Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Desperate Remedies
Author: Hardy, Thomas
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 "Desperate Remedies" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



DESPERATE REMEDIES


By Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS

PREFATORY NOTE

     I.     THE EVENTS OF THIRTY YEARS
     II.    THE EVENTS OF A FORTNIGHT
     III.   THE EVENTS OF EIGHT DAYS
     IV.    THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
     V.     THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
     VI.    THE EVENTS OF TWELVE HOURS
     VII.   THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS
     VIII.  THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS
     IX.    THE EVENTS OF TEN WEEKS
     X.     THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT
     XI.    THE EVENTS OF FIVE DAYS
     XII.   THE EVENTS OF TEN MONTHS
     XIII.  THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
     XIV.   THE EVENTS OF FIVE WEEKS
     XV.    THE EVENTS OF THREE WEEKS
     XVI.   THE EVENTS OF ONE WEEK
     XVII.  THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY
     XVIII. THE EVENTS OF THREE DAYS
     XIX.   THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT
     XX.    THE EVENTS OF THREE HOURS
     XXI.   THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN HOURS
            SEQUEL



PREFATORY NOTE

The following story, the first published by the author, was written
nineteen years ago, at a time when he was feeling his way to a
method. The principles observed in its composition are, no doubt, too
exclusively those in which mystery, entanglement, surprise, and moral
obliquity are depended on for exciting interest; but some of the scenes,
and at least one of the characters, have been deemed not unworthy of a
little longer preservation; and as they could hardly be reproduced in a
fragmentary form the novel is reissued complete--the more readily that
it has for some considerable time been reprinted and widely circulated
in America. January 1889.

To the foregoing note I have only to add that, in the present edition of
‘Desperate Remedies,’ some Wessex towns and other places that are common
to the scenes of several of these stories have been called for the
first time by the names under which they appear elsewhere, for the
satisfaction of any reader who may care for consistency in such matters.

This is the only material change; for, as it happened that certain
characteristics which provoked most discussion in my latest story were
present in this my first--published in 1871, when there was no French
name for them it has seemed best to let them stand unaltered.

T.H. February 1896.



I. THE EVENTS OF THIRTY YEARS

1. DECEMBER AND JANUARY, 1835-36

In the long and intricately inwrought chain of circumstance which
renders worthy of record some experiences of Cytherea Graye, Edward
Springrove, and others, the first event directly influencing the issue
was a Christmas visit.

In the above-mentioned year, 1835, Ambrose Graye, a young architect who
had just begun the practice of his profession in the midland town of
Hocbridge, to the north of Christminster, went to London to spend the
Christmas holidays with a friend who lived in Bloomsbury. They had
gone up to Cambridge in the same year, and, after graduating together,
Huntway, the friend, had taken orders.

Graye was handsome, frank, and gentle. He had a quality of thought
which, exercised on homeliness, was humour; on nature, picturesqueness;
on abstractions, poetry. Being, as a rule, broadcast, it was all three.

Of the wickedness of the world he was too forgetful. To discover evil in
a new friend is to most people only an additional experience: to him it
was ever a surprise.

While in London he became acquainted with a retired officer in the
Navy named Bradleigh, who, with his wife and their daughter, lived in
a street not far from Russell Square. Though they were in no more than
comfortable circumstances, the captain’s wife came of an ancient family
whose genealogical tree was interlaced with some of the most illustrious
and well-known in the kingdom.

The young lady, their daughter, seemed to Graye by far the most
beautiful and queenly being he had ever beheld. She was about nineteen
or twenty, and her name was Cytherea. In truth she was not so very
unlike country girls of that type of beauty, except in one respect.
She was perfect in her manner and bearing, and they were not. A mere
distinguishing peculiarity, by catching the eye, is often read as
the pervading characteristic, and she appeared to him no less than
perfection throughout--transcending her rural rivals in very nature.
Graye did a thing the blissfulness of which was only eclipsed by its
hazardousness. He loved her at first sight.

His introductions had led him into contact with Cytherea and her parents
two or three times on the first week of his arrival in London, and
accident and a lover’s contrivance brought them together as frequently
the week following. The parents liked young Graye, and having few
friends (for their equals in blood were their superiors in position), he
was received on very generous terms. His passion for Cytherea grew not
only strong, but ineffably exalted: she, without positively encouraging
him, tacitly assented to his schemes for being near her. Her father and
mother seemed to have lost all confidence in nobility of birth, without
money to give effect to its presence, and looked upon the budding
consequence of the young people’s reciprocal glances with placidity, if
not actual favour.

Graye’s whole impassioned dream terminated in a sad and unaccountable
episode. After passing through three weeks of sweet experience, he had
arrived at the last stage--a kind of moral Gaza--before plunging into an
emotional desert. The second week in January had come round, and it was
necessary for the young architect to leave town.

Throughout his acquaintanceship with the lady of his heart there had
been this marked peculiarity in her love: she had delighted in his
presence as a sweetheart should do, yet from first to last she had
repressed all recognition of the true nature of the thread which
drew them together, blinding herself to its meaning and only natural
tendency, and appearing to dread his announcement of them. The present
seemed enough for her without cumulative hope: usually, even if love is
in itself an end, it must be regarded as a beginning to be enjoyed.

In spite of evasions as an obstacle, and in consequence of them as a
spur, he would put the matter off no longer. It was evening. He took
her into a little conservatory on the landing, and there among the
evergreens, by the light of a few tiny lamps, infinitely enhancing the
freshness and beauty of the leaves, he made the declaration of a love as
fresh and beautiful as they.

‘My love--my darling, be my wife!’

She seemed like one just awakened. ‘Ah--we must part now!’ she faltered,
in a voice of anguish. ‘I will write to you.’ She loosened her hand and
rushed away.

In a wild fever Graye went home and watched for the next morning. Who
shall express his misery and wonder when a note containing these words
was put into his hand?

‘Good-bye; good-bye for ever. As recognized lovers something divides us
eternally. Forgive me--I should have told you before; but your love was
sweet! Never mention me.’

That very day, and as it seemed, to put an end to a painful condition of
things, daughter and parents left London to pay off a promised visit to
a relative in a western county. No message or letter of entreaty could
wring from her any explanation. She begged him not to follow her, and
the most bewildering point was that her father and mother appeared, from
the tone of a letter Graye received from them, as vexed and sad as he
at this sudden renunciation. One thing was plain: without admitting her
reason as valid, they knew what that reason was, and did not intend to
reveal it.

A week from that day Ambrose Graye left his friend Huntway’s house
and saw no more of the Love he mourned. From time to time his friend
answered any inquiry Graye made by letter respecting her. But very poor
food to a lover is intelligence of a mistress filtered through a friend.
Huntway could tell nothing definitely. He said he believed there had
been some prior flirtation between Cytherea and her cousin, an officer
of the line, two or three years before Graye met her, which had suddenly
been terminated by the cousin’s departure for India, and the young
lady’s travelling on the Continent with her parents the whole of the
ensuing summer, on account of delicate health. Eventually Huntway said
that circumstances had rendered Graye’s attachment more hopeless still.
Cytherea’s mother had unexpectedly inherited a large fortune and estates
in the west of England by the rapid fall of some intervening lives. This
had caused their removal from the small house in Bloomsbury, and, as it
appeared, a renunciation of their old friends in that quarter.

Young Graye concluded that his Cytherea had forgotten him and his love.
But he could not forget her.

2. FROM 1843 TO 1861

Eight years later, feeling lonely and depressed--a man without
relatives, with many acquaintances but no friends--Ambrose Graye met
a young lady of a different kind, fairly endowed with money and good
gifts. As to caring very deeply for another woman after the loss of
Cytherea, it was an absolute impossibility with him. With all, the
beautiful things of the earth become more dear as they elude pursuit;
but with some natures utter elusion is the one special event which will
make a passing love permanent for ever.

This second young lady and Graye were married. That he did not, first
or last, love his wife as he should have done, was known to all; but
few knew that his unmanageable heart could never be weaned from useless
repining at the loss of its first idol.

His character to some extent deteriorated, as emotional constitutions
will under the long sense of disappointment at having missed their
imagined destiny. And thus, though naturally of a gentle and pleasant
disposition, he grew to be not so tenderly regarded by his acquaintances
as it is the lot of some of those persons to be. The winning and
sanguine receptivity of his early life developed by degrees a moody
nervousness, and when not picturing prospects drawn from baseless hope
he was the victim of indescribable depression. The practical issue of
such a condition was improvidence, originally almost an unconscious
improvidence, for every debt incurred had been mentally paid off with a
religious exactness from the treasures of expectation before mentioned.
But as years revolved, the same course was continued from the lack of
spirit sufficient for shifting out of an old groove when it has been
found to lead to disaster.

In the year 1861 his wife died, leaving him a widower with two children.
The elder, a son named Owen, now just turned seventeen, was taken from
school, and initiated as pupil to the profession of architect in his
father’s office. The remaining child was a daughter, and Owen’s junior
by a year.

Her christian name was Cytherea, and it is easy to guess why.

3. OCTOBER THE TWELFTH, 1863

We pass over two years in order to reach the next cardinal event of
these persons’ lives. The scene is still the Grayes’ native town of
Hocbridge, but as it appeared on a Monday afternoon in the month of
October.

The weather was sunny and dry, but the ancient borough was to be seen
wearing one of its least attractive aspects. First on account of the
time. It was that stagnant hour of the twenty-four when the practical
garishness of Day, having escaped from the fresh long shadows and
enlivening newness of the morning, has not yet made any perceptible
advance towards acquiring those mellow and soothing tones which grace
its decline. Next, it was that stage in the progress of the week when
business--which, carried on under the gables of an old country place,
is not devoid of a romantic sparkle--was well-nigh extinguished. Lastly,
the town was intentionally bent upon being attractive by exhibiting
to an influx of visitors the local talent for dramatic recitation, and
provincial towns trying to be lively are the dullest of dull things.

Little towns are like little children in this respect, that they
interest most when they are enacting native peculiarities unconscious
of beholders. Discovering themselves to be watched they attempt to
be entertaining by putting on an antic, and produce disagreeable
caricatures which spoil them.

The weather-stained clock-face in the low church tower standing at the
intersection of the three chief streets was expressing half-past two
to the Town Hall opposite, where the much talked-of reading from
Shakespeare was about to begin. The doors were open, and those persons
who had already assembled within the building were noticing the entrance
of the new-comers--silently criticizing their dress--questioning the
genuineness of their teeth and hair--estimating their private means.

Among these later ones came an exceptional young maiden who glowed amid
the dulness like a single bright-red poppy in a field of brown stubble.
She wore an elegant dark jacket, lavender dress, hat with grey strings
and trimmings, and gloves of a colour to harmonize. She lightly walked
up the side passage of the room, cast a slight glance around, and
entered the seat pointed out to her.

The young girl was Cytherea Graye; her age was now about eighteen.
During her entry, and at various times whilst sitting in her seat and
listening to the reader on the platform, her personal appearance formed
an interesting subject of study for several neighbouring eyes.

Her face was exceedingly attractive, though artistically less perfect
than her figure, which approached unusually near to the standard of
faultlessness. But even this feature of hers yielded the palm to the
gracefulness of her movement, which was fascinating and delightful to an
extreme degree.

Indeed, motion was her speciality, whether shown on its most extended
scale of bodily progression, or minutely, as in the uplifting of
her eyelids, the bending of her fingers, the pouting of her lip. The
carriage of her head--motion within motion--a glide upon a glide--was
as delicate as that of a magnetic needle. And this flexibility and
elasticity had never been taught her by rule, nor even been acquired by
observation, but, nullo cultu, had naturally developed itself with her
years. In childhood, a stone or stalk in the way, which had been the
inevitable occasion of a fall to her playmates, had usually left her
safe and upright on her feet after the narrowest escape by oscillations
and whirls for the preservation of her balance. At mixed Christmas
parties, when she numbered but twelve or thirteen years, and was
heartily despised on that account by lads who deemed themselves men, her
apt lightness in the dance covered this incompleteness in her womanhood,
and compelled the self-same youths in spite of resolutions to seize upon
her childish figure as a partner whom they could not afford to contemn.
And in later years, when the instincts of her sex had shown her this
point as the best and rarest feature in her external self, she was not
found wanting in attention to the cultivation of finish in its details.

Her hair rested gaily upon her shoulders in curls and was of a shining
corn yellow in the high lights, deepening to a definite nut-brown as
each curl wound round into the shade. She had eyes of a sapphire hue,
though rather darker than the gem ordinarily appears; they possessed
the affectionate and liquid sparkle of loyalty and good faith as
distinguishable from that harder brightness which seems to express
faithfulness only to the object confronting them.

But to attempt to gain a view of her--or indeed of any fascinating
woman--from a measured category, is as difficult as to appreciate the
effect of a landscape by exploring it at night with a lantern--or of a
full chord of music by piping the notes in succession. Nevertheless it
may readily be believed from the description here ventured, that
among the many winning phases of her aspect, these were particularly
striking:--

  During pleasant doubt, when her eyes brightened stealthily and
  smiled (as eyes will smile) as distinctly as her lips, and in the
  space of a single instant expressed clearly the whole round of
  degrees of expectancy which lie over the wide expanse between Yea
  and Nay.

  During the telling of a secret, which was involuntarily
  accompanied by a sudden minute start, and ecstatic pressure of
  the listener’s arm, side, or neck, as the position and degree
  of intimacy dictated.

  When anxiously regarding one who possessed her affections.

She suddenly assumed the last-mentioned bearing in the progress of the
present entertainment. Her glance was directed out of the window.

Why the particulars of a young lady’s presence at a very mediocre
performance were prevented from dropping into the oblivion which their
intrinsic insignificance would naturally have involved--why they were
remembered and individualized by herself and others through after
years--was simply that she unknowingly stood, as it were, upon the
extreme posterior edge of a tract in her life, in which the real
meaning of Taking Thought had never been known. It was the last hour of
experience she ever enjoyed with a mind entirely free from a knowledge
of that labyrinth into which she stepped immediately afterwards--to
continue a perplexed course along its mazes for the greater portion of
twenty-nine subsequent months.

The Town Hall, in which Cytherea sat, was a building of brown stone, and
through one of the windows could be seen from the interior of the room
the housetops and chimneys of the adjacent street, and also the upper
part of a neighbouring church spire, now in course of completion under
the superintendence of Miss Graye’s father, the architect to the work.

That the top of this spire should be visible from her position in the
room was a fact which Cytherea’s idling eyes had discovered with some
interest, and she was now engaged in watching the scene that was being
enacted about its airy summit. Round the conical stonework rose a cage
of scaffolding against the blue sky, and upon this stood five men--four
in clothes as white as the new erection close beneath their hands, the
fifth in the ordinary dark suit of a gentleman.

The four working-men in white were three masons and a mason’s labourer.
The fifth man was the architect, Mr. Graye. He had been giving
directions as it seemed, and retiring as far as the narrow footway
allowed, stood perfectly still.

The picture thus presented to a spectator in the Town Hall was curious
and striking. It was an illuminated miniature, framed in by the dark
margin of the window, the keen-edged shadiness of which emphasized by
contrast the softness of the objects enclosed.

The height of the spire was about one hundred and twenty feet, and the
five men engaged thereon seemed entirely removed from the sphere and
experiences of ordinary human beings. They appeared little larger
than pigeons, and made their tiny movements with a soft, spirit-like
silentness. One idea above all others was conveyed to the mind of a
person on the ground by their aspect, namely, concentration of purpose:
that they were indifferent to--even unconscious of--the distracted world
beneath them, and all that moved upon it. They never looked off the
scaffolding.

Then one of them turned; it was Mr. Graye. Again he stood motionless,
with attention to the operations of the others. He appeared to be lost
in reflection, and had directed his face towards a new stone they were
lifting.

‘Why does he stand like that?’ the young lady thought at length--up to
that moment as listless and careless as one of the ancient Tarentines,
who, on such an afternoon as this, watched from the Theatre the entry
into their Harbour of a power that overturned the State.

She moved herself uneasily. ‘I wish he would come down,’ she whispered,
still gazing at the skybacked picture. ‘It is so dangerous to be
absent-minded up there.’

When she had done murmuring the words her father indecisively laid hold
of one of the scaffold-poles, as if to test its strength, then let it go
and stepped back. In stepping, his foot slipped. An instant of doubling
forward and sideways, and he reeled off into the air, immediately
disappearing downwards.

His agonized daughter rose to her feet by a convulsive movement. Her
lips parted, and she gasped for breath. She could utter no sound. One by
one the people about her, unconscious of what had happened, turned their
heads, and inquiry and alarm became visible upon their faces at the
sight of the poor child. A moment longer, and she fell to the floor.

The next impression of which Cytherea had any consciousness was of being
carried from a strange vehicle across the pavement to the steps of her
own house by her brother and an older man. Recollection of what had
passed evolved itself an instant later, and just as they entered the
door--through which another and sadder burden had been carried but a few
instants before--her eyes caught sight of the south-western sky, and,
without heeding, saw white sunlight shining in shaft-like lines from a
rift in a slaty cloud. Emotions will attach themselves to scenes that
are simultaneous--however foreign in essence these scenes may be--as
chemical waters will crystallize on twigs and wires. Even after that
time any mental agony brought less vividly to Cytherea’s mind the scene
from the Town Hall windows than sunlight streaming in shaft-like lines.

4. OCTOBER THE NINETEENTH

When death enters a house, an element of sadness and an element of
horror accompany it. Sadness, from the death itself: horror, from the
clouds of blackness we designedly labour to introduce.

The funeral had taken place. Depressed, yet resolved in his demeanour,
Owen Graye sat before his father’s private escritoire, engaged
in turning out and unfolding a heterogeneous collection of
papers--forbidding and inharmonious to the eye at all times--most of all
to one under the influence of a great grief. Laminae of white paper
tied with twine were indiscriminately intermixed with other white papers
bounded by black edges--these with blue foolscap wrapped round with
crude red tape.

The bulk of these letters, bills, and other documents were submitted
to a careful examination, by which the appended particulars were
ascertained:--

  First, that their father’s income from professional sources had
  been very small, amounting to not more than half their expenditure;
  and that his own and his wife’s property, upon which he had relied
  for the balance, had been sunk and lost in unwise loans to
  unscrupulous men, who had traded upon their father’s too
  open-hearted trustfulness.

  Second, that finding his mistake, he had endeavoured to regain
  his standing by the illusory path of speculation. The most notable
  instance of this was the following. He had been induced, when at
  Plymouth in the autumn of the previous year, to venture all his
  spare capital on the bottomry security of an Italian brig which
  had put into the harbour in distress. The profit was to be
  considerable, so was the risk. There turned out to be no security
  whatever. The circumstances of the case tendered it the most
  unfortunate speculation that a man like himself--ignorant of all
  such matters--could possibly engage in. The vessel went down, and
  all Mr. Graye’s money with it.

  Third, that these failures had left him burdened with debts he
  knew not how to meet; so that at the time of his death even the few
  pounds lying to his account at the bank were his only in name.

  Fourth, that the loss of his wife two years earlier had
  awakened him to a keen sense of his blindness, and of his duty by
  his children. He had then resolved to reinstate by unflagging zeal
  in the pursuit of his profession, and by no speculation, at least a
  portion of the little fortune he had let go.

Cytherea was frequently at her brother’s elbow during these
examinations. She often remarked sadly--

‘Poor papa failed to fulfil his good intention for want of time, didn’t
he, Owen? And there was an excuse for his past, though he never would
claim it. I never forget that original disheartening blow, and how that
from it sprang all the ills of his life--everything connected with his
gloom, and the lassitude in business we used so often to see about him.’

‘I remember what he said once,’ returned the brother, ‘when I sat up
late with him. He said, “Owen, don’t love too blindly: blindly you
will love if you love at all, but a little care is still possible to
a well-disciplined heart. May that heart be yours as it was not mine,”
 father said. “Cultivate the art of renunciation.” And I am going to,
Cytherea.’

‘And once mamma said that an excellent woman was papa’s ruin, because he
did not know the way to give her up when he had lost her. I wonder where
she is now, Owen? We were told not to try to find out anything about
her. Papa never told us her name, did he?’

‘That was by her own request, I believe. But never mind her; she was not
our mother.’

The love affair which had been Ambrose Graye’s disheartening blow was
precisely of that nature which lads take little account of, but girls
ponder in their hearts.

5. FROM OCTOBER THE NINETEENTH TO JULY THE NINTH

Thus Ambrose Graye’s good intentions with regard to the reintegration of
his property had scarcely taken tangible form when his sudden death put
them for ever out of his power.

Heavy bills, showing the extent of his obligations, tumbled in
immediately upon the heels of the funeral from quarters previously
unheard and unthought of. Thus pressed, a bill was filed in Chancery to
have the assets, such as they were, administered by the Court.

‘What will become of us now?’ thought Owen continually.

There is in us an unquenchable expectation, which at the gloomiest time
persists in inferring that because we are _ourselves_, there must be a
special future in store for us, though our nature and antecedents to the
remotest particular have been common to thousands. Thus to Cytherea and
Owen Graye the question how their lives would end seemed the deepest of
possible enigmas. To others who knew their position equally well with
themselves the question was the easiest that could be asked--‘Like those
of other people similarly circumstanced.’

Then Owen held a consultation with his sister to come to some decision
on their future course, and a month was passed in waiting for answers to
letters, and in the examination of schemes more or less futile. Sudden
hopes that were rainbows to the sight proved but mists to the touch.
In the meantime, unpleasant remarks, disguise them as some well-meaning
people might, were floating around them every day. The undoubted
truth, that they were the children of a dreamer who let slip away every
farthing of his money and ran into debt with his neighbours--that the
daughter had been brought up to no profession--that the son who had, had
made no progress in it, and might come to the dogs--could not from the
nature of things be wrapped up in silence in order that it might not
hurt their feelings; and as a matter of fact, it greeted their ears in
some form or other wherever they went. Their few acquaintances passed
them hurriedly. Ancient pot-wallopers, and thriving shopkeepers, in
their intervals of leisure, stood at their shop-doors--their toes
hanging over the edge of the step, and their obese waists hanging over
their toes--and in discourses with friends on the pavement, formulated
the course of the improvident, and reduced the children’s prospects to a
shadow-like attenuation. The sons of these men (who wore breastpins of
a sarcastic kind, and smoked humorous pipes) stared at Cytherea with a
stare unmitigated by any of the respect that had formerly softened it.

Now it is a noticeable fact that we do not much mind what men think of
us, or what humiliating secret they discover of our means, parentage, or
object, provided that each thinks and acts thereupon in isolation. It is
the exchange of ideas about us that we dread most; and the possession
by a hundred acquaintances, severally insulated, of the knowledge of our
skeleton-closet’s whereabouts, is not so distressing to the nerves as a
chat over it by a party of half-a-dozen--exclusive depositaries though
these may be.

Perhaps, though Hocbridge watched and whispered, its animus would have
been little more than a trifle to persons in thriving circumstances. But
unfortunately, poverty, whilst it is new, and before the skin has
had time to thicken, makes people susceptible inversely to their
opportunities for shielding themselves. In Owen was found, in place of
his father’s impressibility, a larger share of his father’s pride, and a
squareness of idea which, if coupled with a little more blindness, would
have amounted to positive prejudice. To him humanity, so far as he had
thought of it at all, was rather divided into distinct classes than
blended from extreme to extreme. Hence by a sequence of ideas which
might be traced if it were worth while, he either detested or respected
opinion, and instinctively sought to escape a cold shade that mere
sensitiveness would have endured. He could have submitted to separation,
sickness, exile, drudgery, hunger and thirst, with stoical indifference,
but superciliousness was too incisive.

After living on for nine months in attempts to make an income as his
father’s successor in the profession--attempts which were utterly
fruitless by reason of his inexperience--Graye came to a simple and
sweeping resolution. They would privately leave that part of England,
drop from the sight of acquaintances, gossips, harsh critics, and bitter
creditors of whose misfortune he was not the cause, and escape the
position which galled him by the only road their great poverty left open
to them--that of his obtaining some employment in a distant place by
following his profession as a humble under-draughtsman.

He thought over his capabilities with the sensations of a soldier
grinding his sword at the opening of a campaign. What with lack of
employment, owing to the decrease of his late father’s practice, and the
absence of direct and uncompromising pressure towards monetary results
from a pupil’s labour (which seems to be always the case when a
professional man’s pupil is also his son), Owen’s progress in the art
and science of architecture had been very insignificant indeed. Though
anything but an idle young man, he had hardly reached the age at which
industrious men who lack an external whip to send them on in the world,
are induced by their own common sense to whip on themselves. Hence his
knowledge of plans, elevations, sections, and specifications, was not
greater at the end of two years of probation than might easily have
been acquired in six months by a youth of average ability--himself, for
instance--amid a bustling London practice.

But at any rate he could make himself handy to one of the
profession--some man in a remote town--and there fulfil his indentures.
A tangible inducement lay in this direction of survey. He had a slight
conception of such a man--a Mr. Gradfield--who was in practice in
Budmouth Regis, a seaport town and watering-place in the south of
England.

After some doubts, Graye ventured to write to this gentleman, asking the
necessary question, shortly alluding to his father’s death, and stating
that his term of apprenticeship had only half expired. He would be glad
to complete his articles at a very low salary for the whole remaining
two years, provided payment could begin at once.

The answer from Mr. Gradfield stated that he was not in want of a
pupil who would serve the remainder of his time on the terms Mr. Graye
mentioned. But he would just add one remark. He chanced to be in want of
some young man in his office--for a short time only, probably about two
months--to trace drawings, and attend to other subsidiary work of the
kind. If Mr. Graye did not object to occupy such an inferior position as
these duties would entail, and to accept weekly wages which to one with
his expectations would be considered merely nominal, the post would give
him an opportunity for learning a few more details of the profession.

‘It is a beginning, and, above all, an abiding-place, away from the
shadow of the cloud which hangs over us here--I will go,’ said Owen.

Cytherea’s plan for her future, an intensely simple one, owing to the
even greater narrowness of her resources, was already marked out. One
advantage had accrued to her through her mother’s possession of a fair
share of personal property, and perhaps only one. She had been carefully
educated. Upon this consideration her plan was based. She was to take
up her abode in her brother’s lodging at Budmouth, when she would
immediately advertise for a situation as governess, having obtained
the consent of a lawyer at Aldbrickham who was winding up her father’s
affairs, and who knew the history of her position, to allow himself to
be referred to in the matter of her past life and respectability.

Early one morning they departed from their native town, leaving behind
them scarcely a trace of their footsteps.

Then the town pitied their want of wisdom in taking such a step.
‘Rashness; they would have made a better income in Hocbridge, where they
are known! There is no doubt that they would.’

But what is Wisdom really? A steady handling of any means to bring about
any end necessary to happiness.

Yet whether one’s end be the usual end--a wealthy position in life--or
no, the name of wisdom is seldom applied but to the means to that usual
end.



II. THE EVENTS OF A FORTNIGHT

1. THE NINTH OF JULY

The day of their departure was one of the most glowing that the climax
of a long series of summer heats could evolve. The wide expanse of
landscape quivered up and down like the flame of a taper, as they
steamed along through the midst of it. Placid flocks of sheep reclining
under trees a little way off appeared of a pale blue colour. Clover
fields were livid with the brightness of the sun upon their deep red
flowers. All waggons and carts were moved to the shade by their careful
owners, rain-water butts fell to pieces; well-buckets were lowered
inside the covers of the well-hole, to preserve them from the fate of
the butts, and generally, water seemed scarcer in the country than the
beer and cider of the peasantry who toiled or idled there.

To see persons looking with children’s eyes at any ordinary scenery, is
a proof that they possess the charming faculty of drawing new sensations
from an old experience--a healthy sign, rare in these feverish days--the
mark of an imperishable brightness of nature.

Both brother and sister could do this; Cytherea more noticeably. They
watched the undulating corn-lands, monotonous to all their companions;
the stony and clayey prospect succeeding those, with its angular and
abrupt hills. Boggy moors came next, now withered and dry--the spots
upon which pools usually spread their waters showing themselves as
circles of smooth bare soil, over-run by a net-work of innumerable
little fissures. Then arose plantations of firs, abruptly terminating
beside meadows cleanly mown, in which high-hipped, rich-coloured cows,
with backs horizontal and straight as the ridge of a house, stood
motionless or lazily fed. Glimpses of the sea now interested them, which
became more and more frequent till the train finally drew up beside the
platform at Budmouth.

‘The whole town is looking out for us,’ had been Graye’s impression
throughout the day. He called upon Mr. Gradfield--the only man who had
been directly informed of his coming--and found that Mr. Gradfield had
forgotten it.

However, arrangements were made with this gentleman--a stout, active,
grey-bearded burgher of sixty--by which Owen was to commence work in his
office the following week.

The same day Cytherea drew up and sent off the advertisement appended:--


  ‘A YOUNG LADY is desirous of meeting with an _engagement_ as
  _governess_ or _companion_. She is competent to teach English,
  French, and Music. Satisfactory references--Address, C. G.,
  Post-Office, Budmouth.’


It seemed a more material existence than her own that she saw thus
delineated on the paper. ‘That can’t be myself; how odd I look!’ she
said, and smiled.

2. JULY THE ELEVENTH

On the Monday subsequent to their arrival in Budmouth, Owen Graye
attended at Mr. Gradfield’s office to enter upon his duties, and his
sister was left in their lodgings alone for the first time.

Despite the sad occurrences of the preceding autumn, an unwonted
cheerfulness pervaded her spirit throughout the day. Change of
scene--and that to untravelled eyes--conjoined with the sensation of
freedom from supervision, revived the sparkle of a warm young nature
ready enough to take advantage of any adventitious restoratives.
Point-blank grief tends rather to seal up happiness for a time than to
produce that attrition which results from griefs of anticipation that
move onward with the days: these may be said to furrow away the capacity
for pleasure.

Her expectations from the advertisement began to be extravagant. A
thriving family, who had always sadly needed her, was already definitely
pictured in her fancy, which, in its exuberance, led her on to picturing
its individual members, their possible peculiarities, virtues, and
vices, and obliterated for a time the recollection that she would be
separated from her brother.

Thus musing, as she waited for his return in the evening, her eyes fell
on her left hand. The contemplation of her own left fourth finger by
symbol-loving girlhood of this age is, it seems, very frequently, if
not always, followed by a peculiar train of romantic ideas. Cytherea’s
thoughts, still playing about her future, became directed into this
romantic groove. She leant back in her chair, and taking hold of the
fourth finger, which had attracted her attention, she lifted it with the
tips of the others, and looked at the smooth and tapering member for a
long time.

She whispered idly, ‘I wonder who and what he will be?

‘If he’s a gentleman of fashion, he will take my finger so, just with
the tips of his own, and with some fluttering of the heart, and the
least trembling of his lip, slip the ring so lightly on that I shall
hardly know it is there--looking delightfully into my eyes all the time.

‘If he’s a bold, dashing soldier, I expect he will proudly turn round,
take the ring as if it equalled her Majesty’s crown in value, and
desperately set it on my finger thus. He will fix his eyes unflinchingly
upon what he is doing--just as if he stood in battle before the enemy
(though, in reality, very fond of me, of course), and blush as much as I
shall.

‘If he’s a sailor, he will take my finger and the ring in this way,
and deck it out with a housewifely touch and a tenderness of expression
about his mouth, as sailors do: kiss it, perhaps, with a simple air, as
if we were children playing an idle game, and not at the very height of
observation and envy by a great crowd saying, “Ah! they are happy now!”

‘If he should be rather a poor man--noble-minded and affectionate, but
still poor--’

Owen’s footsteps rapidly ascending the stairs, interrupted this
fancy-free meditation. Reproaching herself, even angry with herself
for allowing her mind to stray upon such subjects in the face of their
present desperate condition, she rose to meet him, and make tea.

Cytherea’s interest to know how her brother had been received at Mr.
Gradfield’s broke forth into words at once. Almost before they had sat
down to table, she began cross-examining him in the regular sisterly
way.

‘Well, Owen, how has it been with you to-day? What is the place like--do
you think you will like Mr. Gradfield?’

‘O yes. But he has not been there to-day; I have only had the head
draughtsman with me.’

Young women have a habit, not noticeable in men, of putting on at a
moment’s notice the drama of whosoever’s life they choose. Cytherea’s
interest was transferred from Mr. Gradfield to his representative.

‘What sort of a man is he?’

‘He seems a very nice fellow indeed; though of course I can hardly tell
to a certainty as yet. But I think he’s a very worthy fellow; there’s
no nonsense in him, and though he is not a public school man he has read
widely, and has a sharp appreciation of what’s good in books and art.
In fact, his knowledge isn’t nearly so exclusive as most professional
men’s.’

‘That’s a great deal to say of an architect, for of all professional men
they are, as a rule, the most professional.’

‘Yes; perhaps they are. This man is rather of a melancholy turn of mind,
I think.’

‘Has the managing clerk any family?’ she mildly asked, after a while,
pouring out some more tea.

‘Family; no!’

‘Well, dear Owen, how should I know?’

‘Why, of course he isn’t married. But there happened to be a
conversation about women going on in the office, and I heard him say
what he should wish his wife to be like.’

‘What would he wish his wife to be like?’ she said, with great apparent
lack of interest.

‘O, he says she must be girlish and artless: yet he would be loth to do
without a dash of womanly subtlety, ‘tis so piquant. Yes, he said, that
must be in her; she must have womanly cleverness. “And yet I should like
her to blush if only a cock-sparrow were to look at her hard,” he said,
“which brings me back to the girl again: and so I flit backwards and
forwards. I must have what comes, I suppose,” he said, “and whatever she
may be, thank God she’s no worse. However, if he might give a final hint
to Providence,” he said, “a child among pleasures, and a woman among
pains was the rough outline of his requirement.”’

‘Did he say that? What a musing creature he must be.’

‘He did, indeed.’

3. FROM THE TWELFTH TO THE FIFTEENTH OF JULY

As is well known, ideas are so elastic in a human brain, that they have
no constant measure which may be called their actual bulk. Any important
idea may be compressed to a molecule by an unwonted crowding of others;
and any small idea will expand to whatever length and breadth of vacuum
the mind may be able to make over to it. Cytherea’s world was tolerably
vacant at this time, and the young architectural designer’s image became
very pervasive. The next evening this subject was again renewed.

‘His name is Springrove,’ said Owen, in reply to her. ‘He is a thorough
artist, but a man of rather humble origin, it seems, who has made
himself so far. I think he is the son of a farmer, or something of the
kind.’

‘Well, he’s none the worse for that, I suppose.’

‘None the worse. As we come down the hill, we shall be continually
meeting people going up.’ But Owen had felt that Springrove was a little
the worse nevertheless.

‘Of course he’s rather old by this time.’

‘O no. He’s about six-and-twenty--not more.’

‘Ah, I see.... What is he like, Owen?’

‘I can’t exactly tell you his appearance: ‘tis always such a difficult
thing to do.’

‘A man you would describe as short? Most men are those we should
describe as short, I fancy.’

‘I should call him, I think, of the middle height; but as I only see
him sitting in the office, of course I am not certain about his form and
figure.’

‘I wish you were, then.’

‘Perhaps you do. But I am not, you see.’

‘Of course not, you are always so provoking. Owen, I saw a man in the
street to-day whom I fancied was he--and yet, I don’t see how it could
be, either. He had light brown hair, a snub nose, very round face, and
a peculiar habit of reducing his eyes to straight lines when he looked
narrowly at anything.’

‘O no. That was not he, Cytherea.’

‘Not a bit like him in all probability.’

‘Not a bit. He has dark hair--almost a Grecian nose, regular teeth, and
an intellectual face, as nearly as I can recall to mind.’

‘Ah, there now, Owen, you _have_ described him! But I suppose he’s not
generally called pleasing, or--’

‘Handsome?’

‘I scarcely meant that. But since you have said it, is he handsome?’

‘Rather.’

‘His tout ensemble is striking?’

‘Yes--O no, no--I forgot: it is not. He is rather untidy in his
waistcoat, and neck-ties, and hair.’

‘How vexing!... it must be to himself, poor thing.’

‘He’s a thorough bookworm--despises the pap-and-daisy school of
verse--knows Shakespeare to the very dregs of the foot-notes. Indeed,
he’s a poet himself in a small way.’

‘How delicious!’ she said. ‘I have never known a poet.’

‘And you don’t know him,’ said Owen dryly.

She reddened. ‘Of course I don’t. I know that.’

‘Have you received any answer to your advertisement?’ he inquired.

‘Ah--no!’ she said, and the forgotten disappointment which had showed
itself in her face at different times during the day, became visible
again.

Another day passed away. On Thursday, without inquiry, she learnt more
of the head draughtsman. He and Graye had become very friendly, and he
had been tempted to show her brother a copy of some poems of his--some
serious and sad--some humorous--which had appeared in the poets’ corner
of a magazine from time to time. Owen showed them now to Cytherea, who
instantly began to read them carefully and to think them very beautiful.

‘Yes--Springrove’s no fool,’ said Owen sententiously.

‘No fool!--I should think he isn’t, indeed,’ said Cytherea, looking up
from the paper in quite an excitement: ‘to write such verses as these!’

‘What logic are you chopping, Cytherea? Well, I don’t mean on account of
the verses, because I haven’t read them; but for what he said when the
fellows were talking about falling in love.’

‘Which you will tell me?’

‘He says that your true lover breathlessly finds himself engaged to a
sweetheart, like a man who has caught something in the dark. He doesn’t
know whether it is a bat or a bird, and takes it to the light when he is
cool to learn what it is. He looks to see if she is the right age, but
right age or wrong age, he must consider her a prize. Sometime later he
ponders whether she is the right kind of prize for him. Right kind or
wrong kind--he has called her his, and must abide by it. After a time he
asks himself, “Has she the temper, hair, and eyes I meant to have, and
was firmly resolved not to do without?” He finds it is all wrong, and
then comes the tussle--’

‘Do they marry and live happily?’

‘Who? O, the supposed pair. I think he said--well, I really forget what
he said.’

‘That _is_ stupid of you!’ said the young lady with dismay.

‘Yes.’

‘But he’s a satirist--I don’t think I care about him now.’

‘There you are just wrong. He is not. He is, as I believe, an impulsive
fellow who has been made to pay the penalty of his rashness in some love
affair.’

Thus ended the dialogue of Thursday, but Cytherea read the verses again
in private. On Friday her brother remarked that Springrove had informed
him he was going to leave Mr. Gradfield’s in a fortnight to push his
fortunes in London.

An indescribable feeling of sadness shot through Cytherea’s heart.
Why should she be sad at such an announcement as that, she thought,
concerning a man she had never seen, when her spirits were elastic
enough to rebound after hard blows from deep and real troubles as if she
had scarcely known them? Though she could not answer this question, she
knew one thing, she was saddened by Owen’s news.

4. JULY THE TWENTY-FIRST

A very popular local excursion by steamboat to Lulstead Cove was
announced through the streets of Budmouth one Thursday morning by
the weak-voiced town-crier, to start at six o’clock the same day. The
weather was lovely, and the opportunity being the first of the kind
offered to them, Owen and Cytherea went with the rest.

They had reached the Cove, and had walked landward for nearly an hour
over the hill which rose beside the strand, when Graye recollected that
two or three miles yet further inland from this spot was an interesting
mediaeval ruin. He was already familiar with its characteristics through
the medium of an archaeological work, and now finding himself so close
to the reality, felt inclined to verify some theory he had formed
respecting it. Concluding that there would be just sufficient time for
him to go there and return before the boat had left the shore, he parted
from Cytherea on the hill, struck downwards, and then up a heathery
valley.

She remained on the summit where he had left her till the time of his
expected return, scanning the details of the prospect around. Placidly
spread out before her on the south was the open Channel, reflecting a
blue intenser by many shades than that of the sky overhead, and dotted
in the foreground by half-a-dozen small craft of contrasting rig, their
sails graduating in hue from extreme whiteness to reddish brown, the
varying actual colours varied again in a double degree by the rays of
the declining sun.

Presently the distant bell from the boat was heard, warning the
passengers to embark. This was followed by a lively air from the harps
and violins on board, their tones, as they arose, becoming intermingled
with, though not marred by, the brush of the waves when their crests
rolled over--at the point where the check of the shallows was first
felt--and then thinned away up the slope of pebbles and sand.

She turned her face landward and strained her eyes to discern, if
possible, some sign of Owen’s return. Nothing was visible save the
strikingly brilliant, still landscape. The wide concave which lay at the
back of the hill in this direction was blazing with the western light,
adding an orange tint to the vivid purple of the heather, now at the
very climax of bloom, and free from the slightest touch of the invidious
brown that so soon creeps into its shades. The light so intensified the
colours that they seemed to stand above the surface of the earth and
float in mid-air like an exhalation of red. In the minor valleys,
between the hillocks and ridges which diversified the contour of the
basin, but did not disturb its general sweep, she marked brakes of tall,
heavy-stemmed ferns, five or six feet high, in a brilliant light-green
dress--a broad riband of them with the path in their midst winding like
a stream along the little ravine that reached to the foot of the hill,
and delivered up the path to its grassy area. Among the ferns grew
holly bushes deeper in tint than any shadow about them, whilst the whole
surface of the scene was dimpled with small conical pits, and here and
there were round ponds, now dry, and half overgrown with rushes.

The last bell of the steamer rang. Cytherea had forgotten herself, and
what she was looking for. In a fever of distress lest Owen should
be left behind, she gathered up in her hand the corners of her
handkerchief, containing specimens of the shells, plants, and fossils
which the locality produced, started off to the sands, and mingled with
the knots of visitors there congregated from other interesting points
around; from the inn, the cottages, and hired conveyances that had
returned from short drives inland. They all went aboard by the primitive
plan of a narrow plank on two wheels--the women being assisted by a
rope. Cytherea lingered till the very last, reluctant to follow,
and looking alternately at the boat and the valley behind. Her delay
provoked a remark from Captain Jacobs, a thickset man of hybrid stains,
resulting from the mixed effects of fire and water, peculiar to sailors
where engines are the propelling power.

‘Now then, missy, if you please. I am sorry to tell ‘ee our time’s up.
Who are you looking for, miss?’

‘My brother--he has walked a short distance inland; he must be here
directly. Could you wait for him--just a minute?’

‘Really, I am afraid not, m’m.’ Cytherea looked at the stout,
round-faced man, and at the vessel, with a light in her eyes so
expressive of her own opinion being the same, on reflection, as his, and
with such resignation, too, that, from an instinctive feeling of pride
at being able to prove himself more humane than he was thought to
be--works of supererogation are the only sacrifices that entice in this
way--and that at a very small cost, he delayed the boat till some among
the passengers began to murmur.

‘There, never mind,’ said Cytherea decisively. ‘Go on without me--I
shall wait for him.’

‘Well, ‘tis a very awkward thing to leave you here all alone,’ said the
captain. ‘I certainly advise you not to wait.’

‘He’s gone across to the railway station, for certain,’ said another
passenger.

‘No--here he is!’ Cytherea said, regarding, as she spoke, the half
hidden figure of a man who was seen advancing at a headlong pace down
the ravine which lay between the heath and the shore.

‘He can’t get here in less than five minutes,’ a passenger said. ‘People
should know what they are about, and keep time. Really, if--’

‘You see, sir,’ said the captain, in an apologetic undertone, ‘since
‘tis her brother, and she’s all alone, ‘tis only nater to wait a minute,
now he’s in sight. Suppose, now, you were a young woman, as might be,
and had a brother, like this one, and you stood of an evening upon
this here wild lonely shore, like her, why you’d want us to wait, too,
wouldn’t you, sir? I think you would.’

The person so hastily approaching had been lost to view during this
remark by reason of a hollow in the ground, and the projecting cliff
immediately at hand covered the path in its rise. His footsteps were
now heard striking sharply upon the flinty road at a distance of about
twenty or thirty yards, but still behind the escarpment. To save time,
Cytherea prepared to ascend the plank.

‘Let me give you my hand, miss,’ said Captain Jacobs.

‘No--please don’t touch me,’ said she, ascending cautiously by sliding
one foot forward two or three inches, bringing up the other behind it,
and so on alternately--her lips compressed by concentration on the feat,
her eyes glued to the plank, her hand to the rope, and her immediate
thought to the fact of the distressing narrowness of her footing. Steps
now shook the lower end of the board, and in an instant were up to her
heels with a bound.

‘O, Owen, I am so glad you are come!’ she said without turning. ‘Don’t,
don’t shake the plank or touch me, whatever you do.... There, I am up.
Where have you been so long?’ she continued, in a lower tone, turning
round to him as she reached the top.

Raising her eyes from her feet, which, standing on the firm deck,
demanded her attention no longer, she acquired perceptions of the
new-comer in the following order: unknown trousers; unknown waistcoat;
unknown face. The man was not her brother, but a total stranger.

Off went the plank; the paddles started, stopped, backed, pattered in
confusion, then revolved decisively, and the boat passed out into deep
water.

One or two persons had said, ‘How d’ye do, Mr. Springrove?’ and looked
at Cytherea, to see how she bore her disappointment. Her ears had but
just caught the name of the head draughtsman, when she saw him advancing
directly to address her.

‘Miss Graye, I believe?’ he said, lifting his hat.

‘Yes,’ said Cytherea, colouring, and trying not to look guilty of a
surreptitious knowledge of him.

‘I am Mr. Springrove. I passed Corvsgate Castle about an hour ago, and
soon afterwards met your brother going that way. He had been deceived in
the distance, and was about to turn without seeing the ruin, on account
of a lameness that had come on in his leg or foot. I proposed that
he should go on, since he had got so near; and afterwards, instead of
walking back to the boat, get across to Anglebury Station--a shorter
walk for him--where he could catch the late train, and go directly home.
I could let you know what he had done, and allay any uneasiness.’

‘Is the lameness serious, do you know?’

‘O no; simply from over-walking himself. Still, it was just as well to
ride home.’

Relieved from her apprehensions on Owen’s score, she was able slightly
to examine the appearance of her informant--Edward Springrove--who now
removed his hat for a while, to cool himself. He was rather above her
brother’s height. Although the upper part of his face and head was
handsomely formed, and bounded by lines of sufficiently masculine
regularity, his brows were somewhat too softly arched, and finely
pencilled for one of his sex; without prejudice, however, to the belief
which the sum total of his features inspired--that though they did not
prove that the man who thought inside them would do much in the
world, men who had done most of all had had no better ones. Across his
forehead, otherwise perfectly smooth, ran one thin line, the healthy
freshness of his remaining features expressing that it had come there
prematurely.

Though some years short of the age at which the clear spirit bids
good-bye to the last infirmity of noble mind, and takes to house-hunting
and investments, he had reached the period in a young man’s life when
episodic periods, with a hopeful birth and a disappointing death, have
begun to accumulate, and to bear a fruit of generalities; his glance
sometimes seeming to state, ‘I have already thought out the issue of
such conditions as these we are experiencing.’ At other times he wore an
abstracted look: ‘I seem to have lived through this moment before.’

He was carelessly dressed in dark grey, wearing a rolled-up black
kerchief as a neck-cloth; the knot of which was disarranged, and stood
obliquely--a deposit of white dust having lodged in the creases.

‘I am sorry for your disappointment,’ he continued, glancing into
her face. Their eyes having met, became, as it were, mutually locked
together, and the single instant only which good breeding allows as
the length of such a look, became trebled: a clear penetrating ray of
intelligence had shot from each into each, giving birth to one of those
unaccountable sensations which carry home to the heart before the hand
has been touched or the merest compliment passed, by something stronger
than mathematical proof, the conviction, ‘A tie has begun to unite us.’

Both faces also unconsciously stated that their owners had been much in
each other’s thoughts of late. Owen had talked to the young architect of
his sister as freely as to Cytherea of the young architect.

A conversation began, which was none the less interesting to the parties
engaged because it consisted only of the most trivial and commonplace
remarks. Then the band of harps and violins struck up a lively melody,
and the deck was cleared for dancing; the sun dipping beneath the
horizon during the proceeding, and the moon showing herself at their
stern. The sea was so calm, that the soft hiss produced by the
bursting of the innumerable bubbles of foam behind the paddles could be
distinctly heard. The passengers who did not dance, including Cytherea
and Springrove, lapsed into silence, leaning against the paddle-boxes,
or standing aloof--noticing the trembling of the deck to the steps of
the dance--watching the waves from the paddles as they slid thinly and
easily under each other’s edges.

Night had quite closed in by the time they reached Budmouth harbour,
sparkling with its white, red, and green lights in opposition to the
shimmering path of the moon’s reflection on the other side, which
reached away to the horizon till the flecked ripples reduced themselves
to sparkles as fine as gold dust.

‘I will walk to the station and find out the exact time the train
arrives,’ said Springrove, rather eagerly, when they had landed.

She thanked him much.

‘Perhaps we might walk together,’ he suggested hesitatingly. She looked
as if she did not quite know, and he settled the question by showing the
way.

They found, on arriving there, that on the first day of that month
the particular train selected for Graye’s return had ceased to stop at
Anglebury station.

‘I am very sorry I misled him,’ said Springrove.

‘O, I am not alarmed at all,’ replied Cytherea.

‘Well, it’s sure to be all right--he will sleep there, and come by the
first in the morning. But what will you do, alone?’

‘I am quite easy on that point; the landlady is very friendly. I must go
indoors now. Good-night, Mr. Springrove.’

‘Let me go round to your door with you?’ he pleaded.

‘No, thank you; we live close by.’

He looked at her as a waiter looks at the change he brings back. But she
was inexorable.

‘Don’t--forget me,’ he murmured. She did not answer.

‘Let me see you sometimes,’ he said.

‘Perhaps you never will again--I am going away,’ she replied in
lingering tones; and turning into Cross Street, ran indoors and
upstairs.

The sudden withdrawal of what was superfluous at first, is often felt as
an essential loss. It was felt now with regard to the maiden. More, too,
after a meeting so pleasant and so enkindling, she had seemed to imply
that they would never come together again.

The young man softly followed her, stood opposite the house and watched
her come into the upper room with the light. Presently his gaze was cut
short by her approaching the window and pulling down the blind--Edward
dwelling upon her vanishing figure with a hopeless sense of loss akin to
that which Adam is said by logicians to have felt when he first saw the
sun set, and thought, in his inexperience, that it would return no more.

He waited till her shadow had twice crossed the window, when, finding
the charming outline was not to be expected again, he left the street,
crossed the harbour-bridge, and entered his own solitary chamber on the
other side, vaguely thinking as he went (for undefined reasons),

   ‘One hope is too like despair
   For prudence to smother.’



III. THE EVENTS OF EIGHT DAYS

1. FROM THE TWENTY-SECOND TO THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF JULY

But things are not what they seem. A responsive love for Edward
Springrove had made its appearance in Cytherea’s bosom with all the
fascinating attributes of a first experience, not succeeding to or
displacing other emotions, as in older hearts, but taking up entirely
new ground; as when gazing just after sunset at the pale blue sky we see
a star come into existence where nothing was before.

His parting words, ‘Don’t forget me,’ she repeated to herself a hundred
times, and though she thought their import was probably commonplace, she
could not help toying with them,--looking at them from all points,
and investing them with meanings of love and faithfulness,--ostensibly
entertaining such meanings only as fables wherewith to pass the time,
yet in her heart admitting, for detached instants, a possibility of
their deeper truth. And thus, for hours after he had left her, her
reason flirted with her fancy as a kitten will sport with a dove,
pleasantly and smoothly through easy attitudes, but disclosing its cruel
and unyielding nature at crises.

To turn now to the more material media through which this story moves,
it so happened that the very next morning brought round a circumstance
which, slight in itself, took up a relevant and important position
between the past and the future of the persons herein concerned.

At breakfast time, just as Cytherea had again seen the postman pass
without bringing her an answer to the advertisement, as she had fully
expected he would do, Owen entered the room.

‘Well,’ he said, kissing her, ‘you have not been alarmed, of course.
Springrove told you what I had done, and you found there was no train?’

‘Yes, it was all clear. But what is the lameness owing to?’

‘I don’t know--nothing. It has quite gone off now... Cytherea, I hope
you like Springrove. Springrove’s a nice fellow, you know.’

‘Yes. I think he is, except that--’

‘It happened just to the purpose that I should meet him there, didn’t
it? And when I reached the station and learnt that I could not get on by
train my foot seemed better. I started off to walk home, and went about
five miles along a path beside the railway. It then struck me that I
might not be fit for anything to-day if I walked and aggravated the
bothering foot, so I looked for a place to sleep at. There was
no available village or inn, and I eventually got the keeper of a
gate-house, where a lane crossed the line, to take me in.’

They proceeded with their breakfast. Owen yawned.

‘You didn’t get much sleep at the gate-house last night, I’m afraid,
Owen,’ said his sister.

‘To tell the truth, I didn’t. I was in such very close and narrow
quarters. Those gate-houses are such small places, and the man had
only his own bed to offer me. Ah, by-the-bye, Cythie, I have such an
extraordinary thing to tell you in connection with this man!--by Jove,
I had nearly forgotten it! But I’ll go straight on. As I was saying,
he had only his own bed to offer me, but I could not afford to be
fastidious, and as he had a hearty manner, though a very queer one, I
agreed to accept it, and he made a rough pallet for himself on the floor
close beside me. Well, I could not sleep for my life, and I wished I had
not stayed there, though I was so tired. For one thing, there were the
luggage trains rattling by at my elbow the early part of the night. But
worse than this, he talked continually in his sleep, and occasionally
struck out with his limbs at something or another, knocking against the
post of the bedstead and making it tremble. My condition was altogether
so unsatisfactory that at last I awoke him, and asked him what he had
been dreaming about for the previous hour, for I could get no sleep at
all. He begged my pardon for disturbing me, but a name I had casually
let fall that evening had led him to think of another stranger he had
once had visit him, who had also accidentally mentioned the same name,
and some very strange incidents connected with that meeting. The affair
had occurred years and years ago; but what I had said had made him think
and dream about it as if it were but yesterday. What was the word? I
said. “Cytherea,” he said. What was the story? I asked then. He then
told me that when he was a young man in London he borrowed a few pounds
to add to a few he had saved up, and opened a little inn at Hammersmith.
One evening, after the inn had been open about a couple of months,
every idler in the neighbourhood ran off to Westminster. The Houses of
Parliament were on fire.

‘Not a soul remained in his parlour besides himself, and he began
picking up the pipes and glasses his customers had hastily relinquished.
At length a young lady about seventeen or eighteen came in. She asked
if a woman was there waiting for herself--Miss Jane Taylor. He said no;
asked the young lady if she would wait, and showed her into the small
inner room. There was a glass-pane in the partition dividing this room
from the bar to enable the landlord to see if his visitors, who sat
there, wanted anything. A curious awkwardness and melancholy about the
behaviour of the girl who called, caused my informant to look frequently
at her through the partition. She seemed weary of her life, and sat with
her face buried in her hands, evidently quite out of her element in
such a house. Then a woman much older came in and greeted Miss Taylor by
name. The man distinctly heard the following words pass between them:--

‘“Why have you not brought him?”

‘“He is ill; he is not likely to live through the night.”

‘At this announcement from the elderly woman, the young lady fell to the
floor in a swoon, apparently overcome by the news. The landlord ran in
and lifted her up. Well, do what they would they could not for a long
time bring her back to consciousness, and began to be much alarmed. “Who
is she?” the innkeeper said to the other woman. “I know her,” the other
said, with deep meaning in her tone. The elderly and young woman seemed
allied, and yet strangers.

‘She now showed signs of life, and it struck him (he was plainly of an
inquisitive turn), that in her half-bewildered state he might get some
information from her. He stooped over her, put his mouth to her ear,
and said sharply, “What’s your name?” “To catch a woman napping
is difficult, even when she’s half dead; but I did it,” says the
gatekeeper. When he asked her her name, she said immediately--

‘“Cytherea”--and stopped suddenly.’

‘My own name!’ said Cytherea.

‘Yes--your name. Well, the gateman thought at the time it might be
equally with Jane a name she had invented for the occasion, that they
might not trace her; but I think it was truth unconsciously uttered,
for she added directly afterwards: “O, what have I said!” and was quite
overcome again--this time with fright. Her vexation that the woman now
doubted the genuineness of her other name was very much greater than
that the innkeeper did, and it is evident that to blind the woman was
her main object. He also learnt from words the elderly woman casually
dropped, that meetings of the same kind had been held before, and that
the falseness of the soi-disant Miss Jane Taylor’s name had never been
suspected by this dependent or confederate till then.

‘She recovered, rested there for an hour, and first sending off her
companion peremptorily (which was another odd thing), she left the
house, offering the landlord all the money she had to say nothing about
the circumstance. He has never seen her since, according to his
own account. I said to him again and again, “Did you find any more
particulars afterwards?” “Not a syllable,” he said. O, he should never
hear any more of that! too many years had passed since it happened. “At
any rate, you found out her surname?” I said. “Well, well, that’s my
secret,” he went on. “Perhaps I should never have been in this part of
the world if it hadn’t been for that. I failed as a publican, you know.”
 I imagine the situation of gateman was given him and his debts paid off
as a bribe to silence; but I can’t say. “Ah, yes!” he said, with a long
breath. “I have never heard that name mentioned since that time till
to-night, and then there instantly rose to my eyes the vision of that
young lady lying in a fainting fit.” He then stopped talking and fell
asleep. Telling the story must have relieved him as it did the Ancient
Mariner, for he did not move a muscle or make another sound for the
remainder of the night. Now isn’t that an odd story?’

‘It is indeed,’ Cytherea murmured. ‘Very, very strange.’

‘Why should she have said your most uncommon name?’ continued Owen. ‘The
man was evidently truthful, for there was not motive sufficient for his
invention of such a tale, and he could not have done it either.’

Cytherea looked long at her brother. ‘Don’t you recognize anything else
in connection with the story?’ she said.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘Do you remember what poor papa once let drop--that Cytherea was
the name of his first sweetheart in Bloomsbury, who so mysteriously
renounced him? A sort of intuition tells me that this was the same
woman.’

‘O no--not likely,’ said her brother sceptically.

‘How not likely, Owen? There’s not another woman of the name in England.
In what year used papa to say the event took place?’

‘Eighteen hundred and thirty-five.’

‘And when were the Houses of Parliament burnt?--stop, I can tell you.’
She searched their little stock of books for a list of dates, and found
one in an old school history.

‘The Houses of Parliament were burnt down in the evening of the
sixteenth of October, eighteen hundred and thirty-four.’

‘Nearly a year and a quarter before she met father,’ remarked Owen.

They were silent. ‘If papa had been alive, what a wonderful absorbing
interest this story would have had for him,’ said Cytherea by-and-by.
‘And how strangely knowledge comes to us. We might have searched for a
clue to her secret half the world over, and never found one. If we had
really had any motive for trying to discover more of the sad history
than papa told us, we should have gone to Bloomsbury; but not caring to
do so, we go two hundred miles in the opposite direction, and there
find information waiting to be told us. What could have been the secret,
Owen?’

‘Heaven knows. But our having heard a little more of her in this way (if
she is the same woman) is a mere coincidence after all--a family story
to tell our friends if we ever have any. But we shall never know any
more of the episode now--trust our fates for that.’

Cytherea sat silently thinking.

‘There was no answer this morning to your advertisement, Cytherea?’ he
continued.

‘None.’

‘I could see that by your looks when I came in.’

‘Fancy not getting a single one,’ she said sadly. ‘Surely there must be
people somewhere who want governesses?’

‘Yes; but those who want them, and can afford to have them, get them
mostly by friends’ recommendations; whilst those who want them, and
can’t afford to have them, make use of their poor relations.’

‘What shall I do?’

‘Never mind it. Go on living with me. Don’t let the difficulty trouble
your mind so; you think about it all day. I can keep you, Cythie, in a
plain way of living. Twenty-five shillings a week do not amount to
much truly; but then many mechanics have no more, and we live quite as
sparingly as journeymen mechanics... It is a meagre narrow life we are
drifting into,’ he added gloomily, ‘but it is a degree more tolerable
than the worrying sensation of all the world being ashamed of you, which
we experienced at Hocbridge.’

‘I couldn’t go back there again,’ she said.

‘Nor I. O, I don’t regret our course for a moment. We did quite right in
dropping out of the world.’ The sneering tones of the remark were almost
too laboured to be real. ‘Besides,’ he continued, ‘something better for
me is sure to turn up soon. I wish my engagement here was a permanent
one instead of for only two months. It may, certainly, be for a longer
time, but all is uncertain.’

‘I wish I could get something to do; and I must too,’ she said firmly.
‘Suppose, as is very probable, you are not wanted after the beginning of
October--the time Mr. Gradfield mentioned--what should we do if I were
dependent on you only throughout the winter?’

They pondered on numerous schemes by which a young lady might be
supposed to earn a decent livelihood--more or less convenient and
feasible in imagination, but relinquished them all until advertising had
been once more tried, this time taking lower ground. Cytherea was vexed
at her temerity in having represented to the world that so inexperienced
a being as herself was a qualified governess; and had a fancy that this
presumption of hers might be one reason why no ladies applied. The new
and humbler attempt appeared in the following form:--


  ‘NURSERY GOVERNESS OR USEFUL COMPANION. A young person wishes to
  hear of a situation in either of the above capacities. Salary very
  moderate. She is a good needle-woman--Address G., 3 Cross Street,
  Budmouth.’


In the evening they went to post the letter, and then walked up and down
the Parade for a while. Soon they met Springrove, said a few words
to him, and passed on. Owen noticed that his sister’s face had become
crimson. Rather oddly they met Springrove again in a few minutes. This
time the three walked a little way together, Edward ostensibly talking
to Owen, though with a single thought to the reception of his words by
the maiden at the farther side, upon whom his gaze was mostly resting,
and who was attentively listening--looking fixedly upon the pavement the
while. It has been said that men love with their eyes; women with their
ears.

As Owen and himself were little more than acquaintances as yet, and as
Springrove was wanting in the assurance of many men of his age, it now
became necessary to wish his friends good-evening, or to find a reason
for continuing near Cytherea by saying some nice new thing. He thought
of a new thing; he proposed a pull across the bay. This was assented
to. They went to the pier; stepped into one of the gaily painted boats
moored alongside and sheered off. Cytherea sat in the stern steering.

They rowed that evening; the next came, and with it the necessity of
rowing again. Then the next, and the next, Cytherea always sitting in
the stern with the tiller ropes in her hand. The curves of her figure
welded with those of the fragile boat in perfect continuation, as she
girlishly yielded herself to its heaving and sinking, seeming to form
with it an organic whole.

Then Owen was inclined to test his skill in paddling a canoe. Edward
did not like canoes, and the issue was, that, having seen Owen on board,
Springrove proposed to pull off after him with a pair of sculls; but
not considering himself sufficiently accomplished to do finished rowing
before a parade full of promenaders when there was a little swell on,
and with the rudder unshipped in addition, he begged that Cytherea might
come with him and steer as before. She stepped in, and they floated
along in the wake of her brother. Thus passed the fifth evening on the
water.

But the sympathetic pair were thrown into still closer companionship,
and much more exclusive connection.

2. JULY THE TWENTY-NINTH

It was a sad time for Cytherea--the last day of Springrove’s management
at Gradfield’s, and the last evening before his return from Budmouth to
his father’s house, previous to his departure for London.

Graye had been requested by the architect to survey a plot of land
nearly twenty miles off, which, with the journey to and fro, would
occupy him the whole day, and prevent his returning till late in the
evening. Cytherea made a companion of her landlady to the extent of
sharing meals and sitting with her during the morning of her
brother’s absence. Mid-day found her restless and miserable under this
arrangement. All the afternoon she sat alone, looking out of the window
for she scarcely knew whom, and hoping she scarcely knew what. Half-past
five o’clock came--the end of Springrove’s official day. Two minutes
later Springrove walked by.

She endured her solitude for another half-hour, and then could endure no
longer. She had hoped--while affecting to fear--that Edward would have
found some reason or other for calling, but it seemed that he had not.
Hastily dressing herself she went out, when the farce of an accidental
meeting was repeated. Edward came upon her in the street at the first
turning, and, like the Great Duke Ferdinand in ‘The Statue and the
Bust’--

   ‘He looked at her as a lover can;
   She looked at him as one who awakes--
   The past was a sleep, and her life began.’

‘Shall we have a boat?’ he said impulsively.

How blissful it all is at first. Perhaps, indeed, the only bliss in
the course of love which can truly be called Eden-like is that which
prevails immediately after doubt has ended and before reflection has set
in--at the dawn of the emotion, when it is not recognized by name, and
before the consideration of what this love is, has given birth to the
consideration of what difficulties it tends to create; when on the man’s
part, the mistress appears to the mind’s eye in picturesque, hazy, and
fresh morning lights, and soft morning shadows; when, as yet, she is
known only as the wearer of one dress, which shares her own personality;
as the stander in one special position, the giver of one bright
particular glance, and the speaker of one tender sentence; when, on
her part, she is timidly careful over what she says and does, lest she
should be misconstrued or under-rated to the breadth of a shadow of a
hair.

‘Shall we have a boat?’ he said again, more softly, seeing that to
his first question she had not answered, but looked uncertainly at the
ground, then almost, but not quite, in his face, blushed a series of
minute blushes, left off in the midst of them, and showed the usual
signs of perplexity in a matter of the emotions.

Owen had always been with her before, but there was now a force of habit
in the proceeding, and with Arcadian innocence she assumed that a row on
the water was, under any circumstances, a natural thing. Without another
word being spoken on either side, they went down the steps. He carefully
handed her in, took his seat, slid noiselessly off the sand, and away
from the shore.

They thus sat facing each other in the graceful yellow cockle-shell,
and his eyes frequently found a resting-place in the depths of hers. The
boat was so small that at each return of the sculls, when his hands came
forward to begin the pull, they approached so near to her that her vivid
imagination began to thrill her with a fancy that he was going to clasp
his arms round her. The sensation grew so strong that she could not run
the risk of again meeting his eyes at those critical moments, and turned
aside to inspect the distant horizon; then she grew weary of looking
sideways, and was driven to return to her natural position again. At
this instant he again leant forward to begin, and met her glance by
an ardent fixed gaze. An involuntary impulse of girlish embarrassment
caused her to give a vehement pull at the tiller-rope, which brought the
boat’s head round till they stood directly for shore.

His eyes, which had dwelt upon her form during the whole time of her
look askance, now left her; he perceived the direction in which they
were going.

‘Why, you have completely turned the boat, Miss Graye?’ he said, looking
over his shoulder. ‘Look at our track on the water--a great semicircle,
preceded by a series of zigzags as far as we can see.’

She looked attentively. ‘Is it my fault or yours?’ she inquired. ‘Mine,
I suppose?’

‘I can’t help saying that it is yours.’

She dropped the ropes decisively, feeling the slightest twinge of
vexation at the answer.

‘Why do you let go?’

‘I do it so badly.’

‘O no; you turned about for shore in a masterly way. Do you wish to
return?’

‘Yes, if you please.’

‘Of course, then, I will at once.’

‘I fear what the people will think of us--going in such absurd
directions, and all through my wretched steering.’

‘Never mind what the people think.’ A pause. ‘You surely are not so weak
as to mind what the people think on such a matter as that?’

Those words might almost be called too firm and hard to be given by him
to her; but never mind. For almost the first time in her life she felt
the charming sensation, although on such an insignificant subject, of
being compelled into an opinion by a man she loved. Owen, though
less yielding physically, and more practical, would not have had the
intellectual independence to answer a woman thus. She replied quietly
and honestly--as honestly as when she had stated the contrary fact a
minute earlier--

‘I don’t mind.’

‘I’ll unship the tiller that you may have nothing to do going back but
to hold your parasol,’ he continued, and arose to perform the operation,
necessarily leaning closely against her, to guard against the risk
of capsizing the boat as he reached his hands astern. His warm breath
touched and crept round her face like a caress; but he was apparently
only concerned with his task. She looked guilty of something when he
seated himself. He read in her face what that something was--she had
experienced a pleasure from his touch. But he flung a practical glance
over his shoulder, seized the oars, and they sped in a straight line
towards the shore.

Cytherea saw that he noted in her face what had passed in her heart,
and that noting it, he continued as decided as before. She was inwardly
distressed. She had not meant him to translate her words about returning
home so literally at the first; she had not intended him to learn her
secret; but more than all she was not able to endure the perception of
his learning it and continuing unmoved.

There was nothing but misery to come now. They would step ashore; he
would say good-night, go to London to-morrow, and the miserable She
would lose him for ever. She did not quite suppose what was the fact,
that a parallel thought was simultaneously passing through his mind.

They were now within ten yards, now within five; he was only now waiting
for a ‘smooth’ to bring the boat in. Sweet, sweet Love must not be
slain thus, was the fair maid’s reasoning. She was equal to the
occasion--ladies are--and delivered the god--

‘Do you want very much to land, Mr. Springrove?’ she said, letting her
young violet eyes pine at him a very, very little.

‘I? Not at all,’ said he, looking an astonishment at her inquiry which a
slight twinkle of his eye half belied. ‘But you do?’

‘I think that now we have come out, and it is such a pleasant evening,’
she said gently and sweetly, ‘I should like a little longer row if you
don’t mind? I’ll try to steer better than before if it makes it easier
for you. I’ll try very hard.’

It was the turn of his face to tell a tale now. He looked, ‘We
understand each other--ah, we do, darling!’ turned the boat, and pulled
back into the Bay once more.

‘Now steer wherever you will,’ he said, in a low voice. ‘Never mind the
directness of the course--wherever you will.’

‘Shall it be Creston Shore?’ she said, pointing to a stretch of beach
northward from Budmouth Esplanade.

‘Creston Shore certainly,’ he responded, grasping the sculls. She took
the strings daintily, and they wound away to the left.

For a long time nothing was audible in the boat but the regular dip
of the oars, and their movement in the rowlocks. Springrove at length
spoke.

‘I must go away to-morrow,’ he said tentatively.

‘Yes,’ she replied faintly.

‘To endeavour to advance a little in my profession in London.’

‘Yes,’ she said again, with the same preoccupied softness.

‘But I shan’t advance.’

‘Why not? Architecture is a bewitching profession. They say that an
architect’s work is another man’s play.’

‘Yes. But worldly advantage from an art doesn’t depend upon mastering
it. I used to think it did; but it doesn’t. Those who get rich need have
no skill at all as artists.’

‘What need they have?’

‘A certain kind of energy which men with any fondness for art possess
very seldom indeed--an earnestness in making acquaintances, and a love
for using them. They give their whole attention to the art of
dining out, after mastering a few rudimentary facts to serve up in
conversation. Now after saying that, do I seem a man likely to make a
name?’

‘You seem a man likely to make a mistake.’

‘What’s that?’

‘To give too much room to the latent feeling which is rather common
in these days among the unappreciated, that because some remarkably
successful men are fools, all remarkably unsuccessful men are geniuses.’

‘Pretty subtle for a young lady,’ he said slowly. ‘From that remark I
should fancy you had bought experience.’

She passed over the idea. ‘Do try to succeed,’ she said, with wistful
thoughtfulness, leaving her eyes on him.

Springrove flushed a little at the earnestness of her words, and mused.
‘Then, like Cato the Censor, I shall do what I despise, to be in the
fashion,’ he said at last... ‘Well, when I found all this out that I
was speaking of, what ever do you think I did? From having already
loved verse passionately, I went on to read it continually; then I went
rhyming myself. If anything on earth ruins a man for useful occupation,
and for content with reasonable success in a profession or trade, it is
the habit of writing verses on emotional subjects, which had much better
be left to die from want of nourishment.’

‘Do you write poems now?’ she said.

‘None. Poetical days are getting past with me, according to the usual
rule. Writing rhymes is a stage people of my sort pass through, as they
pass through the stage of shaving for a beard, or thinking they are
ill-used, or saying there’s nothing in the world worth living for.’

‘Then the difference between a common man and a recognized poet is, that
one has been deluded, and cured of his delusion, and the other continues
deluded all his days.’

‘Well, there’s just enough truth in what you say, to make the remark
unbearable. However, it doesn’t matter to me now that I “meditate the
thankless Muse” no longer, but....’ He paused, as if endeavouring to
think what better thing he did.

Cytherea’s mind ran on to the succeeding lines of the poem, and their
startling harmony with the present situation suggested the fancy that he
was ‘sporting’ with her, and brought an awkward contemplativeness to her
face.

Springrove guessed her thoughts, and in answer to them simply said
‘Yes.’ Then they were silent again.

‘If I had known an Amaryllis was coming here, I should not have made
arrangements for leaving,’ he resumed.

Such levity, superimposed on the notion of ‘sport’, was intolerable to
Cytherea; for a woman seems never to see any but the serious side of her
attachment, though the most devoted lover has all the time a vague and
dim perception that he is losing his old dignity and frittering away his
time.

‘But will you not try again to get on in your profession? Try once
more; do try once more,’ she murmured. ‘I am going to try again. I have
advertised for something to do.’

‘Of course I will,’ he said, with an eager gesture and smile. ‘But we
must remember that the fame of Christopher Wren himself depended upon
the accident of a fire in Pudding Lane. My successes seem to come very
slowly. I often think, that before I am ready to live, it will be time
for me to die. However, I am trying--not for fame now, but for an easy
life of reasonable comfort.’

It is a melancholy truth for the middle classes, that in proportion
as they develop, by the study of poetry and art, their capacity for
conjugal love of the highest and purest kind, they limit the possibility
of their being able to exercise it--the very act putting out of their
power the attainment of means sufficient for marriage. The man who works
up a good income has had no time to learn love to its solemn extreme;
the man who has learnt that has had no time to get rich.

‘And if you should fail--utterly fail to get that reasonable wealth,’
she said earnestly, ‘don’t be perturbed. The truly great stand upon no
middle ledge; they are either famous or unknown.’

‘Unknown,’ he said, ‘if their ideas have been allowed to flow with
a sympathetic breadth. Famous only if they have been convergent and
exclusive.’

‘Yes; and I am afraid from that, that my remark was but discouragement,
wearing the dress of comfort. Perhaps I was not quite right in--’

‘It depends entirely upon what is meant by being truly great. But the
long and the short of the matter is, that men must stick to a thing if
they want to succeed in it--not giving way to over-much admiration
for the flowers they see growing in other people’s borders; which I am
afraid has been my case.’ He looked into the far distance and paused.

Adherence to a course with persistence sufficient to ensure success is
possible to widely appreciative minds only when there is also found
in them a power--commonplace in its nature, but rare in such
combination--the power of assuming to conviction that in the outlying
paths which appear so much more brilliant than their own, there are
bitternesses equally great--unperceived simply on account of their
remoteness.

They were opposite Ringsworth Shore. The cliffs here were formed of
strata completely contrasting with those of the further side of the Bay,
whilst in and beneath the water hard boulders had taken the place of
sand and shingle, between which, however, the sea glided noiselessly,
without breaking the crest of a single wave, so strikingly calm was the
air. The breeze had entirely died away, leaving the water of that rare
glassy smoothness which is unmarked even by the small dimples of the
least aerial movement. Purples and blues of divers shades were reflected
from this mirror accordingly as each undulation sloped east or west.
They could see the rocky bottom some twenty feet beneath them,
luxuriant with weeds of various growths, and dotted with pulpy creatures
reflecting a silvery and spangled radiance upwards to their eyes.

At length she looked at him to learn the effect of her words of
encouragement. He had let the oars drift alongside, and the boat had
come to a standstill. Everything on earth seemed taking a contemplative
rest, as if waiting to hear the avowal of something from his lips. At
that instant he appeared to break a resolution hitherto zealously kept.
Leaving his seat amidships he came and gently edged himself down beside
her upon the narrow seat at the stern.

She breathed more quickly and warmly: he took her right hand in his own
right: it was not withdrawn. He put his left hand behind her neck till
it came round upon her left cheek: it was not thrust away. Lightly
pressing her, he brought her face and mouth towards his own; when, at
this the very brink, some unaccountable thought or spell within him
suddenly made him halt--even now, and as it seemed as much to himself as
to her, he timidly whispered ‘May I?’

Her endeavour was to say No, so denuded of its flesh and sinews that its
nature would hardly be recognized, or in other words a No from so near
the affirmative frontier as to be affected with the Yes accent. It was
thus a whispered No, drawn out to nearly a quarter of a minute’s length,
the O making itself audible as a sound like the spring coo of a pigeon
on unusually friendly terms with its mate. Though conscious of her
success in producing the kind of word she had wished to produce, she at
the same time trembled in suspense as to how it would be taken. But the
time available for doubt was so short as to admit of scarcely more than
half a pulsation: pressing closer he kissed her. Then he kissed her
again with a longer kiss.

It was the supremely happy moment of their experience. The ‘bloom’ and
the ‘purple light’ were strong on the lineaments of both. Their hearts
could hardly believe the evidence of their lips.

‘I love you, and you love me, Cytherea!’ he whispered.

She did not deny it; and all seemed well. The gentle sounds around them
from the hills, the plains, the distant town, the adjacent shore, the
water heaving at their side, the kiss, and the long kiss, were all ‘many
a voice of one delight,’ and in unison with each other.

But his mind flew back to the same unpleasant thought which had been
connected with the resolution he had broken a minute or two earlier. ‘I
could be a slave at my profession to win you, Cytherea; I would work at
the meanest, honest trade to be near you--much less claim you as mine; I
would--anything. But I have not told you all; it is not this; you don’t
know what there is yet to tell. Could you forgive as you can love?’ She
was alarmed to see that he had become pale with the question.

‘No--do not speak,’ he said. ‘I have kept something from you, which has
now become the cause of a great uneasiness. I had no right--to love you;
but I did it. Something forbade--’

‘What?’ she exclaimed.

‘Something forbade me--till the kiss--yes, till the kiss came; and now
nothing shall forbid it! We’ll hope in spite of all... I must, however,
speak of this love of ours to your brother. Dearest, you had better go
indoors whilst I meet him at the station, and explain everything.’

Cytherea’s short-lived bliss was dead and gone. O, if she had known of
this sequel would she have allowed him to break down the barrier of mere
acquaintanceship--never, never!

‘Will you not explain to me?’ she faintly urged. Doubt--indefinite,
carking doubt had taken possession of her.

‘Not now. You alarm yourself unnecessarily,’ he said tenderly. ‘My only
reason for keeping silence is that with my present knowledge I may tell
an untrue story. It may be that there is nothing to tell. I am to blame
for haste in alluding to any such thing. Forgive me, sweet--forgive me.’
Her heart was ready to burst, and she could not answer him. He returned
to his place and took to the oars.

They again made for the distant Esplanade, now, with its line of houses,
lying like a dark grey band against the light western sky. The sun
had set, and a star or two began to peep out. They drew nearer their
destination, Edward as he pulled tracing listlessly with his eyes the
red stripes upon her scarf, which grew to appear as black ones in the
increasing dusk of evening. She surveyed the long line of lamps on the
sea-wall of the town, now looking small and yellow, and seeming to send
long tap-roots of fire quivering down deep into the sea. By-and-by they
reached the landing-steps. He took her hand as before, and found it as
cold as the water about them. It was not relinquished till he reached
her door. His assurance had not removed the constraint of her manner:
he saw that she blamed him mutely and with her eyes, like a captured
sparrow. Left alone, he went and seated himself in a chair on the
Esplanade.

Neither could she go indoors to her solitary room, feeling as she did
in such a state of desperate heaviness. When Springrove was out of sight
she turned back, and arrived at the corner just in time to see him
sit down. Then she glided pensively along the pavement behind him,
forgetting herself to marble like Melancholy herself as she mused in his
neighbourhood unseen. She heard, without heeding, the notes of pianos
and singing voices from the fashionable houses at her back, from the
open windows of which the lamp-light streamed to join that of the
orange-hued full moon, newly risen over the Bay in front. Then Edward
began to pace up and down, and Cytherea, fearing that he would notice
her, hastened homeward, flinging him a last look as she passed out of
sight. No promise from him to write: no request that she herself would
do so--nothing but an indefinite expression of hope in the face of some
fear unknown to her. Alas, alas!

When Owen returned he found she was not in the small sitting-room, and
creeping upstairs into her bedroom with a light, he discovered her there
lying asleep upon the coverlet of the bed, still with her hat and
jacket on. She had flung herself down on entering, and succumbed to
the unwonted oppressiveness that ever attends full-blown love. The wet
traces of tears were yet visible upon her long drooping lashes.

     ‘Love is a sowre delight, and sugred griefe,
     A living death, and ever-dying life.’

‘Cytherea,’ he whispered, kissing her. She awoke with a start, and
vented an exclamation before recovering her judgment. ‘He’s gone!’ she
said.

‘He has told me all,’ said Graye soothingly. ‘He is going off early
to-morrow morning. ‘Twas a shame of him to win you away from me, and
cruel of you to keep the growth of this attachment a secret.’

‘We couldn’t help it,’ she said, and then jumping up--‘Owen, has he told
you _all_?’

‘All of your love from beginning to end,’ he said simply.

Edward then had not told more--as he ought to have done: yet she could
not convict him. But she would struggle against his fetters. She tingled
to the very soles of her feet at the very possibility that he might be
deluding her.

‘Owen,’ she continued, with dignity, ‘what is he to me? Nothing. I must
dismiss such weakness as this--believe me, I will. Something far more
pressing must drive it away. I have been looking my position steadily
in the face, and I must get a living somehow. I mean to advertise once
more.’

‘Advertising is no use.’

‘This one will be.’ He looked surprised at the sanguine tone of her
answer, till she took a piece of paper from the table and showed it him.
‘See what I am going to do,’ she said sadly, almost bitterly. This was
her third effort:--


  ‘LADY’S-MAID. Inexperienced. Age eighteen.--G., 3 Cross Street,
  Budmouth.’


Owen--Owen the respectable--looked blank astonishment. He repeated in a
nameless, varying tone, the two words--

‘Lady’s-maid!’

‘Yes; lady’s-maid. ‘Tis an honest profession,’ said Cytherea bravely.

‘But _you_, Cytherea?’

‘Yes, I--who am I?’

‘You will never be a lady’s-maid--never, I am quite sure.’

‘I shall try to be, at any rate.’

‘Such a disgrace--’

‘Nonsense! I maintain that it is no disgrace!’ she said, rather warmly.
‘You know very well--’

‘Well, since you will, you must,’ he interrupted. ‘Why do you put
“inexperienced?”’

‘Because I am.’

‘Never mind that--scratch out “inexperienced.” We are poor, Cytherea,
aren’t we?’ he murmured, after a silence, ‘and it seems that the two
months will close my engagement here.’

‘We can put up with being poor,’ she said, ‘if they only give us work
to do.... Yes, we desire as a blessing what was given us as a curse, and
even that is denied. However, be cheerful, Owen, and never mind!’

In justice to desponding men, it is as well to remember that the
brighter endurance of women at these epochs--invaluable, sweet, angelic,
as it is--owes more of its origin to a narrower vision that shuts out
many of the leaden-eyed despairs in the van, than to a hopefulness
intense enough to quell them.



IV. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

1. AUGUST THE FOURTH. TILL FOUR O’CLOCK

The early part of the next week brought an answer to Cytherea’s last
note of hope in the way of advertisement--not from a distance of
hundreds of miles, London, Scotland, Ireland, the Continent--as Cytherea
seemed to think it must, to be in keeping with the means adopted for
obtaining it, but from a place in the neighbourhood of that in which
she was living--a country mansion not twenty miles off. The reply ran
thus:--


                      KNAPWATER HOUSE,
                         August 3, 1864.

‘Miss Aldclyffe is in want of a young person as lady’s-maid. The duties
of the place are light. Miss Aldclyffe will be in Budmouth on Thursday,
when (should G. still not have heard of a place) she would like to see
her at the Belvedere Hotel, Esplanade, at four o’clock. No answer need
be returned to this note.’


A little earlier than the time named, Cytherea, clothed in a modest
bonnet, and a black silk jacket, turned down to the hotel. Expectation,
the fresh air from the water, the bright, far-extending outlook, raised
the most delicate of pink colours to her cheeks, and restored to her
tread a portion of that elasticity which her past troubles, and thoughts
of Edward, had well-nigh taken away.

She entered the vestibule, and went to the window of the bar.

‘Is Miss Aldclyffe here?’ she said to a nicely-dressed barmaid in the
foreground, who was talking to a landlady covered with chains, knobs,
and clamps of gold, in the background.

‘No, she isn’t,’ said the barmaid, not very civilly. Cytherea looked a
shade too pretty for a plain dresser.

‘Miss Aldclyffe is expected here,’ the landlady said to a third person,
out of sight, in the tone of one who had known for several days the fact
newly discovered from Cytherea. ‘Get ready her room--be quick.’ From the
alacrity with which the order was given and taken, it seemed to Cytherea
that Miss Aldclyffe must be a woman of considerable importance.

‘You are to have an interview with Miss Aldclyffe here?’ the landlady
inquired.

‘Yes.’

‘The young person had better wait,’ continued the landlady. With a
money-taker’s intuition she had rightly divined that Cytherea would
bring no profit to the house.

Cytherea was shown into a nondescript chamber, on the shady side of the
building, which appeared to be either bedroom or dayroom, as occasion
necessitated, and was one of a suite at the end of the first-floor
corridor. The prevailing colour of the walls, curtains, carpet, and
coverings of furniture, was more or less blue, to which the cold light
coming from the north easterly sky, and falling on a wide roof of new
slates--the only object the small window commanded--imparted a more
striking paleness. But underneath the door, communicating with the next
room of the suite, gleamed an infinitesimally small, yet very powerful,
fraction of contrast--a very thin line of ruddy light, showing that the
sun beamed strongly into this room adjoining. The line of radiance was
the only cheering thing visible in the place.

People give way to very infantine thoughts and actions when they wait;
the battle-field of life is temporarily fenced off by a hard and fast
line--the interview. Cytherea fixed her eyes idly upon the streak, and
began picturing a wonderful paradise on the other side as the source
of such a beam--reminding her of the well-known good deed in a naughty
world.

Whilst she watched the particles of dust floating before the brilliant
chink she heard a carriage and horses stop opposite the front of the
house. Afterwards came the rustle of a lady’s skirts down the corridor,
and into the room communicating with the one Cytherea occupied.

The golden line vanished in parts like the phosphorescent streak caused
by the striking of a match; there was the fall of a light footstep
on the floor just behind it: then a pause. Then the foot tapped
impatiently, and ‘There’s no one here!’ was spoken imperiously by a
lady’s tongue.

‘No, madam; in the next room. I am going to fetch her,’ said the
attendant.

‘That will do--or you needn’t go in; I will call her.’

Cytherea had risen, and she advanced to the middle door with the chink
under it as the servant retired. She had just laid her hand on the knob,
when it slipped round within her fingers, and the door was pulled open
from the other side.

2. FOUR O’CLOCK

The direct blaze of the afternoon sun, partly refracted through the
crimson curtains of the window, and heightened by reflections from the
crimson-flock paper which covered the walls, and a carpet on the floor
of the same tint, shone with a burning glow round the form of a lady
standing close to Cytherea’s front with the door in her hand. The
stranger appeared to the maiden’s eyes--fresh from the blue gloom, and
assisted by an imagination fresh from nature--like a tall black figure
standing in the midst of fire. It was the figure of a finely-built
woman, of spare though not angular proportions.

Cytherea involuntarily shaded her eyes with her hand, retreated a step
or two, and then she could for the first time see Miss Aldclyffe’s face
in addition to her outline, lit up by the secondary and softer light
that was reflected from the varnished panels of the door. She was not
a very young woman, but could boast of much beauty of the majestic
autumnal phase.

‘O,’ said the lady, ‘come this way.’ Cytherea followed her to the
embrasure of the window.

Both the women showed off themselves to advantage as they walked forward
in the orange light; and each showed too in her face that she had
been struck with her companion’s appearance. The warm tint added to
Cytherea’s face a voluptuousness which youth and a simple life had not
yet allowed to express itself there ordinarily; whilst in the elder
lady’s face it reduced the customary expression, which might have been
called sternness, if not harshness, to grandeur, and warmed her decaying
complexion with much of the youthful richness it plainly had once
possessed.

She appeared now no more than five-and-thirty, though she might easily
have been ten or a dozen years older. She had clear steady eyes, a Roman
nose in its purest form, and also the round prominent chin with which
the Caesars are represented in ancient marbles; a mouth expressing a
capability for and tendency to strong emotion, habitually controlled by
pride. There was a severity about the lower outlines of the face which
gave a masculine cast to this portion of her countenance. Womanly
weakness was nowhere visible save in one part--the curve of her forehead
and brows--there it was clear and emphatic. She wore a lace shawl over a
brown silk dress, and a net bonnet set with a few blue cornflowers.

‘You inserted the advertisement for a situation as lady’s-maid giving
the address, G., Cross Street?’

‘Yes, madam. Graye.’

‘Yes. I have heard your name--Mrs. Morris, my housekeeper, mentioned
you, and pointed out your advertisement.’

This was puzzling intelligence, but there was not time enough to
consider it.

‘Where did you live last?’ continued Miss Aldclyffe.

‘I have never been a servant before. I lived at home.’

‘Never been out? I thought too at sight of you that you were too
girlish-looking to have done much. But why did you advertise with such
assurance? It misleads people.’

‘I am very sorry: I put “inexperienced” at first, but my brother said it
is absurd to trumpet your own weakness to the world, and would not let
it remain.’

‘But your mother knew what was right, I suppose?’

‘I have no mother, madam.’

‘Your father, then?’

‘I have no father.’

‘Well,’ she said, more softly, ‘your sisters, aunts, or cousins.’

‘They didn’t think anything about it.’

‘You didn’t ask them, I suppose.’

‘No.’

‘You should have done so, then. Why didn’t you?’

‘Because I haven’t any of them, either.’

Miss Aldclyffe showed her surprise. ‘You deserve forgiveness then at
any rate, child,’ she said, in a sort of drily-kind tone. ‘However, I
am afraid you do not suit me, as I am looking for an elderly person. You
see, I want an experienced maid who knows all the usual duties of the
office.’ She was going to add, ‘Though I like your appearance,’ but the
words seemed offensive to apply to the ladylike girl before her, and she
modified them to, ‘though I like you much.’

‘I am sorry I misled you, madam,’ said Cytherea.

Miss Aldclyffe stood in a reverie, without replying.

‘Good afternoon,’ continued Cytherea.

‘Good-bye, Miss Graye--I hope you will succeed.’

Cytherea turned away towards the door. The movement chanced to be one
of her masterpieces. It was precise: it had as much beauty as was
compatible with precision, and as little coquettishness as was
compatible with beauty.

And she had in turning looked over her shoulder at the other lady with a
faint accent of reproach in her face. Those who remember Greuze’s ‘Head
of a Girl,’ have an idea of Cytherea’s look askance at the turning.
It is not for a man to tell fishers of men how to set out their
fascinations so as to bring about the highest possible average of takes
within the year: but the action that tugs the hardest of all at an
emotional beholder is this sweet method of turning which steals the
bosom away and leaves the eyes behind.

Now Miss Aldclyffe herself was no tyro at wheeling. When Cytherea had
closed the door upon her, she remained for some time in her motionless
attitude, listening to the gradually dying sound of the maiden’s
retreating footsteps. She murmured to herself, ‘It is almost worth while
to be bored with instructing her in order to have a creature who could
glide round my luxurious indolent body in that manner, and look at me
in that way--I warrant how light her fingers are upon one’s head and
neck.... What a silly modest young thing she is, to go away so suddenly
as that!’ She rang the bell.

‘Ask the young lady who has just left me to step back again,’ she said
to the attendant. ‘Quick! or she will be gone.’

Cytherea was now in the vestibule, thinking that if she had told her
history, Miss Aldclyffe might perhaps have taken her into the household;
yet her history she particularly wished to conceal from a stranger.
When she was recalled she turned back without feeling much surprise.
Something, she knew not what, told her she had not seen the last of Miss
Aldclyffe.

‘You have somebody to refer me to, of course,’ the lady said, when
Cytherea had re-entered the room.

‘Yes: Mr. Thorn, a solicitor at Aldbrickham.’

‘And are you a clever needlewoman?’

‘I am considered to be.’

‘Then I think that at any rate I will write to Mr. Thorn,’ said Miss
Aldclyffe, with a little smile. ‘It is true, the whole proceeding is
very irregular; but my present maid leaves next Monday, and neither of
the five I have already seen seem to do for me.... Well, I will write to
Mr. Thorn, and if his reply is satisfactory, you shall hear from me. It
will be as well to set yourself in readiness to come on Monday.’

When Cytherea had again been watched out of the room, Miss Aldclyffe
asked for writing materials, that she might at once communicate with Mr.
Thorn. She indecisively played with the pen. ‘Suppose Mr. Thorn’s reply
to be in any way disheartening--and even if so from his own imperfect
acquaintance with the young creature more than from circumstantial
knowledge--I shall feel obliged to give her up. Then I shall regret that
I did not give her one trial in spite of other people’s prejudices. All
her account of herself is reliable enough--yes, I can see that by her
face. I like that face of hers.’

Miss Aldclyffe put down the pen and left the hotel without writing to
Mr. Thorn.



V. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

1. AUGUST THE EIGHTH. MORNING AND AFTERNOON

At post-time on that following Monday morning, Cytherea watched so
anxiously for the postman, that as the time which must bring him
narrowed less and less her vivid expectation had only a degree less
tangibility than his presence itself. In another second his form came
into view. He brought two letters for Cytherea.

One from Miss Aldclyffe, simply stating that she wished Cytherea to come
on trial: that she would require her to be at Knapwater House by Monday
evening.

The other was from Edward Springrove. He told her that she was the
bright spot of his life: that her existence was far dearer to him than
his own: that he had never known what it was to love till he had met
her. True, he had felt passing attachments to other faces from time to
time; but they all had been weak inclinations towards those faces
as they then appeared. He loved her past and future, as well as her
present. He pictured her as a child: he loved her. He pictured her of
sage years: he loved her. He pictured her in trouble; he loved her.
Homely friendship entered into his love for her, without which all love
was evanescent.

He would make one depressing statement. Uncontrollable circumstances (a
long history, with which it was impossible to acquaint her at present)
operated to a certain extent as a drag upon his wishes. He had felt this
more strongly at the time of their parting than he did now--and it was
the cause of his abrupt behaviour, for which he begged her to forgive
him. He saw now an honourable way of freeing himself, and the perception
had prompted him to write. In the meantime might he indulge in the
hope of possessing her on some bright future day, when by hard labour
generated from her own encouraging words, he had placed himself in a
position she would think worthy to be shared with him?

Dear little letter; she huddled it up. So much more important a
love-letter seems to a girl than to a man. Springrove was unconsciously
clever in his letters, and a man with a talent of that kind may write
himself up to a hero in the mind of a young woman who loves him without
knowing much about him. Springrove already stood a cubit higher in her
imagination than he did in his shoes.

During the day she flitted about the room in an ecstasy of pleasure,
packing the things and thinking of an answer which should be worthy
of the tender tone of the question, her love bubbling from her
involuntarily, like prophesyings from a prophet.

In the afternoon Owen went with her to the railway-station, and put her
in the train for Carriford Road, the station nearest to Knapwater House.

Half-an-hour later she stepped out upon the platform, and found nobody
there to receive her--though a pony-carriage was waiting outside. In two
minutes she saw a melancholy man in cheerful livery running towards her
from a public-house close adjoining, who proved to be the servant sent
to fetch her. There are two ways of getting rid of sorrows: one by
living them down, the other by drowning them. The coachman drowned his.

He informed her that her luggage would be fetched by a spring-waggon in
about half-an-hour; then helped her into the chaise and drove off.

Her lover’s letter, lying close against her neck, fortified her against
the restless timidity she had previously felt concerning this new
undertaking, and completely furnished her with the confident ease of
mind which is required for the critical observation of surrounding
objects. It was just that stage in the slow decline of the summer days,
when the deep, dark, and vacuous hot-weather shadows are beginning to be
replaced by blue ones that have a surface and substance to the eye. They
trotted along the turnpike road for a distance of about a mile, which
brought them just outside the village of Carriford, and then turned
through large lodge-gates, on the heavy stone piers of which stood a
pair of bitterns cast in bronze. They then entered the park and wound
along a drive shaded by old and drooping lime-trees, not arranged in the
form of an avenue, but standing irregularly, sometimes leaving the track
completely exposed to the sky, at other times casting a shade over it,
which almost approached gloom--the under surface of the lowest boughs
hanging at a uniform level of six feet above the grass--the extreme
height to which the nibbling mouths of the cattle could reach.

‘Is that the house?’ said Cytherea expectantly, catching sight of a grey
gable between the trees, and losing it again.

‘No; that’s the old manor-house--or rather all that’s left of it. The
Aldycliffes used to let it sometimes, but it was oftener empty. ‘Tis
now divided into three cottages. Respectable people didn’t care to live
there.’

‘Why didn’t they?’

‘Well, ‘tis so awkward and unhandy. You see so much of it has been
pulled down, and the rooms that are left won’t do very well for a small
residence. ‘Tis so dismal, too, and like most old houses stands too low
down in the hollow to be healthy.’

‘Do they tell any horrid stories about it?’

‘No, not a single one.’

‘Ah, that’s a pity.’

‘Yes, that’s what I say. ‘Tis jest the house for a nice ghastly
hair-on-end story, that would make the parish religious. Perhaps it will
have one some day to make it complete; but there’s not a word of
the kind now. There, I wouldn’t live there for all that. In fact, I
couldn’t. O no, I couldn’t.’

‘Why couldn’t you?’

‘The sounds.’

‘What are they?’

‘One is the waterfall, which stands so close by that you can hear that
there waterfall in every room of the house, night or day, ill or well.
‘Tis enough to drive anybody mad: now hark.’

He stopped the horse. Above the slight common sounds in the air came the
unvarying steady rush of falling water from some spot unseen on account
of the thick foliage of the grove.

‘There’s something awful in the timing o’ that sound, ain’t there,
miss?’

‘When you say there is, there really seems to be. You said there were
two--what is the other horrid sound?’

‘The pumping-engine. That’s close by the Old House, and sends water up
the hill and all over the Great House. We shall hear that directly....
There, now hark again.’

From the same direction down the dell they could now hear the whistling
creak of cranks, repeated at intervals of half-a-minute, with a sousing
noise between each: a creak, a souse, then another creak, and so on
continually.

‘Now if anybody could make shift to live through the other sounds, these
would finish him off, don’t you think so, miss? That machine goes on
night and day, summer and winter, and is hardly ever greased or visited.
Ah, it tries the nerves at night, especially if you are not very well;
though we don’t often hear it at the Great House.’

‘That sound is certainly very dismal. They might have the wheel greased.
Does Miss Aldclyffe take any interest in these things?’

‘Well, scarcely; you see her father doesn’t attend to that sort of thing
as he used to. The engine was once quite his hobby. But now he’s getten
old and very seldom goes there.’

‘How many are there in family?’

‘Only her father and herself. He’s a’ old man of seventy.’

‘I had thought that Miss Aldclyffe was sole mistress of the property,
and lived here alone.’

‘No, m--’ The coachman was continually checking himself thus, being
about to style her miss involuntarily, and then recollecting that he was
only speaking to the new lady’s-maid.

‘She will soon be mistress, however, I am afraid,’ he continued, as if
speaking by a spirit of prophecy denied to ordinary humanity. ‘The poor
old gentleman has decayed very fast lately.’ The man then drew a long
breath.

‘Why did you breathe sadly like that?’ said Cytherea.

‘Ah!... When he’s dead peace will be all over with us old servants. I
expect to see the old house turned inside out.’

‘She will marry, do you mean?’

‘Marry--not she! I wish she would. No, in her soul she’s as solitary
as Robinson Crusoe, though she has acquaintances in plenty, if
not relations. There’s the rector, Mr. Raunham--he’s a relation by
marriage--yet she’s quite distant towards him. And people say that if
she keeps single there will be hardly a life between Mr. Raunham and the
heirship of the estate. Dang it, she don’t care. She’s an extraordinary
picture of womankind--very extraordinary.’

‘In what way besides?’

‘You’ll know soon enough, miss. She has had seven lady’s-maids this last
twelvemonth. I assure you ‘tis one body’s work to fetch ‘em from the
station and take ‘em back again. The Lord must be a neglectful party at
heart, or he’d never permit such overbearen goings on!’

‘Does she dismiss them directly they come!’

‘Not at all--she never dismisses them--they go theirselves. Ye see ‘tis
like this. She’s got a very quick temper; she flees in a passion with
them for nothing at all; next mornen they come up and say they are
going; she’s sorry for it and wishes they’d stay, but she’s as proud as
a lucifer, and her pride won’t let her say, “Stay,” and away they go.
‘Tis like this in fact. If you say to her about anybody, “Ah, poor
thing!” she says, “Pooh! indeed!” If you say, “Pooh, indeed!” “Ah, poor
thing!” she says directly. She hangs the chief baker, as mid be, and
restores the chief butler, as mid be, though the devil but Pharaoh
herself can see the difference between ‘em.’

Cytherea was silent. She feared she might be again a burden to her
brother.

‘However, you stand a very good chance,’ the man went on, ‘for I
think she likes you more than common. I have never known her send the
pony-carriage to meet one before; ‘tis always the trap, but this time
she said, in a very particular ladylike tone, “Roobert, gaow with the
pony-kerriage.”... There, ‘tis true, pony and carriage too are getten
rather shabby now,’ he added, looking round upon the vehicle as if to
keep Cytherea’s pride within reasonable limits.

‘’Tis to be hoped you’ll please in dressen her to-night.’

‘Why to-night?’

‘There’s a dinner-party of seventeen; ‘tis her father’s birthday, and
she’s very particular about her looks at such times. Now see; this is
the house. Livelier up here, isn’t it, miss?’

They were now on rising ground, and had just emerged from a clump of
trees. Still a little higher than where they stood was situated the
mansion, called Knapwater House, the offices gradually losing themselves
among the trees behind.

2. EVENING

The house was regularly and substantially built of clean grey freestone
throughout, in that plainer fashion of Greek classicism which prevailed
at the latter end of the last century, when the copyists called
designers had grown weary of fantastic variations in the Roman orders.
The main block approximated to a square on the ground plan, having a
projection in the centre of each side, surmounted by a pediment. From
each angle of the inferior side ran a line of buildings lower than the
rest, turning inwards again at their further end, and forming
within them a spacious open court, within which resounded an echo of
astonishing clearness. These erections were in their turn backed by
ivy-covered ice-houses, laundries, and stables, the whole mass of
subsidiary buildings being half buried beneath close-set shrubs and
trees.

There was opening sufficient through the foliage on the right hand to
enable her on nearer approach to form an idea of the arrangement of the
remoter or lawn front also. The natural features and contour of this
quarter of the site had evidently dictated the position of the
house primarily, and were of the ordinary, and upon the whole, most
satisfactory kind, namely, a broad, graceful slope running from the
terrace beneath the walls to the margin of a placid lake lying below,
upon the surface of which a dozen swans and a green punt floated at
leisure. An irregular wooded island stood in the midst of the lake;
beyond this and the further margin of the water were plantations and
greensward of varied outlines, the trees heightening, by half veiling,
the softness of the exquisite landscape stretching behind.

The glimpses she had obtained of this portion were now checked by the
angle of the building. In a minute or two they reached the side door, at
which Cytherea alighted. She was welcomed by an elderly woman of lengthy
smiles and general pleasantness, who announced herself to be Mrs.
Morris, the housekeeper.

‘Mrs. Graye, I believe?’ she said.

‘I am not--O yes, yes, we are all mistresses,’ said Cytherea, smiling,
but forcedly. The title accorded her seemed disagreeably like the first
slight scar of a brand, and she thought of Owen’s prophecy.

Mrs. Morris led her into a comfortable parlour called The Room. Here
tea was made ready, and Cytherea sat down, looking, whenever occasion
allowed, at Mrs. Morris with great interest and curiosity, to discover,
if possible, something in her which should give a clue to the secret
of her knowledge of herself, and the recommendation based upon it.
But nothing was to be learnt, at any rate just then. Mrs. Morris was
perpetually getting up, feeling in her pockets, going to cupboards,
leaving the room two or three minutes, and trotting back again.

‘You’ll excuse me, Mrs. Graye,’ she said, ‘but ‘tis the old gentleman’s
birthday, and they always have a lot of people to dinner on that
day, though he’s getting up in years now. However, none of them are
sleepers--she generally keeps the house pretty clear of lodgers (being a
lady with no intimate friends, though many acquaintances), which, though
it gives us less to do, makes it all the duller for the younger maids in
the house.’ Mrs. Morris then proceeded to give in fragmentary speeches
an outline of the constitution and government of the estate.

‘Now, are you sure you have quite done tea? Not a bit or drop more? Why,
you’ve eaten nothing, I’m sure.... Well, now, it is rather inconvenient
that the other maid is not here to show you the ways of the house a
little, but she left last Saturday, and Miss Aldclyffe has been making
shift with poor old clumsy me for a maid all yesterday and this morning.
She is not come in yet. I expect she will ask for you, Mrs. Graye, the
first thing.... I was going to say that if you have really done tea,
I will take you upstairs, and show you through the wardrobes--Miss
Aldclyffe’s things are not laid out for to-night yet.’

She preceded Cytherea upstairs, pointed out her own room, and then took
her into Miss Aldclyffe’s dressing-room, on the first-floor; where,
after explaining the whereabouts of various articles of apparel, the
housekeeper left her, telling her that she had an hour yet upon her
hands before dressing-time. Cytherea laid out upon the bed in the next
room all that she had been told would be required that evening, and then
went again to the little room which had been appropriated to herself.

Here she sat down by the open window, leant out upon the sill like
another Blessed Damozel, and listlessly looked down upon the brilliant
pattern of colours formed by the flower-beds on the lawn--now richly
crowded with late summer blossom. But the vivacity of spirit which had
hitherto enlivened her, was fast ebbing under the pressure of prosaic
realities, and the warm scarlet of the geraniums, glowing most
conspicuously, and mingling with the vivid cold red and green of the
verbenas, the rich depth of the dahlia, and the ripe mellowness of the
calceolaria, backed by the pale hue of a flock of meek sheep feeding in
the open park, close to the other side of the fence, were, to a great
extent, lost upon her eyes. She was thinking that nothing seemed worth
while; that it was possible she might die in a workhouse; and what did
it matter? The petty, vulgar details of servitude that she had just
passed through, her dependence upon the whims of a strange woman, the
necessity of quenching all individuality of character in herself, and
relinquishing her own peculiar tastes to help on the wheel of this alien
establishment, made her sick and sad, and she almost longed to pursue
some free, out-of-doors employment, sleep under trees or a hut, and know
no enemy but winter and cold weather, like shepherds and cowkeepers, and
birds and animals--ay, like the sheep she saw there under her window.
She looked sympathizingly at them for several minutes, imagining their
enjoyment of the rich grass.

‘Yes--like those sheep,’ she said aloud; and her face reddened with
surprise at a discovery she made that very instant.

The flock consisted of some ninety or a hundred young stock ewes: the
surface of their fleece was as rounded and even as a cushion, and white
as milk. Now she had just observed that on the left buttock of every one
of them were marked in distinct red letters the initials ‘E. S.’

‘E. S.’ could bring to Cytherea’s mind only one thought; but that
immediately and for ever--the name of her lover, Edward Springrove.

‘O, if it should be--!’ She interrupted her words by a resolve. Miss
Aldclyffe’s carriage at the same moment made its appearance in the
drive; but Miss Aldclyffe was not her object now. It was to ascertain to
whom the sheep belonged, and to set her surmise at rest one way or the
other. She flew downstairs to Mrs. Morris.

‘Whose sheep are those in the park, Mrs. Morris?’

‘Farmer Springrove’s.’

‘What Farmer Springrove is that?’ she said quickly.

‘Why, surely you know? Your friend, Farmer Springrove, the cider-maker,
and who keeps the Three Tranters Inn; who recommended you to me when he
came in to see me the other day?’

Cytherea’s mother-wit suddenly warned her in the midst of her excitement
that it was necessary not to betray the secret of her love. ‘O yes,’
she said, ‘of course.’ Her thoughts had run as follows in that short
interval:--

‘Farmer Springrove is Edward’s father, and his name is Edward too.

‘Edward knew I was going to advertise for a situation of some kind.

‘He watched the Times, and saw it, my address being attached.

‘He thought it would be excellent for me to be here that we might meet
whenever he came home.

‘He told his father that I might be recommended as a lady’s-maid; and he
knew my brother and myself.

‘His father told Mrs. Morris; Mrs. Morris told Miss Aldclyffe.’

The whole chain of incidents that drew her there was plain, and there
was no such thing as chance in the matter. It was all Edward’s doing.

The sound of a bell was heard. Cytherea did not heed it, and still
continued in her reverie.

‘That’s Miss Aldclyffe’s bell,’ said Mrs. Morris.

‘I suppose it is,’ said the young woman placidly.

‘Well, it means that you must go up to her,’ the matron continued, in a
tone of surprise.

Cytherea felt a burning heat come over her, mingled with a sudden
irritation at Mrs. Morris’s hint. But the good sense which had
recognized stern necessity prevailed over rebellious independence; the
flush passed, and she said hastily--

‘Yes, yes; of course, I must go to her when she pulls the bell--whether
I want to or no.’

However, in spite of this painful reminder of her new position in life,
Cytherea left the apartment in a mood far different from the gloomy
sadness of ten minutes previous. The place felt like home to her
now; she did not mind the pettiness of her occupation, because Edward
evidently did not mind it; and this was Edward’s own spot. She found
time on her way to Miss Aldclyffe’s dressing-room to hurriedly glide out
by a side door, and look for a moment at the unconscious sheep bearing
the friendly initials. She went up to them to try to touch one of the
flock, and felt vexed that they all stared sceptically at her kind
advances, and then ran pell-mell down the hill. Then, fearing any one
should discover her childish movements, she slipped indoors again,
and ascended the staircase, catching glimpses, as she passed, of
silver-buttoned footmen, who flashed about the passages like lightning.

Miss Aldclyffe’s dressing-room was an apartment which, on a casual
survey, conveyed an impression that it was available for almost any
purpose save the adornment of the feminine person. In its hours of
perfect order nothing pertaining to the toilet was visible; even the
inevitable mirrors with their accessories were arranged in a roomy
recess not noticeable from the door, lighted by a window of its own,
called the dressing-window.

The washing-stand figured as a vast oak chest, carved with grotesque
Renaissance ornament. The dressing table was in appearance something
between a high altar and a cabinet piano, the surface being richly
worked in the same style of semi-classic decoration, but the
extraordinary outline having been arrived at by an ingenious joiner and
decorator from the neighbouring town, after months of painful toil in
cutting and fitting, under Miss Aldclyffe’s immediate eye; the materials
being the remains of two or three old cabinets the lady had found in the
lumber-room. About two-thirds of the floor was carpeted, the remaining
portion being laid with parquetry of light and dark woods.

Miss Aldclyffe was standing at the larger window, away from the
dressing-niche. She bowed, and said pleasantly, ‘I am glad you have
come. We shall get on capitally, I dare say.’

Her bonnet was off. Cytherea did not think her so handsome as on the
earlier day; the queenliness of her beauty was harder and less warm.
But a worse discovery than this was that Miss Aldclyffe, with the usual
obliviousness of rich people to their dependents’ specialities, seemed
to have quite forgotten Cytherea’s inexperience, and mechanically
delivered up her body to her handmaid without a thought of details, and
with a mild yawn.

Everything went well at first. The dress was removed, stockings and
black boots were taken off, and silk stockings and white shoes were
put on. Miss Aldclyffe then retired to bathe her hands and face, and
Cytherea drew breath. If she could get through this first evening, all
would be right. She felt that it was unfortunate that such a crucial
test for her powers as a birthday dinner should have been applied on the
threshold of her arrival; but set to again.

Miss Aldclyffe was now arrayed in a white dressing-gown, and dropped
languidly into an easy-chair, pushed up before the glass. The instincts
of her sex and her own practice told Cytherea the next movement. She let
Miss Aldclyffe’s hair fall about her shoulders, and began to arrange it.
It proved to be all real; a satisfaction.

Miss Aldclyffe was musingly looking on the floor, and the operation went
on for some minutes in silence. At length her thoughts seemed to turn to
the present, and she lifted her eyes to the glass.

‘Why, what on earth are you doing with my head?’ she exclaimed, with
widely opened eyes. At the words she felt the back of Cytherea’s little
hand tremble against her neck.

‘Perhaps you prefer it done the other fashion, madam?’ said the maiden.

‘No, no; that’s the fashion right enough, but you must make more show of
my hair than that, or I shall have to buy some, which God forbid!’

‘It is how I do my own,’ said Cytherea naively, and with a sweetness
of tone that would have pleased the most acrimonious under favourable
circumstances; but tyranny was in the ascendant with Miss Aldclyffe
at this moment, and she was assured of palatable food for her vice by
having felt the trembling of Cytherea’s hand.

‘Yours, indeed! _Your_ hair! Come, go on.’ Considering that Cytherea
possessed at least five times as much of that valuable auxiliary to
woman’s beauty as the lady before her, there was at the same time some
excuse for Miss Aldclyffe’s outburst. She remembered herself, however,
and said more quietly, ‘Now then, Graye--By-the-bye, what do they call
you downstairs?’

‘Mrs. Graye,’ said the handmaid.

‘Then tell them not to do any such absurd thing--not but that it is
quite according to usage; but you are too young yet.’

This dialogue tided Cytherea safely onward through the hairdressing
till the flowers and diamonds were to be placed upon the lady’s brow.
Cytherea began arranging them tastefully, and to the very best of her
judgment.

‘That won’t do,’ said Miss Aldclyffe harshly.

‘Why?’

‘I look too young--an old dressed doll.’

‘Will that, madam?’

‘No, I look a fright--a perfect fright!’

‘This way, perhaps?’

‘Heavens! Don’t worry me so.’ She shut her lips like a trap.

Having once worked herself up to the belief that her head-dress was to
be a failure that evening, no cleverness of Cytherea’s in arranging
it could please her. She continued in a smouldering passion during the
remainder of the performance, keeping her lips firmly closed, and the
muscles of her body rigid. Finally, snatching up her gloves, and taking
her handkerchief and fan in her hand, she silently sailed out of the
room, without betraying the least consciousness of another woman’s
presence behind her.

Cytherea’s fears that at the undressing this suppressed anger would find
a vent, kept her on thorns throughout the evening. She tried to read;
she could not. She tried to sew; she could not. She tried to muse; she
could not do that connectedly. ‘If this is the beginning, what will
the end be!’ she said in a whisper, and felt many misgivings as to the
policy of being overhasty in establishing an independence at the expense
of congruity with a cherished past.

3. MIDNIGHT

The clock struck twelve. The Aldclyffe state dinner was over. The
company had all gone, and Miss Aldclyffe’s bell rang loudly and
jerkingly.

Cytherea started to her feet at the sound, which broke in upon a fitful
sleep that had overtaken her. She had been sitting drearily in her chair
waiting minute after minute for the signal, her brain in that state
of intentness which takes cognizance of the passage of Time as a real
motion--motion without matter--the instants throbbing past in the
company of a feverish pulse. She hastened to the room, to find the
lady sitting before the dressing shrine, illuminated on both sides, and
looking so queenly in her attitude of absolute repose, that the younger
woman felt the awfullest sense of responsibility at her Vandalism in
having undertaken to demolish so imposing a pile.

The lady’s jewelled ornaments were taken off in silence--some by her own
listless hands, some by Cytherea’s. Then followed the outer stratum of
clothing. The dress being removed, Cytherea took it in her hand and
went with it into the bedroom adjoining, intending to hang it in the
wardrobe. But on second thoughts, in order that she might not keep Miss
Aldclyffe waiting a moment longer than necessary, she flung it down on
the first resting-place that came to hand, which happened to be the
bed, and re-entered the dressing-room with the noiseless footfall of a
kitten. She paused in the middle of the room.

She was unnoticed, and her sudden return had plainly not been expected.
During the short time of Cytherea’s absence, Miss Aldclyffe had pulled
off a kind of chemisette of Brussels net, drawn high above the throat,
which she had worn with her evening dress as a semi-opaque covering to
her shoulders, and in its place had put her night-gown round her.
Her right hand was lifted to her neck, as if engaged in fastening her
night-gown.

But on a second glance Miss Aldclyffe’s proceeding was clearer to
Cytherea. She was not fastening her night-gown; it had been carelessly
thrown round her, and Miss Aldclyffe was really occupied in holding up
to her eyes some small object that she was keenly scrutinizing. And
now on suddenly discovering the presence of Cytherea at the back of the
apartment, instead of naturally continuing or concluding her inspection,
she desisted hurriedly; the tiny snap of a spring was heard, her hand
was removed, and she began adjusting her robes.

Modesty might have directed her hasty action of enwrapping her
shoulders, but it was scarcely likely, considering Miss Aldclyffe’s
temperament, that she had all her life been used to a maid, Cytherea’s
youth, and the elder lady’s marked treatment of her as if she were a
mere child or plaything. The matter was too slight to reason about, and
yet upon the whole it seemed that Miss Aldclyffe must have a practical
reason for concealing her neck.

With a timid sense of being an intruder Cytherea was about to step back
and out of the room; but at the same moment Miss Aldclyffe turned, saw
the impulse, and told her companion to stay, looking into her eyes as if
she had half an intention to explain something. Cytherea felt certain
it was the little mystery of her late movements. The other withdrew her
eyes; Cytherea went to fetch the dressing-gown, and wheeled round
again to bring it up to Miss Aldclyffe, who had now partly removed her
night-dress to put it on the proper way, and still sat with her back
towards Cytherea.

Her neck was again quite open and uncovered, and though hidden from the
direct line of Cytherea’s vision, she saw it reflected in the glass--the
fair white surface, and the inimitable combination of curves between
throat and bosom which artists adore, being brightly lit up by the light
burning on either side.

And the lady’s prior proceedings were now explained in the simplest
manner. In the midst of her breast, like an island in a sea of pearl,
reclined an exquisite little gold locket, embellished with arabesque
work of blue, red, and white enamel. That was undoubtedly what Miss
Aldclyffe had been contemplating; and, moreover, not having been put
off with her other ornaments, it was to be retained during the night--a
slight departure from the custom of ladies which Miss Aldclyffe had at
first not cared to exhibit to her new assistant, though now, on further
thought, she seemed to have become indifferent on the matter.

‘My dressing-gown,’ she said, quietly fastening her night-dress as she
spoke.

Cytherea came forward with it. Miss Aldclyffe did not turn her head, but
looked inquiringly at her maid in the glass.

‘You saw what I wear on my neck, I suppose?’ she said to Cytherea’s
reflected face.

‘Yes, madam, I did,’ said Cytherea to Miss Aldclyffe’s reflected face.

Miss Aldclyffe again looked at Cytherea’s reflection as if she were
on the point of explaining. Again she checked her resolve, and said
lightly--

‘Few of my maids discover that I wear it always. I generally keep it
a secret--not that it matters much. But I was careless with you, and
seemed to want to tell you. You win me to make confidences that....’

She ceased, took Cytherea’s hand in her own, lifted the locket with the
other, touched the spring and disclosed a miniature.

‘It is a handsome face, is it not?’ she whispered mournfully, and even
timidly.

‘It is.’

But the sight had gone through Cytherea like an electric shock, and
there was an instantaneous awakening of perception in her, so thrilling
in its presence as to be well-nigh insupportable. The face in the
miniature was the face of her own father--younger and fresher than she
had ever known him--but her father!

Was this the woman of his wild and unquenchable early love? And was this
the woman who had figured in the gate-man’s story as answering the name
of Cytherea before her judgment was awake? Surely it was. And if so,
here was the tangible outcrop of a romantic and hidden stratum of the
past hitherto seen only in her imagination; but as far as her scope
allowed, clearly defined therein by reason of its strangeness.

Miss Aldclyffe’s eyes and thoughts were so intent upon the miniature
that she had not been conscious of Cytherea’s start of surprise. She
went on speaking in a low and abstracted tone.

‘Yes, I lost him.’ She interrupted her words by a short meditation, and
went on again. ‘I lost him by excess of honesty as regarded my past. But
it was best that it should be so.... I was led to think rather more
than usual of the circumstances to-night because of your name. It is
pronounced the same way, though differently spelt.’

The only means by which Cytherea’s surname could have been spelt to
Miss Aldclyffe must have been by Mrs. Morris or Farmer Springrove. She
fancied Farmer Springrove would have spelt it properly if Edward was his
informant, which made Miss Aldclyffe’s remark obscure.

Women make confidences and then regret them. The impulsive rush of
feeling which had led Miss Aldclyffe to indulge in this revelation,
trifling as it was, died out immediately her words were beyond recall;
and the turmoil, occasioned in her by dwelling upon that chapter of her
life, found vent in another kind of emotion--the result of a trivial
accident.

Cytherea, after letting down Miss Aldclyffe’s hair, adopted some plan
with it to which the lady had not been accustomed. A rapid revulsion
to irritation ensued. The maiden’s mere touch seemed to discharge the
pent-up regret of the lady as if she had been a jar of electricity.

‘How strangely you treat my hair!’ she exclaimed.

A silence.

‘I have told you what I never tell my maids as a rule; of course
_nothing_ that I say in this room is to be mentioned outside it.’ She
spoke crossly no less than emphatically.

‘It shall not be, madam,’ said Cytherea, agitated and vexed that the
woman of her romantic wonderings should be so disagreeable to her.

‘Why on earth did I tell you of my past?’ she went on.

Cytherea made no answer.

The lady’s vexation with herself, and the accident which had led to the
disclosure swelled little by little till it knew no bounds. But what was
done could not be undone, and though Cytherea had shown a most winning
responsiveness, quarrel Miss Aldclyffe must. She recurred to the subject
of Cytherea’s want of expertness, like a bitter reviewer, who finding
the sentiments of a poet unimpeachable, quarrels with his rhymes.

‘Never, never before did I serve myself such a trick as this in engaging
a maid!’ She waited for an expostulation: none came. Miss Aldclyffe
tried again.

‘The idea of my taking a girl without asking her more than three
questions, or having a single reference, all because of her good l--,
the shape of her face and body! It _was_ a fool’s trick. There, I am
served right, quite right--by being deceived in such a way.’

‘I didn’t deceive you,’ said Cytherea. The speech was an unfortunate
one, and was the very ‘fuel to maintain its fires’ that the other’s
petulance desired.

‘You did,’ she said hotly.

‘I told you I couldn’t promise to be acquainted with every detail of
routine just at first.’

‘Will you contradict me in this way! You are telling untruths, I say.’

Cytherea’s lip quivered. ‘I would answer the remark if--if--’

‘If what?’

‘If it were a lady’s!’

‘You girl of impudence--what do you say? Leave the room this instant, I
tell you.’

‘And I tell you that a person who speaks to a lady as you do to me, is
no lady herself!’

‘To a lady? A lady’s-maid speaks in this way. The idea!’

‘Don’t “lady’s-maid” me: nobody is my mistress I won’t have it!’

‘Good Heavens!’

‘I wouldn’t have come--no--I wouldn’t! if I had known!’

‘What?’

‘That you were such an ill-tempered, unjust woman!’

‘Possest beyond the Muse’s painting,’ Miss Aldclyffe exclaimed--

‘A Woman, am I! I’ll teach you if I am a Woman!’ and lifted her hand as
if she would have liked to strike her companion. This stung the maiden
into absolute defiance.

‘I dare you to touch me!’ she cried. ‘Strike me if you dare, madam! I am
not afraid of you--what do you mean by such an action as that?’

Miss Aldclyffe was disconcerted at this unexpected show of spirit, and
ashamed of her unladylike impulse now it was put into words. She sank
back in the chair. ‘I was not going to strike you--go to your room--I
beg you to go to your room!’ she repeated in a husky whisper.

Cytherea, red and panting, took up her candlestick and advanced to
the table to get a light. As she stood close to them the rays from the
candles struck sharply on her face. She usually bore a much stronger
likeness to her mother than to her father, but now, looking with a
grave, reckless, and angered expression of countenance at the kindling
wick as she held it slanting into the other flame, her father’s features
were distinct in her. It was the first time Miss Aldclyffe had seen her
in a passionate mood, and wearing that expression which was invariably
its concomitant. It was Miss Aldclyffe’s turn to start now; and the
remark she made was an instance of that sudden change of tone from
high-flown invective to the pettiness of curiosity which so often makes
women’s quarrels ridiculous. Even Miss Aldclyffe’s dignity had not
sufficient power to postpone the absorbing desire she now felt to settle
the strange suspicion that had entered her head.

‘You spell your name the common way, G, R, E, Y, don’t you?’ she said,
with assumed indifference.

‘No,’ said Cytherea, poised on the side of her foot, and still looking
into the flame.

‘Yes, surely? The name was spelt that way on your boxes: I looked and
saw it myself.’

The enigma of Miss Aldclyffe’s mistake was solved. ‘O, was it?’ said
Cytherea. ‘Ah, I remember Mrs. Jackson, the lodging-house keeper at
Budmouth, labelled them. We spell our name G, R, A, Y, E.’

‘What was your father’s trade?’

Cytherea thought it would be useless to attempt to conceal facts any
longer. ‘His was not a trade,’ she said. ‘He was an architect.’

‘The idea of your being an architect’s daughter!’

‘There’s nothing to offend you in that, I hope?’

‘O no.’

‘Why did you say “the idea”?’

‘Leave that alone. Did he ever visit in Gower Street, Bloomsbury, one
Christmas, many years ago?--but you would not know that.’

‘I have heard him say that Mr. Huntway, a curate somewhere in that part
of London, and who died there, was an old college friend of his.’

‘What is your Christian name?’

‘Cytherea.’

‘No! And is it really? And you knew that face I showed you? Yes, I see
you did.’ Miss Aldclyffe stopped, and closed her lips impassibly. She
was a little agitated.

‘Do you want me any longer?’ said Cytherea, standing candle in hand and
looking quietly in Miss Aldclyffe’s face.

‘Well--no: no longer,’ said the other lingeringly.

‘With your permission, I will leave the house to morrow morning, madam.’

‘Ah.’ Miss Aldclyffe had no notion of what she was saying.

‘And I know you will be so good as not to intrude upon me during the
short remainder of my stay?’

Saying this Cytherea left the room before her companion had answered.
Miss Aldclyffe, then, had recognized her at last, and had been curious
about her name from the beginning.

The other members of the household had retired to rest. As Cytherea went
along the passage leading to her room her skirts rustled against the
partition. A door on her left opened, and Mrs. Morris looked out.

‘I waited out of bed till you came up,’ she said, ‘it being your first
night, in case you should be at a loss for anything. How have you got on
with Miss Aldclyffe?’

‘Pretty well--though not so well as I could have wished.’

‘Has she been scolding?’

‘A little.’

‘She’s a very odd lady--‘tis all one way or the other with her. She’s
not bad at heart, but unbearable in close quarters. Those of us who
don’t have much to do with her personally, stay on for years and years.’

‘Has Miss Aldclyffe’s family always been rich?’ said Cytherea.

‘O no. The property, with the name, came from her mother’s uncle. Her
family is a branch of the old Aldclyffe family on the maternal side. Her
mother married a Bradleigh--a mere nobody at that time--and was on that
account cut by her relations. But very singularly the other branch of
the family died out one by one--three of them, and Miss Aldclyffe’s
great-uncle then left all his property, including this estate, to
Captain Bradleigh and his wife--Miss Aldclyffe’s father and mother--on
condition that they took the old family name as well. There’s all about
it in the “Landed Gentry.” ‘Tis a thing very often done.’

‘O, I see. Thank you. Well, now I am going. Good-night.’



VI. THE EVENTS OF TWELVE HOURS

1. AUGUST THE NINTH. ONE TO TWO O’CLOCK A.M.

Cytherea entered her bedroom, and flung herself on the bed, bewildered
by a whirl of thought. Only one subject was clear in her mind, and it
was that, in spite of family discoveries, that day was to be the first
and last of her experience as a lady’s-maid. Starvation itself should
not compel her to hold such a humiliating post for another instant.
‘Ah,’ she thought, with a sigh, at the martyrdom of her last little
fragment of self-conceit, ‘Owen knows everything better than I.’

She jumped up and began making ready for her departure in the morning,
the tears streaming down when she grieved and wondered what practical
matter on earth she could turn her hand to next. All these preparations
completed, she began to undress, her mind unconsciously drifting away
to the contemplation of her late surprises. To look in the glass for an
instant at the reflection of her own magnificent resources in face and
bosom, and to mark their attractiveness unadorned, was perhaps but the
natural action of a young woman who had so lately been chidden whilst
passing through the harassing experience of decorating an older beauty
of Miss Aldclyffe’s temper.

But she directly checked her weakness by sympathizing reflections on the
hidden troubles which must have thronged the past years of the solitary
lady, to keep her, though so rich and courted, in a mood so repellent
and gloomy as that in which Cytherea found her; and then the young girl
marvelled again and again, as she had marvelled before, at the strange
confluence of circumstances which had brought herself into contact with
the one woman in the world whose history was so romantically intertwined
with her own. She almost began to wish she were not obliged to go away
and leave the lonely being to loneliness still.

In bed and in the dark, Miss Aldclyffe haunted her mind more
persistently than ever. Instead of sleeping, she called up staring
visions of the possible past of this queenly lady, her mother’s rival.
Up the long vista of bygone years she saw, behind all, the young girl’s
flirtation, little or much, with the cousin, that seemed to have been
nipped in the bud, or to have terminated hastily in some way. Then the
secret meetings between Miss Aldclyffe and the other woman at the little
inn at Hammersmith and other places: the commonplace name she adopted:
her swoon at some painful news, and the very slight knowledge the elder
female had of her partner in mystery. Then, more than a year afterwards,
the acquaintanceship of her own father with this his first love; the
awakening of the passion, his acts of devotion, the unreasoning heat of
his rapture, her tacit acceptance of it, and yet her uneasiness under
the delight. Then his declaration amid the evergreens: the utter
change produced in her manner thereby, seemingly the result of a rigid
determination: and the total concealment of her reason by herself
and her parents, whatever it was. Then the lady’s course dropped into
darkness, and nothing more was visible till she was discovered here at
Knapwater, nearly fifty years old, still unmarried and still beautiful,
but lonely, embittered, and haughty. Cytherea imagined that her father’s
image was still warmly cherished in Miss Aldclyffe’s heart, and was
thankful that she herself had not been betrayed into announcing that
she knew many particulars of this page of her father’s history, and the
chief one, the lady’s unaccountable renunciation of him. It would have
made her bearing towards the mistress of the mansion more awkward, and
would have been no benefit to either.

Thus conjuring up the past, and theorizing on the present, she lay
restless, changing her posture from one side to the other and back
again. Finally, when courting sleep with all her art, she heard a clock
strike two. A minute later, and she fancied she could distinguish a soft
rustle in the passage outside her room.

To bury her head in the sheets was her first impulse; then to uncover
it, raise herself on her elbow, and stretch her eyes wide open in the
darkness; her lips being parted with the intentness of her listening.
Whatever the noise was, it had ceased for the time.

It began again and came close to her door, lightly touching the panels.
Then there was another stillness; Cytherea made a movement which caused
a faint rustling of the bed-clothes.

Before she had time to think another thought a light tap was given.
Cytherea breathed: the person outside was evidently bent upon finding
her awake, and the rustle she had made had encouraged the hope. The
maiden’s physical condition shifted from one pole to its opposite. The
cold sweat of terror forsook her, and modesty took the alarm. She became
hot and red; her door was not locked.

A distinct woman’s whisper came to her through the keyhole: ‘Cytherea!’

Only one being in the house knew her Christian name, and that was Miss
Aldclyffe. Cytherea stepped out of bed, went to the door, and whispered
back, ‘Yes?’

‘Let me come in, darling.’

The young woman paused in a conflict between judgment and emotion. It
was now mistress and maid no longer; woman and woman only. Yes; she must
let her come in, poor thing.

She got a light in an instant, opened the door, and raising her eyes and
the candle, saw Miss Aldclyffe standing outside in her dressing-gown.

‘Now you see that it is really myself; put out the light,’ said the
visitor. ‘I want to stay here with you, Cythie. I came to ask you to
come down into my bed, but it is snugger here. But remember that you are
mistress in this room, and that I have no business here, and that you
may send me away if you choose. Shall I go?’

‘O no; you shan’t indeed if you don’t want to,’ said Cythie generously.

The instant they were in bed Miss Aldclyffe freed herself from the
last remnant of restraint. She flung her arms round the young girl, and
pressed her gently to her heart.

‘Now kiss me,’ she said.

Cytherea, upon the whole, was rather discomposed at this change of
treatment; and, discomposed or no, her passions were not so impetuous as
Miss Aldclyffe’s. She could not bring her soul to her lips for a moment,
try how she would.

‘Come, kiss me,’ repeated Miss Aldclyffe.

Cytherea gave her a very small one, as soft in touch and in sound as the
bursting of a bubble.

‘More earnestly than that--come.’

She gave another, a little but not much more expressively.

‘I don’t deserve a more feeling one, I suppose,’ said Miss Aldclyffe,
with an emphasis of sad bitterness in her tone. ‘I am an ill-tempered
woman, you think; half out of my mind. Well, perhaps I am; but I have
had grief more than you can think or dream of. But I can’t help loving
you--your name is the same as mine--isn’t it strange?’

Cytherea was inclined to say no, but remained silent.

‘Now, don’t you think I must love you?’ continued the other.

‘Yes,’ said Cytherea absently. She was still thinking whether duty to
Owen and her father, which asked for silence on her knowledge of her
father’s unfortunate love, or duty to the woman embracing her, which
seemed to ask for confidence, ought to predominate. Here was a solution.
She would wait till Miss Aldclyffe referred to her acquaintanceship and
attachment to Cytherea’s father in past times: then she would tell her
all she knew: that would be honour.

‘Why can’t you kiss me as I can kiss you? Why can’t you!’ She impressed
upon Cytherea’s lips a warm motherly salute, given as if in the outburst
of strong feeling, long checked, and yearning for something to love and
be loved by in return.

‘Do you think badly of me for my behaviour this evening, child? I don’t
know why I am so foolish as to speak to you in this way. I am a very
fool, I believe. Yes. How old are you?’

‘Eighteen.’

‘Eighteen!... Well, why don’t you ask me how old I am?’

‘Because I don’t want to know.’

‘Never mind if you don’t. I am forty-six; and it gives me greater
pleasure to tell you this than it does to you to listen. I have not told
my age truly for the last twenty years till now.’

‘Why haven’t you?’

‘I have met deceit by deceit, till I am weary of it--weary, weary--and I
long to be what I shall never be again--artless and innocent, like you.
But I suppose that you, too, will, prove to be not worth a thought, as
every new friend does on more intimate knowledge. Come, why don’t you
talk to me, child? Have you said your prayers?’

‘Yes--no! I forgot them to-night.’

‘I suppose you say them every night as a rule?’

‘Yes.’

‘Why do you do that?’

‘Because I have always done so, and it would seem strange if I were not
to. Do you?’

‘I? A wicked old sinner like me! No, I never do. I have thought all such
matters humbug for years--thought so so long that I should be glad to
think otherwise from very weariness; and yet, such is the code of the
polite world, that I subscribe regularly to Missionary Societies and
others of the sort.... Well, say your prayers, dear--you won’t omit them
now you recollect it. I should like to hear you very much. Will you?’

‘It seems hardly--’

‘It would seem so like old times to me--when I was young, and
nearer--far nearer Heaven than I am now. Do, sweet one,’

Cytherea was embarrassed, and her embarrassment arose from the following
conjuncture of affairs. Since she had loved Edward Springrove, she had
linked his name with her brother Owen’s in her nightly supplications to
the Almighty. She wished to keep her love for him a secret, and, above
all, a secret from a woman like Miss Aldclyffe; yet her conscience and
the honesty of her love would not for an instant allow her to think of
omitting his dear name, and so endanger the efficacy of all her previous
prayers for his success by an unworthy shame now: it would be wicked
of her, she thought, and a grievous wrong to him. Under any worldly
circumstances she might have thought the position justified a little
finesse, and have skipped him for once; but prayer was too solemn a
thing for such trifling.

‘I would rather not say them,’ she murmured first. It struck her then
that this declining altogether was the same cowardice in another dress,
and was delivering her poor Edward over to Satan just as unceremoniously
as before. ‘Yes; I will say my prayers, and you shall hear me,’ she
added firmly.

She turned her face to the pillow and repeated in low soft tones the
simple words she had used from childhood on such occasions. Owen’s name
was mentioned without faltering, but in the other case, maidenly shyness
was too strong even for religion, and that when supported by excellent
intentions. At the name of Edward she stammered, and her voice sank to
the faintest whisper in spite of her.

‘Thank you, dearest,’ said Miss Aldclyffe. ‘I have prayed too, I verily
believe. You are a good girl, I think.’ Then the expected question came.

‘“Bless Owen,” and whom, did you say?’

There was no help for it now, and out it came. ‘Owen and Edward,’ said
Cytherea.

‘Who are Owen and Edward?’

‘Owen is my brother, madam,’ faltered the maid.

‘Ah, I remember. Who is Edward?’

A silence.

‘Your brother, too?’ continued Miss Aldclyffe.

‘No.’

Miss Aldclyffe reflected a moment. ‘Don’t you want to tell me who Edward
is?’ she said at last, in a tone of meaning.

‘I don’t mind telling; only....’

‘You would rather not, I suppose?’

‘Yes.’

Miss Aldclyffe shifted her ground. ‘Were you ever in love?’ she inquired
suddenly.

Cytherea was surprised to hear how quickly the voice had altered from
tenderness to harshness, vexation, and disappointment.

‘Yes--I think I was--once,’ she murmured.

‘Aha! And were you ever kissed by a man?’

A pause.

‘Well, were you?’ said Miss Aldclyffe, rather sharply.

‘Don’t press me to tell--I can’t--indeed, I won’t, madam!’

Miss Aldclyffe removed her arms from Cytherea’s neck. ‘’Tis now with
you as it is always with all girls,’ she said, in jealous and gloomy
accents. ‘You are not, after all, the innocent I took you for. No, no.’
She then changed her tone with fitful rapidity. ‘Cytherea, try to love
me more than you love him--do. I love you more sincerely than any man
can. Do, Cythie: don’t let any man stand between us. O, I can’t bear
that!’ She clasped Cytherea’s neck again.

‘I must love him now I have begun,’ replied the other.

‘Must--yes--must,’ said the elder lady reproachfully. ‘Yes, women are
all alike. I thought I had at last found an artless woman who had
not been sullied by a man’s lips, and who had not practised or been
practised upon by the arts which ruin all the truth and sweetness and
goodness in us. Find a girl, if you can, whose mouth and ears have
not been made a regular highway of by some man or another! Leave the
admittedly notorious spots--the drawing-rooms of society--and look in
the villages--leave the villages and search in the schools--and you can
hardly find a girl whose heart has not been _had_--is not an old thing
half worn out by some He or another! If men only knew the staleness of
the freshest of us! that nine times out of ten the “first love” they
think they are winning from a woman is but the hulk of an old wrecked
affection, fitted with new sails and re-used. O Cytherea, can it be that
you, too, are like the rest?’

‘No, no, no,’ urged Cytherea, awed by the storm she had raised in the
impetuous woman’s mind. ‘He only kissed me once--twice I mean.’

‘He might have done it a thousand times if he had cared to, there’s no
doubt about that, whoever his lordship is. You are as bad as I--we are
all alike; and I--an old fool--have been sipping at your mouth as if
it were honey, because I fancied no wasting lover knew the spot. But
a minute ago, and you seemed to me like a fresh spring meadow--now you
seem a dusty highway.’

‘O no, no!’ Cytherea was not weak enough to shed tears except on
extraordinary occasions, but she was fain to begin sobbing now. She
wished Miss Aldclyffe would go to her own room, and leave her and her
treasured dreams alone. This vehement imperious affection was in one
sense soothing, but yet it was not of the kind that Cytherea’s instincts
desired. Though it was generous, it seemed somewhat too rank and
capricious for endurance.

‘Well,’ said the lady in continuation, ‘who is he?’

Her companion was desperately determined not to tell his name: she too
much feared a taunt when Miss Aldclyffe’s fiery mood again ruled her
tongue.

‘Won’t you tell me? not tell me after all the affection I have shown?’

‘I will, perhaps, another day.’

‘Did you wear a hat and white feather in Budmouth for the week or two
previous to your coming here?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then I have seen you and your lover at a distance! He rowed you round
the bay with your brother.’

‘Yes.’

‘And without your brother--fie! There, there, don’t let that little
heart beat itself to death: throb, throb: it shakes the bed, you silly
thing. I didn’t mean that there was any harm in going alone with him. I
only saw you from the Esplanade, in common with the rest of the people.
I often run down to Budmouth. He was a very good figure: now who was
he?’

‘I--I won’t tell, madam--I cannot indeed!’

‘Won’t tell--very well, don’t. You are very foolish to treasure up his
name and image as you do. Why, he has had loves before you, trust him
for that, whoever he is, and you are but a temporary link in a long
chain of others like you: who only have your little day as they have had
theirs.’

‘’Tisn’t true! ‘tisn’t true! ‘tisn’t true!’ cried Cytherea in an agony
of torture. ‘He has never loved anybody else, I know--I am sure he
hasn’t.’

Miss Aldclyffe was as jealous as any man could have been. She
continued--

‘He sees a beautiful face and thinks he will never forget it, but in a
few weeks the feeling passes off, and he wonders how he could have cared
for anybody so absurdly much.’

‘No, no, he doesn’t--What does he do when he has thought that--Come,
tell me--tell me!’

‘You are as hot as fire, and the throbbing of your heart makes me
nervous. I can’t tell you if you get in that flustered state.’

‘Do, do tell--O, it makes me so miserable! but tell--come tell me!’

‘Ah--the tables are turned now, dear!’ she continued, in a tone which
mingled pity with derision--

   ‘“Love’s passions shall rock thee
    As the storm rocks the ravens on high,
    Bright reason will mock thee
    Like the sun from a wintry sky.”

‘What does he do next?--Why, this is what he does next: ruminate on what
he has heard of women’s romantic impulses, and how easily men torture
them when they have given way to those feelings, and have resigned
everything for their hero. It may be that though he loves you heartily
now--that is, as heartily as a man can--and you love him in return, your
loves may be impracticable and hopeless, and you may be separated for
ever. You, as the weary, weary years pass by will fade and fade--bright
eyes _will_ fade--and you will perhaps then die early--true to him to
your latest breath, and believing him to be true to the latest breath
also; whilst he, in some gay and busy spot far away from your last quiet
nook, will have married some dashing lady, and not purely oblivious of
you, will long have ceased to regret you--will chat about you, as you
were in long past years--will say, “Ah, little Cytherea used to tie her
hair like that--poor innocent trusting thing; it was a pleasant useless
idle dream--that dream of mine for the maid with the bright eyes and
simple, silly heart; but I was a foolish lad at that time.” Then he will
tell the tale of all your little Wills and Wont’s and particular ways,
and as he speaks, turn to his wife with a placid smile.’

‘It is not true! He can’t, he c-can’t be s-so cruel--and you are cruel
to me--you are, you are!’ She was at last driven to desperation: her
natural common sense and shrewdness had seen all through the piece how
imaginary her emotions were--she felt herself to be weak and foolish in
permitting them to rise; but even then she could not control them: be
agonized she must. She was only eighteen, and the long day’s labour,
her weariness, her excitement, had completely unnerved her, and worn her
out: she was bent hither and thither by this tyrannical working upon her
imagination, as a young rush in the wind. She wept bitterly. ‘And now
think how much I like you,’ resumed Miss Aldclyffe, when Cytherea grew
calmer. ‘I shall never forget you for anybody else, as men do--never. I
will be exactly as a mother to you. Now will you promise to live with me
always, and always be taken care of, and never deserted?’

‘I cannot. I will not be anybody’s maid for another day on any
consideration.’

‘No, no, no. You shan’t be a lady’s-maid. You shall be my companion. I
will get another maid.’

Companion--that was a new idea. Cytherea could not resist the evidently
heartfelt desire of the strange-tempered woman for her presence. But she
could not trust to the moment’s impulse.

‘I will stay, I think. But do not ask for a final answer to-night.’

‘Never mind now, then. Put your hair round your mamma’s neck, and give
me one good long kiss, and I won’t talk any more in that way about your
lover. After all, some young men are not so fickle as others; but even
if he’s the ficklest, there is consolation. The love of an inconstant
man is ten times more ardent than that of a faithful man--that is, while
it lasts.’

Cytherea did as she was told, to escape the punishment of further talk;
flung the twining tresses of her long, rich hair over Miss Aldclyffe’s
shoulders as directed, and the two ceased conversing, making themselves
up for sleep. Miss Aldclyffe seemed to give herself over to a luxurious
sense of content and quiet, as if the maiden at her side afforded her a
protection against dangers which had menaced her for years; she was soon
sleeping calmly.

2. TWO TO FIVE A.M.

With Cytherea it was otherwise. Unused to the place and circumstances,
she continued wakeful, ill at ease, and mentally distressed. She
withdrew herself from her companion’s embrace, turned to the other
side, and endeavoured to relieve her busy brain by looking at the
window-blind, and noticing the light of the rising moon--now in her last
quarter--creep round upon it: it was the light of an old waning moon
which had but a few days longer to live.

The sight led her to think again of what had happened under the rays of
the same month’s moon, a little before its full, the ecstatic
evening scene with Edward: the kiss, and the shortness of those happy
moments--maiden imagination bringing about the apotheosis of a status
quo which had had several unpleasantnesses in its earthly reality.

But sounds were in the ascendant that night. Her ears became aware of a
strange and gloomy murmur.

She recognized it: it was the gushing of the waterfall, faint and low,
brought from its source to the unwonted distance of the House by a faint
breeze which made it distinct and recognizable by reason of the utter
absence of all disturbing sounds. The groom’s melancholy representation
lent to the sound a more dismal effect than it would have had of its own
nature. She began to fancy what the waterfall must be like at that hour,
under the trees in the ghostly moonlight. Black at the head, and over
the surface of the deep cold hole into which it fell; white and
frothy at the fall; black and white, like a pall and its border; sad
everywhere.

She was in the mood for sounds of every kind now, and strained her ears
to catch the faintest, in wayward enmity to her quiet of mind. Another
soon came.

The second was quite different from the first--a kind of intermittent
whistle it seemed primarily: no, a creak, a metallic creak, ever and
anon, like a plough, or a rusty wheelbarrow, or at least a wheel of some
kind. Yes, it was, a wheel--the water-wheel in the shrubbery by the old
manor-house, which the coachman had said would drive him mad.

She determined not to think any more of these gloomy things; but now
that she had once noticed the sound there was no sealing her ears to it.
She could not help timing its creaks, and putting on a dread expectancy
just before the end of each half-minute that brought them. To imagine
the inside of the engine-house, whence these noises proceeded, was now a
necessity. No window, but crevices in the door, through which, probably,
the moonbeams streamed in the most attenuated and skeleton-like rays,
striking sharply upon portions of wet rusty cranks and chains; a
glistening wheel, turning incessantly, labouring in the dark like a
captive starving in a dungeon; and instead of a floor below, gurgling
water, which on account of the darkness could only be heard; water which
laboured up dark pipes almost to where she lay.

She shivered. Now she was determined to go to sleep; there could be
nothing else left to be heard or to imagine--it was horrid that her
imagination should be so restless. Yet just for an instant before going
to sleep she would think this--suppose another sound _should_ come--just
suppose it should! Before the thought had well passed through her brain,
a third sound came.

The third was a very soft gurgle or rattle--of a strange and abnormal
kind--yet a sound she had heard before at some past period of her
life--when, she could not recollect. To make it the more disturbing, it
seemed to be almost close to her--either close outside the window, close
under the floor, or close above the ceiling. The accidental fact of
its coming so immediately upon the heels of her supposition, told so
powerfully upon her excited nerves that she jumped up in the bed. The
same instant, a little dog in some room near, having probably heard the
same noise, set up a low whine. The watch-dog in the yard, hearing
the moan of his associate, began to howl loudly and distinctly. His
melancholy notes were taken up directly afterwards by the dogs in the
kennel a long way off, in every variety of wail.

One logical thought alone was able to enter her flurried brain. The
little dog that began the whining must have heard the other two sounds
even better than herself. He had taken no notice of them, but he had
taken notice of the third. The third, then, was an unusual sound.

It was not like water, it was not like wind; it was not the night-jar,
it was not a clock, nor a rat, nor a person snoring.

She crept under the clothes, and flung her arms tightly round Miss
Aldclyffe, as if for protection. Cytherea perceived that the lady’s late
peaceful warmth had given place to a sweat. At the maiden’s touch, Miss
Aldclyffe awoke with a low scream.

She remembered her position instantly. ‘O such a terrible dream!’ she
cried, in a hurried whisper, holding to Cytherea in her turn; ‘and
your touch was the end of it. It was dreadful. Time, with his wings,
hour-glass, and scythe, coming nearer and nearer to me--grinning and
mocking: then he seized me, took a piece of me only... But I can’t tell
you. I can’t bear to think of it. How those dogs howl! People say it
means death.’

The return of Miss Aldclyffe to consciousness was sufficient to
dispel the wild fancies which the loneliness of the night had woven in
Cytherea’s mind. She dismissed the third noise as something which in all
likelihood could easily be explained, if trouble were taken to inquire
into it: large houses had all kinds of strange sounds floating about
them. She was ashamed to tell Miss Aldclyffe her terrors.

A silence of five minutes.

‘Are you asleep?’ said Miss Aldclyffe.

‘No,’ said Cytherea, in a long-drawn whisper.

‘How those dogs howl, don’t they?’

‘Yes. A little dog in the house began it.’

‘Ah, yes: that was Totsy. He sleeps on the mat outside my father’s
bedroom door. A nervous creature.’

There was a silent interval of nearly half-an-hour. A clock on the
landing struck three.

‘Are you asleep, Miss Aldclyffe?’ whispered Cytherea.

‘No,’ said Miss Aldclyffe. ‘How wretched it is not to be able to sleep,
isn’t it?’

‘Yes,’ replied Cytherea, like a docile child.

Another hour passed, and the clock struck four. Miss Aldclyffe was still
awake.

‘Cytherea,’ she said, very softly.

Cytherea made no answer. She was sleeping soundly.

The first glimmer of dawn was now visible. Miss Aldclyffe arose, put on
her dressing-gown, and went softly downstairs to her own room.

‘I have not told her who I am after all, or found out the particulars
of Ambrose’s history,’ she murmured. ‘But her being in love alters
everything.’

3. HALF-PAST SEVEN TO TEN O’CLOCK A.M.

Cytherea awoke, quiet in mind and refreshed. A conclusion to remain at
Knapwater was already in possession of her.

Finding Miss Aldclyffe gone, she dressed herself and sat down at the
window to write an answer to Edward’s letter, and an account of her
arrival at Knapwater to Owen. The dismal and heart-breaking pictures
that Miss Aldclyffe had placed before her the preceding evening, the
later terrors of the night, were now but as shadows of shadows, and she
smiled in derision at her own excitability.

But writing Edward’s letter was the great consoler, the effect of each
word upon him being enacted in her own face as she wrote it. She felt
how much she would like to share his trouble--how well she could endure
poverty with him--and wondered what his trouble was. But all would be
explained at last, she knew.

At the appointed time she went to Miss Aldclyffe’s room, intending, with
the contradictoriness common in people, to perform with pleasure, as a
work of supererogation, what as a duty was simply intolerable.

Miss Aldclyffe was already out of bed. The bright penetrating light
of morning made a vast difference in the elder lady’s behaviour to her
dependent; the day, which had restored Cytherea’s judgment, had effected
the same for Miss Aldclyffe. Though practical reasons forbade her
regretting that she had secured such a companionable creature to read,
talk, or play to her whenever her whim required, she was inwardly vexed
at the extent to which she had indulged in the womanly luxury of making
confidences and giving way to emotions. Few would have supposed that the
calm lady sitting aristocratically at the toilet table, seeming scarcely
conscious of Cytherea’s presence in the room, even when greeting her,
was the passionate creature who had asked for kisses a few hours before.

It is both painful and satisfactory to think how often these
antitheses are to be observed in the individual most open to our
observation--ourselves. We pass the evening with faces lit up by some
flaring illumination or other: we get up the next morning--the fiery
jets have all gone out, and nothing confronts us but a few crinkled
pipes and sooty wirework, hardly even recalling the outline of the
blazing picture that arrested our eyes before bedtime.

Emotions would be half starved if there were no candle-light. Probably
nine-tenths of the gushing letters of indiscreet confession are written
after nine or ten o’clock in the evening, and sent off before day
returns to leer invidiously upon them. Few that remain open to catch
our glance as we rise in the morning, survive the frigid criticism of
dressing-time.

The subjects uppermost in the minds of the two women who had thus cooled
from their fires, were not the visionary ones of the later hours,
but the hard facts of their earlier conversation. After a remark that
Cytherea need not assist her in dressing unless she wished to, Miss
Aldclyffe said abruptly--

‘I can tell that young man’s name.’ She looked keenly at Cytherea. ‘It
is Edward Springrove, my tenant’s son.’

The inundation of colour upon the younger lady at hearing a name which
to her was a world, handled as if it were only an atom, told Miss
Aldclyffe that she had divined the truth at last.

‘Ah--it is he, is it?’ she continued. ‘Well, I wanted to know for
practical reasons. His example shows that I was not so far wrong in my
estimate of men after all, though I only generalized, and had no thought
of him.’ This was perfectly true.

‘What do you mean?’ said Cytherea, visibly alarmed.

‘Mean? Why that all the world knows him to be engaged to be married, and
that the wedding is soon to take place.’ She made the remark bluntly and
superciliously, as if to obtain absolution at the hands of her family
pride for the weak confidences of the night.

But even the frigidity of Miss Aldclyffe’s morning mood was overcome by
the look of sick and blank despair which the carelessly uttered words
had produced upon Cytherea’s face. She sank back into a chair, and
buried her face in her hands.

‘Don’t be so foolish,’ said Miss Aldclyffe. ‘Come, make the best of it.
I cannot upset the fact I have told you of, unfortunately. But I believe
the match can be broken off.’

‘O no, no.’

‘Nonsense. I liked him much as a youth, and I like him now. I’ll help
you to captivate and chain him down. I have got over my absurd feeling
of last night in not wanting you ever to go away from me--of course, I
could not expect such a thing as that. There, now I have said I’ll help
you, and that’s enough. He’s tired of his first choice now that he’s
been away from home for a while. The love that no outer attack can
frighten away quails before its idol’s own homely ways; it is always
so.... Come, finish what you are doing if you are going to, and don’t be
a little goose about such a trumpery affair as that.’

‘Who--is he engaged to?’ Cytherea inquired by a movement of her lips but
no sound of her voice. But Miss Aldclyffe did not answer. It mattered
not, Cytherea thought. Another woman--that was enough for her: curiosity
was stunned.

She applied herself to the work of dressing, scarcely knowing how. Miss
Aldclyffe went on:--

‘You were too easily won. I’d have made him or anybody else speak out
before he should have kissed my face for his pleasure. But you are one
of those precipitantly fond things who are yearning to throw away their
hearts upon the first worthless fellow who says good-morning. In the
first place, you shouldn’t have loved him so quickly: in the next,
if you must have loved him off-hand, you should have concealed it. It
tickled his vanity: “By Jove, that girl’s in love with me already!” he
thought.’

To hasten away at the end of the toilet, to tell Mrs. Morris--who
stood waiting in a little room prepared for her, with tea poured out,
bread-and-butter cut into diaphanous slices, and eggs arranged--that she
wanted no breakfast: then to shut herself alone in her bedroom, was her
only thought. She was followed thither by the well-intentioned
matron with a cup of tea and one piece of bread-and-butter on a tray,
cheerfully insisting that she should eat it.

To those who grieve, innocent cheerfulness seems heartless levity. ‘No,
thank you, Mrs. Morris,’ she said, keeping the door closed. Despite
the incivility of the action, Cytherea could not bear to let a pleasant
person see her face then.

Immediate revocation--even if revocation would be more effective by
postponement--is the impulse of young wounded natures. Cytherea went
to her blotting-book, took out the long letter so carefully written, so
full of gushing remarks and tender hints, and sealed up so neatly with
a little seal bearing ‘Good Faith’ as its motto, tore the missive into
fifty pieces, and threw them into the grate. It was then the bitterest
of anguishes to look upon some of the words she had so lovingly written,
and see them existing only in mutilated forms without meaning--to feel
that his eye would never read them, nobody ever know how ardently she
had penned them.

Pity for one’s self for being wasted is mostly present in these moods of
abnegation.

The meaning of all his allusions, his abruptness in telling her of his
love, his constraint at first, then his desperate manner of speaking,
was clear. They must have been the last flickerings of a conscience not
quite dead to all sense of perfidiousness and fickleness. Now he had
gone to London: she would be dismissed from his memory, in the same way
as Miss Aldclyffe had said. And here she was in Edward’s own parish,
reminded continually of him by what she saw and heard. The landscape,
yesterday so much and so bright to her, was now but as the banquet-hall
deserted--all gone but herself.

Miss Aldclyffe had wormed her secret out of her, and would now be
continually mocking her for her trusting simplicity in believing him. It
was altogether unbearable: she would not stay there.

She went downstairs and found Miss Aldclyffe had gone into the
breakfast-room, but that Captain Aldclyffe, who rose later with
increasing infirmities, had not yet made his appearance. Cytherea
entered. Miss Aldclyffe was looking out of the window, watching a trail
of white smoke along the distant landscape--signifying a passing train.
At Cytherea’s entry she turned and looked inquiry.

‘I must tell you now,’ began Cytherea, in a tremulous voice.

‘Well, what?’ Miss Aldclyffe said.

‘I am not going to stay with you. I must go away--a very long way. I am
very sorry, but indeed I can’t remain!’

‘Pooh--what shall we hear next?’ Miss Aldclyffe surveyed Cytherea’s face
with leisurely criticism. ‘You are breaking your heart again about that
worthless young Springrove. I knew how it would be. It is as Hallam says
of Juliet--what little reason you may have possessed originally has all
been whirled away by this love. I shan’t take this notice, mind.’

‘Do let me go!’

Miss Aldclyffe took her new pet’s hand, and said with severity, ‘As to
hindering you, if you are determined to go, of course that’s absurd.
But you are not now in a state of mind fit for deciding upon any such
proceeding, and I shall not listen to what you have to say. Now, Cythie,
come with me; we’ll let this volcano burst and spend itself, and after
that we’ll see what had better be done.’ She took Cytherea into her
workroom, opened a drawer, and drew forth a roll of linen.

‘This is some embroidery I began one day, and now I should like it
finished.’

She then preceded the maiden upstairs to Cytherea’s own room. ‘There,’
she said, ‘now sit down here, go on with this work, and remember one
thing--that you are not to leave the room on any pretext whatever for
two hours unless I send for you--I insist kindly, dear. Whilst you
stitch--you are to stitch, recollect, and not go mooning out of the
window--think over the whole matter, and get cooled; don’t let the
foolish love-affair prevent your thinking as a woman of the world. If
at the end of that time you still say you must leave me, you may. I will
have no more to say in the matter. Come, sit down, and promise to sit
here the time I name.’

To hearts in a despairing mood, compulsion seems a relief; and docility
was at all times natural to Cytherea. She promised, and sat down. Miss
Aldclyffe shut the door upon her and retreated.

She sewed, stopped to think, shed a tear or two, recollected the
articles of the treaty, and sewed again; and at length fell into a
reverie which took no account whatever of the lapse of time.

4. TEN TO TWELVE O’CLOCK A.M.

A quarter of an hour might have passed when her thoughts became
attracted from the past to the present by unwonted movements downstairs.
She opened the door and listened.

There were hurryings along passages, opening and shutting of doors,
trampling in the stable-yard. She went across into another bedroom, from
which a view of the stable-yard could be obtained, and arrived there
just in time to see the figure of the man who had driven her from the
station vanishing down the coach-road on a black horse--galloping at the
top of the animal’s speed.

Another man went off in the direction of the village.

Whatever had occurred, it did not seem to be her duty to inquire or
meddle with it, stranger and dependent as she was, unless she were
requested to, especially after Miss Aldclyffe’s strict charge to her.
She sat down again, determined to let no idle curiosity influence her
movements.

Her window commanded the front of the house; and the next thing she saw
was a clergyman walk up and enter the door.

All was silent again till, a long time after the first man had left,
he returned again on the same horse, now matted with sweat and trotting
behind a carriage in which sat an elderly gentleman driven by a lad in
livery. These came to the house, entered, and all was again the same as
before.

The whole household--master, mistress, and servants--appeared to have
forgotten the very existence of such a being as Cytherea. She almost
wished she had not vowed to have no idle curiosity.

Half-an-hour later, the carriage drove off with the elderly gentleman,
and two or three messengers left the house, speeding in various
directions. Rustics in smock-frocks began to hang about the road
opposite the house, or lean against trees, looking idly at the windows
and chimneys.

A tap came to Cytherea’s door. She opened it to a young maid-servant.

‘Miss Aldclyffe wishes to see you, ma’am.’ Cytherea hastened down.

Miss Aldclyffe was standing on the hearthrug, her elbow on the mantel,
her hand to her temples, her eyes on the ground; perfectly calm, but
very pale.

‘Cytherea,’ she said in a whisper, ‘come here.’

Cytherea went close.

‘Something very serious has taken place,’ she said again, and then
paused, with a tremulous movement of her mouth.

‘Yes,’ said Cytherea.

‘My father. He was found dead in his bed this morning.’

‘Dead!’ echoed the younger woman. It seemed impossible that the
announcement could be true; that knowledge of so great a fact could be
contained in a statement so small.

‘Yes, dead,’ murmured Miss Aldclyffe solemnly. ‘He died alone, though
within a few feet of me. The room we slept in is exactly over his own.’

Cytherea said hurriedly, ‘Do they know at what hour?’

‘The doctor says it must have been between two and three o’clock this
morning.’

‘Then I heard him!’

‘Heard him?’

‘Heard him die!’

‘You heard him die? What did you hear?’

‘A sound I heard once before in my life--at the deathbed of my mother. I
could not identify it--though I recognized it. Then the dog howled: you
remarked it. I did not think it worth while to tell you what I had heard
a little earlier.’ She looked agonized.

‘It would have been useless,’ said Miss Aldclyffe. ‘All was over by that
time.’ She addressed herself as much as Cytherea when she continued, ‘Is
it a Providence who sent you here at this juncture that I might not be
left entirely alone?’

Till this instant Miss Aldclyffe had forgotten the reason of Cytherea’s
seclusion in her own room. So had Cytherea herself. The fact now
recurred to both in one moment.

‘Do you still wish to go?’ said Miss Aldclyffe anxiously.

‘I don’t want to go now,’ Cytherea had remarked simultaneously with the
other’s question. She was pondering on the strange likeness which Miss
Aldclyffe’s bereavement bore to her own; it had the appearance of being
still another call to her not to forsake this woman so linked to her
life, for the sake of any trivial vexation.

Miss Aldclyffe held her almost as a lover would have held her, and said
musingly--

‘We get more and more into one groove. I now am left fatherless and
motherless as you were.’ Other ties lay behind in her thoughts, but she
did not mention them.

‘You loved your father, Cytherea, and wept for him?’

‘Yes, I did. Poor papa!’

‘I was always at variance with mine, and can’t weep for him now! But you
must stay here always, and make a better woman of me.’

The compact was thus sealed, and Cytherea, in spite of the failure of
her advertisements, was installed as a veritable Companion. And,
once more in the history of human endeavour, a position which it was
impossible to reach by any direct attempt, was come to by the seeker’s
swerving from the path, and regarding the original object as one of
secondary importance.



VII. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS

1. AUGUST THE SEVENTEENTH

The time of day was four o’clock in the afternoon. The place was the
lady’s study or boudoir, Knapwater House. The person was Miss Aldclyffe
sitting there alone, clothed in deep mourning.

The funeral of the old Captain had taken place, and his will had been
read. It was very concise, and had been executed about five years
previous to his death. It was attested by his solicitors, Messrs.
Nyttleton and Tayling, of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The whole of his estate,
real and personal, was bequeathed to his daughter Cytherea, for her sole
and absolute use, subject only to the payment of a legacy to the rector,
their relative, and a few small amounts to the servants.

Miss Aldclyffe had not chosen the easiest chair of her boudoir to sit
in, or even a chair of ordinary comfort, but an uncomfortable, high,
narrow-backed, oak framed and seated chair, which was allowed to
remain in the room only on the ground of being a companion in artistic
quaintness to an old coffer beside it, and was never used except to
stand in to reach for a book from the highest row of shelves. But she
had sat erect in this chair for more than an hour, for the reason that
she was utterly unconscious of what her actions and bodily feelings
were. The chair had stood nearest her path on entering the room, and she
had gone to it in a dream.

She sat in the attitude which denotes unflagging, intense, concentrated
thought--as if she were cast in bronze. Her feet were together, her body
bent a little forward, and quite unsupported by the back of the chair;
her hands on her knees, her eyes fixed intently on the corner of a
footstool.

At last she moved and tapped her fingers upon the table at her side.
Her pent-up ideas had finally found some channel to advance in. Motions
became more and more frequent as she laboured to carry further and
further the problem which occupied her brain. She sat back and drew
a long breath: she sat sideways and leant her forehead upon her
hand. Later still she arose, walked up and down the room--at first
abstractedly, with her features as firmly set as ever; but by degrees
her brow relaxed, her footsteps became lighter and more leisurely; her
head rode gracefully and was no longer bowed. She plumed herself like a
swan after exertion.

‘Yes,’ she said aloud. ‘To get _him_ here without letting him know that
I have any other object than that of getting a useful man--that’s the
difficulty--and that I think I can master.’

She rang for the new maid, a placid woman of forty with a few grey
hairs.

‘Ask Miss Graye if she can come to me.’

Cytherea was not far off, and came in.

‘Do you know anything about architects and surveyors?’ said Miss
Aldclyffe abruptly.

‘Know anything?’ replied Cytherea, poising herself on her toe to
consider the compass of the question.

‘Yes--know anything,’ said Miss Aldclyffe.

‘Owen is an architect and surveyor’s draughtsman,’ the maiden said, and
thought of somebody else who was likewise.

‘Yes! that’s why I asked you. What are the different kinds of work
comprised in an architect’s practice? They lay out estates, and
superintend the various works done upon them, I should think, among
other things?’

‘Those are, more properly, a land or building steward’s duties--at least
I have always imagined so. Country architects include those things in
their practice; city architects don’t.’

‘I know that, child. But a steward’s is an indefinite fast and loose
profession, it seems to me. Shouldn’t you think that a man who had been
brought up as an architect would do for a steward?’

Cytherea had doubts whether an architect pure would do.

The chief pleasure connected with asking an opinion lies in not adopting
it. Miss Aldclyffe replied decisively--

‘Nonsense; of course he would. Your brother Owen makes plans for country
buildings--such as cottages, stables, homesteads, and so on?’

‘Yes; he does.’

‘And superintends the building of them?’

‘Yes; he will soon.’

‘And he surveys land?’

‘O yes.’

‘And he knows about hedges and ditches--how wide they ought to be,
boundaries, levelling, planting trees to keep away the winds, measuring
timber, houses for ninety-nine years, and such things?’

‘I have never heard him say that; but I think Mr. Gradfield does those
things. Owen, I am afraid, is inexperienced as yet.’

‘Yes; your brother is not old enough for such a post yet, of course.
And then there are rent-days, the audit and winding up of tradesmen’s
accounts. I am afraid, Cytherea, you don’t know much more about the
matter than I do myself.... I am going out just now,’ she continued. ‘I
shall not want you to walk with me to-day. Run away till dinner-time.’

Miss Aldclyffe went out of doors, and down the steps to the lawn: then
turning to the left, through a shrubbery, she opened a wicket and passed
into a neglected and leafy carriage-drive, leading down the hill. This
she followed till she reached the point of its greatest depression,
which was also the lowest ground in the whole grove.

The trees here were so interlaced, and hung their branches so near the
ground, that a whole summer’s day was scarcely long enough to change
the air pervading the spot from its normal state of coolness to even a
temporary warmth. The unvarying freshness was helped by the nearness of
the ground to the level of the springs, and by the presence of a deep,
sluggish stream close by, equally well shaded by bushes and a high wall.
Following the road, which now ran along at the margin of the stream,
she came to an opening in the wall, on the other side of the water,
revealing a large rectangular nook from which the stream proceeded,
covered with froth, and accompanied by a dull roar. Two more steps,
and she was opposite the nook, in full view of the cascade forming its
further boundary. Over the top could be seen the bright outer sky in the
form of a crescent, caused by the curve of a bridge across the rapids,
and the trees above.

Beautiful as was the scene she did not look in that direction. The same
standing-ground afforded another prospect, straight in the front, less
sombre than the water on the right or the trees all around. The avenue
and grove which flanked it abruptly terminated a few yards ahead, where
the ground began to rise, and on the remote edge of the greensward thus
laid open, stood all that remained of the original manor-house, to which
the dark margin-line of the trees in the avenue formed an adequate
and well-fitting frame. It was the picture thus presented that was
now interesting Miss Aldclyffe--not artistically or historically,
but practically--as regarded its fitness for adaptation to modern
requirements.

In front, detached from everything else, rose the most ancient portion
of the structure--an old arched gateway, flanked by the bases of two
small towers, and nearly covered with creepers, which had clambered
over the eaves of the sinking roof, and up the gable to the crest of the
Aldclyffe family perched on the apex. Behind this, at a distance of ten
or twenty yards, came the only portion of the main building that still
existed--an Elizabethan fragment, consisting of as much as could be
contained under three gables and a cross roof behind. Against the wall
could be seen ragged lines indicating the form of other destroyed gables
which had once joined it there. The mullioned and transomed windows,
containing five or six lights, were mostly bricked up to the extent
of two or three, and the remaining portion fitted with cottage
window-frames carelessly inserted, to suit the purpose to which the
old place was now applied, it being partitioned out into small rooms
downstairs to form cottages for two labourers and their families; the
upper portion was arranged as a storehouse for divers kinds of roots and
fruit.

The owner of the picturesque spot, after her survey from this
point, went up to the walls and walked into the old court, where the
paving-stones were pushed sideways and upwards by the thrust of the
grasses between them. Two or three little children, with their fingers
in their mouths, came out to look at her, and then ran in to tell their
mothers in loud tones of secrecy that Miss Aldclyffe was coming. Miss
Aldclyffe, however, did not come in. She concluded her survey of the
exterior by making a complete circuit of the building; then turned into
a nook a short distance off where round and square timber, a saw-pit,
planks, grindstones, heaps of building stone and brick, explained that
the spot was the centre of operations for the building work done on the
estate.

She paused, and looked around. A man who had seen her from the window of
the workshops behind, came out and respectfully lifted his hat to her.
It was the first time she had been seen walking outside the house since
her father’s death.

‘Strooden, could the Old House be made a decent residence of, without
much trouble?’ she inquired.

The mechanic considered, and spoke as each consideration completed
itself.

‘You don’t forget, ma’am, that two-thirds of the place is already pulled
down, or gone to ruin?’

‘Yes; I know.’

‘And that what’s left may almost as well be, ma’am.’

‘Why may it?’

‘’Twas so cut up inside when they made it into cottages, that the whole
carcase is full of cracks.’

‘Still by pulling down the inserted partitions, and adding a little
outside, it could be made to answer the purpose of an ordinary six or
eight-roomed house?’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘About what would it cost?’ was the question which had invariably come
next in every communication of this kind to which the superintending
workman had been a party during his whole experience. To his surprise,
Miss Aldclyffe did not put it. The man thought her object in altering an
old house must have been an unusually absorbing one not to prompt what
was so instinctive in owners as hardly to require any prompting at all.

‘Thank you: that’s sufficient, Strooden,’ she said. ‘You will understand
that it is not unlikely some alteration may be made here in a short
time, with reference to the management of the affairs.’

Strooden said ‘Yes,’ in a complex voice, and looked uneasy.

‘During the life of Captain Aldclyffe, with you as the foreman of works,
and he himself as his own steward, everything worked well. But now
it may be necessary to have a steward, whose management will encroach
further upon things which have hitherto been left in your hands than did
your late master’s. What I mean is, that he will directly and in detail
superintend all.’

‘Then--I shall not be wanted, ma’am?’ he faltered.

‘O yes; if you like to stay on as foreman in the yard and workshops
only. I should be sorry to lose you. However, you had better consider. I
will send for you in a few days.’

Leaving him to suspense, and all the ills that came in its
train--distracted application to his duties, and an undefined number
of sleepless nights and untasted dinners, Miss Aldclyffe looked at her
watch and returned to the House. She was about to keep an appointment
with her solicitor, Mr. Nyttleton, who had been to Budmouth, and was
coming to Knapwater on his way back to London.

2. AUGUST THE TWENTIETH

On the Saturday subsequent to Mr. Nyttleton’s visit to Knapwater House,
the subjoined advertisement appeared in the Field and the Builder
newspapers:--


                     ‘LAND STEWARD.

‘A gentleman of integrity and professional skill is required immediately
for the MANAGEMENT of an ESTATE, containing about 1000 acres, upon
which agricultural improvements and the erection of buildings are
contemplated. He must be a man of superior education, unmarried, and not
more than thirty years of age. Considerable preference will be shown
for one who possesses an artistic as well as a practical knowledge of
planning and laying out. The remuneration will consist of a salary of
220 pounds, with the old manor-house as a residence--Address Messrs.
Nyttleton and Tayling, solicitors, Lincoln’s Inn Fields.’


A copy of each paper was sent to Miss Aldclyffe on the day of
publication. The same evening she told Cytherea that she was advertising
for a steward, who would live at the old manor-house, showing her the
papers containing the announcement.

What was the drift of that remark? thought the maiden; or was it merely
made to her in confidential intercourse, as other arrangements were
told her daily. Yet it seemed to have more meaning than common. She
remembered the conversation about architects and surveyors, and her
brother Owen. Miss Aldclyffe knew that his situation was precarious,
that he was well educated and practical, and was applying himself heart
and soul to the details of the profession and all connected with
it. Miss Aldclyffe might be ready to take him if he could compete
successfully with others who would reply. She hazarded a question:

‘Would it be desirable for Owen to answer it?’

‘Not at all,’ said Miss Aldclyffe peremptorily.

A flat answer of this kind had ceased to alarm Cytherea. Miss
Aldclyffe’s blunt mood was not her worst. Cytherea thought of another
man, whose name, in spite of resolves, tears, renunciations and injured
pride, lingered in her ears like an old familiar strain. That man was
qualified for a stewardship under a king.

‘Would it be of any use if Edward Springrove were to answer it?’ she
said, resolutely enunciating the name.

‘None whatever,’ replied Miss Aldclyffe, again in the same decided tone.

‘You are very unkind to speak in that way.’

‘Now don’t pout like a goosie, as you are. I don’t want men like either
of them, for, of course, I must look to the good of the estate rather
than to that of any individual. The man I want must have been more
specially educated. I have told you that we are going to London next
week; it is mostly on this account.’

Cytherea found that she had mistaken the drift of Miss Aldclyffe’s
peculiar explicitness on the subject of advertising, and wrote to tell
her brother that if he saw the notice it would be useless to reply.

3. AUGUST THE TWENTY-FIFTH

Five days after the above-mentioned dialogue took place they went to
London, and, with scarcely a minute’s pause, to the solicitors’ offices
in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

They alighted opposite one of the characteristic entrances about the
place--a gate which was never, and could never be, closed, flanked by
lamp-standards carrying no lamp. Rust was the only active agent to be
seen there at this time of the day and year. The palings along the
front were rusted away at their base to the thinness of wires, and the
successive coats of paint, with which they were overlaid in bygone
days, had been completely undermined by the same insidious canker, which
lifted off the paint in flakes, leaving the raw surface of the iron on
palings, standards, and gate hinges, of a staring blood-red.

But once inside the railings the picture changed. The court and offices
were a complete contrast to the grand ruin of the outwork which enclosed
them. Well-painted respectability extended over, within, and around the
doorstep; and in the carefully swept yard not a particle of dust was
visible.

Mr. Nyttleton, who had just come up from Margate, where he was staying
with his family, was standing at the top of his own staircase as the
pair ascended. He politely took them inside.

‘Is there a comfortable room in which this young lady can sit during our
interview?’ said Miss Aldclyffe.

It was rather a favourite habit of hers to make much of Cytherea when
they were out, and snub her for it afterwards when they got home.

‘Certainly--Mr. Tayling’s.’ Cytherea was shown into an inner room.

Social definitions are all made relatively: an absolute datum is only
imagined. The small gentry about Knapwater seemed unpractised to Miss
Aldclyffe, Miss Aldclyffe herself seemed unpractised to Mr. Nyttleton’s
experienced old eyes.

‘Now then,’ the lady said, when she was alone with the lawyer; ‘what is
the result of our advertisement?’

It was late summer; the estate-agency, building, engineering, and
surveying worlds were dull. There were forty-five replies to the
advertisement.

Mr. Nyttleton spread them one by one before Miss Aldclyffe. ‘You will
probably like to read some of them yourself, madam?’ he said.

‘Yes, certainly,’ said she.

‘I will not trouble you with those which are from persons manifestly
unfit at first sight,’ he continued; and began selecting from the heap
twos and threes which he had marked, collecting others into his hand.

‘The man we want lies among these, if my judgment doesn’t deceive me,
and from them it would be advisable to select a certain number to be
communicated with.’

‘I should like to see every one--only just to glance them over--exactly
as they came,’ she said suasively.

He looked as if he thought this a waste of his time, but dismissing his
sentiment unfolded each singly and laid it before her. As he laid them
out, it struck him that she studied them quite as rapidly as he could
spread them. He slyly glanced up from the outer corner of his eye to
hers, and noticed that all she did was look at the name at the bottom of
the letter, and then put the enclosure aside without further ceremony.
He thought this an odd way of inquiring into the merits of forty-five
men who at considerable trouble gave in detail reasons why they believed
themselves well qualified for a certain post. She came to the final one,
and put it down with the rest.

Then the lady said that in her opinion it would be best to get as many
replies as they possibly could before selecting--‘to give us a wider
choice. What do you think, Mr. Nyttleton?’

It seemed to him, he said, that a greater number than those they already
had would scarcely be necessary, and if they waited for more, there
would be this disadvantage attending it, that some of those they now
could command would possibly not be available.

‘Never mind, we will run that risk,’ said Miss Aldclyffe. ‘Let the
advertisement be inserted once more, and then we will certainly settle
the matter.’

Mr. Nyttleton bowed, and seemed to think Miss Aldclyffe, for a single
woman, and one who till so very recently had never concerned herself
with business of any kind, a very meddlesome client. But she was rich,
and handsome still. ‘She’s a new broom in estate-management as yet,’
he thought. ‘She will soon get tired of this,’ and he parted from her
without a sentiment which could mar his habitual blandness.

The two ladies then proceeded westward. Dismissing the cab in Waterloo
Place, they went along Pall Mall on foot, where in place of the usual
well-dressed clubbists--rubicund with alcohol--were to be seen, in linen
pinafores, flocks of house-painters pallid from white lead. When they
had reached the Green Park, Cytherea proposed that they should sit down
awhile under the young elms at the brow of the hill. This they did--the
growl of Piccadilly on their left hand--the monastic seclusion of the
Palace on their right: before them, the clock tower of the Houses
of Parliament, standing forth with a metallic lustre against a livid
Lambeth sky.

Miss Aldclyffe still carried in her hand a copy of the newspaper, and
while Cytherea had been interesting herself in the picture around,
glanced again at the advertisement.

She heaved a slight sigh, and began to fold it up again. In the action
her eye caught sight of two consecutive advertisements on the cover,
one relating to some lecture on Art, and addressed to members of the
Institute of Architects. The other emanated from the same source, but
was addressed to the public, and stated that the exhibition of drawings
at the Institute’s rooms would close at the end of that week.

Her eye lighted up. She sent Cytherea back to the hotel in a cab, then
turned round by Piccadilly into Bond Street, and proceeded to the rooms
of the Institute. The secretary was sitting in the lobby. After making
her payment, and looking at a few of the drawings on the walls, in the
company of three gentlemen, the only other visitors to the exhibition,
she turned back and asked if she might be allowed to see a list of the
members. She was a little connected with the architectural world, she
said, with a smile, and was interested in some of the names.

‘Here it is, madam,’ he replied, politely handing her a pamphlet
containing the names.

Miss Aldclyffe turned the leaves till she came to the letter M. The name
she hoped to find there was there, with the address appended, as was the
case with all the rest.

The address was at some chambers in a street not far from Charing Cross.
‘Chambers,’ as a residence, had always been assumed by the lady to imply
the condition of a bachelor. She murmured two words, ‘There still.’

Another request had yet to be made, but it was of a more noticeable kind
than the first, and might compromise the secrecy with which she wished
to act throughout this episode. Her object was to get one of the
envelopes lying on the secretary’s table, stamped with the die of the
Institute; and in order to get it she was about to ask if she might
write a note.

But the secretary’s back chanced to be turned, and he now went towards
one of the men at the other end of the room, who had called him to ask
some question relating to an etching on the wall. Quick as thought, Miss
Aldclyffe stood before the table, slipped her hand behind her, took one
of the envelopes and put it in her pocket.

She sauntered round the rooms for two or three minutes longer, then
withdrew and returned to her hotel.

Here she cut the Knapwater advertisement from the paper, put it into the
envelope she had stolen, embossed with the society’s stamp, and directed
it in a round clerkly hand to the address she had seen in the list of
members’ names submitted to her:--

     AENEAS MANSTON, ESQ.,
          WYKEHAM CHAMBERS,
               SPRING GARDENS.

This ended her first day’s work in London.

4. FROM AUGUST THE TWENTY-SIXTH TO SEPTEMBER THE FIRST

The two Cythereas continued at the Westminster Hotel, Miss Aldclyffe
informing her companion that business would detain them in London
another week. The days passed as slowly and quietly as days can pass in
a city at that time of the year, the shuttered windows about the squares
and terraces confronting their eyes like the white and sightless orbs of
blind men. On Thursday Mr. Nyttleton called, bringing the whole number
of replies to the advertisement. Cytherea was present at the interview,
by Miss Aldclyffe’s request--either from whim or design.

Ten additional letters were the result of the second week’s insertion,
making fifty-five in all. Miss Aldclyffe looked them over as before. One
was signed--

AENEAS MANSTON,     133, TURNGATE STREET,
          LIVERPOOL.

‘Now, then, Mr. Nyttleton, will you make a selection, and I will add one
or two,’ Miss Aldclyffe said.

Mr. Nyttleton scanned the whole heap of letters, testimonials, and
references, sorting them into two heaps. Manston’s missive, after a mere
glance, was thrown amongst the summarily rejected ones.

Miss Aldclyffe read, or pretended to read after the lawyer. When he had
finished, five lay in the group he had selected. ‘Would you like to add
to the number?’ he said, turning to the lady.

‘No,’ she said carelessly. ‘Well, two or three additional ones rather
took my fancy,’ she added, searching for some in the larger collection.

She drew out three. One was Manston’s.

‘These eight, then, shall be communicated with,’ said the lawyer, taking
up the eight letters and placing them by themselves.

They stood up. ‘If I myself, Miss Aldclyffe, were only concerned
personally,’ he said, in an off-hand way, and holding up a letter
singly, ‘I should choose this man unhesitatingly. He writes honestly,
is not afraid to name what he does not consider himself well acquainted
with--a rare thing to find in answers to advertisements; he is well
recommended, and possesses some qualities rarely found in combination.
Oddly enough, he is not really a steward. He was bred a farmer, studied
building affairs, served on an estate for some time, then went with an
architect, and is now well qualified as architect, estate agent, and
surveyor. That man is sure to have a fine head for a manor like yours.’
He tapped the letter as he spoke. ‘Yes, I should choose him without
hesitation--speaking personally.’

‘And I think,’ she said artificially, ‘I should choose this one as a
matter of mere personal whim, which, of course, can’t be given way to
when practical questions have to be considered.’

Cytherea, after looking out of the window, and then at the newspapers,
had become interested in the proceedings between the clever Miss
Aldclyffe and the keen old lawyer, which reminded her of a game
at cards. She looked inquiringly at the two letters--one in Miss
Aldclyffe’s hand, the other in Mr. Nyttleton’s.

‘What is the name of your man?’ said Miss Aldclyffe.

‘His name--’ said the lawyer, looking down the page; ‘what is his
name?--it is Edward Springrove.’

Miss Aldclyffe glanced towards Cytherea, who was getting red and pale by
turns. She looked imploringly at Miss Aldclyffe.

‘The name of my man,’ said Miss Aldclyffe, looking at her letter in
turn; ‘is, I think--yes--AEneas Manston.’

5. SEPTEMBER THE THIRD

The next morning but one was appointed for the interviews, which were to
be at the lawyer’s offices. Mr. Nyttleton and Mr. Tayling were both in
town for the day, and the candidates were admitted one by one into a
private room. In the window recess was seated Miss Aldclyffe, wearing
her veil down.

The lawyer had, in his letters to the selected number, timed each
candidate at an interval of ten or fifteen minutes from those preceding
and following. They were shown in as they arrived, and had short
conversations with Mr. Nyttleton--terse, and to the point. Miss
Aldclyffe neither moved nor spoke during this proceeding; it might have
been supposed that she was quite unmindful of it, had it not been
for what was revealed by a keen penetration of the veil covering her
countenance--the rays from two bright black eyes, directed towards the
lawyer and his interlocutor.

Springrove came fifth; Manston seventh. When the examination of all was
ended, and the last man had retired, Nyttleton, again as at the former
time, blandly asked his client which of the eight she personally
preferred. ‘I still think the fifth we spoke to, Springrove, the man
whose letter I pounced upon at first, to be by far the best qualified,
in short, most suitable generally.’

‘I am sorry to say that I differ from you; I lean to my first notion
still--that Mr.--Mr. Manston is most desirable in tone and bearing, and
even specifically; I think he would suit me best in the long-run.’

Mr. Nyttleton looked out of the window at the whitened wall of the
court.

‘Of course, madam, your opinion may be perfectly sound and reliable;
a sort of instinct, I know, often leads ladies by a short cut to
conclusions truer than those come to by men after laborious round-about
calculations, based on long experience. I must say I shouldn’t recommend
him.’

‘Why, pray?’

‘Well, let us look first at his letter of answer to the advertisement.
He didn’t reply till the last insertion; that’s one thing. His letter is
bold and frank in tone, so bold and frank that the second thought after
reading it is that not honesty, but unscrupulousness of conscience
dictated it. It is written in an indifferent mood, as if he felt that he
was humbugging us in his statement that he was the right man for such
an office, that he tried hard to get it only as a matter of form which
required that he should neglect no opportunity that came in his way.’

‘You may be right, Mr. Nyttleton, but I don’t quite see the grounds of
your reasoning.’

‘He has been, as you perceive, almost entirely used to the office duties
of a city architect, the experience we don’t want. You want a man
whose acquaintance with rural landed properties is more practical
and closer--somebody who, if he has not filled exactly such an office
before, has lived a country life, knows the ins and outs of country
tenancies, building, farming, and so on.’

‘He’s by far the most intellectual looking of them all.’

‘Yes; he may be--your opinion, Miss Aldclyffe, is worth more than mine
in that matter. And more than you say, he is a man of parts--his brain
power would soon enable him to master details and fit him for the post,
I don’t much doubt that. But to speak clearly’ (here his words started
off at a jog-trot) ‘I wouldn’t run the risk of placing the management
of an estate of mine in his hands on any account whatever. There, that’s
flat and plain, madam.’

‘But, definitely,’ she said, with a show of impatience, ‘what is your
reason?’

‘He is a voluptuary with activity; which is a very bad form of man--as
bad as it is rare.’

‘Oh. Thank you for your explicit statement, Mr. Nyttleton,’ said Miss
Aldclyffe, starting a little and flushing with displeasure.

Mr. Nyttleton nodded slightly, as a sort of neutral motion, simply
signifying a receipt of the information, good or bad.

‘And I really think it is hardly worth while to trouble you further
in this,’ continued the lady. ‘He’s quite good enough for a little
insignificant place like mine at Knapwater; and I know that I could not
get on with one of the others for a single month. We’ll try him.’

‘Certainly, Miss Aldclyffe,’ said the lawyer. And Mr. Manston was
written to, to the effect that he was the successful competitor.

‘Did you see how unmistakably her temper was getting the better of her,
that minute you were in the room?’ said Nyttleton to Tayling, when their
client had left the house. Nyttleton was a man who surveyed everybody’s
character in a sunless and shadowless northern light. A culpable
slyness, which marked him as a boy, had been moulded by Time, the
Improver, into honourable circumspection.

We frequently find that the quality which, conjoined with the simplicity
of the child, is vice, is virtue when it pervades the knowledge of the
man.

‘She was as near as damn-it to boiling over when I added up her man,’
continued Nyttleton. ‘His handsome face is his qualification in her
eyes. They have met before; I saw that.’

‘He didn’t seem conscious of it,’ said the junior.

‘He didn’t. That was rather puzzling to me. But still, if ever a woman’s
face spoke out plainly that she was in love with a man, hers did that
she was with him. Poor old maid, she’s almost old enough to be his
mother. If that Manston’s a schemer he’ll marry her, as sure as I am
Nyttleton. Let’s hope he’s honest, however.’

‘I don’t think she’s in love with him,’ said Tayling. He had seen but
little of the pair, and yet he could not reconcile what he had noticed
in Miss Aldclyffe’s behaviour with the idea that it was the bearing of a
woman towards her lover.

‘Well, your experience of the fiery phenomenon is more recent than
mine,’ rejoined Nyttleton carelessly. ‘And you may remember the nature
of it best.’



VIII. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS

1. FROM THE THIRD TO THE NINETEENTH OF SEPTEMBER

Miss Aldclyffe’s tenderness towards Cytherea, between the hours of her
irascibility, increased till it became no less than doting fondness.
Like Nature in the tropics, with her hurricanes and the subsequent
luxuriant vegetation effacing their ravages, Miss Aldclyffe compensated
for her outbursts by excess of generosity afterwards. She seemed to be
completely won out of herself by close contact with a young woman whose
modesty was absolutely unimpaired, and whose artlessness was as perfect
as was compatible with the complexity necessary to produce the due charm
of womanhood. Cytherea, on her part, perceived with honest satisfaction
that her influence for good over Miss Aldclyffe was considerable. Ideas
and habits peculiar to the younger, which the elder lady had originally
imitated as a mere whim, she grew in course of time to take a positive
delight in. Among others were evening and morning prayers, dreaming over
out-door scenes, learning a verse from some poem whilst dressing.

Yet try to force her sympathies as much as she would, Cytherea could
feel no more than thankful for this, even if she always felt as much
as thankful. The mysterious cloud hanging over the past life of her
companion, of which the uncertain light already thrown upon it only
seemed to render still darker the unpenetrated remainder, nourished
in her a feeling which was scarcely too slight to be called dread. She
would have infinitely preferred to be treated distantly, as the mere
dependent, by such a changeable nature--like a fountain, always
herself, yet always another. That a crime of any deep dye had ever been
perpetrated or participated in by her namesake, she would not believe;
but the reckless adventuring of the lady’s youth seemed connected with
deeds of darkness rather than of light.

Sometimes Miss Aldclyffe appeared to be on the point of making some
absorbing confidence, but reflection invariably restrained her. Cytherea
hoped that such a confidence would come with time, and that she might
thus be a means of soothing a mind which had obviously known extreme
suffering.

But Miss Aldclyffe’s reticence concerning her past was not imitated by
Cytherea. Though she never disclosed the one fact of her knowledge
that the love-suit between Miss Aldclyffe and her father terminated
abnormally, the maiden’s natural ingenuousness on subjects not set down
for special guard had enabled Miss Aldclyffe to worm from her, fragment
by fragment, every detail of her father’s history. Cytherea saw how
deeply Miss Aldclyffe sympathized--and it compensated her, to some
extent, for the hasty resentments of other times.

Thus uncertainly she lived on. It was perceived by the servants of the
House that some secret bond of connection existed between Miss Aldclyffe
and her companion. But they were woman and woman, not woman and man, the
facts were ethereal and refined, and so they could not be worked up
into a taking story. Whether, as old critics disputed, a supernatural
machinery be necessary to an epic or no, an ungodly machinery is
decidedly necessary to a scandal.

Another letter had come to her from Edward--very short, but full of
entreaty, asking why she would not write just one line--just one line of
cold friendship at least? She then allowed herself to think, little by
little, whether she had not perhaps been too harsh with him; and at last
wondered if he were really much to blame for being engaged to another
woman. ‘Ah, Brain, there is one in me stronger than you!’ she said. The
young maid now continually pulled out his letter, read it and re-read
it, almost crying with pity the while, to think what wretched suspense
he must be enduring at her silence, till her heart chid her for her
cruelty. She felt that she must send him a line--one little line--just a
wee line to keep him alive, poor thing; sighing like Donna Clara--


     ‘Ah, were he now before me,
        In spite of injured pride,
      I fear my eyes would pardon
        Before my tongue could chide.’


2. SEPTEMBER THE TWENTIETH. THREE TO FOUR P.M.

It was the third week in September, about five weeks after Cytherea’s
arrival, when Miss Aldclyffe requested her one day to go through the
village of Carriford and assist herself in collecting the subscriptions
made by some of the inhabitants of the parish to a religious society
she patronized. Miss Aldclyffe formed one of what was called a Ladies’
Association, each member of which collected tributary streams of
shillings from her inferiors, to add to her own pound at the end.

Miss Aldclyffe took particular interest in Cytherea’s appearance that
afternoon, and the object of her attention was, indeed, gratifying
to look at. The sight of the lithe girl, set off by an airy dress,
coquettish jacket, flexible hat, a ray of starlight in each eye and a
war of lilies and roses in each cheek, was a palpable pleasure to the
mistress of the mansion, yet a pleasure which appeared to partake less
of the nature of affectionate satisfaction than of mental gratification.

Eight names were printed in the report as belonging to Miss Aldclyffe’s
list, with the amount of subscription-money attached to each.

‘I will collect the first four, whilst you do the same with the last
four,’ said Miss Aldclyffe.

The names of two tradespeople stood first in Cytherea’s share: then came
a Miss Hinton: last of all in the printed list was Mr. Springrove
the elder. Underneath his name was pencilled, in Miss Aldclyffe’s
handwriting, ‘Mr. Manston.’

Manston had arrived on the estate, in the capacity of steward, three or
four days previously, and occupied the old manor-house, which had been
altered and repaired for his reception.

‘Call on Mr. Manston,’ said the lady impressively, looking at the name
written under Cytherea’s portion of the list.

‘But he does not subscribe yet?’

‘I know it; but call and leave him a report. Don’t forget it.’

‘Say you would be pleased if he would subscribe?’

‘Yes--say I should be pleased if he would,’ repeated Miss Aldclyffe,
smiling. ‘Good-bye. Don’t hurry in your walk. If you can’t get easily
through your task to-day put off some of it till to-morrow.’

Each then started on her rounds: Cytherea going in the first place to
the old manor-house. Mr. Manston was not indoors, which was a relief
to her. She called then on the two gentleman-farmers’ wives, who
soon transacted their business with her, frigidly indifferent to her
personality. A person who socially is nothing is thought less of by
people who are not much than by those who are a great deal.

She then turned towards Peakhill Cottage, the residence of Miss Hinton,
who lived there happily enough, with an elderly servant and a house-dog
as companions. Her father, and last remaining parent, had retired
thither four years before this time, after having filled the post of
editor to the Casterbridge Chronicle for eighteen or twenty years. There
he died soon after, and though comparatively a poor man, he left his
daughter sufficiently well provided for as a modest fundholder and
claimant of sundry small sums in dividends to maintain herself as
mistress at Peakhill.

At Cytherea’s knock an inner door was heard to open and close, and
footsteps crossed the passage hesitatingly. The next minute Cytherea
stood face to face with the lady herself.

Adelaide Hinton was about nine-and-twenty years of age. Her hair
was plentiful, like Cytherea’s own; her teeth equalled Cytherea’s in
regularity and whiteness. But she was much paler, and had features
too transparent to be in place among household surroundings. Her mouth
expressed love less forcibly than Cytherea’s, and, as a natural result
of her greater maturity, her tread was less elastic, and she was more
self-possessed.

She had been a girl of that kind which mothers praise as not forward, by
way of contrast, when disparaging those warmer ones with whom loving is
an end and not a means. Men of forty, too, said of her, ‘a good sensible
wife for any man, if she cares to marry,’ the caring to marry being
thrown in as the vaguest hypothesis, because she was so practical.
Yet it would be singular if, in such cases, the important subject of
marriage should be excluded from manipulation by hands that are ready
for practical performance in every domestic concern besides.

Cytherea was an acquisition, and the greeting was hearty.

‘Good afternoon! O yes--Miss Graye, from Miss Aldclyffe’s. I have seen
you at church, and I am so glad you have called! Come in. I wonder if I
have change enough to pay my subscription.’ She spoke girlishly.

Adelaide, when in the company of a younger woman, always levelled
herself down to that younger woman’s age from a sense of justice to
herself--as if, though not her own age at common law, it was in equity.

‘It doesn’t matter. I’ll come again.’

‘Yes, do at any time; not only on this errand. But you must step in for
a minute. Do.’

‘I have been wanting to come for several weeks.’

‘That’s right. Now you must see my house--lonely, isn’t it, for a single
person? People said it was odd for a young woman like me to keep on a
house; but what did I care? If you knew the pleasure of locking up your
own door, with the sensation that you reigned supreme inside it, you
would say it was worth the risk of being called odd. Mr. Springrove
attends to my gardening, the dog attends to robbers, and whenever there
is a snake or toad to kill, Jane does it.’

‘How nice! It is better than living in a town.’

‘Far better. A town makes a cynic of me.’

The remark recalled, somewhat startlingly, to Cytherea’s mind, that
Edward had used those very words to herself one evening at Budmouth.

Miss Hinton opened an interior door and led her visitor into a small
drawing-room commanding a view of the country for miles.

The missionary business was soon settled; but the chat continued.

‘How lonely it must be here at night!’ said Cytherea. ‘Aren’t you
afraid?’

‘At first I was, slightly. But I got used to the solitude. And you know
a sort of commonsense will creep even into timidity. I say to myself
sometimes at night, “If I were anybody but a harmless woman, not worth
the trouble of a worm’s ghost to appear to me, I should think that every
sound I hear was a spirit.” But you must see all over my house.’

Cytherea was highly interested in seeing.

‘I say you _must_ do this, and you _must_ do that, as if you were a
child,’ remarked Adelaide. ‘A privileged friend of mine tells me this
use of the imperative comes of being so constantly in nobody’s society
but my own.’

‘Ah, yes. I suppose she is right.’

Cytherea called the friend ‘she’ by a rule of ladylike practice; for a
woman’s ‘friend’ is delicately assumed by another friend to be of their
own sex in the absence of knowledge to the contrary; just as cats are
called she’s until they prove themselves he’s.

Miss Hinton laughed mysteriously.

‘I get a humorous reproof for it now and then, I assure you,’ she
continued.

‘“Humorous reproof:” that’s not from a woman: who can reprove humorously
but a man?’ was the groove of Cytherea’s thought at the remark. ‘Your
brother reproves you, I expect,’ said that innocent young lady.

‘No,’ said Miss Hinton, with a candid air. ‘’Tis only a professional man
I am acquainted with.’ She looked out of the window.

Women are persistently imitative. No sooner did a thought flash
through Cytherea’s mind that the man was a lover than she became a Miss
Aldclyffe in a mild form.

‘I imagine he’s a lover,’ she said.

Miss Hinton smiled a smile of experience in that line.

Few women, if taxed with having an admirer, are so free from vanity
as to deny the impeachment, even if it is utterly untrue. When it does
happen to be true, they look pityingly away from the person who is so
benighted as to have got no further than suspecting it.

‘There now--Miss Hinton; you are engaged to be married!’ said Cytherea
accusingly.

Adelaide nodded her head practically. ‘Well, yes, I am,’ she said.

The word ‘engaged’ had no sooner passed Cytherea’s lips than the sound
of it--the mere sound of her own lips--carried her mind to the time and
circumstances under which Miss Aldclyffe had used it towards herself.
A sickening thought followed--based but on a mere surmise; yet its
presence took every other idea away from Cytherea’s mind. Miss Hinton
had used Edward’s words about towns; she mentioned Mr. Springrove as
attending to her garden. It could not be that Edward was the man! that
Miss Aldclyffe had planned to reveal her rival thus!

‘Are you going to be married soon?’ she inquired, with a steadiness the
result of a sort of fascination, but apparently of indifference.

‘Not very soon--still, soon.’

‘Ah-ha! In less than three months?’ said Cytherea.

‘Two.’

Now that the subject was well in hand, Adelaide wanted no more
prompting. ‘You won’t tell anybody if I show you something?’ she said,
with eager mystery.

‘O no, nobody. But does he live in this parish?’

‘No.’

Nothing proved yet.

‘What’s his name?’ said Cytherea flatly. Her breath and heart had begun
their old tricks, and came and went hotly. Miss Hinton could not see her
face.

‘What do you think?’ said Miss Hinton.

‘George?’ said Cytherea, with deceitful agony.

‘No,’ said Adelaide. ‘But now, you shall see him first; come here;’
and she led the way upstairs into her bedroom. There, standing on the
dressing table in a little frame, was the unconscious portrait of Edward
Springrove.

‘There he is,’ Miss Hinton said, and a silence ensued.

‘Are you very fond of him?’ continued the miserable Cytherea at length.

‘Yes, of course I am,’ her companion replied, but in the tone of one who
‘lived in Abraham’s bosom all the year,’ and was therefore untouched by
solemn thought at the fact. ‘He’s my cousin--a native of this village.
We were engaged before my father’s death left me so lonely. I was only
twenty, and a much greater belle than I am now. We know each other
thoroughly, as you may imagine. I give him a little sermonizing now and
then.’

‘Why?’

‘O, it’s only in fun. He’s very naughty sometimes--not really, you
know--but he will look at any pretty face when he sees it.’

Storing up this statement of his susceptibility as another item to
be miserable upon when she had time, ‘How do you know that?’ Cytherea
asked, with a swelling heart.

‘Well, you know how things do come to women’s ears. He used to live at
Budmouth as an assistant-architect, and I found out that a young giddy
thing of a girl who lives there somewhere took his fancy for a day
or two. But I don’t feel jealous at all--our engagement is so
matter-of-fact that neither of us can be jealous. And it was a mere
flirtation--she was too silly for him. He’s fond of rowing, and kindly
gave her an airing for an evening or two. I’ll warrant they talked the
most unmitigated rubbish under the sun--all shallowness and pastime,
just as everything is at watering places--neither of them caring a bit
for the other--she giggling like a goose all the time--’

Concentrated essence of woman pervaded the room rather than air.
‘She _didn’t_! and it _wasn’t_ shallowness!’ Cytherea burst out, with
brimming eyes. ‘’Twas deep deceit on one side, and entire confidence
on the other--yes, it was!’ The pent-up emotion had swollen and swollen
inside the young thing till the dam could no longer embay it. The
instant the words were out she would have given worlds to have been able
to recall them.

‘Do you know her--or him?’ said Miss Hinton, starting with suspicion at
the warmth shown.

The two rivals had now lost their personality quite. There was the same
keen brightness of eye, the same movement of the mouth, the same mind
in both, as they looked doubtingly and excitedly at each other. As is
invariably the case with women when a man they care for is the subject
of an excitement among them, the situation abstracted the differences
which distinguished them as individuals, and left only the properties
common to them as atoms of a sex.

Cytherea caught at the chance afforded her of not betraying herself.
‘Yes, I know her,’ she said.

‘Well,’ said Miss Hinton, ‘I am really vexed if my speaking so lightly
of any friend of yours has hurt your feelings, but--’

‘O, never mind,’ Cytherea returned; ‘it doesn’t matter, Miss Hinton. I
think I must leave you now. I have to call at other places. Yes--I must
go.’

Miss Hinton, in a perplexed state of mind, showed her visitor politely
downstairs to the door. Here Cytherea bade her a hurried adieu, and
flitted down the garden into the lane.

She persevered in her duties with a wayward pleasure in giving herself
misery, as was her wont. Mr. Springrove’s name was next on the list, and
she turned towards his dwelling, the Three Tranters Inn.

3. FOUR TO FIVE P.M.

The cottages along Carriford village street were not so close but that
on one side or other of the road was always a hedge of hawthorn or
privet, over or through which could be seen gardens or orchards rich
with produce. It was about the middle of the early apple-harvest, and
the laden trees were shaken at intervals by the gatherers; the soft
pattering of the falling crop upon the grassy ground being diversified
by the loud rattle of vagrant ones upon a rail, hencoop, basket,
or lean-to roof, or upon the rounded and stooping backs of the
collectors--mostly children, who would have cried bitterly at receiving
such a smart blow from any other quarter, but smilingly assumed it to be
but fun in apples.

The Three Tranters Inn, a many-gabled, mediaeval building, constructed
almost entirely of timber, plaster, and thatch, stood close to the line
of the roadside, almost opposite the churchyard, and was connected
with a row of cottages on the left by thatched outbuildings. It was an
uncommonly characteristic and handsome specimen of the genuine roadside
inn of bygone times; and standing on one of the great highways in this
part of England, had in its time been the scene of as much of what is
now looked upon as the romantic and genial experience of stage-coach
travelling as any halting-place in the country. The railway had absorbed
the whole stream of traffic which formerly flowed through the village
and along by the ancient door of the inn, reducing the empty-handed
landlord, who used only to farm a few fields at the back of the house,
to the necessity of eking out his attenuated income by increasing the
extent of his agricultural business if he would still maintain his
social standing. Next to the general stillness pervading the spot, the
long line of outbuildings adjoining the house was the most striking and
saddening witness to the passed-away fortunes of the Three Tranters Inn.
It was the bulk of the original stabling, and where once the hoofs of
two-score horses had daily rattled over the stony yard, to and from the
stalls within, thick grass now grew, whilst the line of roofs--once so
straight--over the decayed stalls, had sunk into vast hollows till they
seemed like the cheeks of toothless age.

On a green plot at the other end of the building grew two or
three large, wide-spreading elm-trees, from which the sign was
suspended--representing the three men called tranters (irregular
carriers), standing side by side, and exactly alike to a hair’s-breadth,
the grain of the wood and joints of the boards being visible through the
thin paint depicting their forms, which were still further disfigured by
red stains running downwards from the rusty nails above.

Under the trees now stood a cider-mill and press, and upon the spot
sheltered by the boughs were gathered Mr. Springrove himself, his men,
the parish clerk, two or three other men, grinders and supernumeraries,
a woman with an infant in her arms, a flock of pigeons, and some little
boys with straws in their mouths, endeavouring, whenever the men’s backs
were turned, to get a sip of the sweet juice issuing from the vat.

Edward Springrove the elder, the landlord, now more particularly a
farmer, and for two months in the year a cider-maker, was an employer of
labour of the old school, who worked himself among his men. He was now
engaged in packing the pomace into horsehair bags with a rammer, and
Gad Weedy, his man, was occupied in shovelling up more from a tub at
his side. The shovel shone like silver from the action of the juice,
and ever and anon, in its motion to and fro, caught the rays of the
declining sun and reflected them in bristling stars of light.

Mr. Springrove had been too young a man when the pristine days of the
Three Tranters had departed for ever to have much of the host left in
him now. He was a poet with a rough skin: one whose sturdiness was
more the result of external circumstances than of intrinsic nature. Too
kindly constituted to be very provident, he was yet not imprudent.
He had a quiet humorousness of disposition, not out of keeping with a
frequent melancholy, the general expression of his countenance being one
of abstraction. Like Walt Whitman he felt as his years increased--

     ‘I foresee too much; it means more than I thought.’

On the present occasion he wore gaiters and a leathern apron, and worked
with his shirt-sleeves rolled up beyond his elbows, disclosing solid and
fleshy rather than muscular arms. They were stained by the cider, and
two or three brown apple-pips from the pomace he was handling were to be
seen sticking on them here and there.

The other prominent figure was that of Richard Crickett, the parish
clerk, a kind of Bowdlerized rake, who ate only as much as a woman,
and had the rheumatism in his left hand. The remainder of the group,
brown-faced peasants, wore smock-frocks embroidered on the shoulders
with hearts and diamonds, and were girt round their middle with a strap,
another being worn round the right wrist.

‘And have you seen the steward, Mr. Springrove?’ said the clerk.

‘Just a glimpse of him; but ‘twas just enough to show me that he’s not
here for long.’

‘Why mid that be?’

‘He’ll never stand the vagaries of the female figure holden the
reins--not he.’

‘She d’ pay en well,’ said a grinder; ‘and money’s money.’

‘Ah--‘tis: very much so,’ the clerk replied.

‘Yes, yes, naibour Crickett,’ said Springrove, ‘but she’ll vlee in a
passion--all the fat will be in the fire--and there’s an end o’t....
Yes, she is a one,’ continued the farmer, resting, raising his eyes, and
reading the features of a distant apple.

‘She is,’ said Gad, resting too (it is wonderful how prompt a journeyman
is in following his master’s initiative to rest) and reflectively
regarding the ground in front of him.

‘True: a one is she,’ the clerk chimed in, shaking his head ominously.

‘She has such a temper,’ said the farmer, ‘and is so wilful too. You may
as well try to stop a footpath as stop her when she has taken anything
into her head. I’d as soon grind little green crabs all day as live wi’
her.’

‘’Tis a temper she hev, ‘tis,’ the clerk replied, ‘though I be a servant
of the Church that say it. But she isn’t goen to flee in a passion this
time.’

The audience waited for the continuation of the speech, as if they knew
from experience the exact distance off it lay in the future.

The clerk swallowed nothing as if it were a great deal, and then went
on, ‘There’s some’at between ‘em: mark my words, naibours--there’s
some’at between ‘em.’

‘D’ye mean it?’

‘I d’ know it. He came last Saturday, didn’t he?’

‘’A did, truly,’ said Gad Weedy, at the same time taking an apple from
the hopper of the mill, eating a piece, and flinging back the remainder
to be ground up for cider.

‘He went to church a-Sunday,’ said the clerk again.

‘’A did.’

‘And she kept her eye upon en all the service, her face flickeren
between red and white, but never stoppen at either.’

Mr. Springrove nodded, and went to the press.

‘Well,’ said the clerk, ‘you don’t call her the kind o’ woman to make
mistakes in just trotten through the weekly service o’ God? Why, as a
rule she’s as right as I be myself.’

Mr. Springrove nodded again, and gave a twist to the screw of the press,
followed in the movement by Gad at the other side; the two grinders
expressing by looks of the greatest concern that, if Miss Aldclyffe were
as right at church as the clerk, she must be right indeed.

‘Yes, as right in the service o’ God as I be myself,’ repeated the
clerk. ‘But last Sunday, when we were in the tenth commandment, says
she, “Incline our hearts to keep this law,” says she, when ‘twas “Laws
in our hearts, we beseech Thee,” all the church through. Her eye was
upon _him_--she was quite lost--“Hearts to keep this law,” says she; she
was no more than a mere shadder at that tenth time--a mere shadder. You
mi’t ha’ mouthed across to her “Laws in our hearts we beseech Thee,”
 fifty times over--she’d never ha’ noticed ye. She’s in love wi’ the man,
that’s what she is.’

‘Then she’s a bigger stunpoll than I took her for,’ said Mr. Springrove.
‘Why, she’s old enough to be his mother.’

‘The row’ll be between her and that young Curlywig, you’ll see. She
won’t run the risk of that pretty face be-en near.’

‘Clerk Crickett, I d’ fancy you d’ know everything about everybody,’
said Gad.

‘Well so’s,’ said the clerk modestly. ‘I do know a little. It comes to
me.’

‘And I d’ know where from.’

‘Ah.’

‘That wife o’ thine. She’s an entertainen woman, not to speak
disrespectful.’

‘She is: and a winnen one. Look at the husbands she’ve had--God bless
her!’

‘I wonder you could stand third in that list, Clerk Crickett,’ said Mr.
Springrove.

‘Well, ‘t has been a power o’ marvel to myself oftentimes. Yes,
matrimony do begin wi’ “Dearly beloved,” and ends wi’ “Amazement,” as
the prayer-book says. But what could I do, naibour Springrove? ‘Twas
ordained to be. Well do I call to mind what your poor lady said to me
when I had just married. “Ah, Mr. Crickett,” says she, “your wife will
soon settle you as she did her other two: here’s a glass o’ rum, for
I shan’t see your poor face this time next year.” I swallered the rum,
called again next year, and said, “Mrs. Springrove, you gave me a glass
o’ rum last year because I was going to die--here I be alive still, you
see.” “Well said, clerk! Here’s two glasses for you now, then,” says
she. “Thank you, mem,” I said, and swallered the rum. Well, dang my old
sides, next year I thought I’d call again and get three. And call I did.
But she wouldn’t give me a drop o’ the commonest. “No, clerk,” says
she, “you be too tough for a woman’s pity.”... Ah, poor soul, ‘twas true
enough! Here be I, that was expected to die, alive and hard as a nail,
you see, and there’s she moulderen in her grave.’

‘I used to think ‘twas your wife’s fate not to have a liven husband when
I zid ‘em die off so,’ said Gad.

‘Fate? Bless thy simplicity, so ‘twas her fate; but she struggled to
have one, and would, and did. Fate’s nothen beside a woman’s schemen!’

‘I suppose, then, that Fate is a He, like us, and the Lord, and the rest
o’ ‘em up above there,’ said Gad, lifting his eyes to the sky.

‘Hullo! Here’s the young woman comen that we were a-talken about
by-now,’ said a grinder, suddenly interrupting. ‘She’s comen up here, as
I be alive!’

The two grinders stood and regarded Cytherea as if she had been a ship
tacking into a harbour, nearly stopping the mill in their new interest.

‘Stylish accoutrements about the head and shoulders, to my thinken,’
said the clerk. ‘Sheenen curls, and plenty o’ em.’

‘If there’s one kind of pride more excusable than another in a young
woman, ‘tis being proud of her hair,’ said Mr. Springrove.

‘Dear man!--the pride there is only a small piece o’ the whole. I
warrant now, though she can show such a figure, she ha’n’t a stick o’
furniture to call her own.’

‘Come, Clerk Crickett, let the maid be a maid while she is a maid,’ said
Farmer Springrove chivalrously.

‘O,’ replied the servant of the Church; ‘I’ve nothen to say against
it--O no:

     ‘“The chimney-sweeper’s daughter Sue
         As I have heard declare, O,
       Although she’s neither sock nor shoe
         Will curl and deck her hair, O.”’

Cytherea was rather disconcerted at finding that the gradual cessation
of the chopping of the mill was on her account, and still more when she
saw all the cider-makers’ eyes fixed upon her except Mr. Springrove’s,
whose natural delicacy restrained him. She neared the plot of grass, but
instead of advancing further, hesitated on its border.

Mr. Springrove perceived her embarrassment, which was relieved when she
saw his old-established figure coming across to her, wiping his hands in
his apron.

‘I know your errand, missie,’ he said, ‘and am glad to see you, and
attend to it. I’ll step indoors.’

‘If you are busy I am in no hurry for a minute or two,’ said Cytherea.

‘Then if so be you really wouldn’t mind, we’ll wring down this last
filling to let it drain all night?’

‘Not at all. I like to see you.’

‘We are only just grinding down the early pickthongs and griffins,’
continued the farmer, in a half-apologetic tone for detaining by
his cider-making any well-dressed woman. ‘They rot as black as a
chimney-crook if we keep ‘em till the regulars turn in.’ As he spoke he
went back to the press, Cytherea keeping at his elbow. ‘I’m later than
I should have been by rights,’ he continued, taking up a lever for
propelling the screw, and beckoning to the men to come forward.
‘The truth is, my son Edward had promised to come to-day, and I made
preparations; but instead of him comes a letter: “London, September the
eighteenth, Dear Father,” says he, and went on to tell me he couldn’t.
It threw me out a bit.’

‘Of course,’ said Cytherea.

‘He’s got a place ‘a b’lieve?’ said the clerk, drawing near.

‘No, poor mortal fellow, no. He tried for this one here, you know, but
couldn’t manage to get it. I don’t know the rights o’ the matter, but
willy-nilly they wouldn’t have him for steward. Now mates, form in
line.’

Springrove, the clerk, the grinders, and Gad, all ranged themselves
behind the lever of the screw, and walked round like soldiers wheeling.

‘The man that the old quean hev got is a man you can hardly get upon
your tongue to gainsay, by the look o’ en,’ rejoined Clerk Crickett.

‘One o’ them people that can contrive to be thought no worse o’ for
stealen a horse than another man for looken over hedge at en,’ said a
grinder.

‘Well, he’s all there as steward, and is quite the gentleman--no doubt
about that.’

‘So would my Ted ha’ been, for the matter o’ that,’ the farmer said.

‘That’s true: ‘a would, sir.’

‘I said, I’ll give Ted a good education if it do cost me my eyes, and I
would have done it.’

‘Ay, that you would so,’ said the chorus of assistants solemnly.

‘But he took to books and drawing naturally, and cost very little;
and as a wind-up the womenfolk hatched up a match between him and his
cousin.’

‘When’s the wedden to be, Mr. Springrove?’

‘Uncertain--but soon, I suppose. Edward, you see, can do anything pretty
nearly, and yet can’t get a straightforward living. I wish sometimes I
had kept him here, and let professions go. But he was such a one for the
pencil.’

He dropped the lever in the hedge, and turned to his visitor.

‘Now then, missie, if you’ll come indoors, please.’

Gad Weedy looked with a placid criticism at Cytherea as she withdrew
with the farmer.

‘I could tell by the tongue o’ her that she didn’t take her degrees in
our county,’ he said in an undertone.


‘The railways have left you lonely here,’ she observed, when they were
indoors.

Save the withered old flies, which were quite tame from the solitude,
not a being was in the house. Nobody seemed to have entered it since the
last passenger had been called out to mount the last stage-coach that
had run by.

‘Yes, the Inn and I seem almost a pair of fossils,’ the farmer replied,
looking at the room and then at himself.

‘O, Mr. Springrove,’ said Cytherea, suddenly recollecting herself; ‘I am
much obliged to you for recommending me to Miss Aldclyffe.’ She began to
warm towards the old man; there was in him a gentleness of disposition
which reminded her of her own father.

‘Recommending? Not at all, miss. Ted--that’s my son--Ted said a
fellow-draughtsman of his had a sister who wanted to be doing something
in the world, and I mentioned it to the housekeeper, that’s all. Ay, I
miss my son very much.’

She kept her back to the window that he might not see her rising colour.

‘Yes,’ he continued, ‘sometimes I can’t help feeling uneasy about him.
You know, he seems not made for a town life exactly: he gets very queer
over it sometimes, I think. Perhaps he’ll be better when he’s married to
Adelaide.’

A half-impatient feeling arose in her, like that which possesses a
sick person when he hears a recently-struck hour struck again by a slow
clock. She had lived further on.

‘Everything depends upon whether he loves her,’ she said tremulously.

‘He used to--he doesn’t show it so much now; but that’s because he’s
older. You see, it was several years ago they first walked together as
young man and young woman. She’s altered too from what she was when he
first courted her.’

‘How, sir?’

‘O, she’s more sensible by half. When he used to write to her she’d
creep up the lane and look back over her shoulder, and slide out the
letter, and read a word and stand in thought looking at the hills and
seeing none. Then the cuckoo would cry--away the letter would slip, and
she’d start wi’ fright at the mere bird, and have a red skin before the
quickest man among ye could say, “Blood rush up.”’

He came forward with the money and dropped it into her hand. His
thoughts were still with Edward, and he absently took her little fingers
in his as he said, earnestly and ingenuously--

‘’Tis so seldom I get a gentlewoman to speak to that I can’t help
speaking to you, Miss Graye, on my fears for Edward; I sometimes am
afraid that he’ll never get on--that he’ll die poor and despised under
the worst mental conditions, a keen sense of having been passed in the
race by men whose brains are nothing to his own, all through his seeing
too far into things--being discontented with make-shifts--thinking o’
perfection in things, and then sickened that there’s no such thing as
perfection. I shan’t be sorry to see him marry, since it may settle him
down and do him good.... Ay, we’ll hope for the best.’

He let go her hand and accompanied her to the door saying, ‘If you
should care to walk this way and talk to an old man once now and then,
it will be a great delight to him, Miss Graye. Good-evening to ye.... Ah
look! a thunderstorm is brewing--be quick home. Or shall I step up with
you?’

‘No, thank you, Mr. Springrove. Good evening,’ she said in a low voice,
and hurried away. One thought still possessed her; Edward had trifled
with her love.

4. FIVE TO SIX P.M.

She followed the road into a bower of trees, overhanging it so densely
that the pass appeared like a rabbit’s burrow, and presently reached a
side entrance to the park. The clouds rose more rapidly than the
farmer had anticipated: the sheep moved in a trail, and complained
incoherently. Livid grey shades, like those of the modern French
painters, made a mystery of the remote and dark parts of the vista, and
seemed to insist upon a suspension of breath. Before she was half-way
across the park the thunder rumbled distinctly.

The direction in which she had to go would take her close by the old
manor-house. The air was perfectly still, and between each low rumble of
the thunder behind she could hear the roar of the waterfall before her,
and the creak of the engine among the bushes hard by it. Hurrying on,
with a growing dread of the gloom and of the approaching storm, she drew
near the Old House, now rising before her against the dark foliage and
sky in tones of strange whiteness.

On the flight of steps, which descended from a terrace in front to the
level of the park, stood a man. He appeared, partly from the relief the
position gave to his figure, and partly from fact, to be of towering
height. He was dark in outline, and was looking at the sky, with his
hands behind him.

It was necessary for Cytherea to pass directly across the line of his
front. She felt so reluctant to do this, that she was about to turn
under the trees out of the path and enter it again at a point beyond
the Old House; but he had seen her, and she came on mechanically,
unconsciously averting her face a little, and dropping her glance to the
ground.

Her eyes unswervingly lingered along the path until they fell upon
another path branching in a right line from the path she was pursuing.
It came from the steps of the Old House. ‘I am exactly opposite him
now,’ she thought, ‘and his eyes are going through me.’

A clear masculine voice said, at the same instant--

‘Are you afraid?’

She, interpreting his question by her feelings at the moment, assumed
himself to be the object of fear, if any. ‘I don’t think I am,’ she
stammered.

He seemed to know that she thought in that sense.

‘Of the thunder, I mean,’ he said; ‘not of myself.’

She must turn to him now. ‘I think it is going to rain,’ she remarked
for the sake of saying something.

He could not conceal his surprise and admiration of her face and
bearing. He said courteously, ‘It may possibly not rain before you reach
the House, if you are going there?’

‘Yes, I am,’

‘May I walk up with you? It is lonely under the trees.’

‘No.’ Fearing his courtesy arose from a belief that he was addressing a
woman of higher station than was hers, she added, ‘I am Miss Aldclyffe’s
companion. I don’t mind the loneliness.’

‘O, Miss Aldclyffe’s companion. Then will you be kind enough to take a
subscription to her? She sent to me this afternoon to ask me to become
a subscriber to her Society, and I was out. Of course I’ll subscribe if
she wishes it. I take a great interest in the Society.’

‘Miss Aldclyffe will be glad to hear that, I know.’

‘Yes; let me see--what Society did she say it was? I am afraid I haven’t
enough money in my pocket, and yet it would be a satisfaction to her to
have practical proof of my willingness. I’ll get it, and be out in one
minute.’

He entered the house and was at her side again within the time he had
named. ‘This is it,’ he said pleasantly.

She held up her hand. The soft tips of his fingers brushed the palm of
her glove as he placed the money within it. She wondered why his fingers
should have touched her.

‘I think after all,’ he continued, ‘that the rain is upon us, and will
drench you before you reach the House. Yes: see there.’

He pointed to a round wet spot as large as a nasturtium leaf, which had
suddenly appeared upon the white surface of the step.

‘You had better come into the porch. It is not nearly night yet. The
clouds make it seem later than it really is.’

Heavy drops of rain, followed immediately by a forked flash of lightning
and sharp rattling thunder compelled her, willingly or no, to accept
his invitation. She ascended the steps, stood beside him just within the
porch, and for the first time obtained a series of short views of his
person, as they waited there in silence.

He was an extremely handsome man, well-formed, and well-dressed, of an
age which seemed to be two or three years less than thirty. The
most striking point in his appearance was the wonderful, almost
preternatural, clearness of his complexion. There was not a blemish or
speck of any kind to mar the smoothness of its surface or the beauty of
its hue. Next, his forehead was square and broad, his brows straight
and firm, his eyes penetrating and clear. By collecting the round of
expressions they gave forth, a person who theorized on such matters
would have imbibed the notion that their owner was of a nature to kick
against the pricks; the last man in the world to put up with a position
because it seemed to be his destiny to do so; one who took upon himself
to resist fate with the vindictive determination of a Theomachist.
Eyes and forehead both would have expressed keenness of intellect too
severely to be pleasing, had their force not been counteracted by the
lines and tone of the lips. These were full and luscious to a surprising
degree, possessing a woman-like softness of curve, and a ruby redness
so intense, as to testify strongly to much susceptibility of heart where
feminine beauty was concerned--a susceptibility that might require
all the ballast of brain with which he had previously been credited to
confine within reasonable channels.

His manner was rather elegant than good: his speech well-finished and
unconstrained.

The pause in their discourse, which had been caused by the peal of
thunder was unbroken by either for a minute or two, during which
the ears of both seemed to be absently following the low roar of the
waterfall as it became gradually rivalled by the increasing rush of rain
upon the trees and herbage of the grove. After her short looks at him,
Cytherea had turned her head towards the avenue for a while, and now,
glancing back again for an instant, she discovered that his eyes were
engaged in a steady, though delicate, regard of her face and form.

At this moment, by reason of the narrowness of the porch, their dresses
touched, and remained in contact.

His clothes are something exterior to every man; but to a woman
her dress is part of her body. Its motions are all present to her
intelligence if not to her eyes; no man knows how his coat-tails swing.
By the slightest hyperbole it may be said that her dress has sensation.
Crease but the very Ultima Thule of fringe or flounce, and it hurts her
as much as pinching her. Delicate antennae, or feelers, bristle on every
outlying frill. Go to the uppermost: she is there; tread on the lowest:
the fair creature is there almost before you.

Thus the touch of clothes, which was nothing to Manston, sent a thrill
through Cytherea, seeing, moreover, that he was of the nature of a
mysterious stranger. She looked out again at the storm, but still felt
him. At last to escape the sensation she moved away, though by so doing
it was necessary to advance a little into the rain.

‘Look, the rain is coming into the porch upon you,’ he said. ‘Step
inside the door.’

Cytherea hesitated.

‘Perfectly safe, I assure you,’ he added, laughing, and holding the door
open. ‘You shall see what a state of disorganization I am in--boxes on
boxes, furniture, straw, crockery, in every form of transposition. An
old woman is in the back quarters somewhere, beginning to put things to
rights.... You know the inside of the house, I dare say?’

‘I have never been in.’

‘O well, come along. Here, you see, they have made a door through, here,
they have put a partition dividing the old hall into two, one part is
now my parlour; there they have put a plaster ceiling, hiding the old
chestnut-carved roof because it was too high and would have been chilly
for me; you see, being the original hall, it was open right up to the
top, and here the lord of the manor and his retainers used to meet and
be merry by the light from the monstrous fire which shone out from
that monstrous fire-place, now narrowed to a mere nothing for my grate,
though you can see the old outline still. I almost wish I could have had
it in its original state.’

‘With more romance and less comfort.’

‘Yes, exactly. Well, perhaps the wish is not deep-seated. You will see
how the things are tumbled in anyhow, packing-cases and all. The only
piece of ornamental furniture yet unpacked is this one.’

‘An organ?’

‘Yes, an organ. I made it myself, except the pipes. I opened the case
this afternoon to commence soothing myself at once. It is not a very
large one, but quite big enough for a private house. You play, I dare
say?’

‘The piano. I am not at all used to an organ.’

‘You would soon acquire the touch for an organ, though it would spoil
your touch for the piano. Not that that matters a great deal. A piano
isn’t much as an instrument.’

‘It is the fashion to say so now. I think it is quite good enough.’

‘That isn’t altogether a right sentiment about things being good
enough.’

‘No--no. What I mean is, that the men who despise pianos do it as a rule
from their teeth, merely for fashion’s sake, because cleverer men have
said it before them--not from the experience of their ears.’

Now Cytherea all at once broke into a blush at the consciousness of a
great snub she had been guilty of in her eagerness to explain herself.
He charitably expressed by a look that he did not in the least mind her
blunder, if it were one; and this attitude forced him into a position of
mental superiority which vexed her.

‘I play for my private amusement only,’ he said. ‘I have never learned
scientifically. All I know is what I taught myself.’

The thunder, lightning, and rain had now increased to a terrific
force. The clouds, from which darts, forks, zigzags, and balls of fire
continually sprang, did not appear to be more than a hundred yards above
their heads, and every now and then a flash and a peal made gaps in the
steward’s descriptions. He went towards the organ, in the midst of a
volley which seemed to shake the aged house from foundations to chimney.

‘You are not going to play now, are you?’ said Cytherea uneasily.

‘O yes. Why not now?’ he said. ‘You can’t go home, and therefore we may
as well be amused, if you don’t mind sitting on this box. The few chairs
I have unpacked are in the other room.’

Without waiting to see whether she sat down or not, he turned to the
organ and began extemporizing a harmony which meandered through every
variety of expression of which the instrument was capable. Presently he
ceased and began searching for some music-book.

‘What a splendid flash!’ he said, as the lightning again shone in
through the mullioned window, which, of a proportion to suit the whole
extent of the original hall, was much too large for the present room.
The thunder pealed again. Cytherea, in spite of herself, was frightened,
not only at the weather, but at the general unearthly weirdness which
seemed to surround her there.

‘I wish I--the lightning wasn’t so bright. Do you think it will last
long?’ she said timidly.

‘It can’t last much longer,’ he murmured, without turning, running
his fingers again over the keys. ‘But this is nothing,’ he continued,
suddenly stopping and regarding her. ‘It seems brighter because of
the deep shadow under those trees yonder. Don’t mind it; now look at
me--look in my face--now.’

He had faced the window, looking fixedly at the sky with his dark strong
eyes. She seemed compelled to do as she was bidden, and looked in the
too-delicately beautiful face.

The flash came; but he did not turn or blink, keeping his eyes fixed as
firmly as before. ‘There,’ he said, turning to her, ‘that’s the way to
look at lightning.’

‘O, it might have blinded you!’ she exclaimed.

‘Nonsense--not lightning of this sort--I shouldn’t have stared at it
if there had been danger. It is only sheet-lightning now. Now, will you
have another piece? Something from an oratorio this time?’

‘No, thank you--I don’t want to hear it whilst it thunders so.’ But he
had begun without heeding her answer, and she stood motionless again,
marvelling at the wonderful indifference to all external circumstance
which was now evinced by his complete absorption in the music before
him.

‘Why do you play such saddening chords?’ she said, when he next paused.

‘H’m--because I like them, I suppose,’ said he lightly. ‘Don’t you like
sad impressions sometimes?’

‘Yes, sometimes, perhaps.’

‘When you are full of trouble.’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, why shouldn’t I when I am full of trouble?’

‘Are you troubled?’

‘I am troubled.’ He said this thoughtfully and abruptly--so abruptly
that she did not push the dialogue further.

He now played more powerfully. Cytherea had never heard music in the
completeness of full orchestral power, and the tones of the organ, which
reverberated with considerable effect in the comparatively small space
of the room, heightened by the elemental strife of light and sound
outside, moved her to a degree out of proportion to the actual power
of the mere notes, practised as was the hand that produced them.
The varying strains--now loud, now soft; simple, complicated, weird,
touching, grand, boisterous, subdued; each phase distinct, yet
modulating into the next with a graceful and easy flow--shook and bent
her to themselves, as a gushing brook shakes and bends a shadow cast
across its surface. The power of the music did not show itself so much
by attracting her attention to the subject of the piece, as by taking
up and developing as its libretto the poem of her own life and soul,
shifting her deeds and intentions from the hands of her judgment and
holding them in its own.

She was swayed into emotional opinions concerning the strange man before
her; new impulses of thought came with new harmonies, and entered into
her with a gnawing thrill. A dreadful flash of lightning then, and the
thunder close upon it. She found herself involuntarily shrinking up
beside him, and looking with parted lips at his face.

He turned his eyes and saw her emotion, which greatly increased the
ideal element in her expressive face. She was in the state in which
woman’s instinct to conceal has lost its power over her impulse to tell;
and he saw it. Bending his handsome face over her till his lips almost
touched her ear, he murmured, without breaking the harmonies--

‘Do you very much like this piece?’

‘Very much indeed,’ she said.

‘I could see you were affected by it. I will copy it for you.’

‘Thank you much.’

‘I will bring it to the House to you to-morrow. Who shall I ask for?’

‘O, not for me. Don’t bring it,’ she said hastily. ‘I shouldn’t like you
to.’

‘Let me see--to-morrow evening at seven or a few minutes past I shall be
passing the waterfall on my way home. I could conveniently give it you
there, and I should like you to have it.’

He modulated into the Pastoral Symphony, still looking in her eyes.

‘Very well,’ she said, to get rid of the look.

The storm had by this time considerably decreased in violence, and in
seven or ten minutes the sky partially cleared, the clouds around the
western horizon becoming lighted up with the rays of the sinking sun.

Cytherea drew a long breath of relief, and prepared to go away. She was
full of a distressing sense that her detention in the old manor-house,
and the acquaintanceship it had set on foot, was not a thing she wished.
It was such a foolish thing to have been excited and dragged into
frankness by the wiles of a stranger.

‘Allow me to come with you,’ he said, accompanying her to the door, and
again showing by his behaviour how much he was impressed with her. His
influence over her had vanished with the musical chords, and she turned
her back upon him. ‘May I come?’ he repeated.

‘No, no. The distance is not a quarter of a mile--it is really not
necessary, thank you,’ she said quietly. And wishing him good-evening,
without meeting his eyes, she went down the steps, leaving him standing
at the door.

‘O, how is it that man has so fascinated me?’ was all she could think.
Her own self, as she had sat spell-bound before him, was all she could
see. Her gait was constrained, from the knowledge that his eyes were
upon her until she had passed the hollow by the waterfall, and by
ascending the rise had become hidden from his view by the boughs of the
overhanging trees.

5. SIX TO SEVEN P.M.

The wet shining road threw the western glare into her eyes with an
invidious lustre which rendered the restlessness of her mood more
wearying. Her thoughts flew from idea to idea without asking for the
slightest link of connection between one and another. One moment she
was full of the wild music and stirring scene with Manston---the next,
Edward’s image rose before her like a shadowy ghost. Then Manston’s
black eyes seemed piercing her again, and the reckless voluptuous mouth
appeared bending to the curves of his special words. What could be those
troubles to which he had alluded? Perhaps Miss Aldclyffe was at the
bottom of them. Sad at heart she paced on: her life was bewildering her.

On coming into Miss Aldclyffe’s presence Cytherea told her of the
incident, not without a fear that she would burst into one of her
ungovernable fits of temper at learning Cytherea’s slight departure
from the programme. But, strangely to Cytherea, Miss Aldclyffe looked
delighted. The usual cross-examination followed.

‘And so you were with him all that time?’ said the lady, with assumed
severity.

‘Yes, I was.’

‘I did not tell you to call at the Old House twice.’

‘I didn’t call, as I have said. He made me come into the porch.’

‘What remarks did he make, do you say?’

‘That the lightning was not so bad as I thought.’

‘A very important remark, that. Did he--’ she turned her glance full
upon the girl, and eyeing her searchingly, said--

‘Did he say anything about _me_?’

‘Nothing,’ said Cytherea, returning her gaze calmly, ‘except that I was
to give you the subscription.’

‘You are quite sure?’

‘Quite.’

‘I believe you. Did he say anything striking or strange about himself?’

‘Only one thing--that he was troubled,’

‘Troubled!’

After saying the word, Miss Aldclyffe relapsed into silence. Such
behaviour as this had ended, on most previous occasions, by her making
a confession, and Cytherea expected one now. But for once she was
mistaken, nothing more was said.

When she had returned to her room she sat down and penned a farewell
letter to Edward Springrove, as little able as any other excitable
and brimming young woman of nineteen to feel that the wisest and only
dignified course at that juncture was to do nothing at all. She told
him that, to her painful surprise, she had learnt that his engagement
to another woman was a matter of notoriety. She insisted that all honour
bade him marry his early love--a woman far better than her unworthy
self, who only deserved to be forgotten, and begged him to remember
that he was not to see her face again. She upbraided him for levity
and cruelty in meeting her so frequently at Budmouth, and above all
in stealing the kiss from her lips on the last evening of the water
excursions. ‘I never, never can forget it!’ she said, and then felt a
sensation of having done her duty, ostensibly persuading herself that
her reproaches and commands were of such a force that no man to whom
they were uttered could ever approach her more.

Yet it was all unconsciously said in words which betrayed a lingering
tenderness of love at every unguarded turn. Like Beatrice accusing
Dante from the chariot, try as she might to play the superior being
who contemned such mere eye-sensuousness, she betrayed at every point
a pretty woman’s jealousy of a rival, and covertly gave her old lover
hints for excusing himself at each fresh indictment.

This done, Cytherea, still in a practical mood, upbraided herself with
weakness in allowing a stranger like Mr. Manston to influence her as he
had done that evening. What right on earth had he to suggest so suddenly
that she might meet him at the waterfall to receive his music? She would
have given much to be able to annihilate the ascendency he had obtained
over her during that extraordinary interval of melodious sound. Not
being able to endure the notion of his living a minute longer in the
belief he was then holding, she took her pen and wrote to him also:--


                      ‘KNAPWATER HOUSE
                         September 20th.

  ‘I find I cannot meet you at seven o’clock by the waterfall as I
  promised. The emotion I felt made me forgetful of realities.

                          ‘C. GRAYE.’


A great statesman thinks several times, and acts; a young lady acts,
and thinks several times. When, a few minutes later, she saw the postman
carry off the bag containing one of the letters, and a messenger with
the other, she, for the first time, asked herself the question whether
she had acted very wisely in writing to either of the two men who had so
influenced her.



IX. THE EVENTS OF TEN WEEKS

1. FROM SEPTEMBER THE TWENTY-FIRST TO THE MIDDLE OF NOVEMBER

The foremost figure within Cytherea’s horizon, exclusive of the inmates
of Knapwater House, was now the steward, Mr. Manston. It was impossible
that they should live within a quarter of a mile of each other, be
engaged in the same service, and attend the same church, without meeting
at some spot or another, twice or thrice a week. On Sundays, in her
pew, when by chance she turned her head, Cytherea found his eyes waiting
desirously for a glimpse of hers, and, at first more strangely, the eyes
of Miss Aldclyffe furtively resting on him. On coming out of church he
frequently walked beside Cytherea till she reached the gate at
which residents in the House turned into the shrubbery. By degrees a
conjecture grew to a certainty. She knew that he loved her.

But a strange fact was connected with the development of his love. He
was palpably making the strongest efforts to subdue, or at least to
hide, the weakness, and as it sometimes seemed, rather from his own
conscience than from surrounding eyes. Hence she found that not one
of his encounters with her was anything more than the result of pure
accident. He made no advances whatever: without avoiding her, he never
sought her: the words he had whispered at their first interview now
proved themselves to be quite as much the result of unguarded impulse as
was her answer. Something held him back, bound his impulse down, but
she saw that it was neither pride of his person, nor fear that she would
refuse him--a course she unhesitatingly resolved to take should he think
fit to declare himself. She was interested in him and his marvellous
beauty, as she might have been in some fascinating panther or
leopard--for some undefinable reason she shrank from him, even whilst
she admired. The keynote of her nature, a warm ‘precipitance of soul,’
as Coleridge happily writes it, which Manston had so directly pounced
upon at their very first interview, gave her now a tremulous sense of
being in some way in his power.

The state of mind was, on the whole, a dangerous one for a young and
inexperienced woman; and perhaps the circumstance which, more than any
other, led her to cherish Edward’s image now, was that he had taken no
notice of the receipt of her letter, stating that she discarded him. It
was plain then, she said, that he did not care deeply for her, and she
thereupon could not quite leave off caring deeply for him:--

                  ‘Ingenium mulierum,
              Nolunt ubi velis, ubi nolis cupiunt ultro.’

The month of October passed, and November began its course. The
inhabitants of the village of Carriford grew weary of supposing that
Miss Aldclyffe was going to marry her steward. New whispers arose and
became very distinct (though they did not reach Miss Aldclyffe’s ears)
to the effect that the steward was deeply in love with Cytherea Graye.
Indeed, the fact became so obvious that there was nothing left to
say about it except that their marriage would be an excellent one for
both;--for her in point of comfort--and for him in point of love.

As circles in a pond grow wider and wider, the next fact, which at first
had been patent only to Cytherea herself, in due time spread to her
neighbours, and they, too, wondered that he made no overt advances. By
the middle of November, a theory made up of a combination of the other
two was received with general favour: its substance being that a guilty
intrigue had been commenced between Manston and Miss Aldclyffe, some
years before, when he was a very young man, and she still in the
enjoyment of some womanly beauty, but now that her seniority began
to grow emphatic she was becoming distasteful to him. His fear of the
effect of the lady’s jealousy would, they said, thus lead him to conceal
from her his new attachment to Cytherea. Almost the only woman who did
not believe this was Cytherea herself, on unmistakable grounds, which
were hidden from all besides. It was not only in public, but even more
markedly in secluded places, on occasions when gallantry would have been
safe from all discovery, that this guarded course of action was pursued,
all the strength of a consuming passion burning in his eyes the while.

2. NOVEMBER THE EIGHTEENTH

It was on a Friday in this month of November that Owen Graye paid a
visit to his sister.

His zealous integrity still retained for him the situation at Budmouth,
and in order that there should be as little interruption as possible to
his duties there, he had decided not to come to Knapwater till late in
the afternoon, and to return to Budmouth by the first train the next
morning, Miss Aldclyffe having made a point of frequently offering him
lodging for an unlimited period, to the great pleasure of Cytherea.

He reached the house about four o’clock, and ringing the bell, asked of
the page who answered it for Miss Graye.

When Graye spoke the name of his sister, Manston, who was just coming
out from an interview with Miss Aldclyffe, passed him in the vestibule
and heard the question. The steward’s face grew hot, and he secretly
clenched his hands. He half crossed the court, then turned his head and
saw that the lad still stood at the door, though Owen had been shown
into the house. Manston went back to him.

‘Who was that man?’ he said.

‘I don’t know, sir.’

‘Has he ever been here before?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘How many times?’

‘Three.’

‘You are sure you don’t know him?’

‘I think he is Miss Graye’s brother, sir.’

‘Then, why the devil didn’t you say so before!’ Manston exclaimed, and
again went on his way.

‘Of course, that was not the man of my dreams--of course, it couldn’t
be!’ he said to himself. ‘That I should be such a fool--such an utter
fool. Good God! to allow a girl to influence me like this, day after
day, till I am jealous of her very brother. A lady’s dependent, a waif,
a helpless thing entirely at the mercy of the world; yes, curse it; that
is just why it is; that fact of her being so helpless against the blows
of circumstances which renders her so deliciously sweet!’

He paused opposite his house. Should he get his horse saddled? No.

He went down the drive and out of the park, having started to proceed to
an outlying spot on the estate concerning some draining, and to call at
the potter’s yard to make an arrangement for the supply of pipes. But a
remark which Miss Aldclyffe had dropped in relation to Cytherea was
what still occupied his mind, and had been the immediate cause of his
excitement at the sight of her brother. Miss Aldclyffe had meaningly
remarked during their intercourse, that Cytherea was wildly in love with
Edward Springrove, in spite of his engagement to his cousin Adelaide.

‘How I am harassed!’ he said aloud, after deep thought for half-an-hour,
while still continuing his walk with the greatest vehemence. ‘How I am
harassed by these emotions of mine!’ He calmed himself by an effort.
‘Well, duty after all it shall be, as nearly as I can effect it.
“Honesty is the best policy;”’ with which vigorously uttered resolve
he once more attempted to turn his attention to the prosy object of his
journey.

The evening had closed in to a dark and dreary night when the steward
came from the potter’s door to proceed homewards again. The gloom did
not tend to raise his spirits, and in the total lack of objects to
attract his eye, he soon fell to introspection as before. It was along
the margin of turnip fields that his path lay, and the large leaves of
the crop struck flatly against his feet at every step, pouring upon them
the rolling drops of moisture gathered upon their broad surfaces; but
the annoyance was unheeded. Next reaching a fir plantation, he mounted
the stile and followed the path into the midst of the darkness produced
by the overhanging trees.

After walking under the dense shade of the inky boughs for a few
minutes, he fancied he had mistaken the path, which as yet was scarcely
familiar to him. This was proved directly afterwards by his coming
at right angles upon some obstruction, which careful feeling with
outstretched hands soon told him to be a rail fence. However, as the
wood was not large, he experienced no alarm about finding the path
again, and with some sense of pleasure halted awhile against the rails,
to listen to the intensely melancholy yet musical wail of the fir-tops,
and as the wind passed on, the prompt moan of an adjacent plantation in
reply. He could just dimly discern the airy summits of the two or
three trees nearest him waving restlessly backwards and forwards, and
stretching out their boughs like hairy arms into the dull sky. The
scene, from its striking and emphatic loneliness, began to grow
congenial to his mood; all of human kind seemed at the antipodes.

A sudden rattle on his right hand caused him to start from his reverie,
and turn in that direction. There, before him, he saw rise up from among
the trees a fountain of sparks and smoke, then a red glare of light
coming forward towards him; then a flashing panorama of illuminated
oblong pictures; then the old darkness, more impressive than ever.

The surprise, which had owed its origin to his imperfect acquaintance
with the topographical features of that end of the estate, had been but
momentary; the disturbance, a well-known one to dwellers by a railway,
being caused by the 6.50 down-train passing along a shallow cutting
in the midst of the wood immediately below where he stood, the driver
having the fire-door of the engine open at the minute of going by. The
train had, when passing him, already considerably slackened speed, and
now a whistle was heard, announcing that Carriford Road Station was not
far in its van.

But contrary to the natural order of things, the discovery that it
was only a commonplace train had not caused Manston to stir from his
position of facing the railway.

If the 6.50 down-train had been a flash of forked lightning transfixing
him to the earth, he could scarcely have remained in a more trance-like
state. He still leant against the railings, his right hand still
continued pressing on his walking-stick, his weight on one foot, his
other heel raised, his eyes wide open towards the blackness of the
cutting. The only movement in him was a slight dropping of the lower
jaw, separating his previously closed lips a little way, as when a
strange conviction rushes home suddenly upon a man. A new surprise, not
nearly so trivial as the first, had taken possession of him.

It was on this account. At one of the illuminated windows of a
second-class carriage in the series gone by, he had seen a pale face,
reclining upon one hand, the light from the lamp falling full upon it.
The face was a woman’s.

At last Manston moved; gave a whispering kind of whistle, adjusted his
hat, and walked on again, cross-questioning himself in every direction
as to how a piece of knowledge he had carefully concealed had found its
way to another person’s intelligence. ‘How can my address have become
known?’ he said at length, audibly. ‘Well, it is a blessing I have been
circumspect and honourable, in relation to that--yes, I will say it, for
once, even if the words choke me, that darling of mine, Cytherea, never
to be my own, never. I suppose all will come out now. All!’ The great
sadness of his utterance proved that no mean force had been exercised
upon himself to sustain the circumspection he had just claimed.

He wheeled to the left, pursued the ditch beside the railway fence, and
presently emerged from the wood, stepping into a road which crossed the
railway by a bridge.

As he neared home, the anxiety lately written in his face, merged by
degrees into a grimly humorous smile, which hung long upon his lips, and
he quoted aloud a line from the book of Jeremiah--

     ‘A woman shall compass a man.’

3. NOVEMBER THE NINETEENTH. DAYBREAK

Before it was light the next morning, two little naked feet pattered
along the passage in Knapwater House, from which Owen Graye’s bedroom
opened, and a tap was given upon his door.

‘Owen, Owen, are you awake?’ said Cytherea in a whisper through the
keyhole. ‘You must get up directly, or you’ll miss the train.’

When he descended to his sister’s little room, he found her there
already waiting with a cup of cocoa and a grilled rasher on the table
for him. A hasty meal was despatched in the intervals of putting on his
overcoat and finding his hat, and they then went softly through the long
deserted passages, the kitchen-maid who had prepared their breakfast
walking before them with a lamp held high above her head, which cast
long wheeling shadows down corridors intersecting the one they followed,
their remoter ends being lost in darkness. The door was unbolted and
they stepped out.

Owen had preferred walking to the station to accepting the pony-carriage
which Miss Aldclyffe had placed at his disposal, having a morbid horror
of giving trouble to people richer than himself, and especially to their
men-servants, who looked down upon him as a hybrid monster in social
position. Cytherea proposed to walk a little way with him.

‘I want to talk to you as long as I can,’ she said tenderly.

Brother and sister then emerged by the heavy door into the drive. The
feeling and aspect of the hour were precisely similar to those under
which the steward had left the house the evening previous, excepting
that apparently unearthly reversal of natural sequence, which is caused
by the world getting lighter instead of darker. ‘The tearful glimmer of
the languid dawn’ was just sufficient to reveal to them the melancholy
red leaves, lying thickly in the channels by the roadside, ever and anon
loudly tapped on by heavy drops of water, which the boughs above had
collected from the foggy air.

They passed the Old House, engaged in a deep conversation, and had
proceeded about twenty yards by a cross route, in the direction of the
turnpike road, when the form of a woman emerged from the porch of the
building.

She was wrapped in a grey waterproof cloak, the hood of which was drawn
over her head and closely round her face--so closely that her eyes were
the sole features uncovered.

With this one exception of her appearance there, the most perfect
stillness and silence pervaded the steward’s residence from basement to
chimney. Not a shutter was open; not a twine of smoke came forth.

Underneath the ivy-covered gateway she stood still and listened for two,
or possibly three minutes, till she became conscious of others in the
park. Seeing the pair she stepped back, with the apparent intention
of letting them pass out of sight, and evidently wishing to avoid
observation. But looking at her watch, and returning it rapidly to her
pocket, as if surprised at the lateness of the hour, she hurried out
again, and across the park by a still more oblique line than that traced
by Owen and his sister.

These in the meantime had got into the road, and were walking along it
as the woman came up on the other side of the boundary hedge, looking
for a gate or stile, by which she, too, might get off the grass upon the
hard ground.

Their conversation, of which every word was clear and distinct, in the
still air of the dawn, to the distance of a quarter of a mile, reached
her ears, and withdrew her attention from all other matters and sights
whatsoever. Thus arrested she stood for an instant as precisely in the
attitude of Imogen by the cave of Belarius, as if she had studied the
position from the play. When they had advanced a few steps, she followed
them in some doubt, still screened by the hedge.

‘Do you believe in such odd coincidences?’ said Cytherea.

‘How do you mean, believe in them? They occur sometimes.’

‘Yes, one will occur often enough--that is, two disconnected events will
fall strangely together by chance, and people scarcely notice the fact
beyond saying, “Oddly enough it happened that so and so were the same,”
 and so on. But when three such events coincide without any apparent
reason for the coincidence, it seems as if there must be invisible means
at work. You see, three things falling together in that manner are ten
times as singular as two cases of coincidence which are distinct.’

‘Well, of course: what a mathematical head you have, Cytherea! But I
don’t see so much to marvel at in our case. That the man who kept the
public-house in which Miss Aldclyffe fainted, and who found out her name
and position, lives in this neighbourhood, is accounted for by the fact
that she got him the berth to stop his tongue. That you came here was
simply owing to Springrove.’

‘Ah, but look at this. Miss Aldclyffe is the woman our father first
loved, and I have come to Miss Aldclyffe’s; you can’t get over that.’

From these premises, she proceeded to argue like an elderly divine on
the designs of Providence which were apparent in such conjunctures, and
went into a variety of details connected with Miss Aldclyffe’s history.

‘Had I better tell Miss Aldclyffe that I know all this?’ she inquired at
last.

‘What’s the use?’ he said. ‘Your possessing the knowledge does no harm;
you are at any rate comfortable here, and a confession to Miss Aldclyffe
might only irritate her. No, hold your tongue, Cytherea.’

‘I fancy I should have been tempted to tell her too,’ Cytherea went on,
‘had I not found out that there exists a very odd, almost imperceptible,
and yet real connection of some kind between her and Mr. Manston, which
is more than that of a mutual interest in the estate.’

‘She is in love with him!’ exclaimed Owen; ‘fancy that!’

‘Ah--that’s what everybody says who has been keen enough to notice
anything. I said so at first. And yet now I cannot persuade myself that
she is in love with him at all.’

‘Why can’t you?’

‘She doesn’t act as if she were. She isn’t--you will know I don’t say it
from any vanity, Owen--she isn’t the least jealous of me.’

‘Perhaps she is in some way in his power.’

‘No--she is not. He was openly advertised for, and chosen from forty or
fifty who answered the advertisement, without knowing whose it was. And
since he has been here, she has certainly done nothing to compromise
herself in any way. Besides, why should she have brought an enemy here
at all?’

‘Then she must have fallen in love with him. You know as well as I do,
Cyth, that with women there’s nothing between the two poles of emotion
towards an interesting male acquaintance. ‘Tis either love or aversion.’

They walked for a few minutes in silence, when Cytherea’s eyes
accidentally fell upon her brother’s feet.

‘Owen,’ she said, ‘do you know that there is something unusual in your
manner of walking?’

‘What is it like?’ he asked.

‘I can’t quite say, except that you don’t walk so regularly as you used
to.’

The woman behind the hedge, who had still continued to dog their
footsteps, made an impatient movement at this change in their
conversation, and looked at her watch again. Yet she seemed reluctant to
give over listening to them.

‘Yes,’ Owen returned with assumed carelessness, ‘I do know it. I think
the cause of it is that mysterious pain which comes just above my ankle
sometimes. You remember the first time I had it? That day we went by
steam-packet to Lulstead Cove, when it hindered me from coming back to
you, and compelled me to sleep with the gateman we have been talking
about.’

‘But is it anything serious, dear Owen?’ Cytherea exclaimed, with some
alarm.

‘O, nothing at all. It is sure to go off again. I never find a sign of
it when I sit in the office.’

Again their unperceived companion made a gesture of vexation, and looked
at her watch as if time were precious. But the dialogue still flowed
on upon this new subject, and showed no sign of returning to its old
channel.

Gathering up her skirt decisively she renounced all further hope, and
hurried along the ditch till she had dropped into a valley, and came to
a gate which was beyond the view of those coming behind. This she softly
opened, and came out upon the road, following it in the direction of the
railway station.

Presently she heard Owen Graye’s footsteps in her rear, his quickened
pace implying that he had parted from his sister. The woman thereupon
increased her rapid walk to a run, and in a few minutes safely distanced
her fellow-traveller.

The railway at Carriford Road consisted only of a single line of rails;
and the short local down-train by which Owen was going to Budmouth was
shunted on to a siding whilst the first up-train passed. Graye entered
the waiting-room, and the door being open he listlessly observed the
movements of a woman wearing a long grey cloak, and closely hooded, who
had asked for a ticket for London.

He followed her with his eyes on to the platform, saw her waiting there
and afterwards stepping into the train: his recollection of her ceasing
with the perception.

4. EIGHT TO TEN O’CLOCK A.M.

Mrs. Crickett, twice a widow, and now the parish clerk’s wife, a
fine-framed, scandal-loving woman, with a peculiar corner to her eye by
which, without turning her head, she could see what people were doing
almost behind her, lived in a cottage standing nearer to the old
manor-house than any other in the village of Carriford, and she had on
that account been temporarily engaged by the steward, as a respectable
kind of charwoman and general servant, until a settled arrangement could
be made with some person as permanent domestic.

Every morning, therefore, Mrs. Crickett, immediately she had lighted
the fire in her own cottage, and prepared the breakfast for herself and
husband, paced her way to the Old House to do the same for Mr. Manston.
Then she went home to breakfast; and when the steward had eaten his, and
had gone out on his rounds, she returned again to clear away, make his
bed, and put the house in order for the day.

On the morning of Owen Graye’s departure, she went through the
operations of her first visit as usual--proceeded home to breakfast, and
went back again, to perform those of the second.

Entering Manston’s empty bedroom, with her hands on her hips, she
indifferently cast her eyes upon the bed, previously to dismantling it.

Whilst she looked, she thought in an inattentive manner, ‘What a
remarkably quiet sleeper Mr. Manston must be!’ The upper bed-clothes
were flung back, certainly, but the bed was scarcely disarranged.
‘Anybody would almost fancy,’ she thought, ‘that he had made it himself
after rising.’

But these evanescent thoughts vanished as they had come, and Mrs.
Crickett set to work; she dragged off the counterpane, blankets and
sheets, and stooped to lift the pillows. Thus stooping, something
arrested her attention; she looked closely--more closely--very closely.
‘Well, to be sure!’ was all she could say. The clerk’s wife stood as if
the air had suddenly set to amber, and held her fixed like a fly in it.

The object of her wonder was a trailing brown hair, very little less
than a yard long, which proved it clearly to be a hair from some woman’s
head. She drew it off the pillow, and took it to the window; there
holding it out she looked fixedly at it, and became utterly lost in
meditation: her gaze, which had at first actively settled on the hair,
involuntarily dropped past its object by degrees and was lost on the
floor, as the inner vision obscured the outer one.

She at length moistened her lips, returned her eyes to the hair, wound
it round her fingers, put it in some paper, and secreted the whole in
her pocket. Mrs. Crickett’s thoughts were with her work no more that
morning.

She searched the house from roof-tree to cellar, for some other trace of
feminine existence or appurtenance; but none was to be found.

She went out into the yard, coal-hole, stable, hay-loft, green-house,
fowl-house, and piggery, and still there was no sign. Coming in again,
she saw a bonnet, eagerly pounced upon it; and found it to be her own.

Hastily completing her arrangements in the other rooms, she entered the
village again, and called at once on the postmistress, Elizabeth Leat,
an intimate friend of hers, and a female who sported several unique
diseases and afflictions.

Mrs. Crickett unfolded the paper, took out the hair, and waved it on
high before the perplexed eyes of Elizabeth, which immediately mooned
and wandered after it like a cat’s.

‘What is it?’ said Mrs. Leat, contracting her eyelids, and stretching
out towards the invisible object a narrow bony hand that would have been
an unmitigated delight to the pencil of Carlo Crivelli.

‘You shall hear,’ said Mrs. Crickett, complacently gathering up the
treasure into her own fat hand; and the secret was then solemnly
imparted, together with the accident of its discovery.

A shaving-glass was taken down from a nail, laid on its back in the
middle of a table by the window, and the hair spread carefully out upon
it. The pair then bent over the table from opposite sides, their elbows
on the edge, their hands supporting their heads, their foreheads nearly
touching, and their eyes upon the hair.

‘He ha’ been mad a’ter my lady Cytherea,’ said Mrs. Crickett, ‘and ‘tis
my very belief the hair is--’

‘No ‘tidn’. Hers idn’ so dark as that,’ said Elizabeth.

‘Elizabeth, you know that as the faithful wife of a servant of the
Church, I should be glad to think as you do about the girl. Mind I
don’t wish to say anything against Miss Graye, but this I do say, that I
believe her to be a nameless thing, and she’s no right to stick a moral
clock in her face, and deceive the country in such a way. If she wasn’t
of a bad stock at the outset she was bad in the planten, and if she
wasn’t bad in the planten, she was bad in the growen, and if not in the
growen, she’s made bad by what she’s gone through since.’

‘But I have another reason for knowing it idn’ hers,’ said Mrs. Leat.

‘Ah! I know whose it is then--Miss Aldclyffe’s, upon my song!’

‘’Tis the colour of hers, but I don’t believe it to be hers either.’

‘Don’t you believe what they d’ say about her and him?’

‘I say nothen about that; but you don’t know what I know about his
letters.’

‘What about ‘em?’

‘He d’ post all his letters here except those for one person, and they
he d’ take to Budmouth. My son is in Budmouth Post Office, as you know,
and as he d’ sit at desk he can see over the blind of the window all
the people who d’ post letters. Mr. Manston d’ unvariably go there wi’
letters for that person; my boy d’ know ‘em by sight well enough now.’

‘Is it a she?’

‘’Tis a she.’

‘What’s her name?’

‘The little stunpoll of a fellow couldn’t call to mind more than that
‘tis Miss Somebody, of London. However, that’s the woman who ha’ been
here, depend upon’t--a wicked one--some poor street-wench escaped from
Sodom, I warrant ye.’

‘Only to find herself in Gomorrah, seemingly.’

‘That may be.’

‘No, no, Mrs. Leat, this is clear to me. ‘Tis no miss who came here to
see our steward last night--whenever she came or wherever she vanished.
Do you think he would ha’ let a miss get here how she could, go away how
she would, without breakfast or help of any kind?’

Elizabeth shook her head--Mrs. Crickett looked at her solemnly.

‘I say I know she had no help of any kind; I know it was so, for the
grate was quite cold when I touched it this morning with these fingers,
and he was still in bed. No, he wouldn’t take the trouble to write
letters to a girl and then treat her so off-hand as that. There’s a tie
between ‘em stronger than feelen. She’s his wife.’

‘He married! The Lord so ‘s, what shall we hear next? Do he look married
now? His are not the abashed eyes and lips of a married man.’

‘Perhaps she’s a tame one--but she’s his wife still.’

‘No, no: he’s not a married man.’

‘Yes, yes, he is. I’ve had three, and I ought to know.’

‘Well, well,’ said Mrs. Leat, giving way. ‘Whatever may be the truth
on’t I trust Providence will settle it all for the best, as He always
do.’

‘Ay, ay, Elizabeth,’ rejoined Mrs. Crickett with a satirical sigh, as
she turned on her foot to go home, ‘good people like you may say so, but
I have always found Providence a different sort of feller.’

5. NOVEMBER THE TWENTIETH

It was Miss Aldclyffe’s custom, a custom originated by her father, and
nourished by her own exclusiveness, to unlock the post-bag herself every
morning, instead of allowing the duty to devolve on the butler, as
was the case in most of the neighbouring county families. The bag was
brought upstairs each morning to her dressing-room, where she took out
the contents, mostly in the presence of her maid and Cytherea, who
had the entree of the chamber at all hours, and attended there in the
morning at a kind of reception on a small scale, which was held by Miss
Aldclyffe of her namesake only.

Here she read her letters before the glass, whilst undergoing the
operation of being brushed and dressed.

‘What woman can this be, I wonder?’ she said on the morning succeeding
that of the last section. ‘“London, N.!” It is the first time in my
life I ever had a letter from that outlandish place, the North side of
London.’

Cytherea had just come into her presence to learn if there was anything
for herself; and on being thus addressed, walked up to Miss Aldclyffe’s
corner of the room to look at the curiosity which had raised such an
exclamation. But the lady, having opened the envelope and read a few
lines, put it quickly in her pocket, before Cytherea could reach her
side.

‘O, ‘tis nothing,’ she said. She proceeded to make general remarks in
a noticeably forced tone of sang-froid, from which she soon lapsed into
silence. Not another word was said about the letter: she seemed very
anxious to get her dressing done, and the room cleared. Thereupon
Cytherea went away to the other window, and a few minutes later left the
room to follow her own pursuits.

It was late when Miss Aldclyffe descended to the breakfast-table and
then she seemed there to no purpose; tea, coffee, eggs, cutlets, and all
their accessories, were left absolutely untasted. The next that was seen
of her was when walking up and down the south terrace, and round the
flower-beds; her face was pale, and her tread was fitful, and she
crumpled a letter in her hand.

Dinner-time came round as usual; she did not speak ten words, or indeed
seem conscious of the meal; for all that Miss Aldclyffe did in the way
of eating, dinner might have been taken out as intact as it was taken
in.

In her own private apartment Miss Aldclyffe again pulled out the letter
of the morning. One passage in it ran thus:--


‘Of course, being his wife, I could publish the fact, and compel him
to acknowledge me at any moment, notwithstanding his threats, and
reasonings that it will be better to wait. I have waited, and waited
again, and the time for such acknowledgment seems no nearer than at
first. To show you how patiently I have waited I can tell you that not
till a fortnight ago, when by stress of circumstances I had been driven
to new lodgings, have I ever assumed my married name, solely on account
of its having been his request all along that I should not do it. This
writing to you, madam, is my first disobedience, and I am justified in
it. A woman who is driven to visit her husband like a thief in the night
and then sent away like a street dog--left to get up, unbolt, unbar,
and find her way out of the house as she best may--is justified in doing
anything.

‘But should I demand of him a restitution of rights, there would be
involved a publicity which I could not endure, and a noisy scandal
flinging my name the length and breadth of the country.

‘What I still prefer to any such violent means is that you reason with
him privately, and compel him to bring me home to your parish in a
decent and careful manner, in the way that would be adopted by any
respectable man, whose wife had been living away from him for some
time, by reason, say, of peculiar family circumstances which had caused
disunion, but not enmity, and who at length was enabled to reinstate her
in his house.

‘You will, I know, oblige me in this, especially as knowledge of a
peculiar transaction of your own, which took place some years ago, has
lately come to me in a singular way. I will not at present trouble you
by describing how. It is enough, that I alone, of all people living,
know _all the sides of the story_, those from whom I collected it having
each only a partial knowledge which confuses them and points to nothing.
One person knows of your early engagement and its sudden termination;
another, of the reason of those strange meetings at inns and
coffee-houses; another, of what was sufficient to cause all this, and so
on. I know what fits one and all the circumstances like a key, and shows
them to be the natural outcrop of a rational (though rather rash) line
of conduct for a young lady. You will at once perceive how it was that
some at least of these things were revealed to me.

‘This knowledge then, common to, and secretly treasured by us both, is
the ground upon which I beg for your friendship and help, with a feeling
that you will be too generous to refuse it to me.

‘I may add that, as yet, my husband knows nothing of this, neither need
he if you remember my request.’


‘A threat--a flat stinging threat! as delicately wrapped up in words as
the woman could do it; a threat from a miserable unknown creature to an
Aldclyffe, and not the least proud member of the family either! A threat
on his account--O, O! shall it be?’

Presently this humour of defiance vanished, and the members of her body
became supple again, her proceedings proving that it was absolutely
necessary to give way, Aldclyffe as she was. She wrote a short answer
to Mrs. Manston, saying civilly that Mr. Manston’s possession of such
a near relation was a fact quite new to herself, and that she would see
what could be done in such an unfortunate affair.

6. NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-FIRST

Manston received a message the next day requesting his attendance at the
House punctually at eight o’clock the ensuing evening. Miss Aldclyffe
was brave and imperious, but with the purpose she had in view she could
not look him in the face whilst daylight shone upon her.

The steward was shown into the library. On entering it, he was
immediately struck with the unusual gloom which pervaded the apartment.
The fire was dead and dull, one lamp, and that a comparatively small
one, was burning at the extreme end, leaving the main proportion of
the lofty and sombre room in an artificial twilight, scarcely powerful
enough to render visible the titles of the folio and quarto volumes
which were jammed into the lower tiers of the bookshelves.

After keeping him waiting for more than twenty minutes (Miss Aldclyffe
knew that excellent recipe for taking the stiffness out of human flesh,
and for extracting all pre-arrangement from human speech) she entered
the room.

Manston sought her eye directly. The hue of her features was not
discernible, but the calm glance she flung at him, from which all
attempt at returning his scrutiny was absent, awoke him to the
perception that probably his secret was by some means or other known to
her; how it had become known he could not tell.

She drew forth the letter, unfolded it, and held it up to him, letting
it hang by one corner from between her finger and thumb, so that the
light from the lamp, though remote, fell directly upon its surface.

‘You know whose writing this is?’ she said.

He saw the strokes plainly, instantly resolving to burn his ships and
hazard all on an advance.

‘My wife’s,’ he said calmly.

His quiet answer threw her off her balance. She had no more expected an
answer than does a preacher when he exclaims from the pulpit, ‘Do you
feel your sin?’ She had clearly expected a sudden alarm.

‘And why all this concealment?’ she said again, her voice rising, as she
vainly endeavoured to control her feelings, whatever they were.

‘It doesn’t follow that, because a man is married, he must tell every
stranger of it, madam,’ he answered, just as calmly as before.

‘Stranger! well, perhaps not; but, Mr. Manston, why did you choose to
conceal it, I ask again? I have a perfect right to ask this question, as
you will perceive, if you consider the terms of my advertisement.’

‘I will tell you. There were two simple reasons. The first was this
practical one; you advertised for an unmarried man, if you remember?’

‘Of course I remember.’

‘Well, an incident suggested to me that I should try for the situation.
I was married; but, knowing that in getting an office where there is a
restriction of this kind, leaving one’s wife behind is always accepted
as a fulfilment of the condition, I left her behind for awhile. The
other reason is, that these terms of yours afforded me a plausible
excuse for escaping (for a short time) the company of a woman I had been
mistaken in marrying.’

‘Mistaken! what was she?’ the lady inquired.

‘A third-rate actress, whom I met with during my stay in Liverpool
last summer, where I had gone to fulfil a short engagement with an
architect.’

‘Where did she come from?’

‘She is an American by birth, and I grew to dislike her when we had been
married a week.’

‘She was ugly, I imagine?’

‘She is not an ugly woman by any means.’

‘Up to the ordinary standard?’

‘Quite up to the ordinary standard--indeed, handsome. After a while we
quarrelled and separated.’

‘You did not ill-use her, of course?’ said Miss Aldclyffe, with a little
sarcasm.

‘I did not.’

‘But at any rate, you got thoroughly tired of her.’

Manston looked as if he began to think her questions out of place;
however, he said quietly, ‘I did get tired of her. I never told her so,
but we separated; I to come here, bringing her with me as far as London
and leaving her there in perfectly comfortable quarters; and though your
advertisement expressed a single man, I have always intended to tell
you the whole truth; and this was when I was going to tell it, when
your satisfaction with my careful management of your affairs should have
proved the risk to be a safe one to run.’

She bowed.

‘Then I saw that you were good enough to be interested in my welfare to
a greater extent than I could have anticipated or hoped, judging you by
the frigidity of other employers, and this caused me to hesitate. I was
vexed at the complication of affairs. So matters stood till three
nights ago; I was then walking home from the pottery, and came up to the
railway. The down-train came along close to me, and there, sitting at
a carriage window, I saw my wife: she had found out my address, and had
thereupon determined to follow me here. I had not been home many minutes
before she came in, next morning early she left again--’

‘Because you treated her so cavalierly?’

‘And as I suppose, wrote to you directly. That’s the whole story of her,
madam.’ Whatever were Manston’s real feelings towards the lady who had
received his explanation in these supercilious tones, they remained
locked within him as within a casket of steel.

‘Did your friends know of your marriage, Mr. Manston?’ she continued.

‘Nobody at all; we kept it a secret for various reasons.’

‘It is true then that, as your wife tells me in this letter, she has not
passed as Mrs. Manston till within these last few days?’

‘It is quite true; I was in receipt of a very small and uncertain income
when we married; and so she continued playing at the theatre as before
our marriage, and in her maiden name.’

‘Has she any friends?’

‘I have never heard that she has any in England. She came over here on
some theatrical speculation, as one of a company who were going to do
much, but who never did anything; and here she has remained.’

A pause ensued, which was terminated by Miss Aldclyffe.

‘I understand,’ she said. ‘Now, though I have no direct right to concern
myself with your private affairs (beyond those which arise from your
misleading me and getting the office you hold)--’

‘As to that, madam,’ he interrupted, rather hotly, ‘as to coming here,
I am vexed as much as you. Somebody, a member of the Institute of
Architects--who, I could never tell--sent to my old address in London
your advertisement cut from the paper; it was forwarded to me; I wanted
to get away from Liverpool, and it seemed as if this was put in my way
on purpose, by some old friend or other. I answered the advertisement
certainly, but I was not particularly anxious to come here, nor am I
anxious to stay.’

Miss Aldclyffe descended from haughty superiority to womanly persuasion
with a haste which was almost ludicrous. Indeed, the Quos ego of the
whole lecture had been less the genuine menace of the imperious ruler of
Knapwater than an artificial utterance to hide a failing heart.

‘Now, now, Mr. Manston, you wrong me; don’t suppose I wish to be
overbearing, or anything of the kind; and you will allow me to say this
much, at any rate, that I have become interested in your wife, as well
as in yourself.’

‘Certainly, madam,’ he said, slowly, like a man feeling his way in the
dark. Manston was utterly at fault now. His previous experience of the
effect of his form and features upon womankind en masse, had taught
him to flatter himself that he could account by the same law of natural
selection for the extraordinary interest Miss Aldclyffe had hitherto
taken in him, as an unmarried man; an interest he did not at all object
to, seeing that it kept him near Cytherea, and enabled him, a man of
no wealth, to rule on the estate as if he were its lawful owner. Like
Curius at his Sabine farm, he had counted it his glory not to possess
gold himself, but to have power over her who did. But at this hint of
the lady’s wish to take his wife under her wing also, he was perplexed:
could she have any sinister motive in doing so? But he did not allow
himself to be troubled with these doubts, which only concerned his
wife’s happiness.

‘She tells me,’ continued Miss Aldclyffe, ‘how utterly alone in
the world she stands, and that is an additional reason why I should
sympathize with her. Instead, then, of requesting the favour of your
retirement from the post, and dismissing your interests altogether, I
will retain you as my steward still, on condition that you bring home
your wife, and live with her respectably, in short, as if you loved her;
you understand. I _wish_ you to stay here if you grant that everything
shall flow smoothly between yourself and her.’

The breast and shoulders of the steward rose, as if an expression
of defiance was about to be poured forth; before it took form, he
controlled himself and said, in his natural voice--

‘My part of the performance shall be carried out, madam.’

‘And her anxiety to obtain a standing in the world ensures that hers
will,’ replied Miss Aldclyffe. ‘That will be satisfactory, then.’

After a few additional remarks, she gently signified that she wished to
put an end to the interview. The steward took the hint and retired.

He felt vexed and mortified; yet in walking homeward he was convinced
that telling the whole truth as he had done, with the single exception
of his love for Cytherea (which he tried to hide even from himself), had
never served him in better stead than it had done that night.

Manston went to his desk and thought of Cytherea’s beauty with the
bitterest, wildest regret. After the lapse of a few minutes he calmed
himself by a stoical effort, and wrote the subjoined letter to his
wife:--


                                        ‘KNAPWATER,
                                         November 21, 1864.

‘DEAR EUNICE,--I hope you reached London safely after your flighty visit
to me.

‘As I promised, I have thought over our conversation that night, and
your wish that your coming here should be no longer delayed. After all,
it was perfectly natural that you should have spoken unkindly as you
did, ignorant as you were of the circumstances which bound me.

‘So I have made arrangements to fetch you home at once. It is hardly
worth while for you to attempt to bring with you any luggage you may
have gathered about you (beyond mere clothing). Dispose of superfluous
things at a broker’s; your bringing them would only make a talk in
this parish, and lead people to believe we had long been keeping house
separately.

‘Will next Monday suit you for coming? You have nothing to do that can
occupy you for more than a day or two, as far as I can see, and the
remainder of this week will afford ample time. I can be in London the
night before, and we will come down together by the mid-day train--Your
very affectionate husband,

                                       ‘AENEAS MANSTON.

‘Now, of course, I shall no longer write to you as Mrs. Rondley.’


The address on the envelope was--

MRS. MANSTON,   41 CHARLES SQUARE,
     HOXTON,
        LONDON, N.

He took the letter to the house, and it being too late for the country
post, sent one of the stablemen with it to Casterbridge, instead of
troubling to go to Budmouth with it himself as heretofore. He had no
longer any necessity to keep his condition a secret.

7. FROM THE TWENTY-SECOND TO THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF NOVEMBER

But the next morning Manston found that he had been forgetful of another
matter, in naming the following Monday to his wife for the journey.

The fact was this. A letter had just come, reminding him that he had
left the whole of the succeeding week open for an important business
engagement with a neighbouring land-agent, at that gentleman’s residence
thirteen miles off. The particular day he had suggested to his wife,
had, in the interim, been appropriated by his correspondent. The meeting
could not now be put off.

So he wrote again to his wife, stating that business, which could not
be postponed, called him away from home on Monday, and would entirely
prevent him coming all the way to fetch her on Sunday night as he had
intended, but that he would meet her at the Carriford Road Station with
a conveyance when she arrived there in the evening.

The next day came his wife’s answer to his first letter, in which she
said that she would be ready to be fetched at the time named. Having
already written his second letter, which was by that time in her hands,
he made no further reply.

The week passed away. The steward had, in the meantime, let it become
generally known in the village that he was a married man, and by a
little judicious management, sound family reasons for his past secrecy
upon the subject, which were floated as adjuncts to the story, were
placidly received; they seemed so natural and justifiable to the
unsophisticated minds of nine-tenths of his neighbours, that curiosity
in the matter, beyond a strong curiosity to see the lady’s face, was
well-nigh extinguished.



X. THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT

1. NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH. UNTIL TEN P.M.

Monday came, the day named for Mrs. Manston’s journey from London to
her husband’s house; a day of singular and great events, influencing
the present and future of nearly all the personages whose actions in a
complex drama form the subject of this record.

The proceedings of the steward demand the first notice. Whilst taking
his breakfast on this particular morning, the clock pointing to eight,
the horse-and-gig that was to take him to Chettlewood waiting ready at
the door, Manston hurriedly cast his eyes down the column of Bradshaw
which showed the details and duration of the selected train’s journey.

The inspection was carelessly made, the leaf being kept open by the aid
of one hand, whilst the other still held his cup of coffee; much more
carelessly than would have been the case had the expected new-comer been
Cytherea Graye, instead of his lawful wife.

He did not perceive, branching from the column down which his finger
ran, a small twist, called a shunting-line, inserted at a particular
place, to imply that at that point the train was divided into two. By
this oversight he understood that the arrival of his wife at Carriford
Road Station would not be till late in the evening: by the second half
of the train, containing the third-class passengers, and passing two
hours and three-quarters later than the previous one, by which the lady,
as a second-class passenger, would really be brought.

He then considered that there would be plenty of time for him to return
from his day’s engagement to meet this train. He finished his breakfast,
gave proper and precise directions to his servant on the preparations
that were to be made for the lady’s reception, jumped into his gig, and
drove off to Lord Claydonfield’s, at Chettlewood.

He went along by the front of Knapwater House. He could not help turning
to look at what he knew to be the window of Cytherea’s room. Whilst he
looked, a hopeless expression of passionate love and sensuous anguish
came upon his face and lingered there for a few seconds; then, as on
previous occasions, it was resolutely repressed, and he trotted along
the smooth white road, again endeavouring to banish all thought of the
young girl whose beauty and grace had so enslaved him.

Thus it was that when, in the evening of the same day, Mrs. Manston
reached Carriford Road Station, her husband was still at Chettlewood,
ignorant of her arrival, and on looking up and down the platform, dreary
with autumn gloom and wind, she could see no sign that any preparation
whatever had been made for her reception and conduct home.

The train went on. She waited, fidgeted with the handle of her umbrella,
walked about, strained her eyes into the gloom of the chilly night,
listened for wheels, tapped with her foot, and showed all the usual
signs of annoyance and irritation: she was the more irritated in
that this seemed a second and culminating instance of her husband’s
neglect--the first having been shown in his not fetching her.

Reflecting awhile upon the course it would be best to take, in order
to secure a passage to Knapwater, she decided to leave all her luggage,
except a dressing-bag, in the cloak-room, and walk to her husband’s
house, as she had done on her first visit. She asked one of the porters
if he could find a lad to go with her and carry her bag: he offered to
do it himself.

The porter was a good-tempered, shallow-minded, ignorant man. Mrs.
Manston, being apparently in very gloomy spirits, would probably have
preferred walking beside him without saying a word: but her companion
would not allow silence to continue between them for a longer period
than two or three minutes together.

He had volunteered several remarks upon her arrival, chiefly to the
effect that it was very unfortunate Mr. Manston had not come to the
station for her, when she suddenly asked him concerning the inhabitants
of the parish.

He told her categorically the names of the chief--first the chief
possessors of property; then of brains; then of good looks. As first
among the latter he mentioned Miss Cytherea Graye.

After getting him to describe her appearance as completely as lay in
his power, she wormed out of him the statement that everybody had been
saying--before Mrs. Manston’s existence was heard of--how well the
handsome Mr. Manston and the beautiful Miss Graye were suited for each
other as man and wife, and that Miss Aldclyffe was the only one in the
parish who took no interest in bringing about the match.

‘He rather liked her you think?’

The porter began to think he had been too explicit, and hastened to
correct the error.

‘O no, he don’t care a bit about her, ma’am,’ he said solemnly.

‘Not more than he does about me?’

‘Not a bit.’

‘Then that must be little indeed,’ Mrs. Manston murmured. She stood
still, as if reflecting upon the painful neglect her words had recalled
to her mind; then, with a sudden impulse, turned round, and walked
petulantly a few steps back again in the direction of the station.

The porter stood still and looked surprised.

‘I’ll go back again; yes, indeed, I’ll go back again!’ she said
plaintively. Then she paused and looked anxiously up and down the
deserted road.

‘No, I mustn’t go back now,’ she continued, in a tone of resignation.
Seeing that the porter was watching her, she turned about and came on as
before, giving vent to a slight laugh.

It was a laugh full of character; the low forced laugh which seeks to
hide the painful perception of a humiliating position under the mask of
indifference.

Altogether her conduct had shown her to be what in fact she was, a weak,
though a calculating woman, one clever to conceive, weak to execute:
one whose best-laid schemes were for ever liable to be frustrated by the
ineradicable blight of vacillation at the critical hour of action.

‘O, if I had only known that all this was going to happen!’ she murmured
again, as they paced along upon the rustling leaves.

‘What did you say, ma’am?’ said the porter.

‘O, nothing particular; we are getting near the old manor-house by this
time, I imagine?’

‘Very near now, ma’am.’

They soon reached Manston’s residence, round which the wind blew
mournfully and chill.

Passing under the detached gateway, they entered the porch. The porter
stepped forward, knocked heavily and waited.

Nobody came.

Mrs. Manston then advanced to the door and gave a different series of
rappings--less forcible, but more sustained.

There was not a movement of any kind inside, not a ray of light visible;
nothing but the echo of her own knocks through the passages, and the dry
scratching of the withered leaves blown about her feet upon the floor of
the porch.

The steward, of course, was not at home. Mrs. Crickett, not expecting
that anybody would arrive till the time of the later train, had set the
place in order, laid the supper-table, and then locked the door, to go
into the village and converse with her friends.

‘Is there an inn in the village?’ said Mrs. Manston, after the fourth
and loudest rapping upon the iron-studded old door had resulted only in
the fourth and loudest echo from the passages inside.

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Who keeps it?’

‘Farmer Springrove.’

‘I will go there to-night,’ she said decisively. ‘It is too cold, and
altogether too bad, for a woman to wait in the open road on anybody’s
account, gentle or simple.’

They went down the park and through the gate, into the village of
Carriford. By the time they reached the Three Tranters, it was verging
upon ten o’clock. There, on the spot where two months earlier in the
season the sunny and lively group of villagers making cider under the
trees had greeted Cytherea’s eyes, was nothing now intelligible but a
vast cloak of darkness, from which came the low sough of the elms, and
the occasional creak of the swinging sign.

They went to the door, Mrs. Manston shivering; but less from the cold,
than from the dreariness of her emotions. Neglect is the coldest of
winter winds.

It so happened that Edward Springrove was expected to arrive from London
either on that evening or the next, and at the sound of voices his
father came to the door fully expecting to see him. A picture of
disappointment seldom witnessed in a man’s face was visible in old Mr.
Springrove’s, when he saw that the comer was a stranger.

Mrs. Manston asked for a room, and one that had been prepared for Edward
was immediately named as being ready for her, another being adaptable
for Edward, should he come in.

Without taking any refreshment, or entering any room downstairs, or even
lifting her veil, she walked straight along the passage and up to her
apartment, the chambermaid preceding her.

‘If Mr. Manston comes to-night,’ she said, sitting on the bed as she had
come in, and addressing the woman, ‘tell him I cannot see him.’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

The woman left the room, and Mrs. Manston locked the door. Before
the servant had gone down more than two or three stairs, Mrs. Manston
unfastened the door again, and held it ajar.

‘Bring me some brandy,’ she said.

The chambermaid went down to the bar and brought up the spirit in a
tumbler. When she came into the room, Mrs. Manston had not removed a
single article of apparel, and was walking up and down, as if still
quite undecided upon the course it was best to adopt.

Outside the door, when it was closed upon her, the maid paused to listen
for an instant. She heard Mrs. Manston talking to herself.

‘This is welcome home!’ she said.

2. FROM TEN TO HALF-PAST ELEVEN P.M.

A strange concurrence of phenomena now confronts us.

During the autumn in which the past scenes were enacted, Mr. Springrove
had ploughed, harrowed, and cleaned a narrow and shaded piece of ground,
lying at the back of his house, which for many years had been looked
upon as irreclaimable waste.

The couch-grass extracted from the soil had been left to wither in the
sun; afterwards it was raked together, lighted in the customary way, and
now lay smouldering in a large heap in the middle of the plot.

It had been kindled three days previous to Mrs. Manston’s arrival, and
one or two villagers, of a more cautious and less sanguine temperament
than Springrove, had suggested that the fire was almost too near the
back of the house for its continuance to be unattended with risk; for
though no danger could be apprehended whilst the air remained moderately
still, a brisk breeze blowing towards the house might possibly carry a
spark across.

‘Ay, that’s true enough,’ said Springrove. ‘I must look round before
going to bed and see that everything’s safe; but to tell the truth I
am anxious to get the rubbish burnt up before the rain comes to wash it
into ground again. As to carrying the couch into the back field to
burn, and bringing it back again, why, ‘tis more than the ashes would be
worth.’

‘Well, that’s very true,’ said the neighbours, and passed on.

Two or three times during the first evening after the heap was lit, he
went to the back door to take a survey. Before bolting and barring
up for the night, he made a final and more careful examination.
The slowly-smoking pile showed not the slightest signs of activity.
Springrove’s perfectly sound conclusion was, that as long as the heap
was not stirred, and the wind continued in the quarter it blew from
then, the couch would not flame, and that there could be no shadow of
danger to anything, even a combustible substance, though it were no more
than a yard off.

The next morning the burning couch was discovered in precisely the same
state as when he had gone to bed the preceding night. The heap smoked
in the same manner the whole of that day: at bed-time the farmer looked
towards it, but less carefully than on the first night.

The morning and the whole of the third day still saw the heap in its old
smouldering condition; indeed, the smoke was less, and there seemed a
probability that it might have to be re-kindled on the morrow.

After admitting Mrs. Manston to his house in the evening, and hearing
her retire, Mr. Springrove returned to the front door to listen for a
sound of his son, and inquired concerning him of the railway-porter,
who sat for a while in the kitchen. The porter had not noticed young
Mr. Springrove get out of the train, at which intelligence the old man
concluded that he would probably not see his son till the next day,
as Edward had hitherto made a point of coming by the train which had
brought Mrs. Manston.

Half-an-hour later the porter left the inn, Springrove at the same time
going to the door to listen again an instant, then he walked round and
in at the back of the house.

The farmer glanced at the heap casually and indifferently in passing;
two nights of safety seemed to ensure the third; and he was about to
bolt and bar as usual, when the idea struck him that there was just a
possibility of his son’s return by the latest train, unlikely as it
was that he would be so delayed. The old man thereupon left the door
unfastened, looked to his usual matters indoors, and went to bed, it
being then half-past ten o’clock.

Farmers and horticulturists well know that it is in the nature of a heap
of couch-grass, when kindled in calm weather, to smoulder for many days,
and even weeks, until the whole mass is reduced to a powdery charcoal
ash, displaying the while scarcely a sign of combustion beyond the
volcano-like smoke from its summit; but the continuance of this quiet
process is throughout its length at the mercy of one particular whim
of Nature: that is, a sudden breeze, by which the heap is liable to be
fanned into a flame so brisk as to consume the whole in an hour or two.

Had the farmer narrowly watched the pile when he went to close the door,
he would have seen, besides the familiar twine of smoke from its summit,
a quivering of the air around the mass, showing that a considerable heat
had arisen inside.

As the railway-porter turned the corner of the row of houses adjoining
the Three Tranters, a brisk new wind greeted his face, and spread past
him into the village. He walked along the high-road till he came to a
gate, about three hundred yards from the inn. Over the gate could
be discerned the situation of the building he had just quitted. He
carelessly turned his head in passing, and saw behind him a clear red
glow indicating the position of the couch-heap: a glow without a flame,
increasing and diminishing in brightness as the breeze quickened or
fell, like the coal of a newly lighted cigar. If those cottages had
been his, he thought, he should not care to have a fire so near them as
that--and the wind rising. But the cottages not being his, he went on
his way to the station, where he was about to resume duty for the night.
The road was now quite deserted: till four o’clock the next morning,
when the carters would go by to the stables there was little probability
of any human being passing the Three Tranters Inn.

By eleven, everybody in the house was asleep. It truly seemed as if
the treacherous element knew there had arisen a grand opportunity for
devastation.

At a quarter past eleven a slight stealthy crackle made itself heard
amid the increasing moans of the night wind; the heap glowed brighter
still, and burst into a flame; the flame sank, another breeze entered
it, sustained it, and it grew to be first continuous and weak, then
continuous and strong.

At twenty minutes past eleven a blast of wind carried an airy bit of
ignited fern several yards forward, in a direction parallel to the
houses and inn, and there deposited it on the ground.

Five minutes later another puff of wind carried a similar piece to a
distance of five-and-twenty yards, where it also was dropped softly on
the ground.

Still the wind did not blow in the direction of the houses, and even now
to a casual observer they would have appeared safe. But Nature does few
things directly. A minute later yet, an ignited fragment fell upon the
straw covering of a long thatched heap or ‘grave’ of mangel-wurzel,
lying in a direction at right angles to the house, and down toward the
hedge. There the fragment faded to darkness.

A short time subsequent to this, after many intermediate deposits and
seemingly baffled attempts, another fragment fell on the mangel-wurzel
grave, and continued to glow; the glow was increased by the wind; the
straw caught fire and burst into flame. It was inevitable that the flame
should run along the ridge of the thatch towards a piggery at the end.
Yet had the piggery been tiled, the time-honoured hostel would even now
at this last moment have been safe; but it was constructed as piggeries
are mostly constructed, of wood and thatch. The hurdles and straw roof
of the frail erection became ignited in their turn, and abutting as the
shed did on the back of the inn, flamed up to the eaves of the main roof
in less than thirty seconds.

3. HALF-PAST ELEVEN TO TWELVE P.M.

A hazardous length of time elapsed before the inmates of the Three
Tranters knew of their danger. When at length the discovery was made,
the rush was a rush for bare life.

A man’s voice calling, then screams, then loud stamping and shouts were
heard.

Mr. Springrove ran out first. Two minutes later appeared the ostler and
chambermaid, who were man and wife. The inn, as has been stated, was a
quaint old building, and as inflammable as a bee-hive; it overhung the
base at the level of the first floor, and again overhung at the eaves,
which were finished with heavy oak barge-boards; every atom in its
substance, every feature in its construction, favoured the fire.

The forked flames, lurid and smoky, became nearly lost to view, bursting
forth again with a bound and loud crackle, increased tenfold in power
and brightness. The crackling grew sharper. Long quivering shadows began
to be flung from the stately trees at the end of the house; the square
outline of the church tower, on the other side of the way, which had
hitherto been a dark mass against a sky comparatively light, now began
to appear as a light object against a sky of darkness; and even the
narrow surface of the flag-staff at the top could be seen in its dark
surrounding, brought out from its obscurity by the rays from the dancing
light.

Shouts and other noises increased in loudness and frequency. The lapse
of ten minutes brought most of the inhabitants of that end of the
village into the street, followed in a short time by the rector, Mr.
Raunham.

Casting a hasty glance up and down, he beckoned to one or two of the
men, and vanished again. In a short time wheels were heard, and Mr.
Raunham and the men reappeared, with the garden engine, the only one in
the village, except that at Knapwater House. After some little trouble
the hose was connected with a tank in the old stable-yard, and the puny
instrument began to play.

Several seemed paralyzed at first, and stood transfixed, their rigid
faces looking like red-hot iron in the glaring light. In the confusion
a woman cried, ‘Ring the bells backwards!’ and three or four of the old
and superstitious entered the belfry and jangled them indescribably.
Some were only half dressed, and, to add to the horror, among them was
Clerk Crickett, running up and down with a face streaming with blood,
ghastly and pitiful to see, his excitement being so great that he had
not the slightest conception of how, when, or where he came by the
wound.

The crowd was now busy at work, and tried to save a little of the
furniture of the inn. The only room they could enter was the parlour,
from which they managed to bring out the bureau, a few chairs, some old
silver candlesticks, and half-a-dozen light articles; but these were
all.

Fiery mats of thatch slid off the roof and fell into the road with a
deadened thud, whilst white flakes of straw and wood-ash were flying in
the wind like feathers. At the same time two of the cottages adjoining,
upon which a little water had been brought to play from the rector’s
engine, were seen to be on fire. The attenuated spirt of water was as
nothing upon the heated and dry surface of the thatched roof; the
fire prevailed without a minute’s hindrance, and dived through to the
rafters.

Suddenly arose a cry, ‘Where’s Mr. Springrove?’

He had vanished from the spot by the churchyard wall, where he had been
standing a few minutes earlier.

‘I fancy he’s gone inside,’ said a voice.

‘Madness and folly! what can he save?’ said another. ‘Good God, find
him! Help here!’

A wild rush was made at the door, which had fallen to, and in defiance
of the scorching flame that burst forth, three men forced themselves
through it. Immediately inside the threshold they found the object of
their search lying senseless on the floor of the passage.

To bring him out and lay him on a bank was the work of an instant; a
basin of cold water was dashed in his face, and he began to recover
consciousness, but very slowly. He had been saved by a miracle. No
sooner were his preservers out of the building than the window-frames
lit up as if by magic with deep and waving fringes of flames.
Simultaneously, the joints of the boards forming the front door started
into view as glowing bars of fire: a star of red light penetrated the
centre, gradually increasing in size till the flames rushed forth.

Then the staircase fell.

‘Everybody is out safe,’ said a voice.

‘Yes, thank God!’ said three or four others.

‘O, we forgot that a stranger came! I think she is safe.’

‘I hope she is,’ said the weak voice of some one coming up from behind.
It was the chambermaid’s.

Springrove at that moment aroused himself; he staggered to his feet, and
threw his hands up wildly.

‘Everybody, no! no! The lady who came by train, Mrs. Manston! I tried to
fetch her out, but I fell.’

An exclamation of horror burst from the crowd; it was caused partly
by this disclosure of Springrove, more by the added perception which
followed his words.

An average interval of about three minutes had elapsed between one
intensely fierce gust of wind and the next, and now another poured over
them; the roof swayed, and a moment afterwards fell in with a crash,
pulling the gable after it, and thrusting outwards the front wall of
wood-work, which fell into the road with a rumbling echo; a cloud of
black dust, myriads of sparks, and a great outburst of flame followed
the uproar of the fall.

‘Who is she? what is she?’ burst from every lip again and again,
incoherently, and without leaving a sufficient pause for a reply, had a
reply been volunteered.

The autumn wind, tameless, and swift, and proud, still blew upon the
dying old house, which was constructed so entirely of combustible
materials that it burnt almost as fiercely as a corn-rick. The heat
in the road increased, and now for an instant at the height of the
conflagration all stood still, and gazed silently, awestruck and
helpless, in the presence of so irresistible an enemy. Then, with minds
full of the tragedy unfolded to them, they rushed forward again with
the obtuse directness of waves, to their labour of saving goods from the
houses adjoining, which it was evident were all doomed to destruction.

The minutes passed by. The Three Tranters Inn sank into a mere heap of
red-hot charcoal: the fire pushed its way down the row as the church
clock opposite slowly struck the hour of midnight, and the bewildered
chimes, scarcely heard amid the crackling of the flames, wandered
through the wayward air of the Old Hundred-and-Thirteenth Psalm.

4. NINE TO ELEVEN P.M.

Manston mounted his gig and set out from Chettlewood that evening in no
very enviable frame of mind. The thought of domestic life in Knapwater
Old House, with the now eclipsed wife of the past, was more than
disagreeable, was positively distasteful to him.

Yet he knew that the influential position, which, from whatever
fortunate cause, he held on Miss Aldclyffe’s manor, would never again
fall to his lot on any other, and he tacitly assented to this dilemma,
hoping that some consolation or other would soon suggest itself to him;
married as he was, he was near Cytherea.

He occasionally looked at his watch as he drove along the lanes, timing
the pace of his horse by the hour, that he might reach Carriford Road
Station just soon enough to meet the last London train.

He soon began to notice in the sky a slight yellow halo, near the
horizon. It rapidly increased; it changed colour, and grew redder; then
the glare visibly brightened and dimmed at intervals, showing that its
origin was affected by the strong wind prevailing.

Manston reined in his horse on the summit of a hill, and considered.

‘It is a rick-yard on fire,’ he thought; ‘no house could produce such a
raging flame so suddenly.’

He trotted on again, attempting to particularize the local features in
the neighbourhood of the fire; but this it was too dark to do, and the
excessive winding of the roads misled him as to its direction, not being
an old inhabitant of the district, or a countryman used to forming
such judgments; whilst the brilliancy of the light shortened its real
remoteness to an apparent distance of not more than half: it seemed so
near that he again stopped his horse, this time to listen; but he could
hear no sound.

Entering now a narrow valley, the sides of which obscured the sky to an
angle of perhaps thirty or forty degrees above the mathematical horizon,
he was obliged to suspend his judgment till he was in possession of
further knowledge, having however assumed in the interim, that the fire
was somewhere between Carriford Road Station and the village.

The self-same glare had just arrested the eyes of another man. He was
at that minute gliding along several miles to the east of the steward’s
position, but nearing the same point as that to which Manston tended.
The younger Edward Springrove was returning from London to his father’s
house by the identical train which the steward was expecting to bring
his wife, the truth being that Edward’s lateness was owing to the
simplest of all causes, his temporary want of money, which led him to
make a slow journey for the sake of travelling at third-class fare.

Springrove had received Cytherea’s bitter and admonitory letter, and he
was clearly awakened to a perception of the false position in which
he had placed himself, by keeping silence at Budmouth on his long
engagement. An increasing reluctance to put an end to those few days of
ecstasy with Cytherea had overruled his conscience, and tied his tongue
till speaking was too late.

‘Why did I do it? how could I dream of loving her?’ he asked himself as
he walked by day, as he tossed on his bed by night: ‘miserable folly!’

An impressionable heart had for years--perhaps as many as six or seven
years--been distracting him, by unconsciously setting itself to yearn
for somebody wanting, he scarcely knew whom. Echoes of himself, though
rarely, he now and then found. Sometimes they were men, sometimes women,
his cousin Adelaide being one of these; for in spite of a fashion which
pervades the whole community at the present day--the habit of exclaiming
that woman is not undeveloped man, but diverse, the fact remains that,
after all, women are Mankind, and that in many of the sentiments of life
the difference of sex is but a difference of degree.

But the indefinable helpmate to the remoter sides of himself still
continued invisible. He grew older, and concluded that the ideas, or
rather emotions, which possessed him on the subject, were probably too
unreal ever to be found embodied in the flesh of a woman. Thereupon,
he developed a plan of satisfying his dreams by wandering away to the
heroines of poetical imagination, and took no further thought on the
earthly realization of his formless desire, in more homely matters
satisfying himself with his cousin.

Cytherea appeared in the sky: his heart started up and spoke:

     ‘Tis She, and here
     Lo! I unclothe and clear
     My wishes’ cloudy character.’

Some women kindle emotion so rapidly in a man’s heart that the judgment
cannot keep pace with its rise, and finds, on comprehending the
situation, that faithfulness to the old love is already treachery to the
new. Such women are not necessarily the greatest of their sex, but there
are very few of them. Cytherea was one.

On receiving the letter from her he had taken to thinking over these
things, and had not answered it at all. But ‘hungry generations’ soon
tread down the muser in a city. At length he thought of the strong
necessity of living. After a dreary search, the negligence of which was
ultimately overcome by mere conscientiousness, he obtained a situation
as assistant to an architect in the neighbourhood of Charing Cross: the
duties would not begin till after the lapse of a month.

He could not at first decide whither he should go to spend the
intervening time; but in the midst of his reasonings he found himself
on the road homeward, impelled by a secret and unowned hope of getting a
last glimpse of Cytherea there.

5. MIDNIGHT

It was a quarter to twelve when Manston drove into the station-yard.
The train was punctual, and the bell, announcing its arrival, rang as he
crossed the booking-office to go out upon the platform.

The porter who had accompanied Mrs. Manston to Carriford, and had
returned to the station on his night duty, recognized the steward as he
entered, and immediately came towards him.

‘Mrs. Manston came by the nine o’clock train, sir,’ he said.

The steward gave vent to an expression of vexation.

‘Her luggage is here, sir,’ the porter said.

‘Put it up behind me in the gig if it is not too much,’ said Manston.

‘Directly this train is in and gone, sir.’

The man vanished and crossed the line to meet the entering train.

‘Where is that fire?’ Manston said to the booking-clerk.

Before the clerk could speak, another man ran in and answered the
question without having heard it.

‘Half Carriford is burnt down, or will be!’ he exclaimed. ‘You can’t see
the flames from this station on account of the trees, but step on the
bridge--‘tis tremendous!’

He also crossed the line to assist at the entry of the train, which came
in the next minute.

The steward stood in the office. One passenger alighted, gave up his
ticket, and crossed the room in front of Manston: a young man with a
black bag and umbrella in his hand. He passed out of the door, down the
steps, and struck out into the darkness.

‘Who was that young man?’ said Manston, when the porter had returned.
The young man, by a kind of magnetism, had drawn the steward’s thoughts
after him.

‘He’s an architect.’

‘My own old profession. I could have sworn it by the cut of him,’
Manston murmured. ‘What’s his name?’ he said again.

‘Springrove--Farmer Springrove’s son, Edward.’

‘Farmer Springrove’s son, Edward,’ the steward repeated to himself, and
considered a matter to which the words had painfully recalled his mind.

The matter was Miss Aldclyffe’s mention of the young man as Cytherea’s
lover, which, indeed, had scarcely ever been absent from his thoughts.

‘But for the existence of my wife that man might have been my rival,’ he
pondered, following the porter, who had now come back to him, into the
luggage-room. And whilst the man was carrying out and putting in one
box, which was sufficiently portable for the gig, Manston still thought,
as his eyes watched the process--

‘But for my wife, Springrove might have been my rival.’

He examined the lamps of his gig, carefully laid out the reins, mounted
the seat and drove along the turnpike-road towards Knapwater Park.

The exact locality of the fire was plain to him as he neared home.
He soon could hear the shout of men, the flapping of the flames,
the crackling of burning wood, and could smell the smoke from the
conflagration.

Of a sudden, a few yards ahead, within the compass of the rays from the
right-hand lamp, burst forward the figure of a man. Having been walking
in darkness the newcomer raised his hands to his eyes, on approaching
nearer, to screen them from the glare of the reflector.

Manston saw that he was one of the villagers: a small farmer originally,
who had drunk himself down to a day-labourer and reputed poacher.

‘Hoy!’ cried Manston, aloud, that the man might step aside out of the
way.

‘Is that Mr. Manston?’ said the man.

‘Yes.’

‘Somebody ha’ come to Carriford: and the rest of it may concern you,
sir.’

‘Well, well.’

‘Did you expect Mrs. Manston to-night, sir?’

‘Yes, unfortunately she’s come, I know, and asleep long before this
time, I suppose.’

The labourer leant his elbow upon the shaft of the gig and turned his
face, pale and sweating from his late work at the fire, up to Manston’s.

‘Yes, she did come,’ he said.... ‘I beg pardon, sir, but I should be
glad of--of--’

‘What?’

‘Glad of a trifle for bringen ye the news.’

‘Not a farthing! I didn’t want your news, I knew she was come.’

‘Won’t you give me a shillen, sir?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘Then will you lend me a shillen, sir? I be tired out, and don’t know
what to do. If I don’t pay you back some day I’ll be d--d.’

‘The devil is so cheated that perdition isn’t worth a penny as a
security.’

‘Oh!’

‘Let me go on,’ said Manston.

‘Thy wife is _dead_; that’s the rest o’ the news,’ said the labourer
slowly. He waited for a reply; none came.

‘She went to the Three Tranters, because she couldn’t get into thy
house, the burnen roof fell in upon her before she could be called up,
and she’s a cinder, as thou’lt be some day.’

‘That will do, let me drive on,’ said the steward calmly.

Expectation of a concussion may be so intense that its failure strikes
the brain with more force than its fulfilment. The labourer sank back
into the ditch. Such a Cushi could not realize the possibility of such
an unmoved David as this.

Manston drove hastily to the turning of the road, tied his horse, and
ran on foot to the site of the fire.

The stagnation caused by the awful accident had been passed through,
and all hands were helping to remove from the remaining cottage what
furniture they could lay hold of; the thatch of the roofs being already
on fire. The Knapwater fire-engine had arrived on the spot, but it was
small, and ineffectual. A group was collected round the rector, who in a
coat which had become bespattered, scorched, and torn in his exertions,
was directing on one hand the proceedings relative to the removal of
goods into the church, and with the other was pointing out the spot
on which it was most desirable that the puny engines at their disposal
should be made to play. Every tongue was instantly silent at the sight
of Manston’s pale and clear countenance, which contrasted strangely with
the grimy and streaming faces of the toiling villagers.

‘Was she burnt?’ he said in a firm though husky voice, and stepping into
the illuminated area. The rector came to him, and took him aside. ‘Is
she burnt?’ repeated Manston.

‘She is dead: but thank God, she was spared the horrid agony of
burning,’ the rector said solemnly; ‘the roof and gable fell in upon
her, and crushed her. Instant death must have followed.’

‘Why was she here?’ said Manston.

‘From what we can hurriedly collect, it seems that she found the door
of your house locked, and concluded that you had retired, the fact being
that your servant, Mrs. Crickett, had gone out to supper. She then came
back to the inn and went to bed.’

‘Where’s the landlord?’ said Manston.

Mr. Springrove came up, walking feebly, and wrapped in a cloak, and
corroborated the evidence given by the rector.

‘Did she look ill, or annoyed, when she came?’ said the steward.

‘I can’t say. I didn’t see; but I think--’

‘What do you think?’

‘She was much put out about something.’

‘My not meeting her, naturally,’ murmured the other, lost in reverie.
He turned his back on Springrove and the rector, and retired from the
shining light.

Everything had been done that could be done with the limited means
at their disposal. The whole row of houses was destroyed, and each
presented itself as one stage of a series, progressing from smoking
ruins at the end where the inn had stood, to a partly flaming
mass--glowing as none but wood embers will glow--at the other.

A feature in the decline of town fires was noticeably absent
here--steam. There was present what is not observable in
towns--incandescence.

The heat, and the smarting effect upon their eyes of the strong smoke
from the burning oak and deal, had at last driven the villagers back
from the road in front of the houses, and they now stood in groups
in the churchyard, the surface of which, raised by the interments of
generations, stood four or five feet above the level of the road, and
almost even with the top of the low wall dividing one from the other.
The headstones stood forth whitely against the dark grass and yews,
their brightness being repeated on the white smock-frocks of some of the
labourers, and in a mellower, ruddier form on their faces and hands, on
those of the grinning gargoyles, and on other salient stonework of the
weather-beaten church in the background.

The rector had decided that, under the distressing circumstances of
the case, there would be no sacrilege in placing in the church, for the
night, the pieces of furniture and utensils which had been saved from
the several houses. There was no other place of safety for them, and
they accordingly were gathered there.

6. HALF-PAST TWELVE TO ONE A.M.

Manston, when he retired to meditate, had walked round the churchyard,
and now entered the opened door of the building.

He mechanically pursued his way round the piers into his own seat in
the north aisle. The lower atmosphere of this spot was shaded by its own
wall from the shine which streamed in over the window-sills on the
same side. The only light burning inside the church was a small tallow
candle, standing in the font, in the opposite aisle of the building to
that in which Manston had sat down, and near where the furniture was
piled. The candle’s mild rays were overpowered by the ruddier light from
the ruins, making the weak flame to appear like the moon by day.

Sitting there he saw Farmer Springrove enter the door, followed by his
son Edward, still carrying his travelling-bag in his hand. They
were speaking of the sad death of Mrs. Manston, but the subject was
relinquished for that of the houses burnt.

This row of houses, running from the inn eastward, had been built under
the following circumstances:--

Fifty years before this date, the spot upon which the cottages
afterwards stood was a blank strip, along the side of the village
street, difficult to cultivate, on account of the outcrop thereon of a
large bed of flints called locally a ‘lanch’ or ‘lanchet.’

The Aldclyffe then in possession of the estate conceived the idea that
a row of cottages would be an improvement to the spot, and accordingly
granted leases of portions to several respectable inhabitants. Each
lessee was to be subject to the payment of a merely nominal rent for
the whole term of lives, on condition that he built his own cottage, and
delivered it up intact at the end of the term.

Those who had built had, one by one, relinquished their indentures,
either by sale or barter, to Farmer Springrove’s father. New lives were
added in some cases, by payment of a sum to the lord of the manor, etc.,
and all the leases were now held by the farmer himself, as one of the
chief provisions for his old age.

The steward had become interested in the following conversation:--

‘Try not to be so depressed, father; they are all insured.’

The words came from Edward in an anxious tone.

‘You mistake, Edward; they are not insured,’ returned the old man
gloomily.

‘Not?’ the son asked.

‘Not one!’ said the farmer.

‘In the Helmet Fire Office, surely?’

‘They were insured there every one. Six months ago the office, which had
been raising the premiums on thatched premises higher for some years,
gave up insuring them altogether, as two or three other fire-offices had
done previously, on account, they said, of the uncertainty and
greatness of the risk of thatch undetached. Ever since then I have been
continually intending to go to another office, but have never gone. Who
expects a fire?’

‘Do you remember the terms of the leases?’ said Edward, still more
uneasily.

‘No, not particularly,’ said his father absently.

‘Where are they?’

‘In the bureau there; that’s why I tried to save it first, among other
things.’

‘Well, we must see to that at once.’

‘What do you want?’

‘The key.’

They went into the south aisle, took the candle from the font, and then
proceeded to open the bureau, which had been placed in a corner under
the gallery. Both leant over upon the flap; Edward holding the candle,
whilst his father took the pieces of parchment from one of the drawers,
and spread the first out before him.

‘You read it, Ted. I can’t see without my glasses. This one will be
sufficient. The terms of all are the same.’

Edward took the parchment, and read quickly and indistinctly for some
time; then aloud and slowly as follows:--


‘And the said John Springrove for himself his heirs executors and
administrators doth covenant and agree with the said Gerald Fellcourt
Aldclyffe his heirs and assigns that he the said John Springrove his
heirs and assigns during the said term shall pay unto the said Gerald
Fellcourt Aldclyffe his heirs and assigns the clear yearly rent of ten
shillings and sixpence.... at the several times hereinbefore appointed
for the payment thereof respectively. And also shall and at all times
during the said term well and sufficiently repair and keep the said
Cottage or Dwelling-house and all other the premises and all houses or
buildings erected or to be erected thereupon in good and proper repair
in every respect without exception and the said premises in such good
repair upon the determination of this demise shall yield up unto the
said Gerald Fellcourt Aldclyffe his heirs and assigns.’


They closed the bureau and turned towards the door of the church without
speaking.

Manston also had come forward out of the gloom. Notwithstanding the
farmer’s own troubles, an instinctive respect and generous sense of
sympathy with the steward for his awful loss caused the old man to step
aside, that Manston might pass out without speaking to them if he chose
to do so.

‘Who is he?’ whispered Edward to his father, as Manston approached.

‘Mr. Manston, the steward.’

Manston came near, and passed down the aisle on the side of the younger
man. Their faces came almost close together: one large flame, which
still lingered upon the ruins outside, threw long dancing shadows of
each across the nave till they bent upwards against the aisle wall, and
also illuminated their eyes, as each met those of the other. Edward had
learnt, by a letter from home, of the steward’s passion for Cytherea,
and his mysterious repression of it, afterwards explained by his
marriage. That marriage was now nought. Edward realized the man’s newly
acquired freedom, and felt an instinctive enmity towards him--he would
hardly own to himself why. The steward, too, knew Cytherea’s attachment
to Edward, and looked keenly and inscrutably at him.

7. ONE TO TWO A.M.

Manston went homeward alone, his heart full of strange emotions.
Entering the house, and dismissing the woman to her own home, he at once
proceeded upstairs to his bedroom.

Reasoning worldliness, especially when allied with sensuousness, cannot
repress on some extreme occasions the human instinct to pour out the
soul to some Being or Personality, who in frigid moments is dismissed
with the title of Chance, or at most Law. Manston was selfishly and
inhumanly, but honestly and unutterably, thankful for the recent
catastrophe. Beside his bed, for that first time during a period
of nearly twenty years, he fell down upon his knees in a passionate
outburst of feeling.

Many minutes passed before he arose. He walked to the window, and then
seemed to remember for the first time that some action on his part was
necessary in connection with the sad circumstance of the night.

Leaving the house at once, he went to the scene of the fire, arriving
there in time to hear the rector making an arrangement with a certain
number of men to watch the spot till morning. The ashes were still
red-hot and flaming. Manston found that nothing could be done towards
searching them at that hour of the night. He turned homeward again, in
the company of the rector, who had considerately persuaded him to retire
from the scene for a while, and promised that as soon as a man could
live amid the embers of the Three Tranters Inn, they should be carefully
searched for the remains of his unfortunate wife.

Manston then went indoors, to wait for morning.



XI. THE EVENTS OF FIVE DAYS

1. NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-NINTH

The search began at dawn, but a quarter past nine o’clock came without
bringing any result. Manston ate a little breakfast, and crossed
the hollow of the park which intervened between the old and modern
manor-houses, to ask for an interview with Miss Aldclyffe.

He met her midway. She was about to pay him a visit of condolence, and
to place every man on the estate at his disposal, that the search
for any relic of his dead and destroyed wife might not be delayed an
instant.

He accompanied her back to the house. At first they conversed as if the
death of the poor woman was an event which the husband must of necessity
deeply lament; and when all under this head that social form seemed to
require had been uttered, they spoke of the material damage done, and of
the steps which had better be taken to remedy it.

It was not till both were shut inside her private room that she spoke
to him in her blunt and cynical manner. A certain newness of bearing in
him, peculiar to the present morning, had hitherto forbidden her this
tone: the demeanour of the subject of her favouritism had altered, she
could not tell in what way. He was entirely a changed man.

‘Are you really sorry for your poor wife, Mr. Manston?’ she said.

‘Well, I am,’ he answered shortly.

‘But only as for any human being who has met with a violent death?’

He confessed it--‘For she was not a good woman,’ he added.

‘I should be sorry to say such a thing now the poor creature is dead,’
Miss Aldclyffe returned reproachfully.

‘Why?’ he asked. ‘Why should I praise her if she doesn’t deserve it? I
say exactly what I have often admired Sterne for saying in one of his
letters--that neither reason nor Scripture asks us to speak nothing but
good of the dead. And now, madam,’ he continued, after a short interval
of thought, ‘I may, perhaps, hope that you will assist me, or rather not
thwart me, in endeavouring to win the love of a young lady living about
you, one in whom I am much interested already.’

‘Cytherea!’

‘Yes, Cytherea.’

‘You have been loving Cytherea all the while?’

‘Yes.’

Surprise was a preface to much agitation in her, which caused her
to rise from her seat, and pace to the side of the room. The steward
quietly looked on and added, ‘I have been loving and still love her.’

She came close up to him, wistfully contemplating his face, one hand
moving indecisively at her side.

‘And your secret marriage was, then, the true and only reason for that
backwardness regarding the courtship of Cytherea, which, they tell
me, has been the talk of the village; not your indifference to her
attractions.’ Her voice had a tone of conviction in it, as well as of
inquiry; but none of jealousy.

‘Yes,’ he said; ‘and not a dishonourable one. What held me back was just
that one thing--a sense of morality that perhaps, madam, you did not
give me credit for.’ The latter words were spoken with a mien and tone
of pride.

Miss Aldclyffe preserved silence.

‘And now,’ he went on, ‘I may as well say a word in vindication of my
conduct lately, at the risk, too, of offending you. My actual motive in
submitting to your order that I should send for my late wife, and live
with her, was not the mercenary policy of wishing to retain an office
which brings me greater comforts than any I have enjoyed before, but
this unquenchable passion for Cytherea. Though I saw the weakness,
folly, and even wickedness of it continually, it still forced me to try
to continue near her, even as the husband of another woman.’

He waited for her to speak: she did not.

‘There’s a great obstacle to my making any way in winning Miss Graye’s
love,’ he went on.

‘Yes, Edward Springrove,’ she said quietly. ‘I know it, I did once want
to see them married; they have had a slight quarrel, and it will soon be
made up again, unless--’ she spoke as if she had only half attended to
Manston’s last statement.

‘He is already engaged to be married to somebody else,’ said the
steward.

‘Pooh!’ said she, ‘you mean to his cousin at Peakhill; that’s nothing to
help us; he’s now come home to break it off.’

‘He must not break it off,’ said Manston, firmly and calmly.

His tone attracted her, startled her. Recovering herself, she said
haughtily, ‘Well, that’s your affair, not mine. Though my wish has been
to see her _your_ wife, I can’t do anything dishonourable to bring about
such a result.’

‘But it must be _made_ your affair,’ he said in a hard, steady voice,
looking into her eyes, as if he saw there the whole panorama of her
past.

One of the most difficult things to portray by written words is that
peculiar mixture of moods expressed in a woman’s countenance when, after
having been sedulously engaged in establishing another’s position, she
suddenly suspects him of undermining her own. It was thus that Miss
Aldclyffe looked at the steward.

‘You--know--something--of me?’ she faltered.

‘I know all,’ he said.

‘Then curse that wife of yours! She wrote and said she wouldn’t tell
you!’ she burst out. ‘Couldn’t she keep her word for a day?’ She
reflected and then said, but no more as to a stranger, ‘I will not
yield. I have committed no crime. I yielded to her threats in a moment
of weakness, though I felt inclined to defy her at the time: it was
chiefly because I was mystified as to how she got to know of it. Pooh!
I will put up with threats no more. O, can _you_ threaten me?’ she added
softly, as if she had for the moment forgotten to whom she had been
speaking.

‘My love must be made your affair,’ he repeated, without taking his eyes
from her.

An agony, which was not the agony of being discovered in a secret,
obstructed her utterance for a time. ‘How can you turn upon me so when I
schemed to get you here--schemed that you might win her till I found
you were married. O, how can you! O!... O!’ She wept; and the weeping of
such a nature was as harrowing as the weeping of a man.

‘Your getting me here was bad policy as to your secret--the most absurd
thing in the world,’ he said, not heeding her distress. ‘I knew all,
except the identity of the individual, long ago. Directly I found that
my coming here was a contrived thing, and not a matter of chance, it
fixed my attention upon you at once. All that was required was the mere
spark of life, to make of a bundle of perceptions an organic whole.’

‘Policy, how can you talk of policy? Think, do think! And how can you
threaten me when you know--you know--that I would befriend you readily
without a threat!’

‘Yes, yes, I think you would,’ he said more kindly; ‘but your
indifference for so many, many years has made me doubt it.’

‘No, not indifference--‘twas enforced silence. My father lived.’

He took her hand, and held it gently.

              *     *     *     *     *

‘Now listen,’ he said, more quietly and humanly, when she had become
calmer: ‘Springrove must marry the woman he’s engaged to. You may make
him, but only in one way.’

‘Well: but don’t speak sternly, AEneas!’

‘Do you know that his father has not been particularly thriving for the
last two or three years?’

‘I have heard something of it, once or twice, though his rents have been
promptly paid, haven’t they?’

‘O yes; and do you know the terms of the leases of the houses which are
burnt?’ he said, explaining to her that by those terms she might compel
him even to rebuild every house. ‘The case is the clearest case of
fire by negligence that I have ever known, in addition to that,’ he
continued.

‘I don’t want them rebuilt; you know it was intended by my father,
directly they fell in, to clear the site for a new entrance to the
park?’

‘Yes, but that doesn’t affect the position, which is that Farmer
Springrove is in your power to an extent which is very serious for him.’

‘I won’t do it--‘tis a conspiracy.’

‘Won’t you for me?’ he said eagerly.

Miss Aldclyffe changed colour.

‘I don’t threaten now, I implore,’ he said.

‘Because you might threaten if you chose,’ she mournfully answered. ‘But
why be so--when your marriage with her was my own pet idea long before
it was yours? What must I do?’

‘Scarcely anything: simply this. When I have seen old Mr. Springrove,
which I shall do in a day or two, and told him that he will be expected
to rebuild the houses, do you see the young man. See him yourself, in
order that the proposals made may not appear to be anything more than an
impulse of your own. You or he will bring up the subject of the houses.
To rebuild them would be a matter of at least six hundred pounds, and
he will almost surely say that we are hard in insisting upon the extreme
letter of the leases. Then tell him that scarcely can you yourself
think of compelling an old tenant like his father to any such painful
extreme--there shall be no compulsion to build, simply a surrender of
the leases. Then speak feelingly of his cousin, as a woman whom you
respect and love, and whose secret you have learnt to be that she is
heart-sick with hope deferred. Beg him to marry her, his betrothed and
your friend, as some return for your consideration towards his father.
Don’t suggest too early a day for their marriage, or he will suspect you
of some motive beyond womanly sympathy. Coax him to make a promise to
her that she shall be his wife at the end of a twelvemonth, and get him,
on assenting to this, to write to Cytherea, entirely renouncing her.’

‘She has already asked him to do that.’

‘So much the better--and telling her, too, that he is about to fulfil
his long-standing promise to marry his cousin. If you think it worth
while, you may say Cytherea was not indisposed to think of me before she
knew I was married. I have at home a note she wrote me the first evening
I saw her, which looks rather warm, and which I could show you. Trust
me, he will give her up. When he is married to Adelaide Hinton, Cytherea
will be induced to marry me--perhaps before; a woman’s pride is soon
wounded.’

‘And hadn’t I better write to Mr. Nyttleton, and inquire more
particularly what’s the law upon the houses?’

‘O no, there’s no hurry for that. We know well enough how the case
stands--quite well enough to talk in general terms about it. And I want
the pressure to be put upon young Springrove before he goes away from
home again.’

She looked at him furtively, long, and sadly, as after speaking he
became lost in thought, his eyes listlessly tracing the pattern of the
carpet. ‘Yes, yes, she will be mine,’ he whispered, careless of Cytherea
Aldclyffe’s presence. At last he raised his eyes inquiringly.

‘I will do my best, AEneas,’ she answered.

Talibus incusat. Manston then left the house, and again went towards the
blackened ruins, where men were still raking and probing.

2. FROM NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-NINTH TO DECEMBER THE SECOND

The smouldering remnants of the Three Tranters Inn seemed to promise
that, even when the searchers should light upon the remains of the
unfortunate Mrs. Manston, very little would be discoverable.

Consisting so largely of the charcoal and ashes of hard dry oak and
chestnut, intermingled with thatch, the interior of the heap was one
glowing mass of embers, which, on being stirred about, emitted sparks
and flame long after it was dead and black on the outside. It was
persistently hoped, however, that some traces of the body would survive
the effect of the hot coals, and after a search pursued uninterruptedly
for thirty hours, under the direction of Manston himself, enough was
found to set at rest any doubts of her fate.

The melancholy gleanings consisted of her watch, bunch of keys, a few
coins, and two charred and blackened bones.

Two days later the official inquiry into the cause of her death was held
at the Rising Sun Inn, before Mr. Floy, the coroner, and a jury of the
chief inhabitants of the district. The little tavern--the only remaining
one in the village--was crowded to excess by the neighbouring peasantry
as well as their richer employers: all who could by any possibility
obtain an hour’s release from their duties being present as listeners.

The jury viewed the sad and infinitesimal remains, which were folded in
a white cambric cloth, and laid in the middle of a well-finished coffin
lined with white silk (by Manston’s order), which stood in an adjoining
room, the bulk of the coffin being completely filled in with carefully
arranged flowers and evergreens--also the steward’s own doing.

Abraham Brown, of Hoxton, London--an old white-headed man, without the
ruddiness which makes white hairs so pleasing--was sworn, and deposed
that he kept a lodging-house at an address he named. On a Saturday
evening less than a month before the fire, a lady came to him, with very
little luggage, and took the front room on the second floor. He did not
inquire where she came from, as she paid a week in advance, but she gave
her name as Mrs. Manston, referring him, if he wished for any guarantee
of her respectability, to Mr. Manston, Knapwater Park. Here she lived
for three weeks, rarely going out. She slept away from her lodgings one
night during the time. At the end of that time, on the twenty-eighth of
November, she left his house in a four-wheeled cab, about twelve o’clock
in the day, telling the driver to take her to the Waterloo Station. She
paid all her lodging expenses, and not having given notice the full week
previous to her going away, offered to pay for the next, but he only
took half. She wore a thick black veil, and grey waterproof cloak, when
she left him, and her luggage was two boxes, one of plain deal, with
black japanned clamps, the other sewn up in canvas.

Joseph Chinney, porter at the Carriford Road Station, deposed that he
saw Mrs. Manston, dressed as the last witness had described, get out
of a second-class carriage on the night of the twenty-eighth. She stood
beside him whilst her luggage was taken from the van. The luggage,
consisting of the clamped deal box and another covered with canvas, was
placed in the cloak-room. She seemed at a loss at finding nobody there
to meet her. She asked him for some person to accompany her, and carry
her bag to Mr. Manston’s house, Knapwater Park. He was just off duty
at that time, and offered to go himself. The witness here repeated
the conversation he had had with Mrs. Manston during their walk, and
testified to having left her at the door of the Three Tranters Inn, Mr.
Manston’s house being closed.

Next, Farmer Springrove was called. A murmur of surprise and
commiseration passed round the crowded room when he stepped forward.

The events of the few preceding days had so worked upon his nervously
thoughtful nature that the blue orbits of his eyes, and the mere spot of
scarlet to which the ruddiness of his cheeks had contracted, seemed the
result of a heavy sickness. A perfect silence pervaded the assembly when
he spoke.

His statement was that he received Mrs. Manston at the threshold, and
asked her to enter the parlour. She would not do so, and stood in the
passage whilst the maid went upstairs to see that the room was in order.
The maid came down to the middle landing of the staircase, when Mrs.
Manston followed her up to the room. He did not speak ten words with her
altogether.

Afterwards, whilst he was standing at the door listening for his son
Edward’s return, he saw her light extinguished, having first caught
sight of her shadow moving about the room.

THE CORONER: ‘Did her shadow appear to be that of a woman undressing?’

SPRINGROVE: ‘I cannot say, as I didn’t take particular notice. It moved
backwards and forwards; she might have been undressing or merely pacing
up and down the room.’

Mrs. Fitler, the ostler’s wife and chambermaid, said that she preceded
Mrs. Manston into the room, put down the candle, and went out. Mrs.
Manston scarcely spoke to her, except to ask her to bring a little
brandy. Witness went and fetched it from the bar, brought it up, and put
it on the dressing-table.

THE CORONER: ‘Had Mrs. Manston begun to undress, when you came back?’

‘No, sir; she was sitting on the bed, with everything on, as when she
came in.’

‘Did she begin to undress before you left?’

‘Not exactly before I had left; but when I had closed the door, and was
on the landing I heard her boot drop on the floor, as it does sometimes
when pulled off?’

‘Had her face appeared worn and sleepy?’

‘I cannot say as her bonnet and veil were still on when I left, for she
seemed rather shy and ashamed to be seen at the Three Tranters at all.’

‘And did you hear or see any more of her?’

‘No more, sir.’

Mrs. Crickett, temporary servant to Mr. Manston, said that in accordance
with Mr. Manston’s orders, everything had been made comfortable in the
house for Mrs. Manston’s expected return on Monday night. Mr. Manston
told her that himself and Mrs. Manston would be home late, not till
between eleven and twelve o’clock, and that supper was to be ready. Not
expecting Mrs. Manston so early, she had gone out on a very important
errand to Mrs. Leat the postmistress.

Mr. Manston deposed that in looking down the columns of Bradshaw he
had mistaken the time of the train’s arrival, and hence was not at the
station when she came. The broken watch produced was his wife’s--he knew
it by a scratch on the inner plate, and by other signs. The bunch of
keys belonged to her: two of them fitted the locks of her two boxes.

Mr. Flooks, agent to Lord Claydonfield at Chettlewood, said that Mr.
Manston had pleaded as his excuse for leaving him rather early in the
evening after their day’s business had been settled, that he was going
to meet his wife at Carriford Road Station, where she was coming by the
last train that night.

The surgeon said that the remains were those of a human being. The small
fragment seemed a portion of one of the lumbar vertebrae--the other
the head of the os femoris--but they were both so far gone that it was
impossible to say definitely whether they belonged to the body of a male
or female. There was no moral doubt that they were a woman’s. He did
not believe that death resulted from burning by fire. He thought she was
crushed by the fall of the west gable, which being of wood, as well as
the floor, burnt after it had fallen, and consumed the body with it.

Two or three additional witnesses gave unimportant testimony.

The coroner summed up, and the jury without hesitation found that the
deceased Mrs. Manston came by her death accidentally through the burning
of the Three Tranters Inn.

3. DECEMBER THE SECOND. AFTERNOON

When Mr. Springrove came from the door of the Rising Sun at the end of
the inquiry, Manston walked by his side as far as the stile to the park,
a distance of about a stone’s-throw.

‘Ah, Mr. Springrove, this is a sad affair for everybody concerned.’

‘Everybody,’ said the old farmer, with deep sadness, ‘’tis quite a
misery to me. I hardly know how I shall live through each day as it
breaks. I think of the words, “In the morning thou shalt say, Would God
it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for
the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of
thine eyes which thou shalt see.”’ His voice became broken.

‘Ah--true. I read Deuteronomy myself,’ said Manston.

‘But my loss is as nothing to yours,’ the farmer continued.

‘Nothing; but I can commiserate you. I should be worse than unfeeling
if I didn’t, although my own affliction is of so sad and solemn a kind.
Indeed my own loss makes me more keenly alive to yours, different in
nature as it is.’

‘What sum do you think would be required of me to put the houses in
place again?’

‘I have roughly thought six or seven hundred pounds.’

‘If the letter of the law is to be acted up to,’ said the old man, with
more agitation in his voice.

‘Yes, exactly.’

‘Do you know enough of Miss Aldclyffe’s mind to give me an idea of how
she means to treat me?’

‘Well, I am afraid I must tell you that though I know very little of her
mind as a rule, in this matter I believe she will be rather peremptory;
she might share to the extent of a sixth or an eighth perhaps, in
consideration of her getting new lamps for old, but I should hardly
think more.’

The steward stepped upon the stile, and Mr. Springrove went along the
road with a bowed head and heavy footsteps towards his niece’s cottage,
in which, rather against the wish of Edward, they had temporarily taken
refuge.

The additional weight of this knowledge soon made itself perceptible.
Though indoors with Edward or Adelaide nearly the whole of the
afternoon, nothing more than monosyllabic replies could be drawn from
him. Edward continually discovered him looking fixedly at the wall or
floor, quite unconscious of another’s presence. At supper he ate just as
usual, but quite mechanically, and with the same abstraction.

4. DECEMBER THE THIRD

The next morning he was in no better spirits. Afternoon came: his son
was alarmed, and managed to draw from him an account of the conversation
with the steward.

‘Nonsense; he knows nothing about it,’ said Edward vehemently. ‘I’ll see
Miss Aldclyffe myself. Now promise me, father, that you’ll not believe
till I come back, and tell you to believe it, that Miss Aldclyffe will
do any such unjust thing.’

Edward started at once for Knapwater House. He strode rapidly along the
high-road, till he reached a wicket where a footpath allowed of a short
cut to the mansion. Here he leant down upon the bars for a few minutes,
meditating as to the best manner of opening his speech, and surveying
the scene before him in that absent mood which takes cognizance of
little things without being conscious of them at the time, though they
appear in the eye afterwards as vivid impressions. It was a yellow,
lustrous, late autumn day, one of those days of the quarter when morning
and evening seem to meet together without the intervention of a noon.
The clear yellow sunlight had tempted forth Miss Aldclyffe herself, who
was at this same time taking a walk in the direction of the village.
As Springrove lingered he heard behind the plantation a woman’s dress
brushing along amid the prickly husks and leaves which had fallen into
the path from the boughs of the chestnut trees. In another minute she
stood in front of him.

He answered her casual greeting respectfully, and was about to request
a few minutes’ conversation with her, when she directly addressed him
on the subject of the fire. ‘It is a sad misfortune for your father’ she
said, ‘and I hear that he has lately let his insurances expire?’

‘He has, madam, and you are probably aware that either by the general
terms of his holding, or the same coupled with the origin of the fire,
the disaster may involve the necessity of his rebuilding the whole row
of houses, or else of becoming a debtor to the estate, to the extent of
some hundreds of pounds?’

She assented. ‘I have been thinking of it,’ she went on, and then
repeated in substance the words put into her mouth by the steward.
Some disturbance of thought might have been fancied as taking place in
Springrove’s mind during her statement, but before she had reached the
end, his eyes were clear, and directed upon her.

‘I don’t accept your conditions of release,’ he said.

‘They are not conditions exactly.’

‘Well, whatever they are not, they are very uncalled-for remarks.’

‘Not at all--the houses have been burnt by your family’s negligence.’

‘I don’t refer to the houses--you have of course the best of all rights
to speak of that matter; but you, a stranger to me comparatively, have
no right at all to volunteer opinions and wishes upon a very delicate
subject, which concerns no living beings but Miss Graye, Miss Hinton,
and myself.’

Miss Aldclyffe, like a good many others in her position, had plainly
not realized that a son of her tenant and inferior could have become an
educated man, who had learnt to feel his individuality, to view society
from a Bohemian standpoint, far outside the farming grade in Carriford
parish, and that hence he had all a developed man’s unorthodox opinion
about the subordination of classes. And fully conscious of the labyrinth
into which he had wandered between his wish to behave honourably in the
dilemma of his engagement to his cousin Adelaide and the intensity of
his love for Cytherea, Springrove was additionally sensitive to any
allusion to the case. He had spoken to Miss Aldclyffe with considerable
warmth.

And Miss Aldclyffe was not a woman likely to be far behind any second
person in warming to a mood of defiance. It seemed as if she were
prepared to put up with a cold refusal, but that her haughtiness
resented a criticism of her conduct ending in a rebuke. By this,
Manston’s discreditable object, which had been made hers by compulsion
only, was now adopted by choice. She flung herself into the work.

A fiery man in such a case would have relinquished persuasion and tried
palpable force. A fiery woman added unscrupulousness and evolved daring
strategy; and in her obstinacy, and to sustain herself as mistress, she
descended to an action the meanness of which haunted her conscience to
her dying hour.

‘I don’t quite see, Mr. Springrove,’ she said, ‘that I am altogether
what you are pleased to call a stranger. I have known your family, at
any rate, for a good many years, and I know Miss Graye particularly
well, and her state of mind with regard to this matter.’

Perplexed love makes us credulous and curious as old women. Edward was
willing, he owned it to himself, to get at Cytherea’s state of mind,
even through so dangerous a medium.

‘A letter I received from her’ he said, with assumed coldness, ‘tells me
clearly enough what Miss Graye’s mind is.’

‘You think she still loves you? O yes, of course you do--all men are
like that.’

‘I have reason to.’ He could feign no further than the first speech.

‘I should be interested in knowing what reason?’ she said, with
sarcastic archness.

Edward felt he was allowing her to do, in fractional parts, what he
rebelled against when regarding it as a whole; but the fact that his
antagonist had the presence of a queen, and features only in the early
evening of their beauty, was not without its influence upon a keenly
conscious man. Her bearing had charmed him into toleration, as Mary
Stuart’s charmed the indignant Puritan visitors. He again answered her
honestly.

‘The best of reasons--the tone of her letter.’

‘Pooh, Mr. Springrove!’

‘Not at all, Miss Aldclyffe! Miss Graye desired that we should be
strangers to each other for the simple practical reason that intimacy
could only make wretched complications worse, not from lack of
love--love is only suppressed.’

‘Don’t you know yet, that in thus putting aside a man, a woman’s pity
for the pain she inflicts gives her a kindness of tone which is
often mistaken for suppressed love?’ said Miss Aldclyffe, with soft
insidiousness.

This was a translation of the ambiguity of Cytherea’s tone which he had
certainly never thought of; and he was too ingenuous not to own it.

‘I had never thought of it,’ he said.

‘And don’t believe it?’

‘Not unless there was some other evidence to support the view.’

She paused a minute and then began hesitatingly--

‘My intention was--what I did not dream of owning to you--my intention
was to try to induce you to fulfil your promise to Miss Hinton not
solely on her account and yours (though partly). I love Cytherea Graye
with all my soul, and I want to see her happy even more than I do you. I
did not mean to drag her name into the affair at all, but I am driven
to say that she wrote that letter of dismissal to you--for it was a
most pronounced dismissal--not on account of your engagement. She is old
enough to know that engagements can be broken as easily as they can be
made. She wrote it because she loved another man; very suddenly, and not
with any idea or hope of marrying him, but none the less deeply.’

‘Who?’

‘Mr. Manston.’

‘Good--! I can’t listen to you for an instant, madam; why, she hadn’t
seen him!’

‘She had; he came here the day before she wrote to you; and I could
prove to you, if it were worth while, that on that day she went
voluntarily to his house, though not artfully or blamably; stayed for
two hours playing and singing; that no sooner did she leave him than she
went straight home, and wrote the letter saying she should not see you
again, entirely because she had seen him and fallen desperately in love
with him--a perfectly natural thing for a young girl to do, considering
that he’s the handsomest man in the county. Why else should she not have
written to you before?’

‘Because I was such a--because she did not know of the connection
between me and my cousin until then.’

‘I must think she did.’

‘On what ground?’

‘On the strong ground of my having told her so, distinctly, the very
first day she came to live with me.’

‘Well, what do you seek to impress upon me after all? This--that the
day Miss Graye wrote to me, saying it was better that we should part,
coincided with the day she had seen a certain man--’

‘A remarkably handsome and talented man.’

‘Yes, I admit that.’

‘And that it coincided with the hour just subsequent to her seeing him.’

‘Yes, just when she had seen him.’

‘And been to his house alone with him.’

‘It is nothing.’

‘And stayed there playing and singing with him.’

‘Admit that, too,’ he said; ‘an accident might have caused it.’

‘And at the same instant that she wrote your dismissal she wrote a
letter referring to a secret appointment with him.’

‘Never, by God, madam! never!’

‘What do you say, sir?’

‘Never.’

She sneered.

‘There’s no accounting for beliefs, and the whole history is a very
trivial matter; but I am resolved to prove that a lady’s word is
truthful, though upon a matter which concerns neither you nor herself.
You shall learn that she _did_ write him a letter concerning an
assignation--that is, if Mr. Manston still has it, and will be
considerate enough to lend it me.’

‘But besides,’ continued Edward, ‘a married man to do what would cause a
young girl to write a note of the kind you mention!’

She flushed a little.

‘That I don’t know anything about,’ she stammered. ‘But Cytherea didn’t,
of course, dream any more than I did, or others in the parish, that he
was married.’

‘Of course she didn’t.’

‘And I have reason to believe that he told her of the fact directly
afterwards, that she might not compromise herself, or allow him to.
It is notorious that he struggled honestly and hard against her
attractions, and succeeded in hiding his feelings, if not in quenching
them.’

‘We’ll hope that he did.’

‘But circumstances are changed now.’

‘Very greatly changed,’ he murmured abstractedly.

‘You must remember,’ she added more suasively, ‘that Miss Graye has a
perfect right to do what she likes with her own--her heart, that is to
say.’

Her descent from irritation was caused by perceiving that Edward’s faith
was really disturbed by her strong assertions, and it gratified her.

Edward’s thoughts flew to his father, and the object of his interview
with her. Tongue-fencing was utterly distasteful to him.

‘I will not trouble you by remaining longer, madam,’ he remarked,
gloomily; ‘our conversation has ended sadly for me.’

‘Don’t think so,’ she said, ‘and don’t be mistaken. I am older than you
are, many years older, and I know many things.’


Full of miserable doubt, and bitterly regretting that he had raised his
father’s expectations by anticipations impossible of fulfilment, Edward
slowly went his way into the village, and approached his cousin’s house.
The farmer was at the door looking eagerly for him. He had been waiting
there for more than half-an-hour. His eye kindled quickly.

‘Well, Ted, what does she say?’ he asked, in the intensely sanguine
tones which fall sadly upon a listener’s ear, because, antecedently,
they raise pictures of inevitable disappointment for the speaker, in
some direction or another.

‘Nothing for us to be alarmed at,’ said Edward, with a forced
cheerfulness.

‘But must we rebuild?’

‘It seems we must, father.’

The old man’s eyes swept the horizon, then he turned to go in, without
making another observation. All light seemed extinguished in him again.
When Edward went in he found his father with the bureau open, unfolding
the leases with a shaking hand, folding them up again without reading
them, then putting them in their niche only to remove them again.

Adelaide was in the room. She said thoughtfully to Edward, as she
watched the farmer--

‘I hope it won’t kill poor uncle, Edward. What should we do if anything
were to happen to him? He is the only near relative you and I have in
the world.’ It was perfectly true, and somehow Edward felt more bound up
with her after that remark.

She continued: ‘And he was only saying so hopefully the day before the
fire, that he wouldn’t for the world let any one else give me away to
you when we are married.’

For the first time a conscientious doubt arose in Edward’s mind as to
the justice of the course he was pursuing in resolving to refuse the
alternative offered by Miss Aldclyffe. Could it be selfishness as well
as independence? How much he had thought of his own heart, how little he
had thought of his father’s peace of mind!

The old man did not speak again till supper-time, when he began asking
his son an endless number of hypothetical questions on what might induce
Miss Aldclyffe to listen to kinder terms; speaking of her now not as an
unfair woman, but as a Lachesis or Fate whose course it behoved nobody
to condemn. In his earnestness he once turned his eyes on Edward’s
face: their expression was woful: the pupils were dilated and strange in
aspect.

‘If she will only agree to that!’ he reiterated for the hundredth time,
increasing the sadness of his listeners.

An aristocratic knocking came to the door, and Jane entered with a
letter, addressed--

                ‘MR. EDWARD SPRINGROVE, Junior.’

‘Charles from Knapwater House brought it,’ she said.

‘Miss Aldclyffe’s writing,’ said Mr. Springrove, before Edward had
recognized it himself. ‘Now ‘tis all right; she’s going to make an
offer; she doesn’t want the houses there, not she; they are going to
make that the way into the park.’

Edward opened the seal and glanced at the inside. He said, with a
supreme effort of self-command--

‘It is only directed by Miss Aldclyffe, and refers to nothing connected
with the fire. I wonder at her taking the trouble to send it to-night.’

His father looked absently at him and turned away again. Shortly
afterwards they retired for the night. Alone in his bedroom Edward
opened and read what he had not dared to refer to in their presence.

The envelope contained another envelope in Cytherea’s handwriting,
addressed to ‘---- Manston, Esq., Old Manor House.’ Inside this was the
note she had written to the steward after her detention in his house by
the thunderstorm--


                     ‘KNAPWATER HOUSE,
                          September 20th.

‘I find I cannot meet you at seven o’clock by the waterfall as I
promised. The emotion I felt made me forgetful of realities.                                             ‘C. GRAYE.’


Miss Aldclyffe had not written a line, and, by the unvarying rule
observable when words are not an absolute necessity, her silence seemed
ten times as convincing as any expression of opinion could have been.

He then, step by step, recalled all the conversation on the subject of
Cytherea’s feelings that had passed between himself and Miss Aldclyffe
in the afternoon, and by a confusion of thought, natural enough under
the trying experience, concluded that because the lady was truthful
in her portraiture of effects, she must necessarily be right in her
assumption of causes. That is, he was convinced that Cytherea--the
hitherto-believed faithful Cytherea--had, at any rate, looked with
something more than indifference upon the extremely handsome face and
form of Manston.

Did he blame her, as guilty of the impropriety of allowing herself to
love the newcomer in the face of his not being free to return her love?
No; never for a moment did he doubt that all had occurred in her
old, innocent, impulsive way; that her heart was gone before she knew
it--before she knew anything, beyond his existence, of the man to whom
it had flown. Perhaps the very note enclosed to him was the result
of first reflection. Manston he would unhesitatingly have called a
scoundrel, but for one strikingly redeeming fact. It had been patent
to the whole parish, and had come to Edward’s own knowledge by that
indirect channel, that Manston, as a married man, conscientiously
avoided Cytherea after those first few days of his arrival during which
her irresistibly beautiful and fatal glances had rested upon him--his
upon her.

Taking from his coat a creased and pocket-worn envelope containing
Cytherea’s letter to himself, Springrove opened it and read it through.
He was upbraided therein, and he was dismissed. It bore the date of the
letter sent to Manston, and by containing within it the phrase, ‘All the
day long I have been thinking,’ afforded justifiable ground for assuming
that it was written subsequently to the other (and in Edward’s sight far
sweeter one) to the steward.

But though he accused her of fickleness, he would not doubt the
genuineness, in its kind, of her partiality for him at Budmouth. It was
a short and shallow feeling--not perfect love:

          ‘Love is not love
   Which alters when it alteration finds.’

But it was not flirtation; a feeling had been born in her and had died.
It would be well for his peace of mind if his love for her could flit
away so softly, and leave so few traces behind.

Miss Aldclyffe had shown herself desperately concerned in the whole
matter by the alacrity with which she had obtained the letter from
Manston, and her labours to induce himself to marry his cousin. Taken in
connection with her apparent interest in, if not love for, Cytherea, her
eagerness, too, could only be accounted for on the ground that Cytherea
indeed loved the steward.

5. DECEMBER THE FOURTH

Edward passed the night he scarcely knew how, tossing feverishly from
side to side, the blood throbbing in his temples, and singing in his
ears.

Before the day began to break he dressed himself. On going out upon
the landing he found his father’s bedroom door already open. Edward
concluded that the old man had risen softly, as was his wont, and gone
out into the fields to start the labourers. But neither of the outer
doors was unfastened. He entered the front room, and found it empty.
Then animated by a new idea, he went round to the little back parlour,
in which the few wrecks saved from the fire were deposited, and looked
in at the door. Here, near the window, the shutters of which had been
opened half way, he saw his father leaning on the bureau, his elbows
resting on the flap, his body nearly doubled, his hands clasping his
forehead. Beside him were ghostly-looking square folds of parchment--the
leases of the houses destroyed.

His father looked up when Edward entered, and wearily spoke to the young
man as his face came into the faint light.

‘Edward, why did you get up so early?’

‘I was uneasy, and could not sleep.’

The farmer turned again to the leases on the bureau, and seemed to
become lost in reflection. In a minute or two, without lifting his eyes,
he said--

‘This is more than we can bear, Ted--more than we can bear! Ted, this
will kill me. Not the loss only--the sense of my neglect about the
insurance and everything. Borrow I never will. ‘Tis all misery now. God
help us--all misery now!’

Edward did not answer, continuing to look fixedly at the dreary daylight
outside.

‘Ted,’ the farmer went on, ‘this upset of be-en burnt out o’ home makes
me very nervous and doubtful about everything. There’s this troubles me
besides--our liven here with your cousin, and fillen up her house. It
must be very awkward for her. But she says she doesn’t mind. Have you
said anything to her lately about when you are going to marry her?’

‘Nothing at all lately.’

‘Well, perhaps you may as well, now we are so mixed in together. You
know, no time has ever been mentioned to her at all, first or last,
and I think it right that now, since she has waited so patiently and so
long--you are almost called upon to say you are ready. It would simplify
matters very much, if you were to walk up to church wi’ her one of these
mornings, get the thing done, and go on liven here as we are. If you
don’t I must get a house all the sooner. It would lighten my mind, too,
about the two little freeholds over the hill--not a morsel a-piece,
divided as they were between her mother and me, but a tidy bit tied
together again. Just think about it, will ye, Ted?’

He stopped from exhaustion produced by the intense concentration of his
mind upon the weary subject, and looked anxiously at his son.

‘Yes, I will,’ said Edward.

‘But I am going to see her of the Great House this morning,’ the farmer
went on, his thoughts reverting to the old subject. ‘I must know the
rights of the matter, the when and the where. I don’t like seeing her,
but I’d rather talk to her than the steward. I wonder what she’ll say to
me.’

The younger man knew exactly what she would say. If his father asked her
what he was to do, and when, she would simply refer him to Manston: her
character was not that of a woman who shrank from a proposition she had
once laid down. If his father were to say to her that his son had at
last resolved to marry his cousin within the year, and had given her a
promise to that effect, she would say, ‘Mr. Springrove, the houses are
burnt: we’ll let them go: trouble no more about them.’

His mind was already made up. He said calmly, ‘Father, when you are
talking to Miss Aldclyffe, mention to her that I have asked Adelaide if
she is willing to marry me next Christmas. She is interested in my union
with Adelaide, and the news will be welcome to her.’

‘And yet she can be iron with reference to me and her property,’ the
farmer murmured. ‘Very well, Ted, I’ll tell her.’

6. DECEMBER THE FIFTH

Of the many contradictory particulars constituting a woman’s heart, two
had shown their vigorous contrast in Cytherea’s bosom just at this time.

It was a dark morning, the morning after old Mr. Springrove’s visit
to Miss Aldclyffe, which had terminated as Edward had intended. Having
risen an hour earlier than was usual with her, Cytherea sat at the
window of an elegant little sitting-room on the ground floor, which had
been appropriated to her by the kindness or whim of Miss Aldclyffe, that
she might not be driven into that lady’s presence against her will. She
leant with her face on her hand, looking out into the gloomy grey air.
A yellow glimmer from the flapping flame of the newly-lit fire fluttered
on one side of her face and neck like a butterfly about to settle there,
contrasting warmly with the other side of the same fair face, which
received from the window the faint cold morning light, so weak that her
shadow from the fire had a distinct outline on the window-shutter in
spite of it. There the shadow danced like a demon, blue and grim.

The contradiction alluded to was that in spite of the decisive
mood which two months earlier in the year had caused her to write a
peremptory and final letter to Edward, she was now hoping for some
answer other than the only possible one a man who, as she held, did not
love her wildly, could send to such a communication. For a lover who
did love wildly, she had left one little loophole in her otherwise
straightforward epistle. Why she expected the letter on some morning of
this particular week was, that hearing of his return to Carriford, she
fondly assumed that he meant to ask for an interview before he left.
Hence it was, too, that for the last few days, she had not been able to
keep in bed later than the time of the postman’s arrival.

The clock pointed to half-past seven. She saw the postman emerge from
beneath the bare boughs of the park trees, come through the wicket, dive
through the shrubbery, reappear on the lawn, stalk across it without
reference to paths--as country postmen do--and come to the porch. She
heard him fling the bag down on the seat, and turn away towards the
village, without hindering himself for a single pace.

Then the butler opened the door, took up the bag, brought it in, and
carried it up the staircase to place it on the slab by Miss Aldclyffe’s
dressing-room door. The whole proceeding had been depicted by sounds.

She had a presentiment that her letter was in the bag at last. She
thought then in diminishing pulsations of confidence, ‘He asks to see
me! Perhaps he asks to see me: I hope he asks to see me.’

A quarter to eight: Miss Aldclyffe’s bell--rather earlier than usual.
‘She must have heard the post-bag brought,’ said the maiden, as,
tired of the chilly prospect outside, she turned to the fire, and drew
imaginative pictures of her future therein.

A tap came to the door, and the lady’s-maid entered.

‘Miss Aldclyffe is awake,’ she said; ‘and she asked if you were moving
yet, miss.’

‘I’ll run up to her,’ said Cytherea, and flitted off with the utterance
of the words. ‘Very fortunate this,’ she thought; ‘I shall see what is
in the bag this morning all the sooner.’

She took it up from the side table, went into Miss Aldclyffe’s bedroom,
pulled up the blinds, and looked round upon the lady in bed, calculating
the minutes that must elapse before she looked at her letters.

‘Well, darling, how are you? I am glad you have come in to see me,’
said Miss Aldclyffe. ‘You can unlock the bag this morning, child, if you
like,’ she continued, yawning factitiously.

‘Strange!’ Cytherea thought; ‘it seems as if she knew there was likely
to be a letter for me.’

From her bed Miss Aldclyffe watched the girl’s face as she tremblingly
opened the post-bag and found there an envelope addressed to her in
Edward’s handwriting; one he had written the day before, after the
decision he had come to on an impartial, and on that account torturing,
survey of his own, his father’s, his cousin Adelaide’s, and what he
believed to be Cytherea’s, position.

The haughty mistress’s soul sickened remorsefully within her when she
saw suddenly appear upon the speaking countenance of the young lady
before her a wan desolate look of agony.

The master-sentences of Edward’s letter were these: ‘You speak truly.
That we never meet again is the wisest and only proper course. That I
regret the past as much as you do yourself, it is hardly necessary for
me to say.’



XII. THE EVENTS OF TEN MONTHS

1. DECEMBER TO APRIL

Week after week, month after month, the time had flown by. Christmas had
passed; dreary winter with dark evenings had given place to more dreary
winter with light evenings. Thaws had ended in rain, rain in wind,
wind in dust. Showery days had come--the period of pink dawns and white
sunsets; with the third week in April the cuckoo had appeared, with the
fourth, the nightingale.

Edward Springrove was in London, attending to the duties of his
new office, and it had become known throughout the neighbourhood of
Carriford that the engagement between himself and Miss Adelaide Hinton
would terminate in marriage at the end of the year.

The only occasion on which her lover of the idle delicious days at
Budmouth watering-place had been seen by Cytherea after the time of the
decisive correspondence, was once in church, when he sat in front of
her, and beside Miss Hinton.

The rencounter was quite an accident. Springrove had come there in the
full belief that Cytherea was away from home with Miss Aldclyffe; and he
continued ignorant of her presence throughout the service.

It is at such moments as these, when a sensitive nature writhes under
the conception that its most cherished emotions have been treated with
contumely, that the sphere-descended Maid, Music, friend of Pleasure
at other times, becomes a positive enemy--racking, bewildering,
unrelenting. The congregation sang the first Psalm and came to the
verse--

     ‘Like some fair tree which, fed by streams,
       With timely fruit doth bend,
     He still shall flourish, and success
       All his designs attend.’

Cytherea’s lips did not move, nor did any sound escape her; but could
she help singing the words in the depths of her being, although the man
to whom she applied them sat at her rival’s side?

Perhaps the moral compensation for all a woman’s petty cleverness
under thriving conditions is the real nobility that lies in her extreme
foolishness at these other times; her sheer inability to be simply
just, her exercise of an illogical power entirely denied to men in
general--the power not only of kissing, but of delighting to kiss the
rod by a punctilious observance of the self-immolating doctrines in the
Sermon on the Mount.

As for Edward--a little like other men of his temperament, to whom, it
is somewhat humiliating to think, the aberrancy of a given love is in
itself a recommendation--his sentiment, as he looked over his cousin’s
book, was of a lower rank, Horatian rather than Psalmodic--

     ‘O, what hast thou of her, of her
     Whose every look did love inspire;
     Whose every breathing fanned my fire,
     And stole me from myself away!’

Then, without letting him see her, Cytherea slipt out of church early,
and went home, the tones of the organ still lingering in her ears as she
tried bravely to kill a jealous thought that would nevertheless live:
‘My nature is one capable of more, far more, intense feeling than hers!
She can’t appreciate all the sides of him--she never will! He is more
tangible to me even now, as a thought, than his presence itself is to
her!’ She was less noble then.

But she continually repressed her misery and bitterness of heart till
the effort to do so showed signs of lessening. At length she even tried
to hope that her lost lover and her rival would love one another very
dearly.

The scene and the sentiment dropped into the past. Meanwhile, Manston
continued visibly before her. He, though quiet and subdued in his
bearing for a long time after the calamity of November, had not
simulated a grief that he did not feel. At first his loss seemed so
to absorb him--though as a startling change rather than as a heavy
sorrow--that he paid Cytherea no attention whatever. His conduct was
uniformly kind and respectful, but little more. Then, as the date of the
catastrophe grew remoter, he began to wear a different aspect towards
her. He always contrived to obliterate by his manner all recollection on
her side that she was comparatively more dependent than himself--making
much of her womanhood, nothing of her situation. Prompt to aid her
whenever occasion offered, and full of delightful petits soins at all
times, he was not officious. In this way he irresistibly won for himself
a position as her friend, and the more easily in that he allowed not the
faintest symptom of the old love to be apparent.

Matters stood thus in the middle of the spring when the next move on his
behalf was made by Miss Aldclyffe.

2. THE THIRD OF MAY

She led Cytherea to a summer-house called the Fane, built in the private
grounds about the mansion in the form of a Grecian temple; it overlooked
the lake, the island on it, the trees, and their undisturbed reflection
in the smooth still water. Here the old and young maid halted; here they
stood, side by side, mentally imbibing the scene.

The month was May--the time, morning. Cuckoos, thrushes, blackbirds, and
sparrows gave forth a perfect confusion of song and twitter. The road
was spotted white with the fallen leaves of apple-blossoms, and the
sparkling grey dew still lingered on the grass and flowers. Two swans
floated into view in front of the women, and then crossed the water
towards them.

‘They seem to come to us without any will of their own--quite
involuntarily--don’t they?’ said Cytherea, looking at the birds’
graceful advance.

‘Yes, but if you look narrowly you can see their hips just beneath the
water, working with the greatest energy.’

‘I’d rather not see that, it spoils the idea of proud indifference to
direction which we associate with a swan.’

‘It does; we’ll have “involuntarily.” Ah, now this reminds me of
something.’

‘Of what?’

‘Of a human being who involuntarily comes towards yourself.’

Cytherea looked into Miss Aldclyffe’s face; her eyes grew round as
circles, and lines of wonderment came visibly upon her countenance.
She had not once regarded Manston as a lover since his wife’s sudden
appearance and subsequent death. The death of a wife, and such a death,
was an overwhelming matter in her ideas of things.

‘Is it a man or woman?’ she said, quite innocently.

‘Mr. Manston,’ said Miss Aldclyffe quietly.

‘Mr. Manston attracted by me _now_?’ said Cytherea, standing at gaze.

‘Didn’t you know it?’

‘Certainly I did not. Why, his poor wife has only been dead six months.’

‘Of course he knows that. But loving is not done by months, or method,
or rule, or nobody would ever have invented such a phrase as “falling
in love.” He does not want his love to be observed just yet, on the very
account you mention; but conceal it as he may from himself and us, it
exists definitely--and very intensely, I assure you.’

‘I suppose then, that if he can’t help it, it is no harm of him,’ said
Cytherea naively, and beginning to ponder.

‘Of course it isn’t--you know that well enough. She was a great burden
and trouble to him. This may become a great good to you both.’

A rush of feeling at remembering that the same woman, before Manston’s
arrival, had just as frankly advocated Edward’s claims, checked
Cytherea’s utterance for awhile.

‘There, don’t look at me like that, for Heaven’s sake!’ said Miss
Aldclyffe. ‘You could almost kill a person by the force of reproach you
can put into those eyes of yours, I verily believe.’

Edward once in the young lady’s thoughts, there was no getting rid of
him. She wanted to be alone.

‘Do you want me here?’ she said.

‘Now there, there; you want to be off, and have a good cry,’ said Miss
Aldclyffe, taking her hand. ‘But you mustn’t, my dear. There’s nothing
in the past for you to regret. Compare Mr. Manston’s honourable conduct
towards his wife and yourself, with Springrove towards his betrothed and
yourself, and then see which appears the more worthy of your thoughts.’

3. FROM THE FOURTH OF MAY TO THE TWENTY-FIRST OF JUNE

The next stage in Manston’s advances towards her hand was a clearly
defined courtship. She was sadly perplexed, and some contrivance was
necessary on his part in order to meet with her. But it is next to
impossible for an appreciative woman to have a positive repugnance
towards an unusually handsome and gifted man, even though she may not be
inclined to love him. Hence Cytherea was not so alarmed at the sight of
him as to render a meeting and conversation with her more than a matter
of difficulty.

Coming and going from church was his grand opportunity. Manston was very
religious now. It is commonly said that no man was ever converted by
argument, but there is a single one which will make any Laodicean in
England, let him be once love-sick, wear prayer-books and become a
zealous Episcopalian--the argument that his sweetheart can be seen from
his pew.

Manston introduced into his method a system of bewitching flattery,
everywhere pervasive, yet, too, so transitory and intangible, that, as
in the case of the poet Wordsworth and the Wandering Voice, though she
felt it present, she could never find it. As a foil to heighten its
effect, he occasionally spoke philosophically of the evanescence of
female beauty--the worthlessness of mere appearance. ‘Handsome is that
handsome does’ he considered a proverb which should be written on the
looking-glass of every woman in the land. ‘Your form, your motions, your
heart have won me,’ he said, in a tone of playful sadness. ‘They are
beautiful. But I see these things, and it comes into my mind that they
are doomed, they are gliding to nothing as I look. Poor eyes, poor
mouth, poor face, poor maiden! “Where will her glories be in twenty
years?” I say. “Where will all of her be in a hundred?” Then I think
it is cruel that you should bloom a day, and fade for ever and ever. It
seems hard and sad that you will die as ordinarily as I, and be buried;
be food for roots and worms, be forgotten and come to earth, and grow up
a mere blade of churchyard-grass and an ivy leaf. Then, Miss Graye, when
I see you are a Lovely Nothing, I pity you, and the love I feel then
is better and sounder, larger and more lasting than that I felt at the
beginning.’ Again an ardent flash of his handsome eyes.

It was by this route that he ventured on an indirect declaration and
offer of his hand.

She implied in the same indirect manner that she did not love him enough
to accept it.

An actual refusal was more than he had expected. Cursing himself for
what he called his egregious folly in making himself the slave of a mere
lady’s attendant, and for having given the parish, should they know
of her refusal, a chance of sneering at him--certainly a ground for
thinking less of his standing than before--he went home to the Old
House, and walked indecisively up and down his back-yard. Turning aside,
he leant his arms upon the edge of the rain-water-butt standing in the
corner, and looked into it. The reflection from the smooth stagnant
surface tinged his face with the greenish shades of Correggio’s nudes.
Staves of sunlight slanted down through the still pool, lighting it
up with wonderful distinctness. Hundreds of thousands of minute living
creatures sported and tumbled in its depth with every contortion that
gaiety could suggest; perfectly happy, though consisting only of a head,
or a tail, or at most a head and a tail, and all doomed to die within
the twenty-four hours.

‘Damn my position! Why shouldn’t I be happy through my little day too?
Let the parish sneer at my repulses, let it. I’ll get her, if I move
heaven and earth to do it!’

Indeed, the inexperienced Cytherea had, towards Edward in the first
place, and Manston afterwards, unconsciously adopted bearings that would
have been the very tactics of a professional fisher of men who wished
to have them each successively dangling at her heels. For if any rule
at all can be laid down in a matter which, for men collectively, is
notoriously beyond regulation, it is that to snub a petted man, and to
pet a snubbed man, is the way to win in suits of both kinds. Manston
with Springrove’s encouragement would have become indifferent. Edward
with Manston’s repulses would have sheered off at the outset, as he did
afterwards. Her supreme indifference added fuel to Manston’s ardour--it
completely disarmed his pride. The invulnerable Nobody seemed greater to
him than a susceptible Princess.

4. FROM THE TWENTY-FIRST OF JUNE TO THE END OF JULY

Cytherea had in the meantime received the following letter from her
brother. It was the first definite notification of the enlargement
of that cloud no bigger than a man’s hand which had for nearly a
twelvemonth hung before them in the distance, and which was soon to give
a colour to their whole sky from horizon to horizon.


                                               ‘BUDMOUTH REGIS,

Saturday.

‘DARLING SIS,--I have delayed telling you for a long time of a
little matter which, though not one to be seriously alarmed about, is
sufficiently vexing, and it would be unfair in me to keep it from you
any longer. It is that for some time past I have again been distressed
by that lameness which I first distinctly felt when we went to Lulstead
Cove, and again when I left Knapwater that morning early. It is an
unusual pain in my left leg, between the knee and the ankle. I had just
found fresh symptoms of it when you were here for that half-hour about a
month ago--when you said in fun that I began to move like an old man. I
had a good mind to tell you then, but fancying it would go off in a
few days, I thought it was not worth while. Since that time it has
increased, but I am still able to work in the office, sitting on the
stool. My great fear is that Mr. G. will have some out-door measuring
work for me to do soon, and that I shall be obliged to decline it.
However, we will hope for the best. How it came, what was its origin, or
what it tends to, I cannot think. You shall hear again in a day or two,
if it is no better...--Your loving brother, OWEN.’


This she answered, begging to know the worst, which she could bear, but
suspense and anxiety never. In two days came another letter from him, of
which the subjoined paragraph is a portion:--


‘I had quite decided to let you know the worst, and to assure you that
it was the worst, before you wrote to ask it. And again I give you
my word that I will conceal nothing--so that there will be no excuse
whatever for your wearing yourself out with fears that I am worse than I
say. This morning then, for the first time, I have been obliged to stay
away from the office. Don’t be frightened at this, dear Cytherea. Rest
is all that is wanted, and by nursing myself now for a week, I may avoid
an illness of six months.’


After a visit from her he wrote again:--


‘Dr. Chestman has seen me. He said that the ailment was some sort of
rheumatism, and I am now undergoing proper treatment for its cure. My
leg and foot have been placed in hot bran, liniments have been applied,
and also severe friction with a pad. He says I shall be as right as ever
in a very short time. Directly I am I shall run up by the train to see
you. Don’t trouble to come to me if Miss Aldclyffe grumbles again about
your being away, for I am going on capitally.... You shall hear again at
the end of the week.’


At the time mentioned came the following:--


‘I am sorry to tell you, because I know it will be so disheartening
after my last letter, that I am not so well as I was then, and that
there has been a sort of hitch in the proceedings. After I had been
treated for rheumatism a few days longer (in which treatment they
pricked the place with a long needle several times,) I saw that Dr.
Chestman was in doubt about something, and I requested that he would
call in a brother professional man to see me as well. They consulted
together and then told me that rheumatism was not the disease after all,
but erysipelas. They then began treating it differently, as became a
different matter. Blisters, flour, and starch, seem to be the order of
the day now--medicine, of course, besides.

‘Mr. Gradfield has been in to inquire about me. He says he has been
obliged to get a designer in my place, which grieves me very much,
though, of course, it could not be avoided.’


A month passed away; throughout this period, Cytherea visited him
as often as the limited time at her command would allow, and wore as
cheerful a countenance as the womanly determination to do nothing which
might depress him could enable her to wear. Another letter from him then
told her these additional facts:--


‘The doctors find they are again on the wrong tack. They cannot make out
what the disease is. O Cytherea! how I wish they knew! This suspense is
wearing me out. Could not Miss Aldclyffe spare you for a day? Do come to
me. We will talk about the best course then. I am sorry to complain, but
I am worn out.’


Cytherea went to Miss Aldclyffe, and told her of the melancholy turn her
brother’s illness had taken. Miss Aldclyffe at once said that Cytherea
might go, and offered to do anything to assist her which lay in her
power. Cytherea’s eyes beamed gratitude as she turned to leave the room,
and hasten to the station.

‘O, Cytherea,’ said Miss Aldclyffe, calling her back; ‘just one word.
Has Mr. Manston spoken to you lately?’

‘Yes,’ said Cytherea, blushing timorously.

‘He proposed?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you refused him?’

‘Yes.’

‘Tut, tut! Now listen to my advice,’ said Miss Aldclyffe emphatically,
‘and accept him before he changes his mind. The chance which he offers
you of settling in life is one that may possibly, probably, not occur
again. His position is good and secure, and the life of his wife would
be a happy one. You may not be sure that you love him madly; but suppose
you are not sure? My father used to say to me as a child when he was
teaching me whist, “When in doubt win the trick!” That advice is ten
times as valuable to a woman on the subject of matrimony. In refusing a
man there is always the risk that you may never get another offer.’

‘Why didn’t you win the trick when you were a girl?’ said Cytherea.

‘Come, my lady Pert; I’m not the text,’ said Miss Aldclyffe, her face
glowing like fire.

Cytherea laughed stealthily.

‘I was about to say,’ resumed Miss Aldclyffe severely, ‘that here is
Mr. Manston waiting with the tenderest solicitude for you, and you
overlooking it, as if it were altogether beneath you. Think how you
might benefit your sick brother if you were Mrs. Manston. You will
please me _very much_ by giving him some encouragement. You understand
me, Cythie dear?’

Cytherea was silent.

‘And,’ said Miss Aldclyffe, still more emphatically, ‘on your promising
that you will accept him some time this year, I will take especial care
of your brother. You are listening, Cytherea?’

‘Yes,’ she whispered, leaving the room.

She went to Budmouth, passed the day with her brother, and returned to
Knapwater wretched and full of foreboding. Owen had looked startlingly
thin and pale--thinner and paler than ever she had seen him before. The
brother and sister had that day decided that notwithstanding the drain
upon their slender resources, another surgeon should see him. Time was
everything.

Owen told her the result in his next letter:--


‘The three practitioners between them have at last hit the nail on the
head, I hope. They probed the place, and discovered that the secret lay
in the bone. I underwent an operation for its removal three days ago
(after taking chloroform)... Thank God it is over. Though I am so weak,
my spirits are rather better. I wonder when I shall be at work again?
I asked the surgeons how long it would be first. I said a month? They
shook their heads. A year? I said. Not so long, they said. Six months? I
inquired. They would not, or could not, tell me. But never mind.

‘Run down, when you have half a day to spare, for the hours drag on so
drearily. O Cytherea, you can’t think how drearily!’


She went. Immediately on her departure Miss Aldclyffe sent a note to the
Old House, to Manston. On the maiden’s return, tired and sick at heart
as usual, she found Manston at the station awaiting her. He asked
politely if he might accompany her to Knapwater. She tacitly acquiesced.
During their walk he inquired the particulars of her brother’s illness,
and with an irresistible desire to pour out her trouble to some one,
she told him of the length of time which must elapse before he could be
strong again, and of the lack of comfort in lodgings.

Manston was silent awhile. Then he said impetuously: ‘Miss Graye, I will
not mince matters--I love you--you know it. Stratagem they say is fair
in love, and I am compelled to adopt it now. Forgive me, for I cannot
help it. Consent to be my wife at any time that may suit you--any remote
day you may name will satisfy me--and you shall find him well provided
for.’

For the first time in her life she truly dreaded the handsome man at
her side who pleaded thus selfishly, and shrank from the hot voluptuous
nature of his passion for her, which, disguise it as he might under a
quiet and polished exterior, at times radiated forth with a scorching
white heat. She perceived how animal was the love which bargained.

‘I do not love you, Mr. Manston,’ she replied coldly.

5. FROM THE FIRST TO THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF AUGUST

The long sunny days of the later summer-time brought only the same
dreary accounts from Budmouth, and saw Cytherea paying the same sad
visits.

She grew perceptibly weaker, in body and mind. Manston still persisted
in his suit, but with more of his former indirectness, now that he saw
how unexpectedly well she stood an open attack. His was the system of
Dares at the Sicilian games--

     ‘He, like a captain who beleaguers round
      Some strong-built castle on a rising ground,
      Views all the approaches with observing eyes,
      This and that other part again he tries,
      And more on industry than force relies.’

Miss Aldclyffe made it appear more clearly than ever that aid to
Owen from herself depended entirely upon Cytherea’s acceptance of
her steward. Hemmed in and distressed, Cytherea’s answers to his
importunities grew less uniform; they were firm, or wavering, as Owen’s
malady fluctuated. Had a register of her pitiful oscillations been kept,
it would have rivalled in pathos the diary wherein De Quincey tabulates
his combat with Opium--perhaps as noticeable an instance as any in which
a thrilling dramatic power has been given to mere numerals. Thus she
wearily and monotonously lived through the month, listening on Sundays
to the well-known round of chapters narrating the history of Elijah and
Elisha in famine and drought; on week-days to buzzing flies in hot sunny
rooms. ‘So like, so very like, was day to day.’ Extreme lassitude seemed
all that the world could show her.

Her state was in this wise, when one afternoon, having been with her
brother, she met the surgeon, and begged him to tell the actual truth
concerning Owen’s condition.

The reply was that he feared that the first operation had not been
thorough; that although the wound had healed, another attempt might
still be necessary, unless nature were left to effect her own cure. But
the time such a self-healing proceeding would occupy might be ruinous.

‘How long would it be?’ she said.

‘It is impossible to say. A year or two, more or less.’

‘And suppose he submitted to another artificial extraction?’

‘Then he might be well in four or six months.’

Now the remainder of his and her possessions, together with a sum he had
borrowed, would not provide him with necessary comforts for half
that time. To combat the misfortune, there were two courses open--her
becoming betrothed to Manston, or the sending Owen to the County
Hospital.

Thus terrified, driven into a corner, panting and fluttering about for
some loophole of escape, yet still shrinking from the idea of being
Manston’s wife, the poor little bird endeavoured to find out from
Miss Aldclyffe whether it was likely Owen would be well treated in the
hospital.

‘County Hospital!’ said Miss Aldclyffe; ‘why, it is only another
name for slaughter-house--in surgical cases at any rate. Certainly if
anything about your body is snapt in two they do join you together in
a fashion, but ‘tis so askew and ugly, that you may as well be apart
again.’ Then she terrified the inquiring and anxious maiden by relating
horrid stories of how the legs and arms of poor people were cut off at a
moment’s notice, especially in cases where the restorative treatment was
likely to be long and tedious.

‘You know how willing I am to help you, Cytherea,’ she added
reproachfully. ‘You know it. Why are you so obstinate then? Why do you
selfishly bar the clear, honourable, and only sisterly path which leads
out of this difficulty? I cannot, on my conscience, countenance you; no,
I cannot.’

Manston once more repeated his offer; and once more she refused, but
this time weakly, and with signs of an internal struggle. Manston’s eye
sparkled; he saw for the hundredth time in his life, that perseverance,
if only systematic, was irresistible by womankind.

6. THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF AUGUST

On going to Budmouth three days later, she found to her surprise that
the steward had been there, had introduced himself, and had seen her
brother. A few delicacies had been brought him also by the same hand.
Owen spoke in warm terms of Manston and his free and unceremonious call,
as he could not have refrained from doing of any person, of any kind,
whose presence had served to help away the tedious hours of a long day,
and who had, moreover, shown that sort of consideration for him which
the accompanying basket implied--antecedent consideration, so telling
upon all invalids--and which he so seldom experienced except from the
hands of his sister.

How should he perceive, amid this tithe-paying of mint, and anise, and
cummin, the weightier matters which were left undone?

Again the steward met her at Carriford Road Station on her return
journey. Instead of being frigid as at the former meeting at the same
place, she was embarrassed by a strife of thought, and murmured brokenly
her thanks for what he had done. The same request that he might see her
home was made.

He had perceived his error in making his kindness to Owen a conditional
kindness, and had hastened to efface all recollection of it. ‘Though I
let my offer on her brother’s--my friend’s--behalf, seem dependent on my
lady’s graciousness to me,’ he whispered wooingly in the course of their
walk, ‘I could not conscientiously adhere to my statement; it was said
with all the impulsive selfishness of love. Whether you choose to have
me, or whether you don’t, I love you too devotedly to be anything but
kind to your brother.... Miss Graye, Cytherea, I will do anything,’ he
continued earnestly, ‘to give you pleasure--indeed I will.’

She saw on the one hand her poor and much-loved Owen recovering from
his illness and troubles by the disinterested kindness of the man
beside her, on the other she drew him dying, wholly by reason of her
self-enforced poverty. To marry this man was obviously the course of
common sense, to refuse him was impolitic temerity. There was reason
in this. But there was more behind than a hundred reasons--a woman’s
gratitude and her impulse to be kind.

The wavering of her mind was visible in her tell-tale face. He noticed
it, and caught at the opportunity.

They were standing by the ruinous foundations of an old mill in the
midst of a meadow. Between grey and half-overgrown stonework--the only
signs of masonry remaining--the water gurgled down from the old millpond
to a lower level, under the cloak of rank broad leaves--the sensuous
natures of the vegetable world. On the right hand the sun, resting on
the horizon-line, streamed across the ground from below copper-coloured
and lilac clouds, stretched out in flats beneath a sky of pale soft
green. All dark objects on the earth that lay towards the sun were
overspread by a purple haze, against which a swarm of wailing gnats
shone forth luminously, rising upward and floating away like sparks of
fire.

The stillness oppressed and reduced her to mere passivity. The only
wish the humidity of the place left in her was to stand motionless.
The helpless flatness of the landscape gave her, as it gives all such
temperaments, a sense of bare equality with, and no superiority to, a
single entity under the sky.

He came so close that their clothes touched. ‘Will you try to love me?
Do try to love me!’ he said, in a whisper, taking her hand. He had never
taken it before. She could feel his hand trembling exceedingly as it
held hers in its clasp.

Considering his kindness to her brother, his love for herself, and
Edward’s fickleness, ought she to forbid him to do this? How truly
pitiful it was to feel his hand tremble so--all for her! Should she
withdraw her hand? She would think whether she would. Thinking, and
hesitating, she looked as far as the autumnal haze on the marshy
ground would allow her to see distinctly. There was the fragment of a
hedge--all that remained of a ‘wet old garden’--standing in the middle
of the mead, without a definite beginning or ending, purposeless and
valueless. It was overgrown, and choked with mandrakes, and she could
almost fancy she heard their shrieks.... Should she withdraw her hand?
No, she could not withdraw it now; it was too late, the act would not
imply refusal. She felt as one in a boat without oars, drifting with
closed eyes down a river--she knew not whither.

He gave her hand a gentle pressure, and relinquished it.

Then it seemed as if he were coming to the point again. No, he was not
going to urge his suit that evening. Another respite.

7. THE EARLY PART OF SEPTEMBER

Saturday came, and she went on some trivial errand to the village
post-office. It was a little grey cottage with a luxuriant jasmine
encircling the doorway, and before going in Cytherea paused to admire
this pleasing feature of the exterior. Hearing a step on the gravel
behind the corner of the house, she resigned the jasmine and entered.
Nobody was in the room. She could hear Mrs. Leat, the widow who acted
as postmistress, walking about over her head. Cytherea was going to the
foot of the stairs to call Mrs. Leat, but before she had accomplished
her object, another form stood at the half-open door. Manston came in.

‘Both on the same errand,’ he said gracefully.

‘I will call her,’ said Cytherea, moving in haste to the foot of the
stairs.

‘One moment.’ He glided to her side. ‘Don’t call her for a moment,’ he
repeated.

But she had said, ‘Mrs. Leat!’

He seized Cytherea’s hand, kissed it tenderly, and carefully replaced it
by her side.

She had that morning determined to check his further advances, until she
had thoroughly considered her position. The remonstrance was now on her
tongue, but as accident would have it, before the word could be
spoken Mrs. Leat was stepping from the last stair to the floor, and no
remonstrance came.

With the subtlety which characterized him in all his dealings with her,
he quickly concluded his own errand, bade her a good-bye, in the tones
of which love was so garnished with pure politeness that it only showed
its presence to herself, and left the house--putting it out of her
power to refuse him her companionship homeward, or to object to his late
action of kissing her hand.

The Friday of the next week brought another letter from her brother. In
this he informed her that, in absolute grief lest he should distress her
unnecessarily, he had some time earlier borrowed a few pounds. A week
ago, he said, his creditor became importunate, but that on the day
on which he wrote, the creditor had told him there was no hurry for a
settlement, that ‘his _sister’s suitor_ had guaranteed the sum.’ ‘Is he
Mr. Manston? tell me, Cytherea,’ said Owen.

He also mentioned that a wheeled chair had been anonymously hired
for his especial use, though as yet he was hardly far enough advanced
towards convalescence to avail himself of the luxury. ‘Is this Mr.
Manston’s doing?’ he inquired.

She could dally with her perplexity, evade it, trust to time for
guidance, no longer. The matter had come to a crisis: she must once and
for all choose between the dictates of her understanding and those of
her heart. She longed, till her soul seemed nigh to bursting, for her
lost mother’s return to earth, but for one minute, that she might have
tender counsel to guide her through this, her great difficulty.

As for her heart, she half fancied that it was not Edward’s to quite
the extent that it once had been; she thought him cruel in conducting
himself towards her as he did at Budmouth, cruel afterwards in making so
light of her. She knew he had stifled his love for her--was utterly
lost to her. But for all that she could not help indulging in a woman’s
pleasure of recreating defunct agonies, and lacerating herself with them
now and then.

‘If I were rich,’ she thought, ‘I would give way to the luxury of being
morbidly faithful to him for ever without his knowledge.’

But she considered; in the first place she was a homeless dependent;
and what did practical wisdom tell her to do under such desperate
circumstances? To provide herself with some place of refuge from
poverty, and with means to aid her brother Owen. This was to be Mr.
Manston’s wife.

She did not love him.

But what was love without a home? Misery. What was a home without love?
Alas, not much; but still a kind of home.

‘Yes,’ she thought, ‘I am urged by my common sense to marry Mr.
Manston.’

Did anything nobler in her say so too?

With the death (to her) of Edward her heart’s occupation was gone. Was
it necessary or even right for her to tend it and take care of it as she
used to in the old time, when it was still a capable minister?

By a slight sacrifice here she could give happiness to at least two
hearts whose emotional activities were still unwounded. She would do
good to two men whose lives were far more important than hers.

‘Yes,’ she said again, ‘even Christianity urges me to marry Mr.
Manston.’

Directly Cytherea had persuaded herself that a kind of heroic
self-abnegation had to do with the matter, she became much more content
in the consideration of it. A wilful indifference to the future was what
really prevailed in her, ill and worn out, as she was, by the perpetual
harassments of her sad fortune, and she regarded this indifference, as
gushing natures will do under such circumstances, as genuine resignation
and devotedness.

Manston met her again the following day: indeed, there was no escaping
him now. At the end of a short conversation between them, which took
place in the hollow of the park by the waterfall, obscured on the outer
side by the low hanging branches of the limes, she tacitly assented to
his assumption of a privilege greater than any that had preceded it. He
stooped and kissed her brow.

Before going to bed she wrote to Owen explaining the whole matter. It
was too late in the evening for the postman’s visit, and she placed the
letter on the mantelpiece to send it the next day.

The morning (Sunday) brought a hurried postscript to Owen’s letter of
the day before:--


                                              ‘September 9, 1865.

‘DEAR CYTHEREA--I have received a frank and friendly letter from Mr.
Manston explaining the position in which he stands now, and also that in
which he hopes to stand towards you. Can’t you love him? Why not? Try,
for he is a good, and not only that, but a cultured man. Think of the
weary and laborious future that awaits you if you continue for life in
your present position, and do you see any way of escape from it except
by marriage? I don’t. Don’t go against your heart, Cytherea, but be
wise.--Ever affectionately yours, OWEN.’


She thought that probably he had replied to Mr. Manston in the same
favouring mood. She had a conviction that that day would settle her
doom. Yet

     ‘So true a fool is love,’

that even now she nourished a half-hope that something would happen at
the last moment to thwart her deliberately-formed intentions, and favour
the old emotion she was using all her strength to thrust down.

8. THE TENTH OF SEPTEMBER

The Sunday was the thirteenth after Trinity, and the afternoon service
at Carriford was nearly over. The people were singing the Evening Hymn.

Manston was at church as usual in his accustomed place two seats forward
from the large square pew occupied by Miss Aldclyffe and Cytherea.

The ordinary sadness of an autumnal evening-service seemed, in
Cytherea’s eyes, to be doubled on this particular occasion. She looked
at all the people as they stood and sang, waving backwards and forwards
like a forest of pines swayed by a gentle breeze; then at the village
children singing too, their heads inclined to one side, their eyes
listlessly tracing some crack in the old walls, or following the
movement of a distant bough or bird with features petrified almost to
painfulness. Then she looked at Manston; he was already regarding her
with some purpose in his glance.

‘It is coming this evening,’ she said in her mind. A minute later, at
the end of the hymn, when the congregation began to move out, Manston
came down the aisle. He was opposite the end of her seat as she stepped
from it, the remainder of their progress to the door being in contact
with each other. Miss Aldclyffe had lingered behind.

‘Don’t let’s hurry,’ he said, when Cytherea was about to enter the
private path to the House as usual. ‘Would you mind turning down this
way for a minute till Miss Aldclyffe has passed?’

She could not very well refuse now. They turned into a secluded path on
their left, leading round through a thicket of laurels to the other gate
of the church-yard, walking very slowly. By the time the further gate
was reached, the church was closed. They met the sexton with the keys in
his hand.

‘We are going inside for a minute,’ said Manston to him, taking the keys
unceremoniously. ‘I will bring them to you when we return.’

The sexton nodded his assent, and Cytherea and Manston walked into the
porch, and up the nave.

They did not speak a word during their progress, or in any way interfere
with the stillness and silence that prevailed everywhere around them.
Everything in the place was the embodiment of decay: the fading
red glare from the setting sun, which came in at the west window,
emphasizing the end of the day and all its cheerful doings, the mildewed
walls, the uneven paving-stones, the wormy pews, the sense of recent
occupation, and the dank air of death which had gathered with the
evening, would have made grave a lighter mood than Cytherea’s was then.

‘What sensations does the place impress you with?’ she said at last,
very sadly.

‘I feel imperatively called upon to be honest, from very despair of
achieving anything by stratagem in a world where the materials are such
as these.’ He, too, spoke in a depressed voice, purposely or otherwise.

‘I feel as if I were almost ashamed to be seen walking such a world,’
she murmured; ‘that’s the effect it has upon me; but it does not induce
me to be honest particularly.’

He took her hand in both his, and looked down upon the lids of her eyes.

‘I pity you sometimes,’ he said more emphatically.

‘I am pitiable, perhaps; so are many people. Why do you pity me?’

‘I think that you make yourself needlessly sad.’

‘Not needlessly.’

‘Yes, needlessly. Why should you be separated from your brother so much,
when you might have him to stay with you till he is well?’

‘That can’t be,’ she said, turning away.

He went on, ‘I think the real and only good thing that can be done for
him is to get him away from Budmouth awhile; and I have been wondering
whether it could not be managed for him to come to my house to live for
a few weeks. Only a quarter of a mile from you. How pleasant it would
be!’

‘It would.’

He moved himself round immediately to the front of her, and held her
hand more firmly, as he continued, ‘Cytherea, why do you say “It would,”
 so entirely in the tone of abstract supposition? I want him there: I
want him to be my brother, too. Then make him so, and be my wife! I
cannot live without you. O Cytherea, my darling, my love, come and be my
wife!’

His face bent closer and closer to hers, and the last words sank to a
whisper as weak as the emotion inspiring it was strong.

She said firmly and distinctly, ‘Yes, I will.’

‘Next month?’ he said on the instant, before taking breath.

‘No; not next month.’

‘The next?’

‘No.’

‘December? Christmas Day, say?’

‘I don’t mind.’

‘O, you darling!’ He was about to imprint a kiss upon her pale, cold
mouth, but she hastily covered it with her hand.

‘Don’t kiss me--at least where we are now!’ she whispered imploringly.

‘Why?’

‘We are too near God.’

He gave a sudden start, and his face flushed. She had spoken so
emphatically that the words ‘Near God’ echoed back again through the
hollow building from the far end of the chancel.

‘What a thing to say!’ he exclaimed; ‘surely a pure kiss is not
inappropriate to the place!’

‘No,’ she replied, with a swelling heart; ‘I don’t know why I burst out
so--I can’t tell what has come over me! Will you forgive me?’

‘How shall I say “Yes” without judging you? How shall I say “No” without
losing the pleasure of saying “Yes?”’ He was himself again.

‘I don’t know,’ she absently murmured.

‘I’ll say “Yes,”’ he answered daintily. ‘It is sweeter to fancy we
are forgiven, than to think we have not sinned; and you shall have the
sweetness without the need.’

She did not reply, and they moved away. The church was nearly dark now,
and melancholy in the extreme. She stood beside him while he locked
the door, then took the arm he gave her, and wound her way out of the
churchyard with him. Then they walked to the house together, but the
great matter having been set at rest, she persisted in talking only on
indifferent subjects.

‘Christmas Day, then,’ he said, as they were parting at the end of the
shrubbery.

‘I meant Old Christmas Day,’ she said evasively.

‘H’m, people do not usually attach that meaning to the words.’

‘No; but I should like it best if it could not be till then?’ It seemed
to be still her instinct to delay the marriage to the utmost.

‘Very well, love,’ he said gently. ‘’Tis a fortnight longer still; but
never mind. Old Christmas Day.’

9. THE ELEVENTH OF SEPTEMBER

‘There. It will be on a Friday!’

She sat upon a little footstool gazing intently into the fire. It was
the afternoon of the day following that of the steward’s successful
solicitation of her hand.

‘I wonder if it would be proper in me to run across the park and tell
him it is a Friday?’ she said to herself, rising to her feet, looking
at her hat lying near, and then out of the window towards the Old
House. Proper or not, she felt that she must at all hazards remove the
disagreeable, though, as she herself owned, unfounded impression the
coincidence had occasioned. She left the house directly, and went to
search for him.

Manston was in the timber-yard, looking at the sawyers as they worked.
Cytherea came up to him hesitatingly. Till within a distance of a few
yards she had hurried forward with alacrity--now that the practical
expression of his face became visible she wished almost she had never
sought him on such an errand; in his business-mood he was perhaps very
stern.

‘It will be on a Friday,’ she said confusedly, and without any preface.

‘Come this way!’ said Manston, in the tone he used for workmen, not
being able to alter at an instant’s notice. He gave her his arm and
led her back into the avenue, by which time he was lover again. ‘On
a Friday, will it, dearest? You do not mind Fridays, surely? That’s
nonsense.’

‘Not seriously mind them, exactly--but if it could be any other day?’

‘Well, let us say Old Christmas Eve, then. Shall it be Old Christmas
Eve?’

‘Yes, Old Christmas Eve.’

‘Your word is solemn, and irrevocable now?’

‘Certainly, I have solemnly pledged my word; I should not have promised
to marry you if I had not meant it. Don’t think I should.’ She spoke the
words with a dignified impressiveness.

‘You must not be vexed at my remark, dearest. Can you think the worse of
an ardent man, Cytherea, for showing some anxiety in love?’

‘No, no.’ She could not say more. She was always ill at ease when he
spoke of himself as a piece of human nature in that analytical way, and
wanted to be out of his presence. The time of day, and the proximity
of the house, afforded her a means of escape. ‘I must be with Miss
Aldclyffe now--will you excuse my hasty coming and going?’ she said
prettily. Before he had replied she had parted from him.

‘Cytherea, was it Mr. Manston I saw you scudding away from in the avenue
just now?’ said Miss Aldclyffe, when Cytherea joined her.

‘Yes.’

‘“Yes.” Come, why don’t you say more than that? I hate those taciturn
“Yesses” of yours. I tell you everything, and yet you are as close as
wax with me.’

‘I parted from him because I wanted to come in.’

‘What a novel and important announcement! Well, is the day fixed?’

‘Yes.’

Miss Aldclyffe’s face kindled into intense interest at once. ‘Is it
indeed? When is it to be?’

‘On Old Christmas Eve.’

‘Old Christmas Eve.’ Miss Aldclyffe drew Cytherea round to her front,
and took a hand in each of her own. ‘And then you will be a bride!’
she said slowly, looking with critical thoughtfulness upon the maiden’s
delicately rounded cheeks.

The normal area of the colour upon each of them decreased perceptibly
after that slow and emphatic utterance by the elder lady.

Miss Aldclyffe continued impressively, ‘You did not say “Old Christmas
Eve” as a fiancee should have said the words: and you don’t receive my
remark with the warm excitement that foreshadows a bright future.... How
many weeks are there to the time?’

‘I have not reckoned them.’

‘Not? Fancy a girl not counting the weeks! I find I must take the
lead in this matter--you are so childish, or frightened, or stupid, or
something, about it. Bring me my diary, and we will count them at once.’

Cytherea silently fetched the book.

Miss Aldclyffe opened the diary at the page containing the almanac,
and counted sixteen weeks, which brought her to the thirty-first of
December--a Sunday. Cytherea stood by, looking on as if she had no
appetite for the scene.

‘Sixteen to the thirty-first. Then let me see, Monday will be the first
of January, Tuesday the second, Wednesday third, Thursday fourth, Friday
fifth--you have chosen a Friday, as I declare!’

‘A Thursday, surely?’ said Cytherea.

‘No: Old Christmas Day comes on a Saturday.’

The perturbed little brain had reckoned wrong. ‘Well, it must be a
Friday,’ she murmured in a reverie.

‘No: have it altered, of course,’ said Miss Aldclyffe cheerfully.
‘There’s nothing bad in Friday, but such a creature as you will be
thinking about its being unlucky--in fact, I wouldn’t choose a
Friday myself to be married on, since all the other days are equally
available.’

‘I shall not have it altered,’ said Cytherea firmly; ‘it has been
altered once already: I shall let it be.’



XIII. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

1. THE FIFTH OF JANUARY. BEFORE DAWN

We pass over the intervening weeks. The time of the story is thus
advanced more than a quarter of a year.

On the midnight preceding the morning which would make her the wife of
a man whose presence fascinated her into involuntariness of bearing,
and whom in absence she almost dreaded, Cytherea lay in her little bed,
vainly endeavouring to sleep.

She had been looking back amid the years of her short though varied
past, and thinking of the threshold upon which she stood. Days and
months had dimmed the form of Edward Springrove like the gauzes of a
vanishing stage-scene, but his dying voice could still be heard faintly
behind. That a soft small chord in her still vibrated true to his
memory, she would not admit: that she did not approach Manston with
feelings which could by any stretch of words be called hymeneal, she
calmly owned.

‘Why do I marry him?’ she said to herself. ‘Because Owen, dear Owen my
brother, wishes me to marry him. Because Mr. Manston is, and has been,
uniformly kind to Owen, and to me. “Act in obedience to the dictates
of common-sense,” Owen said, “and dread the sharp sting of poverty. How
many thousands of women like you marry every year for the same reason,
to secure a home, and mere ordinary, material comforts, which after all
go far to make life endurable, even if not supremely happy.”

‘’Tis right, I suppose, for him to say that. O, if people only knew what
a timidity and melancholy upon the subject of her future grows up in the
heart of a friendless woman who is blown about like a reed shaken with
the wind, as I am, they would not call this resignation of one’s self
by the name of scheming to get a husband. Scheme to marry? I’d rather
scheme to die! I know I am not pleasing my heart; I know that if I only
were concerned, I should like risking a single future. But why should I
please my useless self overmuch, when by doing otherwise I please those
who are more valuable than I?’

In the midst of desultory reflections like these, which alternated
with surmises as to the inexplicable connection that appeared to exist
between her intended husband and Miss Aldclyffe, she heard dull noises
outside the walls of the house, which she could not quite fancy to be
caused by the wind. She seemed doomed to such disturbances at critical
periods of her existence. ‘It is strange,’ she pondered, ‘that this my
last night in Knapwater House should be disturbed precisely as my first
was, no occurrence of the kind having intervened.’

As the minutes glided by the noise increased, sounding as if some one
were beating the wall below her window with a bunch of switches. She
would gladly have left her room and gone to stay with one of the maids,
but they were without doubt all asleep.

The only person in the house likely to be awake, or who would have
brains enough to comprehend her nervousness, was Miss Aldclyffe, but
Cytherea never cared to go to Miss Aldclyffe’s room, though she was
always welcome there, and was often almost compelled to go against her
will.

The oft-repeated noise of switches grew heavier upon the wall, and was
now intermingled with creaks, and a rattling like the rattling of dice.
The wind blew stronger; there came first a snapping, then a crash, and
some portion of the mystery was revealed. It was the breaking off and
fall of a branch from one of the large trees outside. The smacking
against the wall, and the intermediate rattling, ceased from that time.

Well, it was the tree which had caused the noises. The unexplained
matter was that neither of the trees ever touched the walls of the house
during the highest wind, and that trees could not rattle like a man
playing castanets or shaking dice.

She thought, ‘Is it the intention of Fate that something connected with
these noises shall influence my future as in the last case of the kind?’

During the dilemma she fell into a troubled sleep, and dreamt that she
was being whipped with dry bones suspended on strings, which rattled at
every blow like those of a malefactor on a gibbet; that she shifted and
shrank and avoided every blow, and they fell then upon the wall to which
she was tied. She could not see the face of the executioner for his
mask, but his form was like Manston’s.

‘Thank Heaven!’ she said, when she awoke and saw a faint light
struggling through her blind. ‘Now what were those noises?’ To settle
that question seemed more to her than the event of the day.

She pulled the blind aside and looked out. All was plain. The evening
previous had closed in with a grey drizzle, borne upon a piercing air
from the north, and now its effects were visible. The hoary drizzle
still continued; but the trees and shrubs were laden with icicles to an
extent such as she had never before witnessed. A shoot of the diameter
of a pin’s head was iced as thick as her finger; all the boughs in
the park were bent almost to the earth with the immense weight of the
glistening incumbrance; the walks were like a looking-glass. Many boughs
had snapped beneath their burden, and lay in heaps upon the icy grass.
Opposite her eye, on the nearest tree, was a fresh yellow scar, showing
where the branch that had terrified her had been splintered from the
trunk.

‘I never could have believed it possible,’ she thought, surveying the
bowed-down branches, ‘that trees would bend so far out of their true
positions without breaking.’ By watching a twig she could see a drop
collect upon it from the hoary fog, sink to the lowest point, and there
become coagulated as the others had done.

‘Or that I could so exactly have imitated them,’ she continued. ‘On this
morning I am to be married--unless this is a scheme of the great Mother
to hinder a union of which she does not approve. Is it possible for my
wedding to take place in the face of such weather as this?’

2. MORNING

Her brother Owen was staying with Manston at the Old House. Contrary
to the opinion of the doctors, the wound had healed after the first
surgical operation, and his leg was gradually acquiring strength, though
he could only as yet get about on crutches, or ride, or be dragged in a
chair.

Miss Aldclyffe had arranged that Cytherea should be married from
Knapwater House, and not from her brother’s lodgings at Budmouth, which
was Cytherea’s first idea. Owen, too, seemed to prefer the plan. The
capricious old maid had latterly taken to the contemplation of the
wedding with even greater warmth than had at first inspired her, and
appeared determined to do everything in her power, consistent with her
dignity, to render the adjuncts of the ceremony pleasing and complete.

But the weather seemed in flat contradiction of the whole proceeding. At
eight o’clock the coachman crept up to the House almost upon his hands
and knees, entered the kitchen, and stood with his back to the fire,
panting from his exertions in pedestrianism.

The kitchen was by far the pleasantest apartment in Knapwater House
on such a morning as this. The vast fire was the centre of the whole
system, like a sun, and threw its warm rays upon the figures of the
domestics, wheeling about it in true planetary style. A nervously-feeble
imitation of its flicker was continually attempted by a family of
polished metallic utensils standing in rows and groups against the walls
opposite, the whole collection of shines nearly annihilating the weak
daylight from outside. A step further in, and the nostrils were greeted
by the scent of green herbs just gathered, and the eye by the plump form
of the cook, wholesome, white-aproned, and floury--looking as edible as
the food she manipulated--her movements being supported and assisted by
her satellites, the kitchen and scullery maids. Minute recurrent sounds
prevailed--the click of the smoke-jack, the flap of the flames, and the
light touches of the women’s slippers upon the stone floor.

The coachman hemmed, spread his feet more firmly upon the hearthstone,
and looked hard at a small plate in the extreme corner of the dresser.

‘No wedden this mornen--that’s my opinion. In fact, there can’t be,’ he
said abruptly, as if the words were the mere torso of a many-membered
thought that had existed complete in his head.

The kitchen-maid was toasting a slice of bread at the end of a very long
toasting-fork, which she held at arm’s length towards the unapproachable
fire, travestying the Flanconnade in fencing.

‘Bad out of doors, isn’t it?’ she said, with a look of commiseration for
things in general.

‘Bad? Not even a liven soul, gentle or simple, can stand on level
ground. As to getten up hill to the church, ‘tis perfect lunacy. And
I speak of foot-passengers. As to horses and carriage, ‘tis murder
to think of ‘em. I am going to send straight as a line into the
breakfast-room, and say ‘tis a closer.... Hullo--here’s Clerk Crickett
and John Day a-comen! Now just look at ‘em and picture a wedden if you
can.’

All eyes were turned to the window, from which the clerk and gardener
were seen crossing the court, bowed and stooping like Bel and Nebo.

‘You’ll have to go if it breaks all the horses’ legs in the county,’
said the cook, turning from the spectacle, knocking open the oven-door
with the tongs, glancing critically in, and slamming it together with a
clang.

‘O, O; why shall I?’ asked the coachman, including in his auditory by a
glance the clerk and gardener who had just entered.

‘Because Mr. Manston is in the business. Did you ever know him to give
up for weather of any kind, or for any other mortal thing in heaven or
earth?’

‘----Mornen so’s--such as it is!’ interrupted Mr. Crickett cheerily,
coming forward to the blaze and warming one hand without looking at the
fire. ‘Mr. Manston gie up for anything in heaven or earth, did you say?
You might ha’ cut it short by sayen “to Miss Aldclyffe,” and leaven out
heaven and earth as trifles. But it might be put off; putten off a thing
isn’t getten rid of a thing, if that thing is a woman. O no, no!’

The coachman and gardener now naturally subsided into secondaries. The
cook went on rather sharply, as she dribbled milk into the exact centre
of a little crater of flour in a platter--

‘It might be in this case; she’s so indifferent.’

‘Dang my old sides! and so it might be. I have a bit of news--I thought
there was something upon my tongue; but ‘tis a secret; not a word, mind,
not a word. Why, Miss Hinton took a holiday yesterday.’

‘Yes?’ inquired the cook, looking up with perplexed curiosity.

‘D’ye think that’s all?’

‘Don’t be so three-cunning--if it is all, deliver you from the evil of
raising a woman’s expectations wrongfully; I’ll skimmer your pate as
sure as you cry Amen!’

‘Well, it isn’t all. When I got home last night my wife said, “Miss
Adelaide took a holiday this mornen,” says she (my wife, that is);
“walked over to Nether Mynton, met the comen man, and got married!” says
she.’

‘Got married! what, Lord-a-mercy, did Springrove come?’

‘Springrove, no--no--Springrove’s nothen to do wi’ it--‘twas Farmer
Bollens. They’ve been playing bo-peep for these two or three months
seemingly. Whilst Master Teddy Springrove has been daddlen, and hawken,
and spetten about having her, she’s quietly left him all forsook. Serve
him right. I don’t blame the little woman a bit.’

‘Farmer Bollens is old enough to be her father!’

‘Ay, quite; and rich enough to be ten fathers. They say he’s so rich
that he has business in every bank, and measures his money in half-pint
cups.’

‘Lord, I wish it was me, don’t I wish ‘twas me!’ said the scullery-maid.

‘Yes, ‘twas as neat a bit of stitching as ever I heard of,’ continued
the clerk, with a fixed eye, as if he were watching the process from a
distance. ‘Not a soul knew anything about it, and my wife is the only
one in our parish who knows it yet. Miss Hinton came back from the
wedden, went to Mr. Manston, puffed herself out large, and said she was
Mrs. Bollens, but that if he wished, she had no objection to keep on
the house till the regular time of giving notice had expired, or till he
could get another tenant.’

‘Just like her independence,’ said the cook.

‘Well, independent or no, she’s Mrs. Bollens now. Ah, I shall
never forget once when I went by Farmer Bollens’s garden--years ago
now--years, when he was taking up ashleaf taties. A merry feller I was
at that time, a very merry feller--for ‘twas before I took holy orders,
and it didn’t prick my conscience as ‘twould now. “Farmer,” says I,
“little taties seem to turn out small this year, don’t em?” “O no,
Crickett,” says he, “some be fair-sized.” He’s a dull man--Farmer
Bollens is--he always was. However, that’s neither here nor there; he’s
a-married to a sharp woman, and if I don’t make a mistake she’ll bring
him a pretty good family, gie her time.’

‘Well, it don’t matter; there’s a Providence in it,’ said the
scullery-maid. ‘God A’mighty always sends bread as well as children.’

‘But ‘tis the bread to one house and the children to another very often.
However, I think I can see my lady Hinton’s reason for chosen yesterday
to sickness-or-health-it. Your young miss, and that one, had crossed one
another’s path in regard to young Master Springrove; and I expect that
when Addy Hinton found Miss Graye wasn’t caren to have en, she thought
she’d be beforehand with her old enemy in marrying somebody else too.
That’s maids’ logic all over, and maids’ malice likewise.’

Women who are bad enough to divide against themselves under a man’s
partiality are good enough to instantly unite in a common cause against
his attack. ‘I’ll just tell you one thing then,’ said the cook,
shaking out her words to the time of a whisk she was beating eggs with.
‘Whatever maids’ logic is and maids’ malice too, if Cytherea Graye even
now knows that young Springrove is free again, she’ll fling over the
steward as soon as look at him.’

‘No, no: not now,’ the coachman broke in like a moderator. ‘There’s
honour in that maid, if ever there was in one. No Miss Hinton’s tricks
in her. She’ll stick to Manston.’

‘Pifh!’

‘Don’t let a word be said till the wedden is over, for Heaven’s sake,’
the clerk continued. ‘Miss Aldclyffe would fairly hang and quarter me,
if my news broke off that there wedden at a last minute like this.’

‘Then you had better get your wife to bolt you in the closet for an hour
or two, for you’ll chatter it yourself to the whole boiling parish if
she don’t! ‘Tis a poor womanly feller!’

‘You shouldn’t ha’ begun it, clerk. I knew how ‘twould be,’ said the
gardener soothingly, in a whisper to the clerk’s mangled remains.

The clerk turned and smiled at the fire, and warmed his other hand.

3. NOON

The weather gave way. In half-an-hour there began a rapid thaw. By
ten o’clock the roads, though still dangerous, were practicable to the
extent of the half-mile required by the people of Knapwater Park. One
mass of heavy leaden cloud spread over the whole sky; the air began to
feel damp and mild out of doors, though still cold and frosty within.

They reached the church and passed up the nave, the deep-coloured glass
of the narrow windows rendering the gloom of the morning almost night
itself inside the building. Then the ceremony began. The only warmth
or spirit imported into it came from the bridegroom, who retained a
vigorous--even Spenserian--bridal-mood throughout the morning.

Cytherea was as firm as he at this critical moment, but as cold as the
air surrounding her. The few persons forming the wedding-party were
constrained in movement and tone, and from the nave of the church came
occasional coughs, emitted by those who, in spite of the weather, had
assembled to see the termination of Cytherea’s existence as a single
woman. Many poor people loved her. They pitied her success, why, they
could not tell, except that it was because she seemed to stand more like
a statue than Cytherea Graye.

Yet she was prettily and carefully dressed; a strange contradiction in
a man’s idea of things--a saddening, perplexing contradiction. Are
there any points in which a difference of sex amounts to a difference of
nature? Then this is surely one. Not so much, as it is commonly put, in
regard to the amount of consideration given, but in the conception of
the thing considered. A man emasculated by coxcombry may spend more time
upon the arrangement of his clothes than any woman, but even then there
is no fetichism in his idea of them--they are still only a covering
he uses for a time. But here was Cytherea, in the bottom of her heart
almost indifferent to life, yet possessing an instinct with which her
heart had nothing to do, the instinct to be particularly regardful of
those sorry trifles, her robe, her flowers, her veil, and her gloves.

The irrevocable words were soon spoken--the indelible writing soon
written--and they came out of the vestry. Candles had been necessary
here to enable them to sign their names, and on their return to the
church the light from the candles streamed from the small open door,
and across the chancel to a black chestnut screen on the south side,
dividing it from a small chapel or chantry, erected for the soul’s peace
of some Aldclyffe of the past. Through the open-work of this screen
could now be seen illuminated, inside the chantry, the reclining figures
of cross-legged knights, damp and green with age, and above them a
huge classic monument, also inscribed to the Aldclyffe family, heavily
sculptured in cadaverous marble.

Leaning here--almost hanging to the monument--was Edward Springrove, or
his spirit.

The weak daylight would never have revealed him, shaded as he was by the
screen; but the unexpected rays of candle-light in the front showed him
forth in startling relief to any and all of those whose eyes wandered in
that direction. The sight was a sad one--sad beyond all description. His
eyes were wild, their orbits leaden. His face was of a sickly paleness,
his hair dry and disordered, his lips parted as if he could get no
breath. His figure was spectre-thin. His actions seemed beyond his own
control.

Manston did not see him; Cytherea did. The healing effect upon her heart
of a year’s silence--a year and a half’s separation--was undone in
an instant. One of those strange revivals of passion by mere
sight--commoner in women than in men, and in oppressed women commonest
of all--had taken place in her--so transcendently, that even to herself
it seemed more like a new creation than a revival.

Marrying for a home--what a mockery it was!

It may be said that the means most potent for rekindling old love in a
maiden’s heart are, to see her lover in laughter and good spirits in her
despite when the breach has been owing to a slight from herself; when
owing to a slight from him, to see him suffering for his own fault. If
he is happy in a clear conscience, she blames him; if he is miserable
because deeply to blame, she blames herself. The latter was Cytherea’s
case now.

First, an agony of face told of the suppressed misery within her, which
presently could be suppressed no longer. When they were coming out of
the porch, there broke from her in a low plaintive scream the words,
‘He’s dying--dying! O God, save us!’ She began to sink down, and would
have fallen had not Manston caught her. The chief bridesmaid applied her
vinaigrette.

‘What did she say?’ inquired Manston.

Owen was the only one to whom the words were intelligible, and he was
far too deeply impressed, or rather alarmed, to reply. She did not
faint, and soon began to recover her self-command. Owen took advantage
of the hindrance to step back to where the apparition had been seen.
He was enraged with Springrove for what he considered an unwarrantable
intrusion.

But Edward was not in the chantry. As he had come, so he had gone,
nobody could tell how or whither.

4. AFTERNOON

It might almost have been believed that a transmutation had taken place
in Cytherea’s idiosyncrasy, that her moral nature had fled.

The wedding-party returned to the house. As soon as he could find an
opportunity, Owen took his sister aside to speak privately with her
on what had happened. The expression of her face was hard, wild, and
unreal--an expression he had never seen there before, and it disturbed
him. He spoke to her severely and sadly.

‘Cytherea,’ he said, ‘I know the cause of this emotion of yours. But
remember this, there was no excuse for it. You should have been woman
enough to control yourself. Remember whose wife you are, and don’t
think anything more of a mean-spirited fellow like Springrove; he had
no business to come there as he did. You are altogether wrong, Cytherea,
and I am vexed with you more than I can say--very vexed.’

‘Say ashamed of me at once,’ she bitterly answered.

‘I am ashamed of you,’ he retorted angrily; ‘the mood has not left you
yet, then?’

‘Owen,’ she said, and paused. Her lip trembled; her eye told of
sensations too deep for tears. ‘No, Owen, it has not left me; and I will
be honest. I own now to you, without any disguise of words, what last
night I did not own to myself, because I hardly knew of it. I love
Edward Springrove with all my strength, and heart, and soul. You call me
a wanton for it, don’t you? I don’t care; I have gone beyond caring for
anything!’ She looked stonily into his face and made the speech calmly.

‘Well, poor Cytherea, don’t talk like that!’ he said, alarmed at her
manner.

‘I thought that I did not love him at all,’ she went on hysterically. ‘A
year and a half had passed since we met. I could go by the gate of his
garden without thinking of him--look at his seat in church and not care.
But I saw him this morning--dying because he loves me so--I know it is
that! Can I help loving him too? No, I cannot, and I will love him, and
I don’t care! We have been separated somehow by some contrivance--I know
we have. O, if I could only die!’

He held her in his arms. ‘Many a woman has gone to ruin herself,’ he
said, ‘and brought those who love her into disgrace, by acting upon such
impulses as possess you now. I have a reputation to lose as well as you.
It seems that do what I will by way of remedying the stains which fell
upon us, it is all doomed to be undone again.’ His voice grew husky as
he made the reply.

The right and only effective chord had been touched. Since she had
seen Edward, she had thought only of herself and him. Owen--her
name--position--future--had been as if they did not exist.

‘I won’t give way and become a disgrace to _you_, at any rate,’ she
said.

‘Besides, your duty to society, and those about you, requires that you
should live with (at any rate) all the appearance of a good wife, and
try to love your husband.’

‘Yes--my duty to society,’ she murmured. ‘But ah, Owen, it is difficult
to adjust our outer and inner life with perfect honesty to all! Though
it may be right to care more for the benefit of the many than for the
indulgence of your own single self, when you consider that the many, and
duty to them, only exist to you through your own existence, what can be
said? What do our own acquaintances care about us? Not much. I think of
mine. Mine will now (do they learn all the wicked frailty of my heart in
this affair) look at me, smile sickly, and condemn me. And perhaps, far
in time to come, when I am dead and gone, some other’s accent, or some
other’s song, or thought, like an old one of mine, will carry them back
to what I used to say, and hurt their hearts a little that they blamed
me so soon. And they will pause just for an instant, and give a sigh to
me, and think, “Poor girl!” believing they do great justice to my
memory by this. But they will never, never realize that it was my single
opportunity of existence, as well as of doing my duty, which they are
regarding; they will not feel that what to them is but a thought, easily
held in those two words of pity, “Poor girl!” was a whole life to me;
as full of hours, minutes, and peculiar minutes, of hopes and dreads,
smiles, whisperings, tears, as theirs: that it was my world, what is to
them their world, and they in that life of mine, however much I cared
for them, only as the thought I seem to them to be. Nobody can enter
into another’s nature truly, that’s what is so grievous.’

‘Well, it cannot be helped,’ said Owen.

‘But we must not stay here,’ she continued, starting up and going. ‘We
shall be missed. I’ll do my best, Owen--I will, indeed.’

It had been decided that on account of the wretched state of the roads,
the newly-married pair should not drive to the station till the latest
hour in the afternoon at which they could get a train to take them to
Southampton (their destination that night) by a reasonable time in the
evening. They intended the next morning to cross to Havre, and thence to
Paris--a place Cytherea had never visited--for their wedding tour.

The afternoon drew on. The packing was done. Cytherea was so restless
that she could stay still nowhere. Miss Aldclyffe, who, though she took
little part in the day’s proceedings, was, as it were, instinctively
conscious of all their movements, put down her charge’s agitation for
once as the natural result of the novel event, and Manston himself was
as indulgent as could be wished.

At length Cytherea wandered alone into the conservatory. When in it,
she thought she would run across to the hot-house in the outer garden,
having in her heart a whimsical desire that she should also like to
take a last look at the familiar flowers and luxuriant leaves collected
there. She pulled on a pair of overshoes, and thither she went. Not
a soul was in or around the place. The gardener was making merry on
Manston’s and her account.

The happiness that a generous spirit derives from the belief that it
exists in others is often greater than the primary happiness itself. The
gardener thought ‘How happy they are!’ and the thought made him happier
than they.

Coming out of the forcing-house again, she was on the point of returning
indoors, when a feeling that these moments of solitude would be her last
of freedom induced her to prolong them a little, and she stood
still, unheeding the wintry aspect of the curly-leaved plants, the
straw-covered beds, and the bare fruit-trees around her. The garden, no
part of which was visible from the house, sloped down to a narrow river
at the foot, dividing it from the meadows without.

A man was lingering along the public path on the other side of the
river; she fancied she knew the form. Her resolutions, taken in the
presence of Owen, did not fail her now. She hoped and prayed that it
might not be one who had stolen her heart away, and still kept it. Why
should he have reappeared at all, when he had declared that he went out
of her sight for ever?

She hastily hid herself, in the lowest corner of the garden close to the
river. A large dead tree, thickly robed in ivy, had been considerably
depressed by its icy load of the morning, and hung low over the stream,
which here ran slow and deep. The tree screened her from the eyes of any
passer on the other side.

She waited timidly, and her timidity increased. She would not allow
herself to see him--she would hear him pass, and then look to see if it
had been Edward.

But, before she heard anything, she became aware of an object reflected
in the water from under the tree which hung over the river in such a way
that, though hiding the actual path, and objects upon it, it permitted
their reflected images to pass beneath its boughs. The reflected form
was that of the man she had seen further off, but being inverted, she
could not definitely characterize him.

He was looking at the upper windows of the House--at hers--was it
Edward, indeed? If so, he was probably thinking he would like to say
one parting word. He came closer, gazed into the stream, and walked very
slowly. She was almost certain that it was Edward. She kept more safely
hidden. Conscience told her that she ought not to see him. But she
suddenly asked herself a question: ‘Can it be possible that he sees my
reflected image, as I see his? Of course he does!’

He was looking at her in the water.

She could not help herself now. She stepped forward just as he emerged
from the other side of the tree and appeared erect before her. It was
Edward Springrove--till the inverted vision met his eye, dreaming no
more of seeing his Cytherea there than of seeing the dead themselves.

‘Cytherea!’

‘Mr. Springrove,’ she returned, in a low voice, across the stream.

He was the first to speak again.

‘Since we have met, I want to tell you something, before we become quite
as strangers to each other.’

‘No--not now--I did not mean to speak--it is not right, Edward.’ She
spoke hurriedly and turned away from him, beating the air with her hand.

‘Not one common word of explanation?’ he implored. ‘Don’t think I am bad
enough to try to lead you astray. Well, go--it is better.’

Their eyes met again. She was nearly choked. O, how she longed--and
dreaded--to hear his explanation!

‘What is it?’ she said desperately.

‘It is that I did not come to the church this morning in order to
distress you: I did not, Cytherea. It was to try to speak to you before
you were--married.’

He stepped closer, and went on, ‘You know what has taken place? Surely
you do?--my cousin is married, and I am free.’

‘Married--and not to you?’ Cytherea faltered, in a weak whisper.

‘Yes, she was married yesterday! A rich man had appeared, and she jilted
me. She said she never would have jilted a stranger, but that by jilting
me, she only exercised the right everybody has of snubbing their own
relations. But that’s nothing now. I came to you to ask once more if....
But I was too late.’

‘But, Edward, what’s that, what’s that!’ she cried, in an agony of
reproach. ‘Why did you leave me to return to her? Why did you write me
that cruel, cruel letter that nearly killed me!’

‘Cytherea! Why, you had grown to love--like--Mr. Manston, and how could
you be anything to me--or care for me? Surely I acted naturally?’

‘O no--never! I loved you--only you--not him--always you!--till
lately.... I try to love him now.’

‘But that can’t be correct! Miss Aldclyffe told me that you wanted to
hear no more of me--proved it to me!’ said Edward.

‘Never! she couldn’t.’

‘She did, Cytherea. And she sent me a letter--a love-letter, you wrote
to Mr. Manston.’

‘A love-letter I wrote?’

‘Yes, a love-letter--you could not meet him just then, you said you
were sorry, but the emotion you had felt with him made you forgetful of
realities.’

The strife of thought in the unhappy girl who listened to this
distortion of her meaning could find no vent in words. And then there
followed the slow revelation in return, bringing with it all the misery
of an explanation which comes too late. The question whether Miss
Aldclyffe were schemer or dupe was almost passed over by Cytherea,
under the immediate oppressiveness of her despair in the sense that her
position was irretrievable.

Not so Springrove. He saw through all the cunning
half-misrepresentations--worse than downright lies--which had just been
sufficient to turn the scale both with him and with her; and from the
bottom of his soul he cursed the woman and man who had brought all this
agony upon him and his Love. But he could not add more misery to the
future of the poor child by revealing too much. The whole scheme she
should never know.

‘I was indifferent to my own future,’ Edward said, ‘and was urged to
promise adherence to my engagement with my cousin Adelaide by Miss
Aldclyffe: now you are married I cannot tell you how, but it was on
account of my father. Being forbidden to think of you, what did I care
about anything? My new thought that you still loved me was first raised
by what my father said in the letter announcing my cousin’s marriage. He
said that although you were to be married on Old Christmas Day--that
is to-morrow--he had noticed your appearance with pity: he thought
you loved me still. It was enough for me--I came down by the earliest
morning train, thinking I could see you some time to-day, the day, as I
thought, before your marriage, hoping, but hardly daring to hope, that
you might be induced to marry me. I hurried from the station; when I
reached the village I saw idlers about the church, and the private gate
leading to the House open. I ran into the church by the small door and
saw you come out of the vestry; I was too late. I have now told you.
I was compelled to tell you. O, my lost darling, now I shall live
content--or die content!’

‘I am to blame, Edward, I am,’ she said mournfully; ‘I was taught to
dread pauperism; my nights were made sleepless; there was continually
reiterated in my ears till I believed it--

     ‘“The world and its ways have a certain worth,
       And to press a point where these oppose
       Were a simple policy.”

‘But I will say nothing about who influenced--who persuaded. The act
is mine, after all. Edward, I married to escape dependence for my bread
upon the whim of Miss Aldclyffe, or others like her. It was clearly
represented to me that dependence is bearable if we have another place
which we can call home; but to be a dependent and to have no other spot
for the heart to anchor upon--O, it is mournful and harassing!... But
that without which all persuasion would have been as air, was added by
my miserable conviction that you were false; that did it, that turned
me! You were to be considered as nobody to me, and Mr. Manston was
invariably kind. Well, the deed is done--I must abide by it. I shall
never let him know that I do not love him--never. If things had only
remained as they seemed to be, if you had really forgotten me and
married another woman, I could have borne it better. I wish I did not
know the truth as I know it now! But our life, what is it? Let us be
brave, Edward, and live out our few remaining years with dignity. They
will not be long. O, I hope they will not be long!... Now, good-bye,
good-bye!’

‘I wish I could be near and touch you once, just once,’ said Springrove,
in a voice which he vainly endeavoured to keep firm and clear.

They looked at the river, then into it; a shoal of minnows was floating
over the sandy bottom, like the black dashes on miniver; though narrow,
the stream was deep, and there was no bridge.

‘Cytherea, reach out your hand that I may just touch it with mine.’

She stepped to the brink and stretched out her hand and fingers towards
his, but not into them. The river was too wide.

‘Never mind,’ said Cytherea, her voice broken by agitation, ‘I must be
going. God bless and keep you, my Edward! God bless you!’

‘I must touch you, I must press your hand,’ he said.

They came near--nearer--nearer still--their fingers met. There was
a long firm clasp, so close and still that each hand could feel the
other’s pulse throbbing beside its own.

‘My Cytherea! my stolen pet lamb!’

She glanced a mute farewell from her large perturbed eyes, turned, and
ran up the garden without looking back. All was over between them.
The river flowed on as quietly and obtusely as ever, and the minnows
gathered again in their favourite spot as if they had never been
disturbed.

Nobody indoors guessed from her countenance and bearing that her heart
was near to breaking with the intensity of the misery which gnawed
there. At these times a woman does not faint, or weep, or scream, as she
will in the moment of sudden shocks. When lanced by a mental agony
of such refined and special torture that it is indescribable by men’s
words, she moves among her acquaintances much as before, and contrives
so to cast her actions in the old moulds that she is only considered to
be rather duller than usual.

5. HALF-PAST TWO TO FIVE O’CLOCK P.M.

Owen accompanied the newly-married couple to the railway-station, and in
his anxiety to see the last of his sister, left the brougham and stood
upon his crutches whilst the train was starting.

When the husband and wife were about to enter the railway-carriage they
saw one of the porters looking frequently and furtively at them. He was
pale, and apparently very ill.

‘Look at that poor sick man,’ said Cytherea compassionately, ‘surely he
ought not to be here.’

‘He’s been very queer to-day, madam, very queer,’ another porter
answered. ‘He do hardly hear when he’s spoken to, and d’ seem giddy, or
as if something was on his mind. He’s been like it for this month past,
but nothing so bad as he is to-day.’

‘Poor thing.’

She could not resist an innate desire to do some just thing on this most
deceitful and wretched day of her life. Going up to him she gave him
money, and told him to send to the old manor-house for wine or whatever
he wanted.

The train moved off as the trembling man was murmuring his incoherent
thanks. Owen waved his hand; Cytherea smiled back to him as if it were
unknown to her that she wept all the while.

Owen was driven back to the Old House. But he could not rest in the
lonely place. His conscience began to reproach him for having forced on
the marriage of his sister with a little too much peremptoriness. Taking
up his crutches he went out of doors and wandered about the muddy roads
with no object in view save that of getting rid of time.

The clouds which had hung so low and densely during the day cleared from
the west just now as the sun was setting, calling forth a weakly twitter
from a few small birds. Owen crawled down the path to the waterfall, and
lingered thereabout till the solitude of the place oppressed him, when
he turned back and into the road to the village. He was sad; he said to
himself--

‘If there is ever any meaning in those heavy feelings which are called
presentiments--and I don’t believe there is--there will be in mine
to-day.... Poor little Cytherea!’

At that moment the last low rays of the sun touched the head and
shoulders of a man who was approaching, and showed him up to Owen’s
view. It was old Mr. Springrove. They had grown familiar with each other
by reason of Owen’s visits to Knapwater during the past year. The farmer
inquired how Owen’s foot was progressing, and was glad to see him so
nimble again.

‘How is your son?’ said Owen mechanically.

‘He is at home, sitting by the fire,’ said the farmer, in a sad voice.
‘This morning he slipped indoors from God knows where, and there he sits
and mopes, and thinks, and thinks, and presses his head so hard, that I
can’t help feeling for him.’

‘Is he married?’ said Owen. Cytherea had feared to tell him of the
interview in the garden.

‘No. I can’t quite understand how the matter rests.... Ah! Edward, too,
who started with such promise; that he should now have become such a
careless fellow--not a month in one place. There, Mr. Graye, I know what
it is mainly owing to. If it hadn’t been for that heart affair, he might
have done--but the less said about him the better. I don’t know what we
should have done if Miss Aldclyffe had insisted upon the conditions of
the leases. Your brother-in-law, the steward, had a hand in making
it light for us, I know, and I heartily thank him for it.’ He ceased
speaking, and looked round at the sky.

‘Have you heard o’ what’s happened?’ he said suddenly; ‘I was just
coming out to learn about it.’

‘I haven’t heard of anything.’

‘It is something very serious, though I don’t know what. All I know is
what I heard a man call out bynow--that it very much concerns somebody
who lives in the parish.’

It seems singular enough, even to minds who have no dim beliefs in
adumbration and presentiment, that at that moment not the shadow of a
thought crossed Owen’s mind that the somebody whom the matter concerned
might be himself, or any belonging to him. The event about to transpire
was as portentous to the woman whose welfare was more dear to him than
his own, as any, short of death itself, could possibly be; and ever
afterwards, when he considered the effect of the knowledge the next
half-hour conveyed to his brain, even his practical good sense could not
refrain from wonder that he should have walked toward the village after
hearing those words of the farmer, in so leisurely and unconcerned a
way. ‘How unutterably mean must my intelligence have appeared to the eye
of a foreseeing God,’ he frequently said in after-time. ‘Columbus on the
eve of his discovery of a world was not so contemptibly unaware.’

After a few additional words of common-place the farmer left him, and,
as has been said, Owen proceeded slowly and indifferently towards the
village.

The labouring men had just left work, and passed the park gate, which
opened into the street as Owen came down towards it. They went along in
a drift, earnestly talking, and were finally about to turn in at their
respective doorways. But upon seeing him they looked significantly at
one another, and paused. He came into the road, on that side of the
village-green which was opposite the row of cottages, and turned round
to the right. When Owen turned, all eyes turned; one or two men went
hurriedly indoors, and afterwards appeared at the doorstep with their
wives, who also contemplated him, talking as they looked. They seemed
uncertain how to act in some matter.

‘If they want me, surely they will call me,’ he thought, wondering
more and more. He could no longer doubt that he was connected with the
subject of their discourse.

The first who approached him was a boy.

‘What has occurred?’ said Owen.

‘O, a man ha’ got crazy-religious, and sent for the pa’son.’

‘Is that all?’

‘Yes, sir. He wished he was dead, he said, and he’s almost out of his
mind wi’ wishen it so much. That was before Mr. Raunham came.’

‘Who is he?’ said Owen.

‘Joseph Chinney, one of the railway-porters; he used to be
night-porter.’

‘Ah--the man who was ill this afternoon; by the way, he was told to come
to the Old House for something, but he hasn’t been. But has anything
else happened--anything that concerns the wedding to-day?’

‘No, sir.’

Concluding that the connection which had seemed to be traced between
himself and the event must in some way have arisen from Cytherea’s
friendliness towards the man, Owen turned about and went homewards in
a much quieter frame of mind--yet scarcely satisfied with the solution.
The route he had chosen led through the dairy-yard, and he opened the
gate.

Five minutes before this point of time, Edward Springrove was looking
over one of his father’s fields at an outlying hamlet of three or four
cottages some mile and a half distant. A turnpike-gate was close by the
gate of the field.

The carrier to Casterbridge came up as Edward stepped into the road, and
jumped down from the van to pay toll. He recognized Springrove. ‘This is
a pretty set-to in your place, sir,’ he said. ‘You don’t know about it,
I suppose?’

‘What?’ said Springrove.

The carrier paid his dues, came up to Edward, and spoke ten words in a
confidential whisper: then sprang upon the shafts of his vehicle, gave a
clinching nod of significance to Springrove, and rattled away.

Edward turned pale with the intelligence. His first thought was, ‘Bring
her home!’

The next--did Owen Graye know what had been discovered? He probably
did by that time, but no risks of probability must be run by a woman
he loved dearer than all the world besides. He would at any rate make
perfectly sure that her brother was in possession of the knowledge, by
telling it him with his own lips.

Off he ran in the direction of the old manor-house.

The path was across arable land, and was ploughed up with the rest of
the field every autumn, after which it was trodden out afresh. The thaw
had so loosened the soft earth, that lumps of stiff mud were lifted
by his feet at every leap he took, and flung against him by his rapid
motion, as it were doggedly impeding him, and increasing tenfold the
customary effort of running,

But he ran on--uphill, and downhill, the same pace alike--like the
shadow of a cloud. His nearest direction, too, like Owen’s, was through
the dairy-barton, and as Owen entered it he saw the figure of Edward
rapidly descending the opposite hill, at a distance of two or three
hundred yards. Owen advanced amid the cows.

The dairyman, who had hitherto been talking loudly on some absorbing
subject to the maids and men milking around him, turned his face towards
the head of the cow when Owen passed, and ceased speaking.

Owen approached him and said--

‘A singular thing has happened, I hear. The man is not insane, I
suppose?’

‘Not he--he’s sensible enough,’ said the dairyman, and paused. He was a
man noisy with his associates--stolid and taciturn with strangers.

‘Is it true that he is Chinney, the railway-porter?’

‘That’s the man, sir.’ The maids and men sitting under the cows were all
attentively listening to this discourse, milking irregularly, and softly
directing the jets against the sides of the pail.

Owen could contain himself no longer, much as his mind dreaded anything
of the nature of ridicule. ‘The people all seem to look at me, as if
something seriously concerned me; is it this stupid matter, or what is
it?’

‘Surely, sir, you know better than anybody else if such a strange thing
concerns you.’

‘What strange thing?’

‘Don’t you know! His confessing to Parson Raunham.’

‘What did he confess? Tell me.’

‘If you really ha’n’t heard, ‘tis this. He was as usual on duty at the
station on the night of the fire last year, otherwise he wouldn’t ha’
known it.’

‘Known what? For God’s sake tell, man!’

But at this instant the two opposite gates of the dairy-yard, one on the
east, the other on the west side, slammed almost simultaneously.

The rector from one, Springrove from the other, came striding across the
barton.

Edward was nearest, and spoke first. He said in a low voice: ‘Your
sister is not legally married! His first wife is still living! How it
comes out I don’t know!’

‘O, here you are at last, Mr. Graye, thank Heaven!’ said the rector
breathlessly. ‘I have been to the Old House, and then to Miss
Aldclyffe’s looking for you--something very extraordinary.’ He beckoned
to Owen, afterwards included Springrove in his glance, and the three
stepped aside together.

‘A porter at the station. He was a curious nervous man. He had been in a
strange state all day, but he wouldn’t go home. Your sister was kind
to him, it seems, this afternoon. When she and her husband had gone, he
went on with his work, shifting luggage-vans. Well, he got in the way,
as if he were quite lost to what was going on, and they sent him home at
last. Then he wished to see me. I went directly. There was something
on his mind, he said, and told it. About the time when the fire of last
November twelvemonth was got under, whilst he was by himself in the
porter’s room, almost asleep, somebody came to the station and tried to
open the door. He went out and found the person to be the lady he had
accompanied to Carriford earlier in the evening, Mrs. Manston. She
asked, when would be another train to London? The first the next
morning, he told her, was at a quarter-past six o’clock from Budmouth,
but that it was express, and didn’t stop at Carriford Road--it didn’t
stop till it got to Anglebury. “How far is it to Anglebury?” she said.
He told her, and she thanked him, and went away up the line. In a short
time she ran back and took out her purse. “Don’t on any account say
a word in the village or anywhere that I have been here, or a single
breath about me--I’m ashamed ever to have come.” He promised; she took
out two sovereigns. “Swear it on the Testament in the waiting-room,” she
said, “and I’ll pay you these.” He got the book, took an oath upon it,
received the money, and she left him. He was off duty at half-past
five. He has kept silence all through the intervening time till now, but
lately the knowledge he possessed weighed heavily upon his conscience
and weak mind. Yet the nearer came the wedding-day, the more he feared
to tell. The actual marriage filled him with remorse. He says your
sister’s kindness afterwards was like a knife going through his heart.
He thought he had ruined her.’

‘But whatever can be done? Why didn’t he speak sooner?’ cried Owen.

‘He actually called at my house twice yesterday,’ the rector continued,
‘resolved, it seems, to unburden his mind. I was out both times--he
left no message, and, they say, he looked relieved that his object was
defeated. Then he says he resolved to come to you at the Old House last
night--started, reached the door, and dreaded to knock--and then went
home again.’

‘Here will be a tale for the newsmongers of the county,’ said Owen
bitterly. ‘The idea of his not opening his mouth sooner--the criminality
of the thing!’

‘Ah, that’s the inconsistency of a weak nature. But now that it is put
to us in this way, how much more probable it seems that she should have
escaped than have been burnt--’

‘You will, of course, go straight to Mr. Manston, and ask him what it
all means?’ Edward interrupted.

‘Of course I shall! Manston has no right to carry off my sister unless
he’s her husband,’ said Owen. ‘I shall go and separate them.’

‘Certainly you will,’ said the rector.

‘Where’s the man?’

‘In his cottage.’

‘’Tis no use going to him, either. I must go off at once and overtake
them--lay the case before Manston, and ask him for additional and
certain proofs of his first wife’s death. An up-train passes soon, I
think.’

‘Where have they gone?’ said Edward.

‘To Paris--as far as Southampton this afternoon, to proceed to-morrow
morning.’

‘Where in Southampton?’

‘I really don’t know--some hotel. I only have their Paris address. But I
shall find them by making a few inquiries.’

The rector had in the meantime been taking out his pocket-book, and now
opened it at the first page, whereon it was his custom every month to
gum a small railway time-table--cut from the local newspaper.

‘The afternoon express is just gone,’ he said, holding open the page,
‘and the next train to Southampton passes at ten minutes to six o’clock.
Now it wants--let me see--five-and-forty minutes to that time. Mr.
Graye, my advice is that you come with me to the porter’s cottage, where
I will shortly write out the substance of what he has said, and get
him to sign it. You will then have far better grounds for interfering
between Mr. and Mrs. Manston than if you went to them with a mere
hearsay story.’

The suggestion seemed a good one. ‘Yes, there will be time before the
train starts,’ said Owen.

Edward had been musing restlessly.

‘Let me go to Southampton in your place, on account of your lameness?’
he said suddenly to Graye.

‘I am much obliged to you, but I think I can scarcely accept the offer,’
returned Owen coldly. ‘Mr. Manston is an honourable man, and I had much
better see him myself.’

‘There is no doubt,’ said Mr. Raunham, ‘that the death of his wife was
fully believed in by himself.’

‘None whatever,’ said Owen; ‘and the news must be broken to him, and the
question of other proofs asked, in a friendly way. It would not do for
Mr. Springrove to appear in the case at all.’ He still spoke rather
coldly; the recollection of the attachment between his sister and Edward
was not a pleasant one to him.

‘You will never find them,’ said Edward. ‘You have never been to
Southampton, and I know every house there.’

‘That makes little difference,’ said the rector; ‘he will have a cab.
Certainly Mr. Graye is the proper man to go on the errand.’

‘Stay; I’ll telegraph to ask them to meet me when I arrive at the
terminus,’ said Owen; ‘that is, if their train has not already arrived.’

Mr. Raunham pulled out his pocket-book again. ‘The two-thirty train
reached Southampton a quarter of an hour ago,’ he said.

It was too late to catch them at the station. Nevertheless, the rector
suggested that it would be worth while to direct a message to ‘all the
respectable hotels in Southampton,’ on the chance of its finding them,
and thus saving a deal of personal labour to Owen in searching about the
place.

‘I’ll go and telegraph, whilst you return to the man,’ said Edward--an
offer which was accepted. Graye and the rector then turned off in the
direction of the porter’s cottage.

Edward, to despatch the message at once, hurriedly followed the road
towards the station, still restlessly thinking. All Owen’s proceedings
were based on the assumption, natural under the circumstances, of
Manston’s good faith, and that he would readily acquiesce in any
arrangement which should clear up the mystery. ‘But,’ thought Edward,
‘suppose--and Heaven forgive me, I cannot help supposing it--that
Manston is not that honourable man, what will a young and inexperienced
fellow like Owen do? Will he not be hoodwinked by some specious story
or another, framed to last till Manston gets tired of poor Cytherea?
And then the disclosure of the truth will ruin and blacken both their
futures irremediably.’

However, he proceeded to execute his commission. This he put in the form
of a simple request from Owen to Manston, that Manston would come to
the Southampton platform, and wait for Owen’s arrival, as he valued his
reputation. The message was directed as the rector had suggested, Edward
guaranteeing to the clerk who sent it off that every expense connected
with the search would be paid.

No sooner had the telegram been despatched than his heart sank within
him at the want of foresight shown in sending it. Had Manston, all the
time, a knowledge that his first wife lived, the telegram would be a
forewarning which might enable him to defeat Owen still more signally.

Whilst the machine was still giving off its multitudinous series of
raps, Edward heard a powerful rush under the shed outside, followed by
a long sonorous creak. It was a train of some sort, stealing softly into
the station, and it was an up-train. There was the ring of a bell. It
was certainly a passenger train.

Yet the booking-office window was closed.

‘Ho, ho, John, seventeen minutes after time and only three stations up
the line. The incline again?’ The voice was the stationmaster’s, and the
reply seemed to come from the guard.

‘Yes, the other side of the cutting. The thaw has made it all in a
perfect cloud of fog, and the rails are as slippery as glass. We had to
bring them through the cutting at twice.’

‘Anybody else for the four-forty-five express?’ the voice continued. The
few passengers, having crossed over to the other side long before this
time, had taken their places at once.

A conviction suddenly broke in upon Edward’s mind; then a wish
overwhelmed him. The conviction--as startling as it was sudden--was that
Manston was a villain, who at some earlier time had discovered that
his wife lived, and had bribed her to keep out of sight, that he might
possess Cytherea. The wish was--to proceed at once by this very train
that was starting, find Manston before he would expect from the words
of the telegram (if he got it) that anybody from Carriford could be
with him--charge him boldly with the crime, and trust to his consequent
confusion (if he were guilty) for a solution of the extraordinary
riddle, and the release of Cytherea!

The ticket-office had been locked up at the expiration of the time at
which the train was due. Rushing out as the guard blew his whistle,
Edward opened the door of a carriage and leapt in. The train moved
along, and he was soon out of sight.

Springrove had long since passed that peculiar line which lies across
the course of falling in love--if, indeed, it may not be called the
initial itself of the complete passion--a longing to cherish; when the
woman is shifted in a man’s mind from the region of mere admiration to
the region of warm fellowship. At this assumption of her nature, she
changes to him in tone, hue, and expression. All about the loved one
that said ‘She’ before, says ‘We’ now. Eyes that were to be subdued
become eyes to be feared for: a brain that was to be probed by cynicism
becomes a brain that is to be tenderly assisted; feet that were to
be tested in the dance become feet that are not to be distressed; the
once-criticized accent, manner, and dress, become the clients of a
special pleader.

6. FIVE TO EIGHT O’CLOCK P.M.

Now that he was fairly on the track, and had begun to cool down, Edward
remembered that he had nothing to show--no legal authority whatever to
question Manston or interfere between him and Cytherea as husband
and wife. He now saw the wisdom of the rector in obtaining a signed
confession from the porter. The document would not be a death-bed
confession--perhaps not worth anything legally--but it would be held by
Owen; and he alone, as Cytherea’s natural guardian, could separate them
on the mere ground of an unproved probability, or what might perhaps be
called the hallucination of an idiot. Edward himself, however, was as
firmly convinced as the rector had been of the truth of the man’s story,
and paced backward and forward the solitary compartment as the train
wound through the dark heathery plains, the mazy woods, and moaning
coppices, as resolved as ever to pounce on Manston, and charge him with
the crime during the critical interval between the reception of the
telegram and the hour at which Owen’s train would arrive--trusting to
circumstances for what he should say and do afterwards, but making up
his mind to be a ready second to Owen in any emergency that might arise.

At thirty-three minutes past seven he stood on the platform of the
station at Southampton--a clear hour before the train containing Owen
could possibly arrive.

Making a few inquiries here, but too impatient to pursue his
investigation carefully and inductively, he went into the town.

At the expiration of another half-hour he had visited seven hotels and
inns, large and small, asking the same questions at each, and always
receiving the same reply--nobody of that name, or answering to that
description, had been there. A boy from the telegraph-office had called,
asking for the same persons, if they recollected rightly.

He reflected awhile, struck again by a painful thought that they might
possibly have decided to cross the Channel by the night-boat. Then he
hastened off to another quarter of the town to pursue his inquiries
among hotels of the more old-fashioned and quiet class. His stained and
weary appearance obtained for him but a modicum of civility, wherever he
went, which made his task yet more difficult. He called at three several
houses in this neighbourhood, with the same result as before. He entered
the door of the fourth house whilst the clock of the nearest church was
striking eight.

‘Have a tall gentleman named Manston, and a young wife arrived here this
evening?’ he asked again, in words which had grown odd to his ears from
very familiarity.

‘A new-married couple, did you say?’

‘They are, though I didn’t say so.’

‘They have taken a sitting-room and bedroom, number thirteen.’

‘Are they indoors?’

‘I don’t know. Eliza!’

‘Yes, m’m.’

‘See if number thirteen is in--that gentleman and his wife.’

‘Yes, m’m.’

‘Has any telegram come for them?’ said Edward, when the maid had gone on
her errand.

‘No--nothing that I know of.’

‘Somebody did come and ask if a Mr. and Mrs. Masters, or some such
name, were here this evening,’ said another voice from the back of the
bar-parlour.

‘And did they get the message?’

‘Of course they did not--they were not here--they didn’t come till
half-an-hour after that. The man who made inquiries left no message. I
told them when they came that they, or a name something like theirs, had
been asked for, but they didn’t seem to understand why it should be, and
so the matter dropped.’

The chambermaid came back. ‘The gentleman is not in, but the lady is.
Who shall I say?’

‘Nobody,’ said Edward. For it now became necessary to reflect upon his
method of proceeding. His object in finding their whereabouts--apart
from the wish to assist Owen--had been to see Manston, ask him flatly
for an explanation, and confirm the request of the message in the
presence of Cytherea--so as to prevent the possibility of the steward’s
palming off a story upon Cytherea, or eluding her brother when he came.
But here were two important modifications of the expected condition of
affairs. The telegram had not been received, and Cytherea was in the
house alone.

He hesitated as to the propriety of intruding upon her in Manston’s
absence. Besides, the women at the bottom of the stairs would see
him--his intrusion would seem odd--and Manston might return at
any moment. He certainly might call, and wait for Manston with the
accusation upon his tongue, as he had intended. But it was a doubtful
course. That idea had been based upon the assumption that Cytherea was
not married. If the first wife were really dead after all--and he
felt sick at the thought--Cytherea as the steward’s wife might in
after-years--perhaps, at once--be subjected to indignity and cruelty on
account of an old lover’s interference now.

Yes, perhaps the announcement would come most properly and safely for
her from her brother Owen, the time of whose arrival had almost expired.

But, on turning round, he saw that the staircase and passage were quite
deserted. He and his errand had as completely died from the minds of
the attendants as if they had never been. There was absolutely nothing
between him and Cytherea’s presence. Reason was powerless now; he must
see her--right or wrong, fair or unfair to Manston--offensive to her
brother or no. His lips must be the first to tell the alarming story to
her. Who loved her as he! He went back lightly through the hall, up the
stairs, two at a time, and followed the corridor till he came to the
door numbered thirteen.

He knocked softly: nobody answered.

There was no time to lose if he would speak to Cytherea before Manston
came. He turned the handle of the door and looked in. The lamp on the
table burned low, and showed writing materials open beside it; the chief
light came from the fire, the direct rays of which were obscured by a
sweet familiar outline of head and shoulders--still as precious to him
as ever.

7. A QUARTER-PAST EIGHT O’CLOCK P.M.

There is an attitude--approximatively called pensive--in which the soul
of a human being, and especially of a woman, dominates outwardly and
expresses its presence so strongly, that the intangible essence seems
more apparent than the body itself. This was Cytherea’s expression now.
What old days and sunny eves at Budmouth Bay was she picturing? Her
reverie had caused her not to notice his knock.

‘Cytherea!’ he said softly.

She let drop her hand, and turned her head, evidently thinking that her
visitor could be no other than Manston, yet puzzled at the voice.

There was no preface on Springrove’s tongue; he forgot his
position--hers--that he had come to ask quietly if Manston had other
proofs of being a widower--everything--and jumped to a conclusion.

‘You are not his wife, Cytherea--come away, he has a wife living!’ he
cried in an agitated whisper. ‘Owen will be here directly.’

She started up, recognized the tidings first, the bearer of them
afterwards. ‘Not his wife? O, what is it--what--who is living?’ She
awoke by degrees. ‘What must I do? Edward, it is you! Why did you come?
Where is Owen?’

‘What has Manston shown you in proof of the death of his other wife?
Tell me quick.’

‘Nothing--we have never spoken of the subject. Where is my brother Owen?
I want him, I want him!’

‘He is coming by-and-by. Come to the station to meet him--do,’ implored
Springrove. ‘If Mr. Manston comes, he will keep you from me: I am
nobody,’ he added bitterly, feeling the reproach her words had faintly
shadowed forth.

‘Mr. Manston is only gone out to post a letter he has just written,’ she
said, and without being distinctly cognizant of the action, she wildly
looked for her bonnet and cloak, and began putting them on, but in the
act of fastening them uttered a spasmodic cry.

‘No, I’ll not go out with you,’ she said, flinging the articles
down again. Running to the door she flitted along the passage, and
downstairs.

‘Give me a private room--quite private,’ she said breathlessly to some
one below.

‘Number twelve is a single room, madam, and unoccupied,’ said some
tongue in astonishment.

Without waiting for any person to show her into it, Cytherea hurried
upstairs again, brushed through the corridor, entered the room
specified, and closed the door. Edward heard her sob out--

‘Nobody but Owen shall speak to me--nobody!’

‘He will be here directly,’ said Springrove, close against the panel,
and then went towards the stairs. He had seen her; it was enough.

He descended, stepped into the street, and hastened to meet Owen at the
railway-station.

As for the poor maiden who had received the news, she knew not what to
think. She listened till the echo of Edward’s footsteps had died away,
then bowed her face upon the bed. Her sudden impulse had been to escape
from sight. Her weariness after the unwonted strain, mental and bodily,
which had been put upon her by the scenes she had passed through during
the long day, rendered her much more timid and shaken by her position
than she would naturally have been. She thought and thought of that
single fact which had been told her--that the first Mrs. Manston was
still living--till her brain seemed ready to burst its confinement with
excess of throbbing. It was only natural that she should, by degrees,
be unable to separate the discovery, which was matter of fact, from the
suspicion of treachery on her husband’s part, which was only matter of
inference. And thus there arose in her a personal fear of him.

‘Suppose he should come in now and seize me!’ This at first mere
frenzied supposition grew by degrees to a definite horror of his
presence, and especially of his intense gaze. Thus she raised herself to
a heat of excitement, which was none the less real for being vented
in no cry of any kind. No; she could not meet Manston’s eye alone, she
would only see him in her brother’s company.

Almost delirious with this idea, she ran and locked the door to prevent
all possibility of her intentions being nullified, or a look or word
being flung at her by anybody whilst she knew not what she was.

8. HALF-PAST EIGHT O’CLOCK P.M.

Then Cytherea felt her way amid the darkness of the room till she came
to the head of the bed, where she searched for the bell-rope and gave it
a pull. Her summons was speedily answered by the landlady herself,
whose curiosity to know the meaning of these strange proceedings knew no
bounds. The landlady attempted to turn the handle of the door. Cytherea
kept the door locked. ‘Please tell Mr. Manston when he comes that I am
ill,’ she said from the inside, ‘and that I cannot see him.’

‘Certainly I will, madam,’ said the landlady. ‘Won’t you have a fire?’

‘No, thank you.’

‘Nor a light?’

‘I don’t want one, thank you.’

‘Nor anything?’

‘Nothing.’

The landlady withdrew, thinking her visitor half insane.

Manston came in about five minutes later, and went at once up to the
sitting-room, fully expecting to find his wife there. He looked round,
rang, and was told the words Cytherea had said, that she was too ill to
be seen.

‘She is in number twelve room,’ added the maid.

Manston was alarmed, and knocked at the door. ‘Cytherea!’

‘I am unwell, I cannot see you,’ she said.

‘Are you seriously ill, dearest? Surely not.’

‘No, not seriously.’

‘Let me come in; I will get a doctor.’

‘No, he can’t see me either.’

‘She won’t open the door, sir, not to nobody at all!’ said the
chambermaid, with wonder-waiting eyes.

‘Hold your tongue, and be off!’ said Manston with a snap.

The maid vanished.

‘Come, Cytherea, this is foolish--indeed it is--not opening the door....
I cannot comprehend what can be the matter with you. Nor can a doctor
either, unless he sees you.’

Her voice had trembled more and more at each answer she gave, but
nothing could induce her to come out and confront him. Hating scenes,
Manston went back to the sitting-room, greatly irritated and perplexed.

And there Cytherea from the adjoining room could hear him pacing up
and down. She thought, ‘Suppose he insists upon seeing me--he probably
may--and will burst open the door!’ This notion increased, and she sank
into a corner in a half-somnolent state, but with ears alive to the
slightest sound. Reason could not overthrow the delirious fancy that
outside her door stood Manston and all the people in the hotel, waiting
to laugh her to scorn.

9. HALF-PAST EIGHT TO ELEVEN P.M.

In the meantime, Springrove was pacing up and down the arrival platform
of the railway-station. Half-past eight o’clock--the time at which
Owen’s train was due--had come, and passed, but no train appeared.

‘When will the eight-thirty train be in?’ he asked of a man who was
sweeping the mud from the steps.

‘She is not expected yet this hour.’

‘How is that?’

‘Christmas-time, you see, ‘tis always so. People are running about to
see their friends. The trains have been like it ever since Christmas
Eve, and will be for another week yet.’

Edward again went on walking and waiting under the draughty roof. He
found it utterly impossible to leave the spot. His mind was so
intent upon the importance of meeting with Owen, and informing him of
Cytherea’s whereabouts, that he could not but fancy Owen might leave the
station unobserved if he turned his back, and become lost to him in the
streets of the town.

The hour expired. Ten o’clock struck. ‘When will the train be in?’ said
Edward to the telegraph clerk.

‘In five-and-thirty minutes. She’s now at L----. They have extra
passengers, and the rails are bad to-day.’

At last, at a quarter to eleven, the train came in.

The first to alight from it was Owen, looking pale and cold. He casually
glanced round upon the nearly deserted platform, and was hurrying to the
outlet, when his eyes fell upon Edward. At sight of his friend he was
quite bewildered, and could not speak.

‘Here I am, Mr. Graye,’ said Edward cheerfully. ‘I have seen Cytherea,
and she has been waiting for you these two or three hours.’

Owen took Edward’s hand, pressed it, and looked at him in silence. Such
was the concentration of his mind, that not till many minutes after did
he think of inquiring how Springrove had contrived to be there before
him.

10. ELEVEN O’CLOCK P.M.

On their arrival at the door of the hotel, it was arranged between
Springrove and Graye that the latter only should enter, Edward waiting
outside. Owen had remembered continually what his friend had frequently
overlooked, that there was yet a possibility of his sister being
Manston’s wife, and the recollection taught him to avoid any rashness in
his proceedings which might lead to bitterness hereafter.

Entering the room, he found Manston sitting in the chair which had been
occupied by Cytherea on Edward’s visit, three hours earlier. Before Owen
had spoken, Manston arose, and stepping past him closed the door. His
face appeared harassed--much more troubled than the slight circumstance
which had as yet come to his knowledge seemed to account for.

Manston could form no reason for Owen’s presence, but intuitively linked
it with Cytherea’s seclusion. ‘Altogether this is most unseemly,’ he
said, ‘whatever it may mean.’

‘Don’t think there is meant anything unfriendly by my coming here,’ said
Owen earnestly; ‘but listen to this, and think if I could do otherwise
than come.’

He took from his pocket the confession of Chinney the porter, as hastily
written out by the vicar, and read it aloud. The aspects of Manston’s
face whilst he listened to the opening words were strange, dark, and
mysterious enough to have justified suspicions that no deceit could
be too complicated for the possessor of such impulses, had there not
overridden them all, as the reading went on, a new and irrepressible
expression--one unmistakably honest. It was that of unqualified
amazement in the steward’s mind at the news he heard. Owen looked up
and saw it. The sight only confirmed him in the belief he had held
throughout, in antagonism to Edward’s suspicions.

There could no longer be a shadow of doubt that if the first Mrs.
Manston lived, her husband was ignorant of the fact. What he could have
feared by his ghastly look at first, and now have ceased to fear, it was
quite futile to conjecture.

‘Now I do not for a moment doubt your complete ignorance of the whole
matter; you cannot suppose for an instant that I do,’ said Owen when he
had finished reading. ‘But is it not best for both that Cytherea should
come back with me till the matter is cleared up? In fact, under the
circumstances, no other course is left open to me than to request it.’

Whatever Manston’s original feelings had been, all in him now gave way
to irritation, and irritation to rage. He paced up and down the room
till he had mastered it; then said in ordinary tones--

‘Certainly, I know no more than you and others know--it was a gratuitous
unpleasantness in you to say you did not doubt me. Why should you, or
anybody, have doubted me?’

‘Well, where is my sister?’ said Owen.

‘Locked in the next room.’

His own answer reminded Manston that Cytherea must, by some inscrutable
means, have had an inkling of the event.

Owen had gone to the door of Cytherea’s room.

‘Cytherea, darling--‘tis Owen,’ he said, outside the door. A rustling
of clothes, soft footsteps, and a voice saying from the inside, ‘Is it
really you, Owen,--is it really?’

‘It is.’

‘O, will you take care of me?’

‘Always.’

She unlocked the door, and retreated again. Manston came forward from
the other room with a candle in his hand, as Owen pushed open the door.

Her frightened eyes were unnaturally large, and shone like stars in the
darkness of the background, as the light fell upon them. She leapt up to
Owen in one bound, her small taper fingers extended like the leaves of a
lupine. Then she clasped her cold and trembling hands round his neck and
shivered.

The sight of her again kindled all Manston’s passions into activity.
‘She shall not go with you,’ he said firmly, and stepping a pace or two
closer, ‘unless you prove that she is not my wife; and you can’t do it!’

‘This is proof,’ said Owen, holding up the paper.

‘No proof at all,’ said Manston hotly. ‘’Tis not a death-bed confession,
and those are the only things of the kind held as good evidence.’

‘Send for a lawyer,’ Owen returned, ‘and let him tell us the proper
course to adopt.’

‘Never mind the law--let me go with Owen!’ cried Cytherea, still holding
on to him. ‘You will let me go with him, won’t you, sir?’ she said,
turning appealingly to Manston.

‘We’ll have it all right and square,’ said Manston, with more quietness.
‘I have no objection to your brother sending for a lawyer, if he wants
to.’

It was getting on for twelve o’clock, but the proprietor of the hotel
had not yet gone to bed on account of the mystery on the first floor,
which was an occurrence unusual in the quiet family lodging. Owen looked
over the banisters, and saw him standing in the hall. It struck Graye
that the wisest course would be to take the landlord to a certain extent
into their confidence, appeal to his honour as a gentleman, and so on,
in order to acquire the information he wanted, and also to prevent the
episode of the evening from becoming a public piece of news. He called
the landlord up to where they stood, and told him the main facts of the
story.

The landlord was fortunately a quiet, prejudiced man, and a meditative
smoker.

‘I know the very man you want to see--the very man,’ he said, looking
at the general features of the candle-flame. ‘Sharp as a needle, and not
over-rich. Timms will put you all straight in no time--trust Timms for
that.’

‘He’s in bed by this time for certain,’ said Owen.

‘Never mind that--Timms knows me, I know him. He’ll oblige me as a
personal favour. Wait here a bit. Perhaps, too, he’s up at some party or
another--he’s a nice, jovial fellow, sharp as a needle, too; mind you,
sharp as a needle, too.’

He went downstairs, put on his overcoat, and left the house, the three
persons most concerned entering the room, and standing motionless,
awkward, and silent in the midst of it. Cytherea pictured to herself the
long weary minutes she would have to stand there, whilst a sleepy man
could be prepared for consultation, till the constraint between them
seemed unendurable to her--she could never last out the time. Owen was
annoyed that Manston had not quietly arranged with him at once; Manston
at Owen’s homeliness of idea in proposing to send for an attorney, as if
he would be a touchstone of infallible proof.

Reflection was cut short by the approach of footsteps, and in a few
moments the proprietor of the hotel entered, introducing his friend.
‘Mr. Timms has not been in bed,’ he said; ‘he had just returned from
dining with a few friends, so there’s no trouble given. To save time I
explained the matter as we came along.’

It occurred to Owen and Manston both that they might get a misty
exposition of the law from Mr. Timms at that moment of concluding dinner
with a few friends.

‘As far as I can see,’ said the lawyer, yawning, and turning his vision
inward by main force, ‘it is quite a matter for private arrangement
between the parties, whoever the parties are--at least at present. I
speak more as a father than as a lawyer, it is true, but, let the young
lady stay with her father, or guardian, safe out of shame’s way, until
the mystery is sifted, whatever the mystery is. Should the evidence
prove to be false, or trumped up by anybody to get her away from you,
her husband, you may sue them for the damages accruing from the delay.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Manston, who had completely recovered his
self-possession and common-sense; ‘let it all be settled by herself.’
Turning to Cytherea he whispered so softly that Owen did not hear the
words--

‘Do you wish to go back with your brother, dearest, and leave me here
miserable, and lonely, or will you stay with me, your own husband.’

‘I’ll go back with Owen.’

‘Very well.’ He relinquished his coaxing tone, and went on sternly: ‘And
remember this, Cytherea, I am as innocent of deception in this thing as
you are yourself. Do you believe me?’

‘I do,’ she said.

‘I had no shadow of suspicion that my first wife lived. I don’t think
she does even now. Do you believe me?’

‘I believe you,’ she said.

‘And now, good-evening,’ he continued, opening the door and politely
intimating to the three men standing by that there was no further
necessity for their remaining in his room. ‘In three days I shall claim
her.’

The lawyer and the hotel-keeper retired first. Owen, gathering up as
much of his sister’s clothing as lay about the room, took her upon his
arm, and followed them. Edward, to whom she owed everything, who had
been left standing in the street like a dog without a home, was utterly
forgotten. Owen paid the landlord and the lawyer for the trouble he had
occasioned them, looked to the packing, and went to the door.

A fly, which somewhat unaccountably was seen lingering in front of the
house, was called up, and Cytherea’s luggage put upon it.

‘Do you know of any hotel near the station that is open for night
arrivals?’ Owen inquired of the driver.

‘A place has been bespoke for you, sir, at the White Unicorn--and the
gentleman wished me to give you this.’

‘Bespoken by Springrove, who ordered the fly, of course,’ said Owen to
himself. By the light of the street-lamp he read these lines, hurriedly
traced in pencil:--

‘I have gone home by the mail-train. It is better for all parties that
I should be out of the way. Tell Cytherea that I apologize for having
caused her such unnecessary pain, as it seems I did--but it cannot be
helped now. E.S.’

Owen handed his sister into the vehicle, and told the flyman to drive
on.

‘Poor Springrove--I think we have served him rather badly,’ he said to
Cytherea, repeating the words of the note to her.

A thrill of pleasure passed through her bosom as she listened to them.
They were the genuine reproach of a lover to his mistress; the trifling
coldness of her answer to him would have been noticed by no man who
was only a friend. But, in entertaining that sweet thought, she had
forgotten herself, and her position for the instant.

Was she still Manston’s wife--that was the terrible supposition, and
her future seemed still a possible misery to her. For, on account of the
late jarring accident, a life with Manston which would otherwise have
been only a sadness, must become a burden of unutterable sorrow.

Then she thought of the misrepresentation and scandal that would
ensue if she were no wife. One cause for thankfulness accompanied the
reflection; Edward knew the truth.

They soon reached the quiet old inn, which had been selected for them
by the forethought of the man who loved her well. Here they installed
themselves for the night, arranging to go to Budmouth by the first train
the next day.

At this hour Edward Springrove was fast approaching his native county on
the wheels of the night-mail.



XIV. THE EVENTS OF FIVE WEEKS

1. FROM THE SIXTH TO THE THIRTEENTH OF JANUARY

Manston had evidently resolved to do nothing in a hurry.

This much was plain, that his earnest desire and intention was to
raise in Cytherea’s bosom no feelings of permanent aversion to him. The
instant after the first burst of disappointment had escaped him in the
hotel at Southampton, he had seen how far better it would be to lose her
presence for a week than her respect for ever.

‘She shall be mine; I will claim the young thing yet,’ he insisted. And
then he seemed to reason over methods for compassing that object, which,
to all those who were in any degree acquainted with the recent event,
appeared the least likely of possible contingencies.

He returned to Knapwater late the next day, and was preparing to call on
Miss Aldclyffe, when the conclusion forced itself upon him that nothing
would be gained by such a step. No; every action of his should be done
openly--even religiously. At least, he called on the rector, and stated
this to be his resolve.

‘Certainly,’ said Mr. Raunham, ‘it is best to proceed candidly and
fairly, or undue suspicion may fall on you. You should, in my opinion,
take active steps at once.’

‘I will do the utmost that lies in my power to clear up the mystery, and
silence the hubbub of gossip that has been set going about me. But what
can I do? They say that the man who comes first in the chain of inquiry
is not to be found--I mean the porter.’

‘I am sorry to say that he is not. When I returned from the station last
night, after seeing Owen Graye off, I went again to the cottage where
he has been lodging, to get more intelligence, as I thought. He was not
there. He had gone out at dusk, saying he would be back soon. But he has
not come back yet.’

‘I rather doubt if we shall see him again.’

‘Had I known of this, I would have done what in my flurry I did not
think of doing--set a watch upon him. But why not advertise for
your missing wife as a preliminary, consulting your solicitor in the
meantime?’

‘Advertise. I’ll think about it,’ said Manston, lingering on the word as
he pronounced it. ‘Yes, that seems a right thing--quite a right thing.’

He went home and remained moodily indoors all the next day and the
next--for nearly a week, in short. Then, one evening at dusk, he
went out with an uncertain air as to the direction of his walk, which
resulted, however, in leading him again to the rectory.

He saw Mr. Raunham. ‘Have you done anything yet?’ the rector inquired.

‘No--I have not,’ said Manston absently. ‘But I am going to set about
it.’ He hesitated, as if ashamed of some weakness he was about to
betray. ‘My object in calling was to ask if you had heard any tidings
from Budmouth of my--Cytherea. You used to speak of her as one you were
interested in.’

There was, at any rate, real sadness in Manston’s tone now, and the
rector paused to weigh his words ere he replied.

‘I have not heard directly from her,’ he said gently. ‘But her brother
has communicated with some people in the parish--’

‘The Springroves, I suppose,’ said Manston gloomily.

‘Yes; and they tell me that she is very ill, and I am sorry to say,
likely to be for some days.’

‘Surely, surely, I must go and see her!’ Manston cried.

‘I would advise you not to go,’ said Raunham. ‘But do this instead--be
as quick as you can in making a movement towards ascertaining the truth
as regards the existence of your wife. You see, Mr. Manston, an out-step
place like this is not like a city, and there is nobody to busy himself
for the good of the community; whilst poor Cytherea and her brother are
socially too dependent to be able to make much stir in the matter, which
is a greater reason still why you should be disinterestedly prompt.’

The steward murmured an assent. Still there was the same
indecision!--not the indecision of weakness--the indecision of conscious
perplexity.

On Manston’s return from this interview at the rectory, he passed the
door of the Rising Sun Inn. Finding he had no light for his cigar,
and it being three-quarters of a mile to his residence in the park, he
entered the tavern to get one. Nobody was in the outer portion of the
front room where Manston stood, but a space round the fire was screened
off from the remainder, and inside the high oak settle, forming a part
of the screen, he heard voices conversing. The speakers had not noticed
his footsteps, and continued their discourse.

One of the two he recognized as a well-known night-poacher, the man
who had met him with tidings of his wife’s death on the evening of the
conflagration. The other seemed to be a stranger following the same
mode of life. The conversation was carried on in the emphatic and
confidential tone of men who are slightly intoxicated, its subject being
an unaccountable experience that one of them had had on the night of the
fire.

What the steward heard was enough, and more than enough, to lead him to
forget or to renounce his motive in entering. The effect upon him was
strange and strong. His first object seemed to be to escape from the
house again without being seen or heard.

Having accomplished this, he went in at the park gate, and strode off
under the trees to the Old House. There sitting down by the fire,
and burying himself in reflection, he allowed the minutes to pass by
unheeded. First the candle burnt down in its socket and stunk: he did
not notice it. Then the fire went out: he did not see it. His feet grew
cold; still he thought on.

It may be remarked that a lady, a year and a quarter before this time,
had, under the same conditions--an unrestricted mental absorption--shown
nearly the same peculiarities as this man evinced now. The lady was Miss
Aldclyffe.

It was half-past twelve when Manston moved, as if he had come to a
determination.

The first thing he did the next morning was to call at Knapwater House;
where he found that Miss Aldclyffe was not well enough to see him.
She had been ailing from slight internal haemorrhage ever since the
confession of the porter Chinney. Apparently not much aggrieved at the
denial, he shortly afterwards went to the railway-station and took his
departure for London, leaving a letter for Miss Aldclyffe, stating the
reason of his journey thither--to recover traces of his missing wife.

During the remainder of the week paragraphs appeared in the local and
other newspapers, drawing attention to the facts of this singular case.
The writers, with scarcely an exception, dwelt forcibly upon a feature
which had at first escaped the observation of the villagers, including
Mr. Raunham--that if the announcement of the man Chinney were true,
it seemed extremely probable that Mrs. Manston left her watch and keys
behind on purpose to blind people as to her escape; and that therefore
she would not now let herself be discovered, unless a strong pressure
were put upon her. The writers added that the police were on the track
of the porter, who very possibly had absconded in the fear that his
reticence was criminal, and that Mr. Manston, the husband, was, with
praiseworthy energy, making every effort to clear the whole matter up.

2. FROM THE EIGHTEENTH TO THE END OF JANUARY

Five days from the time of his departure, Manston returned from London
and Liverpool, looking very fatigued and thoughtful. He explained to the
rector and other of his acquaintance that all the inquiries he had
made at his wife’s old lodgings and his own had been totally barren of
results.

But he seemed inclined to push the affair to a clear conclusion now that
he had commenced. After the lapse of another day or two he proceeded to
fulfil his promise to the rector, and advertised for the missing
woman in three of the London papers. The advertisement was a carefully
considered and even attractive effusion, calculated to win the heart,
or at least the understanding, of any woman who had a spark of her own
nature left in her.

There was no answer.

Three days later he repeated the experiment; with the same result as
before.

‘I cannot try any further,’ said Manston speciously to the rector, his
sole auditor throughout the proceedings. ‘Mr. Raunham, I’ll tell you the
truth plainly: I don’t love her; I do love Cytherea, and the whole of
this business of searching for the other woman goes altogether against
me. I hope to God I shall never see her again.’

‘But you will do your duty at least?’ said Mr. Raunham.

‘I have done it,’ said Manston. ‘If ever a man on the face of this earth
has done his duty towards an absent wife, I have towards her--living or
dead--at least,’ he added, correcting himself, ‘since I have lived at
Knapwater. I neglected her before that time--I own that, as I have owned
it before.’

‘I should, if I were you, adopt other means to get tidings of her
if advertising fails, in spite of my feelings,’ said the rector
emphatically. ‘But at any rate, try advertising once more. There’s a
satisfaction in having made any attempt three several times.’

When Manston had left the study, the rector stood looking at the fire
for a considerable length of time, lost in profound reflection. He went
to his private diary, and after many pauses, which he varied only by
dipping his pen, letting it dry, wiping it on his sleeve, and then
dipping it again, he took the following note of events:--


‘January 25.--Mr. Manston has just seen me for the third time on the
subject of his lost wife. There have been these peculiarities attending
the three interviews:--

‘The first. My visitor, whilst expressing by words his great anxiety to
do everything for her recovery, showed plainly by his bearing that he
was convinced he should never see her again.

‘The second. He had left off feigning anxiety to do rightly by his first
wife, and honestly asked after Cytherea’s welfare.

‘The third (and most remarkable). He seemed to have lost all
consistency. Whilst expressing his love for Cytherea (which certainly is
strong) and evincing the usual indifference to the first Mrs. Manston’s
fate, he was unable to conceal the intensity of his eagerness for me to
advise him to _advertise again_ for her.’


A week after the second, the third advertisement was inserted. A
paragraph was attached, which stated that this would be the last time
the announcement would appear.

3. THE FIRST OF FEBRUARY

At this, the eleventh hour, the postman brought a letter for Manston,
directed in a woman’s hand.

A bachelor friend of the steward’s, Mr. Dickson by name, who was
somewhat of a chatterer--plenus rimarum--and who boasted of an endless
string of acquaintances, had come over from Casterbridge the preceding
day by invitation--an invitation which had been a pleasant surprise
to Dickson himself, insomuch that Manston, as a rule, voted him a bore
almost to his face. He had stayed over the night, and was sitting at
breakfast with his host when the important missive arrived.

Manston did not attempt to conceal the subject of the letter, or the
name of the writer. First glancing the pages through, he read aloud as
follows:--


‘“MY HUSBAND,--I implore your forgiveness.

‘“During the last thirteen months I have repeated to myself a hundred
times that you should never discover what I voluntarily tell you now,
namely, that I am alive and in perfect health.

‘“I have seen all your advertisements. Nothing but your persistence
has won me round. Surely, I thought, he _must_ love me still. Why else
should he try to win back a woman who, faithful unto death as she will
be, can, in a social sense, aid him towards acquiring nothing?--rather
the reverse, indeed.

‘“You yourself state my own mind--that the only grounds upon which we
can meet and live together, with a reasonable hope of happiness, must
be a mutual consent to bury in oblivion all past differences. I heartily
and willingly forget everything--and forgive everything. You will do the
same, as your actions show.

‘“There will be plenty of opportunity for me to explain the few facts
relating to my escape on the night of the fire. I will only give the
heads in this hurried note. I was grieved at your not coming to fetch
me, more grieved at your absence from the station, most of all by your
absence from home. On my journey to the inn I writhed under a passionate
sense of wrong done me. When I had been shown to my room I waited and
hoped for you till the landlord had gone upstairs to bed. I still found
that you did not come, and then I finally made up my mind to leave. I
had half undressed, but I put on my things again, forgetting my watch
(and I suppose dropping my keys, though I am not sure where) in my
hurry, and slipped out of the house. The--“’


‘Well, that’s a rum story,’ said Mr. Dickson, interrupting.

‘What’s a rum story?’ said Manston hastily, and flushing in the face.

‘Forgetting her watch and dropping her keys in her hurry.’

‘I don’t see anything particularly wonderful in it. Any woman might do
such a thing.’

‘Any woman might if escaping from fire or shipwreck, or any such
immediate danger. But it seems incomprehensible to me that any woman
in her senses, who quietly decides to leave a house, should be so
forgetful.’

‘All that is required to reconcile your seeming with her facts is to
assume that she was not in her senses, for that’s what she did plainly,
or how could the things have been found there? Besides, she’s truthful
enough.’ He spoke eagerly and peremptorily.

‘Yes, yes, I know that. I merely meant that it seemed rather odd.’

‘O yes.’ Manston read on:--


’”--and slipped out of the house. The rubbish-heap was burning up
brightly, but the thought that the house was in danger did not strike
me; I did not consider that it might be thatched.

‘“I idled in the lane behind the wood till the last down-train had come
in, not being in a mood to face strangers. Whilst I was there the
fire broke out, and this perplexed me still more. However, I was still
determined not to stay in the place. I went to the railway-station,
which was now quiet, and inquired of the solitary man on duty there
concerning the trains. It was not till I had left the man that I saw the
effect the fire might have on my history. I considered also, though not
in any detailed manner, that the event, by attracting the attention of
the village to my former abode, might set people on my track should
they doubt my death, and a sudden dread of having to go back again
to Knapwater--a place which had seemed inimical to me from first to
last--prompted me to run back and bribe the porter to secrecy. I then
walked on to Anglebury, lingering about the outskirts of the town till
the morning train came in, when I proceeded by it to London, and then
took these lodgings, where I have been supporting myself ever since by
needlework, endeavouring to save enough money to pay my passage home to
America, but making melancholy progress in my attempt. However, all that
is changed--can I be otherwise than happy at it? Of course not. I am
happy. Tell me what I am to do, and believe me still to be your faithful
wife, EUNICE.

‘“My name here is (as before)

     ‘“MRS. RONDLEY, and my address,
          79 ADDINGTON STREET,
               LAMBETH.’”


The name and address were written on a separate slip of paper.

‘So it’s to be all right at last then,’ said Manston’s friend. ‘But
after all there’s another woman in the case. You don’t seem very
sorry for the little thing who is put to such distress by this turn of
affairs? I wonder you can let her go so coolly.’ The speaker was looking
out between the mullions of the window--noticing that some of the
lights were glazed in lozenges, some in squares--as he said the words,
otherwise he would have seen the passionate expression of agonized
hopelessness that flitted across the steward’s countenance when the
remark was made. He did not see it, and Manston answered after a short
interval. The way in which he spoke of the young girl who had believed
herself his wife, whom, a few short days ago, he had openly idolized,
and whom, in his secret heart, he idolized still, as far as such a
form of love was compatible with his nature, showed that from policy or
otherwise, he meant to act up to the requirements of the position into
which fate appeared determined to drive him.

‘That’s neither here nor there,’ he said; ‘it is a point of honour to do
as I am doing, and there’s an end of it.’

‘Yes. Only I thought you used not to care overmuch about your first
bargain.’

‘I certainly did not at one time. One is apt to feel rather weary of
wives when they are so devilish civil under all aspects, as she used to
be. But anything for a change--Abigail is lost, but Michal is recovered.
You would hardly believe it, but she seems in fancy to be quite another
bride--in fact, almost as if she had really risen from the dead, instead
of having only done so virtually.’

‘You let the young pink one know that the other has come or is coming?’

‘Cui bono?’ The steward meditated critically, showing a portion of his
intensely wide and regular teeth within the ruby lips.

‘I cannot say anything to her that will do any good,’ he resumed. ‘It
would be awkward--either seeing or communicating with her again. The
best plan to adopt will be to let matters take their course--she’ll find
it all out soon enough.’

Manston found himself alone a few minutes later. He buried his face in
his hands, and murmured, ‘O my lost one! O my Cytherea! That it should
come to this is hard for me! ‘Tis now all darkness--“a land of darkness
as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death without any order, and
where the light is as darkness.”’

Yes, the artificial bearing which this extraordinary man had adopted
before strangers ever since he had overheard the conversation at the
inn, left him now, and he mourned for Cytherea aloud.

4. THE TWELFTH OF FEBRUARY

Knapwater Park is the picture--at eleven o’clock on a muddy, quiet,
hazy, but bright morning--a morning without any blue sky, and without
any shadows, the earth being enlivened and lit up rather by the spirit
of an invisible sun than by its bodily presence.

The local Hunt had met for the day’s sport on the open space of ground
immediately in front of the steward’s residence--called in the list of
appointments, ‘Old House, Knapwater’--the meet being here once every
season, for the pleasure of Miss Aldclyffe and her friends.

Leaning out from one of the first-floor windows, and surveying with
the keenest interest the lively picture of pink and black coats,
rich-coloured horses, and sparkling bits and spurs, was the returned and
long-lost woman, Mrs. Manston.

The eyes of those forming the brilliant group were occasionally turned
towards her, showing plainly that her adventures were the subject of
conversation equally with or more than the chances of the coming day.
She did not flush beneath their scrutiny; on the contrary, she seemed
rather to enjoy it, her eyes being kindled with a light of contented
exultation, subdued to square with the circumstances of her matronly
position.

She was, at the distance from which they surveyed her, an attractive
woman--comely as the tents of Kedar. But to a close observer it was
palpable enough that God did not do all the picture. Appearing at least
seven years older than Cytherea, she was probably her senior by double
the number, the artificial means employed to heighten the natural good
appearance of her face being very cleverly applied. Her form was full
and round, its voluptuous maturity standing out in strong contrast to
the memory of Cytherea’s lissom girlishness.

It seems to be an almost universal rule that a woman who once has
courted, or who eventually will court, the society of men on terms
dangerous to her honour cannot refrain from flinging the meaning glance
whenever the moment arrives in which the glance is strongly asked
for, even if her life and whole future depended upon that moment’s
abstinence.

Had a cautious, uxorious husband seen in his wife’s countenance what
might now have been seen in this dark-eyed woman’s as she caught a
stray glance of flirtation from one or other of the red-coated gallants
outside, he would have passed many days in an agony of restless jealousy
and doubt. But Manston was not such a husband, and he was, moreover,
calmly attending to his business at the other end of the manor.

The steward had fetched home his wife in the most matter-of-fact way
a few days earlier, walking round the village with her the very next
morning--at once putting an end, by this simple solution, to all the
riddling inquiries and surmises that were rank in the village and its
neighbourhood. Some men said that this woman was as far inferior to
Cytherea as earth to heaven; others, older and sager, thought Manston
better off with such a wife than he would have been with one of
Cytherea’s youthful impulses, and inexperience in household management.
All felt their curiosity dying out of them. It was the same in Carriford
as in other parts of the world--immediately circumstantial evidence
became exchanged for direct, the loungers in court yawned, gave a final
survey, and turned away to a subject which would afford more scope for
speculation.



XV. THE EVENTS OF THREE WEEKS

1. FROM THE TWELFTH OF FEBRUARY TO THE SECOND OF MARCH

Owen Graye’s recovery from the illness that had incapacitated him for so
long a time was, professionally, the dawn of a brighter prospect for him
in every direction, though the change was at first very gradual, and
his movements and efforts were little more than mechanical. With the
lengthening of the days, and the revival of building operations for the
forthcoming season, he saw himself, for the first time, on a road which,
pursued with care, would probably lead to a comfortable income at some
future day. But he was still very low down the hill as yet.

The first undertaking entrusted to him in the new year began about a
month after his return from Southampton. Mr. Gradfield had come back
to him in the wake of his restored health, and offered him the
superintendence, as clerk of works, of a church which was to be nearly
rebuilt at the village of Tolchurch, fifteen or sixteen miles from
Budmouth, and about half that distance from Carriford.

‘I am now being paid at the rate of a hundred and fifty pounds a year,’
he said to his sister in a burst of thankfulness, ‘and you shall never,
Cytherea, be at any tyrannous lady’s beck and call again as long as
I live. Never pine or think about what has happened, dear; it’s no
disgrace to you. Cheer up; you’ll be somebody’s happy wife yet.’

He did not say Edward Springrove’s, for, greatly to his disappointment,
a report had reached his ears that the friend to whom Cytherea owed
so much had been about to pack up his things and sail for Australia.
However, this was before the uncertainty concerning Mrs. Manston’s
existence had been dispersed by her return, a phenomenon that altered
the cloudy relationship in which Cytherea had lately been standing
towards her old lover, to one of distinctness; which result would have
been delightful but for circumstances about to be mentioned.

Cytherea was still pale from her recent illness, and still greatly
dejected. Until the news of Mrs. Manston’s return had reached them, she
had kept herself closely shut up during the day-time, never venturing
forth except at night. Sleeping and waking she had been in perpetual
dread lest she should still be claimed by a man whom, only a few weeks
earlier, she had regarded in the light of a future husband with quiet
assent, not unmixed with cheerfulness.

But the removal of the uneasiness in this direction--by Mrs. Manston’s
arrival, and her own consequent freedom--had been the imposition of pain
in another. Utterly fictitious details of the finding of Cytherea and
Manston had been invented and circulated, unavoidably reaching her ears
in the course of time. Thus the freedom brought no happiness, and it
seemed well-nigh impossible that she could ever again show herself the
sparkling creature she once had been--

     ‘Apt to entice a deity.’

On this account, and for the first time in his life, Owen made a point
of concealing from her the real state of his feelings with regard to the
unhappy transaction. He writhed in secret under the humiliation to which
they had been subjected, till the resentment it gave rise to, and for
which there was no vent, was sometimes beyond endurance; it induced a
mood that did serious damage to the material and plodding perseverance
necessary if he would secure permanently the comforts of a home for
them.

They gave up their lodgings at Budmouth, and went to Tolchurch as soon
as the work commenced.

Here they were domiciled in one half of an old farmhouse, standing not
far from the ivy-covered church tower (which was all that was to remain
of the original structure). The long steep roof of this picturesque
dwelling sloped nearly down to the ground, the old tiles that covered
it being overgrown with rich olive-hued moss. New red tiles in twos and
threes had been used for patching the holes wrought by decay, lighting
up the whole harmonious surface with dots of brilliant scarlet.

The chief internal features of this snug abode were a wide fireplace,
enormous cupboards, a brown settle, and several sketches on the wood
mantel, done in outline with the point of a hot poker--the subjects
mainly consisting of old men walking painfully erect, with a
curly-tailed dog behind.

After a week or two of residence in Tolchurch, and rambles amid the
quaint scenery circumscribing it, a tranquillity began to spread itself
through the mind of the maiden, which Graye hoped would be a preface to
her complete restoration. She felt ready and willing to live the whole
remainder of her days in the retirement of their present quarters: she
began to sing about the house in low tremulous snatches--

     ‘“--I said, if there’s peace to be found in the world,
       A heart that is humble may hope for it here.”’

2. THE THIRD OF MARCH

Her convalescence had arrived at this point on a certain evening towards
the end of the winter, when Owen had come in from the building hard by,
and was changing his muddy boots for slippers, previously to sitting
down to toast and tea.

A prolonged though quiet knocking came to the door.

The only person who ever knocked at their door in that way was the new
vicar, the prime mover in the church-building. But he was that evening
dining with the Squire.

Cytherea was uneasy at the sound--she did not know why, unless it was
because her nerves were weakened by the sickness she had undergone.
Instead of opening the door she ran out of the room, and upstairs.

‘What nonsense, Cytherea!’ said her brother, going to the door.

Edward Springrove stood in the grey light outside.

‘Capital--not gone to Australia, and not going, of course!’ cried Owen.
‘What’s the use of going to such a place as that?--I never believed that
you would.’

‘I am going back to London again to-morrow,’ said Springrove, ‘and I
called to say a word before going. Where is... ?’

‘She has just run upstairs. Come in--never mind scraping your shoes--we
are regular cottagers now; stone floor, yawning chimney-corner, and all,
you see.’

‘Mrs. Manston came,’ said Edward awkwardly, when he had sat down in the
chimney-corner by preference.

‘Yes.’ At mention of one of his skeletons Owen lost his blitheness at
once, and fell into a reverie.

‘The history of her escape is very simple.’

‘Very.’

‘You know I always had wondered, when my father was telling any of the
circumstances of the fire to me, how it could be that a woman could
sleep so soundly as to be unaware of her horrid position till it was too
late even to give shout or sound of any kind.’

‘Well, I think that would have been possible, considering her long
wearisome journey. People have often been suffocated in their beds
before they awoke. But it was hardly likely a body would be completely
burnt to ashes as this was assumed to be, though nobody seemed to see it
at the time. And how positive the surgeon was too, about those bits of
bone! Why he should have been so, nobody can tell. I cannot help saying
that if it has ever been possible to find pure stupidity incarnate, it
was in that jury of Carriford. There existed in the mass the stupidity
of twelve and not the penetration of one.’

‘Is she quite well?’ said Springrove.

‘Who?--O, my sister, Cytherea. Thank you, nearly well, now. I’ll call
her.’

‘Wait one minute. I have a word to say to you.’

Owen sat down again.

‘You know, without my saying it, that I love Cytherea as dearly as
ever.... I think she loves me too,--does she really?’

There was in Owen enough of that worldly policy on the subject of
matchmaking which naturally resides in the breasts of parents and
guardians, to give him a certain caution in replying, and, younger as he
was by five years than Edward, it had an odd effect.

‘Well, she may possibly love you still,’ he said, as if rather in doubt
as to the truth of his words.

Springrove’s countenance instantly saddened; he had expected a simple
‘Yes,’ at the very least. He continued in a tone of greater depression--

‘Supposing she does love me, would it be fair to you and to her if
I made her an offer of marriage, with these dreary conditions
attached--that we lived for a few years on the narrowest system, till
a great debt, which all honour and duty require me to pay off, shall be
paid? My father, by reason of the misfortune that befell him, is under
a great obligation to Miss Aldclyffe. He is getting old, and losing
his energies. I am attempting to work free of the burden. This makes my
prospects gloomy enough at present.

‘But consider again,’ he went on. ‘Cytherea has been left in a nameless
and unsatisfactory, though innocent state, by this unfortunate, and
now void, marriage with Manston. A marriage with me, though under
the--materially--untoward conditions I have mentioned, would make us
happy; it would give her a locus standi. If she wished to be out of
the sound of her misfortunes we would go to another part of
England--emigrate--do anything.’

‘I’ll call Cytherea,’ said Owen. ‘It is a matter which she alone can
settle.’ He did not speak warmly. His pride could not endure the pity
which Edward’s visit and errand tacitly implied. Yet, in the other
affair, his heart went with Edward; he was on the same beat for paying
off old debts himself.

‘Cythie, Mr. Springrove is here,’ he said, at the foot of the staircase.

His sister descended the creaking old steps with a faltering tread,
and stood in the firelight from the hearth. She extended her hand
to Springrove, welcoming him by a mere motion of the lip, her eyes
averted--a habit which had engendered itself in her since the
beginning of her illness and defamation. Owen opened the door and went
out--leaving the lovers alone. It was the first time they had met since
the memorable night at Southampton.

‘I will get a light,’ she said, with a little embarrassment.

‘No--don’t, please, Cytherea,’ said Edward softly, ‘Come and sit down
with me.’

‘O yes. I ought to have asked _you_ to,’ she returned timidly.
‘Everybody sits in the chimney-corner in this parish. You sit on that
side. I’ll sit here.’

Two recesses--one on the right, one on the left hand--were cut in the
inside of the fireplace, and here they sat down facing each other, on
benches fitted to the recesses, the fire glowing on the hearth between
their feet. Its ruddy light shone on the underslopes of their faces, and
spread out over the floor of the room with the low horizontality of the
setting sun, giving to every grain of sand and tumour in the paving a
long shadow towards the door.

Edward looked at his pale love through the thin azure twines of smoke
that went up like ringlets between them, and invested her, as seen
through its medium, with the shadowy appearance of a phantom. Nothing
is so potent for coaxing back the lost eyes of a woman as a discreet
silence in the man who has so lost them--and thus the patient Edward
coaxed hers. After lingering on the hearth for half a minute, waiting in
vain for another word from him, they were lifted into his face.

He was ready primed to receive them. ‘Cytherea, will you marry me?’ he
said.

He could not wait in his original position till the answer came.
Stepping across the front of the fire to her own side of the chimney
corner, he reclined at her feet, and searched for her hand. She
continued in silence awhile.

‘Edward, I can never be anybody’s wife,’ she then said sadly, and with
firmness.

‘Think of it in every light,’ he pleaded; ‘the light of love, first.
Then, when you have done that, see how wise a step it would be. I can
only offer you poverty as yet, but I want--I do so long to secure you
from the intrusion of that unpleasant past, which will often and always
be thrust before you as long as you live the shrinking solitary life you
do now--a life which purity chooses, it may be; but to the outside
world it appears like the enforced loneliness of neglect and scorn--and
tongues are busy inventing a reason for it which does not exist.’

‘I know all about it,’ she said hastily; ‘and those are the grounds of
my refusal. You and Owen know the whole truth--the two I love best on
earth--and I am content. But the scandal will be continually
repeated, and I can never give any one the opportunity of saying to
you--that--your wife....’ She utterly broke down and wept.

‘Don’t, my own darling!’ he entreated. ‘Don’t, Cytherea!’

‘Please to leave me--we will be friends, Edward--but don’t press me--my
mind is made up--I cannot--I will not marry you or any man under the
present ambiguous circumstances--never will I--I have said it: never!’

They were both silent. He listlessly regarded the illuminated blackness
overhead, where long flakes of soot floated from the sides and bars
of the chimney-throat like tattered banners in ancient aisles; whilst
through the square opening in the midst one or two bright stars looked
down upon them from the grey March sky. The sight seemed to cheer him.

‘At any rate you will love me?’ he murmured to her.

‘Yes--always--for ever and for ever!’

He kissed her once, twice, three times, and arose to his feet, slowly
withdrawing himself from her side towards the door. Cytherea remained
with her gaze fixed on the fire. Edward went out grieving, but hope was
not extinguished even now.

He smelt the fragrance of a cigar, and immediately afterwards saw a
small red star of fire against the darkness of the hedge. Graye was
pacing up and down the lane, smoking as he walked. Springrove told him
the result of the interview.

‘You are a good fellow, Edward,’ he said; ‘but I think my sister is
right.’

‘I wish you would believe Manston a villain, as I do,’ said Springrove.

‘It would be absurd of me to say that I like him now--family feeling
prevents it, but I cannot in honesty say deliberately that he is a bad
man.’

Edward could keep the secret of Manston’s coercion of Miss Aldclyffe
in the matter of the houses a secret no longer. He told Owen the whole
story.

‘That’s one thing,’ he continued, ‘but not all. What do you think of
this--I have discovered that he went to Budmouth post-office for a
letter the day before the first advertisement for his wife appeared in
the papers. One was there for him, and it was directed in his wife’s
handwriting, as I can prove. This was not till after the marriage with
Cytherea, it is true, but if (as it seems to show) the advertising was a
farce, there is a strong presumption that the rest of the piece was.’

Owen was too astounded to speak. He dropped his cigar, and fixed his
eyes upon his companion.

‘Collusion!’

‘Yes.’

‘With his first wife?’

‘Yes--with his wife. I am firmly persuaded of it.’

‘What did you discover?’

‘That he fetched from the post-office at Budmouth a letter from her the
day _before_ the first advertisement appeared.’

Graye was lost in a long consideration. ‘Ah!’ he said, ‘it would be
difficult to prove anything of that sort now. The writing could not be
sworn to, and if he is guilty the letter is destroyed.’

‘I have other suspicions--’

‘Yes--as you said’ interrupted Owen, who had not till now been able to
form the complicated set of ideas necessary for picturing the position.
‘Yes, there is this to be remembered--Cytherea had been taken from him
before that letter came--and his knowledge of his wife’s existence
could not have originated till after the wedding. I could have sworn he
believed her dead then. His manner was unmistakable.’

‘Well, I have other suspicions,’ repeated Edward; ‘and if I only had
the right--if I were her husband or brother, he should be convicted of
bigamy yet.’

‘The reproof was not needed,’ said Owen, with a little bitterness. ‘What
can I do--a man with neither money nor friends--whilst Manston has Miss
Aldclyffe and all her fortune to back him up? God only knows what lies
between the mistress and her steward, but since this has transpired--if
it is true--I can believe the connection to be even an unworthy one--a
thing I certainly never so much as owned to myself before.’

3. THE FIFTH OF MARCH

Edward’s disclosure had the effect of directing Owen Graye’s thoughts
into an entirely new and uncommon channel.

On the Monday after Springrove’s visit, Owen had walked to the top of
a hill in the neighbourhood of Tolchurch--a wild hill that had no name,
beside a barren down where it never looked like summer. In the intensity
of his meditations on the ever-present subject, he sat down on a
weather-beaten boundary-stone gazing towards the distant valleys--seeing
only Manston’s imagined form.

Had his defenceless sister been trifled with? that was the question
which affected him. Her refusal of Edward as a husband was, he knew,
dictated solely by a humiliated sense of inadequacy to him in repute,
and had not been formed till since the slanderous tale accounting
for her seclusion had been circulated. Was it not true, as Edward had
hinted, that he, her brother, was neglecting his duty towards her in
allowing Manston to thrive unquestioned, whilst she was hiding her head
for no fault at all?

Was it possible that Manston was sensuous villain enough to have
contemplated, at any moment before the marriage with Cytherea, the
return of his first wife, when he should have grown weary of his
new toy? Had he believed that, by a skilful manipulation of such
circumstances as chance would throw in his way, he could escape all
suspicion of having known that she lived? Only one fact within his own
direct knowledge afforded the least ground for such a supposition.
It was that, possessed by a woman only in the humble and unprotected
station of a lady’s hired companion, his sister’s beauty might scarcely
have been sufficient to induce a selfish man like Manston to make her
his wife, unless he had foreseen the possibility of getting rid of her
again.

‘But for that stratagem of Manston’s in relation to the Springroves,’
Owen thought, ‘Cythie might now have been the happy wife of Edward.
True, that he influenced Miss Aldclyffe only rests on Edward’s
suspicions, but the grounds are good--the probability is strong.’

He went indoors and questioned Cytherea.

‘On the night of the fire, who first said that Mrs. Manston was burnt?’
he asked.

‘I don’t know who started the report.’

‘Was it Manston?’

‘It was certainly not he. All doubt on the subject was removed before he
came to the spot--that I am certain of. Everybody knew that she did not
escape _after_ the house was on fire, and thus all overlooked the fact
that she might have left before--of course that would have seemed such
an improbable thing for anybody to do.’

‘Yes, until the porter’s story of her irritation and doubt as to her
course made it natural.’

‘What settled the matter at the inquest,’ said Cytherea, ‘was Mr.
Manston’s evidence that the watch was his wife’s.’

‘He was sure of that, wasn’t he?’

‘I believe he said he was certain of it.’

‘It might have been hers--left behind in her perturbation, as they say
it was--impossible as that seems at first sight. Yes--on the whole, he
might have believed in her death.’

‘I know by several proofs that then, and at least for some time after,
he had no other thought than that she was dead. I now think that before
the porter’s confession he knew something about her--though not that she
lived.’

‘Why do you?’

‘From what he said to me on the evening of the wedding-day, when I had
fastened myself in the room at the hotel, after Edward’s visit. He must
have suspected that I knew something, for he was irritated, and in a
passion of uneasy doubt. He said, “You don’t suppose my first wife is
come to light again, madam, surely?” Directly he had let the remark slip
out, he seemed anxious to withdraw it.’

‘That’s odd,’ said Owen.

‘I thought it very odd.’

‘Still we must remember he might only have hit upon the thought by
accident, in doubt as to your motive. Yes, the great point to discover
remains the same as ever--did he doubt his first impression of her death
_before_ he married you. I can’t help thinking he did, although he was
so astounded at our news that night. Edward swears he did.’

‘It was perhaps only a short time before,’ said Cytherea; ‘when he could
hardly recede from having me.’

‘Seasoning justice with mercy as usual, Cytherea. ‘Tis unfair to
yourself to talk like that. If I could only bring him to ruin as a
bigamist--supposing him to be one--I should die happy. That’s what we
must find out by fair means or foul--was he a wilful bigamist?’

‘It is no use trying, Owen. You would have to employ a solicitor, and
how can you do that?’

‘I can’t at all--I know that very well. But neither do I altogether wish
to at present--a lawyer must have a case--facts to go upon, that means.
Now they are scarce at present--as scarce as money is with us, and till
we have found more money there is no hurry for a lawyer. Perhaps by the
time we have the facts we shall have the money. The only thing we lose
in working alone in this way, is time--not the issue: for the fruit that
one mind matures in a twelvemonth forms a more perfectly organized whole
than that of twelve minds in one month, especially if the interests of
the single one are vitally concerned, and those of the twelve are only
hired. But there is not only my mind available--you are a shrewd woman,
Cythie, and Edward is an earnest ally. Then, if we really get a sure
footing for a criminal prosecution, the Crown will take up the case.’

‘I don’t much care to press on in the matter,’ she murmured. ‘What good
can it do us, Owen, after all?’

‘Selfishly speaking, it will do this good--that all the facts of your
journey to Southampton will become known, and the scandal will die.
Besides, Manston will have to suffer--it’s an act of justice to you and
to other women, and to Edward Springrove.’

He now thought it necessary to tell her of the real nature of the
Springroves’ obligation to Miss Aldclyffe--and their nearly certain
knowledge that Manston was the prime mover in effecting their
embarrassment. Her face flushed as she listened.

‘And now,’ he said, ‘our first undertaking is to find out where Mrs.
Manston lived during the separation; next, when the first communications
passed between them after the fire.’

‘If we only had Miss Aldclyffe’s countenance and assistance as I used to
have them,’ Cytherea returned, ‘how strong we should be! O, what power
is it that he exercises over her, swaying her just as he wishes! She
loves me now. Mrs. Morris in her letter said that Miss Aldclyffe prayed
for me--yes, she heard her praying for me, and crying. Miss Aldclyffe
did not mind an old friend like Mrs. Morris knowing it, either. Yet in
opposition to this, notice her dead silence and inaction throughout this
proceeding.’

‘It is a mystery; but never mind that now,’ said Owen impressively.
‘About where Mrs. Manston has been living. We must get this part of
it first--learn the place of her stay in the early stage of their
separation, during the period of Manston’s arrival here, and so on, for
that was where she was first communicated with on the subject of coming
to Knapwater, before the fire; and that address, too, was her point
of departure when she came to her husband by stealth in the night--you
know--the time I visited you in the evening and went home early in the
morning, and it was found that he had been visited too. Ah! couldn’t
we inquire of Mrs. Leat, who keeps the post-office at Carriford, if she
remembers where the letters to Mrs. Manston were directed?’

‘He never posted his letters to her in the parish--it was remarked at
the time. I was thinking if something relating to her address might not
be found in the report of the inquest in the Casterbridge Chronicle of
the date. Some facts about the inquest were given in the papers to a
certainty.’

Her brother caught eagerly at the suggestion. ‘Who has a file of the
Chronicles?’ he said.

‘Mr. Raunham used to file them,’ said Cytherea. ‘He was rather
friendly-disposed towards me, too.’

Owen could not, on any consideration, escape from his attendance at the
church-building till Saturday evening; and thus it became necessary,
unless they actually wasted time, that Cytherea herself should assist.
‘I act under your orders, Owen,’ she said.



XVI. THE EVENTS OF ONE WEEK

1. MARCH THE SIXTH

The next morning the opening move of the game was made. Cytherea, under
cover of a thick veil, hired a conveyance and drove to within a mile or
so of Carriford. It was with a renewed sense of depression that she
saw again the objects which had become familiar to her eye during her
sojourn under Miss Aldclyffe’s roof--the outline of the hills, the
meadow streams, the old park trees. She hastened by a lonely path to the
rectory-house, and asked if Mr. Raunham was at home.

Now the rector, though a solitary bachelor, was as gallant and courteous
to womankind as an ancient Iberian; and, moreover, he was Cytherea’s
friend in particular, to an extent far greater than she had ever
surmised. Rarely visiting his relative, Miss Aldclyffe, except on parish
matters, more rarely still being called upon by Miss Aldclyffe, Cytherea
had learnt very little of him whilst she lived at Knapwater. The
relationship was on the impecunious paternal side, and for this branch
of her family the lady of the estate had never evinced much sympathy. In
looking back upon our line of descent it is an instinct with us to feel
that all our vitality was drawn from the richer party to any unequal
marriage in the chain.

Since the death of the old captain, the rector’s bearing in Knapwater
House had been almost that of a stranger, a circumstance which
he himself was the last man in the world to regret. This polite
indifference was so frigid on both sides that the rector did not concern
himself to preach at her, which was a great deal in a rector; and she
did not take the trouble to think his sermons poor stuff, which in a
cynical woman was a great deal more.

Though barely fifty years of age, his hair was as white as snow,
contrasting strangely with the redness of his skin, which was as fresh
and healthy as a lad’s. Cytherea’s bright eyes, mutely and demurely
glancing up at him Sunday after Sunday, had been the means of driving
away many of the saturnine humours that creep into an empty heart during
the hours of a solitary life; in this case, however, to supplant them,
when she left his parish, by those others of a more aching nature
which accompany an over-full one. In short, he had been on the verge
of feeling towards her that passion to which his dignified self-respect
would not give its true name, even in the privacy of his own thought.

He received her kindly; but she was not disposed to be frank with him.
He saw her wish to be reserved, and with genuine good taste and good
nature made no comment whatever upon her request to be allowed to see
the Chronicle for the year before the last. He placed the papers before
her on his study table, with a timidity as great as her own, and then
left her entirely to herself.

She turned them over till she came to the first heading connected
with the subject of her search--‘Disastrous Fire and Loss of Life at
Carriford.’

The sight, and its calamitous bearing upon her own life, made her so
dizzy that she could, for a while, hardly decipher the letters. Stifling
recollection by an effort she nerved herself to her work, and carefully
read the column. The account reminded her of no other fact than was
remembered already.

She turned on to the following week’s report of the inquest. After a
miserable perusal she could find no more pertaining to Mrs. Manston’s
address than this:--

‘ABRAHAM BROWN, of Hoxton, London, at whose house the deceased woman had
been living, deposed,’ etc.

Nobody else from London had attended the inquest. She arose to depart,
first sending a message of thanks to Mr. Raunham, who was out of doors
gardening.

He stuck his spade into the ground, and accompanied her to the gate.

‘Can I help you in anything, Cytherea?’ he said, using her Christian
name by an intuition that unpleasant memories might be revived if he
called her Miss Graye after wishing her good-bye as Mrs. Manston at
the wedding. Cytherea saw the motive and appreciated it, nevertheless
replying evasively--

‘I only guess and fear.’

He earnestly looked at her again.

‘Promise me that if you want assistance, and you think I can give it,
you will come to me.’

‘I will,’ she said.

The gate closed between them.

‘You don’t want me to help you in anything now, Cytherea?’ he repeated.

If he had spoken what he felt, ‘I want very much to help you, Cytherea,
and have been watching Manston on your account,’ she would gladly have
accepted his offer. As it was, she was perplexed, and raised her eyes to
his, not so fearlessly as before her trouble, but as modestly, and with
still enough brightness in them to do fearful execution as she said over
the gate--

‘No, thank you.’

She returned to Tolchurch weary with her day’s work. Owen’s greeting was
anxious--

‘Well, Cytherea?’

She gave him the words from the report of the inquest, pencilled on a
slip of paper.

‘Now to find out the name of the street and number,’ Owen remarked.

‘Owen,’ she said, ‘will you forgive me for what I am going to say? I
don’t think I can--indeed I don’t think I can--take any further steps
towards disentangling the mystery. I still think it a useless task, and
it does not seem any duty of mine to be revenged upon Mr. Manston in any
way.’ She added more gravely, ‘It is beneath my dignity as a woman to
labour for this; I have felt it so all day.’

‘Very well,’ he said, somewhat shortly; ‘I shall work without you then.
There’s dignity in justice.’ He caught sight of her pale tired face, and
the dilated eye which always appeared in her with weariness. ‘Darling,’
he continued warmly, and kissing her, ‘you shall not work so hard
again--you are worn out quite. But you must let me do as I like.’

2. MARCH THE TENTH

On Saturday evening Graye hurried off to Casterbridge, and called at the
house of the reporter to the Chronicle. The reporter was at home, and
came out to Graye in the passage. Owen explained who and what he was,
and asked the man if he would oblige him by turning to his notes of
the inquest at Carriford in the December of the year preceding the
last--just adding that a family entanglement, of which the reporter
probably knew something, made him anxious to ascertain some additional
details of the event, if any existed.

‘Certainly,’ said the other, without hesitation; ‘though I am afraid
I haven’t much beyond what we printed at the time. Let me see--my old
note-books are in my drawer at the office of the paper: if you will
come with me I can refer to them there.’ His wife and family were at tea
inside the room, and with the timidity of decent poverty everywhere he
seemed glad to get a stranger out of his domestic groove.

They crossed the street, entered the office, and went thence to an
inner room. Here, after a short search, was found the book required. The
precise address, not given in the condensed report that was printed, but
written down by the reporter, was as follows:--


     ‘ABRAHAM BROWN,
          LODGING-HOUSE KEEPER,
              41 CHARLES SQUARE,
                   HOXTON.’


Owen copied it, and gave the reporter a small fee. ‘I want to keep
this inquiry private for the present,’ he said hesitatingly. ‘You will
perhaps understand why, and oblige me.’

The reporter promised. ‘News is shop with me,’ he said, ‘and to escape
from handling it is my greatest social enjoyment.’

It was evening, and the outer room of the publishing-office was lighted
up with flaring jets of gas. After making the above remark, the reporter
came out from the inner apartment in Graye’s company, answering an
expression of obligation from Owen with the words that it was no
trouble. At the moment of his speech, he closed behind him the door
between the two rooms, still holding his note-book in his hand.

Before the counter of the front room stood a tall man, who was also
speaking, when they emerged. He said to the youth in attendance, ‘I will
take my paper for this week now I am here, so that you needn’t post it
to me.’

The stranger then slightly turned his head, saw Owen, and recognized
him. Owen passed out without recognizing the other as Manston.

Manston then looked at the reporter, who, after walking to the door with
Owen, had come back again to lock up his books. Manston did not need to
be told that the shabby marble-covered book which he held in his
hand, opening endways and interleaved with blotting-paper, was an
old reporting-book. He raised his eyes to the reporter’s face, whose
experience had not so schooled his features but that they betrayed a
consciousness, to one half initiated as the other was, that his late
proceeding had been connected with events in the life of the steward.
Manston said no more, but, taking his newspaper, followed Owen from the
office, and disappeared in the gloom of the street.

Edward Springrove was now in London again, and on this same evening,
before leaving Casterbridge, Owen wrote a careful letter to him, stating
therein all the facts that had come to his knowledge, and begging
him, as he valued Cytherea, to make cautious inquiries. A tall man
was standing under the lamp-post, about half-a-dozen yards above the
post-office, when he dropped the letter into the box.

That same night, too, for a reason connected with the rencounter with
Owen Graye, the steward entertained the idea of rushing off suddenly to
London by the mail-train, which left Casterbridge at ten o’clock.
But remembering that letters posted after the hour at which Owen had
obtained his information--whatever that was--could not be delivered
in London till Monday morning, he changed his mind and went home to
Knapwater. Making a confidential explanation to his wife, arrangements
were set on foot for his departure by the mail on Sunday night.

3. MARCH THE ELEVENTH

Starting for church the next morning several minutes earlier than was
usual with him, the steward intentionally loitered along the road from
the village till old Mr. Springrove overtook him. Manston spoke very
civilly of the morning, and of the weather, asking how the farmer’s
barometer stood, and when it was probable that the wind might change. It
was not in Mr. Springrove’s nature--going to church as he was, too--to
return anything but a civil answer to such civil questions, however his
feelings might have been biassed by late events. The conversation was
continued on terms of greater friendliness.

‘You must be feeling settled again by this time, Mr. Springrove, after
the rough turn-out you had on that terrible night in November.’

‘Ay, but I don’t know about feeling settled, either, Mr. Manston. The
old window in the chimney-corner of the old house I shall never forget.
No window in the chimney-corner where I am now, and I had been used to
it for more than fifty years. Ted says ‘tis a great loss to me, and he
knows exactly what I feel.’

‘Your son is again in a good situation, I believe?’ said Manston,
imitating that inquisitiveness into the private affairs of the natives
which passes for high breeding in country villages.

‘Yes, sir. I hope he’ll keep it, or do something else and stick to it.’

‘’Tis to be hoped he’ll be steady now.’

‘He’s always been that, I assure ‘ee,’ said the old man tartly.

‘Yes--yes--I mean intellectually steady. Intellectual wild oats will
thrive in a soil of the strictest morality.’

‘Intellectual gingerbread! Ted’s steady enough--that’s all I know about
it.’

‘Of course--of course. Has he respectable lodgings? My own experience
has shown me that that’s a great thing to a young man living alone in
London.’

‘Warwick Street, Charing Cross--that’s where he is.’

‘Well, to be sure--strange! A very dear friend of mine used to live at
number fifty-two in that very same street.’

‘Edward lives at number forty-nine--how very near being the same house!’
said the old farmer, pleased in spite of himself.

‘Very,’ said Manston. ‘Well, I suppose we had better step along a little
quicker, Mr. Springrove; the parson’s bell has just begun.’

‘Number forty-nine,’ he murmured.

4. MARCH THE TWELFTH

Edward received Owen’s letter in due time, but on account of his daily
engagements he could not attend to any request till the clock had struck
five in the afternoon. Rushing then from his office in Westminster, he
called a hansom and proceeded to Hoxton. A few minutes later he knocked
at the door of number forty-one, Charles Square, the old lodging of Mrs.
Manston.

A tall man who would have looked extremely handsome had he not been
clumsily and closely wrapped up in garments that were much too elderly
in style for his years, stood at the corner of the quiet square at the
same instant, having, too, alighted from a cab, that had been driven
along Old Street in Edward’s rear. He smiled confidently when Springrove
knocked.

Nobody came to the door. Springrove knocked again.

This brought out two people--one at the door he had been knocking upon,
the other from the next on the right.

‘Is Mr. Brown at home?’ said Springrove.

‘No, sir.’

‘When will he be in?’

‘Quite uncertain.’

‘Can you tell me where I may find him?’

‘No. O, here he is coming, sir. That’s Mr. Brown.’

Edward looked down the pavement in the direction pointed out by the
woman, and saw a man approaching. He proceeded a few steps to meet him.

Edward was impatient, and to a certain extent still a countryman, who
had not, after the manner of city men, subdued the natural impulse to
speak out the ruling thought without preface. He said in a quiet tone to
the stranger, ‘One word with you--do you remember a lady lodger of yours
of the name of Mrs. Manston?’

Mr. Brown half closed his eyes at Springrove, somewhat as if he were
looking into a telescope at the wrong end.

‘I have never let lodgings in my life,’ he said, after his survey.

‘Didn’t you attend an inquest a year and a half ago, at Carriford?’

‘Never knew there was such a place in the world, sir; and as to
lodgings, I have taken acres first and last during the last thirty
years, but I have never let an inch.’

‘I suppose there is some mistake,’ Edward murmured, and turned away. He
and Mr. Brown were now opposite the door next to the one he had knocked
at. The woman who was still standing there had heard the inquiry and the
result of it.

‘I expect it is the other Mr. Brown, who used to live there, that you
want, sir,’ she said. ‘The Mr. Brown that was inquired for the other
day?’

‘Very likely that is the man,’ said Edward, his interest reawakening.

‘He couldn’t make a do of lodging-letting here, and at last he went to
Cornwall, where he came from, and where his brother still lived, who
had often asked him to come home again. But there was little luck in the
change; for after London they say he couldn’t stand the rainy west winds
they get there, and he died in the December following. Will you step
into the passage?’

‘That’s unfortunate,’ said Edward, going in. ‘But perhaps you remember a
Mrs. Manston living next door to you?’

‘O yes,’ said the landlady, closing the door. ‘The lady who was supposed
to have met with such a horrible fate, and was alive all the time. I saw
her the other day.’

‘Since the fire at Carriford?’

‘Yes. Her husband came to ask if Mr. Brown was still living here--just
as you might. He seemed anxious about it; and then one evening, a week
or fortnight afterwards, when he came again to make further inquiries,
she was with him. But I did not speak to her--she stood back, as if she
were shy. I was interested, however, for old Mr. Brown had told me all
about her when he came back from the inquest.’

‘Did you know Mrs. Manston before she called the other day?’

‘No. You see she was only Mr. Brown’s lodger for two or three weeks,
and I didn’t know she was living there till she was near upon leaving
again--we don’t notice next-door people much here in London. I much
regretted I had not known her when I heard what had happened. It led
me and Mr. Brown to talk about her a great deal afterwards. I little
thought I should see her alive after all.’

‘And when do you say they came here together?’

‘I don’t exactly remember the day--though I remember a very beautiful
dream I had that same night--ah, I shall never forget it! Shoals of
lodgers coming along the square with angels’ wings and bright golden
sovereigns in their hands wanting apartments at West End prices. They
would not give any less; no, not if you--’

‘Yes. Did Mrs. Manston leave anything, such as papers, when she left
these lodgings originally?’ said Edward, though his heart sank as he
asked. He felt that he was outwitted. Manston and his wife had been
there before him, clearing the ground of all traces.

‘I have always said “No” hitherto,’ replied the woman, ‘considering I
could say no more if put upon my oath, as I expected to be. But speaking
in a common everyday way now the occurrence is past, I believe a few
things of some kind (though I doubt if they were papers) were left in
a workbox she had, because she talked about it to Mr. Brown, and was
rather angry at what occurred--you see, she had a temper by all account,
and so I didn’t like to remind the lady of this workbox when she came
the other day with her husband.’

‘And about the workbox?’

‘Well, from what was casually dropped, I think Mrs. Manston had a few
articles of furniture she didn’t want, and when she was leaving they
were put in a sale just by. Amongst her things were two workboxes very
much alike. One of these she intended to sell, the other she didn’t, and
Mr. Brown, who collected the things together, took the wrong one to the
sale.’

‘What was in it?’

‘O, nothing in particular, or of any value--some accounts, and her usual
sewing materials I think--nothing more. She didn’t take much trouble
to get it back--she said the bills were worth nothing to her or anybody
else, but that she should have liked to keep the box because her husband
gave it her when they were first married, and if he found she had parted
with it, he would be vexed.’

‘Did Mrs. Manston, when she called recently with her husband, allude to
this, or inquire for it, or did Mr. Manston?’

‘No--and I rather wondered at it. But she seemed to have forgotten
it--indeed, she didn’t make any inquiry at all, only standing behind
him, listening to his; and he probably had never been told anything
about it.’

‘Whose sale were these articles of hers taken to?’

‘Who was the auctioneer? Mr. Halway. His place is the third turning
from the end of that street you see there. Anybody will tell you the
shop--his name is written up.’

Edward went off to follow up his clue with a promptness which was
dictated more by a dogged will to do his utmost than by a hope of
doing much. When he was out of sight, the tall and cloaked man, who had
watched him, came up to the woman’s door, with an appearance of being in
breathless haste.

‘Has a gentleman been here inquiring about Mrs. Manston?’

‘Yes; he’s just gone.’

‘Dear me! I want him.’

‘He’s gone to Mr. Halway’s.’

‘I think I can give him some information upon the subject. Does he pay
pretty liberally?’

‘He gave me half-a-crown.’

‘That scale will do. I’m a poor man, and will see what my little
contribution to his knowledge will fetch. But, by the way, perhaps you
told him all I know--where she lived before coming to live here?’

‘I didn’t know where she lived before coming here. O no--I only said
what Mr. Brown had told me. He seemed a nice, gentle young man, or I
shouldn’t have been so open as I was.’

‘I shall now about catch him at Mr. Halway’s,’ said the man, and went
away as hastily as he had come.

Edward in the meantime had reached the auction-room. He found some
difficulty, on account of the inertness of those whose only inducement
to an action is a mere wish from another, in getting the information he
stood in need of, but it was at last accorded him. The auctioneer’s book
gave the name of Mrs. Higgins, 3 Canley Passage, as the purchaser of the
lot which had included Mrs. Manston’s workbox.

Thither Edward went, followed by the man. Four bell pulls, one above the
other like waistcoat-buttons, appeared on the door-post. Edward seized
the first he came to.

‘Who did you woant?’ said a thin voice from somewhere.

Edward looked above and around him; nobody was visible.

‘Who did you woant?’ said the thin voice again.

He found now that the sound proceeded from below the grating covering
the basement window. He dropped his glance through the bars, and saw a
child’s white face.

‘Who did you woant?’ said the voice the third time, with precisely the
same languid inflection.

‘Mrs. Higgins,’ said Edward.

‘Third bell up,’ said the face, and disappeared.

He pulled the third bell from the bottom, and was admitted by another
child, the daughter of the woman he was in search of. He gave the little
thing sixpence, and asked for her mamma. The child led him upstairs.

Mrs. Higgins was the wife of a carpenter who from want of employment
one winter had decided to marry. Afterwards they both took to drink,
and sank into desperate circumstances. A few chairs and a table were
the chief articles of furniture in the third-floor back room which they
occupied. A roll of baby-linen lay on the floor; beside it a pap-clogged
spoon and an overturned tin pap-cup. Against the wall a Dutch clock was
fixed out of level, and ticked wildly in longs and shorts, its entrails
hanging down beneath its white face and wiry hands, like the faeces of a
Harpy [‘foedissima ventris proluvies, uncaeque manus, et pallida semper
ora’). A baby was crying against every chair-leg, the whole family of
six or seven being small enough to be covered by a washing-tub. Mrs.
Higgins sat helpless, clothed in a dress which had hooks and eyes in
plenty, but never one opposite the other, thereby rendering the
dress almost useless as a screen to the bosom. No workbox was visible
anywhere.

It was a depressing picture of married life among the very poor of a
city. Only for one short hour in the whole twenty-four did husband and
wife taste genuine happiness. It was in the evening, when, after
the sale of some necessary article of furniture, they were under the
influence of a quartern of gin.

Of all the ingenious and cruel satires that from the beginning till now
have been stuck like knives into womankind, surely there is not one so
lacerating to them, and to us who love them, as the trite old fact, that
the most wretched of men can, in the twinkling of an eye, find a wife
ready to be more wretched still for the sake of his company.

Edward hastened to despatch his errand.

Mrs. Higgins had lately pawned the workbox with other useless articles
of lumber, she said. Edward bought the duplicate of her, and went
downstairs to the pawnbroker’s.

In the back division of a musty shop, amid the heterogeneous collection
of articles and odours invariably crowding such places, he produced his
ticket, and with a sense of satisfaction out of all proportion to the
probable worth of his acquisition, took the box and carried it off
under his arm. He attempted to lift the cover as he walked, but found it
locked.

It was dusk when Springrove reached his lodging. Entering his small
sitting-room, the front apartment on the ground floor, he struck a
light, and proceeded to learn if any scrap or mark within or upon his
purchase rendered it of moment to the business in hand. Breaking open
the cover with a small chisel, and lifting the tray, he glanced eagerly
beneath, and found--nothing.

He next discovered that a pocket or portfolio was formed on the
underside of the cover. This he unfastened, and slipping his hand
within, found that it really contained some substance. First he pulled
out about a dozen tangled silk and cotton threads. Under them were
a short household account, a dry moss-rosebud, and an old pair of
carte-de-visite photographs. One of these was a likeness of Mrs.
Manston--‘Eunice’ being written under it in ink--the other of Manston
himself.

He sat down dispirited. This was all the fruit of his task--not a single
letter, date, or address of any kind to help him--and was it likely
there would be?

However, thinking he would send the fragments, such as they were, to
Graye, in order to satisfy him that he had done his best so far,
he scribbled a line, and put all except the silk and cotton into an
envelope. Looking at his watch, he found it was then twenty minutes to
seven; by affixing an extra stamp he would be enabled to despatch them
by that evening’s post. He hastily directed the packet, and ran with it
at once to the post-office at Charing Cross.

On his return he took up the workbox again to examine it more leisurely.
He then found there was also a small cavity in the tray under the
pincushion, which was movable by a bit of ribbon. Lifting this he
uncovered a flattened sprig of myrtle, and a small scrap of crumpled
paper. The paper contained a verse or two in a man’s handwriting. He
recognized it as Manston’s, having seen notes and bills from him at his
father’s house. The stanza was of a complimentary character, descriptive
of the lady who was now Manston’s wife.


                        ‘EUNICE.

          ‘Whoso for hours or lengthy days
           Shall catch her aspect’s changeful rays,
           Then turn away, can none recall
           Beyond a galaxy of all
               In hazy portraiture;
           Lit by the light of azure eyes
           Like summer days by summer skies:
           Her sweet transitions seem to be
           A kind of pictured melody,
               And not a set contour.
                                      ‘AE. M.’


To shake, pull, and ransack the box till he had almost destroyed it was
now his natural action. But it contained absolutely nothing more.

‘Disappointed again,’ he said, flinging down the box, the bit of paper,
and the withered twig that had lain with it.

Yet valueless as the new acquisition was, on second thoughts he
considered that it would be worth while to make good the statement in
his late note to Graye--that he had sent everything the box contained
except the sewing-thread. Thereupon he enclosed the verse and
myrtle-twig in another envelope, with a remark that he had overlooked
them in his first search, and put it on the table for the next day’s
post.

In his hurry and concentration upon the matter that occupied him,
Springrove, on entering his lodging and obtaining a light, had not
waited to pull down the blind or close the shutters. Consequently all
that he had done had been visible from the street. But as on an average
not one person a minute passed along the quiet pavement at this time
of the evening, the discovery of the omission did not much concern his
mind.

But the real state of the case was that a tall man had stood against the
opposite wall and watched the whole of his proceeding. When Edward came
out and went to the Charing Cross post-office, the man followed him
and saw him drop the letter into the box. The stranger did not further
trouble himself to follow Springrove back to his lodging again.

Manston now knew that there had been photographs of some kind in his
wife’s workbox, and though he had not been near enough to see them, he
guessed whose they were. The least reflection told him to whom they had
been sent.

He paused a minute under the portico of the post-office, looking at the
two or three omnibuses stopping and starting in front of him. Then he
rushed along the Strand, through Holywell Street, and on to Old Boswell
Court. Kicking aside the shoeblacks who began to importune him as he
passed under the colonnade, he turned up the narrow passage to the
publishing-office of the Post-Office Directory. He begged to be allowed
to see the Directory of the south-west counties of England for a moment.

The shopman immediately handed down the volume from a shelf, and Manston
retired with it to the window-bench. He turned to the county, and
then to the parish of Tolchurch. At the end of the historical and
topographical description of the village he read:--

‘Postmistress--Mrs. Hurston. Letters received at 6.30 A.M. by foot-post
from Anglebury.’

Returning his thanks, he handed back the book and quitted the office,
thence pursuing his way to an obscure coffee-house by the Strand, where
he now partook of a light dinner. But rest seemed impossible with him.
Some absorbing intention kept his body continually on the move. He
paid his bill, took his bag in his hand, and went out to idle about the
streets and over the river till the time should have arrived at which
the night-mail left the Waterloo Station, by which train he intended to
return homeward.

There exists, as it were, an outer chamber to the mind, in which, when a
man is occupied centrally with the most momentous question of his life,
casual and trifling thoughts are just allowed to wander softly for an
interval, before being banished altogether. Thus, amid his concentration
did Manston receive perceptions of the individuals about him in the
lively thoroughfare of the Strand; tall men looking insignificant;
little men looking great and profound; lost women of miserable repute
looking as happy as the days are long; wives, happy by assumption,
looking careworn and miserable. Each and all were alike in this one
respect, that they followed a solitary trail like the inwoven threads
which form a banner, and all were equally unconscious of the significant
whole they collectively showed forth.

At ten o’clock he turned into Lancaster Place, crossed the river,
and entered the railway-station, where he took his seat in the down
mail-train, which bore him, and Edward Springrove’s letter to Graye, far
away from London.



XVII. THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

1. MARCH THE THIRTEENTH. THREE TO SIX O’CLOCK A.M.

They entered Anglebury Station in the dead, still time of early morning,
the clock over the booking-office pointing to twenty-five minutes to
three. Manston lingered on the platform and saw the mail-bags brought
out, noticing, as a pertinent pastime, the many shabby blotches of wax
from innumerable seals that had been set upon their mouths. The guard
took them into a fly, and was driven down the road to the post-office.

It was a raw, damp, uncomfortable morning, though, as yet, little rain
was falling. Manston drank a mouthful from his flask and walked at once
away from the station, pursuing his way through the gloom till he stood
on the side of the town adjoining, at a distance from the last house in
the street of about two hundred yards.

The station road was also the turnpike-road into the country, the first
part of its course being across a heath. Having surveyed the highway up
and down to make sure of its bearing, Manston methodically set himself
to walk backwards and forwards a stone’s throw in each direction.
Although the spring was temperate, the time of day, and the condition
of suspense in which the steward found himself, caused a sensation of
chilliness to pervade his frame in spite of the overcoat he wore. The
drizzling rain increased, and drops from the trees at the wayside fell
noisily upon the hard road beneath them, which reflected from its glassy
surface the faint halo of light hanging over the lamps of the adjacent
town.

Here he walked and lingered for two hours, without seeing or hearing a
living soul. Then he heard the market-house clock strike five, and soon
afterwards, quick hard footsteps smote upon the pavement of the street
leading towards him. They were those of the postman for the Tolchurch
beat. He reached the bottom of the street, gave his bags a final
hitch-up, stepped off the pavement, and struck out for the country with
a brisk shuffle.

Manston then turned his back upon the town, and walked slowly on. In two
minutes a flickering light shone upon his form, and the postman overtook
him.

The new-comer was a short, stooping individual of above five-and-forty,
laden on both sides with leather bags large and small, and carrying a
little lantern strapped to his breast, which cast a tiny patch of light
upon the road ahead.

‘A tryen mornen for travellers!’ the postman cried, in a cheerful voice,
without turning his head or slackening his trot.

‘It is, indeed,’ said Manston, stepping out abreast of him. ‘You have a
long walk every day.’

‘Yes--a long walk--for though the distance is only sixteen miles on the
straight--that is, eight to the furthest place and eight back, what with
the ins and outs to the gentlemen’s houses, it makes two-and-twenty for
my legs. Two-and-twenty miles a day, how many a year? I used to reckon
it, but I never do now. I don’t care to think o’ my wear and tear, now
it do begin to tell upon me.’

Thus the conversation was begun, and the postman proceeded to narrate
the different strange events that marked his experience. Manston grew
very friendly.

‘Postman, I don’t know what your custom is,’ he said, after a while;
‘but between you and me, I always carry a drop of something warm in my
pocket when I am out on such a morning as this. Try it.’ He handed the
bottle of brandy.

‘If you’ll excuse me, please. I haven’t took no stimmilents these five
years.’

‘’Tis never too late to mend.’

‘Against the regulations, I be afraid.’

‘Who’ll know it?’

‘That’s true--nobody will know it. Still, honesty’s the best policy.’

‘Ah--it is certainly. But, thank God, I’ve been able to get on without
it yet. You’ll surely drink with me?’

‘Really, ‘tis a’most too early for that sort o’ thing--however, to
oblige a friend, I don’t object to the faintest shadder of a drop.’ The
postman drank, and Manston did the same to a very slight degree. Five
minutes later, when they came to a gate, the flask was pulled out again.

‘Well done!’ said the postman, beginning to feel its effect; ‘but guide
my soul, I be afraid ‘twill hardly do!’

‘Not unless ‘tis well followed, like any other line you take up,’ said
Manston. ‘Besides, there’s a way of liking a drop of liquor, and of
being good--even religious--at the same time.’

‘Ay, for some thimble-and-button in-an-out fellers; but I could never
get into the knack o’ it; not I.’

‘Well, you needn’t be troubled; it isn’t necessary for the higher class
of mind to be religious--they have so much common-sense that they can
risk playing with fire.’

‘That hits me exactly.’

‘In fact, a man I know, who always had no other god but “Me;” and
devoutly loved his neighbour’s wife, says now that believing is a
mistake.’

‘Well, to be sure! However, believing in God is a mistake made by very
few people, after all.’

‘A true remark.’

‘Not one Christian in our parish would walk half a mile in a rain
like this to know whether the Scripture had concluded him under sin or
grace.’

‘Nor in mine.’

‘Ah, you may depend upon it they’ll do away wi’ Goddymity altogether
afore long, although we’ve had him over us so many years.’

‘There’s no knowing.’

‘And I suppose the Queen ‘ill be done away wi’ then. A pretty concern
that’ll be! Nobody’s head to put on your letters; and then your honest
man who do pay his penny will never be known from your scamp who don’t.
O, ‘tis a nation!’

‘Warm the cockles of your heart, however. Here’s the bottle waiting.’

‘I’ll oblige you, my friend.’

The drinking was repeated. The postman grew livelier as he went on, and
at length favoured the steward with a song, Manston himself joining in
the chorus.


          ‘He flung his mallet against the wall,
           Said, “The Lord make churches and chapels to fall,
           And there’ll be work for tradesmen all!”
                When Joan’s ale was new,
                               My boys,
               When Joan’s ale was new.’


‘You understand, friend,’ the postman added, ‘I was originally a mason
by trade: no offence to you if you be a parson?’

‘None at all,’ said Manston.

The rain now came down heavily, but they pursued their path with
alacrity, the produce of the several fields between which the lane wound
its way being indicated by the peculiar character of the sound emitted
by the falling drops. Sometimes a soaking hiss proclaimed that they were
passing by a pasture, then a patter would show that the rain fell upon
some large-leafed root crop, then a paddling plash announced the naked
arable, the low sound of the wind in their ears rising and falling with
each pace they took.

Besides the small private bags of the county families, which were all
locked, the postman bore the large general budget for the remaining
inhabitants along his beat. At each village or hamlet they came to, the
postman searched for the packet of letters destined for that place, and
thrust it into an ordinary letter-hole cut in the door of the receiver’s
cottage--the village post-offices being mostly kept by old women who had
not yet risen, though lights moving in other cottage windows showed that
such people as carters, woodmen, and stablemen had long been stirring.

The postman had by this time become markedly unsteady, but he still
continued to be too conscious of his duties to suffer the steward to
search the bag. Manston was perplexed, and at lonely points in the road
cast his eyes keenly upon the short bowed figure of the man trotting
through the mud by his side, as if he were half inclined to run a very
great risk indeed.

It frequently happened that the houses of farmers, clergymen, etc., lay
a short distance up or down a lane or path branching from the direct
track of the postman’s journey. To save time and distance, at the point
of junction of some of these paths with the main road, the gate-post was
hollowed out to form a letter-box, in which the postman deposited his
missives in the morning, looking in the box again in the evening to
collect those placed there for the return post. Tolchurch Vicarage
and Farmstead, lying back from the village street, were served on this
principle. This fact the steward now learnt by conversing with the
postman, and the discovery relieved Manston greatly, making his
intentions much clearer to himself than they had been in the earlier
stages of his journey.

They had reached the outskirts of the village. Manston insisted upon the
flask being emptied before they proceeded further. This was done, and
they approached the church, the vicarage, and the farmhouse in which
Owen and Cytherea were living.

The postman paused, fumbled in his bag, took out by the light of his
lantern some half-dozen letters, and tried to sort them. He could not
perform the task.

‘We be crippled disciples a b’lieve,’ he said, with a sigh and a
stagger.

‘Not drunk, but market-merry,’ said Manston cheerfully.

‘Well done! If I baint so weak that I can’t see the clouds--much
less letters. Guide my soul, if so be anybody should tell the Queen’s
postmaster-general of me! The whole story will have to go through
Parliament House, and I shall be high-treasoned--as safe as houses--and
be fined, and who’ll pay for a poor martel! O, ‘tis a world!’

‘Trust in the Lord--he’ll pay.’

‘He pay a b’lieve! why should he when he didn’t drink the drink? He pay
a b’lieve! D’ye think the man’s a fool?’

‘Well, well, I had no intention of hurting your feelings--but how was I
to know you were so sensitive?’

‘True--you were not to know I was so sensitive. Here’s a caddle wi’
these letters! Guide my soul, what will Billy do!’

Manston offered his services.

‘They are to be divided,’ the man said.

‘How?’ said Manston.

‘These, for the village, to be carried on into it: any for the vicarage
or vicarage farm must be left in the box of the gate-post just here.
There’s none for the vicarage-house this mornen, but I saw when I
started there was one for the clerk o’ works at the new church. This is
it, isn’t it?’

He held up a large envelope, directed in Edward Springrove’s
handwriting:--

     ‘MR. O. GRAYE,
          CLERK OF WORKS,
               TOLCHURCH,
                    NEAR ANGLEBURY.’

The letter-box was scooped in an oak gate-post about a foot square.
There was no slit for inserting the letters, by reason of the
opportunity such a lonely spot would have afforded mischievous
peasant-boys of doing damage had such been the case; but at the side was
a small iron door, kept close by an iron reversible strap locked across
it. One side of this strap was painted black, the other white, and white
or black outwards implied respectively that there were letters inside,
or none.

The postman had taken the key from his pocket and was attempting to
insert it in the keyhole of the box. He touched one side, the other,
above, below, but never made a straight hit.

‘Let me unlock it,’ said Manston, taking the key from the postman. He
opened the box and reached out with his other hand for Owen’s letter.

‘No, no. O no--no,’ the postman said. ‘As one of--Majesty’s
servants--care--Majesty’s mails--duty--put letters--own hands.’ He
slowly and solemnly placed the letter in the small cavity.

‘Now lock it,’ he said, closing the door.

The steward placed the bar across, with the black side outwards,
signifying ‘empty,’ and turned the key.

‘You’ve put the wrong side outwards!’ said the postman. ‘’Tisn’t empty.’

‘And dropped the key in the mud, so that I can’t alter it,’ said the
steward, letting something fall.

‘What an awkward thing!’

‘It is an awkward thing.’

They both went searching in the mud, which their own trampling had
reduced to the consistency of pap, the postman unstrapping his little
lantern from his breast, and thrusting it about, close to the ground,
the rain still drizzling down, and the dawn so tardy on account of the
heavy clouds that daylight seemed delayed indefinitely. The rays of
the lantern were rendered individually visible upon the thick mist, and
seemed almost tangible as they passed off into it, after illuminating
the faces and knees of the two stooping figures dripping with wet; the
postman’s cape and private bags, and the steward’s valise, glistening as
if they had been varnished.

‘It fell on the grass,’ said the postman.

‘No; it fell in the mud,’ said Manston. They searched again.

‘I’m afraid we shan’t find it by this light,’ said the steward at
length, washing his muddy fingers in the wet grass of the bank.

‘I’m afraid we shan’t,’ said the other, standing up.

‘I’ll tell you what we had better do,’ said Manston. ‘I shall be back
this way in an hour or so, and since it was all my fault, I’ll look
again, and shall be sure to find it in the daylight. And I’ll hide the
key here for you.’ He pointed to a spot behind the post. ‘It will be too
late to turn the index then, as the people will have been here, so that
the box had better stay as it is. The letter will only be delayed a day,
and that will not be noticed; if it is, you can say you placed the iron
the wrong way without knowing it, and all will be well.’

This was agreed to by the postman as the best thing to be done under
the circumstances, and the pair went on. They had passed the village and
come to a crossroad, when the steward, telling his companion that their
paths now diverged, turned off to the left towards Carriford.

No sooner was the postman out of sight and hearing than Manston stalked
back to the vicarage letter-box by keeping inside a fence, and thus
avoiding the village; arrived here, he took the key from his pocket,
where it had been concealed all the time, and abstracted Owen’s letter.
This done, he turned towards home, by the help of what he carried in
his valise adjusting himself to his ordinary appearance as he neared the
quarter in which he was known.

An hour and half’s sharp walking brought him to his own door in
Knapwater Park.

2. EIGHT O’CLOCK A.M.

Seated in his private office he wetted the flap of the stolen letter,
and waited patiently till the adhesive gum could be loosened. He took
out Edward’s note, the accounts, the rosebud, and the photographs,
regarding them with the keenest interest and anxiety.

The note, the accounts, the rosebud, and his own photograph, he restored
to their places again. The other photograph he took between his finger
and thumb, and held it towards the bars of the grate. There he held it
for half-a-minute or more, meditating.

‘It is a great risk to run, even for such an end,’ he muttered.

Suddenly, impregnated with a bright idea, he jumped up and left the
office for the front parlour. Taking up an album of portraits, which lay
on the table, he searched for three or four likenesses of the lady who
had so lately displaced Cytherea, which were interspersed among the
rest of the collection, and carefully regarded them. They were taken in
different attitudes and styles, and he compared each singly with that he
held in his hand. One of them, the one most resembling that abstracted
from the letter in general tone, size, and attitude, he selected from
the rest, and returned with it to his office.

Pouring some water into a plate, he set the two portraits afloat upon
it, and sitting down tried to read.

At the end of a quarter of an hour, after several ineffectual attempts,
he found that each photograph would peel from the card on which it was
mounted. This done, he threw into the fire the original likeness and the
recent card, stuck upon the original card the recent likeness from the
album, dried it before the fire, and placed it in the envelope with the
other scraps.

The result he had obtained, then, was this: in the envelope were now two
photographs, both having the same photographer’s name on the back and
consecutive numbers attached. At the bottom of the one which showed his
own likeness, his own name was written down; on the other his wife’s
name was written; whilst the central feature, and whole matter to which
this latter card and writing referred, the likeness of a lady mounted
upon it, had been changed.

Mrs. Manston entered the room, and begged him to come to breakfast. He
followed her and they sat down. During the meal he told her what he had
done, with scrupulous regard to every detail, and showed her the result.

‘It is indeed a great risk to run,’ she said, sipping her tea.

‘But it would be a greater not to do it.’

‘Yes.’

The envelope was again fastened up as before, and Manston put it in
his pocket and went out. Shortly afterwards he was seen, on horseback,
riding in a direction towards Tolchurch. Keeping to the fields, as well
as he could, for the greater part of the way, he dropped into the road
by the vicarage letter-box, and looking carefully about, to ascertain
that no person was near, he restored the letter to its nook, placed the
key in its hiding-place, as he had promised the postman, and again rode
homewards by a roundabout way.

3. AFTERNOON

The letter was brought to Owen Graye, the same afternoon, by one of the
vicar’s servants who had been to the box with a duplicate key, as usual,
to leave letters for the evening post. The man found that the index had
told falsely that morning for the first time within his recollection;
but no particular attention was paid to the mistake, as it was
considered. The contents of the envelope were scrutinized by Owen and
flung aside as useless.

The next morning brought Springrove’s second letter, the existence of
which was unknown to Manston. The sight of Edward’s handwriting again
raised the expectations of brother and sister, till Owen had opened the
envelope and pulled out the twig and verse.

‘Nothing that’s of the slightest use, after all,’ he said to her; ‘we
are as far as ever from the merest shadow of legal proof that would
convict him of what I am morally certain he did, marry you, suspecting,
if not knowing, her to be alive all the time.’

‘What has Edward sent?’ said Cytherea.

‘An old amatory verse in Manston’s writing. Fancy,’ he said bitterly,
‘this is the strain he addressed her in when they were courting--as he
did you, I suppose.’

He handed her the verse and she read--


                        ‘EUNICE.

          ‘Whoso for hours or lengthy days
           Shall catch her aspect’s changeful rays,
           Then turn away, can none recall
           Beyond a galaxy of all
               In hazy portraiture;
           Lit by the light of azure eyes
           Like summer days by summer skies:
           Her sweet transitions seem to be
           A kind of pictured melody,
               And not a set contour.
                                      ‘AE. M.’


A strange expression had overspread Cytherea’s countenance. It rapidly
increased to the most death-like anguish. She flung down the paper,
seized Owen’s hand tremblingly, and covered her face.

‘Cytherea! What is it, for Heaven’s sake?’

‘Owen--suppose--O, you don’t know what I think.’

‘What?’

’”_The light of azure eyes_,”’ she repeated with ashy lips.

‘Well, “the light of azure eyes”?’ he said, astounded at her manner.

‘Mrs. Morris said in her letter to me that her eyes are _black_!’

‘H’m. Mrs. Morris must have made a mistake--nothing likelier.’

‘She didn’t.’

‘They might be either in this photograph,’ said Owen, looking at the
card bearing Mrs. Manston’s name.

‘Blue eyes would scarcely photograph so deep in tone as that,’ said
Cytherea. ‘No, they seem black here, certainly.’

‘Well, then, Manston must have blundered in writing his verses.’

‘But could he? Say a man in love may forget his own name, but not that
he forgets the colour of his mistress’s eyes. Besides she would have
seen the mistake when she read them, and have had it corrected.’

‘That’s true, she would,’ mused Owen. ‘Then, Cytherea, it comes to
this--you must have been misinformed by Mrs. Morris, since there is no
other alternative.’

‘I suppose I must.’

Her looks belied her words.

‘What makes you so strange--ill?’ said Owen again.

‘I can’t believe Mrs. Morris wrong.’

‘But look at this, Cytherea. If it is clear to us that the woman had
blue eyes two years ago, she _must_ have blue eyes now, whatever Mrs.
Morris or anybody else may fancy. Any one would think that Manston could
change the colour of a woman’s eyes to hear you.’

‘Yes,’ she said, and paused.

‘You say yes, as if he could,’ said Owen impatiently.

‘By changing the woman herself,’ she exclaimed. ‘Owen, don’t you see
the horrid--what I dread?--that the woman he lives with is not Mrs.
Manston--that she was burnt after all--and that I am _his wife_!’

She tried to support a stoicism under the weight of this new trouble,
but no! The unexpected revulsion of ideas was so overwhelming that she
crept to him and leant against his breast.

Before reflecting any further upon the subject Graye led her upstairs
and got her to lie down. Then he went to the window and stared out of
it up the lane, vainly endeavouring to come to some conclusion upon
the fantastic enigma that confronted him. Cytherea’s new view seemed
incredible, yet it had such a hold upon her that it would be necessary
to clear it away by positive proof before contemplation of her fear
should have preyed too deeply upon her.

‘Cytherea,’ he said, ‘this will not do. You must stay here alone all the
afternoon whilst I go to Carriford. I shall know all when I return.’

‘No, no, don’t go!’ she implored.

‘Soon, then, not directly.’ He saw her subtle reasoning--that it was
folly to be wise.

Reflection still convinced him that good would come of persevering
in his intention and dispelling his sister’s idle fears. Anything was
better than this absurd doubt in her mind. But he resolved to wait till
Sunday, the first day on which he might reckon upon seeing Mrs. Manston
without suspicion. In the meantime he wrote to Edward Springrove,
requesting him to go again to Mrs. Manston’s former lodgings.



XVIII. THE EVENTS OF THREE DAYS

1. MARCH THE EIGHTEENTH

Sunday morning had come, and Owen was trudging over the six miles of
hill and dale that lay between Tolchurch and Carriford.

Edward Springrove’s answer to the last letter, after expressing his
amazement at the strange contradiction between the verses and Mrs.
Morris’s letter, had been to the effect that he had again visited the
neighbour of the dead Mr. Brown, and had received as near a description
of Mrs. Manston as it was possible to get at second-hand, and by
hearsay. She was a tall woman, wide at the shoulders, and full-chested,
and she had a straight and rather large nose. The colour of her eyes the
informant did not know, for she had only seen the lady in the street
as she went in or out. This confusing remark was added. The woman had
almost recognized Mrs. Manston when she had called with her husband
lately, but she had kept her veil down. Her residence, before she came
to Hoxton, was quite unknown to this next-door neighbour, and Edward
could get no manner of clue to it from any other source.

Owen reached the church-door a few minutes before the bells began
chiming. Nobody was yet in the church, and he walked round the aisles.
From Cytherea’s frequent description of how and where herself and others
used to sit, he knew where to look for Manston’s seat; and after two
or three errors of examination he took up a prayer-book in which was
written ‘Eunice Manston.’ The book was nearly new, and the date of the
writing about a month earlier. One point was at any rate established:
that the woman living with Manston was presented to the world as no
other than his lawful wife.

The quiet villagers of Carriford required no pew-opener in their place
of worship: natives and in-dwellers had their own seats, and strangers
sat where they could. Graye took a seat in the nave, on the north
side, close behind a pillar dividing it from the north aisle, which was
completely allotted to Miss Aldclyffe, her farmers, and her retainers,
Manston’s pew being in the midst of them. Owen’s position on the other
side of the passage was a little in advance of Manston’s seat, and so
situated that by leaning forward he could look directly into the face
of any person sitting there, though, if he sat upright, he was wholly
hidden from such a one by the intervening pillar.

Aiming to keep his presence unknown to Manston if possible, Owen sat,
without once turning his head, during the entrance of the congregation.
A rustling of silk round by the north passage and into Manston’s seat,
told him that some woman had entered there, and as it seemed from the
accompaniment of heavier footsteps, Manston was with her.

Immediately upon rising up, he looked intently in that direction, and
saw a lady standing at the end of the seat nearest himself. Portions of
Manston’s figure appeared on the other side of her. In two glances Graye
read thus many of her characteristics, and in the following order:--

She was a tall woman.

She was broad at the shoulders.

She was full-bosomed.

She was easily recognizable from the photograph but nothing could be
discerned of the colour of her eyes.

With a preoccupied mind he withdrew into his nook, and heard the
service continued--only conscious of the fact that in opposition to the
suspicion which one odd circumstance had bred in his sister concerning
this woman, all ostensible and ordinary proofs and probabilities tended
to the opposite conclusion. There sat the genuine original of the
portrait--could he wish for more? Cytherea wished for more. Eunice
Manston’s eyes were blue, and it was necessary that this woman’s eyes
should be blue also.

Unskilled labour wastes in beating against the bars ten times the energy
exerted by the practised hand in the effective direction. Owen felt this
to be the case in his own and Edward’s attempts to follow up the clue
afforded them. Think as he might, he could not think of a crucial test
in the matter absorbing him, which should possess the indispensable
attribute--a capability of being applied privately; that in the event of
its proving the lady to be the rightful owner of the name she used, he
might recede without obloquy from an untenable position.

But to see Mrs. Manston’s eyes from where he sat was impossible, and he
could do nothing in the shape of a direct examination at present. Miss
Aldclyffe had possibly recognized him, but Manston had not, and feeling
that it was indispensable to keep the purport of his visit a secret from
the steward, he thought it would be as well, too, to keep his presence
in the village a secret from him; at any rate, till the day was over.

At the first opening of the doors, Graye left the church and wandered
away into the fields to ponder on another scheme. He could not call
on Farmer Springrove, as he had intended, until this matter was set at
rest. Two hours intervened between the morning and afternoon services.

This time had nearly expired before Owen had struck out any method of
proceeding, or could decide to run the risk of calling at the Old House
and asking to see Mrs. Manston point-blank. But he had drawn near the
place, and was standing still in the public path, from which a partial
view of the front of the building could be obtained, when the bells
began chiming for afternoon service. Whilst Graye paused, two persons
came from the front door of the half-hidden dwelling whom he presently
saw to be Manston and his wife. Manston was wearing his old garden-hat,
and carried one of the monthly magazines under his arm. Immediately
they had passed the gateway he branched off and went over the hill in a
direction away from the church, evidently intending to ramble along,
and read as the humour moved him. The lady meanwhile turned in the other
direction, and went into the church path.

Owen resolved to make something of this opportunity. He hurried along
towards the church, doubled round a sharp angle, and came back upon the
other path, by which Mrs. Manston must arrive.

In about three minutes she appeared in sight without a veil. He
discovered, as she drew nearer, a difficulty which had not struck him
at first--that it is not an easy matter to particularize the colour of
a stranger’s eyes in a merely casual encounter on a path out of doors.
That Mrs. Manston must be brought close to him, and not only so, but to
look closely at him, if his purpose were to be accomplished.

He shaped a plan. It might by chance be effectual; if otherwise, it
would not reveal his intention to her. When Mrs. Manston was within
speaking distance, he went up to her and said--

‘Will you kindly tell me which turning will take me to Casterbridge?’

‘The second on the right,’ said Mrs. Manston.

Owen put on a blank look: he held his hand to his ear--conveying to the
lady the idea that he was deaf.

She came closer and said more distinctly--

‘The second turning on the right.’

Owen flushed a little. He fancied he had beheld the revelation he was in
search of. But had his eyes deceived him?

Once more he used the ruse, still drawing nearer and intimating by a
glance that the trouble he gave her was very distressing to him.

‘How very deaf!’ she murmured. She exclaimed loudly--

‘_The second turning to the right_.’

She had advanced her face to within a foot of his own, and in speaking
mouthed very emphatically, fixing her eyes intently upon his. And now
his first suspicion was indubitably confirmed. Her eyes were as black as
midnight.

All this feigning was most distasteful to Graye. The riddle having
been solved, he unconsciously assumed his natural look before she had
withdrawn her face. She found him to be peering at her as if he would
read her very soul--expressing with his eyes the notification of which,
apart from emotion, the eyes are more capable than any other--inquiry.

Her face changed its expression--then its colour. The natural tint of
the lighter portions sank to an ashy gray; the pink of her cheeks grew
purpler. It was the precise result which would remain after blood had
left the face of one whose skin was dark, and artificially coated with
pearl-powder and carmine.

She turned her head and moved away, murmuring a hasty reply to Owen’s
farewell remark of ‘Good-day,’ and with a kind of nervous twitch lifting
her hand and smoothing her hair, which was of a light-brown colour.

‘She wears false hair,’ he thought, ‘or has changed its colour
artificially. Her true hair matched her eyes.’

And now, in spite of what Mr. Brown’s neighbours had said about nearly
recognizing Mrs. Manston on her recent visit--which might have meant
anything or nothing; in spite of the photograph, and in spite of his
previous incredulity; in consequence of the verse, of her silence and
backwardness at the visit to Hoxton with Manston, and of her appearance
and distress at the present moment, Graye had a conviction that the
woman was an impostor.

What could be Manston’s reason for such an astounding trick he could by
no stretch of imagination divine.

He changed his direction as soon as the woman was out of sight, and
plodded along the lanes homeward to Tolchurch.

One new idea was suggested to him by his desire to allay Cytherea’s
dread of being claimed, and by the difficulty of believing that the
first Mrs. Manston lost her life as supposed, notwithstanding the
inquest and verdict. Was it possible that the real Mrs. Manston, who
was known to be a Philadelphian by birth, had returned by the train
to London, as the porter had said, and then left the country under an
assumed name, to escape that worst kind of widowhood--the misery of
being wedded to a fickle, faithless, and truant husband?


In her complicated distress at the news brought by her brother,
Cytherea’s thoughts at length reverted to her friend, the Rector of
Carriford. She told Owen of Mr. Raunham’s warm-hearted behaviour towards
herself, and of his strongly expressed wish to aid her.

‘He is not only a good, but a sensible man. We seem to want an old head
on our side.’

‘And he is a magistrate,’ said Owen in a tone of concurrence. He
thought, too, that no harm could come of confiding in the rector, but
there was a difficulty in bringing about the confidence. He wished that
his sister and himself might both be present at an interview with Mr.
Raunham, yet it would be unwise for them to call on him together, in the
sight of all the servants and parish of Carriford.

There could be no objection to their writing him a letter.

No sooner was the thought born than it was carried out. They wrote to
him at once, asking him to have the goodness to give them some advice
they sadly needed, and begging that he would accept their assurance
that there was a real justification for the additional request they
made--that instead of their calling upon him, he would any evening of
the week come to their cottage at Tolchurch.

2. MARCH THE TWENTIETH. SIX TO NINE O’CLOCK P.M.

Two evenings later, to the total disarrangement of his dinner-hour, Mr.
Raunham appeared at Owen’s door. His arrival was hailed with genuine
gratitude. The horse was tied to the palings, and the rector ushered
indoors and put into the easy-chair.

Then Graye told him the whole story, reminding him that their first
suspicions had been of a totally different nature, and that in
endeavouring to obtain proof of their truth they had stumbled upon
marks which had surprised them into these new uncertainties, thrice as
marvellous as the first, yet more prominent.

Cytherea’s heart was so full of anxiety that it superinduced a manner of
confidence which was a death-blow to all formality. Mr. Raunham took her
hand pityingly.

‘It is a serious charge,’ he said, as a sort of original twig on which
his thoughts might precipitate themselves.

‘Assuming for a moment that such a substitution was rendered an easy
matter by fortuitous events,’ he continued, ‘there is this consideration
to be placed beside it--what earthly motive can Mr. Manston have had
which would be sufficiently powerful to lead him to run such a very
great risk? The most abandoned roue could not, at that particular
crisis, have taken such a reckless step for the mere pleasure of a new
companion.’

Owen had seen that difficulty about the motive; Cytherea had not.

‘Unfortunately for us,’ the rector resumed, ‘no more evidence is to be
obtained from the porter, Chinney. I suppose you know what became of
him? He got to Liverpool and embarked, intending to work his way to
America, but on the passage he fell overboard and was drowned. But there
is no doubt of the truth of his confession--in fact, his conduct tends
to prove it true--and no moral doubt of the fact that the real Mrs.
Manston left here to go back by that morning’s train. This being the
case, then, why, if this woman is not she, did she take no notice of the
advertisement--I mean not necessarily a friendly notice, but from the
information it afforded her have rendered it impossible that she should
be personified without her own connivance?’

‘I think that argument is overthrown,’ Graye said, ‘by my earliest
assumption of her hatred of him, weariness of the chain which bound her
to him, and a resolve to begin the world anew. Let’s suppose she has
married another man--somewhere abroad, say; she would be silent for her
own sake.’

‘You’ve hit the only genuine possibility,’ said Mr. Raunham, tapping
his finger upon his knee. ‘That would decidedly dispose of the second
difficulty. But his motive would be as mysterious as ever.’

Cytherea’s pictured dreads would not allow her mind to follow their
conversation. ‘She’s burnt,’ she said. ‘O yes; I fear--I fear she is!’

‘I don’t think we can seriously believe that now, after what has
happened,’ said the rector.

Still straining her thought towards the worst, ‘Then, perhaps, the first
Mrs. Manston was not his wife,’ she returned; ‘and then I should be his
wife just the same, shouldn’t I?’

‘They were married safely enough,’ said Owen. ‘There is abundance of
circumstantial evidence to prove that.’

‘Upon the whole,’ said Mr. Raunham, ‘I should advise your asking in a
straightforward way for legal proof from the steward that the present
woman is really his original wife--a thing which, to my mind, you should
have done at the outset.’ He turned to Cytherea kindly, and asked her
what made her give up her husband so unceremoniously.

She could not tell the rector of her aversion to Manston, and of her
unquenched love for Edward.

‘Your terrified state no doubt,’ he said, answering for her, in the
manner of those accustomed to the pulpit. ‘But into such a solemn
compact as marriage, all-important considerations, both legally and
morally, enter; it was your duty to have seen everything clearly proved.
Doubtless Mr. Manston is prepared with proofs, but as it concerns nobody
but yourself that her identity should be publicly established (and by
your absenteeism you act as if you were satisfied) he has not troubled
to exhibit them. Nobody else has taken the trouble to prove what does
not affect them in the least--that’s the way of the world always. You,
who should have required all things to be made clear, ran away.’

‘That was partly my doing,’ said Owen.

The same explanation--her want of love for Manston--applied here too,
but she shunned the revelation.

‘But never mind,’ added the rector, ‘it was all the greater credit to
your womanhood, perhaps. I say, then, get your brother to write a line
to Mr. Manston, saying you wish to be satisfied that all is legally
clear (in case you should want to marry again, for instance), and I have
no doubt that you will be. Or, if you would rather, I’ll write myself?’

‘O no, sir, no,’ pleaded Cytherea, beginning to blanch, and breathing
quickly. ‘Please don’t say anything. Let me live here with Owen. I am so
afraid it will turn out that I shall have to go to Knapwater and be his
wife, and I don’t want to go. Do conceal what we have told you. Let him
continue his deception--it is much the best for me.’

Mr. Raunham at length divined that her love for Manston, if it had ever
existed, had transmuted itself into a very different feeling now.

‘At any rate,’ he said, as he took his leave and mounted his mare, ‘I
will see about it. Rest content, Miss Graye, and depend upon it that I
will not lead you into difficulty.’

‘Conceal it,’ she still pleaded.

‘We’ll see--but of course I must do my duty.’

‘No--don’t do your duty!’ She looked up at him through the gloom,
illuminating her own face and eyes with the candle she held.

‘I will consider, then,’ said Mr. Raunham, sensibly moved. He turned his
horse’s head, bade them a warm adieu, and left the door.

The rector of Carriford trotted homewards under the cold and clear
March sky, its countless stars fluttering like bright birds. He was
unconscious of the scene. Recovering from the effect of Cytherea’s voice
and glance of entreaty, he laid the subject of the interview clearly
before himself.

The suspicions of Cytherea and Owen were honest, and had
foundation--that he must own. Was he--a clergyman, magistrate, and
conscientious man--justified in yielding to Cytherea’s importunities
to keep silence, because she dreaded the possibility of a return to
Manston? Was she wise in her request? Holding her present belief, and
with no definite evidence either way, she could, for one thing, never
conscientiously marry any one else. Suppose that Cytherea were Manston’s
wife--i.e., that the first wife was really burnt? The adultery of
Manston would be proved, and, Mr. Raunham thought, cruelty sufficient to
bring the case within the meaning of the statute. Suppose the new woman
was, as stated, Mr. Manston’s restored wife? Cytherea was perfectly safe
as a single woman whose marriage had been void. And if it turned out
that, though this woman was not Manston’s wife, his wife was still
living, as Owen had suggested, in America or elsewhere, Cytherea was
safe.

The first supposition opened up the worst contingency. Was she really
safe as Manston’s wife? Doubtful. But, however that might be, the
gentle, defenceless girl, whom it seemed nobody’s business to help or
defend, should be put in a track to proceed against this man. She had
but one life, and the superciliousness with which all the world now
regarded her should be compensated in some measure by the man whose
carelessness--to set him in the best light--had caused it.

Mr. Raunham felt more and more positively that his duty must be done. An
inquiry must be made into the matter. Immediately on reaching home,
he sat down and wrote a plain and friendly letter to Mr. Manston, and
despatched it at once to him by hand. Then he flung himself back in
his chair, and went on with his meditation. Was there anything in the
suspicion? There could be nothing, surely. Nothing is done by a clever
man without a motive, and what conceivable motive could Manston have for
such abnormal conduct? Corinthian that he might be, who had preyed on
virginity like St. George’s dragon, he would never have been absurd
enough to venture on such a course for the possession alone of the
woman--there was no reason for it--she was inferior to Cytherea in every
respect, physical and mental.

On the other hand, it seemed rather odd, when he analyzed the action,
that a woman who deliberately hid herself from her husband for more than
a twelvemonth should be brought back by a mere advertisement. In fact,
the whole business had worked almost too smoothly and effectually
for unpremeditated sequence. It was too much like the indiscriminate
righting of everything at the end of an old play. And there was that
curious business of the keys and watch. Her way of accounting for their
being left behind by forgetfulness had always seemed to him rather
forced. The only unforced explanation was that suggested by the
newspaper writers--that she left them behind on purpose to blind people
as to her escape, a motive which would have clashed with the possibility
of her being fished back by an advertisement, as the present woman had
been. Again, there were the two charred bones. He shuffled the books and
papers in his study, and walked about the room, restlessly musing on the
same subject. The parlour-maid entered.

‘Can young Mr. Springrove from London see you to-night, sir?’

‘Young Mr. Springrove?’ said the rector, surprised.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Yes, of course he can see me. Tell him to come in.’

Edward came so impatiently into the room, as to show that the few short
moments his announcement had occupied had been irksome to him. He stood
in the doorway with the same black bag in his hand, and the same old
gray cloak on his shoulders, that he had worn fifteen months earlier
when returning on the night of the fire. This appearance of his conveyed
a true impression; he had become a stagnant man. But he was excited now.

‘I have this moment come from London,’ he said, as the door was closed
behind him.

The prophetic insight, which so strangely accompanies critical
experiences, prompted Mr. Raunham’s reply.

‘About the Grayes and Manston?’

‘Yes. That woman is not Mrs. Manston.’

‘Prove it.’

‘I can prove that she is somebody else--that her name is Anne Seaway.’

‘And are their suspicions true indeed!’

‘And I can do what’s more to the purpose at present.’

‘Suggest Manston’s motive?’

‘Only suggest it, remember. But my assumption fits so perfectly with the
facts that have been secretly unearthed and conveyed to me, that I can
hardly conceive of another.’

There was in Edward’s bearing that entire unconsciousness of himself
which, natural to wild animals, only prevails in a sensitive man at
moments of extreme intentness. The rector saw that he had no trivial
story to communicate, whatever the story was.

‘Sit down,’ said Mr. Raunham. ‘My mind has been on the stretch all the
evening to form the slightest guess at such an object, and all to no
purpose--entirely to no purpose. Have you said anything to Owen Graye?’

‘Nothing--nor to anybody. I could not trust to the effect a letter might
have upon yourself, either; the intricacy of the case brings me to this
interview.’

Whilst Springrove had been speaking the two had sat down together. The
conversation, hitherto distinct to every corner of the room, was carried
on now in tones so low as to be scarcely audible to the interlocutors,
and in phrases which hesitated to complete themselves. Three-quarters
of an hour passed. Then Edward arose, came out of the rector’s study and
again flung his cloak around him. Instead of going thence homeward,
he went first to the Carriford Road Station with a telegram, having
despatched which he proceeded to his father’s house for the first time
since his arrival in the village.

3. FROM NINE TO TEN O’CLOCK P.M.

The next presentation is the interior of the Old House on the evening of
the preceding section. The steward was sitting by his parlour fire, and
had been reading the letter arrived from the rectory. Opposite to him
sat the woman known to the village and neighbourhood as Mrs. Manston.

‘Things are looking desperate with us,’ he said gloomily. His gloom was
not that of the hypochondriac, but the legitimate gloom which has its
origin in a syllogism. As he uttered the words he handed the letter to
her.

‘I almost expected some such news as this,’ she replied, in a tone of
much greater indifference. ‘I knew suspicion lurked in the eyes of that
young man who stared at me so in the church path: I could have sworn
it.’

Manston did not answer for some time. His face was worn and haggard;
latterly his head had not been carried so uprightly as of old. ‘If they
prove you to be--who you are.... Yes, if they do,’ he murmured.

‘They must not find that out,’ she said, in a positive voice, and
looking at him. ‘But supposing they do, the trick does not seem to me to
be so serious as to justify that wretched, miserable, horrible look of
yours. It makes my flesh creep; it is perfectly deathlike.’

He did not reply, and she continued, ‘If they say and prove that Eunice
is indeed living--and dear, you know she is--she is sure to come back.’

This remark seemed to awaken and irritate him to speech. Again, as he
had done a hundred times during their residence together, he categorized
the events connected with the fire at the Three Tranters. He dwelt on
every incident of that night’s history, and endeavoured, with an anxiety
which was extraordinary in the apparent circumstances, to prove that his
wife must, by the very nature of things, have perished in the flames.
She arose from her seat, crossed the hearthrug, and set herself to
soothe him; then she whispered that she was still as unbelieving as
ever. ‘Come, supposing she escaped--just supposing she escaped--where is
she?’ coaxed the lady.

‘Why are you so curious continually?’ said Manston.

‘Because I am a woman and want to know. Now where is she?’

‘In the Flying Isle of San Borandan.’

‘Witty cruelty is the cruellest of any. Ah, well--if she is in England,
she will come back.’

‘She is not in England.’

‘But she will come back?’

‘No, she won’t.... Come, madam,’ he said, arousing himself, ‘I shall not
answer any more questions.’

‘Ah--ah--ah--she is not dead,’ the woman murmured again poutingly.

‘She is, I tell you.’

‘I don’t think so, love.’

‘She was burnt, I tell you!’ he exclaimed.

‘Now to please me, admit the bare possibility of her being alive--just
the possibility.’

‘O yes--to please you I will admit that,’ he said quickly. ‘Yes, I admit
the possibility of her being alive, to please you.’

She looked at him in utter perplexity. The words could only have been
said in jest, and yet they seemed to savour of a tone the furthest
remove from jesting. There was his face plain to her eyes, but no
information of any kind was to be read there.

‘It is only natural that I should be curious,’ she murmured pettishly,
‘if I resemble her as much as you say I do.’

‘You are handsomer,’ he said, ‘though you are about her own height and
size. But don’t worry yourself. You must know that you are body and soul
united with me, though you are but my housekeeper.’

She bridled a little at the remark. ‘Wife,’ she said, ‘most certainly
wife, since you cannot dismiss me without losing your character and
position, and incurring heavy penalties.’

‘I own it--it was well said, though mistakenly--very mistakenly.’

‘Don’t riddle to me about mistakenly and such dark things. Now what was
your motive, dearest, in running the risk of having me here?’

‘Your beauty,’ he said.

‘She thanks you much for the compliment, but will not take it. Come,
what was your motive?’

‘Your wit.’

‘No, no; not my wit. Wit would have made a wife of me by this time
instead of what I am.’

‘Your virtue.’

‘Or virtue either.’

‘I tell you it was your beauty--really.’

‘But I cannot help seeing and hearing, and if what people say is true, I
am not nearly so good-looking as Cytherea, and several years older.’

The aspect of Manston’s face at these words from her was so confirmatory
of her hint, that his forced reply of ‘O no,’ tended to develop her
chagrin.

‘Mere liking or love for me,’ she resumed, ‘would not have sprung up
all of a sudden, as your pretended passion did. You had been to London
several times between the time of the fire and your marriage with
Cytherea--you had never visited me or thought of my existence or cared
that I was out of a situation and poor. But the week after you married
her and were separated from her, off you rush to make love to me--not
first to me either, for you went to several places--’

‘No, not several places.’

‘Yes, you told me so yourself--that you went first to the only lodging
in which your wife had been known as Mrs. Manston, and when you found
that the lodging-house-keeper had gone away and died, and that nobody
else in the street had any definite ideas as to your wife’s personal
appearance, and came and proposed the arrangement we carried out--that I
should personate her. Your taking all this trouble shows that something
more serious than love had to do with the matter.’

‘Humbug--what trouble after all did I take? When I found Cytherea would
not stay with me after the wedding I was much put out at being left
alone again. Was that unnatural?’

‘No.’

‘And those favouring accidents you mention--that nobody knew my first
wife--seemed an arrangement of Providence for our mutual benefit, and
merely perfected a half-formed impulse--that I should call you my first
wife to escape the scandal that would have arisen if you had come here
as anything else.’

‘My love, that story won’t do. If Mrs. Manston was burnt, Cytherea, whom
you love better than me, could have been compelled to live with you as
your lawful wife. If she was not burnt, why should you run the risk of
her turning up again at any moment and exposing your substitution of me,
and ruining your name and prospects?’

‘Why--because I might have loved you well enough to run the risk
(assuming her not to be burnt, which I deny).’

‘No--you would have run the risk the other way. You would rather have
risked her finding you with Cytherea as a second wife, than with me as a
personator of herself--the first one.’

‘You came easiest to hand--remember that.’

‘Not so very easy either, considering the labour you took to teach
me your first wife’s history. All about how she was a native of
Philadelphia. Then making me read up the guide-book to Philadelphia, and
details of American life and manners, in case the birthplace and
history of your wife, Eunice, should ever become known in this
neighbourhood--unlikely as it was. Ah! and then about the handwriting of
hers that I had to imitate, and the dying my hair, and rouging, to make
the transformation complete? You mean to say that that was taking less
trouble than there would have been in arranging events to make Cytherea
believe herself your wife, and live with you?’

‘You were a needy adventuress, who would dare anything for a new
pleasure and an easy life--and I was fool enough to give in to you--’

‘Good heavens above!--did I ask you to insert those advertisements for
your old wife, and to make me answer it as if I was she? Did I ask you
to send me the letter for me to copy and send back to you when the third
advertisement appeared--purporting to come from the long-lost wife, and
giving a detailed history of her escape and subsequent life--all which
you had invented yourself? You deluded me into loving you, and then
enticed me here! Ah, and this is another thing. How did you know the
real wife wouldn’t answer it, and upset all your plans?’

‘Because I knew she was burnt.’

‘Why didn’t you force Cytherea to come back, then? Now, my love, I have
caught you, and you may just as well tell first as last, _what was your
motive in having me here as your first wife_?’

‘Silence!’ he exclaimed.

She was silent for the space of two minutes, and then persisted in going
on to mutter, ‘And why was it that Miss Aldclyffe allowed her favourite
young lady, Cythie, to be overthrown and supplanted without an
expostulation or any show of sympathy? Do you know I often think you
exercise a secret power over Miss Aldclyffe. And she always shuns me as
if I shared the power. A poor, ill-used creature like me sharing power,
indeed!’

‘She thinks you are Mrs. Manston.’

‘That wouldn’t make her avoid me.’

‘Yes it would,’ he exclaimed impatiently. ‘I wish I was dead--dead!’
He had jumped up from his seat in uttering the words, and now walked
wearily to the end of the room. Coming back more decisively, he looked
in her face.

‘We must leave this place if Raunham suspects what I think he does,’
he said. ‘The request of Cytherea and her brother may simply be for
a satisfactory proof, to make her feel legally free--but it may mean
more.’

‘What may it mean?’

‘How should I know?’

‘Well, well, never mind, old boy,’ she said, approaching him to make up
the quarrel. ‘Don’t be so alarmed--anybody would think that you were the
woman and I the man. Suppose they do find out what I am--we can go away
from here and keep house as usual. People will say of you, “His first
wife was burnt to death” (or “ran away to the Colonies,” as the case
may be); “He married a second, and deserted her for Anne Seaway.” A very
everyday case--nothing so horrible, after all.’

He made an impatient movement. ‘Whichever way we do it, _nobody must
know that you are not my wife Eunice_. And now I must think about
arranging matters.’

Manston then retired to his office, and shut himself up for the
remainder of the evening.



XIX. THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT

1. MARCH THE TWENTY-FIRST. MORNING

Next morning the steward went out as usual. He shortly told his
companion, Anne, that he had almost matured their scheme, and that
they would enter upon the details of it when he came home at night. The
fortunate fact that the rector’s letter did not require an immediate
answer would give him time to consider.

Anne Seaway then began her duties in the house. Besides daily
superintending the cook and housemaid one of these duties was, at rare
intervals, to dust Manston’s office with her own hands, a servant being
supposed to disturb the books and papers unnecessarily. She softly
wandered from table to shelf with the duster in her hand, afterwards
standing in the middle of the room, and glancing around to discover if
any noteworthy collection of dust had still escaped her.

Her eye fell upon a faint layer which rested upon the ledge of an
old-fashioned chestnut cabinet of French Renaissance workmanship, placed
in a recess by the fireplace. At a height of about four feet from the
floor the upper portion of the front receded, forming the ledge alluded
to, on which opened at each end two small doors, the centre space
between them being filled out by a panel of similar size, making the
third of three squares. The dust on the ledge was nearly on a level with
the woman’s eye, and, though insignificant in quantity, showed itself
distinctly on account of this obliquity of vision. Now opposite the
central panel, concentric quarter-circles were traced in the deposited
film, expressing to her that this panel, too, was a door like the
others; that it had lately been opened, and had skimmed the dust with
its lower edge.

At last, then, her curiosity was slightly rewarded. For the right of the
matter was that Anne had been incited to this exploration of Manston’s
office rather by a wish to know the reason of his long seclusion
here, after the arrival of the rector’s letter, and their subsequent
discourse, than by any immediate desire for cleanliness. Still, there
would have been nothing remarkable to Anne in this sight but for one
recollection. Manston had once casually told her that each of the two
side-lockers included half the middle space, the panel of which did
not open, and was only put in for symmetry. It was possible that he had
opened this compartment by candlelight the preceding night, or he would
have seen the marks in the dust, and effaced them, that he might not
be proved guilty of telling her an untruth. She balanced herself on one
foot and stood pondering. She considered that it was very vexing and
unfair in him to refuse her all knowledge of his remaining secrets,
under the peculiar circumstances of her connection with him. She went
close to the cabinet. As there was no keyhole, the door must be capable
of being opened by the unassisted hand. The circles in the dust told her
at which edge to apply her force. Here she pulled with the tips of her
fingers, but the panel would not come forward. She fetched a chair and
looked over the top of the cabinet, but no bolt, knob, or spring was to
be seen.

‘O, never mind,’ she said, with indifference; ‘I’ll ask him about it,
and he will tell me.’ Down she came and turned away. Then looking back
again she thought it was absurd such a trifle should puzzle her.
She retraced her steps, and opened a drawer beneath the ledge of the
cabinet, pushing in her hand and feeling about on the underside of the
board.

Here she found a small round sinking, and pressed her finger into it.
Nothing came of the pressure. She withdrew her hand and looked at the
tip of her finger: it was marked with the impress of the circle, and, in
addition, a line ran across it diametrically.

‘How stupid of me; it is the head of a screw.’ Whatever mysterious
contrivance had originally existed for opening the puny cupboard of
the cabinet, it had at some time been broken, and this rough substitute
provided. Stimulated curiosity would not allow her to recede now. She
fetched a screwdriver, withdrew the screw, pulled the door open with a
penknife, and found inside a cavity about ten inches square. The cavity
contained--

Letters from different women, with unknown signatures, Christian names
only (surnames being despised in Paphos). Letters from his wife Eunice.
Letters from Anne herself, including that she wrote in answer to his
advertisement. A small pocket-book. Sundry scraps of paper.

The letters from the strange women with pet names she glanced carelessly
through, and then put them aside. They were too similar to her own
regretted delusion, and curiosity requires contrast to excite it.

The letters from his wife were next examined. They were dated back as
far as Eunice’s first meeting with Manston, and the early ones before
their marriage contained the usual pretty effusions of women at such a
period of their existence. Some little time after he had made her his
wife, and when he had come to Knapwater, the series began again, and
now their contents arrested her attention more forcibly. She closed the
cabinet, carried the letters into the parlour, reclined herself on the
sofa, and carefully perused them in the order of their dates.


                                            ‘JOHN STREET,
                                                   October 17, 1864.

‘MY DEAREST HUSBAND,--I received your hurried line of yesterday, and was
of course content with it. But why don’t you tell me your exact address
instead of that “Post-Office, Budmouth?” This matter is all a mystery to
me, and I ought to be told every detail. I cannot fancy it is the same
kind of occupation you have been used to hitherto. Your command that
I am to stay here awhile until you can “see how things look” and can
arrange to send for me, I must necessarily abide by. But if, as you say,
a married man would have been rejected by the person who engaged you,
and that hence my existence must be kept a secret until you have secured
your position, why did you think of going at all?

‘The truth is, this keeping our marriage a secret is troublesome,
vexing, and wearisome to me. I see the poorest woman in the street
bearing her husband’s name openly--living with him in the most
matter-of-fact ease, and why shouldn’t I? I wish I was back again in
Liverpool.

‘To-day I bought a grey waterproof cloak. I think it is a little too
long for me, but it was cheap for one of such a quality. The weather is
gusty and dreary, and till this morning I had hardly set foot outside
the door since you left. Please do tell me when I am to come.--Very
affectionately yours, EUNICE.’


                                             ‘JOHN STREET,
                                                    October 25, 1864.

‘MY DEAR HUSBAND,--Why don’t you write? Do you hate me? I have not had
the heart to do anything this last week. That I, your wife, should be in
this strait, and my husband well to do! I have been obliged to leave my
first lodging for debt--among other things, they charged me for a lot of
brandy which I am quite sure I did not taste. Then I went to Camberwell
and was found out by them. I went away privately from thence, and
changed my name the second time. I am now Mrs. Rondley. But the new
lodging was the wretchedest and dearest I ever set foot in, and I left
it after being there only a day. I am now at No. 20 in the same street
that you left me in originally. All last night the sash of my window
rattled so dreadfully that I could not sleep, but I had not energy
enough to get out of bed to stop it. This morning I have been walking--I
don’t know how far--but far enough to make my feet ache. I have been
looking at the outside of two or three of the theatres, but they seem
forbidding if I regard them with the eye of an actress in search of
an engagement. Though you said I was to think no more of the stage,
I believe you would not care if you found me there. But I am not an
actress by nature, and art will never make me one. I am too timid and
retiring; I was intended for a cottager’s wife. I certainly shall not
try to go on the boards again whilst I am in this strange place. The
idea of being brought on as far as London and then left here alone! Why
didn’t you leave me in Liverpool? Perhaps you thought I might have told
somebody that my real name was Mrs. Manston. As if I had a living friend
to whom I could impart it--no such good fortune! In fact, my nearest
friend is no nearer than what most people would call a stranger. But
perhaps I ought to tell you that a week before I wrote my last letter to
you, after wishing that my uncle and aunt in Philadelphia (the only near
relatives I had) were still alive, I suddenly resolved to send a line to
my cousin James, who, I believe, is still living in that neighbourhood.
He has never seen me since we were babies together. I did not tell him
of my marriage, because I thought you might not like it, and I gave my
real maiden name, and an address at the post-office here. But God knows
if the letter will ever reach him.

‘Do write me an answer, and send something.--Your affectionate wife,
EUNICE.’


                                                ‘FRIDAY, October 28.

‘MY DEAR HUSBAND,--The order for ten pounds has just come, and I am
truly glad to get it. But why will you write so bitterly? Ah--well, if
I had only had the money I should have been on my way to America by this
time, so don’t think I want to bore you of my own free-will. Who can
you have met with at that new place? Remember I say this in no malignant
tone, but certainly the facts go to prove that you have deserted me!
You are inconstant--I know it. O, why are you so? Now I have lost you, I
love you in spite of your neglect. I am weakly fond--that’s my nature.
I fear that upon the whole my life has been wasted. I know there is
another woman supplanting me in your heart--yes, I know it. Come to
me--do come. EUNICE.’


                                      ‘41 CHARLES SQUARE, HOXTON,
                                                   November 19.

‘DEAR AENEAS,--Here I am back again after my visit. Why should you have
been so enraged at my finding your exact address? Any woman would have
tried to do it--you know she would have. And no woman would have lived
under assumed names so long as I did. I repeat that I did not call
myself Mrs. Manston until I came to this lodging at the beginning of
this month--what could you expect?

‘A helpless creature I, had not fortune favoured me unexpectedly.
Banished as I was from your house at dawn, I did not suppose the
indignity was about to lead to important results. But in crossing the
park I overheard the conversation of a young man and woman who had also
risen early. I believe her to be the girl who has won you away from
me. Well, their conversation concerned you and Miss Aldclyffe, _very
peculiarly_. The remarkable thing is that you yourself, without knowing
it, told me of what, added to their conversation, completely reveals a
secret to me that neither of you understand. Two negatives never made
such a telling positive before. One clue more, and you would see it.
A single consideration prevents my revealing it--just one doubt as to
whether your ignorance was real, and was not feigned to deceive me.
Civility now, please. EUNICE.’


                                          ‘41 CHARLES SQUARE,
                                               Tuesday, November 22.

‘MY DARLING HUSBAND,--Monday will suit me excellently for coming. I have
acted exactly up to your instructions, and have sold my rubbish at the
broker’s in the next street. All this movement and bustle is delightful
to me after the weeks of monotony I have endured. It is a relief to wish
the place good-bye--London always has seemed so much more foreign to
me than Liverpool The mid-day train on Monday will do nicely for me. I
shall be anxiously looking out for you on Sunday night.

‘I hope so much that you are not angry with me for writing to Miss
Aldclyffe. You are not, dear, are you? Forgive me.--Your loving wife,
EUNICE.’


This was the last of the letters from the wife to the husband. One
other, in Mrs. Manston’s handwriting, and in the same packet, was
differently addressed.


                                    ‘THREE TRANTERS INN, CARRIFORD,
                                                  November 28, 1864.

‘DEAR COUSIN JAMES,--Thank you indeed for answering my letter so
promptly. When I called at the post-office yesterday I did not in the
least think there would be one. But I must leave this subject. I write
again at once under the strangest and saddest conditions it is possible
to conceive.

‘I did not tell you in my last that I was a married woman. Don’t blame
me--it was my husband’s influence. I hardly know where to begin my
story. I had been living apart from him for a time--then he sent for me
(this was last week) and I was glad to go to him. Then this is what he
did. He promised to fetch me, and did not--leaving me to do the journey
alone. He promised to meet me at the station here--he did not. I went on
through the darkness to his house, and found his door locked and himself
away from home. I have been obliged to come here, and I write to you in
a strange room in a strange village inn! I choose the present moment to
write to drive away my misery. Sorrow seems a sort of pleasure when you
detail it on paper--poor pleasure though.

‘But this is what I want to know--and I am ashamed to tell it. I would
gladly do as you say, and come to you as a housekeeper, but I have
not the money even for a steerage passage. James, do you want me badly
enough--do you pity me enough to send it? I could manage to subsist in
London upon the proceeds of my sale for another month or six weeks. Will
you send it to the same address at the post-office? But how do I know
that you...’

Thus the letter ended. From creases in the paper it was plain that the
writer, having got so far, had become dissatisfied with her production,
and had crumpled it in her hand. Was it to write another, or not to
write at all?

The next thing Anne Seaway perceived was that the fragmentary story she
had coaxed out of Manston, to the effect that his wife had left England
for America, might be truthful, according to two of these letters,
corroborated by the evidence of the railway-porter. And yet, at first,
he had sworn in a passion that his wife was most certainly consumed in
the fire.

If she had been burnt, this letter, written in her bedroom, and probably
thrust into her pocket when she relinquished it, would have been burnt
with her. Nothing was surer than that. Why, then, did he say she was
burnt, and never show Anne herself this letter?

The question suddenly raised a new and much stranger one--kindling a
burst of amazement in her. How did Manston become possessed of this
letter?

That fact of possession was certainly the most remarkable revelation
of all in connection with this epistle, and perhaps had something to do
with his reason for never showing it to her.

She knew by several proofs, that before his marriage with Cytherea, and
up to the time of the porter’s confession, Manston believed--honestly
believed--that Cytherea would be his lawful wife, and hence, of course,
that his wife Eunice was dead. So that no communication could possibly
have passed between his wife and himself from the first moment that he
believed her dead on the night of the fire, to the day of his wedding.
And yet he had that letter. How soon afterwards could they have
communicated with each other?

The existence of the letter--as much as, or more than its
contents--implying that Mrs. Manston was not burnt, his belief in that
calamity must have terminated at the moment he obtained possession of
the letter, if no earlier. Was, then, the only solution to the riddle
that Anne could discern, the true one?--that he had communicated with
his wife somewhere about the commencement of Anne’s residence with him,
or at any time since?

It was the most unlikely thing on earth that a woman who had forsaken
her husband should countenance his scheme to personify her--whether she
were in America, in London, or in the neighbourhood of Knapwater.

Then came the old and harassing question, what was Manston’s real motive
in risking his name on the deception he was practising as regarded Anne.
It could not be, as he had always pretended, mere passion. Her thoughts
had reverted to Mr. Raunham’s letter, asking for proofs of her identity
with the original Mrs. Manston. She could see no loophole of escape
for the man who supported her. True, in her own estimation, his worst
alternative was not so very bad after all--the getting the name of
libertine, a possible appearance in the divorce or some other court
of law, and a question of damages. Such an exposure might hinder
his worldly progress for some time. Yet to him this alternative was,
apparently, terrible as death itself.

She restored the letters to their hiding-place, scanned anew the other
letters and memoranda, from which she could gain no fresh information,
fastened up the cabinet, and left everything in its former condition.

Her mind was ill at ease. More than ever she wished that she had never
seen Manston. Where the person suspected of mysterious moral obliquity
is the possessor of great physical and intellectual attractions, the
mere sense of incongruity adds an extra shudder to dread. The man’s
strange bearing terrified Anne as it had terrified Cytherea; for with
all the woman Anne’s faults, she had not descended to such depths of
depravity as to willingly participate in crime. She had not even known
that a living wife was being displaced till her arrival at Knapwater put
retreat out of the question, and had looked upon personation simply as
a mode of subsistence a degree better than toiling in poverty and alone,
after a bustling and somewhat pampered life as housekeeper in a gay
mansion.

              ‘Non illa colo calathisve Minervae
      Foemineas assueta manus.’

2. AFTERNOON

Mr. Raunham and Edward Springrove had by this time set in motion a
machinery which they hoped to find working out important results.

The rector was restless and full of meditation all the following
morning. It was plain, even to the servants about him, that Springrove’s
communication wore a deeper complexion than any that had been made to
the old magistrate for many months or years past. The fact was that,
having arrived at the stage of existence in which the difficult
intellectual feat of suspending one’s judgment becomes possible, he was
now putting it in practice, though not without the penalty of watchful
effort.

It was not till the afternoon that he determined to call on his
relative, Miss Aldclyffe, and cautiously probe her knowledge of the
subject occupying him so thoroughly. Cytherea, he knew, was still
beloved by this solitary woman. Miss Aldclyffe had made several private
inquiries concerning her former companion, and there was ever a sadness
in her tone when the young lady’s name was mentioned, which showed that
from whatever cause the elder Cytherea’s renunciation of her favourite
and namesake proceeded, it was not from indifference to her fate.

‘Have you ever had any reason for supposing your steward anything but an
upright man?’ he said to the lady.

‘Never the slightest. Have you?’ said she reservedly.

‘Well--I have.’

‘What is it?’

‘I can say nothing plainly, because nothing is proved. But my suspicions
are very strong.’

‘Do you mean that he was rather cool towards his wife when they were
first married, and that it was unfair in him to leave her? I know he
was; but I think his recent conduct towards her has amply atoned for the
neglect.’

He looked Miss Aldclyffe full in the face. It was plain that she spoke
honestly. She had not the slightest notion that the woman who lived with
the steward might be other than Mrs. Manston--much less that a greater
matter might be behind.

‘That’s not it--I wish it was no more. My suspicion is, first, that the
woman living at the Old House is not Mr. Manston’s wife.’

‘Not--Mr. Manston’s wife?’

‘That is it.’

Miss Aldclyffe looked blankly at the rector. ‘Not Mr. Manston’s
wife--who else can she be?’ she said simply.

‘An improper woman of the name of Anne Seaway.’

Mr. Raunham had, in common with other people, noticed the extraordinary
interest of Miss Aldclyffe in the well-being of her steward, and had
endeavoured to account for it in various ways. The extent to which she
was shaken by his information, whilst it proved that the understanding
between herself and Manston did not make her a sharer of his secrets,
also showed that the tie which bound her to him was still unbroken. Mr.
Raunham had lately begun to doubt the latter fact, and now, on finding
himself mistaken, regretted that he had not kept his own counsel in the
matter. This it was too late to do, and he pushed on with his proofs. He
gave Miss Aldclyffe in detail the grounds of his belief.

Before he had done, she recovered the cloak of reserve that she had
adopted on his opening the subject.

‘I might possibly be convinced that you were in the right, after such an
elaborate argument,’ she replied, ‘were it not for one fact, which bears
in the contrary direction so pointedly, that nothing but absolute proof
can turn it. It is that there is no conceivable motive which
could induce any sane man--leaving alone a man of Mr. Manston’s
clear-headedness and integrity--to venture upon such an extraordinary
course of conduct--no motive on earth.’

‘That was my own opinion till after the visit of a friend last night--a
friend of mine and poor little Cytherea’s.’

‘Ah--and Cytherea,’ said Miss Aldclyffe, catching at the idea raised
by the name. ‘That he loved Cytherea--yes and loves her now, wildly and
devotedly, I am as positive as that I breathe. Cytherea is years younger
than Mrs. Manston--as I shall call her--twice as sweet in disposition,
three times as beautiful. Would he have given her up quietly and
suddenly for a common--Mr. Raunham, your story is monstrous, and I don’t
believe it!’ She glowed in her earnestness.

The rector might now have advanced his second proposition--the possible
motive--but for reasons of his own he did not.

‘Very well, madam. I only hope that facts will sustain you in your
belief. Ask him the question to his face, whether the woman is his wife
or no, and see how he receives it.’

‘I will to-morrow, most certainly,’ she said. ‘I always let these things
die of wholesome ventilation, as every fungus does.’

But no sooner had the rector left her presence, than the grain of
mustard-seed he had sown grew to a tree. Her impatience to set her
mind at rest could not brook a night’s delay. It was with the utmost
difficulty that she could wait till evening arrived to screen her
movements. Immediately the sun had dropped behind the horizon, and
before it was quite dark, she wrapped her cloak around her, softly left
the house, and walked erect through the gloomy park in the direction of
the old manor-house.

The same minute saw two persons sit down in the rectory-house to
share the rector’s usually solitary dinner. One was a man of official
appearance, commonplace in all except his eyes. The other was Edward
Springrove.


The discovery of the carefully-concealed letters rankled in the mind of
Anne Seaway. Her woman’s nature insisted that Manston had no right to
keep all matters connected with his lost wife a secret from herself.
Perplexity had bred vexation; vexation, resentment; curiosity had been
continuous. The whole morning this resentment and curiosity increased.

The steward said very little to his companion during their luncheon
at mid-day. He seemed reckless of appearances--almost indifferent to
whatever fate awaited him. All his actions betrayed that something
portentous was impending, and still he explained nothing. By carefully
observing every trifling action, as only a woman can observe them,
the thought at length dawned upon her that he was going to run away
secretly. She feared for herself; her knowledge of law and justice was
vague, and she fancied she might in some way be made responsible for
him.

In the afternoon he went out of the house again, and she watched him
drive away in the direction of the county-town. She felt a desire to go
there herself, and, after an interval of half-an-hour, followed him on
foot notwithstanding the distance--ostensibly to do some shopping.

One among her several trivial errands was to make a small purchase at
the druggist’s. Near the druggist’s stood the County Bank. Looking out
of the shop window, between the coloured bottles, she saw Manston come
down the steps of the bank, in the act of withdrawing his hand from his
pocket, and pulling his coat close over its mouth.

It is an almost universal habit with people, when leaving a bank, to be
carefully adjusting their pockets if they have been receiving money; if
they have been paying it in, their hands swing laxly. The steward had
in all likelihood been taking money--possibly on Miss Aldclyffe’s
account--that was continual with him. And he might have been removing
his own, as a man would do who was intending to leave the country.

3. FROM FIVE TO EIGHT O’CLOCK P.M.

Anne reached home again in time to preside over preparations for dinner.
Manston came in half-an-hour later. The lamp was lighted, the shutters
were closed, and they sat down together. He was pale and worn--almost
haggard.

The meal passed off in almost unbroken silence. When preoccupation
withstands the influence of a social meal with one pleasant companion,
the mental scene must be surpassingly vivid. Just as she was rising a
tap came to the door.

Before a maid could attend to the knock, Manston crossed the room and
answered it himself. The visitor was Miss Aldclyffe.

Manston instantly came back and spoke to Anne in an undertone. ‘I should
be glad if you could retire to your room for a short time.’

‘It is a dry, starlight evening,’ she replied. ‘I will go for a
little walk if your object is merely a private conversation with Miss
Aldclyffe.’

‘Very well, do; there’s no accounting for tastes,’ he said. A few
commonplaces then passed between her and Miss Aldclyffe, and Anne went
upstairs to bonnet and cloak herself. She came down, opened the front
door, and went out.

She looked around to realize the night. It was dark, mournful, and
quiet. Then she stood still. From the moment that Manston had requested
her absence, a strong and burning desire had prevailed in her to know
the subject of Miss Aldclyffe’s conversation with him. Simple curiosity
was not entirely what inspired her. Her suspicions had been thoroughly
aroused by the discovery of the morning. A conviction that her future
depended on her power to combat a man who, in desperate circumstances,
would be far from a friend to her, prompted a strategic movement to
acquire the important secret that was in handling now. The woman thought
and thought, and regarded the dull dark trees, anxiously debating how
the thing could be done.

Stealthily re-opening the front door she entered the hall, and advancing
and pausing alternately, came close to the door of the room in which
Miss Aldclyffe and Manston conversed. Nothing could be heard through the
keyhole or panels. At a great risk she softly turned the knob and
opened the door to a width of about half-an-inch, performing the act so
delicately that three minutes, at least, were occupied in completing it.
At that instant Miss Aldclyffe said--

‘There’s a draught somewhere. The door is ajar, I think.’

Anne glided back under the staircase. Manston came forward and closed
the door. This chance was now cut off, and she considered again. The
parlour, or sitting-room, in which the conference took place, had the
window-shutters fixed on the outside of the window, as is usual in the
back portions of old country-houses. The shutters were hinged one
on each side of the opening, and met in the middle, where they were
fastened by a bolt passing continuously through them and the wood
mullion within, the bolt being secured on the inside by a pin, which was
seldom inserted till Manston and herself were about to retire for the
night; sometimes not at all.

If she returned to the door of the room she might be discovered at any
moment, but could she listen at the window, which overlooked a part
of the garden never visited after nightfall, she would be safe from
disturbance. The idea was worth a trial.

She glided round to the window, took the head of the bolt between her
finger and thumb, and softly screwed it round until it was entirely
withdrawn from its position. The shutters remained as before, whilst,
where the bolt had come out, was now a shining hole three-quarters of
an inch in diameter, through which one might see into the middle of the
room. She applied her eye to the orifice.

Miss Aldclyffe and Manston were both standing; Manston with his back to
the window, his companion facing it. The lady’s demeanour was severe,
condemnatory, and haughty. No more was to be seen; Anne then turned
sideways, leant with her shoulder against the shutters and placed her
ear upon the hole.

‘You know where,’ said Miss Aldclyffe. ‘And how could you, a man, act a
double deceit like this?’

‘Men do strange things sometimes.’

‘What was your reason--come?’

‘A mere whim.’

‘I might even believe that, if the woman were handsomer than Cytherea,
or if you had been married some time to Cytherea and had grown tired of
her.’

‘And can’t you believe it, too, under these conditions; that I married
Cytherea, gave her up because I heard that my wife was alive, found that
my wife would not come to live with me, and then, not to let any woman
I love so well as Cytherea run any risk of being displaced and ruined in
reputation, should my wife ever think fit to return, induced this woman
to come to me, as being better than no companion at all?’

‘I cannot believe it. Your love for Cytherea was not of such a kind
as that excuse would imply. It was Cytherea or nobody with you. As an
object of passion, you did not desire the company of this Anne Seaway
at all, and certainly not so much as to madly risk your reputation
by bringing her here in the way you have done. I am sure you didn’t,
AEneas.’

‘So am I,’ he said bluntly.

Miss Aldclyffe uttered an exclamation of astonishment; the confession
was like a blow in its suddenness. She began to reproach him bitterly,
and with tears.

‘How could you overthrow my plans, disgrace the only girl I ever had any
respect for, by such inexplicable doings!... That woman must leave this
place--the country perhaps. Heavens! the truth will leak out in a day or
two!’

‘She must do no such thing, and the truth must be stifled
somehow--nobody knows how. If I stay here, or on any spot of the
civilized globe, as AEneas Manston, this woman must live with me as my
wife, or I am damned past redemption!’

‘I will not countenance your keeping her, whatever your motive may be.’

‘You must do something,’ he murmured. ‘You must. Yes, you must.’

‘I never will,’ she said. ‘It is a criminal act.’

He looked at her earnestly. ‘Will you not support me through this
deception if my very life depends upon it? Will you not?’

‘Nonsense! Life! It will be a scandal to you, but she must leave this
place. It will out sooner or later, and the exposure had better come
now.’

Manston repeated gloomily the same words. ‘My life depends upon your
supporting me--my very life.’

He then came close to her, and spoke into her ear. Whilst he spoke he
held her head to his mouth with both his hands. Strange expressions came
over her face; the workings of her mouth were painful to observe. Still
he held her and whispered on.

The only words that could be caught by Anne Seaway, confused as her
hearing frequently was by the moan of the wind and the waterfall in
her outer ear, were these of Miss Aldclyffe, in tones which absolutely
quivered: ‘They have no money. What can they prove?’

The listener tasked herself to the utmost to catch his answer, but it
was in vain. Of the remainder of the colloquy one fact alone was plain
to Anne, and that only inductively--that Miss Aldclyffe, from what he
had revealed to her, was going to scheme body and soul on Manston’s
behalf.

Miss Aldclyffe seemed now to have no further reason for remaining,
yet she lingered awhile as if loth to leave him. When, finally, the
crestfallen and agitated lady made preparations for departure, Anne
quickly inserted the bolt, ran round to the entrance archway, and down
the steps into the park. Here she stood close to the trunk of a huge
lime-tree, which absorbed her dark outline into its own.

In a few minutes she saw Manston, with Miss Aldclyffe leaning on his
arm, cross the glade before her and proceed in the direction of the
house. She watched them ascend the rise and advance, as two black spots,
towards the mansion. The appearance of an oblong space of light in the
dark mass of walls denoted that the door was opened. Miss Aldclyffe’s
outline became visible upon it; the door shut her in, and all was
darkness again. The form of Manston returning alone arose from the
gloom, and passed by Anne in her hiding-place.

Waiting outside a quarter of an hour longer, that no suspicion of any
kind might be excited, Anne returned to the old manor-house.

4. FROM EIGHT TO ELEVEN O’CLOCK P.M.

Manston was very friendly that evening. It was evident to her, now
that she was behind the scenes, that he was making desperate efforts to
disguise the real state of his mind.

Her terror of him did not decrease. They sat down to supper, Manston
still talking cheerfully. But what is keener than the eye of a
mistrustful woman? A man’s cunning is to it as was the armour of Sisera
to the thin tent-nail. She found, in spite of his adroitness, that he
was attempting something more than a disguise of his feeling. He was
trying to distract her attention, that he might be unobserved in some
special movement of his hands.

What a moment it was for her then! The whole surface of her body became
attentive. She allowed him no chance whatever. We know the duplicated
condition at such times--when the existence divides itself into two, and
the ostensibly innocent chatterer stands in front, like another person,
to hide the timorous spy.

Manston played the same game, but more palpably. The meal was nearly
over when he seemed possessed of a new idea of how his object might be
accomplished. He tilted back his chair with a reflective air, and looked
steadily at the clock standing against the wall opposite to him. He said
sententiously, ‘Few faces are capable of expressing more by dumb
show than the face of a clock. You may see in it every variety of
incentive--from the softest seductions to negligence to the strongest
hints for action.’

‘Well, in what way?’ she inquired. His drift was, as yet, quite
unintelligible to her.

‘Why, for instance: look at the cold, methodical, unromantic,
business-like air of all the right-angled positions of the hands. They
make a man set about work in spite of himself. Then look at the piquant
shyness of its face when the two hands are over each other. Several
attitudes imply “Make ready.” The “make ready” of ten minutes to one
differs from the “make ready” of ten minutes to twelve, as youth differs
from age. “Upward and onward” says twenty-five minutes to eleven.
Mid-day or midnight expresses distinctly “It is done.” You surely have
noticed that?’

‘Yes, I have.’

He continued with affected quaintness:--

‘The easy dash of ten minutes past seven, the rakish recklessness of a
quarter past, the drooping weariness of twenty-five minutes past, must
have been observed by everybody.’

‘Whatever amount of truth there may be, there is a good deal of
imagination in your fancy,’ she said.

He still contemplated the clock.

‘Then, again, the general finish of the face has a great effect upon the
eye. This old-fashioned brass-faced one we have here, with its arched
top, half-moon slit for the day of the month, and ship rocking at the
upper part, impresses me with the notion of its being an old cynic,
elevating his brows, whose thoughts can be seen wavering between good
and evil.’

A thought now enlightened her: the clock was behind her, and he wanted
to get her back turned. She dreaded turning, yet, not to excite his
suspicion, she was on her guard; she quickly looked behind her at the
clock as he spoke, recovering her old position again instantly. The time
had not been long enough for any action whatever on his part.

‘Ah,’ he casually remarked, and at the same minute began to pour her
out a glass of wine. ‘Speaking of the clock has reminded me that it must
nearly want winding up. Remember that it is wound to-night. Suppose you
do it at once, my dear.’

There was no possible way of evading the act. She resolutely turned to
perform the operation: anything was better than that he should suspect
her. It was an old-fashioned eight-day clock, of workmanship suited to
the rest of the antique furniture that Manston had collected there, and
ground heavily during winding.

Anne had given up all idea of being able to watch him during the
interval, and the noise of the wheels prevented her learning anything by
her ears. But, as she wound, she caught sight of his shadow on the wall
at her right hand.

What was he doing? He was in the very act of pouring something into her
glass of wine.

He had completed the manoeuvre before she had done winding. She
methodically closed the clock-case and turned round again. When she
faced him he was sitting in his chair as before she had risen.

In a familiar scene which has hitherto been pleasant it is difficult to
realize that an added condition, which does not alter its aspect, can
have made it terrible. The woman thought that his action must have been
prompted by no other intent than that of poisoning her, and yet she
could not instantly put on a fear of her position.

And before she had grasped these consequences, another supposition
served to make her regard the first as unlikely, if not absurd. It was
the act of a madman to take her life in a manner so easy of discovery,
unless there were far more reason for the crime than any that Manston
could possibly have.

Was it not merely his intention, in tampering with her wine, to make
her sleep soundly that night? This was in harmony with her original
suspicion, that he intended secretly to abscond. At any rate, he was
going to set about some stealthy proceeding, as to which she was to be
kept in utter darkness. The difficulty now was to avoid drinking the
wine.

By means of one pretext and another she put off taking her glass for
nearly five minutes, but he eyed her too frequently to allow her to
throw the potion under the grate. It became necessary to take one
sip. This she did, and found an opportunity of absorbing it in her
handkerchief.

Plainly he had no idea of her countermoves. The scheme seemed to him in
proper train, and he turned to poke out the fire. She instantly seized
the glass, and poured its contents down her bosom. When he faced round
again she was holding the glass to her lips, empty.

In due course he locked the doors and saw that the shutters were
fastened. She attended to a few closing details of housewifery, and a
few minutes later they retired for the night.

5. FROM ELEVEN O’CLOCK TO MIDNIGHT

When Manston was persuaded, by the feigned heaviness of her breathing,
that Anne Seaway was asleep, he softly arose, and dressed himself in the
gloom. With ears strained to their utmost she heard him complete this
operation; then he took something from his pocket, put it in the drawer
of the dressing-table, went to the door, and down the stairs. She glided
out of bed and looked in the drawer. He had only restored to its place
a small phial she had seen there before. It was labelled ‘Battley’s
Solution of Opium.’ She felt relieved that her life had not been
attempted. That was to have been her sleeping-draught. No time was to
be lost if she meant to be a match for him. She followed him in her
nightdress. When she reached the foot of the staircase he was in the
office and had closed the door, under which a faint gleam showed that
he had obtained a light. She crept to the door, but could not venture to
open it, however slightly. Placing her ear to the panel, she could hear
him tearing up papers of some sort, and a brighter and quivering ray of
light coming from the threshold an instant later, implied that he was
burning them. By the slight noise of his footsteps on the uncarpeted
floor, she at length imagined that he was approaching the door. She
flitted upstairs again and crept into bed.

Manston returned to the bedroom close upon her heels, and entered
it--again without a light. Standing motionless for an instant to assure
himself that she still slept, he went to the drawer in which their
ready-money was kept, and removed the casket that contained it. Anne’s
ear distinctly caught the rustle of notes, and the chink of the gold
as he handled it. Some he placed in his pocket, some he returned to
its place. He stood thinking, as it were weighing a possibility. While
lingering thus, he noticed the reflected image of his own face in the
glass--pale and spectre-like in its indistinctness. The sight seemed to
be the feather which turned the balance of indecision: he drew a heavy
breath, retired from the room, and passed downstairs. She heard him
unbar the back-door, and go out into the yard.

Feeling safe in a conclusion that he did not intend to return to the
bedroom again, she arose, and hastily dressed herself. On going to the
door of the apartment she found that he had locked it behind him. ‘A
precaution--it can be no more,’ she muttered. Yet she was all the more
perplexed and excited on this account. Had he been going to leave home
immediately, he would scarcely have taken the trouble to lock her in,
holding the belief that she was in a drugged sleep. The lock shot into a
mortice, so that there was no possibility of her pushing back the bolt.
How should she follow him? Easily. An inner closet opened from the
bedroom: it was large, and had some time heretofore been used as a
dressing or bath room, but had been found inconvenient from having no
other outlet to the landing. The window of this little room looked out
upon the roof of the porch, which was flat and covered with lead. Anne
took a pillow from the bed, gently opened the casement of the inner room
and stepped forth on the flat. There, leaning over the edge of the
small parapet that ornamented the porch, she dropped the pillow upon the
gravel path, and let herself down over the parapet by her hands till
her toes swung about two feet from the ground. From this position she
adroitly alighted upon the pillow, and stood in the path.

Since she had come indoors from her walk in the early part of the
evening the moon had risen. But the thick clouds overspreading the whole
landscape rendered the dim light pervasive and grey: it appeared as
an attribute of the air. Anne crept round to the back of the house,
listening intently. The steward had had at least ten minutes’ start of
her. She had waited here whilst one might count fifty, when she heard a
movement in the outhouse--a fragment once attached to the main building.
This outhouse was partitioned into an outer and an inner room, which
had been a kitchen and a scullery before the connecting erections were
pulled down, but they were now used respectively as a brewhouse and
workshop, the only means of access to the latter being through the
brewhouse. The outer door of this first apartment was usually fastened
by a padlock on the exterior. It was now closed, but not fastened.
Manston was evidently in the outhouse.

She slightly moved the door. The interior of the brewhouse was wrapped
in gloom, but a streak of light fell towards her in a line across the
floor from the inner or workshop door, which was not quite closed. This
light was unexpected, none having been visible through hole or crevice.
Glancing in, the woman found that he had placed cloths and mats at the
various apertures, and hung a sack at the window to prevent the egress
of a single ray. She could also perceive from where she stood that the
bar of light fell across the brewing-copper just outside the inner door,
and that upon it lay the key of her bedroom. The illuminated interior of
the workshop was also partly visible from her position through the two
half-open doors. Manston was engaged in emptying a large cupboard of the
tools, gallipots, and old iron it contained. When it was quite
cleared he took a chisel, and with it began to withdraw the hooks
and shoulder-nails holding the cupboard to the wall. All these being
loosened, he extended his arms, lifted the cupboard bodily from the
brackets under it, and deposited it on the floor beside him.

That portion of the wall which had been screened by the cupboard was now
laid bare. This, it appeared, had been plastered more recently than the
bulk of the outhouse. Manston loosened the plaster with some kind
of tool, flinging the pieces into a basket as they fell. Having now
stripped clear about two feet area of wall, he inserted a crowbar
between the joints of the bricks beneath, softly wriggling it until
several were loosened. There was now disclosed the mouth of an old oven,
which was apparently contrived in the thickness of the wall, and having
fallen into disuse, had been closed up with bricks in this manner. It
was formed after the simple old-fashioned plan of oven-building--a mere
oblate cavity without a flue.

Manston now stretched his arm into the oven, dragged forth a heavy
weight of great bulk, and let it slide to the ground. The woman who
watched him could see the object plainly. It was a common corn-sack,
nearly full, and was tied at the mouth in the usual way.

The steward had once or twice started up, as if he had heard sounds, and
his motions now became more cat-like still. On a sudden he put out the
light. Anne had made no noise, yet a foreign noise of some kind had
certainly been made in the intervening portion of the house. She heard
it. ‘One of the rats,’ she thought.

He seemed soon to recover from his alarm, but changed his tactics
completely. He did not light his candle--going on with his work in the
dark. She had only sounds to go by now, and, judging as well as she
could from these, he was piling up the bricks which closed the oven’s
mouth as they had been before he disturbed them. The query that had not
left her brain all the interval of her inspection--how should she get
back into her bedroom again?--now received a solution. Whilst he was
replacing the cupboard, she would glide across the brewhouse, take the
key from the top of the copper, run upstairs, unlock the door, and bring
back the key again: if he returned to bed, which was unlikely, he would
think the lock had failed to catch in the staple. This thought and
intention, occupying such length of words, flashed upon her in an
instant, and hardly disturbed her strong curiosity to stay and learn the
meaning of his actions in the workshop.

Slipping sideways through the first door and closing it behind her, she
advanced into the darkness towards the second, making every individual
footfall with the greatest care, lest the fragments of rubbish on the
floor should crackle beneath her tread. She soon stood close by the
copper, and not more than a foot from the door of the room occupied
by Manston himself, from which position she could distinctly hear him
breathe between each exertion, although it was far too dark to discern
anything of him.

To secure the key of her chamber was her first anxiety, and accordingly
she cautiously reached out with her hand to where it lay. Instead of
touching it, her fingers came in contact with the boot of a human being.

She drooped faint in a cold sweat. It was the foot either of a man or
woman, standing on the brewing-copper where the key had lain. A warm
foot, covered with a polished boot.

The startling discovery so terrified her that she could hardly repress a
sound. She withdrew her hand with a motion like the flight of an arrow.
Her touch was so light that the leather seemed to have been thick enough
to keep the owner of the foot in entire ignorance of it, and the noise
of Manston’s scraping might have been quite sufficient to drown the
slight rustle of her dress.

The person was obviously not the steward: he was still busy. It was
somebody who, since the light had been extinguished, had taken advantage
of the gloom, to come from some dark recess in the brewhouse and stand
upon the brickwork of the copper. The fear which had at first paralyzed
her lessened with the birth of a sense that fear now was utter failure:
she was in a desperate position and must abide by the consequences.
The motionless person on the copper was, equally with Manston, quite
unconscious of her proximity, and she ventured to advance her hand
again, feeling behind the feet, till she found the key. On its return to
her side, her finger-tip skimmed the lower verge of a trousers-leg.

It was a man, then, who stood there. To go to the door just at this time
was impolitic, and she shrank back into an inner corner to wait. The
comparative security from discovery that her new position ensured
resuscitated reason a little, and empowered her to form some logical
inferences:--

1. The man who stood on the copper had taken advantage of the darkness
to get there, as she had to enter.

2. The man must have been hidden in the outhouse before she had reached
the door.

3. He must be watching Manston with much calculation and system, and for
purposes of his own.

She could now tell by the noises that Manston had completed his
re-erection of the cupboard. She heard him replacing the articles it had
contained--bottle by bottle, tool by tool--after which he came into the
brewhouse, went to the window, and pulled down the cloths covering it;
but the window being rather small, this unveiling scarcely relieved the
darkness of the interior. He returned to the workshop, hoisted something
to his back by a jerk, and felt about the room for some other article.
Having found it, he emerged from the inner door, crossed the brewhouse,
and went into the yard. Directly he stepped out she could see his
outline by the light of the clouded and weakly moon. The sack was slung
at his back, and in his hand he carried a spade.

Anne now waited in her corner in breathless suspense for the proceedings
of the other man. In about half-a-minute she heard him descend from the
copper, and then the square opening of the doorway showed the outline of
this other watcher passing through it likewise. The form was that of
a broad-shouldered man enveloped in a long coat. He vanished after the
steward.

The woman vented a sigh of relief, and moved forward to follow.
Simultaneously, she discovered that the watcher whose foot she had
touched was, in his turn, watched and followed also.

It was by one of her own sex. Anne Seaway shrank backward again. The
unknown woman came forward from the further side of the yard, and
pondered awhile in hesitation. Tall, dark, and closely wrapped, she
stood up from the earth like a cypress. She moved, crossed the yard
without producing the slightest disturbance by her footsteps, and went
in the direction the others had taken.

Anne waited yet another minute--then in her turn noiselessly followed
the last woman.

But so impressed was she with the sensation of people in hiding, that
in coming out of the yard she turned her head to see if any person were
following her, in the same way. Nobody was visible, but she discerned,
standing behind the angle of the stable, Manston’s horse and gig, ready
harnessed.

He did intend to fly after all, then, she thought. He must have placed
the horse in readiness, in the interval between his leaving the house
and her exit by the window. However, there was not time to weigh this
branch of the night’s events. She turned about again, and continued on
the trail of the other three.

6. FROM MIDNIGHT TO HALF-PAST ONE A.M.

Intentness pervaded everything; Night herself seemed to have become a
watcher.

The four persons proceeded across the glade, and into the park
plantation, at equidistances of about seventy yards. Here the ground,
completely overhung by the foliage, was coated with a thick moss which
was as soft as velvet beneath their feet. The first watcher, that
is, the man walking immediately behind Manston, now fell back,
when Manston’s housekeeper, knowing the ground pretty well, dived
circuitously among the trees and got directly behind the steward, who,
encumbered with his load, had proceeded but slowly. The other woman
seemed now to be about opposite to Anne, or a little in advance, but on
Manston’s other hand.

He reached a pit, midway between the waterfall and the engine-house.
There he stopped, wiped his face, and listened.

Into this pit had drifted uncounted generations of withered leaves, half
filling it. Oak, beech, and chestnut, rotten and brown alike, mingled
themselves in one fibrous mass. Manston descended into the midst of
them, placed his sack on the ground, and raking the leaves aside into a
large heap, began digging. Anne softly drew nearer, crept into a bush,
and turning her head to survey the rest, missed the man who had dropped
behind, and whom we have called the first watcher. Concluding that he,
too, had hidden himself, she turned her attention to the second watcher,
the other woman, who had meanwhile advanced near to where Anne lay
in hiding, and now seated herself behind a tree, still closer to the
steward than was Anne Seaway.

Here and thus Anne remained concealed. The crunch of the steward’s
spade, as it cut into the soft vegetable mould, was plainly perceptible
to her ears when the periodic cessations between the creaks of the
engine concurred with a lull in the breeze, which otherwise brought
the subdued roar of the cascade from the further side of the bank
that screened it. A large hole--some four or five feet deep--had been
excavated by Manston in about twenty minutes. Into this he immediately
placed the sack, and then began filling in the earth, and treading it
down. Lastly he carefully raked the whole mass of dead and dry leaves
into the middle of the pit, burying the ground with them as they had
buried it before.

For a hiding-place the spot was unequalled. The thick accumulation
of leaves, which had not been disturbed for centuries, might not be
disturbed again for centuries to come, whilst their lower layers still
decayed and added to the mould beneath.

By the time this work was ended the sky had grown clearer, and Anne
could now see distinctly the face of the other woman, stretching from
behind the tree, seemingly forgetful of her position in her intense
contemplation of the actions of the steward. Her countenance was white
and motionless.

It was impossible that Manston should not soon notice her. At the
completion of his labour he turned, and did so.

‘Ho--you here!’ he exclaimed.

‘Don’t think I am a spy upon you,’ she said, in an imploring whisper.
Anne recognized the voice as Miss Aldclyffe’s.

The trembling lady added hastily another remark, which was drowned in
the recurring creak of the engine close at hand The first watcher, if he
had come no nearer than his original position, was too far off to hear
any part of this dialogue, on account of the roar of the falling water,
which could reach him unimpeded by the bank.

The remark of Miss Aldclyffe to Manston had plainly been concerning the
first watcher, for Manston, with his spade in his hand, instantly rushed
to where the man was concealed, and, before the latter could disengage
himself from the boughs, the steward struck him on the head with the
blade of the instrument. The man fell to the ground.

‘Fly!’ said Miss Aldclyffe to Manston. Manston vanished amidst the
trees. Miss Aldclyffe went off in a contrary direction.

Anne Seaway was about to run away likewise, when she turned and looked
at the fallen man. He lay on his face, motionless.

Many of these women who own to no moral code show considerable
magnanimity when they see people in trouble. To act right simply because
it is one’s duty is proper; but a good action which is the result of no
law of reflection shines more than any. She went up to him and gently
turned him over, upon which he began to show signs of life. By her
assistance he was soon able to stand upright.

He looked about him with a bewildered air, endeavouring to collect his
ideas. ‘Who are you?’ he said to the woman, mechanically.

It was bad policy now to attempt disguise. ‘I am the supposed Mrs.
Manston,’ she said. ‘Who are you?’

‘I am the officer employed by Mr. Raunham to sift this mystery--which
may be criminal.’ He stretched his limbs, pressed his head, and
seemed gradually to awake to a sense of having been incautious in his
utterance. ‘Never you mind who I am,’ he continued. ‘Well, it doesn’t
matter now, either--it will no longer be a secret.’

He stooped for his hat and ran in the direction the steward had
taken--coming back again after the lapse of a minute.

‘It’s only an aggravated assault, after all,’ he said hastily, ‘until we
have found out for certain what’s buried here. It may be only a bag of
building rubbish; but it may be more. Come and help me dig.’ He seized
the spade with the awkwardness of a town man, and went into the pit,
continuing a muttered discourse. ‘It’s no use my running after him
single-handed,’ he said. ‘He’s ever so far off by this time. The best
step is to see what is here.’

It was far easier for the detective to re-open the hole than it had been
for Manston to form it. The leaves were raked away, the loam thrown out,
and the sack dragged forth.

‘Hold this,’ he said to Anne, whose curiosity still kept her standing
near. He turned on the light of a dark lantern he had brought, and gave
it into her hand.

The string which bound the mouth of the sack was now cut. The officer
laid the bag on its side, seized it by the bottom, and jerked forth
the contents. A large package was disclosed, carefully wrapped up in
impervious tarpaulin, also well tied. He was on the point of pulling
open the folds at one end, when a light coloured thread of something,
hanging on the outside, arrested his eye. He put his hand upon it; it
felt stringy, and adhered to his fingers. ‘Hold the light close,’ he
said.

She held it close. He raised his hand to the glass, and they both peered
at an almost intangible filament he held between his finger and thumb.
It was a long hair; the hair of a woman.

‘God! I couldn’t believe it--no, I couldn’t believe it!’ the detective
whispered, horror-struck. ‘And I have lost the man for the present
through my unbelief. Let’s get into a sheltered place.... Now wait a
minute whilst I prove it.’

He thrust his hand into his waistcoat pocket, and withdrew thence a
minute packet of brown paper. Spreading it out he disclosed, coiled
in the middle, another long hair. It was the hair the clerk’s wife had
found on Manston’s pillow nine days before the Carriford fire. He held
the two hairs to the light: they were both of a pale-brown hue. He laid
them parallel and stretched out his arms: they were of the same length
to a nicety. The detective turned to Anne.

‘It is the body of his first wife,’ he said quietly. ‘He murdered her,
as Mr. Springrove and the rector suspected--but how and when, God only
knows.’

‘And I!’ exclaimed Anne Seaway, a probable and natural sequence of
events and motives explanatory of the whole crime--events and
motives shadowed forth by the letter, Manston’s possession of it, his
renunciation of Cytherea, and instalment of herself--flashing upon her
mind with the rapidity of lightning.

‘Ah--I see,’ said the detective, standing unusually close to her: and
a handcuff was on her wrist. ‘You must come with me, madam. Knowing as
much about a secret murder as God knows is a very suspicious thing: it
doesn’t make you a goddess--far from it.’ He directed the bull’s-eye
into her face.

‘Pooh--lead on,’ she said scornfully, ‘and don’t lose your principal
actor for the sake of torturing a poor subordinate like me.’

He loosened her hand, gave her his arm, and dragged her out of the
grove--making her run beside him till they had reached the rectory. A
light was burning here, and an auxiliary of the detective’s awaiting
him: a horse ready harnessed to a spring-cart was standing outside.

‘You have come--I wish I had known that,’ the detective said to his
assistant, hurriedly and angrily. ‘Well, we’ve blundered--he’s gone--you
should have been here, as I said! I was sold by that woman, Miss
Aldclyffe--she watched me.’ He hastily gave directions in an undertone
to this man. The concluding words were, ‘Go in to the rector--he’s up.
Detain Miss Aldclyffe. I, in the meantime, am driving to Casterbridge
with this one, and for help. We shall be sure to have him when it gets
light.’

He assisted Anne into the vehicle, and drove off with her. As they went,
the clear, dry road showed before them, between the grassy quarters at
each side, like a white riband, and made their progress easy. They came
to a spot where the highway was overhung by dense firs for some distance
on both sides. It was totally dark here.

There was a smash; and a rude shock. In the very midst of its length, at
the point where the road began to drop down a hill, the detective
drove against something with a jerk which nearly flung them both to the
ground.

The man recovered himself, placed Anne on the seat, and reached out
his hand. He found that the off-wheel of his gig was locked in that of
another conveyance of some kind.

‘Hoy!’ said the officer.

Nobody answered.

‘Hoy, you man asleep there!’ he said again.

No reply.

‘Well, that’s odd--this comes of the folly of travelling without
gig-lamps because you expect the dawn.’ He jumped to the ground and
turned on his lantern.

There was the gig which had obstructed him, standing in the middle of
the road; a jaded horse harnessed to it, but no human being in or near
the vehicle.

‘Do you know whose gig this is?’ he said to the woman.

‘No,’ she said sullenly. But she did recognize it as the steward’s.

‘I’ll swear it’s Manston’s! Come, I can hear it by your tone. However,
you needn’t say anything which may criminate you. What forethought
the man must have had--how carefully he must have considered possible
contingencies! Why, he must have got the horse and gig ready before he
began shifting the body.’

He listened for a sound among the trees. None was to be heard but the
occasional scamper of a rabbit over the withered leaves. He threw the
light of his lantern through a gap in the hedge, but could see nothing
beyond an impenetrable thicket. It was clear that Manston was not many
yards off, but the question was how to find him. Nothing could be done
by the detective just then, encumbered as he was by the horse and Anne.
If he had entered the thicket on a search unaided, Manston might have
stepped unobserved from behind a bush and murdered him with the
greatest ease. Indeed, there were such strong reasons for the exploit in
Manston’s circumstances at that moment that without showing cowardice,
his pursuer felt it hazardous to remain any longer where he stood.

He hastily tied the head of Manston’s horse to the back of his own
vehicle, that the steward might be deprived of the use of any means of
escape other than his own legs, and drove on thus with his prisoner to
the county-town. Arrived there, he lodged her in the police-station, and
then took immediate steps for the capture of Manston.



XX. THE EVENTS OF THREE HOURS

1. MARCH THE TWENTY-THIRD. MIDDAY

Thirty-six hours had elapsed since Manston’s escape.

It was market-day at the county-town. The farmers outside and inside
the corn-exchange looked at their samples of wheat, and poured them
critically as usual from one palm to another, but they thought and spoke
of Manston. Grocers serving behind their counters, instead of using
their constant phrase, ‘The next article, please?’ substituted, ‘Have
you heard if he’s caught?’ Dairymen and drovers standing beside the
sheep and cattle pens, spread their legs firmly, readjusted their hats,
thrust their hands into the lowest depths of their pockets, regarded the
animals with the utmost keenness of which the eye was capable, and said,
‘Ay, ay, so’s: they’ll have him avore night.’

Later in the day Edward Springrove passed along the street hurriedly and
anxiously. ‘Well, have you heard any more?’ he said to an acquaintance
who accosted him.

‘They tracked him in this way,’ said the other young man. ‘A vagrant
first told them that Manston had passed a rick at daybreak, under
which this man was lying. They followed the track he pointed out
and ultimately came to a stile. On the other side was a heap of
half-hardened mud, scraped from the road. On the surface of the heap,
where it had been smoothed by the shovel, was distinctly imprinted the
form of a man’s hand, the buttons of his waistcoat, and his watch-chain,
showing that he had stumbled in hurrying over the stile, and fallen
there. The pattern of the chain proved the man to have been Manston.
They followed on till they reached a ford crossed by stepping-stones--on
the further bank were the same footmarks that had shown themselves
beside the stile. The whole of this course had been in the direction
of Budmouth. On they went, and the next clue was furnished them by a
shepherd. He said that wherever a clear space three or four yards wide
ran in a line through a flock of sheep lying about a ewe-lease, it was a
proof that somebody had passed there not more than half-an-hour earlier.
At twelve o’clock that day he had noticed such a feature in his flock.
Nothing more could be heard of him, and they got into Budmouth. The
steam-packet to the Channel Islands was to start at eleven last night,
and they at once concluded that his hope was to get to France by way
of Jersey and St. Malo--his only chance, all the railway-stations being
watched.

‘Well, they went to the boat: he was not on board then. They went again
at half-past ten: he had not come. Two men now placed themselves under
the lamp immediately beside the gangway. Another stayed by the office
door, and one or two more up Mary Street--the straight cut to the quay.
At a quarter to eleven the mail-bags were put on board. Whilst the
attention of the idlers was directed to the mails, down Mary Street
came a man as boldly as possible. The gait was Manston’s, but not the
clothes. He passed over to the shaded part of the street: heads were
turned. I suppose this warned him, for he never emerged from the shadow.
They watched and waited, but the steward did not reappear. The alarm
was raised--they searched the town high and low--no Manston. All
this morning they have been searching, but there’s not a sign of him
anywhere. However, he has lost his last chance of getting across
the Channel. It is reported that he has since changed clothes with a
labourer.’

During this narration, Edward, lost in thought, had let his eyes follow
a shabby man in a smock-frock, but wearing light boots--who was stalking
down the street under a bundle of straw which overhung and concealed
his head. It was a very ordinary circumstance for a man with a bundle
of straw on his shoulders and overhanging his head, to go down the High
Street. Edward saw him cross the bridge which divided the town from the
country, place his shaggy encumbrance by the side of the road, and leave
it there.

Springrove now parted from his acquaintance, and went also in the
direction of the bridge, and some way beyond it. As far as he could see
stretched the turnpike road, and, while he was looking, he noticed a man
to leap from the hedge at a point two hundred, or two hundred and fifty
yards ahead, cross the road, and go through a wicket on the other side.
This figure seemed like that of the man who had been carrying the bundle
of straw. He looked at the straw: it still stood alone.

The subjoined facts sprang, as it were, into juxtaposition in his
brain:--

Manston had been seen wearing the clothes of a labouring man--a brown
smock-frock. So had this man, who seemed other than a labourer, on
second thoughts: and he had concealed his face by his bundle of straw
with the greatest ease and naturalness.

The path the man had taken led, among other places, to Tolchurch, where
Cytherea was living.

If Mrs. Manston was murdered, as some said, on the night of the fire,
Cytherea was the steward’s lawful wife. Manston at bay, and reckless of
results, might rush to his wife and harm her.

It was a horrible supposition for a man who loved Cytherea to entertain;
but Springrove could not resist its influence. He started off for
Tolchurch.

2. ONE TO TWO O’CLOCK P.M.

On that self-same mid-day, whilst Edward was proceeding to Tolchurch by
the footpath across the fields, Owen Graye had left the village and
was riding along the turnpike road to the county-town, that he might
ascertain the exact truth of the strange rumour which had reached him
concerning Manston. Not to disquiet his sister, he had said nothing to
her of the matter.

She sat by the window reading. From her position she could see up the
lane for a distance of at least a hundred yards. Passers-by were so rare
in this retired nook, that the eyes of those who dwelt by the wayside
were invariably lifted to every one on the road, great and small, as to
a novelty.

A man in a brown smock-frock turned the corner and came towards the
house. It being market-day at Casterbridge, the village was nearly
deserted, and more than this, the old farm-house in which Owen and his
sister were staying, stood, as has been stated, apart from the body of
cottages. The man did not look respectable; Cytherea arose and bolted
the door.

Unfortunately he was near enough to see her cross the room. He advanced
to the door, knocked, and, receiving no answer, came to the window; he
next pressed his face against the glass, peering in.

Cytherea’s experience at that moment was probably as trying a one as
ever fell to the lot of a gentlewoman to endure. She recognized in the
peering face that of the man she had married.

But not a movement was made by her, not a sound escaped her. Her fear
was great; but had she known the truth--that the man outside, feeling
he had nothing on earth to lose by any act, was in the last stage of
recklessness, terrified nature must have given way.

‘Cytherea,’ he said, ‘let me come in: I am your husband.’

‘No,’ she replied, still not realizing the magnitude of her peril. ‘If
you want to speak to us, wait till my brother comes.’

‘O, he’s not at home? Cytherea, I can’t live without you! All my sin has
been because I love you so! Will you fly with me? I have money enough
for us both--only come with me.’

‘Not now--not now.’

‘I am your husband, I tell you, and I must come in.’

‘You cannot,’ she said faintly. His words began to terrify her.

‘I will, I say!’ he exclaimed. ‘Will you let me in, I ask once more?’

‘No--I will not,’ said Cytherea.

‘Then I will let myself in!’ he answered resolutely. ‘I will, if I die
for it!’

The windows were glazed in lattice panes of leadwork, hung in casements.
He broke one of the panes with a stone, thrust his hand through the
hole, unfastened the latch which held the casement close, and began
opening the window.

Instantly the shutters flew together with a slam, and were barred with
desperate quickness by Cytherea on the inside.

‘Damn you!’ he exclaimed.

He ran round to the back of the house. His impatience was greater now:
he thrust his fist through the pantry window at one blow, and opened
it in the same way as the former one had been opened, before the
terror-stricken girl was aware that he had gone round. In an instant
he stood in the pantry, advanced to the front room where she was, flung
back the shutters, and held out his arms to embrace her.

In extremely trying moments of bodily or mental pain, Cytherea either
flushed hot or faded pale, according to the state of her constitution
at the moment. Now she burned like fire from head to foot, and this
preserved her consciousness.

Never before had the poor child’s natural agility served her in such
good stead as now. A heavy oblong table stood in the middle of the room.
Round this table she flew, keeping it between herself and Manston, her
large eyes wide open with terror, their dilated pupils constantly fixed
upon Manston’s, to read by his expression whether his next intention was
to dart to the right or the left.

Even he, at that heated moment, could not endure the expression of
unutterable agony which shone from that extraordinary gaze of hers.
It had surely been given her by God as a means of defence. Manston
continued his pursuit with a lowered eye.

The panting and maddened desperado--blind to everything but the capture
of his wife--went with a rush under the table: she went over it like
a bird. He went heavily over it: she flew under it, and was out at the
other side.

     ‘One on her youth and pliant limbs relies,
      One on his sinews and his giant size.’

But his superior strength was sure to tire her down in the long-run.
She felt her weakness increasing with the quickness of her breath; she
uttered a wild scream, which in its heartrending intensity seemed to
echo for miles.

At the same juncture her hair became unfastened, and rolled down about
her shoulders. The least accident at such critical periods is sufficient
to confuse the overwrought intelligence. She lost sight of his intended
direction for one instant, and he immediately outmanoeuvred her.

‘At last! my Cytherea!’ he cried, overturning the table, springing over
it, seizing one of the long brown tresses, pulling her towards him, and
clasping her round. She writhed downwards between his arms and breast,
and fell fainting on the floor. For the first time his action was
leisurely. He lifted her upon the sofa, exclaiming, ‘Rest there for a
while, my frightened little bird!’

And then there was an end of his triumph. He felt himself clutched by
the collar, and whizzed backwards with the force of a battering-ram
against the fireplace. Springrove, wild, red, and breathless, had sprung
in at the open window, and stood once more between man and wife.

Manston was on his legs again in an instant. A fiery glance on the one
side, a glance of pitiless justice on the other, passed between them.
It was again the meeting in the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite: ‘Hast
thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because
thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord.’

A desperate wrestle now began between the two men. Manston was the
taller, but there was in Edward much hard tough muscle which the
delicate flesh of the steward lacked. They flew together like the jaws
of a gin. In a minute they were both on the floor, rolling over and
over, locked in each other’s grasp as tightly as if they had been one
organic being at war with itself--Edward trying to secure Manston’s arms
with a small thong he had drawn from his pocket, Manston trying to reach
his knife.

Two characteristic noises pervaded the apartment through this momentous
space of time. One was the sharp panting of the two combatants, so
similar in each as to be undistinguishable; the other was the stroke
of their heels and toes, as they smote the floor at every contortion of
body or limbs.

Cytherea had not lost consciousness for more than half-a-minute. She
had then leapt up without recognizing that Edward was her deliverer,
unfastened the door, and rushed out, screaming wildly, ‘Come! Help! O,
help!’

Three men stood not twenty yards off, looking perplexed. They dashed
forward at her words. ‘Have you seen a shabby man with a smock-frock on
lately?’ they inquired. She pointed to the door, and ran on the same as
before.

Manston, who had just loosened himself from Edward’s grasp, seemed
at this moment to renounce his intention of pushing the conflict to a
desperate end. ‘I give it all up for life--dear life!’ he cried, with a
hoarse laugh. ‘A reckless man has a dozen lives--see how I’ll baffle you
all yet!’

He rushed out of the house, but no further. The boast was his last. In
one half-minute more he was helpless in the hands of his pursuers.


Edward staggered to his feet, and paused to recover breath. His thoughts
had never forsaken Cytherea, and his first act now was to hasten up the
lane after her. She had not gone far. He found her leaning upon a bank
by the roadside, where she had flung herself down in sheer exhaustion.
He ran up and lifted her in his arms, and thus aided she was enabled
to stand upright--clinging to him. What would Springrove have given to
imprint a kiss upon her lips then!

They walked slowly towards the house. The distressing sensation of whose
wife she was could not entirely quench the resuscitated pleasure he felt
at her grateful recognition of him, and her confiding seizure of his arm
for support. He conveyed her carefully into the house.

A quarter of an hour later, whilst she was sitting in a partially
recovered, half-dozing state in an arm-chair, Edward beside her waiting
anxiously till Graye should arrive, they saw a spring-cart pass the
door. Old and dry mud-splashes from long-forgotten rains disfigured its
wheels and sides; the varnish and paint had been scratched and dimmed;
ornament had long been forgotten in a restless contemplation of use.
Three men sat on the seat, the middle one being Manston. His hands
were bound in front of him, his eyes were set directly forward, his
countenance pallid, hard, and fixed.

Springrove had told Cytherea of Manston’s crime in a few short words. He
now said solemnly, ‘He is to die.’

‘And I cannot mourn for him,’ she replied with a shudder, leaning back
and covering her face with her hands.

In the silence that followed the two short remarks, Springrove watched
the cart round the corner, and heard the rattle of its wheels gradually
dying away as it rolled in the direction of the county-town.



XXI. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN HOURS

1. MARCH THE TWENTY-NINTH. NOON

Exactly seven days after Edward Springrove had seen the man with the
bundle of straw walking down the streets of Casterbridge, old Farmer
Springrove was standing on the edge of the same pavement, talking to his
friend, Farmer Baker.

There was a pause in their discourse. Mr. Springrove was looking down
the street at some object which had attracted his attention. ‘Ah, ‘tis
what we shall all come to!’ he murmured.

The other looked in the same direction. ‘True, neighbour Springrove;
true.’

Two men, advancing one behind the other in the middle of the road, were
what the farmers referred to. They were carpenters, and bore on their
shoulders an empty coffin, covered by a thin black cloth.

‘I always feel a satisfaction at being breasted by such a sight as
that,’ said Springrove, still regarding the men’s sad burden. ‘I call it
a sort of medicine.’

‘And it is medicine.... I have not heard of any body being ill up this
way lately? D’seem as if the person died suddenly.’

‘May be so. Ah, Baker, we say sudden death, don’t we? But there’s no
difference in their nature between sudden death and death of any other
sort. There’s no such thing as a random snapping off of what was laid
down to last longer. We only suddenly light upon an end--thoughtfully
formed as any other--which has been existing at that very same point
from the beginning, though unseen by us to be so soon.’

‘It is just a discovery to your own mind, and not an alteration in the
Lord’s.’

‘That’s it. Unexpected is not as to the thing, but as to our sight.’

‘Now you’ll hardly believe me, neighbour, but this little scene in front
of us makes me feel less anxious about pushing on wi’ that threshing and
winnowing next week, that I was speaking about. Why should we not stand
still, says I to myself, and fling a quiet eye upon the Whys and
the Wherefores, before the end o’ it all, and we go down into the
mouldering-place, and are forgotten?’

‘’Tis a feeling that will come. But ‘twont bear looking into. There’s a
back’ard current in the world, and we must do our utmost to advance in
order just to bide where we be. But, Baker, they are turning in here
with the coffin, look.’

The two carpenters had borne their load into a narrow way close at hand.
The farmers, in common with others, turned and watched them along the
way.

‘’Tis a man’s coffin, and a tall man’s, too,’ continued Farmer
Springrove. ‘His was a fine frame, whoever he was.’

‘A very plain box for the poor soul--just the rough elm, you see.’ The
corner of the cloth had blown aside.

‘Yes, for a very poor man. Well, death’s all the less insult to him. I
have often thought how much smaller the richer class are made to look
than the poor at last pinches like this. Perhaps the greatest of all
the reconcilers of a thoughtful man to poverty--and I speak from
experience--is the grand quiet it fills him with when the uncertainty of
his life shows itself more than usual.’

As Springrove finished speaking, the bearers of the coffin went across
a gravelled square facing the two men and approached a grim and heavy
archway. They paused beneath it, rang a bell, and waited.

Over the archway was written in Egyptian capitals,

                           ‘COUNTY GAOL.’

The small rectangular wicket, which was constructed in one of the
two iron-studded doors, was opened from the inside. The men severally
stepped over the threshold, the coffin dragged its melancholy length
through the aperture, and both entered the court, and were covered from
sight.

‘Somebody in the gaol, then?’

‘Yes, one of the prisoners,’ said a boy, scudding by at the moment, who
passed on whistling.

‘Do you know the name of the man who is dead?’ inquired Baker of a third
bystander.

‘Yes, ‘tis all over town--surely you know, Mr. Springrove? Why, Manston,
Miss Aldclyffe’s steward. He was found dead the first thing this
morning. He had hung himself behind the door of his cell, in some way,
by a handkerchief and some strips of his clothes. The turnkey says his
features were scarcely changed, as he looked at ‘em with the early sun
a-shining in at the grating upon him. He has left a full account of the
murder, and all that led to it. So there’s an end of him.’


It was perfectly true: Manston was dead.

The previous day he had been allowed the use of writing-materials, and
had occupied himself for nearly seven hours in preparing the following
confession:--


                         ‘LAST WORDS.

‘Having found man’s life to be a wretchedly conceived scheme, I renounce
it, and, to cause no further trouble, I write down the facts connected
with my past proceedings.

‘After thanking God, on first entering my house, on the night of the
fire at Carriford, for my release from bondage to a woman I detested,
I went, a second time, to the scene of the disaster, and, finding that
nothing could be done by remaining there, shortly afterwards I returned
home again in the company of Mr. Raunham.

‘He parted from me at the steps of my porch, and went back towards
the rectory. Whilst I still stood at the door, musing on my strange
deliverance, I saw a figure advance from beneath the shadow of the park
trees. It was the figure of a woman.

‘When she came near, the twilight was sufficient to show me her attire:
it was a cloak reaching to the bottom of her dress, and a thick veil
covering her face. These features, together with her size and gait,
aided also by a flash of perception as to the chain of events which had
saved her life, told me that she was my wife Eunice.

‘I gnashed my teeth in a frenzy of despair; I had lost Cytherea; I had
gained one whose beauty had departed, whose utterance was complaint,
whose mind was shallow, and who drank brandy every day. The revulsion
of feeling was terrible. Providence, whom I had just thanked, seemed a
mocking tormentor laughing at me. I felt like a madman.

‘She came close--started at seeing me outside--then spoke to me. Her
first words were reproof for what I had unintentionally done, and
sounded as an earnest of what I was to be cursed with as long as we both
lived. I answered angrily; this tone of mine changed her complaints
to irritation. She taunted me with a secret she had discovered, which
concerned Miss Aldclyffe and myself. I was surprised to learn it--more
surprised that she knew it, but concealed my feeling.

‘“How could you serve me so?” she said, her breath smelling of spirits
even then. “You love another woman--yes, you do. See how you drive me
about! I have been to the station, intending to leave you for ever, and
yet I come to try you once more.”

‘An indescribable exasperation had sprung up in me as she talked--rage
and regret were all in all. Scarcely knowing what I did, I furiously
raised my hand and swung it round with my whole force to strike her. She
turned quickly--and it was the poor creature’s end. By her movement my
hand came edgewise exactly in the nape of the neck--as men strike a hare
to kill it. The effect staggered me with amazement. The blow must have
disturbed the vertebrae; she fell at my feet, made a few movements, and
uttered one low sound.

‘I ran indoors for water and some wine, I came out and lanced her arm
with my penknife. But she lay still, and I found that she was dead.

‘It was a long time before I could realize my horrible position. For
several minutes I had no idea of attempting to escape the consequences
of my deed. Then a light broke upon me. Had anybody seen her since she
left the Three Tranters? Had they not, she was already believed by the
parishioners to be dust and ashes. I should never be found out.

‘Upon this I acted.

‘The first question was how to dispose of the body. The impulse of the
moment was to bury her at once in the pit between the engine-house and
waterfall; but it struck me that I should not have time. It was now four
o’clock, and the working-men would soon be stirring about the place. I
would put off burying her till the next night. I carried her indoors.

‘In turning the outhouse into a workshop, earlier in the season, I
found, when driving a nail into the wall for fixing a cupboard, that the
wall sounded hollow. I examined it, and discovered behind the plaster an
old oven which had long been disused, and was bricked up when the house
was prepared for me.

‘To unfix this cupboard and pull out the bricks was the work of a few
minutes. Then, bearing in mind that I should have to remove the body
again the next night, I placed it in a sack, pushed it into the oven,
packed in the bricks, and replaced the cupboard.

‘I then went to bed. In bed, I thought whether there were any very
remote possibilities that might lead to the supposition that my wife was
not consumed by the flames of the burning house. The thing which struck
me most forcibly was this, that the searchers might think it odd that no
remains whatever should be found.

‘The clinching and triumphant deed would be to take the body and place
it among the ruins of the destroyed house. But I could not do this, on
account of the men who were watching against an outbreak of the fire.
One remedy remained.

‘I arose again, dressed myself, and went down to the outhouse. I must
take down the cupboard again. I did take it down. I pulled out the
bricks, pulled out the sack, pulled out the corpse, and took her keys
from her pocket and the watch from her side.

‘I then replaced everything as before.

‘With these articles in my pocket I went out of the yard, and took my
way through the withy copse to the churchyard, entering it from the
back. Here I felt my way carefully along till I came to the nook where
pieces of bones from newly-dug graves are sometimes piled behind the
laurel-bushes. I had been earnestly hoping to find a skull among these
old bones; but though I had frequently seen one or two in the rubbish
here, there was not one now. I then groped in the other corner with the
same result--nowhere could I find a skull. Three or four fragments of
leg and back-bones were all I could collect, and with these I was forced
to be content.

‘Taking them in my hand, I crossed the road, and got round behind the
inn, where the couch heap was still smouldering. Keeping behind the
hedge, I could see the heads of the three or four men who watched the
spot.

‘Standing in this place I took the bones, and threw them one by one over
the hedge and over the men’s heads into the smoking embers. When the
bones had all been thrown, I threw the keys; last of all I threw the
watch.

‘I then returned home as I had gone, and went to bed once more, just as
the dawn began to break. I exulted--“Cytherea is mine again!”

‘At breakfast-time I thought, “Suppose the cupboard should by some
unlikely chance get moved to-day!”

‘I went to the mason’s yard hard by, while the men were at breakfast,
and brought away a shovelful of mortar. I took it into the outhouse,
again shifted the cupboard, and plastered over the mouth of the oven
behind. Simply pushing the cupboard back into its place, I waited for
the next night that I might bury the body, though upon the whole it was
in a tolerably safe hiding-place.

‘When the night came, my nerves were in some way weaker than they had
been on the previous night. I felt reluctant to touch the body. I went
to the outhouse, but instead of opening the oven, I firmly drove in
the shoulder-nails that held the cupboard to the wall. “I will bury her
to-morrow night, however,” I thought.

‘But the next night I was still more reluctant to touch her. And my
reluctance increased, and there the body remained. The oven was, after
all, never likely to be opened in my time.

‘I married Cytherea Graye, and never did a bridegroom leave the church
with a heart more full of love and happiness, and a brain more fixed on
good intentions, than I did on that morning.

‘When Cytherea’s brother made his appearance at the hotel in
Southampton, bearing his strange evidence of the porter’s disclosure, I
was staggered beyond expression. I thought they had found the body.
“Am I to be apprehended and to lose her even now?” I mourned. I saw
my error, and instantly saw, too, that I must act externally like an
honourable man. So at his request I yielded her up to him, and meditated
on several schemes for enabling me to claim the woman I had a legal
right to claim as my wife, without disclosing the reason why I knew
myself to have it.

‘I went home to Knapwater the next day, and for nearly a week lived in
a state of indecision. I could not hit upon a scheme for proving my wife
dead without compromising myself.

‘Mr. Raunham hinted that I should take steps to discover her whereabouts
by advertising. I had no energy for the farce. But one evening I chanced
to enter the Rising Sun Inn. Two notorious poachers were sitting in
the settle, which screened my entrance. They were half drunk--their
conversation was carried on in the solemn and emphatic tone common to
that stage of intoxication, and I myself was the subject of it.

‘The following was the substance of their disjointed remarks: On the
night of the great fire at Carriford, one of them was sent to meet
me, and break the news of the death of my wife to me. This he did;
but because I would not pay him for his news, he left me in a mood
of vindictiveness. When the fire was over, he joined his comrade. The
favourable hour of the night suggested to them the possibility of some
unlawful gain before daylight came. My fowlhouse stood in a tempting
position, and still resenting his repulse during the evening, one of
them proposed to operate upon my birds. I was believed to have gone to
the rectory with Mr. Raunham. The other was disinclined to go, and the
first went off alone.

‘It was now about three o’clock. He had advanced as far as the
shrubbery, which grows near the north wall of the house, when he fancied
he heard, above the rush of the waterfall, noises on the other side
of the building. He described them in these words, “Ghostly mouths
talking--then a fall--then a groan--then the rush of the water and creak
of the engine as before.” Only one explanation occurred to him; the
house was haunted. And, whether those of the living or the dead, voices
of any kind were inimical to one who had come on such an errand. He
stealthily crept home.

‘His unlawful purpose in being behind the house led him to conceal
his adventure. No suspicion of the truth entered his mind till the
railway-porter had startled everybody by his strange announcement. Then
he asked himself, had the horrifying sounds of that night been really an
enactment in the flesh between me and my wife?

‘The words of the other man were:

‘“Why don’t he try to find her if she’s alive?”

‘“True,” said the first. “Well, I don’t forget what I heard, and if she
don’t turn up alive my mind will be as sure as a Bible upon her
murder, and the parson shall know it, though I do get six months on the
treadmill for being where I was.”

‘“And if she should turn up alive?”

‘“Then I shall know that I am wrong, and believing myself a fool as well
as a rogue, hold my tongue.”

‘I glided out of the house in a cold sweat. The only pressure in heaven
or earth which could have forced me to renounce Cytherea was now put
upon me--the dread of a death upon the gallows.

‘I sat all that night weaving strategy of various kinds. The only
effectual remedy for my hazardous standing that I could see was a
simple one. It was to substitute another woman for my wife before the
suspicions of that one easily-hoodwinked man extended further.

‘The only difficulty was to find a practicable substitute.

‘The one woman at all available for the purpose was a friendless,
innocent creature, named Anne Seaway, whom I had known in my youth,
and who had for some time been the housekeeper of a lady in London. On
account of this lady’s sudden death, Anne stood in rather a precarious
position, as regarded her future subsistence. She was not the best kind
of woman for the scheme; but there was no alternative. One quality of
hers was valuable; she was not a talker. I went to London the very next
day, called at the Hoxton lodging of my wife (the only place at
which she had been known as Mrs. Manston), and found that no great
difficulties stood in the way of a personation. And thus favouring
circumstances determined my course. I visited Anne Seaway, made love to
her, and propounded my plan.

              *     *     *     *     *

‘We lived quietly enough until the Sunday before my apprehension. Anne
came home from church that morning, and told me of the suspicious way in
which a young man had looked at her there. Nothing could be done beyond
waiting the issue of events. Then the letter came from Raunham. For the
first time in my life I was half indifferent as to what fate awaited me.
During the succeeding day I thought once or twice of running away, but
could not quite make up my mind. At any rate it would be best to bury
the body of my wife, I thought, for the oven might be opened at any
time. I went to Casterbridge and made some arrangements. In the evening
Miss Aldclyffe (who is united to me by a common secret which I have no
right or wish to disclose) came to my house, and alarmed me still more.
She said that she could tell by Mr. Raunham’s manner that evening, that
he kept back from her a suspicion of more importance even than the one
he spoke of, and that strangers were in his house even then.

‘I guessed what this further suspicion was, and resolved to enlighten
her to a certain extent, and so secure her assistance. I said that I
killed my wife by an accident on the night of the fire, dwelling upon
the advantage to her of the death of the only woman who knew her secret.

‘Her terror, and fears for my fate, led her to watch the rectory
that evening. She saw the detective leave it, and followed him to my
residence. This she told me hurriedly when I perceived her after digging
my wife’s grave in the plantation. She did not suspect what the sack
contained.

‘I am now about to enter on my normal condition. For people are almost
always in their graves. When we survey the long race of men, it is
strange and still more strange to find that they are mainly dead men,
who have scarcely ever been otherwise.

                                              ‘AENEAS MANSTON.’


The steward’s confession, aided by circumstantial evidence of various
kinds, was the means of freeing both Anne Seaway and Miss Aldclyffe from
all suspicion of complicity with the murderer.

2. SIX O’CLOCK P.M.

It was evening--just at sunset--on the day of Manston’s death.

In the cottage at Tolchurch was gathered a group consisting of Cytherea,
her brother, Edward Springrove, and his father. They sat by the
window conversing of the strange events which had just taken place. In
Cytherea’s eye there beamed a hopeful ray, though her face was as white
as a lily.

Whilst they talked, looking out at the yellow evening light that coated
the hedges, trees, and church tower, a brougham rolled round the corner
of the lane, and came in full view. It reflected the rays of the sun in
a flash from its polished panels as it turned the angle, the spokes of
the wheels bristling in the same light like bayonets. The vehicle came
nearer, and arrived opposite Owen’s door, when the driver pulled the
rein and gave a shout, and the panting and sweating horses stopped.

‘Miss Aldclyffe’s carriage!’ they all exclaimed.

Owen went out. ‘Is Miss Graye at home?’ said the man. ‘A note for her,
and I am to wait for an answer.’

Cytherea read in the handwriting of the Rector of Carriford:--


‘DEAR MISS GRAYE,--Miss Aldclyffe is ill, though not dangerously. She
continually repeats your name, and now wishes very much to see you.
If you possibly can, come in the carriage.--Very sincerely yours, JOHN
RAUNHAM.’


‘How comes she ill?’ Owen inquired of the coachman.

‘She caught a violent cold by standing out of doors in the damp, on
the night the steward ran away. Ever since, till this morning, she
complained of fulness and heat in the chest. This morning the maid ran
in and told her suddenly that Manston had killed himself in gaol--she
shrieked--broke a blood-vessel--and fell upon the floor. Severe internal
haemorrhage continued for some time and then stopped. They say she is
sure to get over it; but she herself says no. She has suffered from it
before.’

Cytherea was ready in a few moments, and entered the carriage.

3. SEVEN O’CLOCK P.M.

Soft as was Cytherea’s motion along the corridors of Knapwater House,
the preternaturally keen intelligence of the suffering woman caught
the maiden’s well-known footfall. She entered the sick-chamber with
suspended breath.

In the room everything was so still, and sensation was as it were so
rarefied by solicitude, that thinking seemed acting, and the lady’s
weak act of trying to live a silent wrestling with all the powers of the
universe. Nobody was present but Mr. Raunham, the nurse having left the
room on Cytherea’s entry, and the physician and surgeon being engaged
in a whispered conversation in a side-chamber. Their patient had been
pronounced out of danger.

Cytherea went to the bedside, and was instantly recognized. O, what a
change--Miss Aldclyffe dependent upon pillows! And yet not a forbidding
change. With weakness had come softness of aspect: the haughtiness was
extracted from the frail thin countenance, and a sweeter mild placidity
had taken its place.

Miss Aldclyffe signified to Mr. Raunham that she would like to be alone
with Cytherea.

‘Cytherea?’ she faintly whispered the instant the door was closed.

Cytherea clasped the lady’s weak hand, and sank beside her.

Miss Aldclyffe whispered again. ‘They say I am certain to live; but I
know that I am certainly going to die.’

‘They know, I think, and hope.’

‘I know best, but we’ll leave that. Cytherea--O Cytherea, can you
forgive me!’

Her companion pressed her hand.

‘But you don’t know yet--you don’t know yet,’ the invalid murmured. ‘It
is forgiveness for that misrepresentation to Edward Springrove that I
implore, and for putting such force upon him--that which caused all the
train of your innumerable ills!’

‘I know all--all. And I do forgive you. Not in a hasty impulse that is
revoked when coolness comes, but deliberately and sincerely: as I myself
hope to be forgiven, I accord you my forgiveness now.’

Tears streamed from Miss Aldclyffe’s eyes, and mingled with those of her
young companion, who could not restrain hers for sympathy. Expressions
of strong attachment, interrupted by emotion, burst again and again from
the broken-spirited woman.

‘But you don’t know my motive. O, if you only knew it, how you would
pity me then!’

Cytherea did not break the pause which ensued, and the elder woman
appeared now to nerve herself by a superhuman effort. She spoke on in a
voice weak as a summer breeze, and full of intermission, and yet there
pervaded it a steadiness of intention that seemed to demand firm tones
to bear it out worthily.

‘Cytherea,’ she said, ‘listen to me before I die.

‘A long time ago--more than thirty years ago--a young girl of seventeen
was cruelly betrayed by her cousin, a wild officer of six-and-twenty. He
went to India, and died.

‘One night when that miserable girl had just arrived home with her
parents from Germany, where her baby had been born, she took all the
money she possessed, pinned it on her infant’s bosom, together with
a letter, stating, among other things, what she wished the child’s
Christian name to be; wrapped up the little thing, and walked with it to
Clapham. Here, in a retired street, she selected a house. She placed
the child on the doorstep and knocked at the door, then ran away and
watched. They took it up and carried it indoors.

‘Now that her poor baby was gone, the girl blamed herself bitterly for
cruelty towards it, and wished she had adopted her parents’ counsel to
secretly hire a nurse. She longed to see it. She didn’t know what to do.
She wrote in an assumed name to the woman who had taken it in, and asked
her to meet the writer with the infant at certain places she named.
These were hotels or coffee-houses in Chelsea, Pimlico, or Hammersmith.
The woman, being well paid, always came, and asked no questions. At one
meeting--at an inn in Hammersmith--she made her appearance without the
child, and told the girl it was so ill that it would not live through
the night. The news, and fatigue, brought on a fainting-fit....’

Miss Aldclyffe’s sobs choked her utterance, and she became painfully
agitated. Cytherea, pale and amazed at what she heard, wept for her,
bent over her, and begged her not to go on speaking.

‘Yes--I must,’ she cried, between her sobs. ‘I will--I must go on! And
I must tell yet more plainly!... you must hear it before I am gone,
Cytherea.’ The sympathizing and astonished girl sat down again.

‘The name of the woman who had taken the child was _Manston_. She was
the widow of a schoolmaster. She said she had adopted the child of a
relation.

‘Only one man ever found out who the mother was. He was the keeper of
the inn in which she fainted, and his silence she has purchased ever
since.

‘A twelvemonth passed--fifteen months--and the saddened girl met a
man at her father’s house named Graye--your father, Cytherea, then
unmarried. Ah, such a man! Inexperience now perceived what it was to
be loved in spirit and in truth! But it was too late. Had he known her
secret he would have cast her out. She withdrew from him by an effort,
and pined.

‘Years and years afterwards, when she became mistress of a fortune and
estates by her father’s death, she formed the weak scheme of having near
her the son whom, in her father’s life-time, she had been forbidden to
recognize. Cytherea, you know who that weak woman is.

              *     *     *     *     *

‘By such toilsome labour as this I got him here as my steward. And I
wanted to see him _your husband_, Cytherea!--the husband of my true
lover’s child. It was a sweet dream to me.... Pity me--O, pity me! To
die unloved is more than I can bear! I loved your father, and I love him
now.’


That was the burden of Cytherea Aldclyffe.

‘I suppose you must leave me again--you always leave me,’ she said,
after holding the young woman’s hand a long while in silence.

‘No--indeed I’ll stay always. Do you like me to stay?’

Miss Aldclyffe in the jaws of death was Miss Aldclyffe still, though the
old fire had degenerated to mere phosphorescence now. ‘But you are your
brother’s housekeeper?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, of course you cannot stay with me on a sudden like this.... Go
home, or he will be at a loss for things. And to-morrow morning come
again, won’t you, dearest, come again--we’ll fetch you. But you mustn’t
stay now, and put Owen out. O no--it would be absurd.’ The absorbing
concern about trifles of daily routine, which is so often seen in very
sick people, was present here.

Cytherea promised to go home, and come the next morning to stay
continuously.

‘Stay till I die then, will you not? Yes, till I die--I shan’t die till
to-morrow.’

‘We hope for your recovery--all of us.’

‘I know best. Come at six o’clock, darling.’

‘As soon as ever I can,’ returned Cytherea tenderly.

‘But six is too early--you will have to think of your brother’s
breakfast. Leave Tolchurch at eight, will you?’

Cytherea consented to this. Miss Aldclyffe would never have known
had her companion stayed in the house all night; but the honesty of
Cytherea’s nature rebelled against even the friendly deceit which such a
proceeding would have involved.

An arrangement was come to whereby she was to be taken home in the
pony-carriage instead of the brougham that fetched her; the carriage
to put up at Tolchurch farm for the night, and on that account to be in
readiness to bring her back earlier.

4. MARCH THE THIRTIETH. DAYBREAK

The third and last instance of Cytherea’s subjection to those periodic
terrors of the night which had emphasized her connection with the
Aldclyffe name and blood occurred at the present date.

It was about four o’clock in the morning when Cytherea, though most
probably dreaming, seemed to awake--and instantly was transfixed by a
sort of spell, that had in it more of awe than of affright. At the
foot of her bed, looking her in the face with an expression of
entreaty beyond the power of words to portray, was the form of Miss
Aldclyffe--wan and distinct. No motion was perceptible in her; but
longing--earnest longing--was written in every feature.

Cytherea believed she exercised her waking judgment as usual in
thinking, without a shadow of doubt, that Miss Aldclyffe stood before
her in flesh and blood. Reason was not sufficiently alert to lead
Cytherea to ask herself how such a thing could have occurred.

‘I would have remained with you--why would you not allow me to stay!’
Cytherea exclaimed. The spell was broken: she became broadly awake; and
the figure vanished.

It was in the grey time of dawn. She trembled in a sweat of disquiet,
and not being able to endure the thought of her brother being asleep,
she went and tapped at his door.

‘Owen!’

He was not a heavy sleeper, and it was verging upon his time to rise.

‘What do you want, Cytherea?’

‘I ought not to have left Knapwater last night. I wish I had not. I
really think I will start at once. She wants me, I know.’

‘What time is it?’

‘A few minutes past four.’

‘You had better not. Keep to the time agreed upon. Consider, we should
have such a trouble in rousing the driver, and other things.’

Upon the whole it seemed wiser not to act on a mere fancy. She went to
bed again.

An hour later, when Owen was thinking of getting up, a knocking came to
the front door. The next minute something touched the glass of Owen’s
window. He waited--the noise was repeated. A little gravel had been
thrown against it to arouse him.

He crossed the room, pulled up the blind, and looked out. A solemn white
face was gazing upwards from the road, expectantly straining to catch
the first glimpse of a person within the panes. It was the face of a
Knapwater man sitting on horseback.

Owen saw his errand. There is an unmistakable look in the face of every
man who brings tidings of death. Graye opened the window.

‘Miss Aldclyffe....’ said the messenger, and paused.

‘Ah--dead?’

‘Yes--she is dead.’

‘When did she die?’

‘At ten minutes past four, after another effusion. She knew best, you
see, sir. I started directly, by the rector’s orders.’



SEQUEL

Fifteen months have passed, and we are brought on to Midsummer Night,
1867.

The picture presented is the interior of the old belfry of Carriford
Church, at ten o’clock in the evening.

Six Carriford men and one stranger are gathered there, beneath the light
of a flaring candle stuck on a piece of wood against the wall. The six
Carriford men are the well-known ringers of the fine-toned old bells in
the key of F, which have been music to the ears of Carriford parish and
the outlying districts for the last four hundred years. The stranger is
an assistant, who has appeared from nobody knows where.

The six natives--in their shirt-sleeves, and without hats--pull and
catch frantically at the dancing bellropes, the locks of their hair
waving in the breeze created by their quick motions; the stranger, who
has the treble bell, does likewise, but in his right mind and coat.
Their ever-changing shadows mingle on the wall in an endless variety of
kaleidoscopic forms, and the eyes of all the seven are religiously fixed
on a diagram like a large addition sum, which is chalked on the floor.

Vividly contrasting with the yellow light of the candle upon the four
unplastered walls of the tower, and upon the faces and clothes of the
men, is the scene discernible through the screen beneath the tower
archway. At the extremity of the long mysterious avenue of the nave and
chancel can be seen shafts of moonlight streaming in at the east window
of the church--blue, phosphoric, and ghostly.

A thorough renovation of the bell-ringing machinery and accessories had
taken place in anticipation of an interesting event. New ropes had been
provided; every bell had been carefully shifted from its carriage, and
the pivots lubricated. Bright red ‘sallies’ of woollen texture--soft
to the hands and easily caught--glowed on the ropes in place of the old
ragged knots, all of which newness in small details only rendered more
evident the irrepressible aspect of age in the mass surrounding them.

The triple-bob-major was ended, and the ringers wiped their faces and
rolled down their shirt-sleeves, previously to tucking away the ropes
and leaving the place for the night.

‘Piph--h--h--h! A good forty minutes,’ said a man with a streaming face,
and blowing out his breath--one of the pair who had taken the tenor
bell.

‘Our friend here pulled proper well--that ‘a did--seeing he’s but a
stranger,’ said Clerk Crickett, who had just resigned the second rope,
and addressing the man in the black coat.

‘’A did,’ said the rest.

‘I enjoyed it much,’ said the man modestly.

‘What we should ha’ done without you words can’t tell. The man that
d’belong by rights to that there bell is ill o’ two gallons o’ wold
cider.’

‘And now so’s,’ remarked the fifth ringer, as pertaining to the last
allusion, ‘we’ll finish this drop o’ metheglin and cider, and every man
home--along straight as a line.’

‘Wi’ all my heart,’ Clerk Crickett replied. ‘And the Lord send if I
ha’n’t done my duty by Master Teddy Springrove--that I have so.’

‘And the rest o’ us,’ they said, as the cup was handed round.

‘Ay, ay--in ringen--but I was spaken in a spiritual sense o’ this
mornen’s business o’ mine up by the chancel rails there. ‘Twas very
convenient to lug her here and marry her instead o’ doen it at that
twopenny-halfpenny town o’ Budm’th. Very convenient.’

‘Very. There was a little fee for Master Crickett.’

‘Ah--well. Money’s money--very much so--very--I always have said it. But
‘twas a pretty sight for the nation. He coloured up like any maid, that
‘a did.’

‘Well enough ‘a mid colour up. ‘Tis no small matter for a man to play
wi’ fire.’

‘Whatever it may be to a woman,’ said the clerk absently.

‘Thou’rt thinken o’ thy wife, clerk,’ said Gad Weedy. ‘She’ll play wi’it
again when thou’st got mildewed.’

‘Well--let her, God bless her; for I’m but a poor third man, I. The Lord
have mercy upon the fourth!... Ay, Teddy’s got his own at last. What
little white ears that maid hev, to be sure! choose your wife as you
choose your pig--a small ear and a small tale--that was always my joke
when I was a merry feller, ah--years agone now! But Teddy’s got her.
Poor chap, he was getten as thin as a hermit wi’ grief--so was she.’

‘Maybe she’ll pick up now.’

‘True--‘tis nater’s law, which no man shall gainsay. Ah, well do I bear
in mind what I said to Pa’son Raunham, about thy mother’s family o’
seven, Gad, the very first week of his comen here, when I was just in my
prime. “And how many daughters has that poor Weedy got, clerk?” he says.
“Six, sir,” says I, “and every one of ‘em has a brother!” “Poor woman,”
 says he, “a dozen children!--give her this half-sovereign from me,
clerk.” ‘A laughed a good five minutes afterwards, when he found out my
merry nater--‘a did. But there, ‘tis over wi’ me now. Enteren the Church
is the ruin of a man’s wit for wit’s nothen without a faint shadder o’
sin.’

‘If so be Teddy and the lady had been kept apart for life, they’d both
ha’ died,’ said Gad emphatically.

‘But now instead o’ death there’ll be increase o’ life,’ answered the
clerk.

‘It all went proper well,’ said the fifth bell-ringer. ‘They didn’t flee
off to Babylonish places--not they.’ He struck up an attitude--‘Here’s
Master Springrove standen so: here’s the married woman standen likewise;
here they d’walk across to Knapwater House; and there they d’bide in the
chimley corner, hard and fast.’

‘Yes, ‘twas a pretty wedden, and well attended,’ added the clerk. ‘Here
was my lady herself--red as scarlet: here was Master Springrove, looken
as if he half wished he’d never a-come--ah, poor souls!--the men always
do! The women do stand it best--the maid was in her glory. Though she
was so shy the glory shone plain through that shy skin. Ah, it did
so’s.’

‘Ay,’ said Gad, ‘and there was Tim Tankins and his five journeymen
carpenters, standen on tiptoe and peepen in at the chancel winders.
There was Dairyman Dodman waiten in his new spring-cart to see ‘em come
out--whip in hand--that ‘a was. Then up comes two master tailors.
Then there was Christopher Runt wi’ his pickaxe and shovel. There was
wimmen-folk and there was men-folk traypsen up and down church’ard till
they wore a path wi’ traypsen so--letten the squallen children slip down
through their arms and nearly skinnen o’ em. And these were all over and
above the gentry and Sunday-clothes folk inside. Well, I seed Mr. Graye
at last dressed up quite the dand. “Well, Mr. Graye,” says I from the
top o’ church’ard wall, “how’s yerself?” Mr. Graye never spoke--he’d
prided away his hearen. Seize the man, I didn’ want en to spak. Teddy
hears it, and turns round: “All right, Gad!” says he, and laughed like a
boy. There’s more in Teddy.’

‘Well,’ said Clerk Crickett, turning to the man in black, ‘now you’ve
been among us so long, and d’know us so well, won’t ye tell us what
ye’ve come here for, and what your trade is?’

‘I am no trade,’ said the thin man, smiling, ‘and I came to see the
wickedness of the land.’

‘I said thou wast one o’ the devil’s brood wi’ thy black clothes,’
replied a sturdy ringer, who had not spoken before.

‘No, the truth is,’ said the thin man, retracting at this horrible
translation, ‘I came for a walk because it is a fine evening.’

‘Now let’s be off, neighbours,’ the clerk interrupted.

The candle was inverted in the socket, and the whole party stepped out
into the churchyard. The moon was shining within a day or two of full,
and just overlooked the three or four vast yews that stood on the
south-east side of the church, and rose in unvaried and flat darkness
against the illuminated atmosphere behind them.

‘Good-night,’ the clerk said to his comrades, when the door was locked.
‘My nearest way is through the park.’

‘I suppose mine is too?’ said the stranger. ‘I am going to the
railway-station.’

‘Of course--come on.’

The two men went over a stile to the west, the remainder of the party
going into the road on the opposite side.

‘And so the romance has ended well,’ the clerk’s companion remarked,
as they brushed along through the grass. ‘But what is the truth of the
story about the property?’

‘Now look here, neighbour,’ said Clerk Crickett, ‘if so be you’ll tell
me what your line o’ life is, and your purpose in comen here to-day,
I’ll tell you the truth about the wedden particulars.’

‘Very well--I will when you have done,’ said the other man.

‘’Tis a bargain; and this is the right o’ the story. When Miss
Aldclyffe’s will was opened, it was found to have been drawn up on the
very day that Manston (her love-child) married Miss Cytherea Graye. And
this is what that deep woman did. Deep? she was as deep as the North
Star. She bequeathed all her property, real and personal, to “THE WIFE
OF AENEAS MANSTON” (with one exception): failen her life to her husband:
failen his life to the heirs of his head--body I would say: failen
them to her absolutely and her heirs for ever: failen these to Pa’son
Raunham, and so on to the end o’ the human race. Now do you see the
depth of her scheme? Why, although upon the surface it appeared her
whole property was for Miss Cytherea, by the word “wife” being used,
and not Cytherea’s name, whoever was the wife o’ Manston would come
in for’t. Wasn’t that rale depth? It was done, of course, that her
son AEneas, under any circumstances, should be master o’ the property,
without folk knowen it was her son or suspecting anything, as they would
if it had been left to en straightway.’

‘A clever arrangement! And what was the exception?’

‘The payment of a legacy to her relative, Pa’son Raunham.’

‘And Miss Cytherea was now Manston’s widow and only relative, and
inherited all absolutely.’

‘True, she did. “Well,” says she, “I shan’t have it” (she didn’t like
the notion o’ getten anything through Manston, naturally enough, pretty
dear). She waived her right in favour o’ Mr. Raunham. Now, if there’s
a man in the world that d’care nothen about land--I don’t say there is,
but _if_ there is--‘tis our pa’son. He’s like a snail. He’s a-growed so
to the shape o’ that there rectory that ‘a wouldn’ think o’ leaven it
even in name. “‘Tis yours, Miss Graye,” says he. “No, ‘tis yours,” says
she. “‘Tis’n’ mine,” says he. The Crown had cast his eyes upon the case,
thinken o’ forfeiture by felony--but ‘twas no such thing, and ‘a gied
it up, too. Did you ever hear such a tale?--three people, a man and
a woman, and a Crown--neither o’ em in a madhouse--flingen an estate
backwards and forwards like an apple or nut? Well, it ended in this way.
Mr. Raunham took it: young Springrove was had as agent and steward, and
put to live in Knapwater House, close here at hand--just as if ‘twas
his own. He does just what he’d like--Mr. Raunham never interferen--and
hither to-day he’s brought his new wife, Cytherea. And a settlement ha’
been drawn up this very day, whereby their children, heirs, and cetrer,
be to inherit after Mr. Raunham’s death. Good fortune came at last. Her
brother, too, is doen well. He came in first man in some architectural
competition, and is about to move to London. Here’s the house, look.
Stap out from these bushes, and you’ll get a clear sight o’t.’

They emerged from the shrubbery, breaking off towards the lake, and down
the south slope. When they arrived exactly opposite the centre of the
mansion, they halted.

It was a magnificent picture of the English country-house. The whole of
the severe regular front, with its columns and cornices, was built of a
white smoothly-faced freestone, which appeared in the rays of the moon
as pure as Pentelic marble. The sole objects in the scene rivalling the
fairness of the facade were a dozen swans floating upon the lake.

At this moment the central door at the top of the steps was opened, and
two figures advanced into the light. Two contrasting figures were they.
A young lithe woman in an airy fairy dress--Cytherea Springrove: a young
man in black stereotype raiment--Edward, her husband.

They stood at the top of the steps together, looking at the moon, the
water, and the general loveliness of the prospect.

‘That’s the married man and wife--there, I’ve illustrated my story by
rale liven specimens,’ the clerk whispered.

‘To be sure, how close together they do stand! You couldn’ slip a
penny-piece between ‘em--that you couldn’! Beautiful to see it, isn’t
it--beautiful!... But this is a private path, and we won’t let ‘em see
us, as all the ringers be goen there to a supper and dance to-morrow
night.’

The speaker and his companion softly moved on, passed through the
wicket, and into the coach-road. Arrived at the clerk’s house at the
further boundary of the park, they paused to part.

‘Now for your half o’ the bargain,’ said Clerk Crickett. ‘What’s your
line o’ life, and what d’ye come here for?’

‘I’m the reporter to the Casterbridge Chronicle, and I come to pick up
the news. Good-night.’


Meanwhile Edward and Cytherea, after lingering on the steps for several
minutes, slowly descended the slope to the lake. The skiff was lying
alongside.

‘O, Edward,’ said Cytherea, ‘you must do something that has just come
into my head!’

‘Well, dearest--I know.’

‘Yes--give me one half-minute’s row on the lake here now, just as you
did on Budmouth Bay three years ago.’

He handed her into the boat, and almost noiselessly pulled off from
shore. When they were half-way between the two margins of the lake, he
paused and looked at her.

‘Ah, darling, I remember exactly how I kissed you that first time,’ said
Springrove. ‘You were there as you are now. I unshipped the sculls in
this way. Then I turned round and sat beside you--in this way. Then I
put my hand on the other side of your little neck--’

‘I think it was just on my cheek, in this way.’

‘Ah, so it was. Then you moved that soft red mouth round to mine--’

‘But, dearest--you pressed it round if you remember; and of course I
couldn’t then help letting it come to your mouth without being unkind to
you, and I wouldn’t be that.’

‘And then I put my cheek against that cheek, and turned my two lips
round upon those two lips, and kissed them--so.’





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Desperate Remedies" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home