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´╗┐Title: Born in Exile
Author: Gissing, George, 1857-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Born in Exile" ***

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Born in Exile


By

George Gissing

JTABLE 4 7 1


Part I



CHAPTER I


The summer day in 1874 which closed the annual session of Whitelaw
College was marked by a special ceremony, preceding the wonted
distribution of academic rewards. At eleven in the morning (just as a
heavy shower fell from the smoke-canopy above the roaring streets) the
municipal authorities, educational dignitaries, and prominent burgesses
of Kingsmill assembled on an open space before the College to unveil a
statue of Sir Job Whitelaw. The honoured baronet had been six months
dead. Living, he opposed the desire of his fellow-citizens to exhibit
even on canvas his gnarled features and bald crown; but when his
modesty ceased to have a voice in the matter, no time was lost in
raising a memorial of the great manufacturer, the self-made
millionaire, the borough member in three Parliaments, the enlightened
and benevolent founder of an institute which had conferred humane
distinction on the money-making Midland town. Beneath such a sky,
orations were necessarily curtailed; but Sir Job had always been
impatient of much talk. An interval of two or three hours dispersed the
rain-clouds and bestowed such grace of sunshine as Kingsmill might at
this season temperately desire; then, whilst the marble figure was
getting dried,--with soot-stains which already foretold its negritude
of a year hence,--again streamed towards the College a varied
multitude, official, parental, pupillary. The students had nothing
distinctive in their garb, but here and there flitted the cap and gown
of Professor or lecturer, signal for doffing of beavers along the line
of its progress.

Among the more deliberate of the throng was a slender, upright,
ruddy-cheeked gentleman of middle age, accompanied by his wife and a
daughter of sixteen. On alighting from a carriage, they first of all
directed their steps towards the statue, conversing together with
pleasant animation. The father (Martin Warricombe, Esq. of Thornhaw, a
small estate some five miles from Kingsmill,) had a countenance
suggestive of engaging qualities--genial humour, mildness, a turn for
meditation, perhaps for study. His attire was informal, as if he
disliked abandoning the freedom of the country even when summoned to
urban ceremonies. He wore a grey felt hat, and a light jacket which
displayed the straightness of his shoulders. Mrs. Warricombe and her
daughter were more fashionably equipped, with taste which proclaimed
their social standing. Save her fresh yet delicate complexion the lady
had no particular personal charm. Of the young girl it could only be
said that she exhibited a graceful immaturity, with perchance a little
more earnestness than is common at her age; her voice, even when she
spoke gaily, was seldom audible save by the person addressed.

Coming to a pause before Sir Job, Mr. Warricombe put on a pair of
eyeglasses which had dangled against his waistcoat, and began to
scrutinise carefully the sculptured lineaments. He was addressing
certain critical remarks to his companions when an interruption
appeared in the form of a young man whose first words announced his
relation to the group.

'I say, you're very late! There'll be no getting a decent seat, if you
don't mind. Leave Sir Job till afterwards.'

'The statue somehow disappoints me,' observed his father, placidly.

'Oh, it isn't bad, I think,' returned the youth, in a voice not unlike
his father's, save for a note of excessive self-confidence. He looked
about eighteen; his comely countenance, with its air of robust health
and habitual exhilaration, told of a boyhood passed amid free and
joyous circumstances. It was the face of a young English plutocrat,
with more of intellect than such visages are wont to betray; the native
vigour of his temperament had probably assimilated something of the
modern spirit. 'I'm glad,' he continued, 'that they haven't stuck him
in a toga, or any humbug of that sort. The old fellow looks baggy, but
so he was. They ought to have kept his chimney-pot, though. Better than
giving him those scraps of hair, when everyone knows he was as bald as
a beetle.'

'Sir Job should have been granted Caesar's privilege,' said Mr.
Warricombe, with a pleasant twinkle in his eyes.

'What was that?' came from the son, with abrupt indifference.

'For shame, Buckland!'

'What do I care for Caesar's privileges? We can't burden our minds with
that antiquated rubbish nowadays. You would despise it yourself,
father, if it hadn't got packed into your head when you were young.'

The parent raised his eyebrows in a bantering smile.

'I have lived to hear classical learning called antiquated rubbish.
Well, well!--Ha! there is Professor Gale.'

The Professor of Geology, a tall man, who strode over the pavement as
if he were among granite hills, caught sight of the party and
approached. His greeting was that of a familiar friend; he addressed
young Warricombe and his sister by their Christian names, and inquired
after certain younger members of the household. Mr Warricombe,
regarding him with a look of repressed eagerness, laid a hand on his
arm, and spoke in the subdued voice of one who has important news to
communicate.

'If I am not much mistaken, I have chanced on a new species of
_homalonotus_!'

'Indeed!--not in your kitchen garden, I presume?'

'Hardly. Dr Pollock sent me a box of specimens the other day'--

Buckland saw with annoyance the likelihood of prolonged discussion.

'I don't know whether you care to remain standing all the afternoon,'
he said to his mother. 'At this rate we certainly shan't get seats.'

'We will walk on, Martin,' said the lady, glancing at her husband.

'We come! we come!' cried the Professor, with a wave of his arm.

The palaeontological talk continued as far as the entrance of the
assembly hall. The zest with which Mr. Warricombe spoke of his
discovery never led him to raise his voice above the suave, mellow
note, touched with humour, which expressed a modest assurance. Mr Gale
was distinguished by a blunter mode of speech; he discoursed with
open-air vigour, making use now and then of a racy colloquialism which
the other would hardly have permitted himself.

As young Warricombe had foreseen, the seats obtainable were none too
advantageous; only on one of the highest rows of the amphitheatre could
they at length establish themselves.

'Buckland will enjoy the more attention when he marches down to take
his prizes,' observed the father. 'He must sit at the end here, that he
mayn't have a struggle to get out.'

'Don't, Martin, don't!' urged his wife, considerately.

'Oh, it doesn't affect me,' said Buckland, with a laugh.

'I feel pretty sure I have got the Logic and the Chemistry, and those
are what I care most about. I dare say Peak has beaten me in Geology.'

The appearance in the lower part of the hall of a dark-robed
procession, headed by the tall figure of the Principal, imposed a
moment's silence, broken by outbursts of welcoming applause. The
Professors of Whitelaw College were highly popular, not alone with the
members of their classes, but with all the educated inhabitants of
Kingsmill; and deservedly, for several of them bore names of wide
recognition, and as a body they did honour to the institution which had
won their services. With becoming formality they seated themselves in
face of the public. On tables before them were exposed a considerable
number of well-bound books, shortly to be distributed among the
collegians, who gazed in that direction with speculative eyes.

Among the general concourse might have been discovered two or three
representatives of the wage-earning multitude which Kingsmill depended
upon for its prosperity, but their presence was due to exceptional
circumstances; the College provided for proletarian education by a
system of evening classes, a curriculum necessarily quite apart from
that followed by the regular students. Kingsmill, to be sure, was no
nurse of Toryism; the robust employers of labour who sent their sons to
Whitelaw--either to complete a training deemed sufficient for an active
career, or by way of transition-stage between school and
university--were for the most part avowed Radicals, in theory scornful
of privilege, practically supporters of that mode of freedom which
regards life as a remorseless conflict. Not a few of the young men
(some of these the hardest and most successful workers) came from poor,
middle-class homes, whence, but for Sir Job's foundation, they must
have set forth into the world with no better equipment of knowledge
than was supplied by some 'academy' of the old type: a glance
distinguished such students from the well-dressed and well-fed
offspring of Kingsmill plutocracy. The note of the assembly was
something other than refinement; rather, its high standard of health,
spirits, and comfort--the characteristic of Capitalism. Decent
reverence for learning, keen appreciation of scientific power, warm
liberality of thought and sentiment within appreciable limits,
enthusiasm for economic, civic, national ideals,--such attributes were
abundantly discoverable in each serried row. From the expanse of
countenances beamed a boundless self-satisfaction. To be connected in
any way with Whitelaw formed a subject of pride, seeing that here was
the sturdy outcome of the most modern educational endeavour, a
noteworthy instance of what Englishmen can do for themselves, unaided
by bureaucratic machinery. Every student who achieved distinction in
to-day's class lists was felt to bestow a share of his honour upon each
spectator who applauded him.

With occasional adjustment of his eye-glasses, and smiling his smile of
modest tolerance, Mr. Warricombe surveyed the crowded hall. His
connection with the town was not intimate, and he could discover few
faces that were familiar to him. A native and, till of late, an
inhabitant of Devon, he had come to reside on his property near
Kingsmill because it seemed to him that the education of his children
would be favoured by a removal thither. Two of his oldest friends held
professorships at Whitelaw; here, accordingly, his eldest son was
making preparation for Cambridge, whilst his daughter attended classes
at the admirable High School, of which Kingsmill was only less proud
than of its College.

Seated between his father and his sister, Buckland drew their attention
to such persons or personages as interested his very selective mind.

'Admire the elegant languor of Wotherspoon,' he remarked, indicating
the Professor of Greek. 'Watch him for a moment, and you'll see him
glance contemptuously at old Plummer. He can't help it; they hate each
other.'

'But why?' whispered the girl, with timid eagerness.

'Oh, it began, they say, when Plummer once had to take one of
Wotherspoon's classes; some foolery about a second aorist. Thank
goodness, I don't understand the profound dispute.--Oh, do look at that
fatuous idiot Chilvers!'

The young gentleman of whom he spoke, a student of Buckland's own
standing, had just attracted general notice. Rising from his seat in
the lower part of the amphitheatre, at the moment when all were hushed
in anticipation of the Principal's address, Mr. Chilvers was beckoning
to someone whom his eye had descried at great distance, and for whom,
as he indicated by gesture, he had preserved a place.

'See how it delights him to make an exhibition of himself!' pursued the
censorious youth. 'I'd bet a sovereign he's arranged it all. Look how
he brandishes his arm to display his cuffs and gold links. Now he
touches his hair, to point out how light and exquisite it is, and how
beautifully he parts it!'

'What a graceful figure!' murmured Mrs. Warricombe, with genuine
admiration.

'There, that's just what he hopes everyone is saying,' replied her son,
in a tone of laughing disgust.

'But he certainly is graceful, Buckland,' persisted the lady.

'And in the meantime,' remarked Mr. Warricombe, drily, 'we are all
awaiting the young gentleman's pleasure.'

'Of course; he enjoys it. Almost all the people on that row belong to
him--father, mother, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins to
the fourth degree. Look at their eyes fondly fixed upon him! Now he
pretends to loosen his collar at the throat, just for a change of
attitude--the puppy!'

'My dear!' remonstrated his mother, with apprehensive glance at her
neighbours.

'But he is really clever, isn't he, Buckland?' asked the sister, her
name was Sidwell.

'After a fashion. I shouldn't wonder if he takes a dozen or two prizes.
It's all a knack, you know.'

'Where is your friend Peak?' Mr. Warricombe made inquiry.

But at this moment Mr. Chilvers abandoned his endeavour and became
seated, allowing the Principal to rise, manuscript in hand. Buckland
leaned back with an air of resignation to boredom; his father bent
slightly forward, with lips close pressed and brows wrinkled; Mrs
Warricombe widened her eyes, as if hearing were performed with those
organs, and assumed the smile she would have worn had the speaker been
addressing her in particular. Sidwell's blue eyes imitated the movement
of her mother's, with a look of profound gravity which showed that she
had wholly forgotten herself in reverential listening; only when five
minutes' strict attention induced a sense of weariness did she allow a
glance to stray first along the professorial rank, then towards the
place where the golden head of young Chilvers was easily
distinguishable.

Nothing could be more satisfactory than the annual report summarised by
Principal Nares, whose mellifluous voice and daintily pedantic
utterance fell upon expectant hearing with the impressiveness of
personal compliment. So delivered, statistics partook of the grace of
culture; details of academic organisation acquired something more than
secular significance. In this the ninth year of its existence, Whitelaw
College was flourishing in every possible way. Private beneficence had
endowed it with new scholarships and exhibitions; the scheme of
lectures had been extended; the number of its students steadily
increased, and their successes in the field of examination had been
noteworthy beyond precedent. Truly, the heart of their founder, to whom
honour had this day been rendered, must have gladdened if he could but
have listened to the story of dignified progress! Applause, loud and
long, greeted the close of the address. Buckland Warricombe was
probably the only collegian who disdained to manifest approval in any
way.

'Why don't you clap?' asked his sister, who, girl-like, was excited to
warmth of cheek and brightness of eye by the enthusiasm about her.

'That kind of thing is out of date,' replied the young man, thrusting
his hands deep into his pockets.

As Professor of Logic and Moral Philosophy, Dr Nares began the
distribution of prizes. Buckland, in spite of his resolve to exhibit no
weakness, waited with unmistakable tremor for the announcement of the
leading name, which might possibly be his own. A few words of comment
prefaced the declaration:--never had it been the Professor's lot to
review more admirable papers than those to which he had awarded the
first prize. The name of the student called upon to come forward
was--Godwin Peak.

'Beaten!' escaped from Buckland's lips.

Mrs. Warricombe glanced at her son with smiling sympathy; Sidwell,
whose cheek had paled as her nerves quivered under the stress of
expectancy, murmured a syllable of disappointment; Mr. Warricombe set
his brows and did not venture to look aside. A moment, and all eyes
were directed upon the successful student, who rose from a seat
half-way down the hall and descended the middle passage towards the row
of Professors. He was a young man of spare figure and unhealthy
complexion, his age not easily conjectured. Embarrassment no doubt
accounted for much of the awkwardness of his demeanour; but, under any
circumstances, he must have appeared ungainly, for his long arms and
legs had outgrown their garments, which were no fashionable specimens
of tailoring. The nervous gravity of his countenance had a peculiar
sternness; one might have imagined that he was fortifying his
self-control with scorn of the elegantly clad people through whom he
passed. Amid plaudits, he received from the hands of the Principal a
couple of solid volumes, probably some standard work of philosophy,
and, thus burdened, returned with hurried step to his place.

'No one expected that,' remarked Buckland to his father. 'He must have
crammed furiously for the exam. It's outside his work for the First
B.A.'

'What a shame!' Sidwell whispered to her mother; and the reply was a
look which eloquently expressed Mrs. Warricombe's lack of sympathy with
the victor.

But a second prize had been awarded. As soon as silence was restored,
the Principal's gracious voice delivered a summons to 'Buckland Martin
Warricombe.' A burst of acclamation, coming especially from that part
of the amphitheatre where Whitelaw's nurslings had gathered in greatest
numbers, seemed to declare the second prizeman distinctly more popular
than the first. Preferences of this kind are always to be remarked on
such occasions.

'Second prize be hanged!' growled the young man, as, with a flush of
shame on his ruddy countenance, he set forth to receive the honour,
leaving Mr. Warricombe convulsed with silent laughter.

'He would far rather have had nothing at all,' murmured Sidwell, who
shared her brother's pique and humiliation.

'Oh, it'll do him good,' was her father's reply. 'Buckland has got into
a way of swaggering.'

Undeniable was the swagger with which the good-looking, breezy lad went
and returned.

'What is the book?' inquired Mr. Warricombe.

'I don't know.--Oh, Mill's _Logic_. Idiotic choice! They might have
known I had it already.'

'They clap him far more than they did Mr. Peak,' Sidwell whispered to
her mother, with satisfaction.

Buckland kept silence for a few minutes, then muttered:

'There's nothing I care about now till Chemistry and Geology. Here
comes old Wotherspoon. Now we shall know who is strongest in second
aorists. I shouldn't wonder if Peak takes both Senior Greek and Latin.
I heartily hope he'll beat that ass Chilvers.'

But the name so offensive to young Warricombe was the first that issued
from the Professor's lips. Beginning with the competition for a special
classical prize, Professor Wotherspoon announced that the honours had
fallen to 'Bruno Leathwaite Chilvers.'

'That young man is not badly supplied with brains, say what you will,'
remarked Mr. Warricombe.

Upon Bruno Leathwaite Chilvers keen attention was directed; every pair
of female eyes studied his graces, and female hands had a great part in
the applause that greeted his arising. Applause different in kind from
that hitherto bestowed; less noisy, but implying, one felt, a more
delicate spirit of commendation. With perfect self-command, with
singular facial decorum, with a walk which betokened elegant
athleticism and safely skirted the bounds of foppery, Mr. Chilvers
discharged the duty he was conscious of owing to a multitude of
kinsfolk, friends, admirers. You would have detected something clerical
in the young man's air. It became the son of a popular clergyman, and
gave promise of notable aptitude for the sacred career to which Bruno
Leathwaite, as was well understood, already had designed himself. In
matters sartorial he presented a high ideal to his fellow-students;
this seemly attention to externals, and the delicate glow of health
discernible through the golden down of his cheeks, testified the
compatibility of hard study and social observances. Bruno had been
heard to say that the one thing it behoved Whitelaw to keep carefully
in mind was the preservation of 'tone', a quality far less easy to
cultivate than mere academic excellence.

'How clever he must be!' purred Mrs. Warricombe. 'If he lives, he will
some day be an archbishop.'

Buckland was leaning back with his eyes closed, disgusted at the
spectacle. Nor did he move when Professor Wotherspoon's voice made the
next announcement.

'In Senior Greek, the first prize is taken by--Bruno Leathwaite
Chilvers.'

'Then I suppose Peak comes second,' muttered Buckland.

So it proved. Summoned to receive the inferior prize, Godwin Peak, his
countenance harsher than before, his eyes cast down, moved ungracefully
to the estrade. And during the next half-hour this twofold exhibition
was several times repeated. In Senior Latin, in Modern and Ancient
History, in English Language and Literature, in French, first sounded
the name of Chilvers, whilst to the second award was invariably
attached that of Peak. Mrs. Warricombe's delight expressed itself in
every permissible way: on each occasion she exclaimed, 'How clever he
is!' Sidwell cast frequent glances at her brother, in whom a shrewder
eye could have divined conflict of feelings--disgust at the
glorification of Chilvers and involuntary pleasure in the successive
defeats of his own conqueror in Philosophy. Buckland's was by no means
an ignoble face; venial malice did not ultimately prevail in him.

'It's Peak's own fault,' he declared at length, with vexation.
'Chilvers stuck to the subjects of his course. Peak has been taking up
half-a-dozen extras, and they've done for him. I shouldn't wonder if he
went in for the Poem and the Essay: I know he was thinking about both.'

Whether Godwin Peak had or had not endeavoured for these two prizes
remained uncertain. When, presently, the results of the competition
were made known, it was found that in each case the honour had fallen
to a young man hitherto undistinguished. His name was John Edward
Earwaker. Externally he bore a sort of generic resemblance to Peak, for
his face was thin and the fashion of his clothing indicated narrow
means.

'I never heard you mention him,' said Mr. Warricombe, turning to his
son with an air of surprise.

'I scarcely know him at all; he's only in one or two of my classes.
Peak is thick with him.'

The subject of the prize poem was 'Alaric'; that of the essay, 'Trades
Unionism'. So it was probable that John Edward Earwaker did not lack
versatility of intellect.

On the rising of the Professor of Chemistry, Buckland had once more to
subdue signs of expectancy. He knew he had done good papers, but his
confidence in the result was now clouded by a dread of the second
prize--which indeed fell to him, the first being taken by a student of
no account save in this very special subject. Keen was his
mortification; he growled, muttered, shrugged his shoulders nervously.

'If I had foreseen this, you'd never have caught me here,' was his
reply, when Sidwell whispered consolation.

There still remained a chance for him, signalled by the familiar form
of Professor Gale. Geology had been a lifelong study with Martin
Warricombe, and his son pursued it with hereditary aptitude. Sidwell
and her mother exchanged a look of courageous hope; each felt convinced
that the genial Professor could not so far disregard private feeling as
to place Buckland anywhere but at the head of the class.

'The results of the examination are fairly good; I'm afraid I can't say
more than that,' thus rang out Mr. Gale's hearty voice. 'As for the
first two names on my list, I haven't felt justified in placing either
before the other. I have bracketed them, and there will be two prizes.
The names are--Godwin Peak and Buckland Martin Warricombe.'

'He might have mentioned Buckland first,' murmured Mrs. Warricombe,
resentfully.

'He of course gave them out in alphabetical order,' answered her
husband.

'Still, it isn't right that Buckland should come second.'

'That's absurd,' was the good-natured reply.

The lady of course remained unconvinced, and for years she nourished a
pique against Professor Gale, not so much owing to his having bracketed
her son as because the letter P has alphabetical precedence of W.

In what remained of the proceedings the Warricombes had no personal
interest. For a special reason, however, their attention was excited by
the rising of Professor Walsh, who represented the science of Physics.
Early in the present year had been published a speculative treatise
which, owing to its supposed incompatibility with Christian dogmas,
provoked much controversy and was largely discussed in all educated
circles. The work was anonymous, but a rumour which gained general
currency attributed it to Professor Walsh. In the year 1874 an
imputation of religious heresy was not lightly to be incurred by a
Professor--even Professor of Physics--at an English college. There were
many people in Kingsmill who considered that Mr. Walsh's delay in
repudiating so grave a charge rendered very doubtful the propriety of
his retaining the chair at Whitelaw. Significant was the dispersed
applause which followed slowly upon his stepping forward to-day; on the
Professor's face was perchance legible something like a hint of amused
defiance. Ladies had ceased to beam; they glanced meaningly at one
another, and then from under their eyelids at the supposed heretic.

'A fine fellow, Walsh!' exclaimed Buckland, clapping vigorously.

His father smiled, but with some uneasiness. Mrs. Warricombe whispered
to Sidwell:

'What a very disagreeable face! The only one of the Professors who
doesn't seem a gentleman.'

The girl was aware of dark reports affecting Mr. Walsh's reputation.
She hazarded only a brief examination of his features, and looked at
the applauding Buckland with alarm.

'His lectures are splendid,' said her brother, emphatically. 'If I were
going to be here next session, I should take them.'

For some minutes after the Professor's return to his seat a susurration
was audible throughout the hall; bonnets bent together, and beards
exchanged curt comments.

The ceremony, as is usual with all ceremonies, grew wearisome before
its end. Buckland was deep in one of the chapters of his geologic prize
when the last speaker closed the last report and left the assembly free
to disperse. Then followed the season of congratulations: Professors,
students, and the friendly public mingled in a _conversazione_. A
nucleus of vivacious intercourse formed at the spot where young Mr.
Chilvers stood amid trophies of examinational prowess. When his
numerous relatives had all shaken hands with him, and laughed, smiled,
or smirked their felicitations, they made way for the press of eager
acquaintances. His prize library was reverently surveyed, and many were
the sportive sallies elicited by the victor's obvious inability to
carry away what he had won. Suavely exultant, ready with his reply to
every flattering address, Bruno Chilvers exhibited a social tact in
advance of his years: it was easy to imagine what he would become when
Oxford terms and the seal of ordination had matured his youthful
promise.

At no great distance stood his competitor, Godwin Peak embarrassed, he
also, with wealth of spoils; but about this young man was no concourse
of admiring kinsfolk. No lady offered him her hand or shaped
compliments for him with gracious lips. Half-a-dozen fellow-students,
among them John Earwaker, talked in his vicinity of the day's results.
Peak's part in the gossip was small, and when he smiled it was in a
forced, anxious way, with brief raising of his eyes. For a moment only
was the notice of a wider circle directed upon him when Dr Nares,
moving past with a train of colloquial attendants, turned aside to
repeat his praise of the young man's achievements in Philosophy: he
bestowed a kindly shake of the hand, and moved on.

The Warricombe group descended, in purposeless fashion, towards the
spot where Chilvers held his court. Their personal acquaintance with
Bruno and his family was slight, and though Mrs. Warricombe would
gladly have pushed forward to claim recognition, natural diffidence
restrained her. Sidwell kept in the rear, risking now and then a glance
of vivid curiosity on either hand. Buckland, striving not to look
petulant or sullen, allowed himself to be led on; but when he became
aware of the tendency Bruno-wards, a protest broke from him.

'There's no need to swell that fellow's conceit. Here, father, come and
have a word with Peak; he looks rather down in the mouth among his
second prizes.'

Mr. Warricombe having beckoned his companions, they reluctantly
followed to the more open part of the hall.

'It's very generous of Buckland,' fell from the lady's lips, and she at
length resolved to show an equal magnanimity. Peak and Earwaker were
conversing together when Buckland broke in upon them with genial
outburst.

'Confound it, Peak! what do you mean by getting me stuck into a
bracket?'

'I had the same question to as _you_,' returned the other, with a grim
smile.

Mr. Warricombe came up with extended hand.

'A species of bracket,' he remarked, smiling benevolently, 'which no
algebraic process will remove. Let us hope it signifies that you and
Buckland will work through life shoulder to shoulder in the field of
geology. What did Professor Gale give you?'

Before he could reply, Peak had to exchange greetings with Mrs
Warricombe and her daughter. Only once hitherto had he met them. Six
months ago he had gone out with Buckland to the country-house and
passed an afternoon there, making at the time no very favourable
impression on his hostess. He was not of the young men who easily
insinuate themselves into ladies' affections: his exterior was against
him, and he seemed too conscious of his disadvantages in that
particular. Mrs. Warricombe found it difficult to shape a few civil
phrases for the acceptance of the saturnine student. Sidwell, repelled
and in a measure alarmed by his bilious countenance, could do no more
than grant him her delicately gloved fingers. Peak, for his part, had
nothing to say. He did not even affect an interest in these persons,
and turned his eyes to follow the withdrawing Earwaker. Mr. Warricombe,
however, had found topic for discourse in the prize volume; he began to
comment on the excellence of certain sections of the book.

'Do you go home?' interrupted Buckland, addressing the question to his
rival. 'Or do you stay in Kingsmill until the First B.A.?'

'I shall go home,' replied Peak, moving uneasily.

'Perhaps we may have the pleasure of seeing you at Thornhaw when you
are up again for the examination?' said Mrs. Warricombe, with faltering
tongue.

'I'm afraid I shan't be able to come, thank you,' was the awkward
response.

Buckland's voice came to the relief.

'I daresay I may look in upon you at your torture. Good luck, old
fellow! If we don't see each other again, write to me at Trinity before
the end of the year.'

As soon as she was sufficiently remote, Mrs. Warricombe ejaculated in a
subdued voice of irritation:

'Such a very unprepossessing young man I never met! He seems to have no
breeding whatever.'

'Overweighted with brains,' replied her husband; adding to himself,
'and by no means so with money, I fear.'

Opportunity at length offering, Mrs. Warricombe stepped into the circle
irradiated by Bruno Chilvers; her husband and Sidwell pressed after.
Buckland, with an exclamation of disgust, went off to criticise the
hero among a group of his particular friends.

Godwin Peak stood alone. On the bench where he had sat were heaped the
prize volumes (eleven in all, some of them massive), and his wish was
to make arrangements for their removal. Gazing about him, he became
aware of the College librarian, with whom he was on friendly terms.

'Mr. Poppleton, who would pack and send these books away for me?'

'An _embarras de richesse_!' laughed the librarian. 'If you like to
tell the porter to take care of them for the present, I shall be glad
to see that they are sent wherever you like.'

Peak answered with a warmth of acknowledgment which seemed to imply
that he did not often receive kindnesses. Before long he was free to
leave the College, and at the exit he overtook Earwaker, who carried a
brown paper parcel.

'Come and have some tea with me across the way, will you?' said the
literary prizeman. 'I have a couple of hours to wait for my train.'

'All right. I envy you that five-volume Spenser.'

'I wish they had given me five authors I don't possess instead. I think
I shall sell this.'

Earwaker laughed as he said it--a strange chuckle from deep down in his
throat. A comparison of the young men, as they walked side by side,
showed that Peak was of better physical type than his comrade. Earwaker
had a slight, unshapely body and an ill-fitting head; he walked with
excessive strides and swung his thin arm nervously. Probably he was the
elder of the two, and he looked twenty. For Peak's disadvantages of
person, his studious bashfulness and poverty of attire were mainly
responsible. With improvement in general health even his features might
have a tolerable comeliness, or at all events would not be
disagreeable. Earwaker's visage was homely, and seemed the more so for
his sprouting moustache and beard.

'Have you heard any talk about Walsh?' the latter inquired, as they
walked on.

Peak shrugged his shoulders, with a laugh.

'No. Have you?'

'Some women in front of me just now were-evidently discussing him. I
heard "How shocking!" and "Disgraceful!"'

Peak's eyes flashed, and he exclaimed in a voice of wrath:

'Besotted idiots! How I wish I were in Walsh's position! How I should
enjoy standing up before the crowd of fools and seeing their fear of
me! But I couldn't keep it to myself; I should give in to the
temptation to call them blockheads and jackasses.'

Earwaker was amused at his friend's vehemence. He sympathised with it,
but had an unyouthful sobriety in the expression of his feelings.

'Most likely he despises them far too much to be disturbed by what they
think of him. But, I say, isn't it desperately comical that one human
being can hate and revile another because they think differently about
the origin of the universe? Couldn't you roar with laughter when you've
thought over it for a moment? "You be damned for your theory of
irregular verbs!" is nothing to it.' And he uttered his croak of mirth,
whilst Peak, with distorted features, laughed in rage and scorn.

They had crossed the open space in front of the College buildings, and
were issuing into the highway, when a voice very unlike those that were
wont to sound within the academic precincts (or indeed in the streets
of Kingsmill) made sudden demand upon Peak's attention.

'Thet you, Godwin? Thoughts I, it must be 'im! 'Ow goes it, my bo-oy?
You 'ardly reckonise me, I dessay, and I couldn't be sure as it was you
till I'd 'ed a good squint at yer. I've jest called round at your
lodgin's, and they towld me as you was at the Collige.'

He who thus accosted the student, with the most offensive purity of
Cockney accent, was a man of five-and-forty, dressed in a new suit of
ready-made tweeds, the folding crease strongly marked down the front of
the trousers and the coat sleeves rather too long. His face bore a
strong impress of vulgarity, but at the same time had a certain
ingenuousness, a self-absorbed energy and simplicity, which saved it
from being wholly repellent; the brow was narrow, the eyes small and
bright, and the coarse lips half hid themselves under a struggling
reddish growth. In these lineaments lurked a family resemblance to
Godwin Peak, sufficient to support a claim of kindred which at this
moment might have seemed improbable. At the summons of recognition
Godwin stood transfixed; his arms fell straight, and his head drew back
as if to avoid a blow. For an instant he was clay colour, then a hot
flush broke upon his cheeks.

'I shan't be able to go with you,' he said, in a thick, abrupt voice,
addressing Earwaker but not regarding him. 'Good-bye!'

The other offered his hand and, without speaking, walked away.

'Prize-dye at the Collige, they tell me,' pursued Godwin's relative,
looking at a cluster of people that passed. 'What 'ave you took?'

'One or two class-prizes,' replied the student, his eyes on the ground.
'Shall we walk to my lodgings?'

'I thought you might like to walk me over the show. But pr'aps you're
in a 'urry?'

'No, no. But there's nothing particular to see. I think the
lecture-rooms are closed by now.'

'Oo's the gent as stands there?--the figger, I mean.'

'Sir Job Whitelaw, founder of the College.'

'Job, eh? And was you a-goin' 'ome to yer tea, Godwin?'

'Yes.'

'Well, then, look 'ere, 'spose we go to the little shop opposyte--nice
little plyce it looks. I could do a cup o' tea myself, and we can 'ev a
quite confab. It's a long time since we'ed a talk together. I come over
from Twybridge this mornin'; slep' there last night, and saw yer mother
an' Oliver. They couldn't give me a bed, but that didn't mike no
matter; I put up at the Norfolk Harms--five-an-six for bed an'
breakfast. Come along, my bo-oy; I stand treat.'

Godwin glanced about him. From the College was approaching what seemed
to be a formal procession; it consisted of Bruno Chilvers, supported on
either hand by ladies and followed by an admiring train.

'You had better come to my lodgings with me, uncle,' said the young man
hurriedly, moving forward.

'No, no; I won't be no expense to you, Godwin, bo-oy. And I 'ave a
reason for wantin' to go to the little shop opposyte.'

Already several collegians had passed, giving Peak a nod and scanning
his companion; a moment's delay and Chilvers would be upon him. Without
another word, Godwin moved across the broad street to the place of
refreshment which his uncle had indicated, and whither Earwaker had
preceded them. It was a pastry-cook's, occasionally visited by the
alumni of Whitelaw. In the rear of the shop a little room offered seats
and tables, and here, Godwin knew, Earwaker would be found.

'Let us go up-stairs,' he said, leading to a side entrance. 'There's a
quieter room.'

'Right you are!'

The uncle--his name was Andrew Peak--paused to make a survey of the
premises. When he entered, his scrutiny of the establishment was close,
and he seemed to reflect with interest upon all he saw. The upper room
was empty; a long table exhibited knives and forks, but there were no
signs of active business. Andrew pulled a bell-rope; the summons was
answered by an asthmatic woman, who received an order for tea, toast,
'watercreases', and sundry other constituents of a modest meal.

'Come 'ere often, Godwin?' inquired Andrew, as he stood by the window
and mused.

'Now and then, for a bun.'

'Much custom from your show over the wye?'

'Not so much as a better place would have.'

'Young gents don't live at the Collige, they tell me?'

'No, there's no residence.'

'So naturally they want a plyce where they can 'ev a nibble, somewheres
'andy?'

'Yes. We have to go further into the town for a decent dinner.'

'Jest what I thought!' exclaimed Andrew, slapping his leg. 'With a
establishment like that opposyte, there'd ought to be a medium-sized
Spiers & Pond at this 'ere street corner for any man as knows 'is wye
about. That's _my_ idea, Godwin--see?'

Peak had as yet given but half an ear to his relative's discourse; he
had answered mechanically, and only now was constrained to serious
attention by a note of meaning in the last interrogative. He looked at
the speaker; and Andrew, in the manner of one accustomed to regard life
as a game of cunning, first winked with each eye, then extended one
cheek with the pressure of his tongue. Sickened with disgust, Godwin
turned suddenly away,--a movement entirely lost upon his uncle, who
imagined the young man to be pondering a fruitful suggestion.

'I don't mind tellin' you, Godwin,' pursued Andrew presently, in a
cautious voice, laying an open hand against his trousers-pocket, 'as
I've been a-doin' pretty good business lytely. Been growin' a bit--see?
I'm runnin' round an' keepin' my heyes open understand? Thoughts I,
now, if I could come acrosst a nicet little openin', somethink in the
rest'rant line, _that's_ what 'ud sewt me jest about down to the
ground. I'm cut out for it--see? I've got the practical experience, and
I've got the capital; and as soon as I got a squint of this little
corner shop--understand what I mean?'

His eyes gleamed with eagerness which was too candid for the typically
vulgar mind. In his self-satisfaction he exhibited a gross cordiality
which might have made rather an agreeable impression on a person
otherwise disinterested.

At this point the asthmatic woman reappeared, carrying a laden tray.
Andrew at once entered into conversation with her, framing his remarks
and queries so as to learn all he could concerning the state of the
business and the disposition of its proprietors. His nephew, meanwhile,
stung to the core with shame, kept apart, as if amusing himself with
the prospect from the window, until summoned to partake of the meal.
His uncle expressed contempt of everything laid before them.

'_This_ ain't no wye of caterin' for young gents at Collige!' he
exclaimed. 'If there ain't a openin' 'ere, then I never see one.
Godwin, bo-oy, 'ow much longer'll it be before you're out of you're
time over there?'

'It's uncertain--I can't say.'

'But ain't it understood as you stay till you've passed the top
standard, or whatever it's called?'

'I really haven't made up my mind what to do.'

'But you'll be studyin' 'ere for another twelve months, I dessay?'

'Why do you ask?'

'Why? cos s'posin' I got 'old o' this 'ere little shop, or another like
it close by, me an' you might come to an understandin'--see? It might
be worth your while to give a 'int to the young gents as you're in
with--eh?'

Godwin was endeavouring to masticate a piece of toast, but it turned to
sawdust upon his palate. Of a sudden, when the bilious gloom of his
countenance foretold anything but mirth, he burst into hard laughter.
Andrew smote him jovially on the back.

'Tickles you, eh, bo-oy? "Peak's Refreshment an' Dinin' Rooms!"
Everything tip-top, mind; respectable business, Godwin; nothing for
nobody to be ashamed of--_that_ wouldn't do, of course.'

The young man's laughter ended as abruptly as it had begun, but his
visage was no longer clouded with bitter misery. A strange indifference
seemed to have come upon him, and whilst the speculative uncle talked
away with increasing excitement, he ate and drank heedlessly.

'Mother expects you to-morrow, she tells me,' said Andrew, when his
companion's taciturnity had suggested a change of topic. 'Shouldn't
wonder if you see me over at Twybridge again before long. I was to
remember your awnt and your cousin Jowey to you. You wouldn't know
Jowey? the sharpest lad of his age as ever I knowed, is Jowey. Your
father 'ud a' took a delight in 'im, if 'e'd lived, that 'e would.'

For a quarter of an hour or so the dialogue was concerned with domestic
history. Godwin gave brief reply to many questions, but asked none, not
even such as civility required. The elder man, however, was unaffected
by this reticence, and when at length his nephew pleaded an engagement
as excuse for leave-taking he shook hands with much warmth. The two
parted close by the shop, and Godwin, casting a glance at the now
silent College, walked hastily towards his lodgings.



CHAPTER II


In the prosperous year of 1856, incomes of between a hundred and a
hundred and fifty pounds were chargeable with a tax of elevenpence
halfpenny in the pound: persons who enjoyed a revenue of a hundred and
fifty or more had the honour of paying one and fourpence. Abatements
there were none, and families supporting life on two pounds a week
might in some cases, perchance, be reconciled to the mulct by
considering how equitably its incidence was graduated.

Some, on the other hand, were less philosophical; for instance, the
household consisting of Nicholas Peak, his wife, their three-year-old
daughter, their newly-born son, and a blind sister of Nicholas,
dependent upon him for sustenance. Mr. Peak, aged thirty and now four
years wedded, had a small cottage on the outskirts of Greenwich. He was
employed as dispenser, at a salary of thirty-five shillings a week, by
a medical man with a large practice. His income, therefore, fell
considerably within the hundred pound limit; and, all things
considered, it was not unreasonable that he should be allowed to expend
the whole of this sum on domestic necessities. But it came to pass that
Nicholas, in his greed of wealth, obtained supplementary employment,
which benefited him to the extent of a yearly ten pounds. Called upon
to render his statement to the surveyor of income-tax, he declared
himself in possession of a hundred and one pounds per annum;
consequently, he stood indebted to the Exchequer in the sum of four
pounds, sixteen shillings, and ninepence. His countenance darkened, as
also did that of Mrs. Peak.

'This is wrong and cruel--dreadfully cruel!' cried the latter, with
tears in her eyes.

'It is; but that's no new thing,' was the bitter reply.

'I think it's wrong of _you_, Nicholas. What need is there to say
anything about that ten pounds? It's taking the food out of our mouths.'

Knowing only the letter of the law, Mr. Peak answered sternly:

'My income is a hundred and one pounds. I can't sign my name to a lie.'

Picture the man. Tall, gaunt, with sharp intellectual features, and
eyes of singular beauty, the face of an enthusiast--under given
circumstances, of a hero. Poorly clad, of course, but with rigorous
self-respect; his boots polished, _propria manu_, to the point of
perfection; his linen washed and ironed by the indefatigable wife. Of
simplest tastes, of most frugal habits, a few books the only luxury
which he deemed indispensable; yet a most difficult man to live with,
for to him applied precisely the description which Robert Burns gave of
his own father; he was 'of stubborn, ungainly integrity and headlong
irascibility'.

Ungainly, for his strong impulses towards culture were powerless to
obliterate the traces of his rude origin. Born in a London alley, the
son of a labourer burdened with a large family, he had made his way by
sheer force of character to a position which would have seemed proud
success but for the difficulty with which he kept himself alive. His
parents were dead. Of his brothers, two had disappeared in the abyss,
and one, Andrew, earned a hard livelihood as a journeyman baker; the
elder of his sisters had married poorly, and the younger was his blind
pensioner. Nicholas had found a wife of better birth than his own, a
young woman with country kindred in decent circumstances, though she
herself served as nursemaid in the house of the medical man who
employed her future husband. He had taught himself the English
language, so far as grammar went, but could not cast off the London
accent; Mrs. Peak was fortunate enough to speak with nothing worse than
the note of the Midlands.

His bent led him to the study of history, politics, economics, and in
that time of military outbreak he was frenzied by the conflict of his
ideals with the state of things about him. A book frequently in his
hands was Godwin's _Political Justice_, and when a son had been born to
him he decided to name the child after that favourite author. In this
way, at all events, he could find some expression for his hot defiance
of iniquity.

He paid his income-tax, and felt a savage joy in the privation thus
imposed upon his family. Mrs. Peak could not forgive her husband, and
in this case, though she had but dim appreciation of the point of
honour involved, her censures doubtless fell on Nicholas's vulnerable
spot; it was the perversity of arrogance, at least as much as honesty,
that impelled him to incur taxation. His wife's perseverance in
complaint drove him to stern impatience, and for a long time the peace
of the household suffered.

When the boy Godwin was five years old, the death of his blind aunt
came as a relief to means which were in every sense overtaxed. Twelve
months later, a piece of unprecedented good fortune seemed to place the
Peaks beyond fear of want, and at the same time to supply Nicholas with
a fulfilment of hopeless desires. By the death of Mrs Peak's brother,
they came into possession of a freehold house and about nine hundred
pounds. The property was situated some twelve miles from the Midland
town of Twybridge, and thither they at once removed. At Twybridge lived
Mrs. Peak's elder sister, Miss Cadman; but between this lady and her
nearest kinsfolk there had been but slight correspondence--the deceased
Cadman left her only a couple of hundred pounds. With capital at
command, Nicholas Peak took a lease of certain fields near his house,
and turned farmer. The study of chemistry had given a special bent to
his economic speculations; he fancied himself endowed with exceptional
aptitude for agriculture, and the scent of the furrow brought all his
energies into feverish activity--activity which soon impoverished him:
that was in the order of things. 'Ungainly integrity' and 'headlong
irascibility' wrought the same results for the ex-dispenser as for the
Ayrshire husbandman. His farming came to a chaotic end; and when the
struggling man died, worn out at forty-three, his wife and children
(there was now a younger boy, Oliver, named after the Protector) had no
very bright prospects.

Things went better with them than might have been anticipated. To Mrs.
Peak her husband's death was not an occasion of unmingled mourning. For
the last few years she had suffered severely from domestic discord, and
when left at peace by bereavement she turned with a sense of liberation
to the task of caring for her children's future. Godwin was just
thirteen, Oliver was eleven; both had been well schooled, and with the
help of friends they might soon be put in the way of self-support. The
daughter, Charlotte, sixteen years of age, had accomplishments which
would perhaps be profitable. The widow decided to make a home in
Twybridge, where Miss Cadman kept a millinery shop. By means of this
connection, Charlotte presently found employment for her skill in fine
needlework. Mrs. Peak was incapable of earning money, but the
experiences of her early married life enabled her to make more than the
most of the pittance at her disposal.

Miss Cadman was a woman of active mind, something of a
busy-body--dogmatic, punctilious in her claims to respect, proud of the
acknowledgment by her acquaintances that she was not as other
tradespeople; her chief weakness was a fanatical ecclesiasticism, the
common blight of English womanhood. Circumstances had allowed her a
better education than generally falls to women of that standing, and in
spite of her shop she succeeded in retaining the friendship of certain
ladies long ago her schoolfellows. Among these were the Misses
Lumb--middle-aged sisters, who lived at Twybridge on a small
independence, their time chiefly devoted to the support of the Anglican
Church. An eldest Miss Lumb had been fortunate enough to marry that
growing potentate of the Midlands, Mr. Job Whitelaw. Now Lady Whitelaw,
she dwelt at Kingsmill, but her sisters frequently enjoyed the honour
of entertaining her, and even Miss Cadman the milliner occasionally
held converse with the baronet's wife. In this way it came to pass that
the Widow Peak and her children were brought under the notice of
persons who sooner or later might be of assistance to them.

Abounding in emphatic advice, Miss Cadman easily persuaded her sister
that Godwin must go to school for at least two years longer. The boys
had been at a boarding-school twenty miles away from their country
home; it would be better for them now to be put under the care of some
Twybridge teacher--such an one as Miss Cadman's acquaintances could
recommend. For her own credit, the milliner was anxious that these
nephews of hers should not be running about the town as errand-boys or
the like, and with prudence there was no necessity for such
degradation. An uncommon lad like Godwin (she imagined him named after
the historic earl) must not be robbed of his fair chance in life; she
would gladly spare a little money for his benefit; he was a boy to
repay such expenditure.

Indeed it seemed probable. Godwin devoured books, and had a remarkable
faculty for gaining solid information on any subject that took his
fancy. What might be the special bent of his mind one could not yet
discover. He read poetry with precocious gusto, but at the same time
his aptitude for scientific pursuits was strongly marked. In botany,
chemistry, physics, he made progress which the people about him,
including his schoolmaster, were incapable of appreciating; and already
the collection of books left by his father, most of them out of date,
failed to satisfy his curiosity. It might be feared that tastes so
discursive would be disadvantageous to a lad who must needs pursue some
definite bread-study, and the strain of self-consciousness which grew
strong in him was again a matter for concern. He cared nothing for
boyish games and companionship; in the society of strangers especially
of females--he behaved with an excessive shyness which was easily
mistaken for a surly temper. Reproof, correction, he could not endure,
and it was fortunate that the decorum of his habits made remonstrance
seldom needful.

Ludicrous as the project would have appeared to any unbiassed observer
of character, Miss Cadman conceived a hope that Godwin might become a
clergyman. From her point of view it was natural to assume that
uncommon talents must be devoted to the service of the Church, and she
would have gladly done her utmost for the practical furthering of such
an end. Mrs. Peak, though well aware that her son had imbibed the
paternal prejudices, was disposed to entertain the same hope, despite
solid obstacles. For several years she had nourished a secret
antagonism to her husband's spirit of political, social, and religious
rebellion, and in her widowhood she speedily became a pattern of the
conservative female. It would have gratified her to discern any
possibility of Godwin's assuming the priestly garb. And not alone on
the ground of conscience. Long ago she had repented the marriage which
connected her with such a family as that of the Peaks, and she ardently
desired that the children, now exclusively her own, might enter life on
a plane superior to their father's.

'Godwin, how would you like to go to College and be a clergyman?' she
asked one Sunday afternoon, when an hour or two of congenial reading
seemed to have put the boy into a gentle humour.

'To go to College' was all very well (diplomacy had prompted this
preface), but the words that followed fell so alarmingly on Godwin's
ear that he looked up with a resentful expression, unable to reply
otherwise.

'You never thought of it, I suppose?' his mother faltered; for she
often stood in awe of her son, who, though yet but fourteen, had much
of his father's commanding severity.

'I don't want to be a parson,' came at length, bluntly.

'Don't use that word, Godwin.'

'Why not? It's quite a proper word. It comes from the Latin _persona_.'

The mother had enough discretion to keep silence, and Godwin, after in
vain trying to settle to his book again, left the room with disturbed
countenance.

He had now been attending the day-school for about a year, and was
distinctly ahead of his coevals. A Christmas examination was on the
point of being held, and it happened that a singular test of the lad's
moral character coincided with the proof of his intellectual progress.
In a neighbouring house lived an old man named Rawmarsh, kindly but
rather eccentric; he had once done a good business as a printer, and
now supported himself by such chance typographic work of a small kind
as friends might put in his way. He conceived an affection for Godwin;
often had the boy to talk with him of an evening. On one such occasion,
Mr. Rawmarsh opened a desk, took forth a packet of newly printed
leaves, and with a mysterious air silently spread them before the boy's
eyes. In an instant Godwin became aware that he was looking at the
examination papers which a day or two hence would be set before him at
school; he saw and recognised a passage from the book of Virgil which
his class had been reading.

'That is _sub rosa_, you know,' whispered the old printer, with half
averted face.

Godwin shrank away, and could not resume the conversation thus
interrupted. On the following day he went about with a feeling of
guilt. He avoided the sight of Mr. Rawmarsh, for whom he had suddenly
lost all respect, and suffered torments in the thought that he enjoyed
an unfair advantage over his class-mates. The Latin passage happened to
be one which he knew thoroughly well; there was no need, even had he
desired, to 'look it up'; but in sitting down to the examination, he
experienced a sense of shame and self-rebuke. So strong were the
effects of this, that he voluntarily omitted the answer to a certain
important question which he could have 'done' better than any of the
other boys, thus endeavouring to adjust in his conscience the terms of
competition, though in fact no such sacrifice was called for. He came
out at the head of the class, but the triumph had no savour for him,
and for many a year he was subject to a flush of mortification whenever
this incident came back to his mind.

Mr. Rawmarsh was not the only intelligent man who took an interest in
Godwin. In a house which the boy sometimes visited with a
school-fellow, lodged a notable couple named Gunnery the husband about
seventy, the wife five years older; they lived on a pension from a
railway company. Mr. Gunnery was a dabbler in many sciences, but had a
special enthusiasm for geology. Two cabinets of stones and fossils gave
evidence of his zealous travels about the British isles; he had even
written a little hand-book of petrology which was for sale at certain
booksellers' in Twybridge, and probably nowhere else. To him, about
this time, Godwin began to resort, always sure of a welcome; and in the
little uncarpeted room where Mr. Gunnery pursued his investigations
many a fateful lesson was given and received. The teacher understood
the intelligence he had to deal with, and was delighted to convey, by
the mode of suggested inference, sundry results of knowledge which it
perhaps would not have been prudent to declare in plain, popular words.

Their intercourse was not invariably placid. The geologist had an
irritable temper, and in certain states of the atmosphere his rheumatic
twinges made it advisable to shun argument with him. Godwin, moreover,
was distinguished by an instability of mood peculiarly trying to an old
man's testy humour. Of a sudden, to Mr Gunnery's surprise and
annoyance, he would lose all interest in this or that science. Thus,
one day the lad declared himself unable to name two stones set before
him, felspar and quartz, and when his instructor broke into angry
impatience he turned sullenly away, exclaiming that he was tired of
geology.

'Tired of geology?' cried Mr. Gunnery, with flaming eyes. 'Then _I_ am
tired of _you_, Master Peak! Be off, and don't come again till I send
for you!'

Godwin retired without a word. On the second day he was summoned back
again, but his resentment of the dismissal rankled in him for a long
time; injury to his pride was the wrong he found it hardest to forgive.

His schoolmaster, aware of the unusual pursuits which he added to the
routine of lessons, gave him as a prize the English translation of a
book by Figuier--_The World before the Deluge_. Strongly interested by
the illustrations of the volume (fanciful scenes from the successive
geologic periods), Godwin at once carried it to his scientific friend.
'Deluge?' growled Mr. Gunnery. '_What_ deluge? _Which_ deluge?' But he
restrained himself, handed the book coldly back, and began to talk of
something else. All this was highly significant to Godwin, who of
course began the perusal of his prize in a suspicious mood. Nor was he
long before he sympathised with Mr Gunnery's distaste. Though too young
to grasp the arguments at issue, his prejudices were strongly excited
by the conventional Theism which pervades Figuier's work. Already it
was the habit of his mind to associate popular dogma with intellectual
shallowness; herein, as at every other point which fell within his
scope, he had begun to scorn average people, and to pride himself
intensely on views which he found generally condemned. Day by day he
grew into a clearer understanding of the memories bequeathed to him by
his father; he began to interpret remarks, details of behaviour,
instances of wrath, which, though they had stamped themselves on his
recollection, conveyed at the time no precise significance. The issue
was that he hardened himself against the influence of his mother and
his aunt, regarding them as in league against the free progress of his
education.

As women, again, he despised these relatives. It is almost impossible
for a bright-witted lad born in the lower middle class to escape this
stage of development. The brutally healthy boy contemns the female sex
because he sees it incapable of his own athletic sports, but Godwin was
one of those upon whose awaking intellect is forced a perception of the
brain-defect so general in women when they are taught few of life's
graces and none of its serious concerns,--their paltry prepossessions,
their vulgar sequaciousness, their invincible ignorance, their
absorption in a petty self. And especially is this phase of thought to
be expected in a boy whose heart blindly nourishes the seeds of
poetical passion. It was Godwin's sincere belief that he held girls, as
girls, in abhorrence. This meant that he dreaded their personal
criticism, and that the spectacle of female beauty sometimes overcame
him with a despair which he could not analyse. Matrons and elderly
unmarried women were truly the objects of his disdain; in them he saw
nothing but their shortcomings. Towards his mother he was conscious of
no tenderness; of as little towards his sister, who often censured him
with trenchant tongue; as for his aunt, whose admiration of him was
modified by reticences, he could never be at ease in her company, so
strong a dislike had he for her look, her voice, her ways of speech.

He would soon be fifteen years old. Mrs. Peak was growing anxious, for
she could no longer consent to draw upon her sister for a portion of
the school fees, and no pertinent suggestion for the lad's future was
made by any of the people who admired his cleverness. Miss Cadman still
clung in a fitful way to the idea of making her nephew a cleric; she
had often talked it over with the Misses Lumb, who of course held that
'any sacrifice' was justifiable with such a motive, and who suggested a
hope that, by the instrumentality of Lady Whitelaw, a curacy might
easily be obtained as soon as Godwin was old enough. But several years
must pass before that Levitical stage could be reached; and then, after
all, perhaps the younger boy, Oliver, placid of temper and notably
pliant in mind, was better suited for the dignity of Orders. It was
lamentable that Godwin should have become so intimate with that
earth-burrowing Mr. Gunnery, who certainly never attended either church
or chapel, and who seemed to have imbued his pupil with immoral
theories concerning the date of creation. Godwin held more decidedly
aloof from his aunt, and had been heard by Charlotte to speak very
disrespectfully of the Misses Lumb. In short, there was no choice but
to discover an opening for him in some secular pursuit. Could he,
perhaps, become an assistant teacher? Or must he 'go into an office'?

No common lad. A youth whose brain glowed like a furnace, whose heart
throbbed with tumult of high ambitions, of inchoate desires; endowed
with knowledge altogether exceptional for his years; a nature
essentially militant, displaying itself in innumerable forms of callow
intolerance--apt, assuredly, for some vigorous part in life, but as
likely as not to rush headlong on traverse roads if no judicious mind
assumed control of him. What is to be done with the boy?

All very well, if the question signified, in what way to provide for
the healthy development of his manhood. Of course it meant nothing of
the sort, but merely: What work can be found for him whereby he may
earn his daily bread? We--his kinsfolk even, not to think of the world
at large--can have no concern with his growth as an intellectual being;
we are hard pressed to supply our own mouths with food; and now that we
have done our recognised duty by him, it is high time that he learnt to
fight for his own share of provender. Happily, he is of the robust sex;
he can hit out right and left, and make standing-room. We have armed
him with serviceable weapons, and now he must use them against the
enemy--that is to say, against all mankind, who will quickly enough
deprive him of sustenance if he fail in the conflict. We neither know,
nor in great measure care, for what employment he is naturally marked.
Obviously he cannot heave coals or sell dogs' meat, but with negative
certainty not much else can be resolved, seeing how desperate is the
competition for minimum salaries. He has been born, and he must eat. By
what licensed channel may he procure the necessary viands?

Paternal relatives Godwin had as good as none. In quitting London,
Nicholas Peak had ceased to hold communication with any of his own
stock save the younger brother Andrew. With him he occasionally
exchanged a letter, but Andrew's share in the correspondence was
limited to ungrammatical and often unintelligible hints of numerous
projects for money-making. Just after the removal of the bereaved
family to Twybridge, they were surprised by a visit from Andrew, in
answer to one of whose letters Mrs. Peak had sent news of her husband's
death. Though her dislike of the man amounted to loathing, the widow
could not refuse him hospitality; she did her best, however, to prevent
his coming in contact with anyone she knew. Andrew declared that he was
at length prospering; he had started a coffee-shop at Dalston, in
north-east London, and positively urged a proposal (well-meant, beyond
doubt) that Godwin should be allowed to come to him and learn the
business. Since then the Londoner had once again visited Twybridge,
towards the end of Godwin's last school-year. This time he spoke of
himself less hopefully, and declared a wish to transfer his business to
some provincial town, where he thought his metropolitan experience
might be of great value, in the absence of serious competition. It was
not difficult to discover a family likeness between Andrew's
instability and the idealism which had proved the ruin of Nicholas.

On this second occasion Godwin tried to escape a meeting with his
uncle. Unable to do so, he sat mute, replying to questions
monosyllabically. Mrs. Peak's shame and annoyance, in face of this
London-branded vulgarian, were but feeble emotions compared with those
of her son. Godwin hated the man, and was in dread lest any
school-fellow should come to know of such a connection. Yet delicacy
prevented his uttering a word on the subject to his mother. Mrs Peak's
silence after Andrew's departure made it uncertain how she regarded the
obligation of kindred, and in any such matter as this the boy was far
too sensitive to risk giving pain. But to his brother Oliver he spoke.

'What is the brute to us? When I'm a man, let him venture to come near
me, and see what sort of a reception he'll get! I hate low, uneducated
people! I hate them worse than the filthiest vermin!--don't you?'

Oliver, aged but thirteen, assented, as he habitually did to any
question which seemed to await an affirmative.

'They ought to be swept off the face of the earth!' pursued Godwin,
sitting up in bed--for the dialogue took place about eleven o'clock at
night. 'All the grown-up creatures, who can't speak proper English and
don't know how to behave themselves, I'd transport them to the Falkland
Islands,'--this geographic precision was a note of the boy's
mind,--'and let them die off as soon as possible. The children should
be sent to school and purified, if possible; if not, they too should be
got rid of.'

'You're an aristocrat, Godwin,' remarked Oliver, simply; for the elder
brother had of late been telling him fearful stories from the French
Revolution, with something of an anti-popular bias.

'I hope I am. I mean to be, that's certain. There's nothing I hate like
vulgarity. That's why I can't stand Roper. When he beat me in
mathematics last midsummer, I felt so ashamed I could hardly bear
myself. I'm working like a nigger at algebra and Euclid this half, just
because I think it would almost kill me to be beaten again by a low
cad.'

This was perhaps the first time that Godwin found expression for the
prejudice which affected all his thoughts and feelings. It relieved him
to have spoken thus; henceforth he had become clear as to his point of
view. By dubbing him aristocrat, Oliver had flattered him in the
subtlest way. If indeed the title were justly his, as he instantly felt
it was, the inference was plain that he must be an aristocrat of
nature's own making--one of the few highly favoured beings who, in
despite of circumstance, are pinnacled above mankind. In his ignorance
of life, the boy visioned a triumphant career; an aristocrat _de jure_
might possibly become one even in the common sense did he but pursue
that end with sufficient zeal. And in his power of persistent endeavour
he had no lack of faith.

The next day he walked with exalted head. Encountering the
objectionable Roper, he smiled upon him contemptuously tolerant.

There being no hope of effective assistance from relatives, Mrs. Peak
turned for counsel to a man of business, with whom her husband had made
acquaintance in his farming days, and who held a position of influence
at Twybridge. This was Mr. Moxey, manufacturing chemist, famous in the
Midlands for his 'sheep and cattle dressings', and sundry other
products of agricultural enterprise. His ill-scented, but lucrative,
works were situated a mile out of the town; and within sight of the
reeking chimneys stood a large, plain house, uncomfortably like an
'institution' of some kind, in which he dwelt with his five daughters.
Thither, one evening, Mrs. Peak betook herself, having learnt that Mr.
Moxey dined at five o'clock, and that he was generally to be found
digging in his garden until sunset. Her reception was civil. The
manufacturer--sparing of words, but with no unkindly face--requested
that Godwin should be sent to see him, and promised to do his best to
be of use. A talk with the boy strengthened his interest. He was
surprised at Godwin's knowledge of chemistry, pleased with his general
intelligence, and in the end offered to make a place for him at the
works, where, though for a year or two his earnings must be small, he
would gain experience likely to be of substantial use to him. Godwin
did not find the proposal distasteful; it brought a change into his
life, and the excitement of novelty; it flattered him with the show of
release from pupilage. To Mr. Moxey's he went.

The hours were not long, and it was understood that his theoretical
studies should continue in the evening. Godwin's home was a very small
house in a monotonous little street; a garret served as bedroom for the
two boys, also as the elder one's laboratory. Servant Mrs. Peak had
none. She managed everything herself, as in the old Greenwich days,
leaving Charlotte free to work at her embroidery. Godwin took turns
with Oliver at blacking the shoes.

As a matter of course the boys accompanied their mother each Sunday
morning to the parish church, and this ceremony was becoming an
insufferable tax on Godwin's patience. It was not only that he hated
the name of religion, and scorned with much fierceness all who came in
sympathetic contact therewith; the loss of time seemed to him an
oppressive injury, especially now that he began to suffer from
restricted leisure. He would not refuse to obey his mother's wish, but
the sullenness of his Sabbatic demeanour made the whole family
uncomfortable. As often as possible he feigned illness. He tried the
effect of dolorous sighs and groans; but Mrs. Peak could not dream of
conceding a point which would have seemed to her the condonation of
deadly sin. 'When I am a man!' muttered Godwin. 'Ah! when I am a man!'

A year had gone by, and the routine to which he was bound began to have
a servile flavour. His mind chafed at subjugation to commercial
interests. Sick of 'sheep and cattle dressings', he grew tired of
chemistry altogether, and presently of physical science in general. His
evenings were given to poetry and history; he took up the classical
schoolbooks again, and found a charm in Latin syntax hitherto
unperceived. It was plain to him now how he had been wronged by the
necessity of leaving school when his education had but just begun.

Discontent becoming ripe for utterance, he unbosomed himself to Mr
Gunnery. It happened that the old man had just returned from a visit to
Kingsmill, where he had spent a week in the museum, then newly enriched
with geologic specimens. After listening in silence to the boy's
complaints, and pondering for a long time, he began to talk of Whitelaw
College.

'Does it cost much to study there?' Godwin asked, gloomily.

'No great sum, I think. There are scholarships to be had.'

Mr. Gunnery threw out the suggestion carelessly. Knowing the hazards of
life, he could not quite justify himself in encouraging Godwin's
restiveness.

'Scholarships? For free study?'

'Yes; but that wouldn't mean free living, you know. Students don't live
at the College.'

'How do you go in for a scholarship?'

The old man replied, meditatively, 'If you were to pass the Cambridge
Local Examination, and to get the first place in the Kingsmill
district, you would have three years of free study at Whitelaw.'

'Three years?' shouted Godwin, springing up from his chair.

'But how could you live, my boy?'

Godwin sat down again, and let his head fall forward.

How to keep oneself alive during a few years of intellectual growth?--a
question often asked by men of mature age, but seldom by a lad of
sixteen. No matter. He resolved that he would study for this Cambridge
Local Examination, and have a try for the scholarship. His attainments
were already up to the standard required for average success in such
competitions. On obtaining a set of 'papers', he found that they looked
easy enough. Could he not come out first in the Kingsmill district?

He worked vigorously at special subjects; aid was needless, but he
wished for more leisure. Not a word to any member of his household.
When his mother discovered that he was reading in the bedroom till long
past midnight, she made serious objection on the score of health and on
that of gas bills. Godwin quietly asserted that work he must, and that
if necessary he would buy candles out of his pocket-money. He had
unexpectedly become more grave, more restrained; he even ceased to
grumble about going to church, having found that service time could be
utilised for committing to memory lists of dates and the like, jotted
down on a slip of paper. When the time for the examination drew near,
he at length told his mother to what end he had been labouring, and
asked her to grant him the assistance necessary for his journey and the
sojourn at Kingsmill; the small sum he had been able to save, after
purchase of books, would not suffice. Mrs. Peak knew not whether to
approve her son's ambition or to try to repress it. She would welcome
an improval in his prospects, but, granting success, how was he to live
whilst profiting by a scholarship? And again, what did he propose to
make of himself when he had spent three years in study?

'In any case,' was Godwin's reply, 'I should be sure of a good place as
a teacher. But I think I might try for something in the Civil Service;
there are all sorts of positions to be got.'

It was idle to discuss the future whilst the first step was still
speculative. Mrs. Peak consented to favour the attempt, and what was
more, to keep it a secret until the issue should be known. It was
needful to obtain leave of absence from Mr. Moxey, and Godwin, when
making the request, stated for what purpose he was going to Kingsmill,
though without explaining the hope which had encouraged his studies.
The project seemed laudable, and his employer made no difficulties.

Godwin just missed the scholarship; of candidates in the prescribed
district, he came out second.

Grievous was the disappointment. To come so near success exasperated
his impatient temper, and for a few days his bondage at the chemical
works seemed intolerable; he was ready for almost any venture that
promised release and new scope for his fretting energies. But at the
moment when nervous irritation was most acute, a remarkable act of
kindness suddenly restored to him all the hopes he had abandoned. One
Saturday afternoon he was summoned from his surly retreat in the
garret, to speak with a visitor. On entering the sitting-room, he found
his mother in company with Miss Cadman and the Misses Lumb, and from
the last-mentioned ladies, who spoke with amiable alternation, he
learnt that they were commissioned by Sir Job Whitelaw to offer for his
acceptance a three-years' studentship at Whitelaw College. Affected by
her son's chagrin, Mrs. Peak had disclosed the story to her sister, who
had repeated it to the Misses Lumb, who in turn had made it the subject
of a letter to Lady Whitelaw. It was an annual practice with Sir Job to
discover some promising lad whom he could benefit by the payment of his
fees for a longer or shorter period of college study. The hint from
Twybridge came to him just at the suitable time, and, on further
inquiry, he decided to make proffer of this advantage to Godwin Peak.
The only condition was that arrangements should be made by the
student's relatives for his support during the proposed period.

This generosity took away Godwin's breath. The expenditure it
represented was trifling, but from a stranger in Sir Job's position it
had something which recalled to so fervent a mind the poetry of
Medicean patronage. For the moment no faintest doubt gave warning to
his self-respect; he was eager to accept nobly a benefaction nobly
intended.

Miss Cadman, flattered by Sir Job's attention to her nephew, now came
forward with an offer to contribute towards Godwin's livelihood. Her
supplement would eke into adequacy such slender allowance as the
widow's purse could afford. Details were privately discussed, resolves
were taken. Mr. Moxey, when it was made known to him, without
explanation, that Godwin was to be sent to Whitelaw College, behaved
with kindness; he at once released the lad, and added a present to the
salary that was due. Proper acknowledgment of the Baronet's kindness
was made by the beneficiary himself, who wrote a letter giving truer
testimony of his mental calibre than would have been offered had he
expressed himself by word of mouth. A genial reply summoned him to an
interview as soon as he should have found an abode in Kingsmill. The
lodging he had occupied during the examination was permanently secured,
and a new period of Godwin's life began.

For two years, that is to say until his age drew towards nineteen, Peak
pursued the Arts curriculum at Whitelaw. His mood on entering decided
his choice, which was left free to him. Experience of utilitarian
chemistry had for the present made his liberal tastes predominant, and
neither the splendid laboratories of Whitelaw nor the repute of its
scientific Professors tempted him to what had once seemed his natural
direction. In the second year, however, he enlarged his course by the
addition of one or two classes not included in Sir Job's design; these
were paid for out of a present made to him by Mr. Gunnery.

It being customary for the regular students of Whitelaw to graduate at
London University, Peak passed his matriculation, and worked on for the
preliminary test then known as First B.A. In the meanwhile he rose
steadily, achieving distinction in the College. The more observant of
his teachers remarked him even where he fell short of academic triumph,
and among his fellow-students he had the name of a stern 'sweater', one
not easily beaten where he had set his mind on excelling. He was not
generally liked, for his mood appeared unsocial, and a repelling
arrogance was sometimes felt in his talk. No doubt--said the more
fortunate young men--he came from a very poor home, and suffered from
the narrowness of his means. They noticed that he did not subscribe to
the College Union, and that he could never join in talk regarding the
diversions of the town. His two or three intimates were chosen from
among those contemporaries who read hard and dressed poorly.

The details of Godwin's private life were noteworthy. Accustomed
hitherto to a domestic circle, at Kingsmill he found himself isolated,
and it was not easy for him to surrender all at once the comforts of
home. For a time he felt as though his ambition were a delinquency
which entailed the punishment of loneliness. Nor did his relations with
Sir Job Whitelaw tend to mitigate this feeling. In his first interview
with the Baronet, Godwin showed to little advantage. A deadly
bashfulness forbade him to be natural either in attitude or speech. He
felt his dependence in a way he had not foreseen; the very clothes he
wore, then fresh from the tailor's, seemed to be the gift of charity,
and their stiffness shamed him. A man of the world, Sir Job could make
allowance for these defects. He understood that the truest kindness
would be to leave a youth such as this to the forming influences of the
College. So Godwin barely had a glimpse of Lady Whitelaw in her
husband's study, and thereafter for many months he saw nothing of his
benefactors. Subsequently he was twice invited to interviews with Sir
Job, who talked with kindness and commendation. Then came the Baronet's
death. Godwin received an assurance that this event would be no check
upon his career, but he neither saw nor heard directly from Lady
Whitelaw.

Not a house in Kingsmill opened hospitable doors to the lonely student;
nor was anyone to blame for this. With no family had he friendly
acquaintance. When, towards the end of his second year, he grew
sufficiently intimate with Buckland Warricombe to walk out with him to
Thornhaw, it could be nothing more than a scarcely welcome exception to
the rule of solitude. Impossible for him to cultivate the friendship of
such people as the Warricombes, with their large and joyous scheme of
life. Only at a hearth where homeliness and cordiality united to unthaw
his proud reserve could Godwin perchance have found the companionship
he needed. Many such homes existed in Kingsmill, but no kindly fortune
led the young man within the sphere of their warmth.

His lodgings were in a very ugly street in the ugliest outskirts of the
town; he had to take a long walk through desolate districts
(brick-yard, sordid pasture, degenerate village) before he could
refresh his eyes with the rural scenery which was so great a joy to him
as almost to be a necessity. The immediate vicinage offered nothing but
monotone of grimy, lower middle-class dwellings, occasionally relieved
by a public-house. He occupied two rooms, not unreasonably clean, and
was seldom disturbed by the attentions of his landlady.

An impartial observer might have wondered at the negligence which left
him to arrange his life as best he could, notwithstanding youth and
utter inexperience. It looked indeed as if there were no one in the
world who cared what became of him. Yet this was merely the result of
his mother's circumstances, and of his own character. Mrs Peak could do
no more than make her small remittances, and therewith send an
occasional admonition regarding his health. She did not, in fact,
conceive the state of things, imagining that the authority and
supervisal of the College extended over her son's daily existence,
whereas it was possible for Godwin to frequent lectures or not, to
study or to waste his time, pretty much as he chose, subject only to
official inquiry if his attendance became frequently irregular. His
independent temper, and the seeming maturity of his mind, supplied
another excuse for the imprudent confidence which left him to his own
resources. Yet the perils of the situation were great indeed. A youth
of less concentrated purpose, more at the mercy of casual allurement,
would probably have gone to wreck amid trials so exceptional.

Trials not only of his moral nature. The sums of money with which he
was furnished fell short of a reasonable total for bare necessities. In
the calculation made by Mrs. Peak and her sister, outlay on books had
practically been lost sight of; it was presumed that ten shillings a
term would cover this item. But Godwin could not consent to be at a
disadvantage in his armoury for academic contest. The first month saw
him compelled to contract his diet, that he might purchase books;
thenceforth he rarely had enough to eat. His landlady supplied him with
breakfast, tea, and supper--each repast of the very simplest kind; for
dinner it was understood that he repaired to some public table, where
meat and vegetables, with perchance a supplementary sweet when nature
demanded it, might be had for about a shilling. That shilling was not
often at his disposal. Dinner as it is understood by the comfortably
clad, the 'regular meal' which is a part of English respectability,
came to be represented by a small pork-pie, or even a couple of buns,
eaten at the little shop over against the College. After a long morning
of mental application this was poor refreshment; the long afternoon
which followed, again spent in rigorous study, could not but reduce a
growing frame to ravenous hunger. Tea and buttered bread were the means
of appeasing it, until another four hours' work called for reward in
the shape of bread and cheese. Even yet the day's toil was not ended.
Godwin sometimes read long after midnight, with the result that, when
at length he tried to sleep, exhaustion of mind and body kept him for a
long time feverishly wakeful.

These hardships he concealed from the people at Twybridge. Complaint,
it seemed to him, would be ungrateful, for sacrifices were already made
on his behalf. His father, as he well remembered, was wont to relate,
with a kind of angry satisfaction, the miseries through which he had
fought his way to education and the income-tax. Old enough now to
reflect with compassionate understanding upon that life of conflict,
Godwin resolved that he too would bear the burdens inseparable from
poverty, and in some moods was even glad to suffer as his father had
done. Fortunately he had a sound basis of health, and hunger and vigils
would not easily affect his constitution. If, thus hampered, he could
outstrip competitors who had every advantage of circumstance, the more
glorious his triumph.

Sunday was an interval of leisure. Rejoicing in deliverance from
Sabbatarianism, he generally spent the morning in a long walk, and the
rest of the day was devoted to non-collegiate reading. He had
subscribed to a circulating library, and thus obtained new publications
recommended to him in the literary paper which again taxed his stomach.
Mere class-work did not satisfy him. He was possessed with throes of
spiritual desire, impelling him towards that world of unfettered
speculation which he had long indistinctly imagined. It was a great
thing to learn what the past could teach, to set himself on the common
level of intellectual men; but he understood that college learning
could not be an end in itself, that the Professors to whom he listened
either did not speak out all that was in their minds, or, if they did,
were far from representing the advanced guard of modern thought. With
eagerness he at length betook himself to the teachers of philosophy and
of geology. Having paid for these lectures out of his own pocket, he
felt as if he had won a privilege beyond the conventional course of
study, an initiation to a higher sphere of intellect. The result was
disillusion. Not even in these class-rooms could he hear the word for
which he waited, the bold annunciation of newly discovered law, the
science which had completely broken with tradition. He came away
unsatisfied, and brooded upon the possibilities which would open for
him when he was no longer dependent.

His evening work at home was subject to a disturbance which would have
led him to seek other lodgings, could he have hoped to find any so
cheap as these. The landlady's son, a lank youth of the clerk species,
was wont to amuse himself from eight to ten with practice on a piano.
By dint of perseverance he had learned to strum two or three hymnal
melodies popularised by American evangelists; occasionally he even
added the charm of his voice, which had a pietistic nasality not easily
endured by an ear of any refinement. Not only was Godwin harassed by
the recurrence of these performances; the tunes worked themselves into
his brain, and sometimes throughout a whole day their burden clanged
and squalled incessantly on his mental hearing. He longed to entreat
forbearance from the musician, but an excess of delicacy--which always
ruled his behaviour--kept him silent. Certain passages in the classics,
and many an elaborate mathematical formula, long retained for him an
association with the cadences of revivalist hymnody.

Like all proud natures condemned to solitude, he tried to convince
himself that he had no need of society, that he despised its
attractions, and could be self-sufficing. So far was this from the
truth that he often regarded with bitter envy those of his
fellow-students who had the social air, who conversed freely among
their equals, and showed that the pursuits of the College were only a
part of their existence. These young men were either preparing for the
University, or would pass from Whitelaw to business, profession,
official training; in any case, a track was marked out for them by the
zealous care of relatives and friends, and their efforts would always
be aided, applauded, by a kindly circle. Some of them Godwin could not
but admire, so healthful were they, so bright of intellect, and
courteous in manner,--a type distinct from any he had formerly
observed. Others were antipathetic to him. Their aggressive gentility
conflicted with the wariness of his self-esteem; such a one, for
instance, as Bruno Chilvers, the sound of whose mincing voice, as he
read in the class, so irritated him that at times he had to cover his
ears. Yet, did it chance that one of these offensive youths addressed a
civil word to him, on the instant his prejudice was disarmed, and his
emotions flowed forth in a response to which he would gladly have given
free expression. When he was invited to meet the relatives of Buckland
Warricombe, shyness prepossessed him against them; but the frank
kindness of his reception moved him, and on going away he was ashamed
to have replied so boorishly to attentions so amiably meant. The same
note of character sounded in what personal intercourse he had with the
Professors. Though his spirit of criticism was at times busy with these
gentlemen, he had for most of them a profound regard; and to be elected
by one or other for a word of commendation, a little private
assistance, a well-phrased inquiry as to his progress, always made his
heart beat high with gratitude. They were his first exemplars of
finished courtesy, of delicate culture; and he could never sufficiently
regret that no one of them was aware how thankfully he recognised his
debt.

In longing for the intimacy of refined people, he began to modify his
sentiments with regard to the female sex. His first prize-day at
Whitelaw was the first occasion on which he sat in an assembly where
ladies (as he understood the title) could be seen and heard. The
impression he received was deep and lasting. On the seat behind him
were two girls whose intermittent talk held him with irresistible charm
throughout the whole ceremony. He had not imagined that girls could
display such intelligence, and the sweet clearness of their intonation,
the purity of their accent, the grace of their habitual phrases, were
things altogether beyond his experience. This was not the English he
had been wont to hear on female lips. His mother and his aunt spoke
with propriety; their associates were soft-tongued; but here was
something quite different from inoffensiveness of tone and diction.
Godwin appreciated the differentiating cause. These young ladies behind
him had been trained from the cradle to speak for the delight of
fastidious ears; that they should be grammatical was not enough--they
must excel in the art of conversational music. Of course there existed
a world where only such speech was interchanged, and how inestimably
happy those men to whom the sphere was native!

When the proceedings were over, he drew aside and watched the two girls
as they mingled with acquaintances; he kept them in view until they
left the College. An emotion such as this he had never known; for the
first time in his life he was humiliated without embitterment.

The bitterness came when he had returned to his home in the back street
of Twybridge, and was endeavouring to spend the holidays in a hard
'grind'. He loathed the penurious simplicity to which his life was
condemned; all familiar circumstances were become petty, coarse,
vulgar, in his eyes; the contrast with the idealised world of his
ambition plunged him into despair: Even Mr. Gunnery seemed an ignoble
figure when compared with the Professors of Whitelaw, and his authority
in the sciences was now subjected to doubt. However much or little
might result from the three years at College, it was clear to Godwin
that his former existence had passed into infinite remoteness; he was
no longer fit for Twybridge, no longer a companion for his kindred.
Oliver, whose dulness as a schoolboy gave no promise of future
achievements, was now learning the business of a seedsman; his brother
felt ashamed when he saw him at work in the shop, and had small
patience with the comrades to whom Oliver dedicated his leisure.
Charlotte was estranged by religious differences. Only for his mother
did the young man show increased consideration. To his aunt he
endeavoured to be grateful, but his behaviour in her presence was
elaborate hypocrisy. Hating the necessity for this, he laid the blame
on fortune, which had decreed his birth in a social sphere where he
must ever be an alien.



CHAPTER III


With the growth of his militant egoism, there had developed in Godwin
Peak an excess of nervous sensibility which threatened to deprive his
character of the initiative rightly belonging to it. Self-assertion is
the practical complement of self-esteem. To be largely endowed with the
latter quality, yet constrained by a coward delicacy to repress it, is
to suffer martyrdom at the pleasure of every robust assailant, and in
the end be driven to the refuge of a moody solitude. That encounter
with his objectionable uncle after the prize distribution at Whitelaw
showed how much Godwin had lost of the natural vigour which declared
itself at Andrew Peak's second visit to Twybridge, when the boy
certainly would not have endured his uncle's presence but for
hospitable considerations and the respect due to his mother. The
decision with which he then unbosomed himself to Oliver, still
characterised his thoughts, but he had not courage to elude the
dialogue forced upon him, still less to make known his resentment of
the man's offensive vulgarity. He endured in silence, his heart afire
with scornful wrath.

The affliction could not have befallen him at a time when he was less
capable of supporting it resignedly. Notwithstanding his noteworthy
success in two classes, it seemed to him that he had lost
everything--that the day was one of signal and disgraceful defeat. In
any case that sequence of second prizes must have filled him with
chagrin, but to be beaten thus repeatedly by such a fellow as Bruno
Chilvers was humiliation intolerable. A fopling, a mincer of effeminate
English, a rote-repeater of academic catchwords--bah! The
by-examinations of the year had whispered presage, but Peak always felt
that he was not putting forth his strength; when the serious trial came
he would show what was really in him. Too late he recognised his error,
though he tried not to admit it. The extra subjects had exacted too
much of him; there was a limit to his powers. Within the College this
would be well enough understood, but to explain a disagreeable fact is
not to change it; his name was written in pitiful subordination. And as
for the public assembly--he would have sacrificed some years of his
life to have stepped forward in facile supremacy, beneath the eyes of
those clustered ladies. Instead of that, they had looked upon his
shame; they had interchanged glances of amusement at each repetition of
his defeat; had murmured comments in their melodious speech; had ended
by losing all interest in him--as intuition apprised him was the wont
of women.

As soon as he had escaped from his uncle, he relapsed into musing upon
the position to which he was condemned when the new session came round.
Again Chilvers would be in the same classes with him, and, as likely as
not, with the same result. In the meantime, they were both 'going in'
for the First B.A.; he had no fear of failure, but it might easily
happen that Chilvers would achieve higher distinction. With an eye to
awards that might be won--substantial cash-annuities--he was reading
for Honours; but it seemed doubtful whether he could present himself,
as the second examination was held only in London. Chilvers would of
course be an Honours candidate. He would smile--confound him!--at an
objection on the score of the necessary journey to London. Better to
refrain altogether than again to see Chilvers come out ahead. General
surprise would naturally be excited, questions asked on all hands. How
would it sound: 'I simply couldn't afford to go up'--?

At this point of the meditation he had reached his lodgings; he
admitted himself with a latch-key, turned into his murky sitting-room,
and sat down.

The table was laid for tea, as usual. Though he might have gone to
Twybridge this evening, he had preferred to stay overnight, for an odd
reason. At a theatre in Kingsmill a London company, headed by an
actress of some distinction, was to perform _Romeo and Juliet_, and he
purposed granting himself this indulgence before leaving the town. The
plan was made when his eye fell upon the advertisement, a few days ago.
He then believed it probable that an evening at the theatre would
appropriately follow upon a day of victory. His interest in the
performance had collapsed, but he did not care to alter his
arrangements.

The landlady came in bearing the tea-pot. He wanted nothing, yet could
not exert himself to say so.

But he was losing sight of a menace more formidable than defeat by
Chilvers. What was it his blackguard uncle had said? Had the fellow
really threatened to start an eating-house opposite the College, and
flare his name upon a placard? 'Peak's Dining and Refreshment
Rooms'--merciful heavens!

Again the mood of laughter came upon him. Why, here was a solution of
all difficulties, as simple as unanticipated. If indeed that awful
thing came to pass, farewell to Whitelaw! What possibility of pursuing
his studies when every class-companion, every Professor,--nay, the very
porters,--had become aware that he was nephew to the man who supplied
meals over the way? Moral philosophy had no prophylactic against an
ordeal such as this. Could the most insignificant lad attending
lectures afford to disregard such an occasion of ridicule and contempt?

But the scheme would not be realised; it sounded too unlikely. Andrew
Peak was merely a loose-minded vagabond, who might talk of this and
that project for making money, but would certainly never quit his dirty
haunts in London. Godwin asked himself angrily why he had submitted to
the fellow's companionship. This absurd delicacy must be corrected
before it became his tyrant. The idea of scrupling to hurt the
sensibilities of Andrew Peak! The man was coarse-hided enough to
undergo kicking, and then take sixpence in compensation,--not a doubt
of it. This detestable tie of kindred must no longer be recognised. He
would speak gravely to his mother about it. If Andrew again presented
himself at the house he should be given plainly to understand that his
visits were something less than welcome,--if necessary, a downright
blunt word must effect their liberation. Godwin felt strong enough for
that, musing here alone. And, student-like, he passed on to debate the
theory of the problem. Andrew was his father's brother, but what is a
mere tie of blood if nature has alienated two persons by a subtler
distinction? By the dead man, Andrew had never been loved or esteemed;
memory supplied proof of this. The widow shrank from him. No obligation
of any kind lay upon them to tolerate the London ruffian.--Enough; he
should be got rid of!

Alternating his causes of misery, which--he could not quite
forget--might blend for the sudden transformation of his life, Godwin
let the tea grow cold upon the table, until it was time, if he still
meant to visit the theatre, for setting forth. He had no mind to go,
but as little to sit here and indulge harassing reflection. With an
effort, he made ready and left the house.

The cost of his seat at the theatre was two shillings. So nicely had he
adjusted the expenses of these last days that, after paying the
landlady's bill to-morrow morning, there would remain to him but a few
pence more than the money needed for his journey home. Walking into the
town, he debated with himself whether it were not better to save this
florin. But as he approached the pit door, the spirit of pleasure
revived in him; he had seen but one of Shakespeare's plays, and he
believed (naturally at his age) that to see a drama acted was necessary
for its full appreciation. Sidling with affected indifference, he added
himself to the crowd.

To stand thus, expectant of the opening doors, troubled him with a
sense of shame. To be sure, he was in the spiritual company of Charles
Lamb, and of many another man of brains who has waited under the lamp.
But contact with the pittites of Kingsmill offended his instincts; he
resented this appearance of inferiority to people who came at their
leisure, and took seats in the better parts of the house. When a
neighbour addressed him with a meaningless joke which defied grammar,
he tried to grin a friendly answer, but inwardly shrank. The events of
the day had increased his sensibility to such impressions. Had he
triumphed over Bruno Chilvers, he could have behaved this evening with
a larger humanity.

The fight for entrance--honest British stupidity, crushing ribs and
rending garments in preference to seemly order of progress--enlivened
him somewhat, and sent him laughing to his conquered place; but before
the curtain rose he was again depressed by the sight of a familiar
figure in the stalls, a fellow-student who sat there with mother and
sister, black-uniformed, looking very much a gentleman. 'I, of course,
am not a gentleman,' he said to himself, gloomily. Was there any chance
that he might some day take his ease in that orthodox fashion? Inasmuch
as it was conventionality, he scorned it; but the privileges which it
represented had strong control of his imagination. That lady and her
daughter would follow the play with intelligence. To exchange comments
with them would be a keen delight. As for him--he had a shop-boy on one
hand and a grocer's wife on the other.

By the end he had fallen into fatigue. Amid clamour of easily-won
applause he made his way into the street, to find himself in a heavy
downpour of rain. Having no umbrella, he looked about for a sheltered
station, and the glare of a neighbouring public-house caught his eye;
he was thirsty, and might as well refresh body and spirit with a glass
of beer, an unwonted indulgence which had the pleasant semblance of
dissipation. Arrived at the bar he came upon two acquaintances, who, to
judge by their flushed cheeks and excited voices, had been celebrating
jovially the close of their academic labours. They hailed him.

'Hollo, Peak! Come and help us to get sober before bedtime!'

They were not exactly studious youths, but neither did they belong to
the class that Godwin despised, and he had a comrade-like feeling for
them. In a few minutes his demeanour was wholly changed. A glass of hot
whisky acted promptly upon his nervous system, enabled him to forget
vexations, and attuned him to kindred sprightliness. He entered merrily
into the talk of a time of life which is independent of morality--talk
distinct from that of the blackguard, but equally so from that of the
reflective man. His first glass had several successors. The trio
rambled arm in arm from one place of refreshment to another, and
presently sat down in hearty fellowship to a supper of such viands as
recommend themselves at bibulous midnight. Peak was drawing recklessly
upon the few coins that remained to him; he must leave his landlady's
claim undischarged, and send the money from home. Prudence be hanged!
If one cannot taste amusement once in a twelvemonth, why live at all?

He reached his lodgings, at something after one o'clock, drenched with
rain, gloriously indifferent to that and all other chances of life.
Pooh! his system had been radically wrong. He should have allowed
himself recreation once a week or so; he would have been all the better
for it, body and mind. Books and that kind of thing are all very well
in their way, but one must live; he had wasted too much of his youth in
solitude. _O mihi proeteritos referat si Jupiter annos!_ Next session
he would arrange things better. Success in examinations--what trivial
fuss when one looked at it from the right point of view! And he had
fretted himself into misery, because Chilvers had got more
'marks',--ha, ha, ha!

The morrow's waking was lugubrious enough. Headache and nausea weighed
upon him. Worse still, a scrutiny of his pockets showed that he had
only the shamefaced change of half-a-crown wherewith to transport
himself and his belongings to Twybridge. Now, the railway fare alone
was three shillings; the needful cab demanded eighteenpence. O idiot!

And he hated the thought of leaving his bill unpaid; the more so
because it was a trifling sum, a week's settlement. To put himself
under however brief an obligation to a woman such as the landlady
gnawed at his pride. Not that only. He had no business to make a demand
upon his mother for this additional sum. But there was no way of
raising the money; no one of whom he could borrow it; nothing he could
afford to sell--even if courage had supported him through such a
transaction. Triple idiot!

Bread turned to bran upon his hot palate; he could only swallow cups of
coffee. With trembling hands he finished the packing of his box and
portmanteau, then braced himself to the dreaded interview. Of course,
it involved no difficulty, the words once uttered; but, when he was
left alone again, he paced the room for a few minutes in flush of
mortification. It had made his headache worse.

The mode of his homeward journey he had easily arranged. His baggage
having been labelled for Twybridge, he himself would book as far as his
money allowed, then proceed on foot for the remaining distance. With
the elevenpence now in his pocket he could purchase a ticket to a
little town called Dent, and by a calculation from the railway tariff
he concluded that from Dent to Twybridge was some five-and-twenty
miles. Well and good. At the rate of four miles an hour it would take
him from half-past eleven to about six o'clock. He could certainly
reach home in time for supper.

At Dent station, ashamed to ask (like a tramp) the way to so remote a
place as Twybridge, he jotted down a list of intervening railway
stoppages, and thus was enabled to support the semblance of one who
strolls on for his pleasure. A small handbag he was obliged to carry,
and the clouded sky made his umbrella a requisite. On he trudged
steadily, for the most part by muddy ways, now through a pleasant
village, now in rural solitude. He had had the precaution, at breakfast
time, to store some pieces of bread in his pocket, and after two or
three hours this resource was welcome. Happily the air and exercise
helped him to get rid of his headache. A burst of sunshine in the
afternoon would have made him reasonably cheerful, but for the wretched
meditations surviving from yesterday.

He pondered frequently on his spasmodic debauch, repeating, as well as
memory permitted, all his absurdities of speech and action. Defiant
self-justification was now far to seek. On the other hand, he perceived
very clearly how easy it would be for him to lapse by degrees of
weakened will into a ruinous dissoluteness. Anything of that kind would
mean, of course, the abandonment of his ambitions. All he had to fight
the world with was his brain; and only by incessant strenuousness in
its exercise had he achieved the moderate prominence declared in
yesterday's ceremony. By birth, by station, he was of no account; if he
chose to sink, no influential voice would deplore his falling off or
remind him of what he owed to himself. Chilvers, now--what a
wide-spreading outcry, what calling upon gods and men, would be excited
by any defection of that brilliant youth! Godwin Peak must make his own
career, and that he would hardly do save by efforts greater than the
ordinary man can put forth. The ordinary man?--Was he in any respect
extraordinary? were his powers noteworthy? It was the first time that
he had deliberately posed this question to himself, and for answer came
a rush of confident blood, pulsing through all the mechanism of his
being.

The train of thought which occupied him during this long trudge was to
remain fixed in his memory; in any survey of the years of pupilage this
recollection would stand prominently forth, associated, moreover, with
one slight incident which at the time seemed a mere interruption of his
musing. From a point on the high-road he observed a small quarry, so
excavated as to present an interesting section; though weary, he could
not but turn aside to examine these strata. He knew enough of the
geology of the county to recognise the rocks and reflect with
understanding upon their position; a fragment in his hand, he sat down
to rest for a moment. Then a strange fit of brooding came over him.
Escaping from the influences of personality, his imagination wrought
back through eras of geologic time, held him in a vision of the
infinitely remote, shrivelled into insignificance all but the one fact
of inconceivable duration. Often as he had lost himself in such
reveries, never yet had he passed so wholly under the dominion of that
awe which attends a sudden triumph of the pure intellect. When at
length he rose, it was with wide, blank eyes, and limbs partly numbed.
These needed half-an-hour's walking before he could recover his mood of
practical self-search.

Until the last moment he could not decide whether to let his mother
know how he had reached Twybridge. His arrival corresponded pretty well
with that of a train by which he might have come. But when the door
opened to him, and the familiar faces smiled their welcome, he felt
that he must have nothing to do with paltry deceit; he told of his
walk, explaining it by the simple fact that this morning he had found
himself short of money. How that came to pass, no one inquired. Mrs.
Peak, shocked at such martyrdom, tended him with all motherly care; for
once, Godwin felt that it was good to have a home, however simple.

This amiable frame of mind was not likely to last beyond the first day.
Matter of irritation soon enough offered itself, as was invariably the
case at Twybridge. It was pleasant enough to be feted as the hero of
the family, to pull out a Kingsmill newspaper and exhibit the full
report of prize-day at Whitelaw, with his own name, in very small type,
demanding the world's attention, and finally to exhibit the volumes in
tree-calf which his friend the librarian had forwarded to him. But
domestic circumstances soon made assault upon his nerves, and trial of
his brief patience.

First of all, there came an unexpected disclosure. His sister Charlotte
had affianced herself to a young man of Twybridge, one Mr Cusse, whose
prospects were as slender as his present means. Mrs Peak spoke of the
affair in hushed privacy, with shaking of the head and frequent sighs,
for to her mind Mr. Cusse had few even personal recommendations. He was
a draper's assistant. Charlotte had made his acquaintance on occasions
of church festivity, and urged the fact of his zeal in Sunday-school
tuition as sufficient reply to all doubts. As he listened, Godwin bit
his lips.

'Does he come here, then?' was his inquiry.

'Once or twice a week. I haven't felt able to say anything against it,
Godwin. I suppose it will be a very long engagement.'

Charlotte was just twenty-two, and it seemed probable that she knew her
own mind; in any case, she was of a character which would only be
driven to obstinacy by adverse criticism. Godwin learnt that his aunt
Emily (Miss Cadman) regarded this connection with serious disapproval.
Herself a shopkeeper, she might have been expected to show indulgence
to a draper's assistant, but, so far from this, her view of Mr. Cusse
was severely scornful. She had nourished far other hopes for Charlotte,
who surely at her age (Miss Cadman looked from the eminence of
five-and-forty) should have been less precipitate. No undue harshness
had been exhibited by her relatives, but Charlotte took a stand which
sufficiently declared her kindred with Godwin. She held her head higher
than formerly, spoke with habitual decision which bordered on
snappishness, and at times displayed the absentmindedness of one who in
silence suffers wrong.

There passed but a day or two before Godwin was brought face to face
with Mr. Cusse, who answered too well to the idea Charlotte's brother
had formed of him. He had a very smooth and shiny forehead, crowned by
sleek chestnut hair; his chin was deferential; the bend of his body
signified a modest hope that he did his duty in the station to which
Providence had summoned him. Godwin he sought to flatter with looks of
admiring interest; also, by entering upon a conversation which was
meant to prove that he did not altogether lack worldly knowledge, of
however little moment that might be in comparison with spiritual
concerns. Examining, volume by volume and with painful minuteness, the
prizes Godwin had carried off, he remarked fervently, in each instance,
'I can see how very interesting that is! So thorough, so thorough!'
Even Charlotte was at length annoyed, when Mr. Cusse had exclaimed upon
the 'thoroughness' of Ben Jonson's works; she asked an abrupt question
about some town affair, and so gave her brother an opportunity of
taking the books away. There was no flagrant offence in the man. He
spoke with passable accent, and manifested a high degree of amiability;
but one could not dissociate him from the counter. At the thought that
his sister might become Mrs. Cusse, Godwin ground his teeth. Now that
he came to reflect on the subject, he found in himself a sort of
unreasoned supposition that Charlotte would always remain single; it
seemed so unlikely that she would be sought by a man of liberal
standing, and at the same time so impossible for her to accept any one
less than a gentleman. Yet he remembered that to outsiders such
fastidiousness must show in a ridiculous light. What claim to gentility
had they, the Peaks? Was it not all a figment of his own self-conceit?
Even in education Charlotte could barely assert a superiority to Mr.
Cusse, for her formal schooling had ended when she was twelve, and she
had never cared to read beyond the strait track clerical inspiration.

There were other circumstances which helped to depress his estimate of
the family dignity. His brother Oliver, now seventeen, was developing
into a type of young man as objectionable as it is easily recognised.
The slow, compliant boy had grown more flesh and muscle than once
seemed likely, and his wits had begun to display that kind of
vivaciousness which is only compatible with a nature moulded in common
clay. He saw much company, and all of low intellectual order; he had
purchased a bicycle, and regarded it as a source of distinction, a
means of displaying himself before shopkeepers' daughters; he believed
himself a modest tenor, and sang verses of sentimental imbecility; he
took in several weekly papers of unpromising title, for the chief
purpose of deciphering cryptograms, in which pursuit he had singular
success. Add to these characteristics a penchant for cheap jewellery,
and Oliver Peak stands confessed.

It appeared to Godwin that his brother had leapt in a few months to
these heights of vulgar accomplishment; each separate revelation struck
unexpectedly upon his nerves and severely tried his temper. When at
length Oliver, waiting for supper, began to dance grotesquely to an air
which local talent had somehow caught from the London music-halls,
Godwin's self-control gave way.

'Is it your ambition,' he asked, with fiery sarcasm, 'to join a troupe
of nigger minstrels?'

Oliver was startled into the military posture of attention. He
answered, with some embarrassment:

'I can't say it is.'

'Yet anyone would suppose so,' went on Godwin, hotly. 'Though you are
employed in a shop, I should have thought you might still aim at
behaving like a gentleman.'

Indisposed to quarrel, and possessed of small skill in verbal fence,
Oliver drew aside with shadowed brow. As the brothers still had to
share one bedroom, they were presently alone together, and their
muteness, as they lay down to sleep, showed the estrangement that had
at length come between them. When all had been dark and still for
half-an-hour, Godwin spoke.

'Are you awake?'

'Yes.'

'There was something about Uncle Andrew. I didn't mention. He talks of
opening an eating-house just opposite Whitelaw.'

'Oh.'

The tone of this signified nothing more than curiosity.

'You don't see any reason why he shouldn't?'

Oliver delayed a little before replying.

'I suppose it wouldn't be very nice for you.'

'That's rather a mild way of putting it. It would mean that I should
have to leave the College, and give up all my hopes.'

'I see,' returned the other, with slow apprehension.

There followed several minutes of silence. Then Godwin sat up in bed,
as had always been his wont when he talked with earnestness at night.

'If you think I lost my temper without cause at suppertime, just
remember that I had that blackguard before my mind, and that it isn't
very pleasant to see you taking after that branch of our family.'

'Do you mean to say I am like uncle?'

'I mean to say that, if you are not careful, you won't be the kind of
man I should like to see you. Do you know what is meant by inherited
tendencies? Scientific men are giving a great deal of attention to such
things nowadays. Children don't always take after their parents; very
often they show a much stronger likeness to a grandfather, or an uncle,
or even more distant relatives. Just think over this, and make up your
mind to resist any danger of that sort. I tell you plainly that the
habits you are getting into, and the people you make friends of, are
detestable. For heaven's sake, spend more of your time in a rational
way, and learn to despise the things that shopkeepers admire. Read!
Force yourself to stick hard at solid books for two or three hours
every day. If you don't, it's all up with you. I am speaking for your
own good. Read, read, read!'

Quietness ensued. Then Oliver began to move uneasily in his bed, and at
length his protest became audible.

'I can't see what harm I do.'

'No!' burst from his brother's lips, scornfully. 'And that's just your
danger. Do you suppose _I_ could sing nigger songs, and run about the
town with shopboys, and waste hours over idiotic puzzles?'

'We're not all alike, and it wouldn't do for us to be.'

'It would do very well for us all to have brains and to use them. The
life you lead is a brainless life, brainless and vulgar.'

'Well, if I haven't got brains, I can't help it,' replied Oliver, with
sullen resignation.

'You have enough to teach you to live respectably, if only you look to
the right kind of example.'

There followed a vehement exhortation, now angry, now in strain of
natural kindliness. To this Oliver made only a few brief and muttered
replies; when it was all over, he fell asleep. But Godwin was wakeful
for hours.

The next morning he attempted to work for his approaching examination,
but with small result. It had begun to be very doubtful to him whether
he should 'go up' at all, and this uncertainty involved so great a
change in all his prospects that he could not command the mental calm
necessary for study. After dinner he went out with unsettled purpose.
He would gladly have conversed with Mr Gunnery, but the old people were
just now on a stay with relatives in Bedfordshire, and their return
might be delayed for another week. Perhaps it behoved him to go and see
Mr. Moxey, but he was indisposed to visit the works, and if he went to
the house this evening he would encounter the five daughters, who, like
all women who did not inspire him with admiration, excited his bashful
dislike. At length he struck off into the country and indulged restless
thoughts in places where no one could observe him.

A result of the family's removal first from London to the farm, and
then into Twybridge, was that Godwin had no friends of old standing. At
Greenwich, Nicholas Peak formed no intimacies, nor did a single
associate remain to him from the years of his growth and struggle; his
wife, until the renewal of intercourse with her sister at Twybridge,
had no society whatever beyond her home. A boy reaps advantage from the
half parental kindness of men and women who have watched his growth
from infancy; in general it affects him as a steadying influence,
keeping before his mind the social bonds to which his behaviour owes
allegiance. The only person whom Godwin regarded with feeling akin to
this was Mr. Gunnery, but the geologist found no favour with Mrs. Peak,
and thus he involuntarily helped to widen the gap between the young man
and his relatives. Nor had the intimacies of school time supplied
Godwin with friendships for the years to come; his Twybridge
class-fellows no longer interested him, nor did they care to continue
his acquaintance. One was articled to a solicitor; one was learning the
drug-trade in his father's shop; another had begun to deal in corn; the
rest were scattered about England, as students or salary-earners. The
dominion of the commonplace had absorbed them, all and sundry; they
were the stuff which destiny uses for its every-day purposes, to keep
the world a-rolling.

So that Godwin had no ties which bound him strongly to any district. He
could not call himself a Londoner; for, though born in Westminster, he
had grown to consciousness on the outskirts of Greenwich, and
remembered but dimly some of the London streets, and a few places of
public interest to which his father had taken him. Yet, as a matter of
course, it was to London that his ambition pointed, when he forecast
the future. Where else could he hope for opportunity of notable
advancement? At Twybridge? Impossible to find more than means of
subsistence; his soul loathed such a prospect. At Kingsmill? There was
a slender hope that he might establish a connection with Whitelaw
College, if he devoted himself to laboratory work; but what could come
of that--at all events for many years? London, then? The only
acceptable plan for supporting himself there was to succeed in a Civil
Service competition. That, indeed, seemed the most hopeful direction
for his efforts; a government office might afford him scope, and, he
had heard, would allow him abundant leisure.

Or to go abroad? To enter for the Indian clerkships, and possibly
cleave a wider way than could be hoped in England? There was allurement
in the suggestion; travel had always tempted his fancy. In that case he
would be safely severed from the humble origin which in his native
country might long be an annoyance, or even an obstacle; no Uncle
Andrew could spring up at inconvenient moments in the middle of his
path. Yes; this indeed might be best of all. He must send for papers,
and give attention to the matter.

Musing in this way, he had come within sight of the familiar chemical
works. It was near the hour at which Mr. Moxey was about to go home for
his afternoon dinner; why not interrupt his walk, and have a word with
him? That duty would be over.

He pushed on, and, as he approached the buildings, was aware of Mr
Moxey stepping into the road, unaccompanied. Greetings speedily
followed. The manufacturer, who was growing stout in his mellow years
and looking more leisurely than when Godwin first knew him, beamed with
smiles of approbation.

'Glad to see you; glad to see you! I have heard of your doings at
College.'

'Nothing to boast of, Mr. Moxey.'

'Why, what would satisfy you? A nephew of mine was there last Friday,
and tells me you carried off half a hundredweight of prizes. Here he
comes, I see.'

There drew near a young man of about four-and-twenty, well-dressed,
sauntering with a cane in his hand. His name was Christian Moxey.

'Much pleasure in meeting you, Mr. Peak,' he said, with a winning
smile. 'I was at Whitelaw the other day, when you distinguished
yourself, and if I had known then that you were an acquaintance of my
uncle's I should have been tempted to offer a word of congratulation.
Very glad indeed to meet you.'

Godwin, grateful as always for the show of kindness and flattered by
such a reception, at once felt a liking for Christian Moxey. Most
people would have admitted the young man's attractiveness. He had a
thin and sallow face, and seemed to be of weak constitution. In talking
he leant upon his cane, and his movements were languid; none the less,
his person was distinguished by an air of graceful manhood. His
features, separately considered, were ordinary enough; together they
made a countenance of peculiar charm, vividly illumined, full of appeal
to whosoever could appreciate emotional capabilities. The interest he
excited in Peak appeared to be reciprocal, for his eyes dwelt as often
and as long as possible on Godwin's features.

'Come along, and have something to eat with us,' said Mr. Moxey, in a
tone of genial invitation. 'I daresay you had dinner long enough ago to
have picked up a new appetite.'

Godwin had a perturbing vision of the five Miss Moxeys and of a dinner
table, such as he was not used to sit at; he wished to decline, yet
knew not how to do so with civility.

'Yes, yes; come along!' added his friend, heartily. 'Tell us something
about your chemistry paper. Any posers this time? My nephew won't be
out of it; he belongs to the firm of Bates Brothers--the Rotherhithe
people, you know.'

This information was a surprise to Godwin. He had imagined Christian
Moxey either a gentleman at large, or at all events connected with some
liberal profession. Glancing at the attractive face, he met a singular
look, a smile which suggested vague doubts. But Christian made no
remark, and Mr. Moxey renewed his inquiries about the examination in
chemistry.

The five daughters--all assembled in a homely sitting-room--were
nothing less than formidable. Plain, soft-spoken, not ill educated,
they seemed to live in perfect harmony, and to derive satisfaction from
pursuits independent of external society. In the town they were seldom
seen; few families called upon them; and only the most inveterate
gossips found matter for small-talk in their retired lives. It had
never been heard that any one of them was sought in marriage. Godwin,
superfluously troubled about his attire, met them with grim endeavour
at politeness; their gravity, a result of shyness, he misinterpreted,
supposing them to hold aloof from a young man who had been in their
father's employ. But before he could suffer much from the necessity of
formal conversation the door opened to admit yet another young lady, a
perfect stranger to him. Her age was about seventeen, but she had
nothing of the sprightly grace proverbially connected with that time of
life in girls; her pale and freckled visage expressed a haughty
reserve, intensified as soon as her eye fell upon the visitor. She had
a slight but well-proportioned figure, and a mass of auburn hair
carelessly arranged.

'My sister,' said Christian, glancing at Godwin. 'Marcella, you
recognise Mr. Peak.'

'Oh yes,' the girl replied, as she came forward, and made a sudden
offer of her hand.

She too had been present the other day at Whitelaw. Her 'Oh yes'
sounded offensive to Godwin, yet in shaking hands with her he felt a
warm pressure, and it flattered him when he became aware that Marcella
regarded him from time to time with furtive interest. Presently he
learnt that Christian and his sister were on a short visit at the house
of their relatives; their home was in London. Marcella had seated
herself stiffly by a window, and seemed to pay more attention to the
view without than to the talk which went on, until dinner was announced.

Speculating on all he saw, Godwin noticed that Christian Moxey showed a
marked preference for the youngest of his cousins, a girl of eighteen,
whose plain features were frequently brightened with a happy and very
pleasant smile. When he addressed her (by the name of Janet) his voice
had a playful kindness which must have been significant to everyone who
heard it. At dinner, his place was by her side, and he attended to her
with more than courtesy. This astonished Peak. He deemed it incredible
that any man should conceive a tender feeling for a girl so far from
beautiful. Constantly occupied with thought of sexual attachments, he
had never imagined anything of the kind apart from loveliness of
feature in the chosen object; his instincts were, in fact, revolted by
the idea of love for such a person as Janet Moxey. Christian seemed to
be degraded by such a suggestion. In his endeavour to solve the
mystery, Godwin grew half unconscious of the other people about him.

Such play of the imaginative and speculative faculties accounts for the
common awkwardness of intelligent young men in society that is strange
to them. Only the cultivation of a double consciousness puts them
finally at ease. Impossible to converse with suavity, and to heed the
forms of ordinary good-breeding, when the brain is absorbed in all
manner of new problems: one must learn to act a part, to control the
facial mechanism, to observe and anticipate, even whilst the intellect
is spending its sincere energy on subjects unavowed. The perfectly
graceful man will always be he who has no strong apprehension either of
his own personality or of that of others, who lives on the surface of
things, who can be interested without emotion, and surprised without
contemplative impulse. Never yet had Godwin Peak uttered a word that
was worth listening to, or made a remark that declared his mental
powers, save in most familiar colloquy. He was beginning to understand
the various reasons of his seeming clownishness, but this very process
of self-study opposed an obstacle to improvement.

When he found himself obliged to take part in conversation about
Whitelaw College, Godwin was disturbed by an uncertainty which had
never left his mind at rest during the past two years;--was it, or was
it not, generally known to his Twybridge acquaintances that he studied
as the pensioner of Sir Job Whitelaw? To outward seeming all delicacy
had been exercised in the bestowal of Sir Job's benefaction. At the
beginning of each academic session Mrs. Peak had privately received a
cheque which represented the exact outlay in fees for the course her
son was pursuing; payment was then made to the registrar as if from
Peak himself. But Lady Whitelaw's sisters were in the secret, and was
it likely that they maintained absolute discretion in talking with
their Twybridge friends? There seemed, in the first instance, to be a
tacit understanding that the whole affair should remain strictly
private, and to Godwin himself, sensible enough of such refinements, it
was by no means inconceivable that silence had been strictly preserved.
He found no difficulty in imagining that Sir Job's right hand knew
nothing of what the left performed, and it might be that the
authorities of Whitelaw had no hint of his peculiar position. Still, he
was perchance mistaken. The Professors perhaps regarded him as a sort
of charity-boy, and Twybridge possibly saw him in the same light. The
doubt flashed upon his mind while he was trying to eat and converse
with becoming self-possession. He dug his heel into the carpet and
silently cursed the burden of his servitude.

When the meal was over, Mr. Moxey led the way out into the garden.
Christian walked apart with Janet: Godwin strolled about between his
host and the eldest Miss Moxey, talking of he knew not what. In a short
half-hour he screwed up his courage to the point of leave-taking.
Marcella and three of her cousins had disappeared, so that the
awkwardness of departure was reduced. Christian, who seemed to be in a
very contented mood, accompanied the guest as far as the garden gate.

'What will be your special line of work when you leave Whitelaw?' he
inquired. 'Your tastes seem about equally divided between science and
literature.'

'I haven't the least idea what I shall do,' was Peak's reply.

'Very much my own state of mind when I came home from Zurich a year
ago. But it had been taken for granted that I was preparing for
business, so into business I went.' He laughed good-humouredly.
'Perhaps you will be drawn to London?'

'Yes--I think it likely,' Godwin answered, with an absent glance this
way and that.

'In any case,' pursued the other, 'you'll be there presently for First
B.A. Honours. Try to look in at my rooms, will you? I should be
delighted to see you. Most of my day is spent in the romantic locality
of Rotherhithe, but I get home about five o'clock, as a rule. Let me
give you a card.'

'Thank you.'

'I daresay we shall meet somewhere about here before then. Of course
you are reading hard, and haven't much leisure. I'm an idle dog,
unfortunately. I should like to work, but I don't quite know what at. I
suppose this is a transition time with me.'

Godwin tried to discover the implication of this remark. Had it any
reference to Miss Janet Moxey? Whilst he stood in embarrassed silence,
Christian looked about with a peculiar smile, and seemed on the point
of indulging in further self-revelation; but Godwin of a sudden held
out his hand for good-bye, and with friendly smiles they parted.

Peak was older than his years, and he saw in Christian one who might
prove a very congenial associate, did but circumstances favour their
intercourse. That was not very likely to happen, but the meeting at all
events turned his thoughts to London once more.

His attempts to 'read' were still unfruitful. For one thing, the stress
and excitement of the Whitelaw examinations had wearied him; it was
characteristic of the educational system in which he had become
involved that studious effort should be called for immediately after
that frenzy of college competition. He ought now to have been
'sweating' at his London subjects. Instead of that, he procured works
of general literature from a Twybridge library, and shut himself up
with them in the garret bedroom.

A letter from Mr. Gunnery informed him that the writer would be home in
a day or two. This return took place late one evening, and on the
morrow Godwin set forth to visit his friend. On reaching the house, he
learnt that Mr. Gunnery had suffered an accident which threatened
serious results. Walking barefoot in his bedroom the night before, he
had stepped upon the point of a large nail, and was now prostrate,
enduring much pain. Two days elapsed before Godwin could be admitted;
he then found the old man a mere shadow of his familiar
self--bloodless, hollow-eyed.

'This is the kind of practical joke that Fate likes to play upon us!'
the sufferer growled in a harsh, quaking voice, his countenance divided
between genial welcome and surly wrath. 'It'll be the end of me. Pooh!
who doesn't know that such a thing is fatal at my age? Blood-poisoning
has fairly begun. I'd a good deal rather have broken my neck among
honest lumps of old red sandstone. A nail! A damned Brummagem nail!--So
you collared the first prize in geology, eh? I take that as a kindness,
Godwin. You've got a bit beyond Figuier and his _Deluge_, eh? His
Deluge, bah!'

And he laughed discordantly. On the other side of the bed sat Mrs
Gunnery, grizzled and feeble dame. Shaken into the last stage of
senility by this alarm, she wiped tears from her flaccid cheeks, and
moaned a few unintelligible words.

The geologist's forecast of doom was speedily justified. Another day
bereft him of consciousness, and when, for a short while, he had
rambled among memories of his youth, the end came. It was found that he
had made a will, bequeathing his collections and scientific instruments
to Godwin Peak: his books were to be sold for the benefit of the widow,
who would enjoy an annuity purchased out of her husband's savings. The
poor old woman, as it proved, had little need of income; on the
thirteenth day after Mr. Gunnery's funeral, she too was borne forth
from the house, and the faithful couple slept together.

To inherit from the dead was an impressive experience to Godwin. At the
present stage of his development, every circumstance affecting him
started his mind upon the quest of reasons, symbolisms, principles; the
'natural supernatural' had hold upon him, and ruled his thought
whenever it was free from the spur of arrogant instinct. This tendency
had been strengthened by the influence of his friend Earwaker, a young
man of singularly complex personality, positive and analytic in a far
higher degree than Peak, yet with a vein of imaginative vigour which
seemed to befit quite a different order of mind. Godwin was not
distinguished by originality in thinking, but his strongly featured
character converted to uses of his own the intellectual suggestions he
so rapidly caught from others. Earwaker's habit of reflection had much
to do with the strange feelings awakened in Godwin when he transferred
to his mother's house the cabinets which had been Mr. Gunnery's pride
for thirty or forty years. Joy of possession was subdued in him by the
conflict of metaphysical questionings.

Days went on, and nothing was heard of Uncle Andrew. Godwin tried to
assure himself that he had been needlessly terrified; the eating-house
project would never be carried out. Practically dismissing that
anxiety, he brooded over his defeat by Chilvers, and thought with
extreme reluctance of the year still to be spent at Whitelaw, probably
a year of humiliation. In the meantime, should he or should he not
present himself for his First B.A.? The five pound fee would be a most
serious demand upon his mother's resources, and did the profit warrant
it, was it really of importance to him to take a degree?

He lived as much as possible alone, generally avoiding the society of
his relatives, save at meal times. A careless remark (not intentionally
offensive) with reference to Mr. Cusse had so affronted Charlotte that
she never spoke to him save in reply to a question. Godwin regretted
the pain he had given, but could not bring himself to express this
feeling, for a discussion would inevitably have disclosed all his mind
concerning the draper's assistant. Oliver seemed to have forgiven his
brother's reproaches, but no longer behaved with freedom when Godwin
was present. For all this, the elder's irritation was often aroused by
things he saw and heard; and at length--on a memorable Saturday
afternoon--debate revived between them. Oliver, as his custom was, had
attired himself sprucely for a visit to acquaintances, and a silk hat
of the very newest fashion lay together with his gloves upon the table.

'What is this thing?' inquired Godwin, with ominous calm, as he pointed
to the piece of head-gear.

'A hat, I suppose,' replied his brother.

'You mean to say you are going to wear that in the street?'

'And why not?'

Oliver, not venturing to raise his eyes, stared at the table-cloth
indignantly.

'Can't you feel,' burst from the other, 'that it's a disgrace to buy
and wear such a thing?'

'Disgrace! what's the matter with the hat? It's the fashionable shape.'

Godwin mastered his wrath, and turned contemptuously away. But Oliver
had been touched in a sensitive place; he was eager to defend himself.

'I can't see what you're finding fault with,' he exclaimed. 'Everybody
wears this shape.'

'And isn't that quite sufficient reason why anyone who respects himself
should choose something as different as possible? Everybody! That is to
say, all the fools in the kingdom. It's bad enough to follow when you
can't help it, but to imitate asses gratuitously is the lowest depth of
degradation. Don't you know that that is the meaning of vulgarity? How
you can offer such an excuse passes my comprehension. Have you no self?
Are you made, like this hat, on a pattern with a hundred thousand
others?'

'You and I are different,' said Oliver, impatiently. 'I am content to
be like other people.'

'And I would poison myself with vermin-killer if I felt any risk of
such contentment! Like other people? Heaven forbid and forfend! Like
other people? Oh, what a noble ambition!'

The loud passionate voice summoned Mrs. Peak from an adjacent room.

'Godwin! Godwin!' she remonstrated. 'Whatever is it? Why should you put
yourself out so?'

She was a short and slender woman, with an air of gentility,
independent of her badly made and long worn widow's dress.
Self-possession marked her manner, and the even tones in which she
spoke gave indication of a mild, perhaps an unemotional, temperament.

Oliver began to represent his grievance.

'What harm is there, if I choose to wear a hat that's in fashion? I pay
for it out of my own'--

But he was interrupted by a loud visitor's knock at the front door,
distant only a few paces. Mrs. Peak turned with a startled look.
Godwin, dreading contact with friends of the family, strode upstairs.
When the door was opened, there appeared the smiling countenance of
Andrew Peak; he wore the costume of a traveller, and by his side stood
a boy of ten, too plainly his son.

'Well, Grace!' was his familiar greeting, as the widow drew back. 'I
told you you'd 'ev the pleasure of seem' me again before so very long.
Godwin at 'ome with you, I s'pose? Thet you, Noll? 'Ow do, my bo-oy?
'Ere's yer cousin Jowey. Shike 'ands, Jowey bo-oy! Sorry I couldn't
bring my old lady over this time, Grace; she sends her respects, as
usual. 'Ow's Charlotte? Bloomin', I 'ope?'

He had made his way into the front parlour, dragging the youngster
after him. Having deposited his handbag and umbrella on the sofa, he
seated himself in the easy-chair, and began to blow his nose with
vigour.

'Set down, Jowey; set down, bo-oy! Down't be afride of your awnt.'

'Oi ain't afride!' cried the youth, in a tone which supported his
assertion.

Mrs. Peak trembled with annoyance and indecision. Andrew evidently
meant to stay for some time, and she could not bring herself to treat
him with plain discourtesy; but she saw that Oliver, after shaking
hands in a very strained way, had abruptly left the room, and Godwin
would be anything but willing to meet his uncle. When the name of her
elder son was again mentioned she withdrew on the pretence of summoning
him, and went up to his room. Godwin had heard the hateful voice, and
was in profound disturbance.

'What does he say, mother?' he inquired anxiously. 'Anything about
Kingsmill?'

'Not yet. Oh, I _do_ so wish we could bring this connection to an end!'

It was the first time Mrs. Peak had uttered her sentiments so
unreservedly.

'Then, shall I see him in private,' said Godwin, 'and simply let him
know the truth?'

'I dread the thought of that, Godwin. He would very likely be coarse
and violent. I must try to show him by my manner. Oliver has gone out,
and when Charlotte comes home I'll tell her to keep out of sight. He
has brought his boy. Suppose you don't come down at all? I might say
you are too busy.'

'No, no; you shan't have to do it all alone. I'll come down with you. I
must hear what he has to say.'

They descended. As soon as his nephew appeared, Andrew sprang up, and
shouted joyfully:

'Well, Godwin, bo-oy! It's all settled! Got the bloomin' shop from next
quarter dye! "Peak's Dinin' and Refreshment Rooms!" Jowey an' me was
over there all yisterday--wasn't us, Jowey? Oh, it's immense!'

Godwin felt the blood buzz in his ears, and a hot choking clutch at his
throat. He took his stand by the mantelpiece, and began to turn a
little glass ornament round and round. Fate had spoken. On the instant,
all his College life was far behind him, all his uneasiness regarding
the next session was dispelled, and he had no more connection with
Kingsmill.

Mrs. Peak had heard from Oliver of her brother-in-law's proposed
undertaking. She had spoken of it with anxiety to Godwin, who merely
shrugged his shoulders and avoided the topic, ashamed to dwell on the
particulars of his shame. In hearing Andrew's announcement she had much
ado to repress tears of vexation; silently she seated herself, and
looked with pained countenance from uncle to nephew.

'Shall you make any changes in the place?' Godwin asked, carelessly.

'Shan't I, jest! It'll take a month to refit them eatin' rooms. I'm
agoin' to do it proper--up to Dick! and I want your 'elp, my bo-oy. You
an' me 'II jest write a bit of a circular--see? to send round to the
big pots of the Collige, an' all the parents of the young fellers as we
can get the addresses of--see?'

Even amid his pangs of mortification Godwin found himself pondering an
intellectual question. Was his uncle wholly unconscious of the misery
he was causing? Had it never occurred to him that the public proximity
of an uneducated shopkeeping relative must be unwelcome to a lad who
was distinguishing himself at Whitelaw College? Were that truly the
case, then it would be unjust to regard Andrew resentfully; destiny
alone was to blame. And, after all, the man might be so absorbed in his
own interest, so strictly confined to the views of his own class, as
never to have dreamt of the sensibilities he wounded. In fact, the
shame excited by this prospect was artificial. Godwin had already felt
that it was unworthy alike of a philosopher and of a high-minded man of
the world. The doubt as to Andrew's state of mind, and this moral
problem, had a restraining effect upon the young man's temper. A
practical person justifies himself in wrath as soon as his judgment is
at one with that of the multitude. Godwin, though his passions were of
exceptional force, must needs refine, debate with himself points of
abstract justice.

'I've been tellin' Jowey, Grace, as I 'ope he may turn out such another
as Godwin 'ere. 'E'll go to Collige, will Jowey. Godwin, jest arst the
bo-oy a question or two, will you? 'E ain't been doin' bad at 'is
school. Jest put 'im through 'is pyces, as yer may sye. Stend up,
Jowey, bo-oy.'

Godwin looked askance at his cousin, who stood with pert face, ready
for any test.

'What's the date of William the Conqueror?' he asked, mechanically.

'Ow!' shouted the youth. 'Down't mike me larff! Zif I didn't know thet!
Tensixsixtenightysivn, of course!'

The father turned round with an expression of such sincere pride that
Godwin, for all his loathing, was obliged to smile.

'Jowey, jest sye a few verses of poitry; them as you learnt larst. 'E's
good at poitry, is Jowey.'

The boy broke into fearsome recitation:

'The silly buckits _on_ the deck That 'ed so long rem'ined, I dreamt as
they was filled with jew, End when I awowk, it r'ined.'

Half-a-dozen verses were thus massacred, and the reciter stopped with
the sudden jerk of a machine.

'Goes str'ight on, don't 'e, Grace?' cried the father, exultantly.
'Jowey ain't no fool. Know what he towld me the other day? Somethin' as
I never knew, and shouldn't never 'ave thought of s'long as I lived. We
was talkin' about jewellery, an' Jowey, 'e pops up all at wunst. "It's
called jewellery," says 'e, "'cos it's mostly the Jews as sell it."
Now, oo'd a thought o' that? But you see it's right as soon as you're
towld, eh? Now ain't it right, Godwin?'

'No doubt,' was the dry answer.

'It never struck me,' murmured Mrs. Peak, who took her son's assent
seriously, and felt that it was impossible to preserve an obstinate
silence.

''E ain't no fool, ain't Jowey!' cried the parent. 'Wite till 'e gits
to Collige. Godwin'll put us up to all the ins and outs. Plenty o' time
for that; 'e'll often run over an' 'ev a bit o' dinner, and no need to
talk about p'yment.'

'Do you stay in Twybridge to-night?' inquired Godwin, who had changed
in look and manner, so that he appeared all but cheerful.

'No, we're on our w'y 'ome, is Jowey an' me. Jest thought we'd break
the journey 'ere. We shall ketch the six-fifty hup.'

'Then you will have a cup of tea with us,' said Mrs. Peak, surprised at
Godwin's transformation, but seeing that hospitality was now
unavoidable.

Charlotte presently entered the house, and, after a private
conversation with her mother, went to greet Andrew. If only to signify
her contempt for Godwin's prejudices, Charlotte would have behaved
civilly to the London uncle. In the end, Andrew took his leave in the
friendliest possible way, repeating often that he would soon have the
pleasure of entertaining Mrs. Peak and all her family at his new
dining-rooms over against Whitelaw College.



CHAPTER IV


Immediately upon his uncle's departure, Godwin disappeared; Mrs. Peak
caught only a glimpse of him as he went by the parlour window. In a
short time Oliver came home, and, having learned what had happened,
joined his mother and sister in a dull, intermittent conversation on
the subject of Godwin's future difficulties.

'He won't go back to Whitelaw,' declared the lad. 'He said he wouldn't.'

'People must be above such false shame,' was Charlotte's opinion. 'I
can't see that it will make the slightest difference in his position or
his prospects.'

Whereupon her mother's patience gave way.

'Don't talk such nonsense, Charlotte! You understand perfectly well how
serious it will be. I never knew anything so cruel.'

'I was never taught,' persisted the girl, with calm obstinacy, 'that
one ought to be ashamed of one's relatives just because they are in a
humble position.'

Oliver brought the tedious discussion to an end by clamouring for
supper. The table was laid, and all were about to sit down when Godwin
presented himself. To the general astonishment, he seemed in excellent
spirits, and ate more heartily than usual. Not a word was spoken of
Uncle Andrew, until Mrs. Peak and her elder son were left alone
together; then Godwin remarked in a tone of satisfied decision:

'Of course, this is the end of my work at Whitelaw. We must make new
plans, mother.'

'But how can we, dear? What will Lady Whitelaw say?'

'I have to think it out yet. In a day or two I shall very likely write
a letter to Lady Whitelaw. There's no need, you know, to go talking
about this in Twybridge. Just leave it to me, will you?'

'It's not a subject I care to talk about, you may be sure. But I do
hope you won't do anything rash, Godwin.'

'Not I. To tell you the truth, I'm not at all sorry to leave. It was a
mistake that I went in for the Arts course--Greek, and Latin, and so
on, you know; I ought to have stuck to science. I shall go back to it
now. Don't be afraid. I'll make a position for myself before long. I'll
repay all you have spent on me.'

To this conclusion had he come. The process of mind was favoured by his
defeat in all the Arts subjects; in that direction he could see only
the triumphant Chilvers, a figure which disgusted him with Greeks,
Romans, and all the ways of literature. As to his future efforts he was
by no means clear, but it eased him greatly to have cast off a burden
of doubt; his theorising intellect loved the sensation of life thrown
open to new, however vague, possibilities. At present he was convinced
that Andrew Peak had done him a service. In this there was an
indication of moral cowardice, such as commonly connects itself with
intense pride of individuality. He desired to shirk the combat with
Chilvers, and welcomed as an excuse for doing so the shame which
another temper would have stubbornly defied.

Now he would abandon his B.A. examination,--a clear saving of money.
Presently it might suit him to take the B.Sc. instead; time enough to
think of that. Had he but pursued the Science course from the first,
who at Whitelaw could have come out ahead of him? He had wasted a
couple of years which might have been most profitably applied: by this
time he might have been ready to obtain a position as demonstrator in
some laboratory, on his way perhaps to a professorship. How had he thus
been led astray? Not only had his boyish instincts moved strongly
towards science, but was not the tendency of the age in the same
direction? Buckland Warricombe, who habitually declaimed against
classical study, was perfectly right; the world had learned all it
could from those hoary teachers, and must now turn to Nature. On every
hand, the future was with students of the laws of matter. Often, it was
true, he had been tempted by the thought of a literary career; he had
written in verse and prose, but with small success. An attempt to
compose the Prize Poem was soon abandoned in discouragement; the essay
he sent in had not been mentioned. These honours had fallen to
Earwaker, with whom it was not easy to compete on such ground. No, he
was not born a man of letters. But in science, granted fair
opportunity, he might make a name. He might, and he would!

On the morrow, splendour of sunshine drew him forth to some distance
from the town. He went along the lanes singing; now it was holiday with
him, and for the first time he could enjoy the broad golden daylight,
the genial warmth. In a hollow of grassy fields, where he least
expected to encounter an acquaintance, it was his chance to come upon
Christian Moxey, stretched at full length in the company of nibbling
sheep. Since the dinner at Mr. Moxey's, he had neither seen nor heard
of Christian, who, it seemed probable, was back at his work in
Rotherhithe. As their looks met, both laughed.

'I won't get up,' said Christian; 'the effort would be too great. Sit
down and let us have a talk.'

'I disturb your thoughts,' answered Godwin.

'A most welcome disturbance; they weren't very pleasant just then. In
fact, I have come as far as this in the hope of escaping them. I'm not
much of a walker, are you?'

'Well, yes, I enjoy a good walk.'

'You are of an energetic type,' said Christian, musingly. 'You will do
something in life. When do you go up for Honours?'

'I have decided not to go in at all.'

'Indeed; I'm sorry to hear that.'

'I have half made up my mind not to return to Whitelaw.'

Observing his hearer's look of surprise, Godwin asked himself whether
it signified a knowledge of his footing at Whitelaw. The possibility of
this galled him; but it was such a great step to have declared, as it
were in public, an intention of freeing himself, that he was able to
talk on with something of aggressive confidence.

'I think I shall go in for some practical work of a scientific kind. It
was a mistake for me to pursue the Arts course.'

Christian looked at him earnestly.

'Are you sure of that?'

'Yes, I feel sure of it.'

There was silence. Christian beat the ground with his stick.

'Your state of mind, then,' he said at length, 'is more like my own
than I imagined. I, too, have wavered for a long time between
literature and science, and now at last I have quite
decided--quite--that scientific study is the only safe line for me. The
fact is, a man must concentrate himself. Not only for the sake of
practical success, but--well, for his own sake.'

He spoke lazily, dreamily, propped upon his elbow, seeming to watch the
sheep which panted at a few yards from him.

'I have no right,' he pursued, with a shadow of kindly anxiety on his
features, 'to offer you advice, but--well, if you will let me insist on
what I have learned from my own experience. There's nothing like having
a special line of work and sticking to it vigorously. I, unfortunately,
shall never do anything of any account,--but I know so well the
conflict between diverging tastes. It has played the deuce with me, in
all sorts of ways. At Zurich I utterly wasted my time, and I've done no
better since I came back to England. Don't think me presumptuous. I
only mean--well, it is so important to--to go ahead in one line.'

His air of laughing apology was very pleasant. Godwin felt his heart
open to the kind fellow.

'No one needs the advice more than I,' he replied. 'I am going back to
the line I took naturally when I first began to study at all.'

'But why leave Whitelaw?' asked Christian, gently.

'Because I dislike it--I can't tell you why.'

With ready tact Moxey led away from a subject which he saw was painful.

'Of course there are many other places where one can study just as
well.'

'Do you know anything of the School of Mines in London?' Godwin
inquired, abruptly.

'I worked there myself for a short time.'

'Then you could tell me about the--the fees, and so on?'

Christian readily gave the desired information, and the listener mused
over it.

'Have you any friends in London?' Moxey asked, at length.

'No. But I don't think that matters. I shall work all the harder.'
'Perhaps so,' said the other, with some hesitation. And he added
thoughtfully, 'It depends on one's temperament. Doesn't answer to be
too much alone--I speak for myself at all events. I know very few
people in London--very few that I care anything about. That, in fact,
is one reason why I am staying here longer than I intended.' He seemed
to speak rather to himself than to Godwin; the half-smile on his lips
expressed a wish to disclose circumstances and motives which were yet
hardly a suitable topic in a dialogue such as this. 'I like the
atmosphere of a--of a comfortable home. No doubt I should get on
better--with things in general--if I had a home of my own. I live in
lodgings, you know; my sister lives with friends. Of course one has a
sense of freedom, but then'--

His voice murmured off into silence, and again he beat the ground with
his cane. Godwin was strongly interested in this broken revelation; he
found it difficult to understand Moxey's yearning for domesticity, all
his own impulses leading towards quite a contrary ideal. To him, life
in London lodgings made rich promise; that indeed would be freedom, and
full of all manner of high possibilities!

Each communed with his thoughts. Happening to glance at Christian,
Godwin was struck with the graceful attitude in which the young man
reclined; he himself squatted awkwardly on the grass, unable to abandon
himself in natural repose, even as he found it impossible to talk with
the ease of unconsciousness. The contrast, too, between his garments,
his boots, and those of the Londoner was painful enough to him. Without
being a dandy, Christian, it was evident, gave a good deal of thought
to costume. That kind of thing had always excited Godwin's contempt,
but now he confessed himself envious; doubtless, to be well dressed was
a great step towards the finished ease of what is called a gentlemanly
demeanour, which he knew he was very far from having attained.

'Well,' exclaimed Christian, unexpectedly, 'if I can be of ever so
little use to you, pray let me. I must get back to town in a few days,
but you know my address. Write to me, I beg, if you wish for any more
information.'

The talk turned to less difficult topics. Godwin made inquiries about
Zurich, then about Switzerland in general.

'Did you see much of the Alps?'

'Not as a climber sees them. That sort of thing isn't in my way; I
haven't the energy--more's the pity. Would you like to see a lot of
good photographs I brought back? I have them here; brought them to show
the girls.'

In spite of the five Miss Moxeys and Christian's sister, Peak accepted
the invitation to walk back with his companion, and presently they
began to stroll towards Twybridge.

'I have an absurd tendency to dream--to lose myself amid ideals--I
don't quite know how to express it,' Christian resumed, when both had
been silent for some minutes. 'That's why I mean to go in earnestly for
science--as a corrective. Fortunately, I have to work for my living;
otherwise, I should moon my life away--no doubt. My sister has ten
times as much energy--she knows much more than I do already. What a
splendid thing it is to be of an independent character! I had rather be
a self-reliant coal-heaver than a millionaire of uncertain will. My
uncle--there's a man who knows his own mind. I respect those strong
practical natures. Don't be misled by ideals. Make the most of your
circumstances. Don't aim at--but I beg your pardon; I don't know what
right I have to lecture you in this way.' And he broke off with his
pleasant, kind-hearted laugh, colouring a little.

They reached Mr. Moxey's house. In a garden chair on the lawn sat Miss
Janet, occupied with a book. She rose to meet them, shook hands with
Godwin, and said to her cousin:

'The postman has just left a letter for you--forwarded from London.'

'Indeed? I'm going to show Mr. Peak my Swiss photographs. You wouldn't
care to come and help me in the toil of turning them over?'

'O lazy man!'

Her laugh was joyous. Any one less prejudiced than Peak would have
recognised the beauty which transformed her homely features as she met
Christian's look.

On the hall table lay the letter of which Janet had spoken. Christian
took it up, and Godwin, happening at that moment to observe him, caught
the tremor of a sudden emotion on lip and eyelid. Instantly, prompted
by he knew not what perception, he turned his gaze to Janet, and in
time to see that she also was aware of her cousin's strong interest in
the letter, which was at once put away in Christian's pocket.

They passed into the sitting-room, where a large portfolio stood
against the back of a chair. The half-hour which ensued was to Godwin a
time of uneasiness. His pleasure in the photographs suffered
disturbance from a subtle stress on his nerves, due to something
indeterminable in the situation, of which he formed a part. Janet's
merry humour seemed to be subdued. Christian was obviously forcing
himself to entertain the guest whilst his thoughts were elsewhere. As
soon as possible, Godwin rose to depart. He was just saying good-bye to
Janet, when Marcella entered the room. She stood still, and Christian
said, hurriedly:

'It's possible, Marcella, that Mr. Peak will be coming to London before
long. We may have the pleasure of seeing him there.'

'You will be glad, I'm sure,' answered his sister. Then, as if forcing
herself to address Peak directly, she faced to him and added, 'It isn't
easy to find sympathetic companions.'

'I, at all events, haven't found very many,' Godwin replied, meaning to
speak in a tone only half-serious, but conscious at once that he had
made what might seem an appeal for sympathy. Thereupon his pride
revolted, and in a moment drove him from the room.

Christian followed, and at the front door shook hands with him. Nervous
impatience was unmistakable in the young man's look and words. Again
Godwin speculated on the meaning of this, and wondered, in connection
therewith, what were the characteristics which Marcella Moxey looked
for in a 'sympathetic companion'.



CHAPTER V


In the course of the afternoon, Godwin sat down to pen the rough draft
of a letter to Lady Whitelaw. When the first difficulties were
surmounted, he wrote rapidly, and at considerable length. It was not
easy, at his time of life, to compress into the limits of an ordinary
epistle all he wished to say to the widow of his benefactor. His
purpose was, with all possible respect yet as firmly as might be, to
inform Lady Whitelaw that he could not spend the last of his proposed
three years at the College in Kingsmill, and furthermore to request of
her that she would permit his using the promised sum of money as a
student at the Royal School of Mines. This had to be done without
confession of the reasons for his change of plan; he could not even
hint at them. Yet cause must be assigned, and the best form of words he
could excogitate ran thus: 'Family circumstances render it
desirable--almost necessary--that I should spend the next twelve months
in London. In spite of sincere reluctance to leave Whitelaw College, I
am compelled to take this step.' The lady must interpret that as best
she might. Very hard indeed was the task of begging a continuance of
her bounty under these changed conditions. Could he but have resigned
the money, all had been well; his tone might then have been dignified
without effort. But such disinterestedness he could not afford. His
mother might grant him money enough barely to live upon until he
discovered means of support--for his education she was unable to pay.
After more than an hour's work he had moderately satisfied himself;
indeed, several portions of the letter struck him as well composed, and
he felt that they must heighten the reader's interest in him. With an
author's pleasure (though at the same time with much uneasiness) he
perused the appeal again and again.

Late in the evening, when he was alone with his mother, he told her
what he had done, and read the letter for her opinion. Mrs. Peak was
gravely troubled.

'Lady Whitelaw will ask her sisters for an explanation,' she said.

'I have thought of that,' Godwin replied, with the confident, cheerful
air he had assumed from the first. 'If the Miss Lumbs go to aunt, she
must be prepared to put them off in some way. But look here, mother,
when uncle has opened his shop, it's pretty certain that some one or
other will hit on the true explanation of my disappearance. Let them.
Then Lady Whitelaw will understand and forgive me.'

After much musing, the mother ventured a timid question, the result of
her anxieties rather than of her judgment on the point at issue.

'Godwin, dear, are you quite sure that his shop would make so much
difference?'

The young man gave a passionate start.

'What! To have the fellows going there to eat, and hearing his talk,
and--? Not for a day could I bear it! Not for an hour!'

He was red with anticipated shame, and his voice shook with indignation
at the suggested martyrdom. Mrs. Peak dried a tear.

'You would be so alone in London, Godwin.'

'Not a bit of it. Young Mr. Moxey will be a useful friend, I am
convinced he will. To tell you the whole truth, I aim at getting a
place at the works in Rotherhithe, where he no doubt has influence. You
see, mother, I might manage it even before the end of the year. Our Mr.
Moxey will be disposed to help me with his recommendation.'

'But, my dear, wouldn't it come to the same thing, then, if you went
back to Mr. Moxey's?'

He made a gesture of impatience.

'No, no, no! I couldn't live at Twybridge. I have my way to make,
mother, and the place for that is London. You know I am ambitious.
Trust me for a year or two, and see the result. I depend upon your help
in this whole affair. Don't refuse it me. I have done with Whitelaw,
and I have done with Twybridge: now comes London. You can't regard me
as a boy, you know.'

'No--but'--

'But me no buts!' he cried, laughing excitedly. 'The thing is settled.
As soon as possible in the morning I post this letter. I feel it will
be successful. See aunt to-morrow, and get her support. Mind that
Charlotte and Oliver don't talk to people. If you all use discretion,
there's no need for any curiosity to be excited.'

When Godwin had taken a resolve, there was no domestic influence strong
enough to prevent his acting upon it. Mrs. Peak's ignorance of the
world, her mild passivity, and the faith she had in her son's
intellectual resources, made her useless as a counsellor, and from no
one else--now that Mr. Gunnery was dead--would the young man have
dreamt of seeking guidance. Whatever Lady Whitelaw's reply, he had made
up his mind to go to London. Should his subsidy be refused, then he
would live on what his mother could allow him until--probably with the
aid of Christian Moxey--he might obtain a salaried position. The letter
was despatched, and with feverish impatience he awaited a reply.

Nine days passed, and he heard nothing. Half that delay sufficed to
bring out all the self-tormenting capacities of a nature such as his.
To his mother's conjectural explanations he could lend no ear.
Doubtless Lady Whitelaw (against whom, for subtle reasons, he was
already prejudiced) had taken offence; either she would not reply at
all, or presently there would come a few lines of polite displeasure,
intimating her disinclination to aid his project. He silently raged
against 'the woman'. Her neglect was insolence. Had she not delicacy
enough to divine the anxiety natural to one in his dependent position?
Did she take him for an every-day writer of mendicant appeals? His
pride fed upon the outrage and became fierce.

Then arrived a small glossy envelope, containing a tiny sheet of very
thick note-paper, whereon it was written that Lady Whitelaw regretted
her tardiness in replying to him (caused by her absence from home), and
hoped he would be able to call upon her, at ten o'clock next morning,
at the house of her sisters, the Misses Lumb, where she was stopping
for a day--she remained his sincerely.

Having duly contorted this note into all manner of painful meanings,
Godwin occupied an hour in making himself presentable (scornful that he
should deem such trouble necessary), and with furiously beating heart
set out to walk through Twybridge. Arrived at the house, he was led by
a servant into the front room on the ground floor, where Lady Whitelaw,
alone, sat reading a newspaper. Her features were of a very common
order, and nothing distinguished her from middle-aged women of average
refinement; she had chubby hands, rather broad shoulders, and no
visible waist. The scrutiny she bestowed upon her visitor was close. To
Godwin's feelings it too much resembled that with which she would have
received an applicant for the post of footman. Yet her smile was
friendly enough, and no lack of civility appeared in the repetition of
her excuses for having replied so late.

'Let us talk about this,' she began, when Godwin was uneasily seated.
(She spoke with an excess of precision, as though it had at one time
been needful for her to premeditate polished phrases.) 'I am very sorry
you should have to think of quitting the College; very sorry indeed.
You are one of the students who do honour to the institution.'

This was pleasant, and Godwin felt a regret of the constraint that was
upon him. In his endeavour not to display a purring smile, he looked
grim, as if the compliment were beneath his notice.

'Pray don't think,' she pursued, 'that I wish you to speak more fully
about the private circumstances you refer to in your letter. But do let
me ask you: Is your decision final? Are you sure that when the
vacations are over you will see things just as you do now?'

'I am quite sure of it,' he replied.

The emphasis was merely natural to him. He could not so govern his
voice as to convey the respectful regret which at this moment he felt.
A younger lady, one who had heightened the charm of her compliment with
subtle harmony of tones and strongly feminine gaze, would perhaps have
elicited from him a free confession. Gratitude and admiration would
have made him capable of such frankness. But in the face of this
newspaper-reading woman (yes, he had unaccountably felt it jar upon him
that a lady should be reading a newspaper), under her matronly smile,
he could do no more than plump out his 'quite sure'. To Lady Whitelaw
it sounded altogether too curt; she was conscious of her position as
patroness, and had in fact thought it likely that the young man would
be disposed to gratify her curiosity in some measure.

'I can only say that I am sorry to hear it,' fell from her tightened
lips, after a moment's pause.

Instantly Godwin's pride expelled the softer emotion. He pressed hard
with his feet upon the floor, every nerve in his body tense with that
distressing passion peculiar to the shyly arrogant. Regard him, and you
had imagined he was submitting to rebuke for an offence he could not
deny.

Lady Whitelaw waited. A minute, almost, and Peak gave no sign of
opening his mouth.

'It is certainly much to be regretted,' she said at length, coolly. 'Of
course, I don't know what prospects you may have in London, but, if you
had remained at the College, something advantageous would no doubt have
offered before long.'

There went small tact to the wording of this admonition. Impossible for
Lady Whitelaw to understand the complexities of a character such as
Godwin's, even had she enjoyed opportunities of studying it; but many a
woman of the world would have directed herself more cautiously after
reading that letter of his. Peak's impulse was to thank her for the
past, and declare that henceforth he would dispense with aid; only the
choking in his throat obstructed some such utterance. He resented
profoundly her supposition (natural enough) that his chief aim was to
establish himself in a self-supporting career. What? Am I to be
grateful for a mere chance of earning my living? Have I not shown that
I am capable of something more than the ordinary lot in life? From the
heights of her assured independence, does she look down upon me as a
young man seeking a 'place'? He was filled with wrath, and all because
a good, commonplace woman could not divine that he dreamt of European
fame.

'I am very sorry that I can't take that into account,' he managed to
say. 'I wish to give this next year exclusively to scientific study,
and after that I shall see what course is open to me.'

He was not of the men who can benefit by patronage, and be simply
grateful for it. His position was a false one: to be begging with
awkward show of thankfulness for a benefaction which in his heart he
detested. He knew himself for an undesigning hypocrite, and felt that
he might as well have been a rascal complete. Gratitude! No man capable
of it in fuller measure than he; but not to such persons as Lady
Whitelaw. Before old Sir Job he could more easily have bowed himself.
But this woman represented the superiority of mere brute wealth,
against which his soul rebelled.

There was another disagreeable silence, during which Lady Whitelaw
commented on her protege very much as Mrs. Warricombe had done.

'Will you allow me to ask,' she said at length, with cold politeness,
'whether you have acquaintances in London?'

'Yes. I know some one who studied at the School of Mines.'

'Well, Mr. Peak, I see that your mind is made up. And no doubt you are
the best judge of your private circumstances. I must ask you to let me
think over the matter for a day or two. I will write to you.'

'And I to you,' thought Godwin; a resolve which enabled him to rise
with something like a conventional smile, and thus put an end to a very
brief and quite unsatisfactory interview.

He strode homewards in a state of feverish excitement. His own
behaviour had been wretchedly clownish; he was only too well aware of
that. He ought to have put aside all the grosser aspects of his case,
and have exhibited the purely intellectual motives which made such a
change as he purposed seem desirable to him. That would have been to
act with dignity; that would have been the very best form of gratitude
for the kindness he had received. But no, his accursed lack of
self-possession had ruined all. 'The woman was now offended in good
earnest; he saw it in her face at parting. The fault was admittedly on
his side, but what right had she to talk about 'something
advantageous'? She would write to him, to be sure; that meant, she
could not yet make up her mind whether to grant the money or not. Pluto
take the money! Long before sitting down to her glossy note-paper she
should have received a letter from _him_.

Composed already. Now he was up in the garret bedroom, scribbling as
fast as pen could fly over paper. He had been guilty of a mistake--so
ran the epistle; having decided to leave Whitelaw, he ought never to
have requested a continuance of the pension. He begged Lady Whitelaw
would forgive this thoughtless impropriety; she had made him understand
the full extent of his error. Of course he could not accept anything
more from her. As for the past, it would be idle for him to attempt an
expression of his indebtedness. But for Sir Job's munificence, he must
now have been struggling to complete a radically imperfect
education,--'instead of going into the world to make a place for myself
among the scientific investigators of our time'.

One's claims to respectful treatment must be put forward unmistakably,
especially in dealing with such people as Lady Whitelaw. Now, perhaps,
she would understand what his reserve concealed. The satisfaction of
declining further assistance was enormous. He read his letter several
times aloud. This was the great style; he could imagine this incident
forming a landmark in the biography of a notable man. Now for a fair
copy, and in a hand, mind you, that gave no hint of his care for
caligraphic seemliness: bold, forthright.

The letter in his pocket, he went downstairs. His mother had been out
all the morning; now she was just returned, and Godwin saw trouble on
her forehead. Anxiously she inquired concerning the result of his
interview.

Now that it was necessary to make an intelligible report of what had
happened, Godwin found his tongue falter. How could he convey to
another the intangible sense of wounded dignity which had impelled his
pen? Instead of producing the letter with a flourish, he answered with
affected carelessness:

'I am to hear in a day or two.'

'Did she seem to take it--in the right way?'

'She evidently thinks of me too much as a schoolboy.'

And he began to pace the room. Mrs. Peak sat still, with an air of
anxious brooding.

'You don't think she will refuse, Godwin?' fell from her presently.

His hand closed on the letter.

'Why? Well, in that case I should go to London and find some occupation
as soon as possible. You could still let me have the same money as
before?'

'Yes.'

It was said absently, and did not satisfy Godwin. In the course of the
conversation it appeared that Mrs. Peak had that morning been to see
the legal friend who looked after her small concerns, and though she
would not admit that she had any special cause for uneasiness, her son
recalled similar occasions when an interview with Mr. Dutch had been
followed by several days' gloom. The truth was that Mrs Peak could not
live strictly within the income at her disposal, and on being from time
to time reminded of this, she was oppressed by passing worry. If Godwin
and Oliver 'got on well,' things would come all right in the end, but
in the meantime she could not face additional expenditure. Godwin did
not like to be reminded of the razor's edge on which the affairs of the
household were balanced. At present it brought about a very sudden
change in his state of mind; he went upstairs again, and sat with the
letter before him, sunk in misery. The reaction had given him a
headache.

A fortnight, and no word from Lady Whitelaw. But neither was Godwin's
letter posted.

Was he at liberty to indulge the self-respect which urged him to write?
In a moment of heated confidence it was all very well to talk of
'getting some occupation' in London, but he knew that this might prove
no easy matter. A year's work at the School of Mines would decidedly
facilitate his endeavour; and, seeing that his mother's peace depended
upon his being speedily self-supporting, was it not a form of
selfishness to reject help from one who could well afford it? From a
distance, he regarded Lady Whitelaw with more charity; a longer talk
with her might have led to better mutual apprehension. And, after all,
it was not she but her husband to whom he would stand indebted. Sir Job
was a very kind-hearted old fellow; he had meant thoroughly well. Why,
clearly, the bestower of this third year's allowance would not be Lady
Whitelaw at all.

If it were granted. Godwin began to suffer a troublesome misgiving;
perchance he had gone too far, and was now, in fact, abandoned to his
own resources.

Three weeks. Then came the expected letter, and, as he opened it, his
heart leaped at the sight of a cheque--talisman of unrivalled power
over the emotions of the moneyless! Lady Whitelaw wrote briefly and
formally. Having considered Godwin's request, she had no reason for
doubting that he would make a good use of the proposed year at the
School of Mines, and accordingly she sent him the sum which Sir Job had
intended for his final session at Whitelaw College. She wished him all
benefit from his studies, and prosperity henceforth.

Rejoicing, though shame-smitten, Godwin exhibited this remittance to
his mother, from whom it drew a deep sigh of relief. And forthwith he
sat down to write quite a different letter from that which still lay in
his private drawer,--a letter which he strove to make the justification
(to his own mind) of this descent to humility. At considerable length
he dwelt upon the change of tastes of which he had been conscious
lately, and did not fail to make obvious the superiority of his
ambition to all thought of material advancement. He offered his thanks,
and promised to give an account of himself (as in duty bound) at the
close of the twelvemonths' study he was about to undertake: a letter in
which the discerning would have read much sincerity, and some pathos;
after all, not a letter to be ashamed of. Lady Whitelaw would not
understand it; but then, how many people are capable of even faintly
apprehending the phenomena of mental growth?

And now to plan seriously his mode of life in London. With Christian
Moxey he was so slightly acquainted that it was impossible to seek his
advice with regard to lodgings; besides, the lodgings must be of a
character far too modest to come within Mr. Moxey's sphere of
observation. Other acquaintance he had none in the capital, so it was
clear that he must enter boldly upon the unknown world, and find a home
for himself as best he might. Mrs. Peak could offer suggestions as to
likely localities, and this was of course useful help. In the meantime
(for it would be waste of money to go up till near the end of the
holiday season) he made schemes of study and completed his information
concerning the School of Mines. So far from lamenting the interruption
of his promising career at Whitelaw, he persuaded himself that Uncle
Andrew had in truth done him a very good turn: now at length he was
fixed in the right course. The only thing he regretted was losing sight
of his two or three student-friends, especially Earwaker and Buckland
Warricombe. They, to be sure, would soon guess the reason of his
disappearance. Would they join in the laughter certain to be excited by
'Peak's Dining and Refreshment Rooms'? Probably; how could they help
it? Earwaker might be superior to a prejudice of that kind; his own
connections were of humble standing. But Warricombe must wince and
shrug his shoulders. Perhaps even some of the Professors would have
their attention directed to the ludicrous mishap: they were gentlemen,
and, even though they smiled, must certainly sympathise with him.

Wait a little. Whitelaw College should yet remember the student who
seemed to have vanished amid the world's obscure tumult.

Resolved that he was about to turn his back on Twybridge for ever, he
found the conditions of life there quite supportable through this last
month or two; the family reaped benefit from his improved temper. Even
to Mr. Cusse he behaved with modified contempt. Oliver was judicious
enough to suppress his nigger minstrelsy and kindred demonstrations of
spirit in his brother's presence, and Charlotte, though steadily
resentful, did her best to avoid conflict.

Through the Misses Lumb, Godwin's change of purpose had of course
become known to his aunt, who for a time took it ill that these debates
had been concealed from her. When Mrs. Peak, in confidence, apprised
her of the disturbing cause, Miss Cadman's indignation knew no bounds.
What! That low fellow had been allowed to interfere with the progress
of Godwin Peak's education, and not a protest uttered? He should have
been _forbidden_ to establish himself in Kingsmill! Why had they not
taken _her_ into council? She would have faced the man, and have
overawed him; he should have been made to understand the gross
selfishness of his behaviour. Never had she heard of such a monstrous
case--

Godwin spent much time in quiet examination of the cabinets bequeathed
to him by Mr. Gunnery. He used a pound or two of Lady Whitelaw's money
for the purchase of scientific books, and set to work upon them with
freshened zeal. The early morning and late evening were given to
country walks, from which he always returned with brain excited by the
forecast of great achievements.

When the time of his departure approached, he decided to pay a farewell
visit to Mr. Moxey. He chose an hour when the family would probably be
taking their ease in the garden. Three of the ladies were, in fact,
amusing themselves with croquet, while their father, pipe in mouth,
bent over a bed of calceolarias.

'What's this that I hear?' exclaimed Mr. Moxey, as he shook hands. 'You
are not going back to Whitelaw?'

The story had of course spread among all Twybridge people who knew
anything of the Peaks, and it was generally felt that some mystery was
involved. Godwin had reasonably feared that his obligations to Sir Job
Whitelaw must become known; impossible for such a matter to be kept
secret; all who took any interest in the young man had long been
privately acquainted with the facts of his position. Now that
discussion was rife, it would have been prudent in the Misses Lumb to
divulge as much of the truth at they knew, but (in accordance with the
law of natural perversity) they maintained a provoking silence. Hence
whispers and suspicious questions, all wide of the mark. No one had as
yet heard of Andrew Peak, and it seemed but too likely that Lady
Whitelaw, for some good reason, had declined to discharge the expenses
of Godwin's last year at the College.

Mr. Moxey himself felt that an explanation was desirable, but he
listened with his usual friendly air to Godwin's account of the
matter--which of course included no mention of Lady Whitelaw.

'Have you friends in London?' he inquired--like everyone else.

'No. Except that your nephew was so kind as to ask me to call on him,
if ever I happened to be there.'

There passed over Mr. Moxey's countenance a curious shadow. Godwin
noticed it, and at once concluded that the manufacturer condemned
Christian for undue advances to one below his own station. The result
of this surmise was of course a sudden coldness on Godwin's part,
increased when he found that Mr. Moxey turned to another subject,
without a word about his nephew.

In less than ten minutes he offered to take leave, and no one urged him
to stay longer. Mr. Moxey made sober expression of good wishes, and
hoped he might hear that the removal to London had proved
'advantageous'. This word sufficed to convert Godwin's irritation into
wrath; he said an abrupt 'good-evening', raised his hat as awkwardly as
usual, and stalked away.

A few paces from the garden gate, he encountered Miss Janet Moxey, just
coming home from walk or visit. Another grab at his hat, and he would
have passed without a word, but the girl stopped him.

'We hear that you are going to London, Mr. Peak.'

'Yes, I am, Miss Moxey.'

She examined his face, and seemed to hesitate.

'Perhaps you have just been to say good-bye to father?'

'Yes.'

Janet paused, looked away, again turned her eyes upon him.

'You have friends there, I hope?' she ventured.

'No, I have none.'

'My cousin--Christian, you remember--would, I am sure, be very glad to
help you in any way.' Her voice sank, and at the same time she coloured
just perceptibly under Godwin's gaze.

'So he assured me,' was the reply. 'But I must learn to be independent,
Miss Moxey.'

Whereupon Godwin performed a salute, and marched forward.

His boxes were packed, and now he had but one more evening in the old
home. It was made less pleasant than it might have been by a piece of
information upon which he by chance alighted in a newspaper. The result
of the Honours examination for the First B.A. at London had just been
made known, and in two subjects a high place was assigned to Bruno
Leathwaite Chilvers--not the first place happily, but it was
disagreeable enough.

Pooh! what matter? What are academic successes? Ten years hence, which
name would have wider recognition--Bruno Chilvers or Godwin Peak? He
laughed with scornful superiority.

No one was to accompany him to the station; on that he insisted. He had
decided for as early a train as possible, that the dolours of
leave-taking might be abridged. At a quarter to eight the cab drove up
to the door. Out with the trunks labelled 'London'!

'Take care of the cabinets!' were his last words to his mother. 'I may
want to have them sent before long.'

He implied, what he had not ventured to say plainly, that he was
leaving Twybridge for good, and henceforth would not think of it as
home. In these moments of parting, he resented the natural feeling
which brought moisture to his eyes. He hardened himself against the
ties of blood, and kept repeating to himself a phrase in which of late
he had summed his miseries: 'I was born in exile--born in exile.' Now
at length had he set forth on a voyage of discovery, to end perchance
in some unknown land among his spiritual kith and kin.



Part II



CHAPTER I


In the spring of 1882 Mr. Jarvis Runcorn, editor and co-proprietor of
the London _Weekly Post_, was looking about for a young man of
journalistic promise whom he might associate with himself in the
conduct of that long established Radical paper. The tale of his years
warned him that he could not hope to support much longer a burden which
necessarily increased with the growing range and complexity of public
affairs. Hitherto he had been the autocrat of the office, but competing
Sunday papers exacted an alertness, a versatile vigour, such as only
youth can supply; for there was felt to be a danger that the _Weekly
Post_ might lose its prestige in democratic journalism. Thus on the
watch, Mr. Runcorn--a wary man of business, who had gone through many
trades before he reached that of weekly literature--took counsel one
day with a fellow-campaigner, Malkin by name, who owned two or three
country newspapers, and had reaped from them a considerable fortune; in
consequence, his attention was directed to one John Earwaker, then
editing the _Wattleborough Courier_. Mr. Malkin's eldest son had
recently stood as Liberal candidate for Wattleborough, and though
defeated was loud in his praise of the _Courier_; with its editor he
had come to be on terms of intimate friendship. Earwaker was well
acquainted with journalistic life in the provinces. He sprang from a
humble family living at Kingsmill, had studied at Whitelaw College, and
was now but nine-and-twenty: the style of his 'leaders' seemed to mark
him for a wider sphere of work. It was decided to invite him to London,
and the young man readily accepted Mr. Runcorn's proposals. A few
months later he exchanged temporary lodgings for chambers in Staple
Inn, where he surrounded himself with plain furniture and many books.

In personal appearance he had changed a good deal since that prize-day
at Whitelaw when his success as versifier and essayist foretold a
literary career. His figure was no longer ungainly; the big head seemed
to fit better upon the narrow shoulders. He neither walked with
extravagant paces, nor waved his arms like a windmill. A sufficiency of
good food, and the habit of intercourse with active men; had given him
an every-day aspect; perhaps the sole peculiarity he retained from
student times was his hollow chuckle of mirth, a laugh which struggled
vainly for enlargement. He dressed with conventional decency, even
submitting to the chimney-pot hat. His features betrayed connection
with a physically coarse stock; but to converse with him was to
discover the man of original vigour and wide intellectual scope. With
ordinary companions, it was a rare thing for him to speak of his
professional interests. But for his position on _The Weekly Post_ it
would not have been easy to surmise how he stood with regard to
politics, and he appeared to lean as often towards the conservative as
to the revolutionary view of abstract questions.

The newspaper left him time for other literary work, and it was known
to a few people that he wrote with some regularity for reviews, but all
the products of his pen were anonymous. A fact which remained his own
secret was that he provided for the subsistence of his parents, old
people domiciled in a quiet corner of their native Kingsmill. The
strict sobriety of life which is indispensable to success in such a
career as this cost him no effort. He smoked moderately, ate and drank
as little as might be, could keep his health on six hours of sleep, and
for an occasional holiday liked to walk his twenty or thirty miles.
Earwaker was naturally marked for survival among the fittest.

On an evening of June in the year '84, he was interrupted whilst
equipping himself for dinner abroad, by a thunderous rat-tat-tat.

'You must wait, my friend, whoever you are,' he murmured placidly, as
he began to struggle with the stiff button-holes of his shirt.

The knock was repeated, and more violently.

'Now there's only one man of my acquaintance who knocks like that,' he
mused, elaborating the bow of his white tie. 'He, I should imagine, is
in Brazil; but there's no knowing. Perhaps our office is on
fire.--Anon, anon!'

He made haste to don waistcoat and swallow-tail, then crossed his
sitting-room and flung open the door of the chambers.

'Ha! Then it _is_ you! I was reminded of your patient habits.'

A tall man, in a light overcoat and a straw hat of spacious brim, had
seized both his hands, with shouts of excited greeting.

'Confound you! Why did you keep me waiting? I thought I had missed you
for the evening. How the deuce are you? And why the devil have you left
me without a line from you for more than six months?'

Earwaker drew aside, and allowed his tumultuous friend to rush into the
nearest room.

'Why haven't you written?--confound you!' was again vociferated, amid
bursts of boyish laughter. 'Why hasn't anybody written?'

'If everybody was as well informed of your movements as I, I don't
wonder,' replied the journalist. 'Since you left Buenos Ayres, I have
had two letters, each containing twenty words, which gave me to
understand that no answer could by possibility reach you.'

'Humbug! You could have written to half-a-dozen likely places. Did I
really say that? Ha, ha, ha!--Shake hands again, confound you! How do
you do? Do I look well? Have I a tropical colour? I say, what a blessed
thing it was that I got beaten down at Wattleborough! All this time I
should have been sitting in the fog at Westminster. What a time I've
had! What a time I've had!'

It was more than twelve months since Malkin's departure from England.
Though sun and sea had doubtless contributed to his robustness, he must
always have been a fair example of the vigorous Briton. His broad
shoulders, upright bearing, open countenance, and frank resonant voice,
declared a youth passed amid the wholesome conditions which wealth
alone can command. The hearty extravagance of his friendliness was only
possible in a man who has never been humiliated by circumstances, never
restricted in his natural needs of body and mind. Yet he had more than
the heartiness of a contented Englishman. The vivacity which made a
whirlwind about him probably indicated some ancestral mingling with the
blood of a more ardent race. Earwaker examined him with a smile of
pleasure.

'It's unfortunate,' he said, 'that I have to go out to dinner.'

'Dinner! Pooh! we can get dinner anywhere.'

'No doubt, but I am engaged.'

'The devil you are! Who is she? Why didn't you write to tell me?'

'The word has a less specific meaning, my dear fellow,' replied
Earwaker, laughing. 'Only you of all men would have rushed at the wrong
one. I mean to say--if your excitement can take in so common a
fact--that I have promised to dine with some people at Notting Hill,
and mustn't disappoint them.'

Malkin laughed at his mistake, then shouted:

'Notting Hill! Isn't that somewhere near Fulham? We'll take a cab, and
I can drop you on my way.'

'It wouldn't be on the way at all.'

The journalist's quiet explanation was cut short by a petulant outcry.

'Oh, very well! Of course if you want to get rid of me! I should have
thought after sixteen months'--

'Don't be idiotic,' broke in the other. 'There's a strong feminine
element in you, Malkin; that's exactly the kind of talk with which
women drive men to frenzy.'

'Feminine element!' shouted the traveller with hot face. 'What do you
mean? I propose to take a cab with you, and you'--

Earwaker turned away laughing. 'Time and distance are nothing to you,
and I shall be very glad of your company. Come by all means.'

His friend was instantly appeased.

'Don't let me make you late, Earwaker. Must we start this moment? Come
along, then. Can I carry anything for you? Lord! if you could only see
a tropical forest! How do you get on with old Runcorn? _Write_? What
the devil was the use of my writing, when words are powerless to
describe--? What a rum old place this seems, after experiences like
mine; how the deuce can you live here? I say, I've brought you a ton of
curiosities; will make your rooms look like a museum. Confound it! I've
broken my shin against the turn in the staircase! Whew! Who are you
going to dine with?--Moxey? Never heard the name.'

In Holborn a hansom was hailed, and the friends continued their
dialogue as they drove westward. Having at length effervesced, Malkin
began to exchange question and answer with something of the calm
needful for mutual intelligibility.

'And how do you get on with old Runcorn?'

'As well as can be expected where there is not a single subject of
agreement,' Earwaker replied. 'I have hopes of reducing our
circulation.'

'What the deuce do you mean?'

'In other words, of improving the paper. Runcorn is strong on the side
of blackguardism. We had a great fight the other day over a leader
offered by Kenyon,--a true effusion of the political gutter-snipe. I
refused point-blank to let it go in; Runcorn swore that, if I did not,
_I_ should go _out_. I offered to retire that moment. "We must write
for our public," he bellowed. "True," said I, "but not necessarily for
the basest among them. The standard at the best is low enough." "Do you
call yourself a Radical?" "Not if this be Radicalism." "You ought to be
on the _Morning_ instead of the _Weekly Post_." I had my way, and
probably shall end by sending Mr Kenyon back to his tinker's work shop.
If not, I must look out for cleaner occupation.'

'Go it, my boy! Go it!' cried Malkin, slapping his companion's knee
violently. 'Raise the tone! To the devil with mercenary considerations!
Help the proletariat out of its grovelling position.'

They approached the street where Earwaker had to alight. The other
declared his intention of driving on to Fulham in the hope of finding a
friend who lived there.

'But I must see you again. When shall you be home to-night?'

'About half-past eleven, I dare say.'

'Right! If I am free I'll come out to Staple Inn, and we'll talk till
three or four.'

The house at which the journalist presented himself was such as might
be inhabited by a small family of easy means. As he was taking off his
overcoat, a door opened and Christian Moxey came forward to greet him.
They shook hands like men who stood on friendly, but not exactly on
intimate, terms.

'Will you come up to the laboratory for a moment?' said Moxey. 'I
should like to show you something I have under the microscope.'

The room he spoke of was at the top of the house; two chambers had been
made into one, and the fittings were those required by a student of
physical science. Various odours distressed the air. A stranger to the
pursuits represented might have thought that the general disorder and
encumberment indicated great activity, but the experienced eye
perceived at once that no methodical work was here in progress.
Mineralogy, botany, biology, physics, and probably many other sciences,
were suggested by the specimens and apparatus that lay confusedly on
tables, shelves, or floor.

Moxey looked very slim and elegant in his evening costume. When he
touched any object, his long, translucent fingers seemed soft and
sensitive as a girl's. He stepped with peculiar lightness, and the
harmonious notes of his voice were in keeping with these other
characteristics. Ten years had developed in him that graceful languor
which at four-and-twenty was only beginning to get mastery over the
energies of a well-built frame.

'This stuff here,' he said, pointing to an open box full of mud, 'is
silt from down the Thames. It's positively loaded with
_diatomaceoe_,--you remember our talking about them when you were last
here? I am working at the fabric of the valves. Now, just look!'

Earwaker, with attentive smile, followed the demonstration.

'Peak is busy with them as well,' said Christian, presently. 'Has he
told you his theory of their locomotion? Nobody has found out yet how
the little beggars move about. Peak has a bright idea.'

They spent ten minutes in the laboratory, then went downstairs. Two
other guests had meanwhile arrived, and were conversing with the
hostess, Miss Moxey. The shy, awkward, hard-featured girl was grown
into a woman whose face made such declaration of intellect and
character that, after the first moment, one became indifferent to its
lack of feminine beauty. As if with the idea of compensating for
personal disadvantages, she was ornately dressed; her abundant tawny
hair had submitted to much manipulation, and showed the gleam of
jewels; expense and finished craft were manifest in every detail of her
garb. Though slightly round-shouldered, her form was well-proportioned
and suggested natural vigour. Like Christian, she had delicate hands.

'Do you know a distinguished clergyman, named Chilvers?' she asked of
Earwaker, with a laugh, when he had taken a place by her.

'Chilvers?--Is it Bruno Chilvers, I wonder?'

'That's the name!' exclaimed one of the guests, a young married lady of
eager face and fidgety manners.

'Then I knew him at College, but I had no idea he was become
distinguished.'

Miss Moxey again laughed.

'Isn't it amusing, the narrowness of a great clerical reputation? Mrs.
Morton was astonished that I had never heard his name.'

'Please don't think,' appealed the lady, looking anxiously at Earwaker,
'that I consider it shameful not to know him. I only happened to
mention a very ridiculous sermon of his, that was forced upon me by a
distressingly orthodox friend of mine. They tell me, he is one of the
newest lights of the Church.'

Earwaker listened with amusement, and then related anecdotes of Bruno
Chilvers. Whilst he was talking, the door opened to admit another
arrival, and a servant's voice announced 'Mr. Peak'. Miss Moxey rose,
and moved a step or two forward; a change was visible on her
countenance, which had softened and lightened.

'I am very sorry to be late,' said the new-comer, in a dull and rather
husky voice, which made strong contrast with the humorous tones his
entrance had interrupted.

He shook hands in silence with the rest of the company, giving merely a
nod and a smile as reply to some gracious commonplace from Mrs. Morton.

'Has it come to your knowledge,' Earwaker asked of him, 'that Bruno
Chilvers is exciting the orthodox world by his defence of Christianity
against neo-heathenism?'

'Chilvers?--No.'

'Mrs. Morton tells us that all the Church newspapers ring with his
name.'

'Please don't think,' cried Mrs. Morton, with the same anxious look as
before, 'that I read such papers. We never have such a thing in our
house, Mr. Peak. I have only been told about it.'

Peak smiled gravely, but made no other answer. Then he turned to
Earwaker.

'Where is he?'

'I can't say. Perhaps Mrs. Morton'--

'They tell me he is somewhere in Norfolk,' replied the lady. 'I forget
the town.'

A summons to dinner broke off the conversation. Moxey offered his arm
to the one lady present as guest, and Earwaker did the same courtesy to
the hostess. Mr. Morton, a meditative young man who had been listening
with a smile of indifference, sauntered along in the rear with Godwin
Peak.

At the dinner-table Peak was taciturn, and seemed to be musing on a
disagreeable subject. To remarks, he answered briefly and absently. As
Moxey, Earwaker, and Mrs. Morton kept up lively general talk, this
muteness was not much noticed, but when the ladies had left the room,
and Peak still frowned over his wineglass, the journalist rebuked him.

'What's the matter with you? Don't depress us.'

The other laughed impatiently, and emptied his glass.

'Malkin has come back,' pursued Earwaker. 'He burst in upon me, just as
I was leaving home--as mad as a March hare. You must come and meet him
some evening.'

'As you please.'

Returned to the upper room, Peak seated himself in a shadowy corner,
crossed his legs, thrust his hands into his pockets, and leaned back to
regard a picture on the wall opposite. This attitude gave sufficient
proof of the change that had been wrought in him by the years between
nineteen and nine-and-twenty; even in a drawing-room, he could take his
ease unconcernedly. His face would have led one to suppose him an older
man; it was set in an expression of stern, if not morose,
thoughtfulness.

He had small, hard lips, indifferent teeth (seldom exhibited), a
prominent chin, a long neck; his body was of firm, not ungraceful
build. Society's evening uniform does not allow a man much scope in the
matter of adornments; it was plain, however, that Godwin no longer
scorned the tailor and haberdasher. He wore a suit which confidently
challenged the criticism of experts, and the silk socks visible above
his shoes might have been selected by the most fastidious of worldlings.

When he had sat there for some minutes, his eyes happened to stray
towards Miss Moxey, who was just then without a companion. Her glance
answered to his, and a smile of invitation left him no choice but to
rise and go to a seat beside her.

'You are meditative this evening,' she said, in a voice subdued below
its ordinary note.

'Not very fit for society, to tell the truth,' Godwin answered,
carelessly. 'One has such moods, you know. But how would you take it
if, at the last moment, I sent a telegram, "Please excuse me. Don't
feel able to talk"?'

'You don't suppose I should be offended?'

'Certainly you would.'

'Then you know less of me than I thought.'

Her eyes wandered about the room, their smile betokening an uneasy
self-consciousness.

'Christian tells me,' she continued, 'that you are going to take your
holiday in Cornwall.'

'I thought of it. But perhaps I shan't leave town at all. It wouldn't
be worth while, if I go abroad at the end of the year.'

'Abroad?' Marcella glanced at him. 'What scheme is that?'

'Haven't I mentioned it? I want to go to South America and the Pacific
islands. Earwaker has a friend, who has just come back from travel in
the tropics; the talk about it has half decided me to leave England. I
have been saving money for years to that end.'

'You never spoke of it--to me, Marcella replied, turning a bracelet on
her wrist. 'Should you go alone?'

'Of course. I couldn't travel in company. You know how impossible it
would be for me to put up with the moods and idiosyncrasies of other
men.'

There was a quiet arrogance in his tone. The listener still smiled, but
her fingers worked nervously.

'You are not so unsocial as you pretend,' she remarked, without looking
at him.

'Pretend! I make no pretences of any kind,' was his scornful answer.

'You are ungracious this evening.'

'Yes--and can't hide it.'

'Don't try to, I beg. But at least tell me what troubles you.'

'That's impossible,' Peak replied, drily.

'Then friendship goes for nothing,' said Marcella, with a little forced
laugh.

'Yes--in all but a very few human concerns. How often could _you_ tell
_me_ what it is that prevents your taking life cheerfully?'

He glanced at her, and Marcella's eyes fell; a moment after, there was
a suspicion of colour in her cheek.

'What are you reading?' Peak asked abruptly, but in a voice of more
conventional note.

'Still Hafiz.'

'I envy your power of abstraction.'

'Yet I hear that you are deeply concerned about the locomotive powers
of the _diatomaceaoe_?'

Their eyes met, and they laughed--not very mirthfully.

'It preserves me from worse follies,' said Peak. 'After all, there are
ways more or less dignified of consuming time'--

As he spoke, his ear caught a familiar name, uttered by Christian
Moxey, and he turned to listen. Moxey and Earwaker were again talking
of the Rev. Bruno Chilvers. Straightway disregarding Marcella, Peak
gave attention to the men's dialogue, and his forehead wrinkled into
scornful amusement.

'It's very interesting,' he exclaimed, at a moment when there was
silence throughout the company, 'to hear that Chilvers is really coming
to the front. At Whitelaw it used to be prophesied that he would be a
bishop, and now I suppose he's fairly on the way to that. Shall we
write letters of congratulation to him, Earwaker?'

'A joint epistle, if you like.'

Mr. Morton, who had brightened since dinner, began to speak caustically
of the form of intellect necessary nowadays in a popular clergyman.

'He must write a good deal,' put in Earwaker, 'and that in a style
which would have scandalised the orthodox of the last century.
Rationalised dogma is vastly in demand.'

Peak's voice drew attention.

'Two kinds of books dealing with religion are now greatly popular, and
will be for a long time. On the one hand there is that growing body of
people who, for whatever reason, tend to agnosticism, but desire to be
convinced that agnosticism is respectable; they are eager for
anti-dogmatic books, written by men of mark. They couldn't endure to be
classed with Bradlaugh, but they rank themselves confidently with
Darwin and Huxley. Arguments matter little or nothing to them. They
take their rationalism as they do a fashion in dress, anxious only that
it shall be "good form". Then there's the other lot of people--a much
larger class--who won't give up dogma, but have learnt that bishops,
priests, and deacons no longer hold it with the old rigour, and that
one must be "broad"; these are clamorous for treatises which pretend to
reconcile revelation and science. It's quite pathetic to watch the
enthusiasm with which they hail any man who distinguishes himself by
this kind of apologetic skill, this pious jugglery. Never mind how
washy the book from a scientific point of view. Only let it obtain
vogue, and it will be glorified as the new evangel. The day has gone by
for downright assaults on science; to be marketable, you must prove
that _The Origin of Species_ was approvingly foreseen in the first
chapter of Genesis, and that the Apostles' Creed conflicts in no single
point with the latest results of biblical criticism. Both classes seek
to avoid ridicule, and to adapt themselves to a standard of
respectability. If Chilvers goes in for the newest apologetics, he is
bound to be enormously successful. The man has brains, and really there
are so few such men who still care to go into the Church.'

There was a murmur of laughing approval. The speaker had worked himself
into eloquent nervousness; he leaned forward with his hands straining
together, and the muscles of his face quivering.

'And isn't it surprising,' said Marcella, 'in how short a time this
apologetic attitude has become necessary?'

Peak flashed a triumphant look at her.

'I often rejoice to think of it!' he cried. 'How magnificent it is that
so many of the solemn jackasses who brayed against Darwin from ten to
twenty years ago should live to be regarded as beneath contempt! I say
it earnestly: this thought is one of the things that make life
tolerable to me!'

'You have need of charity, friend Peak,' interposed Earwaker. 'This is
the spirit of the persecutor.'

'Nothing of the kind! It is the spirit of justified reason. You may say
that those people were honestly mistaken;--such honesty is the brand of
a brainless obstructive. _They_ would have persecuted, but too gladly!
There were, and are, men who would have committed Darwin to penal
servitude, if they had had the power. Men like Lyell, who were able to
develop a new convolution in their brains, I respect heartily. I only
speak of the squalling mass, the obscene herd of idiot mockers.'

'Who assuredly,' remarked Earwaker, 'feel no shame whatever in the
retrospect of their idiocy. To convert a _mind_ is a subject for high
rejoicing; to confute a _temper_ isn't worth the doing.'

'That is philosophy,' said Marcella, 'but I suspect you of often
feeling as Mr. Peak does. I am sure _I_ do.'

Peak, meeting an amused glance from the journalist, left his seat and
took up a volume that lay on one of the tables. It was easy to see that
his hands shook, and that there was perspiration on his forehead. With
pleasant tact, Moxey struck into a new subject, and for the next
quarter of an hour Peak sat apart in the same attitude as before his
outburst of satire and invective. Then he advanced to Miss Moxey again,
for the purpose of taking leave. This was the signal for Earwaker's
rising, and in a few minutes both men had left the house.

'I'll go by train with you,' said Earwaker, as they walked away.
'Farringdon Street will suit me well enough.'

Peak vouchsafed no reply, but, when they had proceeded a little
distance, he exclaimed harshly:

'I hate emancipated women!'

His companion stopped and laughed loudly.

'Yes, I hate emancipated women,' the other repeated, with deliberation.
'Women ought neither to be enlightened nor dogmatic. They ought to be
sexual.'

'That's unusual brutality on your part.'

'Well, you know what I mean.'

'I know what you think you mean,' said Earwaker. 'But the woman who is
neither enlightened nor dogmatic is only too common in society. They
are fools, and troublesome fools.'

Peak again kept silence.

'The emancipated woman,' pursued his friend, 'needn't be a Miss Moxey,
nor yet a Mrs. Morton.'

'Miss Moxey is intolerable,' said Peak. 'I can't quite say why I
dislike her so, but she grows more antipathetic to me the better I know
her. She has not a single feminine charm--not one. I often feel very
sorry for her, but dislike her all the same.'

'Sorry for her,' mused Earwaker. 'Yes, so do I. I can't like her
either. She is certainly an incomplete woman. But her mind is of no low
order. I had rather talk with her than with one of the imbecile
prettinesses. I half believe you have a sneaking sympathy with the men
who can't stand education in a wife.'

'It's possible. In some moods.'

'In no mood can I conceive such a prejudice. I have no great attraction
to women of any kind, but the uneducated woman I detest.'

'Well, so do I,' muttered Peak. 'Do you know what?' he added, abruptly.
'I shall be off to the Pacific. Yes, I shall go this next winter. My
mind is made up.'

'I shan't try to dissuade you, old fellow, though I had rather have you
in sight. Come and see Malkin. I'll drop you a note with an
appointment.'

'Do.'

They soon reached the station, and exchanged but few more words before
Earwaker's leaving the train at Farringdon Street. Peak pursued his
journey towards the south-east of London.

On reaching home, the journalist flung aside his foolish coat of
ceremony, indued a comfortable jacket, lit a pipe with long stem, and
began to glance over an evening newspaper. He had not long reposed in
his arm-chair when the familiar appeal thundered from without. Malkin
once more shook his hand effusively.

'Had my journey to Fulham for nothing. Didn't matter; I ran over to
Putney and looked up my old landlady. The rooms are occupied by a
married couple, but I think we shall succeed in persuading them to make
way for me. I promised to find them lodgings every bit as good in two
days' time.'

'If that is so easy, why not take the new quarters yourself?'

'Why, to tell you the truth, I didn't think of it!--Oh, I had rather
have the old crib; I can do as I like there, you know. Confound it! Now
I shall have to spend all to-morrow lodging-hunting for other people.
Couldn't I pay a man to do it? Some confidential agent--private
police--you know what I mean?'

'A man of any delicacy,' replied Earwaker, with grave countenance,
'would feel bound by such a promise to personal exertion.'

'Right; quite right! I didn't mean it; of course I shall hunt
conscientiously. Oh, I say; I have brought over a couple of
armadilloes. Would you like one?'

'Stuffed, do you mean?'

'Pooh! Alive, man, alive! They only need a little care. I should think
you might keep the creature in your kitchen; they become quite
affectionate.'

The offer was unhesitatingly declined, and Malkin looked hurt. There
needed a good deal of genial explanation before Earwaker could restore
him to his sprightly mood.

'Where have you been dining?' cried the traveller. 'Moxey's--ah, I
remember. But who _is_ Moxey? A new acquaintance, eh?'

'Yes; I have known him about six months. Got to know him through Peak.'

'Peak? Peak? What, the fellow you once told me about--who disappeared
from Whitelaw because of his uncle, the cat's-meat man?'

'The man's-meat man, rather.'

'Yes, yes--the eating-house; I remember. You have met him again? Why on
earth didn't you tell me in your letters? What became of him? Tell me
the story.'

'Certainly, if you will cease to shake down plaster from the
ceiling.--We met in a restaurant (appropriate scene), happening to sit
at the same table. Whilst eating, we stared at each other fitfully.
"I'll be hanged if that isn't Peak," I kept saying to myself. And at
the same moment we opened our lips to question each other.'

'Just the same thing happened once to a friend of mine and a friend of
his. But it was on board ship, and both were devilish seasick.
Walker--you remember my friend Walker?--tells the story in a
side-splitting way. I wonder what has become of Walker? The last time I
met him he was travelling agent for a menagerie--a most interesting
fellow, Walker.--But I beg your pardon. Go on, old fellow!'

'Well, after that we at once saw a good deal of each other. He has been
working for years at a chemical factory down on the river; Moxey used
to be there, and got him the place.'

'Moxey?--Oh yes, the man you dined with. You must remember that these
are new names to me. I must know all these new people, I say. You don't
mind?'

'You shall be presented to the whole multitude, as soon as you like.
Peak wants to see you. He thinks of an excursion like this last of
yours.'

'He does? By Jove, we'll go together! I have always wanted a travelling
companion. We'll start as soon as ever he likes!--well, in a month or
two. I must just have time to look round. Oh, I haven't done with the
tropics yet! I must tell him of a rattling good insect-powder I have
invented; I think of patenting it. I say, how does one get a patent?
Quite a simple matter, I suppose?'

'Oh, always has been. The simplest and least worrying of all business
enterprises.'

'What? Eh? That smile of yours means mischief.'

In a quarter of an hour they had got back to the subject of Peak's
history.

'And did he really run away because of the eating-house?' Malkin
inquired.

'I shall never venture to ask, and it's not very likely he will admit
it. It was some time before he cared to talk much of Whitelaw.'

'But what is he doing? You used to think he would come out strong,
didn't you? Has he written anything?'

'A few things in _The Liberator_, five or six years ago.'

'What, the atheistic paper?'

'Yes. But he's ashamed of it now. That belongs to a bygone stage of
development.'

'Turned orthodox?'

Earwaker laughed.

'I only mean that he is ashamed of the connection with street-corner
rationalism.'

'Quite right. Devilish low, that kind of thing. But I went in for it
myself once. Did I ever tell you that I debated with a parson on
Mile-end Waste? Fact! That was in my hot-headed days. A crowd of
coster-mongers applauded me in the most flattering way.--I say,
Earwaker, you haven't any whisky?'

'Forgive me; your conversation makes me forget hospitality. Shall I
make hot water? I have a spirit-kettle.'

'Cold for me. I get in such a deuced perspiration when I begin to
talk.--Try this tobacco; the last of half a hundred-weight I took in at
Bahia.'

The traveller refreshed himself with a full tumbler, and resumed the
conversation cheerily.

'Has he just been wasting his time, then, all these years?'

'He goes in for science--laboratory work, evolutionary speculations. Of
course I can't judge his progress in such matters; but Moxey, a clever
man in the same line, thinks very highly of him.'

'Just the fellow to travel with. I want to get hold of some solid
scientific ideas, but I haven't the patience to work steadily. A
confounded fault of mine, you know, Earwaker,--want of patience. You
must have noticed it?'

'Oh--well, now and then, perhaps.'

'Yes, yes; but of course I know myself better. And now tell me about
Moxey. A married man, of course?'

'No, lives with a sister.'

'Unmarried sister?--Brains?'

'Pretty well supplied with that commodity.'

'You must introduce me to her. I do like women with brains.--

'Orthodox or enlightened?'

'Bitterly enlightened.'

'Really? Magnificent! Oh, I must know her. Nothing like an emancipated
woman! How any man can marry the ordinary female passes my
understanding. What do _you_ think?'

'My opinions are in suspense; not yet precipitated, as Peak might say.'

One o'clock sounded from neighbouring churches, but Malkin was wide
awake as ever. He entered upon a detailed narrative of his travels,
delightful to listen to, so oddly blended were the strains of conscious
and unconscious humour which marked his personality. Two o'clock; three
o'clock;--he would have talked till breakfast-time, but at last
Earwaker declared that the hour had come for sleep. As Malkin had taken
a room at the Inns of Court Hotel, it was easy for him to repair to his
quarters. The last his friend heard of him was an unexplained laugh,
echoing far down the staircase.



CHAPTER II


Peak's destination was Peckham Rye. On quitting the railway, he had a
walk of some ten minutes along a road which smelt of new bricks and
stucco heated by the summer sun; an obscure passage led him into a
street partly of dwelling-houses, partly of shops, the latter closed.
He paused at the side door of one over which the street lamp dimly
revealed--'Button, Herbalist'.

His latch-key admitted him to total darkness, but he moved forward with
the confidence of long use. He softly ascended two flights of stairs,
opened a door, struck a match, and found himself in a comfortable
sitting-room, soon illumined by a reading-lamp. The atmosphere, as
throughout the house, was strongly redolent of dried simples. Anyone
acquainted with the characteristics of furnished lodgings must have
surmised that Peak dwelt here among his own moveables, and was indebted
to the occupier of the premises for bare walls alone; the tables and
chairs, though plain enough, were such as civilisation permits; and
though there were no pictures, sundry ornaments here and there made
strong denial of lodging-house affinity. It was at once laboratory,
study, and dwelling-room. Two large cabinets, something the worse for
transportation, alone formed a link between this abode and the old home
at Twybridge. Books were not numerous, and a good microscope seemed to
be the only scientific instrument of much importance. On door-pegs hung
a knapsack, a botanist's vasculum, and a geologist's wallet.

A round table was spread with the materials of supper, and here again
an experienced lodger must have bestowed contemplative scrutiny, for no
hand of common landlady declared itself in the arrangement. The cloth
was spotless, the utensils tasteful and carefully disposed. In a bowl
lay an appetising salad, ready for mingling; a fragment of Camembert
cheese was relieved upon a setting of green leafage; a bottle of ale,
with adjacent corkscrew, stood beside the plate; the very loaf seemed
to come from no ordinary baker's, or was made to look better than its
kin by the fringed white cloth in which it nestled.

The custom of four years had accustomed Peak to take these things as a
matter of course, yet he would readily have admitted that they were
extraordinary enough. Indeed, he even now occasionally contrasted this
state of comfort with the hateful experiences of his first six years in
London. The subject of lodgings was one of those on which (often
intemperate of speech) he spoke least temperately. For six years he had
shifted from quarter to quarter, from house to house, driven away each
time by the hateful contact of vulgarity in every form,--by foulness
and dishonesty, by lying, slandering, quarrelling, by drunkenness, by
brutal vice,--by all abominations that distinguish the lodging-letter
of the metropolis. Obliged to practise extreme economy, he could not
take refuge among self-respecting people, or at all events had no luck
in endeavouring to find such among the poorer working-class. To a man
of Godwin's idiosyncrasy the London poor were of necessity abominable,
and it anguished him to be forced to live among them.

Rescue came at last, and in a very unexpected way. Resident in the more
open part of Bermondsey (winter mornings made a long journey to
Rotherhithe intolerable), he happened to walk one day as far as Peckham
Rye, and was there attracted by the shop window of a herbalist. He
entered to make a purchase, and got into conversation with Mr. Button,
a middle-aged man of bright intelligence and more reading than could be
expected. The herbalist led his customer to an upper room, in which
were stored sundry curiosities, and happened casually to say that he
was desirous of finding a lodger for two superfluous chambers. Peak's
inquiries led to his seeing Mrs. Button, whom he found to be a
Frenchwoman of very pleasing appearance; she spoke fluent
French-English, anything but disagreeable to an ear constantly
tormented by the London vernacular. After short reflection he decided
to take and furnish the rooms. It proved a most fortunate step, for he
lived (after the outlay for furniture) at much less expense than
theretofore, and in comparative luxury. Cleanliness, neatness, good
taste by no means exhausted Mrs. Button's virtues; her cooking seemed
to the lodger of incredible perfection, and the infinite goodwill with
which he was tended made strange contrast with the base usage he had
commonly experienced.

In these ten years he had paid but four visits to Twybridge, each of
brief duration. Naturally there were changes among his kinsfolk:
Charlotte, after an engagement which prolonged itself to the fifth
twelvemonth, had become Mrs. Cusse, and her husband now had a draper's
shop of his own, with two children already born into the world of
draperdom. Oliver, twice fruitlessly affianced, had at length (when
six-and-twenty) wedded a young person whom his mother and his aunt both
regarded as a most undesirable connection, the daughter (aged
thirty-two) of a man who was drinking himself to death on such money as
he could earn by casual reporting for a Twybridge newspaper. Mrs. Peak
the elder now abode with her sister at the millinery shop, and saw
little of her two married children. With Oliver and Charlotte their
brother had no sympathy, and affected none; he never wrote to them, nor
they to him; but years had strengthened his regard for his mother, and
with her he had fairly regular correspondence. Gladly he would have
seen her more often, but the air of shopkeeping he was compelled to
breathe when he visited Twybridge nauseated and repelled him. He
recognised the suitability both of Oliver and Charlotte for the
positions to which life had consigned them--they suffered from no
profitless aspiration; but it seemed to him a just cause of quarrel
with fate that his kindred should thus have relapsed, instead of
bettering the rank their father had bequeathed to them. He would not
avow to such friends as Moxey and Earwaker the social standing of his
only recognised relatives.

As for the unrecognised, he had long ago heard with some satisfaction
that Andrew Peak, having ultimately failed in his Kingsmill venture,
returned to London. Encounter with the fatal Andrew had been spared him
ever since that decisive day when Master Jowey Peak recited from
Coleridge and displayed his etymological genius.

For himself, he had earned daily bread, and something more; he had
studied in desultory fashion; he had seen a good deal of the British
Isles and had visited Paris. The result of it all was gnawing
discontent, intervals of furious revolt, periods of black despair.

He had achieved nothing, and he was alone.

Young still, to be sure; at twenty-nine it is too early to abandon
ambitions which are supported by force of brain and of will. But
circumstances must needs help if the desires of his soul were to be
attained. On first coming to London, received with all friendliness by
Christian Moxey, he had imagined that it only depended upon himself to
find admission before long to congenial society--by which he then
understood the companionship of intelligent and aspiring young men.
Christian, however, had himself no such circle, and knew that the
awkward lad from Twybridge could not associate with the one or two
wealthy families to which he could have presented him. The School of
Mines was only technically useful; it helped Godwin to get his place
with Bates & Sons, but supplied no friendships. In the third year,
Moxey inherited means and left the chemical works for continental
travel.

By tormenting attraction Godwin was often led to walk in the wealthy
districts of London. Why was no one of these doors open to him? There
were his equals; not in the mean streets where he dwelt. There were the
men of culture and capacity, the women of exquisite person and exalted
mind. Was he the inferior of such people? By heaven, no!

He chanced once to be in Hyde Park on the occasion of some public
ceremony, and was brought to pause at the edge of a gaping plebeian
crowd, drawn up to witness the passing of aristocratic vehicles. Close
in front of him an open carriage came to a stop; in it sat, or rather
reclined, two ladies, old and young. Upon this picture Godwin fixed his
eyes with the intensity of fascination; his memory never lost the
impress of these ladies' faces. Nothing very noteworthy about them; but
to Godwin they conveyed a passionate perception of all that is implied
in social superiority. Here he stood, one of the multitude, of the
herd; shoulder to shoulder with boors and pick-pockets; and within
reach of his hand reposed those two ladies, in Olympian calm, seeming
unaware even of the existence of the throng. Now they exchanged a word;
now they smiled to each other. How delicate was the moving of their
lips! How fine must be their enunciation! On the box sat an old
coachman and a young footman; they too were splendidly impassive,
scornful of the multitudinous gaze.--The block was relieved, and on the
carriage rolled.

They were his equals, those ladies, merely his equals. With such as
they he should by right of nature associate.

In his rebellion, he could not hate them. He hated the malodorous
rabble who stared insolently at them and who envied their immeasurable
remoteness. Of mere wealth he thought not; might he only be recognised
by the gentle of birth and breeding for what he really was, and be
rescued from the promiscuity of the vulgar!

Yet at this time he was drawn into connection with the movement of
popular Radicalism which revolts against religious respectability.
Inherited antipathy to all conventional forms of faith outweighed his
other prejudices so far as to induce him to write savage papers for
_The Liberator_. Personal contact with artisan freethinkers was
disgusting to him. From the meeting of emancipated workmen he went away
with scorn and detestation in his heart; but in the quiet of his
lodgings he could sit down to aid their propaganda. One explanation of
this inconsistency lay in the fact that no other channel was open to
his literary impulses. Pure science could not serve him, for he had no
original results to announce. Pure literature seemed beyond his scope,
yet he was constantly endeavouring to express himself. He burned with
the desire of fame, and saw no hope of achieving it save as an author.
_The Liberator_ would serve him as a first step. In time he might get
foothold in the monthly reviews, and see his name side by side with
those of the leaders of thought.

Occasions, of course, offered when he might have extended his
acquaintance, but they were never of a kind that he cared to use; at
best they would only have admitted him to the homes of decent,
semi-educated families, and for such society he was altogether
unfitted. The licence of the streets but seldom allured him. After his
twenty-fourth year he was proof against the decoys of venal pleasure,
and lived a life of asceticism exceedingly rare in young and lonely
men. When Christian Moxey returned to London and took the house at
Notting Hill, which he henceforth occupied together with his sister, a
possibility of social intercourse at length appeared. Indeed it was a
substantial gain to sit from time to time at a civilised table, and to
converse amid graceful surroundings with people who at all events
followed the intellectual current of the day. Careless hitherto of his
personal appearance, he now cultivated an elegance of attire in
conformity with his aristocratic instincts, and this habit became
fixed. When next he visited Twybridge, the change in his appearance was
generally remarked. Mrs. Peak naturally understood it as a significant
result of his intercourse with Miss Moxey, of whom, as it seemed to
her, he spoke with singular reticence.

But Marcella had no charm for Godwin's imagination, notwithstanding
that he presently suspected a warmth of interest on her side which he
was far from consciously encouraging. Nor did he find among his friends
any man or woman for whose acquaintance he greatly cared. The Moxeys
had a very small circle, consisting chiefly of intellectual inferiors.
Christian was too indolent to make a figure in society, and his sister
suffered from peculiarities of mind and temperament which made it as
difficult for her as for Peak himself to form intimate friendships.

When chance encounter brought him into connection with Earwaker, the
revival of bygone things was at first doubtfully pleasant. Earwaker
himself, remarkably developed and become a very interesting man, was as
welcome an associate as he could have found, but it cost him some
effort to dismiss the thought of Andrew Peak's eating-house, and to
accept the friendly tact with which the journalist avoided all hint of
unpleasant memories. That Earwaker should refrain from a single
question concerning that abrupt disappearance, nearly ten years ago,
sufficiently declared his knowledge of the unspeakable cause, a
reflection which often made Godwin writhe. However, this difficulty was
overcome, and the two met very frequently. For several weeks Godwin
enjoyed better spirits than he had known since the first excitement of
his life in London faded away.

One result was easily foreseen. His mind grew busy with literary
projects, many that he had long contemplated and some that were new.
Once more he aimed at contributing to the 'advanced' reviews, and
sketched out several papers of sociological tenor. None of these were
written. As soon as he sat down to deliberate composition, a sense of
his deficiencies embarrassed him. Godwin's self-confidence had nothing
in common with the conceit which rests on imaginary strength. Power
there was in him; of that he could not but be conscious: its true
direction he had not yet learned. Defect of knowledge, lack of
pen-practice, confusion and contradictoriness of aims, instability of
conviction,--these faults he recognised in himself at every moment of
inward scrutiny.

On his table this evening lay a library volume which he had of late
been reading, a book which had sprung into enormous popularity. It was
called _Spiritual Aspects of Evolution_, and undertook, with confidence
characteristic of its kind, to reconcile the latest results of science
with the dogmas of Oriental religion. This work was in his mind when he
spoke so vehemently at Moxey's; already he had trembled with an impulse
to write something on the subject, and during his journey home a
possible essay had begun to shape itself. Late as was the hour he could
not prepare for sleep. His brain throbbed with a congestion of thought;
he struggled to make clear the lines on which his satire might direct
itself. By two o'clock he had flung down on paper a conglomerate of
burning ideas, and thus relieved he at length went to bed.

Two days later came a note from Staple Inn, inviting him to meet Malkin
the next evening. By this time he had made a beginning of his critical
essay, and the exordium so far satisfied him that he was tempted to
take it for Earwaker's judgment. But no; better his friend should see
the thing when it was complete.

About eight o'clock he reached the journalist's chambers. Malkin had
not yet arrived. Peak amused himself with examining certain tropical
products which the traveller had recently cast pell-mell into his
friend's sitting-room. Then sounded a knock at the door, but it was not
such as would have heralded the expected man.

'A telegram,' observed Earwaker, and went to take it in.

He returned with hoarse sounds of mirth.

'Our friend excuses himself. Read this characteristic despatch.'

Peak saw with surprise that the telegram far exceeded familiar
dimensions. 'Unspeakably grieved,' it began. 'Cannot possibly with you.
At moment's notice undertaken escort two poor girls Rouen. Not even
time look in apologise. Go via Dieppe and leave Victoria few minutes.
Hope be back Thursday. Express sincerest regret Mr. Peak. Lament
appearance discourtesy. Will apologise personally. Common humanity
constrains go Rouen. Will explain Thursday. No time add another word.
Rush tickets train.'

'There you have the man!' cried Earwaker. 'How do you class such a mind
as that? Ten to one this is some Quixotic obligation he has laid upon
himself, and probably he has gone without even a handbag.'

'Vocally delivered,' said Peak, 'this would represent a certain stage
of drunkenness. I suppose it isn't open to such an explanation?'

'Malkin never was intoxicated, save with his own vivacity.'

They discussed the singular being with good-natured mirth, then turned
by degrees to other topics.

'I have just come across a passage that will delight you,' said
Earwaker, taking up a book. 'Perhaps you know it.'

He read from Sir Thomas Brown's _Pscudodoxia Epidemica_. '"Men's names
should not only distinguish them. A man should be something that all
men are not, and individual in somewhat beside his proper name. Thus,
while it exceeds not the bound of reason and modesty, we cannot condemn
singularity. _Nos numerus sumus_ is the motto of the multitude, and for
that reason are they fools."'

Peak laughed his approval.

'It astonishes me,' he said, lighting his pipe, 'that you can go on
writing for this Sunday rag, when you have just as little sympathy with
its aims as I have. Do get into some less offensive connection.'

'What paper would you recommend?' asked the other, with his significant
smile.

'Why need you journalise at all?'

'On the whole, I like it. And remember, to admit that the multitude are
fools is not the same thing as to deny the possibility of progress.'

'Do you really believe yourself a democrat, Earwaker?'

'M--m--m! Well, yes, I believe the democratic spirit is stronger in me
than any other.'

Peak mused for a minute, then suddenly looked up.

'And what am I?'

'I am glad nothing much depends on my successfully defining you.'

They laughed together.

'I suppose,' said Godwin, 'you can't call a man a democrat who
recognises in his heart and soul a true distinction of social classes.
Social, mark. The division I instinctively support is by no means
intellectual. The well-born fool is very often more sure of my respect
than the working man who struggles to a fair measure of education.'

Earwaker would have liked to comment on this with remarks personal to
the speaker, but he feared to do so. His silence, however, was eloquent
to Peak, who resumed brusquely.

'I am not myself well-born,--though if my parents could have come into
wealth early in their lives, perhaps I might reasonably have called
myself so. All sorts of arguments can be brought against my prejudice,
but the prejudice is ineradicable. I respect hereditary social
standing, independently of the individual's qualities. There's nothing
of the flunkey in this, or I greatly deceive myself. Birth in a sphere
of refinement is desirable and respectable; it saves one, absolutely,
from many forms of coarseness. The masses are not only fools, but very
near the brutes. Yes, they can send forth fine individuals--but remain
base. I don't deny the possibility of social advance; I only say that
at present the lower classes are always disagreeable, often repulsive,
sometimes hateful.'

'I could apply that to the classes above them.'

'Well, I can't. But I am quite ready to admit that there are all sorts
of inconsistencies in me. Now, the other day I was reading Burns, and I
couldn't describe what exaltation all at once possessed me in the
thought that a ploughman had so glorified a servant-girl that together
they shine in the highest heaven, far above all the monarchs of earth.
This came upon me with a rush--a very rare emotion. Wasn't that
democratic?'

He inquired dubiously, and Earwaker for a moment had no reply but his
familiar 'M--m--m!'

'No, it was not democratic,' the journalist decided at length; 'it was
pride of intellect.'

'Think so? Then look here. If it happens that a whining wretch stops me
in the street to beg, what do you suppose is my feeling? I am ashamed
in the sense of my own prosperity. I can't look him in the face. If I
yielded to my natural impulse, I should cry out, "Strike me! spit at
me! show you hate me!--anything but that terrible humiliation of
yourself before me!" That's how I feel. The abasement of which _he_
isn't sensible affects _me_ on his behalf. I give money with what
delicacy I can. If I am obliged to refuse, I mutter apologies and hurry
away with burning cheeks. What does that mean?'

Earwaker regarded him curiously.

'That is mere fineness of humanity.'

'Perhaps moral weakness?'

'I don't care for the scalpel of the pessimist. Let us give it the
better name.'

Peak had never been so communicative. His progress in composition these
last evenings seemed to have raised his spirits and spurred the
activity of his mind. With a look of pleasure he pursued his
self-analysis.

'Special antipathies--sometimes explicable enough--influence me very
widely. Now, I by no means hate all orders of uneducated people. A
hedger, a fisherman, a country mason,--people of that kind I rather
like to talk with. I could live a good deal with them. But the London
vulgar I abominate, root and branch. The mere sound of their voices
nauseates me; their vilely grotesque accent and pronunciation--bah! I
could write a paper to show that they are essentially the basest of
English mortals. Unhappily, I know so much about them. If I saw the
probability of my dying in a London lodging-house, I would go out into
the sweet-scented fields and there kill myself.'

Earwaker understood much by this avowal, and wondered whether his
friend desired him so to do.

'Well, I can't say that I have any affection for the race,' he replied.
'I certainly believe that, socially and politically, there is less hope
of them than of the lower orders in any other part of England.'

'They are damned by the beastly conditions of their life!' cried
Godwin, excitedly. 'I don't mean only the slum-denizens. All, all
Hammersmith as much as St. George's-in-the-East. I must write about
this; I must indeed.'

'Do by all means. Nothing would benefit you more than to get your soul
into print.'

Peak delayed a little, then:

'Well, I am doing something at last.'

And he gave an account of his projected essay. By this time his hands
trembled with nervous agitation, and occasionally a dryness of the
palate half choked his voice.

'This may do very well,' opined Earwaker. 'I suppose you will try _The
Critical_?'

'Yes. But have I any chance? Can a perfectly unknown man hope to get
in?'

They debated this aspect of the matter. Seeing Peak had laid down his
pipe, the journalist offered him tobacco.

'Thanks; I can't smoke just yet. It's my misfortune that I can't talk
earnestly without throwing my body into disorder.'

'How stolid I am in comparison!' said Earwaker.

'That book of M'Naughten's,' resumed the other, going back to his
subject. 'I suppose the clergy accept it?'

'Largely, I believe.'

Peak mused.

'Now, if I were a clergyman'--

But his eye met Earwaker's, and they broke into laughter.

'Why not?' pursued Godwin. 'Did I ever tell you that my people
originally wished to make a parson of me? Of course I resisted tooth
and nail, but it seems to me now that I was rather foolish in doing so.
I wish I _had_ been a parson. In many ways the position would have
suited me very well.'

'M--m--m!'

'I am quite serious. Well, if I were so placed, I should preach Church
dogma, pure and simple. I would have nothing to do with these
reconciliations. I would stand firm as Jeremy Taylor; and in
consequence should have an immense and enthusiastic congregation.'

'I daresay.'

'Depend upon it, let the dogmas do what they still can. There's a vast
police force in them, at all events. A man may very strongly defend
himself for preaching them.'

The pursuit of this argument led Earwaker to ask:

'What proportion of the clergy can still take that standing in stolid
conscientiousness?'

'What proportion are convinced that it is untenable?' returned Peak.

'Many wilfully shut their eyes to the truth.'

'No, they don't shut their eyes!' cried Godwin. 'They merely lower a
nictitating membrane which permits them to gaze at light without
feeling its full impact.'

'I recommend you to bring that into your paper,' said the journalist,
with his deep chuckle.

An hour later they were conversing with no less animation, but the talk
was not so critical. Christian Moxey had come up as a topic, and
Earwaker was saying that he found it difficult to divine the man's
personality.

'You won't easily do that,' replied Peak, 'until you know more of his
story. I can't see that I am bound to secrecy--at all events with you.
Poor Moxey imagines that he is in love, and the fancy has lasted about
ten years.

'Ten years?'

'When I first knew him he was paying obvious attentions to a rather
plain cousin down at Twybridge. Why, I don't know, for he certainly was
devoted to a girl here in London. All he has confessed to me is that he
had given up hopes of her, but that a letter of some sort or other
revived them, and he hastened back to town. He might as well have
stayed away; the girl very soon married another man. Less than a year
later she had bitterly repented this, and in some way or other she
allowed Moxey to know it. Since then they have been Platonic
lovers--nothing more, I am convinced. They see each other about once in
six months, and presumably live on a hope that the obnoxious husband
may decease. I only know the woman as "Constance"; never saw her.'

'So that's Moxey? I begin to understand better.'

'Admirable fellow, but deplorably weak. I have an affection for him,
and have had from our first meeting.'

'Women!' mused Earwaker, and shook his head.

'You despise them?'

'On the whole, I'm afraid so.'

'Yes, but _what_ women?' cried the other with impatience. 'It would be
just as reasonable to say that you despise men. Can't you see that?'

'I doubt it.'

'Now look here; the stock objections to women are traditional. They
take no account of the vast change that is coming about. Because women
were once empty-headed, it is assumed they are all still so _en masse_.
The defect of the female mind? It is my belief that this is nothing
more nor less than the defect of the uneducated human mind. I believe
most men among the brutally ignorant exhibit the very faults which are
cried out upon as exclusively feminine. A woman has hitherto been an
ignorant human being; that explains everything.'

'Not everything; something, perhaps. Remember your evolutionism. The
preservation of the race demands in women many kinds of irrationality,
of obstinate instinct, which enrage a reasoning man. Don't suppose I
speak theoretically. Four or five years ago I had really made up my
mind to marry; I wasted much valuable time among women and girls, of
anything but low social standing. But my passions were choked by my
logical faculty. I foresaw a terrible possibility--that I might beat my
wife. One thing I learned with certainty was that the woman, _qua_
woman, hates abstract thought--hates it. Moreover (and of consequence)
she despises every ambition that has not a material end.'

He enlarged upon the subject, followed it into all its ramifications,
elaborated the inconsistencies with which it is rife. Peak's reply was
deliberate.

'Admitting that some of these faults are rooted in sex, I should only
find them intolerable when their expression took a vulgar form. Between
irrationality and coarseness of mind there is an enormous distinction.'

'With coarse minds I have nothing to do.'

'Forgive me if I ask you a blunt question,' said Peak, after
hesitating. 'Have you ever associated with women of the highest
refinement?'

Earwaker laughed.

'I don't know what that phrase means. It sounds rather odd on your
lips.'

'Well, women of the highest class of commoners. With peeresses we
needn't concern ourselves.'

'You imagine that social precedence makes all that difference in women?'

'Yes, I do. The daughter of a county family is a finer being than any
girl who can spring from the nomad orders.'

'Even supposing your nomads produce a Rachel or a Charlotte Brontee?'

'We are not talking of genius,' Peak replied.

'It was irrelevant, I know.--Well, yes, I _have_ conversed now and then
with what you would call well-born women. They are delightful
creatures, some of them, in given circumstances. But do you think I
ever dreamt of taking a wife drenched with social prejudices?'

Peak's face expressed annoyance, and he said nothing.

'A man's wife,' pursued Earwaker, 'may be his superior in whatever you
like, _except_ social position. That is precisely the distinction that
no woman can forget or forgive. On that account they are the
obstructive element in social history. If I loved a woman of rank above
my own she would make me a renegade; for her sake I should deny my
faith. I should write for the _St. James's Gazette_, and at last poison
myself in an agony of shame.'

A burst of laughter cleared the air for a moment, but for a moment
only. Peak's countenance clouded over again, and at length he said in a
lower tone:

'There are men whose character would defy that rule.'

'Yes--to their own disaster. But I ought to have made one exception.
There is a case in which a woman will marry without much regard to her
husband's origin. Let him be a parson, and he may aim as high as he
chooses.'

Peak tried to smile. He made no answer, and fell into a fit of brooding.

'What's all this about?' asked the journalist, when he too had mused
awhile. 'Whose acquaintance have you been making?'

'No one's.'

The suspicion was inevitable.

'If it were true, perhaps you would be justified in mistrusting my way
of regarding these things. But it's the natural tendency of my mind. If
I ever marry at all, it will be a woman of far higher birth than my
own.'

'Don't malign your parents, old fellow. They gave you a brain inferior
to that of few men. You will never meet a woman of higher birth.'

'That's a friendly sophism. I can't thank you for it, because it has a
bitter side.'

But the compliment had excited Peak, and after a moment's delay he
exclaimed:

'I have no other ambition in life--no other! Think the confession as
ridiculous as you like; my one supreme desire is to marry a perfectly
refined woman. Put it in the correct terms: I am a plebeian, and I aim
at marrying a lady.'

The last words were flung out defiantly. He quivered as he spoke, and
his face flushed.

'I can't wish you success,' returned his friend, with a grave smile.

'You couldn't help it sounding like a sneer, if you did. The desire is
hopeless, of course. It's because I know that, that I have made up my
mind to travel for a year or two; it'll help me on towards the age when
I shall regard all women with indifference. We won't talk about it any
more.'

'One question. You seriously believe that you could find satisfaction
in the life to which such a marriage would condemn you?'

'What life?' asked Peak, impatiently.

'That of an average gentleman, let us say, with house in town and
country, with friends whose ruling motive was social propriety.'

'I could enjoy the good and throw aside the distasteful.'

'What about the distastefulness of your wife's crass conventionalism,
especially in religion?'

'It would not be _crass_, to begin with. If her religion were genuine,
I could tolerate it well enough; if it were merely a form, I could
train her to my own opinions. Society is growing liberal--the best of
it. Please remember that I have in mind a woman of the highest type our
civilisation can produce.'

'Then you mustn't look for her in society!' cried Earwaker.

'I don't care; where you will, so long as she had always lived among
people of breeding and high education, and never had her thoughts
soiled with the vile contact of poverty.'

Earwaker started up and reached a volume from a shelf. Quickly finding
the desired page, he began to read aloud:

'Dear, had the world in its caprice Deigned to proclaim--I know you
both, Have recognised your plighted troth, Am sponsor for you; live in
peace!'--

He read to the end of the poem, and then looked up with an admiring
smile.

'An ideal!' exclaimed Peak. 'An ideal akin to Murger's and Musset's
grisettes, who never existed.'

'An ideal, most decidedly. But pray what is this consummate lady you
have in mind? An ideal every bit as much, and of the two I prefer
Browning's. For my own part, I am a polygamist; my wives live in
literature, and too far asunder to be able to quarrel. Impossible
women, but exquisite. They shall suffice to me.'

Peak rose, sauntered about the room for a minute or two, then said:

'I have just got a title for my paper. I shall call it "The New
Sophistry."'

'Do very well, I should think,' replied the other, smiling. 'Will you
let me see it when it's done?'

'Who knows if I shall finish it? Nothing I ever undertook has been
finished yet--nothing won that I ever aimed at. Good night. Let me hear
about Malkin.'

In a week's time Godwin received another summons to Staple Inn, with
promise of Malkin's assured presence. In reply he wrote:

'Owing to a new arrangement at Bates's, I start tomorrow for my holiday
in Cornwall, so cannot see you for a few weeks. Please offer Malkin my
apologies; make them (I mean it) as profuse as those he telegraphed.
Herewith I send you my paper, "The New Sophistry", which I have written
at a few vehement sittings, and have carelessly copied. If you think it
worth while, will you have the kindness to send it for me to _The
Critical_? I haven't signed it, as my unmeaning name would perhaps
indispose the fellow to see much good in it. I should thank you if you
would write in your own person, saying that you act for a friend; you
are probably well known in those quarters. If it is accepted, time
enough to claim my glory. If it seems to you to have no chance, keep it
till I return, as I hate the humiliation of refusals.--Don't think I
made an ass of myself the other night. We will never speak on that
subject again. All I said was horribly sincere, but I'm afraid you
can't understand that side of my nature. I should never have spoken so
frankly to Moxey, though he has made no secret with me of his own
weaknesses. If I perish before long in a South American swamp, you will
be able to reflect on my personality with completer knowledge, so I
don't regret the indiscretion.'



CHAPTER III


'_Pereunt et imputantur_.'

Godwin Peak read the motto beneath the clock in Exeter Cathedral, and
believed it of Christian origin. Had he known that the words were found
in Martial, his rebellious spirit would have enjoyed the consecration
of a phrase from such an unlikely author. Even as he must have laughed
had he stood in the Vatican before the figures of those two Greek
dramatists who, for ages, were revered as Christian saints.

His ignorance preserved him from a clash of sentiments. This afternoon
he was not disposed to cynicism; rather he welcomed the softening
influence of this noble interior, and let the golden sunlight form what
shapes it would--heavenly beam, mystic aureole--before his mind's eye.
Architecture had no special interest for him, and the history of church
or faith could seldom touch his emotions; but the glorious handiwork of
men long dead, the solemn stillness of an ancient sanctuary, made that
appeal to him which is independent of names.

'_Pereunt et imputantur_.'

He sat down where the soft, slow ticking of the clock could guide his
thoughts. This morning he had left London by the earliest train, and
after a night in Exeter would travel westward by leisurely stages,
seeing as much as possible of the coast and of that inland scenery
which had geological significance. His costume declared him bent on
holiday, but, at the same time, distinguished him with delicate
emphasis from the tourist of the season. Trustworthy sartorial skill
had done its best for his person. Sitting thus, he had the air of a
gentleman who enjoys no unwonted ease. He could forget himself in
reverie, and be unaware of soft footfalls that drew near along the
aisle.

But the sound of a young voice, subdued yet very clear, made claim upon
his attention.

'Sidwell!--Sidwell!'

She who spoke was behind him; on looking up, he saw that a lady just in
front had stopped and turned to the summons; smiling, she retraced her
steps. He moved, so as to look discreetly in the backward direction,
and observed a group of four persons, who were occupied with a tablet
on the wall: a young man (not long out of boyhood), a girl who might be
a year or two younger, and two ladies, of whom it could only be said
that they were mature in the beauty of youth, probably of
maidenhood--one of them, she who had been called back by the name of
'Sidwell'.

Surely an uncommon name. From a guide-book, with which he had amused
himself in the train, he knew that one of the churches of Exeter was
dedicated to St. Sidwell, but only now did his recollection apprise him
of a long past acquaintance with the name of the saint. Had not
Buckland Warricombe a sister called Sidwell? And--did he only surmise a
connection between the Warricombes and Devon? No, no; on that remote
day, when he went out with Buckland to the house near Kingsmill, Mr.
Warricombe spoke to him of Exeter,--mentioning that the town of his
birth was Axminster, where William Buckland, the geologist, also was
born; whence the name of his eldest son. How suddenly it all came back!

He rose and moved apart to a spot whence he might quietly observe the
strangers. 'Sidwell', once remarked, could not be confused with the
companion of her own age; she was slimmer, shorter (if but slightly),
more sedate in movement, and perhaps better dressed--though both were
admirable in that respect. Ladies, beyond a doubt. And the young man--

At this distance it was easy to deceive oneself, but did not that face
bring something back? Now, as he smiled, it seemed to recall Buckland
Warricombe--with a difference. This might well be a younger brother;
there used to be one or two.

They were familiar with the Cathedral, and at present appeared to take
exclusive interest in certain mural monuments. For perhaps ten minutes
they lingered about the aisle, then, after a glance at the west window,
went forth. With quick step, Godwin pursued them; he issued in time to
see them entering an open carriage, which presently drove away towards
High Street.

For half an hour he walked the Cathedral Close. Not long ago, on first
coming into that quiet space, with its old houses, its smooth lawns,
its majestic trees, he had felt the charm peculiar to such scenes--the
natural delight in a form of beauty especially English. Now, the
impression was irrecoverable; he could see nothing but those four
persons, and their luxurious carriage, and the two beautiful horses
which had borne them--whither? As likely as not the identity he had
supposed for them was quite imaginary; yet it would be easy to
ascertain whether a Warricombe family dwelt at Exeter. The forename of
Buckland's father--? He never had known it. Still, it was worth while
consulting a directory.

He walked to his hotel.

Yes, the name Warricombe stood there, but it occurred more than once.
He sought counsel of the landlord. Which of these Warricombes was a
gentleman of position, with grown-up sons and daughters? To such a
description answered Martin Warricombe, Esquire, well known in the
city. His house was in the Old Tiverton Road, out beyond St Sidwell's,
two miles away; anyone in that district would serve as guide to it.

With purpose indefinite, Godwin set forth in the direction suggested.
At little more than a saunter, he passed out of High Street into its
continuation, where he soon descried the Church of St. Sidwell, and
thence, having made inquiry, walked towards the Old Tiverton Road. He
was now quite beyond the town limits, and few pedestrians came in
sight; if he really wished to find the abode of Martin Warricombe, he
must stop the first questionable person. But to what end this inquiry?
He could not even be certain that Martin was the man he had in mind,
and even were he right in all his conjectures, what had he to do with
the Warricombes?

Ten years ago the family had received him courteously as Buckland's
fellow-student; he had spent an hour or two at their house, and
subsequently a few words had passed when they saw him on prize-day at
Whitelaw. To Buckland he had never written; he had never since heard of
him; that name was involved in the miserable whirl of circumstances
which brought his College life to a close, and it was always his hope
that Buckland thought no more of him. Even had there been no
disagreeable memories, it was surely impossible to renew after this
interval so very slight an acquaintance. How could they receive him,
save with civilly mild astonishment?

An errand-boy came along, whistling townwards, a big basket over his
head. No harm in asking where Mr. Warricombe lived. The reply was
prompt: second house on the right hand, rather a large one, not a
quarter of a mile onward.

Here, then. The site was a good one. From this part of the climbing
road one looked over the lower valley of the Exe, saw the whole
estuary, and beyond that a horizon of blue sea. Fair, rich land, warm
under the westering sun. The house itself seemed to be old, but after
all was not very large; it stood amid laurels, and in the garden behind
rose a great yew-tree. No person was visible; but for the wave-like
murmur of neighbouring pines, scarce a sound would have disturbed the
air.

Godwin walked past, and found that the road descended into a deep
hollow, whence between high banks, covered with gorse and bracken and
many a summer flower, it led again up a hill thick planted with firs;
at the lowest point was a bridge over a streamlet, offering on either
hand a view of soft green meadows. A spot of exquisite retirement:
happy who lived here in security from the struggle of life!

It was folly to spoil his enjoyment of country such as this by dreaming
impossible opportunities. The Warricombes could be nothing to him; to
meet with Buckland would only revive the shame long ago outlived. After
resting for a few minutes he turned back, passed the silent house
again, delighted himself with the wide view, and so into the city once
more, where he began to seek the remnants of its old walls.

The next morning was Sunday, and he had planned to go by the Plymouth
train to a station whence he could reach Start Point; but his mood was
become so unsettled that ten o'clock, when already he should have been
on his journey, found him straying about the Cathedral Close. A mere
half-purpose, a vague wavering intention, which might at any moment be
scattered by common sense, drew his steps to the door of the Cathedral,
where people were entering for morning service; he moved idly within
sight of the carriages which drew up. Several had discharged their
freightage of tailoring and millinery, when two vehicles, which seemed
companions, stopped at the edge of the pavement, and from the second
alighted the young ladies whom Godwin had yesterday observed; their
male companion, however, was different. The carriage in advance also
contained four persons: a gentleman of sixty, his wife, a young girl,
and the youth of yesterday. It needed but a glance to inform Godwin
that the oldest of the party was Mr. Warricombe, Buckland's father; ten
years had made no change in his aspect. Mrs. Warricombe was not less
recognisable. They passed at once into the edifice, and he had scarcely
time to bestow a keen look upon Sidwell.

That was a beautiful girl; he stood musing upon the picture registered
by his brain. But why not follow, and from a neighbouring seat survey
her and the others at his leisure? Pooh! But the impulse constrained
him. After all, he could not get a place that allowed him to see
Sidwell. Her companion, however, the one who seemed to be of much the
same age, was well in view. Sisters they could not be; nothing of the
Warricombe countenance revealed itself in those handsome but
strongly-marked features. A beautiful girl, she also, yet of a type
that made slight appeal to him. Sidwell was all he could imagine of
sweet and dignified; more modest in bearing, more gracile, more--

Monday at noon, and he still walked the streets of Exeter. Early this
morning he had been out to the Old Tiverton Road, and there, on the
lawn amid the laurels, had caught brief glimpse of two female figures,
in one of which he merely divined Sidwell. Why he tarried thus he did
not pretend to explain to himself. Rain had just come on, and the
lowering sky made him low-spirited; he mooned about the street under
his umbrella.

And at this rate, might vapour away his holiday. Exeter was tedious,
but he could not make up his mind to set forth for the sea-shore, where
only his own thoughts awaited him. Packed away in his wallet lay
geological hammer, azimuth compass, clinometer, miniature
microscope,--why should he drag all that lumber about with him? What to
him were the bygone millions of ages, the hoary records of unimaginable
time? One touch of a girl's hand, one syllable of musical speech,--was
it not that whereof his life had truly need?

As remote from him, however, as the age of the pterodactyl. How often
was it necessary to repeat this? On a long voyage, such as he had all
but resolved to take, one might perchance form acquaintances. He had
heard of such things; not impossibly, a social circle might open to him
at Buenos Ayres. But here in England his poor origin, his lack of means
would for ever bar him from the intimacy of people like the Warricombes.

He loitered towards the South-Western station, dimly conscious of a
purpose to look for trains. Instead of seeking the time-tables he stood
before the bookstall and ran his eye along the titles of new novels; he
had half a mind to buy one of Hardy's and read himself into the temper
which suited summer rambles. But just as his hand was stretched forth,
a full voice, speaking beside him, made demand for a London weekly
paper. Instantly he turned. The tones had carried him back to Whitelaw;
the face disturbed that illusion, but substituted a reality which threw
him into tremor.

His involuntary gaze was met with one of equal intensity. A man of his
own years, but in splendid health and with bright eyes that looked
enjoyment of life, suddenly addressed him.

'Godwin Peak--surely--?'

'Buckland Warricombe, no less surely.'

They shook hands with vigour, laughing in each other's faces; then,
after a moment's pause, Warricombe drew aside from the bookstall, for
sake of privacy.

'Why did we lose sight of each other?' he asked, flashing a glance at
Godwin's costume. 'Why didn't you write to me at Cambridge? What have
you been doing this half-century?'

'I have been in London all the time.'

'I am there most of the year. Well, I rejoice to have met you. On a
holiday?'

'Loitering towards Cornwall.'

'In that case, you can come and have lunch with me at my father's
house. It's only a mile or two off. I was going to walk, but we'll
drive, if you like.'

There was no refusing, and no possibility of reflection. Buckland's
hearty manner made the invitation in itself a thoroughly pleasant one,
and before Peak could sufficiently command his thoughts to picture the
scene towards which he was going they were walking side by side through
the town. In appearance, Warricombe showed nothing of the revolutionary
which, in old days, he aimed at making himself, and his speech had a
suavity which no doubt resulted from much intercourse with the polished
world; Godwin was filled with envious admiration of his perfect
physique, and the mettle which kept it in such excellent vigour. Even
for a sturdy walker, it was no common task to keep pace with Buckland's
strides; Peak soon found himself conversing rather too breathlessly for
comfort.

'What is your latest record for the mile?' he inquired.

Warricombe, understanding at once the reference to his old athletic
pastime and its present application, laughed merrily, and checked his
progress.

'A bad habit of mine; it gets me into trouble with everyone.
By-the-bye, haven't you become a stronger man than used to seem likely?
I'm quite glad to see how well you look.'

The sincerity of these expressions, often repeated, put Godwin far more
at his ease than the first moment's sensation had promised. He too
began to feel a genuine pleasure in the meeting, and soon bade defiance
to all misgivings. Delicacy perhaps withheld Warricombe from further
mention of Whitelaw, but on the other hand it was not impossible that
he knew nothing of the circumstances which tormented Godwin's memory.
On leaving the College perchance he had lost all connection with those
common friends who might have informed him of subsequent jokes and
rumours. Unlikely, to be sure; for doubtless some of his Whitelaw
contemporaries encountered him at Cambridge; and again, was it not
probable that the younger Warricombe had become a Whitelaw student?
Then Professor Gale--no matter! The Warricombes of course knew all
about Andrew Peak and his dining-rooms, but they were liberal-minded,
and could forgive a boy's weakness, as well as overlook an
acquaintance's obscure origin. In the joy of finding himself
exuberantly welcomed by a man of Buckland's world he overcame his
ignoble self-consciousness.

'Did you know that we were in this part of the country?' Warricombe
asked, once more speeding ahead.

'I always thought of you in connection with Kingsmill.'

'We gave up Thornhaw seven years ago. My father was never quite
comfortable out of Devonshire. The house I am taking you to has been in
our family for three generations. I have often tried to be proud of the
fact, but, as you would guess, that kind of thing doesn't come very
natural to me.'

In the effort to repudiate such sentiment, Buckland distinctly betrayed
its hold upon him. He imagined he was meeting Godwin on equal ground,
but the sensibility of the proletarian could not thus be deceived.
There was a brief silence, during which each looked away from the other.

'Still keep up your geology?' was Warricombe's next question.

'I can just say that I haven't forgotten it all.'

'I'm afraid that's more than I can. During my Cambridge time it caused
disagreeable debates with my father. You remember that his science is
of the old school. I wouldn't say a word to disparage him. I believe
the extent of his knowledge is magnificent; but he can't get rid of
that old man of the sea, the Book of Genesis. A few years ago I wasn't
too considerate in argument, and I talked as I oughtn't to have done,
called names, and so on. The end of it was, I dropped science
altogether, having got as much out of it as I needed. The good old
pater has quite forgiven my rudeness. At present we agree to differ,
and get on capitally. I'm sure he'll be delighted to see you. There are
some visitors with us; a Miss Moorhouse and her brother. I think you'll
like them. Couldn't you stay overnight?'

Godwin was unable to reply on the instant, and his companion proceeded
with the same heartiness.

'Just as you like, you know. But do stay if you can. On Wednesday
morning I must go back to town. I act as secretary to Godolphin, the
member for Slacksea.'

Peak's acquaintance with current politics was slight, but Mr. Ellis
Godolphin, the aristocratic Radical, necessarily stood before his
imagination with some clearness of outline. So this was how life had
dealt with Buckland. The announcement was made with a certain
satisfaction, as if it implied more than the hearer would readily
appreciate. Again there was a slight shrinking on Godwin's part; it
would be natural for him to avow his own position, and so leave no room
for misunderstandings, but before he could shape a phrase Buckland was
again questioning.

'Do you ever see any of the old fellows?'

'I have met one or two of them, by chance.'

As if his tact informed him that this inquiry had been a mistake,
Warricombe resumed the subject of his family.

'My brother Louis is at home--of course you can't remember him; he was
a youngster when you were at Thornhaw. The younger boy died some years
ago, a pony accident; cut up my father dreadfully. Then there's my
sister Sidwell, and my sister Fanny--that's all of us. I can't quite
answer for Louis, but the rest are of the old school. Liberal enough,
don't be afraid. But--well, the old school.'

As Godwin kept silence, the speaker shot a glance at him, keenly
scrutinising. Their eyes did not meet; Peak kept his on the ground.

'Care much about politics nowadays?'

'Not very much.'

'Can't say that I do myself,' pursued Buckland. 'I rather drifted into
it. Godolphin, I daresay, has as little humbug about him as most
parliamentarians; we stick to the practical fairly well. I shall never
go into the House on my own account. But there's a sort of pleasure in
being in the thick of public movements. I'm not cut out for debate;
should lose my temper, and tell disagreeable truths--which wouldn't do,
you know. But behind the scenes--it isn't bad, in a way.'

A longer pause obliged Godwin to speak of himself.

'My life is less exciting. For years I have worked in a manufacturing
laboratory at Rotherhithe.'

'So science has carried the day with you, after all. It used to be very
doubtful.'

This was a kind and pleasant way of interpreting necessity. Godwin felt
grateful, and added with a smile:

'I don't think I shall stick to it much longer. For one thing, I am
sick of town. Perhaps I shall travel for a year or two; perhaps--I'm in
a state of transition, to tell the truth.'

Buckland revolved this information; his face told that he found it
slightly puzzling.

'You once had thoughts of literature.'

'Long given up.'

'Leisure would perhaps revive them?'

'Possibly; but I think not.'

They were now quitting the town, and Peak, unwilling to appear before
strangers in a state of profuse perspiration, again moderated his
friend's speed. They began to talk about the surrounding country, a
theme which occupied them until the house was reached. With
quick-beating heart, Godwin found himself at the gate by which he had
already twice passed. Secure in the decency of his apparel, and no
longer oppressed by bashfulness, he would have gone joyously forward
but for the dread of a possible ridiculous association which his name
might revive in the thoughts of Mr. and Mrs. Warricombe. Yet
Buckland--who had no lack of kindly feeling--would hardly have brought
him here had the reception which awaited him been at all dubious.

'If we don't come across anyone,' said Warricombe, 'we'll go straight
up to my room.'

But the way was not clear. Within the beautiful old porch sat Sidwell
Warricombe and her friend of the striking countenance, whom Godwin now
knew as Miss Moorhouse. Buckland addressed his sister in a tone of
lively pleasure.

'Whom do you think I have met and brought home with me? Here is my old
friend, Godwin Peak.'

Under the two pairs of female eyes, Godwin kept a calm, if rather
stern, face.

'I should have had no difficulty in recognising Mr. Peak,' said
Sidwell, holding out her hand. 'But was the meeting quite by chance?'

To Godwin himself the question was of course directed, with a look of
smiling interest--such welcome as could not have been improved upon;
she listened to his reply, then presented him to Miss Moorhouse. A
slight languor in her movements and her voice, together with the
beautiful coldness of her complexion, made it probable that she did not
share the exuberant health manifest in her two brothers. She conversed
with mature self-possession, yet showed a slight tendency to
abstractedness. On being addressed, she regarded the speaker steadily
for an instant before shaping her answer, which always, however
trifling the subject, seemed carefully worded. In these few moments of
dialogue, Godwin reached the conclusion that Sidwell had not much sense
of humour, but that the delicacy of her mind was unsurpassable.

In Miss Moorhouse there was no defect of refinement, but her
conversation struck a note of sprightliness at once more energetic and
more subtle than is often found in English girls. Thus, though at times
she looked so young that it might be doubted whether she had long been
out of her teens, at others one suspected her older than Sidwell. The
friends happened to be as nearly as possible of an age, which was
verging to twenty-six.

When he spoke to Miss Moorhouse, Buckland's frank tone subdued itself.
He watched her face with reverent attention, smiled when she smiled,
and joined in her laughter with less than his usual volume of sound. In
acuteness he was obviously inferior to her, and there were moments when
he betrayed some nervousness under her rejoinders. All this was matter
of observation for Peak, who had learnt to exercise his discernment
even whilst attending to the proprieties.

The sounding of the first luncheon-bell left the young men free to go
upstairs. When at length they presented themselves in the drawing-room,
Mrs. Warricombe and her younger daughter sat there alone. The greeting
of his hostess did not quite satisfy Godwin, though it was sufficiently
courteous; he remembered that ten years ago Mrs. Warricombe had
appeared to receive him with some restraint, and his sensation in
renewing her acquaintance was one of dislike. But in a moment the
master of the house joined them, and no visitor could have had a more
kindly welcome than that he offered to his son's friend. With genial
tact, Mr. Warricombe ignored the interval since his last conversation
with Godwin, and spoke as if this visit were the most natural thing in
the world.

'Do you already know the country about Exeter?'

'I have seen very little of it yet.'

'Oh, then, we must show you our points of view. Our own garden offers a
glimpse of the river-mouth and a good prospect of Haldon--the ridge
beyond the Exe; but there are many much better points within easy
reach. You are in no hurry, I hope?'

Louis Warricombe and Miss Moorhouse's brother were away on a long walk;
they did not return for lunch. Godwin was glad of this, for time had
wrought the change in him that he felt more at ease in female society
than under the eyes of young men whose social position inclined them to
criticism. The meal proved as delightful as luncheon is wont to be in a
luxurious country-house, when brilliant sunshine gleams on the foliage
visible from windows, and the warmth of the season sanctions clear
colours in costume. The talk was wholly of country pleasures. It
afforded the visitor no little satisfaction to be able to make known
his acquaintance with parts of England to which the Warricombes had not
penetrated. Godwin learnt that the family were insular in their tastes;
a mention by Miss Moorhouse of continental scenes led the host to avow
a strong preference for his own country, under whatever aspect, and
Sidwell murmured her sympathy.

No less introspective than in the old days, though he could better
command his muscles, Peak, after each of his short remarks, made
comparison of his tone and phraseology with those of the other
speakers. Had he still any marks of the ignoble world from which he
sprang? Any defect of pronunciation, any native awkwardness of
utterance? Impossible to judge himself infallibly, but he was conscious
of no vulgar mannerism. Though it was so long since he left Whitelaw,
the accent of certain of the Professors still remained with him as an
example: when endeavouring to be graceful, he was wont to hear the
voice of Dr Nares, or of Professor Barber who lectured on English
Literature. More recently he had been observant of Christian Moxey's
speech, which had a languid elegance worth imitating in certain
particulars. Buckland Warricombe was rather a careless talker, but it
was the carelessness of a man who had never needed to reflect on such a
matter, the refinement of whose enunciation was assured to him from the
nursery. That now was a thing to be aimed at. Preciseness must be
avoided, for in a young man it seemed to argue conscious effort: a
loose sentence now and then, a colloquialism substituted for the more
grammatical phrase.

Heaven be thanked that he was unconcerned on the point of garb!
Inferiority in that respect would have been fatal to his ease. His
clothes were not too new, and in quality were such as he had the habit
of wearing. The Warricombes must have immediately detected any
pretentiousness, were it but in a necktie; that would impress them more
unfavourably than signs of poverty. But he defied inspection. Not
Sidwell herself, doubtless sensitive in the highest degree, could
conceive a prejudice against him on this account.

His misgivings were overcome. If these people were acquainted with the
'dining-rooms' joke, it certainly did not affect their behaviour to
him, and he could hope, by the force of his personality, to obliterate
from their minds such disagreeable thoughts as they might secretly
entertain. Surely he could make good his claim to be deemed a
gentleman. To Buckland he had declared his position, and no shame
attached to it. A man of scientific tastes, like Mr. Warricombe, must
consider it respectable enough. Grant him a little time, and why should
he not become a recognised friend of this family?

If he were but resident in Exeter.

For the first time, he lost himself in abstraction, and only an inquiry
from Sidwell recalled him.

'You have seen the Cathedral, Mr. Peak?'

'Oh yes! I attended service there yesterday morning.'

Had he reflected, perhaps he would not have added this circumstance;
even in speaking he suffered a confused doubtfulness. But as soon as
the words were uttered, he felt strangely glad. Sidwell bestowed upon
him an unmistakable look of approval; her mother gazed with colder
interest; Mr. Warricombe regarded him, and mused; Buckland, a smile of
peculiar meaning on his close lips, glanced from him to Miss Moorhouse.

'Ah, then, you heard Canon Grayling,' remarked the father of the
family, with something in his tone which answered to Sidwell's facial
expression. 'How did you like his sermon?'

Godwin was trifling with a pair of nut-crackers, but the nervousness
evident in his fingers did not prevent him from replying with a natural
air of deliberation.

'I was especially struck with the passage about the barren fig-tree.'

The words might have expressed a truth, but in that case a tone of
sarcasm must have winged them. As it was, they involved either
hypocrisy or ungenerous irony at the expense of his questioner.
Buckland could not but understand them in the latter sense; his face
darkened. At that moment, Peak met his eye, and encountered its steady
searching gaze with a perfectly calm smile. Half-a-dozen pulsings of
his heart--violent, painful, and the fatal hour of his life had struck.

'What had he to say about it?' Buckland asked, carelessly.

Peak's reply was one of those remarkable efforts of mind--one might
say, of character--which are sometimes called forth, without
premeditation, almost without consciousness, by a profound moral
crisis. A minute or two ago he would have believed it impossible to
recall and state in lucid terms the arguments to which, as he sat in
the Cathedral, he had barely given ear; he remembered vaguely that the
preacher (whose name he knew not till now) had dwelt for a few moments
on the topic indicated, but at the time he was indisposed to listen
seriously, and what chance was there that the chain of thought had
fixed itself in his memory? Now, under the marvelling regard of his
conscious self, he poured forth an admirable rendering of the Canon's
views, fuller than the original--more eloquent, more subtle. For five
minutes he held his hearers in absorbed attention, even Buckland
bending forward with an air of genuine interest; and when he stopped,
rather suddenly, there followed a silence.

'Mr. Peak,' said the host, after a cough of apology, 'you have made
that clearer to me than it was yesterday. I must thank you.'

Godwin felt that a slight bow of acknowledgment was perhaps called for,
but not a muscle would obey his will. He was enervated; perspiration
stood on his forehead. The most severe physical effort could not have
reduced him to a feebler state.

Sidwell was speaking:

'Mr. Peak has developed what Canon Grayling only suggested.'

'A brilliant effort of exegesis,' exclaimed Buckland, with a
good-natured laugh.

Again the young men exchanged looks. Godwin smiled as one might under a
sentence of death. As for the other, his suspicion had vanished, and he
now gave way to frank amusement. Luncheon was over, and by a general
movement all went forth on to the lawn in front of the house. Mr.
Warricombe, even more cordial than hitherto, named to Godwin the
features of the extensive landscape.

'But you see that the view is in a measure spoilt by the growth of the
city. A few years ago, none of those ugly little houses stood in the
mid-distance. A few years hence, I fear, there will be much more to
complain of. I daresay you know all about the ship-canal: the story of
the countess, and so forth?'

Buckland presently suggested that the afternoon might be used for a
drive.

'I was about to propose it,' said his father. 'You might start by the
Stoke Canon Road, so as to let Mr. Peak have the famous view from the
gate; then go on towards Silverton, for the sake of the reversed
prospect from the Exe. Who shall be of the party?'

It was decided that four only should occupy the vehicle, Miss Moorhouse
and Fanny Warricombe to be the two ladies. Godwin regretted Sidwell's
omission, but the friendly informality of the arrangement delighted
him. When the carriage rolled softly from the gravelled drive, Buckland
holding the reins, he felt an animation such as no event had ever
produced in him. No longer did he calculate phrases. A spontaneous
aptness marked his dialogue with Miss Moorhouse, and the laughing words
he now and then addressed to Fanny. For a short time Buckland was
laconic, but at length he entered into the joyous tone of the occasion.
Earwaker would have stood in amazement, could he have seen and heard
the saturnine denizen of Peckham Rye.

The weather was superb. A sea-breeze mitigated the warmth of the
cloudless sun, and where a dark pine-tree rose against the sky it gave
the azure depths a magnificence unfamiliar to northern eyes.

'On such a day as this,' remarked Miss Moorhouse, dividing her look
between Buckland and his friend, 'one feels that there's a good deal to
be said for England.'

'But for the vile weather,' was Warricombe's reply, 'you wouldn't know
such enjoyment.'

'Oh, I can't agree with that for a moment! My capacity for enjoyment is
unlimited. That philosophy is unworthy of you; it belongs to a paltry
scheme called "making the best of things".'

'In which you excel, Miss Moorhouse.'

'That she does!' agreed Fanny--a laughing, rosy-cheeked maiden.

'I deny it! No one is more copious in railing against circumstances.'

'But you turn them all to a joke,' Fanny objected.

'That's my profound pessimism. I am misunderstood. No one expects irony
from a woman.'

Peak found it difficult not to gaze too persistently at the subtle
countenance. He was impelled to examine it by a consciousness that he
himself received a large share of Miss Moorhouse's attention, and a
doubt as to the estimation in which she held him. Canon Grayling's
sermon and Godwin's comment had elicited no remark from her. Did she
belong to the ranks of emancipated women? With his experience of
Marcella Moxey, he welcomed the possibility of this variation of the
type, but at the same time, in obedience to a new spirit that had
strange possession of him, recognised that such phenomena no longer
aroused his personal interest. By the oddest of intellectual processes
he had placed himself altogether outside the sphere of unorthodox
spirits. Concerning Miss Moorhouse he cared only for the report she
might make of him to the Warricombes.

Before long, the carriage was stopped that he might enjoy one of the
pleasantest views in the neighbourhood of the city. A gate,
interrupting a high bank with which the road was bordered, gave
admission to the head of a great cultivated slope, which fell to the
river Exe; hence was suddenly revealed a wide panorama. Three
well-marked valleys--those of the Creedy, the Exe, and the Culm--spread
their rural loveliness to remote points of the horizon; gentle
undulations, with pasture and woodland, with long winding roads, and
many a farm that gleamed white amid its orchard leafage, led the gaze
into regions of evanescent hue and outline. Westward, a bolder swell
pointed to the skirts of Dartmoor. No inappropriate detail disturbed
the impression. Exeter was wholly hidden behind the hill on which the
observers stood, and the line of railway leading thither could only be
descried by special search. A foaming weir at the hill's foot blended
its soft murmur with that of the fir branches hereabouts; else, no
sound that the air could convey beyond the pulsing of a bird's note.

All had alighted, and for a minute or two there was silence. When Peak
had received such geographical instruction as was needful, Warricombe
pointed out to him a mansion conspicuous on the opposite slope of the
Exe valley, the seat of Sir Stafford Northcote. The house had no
architectural beauty, but its solitary lordship amid green pastures and
tracts of thick wood declared the graces and privileges of ancestral
wealth. Standing here alone, Godwin would have surveyed these
possessions of an English aristocrat with more or less bitterness; envy
would, for a moment at all events, have perturbed his pleasure in the
natural scene. Accompanied as he was, his emotion took a form which
indeed was allied to envy, but had nothing painful. He exulted in the
prerogatives of birth and opulence, felt proud of hereditary pride,
gloried that his mind was capable of appreciating to the full those
distinctions which, by the vulgar, are not so much as suspected.
Admitted to equal converse with men and women who represented the best
in English society, he could cast away the evil grudge, the fierce
spirit of self-assertion, and be what nature had proposed in endowing
him with large brain, generous blood, delicate tissues. What room for
malignancy? He was accepted by his peers, and could regard with
tolerance even those ignoble orders of mankind amid whom he had so long
dwelt unrecognised.

A bee hummed past him, and this sound--of all the voices of nature that
which most intenerates--filled his heart to overflowing. Moisture made
his eyes dim, and at the impulse of a feeling of gratitude, such as
only the subtlest care of psychology could fully have explained, he
turned to Buckland, saying:

'But for my meeting with you I should have had a lonely and not very
cheerful holiday. I owe you a great deal.'

Warricombe laughed, but as an Englishman does when he wishes to avoid
show of emotion.

'I am very glad indeed that we did meet. Stay with us over tomorrow. I
only wish I were not obliged to go to London on Wednesday.--Look,
Fanny, isn't that a hawk, over Cowley Bridge?'

'Do you feel you would like to shoot it?' asked Miss Moorhouse--who a
moment ago had very closely examined Peak's face.

'To shoot it--why do you ask that?'

'Confess that you felt the desire.'

'Every man does,' replied Buckland, 'until he has had a moment to
recover himself. That's the human instinct.'

'The male human instinct. Thank you for your honesty.'

They drove on, and by a wide circuit, occasionally stopping for the
view, returned to the Old Tiverton Road, and so home. By this time
Louis Warricombe and Mr. Moorhouse were back from their walk. Reposing
in the company of the ladies, they had partaken of such refreshments as
are lawful at five o'clock, and now welcomed with vivacity the later
arrivals. Moorhouse was something older than Buckland, a sallow-cheeked
man with forehead and eyes expressive of much intelligence. Till of
late he had been a Cambridge tutor, but was now privately occupied in
mathematical pursuits. Louis Warricombe had not yet made up his mind
what profession to follow, and to aid the process of resolve had for
the present devoted himself to physical exercise.

Tea-cup in hand, Godwin seated himself by Sidwell, who began by
inquiring how the drive had pleased him. The fervour of his reply
caused her to smile with special graciousness, and their conversation
was uninterrupted for some minutes. Then Fanny came forward with a book
of mosses, her own collection, which she had mentioned to Peak as they
were talking together in the carriage.

'Do you make special study of any science?' Sidwell asked, when certain
remarks of Godwin's had proved his familiarity with the things he was
inspecting.

'It is long since I worked seriously at anything of the kind,' he
answered; adding in a moment, 'except at chemistry--that only because
it is my business.'

'Organic or inorganic chemistry?' inquired Fanny, with the promptness
of a schoolgirl who wishes to have it known that her ideas are no
longer vague.

'Organic for the most part,' Godwin replied, smiling at her. 'And of
the most disagreeable kind.'

Sidwell reflected, then put another question, but with some diffidence.

'I think you were once fond of geology?'

It was the first allusion to that beginning of their acquaintance, ten
years ago. Peak succeeded in meeting her look with steadiness.

'Yes, I still like it.'

'Father's collections have been much improved since you saw them at
Thornhaw.'

'I hope Mr. Warricombe will let me see them.'

Buckland came up and made an apology for drawing his friend aside.

'Will you let us send for your traps? You may just as well have a room
here for a night or two.'

Perpetually imagining some kind chance that might associate him with
civilised people, Godwin could not even pack his portmanteau for a
ramble to Land's End without stowing away a dress suit. He was thus
saved what would have been an embarrassment of special annoyance.
Without hesitation, he accepted Buckland's offer, and named the hotel
at which the luggage was deposited.

'All right; the messenger shall explain. Our name's well enough known
to them. If you would like to look up my father in his study, he'll be
delighted to go over his collections with you. You still care for that
kind of thing?'

'Most certainly. How can you doubt it?'

Buckland smiled, and gave no other reply.

'Ask Fanny to show you the way when you care to go.' And he left the
room.



CHAPTER IV


Sidwell had fallen into conversation with Mr. Moorhouse. Miss
Moorhouse, Mrs. Warricombe, and Louis were grouped in animated talk.
Observing that Fanny threw glances towards him from a lonely corner,
Peak went over to her, and was pleased with the smile he met. Fanny had
watched eyes, much brighter than Sidwell's; her youthful vivacity
blended with an odd little fashion of schoolgirl pedantry in a very
piquant way. Godwin's attempts at conversation with her were rather
awkward; he found it difficult to strike the suitable note, something
not too formal yet not deficient in respect.

'Do you think,' he asked presently, 'that I should disturb your father
if I went to him?'

'Oh, not at all! I often go and sit in the study at this time.'

'Will you show me the way?'

Fanny at once rose, and together they crossed the hall, passed through
a sort of anteroom connecting with a fernery, and came to the study
door. A tap was answered by cheerful summons, and Fanny looked in.

'Well, my ladybird? Ah, you are bringing Mr. Peak; come in, come in!'

It was a large and beautiful room, its wide windows, in a cushioned
recess, looking upon the lawn where the yew tree cast solemn shade. One
wall presented an unbroken array of volumes, their livery sober but
handsome; detached bookcases occupied other portions of the irregular
perimeter. Cabinets, closed and open, were arranged with due regard to
convenience. Above the mantelpiece hung a few small photographs, but
the wall-space at disposal was chiefly occupied with objects which
illustrated Mr. Warricombe's scientific tastes. On a stand in the light
of the window gleamed two elaborate microscopes, provocative of
enthusiasm in a mind such as Godwin's.

In a few minutes, Fanny silently retired. Her father, by no means
forward to speak of himself and his pursuits, was led in that direction
by Peak's expressions of interest, and the two were soon busied with
matters which had a charm for both. A collection of elvans formed the
starting-point, and when they had entered upon the wide field of
palaeontology it was natural for Mr. Warricombe to invite his guest's
attention to the species of _homalonotus_ which he had had the
happiness of identifying some ten years ago--a discovery now recognised
and chronicled. Though his sympathy was genuine enough, Godwin
struggled against an uneasy sense of manifesting excessive
appreciation. Never oblivious of himself, he could not utter the
simplest phrase of admiration without criticising its justice, its
tone. And at present it behoved him to bear in mind that he was
conversing with no half-bred sciolist. Mr Warricombe obviously had his
share of human weakness, but he was at once a gentleman and a student
of well-stored mind; insincerity must be very careful if it would not
jar upon his refined ear. So Godwin often checked himself in the
utterance of what might sound too much like flattery. A young man
talking with one much older, a poor man in dialogue with a wealthy,
must under any circumstances guard his speech; for one of Godwin's
aggressive idiosyncrasy the task of discretion had peculiar
difficulties, and the attitude he had assumed at luncheon still further
complicated the operations of his mind. Only at moments could he speak
in his true voice, and silence meant for the most part a studious
repression of much he would naturally have uttered.

Resurgent envy gave him no little trouble. On entering the room, he
could not but exclaim to himself, 'How easy for a man to do notable
work amid such surroundings! If I were but thus equipped for
investigation!' And as often as his eyes left a particular object to
make a general survey, the same thought burned in him. He feared lest
it should be legible on his countenance.

Taking a pamphlet from the table, Mr. Warricombe, with a humorous
twinkle in his eyes, inquired whether Peak read German; the answer
being affirmative:

'Naturally,' he rejoined, 'you could hardly have neglected so important
a language. I, unfortunately, didn't learn it in my youth, and I have
never had perseverance enough to struggle with it since. Something led
me to take down this brochure the other day--an old attempt of mine to
write about the weathering of rocks. It was printed in '76, and no
sooner had it seen the light than friends of mine wanted to know what I
meant by appropriating, without acknowledgement, certain facts quite
recently pointed out by Professor Pfaff of Erlangen! Unhappily,
Professor Pfaff's results were quite unknown to me, and I had to get
them translated. The coincidences, sure enough, were very noticeable.
Just before you came in, I was reviving that old discomfiture.'

Peak, in glancing over the pages, murmured with a smile:

'_Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt_!'

'Even so!' exclaimed Mr. Warricombe, laughing with a subdued heartiness
which was one of his pleasant characteristics. And, after a pause, he
inquired, 'Do you find any time to keep up your classics?'

'By fits and starts. Sometimes I return to them for a month or two.'

'Why, it's pretty much the same with me. Here on my table, for
instance, lies Tacitus. I found it mentioned not long ago that the
first sentence of the _Annals_ is a hexameter--did you know it?--and
when I had once got hold of the book I thought it a shabby thing to
return it to the dust of its shelf without reading at least a few
pages. So I have gone on from day to day, with no little enjoyment.
Buckland, as you probably know, regards these old fellows with scorn.'

'We always differed about that.'

'I can't quite decide whether he is still sincere in all he says about
them. Time, I suspect, is mellowing his judgment.'

They moved to the shelves where Greek and Latin books stood in serried
order, and only the warning dinner-bell put an end to their sympathetic
discussion of the place such authors should hold in modern educational
systems.

'Have they shown you your room?' Mr. Warricombe asked.

But, as he spoke, the face of his eldest son appeared at the door.

'Your traps have safely arrived, Peak.'

The bedroom to which Godwin was conducted had a delicious fragrance, of
source indeterminable. When he had closed the door, he stood for a few
moments looking about him; it was his first experience of the upper
chambers of houses such as this. Merely to step upon the carpet
fluttered his senses: merely to breathe the air was a purification.
Luxury of the rational kind, dictated by regard for health of body and
soul, appeared in every detail. On the walls were water-colours,
scenery of Devon and Cornwall; a hanging book-case held about a score
of volumes poets, essayists, novelists. Elsewhere, not too prominent,
lay a Bible and a Prayer-book.

He dressed, as never before, with leisurely enjoyment of the process.
When the mirror declared him ready, his eyes returned frequently to an
inspection of the figure he presented, and it seemed to him that he was
not unworthy to take his place at the dinner-table. As for his visage,
might he not console himself with the assurance that it was of no
common stamp? 'If I met that man in a room, I should be curious about
him; I should see at once that he didn't belong to the vulgar; I should
desire to hear him speak.' And the Warricombes were not lacking in
discernment. He would compare more than favourably with Mr. Moorhouse,
whose aspect, bright and agreeable enough, made no promise of
originality.--It must be time to go down. He left the room with an air
of grave self-confidence.

At dinner he was careful to attempt no repetition of the display which
had done very well at luncheon; it must not be thought that he had the
habit of talking for effect. Mrs. Warricombe, unless he mistook, had
begun to view him more favourably; her remarks made less distinction
between him and the other guests. But he could not like his hostess; he
thought her unworthy to be the mother of Sidwell and Fanny, of Buckland
and Louis; there was a marked strain of the commonplace in her. The
girls, costumed for the evening, affected him with a return of the awe
he had all but overcome. Sidwell was exquisite in dark colours, her
sister in white. Miss Moorhouse (addressed by her friends as 'Sylvia')
looked older than in the day-time, and had lost something of her
animation; possibly the country routine had begun to weary her a little.

Peak was at a vast distance from the hour which saw him alight at
Exeter and begin his ramble about the city. He no longer felt himself
alone in the world; impossible to revive the mood in which he
deliberately planned to consume his economies in a year or two of
desert wandering; far other were the anticipations which warmed his
mind when the after-dinner repose attuned him to unwonted hopefulness.
This family were henceforth his friends, and it depended only upon
himself to make the connection lasting, with all manner of benefits
easily imagined. Established in the country, the Warricombes stood to
him in quite a different relation from any that could have arisen had
he met with them in London. There he would have been nothing more than
a casual dinner-guest, welcomed for the hour and all but forgotten when
he had said good-night. For years he had understood that London offered
him no prospect of social advancement. But a night passed under this
roof practically raised him to a level whence he surveyed a rich field
of possible conquest. With the genial geologist he felt himself on
excellent terms, and much of this was ascribable to a singular chance
which had masked his real being, and represented him, with scarce an
effort of his own, in a light peculiarly attractive to Mr. Warricombe.
He was now playing the conscious hypocrite; not a pleasant thing to
face and accept, but the fault was not his--fate had brought it about.
At all events, he aimed at no vulgar profit; his one desire was for
human fellowship; he sought nothing but that solace which every code of
morals has deemed legitimate. Let the society which compelled to such
an expedient bear the burden of its shame.

That must indeed have been a circle of great intellects amid which
Godwin Peak felt himself subordinate. He had never known that
impression, and in the Warricombe family was no one whom he could
regard even as his equal. Buckland, doubtless, had some knowledge of
the world, and could boast of a free mind; but he lacked subtlety: a
psychological problem would easily puzzle him. Mr. Warricombe's
attainments were respectable, but what could be said of a man who had
devoted his life to geology, and still (in the year 1884) remained an
orthodox member of the Church of England? Godwin, as he sat in the
drawing-room and enjoyed its atmosphere of refinement, sincerely held
himself of far more account as an intellectual being than all the
persons about him.

But if his brain must dwell in solitude his heart might compass worthy
alliances--the thing most needful to humanity. One may find the
associates of his intellect in libraries--the friend of one's emotions
must walk in flesh and blood. Earwaker, Moxey--these were in many
respects admirable fellows, and he had no little love for them, but the
world they represented was womanless, and so of flagrant imperfection.
Of Marcella Moxey he could not think emotionally; indeed she emphasised
by her personality the lack which caused his suffering. Sidwell
Warricombe suggested, more completely than any woman he had yet
observed, that companionship without which life must to the end taste
bitter. His interest in her was not strictly personal; she moved and
spoke before him as a typical woman, not as the daughter of Martin
Warricombe and the sister of Buckland. Here at last opened to his view
that sphere of female society which he had known as remotely existing,
the desperate aim of ambition.

Conventional women--but was not the phrase tautological? In the few
females who have liberated their souls, was not much of the woman
inevitably sacrificed, and would it not be so for long years to come?
On the other hand, such a one as Sidwell might be held a perfect
creature, perfect in relation to a certain stage of human development.
Look at her, as she sat conversing with Moorhouse, soft candle-light
upon her face; compare her on the one hand with an average emancipated
girl, on the other with a daughter of the people. How unsatisfying was
the former; the latter, how repulsive! Here one had the exquisite mean,
the lady as England has perfected her towards the close of this
nineteenth century. A being of marvellous delicacy, of purest
instincts, of unsurpassable sweetness. Who could not detail her
limitations, obvious and, in certain moods, irritating enough? These
were nothing to the point, unless one would roam the world a hungry
idealist; and Godwin was weary of the famined pilgrimage.

The murmur of amiable voices softened him to the reception of all that
was good in his present surroundings, and justified in the light of
sentiment his own dishonour. This English home, was it not surely the
best result of civilisation in an age devoted to material progress?
Here was peace, here was scope for the kindliest emotions. Upon
him--the born rebel, the scorner of average mankind, the consummate
egoist--this atmosphere exercised an influence more tranquillising,
more beneficent, than even the mood of disinterested study. In the
world to which sincerity would condemn him, only the worst elements of
his character found nourishment and range; here he was humanised, made
receptive of all gentle sympathies. Heroism might point him to an
unending struggle with adverse conditions, but how was heroism possible
without faith? Absolute faith he had none; he was essentially a
negativist, guided by the mere relations of phenomena. Nothing easier
than to contemn the mode of life represented by this wealthy middle
class; but compare it with other existences conceivable by a thinking
man, and it was emphatically good. It aimed at placidity, at
benevolence, at supreme cleanliness,--things which more than
compensated for the absence of higher spirituality. We can be but what
we are; these people accepted themselves, and in so doing became
estimable mortals. No imbecile pretensions exposed them to the rebuke
of a social satirist; no vulgarity tainted their familiar intercourse.
Their allegiance to a worn-out creed was felt as an added grace; thus
only could their souls aspire, and the imperfect poetry of their
natures be developed.

He took an opportunity of seating himself by Mrs. Warricombe, with whom
as yet he had held no continuous dialogue.

'Has there been anything of interest at the London theatres lately?'
she asked.

'I know so little of them,' Godwin replied, truthfully. 'It must be
several years since I saw a play.'

'Then in that respect you have hardly become a Londoner.'

'Nor in any other, I believe,' said Peak, with a smile. 'I have lived
there ten years, but am far from regarding London as my home. I hope a
few months more will release me from it altogether.'

'Indeed!--Perhaps you think of leaving England?'

'I should be very sorry to do that--for any length of time. My wish is
to settle somewhere in the country, and spend a year or two in quiet
study.'

Mrs. Warricombe looked amiable surprise, but corrected herself to
approving interest.

'I have heard some of our friends say that their minds get unstrung, if
they are long away from town, but I should have thought that country
quietness would be much better than London noise. My husband certainly
finds it so.'

'People are very differently constituted,' said Godwin. 'And then it
depends much on the nature of one's work.'

Uttering these commonplaces with an air of reflection, he observed that
they did not cost him the self-contempt which was wont to be his
penalty for concession to the terms of polite gossip; rather, his mind
accepted with gratitude this rare repose. He tasted something of the
tranquil self-content which makes life so enjoyable when one has never
seen a necessity for shaping original remarks. No one in this room
would despise him for a platitude, were it but recommended with a
pleasant smile. With the Moxeys, with Earwaker, he durst not thus have
spoken.

When the hour of separation was at hand, Buckland invited his guest to
retire with him to a part of the house where they could smoke and chat
comfortably.

'Moorhouse and Louis are fagged after their twenty mile stretch this
morning; I have caught both of them nodding during the last few
minutes. We can send them to bed without apology.'

He led the way upstairs to a region of lumber-rooms, whence a narrow
flight of steps brought them into a glass-house, octangular and with
pointed tops, out upon the roof. This, he explained, had been built
some twenty years ago, at a time when Mr. Warricombe amused himself
with photography. A few indications of its original purposes were still
noticeable; an easel and a box of oil-colours showed that
someone--doubtless of the younger generation--had used it as a
painting-room; a settee and deep cane chairs made it an inviting lounge
on a warm evening like the present, when, by throwing open a hinged
wall, one looked forth into the deep sky and tasted the air from the
sea.

'Sidwell used to paint a little,' said Buckland, as his companion bent
to examine a small canvas on which a landscape was roughed in. It lay
on a side table, and was half concealed by an ordnance map, left
unfolded. 'For the last year or two I think she has given it up. I'm
afraid we are not strong in matters of art. Neither of the girls can
play very well, though of course they both tinkle for their own
amusement. Maurice--the poor lad who was killed--gave a good deal of
artistic promise; father keeps some little water-colours of his, which
men in that line have praised--perhaps sincerely.'

'I remember you used to speak slightingly of art,' said Godwin, as he
took an offered cigar.

'Did I? And of a good many other things, I daresay. It was my habit at
one time, I believe, to grow heated in scorn of Euclid's definitions.
What an interesting book Euclid is! Half a year ago, I was led by a
talk with Moorhouse to go through some of the old "props", and you
can't imagine how they delighted me. Moorhouse was so obliging as to
tell me that I had an eminently deductive mind.'

He laughed, but not without betraying some pleasure in the remark.

'Surprising,' he went on, 'how very little such a mind as Moorhouse's
suggests itself in common conversation. He is really profound in
mathematics, a man of original powers, but I never heard him make a
remark of the slightest value on any other subject. Now his sister--she
has studied nothing in particular, yet she can't express an opinion
that doesn't bear the stamp of originality.'

Godwin was contented to muse, his eyes fixed on a brilliant star in the
western heaven.

'There's only one inconsistency in her that annoys and puzzles me,'
Buckland pursued, speaking with the cigar in his mouth. 'In religion,
she seems to be orthodox. True, we have never spoken on the subject,
but--well, she goes to church, and carries prayer-books. I don't know
how to explain it. Hypocrisy is the last thing one could suspect her
of. I'm sure she hates it in every form. And such a clear brain!--I
can't understand it.'

The listener was still star-gazing. He had allowed his cigar, after the
first few puffs, to smoulder untasted; his lips were drawn into an
expression very unlike the laxity appropriate to pleasurable smoking.
When the murmur of the pines had for a moment been audible, he said,
with a forced smile:

'I notice you take for granted that a clear brain and religious
orthodoxy are incompatible.'

The other gave him a keen look.

'Hardly,' was Buckland's reply, spoken with less ingenuousness of tone
than usual. 'I say that Miss Moorhouse has undeniably a strong mind,
and that it is impossible to suspect her of the slightest hypocrisy.'

'Whence the puzzle that keeps you occupied,' rejoined Peak, in a voice
that sounded like assumption of superiority, though the accent had an
agreeable softness.

Warricombe moved as if impatiently, struck a match to rekindle his
weed, blew tumultuous clouds, and finally put a blunt question:

'What do you think about it yourself?'

'From my point of view, there is no puzzle at all,' Godwin replied, in
a very clear voice, smiling as he met the other's look.

'How am I to understand that?' asked Buckland, good-naturedly, though
with a knitting of his brows.

'Not as a doubt of Miss Moorhouse's sincerity. I can't see that a
belief in the Christian religion is excluded by any degree of
intellectual clearness.'

'No--your views have changed, Peak?'

'On many subjects, this among them.'

'I see.'

The words fell as if involuntarily from Warricombe's lips. He gazed at
the floor awhile, then, suddenly looking up, exclaimed:

'It would be civil to accept this without surprise, but it is too much
for me. How has it come about?'

'That would take me a long time to explain.'

'Then,' pursued his companion, watching him closely, 'you were quite in
sympathy with that exposition you gave at lunch today?'

'Quite. I hope there was nothing in my way of speaking that made you
think otherwise?'

'Nothing at all. I couldn't help wondering what it meant. You seemed
perfectly in earnest, yet such talk had the oddest sound on your
lips--to me, I mean. Of course I thought of you as I used to know you.'

'Naturally.' Peak was now in an attitude of repose, his legs crossed,
thumb and forefinger stroking his chin. 'I couldn't very well turn
aside to comment on my own mental history.'

Here again was the note of something like genial condescension.
Buckland seemed sensible of it, and slightly raised his eyebrows.

'I am to understand that you have become strictly orthodox in matters
of religious faith?'

'The proof is,' replied Godwin, 'that I hope before long to take
Orders.'

Again there was silence, and again the sea-breath made its whispering
in the pines. Warricombe, with a sudden gesture, pointed towards the
sky.

'A shooting star--one of the brightest I ever saw!'

'I missed it,' said Peak, just glancing in that direction.

The interruption enabled Buckland to move his chair; in this new
position he was somewhat further from Peak, and had a better view of
his face.

'I should never have imagined you a clergyman,' he said, thoughtfully,
'but I can see that your mind has been developing powers in that
direction.--Well, so be it! I can only hope you have found your true
work in life.'

'But you doubt it?'

'I can't say that I doubt it, as I can't understand you. To be sure, we
have been parted for many years. In some respects I must seem much
changed'--

'Greatly changed,' Godwin put in, promptly.

'Yes,' pursued the other, correctively, 'but not in a way that would
seem incredible to anyone whatever. I am conscious of growth in
tolerance, but my attitude in essentials is unchanged. Thinking of
you--as I have often enough done--I always kept the impression you made
on me when we were both lads; you seemed most distinctly a modern
mind--one of the most modern that ever came under my notice. Now, I
don't find it impossible to understand my father, when he reconciles
science with religion; he was born sixty years ago. But Godwin Peak as
a--a--'

'Parson,' supplied Peak, drily.

'Yes, as a parson--I shall have to meditate much before I grasp the
notion.'

'Perhaps you have dropped your philosophical studies?' said Godwin,
with a smile of courteous interest.

'I don't know. Metaphysics have no great interest for me, but I
philosophise in a way. I thought myself a student of human nature, at
all events.'

'But you haven't kept up with philosophical speculation on the points
involved in orthodox religion?'

'I confess my ignorance of everything of the kind--unless you include
Bishop Blougram among the philosophers?'

Godwin bore the gaze which accompanied this significant inquiry. For a
moment he smiled, but there followed an expression of gravity touched
with pain.

'I hadn't thought of broaching this matter,' he said, with slow
utterance, but still in a tone of perfect friendliness. 'Let us put it
aside.'

Warricombe seemed to make an effort, and his next words had the accent
of well-bred consideration which distinguished his ordinary talk.

'Pray forgive my bad joke. I merely meant that I have no right whatever
to argue with anyone who has given serious attention to such things.
They are altogether beyond my sphere. I was born an agnostic, and no
subtlety of demonstration could incline me for a moment to theological
views; my intellect refuses to admit a single preliminary of such
arguments. You astonish me, and that's all I am justified in saying.'

'My dear Warricombe, you are justified in saying whatever your mind
suggests. That is one of the principles which I hold unaltered--let me
be quite frank with you. I should never have decided upon such a step
as this, but for the fact that I have managed to put by a small sum of
money which will make me independent for two or three years. Till quite
lately I hadn't a thought of using my freedom in this way; it was clear
to me that I must throw over the old drudgery at Rotherhithe, but this
resolve which astonishes you had not yet ripened--I saw it only as one
of the possibilities of my life. Well, now, it's only too true that
there's something of speculation in my purpose; I look to the Church,
not only as a congenial sphere of activity, but as a means of
subsistence. In a man of no fortune this is inevitable; I hope there is
nothing to be ashamed of. Even if the conditions of the case allowed
it, I shouldn't present myself for ordination forthwith; I must study
and prepare myself in quietness. How the practical details will be
arranged, I can't say; I have no family influence, and I must hope to
make friends who will open a way for me. I have always lived apart from
society; but that isn't natural to me, and it becomes more distasteful
the older I grow. The probability is that I shall settle somewhere in
the country, where I can live decently on a small income. After all,
it's better I should have let you know this at once. I only realised a
few minutes ago that to be silent about my projects was in a way to be
guilty of false pretences.'

The adroitness of this last remark, which directed itself, with such
show of candour, against a suspicion precisely the opposite of that
likely to be entertained by the listener, succeeded in disarming
Warricombe; he looked up with a smile of reassurance, and spoke
encouragingly.

'About the practical details I don't think you need have any anxiety.
It isn't every day that the Church of England gets such a recruit. Let
me suggest that you have a talk with my father.'

Peak reflected on the proposal, and replied to it with grave
thoughtfulness:

'That's very kind of you, but I should have a difficulty in asking Mr.
Warricombe's advice. I'm afraid I must go on in my own way for a time.
It will be a few months, I daresay, before I can release myself from my
engagements in London.'

'But I am to understand that your mind is really made up?'

'Oh, quite!'

'Well, no doubt we shall have opportunities of talking. We must meet in
town, if possible. You have excited my curiosity, and I can't help
hoping you'll let me see a little further into your mind some day. When
I first got hold of Newman's _Apologia_, I began to read it with the
utmost eagerness, flattering myself that now at length I should
understand how a man of brains could travel such a road. I was horribly
disappointed, and not a little enraged, when I found that he began by
assuming the very beliefs I thought he was going to justify. In you I
shall hope for more logic.'

'Newman is incapable of understanding such an objection,' said Peak,
with a look of amusement.

'But you are not.'

The dialogue grew chatty. When they exchanged good-night, Peak fancied
that the pressure of Buckland's hand was less fervent than at their
meeting, but his manner no longer seemed to indicate distrust. Probably
the agnostic's mood was one of half-tolerant disdain.

Godwin turned the key in his bedroom door, and strayed aimlessly about.
He was fatigued, but the white, fragrant bed did not yet invite him; a
turbulence in his brain gave warning that it would be long before he
slept. He wound up his watch; the hands pointed to twelve. Chancing to
come before the mirror, he saw that he was unusually pale, and that his
eyes had a swollen look.

The profound stillness was oppressive to him; he started nervously at
an undefined object in a dim corner, and went nearer to examine it; he
was irritable, vaguely discontented, and had even a moment of nausea,
perhaps the result of tobacco stronger than he was accustomed to smoke.
After leaning for five minutes at the open window, he felt a soothing
effect from the air, and could think consecutively of the day's events.
What had happened seemed to him incredible; it was as though he revived
a mad dream, of ludicrous coherence. Since his display of rhetoric at
luncheon all was downright somnambulism. What fatal power had subdued
him? What extraordinary influence had guided his tongue, constrained
his features? His conscious self had had no part in all this comedy;
now for the first time was he taking count of the character he had
played.

Had he been told this morning that--Why, what monstrous folly was all
this? Into what unspeakable baseness had he fallen? Happily, he had but
to take leave of the Warricombe household, and rush into some region
where he was unknown. Years hence, he would relate the story to
Earwaker.

For a long time he suffered the torments of this awakening. Shame
buffeted him on the right cheek and the left; he looked about like one
who slinks from merited chastisement. Oh, thrice ignoble varlet! To
pose with unctuous hypocrisy before people who had welcomed him under
their roof, unquestioned, with all the grace and kindliness of English
hospitality! To lie shamelessly in the face of his old fellow-student,
who had been so genuinely glad to meet him again!

Yet such possibility had not been unforeseen. At the times of his
profound gloom, when solitude and desire crushed his spirit, he had
wished that fate would afford him such an opportunity of knavish
success. His imagination had played with the idea that a man like
himself might well be driven to this expedient, and might even use it
with life-long result. Of a certainty, the Church numbered such men
among her priests,--not mere lukewarm sceptics who made religion a
source of income, nor yet those who had honestly entered the portal and
by necessity were held from withdrawing, though their convictions had
changed; but deliberate schemers from the first, ambitious but hungry
natures, keen-sighted, unscrupulous. And they were at no loss to defend
themselves against the attack of conscience. Life is a terrific
struggle for all who begin it with no endowments save their brains. A
hypocrite was not necessarily a harm-doer; easy to picture the
unbelieving priest whose influence was vastly for good, in word and
deed.

But he, he who had ever prided himself on his truth-fronting intellect,
and had freely uttered his scorn of the credulous mob! He who was his
own criterion of moral right and wrong! No wonder he felt like a
whipped cur. It was the ancestral vice in his blood, brought out by
over-tempting circumstance. The long line of base-born predecessors,
the grovelling hinds and mechanics of his genealogy, were responsible
for this. Oh for a name wherewith honour was hereditary!

His eyes were blinded by a rush of hot tears. Down, down--into the
depths of uttermost despondency, of self-pity and self-contempt! Had it
been practicable, he would have fled from the house, leaving its
occupants to think of him as they would; even as, ten years ago, he had
fled from the shame impending over him at Kingsmill. A cowardly
instinct, this; having once acted upon it gave to his whole life a
taint of craven meanness. Mere bluster, all his talk of mental dignity
and uncompromising scorn of superstitions. A weak and idle man, whose
best years were already wasted!

He gazed deliberately at himself in the glass, at his red eyelids and
unsightly lips. Darkness was best; perhaps he might forget his shame
for an hour or two, ere the dawn renewed it. He threw off his garments
heedlessly, extinguished the lamp, and crept into the ready
hiding-place.



Part III



CHAPTER I


'Why are you obstinately silent? [wrote Earwaker, in a letter addressed
to Godwin at his Peckham lodgings]. I take it for granted that you must
by this time be back from your holiday. Why haven't you replied to my
letter of a fortnight ago? Nothing yet from _The Critical_. If you are
really at work as usual, come and see me to-morrow evening, any time
after eight. The posture of my affairs grows dubious; the shadow of
Kenyon thickens about me. In all seriousness I think I shall be driven
from _The Weekly Post_ before long. My quarrels with Runcorn are too
frequent, and his blackguardism keeps more than pace with the times.
Come or write, for I want to know how things go with you.

_Tuissimus_, J.E.E.'

Peak read this at breakfast on a Saturday morning. It was early in
September, and three weeks had elapsed since his return from the west
of England. Upon the autumn had fallen a blight of cold and rainy
weather, which did not enhance the cheerfulness of daily journeying
between Peckham Rye and Rotherhithe. When it was necessary for him to
set forth to the train, he muttered imprecations, for a mood of
inactivity possessed him; he would gladly have stayed in his
comfortable sitting-room, idling over books or only occupied with
languid thought.

In the afternoon he was at liberty to follow his impulse, and this
directed him to the British Museum, whither of late he had several
times resorted as a reader. Among the half-dozen books for which he
applied was one in German, Reusch's _Bibel und Natur_. After a little
dallying, he became absorbed in this work, and two or three hours
passed before its hold on his attention slackened. He seldom changed
his position; the volume was propped against others, and he sat bending
forward, his arms folded upon the desk. When he was thus deeply
engaged, his face had a hard, stern aspect; if by chance his eye
wandered for a moment, its look seemed to express resentment of
interruption.

At length he threw himself back with a sudden yielding to weariness,
crossed his legs, sank together in the chair, and for half-an-hour
brooded darkly. A fit of yawning admonished him that it was time to
quit the atmosphere of study. He betook himself to a restaurant in the
Strand, and thence about eight o'clock made his way to Staple Inn,
where the journalist gave him cheerful welcome.

'Day after day I have meant to write,' thus he excused himself. 'But I
had really nothing to say.'

'You don't look any better for your holiday,' Earwaker remarked.

'Holiday? Oh, I had forgotten all about it. When do _you_ go?'

'The situation is comical. I feel sure that if I leave town, my
connection with the _Post_ will come to an end. I shall have a note
from Runcorn saying that we had better take this opportunity of
terminating my engagement. On the whole I should be glad, yet I can't
make up my mind to be ousted by Kenyon--that's what it means. They want
to get me away, but I stick on, postponing holiday from week to week.
Runcorn can't decide to send me about my business, yet every leader I
write enrages him. But for Kenyon, I should gain my point; I feel sure
of it. It's one of those cases in which homicide would be justified by
public interest. If Kenyon gets my place, the paper becomes at once an
organ of ruffiandom, the delight of the blackguardry.'

'How's the circulation?' inquired Peak.

'Pretty sound; that adds to the joke. This series of stories by
Doubleday has helped us a good deal, and my contention is, if we can
keep financially right by help of this kind, why not make a little
sacrifice for the sake of raising our political tone? Runcorn won't see
it; he listens eagerly to Kenyon's assurance that we might sell several
thousand more by striking the true pot-house note.'

'Then pitch the thing over! Wash your hands, and go to cleaner work.'

'The work I am doing is clean enough,' replied Earwaker. 'Let me have
my way, and I can make the paper a decent one and a useful one. I
shan't easily find another such chance.'

'Your idealism has a strong root,' said Godwin, rather contemptuously.
'I half envy you. There must be a distinct pleasure in believing that
any intellectual influence will exalt the English democracy.'

'I'm not sure that I do believe it, but I enjoy the experiment. The
chief pleasure, I suppose, is in fighting Runcorn and Kenyon.'

'They are too strong for you, Earwaker. They have the spirit of the age
to back them up.'

The journalist became silent; he smiled, but the harassment of conflict
marked his features.

'I hear nothing about "The New Sophistry",' he remarked, when Godwin
had begun to examine some books that lay on the table. 'Dolby has the
trick of keeping manuscripts a long time. Everything that seems at the
first glance tolerable, he sends to the printer, then muses over it at
his leisure. Probably your paper is in type.'

'I don't care a rap whether it is or not. What do you think of this
book of Oldwinkle's?'

He was holding a volume of humorous stories, which had greatly taken
the fancy of the public.

'It's uncommonly good,' replied the journalist, laughing. 'I had a
prejudice against the fellow, but he has overcome me. It's more than
good farce--something like really strong humour here and there.'

'I quite believe it,' said Peak, 'yet I couldn't read a page. Whatever
the mob enjoys is at once spoilt for me, however good I should
otherwise think it. I am sick of seeing and hearing the man's name.'

Earwaker shook his head in deprecation.

'Narrow, my boy. One must be able to judge and enjoy impartially.'

'I know it, but I shall never improve. This book seems to me to have a
bad smell; it looks mauled with dirty fingers. I despise Oldwinkle for
his popularity. To make them laugh, and to laugh _with_ them--pah!'

They debated this point for some time, Peak growing more violent,
though his friend preserved a smiling equanimity. A tirade of virulent
contempt, in which Godwin exhibited all his powers of savage eloquence,
was broken by a visitor's summons at the door.

'Here's Malkin,' said the journalist; 'you'll see each other at last.'

Peak could not at once command himself to the look and tone desirable
in meeting a stranger; leaning against the mantelpiece, he gazed with a
scowl of curiosity at the man who presented himself, and when he shook
hands, it was in silence. But Malkin made speech from the others
unnecessary for several minutes. With animated voice and gesture, he
poured forth apologies for his failure to keep the appointment of six
or seven weeks ago.

'Only the gravest call of duty could have kept me away, I do assure
you! No doubt Earwaker has informed you of the circumstances. I
telegraphed--I think I telegraphed; didn't I, Earwaker?'

'I have some recollection of a word or two of scant excuse,' replied
the journalist.

'But I implore you to consider the haste I was in,' cried Malkin; 'not
five minutes, Mr. Peak, to book, to register luggage, to do everything;
not five minutes, I protest! But here we are at last. Let us talk! Let
us talk!'

He seated himself with an air of supreme enjoyment, and began to cram
the bowl of a large pipe from a bulky pouch.

'How stands the fight with Kenyon and Co.?' he cried, as soon as the
tobacco was glowing.

Earwaker briefly repeated what he had told Peak.

'Hold out! No surrender and no compromise! What's your opinion, Mr
Peak, on the abstract question? Is a popular paper likely, or not, to
be damaged in its circulation by improvement of style and tone--within
the limits of discretion?'

'I shouldn't be surprised if it were,' Peak answered, drily.

'I'm afraid you're right. There's no use in blinking truths, however
disagreeable. But, for Earwaker, that isn't the main issue. What he has
to do is to assert himself. Every man's first duty is to assert
himself. At all events, this is how I regard the matter. I am all for
individualism, for the development of one's personality at whatever
cost. No compromise on points of faith! Earwaker has his ideal of
journalistic duty, and in a fight with fellows like Runcorn and Kenyon
he must stand firm as a rock.'

'I can't see that he's called upon to fight at all,' said Peak. 'He's
in a false position; let him get out of it.'

'A false position? I can't see that. No man better fitted than Earwaker
to raise the tone of Radical journalism. Here's a big Sunday newspaper
practically in his hands; it seems to me that the circumstances give
him a grand opportunity of making his force felt. What are we all
seeking but an opportunity for striking out with effect?'

Godwin listened with a sceptical smile, and made answer in slow,
careless tones.

'Earwaker happens to be employed and paid by certain capitalists to
increase the sale of their paper.'

'My dear sir!' cried the other, bouncing upon his seat. 'How can you
take such a view? A great newspaper surely cannot be regarded as a mere
source of income. These capitalists declare that they have at heart the
interests of the working classes; so has Earwaker, and he is far better
able than they to promote those interests. His duty is to apply their
money to the best use, morally speaking. If he were lukewarm in the
matter, I should be the first to advise his retirement; but this fight
is entirely congenial to him. I trust he will hold his own to the last
possible moment.'

'You must remember,' put in the journalist, with a look of amusement,
'that Peak has no sympathy with Radicalism.'

'I lament it, but that does not affect my argument. If you were a high
Tory, I should urge you just as strongly to assert yourself. Surely you
agree with this point of mine, Mr. Peak? You admit that a man must
develop whatever strength is in him.'

'I'm not at all sure of that.'

Malkin fixed himself sideways in the chair, and examined his
collocutor's face earnestly. He endeavoured to subdue his excitement to
the tone of courteous debate, but the words that at length escaped him
were humorously blunt.

'Then of what _are_ you sure?'

'Of nothing.'

'Now we touch bottom!' cried Malkin. 'Philosophically speaking, I agree
with you. But we have to live our lives, and I suppose we must direct
ourselves by some conscious principle.'

'I don't see the necessity,' Peak replied, still in an impassive tone.
'We may very well be guided by circumstances as they arise. To be sure,
there's a principle in that, but I take it you mean something
different.'

'Yes I do. I hold that the will must direct circumstances, not receive
its impulse from them. How, then, are we to be guided? What do you set
before yourself?'

'To get through life with as much satisfaction and as little pain as
possible.'

'You are a hedonist, then. Well and good! Then that is your conscious
principle'--

'No, it isn't.'

'How am I to understand you?'

'By recognising that a man's intellectual and moral principles as
likely as not tend to anything but his happiness.'

'I can't admit it!' exclaimed Malkin, leaping from his chair. 'What
_is_ happiness?'

'I don't know.'

'Earwaker, _what_ is happiness? What _is_ happiness?'

'I really don't know,' answered the journalist, mirthfully.

'This is trifling with a grave question. We all know perfectly well
that happiness is the conscious exertion of individual powers. Why is
there so much suffering under our present social system? Because the
majority of men are crushed to a dead level of mechanical toil, with no
opportunity of developing their special faculties. Give a man scope,
and happiness is put within his reach.'

'What do you mean by scope?' inquired Godwin.

'Scope? Scope? Why, room to expand. The vice of our society is
hypocrisy; it comes of over-crowding. When a man isn't allowed to be
himself, he takes refuge in a mean imitation of those other men who
appear to be better off. That was what sent me off to South America. I
got into politics, and found that I was in danger of growing dishonest,
of compromising, and toadying. In the wilderness, I found myself
again.--Do you seriously believe that happiness can be obtained by
ignoring one's convictions?'

He addressed the question to both, snuffing the air with head thrown
back.

'What if you have no convictions?' asked Peak.

'Then you are incapable of happiness in any worthy sense! You may
graze, but you will never feast.'

The listeners joined in laughter, and Malkin, after a moment's
hesitation, allowed his face to relax in good-humoured sympathy.

'Now look here!' he cried. 'You--Earwaker; suppose you sent conscience
to the devil, and set yourself to please Runcorn by increasing the
circulation of your paper by whatever means. You would flourish,
undoubtedly. In a short time you would be chief editor, and your
pockets would burst with money. But what about your peace of mind? What
about happiness?'

'Why, I'm disposed to agree with Peak,' answered the journalist. 'If I
_could_ take that line, I should be a happier man than
conscientiousness will ever make me.'

Malkin swelled with indignation.

'You don't mean it! You are turning a grave argument into
jest!--Where's my hat? Where the devil is my hat? Send for me again
when you are disposed to talk seriously.'

He strode towards the door, but Earwaker arrested him with a shout.

'You're leaving your pipe!'

'So I am. Where is it?--Did I tell you where I bought this pipe?'

'No. What's the wood?'

On the instant Malkin fell into a cheerful vein of reminiscence. In
five minutes he was giving a rapturous description of tropical scenes,
laughing joyously as he addressed now one now the other of his
companions.

'I hear you have a mind to see those countries, Mr. Peak,' he said at
length. 'If you care for a travelling companion--rather short-tempered,
but you'll pardon that--pray give me the preference. I should enjoy
above all things to travel with a man of science.'

'It's very doubtful whether I shall ever get so far,' Godwin replied,
musingly.

And, as he spoke, he rose to take leave. Earwaker's protest that it was
not yet ten o'clock did not influence him.

'I want to reflect on the meaning of happiness,' he said, extending his
hand to Malkin; and, in spite of the smile, his face had a sombre cast.

The two who were left of course discussed him.

'You won't care much for Peak,' said Earwaker. 'He and I suit each
other, because there's a good deal of indifferentism in both of us.
Moral earnestness always goes against the grain with him; I've noticed
it frequently.'

'I'm sorry I spoke so dogmatically. It wasn't altogether good manners.
Suppose I write him a short letter, just expressing my regret for
having been led away'--

'Needless, needless,' laughed the journalist. 'He thinks all the better
of you for your zeal. But happiness is a sore point with him; few men,
I should think, have known less of it. I can't imagine any
circumstances which would make him thoroughly at peace with himself and
the world.'

'Poor fellow! You can see something of that in his face. Why doesn't he
get married?'

'A remarkable suggestion!--By the way, why don't _you_?'.

'My dear boy, there's nothing I wish more, but it's a business of such
fearful precariousness. I'm one of those men whom marriage will either
make or ruin. You know my characteristics; the slightest check upon my
independence, and all's up with me. The woman I marry must be perfectly
reasonable, perfectly good-tempered; she must have excellent education,
and every delicacy of breeding. Where am I to find this paragon?'

'Society is open to you.'

'True, but I am not open to society. I don't take kindly to the people
of my own class. No, I tell you what--my only chance of getting a
suitable wife is to train some very young girl for the purpose. Don't
misunderstand me, for heaven's sake! I mean that I must make a
friendship with some schoolgirl in whose education I can have a voice,
whose relatives will permit me to influence her mind and develop her
character. What do you think of this idea?'

'Not bad, but it demands patience.'

'And who more patient than I? But let us talk of that poor Mrs. Jacox
and her girls. You feel that you know them pretty well from my letters,
don't you? Nothing more monstrous can be imagined than the treatment to
which this poor woman has been subjected! I couldn't have believed that
such dishonesty and brutality were possible in English families of
decent position. Her husband deserted her, her brother robbed her, her
sister-in-law libelled her,--the whole story is nauseating!'

'You're quite sure that she tells you the truth?'

Malkin glared with sudden resentment.

'The truth? What! you also desire to calumniate her? For shame,
Earwaker! A poor widow toiling to support herself in a foreign country,
with two children dependent on her.'

'Yes, yes, yes; but you seem to know very little of her.'

'I know her perfectly, and all her circumstances!'

Mrs. Jacox was the mother of the two girls whom Malkin had escorted to
Rouen, after an hour or so of all but casual acquaintance. She and her
history had come in a very slight degree under the notice of certain
good-natured people with whom Malkin was on friendly terms, and hearing
that the children, Bella and Lily, aged fourteen and twelve
respectively, were about to undertake alone a journey to the Continent,
the erratic hero felt it incumbent upon him to see them safe at their
mother's side. Instead of returning forthwith, he lingered in Normandy
for several weeks, striking off at length, on the summons of a friend,
to Orleans, whence he was only to-day returned. Two or three letters
had kept Earwaker informed of his movements. Of Mrs. Jacox he wrote as
he now spoke, with compassionate respect, and the girls, according to
him, were exquisite models of budding maidenhood.

'You haven't told me,' said Earwaker, calmly fronting the indignant
outburst, 'what her circumstances are--at present.'

'She assists an English lady in the management of a boardinghouse,'
Malkin replied, with an air which forbade trivial comment. 'Bella and
Lily will of course continue their studies. I daresay I shall run over
now and then to see them.'

'May I, without offence, inquire if either of these young ladies seems
suitable for the ideal training of which you spoke?'

Malkin smiled thoughtfully. He stood with his legs apart and stroked
his blond beard.

'The surmise is not unnatural. Well, I confess that Bella has inspired
me with no little interest. She is rather mature, unfortunately; I wish
she had been Lily's age. We shall see; we shall see.'

Musing, he refilled his pipe, and gossip was prolonged till something
after one o'clock. Malkin was never known to retire willingly from an
evening's congenial talk until the small hours were in progress.

Peak, on reaching home about eleven, was surprised to see a light in
his sitting-room window. As he entered, his landlady informed him that
Mr. Moxey had been waiting upstairs for an hour or two. Christian was
reading. He laid down the book and rose languidly. His face was
flushed, and he spoke with a laugh which suggested that a fit of
despondency (as occasionally happened) had tempted him to excess in
cordials. Godwin understood these signs. He knew that his friend's
intellect was rather brightened than impaired by such stimulus, and he
affected not to be conscious of any peculiarity.

'As you wouldn't come to me,' Christian began, 'I had no choice but to
come to you. My visit isn't unwelcome, I hope?'

'Certainly not. But how are you going to get home? You know the time?'

'Don't trouble. I shan't go to bed to-night. Let me sit here and read,
will you? If I feel tired I can lie down on the sofa. What a delightful
book this is! I must get it.'

It was a history of the Italian Renaissance, recently published.

'Where does this phrase come from?' he continued, pointing to a scrap
of paper, used as a book-mark, on which Godwin had pencilled a note.
The words were: '_Foris ut moris, intus ut libet_.'

'It's mentioned there,' Peak replied, 'as the motto of those humanists
who outwardly conformed to the common faith.'

'I see. All very well when the Inquisition was flourishing, but sounds
ignoble nowadays.'

'Do you think so? In a half-civilised age, whether the sixteenth or the
nineteenth century, a wise man may do worse than adopt it.'

'Better be honest, surely?'

Peak stood for a moment as if in doubt, then exclaimed irritably:

'Honest? Honest? Who is or can be honest? Who truly declares himself?
When a man has learnt that truth is indeterminable, how is it more
moral to go about crying that you don't believe a certain dogma than to
concede that the dogma may possibly be true? This new morality of the
agnostics is mere paltry conceit. Why must I make solemn declaration
that I don't believe in absolute knowledge? I might as well be called
upon to inform all my acquaintances how I stand with regard to the
theories of chemical affinity. One's philosophy has nothing to do with
the business of life. If I chose to become a Church of England
clergyman, what moral objection could be made?'

This illustration was so amusing to Moxey, that his surprise at what
preceded gave way to laughter.

'I wonder,' he exclaimed, 'that you never seriously thought of a
profession for which you are so evidently cut out.'

Godwin kept silence; his face had darkened, and he seated himself with
sullen weariness.

'Tell me what you've been doing,' resumed Moxey. 'Why haven't I heard
from you?'

'I should have come in a day or two. I thought you were probably out of
town.'

'Her husband is ill,' said the other, by way of reply. He leaned
forward with his arms upon the table, and gazed at Godwin with eyes of
peculiar brightness.

'Ill, is he?' returned Godwin, with slow interest. 'In the same way as
before?'

'Yes, but much worse.'

Christian paused; and when he again spoke it was hurriedly, confusedly.

'How can I help getting excited about it? How can I behave decently?
You're the only man I ever speak to on the subject, and no doubt I both
weary and disgust you; but I _must_ speak to some one. My nerves are
strung beyond endurance; it's only by speaking that I can ease myself
from the intolerable strain.'

'Have you seen her lately?'

'Yesterday, for a moment, in the street. It's ten months since the last
meeting.'

'Well,' remarked Godwin, abruptly, 'it's probable the man will die one
of these days, then your trials will have a happy end. I see no harm in
hoping that his life may be short--that's a conventional feeling. If
two people can be benefited by the death of a single person, why
shouldn't we be glad in the prospect of his dying? Not of his
suffering--that's quite another thing. But die he must; and to curtail
the life of a being who at length wholly ceases to exist is no injury.
You can't injure a nonentity. Do you think I should take it ill if I
knew that some persons were wishing my death? Why, look, if ever I
crush a little green fly that crawls upon me in the fields, at once I
am filled with envy of its fate--sincerest envy. To have passed so
suddenly from being into nothingness--how blessed an extinction! To
feel in that way, instinctively, in the very depths of your soul, is to
be a true pessimist. If I had ever doubted my sincerity in pessimism,
this experience, several times repeated, would have reassured me.'

Christian covered his face, and brooded for a long time, whilst Godwin
sat with his eyes on vacancy.

'Come and see us to-morrow,' said the former, at length.

'Perhaps.';

'Why do you keep away?'

'I'm in no mood for society.'

'We'll have no one. Only Marcella and I.'

Again a long silence.

'Marcella is going in for comparative philology,' Christian resumed,
with the gentle tone in which he invariably spoke of his sister. 'What
a mind that girl has! I never knew any woman of half her powers.'

Godwin said nothing.

'No,' continued the other fervently, 'nor of half her goodness. I
sometimes think that no mortal could come nearer to our ideal of moral
justice and purity. If it were not for her, I should long ago have gone
to perdition, in one way or another. It's her strength, not my own,
that has saved me. I daresay you know this?'

'There's some truth in it, I believe,' Peak answered, his eye wandering.

'See how circumstances can affect one's judgment. If, just about the
time I first knew you, I had abandoned myself to a life of sottish
despair, of course I should have charged Constance with the blame of
it. Now that I have struggled on, I can see that she has been a
blessing to me instead of a curse. If Marcella has given me strength, I
have to thank Constance for the spiritual joy which otherwise I should
never have known.'

Peak uttered a short laugh.

'That is only saying that she _might_ have been ruinous, but in the
course of circumstances has proved helpful. I envy your power of
deriving comfort from such reflections.'

'Well, we view things differently. I have the habit of looking to the
consolatory facts of life, you to the depressing. There's an
unfortunate lack in you, Peak; you seem insensible to female influence,
and I believe that is closely connected with your desperate pessimism.'

Godwin laughed again, this time with mocking length of note. 'Come now,
isn't it true?' urged the other. 'Sincerely, do you care for women at
all?'

'Perhaps not.'

'A grave misfortune, depend upon it! It accounts for nearly everything
that is unsatisfactory in your life. If you had ever been sincerely
devoted to a woman, be assured your powers would have developed in a
way of which you have no conception. It's no answer to tell me that _I_
am still a mere trifler, never likely to do anything of account; I
haven't it in me to be anything better, and I might easily have become
much worse. But you might have made yourself a great position--I mean,
you _might_ do so; you are still very young. If only you knew the
desire of a woman's help.'

'You really think so?' said Godwin, with grave irony.

'I am sure of it! There's no harm in repeating what you have often told
me--your egoism oppresses you. A woman's influence takes one out of
oneself. No man can be a better authority on this than I. For more than
eleven years I have worshipped one woman with absolute faithfulness'----

'Absolute?' interrupted Godwin, bluntly.

'What exception occurs to you?'

'As you challenge inquiry, forgive me for asking what your interest was
in one of your cousins at Twybridge?'

Christian started, and averted his face with a look of embarrassment.

'Do you mean to say that you knew anything about that?'

'I was always an observer,' Peak replied, smiling. 'You don't remember,
perhaps, that I happened to be present when a letter had just arrived
for you at your uncle's house--a letter which evidently disturbed you?'

'This is astonishing! Peak, you're a terrible fellow! Heaven forbid
that I should ever be at your mercy! Yes, you are quite right,' he
continued, despondently. 'But that was no real unfaithfulness. I don't
quite know how to explain it. I _did_ make love to poor Janet, and with
the result that I have never since seen any of the family. My uncle,
when he found I had drawn back, was very savage--naturally enough.
Marcella and I never again went to Twybridge. I liked Janet; she was a
good, kind girl. I believed just then that my love for Constance was
hopeless; my mood impelled me to the conviction that the best thing I
could do was to marry Janet and settle down to a peaceful domestic
life. Then came that letter--it was from Constance herself. It meant
nothing, yet it was enough to revive all my hopes. I rushed off--! How
brutally I had behaved! Poor little Janet!'

He let his face fall upon his hands.

'Allow me an indiscreet question,' said Peak, after a silence. 'Have
you any founded hope of marrying Constance if she becomes a widow?'

Christian started and looked up with wide eyes.

'Hope? Every hope! I have the absolute assurance of her love.'

'I see.'

'But I mustn't mislead you,' pursued the other, hurriedly. 'Our
relations are absolutely pure. I have only allowed myself to see her at
very long intervals. Why shouldn't I tell you? It was less than a year
after her marriage; I found her alone in a room in a friend's house;
her eyes were red with weeping. I couldn't help holding my hand to her.
She took it, and held it for a moment, and looked at me steadily, and
whispered my name--that was all. I knew then that she repented of her
marriage--who can say what led her into it? I was poor, you know;
perhaps--but in spite of all, she _did_ love me. There has never since
been anything like a scene of emotion between us--_that_ her conscience
couldn't allow. She is a noble-minded woman, and has done her duty. But
if she is free'--

He quivered with passionate feeling.

'And you are content,' said Godwin, drily, 'to have wasted ten years of
your life for such a possibility?'

'Wasted!' Christian exclaimed. 'Come, come, Peak; why _will_ you affect
this wretched cynicism? Is it waste of years to have lived with the
highest and purest ideal perpetually before one's mind? What can a man
do better than, having found an admirable woman, to worship her
thenceforth, and defy every temptation that could lead him astray? I
don't like to seem boastful, but I _have_ lived purely and devotedly.
And if the test endured to the end of my life, I could sustain it. Is
the consciousness of my love nothing to Constance? Has it not helped
her?'

Such profound sincerity was astonishing to Peak. He did not admire it,
for it seemed to him, in this case at all events, the fatal weakness of
a character it was impossible not to love. Though he could not declare
his doubts, he thought it more than probable that this Laura of the
voiceless Petrarch was unworthy of such constancy, and that she had no
intention whatever of rewarding it, even if the opportunity arrived.
But this was the mere speculation of a pessimist; he might be
altogether wrong, for he had never denied the existence of high virtue,
in man or woman.

'There goes midnight!' he remarked, turning from the subject. 'You
can't sleep, neither can I. Why shouldn't we walk into town?'

'By all means; on condition that you will come home with me, and spend
to-morrow there.'

'Very well.'

They set forth, and with varied talk, often broken by long silences,
made their way through sleeping suburbs to the dark valley of Thames.

There passed another month, during which Peak was neither seen nor
heard of by his friends. One evening in October, as he sat studying at
the British Museum, a friendly voice claimed his attention. He rose
nervously and met the searching eye of Buckland Warricombe.

'I had it in mind to write to you,' said the latter. 'Since we parted
down yonder I have been running about a good deal, with few days in
town. Do you often read here?'

'Generally on Saturday afternoon.'

Buckland glanced at the open volume, and caught a heading, 'Apologetic
Theology.'

'Still at the works?'

'Yes; I shall be there till Christmas--no longer.'

'Are you by chance disengaged to-morrow? Could you dine with me? I
shall be alone; perhaps you don't mind that? We could exchange views on
"fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute".'

Godwin accepted the invitation, and Warricombe, unable to linger, took
leave of him.

They met the next evening in Buckland's rooms, not far from the Houses
of Parliament. Commonplace comfort was the note of these quarters. Peak
wondered that a man who had it in his power to surround himself with
evidences of taste should be content to dwell thus. His host seemed to
detect this thought in the glances Godwin cast about him.

'Nothing but a _pied-a-terre_. I have been here three or four years,
but I don't think of it as a home. I suppose I shall settle somewhere
before long: yet, on the whole, what does it matter where one lives?
There's something in the atmosphere of our time that makes one
indisposed to strike roots in the old way. Who knows how long there'll
be such a thing as real property? We are getting to think of ourselves
as lodgers; it's as well to be indifferent about a notice to quit.'

'Many people would still make a good fight for the old homes,' replied
Peak.

'Yes; I daresay I should myself, if I were a family man. A wife and
children are strong persuasions to conservatism. In those who have
anything, that's to say. Let the families who have nothing learn how
they stand in point of numbers, and we shall see what we shall see.'

'And you are doing your best to teach them that.'

Buckland smiled.

'A few other things at the same time. One isn't necessarily an
anarchist, you know.'

'What enormous faith you must have in the metaphysical powers of the
multitude!'

'Trenchant! But say, rather, in the universal self-interest. That's the
trait of human nature which we have in mind when we speak of
enlightenment. The aim of practical Radicalism is to instruct men's
selfishness. Astonishing how capable it is of being instructed! The
mistake of the Socialist lies in his crediting men with far too much
self-esteem, far too little perception of their own limits. The
characteristic of mankind at large is humility.'

Peak began to understand his old acquaintance; he had imagined him less
acute. Gratified by the smile of interest, Warricombe added:

'There are forces of madness; I have shown you that I make allowance
for them. But they are only dangerous so long as privilege allies
itself with hypocrisy. The task of the modern civiliser is to sweep
away sham idealisms.'

'I agree with you,' Godwin replied.

With sudden change of mood, Buckland began to speak of an indifferent
topic of the day, and in a few minutes they sat down to dinner.

Not till the welcome tobacco blended its aroma with that of coffee did
a frankly personal note sound in their conversation.

'So at Christmas you are free,' said Warricombe. 'You still think of
leaving London?'

'I have decided to go down into Devonshire.'

'The seaside?'

'I shall stay first of all in Exeter,' Godwin replied, with
deliberation; 'one can get hold of books there.'

'Yes, especially of the ecclesiastical colour.'

'You are still unable to regard my position with anything but
contempt?' Peak asked, looking steadily at the critical face.

'Come now; what does it all mean? Of course I quite understand how
tolerant the Church is becoming: I know what latitude it permits in its
servants. But what do you propose to yourself?'

'Precisely what you call the work of the civiliser--to attack sham
ideals.'

'As for instance--?'

'The authority of the mob,' answered Peak, suavely.

'Your clericalism is political, then?'

'To a great extent.'

'I discern a vague sort of consistency in this. You regard the Church
formulas as merely symbolical--useful for the purposes of the day?'

'Rather for the purposes of eternity.'

'In the human sense.'

'In every sense.'

Warricombe perceived that no directness of questioning would elicit
literal response, and on the whole this relieved him. To hear Godwin
Peak using the language of a fervent curate would have excited in him
something more than disgust. It did not seem impossible that a nature
like Peak's--intellectually arrogant, vehemently anti-popular--should
have been attracted by the traditions, the social prestige, of the
Anglican Church; nor at all unlikely that a mind so constituted should
justify a seeming acceptance of dogmas, which in the strict sense it
despised. But he was made uneasy by his ignorance of Peak's private
life during the years since their parting at College. He did not like
to think of the possible establishment of intimacy between this man of
low origin, uncertain career, boundless ambition, and the household of
Martin Warricombe. There could be no doubt that Peak had decided to go
to Exeter because of the social prospects recently opened to him. In
the vulgar phrase, he had probably 'taken stock' of Mr. Warricombe's
idiosyncrasy, and saw therein a valuable opportunity for a theological
student, who at the same time was a devotee of natural science. To be
sure, the people at Exeter could be put on their guard. On the other
hand, Peak had plainly avowed his desire to form social connections of
the useful kind; in his position such an aim was essential, a mere
matter of course.

Godwin's voice interrupted this train of thought.

'Let me ask you a plain question. You have twice been kind enough to
introduce me to your home as a friend of yours. Am I guilty of
presumption in hoping that your parents will continue to regard me as
an acquaintance? I trust there's no need to assure you that I know the
meaning of discretion.'

An appeal to Buckland's generosity seldom failed. Yes, it was true that
he had more than once encouraged the hope now frankly expressed.
Indulging a correspondent frankness, he might explain that Peak's
position was so distasteful to him that it disturbed the future with
many kinds of uncertainty. But this would be churlish. He must treat
his guest as a gentleman, so long as nothing compelled him to take the
less agreeable view.

'My dear Peak, let us have none of these formalities. My parents have
distinctly invited you to go and see them whenever you are in the
neighbourhood. I am quite sure they will help to make your stay in
Exeter a pleasant one.'

Therewith closed the hazardous dialogue. Warricombe turned at once to a
safe topic--that of contemporary fiction, and they chatted pleasantly
enough for the rest of the evening.

Not many days after this, Godwin received by post an envelope which
contained certain proof sheets, and therewith a note in which the
editor of _The Critical Review_ signified his acceptance of a paper
entitled 'The New Sophistry'. The communication was originally
addressed to Earwaker, who had scribbled at the foot, 'Correct, if you
are alive, and send back to Dolby.'

The next morning he did not set out as usual for Rotherhithe. Through
the night he had not closed his eyes; he was in a state of nervousness
which bordered on fever. A dozen times he had read over the proofs,
with throbbing pulse, with exultant self-admiration: but the printer's
errors which had caught his eye, and a few faults of phrase, were still
uncorrected. What a capital piece of writing it was! What a
flagellation of M'Naughten and all his tribe! If this did not rouse
echoes in the literary world--

Through the long day he sat in languor or paced his room like one made
restless by pain. Only when the gloom of nightfall obliged him to light
his lamp did he at length sit down to the table and carefully revise
the proofs, pen in hand. When he had made up the packet for post, he
wrote to Earwaker.

'I had forgotten all about this thing. Proofs have gone to Dolby. I
have not signed; probably he would object to my doing so. As it is, the
paper can be ascribed to anyone, and attention thus excited. We shall
see paragraphs attributing it to men of mark--perhaps scandal will fix
it on a bishop. In any case, don't let out the secret. I beg this
seriously, and for a solid reason. Not a word to anyone, however
intimate. If Dolby betrays _your_ name, grin and bear it. I depend upon
your friendship.'



CHAPTER II


In a by-way which declines from the main thoroughfare of Exeter, and
bears the name of Longbrook Street, is a row of small houses placed
above long strips of sloping garden. They are old and plain, with no
architectural feature calling for mention, unless it be the latticed
porch which gives the doors an awkward quaintness. Just beyond, the
road crosses a hollow, and begins the ascent of a hill here interposed
between the city and the inland-winding valley of Exe. The little
terrace may be regarded as urban or rural, according to the tastes and
occasions of those who dwell there. In one direction, a walk of five
minutes will conduct to the middle of High Street, and in the other it
takes scarcely longer to reach the open country.

On the upper floor of one of these cottages, Godwin Peak had made his
abode. Sitting-room and bedchamber, furnished with homely comfort,
answered to his bachelor needs, and would allow of his receiving
without embarrassment any visitor whom fortune might send him. Of
quietness he was assured, for a widow and her son, alike remarkable for
sobriety of demeanour, were the only persons who shared the house with
him. Mrs. Roots could not compare in grace and skill with the little
Frenchwoman who had sweetened his existence at Peckham Rye, but her
zeal made amends for natural deficiency, and the timorous respect with
which she waited upon him was by no means disagreeable to Godwin. Her
reply to a request or suggestion was always, 'If you please, sir.'
Throughout the day she went so tranquilly about her domestic duties,
that Godwin seldom heard anything except the voice of the cuckoo-clock,
a pleasant sound to him. Her son, employed at a nurseryman's, was a
great sinewy fellow with a face of such ruddiness that it seemed to
diffuse warmth; on Sunday afternoon, whatever the state of the sky, he
sat behind the house in his shirt-sleeves, and smoked a pipe as he
contemplated the hart's-tongue which grew there upon a rockery.

'The gentleman from London'--so Mrs. Roots was wont to style her lodger
in speaking with neighbours--had brought his books with him; they found
place on a few shelves. His microscope had its stand by the window, and
one or two other scientific implements lay about the room. The cabinets
bequeathed to him by Mr. Gunnery he had sent to Twybridge, to remain in
his mother's care. In taking the lodgings, he described himself merely
as a student, and gave his landlady to understand that he hoped to
remain under her roof for at least a year. Of his extreme
respectability, the widow could entertain no doubt, for he dressed with
aristocratic finish, attended services at the Cathedral and elsewhere
very frequently, and made the most punctual payments. Moreover, a
casual remark had informed her that he was on friendly terms with Mr.
Martin Warricombe, whom her son knew as a gentleman of distinction. He
often sat up very late at night, but, doubtless, that was the practice
of Londoners. No lodger could have given less trouble, or have
acknowledged with more courtesy all that was done for his convenience.

No one ever called upon Mr. Peak, but he was often from home for many
hours together, probably on visits to great people in city or country.
It seemed rather strange, however, that the postman so seldom brought
anything for him. Though he had now been more than two months in the
house, he had received only three letters, and those at long intervals.

Noticeable was the improvement in his health since his arrival here.
The pallor of his cheeks was giving place to a wholesome tinge; his eye
was brighter; he showed more disposition to converse, and was readier
with pleasant smiles. Mrs. Roots even heard him singing in his
bedroom--though, oddly enough, it was a secular song on Sunday morning.
The weekly bills for food, which at first had been very modest, grew
richer in items. Godwin had, in fact, never felt so well. He extended
his walks in every direction, sometimes rambling up the valley to
sleepy little towns where he could rest in the parlours of old inns,
sometimes striking across country to this or that point of the
sea-coast, or making his way to the nearer summits of Dartmoor, noble
in their wintry desolation. He marked with delight every promise of
returning spring. When he could only grant himself a walk of an hour or
two in the sunny afternoon, there was many a deep lane within easy
reach, where the gorse gleamed in masses of gold, and the little
oak-trees in the hedges were ruddy with last year's clinging leafage,
and catkins hung from the hazels, and the fresh green of sprouting ivy
crept over bank and wall. Had he now been in London, the morning would
have awakened him to the glow of sunrise, he felt the sweet air
breathing health into fog and slush and misery. As it was, when he
looked out upon his frame and vigour into his mind. There were moments
when he could all but say of himself that he was at peace with the
world.

As on a morning towards the end of March, when a wind from the Atlantic
swept spaces of brightest blue amid the speeding clouds, and sang
joyously as it rushed over hill and dale. It was the very day for an
upland walk, for a putting forth of one's strength in conflict with
boisterous gusts and sudden showers, that give a taste of earth's
nourishment. But Godwin had something else in view. After breakfast, he
sat down to finish a piece of work which had occupied him for two or
three days, a translation from a German periodical. His mind wrought
easily, and he often hummed an air as his pen moved over the paper.
When the task was completed, he rolled his papers and the pamphlet
together, put them into the pocket of his overcoat, and presently went
forth.

Twenty minutes' walk brought him to the Warricombes' house. It was his
second call within the present week, but such assiduity had not
hitherto been his wont. Though already summoned twice or thrice by
express invitation, he was sparing of voluntary visits. Having asked
for Mr. Warricombe, he was forthwith conducted to the study. In the
welcome which greeted his appearance, he could detect no suspicion of
simulated warmth, though his ear had unsurpassable discrimination.

'Have you looked through it?' Martin exclaimed, as he saw the foreign
periodical in his visitor's hand.

'I have written a rough translation'----

'Oh, how could you think of taking such trouble! These things are sent
to me by the dozen--I might say, by the cartload. My curiosity would
have been amply satisfied if you had just told me the drift of the
thing.'

'It seemed to me,' said Peak, modestly, 'that the paper was worth a
little careful thought. I read it rapidly at first, but found myself
drawn to it again. It states the point of view of the average
scientific mind with such remarkable clearness, that I wished to think
it over, and the best way was to do so pen in hand.'

'Well, if you really did it on your own account'----

Mr. Warricombe took the offered sheets and glanced at the first of them.

'My only purpose,' said Godwin 'in calling again so soon was to leave
this with you.'

He made as though he would take his departure.

'You want to get home again? Wait at least till this shower is over. I
enjoy that pelting of spring rain against the window. In a minute or
two we shall have the laurels flashing in the sunshine, as if they were
hung with diamonds.'

They stood together looking out on to the garden. Presently their talk
returned to the German disquisition, which was directed against the
class of quasi-scientific authors attacked by Peak himself in his
_Critical_ article. In the end Godwin sat down and began to read the
translation he had made, Mr. Warricombe listening with a thoughtful
smile. From time to time the reader paused and offered a comment,
endeavouring to show that the arguments were merely plausible; his air
was that of placid security, and he seemed to enjoy the irony which
often fell from his lips. Martin frequently scrutinised him, and always
with a look of interest which betokened grave reflection.

'Here,' said Godwin at one point, 'he has a note citing a passage from
Reusch's book on _The Bible and Nature_. If I am not mistaken, he
misrepresents his author, though perhaps not intentionally.'

'You know the book?'

'I have studied it carefully, but I don't possess it. I thought I
remembered this particular passage very well.'

'Is it a work of authority?'

'Yes; it is very important. Unfortunately, it hasn't yet been
translated. Rather bulky, but I shouldn't mind doing it myself if I
were sure of finding a publisher.'

'_The Bible and Nature_,' said Martin, musingly. 'What is his scheme?
How does he go to work?'

Godwin gave a brief but lucid description of the book, and Mr
Warricombe listened gravely. When there had been silence for some
moments, the latter spoke in a tone he had never yet used when
conversing with Peak. He allowed himself, for the first time, to betray
a troubled doubt on the subject under discussion.

'So he makes a stand at Darwinism as it affects man?'

Peak had yet no means of knowing at what point Martin himself 'made a
stand'. Modes of reconcilement between scientific discovery and
religious tradition are so very numerous, and the geologist was only
now beginning to touch upon these topics with his young acquaintance.
That his mind was not perfectly at ease amid the conflicts of the day,
Godwin soon perceived, and by this time he had clear assurance that
Martin would willingly thrash out the whole debate with anyone who
seemed capable of supporting orthodox tenets by reasoning not
unacceptable to a man of broad views. The negativist of course assumed
from the first that Martin, however respectable his knowledge, was far
from possessing the scientific mind, and each conversation had supplied
him with proofs of this defect; it was not at all in the modern spirit
that the man of threescore years pursued his geological and kindred
researches, but with the calm curiosity of a liberal intellect which
has somehow taken this direction instead of devoting itself to literary
study. At bottom, Godwin had no little sympathy with Mr. Warricombe; he
too, in spite of his militant instincts, dwelt by preference amid
purely human interests. He grasped with firm intelligence the modes of
thought which distinguish scientific men, but his nature did not prompt
him to a consistent application of them. Personal liking enabled him to
subdue the impulses of disrespect which, under other circumstances,
would have made it difficult for him to act with perfection his present
part. None the less, his task was one of infinite delicacy. Martin
Warricombe was not the man to unbosom himself on trivial instigation.
It must be a powerful influence which would persuade him to reveal
whatever self-questionings lay beneath his genial good breeding and
long-established acquiescence in a practical philosophy. Godwin guarded
himself against his eager emotions; one false note, one syllable of
indiscretion, and his aims might be hopelessly defeated.

'Yes,' was his reply to the hesitating question. 'He argues strenuously
against the descent of man. If I understand him, he regards the
concession of this point as impossible.'

Martin was deep in thought. He held a paper-knife bent upon his knee,
and his smooth, delicate features wore an unquiet smile.

'Do you know Hebrew, Mr. Peak?'

The question came unexpectedly, and Godwin could not help a momentary
confusion, but he covered it with the tone of self-reproach.

'I am ashamed to say that I am only now taking it up seriously.'

'I don't think you need be ashamed,' said Martin, good-naturedly. 'Even
a mind as active as yours must postpone some studies. Reusch, I
suppose, is sound on that head?'

The inquiry struck Godwin as significant. So Mr. Warricombe attached
importance to the verbal interpretation of the Old Testament.

'Distinctly an authority,' he replied. 'He devotes whole chapters to a
minute examination of the text.'

'If you had more leisure,' Martin began, deliberately, when he had
again reflected, 'I should be disposed to urge you to undertake that
translation.'

Peak appeared to meditate.

'Has the book been used by English writers?' the other inquired.

'A good deal.--It was published in the sixties, but I read it in a new
edition dated a few years ago. Reusch has kept pace with the men of
science. It would be very interesting to compare the first form of the
book with the latest.'

'It would, very.'

Raising his head from the contemplative posture, Godwin exclaimed, with
a laugh of zeal:

'I think I must find time to translate him. At all events, I might
address a proposal to some likely publisher. Yet I don't know how I
should assure him of my competency.'

'Probably a specimen would be the surest testimony.'

'Yes. I might do a few chapters.'

Mr. Warricombe's lapse into silence and brevities intimated to Godwin
that it was time to take leave. He always quitted this room with
reluctance. Its air of luxurious culture affected his senses
deliciously, and he hoped that he might some day be permitted to linger
among the cabinets and the library shelves. There were so many books he
would have liked to take down, some with titles familiar to him, others
which kindled his curiosity when he chanced to observe them. The
library abounded in such works as only a wealthy man can purchase, and
Godwin, who had examined some of them at the British Museum, was filled
with the humaner kind of envy on seeing them in Mr. Warricombe's
possession. Those publications of the Palaeontological Society, one
volume of which (a part of Davidson's superb work on the _Brachiopoda_)
even now lay open within sight--his hand trembled with a desire to
touch them! And those maps of the Geological Surveys, British and
foreign, how he would have enjoyed a day's poring over them!

He rose, but Martin seemed in no haste to bring the conversation to an
end.

'Have you read M'Naughten's much-discussed book?'

'Yes.'

'Did you see the savage attack in _The Critical_ not long ago?'

Godwin smiled, and made quiet answer:

'I should think it was the last word of scientific bitterness and
intolerance.'

'Scientific?' repeated Martin, doubtfully. 'I don't think the writer
was a man of science. I saw it somewhere attributed to Huxley, but that
was preposterous. To begin with, Huxley would have signed his name;
and, again, his English is better. The article seemed to me to be
stamped with literary rancour; it was written by some man who envies
M'Naughten's success.'

Peak kept silence. Martin's censure of the anonymous author's style
stung him to the quick, and he had much ado to command his countenance.

'Still,' pursued the other, 'I felt that much of his satire was only
too well pointed. M'Naughten is suggestive; but one comes across books
of the same purpose which can have no result but to injure their cause
with all thinking people.'

'I have seen many such,' remarked Godwin.

Mr. Warricombe stepped to a bookcase and took down a small volume.

'I wonder whether you know this book of Ampare's, _La Grace, Rome, et
Dante_? Delightful for odd moments!--There came into my mind a passage
here at the beginning, apropos of what we were saying: "_Il faut
souvent un vrai courage pour persister dans une opinion juste en depit
de ses defenseurs_."--Isn't that capital?'

Peak received it with genuine appreciation; for once he was able to
laugh unfeignedly. The aphorism had so many applications from his own
point of view.

'Excellent!--I don't remember to have seen the book.'

'Take it, if you care to.'

This offer seemed a distinct advance in Mr. Warricombe's friendliness.
Godwin felt a thrill of encouragement.

'Then you will let me keep this translation for a day or two?' Martin
added, indicating the sheets of manuscript. 'I am greatly obliged to
you for enabling me to read the thing.'

They shook hands. Godwin had entertained a slight hope that he might be
asked to stay to luncheon; but it could not be much past twelve
o'clock, and on the whole there was every reason for feeling satisfied
with the results of his visit. Before long he would probably receive
another invitation to dine. So with light step he went out into the
hall, where Martin again shook hands with him.

The sky had darkened over, and a shrilling of the wind sounded through
the garden foliage--fir, and cypress, and laurel. Just as Godwin
reached the gate, he was met by Miss Warricombe and Fanny, who were
returning from a walk. They wore the costume appropriate to March
weather in the country, close-fitting, defiant of gusts; and their
cheeks glowed with health. As he exchanged greetings with them, Peak
received a new impression of the sisters. He admired the physical
vigour which enabled them to take delight in such a day as this, when
girls of poorer blood and ignoble nurture would shrink from the sky's
showery tumult, and protect their surface elegance by the fireside.
Impossible for Sidwell and Fanny to be anything but graceful, for at
all times they were perfectly unaffected.

'There'll be another storm in a minute,' said the younger of them,
looking with interest to the quarter whence the wind came. 'How
suddenly they burst! What a rush! And then in five minutes the sky is
clear again.'

Her eyes shone as she turned laughingly to Peak.

'You're not afraid of getting wet? Hadn't you better come under cover?'

'Here it is!' exclaimed Sidwell, with quieter enjoyment. 'Take shelter
for a minute or two, Mr. Peak.'

They led the way to the portico, where Godwin stood with them and
watched the squall. A moment's downpour of furious rain was followed by
heavy hailstones, which drove horizontally before the shrieking wind.
The prospect had wrapped itself in grey gloom. At a hundred yards'
distance, scarcely an object could be distinguished; the storm-cloud
swooped so low that its skirts touched the branches of tall elms, a
streaming, rushing raggedness.

'Don't you enjoy that?' Fanny asked of Godwin.

'Indeed I do.'

'You should be on Dartmoor in such weather,' said Sidwell. 'Father and
I were once caught in storms far worse than this--far better, I ought
to say, for I never knew anything so terrifically grand.'

Already it was over. The gusts diminished in frequency and force, the
hail ceased, the core of blackness was passing over to the eastern sky.
Fanny ran out into the garden, and pointed upward.

'Look where the sunlight is coming!'

An uncloaked patch of heaven shone with colour like that of the girl's
eyes--faint, limpid blue. Reminding himself that to tarry longer in
this company would be imprudent, Godwin bade the sisters good-morning.
The frank heartiness with which Fanny pressed his hand sent him on his
way exultant. Not too strong a word; for, independently of his wider
ambitions, he was moved and gratified by the thought that kindly
feeling towards him had sprung up in such a heart as this. Nor did
conscience so much as whisper a reproach. With unreflecting
ingenuousness he tasted the joy as if it were his right. Thus long he
had waited, through years of hungry manhood, for the look, the tone,
which were in harmony with his native sensibilities. Fanny Warricombe
was but an undeveloped girl, yet he valued her friendship above the
passionate attachment of any woman bred on a lower social plane. Had it
been possible, he would have kissed her fingers with purest reverence.

When out of sight of the house, he paused to regard the sky again. Its
noontide splendour was dazzling; masses of rosy cloud sailed swiftly
from horizon to horizon, the azure deepening about them. Yet before
long the west would again send forth its turbulent spirits, and so the
girls might perhaps be led to think of him.

By night the weather grew more tranquil. There was a full moon, and its
radiance illumined the ever-changing face of heaven with rare grandeur.
Godwin could not shut himself up over his books; he wandered far away
into the country, and let his thoughts have freedom.

He was learning to review with calmness the course by which he had
reached his now steadfast resolve. A revulsion such as he had
experienced after his first day of simulated orthodoxy, half a year
ago, could not be of lasting effect, for it was opposed to the whole
tenor of his mature thought. It spoilt his holiday, but had no chance
of persisting after his return to the atmosphere of Rotherhithe. That
he should have been capable of such emotion was, he said to himself, in
the just order of things; callousness in the first stages of an
undertaking which demanded gross hypocrisy would signify an ignoble
nature--a nature, indeed, which could never have been submitted to
trial of so strange a kind. But he had overcome himself; that phase of
difficulty was outlived, and henceforth he saw only the material
obstacles to be defied by his vindicated will.

What he proposed to himself was a life of deliberate baseness. Godwin
Peak never tried to play the sophist with this fact. But he succeeded
in justifying himself by a consideration of the circumstances which had
compelled him to a vile expedient. Had his project involved conscious
wrong to other persons, he would scarcely even have speculated on its
possibilities. He was convinced that no mortal could suffer harm, even
if he accomplished the uttermost of his desires. Whom was he in danger
of wronging? The conventional moralist would cry: Everyone with whom he
came in slightest contact! But a mind such as Peak's has very little to
do with conventional morality. Injury to himself he foresaw and
accepted; he could never be the man nature designed in him; and he must
frequently submit to a self-contempt which would be very hard to bear.
Those whom he consistently deceived, how would they suffer? Martin
Warricombe to begin with. Martin was a man who had lived his life, and
whose chief care would now be to keep his mind at rest in the faiths
which had served him from youth onwards. In that very purpose, Godwin
believed he could assist him. To see a young man, of strong and trained
intellect, championing the old beliefs, must doubtless be a source of
reassurance to one in Martin's position. Reassurance derived from a
lie?--And what matter, if the outcome were genuine, if it lasted until
the man himself was no more? Did not every form of content result from
illusion? What was truth without the mind of the believer?

Society, then--at all events that part of it likely to be affected by
his activity? Suppose him an ordained priest, performing all the
functions implied in that office. Why, to think only of examples
recognised by the public at large, how would he differ for the worse
from this, that, and the other clergyman who taught Christianity, all
but with blunt avowal, as a scheme of human ethics? No wolf in sheep's
clothing he! He plotted against no man's pocket, no woman's honour; he
had no sinister design of sapping the faith of congregations--a scheme,
by-the-bye, which fanatic liberators might undertake with vast
self-approval. If by a word he could have banished religious dogma from
the minds of the multitude, he would not have cared to utter it.
Wherein lay, indeed, a scruple to be surmounted. The Christian priest
must be a man of humble temper; he must be willing, even eager, to sit
down among the poor in spirit as well as in estate, and impart to them
his unworldly solaces. Yes, but it had always been recognised that some
men who could do the Church good service were personally unfitted for
those meek ministrations. His place was in the hierarchy of intellect;
if he were to be active at all, it must be with the brain. In his
conversation with Buckland Warricombe, last October, he had spoken not
altogether insincerely. Let him once be a member of the Church
militant, and his heart would go with many a stroke against that
democratic movement which desired, among other things, the Church's
abolition. He had power of utterance. Roused to combat by the
proletarian challenge, he could make his voice ring in the ears of men,
even though he used a symbolism which he would not by choice have
adopted.

For it was natural that he should anticipate distinction. Whatever his
lot in life, he would not be able to rest among an inglorious
brotherhood. If he allied himself with the Church, the Church must
assign him leadership, whether titular or not was of small moment. In
days to come, let people, if they would, debate his history, canvass
his convictions. His scornful pride invited any degree of publicity,
when once his position was secure.

But in the meantime he was leaving aside the most powerful of all his
motives, and one which demanded closest scrutiny. Not ambition, in any
ordinary sense; not desire of material luxury; no incentive recognised
by unprincipled schemers first suggested his dishonour. This edifice of
subtle untruth had for its foundation a mere ideal of sexual love. For
the winning of some chosen woman, men have wrought vehemently, have
ruined themselves and others, have achieved triumphs noble or
degrading. But Godwin Peak had for years contemplated the possibility
of baseness at the impulse of a craving for love capable only of a
social (one might say, of a political) definition. The woman throned in
his imagination was no individual, but the type of an order. So
strangely had circumstances moulded him, that he could not brood on a
desire of spiritual affinities, could not, as is natural to most
cultivated men, inflame himself with the ardour of soul reaching to
soul; he was pre-occupied with the contemplation of qualities which
characterise a class. The sense of social distinctions was so burnt
into him, that he could not be affected by any pictured charm of mind
or person in a woman who had not the stamp of gentle birth and
breeding. If once he were admitted to the intimacy of such women, then,
indeed, the canons of selection would have weight with him; no man more
capable of disinterested choice. Till then, the ideal which possessed
him was merely such an assemblage of qualities as would excite the
democrat to disdain or fury.

In Sidwell Warricombe this ideal found an embodiment; but Godwin did
not thereupon come to the conclusion that Sidwell was the wife he
desired. Her influence had the effect of deciding his career, but he
neither imagined himself in love with her, nor tried to believe that he
might win her love if he set himself to the endeavour. For the first
time he was admitted to familiar intercourse with a woman whom he
_could_ make the object of his worship. He thought much of her; day and
night her figure stood before him; and this had continued now for half
a year. Still he neither was, nor dreamt himself, in love with her.
Before long his acquaintance would include many of her like, and at any
moment Sidwell might pale in the splendour of another's loveliness.

But what reasoning could defend the winning of a wife by false
pretences? This, his final aim, could hardly be achieved without grave
wrong to the person whose welfare must in the nature of things be a
prime motive with him. The deception he had practised must sooner or
later be discovered; lifelong hypocrisy was incompatible with perfect
marriage; some day he must either involve his wife in a system of
dishonour, or with her consent relinquish the false career, and find
his happiness in the obscurity to which he would then be relegated.
Admit the wrong. Grant that some woman whom he loved supremely must, on
his account, pass through a harsh trial--would it not be in his power
to compensate her amply? The wife whom he imagined (his idealism in
this matter was of a crudity which made the strangest contrast with his
habits of thought on every other subject) would be ruled by her
emotions, and that part of her nature would be wholly under his
governance. Religious fanaticism could not exist in her, for in that
case she would never have attracted him. Little by little she would
learn to think as he did, and her devotedness must lead her to pardon
his deliberate insincerities. Godwin had absolute faith in his power of
dominating the woman whom he should inspire with tenderness. This was a
feature of his egoism, the explanation of those manifold
inconsistencies inseparable from his tortuous design. He regarded his
love as something so rare, so vehement, so exalting, that its bestowal
must seem an abundant recompense for any pain of which he was the cause.

Thus, with perfect sincerity of argument, did Godwin Peak face the
undertaking to which he was committed. Incidents might perturb him, but
his position was no longer a cause of uneasiness--save, indeed, at
those moments when he feared lest any of his old acquaintances might
hear of him before time was ripe. This was a source of anxiety, but
inevitable; one of the risks he dared.

Had it seemed possible, he would have kept even from his mother the
secret of his residence at Exeter; but this would have necessitated the
establishment of some indirect means of communication with her, a
troublesome and uncertain expedient. He shrank from leaving her in
ignorance of his whereabouts, and from passing a year or two without
knowledge of her condition. And, on the whole, there could not be much
danger in this correspondence. The Moxeys, who alone of his friends had
ever been connected with Twybridge, were now absolutely without
interests in that quarter. From them he had stolen away, only
acquainting Christian at the last moment, in a short letter, with his
departure from London. 'It will be a long time before we again see each
other--at least, I think so. Don't trouble your head about me. I can't
promise to write, and shall be sorry not to hear how things go with
you; but may all happen as you wish!' In the same way he had dealt with
Earwaker, except that his letter to Staple Inn was much longer, and
contained hints which the philosophic journalist might perchance truly
interpret. '"He either fears his fate too much"--you know the old song.
I have set out on my life's adventure. I have gone to seek that without
which life is no longer worth having. Forgive my shabby treatment of
you, old friend. You cannot help me, and your displeasure would be a
hindrance in my path. A last piece of counsel: throw overboard the
weekly rag, and write for people capable of understanding you.'
Earwaker was not at all likely to institute a search; he would accept
the situation, and wait with quiet curiosity for its upshot. No doubt
he and Moxey would discuss the affair together, and any desire
Christian might have to hunt for his vanished comrade would yield
before the journalist's surmises. No one else had any serious reason
for making inquiries. Probably he might dwell in Devonshire, as long as
he chose, without fear of encountering anyone from his old world.

Occasionally--as to-night, under the full moon--he was able to cast off
every form of trouble, and rejoice in his seeming liberty. Though every
step in the life before him was an uncertainty, an appeal to fortune,
his faith in himself grasped strongly at assurance of success. Once
more he felt himself a young man, with unwearied energies; he had
shaken off the burden of those ten frustrate years, and kept only their
harvest of experience. Old in one sense, in another youthful, he had
vast advantages over such men as would henceforth be his
competitors--the complex brain, the fiery heart, passion to desire, and
skill in attempting. If with such endowment he could not win the prize
which most men claim as a mere matter of course, a wife of social
instincts correspondent with his own, he must indeed be luckless. But
he was not doomed to defeat! Foretaste of triumph urged the current of
his blood and inflamed him with exquisite ardour. He sang aloud in the
still lanes the hymns of youth and of love; and, when weariness brought
him back to his lonely dwelling, he laid his head on the pillow, and
slept in dreamless calm.

As for the details of his advance towards the clerical state, he had
decided to resume his career at the point where it was interrupted by
Andrew Peak. Twice had his education received a check from hostile
circumstances: when domestic poverty compelled him to leave school for
Mr. Moxey's service, and when shame drove him from Whitelaw College. In
reflecting upon his own character and his lot he gave much weight to
these irregularities, no doubt with justice. In both cases he was
turned aside from the way of natural development and opportunity. He
would now complete his academic course by taking the London degree at
which he had long ago aimed; the preliminary examination might without
difficulty be passed this summer, and next year he might write himself
Bachelor of Arts. A return to the studies of boyhood probably accounted
in some measure for the frequent gaiety which he attributed to
improving health and revived hopes. Everything he undertook was easy to
him, and by a pleasant self-deception he made the passing of a school
task his augury of success in greater things.

During the spring he was indebted to the Warricombes' friendship for
several new acquaintances. A clergyman named Lilywhite, often at the
Warricombes' house, made friendly overtures to him; the connection
might be a useful one, and Godwin made the most of it. Mr. Lilywhite
was a man of forty well--read, of scientific tastes, an active
pedestrian. Peak had no difficulty in associating with him on amicable
terms. With Mrs. Lilywhite, the mother of six children and possessed of
many virtues, he presently became a favourite,--she saw in him 'a great
deal of quiet moral force'. One or two families of good standing made
him welcome at their houses; society is very kind to those who seek its
benefits with recognised credentials. The more he saw of these wealthy
and tranquil middle-class people, the more fervently did he admire the
gracefulness of their existence. He had not set before himself an
imaginary ideal; the girls and women were sweet, gentle, perfect in
manner, and, within limits, of bright intelligence. He was conscious of
benefiting greatly, and not alone in things extrinsic, by the
atmosphere of such homes.

Nature's progress towards summer kept him in a mood of healthful
enjoyment. From the window of his sitting-room he looked over the
opposite houses to Northernhay, the hill where once stood Rougemont
Castle, its wooded declivities now fashioned into a public garden. He
watched the rooks at their building in the great elms, and was
gladdened when the naked branches began to deck themselves, day by day
the fresh verdure swelling into soft, graceful outline. In his walks he
pried eagerly for the first violet, welcomed the earliest blackthorn
blossom; every common flower of field and hedgerow gave him a new, keen
pleasure. As was to be expected he found the same impulses strong in
Sidwell Warricombe and her sister. Sidwell could tell him of secret
spots where the wood-sorrel made haste to flower, or where the white
violet breathed its fragrance in security from common pilferers. Here
was the safest and pleasantest matter for conversation. He knew that on
such topics he could talk agreeably enough, revealing without stress or
importunity his tastes, his powers, his attainments. And it seemed to
him that Sidwell listened with growing interest. Most certainly her
father encouraged his visits to the house, and Mrs. Warricombe behaved
to him with increase of suavity.

In the meantime he had purchased a copy of Reusch's _Bibel und Natur_,
and had made a translation of some fifty pages. This experiment he
submitted to a London publishing house, with proposals for the
completion of the work; without much delay there came a civil letter of
excuse, and with it the sample returned. Another attempt again met with
rejection. This failure did not trouble him. What he really desired was
to read through his version of Reusch with Martin Warricombe, and
before long he had brought it to pass that Martin requested a perusal
of the manuscript as it advanced, which it did but slowly. Godwin durst
not endanger his success in the examination by encroaching upon hours
of necessary study; his leisure was largely sacrificed to _Bibel und
Natur_, and many an evening of calm golden loveliness, when he longed
to be amid the fields, passed in vexatious imprisonment. The name of
Reusch grew odious to him, and he revenged himself for the hypocrisy of
other hours by fierce scorn, cast audibly at this laborious exegetist.



CHAPTER III


It occasionally happens that a woman whose early life has been directed
by native silliness and social bias, will submit to a tardy education
at the hands of her own children. Thus was it with Mrs Warricombe.

She came of a race long established in squirearchic dignity amid heaths
and woodlands. Her breeding was pure through many generations of the
paternal and maternal lines, representative of a physical type,
fortified in the males by much companionship with horse and hound, and
by the corresponding country pursuits of dowered daughters. At the time
of her marriage she had no charms of person more remarkable than rosy
comeliness and the symmetry of supple limb. As for the nurture of her
mind, it had been intrusted to home-governesses of respectable
incapacity. Martin Warricombe married her because she was one of a
little circle of girls, much alike as to birth and fortune, with whom
he had grown up in familiar communication. Timidity imposed restraints
upon him which made his choice almost a matter of accident. As befalls
often enough, the betrothal became an accomplished fact whilst he was
still doubting whether he desired it or not. When the fervour of early
wedlock was outlived, he had no difficulty in accepting as a matter of
course that his life's companion should be hopelessly illogical and at
heart indifferent to everything but the small graces and substantial
comforts of provincial existence. One of the advantages of wealth is
that it allows husband and wife to keep a great deal apart without any
show of mutual unkindness, a condition essential to happiness in
marriage. Time fostered in them a calm attachment, independent of
spiritual sympathy, satisfied with a common regard for domestic honour.

Not that Mrs. Warricombe remained in complete ignorance of her
husband's pursuits; social forms would scarcely have allowed this,
seeing that she was in constant intercourse, as hostess or guest, with
Martin's scientific friends. Of fossils she necessarily knew something.
Up to a certain point they amused her; she could talk of ammonites, of
brachiopods, and would point a friend's attention to the _Calceola
sandalina_ which Martin prized so much. The significance of
palaeontology she dimly apprehended, for in the early days of their
union her husband had felt it desirable to explain to her what was
meant by geologic time and how he reconciled his views on that subject
with the demands of religious faith. Among the books which he induced
her to read were Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise and the works of Hugh
Miller. The intellectual result was chaotic, and Mrs. Warricombe
settled at last into a comfortable private opinion, that though the
record of geology might be trustworthy that of the Bible was more so.
She would admit that there was no impiety in accepting the evidence of
nature, but held to a secret conviction that it was safer to believe in
Genesis. For anything beyond a quasi-permissible variance from biblical
authority as to the age of the world she was quite unprepared, and
Martin, in his discretion, imparted to her nothing of the graver doubts
which were wont to trouble him.

But as her children grew up, Mrs. Warricombe's mind and temper were
insensibly modified by influences which operated through her maternal
affections, influences no doubt aided by the progressive spirit of the
time. The three boys--Buckland, Maurice, and Louis--were distinctly of
a new generation. It needed some ingenuity to discover their points of
kindred with paternal and maternal grandparents; nor even with father
and mother had they much in common which observation could readily
detect. Sidwell, up to at least her fifteenth year, seemed to present
far less change of type. In her Mrs. Warricombe recognised a daughter,
and not without solace. But Fanny again was a problematical nature,
almost from the cradle. Latest born, she appeared to revive many
characteristics of the youthful Buckland, so far as a girl could
resemble her brother. It was a strange brood to cluster around Mrs.
Warricombe. For many years the mother was kept in alternation between
hopes and fears, pride and disapproval, the old hereditary habits of
mind, and a new order of ideas which could only be admitted with the
utmost slowness. Buckland's Radicalism deeply offended her; she
marvelled how such depravity could display itself in a child of hers.
Yet in the end her ancestral prejudices so far yielded as to allow of
her smiling at sentiments which she once heard with horror. Maurice,
whom she loved more tenderly, all but taught her to see the cogency of
a syllogism--amiably set forth. And Louis, with his indolent
good-nature, laughed her into a tolerance of many things which had
moved her indignation. But it was to Sidwell that in the end she owed
most. Beneath the surface of ordinary and rather backward girlhood,
which discouraged her father's hopes, Sidwell was quietly developing a
personality distinguished by the refinement of its ethical motives. Her
orthodoxy seemed as unimpeachable as Mrs Warricombe could desire, yet
as she grew into womanhood, a curiosity, which in no way disturbed the
tenor of her quietly contented life, led her to examine various forms
of religion, ancient and modern, and even systems of philosophy which
professed to establish a moral code, independent of supernatural faith.
She was not of studious disposition--that is to say, she had never
cared as a schoolgirl to do more mental work than was required of her,
and even now it was seldom that she read for more than an hour or two
in the day. Her habit was to dip into books, and meditate long on the
first points which arrested her thoughts. Of continuous application she
seemed incapable. She could read French, but did not attempt to pursue
the other languages of which her teachers had given her a smattering.
It pleased her best when she could learn from conversation. In this way
she obtained some insight into her father's favourite sciences,
occasionally making suggestions or inquiries which revealed a subtle if
not an acute intelligence.

Little by little Mrs. Warricombe found herself changing places with the
daughter whom she had regarded as wholly subject to her direction.
Sidwell began to exercise an indeterminate control, the proofs of which
were at length manifest in details of her mother's speech and
demeanour. An exquisite social tact, an unfailing insensibly as the
qualities of pure air: these were the points of sincerity of moral
judgment, a gentle force which operated as character to which Mrs.
Warricombe owed the humanisation observable when one compared her in
1885 with what she was, say, in 1874, when the sight of Professor Walsh
moved her to acrimony, and when she conceived a pique against Professor
Gale because the letter P has alphabetical precedence of W. Her
limitations were of course the same as ever, and from her sons she had
only learnt to be ashamed of announcing them too vehemently. Sidwell it
was who had led her to that degree of genuine humility, which is not
satisfied with hiding a fault but strives to amend it.

Martin Warricombe himself was not unaffected by the growth about him of
young men and maidens who looked upon the world with new eyes, whose
world, indeed, was another than that in which he had spent the better
part of his life. In his case contact with the young generation tended
to unsettlement, to a troublesome persistency of speculations which he
would have preferred to dismiss altogether. At the time of his
marriage, and for some years after, he was content to make a broad
distinction between those intellectual pursuits which afforded him
rather a liberal amusement than the pleasures of earnest study and the
questions of metaphysical faith which concerned his heart and
conscience. His native prejudices were almost as strong, and much the
same, as those of his wife; but with the vagueness of emotional logic
natural to his constitution, he satisfied himself that, by conceding a
few inessential points, he left himself at liberty to follow the
scientific movements of the day without damage to his religious
convictions. The tolerant smile so frequently on his countenance was
directed as often in the one quarter as in the other. Now it signified
a gentle reproof of those men of science who, like Professor Walsh,
'went too far', whose zeal for knowledge led them 'to forget the source
of all true enlightenment'; now it expressed a forbearing sympathy with
such as erred in the opposite direction, who were 'too literal in their
interpretation of the sacred volume'. Amiable as the smile was, it
betrayed weakness, and at moments Martin became unpleasantly conscious
of indisposition to examine his own mind on certain points. His life,
indeed, was one of debate postponed. As the realm of science extended,
as his intercourse with men who frankly avowed their 'infidelity' grew
more frequent, he ever and again said to himself that, one of these
days, he must sit down and 'have it out' in a solemn self-searching.
But for the most part he got on very well amid his inconsistencies.
Religious faith has rarely any connection with reasoning. Martin
believed because he believed, and avoided the impact of disagreeable
arguments because he wished to do so.

The bent of his mind was anything but polemical; he cared not to spend
time even over those authors whose attacks on the outposts of science,
or whose elaborate reconcilements of old and new, might have afforded
him some support. On the other hand, he altogether lacked that breadth
of intellect which seeks to comprehend all the results of speculation,
to discern their tendency, to derive from them a consistent theory of
the nature of things. Though a man be well versed in a science such as
palaeontology it does not follow that he will view it in its
philosophical relations. Martin had kept himself informed of all the
facts appertaining to his study which the age brought forth, but
without developing the new modes of mental life requisite for the
recognition of all that such facts involved. The theories of evolution
he did not venture openly to resist, but his acceptance of them was so
half-hearted that practically he made no use of their teaching. He was
no man of science, but an idler among the wonders which science uses
for her own purposes.

He regarded with surprise and anxiety the tendencies early manifested
in his son Buckland. Could he have had his way the lad would have grown
up with an impossible combination of qualities, blending the enthusiasm
of modern research with a spirit of expansive teleology. Whilst
Buckland was still of boyish years, the father treated with bantering
good-humour such outbreaks of irreverence as came immediately under his
notice, weakly abstaining from any attempt at direct argument or
influence. But, at a later time, there took place serious and painful
discussions, and only when the young man had rubbed off his edges in
the world's highways could Martin forget that stage of most unwelcome
conflict.

At the death of his younger boy, Maurice, he suffered a blow which had
results more abiding than the melancholy wherewith for a year or two
his genial nature was overshadowed. From that day onwards he was never
wholly at ease among the pursuits which had been wont to afford him an
unfailing resource against whatever troubles. He could no longer accept
and disregard, in a spirit of cheerful faith, those difficulties
science was perpetually throwing in his way. The old smile of kindly
tolerance had still its twofold meaning, but it was more evidently a
disguise of indecision, and not seldom touched with sadness. Martin's
life was still one of postponed debate, but he could not regard the day
when conclusions would be demanded of him as indefinitely remote.
Desiring to dwell in the familiar temporary abode, his structure of
incongruities and facile reconcilements, he found it no longer
weather-proof. The times were shaking his position with earthquake
after earthquake. His sons (for he suspected that Louis was hardly less
emancipated than Buckland) stood far aloof from him, and must in
private feel contemptuous of his old-fashioned beliefs. In Sidwell,
however, he had a companion more and more indispensable, and he could
not imagine that _her_ faith would ever give way before the invading
spirit of agnosticism. Happily she was no mere pietist. Though he did
not quite understand her attitude towards Christianity, he felt assured
that Sidwell had thought deeply and earnestly of religion in all its
aspects, and it was a solace to know that she found no difficulty in
recognising the large claims of science. For all this, he could not
deliberately seek her confidence, or invite her to a discussion of
religious subjects. Some day, no doubt, a talk of that kind would begin
naturally between them, and so strong was his instinctive faith in
Sidwell that he looked forward to this future communing as to a certain
hope of peace.

That a figure such as Godwin Peak, a young man of vigorous intellect,
preparing to devote his life to the old religion, should excite Mr.
Warricombe's interest was of course to be anticipated; and it seemed
probable enough that Peak, exerting all the force of his character and
aided by circumstances, might before long convert this advantage to a
means of ascendency over the less self-reliant nature. But here was no
instance of a dotard becoming the easy prey of a scientific Tartufe.
Martin's intellect had suffered no decay. His hale features and
dignified bearing expressed the mind which was ripened by sixty years
of pleasurable activity, and which was learning to regard with steadier
view the problems it had hitherto shirked. He could not change the
direction nature had given to his thoughts, and prepossession would in
some degree obscure his judgment where the merits and trustworthiness
of a man in Peak's circumstances called for scrutiny; but self-respect
guarded him against vulgar artifices, and a fine sensibility made it
improbable that he would become the victim of any man in whom base
motives predominated.

Left to his own impulses, he would still have proceeded with all
caution in his offers of friendly services to Peak. A letter of
carefully-worded admonition, which he received from his son, apprising
him of Peak's resolve to transfer himself to Exeter, scarcely affected
his behaviour when the young man appeared. It was but natural--he
argued--that Buckland should look askance on a case of 'conversion';
for his own part, he understood that such a step might be prompted by
interest, but he found it difficult to believe that to a man in Peak's
position, the Church would offer temptation thus coercive. Nor could he
discern in the candidate for a curacy any mark of dishonourable
purpose. Faults, no doubt, were observable, among them a tendency to
spiritual pride--which seemed (Martin could admit) an argument for,
rather than against, his sincerity. The progress of acquaintance
decidedly confirmed his favourable impressions; they were supported by
the remarks of those among his friends to whom Peak presently became
known.

It was not until Whitsuntide of the next year, when the student had
been living nearly five months at Exeter, that Buckland again came down
to visit his relatives. On the evening of his arrival, chancing to be
alone with Sidwell, he asked her if Peak had been to the house lately.

'Not many days ago,' replied his sister, 'he lunched with us, and then
sat with father for some time.'

'Does he come often?'

'Not very often. He is translating a German book which interests father
very much.'

'Oh, what book?'

'I don't know. Father has only mentioned it in that way.'

They were in a little room sacred to the two girls, very daintily
furnished and fragrant of sweet-brier, which Sidwell loved so much
that, when the season allowed it, she often wore a little spray of it
at her girdle. Buckland opened a book on the table, and, on seeing the
title, exclaimed with a disparaging laugh:

'I can't get out of the way of this fellow M'Naughten! Wherever I go,
there he lies about on the tables and chairs. I should have thought he
was thoroughly smashed by an article that came out in _The Critical_
last year.'

Sidwell smiled, evidently in no way offended.

'That article could "smash" nobody,' she made answer. 'It was too
violent; it overshot the mark.'

'Not a bit of it!--So you read it, eh? You're beginning to read, are
you?'

'In my humble way, Buckland.'

'M'Naughten, among other things. Humble enough, that, I admit.'

'I am not a great admirer of M'Naughten,' returned his sister, with a
look of amusement.

'No? I congratulate you.--I wonder what Peak thinks of the book?'

'I really don't know.'

'Then let me ask another question. What do you think of Peak?'

Sidwell regarded him with quiet reflectiveness.

'I feel,' she said, 'that I don't know him very well yet. He is
certainly interesting.'

'Yes, he is. Does he impress you as the kind of man likely to make a
good clergyman?'

'I don't see any reason why he should not.'

Her brother mused, with wrinkles of dissatisfaction on his brow.

'Father gets to like him, you say?'

'Yes, I think father likes him.'

'Well, I suppose it's all right.'

'All right?'

'It's the most astounding thing that ever came under my observation,'
exclaimed Buckland, walking away and then returning.

'That Mr. Peak should be studying for the Church?'

'Yes.'

'But do reflect more modestly!' urged Sidwell, with something that was
not quite archness, though as near it as her habits of tone and feature
would allow. 'Why should you refuse to admit an error in your own way
of looking at things? Wouldn't it be better to take this as a proof
that intellect isn't necessarily at war with Christianity?'

'I never stated it so broadly as that,' returned her brother, with
impatience. 'But I should certainly have maintained that _Peak's_
intellect was necessarily in that position.'

'And you see how wrong you would have been,' remarked the girl, softly.

'Well--I don't know.'

'You don't know?'

'I mean that I can't acknowledge what I can't understand.'

'Then do try to understand, Buckland!--Have you ever put aside your
prejudice for a moment to inquire what our religion really means? Not
once, I think--at all events, not since you reached years of
discretion.'

'Allow me to inform you that I studied the question thoroughly at
Cambridge.'

'Yes, yes; but that was in your boyhood.'

'And when does manhood begin?'

'At different times in different persons. In your case it was late.'

Buckland laughed. He was considering a rejoinder, when they were
interrupted by the appearance of Fanny, who asked at once:

'Shall you go to see Mr. Peak this evening, Buckland?'

'I'm in no hurry,' was the abrupt reply.

The girl hesitated.

'Let us all have a drive together--with Mr. Peak, I mean--like when you
were here last.'

'We'll see about it.'

Buckland went slowly from the room.

Late the same evening he sat with his father in the study. Mr
Warricombe knew not the solace of tobacco, and his son, though never
quite at ease without pipe or cigar, denied himself in this room, with
the result that he shifted frequently upon his chair and fell into many
awkward postures.

'And how does Peak impress you?' he inquired, when the subject he most
wished to converse upon had been postponed to many others. It was clear
that Martin would not himself broach it.

'Not disagreeably,' was the reply, with a look of frankness, perhaps
over-emphasised.

'What is he doing? I have only heard from him once since he came down,
and he had very little to say about himself.'

'I understand that he proposes to take the London B.A.'

'Oh, then, he never did that? Has he unbosomed himself to you about his
affairs of old time?'

'No. Such confidences are hardly called for.'

'Speaking plainly, father, you don't feel any uneasiness?'

Martin deliberated, fingering the while an engraved stone which hung
upon his watch-guard. He was at a disadvantage in this conversation.
Aware that Buckland regarded the circumstances of Peak's sojourn in the
neighbourhood with feelings allied to contempt, he could neither adopt
the tone of easy confidence natural to him on other occasions of
difference in opinion, nor express himself with the coldness which
would have obliged his son to quit the subject.

'Perhaps you had better tell me,' he replied, 'whether _you_ are really
uneasy.'

It was impossible for Buckland to answer as his mind prompted. He could
not without offence declare that no young man of brains now adopted a
clerical career with pure intentions, yet such was his sincere belief.
Made tolerant in many directions by the cultivation of his shrewdness,
he was hopelessly biassed in judgment as soon as his anti-religious
prejudice came into play--a point of strong resemblance between him and
Peak. After fidgeting for a moment, he exclaimed:

'Yes, I am; but I can't be sure that there's any cause for it.'

'Let us come to matters of fact,' said Mr. Warricombe, showing that he
was not sorry to discuss this side of the affair. 'I suppose there is
no doubt that Peak had a position till lately at the place he speaks
of?'

'No doubt whatever. I have taken pains to ascertain that. His account
of himself, so far, is strictly true.'

Martin smiled, with satisfaction he did not care to disguise.

'Have you met some acquaintance of his?'

'Well,' answered Buckland, changing his position, 'I went to work in
rather an underhand way, perhaps--but the results are satisfactory. No,
I haven't come across any of his friends, but I happened to hear not
long ago that he was on intimate terms with some journalists.'

His father laughed.

'Anything compromising in that association, Buckland?'

'I don't say that--though the fellows I speak of are hot Radicals.'

'Though?'

'I mean,' replied the young man, with his shrewder smile, 'that they
are not exactly the companions a theological student would select.'

'I understand. Possibly he has journalised a little himself?'

'That I can't say, though I should have thought it likely enough. I
might, of course, find out much more about him, but it seemed to me
that to have assurance of his truthfulness in that one respect was
enough for the present.'

'Do you mean, Buckland,' asked his father, gravely, 'that you have been
setting secret police at work?'

'Well, yes. I thought it the least objectionable way of getting
information.'

Martin compressed his lips and looked disapproval.

'I really can't see that such extreme measures were demanded. Come,
come; what is all this about? Do you suspect him of planning
burglaries? That was an ill-judged step, Buckland; decidedly
ill-judged. I said just now that Peak impressed me by no means
disagreeably. Now I will add that I am convinced of his good faith--as
sure of it as I am of his remarkable talents and aptitude for the
profession he aims at. In spite of your extraordinary distrust, I can't
feel a moment's doubt of his honour. Why, I could have told you myself
that he has known Radical journalists. He mentioned it the other day,
and explained how far his sympathy went with that kind of thing. No,
no; that was hardly permissible, Buckland.'

The young man had no difficulty in bowing to his father's reproof when
the point at issue was one of gentlemanly behaviour.

'I admit it,' he replied. 'I wish I had gone to Rotherhithe and made
simple inquiries in my own name. That, all things considered, I might
have allowed myself; at all events, I shouldn't have been at ease
without getting that assurance. If Peak had heard, and had said to me,
"What the deuce do you mean?" I should have told him plainly, what I
have strongly hinted to him already, that I don't understand what he is
doing in this galley.'

'And have placed yourself in a position not easy to define.'

'No doubt.'

'All this arises, my boy,' resumed Martin, in a tone of grave kindness,
'from your strange inability to grant that on certain matters you may
be wholly misled.'

'It does.'

'Well, well; that is forbidden ground. But do try to be less narrow.
Are you unable then to meet Peak in a friendly way?'

'Oh, by no means! It seems more than likely that I have wronged him.'

'Well said! Keep your mind open. I marvel at the dogmatism of men who
are set on overthrowing dogma. Such a position is so strangely
unphilosophic that I don't know how a fellow of your brains can hold it
for a moment. If I were not afraid of angering you,' Martin added, in
his pleasantest tone, 'I would quote the Master of Trinity.'

'A capital epigram, but it is repeated too often.'

Mr. Warricombe shook his head, and with a laugh rose to say good-night.

'It's a great pity,' he remarked next day to Sidwell, who had been
saying that her brother seemed less vivacious than usual, 'that
Buckland is defective on the side of humour. For a man who claims to be
philosophical he takes things with a rather obtuse seriousness. I know
nothing better than humour as a protection against the kind of mistake
he is always committing.'

The application of this was not clear to Sidwell.

'Has something happened to depress him?' she asked.

'Not that I know of. I spoke only of his general tendency to
intemperate zeal. That is enough to account for intervals of reaction.
And how much sounder his judgment of men would be if he could only see
through a medium of humour now and then! You know he is going over to
Budleigh Salterton this afternoon?'

Sidwell smiled, and said quietly:

'I thought it likely he would.'

At Budleigh Salterton, a nook on the coast some fifteen miles away,
Sylvia Moorhouse was now dwelling. Her mother, a widow of substantial
means, had recently established herself there, in the proximity of
friends, and the mathematical brother made his home with them. That
Buckland took every opportunity of enjoying Sylvia's conversation was
no secret; whether the predilection was mutual, none of his relatives
could say, for in a matter such as this Buckland was by nature disposed
to reticence. Sidwell's intimacy with Miss Moorhouse put her in no
better position than the others for forming an opinion; she could only
suspect that the irony which flavoured Sylvia's talk with and
concerning the Radical, intimated a lurking kindness. Buckland's
preference was easily understood, and its growth for five or six years
seemed to promise stability.

Immediately after luncheon the young man set forth, and did not
reappear until the evening of the next day. His spirits had not
benefited by the excursion; at dinner he was noticeably silent, and
instead of going to the drawing-room afterwards he betook himself to
the studio up on the roof, and smoked in solitude. There, towards ten
o'clock, Sidwell sought him. Heavy rain was beating upon the glass, and
a high wind blended its bluster with the cheerless sound.

'Don't you find it rather cold here?' she asked, after observing her
brother's countenance of gloom.

'Yes; I'm coming down.--Why don't you keep up your painting?'

'I have lost interest in it, I'm afraid.'

'That's very weak, you know. It seems to me that nothing interests you
permanently.'

Sidwell thought it better to make no reply.

'The characteristic of women,' Buckland pursued, with some asperity,
throwing away the stump of his cigar. 'It comes, I suppose, of their
ridiculous education--their minds are never trained to fixity of
purpose. They never understand themselves, and scarcely ever make an
effort to understand any one else. Their life is a succession of
inconsistencies.'

'This generalising is so easy,' said Sidwell, with a laugh, 'and so
worthless. I wonder you should be so far behind the times.'

'What light have the times thrown on the subject?'

'There's no longer such a thing as _woman_ in the abstract. We are
individuals.'

'Don't imagine it! That may come to pass three or four generations
hence, but as yet the best of you can only vary the type in unimportant
particulars. By the way, what is Peak's address?'

'Longbrook Street; but I don't know the number. Father can give it you,
I think.'

'I shall have to drop him a note. I must get back to town early in the
morning.'

'Really? We hoped to have you for a week.'

'Longer next time.'

They descended together. Now that Louis no longer abode here (he had
decided at length for medicine, and was at work in London), the family
as a rule spent very quiet evenings. By ten o'clock Mrs Warricombe and
Fanny had retired, and Sidwell was left either to talk with her father,
or to pursue the calm meditations which seemed to make her independent
of companionship as often as she chose.

'Are they all gone?' Buckland asked, finding a vacant room.

'Father is no doubt in the study.'

'It occurs to me--. Do you feel satisfied with this dead-alive
existence?'

'Satisfied? No life could suit me better.'

'You really think of living here indefinitely?'

'As far as I am concerned, I hope nothing may ever disturb us.'

'And to the end of your life you will scent yourself with sweetbrier?
Do try a bit of mint for a change.'

'Certainly, if it will please you.'

'Seriously, I think you might all come to town for next winter. You are
rusting, all of you. Father was never so dull, and mother doesn't seem
to know how to pass the days. It wouldn't be bad for Louis to be living
with you instead of in lodgings. Do just think of it. It's ages since
you heard a concert, or saw a picture.'

Sidwell mused, and her brother watched her askance.

'I don't know whether the others would care for it,' she said, 'but I
am not tempted by a winter of fog.'

'Fog? Pooh! Well, there is an occasional fog, just now and then, but
it's much exaggerated. Who ever thinks of the weather in England? Fanny
might have a time at Bedford College or some such place-she learns
nothing here. Think it over. Father would be delighted to get among the
societies, and so on.'

He repeated his arguments in many forms, and Sidwell listened
patiently, until they were joined by Mr. Warricombe, whereupon the
subject dropped; to be resumed, however, in correspondence, with a
persistency which Buckland seldom exhibited in anything which affected
the interests of his relatives. As the summer drew on, Mrs Warricombe
began to lend serious ear to this suggestion of change, and Martin was
at all events moved to discuss the pros and cons of half a year in
London. Sidwell preserved neutrality, seldom making an allusion to the
project; but Fanny supported her brother's proposal with sprightly
zeal, declaring on one occasion that she began distinctly to feel the
need of 'a higher culture', such as London only could supply.

In the meantime there had been occasional interchange of visits between
the family and their friends at Budleigh Salterton. One evening, when
Mrs. Moorhouse and Sylvia were at the Warricombes', three or four
Exeter people came to dine, and among the guests was Godwin Peak--his
invitation being due in this instance to Sylvia's express wish to meet
him again.

'I am studying men,' she had said to Sidwell not long before, when the
latter was at the seaside with her. 'In our day this is the proper
study of womankind. Hitherto we have given serious attention only to
one another. Mr. Peak remains in my memory as a type worth observing;
let me have a chance of talking to him when I come next.'

She did not neglect her opportunity, and Mrs. Moorhouse, who also
conversed with the theologian and found him interesting, was so good as
to hope that he would call upon her if ever his steps turned towards
Budleigh Salterton.

After breakfast next morning, Sidwell found her friend sitting with a
book beneath one of the great trees of the garden. At that moment
Sylvia was overcome with laughter, evidently occasioned by her reading.

'Oh,' she exclaimed, 'if this man isn't a great humorist! I don't think
I ever read anything more irresistible.'

The book was Hugh Miller's _Testimony of the Rocks_, a richly bound
copy belonging to Mrs. Warricombe.

'I daresay you know it very well; it's the chapter in which he
discusses, with perfect gravity, whether it would have been possible
for Noah to collect examples of all living creatures in the ark. He
decides that it wouldn't--that the deluge _must_ have spared a portion
of the earth; but the details of his argument are delicious, especially
this place where he says that all the insects could have been brought
together only "at enormous expense of miracle"! I suspected a secret
smile; but no--that's out of the question. "At enormous expense of
miracle"!'

Sylvia's eyes winked as she laughed, a peculiarity which enhanced the
charm of her frank mirth. Her dark, pure complexion, strongly-marked
eyebrows, subtle lips, were shadowed beneath a great garden hat, and a
loose white gown, with no oppressive moulding at the waist, made her a
refreshing picture in the glare of mid-summer.

'The phrase is ridiculous enough,' assented Sidwell. 'Miracle can be
but miracle, however great or small its extent.'

'Isn't it strange, reading a book of this kind nowadays? What a leap we
have made! I should think there's hardly a country curate who would be
capable of bringing this argument into a sermon.'

'I don't know,' returned Sidwell, smiling. 'One still hears remarkable
sermons.'

'What will Mr. Peak's be like?'

They exchanged glances. Sylvia wore a look of reflective curiosity, and
her friend answered with some hesitation, as if the thought were new to
her:

'They won't deal with Noah, we may take that for granted.'

'Most likely not with miracles, however little expensive.'

'Perhaps not. I suppose he will deal chiefly with the moral teaching of
Christianity.'

'Do you think him strong as a moralist?' inquired Sylvia.

'He has very decided opinions about the present state of our
civilisation.'

'So I find. But is there any distinctly moral force in him?'

'Father thinks so,' Sidwell replied, 'and so do our friends the
Lilywhites.'

Miss Moorhouse pondered awhile.

'He is a great problem to me,' she declared at length, knitting her
brows with a hint of humorous exaggeration. 'I wonder whether he
believes in the dogmas of Christianity.'

Sidwell was startled.

'Would he think of becoming a clergyman?'

'Oh, why not? Don't they recognise nowadays that the spirit is enough?'

There was silence. Sidwell let her eyes wander over the sunny grass to
the red-flowering creeper on the nearest side of the house.

'That would involve a great deal of dissimulation,' she said at length.
'I can't reconcile it with what I know of Mr. Peak.'

'And I can't reconcile anything else,' rejoined the other.

'He impresses you as a rationalist?'

'You not?'

'I confess I have taken his belief for granted. Oh, think! He couldn't
keep up such a pretence. However you justify it, it implies conscious
deception. It would be dishonourable. I am sure _he_ would think it so.'

'How does your brother regard him?' Sylvia asked, smiling very
slightly, but with direct eyes.

'Buckland can't credit anyone with sincerity except an aggressive
agnostic.'

'But I think he allows honest credulity.'

Sidwell had no answer to this. After musing a little, she put a
question which indicated how her thoughts had travelled.

'Have you met many women who declared themselves agnostics?'

'Several.'

Sylvia removed her hat, and began to fan herself gently with the brim.
Here, in the shade, bees were humming; from the house came faint notes
of a piano--Fanny practising a mazurka of Chopin.

'But never, I suppose, one who found a pleasure in attacking
Christianity?'

'A girl who was at school with me in London,' Sylvia replied, with an
air of amused reminiscence. 'Marcella Moxey. Didn't I ever speak to you
of her?'

'I think not.'

'She was bitter against religion of every kind.'

'Because her mother made her learn collects, I dare say?' suggested
Sidwell, in a tone of gentle satire.

'No, no. Marcella was about eighteen then, and had neither father nor
mother.--(How Fanny's touch improves!)--She was a born atheist, in the
fullest sense of the word.'

'And detestable?'

'Not to me--I rather liked her. She was remarkably honest, and I have
sometimes thought that in morals, on the whole, she stood far above
most women. She hated falsehood--hated it with all her heart, and a
story of injustice maddened her. When I think of Marcella it helps me
to picture the Russian girls who propagate Nihilism.'

'You have lost sight of her?'

'She went abroad, I think. I should like to have known her fate. I
rather think there will have to be many like her before women are
civilised.'

'How I should like to ask her,' said Sidwell, 'on what she supported
her morality?'

'Put the problem to Mr. Peak,' suggested the other, gaily. 'I fancy he
wouldn't find it insoluble.'

Mrs. Warricombe and Mrs. Moorhouse appeared in the distance, walking
hither under parasols. The girls rose to meet them, and were presently
engaged in less interesting colloquy.



CHAPTER IV


This summer Peak became a semi-graduate of London University. To avoid
the risk of a casual meeting with acquaintances, he did not go to
London, but sat for his examination at the nearest provincial centre.
The revival of boyish tremors at the successive stages of this business
was anything but agreeable; it reminded him, with humiliating force,
how far he had strayed from the path indicated to his self-respecting
manhood. Defeat would have strengthened in overwhelming revolt all the
impulses which from time to time urged him to abandon his servile
course. But there was no chance of his failing to satisfy the
examiners. With 'Honours' he had now nothing to do; enough for his
purpose that in another year's time he would write himself Bachelor of
Arts, and thus simplify the clerical preliminaries. In what quarter he
was to look for a curacy remained uncertain. Meanwhile his enterprise
seemed to prosper, and success emboldened his hopes.

Hopes which were no longer vague, but had defined themselves in a way
which circumstances made inevitable. Though he had consistently guarded
himself against the obvious suggestions arising out of his intercourse
with the Warricombe family, though he still emphasised every
discouraging fact, and strove to regard it as axiomatic that nothing
could be more perilous to his future than a hint of presumption or
self-interest in word or deed beneath that friendly roof, it was coming
to pass that he thought of Sidwell not only as the type of woman
pursued by his imagination, but as herself the object of his converging
desires. Comparison of her with others had no result but the deepening
of that impression she had at first made upon him. Sidwell exhibited
all the qualities which most appealed to him in her class; in addition,
she had the charms of a personality which he could not think of common
occurrence. He was yet far from understanding her; she exercised his
powers of observation, analysis, conjecture, as no other person had
ever done; each time he saw her (were it but for a moment) he came away
with some new perception of her excellence, some hitherto unmarked
grace of person or mind whereon to meditate. He had never approached a
woman who possessed this power at once of fascinating his senses and
controlling his intellect to a glad reverence. Whether in her presence
or musing upon her in solitude, he found that the unsparing naturalism
of his scrutiny was powerless to degrade that sweet, pure being.

Rare, under any circumstances, is the passionate love which controls
every motive of heart and mind; rarer still that form of it which, with
no assurance of reciprocation, devotes exclusive ardour to an object
only approachable through declared obstacles. Godwin Peak was not
framed for romantic languishment. In general, the more complex a man's
mechanism, and the more pronounced his habit of introspection, the less
capable is he of loving with vehemence and constancy. Heroes of passion
are for the most part primitive natures, nobly tempered; in our time
they tend to extinction. Growing vulgarism on the one hand, and on the
other a development of the psychological conscience, are unfavourable
to any relation between the sexes, save those which originate in pure
animalism, or in reasoning less or more generous. Never having
experienced any feeling which he could dignify with the name of love,
Godwin had no criterion in himself whereby to test the emotions now
besetting him. In a man of his age this was an unusual state of things,
for when the ardour which will bear analysis has at length declared
itself, it is wont to be moderated by the regretful memory of that
fugacious essence which gave to the first frenzy of youth its
irrecoverable delight. He could not say in reply to his impulses: If
that was love which overmastered me, this must be something either more
or less exalted. What he _did_ say was something of this kind: If
desire and tenderness, if frequency of dreaming rapture, if the calmest
approval of the mind and the heart's most exquisite, most painful
throbbing, constitute love,--then assuredly I love Sidwell. But if to
love is to be possessed with madness, to lose all taste of life when
hope refuses itself, to meditate frantic follies, to deem it
inconceivable that this woman should ever lose her dominion over me, or
another reign in her stead,--then my passion falls short of the true
testrum, and I am only dallying with fancies which might spring up as
often as I encountered a charming girl.

All things considered, to encourage this amorous preoccupation was
probably the height of unwisdom. The lover is ready at deluding
himself, but Peak never lost sight of the extreme unlikelihood that he
should ever become Martin Warricombe's son-in-law, of the thousand
respects which forbade his hoping that Sidwell would ever lay her hand
in his. That deep-rooted sense of class which had so much influence on
his speculative and practical life asserted itself, with rigid
consistency, even against his own aspirations; he attributed to the
Warricombes more prejudice on this subject than really existed in them.
He, it was true, belonged to no class whatever, acknowledged no
subordination save that of the hierarchy of intelligence; but this
could not obscure the fact that his brother sold seeds across a
counter, that his sister had married a haberdasher, that his uncle
(notoriously) was somewhere or other supplying the public with cheap
repasts. Girls of Sidwell's delicacy do not misally themselves, for
they take into account the fact that such misalliance is fraught with
elements of unhappiness, affecting husband as much as wife. No need to
dwell upon the scruples suggested by his moral attitude; he would never
be called upon to combat them with reference to Sidwell's future.

What, then, was he about? For what advantage was he playing the
hypocrite? Would he, after all, be satisfied with some such wife as the
average curate may hope to marry?

A hundred times he reviewed the broad question, by the light of his six
months' experience. Was Sidwell Warricombe his ideal woman, absolutely
speaking? Why, no; not with all his glow of feeling could he persuade
himself to declare her that. Satisfied up to a certain point, admitted
to the sphere of wealthy refinement, he now had leisure to think of yet
higher grades, of the women who are not only exquisite creatures by
social comparison but rank by divine right among the foremost of their
race. Sidwell was far from intolerant, and held her faiths in a
sincerely ethical spirit. She judged nobly, she often saw with clear
vision. But must not something of kindly condescension always blend
with his admiring devotedness? Were it but possible to win the love of
a woman who looked forth with eyes thoroughly purged from all mist of
tradition and conventionalism, who was at home among arts and sciences,
who, like himself, acknowledged no class and bowed to no authority but
that of the supreme human mind!

Such women are to be found in every age, but how many of them shine
with the distinctive ray of womanhood? These are so rare that they have
a place in the pages of history. The truly emancipated woman--it was
Godwin's conviction--is almost always asexual; to him, therefore,
utterly repugnant. If, then, he were not content to waste his life in a
vain search for the priceless jewel, which is won and worn only by
fortune's supreme favourites, he must acquiesce in the imperfect
marriage commonly the lot of men whose intellect allows them but little
companionship even among their own sex: for that matter, the lot of
most men, and necessarily so until the new efforts in female education
shall have overcome the vice of wedlock as hitherto sanctioned. Nature
provides the hallucination which flings a lover at his mistress's feet.
For the chill which follows upon attainment she cares nothing--let
society and individuals make their account with that as best they may.
Even with a wife such as Sidwell the process of disillusion would
doubtless have to be faced, however liberal one's allowances in the
forecast.

Reflections of this colour were useful; they helped to keep within
limits the growth of agitating desire. But there were seasons when
Godwin surrendered himself to luxurious reverie, hours of summer
twilight which forbade analysis and listened only to the harmonies of
passion. Then was Sidwell's image glorified, and all the delights
promised by such love as hers fired his imagination to intolerable
ecstasy. O heaven! to see the smile softened by rosy warmth which would
confess that she had given her heart--to feel her supple fingers
intertwined with his that clasped them--to hear the words in which a
mind so admirable, instincts so delicate, would make expression of
their tenderness! To live with Sidwell--to breathe the fragrance of
that flower of womanhood in wedded intimacy--to prove the devotion of a
nature so profoundly chaste! The visionary transport was too poignant;
in the end it drove him to a fierce outbreak of despairing wrath. How
could he dream that such bliss would be the reward of despicable
artifice, of calculated dishonour? Born a rebel, how could his be the
fate of those happy men who are at one with the order of things? The
prophecy of a heart wrung with anguish foretold too surely that for him
was no rapturous love, no joy of noble wedlock. Solitude, now and for
ever, or perchance some base alliance of the flesh, which would involve
his later days in sordid misery.

In moods of discouragement he thought with envy of his old self, his
life in London lodgings, his freedom in obscurity. It belongs to the
pathos of human nature that only in looking back can one appreciate the
true value of those long tracts of monotonous ease which, when we are
living through them, seem of no account save in relation to past or
future; only at a distance do we perceive that the exemption from
painful shock was in itself a happiness, to be rated highly in
comparison with most of those disturbances known as moments of joy. A
wise man would have entertained no wish but that he might grow old in
that same succession of days and weeks and years. Without anxiety
concerning his material needs (certainly the most substantial of
earthly blessings), his leisure not inadequate to the gratification of
a moderate studiousness, with friends who offered him an ever-ready
welcome,--was it not much? If he were condemned to bachelorhood, his
philosophy was surely capable of teaching him that the sorrows and
anxieties he thus escaped made more than an offset against the
satisfactions he must forego. Reason had no part in the fantastic
change to which his life had submitted, nor was he ever supported by a
hope which would bear his cooler investigation.

And yet hope had her periods of control, for there are times when the
mind wearies of rationality, and, as it were in self-defense, in
obedience to the instinct of progressive life, craves a specious
comfort. It seemed undeniable that Mr. Warricombe regarded him with
growth of interest, invited his conversation more unreservedly. He
began to understand Martin's position with regard to religion and
science, and thus could utter himself more securely. At length he
ventured to discourse with some amplitude on his own convictions--the
views, that is to say, which he thought fit to adopt in his character
of a liberal Christian. It was on an afternoon of early August that
this opportunity presented itself. They sat together in the study, and
Martin was in a graver mood than usual, not much disposed to talk, but
a willing listener. There had been mention of a sermon at the
Cathedral, in which the preacher declared his faith that the maturity
of science would dispel all antagonisms between it and revelation.

'The difficulties of the unbeliever,' said Peak, endeavouring to avoid
a sermonising formality, though with indifferent success, 'are, of
course, of two kinds; there's the theory of evolution, and there's
modern biblical criticism. The more I study these objections, the less
able I am to see how they come in conflict with belief in Christianity
as a revealed religion.'

'Yet you probably had your time of doubt?' remarked the other, touching
for the first time on this personal matter.

'Oh, yes; that was inevitable. It only means that one's development is
imperfect. Most men who confirm themselves in agnosticism are kept at
that point by arrested moral activity. They give up the intellectual
question as wearisome, and accept the point of view which flatters
their prejudices: thereupon follows a blunting of the sensibilities on
the religious side.'

'There are men constitutionally unfitted for the reception of spiritual
truth,' said Martin, in a troubled tone. He was playing with a piece of
string, and did not raise his eyes.

'I quite believe that. There's our difficulty when we come to
evidences. The evidences of science are wholly different in _kind_ from
those of religion. Faith cannot spring from any observation of
phenomena, or scrutiny of authorities, but from the declaration made to
us by the spiritual faculty. The man of science can only become a
Christian by the way of humility--and that a kind of humility he finds
it difficult even to conceive. One wishes to impress upon him the
harmony of this faith with the spiritual voice that is in every man. He
replies: I know nothing of that spiritual voice. And if that be true,
one can't help him by argument.'

Peak had constructed for himself, out of his reading, a plausible
system which on demand he could set forth with fluency. The tone of
current apologetics taught him that, by men even of cultivated
intellect, such a position as he was now sketching was deemed tenable;
yet to himself it sounded so futile, so nugatory, that he had to harden
his forehead as he spoke. Trial more severe to his conscience lay in
the perceptible solicitude with which Mr Warricombe weighed these
disingenuous arguments. It was a hateful thing to practise such
deception on one who probably yearned for spiritual support. But he had
committed himself to this course, and must brave it out.

'Christianity,' he was saying presently--appropriating a passage of
which he had once made careful note--'is an organism of such vital
energy that it perforce assimilates whatever is good and true in the
culture of each successive age. To understand this is to learn that we
must depend rather on _constructive_, than on _defensive_, apology.
That is to say, we must draw evidence of our faith from its latent
capacities, its unsuspected affinities, its previsions, its
adaptability, comprehensiveness, sympathy, adequacy to human needs.'

'That puts very well what I have always felt,' replied Mr Warricombe.
'Yet there will remain the objection that such a faith may be of purely
human origin. If evolution and biblical criticism seem to overthrow all
the historic evidences of Christianity, how convince the objectors that
the faith itself was divinely given?'

'But I cannot hold for a moment,' exclaimed Peak, in the words which he
knew his interlocutor desired to hear, 'that all the historic evidences
have been destroyed. That indeed would shake our position.'

He enlarged on the point, with display of learning, yet studiously
avoiding the tone of pedantry.

'Evolution,' he remarked, when the dialogue had again extended its
scope, 'does not touch the evidence of design in the universe; at most
it can correct our imperfect views (handed down from an age which had
no scientific teaching because it was not ripe for it) of the mode in
which that design was executed, or rather is still being executed.
Evolutionists have not succeeded in explaining life; they have merely
discovered a new law relating to life. If we must have an explanation,
there is nothing for it but to accept the notion of a Deity. Indeed,
how can there be religion without a divine author? Religion is based on
the idea of a divine mind which reveals itself to us for moral ends.
The Christian revelation, we hold, has been developed gradually, much
of it in connection with secondary causes and human events. It has come
down to us in anything but absolute purity--like a stream which has
been made turbid by its earthly channel. The lower serves its purpose
as a stage to the higher, then it falls away, the higher surviving.
Hitherto, the final outcome of evolution is the soul in a bodily
tenement. May it not be that the perfected soul alone survives in the
last step of the struggle for existence?'

Peak had been talking for more than a quarter of an hour. Under stress
of shame and intellectual self-criticism (for he could not help
confuting every position as he stated it) his mind often wandered. When
he ceased speaking there came upon him an uncomfortable dreaminess
which he had already once or twice experienced when in colloquy with
Mr. Warricombe; a tormenting metaphysical doubt of his own identity
strangely beset him. With involuntary attempt to recover the familiar
self he grasped his own wrist, and then, before he was aware, a laugh
escaped him, an all but mocking laugh, unsuitable enough to the spirit
of the moment. Mr Warricombe was startled, but looked up with a
friendly smile.

'You fear,' he said, 'that this last speculation may seem rather
fanciful to me?'

Godwin was biting his lip fiercely, and could not command himself to
utterance of a word.

'By no means, I assure you,' added the other. 'It appeals to me very
strongly.'

Peak rose from his chair.

'It struck me,' he said, 'that I had been preaching a sermon rather
than taking part in a conversation. I'm afraid it is the habit of men
who live a good deal alone to indulge in monologues.'

On his return home, the sight of _Bibel und Natur_ and his sheets of
laborious manuscript filled him with disgust. It was two or three days
before he could again apply himself to the translation. Yet this
expedient had undoubtedly been of great service to him in the matter of
his relations with Mr. Warricombe. Without the aid of Reusch he would
have found it difficult to speak naturally on the theme which drew
Martin into confidences and established an intimacy between them.

Already they had discussed in detail the first half of the book. How a
man of Mr. Warricombe's intelligence could take grave interest in an
arid exegesis of the first chapter of Genesis, Godwin strove in vain to
comprehend. Often enough the debates were perilously suggestive of
burlesque, and, when alone, he relieved himself of the laughter he had
scarce restrained. For instance, there was that terrible _thohu wabohu_
of the second verse, a phrase preserved from the original, and tossed
into all the corners of controversy. Was _thohu wabohu_ the first
condition of the earth, or was it merely a period of division between a
previous state of things and creation as established by the Hexaemeron?
Did light exist or not, previous to the _thohu wabohu_? Then, again,
what kind of 'days' were the three which passed before the birth of the
sun? Special interest, of course, attached to the successive theories
of theology on the origin of geologic strata. First came the 'theory of
restitution', which explained unbiblical antiquity by declaring that
the strata belonged to a world before the Hexaimeron, a world which had
been destroyed, and succeeded by the new creation. Less objectionable
was the 'concordistic theory', which interprets the 'six days' as so
many vast periods of creative activity. But Reusch himself gave
preference to the 'ideal theory', the supporters whereof (diligently
adapting themselves to the progress of science) hold that the six days
are not to be understood as consecutive periods at all, but merely as
six phases of the Creator's work.

By the exercise of watchfulness and dexterity, Peak managed for the
most part to avoid expression of definite opinions. His attitude was
that of a reverent (not yet reverend) student. Mr. Warricombe was less
guarded, and sometimes allowed himself to profess that he saw nothing
but vain ingenuity in Reusch's argument: as, for example, where the
theologian, convinced that the patriarchs did really live to an
abnormal age, suggests that man's life was subsequently shortened in
order that 'sin might not flourish with such exuberance'. This passage
caused Martin to smile.

'It won't do, it won't do,' he said, quietly. 'Far better apply his
rationalism here as elsewhere. These are wonderful old stories, not to
be understood literally. Nothing depends upon them nothing essential.'

Thereupon Peak mused anxiously. Not for the first time there occurred
to him a thought which suited only too well with his ironic habits of
mind. What if this hypocritic comedy were altogether superfluous? What
if Mr. Warricombe would have received him no less cordially had he
avowed his sincere position, and contented himself with guarding
against offensiveness? Buckland, it was true, had suffered in his
father's esteem on account of his unorthodoxy, but that young man had
been too aggressive, too scornful. With prudence, would it not have
been possible to win Martin's regard by fortifying the scientific
rather than the dogmatic side of his intellect? If so, what a hopeless
error had he committed!--But Sidwell? Was _she_ liberal enough to take
a personal interest in one who had renounced faith in revelation? He
could not decide this question, for of Sidwell he knew much less than
of her father. And it was idle to torment himself with such debate of
the irreversible.

And, indeed, there seemed much reason for believing that Martin,
whatever the extent of his secret doubts, was by temperament armed
against agnosticism. Distinctly it comforted him to hear the
unbelievers assailed--the friends of whom he spoke most heartily were
all on the orthodox side; if ever a hint of gentle malice occurred in
his conversation, it was when he spoke of a fallacy, a precipitate
conclusion, detected in works of science. Probably he was too old to
overcome this bias.

His view of the Bible appeared to harmonise with that which Peak put
forth in one of their dialogues. 'The Scriptures were meant to be
literally understood in primitive ages, and spiritually when the growth
of science made it possible. _Genesis_ was never intended to teach the
facts of natural history; it takes phenomena as they appear to
uninstructed people, and uses them only for the inculcation of moral
lessons; it presents to the childhood of the world a few great
elementary truths. And the way in which phenomena are spoken of in the
Old Testament is never really incompatible with the facts as we know
them nowadays. Take the miracle of the sun standing still, which is
supposed to be a safe subject of ridicule. Why, it merely means that
light was miraculously prolonged; the words used are those which common
people would at all times understand.'

(Was it necessary to have admitted the miracle? Godwin asked himself.
At all events Mr. Warricombe nodded approvingly.)

'Then the narrative of the creation of man; that's not at all
incompatible with his slow development through ages. To teach the
scientific fact--if we yet really know it--would have been worse than
useless. The story is meant to express that spirit, and not matter, is
the source of all existence. Indeed, our knowledge of the true meaning
of the Bible has increased with the growth of science, and naturally
that must have been intended from the first. Things which do not
concern man's relation to the spiritual have no place in this book;
they are not within its province. Such things were discoverable by
human reason, and the knowledge which achieves has nothing to do with a
divine revelation.'

To Godwin it was a grinding of the air, but the listener appeared to
think it profitable.

With his clerical friend, Mr. Lilywhite, he rarely touched on matters
of religion. The vicar of St. Ethelreda's was a man well suited to
support the social dignity of his Church. A gentleman before
everything, he seemed incapable of prying into the state of a
parishioner's soul; you saw in him the official representative of a
Divinity characterised by well-bred tolerance. He had written a
pleasant little book on the by-ways of Devon and Cornwall, which
brought about his intimacy with the Warricombe household. Peak liked
him more the better he knew him, and in the course of the summer they
had one or two long walks together, conversing exclusively of the
things of earth. Mr. Lilywhite troubled himself little about evolution;
he spoke of trees and plants, of birds and animals, in a loving spirit,
like the old simple naturalists. Geology did not come within his sphere.

'I'm very sorry,' he said, 'that I could never care much for it. Don't
think I'm afraid of it--not I! I feel the grandeur of its scope, just
as I do in the case of astronomy; but I have never brought myself to
study either science. A narrowness of mind, no doubt. I can't go into
such remote times and regions. I love the sunlight and the green fields
of this little corner of the world--too well, perhaps: yes, perhaps too
well.'

After one of these walks, he remarked to Mrs. Lilywhite:

'It's my impression that Mr. Peak has somehow been misled in his choice
of a vocation. I don't think he'll do as a churchman.'

'Why not, Henry?' asked his wife, with gentle concern, for she still
spoke of Peak's 'quiet moral force'.

'There's something too restless about him. I doubt whether he has
really made up his mind on any subject whatever. Well, it's not easy to
explain what I feel, but I don't think he will take Orders.'

Calling at the vicarage one afternoon in September, Godwin found Mrs
Lilywhite alone. She startled him by saying at once:

'An old acquaintance of yours was with us yesterday, Mr. Peak.'

'Who could that be, I wonder?'

He smiled softly, controlling his impulse to show quite another
expression.

'You remember Mr. Bruno Chilvers?'

'Oh, yes!'

There was a constriction in his throat. Struggling to overcome it, he
added:

'But I should have thought he had no recollection of me.'

'Quite the contrary, I assure you. He is to succeed Mr. Bell of St
Margaret's, at Christmas; he was down here only for a day or two, and
called upon my husband with a message from an old friend of ours. It
appears he used to know the Warricombes, when they lived at Kingsmill,
and he had been to see them before visiting us; it was there your name
was mentioned to him.'

Godwin had seated himself, and leaned forward, his hands grasping the
glove he had drawn off.

'We were contemporaries at Whitelaw College,' he observed.

'So we learnt from him. He spoke of you with the greatest interest; he
was delighted to hear that you contemplated taking Orders. Of course we
knew Mr. Chilvers by reputation, but my husband had no idea that he was
coming to Exeter. What an energetic man he is! In a few hours he seemed
to have met everyone, and to have learnt everything. My husband says he
felt quite rebuked by such a display of vigour!'

Even in his discomposure, graver than any that had affected him since
his talks with Buckland Warricombe, Peak was able to notice that the
Rev. Bruno had not made a wholly favourable impression upon the
Lilywhites. There was an amiable causticity in that mention of his
'display of vigour', such as did not often characterise Mrs Lilywhite's
comments. Finding that the vicar would be away till evening, Godwin
stayed for only a quarter of an hour, and when he had escaped it
irritated and alarmed him to reflect how unusual his behaviour must
have appeared to the good lady.

The blow was aimed at his self-possession from such an unlikely
quarter. In Church papers he had frequently come across Chilvers's
name, and the sight of it caused him a twofold disturbance: it was
hateful to have memories of humiliation revived, and perhaps still more
harassing to be forced upon acknowledgment of the fact that he stood as
an obscure aspirant at the foot of the ladder which his old rival was
triumphantly ascending. Bad enough to be classed in any way with such a
man as Chilvers; but to be regarded as at one with him in religious
faith, to be forbidden the utterance of scorn when Chilvers was
extolled, stung him so keenly that he rushed into any distraction to
elude the thought. When he was suffering shame under the gaze of
Buckland Warricombe he remembered Chilvers, and shrank as before a
merited scoff. But the sensation had not been abiding enough to affect
his conduct. He had said to himself that he should never come in
contact with the fellow, and that, after all, community of religious
profession meant no more, under their respective circumstances, than if
both were following law or physic.

But the unforeseen had happened. In a few months, the Rev. Bruno
Chilvers would be a prominent figure about the streets of Exeter; would
be frequently seen at the Warricombes', at the Lilywhites', at the
houses of their friends. His sermons at St. Margaret's would doubtless
attract, and form a staple topic of conversation. Worse than all, his
expressions of 'interest' and 'delight' made it probable that he would
seek out his College competitor and offer the hand of brotherhood.
These things were not to be avoided--save by abandonment of hopes, save
by retreat, by yielding to a hostile destiny.

That Chilvers might talk here and there of Whitelaw stories was
comparatively unimportant. The Warricombes must already know all that
could be told, and what other people heard did not much matter. It was
the man himself that Peak could not endure. Dissembling had hitherto
been no light task. The burden had more than once pressed so gallingly
that its permanent support seemed impossible; but to stand before Bruno
Chilvers in the attitude of humble emulation, to give respectful ear
whilst the popular cleric advised or encouraged, or bestowed pontifical
praise, was comparable only to a searing of the flesh with red irons.
Even with assured prospect of recompense in the shape of Sidwell
Warricombe's heart and hand, he could hardly submit to such an ordeal.
As it was, reason having so often convinced him that he clung to a
visionary hope, the torture became gratuitous, and its mere suggestion
inspired him with a fierce resentment destructive of all his purposes.

For several days he scarcely left the house. To wrath and dread had
succeeded a wretched torpor, during which his mind kept revolving the
thoughts prompted by his situation, turbidly and to no issue. He tasted
all the bitterness of the solitude to which he had condemned himself;
there was not a living soul with whom he could commune. At moments he
was possessed with the desire of going straightway to London, and
making Earwaker the confidant of all his folly. But that demanded an
exertion of which he was physically incapable. He thought of the old
home at Twybridge, and was tempted also in that direction. His mother
would welcome him with human kindness; beneath her roof he could lie
dormant until fate should again point his course. He even wrote a
letter saying that in all probability he should pay a visit to
Twybridge before long. But the impulse was only of an hour's duration,
for he remembered that to talk with his mother would necessitate all
manner of new falsehoods, a thickening of the atmosphere of lies which
already oppressed him. No; if he quitted Exeter, it must be on a longer
journey. He must resume his purpose of seeking some distant country,
where new conditions of life would allow him to try his fortune at
least as an honest adventurer. In many parts of colonial England his
technical knowledge would have a value, and were there not women to be
won beneath other skies--women perhaps of subtler charm than the old
hidebound civilisation produced? Reminiscences of scenes and figures in
novels he had read nourished the illusion. He pictured some thriving
little town at the ends of the earth, where a young Englishman of good
manners and unusual culture would easily be admitted to the intimacy of
the richest families; he saw the ideal colonist (a man of good birth,
but a sower of wild oats in his youth) with two or three daughters
about him--beautiful girls, wondrously self-instructed--living amid
romantic dreams of the old world, and of the lover who would some day
carry them off (with a substantial share of papa's wealth) to Europe
and the scenes of their imagination.

The mind has marvellous methods of self-defence against creeping
lethargy of despair. At the point to which he had been reduced by
several days of blank despondency, Peak was able to find genuine
encouragement in visions such as this. He indulged his fancy until the
vital force began to stir once more within him, and then, with one
angry sweep, all his theological books and manuscripts were flung out
of sight. Away with this detestable mummery! Now let Bruno Chilvers
pour his eloquence from the pulpit of St. Margaret's, and rear to what
heights he could the edifice of his social glory; men of that stamp
were alone fitted to thrive in England. Was not _he_ almost certainly a
hypocrite, masking his brains (for brains he had) under a show of
broadest Anglicanism? But his career was throughout consistent. He trod
in the footsteps of his father, and with inherited aptitude moulded
antique traditions into harmony with the taste of the times. Compared
with such a man, Peak felt himself a bungler. The wonder was that his
clumsy lying had escaped detection.

Another day, and he had done nothing whatever, but was still buoyed up
by the reaction of visionary hope. His need now was of communicating
his change of purpose to some friendly hearer. A week had passed since
he had exchanged a word with anyone but Mrs. Roots, and converse he
must. Why not with Mr. Warricombe? That was plainly the next step: to
see Martin and make known to him that after all he could not become a
clergyman. No need of hinting a conscientious reason. At all events,
nothing more definite than a sense of personal unfitness, a growing
perception of difficulties inherent in his character. It would be very
interesting to hear Mr. Warricombe's replies.

A few minutes after this decision was taken, he set off towards the Old
Tiverton Road, walking at great speed, flourishing his stick--symptoms
of the nervous cramp (so to speak) which he was dispelling. He reached
the house, and his hand was on the bell, when an unexpected opening of
the door presented Louis Warricombe just coming forth for a walk. They
exchanged amiabilities, and Louis made known that his father and mother
were away on a visit to friends in Cornwall.

'But pray come in,' he added, offering to re-enter.

Peak excused himself, for it was evident that Louis made a sacrifice to
courtesy. But at that moment there approached from the garden Fanny
Warricombe and her friend Bertha Lilywhite, eldest daughter of the
genial vicar; they shook hands with Godwin, Fanny exclaiming:

'Don't go away, Mr. Peak. Have a cup of tea with us--Sidwell is at
home. I want to show you a strange sort of spleenwort that I gathered
this morning.'

'In that case,' said her brother, smiling, 'I may confess that I have
an appointment. Pray forgive me for hurrying off, Mr. Peak.'

Godwin was embarrassed, but the sprightly girl repeated her summons,
and he followed into the house.



CHAPTER V


Having led the way to the drawing-room, Fanny retired again for a few
moments, to fetch the fern of which she had spoken, leaving Peak in
conversation with little Miss Lilywhite. Bertha was a rather shy girl
of fifteen, not easily induced, under circumstances such as these, to
utter more than monosyllables, and Godwin, occupied with the unforeseen
results of his call, talked about the weather. With half-conscious
absurdity he had begun to sketch a theory of his own regarding
rain-clouds and estuaries (Bertha listening with an air of the gravest
attention) when Fanny reappeared, followed by Sidwell. Peak searched
the latter's face for indications of her mood, but could discover
nothing save a spirit of gracious welcome. Such aspect was a matter of
course, and he knew it. None the less, his nervousness and the state of
mind engendered by a week's miserable solitude, tempted him to believe
that Sidwell did not always wear that smile in greeting a casual
caller. This was the first time that she had received him without the
countenance of Mrs. Warricombe. Observing her perfect manner, as she
sat down and began to talk, he asked himself what her age really was.
The question had never engaged his thoughts. Eleven years ago, when he
saw her at the house near Kingsmill and again at Whitelaw College, she
looked a very young girl, but whether of thirteen or sixteen he could
not at the time have determined, and such a margin of possibility
allowed her now to have reached--it might be--her twenty-seventh
summer. But twenty-seven drew perilously near to thirty; no, no,
Sidwell could not be more than twenty-five. Her eyes still had the dewy
freshness of flowering maidenhood; her cheek, her throat, were so
exquisitely young----

In how divine a calm must this girl have lived to show, even at
five-and-twenty, features as little marked by inward perturbation as
those of an infant! Her position in the world considered, one could
forgive her for having borne so lightly the inevitable sorrows of life,
for having dismissed so readily the spiritual doubts which were the
heritage of her time; but was she a total stranger to passion? Did not
the fact of her still remaining unmarried make probable such a
deficiency in her nature? Had she a place among the women whom coldness
of temperament preserves in a bloom like that of youth, until fading
hair and sinking cheek betray them----?

Whilst he thought thus, Godwin was in appearance busy with the fern
Fanny had brought for his inspection. He talked about it, but in
snatches, with intervals of abstractedness.

Yet might he not be altogether wrong? Last year, when he observed
Sidwell in the Cathedral and subsequently at home, his impression had
been that her face was of rather pallid and dreamy cast; he recollected
that distinctly. Had she changed, or did familiarity make him less
sensible of her finer traits? Possibly she enjoyed better health
nowadays, and, if so, it might result from influences other than
physical. Her air of quiet happiness seemed to him especially
noticeable this afternoon, and as he brooded there came upon him a
dread which, under the circumstances, was quite irrational, but for all
that troubled his views. Perhaps Sidwell was betrothed to some one? He
knew of but one likely person--Miss Moorhouse's brother. About a month
ago the Warricombes had been on a visit at Budleigh Salterton, and
something might then have happened. Pangs of jealousy smote him, nor
could he assuage them by reminding himself that he had no concern
whatever in Sidwell's future.

'Will Mr. Warricombe be long away?' he asked, coldly.

'A day or two. I hope you didn't wish particularly to see him to-day?'

'Oh, no.'

'Do you know, Mr. Peak,' put in Fanny, 'that we are all going to London
next month, to live there for half a year?'

Godwin exhibited surprise. He looked from the speaker to her sister,
and Sidwell, as she smiled confirmation, bent very slightly towards him.

'We have made up our minds, after much uncertainty,' she said. 'My
brother Buckland seems to think that we are falling behind in
civilisation.'

'So we are,' affirmed Fanny, 'as Mr. Peak would admit, if only he could
be sincere.'

'Am I never sincere then, Miss Fanny?' Godwin asked.

'I only meant to say that nobody can be when the rules of politeness
interfere. Don't you think it's a pity? We might tell one another the
truth in a pleasant way.'

'I agree with you. But then we must be civilised indeed. How do you
think of London, Miss Warricombe? Which of its aspects most impresses
you?'

Sidwell answered rather indefinitely, and ended by mentioning that in
_Villette_, which she had just re-read, Charlotte Bronte makes a
contrast between the City and the West End, and greatly prefers the
former.

'Do you agree with her, Mr. Peak?'

'No, I can't. One understands the mood in which she wrote that; but a
little more experience would have led her to see the contrast in a
different light. That term, the West End, includes much that is
despicable, but it means also the best results of civilisation. The
City is hateful to me, and for a reason which I only understood after
many an hour of depression in walking about its streets. It represents
the ascendency of the average man.'

Sidwell waited for fuller explanation.

'A liberal mind,' Peak continued, 'is revolted by the triumphal
procession that roars perpetually through the City highways. With
myriad voices the City bellows its brutal scorn of everything but
material advantage. There every humanising influence is contemptuously
disregarded. I know, of course, that the trader may have his quiet
home, where art and science and humanity are the first considerations;
but the _mass_ of traders, corporate and victorious, crush all such
things beneath their heels. Take your stand (or try to do so) anywhere
near the Exchange; the hustling and jolting to which you are exposed
represents the very spirit of the life about you. Whatever is gentle
and kindly and meditative must here go to the wall--trampled,
spattered, ridiculed. Here the average man has it all his own way--a
gross utilitarian power.'

'Yes, I can see that,' Sidwell replied, thoughtfully. 'And perhaps it
also represents the triumphant forces of our time.'

He looked keenly at her, with a smile of delight.

'That also! The power which centres in the world's
money-markets--plutocracy.'

In conversing with Sidwell, he had never before found an opportunity of
uttering his vehement prejudices. The gentler side of his character had
sometimes expressed itself, but those impulses which were vastly more
significant lay hidden beneath the dissimulation he consistently
practised. For the first time he was able to look into Sidwell's face
with honest directness, and what he saw there strengthened his
determination to talk on with the same freedom.

'You don't believe, then,' said Sidwell, 'that democracy is the proper
name for the state into which we are passing?'

'Only if one can understand democracy as the opening of social
privileges to free competition amongst men of trade. And social
privilege is everything; home politics refer to nothing else.'

Fanny, true to the ingenuous principle of her years, put a direct
question:

'Do you approve of real democracy, Mr. Peak?'

He answered with another question:

'Have you read the "Life of Phokion" in Plutarch?'

'No, I'm sorry to say.'

'There's a story about him which I have enjoyed since I was your age.
Phokion was once delivering a public speech, and at a certain point the
majority of his hearers broke into applause; whereupon he turned to
certain of his friends who stood near and asked, "What have I said
amiss?"'

Fanny laughed.

'Then you despise public opinion?'

'With heart and soul!'

It was to Sidwell that he directed the reply. Though overcome by the
joy of such an utterance, he felt that, considering the opinions and
position of Buckland Warricombe, he was perhaps guilty of ill manners.
But Sidwell manifested no disapproval.

'Did you know that story?' Fanny asked of her.

'It's quite new to me.'

'Then I'm sure you'll read the "Life of Phokion" as soon as possible.
He will just Suit you, Sidwell.'

Peak heard this with a shock of surprise which thrilled in him
deliciously. He had the strongest desire to look again at Sidwell but
refrained. As no one spoke, he turned to Bertha Lilywhite and put a
commonplace question.

A servant entered with the tea-tray, and placed it on a small table
near Fanny. Godwin looked at the younger girl; it seemed to him that
there was an excess of colour in her cheeks. Had a glance from Sidwell
rebuked her? With his usual rapidity of observation and inference he
made much of this trifle.

Contrary to what he expected, Sidwell's next remark was in a tone of
cheerfulness, almost of gaiety.

'One advantage of our stay in London will be that home will seem more
delightful than ever when we return.'

'I suppose you won't be back till next summer?'

'I am afraid not.'

'Shall you be living here then?' Fanny inquired.

'It's very doubtful.'

He wished to answer with a decided negative, but his tongue refused.
Sidwell was regarding him with calm but earnest eyes, and he knew,
without caring to reflect, that his latest projects were crumbling.

'Have you been to see our friends at Budleigh Salterton yet?' she asked.

'Not yet. I hope to in a few days.'

Pursuing the subject, he was able to examine her face as she spoke of
Mr. Moorhouse. His conjecture was assuredly baseless.

Fanny and Bertha began to talk together of domestic affairs, and
presently, when tea-cups were laid aside, the two girls went to another
part of the room; then they withdrew altogether. Peak was monologising
on English art as represented at the Academy, but finding himself alone
with Sidwell (it had never before happened) he became silent. Ought he
to take his leave? He must already have been sitting here more than
half-an-hour. But the temptation of _teae-a-teae_ was irresistible.

'You had a visit from Mr. Chilvers the other day?' he remarked,
abruptly.

'Yes; did he call to see you?'

Her tone gave evidence that she would not have introduced this topic.

'No; I heard from Mrs. Lilywhite. He had been to the vicarage. Has he
changed much since he was at Whitelaw?'

'So many years must make a difference at that time of life,' Sidwell
answered, smiling.

'But does he show the same peculiarities of manner?'

He tried to put the question without insistency, in a tone quite
compatible with friendliness. Her answer, given with a look of
amusement, satisfied him that there was no fear of her taking Mr
Chilvers too seriously.

'Yes. I think he speaks in much the same way.'

'Have you read any of his publications?'

'One or two. We have his lecture on _Altruism_.'

'I happen to know it. There are good things in it, I think. But I
dislike his modern interpretation of old principles.'

'You think it dangerous?'

He no longer regarded her frankly, and in the consciousness of her look
upon him he knit his brows.

'I think it both dangerous and offensive. Not a few clergymen nowadays,
who imagine themselves free from the letter and wholly devoted to
spirit, are doing their best in the cause of materialism. They
surrender the very points at issue between religion and worldliness.
They are so blinded by a vague humanitarian impulse as to make the New
Testament an oracle of popular Radicalism.'

Sidwell looked up.

'I never quite understood, Mr. Peak, how you regard Radicalism. You
think it opposed to all true progress?'

'Utterly, as concerns any reasonable limit of time.'

'Buckland, as you know, maintains that spiritual progress is only
possible by this way.'

'I can't venture to contradict him,' said Godwin; 'for it may be that
advance is destined only to come after long retrogression and anarchy.
Perhaps the way _does_ lie through such miseries. But we can't foresee
that with certainty, and those of us who hate the present tendency of
things must needs assert their hatred as strongly as possible, seeing
that we _may_ have a more hopeful part to play than seems likely.'

'I like that view,' replied Sidwell, in an undertone.

'My belief,' pursued Godwin, with an earnestness very agreeable to
himself, for he had reached the subject on which he could speak
honestly, 'is that an instructed man can only hold views such as your
brother's--hopeful views of the immediate future--if he has never been
brought into close contact with the lower classes. Buckland doesn't
know the people for whom he pleads.'

'You think them so degraded?'

'It is impossible, without seeming inhumanly scornful, to give a just
account of their ignorance and baseness. The two things, speaking
generally, go together. Of the ignorant, there are very few indeed who
can think purely or aspiringly. You, of course, object the teaching of
Christianity; but the lowly and the humble of whom it speaks scarcely
exist, scarcely can exist, in our day and country. A ludicrous pretence
of education is banishing every form of native simplicity. In the large
towns, the populace sink deeper and deeper into a vicious vulgarity,
and every rural district is being affected by the spread of contagion.
To flatter the proletariat is to fight against all the good that still
characterises educated England--against reverence for the beautiful,
against magnanimity, against enthusiasm of mind, heart, and soul.'

He quivered with vehemence of feeling, and the flush which rose to his
hearer's cheek, the swimming brightness of her eye, proved that a
strong sympathy stirred within her.

'I know nothing of the uneducated in towns,' she said, 'but the little
I have seen of them in country places certainly supports your opinion.
I could point to two or three families who have suffered distinct
degradation owing to what most people call an improvement in their
circumstances. Father often speaks of such instances, comparing the
state of things now with what he can remember.'

'My own experience,' pursued Godwin, 'has been among the lower classes
in London. I don't mean the very poorest, of whom one hears so much
nowadays; I never went among them because I had no power of helping
them, and the sight of their vileness would only have moved me to
unjust hatred. But the people who earn enough for their needs, and
whose spiritual guide is the Sunday newspaper--I know them, because for
a long time I was obliged to lodge in their houses. Only a consuming
fire could purify the places where they dwell. Don't misunderstand me;
I am not charging them with what are commonly held vices and crimes,
but with the consistent love of everything that is ignoble, with utter
deadness to generous impulse, with the fatal habit of low mockery. And
_these_ are the people who really direct the democratic movement. They
set the tone in politics; they are debasing art and literature; even
the homes of wealthy people begin to show the effects of their
influence. One hears men and women of gentle birth using phrases which
originate with shopboys; one sees them reading print which is addressed
to the coarsest million. They crowd to entertainments which are
deliberately adapted to the lowest order of mind. When commercial
interest is supreme, how can the tastes of the majority fail to lead
and control?'

Though he spoke from the depths of his conviction, and was so moved
that his voice rose and fell in tones such as a drawing-room seldom
hears, he yet kept anxious watch upon Sidwell's countenance. That hint
afforded him by Fanny was invaluable; it had enabled him to appeal to
Sidwell's nature by the ardent expression of what was sincerest in his
own. She too, he at length understood, had the aristocratic
temperament. This explained her to him, supplied the key of doubts and
difficulties which had troubled him in her presence. It justified,
moreover, the feelings with which she had inspired him--feelings which
this hour of intimate converse had exalted to passion. His heart
thrilled with hope. Where sympathies so profound existed, what did it
matter that there was variance on a few points between his intellect
and hers? He felt the power to win her, and to defy every passing
humiliation that lay in his course.

Sidwell raised her eyes with a look which signified that she was
shaping a question diffidently.

'Have you always thought so hopelessly of our times?'

'Oh, I had my stage of optimism,' he answered, smiling. 'Though I never
put faith in the masses, I once believed that the conversion of the
educated to a purely human religion would set things moving in the
right way. It was ignorance of the world.'

He paused a moment, then added:

'In youth one marvels that men remain at so low a stage of
civilisation. Later in life, one is astonished that they have advanced
so far.'

Sidwell met his look with appreciative intelligence and murmured:

'In spite of myself, I believe that expresses a truth.'

Peak was about to reply, when Fanny and her friend reappeared. Bertha
approached for the purpose of taking leave, and for a minute or two
Sidwell talked with her. The young girls withdrew again together.

By the clock on the mantelpiece it was nearly six. Godwin did not
resume his seat, though Sidwell had done so. He looked towards the
window, and was all but lost in abstraction, when the soft voice again
addressed him:

'But you have not chosen your life's work without some hope of doing
good?'

'Do you think,' he asked, gently, 'that I shall be out of place in the
Christian Church?'

'No--no, I certainly don't think that. But will you tell me what you
have set before yourself?'

He drew nearer and leaned upon the back of a chair.

'I hope for what I shall perhaps never attain. Whatever my first steps
may be--I am not independent; I must take the work that offers--it is
my ambition to become the teacher of some rural parish which is still
unpolluted by the influences of which we have been speaking--or, at all
events, is still capable of being rescued. For work in crowded centres,
I am altogether unfit; my prejudices are too strong; I should do far
more harm than good. But among a few simple people I think my efforts
mightn't be useless. I can't pretend to care for anything but
individuals. The few whom I know and love are of more importance to me
than all the blind multitude rushing to destruction. I hate the word
_majority_; it is the few, the very few, that have always kept alive
whatever of effectual good we see in the human race. There are
individuals who outweigh, in every kind of value, generations of
ordinary people. To some remote little community I hope to give the
best energies of my life. My teaching will avoid doctrine and
controversy. I shall take the spirit of the Gospels, and labour to make
it a practical guide. No doubt you find inconsistencies in me; but
remember that I shall not declare myself to those I instruct as I have
done to you. I have been laying stress on my antipathies. In the future
it will be a duty and a pleasure to forget these and foster my
sympathies, which also are strong when opportunity is given them.'

Sidwell listened, her face bent downwards but not hidden from the
speaker.

'My nature is intolerant,' he went on, 'and I am easily roused to an
antagonism which destroys my peace. It is only by living apart, amid
friendly circumstances, that I can cultivate the qualities useful to
myself and others. The sense that my life was being wasted determined
me a year ago to escape the world's uproar and prepare myself in
quietness for this task. The resolve was taken here, in your house.'

'Are you quite sure,' asked Sidwell, 'that such simple duties and
satisfactions'--

The sentence remained incomplete, or rather was finished in the timid
glance she gave him.

'Such a life wouldn't be possible to me,' he replied, with unsteady
voice, 'if I were condemned to intellectual solitude. But I have dared
to hope that I shall not always be alone.'

A parched throat would have stayed his utterance, even if words had
offered themselves. But sudden confusion beset his mind--a sense of
having been guilty of monstrous presumption--a panic which threw
darkness about him and made him grasp the chair convulsively. When he
recovered himself and looked at Sidwell there was a faint smile on her
lips, inexpressibly gentle.

'That's the rough outline of my projects,' he said, in his ordinary
voice, moving a few steps away. 'You see that I count much on fortune;
at the best, it may be years before I can get my country living.'

With a laugh, he came towards her and offered his hand for good-bye.
Sidwell rose.

'You have interested me very much. Whatever assistance it may be in my
father's power to offer you, I am sure you may count upon.'

'I am already much indebted to Mr. Warricombe's kindness.'

They shook hands without further speech, and Peak went his way.

For an hour or two he was powerless to collect his thoughts. All he had
said repeated itself again and again, mixed up with turbid comments,
with deadly fears and frantic bursts of confidence, with tumult of
passion and merciless logic of self-criticism. Did Sidwell understand
that sentence: 'I have dared to hope that I shall not always be alone'?
Was it not possible that she might interpret it as referring to some
unknown woman whom he loved? If not, if his voice and features had
betrayed him, what could her behaviour mean, except distinct
encouragement? 'You have interested me very much.' But could she have
used such words if his meaning had been plain to her? Far more likely
that her frank kindness came of misconception. She imagined him the
lover of some girl of his own 'station'--a toiling governess, or some
such person; it could not enter into her mind that he 'dared' so
recklessly as the truth implied.

But the glow of sympathy with which she heard his immeasurable scorn:
there was the spirit that defies artificial distances. Why had he not
been bolder? At this rate he must spend a lifetime in preparing for the
decisive moment. When would another such occasion offer itself?

Women are won by audacity; the poets have repeated it from age to age,
and some truth there must be in the saying. Suspicion of self-interest
could not but attach to him; that was inherent in the circumstances. He
must rely upon the sincerity of his passion, which indeed was beginning
to rack and rend him. A woman is sensitive to that, especially a woman
of Sidwell's refinement. In matters of the intellect she may be misled,
but she cannot mistake quivering ardour for design simulating love. If
it were impossible to see her again in private before she left Exeter,
then he must write to her. Half a year of complete uncertainty, and of
counterfeiting face to face with Bruno Chilvers, would overtax his
resolution.

The evening went by he knew not how. Long after nightfall he was
returning from an aimless ramble by way of the Old Tiverton Road. At
least he would pass the house, and soothe or inflame his emotions by
resting for a moment thus near to Sidwell.

What? He had believed himself incapable of erotic madness? And he
pressed his forehead against the stones of the wall to relieve his sick
dizziness.

It was Sidwell or death. Into what a void of hideous futility would his
life be cast, if this desire proved vain, and he were left to combat
alone with the memory of his dishonour! With Sidwell the reproach could
be outlived. She would understand him, pardon him--and thereafter a
glorified existence, rivalling that of whosoever has been most exultant
among the sons of men!



Part IV



CHAPTER I


Earwaker's struggle with the editor-in-chief of _The Weekly Post_ and
the journalist Kenyon came to its natural close about a month after
Godwin Peak's disappearance. Only a vein of obstinacy in his character
had kept him so long in a position he knew to be untenable. From the
first his sympathy with Mr. Runcorn's politics had been doubtful, and
experience of the working of a Sunday newspaper, which appealed to the
ignobly restive, could not encourage his adhesion to this form of
Radicalism. He anticipated dismissal by retirement, and Kenyon, a man
of coarsely vigorous fibre, at once stepped into his place.

Now that he had leisure to review the conflict, Earwaker understood
that circumstances had but hastened his transition from a moderate
ardour in the parliamentary cause of the people, to a regretful
neutrality regarding all political movements. Birth allied him with the
proletarian class, and his sentiment in favour of democracy was
unendangered by the disillusions which must come upon every
intellectual man brought into close contact with public affairs. The
course of an education essentially aristocratic (Greek and Latin can
have no other tendency so long as they are the privilege of the few)
had not affected his natural bent, nor was he the man to be driven into
reaction because of obstacles to his faith inseparable from human
weakness. He had learnt that the emancipation of the poor and untaught
must proceed more slowly than he once hoped--that was all. Restored to
generous calm, he could admit that such men as Runcorn and Kenyon--the
one with his polyarchic commercialism, the other with his demagogic
violence--had possibly a useful part to play at the present stage of
things. He, however, could have no place in that camp. Too indiscreetly
he had hoisted his standard of idealism, and by stubborn resistance of
insuperable forces he had merely brought forward the least satisfactory
elements of his own character. 'Hold on!' cried Malkin. 'Fight the
grovellers to the end!' But Earwaker had begun to see himself in a
light of ridicule. There was just time to save his self-respect.

He was in no concern for his daily bread. With narrower resources in
the world of print, he might have been compelled, like many another
journalist, to swallow his objections and write as Runcorn dictated;
for the humble folks at home could not starve to allow him the luxury
of conscientiousness, whatever he might have been disposed to do on his
own account. Happily, his pen had a scope beyond politics, and by
working steadily for reviews, with which he was already connected, he
would be able to keep his finances in reasonable order until,
perchance, some hopeful appointment offered itself. In a mood of much
cheerfulness he turned for ever from party uproar, and focused his mind
upon those interests of humanity which so rarely coincide with the aims
of any league among men.

Half a year went by, and at length he granted himself a short holiday,
the first in a twelvemonth. It took the form of a voyage to Marseilles,
and thence of a leisurely ramble up the Rhone. Before returning, he
spent a day or two in Paris, for the most part beneath cafe' awnings,
or on garden seats--an indulgence of contented laziness.

On the day of his departure, he climbed the towers of Notre Dame, and
lingered for half-an-hour in pleasant solitude among the stone
monsters. His reverie was broken by an English voice, loud and animated:

'Come and look at this old demon of a bird; he has always been a
favourite of mine.--Sure you're not tired, Miss Bella? When you want to
rest, Miss Lily, mind you say so at once. What a day! What a sky!--When
I was last up here I had my hat blown away. I watched it as far as
Montmartre. A fact! Never knew such a wind in my life--unless it was
that tornado I told you about--Hollo! By the powers, if that isn't
Earwaker! Confound you, old fellow! How the deuce do you do? What a
glorious meeting! Hadn't the least idea where you were!--Let me have
the pleasure of introducing you to Mrs. Jacox--and to Miss Jacox--and
to Miss Lily. They all know you thoroughly well. Now who would have
thought of our meeting up here! Glorious!'

It was with some curiosity that Earwaker regarded the companions of his
friend Malkin--whose proximity was the last thing he could have
imagined, as only a few weeks ago he had heard of the restless fellow's
departing, on business unknown, for Boston, US. Mrs. Jacox, the widow
whose wrongs had made such an impression on Malkin, announced herself,
in a thin, mealy face and rag-doll figure, as not less than forty,
though her irresponsible look made it evident that years profited her
nothing, and suggested an explanation of the success with which she had
been victimised. She was stylishly dressed, and had the air of enjoying
an unusual treat. Her children were of more promising type, though
Earwaker would hardly have supposed them so old as he knew them to be.
Bella, just beyond her fourteenth year, had an intelligent prettiness,
but was excessively shy; in giving her hand to the stranger she flushed
over face and neck, and her bosom palpitated visibly. Her sister, two
years younger, was a mere child, rather self-conscious, but of laughing
temper. Their toilet suited ill with that of their mother; its
plainness and negligence might have passed muster in London, but here,
under the lucent sky, it seemed a wrong to their budding maidenhood.

'Mrs. Jacox is on the point of returning to England,' Malkin explained.
'I happened to meet her, by chance--I'm always meeting my friends by
chance; you, for instance, Earwaker. She is so good as to allow me to
guide her and the young ladies to a few of the sights of Paris.'

'O Mr. Malkin!' exclaimed the widow, with a stress on the exclamation
peculiar to herself--two notes of deprecating falsetto. 'How can you
say it is good of me, when I'm sure there are no words for your
kindness to us all! If only you knew our debt to your friend, Mr
Earwaker! To our dying day we must all remember it. It is entirely
through Mr. Malkin that we are able to leave that most disagreeable
Rouen--a place I shall never cease to think of with horror. O Mr
Earwaker! you have only to think of that wretched railway station,
stuck between two black tunnels! O Mr. Malkin!'

'What are you doing?' Malkin inquired of the journalist. 'How long
shall you be here? Why haven't I heard from you?'

'I go to London to-night.'

'And we to-morrow. On Friday I'll look you up. Stay, can't you dine
with me this evening? Anywhere you like. These ladies will be glad to
be rid of me, and to dine in peace at their hotel.'

'O Mr. Malkin!' piped the widow, 'you know how very far that is from
the truth. But we shall be very glad indeed to know that you are
enjoying yourself with Mr. Earwaker.'

The friends made an appointment to meet near the Madeleine, and
Earwaker hastened to escape the sound of Mrs. Jacox's voice.

Punctual at the rendezvous, Malkin talked with his wonted effusiveness
as he led towards the Cafe Anglais.

'I've managed it, my boy! The most complete success! I had to run over
to Boston to get hold of a scoundrelly relative of that poor woman. You
should have seen how I came over him--partly dignified sternness,
partly justifiable cajolery. The affair only wanted some one to take it
up in earnest. I have secured her about a couple of hundred a
year--withheld on the most paltry and transparent pretences. They're
going to live at Wrotham, in Kent, where Mrs Jacox has friends. I never
thought myself so much of a man of business. Of course old Haliburton,
the lawyer, had a hand in it, but without my personal energy it would
have taken him a year longer. What do you think of the girls? How do
you like Bella?'

'A pretty child.'

'Child? Well, yes, yes--immature of course; but I'm rather in the habit
of thinking of her as a young lady. In three years she'll be seventeen,
you know. Of course you couldn't form a judgment of her character.
She's quite remarkably mature for her age; and, what delights me most
of all, a sturdy Radical! She takes the most intelligent interest in
all political and social movements, I assure you! There's a great deal
of democratic fire in her.'

'You're sure it isn't reflected from your own fervour?'

'Not a bit of it! You should have seen her excitement when we were at
the Bastille Column yesterday. She'll make a splendid woman, I assure
you. Lily's very interesting, too--profoundly interesting. But then she
is certainly very young, so I can't feel so sure of her on the great
questions. She hasn't her sister's earnestness, I fancy.'

In the after-glow of dinner, Malkin became still more confidential.

'You remember what I said to you long since? My mind is made
up--practically made up. I shall devote myself to Bella's education, in
the hope--you understand me? Impossible to have found a girl who suited
better with my aspirations. She has known the hardships of poverty,
poor thing, and that will keep her for ever in sympathy with the
downtrodden classes. She has a splendid intelligence, and it shall be
cultivated to the utmost.'

'One word,' said Earwaker, soberly. 'We have heard before of men who
waited for girls to grow up. Be cautious, my dear fellow, both on your
own account and hers.'

'My dear Earwaker! Don't imagine for a moment that I take it for
granted she will get to be fond of me. My attitude is one of the most
absolute discretion. You must have observed how I behaved to them
all--scrupulous courtesy, I trust; no more familiarity than any friend
might be permitted. I should never dream of addressing the girls
without ceremonious prefix--never! I talk of Bella's education, but be
assured that I regard my own as a matter of quite as much importance. I
mean, that I shall strive incessantly to make myself worthy of her. No
laxity! For these next three years I shall live as becomes a man who
has his eyes constantly on a high ideal--the pure and beautiful girl
whom he humbly hopes to win for a wife.'

The listener was moved. He raised his wine-glass to conceal the smile
which might have been misunderstood. In his heart he felt more
admiration than had yet mingled with his liking for this strange fellow.

'And Mrs. Jacox herself,' pursued Malkin; 'she has her weaknesses, as
we all have. I don't think her a very strong-minded woman, to tell the
truth. But there's a great deal of goodness in her. If there's one
thing I desire in people, it is the virtue of gratitude, and Mrs Jacox
is grateful almost to excess for the paltry exertions I have made on
her behalf. You know that kind of thing costs me nothing; you know I
like running about and getting things done. But the poor woman imagines
that I have laid her under an eternal obligation. Of course I shall
show her in time that it was nothing at all; that she might have done
just as much for herself if she had known how to go about it.'

Earwaker was musing, a wrinkle of uneasiness at the corner of his eye.

'She isn't the kind of woman, you know, one can regard as a mother. But
we are the best possible friends. She _may_, perhaps, think of me as a
possible son-in-law. Poor thing; I hope she does. Perhaps it will help
to put her mind at rest about the girls.'

'Then shall you often be down at Wrotham?' inquired the journalist,
abstractedly.

'Oh, not often--that is to say, only once a month or so, just to look
in. I wanted to ask you: do you think I might venture to begin a
correspondence with Bella?'

'M--m--m! I can't say.'

'It would be so valuable, you know. I could suggest books for her
reading; I could help her in her study of politics, and so on.'

'Well, think about it. But be cautious, I beg of you. Now I must be
off. Only just time enough to get my traps to the station.'

'I'll come with you. Gare du Nord? Oh, plenty of time, plenty of time!
Nothing so abominable as waiting for trains. I make a point of never
getting to the station more than three minutes before time. Astonishing
what one can do in three minutes! I want to tell you about an adventure
I had in Boston. Met a fellow so devilish like Peak that I _couldn't_
believe it wasn't he himself. I spoke to him, but he swore that he knew
not the man. Never saw such a likeness!'

'Curious. It may have been Peak.'

'By all that's suspicious, I can't help thinking the same! He had an
English accent, too.'

'Queer business, this of Peak's. I hope I may live to hear the end of
the story.'

They left the restaurant, and in a few hours Earwaker was again on
English soil.

At Staple Inn a pile of letters awaited him, among them a note from
Christian Moxey, asking for an appointment as soon as possible after
the journalist's return. Earwaker at once sent an invitation, and on
the next evening Moxey came. An intimacy had grown up between the two,
since the mysterious retreat of their common friend. Christian was at
first lost without the companionship of Godwin Peak; he forsook his
studies, and fell into a state of complete idleness which naturally
fostered his tendency to find solace in the decanter. With Earwaker, he
could not talk as unreservedly as with Peak, but on the other hand
there was a tonic influence in the journalist's personality which he
recognised as beneficial. Earwaker was steadily making his way in the
world, lived a life of dignified independence. What was the secret of
these strong, calm natures? Might it not be learnt by studious
inspection?

'How well you look!' Christian exclaimed, on entering. 'We enjoyed your
Provencal letter enormously. That's a ramble I have always meant to do.
Next year perhaps.'

'Why not this? Haven't you got into a dangerous habit of postponement?'

'Yes, I'm afraid I have. But, by-the-bye, no news of Peak, I suppose?'

Earwaker related the story he had heard from Malkin, adding:

'You must remember that they met only once in London; Malkin might very
well mistake another man for Peak.'

'Yes,' replied the other musingly. 'Yet it isn't impossible that Peak
has gone over there. If so, what on earth can he be up to? Why _should_
he hide from his friends?'

'_Cherchez la femme_,' said the journalist, with a smile. 'I can devise
no other explanation.'

'But I can't see that it would be an explanation at all. Grant
even--something unavowable, you know--are we Puritans? How could it
harm him, at all events, to let us know his whereabouts? No such
mystery ever came into my experience. It is too bad of Peak; it's
confoundedly unkind.'

'Suppose he has found it necessary to assume a character wholly
fictitious--or, let us say, quite inconsistent with his life and
opinions as known to us?'

This was a fruitful suggestion, long in Earwaker's mind, but not
hitherto communicated. Christian did not at once grasp its significance.

'How could that be necessary? Peak is no swindler. You don't imply that
he is engaged in some fraud?'

'Not in the ordinary sense, decidedly. But picture some girl or woman
of conventional opinions and surroundings. What if he resolved to win
such a wife, at the expense of disguising his true self?'

'But what an extraordinary idea!' cried Moxey. 'Why Peak is all but a
woman-hater!'

The journalist uttered croaking laughter.

'Have I totally misunderstood him?' asked Christian, confused and
abashed.

'I think it not impossible.'

'You amaze me!--But no, no; you are wrong, Earwaker. Wrong in your
suggestion, I mean. Peak could never sink to that. He is too
uncompromising'----

'Well, it will be explained some day, I suppose.'

And with a shrug of impatience, the journalist turned to another
subject. He, too, regretted his old friend's disappearance, and in a
measure resented it. Godwin Peak was not a man to slip out of one's
life and leave no appreciable vacancy. Neither of these men admired
him, in the true sense of the word, yet had his voice sounded at the
door both would have sprung up with eager welcome. He was a force--and
how many such beings does one encounter in a lifetime?



CHAPTER II


In different ways, Christian and Marcella Moxey had both been lonely
since their childhood. As a schoolgirl, Marcella seemed to her
companions conceited and repellent; only as the result of reflection in
after years did Sylvia Moorhouse express so favourable an opinion of
her. In all things she affected singularity; especially it was her
delight to utter democratic and revolutionary sentiments among hearers
who, belonging to a rigidly conservative order, held such opinions
impious. Arrived at womanhood, she affected scorn of the beliefs and
habits cherished by her own sex, and shrank from association with the
other. Godwin Peak was the first man with whom she conversed in the
tone of friendship, and it took a year or more before that point was
reached. As her intimacy with him established itself, she was observed
to undergo changes which seemed very significant in the eyes of her few
acquaintances. Disregard of costume had been one of her
characteristics, but now she moved gradually towards the opposite
extreme, till her dresses were occasionally more noticeable for
richness than for good taste.

Christian, for kindred reasons, was equally debarred from the pleasures
and profits of society. At school, his teachers considered him clever,
his fellows for the most part looked down upon him as a sentimental
weakling. The death of his parents, when he was still a lad, left him
to the indifferent care of a guardian nothing akin to him. He began
life in an uncongenial position, and had not courage to oppose the
drift of circumstances. The romantic attachment which absorbed his best
years naturally had a debilitating effect, for love was never yet a
supporter of the strenuous virtues, save when it has survived fruition
and been blessed by reason. In most men a fit of amorous mooning works
its own cure; energetic rebound is soon inevitable. But Christian was
so constituted that a decade of years could not exhaust his capacity
for sentimental languishment. He made it a point of honour to seek no
female companionship which could imperil his faith. Unfortunately, this
avoidance of the society which would soon have made him a happy
renegade, was but too easy. Marcella and he practically encouraged each
other in a life of isolation, though to both of them such an existence
was anything but congenial. Their difficulties were of the same nature
as those which had always beset Godwin Peak; they had no relatives with
whom they cared to associate, and none of the domestic friends who, in
the progress of time, establish and extend a sphere of genuine intimacy.

Most people who are capable of independent thought rapidly outgrow the
stage when compromise is abhorred; they accept, at first reluctantly,
but ere long with satisfaction, that code of polite intercourse which,
as Steele says, is 'an expedient to make fools and wise men equal'. It
was Marcella's ill-fate that she could neither learn tolerance nor
persuade herself to affect it. The emancipated woman has fewer
opportunities of relieving her mind than a man in corresponding
position; if her temper be aggressive she must renounce general
society, and, if not content to live alone, ally herself with some
group of declared militants. By correspondence, or otherwise, Marcella
might have brought herself into connection with women of a sympathetic
type, but this effort she had never made. And chiefly because of her
acquaintance with Godwin Peak. In him she concentrated her interests;
he was the man to whom her heart went forth with every kind of fervour.
So long as there remained a hope of moving him to reciprocal feeling
she did not care to go in search of female companions. Year after year
she sustained herself in solitude by this faint hope. She had lost
sight of the two or three schoolfellows who, though not so zealous as
herself, would have welcomed her as an interesting acquaintance; and
the only woman who assiduously sought her was Mrs. Morton, the wife of
one of Christian's friends, a good-natured but silly person bent on
making known that she followed the 'higher law'.

Godwin's disappearance sank her in profound melancholy. Through the
black weeks of January and February she scarcely left the house, and on
the plea of illness refused to see any one but her brother. Between
Christian and her there was no avowed confidence, but each knew the
other's secret; their mutual affection never spoke itself in words, yet
none the less it was indispensable to their lives. Deprived of his
sister's company, Christian must have yielded to the vice which had
already too strong a hold upon him, and have become a maudlin drunkard.
Left to herself, Marcella had but slender support against a grim
temptation already beckoning her in nights of sleeplessness. Of the
two, her nature was the more tragic. Circumstances aiding, Christian
might still forget his melancholy, abandon the whisky bottle, and pass
a lifetime of amiable uxoriousness, varied with scientific enthusiasm.
But for Marcella, frustrate in the desire with which every impulse of
her being had identified itself, what future could be imagined?

When a day or two of sunlight (the rays through a semi-opaque
atmosphere which London has to accept with gratitude) had announced
that the seven-months' winter was overcome, and when the newspapers
began to speak, after their fashion, of pictures awaiting scrutiny,
Christian exerted himself to rouse his sister from her growing
indolence. He succeeded in taking her to the Academy. Among the works
of sculpture, set apart for the indifference of the public, was a
female head, catalogued as 'A Nihilist'--in itself interesting, and
specially so to Marcella, because it was executed by an artist whose
name she recognised as that of a schoolmate, Agatha Walworth. She spoke
of the circumstance to Christian, and added:

'I should like to have that. Let us go and see the price.'

The work was already sold. Christian, happy that his sister could be
aroused to this interest, suggested that a cast might be obtainable.

'Write to Miss Walworth,' he urged. 'Bring yourself to her
recollection.--I should think she must be the right kind of woman.'

Though at the time she shook her head, Marcella was presently tempted
to address a letter to the artist, who responded with friendly
invitation. In this way a new house was opened to her; but,
simultaneously, one more illusion was destroyed. Knowing little of
life, and much of literature, she pictured Miss Walworth as inhabiting
a delightful Bohemian world, where the rules of conventionalism had no
existence, and everything was judged by the brain-standard. Modern
French biographies supplied all her ideas of studio society. She
prepared herself for the first visit with a joyous tremor, wondering
whether she would be deemed worthy to associate with the men and women
who lived for art. The reality was a shock. In a large house at
Chiswick she found a gathering of most respectable English people,
chatting over the regulation tea-cup; not one of them inclined to
disregard the dictates of Mrs. Grundy in dress, demeanour, or dialogue.
Agatha Walworth lived with her parents and her sisters like any other
irreproachable young woman. She had a nice little studio, and worked at
modelling with a good deal of aptitude; but of Bohemia she knew nothing
whatever, save by hearsay. Her 'Nihilist' was no indication of a
rebellious spirit; some friend had happened to suggest that a certain
female model, a Russian, would do very well for such a character, and
the hint was tolerably well carried out--nothing more. Marcella
returned in a mood of contemptuous disappointment. The cast she had
desired to have was shortly sent to her as a gift, but she could take
no pleasure in it.

Still, she saw more of the Walworths and found them not illiberal.
Agatha was intelligent, and fairly well read in modern authors; no need
to conceal one's opinions in conversation with her. Marcella happened
to be spending the evening with these acquaintances whilst her brother
was having his chat at Staple Inn; on her return, she mentioned to
Christian that she had been invited to visit the Walworths in
Devonshire a few weeks hence.

'Go, by all means,' urged her brother.

'I don't think I shall. They are too respectable.'

'Nonsense! They seem very open-minded; you really can't expect absolute
unconventionality. Is it desirable? Really is it, now?--Suppose I were
to marry some day, Marcella; do you think my household would be
unconventional?'

His voice shook a little, and he kept his eyes averted. Marcella, to
whom her brother's romance was anything but an agreeable subject,--the
slight acquaintance she had with the modern Laura did not encourage her
to hope for that lady's widowhood,--gave no heed to the question.

'They are going to have a house at Budleigh Salterton; do you know of
the place? Somewhere near the mouth of the Exe. Miss Walworth tells me
that one of our old school friends is living there--Sylvia Moorhouse.
Did I ever mention Sylvia? She had gleams of sense, I remember; but no
doubt society has drilled all that out of her.'

Christian sighed.

'Why?' he urged. 'Society is getting more tolerant than you are
disposed to think. Very few well-educated people would nowadays object
to an acquaintance on speculative grounds. Some one--who was it?--was
telling me of a recent marriage between the daughter of some well-known
Church people and a man who made no secret of his agnosticism; the
parents acquiescing cheerfully. The one thing still insisted on is
decency of behaviour.'

Marcella's eyes flashed.

'How can you say that? You know quite well that most kinds of
immorality are far more readily forgiven by people of the world than
sincere heterodoxy on moral subjects.'

'Well, well, I meant decency from _their_ point of view. And there
really must be such restrictions, you know. How very few people are
capable of what you call sincere heterodoxy, in morals or religion!
Your position is unphilosophical; indeed it is. Take the world as you
find it, and make friends with kind, worthy people. You have suffered
from a needless isolation. Do accept this opportunity of adding to your
acquaintances!--Do, Marcella! I shall take it as a great kindness, dear
girl.'

His sister let her head lie back against the chair, her face averted. A
stranger seated in Christian's place, regarding Marcella whilst her
features were thus hidden, would have thought it probable that she was
a woman of no little beauty. Her masses of tawny hair, her arms and
hands, the pose and outline of her figure, certainly suggested a
countenance of corresponding charm, and the ornate richness of her
attire aided such an impression. This thought came to Christian as he
gazed at her; his eyes, always so gentle, softened to a tender
compassion. As the silence continued, he looked uneasily about him;
when at length he spoke, it was as though a matter of trifling moment
had occurred to him.

'By-the-bye, I am told that Malkin (Earwaker's friend, you know) saw
Peak not long ago--in America.'

Marcella did not change her position, but at the sound of Peak's name
she stirred, as if with an intention, at once checked, of bending
eagerly forward.

'In America?' she asked, incredulously.

'At Boston. He met him in the street--or thinks he did. There's a
doubt. When Malkin spoke to the man, he declared that he was not Peak
at all--said there was a mistake.'

Marcella moved so as to show her face; endeavouring to express an
unemotional interest, she looked coldly scornful.

'That ridiculous man can't be depended upon,' she said.

There had been one meeting between Marcella and Mr. Malkin, with the
result that each thoroughly disliked the other--an antipathy which
could have been foreseen.

'Well, there's no saying,' replied Christian. 'But of one thing I feel
pretty sure: we have seen the last of Peak. He'll never come back to
us.'

'Why not?'

'I can only say that I feel convinced he has broken finally with all
his old friends.--We must think no more of him, Marcella.'

His sister rose slowly, affected to glance at a book, and in a few
moments said good-night. For another hour Christian sat by himself in
gloomy thought.

At breakfast next morning Marcella announced that she would be from
home the whole day; she might return in time for dinner, but it was
uncertain. Her brother asked no questions, but said that he would lunch
in town. About ten o'clock a cab was summoned, and Marcella, without
leave-taking, drove away.

Christian lingered as long as possible over the morning paper, unable
to determine how he should waste the weary hours that lay before him.
There was no reason for his remaining in London through this brief
season of summer glow. Means and leisure were his, he could go whither
he would. But the effort of decision and departure seemed too much for
him. Worst of all, this lassitude (not for the first time) was
affecting his imagination; he thought with a dull discontent of the
ideal love to which he had bound himself. Could he but escape from it,
and begin a new life! But he was the slave of his airy obligation; for
very shame's sake his ten years' consistency must be that of a lifetime.

There was but one place away from London to which he felt himself
drawn, and that was the one place he might not visit. This morning's
sunshine carried him back to that day when he had lain in the meadow
near Twybridge and talked with Godwin Peak. How distinctly he
remembered his mood! 'Be practical--don't be led astray after
ideals--concentrate yourself;'--yes, it was he who had given that
advice to Peak: and had he but recked his own rede--! Poor little
Janet! was she married? If so, her husband must be a happy man.

Why should he not go down to Twybridge? His uncle, undoubtedly still
living, must by this time have forgotten the old resentment, perhaps
would be glad to see him. In any case he might stroll about the town
and somehow obtain news of the Moxey family.

With vague half-purpose he left the house and walked westward. The
stream of traffic in Edgware Road brought him to a pause; he stood for
five minutes in miserable indecision, all but resolving to go on as far
as Euston and look for the next northward train. But the vice in his
will prevailed; automaton-like he turned in another direction, and
presently came out into Sussex Square. Here was the house to which his
thoughts had perpetually gone forth ever since that day when Constance
gave her hand to a thriving City man, and became Mrs. Palmer. At
present, he knew, it was inhabited only by domestics: Mr. Palmer,
recovering from illness that threatened to be fatal, had gone to
Bournemouth, where Constance of course tended him. But he would walk
past and look up at the windows.

All the blinds were down--naturally. Thrice he went by and retraced his
steps. Then, still automaton-like, he approached the door, rang the
bell. The appearance of the servant choked his voice for an instant,
but he succeeded in shaping an inquiry after Mr. Palmer's health.

'I'm sorry to say, sir,' was the reply, 'that Mr. Palmer died last
night. We received the news only an hour or two ago.'

Christian tottered on his feet and turned so pale that the servant
regarded him with anxiety. For a minute or two he stared vacantly into
the gloomy hall; then, without a word, he turned abruptly and walked
away.

Unconscious of the intervening distance, he found himself at home, in
his library. The parlour-maid was asking him whether he would have
luncheon. Scarcely understanding the question, he muttered a refusal
and sat down.

So, it had come at last. Constance was a widow. In a year or so she
might think of marrying again.

He remained in the library for three or four hours. At first incapable
of rejoicing, then ashamed to do so, he at length suffered from such a
throbbing of the heart that apprehension of illness recalled him to a
normal state of mind. The favourite decanter was within reach, and it
gave him the wonted support. Then at length did heart and brain glow
with exulting fervour.

Poor Constance! Noble woman! Most patient of martyrs! The hour of her
redemption had struck. The fetters had fallen from her tender,
suffering body. Of _him_ she could not yet think. He did not wish it.
The womanhood must pay its debt to nature before she could gladden in
the prospect of a new life. Months must go by before he could approach
her, or even remind her of his existence. But at last his reward was
sure.

And he had thought of Twybridge, of his cousin Janet! O unworthy lapse!

He shed tears of tenderness. Dear, noble Constance! It was now nearly
twelve years since he first looked upon her face. In those days he
mingled freely with all the society within his reach. It was not very
select, and Constance Markham shone to him like a divinity among
creatures of indifferent clay. They said she was coquettish, that she
played at the game of love with every presentable young man--envious
calumny! No, she was single-hearted, inexperienced, a lovely and joyous
girl of not yet twenty. It is so difficult for such a girl to
understand her own emotions. Her parents persuaded her into wedding
Palmer. That was all gone into the past, and now his concern--their
concern--was only with the blessed future.

At three o'clock he began to feel a healthy appetite. He sent for a cab
and drove towards the region of restaurants.

Had he yielded to the impulse which this morning directed him to
Twybridge, he would have arrived in that town not very long after his
sister.

For that was the aim of Marcella's journey. On reaching the station,
she dropped a light veil over her face and set forth on foot to
discover the abode of Mrs. Peak. No inhabitant of Twybridge save her
uncle and his daughters could possibly recognise her, but she shrank
from walking through the streets with exposed countenance. Whether she
would succeed in her quest was uncertain. Godwin Peak's mother still
dwelt here, she knew, for less than a year ago she had asked the
question of Godwin himself; but a woman in humble circumstances might
not have a house of her own, and her name was probably unknown save to
a few friends.

However, the first natural step was to inquire for a directory. A
stationer supplied her with one, informing her, with pride, that he
himself was the author of it--that this was only the second year of its
issue, and that its success was 'very encouraging'. Retiring to a quiet
street, Marcella examined her purchase, and came upon 'Peak, Oliver;
seedsman'--the sole entry of the name. This was probably a relative of
Godwin's. Without difficulty she found Mr Peak's shop; behind the
counter stood Oliver himself, rubbing his hands. Was there indeed a
family likeness between this fresh-looking young shopkeeper and the
stern, ambitious, intellectual man whose lineaments were ever before
her mind? Though with fear and repulsion, Marcella was constrained to
recognise something in the commonplace visage. With an uncertain voice,
she made known her business.

'I wish to find Mrs. Peak--a widow--an elderly lady'----

'Oh yes, madam! My mother, no doubt. She lives with her sister, Miss
Cadman--the milliner's shop in the first street to the left. Let me
point it out.'

With a sinking of the heart, Marcella murmured thanks and walked away.
She found the milliner's shop--and went past it.

Why should discoveries such as these be so distasteful to her? Her own
origin was not so exalted that she must needs look down on trades-folk.
Still, for the moment she all but abandoned her undertaking. Was Godwin
Peak in truth of so much account to her? Would not the shock of meeting
his mother be final? Having come thus far, she must go through with it.
If the experience cured her of a hopeless passion, why, what more
desirable?

She entered the shop. A young female assistant came forward with
respectful smile, and waited her commands.

'I wish, if you please, to see Mrs. Peak.'

'Oh yes, madam! Will you have the goodness to walk this way?'

Too late Marcella remembered that she ought to have gone to the
house-entrance. The girl led her out of the shop into a dark passage,
and thence into a sitting-room which smelt of lavender. Here she waited
for a few moments; then the door opened softly, and Mrs. Peak presented
herself.

There was no shock. The widow had the air of a gentlewoman--walked with
elderly grace--and spoke with propriety. She resembled Godwin, and this
time it was not painful to remark the likeness.

'I have come to Twybridge,' began Marcella, gently and respectfully,
'that is to say, I have stopped in passing--to ask for the address of
Mr. Godwin Peak. A letter has failed to reach him.

It was her wish to manage without either disclosing the truth about
herself or elaborating fictions, but after the first words she felt it
impossible not to offer some explanation. Mrs. Peak showed a slight
surprise. With the courage of cowardice, Marcella continued more
rapidly:

'My name is Mrs. Ward. My husband used to know Mr. Peak, in London, a
few years ago, but we have been abroad, and unfortunately have lost
sight of him. We remembered that Mr. Peak's relatives lived at
Twybridge, and, as we wish very much to renew the old acquaintance, I
took the opportunity--passing by rail. I made inquiries in the town,
and was directed to you--I hope rightly'----

The widow's face changed to satisfaction. Evidently her straightforward
mind accepted the story as perfectly credible. Marcella, with
bitterness, knew herself far from comely enough to suggest perils. She
looked old enough for the part she was playing, and the glove upon her
hand might conceal a wedding-ring.

'Yes, you were directed rightly,' Mrs. Peak made quiet answer. 'I shall
be very glad to give you my son's address. He left London about last
Christmas, and went to live at Exeter.'

'Exeter? We thought he might be out of England.'

'No; he has lived all the time at Exeter. The address is Longbrook
Street'--she added the number. 'He is studying, and finds that part of
the country pleasant. I am hoping to see him here before very long.'

Marcella did not extend the conversation. She spoke of having to catch
a train, and veiled as well as she could beneath ordinary courtesies
her perplexity at the information she had received.

When she again reached the house at Notting Hill, Christian was absent.
He came home about nine in the evening. It was impossible not to remark
his strange mood of repressed excitement; but Marcella did not question
him, and Christian had resolved to conceal the day's event until he
could speak of it without agitation. Before they parted for the night,
Marcella said carelessly:

'I have decided to go down to Budleigh Salterton when the time comes.'

'That's right!' exclaimed her brother, with satisfaction. 'You couldn't
do better--couldn't possibly. It will be a very good thing for you in
several ways.'

And each withdrew to brood over a perturbing secret.



CHAPTER III


Three or four years ago, when already he had conceived the idea of
trying his fortune in some provincial town, Peak persuaded himself that
it would not be difficult to make acquaintances among educated people,
even though he had no credentials to offer. He indulged his fancy and
pictured all manner of pleasant accidents which surely, sooner or
later, must bring him into contact with families of the better sort.
One does hear of such occurrences, no doubt. In every town there is
some one or other whom a stranger may approach: a medical man--a local
antiquary--a librarian--a philanthropist; and with moderate advantages
of mind and address, such casual connections may at times be the
preface to intimacy, with all resulting benefits. But experience of
Exeter had taught him how slight would have been his chance of getting
on friendly terms with any mortal if he had depended solely on his
personal qualities. After a nine months' residence, and with the
friendship of such people as the Warricombes, he was daily oppressed by
his isolation amid this community of English folk. He had done his
utmost to adopt the tone of average polished life. He had sat at the
tables of worthy men, and conversed freely with their sons and
daughters; he exchanged greetings in the highways: but this availed him
nothing. Now, as on the day of his arrival, he was an alien--a lodger.
What else had he ever been, since boyhood? A lodger in Kingsmill, a
lodger in London, a lodger in Exeter. Nay, even as a boy he could
scarcely have been said to 'live at home', for from the dawn of
conscious intelligence he felt himself out of place among familiar
things and people, at issue with prevalent opinions. Was he never to
win a right of citizenship, never to have a recognised place among men
associated in the duties and pleasures of life?

Sunday was always a day of weariness and despondency, and at present he
suffered from the excitement of his conversation with Sidwell, followed
as it had been by a night of fever. Extravagant hope had given place to
a depression which could see nothing beyond the immediate gloom. Until
mid-day he lay in bed. After dinner, finding the solitude of his little
room intolerable, he went out to walk in the streets.

Not far from his door some children had gathered in a quiet corner, and
were playing at a game on the pavement with pieces of chalk. As he drew
near, a policeman, observing the little group, called out to them in a
stern voice:

'Now then! what are you doing there? Don't you know _what day_ it is?'

The youngsters fled, conscious of shameful delinquency.

There it was! There spoke the civic voice, the social rule, the public
sentiment! Godwin felt that the policeman had rebuked _him_, and in
doing so had severely indicated the cause of that isolation which he
was condemned to suffer. Yes, all his life he had desired to play games
on Sunday; he had never been able to understand why games on Sunday
should be forbidden. And the angry laugh which escaped him as he went
by the guardian of public morals declared the impossibility of his ever
being at one with communities which made this point the prime test of
worthiness.

He walked on at a great speed, chafing, talking to himself. His way
took him through Heavitree (when Hooker saw the light here, how easy to
believe that the Anglican Church was the noblest outcome of human
progress!) and on and on, until by a lane with red banks of sandstone,
thick with ferns, shadowed with noble boughs, he came to a hamlet which
had always been one of his favourite resorts, so peacefully it lay amid
the exquisite rural landscape. The cottages were all closed and silent;
hark for the reason! From the old church sounded an organ prelude, then
the voice of the congregation, joining in one of the familiar hymns.

A significant feature of Godwin's idiosyncrasy. Notwithstanding his
profound hatred and contempt of multitudes, he could never hear the
union of many voices in song but his breast heaved and a choking warmth
rose in his throat. Even where prejudice wrought most strongly with
him, it had to give way before this rush of emotion; he often hurried
out of earshot when a group of Salvationists were singing, lest the
involuntary sympathy of his senses should agitate and enrage him. At
present he had no wish to draw away. He entered the churchyard, and
found the leafy nook with a tombstone where he had often rested. And as
he listened to the rude chanting of verse after verse, tears fell upon
his cheeks.

This sensibility was quite distinct from religious feeling. If the note
of devotion sounding in that simple strain had any effect upon him at
all, it merely intensified his consciousness of pathos as he thought of
the many generations that had worshipped here, living and dying in a
faith which was at best a helpful delusion. He could appreciate the
beautiful aspects of Christianity as a legend, its nobility as a
humanising power, its rich results in literature, its grandeur in
historic retrospect. But at no moment in his life had he felt it as a
spiritual influence. So far from tending in that direction, as he sat
and brooded here in the churchyard, he owed to his fit of tearfulness a
courage which determined him to abandon all religious pretences, and
henceforth trust only to what was sincere in him--his human passion.
The future he had sketched to Sidwell was impossible; the rural
pastorate, the life of moral endeavour which in his excitement had
seemed so nearly a genuine aspiration that it might perchance become
reality--dreams, dreams! He must woo as a man, and trust to fortune for
his escape from a false position. Sidwell should hear nothing more of
clerical projects. He was by this time convinced that she held far less
tenaciously than he had supposed to the special doctrines of the
Church; and, if he had not deceived himself in interpreting her
behaviour, a mutual avowal of love would involve ready consent on her
part to his abandoning a career which--as he would represent it--had
been adopted under a mistaken impulse. He returned to the point which
he had reached when he set forth with the intention of bidding good-bye
to the Warricombes--except that in flinging away hypocrisy he no longer
needed to trample his desires. The change need not be declared till
after a lapse of time. For the present his task was to obtain one more
private interview with Sidwell ere she went to London, or, if that
could not be, somehow to address her in unmistakable language.

The fumes were dispelled from his brain, and as he walked homeward he
plotted and planned with hopeful energy. Sylvia Moorhouse came into his
mind; could he not in some way make use of her? He had never yet been
to see her at Budleigh Salterton. That he would do forthwith, and
perchance the visit might supply him with suggestions.

On the morrow he set forth, going by train to Exmouth, and thence by
the coach which runs twice a day to the little seaside town. The
delightful drive, up hill and down dale, with its magnificent views
over the estuary, and its ever-changing wayside beauties, put him into
the best of spirits. About noon, he alighted at the Rolle Arms, the
hotel to which the coach conducts its passengers, and entered to take a
meal. He would call upon the Moorhouses at the conventional hour. The
intervening time was spent pleasantly enough in loitering about the
pebbled beach. A south-west breeze which had begun to gather clouds
drove on the rising tide. By four o'clock there was an end of sunshine,
and spurts of rain mingled with flying foam. Peak turned inland,
pursued the leafy street up the close-sheltered valley, and came to the
house where his friends dwelt.

In crossing the garden he caught sight of a lady who sat in a room on
the ground floor; her back was turned to the window, and before he
could draw near enough to see her better she had moved away, but the
glimpse he had obtained of her head and shoulders affected him with so
distinct an alarm that his steps were checked. It seemed to him that he
had recognised the figure, and if he were right.--But the supposition
was ridiculous; at all events so vastly improbable, that he would not
entertain it. And now he descried another face, that of Miss Moorhouse
herself, and it gave him a reassuring smile. He rang the door bell.

How happy--he said to himself--those men who go to call upon their
friends without a tremor! Even if he had not received that shock a
moment ago, he would still have needed to struggle against the
treacherous beating of his heart as he waited for admission. It was
always so when he visited the Warricombes, or any other family in
Exeter. Not merely in consequence of the dishonest part he was playing,
but because he had not quite overcome the nervousness which so
anguished him in earlier days. The first moment after his entering a
drawing-room cost him pangs of complex origin.

His eyes fell first of all upon Mrs. Moorhouse, who advanced to welcome
him. He was aware of three other persons in the room. The nearest, he
could perceive without regarding her, was Sidwell's friend; the other
two, on whom he did not yet venture to cast a glance, sat--or rather
had just risen--in a dim background. As he shook hands with Sylvia,
they drew nearer; one of them was a man, and, as his voice at once
declared, no other than Buckland Warricombe. Peak returned his
greeting, and, in the same moment, gazed at the last of the party. Mrs.
Moorhouse was speaking.

'Mr. Peak--Miss Moxey.'

A compression of the lips was the only sign of disturbance that anyone
could have perceived on Godwin's countenance. Already he had strung
himself against his wonted agitation, and the added trial did not
sensibly enhance what he suffered. In discovering that he had rightly
identified the figure at the window, he experienced no renewal of the
dread which brought him to a stand-still. Already half prepared for
this stroke of fate, he felt a satisfaction in being able to meet it so
steadily. Tumult of thought was his only trouble; it seemed as if his
brain must burst with the stress of its lightning operations. In three
seconds, he re-lived the past, made several distinct anticipations of
the future, and still discussed with himself how he should behave this
moment. He noted that Marcella's face was bloodless; that her attempt
to smile resulted in a very painful distortion of brow and lips. And he
had leisure to pity her. This emotion prevailed. With a sense of
magnanimity, which afterwards excited his wonder, he pressed the cold
hand and said in a cheerful tone:

'Our introduction took place long ago, if I'm not mistaken. I had no
idea, Miss Moxey, that you were among Mrs. Moorhouse's friends.'

'Nor I that you were, Mr. Peak,' came the answer, in a steadier voice
than Godwin had expected.

Mrs. Moorhouse and her daughter made the pleasant exclamations that
were called for. Buckland Warricombe, with a doubtful smile on his
lips, kept glancing from Miss Moxey to her acquaintance and back again.
Peak at length faced him.

'I hoped we should meet down here this autumn.'

'I should have looked you up in a day or two,' Buckland replied,
seating himself. 'Do you propose to stay in Exeter through the winter?'

'I'm not quite sure--but I think it likely.'

Godwin turned to the neighbour of whose presence he was most conscious.

'I hope your brother is well, Miss Moxey?'

Their eyes encountered steadily.

'Yes, he is quite well, thank you. He often says that it seems very
long since he heard from you.'

'I'm a bad correspondent.--Is he also in Devonshire?'

'No. In London.'

'What a storm we are going to have!' exclaimed Sylvia, looking to the
window. 'They predicted it yesterday. I should like to be on the top of
Westdown Beacon--wouldn't you, Miss Moxey?'

'I am quite willing to go with you.'

'And what pleasure do you look for up there?' asked Warricombe, in a
blunt, matter-of-fact tone.

'Now, there's a question!' cried Sylvia, appealing to the rest of the
company.

'I agree with Mr. Warricombe,' remarked her mother. 'It's better to be
in a comfortable room.'

'Oh, you Radicals! What a world you will make of it in time!'

Sylvia affected to turn away in disgust, and happening to glance
through the window she saw two young ladies approaching from the road.

'The Walworths--struggling desperately with their umbrellas.'

'I shouldn't wonder if you think it unworthy of an artist to carry an
umbrella,' said Buckland.

'Now you suggest it, I certainly do. They should get nobly drenched.'

She went out into the hall, and soon returned with her friends--Miss
Walworth the artist, Miss Muriel Walworth, and a youth, their brother.
In the course of conversation Peak learnt that Miss Moxey was the guest
of this family, and that she had been at Budleigh Salterton with them
only a day or two. For the time he listened and observed, endeavouring
to postpone consideration of the dangers into which he had suddenly
fallen. Marcella had made herself his accomplice, thus far, in
disguising the real significance of their meeting, and whether she
would betray him in her subsequent talk with the Moorhouses remained a
matter of doubt. Of course he must have assurance of her
disposition--but the issues involved were too desperate for instant
scrutiny. He felt the gambler's excitement, an irrational pleasure in
the consciousness that his whole future was at stake. Buckland
Warricombe had a keen eye upon him, and doubtless was eager to strike a
train of suspicious circumstances. His face, at all events, should give
no sign of discomposure. Indeed, he found so much enjoyment in the
bright gossip of this assembly of ladies that the smile he wore was
perfectly natural.

The Walworths, he gathered, were to return to London in a week's time.
This meant, in all probability, that Marcella's stay here would not be
prolonged beyond that date. Perhaps he could find an opportunity of
seeing her apart from her friends. In reply to a question from Mrs.
Moorhouse, he made known that he proposed staying at the Rolle Arms for
several days, and when he had spoken he glanced at Marcella. She
understood him; he felt sure. An invitation to lunch here on the morrow
was of course accepted.

Before leaving, he exchanged a few words with Buckland.

'Your relatives will be going to town very soon, I understand.

Warricombe nodded.

'Shall I see you at Exeter?' Godwin continued.

'I'm not sure. I shall go over to-morrow, but it's uncertain whether I
shall still be there when you return.'

The Radical was distinctly less amicable than even on the last occasion
of their meeting. They shook hands in rather a perfunctory way.

Early in the evening there was a temporary lull in the storm; rain no
longer fell, and in spaces of the rushing sky a few stars showed
themselves. Unable to rest at the hotel, Peak set out for a walk
towards the cliff summit called Westdown Beacon; he could see little
more than black vacancies, but a struggle with the wind suited his
temper, and he enjoyed the incessant roar of surf in the darkness.
After an hour of this buffeting he returned to the beach, and stood as
close as possible to the fierce breakers. No person was in sight. But
when he began to move towards the upper shore, three female figures
detached themselves from the gloom and advanced in his direction. They
came so near that their voices were audible, and thereupon he stepped
up to them.

'Are you going to the Beacon after all, Miss Moorhouse?'

Sylvia was accompanied by Agatha Walworth and Miss Moxey. She explained
laughingly that they had stolen out, by agreement, whilst the males of
their respective households still lingered at the dinner-table.

'But Mr. Warricombe was right after all. We shall be blown to pieces. A
very little of the romantic goes a long way, nowadays.'

Godwin was determined to draw Marcella aside. Seemingly she met his
wish, for as all turned to regain the shelter of houses she fell behind
her female companions, and stood close by him.

'I want to see you before you go back to London,' he said, bending his
head near to hers.

'I wrote a letter to you this morning,' was her reply.

'A letter? To what address?'

'Your address at Exeter.'

'But how did you know it?'

'I'll explain afterwards.'

'When can I see you?'

'Not here. It's impossible. I shall go to Exeter, and there write to
you again.'

'Very well. You promise to do this?'

'Yes, I promise.'

There was danger even in the exchange of these hurried sentences. Miss
Walworth had glanced back, and might possibly have caught a phrase that
aroused curiosity. Having accompanied the girls to within view of their
destination, Peak said good-night, and went home to spend the rest of
the evening in thought which was sufficiently absorbing.

The next day he had no sight of Marcella. At luncheon the Moorhouses
were alone. Afterwards Godwin accepted a proposal of the mathematician
(who was generally invisible amid his formulae) for a walk up the Otter
valley. Naturally they talked of Coleridge, whose metaphysical side
appealed to Moorhouse. Peak dwelt on the human and poetical, and was
led by that peculiar recklessness of mood, which at times relieved his
nervous tension, to defend opium eating, as a source of pleasurable
experience.

'You will hardly venture on that paradox in the pulpit,' remarked his
companion, with laughter.

'Perhaps not. But I have heard arguments from that place decidedly more
immoral.'

'No doubt.'

Godwin corrected the impression he perhaps had made by turning with
sudden seriousness to another subject. The ironic temptation was
terribly strong in him just now. One is occasionally possessed by a
desire to shout in the midst of a silent assembly; and impulse of the
same kind kept urging him to utter words which would irretrievably ruin
his prospects. The sense that life is an intolerable mummery can with
difficulty be controlled by certain minds, even when circumstances
offer no keen incitement to rebellion. But Peak's position to-day
demanded an incessant effort to refrain from self-betrayal. What a joy
to declare himself a hypocrite, and snap mocking fingers in the world's
face! As a safeguard, he fixed his mind upon Sidwell, recalled her
features and her voice as clearly as possible, stamped into his heart
the conviction that she half loved him.

When he was alone again, he of a sudden determined to go to Exeter. He
could no longer endure uncertainty as to the contents of Marcella's
letter. As it was too late for the coach, he set off and walked five
miles to Exmouth, where he caught a train.

The letter lay on his table, and with it one on which he recognised his
mother's handwriting.

Marcella wrote in the simplest way, quite as if their intercourse had
never been disturbed. As she happened to be staying with friends at
Budleigh Salterton, it seemed possible for her to meet him. Might she
hope that he would call at the hotel in Exeter, if she wrote again to
make an appointment?

Well, that needed no reply. But how had she discovered the address? Was
his story known in London? In a paroxysm of fury, he crushed the letter
into a ball and flung it away. The veins of his forehead swelled; he
walked about the room with senseless violence, striking his fist
against furniture and walls. It would have relieved him to sob and cry
like a thwarted child, but only a harsh sound, half-groan,
half-laughter, burst from his throat.

The fit passed, and he was able to open the letter from Twybridge, the
first he had received from his mother for more than a month. He
expected to find nothing of interest, but his attention was soon caught
by a passage, which ran thus:

'Have you heard from some friends of yours, called Ward? Some time ago
a lady called here to ask for your address. She said her name was Mrs.
Ward, and that her husband, who had been abroad for a long time, very
much wished to find you again. Of course I told her where you were to
be found. It was just after I had written, or I should have let you
know about it before.'

Ward? He knew no one of that name. Could it be Marcella who had done
this? It looked more than likely; he believed her capable of strange
proceedings.

In the morning he returned to the seaside. Prospect of pleasure there
was none, but by moving about he made the time pass more quickly.
Wandering in the lanes (which would have delighted him with their
autumnal beauties had his mind been at rest), he came upon Miss
Walworth, busy with a water-colour sketch. Though their acquaintance
was so slight, he stopped for conversation, and the artist's manner
appeared to testify that Marcella had as yet made no unfavourable
report of him. By mentioning that he would return home on the morrow,
he made sure that Marcella would be apprised of this. Perhaps she might
shorten her stay, and his suspense.

Back in Longbrook Street once more, he found another letter. It was
from Mrs. Warricombe, who wrote to tell him of their coming removal to
London, and added an invitation to dine four days hence. Then at all
events he would speak again with Sidwell. But to what purpose? Could he
let her go away for months, and perhaps all but forget him among the
many new faces that would surround her. He saw no feasible way of being
with her in private. To write was to run the gravest risk; things were
not ripe for that. To take Martin into his confidence? That asked too
much courage. Deliberate avowals of this kind seemed to him ludicrous
and humiliating, and under the circumstances--no, no; what force of
sincerity could make him appear other than a scheming adventurer?

He lived in tumult of mind and senses. When at length, on the day
before his engagement with the Warricombes, there came a note from
Marcella, summoning him to the interview agreed upon, he could scarcely
endure the hour or two until it was time to set forth; every minute
cost him a throb of pain. The torment must have told upon his visage,
for on entering the room where Marcella waited he saw that she looked
at him with a changing expression, as if something surprised her.

They shook hands, but without a word. Marcella pointed to a chair, yet
remained standing. She was endeavouring to smile; her eyes fell, and
she coloured.

'Don't let us make each other uncomfortable,' Peak exclaimed suddenly,
in the off-hand tone of friendly intimacy. 'There's nothing tragic in
this affair, after all. Let us talk quietly.'

Marcella seated herself.

'I had reasons,' he went on, 'for going away from my old acquaintances
for a time. Why not, if I chose? You have found me out. Very well; let
us talk it over as we have discussed many another moral or
psychological question.'

He did not meditate these sentences. Something must of necessity be
said, and words shaped themselves for him. His impulse was to avoid the
emotional, to talk with this problematic woman as with an intellectual
friend of his own sex.

'Forgive me,' were the first sounds that came from Marcella's lips. She
spoke with bent head, and almost in a whisper.

'What have I to forgive?' He sat down and leaned sideways in the easy
chair. 'You were curious about my doings? What more natural?'

'Do you know how I learnt where you were?'

She looked up for an instant.

'I have a suspicion. You went to Twybridge?'

'Yes.'

'But not in your own name?'

'I can hardly tell why not.'

Peak laughed. He was physically and mentally at rest in comparison with
his state for the past few days. Things had a simpler aspect all at
once. After all, who would wish to interfere maliciously with him?
Women like to be in secrets, and probably Marcella would preserve his.

'What conjectures had you made about me?' he asked, with an air of
amusement.

'Many, of course. But I heard something not long ago which seemed so
unlikely, yet was told so confidently, that at last I couldn't overcome
my wish to make inquiries.'

'And what was that?'

'Mr. Malkin has been to America, and he declared that he had met you in
the streets of Boston--and that you refused to admit you were yourself.'

Peak laughed still more buoyantly. His mood was eager to seize on any
point that afforded subject for jest.

'Malkin seems to have come across my Doppelganger. One mustn't pretend
to certainty in anything, but I am disposed to think I never was in
Boston.'

'He was of course mistaken.'

Marcella's voice had an indistinctness very unlike her ordinary tone.
As a rule she spoke with that clearness and decision which corresponds
to qualities of mind not commonly found in women. But confidence seemed
to have utterly deserted her; she had lost her individuality, and was
weakly feminine.

'I have been here since last Christmas,' said Godwin, after a pause.

'Yes. I know.'

Their eyes met.

'No doubt your friends have told you as much as they know of me?'

'Yes--they have spoken of you.'

'And what does it amount to?'

He regarded her steadily, with a smile of indifference.

'They say'--she gazed at him as if constrained to do so--'that you are
going into the Church.' And as soon as she uttered the last word, a
painful laugh escaped her.

'Nothing else? No comments?'

'I think Miss Moorhouse finds it difficult to understand.'

'Miss Moorhouse?' He reflected, still smiling. 'I shouldn't wonder. She
has a sceptical mind, and she doesn't know me well enough to understand
me.'

'Doesn't know you well enough?'

She repeated the words mechanically. Peak gave her a keen glance.

'Has she led you to suppose,' he asked, 'that we are on intimate terms?'

'No.' The word fell from her, absently, despondently.

'Miss Moxey, would anything be gained by our discussing my position? If
you think it a mystery, hadn't we better leave it so?'

She made no answer.

'But perhaps,' he went on, 'you have told them--the Walworths and the
Moorhouses--that I owe my friends an explanation? When I see them
again, perhaps I shall be confronted with cold, questioning faces?'

'I haven't said a word that could injure you,' Marcella replied, with
something of her usual self-possession, passing her eyes distantly over
his face as she spoke.

'I knew the suggestion was unjust, when I made it.'

'Then why should you refuse me your confidence?'

She bent forward slightly, but with her eyes cast down. Tone and
features intimated a sense of shame, due partly to the feeling that she
offered complicity in deceit.

'What can I tell you more than you know?' said Godwin, coldly. 'I
propose to become a clergyman, and I have acknowledged to you that my
motive is ambition. As the matter concerns my conscience, that must
rest with myself; I have spoken of it to no one. But you may depend
upon it that I am prepared for every difficulty that may spring up. I
knew, of course, that sooner or later some one would discover me here.
Well, I have changed my opinions, that's all; who can demand more than
that?'

Marcella answered in a tone of forced composure.

'You owe me no explanation at all. Yet we have known each other for a
long time, and it pains me that--to be suddenly told that we are no
more to each other than strangers.'

'Are we talking like strangers, Marcella?'

She flushed, and her eyes gleamed as they fixed themselves upon him for
an instant. He had never before dreamt of addressing her so familiarly,
and least of all in this moment was she prepared for it. Godwin
despised himself for the impulse to which he had yielded, but its
policy was justified. He had taken one more step in disingenuousness--a
small matter.

'Let it be one of those things on which even friends don't open their
minds to each other,' he pursued. 'I am living in solitude, and perhaps
must do so for several years yet. If I succeed in my purposes, you will
see me again on the old terms; if I fail, then too we shall be
friends--if you are willing.'

'You won't tell me what those purposes are?'

'Surely you can imagine them.'

'Will you let me ask you--do you look for help to anyone that I have
seen here?' She spoke with effort and with shame.

'To no one that you have met,' he answered, shortly.

'Then to some one in Exeter? I have been told that you have friends.'

He was irritated by her persistency, and his own inability to decide
upon the most prudent way of answering.

'You mean the Warricombe family, I suppose?'

'Yes.'

'I think it very likely that Mr. Warricombe may be able to help me
substantially.'

Marcella kept silence. Then, without raising her eyes, she murmured:

'You will tell me no more?'

'There is nothing more to tell.'

She bit her lips, as if to compel them to muteness. Her breath came
quickly; she glanced this way and that, like one who sought an escape.
After eyeing her askance for a moment, Peak rose.

'You are going?' she said.

'Yes; but surely there is no reason why we shouldn't say good-bye in a
natural and friendly way?'

'Can you forgive me for that deceit I practised?'

Peak laughed.

'What does it matter? We should in any case have met at Budleigh
Salterton.'

'No. I had no serious thought of accepting their invitation.'

She stood looking away from him, endeavouring to speak as though the
denial had but slight significance. Godwin stirred impatiently.

'I should never have gone to Twybridge,' Marcella continued, 'but for
Mr. Malkin's story.'

He turned to her.

'You mean that his story had a disagreeable sound?'

Marcella kept silence, her fingers working together.

'And is your mind relieved?' he added.

'I wish you were back in London. I wish this change had never come to
pass.'

'I wish that several things in my life had never come to pass. But I am
here, and my resolve is unalterable. One thing I must ask you--how
shall you represent my position to your brother?'

For a moment Marcella hesitated. Then, meeting his look, she answered
with nervous haste:

'I shall not mention you to him.'

Ashamed to give any sign of satisfaction, and oppressed by the feeling
that he owed her gratitude, Peak stood gazing towards the windows with
an air of half-indifferent abstractedness. It was better to let the
interview end thus, without comment or further question; so he turned
abruptly, and offered his hand.

'Good-bye. You will hear of me, or from me.'

'Good-bye!'

He tried to smile; but Marcella had a cold face, expressive of more
dignity than she had hitherto shown. As he closed the door she was
still looking towards him.

He knew what the look meant. In his position, a man of ordinary fibre
would long ago have nursed the flattering conviction that Marcella
loved him. Godwin had suspected it, but in a vague, unemotional way,
never attaching importance to the matter. What he _had_ clearly
understood was, that Christian wished to inspire him with interest in
Marcella, and on that account, when in her company, he sometimes set
himself to display a deliberate negligence. No difficult undertaking,
for he was distinctly repelled by the thought of any relations with her
more intimate than had been brought about by his cold intellectual
sympathy. Her person was still as disagreeable to him as when he first
met her in her uncle's house at Twybridge. If a man sincerely hopes
that a woman does not love him (which can seldom be the case where a
suggestion of such feeling ever arises), he will find it easy to
believe that she does not. Peak not only had the benefit of this
principle; the constitution of his mind made it the opposite of natural
for him to credit himself with having inspired affection. That his male
friends held him in any warm esteem always appeared to him improbable,
and as regards women his modesty was profound. The simplest
explanation, that he was himself incapable of pure devotedness, perhaps
hits the truth. Unsympathetic, however, he could with no justice be
called, and now that the reality of Marcella's love was forced upon his
consciousness he thought of her with sincere pity,--the emotion which
had already possessed him (though he did not then analyse it) when he
unsuspectingly looked into her troubled face a few days ago.

It was so hard to believe, that, on reaching home, he sat for a long
time occupied with the thought of it, to the exclusion of his own
anxieties. What! this woman had made of _him_ an ideal such as he
himself sought among the most exquisite of her sex? How was that
possible? What quality of his, personal, psychical, had such magnetic
force? What sort of being was he in Marcella's eyes? Reflective men
must often enough marvel at the success of whiskered and trousered
mortals in wooing the women of their desire, for only by a specific
imagination can a person of one sex assume the emotions of the other.
Godwin had neither that endowment nor the peculiar self-esteem which
makes love-winning a matter of course to some intelligent males. His
native arrogance signified a low estimate of mankind at large, rather
than an overweening appreciation of his own qualities, and in his most
presumptuous moments he had never claimed the sexual refulgence which
many a commonplace fellow so gloriously exhibits. At most, he had hoped
that some woman might find him _interesting_, and so be led on to like
him well enough for the venture of matrimony. Passion at length
constrained him to believe that his ardour might be genuinely
reciprocated, but even now it was only in paroxysms that he held this
assurance; the hours of ordinary life still exposed him to the familiar
self-criticism, sometimes more scathing than ever. He dreaded the
looking-glass, consciously avoided it; and a like disparagement of his
inner being tortured him through the endless labyrinths of erotic
reverie.

Yet here was a woman who so loved him that not even a proud temper and
his candid indifference could impose restraint upon her emotions. As he
listened to the most significant of her words he was distressed with
shame, and now, in recalling them, he felt that he should have said
something, done something, to disillusion her. Could he not easily show
himself in a contemptible light? But reflection taught him that the
shame he had experienced on Marcella's behalf was blended with a
gratification which forbade him at the moment to be altogether
unamiable. It was not self-interest alone that prompted his use of her
familiar name. In the secret places of his heart he was thankful to her
for a most effective encouragement. She had confirmed him in the hope
that he was loved by Sidwell.

And now that he no longer feared her, Marcella was gradually dismissed
from mind. For a day or two he avoided the main streets of the town,
lest a chance meeting with her should revive disquietude; but, by the
time that Mrs. Warricombe's invitation permitted him once more to
follow his desire, he felt assured that Marcella was back in London,
and the sense of distance helped to banish her among unrealities.

The hours had never pressed upon him with such demand for resolution.
In the look with which Sidwell greeted him when he met her in the
drawing-room, he seemed to read much more than wonted friendliness; it
was as though a half secret already existed between them. But no
occasion offered for a word other than trivial. The dinner-party
consisted of about a score of people, and throughout the evening Peak
found himself hopelessly severed from the one person whose presence was
anything but an importunity to him. He maddened with jealousy, with
fear, with ceaseless mental manoeuvring. More than one young man of
agreeable aspect appeared to be on dangerous terms with Sidwell,
approaching her with that air of easy, well-bred intimacy which Godwin
knew too well he would never be able to assume in perfection. Again he
was humiliated by self-comparison with social superiors, and again
reminded that in this circle he had a place merely on sufferance. Mrs.
Warricombe, when he chanced to speak with her, betrayed the slight
regard in which she really held him, and Martin devoted himself to more
important people. The evening was worse than lost.

Yet in two more days Sidwell would be beyond reach. He writhed upon his
bed as the image of her loveliness returned again and again,--her face
as she conversed at table, her dignity as she rose with the other
ladies, her smile when he said good-night. A smile that meant more than
civility; he was convinced of it. But memory would not support him
through half-a-year of solitude and ill-divining passion.

He would write to her, and risk all. Two o'clock in the morning saw him
sitting half-dressed at the table, raging over the difficulties of a
composition which should express his highest self. Four o'clock saw the
blotched letter torn into fragments. He could not write as he wished,
could not hit the tone of manly appeal. At five o'clock he turned
wretchedly into bed again.

A day of racking headache; then the long restful sleep which brings
good counsel. It was well that he had not sent a letter, nor in any
other way committed himself. If Sidwell were ever to be his wife, the
end could only be won by heroic caution and patience. Thus far he had
achieved notable results; to rush upon his aim would be the most absurd
departure from a hopeful scheme gravely devised and pursued. To wait,
to establish himself in the confidence of this family, to make sure his
progress step by step, that was the course indicated from the first by
his calm reason. Other men might triumph by sudden audacity; for him
was no hope save in slow, persevering energy of will. Passion had all
but ruined him; now he had recovered self-control.

Sidwell's six months in London might banish him from her mind, might
substitute some rival against whom it would be hopeless to contend.
Yes; but a thousand possibilities stood with menace in the front of
every great enterprise. Before next spring he might be dead.

Defiance, then, of every foreboding, of every shame; and a life that
moulded itself in the ardour of unchangeable resolve.



CHAPTER IV


Martin Warricombe was reconciled to the prospect of a metropolitan
winter by the fact that his old friend Thomas Gale, formerly Geological
Professor at Whitelaw College, had of late returned from a three years'
sojourn in North America, and now dwelt in London. The breezy man of
science was welcomed back among his brethren with two-fold
felicitation; his book on the Appalachians would have given no
insufficient proof of activity abroad, but evidence more generally
interesting accompanied him in the shape of a young and beautiful wife.
Not every geologist whose years have entered the fifties can go forth
and capture in second marriage a charming New England girl, thirty
years his junior. Yet those who knew Mr. Gale--his splendid physique,
his bluff cordiality, the vigour of his various talk--were scarcely
surprised. The young lady was no heiress; she had, in fact, been a
school teacher, and might have wearied through her best years in that
uncongenial pursuit. Transplanted to the richest English soil, she
developed remarkable aptitudes. A month or two of London exhibited her
as a type of all that is most attractive in American womanhood.

Between Mrs. Gale and the Warricombes intimacy was soon established.
Sidwell saw much of her, and liked her. To this meditative English girl
the young American offered an engrossing problem, for she avowed her
indifference to all religious dogmas, yet was singularly tolerant and
displayed a moral fervour which Sidwell had believed inseparable from
Christian faith. At the Gales' house assembled a great variety of
intellectual people, and with her father's express approval (Martin had
his reasons) Sidwell made the most of this opportunity of studying the
modern world. Only a few days after her arrival in London, she became
acquainted with a Mr. Walsh, a brother of that heresiarch, the Whitelaw
Professor, whose name was still obnoxious to her mother. He was a
well-favoured man of something between thirty and forty, brilliant in
conversation, personally engaging, and known by his literary
productions, which found small favour with conservative readers. With
surprise, Sidwell in a short time became aware that Mr. Walsh had a
frank liking for her society. He was often to be seen in Mrs.
Warricombe's drawing-room, and at Mrs Gale's he yet more frequently
obtained occasions of talking with her. The candour with which he
expressed himself on most subjects enabled her to observe a type of
mind which at present had peculiar interest for her. Discretion often
put restraint upon her curiosity, but none the less Mr. Walsh had
plausible grounds for believing that his advances were not unwelcome.
He saw that Sidwell's gaze occasionally rested upon him with a pleasant
gravity, and noted the mood of meditation which sometimes came upon her
when he had drawn apart. The frequency of these dialogues was observed
by Mrs Warricombe, and one evening she broached the subject to her
daughter rather abruptly.

'I am surprised that you have taken such a liking to Mr. Walsh.'

Sidwell coloured, and made answer in the quiet tone which her mother
had come to understand as a reproof, a hint of defective delicacy:

'I don't think I have behaved in a way that should cause you surprise.'

'It seemed to me that you were really very--friendly with him.'

'Yes, I am always friendly. But nothing more.'

'Don't you think there's a danger of his misunderstanding you, Sidwell?'

'I don't, mother. Mr. Walsh understands that we differ irreconcilably
on subjects of the first importance. I have never allowed him to lose
sight of that.'

Intellectual differences were of much less account to Mrs. Warricombe
than to her daughter, and her judgment in a matter such as this was
consequently far more practical.

'If I may advise you, dear, you oughtn't to depend much on that. I am
not the only one who has noticed something--I only mention it, you
know.'

Sidwell mused gravely. In a minute or two she looked up and said in her
gentlest voice:

'Thank you, mother. I will be more careful.'

Perhaps she had lost sight of prudence, forgetting that Mr. Walsh could
not divine her thoughts. Her interest in him was impersonal; when he
spoke she was profoundly attentive, only because her mind would have
been affected in the same way had she been reading his words instead of
listening to them. She could not let him know that another face was
often more distinct to her imagination than his to her actual sight,
and that her thoughts were frequently more busy with a remembered
dialogue than with this in which she was engaged. She had abundantly
safe-guarded herself against serious misconstruction, but if gossip
were making her its subject, it would be inconsiderate not to regard
the warning.

It came, indeed, at a moment when she was very willing to rest from
social activity. At the time of her last stay in London, three years
ago, she had not been ripe for reflection on what she saw. Now her mind
was kept so incessantly at strain, and her emotions answered so
intensely to every appeal, that at length she felt the need of repose.
It was not with her as with the young women who seek only to make the
most of their time in agreeable ways. Sidwell's vital forces were
concentrated in an effort of profound spiritual significance. The
critical hour of her life was at hand, and she exerted every faculty in
the endeavour to direct herself aright.

Having heard from his brother that Sidwell had not been out for several
days, Buckland took an opportunity of calling at the house early one
morning. He found her alone in a small drawing-room, and sat down with
an expression of weary discontent. This mood had been frequent in the
young man of late. Sidwell remarked a change that was coming over him,
a gloominess unnatural to his character.

'Seen the Walworths lately?' he asked, when his sister had assured him
that she was not seriously ailing.

'We called a few days ago.'

'Meet anyone there?'

'Two or three people. No one that interested me.'

'You haven't come across some friends of theirs called Moxey?'

'Oh yes! Miss Moxey was there one afternoon about a fortnight ago.'

'Did you talk to her at all?' Buckland asked.

'Yes; we hadn't much to say to each other, though. How do you know of
her? Through Sylvia, I daresay.'

'Met her when I was last down yonder.'

Sidwell had long since heard from her friend of Miss Moxey's visit to
Budleigh Salterton, but she was not aware that Buckland had been there
at the same time. Sylvia had told her, however, of the acquaintance
existing between Miss Moxey and Peak, a point of much interest to her,
though it remained a mere unconnected fact. In her short conversation
with Marcella, she had not ventured to refer to it.

'Do you know anything of the family?'

'I was going to ask you the same,' returned Buckland. 'I thought you
might have heard something from the Walworths.'

Sidwell had in fact sought information, but, as her relations with the
Walworths were formal, such inquiry as she could make from them
elicited nothing more than she already knew from Sylvia.

'Are you anxious to discover who they are?' she asked.

Buckland moved uneasily, and became silent.

'Oh, not particularly.'

'I dined with Walsh yesterday,' he said, at length, struggling to shake
off the obvious dreariness that oppressed him. 'He suits me; we can get
on together.'

'No doubt.'

'But you don't dislike him, I think?'

'Implying that I dislike _you_,' said Sidwell, lightsomely.

'You have no affection for my opinions.--Walsh is an honest man.'

'I hope so.'

'He says what he thinks. No compromise with fashionable hypocrisy.'

'I despise that kind of thing quite as much as you do.'

They looked at each other. Buckland had a sullen air.

'Yes, in your own way,' he replied, 'you are sincere enough, I have no
doubt. I wish all women were so.

'What exception have you in mind?'

He did not seem inclined to answer.

'Perhaps it is your understanding of them that's at fault,' added
Sidwell, gently.

'Not in one case, at all events,' he exclaimed. 'Supposes you were
asked to define Miss Moorhouse's religious opinions, how would you do
it?'

'I am not well enough acquainted with them.'

'Do you imagine for a moment that she has any more faith in the
supernatural than I have?'

'I think there is a great difference between her position and yours.'

'Because she is hypocritical!' cried Buckland, angrily. 'She deceives
you. She hasn't the courage to be honest.'

Sidwell wore a pained expression.

'You judge her,' she replied, 'far too coarsely. No one is called upon
to make an elaborate declaration of faith as often as such subjects are
spoken of. Sylvia thinks so differently from you about almost
everything that, when she happens to agree with you, you are misled and
misinterpret her whole position.'

'I understand her perfectly,' Buckland went on, in the same irritated
voice. 'There are plenty of women like her--with brains enough, but
utter and contemptible cowards. Cowards even to themselves, perhaps.
What can you expect, when society is based on rotten shams?'

For several minutes he pursued this vein of invective, then took an
abrupt leave. Sidwell had a piece of grave counsel ready to offer him,
but he was clearly in no mood to listen, so she postponed it.

A day or two after this, she received a letter from Sylvia. Miss
Moorhouse was anything but a good correspondent; she often confessed
her inability to compose anything but the briefest and driest statement
of facts. With no little surprise, therefore, Sidwell found that the
envelope contained two sheets all but covered with her friend's cramped
handwriting. The letter began with apology for long delay in
acknowledging two communications.

'But you know well enough my dilatory disposition. I have written to
you mentally at least once a day, and I hope you have mentally received
the results--that is to say, have assured yourself of my goodwill to
you, and I had nothing else to send.'

At this point Sylvia had carefully obliterated two lines, blackening
the page into unsightliness. In vain Sidwell pored over the effaced
passage, led to do so by a fancy that she could discern a capital P,
which looked like the first letter of a name. The writer continued:

'Don't trouble yourself so much about insoluble questions. Try to be
more positive--I don't say become a Positivist. Keep a receptive mind,
and wait for time to shape your views of things. I see that London has
agitated and confused you; you have lost your bearings amid the maze of
contradictory finger-posts. If you were here I could soothe you with
Sylvian (much the same as sylvan) philosophy, but I can't write.'

Here the letter was to have ended, for on the line beneath was legible
'Give my love to Fanny', but this again had been crossed out, and there
followed a long paragraph:

I have been reading a book about ants. Perhaps you know all the
wonderful things about them, but I had neglected that branch of natural
history. Their doings are astonishingly like those of an animal called
man, and it seems to me that I have discovered one point of resemblance
which perhaps has never been noted. Are you aware that at an early
stage of their existence ants have wings? They fly--how shall I express
it?--only for the brief time of their courtship and marriage and when
these important affairs are satisfactorily done with their wings wither
away, and thenceforth they have to content themselves with running
about on the earth. Now isn't this a remarkable parallel to one stage
of human life? Do not men and women also soar and flutter--at a certain
time? And don't their wings manifestly drop off as soon as the end of
that skyward movement has been achieved? If the gods had made me
poetical, I would sonnetise on this idea. Do you know any poet with a
fondness for the ant-philosophy? If so, offer him this suggestion with
liberty to "make any use of it he likes".

'But the fact of the matter is that some human beings are never winged
at all. I am decidedly coming to the conclusion that I am one of those.
Think of me henceforth as an apteryx--you have a dictionary at hand?
Like the tailless fox, I might naturally maintain that my state is the
more gracious, but honestly I am not assured of that. It may be (I half
believe it is) a good thing to soar and flutter, and at times I regret
that nature has forbidden me that experience. Decidedly I would never
try to _persuade anyone else_ to forego the use of wings. Bear this in
mind, my dear girl. But I suspect that in time to come there will be an
increasing number of female human creatures who from their birth are
content with _walking_. Not long ago, I had occasion to hint
that--though under another figure--to your brother Buckland. I hope he
understood me--I think he did--and that he wasn't offended.

'I had something to tell you. I have forgotten it--never mind.'

And therewith the odd epistle was concluded. Sidwell perused the latter
part several times. Of course she was at no loss to interpret it.
Buckland's demeanour for the past two months had led her to surmise
that his latest visit to Budleigh Salterton had finally extinguished
the hopes which drew him in that direction. His recent censure of
Sylvia might be thus explained. She grieved that her brother's suit
should be discouraged, but could not persuade herself that Sylvia's
decision was final. The idea of a match between those two was very
pleasant to her. For Buckland she imagined it would be fraught with
good results, and for Sylvia, on the whole, it might be the best thing.

Before she replied to her friend nearly a month passed, and Christmas
was at hand. Again she had been much in society. Mr. Walsh had renewed
his unmistakable attentions, and, when her manner of meeting them began
to trouble him with doubts, had cleared the air by making a formal
offer of marriage. Sidwell's negative was absolute, much to her
mother's relief. On the day of that event, she wrote rather a long
letter to Sylvia, but Mr. Walsh's name was not mentioned in it.

'Mother tells me [it began] that _your_ mother has written to her from
Salisbury, and that you yourself are going there for a stay of some
weeks. I am sorry, for on the Monday after Christmas Day I shall be in
Exeter, and hoped somehow to have seen you. We--mother and I--are going
to run down together, to see after certain domestic affairs; only for
three days at most.

'Your ant-letter was very amusing, but it saddened me, dear Sylvia. I
can't make any answer. On these subjects it is very difficult even for
the closest friends to open their minds to each other. I don't--and
don't wish to--believe in the _apteryx_ profession; that's all I must
say.

'My health has been indifferent since I last wrote. We live in all but
continuous darkness, and very seldom indeed breathe anything that can
be called air. No doubt this state of things has its effect on me. I
look forwards, not to the coming of spring, for here we shall see
nothing of its beauties, but to the month which will release us from
London. I want to smell the pines again, and to see the golden gorse in
_our_ road.

'By way of being more "positive", I have read much in the newspapers,
supplementing from them my own experience of London society. The result
is that I am more and more confirmed in the fears with which I have
already worried you. Two movements are plainly going on in the life of
our day. The decay of religious belief is undermining morality, and the
progress of Radicalism in politics is working to the same end by
overthrowing social distinctions. Evidence stares one in the face from
every column of the papers. Of course you have read more or less about
the recent "scandal"--I mean the _most_ recent.--It isn't the kind of
thing one cares to discuss, but we can't help knowing about it, and
does it not strongly support what I say? Here is materialism sinking
into brutal immorality, and high social rank degrading itself by
intimacy with the corrupt vulgar. There are newspapers that make
political capital out of these "revelations".

I have read some of them, and they make me so _fiercely_ aristocratic
that I find it hard to care anything at all even for the humanitarian
efforts of people I respect. You will tell me, I know, that this is
quite the wrong way of looking at it. But the evils are so monstrous
that it is hard to fix one's mind on the good that may long hence
result from them.

'I cling to the essential (that is the _spiritual_) truths of
Christianity as the only absolute good left in our time. I would say
that I care nothing for forms, but some form there must be, else one's
faith evaporates. It has become very easy for me to understand how men
and women who know the world refuse to believe any longer in a
directing Providence. A week ago I again met Miss Moxey at the
Walworths', and talked with her more freely than before. This
conversation showed me that I have become much more tolerant towards
individuals. But though this or that person may be supported by moral
sense alone, the world cannot dispense with religion. If it tries
to--and it _will_--there are dreadful times before us.

'I wish I were a man! I would do something, however ineffectual. I
would stand on the side of those who are fighting against mob-rule and
mob-morals. How would you like to see Exeter Cathedral converted into a
"coffee music-hall"? And that will come.'

Reading this, Sylvia had the sense of listening to an echo. Some of the
phrases recalled to her quite a different voice from Sidwell's. She
smiled and mused.

On the morning appointed for her journey to Exeter Sidwell rose early,
and in unusually good spirits. Mrs. Warricombe was less animated by the
prospect of five hours in a railway carriage, for London had a covering
of black snow, and it seemed likely that more would fall. Martin
suggested postponement, but circumstances made this undesirable.

'Let Fanny go with me,' proposed Sidwell, just after breakfast. 'I can
see to everything perfectly well, mother.'

But Fanny hastened to decline. She was engaged for a dance on the
morrow.

'Then I'll run down with you myself, Sidwell,' said her father.

Mrs. Warricombe looked at the weather and hesitated. There were strong
reasons why she should go, and they determined her to brave discomforts.

It chanced that the morning post had brought Mr. Warricombe a letter
from Godwin Peak. It was a reply to one that he had written with
Christmas greetings; a kindness natural in him, for he had remembered
that the young man was probably hard at work in his lonely lodgings. He
spoke of it privately to his wife.

'A very good letter--thoughtful and cheerful. You're not likely to see
him, but if you happen to, say a pleasant word.'

'I shouldn't have written, if I were you,' remarked Mrs. Warricombe.

'Why not? I was only thinking the other day that he contrasted very
favourably with the younger generation as we observe it here. Yes, I
have faith in Peak. There's the right stuff in him.'

'Oh, I daresay. But still'----

And Mrs. Warricombe went away with an air of misgiving.



CHAPTER V


In volunteering a promise not to inform her brother of Peak's singular
position, Marcella spoke with sincerity. She was prompted by
incongruous feelings--a desire to compel Godwin's gratitude, and
disdain of the circumstances in which she had discovered him. There
seemed to be little likelihood of Christian's learning from any other
person that she had met with Peak at Budleigh Salterton; he had,
indeed, dined with her at the Walworths', and might improve his
acquaintance with that family, but it was improbable that they would
ever mention in his hearing the stranger who had casually been
presented to them, or indeed ever again think of him. If she held her
peace, the secret of Godwin's retirement must still remain
impenetrable. He would pursue his ends as hitherto, thinking of _her_,
if at all, as a weak woman who had immodestly betrayed a hopeless
passion, and who could be trusted never to wish him harm.

That was Marcella's way of reading a man's thoughts. She did not
attribute to Peak the penetration which would make him uneasy. In spite
of masculine proverbs, it is the habit of women to suppose that the
other sex regards them confidingly, ingenuously. Marcella was unusually
endowed with analytic intelligence, but in this case she believed what
she hoped. She knew that Peak's confidence in her must be coloured with
contempt, but this mattered little so long as he paid her the
compliment of feeling sure that she was superior to ignoble
temptations. Many a woman would behave with treacherous malice. It was
in her power to expose him, to confound all his schemes, for she knew
the authorship of that remarkable paper in _The Critical Review_.
Before receiving Peak's injunction of secrecy, Earwaker had talked of
'The New Sophistry' with Moxey and with Malkin; the request came too
late. In her interview with Godwin at the Exeter hotel, she had not
even hinted at this knowledge, partly because she was unconscious that
Peak imagined the affair a secret between himself and Earwaker, partly
because she thought it unworthy of her even to seem to threaten. It
gratified her, however, to feel that he was at her mercy, and the
thought preoccupied her for many days.

Passion which has the intellect on its side is more easily endured than
that which offers sensual defiance to all reasoning, but on the other
hand it lasts much longer. Marcella was not consumed by her emotions;
she often thought calmly, coldly, of the man she loved. Yet he was
seldom long out of her mind, and the instigation of circumstances at
times made her suffering intense. Such an occasion was her first
meeting with Sidwell Warricombe, which took place at the Walworths', in
London. Down in Devonshire she had learnt that a family named
Warricombe were Peak's intimate friends; nothing more than this, for
indeed no one was in a position to tell her more. Wakeful jealousy
caused her to fix upon the fact as one of significance; Godwin's
evasive manner when she questioned him confirmed her suspicions; and as
soon as she was brought face to face with Sidwell, suspicion became
certainty. She knew at once that Miss Warricombe was the very person
who would be supremely attractive to Godwin Peak.

An interval of weeks, and again she saw the face that in the meantime
had been as present to her imagination as Godwin's own features. This
time she conversed at some length with Miss Warricombe. Was it merely a
fancy that the beautiful woman looked at her, spoke to her, with some
exceptional interest? By now she had learnt that the Moorhouses and the
Warricombes were connected in close friendship: it was all but certain,
then, that Miss Moorhouse had told Miss Warricombe of Peak's visit to
Budleigh Salterton, and its incidents. Could this in any way be
explanatory of the steady, searching look in those soft eyes?

Marcella had always regarded the emotion of jealousy as characteristic
of a vulgar nature. Now that it possessed her, she endeavoured to call
it by other names; to persuade herself that she was indignant on
abstract grounds, or anxious only with reference to Peak's true
interests. She could not affect surprise. So intensely sympathetic was
her reading of Godwin's character that she understood--or at all events
recognised--the power Sidwell would possess over him. He did not care
for enlightenment in a woman; he was sensual--though in a subtle way;
the aristocratic vein in his temper made him subject to strong
impressions from trivialities of personal demeanour, of social tone.

Yet all was mere conjecture. She had not dared to utter Peak's name,
lest in doing so she should betray herself. Constantly planning to make
further discoveries, she as constantly tried to dismiss all thought of
the matter--to learn indifference. Already she had debased herself, and
her nature must be contemptible indeed if anything could lure her
forward on such a path.

None the less, she was assiduous in maintaining friendly relations with
the Walworths. Christian, too, had got into the habit of calling there;
it was significant of the noticeable change which was come upon him--a
change his sister was at no loss to understand from the moment that he
informed her (gravely, but without expressiveness) of Mr. Palmer's
death. Instead of shunning ordinary society, he seemed bent on
extending the circle of his acquaintance. He urged Marcella to invite
friendly calls, to have guests at dinner. There seemed to be a general
revival of his energies, exhibited in the sphere of study as well as of
amusement. Not a day went by without his purchasing books or scientific
apparatus, and the house was brightened with works of art chosen in the
studios which Miss Walworth advised him to visit. All the amiabilities
of his character came into free play; with Marcella he was mirthful,
affectionate, even caressing. He grew scrupulous about his neckties,
his gloves, and was careful to guard his fingers against corroding
acids when he worked in the laboratory. Such indications of hopefulness
caused Marcella more misgiving than pleasure; she made no remark, but
waited with anxiety for some light on the course of events.

Just before dinner, one evening, as she sat alone in the drawing-room,
Christian entered with a look which portended some strange
announcement. He spoke abruptly:

'I have heard something astonishing.'

'What is that?'

'This afternoon I went to the matinee at the Vaudeville, and found
myself among a lot of our friends--the Walworths and the Hunters and
the Mortons. Between the acts I was talking to Hunter, when a man came
up to us, spoke to Hunter, and was introduced to me--a Mr Warricombe.
What do you think he said? "I believe you know my friend Peak, Mr.
Moxey?" "Peak? To be sure! Can you tell me what has become of him?" He
gave me an odd look. "Why, I met him last, some two months ago, in
Devonshire." At that moment we were obliged to go to our places, and I
couldn't get hold of the fellow again. Hunter told me something about
him; he knows the Walworths, it seems--belongs to a good Devonshire
family. What on earth can Peak be doing over there?'

Marcella kept silence. The event she had judged improbable had come to
pass. The chance of its doing so had of course increased since
Christian began to associate freely with the Walworths and their
circle. Yet, considering the slightness of the connection between that
group of people and the Warricombe family, there had seemed no great
likelihood of Christian's getting acquainted with the latter. She
debated rapidly in her troubled mind how to meet this disclosure.
Curiosity would, of course, impel her brother to follow up the clue; he
would again encounter Warricombe, and must then learn all the facts of
Peak's position. To what purpose should she dissemble her own knowledge?

Did she desire that Godwin should remain in security? A tremor more
akin to gladness than its opposite impeded her utterance. If Warricombe
became aware of all that was involved in Godwin Peak's withdrawal from
among his friends--if (as must follow) he imparted the discovery to his
sister----

The necessity of speaking enabled her to ignore these turbulent
speculations, which yet were anything but new to her.

'They met at Budleigh Salterton,' she said, quietly.

'Who did? Warricombe and Peak?'

'Yes. At the Moorhouses'. It was when I was there.'

Christian stared at her.

'When you were there? But--_you_ met Peak?'

His sister smiled, turning from the astonished gaze.

'Yes, I met him.'

'But, why the deuce----? Why didn't you tell me, Marcella?'

'He asked me not to speak of it. He didn't wish you to know that--that
he has decided to become a clergyman.'

Christian was stricken dumb. In spite of his sister's obvious
agitation, he could not believe what she told him; her smile gave him
an excuse for supposing that she jested.

'Peak a clergyman?' He burst out laughing. 'What's the meaning of all
this?--Do speak intelligibly! What's the fellow up to?'

'I am quite serious. He is studying for Orders--has been for this last
year.'

In desperation, Christian turned to another phase of the subject.

'Then Malkin _was_ mistaken?'

'Plainly.'

'And you mean to tell me that Peak----? Give me more details. Where's
he living? How has he got to know people like these Warricombes?'

Marcella told all that she knew, and without injunction of secrecy. The
affair had passed out of her hands; destiny must fulfil itself. And
again the tremor that resembled an uneasy joy went through her frame.

'But how,' asked Christian, 'did this fellow Warricombe come to know
that _I_ was a friend of Peak's?'

'That's a puzzle to me. I shouldn't have thought he would have
remembered my name; and, even if he had, how could he conclude----'

She broke off, pondering. Warricombe must have made inquiries, possibly
suggested by suspicions.

'I scarcely spoke of Mr. Peak to anyone,' she added. 'People saw, of
course, that we were acquaintances, but it couldn't have seemed a thing
of any importance.'

'You spoke with him in private, it seems?'

'Yes, I saw him for a few minutes--in Exeter.'

'And you hadn't said anything to the Walworths that--that would
surprise them?'

'Purposely not.--Why should I injure him?'

Christian knit his brows. He understood too well why his sister should
refrain from such injury.

'You would have behaved in the same way,' Marcella added.

'Why really--yes, perhaps so. Yet I don't know.--In plain English, Peak
is a wolf in sheep's clothing!'

'I don't know anything about that,' she replied, with gloomy evasion.

'Nonsense, my dear girl!--Had he the impudence to pretend to you that
he was sincere?'

'He made no declaration.'

'But you are convinced he is acting the hypocrite, Marcella. You spoke
of the risk of injuring him.--What are his motives? What does he aim
at?'

'Scarcely a bishopric, I should think,' she replied, bitterly.

'Then, by Jove! Earwaker may be right!'

Marcella darted an inquiring look at him.

'What has he thought?'

'I'm ashamed to speak of it. He suggested once that Peak might disguise
himself for the sake of--of making a good marriage.'

The reply was a nervous laugh.

'Look here, Marcella.' He caught her hand. 'This is a very awkward
business. Peak is disgracing himself; he will be unmasked; there'll be
a scandal. It was kind of you to keep silence--when don't you behave
kindly, dear girl?--but think of the possible results to _us_. We shall
be something very like accomplices.'

'How?' Marcella exclaimed, impatiently. 'Who need know that we were so
intimate with him?'

'Warricombe seems to know it.'

'Who can prove that he isn't sincere?'

'No one, perhaps. But it will seem a very odd thing that he hid away
from all his old friends. You remember, I betrayed that to Warricombe,
before I knew that it mattered.'

Yes, and Mr. Warricombe could hardly forget the circumstance. He would
press his investigation--knowing already, perhaps, of Peak's approaches
to his sister Sidwell.

'Marcella, a man plays games like that at his own peril. I don't like
this kind of thing. Perhaps he has audacity enough to face out any
disclosure. But it's out of the question for you and me to nurse his
secret. We have no right to do so.'

'You propose to denounce him?'

Marcella gazed at her brother with an agitated look.

'Not denounce. I am fond of Peak; I wish him well. But I can't join him
in a dishonourable plot.--Then, we mustn't endanger our place in
society.'

'I have no place in society,' Marcella answered, coldly.

'Don't say that, and don't think it. We are both going to make more of
our lives; we are going to think very little of the past, and a great
deal of the future. We are still young; we have happiness before us.'

'We?' she asked, with shaken voice.

'Yes--both of us! Who can say'----

Again he took her hand and pressed it warmly in both his own. Just then
the door opened, and dinner was announced. Christian talked on, in low
hurried tones, for several minutes, affectionately, encouragingly.
After dinner, he wished to resume the subject, but Marcella declared
that there was no more to be said; he must act as honour and discretion
bade him; for herself, she should simply keep silence as hitherto. And
she left him to his reflections.

Though with so little of ascertained fact to guide her, Marcella
interpreted the hints afforded by her slight knowledge of the
Warricombes with singular accuracy. Precisely as she had imagined,
Buckland Warricombe was going about on Peak's track, learning all he
could concerning the theological student, forming acquaintance with
anyone likely to supplement his discoveries. And less than a fortnight
after the meeting at the theatre, Christian made known to his sister
that Warricombe and he had had a second conversation, this time
uninterrupted.

'He inquired after you, Marcella, and--really I had no choice but to
ask him to call here. I hardly think he'll come. He's not the kind of
man I care for--though liberal enough, and all that.'

'Wasn't it rather rash to give that invitation?'

'The fact was, I so dreaded the appearance of--of seeming to avoid
him,' Christian pleaded, awkwardly. 'You know, that affair--we won't
talk any more of it; but, if there _should_ be a row about it, you are
sure to be compromised unless we have managed to guard ourselves. If
Warricombe calls, we must talk about Peak without the least show of
restraint. Let it appear that we thought his choice of a profession
unlikely, but not impossible. Happily, we needn't know anything about
that anonymous _Critical_ article.--Indeed, I think I have acted
wisely.'

Marcella murmured:

'Yes, I suppose you have.'

'And, by the way, I have spoken of it to Earwaker. Not of your part in
the story, of course. I told him that I had met a man who knew all
about Peak.--Impossible, you see, for me to keep silence with so
intimate a friend.'

'Then Mr. Earwaker will write to him?' said Marcella, reflectively.

'I couldn't give him any address.'

'How does Mr. Warricombe seem to regard Mr. Peak?'

'With a good deal of interest, and of the friendliest kind. Naturally
enough; they were College friends, as you know, before I had heard of
Peak's existence.'

'He has no suspicions?'

Christian thought not, but her brother's judgment had not much weight
with Marcella.

She at once dreaded and desired Warricombe's appearance. If he thought
it worth while to cultivate her acquaintance, she would henceforth have
the opportunity of studying Peak's relations with the Warricombes; on
the other hand, this was to expose herself to suffering and temptation
from which the better part of her nature shrank with disdain. That she
might seem to have broken the promise voluntarily made to Godwin was a
small matter; not so the risk of being overcome by an ignoble jealousy.
She had no overweening confidence in the steadfastness of her
self-respect, if circumstances were all on the side of sensual impulse.
And the longer she brooded on this peril, the more it allured her. For
therewith was connected the one satisfaction which still remained to
her: however little he desired to keep her constantly in mind, Godwin
Peak must of necessity do so after what had passed between them. Had
but her discovery remained her own secret, then the pleasure of
commanding her less pure emotions, of proving to Godwin that she was
above the weakness of common women, might easily have prevailed. Now
that her knowledge was shared by others, she had lost that safeguard
against lower motive. The argument that to unmask hypocrisy was in
itself laudable she dismissed with contempt; let that be the resource
of a woman who would indulge her rancour whilst keeping up the inward
pretence of sanctity. If _she_ erred in the ways characteristic of her
sex, it should at all events be a conscious degradation.

'Have you seen that odd creature Malkin lately?' she asked of
Christian, a day or two after.

'No, I haven't; I thought of him to make up our dinner on Sunday; but
you had rather not have him here, I daresay?'

'Oh, he is amusing. Ask him by all means,' said Marcella, carelessly.

'He may have heard about Peak from Earwaker, you know. If he begins to
talk before people'----

'Things have gone too far for such considerations,' replied his sister,
with a petulance strange to her habits of speech.

'Well, yes,' admitted Christian, glancing at her. 'We can't be
responsible.'

He reproached himself for this attitude towards Peak, but was heartily
glad that Marcella seemed to have learnt to regard the intriguer with a
wholesome indifference.

On the second day after Christmas, as they sat talking idly in the
dusking twilight, the door of the drawing-room was thrown open, and a
visitor announced. The name answered with such startling suddenness to
the thought with which Marcella had been occupied that, for an instant,
she could not believe that she had heard aright. Yet it was undoubtedly
Mr. Warricombe who presented himself. He came forward with a slightly
hesitating air, but Christian made haste to smooth the situation. With
the help of those commonplaces by which even intellectual people are at
times compelled to prove their familiarity with social usages,
conversation was set in movement.

Buckland could not be quite himself. The consciousness that he had
sought these people not at all for their own sake made him formal and
dry; his glances, his half-smile, indicated a doubt whether the Moxeys
belonged entirely to the sphere in which he was at home. Hence a rather
excessive politeness, such as the man who sets much store on breeding
exhibits to those who may at any moment, even in a fraction of a
syllable, prove themselves his inferiors. With men and women of the
unmistakably lower orders, Buckland could converse in a genial tone
that recommended him to their esteem; on the borderland of refinement,
his sympathies were repressed, and he held the distinctive part of his
mind in reserve.

Marcella desired to talk agreeably, but a weight lay upon her tongue;
she was struck with the resemblance in Warricombe's features to those
of his sister, and this held her in a troubled preoccupation,
occasionally evident when she made a reply, or tried to diversify the
talk by leading to a new topic. It was rather early in the afternoon,
and she had slight hope that any other caller would appear; a female
face would have been welcome to her, even that of foolish Mrs. Morton,
who might possibly look in before six o'clock. To her relief the door
did presently open, but the sharp, creaking footstep which followed was
no lady's; the servant announced Mr. Malkin.

Marcella's eyes gleamed strangely. Not with the light of friendly
welcome, though for that it could be mistaken. She rose quietly, and
stepped forward with a movement which again seemed to betoken eagerness
of greeting. In presenting the newcomer to Mr. Warricombe, she spoke
with an uncertain voice. Buckland was more than formal. The stranger's
aspect impressed him far from favourably, and he resented as an
impudence the hearty hand-grip to which he perforce submitted.

'I come to plead with you,' exclaimed Malkin, turning to Marcella, in
his abrupt, excited way. 'After accepting your invitation to dine, I
find that the thing is utterly and absolutely impossible. I had
entirely forgotten an engagement of the very gravest nature. I am
conscious of behaving in quite an unpardonable way.'

Marcella laughed down his excuses. She had suddenly become so mirthful
that Christian looked at her in surprise, imagining that she was unable
to restrain her sense of the ridiculous in Malkin's demeanour.

'I have hurried up from Wrotham,' pursued the apologist. 'Did I tell
you, Moxey, that I had taken rooms down there, to be able to spend a
day or two near my friends the Jacoxes occasionally? On the way here, I
looked in at Staple Inn, but Earwaker is away somewhere. What an odd
thing that people will go off without letting one know! It's such
common ill-luck of mine to find people gone away--I'm really astonished
to find you at home, Miss Moxey.'

Marcella looked at Warricombe and laughed.

'You must understand that subjectively,' she said, with nervous gaiety
which again excited her brother's surprise. 'Please don't be
discouraged by it from coming to see us again; I am very rarely out in
the afternoon.'

'But,' persisted Malkin, 'it's precisely my ill fortune to hit on those
rare moments when people _are_ out!--Now, I never meet acquaintances in
the streets of London; but, if I happen to be abroad, as likely as not
I encounter the last person I should expect to find. Why, you remember,
I rush over to America for scarcely a week's stay, and there I come
across a man who has disappeared astonishingly from the ken of all his
friends!'

Christian looked at Marcella. She was leaning forward, her lips
slightly parted, her eyes wide as if in gaze at something that
fascinated her. He saw that she spoke, but her voice was hardly to be
recognised.

'Are you quite sure of that instance, Mr. Malkin?'

'Yes, I feel quite sure, Miss Moxey. Undoubtedly it was Peak!'

Buckland Warricombe, who had been waiting for a chance of escape,
suddenly wore a look of interest. He rapidly surveyed the trio.
Christian, somewhat out of countenance, tried to answer Malkin in a
tone of light banter.

'It happens, my dear fellow, that Peak has not left England since we
lost sight of him.'

'What? He has been heard of? Where is he then?'

'Mr. Warricombe can assure you that he has been living for a year at
Exeter.'

Buckland, perceiving that he had at length come upon something
important to his purposes, smiled genially.

'Yes, I have had the pleasure of seeing Peak down in Devon from time to
time.'

'Then it was really an illusion!' cried Malkin. 'I was too hasty. Yet
that isn't a charge that can be often brought against me, I think. Does
Earwaker know of this?'

'He has lately heard,' replied Christian, who in vain sought for a
means of checking Malkin's loquacity. 'I thought he might have told
you.'

'Certainly not. The thing is quite new to me. And what is Peak doing
down there, pray? Why did he conceal himself?'

Christian gazed appealingly at his sister. She returned the look
steadily, but neither stirred nor spoke. It was Warricombe's voice that
next sounded:

'Peak's behaviour seems mysterious,' he began, with ironic gravity. 'I
don't pretend to understand him. What's your view of his character, Mr.
Malkin?'

'I know him very slightly indeed, Mr. Warricombe. But I have a high
opinion of his powers. I wonder he does so little. After that article
of his in _The Critical_'----

Malkin became aware of something like agonised entreaty on Christian's
countenance, but this had merely the effect of heightening his
curiosity.

'In _The Critical_?' said Warricombe, eagerly. 'I didn't know of that.
What was the subject?'

'To be sure, it was anonymous,' went on Malkin, without a suspicion of
the part he was playing before these three excited people. 'A paper
called "The New Sophistry", a tremendous bit of satire.'

Marcella's eyes closed as if a light had flashed before them; she drew
a short sigh, and at once seemed to become quite at ease, the smile
with which she regarded Warricombe expressing a calm interest.

'That article was Peak's?' Buckland asked, in a very quiet voice.

Christian at last found his opportunity.

'He never mentioned it to you? Perhaps he thought he had gone rather
too far in his Broad Churchism, and might be misunderstood.'

'Broad Churchism?' cried Malkin. 'Uncommonly broad, I must say!'

And he laughed heartily; Marcella seemed to join in his mirth.

'Then it would surprise you,' said Buckland, in the same quiet tone as
before, 'to hear that Peak is about to take Orders?'

'Orders?--For what?'

Christian laughed. The worst was over; after all, it came as a relief.

'Not for wines,' he replied. 'Mr. Warricombe means that Peak is going
to be ordained.'

Malkin's amazement rendered him speechless. He stared from one person
to another, his features strangely distorted.

'You can hardly believe it?' pressed Buckland.

The reply was anticipated by Christian saying:

'Remember, Malkin, that you had no opportunity of studying Peak. It's
not so easy to understand him.'

'But I don't see,' burst out the other, 'how I could possibly so
_mis_understand him! What has Earwaker to say?'

Buckland rose from his seat, advanced to Marcella, and offered his
hand. She said mechanically, 'Must you go?' but was incapable of
another word. Christian came to her relief, performed the needful
civilities, and accompanied his acquaintance to the foot of the stairs.
Buckland had become grave, stiff, monosyllabic; Christian made no
allusion to the scene thus suddenly interrupted, and they parted with a
formal air.

Malkin remained for another quarter of an hour, when the muteness of
his companions made it plain to him that he had better withdraw. He
went off with a sense of having been mystified, half resentful, and
vastly impatient to see Earwaker.



Part V



CHAPTER I


The cuckoo clock in Mrs. Roots's kitchen had just struck three. A wind
roared from the north-east, and light thickened beneath a sky which
made threat of snow. Peak was in a mood to enjoy the crackling fire; he
settled himself with a book in his easy-chair, and thought with
pleasure of two hours' reading, before the appearance of the homely
teapot.

Christmas was just over--one cause of the feeling of relief and
quietness which possessed him. No one had invited him for Christmas Eve
or the day that followed, and he did not regret it. The letter he had
received from Martin Warricombe was assurance enough that those he
desired to remember him still did so. He had thought of using this
season for his long postponed visit to Twybridge, but reluctance
prevailed. All popular holidays irritated and depressed him; he loathed
the spectacle of multitudes in Sunday garb. It was all over, and the
sense of that afforded him a brief content.

This book, which he had just brought from the circulating library, was
altogether to his taste. The author, Justin Walsh, he knew to be a
brother of Professor Walsh, long ago the object of his rebellious
admiration. Matter and treatment rejoiced him. No intellectual delight,
though he was capable of it in many forms, so stirred his spirit as
that afforded him by a vigorous modern writer joyously assailing the
old moralities. Justin Walsh was a modern of the moderns; at once man
of science and man of letters; defiant without a hint of popular
cynicism, scornful of English reticences yet never gross. '_Oui,
repondit Pococurante, il est beau d'ecrire ce qu 'on pense; c'est le
privilege de l'homme_.' This stood by way of motto on the title-page,
and Godwin felt his nerves thrill in sympathetic response.

What a fine fellow he must be to have for a friend! Now a man like this
surely had companionship enough and of the kind he wished? He wrote
like one who associates freely with the educated classes both at home
and abroad. Was he married? Where would _he_ seek his wife? The fitting
mate for him would doubtless be found among those women, cosmopolitan
and emancipated, whose acquaintance falls only to men in easy
circumstances and of good social standing, men who travel much, who are
at home in all the great centres of civilisation.

As Peak meditated, the volume fell upon his knee. Had it not lain in
his own power to win a reputation like that which Justin Walsh was
achieving? His paper in _The Critical Review_, itself a decided
success, might have been followed up by others of the same tenor.
Instead of mouldering in a dull cathedral town, he might now be living
and working in France or Germany. His money would have served one
purpose as well as the other, and two or three years of determined
effort----

Mrs. Roots showed her face at the door.

'A gentleman is asking for you, sir,--Mr. Chilvers.'

'Mr. Chilvers? Please ask him to come up.'

He threw his book on to the table, and stood in expectancy. Someone
ascended the stairs with rapid stride and creaking boots. The door was
flung open, and a cordial but affected voice burst forth in greeting.

'Ha, Mr. Peak! I hope you haven't altogether forgotten me? Delighted to
see you again!'

Godwin gave his hand, and felt it strongly pressed, whilst Chilvers
gazed into his face with a smiling wistfulness which could only be
answered with a grin of discomfort. The Rev. Bruno had grown very tall,
and seemed to be in perfect health; but the effeminacy of his brilliant
youth still declared itself in his attitudes, gestures, and attire. He
was dressed with marked avoidance of the professional pattern. A hat of
soft felt but not clerical, fashionable collar and tie, a sweeping
ulster, and beneath it a frock-coat, which was doubtless the pride of
some West End tailor. His patent-leather boots were dandiacally
diminutive; his glove fitted like that of a lady who lives but to be
_bien gantee_. The feathery hair, which at Whitelaw he was wont to pat
and smooth, still had its golden shimmer, and on his face no growth was
permitted.

'I had heard of your arrival here, of course,' said Peak, trying to
appear civil, though anything more than that was beyond his power.
'Will you sit down?'

'This is the "breathing time o' the day" with you, I hope? I don't
disturb your work?'

'I was only reading this book of Walsh's. Do you know it?'

But for some such relief of his feelings, Godwin could not have sat
still. There was a pleasure in uttering Walsh's name. Moreover, it
would serve as a test of Chilvers' disposition.

'Walsh?' He took up the volume. 'Ha! Justin Walsh. I know him. A
wonderful book! Admirable dialectic! Delicious style!'

'Not quite orthodox, I fancy,' replied Godwin, with a curling of the
lips.

'Orthodox? Oh, of course not, of course not! But a rich vein of
humanity. Don't you find that?--Pray allow me to throw off my overcoat.
Ha, thanks!--A rich vein of humanity. Walsh is by no means to be
confused with the nullifidians. A very broad-hearted, large-souled man;
at bottom the truest of Christians. Now and then he effervesces rather
too exuberantly. Yes, I admit it. In a review of his last book, which I
was privileged to write for one of our papers, I ventured to urge upon
him the necessity of _restraint_; it seems to me that in this new work
he exhibits more self-control, an approach to the serene fortitude
which I trust he may attain. A man of the broadest brotherliness. A
most valuable ally of renascent Christianity.'

Peak was hardly prepared for this strain. He knew that Chilvers prided
himself on 'breadth', but as yet he had enjoyed no intercourse with the
broadest school of Anglicans, and was uncertain as to the limits of
modern latitudinarianism. The discovery of such fantastic liberality in
a man whom he could not but dislike and contemn gave him no pleasure,
but at least it disposed him to amusement rather than antagonism.
Chilvers' pronunciation and phraseology were distinguished by such
original affectation that it was impossible not to find entertainment
in listening to him. Though his voice was naturally thin and piping, he
managed to speak in head notes which had a ring of robust utterance.
The sound of his words was intended to correspond with their virile
warmth of meaning. In the same way he had cultivated a habit of the
muscles which conveyed an impression that he was devoted to athletic
sports. His arms occasionally swung as if brandishing dumb-bells, his
chest now and then spread itself to the uttermost, and his head was
often thrown back in an attitude suggesting self-defence.

'So you are about to join us,' he exclaimed, with a look of touching
interest, much like that of a ladies' doctor speaking delicately of
favourable symptoms. Then, as if consciously returning to the virile
note, 'I think we shall understand each other. I am always eager to
study the opinions of those among us who have scientific minds. I hear
of you on all hands; already you have strongly impressed some of the
thinking people in Exeter.'

Peak crossed his legs and made no reply.

'There is distinct need of an infusion of the scientific spirit into
the work of the Church. The churchman hitherto has been, as a matter of
course, of the literary stamp; hence much of our trouble during the
last half-century. It behoves us to go in for science--physical,
economic--science of every kind. Only thus can we resist the morbific
influences which inevitably beset an Established Church in times such
as these. I say it boldly. Let us throw aside our Hebrew and our Greek,
our commentators ancient and modern! Let us have done with polemics and
with compromises! What we have to do is to construct a spiritual
edifice on the basis of scientific revelation. I use the word
revelation advisedly. The results of science are the divine message to
our age; to neglect them, to fear them, is to remain under the old law
whilst the new is demanding our adherence, to repeat the Jewish error
of bygone time. Less of St Paul, and more of Darwin! Less of Luther,
and more of Herbert Spencer!'

'Shall I have the pleasure of hearing this doctrine at St Margaret's?'
Peak inquired.

'In a form suitable to the intelligence of my parishioners, taken in
the mass. Were my hands perfectly free, I should begin by preaching a
series of sermons on _The Origin of species_. Sermons! An obnoxious
word! One ought never to use it. It signifies everything inept, inert.'

'Is it your serious belief, then, that the mass of parishioners here or
elsewhere--are ready for this form of spiritual instruction?'

'Most distinctly--given the true capacity in the teacher. Mark me; I
don't say that they are capable of receiving much absolute knowledge.
What I desire is that their minds shall be relieved from a state of
harassing conflict--put at the right point of view. They are not to
think that Jesus of Nazareth teaches faith and conduct incompatible
with the doctrines of Evolutionism. They are not to spend their lives
in kicking against the pricks, and regard as meritorious the punctures
which result to them. The establishment in their minds of a few
cardinal facts--that is the first step. Then let the interpretation
follow--the solace, the encouragement, the hope for eternity!'

'You imagine,' said Godwin, with a calm air, 'that the mind of the
average church-goer is seriously disturbed on questions of faith?'

'How can you ignore it, my dear Peak?--Permit me this familiarity; we
are old fellow-collegians.--The average churchgoer is the average
citizen of our English commonwealth,--a man necessarily aware of the
great Radical movement, and all that it involves. Forgive me. There has
been far too much blinking of actualities by zealous Christians whose
faith is rooted in knowledge. We gain nothing by it; we lose immensely.
Let us recognise that our churches are filled with sceptics,
endeavouring to believe in spite of themselves.'

'Your experience is much larger than mine,' remarked the listener,
submissively.

'Indeed I have widely studied the subject.'

Chilvers smiled with ineffable self-content, his head twisted like that
of a sagacious parrot.

'Granting your average citizen,' said the other, 'what about the
average citizeness? The female church-goers are not insignificant in
number.'

'Ha! There we reach the core of the matter! Woman! woman! Precisely
_there_ is the most hopeful outlook. I trust you are strong for female
emancipation?'

'Oh, perfectly sound on that question!'

'To be sure! Then it must be obvious to you that women are destined to
play the leading part in our Christian renascence, precisely as they
did in the original spreading of the faith. What else is the meaning of
the vast activity in female education? Let them be taught, and
forthwith they will rally to our Broad Church. A man may be content to
remain a nullifidian; women cannot rest at that stage. They demand the
spiritual significance of everything.--I grieve to tell you, Peak, that
for three years I have been a widower. My wife died with shocking
suddenness, leaving me her two little children. Ah, but leaving me also
the memory of a singularly pure and noble being. I may say, with all
humility, that I have studied the female mind in its noblest modern
type. I _know_ what can be expected of woman, in our day and in the
future.'

'Mrs. Chilvers was in full sympathy with your views?'

'Three years ago I had not yet reached my present standpoint. In
several directions I was still narrow. But her prime characteristic was
the tendency to spiritual growth. She would have accompanied me step by
step. In very many respects I must regard myself as a man favoured by
fortune,--I know it, and I trust I am grateful for it,--but that loss,
my dear Peak, counterbalances much happiness. In moments of repose,
when I look back on work joyously achieved, I often murmur to myself,
with a sudden sigh, _Excepto quod non simul esses, caetera Iaetus_!'

He pronounced his Latin in the new-old way, with Continental vowels.
The effect of this on an Englishman's lips is always more or less
pedantic, and in his case it was intolerable.

'And when,' he exclaimed, dismissing the melancholy thought, 'do you
present yourself for ordination?'

It was his habit to pay slight attention to the words of anyone but
himself, and Peak's careless answer merely led him to talk on wide
subjects with renewal of energy. One might have suspected that he had
made a list of uncommon words wherewith to adorn his discourse, for
certain of these frequently recurred. 'Nullifidian', 'morbific',
'renascent', were among his favourites. Once or twice he spoke of
'psychogenesis', with an emphatic enunciation which seemed to invite
respectful wonder. In using Latin words which have become fixed in the
English language, he generally corrected the common errors of quantity:
'_minnus_ the spiritual fervour', 'acting as his _loccum tennens_'.
When he referred to Christian teachers with whom he was acquainted,
they were seldom or never members of the Church of England. Methodists,
Romanists, Presbyterians appeared to stand high in his favour, and Peak
readily discerned that this was a way of displaying 'large-souled
tolerance'. It was his foible to quote foreign languages, especially
passages which came from heretical authors. Thus, he began to talk of
Feuerbach for the sole purpose of delivering a German sentence.

'He has been of infinite value to me--quite infinite value. You
remember his definition of God? It is constantly in my mind. "_Gott ist
eine Trane der Liebe, in tiefster Verborgenheit vergossen uber das
menschliche Elend_." Profoundly touching! I know nothing to approach
it.'

Suddenly he inquired:

'Do you see much of the Exeter clergy?'

'I know only the Vicar of St. Ethelreda's, Mr. Lilywhite.'

'Ha! Admirable fellow! Large-minded, broad of sympathies. Has
distinctly the scientific turn of thought.'

Peak smiled, knowing the truth. But he had hit upon a way of meeting
the Rev. Bruno which promised greatly to diminish the suffering
inherent in the situation. He would use the large-souled man
deliberately for his mirth. Chilvers's self-absorption lent itself to
persiflage, and by indulging in that mood Godwin tasted some
compensation for the part he had to play.

'And I believe you know the Warricombes very well?' pursued Chilvers.

'Yes.'

'Ha! I hope to see much of them. They are people after my own heart.
Long ago I had a slight acquaintance with them. I hear we shan't see
them till the summer.'

'I believe not.'

'Mr. Warricombe is a great geologist, I think?--Probably he frequents
public worship as a mere tribute to social opinion?'

He asked the question in the airiest possible way, as if it mattered
nothing to him what the reply might be.

'Mr. Warricombe is a man of sincere piety,' Godwin answered, with grave
countenance.

'That by no means necessitates church-going, my dear Peak,' rejoined
the other, waving his hand.

'You think not? I am still only a student, you must remember. My mind
is in suspense on not a few points.'

'Of course! Of course! Pray let me give you the results of my own
thought on this subject.'

He proceeded to do so, at some length. When he had rounded his last
period, he unexpectedly started up, swung on his toes, spread his
chest, drew a deep breath, and with the sweetest of smiles announced
that he must postpone the delight of further conversation.

'You must come and dine with me as soon as my house is in reasonable
order. As yet, everything is _sens dessus-dessous_. Delightful old
city, Exeter! Charming! Charming!'

And on the moment he was gone.

What were this man's real opinions? He had brains and literature; his
pose before the world was not that of an ignorant charlatan. Vanity, no
doubt, was his prime motive, but did it operate to make a cleric of a
secret materialist, or to incite a display of excessive liberalism in
one whose convictions were orthodox? Godwin could not answer to his
satisfaction, but he preferred the latter surmise.

One thing, however, became clear to him. All his conscientious scruples
about entering the Church were superfluous. Chilvers would have smiled
pityingly at anyone who disputed his right to live by the
Establishment, and to stand up as an authorised preacher of the
national faith. And beyond a doubt he regulated his degree of 'breadth'
by standards familiar to him in professional intercourse. To him it
seemed all-sufficient to preach a gospel of moral progress, of
intellectual growth, of universal fraternity. If this were the tendency
of Anglicanism, then almost any man who desired to live a cleanly life,
and to see others do the same, might without hesitation become a
clergyman. The old formulae of subscription were so symbolised, so
volatilised, that they could not stand in the way of anyone but a
combative nihilist. Peak was conscious of positive ideals by no means
inconsistent with Christian teaching, and in his official capacity
these alone would direct him.

He spent his evening pleasantly, often laughing as he recalled a phrase
or gesture of the Rev. Bruno's.

In the night fell a sprinkling of snow, and when the sun rose it
gleamed from a sky of pale, frosty blue. At ten o'clock Godwin set out
for his usual walk, choosing the direction of the Old Tiverton Road. It
was a fortnight since he had passed the Warricombes' house. At present
he was disposed to indulge the thoughts which a sight of it would make
active.

He had begun the ascent of the hill when the sound of an approaching
vehicle caused him to raise his eyes--they were generally fixed on the
ground when he walked alone. It was only a hired fly. But, as it passed
him, he recognised the face he had least expected to see,--Sidwell
Warricombe sat in the carriage, and unaccompanied. She noticed
him--smiled--and bent forward. He clutched at his hat, but it happened
that the driver had turned to look at him, and, instead of the salute
he had intended, his hand waved to the man to stop. The gesture was
scarcely voluntary; when he saw the carriage pull up, his heart sank;
he felt guilty of monstrous impudence. But Sidwell's face appeared at
the window, and its expression was anything but resentful; she offered
her hand, too. Without preface of formal phrase he exclaimed:

'How delightful to see you so unexpectedly! Are you all here?'

'Only mother and I. We have come for a day or two.'

'Will you allow me to call? If only for a few minutes'----

'We shall be at home this afternoon.'

'Thank you! Don't you enjoy the sunshine after London?'

'Indeed I do!'

He stepped back and signed to the driver. Sidwell bent her head and was
out of sight.

But the carriage was visible for some distance, and even when he could
no longer see it he heard the horse's hoofs on the hard road. Long
after the last sound had died away his heart continued to beat
painfully, and he breathed as if recovering from a hard run.

How beautiful were these lanes and hills, even in mid-winter! Once more
he sang aloud in his joyous solitude. The hope he had nourished was not
unreasonable; his boldness justified itself. Yes, he was one of the men
who succeed, and the life before him would be richer for all the
mistakes and miseries through which he had passed. Thirty, forty,
fifty--why, twenty years hence he would be in the prime of manhood,
with perhaps yet another twenty years of mental and bodily vigour. One
of the men who succeed!



CHAPTER II


On the morning after her journey down from London, Mrs. Warricombe
awoke with the conviction that she had caught a cold. Her health was in
general excellent, and she had no disposition to nurse imaginary
ailments, but when some slight disorder broke the routine of her life
she made the most of it, enjoying--much as children do--the importance
with which for the time it invested her. At such seasons she was wont
to regard herself with a mildly despondent compassion, to feel that her
family and her friends held her of slight account; she spoke in a tone
of conscious resignation, often with a forgiving smile. When the girls
redoubled their attentions, and soothed her with gentle words, she
would close her eyes and sigh, seeming to remind them that they would
know her value when she was no more.

'You are hoarse, mother,' Sidwell said to her, when they met at
breakfast.

'Am I, dear? You know I felt rather afraid of the journey. I hope I
shan't be laid up.'

Sidwell advised her not to leave the house to-day. Having seen the
invalid comfortably established in an upper room, she went into the
city on business which could not be delayed. On her way occurred the
meeting with Peak, but of this, on her return, she made no mention.
Mother and daughter had luncheon upstairs, and Sidwell was full of
affectionate solicitude.

'This afternoon you had better lie down for an hour or two,' she said.

'Do you think so? Just drop a line to father, and warn him that we may
kept here for some time.'

'Shall I send for Dr Endacott?'

'Just as you like, dear.'

But Mrs. Warricombe had eaten such an excellent lunch, that Sidwell
could not feel uneasy.

'We'll see how you are this evening. At all events, it will be safer
for you not to go downstairs. If you lie quiet for an hour or two, I
can look for those pamphlets that father wants.'

'Just as you like, dear.'

By three o'clock the invalid was calmly slumbering. Having entered the
bedroom on tiptoe and heard regular breathing, Sidwell went down and
for a few minutes lingered about the hall. A servant came to her for
instructions on some domestic matter; when this was dismissed she
mentioned that, if anyone called, she would be found in the library.

The pamphlets of which her father had spoken were soon discovered. She
laid them aside, and seated herself by the fire, but without leaning
back. At any sound within or outside the house she moved her head to
listen. Her look was anxious, but the gleam of her eyes expressed
pleasurable agitation.

At half-past three she went into the drawing-room, where all the
furniture was draped, and the floor bare. Standing where she could look
from a distance through one of the windows, at which the blind had been
raised, she waited for a quarter of an hour. Then the chill atmosphere
drove her back to the fireside. In the study, evidences of temporary
desertion were less oppressive, but the windows looked only upon a
sequestered part of the garden. Sidwell desired to watch the approach
from the high-road, and in a few minutes she was again in the
drawing-room. But scarcely had she closed the door behind her when a
ringing of the visitors' bell sounded with unfamiliar distinctness. She
started, hastened from the room, fled into the library, and had time to
seat herself before she heard the footsteps of a servant moving in
answer to the summons.

The door opened, and Peak was announced.

Sidwell had never known what it was to be thus overcome with emotion.
Shame at her inability to command the calm features with which she
would naturally receive a caller flushed her cheeks and neck; she
stepped forward with downcast eyes, and only in offering her hand could
at length look at him who stood before her. She saw at once that Peak
was unlike himself; he too had unusual warmth in his countenance, and
his eyes seemed strangely large, luminous. On his forehead were drops
of moisture.

This sight restored her self-control, or such measure of it as
permitted her to speak in the conventional way.

'I am sorry that mother can't leave her room. She had a slight cold
this morning, but I didn't think it would give her any trouble.'

Peak was delighted, and betrayed the feeling even whilst he constrained
his face into a look of exaggerated anxiety.

'It won't be anything serious, I hope? The railway journey, I'm afraid.'

'Yes, the journey. She has a slight hoarseness, but I think we shall
prevent it from'----

Their eyes kept meeting, and with more steadfastness. They were
conscious of mutual scrutiny, and, on both sides, of changes since they
last met. When two people have devoted intense study to each other's
features, a three months' absence not only revives the old impressions
but subjects them to sudden modification which engrosses thought and
feeling. Sidwell continued to utter commonplaces, simply as a means of
disguising the thoughts that occupied her; she was saying to herself
that Peak's face had a purer outline than she had believed, and that
his eyes had gained in expressiveness. In the same way Godwin said and
replied he knew not what, just to give himself time to observe and
enjoy the something new--the increased animation or subtler facial
movements--which struck him as often as he looked at his companion.
Each wondered what the other had been doing, whether the time had
seemed long or short.

'I hope you have kept well?' Sidwell asked.

Godwin hastened to respond with civil inquiries.

'I was very glad to hear from Mr. Warricombe a few days ago, he
continued. Sidwell was not aware that her father had written, but her
pleased smile seemed to signify the contrary.

'She looks younger,' Peak said in his mind. 'Perhaps that London dress
and the new way of arranging her hair have something to do with it. But
no, she looks younger in herself. She must have been enjoying the
pleasures of town.'

'You have been constantly occupied, no doubt,' he added aloud, feeling
at the same time that this was a clumsy expression of what he meant.
Though he had unbuttoned his overcoat, and seated himself as easily as
he could, the absurd tall hat which he held embarrassed him; to deposit
it on the floor demanded an effort of which he was yet incapable.

'I have seen many things and heard much talk,' Sidwell was replying, in
a gay tone. It irritated him; he would have preferred her to speak with
more of the old pensiveness. Yet perhaps she was glad simply because
she found herself again talking with him?

'And you?' she went on. 'It has not been all work, I hope?'

'Oh no! I have had many pleasant intervals.'

This was in imitation of her vivacity. He felt the words and the manner
to be ridiculous, but could not restrain himself. Every moment
increased his uneasiness; the hat weighed in his hands like a lump of
lead, and he was convinced that he had never looked so clownish. Did
her smile signify criticism of his attitude?

With a decision which came he knew not how, he let his hat drop to the
floor and pushed it aside. There, that was better; he felt less of a
bumpkin.

Sidwell glanced at the glossy grotesque, but instantly averted her
eyes, and asked rather more gravely:

'Have you been in Exeter all the time?'

'Yes.'

'But you didn't spend your Christmas alone, I hope?'

'Oh, I had my books.'

Was there not a touch of natural pathos in this? He hoped so; then
mocked at himself for calculating such effects.

'I think you don't care much for ordinary social pleasures, Mr Peak?'

He smiled bitterly.

'I have never known much of them,--and you remember that I look forward
to a life in which they will have little part. Such a life,' he
continued, after a pause, 'seems to you unendurably dull? I noticed
that, when I spoke of it before.'

'You misunderstood me.' She said it so undecidedly that he gazed at her
with puzzled look. Her eyes fell.

'But you like society?'

'If you use the word in its narrowest meaning,' she answered, 'then I
not only dislike society, but despise it.'

She had raised her eyebrows, and was looking coldly at him. Did she
mean to rebuke him for the tone he had adopted? Indeed, he seemed to
himself presumptuous. But if they were still on terms such as these,
was it not better to know it, even at the cost of humiliation? One
moment he believed that he could read Sidwell's thoughts, and that they
were wholly favourable to him; at another he felt absolutely ignorant
of all that was passing in her, and disposed to interpret her face as
that of a conventional woman who had never regarded him as on her own
social plane. These uncertainties, these frequent reversions to a state
of mind which at other times he seemed to have long outgrown, were a
singular feature of his relations with Sidwell. Could such experiences
consist with genuine love? Never had he felt more willing to answer the
question with a negative. He felt that he was come here to act a part,
and that the end of the interview, be it what it might, would only
affect him superficially.

'No,' he replied, with deliberation; 'I never supposed that you had any
interest in the most foolish class of wealthy people. I meant that you
recognise your place in a certain social rank, and regard intercourse
with your equals as an essential of happiness.'

'If I understood why you ask'--she began abruptly, but ceased as she
met his glance. Again he thought she was asserting a distant dignity.

'The question arose naturally out of a train of thought which always
occupies me when I talk with you. I myself belong to no class whatever,
and I can't help wondering how--if the subject ever occurred to
you--you would place me.'

He saw his way now, and, having said thus much, could talk on
defiantly. This hour must decide his fortune with Sidwell, yet his
tongue utterly refused any of the modes of speech which the situation
would have suggested to an ordinary mind. He could not 'make love'.
Instead of humility, he was prompted to display a rough arrogance;
instead of tender phrases, he uttered what sounded like deliberate
rudeness. His voice was less gently tuned than Sidwell had been wont to
hear it. It all meant that he despaired of wooing successfully, and
more than half wished to force some word from Sidwell which would spare
him the necessity of a plain avowal.

But before he had finished speaking, her face changed. A light of
sudden understanding shone in her eyes; her lips softened to a smile of
exquisite gentleness.

'The subject never _did_ occur to me,' she answered. 'How should it? A
friend is a friend.'

It was not strictly true, but in the strength of her emotion she could
forget all that contradicted it.

'A friend--yes.'

Godwin began with the same note of bluntness. But of a sudden he felt
the influence of Sidwell's smile. His voice sank into a murmur, his
heart leapt, a thrill went through his veins.

'I wish to be something more than a friend.'

He felt that it was bald, inadequate. Yet the words had come of their
own accord, on an impulse of unimpaired sincerity. Sidwell's head was
bent.

'That is why I can't take simple things for granted,' he continued, his
gaze fixed upon her. 'If I thought of nothing but friendship, it would
seem rational enough that you should accept me for what I am--a man of
education, talking your own language. Because I have dared to hope
something more, I suffer from the thought that I was not born into your
world, and that you must be always remembering this difference.'

'Do you think me so far behind the age?' asked Sidwell, trying to laugh.

'Classes are getting mixed, confused. Yes, but we are so conscious of
the process that we talk of class distinctions more than of anything
else,--talk and think of them incessantly. You have never heard me make
a profession of Radicalism; _I_ am decidedly behind the age. Be what I
may--and I have spiritual pride more than enough--the fact that I have
relatives in the lower, even the lowest, social class must necessarily
affect the whole course of my life. A certain kind of man declares
himself proud of such an origin--and most often lies. Or one may be
driven by it into rebellion against social privilege. To me, my origin
is simply a grave misfortune, to be accepted and, if possible,
overcome. Does that sound mean-spirited? I can't help it; I want you to
know me.'

'I believe I know you very well,' Sidwell replied.

The consciousness that she was deceived checked the words which were
rising to his lips. Again he saw himself in a pitiful light, and this
self-contempt reflected upon Sidwell. He could not doubt that she was
yielding to him; her attitude and her voice declared it; but what was
the value of love won by imposture? Why had she not intelligence enough
to see through his hypocrisy, which at times was so thin a veil? How
defective must her sympathy be!

'Yet you have seen very little of me,' he said, smiling.

There was a short silence; then he exclaimed in a voice of emotion:

'How I wish we had known each other ever since that day when your
brother brought me to your house near Kingsmill! If we had met and
talked through all those years! But that was impossible for the very
reason which makes me inarticulate now that I wish to say so much. When
you first saw me I was a gawky schoolboy, learning to use my brains,
and knowing already that life had nothing to offer me but a false
position. Whether I remained with my kith and kin, or turned my back
upon them in the hope of finding my equals, I was condemned to a life
of miserable incompleteness. I was born in exile. It took a long time
before I had taught myself how to move and speak like one of the class
to which I belonged by right of intellect. I was living alone in
London, in mean lodging-houses. But the day came when I felt more
confidence in myself. I had saved money, and foresaw that in a year or
two I should be able to carry out a plan, make one serious attempt to
win a position among educated people.'

He stopped. Had he intended a full confession, it was thus he might
have begun it. Sidwell was regarding him, but with a gentle look,
utterly unsuspecting. She was unable to realise his character and his
temptations.

'And have you not succeeded?' she asked, in a low voice.

'Have I? Let me put it to the test. I will set aside every thought of
presumption; forget that I am a penniless student looking forward to a
country curacy; and say what I wished to when we had our last
conversation. Never mind how it sounds. I have dared to hope that some
day I shall ask you to be my wife, and that you won't refuse.'

The word 'wife' reverberated on his ears. A whirl of emotion broke the
defiant calm he had supported for the last few minutes. The silence
seemed to be endless; when he looked at Sidwell, her head was bent, the
eyes concealed by their drooping lids. Her expression was very grave.

'Such a piece of recklessness,' he said at length, 'deserves no answer.'

Sidwell raised her eyes and spoke gently, with voice a little shaken.

'Why should you call it recklessness? I have never thought of the
things that seem to trouble you so much. You were a friend of ours.
Wasn't that enough?'

It seemed to him an evasive reply. Doubtless it was much that she
showed neither annoyance nor prudish reserve. He had won the right of
addressing her on equal terms, but she was not inclined to anticipate
that future day to which he pointed.

'You have never thought of such things, because you have never thought
of me as I of you. Every day of your absence in London has caused me
torments which were due most often to the difference between your
social position and mine. You have been among people of leisure and
refinement and culture. Each evening you have talked with men whom it
cost no effort to make themselves liked and respected. I think of that
with bitterness.'

'But why? I have made many acquaintances; have met very interesting
people. I am glad of it; it enables me to understand you better than I
could before.'

'You are glad on that account?'

'Yes; indeed I am.'

'Dare I think you mean more than a civil phrase?'

'I mean quite simply all that my words imply. I have thought of you,
though certainly without bitterness. No one's conversation in London
interested me so much as yours.'

Soothed with an exquisite joy, Godwin felt his eyes moisten. For a
moment he was reconciled to all the world, and forgot the hostilities
of a lifetime.

'And will it still be so, now, when you go back?' he asked, in a soft
tone.

'I am sure it will.'

'Then it will be strange if I ever feel bitterly again.'

Sidwell smiled.

'You could have said nothing that could please me more. Why should your
life be troubled by these dark moods? I could understand it if you were
still struggling with--with doubts, with all manner of uncertainties
about your course'----

She hesitated, watching his face.

'You think I have chosen well?' said Godwin, meeting her look.

Sidwell's eyes were at once averted.

'I hope,' she said, 'we may talk of that again very soon. You have told
me much of yourself, but I have said little or nothing of my
own--difficulties. It won't be long before we come back from London,
and then'----

Once more their eyes met steadily.

'You think,' Godwin asked, 'that I am right in aiming at a life of
retirement?'

'It is one of my doubts. Your influence would be useful anywhere; but
most useful, surely, among people of active mind.'

'Perhaps I shan't be able to choose. Remember that I am seeking for a
livelihood as well as for a sphere of usefulness.'

His eyes fell as he spoke. Hitherto he had had no means of learning
whether Sidwell would bring her husband a dowry substantial enough to
be considered. Though he could not feel that she had betrothed herself
to him, their talk was so nearly that of avowed lovers that perchance
she would disclose whatever might help to put his mind at rest. The
thought revived his painful self-consciousness; it was that of a
schemer, yet would not the curse of poverty have suggested it to any
man?

'Perhaps you won't be able to choose--at first,' Sidwell assented,
thereby seeming to answer his unspoken question. 'But I am sure my
father will use whatever influence he has.'

Had he been seated near enough, he would have been tempted to the
boldness of taking her hand. What more encouragement did he await? But
the distance between them was enough to check his embarrassed impulses.
He could not even call her 'Sidwell'; it would have been easier a few
minutes ago, before she had begun to speak with such calm friendliness.
Now, in spite of everything, he felt that to dare such a familiarity
must needs call upon him the reproof of astonished eyes.

'You return to-morrow?' he asked, suddenly.

'I think so. You have promised me to be cheerful until we are home
again.'

'A promise to be cheerful wouldn't mean much. But it _does_ mean much
that I can think of what you have said to-day.'

Sidwell did not speak, and her silence seemed to compel him to rise. It
was strange how remote he still felt from her pure, grave face, and the
flowing outlines of her figure. Why could he not say to her, 'I love
you; give me your hands; give me your lips'? Such words seemed
impossible. Yet passion thrilled in him as he watched the grace of her
movements, the light and shadow upon her features. She had risen and
come a step or two forward.

'I think you look taller--in that dress.'

The words rather escaped him than were spoken. His need was to talk of
common things, of trifles, that so he might come to feel humanly.

Sidwell smiled with unmistakable pleasure.

'Do I? Do you like the dress?'

'Yes. It becomes you.'

'Are you critical in such things?'

'Not with understanding. But I should like to see you every day in a
new and beautiful dress.'

'Oh, I couldn't afford it!' was the laughing reply.

He offered his hand; the touch of her warm, soft fingers fired his
blood.

'Sidwell!'

It was spoken at last, involuntarily, and he stood with his eyes on
hers, her hand crushed in his.

'Some day!' she whispered.

If their lips met, the contact was so slight as to seem accidental; it
was the mere timorous promise of a future kiss. And both were glad of
the something that had imposed restraint.

When Sidwell went up to her mother's sitting-room, a servant had just
brought tea.

'I hear that Mr. Peak has been,' said Mrs. Warricombe, who looked puffy
and uncomfortable after her sleep. 'Emma was going to take tea to the
study, but I thought it unnecessary. How could he know that we were
here?'

'I met him this morning on my way into the town.'

'Surely it was rather inconsiderate of him to call.'

'He asked if he might.'

Mrs. Warricombe turned her head and examined Sidwell.

'Oh! And did he stay long?'

'Not very long,' replied Sidwell, who was in quiet good-humour.

'I think it would have been better if you had told him by the servant
that I was not well enough to see callers. You didn't mention that he
might be coming.'

Mrs. Warricombe's mind worked slowly at all times, and at present she
was suffering from a cold.

'Why didn't you speak of it, Sidwell?'

'Really--I forgot,' replied the daughter, lightly.

'And what had he to say?'

'Nothing new, mother. Is your head better, dear?'

There was no answer. Mrs. Warricombe had conceived a vague suspicion
which was so alarming that she would not press inquiries alluding to
it. The encouragement given by her husband to Godwin Peak in the
latter's social progress had always annoyed her, though she could not
frame solid objections. To be sure, to say of a man that he is about to
be ordained meets every possible question that society can put; but
Mrs. Warricombe's uneasiness was in part due to personal dislike.
Oftener than not, she still thought of Peak as he appeared some eleven
years ago--an evident plebeian, without manners, without a redeeming
grace. She knew the story of his relative who had opened a shop in
Kingsmill; thinking of that now, she shuddered.

Sidwell began to talk of indifferent matters, and Peak was not again
mentioned.

Her throat being still troublesome, Mrs. Warricombe retired very soon
after dinner. About nine o'clock Sidwell went to the library, and sat
down at her father's writing-table, purposing a letter to Sylvia. She
penned a line or two, but soon lapsed into reverie, her head on her
hands. Of a sudden the door was thrown open, and there stood Buckland,
fresh from travel.

'What has brought you?' exclaimed his sister, starting up anxiously,
for something in the young man's look seemed ominous.

'Oh, nothing to trouble about. I had to come down--on business. Mother
gone to bed?'

Sidwell explained.

'All right; doesn't matter. I suppose I can sleep here? Let them get me
a mouthful of something; cold meat, anything will do.'

His needs were quickly supplied, and before long he was smoking by the
library fire.

'I was writing to Sylvia,' said his sister, glancing at her fragmentary
letter.

'Oh!'

'You know she is at Salisbury?'

'Salisbury? No, I didn't.'

His carelessness proved to Sidwell that she was wrong in conjecturing
that his journey had something to do with Miss Moorhouse. Buckland was
in no mood for conversation; he smoked for a quarter of an hour whilst
Sidwell resumed her writing.

'Of course you haven't seen Peak?' fell from him at length.

His sister looked at him before replying.

'Yes. He called this afternoon.'

'But who told him you were here?'

His brows were knitted, and he spoke very abruptly. Sidwell gave the
same explanation as to her mother, and had further to reply that she
alone received the caller.

'I see,' was Buckland's comment.

Its tone troubled Sidwell.

'Has your coming anything to do with Mr. Peak?'

'Yes, it has. I want to see him the first thing to-morrow.

'Can you tell me what about?'

He searched her face, frowning.

'Not now. I'll tell you in the morning.'

Sidwell saw herself doomed to a night of suspense. She could not
confess how nearly the mystery concerned her. Had Buckland made some
discovery that irritated him against Peak? She knew he was disposed to
catch at anything that seemed to tell against Godwin's claims to
respectful treatment, and it surely must be a grave affair to hurry him
on so long a journey. Though she could imagine no ground of fear, the
situation was seriously disturbing.

She tried to go on with her letter, but failed. As Buckland smoked in
silence, she at length rose and said she would go upstairs.

'All right! Shall see you at breakfast. Good-night!'

At nine next morning Mrs. Warricombe sent a message to Buckland that
she wished to see him in her bedroom. He entered hurriedly.

'Cold better, mother? I have only just time to drink a cup of coffee. I
want to catch Peak before he can have left home.'

'Mr. Peak? Why? I was going to speak about him.'

'What were you going to say?' Buckland asked, anxiously.

His mother began in a roundabout way which threatened long detention.
In a minute or two Buckland had gathered enough to interrupt her with
the direct inquiry:

'You don't mean that there's anything between him and Sidwell?'

'I do hope not; but I can't imagine why she should--really, almost make
a private appointment. I am very uneasy, Buckland. I have hardly slept.
Sidwell is rather--you know'----

'The deuce! I can't stop now. Wait an hour or two, and I shall have
seen the fellow. You needn't alarm yourself. He will probably have
disappeared in a few days.'

'What do you mean?' Mrs. Warricombe asked, with nervous eagerness.

'I'll explain afterwards.'

He hurried away. Sidwell was at the breakfast-table. Her eyes seemed to
declare that she had not slept well. With an insignificant word or two,
the young man swallowed his cup of coffee, and had soon left the house.



CHAPTER III


The wrath which illumined Buckland's countenance as he strode rapidly
towards Longbrook Street was not unmingled with joy. In the deep pocket
of his ulster lay something heavy which kept striking against his leg,
and every such contact spurred him with a sense of satisfaction. All
his suspicions were abundantly justified. Not only would his father and
Sidwell be obliged to confess that his insight had been profounder than
theirs, but he had the pleasure of standing justified before his own
conscience. The philosophy by which he lived was strikingly illustrated
and confirmed.

He sniffed the morning air, enjoyed the firmness of the frozen ground,
on which his boots made a pleasant thud. To be sure, the interview
before him would have its disagreeableness, but Buckland was not one of
those over-civilised men who shrink from every scene of painful
explanation. The detection of a harmful lie was decidedly congenial to
him--especially when he and his had been made its victims. He was now
at liberty to indulge that antipathetic feeling towards Godwin Peak
which sundry considerations had hitherto urged him to repress. Whatever
might have passed between Peak and Sidwell, he could not doubt that his
sister's peace was gravely endangered; the adventurer (with however
much or little sincerity) had been making subtle love to her. Such a
thought was intolerable. Buckland's class-prejudice asserted itself
with brutal vigour now that it had moral indignation for an ally.

He had never been at Peak's lodgings, but the address was long since
noted. Something of disdain came into his eyes as he approached the row
of insignificant houses. Having pulled the bell, he stood at his full
height, looking severely at the number painted on the door.

Mrs. Roots opened to him, and said that her lodger was at home. He gave
his name, and after waiting for a moment was led to the upper floor.
Godwin, who had breakfasted later than usual, still sat by the table.
On Warricombe's entrance, he pushed back his chair and rose, but with
deliberate movement, scarcely smiling. That Buckland made no offer of a
friendly hand did not surprise him. The name of his visitor had alarmed
him with a sudden presentiment. Hardening his features, he stood in
expectancy.

'I want to have a talk with you,' Buckland began. 'You are at leisure,
I hope?'

'Pray sit down.'

Godwin pointed to a chair near the fire, but Warricombe, having thrown
his hat on to a side table, seated himself by one of the windows. His
motions proved that he found it difficult to support a semblance of
courtesy.

'I have come down from London on purpose to see you. Unless I am
strangely misinformed you have been guilty of conduct which I shouldn't
like to call by its proper name.'

Remembering that he was in a little house, with thin partitions, he
kept his voice low, but the effort this cost him was obvious. He looked
straight at Peak, who did not return the gaze.

'Indeed?' said Godwin, coldly. 'What is my crime?'

'I am told that you have won the confidence of my relatives by what
looks like a scheme of gross dishonesty.'

'Indeed? Who has told you so?'

'No one in so many words. But I happened to come across certain
acquaintances of yours in London--people who know you very well indeed;
and I find that they regard your position here as altogether
incredible. You will remember I had much the same feeling myself. In
support of their view it was mentioned to me that you had published an
article in _The Critical_--the date less than a year ago, observe. The
article was anonymous, but I remember it very well. I have re-read it,
and I want you to tell me how the views it expresses can be reconciled
with those you have maintained in conversation with my father.'

He drew from his pocket the incriminating periodical, turned it back at
the article headed 'The New Sophistry', and held it out for inspection.

'Perhaps you would like to refresh your memory.'

'Needless, thank you,' returned Godwin, with a smile--in which the
vanity of an author had its part.

Had Marcella betrayed him? He had supposed she knew nothing of this
article, but Earwaker had perhaps spoken of it to Moxey before
receiving the injunction of secrecy. On the other hand, it might be
Earwaker himself from whom Warricombe had derived his information. Not
impossible for the men to meet, and Earwaker's indignation might have
led him to disregard a friend's confidence.

The details mattered little. He was face to face with the most serious
danger that could befall him, and already he had strung himself to
encounter it. Yet even in the same moment he asked, 'Is it worth while?'

'Did you write this?' Buckland inquired.

'Yes, I wrote it.'

'Then I wait for your explanation.'

'You mustn't expect me to enter upon an elaborate defence,' Godwin
replied, taking his pipe from the mantelpiece and beginning to fill it.
'A man charged with rascality can hardly help getting excited--and that
excitement, to one in your mood, seems evidence against him. Please to
bear in mind that I have never declared myself an orthodox theologian.
Mr. Warricombe is well acquainted with my views; to you I have never
explained them.'

'You mean to say that my father knew of this article?'

'No. I have not spoken of it.'

'And why not?'

'Because, for one thing, I shouldn't write in that way now; and, for
another, the essay seems to imply more than I meant when I did write
it.'

'"Seems to imply"----? I understand. You wish to represent that this
attack on M'Naughten involves no attack on Christianity?'

'Not on Christianity as I understand it.'

Buckland's face expressed profound disgust, but he controlled his
speech.

'Well, I foresaw this. You attacked a new sophistry, but there is a
newer sophistry still, and uncommonly difficult it is to deal with. Mr.
Peak, I have a plain word to say to you. More than a year ago you asked
me for my goodwill, to aid you in getting a social position. Say what
you like, I see now that you dealt with me dishonestly. I can no longer
be your friend in any sense, and I shall do my best to have you
excluded from my parents' house. My father will re-read this essay--I
have marked the significant passages throughout--and will form his own
judgment; I know what it will be.'

'You are within your rights.'

'Undoubtedly,' replied Buckland, with polished insolence, as he rose
from his seat. 'I can't forbid you to go to the house again, but--I
hope we mayn't meet there. It would be very unpleasant.'

Godwin was still pressing down the tobacco in the bowl of his pipe. He
smiled, and glanced about the room. Did Warricombe know how far things
had gone between him and Sidwell? Whether or no, it was certain now
that Sidwell would be informed of this disastrous piece of
authorship--and the result?

What did it matter? There is no struggling against destiny. If he and
Sidwell were ever fated to come together, why, these difficulties would
all be surmounted. If, as seemed more than likely, he was again to be
foiled on the point of success--he could bear it, perhaps even enjoy
the comedy.

'There is no possibility of arguing against determined anger,' he said,
quietly. 'I am not at all inclined to plead for justice: one only does
that with a friend who desires to be just. My opinions are utterly
distasteful to you, and personal motives have made you regard me as--a
scoundrel to be got rid of. Well, there's an end of it. I don't see
what is to be gained by further talk.'

This was a dismissal. Godwin felt the necessity of asserting himself
thus far.

'One question,' said Warricombe, as he put the periodical back into his
pocket. 'What do you mean by my "personal motives"?'

Their eyes met for an instant.

'I mean the motives which you have spoken of.'

It was Buckland's hope that Peak might reveal his relations with
Sidwell, but he shrank from seeming to know anything of the matter.
Clearly, no light was to be had from this source.

'I am afraid,' he said, moving to the door, 'that you will find my
motives shared by all the people whose acquaintance you have made in
Exeter.'

And without further leave-taking he departed.

There was a doubt in his mind. Peak's coolness might be the audacity of
rascaldom; he preferred to understand it so; but it _might_ have
nothing to do with baseness.

'Confound it!' he muttered to himself, irritably. 'In our times life is
so deucedly complicated. It used to be the easiest thing to convict a
man of religious hypocrisy; nowadays, one has to bear in mind such a
multiplicity of fine considerations. There's that fellow Bruno
Chilvers: mightn't anyone who had personal reasons treat him precisely
as I have treated Peak? Both of them _may_ be honest. Yet in Peak's
case all appearances are against him--just because he is of low birth,
has no means, and wants desperately to get into society. The fellow is
a scoundrel; I am convinced of it. Yet his designs may be innocent.
How, then, a scoundrel?----

'Poor devil! Has he really fallen in love with Sidwell?----

'Humbug! He wants position, and the comfort it brings. And if he hadn't
acted like a blackguard--if he had come among us telling the truth--who
knows? Sidwell wouldn't then have thought of him, but for my own part I
would willingly have given him a hand. There are plenty of girls who
have learned to think for themselves.'

This was an unhappy line of reflection. It led to Sylvia Moorhouse--and
to grinding of the teeth. By the time he reached the house, Buckland
was again in remorseless mood.

He would have it out with Sidwell. The desire of proving to her that he
had been right from the first overrode all thought of the pain he might
inflict.

She was in the library. At breakfast he had noticed her heavy eyes, and
that she made only a pretence of eating. She was now less unlike
herself, but her position at the window showed that she had been
waiting impatiently.

'Isn't mother coming down to-day?' he asked.

'Yes; after luncheon she will go out for an hour, if it keeps fine.'

'And to-morrow you return?'

'If mother feels able to travel.'

He had _The Critical_ in his hand, and stood rustling the pages with
his fingers.

'I have been to see Peak.'

'Have you?'

She moved a few steps and seated herself sideways on a small chair.

'My business with him was confoundedly unpleasant. I'm glad it's over.
I wish I had known what I now do half a year ago.'

'Let me hear what it is.'

'You remember that I told you to be on your guard against Peak?'

Sidwell smiled faintly, and glanced at him, but made no answer.

'I knew he wasn't to be trusted,' pursued her brother, with gloomy
satisfaction. 'And I had far better means of judging than father or
you; but, of course, my suspicions were ungenerous and cynical.'

'Will you come to the point?' said Sidwell, in an irritated tone.

'I think you read this article in _The Critical_?' He approached and
showed it to her. 'We spoke of it once, _a propos_ of M'Naughten's
book.'

She raised her eyes, and met his with a look of concern she could not
disguise.

'What of that?'

'Peak is the author of it. It seems to have been written just about the
time when I met him and brought him here as a visitor, and it was
published after he had begun to edify you with his zeal for
Christianity.'

She held out her hand.

'You remember the tone of the thing?' Buckland added. 'I'll leave it
with you; but just glance at one or two of the passages I have marked.
The Anglicanism of their writer is decidedly "broad", it seems to me.'

He moved apart and watched his sister as she bent over the pages. There
was silence for five minutes. Seeing that Sidwell had ceased to read,
he ejaculated, 'Well?'

'Has Mr. Peak admitted the authorship?' she asked, slowly and
distinctly.

'Yes, and with a cool impudence I hardly expected.'

'Do you mean that he has made no attempt to justify himself?'

'None worth listening to. Practically, he refused an explanation.'

Sidwell rested her forehead lightly upon the tips of her fingers; the
periodical slipped from her lap and lay open on the floor.

'How did you find this out?'

'In the simplest way. Knowing perfectly well that I had only to get
familiar with some of his old friends to obtain proof that he was an
impostor, I followed up my acquaintance with Miss Moxey--got hold of
her brother--called upon them. Whilst I was there, a man named Malkin
came in, and somehow or other he began talking of Peak. I learned at
once precisely what I expected, that Peak was known to all these people
as a violent anti-Christian. Malkin refused to believe the story of his
going in for the Church--it sounded to him a mere joke. Then came out
the fact that he had written this article. They all knew about it.'

He saw a flush of shame upon Sidwell's half-hidden face. It gratified
him. He was resolved to let her taste all the bitterness of her folly.

'It seems pretty clear that the Moxeys--at all events Miss Moxey--knew
the rascally part he was playing. Whether they wished to unmask him, or
not, I can't say. Perhaps not. Yet I caught an odd look on Miss Moxey's
face when that man Malkin began to talk of Peak's characteristics and
achievements. It came out, by-the-bye, that he had given all his
acquaintances the slip; they had completely lost sight of him--I
suppose until Miss Moxey met him by chance at Budleigh Salterton.
There's some mystery still. She evidently kept Peak's secret from the
Moorhouses and the Walworths. A nice business, altogether!'

Again there was a long silence. Then Sidwell raised her face and said,
abruptly:

'You may be quite mistaken.'

'How?'

'You went to Mr. Peak in a spirit of enmity and anger. It is not likely
he would explain himself. You may have quite misunderstood what he
said.'

'Ridiculous! You mean that he was perhaps "converted" after writing
this article?--Then why did he allow it to be published?'

'He did not sign it. He may have been unable to withdraw it from the
editor's hands.'

'Bosh! He didn't sign it, because the idea of this Exeter campaign came
between the reception and the appearance of his paper. In the ordinary
course of things, he would have been only too glad to see his name in
_The Critical_. The scoundrelly project was conceived perhaps the very
day that I brought him here--perhaps in that moment--at lunch, do you
remember?--when he began to talk of the sermon at the Cathedral?'

'Why did he go to the Cathedral and hear that sermon?'

'To amuse a Sunday morning, I suppose.'

'That is not very likely in a man who hates and ridicules religion.'

'It is decidedly more probable than the idea of his conversion.'

Sidwell fell back again into her brooding attitude.

'The reason of your mistake in judging him,' resumed Buckland, with
emphasis, 'is that you have undervalued his intellect. I told you long
ago that a man of Peak's calibre could not possibly be a supporter of
dogmas and churches. No amount of plausible evidence would have made me
believe in his sincerity. Let me beg you to appreciate the simple fact,
that _no_ young man of brains and education is nowadays an honest
defender of mediaeval Christianity--the Christianity of your churches.
Such fellows may transact with their conscience, and make a more or
less decent business of the clerical career; or, in rare cases, they
may believe that society is served by the maintenance of a national
faith, and accordingly preach with all manner of mental reserves and
symbolical interpretations. These are in reality politicians, not
priests. But Peak belongs to neither class. He is an acute cynic, bent
on making the best of this world, since he believes in no other. How he
must have chuckled after every visit to this house! He despises you,
one and all. Believe me, he regards you with profound contempt.'

Buckland's obtuseness on the imaginative side spared him the
understanding of his sister's state of mind. Though in theory he
recognised that women were little amenable to reasoning, he took it for
granted that a clear demonstration of Peak's duplicity must at once
banish all thought of him from Sidwell's mind. Therefore he was
unsparing in his assaults upon her delusion. It surprised him when at
length Sidwell looked up with flashing, tear-dewed eyes and addressed
him indignantly:

'In all this there is not one word of truth! You know that in
representing the clergy as a body of ignorant and shallow men you speak
out of prejudice. If you believed what you say, you would be yourself
both ignorant and shallow. I can't trust your judgment of anyone
whatever.'

She paused, but in a moment added the remark which would have come
first had she spoken in the order of her thoughts.

'It is because the spirit of contempt is so familiar to you that you
are so ready to perceive it in others. I consider that habit of mind
worse than hypocrisy--yes, worse, far worse!'

Buckland was sorry for the pain he had given. The retort did not affect
him, but he hung his head and looked uncomfortable. His next speech was
in a milder strain:

'I feel it a duty, Sidwell, to represent this man to you in what I
verily believe to be the true light. To be despised by one who is
immeasurably contemptible surely can't distress you. If a butler gets
into your house by means of a forged character, and then lays his plans
for a great burglary, no doubt he scorns you for being so easily taken
in,--and that is an exact parallel to Peak's proceedings. He has
somehow got the exterior of a gentleman; you could not believe that one
who behaved so agreeably and talked so well was concealing an
essentially base nature. But I must remind you that Peak belongs by
origin to the lower classes, which is as much as to say that he lacks
the sense of honour generally inherited by men of our world. A powerful
intellect by no means implies a corresponding development of the moral
sense.'

Sidwell could not close her ears against the argument. But her features
were still set in an expression of resentment, and she kept silence
lest her voice should sound tearful.

'And don't be tempted by personal feeling,' pursued her brother, 'to
make light of hypocrisy--especially this kind. The man who can act such
a part as Peak's has been for the last twelve months must be capable of
any depravity. It is difficult for you to estimate his baseness,
because you are only half convinced that any one can really be an enemy
of religious faith. You suspect a lurking belief even in the minds of
avowed atheists. But take the assurance from me that a man like Peak
(and I am at one with him in this matter) regards with absolute
repugnance every form of supernaturalism. For him to affect belief in
your religion, is a crime against conscience. Peak has committed this
crime with a mercenary motive,--what viler charge could be brought
against him?'

Without looking at him, his sister replied:

'Whether he is guilty or not, I can't yet determine. But the motive of
his life here was not mercenary.'

'Then how would you describe it?' Buckland asked, in astonishment.

'I only know that it can't be called mercenary.'

'Then the distinction you draw must be a very fine one.--He has
abandoned the employment by which he lived, and by his own admission he
looks to the Church for means of support. It was necessary for him to
make interest with people of social position; the closer his relations
with them the better. From month to month he has worked skilfully to
establish his footing in this house, and among your friends. What do
you call this?'

She had no verbal answer to make, but her look declared that she held
to another interpretation.

'Well,' Buckland added, impatiently, 'we will hear father's opinion.
He, remember, has been deceived in a very gross and cruel way. Possibly
he may help you to see the thing in all its hatefulness.'

Sidwell turned to him.

'You go to London this afternoon?'

'In an hour or two,' he replied, consulting his watch.

'Is it any use my asking you to keep silence about everything until I
am back in town?'

Buckland frowned and hesitated.

'To mother as well as father, you mean?'

'Yes. Will you do me this kindness?'

'Answer me a question, Sidwell. Have you any thought of seeing Peak?'

'I can't say,' she replied, in agitation. 'I must leave myself free. I
have a right to use my own judgment.'

'Don't see him! I beg you not to see him!'

He was so earnest that Sidwell suspected some other reason in his
request than regard for her dignity.

'I must leave myself free,' she repeated, with shaking voice. 'In any
case I shall be back in London to-morrow evening--that is, if--but I am
sure mother will wish to go. Grant me this one kindness; say nothing
here or there till I am back and have seen you again.'

He turned a deaf ear, for the persistency with which she resisted proof
of Peak's dishonour had begun to alarm him. Who could say what
miserable folly she might commit in the next four-and-twenty hours? The
unavoidable necessity of his own return exasperated him; he wished to
see her safe back in London, and under her father's care.

'No,' he exclaimed, with a gesture of determination; 'I can't keep such
a thing as this secret for another hour. Mother must know at
once--especially as you mean to invite that fellow into the house
again.--I have half a mind to telegraph to Godolphin that I can't
possibly be with him to-night.'

Sidwell regarded him and spoke with forced composure.

'Do as seems right to you, Buckland. But don't think that by remaining
here you would prevent me from seeing Mr. Peak, if I wish to do so.
That is treating me too much like a child. You have done your
part--doubtless your duty; now I must reflect and judge for myself.
Neither you nor anyone else has authority over me in such
circumstances.'

'Very well. I have no authority, as you say, but common sense bids me
let mother know how the case stands.'

And angrily he left the room.

_The Critical_ still lay where it had fallen. When Sidwell had stood a
while in confused thought, her eye turned to it, and she went hurriedly
to take it up. Yes, that was the first thing to be done, to read those
pages with close care. For this she must have privacy. She ran upstairs
and shut herself in her bedroom.

But did not at once begin to read. It concerned her deeply to know
whether Peak had so expressed himself in this paper, that no room was
left for doubt as to his convictions; but another question pressed upon
her with even more urgency--could it be true that he did not love her?
If Buckland were wholly right, then it mattered little in what degree
she had been misled by intellectual hypocrisy.

It was impossible to believe that Peak had made love to her in cold
blood, with none but sordid impulses. The thought was so humiliating
that her mind resolutely rejected it; and she had no difficulty in
recalling numberless minutiae of behaviour--nuances of look and tone
such as abide in a woman's memory--any one of which would have sufficed
to persuade her that he felt genuine emotion. How had it come to pass
that a feeling of friendly interest, which did not for a moment
threaten her peace, changed all at once to an agitation only the more
persistent the more she tried to subdue it,--how, if it were not that
her heart responded to a passionate appeal, effectual as only the
sincerest love can prove? Prior to that long talk with Godwin, on the
eve of her departure for London, she had not imagined that he loved
her; when they said good-bye to each other, she knew by her own
sensations all that the parting meant to him. She felt glad, instead of
sorry, that they were not to meet again for several months; for she
wished to think of him calmly and prudently, now that he presented
himself to her imagination in so new an aspect. The hand-clasp was a
mutual assurance of fidelity.

'I should never have loved him, if he had not first loved me. Of that I
am as firmly convinced as of my own existence. It is not in my nature
to dream romances. I never did so even as a young girl, and at this age
I am not likely to fall into a foolish self-deception. I had often
thought about him. He seemed to me a man of higher and more complex
type than those with whom I was familiar; but most surely I never
attributed to him even a corresponding interest in me. I am neither
vain, nor very anxious to please; I never suffered because men did not
woo me; I have only moderate good looks, and certainly no uncommon
mental endowments.--If he had been attracted by Sylvia, I should have
thought it natural; and I more than once suspected that Sylvia was
disposed to like him. It seemed strange at first that his choice should
have fallen upon me; yet when I was far away from him, and longed so to
sit once more by him and hear him talk, I understood that it might be
in my power to afford him the companionship he needed.--Mercenary? If I
had been merely a governess in the house, he would have loved me just
the same!'

Only by a painful effort could she remind herself that the ideal which
had grown so slowly was now defaced. He loved her, but it was not the
love of an honest man. After all, she had no need to peruse this
writing of his; she remembered so well how it had impressed her when
she read it on its first appearance, how her father had spoken of it.
Buckland's manifold evidence was irresistible. Why should Peak have
concealed his authorship? Why had he disappeared from among the people
who thoroughly knew him?

She had loved a dream. What a task would it be to distinguish between
those parts of Peak's conversation which represented his real thoughts,
and those which were mockery of his listeners! The plan of a retired
life which he had sketched to her--was it all falsehood? Impossible,
for his love was inextricably blended with the details. Did he imagine
that the secret of his unbelief could be preserved for a lifetime, and
that it would have no effect whatever upon his happiness as a man? This
seemed a likely reading of the problem. But what a multitude of moral
and intellectual obscurities remained! The character which had seemed
to her nobly simple was become a dark and dread enigma.

She knew so little of his life. If only it could all be laid bare to
her, the secret of his position would be revealed. Buckland's violence
altogether missed its mark; the dishonour of such a man as Godwin Peak
was due to no gross incentive.

It was probable that, in talk with her father, he had been guilty of
more deliberate misrepresentation than had marked his intercourse with
the rest of the family. Her father, she felt sure, had come to regard
him as a valuable source of argument in the battle against materialism.
Doubtless the German book, which Peak was translating, bore upon that
debate, and consequently was used as an aid to dissimulation. Thinking
of this, she all but shared her brother's vehement feeling. It pained
her to the inmost heart that her father's generous and candid nature
should thus have been played upon. The deceit, as it concerned herself
alone, she could forgive; at least she could suspend judgment until the
accused had offered his defence--feeling that the psychology of the
case must till then be beyond her powers of analysis. But the wrong
done to her father revolted her.

A tap at the door caused her to rise, trembling. She remembered that by
this time her mother must be aware of the extraordinary disclosure, and
that a new scene of wretched agitation had to be gone through.

'Sidwell!'

It was Mrs. Warricombe's voice, and the door opened.

'Sidwell!--What _does_ all this mean? I don't understand half that
Buckland has been telling me.'

The speaker's face was mottled, and she stood panting, a hand pressed
against her side.

'How very, very imprudent we have been! How wrong of father not to have
made inquiries! To think that such a man should have sat at our table!'

'Sit down, mother; don't be so distressed,' said Sidwell, calmly. 'It
will all very soon be settled.'

'Of course not a word must be said to anyone. How very fortunate that
we shall be in London till the summer! Of course he must leave Exeter.'

'I have no doubt he will. Let us talk as little of it as possible,
mother. We shall go back to-morrow'----

'This afternoon! We will go back with Buckland. That is decided. I
couldn't sleep here another night.'

'We must remain till to-morrow,' Sidwell replied, with quiet
determination.

'Why? What reason can there be?'

Mrs. Warricombe's voice was suspended by a horrible surmise.

'Of course we shall go to-day, Sidwell,' she continued, in nervous
haste. 'To think of that man having the impudence to call and sit
talking with you! If I could have dreamt'----

'Mother,' said Sidwell, gravely, 'I am obliged to see Mr. Peak, either
this evening or to-morrow morning.'

'To--to _see_ him----? Sidwell! What can you mean?'

'I have a reason for wishing to hear from his own lips the whole truth.'

'But we _know_ the whole truth!--What can you be thinking of, dear? Who
is this Mr. Peak that you should ask him to come and see you, under
_any_ circumstances?'

It would never have occurred to Sidwell to debate with her mother on
subtle questions of character and motive, but the agitation of her
nerves made it difficult for her to keep silence under these vapid
outcries. She desired to be alone; commonplace discussion of the misery
that had come upon her was impossible. A little more strain, and she
would be on the point of tears, a weakness she was resolute to avoid.

'Let me think quietly for an hour or two,' she said, moving away. 'It's
quite certain that I must stay here till to-morrow. When Buckland has
gone, we can talk again.'

'But, Sidwell'----

'If you insist, I must leave the house, and find a refuge somewhere
else.'

Mrs. Warricombe tossed her head.

'Oh, if I am not permitted to speak to you! I only hope you won't have
occasion to remember my warning! Such extraordinary behaviour was
surely never known! I should have thought'----

Sidwell was by this time out of the room. Safe in privacy she sat down
as if to pen a letter. From an hour's agitated thought, the following
lines resulted:

'My brother has told me of a conversation he held with you this
morning. He says you admit the authorship of an article which seems
quite inconsistent with what you have professed in our talks. How am I
to understand this contradiction? I beg that you will write to me at
once. I shall anxiously await your reply.'

This, with her signature, was all. Having enclosed the note in an
envelope, she left it on her table and went down to the library, where
Buckland was sitting alone in gloomy reverie. Mrs. Warricombe had told
him of Sidwell's incredible purpose. Recognising his sister's
independence, and feeling sure that if she saw Peak it could only be to
take final leave of him, he had decided to say no more. To London he
must perforce return this afternoon, but he had done his duty
satisfactorily, and just in time. It was plain that things had gone far
between Peak and Sidwell; the latter's behaviour avowed it. But danger
there could be none, with 'The New Sophistry' staring her in the eyes.
Let her see the fellow, by all means. His evasions and hair-splittings
would complete her deliverance.

'There's a train at 1.53,' Buckland remarked, rising, 'and I shall
catch it if I start now. I can't stay for the discomfort of luncheon.
You remain here till to-morrow, I understand?'

'Yes.'

'It's a pity you are angry with me. It seems to me I have done you a
kindness.'

'I am not angry with you, Buckland,' she replied, gently. 'You have
done what you were plainly obliged to do.'

'That's a sensible way of putting it. Let us say goodbye with
friendliness then.'

Sidwell gave her hand, and tried to smile. With a look of pained
affection, Buckland went silently away.

Shortly after, Sidwell fetched her note from upstairs, and gave it to
the housekeeper to be delivered by hand as soon as possible. Mrs
Warricombe remained invisible, and Sidwell went back to the library,
where she sat with _The Critical_ open before her at Godwin's essay.

Hours went by; she still waited for an answer from Longbrook Street.

At six o'clock she went upstairs and spoke to her mother.

'Shall you come down to dinner?'

'No, Sidwell,' was the cold reply. 'Be so good as to excuse me.

Towards eight, a letter was brought to her; it could only be from
Godwin Peak. With eyes which endeavoured to take in all at once, and
therefore could at first distinguish nothing, she scanned what seemed
to be hurriedly written lines.

'I have tried to answer you in a long letter, but after all I can't
send it. I fear you wouldn't understand. Better to repeat simply that I
wrote the article you speak of. I should have told you about it some
day, but now my intentions and hopes matter nothing. Whatever I said
now would seem dishonest pleading. Good-bye.'

She read this so many times that at length she had but to close her
eyes to see every word clearly traced on the darkness. The meanings she
extracted from each sentence were scarcely less numerous than her
perusals. In spite of reason, this enigmatic answer brought her some
solace. He _could_ defend himself; that was the assurance she had
longed for. Impossible (she again and again declared to herself with
emphasis) for their intimacy to be resumed. But in secret she could
hold him, if not innocent, at all events not base. She had not bestowed
her love upon a mere impostor.

But now a mournful, regretful passion began to weigh upon her heart.
She shed tears, and presently stole away to her room for a night of
sorrow.

What must be her practical course? If she went back to London without
addressing another word to him, he must understand her silence as a
final farewell. In that case his departure from Exeter would, no doubt,
speedily follow, and there was little likelihood that she would ever
again see him. Were Godwin a vulgar schemer, he would not so readily
relinquish the advantage he had gained; he would calculate upon the
weakness of a loving woman, and make at least one effort to redeem his
position. As it was, she could neither hope nor fear that he would try
to see her again. Yet she wished to see him, desired it ardently.

And yet--for each impulse of ardour was followed by a cold fit of
reasoning--might not his abandonment of the position bear a meaning
such as Buckland would of course attribute to it? If he were hopeless
of the goodwill of her parents, what profit would it be to him to
retain her love? She was no heiress; supposing him actuated by base
motive, her value in his eyes came merely of his regarding her as a
means to an end.

But this was to reopen the question of whether or not he truly loved
her. No; he was forsaking her because he thought it impossible for her
to pardon the deceit he had undeniably practised--with whatever
palliating circumstances. He was overcome with shame. He imagined her
indignant, scornful.

Why had she written such a short, cold note, the very thing to produce
in his mind a conviction of her resentment?

Hereupon came another paroxysm of tearful misery. It was intensified by
a thought she had half consciously been repressing ever since the
conversation with her brother. Was it true that Miss Moxey had had it
in her power to strip Godwin of a disguise? What, then, were the
relations existing between him and that strangely impressive woman? How
long had they known each other? It was now all but certain that a
strong intellectual sympathy united their minds--and perhaps there had
been something more.

She turned her face upon the pillow and moaned.



CHAPTER IV


And from the Moxeys Buckland had derived his information. What was it
he said--something about 'an odd look' on Miss Moxey's face when that
friend of theirs talked of Peak? Might not such a look signify a
conflict between the temptation to injure and the desire to screen?

Sidwell constructed a complete romance. Ignorance of the past of both
persons concerned allowed her imagination free play. There was no limit
to the possibilities of self-torment.

The desire to see Godwin took such hold upon her, that she had already
begun to think over the wording of another note to be sent to him the
first thing in the morning. His reply had been insufficient: simple
justice required that she should hear him in his own defence before
parting with him for ever. If she kept silence, he would always
remember her with bitterness, and this would make her life-long sorrow
harder to bear. Sidwell was one of those few women whose love, never
demonstrative, never exigent, only declares itself in all its profound
significance when it is called upon to pardon. What was likely to be
the issue of a meeting with Godwin she could not foresee. It seemed all
but impossible for their intercourse to continue, and their coming face
to face might result in nothing but distress to both, better avoided;
yet judgment yielded to emotion. Yesterday--only yesterday--she had
yielded herself to the joy of loving, and before her consciousness had
had time to make itself familiar with its new realm, before her eyes
had grown accustomed to the light suddenly shed about her, she was
bidden to think of what had happened as only a dream. Her heart refused
to make surrender of its hope. Though it could be held only by an
encouragement of recognised illusion, she preferred to dream yet a
little longer. Above all, she must taste the luxury of forgiving her
lover, of making sure that her image would not dwell in his mind as
that of a self-righteous woman who had turned coldly from his error,
perhaps from his repentance.

A little after midnight, she rose from bed, slipped on her
dressing-gown, and sat down by the still burning lamp to write what her
passion dictated:


'Why should you distrust my ability, or my willingness to understand
you? It would have been so much better if you had sent what you first
wrote. These few lines do not even let me know whether you think
yourself to blame. Why do you leave me to form a judgment of things as
they appear on the surface? If you _wish_ to explain, if you sincerely
feel that I am in danger of wronging you by misconstruction, come to me
as soon as you have received this note. If you will not come, then at
least write to me--the letter you at first thought of sending. This
afternoon (Friday) I return to London, but you know my address there.
Don't think because I wrote so briefly that I have judged you.

S. W.'


To have committed this to paper was a relief. In the morning she would
read it over and consider again whether she wished to send it.

On the table lay _The Critical_. She opened it once more at the page
that concerned her, and glanced over the first few lines. Then, having
put the lamp nearer to the bed, she again lay down, not to sleep but to
read.

This essay was not so repugnant to her mind or her feelings as when she
first became acquainted with it. Its bitterness no longer seemed to be
directed against herself. There was much in it with which she could
have agreed at any time during the last six months, and many strokes of
satire, which till the other day would have offended her, she now felt
to be legitimate. As she read on, a kind of anger such as she had never
experienced trembled along her nerves. Was it not flagrantly true that
English society at large made profession of a faith which in no sense
whatever it could be said sincerely to hold? Was there not every reason
to believe that thousands of people keep up an ignoble formalism,
because they feared the social results of declaring their severance
from the religion of the churches? This was a monstrous evil; she had
never till this moment understood the scope of its baneful effects. But
for the prevalence of such a spirit of hypocrisy, Godwin Peak would
never have sinned against his honour. Why was it not declared in
trumpet-tones of authority, from end to end of the Christian world,
that Christianity, as it has been understood through the ages, can no
longer be accepted? For that was the truth, the truth, the _truth_!

She lay back, quivering as if with terror. For an instant her soul had
been filled with hatred of the religion for which she could once have
died. It had stood before her as a power of darkness and ignorance, to
be assailed, crushed, driven from the memory of man.

Last night she had hardly slept, and now, though her body was numb with
weariness, her mind kept up a feverish activity. She was bent on
excusing Godwin, and the only way in which she could do so was by
arraigning the world for its huge dishonesty. In a condition between
slumber and waking, she seemed to plead for him before a circle of
Pharisaic accusers. Streams of silent eloquence rushed through her
brain, and the spirit which prompted her was closely akin to that of
'The New Sophistry'. Now and then, for a few seconds, she was smitten
with a consciousness of extraordinary change in her habits of thought.
She looked about her with wide, fearful eyes, and endeavoured to see
things in the familiar aspect. As if with physical constraint her angry
imagination again overcame her, until at length from the penumbra of
sleep she passed into its profoundest gloom.

To wake when dawn was pale at the window. A choking odour reminded her
that she had not extinguished the lamp, which must have gone out for
lack of oil. She opened the window, took a draught of water, and
addressed herself to sleep again. But in recollecting what the new day
meant for her, she had spoilt the chances of longer rest. Her head
ached; all worldly thoughts were repulsive, yet she could not dismiss
them. She tried to repeat the prayers she had known since childhood,
but they were meaningless, and a sense of shame attached to their
utterance.

When the first gleam of sun told her that it was past eight o clock,
she made an effort and rose.

At breakfast Mrs. Warricombe talked of the departure for London. She
mentioned an early train; by getting ready as soon as the meal was
over, they could easily reach the station in time. Sidwell made no
direct reply and seemed to assent; but when they rose from the table,
she said, nervously:

'I couldn't speak before the servants. I wish to stay here till the
afternoon.'

'Why, Sidwell?'

'I have asked Mr. Peak to come and see me this morning.'

Her mother knew that expostulation was useless, but could not refrain
from a long harangue made up of warning and reproof.

'You have very little consideration for me,' was her final remark. 'Now
we shan't get home till after dark, and of course my throat will be bad
again.'

Glad of the anti-climax, Sidwell replied that the day was much warmer,
and that with care no harm need come of the journey.

'It's easy to say that, Sidwell. I never knew you to behave so
selfishly, never!'

'Don't be angry with me, mother. You don't know how grieved I am to
distress you so. I can't help it, dear; indeed, I can't. Won't you
sacrifice a few hours to put my mind at rest?'

Mrs. Warricombe once more gave expression to her outraged feelings.
Sidwell could only listen silently with bent head.

If Godwin were coming at all, he would be here by eleven o'clock.
Sidwell had learnt that her letter was put into his hands. She asked
him to come at once, and nothing but a resolve not to meet her could
delay him more than an hour or two.

At half-past ten the bell sounded. She was sitting in the library with
her back turned to the door. When a voice announced 'Mr. Peak', she did
not at once rise, and with a feeling akin to terror she heard the
footstep slowly approaching. It stopped at some distance from her;
then, overcoming a weakness which threatened to clog her as in a
nightmare, she stood up and looked round.

Peak wore neither overcoat nor gloves, but otherwise was dressed in the
usual way. As Sidwell fixed her eyes upon him, he threw his hat into a
chair and came a step or two nearer. Whether he had passed the night in
sleep or vigil could not be determined; but his look was one of shame,
and he did not hold himself so upright as was his wont.

'Will you come and sit down?' said Sidwell, pointing to a chair not far
from that on which one of her hands rested.

He moved forward, and was about to pass near her, when Sidwell
involuntarily held her hand to him. He took it and gazed into her face
with a melancholy smile.

'What does it mean?' she asked, in a low voice.

He relinquished her fingers, which he had scarcely pressed, and stood
with his arms behind his back.

'Oh, it's all quite true,' was his reply, wearily spoken.

'What is true?'

'All that you have heard from your brother.'

'All?--But how can you know what he has said?'

They looked at each other. Peak's lips were set as if in resistance of
emotion, and a frown wrinkled his brows. Sidwell's gaze was one of fear
and appeal.

'He said, of course, that I had deceived you.'

'But in what?--Was there no truth in anything you said to me?'

'To you I have spoken far more truth than falsehood.'

A light shone in her eyes, and her lips quivered.

'Then,' she murmured, 'Buckland was not right in everything.'

'I understand. He wished you to believe that my love was as much a
pretence as my religion?'

'He said that.'

'It was natural enough.--And you were disposed to believe it?'

'I thought it impossible. But I should have thought the same of the
other things.'

Peak nodded, and moved away. Watching him, Sidwell was beset with
conflicting impulses. His assurance had allayed her worst misgiving,
and she approved the self-restraint with which he bore himself, but at
the same time she longed for a passionate declaration. As a reasoning
woman, she did her utmost to remember that Peak was on his defence
before her, and that nothing could pass between them but grave
discussion of the motives which had impelled him to dishonourable
behaviour. As a woman in love, she would fain have obscured the moral
issue by indulgence of her heart's desire. She was glad that he held
aloof, but if he had taken her in his arms, she would have forgotten
everything in the moment's happiness.

'Let us sit down, and tell me--tell me all you can.'

He delayed a moment, then seated himself opposite to her. She saw now
that his movements were those of physical fatigue; and the full light
from the window, enabling her to read his face more distinctly,
revealed the impress of suffering. Instead of calling upon him to atone
in such measure as was possible for the wrong he had done her, she felt
ready to reproach herself for speaking coldly when his need of solace
was so great.

'What can I tell you,' he said, 'that you don't know, or that you can't
conjecture?'

'But you wrote that there was so much I could not be expected to
understand. And I can't, can't understand you. It still seems
impossible. Why did you hide the truth from me?'

'Because if I had begun by telling it, I should never have won a kind
look or a kind thought from you.'

Sidwell reflected.

'But what did you care for me then--when it began?'

'Not so much as I do now, but enough to overthrow all the results of my
life up to that time. Before I met you in this house I had seen you
twice, and had learned who you were. I was sitting in the Cathedral
when you came there with your sister and Miss Moorhouse--do you
remember? I heard Fanny call you by your name, and that brought to my
mind a young girl whom I had known in a slight way years before. And
the next day I again saw you there, at the service; I waited about the
entrance only to see you. I cared enough for you then to conceive a
design which for a long time seemed too hateful really to be carried
out, but--at last it was, you see.

Sidwell breathed quickly. Nothing he could have urged for himself would
have affected her more deeply than this. To date back and extend the
period of his love for her was a flattery more subtle than Peak
imagined.

'Why didn't you tell me that the day before yesterday?' she asked, with
tremulous bosom.

'I had no wish to remind myself of baseness in the midst of a pure joy.'

She was silent, then exclaimed, in accents of pain:

'Why should you have thought it necessary to be other than yourself?
Couldn't you see, at first meeting with us, that we were not bigoted
people? Didn't you know that Buckland had accustomed us to understand
how common it is nowadays for people to throw off the old religion?
Would father have looked coldly on you if he had known that you
followed where so many good and thoughtful men were leading?'

He regarded her anxiously.

'I had heard from Buckland that your father was strongly prejudiced;
that you also were quite out of sympathy with the new thought.'

'He exaggerated--even then.'

'Exaggerated? But on what plea could I have come to live in this
neighbourhood? How could I have kept you in sight--tried to win your
interest? I had no means, no position. The very thought of encouraging
my love for you demanded some extraordinary step. What course was open
to me?'

Sidwell let her head droop.

'I don't know. You might perhaps have discovered a way.'

'But what was the use, when the mere fact of my heresy would have
forbidden hope from the outset?'

'Why should it have done so?'

'Why? You know very well that you could never even have been friendly
with the man who wrote that thing in the review.'

'But here is the proof how much better it is to behave truthfully! In
this last year I have changed so much that I find it difficult to
understand the strength of my former prejudices. What is it to me now
that you speak scornfully of attempts to reconcile things that can't be
reconciled? I understand the new thought, and how natural it is for you
to accept it. If only I could have come to know you well, your opinions
would not have stood between us.'

Peak made a slight gesture, and smiled incredulously.

'You think so now.'

'And I have such good reason for my thought,' rejoined Sidwell,
earnestly, 'that when you said you loved me, my only regret in looking
to the future was--that you had resolved to be a clergyman.'

He leaned back in the chair, and let a hand fall on his knee. The
gesture seemed to signify a weary relinquishment of concern in what
they were discussing.

'How could I foresee that?' he uttered, in a corresponding tone.

Sidwell was made uneasy by the course upon which she had entered. To
what did her words tend? If only to a demonstration that fate had used
him as the plaything of its irony--if, after all, she had nothing to
say to him but 'See how your own folly has ruined you', then she had
better have kept silence. She not only appeared to be offering him
encouragement, but was in truth doing so. She wished him to understand
that his way of thinking was no obstacle to her love, and with that
purpose she was even guilty of a slight misrepresentation. For it was
only since the shock of this disaster that she had clearly recognised
the change in her own mind. True, the regret of which she spoke had for
an instant visited her, but it represented a mundane solicitude rather
than an intellectual scruple. It had occurred to her how much brighter
would be their prospect if Peak were but an active man of the world,
with a career before him distinctly suited to his powers.

His contention was undeniably just. The influence to which she had from
the first submitted was the same that her father felt so strongly.
Godwin interested her as a self-reliant champion of the old faiths, and
his personal characteristics would never have awakened such sympathy in
her but for that initial recommendation. Natural prejudice would have
prevented her from perceiving the points of kindred between his
temperament and her own. His low origin, the ridiculous stories
connected with his youth--why had she, in spite of likelihood, been
able to disregard these things? Only because of what she then deemed
his spiritual value.

But for the dishonourable part he had played, this bond of love would
never have been formed between them. The thought was a new apology for
his transgression; she could not but defy her conscience, and look
indulgently on the evil which had borne such fruit.

Godwin had begun to speak again.

'This is quite in keeping with the tenor of my whole life. Whatever I
undertake ends in frustration at a point where success seems to have
just come within my reach. Great things and trifles--it's all the same.
My course at College was broken off at the moment when I might have
assured my future. Later, I made many an effort to succeed in
literature, and when at length something of mine was printed in a
leading review, I could not even sign it, and had no profit from the
attention it excited. Now--well, you see. Laughable, isn't it?'

Sidwell scarcely withheld herself from bending forward and giving him
her hand.

'What shall you do?' she asked.

'Oh, I am not afraid. I have still enough money left to support me
until I can find some occupation of the old kind. Fortunately, I am not
one of those men whose brains have no marketable value.'

'If you knew how it pains me to hear you!'

'If I didn't believe that, I couldn't speak to you like this. I never
thought you would let me see you again, and if you hadn't asked me to
come, I could never have brought myself to face you. But it would have
been a miserable thing to go off without even knowing what you thought
of me.'

'Should you never have written to me?'

'I think not. You find it hard to imagine that I have any pride, no
doubt; but it is there, explain it how one may.'

'It would have been wrong to leave me in such uncertainty.'

'Uncertainty?'

'About you--about your future.'

'Did you quite mean that? Hadn't your brother made you doubt whether I
loved you at all?'

'Yes. But no, I didn't doubt. Indeed, indeed, I didn't doubt! But I
felt such a need of hearing from your own lips that--Oh, I can't
explain myself!'

Godwin smiled sadly.

'I think I understand. But there was every reason for my believing that
_your_ love could not bear such a test. You must regard me as quite a
different man--one utterly unknown to you.'

He had resolved to speak not a word that could sound like an appeal to
her emotions. When he entered the room he felt a sincere indifference
as to what would result from the interview, for to his mind the story
was ended, and he had only to retire with the dignity still possible to
a dishonoured man. To touch the note of pathos would be unworthy; to
exert what influence might be left to him, a wanton cruelty. But he had
heard such unexpected things, that it was not easy for him to remember
how complete had seemed the severance between him and Sidwell. The
charm of her presence was reasserting itself, and when avowal of
continued love appeared so unmistakably in her troubled countenance,
her broken words, he could not control the answering fervour. He spoke
in a changed voice, and allowed his eyes to dwell longingly upon hers.

'I felt so at first,' she answered. 'And it would be wrong to pretend
that I can still regard you as I did before.'

It cost her a great effort to add these words. When they were spoken,
she was at once glad and fearful.

'I am not so foolish, as to think it possible,' said Peak, half turning
away.

'But that is no reason,' she pursued, 'why we should become strangers.
You are still so young a man; life must be so full of possibilities for
you. This year has been wasted, but when you leave Exeter'----

An impatient movement of Godwin's checked her.

'You are going to encourage me to begin the struggle once more,' he
said, bitterly. 'Where? How? It is so easy to talk of "possibilities".'

'You are not without friends--I mean friends whose sympathy is of real
value to you.'

Saying this, she looked keenly at him.

'Friends,' he replied, 'who perhaps at this moment are laughing over my
disgrace.'

'How do they know of--what has happened?'

'How did your brother get his information? I didn't care to ask
him.--No, I don't even wish you to say anything about that.'

'But surely there is no reason for keeping it secret. Why may I not
speak freely? Buckland told me that he had heard you spoken of at the
house of people named Moxey.'

She endeavoured to understand the smile which rose to his lips. 'Now it
is clear to me,' he said. 'Yes, I suppose that was inevitable, sooner
or later.'

'You knew that he had become acquainted with the Moxeys?'

Her tone was more reserved than hitherto.

'Yes, I knew he had. He met Miss Moxey by chance at Budleigh Salterton,
and I happened to be there--at the Moorhouses'--on the same day.'

Sidwell glanced at him inquiringly, and waited for something more.

'I saw Miss Moxey in private,' he added, speaking more quickly, 'and
asked her to keep my secret. I ought to be ashamed to tell you this,
but it is better you should know how far my humiliation has gone.'

He saw that she was moved with strong feeling. The low tone in which
she answered had peculiar significance.

'Did you speak of me to Miss Moxey?'

'I must forgive you for asking that,' Peak replied, coldly. 'It may
well seem to you that I have neither honour nor delicacy left.'

There had come a flush on her cheeks. For some moments she was absorbed
in thought.

'It seems strange to you,' he continued at length, 'that I could ask
Miss Moxey to share such a secret. But you must understand on what
terms we were--she and I. We have known each other for several years.
She has a man's mind, and I have always thought of her in much the same
way as of my male companions.--Your brother has told you about her,
perhaps?'

'I have met her in London.'

'Then that will make my explanation easier,' said Godwin, disregarding
the anxious questions that at once suggested themselves to him. 'Well,
I misled her, or tried to do so. I allowed her to suppose that I was
sincere in my new undertakings, and that I didn't wish--Oh!' he
exclaimed, suddenly breaking off, 'Why need I go any further in
confession? It must be as miserable for you to hear as for me to speak.
Let us make an end of it. I can't understand how I have escaped
detection so long.'

Remembering every detail of Buckland's story, Sidwell felt that she had
possibly been unjust in representing the Moxeys as her brother's
authority; in strictness, she ought to mention that a friend of theirs
was the actual source of information. But she could not pursue the
subject; like Godwin, she wished to put it out of her mind. What
question could there be of honour or dishonour in the case of a person
such as Miss Moxey, who had consented to be party to a shameful deceit?
Strangely, it was a relief to her to have heard this. The moral
repugnance which threatened to estrange her from Godwin, was now
directed in another quarter; unduly restrained by love, it found scope
under the guidance of jealousy.

'You have been trying to adapt yourself,' she said, 'to a world for
which you are by nature unfitted. Your place is in the new order; by
turning back to the old, you condemned yourself to a wasted life. Since
we have been in London, I have come to understand better the great
difference between modern intellectual life and that which we lead in
these far-away corners. You must go out among your equals, go and take
your part with men who are working for the future.'

Peak rose with a gesture of passionate impatience.

'What is it to me, new world or old? My world is where _you_ are. I
have no life of my own; I think only of you, live only by you.'

'If I could help you!' she replied, with emotion. 'What can I do--but
be your friend at a distance? Everything else has become impossible.'

'Impossible for the present--for a long time to come. But is there no
hope for me?'

She pressed her hands together, and stood before him unable to answer.
'Remember,' he continued, 'that you are almost as much changed in my
eyes as I in yours. I did not imagine that you had moved so far towards
freedom of mind. If my love for you was profound and absorbing, think
what it must now have become! Yours has suffered by my disgrace, but is
there no hope of its reviving--if I live worthily--if I----?'

His voice failed.

'I have said that we can't be strangers,' Sidwell murmured brokenly.
'Wherever you go, I must hear of you.'

'Everyone about you will detest my name. You will soon wish to forget
my existence.'

'If I know myself, never!--Oh, try to find your true work! You have
such abilities, powers so much greater than those of ordinary men. You
will always be the same to me, and if ever circumstances'----

'You would have to give up so much, Sidwell. And there is little chance
of my ever being well-to-do; poverty will always stand between us, if
nothing else.'

'It must be so long before we can think of that.'

'But can I ever see you?--No, I won't ask that. Who knows? I may have
to go too far away. But I _may_ write to you--after a time?'

'I shall live in the hope of good news from you,' she replied, trying
to smile and to speak cheerfully. 'This will always be my home. Nothing
will be changed.'

'Then you don't think of me as irredeemably base?'

'If I thought you base,' Sidwell answered, in a low voice, 'I should
not now be speaking with you. It is because I feel and know that you
have erred only--that is what makes it impossible for me to think of
your fault as outweighing the good in your nature.'

'The good? I wonder how you understand that. What is there _good_ in
me? You don't mean mere intellect?'

He waited anxiously for what she would say. A necessity for speaking
out his inmost thoughts had arisen with the emotion, scarcely to be
called hope, excited by Sidwell's magnanimity. Now, or never, he must
stand before this woman as his very self, and be convinced that she
loved him for his own sake.

'No, I don't mean intellect,' she replied, with hesitation.

'What then? Tell me of one quality in me strong enough to justify a
woman's love.'

Sidwell dropped her eyes in confusion.

'I can't analyse your character--I only know'----

She became silent.

'To myself,' pursued Godwin, with the modulated, moving voice which
always expressed his genuine feeling, 'I seem anything but lovable. I
don't underrate my powers--rather the opposite, no doubt; but what I
always seem to lack is the gift of pleasing--moral grace. My strongest
emotions seem to be absorbed in revolt; for once that I feel tenderly,
I have a hundred fierce, resentful, tempestuous moods. To be suave and
smiling in common intercourse costs me an effort. I have to act the
part, and this habit makes me sceptical, whenever I am really prompted
to gentleness. I criticise myself ceaselessly; expose without mercy all
those characteristics which another man would keep out of sight. Yes,
and for this very reason, just because I think myself unlovable--the
gift of love means far more to me than to other men. If you could
conceive the passion of gratitude which possessed me for hours after I
left you the other day! You cannot!'

Sidwell regarded him fixedly.

'In comparison with this sincerity, what becomes of the pretence you
blame in me? If you knew how paltry it seems--that accusation of
dishonesty! I believed the world round, and pretended to believe it
flat: that's what it amounts to! Are you, on such an account as that,
to consider worthless the devotion which has grown in me month by
month? You--I was persuaded--thought the world flat, and couldn't think
kindly of any man who held the other hypothesis. Very well; why not
concede the trifle, and so at least give myself a chance? I did
so--that was all.'

In vain her conscience strove to assert itself. She was under the spell
of a nature infinitely stronger than hers; she saw and felt as Godwin
did.

'You think, Sidwell, that I stand in need of forgiveness. Then be great
enough to forgive me, wholly--once and for all. Let your love be
strengthened by the trial it has passed through. That will mean that my
whole life is yours, directed by the ever-present thought of your
beauty, face and soul. Then there _will_ be good in me, thanks to you.
I shall no longer live a life of hypocrisy, of suppressed rage and
scorn. I know how much I am asking; perhaps it means that for my sake
you give up everything else that is dear to you'----

The thought checked him. He looked at her despondently.

'You can trust me,' Sidwell answered, moving nearer to him, tears on
her cheeks. 'I must hear from you, and I will write.'

'I can ask no more than that.'

He took her hands, held them for a moment, and turned away. At the door
he looked round. Sidwell's head was bowed, and, on her raising it, he
saw that she was blinded with tears.

So he went forth.



Part VI



CHAPTER I


For several days after the scene in which Mr. Malkin unconsciously
played an important part, Marcella seemed to be ill. She appeared at
meals, but neither ate nor conversed. Christian had never known her so
sullen and nervously irritable; he did not venture to utter Peak's
name. Upon seclusion followed restless activity. Marcella was rarely at
home between breakfast and dinner-time, and her brother learnt with
satisfaction that she went much among her acquaintances. Late one
evening, when he had just returned from he knew not where, Christian
tried to put an end to the unnatural constraint between them. After
talking cheerfully for a few minutes, he risked the question:

'Have you seen anything of the Warricombes?'

She replied with a cold negative.

'Nor heard anything?'

'No. Have you?'

'Nothing at all. I have seen Earwaker. Malkin had told him about what
happened here the other day.'

'Of course.'

'But he had no news.--Of Peak, I mean.'

Marcella smiled, as if the situation amused her; but she would not
discuss it. Christian began to hope that she was training herself to a
wholesome indifference.

A month of the new year went by, and Peak seemed to be forgotten.
Marcella had returned to her studious habits, was fenced around with
books, seldom left the house. Another month and the brother and sister
were living very much in the old way, seeing few people, conversing
only of intellectual things. But Christian concealed an expectation
which enabled him to pass hours of retirement in the completest
idleness. Since the death of her husband, Mrs. Palmer had been living
abroad. Before the end of March, as he had been careful to discover,
she would be back in London, at the house in Sussex Square. By that
time he might venture, without indelicacy, to call upon her. And after
the first interview----

The day came, when, ill with agitation, he set forth to pay this call.
For two or three nights he had scarcely closed his eyes; he looked
ghastly. The weather was execrable, and on that very account he made
choice of this afternoon, hoping that he might find his widowed Laura
alone. Between ringing the bell and the opening of the door, he could
hardly support himself. He asked for Mrs. Palmer in a gasping voice
which caused the servant to look at him with surprise.

The lady was at home. At the drawing-room door, before his name could
be announced, he caught the unwelcome sound of voices in lively
conversation. It seemed to him that a score of persons were assembled.
In reality there were six, three of them callers.

Mrs. Palmer met him with the friendliest welcome. A stranger would have
thought her pretty, but by no means impressive. She was short, anything
but meagre, fair-haired, brisk of movement, idly vivacious in look and
tone. The mourning she wore imposed no restraint upon her humour, which
at present was not far from gay.

'Is it really Mr. Moxey?' she exclaimed. 'Why, I had all but forgotten
you, and positively it is your own fault! It must be a year or more
since you came to see me. No? Eight months?--But I have been through so
much trouble, you know.' She sighed mechanically. 'I thought of you one
day at Bordighera, when we were looking at some funny little
sea-creatures--the kind of thing you used to know all about. How is
your sister?'

A chill struck upon his heart. Assuredly he had no wish to find
Constance sunk in the semblance of dolour; such hypocrisy would have
pained him. But her sprightliness was a shock. Though months had passed
since Mr. Palmer's decease, a decent gravity would more have become her
condition. He could reply only in broken phrases, and it was a relief
to him when the widow, as if tiring of his awkwardness, turned her
attention elsewhere.

He was at length able to survey the company. Two ladies in mourning he
faintly recognised, the one a sister of Mr. Palmer's, comely but of
dull aspect; the other a niece, whose laugh was too frequent even had
it been more musical, and who talked of athletic sports with a young
man evidently better fitted to excel in that kind of thing than in any
pursuit demanding intelligence. This gentleman Christian had never met.
The two other callers, a grey-headed, military-looking person, and a
lady, possibly his wife, were equally strangers to him.

The drawing-room was much changed in appearance since Christian's last
visit. There was more display, a richer profusion of ornaments not in
the best taste. The old pictures had given place to showily-framed
daubs of the most popular school. On a little table at his elbow, he
remarked the photograph of a jockey who was just then engrossing public
affection. What did all this mean? Formerly, he had attributed every
graceful feature of the room to Constance's choice. He had imagined
that to her Mr. Palmer was indebted for guidance on points of aesthetic
propriety. Could it be that----?

He caught a glance which she cast in his direction, and instantly
forgot the troublesome problem. How dull of him to misunderstand her!
Her sportiveness had a double significance. It was the expression of a
hope which would not be subdued, and at the same time a means of
disguising the tender interest with which she regarded _him_. If she
had been blithe before his appearance, how could she suddenly change
her demeanour as soon as he entered? It would have challenged suspicion
and remark. For the same reason she affected to have all but forgotten
him. Of course! how could he have failed to see that? 'I thought of you
one day at Bordighera'--was not that the best possible way of making
known to him that he had never been out of her mind?

Sweet, noble, long-suffering Constance!

He took a place by her sister, and began to talk of he knew not what,
for all his attention was given to the sound of Constance's voice.

'Yes,' she was saying to the man of military appearance, 'it's very
early to come back to London, but I did get so tired of those foreign
places.'

(In other words, of being far from her Christian--thus he interpreted.)

'No, we didn't make a single pleasant acquaintance. A shockingly
tiresome lot of people wherever we went.'

(In comparison with the faithful lover, who waited, waited.)

'Foreigners are so stupid--don't you think so? Why should they always
expect you to speak _their_ language?--Oh, of course I speak French;
but it is such a disagreeable language--don't you think so?'

(Compared with the accents of English devotion, of course.)

'Do you go in for cycling, Mr. Moxey?' inquired Mrs. Palmer's laughing
niece, from a little distance.

'For cycling?' With a great effort he recovered himself and grasped the
meaning of the words. 'No, I--I'm sorry to say I don't. Capital
exercise!'

'Mr. Dwight has just been telling me such an awfully good story about a
friend of his. Do tell it again, Mr. Dwight! It'll make you laugh no
end, Mr. Moxey.'

The young man appealed to was ready enough to repeat his anecdote,
which had to do with a bold cyclist, who, after dining more than well,
rode his machine down a steep hill and escaped destruction only by
miracle. Christian laughed desperately, and declared that he had never
heard anything so good.

But the tension of his nerves was unendurable. Five minutes more of
anguish, and he sprang up like an automaton.

'Must you really go, Mr. Moxey?' said Constance, with a manner which of
course was intended to veil her emotion. 'Please don't be another year
before you let us see you again.'

Blessings on her tender heart! What more could she have said, in the
presence of all those people? He walked all the way to Notting Hill
through a pelting rain, his passion aglow.

Impossible to be silent longer concerning the brilliant future. Arrived
at home, he flung off hat and coat, and went straight to the
drawing-room, hoping to find Marcella alone. To his annoyance, a
stranger was sitting there in conversation, a very simply dressed lady,
who, as he entered, looked at him with a grave smile and stood up. He
thought he had never seen her before.

Marcella wore a singular expression; there was a moment of silence, for
Christian decidedly embarrassing, since it seemed to be expected that
he should greet the stranger.

'Don't you remember Janet?' said his sister.

'Janet?' He felt his face flush. 'You don't mean to say--? But how you
have altered! And yet, no; really, you haven't. It's only my
stupidity.' He grasped her hand, and with a feeling of genuine
pleasure, despite awkward reminiscences.

'One does alter in eleven years,' said Janet Moxey, in a very pleasant,
natural voice--a voice of habitual self-command, conveying the idea of
a highly cultivated mind, and many other agreeable things.

'Eleven years? Yes, yes! How very glad I am to see you! And I'm sure
Marcella was. How very kind of you to call on us!'

Janet was as far as ever from looking handsome or pretty, but it must
have been a dullard who proclaimed her face unpleasing. She had eyes of
remarkable intelligence, something like Marcella's but milder, more
benevolent. Her lips were softly firm; they would not readily part in
laughter; their frequent smile meant more than that of the woman who
sets herself to be engaging.

'I am on my way home,' she said, 'from a holiday in the South,--an
enforced holiday, I'm sorry to say.'

'You have been ill?'

'Overworked a little. I am practising medicine in Kingsmill.'

Christian did not disguise his astonishment.

'Medicine?'

'You don't remember that I always had scientific tastes?'

If it was a reproach, none could have been more gently administered.

'Of course--of course I do! Your botany, your skeletons of birds and
cats and mice--of course! But where did you study?'

'In London. The Women's Medical School. I have been in practice for
nearly four years.'

'And have overworked yourself.--But why are we standing? Let us sit
down and talk. How is your father?'

Marcella was watching her brother closely, and with a curious smile.

Janet remained for another hour. No reference was made to the long
rupture of intercourse between her family and these relatives.
Christian learnt that his uncle was still hale, and that Janet's four
sisters all lived, obviously unmarried. To-day he was disposed to be
almost affectionate with anyone who showed him a friendly face: he
expressed grief that his cousin must leave for Twybridge early in the
morning.

'Whenever you pass through the Midlands,' was Janet's indirect reply,
addressed to Marcella, 'try to stop at Kingsmill.'

And a few minutes after that she took her leave. There lingered behind
her that peculiar fragrance of modern womanhood, refreshing,
inspiriting, which is so entirely different from the merely feminine
perfume, however exquisite.

'What a surprising visit!' was Christian's exclamation, when he and his
sister were alone. 'How did she find us?'

'Directory, I suppose.'

'A lady doctor!' he mused.

'And a very capable one, I fancy,' said Marcella. 'We had nearly an
hour's talk before you came. But she won't be able to stand the work.
There'll be another breakdown before long.'

'Has she a large practice, then?'

'Not very large, perhaps; but she studies as well. I never dreamt of
Janet becoming so interesting a person.'

Christian had to postpone till after dinner the talk he purposed about
Mrs. Palmer. When that time came, he was no longer disposed for
sentimental confessions; it would be better to wait until he could
announce a settled project of marriage. Through the evening, his sister
recurred to the subject of Janet with curious frequency, and on the
following day her interest had suffered no diminution. Christian had
always taken for granted that she understood the grounds of the breach
between him and his uncle; without ever unbosoming himself, he had
occasionally, in his softer moments, alluded to the awkward subject in
language which he thought easy enough to interpret. Now at length, in
reply to some remark of Marcella's, he said with significant accent:

'Janet was very friendly to me.'

'She has studied science for ten years,' was his sister's comment.

'Yes, and can forgive a boy's absurdities.'

'Easier to forgive, certainly, than those of a man,' said Marcella,
with a curl of the lip.

Christian became silent, and went thoughtfully away.

A week later, he was again in Mrs. Palmer's drawing-room, where again
he met an assemblage of people such as seemed to profane this
sanctuary. To be sure--he said to himself--Constance could not at once
get rid of the acquaintances forced upon her by her husband; little by
little she would free herself. It was a pity that her sister and her
niece--persons anything but intelligent and refined--should be
permanent members of her household; for their sake, no doubt, she felt
constrained to welcome men and women for whose society she herself had
little taste. But when the year of her widowhood was past----Petrarch's
Laura was the mother of eleven children; Constance had had only three,
and one of these was dead. The remaining two, Christian now learnt,
lived with a governess in a little house at Bournemouth, which Mrs.
Palmer had taken for that purpose.

'I'm going down to see them to-morrow,' she informed Christian, 'and I
shall stay there over the next day. It's so quiet and restful.'

These words kept repeating themselves to Christian's ear, as he went
home, and all through the evening. Were they not an invitation? Down
there at Bournemouth, Constance would be alone the day after to-morrow.
'It is so quiet and restful;' that was to say, no idle callers would
break upon her retirement; she would be able to welcome a friend, and
talk reposefully with him. Surely she must have meant that; for she
spoke with a peculiar intonation--a look----

By the second morning he had worked himself up to a persuasion that
yonder by the seaside Constance was expecting him. To miss the
opportunity would be to prove himself dull of apprehension, a laggard
in love. With trembling hands, he hurried through his toilet and made
haste downstairs to examine a railway time-table. He found it was
possible to reach Bournemouth by about two o'clock, a very convenient
hour; it would allow him to take refreshment, and walk to the house
shortly after three.

His conviction strong as ever, he came to the journey's end, and in due
course discovered the pleasant little house of which Constance had
spoken. At the door, his heart failed him; but retreat could not now be
thought of. Yes, Mrs. Palmer was at home. The servant led him into a
sitting-room on the ground floor, took his name, and left him.

It was nearly ten minutes before Constance appeared. On her face he
read a frank surprise.

'I happened to--to be down here; couldn't resist the temptation'----

'Delighted to see you, Mr. Moxey. But how did you know I was here?'

He gazed at her.

'You--don't you remember? The day before yesterday--in Sussex
Square--you mentioned'----

'Oh, did I?' She laughed. 'I had quite forgotten.'

Christian sank upon his chair. He tried to convince himself that she
was playing a part; perhaps she thought that she had been premature in
revealing her wish to talk with him.

Mrs. Palmer was good-natured. This call evidently puzzled her, but she
did not stint her hospitality. When Christian asked after the children,
they were summoned; two little girls daintily dressed, pretty,
affectionate with their mother. The sight of them tortured Christian,
and he sighed deeply with relief when they left the room. Constance
appeared rather absent; her quick glance at him signified something,
but he could not determine what. In agony of constraint, he rose as if
to go.

'Oh, you will have a cup of tea with me,' said Mrs. Palmer. 'It will be
brought in a few minutes.'

Then she really wished him to stop. Was he not behaving like an obtuse
creature? Why, everything was planned to encourage him.

He talked recklessly of this and that, and got round to the years long
gone by. When the tea came, he was reviving memories of occasions on
which he and she had met as young people. Constance laughed merrily,
declared she could hardly remember.

'Oh, what a time ago!--But I was quite a child.'

'No--indeed, no! You were a young lady, and a brilliant one.'

The tea seemed to intoxicate him. He noticed again that Constance
glanced at him significantly. How good of her to allow him this
delicious afternoon!

'Mr. Moxey,' she said, after meditating a little, 'why haven't you
married? I should have thought you would have married long ago.'

He was stricken dumb. Her jerky laugh came as a shock upon his hearing.

'Married----?'

'What is there astonishing in the idea?'

'But--I--how can I answer you?'

The pretty, characterless face betrayed some unusual feeling. She
looked at him furtively; seemed to suppress a tendency to laugh.

'I mustn't pry into secrets,' she simpered.

'But there is no secret!' Christian panted, laying down his teacup for
fear he should drop it. 'Whom should I--could I have married?'

Constance also put aside her cup. She was bewildered, and just a little
abashed. With courage which came he knew not whence, Christian bent
forward and continued speaking:

'Whom could I marry after that day when I met you in the little
drawing-room at the Robinsons'?'

She stared in genuine astonishment, then was embarrassed.

'You cannot--cannot have forgotten----?'

'You surely don't mean to say, Mr. Moxey, that you have remembered? Oh,
I'm afraid I was a shocking flirt in those days!'

'But I mean _after_ your marriage--when I found you in tears'----

'Please, please don't remind me!' she exclaimed, giggling nervously.
'Oh how silly!--of me, I mean. To think that--but you are making fun of
me, Mr. Moxey?'

Christian rose and went to the window. He was not only shaken by his
tender emotions--something very like repugnance had begun to affect
him. If Constance were feigning, it was in very bad taste; if she spoke
with sincerity--what a woman had he worshipped! It did not occur to him
to lay the fault upon his own absurd romanticism. After eleven years'
persistence in one point of view, he could not suddenly see the affair
with the eyes of common sense.

He turned and approached her again.

'Do you not know, then,' he asked, with quiet dignity, 'that ever since
the day I speak of, I have devoted my life to the love I then felt? All
these years, have you not understood me?'

Mrs. Palmer was quite unable to grasp ideas such as these. Neither her
reading nor her experience prepared her to understand what Christian
meant. Courtship of a married woman was intelligible enough to her; but
a love that feared to soil itself, a devotion from afar, encouraged by
only the faintest hope of reward other than the most insubstantial--of
that she had as little conception as any woman among the wealthy vulgar.

'Do you really mean, Mr. Moxey, that you--have kept unmarried for _my_
sake?'

'You don't know that?' he asked, hoarsely.

'How could I? How was I to imagine such a thing? Really, was it proper?
How could you expect me, Mr. Moxey----?'

For a moment she looked offended. But her real feelings were
astonishment and amusement, not unmingled with an idle gratification.

'I must ask you to pardon me,' said Christian, whose forehead gleamed
with moisture.

'No, don't say that. I am really so sorry! What an odd mistake!'

'And I have hoped in vain--since you were free----?'

'Oh, you mustn't say such things! I shall never dream of marrying
again--never!'

There was a matter-of-fact vigour in the assertion which proved that
Mrs. Palmer spoke her genuine thought. The tone could not be
interpreted as devotion to her husband's memory; it meant, plainly and
simply, that she had had enough of marriage, and delighted in her
freedom.

Christian could not say another word. Disillusion was complete. The
voice, the face, were those of as unspiritual a woman as he could
easily have met with, and his life's story was that of a fool.

He took his hat, held out his hand, with 'Good-bye, Mrs. Palmer.' The
cold politeness left her no choice but again to look offended, and with
merely a motion of the head she replied, 'Good-bye, Mr. Moxey.'

And therewith permitted him to leave the house.



CHAPTER II


On calling at Earwaker's chambers one February evening, Malkin became
aware, from the very threshold of the outer door, that the domicile was
not as he had known it. With the familiar fragrance of Earwaker's
special 'mixture' blended a suggestion of new upholstery. The little
vestibule had somehow put off its dinginess, and an unwontedly
brilliant light from the sitting-room revealed changes of the interior
which the visitor remarked with frank astonishment.

'What the deuce! Has it happened at last? Are you going to be married?'
he cried, staring about him at unrecognised chairs, tables, and
bookcases, at whitened ceiling and pleasantly papered walls, at
pictures and ornaments which he knew not.

The journalist shook his head, and smiled contentedly.

'An idea that came to me all at once. My editorship seemed to inspire
it.'

After a year of waiting upon Providence, Earwaker had received the
offer of a substantial appointment much more to his taste than those he
had previously held. He was now literary editor of a weekly review
which made no kind of appeal to the untaught multitude.

'I have decided to dwell here for the rest of my life,' he added,
looking round the walls. 'One must have a homestead, and this shall be
mine; here I have set up my penates. It's a portion of space, you know;
and what more can be said of Longleat or Chatsworth? A house I shall
never want, because I shall never have a wife. And on the whole I
prefer this situation to any other. I am well within reach of
everything urban that I care about, and as for the country, that is too
good to be put to common use; let it be kept for holiday. There's an
atmosphere in the old Inns that pleases me. The new flats are
insufferable. How can one live sandwiched between a music-hall singer
and a female politician? For lodgings of any kind no sane man had ever
a word of approval. Reflecting on all these things, I have established
myself in perpetuity.'

'Just what I can't do,' exclaimed Malkin, flinging himself into a
broad, deep, leather-covered chair. 'Yet I have leanings that way. Only
a few days ago I sat for a whole evening with the map of England open
before me, wondering where would be the best place to settle down--a
few years hence, I mean, you know; when Bella is old enough.--That
reminds me. Next Sunday is her birthday, and do you know what? I wish
you'd go down to Wrotham with me.'

'Many thanks, but I think I had better not.'

'Oh, but do! I want you to see how Bella is getting on. She's grown
wonderfully since you saw her in Paris--an inch taller, I should think.
I don't go down there very often, you know, so I notice these changes.
Really, I think no one could be more discreet than I am, under the
circumstances. A friend of the family; that's all. Just dropping in for
a casual cup of tea now and then. Sunday will be a special occasion, of
course. I say, what are your views about early marriage? Do you think
seventeen too young?'

'I should think seven-and-twenty much better.'

Malkin broke into fretfulness.

'Let me tell you, Earwaker, I don't like the way you habitually speak
of this project of mine. Plainly, I don't like it. It's a very serious
matter indeed--eh? What? Why are you smiling?'

'I agree with you as to its seriousness.'

'Yes, yes; but in a very cynical and offensive way. It makes me
confoundedly uncomfortable, let me tell you. I don't think that's very
friendly on your part. And the fact is, if it goes on I'm very much
afraid we shan't see so much of each other as we have done. I like you,
Earwaker, and I respect you; I think you know that. But occasionally
you seem to have too little regard for one's feelings. No, I don't feel
able to pass it over with a joke.--There! The deuce take it! I've
bitten off the end of my pipe.'

He spat out a piece of amber, and looked ruefully at the broken stem.

'Take a cigar,' said Earwaker, fetching a box from a cupboard.

'I don't mind.--Well--what was I saying? Oh yes; I was quarrelling with
you. Now, look here, what fault have you to find with Bella Jacox?'

'None whatever. She seemed to me a very amiable child.'

'Child! Pooh! pshaw! And fifteen next Sunday, I tell you. She's a young
lady, and to tell you the confounded plain truth, I'm in love with her.
I am, and there's nothing to be ashamed of. If you smile, we shall
quarrel. I warn you, Earwaker, we shall quarrel.'

The journalist, instead of smiling, gave forth his deepest laugh.
Malkin turned very red, scowled, and threw his cigar aside.

'You really wish me to go on Sunday?' Earwaker asked, in a pleasant
voice.

The other's countenance immediately cleared.

'I shall take it as a great kindness. Mrs. Jacox will be delighted.
Meet me at Holborn Viaduct at 1.25. No, to make sure I'll come here at
one o'clock.'

In a few minutes he was chatting as unconcernedly as ever.

'Talking of settling down, my brother Tom and his wife are on the point
of going to New Zealand. Necessity of business; may be out there for
the rest of their lives. Do you know that I shall think very seriously
of following them some day? With Bella, you know. The fact of the
matter is, I don't believe I could ever make a solid home in England.
Why, I can't quite say; partly, I suppose, because I have nothing to
do. Now there's a good deal to be said for going out to the colonies. A
man feels that he is helping the spread of civilisation; and that's
something, you know. I should compare myself with the Greek and Roman
colonists--something inspiriting in that thought--what? Why shouldn't I
found a respectable newspaper, for instance? Yes, I shall think very
seriously of this.'

'You wouldn't care to run over with your relatives, just to have a
look?'

'It occurred to me,' Malkin replied, thoughtfully. 'But they sail in
ten days, and--well, I'm afraid I couldn't get ready in time. And then
I've promised to look after some little affairs for Mrs. Jacox--some
trifling money matters. But later in the year--who knows?'

Earwaker half repented of his promise to visit the Jacox household, but
there was no possibility of excusing himself. So on Sunday he journeyed
with his friend down to Wrotham. Mrs. Jacox and her children were very
comfortably established in a small new house. When the companions
entered they found the mother alone in her sitting-room, and she
received them with an effusiveness very distasteful to Earwaker.

'Now you shouldn't!' was her first exclamation to Malkin. 'Indeed you
shouldn't! It's really very naughty of you. O Mr. Earwaker! Who ever
took so much pleasure in doing kindnesses? Do look at this _beautiful_
book that Mr. Malkin has sent as a present to my little Bella. O Mr.
Earwaker!'

The journalist was at once struck with her tone and manner as she
addressed Malkin. He remarked that phrase, 'my little Bella', and it
occurred to him that Mrs. Jacox had been growing younger since he made
her acquaintance on the towers of Notre Dame. When the girls presented
themselves, they also appeared to him more juvenile; Bella, in
particular, was dressed with an exaggeration of childishness decidedly
not becoming. One had but to look into her face to see that she
answered perfectly to Malkin's description; she was a young lady, and
no child. A very pretty young lady, moreover; given to colouring, but
with no silly simper; intelligent about the eyes and lips; modest, in a
natural and sweet way. He conversed with her, and in doing so was
disagreeably affected by certain glances she occasionally cast towards
her mother. One would have said that she feared censure, though it was
hard to see why.

On the return journey Earwaker made known some of his impressions,
though not all.

'I like the girls,' he said, 'Bella especially. But I can't say much
good of their mother.'

They were opposite each other in the railway carriage. Malkin leaned
forward with earnest, anxious face.

'That's my own trouble,' he whispered. 'I'm confoundedly uneasy about
it. I don't think she's bringing them up at all in a proper way.
Earwaker, I would pay down five thousand pounds for the possibility of
taking Bella away altogether.'

The other mused.

'But, mind you,' pursued Malkin, 'she's not a _bad_ woman. By no means!
Thoroughly good-hearted I'm convinced; only a little weak here.' He
tapped his forehead. 'I respect her, for all she has suffered, and her
way of going through it. But she isn't the ideal mother, you know.'

On his way home, Malkin turned into his friend's chambers 'for five
minutes'. At two in the morning he was still there, and his talk in the
meanwhile had been of nothing but schemes for protecting Bella against
her mother's more objectionable influences. On taking leave, he asked:

'Any news of Peak yet?'

'None. I haven't seen Moxey for a long time.'

'Do you think Peak will look you up again, if he's in London?'

'No, I think he'll keep away. And I half hope he will; I shouldn't
quite know how to behave. Ten to one he's in London now. I suppose he
couldn't stay at Exeter. But he may have left England.'

They parted, and for a week did not see each other. Then, on Monday
evening, when Earwaker was very busy with a mass of manuscript, the
well-known knock sounded from the passage, and Malkin received
admission. The look he wore was appalling, a look such as only some
fearful catastrophe could warrant.

'Are you busy?' he asked, in a voice very unlike his own.

Earwaker could not doubt that the trouble was this time serious. He
abandoned his work, and gave himself wholly to his friend's service.

'An awful thing has happened,' Malkin began. 'How the deuce shall I
tell you? Oh, the ass I have made of myself! But I couldn't help it;
there seemed no way out of it.'

'Well? What?'

'It was last night, but I couldn't come to you till now. By Jove! I
veritably thought of sending you a note, and then killing myself. Early
this morning I was within an ace of suicide. Believe me, old friend.
This is no farce.'

'I'm waiting.'

'Yes, yes; but I can't tell you all at once. Sure you're not busy? I
know I pester you. I was down at Wrotham yesterday. I hadn't meant to
go, but the temptation was too strong. I got there at five o'clock, and
found that the girls were gone to have tea with some young friends.
Well, I wasn't altogether sorry; it was a good opportunity for a little
talk with their mother. And I _had_ the talk. But, oh, ass that I was!'

He smote the side of his head savagely.

'Can you guess, Earwaker? Can you give a shot at what happened?'

'Perhaps I might,' replied the other, gravely.

'Well?'

'That woman asked you to marry her.'

Malkin leapt from his chair, and sank back again.

'It came to that. Yes, upon my word, it came to that. She said she had
fallen in love with me--that was the long and short of it. And I had
never said a word that could suggest--Oh, confound it! What a frightful
scene it was!'

'You took a final leave of her?'

Malkin stared with eyes of anguish into his friend's face, and at
length whispered thickly:

'I said I would!'

'What? Take leave?'

'Marry her!'

Earwaker had much ado to check an impatiently remonstrant laugh. He
paused awhile, then began his expostulation, at first treating the
affair as too absurd for grave argument.

'My boy,' he concluded, 'you have got into a preposterous scrape, and I
see only one way out of it. You must flee. When does your brother start
for the Antipodes?'

'Thursday morning.'

'Then you go with him; there's an end of it.'

Malkin listened with the blank, despairing look of a man condemned to
death.

'Do you hear me?' urged the other. 'Go home and pack. On Thursday I'll
see you off.'

'I can't bring myself to that,' came in a groan from Malkin. 'I've
never yet done anything to be seriously ashamed of, and I can't run
away after promising marriage. It would weigh upon me for the rest of
my life.'

'Humbug! Would it weigh upon you less to marry the mother, and all the
time be in love with the daughter? To my mind, there's something
peculiarly loathsome in the suggestion.'

'But, look here; Bella is very young, really very young indeed. It's
possible that I have deluded myself. Perhaps I don't really care for
her in the way I imagined. It's more than likely that I might be
content to regard her with fatherly affection.'

'Even supposing that, with what sort of affection do you regard Mrs
Jacox?'

Malkin writhed on his chair before replying.

'You mustn't misjudge her!' he exclaimed. 'She is no heartless schemer.
The poor thing almost cried her eyes out. It was a frightful scene. She
reproached herself bitterly. What _could_ I do? I have a tenderness for
her, there's no denying that. She has been so vilely used, and has
borne it all so patiently. How abominable it would be if I dealt her
another blow!'

The journalist raised his eyebrows, and uttered inarticulate sounds.

'Was anything said about Bella?' he asked, abruptly.

'Not a word. I'm convinced she doesn't suspect that I thought of Bella
like that. The fact is, I have misled her. She thought all along that
my chief interest was in _her_.'

'Indeed? Then what was the ground of her self-reproach that you speak
of?'

'How defective you are in the appreciation of delicate feeling!' cried
Malkin frantically, starting up and rushing about the room. 'She
reproached herself for having permitted me to get entangled with a
widow older than myself, and the mother of two children. What could be
simpler?'

Earwaker began to appreciate the dangers of the situation. If he
insisted upon his view of Mrs. Jacox's behaviour (though it was not the
harshest that the circumstances suggested, for he was disposed to
believe that the widow had really lost her heart to her kind, eccentric
champion), the result would probably be to confirm Malkin in his
resolution of self-sacrifice. The man must be saved, if possible, from
such calamity, and this would not be effected by merely demonstrating
that he was on the highroad to ruin. It was necessary to try another
tack.

'It seems to me, Malkin,' he resumed, gravely, 'that it is you who are
deficient in right feeling. In offering to marry this poor woman, you
did her the gravest wrong.'

'What? How?'

'You know that it is impossible for you to love her. You know that you
will repent, and that she will be aware of it. You are not the kind of
man to conceal your emotions. Bella will grow up, and--well, the state
of things won't tend to domestic felicity. For Mrs Jacox's own sake, it
is your duty to put an end to this folly before it has gone too far.'

The other gave earnest ear, but with no sign of shaken conviction.

'Yes,' he said. 'I know this is one way of looking at it. But it
assumes that a man can't control himself, that his sense of honour
isn't strong enough to keep him in the right way. I don't think you
quite understand me. I am not a passionate man; the proof is that I
have never fallen in love since I was sixteen. I think a great deal of
domestic peace, a good deal more than of romantic enthusiasm. If I
marry Mrs. Jacox, I shall make her a good and faithful husband,--so
much I can safely say of myself.'

He waited, but Earwaker was not ready with a rejoinder.

'And there's another point. I have always admitted the defect of my
character--an inability to settle down. Now, if I run away to New
Zealand, with the sense of having dishonoured myself, I shall be a mere
Wandering Jew for the rest of my life. All hope of redemption will be
over. Of the two courses now open to me, that of marriage with Mrs.
Jacox is decidedly the less disadvantageous. Granting that I have made
a fool of myself, I must abide by the result, and make the best of it.
And the plain fact is, I _can't_ treat her so disgracefully; I _can't_
burden my conscience in this way. I believe it would end in suicide; I
do, indeed.'

'This sounds all very well, but it is weakness and selfishness.'

'How can you say so?'

'There's no proving to so short-sighted a man the result of his
mistaken course. I've a good mind to let you have your way just for the
satisfaction of saying afterwards, "Didn't I tell you so?" You propose
to behave with abominable injustice to two people, putting yourself
aside. Doesn't it occur to you that Bella may already look upon you as
her future husband? Haven't you done your best to plant that idea in
her mind?'

Malkin started, but quickly recovered himself.

'No, I haven't! I have behaved with the utmost discretion. Bella thinks
of me only as of a friend much older than herself.'

'I don't believe it!'

'Nonsense, Earwaker! A child of fifteen!'

'The other day you had quite a different view, and after seeing her
again I agreed with you. She is a young girl, and if not already in
love with you, is on the way to be so.'

'That will come to nothing when she hears that I am going to be her
step-father.'

'Far more likely to develop into a grief that will waste the best part
of her lifetime. She will be shocked and made miserable. But do as you
like. I am tired of arguing.'

Earwaker affected to abandon the matter in disgust. For several minutes
there was silence, then a low voice sounded from the corner where
Malkin stood leaning.

'So it is your honest belief that Bella has begun to think of me in
that way?'

'I am convinced of it.'

'But if I run away, I shall never see her again.'

'Why not? _She_ won't run away. Come back when things have squared
themselves. Write to Mrs. Jacox from the ends of the earth, and let her
understand that there is no possibility of your marrying her.'

'Tell her about Bella, you mean?'

'No, that's just what I don't mean. Avoid any mention of the girl. Come
back when she is seventeen, and, if she is willing, carry her off to be
happy ever after.'

'But she may have fallen in love with someone else.'

'I think not. You must risk it, at all events.'

'Look here!' Malkin came forward eagerly. 'I'll write to Mrs. Jacox
to-night, and make a full confession. I'll tell her exactly how the
case stands. She's a good woman; she'll gladly sacrifice herself for
the sake of her daughter.'

Earwaker was firm in resistance. He had no faith whatever in the
widow's capacity for self-immolation, and foresaw that his friend would
be drawn into another 'frightful scene', resulting probably in a
marriage as soon as the licence could be obtained.

'When are you to see her again?' he inquired.

'On Wednesday.'

'Will you undertake to do nothing whatever till Wednesday morning, and
then to have another talk with me? I'll come and see you about ten
o'clock.'

In the end Malkin was constrained into making this engagement, and not
long after midnight the journalist managed to get rid of him.

On Tuesday afternoon arrived a distracted note. 'I shall keep my
promise, and I won't try to see you till you come here tomorrow. But I
am sore beset. I have received _three_ letters from Mrs. Jacox, all
long and horribly pathetic. She seems to have a presentiment that I
shall forsake her. What a beast I shall be if I do! Tom comes here
to-night, and I think I shall tell him all.'

The last sentence was a relief to the reader; he knew nothing of Mr
Thomas Malkin, but there was a fair presumption that this gentleman
would not see his brother bent on making such a notable fool of himself
without vigorous protest.

At the appointed hour next morning, Earwaker reached his friend's
lodgings, which were now at Kilburn. On entering the room he saw, not
the familiar figure, but a solid, dark-faced, black-whiskered man, whom
a faint resemblance enabled him to identify as Malkin the younger.

'I was expecting you,' said Thomas, as they shook hands. 'My brother is
completely floored. When I got here an hour ago, I insisted on his
lying down, and now I think he's asleep. If you don't mind, we'll let
him rest for a little. I believe he has hardly closed his eyes since
this unfortunate affair happened.'

'It rejoiced me to hear that he was going to ask your advice. How do
matters stand?'

'You know Mrs. Jacox?'

Thomas was obviously a man of discretion, but less intellectual than
his brother; he spoke like one who is accustomed to the management of
affairs. At first he was inclined to a polite reserve, but Earwaker's
conversation speedily put him more at ease.

'I have quite made up my mind,' he said presently, 'that we must take
him away with us to-morrow. The voyage will bring him to his senses.'

'Of course he resists?'

'Yes, but if you will give me your help, I think we can manage him. He
is not very strong-willed. In a spasmodic way he can defy everyone, but
the steady pressure of common sense will prevail with him, I think.'

They had talked for half-an-hour, when the door opened and the object
of their benevolent cares stood before them. He was clad in a
dressing-gown, and his disordered hair heightened the look of illness
which his features presented.

'Why didn't you call me?' he asked his brother, irritably. 'Earwaker, I
beg a thousand pardons! I'm not very well; I've overslept myself.'

'Yes, yes; come and sit down.'

Thomas made an offer to leave them.

'Don't go,' said Malkin. 'No need whatever. You know why Earwaker has
been so kind as to come here. We may as well talk it over together.'

He sat on the table, swinging a tassel of his dressing-gown round and
round.

'Now, what do you really think of doing?' asked the journalist, in a
kind voice.

'I don't know. I absolutely do not know. I'm unutterably wretched.'

'In that case, will you let your brother and me decide for you? We have
no desire but for your good, and we are perfectly at one in our
judgment.'

'Of course I know what you will propose!' cried the other, excitedly.
'From the prudential point of view, you are right, I have no doubt. But
how can you protect me against remorse? If you had received letters
such as these three,' he pulled them out of a pocket, 'you would be as
miserable as I am. If I don't keep my promise, I shall never know
another moment of peace.'

'You certainly won't if you _do_ keep it,' remarked Thomas.

'No,' added Earwaker, 'and one if not two other persons will be put
into the same case. Whereas by boldly facing these reproaches of
conscience, you do a great kindness to the others.'

'If only you could assure me of that!'

'I _can_ assure you. That is to say, I can give it as my unassailable
conviction.'

And Earwaker once more enlarged upon the theme, stating it from every
point of view that served his purpose.

'You're making a mountain out of a mole-heap,' was the confirmatory
remark that came from Thomas.  'This respectable lady will get over her
sorrows quickly enough, and some day she'll be only too glad to have you
for a son-in-law, if Miss Bella still pleases you.'

'It's only right,' urged Earwaker, in pursuance of his subtler
intention, 'that you should bear the worst of the suffering, for the
trouble has come out of your own thoughtlessness. You are fond of
saying that you have behaved with the utmost discretion; so far from
that you have been outrageously indiscreet. I foresaw that something of
this kind might come to pass'----

'Then why the devil didn't you warn me?' shouted Malkin, in an agony of
nervous strain.

'It would have been useless. In fact, I foresaw it too late.'

The discussion continued for an hour. By careful insistence on the idea
of self-sacrifice, Earwaker by degrees demolished the arguments his
friend kept putting forward. Thomas, who had gone impatiently to the
window, turned round with words that were meant to be final.

'It's quite decided. You begin your preparations at once, and to-morrow
morning you go on board with us.'

'But if I don't go to Wrotham this afternoon, she'll be here either
to-night or the first thing to-morrow. I'm sure of it!'

'By four or five o'clock,' said Earwaker, 'you can have broken up the
camp. You've often done it at shorter notice. Go to an hotel for the
night.'

'I must write to the poor woman.'

'Do as you like about that.'

'Who is to help her, if she gets into difficulties--as she's always
doing? Who is to advise her about Bella's education? Who is to pay--I
mean, who will see to----? Oh, confound it!'

The listeners glanced at each other.

'Are her affairs in order?' asked Earwaker. 'Has she a sufficient
income?'

'For ordinary needs, quite sufficient. But'----

'Then you needn't be in the least uneasy. Let her know where you are,
when the equator is between you. Watch over her interests from a
distance, if you like. I can as good as promise you that Bella will
wait hopefully to see her friend again.'

Malkin succumbed to argument and exhaustion. Facing Earwaker with a
look of pathetic appeal, he asked hoarsely:

'Will you stand by me till it's over? Have you time?'

'I can give you till five o'clock.'

'Then I'll go and dress. Ring the bell, Tom, and ask them to bring up
some beer.'

Before three had struck, the arrangements for flight were completed. A
heavily-laden cab bore away Malkin's personal property; within sat the
unhappy man and his faithful friend.

The next morning Earwaker went down to Tilbury, and said farewell to
the travellers on board the steamship Orient. Mrs. Thomas had already
taken her brother-in-law under her special care.

'It's only three children to look after, instead of two,' she remarked,
in a laughing aside to the journalist. 'How grateful he will be to you
in a few days! And I'm sure _we_ are already.'

Malkin's eyes were no longer quite lustreless. At the last moment he
talked with animation of 'two years hence', and there was vigour in the
waving of his hand as the vessel started seaward.



CHAPTER III


Peak lost no time in leaving Exeter. To lighten his baggage, and to get
rid of possessions to which hateful memories attached, he sold all his
books that had any bearing on theology. The incomplete translation of
_Bibel und Natur_ he committed to the flames in Mrs Roots's kitchen,
scattering its black remnants with savage thrusts of the poker. Whilst
engaged in packing, he debated with himself whether or not he should
take leave of the few acquaintances to whom he was indebted for
hospitality and other kindness. The question was: Had Buckland
Warricombe already warned these people against him? Probably it had
seemed to Buckland the wiser course to be content with driving the
hypocrite away; and, if this were so, regard for the future dictated a
retirement from Exeter which should in no way resemble secret flight.
Sidwell's influence with her parents would perhaps withhold them from
making his disgrace known, and in a few years he might be glad that he
had behaved with all possible prudence. In the end, he decided to write
to Mr. Lilywhite, saying that he was obliged to go away at a moment's
notice, and that he feared it would be necessary altogether to change
the scheme of life which he had had in view. This was the best way.
From the Lilywhites, other people would hear of him, and perchance
their conjectures would be charitable.

Without much hesitation he had settled his immediate plans. To London
he would not return, for he dreaded the temptations to which the
proximity of Sidwell would expose him, and he had no mind to meet with
Moxey or Earwaker. As it was now imperative that he should find work of
the old kind, he could not do better than go to Bristol, where, from
the safe ground of a cheap and obscure lodging, he might make
inquiries, watch advertisements, and so on. He already knew of
establishments in Bristol where he might possibly obtain employment.
Living with the utmost economy, he need not fall into difficulties for
more than a year, and before then his good repute with the Rotherhithe
firm would ensure him some position or other; if not in Bristol, then
at Newcastle, St. Helen's--any great centre of fuming and malodorous
industry. He was ready to work, would delight in work. Idleness was now
the intolerable thing.

So to Bristol he betook himself, and there made his temporary abode.
After spending a few weeks in fruitless search for an engagement, he at
length paid his oft-postponed visit to Twybridge. In the old home he
felt completely a stranger, and his relatives strengthened the feeling
by declaring him so changed in appearance that they hardly knew his
face. With his mother only could he talk in anything like an intimate
way, and the falsehoods with which he was obliged to answer her
questions all but destroyed the pleasure he would otherwise have found
in being affectionately tended. His sister, Mrs Cusse, was happy in her
husband, her children, and a flourishing business. Oliver was making
money, and enjoyed distinction among the shopkeeping community. His
aunt still dealt in millinery, and kept up her acquaintance with
respectable families. To Godwin all was like a dream dreamt for the
second time. He could not acknowledge any actual connection between
these people and himself. But their characteristics no longer gravely
offended him, and he willingly recognised the homespun worth which
their lives displayed. It was clear to him that by no possible agency
of circumstances could he have been held in normal relations with his
kinsfolk. However smooth his career, it must have wafted him to an
immeasurable distance from Twybridge. Nature had decreed that he was to
resemble the animals which, once reared, go forth in complete
independence of birthplace and the ties of blood. It was a harsh fate,
but in what had not fate been harsh to him? The one consolation was
that he alone suffered. His mother was no doubt occasionally troubled
by solicitude on his account, but she could not divine his inward
miseries, and an assurance that he had no material cares sufficed to
set her mind at ease.

'You are very like your father, Godwin,' she said, with a sigh. 'He
couldn't rest, however well he seemed to be getting on. There was
always something he wanted, and yet he didn't know what it was.'

'Yes, I must be like him,' Godwin replied, smiling.

He stayed five days, then returned to Bristol. A week after that, his
mother forwarded to him a letter which had come to Twybridge. He at
once recognised the writing, and broke the envelope with curiosity.

'If you should be in London [the note began], I beg you to let me see
you. There is something I have to say. To speak to you for a few
minutes I would come any distance. Don't accuse me of behaving
treacherously; it was not my fault. I know you would rather avoid me,
but do consent to hear what I have to say. If you have no intention of
coming to London, will you write and let me know where you are living?

What could Marcella have to say to him? Nothing surely that he at all
cared to hear. No doubt she imagined that he might be in ignorance of
the circumstances which had led to Buckland Warricombe's discovery; she
wished to defend herself against the suspicion of 'treachery'. He
laughed carelessly, and threw her note aside.

Two months passed, and his efforts to find employment were still vain,
though he had received conditional promises. The solitude of his life
grew burdensome. Several times he began a letter to Sidwell, but his
difficulty in writing was so great that he destroyed the attempt. In
truth, he knew not how to address her. The words he penned were tumid,
meaningless. He could not send professions of love, for his heart
seemed to be suffering a paralysis, and the laborious artificiality of
his style must have been evident. The only excuse for breaking silence
would be to let her know that he had resumed honest work; he must wait
till the opportunity offered. It did not distress him to be without
news of her. If she wished to write, and was only withheld by ignorance
of his whereabouts, it was well; if she had no thought of sending him a
word, it did not matter. He loved her, and consciously nourished hope,
but for the present there was nothing intolerable in separation. His
state of mind resulted partly from nervous reaction, and in part from a
sense that only by silent suffering could his dignity in Sidwell's eyes
be ultimately restored. Between the evil past and the hopeful future
must be a complete break.

His thoughts kept turning to London, though not because Sidwell might
still be there. He felt urgent need of speaking with a friend. Moxey
was perhaps no longer to be considered one; but Earwaker would be
tolerant of human weaknesses. To have a long talk with Earwaker would
help him to recover his mental balance, to understand himself and his
position better. So one morning in March, on the spur of the moment, he
took train and was once more in the metropolis. On his way he had
determined to send a note to Earwaker before calling at Staple Inn. He
wrote it at a small hotel in Paddington, where he took a room for the
night, and then spent the evening at a theatre, as the best way of
killing time.

By the first post next morning came a card, whereon Earwaker had
written: 'Be here, if you can, at two o'clock. Shall be glad to see
you.'

'So you have been new-furnishing!' Godwin remarked, as he was admitted
to the chambers. 'You look much more comfortable.'

'I'm glad you think so. It is the general opinion.'

They had shaken hands as though this were one of the ordinary meetings
of old time, and their voices scarcely belied the appearance. Peak
moved about the study, glancing at pictures and books, Earwaker eyeing
him the while with not unfriendly expression. They were sincerely glad
to see each other, and when Peak seated himself it was with an audible
sigh of contentment.

'And what are you doing?' he inquired.

The journalist gave a brief account of his affairs, and Peak brightened
with pleasure.

'This is good news. I knew you would shake off the ragamuffins before
long. Give me some of your back numbers, will you? I shall be curious
to examine your new style.'

'And you?--Come to live in London?'

'No; I am at Bristol, but only waiting. There's a chance of an
analyst's place in Lancashire; but I may give the preference to an
opening I have heard of in Belgium. Better to go abroad, I think.'

'Perhaps so.'

'I have a question to ask you. I suppose you talked about that
_Critical_ article of mine _before_ you received my request for
silence?'

'That's how it was,' Earwaker replied, calmly.

'Yes; I understood. It doesn't matter.'

The other puffed at his pipe, and moved uneasily.

'I am taking for granted,' Peak continued, 'that you know how I have
spent my time down in Devonshire.'

'In outline. Need we trouble about the details?'

'No. But don't suppose that I should feel any shame in talking to you
about them. That would be a confession of base motive. You and I have
studied each other, and we can exchange thoughts on most subjects with
mutual understanding. You know that I have only followed my convictions
to their logical issue. An opportunity offered of achieving the supreme
end to which my life is directed, and what scruple could stand in my
way? We have nothing to do with names and epithets. _Here_ are the
facts of life as I had known it; _there_ is the existence promised as
the reward of successful artifice. To live was to pursue the object of
my being. I could not feel otherwise; therefore, could not act
otherwise. You imagine me defeated, flung back into the gutter.' His
words came more quickly, and the muscles of his face worked under
emotion. 'It isn't so. I have a great and reasonable hope. Perhaps I
have gained everything I really desired. I could tell you the strangest
story, but there a scruple _does_ interpose. If we live another twenty
years--but now I can only talk about myself.'

'And this hope of which you speak,' said Earwaker, with a grave smile,
'points you at present to sober work among your retorts and test-tubes?'

'Yes, it does.'

'Good. Then I can put faith in the result.'

'Yet the hope began in a lie,' rejoined Peak, bitterly. 'It will always
be pleasant to look back upon that, won't it? You see: by no
conceivable honest effort could I have gained this point. Life utterly
denied to me the satisfaction of my strongest instincts, so long as I
plodded on without cause of shame; the moment I denied my faith, and
put on a visage of brass, great possibilities opened before me. Of
course I understand the moralist's position. It behoved me, though I
knew that a barren and solitary track would be my only treading to the
end, to keep courageously onward. If I can't _believe_ that any such
duty is imposed upon me, where is the obligation to persevere, the
morality of doing so? That is the worst hypocrisy. I have been honest,
inasmuch as I have acted in accordance with my actual belief.'

'M--m--m,' muttered Earwaker, slowly. 'Then you have never been
troubled with a twinge of conscience?'

'With a thousand! I have been racked, martyred. What has that to do
with it? Do you suppose I attach any final significance to those
torments? Conscience is the same in my view as an inherited disease
which may possibly break out on any most innocent physical
indulgence.--What end have I been pursuing? Is it criminal? Is it mean?
I wanted to win the love of a woman--nothing more. To do that, I have
had to behave like the grovelling villain who has no desire but to fill
his pockets. And with success!--You understand that, Earwaker? I have
succeeded! What respect can I have for the common morality, after this?'

'You have succeeded?' the other asked, thoughtfully. 'I could have
imagined that you had been in appearance successful'----

He paused, and Peak resumed with vehemence:

'No, not in appearance only. I can't tell you the story'----

'I don't wish you to'----

'But what I have won is won for ever. The triumph no longer rests on
deceit. What I insist upon is that by deceit only was it rendered
possible. If a starving man succeeds in stealing a loaf of bread, the
food will benefit him no less than if he had purchased it; it is good,
true sustenance, no matter how he got it. To be sure, the man may
prefer starvation; he may have so strong a metaphysical faith that
death is welcome in comparison with what he calls dishonour. I--I have
no such faith; and millions of other men in this country would tell the
blunt truth if they said the same. I have _used means_, that's all. The
old way of candour led me to bitterness and cursing; by dissimulation I
have won something more glorious than tongue can tell.'

It was in the endeavour to expel the subtlest enemy of his peace that
Godwin dwelt so defiantly upon this view of the temptation to which he
had yielded. Since his farewell interview with Sidwell, he knew no rest
from the torment of a mocking voice which bade him bear in mind that
all his dishonour had been superfluous, seeing that whilst he played
the part of a zealous Christian, Sidwell herself was drifting further
and further from the old religion. This voice mingled with his dreams,
and left not a waking hour untroubled. He refused to believe it, strove
against the suggestion as a half-despairing man does against the
persistent thought of suicide. If only he could obtain Earwaker's
assent to the plan he put forward, it would support him in disregard of
idle regrets.

'It is impossible,' said the journalist, 'for anyone to determine
whether that is true or not--for you, as much as for anyone else. Be
glad that you have shaken off the evil and retained the good, no use in
saying more than that.'

'Yes,' declared the other, stubbornly, 'there is good in exposing false
views of life. I ought to have come utterly to grief and shame, and
instead'----

'Instead----? Well?'

'What I have told you.'

'Which I interpret thus: that you have permission to redeem your
character, if possible, in the eyes of a woman you have grievously
misled.'

Godwin frowned.

'Who suggested this to you, Earwaker?'

'You; no one else. I don't even know who the woman is of whom you
speak.'

'Grant you are right. As an honest man, I should never have won her
faintest interest.'

'It is absurd for us to talk about it. Think in the way that is most
helpful to you,--that, no doubt, is a reasonable rule. Let us have done
with all these obscurities, and come to a practical question. Can I be
of any use to you? Would you care, for instance, to write an article
now and then on some scientific matter that has a popular interest? I
think I could promise to get that kind of thing printed for you. Or
would you review an occasional book that happened to be in your line?'

Godwin reflected.

'Thank you,' he replied, at length. 'I should be glad of such work--if
I can get into the mood for doing it properly. That won't be just yet;
but perhaps when I have found a place'----

'Think it over. Write to me about it.'

Peak glanced round the room.

'You don't know how glad I am,' he said, 'that your prosperity shows
itself in this region of bachelordom. If I had seen you in a
comfortable house, married to a woman worthy of you--I couldn't have
been sincere in my congratulations: I should have envied you so
fiercely.'

'You're a strange fellow. Twenty years hence--as you said just now--you
will one way or another have got rid of your astounding illusions. At
fifty--well, let us say at sixty--you will have a chance of seeing
things without these preposterous sexual spectacles.'

'I hope so. Every stage of life has its powers and enjoyments. When I
am old, I hope to perceive and judge without passion of any kind. But
is that any reason why my youth should be frustrated? We have only one
life, and I want to live mine throughout.'

Soon after this Peak rose. He remembered that the journalist's time was
valuable, and that he no longer had the right to demand more of it than
could be granted to any casual caller. Earwaker behaved with all
friendliness, but their relations had necessarily suffered a change.
More than a year of separation, spent by the one in accumulating
memories of dishonour, had given the other an enviable position among
men; Earwaker had his place in the social system, his growing circle of
friends, his congenial labour; perhaps--notwithstanding the tone in
which he spoke of marriage--his hopes of domestic happiness. All this
with no sacrifice of principle. He was fortunate in his temper, moral
and intellectual; partly directing circumstances, partly guided by
their pressure, he advanced on the way of harmonious development.
Nothing great would come of his endeavours, but what he aimed at he
steadily perfected. And this in spite of the adverse conditions under
which he began his course. Nature had been kind to him; what more could
one say?

When he went forth into the street again, Godwin felt his heart sink.
His solitude was the more complete for this hour of friendly dialogue.
No other companionship offered itself; if he lingered here, it must be
as one of the drifting crowd, as an idle and envious spectator of the
business and pleasure rife about him. He durst not approach that
quarter of the town where Sidwell was living--if indeed she still
remained here. Happily, the vastness of London enabled him to think of
her as at a great distance; by keeping to the district in which he now
wandered he was practically as remote from her as when he walked the
streets of Bristol.

Yet there was one person who would welcome him eagerly if he chose to
visit her. And, after all, might it not be as well if he heard what
Marcella had to say to him? He could not go to the house, for it would
be disagreeable to encounter Moxey; but, if he wrote, Marcella would
speedily make an appointment. After an hour or two of purposeless
rambling, he decided to ask for an interview. He might learn something
that really concerned him; in any case, it was a final meeting with
Marcella, to whom he perhaps owed this much courtesy.

The reply was as prompt as that from Earwaker. By the morning post came
a letter inviting him to call upon Miss Moxey as soon as possible
before noon. She added, 'My brother is away in the country; you will
meet no one here.'

By eleven o'clock he was at Notting Hill; in the drawing-room, he sat
alone for two or three minutes. Marcella entered silently, and came
towards him without a smile; he saw that she read his face eagerly, if
not with a light of triumph in her eyes. The expression might signify
that she rejoiced at having been an instrument of his discomfiture;
perhaps it was nothing more than gladness at seeing him again.

'Have you come to live in London?' she asked, when they had shaken
hands without a word.

'I am only here for a day or two.'

'My letter reached you without delay?'

'Yes. It was sent from Twybridge to Bristol. I didn't reply then, as I
had no prospect of being in London.'

'Will you sit down? You can stay for a few minutes?'

He seated himself awkwardly. Now that he was in Marcella's presence, he
felt that he had acted unaccountably in giving occasion for another
scene between them which could only end as painfully as that at Exeter.
Her emotion grew evident; he could not bear to meet the look she had
fixed upon him.

'I want to speak of what happened in this house about Christmas time,'
she resumed. 'But I must know first what you have been told.'

'What have _you_ been told?' he replied, with an uneasy smile. 'How do
you know that anything which happened here had any importance for me?'

'I don't know that it had. But I felt sure that Mr. Warricombe meant to
speak to you about it.'

'Yes, he did.'

'But did he tell you the exact truth? Or were you led to suppose that I
had broken my promise to you?'

Unwilling to introduce any mention of Sidwell, Peak preferred to
simplify the story by attributing to Buckland all the information he
had gathered.

'I understood,' he replied, 'that Warricombe had come here in the hope
of learning more about me, and that certain facts came out in general
conversation. What does it matter how he learned what he did? From the
day when he met you down in Devonshire, it was of course inevitable
that the truth should sooner or later come out. He always suspected me.'

'But I want you to know,' said Marcella, 'that I had no willing part in
it. I promised you not to speak even to my brother, and I should never
have done so but that Christian somehow met Mr. Warricombe, and heard
him talk of you. Of course he came to me in astonishment, and for your
own interest I thought it best to tell Christian what I knew. When Mr.
Warricombe came here, neither Christian nor I would have enlightened
him about--about your past. It happened most unfortunately that Mr.
Malkin was present, and he it was who began to speak of the _Critical_
article--and other things. I was powerless to prevent it.'

'Why trouble about it? I quite believe your account.'

'You _do_ believe it? You know I would not have injured you?'

'I am sure you had no wish to,' Godwin replied, in as unsentimental a
tone as possible. And, he added after a moment's pause, 'Was this what
you were so anxious to tell me?'

'Yes. Chiefly that.'

'Let me put your mind at rest,' pursued the other, with quiet
friendliness. 'I am disposed to turn optimist; everything has happened
just as it should have done. Warricombe relieved me from a false
position. If _he_ hadn't done so, I must very soon have done it for
myself. Let us rejoice that things work together for such obvious good.
A few more lessons of this kind, and we shall acknowledge that the
world is the best possible.'

He laughed, but the tense expression of Marcella's features did not
relax.

'You say you are living in Bristol?'

'For a time.'

'Have you abandoned Exeter?'

The word implied something that Marcella could not utter more plainly.
Her face completed the question.

'And the clerical career as well,' he answered.

But he knew that she sought more than this, and his voice again broke
the silence.

'Perhaps you have heard that already? Are you in communication with
Miss Moorhouse?'

She shook her head.

'But probably Warricombe has told your brother----?'

'What?'

'Oh, of his success in ridding Exeter of my objectionable presence.'

'Christian hasn't seen him again, nor have I.'

'I only wish to assure you that I have suffered no injury. My
experiment was doomed to failure. What led me to it, how I regarded it,
we won't discuss; I am as little prepared to do so now as when we
talked at Exeter. That chapter in my life is happily over. As soon as I
am established again in a place like that I had at Rotherhithe, I shall
be quite contented.'

'Contented?' She smiled incredulously. 'For how long?'

'Who can say? I have lost the habit of looking far forward.'

Marcella kept silence so long that he concluded she had nothing more to
say to him. It was an opportunity for taking leave without emotional
stress, and he rose from his chair.

'Don't go yet,' she said at once. 'It wasn't only this that I'----

Her voice was checked.

'Can I be of any use to you in Bristol?' Peak asked, determined to
avoid the trial he saw approaching.

'There is something more I wanted to say,' she pursued, seeming not to
hear him. 'You pretend to be contented, but I know that is impossible.
You talk of going back to a dull routine of toil, when what you most
desire is freedom. I want--if I can--to help you.'

Again she failed to command her voice. Godwin raised his eyes, and was
astonished at the transformation she had suddenly undergone. Her face,
instead of being colourless and darkly vehement, had changed to a
bright warmth, a smiling radiance such as would have become a happy
girl. His look seemed to give her courage.

'Only hear me patiently. We are such old friends--are we not? We have
so often proclaimed our scorn of conventionality, and why should a
conventional fear hinder what I want to say? You know--don't you?--that
I have far more money than I need or am ever likely to. I want only a
few hundreds a year, and I have more than a thousand.' She spoke more
and more quickly, fearful of being interrupted. 'Why shouldn't I give
you some of my superfluity? Let me help you in this way. Money can do
so much. Take some from me, and use it as you will--just as you will.
It is useless to _me_. Why shouldn't someone whom I wish well benefit
by it?'

Godwin was not so much surprised as disconcerted. He knew that
Marcella's nature was of large mould, and that whether she acted for
good or evil its promptings would be anything but commonplace. The
ardour with which she pleaded, and the magnitude of the benefaction she
desired to bestow upon him, so affected his imagination that for the
moment he stood as if doubting what reply to make. The doubt really in
his mind was whether Marcella had calculated upon his weakness, and
hoped to draw him within her power by the force of such an obligation,
or if in truth she sought only to appease her heart with the exercise
of generosity.

'You will let me?' she panted forth, watching him with brilliant eyes.
'This shall be a secret for ever between you and me. It imposes no debt
of gratitude--how I despise the thought! I give you what is worthless
to me,--except that it can do _you_ good. But you can thank me if you
will. I am not above being thanked.' She laughed unnaturally. 'Go and
travel at first, as you wished to. Write me a short letter every
month--every two months, just that I may know you are enjoying your
life. It is agreed, isn't it?'

She held her hand to him, but Peak drew away, his face averted.

'How can you give me the pain of refusing such an offer?' he exclaimed,
with remonstrance which was all but anger. 'You know the thing is
utterly impossible. I should be ridiculous if I argued about it for a
moment.'

'I can't see that it is impossible.'

'Then you must take my word for it. But I have no right to speak to you
in that way,' he added, more kindly, seeing the profound humiliation
which fell upon her. 'You meant to come to my aid at a time when I
seemed to you lonely and miserable. It was a generous impulse, and I do
indeed thank you. I shall always remember it and be grateful to you.'

Marcella's face was again in shadow. Its lineaments hardened to an
expression of cold, stern dignity.

'I have made a mistake,' she said. 'I thought you above common ways of
thinking.'

'Yes, you put me on too high a pedestal,' Peak answered, trying to
speak humorously. 'One of my faults is that I am apt to mistake my own
position in the same way.'

'You think yourself ambitious. Oh, if you knew really great ambition!
Go back to your laboratory, and work for wages. I would have saved you
from that.'

The tone was not vehement, but the words bit all the deeper for their
unimpassioned accent. Godwin could make no reply.

'I hope,' she continued, 'we may meet a few years hence. By that time
you will have learnt that what I offered was not impossible. You will
wish you had dared to accept it. I know what your _ambition_ is. Wait
till you are old enough to see it in its true light. How you will scorn
yourself! Surely there was never a man who united such capacity for
great things with so mean an ideal. You will never win even the paltry
satisfaction on which you have set your mind--never! But you can't be
made to understand that. You will throw away all the best part of your
life. Meet me in a few years, and tell me the story of the interval.'

'I will engage to do that, Marcella.'

'You will? But not to tell me the truth. You will not dare to tell the
truth.'

'Why not?' he asked, indifferently. 'Decidedly I shall owe it you in
return for your frankness to-day. Till then--good-bye.'

She did not refuse her hand, and as he moved away she watched him with
a smile of slighting good-nature.

On the morrow Godwin was back in Bristol, and there he dwelt for
another six months, a period of mental and physical lassitude. Earwaker
corresponded with him, and urged him to attempt the work that had been
proposed, but such effort was beyond his power.

He saw one day in a literary paper an announcement that Reusch's _Bibel
und Natur_ was about to be published in an English translation. So
someone else had successfully finished the work he undertook nearly two
years ago. He amused himself with the thought that he could ever have
persevered so long in such profitless labour, and with a contemptuous
laugh he muttered '_Thohu wabohu_.'

Just when the winter had set in, he received an offer of a post in
chemical works at St. Helen's, and without delay travelled northwards.
The appointment was a poor one, and seemed unlikely to be a step to
anything better, but his resources would not last more than another
half year, and employment of whatever kind came as welcome relief to
the tedium of his existence. Established in his new abode, he at length
wrote to Sidwell. She answered him at once in a short letter which he
might have shown to anyone, so calm were its expressions of interest,
so uncompromising its words of congratulation. It began 'Dear Mr.
Peak', and ended with 'Yours sincerely'. Well, he had used the same
formalities, and had uttered his feelings with scarcely more of warmth.
Disappointment troubled him for a moment, and for a moment only. He was
so far from Exeter, and further still from the life that he had led
there. It seemed to him all but certain that Sidwell wrote coldly, with
the intention of discouraging his hopes. What hope was he so foolish as
to entertain? His position poorer than ever, what could justify him in
writing love-letters to a girl who, even if willing to marry him, must
not do so until he had a suitable home to offer her?

Since his maturity, he had never known so long a freedom from passion.
One day he wrote to Earwaker: 'I begin to your independence with regard
to women. It would be a strange thing if I became a convert to that way
of thinking, but once or twice of late I have imagined that it was
happening. My mind has all but recovered its tone, and I am able to
read, to think--I mean really to _think_, not to muse. I get through
big and solid books. Presently, if your offer still hold good, I shall
send you a scrap of writing on something or other. The pestilent
atmosphere of this place seems to invigorate me. Last Saturday evening
I took train, got away into the hills, and spent the Sunday
geologising. And a curious experience befell me,--one I had long, long
ago, in the Whitelaw days. Sitting down before some interesting strata,
I lost myself in something like nirvana, grew so subject to the idea of
vastness in geological time that all human desires and purposes
shrivelled to ridiculous unimportance. Awaking for a minute, I tried to
realise the passion which not long ago rent and racked me, but I was
flatly incapable of understanding it. Will this philosophic state
endure? Perhaps I have used up all my emotional energy? I hardly know
whether to hope or fear it.'

About midsummer, when his short holiday (he would only be released for
a fortnight) drew near, he was surprised by another letter from Sidwell.

'I am anxious [she wrote] to hear that you are well. It is more than
half a year since your last letter, and of late I have been constantly
expecting a few lines. The spring has been a time of trouble with us. A
distant relative, an old and feeble lady who has passed her life in a
little Dorsetshire village, came to see us in April, and in less than a
fortnight she was seized with illness and died. Then Fanny had an
attack of bronchitis, from which even now she is not altogether
recovered. On her account we are all going to Royat, and I think we
shall be away until the end of September. Will you let me hear from you
before I leave England, which will be in a week's time? Don't refrain
from writing because you think you have no news to send. Anything that
interests you is of interest to me. If it is only to tell me what you
have been reading, I shall be glad of a letter.'

It was still 'Yours sincerely'; but Godwin felt that the letter meant
more. In re-reading it he was pleasantly thrilled with a stirring of
the old emotions. But his first impulse, to write an ardent reply, did
not carry him away; he reflected and took counsel of the experience
gained in his studious solitude. It was evident that by keeping silence
he had caused Sidwell to throw off something of her reserve. The course
dictated by prudence was to maintain an attitude of dignity, to hold
himself in check. In this way he would regain what he had so
disastrously lost, Sidwell's respect. There was a distinct pleasure in
this exercise of self-command; it was something new to him; it
flattered his pride. 'Let her learn that, after all, I am her superior.
Let her fear to lose me. Then, if her love is still to be depended
upon, she will before long find a way to our union. It is in her power,
if only she wills it.'

So he sat down and wrote a short letter which seemed to him a model of
dignified expression.



CHAPTER IV


Sidwell took no one into her confidence. The case was not one for
counsel; whatever her future action, it must result from the maturing
of self-knowledge, from the effect of circumstance upon her mind and
heart. For the present she could live in silence.

'We hear,' she wrote from London to Sylvia Moorhouse, 'that Mr. Peak
has left Exeter, and that he is not likely to carry out his intention
of being ordained. You, I daresay, will feel no surprise.' Nothing more
than that; and Sylvia's comments in reply were equally brief.

Martin Warricombe, after conversations with his wife and with Buckland,
felt it impossible not to seek for an understanding of Sidwell's share
in the catastrophe. He was gravely perturbed, feeling that with himself
lay the chief responsibility for what had happened. Buckland's attitude
was that of the man who can only keep repeating 'I told you so'; Mrs.
Warricombe could only lament and upbraid in the worse than profitless
fashion natural to women of her stamp. But in his daughter Martin had
every kind of faith, and he longed to speak to her without reserve. Two
days after her return from Exeter, he took Sidwell apart, and, with a
distressing sense of the delicacy of the situation, tried to persuade
her to frank utterance.

'I have been hearing strange reports,' he began, gravely, but without
show of displeasure. 'Can you help me to understand the real facts of
the case, Sidwell?--What is your view of Peak's behaviour?'

'He has deceived you, father,' was the quiet reply.

'You are convinced of that?--It allows of no----?'

'It can't be explained away. He pretended to believe what he did not
and could not believe.'

'With interested motives, then?'

'Yes.--But not motives in themselves dishonourable.'

There was a pause. Sidwell had spoken in a steady voice, though with
eyes cast down. Whether her father could understand a position such as
Godwin's, she felt uncertain. That he would honestly endeavour to do
so, there could be no doubt, especially since he must suspect that her
own desire was to distinguish between the man and his fault. But a
revelation of all that had passed between her and Peak was not
possible; she had the support neither of intellect nor of passion; it
would be asking for guidance, the very thing she had determined not to
do. Already she found it difficult to recover the impulses which had
directed her in that scene of parting; to talk of it would be to see
her action in such a doubtful light that she might be led to some
premature and irretrievable resolve. The only trustworthy counsellor
was time; on what time brought forth must depend her future.

'Do you mean, Sidwell,' resumed her father, 'that you think it possible
for us to overlook this deception?'

She delayed a moment, then said:

'I don't think it possible for you to regard him as a friend.'

Martin's face expressed relief.

'But will he remain in Exeter?'

'I shouldn't think he can.'

Again a pause. Martin was of course puzzled exceedingly, but he began
to feel some assurance that Peak need not be regarded as a danger.

'I am grieved beyond expression,' he said at length. 'So deliberate a
fraud--it seems to me inconsistent with any of the qualities I thought
I saw in him.'

'Yes--it must.'

'Not--perhaps--to you?' Martin ventured, anxiously.

'His nature is not base.'

'Forgive me, dear.--I understand that you spoke with him after
Buckland's call at his lodgings----?'

'Yes, I saw him.'

'And--he strove to persuade you that he had some motive which justified
his conduct?'

'Excused, rather than justified.'

'Not--it seems--to your satisfaction?'

'I can't answer that question, father. My experience of life is too
slight. I can only say that untruthfulness in itself is abhorrent to
me, and that I could never try to make it seem a light thing.'

'That, surely, is a sound view, think as we may on speculative points.
But allow me one more question, Sidwell. Does it seem to you that I
have no choice but to break off all communication with Mr Peak?'

It was the course dictated by his own wish, she knew. And what could be
gained by any middle way between hearty goodwill and complete
repudiation? Time--time alone must work out the problem.

'Yes, I think you have no choice,' she answered.

'Then I must make inquiries--see if he leaves the town.'

'Mr. Lilywhite will know, probably.'

'I will write before long.'

So the dialogue ended, and neither sought to renew it.

Martin enjoined upon his wife a discreet avoidance of the subject. The
younger members of the family were to know nothing of what had
happened, and, if possible, the secret must be kept from friends at
Exeter. When a fortnight had elapsed, he wrote to Mr. Lilywhite, asking
whether it was true that Peak had gone away. 'It seems that private
circumstances have obliged him to give up his project of taking Orders.
Possibly he has had a talk with you?' The clergyman replied that Peak
had left Exeter. 'I have had a letter from him, explaining in general
terms his change of views. It hardly surprises me that he has
reconsidered the matter. I don't think he was cut out for clerical
work. He is far more likely to distinguish himself in the world of
science. I suspect that conscientious scruples may have something to do
with it; if so, all honour to him!'

The Warricombes prolonged their stay in London until the end of June.
On their return home, Martin was relieved to find that scarcely an
inquiry was made of him concerning Peak. The young man's disappearance
excited no curiosity in the good people who had come in contact with
him, and who were so far from suspecting what a notable figure had
passed across their placid vision. One person only was urgent in his
questioning. On an afternoon when Mrs Warricombe and her daughters were
alone, the Rev. Bruno Chilvers made a call.

'Oh!' he exclaimed, after a few minutes' conversation, 'I am so anxious
to ask you what has become of Mr. Peak. Soon after my arrival in
Exeter, I went to see him, and we had a long talk--a most interesting
talk. Then I heard all at once that he was gone, and that we should see
no more of him. Where is he? What is he doing?'

There was a barely appreciable delay before Mrs. Warricombe made answer.

'We have quite lost sight of him,' she said, with an artificial smile.
'We know only that he was called away on some urgent business--family
affairs, I suppose.'

Chilvers, in the most natural way, glanced from the speaker to Sidwell,
and instantly, without the slightest change of expression, brought his
eyes back again.

'I hope most earnestly,' he went on, in his fluty tone, 'that he will
return. A most interesting man! A man of _large_ intellectual scope,
and really _broad_ sympathies. I looked forward to many a chat with
him. Has he, I wonder, been led to change his views? Possibly he would
find a secular sphere more adapted to his special powers.'

Mrs. Warricombe had nothing to say. Sidwell, finding that Mr Chilvers'
smile now beamed in her direction, replied to him with steady utterance:

'It isn't uncommon, I think, nowadays, for doubts to interfere with the
course of study for ordination?'

'Far from uncommon!' exclaimed the Rector of St. Margaret's, with
almost joyous admission of the fact. 'Very far from uncommon. Such
students have my profound sympathy. I know from experience exactly what
it means to be overcome in a struggle with the modern spirit. Happily
for myself, I was enabled to recover what for a time I lost. But
charity forbid that I should judge those who think they must needs
voyage for ever in sunless gulfs of doubt, or even absolutely deny that
the human intellect can be enlightened from above.'

At a loss even to follow this rhetoric, Mrs. Warricombe, who was
delighted to welcome the Rev. Bruno, and regarded him as a gleaming
pillar of the Church, made haste to introduce a safer topic. After
that, Mr. Chilvers was seen at the house with some frequency. Not that
he paid more attention to the Warricombes than to his other
acquaintances. Relieved by his curate from the uncongenial burden of
mere parish affairs, he seemed to regard himself as an apostle at
large, whose mission directed him to the households of well-to-do
people throughout the city. His brother clergymen held him in slight
esteem. In private talk with Martin Warricombe, Mr. Lilywhite did not
hesitate to call him 'a mountebank', and to add other depreciatory
remarks.

'My wife tells me--and I can trust her judgment in such things--that
his sole object just now is to make a good marriage. Rather
disagreeable stories seem to have followed him from the other side of
England. He makes love to all unmarried women--never going beyond what
is thought permissible, but doing a good deal of mischief, I fancy. One
lady in Exeter--I won't mention names--has already pulled him up with a
direct inquiry as to his intentions; at her house, I imagine, he will
no more be seen.'

The genial parson chuckled over his narrative, and Martin, by no means
predisposed in the Rev. Bruno's favour, took care to report these
matters to his wife.

'I don't believe a word of it!' exclaimed Mrs. Warricombe. 'All the
clergy are jealous of Mr. Chilvers.'

'What? Of his success with ladies?'

'Martin! It is something new for you to be profane!--They are jealous
of his high reputation.'

'Rather a serious charge against our respectable friends.'

'And the stories are all nonsense,' pursued Mrs. Warricombe. 'It's very
wrong of Mr. Lilywhite to report such things. I don't believe any other
clergyman would have done so.'

Martin smiled--as he had been accustomed to do all through his married
life--and let the discussion rest there. On the next occasion of Mr.
Chilvers being at the house, he observed the reverend man's behaviour
with Sidwell, and was not at all pleased. Bruno had a way of addressing
women which certainly went beyond the ordinary limits of courtesy. At a
little distance, anyone would have concluded that he was doing his best
to excite Sidwell's affectionate interest. The matter of his discourse
might be unobjectionable, but the manner of it was not in good taste.

Mrs. Warricombe was likewise observant, but with other emotions. To her
it seemed a subject for pleasurable reflection, that Mr. Chilvers
should show interest in Sidwell. The Rev. Bruno had bright prospects.
With the colour of his orthodoxy she did not concern herself. He was
ticketed 'broad', a term which carried with it no disparagement; and
Sidwell's sympathies were altogether with the men of 'breadth'. The
time drew near when Sidwell must marry, if she ever meant to do so, and
in comparison with such candidates as Mr Walsh and Godwin Peak, the
Rector of St. Margaret's would be an ideal husband for her. Sidwell's
attitude towards Mr. Chilvers was not encouraging, but Mrs. Warricombe
suspected that a lingering regard for the impostor, so lately unmasked,
still troubled her daughter's mind: a new suitor, even if rejected,
would help the poor girl to dismiss that shocking infatuation.

Sidwell and her father nowadays spent much time together, and in the
autumn days it became usual for them to have an afternoon ramble about
the lanes. Their talk was of science and literature, occasionally
skirting very close upon those questions which both feared to discuss
plainly--for a twofold reason. Sidwell read much more than had been her
wont, and her choice of authors would alone have indicated a change in
her ways of thinking, even if she had not allowed it to appear in the
tenor of her talk. The questions she put with reference to Martin's
favourite studies were sometimes embarrassing.

One day they happened to meet Mr. Chilvers, who was driving with his
eldest child, a boy of four. The narrowness of the road made it
impossible--as Martin would have wished--to greet and pass on. Chilvers
stopped the carriage and jumped out. Sidwell could not but pay some
attention to the youthful Chilvers.

'Till he is ten years old,' cried Bruno, 'I shall think much more of
his body than of his mind. In fact, at this age the body _is_ the mind.
Books, books--oh, we attach far too much importance to them. Over-study
is one of the morbific tendencies of our time. Some one or other has
been trying to frown down what he calls the excessive athleticism of
our public schools. No, no! Let us rejoice that our lads have such an
opportunity of vigorous physical development. The culture of the body
is a great part of religion.' He always uttered remarks of this kind as
if suggesting that his hearers should note them in a collection of
aphorisms. 'If to labour is to pray, so also is the practice of
open-air recreation.

When they had succeeded in getting away, father and daughter walked for
some minutes without speaking. At length Sidwell asked, with a smile:

'How does this form of Christianity strike you?'

'Why, very much like a box on the ear with a perfumed glove,' replied
Martin.

'That describes it very well.'

They walked a little further, and Sidwell spoke in a more serious tone.

'If Mr. Chilvers were brought before the ecclesiastical authorities and
compelled to make a clear statement of his faith, what sect, in all the
history of heresies, would he really seem to belong to?'

'I know too little of him, and too little of heresies.'

'Do you suppose for a moment that he sincerely believes the dogmas of
his Church?'

Martin bit his lip and looked uneasy.

'We can't judge him, Sidwell.'

'I don't know,' she persisted. 'It seems to me that he does his best to
give us the means of judging him. I half believe that he often laughs
in himself at the success of his audacity.'

'No, no. I think the man is sincere.'

This was very uncomfortable ground, but Sidwell would not avoid it. Her
eyes flashed, and she spoke with a vehemence such as Martin had never
seen in her.

'Undoubtedly sincere in his determination to make a figure in the
world. But a Christian, in any intelligible sense of that much-abused
word,--no! He is one type of the successful man of our day. Where
thousands of better and stronger men struggle vainly for fair
recognition, he and his kind are glorified. In comparison with a really
energetic man, he is an acrobat. The crowd stares at him and applauds,
and there is nothing he cares for so much as that kind of admiration.'

Martin kept silence, and in a few minutes succeeded in broaching a
wholly different subject.

Not long after this, Mr. Chilvers paid a call at the conventional hour.
Sidwell, hoping to escape, invited two girls to step out with her on to
the lawn. The sun was sinking, and, as she stood with eyes fixed upon
it, the Rev. Bruno's voice disagreeably broke her reverie. She was
perforce involved in a dialogue, her companions moving aside.

'What a magnificent sky!' murmured Chilvers. '"There sinks the nebulous
star." Forgive me, I have fallen into a tiresome trick of quoting. How
differently a sunset is viewed nowadays from what it was in old times!
Our impersonal emotions are on a higher plane--don't you think so? Yes,
scientific discovery has done more for religion than all the ages of
pious imagination. A theory of Galileo or Newton is more to the soul
than a psalm of David.'

'You think so?' Sidwell asked, coldly.

In everyday conversation she was less suave than formerly. This summer
she had never worn her spray of sweet-brier, and the omission might
have been deemed significant of a change in herself. When the occasion
offered, she no longer hesitated to express a difference of opinion; at
times she uttered her dissent with a bluntness which recalled
Buckland's manner in private.

'Does the comparison seem to you unbecoming?' said Chilvers, with
genial condescension. 'Or untrue?'

'What do you mean by "the soul"?' she inquired, still gazing away from
him.

'The principle of conscious life in man--that which understands and
worships.'

'The two faculties seem to me so different that'----She broke off. 'But
I mustn't talk foolishly about such things.'

'I feel sure you have thought of them to some purpose. I wonder whether
you ever read Francis Newman's book on _The Soul_?'

'No, I never saw it.'

'Allow me to recommend it to you. I believe you would find it deeply
interesting.'

'Does the Church approve it?'

'The Church?' He smiled. 'Ah! what Church? Churchmen there are,
unfortunately, who detest the name of its author, but I hope you have
never classed me among them. The Church, rightly understood,
comprehends every mind and heart that is striving upwards. The age of
intolerance will soon be as remote from us as that of persecution. Can
I be mistaken in thinking that this broader view has your sympathy,
Miss Warricombe?'

'I can't sympathise with what I don't understand, Mr. Chilvers.'

He looked at her with tender solicitude, bending slightly from his
usual square-shouldered attitude.

'Do let me find an opportunity of talking over the whole matter with
you--by no means as an instructor. In my view, a clergyman may seek
instruction from the humblest of those who are called his flock. The
thoughtful and high-minded among them will often assist him materially
in his endeavour at self-development. To my "flock",' he continued,
playfully, 'you don't belong; but may I not count you one of that
circle of friends to whom I look for the higher kind of sympathy?'

Sidwell glanced about her in the hope that some one might be
approaching. Her two friends were at a distance, talking and laughing
together.

'You shall tell me some day,' she replied, with more attention to
courtesy, 'what the doctrines of the Broad Church really are. But the
air grows too cool to be pleasant; hadn't we better return to the
drawing-room?'

The greater part of the winter went by before she had again to submit
to a tete-a-tete with the Rev. Bruno. It was seldom that she thought of
him save when compelled to do so by his exacting presence, but in the
meantime he exercised no small influence on her mental life. Insensibly
she was confirmed in her alienation from all accepted forms of
religious faith. Whether she wished it or not, it was inevitable that
such a process should keep her constantly in mind of Godwin Peak. Her
desire to talk with him at times became so like passion that she
appeared to herself to love him more truly than ever. Yet such a mood
was always followed by doubt, and she could not say whether the
reaction distressed or soothed her. These months that had gone by
brought one result, not to be disguised. Whatever the true nature of
her feeling for Godwin, the thought of marrying him was so difficult to
face that it seemed to involve impossibilities. He himself had warned
her that marriage would mean severance from all her kindred. It was
practically true, and time would only increase the difficulty of such a
determination.

The very fact that her love (again, if love it were) must be indulged
in defiance of universal opinion tended to keep emotion alive. A woman
is disposed to cling to a lover who has disgraced himself, especially
if she can believe that the disgrace was incurred as a result of
devotion to her. Could love be separated from thought of marriage,
Sidwell would have encouraged herself in fidelity, happy in the
prospect of a life-long spiritual communion--for she would not doubt of
Godwin's upward progress, of his eventual purification. But this was a
mere dream. If Godwin's passion were steadfast, the day would come when
she must decide either to cast in her lot with his, or to bid him be
free. And could she imagine herself going forth into exile?

There came a letter from him, and she was fortunate enough to receive
it without the knowledge of her relatives. He wrote that he had
obtained employment. The news gave her a troubled joy, lasting for
several days. That no emotion appeared in her reply was due to a fear
lest she might be guilty of misleading him. Perhaps already she had
done so. Her last whisper--'Some day!'--was it not a promise and an
appeal? Now she had not the excuse of profound agitation, there must be
no word her conscience could not justify. But in writing those formal
lines she felt herself a coward. She was drawing back--preparing her
escape.

Often she had the letter beneath her pillow. It was the first she had
ever received from a man who professed to love her. So long without
romance in her life, she could not but entertain this semblance of it,
and feel that she was still young.

It told much in Godwin's favour that he had not ventured to write
before there was this news to send her. It testified to the force of
his character, the purity of his purpose. A weaker man, she knew, would
have tried to excite her compassion by letters of mournful strain,
might even have distressed her with attempts at clandestine meeting.
She had said rightly--his nature was not base. And she loved him! She
was passionately grateful to him for proving that her love had not been
unworthily bestowed.

When he wrote again, her answer should not be cowardly.

The life of the household went on as it had been wont to do for years,
but with the spring came events. An old lady died whilst on a visit to
the house (she was a half-sister of Mrs. Warricombe), and by a will
executed a few years previously she left a thousand pounds, to be
equally divided between the children of this family. Sidwell smiled
sadly on finding herself in possession of this bequest, the first sum
of any importance that she had ever held in her own right. If she
married a man of whom all her kith and kin so strongly disapproved that
they would not give her even a wedding present, two hundred and fifty
pounds would be better than no dowry at all. One could furnish a house
with it.

Then Fanny had an attack of bronchitis, and whilst she was recovering
Buckland came down for a few days, bringing with him a piece of news
for which no one was prepared. As if to make reparation to his elder
sister for the harshness with which he had behaved in the affair of
Godwin Peak, he chose her for his first confidante.

'Sidwell, I am going to be married. Do you care to hear about it?'

'Certainly I do.'

Long ago she had been assured of Sylvia Moorhouse's sincerity in
rejecting Buckland's suit. That was still a grief to her, but she
acknowledged her friend's wisdom, and was now very curious to learn who
it was that the Radical had honoured with his transferred affections.

'The lady's name,' Buckland began, 'is Miss Matilda Renshaw. She is the
second daughter of a dealer in hides, tallow, and that kind of thing.
Both her parents are dead; she has lived of late with her married
sister at Blackheath.'

Sidwell listened with no slight astonishment, and her countenance
looked what she felt.

'That's the bald statement of the cause,' pursued her brother, seeming
to enjoy the consternation he had excited. 'Now, let me fill up the
outline. Miss Renshaw is something more than good-looking, has had an
admirable education, is five-and-twenty, and for a couple of years has
been actively engaged in humanitarian work in the East End. She has
published a book on social questions, and is a very good public
speaker. Finally, she owns property representing between three and four
thousand a year.'

'The picture has become more attractive,' said Sidwell.

'You imagined a rather different person? If I persuade mother to invite
her down here presently, do you think you could be friendly with her?'

'I see no reason why I should not be.'

'But I must warn you. She has nothing to do with creeds and dogmas.'

He tried to read her face. Sidwell's mind was a mystery to him.

'I shall make no inquiry about her religious views,' his sister
replied, in a dispassionate tone, which conveyed no certain meaning.

'Then I feel sure you will like her, and equally sure that she will
like you.'

His parents had no distinct fault to find with this choice, though they
would both greatly have preferred a daughter-in-law whose genealogy
could be more freely spoken of. Miss Renshaw was invited to Exeter, and
the first week of June saw her arrival. Buckland had in no way
exaggerated her qualities. She was a dark-eyed beauty, perfect from the
social point of view, a very interesting talker,--in short, no ordinary
woman. That Buckland should have fallen in love with her, even after
Sylvia, was easily understood; it seemed likely that she would make him
as good a wife as he could ever hope to win.

Sidwell was expecting another letter from the north of England. The
silence which during those first months had been justifiable was now a
source of anxiety. But whether fear or hope predominated in her
expectancy, she still could not decide. She had said to herself that
her next reply should not be cowardly, yet she was as far as ever from
a courageous resolve.

Mental harassment told upon her health. Martin, watching her with
solicitude, declared that for her sake as much as for Fanny's they must
have a thorough holiday abroad.

Urged by the approaching departure, Sidwell overcame her reluctance to
write to Godwin before she had a letter to answer. It was done in a
mood of intolerable despondency, when life looked barren before her,
and the desire of love all but triumphed over every other
consideration. The letter written and posted, she would gladly have
recovered it--reserved, formal as it was. Cowardly still; but then
Godwin had not written.

She kept a watch upon the postman, and again, when Godwin's reply was
delivered, escaped detection.

Hardly did she dare to open the envelope. Her letter had perchance been
more significant than she supposed; and did not the mere fact of her
writing invite a lover's frankness?

But the reply was hardly more moving than if it had come from a total
stranger. For a moment she felt relieved; in an hour's time she
suffered indescribable distress. Godwin wrote--so she convinced herself
after repeated perusals--as if discharging a task; not a word suggested
tenderness. Had the letter been unsolicited, she could have used it
like the former one; but it was the answer to an appeal. The phrases
she had used were still present in her mind. 'I am anxious . . . it is
more than half a year since you wrote . . . I have been expecting . . .
anything that is of interest to you will interest me. . . .' How could
she imagine that this was reserved and formal? Shame fell upon her; she
locked herself from all companionship, and wept in rebellion against
the laws of life.

A fortnight later, she wrote from Royat to Sylvia Moorhouse. It was a
long epistle, full of sunny descriptions, breathing renewed vigour of
body and mind. The last paragraph ran thus:

'Yesterday was my birthday; I was twenty-eight. At this age, it is
wisdom in a woman to remind herself that youth is over. I don't regret
it; let it go with all its follies! But I am sorry that I have no
serious work in life; it is not cheerful to look forward to perhaps
another eight-and-twenty years of elegant leisure--that is to say, of
wearisome idleness. What can I do? Try and think of some task for me,
something that will last a lifetime.'



Part VII



CHAPTER I


At the close of a sultry day in September, when factory fumes hung low
over the town of St. Helen's, and twilight thickened luridly, and the
air tasted of sulphur, and the noises of the streets, muffled in their
joint effect, had individually an ominous distinctness, Godwin Peak
walked with languid steps to his lodgings and the meal that there
awaited him. His vitality was at low ebb. The routine of his life
disgusted him; the hope of release was a mockery. What was to be the
limit of this effort to redeem his character? How many years before the
past could be forgotten, and his claim to the style of honourable be
deemed secure? Rubbish! It was an idea out of old-fashioned romances.
What he was, he was, and no extent of dogged duration at St. Helen's or
elsewhere, could affect his personality. What, practically, was to be
the end? If Sidwell had no money of her own, and no expectations from
her father, how could she ever become his wife? Women liked this kind
of thing, this indefinite engagement to marry when something should
happen, which in all likelihood never would happen--this fantastic
mutual fidelity with only the airiest reward. Especially women of a
certain age.

A heavy cart seemed to be rumbling in the next street. No, it was
thunder. If only a good rattling storm would sweep the bituminous
atmosphere, and allow a breath of pure air before midnight.

She could not be far from thirty. Of course there prevails much
conventional nonsense about women's age; there are plenty of women who
reckon four decades, and yet retain all the essential charm of their
sex. And as a man gets older, as he begins to persuade himself that at
forty one has scarce reached the prime of life----

The storm was coming on in earnest. Big drops began to fall. He
quickened his pace, reached home, and rang the bell for a light.

His landlady came in with the announcement that a gentleman had called
to see him, about an hour ago; he would come again at seven o'clock.

'What name?'

None had been given. A youngish gentleman, speaking like a Londoner.

It might be Earwaker, but that was not likely. Godwin sat down to his
plain meal, and after it lit a pipe. Thunder was still rolling, but now
in the distance. He waited impatiently for seven o'clock.

To the minute, sounded a knock at the house-door. A little delay, and
there appeared Christian Moxey.

Godwin was surprised and embarrassed. His visitor had a very grave
face, and was thinner, paler, than three years ago; he appeared to
hesitate, but at length offered his hand.

'I got your address from Earwaker. I was obliged to see you--on
business.'

'Business?'

'May I take my coat off? We shall have to talk.'

They sat down, and Godwin, unable to strike the note of friendship lest
he should be met with repulse, broke silence by regretting that Moxey
should have had to make a second call.

'Oh, that's nothing! I went and had dinner.--Peak, my sister is dead.'

Their eyes met; something of the old kindness rose to either face.

'That must be a heavy blow to you,' murmured Godwin, possessed with a
strange anticipation which he would not allow to take clear form.

'It is. She was ill for three months.' Whilst staying in the country
last June she met with an accident. She went for a long walk alone one
day, and in a steep lane she came up with a carter who was trying to
make a wretched horse drag a load beyond its strength. The fellow was
perhaps half drunk; he stood there beating the horse unmercifully.
Marcella couldn't endure that kind of thing--impossible for her to pass
on and say nothing. She interfered, and tried to persuade the man to
lighten his cart. He was insolent, attacked the horse more furiously
than ever, and kicked it so violently in the stomach that it fell. Even
then he wouldn't stop his brutality. Marcella tried to get between him
and the animal--just as it lashed out with its heels. The poor girl was
so badly injured that she lay by the roadside until another carter took
her up and brought her back to the village. Three months of accursed
suffering, and then happily came the end.'

A far, faint echoing of thunder filled the silence of their voices.
Heavy rain splashed upon the pavement.

'She said to me just before her death,' resumed Christian, '"I have ill
luck when I try to do a kindness--but perhaps there is one more
chance." I didn't know what she meant till afterwards. Peak, she has
left nearly all her money to you.'

Godwin knew it before the words were spoken. His heart leaped, and only
the dread of being observed enabled him to control his features. When
his tongue was released he said harshly:

'Of course I can't accept it.'

The words were uttered independently of his will. He had no such
thought, and the sound of his voice shook him with alarm.

'Why can't you?' returned Christian.

'I have no right--it belongs to you, or to some other relative--it
would be'----

His stammering broke off. Flushes and chills ran through him; he could
not raise his eyes from the ground.

'It belongs to no one but you,' said Moxey, with cold persistence. 'Her
last wish was to do you a kindness, and I, at all events, shall never
consent to frustrate her intention. The legacy represents something
more than eight hundred a year, as the investments now stand. This will
make you independent--of everything and everybody.' He looked meaningly
at the listener. 'Her own life was not a very happy one; she did what
she could to save yours from a like doom.'

Godwin at last looked up.

'Did she speak of me during her illness?'

'She asked me once, soon after the accident, what had become of you. As
I knew from Earwaker, I was able to tell her.'

A long silence followed. Christian's voice was softer when he resumed.

'You never knew her. She was the one woman in ten thousand--at once
strong and gentle; a fine intellect, and a heart of rare tenderness.
But because she had not the kind of face that'----

He checked himself.

'To the end her mind kept its clearness and courage. One day she
reminded me of Heine--how we had talked of that "conversion" on the
mattress-grave, and had pitied the noble intellect subdued by disease.
"I shan't live long enough," she said, "to incur that danger. What I
have thought ever since I could study, I think now, and shall to the
last moment." I buried her without forms of any kind, in the cemetery
at Kingsmill. That was what she wished. I should have despised myself
if I had lacked that courage.'

'It was right,' muttered Godwin.

'And I wear no mourning, you see. All that kind of thing is ignoble. I
am robbed of a priceless companionship, but I don't care to go about
inviting people's pity. If only I could forget those months of
suffering! Some day I shall, perhaps, and think of her only as she
lived.'

'Were you alone with her all the time?'

'No. Our cousin Janet was often with us.' Christian spoke with averted
face. 'You don't know, of course, that she has gone in for medical
work--practises at Kingsmill. The accident was at a village called
Lowton, ten miles or more from Kingsmill. Janet came over very often.'

Godwin mused on this development of the girl whom he remembered so
well. He could not direct his thoughts; a languor had crept over him.

'Do you recollect, Peak,' said Christian, presently, 'the talk we had
in the fields by Twybridge, when we first met?'

The old friendliness was reappearing in his manner, He was yielding to
the impulse to be communicative, confidential, which had always
characterised him.

'I remember,' Godwin murmured.

'If only my words then had had any weight with you! And if only I had
acted upon my own advice! Just for those few weeks I was sane; I
understood something of life; I saw my true way before me. You and I
have both gone after ruinous ideals, instead of taking the solid good
held out to us. Of course, I know your story in outline. I don't ask
you to talk about it. You are independent now, and I hope you can use
your freedom.--Well, and I too am free.'

The last words were in a lower tone. Godwin glanced at the speaker,
whose sadness was not banished, but illumined with a ray of calm hope.

'Have you ever thought of me and my infatuation?' Christian asked.

'Yes.'

'I have outlived that mawkish folly. I used to drink too much; the two
things went well together. It would shame me to tell you all about it.
But, happily, I have been able to go back about thirteen years--recover
my old sane self--and with it what I then threw away.'

'I understand.'

'Do you? Marcella knew of it, just before her death, and it made her
glad. But the waste of years, the best part of a lifetime! It's
incredible to me as I look back. Janet called on us one day in London.
Heaven be thanked that she was forgiving enough to do so! What would
have become of me now?'

'How are you going to live, then?' Godwin asked, absently.

'How? My income is sufficient'----

'No, no; I mean, where and how will you live in your married life?'

'That's still uncertain. Janet mustn't go on with professional work. In
any case, I don't think she could for long; her strength isn't equal to
it. But I shouldn't wonder if we settle in Kingsmill. To you it would
seem intolerable? But why should we live in London? At Kingsmill Janet
has a large circle of friends; in London we know scarcely half-a-dozen
people--of the kind it would give us any pleasure to live with. We
shall have no lack of intellectual society; Janet knows some of the
Whitelaw professors. The atmosphere of Kingsmill isn't illiberal, you
know; we shan't be fought shy of because we object to pass Sundays in a
state of coma. But the years that I have lost! The irrecoverable years!'

'There's nothing so idle as regretting the past,' said Godwin, with
some impatience. 'Why groan over what couldn't be otherwise? The
probability is, Janet and you are far better suited to each other now
than you ever would have been if you had married long ago.'

'You think that?' exclaimed the other, eagerly. 'I have tried to see it
in that light. If I didn't feel so despicable!'

'She, I take it, doesn't think you so,' Godwin muttered.

'But how can she understand? I have tried to tell her everything, but
she refused to listen. Perhaps Marcella told her all she cared to know.'

'No doubt.'

Each brooded for a while over his own affairs, then Christian reverted
to the subject which concerned them both.

'Let us speak frankly. You will take this gift of Marcella's as it was
meant?'

How _was_ it meant? Critic and analyst as ever, Godwin could not be
content to see in it the simple benefaction of a woman who died loving
him. Was it not rather the last subtle device of jealousy? Marcella
knew that the legacy would be a temptation he could scarcely
resist--and knew at the same time that, if he accepted it, he
practically renounced his hope of marrying Sidwell Warricombe.
Doubtless she had learned as much as she needed to know of Sidwell's
position. Refusing this bequest, he was as far as ever from the
possibility of asking Sidwell to marry him. Profiting by it, he stood
for ever indebted to Marcella, must needs be grateful to her, and some
day, assuredly, would reveal the truth to whatever woman became his
wife. Conflict of reasonings and emotions made it difficult to answer
Moxey's question.

'I must take time to think of it,' he said, at length.

'Well, I suppose that is right. But--well, I know so little of your
circumstances'----

'Is that strictly true?' Peak asked.

'Yes. I have only the vaguest idea of what you have been doing since
you left us. Of course I have tried to find out.'

Godwin smiled, rather gloomily.

'We won't talk of it. I suppose you stay in St. Helen's for the night?'

'There's a train at 10.20. I had better go by it.'

'Then let us forget everything but your own cheerful outlook. At ten,
I'll walk with you to the station.'

Reluctantly at first, but before long with a quiet abandonment to the
joy that would not be suppressed, Christian talked of his future wife.
In Janet he found every perfection. Her mind was something more than
the companion of his own. Already she had begun to inspire him with a
hopeful activity, and to foster the elements of true manliness which he
was conscious of possessing, though they had never yet had free play.
With a sense of luxurious safety, he submitted to her influence,
knowing none the less that it was in his power to complete her
imperfect life. Studiously he avoided the word 'ideal'; from such
vaporous illusions he had turned to the world's actualities; his
language dealt with concretes, with homely satisfactions, with
prospects near enough to be soberly examined.

A hurry to catch the train facilitated parting. Godwin promised to
write in a few days.

He took a roundabout way back to his lodgings. The rain was over, the
sky had become placid. He was conscious of an effect from Christian's
conversation which half counteracted the mood he would otherwise have
indulged,--the joy of liberty and of an outlook wholly new. Sidwell
might perchance be to him all that Janet was to Christian. Was it not
the luring of 'ideals' that prompted him to turn away from his long
hope?

There must be no more untruthfulness. Sidwell must have all the facts
laid before her, and make her choice.

Without a clear understanding of what he was going to write, he sat
down at eleven o'clock, and began, 'Dear Miss Warricombe'. Why not
'Dear Sidwell'? He took another sheet of paper.

'Dear Sidwell,--To-night I can remember only your last word to me when
we parted. I cannot address you coldly, as though half a stranger. Thus
long I have kept silence about everything but the outward events of my
life; now, in telling you of something that has happened, I must speak
as I think.

'Early this evening I was surprised by a visit from Christian Moxey--a
name you know. He came to tell me that his sister (she of whom I once
spoke to you) was dead, and had bequeathed to me a large sum of money.
He said that it represented an income of eight hundred pounds.

'I knew nothing of Miss Moxey's illness, and the news of her will came
to me as a surprise. In word or deed, I never sought more than her
simple friendship--and even _that_ I believed myself to have forfeited.

'If I were to refuse this money, it would be in consequence of a
scruple which I do not in truth respect. Christian Moxey tells me that
his sister's desire was to enable me to live the life of a free man;
and if I have any duty at all in the matter, surely it does not
constrain me to defeat her kindness. No condition whatever is attached.
The gift releases me from the necessity of leading a hopeless
existence--leaves me at liberty to direct my life how I will.

'I wish, then, to put aside all thoughts of how this opportunity came
to me, and to ask you if you are willing to be my wife.

'Though I have never written a word of love, my love is unchanged. The
passionate hope of three years ago still rules my life. Is _your_ love
strong enough to enable you to disregard all hindrances? I cannot of
course know whether, in your sight, dishonour still clings to me, or
whether you understand me well enough to have forgiven and forgotten
those hateful things in the past. Is it yet too soon? Do you wish me
still to wait, still to prove myself? Is your interest in the free man
less than in the slave? For my life has been one of slavery and
exile--exile, if you know what I mean by it, from the day of my birth.

'Dearest, grant me this great happiness! We can live where we will. I
am not rich enough to promise all the comforts and refinements to which
you are accustomed, but we should be safe from sordid anxieties. We can
travel; we can make a home in any European city. It would be idle to
speak of the projects and ambitions that fill my mind--but surely I may
do something worth doing, win some position among intellectual men of
which you would not be ashamed. You yourself urged me to hope that.
With you at my side--Sidwell grant me this chance, that I may know the
joy of satisfied love! I am past the age which is misled by vain fancies.
I have suffered unspeakably, longed for the calm strength, the pure,
steady purpose which would result to me from a happy marriage. There is
no fatal divergence between our minds; did you not tell me that? You
said that if I had been truthful from the first, you might have loved
me with no misgiving. Forget the madness into which I was betrayed.
There is no soil upon my spirit. I offer you love as noble as any man
is capable of. Think--think well--before replying to me; let your true
self prevail. You _did_ love me, dearest.----

Yours ever, Godwin Peak.'

At first he wrote slowly, as though engaged on a literary composition,
with erasions, insertions. Facts once stated, he allowed himself to
forget how Sidwell would most likely view them, and thereafter his pen
hastened: fervour inspired the last paragraph. Sidwell's image had
become present to him, and exercised all--or nearly all--its old
influence.

The letter must be copied, because of that laboured beginning. Copying
one's own words is at all times a disenchanting drudgery, and when the
end was reached Godwin signed his name with hasty contempt. What answer
could he expect to such an appeal? How vast an improbability that
Sidwell would consent to profit by the gift of Marcella Moxey!

Yet how otherwise could he write? With what show of sincerity could he
_offer_ to refuse the bequest? Nay, in that case he must not offer to
do so, but simply state the fact that his refusal was beyond recall.
Logically, he had chosen the only course open to him,--for to refuse
independence was impossible.

A wheezy clock in his landlady's kitchen was striking two. For very
fear of having to revise his letter in the morning, he put it into its
envelope, and went out to the nearest pillar-post.

That was done. Whether Sidwell answered with 'Yes' or with 'No', he was
a free man.

On the morrow he went to his work as usual, and on the day after that.
The third morning might bring a reply--but did not. On the evening of
the fifth day, when he came home, there lay the expected letter. He
felt it; it was light and thin. That hideous choking of suspense--Well,
it ran thus:

'I cannot. It is not that I am troubled by your accepting the legacy.
You have every right to do so, and I know that your life will justify
the hopes of her who thus befriended you. But I am too weak to take
this step. To ask you to wait yet longer, would only be a fresh
cowardice. You cannot know how it shames me to write this. In my very
heart I believe I love you, but what is such love worth? You must
despise me, and you will forget me. I live in a little world; in the
greater world where your place is, you will win a love very different.

S. W.'

Godwin laughed aloud as the paper dropped from his hand.

Well, she was not the heroine of a romance. Had he expected her to
leave home and kindred--the 'little world' so infinitely dear to
her--and go forth with a man deeply dishonoured? Very young girls have
been known to do such a thing; but a thoughtful mature woman----!
Present, his passion had dominated her: and perhaps her nerves only.
But she had had time to recover from that weakness.

A woman, like most women of cool blood, temperate fancies. A domestic
woman; the ornament of a typical English home.

Most likely it was true that the matter of the legacy did not trouble
her. In any case she would not have consented to marry him, and
_therefore_ she knew no jealousy. Her love! why, truly, what was it
worth?

(Much, much! of no less than infinite value. He knew it, but this was
not the moment for such a truth.)

A cup of tea to steady the nerves. Then thoughts, planning,
world-building.

He was awake all night, and Sidwell's letter lay within reach.--Did
_she_ sleep calmly? Had she never stretched out her hand for _his_
letter, when all was silent? There were men who would not take such a
refusal. A scheme to meet her once more--the appeal of passion, face to
face, heart to heart--the means of escape ready--and then the 'greater
world'----

But neither was he cast in heroic mould. He had not the
self-confidence, he had not the hot, youthful blood. A critic of life,
an analyst of moods and motives; not the man who dares and acts. The
only important resolve he had ever carried through was a scheme of
ignoble trickery--to end in frustration.

'The greater world'. It was a phrase that had been in his own mind once
or twice since Moxey's visit. To point him thither was doubtless the
one service Sidwell could render him. And in a day or two, that phrase
was all that remained to him of her letter.

On a Sunday afternoon at the end of October, Godwin once more climbed
the familiar stairs at Staple Inn, and was welcomed by his friend
Earwaker. The visit was by appointment. Earwaker knew all about the
legacy; that it was accepted; and that Peak had only a few days to
spend in London, on his way to the Continent.

'You are regenerated,' was his remark as Godwin entered.

'Do I look it? Just what I feel. I have shaken off a good (or a bad)
ten years.'

The speaker's face, at all events in this moment, was no longer that of
a man at hungry issue with the world. He spoke cheerily.

'It isn't often that fortune does a man such a kind turn. One often
hears it said: If only I could begin life again with all the experience
I have gained! That is what I _can_ do. I can break utterly with the
past, and I have learnt how to live in the future.'

'Break utterly with the past?'

'In the practical sense. And even morally to a great extent.'

Earwaker pushed a box of cigars across the table. Godwin accepted the
offer, and began to smoke. During these moments of silence, the man of
letters had been turning over a weekly paper, as if in search of some
paragraph; a smile announced his discovery.

'Here is something that will interest you--possibly you have seen it.'

He began to read aloud:

'"On the 23rd inst. was celebrated at St. Bragg's, Torquay, the
marriage of the Rev. Bruno Leathwaite Chilvers, late Rector of St
Margaret's, Exeter, and the Hon. Bertha Harriet Cecilia Jute, eldest
daughter of the late Baron Jute. The ceremony was conducted by the Hon.
and Rev. J. C. Jute, uncle of the bride, assisted by the Rev. F.
Miller, the Very Rev. Dean Pinnock, the Rev. H. S. Crook, and the Rev.
William Tomkinson. The bride was given away by Lord Jute. Mr Horatio
Dukinfield was best man. The bridal dress was of white brocade, draped
with Brussels lace, the corsage being trimmed with lace and adorned
with orange blossoms. The tulle veil, fastened with three diamond
stars, the gifts of"----Well, shall I go on?'

'The triumph of Chilvers!' murmured Godwin. 'I wonder whether the Hon.
Bertha is past her fortieth year?'

'A blooming beauty, I dare say. But Lord! how many people it takes to
marry a man like Chilvers! How sacred the union must be!--Pray take a
paragraph more: "The four bridesmaids--Miss--etc., etc.--wore cream
crepon dresses trimmed with turquoise blue velvet, and hats to match.
The bridegroom's presents to them were diamond and ruby brooches."'

'Chilvers _in excelsis_!--So he is no longer at Exeter; has no living,
it seems. What does he aim at next, I wonder?'

Earwaker cast meaning glances at his friend.

'I understand you,' said Godwin, at length. 'You mean that this merely
illustrates my own ambition. Well, you are right, I confess my
shame--and there's an end of it.'

He puffed at his cigar, resuming presently:

'But it would be untrue if I said that I regretted anything.
Constituted as I am, there was no other way of learning my real needs
and capabilities. Much in the past is hateful to me, but it all had its
use. There are men--why, take your own case. You look back on life, no
doubt, with calm and satisfaction.'

'Rather, with resignation.'

Godwin let his cigar fall, and laughed bitterly.

'Your resignation has kept pace with life. I was always a rebel. My
good qualities--I mean what I say--have always wrecked me. Now that I
haven't to fight with circumstances, they may possibly be made
subservient to my happiness.'

'But what form is your happiness to take?'

'Well, I am leaving England. On the Continent I shall make no fixed
abode, but live in the places where cosmopolitan people are to be met.
I shall make friends; with money at command, one may hope to succeed in
that. Hotels, boarding-houses, and so on, offer the opportunities. It
sounds oddly like the project of a swindler, doesn't it? There's the
curse I can't escape from! Though my desires are as pure as those of
any man living, I am compelled to express myself as if I were about to
do something base and underhand. Simply because I have never had a
social place. I am an individual merely; I belong to no class, town,
family, club'----'Cosmopolitan people,' mused Earwaker. 'Your ideal is
transformed.'

'As you know. Experience only could bring that about. I seek now only
the free, intellectual people--men who have done with the old
conceptions--women who'----

His voice grew husky, and he did not complete the sentence. 'I shall
find them in Paris, Rome.--Earwaker, think of my being able to speak
like this! No day-dreams, but actual sober plans, their execution to
begin in a day or two. Paris, Rome! And a month ago I was a hopeless
slave in a vile manufacturing town.--I wish it were possible for me to
pray for the soul of that poor dead woman. I don't speak to you of her;
but do you imagine I am brutally forgetful of her to whom I owe all
this?'

'I do you justice,' returned the other, quietly.

'I believe you can and do.'

'How grand it is to go forth as I am now going!' Godwin resumed, after
a long pause. 'Nothing to hide, no shams, no pretences. Let who will
inquire about me. I am an independent Englishman, with so and so much a
year. In England I have one friend only--that is you. The result, you
see, of all these years savage striving to knit myself into the social
fabric.'

'Well, you will invite me some day to your villa at Sorrento,' said
Earwaker, encouragingly.

'That I shall!' Godwin's eyes flashed with imaginative delight. 'And
before very long. Never to a home in England!'

'By-the-bye, a request. I have never had your portrait. Sit before you
leave London.'

'No. I'll send you one from Paris--it will be better done.'

'But I am serious. You promise?'

'You shall have the thing in less than a fortnight.'

The promise was kept. Earwaker received an admirable photograph, which
he inserted in his album with a curious sense of satisfaction. A face
by which every intelligent eye must be arrested; which no two observers
would interpret in the same way.

'His mate must be somewhere,' thought the man of letters, 'but he will
never find her.'



CHAPTER II


In his acceptance of Sidwell's reply, Peak did not care to ask himself
whether the delay of its arrival had any meaning one way or another.
Decency would hardly have permitted her to answer such a letter by
return of post; of course she waited a day or so.

But the interval meant more than this.

Sylvia Moorhouse was staying with her friend. The death of Mrs
Moorhouse, and the marriage of the mathematical brother, had left
Sylvia homeless, though not in any distressing sense; her inclination
was to wander for a year or two, and she remained in England only until
the needful arrangements could be concluded.

'You had better come with me,' she said to Sidwell, as they walked
together on the lawn after luncheon.

The other shook her head.

'Indeed, you had better.--What are you doing here? What are you going
to make of your life?'

'I don't know.'

'Precisely. Yet one ought to live on some kind of plan. I think it is
time you got away from Exeter; it seems to me you are finding its
atmosphere _morbific_.'

Sidwell laughed at the allusion.

'You know,' she said, 'that the reverend gentleman is shortly to be
married?'

'Oh yes, I have heard all about it. But is he forsaking the Church?'

'Retiring only for a time, they say.'

'Forgive the question, Sidwell--did he honour you with a proposal?'

'Indeed, no!'

'Some one told me it was imminent, not long ago.'

'Quite a mistake,' Sidwell answered, with her grave smile. 'Mr Chilvers
had a singular manner with women in general. It was meant, perhaps, for
subtle flattery; he may have thought it the most suitable return for
the female worship he was accustomed to receive.'

Mr. Warricombe was coming towards them. He brought a new subject of
conversation, and as they talked the trio drew near to the gate which
led into the road. The afternoon postman was just entering; Mr
Warricombe took from him two letters.

'One for you, Sylvia, and--one for you, Sidwell.'

A slight change in his voice caused Sidwell to look at her father as he
handed her the letter. In the same moment she recognised the writing of
the address. It was Godwin Peak's, and undoubtedly her father knew it.

With a momentary hesitation Mr. Warricombe continued his talk from the
point at which he had broken off, but he avoided his daughter's look,
and Sidwell was too well aware of an uneasiness which had fallen upon
him. In a few minutes he brought the chat to an end, and walked away
towards the house.

Sidwell held her letter tightly. Conversation was no longer possible
for her; she had a painful throbbing of the heart, and felt that her
face must be playing traitor. Fortunately, Sylvia found it necessary to
write a reply to the missive she had received, and her companion was
soon at liberty to seek solitude.

For more than an hour she remained alone. However unemotional the
contents of the letter, its arrival would have perturbed her seriously,
as in the two previous instances; what she found on opening the
envelope threw her into so extreme an agitation that it was long before
she could subdue the anguish of disorder in all her senses. She had
tried to believe that Godwin Peak was henceforth powerless to affect
her in this way, write what he would. The romance of her life was over;
time had brought the solution of difficulties to which she looked
forward; she recognised the inevitable, as doubtless did Godwin also.
But all this was self-deception. The passionate letter delighted as
much as it tortured her; in secret her heart had desired this, though
reason suppressed and denied the hope. No longer need she remember with
pangs of shame the last letter she had written, and the cold response;
once again things were as they should be--the lover pleading before
her--she with the control of his fate. The injury to her pride was
healed, and in the thought that perforce she must answer with a final
'No', she found at first more of solace than of distress.

Subsidence of physical suffering allowed her to forget this emotion, in
its nature unavowable. She could think of the news Godwin sent, could
torment herself with interpretations of Marcella Moxey's behaviour, and
view in detail the circumstances which enabled Godwin to urge a formal
suit. Among her various thoughts there recurred frequently a regret
that this letter had not reached her, like the other two, unobserved.
Her father had now learnt that she was in correspondence with the
disgraced man; to keep silence would be to cause him grave trouble; yet
how much better if fortune had only once more favoured her, so that the
story might have remained her secret, from beginning to end.

For was not this the end?----

At the usual time she went to the drawing-room, and somehow succeeded
in conversing as though nothing had disturbed her. Mr Warricombe was
not seen till dinner. When he came forth, Sidwell noticed his air of
preoccupation, and that he avoided addressing her. The evening asked
too much of her self-command; she again withdrew, and only came back
when the household was ready for retiring. In bidding her father
goodnight, she forced herself to meet his gaze; he looked at her with
troubled inquiry, and she felt her cheek redden.

'Do you want to get rid of me?' asked Sylvia, with wonted frankness,
when her friend drew near.

'No. Let us go to the glass-house.'

Up there on the roof Sidwell often found a retreat when her thoughts
were troublesome. Fitfully, she had resumed her water-colour drawing,
but as a rule her withdrawal to the glass-house was for reading or
reverie. Carrying a small lamp, she led the way before Sylvia, and they
sat down in the chairs which on one occasion had been occupied by
Buckland Warricombe and Peak.

The wind, rarely silent in this part of Devon, blew boisterously from
the south-west. A far-off whistle, that of a train speeding up the
valley on its way from Plymouth, heightened the sense of retirement and
quietude always to be enjoyed at night here under the stars.

'Have you been thinking over my suggestion?' asked Sylvia, when there
had been silence awhile.

'No,' was the murmured reply.

'Something has happened, I think.'

'Yes. I should like to tell you, Sylvia, but'----

'But'----

'I _must_ tell you! I can't keep it in my own mind, and you are the
only one'----

Sylvia was surprised at the agitation which suddenly revealed itself in
her companion's look and voice. She became serious, her eyes
brightening with intellectual curiosity. Feminine expressions of
sympathy were not to be expected from Miss Moorhouse; far more
reassuring to Sidwell was the kind attentiveness with which her friend
bent forward.

'That letter father handed me to-day was from Mr. Peak.'

'You hear from him?'

'This is the third time--since he went away. At our last meeting'--her
voice dropped--'I pledged my faith to him.--Not absolutely. The future
was too uncertain'----

The gleam in Sylvia's eyes grew more vivid. She was profoundly
interested, and did not speak when Sidwell's voice failed.

'You never suspected this?' asked the latter, in a few moments.

'Not exactly that. What I did suspect was that Mr. Peak's departure
resulted from--your rejection of him.'

'There is more to be told,' pursued Sidwell, in tremulous accents. 'You
must know it all--because I need your help. No one here has learnt what
took place between us. Mr. Peak did not go away on that account.
But--you remember being puzzled to explain his orthodoxy in religion?'

She paused. Sylvia gave a nod, signifying much.

'He never believed as he professed,' went on Sidwell, hurriedly. 'You
were justified in doubting him. He concealed the truth--pretended to
champion the old faiths'----

For an instant she broke off, then hastened through a description of
the circumstances which had brought about Peak's discovery. Sylvia
could not restrain a smile, but it was softened by the sincere
kindliness of her feeling.

'And it was after this,' she inquired impartially, 'that the decisive
conversation between you took place?'

'No; just before Buckland's announcement. We met again, after
that.--Does it seem incredible to you that I should have let the second
meeting end as it did?'

'I think I understand. Yes, I know you well enough to follow it. I can
even guess at the defence he was able to urge.'

'You can?' asked Sidwell, eagerly. 'You see a possibility of his
defending himself?'

'I should conjecture that it amounted to the old proverb, "All's fair
in love and war". And, putting aside a few moral prejudices, one can
easily enough absolve him.--The fact is, I had long ago surmised that
his motives in taking to such a career had more reference to this world
than the next. You know, I had several long talks with him; I told you
how he interested me. Now I can piece together my conclusions.'

'Still,' urged Sidwell, 'you must inevitably regard him as ignoble--as
guilty of base deceit. I must hide nothing from you, having told so
much. Have you heard from anyone about his early life?'

'Your mother told me some old stories.'

Sidwell made an impatient gesture. In words of force and ardour, such
as never before had been at her command, she related all she knew of
Godwin's history prior to his settling at Exeter, and depicted the
mood, the impulses, which, by his own confession, had led to that
strange enterprise. Only by long exercise of an impassioned imagination
could she thus thoroughly have identified herself with a life so remote
from her own. Peak's pleading for himself was scarcely more impressive.
In listening, Sylvia understood how completely Sidwell had cast off the
beliefs for which her ordinary conversation seemed still to betray a
tenderness.

'I know,' the speaker concluded, 'that he cannot in that first hour
have come to regard me with a feeling strong enough to determine what
he then undertook. It was not I as an individual, but all of us here,
and the world we represented. Afterwards, he persuaded himself that he
had felt love for me from the beginning. And I, I tried to believe
it--because I wished it true; for his sake, and for my own. However it
was, I could not harden my heart against him. A thousand considerations
forbade me to allow him further hope; but I refused to listen--no, I
_could_ not listen. I said I would remain true to him. He went away to
take up his old pursuits, and if possible to make a position for
himself. It was to be our secret. And in spite of everything. I hoped
for the future.'

Silence followed, and Sidwell seemed to lose herself in distressful
thought.

'And now,' asked her friend, 'what has come to pass?'

'Do you know that Miss Moxey is dead?'

'I haven't heard of it.'

'She is dead, and has left Mr. Peak a fortune.--His letter of today
tells me this. And at the same time he claims my promise.'

Their eyes met. Sylvia still had the air of meditating a most
interesting problem. Impossible to decide from her countenance how she
regarded Sidwell's position.

'But why in the world,' she asked, 'should Marcella Moxey have left her
money to Mr. Peak?'

'They were friends,' was the quick reply. 'She knew all that had
befallen him, and wished to smooth his path.'

Sylvia put several more questions, and to all of them Sidwell replied
with a peculiar decision, as though bent on making it clear that there
was nothing remarkable in this fact of the bequest. The motive which
impelled her was obscure even to her own mind, for ever since receiving
the letter she had suffered harassing doubts where now she affected to
have none. 'She knew, then,' was Sylvia's last inquiry, 'of the
relations between you and Mr. Peak?'

'I am not sure--but I think so. Yes, I think she must have known.'

'From Mr. Peak himself, then?'

Sidwell was agitated.

'Yes--I think so. But what does that matter?'

The other allowed her face to betray perplexity.

'So much for the past,' she said at length. 'And now?'----

'I have not the courage to do what I wish.'

There was a long silence.

'About your wish,' asked Sylvia at length, 'you are not at all
doubtful?'

'Not for one moment.--Whether I err in my judgment of him could be
proved only by time; but I know that if I were free, if I stood
alone'----

She broke off and sighed. 'It would mean, I suppose,' said the other,
'a rupture with your family?'

'Father would not abandon me, but I should darken the close of his
life. Buckland would utterly cast me off; mother would wish to do
so.--You see, I cannot think and act simply as a woman, as a human
being. I am bound to a certain sphere of life. The fact that I have
outgrown it, counts for nothing. I cannot free myself without injury to
people whom I love. To act as I wish would be to outrage every rule and
prejudice of the society to which I belong. You yourself--you know how
you would regard me.'

Sylvia replied deliberately.

'I am seeing you in a new light, Sidwell. It takes a little time to
reconstruct my conception of you.'

'You think worse of me than you did.'

'Neither better nor worse, but differently. There has been too much
reserve between us. After so long a friendship, I ought to have known
you more thoroughly. To tell the truth, I have thought now and then of
you and Mr. Peak; that was inevitable. But I went astray; it seemed to
me the most unlikely thing that you should regard him with more than a
doubtful interest. I knew, of course, that he had made you his ideal,
and I felt sorry for him.'

'I seemed to you unworthy?'----

'Too placid, too calmly prudent.--In plain words, Sidwell, I do think
better of you.'

Sidwell smiled.

'Only to know me henceforth as the woman who did not dare to act upon
her best impulses.'

'As for "best"--I can't say. I don't glorify passion, as you know; and
on the other hand I have little sympathy with the people who are always
crying out for self-sacrifice. I don't know whether it would be "best"
to throw over your family, or to direct yourself solely with regard to
their comfort.'

Sidwell broke in.

'Yes, that is the true phrase--"their comfort". No higher word should
be used. That is the ideal of the life to which I have been brought up.
Comfort, respectability.--And has _he_ no right? If I sacrifice myself
to father and mother, do I not sacrifice _him_ as well? He has
forfeited all claim to consideration--that is what people say. With my
whole soul, I deny it! If he sinned against anyone, it was against me,
and the sin ended as soon as I understood him. That episode in his life
is blotted out; by what law must it condemn to imperfection the whole
of his life and of my own? Yet because people will not, cannot, look at
a thing in a spirit of justice, I must wrong myself and him.'

'Let us think of it more quietly,' said Sylvia, in her clear,
dispassionate tones. 'You speak as though a decision must be taken at
once. Where is the necessity for that? Mr. Peak is now independent.
Suppose a year or two be allowed to pass, may not things look
differently?'

'A year or two!' exclaimed Sidwell, with impatience. 'Nothing will be
changed. What I have to contend against is unchangeable. If I guide
myself by such a hope as that, the only reasonable thing would be for
me to write to Mr. Peak, and ask him to wait until my father and mother
are dead.'

'Very well. On that point we are at rest, then. The step must be taken
at once, or never.'

The wind roared, and for some minutes no other sound was audible. By
this [Updater's note: the word "time" missing?], all the inmates of the
house save the two friends were in bed, and most likely sleeping.

'You must think it strange,' said Sidwell, 'that I have chosen to tell
you all this, just when the confession is most humiliating to me. I
want to feel the humiliation, as one only can when another is witness
of it. I wish to leave myself no excuse for the future.'

'I'm not sure that I quite understand you. You have made up your mind
to break with him?'

'Because I am a coward.'

'If my feeling in any matter were as strong as that, I should allow it
to guide me.'

'Because your will is stronger. You, Sylvia, would never (in my
position) have granted him that second interview. You would have known
that all was at an end, and have acted upon the knowledge. I knew it,
but yielded to temptation--at _his_ expense. I could not let him leave
me, though that would have been kindest. I held him by a promise,
basely conscious that retreat was always open to me. And now I shall
have earned his contempt'----

Her voice failed. Sylvia, affected by the outbreak of emotion in one
whom she had always known so strong in self-command, spoke with a
deeper earnestness.

'Dear, do you wish me to help you against what you call your cowardice?
I cannot take it upon me to encourage you until your own will has
spoken. The decision must come from yourself. Choose what course you
may, I am still your friend. I have no idle prejudices, and no social
bonds. You know how I wish you to come away with me; now I see only
more clearly how needful it is for you to breathe new air. Yes, you
have outgrown these conditions, just as your brothers have, just as
Fanny will--indeed has. Take to-night to think of it. If you can decide
to travel with me for a year, be frank with Mr. Peak, and ask him to
wait so long--till you have made up your mind. He cannot reasonably
find fault with you, for he knows all you have to consider. Won't this
be best?'

Sidwell was long silent.

'I will go with you,' she said at last, in a low voice. 'I will ask him
to grant me perfect liberty for a year.'

When she came down next morning it was Sidwell's intention to seek a
private interview with her father, and make known her resolve to go
abroad with Sylvia; but Mr. Warricombe anticipated her.

'Will you come to the library after breakfast, Sidwell?' he said, on
meeting her in the hall.

She interpreted his tone, and her heart misgave her. An hour later she
obeyed the summons. Martin greeted her with a smile, but hardly tried
to appear at ease.

'I am obliged to speak to you,' were his first words. 'The letter you
had yesterday was from Mr. Peak?'

'Yes, father.'

'Is he'--Mr. Warricombe hesitated--'in these parts again?'

'No; in Lancashire.'

'Sidwell, I claim no right whatever to control your correspondence; but
it was a shock to me to find that you are in communication with him.'

'He wrote,' Sidwell replied with difficulty, 'to let me know of a
change that has come upon his prospects. By the death of a friend, he
is made independent.'

'For his own sake, I am glad to hear that. But how could it concern
_you_, dear?'

She struggled to command herself.

'It was at my invitation that he wrote, father.'

Martin's face expressed grave concern.

'Sidwell! Is this right?'

She was very pale, and kept her eyes unmovingly directed just aside
from her father.

'What can it mean?' Mr. Warricombe pursued, with sad remonstrance.
'Will you not take me into your confidence, Sidwell?'

'I can't speak of it,' she replied, with sudden determination. 'Least
of all with you, father.'

'Least of all?--I thought we were very near to each other.'

'For that very reason, I can't speak to you of this. I must be left
free! I am going away with Sylvia, for a year, and for so long I _must_
be absolutely independent. Father, I entreat you not to'----

A sob checked her. She turned away, and fought against the hysterical
tendency; but it was too strong to be controlled. Her father
approached, beseeching her to be more like herself. He held her in his
arms, until tears had their free course, and a measure of calmness
returned.

'I can't speak to you about it,' she repeated, her face hidden from
him. 'I must write you a long letter, when I have gone. You shall know
everything in that way.'

'But, my dearest, I can't let you leave us under these circumstances.
This is a terrible trial to me. You cannot possibly go until we
understand each other!'

'Then I will write to you here--to-day or to-morrow.'

With this promise Martin was obliged to be contented, Sidwell left him,
and was not seen, except by Sylvia, during the whole day.

Nor did she appear at breakfast on the morning that followed. But when
this meal was over, Sylvia received a message, summoning her to the
retreat on the top of the house. Here Sidwell sat in the light and
warmth, a glass door wide open to the west, the rays of a brilliant sun
softened by curtains which fluttered lightly in the breeze from the sea.

'Will you read this?' she said, holding out a sheet of notepaper on
which were a few lines in her own handwriting.

It was a letter, beginning--'I cannot.'

Sylvia perused it carefully, and stood in thought.

'After all?' were the words with which she broke silence. They were
neither reproachful nor regretful, but expressed grave interest.

'In the night,' said Sidwell, 'I wrote to father, but I shall not give
him the letter. Before it was finished, I knew that I must write
_this_. There's no more to be said, dear. You will go abroad without
me--at all events for the present.'

'If that is your resolve,' answered the other, quietly, 'I shall keep
my word, and only do what I can to aid it.' She sat down shielding her
eyes from the sunlight with a Japanese fan. 'After all, Sidwell,
there's much to be said for a purpose formed on such a morning as this;
one can't help distrusting the midnight.'

Sidwell was lying back in a low chair, her eyes turned to the woody
hills on the far side of the Exe.

'There's one thing I should like to say,' her friend pursued. 'It
struck me as curious that you were not at all affected, by what to me
would have been the one insuperable difficulty.'

'I know what you mean--the legacy.'

'Yes. It still seems to you of no significance?'

'Of very little,' Sidwell answered wearily, letting her eyelids droop.

'Then we won't talk about it. From the higher point of view, I believe
you are right; but--still let it rest.'

In the afternoon, Sidwell penned the following lines which she enclosed
in an envelope and placed on the study table, when her father was
absent.

'The long letter which I promised you, dear father, is needless. I have
to-day sent Mr. Peak a reply which closes our correspondence. I am sure
he will not write again; if he were to do so, I should not answer.

'I have given up my intention of going away with Sylvia. Later,
perhaps, I shall wish to join her somewhere on the Continent, but by
that time you will be in no concern about me.'

To this Mr. Warricombe replied only with the joyous smile which greeted
his daughter at their next meeting. Mrs. Warricombe remained in
ignorance of the ominous shadow which had passed over her house. At
present, she was greatly interested in the coming marriage of the Rev.
Bruno Chilvers, whom she tried _not_ to forgive for having disappointed
her secret hope.

Martin had finally driven into the background those uneasy
questionings, which at one time it seemed likely that Godwin Peak would
rather accentuate than silence. With Sidwell, he could never again
touch on such topics. If he were still conscious of a postponed debate,
the adjournment was _sine die_. Martin rested in the faith that,
without effort of his own, the mysteries of life and time would ere
long be revealed to him.



CHAPTER III


Earwaker spent Christmas with his relatives at Kingsmill. His father
and mother both lived; the latter very infirm, unable to leave the
house; the former a man of seventy, twisted with rheumatism, his face
rugged as a countenance picked out by fancy on the trunk of a big old
oak, his hands scarred and deformed with labour. Their old age was
restful. The son who had made himself a 'gentleman', and who in London
sat at the tables of the high-born, the wealthy, the famous, saw to it
that they lacked no comfort.

A bright, dry morning invited the old man and the young to go forth
together. They walked from the suburb countrywards, and their
conversation was of the time when a struggle was being made to bear the
expense of those three years at Whitelaw--no bad investment, as it
proved. The father spoke with a strong Midland accent, using words of
dialect by no means disagreeable to the son's ear--for dialect is a
very different thing from the bestial jargon which on the lips of the
London vulgar passes for English. They were laughing over some half
grim reminiscence, when Earwaker became aware of two people who were
approaching along the pavement, they also in merry talk. One of them he
knew; it was Christian Moxey.

Too much interested in his companion to gaze about him, Christian came
quite near before his eyes fell on Earwaker. Then he started with a
pleasant surprise, changed instantly to something like embarrassment
when he observed the aged man. Earwaker was willing to smile and go by,
had the other consented; but a better impulse prevailed in both. They
stopped and struck hands together.

'My father,' said the man of letters, quite at his ease.

Christian was equal to the occasion; he shook hands heartily with the
battered toiler, then turned to the lady at his side.

'Janet, you guess who this is.--My cousin, Earwaker, Miss Janet Moxey.'

Doubtless Janet was aware that her praises had suffered no diminution
when sung by Christian to his friends. Her eyes just fell, but in a
moment were ready with their frank, intelligent smile. Earwaker
experienced a pang--ever so slight--suggesting a revision of his
philosophy.

They talked genially, and parted with good wishes for the New Year.

Two days later, on reaching home, Earwaker found in his letter-box a
scrap of paper on which were scribbled a few barely legible lines.
'Here I am!' he at length deciphered. 'Got into Tilbury at eleven this
morning. Where the devil are you? Write to Charing Cross Hotel.' No
signature, but none was needed. Malkin's return from New Zealand had
been signalled in advance.

That evening the erratic gentleman burst in like a whirlwind. He was
the picture of health, though as far as ever from enduing the
comfortable flesh which accompanies robustness in men of calmer
temperament. After violent greetings, he sat down with abrupt gravity,
and began to talk as if in continuance of a dialogue just interrupted.

'Now, don't let us have any misunderstanding. You will please remember
that my journey to England is quite independent of what took place two
years and a half ago. It has _nothing whatever_ to do with those
circumstances.'

Earwaker smiled.

'I tell you,' pursued the other, hotly, 'that I am here to see
_you_--and one or two other old friends; and to look after some
business matters. You will oblige me by giving credit to my assertion!'

'Don't get angry. I am convinced of the truth of what you say.'

'Very well! It's as likely as not that, on returning to Auckland, I
shall marry Miss Maccabe--of whom I have written to you. I needn't
repeat the substance of my letters. I am not in love with her, you
understand, and I needn't say that my intercourse with that family has
been guided by extreme discretion. But she is a very sensible young
lady. My only regret is that I didn't know her half-a-dozen years ago,
so that I could have directed her education. She might have been even
more interesting than she is. But--you are at leisure, I hope,
Earwaker?'

'For an hour or two.'

'Oh, confound it! When a friend comes back from the ends of the
earth!--Yes, yes; I understand. You are a busy man; forgive my
hastiness. Well now, I was going to say that I shall probably call upon
Mrs. Jacox.' He paused, and gave the listener a stern look, forbidding
misconstruction. 'Yes, I shall probably go down to Wrotham. I wish to
put my relations with that family on a proper footing. Our
correspondence has been very satisfactory, especially of late. The poor
woman laments more sincerely her--well, let us say, her folly of two
years and a half ago. She has outlived it; she regards me as a friend.
Bella and Lily seem to be getting on very well indeed. That governess
of theirs--we won't have any more mystery; it was I who undertook the
trifling expense. A really excellent teacher, I have every reason to
believe. I am told that Bella promises to be a remarkable pianist, and
Lily is uncommonly strong in languages. But my interest in them is
merely that of a friend; let it be understood.'

'Precisely. You didn't say whether the girls have been writing to you?'

'No, no, no! Not a line. I have exchanged letters only with their
mother. Anything else would have been indiscreet. I shall be glad to
see them, but my old schemes are things of the past. There is not the
faintest probability that Bella has retained any recollection of me at
all.'

'I daresay not,' assented Earwaker.

'You think so? Very well; I have acted wisely. Bella is still a child,
you know--compared with a man of my age. She is seventeen and a few
months; quite a child! Miss Maccabe is just one-and-twenty; the proper
age. When we are married, I think I shall bring her to Europe for a
year or two. Her education needs that; she will be delighted to see the
old countries.'

'Have you her portrait?'

'Oh no! Things haven't got so far as that. What a hasty fellow you are,
Earwaker! I told you distinctly'----

He talked till after midnight, and at leave-taking apologised profusely
for wasting his friend's valuable time.

Earwaker awaited with some apprehension the result of Malkin's visit to
Wrotham. But the report of what took place on that occasion was
surprisingly commonplace. Weeks passed, and Malkin seldom showed
himself at Staple Inn; when he did so, his talk was exclusively of Miss
Maccabe; all he could be got to say of the young ladies at Wrotham was,
'Nice girls; very nice girls. I hope they'll marry well.' Two months
had gone by, and already the journalist had heard by letter of his
friend's intention to return to New Zealand, when, on coming home late
one night, he found Malkin sitting on the steps.

'Earwaker, I have something very serious to tell you. Give me just a
quarter of an hour.'

What calamity did this tone portend? The eccentric man seated himself
with slow movement. Seen by a good light, his face was not gloomy, but
very grave.

'Listen to me, old friend,' he began, sliding forward to the edge of
his chair. 'You remember I told you that my relations with the Maccabe
family had been marked throughout with extreme discretion.'

'You impressed that upon me.'

'Good! I have never made love to Miss Maccabe, and I doubt whether she
has ever thought of me as a possible husband.'

'Well?'

'Don't be impatient. I want you to grasp the fact. It is important,
because--I am going to marry Bella Jacox.'

'You don't say so?'

'Why not?' cried Malkin, suddenly passing to a state of excitement.
'What objection can you make? I tell you that I am absolutely free to
choose'----

The journalist calmed him, and thereupon had to hear a glowing account
of Bella's perfections. All the feeling that Malkin had suppressed
during these two months rushed forth in a flood of turbid eloquence.

'And now,' he concluded, 'you will come down with me to Wrotham. I
don't mean to-night; let us say the day after tomorrow, Sunday. You
remember our last joint visit! Ha, ha!'

'Mrs. Jacox is reconciled?'

'My dear fellow, she rejoices! A wonderful nobility in that poor little
woman! She wept upon my shoulder! But you must see Bella! I shan't take
her to New Zealand, at all events not just yet. We shall travel about
Europe, completing her education. Don't you approve of that?'

On Sunday, the two travelled down into Kent. This time they were
received by Lily, now a pretty, pale, half-developed girl of fifteen.
In a few minutes her sister entered. Bella was charming; nervousness
made her words few, and it could be seen that she was naturally
thoughtful, earnest, prone to reverie; her beauty had still to ripen,
and gave much promise for the years between twenty and thirty. Last of
all appeared Mrs. Jacox, who blushed as she shook hands with Earwaker,
and for a time was ill at ease; but her vocatives were not long
restrained, and when all sat down to the tea-table she chattered away
with astonishing vivacity. After tea the company was joined by a lady
of middle age, who, for about two years, had acted as governess to the
girls. Earwaker formed his conclusions as to the 'trifling expense'
which her services represented; but it was probably a real interest in
her pupils which had induced a person of so much refinement to bear so
long with the proximity of Mrs. Jacox.

'A natural question occurs to me,' remarked Earwaker, as they were
returning. 'Who and what was Mr. Jacox?'

'Ah! Bella was talking to me about him the other day. He must have been
distinctly an interesting man. Bella had a very clear recollection of
him, and she showed me two or three photographs. Engaged in some kind
of commerce. I didn't seek particulars. But a remarkable man, one can't
doubt.'

He resumed presently.

'Now don't suppose that this marriage entirely satisfies me. Bella has
been fairly well taught, but not, you see, under my supervision. I
ought to have been able to watch and direct her month by month. As it
is, I shall have to begin by assailing her views on all manner of
things. Religion, for example. Well, I have no religion, that's plain.
I might call myself this or that for the sake of seeming respectable,
but it all comes to the same thing. I don't mind Bella going to church
if she wishes, but I must teach her that there's no merit whatever in
doing so. It isn't an ideal marriage, but perhaps as good as this
imperfect world allows. If I have children, I can then put my
educational theories to the test.'

By way of novel experience, Earwaker, not long after this, converted
his study into a drawing-room, and invited the Jacox family to taste
his tea and cake. With Malkin's assistance, the risky enterprise was
made a great success. When Mrs. Jacox would allow her to be heard,
Bella talked intelligently, and showed eager interest in the details of
literary manufacture.

'O Mr. Earwaker!' cried her mother, when it was time to go. 'What a
delightful afternoon you have given us! We must think of you from now
as one of our very best friends. Mustn't we, Lily?'

But troubles were yet in store. Malkin was strongly opposed to a
religious marriage; he wished the wedding to be at a registrar's
office, and had obtained Bella's consent to this, but Mrs. Jacox would
not hear of such a thing. She wept and bewailed herself. 'How _can_ you
think of being married like a costermonger? O Mr. Malkin, you will
break my heart, indeed you will!' And she wrote an ejaculatory letter
to Earwaker, imploring his intercession. The journalist took his friend
in hand.

'My good fellow, don't make a fool of yourself. Women are born for one
thing only, the Church of England marriage service. How can you seek to
defeat the end of their existence? Give in to the inevitable. Grin and
bear it.'

'I can't! I won't! It shall be a runaway match! I had rather suffer the
rack than go through an ordinary wedding!'

Dire was the conflict. Down at Wrotham there were floods of tears. In
the end, Bella effected a compromise; the marriage was to be at a
church, but in the greatest possible privacy. No carriages, no gala
dresses, no invitations, no wedding feast; the bare indispensable
formalities. And so it came to pass. Earwaker and the girl's governess
were the only strangers present, when, on a morning of June, Malkin and
Bella were declared by the Church to be henceforth one and indivisible.
The bride wore a graceful travelling costume; the bridegroom was in
corresponding attire.

'Heaven be thanked, that's over!' exclaimed Malkin, as he issued from
the portal. 'Bella, we have twenty-three minutes to get to the railway
station. Don't cry!' he whispered to her. 'I can't stand that!'

'No, no; don't be afraid,' she whispered back. 'We have said good-bye
already.'

'Capital! That was very thoughtful of you.--Goodbye, all! Shall write
from Paris, Earwaker. Nineteen minutes; we shall just manage it!'

He sprang into the cab, and away it clattered.

A letter from Paris, a letter from Strasburg, from Berlin,
Munich--letters about once a fortnight. From Bella also came an
occasional note, a pretty contrast to the incoherent enthusiasm of her
husband's compositions. Midway in September she announced their
departure from a retreat in Switzerland.

'We are in the utmost excitement, for it is now decided that in three
days we start for Italy! The heat has been terrific, and we have waited
on what seems to me the threshold of Paradise until we could hope to
enjoy the delights beyond. We go first to Milan. My husband, of course,
knows Italy, but he shares my impatience. I am to entreat you to write
to Milan, with as much news as possible. Especially have you heard
anything more of Mr. Peak?'

November the pair spent in Rome, and thence was despatched the
following in Malkin's hand:

'This time I am _not_ mistaken! I have seen Peak. He didn't see me;
perhaps wouldn't have known me. It was in Piale's reading-room. I had
sat down to _The Times_, when a voice behind me sounded in such a
curiously reminding way that I couldn't help looking round. It was
Peak; not a doubt of it. I might have been uncertain about his face,
but the voice brought back that conversation at your rooms too
unmistakably--long ago as it was. He was talking to an American, whom
evidently he had met somewhere else, and had now recognised. "I've had
a fever," he said, "and can't quite shake off the results. Been in
Ischia for the last month. I'm going north to Vienna." Then the two
walked away together. He looked ill, sallow, worn out. Let me know if
you hear.'

On that same day, Earwaker received another letter, with the Roman
post-mark. It was from Peak.

'I have had nothing particular to tell you. A month ago I thought I
should never write to you again; I got malarial fever, and lay
desperately ill at the _Ospedale Internazionale_ at Naples. It came of
some monstrous follies there's no need to speak of. A new and valuable
experience. I know what it is to look steadily into the eyes of Death.

'Even now, I am far from well. This keeps me in low spirits. The other
day I was half decided to start for London. I am miserably alone, want
to see a friend. What a glorious place Staple Inn seemed to me as I lay
in the hospital! Proof how low I had sunk: I thought longingly of
Exeter, of a certain house there--never mind!

'I write hastily. An invitation from some musical people has decided me
to strike for Vienna. Up there, I shall get my health back. The people
are of no account--boarding-house acquaintances--but they may lead to
better. I never in my life suffered so from loneliness.'

This was the eighteenth of November. On the twenty-eighth the postman
delivered a letter of an appearance which puzzled Earwaker. The stamp
was Austrian, the mark 'Wien'. From Peak, therefore. But the writing
was unknown, plainly that of a foreigner.

The envelope contained two sheets of paper. The one was covered with a
long communication in German; on the other stood a few words of
English, written, or rather scrawled, in a hand there was no
recognising:

'Ill again, and alone. If I die, act for me. Write to Mrs. Peak,
Twybridge.'

Beneath was added, 'J. E. Earwaker, Staple Inn, London.'

He turned hurriedly to the foreign writing. Earwaker read a German book
as easily as an English, but German manuscript was a terror to him. And
the present correspondent wrote so execrably that beyond _Geehrter
Herr_, scarcely a word yielded sense to his anxious eyes. Ha! One he
had made out--_gestorben_.

Crumpling the papers into his pocket, he hastened out, and knocked at
the door of an acquaintance in another part of the Inn. This was a man
who had probably more skill in German cursive. Between them, they
extracted the essence of the letter.

He who wrote was the landlord of an hotel in Vienna. He reported that
an English gentleman, named Peak, just arrived from Italy, had taken a
bedroom at that house. In the night, the stranger became very ill, sent
for a doctor, and wrote the lines enclosed, the purport whereof he at
the same time explained to his attendants. On the second day Mr. Peak
died. Among his effects were found circular notes, and a sum of loose
money. The body was about to be interred. Probably Mr. Earwaker would
receive official communications, as the British consul had been
informed of the matter. To whom should _bills_ be sent?

The man of letters walked slowly back to his own abode.

'Dead, too, in exile!' was his thought. 'Poor old fellow!'





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