seeds of _Incarvillea olgæ_.
My dears, you remember that anemic magenta brute, the color of a
washed-out shirt? Ah," he sighed, "I wish they'd get that yellow
_Incarvillea_ over. I am tempted to fancy it might be as good as _Tecoma
Smithii_, and, of course, coming from that Yang-tse-kiang country, it
would be hardy."

"Francis dear!" Pauline cried. "Don't you think it's unfair?"

"Pauline," said her mother, "you must not call your father Francis in
the dining-room."

The Rector, oblivious of everything, continued to turn slowly the pages
of his catalogue.

"Oh, bother going to Oxford!" said Monica, looking out of the window to
where Janet with frozen breath listened for the omnibus under gathering
snow-clouds.

"Now, really," Pauline exclaimed, diverted from her complaint of
Margaret's behavior by another injustice, "isn't Monica too bad? She's
grumbling, though it was she who made the plan to stay with the
Strettons. And though they're her friends and not mine, I've been made
to go, too."

"Well, I hate staying with people," Monica explained.

"So do I," said Pauline. "And you accepted the invitation for me that
day you were in Oxford buying Christmas presents, when you forgot to buy
the patience-cards I wanted to give poor Miss Verney, so that I had to
give her a horrid little china dog, though she hates dogs."

"Now I'm sure it'll be charming, yes, charming, when you get there,"
Mrs. Grey affirmed, hopefully.

"Oh, how glad I am I'm not going!" said Margaret.

"I think you ought to go instead of me," Pauline told her.

"They're not my friends," Margaret replied, with a shrug.

"No, but they're more your friends than mine," Pauline argued. "Because
you're nearer to Monica. They're four years off being my friends and
only two from being yours."

"Miss Monica," said Janet, coming into the room, "the 'bus has come out
from the King's Head yard, and you'll be late."

There was instantly a confusion of preparation by Mrs. Grey and Pauline,
while Monica sighed at the trouble of departure, and Margaret with
exasperating indifference sat warm and triumphant by the fire.

"Good gracious!" the Rector exclaimed, flinging the catalogue down and
speaking loud enough to be heard over the feverish search for Pauline's
left glove. "These people have the impudence to advertise _Penstemon
Lobbii_ as a novelty when it's really our old friend _Breviflorus_. What
on earth is to be done with these scoundrels?"

The horn of the omnibus sounded at the end of Rectory Lane; and the fat
guard was marching through the snow with the girls' luggage. The
good-bys were all said; and presently Pauline, with her muff held close
to her cheeks against the north wind, was sitting on top of the omnibus
that was toiling up the Shipcot road. As she caught sight of Plashers
Mead, etched upon the white scene, she wished she had left a message
with Margaret to say in what deep disgrace Guy was. On they labored
across five miles of snow-stilled country with sparse flakes melting
upon the horses' flanks, and never a wayfarer between Wychford and
Shipcot to pause and stare at them.

On the second night of their stay with the Strettons, Monica, when she
and Pauline were going to bed, suddenly turned round from the
dressing-table and demanded in rhetorical dismay why they had come.

"Never mind," said Pauline; "we've only got five more evenings."

"Well, that's nearly a week," Monica sighed. "And I'm tired to death of
Olive already."

"But I'm much worse off," Pauline declared, dolefully. "Because I have
to sit next to the Professor, who does frighten me so. You see, he will
include me in the conversation. Last night at dinner, after he'd been
talking to that don from Balliol who knew Guy and whom I was dying to
ask ... to talk to myself, I mean, he turned round to me and said, 'I am
afraid, Miss Pauline, that Aramaic roots are not very interesting to
you.' Well, of course I got muddled between Aramaic and aromatic, and
said that Father had just been given a lot which were very poisonous."

Monica laughed that sedate laugh of hers, which always seemed to Pauline
like a clock striking, so independent was it of anybody's feelings.

"Monica darling, I don't want to be critical," said Pauline. "But you
know sometimes your laugh sounds just a little--a very little
self-satisfied."

"I think I am rather self-satisfied," Monica agreed, combing her golden
hair away from her high, pale forehead. "And Margaret is conceited, and
you're twice as sweet as both of us put together."

"Oh no, I'm not! Oh no, no, Monica dearest, I'm not!" Pauline
contradicted, hurriedly. "No, really I'm very horrid. And, you know,
when I'm bored I'm sure I show it. Oh, dear, I hope the Strettons didn't
notice I was bored. Mrs. Stretton was so touching with the things they
had brought back from Madeira, and I do hate things people bring back
from places like Madeira."

"And when you're not bored with anybody," said Monica, "you're rather
apt to make that too obvious also."

"Monica, why are you saying that?" Pauline asked, with wide-open eyes.

"Even supposing Guy is in love with you," said Monica, slowly blowing
out the candles on the dressing-table as she spoke, so that nothing was
left but the rosy gas, "I don't think it's necessary to show him quite
so clearly that you're in love with _him_."

"Monica!"

"Darling little sister, I do so want you ... oh, how can I put it? Well,
you know, when you break the time in a trio, as you sometimes do...."

"But I'm not in love with Guy," Pauline interrupted. "At least, oh,
Monica, why do you choose a house like this to tell me such things?" she
asked, with tears and blushes fighting in her countenance.

"Pauline, it's only that I want you to keep in time."

"I can't possibly stay with the Strettons another five days," declared
Pauline in deepest gloom. "You ought not to say things like that here."

She was looking round this strange bedroom for the comfort of familiar
pictures, but there was nothing on these pink walls except a view of the
Matterhorn. Monica was kneeling to say her prayers, and in the stillness
the frost outside seemed to be pressing against the window-panes.
Pauline thought it was rather unfair of Monica to fade like this into
unearthly communications; and she knelt down to pray somewhat vagrant
prayers into the quilted eider-down that symbolized the guest-room's
luxurious chill. She longed to look up in aspiration and behold Saint
Ursula in that tall bed of hers, or cheerful Tobit walking with his dog
in the angel's company, and in the corner her own desk that was full of
childish things. She rose from her knees at the same moment as Monica,
who at once began to talk lightly of the tiresome people at dinner and
seemed utterly unconscious of having wounded Pauline's thoughts. Yet
when the room was dark, for a long while these wounded thoughts danced
upon the wintry air that breathed of Wychford. "_Even supposing Guy is
in love with you._" It was curious that she could not feel very angry
with Monica. "_Even supposing Guy is in love with you._" It really
seemed a pity to fall asleep; it was like falling asleep when music was
being played.

The subject of Guy was not mentioned again, but during the days that
remained of the visit Pauline scarcely felt that she was living in the
Strettons' house, and was so absent in her demeanor that Monica was
disturbed into what was for her a positive sociableness to counteract
Pauline's appearance of inattention. To consummate the vexation of the
visit there came a sudden thaw two days before they left, and Oxford was
ankle-deep in slush. Finally Pauline and Monica were dragged through the
very nadir of depression when on their last night they were taken out to
dinner in trams and goloshes through such abominable conditions of
weather.

"Fancy not ordering a cab," whispered Monica, with cold disapproval.

"Perhaps they can't afford it," Pauline suggested.

"They can afford to go to Madeira," answered Monica, "and buy all those
stupid knickknacks."

"Well, Monica, they are your friends, you know," said Pauline.

However, the 1st of February arrived next morning, and Oxford was left
behind. Pauline sighed with relief when they were seated in the train,
and the twenty miles of country to Shipcot that generally seemed so dull
were as green and welcome as if they were returning from a Siberian
exile.

"You know, Monica, I really don't think we ought to stay with people. I
don't think it's honest to spend such a hateful week as that in being
pleasant," she declared.

"I didn't notice that you were taking much trouble to hide your
boredom," said Monica. "It seems to me that I was always in a state of
trying to steer people round your behavior."

"Oh, but Professor Stretton loves me," said Pauline.

She was trying not to appear excited as the omnibus swished and slapped
through the mud towards Wychford. She was determined that in future she
would lead that inclosed and so serene life which she admired in her
eldest sister. Nobody could criticize Monica except for her coldness,
and Pauline knew that herself would never be able to be really as cold
as that, however much she might assume the effect.

"Grand weather after the snow," said the driver.

The roofs of Wychford were sparkling on the hillside, and earth seemed
to be turning restlessly in the slow Winter sleep.

"This mud'll all be gone with a week of fine days like to-day," said the
driver.

Plashers Mead was in sight now, but it was Monica who pointed to where
Guy and his dog were wandering across the meadows that were so vividly
emerald after the snow.

"I think it is," agreed Pauline, indifferently.

In the Rectory garden a year might have passed, so great was the
contrast between now and a week ago. Now the snowdrops were all that was
left of the snow, and a treasure of aconites as bright as new guineas
were scattered along the borders. Hatless and entranced, the Rector was
roaming from one cohort of green spears to another, each one of which
would soon be flying the pennons of Spring. Pauline rushed to embrace
him, and he, without a word, led her to see where on a sunny bank Greek
anemones had opened their deep-blue stars.

"_Blanda_," he whispered. "And I've never known her so deep in color.
Dear me, poor old Ford tells me he hasn't got one left. I warned him she
must have sun and drainage, but he would mix her with _Nemorosa_ just to
please his wife, which is ridiculous--particularly as they are never in
bloom together."

He bent over and with two long fingers held up a flower full in the
sun's eye, as he might have stooped to chuck under the chin a little
girl of his parish.

Monica had brought back a new quartet, which they practised all that
Candlemas Eve. When it was time to go to bed Mrs. Grey observed in a
satisfied voice that, after all, it must have been charming at the
Strettons'.

"Oh no, Mother; it was terribly dull," Pauline protested.

"Now, dear Pauline, how could it have been dull, when you've brought
back this exquisite Schumann quartet?"

Margaret came to Pauline's room to say good night, sat with her while
she undressed, and tucked her up so lovingly that Pauline was more than
ever delighted to be back at home.

"Oh, Margaret, how sweet you are to me! Why? Is it because you really do
miss me when I go away?"

"Partly," said Margaret.

"Why are you smiling so wisely? Have you put something under my pillow?"
Pauline began to search.

"There's nothing under your pillow except all the thoughts I have
to-night for you."

Once more Margaret leaned over and kissed her, and Pauline faded into
sleep upon the happiness of being at home again.

Next day after lunch her mother and sisters went to pay a long-postponed
call upon a new family in the neighborhood, because Margaret insisted
they must take advantage of this glorious weather which would surely not
last very long.

Pauline spent the early afternoon with the Rector and Birdwood, writing
labels while they sowed a lot of new sweet-peas which had been sent to
the Rector for an opinion upon their merits. The clock was striking four
when Guy strolled into the garden. Somehow Pauline's labels were not so
carefully written after his arrival, and at last the Rector advised her
to take Hazlewood and show him _Anemone blanda_. They left the big
wall-garden and went across the lawn in front of the house to the second
wall-garden, where most of the Rector's favorites grew as it pleased
them best.

"Oh, they've all gone to bed," said Pauline.

Guy knelt down and opened the petals of one.

"They're exactly the color of your eyes," he said, looking up at her.

Pauline was conscious that the simple statement was fraught with a
significance far greater than anything which had so far happened in her
life. It was ringing in her ears like a bugle-call that sounded some
far-flung advance, and involuntarily she drew back and began to talk
nonsense breathlessly, while Guy did not speak. Nor must she let him
speak, she told herself, for behind that simple comparison how many
questions were trembling!

"Oh, I wonder if the others are back yet," she finally exclaimed, and
forthwith hurried from the garden towards the house. She wished she must
not look back over her shoulder to see Guy following her so gravely. Of
course, when they were standing in the hall, the others had not come
back; and the house in its silence was a hundred times more portentous
than the garden. And what would Guy be thinking of her for bringing him
back to this voicelessness in which she could not any longer talk
nonsense? Here the least movement, the slightest gesture, the most
ordinary word, would be weighted for both of them with an importance
that seemed unlimited. For the first time the Rectory was strangely
frightening; and when through the silent passages they were walking
towards the nursery it was the exploration of a dream. Yet, however
undiscoverable the object that was leading them, she was glad to see the
nursery door, for there within would surely come back to her the ease of
an immemorial familiarity. Yet in that room of childhood, that room the
most bound up with the simple progress of her life, she found herself
counting the birds, berries, and daisies upon the walls, as if she were
beholding them vaguely for the first time. Why was she unpicking
Margaret's work or folding into this foolish elaboration of triangles
Monica's music. And why did Guy behave so oddly, taking up all sorts of
unnatural positions, leaning upon the rickety mantelshelf, balancing
himself upon the fender, pleating the curtains, and threading his way
with long legs in and out, in and out of the chairs?

"Pauline!"

He had stopped abruptly by the fireplace, and was not looking at her
when he spoke. Oh, he would never succeed in lifting even from the floor
that match which with one foot he was trying to lift on to the other
foot.

"Pauline!"

Now he was looking at her; and she must be looking at him, for there was
nothing on this settee which would give her a good reason not to look at
him. The room was so still that beyond the closed door the hoarse tick
of the cuckoo-clock was audible; and what was that behind her which was
fretting against the window-pane? And why was she holding with each hand
to the brocade, as if she feared to be swept altogether out of this
world?

"Pauline!"

Was it indeed her voice on earth that said "yes"?

"Pauline, I suppose you know I love you?"

And she was saying "yes."

"Pauline, do you love me?"

And again she had said "yes...."

Outside in the corridor the cuckoo snapped the half-hour; then it seemed
to tick faster and a thousand times faster. She must turn away from Guy,
and as she turned she saw that what had been fretting the window-pane
was a spray of yellow jasmine. Upon the cheek that was turned from him
the dipping sun shed a warm glow, but the one nearer was a flame of
fire.

"Pauline!"

He had knelt beside her in that moment; and, leaning over to his
nearness, Pauline looked down at her hand in his, as if she were gazing
at a flower which had been gathered.



SPRING



MARCH


The doubts and the joys of the future broke upon Guy with so wide and
commingled a vision, that before the others got home and even before
Janet came in with tea, he hurried away from that nursery, where over
the half-stilled echoes of childhood he had heard the sigh of Pauline's
assent. The practical side of what he had done could be confronted
to-morrow, and with a presage of hopelessness the word might have lain
heavily upon his mind, if on the instant of sinking it had not been
radiantly winged with the realization of the indestructible spirit that
would henceforth animate all the to-morrows of time. No day could now
droop for him, whatever the difficulties it brought, whatever the
hazards, when he had Pauline and Pauline's heart; and like disregarded
moments the years of their life went tumbling down into eternity, as the
meaning of that sighed-out assent broke upon his conscience with fresh
glory.

"You'll tell your mother to-night?" he asked. "I think Margaret will
know when she sees your shining eyes."

"Are my eyes shining?"

"Ah, don't you know they are, when you look into mine?"

Guy could have proclaimed that he and she were stars flashing to one
another across a stupendous night; but there were no similes that did
not seem tawdry when he threw them round Pauline.

"Child, child, beloved child!" he whispered; and his voice faltered for
the pitiful inadequacy of anything that he could call her. What words
existed, with whatever tenderness uttered, with whatever passion
consecrated by old lovers, that would not still be words, when they were
used for Pauline? Guy watched for a moment the cheek that was closer to
his lips write in crimson the story of her love. He wished he could tell
his love for her with even the hueless apograph of such a signal; and
yet, since anything he said was only worthy of utterance in so far as
she by this ebb and flow of response made it worthy, why should he
trouble that cheek which, sentient now as a rose of the sun, hushed all
but wonder?

"Good-by!"

He bent over and touched her hand with his lips. Then the Rectory stairs
had borne him down like a feather; the Rectory door had assumed a kind
of humanity, so that the handle seemed to relinquish his grasp with an
affectionate unwillingness. Out in the drive, where the purple trees
were washed by the February dusk, he stood perplexed at himself because
in a wild kiss he had not crushed Pauline to his heart. Had it been from
some scruple of honor in case her father and mother should not
countenance his love? Had it sprung out of some impulse to postpone for
a while a joy that must be the sharpest he would ever know? Or was it
that in the past he had often kissed too lightly, so that now, when he
really loved, he could not imagine the kiss unpassionate and fierce that
would seal her immortally to love, yet leave her still a child?

As he paused in that golden February dusk, Guy rejoiced he had told his
love in such an awe of her girlhood; and when from the nursery window
Pauline blew one kiss and vanished like a fay at mortal trespassing, he
floated homeward upon the airy salute, weighing no more than a seed of
dandelion to his own sense of being. Upon his way he observed nothing,
neither passer-by nor carts in the muddy roads. As he crossed the bridge
the roar of the water into the mill-pond was inaudible, nor did he hear
his melodious garden ways. And when Miss Peasey came to his room with
the lamp, he could not realize for a moment who she was or what she was
talking about. The hour or two before dinner went by as one tranced
minute; in a dream he went down to dinner; in a dream he began to carve;
in a dream the knife remained motionless in the joint, so that Miss
Peasey coming to inquire after his appetite thought it was stuck in a
skewer. Up-stairs in the library again, he dreamed the evening away; and
when the lamp hummed slowly and oilily to extinction he still sat on,
till at last the fire perished, and from complete darkness he roused
himself and went to bed.

Guy was under the cloud of a reaction when he rang the Rectory bell on
the morning after. The door looked less amicable, and the dragon-headed
knocker stared balefully while he was waiting to be let in. He wondered
for whom of the family he ought to ask, but Mrs. Grey came nervously
into the hall and invited him into the drawing-room.

"Pauline has gone over to Fairfield," she began in jerky sentences.
"Charming ... yes, charming, you came this morning."

The sun had not yet reached the oriel of the drawing-room, that with
shadows and fragrance was welcoming Guy where he sat in a winged
arm-chair beside the fire. Time was seeming to celebrate the
momentousness of his visit by standing still as in a picture, and he
knew that every word and every gesture of Mrs. Grey would in his memory
rest always enambered. He was glad, and yet in the captivating quiet a
little sorry, that she began to speak at once:

"Of course Pauline told me about yesterday. And of course I would sooner
she were in love with a man she loved than with a man who had a great
deal of money. But of course you mustn't be engaged at once. At least
you can be engaged; you are engaged. Oh yes, of course if you weren't
engaged I shouldn't allow you to see each other, and you shall see each
other occasionally. Francis has not said anything. The Rector will
probably be rather doubtful. Of course I told him; only he happened to
be very busy about something in the garden. But he would want Pauline to
be happy. Of course she is my favorite--at least I should not say that,
I love all my daughters, but Pauline is--well, she has the most
beautiful nature in the world. My darling Pauline!"

Mrs. Grey's eyes were wet, and Guy was so full of affectionate gratitude
that it was only by blinking very hard at a small picture of Pauline
hanging beside the mantelpiece he was able to keep his own dry.

"I have a nicer picture than that which I will give you," Mrs. Grey
promised. "The one that I am fondest of, the one I keep beside my bed.
Perhaps you would like a picture of her when she was seventeen? She's
just the same now, and really I think she'll always be the same."

"You are too good to me, Mrs. Grey," he sighed.

"We are all so fond of you ... even the Rector, though he is not likely
to show it. Pauline is perhaps more like me. Her impulsiveness comes
from me."

"Ought I to talk to the Rector about our engagement?" Guy asked.

"Oh no, no ... it would disturb him, and I don't think he'll admit that
you _are_ engaged. In fact, he said something about children; but I
would rather.... At least, of course, you are children. But Margaret
says you can't be quite a child or you would not be in love with
Pauline. And now if you go along the Fairfield road you'll meet her. But
that is only an exception. Not often. I think to-day she might be
disappointed if you didn't meet her. And come to lunch, of course.
Poetry is a little precarious, but at any rate for the present we
needn't talk about the future. I wish your mother were still alive. I
think she would have loved Pauline."

"She would have adored her," said Guy, fervently.

"And your father? Of course you'll bring him to tea, when he comes to
stay with you? That will be charming ... yes, charming. Now hurry, or
you'll miss her."

Guy had no words to tell Mrs. Grey of the devotion she had inspired; but
all the way down the Fairfield road he blessed her and hoped that
somehow the benediction would make itself manifest. Then, far away,
coming over the brow of a hill, he saw Pauline. It was one of those
hills with a suggestion of the sea behind them, so sharply are they cut
against the sky. This was one of those hills that in childhood had
thrilled him with promise of the faintly imaginable; and even now he
always approached such a hill with a dream and surmise of new beauty.
Yet more wonderful than any dream was the reality of Pauline coming
towards him over the glistening road. She was shy when he met her, and
the answers she gave to his eager questions were so softly spoken that
Guy was half afraid of having exacted too much from her yesterday. Did
she regret already the untroublous time before she knew him? Yet it was
better that she should walk beside him in still unbroken enchantment,
that the declaration of his love should not have damaged the wings
seeming always unfolded for flight from earth; so would he wish to keep
her always, that never this Psyche should be made a prisoner by him. The
elusive quality of Pauline which was shared in a slighter degree by her
sisters kept him eternally breathless, for she was immaterial as a cloud
that flushes for an instant far away from the sunset. And yet she was
made with too much of earth's simple beauty to be compared with clouds.
Her sisters had the ghostly serenity and remoteness that might more
appropriately be called elusive. Pauline gave more the effect of an
earthly thing that transcends by the perfection of its substance even
spirit; and rather was she seeming, though poised for airy regions,
still sweetly content with earth. She had not been more elusive than
eglantine overarching a deep lane at Midsummer, for he had pulled down
the spray, and it was the fear of a petal falling too soon from the
tremulous flowers that gave him this sense of awe as he walked beside
her.

Yet once again Guy found his comparisons poor enough when he looked at
Pauline, and he exclaimed, despairingly:

"There _are_ no words for you. I wanted to say to your mother what I
thought about you. Oh, she was so charming."

"She is a darling," said Pauline. "And so is Father."

They were come to the stile where he and Margaret had watched their
footprints on the snow.

"And Margaret was very sympathetic, you know," he went on. "Really, if
it hadn't been for her I should never have dared to tell you I loved
you. We talked about her and Richard...."

"Margaret does love him. She does," Pauline declared. "Only she will ask
herself questions all the time."

How she changed when she was speaking of Richard, thought Guy, a little
jealously. Why could she not say out clearly like that her love for him?

"You do love me this morning?" he asked. She was standing on the step of
the stile, and he offered his hand to help her down. "Won't you say, 'I
love you'?"

But only with her eyes could she tell him, and as, her finger-tips on
his, she jumped from the step, she was imponderable as the blush upon
her cheeks.

"In the Summer," said Guy, "you and I will be on the river together.
Will you be shy when Summer comes?"

"Monica says I'm not nearly shy enough."

"What on earth does Monica expect?"

They were under the trees of Wychford Abbey, and Guy told her of the
days he had spent here, thinking of her and of the hopelessness of her
loving him.

"I could not imagine you would love me. Why do you?"

She shook her head.

"One day we'll explore the inside of the house together. Shall we?"

"Oh no! I hate that place. Oh no, Guy, we'll never go there. Come
quickly. I hate that house. Margaret loves it and says I'm morbid to be
afraid. But I shudder when I see it."

They hurried through the dark plantation; and Guy, under the influence
of Pauline's positive terror, felt strangely as if, were he to look
behind, he would behold the house leering at them sardonically.

People, too, eyed them as they went down High Street and turned into
Rectory Lane. Guy had a sensation of all the inhabitants hurrying from
their business in the depths of their old houses to peer through the
casements at Pauline and him; and he was glad when they reached the
Rectory drive and escaped the silent commentary.

When she was at home again Pauline's spirits rose amazingly; and all
through lunch she was so excited that her mother and sisters were
continually repressing her noisiness. Guy, on the contrary, felt
woefully self-conscious, and was wondering all the while with how deep a
dislike the Rector was regarding him and if after lunch he would not
call him aside and solemnly expel him from the house. As they got up
from the table the Rector asked if Guy were doing anything particular
that afternoon, and on receiving an assurance that he was not, the
Rector asked if he would help with the sweet-peas that still wanted
sorting. Guy in a bodeful gloom said he would be delighted.

"I shall be in the garden at two," said the Rector.

"Shall I come as well and help?" Pauline offered.

"No; I want you to take some things into the town for me," said the
Rector.

Guy's heart sank at this confirmation of his fears. Out in the hall
Margaret took him aside.

"Well, are you happy?"

"Margaret, you've been beyond words good to me."

"Always be happy," she said.

Even Monica whispered to him that he was lucky, and Guy was so deeply
impressed at being whispered to by Monica that it gave him a little
courage for his interview. He joined the Rector in the garden punctually
at two, and worked hard with labels and classifications.

"_A7_," the Rector read out. "_A lavender twice as big as Lady Grizel
Hamilton. D21. An orange that will not burn._ Humph! I don't believe it.
Do you believe that, Birdwood?"

The gardener shook his head.

"There never was an orange as didn't burn like a house on fire the
moment the sun set eyes on it."

"Of course it'll burn, and, anyhow, there's no such thing as an orange
sweet-pea. If there is, it's Henry Eckford."

"Henry isn't orange," said Birdwood. "Leastways not an orange like you
get at Christmas."

"More buff?"

"Buff as he can be," said Birdwood. "What do you think, Mr. Hazlenut?"
he went on, turning to Guy and winking very hard.

"I really don't know him ... it...." said Guy.

"_O5_," the Rector began again. "_A cream and rose picotee Spenser._
Yes, I dare say," he commented. "And with about as much smell as
distilled water."

So the business went on, with Guy on tenterhooks all the while for his
own summing-up by the Rector. He thought the moment was arrived when
Birdwood was sent off on an errand and when the Rector, getting up from
his kneeler, began to shake the trowel at him impressively. But all he
said was:

"Tingitana's plumping up magnificently. And we'll have some flowers in
three weeks--the first I shall have had since the Diamond Jubilee. Sun!
Sun!"

Guy jumped at the apostrophe, so nearly did it approximate to
"son-in-law." But of this relation nothing was said, and now Pauline
was calling out that tea was ready.

"Go in, my dear fellow," said the Rector. "I've still a few things to do
in the garden. By the way, was your father at Trinity, Oxford?"

"No, he was at Exeter."

"Ah, then I didn't know him. I knew a Hazlewood at Trinity."

The Rector turned away to business elsewhere, and Guy was left to puzzle
over his casual allusion. Perhaps he ought to have raised the subject of
being in love with Pauline, for which purpose the Rector may have given
him an opening. Or did this inquiry about his father portend a letter to
him from the Rector about his son's prospects? He certainly ought to
have said something to make the Rector realize how much tact would be
necessary in approaching his father. Pauline called again from the
nursery window, and Guy hurried off to join the rest of the family at
tea.

In the drawing-room Mrs. Grey, Monica, and Margaret all seemed anxious
to show their pleasure in Pauline's happiness; and Guy in the assurance
this old house gave him of a smooth course for his love ceased to worry
any longer about parental problems and was content to live in the merry
and intimate present. He realized how far he was advanced in his
relation to the family when Brydone, the doctor's son, came in to call.
Guy took a malicious delight in his stilted talk, as for half an hour he
tried to explain to Monica, a grave and abstracted listener, how the
pike would in March go up the ditches and the shallow backwaters, and
what great sport it was to snare them with a copper noose suspended from
a long pole. There was, too, that triumphant moment he had long desired,
when Brydone, rising to take his leave, asked if Guy were coming and
when he was able to reply casually that he was not coming just yet.

After tea Guy and Pauline, as if by an impulse that occurred to both of
them simultaneously, begged Margaret to come and talk in the nursery.
She seemed pleased that they wanted her; and the three of them spent the
time till dinner in looking at the old familiar things of childhood--at
photographs of Monica and Margaret and Pauline in short frocks; at
tattered volumes scrawled in by the fingers of little girls.

"I wish I'd known you when you were small," sighed Guy. "How wasted all
these years seem."

The gong went suddenly, and Margaret said that of course to-night he
would stay to dinner.

So once again he was staying to dinner, and now on such terms as would
make this an occasion difficult to forget. As he waited alone in the
lamplit nursery, while Margaret and Pauline were dressing, he kissed
Pauline in each faded picture stuck in those gay scrap-books of Varese.
Nor did he feel the least ashamed of himself, although at Oxford his
cynicism had been the admiration even of Balliol, where there had been
no one like him for tearing sentiment into dishonored rags. When the
Rector came in to dinner, carrying with him a dusty botanical folio that
swept all the glass and silver from his end of the table to huddle in
the center, Guy tried to make out if he were very much depressed by his
not having yet gone home.

"Dear me," said the Rector, "I was sure I had seen it in here."

"Seen what, Francis?" asked his wife.

"A plant you wouldn't know. A Cilician crocus.

"Isn't Father sweet?" said Pauline. "Because, of course, Mother never
knows any plant."

"What nonsense, Pauline! Of course I know a crocus."

Towards the end of dinner Mrs. Grey said, rather nervously:

"Francis dear, wouldn't you like to drink Pauline's health?"

"Why, with pleasure," said the Rector. "Though she looks very well."

Pauline jumped in her chair with delight at this, but Mrs. Grey waved
her into silence and said:

"And Guy's health, too?"

The Rector courteously saluted him; but the guest feared there was an
undernote of irony in the bow.

After dinner when Monica, Margaret, and Pauline were preparing for a
trio, Mrs. Grey said confidentially to Guy:

"You mustn't expect Francis--the Rector to realize at once that you and
Pauline are engaged. And, of course, it isn't exactly an engagement yet.
You mustn't see her too often. You're both so young. Indeed, as Francis
said, children really."

Then the trio began, and Guy in the tall Caroline chair lived every note
that Pauline played on her violin, demanding of himself what he had done
to deserve her love. He looked round once at Mrs. Grey in the other
chair, and marked her beating time while like his own her thoughts were
all for Pauline. In the heart of that music Guy was able to say
anything, and he could not resist leaning over and whispering to Mrs.
Grey:

"I adore her."

"So do I," said the mother, breaking not a bar in her beat and gazing
with soft eyes at that beloved player.

When the music stopped Guy felt a little embarrassed by the remembrance
of his unreserved avowal; yet evidently it had seemed natural to Mrs.
Grey, for when he was saying good-by in the hall she whispered to
Pauline that she could walk with Guy a short way along the drive. His
heart leaped to the knowledge that here at last was the final sanction
of his love for her. Pauline flung round her shoulders that white frieze
coat in which he had first beheld her under the moon, misty, autumnal, a
dream within a dream; and now they were actually walking together. He
touched her arm half-timidly, as if even so light a gesture could
destroy this moment.

"Pauline, Pauline!"

He saw her clear eyes in the February starshine, and, folding her close,
he kissed her mouth. When he woke he was home; and for hours he sat
entranced, knowing that never again for as long as he lived would he
feel upon his lips as now the freshness of Pauline's first kiss.

The rest of that February went by with lengthening eyes that died on the
dusky riot of blackbirds in the rhododendrons. Here and there in mossy
corners primroses were come too soon, seeming all aghast and wan to
behold themselves out of the cloistral earth, while the buds of the
daffodils were still upright and would not hang their heads till driven
by the wooing of the windy March sun.

The gray-eyed virginal month, that is of no season and must as often
bear the malice of Winter's retreat as the ruffianly onset of Spring,
had now that very seriousness which suited Guy's troth.

Rules had been made with which neither he nor Pauline were discontented,
and so through all that February Guy went twice a week to the Rectory
and counted himself rich in Mrs. Grey's promise that he and Pauline
should sometimes be allowed, when the season was full-fledged, to go for
walks together. At present, however, the Rectory garden must be a
territory large enough for their love.

These first encounters were endowed with perhaps not much more than the
excitement of what were in a way superficial observations, since neither
of them was yet attempting to sound any deeps in the other's character.
Guy was engaged with driving a wedge into that past of the Rectory whose
least events he now envied, and he was never tired of the talks about
Pauline's childhood, so much of a fairy-tale she still seemed and fit
for endless repetition. And if Guy was never tired of being told, her
family was never tired of telling. Never, he thought, was lover so
fortunate in an audience as he in the willingness with which he was
accorded a confirmation of all his praises. Sometimes, indeed, he had to
look reproachfully at Monica or Margaret when Pauline seemed hurt at
being checked for some piece of demonstrativeness. If he did so the
sisters would always take an opportunity to draw him aside and explain
that it was only Pauline's perfection which made them so anxious for its
security. Indeed, they guarded her perpetually and with such a high
sense of the privilege of wardship that Guy always had to forgive them
at once. Moreover, he was so conscious of their magnanimity in
considering him as a lover that he was almost afraid to claim his right.

"Margaret," he said, one day, "I don't know how you can bear to
contemplate Pauline married. Why, when I think of myself, I'm simply
dumb before the--what word is there--audacity is much too pale and, oh,
what word is there?"

"I don't think I could contemplate her married to anybody but you," said
Margaret.

"But why me?"

"Why, because you are young enough to make love beautiful and right,"
Margaret told him. "And yet you seem old enough to realize Pauline's
exquisite nature. So that one isn't afraid of her being squandered for a
young man's experience."

"But I'm not rich," said Guy, deliberately leading Margaret on to
discuss for the hundredth time this topic of himself and Pauline.

"Pauline wouldn't be happy with riches. They would oppress her. She
isn't luxurious like me."

So round and round, backward and forward, on and on the debate would go,
until Margaret had arranged for Guy and Pauline a life so idyllic that
Shelley would scarcely have found a flaw in her conception.

Pauline, however demonstrative in the presence of her family, was still
shy when she was alone with her lover. Her mirth was turned to a
whisper, and her greatest eloquence was a speech of drooping silences
and of blushes rising and falling. Guy never tired of watching these
flowery motions that were the response of her cheeks to his love. Each
word he murmured was a wind to stir her countenance or ruffle her eyes,
so that they, too, responded with cloudy deeps and shadows and sudden
veilings.

Nothing more was mentioned of the practical side of the engagement, for
Mrs. Grey, Monica, and Margaret were all too delightfully enthralled
with the progress of an idyll that was to each of them her own secret
poem of Pauline in love; while as for the Rector, he remained outwardly
oblivious of the whole matter.

March came crashing into this peace without disturbing the simple
pattern into which the existence of Guy and Pauline had now resolved
itself--a pattern, moreover, that belonged to Pauline's mother and
sisters for their own pleasure in embroidery, so that the lovers were,
as it might be, carried about from room to room. Sometimes, indeed, when
Guy came to the Rectory, there was a pretense of leaving him and Pauline
alone; but mostly they were in the company of the others, and Guy was
now as deep in the family life as if he were a son of the house. Since
he and Pauline never went for walks together, perhaps Wychford
speculation had died down--at any rate there was no gossip to disturb
Mrs. Grey; although, as she had by now given up the theory of a sort of
engagement, yet without consenting to anything in the shape of a final
announcement, it might not have mattered much.

Meanwhile, it began to dawn on Guy that the time was coming when he
would have to make up his mind to do something definite, and on these
bleak mornings of early March, as he watched the scanty snowflakes
withering against the panes, he asked himself if there was any
justification for staying on at Plashers Mead in the new circumstances
of his life there. At night, however, when the wind piped and whistled
round the house, he used to dream upon the firelight and shrink from
the idea of abandoning all that Plashers Mead had stood for and all that
now still more it must stand for in the future. If only a plan could be
devised by which the house were secured against sacrilege; and
half-fantastically he began to imagine a monastic academy for poets, of
which he would be Warden. Perhaps Michael Fane would like this idea, and
since he had money he might come forward with an offer of endowment.
Then he and Pauline could be married; for £150 a year would be an ample
income, if there were no rent to pay and no wages. He, of course, would
earn his living as superintendent of the academic discipline; and
really, as he dreamed over his plan, such an establishment would be an
admirable corollary to Oxford. It might gain even a sort of official
recognition from the university. Plainly some sort of institution was
wanted where in these commercial days young writers could retreat to
learn their craft less suicidally than by journalism. What should he
call his academy? With marriage as the reason for inventing this
economy, he could hardly give it too monastic a complexion. The louder
the wind beat against the house, the more feasibly in the lamplit quiet
within did the scheme present itself; and Michael Fane, who was always
searching for an object in life, would be the very person to involve in
the materialization. He would say nothing to anybody else; not even
would he mention the idea to Pauline herself. These sanguine dreams
occupied his evenings prosperously enough, while March swept past with
searing winds from Muscovy that skimmed the rich earth of the plow-lands
with a dusty pallor, tarnished the daffodils, and seemed to crack the
very bird-song. Guy, however, with every day either a day nearer to
seeing Pauline again or the day itself, did not care about the wind that
blew, and he was as happy walking on the uplands as the spindle-shanked
hares that sported among the turfy mounds.

Later, the shrilling wind from the east surrendered to the booming of
the equinox. Louder than before the weather beat against Guy's house
from the opposite quarter. Chimneys groaned like broken horns, and after
a desperate gale even deaf Miss Peasey complained that she had heard the
wind once or twice in the night, and that her bedroom had seemed a bit
draughty. Guy discovered that several tiles had been blown from the
roof, so that through the lath and plaster above her head there was a
sound of demoniac fife-playing. Then the wind dropped; the rain poured
down; but at last on Lady Day morning Guy woke up to see a rich sky
between white magnificent clouds, a gentle breeze, and a letter from his
father.

  FOX HALL, GALTON, HANTS,
  _March 24th_.

     DEAR GUY,--I send you this with the third instalment of the £150.
     Please let me have a prompter acknowledgment than last time, when,
     I remember, you kept me waiting nearly three weeks. I am glad to
     have news of successful experiments in verse-making, but I should
     be much more glad to hear that you had made up your mind to make
     them as an accessory to a regular profession. You will notice that
     I do not attempt to influence your choice in this matter, and so I
     hope you will not retort with invidious comparisons between
     literature and the teaching of small boys.

     No, I do not remember a man called Grey in my time at Oxford, but
     I do remember a man of the same name as ours at Trinity. He came
     to grief, I believe, later on. You must assure your friend that
     this was not myself. I am glad you find the Rector and his wife
     such pleasant people. Have they any children? I wish I could say
     as much for the new Vicar of Galton, who is a pompous nincompoop
     and has introduced a lot of his High Church frippery which so
     annoys some of the parents. Your friend is lucky to be able to
     afford so much leisure for gardening. I am of course far too busy
     to think about anything like that except in the Summer holidays,
     when flowers would scarcely give me the change of air I want. This
     year I hope to come and see you for a week or two, and we shall
     be able to discuss the future. Don't work too hard and please
     oblige me by acknowledging the inclosed cheque.

  Your affectionate father,
  JOHN HAZLEWOOD.

Guy went out in the orchard to meditate upon the advisableness of
telling his father at once about Pauline. If he were coming to stay here
next August, he ought to know beforehand, for it would be horrid to have
the atmosphere of Plashers Mead ruined by acrimonious argument. August,
however, was still a long way off, and now there was going to be fine
weather for a while, which must not be spoiled. Besides, perhaps in the
end his father would not come, and, anyway, himself would be having to
decide presently upon a more definite step. He would tell Pauline, when
he saw her to-morrow, that he ought to go up to London and get some
journalistic work so as to bring the time of their marriage nearer. Or
should he wait until he had sounded Michael about that academy? Plashers
Mead enlarged itself for Guy's vision until the orchard was a quadrangle
famed with gray cloisters, along which Parnassian aspirants walked in
meditation. Would any of them be married except himself and Pauline? On
the whole, he decided that they would not, though, of course, if Michael
were to find the capital he must be allowed to marry. How the Balliol
people would laugh at these fantastic plans, thought Guy, and he stopped
for a moment from the architectonics of his academy to laugh at himself.
Certainly it would be better not to publish his plans even to Pauline
until they showed a hint of conceivable maturity. Guy fell back into the
comfort of spacious dreams, wandering up and down the orchard; and round
about him the starlings, pranked in metallic plumage of green and
bronze, quarreled over the holes in the apple-tree they coveted for
their nests.

Suddenly Guy heard his name called, and, looking up, he saw across the
mill-stream Margaret and Pauline standing in the churchyard.

"We've been to church," said Pauline. "And a dead bat fell down nearly
on to Father's head when he was giving the Blessing. So he and the
sacristan have gone up in the tower to see what can be done about it."

"Shall I come and help?" Guy suggested.

"You won't be able to do any more than they will," said Margaret,
laughing. "But if you want to come and help, you'd better. Hasn't your
canoe arrived yet?"

Guy shook his head.

"It's such a glorious morning that I could almost swim the river," he
declared.

"Oh, Margaret, don't let him," Pauline exclaimed.

Guy said he would be in the churchyard before they were back in Rectory
Lane to meet him, and with Bob barking at his heels he ran at full speed
through the orchard, through the garden, over the bridge, and down
Rectory Lane just as the two girls reached the lych-gate. They all went
into the big church, even Bob, though he slunk at their heels as
modestly as might the devil. High up over the chancel they could see the
Rector and the shiny-pated sacristan leaning from the windows of the
bell-ringer's chamber and scratching with wands at some blind arches
where bats might most improbably lurk.

"Let's go to the top of the tower," Guy proposed.

"Father isn't on the top of the tower," said Margaret. "But you go up
with Pauline. I'll wait for you."

So Guy and Pauline went through a low door beaked by Normans centuries
ago, and climbed the stone stairs until they reached the bell-ringer's
chamber, where they paused to greet the Rector, who waved a vague arm in
greeting. The stairs grew more narrow and musty as they went higher; but
all the way at intervals there were deep slits in the walls, framing
thin pictures of the outspread country below the tower. Still up they
went past the bell-ropes, past the great bells themselves that hung like
a cluster of mighty fruit, until finally they came out through a small
turret to meet the March sky. The spire, that rose as high again as they
had already come, occupied nearly all the space and left only a yard of
leaded roof on which to walk; but even so, up here where the breeze blew
strongly, they seemed to stand in the very course of the clouds with the
world at their feet. Northward they looked across the brown mill-stream;
across Guy's green orchard; across the flashing tributary beyond the
meadows, to where the Shipcot road climbed the side of the wold.
Westward they looked to Plashers Mead and Miss Peasey flapping a
table-cloth; to Guy's mazy garden and the gray wall under the limes; and
farther to the tree-tops of Wychford Abbey; to the twining waters of the
valley and the rounded hills. Southward they looked to Wychford town in
tier on tier of shining roofs; and above the translucent smoke to where
the telegraph-poles of the long highway went rocketing into
Gloucestershire. And lastly eastward they looked through a flight of
snowy pigeons to the Rectory asleep in gardens that already were painted
with the simple flowers of Spring.

Guy took Pauline's hand where it rested on the parapet.

"Dearest, Spring is here," he said, "and this is our world that you and
I are looking at to-day."



APRIL


Pauline in the happiness which had come to her lately had forgotten Miss
Verney; and when one morning she met that solitary spinster, whose pale
and watery eyes were uttering such reproach, she promised impulsively to
come to tea that very afternoon and bring with her a friend.

"You've certainly quite deserted me lately," said Miss Verney, in that
wavering falsetto of hers, through which the echoes maybe of a
once-admired soprano could still be distinctly heard.

"Oh, but I've been so busy, Miss Verney."

"Yes, I dare say. Well, I used to be busy once myself. Here's lovely
weather for the first of April. Quite a treat to be out of doors. Now,
don't make an April fool of your poor old Miss Verney by forgetting to
come this afternoon. Who's the friend you are anxious to bring?"

"Mr. Hazlewood. He's living at Plashers Mead, you know."

"Dear me, a gentleman? Then he won't enjoy coming to see me."

"But he will, Miss Verney, because he writes poetry, and you know you
told me once that you used to write poetry."

"Ah, well, dear me, that's a secret I should never have let out. Well,
good-by, my dear, and pray don't forget to come, for I shall be having
cakes, you know."

Miss Verney, whose unhappy love-affair in a dim past had been Pauline's
cherished secret since the afternoon of her seventeenth birthday, bowed
with much dignity; and Pauline, lest she should offend her again, had to
turn round several times to smile and wave farewells before Miss Verney
disappeared into the confectioner's shop.

When she got home Pauline asked her mother if she thought it mattered
taking Guy to tea with Miss Verney.

"Because, of course, she's sure to guess that we're engaged."

"But, my dear child, you're not really engaged, at least not publicly.
You must remember that."

"But I could tell Miss Verney as a great secret. And I know she won't
tell any one because once she told me a great secret about herself.
Besides, she's gone to buy cakes for tea, and if I don't take Guy she'll
be so dreadfully disappointed."

"Why can't you take Guy without saying anything about being engaged?"
asked Mrs. Grey.

"Oh, because Miss Verney is so frightfully sharp, especially in matters
of love. I think you don't like her much, Mother darling but really, you
know, she is sympathetic."

Mrs. Grey looked hopelessly round for advice, but as neither Margaret
nor Monica was in the room, she had to give way to Pauline's entreaty,
and the leave was granted.

When Guy arrived at the Rectory about three o'clock he seemed delighted
at the notion of going out to tea with Pauline, though he looked a
little doubtfully at the others, as if he wondered at the permission's
being accorded. However, they set out in an atmosphere of good-will, and
Pauline was happy to have him beside her walking up Wychford High
Street. Miss Verney's house was at the very top of the hill, which meant
that the eyes of the whole population had to be encountered before they
reached it. They could see Miss Verney watching for them as they walked
across the slip of grass that with white posts and a festoon of white
chains warded off general traffic. The moment they reached the gate her
head vanished from the window, and they had scarcely rung the bell when
the maid had opened the door; and they were scarcely inside the hall
when Miss Verney came grandly out of the drawing-room (which was not the
front room) to greet them.

"How d'ye do? How d'ye do? Miss Grey will have told you that I rarely
have visitors. And therefore this is a great pleasure."

Pauline threw sparkling blue glances at Guy for the Miss Grey, while
they followed her into the drawing-room full of cats and ornaments. The
cats all marched round Guy in a sort of solemn quadrille, so that what
with the embarrassment they caused to his legs and the difficulty that
the rest of him found with the ornaments, Pauline really had to lead him
safely to a chair.

"Have you been long in Wychford, Mr. Hazlewood?" inquired Miss Verney.
"I fear you'll find the valley very damp. We who live at the top of the
hill consider the air up here so much more bracing. But then, you see,
my father was a sailor."

So the conversation progressed, conversation that was cut as thinly and
nicely as the lozenges of bread and butter, fragments of which on
various parts of the rug the cats were eating with that apparent
difficulty cats always find in mastication.

"I sadly spoil my pets," said Miss Verney. "For really, you see, they
are my best friends, as I always say to people who look surprised at my
indulgence of them.... Would you mind telling Bellerophon he's left a
piece of butter just by your foot, that you might otherwise tread into
the carpet. You'll forgive my fussiness, but then, you see, my father
was a sailor."

Pauline was longing to know what Miss Verney thought of Guy, and
presently when tea was over she suggested that he should be shown the
garden, the green oblong of which looked so inviting from the low
windows.

"Dear me, the garden," said Miss Verney. "Rather early in the year,
don't you think, for the garden? My shoes. For though my father was a
sailor, I do not, alas! inherit his constitution. I really think,
Pauline, we must wait for the garden. But perhaps Mr. Hazlewood would
care...."

"Guy, you must see the garden," Pauline declared.

So Guy rose and, having listened to Miss Verney's instructions about the
key in the garden door, went out, followed by several cats. A moment
later they saw him, still with two cats in attendance, bending with an
appearance of profound interest over the narrow flower-beds that fringed
the grass.

"I declare that Pegasus and dear Bellerophon have taken quite a fancy to
him. Most remarkable and gratifying," said Miss Verney, watching from
the window through which the western sun flaming upon her thin hair
kindled a few golden strands from the ashes that seemed before entirely
to have quenched them.

"Miss Verney, can you keep a secret?" asked Pauline, breathlessly.

"My dear, you forget my father was a sailor," replied Miss Verney,
supporting with each arm a martial elbow.

"He and I are engaged," Pauline whispered through a blush.

"Pauline, you amaze me!" the old maid exclaimed. "My dear child, I hope
you'll let me wish you happiness." She came to Pauline and kissed with
cold lips her cheek. "You have always been so kind and considerate to
me. Yes, I am sure, without irreverence I can say you have been to me as
welcome as the sun. I pray that you will always be happy. Ah, the dear
fellow!" exclaimed Miss Verney, looking with the utmost affection to
where Guy was now completing the circuit of her borders. "The dear
fellow, how droll he must have thought it when I referred to you as Miss
Grey. Though to this flinging about of christian names without regard
for the sacredness of real intimacy, which is so common nowadays, I
shall never submit."

Miss Verney tapped upon the window to summon Guy within again. When he
was back in the drawing-room she fluttered towards him and took his
hand.

"My dear Mr. Hazlewood (for, my father having been a sailor, I must
always be rather blunter than most people), I have to congratulate you.
This dear child! My greatest friend in Wychford, and indeed, really, so
scattered now are all the people I have known, I might almost say, my
greatest friend anywhere! You are a most enviable young man. But the
secret is safe with me. No one shall know."

"I had to tell Miss Verney," Pauline explained.

"I'm delighted for Miss Verney to know," said Guy. "I only wish the time
were come when everybody could know."

Miss Verney was in a state of the greatest excitement, and made so many
references to her nautical paternity that Pauline half expected her to
hitch up her skirt and dance a triumphant hornpipe in the middle of the
cats' slow waltzing.

"This dear child," Miss Verney went on, clasping rapturous hands. "I
have known her since she was twelve. The dearest little thing! I really
wish you had known her; you would have fallen in love with her then, I
do declare." And Miss Verney laughed in a high treble at her joke.
"Lately I have been rather worried because I had an idea I was being
deserted. But now I understand the reason. Oh, the secret is perfectly
safe. In me you have a true sympathizer. Pauline will tell you that with
the people she loves, there is no one so sympathetic as I am." Suddenly
Miss Verney stopped and looked very suspicious. "You're not making an
April fool of me?" she asked.

"Miss Verney!" Pauline gasped. "How could you think I would joke about
love?"

The old maid's forehead cleared.

"Of course you wouldn't, my dear, but really this morning I have been so
pestered by some of the boys ringing the bell and saying my chimney is
on fire that ... ah, but I am ashamed of myself. You must forgive me,
Pauline. And is it not the thing to drink the health of lovers? There is
a bottle of sherry, I feel sure. I brought several bottles that were
left from my father's cellar, when I first came to Wychford, eight years
ago, and they have not all been drunk yet."

She rang the bell, and when the maid came in said:

"Mabel, if you take my keys and open the store-cupboard, you will find
some bottles of wine on the top shelf. Pray open one, and, having
carefully decanted it, bring it as carefully in with three glasses on
the silver tray."

Mabel naturally looked very much astonished at this order, and while she
was gone Miss Verney thought one after another of all the reasons that
Mabel could possibly ascribe to her request for wine.

"But she will never guess the real one," said Miss Verney.

The wine was brought in and poured out. Miss Verney coughed a great deal
over her glass, and two small pink spots appeared on her cheeks.

"I am sure," she said, "that when my dear father brought this wine back
from Portugal he would have been happy to know that some of it would be
drunk to the health of two young people in love. For he was, if I may
say so without impropriety, a great lady's man."

Pauline and Guy drank Miss Verney's health in turn, and thanked her for
the good omens she had wished for their love.

"My dear Pauline," said Miss Verney, "do you think? I wonder if I dare?
You know what I mean? Do you think I could show it to Mr. Hazlewood?"

"Do you mean the miniature?" whispered Pauline.

Miss Verney nodded.

"Oh, do, Miss Verney, do! Guy would so appreciate it," Pauline declared.

The old maid went to her bureau and from a small locked drawer took out
a leather case which she handed to Guy.

"The spring is broken. It opens very easily," she said in a gentle
voice.

Pauline forgot her shyness of Guy and leaned over his shoulder while he
looked at the picture of a young man rosy with that too blooming youth
which miniatures always portray.

"We were engaged to be married," said Miss Verney. "But circumstances
alter cases; and we were never married."

Pauline looked down at Guy with tears in her eyes and felt miserable to
be so happy when poor Miss Verney had been so sad.

"Thank you very much for showing me that," said Guy.

Soon it was time to say good-by to Miss Verney and, having made many
promises to come quickly again, they left her and went down the steep
High Street, where in many of the windows of the houses there were
hyacinths and on the old walls plum-trees in bloom.

"Pauline," said Guy, "let's go for a walk to-morrow morning and see if
the gorse is in bloom on Wychford down. There are so many things I want
to tell you."

"Do you think Mother will let us?"

"If we can go to tea with Miss Verney," said Guy, "we shall be able to
go for a walk. And I never see you alone in the Rectory."

"I'll ask Mother," said Pauline.

"You want to come?"

"Of course. Of course."

"You see," said Guy, "it's one of the places where I nearly told you I
loved you. And it wouldn't be fair not to tell you there, as soon as I
can."

In the Rectory everybody was anxious to know how Guy liked Pauline's
Miss Verney.

"Margaret, you are really unkind to laugh at her," protested Pauline.
"Guy understands, if you don't, how frightfully sympathetic she is. She
is one of the people who really understands about being in love."

Margaret laughed.

"Don't I?" she said.

"No, indeed, Margaret, sometimes I don't think you do," said Pauline.

"Nor I?" asked Monica.

"You don't at all!" Pauline protested.

"Well, if it means being like Miss Verney, I hope I never shall," said
Monica.

"Now, children, children," interrupted Mrs. Grey. "You must not be cross
with one another."

"Well, Mother, Margaret and Monica are not to laugh at Miss Verney,"
Pauline insisted. "And to-morrow Guy and I want as a great exception to
go for a walk to Wychford down. May we?"

"Well, as a great exception, yes," said Mrs. Grey; and Guy, with
apparently an access of grateful industry, said he must go home and
work.

Pauline wondered what Guy would have to tell her to-morrow, and she fell
asleep that night hoping she would not be shy to-morrow; for, since Guy
was still no more to Pauline than the personification of a vague and
happy love just as Miss Verney's miniature was the personification of
one that was not happy, she always was a little alarmed when the
personification became real.

Wychford down seemed to rest on billowy clouds next morning, so light
was Pauline's heart, so light was the earth on which she walked; and
when Guy kissed her the larks in their blue world were not far away, so
near did she soar upon his kiss to the rays of their glittering plumes.

"Every time I see you," said Guy, "the world seems to offer itself to
us more completely. I never kissed you before under the sky like this."

She wished he would not say the actual word, for it made her realize
herself in his arms and brought back in a flood all her shyness.

"I think it's dry enough to sit on this stone," said Guy.

So they sat on one of the outcrops of Wychford freestone that all around
were thrusting themselves up from the grass like old gray animals.

"Now tell me more about Miss Verney," he went on. "Why was her
love-affair unhappy?"

"Oh, she never told me much," said Pauline.

"You and I haven't very long," said Guy. "Love travels by so fast. You
and I mustn't have secrets."

"I haven't any secrets," said Pauline. "I had one about Richard, but you
know about him. And that was Margaret's secret, really. Why do you say
that, Guy?"

"I was thinking of myself," he answered. "I was thinking how little you
know about me--really not much more than you know of Miss Verney's
miniature."

"Guy, how strange," she said. "Last night I thought that."

Then he began to talk in halting sentences, turned away from her all the
time and digging his stick deep down in the turf, while Bob looked in
with anxious curiosity for what these excavations would produce.

"Pauline, I so adore you that it clouds everything to realize that
before I loved you I should have had love-affairs with other girls. Of
course they meant nothing, but now they make me miserable. Shall I tell
you about them or shall I.... Can I blot them for ever out of my mind?"

"Oh, don't tell me about them, don't tell me about them," Pauline
murmured in a low, hurried voice. She felt that if Guy said another word
she would run from him in a wild terror that would never let her rest,
that would urge her out over the down's edge in desperate descent.

"I don't want to tell you about them," said Guy. "But they've stood so
at the back of my thoughts whenever I have been with you; and yesterday
at Miss Verney's, I had a sense of guilt as if I were responsible in
some way for her unhappiness. I had to tell you, Pauline."

She sat silent under the song of the larks that in streams of melodious
light poured through their wings.

"Why do you say nothing?" he asked.

"Oh, don't let's talk about it any more. Promise me never to talk about
it. Oh, Guy, why 'of course'? Why 'of course'?"

"Of course?" he repeated.

"'Of course they meant nothing.' That seems so dreadful to me. Perhaps
you won't understand."

"Dear Pauline, isn't that 'of course' the reason they torment me?" he
said. "It isn't kind of you to assume anything else."

She forgave him in that instant; and before she knew what she had done
had put her hand impulsively on his. To the Pauline who made that
gesture he was no more the unapproachable lover, but some one whom she
had wounded involuntarily.

"My heart of hearts, my adored Pauline."

With a sigh she faded to him; with a sigh the dog sat down by his
master's neglected stick; with a sigh the April wind stole through the
thickets of gorse and out over the down. And always more and more
dauntlessly the larks flung before them their fountainous notes to
pierce those blue spaces that burned between the clouds. No more was
said of the past that morning, and with April come they were happy
sitting up there, although, as Guy said, such weather could hardly be
expected to last. And since this walk was a great exception to the rule
of their life, they were back at the Rectory very punctually, so that
by propitiating everybody with good behavior they might soon demand
another exception.

That night there recurred to Pauline, when she was in her room, a sudden
memory of what Guy had said to her about girls with whom he had had
love-affairs; and with the stark forms of shadows they made a procession
across her walls in the candle-light. She wished now she had let Guy
tell her more, so that she could give distinguishing lineaments of
humanity to each of these maddening figures. What were they like and
why, taken unaware, was she set on fire with rage to know them? For a
long while Pauline tossed sleeplessly on that bed to which usually
morning came so soon; and even when the candle was put out she seemed to
feel these forms of Guy's confession all about her. To-morrow she must
see him again; she could no longer bear to think of him alone. These
shapes that from his past vaguely jeered at her were to him endowed,
each, with what memories? Oh, she could cry out with exasperation even
in this silent house where she had lived so long unvexed!

"What is happening to me? What is happening to me?" asked Pauline, as
the darkness drew nearer to her. "Why doesn't Margaret come?"

She jumped out of bed and ran trembling to her sister's room.

"Pauline, what is it?" asked Margaret, starting up.

"I'm frightened, Margaret. I'm frightened. My room seemed full of
people."

"You goose. What people?"

"Oh, Margaret, I do love you."

She kissed her sister passionately; and Margaret, who was usually so
lazy, got out of bed and came back with her to her room, where she read
aloud _Alice in Wonderland_, sitting by the bed with her dark hair
fallen about her slim shoulders.

In the morning the impression of the night's alarm remained sharply
enough with Pauline to make her anxious to see Guy, without waiting for
the ordained interval to which they should submit; and all that day,
when he did not come, for the first time she felt definitely the
clamorous and persistent desire for his company, the absence of which
the old perfection of her home "was no longer able to counteract. For
the first time in her life the Rectory had a sort of emptiness; and
there was not a room on this tediously beautiful day, nor any nook in
the garden, which could calm her with the familiar assurance of home.
When the time for music came round, that night, it seemed to Pauline not
at all worth while to play quartets in celebration of a day that had
been so barren of events.

"Don't you want to play?" they asked her in surprise.

"Why should we play?" she countered. "But I'll listen to you, if you
like."

Of course she was persuaded into taking her part, and never had she been
so often out of tune and never had her strings snapped so continuously.
Always until to-night the performance of music had brought to her the
peaceful irresponsibilities of being herself in a pattern; now this
sense of design was irritating her with an arduous repression, until at
last she put down her violin and refused to play any more. Pauline felt
that the others knew the cause of her ill-temper, but none of them said
anything about Guy, and, with her for audience in one of the Caroline
chairs, they played trios instead.

Next day when Guy did come it was wet; and Pauline wished Margaret would
leave them together, so that they could talk; but Margaret stayed all
the afternoon in the nursery, and Pauline made up her mind that somehow
she must go for another walk with Guy.

She found her mother alone in the drawing-room before dinner.

"Mother, don't you think Guy and I might go for a walk to-morrow?"

"Oh, Pauline, you went for a walk together only the day before
yesterday. And you really must remember you're not engaged. The Wychford
people will gossip so, and that will make your father angry."

"Well, why can't we be engaged openly?"

"No, not yet. Now, please don't ask me. Pauline, I beg you will say no
more about it."

"Then I can go to-morrow," said Pauline. "Oh, Mother, you are so sweet
to me."

Mrs. Grey looked rather perplexed and as if she were vainly trying to
determine what she had said to make Pauline suppose that leave for walks
had been given. However, she evidently supposed it had; and when next
Guy came to the Rectory Pauline whispered to him they could go for a
walk if they did not have to go through Wychford. She could not
understand herself when she found it so difficult to tell Guy this
delightful news, for it was she who had managed it; and yet here she was
blushing in the revelation.

The fact that Wychford was out of bounds really made their walk more
magical, for Pauline and Guy went past the lily-pond and the lawn in
front of the house and slipped through the little wicket in the high
gray wall, as it were in the very eye of the nursery window. They
dallied for a while in the paddock, peering for fritillary buds; then
they crossed the rickety bridge to the water-meadows, a territory not
spied upon, silver-rosed with lady-smocks. To-day they would visit the
peninsula where under the moon they first had met.

Pauline, as they walked over the meads, no longer had the desire to ask
Guy more about his tale of old loves. His presence beside her had rested
her fears; and she made up her mind that the disquiet of the other
evening had been mere fatigue after the excitement of the day. This
secluded world from which they were now approaching the even greater
seclusion of their peninsula gave itself all to her and Guy.

"How often have I been here without you!" said Guy. "How often have I
wished you were beside me, and now you are beside me."

They were standing in a wreath of snowy blackthorn that almost veiled
even the narrow entrance to this demesne they held in fief of April.

"What did you think about me that night we met?" Guy asked.

And for perhaps the hundredth time she whispered how she had liked him
very much.

"Why don't you ask me what I thought about you?"

"What did you?" she whispered again.

"I went to sleep thinking of you," he said. "I did not know your name. I
loved you then, I think. Pauline, when next September comes we'll pick
mushrooms together--shall we? And I shall never gather any mushrooms,
because I shall always be gathering your hands. And the September
afterwards. Pauline! Shall we be married? Pauline Hazlewood! Say that."

She shook her head.

"Whisper it."

But she could not, and yet in her heart the foolish names were singing
together.

"How can I leave you?" Guy demanded.

"Leave me?" she echoed.

"I ought. I ought. You see, if I don't I shall never persuade my father
that we must be married next year. I must go to London and show that I'm
in earnest."

"But when will you go?" said Pauline in deep dismay.

"Is your voice sad?" he asked. "Pauline, don't you want me to go?"

"Of course I don't," she replied, turning up to his a face so miserable
that he held her to him and vowed he would not go.

"My dearest, I only thought it was my duty, but if you will believe in
me, then let me stay in Wychford. After all, you are young. I am young.
Why, you won't be twenty till May Morning. And I sha'n't be
twenty-three till next August. Even if we wait three years to be
married, we shall be always together, and it won't seem so long."

So with her arm in his Pauline walked on through the lady-smocks,
thinking that never had any one a lover so wonderful as this long-legged
lover beside her.

Holy Week was at hand, and in the variety of functions that Monica
insisted her father should hold and her family attend Pauline saw little
of Guy, although he came very often to church, sitting as stiff and
awkward, she thought, as a brass knight on a tomb. However, it pleased
her greatly Guy should come to church, since it pleased her family. Yet
that was least of all the true reason, and Pauline used to send the
angels that came to visit her down through the church to visit Guy; her
simple faith glowed with richer illumination when she thought of him in
church, and while her mother and Monica tried to pull the Wychford choir
through the notation of Solesmes, and while Margaret knelt apart in
carved abstraction, Pauline prayed that Guy would all his life wish to
keep Holy Week with her like this.

Pauline hurried through a shower to church on Easter Morning, and shook
mingled tears and raindrops from herself when she saw that Guy was come
to Communion. So then that angel had traveled from her bedside last
night to hover over Guy and bid him wake early next morning, because it
was Easter Day. With never so holy a calm had she knelt in the jeweled
shadows of that chancel or retired from the altar to find her pew
imparadised. When the people came out of church the sun was shining, and
on the trees and on the tombstones a multitude of birds were singing.
Never had Pauline felt the spirit of Eastertide uplift her with such a
joy, joy for her lover beside her, joy for Summer close at hand, joy for
all the joy that Easter could bring to the soul.

There were Easter eggs at breakfast dyed yellow, blue, and purple. There
were new white trumpet daffodils for the Rector to gaze at. There was
satisfaction for Monica in having defeated for ever Anglican chants, and
for Margaret a letter from Richard, though, to be sure, she did not seem
so glad of this as Pauline would have wished. There was all that happy
scene and a new quartet for her mother; and for Guy and herself there
was a long walk this afternoon to wherever they wanted to go.

At the beginning of the week Monica and Margaret went away on a visit,
to which they set out with the usual lamentations now redoubled because
they suddenly realized it was universal holiday time. With her two
eldest daughters away from the Rectory, Mrs. Grey was no match for
Pauline; so she and Guy had a week of freedom, wandering over the
country where they willed.

Wychford down saw them, and the water-meadows of the western valley. The
road to Fairfield knew their footsteps, and they even went to tea with
Mr. and Mrs. Ford, who talked of Richard out in India and bemoaned the
inferiority of their garden to the Rector's. They wandered by treeless
roads that led to the hills, and to the grassy solitudes that seemed
made to be walked over hand in hand. Once they went as far as the forest
of Wych, a wild woodland that lay remote from any village and where
along the glades myriads of primroses stared at them. Yet, though that
day had seemed to Pauline almost more delicately fair than any of their
days, it ended dismally with April in black misfeature, and before they
reached home they were wet through.

By ill luck her mother met her just as she was hurrying up to her room.

"Pauline," she said, with a good deal of agitation, "I must forbid these
walks with Guy every day. Wet to the skin! Oh dear, how careless of him
to take you so far! You must be reasonable and unselfish. It's so
difficult for me. Father asked where you were this afternoon, and I had
to pretend to be deaf. He notices more than you think. Now really Guy
must not come for a week, and there must be no more walks."

Guy, however, came the next afternoon, and not only was he reproved by
Mrs. Grey for yesterday's disaster, but actually he and Pauline were
allowed only a quarter of an hour together in the garden.

"I'll go into Oxford for a week," said Guy, with inspiration. "And then
we sha'n't be tempted to see each other this week, and if we don't see
each other this week, perhaps next week we shall be able to go out
again. Besides, I want to make arrangements about bringing the canoe
down. My friend Fane has wired to me to go and stay with him. He's up
for the Easter vac, working. Shall I go?"

Pauline wanted to say no, but she was, even after all these walks, still
too shy to bid him stay.

"Perhaps you'd better go," she agreed. "But, Guy, come back for my
birthday."

"As if I should stay away for that! Pauline, will you write to me? At
least in letters you won't be shy to say you love me."

"Oh no, Guy, no. My writing is so horrid."

"But you must write. Pauline, if you want to know why I'm really going
away, it's simply to have a letter from you."

"You must write to me first then," she whispered.

In truth Pauline felt terrified to think how she would ever begin a
letter to Guy. He would cease to love her any more after she had written
to him. He would hate her stupid letters.

"I shall be glad to see Michael again," said Guy. "But I suppose I must
not say anything about you. No, I won't talk about you. Oxford will be
wonderfully quiet without undergraduates, and I shall have letters from
you."

Mrs. Grey came out into the garden.

"Now, Guy, I think you ought to go. Because really the Rector is
getting worried about you and Pauline."

"I'm going into Oxford, Mrs. Grey."

"Well, that is a charming idea--charming, yes."

"But I'll be back for Pauline's birthday."

"Charming--charming," Mrs. Grey still declared. "The Rector will have
forgotten all about it by then."

So Guy left Pauline for a week, and perhaps for more than a week.
Margaret and Monica came home next day, and really, she thought, it was
upsetting all the old ways of her life when she found herself not very
much interested in what they had been doing. Miss Verney with her
ecstatic praise of Guy was better company; but next morning her first
love-letter arrived, and she could not resist peeping into it at
breakfast.

  99 ST. GILES, OXFORD,
  _April 18th_.

     MY ADORED PAULINE,--It's really all I can do to stay in Oxford.
     Even Fane seems dull, and though his rooms are jolly, I long for
     you.

     Have I told you what you are to me? Have I once been able to tell
     you....

Ah, there were pages crammed full and full of words that she must read
alone. She could not read them here with her mother and sisters looking
at her over the table. She must read them high in her white fastness at
the top of the house. There all the morning she sat, and when she had
read of his love once, she read of it again and then again, and once
again. How foolish her answering letter would be; how disappointed Guy
would be; but since she had promised, she must write to him; and,
sitting at her desk that was full of childish things, she curled herself
over the note-paper.



MAY


A pleasant company of thoughts traveled with Guy and his bicycle on the
road to Oxford. In this easy progress the material hindrances to
marriage were not seeming very important, and as he thought of his love
for Pauline it spread before him, untroublous like the road down which
he was spinning before a light breeze. With so much to compensate for
their brief parting it was impossible to feel depressed; and as Guy drew
near the city he felt he was an undergraduate again; and when he greeted
Michael Fane in St. Giles he could positively hear his own Oxford drawl
again. It was really delightful to be sitting here in view of his old
college; and when after lunch he and Michael started for Wytham woods,
more and more Guy was in an Oxford dream and carrying off the fantastic
notion of the Parnassian academy with all the debonair confidence of his
second year. Yet Guy knew that the scheme was absurd, and when Michael
argued against it in his solemn way he found himself taking the other
side from a mere undergraduate pleasure in argument. Indeed, Michael
declared he had become a freshman since he went down, which made Guy
stop dead, ankle-deep in kingcups, and laugh aloud for his youth, with
hidden thoughts of Pauline to make him rejoice that he was young. He
laughed again at Michael's seriousness and flung his scheme to the broad
clouds, for on this generous day he and Pauline were enough, and neither
anybody else's opinion nor anybody else's help was worth a second
thought. The heartening warmth, however, did not last; and when towards
evening the sun faded in a blanch of watery clouds with a cold wind for
aftermath, Guy felt Michael might have been more sympathetic. Rather
silently they walked back from Godstow, with Pauline between them; so
that, after all, Guy thought, Michael was still an undergraduate,
whereas he had embarked upon life.

That night, however, when the curtains were drawn across Michael's bay
window that overhung the whispering and ancient thoroughfare; when the
fire burned high and the tobacco smoke clouded the glimmer of the books
on the walls; when his chair creaked with that old Oxford creaking--Guy
forgave Michael for any lack in his reception of the great plan. After
all, he was writing to Pauline while his host was reading the
Constitutional History of England at a table littered with heavy
volumes, on which he brooded like a melancholy spectator of ruins. He
must not be hard on Michael, who had not yet touched life, when for
himself the vision of Pauline was wreathing this old room with starry
blooms of wild rose. The letter was finished, and Guy went out to drop
it in the pillar-box. His old college brooded at him across the road;
to-morrow Pauline would get his letter; to-night there would be rain;
to-morrow Pauline would get his letter! The envelope, as it shuffled
down into the letter-box, seemed to say "yes."

When Guy was back in the funny St. Giles room, he decided there was
something rather finely ascetic about Michael seated there and reading
imperturbably in the lamplight. His courteously fatigued manner was
merely that of the idealist who had overreached himself; there was
nothing bilious about him, not even so much cynicism as had slightly
chilled Guy's own career at Oxford; rather did there emanate from
Michael a kind of medieval steadfastness comparable only to those stone
faces that look calmly down upon the transitory congregations of their
church. Michael had this solemn presence that demanded an upward look,
and once again an upward look, until without conversation the solemnity
became a little disquieting. Guy felt bound to interrupt with
light-hearted talk of his own that slow, still gaze across the
lampshine.

"Dash it, Michael! don't brood there like a Memento Mori. Put away Magna
Charta and talk to me. You used to talk."

"_You_ talk, Guy. You've been living alone all this time. You must have
a great deal to say."

So Guy flung theories of rhyme and meter to overwhelm Magna Charta; and,
next day, he and Michael walked all over Oxford in the rain, he himself
still talking. The day after there came with the sun a letter from
Pauline which he took away with him to read in the garden of St. John's,
leaving Michael to Magna Charta.

There was nobody on the lawn, and Guy sat down on a wooden seat in air
that was faintly perfumed by the precocious blooms of a lilac breaking
to this unusual warmth of April. Unopened the letter rested in his hand;
for his name written in this girlish charactery took on the romantic
look of a name in an old tale. A breathlessness was in the air, such as
had brooded upon Pauline's first kiss; and Guy sat marmoreal and rapt in
an ecstasy of anticipation that he would never have from any other
letter; so still he was that an alighting blackbird slipped over the
grass almost to his feet before it realized the mistake and shrilled
away on startled wings into the bushes behind. The trance of expectation
was spoiled, and Guy with a sigh broke the envelope.

  WYCHFORD RECTORY, OXON,
  _Wednesday_.

     I am writing to you at my desk. I began this morning but it was
     time to go out when I began. Now it's after tea. Margaret came in
     just now and said I looked all crinkled up like a shell: it's
     because I simply don't know how to write to you. I have read your
     letter over and over again. I never thought there could be such a
     wonderful letter in the world. But I feel very sorry for poor
     Richard who can't write letters as exquisite as yours. I really
     feel miserable about him. And this letter to you makes me feel
     miserable because I can't write letters even as well as Richard.
     Mother was glad you thought of going to Oxford because she says we
     are a great responsibility to her. Isn't she sweet? She really is,
     you know. So I talked to Father myself very seriously. I explained
     to him that I was quite old enough to know my own mind, and he
     listened to all the things I told him about you. He said he
     supposed it was innevitable, which looks very funny somehow. Are
     you laughing at my spelling? And then he said it was nothing to do
     with him. So of course I rushed off to Mother and told her and
     when you come back we are to be allowed to go out twice a week and
     in three more months we can be engaged properly. Are you happy?
     Only, dear Guy, Mother doesn't want you to come back till my
     birthday. She thinks the idea of you and me will be better when
     Father has got an Iris lorti or some name like that. He has never
     had a flower of it before and he's so excited about it's coming
     out just when my birthday is. Every day he goes down and pinches
     the stalk of it. He says it's the loveliest flower in the world
     and grows on Mount Lebanon. So if it comes out on my birthday, you
     and I can certainly be engaged in August. Guy, I do hate my
     handwriting.

  Your loving
  PAULINE.

It was a letter of gloriously good news, thought Guy, though he was a
little disappointed not to have had the thrill of Pauline's endearment.
Then, on the blank outside page, he saw scrawled in writing that went
tumbling head over heels down the paper: _My darling Guy, I love you and
underneath I have kissed the letter for you._

The sentence died out in faint ink that seemed to show forth the whisper
in which it had been written. For Guy the tumble-down letters were
written in fire; and with the treasure in his heart of that small
sentence, read a hundred times, he did not know how he should endure ten
long days without Pauline, and in this old college garden, on this
sedate and academic lawn, he cried out that he adored her as if indeed
she were beside him in this laylocked air. At the sound of his voice the
birds close at hand were all silent; they might have stopped to listen.
Then a green finch called, "Sweet! sweet!" whose gentle and persistent
proclamation was presently echoed by all the other birds twittering
together again in the confused raptures of their Spring.

The days with Michael at St. Giles went by slowly enough, and their
fairness was a wasted boon. Guy wrote many long letters to Pauline and
received from her another letter in which she began with "_My dearest_,"
as he had begged her. Yet when he read the herald vocative, he wished he
had not tried to alter that old abrupt opening, for never again would
she write in the faint ink of shyness such a sentence as had tumbled
down the back of her first letter.

Michael seemed to divine that he was in love, and Guy wondered why he
could not tell him about it. Once or twice he nearly brought himself to
the point, but the thought of describing Pauline kept him mute; Michael
must see her first. The canoe would be ready at the end of the week, and
Guy announced he should paddle it up to Wychford, traveling from the
Isis to the upper Thames, and from the upper Thames turning aside at
Oldbridge to follow the romantic course of the Greenrush even to his own
windows.

"Rather fun," said Michael, "if the weather stays all right."

"By Jove!" Guy exclaimed, "I believe it was at Oldbridge Inn that I
first met you."

"On May Day three years ago," Michael agreed.

And, thought Guy, with a compassionate feeling for mere friendship, what
a much more wonderful May Day should be this when Pauline was twenty.
There was now her birthday present to buy, and Guy set out on the quest
of it with as much exaltation as Percival may have sought the Holy
Grail. He wished it were a ring he could buy for her; and indeed
ultimately he could not resist a crystal set on a thin gold circlet that
she, his rose of girls, would wear like a dewdrop. This ring, however,
could not be his formal gift, but it would have to be offered when they
were alone, and it must be worn nowhere but in the secret country they
haunted with their love. The ring, uncostly as it was, took nearly all
Guy's spare money, and he decided to buy a book for her, because in
Oxford bookshops he still had accounts running. The April afternoon wore
away while in his own particular bookshop kept by Mr. Brough, an ancient
man with a white beard, he took down from the shelves volume after
volume. At last he found a small copy of Blake's Lyrics bound in faded
apple-green calf and tooled in a golden design of birds, berries, and
daisies. This must be for Pauline, he decided, since some one must have
known the pattern of that nursery wall-paper and, loving it, have wished
it to be recorded more endurably. What more exquisite coincidence could
assure him that this book was meant for Pauline? Yet he was half jealous
of the unknown designer who had thought of something of which himself
might have thought. Oh yes, this must be for Pauline; and as Guy rescued
it from the dust and darkness of the old shop he ascribed to the green
volume an emotion of relief, and was half aware of promising to it a new
and dearer owner who with cherishing would atone for whatever misfortune
had brought it to these gloomy shelves.

Next morning, when Guy was ready to start, Michael presented him with a
glazier's diamond pencil.

"When you fall in love, Guy, this will serve to scribble sonnets to your
lady on the lattices of Plashers Mead. I shall probably come there
myself when term's over."

"I wish you'd come and live there with me," said Guy in a last effort to
persuade Michael. "You see, if you shared the house it wouldn't cost so
much."

"Perhaps I will," said Michael. "Who knows? I wonder what your Rectory
people would think of me?"

"Oh, Pauline would like you. Pauline's the youngest, you know," added
Guy. "And I'm pretty certain you'd like Monica."

Michael laughed.

"Really, Guy, I must tell them in Balliol that since you went down
you've become an idle matchmaker. Good-by."

"Good-by. You're sure you won't mind the fag of forwarding my bicycle?
I'll send you a post-card from Oldbridge."

Guy, although there was still more than a week before he would see
Pauline, felt, as he hurried towards the boat-builder's moorings, that
he would see her within an hour, such airy freedom did the realization
of being on his way give to his limbs.

The journey to Wychford seemed effortless, for whatever the arduousness
of a course steadily up-stream, it was nullified by the knowledge that
every time the paddle was dipped into the water it brought him by his
own action nearer to Pauline. A railway journey would have given him
none of this endless anticipation, traveling through what at this time
of the year, before the season of boating, was a delicious solitude. Guy
could sing all the way if he wished, for there was nothing but
buttercups and daisies, lambs and meadows and greening willows, to
overlook his progress. He glided beneath ancient bridges and rested at
ancient inns, nearer every night to Pauline. Scarcely had such days a
perceptible flight, and were not May Morning marked in flame on his
mind's calendar, he could have forgotten time in this slow, undated
diminution.

  "O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
  Oh, stay and hear; your true love's coming,
  That can sing both high and low:
    Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
  Journeys end in lovers meeting,
    Every wise man's son doth know."

This was the song Guy flung before his prow to the vision of Pauline
leading him.

  "What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
  Present mirth hath present laughter;
    What's to come is still unsure:
  In delay there lies no plenty;
  Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
    Youth's a stuff will not endure."

This was the song that Guy felt Shakespeare might have written to suit
his journey now, as he paddled higher and higher up the stream that
flowed towards Shakespeare's own country.

The banks of the Greenrush were narrower than the banks of the Thames;
and all the way they were becoming narrower, and all the way the stream
was running more swiftly against him. It was Sunday evening when he
reached Plashers Mead; and so massively welded was the sago on his
Sheraton table that Guy wondered if Miss Peasey, to be ready for his
arrival, had not cooked it a week ago. But what did sago matter when in
his place there was laid a note from Pauline?

     MY DEAREST,--I've had all your letters and I've been very
     frightened you'd be drowned. To-morrow you've got to come to
     breakfast because I always have breakfast in the garden on my
     birthday unless it pours. I'm going to church at eight. I love you
     a thousand times more and I _will_ tell you so to-morrow and give
     you twenty kisses.

  Your own
  PAULINE.

     Do you like "your own" better than "your loving"?

Guy went to bed very early and resolved to wake at dawn that he might
have the hours of the morning for thoughts of Pauline on her birthday.

It was after dawn when Guy woke, for he had fallen asleep very tired
after his week on the river; still it was scarcely six when he came
down into the orchard, and the birds were singing as Guy thought he had
never heard them sing before. The apple-trees were already frilled with
a foam of blossom; and on quivering boughs linnets with breasts
rose-burnt by the winds of March throbbed out their carol. Chaffinches
with flashing prelude of silver wings flourished a burst of song that
broke as with too intolerable a triumph, then sought another tree and
poured forth the triumphant song again. Thrushes, blackbirds, and
warblers quired deep-throated melodies against the multitudinous trebles
of those undistinguished myriads that with choric pæan saluted May; and
on sudden diminuendoes could be heard the rustling canzonets of the
goldfinches, rising and falling with reedy cadences.

Guy launched his canoe, which crushed the dewy young grass in its track
and laded the morning with one more fragrance. He paddled down the
mill-stream and, landing presently in the Rectory paddock, now in full
blow with white and purple irises, he went through the wicket into the
garden. When he reached the lily-pond the birds on the lawn flew away
and left it green and empty. He stood entranced, for the hush of the
morning lay on the house, and in the wistaria Pauline's window dreamed,
wide open. Deep in the shrubberies the birds still twittered
incessantly. Why was he not one of these birds, that he might light upon
her sill? Upon Guy's senses stole the imagination of a new fragrance,
that was being shed upon the day by that wide-open window; a fragrance
that might be of flowers growing by the walks of her dreams. And surely
in those flowery dreams he was beside her, since he had lost all sense
of being still on earth. A bee flew out from Pauline's room, an enviable
bee which had been booming with indefinite motion for how long round and
round the white tulips on her sill. Presently another bee flew in; and
Guy's fancy, catching hold of its wings, hovered above Pauline where she
lay sleeping. So sharp was the emotion he had of entering with the bee,
that he was aware of brushing back her light-brown hair to lean down and
kiss her forehead; and when the belfry clock clanged he was startled to
find himself back upon this green and empty lawn. He must not stay here
in front of her window, because if she woke and came in her white
nightgown to greet the day she would be shy to see him standing here.
Reluctantly Guy turned away and would have gone out again by the wicket
in the wall if he had not come face to face with Birdwood.

"I think I'm a bit early," he said in some embarrassment.

"Yes, I think you are a bit early, sir," the gardener agreed.

"Breakfast won't be till about half past eight?" Guy suggested.

"And it's just gone the half of six," said Birdwood.

"Would you like to see my canoe?" Guy asked.

Birdwood looked round the lawn, seeming to imply that, such was Guy's
liberty of behavior, he half expected to see it floating on the
lily-pond.

"Where is it, then?" he asked.

Guy took him through the paddock to where the canoe lay on the
mill-stream.

"Handy little weapon," Birdwood commented.

"Well, I'll see you later, I expect," said Guy, embarking again. "I'm
coming to breakfast at the Rectory."

"Yes, sir," the gardener answered, cheerfully. "In about another hour
and a half I shall be looking for the eggs."

Guy waved his hand and shot out into midstream, where he drifted idly.
Should he go to church this morning? Pauline must have wanted him to
come, or she would not have told him in her note that she was going.
They had never discussed the question of religion. Tacitly he had let it
be supposed he believed in her simple creed, and he knew his appearance
of faith had given pleasure to the family as well as to Pauline
herself. Was he being very honest with her or with them? Certainly when
he knelt at the back of the church and saw Pauline as he had seen her on
Easter Day, it was not hard to believe in divinity. But he did not carry
away Pauline's faith to cheer his own secret hours. The thought of
herself was always with him, but her faith remained as a kind of vision
upon which he was privileged to gaze on those occasions when, as it
were, she made of it a public confession. Had he really any right to
intrude upon such sanctities as hers would be to-day? No doubt every
birthday morning she went to church, and the strangeness of his presence
seemed almost an unhallowing of such rites. Even to attend her birthday
breakfast began to appear unjustifiable, as he thought of all the
birthday breakfasts that for so many years had passed by without him and
without any idea of there ever being any necessity for him. No doubt
this morning he, miserable and unworthy skeptic, would be dowered with
the half of her prayers, and in that consciousness could he bear to
accept them, kneeling at the back of the church, unless he believed
utterly they were sanctified by something more than her own maidenhood?
Yet if he did not go to church Pauline would be disappointed, because
she would surely expect him. She would be like the blessed damozel
leaning out from the gold bar of Heaven and weeping because he did not
come. There was no gain from honesty, if she were made miserable by it.
It were better a thousand times he should kneel humbly at the back of
the church and pray for the faith that was hers. And why could he not
believe as she believed? If her faith were true, he suffered from
injustice by having no grace accorded to him. Or did there indeed lie
between him and her the impassable golden bar of Heaven? A cloud swept
across the morning sun, and Guy shivered. Then the church-bell began to
clang and, urging his canoe towards the churchyard, he jumped ashore and
knelt at the back of the church.

Guy had been aware during the service of the saintly pageant along the
windows of the clerestory slowly dimming, and he was not surprised, when
he came out, to see that clouds were dusking the first brilliance of the
day. Mrs. Grey, Monica, and Margaret had prayed each in a different part
of the church; but now in the porch they fluttered about Pauline with an
intimate and happy awareness of her birthday, almost seeming to wrap her
in it, so that she in flushed responsiveness wore all her twenty years
like a bunch of roses. Guy was sensitive to the faint reluctance with
which her mother and sisters resigned her to him on this birthday
morning; but yet to follow them back from church with Pauline beside him
in a trepidation of blushes and sparkles was too dear a joy for him in
turn to resign. Half-way to the house Pauline remembered that her father
had been left alone. This was too wide a breach in her birthday's
accustomed ceremony, and, much dismayed, she begged Guy to go back with
her. At that moment the rest of the family had disappeared round a curve
in the walk, and Guy caught Pauline to him, complaining she had not
kissed him since he was home.

"Oh, but Father!" she said, breathlessly, tugging. "He'll be so hurt if
we've gone on without him."

Guy felt a stab of jealousy that even a father should intrude upon his
birthday kiss for her.

"Oh, very well," he said, half coldly. "If to see me again after a
fortnight means so little...."

"Guy," said Pauline, "you're not cross with me? And Father was so sweet
about you. He said, 'Is Guy coming to breakfast?' Guy, you mustn't mind
if I think a lot about everybody to-day. You see, this is my first
birthday when there has been you."

"Oh, don't remind me of the years before we met," said Guy. "I hate them
all. No, I don't," he exclaimed in swift penitence. "I love them all.
Hurry, darling girl, or we shall miss him."

Pauline's eyes were troubled by a question, behind which lurked a
fleeting alarm.

"Kiss me," she murmured. "I was horrid."

A kind of austerity informed their kiss of reconciliation, an austerity
that suited the sky of impending rain under which they were standing in
the light of the last wan sunbeam. Then they hurried to the churchyard,
where in the porch the Rector was looking vaguely round for company he
expected.

"Lucky my friend _Lorteti_ came out yesterday. This rain will ruin him.
You must take Guy to see that iris, my dear. Fancy! twenty-one to-day!
Dear me! dear me! Most remarkable!"

Pauline danced with delight behind the Rector's back.

"He thinks I'm twenty-one," she whispered. "Oh, Guy, isn't he sweet? And
he called you Guy. Oh, Francis," she cried, "do let me kiss you!"

There was a short debate on the probability of the rain's coming before
breakfast was done, but it was decided, thanks to Birdwood's optimism,
to accept the risk of interruption by sitting down outside. The table
was on the lawn, Pauline's presents lying in a heap at the head. As one
by one she opened the packets, everybody stood round her, not merely her
mother and father and sisters and Guy, but also Birdwood and elderly
Janet and Mrs. Unger the cook and Polly who helped Mrs. Unger.

"Oh, I'm so excited!" said Pauline. "Oh, I do hope it won't rain! Oh,
thank you, Mrs. Unger! What a beautiful frame!"

"I hope yaw'll find some one to put in it, miss," said Mrs. Unger with a
glance of stately admiration towards her present and a triumphant side
look at Janet, who after many years' superintendence of Pauline's white
fastness had brought her bunches of lavender and woodruff tied up with
ribbons. All the presents were now undone, among them Guy's green
volume, a paste buckle from Margaret, a piece of old embroidery from
Monica, and from Richard in India a pair of carved bellows, at the
prodigal ingenuity of whose pattern Margaret looked a little peevish.
When all the other presents had been examined, Birdwood stepped forward
and with the air of a conjuror produced from under his coat a pot of
rose-colored sweet-peas that exactly matched the frail hue of Pauline's
cheeks.

Breakfast was eaten, with everybody's eyes watching the now completely
gray sky. How many such birthday breakfasts had been eaten on this cool
lawn by these people, who in their simplicity were akin to the birds in
their shrubberies and the flowers in their borders; and Guy thought of
an old photograph taken by an uncle of Pauline's tenth birthday
breakfast, when the table was heaped high with dolls and toys and
Pauline in the middle of them, while Monica and Margaret, with legs as
thin as thrushes', stood shy and graceful in the background. He sighed
to himself with amazement at the fortune which like a genie had whisked
him into this dear assemblage.

Breakfast was over just as the rain began to fall with the tinkling
whisper that forebodes determination. There was not a leaf in the garden
that was not ringing like an elfin bell to these silver drops; but,
alas! the unrelenting windless rain gave no hope to Guy and Pauline of
that long walk together they had expected all a fortnight. There was
nothing to do but sit in the nursery and wonder if it would ever stop.

"I used to love rain when it kept me here," said Guy. "Now it has become
our enemy."

Worse was to come, for it rained every day faster and faster, and there
were no journeys for Guy's new canoe. He and Pauline scarcely had ten
minutes to themselves, since when they were kept in the house all the
family treated them with that old proprietary manner. The unending rain
began to fret them more sharply because Spring's greenery was in such
weather of the vividest hue and was reproaching them perpetually for
the waste of this lovely month of May.

The river was rising. Already Guy's garden was sheened with standing
moisture, and the apple-blossoms lay ruined. People vowed there had
never been such rain in May, and still it rained. The river was running
swiftly, level with the top of its banks, and many of the meadows were
become glassy firmaments. Very beautiful was this green and silver
landscape, but, oh, the rain was endless. Guy grew much depressed and
Miss Peasey got rheumatism in her ankles. Then in the middle of the
month, when Guy was feeling desperate and when even Pauline seemed sad
for the hours that were being robbed from them, it cleared up.

Guy had been to tea, and after tea he and Pauline had sat watching the
weather. Margaret had stayed with them all the afternoon, but had left
them alone now, when it was half past six and nearly time for Guy to go.
The clouds, which all day had spread their pearly despair over the
world, suddenly melted in a wild transplendency of gold.

"Oh, do let's go for a walk before dinner," said Guy. "Don't let's tell
anybody, but let's escape."

"Where shall we go?"

"Anywhere. Anywhere. Out in the meadows by the edge of the water. Let's
get sopping wet. Dearest, do come. We're never free. We're never alone."

So Pauline got ready; and they slipped away from the house, hoping that
nobody would call them back, and hurrying through the wicket into the
paddock where the irises hung all sodden. They walked along the banks of
a river twice as wide as it should be, and found they could not cross
the bridge. But it did not matter, for the field where they were walking
was not flooded, and they went on towards the mill. Here they crossed
the river and, hurrying always as if they were pursued, such was their
sense of a sudden freedom that could not last, they made a circuit of
the wettest meadows and came to the hill on the other side. Everywhere
above them the clouds were breaking, and all the west was a fiery mist
of rose and gold.

The meadow they had found was crimsoned over with ragged-robins that in
this strange light glowered angrily like rubies. Pauline bent down and
gathered bunches of them until her arms were full. Her skirt was wet,
but still she plucked the crimson flowers; and Guy was gathering them
too, knee-deep in soaking grass. What fever was in the sunset to-night?

"Pauline," he cried, flinging high his bunch of ragged-robins to scatter
upon the incarnadined air, "I have never loved you as I love you now."

Guy caught her to him; and into that kiss the fiery sky entered, so that
Pauline let fall her ragged-robins and they lay limp in the grass and
were trodden under foot.

"Pauline, I have a ring for you," he whispered. "Will you wear it when
we are alone?"

She took the thin circlet set with a crystal and put it on her finger.
Then with passionate arms she held him to her heart; the caress burned
his lips like a flaming torch; the crystal flashed with hectic gleams, a
basilisk, a perilous orient gem.

"We must go home," she whispered. "Oh, Guy, I feel frightened of this
evening."

"Pauline, my burning rose," he whispered.

And all the way back into the crimson sunset they talked still in
whispers, and of those rain-drenched ragged-robins there was not one
they carried home.

  La belle Dame sans mercy hath thee in thrall!
  La belle Dame sans mercy hath thee in thrall!
  La belle Dame sans mercy hath thee in thrall!

The words did not cool Guy's pillow that night, but they led him by
strange ways into a fevered sleep.



SUMMER



JUNE


When Pauline reached the Rectory dinner had already begun in the mixture
of candle-light and rosy dusk that seemed there more than anything to
mark Summer's instant approach, and as with flushed cheeks she took her
place at table she was conscious of an atmosphere that was half
disapproval, half anxiety; or was it that she, disapproving of herself,
expected criticism? Positively there was an emotion of being on her
defense; she felt propitiatory and apologetic; and for the first time
she was sharply aware of herself and her family as two distinct facts.
It was to dispel this uneasy sense of potential division that she took
up her violin with a faintly exaggerated willingness, and that, instead
of dreaming of Guy in a corner of the room, she played all the evening
in the same spirit of wanting to please.

Her mother asked if she had enjoyed her walk, and Pauline had positively
to fight with herself before she could answer lightly enough that the
walk had been perfect. Why was her heart beating like this, and why did
her sisters regard her so gravely? It must be her fancy, and almost
defiantly she continued:

"There was no harm in my going out with Guy, was there? We've not been
together at all lately."

"Why should there be any particular harm this evening?" Monica inquired.

"Of course not, Monica," and again her heart was beating furiously. "I
only asked because I thought you all seemed angry with me for being a
little late for dinner."

"I don't know why we should suddenly be sensitive about punctuality in
this house," said Margaret.

Pauline had never thought her own white fastness offered such relief and
shelter as to-night; and yet, she assured herself, nobody had really
been criticizing her. It must have been entirely her fancy, that air of
reproach, those insinuations of cold surprise. People in this house did
not understand what it meant to be as much in love as she. It was all
very well for Margaret and Monica to lay down laws for behavior,
Margaret who did not know whether she loved or not, Monica who
disapproved of anything more directly emotional than a Gregorian chant.
Yet they had not theorized to-night, nor had they propounded one rule of
behavior; it was she who was rushing to meet their postulates and
observations, arming herself with weapons of offense before the attack
had begun. Yet why had neither Monica nor Margaret, nor even her mother,
come to say good night to her? They did not understand about love, not
one of them, not one of them.

"Pauline?"

It was her mother's voice outside her door, who, coming in, seemed
perfectly herself.

"Not undressed yet? What's the matter, darling Pauline? You look quite
worried, sitting there in your chair."

"I'm not worried, Mother. Really, darling, I'm not worried. I thought
you were cross with me."

Now she was crying and being petted.

"I don't know why I'm crying. Oh, I'm so foolish! Why am I crying? Are
you cross with me?"

"Pauline, what is the matter? Have you had a quarrel with Guy?"

"Good gracious, no! What makes you ask that? We had an exquisite walk,
and the sunset was wonderful, oh, so wonderful! And we picked
ragged-robins--great bunches of them. Only I forgot to bring them home.
How stupid of me! Monica and Margaret aren't angry with me, are they?
They were so cold at dinner. Why were they? Mother, I do love you so.
You do understand me, don't you? You do sympathize with love? Mother, I
do love you so."

When Pauline was in bed her mother fetched Margaret and Monica, who both
came and kissed her good night and asked what could have given her the
idea that they were angry with her.

"You foolish little thing, go to sleep," said Monica.

"You mustn't let your being in love with Guy spoil the Rectory," said
Margaret. "Because, you know, the Rectory is so much, much better than
anything else in the world."

Her mother and sisters left her, going gently from the room as if she
were already asleep.

Pauline read for a while from Guy's green volume of Blake; then taking
from under her pillow the crystal ring, she put it on her third finger
and blew out the light.

Was he thinking of her at this moment? He must be, and how near they
brought him to her, these nights of thoughts, for then she seemed to be
floating out of her window to meet him half-way upon the May air. How
she loved him; and he had given her this ring of which no one knew
except themselves. It was strange to have been suddenly frightened in
that sunset, for now, as she lay here looking back upon it, this evening
was surely the most wonderful of her life. He had called her his burning
rose. His burning rose ... his burning rose? Why had she not brought
back a few of those ragged-robins to sit like confidantes beside her
bed? Flowers were such companions; the beautiful and silent flowers. How
far away sleep was still standing from her; and Pauline got out of bed
and leaned from the window with a sensation of resting upon the buoyant
darkness. The young May moon had already set, and not a sound could be
heard; so still, indeed, was the night that it seemed as if the stars
ought to be audible upon their twinkling. If now a nightingale would but
sing to say what she was wanting to say to the darkness! Nightingales,
however, were rare in the trees round Wychford, and the garden stayed
silent. Perhaps Guy was leaning from his window like this, and it was a
pity their lights could not shine across, each candle fluttering to the
other. If only Plashers Mead were within view, they would be able to sit
at their windows in the dark hours and sometimes signal to each other.
Or would that be what Margaret called "cheapening" herself? Had she
cheapened herself this evening when she had kissed him for the gift of
this ring? Yet could she cheapen herself to Guy? He loved her as much as
she loved him; and always she and he must be equal in their love. She
could never be very much reserved with Guy; she did not want to be. She
loved him, and this evening for the first time she had kissed him in the
way that often in solitude she had longed to kiss him.

"I only want to live for love," she whispered.

Naturally Margaret did not know what love like hers meant; and perhaps
it was as well, for it was sad enough to be parted from Guy for two
days, when there was always the chance of seeing him in the hours
between; but to be separated from him by oceans for two years, as
Richard and Margaret were separated, that would be unbearable.

"I suppose Margaret would call it 'cheapening' myself to be standing at
my window like this. Good night, dearest Guy, good night. Your Pauline
is thinking of you to the very last moment of being the smallest bit
awake."

Her voice set out to Plashers Mead, no louder than a moth's wing; and,
turning away from the warm May night, Pauline went back to bed and fell
asleep on the happy contemplation of a love that between them was
exactly equal.

The floods went down rapidly during the week; green Summer flung her
wreaths before her; the cuckoo sang out of tune, and other birds more
rarely; chestnut-blossoms powdered the grass; and the pinks were
breaking all along the Rectory borders. These were days when not to idle
down the river would have been a slight upon the season. So Pauline and
Guy, with their two afternoons a week, which were not long in becoming
four, spent all their time in the canoe. The Rectory punt could only be
used on the mill-stream; and Pauline rejoiced, if somewhat guiltily,
that they could not invite either of her sisters to accompany them. She
and Guy had now so much to say to each other, every day more, it seemed,
that it was impossible any longer not to wish to be alone.

"Margaret says we are becoming selfish. Are we?" she asked, dragging her
fingers through the water and perceiving the world through ranks of
fleurs-de-lys.

Guy, from where in the stern he sat hunched over his paddle, asked in
what way they were supposed to be selfish.

"Well, it is true that I'm dreadfully absent-minded all the time. You
know, I can't think about anything but you. Then, you see, we used
always to invite Margaret to be with us, and now we hurry away in the
canoe from everybody."

"One would think we spent all our time together," said Guy, "instead of
barely four hours a week."

"Oh, Guy darling, it's more than that. This is the fourth afternoon
running that we've been together; and we weren't back yesterday till
dinner-time."

Guy put a finger to his mouth.

"Hush! We're coming to the bend in the river that flows round the place
we first met," he whispered. "Hush! if we talk about other people it
will be disenchanted."

He swung the canoe under the bushes, tied it to a hawthorn bough, and
declared triumphantly, as they climbed ashore up the steep bank, that
here was practically a desert island. Then they went to the narrow
entrance and gazed over the meadows, which in this sacred time of
growing grass really were impassable as the sea.

"Not even a cow in sight," Guy commented in well-satisfied tones. "I
shall be sorry when the hay is cut, and people and cattle can come here
again."

"People and cattle! How naughty you are, Guy! As if they were just the
same!"

"Well, practically, you know, as far as we're concerned, there isn't
very much difference."

For a long while they sat by the edge of the stream in their fragrant
seclusion.

"Dearest," Pauline sighed, "why can I listen to you all day, and yet
whenever anybody else talks to me why do I feel as if I were only half
awake?"

"Because even when you're not with me," said Guy, "you're still really
with me. That's why. You see, you're still listening to me."

This was a pleasant explanation; but Pauline was anxious to be reassured
about what Margaret had hinted was a deterioration in her character
lately.

"Perhaps we are a little selfish. But we won't be, when we're married."

Guy had been scribbling on an envelope which he now handed to her; and
she read:

  Mrs. Guy Hazlewood
  Plashers Mead
  Wychford
  Oxon.

"Oh, Guy, you know I love to see it written; but isn't it unlucky to
write it?"

"I don't think you ought to be so superstitious," he scoffed.

She wished he were not obviously despising the weakness of her beliefs.
This was the mood in which she seemed farthest away from him; when she
felt afraid of his cleverness; and when what had been simple became
maddeningly twisted up like an object in a nightmare.

Yet worries that were so faint as scarcely to have a definite shape
could still be bought off with kisses; and always when she kissed Guy
they receded out of sight again, temporarily appeased.

June, which had come upon them unawares, drifted on towards Midsummer,
and the indolent and lovely month mirrored herself in the stream with
lush growth of sedges and grasses, with yellow water-lilies budding,
with starry crowfoot and with spongy reeds and weeds that kept the canoe
to a slow progress in accord with the season. At this time, mostly, they
launched their craft in the mill-stream, whence they glided under
Wychford bridge to the pool of an abandoned mill on the farther side.
Here they would float immotionable on the black water, surrounded by
tumble-down buildings that rose from the vivid and exuberant growth of
the thick-leaved vegetation flourishing against these cold and decayed
foundations. Pauline was always relieved when Guy with soundless paddle
steered the canoe away from these deeps. The mill-pool affected her with
the merely physical fear of being overturned and plunged into those
glooms haunted by shadowy fish, there far down to be strangled by weeds
the upper tentacles of which could be seen undulating finely to the
least quiver upon the face of the water. Yet more subtly than by
physical terrors did these deeps affect her, for the fathomless
mill-pool always seemed, as they hung upon it, to ask a question. With
such an air of horrible invitation it asked her where she was going with
Guy, that no amount of self-reproach for a morbid fancy could drive away
the fact of the question's being always asked, however firmly she might
fortify herself against paying attention. The moment they passed out of
reach of that smooth and cruel countenance, Pauline was always ashamed
of the terror and never confided in Guy what a mixture of emotions the
mill-pool could conjecture for her. Their journey across it was in this
sunny weather the prelude to a cool time on the stream that flowed along
the foot of the Abbey grounds. During May they had been wont to paddle
directly up the smaller main stream, exploring far along the western
valley; but on these June afternoons such a course involved too much
energy. So they used to disembark from the canoe, pulling it over a
narrow strip of grass to be launched again on the Abbey stream, which
had been dammed up to flow with the greater width and solemnity that
suited the grand house shimmering in eternal ghostliness at the top of
the dark plantation. Pauline had no dread of Wychford Abbey at this
distance, and she was fond of gliding down this stream into which the
great beeches dipped their tresses, shading it from the heat of the sun.

Every hour they spent on the river made them long to spend more hours
together, and Pauline began to tell herself she was more deeply in love
than any one she had ever known. Everything except love was floating
away from her like the landscape astern of the canoe. She began to
neglect various people in Wychford over whom she had hitherto watched
with maternal solicitude; even Miss Verney was not often visited,
because she and Guy could not go together, the one original rule to
which Mrs. Grey still clung being a prohibition of walking together
through the town. And with the people went her music. She did not
entirely give up playing, but she always played so badly that Monica
declared once she would rather such playing were given up. In years gone
by Pauline had kept white fantail pigeons; but now they no longer
interested her and she gave them away in pairs. Birdwood declared that
the small bee-garden, which from earliest childhood had belonged to her
guardianship, was a "proper disgrace." Her tambour-frame showed nothing
but half-fledged birds from which since Winter had hung unkempt shreds
of blue and red wool. And even her mother's vague talks about the poor
people in Wychford had no longer an audience, because Margaret and
Monica never had listened, and now Pauline was as inattentive as her
sisters. Nothing was worth while except to be with Guy. Not one moment
of this June must be wasted, and Pauline managed to set up a precedent
for going out on the river with him after tea, when in the cool
afternoon they would float down behind Guy's house under willows, under
hawthorns, past the golden fleurs-de-lys, past the scented flags, past
the early meadowsweet and the flowering rush, past comfrey and
watermint, figwort, forget-me-not, and blue crane's-bill that shimmered
in the sun like steely mail.

On Midsummer Day about five o'clock Pauline and Guy set out on one of
these expeditions that they had stolen from regularity, and found all
their favorite fields occupied by haymakers whose labor they resented as
an intrusion upon the country they had come to regard as their own.

"Oh, I wish I had money!" Guy exclaimed. "I'd like to buy all this land
and keep it for you and me. Why must all these wretched people come and
disturb the peace of it?"

"I used to love haymaking," said Pauline, feeling a little wistful for
some of those simple joys that now seemed uncapturable again.

"Yes. I should like haymaking," Guy assented, "if we were married. It's
the fact that haymakers are at this moment preventing us being alone
which makes me cry out against them. How can I kiss you here?"

A wain loaded high with hay and laughing children was actually standing
close against the ingress to their own peninsula. The mellow sun of
afternoon was lending a richer quality of color to nut-brown cheeks and
arms; was throwing long shadows across the shorn grass; was gilding the
pitchforks and sparkling the gnats that danced above the patient horses.
It was a scene that should have made Pauline dream with joy of her
England; yet, with Guy's discontent brooding over it, she did not care
for these jocund haymakers who were working through the lustered
afternoon.

"Hopeless," Guy protested. "It's like Piccadilly Circus."

"Oh, Guy dear, you are absurd. It's not a bit like Piccadilly Circus."

"I don't see the use of living in the country if it's always going to be
alive with people," Guy went on. "We may as well turn round. The
afternoon is ruined."

When they reached the confines of Plashers Mead he exclaimed in deeper
despair:

"Pauline! I must kiss you; and, look, actually the churchyard now is
crammed with people, all hovering about over the graves like ghouls. Why
does everybody want to come out this afternoon?"

They landed in the orchard behind the house, and Pauline was getting
ready to help Guy push the canoe across to the mill-stream, when he
vowed she must come and kiss him good night indoors.

"Of course I will; though I mustn't stay more than a minute, because I
promised Mother to be back by seven."

"I don't deserve you," said Guy, standing still and looking down at her.
"I've done nothing but grumble all the afternoon, and you've been an
angel. Ah, but it's only because I long to kiss you."

"I long to kiss you," she murmured.

"Do you? Do you?" he whispered. "Oh, with those ghouls in the churchyard
I can't even take your hand."

They crossed the bridge from the orchard and came round to the front of
the house into full sunlight, and thence out of the dazzle into Guy's
hall that was filled with water melodies and the green light of their
own pastoral world. Close they kissed, close and closer in the coolness
and stillness.

"Pauline! I shall go mad for love of you."

"I love you. I love you," she sighed, nestling to his arms' inclosure.

"Pauline!"

"Guy!"

Each called to the other as if over an abyss of years and time.

Then Pauline said she must go back, but Guy reminded her of a book she
had promised to read, and begged her just to come with him to the
library.

"I do want to talk to you once alone in my own room," he said. "The
evenings won't seem so empty when I can think of you there."

She could not disappoint him, and they went up-stairs and into his green
room that smelt of tobacco smoke and meadowsweet. They stood by the
window looking out over their territory, and Guy told for the hundredth
time how, as it were, straight from this window he had plunged to meet
her that September night.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed, suddenly, reading on the pane that was scrabbled
with mottoes cut by himself in idle moments with the glazier's pencil:

  The fresh green lap of fair King Richard's land.
  Michael Fane. _June 24_.

"That's to-day! Then Michael must be here. What an extraordinary thing!"

Guy looked round the room for any sign of his friend; but there was
nothing except the Shakespearian record of his presence. Pauline felt
hurt that he should be so much interested in a friend when but a moment
ago he had brought her here as if her presence were the only thing that
counted for his evening's pleasure.

"I must find out where he is," exclaimed Guy.

Now he wanted to be rid of her, thought Pauline, and for the first time,
when he had kissed her, she kissed him coldly in response. More bitter
still was the thought that he did not remonstrate; he had not noticed.
Pauline said she must hurry away, and Guy did not persuade her to stop.
Oh, how she hated this friend of his! She had no one in whom she would
be even mildly interested when she was with Guy. He took her home in the
canoe, speculating all the way about Michael Fane's whereabouts; and as
Pauline went across the Rectory paddock there were tears of
mortification in her eyes that sometimes burnt as hotly even as with
jealousy's rage.

Her mother was on the lawn when she got back, and Pauline blinked her
eyes a good deal to throw the blame of tears upon the sun.

"Ah, you're back. Let's take a little walk round the garden," said Mrs.
Grey in the nervous manner that told of something on her mind.

They went into the larger wall-garden and walked along the wide
herbaceous borders through a blaze of snapdragons that here all day had
been swallowing the sunshine.

"Where did you go with Guy?" her mother asked.

"We went down the river, and they're cutting the grass in the big
meadow, and then afterwards...."

"Oh, Pauline, afterwards you went into Guy's house with him?"

Pauline nodded. "I know. I was just going to tell you."

"Pauline, how could you do such a thing?"

"I only went to say good night. I wasn't there five minutes."

Why should an action so simple be vexing her mother?

"Are you angry with me for going?"

"You must never do such a thing again," said Mrs. Grey, more crossly
than Pauline had ever heard her. "Monica saw you go in as she was
walking down Shipcot hill, and she has just this moment come and told
me."

"But why shouldn't I go in and say good night?" Pauline asked. "There
were people in the churchyard. I thought it was better to say good
night in the house."

Her mother was tremendously pink with vexation, and Pauline looked at
her in surprise. It was really unaccountable that such a trifling
incident as going into Guy's house could have made her as angry as this.
She must have offended her in some other way.

"Mother, what have I done to annoy you?"

"I can't think what made you do anything so stupid as that. I can't
think. I can't think. So many people may have seen you go in."

"Well, Mother darling, surely by this time," said Pauline, "everybody
must know we are really engaged."

Her mother stood in an access of irritation.

"And don't you understand how that makes it all the worse? Please never
do such an inconsiderate thing again. You can imagine how much it upset
Monica, when she ran back to tell me."

"Why didn't she come in and fetch me?" asked Pauline. "That would have
been much easier. I think she thoroughly enjoyed making a great fuss
about nothing. Everybody has been criticizing me lately. I know you all
disapprove of anybody's being in love."

"Pauline, when you are to blame, you shouldn't say such unkind things
about Monica."

"I have to say what I think sometimes," Pauline replied, rebelliously.

"And as for Guy," Mrs. Grey went on, "I am astonished at his
thoughtlessness. I can't understand how he could dream of letting you
come into his house. I can't understand it."

"Yes, but why shouldn't I go in?" Pauline persisted. "Darling Mother,
you go on being angry with me, but you don't tell me why I shouldn't go
in."

"Can't you understand what the Wychford people might think?"

Pauline shook her head.

"Well, I sha'n't say any more about it," Mrs. Grey decided. "But you
must promise me never, never to do such a foolish thing again."

"I'll promise you never to go to Guy's house," said Pauline. "But I
can't promise never to do foolish things when such perfectly ordinary
things are called foolish."

Mrs. Grey looked helplessly round her, but as neither of her two elder
daughters was present she had nothing to say; and Pauline, who thought
that all the fuss was due to nothing but Monica's unwarranted
interference, had nothing to say, either; so they walked along the
herbaceous borders, each with a demeanor of reproach for the other's
failure to understand. The snapdragons lolled upon the sun with
gold-bloomed anthers, and drank more and still more color until they
were drenched beyond the deepest dyes of crimson, extinguishing the
paler hues of rose and chrome which yet at moth-time would show like
lamps when the others had dulled in the discouragement of twilight.

"You mustn't think anything more about it," said her mother, after a
long pause. "I'm sure it was only heedlessness. I don't think you can
say I'm too strict with you and Guy. Really, you know, you ought to have
had a very happy June. You've been together nearly all the time."

"Darling," said Pauline, utterly penitent for the least look that could
have wounded her mother's feelings, "you're sweet to us. And Guy loves
you nearly as much as I do."

The gong sounded upon the luteous air of the evening; and Pauline, with
her arm closely tucked into her mother's arm, walked with her across the
lawn towards the house.

"It's no good looking crossly at me," she said, when like a beautiful
ghost Monica came into the dining-room. "I've explained everything to
Mother."

"I'm very glad you have," Monica answered, austerely; and because she
would not fall in with her own forgiving mood, Pauline took the gentle
revenge of not expostulating with her that evening when there was an
opportunity. Nor would she let Margaret refer to the subject. Her
sisters were very adorable, but they knew nothing about love, and it
would only make them more anxious to lay down laws if she showed that
she was aware of their disapproval. She would be particularly charming
to them both this evening, but her revenge must be never to mention the
incident to either.

The principal result of her mother's rebuke had been to drive away
Pauline's anger with Guy and the jealousy of his friend. All she thought
now was of the time when next they would meet and when she would be able
to laugh with him over the absurdity of other people pretending to know
anything about the ways of love or of lovers like themselves. She
decided also that, as a penance for having been angry with Guy, she
would take care to inquire the very first thing about the mystery of the
inscription on the window. Oh, but how she hoped that his friend had not
come to stay at Plashers Mead, for that would surely spoil this Summer
of theirs.

The next afternoon, when Pauline went into the paddock, Guy was awaiting
for her on the mill-stream, her place in the canoe all ready as usual.

"Have you found your friend?" she asked, faithful to her resolution.

"Not a sign of him," said Guy. "What on earth he came for, I can't
think. Miss Peasey never saw him, and of course she never heard him. He
must have been bicycling. However, don't let's waste time in talking
about Michael Fane."

Pauline smiled at him with all her heart. How wonderful Guy was to
reward her so richly for the little effort it had cost to inquire about
his friend!

"I've been prospecting this morning," he announced, as they shot along
in the direction of the bridge. "They haven't started to make hay on
the other side, so I'm going to paddle you furiously up-stream until we
find some secret and magical meadow where we can hide and forget about
yesterday's fiasco."

They glided underneath the bridge and left it quivering in the empty
sunlight behind them; they swept silently over the mill-pond while
Pauline held her breath. Then the banks closed in upon their canoe and
Guy fought his way against the swifter running of the water, on and on,
on and on between the long grasses of the uncut meadows, on and on, on
and on past the waterfall where the Abbey stream joined the main stream
and gave it a wider and easier course.

"Phew! it's hot," Guy exclaimed. "Sprinkle me with water."

She splashed him, laughing; and he seized her hand to kiss her dabbled
fingers.

"Laugh, my sweet, sweet heart," he said. "It was your laugh I heard
before I ever heard your voice, that night when I stood and looked at
you and Margaret as if you were two silver people who had fallen down
from the moon."

Again she sprinkled him, laughing, and again he seized her hand and
kissed her dabbled fingers.

"They're as cool as coral," he said. "Why are you wrinkling your nose at
me? Pauline, your eyes have vanished away!"

He plucked speedwell flowers and threw them into her lap.

"When I haven't got you with me," he said, "I have to pretend that the
speedwells are your eyes, and that the dog-roses are your cheeks."

"And what is my nose?" she asked, clapping her hands because she was
sure he would not be able to think of any likeness.

"Your nose is incomparable," he told her, and then he bent to his paddle
and made the canoe fly along so that the water fluted to right and left
of the bows. Ultimately they came to an island where all the afternoon
they sat under a willow that was pluming with scanty shade a thousand
forget-me-nots.

Problems faded out upon the languid air, for Pauline was too well
content with Guy's company to spoil the June peace. At last, however,
she disengaged herself from his caressing arm and turned to him a
serious and puzzled face. And when she was asking her question she knew
how all the afternoon it had been fretting the back of her mind.

"Why was Mother angry with me yesterday because I came into Plashers
Mead to say good night to you?"

"Was she angry?" asked Guy.

"Well, Monica saw us and got home before me and told her, and she was
worried at what people would think. What would they think?"

Guy looked at her; then he shook his fist at the sky.

"Oh, God, why must people try...."

She touched his arm.

"Guy, don't swear. At least not.... You'll call me superstitious and
foolish," she murmured, dismayfully, "but really it hurts me to hear you
say that."

"I don't think you anything but the most lovely and perfect thing on
earth," he vowed, passionately. "And it drives me mad that people should
try to spoil your naturalness ... but still ... it was thoughtless of
me."

"But why, why?" she asked. "That's the word Mother used about you. Only
why, why? Why shouldn't I go and say good night?"

"Dear, there was no harm in that. But, you see, village people might say
horrible things.... I was dreadfully to blame. Yes, of course I was."

She flushed like a carnation at dawn; and when Guy put his arm around
her she drew away.

"Oh, Guy," she said, brokenly, "I can't bear to think of being alone
to-night. I shall be asking questions all the night long; I know I
shall. It's like that horrid mill-pool."

"Mill-pool?" he echoed, looking at her in perplexity.

She sighed and stared sadly down at the forget-me-nots.

"You wouldn't understand; you'd think I was hysterical and stupid."

Silently they left the island, and silently for some time they floated
down the stream; then Pauline tossed her head bravely.

"Love's rather cruel in a way."

Guy looked aghast.

"Pauline, you don't regret falling in love with me?"

"No, of course not, of course not. Oh, I love you more than I can say."

When Guy's arms were round her again Pauline thought that love could be
as cruel as he chose; she did not care for his cruelty.



JULY


Guy had been conscious ever since the rose-gold evening of the
ragged-robins of new elements having entered into his and Pauline's love
for each other. All this month, however, June creeping upon them with
verdurous and muffled steps had plotted to foil the least attempt on
Guy's part to face the situation. Now the casual indiscretion of
yesterday brought him sharply against it, and, as in the melancholy of
the long Summer evening he contemplated the prospect, it appeared
disquieting enough. In nine months he had done nothing; no quibbling
could circumvent that deadly fact. For nine months he had lived in a
house of his own, had accepted paternal help, had betrothed himself; and
with every passing month he had done less to justify any single one of
the steps. What were the remedies? The house might be sublet; at any
rate, his father's bounty came to an end this quarter; engaging himself
formally to Pauline, he could throttle the Muse and become a
schoolmaster, and in two years perhaps they could be married. It would
be a wrench to abandon poetry and the hope of fame, indeed it would
stagger the very foundations of his pride; but rather than lose Pauline
he would be content to remain the obscurest creature on earth.
Literature might blazon his name; but her love blazoned his soul. Poetry
was only the flame of life made visible, and if he were to sacrifice
Pauline what gasping and ignoble rushlight of his own would he offer to
the world?

Yet could he bear to leave Pauline herself? The truth was he should
have gone in March, when she was in a way still remote and when like a
star she would have shone as brightly upon him absent or present. Now
that star was burning in his heart with passionate fires and fevers and
with quenchless ardors. It would be like death to leave her now; were
she absent from him her very name would be as a draught of liquid fire.
More implacable, too, than his own torment of love might be hers. If he
had gone in March, she would have been gently sad, but in those first
months she still had other interests; now if he parted from her she
would merely all the time be growing older and they would have between
them and their separation the intolerable wastage of their youth.
Pauline had surrendered to love all the simple joys which had hitherto
occupied her daily life; and if she were divided from him, he feared for
the fire that might consume her. It was he who had kindled it upon that
rosaureate evening of mid-May, and it was he who was charged with her
ultimate happiness. The accident of yesterday had reminded him sharply
how far this was so, and a sense of the tremendous responsibility
created by his love for her lay upon Guy. He must never again give her
family an occasion to remonstrate with her; he had been the one to
blame, and he wished Mrs. Grey had spoken to him without saying anything
to Pauline. How sad this long evening was, with reluctant day even now
at half past nine o'clock still luminous in the west.

Next morning there was a letter for Guy from his father.

  FOX HALL, GALTON, HANTS,
  _June 24th_.

     MY DEAR GUY,--I inclose the balance of the sum I gave you, and I
     hope it will have been enough to pay all the debts at which you
     hinted in your last letter. I do not think it would be fair to you
     to hamper you with any more money. In fact, I trust you have
     already made up your mind not to ask for any.

     You'll be sorry to hear that Wilkinson has fallen ill and must go
     abroad at once. This makes it imperative for me to know at once if
     you are coming to help me next September. If you are, I'm afraid I
     must ask you to come here immediately and take Wilkinson's place
     this term. I'm sorry to drag you away from your country estate,
     but I cannot go to the bother of getting a temporary master and
     then begin again with you in September. It unsettles the boys too
     much. So if you want to come in September, you must come now. You
     will only miss a month of your house and I hope that during the
     seven weeks of the summer holidays you will be able to transfer
     yourself comfortably and abandon it for ever.

     Take a day to think over my proposal and telegraph your answer
     to-morrow.

  Your affectionate father,
  JOHN HAZLEWOOD.

It seemed fateful, the arrival of this letter on top of the doubts of
last night. A day was not long in which to make up his mind. And yet,
after all, a moment was enough. He ought to go; he ought to telegraph
immediately before he could vacillate; he must not see Pauline first; he
ought to accept this offer. Farewell, fame!

Guy opened the front door and walked into Birdwood come with a note from
the Rectory.

"Miss Pauline took me away from my work to give you this most particular
and important and wait for the answer," said the gardener.

Guy asked him to step inside and see Miss Peasey while he went up-stairs
to write the reply.

"Miss Peasey doesn't think much of your variety, Birdwood. She says the
garden is entirely blue."

"What, all those dellyphiniums the Rector raised with his own hand and
she don't like blue!"

Birdwood shook his head to express another defeat at the hands of
incomprehensible woman. A moment later, as Guy went up to his room with
Pauline's note, he heard him bellow in the kitchen:

"What's this I hear, mum, about the garden being too blue?"

Then Guy closed the door of the library and shut out everything but the
sound of the stream.

     MY DARLING,--I've got such exciting news. Mr. Delamere who's a
     friend of ours has asked us to stay in his barge--I mean he's lent
     us the barge for us to stay in. It's called the Naiad and it's on
     the Thames at Ladingford and when we've finished with it we're
     going to have it towed down to Oxford and come back from there by
     train. Mother asked if you would like to come and stay with us for
     a fortnight. Think of it, a fortnight! Margaret is coming and
     Monica is going to stay with Father, who can't leave the garden.
     Oh, Guy, I'm wild with happiness! We're to start on the first of
     July about. Do send me a little note by Birdwood. Of course I know
     there's no need. But I would love to have a little note especially
     as we sha'n't see each other till after lunch.

  Your own adoring
  PAULINE.

Guy wrote the little note to Pauline, and to his father he wrote a long
letter explaining that it was impossible to give up what he was doing to
be a schoolmaster.

It was peerless weather when they set out in Godbold's wagonette on the
nine miles to Ladingford. Guy was thrilled to be traveling like this
with Mrs. Grey, Margaret, and Pauline. The girls were in flowered muslin
dresses, seeming more airy than he had ever thought them; and the
luggage piled up beside Godbold had the same exquisite lightness, so
that it appeared less like luggage than a store of birds' feathers. The
thought of nearly having missed this summery pilgrimage made Guy catch
his breath.

They arrived at Ladington towards tea-time and found the barge lying by
an old stone bridge about a mile away from the village. Apart from the
spire of Ladingford church nothing conspicuously broke the horizon of
that flat, green country stretching for miles to a shadowy range of
hills. Whichever way they looked, these meads extended, with here and
there willows and elms; close at hand was the quiet by-road that crossed
the bridge and meandered over the low lands, as still and traffickless
as the young Thames itself.

The _Naiad_ was painted peacock-blue; owing to the turreted poops the
owner had superimposed and the balustrade with rail of gilt gadroons, it
almost had the look of a dismasted Elizabethan ship.

"Anything more you'll want?" Godbold inquired.

"Nothing more, thank you, Mr. Godbold," said Mrs. Grey. "Charming ...
charming ... such a pleasant drive. Good afternoon, Mr. Godbold."

The carrier turned his horse; and when the sound of the wagonette had
died away there was silence except where the stream lapped against the
barge and where very far off some rooks were cawing.

Guy and Pauline had resolved that they would give Margaret no chance of
calling them selfish during this fortnight; and since they were together
all the time, it was much easier now not to wish to escape from
everybody. The first week went by in such a perfection of delight as Guy
had scarcely thought was possible. Indeed, it remained ultimately
unimaginable, this dream-life on the _Naiad_. A pleasant woman in a
sunbonnet came to cook breakfast and dinner; and Pauline and Margaret
went to Ladingford and bought sunbonnets, a pink one for Pauline and for
Margaret one of watchet blue. In the fresh mornings Guy and the sisters
wandered idly over the meads; but in the afternoon Margaret generally
read a book in the shade while Guy and Pauline went for walks, walks
that ended always in sitting by the river's edge and telling each other
the tale of their love. The nights with a clear moon waxing to the full
were entrancing. There was a small piano on the barge, the notes of
which had been brought by damp almost to the timbre of an exhausted
spinet. It served, however, for Mrs. Grey to accompany Pauline while
she played on a violin simple tunes. Guy used to lie back on the deck
and count the stars above Pauline's pavans and galliards; then from the
silence that followed he would see her coming, shadowy, light as the
dewfall, to sit close beside him, to sit, her hand in his, for an hour
while the moon climbed the sky and the fern-owls croaked in their
hunting. And as the romantic climax of the day, it was wonderful to fall
asleep with the knowledge that Pauline slept nearer to him than she had
ever slept before.

"Guy ought to go and see the Lamberts at the Manor," Mrs. Grey announced
at the end of the second week. "I've written to Mrs. Lambert. It will be
interesting for him."

Guy was thrilled by the notion of visiting Ladingford Manor, which had
been one of the great fortresses of romance held against the devastating
commercial morality of the Victorian prime with its science and
sciolism, and which possessed already some of the fabulous appeal of the
medieval songs and tapestries John Lambert had created there. An
invitation came presently to walk over any afternoon. Margaret said at
first she would not go; but Guy, who was in a condition of excited
reverence, declared she must come; and so the three of them set out
across a path in the meads that Guy populated with romantic figures of
the mid-Victorian days. On this stile Swinburne may have sat; here
Burne-Jones may have looked back at the sky; and surely it were
reasonable to suppose that Rossetti might have tied up his shoe on this
big stone by this brook, even as Guy was tying up his shoe now. Soon
they saw a group of elms and the smoke of clustered chimneys; there
golden-gray in front of them stood Ladingford Manor.

"There's the sort of stillness of fame about it," Guy whispered.

He wondered if Mrs. Lambert would now resemble at all the famous
pictures of her he had seen. And would she talk familiarly of the
famous people she had known? They came to the gate, entering the garden
along a flagged path on either side of which runnels flowed between
borders of trim box. Mrs. Lambert was sitting in a yew parlor under a
blue-silk umbrella that was almost a pavilion, and she received them
with many comments upon the energy of walking so far on this hot
afternoon.

"You would like some beer, I'm sure. There is a bell in that
mulberry-tree. If you toll the bell Charlotte will bring you beer."

Guy tolled the bell, and Charlotte arrived with a pewter tray and pewter
mugs of beer. Margaret would not be thirsty, but Pauline was afraid of
hurting Mrs. Lambert's feelings, and she pretended to drink, lancing
blue eyes at Guy over the rim of her mug.

"It's home-brewed beer," said Mrs. Lambert, placidly, and then she
leaned back and sighed at the dome of her blue-silk umbrella. She was
still very beautiful, and Guy had a sensation that he was sitting at the
feet of Helen or Lady Flora the lovely Roman. She was old now, but she
wore about her like an aureole the dignity of all those inspirations of
famous dead painters.

"Home-brewed beer," Mrs. Lambert repeated, dreamily, and seemed to fall
asleep in the past; while in the bee-drowsed yew parlor Pauline,
Margaret, and Guy sat watching her. The throat of Sidonia the sorceress
was hers; the heavy lids of Hipparchia were hers; the wrist of
Ermengarde or Queen Blanche was hers; and the pewter tray on the grass
at her feet held Circe's wine.

Then Mrs. Lambert woke up and asked if they would like to see the house.

"Toll the bell in the mulberry-tree, and Charlotte will come. You must
excuse my getting up."

They followed Charlotte round the rooms of Ladingford Manor. There on
the walls were the tapestries that had inspired John Lambert, and there
were the tapestries even more beautiful that himself had woven. On the
tables were the books John Lambert had printed, which gave positively
the aspect of being treasures by the discretion of their external
appearance. In other rooms hung the original pictures of hackneyed
mezzotints; and how rare they looked now with their velvety pigments of
emerald and purple, of orange, cinnabar and scarlet glowing in the
tempered sunlight! Margaret, as she moved from room to room, seemed with
her weight of dusky hair and fastidious remoteness to belong to the
company of lovely women whose romances filled these splendid scenes; but
Pauline was life, irradiating with her joy each picture and giving to it
the complement of its own still beauty.

"Mrs. Lambert keeps very well, miss," said Charlotte, as they came out
again from the house. "But, of course, she doesn't get about much now.
Yet we can't really complain, especially with this fine weather."

"Would you like some more beer?" Mrs. Lambert asked, when they joined
her again in the yew parlor.

They said they were no longer thirsty; and, having thanked her for the
pleasures of the visit, they left her in the past, returning by the
pale-green path across the meadows to where the _Naiad_ lay by the old
bridge.

"Oh, I did want some tea," sighed Margaret.

"I love Mrs. Lambert," cried Pauline, dancing through the meads. "Wasn't
it touching of her to offer Margaret beer? Oh, Guy, when we're married
and when you die and I receive young poets at Plashers Mead, shall I
offer their future sisters-in-law home-brewed beer? Oh, but I'm sure I
shall forget to offer them anything."

Was there any reason, thought Guy, why Plashers Mead should not become a
second Ladingford Manor? Friends long ago took that house together;
perhaps Michael Fane would, after all, see the necessity of a second
Ladingford Manor and share Plashers Mead with himself and Pauline. After
this visit it was impossible to contemplate the prospect of being a
schoolmaster; it was impossible to imagine Pauline as a schoolmaster's
wife. At all costs their love must be sustained on the pinnacle of
romance where now it stood. Margaret would sympathize with his desire to
set Pauline in beauty; she, dreading the idea of marrying an Indian
engineer, would understand how impossible it was to make Pauline the
wife of a schoolmaster. Such a declaration must somehow be avoided. It
were better they should wait three years for marriage, five years,
fourteen years as Tennyson had waited, rather than that he should make
the monstrous surrender he had been so near to making. At least he would
put himself and his work to the test, and in a year he would be able to
publish his first volume of poems. Perhaps his father would realize then
that he deserved to marry Pauline. After all, they were together; there
were maddening restrictions, of course, but they were together. This
visit to Ladingford Manor must be accepted as an omen to persevere in
his original intention; for he had been granted the vision of a
perfected beauty, which he knew, by reading the lives of the men who
made it, had only been achieved after desperate struggles and
disappointments. This enchanted time on the _Naiad_ must be the
anticipated reward of a tremendous industry when he got back to
Wychford. He would no more break the rules and fret at the restrictions
made for him and Pauline. Every hour when they were together should
henceforth be doubled in the intensity of its capacity for being
enjoyed. One thing only he would demand, that in August they should be
formally and openly engaged. Otherwise when Autumn came and made it
impossible to go on the river, they would be kept to the Rectory; and
the few hours of her company he would have must at least be free. He
would talk to Margaret about it, so that she might use her influence to
procure this favor. Then he would write and tell his father. All would
be easy; Ladingford had inspired him. He beheld the visit in retrospect
more and more clearly as an exhortation to endure against whatever the
world should offer him to betray his ambition. Yet was Pauline the
world? No, certainly Pauline had no kinship with the world, and
therefore he was the more straitly bound to disregard the voice of
material prosperity. She had joked about herself as a Mrs. Lambert of
the future; but behind the lightness of her jest had stood confidence in
himself and in his fame. Should he imprison that spirit of mirth and
fire in the husk of a schoolmaster's wife?

The second week passed; the time at Ladingford was over, and early in
the morning they must start for the journey of thirty miles down to
Oxford. The dapple-gray horse that would tow the barge was already
arrived, and now stood munching the long grass in the shade of the
bridge; the swallows were high in the golden air of the afternoon; the
long-purples on the banks of the young river seemed to await
reproachfully the disturbance of their tranquillity. To-morrow came; the
dapple-gray horse was harnessed to the rope; and then slowly, slowly the
_Naiad_ glided forward, leaving astern the gray bridge, the long-purples
on the bank, and the swallows high in the silver air of the morning.
There was not yet any poignancy of parting; for the spire of Ladingford
church remained so long in sight that scarcely did they notice the slow
recession; and often, when they thought it was gone, the winding river
would show it to them again; and in the end, when really it seemed to
have vanished, by standing on the poop they could still make out where
now it pierced thinly the huge sky. Moreover, the contentment of that
imperceptible evanescence and of their dreaming progress down the young
Thames was plenary, lulling all regrets for a peace that seemed not yet
truly to be lost. The hay in the meadows along the banks was mostly
carried, and the cattle were magically fused with the July sunlight,
curiously dematerialized like the creatures of a mirage. If a human
voice was audible, it was audible deep in the green distance and
belonged to the landscape as gently as the murmurous water scalloping
the bows. Sometimes, indeed, they would pass late mowers who leaned upon
their scythes and waved good fortune to the journey, but mostly it was
all an emptiness of air and grass.

"If only this young Thames flowed on for ever!" said Guy.

He and Pauline were leaning over the rail of the barge, and Guy felt a
sudden impulse to snatch at the bank rich in that moment with yellow
loosestrife, and by his action arrest for ever the progress of the
barge, so that for ever they would stay like the lovers on a Grecian
urn.

"And really," Guy went on, as already the banks of yellow loosestrife
were become banks of long-purples, "there is no reason why for us in a
way this river should not flow on for ever. Dear, everything had seemed
so perishable before I found you. Pauline, you don't think I ought to
surrender my intention, do you? I mean, you don't think I ought to go
away from Plashers Mead?"

Guy went on to tell her about the decision he had taken on the day the
visit to Ladingford was arranged.

"But it would have been dreadful to miss this time," Pauline declared.

"Oh, I felt it would be impossible," he agreed. "But even if our
marriage is postponed for another year, you do think I ought to stick it
out here, don't you? And really, you know, few lovers can have such
wonderful hours as the hours we do have."

Easily she reassured him with her confidence in the rightness of his
decision; easily she assuaged the ache of any lingering doubt with the
proclamation of that inevitable triumph in the end.

"But we must be engaged openly," said Guy. "You know I shall be
twenty-three next month. Do you think we can be engaged properly in
August?"

"Mother promised in Spring," said Pauline. "Why don't you talk to her
about it? Why don't you talk to her about it now? She loves you to talk
to her."

He looked round to where Mrs. Grey was sitting in a deck-chair;
evidently by the rhythmic motion of her fingers she was restating to
herself a tune which had formerly pleased her, as the barge glided on
past a scene that changed perceptibly only in details of flowers and
trees, while the great sky and the green hollow land and the blue
distances rested immutable. Guy came and sat beside her.

"I've never enjoyed a fortnight so much in my life," he said.

She smiled at him but did not speak, for whatever quartet she was
restating had to be finished first. Soon the last noiseless bars played
themselves and she turned round to his conversation.

"Mrs. Grey, do you think that Pauline and I can be engaged openly next
month? It won't mean, if we are, that I shall be worrying to see her
more often. In fact, I'm sure I shall worry less. But I want to tell my
father, so that when he comes here he'll be able to see Pauline. He's a
conventional sort of man, and I don't think he'd grasp an engagement
such as ours is at present. Besides, I want to talk to the Rector,
because I feel that now he regards the whole thing as a childish game.
So can it be formal next month?"

Mrs. Grey sat back, so silent that Guy wondered if she had listened to a
word he had been saying. He paused for a moment, and then, as she did
not reply, he went on:

"I also want to say how sorry I am that I asked Pauline to come into
Plashers Mead to say good night to me last month. I didn't realize,
until she told me you were angry about it, what a foolish thing I'd
done. I don't want you to think that, if we are formally engaged, I
shall be doing stupid things like that all the time. Really, Mrs. Grey,
I would always be very thoughtful."

"Oh yes," she answered in her nervous way. "Oh yes. I understood it to
have been a kind of carelessness. But I had to speak to Pauline about
it, because she is so very impulsive. It's the sort of thing I might
have done myself when I was a girl. At least, of course, I shouldn't,
because the Rector.... Yes ... charming ... charming ... yes ... I
really think you might be engaged next month. It's your birthday next
month, isn't it?"

"Thank you more than I can thank you," said Guy.

Mrs. Grey waved to Pauline, who drew close.

"Pauline darling, I've thought of such a nice birthday present for Guy
... yes ... charming, charming birthday present ... yes ... for you two
to be engaged."

Pauline threw her arms round her mother's neck; and Guy in his happiness
noticed at that moment how Margaret was sitting by herself on the poop
in the stern. He was wrenched by a sudden compunction, and asked Pauline
if he should not go and tell Margaret.

"Charming of Guy ... yes ... charming," Mrs. Grey enthusiastically
exclaimed. "Now I call that really charming, and Pauline stays with me."

Guy went up the companion and asked Margaret if she were particularly
anxious to be alone. She seemed to pull herself from a day-dream as she
turned to assure him she did not at all particularly want to be alone.
Guy announced his good news, and Margaret offered him her slim hand with
a kind of pathetic grace that moved him very much.

"I think you deserve it," she said, "for you've both been so sweet to me
all this fortnight. I expect you think I don't notice, but I do ...
always."

"Margaret," said Guy, "if this Summer Pauline and I have seemed to run
away from people...."

"Oh, but you have!" Margaret interrupted. "I don't think I should find
excuses, if I were you, for perhaps it's natural."

"I've fancied very often," he said, "that you've thought we were
behaving selfishly."

"I think all lovers are selfish," she answered. "Only in your case you
began in such an idyllic way that I thought you were going to be a
wonderful exception. Guy, I do most dreadfully want you not to spoil in
any way the perfectly beautiful thing that Pauline and you in love is.
You won't, will you?"

"Have I yet?" asked Guy in a rather dismayed voice.

"Do you want me to be frank? Yes, of course you do, and anyway I must be
frank," said Margaret. "Well, sometimes you have-- I don't mean in
wanting always to be alone or in asking her in to Plashers Mead to say
good night. No, I don't mean in those ways so much. Of course they make
me feel a little sad, but smaller things than that make me more uneasy."

"You mean," said Guy, as she paused, "my staying on here and apparently
doing nothing? But, Margaret, really I can't leave Pauline to be a
schoolmaster, and surely you of all people can understand that?"

"Oh no, I wasn't thinking of that," said Margaret. "I think, in fact,
you're right to stay here and keep at what you're trying to do. If it
was ever worth doing, it must be doubly worth doing now. Oh no, the only
criticism I shall make is of something so small that you'll wonder how I
can think it even worth mentioning. Guy, you know the photograph of
Pauline which Mother used to have and which she gave to you?"

Guy nodded.

"Well, I happened to see it on the table by your bunk, and I wonder why
you've taken it out of its simple little wooden frame and put it in a
silver one?"

Guy was taken aback, and when he asked himself why he had done this he
could not find a reason. Now that Margaret had spoken of it, the
consciousness of the exchange flooded him with shame as for an
unforgivable piece of vandalism. Why, indeed, had he bought that silver
frame and put the old wooden frame away, and where was the old wooden
frame? In one of the drawers in his desk he thought; resolving this very
night to restore it to the photograph and fling the usurper into the
river.

"I can't think why I did," he stammered to Margaret.

"You've no idea how much this has worried me," she said. "I never had
any doubts about your appreciation of Pauline."

"And now you have," said Guy, biting his lip with mortification.

The landscape fading from the stern of the barge oppressed him with the
sadness of irreparable acts that are committed heedlessly, but after
which nothing is ever quite the same. He wished he could tear to pieces
that silver frame.

"No, I won't have any doubts," said Margaret, offering him her hand
again and smiling. "You've taken my criticism so sweetly that the change
can't symbolize so much as I feared."

It was very well to be forgiven like this, Guy thought, but the memory
of his blunder was still hot upon his cheek and he felt a deep
humiliation at the treachery of his taste. He had meant, when he came
here to talk to Margaret, to ask her about herself and Richard, to
display a captivating sympathy and restore to their pristine affection
her relations with him, which latterly had seemed to diverge somewhat
from one another. Now haunted by that silver frame, which with every
moment of thought appeared more and more insistently the vile
stationer's gewgaw that it was, Guy did not dare to approach Margaret in
the security of an old intimacy.

It was she, however, with her grace who healed the wound.

"You're not hurt with me for speaking about that little thing?" she
asked. "You see, you are in a way my brother."

"Margaret, you are a dear!"

And then recurred to him, as if from Ladingford Manor, the lines of
Christina Rossetti, which he half whispered to her:

  "For there is no friend like a sister
  In calm or stormy weather;
  To cheer one if one goes astray,
  To lift one if one totters down,
  To strengthen whilst one stands."

They had the sharper emotion for Guy because he had neither brothers nor
sisters of his own; and that this lovely girl beside him on this
dreaming barge should be his sister gave to the landscape one more
incommunicable beauty.

And so all day they glided down the young Thames; and when Guy had sat
long enough with Margaret in the stern, he sat with Pauline at the prow;
and about twilight they reached Oxford, whence they came to Shipcot by
train and drove through five miles of moonlight back to Wychford.



AUGUST


Pauline and Guy with their formal engagement in sight were careful to
give no excuse for a postponement by abusing their privileges. The river
was now much overgrown with weeds, and in the last week of July rough
weather set in which kept them in the Rectory a good deal on the
occasions when they met. Guy, too, was harder at work than he had been
all the Summer. The fact of being presently engaged in the eyes of the
world was sufficiently exciting for Pauline to console her for the
shorter time spent with Guy. Moreover, she was so grateful to her family
for not opposing the publication of the engagement that she tried
particularly to impress them with the sameness of herself,
notwithstanding her being in love with Guy. It happened, therefore, that
the old manner of existence at the Rectory reasserted itself for a
while; the music in the evenings, the mornings in the garden,
everything, indeed, that could make the family suppose that she was set
securely in the heart of their united life.

"When you and Margaret marry," Monica announced, one afternoon when the
three sisters were in their nursery, "I really think I shall become a
nun."

"But we can't all leave Father and Mother!" Pauline exclaimed, shocked
at the deserted prospect.

"Now isn't that like people in love?" said Monica.

"Ah, but, anyway, I shall only be living at Plashers Mead," Pauline went
on. "So they won't be left entirely alone."

"And as I probably sha'n't ever make up my mind to be married," Margaret
added, "and as I've yet to meet the Mother Superior whom Monica could
stand for more than a week, it seems probable that everything at the
Rectory will go on pretty much the same."

"Margaret, you will marry. I can't think why you talk like that. If you
don't intend to marry Richard, you ought to tell him so now, and not
keep him any longer in uncertainty."

Pauline realized that Margaret did not like this direct attack, but it
was so rarely that Margaret made it possible even to allude to Richard
that she had to take the opportunity.

"I don't think I've interfered much with you and Guy," said Margaret.
"Is it necessary that you should settle my affairs?"

"Oh, don't speak so unkindly to me, Margaret. I'm not trying to
interfere. And, anyway, you do criticize Guy and me. Both you and Monica
criticize us."

"Only when you tell us we don't understand about love."

"Well, you don't."

"All of us don't want to be in love quite so obviously as you," said
Margaret. "And Monica agrees with me."

Monica nodded.

"Well, it's my character," said Pauline. "I always knew that when I did
fall in love I should fall dreadfully deep in love. I don't want to be
thinking all the while about my personal dignity. I adore Guy. Why
shouldn't I show it? Margaret loves Richard, but simply because she's so
self-conscious she can't bear to show it. You call me morbid, Margaret,
but I call you much more morbid than I."

Yet, though she resented them at the time, Margaret's and Monica's
continual demands for Pauline to be vigilant over her impulsiveness had
an effect; and during all the month before they were engaged she tried
when she was with Guy to acquire a little of the attitude her sisters
desired. Circumstances, by keeping them for a good deal of the time at
the Rectory, made this easy; and Guy, exalted by the notion of the
formal troth, never made it difficult.

Pauline tried to recapture more of the old interests of life at
Wychford, and she was particularly attentive to Miss Verney, going often
to see her in the little house at the top of the hill and sitting with
her in the oblong garden whenever the August sun showed itself.

"I'm sure I'm sorry it's going to be a protracted engagement," said Miss
Verney. "They are apt to place a great strain upon people. I'm sure when
I read in _The Times_ all about people's wills, though I always feel a
trifle vulgar and inquisitive when I do so, I often say to myself,
'Well, really, it seems a pity that some people should have so much more
money than is quite necessary.' Only yesterday evening I read of a
gentleman called Somethingheim who left five hundred and seven thousand
one hundred and six pounds fourteen shillings and some odd pence, and
really, I thought to myself how much nicer it would have looked without
the seven thousand one hundred and six pounds fourteen shillings and odd
pence. And really I had quite a fanciful time imagining that I received
a letter presenting it to me on account of some services my father
rendered at Sebastopol, which at the time were overlooked. Seven
thousand pounds I thought I would present to you and Mr. Guy Hazlewood,
if you would allow me; a hundred pounds to the church; six pounds I had
the idea of devoting to the garden; and the fourteen shillings and
sevenpence--I remember now it was sevenpence--I thought would make such
a pleasant surprise for my servant Mabel, who is really a most
good-hearted girl, tactful with the cats, and not too fond of young
men."

"How sweet of you, Miss Verney, to think of such a nice present," said
Pauline, who as she watched the old maid's grave air of patronage began
almost to believe that the money had been given to her.

"No, indeed, don't thank me at all, for I cannot imagine anything that
would give me such true pleasure. Let me see. Seven thousand pounds at
four per cent., which I think is as much as you could expect to get
safely. That's seventy times four--two hundred and eighty pounds a
year."

"And Guy has some money--one hundred and fifty pounds, or one hundred
and fifteen pounds, or it may be only fifty pounds."

"Let us call it a hundred pounds," said Miss Verney. "For it would be
more prudent not to exaggerate. Three hundred and eighty pounds a year.
And I've no doubt the Rector on his side would be able to manage twenty
pounds. Four hundred pounds a year. Surely a very nice little sum on
which to marry. Oh, certainly quite a pleasant little sum."

"Only the gentleman hasn't given you the seven thousand pounds," said
Pauline.

"No, exactly, he has not. That's just where it is," Miss Verney agreed.

"But even if he hasn't," said Pauline, springing up and kissing her,
"that doesn't prevent your being my dear Miss Verney; and so, thank you
seven times for every pound you were going to give me."

"My dear child, it would be, as I believe I remarked, a pleasure. I have
the greatest dread of long engagements. My own, you know, lasted five
years; and at the end of the time a misunderstanding arose with my
father, who, being a sailor, had a hasty temper. This very
misunderstanding arose over money. I'm sure the person who invented
money was a great curse to the world, and deserved to be pecked at by
that uncomfortable eagle much more than that poor fellow Prometheus, of
whom I was reading in a mythology book that was given to me as a prize
for spelling, and which I came across last night in an old trunk. My
father declared that William.... His name; I believe I've never told you
his name; his name was William Bankes, spelled with an E. Now, my own
being Daisy after the ship which my father commanded at the moment when
my poor mother ... when, in fact, I was born--my own name being Daisy, I
was always a little doubtful as to whether people would laugh at the
conjunction with Bankes, but being spelled with an E, I dare say it
wouldn't have been uncomfortably remarked upon. My father said that
William had deceived him about some money. Well, whatever it was,
William broke off our engagement; and though all his presents were
returned to him and all his letters, the miniature fell out of my hand
when I was wrapping it up. I think I must have been a little upset at
the moment, for I am not usually careless with any kind of ornament. And
when I picked it up it was so cracked that I could scarcely bring myself
to return it, feeling in a way ashamed of my carelessness and also
wishing to keep something of William's by me. I have often blamed myself
for doing this, and no doubt if the incident had occurred now when I am
older, I should have acted more properly. However, at the time I was
only twenty-four; so possibly there was a little excuse for what I did."

Miss Verney stopped and stared out of her window; all about the room the
cats were purring in the sunbeams; Pauline had a dozen plans racing
through her mind for finding William and bringing him back like Peter in
Mrs. Gaskell's book. She was just half-way up the hill with fluttering
heart, longing to see Miss Verney's joy at the return of her William ...
when tea tinkled in and the dream vanished.

When Pauline told Guy about Miss Verney's seven thousand pounds he was
rather annoyed, and said he was sorry that he and she were already an
object of charity in Wychford.

"Oh, Guy," she protested, "you mustn't take poor Miss Verney too
seriously; but it was so sweet of her to want to set us up with an
income."

"Besides I _have_ got a hundred and fifty," said Guy.

"Oh, Guy dear, don't look so cross. Please don't be cross and dreadfully
in earnest about anything so stupid as money."

"I feel everybody will be pitying you for becoming engaged to a
penniless pretender like me," he sighed.

"Don't be so stupid, Guy. If they pity anybody, they'll pity you for
having a wife so utterly vague about practical things as I am. But I
won't be, Guy, when we're married."

"Oh, my own, I wish we were married now. God! I wish, I wish we were!"

He had clasped her to him, and she drew away. Guy begged her pardon for
swearing; but really she had drawn away because his eyes were so bright
and wild that she was momentarily afraid of him.

August kept wet and stormy; but on the nineteenth, the day before Guy's
birthday and the vigil of their betrothal, the sun came out with the
fierceness of late Summer. Pauline went with Margaret and Monica for a
walk in the corn-fields, because she and Guy, although it was one of
their trysting-days, had each resolved to keep it strictly empty of the
other's company, so that after a kind of fast they should meet on the
great day itself with a deeper welcome. Pauline made a wreath of poppies
for Margaret, and for Monica a wreath of cornflowers; but her sisters
could find no flower that became Pauline on this vigil, nor did she
mind, for to-morrow was beckoning to her across the wheat, and she
gladly went ungarlanded.

"I wonder why I feel as if this were our last walk together," said
Margaret.

"Oh, Margaret, how can you say a horrid thing like that?" Pauline
exclaimed; and to-morrow drooped before her in the dusty path.

"No, darling, it's not horrid. But, oh, you don't know how much I mind
that in a way the Rectory as it always has been will no longer be the
Rectory."

Pauline vowed she would go home, not caring on whose wheat she trampled,
if Margaret talked any more like that.

"I can't think why you want to make me sad," she protested. "What
difference, after all, will this announcement of our engagement bring? I
shall wear a ring, that's all!"

"But everybody will know you belong to Guy," said Margaret, "instead of
to all of us."

"Oh, my dears, my dears," Pauline vowed, "I shall always belong to you
as well! Don't make me feel unhappy."

"You don't really feel unhappy," said Monica in her wise way, "because
every morning I can hear you singing to yourself long before you ought
to be awake."

Then her sisters kissed her, and through the golden corn-fields they
walked silently home.

When Pauline was in bed that night her mother lingered after Margaret
and Monica had left her room.

"Are you glad, darling, you are going to give Guy such a charming
birthday present to-morrow?" she asked.

"It's your present," said Pauline, "because I couldn't possibly give
myself unless you wanted me to. You know that, don't you, Mother? You do
know that, don't you?"

"I want you to be my happy Pauline," her mother whispered. "And I think
that with Guy you will be my happy Pauline."

"Oh, Mother, I shall, I shall! I love him so. Mother, what about Father?
He simply won't say anything to me. To-day I helped him with
transplanting, and I've been helping a lot lately ... with the daffodil
bulbs when we came back from Ladingford, and all sorts of things. But he
simply won't say a word."

"Francis is always like that," her mother replied. "Even when he first
was in love with me. Really, he never proposed ... we somehow got
married. I think the best thing will be for you and Guy to go up to his
room after lunch to-morrow, before he goes out in the garden; then you
can show him your ring."

"Oh, Mother, tell me what ring it is that Guy has found for me."

"It's charming ... charming ... charming," said her mother,
enthusiastically.

"Oh, I won't ask, but I'm longing to see it. Mother, what do you think
it will be? Oh, but you know, so I mustn't ask you to guess. Oh, I do
hope Margaret and Monica will like it."

"It's charming ... charming ... and now go to sleep."

Her mother kissed her good night, and when she was gone Pauline took
from under her pillow the crystal ring.

"However nice the new one is," she said, "I shall always love you best,
you secret ring."

Then she got out of bed and took from her desk the manuscript book bound
with a Siennese end-paper of shepherds and shepherdesses and rosy
bowers, that was to be her birthday present to him.

"What poetry will he write in you about me, you funny empty book?" she
asked, and inscribed it--

  For Guy with all of his Pauline's love.

The book was left open for the roaming letters to dry themselves without
a smudge, because there was never any blotting-paper in this desk that
was littered with childish things. Then Pauline went to the window; but
a gusty wind of late Summer was rustling the leaves and she could not
stay dreaming on the night as in May she had dreamed. There was
something faintly disquieting about this hollow wind which was like an
envoy threatening the trees with the furious Winter to come, and Pauline
shivered.

"Summer will soon be gone," she whispered, "but nowadays it doesn't
matter, because all days will be happy."

On this thought she fell asleep, and woke to a sunny morning, though the
sky was a turbid blue across which swollen clouds were steadily moving.
She lay watchful, wondering if this quiet time of six o'clock would hold
the best of Guy's birthday and if by eight o'clock the sky would not be
quite gray. It was a pity she and Guy had not arranged to meet early, so
that before the day was spoiled they should have possessed themselves of
its prime. Pauline could no longer stay in bed with this sunlight, the
lucid shadows of which, caught from the wistaria leaves, were flickering
all about the room. She must go to the window and salute his birthday.
Suddenly she recalled something Guy had once said of how he pictured her
always moving round her room in the morning like a small white cloud.
Blushful at the intimacy of the thought, she looked at herself in the
glass.

"You're his! You're his!" she whispered to her image. "Are you a white
goose, as Margaret said you were? Or are you the least bit like a
cloud?"

Guy came and knelt by her in church that morning, and she took his
action as the sign he offered to the world of holding her now openly. In
the great church they were kneeling; rose-fired both of them by the
crimson gowns of the high saints along the clerestory; and then Guy
slipped upon her finger the new ring he had bought for their engagement,
a pink topaz set in the old fashion, which burned there like the heart
of the rosy fire in which they knelt suffused.

Breakfast was to be in the garden, as all Rectory birthdays were except
Monica's, which fell in January; and since the day had ripened to a kind
of sweet sultriness as of a pear that has hung too long upon a wall, it
was grateful to sit in the shade of the weeping-willow by the side of
the lily-pond. To each floating cup, tawny or damasked, white or deepest
cramoisy, the Rector called their attention. Nymphæas they were to him,
fountain divinities that one after the other he flattered with courteous
praise. When Guy had been given all his presents Pauline saw her father
put a hand in his coat and pull out a small book.

"Father has remembered Guy's birthday!" she cried, clapping her hands.
"Now I do call that wonderful. Francis, you're wonderful. You're really
wonderful!"

"Pauline, Pauline, don't get too excited," her mother begged. "And
please don't call your father Francis in the garden."

"Propertius," Guy murmured, shyly opening the book; but when he was
going to say something about that Roman lover to the Rector, the Rector
had vanished.

After breakfast Pauline and Guy walked in the inner wall-garden, that
was now brilliant with ten thousand deep-throated gladioli.

"Pauline," said Guy, "this morning I learned Milton's sonnet on his
twenty-third birthday, and I feel rather worried. Listen:

  "How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
    Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
    My hasting days fly on with full career,
  But my late Spring no bud or blossom shew'th.

"Well, now, if Milton felt like that," he sighed, "what about me?
Pauline, tell me again that you believe in me."

"Of course I believe in you," she vowed.

"And I am right to stay here?" he asked, eagerly.

"Oh, Guy, of course, of course."

"You see, I shall be writing to my father to-night to tell him of our
engagement, and I don't want to feel you have the least doubt of me. You
haven't, have you? Never? Never? There must never have been the
slightest doubt, or I shall doubt."

"Dearest Guy," she said, "if you changed anything for me, our love
wouldn't be the best thing for you, and I only want my love to be my
love, if it is the love you want, Guy. I'm not clever, you know. I'm
really stupid, but I can love. Oh, I can love you more than any one, I
think. I know, I know I can. Guy, I do adore you. But if I felt you were
thinking you ought to go away on account of me, I would have to give you
up."

"You couldn't give me up," he proclaimed, holding her straight before
him with looks that were hungry for one word or one gesture that could
help him to tell her what he wanted to say.

"Does my love worry you?" she whispered, faint with all the
responsibility she felt for the future of this lover of hers.

"Pauline, my love for you is my life."

But quickly they glided away from passion to discuss projects of simple
happiness; and walking together a long while under the trees beyond the
wall-garden, they were surprised to hear the gong sound for lunch before
they had finished the decoration of Plashers Mead as it should be for
their wedding-tide. Back in the sunlight, they were dazzled by the
savage color of the gladioli in the hot August noon, and found them
rather gaudy after the fronded half-light where nothing had disturbed
the outspread vision of a future triumphantly attainable.

After lunch her mother called Pauline aside and told her that now was
the moment to impress the Rector with the fact of her engagement. The
tradition was that her father went up to his library for half an hour
every day in order to rest after lunch before he sallied out into the
garden or the parish. As usual, his rest was consisting of standing on a
chair and dragging down old numbers of _The Botanical Magazine_ or heavy
volumes of _The Garden_ in order to search out a fact in connection with
some plant. When Pauline and Guy presented themselves the Rector gave
them a cordial invitation to enter, and Pauline fancied that he was
being quite exceptionally kindly in his tone towards Guy.

"Well, and what can I do for you two?" he asked, as he lit his long clay
pipe and sat upright in his old leather arm-chair to regard them.

"Father," said Pauline, coming straight to the heart of her subject,
"have you seen my engagement ring?"

She offered him the pink topaz to admire, and he bowed his head,
conveying that faint mockery with which he treated anything that was not
a flower.

"Very fine. Very fine, my dear."

"Well, aren't you going to congratulate me?" Pauline asked.

"On what?"

"Oh, Father, you are naughty. On Guy, of course."

"Bless my heart," said the Rector. "And on what am I to congratulate
him?"

"On me, of course," said Pauline.

"Now I wonder if I can honestly do that?" said the Rector, very
seriously.

"Father, you do realize, don't you, because you are being so naughty,
but you do realize that from to-day we are really engaged?"

"Only from to-day?" the Rector asked, a twinkle in his eye.

"Well, of course," Pauline explained, "we've been in love for very
nearly a year."

"And when have you decided to get married?"

Pauline looked at Guy.

"We thought in about two years, sir," said Guy. "That is, of course, as
soon as I've published my first book. Perhaps in a year, really."

"Just when you find it convenient, in fact," said the Rector, still
twinkling.

"Well, Father," Pauline interrupted, "have we got your permission?
Because that's what we've come up to ask."

"You surprise me," said the Rector, starting back with an exaggerated
look of astonishment such as one might use with children.

"Father, if you won't be serious about it, I shall be very much hurt."

"I am very serious indeed about it," said the Rector. "And supposing I
said I wouldn't hear of any such thing as an engagement between you two
young creatures, what would you say then?"

"Oh, I should never forgive you," Pauline declared. "Besides, we're not
young. Guy is twenty-three."

"Now I thought he was at least fifty," said the Rector.

"Father, we shall have to go away if you won't be serious. Mother told
us to explain to you, and I think it's really unkind of you to laugh at
us."

The Rector rose and knocked his pipe out.

"I must finish off the perennials. Well, well, Pauline, my dear, you're
twenty-one...."

Pauline would have liked to let him go on thinking she was of age, but
she could not on this solemn occasion, and so she told him that she was
still only twenty.

"Ah, that makes a difference," said the Rector, pretending to look very
fierce. And when Pauline's face fell he added, with a chuckle, "of one
year. Well, well, I fancy you've both arranged everything. What is there
left for me to say? You mustn't forget to show Guy those Nerines. God
bless you, pretty babies. Be happy."

Then the Rector walked quickly away and left them together in his dusty
library where the botanical folios and quartos displaying tropic blooms
sprawled open about the floor, where along the mantelpiece the rhizomes
of _Oncocyclus irises_ were being dried; and where seeds were strewn
plenteously on his desk, rattling among the papers whenever the wind
blew.

"Guy, we are really engaged."

"Pauline, Pauline!"

In the dusty room among the ghosts of dead seasons and the moldering
store amassed by the suns of other years, they stood locked, heart to
heart.

Before Guy went home that night, when they were lingering in the hall,
he told Pauline that the next thing to be done was to write to his own
father.

"Guy, do you think he'll like me?"

"Why, how could he help it? But he may grumble at the idea of my being
engaged."

"When do you think he'll write?"

"I expect he'll come down here to see me. In the Spring he wrote and
said he would."

"Guy, I'm sure he's going to make it difficult for you."

Guy shook his head.

"I know how to manage him," he proclaimed, confidently.

Then he opened the door; along the drive the wind moaned, getting up for
a gusty Bartlemy-tide.

Pauline stood in the lighted doorway, letting the light shine upon him
until he was lost in the shadows of the tall trees, sending, as he
vanished, one more kiss down the wind to her.

"Are you happy to-night?" asked her mother, bending over Pauline when
she was in bed.

"Oh, Mother darling, I'm so happy that I can't tell you how happy I am."

In the candle-light her new ring sparkled; and when her mother was gone
she put beside it the crystal ring, and it seemed to sparkle still more.
Pauline was in such a mood of tenderness to everything that she petted
even her pillow with a kind of affection, and she had the contentment of
knowing she was going to meet sleep as if it were a great benignant
figure that was bending to hear her tale of happy love.



ANOTHER AUTUMN



SEPTEMBER


Guy became much occupied with the best way of breaking to his father the
news of his engagement. He wished it were his marriage of which he had
to inform him; for there was about marriage such a beautiful finality of
spilled milk that the briefest letter would have settled everything. If
now he wrote to announce an engagement, he ran the risk of his father's
refusal to come and pay him that visit on which he was building such
hopes from the combined effect of Pauline and Plashers Mead in restoring
to the schoolmaster the bright mirror of his own youth. It would
scarcely be fair to the Greys to introduce him while he was still
ignorant of the relation in which he was supposed to stand to them, for
they could scarcely be expected to regard him as a man to be humored up
to such a point. After all, it was not as if he in his heart looked to
his father for practical help; in reality he knew already that the
engagement would meet with his opposition, notwithstanding Pauline ...
notwithstanding Plashers Mead. Perhaps it would be better to write and
tell him about it; if he came it would obviate an awkward explanation
and there could be no question of false pretenses; if he declined to
come, no doubt he would write such a letter as would justify his son in
holding him up to the Greys as naturally intractable. Indeed, if it were
not that he knew how sensitive Pauline was to the paternal benediction,
he would have made no attempt to present him at all.

His father kept him waiting over a week before he replied to the
announcement Guy had ultimately decided to send him; and when it came,
the letter did not promise the most favorable prospect.

  FOX HALL, GALTON, HANTS,
  _September 1st_.

     DEAR GUY,--I have taken a few days to think over the extraordinary
     news you have seen fit to communicate. I hope I am not so far
     removed from sympathy with your aspirations as not to be able to
     understand almost anything you might have to tell me about
     yourself. But this I confess defeats my best intentions, setting
     as it does a crown on all the rest of your acts of folly. I tried
     to believe that your desire to write poetry was merely a passing
     whim. I tried to think that your tenancy of this house was not the
     behavior of a thoughtless and wilful young man. I was most
     anxious, as I clearly showed (i) by my gift of £150, (ii) by my
     offer of a post at Fox Hall, to put myself in accord with your
     ambition; and now you write and tell me after a year's
     unprofitable idling that you are engaged to be married! I admit as
     a minute point in your favor you do not suggest that I should help
     you to tie yourself for life to the fancy of a young man of just
     twenty-three. Little did I think when I wrote to wish you many
     happy returns of the 20th of August, although you had previously
     disappointed me by your refusal to help me out of a nasty
     difficulty, little did I think that my answer was going to be this
     piece of reckless folly. May I ask what her parents are thinking
     of, or are they so blinded by your charms as to be willing to
     allow this daughter of theirs to wait until the income you make by
     selling your poetry enables you to get married? I gathered from
     your description of Mr. Grey that he was an extremely unpractical
     man; and his attitude towards your engagement certainly bears me
     out. I suppose I shall presently get a post-card to say that you
     are married on your income of £150, which, by the way, in the
     present state of affairs is very likely soon to be less. You
     invite me to come and stay with you before term begins, in order
     to meet the young lady to whom with extremely bad taste you
     jocularly allude as my "future daughter-in-law." Well, I accept
     your invitation, but I warn you that I shall give myself the
     unpleasant task of explaining to your "future father-in-law," as
     I suppose you would not blush to call him, what an utterly
     unreliable fellow you are and how in every way you have
     disappointed

  Your affectionate father,
  JOHN HAZLEWOOD.

     I shall arrive at two-thirty on the fifth (next Thursday). I wish
     I could say I was looking forward to seeing this insane house of
     yours.

There was something in the taste of marmalade very appropriate to an
unpleasant letter, and Guy wondered how many of them he had read at
breakfast to the accompaniment of the bitter savor and the sound of
crackling toast. He also wondered what was the real reason of his
father's coming. Was it curiosity, or the prospect of lecturing a
certain number of people gathered together to hear his opinion? Was it
with the hope of dissuasion, or was it merely because he had settled to
come on the fifth of September, and could not bear to thwart that
finicking passion of his for knowing what he was going to do a month
beforehand?

Anyhow, whatever the reason, he was coming, and the next problem was to
furnish for him a bedroom. How much had he in the bank? Four pounds
sixteen shillings, and there was a blank counterfoil which Guy vaguely
thought represented a cheque for two pounds. Of course Pauline's ring
had lowered his balance rather prematurely this quarter; he ought to be
very economical during the next one, and, as ill-luck would have it,
next quarter would have to provide fuel. Two pounds sixteen shillings
was not much to spend on furnishing a bedroom, even if the puny balance
were not needed for the current expenses of the three weeks to
Michaelmas. Could he borrow some bedroom furniture from the Rectory? No
doubt Mrs. Grey would be amused and delighted to lend all he wanted, but
it seemed rather an ignominious way of celebrating his engagement. Could
he sleep on the chest in the hall? And as it wabbled to his touch he
decided that not only could he not sleep on it nor in it, but that it
would not even serve as a receptacle for his clothes.

"Miss Peasey," he said, when the housekeeper came in to see if he had
finished breakfast, "my father is coming to stay here on Thursday."

Miss Peasey smiled encouragingly with the strained look in her eyes that
always showed when she was hoping to find out from his next sentence
what he had told her. Guy shouted his information over again, when, of
course, Miss Peasey pretended she had heard him all the time.

"Well, that will make quite a little variety, I'm sure."

"Where will he sleep?" Guy asked.

Miss Peasey jumped and said that there, she'd never thought of that.

"Well, think about it now, Miss Peasey."

Miss Peasey thought hard, but unfruitfully.

"Could you borrow a bed in the town?" Guy shouted.

"Well, wouldn't it seem rather funny? Why don't you send in to Oxford
and buy a bed, Mr. Hazlewood?"

Her pathetic trust in the strength of his financial resources, which Guy
usually tried to encourage, was now rather irritating.

"It seems hardly worth while to buy a bed for two or three days," he
objected.

"Which reminds me," said Miss Peasey, "that you'll really have to give
that Bob another good thrashing, for he's eaten all the day's butter."

"Well, we can buy more butter in Wychford, but we can't get a bed," Guy
laughed.

"Oh, he didn't touch the bread," said Miss Peasey. "Trust him for that.
I never knew a large dog so dainty before."

Guy decided to postpone the subject of the bed and try Miss Peasey more
personally.

"Could you spare your chest of drawers?" he asked, at top voice.

Miss Peasey, however, did not answer, and from her complete indifference
to his question Guy knew that she did not like the idea of such a loan.
It looked as if he would be compelled to borrow the furniture from the
Rectory; and then he thought how, after all, it would be a doubly good
plan to do so, inasmuch as it would partially involve his father in the
obligations of a guest. Moreover, it could scarcely fail to be a slight
reproach to him that his son should have to borrow bedroom furniture
from the family of his betrothed.

Pauline was, of course, delighted at the idea of lending the furniture,
and she and Guy had the greatest fun together in amassing enough to
equip what would really be a very charming spare room. Deaf-and-dumb
Graves was called in; and Birdwood helped also, under protest at the
hindrance to his work, but at the same time reveling, if Birdwood could
be said to revel, in the diversion. Mrs. Grey presided over the
arrangement and fell so much in love with the new bedroom that she
pillaged the Rectory much more ruthlessly than Pauline, and in the end
they all decided that Guy's father would have the most attractive
bedroom in Wychford. Guy, with so much preparation on hand, had no time
to worry about the conduct of his father's visit, and after lunch on
Thursday he got into the trap beside Godbold and drove off equably
enough to meet the train at Shipcot.

Mr. Hazlewood was in appearance a dried-up likeness of his son, and Guy
often wondered if he would ever present to the world this desiccated
exterior. Yet, after all, it was not so much his father's features as
his cold eyes that gave this effect of a chilly force; he himself had
his mother's eyes, and, thinking of hers burning darkly from the glooms
of her sick-bed, Guy fancied that he would never wither to quite the
inanimate and discouraging personality on the platform in front of him.

"The train's quite punctual," said Mr. Hazlewood in rather an aggrieved
tone of voice, such as he might have adopted if he had been shown a
correct Latin exercise by a boy whom he was anxious to reprove.

"Yes, this train is usually pretty punctual," Guy answered, and for a
minute or two after a self-conscious hand-shake they talked about
trains, each, as it seemed, trying to throw upon the other the
responsibility of any conversation that might have promoted their ease.

Guy introduced his father to Godbold, who greeted him with a kind of
congratulatory respect and assumed towards Guy a manner that gave the
impression of sharing with Mr. Hazlewood in his paternity.

"Hope you're going to pay us a good long visit," said Godbold,
hospitably, flicking the pony.

Mr. Hazlewood, who, squashed as he was between Guy and fat Godbold,
looked more sapless than ever, said he proposed to stay until the day
after to-morrow.

"Then you won't see us play Shipcot on Saturday, the last match of the
season?" said Godbold in disappointed benevolence.

"No, I sha'n't, I'm afraid. You see, my son is not so busy as I am."

"Ah, but he's been very busy lately. Isn't that right, Mr. Hazlewood?"
Godbold chuckled, with a wink across at Guy. "Well, we've all been
expecting it for some time past and he has our good wishes. That he has.
As sweetly pretty a young lady as you'll see in a month of Sundays."

His father shrank perceptibly from a dominical pre-vision so foreign to
his nature, and Guy changed the conversation by pointing out features in
the landscape.

"Extraordinarily inspiring sort of country," he affirmed.

"So I should imagine," said his father. "Though precisely what that
epithet implies I don't quite know."

Guy was determined not to be put out of humor, and, surrendering the
epithet at once, he substituted "bracing."

"So is Hampshire," his father snapped.

"I hope Wilkinson's successor has turned out well," Guy ventured in the
hope that such a direct challenge would force a discharge of grievances.
Surprisingly, however, his father talked without covert reproaches of
the successor's virtues, of the field-club he had started, of his
popularity with the boys, and of the luck which had brought him along at
such short notice. At any rate, thought Guy, he could not be blamed for
having caused any inconvenience to the school by his refusal to take up
office at Fox Hall. The constraint of the long drive came to an end with
the first view of Plashers Mead, at which his father gazed with the sort
of mixture of resentment, interest, and alarm he might have displayed at
the approach of a novel insect.

"It looks as if it would be very damp," was his only comment.

Here Godbold, who had perhaps for some time been conscious that all was
not perfectly well between his passengers, interposed with a defense of
Plashers Mead.

"Lot of people seeing it from here think it's damp. But it isn't. In
fact, it's the driest house in Wychford. And do you know for why, sir?
Because it's so near running water. Running water keeps off the damp.
Doctor Brydone told me that. 'Running water,' he says to me, 'keeps off
the damp.' Those were his words."

Mr. Hazlewood eyed Godbold distastefully--that is, so far as without
turning his head he could eye him at all. Then the trap pulled up by the
gate of Plashers Mead, Guy took his father's bag, and they passed in
together. The noise of wheels died away, and here in the sound of the
swift Greenrush Guy felt that hostility must surely be renounced at the
balm of this September afternoon shedding serene sunlight. He began to
display his possessions with the confidence their beauty always gave
him.

"Pretty good old apple-trees, eh? Ribston pippins nearly all of them.
The blossom was rather spoiled by that wet May, but there's not such a
bad crop considering. I like this salmon-colored phlox. General
something or other beginning with an H it's called. Mr. Grey gave me a
good deal. The garden, of course, was full of vegetables when I had it
first. I must send you some clumps of this phlox to Galton. Of course, I
got rid of the vegetables."

"Yes, of course," agreed Mr. Hazlewood, dryly.

"Doesn't the house look jolly from here? It's pretty old, you know.
About 1590, I believe. It's a wonderful place, isn't it? Hullo! there's
my housekeeper. Miss Peasey, here's my father. She's very deaf, so
you'll have to shout."

Mr. Hazlewood, who never shouted even at the naughtiest boy in his
school, shuddered faintly at his son's invitation and bowed to Miss
Peasey with a formality of disapproval that seemed to include her in the
condemnation of all he beheld.

"Quite a resemblance, I'm sure," Miss Peasey archly declared. "Tea will
be ready at four o'clock, and Mr. Hazlewood senior's room is all in
order for him." Then she disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

"A little empty, I'm afraid," said Guy, as his father looked round the
hall.

"Is that water I hear?"

"Yes, the river washes the back of the house."

"And this place isn't damp?"

"Not a bit," Guy declared, positively.

"Well, it smells of bronchitis and double pneumonia."

Guy showed his father the dining-room.

"I've got it rather jolly, I think," he ventured.

"Yes, my candlesticks and chairs, that your mother lent you for your
rooms at Balliol, look very well," his father agreed.

Guy led the way to the spare bedroom.

"No wonder you spent all your money," Mr. Hazlewood commented, surveying
the four-post bed and the Jacobean furniture. "How on earth did you
manage to afford all this luxury?"

"Oh, I picked it up somehow," said Guy, lightly. He had decided, on
second thought, not to reveal the secret of the Rectory's loan.

When his father had rid himself of the dust from his journey, Guy
introduced him proudly to his own room.

"Well, this is certainly quite a pleasant place," Mr. Hazlewood
admitted. "If not too draughty with those two windows."

"You must scratch a motto on the pane with the diamond pencil," Guy
suggested.

"My motto is hard work."

"Well, write that. Or at any rate put your initials and the date."

His father took up the pencil with that expression of superiority which
Guy most hated, and scratched his name rather awkwardly on the glass.

"I hope people won't suppose that is my ordinary hand," he said, grimly
regarding the "John Hazlewood" of his inscription. During tea Guy
wondered when he ought to introduce the subject of Pauline. Beyond
Godbold's unfortunate allusion on the drive, nothing had been said by
either of them; and Plashers Mead had not as yet effected that
enchantment of his father's senses which would seem to proclaim the
moment as propitious. How remote they were from one another, sitting
here at tea! Really his father had not accorded him any salutation more
cordial than the coldly absent-minded "good dog" he had just given to
Bob. Yet there must be points of contact in their characters. There must
be in himself something of his father. He could not so ridiculously
resemble him and yet have absolutely nothing mentally in common. Perhaps
his father did himself an injustice by his manner, for after all he had
presented him with that £150. If he could only probe by some remark a
generous impulse, Guy felt that in himself the affection of wonted
intercourse over many years would respond immediately with a warmth of
love. His father had cared greatly for his mother; and could not the
love they had both known supply them with the point of sympathetic
contact that would enable them to understand the ulterior intention of
their two diverging lives?

"It was awfully good of you, Father, to come down and stay here," said
Guy. "I've really been looking forward to showing you the house. I think
perhaps you understand now how much I've wanted to be here."

Guy waited anxiously.

"I've never thought you haven't wanted to be here," his father replied.
"But between what we want and what we own there is a wide gap."

Oh, why was a use to be made of these out-of-date weapons? Why could not
one or two of his prejudices be surrendered, so that there were a chance
of meeting him half-way?

"But sometimes," said Guy, desperately, "inclination and duty coincide."

"Very rarely, I'm afraid, in this world."

"Do they in the next, then?" asked Guy, a little harshly, hating the
conventionality of the answer that seemed to crystallize the
intellectual dishonesty of a dominie's existence. He knew that the next
world was merely an arid postulate which served for a few theorems and
problems of education, and that duty and desire must only be kept apart
on account of the hierarchical formulas of his craft. He must eternally
appear as half inhuman as all the rest of the Pharisees: priests,
lawyers, and schoolmasters, they were all alike in relying for their
livelihood upon a capacity for depreciating human nature.

"I was merely using a figure of speech," said his father.

Exactly, thought Guy, and how was he ever to justify his love for
Pauline to a man whose opinions could never be expressed except in
figures of speech? He made up his mind to postpone the visit to the
Rectory until to-morrow. Evidently it was not going to be made even
moderately easy to broach the subject of Pauline.

"I expect you'd like to have a look at some of my work," he suggested.

"Very much," said Mr. Hazlewood; and in a moment with his dry assent he
had reduced all his son's achievement to the level of a fifth-form
composition. Guy took the manuscripts out of his desk, and, disengaging
from the heap any poems that might be ascribed to the influence of
Pauline, he presented the rest to his father. Mr. Hazlewood settled
himself as comfortably as he could ever seem to be comfortable and
solemnly began to read without comment. Guy would have liked to get up
and leave him alone, for though he assured himself that the opinion,
whether favorable or unfavorable, did not matter, his suspense was sharp
and the inexpression of his father's demeanor, that assumption of
tutorial impartiality, kept him puzzling and unable to do anything but
watch the critic's face and toy mechanically with the hair of Bob's
sentimental head upon his knee.

At last the manuscripts were finished, and Guy sat back for the verdict.

"Oh yes, I like some very much," said Mr. Hazlewood. "But I can't help
thinking that all of them could have been written as well in recreation
after the arduousness of a decent profession. However, you've burned
your boats as far as Fox Hall is concerned, and I shall certainly be the
first to congratulate you if you bring your ambition to a successful
issue."

"You mean monetarily?" Guy asked.

His father did not answer.

"You wouldn't count as a successful issue recognition from the people
who care for poetry?" Guy went on.

"I'm not particularly impressed by contemporary taste," said Mr.
Hazlewood. "We seem to me to be living in a time when all the great men
have gone, and the new generation does not appear likely to fill very
adequately the gap they have left."

"I wonder if there has ever been a time when people have not said just
what you're saying? Do you seriously think you'd recognize a great man
if you saw him?"

"I hope I should," said his father, looking perfectly convinced that he
would.

"Well, I don't believe you would," said Guy. "How do you know I'm not a
great man?"

His father laughed dryly.

"I don't know, my dear Guy, of course, and nothing would gratify me more
than to find out that you were. But, at least, you'll allow me to
observe that _great_ men are generally remarkable for their modesty."

"Yes, after they've been accorded the homage of the world," Guy argued.
"They can afford to be modest then. I fancy that most of them were
self-confident in their youth. I hope they were, poor devils. It must
have been miserable for most of them, if they weren't."

"However," said Mr. Hazlewood, "all these theories of juvenile grandeur,
interesting though they may be, do not take us far along the road of
practical politics. I'm to understand, am I, that you are quite
determined to remain here?"

"For another year, at any rate," Guy said. "That is, until I have a
volume of poems ready."

"And your engagement?" asked his father.

Guy smiled to himself. It was a minor triumph, but it was definitely a
triumph to have made his father be the first to mention the subject that
had stood at the back of their minds ever since they met on the Shipcot
platform.

"Look here, before we discuss that I want you to see Pauline. I think
you'll understand my point of view more clearly after you've seen her.
Now wouldn't you like to take a stroll round Wychford? The
architecture...."

Guy and his father wandered about until dusk, and in the evening after
dinner they played piquet.

"I suppose you wouldn't enjoy a walk in the moonlight?" Guy suggested,
after the third hand.

"I have my health to think about. Term begins in a fortnight, you know,"
said Mr. Hazlewood.

Guy had pulled back the curtains and was watching the full moon. This,
though ten days short of the actual anniversary, was the lunary festival
of the night when he first saw Pauline. Might it be accepted as a
propitious omen? Who could say? They talked of dull subjects until it
was time to go to bed.

Guy had sent a note to Mrs. Grey, suggesting that he should bring his
father to tea next day; and so about four o'clock they set out to the
Rectory, the lover in great trepidation of spirit. His father was
seeming much more than ever parched and inhuman, and Guy foresaw that
his effect upon Pauline would be disastrous. Nor did he feel that the
strain upon his own nerves was going to be the best thing for the
situation. On the way to the Rectory they met young Brydone, and Guy
very nearly invited him to accompany them, in a desperate impulse to
evoke a crowd in which he could lose this disturbing consciousness of
his father's presence. However, he managed to avoid such a subversion of
his attitude; and in a few minutes they were in the hall of the Rectory,
where Mrs. Grey, as nervously agitated as she could be, was welcoming
them. Luckily Margaret had arrived on the scene before Pauline, and Guy
managed to place his father next to her, while he took up the task of
trying to compose Mrs. Grey. At last Pauline came in, and Guy seemed to
be only aware of a tremendous increase in the noise of the conversation.
He realized that it was due to himself's talking nonsense at the top of
his voice and that Pauline was vainly trying to get on with his father.
Monica had gone to look for the Rector, and Mrs. Grey was displaying the
kind of treasures she would produce at a mothers' meeting--treasures to
which his father paid but the most scant attention. The whole room
seemed to revolve round his father, who for Guy had become the only
person in focus, as he stood there parched and inhuman, and perhaps
himself a little shy of what he was evidently supposing to be a very mad
family. Guy, so miserable was he feeling at his father's coldness of
manner towards the Greys, wished passionately that his mother were
alive, because he knew how much she would have appreciated them. Monica
had now come back with information that the Rector was undiscoverable,
so Mrs. Grey volunteered to show Mr. Hazlewood the garden.

"She'll tell you all the flowers wrong," Pauline warned him.

Mr. Hazlewood bowed.

"I'm afraid I know nothing about flowers."

"Guy has learned a lot from Father," said Pauline. "Haven't you, Guy?"

She was making the bravest effort, but it was hopeless, utterly
hopeless, Guy thought.

How the promenade round these gardens that were haunted with his and her
delights was banishing them one by one! How endless it was, and how
complete was the failure to incorporate his father in a life which his
advent had so detestably disturbed! Guy acknowledged that the meeting
between him and Pauline had served no purpose, and as he looked forward
to the final battle between their wills this evening, he set his teeth
with rage to defeat his father, at the moment caring not at all if he
never saw him again.

Guy knew, as they were walking back to Plashers Mead, how little worth
while it was to ask what his father had thought of the Greys; but,
nevertheless, he could not resist the direct inquiry.

"They seem a very happy-go-lucky family," was the reply. "I thought it
extremely strange that Mr. Grey did not take the trouble to be at home
for my visit. I should have thought that in regard to his daughter's
future I might be considered sufficiently.... However, it's all of a
piece."

Guy hated the mock-modest lacuna in the characterization, and he thought
of the many schoolmasters he had known whose consciousness of external
opinion never allowed them to claim a virtue for themselves, although
their least action always contained an implication of merit.

Guy made some excuse for the Rector's absence and rather moodily walked
on beside his father. The battle should be to-night; and after dinner he
came directly to the point.

"I hope you like Pauline?"

"My dear Guy, your impulsiveness extends too far. How can I, after a few
minutes' conversation, pronounce an opinion?"

"But she's not a pathological case," cried Guy in exasperation.

"Precisely," retorted his father. "And therefore I pay her the
compliment of not rushing into headstrong approval or disapproval.
Certainly she seemed to me superficially a very charming girl, but I
should be inclined to think somewhat excitable."

"Of course she was shy."

"Naturally. These sudden immersions in new relationships do not make for
ease. I was myself a little embarrassed. But, after all, the question is
not whether I like--er--Pauline, but whether I am justified on her
account as well as on yours in giving my countenance to this ridiculous
engagement. Please don't interrupt me. My time is short, and I must, as
your father, fulfil my obligations to you by saying what I have to say."

Even in his speech he was epistolary, and while he spoke Guy was all the
time, as it were, tearing him into small pieces and dropping him
deliberately into the waste-paper basket.

"Had I been given an opportunity," his father went on, "of speaking
privately with Mr. Grey, I should have let him plainly understand how
much I deplored your unjustifiable embarkation upon this engagement. You
have, frankly, no right to engage yourself to a girl when you are
without the means to bring the pledge to fruition. You possess, it is
true, an income of £150 a year--too little to make you really
independent, too much to compel you to relinquish your own mad scheme of
livelihood.

"I have had the privilege of reading your verse," he continued,
protesting against an interruption with upraised hand. "Well, I am glad
enough to say that it seems to me promising; but what is promising
verse? A few seedlings in a flower-pot that even if they come to
perfection will serve no purpose but of decoration. It is folly or mere
wanton self-deception for you to pretend that you can live by poetry.
Why, even if you were an American you couldn't live by poetry. Now
please let me finish. My common sense no doubt strikes you as brutal,
but if, when it is your turn to speak, you can produce the shadow of a
probability that you will ever earn your own living, I shall be only too
willing to be convinced. I am not so much enamoured of my schoolmaster's
life as to wish to bind you down to that; but between being a
schoolmaster and being what the world would call an idle young poseur
lies a big gulf. Why did not you stick to your Macedonian idea? Surely
that was romantic enough to please even you. No, the whole manner of
your present life spells self-indulgence, and I warn you it will
inevitably bring in its train the results of self-indulgence. My dear
Guy, _do_ something. Don't stay here talking of what you are going to
do. Say good-by for the present to Pauline and do something. If she is
fond of you she will be prouder of you when she sees that you are
determined to fight to win her. My boy, I speak to you very seriously,
and I warn you that this is the last protest I shall make. You are
behaving wrongly; her parents are behaving wrongly. If you must write,
get some regular work. Why not try for the staff of some reputable paper
like _The Spectator_?"

"Good heavens!" Guy ejaculated.

"Well, there may be other reputable papers, though I confess _The
Spectator_ is my favorite."

"Yes, I know. It probably would be."

"It's this terrible inaction," his father went on. "I don't know how you
can tolerate the ignominious position in which you find yourself. To me
it would be unendurable."

Mr. Hazlewood sighed with the satisfaction of unburdening himself, and
waited for his son to reply, who with a tremendous effort not to spoil
the force of his argument by losing his temper began calmly enough:

"I have never contended that I should earn my living by poetry. What I
have hoped is that when my first book appears it would be sufficiently
remarkable to restore your confidence in me."

"In other words," his father interrupted, "to tempt me to support
you--or rather, as it now turns out, to help you to get married."

"Well, why not?" said Guy. "I'm your only son. You can spare the money.
Why shouldn't you help me? I'm not asking you to do anything before I've
justified myself. I'm only asking you to wait a year. If my book is a
failure, it will be I who pay the penalty, not you. My confidence will
be severely damaged, whereas in your case only your conceit will be
faintly ruffled."

"Were I really a conceited man I should resent your last remark," said
his father. "But let it pass, and finish what you were going to say."

Guy got up and went to the window, seeking to find from the moonlight a
coolness that would keep his temper in hand.

"Would you have preferred that I did not ask Pauline to marry, that I
made love to her without any intention of marriage?"

"Not at all," his father replied. "I imagine that you still possess some
self-restraint, that when you began to feel attracted to her you could
have wrestled with yourself against what in the circumstances was a
purely selfish emotion."

"But why, why? What really good reason can you bring forward against my
behavior, except reasons based on a cowardly fear of not being
prosperous? You have always impressed on me so deeply the identity of
your youthful ambitions with mine that I don't suppose I'm assuming too
much when I ask what you would have done if you had met Mother when you
were not in a position to marry her immediately? Would you have said
nothing?"

"I hope I should have had sufficient restraint not to want to marry
anybody until I was able to offer material support as well as a higher
devotion."

"But if ... oh, love is not a matter of the will."

"Excuse me," his father contradicted, obstinately. "Everything is a
matter of will. That is precisely the point I am trying to make."

Guy marched over to the fireplace and, balancing himself on the fender,
proclaimed the attainment of a dead-lock.

"You and I, my dear Father, differ in fundamentals. Supposing I admit
for a moment that I may be wrong, aren't you just as wrong in not trying
to see my point of view? Supposing, for instance, Tennyson had paid
attention to criticism--I don't mean of his work, but of his manner of
life--what would have happened?"

"I can't afford to run the risk of being considered the fond parent by
announcing you to the world as a second Tennyson. Thirty-five years of a
schoolmaster's life have at least taught me that parents as parents have
a natural propensity towards the worst excesses of human folly."

"Then in other words," Guy responded, "I'm to mess up my life to
preserve your dignity. That's what it amounts to. I tell you I believe
in myself. I'm convinced that beside will, there is destiny."

Mr. Hazlewood sniffed.

"Destiny is the weak man's canonization of his own vices.

"Well, then I _will_ succeed," retorted Guy. "Moreover, I will succeed
in my own way. It seems a pity that we should argue acrimoniously. I
shall say no more. I accept the responsibility. For what you've done for
me I'm very much obliged. Would you care for a hand at piquet?"

"Oh, certainly," said his father.

Guy hugged himself with another minor triumph. At least it was he who
had determined when the discussion should be closed.

The next day, as Guy stood on the Shipcot platform and watched the slow
train puffing away into the unadventurous country, he had a brief
sentiment of regret for the failure of his father's visit, and made up
his mind to write to him a letter to-morrow, which would sweeten a
little of the bitterness between them. The bees buzzing round the
wine-dark dahlias along the platform were once again audible; and close
at hand was the hum of a reaper-and-binder. But as he drove back to
Wychford his father passed from his mind, and mostly Guy thought of
walking with Pauline under the pale and ardent blue of this September
sky that was reflected in the chicory flowers along the sparse and dusty
hedgerow.



OCTOBER


"My dears, he frightened me to death," Pauline declared to her family
when Mr. Hazlewood had left the Rectory. "Only I expect, you know, that
really he's rather sweet."

"I don't think he approved of us very much," said Margaret.

"I didn't approve of him very much," said Monica.

"And where was Francis?" asked Mrs. Grey.

"Francis was a naughty boy," said Pauline.

Since they were sitting in the nursery, her mother allowed the christian
name to pass without reproof.

"He was so exactly like Guy," said Margaret.

"Like Guy?" Pauline echoed, incredulously.

"Yes, of course. Didn't you notice that?" Margaret laughed.

"You're quite right, Margaret," said Mrs. Grey. "How clever of you to
see. Now, of course, I realize how much alike they were ... how clever
you are!"

"Without Pauline," Margaret went on, "Guy might easily become his father
all over again."

"But, my dears," said Pauline, "that would be terrible. I remember how
frightened I was of Guy the first day he came to the Rectory, and if he
grows more like his father, I don't think I shall ever be anything else
but frightened of him, even if we live for ever. For, though I'm sure
he's really very sweet, I don't believe one would ever get _quite_ used
to Mr. Hazlewood."

Yet when Pauline was alone and had an opportunity to look back upon the
visit, its effect was rather encouraging than otherwise. For one thing,
it curiously made Guy more actual, because until the personality of his
father projected itself upon the scene of their love he had always
possessed for Pauline a kind of romantic unreality. In the Spring days
and Summer days which had seemed to dedicate themselves to the service
of intimacy, Guy had talked a great deal of his life before they met,
but the more he had told her, the more was she in the state of being
unable to realize that the central figure of these old tales was not a
dream. When he was with her, she was often in a daze of wonder at the
credibility of being loved like this; and there was never an occasion of
seeing him even after the briefest absence that did not hold in the
heart of its pleasure a surprise at his return. The appearance of Mr.
Hazlewood was a phenomenon that gave the pledge of prosaic authority to
her love, like a statement in print that, however absurd or
uncomfortable, has a value so far beyond mere talk. She had often been
made rather miserable by Guy's tales of the ladies he had loved with
airy heedlessness, but these heroines had all faded out in the unreality
of his life apart from her, and they took their place with days of
adventure described in Macedonia or with the old diversions of Oxford.
The visit of Mr. Hazlewood with the chilly disapproval it had shed was
more authentic than, for instance, the idea of Guy's dark-eyed mother,
who had seemed in his narrations almost to threaten Pauline with her
son's fairy ancestry, as if from the grave she might at any moment
summon him away. Mr. Hazlewood had carried with him a wonderful
assurance of ordinariness. The merely external resemblance between him
and his son proved that Guy could grow old; and the sense of his
opposition was a trifling discomfort in comparison with the assurance he
offered of an imaginable future. She remembered that her first idea of
Guy had been that of some one dry and cynical; and no doubt this first
impression of his father was equally wrong. She who had been so shy and
speechless was no doubt much to blame, and the family had done nothing
to help out the situation. It had been unkind of her father to hide
himself, since to Mr. Hazlewood, who could not have understood that it
was the sort of thing her father would be sure to do, such behavior must
have presented itself very oddly.

The Rector, on Pauline's remonstrating with him, was not at all
penitent.

"When your marriage, my dear, comes on the horizon--I don't mind how
faint a horizon--of the probable, then it will be time to discuss
matters in the practical way I suppose Mr. Hazlewood would like them to
be discussed. Moreover, in any case, I forgot that the worthy gentleman
was coming."

Pauline was anxious to make excuses for the Rector to Guy, but Guy, when
he came round next day, was only apologetic for his own father's
behavior; and he and she came to a conclusion in the end that parents
must be forgiven on account of their age.

"At the same time," Guy added, "I blame my father for his conventional
outlook. He doesn't seem able to realize the extraordinary help that you
are to my work. In fact, he doesn't realize that my work is work. He's
been teaching for so many years that now he can no longer learn
anything. Your father's behavior is reasonable. He doesn't take us quite
seriously, but he leaves the situation to our disentanglement. Well, we
shall convince him that nothing in the world is so simple as a love like
ours; but the worst of my father is that even if he were convinced he
would be more annoying than ever."

"You must make allowances, Guy. For one thing, how few people, even when
they're young, understand about love. Besides, he's anxious about your
career."

"What right has he to be anxious?" Guy burst out. "If I fail, I pay the
penalty, not he."

"But he would be so hurt if you failed," she urged.

"Pauline, if you can say that, you can imagine that I will fail. Even
you are beginning to have doubts."

"I haven't any doubts," she whispered. "I know you will be famous. And
yet I have doubts of another sort. I sometimes wonder if I shall be
enough when you are famous?"

The question she had raised launched Guy upon a sea of eloquence. He
worried no more about his father, but only protested his dependence upon
Pauline's love for everything that he would ever have accomplished.

"Yes, but I think I shall seem dull one day," she persisted, with a
shake of the head.

"No, no. How could you seem dull to me?"

"But I'm not clever...."

"Avoid that wretched word," he cried. "It can only be applied to
thieves, politicians, and lawyers. I have told you a thousand times what
you are to me, and I will not tell you again because I don't want to be
an egotist. I don't want to represent you to myself as a creature that
exists _for_ me. You are a being to whom I aspire. If we live for ever I
shall have still to aspire to you and never be nearer than the hope of
deserving you."

"But your poetry, Guy, are you sure I appreciate it? Are you sure I'm
not just a silly little thing lost in admiration of whatever you do?"

Guy brushed her doubts aside.

"Poetry is life trembling on the edge of human expression," he declared.
"You are my life, and my poor verse faints in its powerlessness to say
so. I always must be alone to blame if the treasure that you are is not
proved to the world."

How was she to convince him of her unworthiness, how was she to persuade
this lover of hers that she was too simple a creature for his splendid
enthronement? Suddenly one day he would see her in all her dullness and
ordinariness, and, turning from her in disillusion, he would hold her
culpable for anything in his work that might seem to have betrayed his
ambition.

"Guy," she called into the future, "you will always love me?"

"Will there ever be another Pauline?"

"Oh, there might be so easily."

"Never! Never! Every hour, every moment cries 'never!'"

In her heart she told herself that at least none but she could ever love
him so well; and in the strange confidence his father's visit had given
to her she told him in her turn how every hour and every moment made her
more dependent upon his love.

"I want nothing but you, nothing, nothing. I've given up everything for
you."

"What have you given up?" he demanded, at once, jealously and
triumphantly regarding her.

"Oh, nothing really; but all the foolish little interests. Nothing, my
dearest, only pigeons and music and working woolen birds and visiting
poor people. Such foolish little things ... and yet things that were
once upon a time frightfully important."

"You mustn't give up your music and your pigeons."

They both laughed at the absurd conjunction.

"How can I play when I'm thinking of you always, every second? Why, when
I do anything but think of you, every object and every word floats away
as it does when I'm tired and trying to keep awake in a big room."

"You can play to me," he argued, "even when I'm not there."

"Guy darling, I do, I do; but you've no idea how hopelessly playing to
an absent lover destroys the time."

The memory of Mr. Hazlewood's visit was soon lost in the celebration of
their anniversary month. As they had promised themselves in Summer, they
went on moonlit expeditions to gather mushrooms; and at the waning of
the moon they rose early on many milk-white dawns instead, when the
mushrooms at such an hour were veritably the spoil of dew, gleaming in
their baskets under veils of gossamer. On these serene mornings the
sound of autumnal bird-song came to them out of misted trees, so that
they used to talk of the woods in the next Spring-time, themselves
moving about the wan vapors with that very air of people who scarcely
live in the present. There was in this plaintive music of robins and
thrushes a regret for the days of Summer spent together that were now
passed away, and yet a more robust melody might have affronted the
wistful air of these milk-white dawns. The frail notes of the birds
hinted at silence beyond, and through the opalescent and transuming
landscape Guy and Pauline floated in fancy once more down the young
Thames from Ladingford. The sad stillness of the year's surrender to
decline admonished them to garner these hours, making a ghost even of
the sun, as if to warn them of the fleeting world, the covetous and
furtive world. They wonderfully enjoyed these hours, but Pauline, when
at breakfast the mushrooms came fizzling to the table, could never
believe that she had been with Guy, and she used often to be
discontented on being reminded by her mother of how much of the day she
had already spent in his company. Looking back at these immaterial
mornings of autumnal mist, she saw them upon the confines of sleep:
silvery spaces they seemed that were not robbed from any familiar time.

There was during all this month a certain amount of congratulation which
had to be endured, and Margaret was angry one day because Mr. and Mrs.
Ford came over from Little Fairfield and alluded at tea to their hope of
Richard and her soon being engaged. Pauline was naturally subject to the
inquisitiveness of everybody, but as she could not without being
absent-minded talk about anything except Guy, she found the general
curiosity not very troublesome. Guy, however, resented this atmosphere
of inquiry and was always more and more anxious to carry her out of
reach of Wychford gossip.

One day in mid-October they had set out together with the intention of
taking a long walk to the open upland country on the other side of the
town, when, as they were going up High Street, they saw two of the local
chatter-boxes.

"I will not stop and talk to Mrs. Brydone and Mrs. Willsher," Guy
grumbled. "Let's cut up Abbey Lane."

They turned aside and were making their way to the path that led under
the Abbey wall to the highroad, when they saw Dr. Brydone and his son
coming from that direction.

"Really, there's a conspiracy of Brydones to waylay us this afternoon,"
Guy exclaimed, petulantly. "We shall have to go through the Abbey
grounds."

Pauline had passed the wicket, which he had impulsively flung open,
before she realized the violation of one of her age-long rules.

"It's really rather jolly in here to-day," said Guy. "I think we're
duffers not to come more often, you know."

The Autumn wind was booming round the plantation and sweeping up the
broad path down the hillside with a skelter of leaves that gave a wild
gaiety to the usually tristful scene.

"Why shouldn't we explore inside?" suggested Guy. "There's something so
exhilarating about this great west wind. Almost one could fancy it might
blow away that ghost of a house."

Pauline hesitated; since earliest childhood the Abbey had oppressed her
with ill omen, and she could not overcome her prejudice in a moment.

"You're not really afraid when you're with me?" he persisted.

Pauline surrendered, and they went across the etiolated lawn towards the
entrance. The wind was roaring through every crevice, and the ivy was
scratching restlessly at the panes or shivering where through the gaps
it had crept in with furry tendrils.

"It's rather fun to be walking up this staircase as if this were our own
house," said Guy.

Pauline had an impulse to go back, and she made a quick step to descend.

"Where are you going?"

"Guy, I think I feel afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"Oh, not of anything. Just afraid."

"Come, foolish one," he whispered, gently.

And she, though it was against her will, followed him up the echoing
empty stairs.

They went into every room, and Guy declared how they with their love
were restoring to each of them the life it had known in the past. Here
was a pleasant fancy, and Pauline hoped it might be true. In the thought
that their presence was in a way the bestowal of charity on these
maltreated halls she lost much of her alarm and began to enjoy the
solitude spent with Guy. Whether they looked out at the wilderness that
once was a garden or at the rank lawn in front, the thunderous wind
surging round the house brought them closer together in the
consciousness of their own shelter and their own peace in this deserted
habitation.

"Now confess," said Guy, "haven't we been rather stupid to neglect such
a refuge?"

"But, Guy, we haven't needed a refuge very often," objected Pauline,
who, for all that she was losing some of her dread of the Abbey, was by
no means inclined to set up a precedent for going there too often.

"Not yet," he admitted. "But with Winter coming on and the wet days that
will either keep us indoors or else prevent us from doing anything but
walk perpetually along splashy roads, we sha'n't be sorry to have a
place like this to which we can retreat in comparative comfort."

"Oh, Guy," Pauline asked, anxiously, "I suppose we ought not to come
here?"

"Why on earth not?"

"Don't be angry. But the idea just flashed through my mind that perhaps
Mother wouldn't like us to come here very often."

He sighed deeply.

"Really, sometimes I wonder what is the good of being engaged. Are we
for ever to be hemmed in by the conventions of a place like Wychford?"

"Oh, but I expect Mother wouldn't mind, really," said Pauline,
reassuring herself and him. "I'm always liable to these fits of doubt.
Sometimes I feel quite weighed down by the responsibility of being grown
up."

She laughed at herself, and the laughter ringing through the hollow
house seemed to return and mock her with a mirthless echo.

"Oh, Guy!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Guy, I wish I hadn't laughed then! Did
you hear how strangely it seemed as if the house laughed back at me?"

She had gripped his arm, and Guy, startled by her gesture, exclaimed
rather irritably that she ought to control her nerves.

"Well, don't let's stay in this room. I don't like the green light that
the ivy is giving your face."

"What next?" he grumbled. "Well, let's go out on the balcony."

They went half-way down-stairs to the door that opened on a large
balustraded terrace with steps leading from either end into the ruined
garden. The wind beat against them with such force here that very soon
they went back into the house, and Guy found a small room looking out on
the terrace, in which he persuaded Pauline to come and sit for a while.
All the other rooms in the house had been so dreadfully decayed, so much
battered by every humiliation time could inflict upon them, that this
small parlor was in contrast positively habitable. It gave the
impression of being perhaps the last place to which the long-vanished
owners had desperately held. There was a rusty hob-grate, and in the
window a deep wooden seat; while the walls were still painted with
courtly scenes, and the inlaid wooden floor gave a decency which
everywhere else had been destroyed by the mouldering boards.

"I say, it would be fun to light a fire some time," said Guy. "This is
just the room for us."

"It's rather a frightening room," said Pauline, doubtfully.

"Dearest, you insist on being frightened by everything this afternoon,"
he answered.

"No, but this room is frightening, Guy," she persisted. "This seems so
near to being lived in by dead people."

"And what can dead people do to you and me?" he asked, with that
sidelong mocking smile which she half disliked, half loved.

Pauline looked back over her shoulder once; then she came across to
where he invited her to sit in the window-bay.

"I ought to have brought my diamond pencil," he said. "This is such a
window for mottoes. Why, I declare! Somebody has scrawled one. Look,
Pauline. Pauline, look! _1770. R. G. P. F._ inside a heart. Oh, what a
pity it wasn't _P. G._ for Pauline Grey. Still, the _G_ can stand for
Guy. Oh, really, I think it's an extraordinary coincidence! _P. F.?_ We
can find out which of the Fentons that was. We'll look up in the history
of the family. Darling, I am so glad we came to this little room. Think
of those lovers who sat here once like us. Pauline, it makes me cherish
you so."

She sat upon his knees, because the window-seat was dusty, and because
in this place of fled lovers she wanted to be held closely to his heart.

The wind boomed and moaned, and the sun breaking through the clouds lit
up the walls with a wild yellow light.

Suddenly Pauline drew away from his arms.

"Shadows went by the window," she cried. "Guy, I feel afraid. I feel
afraid. There's a footstep."

She was lily-white whose cheeks had but now been burning so fiercely.

"Nonsense," he replied, half roughly. "It was that burst of sunshine."

"Guy, there were shadows. Hark!"

She nearly screamed, because footsteps were going down the stairs of the
empty house.

"It must have been the caretaker," said Guy.

"I saw a white person. Guy, never, never let us come here again."

"You don't seriously think you saw a ghost?" he asked.

"Guy, how do I know? Come away into the air. We should never have come
here. Oh, this room! I feel as if I should faint."

"I'll see who it was," said Guy, springing up.

"No, don't leave me. Wait for me. I'll come with you."

They hurried down the stairs, and when they reached the pallid lawn they
saw Margaret and Monica in their white coats disappearing among the
yew-trees by the entrance.

"There are your ghosts," said Guy, laughing.

Yet, though Guy scoffed at her fears, Pauline was not sure that she
would not have preferred a ghost to that disquieting passage of her
sisters without hail or comment. Yet perhaps, after all, they had not
seen her and Guy in that sinister small parlor.

"Shall we catch them up?" he asked.

And Pauline, with a breath of dismay, was conscious of an inclination to
pretend that they had not been here this afternoon. She discovered
herself, as it were, proposing to Guy that they should not overtake
Monica and Margaret. A secretiveness she had never known before had
seized her soul, and she hoped that their presence in the Abbey was
unknown. Guy divined at once that she did not want to overtake her
sisters, and he kept her under the trees, where they watched each
assault of the wind tearing at the little foliage that still remained.
He guided her tenderly away from the sight of the house; and they walked
along the broad path down through the shrubbery, meeting a rout of brown
and red and yellow leaves that swept by them. She clung to Guy's arm as
if this urgent and tumultuous wind had the power to sweep her, too, into
the confusion; such an affraying journey was life beginning to seem.
This ghastly elation of the October weather would not allow her breath
to examine the perplexity in which she had involved herself. She felt
that if the wind blew any louder she would have to scream out in
defiance of its violence or else surrender miserably and be whirled into
oblivion. A brown oak-leaf had escaped from the perishable host and was
palpitating in a fold of her sleeve like a hunted creature; but when
Pauline would have rescued it at the same moment a gust came roaring up
the walk under the hissing trees, and the driven leaf was torn from its
refuge and flung high into the air to join the myriads in their giddy
riot of death.

"Come away from here," she cried to Guy. "Come away or I shall go mad in
this wind."

He looked at her with a sort of judicial demeanor, as if he were in
doubt whether he ought not to reprove such excitement.

"It was really beginning to blow quite fiercely," he said, when they had
reached the comparative stillness of Abbey Lane.

Behind them Pauline still heard with terror and hatred the moaning of
the trees, and she hurried away from the sound.

"Never, never will I go there again. Why did you ask me to go there? I
would sooner have met a thousand Brydones than have been in that house."

"Pauline," he protested, "you really do sometimes encourage yourself to
be overwrought."

"Guy, don't lecture me," she said, turning upon him fiercely.

"Well, don't let the whole of Wychford see that you're in a temper," he
retorted. "People haven't yet got over the idea of us two as a natural
curiosity of the neighborhood. I don't want ... and I don't suppose
you're very anxious for these yokels to discuss our quarrels in the
post-office to-night?"

"I don't mind what anybody does," said Pauline, desperately. "I only
want to be out of this wind--this wind."

She was rather glad that Guy, perhaps to punish her for the loss of
control, said he must go and work instead of coming back to tea at the
Rectory. It strangely gave her the ability to smile at him and be in
their parting herself again, whereas had he come back with her she knew
that she would still have felt irritated. Her smile may have abashed his
ill-humor, for he seemed inclined to change his mind about the need for
work; but she would not let him, and hurried towards home at the back of
the west wind. Should she ask her sisters if they had seen her in the
Abbey? It would be better to wait until they said something first. It
would really be best to say nothing about this afternoon. Tea was in the
nursery that day, for the Rector was holding some sort of colloquy in
the drawing-room, which he always used for parochial business, because
he dreaded having his seeds scattered by the awkward fingers of the
flock.

Tea had not come in yet, and Pauline took her familiar seat in the
window, glad to be out of the wind, but pondering a little mournfully
the lawn mottled with leaves, and the lily-pond that was being seamed
and crinkled by every gust that skated across the surface. When the
others arrived Pauline knew that she turned round to greet them
defiantly, although she would have given much not to feel excuseful like
this.

"You didn't see Monica and me?" Margaret asked.

"Only after you'd gone too far for us to call to you," Pauline answered,
nervously assuring herself that Margaret had not tried to "catch her
out," as Janet would have said.

"We had taken the short cut through the Abbey," Monica explained.

Pauline felt that what Monica had meant to say was: "We did not spy upon
you deliberately." And that she should have had this instinct of putting
her sisters in the wrong prepared her for something unpleasant, that and
the fuss her mother was making over the tea-tray. Pauline was more than
ever grateful to the impulse which had not allowed Guy to change his
mind and come back with her. As soon as tea was over Margaret and Monica
went away to practise a duet; and in the manner of their going from the
room Pauline felt the louring of the atmosphere.

Her mother began at once:

"Pauline, I'm surprised at your going into the Abbey with Guy."

"Well, it was really an accident. I mean it was because we wanted not to
meet any of the Brydones, who were rushing at us from every side."

Pauline tried to laugh, but her mother looked down at the milk-jug and
flushed nearly to crimson in the embarrassment of something she was
forcing herself to say.

"It's not merely going into the Abbey ... no ... not merely that ... no,
not merely going into the Abbey ... but to let Guy make love to you like
that is so vulgar. Pauline, it's the sort of way that servants behave
when they're in love."

She sprang from the window-seat.

"Mother, what do you mean?"

"Margaret and Monica saw you sitting on Guy's knee. In any case I would
rather you never did that. In any case ... yes ... but in a place where
people passing might have seen ... yes, would have seen ... oh, it was
inexcusable. I shall have to make much stricter rules...."

"Are you going to speak to Guy about this?" Pauline asked. The house
seemed to be whirling away like a leaf, such a shattering of her love
were these words of her mother.

"How can I speak to Guy about it?" Mrs. Grey demanded, irritably. "How
can I, Pauline? It has nearly choked me to speak to you."

"I think Monica and Margaret are almost wicked!" Pauline cried in
flames. "They are trying to destroy everything. They are, they are. No,
Mother, you sha'n't defend them. I knew they felt guilty when they went
out of the room like that. How dare they put horrible thoughts in your
mind? How dare they? They're cruel to me. And you're cruel to me. I
don't understand what's happening to everybody. You'll make me hate you
all, if you speak like that!"

She rushed from the nursery and went first to the music-room, where
Margaret was sounding deep notes, hanging over her violoncello, and
where Monica was playing one of those contained, somewhat frigid
accompaniments.

"Margaret and Monica," said Pauline, standing in the doorway, "you're
never to dare to speak about me to Mother as you must have spoken this
afternoon. Because neither of you has any emotion but conceit and
selfishness, you shall not be jealous of Guy and me. Margaret, you can
have no heart. I shall write to Richard and tell him you're heartless.
Don't smile down at your violoncello. You shall not rule me into being
like yourself. Oh, I'll never play music with either of you again!"

Then she left them, and in her white room for an hour she listened
hopelessly to the trolling wind.



NOVEMBER


Guy was very indignant when he heard from Pauline the sequel of her
sisters' vigilance. That they should afterwards have tried to atone with
gentleness for what they had made her suffer did not avail with him.
Monica and Margaret now impressed him with their unworldly beauty in a
strange way, for they became sinister figures like the Lady Geraldine in
Christabel, sly, malignant sylphs set in ambush to haunt the romantic
path of his love. He was intensely aware that he ought not to resent
their interference, but that he ought, in fact, to acknowledge the
justice of it, and by a stoical endeavor prove himself entitled to the
cares of this long engagement. Actually Guy was enduring a violent
jealousy, and illogically he began to declare how the others were
jealous of him and Pauline. The consciousness that he could not carry
her off into immediate marriage galled him, and he suffered all the
pangs of an unmerited servitude. He and Pauline became the prisoners of
tyrants who were urging them to accept the yoke of convention; the more
he suffered the more he knew in his heart that he was culpable, and the
more culpable he recognized himself the more he chafed against the
burden of waiting. All the resolutions that with the announcement of
their betrothal had seemed to sail before a prospering breeze now turned
and beat up against adverse influences, and were every moment in danger
of being irreparably wrecked.

Naturally coincident with all the stress of a situation, that owing to
the temperament of the Greys was never relieved by discussion, was a
complete failure to advance on the private road of his poetical
ambition. All that he had written was seeming vain and bad; all that he
was now trying to write deteriorated with every word painfully inscribed
upon the cheerless empty page. He had conceived a set of eclogues that
were to mark his contempt for the feverish incompetence of the modern
school, whose ears had been corrupted by Wagner's filthy din; and all he
could manage to achieve were seeming the banal inspirations of
Mendelssohn. Guy was like an alchemist perpetually on the verge of
discovering the stone that will transmute base metals to gold as he
tried to find the secret by which such an one as Beethoven could purify
with art the most violent emotions of humanity, yet always preserve
their intrinsic value. He craved the secret which even the most obscure
Elizabethans seemed to have possessed, that unearthly power of harmony
which could fuse all baseness in a glittering song. Passion had never
lost itself in arid decoration when they sang; nor yet had it ever
betrayed itself with that impudently direct appeal these modern lyrists
made, these shameless Rousseaus of verse. Yet he was as bad as any of
them, for he was either like them when he tried to write his heart, or
he expired in the mere sound of words like the degenerate ruck of the
Caroline heirs to a great tradition. He was almost on the point of
proclaiming his final failure, and if at that moment he could have
received from his father the offer to come and teach small boys at Fox
Hall, he would have gone.

And yet would he have gone? Could he abandon the delight of being with
Pauline? The nearer he came to confessing his failure the more he longed
for her company. He was surely now in the midway of the thorny path of
love, and whether he progressed or retreated he could not escape the
spines. Well had he said to himself that night in May: "_La belle Dame
sans mercy hath thee in thrall._"

All the fire and fever of his present life on the outskirts of a haunted
country was for his imagination alone. However timidly his pen
approached those dreams, they vanished; and whenever his pen betrayed
him Guy turned despairingly again to Pauline herself. These days without
her were every day more unendurable. Once he had been content to talk
about her to Mrs. Grey and her sisters, to listen to their praise of
her; now every word they spoke wounded his pride. This madness of love
could only feed itself in the very dungeons of his mind; and unless she
were with him it did so horribly gorge itself that, if he had not
swiftly seen her again, the madness would have broken the bars of its
prison and ridden him like a hag.

It was when Guy had worked himself to this pitch of desire for the
remedy of her sweet presence that Pauline was denied to him. He knew he
must blame himself because, even after the warning of that afternoon in
the Abbey, whenever they were together he would carry her away into the
country, whence they would not return sometimes until night had fallen.
Worse than that, by his now continuous withdrawal from the life of the
Rectory he must have disquieted her family. He saw that they were
becoming anxious about Pauline, but for that very reason he could not
bring himself to mitigate a solitary doubt of theirs. Even to talk about
her in the lightest way was now become an outrage upon the seclusion of
their joint life. Such a conversation as that with Margaret about the
silver photograph-frame was now unimaginable. What right had any one to
know even what picture of Pauline burned upon his wall in the
night-time? At first Pauline herself, when the memory of the shock her
mother's words had been to her died out, tried to justify the attitude
of guardianship. She would explain to Guy how, ever since she could
remember, her mother and sisters had treated her with this vigilance.
They had, as she said, always so much adored her that it was natural
for them to be unable at once to relinquish entirely to some one else
the complete possession of her. Yet Guy must not be jealous, because she
told them none of her secrets now; indeed, she was distressed at the
thought of how far outside her confidence they reproachfully esteemed
themselves. Her love for him had severely shaken the perfect unity of
their immemorial life together, and he must be generous and understand
how gradual would have to be their renunciation of her to him. Guy,
however, would not allow Pauline to have regrets like this. The most
trivial consideration of her family aroused his jealousy; and when Mrs.
Grey said she thought it would be better if the old rule of seeing
Pauline only twice a week came into force again, Guy was determined that
Pauline should resent the step as bitterly as he resented it. All the
time he was with her he would be lamenting the briefness of their
permitted intercourse, and since the weather was now so wet that even
they could not reasonably claim beneath such streaming skies the right
to abscond into deserted country, November shed a gloom upon their love.

On the days when Guy did come to the Rectory, no one attempted to rob
them of their privacy; they were always granted the nursery to
themselves, and even sometimes they had tea there together, if visitors
came, so that the privilege of their few hours should not be infringed.
Nevertheless, the old sense of time and the world at their service was
lost. The dull November dusk came swiftly on; and out in the passage the
cuckoo with maddening reiteration proclaimed each fleeting fifteen
minutes. Often Guy was asked to dinner, but the old pleasure was mostly
gone, for in the evening he and Pauline were not expected to retire by
themselves; and there was always an implied reproach for his influence
when she refused to play her violin. Then there came a dreadful day,
because some cousins had arrived to stay at the Rectory; for these two
girls, like every one else, had been accustomed to adore Pauline, and
so were determined to take an extreme interest in her engagement.

"We seem to have a ghastly lure for them," Guy groaned in exasperation,
when Pauline had managed at last to secure the nursery for themselves.

"Guy, they're only staying a week."

"Well," he protested, "and for me to stay with you a week takes months
of these miserable little hours we have. Oh, Pauline, I must see more of
you!"

Then back came the adoring cousins, and Guy felt that no torture he
could imagine was bad enough for them. Their cordiality to him was so
great that he had to be superficially pleasant; and, as smile after
smile was wrung from him, by the end of the afternoon he felt sick with
the agony his politeness had cost.

"Hurry and dress! hurry! hurry!" he begged Pauline in a whisper when the
gong sounded. "Let us at least have five minutes alone before dinner
comes and I must go."

Pauline was scarcely five minutes in coming down again, but Guy counted
each tick of the clock with desperate heartsickness.

"Oh, my darling, my darling," he said, when she was held in the so
dearly longed for, the so terribly brief embrace. "I cannot bear the
torment of to-day."

She tried to soothe him; but Guy had reached the depths and this relief
after such effort was almost too late.

"Pauline, listen," he said, quickly. "You must come and say good night
to me in the garden. Do you hear? You must! You must! I sha'n't sleep
unless you do. You must!"

"Guy," she murmured, "I couldn't."

"You must! Promise ... you must. Come down and say good night to me on
the lawn. I shall wait there all night. I shall wait...."

The cuckoo burst out to cry seven o'clock.

"You must come. You must come. Promise."

"Perhaps," she whispered, faintly. Then she said she could not.

Guy went to the door.

"Remember, I have not kissed you good night," he proclaimed, solemnly.
"And now I'm going. I shall wait from eleven o'clock, and stay all night
until you have kissed me."

"Oh, but Guy...."

"To-night," he said. "You promise?"

"Guy, if I dare, if I dare."

There were footsteps in the passage. He fled across the room, kissed her
momentarily and hurried out, saying good-by to the cousins, as he passed
them, with a kind of exultant affection.

Outside, the November night hung humid and oppressive; Guy, looking up,
felt rain falling softly yet with gathering intensity, and he lingered a
few moments in the drive, held by the whispering blackness. Behind him
the lamplight of the Rectory windows seemed for the moment sad and
unattainable and gave him the fancy he was drifting away from a friendly
shore. Then suddenly he marched away along the drive, content; for the
thought of "to-night," which latterly had often brought such a
presentiment of loneliness, now sounded upon his imagination like the
rapture of a nightingale.

Plashers Mead had never appeared so desirable as now, when it was the
prelude to such an enterprise as this of consecrating with a last
embrace the rain and gloom of November. If he had any hesitation about
the lightness or even, setting probity aside, about the prudence of such
an action, he justified himself with romantic reasons; and if he was
driven by conscience to an ultimate defense, he justified himself with
the exceptional circumstances that gave him a sanction to accept from
Pauline this sacrifice of her traditions. Impulses to consider what he
was doing were easily dismissed; indeed, before he reached his house
there was not one left. Inside, the warmth and comfort of Plashers Mead
were additional incentives to prosecute his resolve; every gleaming
book, the breathing of the dog upon the mat before the fire, the gentle
purr of the lamp, all seemed to demand that voluptuous renunciation
which would later urge him forth again into the night. That it would
probably be raining was not to prove an obstacle; Pauline would be more
sure to come if she thought he were standing outside in the rain. It was
a second Eve of St. Agnes; and Guy went across to his shelf and took
down Keats. He had come to the knights and ladies praying in their dumb
oratories, when there was a knock at the front door, and his mind leaped
to the thought that Pauline might have sent a note by Birdwood to
prevent his coming to-night. The knock sounded again, and as Miss Peasey
was evidently too deeply immersed in _The Pilgrim's Progress_, her
vespertine lectionary, to pay heed to visitors at this hour of nine
o'clock, he must go down and open the door himself.

"Are we disturbing you?"

It was the voice of Brydone, and with Willsher in his wake he came into
the hall.

"Charlie and I have made several shots to find you in, but, of course,
we know you're a busy man nowadays."

"Go on up-stairs, will you?" said Guy, making a tremendous effort to
appear hospitable. "I'll dig out the whisky."

He went along and shouted in Miss Peasey's ear what was wanted. She
looked up as if it were Apollyon himself come to affront her holy
abstraction.

"I think there's some left from that bottle we got in August.... I shall
lay it on the mat," she told him.

Guy nodded encouragingly and went up-stairs to join his guests.

"Well, I suppose you'll be soon having a missus in charge here," said
Brydone, heartily.

Willsher hummed "Bachelor Boys" as a contributory echo of the question.

"Oh no; we're not getting married at once, you know," Guy explained.

"Well, you're quite right," Brydone declared, heartily. "After all,
being close at hand like this, you're not much likely to draw a blank in
the lottery."

"Marriage is a lottery, isn't it?" said Guy, with polite sarcasm.

"Rather," sighed Willsher. "Terrific!"

"I suppose I shall have to be looking round preparatory to getting
married in two or three years' time," Brydone added. "Well, you see,
after Christmas I shall be thinking about my finals, and then I'm going
to come in as the old man's partner. Country people like it best if a
doctor's married. No doubt about that, is there, Charlie?"

The solicitor's son agreed it was indubitable.

"Of course, if I had the cash to hang on in Harley Street for ten years
as a specialist, it would be another matter. But I can't, so there it
is."

Even this fellow had his dreams, Guy thought; even he would make
acquaintance with thwarted ambitions.

"Been doing anything with a rod lately?" asked Willsher, whose pastime,
when he could not be standing in action on the river's bank, was always
to steer a conversation in the direction of anglers' gossip.

"No, not lately," said Guy, "though I knocked down a lot of apples with
one last month."

"Ha-ha, that's good!" Brydone ejaculated. "That's very good, Hazlewood.
That's good, isn't it, Charlie?"

"Awfully good," agreed the angler.

Their appreciation seemed perfectly genuine, and Guy was touched by the
readiness of them to be entertained by his lame wit.

"I mustn't forget to tell the old man that," Brydone chuckled. "He's
always digging at me over the fish. Done anything with a rod lately? I
knocked down a lot of apples last month. Your governor will like that,
Charlie!"

Guy heard the clink of a tray deposited cautiously on the floor of the
passage outside. He allowed Miss Peasey time to retreat before he opened
the door, because it was one of the clauses in her charter that she was
never, as a lady housekeeper, to be asked to bring a tray into a room
when any one but Guy was present. He hoped that after they had drunk his
visitors would depart; but, alas! the unintended charm of his
conversation seemed likely to prolong their stay.

"Rabelais," Brydone read slowly, as he saw the volumes on the shelves.
"That's a bit thick, isn't it?"

"In quantity or quality, do you mean?" asked Guy.

"I've heard that's the thickest book ever written," said Brydone.

"Do you read old French easily?" asked Guy.

"Oh, it's in old French, is it?" said Brydone, in a disappointed voice.
"That would biff me."

A silence fell upon the room, a silence that seemed to symbolize the
"biffing" of the doctor's son by old French. Willsher took the
opportunity to steer the conversation back to fish, and ten o'clock
struck in the middle of an argument between him and his friend over the
merits of two artificial flies. Guy must be on the Rectory lawn by
eleven o'clock, and he began to be anxious, so animated was the
discussion, about the departure of these well-meaning intruders. He did
not want to plunge straight from their company into the glorious
darkness that would hold Pauline; and he eyed the volume of Keats lying
face downward on the table, hoping he would be allowed to come back to
the knights and ladies praying in their dumb oratories, while he thought
with a thrill of the moment when he should be able to read:

  And they are gone; ay, ages long ago
  These lovers fled away into the storm.

"If you can't get a chub any other way, you can sometimes get him with a
bit of bacon," Willsher was saying. "And I know a fellow who caught one
of those whoppers under Marston's Mill with a cherry. Fact, I assure
you."

"I know a man at Oldbridge who caught a four-pounder with a bumblebee."

"I caught a six-pounder at Oxford with a mouse's head myself," Guy
declared.

The friends looked at him in the admiration and envy with which anglers
welcome a pleasant, companionable sort of lie. It was a bad move, for it
seemed as if by that lie he had drawn closer the bonds of sympathy
between himself and his guests. They visibly warmed to his company, for
Brydone at once invited himself to another "tot" and was obviously
settling down to a competitive talk about big fish; while Willsher's
first shyness turned to familiarity, so completely indeed that he asked
if Guy would mind his moving the furniture in order to try to explain to
that fathead Brydone the exact promontory of the Greenrush where he had
caught thirty trout in an hour when the mayfly was up two years ago.

Half past ten struck from the church tower, and Guy became desperate.
There was nothing he hated so much as asking people to go, which was one
reason why he always discouraged them at the beginning; but it really
seemed as if he must bring himself to the point of asking Brydone and
Willsher to leave him to his work. He decided to allow them until a
quarter to eleven. The minutes dragged along, and when the quarter
sounded Guy said he was sorry, but that he was very much afraid he would
have to work now.

"Right oh," said Brydone. "We'll tootle off." But it took ten minutes to
get them out of the house, and when at last they disappeared into the
mazy garden Guy was in a fume of anxiety about his tryst. He could not
now go round by Rectory Lane, as he had intended at first. No doubt
Brydone and Willsher would stay talking half an hour on the bridge, for
the rain had stopped and they had given the impression of having the
night before them. In fact, Brydone had once definitely announced that
the night was still young. Yet in a way the fact of their nearness and
of his having to avoid them added a zest to the adventure.

How dark it was and how heavily the trees dripped in the orchard! Guy
pulled the canoe from the shed and dragged it squeaking over the wet
grass; not even he in the exaltation of the moment was going to swim the
Hellespont.

When he was in the canoe and driving it with silent strokes along the
straight black stream; when the lantern was put out and the darkness was
at first so thick that like the water it seemed to resist the sweep of
his paddle, Guy could no longer imagine that Pauline would venture out.
He became oppressed by the impenetrable and humid air, and he began to
long for rain to fall as if it would reassure him that nature in such an
annihilation of form was still alive. Now he had swung past the
overhanging willows of the churchyard; his eyes, grown accustomed to the
darkness, discovered against a vague sky the vague bulk of the church,
and in a minute or two he could be sure that he was come to the Rectory
paddock. He was wet to the knees, and his feet, sagging in the grass,
seemed to make a most prodigious noise with their gurgling.

Guy was too early when he crept over the lawn, for there were still
lights in all the upper windows, and he withdrew to the plantation,
where he waited in rapt patience while the branches dripped and
pattered, dripped and pattered ceaselessly. One by one the lights had
faded out, but still he must not signal to Pauline. How should he, after
all, make known to her his presence on that dark lawn? Scarcely would
she perceive from her window his shadowy form. He must not even whisper;
he must not strike a match. Suddenly a light crossed his vision, and he
started violently before he realized that it was only a glow-worm
moving with laborious progress along the damp edge of the lawn. Black
indeed was the hour when a glow-worm belated on this drear night of the
year's decline could so alarm him. For a while he watched the creeping
phosphorescence and wondered at it in kindly fellowship, thinking how
like it was to a human lover, so small and solitary in this gigantic
gloom. Then he began to pick it up and, as it moved across his hand and
gave it with the wan fire a ghostly semblance, he resolved to signal
with this lamp to Pauline.

Midnight crashed its tale from the belfry, and nowhere in the long house
was there any light. There was nothing now in the world but himself and
this glow-worm wandering across his hand. He moved nearer to the house
and stood beneath Pauline's window; surely she was leaning out; surely
that was her shadow tremulous on the inspissate air. Guy waved, and the
pale light moving to and fro seemed to exact an answer, for something
fell at his feet, and by the glow-worm's melancholy radiance he read
"_now_" on a piece of paper. Gratefully he set the insect down to vanish
upon its own amorous path into the murk. Not a tree quivered, not a
raindrop slipped from a blade of grass, but Guy held out his arms to
clasp his long-awaited Pauline. The "now" prolonged its duration into
hours, it seemed; and then when she did come she was in his arms before
he knew by her step or by the rustle of her dress that she was coming.
She was in his arms as though like a moth she had floated upon a flower.

Their good night was kissed in a moment, and she was gone like a moth
that cannot stay upon the flower it visits.

Guy waited until he thought he saw her leaning from her window once
more. Then he drew close to the wall of the house and strained his eyes
to catch the farewell of her hand. As he looked up the rain began to
fall again; and in an ecstasy he glided back to Plashers Mead, adoring
the drench of his clothes and the soft sighing of the rain.



ANOTHER WINTER



DECEMBER


In the first elation of having been able to prove to Guy how exclusively
she loved him, Pauline had no misgivings about the effect upon herself
of that dark descent into the garden. It was only when Guy, urging the
success of what almost seemed disturbingly to state itself as an
experiment, begged her to go farther and take the negligible risk of
coming out with him on the river at night, that she began to doubt if
she had acted well in yielding that first small favor. The problem, that
she must leave herself to determine without a hint of its existence to
any one outside, stuck unresolved at the back of her conscience, whence
in moments of depression it would, as it were, leap forth to assail her
peace of mind. She was positive, however, that the precedent had been
unwise from whatever point of view regarded, and for a while she
resisted earnestly the arguments Guy evoked about the privileges
conferred on lovers by the customary judgment of the world.
Nevertheless, in the end she did surrender anew to his persistence, and
on two nights of dim December moonlight she escaped from the house and
floated with him unhappily upon the dark stream, turning pale at every
lean branch that stretched out from the bank, at every shadow, and at
every sound of distant dogs' barking.

Guy would not understand the falseness of this pleasure and, treating
with scorn her alarm, he used to invent excuses by which she would be
able to account for the emptiness of the room in the event of her
absence being discovered. The mere prospect of such deceit distressed
Pauline, and when she realized that even already by doing what she had
done deceit had been set on foot, she told him she could not bear the
self-reproach which followed. It was true, as she admitted, that there
was really nothing to regret except the unhappiness the discovery of her
action would bring to her family, but, of course, the chief effect of
this was that Guy became even more jealous of her sisters' influence.
The disaccord between him and them was making visible progress, and much
of love's joy was being swallowed up in the sadness this brought to her.
She wished now that she had said nothing about the rebuke she had earned
for that unfortunate afternoon in the Abbey. Margaret and Monica had
both tried hard ever since to atone for the part they played, and having
forgiven them and accepted the justice of their point of view, Pauline
was distressed that Guy should treat them now practically as avowed
enemies. She might have known that happiness such as hers could not
last, and she reproached herself for the many times she had triumphed in
the thought of the superiority of their love to any other she had
witnessed. She deserved this anxiety and this doubt as a punishment for
the way in which she had often scoffed at the dullness of other people
who were in love. Marriage, which at first had been only a delightful
dream the remoteness of which did not matter, was now appearing the only
remedy for the ills that were gathering round Guy and her. As soon as
she had set her heart upon this panacea she began to watch Guy's work
from the point of view of its subservience to that end. She was anxious
that he should work particularly hard, and she became very sensitive to
any implication of laziness in the casual opinion that Margaret or
Monica would sometimes express. Guy was obviously encouraged by the
interest she took, and for a while in the new preoccupation of working
together as it were for a common aim the strain of their restricted
converse was allayed.

One day early in December Guy announced that really he thought he had
now enough poems to make a volume, news which roused Pauline to the
greatest excitement and which on the same evening she triumphantly
announced to her family at dinner.

"My dears, his book is finished! And, Father, he has translated some
poems of that man--that Latin creature you gave him on his birthday."

"Propertius is difficult," said the Rector. "Very difficult."

"Oh, but I'm so glad he's difficult, because that will make it all the
more valuable if Guy ... or won't it? Oh, don't let me talk nonsense;
but really, darlings, aren't you all glad that his book is finished?"

"We'll drink the poet's health," said the Rector.

"Oh, Father, I must kiss you.... Aren't you pleased Guy appreciated your
present?"

"Now, Pauline, you're sweeping your napkin down on the floor...."

"Oh, but, Mother, I must kiss Francis for being so sweet."

"He promised to show me the poems," said Margaret. "But Guy doesn't like
me any more."

"Oh yes, Margaret, he does. Oh, Margaret, he really does. And if you say
that, I shall have to break a secret. He's written two poems about you."

Margaret flushed.

"Has he? Well, he must certainly show them to me first or I shall veto
the publication."

"Oh, darlings," Pauline cried, "I am happy to-night! The famousness of
Guy presently ... and oh, I forgot to tell you something so touching
that happened this morning. What do you think? Miss Verney consulted me
as to whether I thought it was time she began to wear caps."

"Guy ought to write a poem about that," said Monica.

"Oh no, Monica, you're not to laugh at poor Miss Verney. I must tell her
to-morrow morning about Guy's book. She so appreciates greatness."

It was a delightful evening, and Pauline in her contentment felt that
she was back in the heart of that old Rectory life, so far did the
confidence in Guy's justification of himself enable her to leave behind
the shadows of the past two months, and most of all those miserable
escapades in the watery December moonlight.

"A book! Dear me, how important!" said Miss Verney when next morning
Pauline was telling her the news. "Quite an important event for
Wychford, I'm sure. I must write to the Stores and order a copy at once
... or perhaps, as a local celebrity ... yes, I think it would be kinder
to patronize our Wychford stationer."

"But, Miss Verney, it's not published yet, you know. We expect it won't
be published before March at the earliest."

"I don't think I ever met an author," said Miss Verney, meditatively.
"You see, my father being a sailor.... Really, an author in Wychford!...
Dear me, it's quite an important occasion."

Pauline thought she would devote the afternoon to writing the good news
to Richard, and Margaret, hearing of her intention, announced
surprisingly that Richard was coming back in April for two or three
months.

"Oh, Margaret, and you never told me."

"Well, I didn't think you took much interest in Richard nowadays. He
asked what had happened to you."

"I am glad he's coming back, Margaret. But oh, do tell me if you are
going to marry him."

Margaret would not answer, but Pauline, all of whose hopes were roseate
to-day, decided that Margaret had really made up her mind at last, and
she went up-stairs full of penitence for her neglect of Richard, but
determined to make up for it by the good news she would send both of
herself and of him.

  WYCHFORD RECTORY, OXON,
  _December_.

     MY DEAR RICHARD,--I am sorry that I've not written to you for so
     long, but I know you'll forgive me, because I have to think about
     so many things. Margaret has just told me you are coming back in
     April. Be sure it is April, because my birthday is on the first of
     May, you know, and you must be in England for my birthday.
     Margaret looked very happy when she said you were coming home.
     Richard, I am sure that everything will be _perfect_. Guy's book
     is finished, and perhaps it will be published in March. If it's
     published early in March, I will send you a copy so that you can
     read it on the steamer coming home. There are two poems about
     Margaret, who was very sympathetic with Guy over me! That's one of
     the reasons why I'm sure that everything will be perfect for you.
     Guy wants to meet you very much. He says he admires action. That's
     because I told him about your bridge. Your father and mother are
     always very sweet to us when we go and have tea with them. Miss
     Verney is going to wear caps. Birdwood asked if you would bring
     him back a Goorcha's--is that the way to spell it?--a Goorcha's
     knife because Godbold won't believe something he told him.
     Birdwood said you were a grand young chap and were wasted out in
     India. Father won a prize at Vincent Square for a yellow
     gladiolus. It's been christened--now I've forgotten what, but
     after somebody who had a golden throat. Guy's dog is a lamb. A
     merry Christmas, and lots of love from

  Your loving
  PAULINE.

Pauline looked forward to Richard's return because she hoped that if
Margaret married him her own marriage to Guy would begin to appear more
feasible, it being at present almost too difficult to imagine anything
like marriage exploding upon the quietude of the Rectory. The return of
Richard, from the moment she eyed it in relation to her own affairs,
assumed an importance it had never possessed before when it was only an
ideal of childish sentiment, and Pauline made of it a foundation on
which she built towering hopes.

Guy, as soon as he had decided to publish his first volume, instantly
acquired doubts about the prudence of the step, and he rather hurt
Pauline's feelings by wanting Michael Fane to come and give him the
support of his judgment.

"I told you I should never be enough," she said, sadly.

He consoled her with various explanations of his reliance upon a
friend's opinion, but he would not give up his idea of getting him, and
he wrote letter after letter until he was able to announce that for a
week-end in mid-December Michael was actually pledged.

"And I do want you to like him," said Guy, earnestly.

Pauline promised that of course she would like him, but in her heart she
assured herself she never would. It was cerulean Winter weather when the
friend arrived, and Pauline, who had latterly taken up the habit of
often coming into the churchyard to talk for a while with Guy across the
severing stream, abandoned the churchyard throughout that week-end. Guy
was vexed by her withdrawal and vowed that in consequence all the
pleasure of the visit had been spoiled.

"For I've been rushing in and out all the time to see if you were not in
sight, and I'm often absolutely boorish to Fane, who, by the way, loves
your Rectory bedroom so much."

"Has he condescended to let your book appear?" asked Pauline.

"Oh, rather; he says that everything I've included is quite all right.
In fact, he's a much less severe critic than I am myself."

Pauline had made up her mind, if possible, to avoid a meeting with
Michael, but on Monday she relented, and they were introduced to each
other. The colloquy on that turquoise morning, when the earth smelled
fresh and the grass in the orchard was so vernally green, did not help
Pauline to know much about Michael Fane, save that he was not so tall as
Guy, and that somehow he gave the impression of regarding life more
like a portrait by Vandyck than a human being. He was cold, she settled,
and she, as usual shy and blushful, could only have seemed stupid to
him.

That afternoon, when the disturbing friend had gone, Pauline and Guy
went for a walk.

"He admired you tremendously."

"Did he?" she made listless answer.

"He said you were a fairy's child, and he also said you really were a
wild rose."

"What an exaggerated way of talking about somebody whom he has seen for
only a moment."

"Pauline," said Guy, affectionately rallying her, "aren't you being
rather naughty--rather wilful, really? Didn't you like Michael?"

"Guy, you can't expect me to know whether I liked him in a minute. He
made me feel shyer than even most people do."

"Well, let's talk about the book instead," said Guy, "What color shall
the binding be?"

"What color did he suggest?"

"I see you're determined to be horrid about my poor, harmless Michael."

"Well, why must he be brought down like this to approve of your book?"

"Oh, he has good taste, and besides he's interested in you and me."

"What did you tell him about us?" Pauline asked, sharply.

"Nothing, my dearest, nothing," said Guy, flinging his stick for Bob to
chase over the furrows. "At least," he added, turning and looking down
at her with eyebrows arched in pretended despair of her
unreasonableness, "I expect I bored him to death with singing your
praises."

Still Pauline could not feel charitable, and still she could not smile
at Guy.

"Ah, my rose," he said, tenderly. "Why will you droop? Why will you
care about people who cannot matter to us? My own Pauline, can't you see
that I called in a third person because I dare not trust myself now. All
the day long, all the night long you are my care. I'm so dreadfully
anxious to justify myself; I long for assurance at every step; once I
was self-confident, but I can't be self-confident any longer. Success is
no responsibility in itself, but now...."

"It's my responsibility," cried Pauline, melting to him. "Oh, forgive me
for being jealous. Darling boy, it's just my foolish ignorance that
makes me jealous of some one who can give you more than I."

"But no one can!" he vowed. "I only asked Michael's advice because you
are too kind a judge. My success is of such desperate importance to us
two. What would it have mattered before I met you? Now my failure
would.... Oh, Pauline, failure is too horrible to think of!"

"As if you could fail," she chided, gently. "And if you did fail, I
would almost be glad, because I would love you all the more."

"Pauline, would you?"

"Ah no, I wouldn't," she whispered. "Because I could not love you more
than I do now."

The dog, with a sigh, dropped his stick; he was become accustomed to
these interludes.

"Bob gives us up as hopeless," Guy laughed.

"I'm not a bit sympathetic, you jealous dog," she said. "Because you
have your master all day long."

The next time Guy came to the Rectory he brought with him the
manuscript, so that Pauline could seal it for luck; and they sat in the
nursery while Guy, for the last enumeration, turned over the pages one
by one.

"It represents so much," he said, "and it looks so little. My father
will be rather surprised. I told him I should wait another year. I
wonder if I ought to have waited."

"Oh no," said Pauline. "Everything else is waiting and waiting. It
makes me so happy to think of these pages flying away like birds."

"I hope they won't be like homing-pigeons," said Guy. "It will be rather
a blow if William Worrall rejects them."

"Oh, but how could he be so foolish?"

"I don't think he will, really," said Guy. "After all, a good many
people have indorsed the first half, and I'm positive that what I've
written here is better than that. I rather wish I'd finished the
Eclogues, though. Do you think perhaps I'd better wait, after all?"

"Oh no, Guy, don't wait."

So, very solicitously the poems were wrapped up, and when they were tied
and sealed and the parcel lay addressed upon the table, Mrs. Grey with
Monica and Margaret came in. They were so sympathetic about the possible
adventures in sight for that parcel, and Guy was so much his rather
self-conscious self, that the original relation between him and the
family seemed perfectly restored. Pauline was glad to belong to them,
and in her pride of Guy's achievement she basked in their simple
affection, thrilling to every word or look or gesture that confirmed her
desire of the cherished accord between Guy and the others.

"Now I'm sure you'd both like to go and post Guy's poems," Mrs. Grey
exclaimed. "Yes ... charming ... to go and post them yourselves."

Pauline waited anxiously for a moment, because of late Guy had often
seemed impatient of these permissions granted to him by her mother, but
this afternoon he was himself and full of the shy gratitude that made
her wonder if indeed nearly a year could have flown by since their love
had been declared. Dusk was falling when they reached the post-office.

"Will you register it, Mr. Hazlewood?" asked the post-mistress.

Guy nodded, and the parcel left their hands; in silence they watched it
vanish into the company of other parcels that carried so much less;
then back they came through the twilight to tea at the Rectory, both
feeling as if the first really important step towards marriage had been
taken.

"You see," said Guy, "if only these poems of mine are well received, my
father must acknowledge my right to be here, and if he once admits that,
what barrier can there be to our wedding?"

Pauline told him how much during the last month the distant prospect of
their marriage had begun to weigh upon her, but now since that parcel
had been left at the post-office, she said she would always talk of
their wedding because that was such a much less remote word than
marriage.

"Come out to-night," said Guy, suddenly.

She put her hand on his arm.

"Guy, don't ask me again."

He was penitent at once, and full of promises never to ask her again to
do anything that might cause an instant's remorse. They had reached the
hall of the Rectory, and in the shadows Pauline held him to her heart,
suddenly caught in the flood of tenderness that a wife might have for a
husband to whose faults she could be indulgent by the measure of his
greater virtues kept, as it might be, for her alone.



JANUARY


Guy, as soon as he had sent off the poems to a publisher, was much less
violently driven by the stress of love, which latterly had urged him
along so wayward a course. He began to acquire a perspective and to lose
some of that desperately clinging reliance upon present joys. The need
of battling against an uncertain future had brought him to the pitch of
madness at the thought of the hours of Pauline's company that must be
wasted; but now when to his sanguine hopes marriage presented itself as
at last within sight, sometimes even seeming as close as the Fall of
this new year, he was anxious to set Pauline upon more tranquil waters,
lest she too should like himself be the prey of wild imaginations that
might destroy utterly one untempered by any except the gentler emotions
of a secluded life. Her mother and sisters, whom he had come to regard
as hostile interpreters of convention, took on again their old features
of kindliness and grace; and he was able to see without jealous torments
how reasonable their attitude had been throughout; nay, more than
reasonable, how unworldly and noble-hearted it had been in confiding
Pauline to the care of one who had so few pretensions to deserve her. He
upbraided himself for having by his selfishness involved Pauline in the
complexities of regrets for having done something against her judgment;
and in this dreary rain of January, free from the burden of uncompleted
labor, he now felt a more light-hearted assurance than he had known
since the beginning of their love.

Bills came in by every post, but their ability to vex him had vanished
in the promise his manuscript gave of a speedy defeat of all material
difficulties. The reaction from the strain of decking his poems with the
final touches that were to precede the trial of public judgment gave
place to dreams. A dozen times Guy followed the manuscript step by step
of its journey from the moment the insentient mail-cart carried it away
from Wychford to the moment when Mr. William Worrall threw a first
casual glance to where it lay waiting for his perusal on the desk in the
Covent Garden office. Guy saw the office-boy send off the formal
post-card of acknowledgment that he had already received; and in his
dream he rather pitied the youth for his unconsciousness of what a
treasure he was acknowledging merely in the ordinary routine of a
morning's work. Perhaps the packet would lie unopened for two or three
days--in fact, probably Mr. Worrall might not yet have resumed work, as
they say, after a short Christmas vacation. Moreover, when he came back
to business, although at Guy's request for sponsors the poems had been
vouched for by one or two reputed friends of the publisher with whom he
was acquainted; he would no doubt still be inclined to postpone their
examination. Then one morning he would almost inadvertently cut the
string and glance idly at a page, and then....

At this point the author's mental visions varied. Sometimes Worrall
would be so deeply transfixed by the revelation of a new planet swimming
into ken that he would sit spellbound at his own good fortune, not
emerging from a trance of delight until he sent a telegram inviting the
poet to come post-haste to town and discuss terms. In other dreams the
publisher would distrust his own judgment and take the manuscript under
his arm to a critic of taste, anxiously watching his face and, as an
expression of admiration gradually diffused itself, knowing that his own
wild surmise had been true. There were many other variations of the
first reception of the poems, but they all ended in the expenditure of
sixpence on a telegram. Here the dream would amplify itself; and proofs,
binding, paper, danced before Guy's vision; while soon afterwards the
first reviews were coming in. At this stage the poet's triumph assumed a
hundred shapes and diversities, and ultimately he could never decide
between a leader on his work in _The Times_ headed A NEW GENIUS or an
eulogy on the principal page of _The Daily Mail_ that galloped neck and
neck for a column alongside one of The Letters of an Englishman. The
former would bestow the greater honor; the latter would be more
profitable; therefore in moments of unbridled optimism he was apt to
allot both proclamations to his fortune. With such an inauguration of
fame the rest was easy dreaming. His father would take a train to
Shipcot on the same morning; if he read _The Times_ at breakfast he
would catch the eleven o'clock from Galton and, traveling by way of
Basingstoke, reach Shipcot by half past two. Practically one might dream
that before tea he would have settled £300 a year on his son, so that
the pleasant news could be announced to the Rectory that very afternoon.
In that case he and Pauline could be married in April; and actually on
her twenty-first birthday she would be his wife. They would not go to
the Campagna this year, because these bills must be paid, unless his
father, in an access of pride due to his having bought several more
eulogies at bookstalls along the line, offered to pay all debts up to
the day of his wedding; in which case they could go to the Campagna:

  I wonder do you feel to-day
    As I have felt since, hand in hand,
  We sat down on the grass, to stray
    In spirit better through the land,
  This morn of Rome and May?

They would drive out from the city along the Appian Way and turn aside
to sit among the ghostliness of innumerable grasses in those primal
fields, the air of which would be full of the feathery seeds and the dry
scents of that onrushing Summer. There would be no thought of time and
no need for words; there would merely be the two of them on a morn of
Rome and May. And later in the warm afternoon they would drive home,
coming back to the city's heart to eat their dinner within sound of the
Roman fountains. Then all the night-time she would be his, not his in
frightened gasps as when wintry England was forbidding all joy to their
youth, but his endlessly, utterly, gloriously. They would travel farther
south and perhaps come to that Parthenopean shore calling to him still
now from the few days he had spent upon its silver heights and beside
its azure waters. In his dream Pauline was leaning on his shoulder
beneath an Aleppo pine, at the cliff's edge--Pauline, whose alien
freshness would bring a thought of England to sigh through its boughs,
and a cooler world to the aromatic drought. Theirs should be sirenian
moons and dawns, and life would be this dream's perfect fulfilment. In
what loggia, firefly-haunted, would he hold her? The desire with which
the picture flamed upon his imagination was almost intolerable, and here
he always brought her back to Plashers Mead on a June dusk. Then she
could be conjured in this house, summoned in spirit here to this very
room; and if they had loved Italy, how they would love England as they
walked across their meadows, husband and wife! With such visions Guy set
on fire each January night that floated frorely into his bedroom, until
one morning a letter arrived from Mr. William Worrall that made his
fingers tremble as he broke the envelope and read the news:

  217 COVENT GARDEN, W.C.,
  _January 6th_.

     DEAR SIR,--I have looked at the poems you were kind enough to send
     for my consideration, and I shall be happy to hand them to a
     reader for his opinion. The reader's fee is one guinea. Should his
     opinion be favorable, I shall be glad to discuss terms with you.

  Yours faithfully,
  WILLIAM WORRALL.

Guy threw the letter down in a rage. He would almost have preferred a
flat refusal to this request for money to enable some jaded hack to read
his poems. The proposal appeared merely insolent, and he wrote curtly to
Mr. William Worrall to demand the immediate return of his manuscript.
But after all, if Worrall did not accept his work, who would? Money was
an ulterior consideration when the great object was to receive such
unanimous approval as would justify the apparent waste of time in which
he had been indulging. The moment his father acknowledged the right he
had to be confident, he in turn would try to show by following his
father's advice that he was not the wrong-headed idler of his
reputation. Perhaps he would send the guinea to Worrall. He tore up his
first letter and wrote another in which a cheque was inclosed. Then he
began to add up the counterfoils of his cheque-book, a depressing
operation that displayed an imminent financial crisis. He had overdrawn
£5 last quarter. That left £32 10_s_. of the money paid in on December
21st. The quarter's rent was £4 10_s_. That left £28. Miss Peasey's
wages were in arrears, and he must pay her £4 10_s_. on the fifteenth of
this month. That would leave £23 10_s_., and he must knock off 7_s_.
6_d_. for Bob's license. About £3 had gone at Christmas and there were
the books still to pay. Twenty pounds was not much for current expenses
until next Lady Day. However, he decided that he could manage in
Wychford, if he did not have to pay out money for Oxford debts, the
creditors of which were pressing him harder each week.

                                          £       _s_.     _d_.

  _Lampard_.        Books.                39       15        0
  _Harker_.         Furniture.            17       18        0
  _Faucett_.        Books.                22       16        6
  _Williamson_.     Books.                13       19        0
  _Ambrose_.        Books.                 4        7        0
  _Brough_.         Tobacco.               9       19        0
  _Clary_.          Clothes.              44        4        0
  _Miscellaneous_.  Books, Clothes,
                    Stationery, Chemist,
                    etc., etc. about £50

A total of £202 18_s_. 6_d_. Practically he might say that £200 would
clear everything. Yet was £50 enough to allow for those miscellaneous
accounts? Here, for instance, was a bill of £11 for boots and another of
£14 for hats, apparently, though how the deuce he could have spent all
that on hats he did not know. It would be wiser to say that £250 was
required to free himself from debt. Guy read through the tradesmen's
letters and detected an universal impatience, for they all reminded him
that not merely for fifteen months had they received nothing on account
of large outstanding bills, but also they made it clear that behind
reiterated demands and politeness strained to breaking-point stood
darkly the law. That brute Ambrose, to whom, after all, he owed only £4
7_s_., was the most threatening. In fact, he would obviously have to pay
the ruffian in full. That left only £15 13_s_. for current expenses to
Lady Day, or rather £14 12_s_., for, by the way, Worrall's guinea had
been left out of the reckoning.

Guy wondered if he ought to get rid of Miss Peasey and manage for
himself in future. Yet the housekeeper probably earned her wages by what
she saved him, and if he relied on a woman who "came in" every morning,
that meant feeding a family. It would be better to sell a few books. He
might raise £50 that way. Ten pounds to both Lampard and Clary, and six
fivers among the rest, would postpone any violent pressure for a while.
Guy at once began to choose the books with which he could most easily
part. It was difficult to put aside as many as might be expected to
raise £50, for his collection did not contain rarities, and it would be
a sheer quantity of volumes, the extraction of which would horribly
deplete his shelves, upon which he must rely.

The January rain dripped monotonously on the window-sills while Guy
dragged book after book from the shelves that for only fifteen months
had known their company. They were a melancholy sight when he had
stacked on the floor as many books as he could bear to lose, each shelf
looking as disreputable as a row of teeth after a fight. A hundred
volumes were gone, scarcely a dozen of which had he sacrificed without a
pang. But a hundred volumes in order to raise £50 must sell at an
average of ten shillings apiece, and in the light of such a test of
value he regarded dismayfully the victims. Precious though they were to
him, he could not fairly estimate the price they would fetch at more
than five shillings each. That meant the loss of at least a hundred more
books. Guy felt sick at the prospect and looked miserably along the rows
for the further tribute of martyrs they must be forced to yield. With
intense difficulty he gathered together another fifty, and then with a
final effort came again for still another fifty. Here was the first
edition of Swinburne's _Essays and Studies_. That must go, for it might
count as ten shillings and therefore save a weaker brother. Rossetti's
Poems in this edition of 1871 must go in order to save the complete
works, for he could copy out the sonnet which was not reprinted in the
later edition. Here was Payne's translation of Villon, which could
certainly go, for it would fetch at least fifteen shillings, and he
still possessed that tattered little French edition at two francs. The
collected Verlaine might as well go, and the Mallarmé with the Rops
frontispiece: the six volumes would save others better loved. Besides,
he was sick of French poetry, wretched stuff most of it. Yet, here was
Hérédia and the Pleiad and de Vigny, all of whom were beloved
exceptions. He must preserve, too, the Italians (what a solace Leopardi
had been), though here were a couple of Infernos, one of which could
surely be sacrificed. He opened the first:

  _Amor, chee a nullo amato amar perdona,_
    _Mi pres del costui piacer si forte,_
  _Che, come vedi, ancor non m'abbandona._

The words were stained with the blue anemone to which he had likened
Pauline's eyes that first day of their love's declaration. He opened the
other:

  _Ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse,_
    _Quando leggemmo il disiato riso_
  _Esser baciato da cotanto amante,_
    _Questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,_
  _La bocca mi baciò tutto tremante:_

And in this volume the words were stained with a ragged-robin which
unnoticed had come back to Plashers Mead in his pocket that May eve, and
which when it fell out later he had pressed between those burning pages.
It was doubtless the worst kind of sentiment, but the two books must go
back upon their shelves, and never must they be lost, even if everything
but Shakespeare went.

Guy put his hand to his forehead and found that it was actually wet with
the agony of what on this January afternoon he had been compelling
himself to achieve. Each book before it was condemned he stroked fondly
and smelled like incense the fragrant mustiness of the pages, since
nearly every volume still commemorated either the pleasure of the moment
when he had bought it or some occasion of reading equally good to
recall. Then he covered the pile with a shroud of tattered stuff and
wrote a letter offering them to the only bookseller in Oxford with whom
he had never dealt. Two days later an assistant came over to inspect the
booty.

"Well?" said Guy, painfully, when the assistant put away his note-book
and shot his cuffs forward.

"Well, Mr. Hazlewood, we can offer you thirty-five pounds for that
little lot."

Guy stammered a repetition of the disappointing sum.

"That's right, sir. And we don't really want them."

"But surely fifty pounds...."

The assistant smiled in a superior way.

"We must _try_ and make a _little_ profit," he murmured.

"Oh, God, you'll do that! Why, I must have paid very nearly a hundred
for them, and they were practically all second hand when I bought them."

The assistant shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm sorry, sir, but in offering you thirty-five pounds I'm offering too
much as it is. We don't really want them, you see. They're not really
any good to us."

"You're simply being damned charitable in fact," said Guy. "All right.
Give me a cheque and take them away when you like ... the sooner the
better."

He could have kicked that pile of books he had with such hardship
chosen; already they seemed to belong to this smart young assistant with
the satin tie; and he began to hate this agglomeration which had cost
him such agony, and in the end had swindled him out of £15. The
assistant sat down and wrote a cheque for Guy, took his receipt, and
bowed himself out, saying that he would send for the books in the course
of the week.

Through the rain Guy went for consolation to Pauline. He told her of his
sacrifice, and she with all she could give of exquisite compassion
listened to his tale.

"But, Guy, my darling, why don't you borrow the money from Father? I am
sure he'd be delighted to lend it to you."

Guy shook his head.

"It's impossible. My debts must be paid by myself. I wouldn't even
borrow from Michael Fane. Dearest, don't look so sad. I would sell my
soul for you. Kiss me. Kiss me. I care for nothing but your kisses. You
must promise not to say a word of this to any one. Besides, it's no
sacrifice to do anything that brings our marriage nearer by an inch.
These debts are weighting me down. They stifle me. I am miserable, too,
about the poems. I haven't told you yet. It's really a joke in one way.
Yes, it's really funny. Worrall wrote to ask for a guinea before he read
them. Now, don't you think there is something very particularly humorous
in being charged a guinea by a reader? However, don't worry about that."

"How could he be so stupid?" she cried. "I hope you took them away from
him."

"Oh no. I sent the guinea. They must be published. Pauline, I must have
done something soon or I shall go mad! Surely you see the funny side of
his offer? I think the notion of my expecting to get five shillings
apiece out of a lot of readers, and my only reader's getting a guinea
out of me is funny. I think it's quite humorous."

"Nothing is funny to me that hurts you," Pauline murmured. "And I'm
heartbroken about the books."

"Oh, when I'm rich I can buy plenty."

"But not the same books."

"That's mere sentiment," he laughed. "And the only sentiment I allow
myself is in connection with things that you have sanctified."

Then he told her about the flowers pressed in the two volumes of Dante,
both in that same fifth canto.

"And almost, you know," Guy whispered, "I value most the ragged-robin,
because it commemorates the day you really began to love me."

"Ah no," she protested. "Guy, don't say that. I always loved you, but I
was shy before. I could not tell you. Sometimes I wish I were shy now.
It would make our love so much less of a strain."

"Is it a strain?"

"Oh, sometimes!" she cried, nearly in tears, her light-brown hair upon
his shoulder. "Oh yes, yes, Guy! I can't bear to feel.... I'm frightened
sometimes, and when Mother has been cross with me, I've not known what
to do. Guy, you won't ever ask me to come out again at night?"

"Not if it worries you afterwards."

"Oh yes, it has, it has! Guy, when shall we be married?"

"This year. It shall be this year," he vowed. "Let us believe that,
Pauline. You do believe that?"

"Oh, Guy, I adore you so wildly. It must be this year. My darling, my
darling, this year ... let it be this year."

Guy doled out very carefully the £35 he had accumulated by the sale of
his books. Lampard and Clary had to be content with £7 apiece. Five more
creditors received £4, or rather one of them only £3 19_s_., so that the
guinea left over could be put back into the current account for poetic
justice. There was, for the present nothing more to do but await the
verdict of Worrall's reader, and in a fortnight Guy heard from the
publisher to say this had been favorable enough to make Mr. Worrall wish
to see him in order to discuss the matter of publication. Guy was much
excited and rushed across to the Rectory in a festivity of hopefulness.
He had wired to say he would be in London next day, and all that evening
the name of Worrall was lauded until round his unknown personality shone
the aureole of a wise and benevolent saint. There seemed no limit to
what so discerning a publisher might not do for Guy, and he and Pauline
became to themselves and to her family the hero and heroine of such an
adventure as never had been. In the course of the evening Guy had an
opportunity of talking to Margaret, and for the first time for a long
while he availed himself of it.

"Are you really going to talk to me, then?" she asked in mock surprise.

"Margaret, I've been rather objectionable lately," said Guy, remembering
with an access of penitence that it must be almost exactly a year ago
that he and Margaret in that snowy weather had first talked about his
love for Pauline.

"Well, I have thought that you were forgetting me," said Margaret. "I
shall be sad if we are never going to be friends again."

"Oh, Margaret, we are friends now. I've been worried, and I thought that
you had been rather unkind to Pauline."

"I haven't really."

"Of course not. It was absolutely my fault," Guy admitted. "Now that
there seems a chance of our being married in less than ten years, I'm
going to give up this continual exasperation in which I live nowadays.
It's curious that my first impression of you all should have been as of
a Mozart symphony, so tranquil and gay and self-contained and perfectly
made did the Rectory seem. How clumsily I have plunged into that life,"
he sighed. "Really, Margaret, I feel sometimes like a wild beast that's
escaped from a menagerie and got into a concert of chamber-music. Look
here, you shall never have to grumble at me again. Now tell me, just to
show that you've forgiven my detestable irruption ... when Richard comes
back...."

Margaret gave him her hand for a moment, and looked down.

"And you're happy?" he asked, eagerly.

"I'm sure I shall be."

"Oh, you will be, you will be."

Pauline asked him afterwards what he had said to Margaret that could
have made her so particularly sweet, and when Guy whispered his
discovery, Pauline declared that the one thing necessary to make this
evening perfect had been just that knowledge.

"Guy, how clever of you to make her tell you what she will never tell
us. You don't know how much it has worried me to feel that you were
always angry with Margaret. How I've exaggerated everything! And what
friends you really are, you dears!"

"I've never been angry with her except on your account."

"But you won't ever be again, because I'm so foolish. I'm really a sort
of young Miss Verney."

They laughed at this idea of Pauline's, and soon it was time for Guy to
go. He thought luxuriously as he walked up the drive how large a measure
of good news he would bring back with him from London.

Guy was surprised to be kept waiting when he inquired for Mr. Worrall at
three o'clock on the following afternoon. All the way up in the train he
had thought so much about him and so kindlily, that it seemed he must
the very moment he entered the dusty Georgian ante-chamber shake his
publisher warmly by the hand. He had pictured him really as looking out
for his coming, almost as vividly indeed in his prefiguration of the
scene as to behold Mr. Worrall's face pressed tight against a pane and
thence disappearing to greet him from the step.

It was a shock to be invited to wait, and he repeated his name to the
indifferent clerk a little insistently.

"Mr. Worrall will see you in a minute," the clerk repeated.

Guy looked at the few objects of interest in the outer office, at the
original drawings of wrappers and frontispieces, at the signed
photograph of a moderately distinguished poet of the 'nineties, at a
depressing accumulation of still unsold volumes. The window was grimy,
and the raindrops seemed from inside to smear it as tears smudge the
face of a dirty child. The clerk pored over a ledger, and from the gray
afternoon the cries of the porters in Covent Garden came drearily in. At
last a bell sounded, and the clerk invited him "to step this way,"
lifting the counter and pointing up a narrow staircase beyond a glass
door. Guy went up, and at last entered Mr. Worrall's private office.

The publisher was a short, fat man with a bald and curiously conical
head, reminding Guy very much of a dentist in his manner. The poet sat
down and immediately caught in his first survey Mr. William Worrall's
caricature by Max Beerbohm. As a result of this observation Guy
throughout the interview could only perceive Mr. Worrall as the
caricaturist had perceived him, and like a shape in a dream his head all
the time grew more and more conical, until it seemed as if it would soon
bore a hole in the festooned ceiling.

"Well, Mr. Hazlewood," said the publisher, referring as he spoke to
Guy's card with what Guy thought was a rather unnecessary implication of
oblivion--"well, Mr. Hazlewood, my reader reports very favorably on your
poems, and there seems no reason why I should not publish them."

Guy bowed.

"No reason at all," Mr. Worrall continued. Then making a Gothic arch
with his fingers and looking up at the ceiling, he added:

"Though, of course, there will be a risk. However, my reader's opinion
was certainly favorable."

And so it ought to be, thought Guy, for a guinea.

"And I don't think," Mr. Worrall went on, "that in the circumstances we
need be very much afraid. Have you any ideas about the price at which
your sheaf, your little harvest is to be offered to the public?"

"Oh, I should leave that to you," said Guy, hastily.

"Precisely," said the publisher. "Yes, I think perhaps we might say five
shillings or ... of course it _might_ be done in paper in the Covent
Garden Series of Modern English Poets. Yes, the reader speaks most
highly of your work. You know the Covent Garden Series of Modern Poets?
In paper at half-a-crown net?"

"I should be very proud to appear in such a series," said Guy,
pleasantly. The series, as a matter of fact, was one that could do him
no discredit.

"It's a charming idea, isn't it?" said Mr. Worrall, fondling one of the
set that lay on his desk. "Every five volumes has its own floral emblem.
We've done The Rose, The Lily, The Violet. Let me see, your poems are
mostly about London, aren't they?"

"No, there isn't one about London," Guy pointed out, rather sharply.

"No, precisely; then of course they would _not_ come in The London Pride
set which still has a vacancy. Perhaps The Cowslip? What does the reader
say? Um, yes, pastoral! Precisely! Well, then why not let us decide that
your poems shall be Number Three in The Cowslip set. Capital! I think
you'd be wise to choose the Covent Garden series in paper. The cost of
publication is really less in that series, and I have always chosen my
poets so carefully that I can be sure the Press will pay attention
to--er neophytes. That is a great advantage for a young writer, as you
no doubt realize without my telling you?"

"The cost?" echoed Guy in a puzzled voice.

"It will run you in for about thirty pounds--as a guarantee of course.
The terms I suggest are simply a written agreement that you will
guarantee thirty pounds towards the cost. Your royalty to be ten per
cent. on the first thousand, twelve and a half on the next thousand, and
fifteen over two thousand. We might fairly say that in the event of
selling a thousand you would have nothing to pay, but, of course, if you
only sell twenty or thirty, you will have to--er--pay for your piping."

"And when should I have to produce this thirty pounds?" Guy asked.

"Well, I might ask for a cheque to be placed to my account on the day of
publication; and then, of course, I should send in a written statement
twice a year with the usual three months' margin for settlement."

"So that supposing my book came out in March?" Guy inquired.

"By the following November I should hope to have the pleasure of sending
you back your thirty pounds and a cheque on account of royalties," said
the publisher, briskly.

"They don't seem very good terms, somehow," said Guy.

Mr. Worrall shrugged his shoulders, and his conical head grew more
conical.

"You forget the advantage of being in the Covent Garden Series of Modern
Poets. However, don't, pray do not, intrust your manuscript to my
pilotage unless you are perfectly satisfied. I have a good many poems to
consider, you know."

"May I write within a week or so and give you my decision?" Guy asked.

"Naturally."

"Well, good-by."

"Good-by, Mr. Hazlewood. Clever fellow, isn't he?"

Guy had given a farewell glance at Max Beerbohm's caricature.

"Very clever," the poet fervently agreed.

Guy left Mr. William Worrall's office and wandered dismally across
Covent Garden, wondering where on earth he was going to be able to raise
£30. He had intended to spend the night in town and look up some old
friends, but, foreseeing now the inevitable question, "What are you
doing?" he felt he had not the heart to explain that at present he was
debating the possibility of spending £30 in order to produce a book of
poems. All the people whom he would have been glad to see had held such
high hopes of him at Oxford, had prophesied for his career such
prosperity; and now when after fifteen months he emerged from his
retirement it was but to pay a man to include him in the Covent Garden
Series of Modern Poets. The rain came down faster, and a creeping fog
made more inhospitable the dusk of London. He thought of a quick train
somewhere about five o'clock, and in a sudden longing to be back in the
country and to sleep, however dark and frore the January night that
stretched between them, nearer to Pauline than here in this city of
drizzled fog, he took a cab to Paddington.

During the railway journey Guy contemplated various plans to raise the
money he wanted. He knew that his father at the cost of a long letter
would probably have given him the sum; but supposing a triumph lay
before him, all the sweets of it would have been robbed by paternal
help. Moreover, if the book were paid for thus, there would be a
consequent suspicion of all favorable criticism; it would never seem a
genuine book to his father, and the reviews would give him the
impression of being the work of well-disposed amateurs or of personal
friends. There was the alternative of borrowing the money from Michael
Fane; and then as the train went clanging through the night Guy made up
his mind to be under an obligation to nobody and to sacrifice all the
rest of his books if necessary that this new book might be born.

When he was back at Plashers Mead his resolution did not weaken; coldly
and unsentimentally he began to eviscerate the already mutilated
library. At the end of his task he had stacked upon the floor five
hundred volumes to be offered as a bargain to the bookseller who had
bought the others. All that was left, indeed, were the cheapest and most
ordinary editions of poets, one or two volumes of the greatest of all
like Rabelais and Cervantes, and the eternally read and most
companionable like Boswell and Gilbert White and Sir Thomas Browne. In
the determination that had seized him he rejoiced in his bare shelves,
so much exalted by the glories of abnegation that he began to despise
himself in his former attitude as a trifler among books and to say to
himself, as he looked at the volumes which had survived this heartless
clearance, that now he was set on the great fairway of literature
without any temptation to diverge up the narrow streams of personal
taste. The bookseller's assistant was not at all eager for the proffered
bargain, and in the end Guy could only manage to obtain the £30 and not,
as he had hoped, another £10 towards his debts. Nevertheless, he locked
the cheque up in his desk with the satisfaction of a man who for the
first time in his life earns money, and later on went across to tell
Pauline the result of the visit to London.

There was a smell of frost in the air that afternoon, and the sharpness
of the weather consorted well with Guy's mood, taking away the heavy
sense of disappointment and giving him a sparkling hopefulness. He and
Pauline went for a walk on Wychford down, and in the wintry cheer he
would not allow her to be cast down at the loss of his books or to
resent Worrall's reception of the poems.

"Everything is all right," he assured her. "The more we have to deny
ourselves now, the greater will be my success when it comes. The law of
compensation never fails. You and I are Davidsbündler marching against
the Philistines. So be brave, my Pauline."

"I will try to be brave," she promised. "But it's harder for me because
I'm doing nothing."

"Oh, nothing," said Guy. "Nothing except endow me with passion and
ambition, with consolation ... oh, nothing, you foolish one."

"Am I really all that to you?"

"Forward," he shouted, hurling his stick in front of him and dragging
Pauline at the heels of Bob across turf that was already beginning to
crackle in the frost. Pauline could not resist his confidence, and when
at last they had to turn round and leave a smoky orange sunset, they
came home glowing to the Rectory, both in the highest spirits. Guy wrote
to the publisher that night and announced his intention of accepting the
"offer," a word which he could not resist framing with inverted commas
in case the sarcastic shaft might pierce Mr. Worrall's hard and conical
head.

Sitting back in his chair and thinking over his poems, all sorts of
verbal improvements suggested themselves to Guy; and he added a note
asking for the manuscript to be sent back for a few corrections. He
looked at his work with new eyes when it arrived, and bent with all the
enthusiasm that fruition gave his pen upon reviewing each line for the
hundredth time. He had enjoyed few things so well in his life as going
to bed tired with the intense consideration of a rhyme and falling
asleep in the ambition to reconsider it early next morning.

About ten days had passed since Guy sold the second lot of books, and
the poems were now as good as he could make them until print should
reveal numbers of fresh faults. He hoped that Worrall would hurry on
with the printing in order to allow him plenty of time for an even more
severe scrutiny; and he wrote to suggest April as the month of
publication, so anxious was he to have one specially bound copy to offer
Pauline on her birthday.

On the very morning when the manuscript had been wrapped up and was
ready to be sent off a disturbing letter arrived from Lampard, his
favorite Oxford bookseller, to say that, having made a purchase of books
two or three days ago, he had been surprised to find among them a large
number of volumes with Mr. Hazlewood's name inscribed on the fly-leaves,
for which Mr. Hazlewood had not yet paid him. He ventured to think it
was only by an oversight that Mr. Hazlewood had not paid his long
outstanding account before disposing of the books, and in short he was
anxious to know what Mr. Hazlewood intended to do about it. His bill,
£32 15_s_., was inclosed. Guy wrote back to say that it was indeed a
most unaccountable oversight on his part, but that he hoped, in order to
mark his sympathy with Mr. Lampard's point of view, to send him another
cheque very shortly, reminding the bookseller at the same time that he
had scarcely three weeks ago sent him £7 on account. Mr. Lampard, in his
reply, observed very plainly that Guy's letter was no reply at all and
threatened politely to make matters rather unpleasant if the bill were
not paid in full instantly. Guy tried once more a letter full of bland
promises, and received in response a letter from Mr. Lampard's
solicitor. The £30 intended for Mr. Worrall had to be sacrificed, and
even £2 15_s_. had to be taken from his current account. Savagely he
tore the paper from the manuscript, wrapped it up again, and despatched
it to another publisher. The bad luck of the Lampard business made him
only the more resolute not to invoke aid from his father or any one
else. He was a prey to a perverse determination to do everything
himself; but it was gloomy news that he had to tell Pauline that
afternoon, and she broke down and cried in her disappointment.



FEBRUARY


Pauline had been looking forward to the entrance of February with joyful
remembrance of what last February had brought her; and that the
anniversary of Guy's declaration of his love should be heralded by such
a discomfiture of their plans was a shock. The renewal of his
uncertainty about the fate of the poems destroyed the progress of a love
that seemed to have come back to its old calm course, and brought back
with all the added sharpness of absence the heartache and the
apprehension. Pauline sat in the nursery window-seat and pondered
dolefully the obstacles to happiness from which her mind, however hard
it tried, could not escape. Most insistently of these obstacles Guy's
debts haunted her, harassing and material responsibilities that in great
uncouth battalions swept endlessly past. Even in the middle of the night
she would wake gasping in an effort to escape from being stifled by
their vastness pressing down upon her brain. The small presents Guy had
given her burned through the darkness to reproach her: even the two
rings goaded her for the extravagance they represented. It was useless
for Guy to explain that his debts were a trifle, because the statement
of a sum so large as £200 appalled her as much as if he had said £2,000.
She longed for a confidante whose sympathy she could exact for the
incubus that possessed her lover; and fancying a disloyalty to him if
she discussed his money affairs with her family, she could think of no
one but Miss Verney to whom the burdensome secret might be intrusted.

"William had the same difficulty," sighed the old maid. "Really it seems
as if money _is_ the root of all evil. Two hundred pounds, you say? Oh,
dear, how uncomfortable he must feel, poor young man!"

"If only I could make some money, dear Miss Verney. But how could I?"

"I used to ask myself that very question," said the old maid. "I used to
ask myself just that very identical question. But there was never any
satisfactory answer."

"It seems so dreadful that he should have sold nearly all his books and
still have debts," moaned Pauline. "It seems so cruel. Ought I to give
him up?"

"Give him up?" repeated Miss Verney, her cheeks becoming dead white at
the question. "Oh, my dear, I don't think it could be right for you to
give him up on account of debts. Patience seems to me the only remedy
for your troubles, patience and constancy."

"No, you've misunderstood me," cried Pauline. "I'm afraid that I hamper
him, that I spoil his work. If I gave him up he would go away from
Wychford and be free. Besides, perhaps then his father would pay his
debts. Miss Verney, Mr. Hazlewood didn't like me, and I think Guy has
quarreled with him over me. Oh, I'm the most miserable girl in England,
and such a little time ago I was the happiest."

"Money," said Miss Verney, slowly and seeming to address her cats rather
than Pauline. "The root of all evil! Yes, yes, it is. It's the root of
all evil."

Pauline was a little heartened by Miss Verney's readiness to consider so
seriously the monster that oppressed her thoughts; yet it was
disquieting to regard the old maid, whose life had been ruined by money,
and who all alone with cats stayed here in this small house at the top
of Wychford town, the very image of unhappy love. It was disquieting to
hear her reflections on the calamity of gold uttered like this to cats,
and in a sudden dread of the future Pauline beheld herself talking in
the same way a long time hence. She shivered and bade Miss Verney
farewell; and now to all the other woes that stood behind her in the
shadows was added the vision of herself mumbling to cats in February
dusks of the dim years ahead.

The idea of herself as the figure of an unhappy tale of love grew
continuously more definite, and once she spoke of her dread to Guy, who
was very angry.

"How can you encourage such morbid notions?" he protested. "You really
must cultivate the power to resist them. People go mad by indulging
their depression as you're doing."

"Perhaps I shall go mad," she whispered.

"Oh, for God's sake don't talk like that!" he ejaculated in angry alarm;
and Pauline, realizing how she had frightened him, was sorry and went to
the other extreme of high spirits.

"I thought we had agreed to wait ten years or twenty years, if
necessary," said Guy. "And now after one year you are finding the strain
too much. Why won't you have confidence in me? It's unfortunate about
Worrall, I admit. But there are plenty of other publishers."

He mentioned names one after another, but to Pauline they were the names
of stone idols that stared unresponsively at her lover's poems.

"If we had only done what Mother wanted and not seen so much of each
other," she lamented.

Guy's disposal of her vain fears was without effect, for his eloquence
could not contend with these deepening regrets; and as fast as he threw
down the material obstacles to their happiness Pauline saw them
maddeningly rise again in the path before them, visible shapes of ill
omen, grotesquely irrepressible. Guy used to asseverate that when Spring
was really come she would lose all these morbid fancies, and with his
perpetual ascription to wintry gloom of all the presentiments of woe
that flocked round their intercourse, Pauline did begin to fancy that
when the trees were green he and she would rejoice as of old in their
love. The knowledge that Spring could not linger always was the only
consoling certainty she now possessed, and from the window-seat she
greeted with a passionate welcome each dusky azure minute that on these
lengthening eves was robbed from night. The blackbirds sang to her now
more personally, these somber-suited heralds who had never before seemed
to proclaim so audaciously masterful Spring; and when the young moon
cowered among the ragged clouds of a rainy golden sky and the last bird
slipped like a shadow into the rhododendrons, such airs and whispers of
April would steal through the open window. Every day, too, there were
flowery tokens of hope and in sheltered corners of the garden the
primroses came out one by one, an imperceptible assemblage like the
birth of stars in the luminous green west. This gray-eyed virginal month
had now such memories of the last progress it made through her life that
Pauline could not help imputing to the season a sentimental
participation in her life; there was a poignancy in the reopening of
those blue Greek anemones which Guy, a year ago, had likened to her
eyes, a poignancy that might have been present if the flowers had been
consciously reminding her of vanished delights. Yet it was unreasonable
to encourage such an emotion; or did she indeed, as sometimes was
half-whispered to her inmost soul, regret the slightest bit everything
since that day of the anemones?

It was one evening toward the end of the months that Monica joined her
and walked up and down the edge of the lawn where in the grass a drift
of purple crocuses had lately been flaming for her solitary adoration.

"In a way," said Pauline, "they are my favorite flowers of all. I don't
think there is any thrill quite like the first crocus bud. It seems to
me that as far as I can look back, oh, Monica, ever so far, that always
the moment I've seen my crocuses budding Winter seems to fly away."

"I remember your looking for them when you were tiny," Monica agreed.
"I can see you now kneeling down, and the mud on your knees, and your
eyes screwed up when you told me about your discovery."

They talked for a while of childish days, each capping the other's
evocation of those hours that now in retrospect appeared like the gay
pictures of an old book long ago lost, and found again on an idle
afternoon. They talked, too, of Margaret and whether she would marry
Richard; and presently, without the obvious transition that would have
made her silent, Pauline found that they were discussing Guy and
herself.

"I notice he doesn't come to church now so much as he did," said Monica.

Pauline was startled by an abrupt statement of something which among all
the other worries she had never defined to herself, but which, now that
Monica revealed its shape, she knew had occupied a dark corner at the
back of her mind more threatening than any of the rest. Of course she
began at once to make excuses for Guy, but her sister, who brought to
religion the same scrupulous temperament she gave to her music, would
not admit their validity.

"Don't you ever ask him why he hasn't been?" she persisted.

"Oh, of course not. Why, I couldn't, Monica! I should never feel.... Oh
no, Monica, it would really be impossible for me to talk to Guy about
his faith."

"His faith seems rather to have frozen lately," said Monica.

"He's been upset and disappointed."

"All the more reason for going to church," Monica urged.

"Yes, for you, darling, or for me; but Guy may be different."

"There's no room for moods in one's religious duties. The artistic
temperament is not provided for."

That serene and nunlike conviction of tone made Pauline feel a little
rebellious, and yet in its corroboration of her own uneasiness she could
not laugh it aside.

"Well, even if there's no excuse for him and even supposing it made me
dreadfully anxious," she affirmed, "I still wouldn't say a word to him."

"Does he know you go to Confession?"

Pauline blushed. Monica was like a Roman Catholic in the matter-of-fact
way in which she alluded to something that for Pauline pierced such
sanctities as could scarcely even be mentioned by herself to her own
soul.

"Monica, you don't really think that I ought to speak of that," she
stammered. Not even to her sister could she bring herself to utter the
sacramental word.

"I certainly think you should," said Monica. "When you and Guy are
married it would be terrible if your duties were to be the cause of a
disagreement. Why, he might even persuade you to give up going to
Confession."

"Darling Monica," said Pauline, nervously, "I'd rather you didn't talk
about this any more. You see, you're so much better than I, and you've
thought so much more deeply than I have about religion. I don't think I
shall ever be able to make my faith so narrow a ... so strict a rule as
yours is. No, please, Monica, don't let us talk about this subject any
more."

"I only mentioned it because I'm afraid that with your beautiful nature
you will be too merciful to that Guy of yours."

"Oh, and I'd really rather you didn't say my nature was beautiful,"
Pauline protested. "Truthfully, Monica darling, it's a very ugly nature
indeed, and I'm afraid it's getting uglier every day."

Her sister's cloistral smile flickered upon the scene like the wan
February sunlight.

"I do hope Guy really appreciates you," was what she said.

"See how the sparrows have pulled the crocuses into ribbons," Pauline
exclaimed. And so that Monica could not talk to her any more, she hailed
her father, who was wandering along towards the house on the other side
of the lawn. When he sauntered across to them she pointed out the
destructiveness of the sparrows.

"Ah, well, my dear," he chuckled, "most florists are worse."

"Perhaps _I'm_ a florist," Monica whispered, "and Guy may be only a
mischievous sparrow."

Pauline smiled at Monica and took her arm gratefully and affectionately.

"We shall have all the daffs gone before we know where we are," said the
Rector. "Maximus is out under the oaks. And King Alfred is just going to
turn down his buds."

"Dear King Alfred," said Pauline. "How glad I shall be to say good
morning to him again!"

Yes, all the daffodils would soon be here and then gone; and beyond this
austere afternoon already she could fancy a smell of March winds.

After Monica's question it was no longer possible for Pauline when she
was alone to avoid facing the problem of Guy's attitude towards
religion. The repression of her anxiety on this point had only increased
the force of it when it was set free like this to compete with, and, in
fact, overshadow all other cares. Looking back to her earliest thoughts
of the world as it would one day affect herself, she remembered how, if
she had ever imagined some one in love with her, she had always created
a figure whose faith would be an eternal and joyful contemplation. She
had never invented for herself a marriage with some one merely
good-looking or rich or endowed with any of the romantic attributes that
young girls were supposed to award their ideals, as her cousins would
say, of men. When Guy entered her life, the only gift he brought her for
which she was at all prepared was the conviction of his faith. This
indeed was his spiritual and mental reality for her; the rest of him
was a figment, a dream that might pass suddenly away. The visit of his
father had given her a more clearly defined assurance of his existence
on earth, but his faith had been the heart of the immortal substance of
her love for Guy. The endlessness of their union was always present in
her thoughts, the ultimate consolation of whatever delays they might be
called upon to endure. Very often, even at the beginning of the
engagement, Guy had frightened her sometimes by his indifference to
immortality--sometimes by his harping upon the swift flight of youth,
sometimes by his manifest indulgence of her creed. All these doubts,
however, of his sympathy were allayed by his apparently deliberate
pleasure in worship. She was angry with herself then for her mistrust of
him, and her contentment had been perfect when in church he knelt beside
her on that birthday of his, that day of their avowed betrothal, and on
all those other occasions when he had given an outward proof of his
faith. Now as she looked back on his absence from church lately, she
could not but wonder whether all his attendance had not been a kind of
fair-weather spoiling of her that could not withstand the least stress
of worldly circumstance. She began to torment herself over every light
remark that might have been a sneer and to look forward dreadfully to
Guy's abrupt declaration of a profound disbelief in everything she held
most sacred. His cleverness, as he hated her to call it, intervened and
seemed to wrench them asunder; and the more she pondered his behavior,
the more she became convinced that all the time Guy's religion had
merely been Guy's kindness. This discovery was not to make her love him
less; but it did throw upon her the responsibility of the knowledge that
he had nothing within himself to fortify his soul, should mishap destroy
his worldly confidence.

For a long time Pauline lay awake in the darkness, fretting herself on
account of Guy's resourcelessness of spirit, and to her imagination
concentrated on this regard of him every hour seemed to make his
solitude more terrible. Of her own religion she did not think, and
Monica's anxiety about their agreement after marriage was without the
least hint of danger. The possibility of any one's, even Guy's,
influencing her own faith was inconceivable; nor was she at all occupied
with her own disappointment at not finding Guy constant to her belief in
him. Pauline's one grief was for him, that now when things were going
badly he should be without spiritual hope. Suddenly her warm bed seemed
to her wrong and luxurious in comparison with the chill darkness she
imagined about Guy's soul at this moment. Impulsively she threw back the
sheets and knelt down beside the bed to pray for his peace. So vividly
was she conscious of the need for prayer that she was carried to
undreamed-of heights of supplication, to strange summits whereon it
seemed that if she could not pray she would never know how to pray
again. Ordinarily her devotions had been but a beautiful and simple end
or beginning of the day; they were associated with the early warmth of
the sunlight or with the gentle flutters of roosting birds; they were
the comforting and tangible pledges of a childhood not yet utterly
departed. Now the fires and ecstasies of a more searching faith had
seized Pauline. No longer did there pass before her eyes a procession of
gay-habited saints, glad celestial creatures that smiled down upon her
from a paradise not much farther away than the Rectory garden; no longer
did she find herself surrounded by the well-loved figures who when death
took her to them would hold out their arms in actual welcome and whom
she would recognize one by one. To-night these visions were
uncapturable, and beyond the darkness they had forsaken stretched a
terrifying void and beyond the void was nothing but light that seemed to
have the power of thinking, "I am Truth!" A speck in that void she saw
Guy spinning away from her, and it seemed that unless she prayed he
would be spun irremediably out of her consciousness. It seemed that the
fierceness of her prayer was like the fierceness of a flame that was
granted the power to sustain him, for when sometimes the tongues of fire
languished Guy would sink so far that only by summoning fresh force from
the light beyond could she bring him back. Gradually, however, her power
was waning, and with whatever desperate force she prayed he could never
be brought back to the point from which he had last slipped. He was
spinning away into a horror of blackness....

"O Holy Ghost, save him!" she cried. Then Pauline fainted, and wondered
to find herself lying upon the cold floor when she woke as from a dream.
Yet it was not like the gasping rescue of oneself from a nightmare, for
she lay awake a long while afterwards in peace, and she slept as if upon
a victory and very early in the morning went to church.

The days when the thrushes sang matins were come, and all the way she
heard freshets of holy song pouring down through the air. She and her
family always knelt apart from one another, and this morning Pauline
chose a place hidden from the others, a place where she could lean her
cheek against a pillar and be soothed by the cool touch of the stone
like the assurance of unfathomable and maternal love. Now to her calm
spirit returned the vision of those happy heavenly creatures, the
bright-suited and intimate companions of her childhood. They welcomed
her this morning and thronged about her downcast eyes with many angels,
too, that like Tobit's angel, walked by her side. Only her father's
mellow voice spoke from the chancel of earth, and even he in his violet
chasuble took his place among the saints, and when she went up to the
altar Heaven was once again very near to her.

In the morning coolness it was almost impossible to believe that last
night she had fainted, and she began to believe the whole experience had
been a dream's agony. However, whether it were or not, she had made up
her mind to ask Guy a direct question this afternoon. If, as she feared,
he was feeling hostile to religion, she would accept the warning of the
night and give all her determination to prayer for his faith to return.

When they were together, it was for a long time impossible to begin the
subject, and it was not until Guy asked what was making her so
abstracted that Pauline could ask why he never came to church any more.

In the pause before he answered she suffered anew the torment of that
struggle in the darkness.

"Does it worry you when I don't come?" he asked.

"Well, yes, it does rather."

"Then, of course, I will come," said Guy, at once.

Now this was exactly the reason for which least of all she wanted him to
come, and a trace of her mortification may have been visible, because he
asked immediately if that did not please her.

"Guy, don't you want to come to church? You used to come happily, didn't
you?"

"I think I came chiefly to be near you," he said.

"That does make me so unhappy. I'd almost rather you came out of
politeness to Father."

"Well, that was another reason," Guy admitted.

"And you never came because you wanted to?" she asked, miserably.

"Of course I wanted to."

"But because you believed?"

"In what?"

"Oh, Guy, don't be so cruel. Don't you believe in anything?"

"I believe in you," he said. "Pauline, I believe in you so passionately
that when I am with you I believe in what you believe."

"Then you haven't any faith?"

"I want to have it," said Guy. "If God won't condescend to give it to me
..." he broke off with a shrug.

"But religion is either true or it isn't true, and if it isn't true why
do you encourage me in lies?" she demanded, with desperate entreaty.

"I'm ready to believe," he said.

"How can you expect to have faith if your reason for it is merely to sit
next me in church?" she asked, bitterly.

"Now, I think it's you who are being cruel," said Guy.

"I don't care. I don't care if I am cruel. You'll break my heart."

"Good God!" Guy exclaimed. "Haven't I enough to torment me without
religion appearing upon the scene? If you want me to hate it.... No,
Pauline, I'm sorry ... you mustn't think that I don't long to have your
faith. If I only could.... Oh, Pauline, Pauline!"

She yielded to his consolation, and when he told her of the poems sent
back almost by return of post from the second publisher she must open
wide her compassionate arms. Nevertheless, he had somehow maltreated
their love; and Pauline was aware of a wild effort to prepare for
sorrow, whether near at hand or still far off she did not know, but she
seemed to hear it like a wind rising at sunset.



ANOTHER SPRING



MARCH


When the poems were returned by three publishers within the first
fortnight of March, Guy was inclined to surrender his vocation and to
think about such regular work as would banish the reproach he began to
fancy was now perceptible at the back of everybody's eyes. The weather
was abominably cold, and even Plashers Mead itself was no longer the
embodiment of the old enthusiasm. Already in order to pay current
expenses he was drawing upon the next quarter, and the combination of
tradesmen's books with icy draughts curling through the house produced
an atmosphere of perpetual exasperation. It always seemed to be coldest
on Monday morning, and Miss Peasey _would_ breathe over his shoulder
while he was adding up the bills.

"We apparently live on butter," he grumbled.

"Oh no, it was really lamb you had yesterday," the housekeeper
maintained, irrelevantly.

"I said we apparently live on butter," Guy shouted.

Then, of course Miss Peasey _would_ poke her veiny nose right down into
the book, while the draught blew her hair about and unpleasantly tickled
his cheek.

"It's the best butter," she said, sorrowfully, at last.

"But my watch is quite all right."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I made an allusion to _Alice in Wonderland_," he shouted.

Miss Peasey retired from the room in dudgeon, and Guy wasted ten minutes
in examining various theories on what his housekeeper could have
thought he meant by his last remark. Finally he wrote off to a friend of
his, an ardent young Radical peer with whom he had shared rooms at
Oxford.

  PLASHERS MEAD, WYCHFORD, OXON,
  _March 15th_.

     DEAR COM,--Why the dickens haven't you written to me for such
     ages? I'm going to chuck this place. Haven't you got any scheme on
     hand for teaching the democracy to find out the uselessness of
     your order? Why not a new critical weekly with me as
     bondslave-in-chief? Or doesn't one of your National Liberals want
     a bright young fellow to dot his i's and pick up his h's? For £250
     a year I'll serve any of them, write his speeches, interview his
     constituents or even teach his cubs to prey on the body politic
     like Father Lion himself. Seriously, though, if you hear of
     anything, do think of me.

  Yours ever,
  G. H.

Comeragh wrote back at once:

  420 BROOK STREET, W.,
  _March 16th_.

     DEAR OLD GUY,--If you will bury yourself like a misanthropic
     badger, you can't expect to be written to by every post. Oddly
     enough there has been some talk of starting a new paper; at least
     it isn't really very odd because the subject is mooted three times
     a day in the advanced political circles round which I revolve.
     However, just at present the scheme is in abeyance. Never mind,
     I'll fetch you out of your earth at the first excuse that offers
     itself. Do you ever go in and see the Balliol people? My young
     brother's up now, you know. Ask him over to lunch some day. He's a
     shining light of Tory Democracy and is going to preserve, or I
     suppose I ought to say conserve, the honor of our family. When are
     your poems coming out? I heard from Tom Anstruther the other day.
     He seems rather hurt that an attaché at Madrid is not given an
     opportunity of adjusting or upsetting the balance of power in
     Europe. I'll try to get down for a week-end, but I'm betraying my
     order by voting against an obscurantist majority whenever I can,
     and plotting hard against the liberties of landowners when I'm
     not voting. However, when the House flies away to search for
     Summer I'll drop out of the flock and perch a while on your roof.
     One thing I will promise, which is that when I'm Prime Minister
     you shall be offered the Laurel at £200 a year.

  Yours ever,
  COM.

It was jolly to hear from Comeragh like this, and the letter opened for
Guy a prospect of something that, when he came to think about it,
appeared very much like a retreat. He realized abruptly that the strain
of the last two months had been playing upon his nerves to such an
extent that the notion of leaving Wychiford was no longer very
distasteful. The realization of his potential apostasy came with rather
a shock, and he felt that he ought somehow to atone to Pauline for the
disloyalty towards her his attitude seemed to involve. He began to go to
church again in a desperate endeavor to pursue the phantom that she
called faith, but this very endeavor only made more apparent the vital
difference in their relations with life. She always had for his attempts
to capture something worth while for himself in religion a kind of
questioning anxiety which was faintly irritating; and though he always
pushed the problem hastily out of sight, the fact that he could now be
irritated by her was dolefully significant.

All through this month of maddening east wind Guy felt that he stood
upon the verge of a catastrophe, and the despatch of the poems which at
first had done so much to help matters along was now only another source
of vexation. Formerly he had always possessed the refuge of work, but in
this perpetual uncertainty he could not settle down to anything fresh,
and the expectation every morning of his poems being once again rejected
was a handicap to the whole day. Partly to plunge himself into a
reaction and partly to avoid and even to crush their spiritual
divergence, Guy always made love passionately to Pauline during these
days. He was aware that she was terribly tried by this, but the
knowledge made him more selfishly passionate. A sort of brutality had
entered into their relation which Guy hated, but to which in these
circumstances that made him feverishly glad to wound her he allowed more
liberty every day. The merely physical side of this struggle between
them was, of course, accentuated by the gag placed upon discussion. He
would not give her the chance of saying why she feared his kisses, and
he took an unfair advantage of the conviction that Pauline would never
declare a reason until he demanded one. He was horribly conscious of
abusing her love for him, and the more he was aware of that the more
brutal he showed himself until sometimes he used to wonder in dismay if
at the back of his mind the impulse to destroy his love altogether had
not been born.

Easter was approaching, and Pauline went to Oxford for a week to get
Summer clothes. When she came back, Guy found her attitude changed. She
was remote, almost evasive, and at the back of her tenderest glance was
now a wistful appeal that perplexed his ardor.

"I feel you don't want me to kiss you," he said, reproachfully. "What
has happened? Why have you come back from Oxford so cold? What has
happened to you, Pauline?"

Her eyes took fire, melted into tenderness, flamed once more, and then
were quenched in rising tears.

The voice in which she answered him seemed to come from another world.

"Guy, I am not cold.... I'm not cold enough...."

She flung herself away from his gesture of endearment and buried her
cheeks in the cushion of the faded old settee. A wild calm had fallen
upon the room, as if like the atmosphere before a thunder-storm it could
register a warning of the emotional tempest at hand. The books, the
furniture, the very pattern of birds and daisies upon the wall stood
out sharply, almost luridly it seemed; the cuckoo from the passage
called the hour in notes of alarm, as if a storm-cock were sweeping up
to cover from dangerous open country.

"What do you mean?" Guy asked. He knew that he was carrying the
situation between Pauline and himself farther along than he had ever
taken it since the night they met. Yet nothing could have stopped his
course at this moment and, if the end should ruin his life, he would
persist.

"What do you mean?" he repeated.

"Don't ask me," she sobbed. "It's cruel to ask me."

"You mean your mother...." he began.

"No, no, it's myself, myself."

"My dearest, if it's only yourself, you need not be afraid. Why, you're
so adorable...."

Pauline seemed to cry out at the wound he had given her, and Guy started
back, afraid for an instant of what he was provoking.

"Don't treat me like a stupid little girl that petting can cure. I'm not
adorable, I'm bad.... I'm ... oh, Guy, I am so unhappy!"

"What do you mean by 'bad'?" he asked. "You talk as if we were....
Really, darling, you don't grasp life at all."

"Guy," she said, turning to him with fierce earnestness, "don't persuade
me I've done nothing. I have. I ought not. I've known that all the time.
If you don't want me to be miserable for the rest of my life, you
mustn't persuade me. I've been so weak...."

He was annoyed at the exaggeration in her words and perplexed by her
violence.

"Anybody would think, you know," he told her, "that we have behaved
terribly."

"We have. We have."

Her mouth was drawn with pain; her eyes were wild.

"But we've not," Guy contradicted, mustering desperately all the forces
of normality to allay Pauline's over-strained ideas. "We've not," he
repeated. "You don't understand, darling Pauline, that when you talk
like that you give the impression of something that is unimaginable of
you. It's dreadful to have to talk about this, but it's better that we
should discuss it than that you should torture yourself needlessly like
this."

"It's not what we've done so much," she said. "It's what you've made me
think about you."

Guy laughed rather miserably.

"That seems a very trifling reason for so much ... well, you know, it's
very nearly hysteria."

"To you, perhaps," she retorted, bitterly. "To me it's like madness."

"I can't understand these morbid fancies of yours. What have you been
doing in Oxford? Ah, I know," he shouted, in a rage of sudden
divination. "You've been talking to a priest.... Oh, if I could burn
every interfering scoundrel who...." The scene swept over him, choking
the words in his throat with indignant impotent jealousy. "You've been
to Confession. And what good have you got from it, but lies, lies?"

"I've always been to Confession," Pauline answered, coldly.

In a flash Guy visualized her religious life as one long creeping
towards a gloomy Confessional, where lurked a smooth-faced priest who
poured his poison into her ears.

"You shall go no more," he vowed. "What right have you to drag the
holiness of love in the mud of a priest's mind?"

"You don't know how stupidly you're talking," said Pauline. "You say I
exaggerate. You don't know how much you are exaggerating. You don't
understand."

"I thought you wanted me to have faith! How can I have faith when I hear
of priests degrading our love? What right had you to go to a priest?
What does he know of you or me? What has he suffered? What does he
understand? Why do you listen to him and pay no heed to me? What did you
say?"

Pauline looked at him in silence.

"What did you say?" he repeated, angrily. He was caring for nothing at
that moment but to tear from her the history of the scene that made a
furnace of his brain. "He must have tried to put the idea into your head
that you've been doing wrong. I say you have done nothing wrong. I
suppose you told him you came out at night with me on the river, and I
suppose he concluded from that.... Oh, Pauline, I cannot let you be a
prey to the mind of a priest. You don't realize what it means to me. You
don't realise the raging jealousy it rouses."

"Guy," she moaned, "love is too much for me. I can't bear the
uncertainty. Your debts ... the sending back of your poems ... the fear
that we shall never be married ... the doubts ... the thought that I've
deceived my family ... the misery I bring to you because I can't think
everything is right...."

"I don't want you always to agree with me. I've promised never to ask
you again to come out with me at night. I'll even promise never to kiss
you again until we are married. But you must promise me never again to
go to Confession."

"I can't give up what I believe is right," she said.

"Then I won't give up what I believe is right."

He strained her to him and kissed her lips so closely that they were
white instead of red. Then he went from her in an impulse to let her, if
she would, break off the engagement. If he had stayed he must have
blasphemed the religion which was soiling with its murk their love. He
must have hurt her so deeply that he would have compelled her to bid him
never come back. It was for her now, the responsibility of going on, and
she should find what religion would do for her when she was left alone
to battle with the infamous suggestions the fiction was giving to her
mind. She should find that beside his love religion was nothing, that
the folly would topple down and betray her at this very moment. When
next he saw her, she would have forgotten her priests and their mummery;
she would think only of him and live only for him.

"Blow, you damned wind," he shouted to the brilliant and tranquil March
day. "Blow, blow, can't you? You've blown all these days, and now when I
want you in my face you lie still."

But the weather stayed serene, and Guy had to run in order to tire the
fury in his mind. He did not stop until he realized by the scampering of
the March hares to right and left of his path how very absurd he must
appear even to the blind heavens.

"Why," he exclaimed, suddenly standing still and addressing a thorn-tree
on the green down. "Why, of course, now I realize the Reformation!"

This sudden apprehension of a tremendous historical fact was rather
disconcerting in the way it brought home to him the uselessness of all
the information that he had for years absorbed without any real response
of recognition. It brought home to him how much he would have to
discover for himself and appalled him with the mockery it made of his
confidence hitherto. How if all those poems he had written were merely
external emotion like his conception of religion until this moment? He
really hoped the manuscript would come back this evening from whatever
publisher had last eyed it disdainfully, so that in the light of this
revelation of his youthfulness he could judge his life's achievement
afresh. It was indeed frightening that in one moment all his comfortable
standards could be struck away from beneath his feet, for if an outburst
of jealousy on account of a priest's interference could suddenly reshape
his conception of history, what fundamental changes in his conception of
art might not be waiting for him a little way ahead?

The spectacle of Pauline's simple creed had hitherto pleasantly
affected his senses; and she had taken her place with the heroines of
romantic poets and painters. It had been pleasant to murmur:

  Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips,
  Think but one thought of me up in the stars:

and to compare himself with the lover of The Blessed Damozel had been a
luxurious melancholy. Pauline and he had worshiped together in chapels
of Lyonesse, where, if he had knelt beside her with a rather tender
condescension towards her prayers, he had always been moved sincerely by
the decorative appeal they made to him. He had felt a sentimental awe of
her hushed approach to the altar, and he had derived a kind of
sentimental satisfaction from the perfection of her attitude, perhaps,
even more, he had placed upon it a sentimental reliance. Her faith had
been the decorative adjunct of a great deal of his verse, and he flushed
hotly to remember lines that now appeared as damnable insincerities with
which he had allowed his pen to play. All that piety of hers he had sung
so prettily was real and possessed an intrinsic power to injure him, so
that what he had patronized and encouraged could rise up and pit itself
deliberately against him. Pauline actually believed in her religion,
believed in it to the extent of dishonoring their love to appease the
mumbo-jumbo. That something so monstrously inexistent could have any
such power was barely comprehensible, and yet here he was faced with
what easily might prove to be a force powerful enough to annihilate
their love. He remembered how in reading of Christina Rossetti's
renunciation of a lover who did not believe as she believed, he had
thought of the incident as a poet's exaggeration. And it might well have
happened. Now, indeed, he could see why she was so much the greatest
poetess of them all; her faith had been real. Lines from that Sonnet of
sonnets came back to him, broken lines but full of dread:

                  I love ... God the most;
  Would lose not Him but you, must one be lost:

And if Pauline should speak so to him, if Pauline should disown him at
the bidding of her phantom gods? How the thought swept into oblivion all
his pitiful achievement, all his fretful emotions set down in rhyme.
Either he must convince her that she was affrighted by vain fancies or
he must bow before this reality of belief and seek humbly the truth
where she discovered it. Yet if he took that course it held no pledge of
faith for him. Shamefacedly and scarcely able to bear even the
thorn-tree's presence, Guy knelt down and prayed that he might be given
Pauline's single heart. The song of the innumerable larks rose into the
crystalline, but all the prayers tumbled down from that stuffy pavilion
of sky. The moment that the first emotional aspiration was thus defeated
Guy was only conscious of his lapse into superstition, and, furious with
the surrender, he went walking over the downs in a determination to
shake Pauline's faith at whatever the cost temporarily to the beautiful
appearance of their love.

He wrote that evening in a fine frenzy of declamation against God,
affirming in his verse the rights of man; but on reading the lines
through next morning they seemed like the first vapors of adolescence;
and when he turned for consolation to Shelley he found that even a great
poet's rage on behalf of man against God was often turgid enough. It
was, however, a hopeful sign that he could still perceive what puddles
these aerial fountains of song often left behind them, and he was glad
to find that not all the value of critical experience had been destroyed
by the imperative need to readjust his values of reality.

Birdwood brought a note from Pauline just when Guy had burned his
effusion of the night before and come to the conclusion that as a
polemical and atheistic rhymester he was of the very poorest quality.

The gardener was inclined to be chatty, and when the weather and the
dowers in season had been discussed at length, he observed that Miss
Pauline was not looking so well as she ought to look.

"You'll have to speak to her about it, Mr. Hazlenut."

Birdwood had never learned to give Guy his proper name, and there had
been many jokes between him and Pauline about this, and many vows by Guy
that one day he would address the gardener as Birdseed. How far away
such foolish little jokes were seeming now.

"It's been a tiring Spring," said Guy. "The east wind...."

"Her cheeks isn't nothing like so rosy as they was," said the gardener.
"You'll excuse the liberty I'm taking in mentioning them, but having
known Miss Pauline since she couldn't walk.... Why I happen to mention
it is that there was a certain somebody up in the town who passed the
remark to me and, I having to give him a piece of my mind pretty sharp
on account of him talking so free, it sort of stuck in my memory and....
You don't think she's middling?"

"Oh no, I think she's quite well," said Guy.

"Well, as long as you aren't worrited, I don't suppose I've got any call
to be worrited; only any one can't help it a bit when they see witches'
cheeks on a young lady. She certainly does look middling, but maybe, as
you say, it is this unnatural east wind."

Birdwood touched his cap and retired, but his words had struck at Guy
remorsefully while he walked away to a corner of the orchard reading
Pauline's letter. The starlings were piping a sweet monotony of Spring,
and daffodils, that he and she had planted last Summer when they came
back from Ladingford, haunted his path.

     MY DARLING,--Why haven't you been to see me this morning? Why
     weren't you in the orchard? I stayed such a long while in the
     churchyard, but you never came. If I said anything yesterday that
     hurt your feelings, forgive me. You mustn't think that I was angry
     with you because perhaps I spoke angrily. Darling, darling Guy, I
     adore you so, and nothing else but you matters to my happiness. I
     should not have spoken about religion-- I don't know how we came
     to argue about it. It was unkind of me to be depressed and sad
     when my dearest was sad. Truly, truly I am so anxious about your
     poems only because I want you to be happy. Sometimes I must seem
     selfish, but you know that before anything it is your work I think
     of. I'm not really a bit worried about our being married. I have
     these fits of depression which are really very wrong. I'm not
     worried about anything really, only I had a dream about you last
     month which frightened me. Oh, Guy, come this afternoon and tell
     me you're not angry. I promise you that I won't make you miserable
     with my stupid depression. Guy, if I could only tell you how I
     love you. If you only knew how never, never for an instant do I
     care for anything but your happiness. You don't really want me to
     give up believing in anything, do you? It doesn't really make you
     angry, does it? Come and tell me this afternoon that you've
     forgiven

  Your
  PAULINE.

     I love you. I love you.

Gently the daffodils swayed in this light breeze of dying March, and the
grass was already tall enough to sigh forth its transitory Summer tune.
Guy, in a flood of penitence, hastened at once to the Rectory to accuse
himself to Pauline, and when he saw her watching for him at the nursery
window he had no regrets that could stab to wound him as deeply as he
deserved to be wounded. She was very tender and still that afternoon,
and as he held her in his arms there seemed to him nothing more worth
while in life than her cherishing. For them sitting in that nursery the
hours swung lazily to and fro in felicity, and all the time there was
nobody to disturb the reconciliation. They talked only of the future and
allowed recent despairs and foreboding agitations to slink away
disgraced. Janet, coming to take away the tea-things, beamed at their
happiness and through a filigree of bare jasmine twigs the slanting sun
touched with new life the faded wall-paper, opening wider, it seemed,
the daisies' eyes, mellowing the berries, and tinting the birds with
brighter plumes for their immutable and immemorial courtship.

Plunged deep in such a peace, Guy, prompted by damnable discord, asked
idly what had been that dream of which Pauline had spoken in her letter.
She was unwilling for a long while to tell him, but he, spurred on by
mischief itself, persuaded her in the end, and she recounted that
experience of waking to find herself prone upon the floor of her room.

"No wonder you're looking pale," he exclaimed. "Now you see the result
of exciting yourself unnecessarily."

"But it was so vivid," she protested, "and really the light was
blinding, and it thought so terribly all the time."

"I shall think very terribly that you've been reading some
spiritualistic rot in a novel," said Guy, "if you talk like that. Your
religion may be true, but I'm quite sure these conjuring tricks of your
fancy are a sign of hysteria. And this poor speck that was me? How did
you know it was me if it was a speck? Did that think, too? My foolish
Pauline, you encouraged your morbid ideas when you were awake, and when
you were asleep you paid the penalty."

She had gone away from him and was standing by the window.

"Guy, if you talk like that, it means you don't really love me. It means
you have no sympathy, that you're cold and cruel and cynical."

He sighed with elaborate compassion for her state of mind.

"And what else? I wonder how you ever managed to fall in love with me."

"Sometimes I wonder, too," she said, slowly.

He turned quickly and went out of the room.

Guy regretted before he was half-way down the passage what he had done,
but he steeled himself against going back by persuading himself that
Pauline's hysteria must be remorselessly checked. All the way back to
Plashers Mead he had excuses for his behavior, and all the way he was
wondering if he had done right. Supposing that she were to persist in
this exaggeration of everything, who could say into what extravagance of
attitude she might not find herself driven? Rage seized him against this
malady that was sapping the foundations of their love, and all his
affection for her was obscured in the contemplation of that overwrought
Pauline who sacrificed herself to baseless doubts and alarms. If he once
admitted her right to dream ridiculously about him, he would be
encouraging her upon the road to madness. Had she not already fondled
the notion of going mad, just as she would often fondle the picture of
himself as the heroine of an unhappy love-affair? If he were severe now,
she would surely come to see the absurdity of these religious fears,
this heart-searching and morbid sensitiveness. It was curious that he
was able to keep his idea of Pauline herself quite apart from Pauline as
the subject of nervous depression. He was practically ascribing to her a
double personality, so distinct were this two views of her in his mind.
When he got home he found the manuscript had been sent back by a seventh
publisher, and on top of the packet lay a letter from his friend
Comeragh.

  420 BROOK STREET, W.

     DEAR GUY,--Sir George Gascony asked me to-day if I knew of some
     one who would suit him as private secretary. He's going out to
     Persia next month. I told him about you. Come up to town and meet
     him. He's dining here on Thursday. I'm certain you can have the
     job.

  Yours ever,
  COMERAGH.

At first the letter only presented itself to his imagination as an easy
way of punishing Pauline's hysteria. It seemed to him the very weapon
that was wanted to "give her a lesson," and after dinner he went across
to the Rectory and announced his news in front of everybody, asking
everybody if they did not think he ought to go, and talking
enthusiastically of Oriental adventure until quite late. He sternly
refused to allow himself a moment alone with Pauline in which to talk
over the plan; and, even when they were left alone together in the hall,
he kissed her good night hurriedly and silently and rather guiltily.

When Guy was back at home and thought about his behavior, he began to
wonder if he had committed himself to Persia too finally. The prospect,
except so far as it would affect Pauline, had not really sunk into his
mind yet, but now as he read the letter over he began to think that he
really would like to go. It might mean a separation of two years, but it
would reconcile him to his father, and it would assure his marriage at
the end of the time. Persia might easily be almost as interesting as it
sounded, and how remote from debts looked Bagdad. If last year he had
been able practically to settle to be a schoolmaster, how much more
easily could this resolution be taken. Dreamily he let his imagination
play round the notion of Persia, dreamily and rather pleasantly it would
solve so many difficulties, and it held the promise of so much active
romance.

Next morning Mrs. Grey sent round to ask if Guy would come to lunch
early enough to have a talk with her first.

"Yes ... charming.... I really wanted us to have a little talk
together," she said in nervous welcome as she led the way to her own
sitting-room, that with its red lacquer and its screen painted with
birds-of-paradise hid itself away in a corner of the house. Ordinarily
Guy would have accepted it as a sign of the highest favor to be brought
to her small room, but this morning it seemed to imprison him.

"Yes ... charming ... a little talk," said Mrs. Grey; and Guy, while he
waited for her to begin, watched the mandarins that moved in absurd
reduplications all about her arm-chair's faded green pattern.

"Of course it was rather a surprise to us all last night ... yes.... I
expect it was a surprise to you. And you really think you ought to go?"

"I'm getting rather discouraged about poetry," Guy confessed. "I'm
beginning to think that what I've written isn't much good, and that if I
am ever going to write anything worth while it will be because I've
learned to be less self-conscious about it. If I went to Persia with Sir
George Gascony I should probably be kept fairly busy, and if there was
any poetry left in me after that, well, it might be good stuff."

"But you've not seen yet what people think of what you have written ...
no ... you see, the poems haven't been published yet, which is very
vexing ... and so I thought.... I mean the Rector thought that if there
was any difficulty he would like to help you to publish them ... yes ...
rather than go away to Persia ... you know ... yes ... poor little
Pauline was crying nearly all night, and I don't think you ought to go
away suddenly like this ... no ... and we couldn't find an atlas
anywhere!"

"You think I ought not to go?" said Guy, and he realized as he spoke
that he was disappointed.

"I do think that after all these months of hoping for your poems to be a
success you ought at least to try them first, and then afterwards we can
talk about Persia. I'm afraid you think I've been too strict about
Pauline ... perhaps I have ... yes ... and so I think that now Spring is
here you can go out every day ... yes ... charming ... now that the
weather is getting better...."

But now every day, thought Guy, bitterly, there would be recriminations
between them.

"Of course if you think I ought not to go, I won't," he said. "I'll
write to Comeragh and refuse."

"I'm sure you're glad, aren't you?"

"Oh, rather."

"We all understood why you thought you ought to go, and now I've another
plan ... yes ... charming.... I'm going to send Pauline away for a month
... with Miss Verney ... yes ... charming, charming plan ... and you
must make arrangements at once about your poems ... and then perhaps you
could give them to Pauline for her birthday...."

"But I don't think the Rector ought to pay for them," Guy objected.

"The Rector wants to pay for them. But, of course, he won't say anything
about it, and you will have to make the arrangements yourself."

"You're all so good to me, and I feel such a fraud," said Guy.

"You'd better make arrangements with the man you sent them to first ...
and Pauline needn't know anything about it ... and I sha'n't say I've
persuaded you not to go to China ... or else she will be worried ...
she's looking rather pale.... I think two or three weeks by the seaside
... Lyme Regis perhaps or Cromer ... Lyme Regis, I think, because the
trains to Folkstone have been torn out ... yes ... charming, charming."

After lunch Guy told Pauline in the garden that he had decided not to
accept the post he had been offered, and she was so obviously overjoyed
at his decision that he no longer had the heart to feel the slightest
disappointment.

"Guy, I've been so stupid," she told him. "I've depressed you without
any reason, but I will come back from Scarborough quite well."

Guy began to laugh.

"Oh, why are you laughing?"

"Dearest, because I cannot make out where you really are going."

"Scarborough, because Miss Verney has chosen Scarborough."

They talked for a while of the letters that each would write to the
other, and of what a Summer should follow that short parting, when every
day they would be together and when perhaps even such days as those at
Ladingford might come again.

"And you won't worry about anything all this time you're away?" Guy
asked.

"I won't, indeed I won't."

Guy went home to find a telegram from Comeragh saying that Sir George
Gascony had got appendicitis and would not be going to Persia for a
month or two at least. Yet he did not mention this telegram at the
Rectory when next day he came to say good-by to Pauline, because he was
anxious to preserve the idea of his having vainly attempted to do
something, and when he sat alone in his orchard the same afternoon, he
had an emotion of something very near to relief that for a while there
would be no more heart-searchings and stress, no more misgivings and
reproaches and despairs. He was perfectly happy, sitting by himself in
the orchard and staring at the blackthorn by the margin of the stream.



APRIL


Miss Verney was so droll at Scarborough and enjoyed herself so much,
that Pauline in her pleasure at the success of what the old maid called
their "jaunt" really was able to put aside for the present her own
perplexities. The sands were empty at this season, and the Spa
unpopulous except for a few residents. The wind blew inland from a
sparkling sea, while Miss Verney, with bonnet all awry, sitting in a
draughty shelter, declared that somehow like this she pictured the
Riviera; and when the weather was too bad even for Miss Verney's azure
dreams, Pauline and she sat cozily among the tropic shells and Berlin
wool of their lodgings. Long letters used to come every day from Guy,
and long letters had to be written by Pauline to him; while perpetually
Miss Verney tinkled on with marine tales that, if no doubt nautically
inaccurate, had nevertheless a fine flavor of salt water.

"I remember I was sitting in the parlor window at Southsea when a
regiment.... I remember a captain in the Royal Marines.... I remember
how anxious my father was that I should have been a boy."

"Oh, dear Miss Verney, you can't remember that."

"Oh yes, he invariably spoke of me as the Midshipman, I remember. I
would then have been about eight years of age.... Pray give my very kind
regards to Mr. Guy and say how well we are both looking, and what a
benefit this fine air is, to be sure, and don't forget our little
expedition to the theater. You must tell Mr. Guy the story of the piece.
He will certainly enjoy hearing about that very nice-mannered convict
who.... Ah dear! how my poor father used to revel in the play."

Miss Verney's conversation scarcely ever stopped, and while Pauline was
writing letters it was always particularly brisk, but she used to enjoy
the accompaniment as she would have enjoyed the twittering of a bird. It
seemed to inspire her letters with the equable gaiety that Guy was so
glad to think was coming back to her. His own letters were invariably
cheerful, and Pauline began to count the days to the time when she would
see him again. Easter had gone by, and the weather was so steadily fine
that it was a pity not to be together. He wrote of primroses awaiting
her footsteps in the forest, of blue dog-violets and cowslips in the
hollows of Wychford down, of all the birds that were now arrived in
England, of the cuckoo's first call, and of the first swallow seen.

     Come back soon, my own, my sweet [he wrote]. Come back and let
     this Winter be all forgotten. I climbed up to the top of the
     church tower to-day, and oh, the tulips in your garden, and oh,
     the emptiness of that garden notwithstanding! Come back, my
     Pauline, for you'll see the iris buds in the paddock and you've no
     idea of the way in which that river of ours sparkles on these
     April mornings. I wish I could tell you how remote this Winter
     already has grown. It has crept out of memory like a dejected
     nightmare at breakfast. You are never to think again about the
     stupid things I've said about religion: think only, my dearest,
     that I hope always for your faith. It would be dishonest of me to
     say that I believe now exactly as you believe, but I want to
     believe like that. Perhaps I'm illogical in writing this: perhaps
     all the time I do believe. Forget too what I said about
     Confession. I would almost go myself to prove my penitence (to
     you!), but I just can't bring myself to do that, because for me it
     really would be useless and would turn me against everything you
     count as holy. Forget all that has cast a shadow on our love.
     Count it all as my heedlessness and be confident that I alone was
     to blame. I would write more, but letters are such impossible
     things for intimacy. Some people can pour out their souls on
     paper: I can't. That's really what my poems suffer from. I have
     been working at them again since you were away, and they have a
     kind of coldness, a sort of awkward youthful reserve. Perhaps
     that's better than youthful exuberance, and yet I don't know. One
     can prune the too prodigal growth, but one can't always be sure of
     having the prodigality when one has the maturity. The metaphors
     seem to be getting rather tied up, and you must be bored by now
     with my chattering criticism.

     Your mother came to tea yesterday and brought Monica. Margaret is
     rather in seclusion at present on account of Richard's arrival, I
     fancy. She's obviously dreading other people's notice. It is a
     rather self-conscious business, this waiting for the arrival of
     some one whom everybody expects is going to play such an important
     part in her life. If we were separated now for two years, it would
     be different; but I can see that Margaret is dreadfully afraid
     that now, having at last made up her mind to marry Richard, she
     may not care for him as much as she did. He must be a fine fellow.
     I'm looking forward tremendously to his coming. Monica was
     perfectly delightful yesterday, and grew quite excited in her
     nunlike way over the ultimate decoration of Plashers Mead. Dear
     me, what taste you all have got, and what a very great deal you've
     taught me! You must most of all forget that I ever said a word
     against your sisters. They have really equipped me in a way with a
     point of view towards art. I tried to tell Monica so yesterday
     afternoon. In fact, we got on very well together. In a way, you
     know, she almost appreciates you more than Margaret does. You
     represent her hope, her ideal of the world. Worldly one, I must
     say good night. Tell Miss Verney with my love that all her cats
     send their best respects and compliments and that Bellerophon
     particularly requests that his mistress will bring back whatever
     fish is in season at Scarborough. Oh, the funniest thing I've
     forgotten to tell you! Miss Peasey was chased by some bullocks
     across the big field behind the orchard! She was too priceless
     about it when she got home.

Pauline began to think it was impossible for her ever to have had the
least worry in the course of her engagement. This was the first time she
had been parted from Guy for more than a week during the whole of a
year, and there was something very reassuring in such an opportunity to
regard him like this so disinterestedly, to find that the separation was
having the traditional effect and to be positive that she was going to
meet him again at the end of April more in love than ever. Nevertheless,
she was always aware of being grateful for the repose from problems, and
she did once or twice play with the idea of having perhaps made a
mistake in objecting to his going abroad. It was on occasions of doubt
like this that Pauline would try to impress Miss Verney with what
existence had already meant to her.

"I'm feeling so old, Miss Verney."

"Old, my dear? Oh, that cannot be true," exclaimed her friend.

"Falling very much in love does make one feel old," Pauline declared.

"Let me see," Miss Verney went on, "let me try to remember how I felt.
My impression is now that when I was in love I felt much younger than I
do at present, but perhaps that is natural, for it is very nearly thirty
years ago since William and I parted."

"Is he still alive?"

"Oh yes, he is still alive, but I have never seen him and he must be
wonderfully altered. Sometimes I think of all the days that have gone by
since we parted. It seems so strange to think of our lives being able to
go on, when once it seemed to both of us that life could not go on at
all if we were not together. It seems so strange to think of him eating
his lunch somewhere at the same time that somewhere else I am eating my
lunch. Who knows if he ever thinks of me, who knows indeed?"

"If anything happened to prevent our marriage," began Pauline,
thoughtfully, and then was silent.

Miss Verney opened wide her pale-blue eyes.

"And what could happen?" she asked, grandly.

"I've no business to imagine such a thing, have I?"

"None whatever," said Miss Verney, decidedly.

But had Miss Verney's love-affair been complicated by anything more than
merely natural difficulties? Guy's debts and unsuccess were nothing in
comparison with other elements of disaccord ... and then Pauline pulled
herself up from brooding and resolutely forced her mind to contemplate a
happy Summer. Had she not just now been congratulating herself upon the
disappearance of all worries in this sea air?

The time at Scarborough drew to a close, and about a week before her
birthday came the news of Richard's arrival from India. She and Miss
Verney packed up and were home in Wychford two days before they were
expected.

"Richard, how lovely to see you again!" Pauline cried. "And, oh,
Richard, I'm sure you've grown. Don't you think he has grown?" she
demanded of everybody. "Richard, how clever of you to grow when you're
twenty-seven."

It was really like old times to go babbling on like this, while Richard
sat and smiled encouragingly and spoke never a word.

"Coming for a stroll?" he asked.

"Oh, but I ought to see Guy first," she said. "Richard, I hope you like
Guy."

He nodded.

"Do you think he looks like a poet?"

"Never saw a poet before," said Richard.

"Oh, but like your idea of a poet?"

"Never thought much about poets," said Richard. "So you aren't coming
for a stroll?"

"I will to-morrow, but I must spend the sunset with Guy."

Guy was waiting for her by the paddock, and they floated down-stream out
of reach of people. In their own peninsula they kissed away the absence
of twenty-two days.

"You look much better," said Guy, critically.

"I'm perfectly well."

"And happy?"

She answered him with her eyes.

"Why, Pauline, I believe you're quite shy of me!"

She blushed.

"I really am a little, you know," she whispered. "Did you like Richard?
Oh, Guy, I hope you did."

"Of course I did."

"And, Guy, you don't mind if I go for a walk with him to-morrow morning?
You see, I know he's longing to hear about Margaret and himself."

"But you'll come out with me in the afternoon?"

"Why, of course."

"Then Richard may have the morning," said Guy. "And I hope you'll
arrange everything between him and Margaret so successfully that he
won't steal any more hours from me."

When Pauline had left Guy that evening she thought how strangely it had
been like meeting him for the first time all over again. Or rather it
was as if they had walked a long way down the wrong road and were now
beginning to walk somewhat tentatively along what she hoped was surely
the right road at last. Her duty was above all to help Guy with the
material burdens; she must never again let him think that his debts or
his prospects had any power to worry her. Merely most tactfully must she
try to keep him from extravagance, and, oh dear, how she hoped that he
had not bought her an expensive birthday present. It was too late to say
anything about it now, but if Guy had been wisely economical how happy
she would be. How she hoped, too, that Richard had not brought home from
India a present that would annoy Margaret. Really, it was a most
oppressive business, this week before her coming of age, for between
Guy's extravagance and Richard's ... well, it was really not so much bad
taste as Indian taste. She would love anything he gave her, of course,
but perhaps he would consult beforehand with Margaret. Dear Richard, he
was so sweet and touching, and if only he had not brought her something
_very_ elaborately carved. She met him next morning half-way to
Fairfield, and two years were obliterated as she kept pace with his long
stride when they turned aside from the highroad and tramped upward over
the grassy wold.

"Richard, isn't it very hot in India?"

He nodded.

"And didn't you ever get used to walking a bit more slowly in India?"

He laughed.

"You lazy little thing. I thought you and Aunt Verney had been in
training at Scarborough? Come on, let's sit down then."

They sat down, and Richard drew with his stick in the close turf.

"Is that your bridge?" Pauline asked, with all the interest she could
put into her voice.

He laughed for a long time.

"Pauline, you villain, it's the beginning of Margaret's face!"

She clapped her hands.

"Oh, Richard, aren't I a villain? But, you know, it's not very
frightfully like anything, is it?"

"Pauline," he said, suddenly, in that sharp voice in which two years ago
he had intrusted his interests to her before he went away--"Pauline, is
Margaret going to marry me?"

"Why, of course she is, Richard!"

"Has she spoken to you about me?"

"But you know she never speaks about her own affairs and that she can't
bear anybody else to speak of them to her."

"Then how do you know?" he asked.

"Well, perhaps because I'm so much in love with Guy," Pauline
whispered.

"I don't see how that quite works. I'm a very dull sort of chap after
that Guy of yours."

"But you're not at all," Pauline declared. "And if you take my advice
you won't think you're dull. You'll make Margaret marry you. Really, I'm
sure that what she would like best is to be made to do something. You
see, she's a darling, but she is just a very tiny little bit spoiled.
You mustn't be so patient with her. But, Richard dear, I know she loves
you, because she practically told Guy that she did."

"Guy?" he echoed, looking rather indignant.

"Well, you must understand how sweet Margaret was to him about me. She
was so sympathetic, and really she practically brought about our
engagement. Oh, I do love her so, Richard, and I do want her to be
happy, and I do know so dreadfully well that you are the very person to
make her happy."

"Pauline, you are a pink brick," he avowed.

And scarcely another word did he say for the rest of their walk.

Pauline went to Margaret's room that night and, after fidgeting all the
while her sister was undressing, suddenly plunged down beside her bed
and caught hold of her hand.

"Margaret, you're not to snub me, because I absolutely must speak. I
must beg you not to keep Richard waiting any longer. Do, my darling,
darling Margaret, do be kind to him and not so cold. He simply adores
you, and.... Why, Margaret, you're crying!... Oh, let me kiss you, my
Margaret, because you were so wonderful about Guy, and I've been a beast
to you and you must, you must be happy."

"If I could only love him as you love Guy," Margaret sighed between her
tears.

"You do really ... at least perhaps not _quite_ as much. Oh, Margaret,
don't be angry with me if I whisper something to you; think how much you
would love him if you and he had ... Margaret, you know what I mean."

Pauline blew out the candle and rushed from the dark room; and lying
awake in her own bed, she fancied among the flowers of the Rectory such
fairy children for Margaret and herself, such fairy children dancing by
the margin of the river.



MAY


On the morning before Pauline's birthday Guy received a letter from
Michael Fane announcing abruptly his engagement and adding that on
account of worldly opposition he had been persuaded into a postponement
of his marriage for two months. Guy was rather ironically amused by the
serious manner in which Michael took so brief a delay, and he could not
help thinking how unreasonably impatient of trifles people with ample
private means often showed themselves. Michael wrote that he would like
to spend some of his probation at Plashers Mead, and alluded to the
"luck" of his friend in being so near his Pauline.

Guy wrote a letter of congratulation, and then he put Michael's news out
of his mind in order to examine the two complete sets of the proofs on
his poems which had also arrived that morning. He was engaged in the
task of making a rather clumsy binding for them out of a piece of
stained vellum when Richard Ford came round to Plashers Mead. Guy
welcomed him gladly, for besides the personal attraction he felt towards
this lean and silent engineer, he perceived in the likelihood of
Richard's speedy marriage an earnest of his own. Somehow that marriage
was going to break the spell of inactivity to which at the Rectory all
seemed to be subject, and from which Guy was determined to keep Richard
free, even if it were necessary to shake him as continuously as tired
wanderers in the snow are shaken out of a dangerous sleep.

"I came round to consult with you about my present to Pauline
to-morrow," said Richard, very solemnly. "I've brought round one or two
little things, so that you could give me your advice."

"Why, of course I will," said Guy.

"They're down-stairs in the hall. I had some difficulty in explaining to
your housekeeper that I wasn't a peddler."

In the hall was stacked a pile completely representative of the bazar:
half a dozen shawls, the model of a temple, a carved table, some inlaid
stools, every sort of typical Oriental gewgaw; in fact, an agglomeration
that seemed to invite the smell of cheap incense for its effective
display.

"Godbold drove them over," Richard explained, as he saw Guy's
astonishment. "Now look here, what's the best present for Pauline? You
see, I'm not at all an artistic sort of chap, and I don't want to hoick
forward something that's going to be more of a nuisance than anything
else."

"It's really awfully difficult to choose," said Guy, rather ambiguously.

Then he discovered a simple ivory paper-knife which he declared was just
the thing, having the happy thought that he would not cut the set of
proofs he was binding for Pauline, so that to-morrow Richard could have
the pleasure of beholding his gift put to immediate use.

"You've chosen the smallest thing of the lot," said the disappointed
donor. "You don't think a shawl as well?" he asked, holding up yards of
gaudy material.

"Well, candidly, I think Pauline's too fair for that color scheme, don't
you?"

"All right, the paper-knife. You don't mind if I leave these things here
till Godbold can fetch them away, and ... er.... I wish you'd choose
something for yourself. I've always taken a kind of interest in this
house, don't you know, and I've often thought about it in India."

"I'd like a gong," said Guy at once, and Richard was obviously
gratified by his quick choice, and still further gratified when Guy
suggested they should sound it immediately outside the kitchen door.
Solemnly Richard held it up in the passage, while Guy crashed forth a
glorious clamor, at the summons of which Miss Peasey came rushing out.

"Good gracious!" she gasped. "I thought that dog Bob had jumped through
the window."

"This is a present for us from India," Guy shouted.

"Oh, that's extremely handsome, isn't it? Well now, I shall expect you
to be punctual in future for your meals. Dear me, yes, quite a variety,
I'm sure, after that measly bell."

The gong was given a prominent position in the bare hall, and Guy
invited Richard up to his own room. After the question of the presents
had been solved Richard was shy and silent again, and Guy found it very
hard to make conversation. Several times his visitor seemed on the point
of getting something off his mind, but when he was given an opportunity
for speech he never accepted it. Desperate for a topic, Guy showed him
the proofs of the poems, and explained that he was binding them roughly
as his present to Pauline to-morrow.

"That's something I can't understand," said Richard, intensely.
"Writing! It beats me!"

"Bridges would beat me," said Guy.

Richard looked quite cheerful at this notion and under the influence of
the encouragement he had received seemed at last on the point of getting
out what he wanted to say, but he could manage nothing more confidential
than a tug at his bristled fair mustache.

"When are you and Margaret going to be married?" Guy asked, abruptly,
for, of course, he had guessed that it was Margaret's name which was
continually on the tip of his tongue.

"By Jove! there you are! I'm rather stumped," said Richard, gloomily.
"You see, the thing is ... well ... I suppose you know that when I
started off to India last June year, Margaret and I were sort of engaged
... at least I was certainly engaged to her, only she hadn't absolutely
made up her mind about me ... and, of course, that's just what you'd
expect would happen to a chap like me ... dash it all! Hazlewood, I'm
afraid to ask her again!"

"I don't think you need be," said Guy. "Of course we haven't discussed
you, except very indirectly," he hastily added, "but I'm positive that
Margaret is only waiting for you to ask her to marry her on some
definite day; on some definite day, Ford, that's the great thing to
remember."

"You mean I ought to say, 'Margaret, will you marry me on the twelfth of
August, or the first of September? That's your notion, is it?"

Guy nodded.

"By gad! I'll ask her to-day," said Richard.

"And you'll be engaged to-morrow," Guy prophesied.

"When are you and Pauline going to be married?"

Guy looked up quickly to see if the solid Richard were laughing at him,
but there was nothing in those steel-blue eyes except the most
benevolent inquiry.

"That's the question," said Guy. "Writing is not quite such a certainty
as bridge-building."

"You mean there's the difficulty of money? By Jove! that's bad luck,
isn't it? Still, you know, I expect that having the good fortune to have
Pauline in love with you.... Well, I expect, you've got to expect a bit
of difficulty somewhere, you know. You know, Pauline was...." he stopped
and blinked at the window.

"Pauline's awfully fond of you," Guy said, encouragingly.

"Hazlewood, that kid's been.... Well, I can't express myself, you know,
but I'd.... Well, I really can't talk about her."

"I understand, though," said Guy. "Look here, you'll stay and have
lunch with me, and then we can go across to the Rectory afterwards."

Emotional subjects were tacitly put on one side to talk of the birds and
butterflies that one might expect to find round Wychford, of Miss Verney
and Godbold and other local characters, or of the prospects of the
cricket team that year. After lunch Guy put the unbound set of proofs in
his pocket and, launching the canoe, they floated down to the Rectory
paddock. Mrs. Grey and the girls were all in the garden picking purple
tulips, and Guy, taking Pauline aside, told her on what momentous quest
Richard was come, suggesting that he should occupy the Rector's
attention, while Pauline lured away her mother and Monica.

The Rector was sitting in the library, hard at work rubbing the fluff
from the anemone seeds with sand.

"And what can I do for you, sir?" he asked.

"I thought you'd like to see the proofs of my poems," said Guy.

He laid the duplicates on the dusty table, and tried to thank his patron
for what he had done. The Rector waved a clay pipe deprecatingly.

"You must thank Constance ... you must thank my wife, if you thank
anybody. But if I were you I shouldn't thank anybody till you find out
for certain that she's done you a service," he recommended, with a
twinkle.

Guy laughed.

"Worrall doesn't want to publish until the Autumn."

The Rector made a face.

"All that time to wait for the verdict?"

"Time seems particularly hostile to me," Guy said.

"You'll have to tweak his forelock pretty hard."

"That's what I've come to consult you about. Do you think I ought to go
to Persia with Sir George Gascony? Mrs. Grey thought I oughtn't to take
so drastic a step until I had first tested my poems in public. But I've
been reading them through, and they don't somehow look quite as
important in print as they did in manuscript. I can't help feeling that
I ought to have a regular occupation. What do you really advise me to
do, Mr. Grey?"

The Rector held up his arms in mock dismay.

"Gracious goodness me, don't implicate a poor country parson in such
affairs! I can give you advice about flowers and I can pretend to give
you advice about your soul, but about the world, no, no."

"I think perhaps I'll get some journalistic work in town," Guy
suggested.

"Persia or journalism!" commented the Rector. "Well, well, they're both
famous for fairy tales. I recommend journalism as being nearer at hand."

"Then I'll take your advice."

"Oh, dear me, you must not involve me in such a responsibility. Now, if
you were a nice rational iris I would talk to you, but for a talented
young man with his life before him I shouldn't even be a good quack.
Come along, let's go out and look at the tulips."

"You _will_ glance through my poems?" Guy asked, diffidently.

The Rector stood up and put his hand on the poet's shoulder.

"Of course I will, my dear boy, and you mustn't be deceived by the
manner of that shy old boor, the Rector of Wychford. Do what you think
you ought to do, and make my youngest daughter happy. We shall be having
her birthday before we know where we are."

"It's to-morrow!"

"Is it indeed? May Day. Of course. I remember last year I managed to
bloom _Iris lorteti_. But this year, no! That wet May destroyed _Iris
lorteti_. A delicate creature. Rose and brown. A delicate, lovely
creature."

Guy and the Rector pored over the tulips awhile, where in serried
borders they displayed their somber sheen of amaranth and amethyst; then
Guy strolled off to hear what was the news of Margaret and Richard.
Pauline came flying to meet him down one of the long, straight garden
paths.

"Darling, they are to be married early in August," she cried.

He caught her to him and kissed her, lest in the first poignant
realization of other people's joy she might seem to be escaping from him
utterly.

Guy had a few minutes with Margaret before he went home that evening,
and they walked beside the tulip borders, she tall and dark and
self-contained in the fading light, being strangely suited by
association with such flowers.

"Dear Margaret," he said, "I want to tell you how tremendously I like
Richard. Now that sounds patronizing. But I'm speaking quite humbly.
These sort of Englishmen have been celebrated enough, perhaps, and
lately there's been a tendency to laugh at them, but, my God! what is
there on earth like the Richards of England? Margaret, you once very
rightly reproved me for putting Pauline in a silver frame, do let me
risk your anger and beg you never to put yourself in a silver frame from
which to look out at Richard."

"You do rather understand me, don't you?" she said, offering him her
hand.

"Help Pauline and me," he begged.

"Haven't I always helped you?"

"Not always, but you will now that you yourself are no longer uncertain
about your future. The moment you find yourself perfectly happy you'll
be longing for every one else to be the same."

"But how haven't I helped you?" she persisted.

"It would be difficult to explain in definite words. But I don't think
my idea of your attitude towards us could have been entirely invented by
my fancy."

"What attitude? What do you mean, Guy?"

He shook his head.

"My dear, if you aren't conscious of it, I'm certainly not going to
attempt to put it into words and involve myself in such a net."

"How tantalizing you are!"

"No, I'm not. If you have the least inclination to think I may be right,
then you know what I mean and you can do what I ask. If you haven't the
least notion of what I mean, then it was all my fancy, and I'm certainly
not going to give my baseless fancies away."

"This is all too cryptic," she murmured.

"Then let it remain undeciphered," he said, smiling; and he led the
conversation more directly towards their marriage and the strangeness of
the Rectory without Margaret.

Richard spent the night at Plashers Mead, and Guy heard the halting
account of two years' uncertainty, of the bungalow that had been taken
and embowered against Margaret's coming, and of the way in which his
bridge had spanned not merely the river, but the very ocean, and even
time itself.

Pauline's birthday morning was cloudless, and Guy, though to himself he
was inclined to blame the action as weak, went to church and knelt
beside her. Then afterwards there was the scene of breakfast on the lawn
that already, with only this first repetition, wore for him an
immemorial air, so that he could no longer imagine a May Day that was
not thus inaugurated. The presentation of his poems in proof had not a
bit less wonderful effect than he had hoped, for Pauline could never
finish turning over the pages and loving the ludicrously tumble-down
binding.

"Oh, it's so touching! I wish they could all be bound like this. And how
I adore Richard's paper-knife."

The four lovers disappeared after breakfast to enjoy the flashing May
Day, and Monica, left alone with her mother, looked a little sad, she,
the only one of those three lovely daughters of the Rectory still
undisturbed by the demands of the invading world.

May that year was like the fabled Spring of poets; and Guy and Pauline
were left free to enjoy the passionate and merry month as perhaps never
before had they enjoyed any season, not even that dreamed-away fortnight
at Ladingford last year. They had ceased for a while with the engagement
of Richard and Margaret to be the central figures of the Rectory,
whether for blame or commendation, and, desiring nothing better than to
be left without interference, they were lost in apple-blossom to
every-day existence. Guy, with the prospect of his poems appearing in
the Autumn, felt that he was justified in forgetting responsibilities
and, having weathered the financial crisis of the March quarter, he had
now nothing to worry him until Midsummer. That was the date he had fixed
upon in his mind as suitable for making a determined attempt upon
London. He had planned to shut up Plashers Mead and to take a small room
in Chelsea, whence he would conquer in a few months the material
obstacles that prevented their marriage. The poems, now that they were
in print, seemed a less certain talisman to fame; but they would serve
their purpose, indeed they had served their purpose already, for this
long-secluded time would surely counterbalance the too easy victories of
journalism. He would surely by now have lost that spruce Oxford
cleverness, and might fairly expect to earn his living with dignity. The
least success would justify his getting married, and Pauline would enjoy
two years spent high in some London attic within the sound of chirping
sparrows and the distant whispers of humanity. They would perhaps be
able to afford to fly for magic weeks to Plashers Mead, pastoral
interludes in that crowded life which lay ahead. How everything had
resolved itself latterly, and how the gift of glorious May should be
accepted as the intimate and dearest benefaction to their love! He and
Pauline were together from earliest morn to the last minute of these
rich and shadowy eves. They wreathed their boat with boughs of
apple-blossom and went farther up the river than they had ever gone.
The cuckoo was still in tune, and still the kingcups gilded all that
hollow land; there was not yet the lush growth of weeds and reeds that
indolent June would use to delay their dreaming progress; and still all
the trees and all the hedges danced with that first sharp green of
Spring, that cold and careless green of Spring.

Then when the hawthorn came into prodigal bloom, and all the rolling
country broke in endless waves of blossom, Pauline in her muslin dress
seemed like an airy joy sustained by all these multitudinous petals,
dancing upon this flowery tide, this sweet foam of May.

"My flower, my sweet, are you indeed mortal?" he whispered.

The texture of her sleeve against his was less tangible than the light
breeze that puffed idly from the south to where they sat enraptured upon
the damasked English grass. Apple-blossom powdered her lap and starred
her light-brown hair, and around them like a Circean perfume drowning
the actual world hung the odorous thickets of hawthorn.

The month glided along until the time of ragged-robins came round again,
and as if these flowers were positively of ill omen to Guy and Pauline,
Mrs. Grey suddenly took it into her head again that they were seeing too
much of each other.

"I said you could see Pauline every day," she told Guy. "But I did not
say all day."

"But I shall be going away soon," he said; "and it seems a pity to lose
any of this lovely month."

"I'm sure I'm right ... and I did not know you had really decided to go
away.... I'm sure, yes, I'm positive I'm right.... Why don't you be more
like Margaret and Richard?... They aren't together all day long ... no,
not all day."

"But Pauline is so different from Margaret," Guy argued.

"Yes, I know ... that's the reason ... she is too impulsive.... Yes,
it's much better not to be together all the time.... I'm glad you've
settled to go to London ... then perhaps you can be married next
year...."

A rule came into force again, and Guy began to feel the old exasperation
against the curb upon youth's leisure. Rather unjustly he blamed
Margaret, because he felt that the spectacle of her sedate affection
made his for Pauline appear too wild, and Pauline herself beside
Margaret seem completely distraught with love.

It pleased Guy rather, and yet in a way it rather annoyed him, that
Michael Fane should choose this moment to announce his intention of
spending some time at Plashers Mead. Perhaps a little of the doubt was
visible in his welcome, because Michael asked rather anxiously if he
were intruding upon the May idyll; Guy laughed off the slight
awkwardness and asked why Michael had not yet managed to get married.
They talked about the evils of procrastination, but Guy could not at all
see that Michael had much to complain of in a postponement of merely two
months. His friend, however, was evidently rather upset, and he could
not resist expatiating a little on his own grief with what Guy thought
was the petulance of the too fortunate man. The warm May nights lulled
them both, and they used to pass pleasant evenings leaning over the
stream while the bats and fern-owls flew across the face of the
decrescent moon; yet for Guy all the beauty of the season was more than
ever endowed with intolerable fugacity.

Pauline with Michael's arrival began to be moody again; would take no
kind of interest in Michael's engagement; would only begin to see again
the endless delays that hung so heavily round their marriage. Michael
was not at all in the way, for he spent all the time writing to his
lady-love, of whom he had told Guy really nothing; or he would sit in
the lengthening grass of the orchard and read books of poetry, the pages
of which used to wink with lucid reflection caught from the leaves of
the fruit-trees overhead.

Guy looked over his shoulder and saw that he was reading "The Statue and
the Bust":

  So weeks grew months, years; gleam by gleam
    The glory dropped from their youth and love,
  And both perceived they had dreamed a dream;

"That poem haunts me," exclaimed Guy, with a shudder.

  Where is the use of the lip's red charm,
    The heaven of hair, the pride of the brow,
  And the blood that blues the inside arm--

    Unless we turn, as the soul knows how,
  The earthly gift to an end divine?

"And yet I can't stop reading it," he sighed.

  How do their spirits pass, I wonder,
    Nights and days in the narrow room?

  Still, I suppose, they sit and ponder
    What a gift life was, ages ago,
  Six steps out of the chapel yonder.

On this Summer morning the words wrote themselves in fire across his
brain.

"They light the way to dusty death," he sputtered, over and over again,
when he had left Browning to Michael and flung himself face downward in
the orchard grass.

In despair of what a havoc time was making of their youth and their
love, that very afternoon he begged Pauline to meet him again now in
these dark nights of early Summer, now when soon he would be going away
from her.

"Going away?" she echoed in alarm. "I suppose that's the result of your
friend's visit."

Guy, however, was not going to surrender again, and he insisted that
when a month had passed he would indeed be gone from Plashers Mead. It
was nothing to do with Michael Fane; it was solely his own determination
to put an end to his unprofitable dalliance.

"But your poems? I thought that when your poems were published
everything would be all right."

"Oh, my poems," he scoffed. "They're valueless!"

"Guy!"

"They're mere decoration. They are trifles."

"I don't understand you."

"I care for nothing but to be married to you. For nothing, do you hear?
Pauline, everything is to be subordinate to that. I would even write and
beg my father to take me as a junior usher at Fox Hall for that. We must
be married soon. I can't bear to see Richard and Margaret sailing along
so calmly and quietly towards happiness."

In the end he persuaded her to make all sorts of opportunities to meet
him when no one else knew they were together. Even once most recklessly
on a warm and moonless night of May's languorous decline to June, he
took her in the canoe far away up the river; and when they floated home
dawn was already glistening on the banks and on the prow of their
ghostly canoe. Through bird-song and rosy vapors she fled from him to
her silent room, while he stood in a trance and counted each dewy
footstep that with silver traceries marked her flight across the lawn.



ANOTHER SUMMER



JUNE


Michael Fane stayed on into June, and the fancy came to Pauline that he
knew of these meetings with Guy at night. It enraged her with jealousy
to think that he might have been taken into Guy's confidence so far, and
the prejudice against him grew more violent every day. She already had
enough regrets for having given way to Guy's persuasion, and the memory
of that last return at dawn to her cool, reproachful room haunted her
more bitterly when she thought of its no longer being a secret. The
knowledge that Guy was soon going to leave Plashers Mead was another
torment, for though in a way she was glad of his wanting to make the
determined effort, she could not help connecting the resolve with his
friend's visit, and in consequence of this her one desire was to upset
the plan. The sight of Richard and Margaret progressing equably towards
their marriage early in August also made her jealous, and she began
unreasonably to ascribe to her sister an attitude of superiority that
she allowed to gall her; and whenever Richard was praised by any of the
family she could never help feeling now that the praise covered or
implied a corresponding disparagement of Guy. With Monica she nearly
quarreled over religion, for though in her heart it occupied the old
Supreme place, her escapades at night, by the tacit leave they seemed to
give Guy to presume that religion no longer counted as her chief
resource, had led her for the first time to make herself appear
outwardly indifferent. In fact, she now dreaded going to church, because
she felt that if she once surrendered to the holy influence she would
suffer again all the remorse of the Winter, that now by desperate
deferment she was able for a little while to avoid. On top of all this
vexation of soul she was angry with Guy because he seemed unable to
realize that they were both walking on the edge of an abyss, and that
all this abandonment of themselves to the joy of the fugitive season was
a vain attempt to cheat fate. At such an hour she was naturally jealous
that a friend's private affairs should occupy so much of Guy's
attention, when he himself was walking blindly towards the doom of their
love that now sometimes in flashes of horrible clarity she beheld at
hand. Guy, however, persisted in trying to force Michael upon her; the
jealousy such attempts fostered made her more passionate when she was
alone with him, and this, as all the while she dreadfully foresaw,
heaped up the reckoning that her conscience would presently have to pay.

One afternoon she and Margaret and Monica went to tea at Plashers Mead,
when to her sharp annoyance she found herself next to Guy's friend. She
made up her mind at the beginning of the conversation that he was
criticizing her, and, feeling shy and awkward, she could only reply to
him in gasps and monosyllables and blushes. He seemed to her the coldest
person she had ever known; he seemed utterly without emotion or
sympathy; he must surely be the worst friend imaginable for Guy. He took
no interest in anything, apparently; and then suddenly he definitely
revealed himself as the cause of Guy's ambition to conquer London.

"I think Guy ought to go away from here," he was saying. "I told him
when he first took this house that he would be apt to dream away all his
time here. You must make him give it up, Miss Grey. He's such an
extraordinarily brilliant person that it would be terrible if he let
himself do nothing in the end. Of course, he's been lucky to meet you,
and that's kept him alive, but now he ought to go to London. He really
ought."

Pauline hated herself for the way in which she was gasping out her
monosyllabic agreement with all this; but she did not feel able to argue
with Michael Fane. He disconcerted her by his air of severe judgment,
and however hard she tried she could not contradict him. Then suddenly
in a rage with herself and with him, she began to talk nonsense at the
top of her voice, rattling on until her sisters looked up at her in
surprise, while Michael, evidently embarrassed, scarcely answered. At
last the uncomfortable visit came to an end, and as she walked back with
Guy, while the others went in front, she began to inveigh against the
friend more fiercely than ever.

"My dear, I can't think why you have him to stay with you. He hates your
being engaged to me...."

"Oh, nonsense!" Guy interrupted, rather crossly.

"He does, he does; and he hates your staying down here. He says Plashers
Mead is ruining you, and that you ought to go to London. Now, you see, I
know why you want to go there."

"Really, Pauline, you're talking nonsense. I'm going to London because
I'm positive that your father and mother both think I ought to go. And
I'm positive myself that I ought to go. I've been wrong to stay here all
this time. I've done nothing to help forward our marriage. Look how
nervous and ... how nervous and overwrought you've become. It's all my
fault."

"How I hate that friend of yours!"

Guy looked up in astonishment at the fervor of her tone.

"And how he hates me," she went on.

"Oh, really, my dear child, you are ridiculous," Guy exclaimed,
petulantly. "Are you going to take up this attitude towards all my
friends? You're simply horridly jealous, that's the whole matter."

Pauline did not quarrel now, because she thought it might gratify
Michael Fane to see the discord he had created, but she treasured up
her anger and knew that, when later she and Guy were alone, she would
say whatever hard things now rested unsaid. Next morning Guy asked her
if she would be very cross to hear that he was going to town for a
night.

"With your friend?" she asked.

He nodded, and she turned away from him clouded blue eyes.

"It _is_ unfair of you to hate Michael," he pleaded. "I told him you
thought he was cold, and he said at once, 'Do tell her I'm not cold, and
say how lovely I think her.' He said you were very lovely and strange
... a fairy's child."

Still Pauline would not turn her head.

"I told him that you were indeed a fairy's child," Guy went on, "and I
told him how sometimes I felt I should go off my head with the
responsibility your happiness was to me. For indeed, Pauline, it is, it
is a responsibility."

She felt she must yield when Guy spoke like that, but then,
unfortunately, he began to talk about his friend again, and sullen
jealousy returned.

"Listen, Pauline, I'm going up to town because Michael wants me to see
this girl he is going to marry. He was rather pathetic about her. It
seems that ... well ... it's a sort of misalliance, and his people are
angry about it, and really I must be loyal and go up to town and help
him with ... well ... you see, really all his friends have been
unsympathetic about her."

"I expect they've every right to be," said Pauline.

"I do think you're unreasonable. I'm only going away for a night."

"Oh, go, go, go!" she cried, and, pulling herself free of his caress,
she left him by the margin of the stream disconsolate and perplexed.

Pauline, when Guy had gone to London with his friend, began to fret
herself with the fear that he would not come back, and she was very
remorseful at the thought that if he did not she would be responsible.
She half expected to get a letter next day to tell her of his
determination to remain in town for good, and when no letter came she
exaggerated still more all her fears and longed to send him a telegram
to ask if he had arrived safely, railing at herself for having let him
leave her without knowing where he was going to stay. By the following
afternoon all the jealousy of Michael had been swallowed up in a
passionate desire for Guy's return, and when about three o'clock she saw
him coming through the wicket in the high gray wall her heart beat fast
with relief. She said not a word about Guy's journey, nor did she even
ask if his friend had come back with him. She cared for nothing but to
show by her tenderness how penitent she was for that yesterday which had
torn such a rent in the perfection of their love. Guy was visibly much
relieved to find that her jealous fit had passed away, and when she
asked for an account of his journey he gave it to her most eagerly.

"Yesterday was rather tragic," he said. "We went to see this Lily Haden
to whom Michael had engaged himself, and ... well ... it's impossible to
explain to you what happened, but it was all very horrible and rather
like a scene in a French play. Anyhow, Michael is cured of that fancy,
and now he talks of going out of England and even of becoming a monk.
These extraordinary religious fads that succeed violent emotion of an
utterly different kind! Personally I don't think the monkish phase will
survive the disillusionment that's just as much bound to happen in
religion as it was bound to happen over that girl."

"What was she like?" Pauline asked, resolving to appear interested in
Michael.

"I never saw her," said Guy. "The tragedy took place 'off' in the
Aristotelian manner."

"Oh, Guy, don't use such long words."

"Dear little thing, I wish you wouldn't ask any more about this girl.
She is something quite outside your imagination; though I could make of
her behavior such a splendid lesson for you, when you think you have
behaved dreadfully in escaping from your room for an hour or two of
moonlight. Poor Michael! he's as scrupulous as you are, and it's rather
ironical that you and he shouldn't get on. Puritans, both of you! Now
there's another friend of mine, Maurice Avery, whom you'd probably like
very much, and yet he isn't worth Michael's little finger."

"Did you see him yesterday?"

"Yes, we went round to his studio in Grosvenor Road. Oh, my dear, such a
glorious room, looking out over the river right into the face of the
young moon coming up over Lambeth. A jolly old Georgian house. And at
the back another long, low window looking out over a sea of roofs to the
sunset behind the new Roman cathedral. There were lots of people there,
and a man was playing that Brahms sonata your mother likes so much.
Pauline, you and I simply must go and live in Chelsea or Westminster,
and we can come back to Plashers Mead after the most amazing adventures.
You would be such a rose on a London window-sill, or would you then be a
tuft of London Pride, all blushes and bravery?"

"Bravery! Why I'm frightened to death by the idea of going to live in
London! Oh, Guy, I'm frightened of anything that will break into our
life here."

"But, dearest, we can't stay at Wychford for ever doing nothing. Read
'The Statue and the Bust' if you want to understand the dread that lies
cold on my heart sometimes. Think how already nearly twenty months have
gone by since we met, and still we are in the same position. We know
each other better, and we are more in love than ever, but you have all
sorts of worries at the back of your mind, and I have all sorts of
ambitions not yet fulfilled. Michael has at last managed to make a
complete ass of himself, but what have I done?"

"Your poems ... your poems," she murmured, despairingly. "Are your
poems really no use? Oh, Guy, that seems such a cruel thing to believe."

Guy talked airily of what much more wonderful things he was going to
write, and when he asked Pauline to meet him this very midnight on the
river she had to consent, because in the thought that he appeared to be
drifting out of reach of her love she felt half distraught and would
have sacrificed anything to keep him by her.

The June evening seemed of a sad, uniform green, for the blossom of the
trees was departed and the borders were not yet marching in Midsummer
array. There was always a sadness about these evenings of early June, a
sadness, and sometimes a threat when the wind blew loudly among the
young foliage. Those gusty eves were almost preferable to this
protracted and luminous melancholy in which the sinking crescent of the
moon hung scarcely more bright than ivory. The pensive beauty was too
much for Pauline, who wished that she could shut out the obstinate day
and read by candle-light such a book as _Alice in Wonderland_ until it
was time to go to bed. Her white fastness, rose-bloomed by sunset as she
dressed for dinner, reproached her intention of abandoning its shelter
to-night, and she determined that this should really be the last
escapade. There was no harm in what she had done, of course, as Guy
assured her, and yet there was harm in behaving so traitorously towards
that narrow white bed, towards pious, wide-eyed Saint Ursula and Tobit's
companionable angel.

The languor of the evening was heavy upon all the family; Monica was the
only one who had the energy to go to her instrument. She played Chopin,
and the austerity of her method made the ballads and the nocturnes more
dangerously sweet. Gradually the melodies lulled most of Pauline's fears
and charmed her to look forward eagerly to the velvet midnight when she
with Guy beside her would float deep into such caressing glooms. After
Monica had played them all into drowsiness, Pauline had to wait until
the last sound had died away in the house and the illumination of the
last window had faded from the bodeful night that was stroking her
window with invitation to come forth.

Twelve o'clock clanged from the belfry, and Pauline opened her bedroom
door to listen. She had put on her white frieze coat, for although the
night was warm, the wearing of such outdoor garb gave a queer kind of
propriety to the whole business, and at the far end of the long corridor
she saw herself in the dim candle-light mirrored like a ghost in the
Venetian glass. From the heart of the house the cuckoo calling midnight
a minute or two late made her draw back in alarm, and not merely in
alarm, but also rather sentimentally, as if by her action she were going
to offend that innocent bird of childhood. She wondered why to-night she
felt so sensitive beforehand, since usually the regret had followed her
action; but promising herself that to-night should indeed be the last
time she would ever take this risk, she crept on tip-toe down the
stairs.

In the glimmering starshine Pauline could see Guy standing by the wicket
in the high gray wall, a remote and spectral form against the blackness
all around him, where the invisible trees gathered and hoarded the
gloom. She sighed with relief to find that the arms with which so gently
he enfolded her were indeed warm with life. Her passage over the lawn
had been one long increasing fear that the shape, so indeterminate and
motionless, that awaited her approach, might not be Guy in life, but a
wan image of what he had been, a demon lover, a shadow from the cave of
death.

"Guy, my darling, my darling, it is you! Oh, I was so frightened that
when I came close you wouldn't really be there."

She leaned half sobbing upon his shoulder.

"Pauline, don't talk so loud. I only did not come across the lawn to
meet you for fear of attracting attention."

"Let me go back now," she begged, "now that I've seen you."

But Guy soon persuaded her to come with him through the wicket and out
over the paddock where the grass whispered in their track, until at the
sight of the canoe's outline she lost her fears and did not care how
recklessly she explored the deeps of the night.

In silence they traveled up-stream under the vaulted willows; under the
giant sycamore whose great roots came writhing out of the darkness above
the sheen of the water; under Wychford bridge whose cold breath dripped
down in icy beads upon the thick swirl beneath; and then out through
starshine across the mill-pool. Pauline held her breath while around
their course was a sound of water sucking at the vegetation, gurgling
and lapping and chuckling against the invisible banks.

"The Abbey stream?" murmured Guy.

She scarcely breathed her consent, and the canoe tore the growing sedge
like satin as it bumped against the slope of the bank. Pauline felt that
she was protesting with her real self against the part she was playing
in this dream; but the dream became too potent, and she had to help Guy
to push the canoe up through the grass and down again into the quiet
water beyond. It was much blacker here on account of the overhanging
beeches, but continually Pauline strained through the darkness for a
sight of the deserted house, the windows of which seemed to follow with
blank and bony gaze their progress.

"Guy, let's hurry, for I can see the Abbey in the starlight," she
exclaimed.

"You have better eyes than mine if you can," he laughed. "My sweet, your
face from where I'm sitting is as filmy as a rose at dusk. And even if
you can see the Abbey, what does it matter? Do you think it's going to
run down the hill and swim after us?"

Pauline tried to laugh, but even that grotesque picture of his evoked a
new terror, and, huddled among the cushions, she sat with beating
heart, shuddering when the leaves of the great beech-trees fondled her
hair. She looked back to her own white fastness and began to wonder if
she had left the candle burning there; it seemed to her that she had,
and that perhaps presently, perhaps even now, somebody was coming to see
why it was burning. And still Guy took her farther up the stream. How
empty her room would look, and what a chill would fall upon the sister
or mother that peeped in.

"Oh, take me back!" she cried.

But still the canoe cleft the darkness and now, emerging from the
cavernous trees, they glided once again into starshine infinitely
outspread, through which with the dim glister of a snake the stream
coiled and uncoiled itself.

Guy grasped at the reeds and drew the canoe close against the bank,
making it fast with two paddles plunged into the mud. Then he gathered
her to him so that her head rested upon his shoulder and her lips could
meet his. Thus enfolded for a long while she lay content. The candle in
her room burned itself out and nothing could disturb her absence, no one
could suppose that she was here on this starlit river. Scarcely, indeed,
was she here except as in the midway of deepest sleep, resting between a
dream and a dream. She might have stayed unvexed for ever if Guy had not
begun to talk, for although at first his voice came softly and
pleasantly out of the night and lulled her like a tune heard faintly in
some far-off corner of the mind, minute by minute his accents became
more real; suddenly, as her drowsed arm slid over the edge of the canoe
into the water, she woke and began herself to talk and, as she talked,
to shrink again from the vision of her whole life whether past or
present or to come.

In this malicious darkness she wanted to hear more about that girl who
had betrayed Michael Fane; she wanted to know things that before she had
not even known were hidden. She pressed Guy with questions, and when he
would not answer them she began to feel jealous even of unrevealed sin.
This girl was the link between all those girls at whose existence in his
own past Guy had once hinted. Michael Fane appeared like the tempter and
Guy like his easy prey. Distortions of the most ordinary, the most
trifling incidents piled themselves upon her imagination; and that visit
to London assumed a ghastly and impenetrable mysteriousness.

Guy vainly tried to laugh away her fancies; faster and still faster the
evil cohorts swept up against her, almost as tangible as bats flapping
into her face.

"Don't talk so loud," said Guy, crossly. "Do remember where we are."

Then she reproached him with having brought her here. She felt that he
deserved to pay the penalty, and defiantly she was talking louder and
louder until Guy, with feverish strokes, urged the canoe down-stream
towards home.

"For God's sake, keep quiet!" he begged. "What has happened to you?"

That he should be frightened by her violence made her more angry. She
threw at him the wildest accusations, how that through him she had
ceased to believe in God, to care for her family, for her honor, for
him, for life itself.

"Pauline, will you keep quiet? Are you mad to behave like this?"

He drove the canoe into a thorn-bush, so that it should not upset, and
he seized her wrist so roughly that she thought she screamed. There was
something splendid in that scream being able to disquiet the night, and
in an elation of woe she screamed again.

"Do you know what you're doing?" he demanded.

She found herself asking Guy if she were screaming, and when she knew
that at last she could hurt him, she screamed more loudly.

"You used to laugh at me when I said I might go mad," she cried. "Now do
you like it? Do you like it?"

"Pauline, I beg you to keep quiet. Pauline, think of your people. Will
you promise to keep quiet if I take you out of this thorn-bush?"

He began to laugh not very mirthfully, and that he could laugh
infuriated her so much that she was silent with rage, while Guy
disentangled the canoe from the thorn-bush and more swiftly than before
urged it towards home.

When they reached the grassy bank that divided the Abbey stream from the
mill-pool, she would not get out of the canoe to walk to the other side.

"I cannot cross that pool," she said. "Guy, don't ask me to. I've been
afraid of it always. If we cross it to-night, I shall drown myself."

He tried to argue with her. He pleaded with her, he railed at her, and
finally he laughed at her, until she got out and watched him launch the
canoe on the farther side and beckon through the tremulous sheen to her.
Wildly she ran down the steep bank and flung herself into the water.

"Where am I? Guy, where am I?"

"Well, at present you're lying on the grass, but where you've been or
where I've been this last five minutes.... Pauline, are you yourself
again?"

"Guy, my dearest, my dearest, I don't know why...." She burst into
tears. "My dearest, how wet you are," she sobbed, stroking his drenched
sleeve.

"Well, naturally," he said, with a short laugh. "Look here, it was all
my fault for bringing you out, so don't get into a state of mind about
yourself, but you can't go back in the canoe. My nerves are still too
shaky. I can lift you over the wall behind the mill, and we must go back
to the Rectory across the street. Come, my Pauline, you're wet, you
know. Oh, my own, my sweet, if I could only uncount the hours."

Pauline would never have reached home but for Guy's determination. It
was he who guided her past the dark entries, past the crafty windows of
Rectory Lane, past the menacing belfry, past the trees of the Rectory
drive. By the front door he asked her if she dared go up-stairs alone.

"I will wait on the lawn until I see your candle alight," he promised.

She kissed him tragically and crept in. Her room was undisturbed, but in
the looking-glass she saw a dripping ghost, and when she held her candle
to the window another ghost vanished slowly into the high gray wall. A
cock crowed in the distance, and through the leaves of the wistaria
there ran a flutter of waking sparrows.



JULY


When Guy looked back next morning at what had happened on the river, he
felt that the only thing to do was to leave Pauline for a while and give
her time and opportunity to recover from the shock. He wondered if it
would be wiser merely to write a note to announce his intention or if
she had now reached a point at which even a letter would be a disastrous
aggravation of her state of mind. He felt that he could not bear any
scene that might approximate to that horrible scene last night, and yet
to go away abruptly in such circumstances seemed too callous. Supposing
that he went across to the Rectory and that Pauline should have another
seizure of hatred for him (there was no other word that could express
what her attitude had been), how could their engagement possibly go on?
Mrs. Grey would be appalled by the emotional ravages it had made Pauline
endure; she would not be justified, whatever Pauline's point of view, in
allowing the engagement to last a day longer. It would be surely wiser
to write a letter and with all the love he felt explain that he thought
she would be happier not to see him for a short while. Yet such a course
might provoke her to declare the whole miserable business, and the false
deductions that might be made from her account were dreadful to
contemplate. He blamed himself entirely for what had happened, and yet
he could scarcely have foreseen such a violent change. Even now he could
not say what exactly had begun the outburst, and indeed the only
explanation of it was by a weight of emotion that had been accumulating
for months. Of course he should never have persuaded her to come out on
the river at night, but still that he had done so was only a technical
offense against convention. It was she who had magnified her
acquiescence beyond any importance he could have conceived. He must
thank religion for that, he must thank that poisonous fellow in the
confessional who had first started her upon this ruinous path of
introspection and self-torment. But, whatever the cause, it was the
remedy that demanded his attention, and he twisted the situation round
and round without being able to decide how to act. He realized how month
by month his sense of responsibility for Pauline had been growing, yet
now the problem of her happiness stared at him, brutally insoluble. What
was it Margaret had once said about his being unlikely to squander
Pauline for a young man's experience? Good God! had not just that been
the very thing he had nearly done; and then with a shudder, remembering
last night, he wondered if he ought any longer to say "nearly." He must
see her. Of course he must see her this morning. He must somehow heal
the injury he had inflicted upon her youth.

Pauline was very gentle when they met. She had no reproaches except for
herself and the way she had frightened him.

"Oh, my Pauline, can't you forget it?" he begged. "Let me go away for a
month or more. Let me go away till Margaret and Richard are going to be
married."

She acquiesced half listlessly, and then seeming to feel that she might
have been cold in her manner, she wished him a happy holiday from her
moods and jealousy and exacting love. He tried to pierce the true
significance of her attitude, because it held in its heart a premonition
for him that everything between them had been destroyed last night, and
that henceforth whatever he or she did or said they would meet in the
future only as ghosts may meet in shadowy converse and meaningless
communion.

"You will be glad to see me when I come back?" he asked.

"Why, my dearest, of course I shall be glad!"

He kissed her good-by, but her kiss was neither the kiss of lover nor of
sister, but such a kiss as ghosts may use, seeking to perpetuate the
mere form and outward semblance of life lost irrevocably.

When Guy was driving with Godbold along the Shipcot road he had not made
up his mind where he would go, and it was on the spur of the moment, as
he stood in the booking-office, that he decided to go and see his
father, to whom latterly he had written scarcely at all, and of whom he
suddenly thought with affection.

"I've settled to give up Plashers Mead," Guy told him that night, when
they were sitting in the library at Fox Hall. "And try and get on the
staff of a paper," he added to his father's faint bow. "Or possibly I
may go to Persia as Sir George Gascony's secretary. My friend Comeragh
got me the offer in March, but Sir George was ill and did not start."

"That sounds much more sensible than journalism," said Mr. Hazlewood.

"Yes, perhaps it would be better," Guy agreed. "But then, of course,
there is the question of leaving Pauline for two years."

Yet even as he enunciated this so solemnly, he knew in his heart that he
would be rather glad to postpone for two years all the vexations of
love.

His father shrugged his shoulders.

"My poems are coming out this Autumn," Guy volunteered.

His father gave some answer of conventional approbation, and Guy without
the least bitterness recognized that to his father the offer of the
secretaryship had naturally presented itself as the more important
occasion.

"If you want any help with your outfit...."

"Oh, you mustn't count on Persia," interrupted Guy. "But I'll go up to
town to-morrow and ask Comeragh when Sir George is going."

Next day, however, when Guy was in the train, he began to consider his
Persian plan a grave disloyalty to Pauline. He wondered how last night
he had come to think of it again, and fancied it might have been merely
an instinct to gratify his father after their coolness. Of course, he
would not dream of going, really, and yet it would have been jolly. Yes,
it would certainly have been jolly, and he was rather relieved to find
that Comeragh was out of town for a week, for his presence might have
been a temptation. Michael Fane was not in London, either, so Guy went
round to Maurice Avery's studio in Grosvenor Road, and in the pleasure
of the company he found there the Persian idea grew less insistent.
Maurice himself had just been invited to write a series of articles on
the English ballet for a critical weekly journal called _The Point of
View_. They went to a theater together, and Guy as he listened to
Maurice's jargon felt for a while quite rustic, and was once or twice
definitely taken in by it. Had he really been stagnating all this time
at Wychford? And then the old superiority which at Oxford he always felt
over his friend reasserted itself.

"You're still skating, Maurice," he drawled. "The superficial area of
your brain must be unparalleled."

"You frowsty old yokel!" his friend exclaimed, laughing.

"I don't believe I shall get much out of breath, catching up with your
advanced ideas," Guy retorted. "Anyway, this Autumn I shall come to town
for good."

"And about time you did," said Maurice. "I say, mind you send your poems
to _The Point of View_, and I'll give you a smashing fine notice the
week after publication."

Guy asked when Michael was coming back.

"He's made a glorious mess of things, hasn't he?" said Maurice.

"Oh, I don't know. Not necessarily."

"Well, I admit he found her out in time. But fancy wanting to marry a
girl like that. I told him what she was, and he merely got furious with
me. But he's an extraordinary chap altogether. By the way, when are
_you_ going to get married?"

"When I can afford it," said Guy.

"The question is whether an artist can ever afford to get married."

"What rot you talk."

"Wiser men than I have come to that conclusion," said Maurice. "Of
course I haven't met your lady-love; but it does seem to me that your
present mode of life is bound to be sterile of impressions."

"I don't go about self-consciously obtaining impressions," said Guy, a
little angrily. "I would as soon search for local color. Personally I
very much doubt if any impressions after eighteen or nineteen help the
artist. As it seems to me, all experience after that age is merely
valuable for maturing and putting into proportion the more vital
experiences of childhood. And I'm not at all sure that there isn't in
every artist a capacity for development which proceeds quite
independently of externals. I speculate sometimes as to what would be
the result upon a really creative temperament of being wrecked at
twenty-two on a desert island. I say twenty-two because I do count as
valuable the academic influence that only begins to be effective after
eighteen."

"And what is your notion about this literary Crusoe?" asked Maurice.

"Well, I fancy that his work would not suffer at all, that it would
ripen, just as certain fruit ripens independently of sun, that he would
display in fact quite normally the characteristic growth of the artist."

"But where would he obtain his reaction?" Maurice asked.

"From himself. If that isn't possible for some people I don't see how
you're going to make a distinction between literature and journalism."

"Some journalism is literature."

"Only very bad journalism," Guy argued. "The journalistic mind
experiences a quick reaction, the creative writer a very slow one. The
journalist is affected by extremes; and he is continually aware of the
impression they are making at the moment; contrariwise, the creative
artist is always unaware of the impression at the moment it is made; he
feels it from within first, and it develops according to his own
characteristics. Let me give you an example. The journalist is like a
man who, seeing a mosquito in the act of biting him, claps his hand down
and kills it. The creative artist isn't aware of having been bitten
until he sees the swelling ... big or small, according to his
constitution. It is his business to cure the swelling, not to bother
about the insect."

"Your theories may be all right for great creative artists," said
Maurice. "And I suppose you're willing to take the risk of stagnation?"

"I'm not a great creative artist," said Guy, quickly. "At the same time
I'm damned if I'm a journalist. No, the effect of Plashers Mead on me
has been to make me long to be a man of action. So far it has been
stimulating, and without external help I've been able to reach the
conclusion that my poems were never worth writing.... I wrote because I
wanted to; I don't believe I ever had to."

"Then what are you going to do now?" asked Maurice.

"I'm probably going to work in London at journalism."

"Then, great Scott! why all this preliminary tirade against it?"

"Because I don't want to bluff myself into thinking that I'm going to do
anything but be a strictly professional writer," said Guy. "Or else
perhaps because I don't really want to come and live in London at all,
but go to Persia. Dash it all, for the first time in my life, Maurice,
I don't know what I do want, and it's a very humiliating state of
affairs for me."

When Guy left the studio that evening he came away with that pleasant
warming of the cockles of the brain that empirical conversation always
gave. It was really very pleasant to be chattering away about æsthetic
theories, to be meeting new people, and to be infused with this sense of
being joined up to the motive force of a city's life. At his lodgings in
Vincent Square a letter from Pauline awaited his return, and with a
shock he realized half-way through its perusal that he was reading it
listlessly. He turned back and tried to bring to its contents that old
feverish absorption in magic pages, but something was wanting, whether
in the letter or whether in himself he did not know. He came to the
point of asking himself if he loved her still as much, and almost with
horror at the question vowed he loved her more than ever, and that of
all things on earth he only longed for their marriage. Yet in bed that
night he thought more of his argument in the studio than about Pauline,
and when he did think about her it was with a drowsy sense of relief.
Vincent Square under the bland city moon seemed very peaceful, and in
retrospect Wychford a place of endless storms.

Next morning when Guy sat down to answer Pauline's letter, he found
himself writing with mechanical fluency without really thinking of her
at all. In fact, for the moment, she represented something that
disturbed the Summer calm in London, and he consciously did not want to
think about her until all this late troublous time had lost its
actuality and he could be sure of returning to the Pauline of their
love's earlier days.

These shuttlecock letters were tossed backward and forward between
Wychford and London throughout the rest of June and most of July, and
sometimes Guy thought they were as unreal as his own poetry. He spent
his time in looking up old friends, in second-hand bookshops, in the
galleries of theaters. He did not see Michael Fane, who wrote to him
from Rome before Guy knew he had gone there. Comeragh, however, he saw
pretty often, and he enjoyed talking about politics nearly as much as
about art. He met Sir George Gascony, and Comeragh assured him
afterwards that when Sir George went out to Persia in August or
September he could, if he liked, go with him. Guy put the notion at the
back of his mind, whence he occasionally took it out and played with it.
In the end, however, when the definite offer came he refused it. This
happened at the end of his visit to London when his money was running
out and when he had to be going back to Wychford to live somehow on
credit, until the Michaelmas quarter replenished his overdrawn account.
Before he left town he paid a visit to Mr. Worrall and told him that he
wanted his poems to appear anonymously. In fact, if it were not for
hurting the Rector's feelings he would have stopped their publication
altogether.

At the end of a hot and dusty July, and about a week before the Lammas
wedding of Margaret and Richard, Guy came back to Plashers Mead. The
immediate effect of seeing again the place which was now associated in
his mind with interminable difficulties was to make him resolute to
clarify the situation once and for all, to clarify it so completely that
there could never again be a repetition of that night in June. His
absence had been in the strictest sense an interlude, and all the
letters which marked to each the existence of the other had been but
conventional forms of love and comfortable postponements of reality.
When he met Pauline, Guy felt that he met her to all intents directly
after that dreadful night, with only this difference, that owing to the
time they had had for repose he could now say things that six weeks ago
he could not have said. He had arrived at Wychford for lunch, and as a
matter of course they were to be together that afternoon. Ordinarily on
such a piping July day he would have proposed the river for their
converse, and it was a sign of how near at hand he felt their last time
on the river that he proposed a walk instead.

Guy was aware of wanting to take Pauline to some place that was neither
hallowed nor cursed by past hours, and, avoiding familiar ways, they
reached a barren, cup-shaped field shut off from the road by a spinney
of firs that offered such a dry and draughty shade as made the field
even in the hot sun of afternoon more tolerable. They sat down on the
sour stony land among the rag-wort and teazles and feverfew. Summer had
burnt up this abandoned pasturage, and while they sat in silence Guy
rattled from the rank umbels of fool's-parsley and hemlock the
innumerable seeds that would only profit the rankness of another year.

"Well?" he said at last.

Pauline looked at him questioningly, and he felt impatient to be sitting
here on this sour stony land, and wondered how for merely this he could
have refused that offer of Persian adventure. Not until now had he
realized how much he had been resenting the performance of a duty.

"You've hardly told me anything about your time in London," said
Pauline.

He looked at her sharply in case this might be a prelude to jealous
interrogation.

"There's nothing much to tell. I settled that my poems should appear
anonymously. I'm afraid their publication may otherwise do me more harm
than good."

"All your poems?" she asked, wistfully.

He nodded, impelled by a strong desire for absolute honesty, though he
would have liked to except the poems about her, knowing how much she
must be wounded to hear even them called worthless.

"Then I've been no good to you at all?"

"Of course you have. Because these poems are no good, it doesn't follow
that what I write next won't be good. And yet I'm uncertain whether I
ought to go on merely writing. I'm beginning to wonder if I oughtn't to
have gone out to Persia with Gascony? I refused the job because I
thought it would upset you. And so, dearest Pauline, when next you feel
jealous, do remember that. Do remember that it is always you who come
first. Don't think I'm regretful about Persia. I'm only wondering on
your account if I ought to have gone. It would have made our marriage in
three years a certainty, but still I hope by journalism to make it
certain in one year. Are you glad, my Pauline?"

"Yes, of course I'm glad," she answered, without fervor.

"And you won't be jealous of my friends? Because it's impossible to be
in London without friends, you know."

"I told you I should never be enough."

Guy tried not to be irritated by this.

"If you would only be reasonable! I realize now that for me at my age
it's foolish to withdraw from my contemporaries. I shall stagnate. These
two years have not been wasted...."

"Yes, they have," she interrupted, "if your poems are not worth your
name."

"Dearest, these two years may well be the foundation on which I build
all the rest of my life."

"May they?"

"Yes, of course. But a desire for the stimulus of other people isn't the
only reason for leaving Plashers Mead. I can't afford it here. My debts
are really getting impossible to manage, and unless I can show my father
that I'm ready to do anything to be a writer, as I can't go out to
Persia, well ... frankly I don't know what will happen. I gave Burrows
notice at Midsummer."

"You never told me," said Pauline.

"Well, no, I was afraid you'd be upset and I wanted you to have this
quiet time when I was away...."

"You don't trust me any more," she said.

"Oh yes, I do, but I thought it would worry you. I know my money affairs
do worry you. But now I shall be all right. I'll come down here often,
you know, and, oh, really, dearest girl, it is better that I should be
in London. So don't be jealous, will you, and don't torment yourself
about my debts, will you, and don't think that you are anything but
everything to me."

"I expect you'll enjoy being in London," she said, slowly shredding the
flowers from a spray of wild mignonette.

"I hope I shall be so busy that I won't have time to regret Wychford,"
said Guy.

He had by now broken off all the rank flowers in reach, and the sour
stony ground was littered with seeds and pungent heads of bloom and
ragged stalks.

"You'll never regret Wychford," she said. "Never. Because I've spoiled
it for you, my darling."

She touched his hand gently and drew close to him, but only timidly; and
as she made the movement a flight of goldfinches lighted upon the
swaying thistle-down in the hollow of the waste land.

"Pauline! Pauline!" he cried, and would have kissed her passionately,
but she checked him:

"No, no, I just want to lean my head upon your shoulder for a little
while."

Above her murmur he heard the rustle of the goldfinches' song in parting
cadences upon the air, rising and falling; and looking down at Pauline
in the sunlight, he felt that she was a wounded bird he should be
cherishing.



AUGUST


The wedding of Richard and Margaret dreamed of for so long strung
Pauline to a pitch of excitement that made her seem never more
positively herself. She was conscious, as she gazed in the mirror on
that Lammas morning, that the tired look at the back of her eyes had
gone and that in her muslin dress sown with rosebuds she appeared
exactly as she ought to have appeared in any prefiguration of herself in
bridesmaid's attire. Feeling as she did in a way the principal architect
of Richard's and Margaret's happiness, she was determined at whatever
cost of dejection afterwards to bring to the completion of her design
all the enthusiasm she had brought to its conception.

"Do you like me as a bridesmaid?" she asked Guy.

And he, with obviously eager welcome of the old Pauline, could not find
enough words to say how much he liked her.

"Richard, of course, is wearing a tail-coat," she murmured.

"I sha'n't," he whispered, "when we are married. I shall wear tweeds,
and you shall wear your white frieze coat ... the one in which I first
saw you. How little you've changed in these two years!"

"Have I? I think I've changed such a lot. Oh, Guy, such a tremendous
lot!"

He shook his head.

"My rose, if all roses could stay like you, what a world of roses it
would be."

The wedding happened as perfectly as Pauline had imagined it would.
Margaret looked most beautiful with her slim white satin gown and her
weight of dusky hair, while Richard marched about stiff and awkward, yet
so radiant that almost more than any one it was he who inspired the
ceremony with hymeneal triumph and carried it beyond the soilure of
unmeaning tears, he and Pauline, whose laughter was the expression of
the joyous air, since Margaret was too deeply occupied with herself to
cast a single questioning look.

In the evening, when the diminished family sat in the drawing-room
without going up-stairs to music, as a matter of course, Monica
announced abruptly that at the end of the month she was going to be a
novice in one of the large Anglican sisterhoods. It seemed as if she had
most deliberately taken advantage of the general reaction in order that
nobody might have the heart to combat her intention. Pauline and Mrs.
Grey gasped, but they had no arguments to bring forward against the
idea, and when Monica had outlined the plan in her most precise manner
they simply acquiesced in the decision as immutable.

That night, as Pauline lay awake with the excitement of the wedding
still throbbing in her brain, the future from every side began to assail
her fancy. It seemed to her since Margaret's marriage and Monica's
decision to be a nun that she must be more than ever convinced of her
absolute necessity to Guy's existence. Unless she were assured of this
she had no right to leave her father and mother. No doubt at least a
year would pass before she and Guy could be married, but, nevertheless,
her decision must be made at once. He had not seemed to depend upon her
so much when he was in London; his letters had no longer contained those
intimate touches that formerly assured her of the intertwining of their
lives. But it was not merely a question of letters, this attitude of
his that latterly was continually being more sharply defined. Somewhere
their love had diverged, and whereas formerly she had always been able
to comfort herself with the certainty that between them love was exactly
equal, now instead she could not help fancying that she loved him more
than he loved her. It would, of course, be useless to ask him the
question directly, for he would evade an answer by declaring it was
prompted by unreasonable jealousy. Yet was her jealousy so very
unreasonable, and if it were unreasonable was not that another reason
against their marriage?

Pauline tried to search in the past of their love for the occasion of
the divergence. It must be her own fault. It was she who had often
behaved foolishly and impetuously, who had always supposed that her
mother and sisters knew nothing about love, who had been to Guy all
through their engagement utterly useless. It was she who had stopped his
becoming a schoolmaster to help his father, it was she who had
discouraged him from accepting that post in Persia. As Pauline looked
back upon these two years she saw herself at every cross-road in Guy's
career standing to persuade him towards the wrong direction.

Then, too, recurred the dreadful problem of religion. It was she who had
not resisted his inclination to laugh at what she knew was true. It was
she who had most easily and most weakly surrendered, so that it was
natural for him to treat her faith as something more conventional than
real.

The worries surged round her like waves in the darkness, and the one
anchor of hope she still possessed was dragging ominously. Oh, if she
could but be sure that she was essential to his happiness, she would be
able to conquer everything else. The loneliness of her father and
mother, Guy's debts, the religious difficulties, the self-reproach for
those moonlit nights upon the river, the jealousy of his friends, the
fear of his poems' failure, his absence in London--all these could be
overcome if only she were sure of being vital to Guy's felicity.

A dull Summer wind sent a stir through the dry leaves of the creepers,
but the night grew hotter notwithstanding, and sleep utterly refused to
approach her room.

Next day, when Guy came round to the Rectory, Pauline was so eager to
hear the answer to her question that she would take no account of the
jaded spirit of such a day as this after a wedding, and its natural
influence on Guy's point of view.

All the afternoon, however, they helped the Rector with his bulbs, and
no opportunity of intimate conversation occurred until after tea when
they were sitting in the nursery. The wind, that last night had run with
slow tremors through the leaves, was now blowing gustily, and banks of
clouds were gathering--great clouds that made the vegetation seem all
the more dry and stale as they still deferred their drench of rain.

"Guy, I don't want to annoy you, but is it really necessary that your
poems should appear without your name?"

"Absolutely," he said, firmly.

"You don't think any of them are good?"

"Oh, some are all right, but I don't believe in them as I used to
believe in them."

"Sometimes, my dearest, you frighten me with the sudden way in which you
dispose of things.... They were important to you once, weren't they?"

"Of course. But they have outlived their date. I must do better."

She got up and went over to the window-seat, and when she spoke next she
was looking at the wicket in the high gray wall.

"Guy, could I outlive my date?"

"Oh, dearest Pauline, I do beg you not to start problems this afternoon!
Of course not."

"Are you sure? Are you sure that when you are in London you won't find
other girls more interesting than I am?"

"Even if temporarily I were interested in another girl, you may be quite
sure that she would always be second to you."

"But you might be interested?" Pauline asked, breathlessly.

"I must be free if I'm going to be an artist."

"Free?" she echoed, slowly.

The cuckoo in the passage struck seven, and Mrs. Grey came into the
nursery to invite Guy to stay to dinner. All through the meal Pauline
kept saying to herself, "free," "free," "free," and afterwards when her
mother suggested a trio in the music-room, because they could no longer
have quartets, and because soon they would not even have trios, Pauline
played upon her violin nothing but that word "free," "free," "free." In
the hall, when she kissed Guy good night, she had impulse to cling to
him and pour out all her woes; but, remembering how often lately he had
been the victim of her overwrought nerves, she let him go without an
effort. For a little while she held the door ajar so that a thin shaft
of lamplight showed his tall shape walking quickly away under the trees.
Why was he walking so quickly away from her? Oh, it was raining fast,
and she shut the door. Up-stairs in her room she wrote to him:

     Guy, you must forgive me, but I cannot bear the strain of this
     long engagement any more. I will go away with Miss Verney
     somewhere to-morrow so that you needn't hurry away from Plashers
     Mead before you intended. I meant to write you a long letter full
     of everything, but there isn't any more to say.

  PAULINE.

Her mother found her sobbing over her desk that was full of childish
things, and asked what was the matter.

"I've broken off my engagement," and wearily she told her some of the
reasons, but never any reason that might have seemed to cast the least
blame on him. Next morning very early came a note for her mother from
Guy, in which he said he was leaving Plashers Mead in a couple of hours,
and begged that she would not let Pauline be the one to go away.



EPIGRAPH



GUY


Guy could not make the effort to fight the doom upon their love declared
by Pauline in her letter. He felt that if he did not acquiesce he would
go mad; a deadness struck at him that he fancied was a wonderful sense
of relief, and, hurriedly packing a few things, he went in pursuit of
his friend Comeragh, in case it might not even now be too late to go to
Persia. However, though he did not manage to be in time for Sir George
Gascony, his friend secured him a job on some committee that was being
organized in Macedonia by enthusiastic Liberals. His previous experience
there was recommendation enough, and after he had seen his father,
acquired his outfit, and settled up everything at Plashers Mead by means
of Maurice Avery, early in September he set out Eastward.

In Rome Guy picked up Michael Fane, who was on the point of starting for
the Benedictine monastery at Cava. Having a few days to spare before he
went on to Brindisi, he agreed to spend the time with Michael tramping
in the sun along the Parthenopean shore.

"I can't understand what consolation you expect to find by shutting
yourself up with a lot of frowsty monks," said Guy, fretfully.

"Nor can I understand when just at the moment you have been dealt the
blow that should at last determine if you are to be an artist," retorted
Michael--"I can't understand why you choose that exact moment to go and
be futile in Macedonia."

"Do you think I would be an artist now, even if I could?" asked Guy,
fiercely. "How I hate such a point of view. No, no; I have made myself
miserable, and I have made some one else miserable because I thought I
wanted to be an artist. But never, never shall that old jejune ambition
be gratified now."

"You'll never try to write anything more?"

"Nothing," said Guy.

"Then what has all this been for?"

"Perhaps to come back in a year, and.... Listen:

  "O ragged-robins, you will bloom each year,
    But we shall never pluck you after rain:
  For aye, O ragged hearts, you beat alone,
    And never more shall you be joined again.

"Do you think I want to come back in a year and still be able to versify
my grief like that? I look forward to something better than minor
poetry."

"You mean you still hope ..." his friend began.

"I daren't even hope yet ... but all my life I'll do penance for having
said that an artist must be free."

They had reached the inn at Amalfi, where letters might be waiting for
them.

Guy read aloud one which had arrived from Maurice Avery:

  "422 GROSVENOR ROAD,
  "WESTMINSTER.

     "MY DEAR GUY,--I settled up everything for you at Plashers Mead.
     Rather a jolly place. I nearly took it on myself. I'm getting
     quite used to settling up other people's affairs since you and
     Michael have made me your executor. Good luck to you in Macedonia.

     "Last night I went to the Orient Ballet and met a perfectly
     delightful girl. If there is such a thing as love at first sight,
     I am in love. Jenny Pearl she is called. Forgive this apparently
     casual enthusiasm, but you two cynics will be able to tear me to
     pieces to your satisfaction. I offer my heart for your bitter
     mirth to embalm.

  "Yours ever,
  "M. A.

     "Your dog is at Godalming with my people. My sisters talk of
     nothing else.

"Maurice rises like a phoenix from our ashes," said Guy, grimly.

"He was always irrepressible," Michael agreed.

"And still you haven't answered my question about your monkery," Guy
persisted.

"You want action. I want contemplation. But don't think that I'm going
to take final vows to-morrow."

"And do you really believe in the Christian religion?" Guy asked,
incredulously.

"Yes, I really do."

"What an extraordinary thing!"

Next day they parted, Michael going to the Benedictine house at Cava,
Guy pressing on towards Salerno. With every breath of the rosemary, with
every sough of the Aleppo pines, with every murmur of the blue
Tyrrhenian winking far below, more and more sharply did he realize that
what he had thought at the time was wonderful relief had been more truly
despair. Yet in a happier September might he not hope to come back this
way, setting his face towards England?

  One more turn of the head in the gathering gloom
    To watch her figure in the lighted door:
  One more wish that I never should turn again,
    But watch her standing there for evermore.



PAULINE


Pauline went away with Monica to spend the rest of August and the
beginning of September in the depths of the country, where, however, for
all the stillness of the ripe season, she did not find very great peace.
In every lane, in every wood, below the brow of every hill, she was
always half expecting to meet Guy. It was not until Monica was going to
her sisterhood, and that she came back to see TO LET staring from the
windows of Plashers Mead, that Pauline was able at last to realize what
she had irrevocably done.

On the day after her return Pauline went to see Miss Verney. To her she
explained that the engagement was at an end.

"I heard something about it," said Miss Verney. "And feeling sure that
it was doubtless on account of money, I must very impertinently beg you
to accept this."

Pauline looked at the packet the old maid had thrust into her hand.

"Those are deeds," said Miss Verney, importantly. "I have felt for some
time past that I do not really need all my money. My income, you know,
is very nearly two hundred and fifty pounds a year. One hundred pounds
would be ample, and therefore I hope _you_ will accept the surplus."

"My darling Miss Verney," said Pauline, "it could not be."

But the old maid was with very great difficulty persuaded of the
impossibility.

"And you mean to say," she gasped, "that you are never going to see each
other again?"

"Oh, sometimes," Pauline whispered--"sometimes I wonder if it could
really happen that Guy and I should never meet again. Please don't let's
talk about it. I shall come and see you often, but you mustn't ever talk
about Guy and me, will you?"

"I shall put this money aside," Miss Verney announced, "because I am
_most_ anxious to prove that one hundred pounds a year is ample for me.
Extravagance has always been my temptation!"

Later in the afternoon Pauline left her friend and went down Wychford
High Street towards home. There were great wine-dark dahlias in the
gardens, and the bell was sounding for Evensong. She knelt behind a
pillar, all of the congregation. How through this Winter that was coming
she would love her father and mother. And if Guy ever came back ... if
Guy ever came back....

She heard her father's voice dying away with the close of the Office;
and presently they walked about the golden churchyard, arm in arm.

"I shouldn't be surprised to see _Sternbergia lutea_ this year," he
observed. "We have had a lot of sun."

"Have we?" Pauline sighed.

"Oh yes, a great deal of sun."

Her father, of course, would never speak of that broken engagement, and
already she had made her mother promise never to speak of it again. Deep
to her inmost heart only these familiar vales and streams and green
meadows would speak of it for the rest of her life.

THE END





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