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Title: Sir Harry - A Love Story
Author: Marshall, Archibald
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              *SIR HARRY*

                             _A Love Story_


                                   BY

                           ARCHIBALD MARSHALL



                                NEW YORK
                         DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
                                  1919



                            COPYRIGHT, 1919
                    By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, Inc.



        The Quinn & Boden Company BOOK MANUFACTURERS RAHWAY NEW
        JERSEY



                            dedication info



                         _*BY THE SAME AUTHOR*_

THE HOUSE OF MERRILEES
RICHARD BALDOCK
EXTON MANOR
THE SQUIRE’S DAUGHTER
THE ELDEST SON
THE HONOUR OF THE CLINTONS
THE GREATEST OF THESE
THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH
WATERMEADS
UPSIDONIA
ABINGTON ABBEY
THE GRAFTONS
THE CLINTONS, AND OTHERS
SIR HARRY



                               *CONTENTS*

CHAPTER

      I. Royd Castle
     II. Lady Brent
    III. The Child
     IV. Fairies
      V. Mrs. Brent
     VI. Revolt
    VII. The Log Cabin
   VIII. August
     IX. On the Moor
      X. Viola
     XI. The Woodland Pool
    XII. At the Threshold
   XIII. The Temple
    XIV. Bastian
     XV. Wilbraham
    XVI. Dilemma
   XVII. The End
  XVIII. Afterwards
    XIX. Wilbraham in London
     XX. Waiting
    XXI. Sidney
   XXII. The Return
  XXIII. Confidences
   XXIV. Holiday
    XXV. Mrs. Brent Knows
   XXVI. Lady Brent Speaks
  XXVII. Lady Brent and Viola
 XXVIII. In the Balance
   XXIX. Love



                              *SIR HARRY*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                             *ROYD CASTLE*


The Reverend David Grant, Vicar-elect of Royd, was a novelist as well as
a priest.  So when he paid his preliminary visit to Royd Castle, and sat
himself down to write to his wife about it he did so with the idea of
making his letter a piece of literature; or at least of making her see.
For that was literature—making people see.  He would take as much
trouble over his letter as he would over a chapter of a novel; and when
she had read it she would have a clear picture in her mind of the place
she was coming to and the people she would meet there.  She had not been
able to come herself because she was close to her confinement.  Poor
girl! It was rather hard luck that she should have to miss all this
excitement.  They had been married thirteen years and had always looked
forward to settling into the ideal country parsonage.  But either he
would have to settle in himself, or else wait a couple of months or so
until the baby was born and Ethel was well enough to take a hand in the
blissful arrangements.  Longing to get to work at it as he was, with
money saved from his royalties to be spent in making their home what
they wanted it to be, he yet thought that he would prefer to wait until
she was strong again.  After thirteen years of married life, in
circumstances not of the easiest, this couple still liked doings things
together.

The time and the place invited to literary composition. The time was
shortly after ten o’clock of a warm spring night, for the Castle retired
early.  The place was a room which David Grant had sometimes imagined
for himself as the background for a scene in a novel, but never yet had
the satisfaction of occupying.  It was a great state Tudor bedroom, with
carved and panelled walls, a stone fireplace with a fire of logs burning
in it, Flemish tapestry above, a polished oak floor with old carpets in
front of the hearth, by the heavy pillared canopied bed and in the deep
embrasure of the window.  There were heavy oak chairs and tables and
presses.  The washing arrangements, necessarily more modern, since in
Tudor days they washed very little, were in a closet apart.  The
writing-table alone showed modernity, with everything on it in the way
of apparatus that could please a person who loved writing for its own
sake, and could appreciate its accessories.  It stood in the windowed
recess, which was as large as a fair-sized room, and contained another
table for books, with a cushioned chair by its side, and still left
space for moving about from one window to the other.  Wax candles in
heavy silver candle-sticks stood invitingly on the writing-table, and
elsewhere about the room.  There were six of these lit when David Grant
came up, but it was so large that the effect was still one of rich
dimness, warmed into life by the glowing fire on the hearth.

David Grant’s soul was full of content as he came into the room and shut
the heavy door behind him.  If he couldn’t write a letter in this
atmosphere that would eventually read well in his biography, he wasn’t
worth his salt.  He was not without occasional qualms as to whether he
actually was worth his salt as a novelist, but none of them troubled him
to-night.  He was wakeful and alert; he had half a mind to sit down at
that inviting silver-laden table and write a chapter of "A Love Apart."
But no.  Ethel, poor girl, must come first.  He felt tender towards her;
they were going to be so happy together at Royd.  And, after all, this
was a chapter in the story of their own lives, and more interesting to
both of them than a chapter in the lives of fictitious characters.

He took off his coat and put on the flannel jacket in which he was
accustomed to write.  Then he went to the windows and drew back all the
heavy curtains, and opened one of the casements.  His facile emotions,
always ready to be stirred by beauty, and to turn it immediately into
words, were stirred for a moment into something that he could not have
put into words as he stood there, though they came to him the moment
afterwards as he recognized how it all fitted in with the impression
encouraged in his mind by the old rich room in the old castle—the
moonlight outside, silvering the fairy glades of the park into
mysterious beauty, the silence and the sweet scents of the slumbering
earth.

The grass of the park grew right up to the stones of the castle wall on
this side.  Just above him were some great beeches, which seemed to be
climbing the hill that rose behind.  Below there were more trees, and
between them stretched a glade which led the eye to further undulations
of moonlit grass, and the bare trunks and branches of the trees that
bordered them.  He had been rather disappointed, in coming first into
his room, to find that it did not look out on to the gardens; but under
the moon this romantic glimpse of silvered trees and fairy glades seemed
to him more beautiful than any tamed or ordered garden.

Anything might happen out there, on such a night. Oberon and Titania
suggested themselves to him; the least that could be expected to happen
was that a herd of deer led by a many-antlered stag should wander across
a moonlit glade, and give just that touch of life that was wanted to
enhance the lovely scene.

What actually did happen was that his eye was caught by a moving figure
in the shadow of the trees, and, before he had had time to wonder, or
even to be startled by it, came out into the bright stretch of grass in
front of his window, and stood looking up at him.

It was young Sir Harry, owner of Royd Castle and all the magic beauty
connected with it that was making such an impression upon the
clerico-novelist’s susceptible mind, but though in that fortunate
position not yet of an age to be out under the trees of his park at this
time of night.  At nine o’clock he had said good-night to his
grandmother’s guest downstairs.  Grant had thought it full early for a
boy of his age to be sent up to bed, as Lady Brent had actually sent
him, though without insistence, and with no protest on his part.  He was
no more than sixteen, but a well-grown boy, in the evening garb of a
man; and he had sat opposite to his grandmother at the head of the table
and taken a bright part in the conversation, so that, with his title to
give him still further dignity, he had seemed altogether beyond the
stage of being sent early to bed.

However, it appeared that bed had not been the aim of his departure,
after all.  He stood looking up at the window, not far above the ground,
with a smile upon his handsome young face, and asked his grandmother’s
guest not to give him away.  "I come out sometimes like this, when
everybody is asleep," he said.  "There’s no harm in it, but Granny would
try to stop me if she knew—lock me in, perhaps."  He laughed freely.
"So please don’t tell her," he said, and melted away into the shadows
without waiting for a promise of secrecy.

Grant rather liked that in him.  He had been much attracted by young Sir
Harry, who had shown himself charmingly friendly to him in a frank and
boyish way that had yet seemed to contain something of the dignity of a
_grand seigneur_.  There was something pleasing in the thought of this
handsome boy, master of the old rich beautiful house, even if he was as
yet only nominal master.  It was not unpleasing either to think of him
roaming about his lovely demesne under the moonlight which made it still
more fair.  Certainly there was nothing wrong in it.  If he was up to
some mischief, it would only be of a kind that the women who held him in
check might call such.  He was too young and too frank for the sort of
nocturnal mischief that a man might take notice of.  At his age a sense
of adventure would be satisfied by being abroad in the night while he
was thought to be asleep.  David Grant smiled to himself as he shut the
window.  He would like to make friends with this charming boy.  He was
rather pleased to have this little secret in common with him.

Now he walked about the great room, composing the lines of his letter,
as he was accustomed to walk about composing the lines of a chapter in
one of his novels. Its main "idea" was to be the pleasure he and his
wife and the children were to have in Royd Vicarage.  But that must be
led up to.  He must begin at the beginning, "make her see" the place,
and the people among whom they would lead their lives.  The people
especially; there was room here for the neat little touches of
description upon which he prided himself.  The Vicarage must come last,
and he would end on a tender note, which would please the dear girl, and
make her feel that she was part of it all, as indeed she was.

And now he was ready to begin, and sat down at the table, all on fire
with his subject.  He wrote on and on until late into the night.
Sometimes he rose to put another log on to the fire, to enjoy the
crackle it made, and to sense the grateful atmosphere of the old room.
Once or twice he went to the window and looked out, never failing to be
charmed by the beauty of the scene. At these times he thought of the
boy, out there under the moon or in the dim shadows of the trees, and
wondered what he was doing, and if he would come and call up at his
window again as he returned from his wandering.  He rather hoped that he
might, and left the casement open the second time he went to the window.
But by the time he had finished his letter no sound had broken the
stillness, except now and then the soft hooting of owls, and with a last
look at the moonlit glades he blew out the candles and climbed into the
great bed, very well satisfied with himself and with life in general.


"Oh, the tiresome old dear, he’s trying to be literary," said Mrs.
Grant, as she embarked eagerly upon the voluminous pages.  She turned
them over until she came to the description of the Vicarage towards the
end:


"Lady Brent said very kindly, ’I expect you would like to go over the
house by yourself, Mr. Grant.  Harry shall go with you and show you the
cottage where the key is kept.  The church, I believe, is open.  We
shall expect you back to tea at half-past four, and if you have not
finished you can go back again afterwards.’

"This was just what I wanted—to moon about the house which is to be our
happy home, dearest, alone, and to build castles in the air about it.
So we started off, the boy and I.  We went down the avenue——"


"H’m.  H’m."  Mrs. Grant skipped a page.


"It was the Vicarage of our dreams, a low stone house, facing south,
embowered in massy trees, its walls covered with creepers, the sun
glinting on its small-paned windows."

Mrs. Grant skipped a little more.  She wanted to know the number of
rooms, and if possible the size of the principal ones, what the kitchen
and the back premises were like, whether the kitchen garden was large
enough to supply the house, and if it could all be managed by one man,
who would also look after the pony, and perhaps clean the boots and
knives.

She gained a hint or two as she turned over the pages quickly, and then
read them more carefully.  "Well, he doesn’t tell me much," she said,
"but I expect it will be all right and I’m sure I shall love it.  The
drawing-room opening into the garden and the best bedroom with a view of
the sea in the distance sound jolly, and I’m glad the old darling will
have a nice room to write his nonsense in.  If he is pleased with his
surroundings he always does more work, and that means more money. Oh, I
do hope his sales will go up and we shall have enough to live
comfortably on there."  She went on to the end of the letter, which gave
her pleasure, as had been intended.  "Dear old thing, he does lean on
me," she said.  "And well he may.  Well, I shall bustle about and make
things happy and comfortable for him directly I’m strong enough.  Oh, my
little love, why didn’t you put off your arrival for a few months
longer?  But I shall adore you when you do come, and it will be lovely
to bring you up in that beautiful place.  Now let’s see what these Brent
people are like, if he’s clever enough to give me any idea of them."

She turned back to the beginning of the letter, and read it through in
the same way as she read his novels. She knew by intuition when it was
worth while to read every word, and—well, when it wasn’t.


"Young Sir Harry met me at the station.  He is a handsome boy, very
bright and friendly.  My heart warmed to him, and especially when he
showed a lively interest in our Jane and Pobbles.  I told him that Jane
was only eleven and Pobbles nine, but he said that he wasn’t so very
much older himself, and laughed as he said it, like a young wood-god,
with all the youth of the world in him.  I remember once walking in an
olive wood in Italy, and suddenly meeting...


"I was rather surprised at the carriage sent to meet us.  It was a
stately affair, but with the varnish dull and cracked, and the horses
fat and slow.  In spite of the liveried coachman and footman on the box,
the equipage was not what one might have expected from such a house as
Royd Castle.  I was inclined at first to think that it meant poverty,
which is not always unallied to state; but there are all the signs of
very ample means in this house, and I incline now to the opinion that in
a woman’s house, as Royd Castle is at present, stable arrangements are
not much bothered about.  Lady Brent goes about very little.  In fact
there are no other houses near for her to visit.  Poldaven Castle, I am
told, one of the seats of the Marquis of Avalon, lies about seven miles
off, but the family is hardly ever there.  We ourselves, my dearest,
shall be very much to ourselves in this out-of-the-way corner of the
world.  We shall have the people at the Castle, and our own more humble
parishioners, and—ourselves.  But how happy we shall be!  The beauty of
our surroundings alone would give us..."


Mrs. Grant skimmed lightly over a description of the seven-mile drive
from the little town by the sea, through rocky hilly country, bare of
trees, but golden with gorse under a soft April sky flecked with fleecy
clouds, and accepted without enthusiasm the statement that all nature,
including the young lambs and the rabbits, seemed to be laughing with
glee.  She was anxious to get to Royd, which was to be her home, perhaps
for the rest of her life.

Trees had made their appearance in the landscape by the time it was
reached, and she gained an impression of a kinder richer country than
that of the coast.  As they neared Royd there were picturesque
stone-built farm-houses, and then a steep village street lined with
stone-roofed cottages, their gardens bright with coloured primroses,
daffodils, ribes, berberi, aubretia and arabis, and here and there a gay
splash of cydonia japonica against a white-washed wall.  Her husband was
always particular about the names of plants.  No mere "early spring
flowers" for him!  His descriptions were apt to read rather like a
nurseryman’s catalogue, but as they both of them knew their way about
nurserymen’s catalogues, she gained her picture of spring-garden colour
and was pleased with it.  It would be lovely to have a real big garden
to play with, instead of the narrow oblong behind their semi-detached
villa.  But she did want to get to Lady Brent, and the rest of the
household at the Castle.

The old church was at one end of the village, with a squat stone spire
on a squat tower.  Description of its interior was reserved until later.
The Vicarage was beyond it, round the corner.  The principal lodge gates
were opposite,—handsome iron gates between heavy stone pillars
surmounted by the Brent armorial leopards, collared and chained.  A
little Tudor lodge stood on either side of the gate-pillars, and a high
stone wall ran off on either side.  Young Sir Harry had told him that it
ran right round the park, which was three miles in circumference.

The description of the drive broke off here for an account of some other
things that young Sir Harry had told him.  Expectation was to be
maintained a little longer.  She wanted to get to the Castle, but did
not skip this part because it was rather interesting.


"The boy has never been to school.  In fact, he has never slept a night
away from the Castle in all his sixteen years.  He has a tutor—a Mr.
Wilbraham, who seems to have grounded him well in his classics.  More of
him anon.  The boy reads poetry too, and of a good kind.  Altogether
rather a remarkable boy, and very good to look upon, with his crisp fair
hair, white teeth and friendly open look—a worthy head of the old family
from which he is descended.  His father was killed in the South African
War, before Harry was born.  He was born at the Castle and he and his
mother have lived here ever since.  So much I learnt as we drove
together, and formed some picture in my mind of the people I was about
to meet."


Here followed the mental portraits of Lady Brent, Mrs. Brent and Mr.
Wilbraham, but as they bore small likeness to the originals, as
afterwards appeared, they may be omitted.


"We entered by the lodge gates, and drove through the beautiful park, I
should say for the best part of a mile.  With the trees not yet in leaf,
and the great stretches of fern showing nothing but the russet of last
year’s fronds, it was yet very beautiful.  Herds of fallow deer were
feeding quietly on the green lawns, and a noble stag lifted his head to
look at us as we drove past, but made no attempt to escape, though he
can have been distant from us only a long mashie shot.  Wood-pigeons
flew from tree-top to tree-top across the glades.  I heard the tap-tap
of a woodpecker as we began to mount a rise where the trees grew
thicker, and the harsh screech of a jay, of which I caught a glimpse of
garish colour. There was a sense of peace and seclusion about this
beautiful enclosed space, as if nothing ugly from the world outside
could penetrate behind those high stone walls, and nature here rejoiced
in freedom and beauty.

"The hill became steeper, and the horses walked up it until we came to
the open ground at the top.  There at last, as we drew out from under
the trees, I saw the ancient mass of the Castle with the flag flying
proudly above it, perhaps a quarter of a mile away.  The ground sloped
down towards it.  There was a wide open space of grass with the road
winding through, and here and there a noble beech, with which this part
of the park is chiefly planted.  The ground rose again behind the
massive pile, and was once more thick with trees, so that it appeared
backed by a mass of delicate purple, which will soon take on that
delicious delicate green of young beech leaves, than which there is none
more beautiful in all nature, unless it be the emerald green of waves in
a blue sea."


"I shall look out for that in the next novel," said Mrs. Grant, at this
point.  "I know that green, but he has always called it translucent
before."


"The castle is low and spreading, nowhere more than two stories in
height, except for the row of dormers in the roof, and in the middle of
the mass, where there is a great gateway leading into an inner court,
exactly like the gateway of a college.  In fact the building resembles
an ancient college in many particulars.  The garden is enclosed within a
stone wall, which continues the front of the building.  It is on one
side only, and is very beautiful, though I have not yet explored it, and
can speak only of a lawn bounded by an arcading of yew, to which access
is gained from the long drawing-room where I was received.  The stables
are in an inner courtyard behind the first.  On the side opposite to the
garden, in which the room where I am now writing is situated, one looks
out straight into the park.

"Young Sir Harry took me straight into the room where the ladies of the
house were sitting at their needlework.  It was a long low room,
beautifully furnished with what I should judge to be French furniture
chiefly, but with deep chintz-covered easy chairs and sofas which took
away from any formal effect it might otherwise have had.  Lady Brent and
Mrs. Brent were sitting by one of the windows, of which there are a line
opening on to a sort of stone built veranda facing the garden that I
have mentioned.  They rose at once to meet me.  Lady Brent, whom I had
pictured as rather a dominating old lady, walking possibly with a stick,
I was surprised to find not old at all in appearance.  She must have
married young, and her son, Harry’s father, must have married young, as
indeed I afterwards found to have been the case.  Wilbraham says that
she is still a few years short of sixty, and she does not look much over
fifty. She is not tall, but holds herself erect and moves in a stately
manner.  She is not exactly handsome, but her features are pleasant to
the eye, and she has an agreeable smile.  She made me welcome in a few
words, and I felt that I _was_ welcome, and immediately at home with
her.

"Of Mrs. Brent, Sir Harry’s mother, it is more difficult to speak.  In
the light of what I afterwards heard about her, whatever surprised me on
my first introduction to her is explained; but I am trying to give you
my first impressions.  She is good-looking, but it struck me at once in
rather a common way.  She would be, I suppose, about five and thirty.
She was quietly dressed and quiet-spoken; but there was a _something_.
She did not look of Lady Brent’s class, and it was something of a
surprise to me to see in her the mother of Sir Harry, though in her
colouring and facial conformation she undoubtedly resembled him."


At this point Mrs. Grant was aroused by the sounds of violent
quarrelling in the little garden below the window at which she was
sitting, and looked out to see her son and daughter locked in a close
but hostile embrace.  She threw up the window and called to them, but
they took no notice, and she had to go down to separate them.  They were
the most charming children, and inseparable companions, but apt to
express themselves occasionally in these desperate struggles. When peace
had been restored, and they were left amicably planting mustard and
cress, she returned to her letter, longing to know more about Mrs.
Brent, and especially the reason for her appearance of commonness.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                              *LADY BRENT*


The explanation came after a description of luncheon in the great hall,
which had greatly impressed the writer, with its high timbered roof,
oriel window, and carved gallery.  Mr. Wilbraham, the tutor, had been
added to the company, and was presented as a middle-aged figure, with a
somewhat discontented expression of face, but a gift of ready speech
which made the meal lively and interesting.  He and the two ladies
seemed to be on the most excellent terms, and the way in which Lady
Brent deferred to the tutor, not treating him in the least as a
dependent, but as a valued member of the family circle, had struck the
Vicar-elect of Royd most agreeably.  "This is a woman," he wrote, "with
brains above the ordinary, who takes pleasure in exercising them. Though
living a retired life, far from the centres of human intercourse, she
takes a lively interest in what is going on in the world.  Politics were
discussed over the luncheon-table, and I found her views coincided
remarkably with my own, and together we gave, I think, a very good
account of ourselves in argument with Wilbraham, who professes to be
something of a Radical, though I noticed that he ate a very good lunch,
and is evidently not averse to sharing in the good things of the class
he affects to deride.  It was all, however, very good-humoured, and when
the talk veered round to books, I found that these good people knew
really more about the latest publications than I did myself.  Wilbraham
is a great reader.  He acts as librarian, as well as tutor to Harry, and
seems to have _carte blanche_ to order anything down from London that he
likes.  I imagine that he recommends books to Lady Brent, and she reads
a great deal too—not only fiction, but biographies, books of travel, and
even stiff works on such subjects as Philosophy.

"Of course I kept very quiet about my own humble productions, as I have
never professed to be a scholar, and aim rather at touching the
universal human mind, with stories that shall entertain but never
degrade, and should not expect to be considered very highly, or perhaps
even have been heard of by people of this calibre, though there are many
of equal intelligence among my readers.  I must confess, however, that I
was gratified when Mrs. Brent, who had not taken much part in the
conversation, said: ’I have read all your books, Mr. Grant, and think
they are lovely.  So touching!’

"This is the sort of compliment that I value.  It is to the _simple_
mind that I make my appeal, and Mrs. Brent is quite evidently of a lower
class of intelligence than those about her.  I think I detected some
deprecation in the glance that she threw at her mother-in-law
immediately after she had expressed herself with this simple, and
evidently _felt_ enthusiasm.  Perhaps her opinions on literary subjects
are not considered very highly, but Lady Brent would be far too
well-bred and courteous to snub her.  She said at once, very kindly:
’The Bishop told us that you were a novelist, Mr. Grant. Mr. Wilbraham
was about to send for your books, but we found that my daughter-in-law
had them already. I have not had time more than to dip into one of them,
but I promise myself much pleasure from them when I have a little more
time.’  Wilbraham saved me from the necessity of finding an answer by
breaking in at once: ’I don’t intend to read a single one of them,
either now or hereafter.  Let that be plainly understood.’  Everybody
laughed at this, and it was said in such a way that I felt no offence.
This man is evidently something of a character, and I should say had
made himself felt in this household of women.  The boy likes him too. I
could see that by the way they addressed one another. They are more like
friends than master and pupil.

"Well, I felt that I had sized up Lady Brent, Wilbraham and young Harry
pretty well by the end of the meal, and the conversation that went with
it.  I have a knack of doing so with people I meet, and find that upon
closer acquaintance I have seldom been wrong in my first impressions.
Mrs. Brent puzzled me a little more. Was she entirely happy?  I thought
not, though there was nothing very definite to go upon.  If not, it
could not be the fault of any of the three other members of the
household.  She evidently adores her boy, for her face lights up
whenever she looks at him, and he treats her with an affection and
consideration that are very pleasant to see.  Lady Brent treats her in
much the same way, and is evidently a woman of much kindness of heart,
for Mrs. Brent, as I have already said, is not up to her level, and
living in constant companionship with her might be expected to grate a
little on the nerves of a lady of her sort.  Wilbraham would not be
likely to hide any contempt that he might feel for some one of less
intelligence than himself.  He might not show it openly to the mother of
his pupil, but I should certainly have noticed it if it had been there.
But he behaved beautifully to her, and smiled when he spoke to her as if
he really liked her, and found pleasure in anything that she said.  And
she seemed grateful, and smiled at him in return.  They are in fact a
very happy little party, these curiously assorted people who live so
much to themselves.  And yet, as I said above, the one member of it did
not strike me as being entirely happy, and I could not help wondering
why.

"Wilbraham enlightened me, as we smoked together after lunch, walking up
and down a broad garden path under the April sunshine.  ’What do you
think of Mrs. Brent?’ he asked me, with a side-long whimsical glance
that is very characteristic of the man.

"I was a little put out by the suddenness of the question, but took
advantage of it to be equally direct and to ask my question.  ’Is there
anything to make her unhappy?’

"He laughed at that.  ’I see you have your eyes open,’ he said.  ’I
suppose it’s the novelist’s trick.  Any questions to ask about the rest
of us?’

"’You haven’t answered my first one yet,’ I replied, and he laughed
again, and said: ’Did you ever hear of Lottie Lansdowne?’

"The name seemed vaguely familiar to me, but he said, without waiting
for my reply: ’I don’t suppose you ever did, but if I were you I should
tell Mrs. Brent on the first opportunity that when you were young and
going the round of the theatres that was the one name in the bill you
never could resist.’

"’I suppose you mean that Mrs. Brent was once on the stage and that was
her name,’ I said.  ’But I don’t remember her all the same.’

"’No, I don’t suppose you would,’ he said again. ’As a matter of fact
the poor little thing never got beyond the smallest parts, and I doubt
if she ever would have done.  But Brent fell in love with her, and
married her, and since then she has never had a chance of trying. That’s
what’s the matter with her, and I’m afraid it can’t be helped.  She’s
pretty, isn’t she?’

"’Yes,’ I said, as he seemed to expect it of me, but she hadn’t struck
me as being particularly pretty, though she might have been as a young
girl.  ’You mean that she doesn’t like the quiet life down here?’

"’Yes, that’s what I mean,’ he said.  ’I’m sorry for the poor little
soul.  She’s like a child.  Vain, I dare say, but not an ounce of harm
in her.  I’m telling you this because you’d be bound to find it out for
yourself in any case.  She’ll probably tell you about her early triumphs
herself when you know her better.  The thing to do is to keep her
pleased with herself as much as possible.  There’s not much to amuse her
here.  We never see anybody.  It suits me all right, and her ladyship;
and Harry is happy enough at present, with what he finds to do outside,
and what he has to do in.  But she’s different.  There’s nothing much
for her.  She reads a lot of trashy novels——’  Here he broke off
suddenly and roared with laughter, twisting his body about, and behaving
in a curious uncontrolled manner till he’d had his laugh out.  Then he
said: ’I’m not going to hide from you that I _have_ tried to read one of
yours, and my opinion is that it’s slush, but quite harmless slush,
which perhaps makes it worse.  However, _she_ likes them; so I dare say
you’ll find something in common with her, and it will be all to the good
your coming here.  That’s why I’ve told you about her.  You’ll be able
to help.’

"I must confess to some slight annoyance at having my work belittled in
this way.  However, I suppose to a man of this sort all clean healthy
sentiment is ’slush,’ and the absence of unwholesome interest in my
works would not commend them to him, though I am thankful to say that it
is no drawback to the pleasure that the people I aim at take in them.
If Mrs. Brent is one of these, I shall hope indeed to be of use to her,
and I think it speaks well for her, when her early life is taken into
consideration, that she should find my simple tales of quiet natural
life ’lovely,’ as she said that she did. It has occurred to me that when
I get to know her better I may possibly gain from her some information
upon life behind the scenes, that I could make use of in my work.  I
should like to draw the picture of a pure unsullied girl, going through
the life of the theatre, unspotted by it, and raising all those about
her, while she herself rises to the top of her profession, and marries a
good man, perhaps in the higher ranks of society, thus showing that
virtue is virtue everywhere and has its reward, and doing some good in
circles that I have not yet touched.  However, all that is for the
future.  Our immediate duty—yours and mine, dearest,—is to make friends
with this rather pathetic little lady, and to reconcile her to her lot,
which in this beautiful place, with all the love and kindness she
receives from those about her, is hardly really to be pitied.

"I told Wilbraham that I had been much struck with Lady Brent’s attitude
towards her, and he became serious at once and said: ’Lady Brent is a
fine character. There’s no getting over that.  No, there’s no getting
over that; she’s a fine character.’

"I was a little surprised at the way he said it, but he’s a queer sort
of fellow, though I think likable.  He went on at once, as if he wanted
to remove some doubt in my mind as to Lady Brent; but, as a matter of
fact, I had none, and am as capable of judging her as he is, though of
course he has known her longer.  ’_She_ sees,’ he said, ’that poor
little Lottie—I generally call her that to myself—can’t be quite happy
shut up down here. But she’s right in keeping her here.  You see, Brent
was rather a wild sort of fellow.  He got into mischief once or twice,
and from what I’ve heard she and his father weren’t sorry when his
regiment was ordered off to South Africa.  Well, he went, and was killed
the first time he went into action, within a month.  By the time the
news came over his father himself was dying, and did die, as a matter of
fact, without knowing of it.  A pretty good shock for the poor lady, eh?
Well, she had another when poor little Lottie wrote to her and said that
she had been married to Brent the week before he sailed, and there was a
baby coming.  She went straight up to London and brought her down here,
and Harry was born here.  Harry is rather an important person, you know.
He’s the last of his line, which is an old one.  This place belongs to
him, and he’ll have a great deal of money from his grandmother.  He’s
Sir Harry Brent of Royd Castle.  What he is on his mother’s side must be
made as little of as possible.  She’s a Brent by marriage and she has to
learn to be a Brent by manners and customs, if you understand me!’

"I said that I thought I did, and that Lady Brent was quite right in
wishing to keep her in this atmosphere.  But I said that I quite saw
that the more friends she had the better.  I should do my best to make
friends with her, and I was sure that my wife would, who was extremely
kind-hearted.

"’Ah, that’s right,’ he said, with a great air of satisfaction, and just
then Harry came out and we went off together to the village and the
vicarage."


Here followed the account of the Vicarage, and of the church, but Mrs.
Grant knew there was more to come later about Mrs. Brent, and hurried on
till she got to it.

Dinner in the great hall was described, with allusions to the perfection
of the service and the livery of the servants.  The conversation was
much the same as over the luncheon table, and Mrs. Brent took more part
in it. There was something different about her air.  She was beautifully
dressed and her "commonness" seemed to have dropped from her.  She was,
indeed, rather stately, in the manner of her mother-in-law, whom it
struck Grant that she was anxious to copy.  After dinner they sat in the
long drawing-room, and Wilbraham played the piano, which he did rather
well.  Soon after Harry had gone to bed, Lady Brent went out of the room
to get some silks for her embroidery.  Mrs. Brent had offered to get
these for her, but she wouldn’t let her. Grant was sitting near to Mrs.
Brent, and while Wilbraham played softly at the other end of the room he
talked to her.


"I said with a smile: ’I think your name used to be very well known in
other scenes than this when I was a young man, Mrs. Brent.’

"My dear, I was never more surprised than by the way she took it.  She
flushed and drew up her head and looked at me straight, and said: ’Pray
what do you mean by that, Mr. Grant?’

"I felt like a fool.  Of course if Wilbraham hadn’t said what he had I
should never have thought of addressing her upon the subject.  Being
what she is now I should have expected that she would not have wanted
her origin alluded to.  But I have told you exactly what he did say, and
certainly I never meant anything but kindness to her.  Still, I saw that
she might think I was simply taking a liberty, and made what recovery I
could.  ’I know that you were a great ornament of the stage before you
were married,’ I said.  ’Please forgive me if I ought not to have
alluded to it, but you said that you had read my books, and you will
know that I take all life for my province; and when one practises one
art with all earnestness and sincerity, it is interesting to talk to
some one who has made a great success with another.’

"I think this was well said, wasn’t it, dear?  I’m afraid it was going
rather beyond the truth, as, from what Wilbraham had told me, I doubt if
she was much more than a chorus girl, and that only for a very short
time.  But my conscience doesn’t prick me for having drawn the long bow
a little.  I had to disabuse her mind of the idea that I was taking a
liberty with her, and I wanted to please her in the way that Wilbraham
had indicated.

"She ceased, I think, to take offence, but she said, rather primly, with
her eyes on her needlework, which she had taken up again: ’I prefer to
forget that I was ever on the stage, Mr. Grant.  It was for a very short
time, and I simply went to and from my home to the theatre, always
attended by a maid—or nearly always, and sometimes by my mother.  When I
married I left the stage altogether, and have never been in a theatre
since.  I don’t know how you knew that I had ever belonged to it.’

"She gave me a quick little glance, and I divined somehow that it would
give her pleasure to believe that she was remembered.  I won’t tell you
what I said, but while I steered clear of an actual untruth, I did
manage to convey the impression that I had recognized her, and I hope I
may be forgiven for it.  She said hurriedly: ’Well, we won’t talk about
it any more, for I have nearly forgotten it all, and wish to forget it
altogether. And please don’t tell Lady Brent that you know who I was.
We don’t want Harry to know it at all—ever. She’s quite right there.
Here she comes.  You do like Harry, don’t you, Mr. Grant?  He’s such a
dear boy. and all the people about here love him.’

"’What, talking about Harry?’ said Lady Brent, as she joined us.  ’We
all talk a great deal about Harry, Mr. Grant.  I don’t think there is a
boy in the world on whom greater hopes are set.  We have made him happy
between us so far, but I am glad you are coming here with your young
people, to bring a little more life into this quiet place.  Young people
want young life about them.  It is the only thing that has been lacking
for him.  And it is all too short a time before he will have to go out
into the world.’

"This all gave me a great deal to think about.  I hope I have given you
such an account of everything that passed, and the important parts of
what was said to make you see it as I do.  Consider this kind good lady,
gifted more than most, rich, titled, intellectual, calculated to shine
in society, yet content to live a quiet life out of the world for the
sake of the bright boy upon whom so many hopes depend.  She has gone
through much trouble, with her only son and her husband reft from her
within a few weeks of one another.  She cannot have welcomed the wife
whom her son had chosen, but she lives in constant companionship with
her, and treats her with every consideration.  My heart warms towards
her.  We are indeed fortunate in having such a chatelaine as Lady Brent
in the place in which we are to spend our lives and do our work.  Of her
kindness and thoughtfulness towards myself I have not time to write, as
it is getting very late, and I must to bed.  But when you come here you
will find her everything that you can wish, and I shall be surprised if
you do not make a real friend of her, a friend who will last, and on
whom you can in all things depend."


When Mrs. Grant had at last finished this voluminous letter, she
summoned Miss Minster to her, and read her many passages from it.  Miss
Minster was the lady who looked after the education of Jane and Pobbles,
and had somewhat of a hard task in doing so, though she fulfilled it
without showing outward signs of stress.  She was of about the same age
as Mrs. Grant—that is in the early thirties, and they had been friends
together at school.  They were friends now, and Mrs. Grant trusted Miss
Minster’s judgment in some things more even than she trusted her
husband’s.

"Somehow, I don’t see Lady Brent," said Mrs. Grant, when she had read
out all that had been written about her.  "She seems to have made a
great impression upon David, but it looks to me as if it was the
impression she wanted to make."

"If any other man but David had written all that," said Miss Minster, "I
should have said that there was something behind it all.  I should have
said that Lady Brent had some dark reason for keeping herself and the
rest of them shut up there, and that this Mr. Wilbraham, who doesn’t
seem to behave like a tutor at all, was in the conspiracy.  As it is, I
think his pen has run away with him, and they are all very ordinary
people, and there’s nothing behind it at all."

"Well, my idea is just the opposite," said Mrs. Grant. "If David had
sniffed a story he would have put it in.  He doesn’t think there is
anything behind it. I do.  Perhaps Mrs. Brent wasn’t married, and this
young Sir Harry isn’t the rightful heir.  That would be a good reason
for Lady Brent to lie low.  Perhaps Mr. Wilbraham knows about it, which
would be the reason for his not behaving like an ordinary tutor; though,
as for that, I don’t think there’s much in it, and he behaves like an
ordinary tutor according to David’s account just as much as you behave
like an ordinary governess."

"A good point as far as it goes," said Miss Minster, "and a joyous life
it would be for you if I did behave like an ordinary governess.  But
you’re worse than David in making up twopence coloured stories.  I don’t
think we need worry ourselves about the Brents till we get down there.
Then we shall be able to judge for ourselves.  No man ever knows what a
woman is really like the first time he sees her.  Whatever Lady Brent
and Mrs. Brent are like, you may depend upon it that we shan’t find them
in the least as David has described them. Now read what he says about
the Vicarage again, and see if we can make anything of that, beyond that
it is embowered in massy trees."



                             *CHAPTER III*

                              *THE CHILD*


When young Sir Harry had made that laughing appeal to the figure framed
in the square of orange light above him, and turned away into the
shadows, he had already forgotten that there had been a witness to his
escapade.

It was no escapade to him, but a serious quest, about which played all
the warm palpitations and eager emotions of high romance.  To-night, if
ever, with the earth moving towards the soft riot of spring, with the
air still and brooding as if summer were already here, though sharp and
clean, scoured by the wind and washed to gentleness again by the showers
of April, with the moonlight so strong that in the shadows of the trees
there was no darkness, but diffused and quivering light hardly less
bright than the light of day, and to the eyes of the spirit infinitely
more discerning—surely to-night he might hope to see the fairies dancing
in their rings, and the little men stealing in and out among the
tree-branches!

He longed passionately to see the fairies.  The beauty of the earth
meant so much to him.  All through his childhood his love for it had
grown and grown till it had become almost a pain to him.  For though it
meant so much he did not know what it meant.  It had always seemed to be
leading him up to something, some great discovery, or some great joy—at
least some great emotion—which would give it just that meaning that
would tune his soul to it and entrench him safely behind some knowledge,
hidden from mortal eyes, where he could survey life as it was, perfect
and blissful, and withal secret. The fairies, if he could only look upon
them once, would give him the secret.  Surely they would not withhold
themselves from him on such a night as this.

He pictured himself lying on the warm beech-mast in the shadows of some
great tree that stood sentinel over a stretch of moonlit lawn, watching
the delicate gossamer figures at their revels, their iridescent wings
softly gleaming, their petalled skirts flying, their tiny limbs
twinkling; and perhaps he would hear the high tenuous chime of their
laughter as they gave themselves up to their delicious merriment.  He
would lie very still, hardly breathing.  The mortal grossness which he
felt to be in him should not cast its shadow over their bright
evanescent spirit.  He would keep, oh, so still, and just watch, and
grow happier and happier, and at last—know.  The grossness would be
purged from him. When the moon drooped and the fairy dancers melted
away, he would have seen behind the veil.  After that he would never
suffer again from the perplexing thought that there was some great thing
hidden from him, that just when beauty gripped his soul and seemed to
have something to tell him, and he stood ready to receive the message,
there was only silence and a sense of loss, which made him sad.  Nature
would speak to him, as she had always seemed to be speaking to him, but
now he would understand, and answer, and life would be more beautiful
than it had ever been before.


He had always hugged secrets to himself ever since he could remember,
secrets that it would have seemed to him the deepest shame that any one
should surprise. Once on a summer’s evening, when he had been lying in
his little cot by his mother’s bed, whiling away the long daylight hour
by telling himself a most absorbing story, which at that time he was
going through from night to night, he had become so worked up by it that
he carried on the dialogue in a clear audible voice.  A warning knock
came upon the bedroom door, and that particular story was cut short
never to be resumed.  It was the time when his mother and grandmother
were dining, and his nurse and all the other servants were down below.
He had not thought that it was possible that he could have been
overheard.  He had been acting a garden story.  The characters were the
Garden, the flowers and himself.  The Garden was a very kind and
gracious lady who led him, a little boy called Arnold, with black
straight hair—he preferred that sort to his own fair curls—to one flower
after another, and told him whether they had been good or naughty.  The
flowers were mostly children, but a few, such as geraniums and fuchsias,
were grown up.  The geraniums never took any notice of him, and he did
not like them on that account, but looked the other way when they were
rebuked. This fortunately happened but seldom, as they usually behaved
with propriety, though stiff and obstinate in character.  The roses he
often pleaded for, because they were so beautiful.  Vanity was their
besetting sin, and the Garden often had to tell them—in language much
the same as that used by the Vicar in church—that they were no more in
her sight than the humblest and poorest flowers.  But he could not bear
to see their beautiful petals scattered, which happened as a punishment
if they had flaunted themselves beyond hope of forgiveness.  It was
coming to be his idea, as the story progressed, that some day he would
make a strong appeal to the Garden to abolish this punishment
altogether.  Then no flowers would ever die, but only go to sleep in the
winter, and he would be the great hero of the flowers, with hair blacker
and straighter than ever, and whenever he went among them they would bow
and curtsey to him, but nobody would see them doing it except himself.

On this June evening it was a tall Madonna lily for whom he was pleading
in such an impassioned manner. Lilies were very lovely girls, not quite
children and not quite grown-up.  He had a sentimental affection for
them.  He would see them incline towards one another as he came near,
and hear, or rather make them whisper to one another: "Here is that dear
little boy.  How good he is!  And isn’t his hair dark and smooth!  I
should like to kiss him."  (Had he said that aloud, just before the
knock came?  He would never be able to look the world in the face again
if that speech had been heard.)  The Garden had accused the lily of
leaving her sisters and the place where she belonged to go and talk to a
groom in the stables.  She might have been kicked by a horse.  An
example must be made.  No little treats, no sugar on her bread and
butter, no favourite stories told her, for a week.  The lily had cried,
and said she had meant no harm, and wouldn’t do it again.  He had
adjured her not to cry, in very moving terms, which it made him hot all
over to imagine overheard, and the lily had said, in no apparent
connection with the question under discussion, but in a loud and clear
voice: "Arnold is brave and strong; he can run faster than all other
boys in the world."

It was just then that the knock came.  He was unhappy about it for days,
and looked in the faces of all the servants to see if there was any sign
of the derision he must have brought upon himself, but could find none,
and presently comforted himself with the idea that it was Santa Claus
who had knocked at the door; but he dropped the drama of the flowers,
and afterwards only whispered the speaking parts of other dramas.

It was not from any lack of love for those about him that he kept his
soul’s adventures to himself.  Of sympathy with them he might
instinctively have felt a lack, but he loved everybody with whom he had
to do, and everybody loved him.  His mother was nearest to him, though
his grandmother was felt to be the head of all things and of all people.
His mother showed jealousy towards her, but not in her presence.  The
child divined this, and responded to her craving for his caresses when
he was alone with her by little endearments which were very sweet to
her.  "You and me together, Mummy," he would whisper, snuggling up to
her, and stroke her face and kiss her, in a way that he never did when
his grandmother was there.  He must have divined too that he was the
centre of existence for his grandmother, but she never petted him or
invited his caresses, though her face showed pleasure when he leant
against her knee and prattled to her, which he did without any fear, and
as if it was natural that they two should have much to say to one
another.

During his earliest days his mother often wept stormily, and there was
great antagonism between her and the old nurse, who had also nursed his
father.  But when he was five years old the nurse suddenly went away,
and his mother’s weepings, which had saddened and sometimes frightened
him, as she clutched him to her and rocked to and fro over him, ceased,
so that he presently forgot them.  She did much for him herself that the
nurse had done before, with the help of a girl from the village, who
became a close friend of his, though not in a way to cause his mother
jealousy.

Eliza was slow and rather stupid, but she could tell half a dozen
stories.  She told them in stilted fashion, and never varied the manner,
and hardly the words, of her telling.  If she did so, he would correct
her.  By and by she became rather like a dull priest intoning a liturgy,
known so well that there was no call to attend to the meeting.  He could
see after all that himself, and wanted no variations or emotion of hers
to get between him and the pictures that her monotonous drone projected
on the curtain of his brain.  He was the hero of all the stories
himself, and carried them far beyond the bounds of the liturgy.  As Jack
the Giant-killer, he engaged with foes unknown to fairy lore.  As the
Beast he drew such interest from his mastery over other beasts that his
transformation into a Prince with straight black hair was always being
postponed, and was finally dropped out of his own story altogether,
together with Beauty, who had become somewhat of a meddler with things
that she couldn’t be expected to understand.  He was Cinderella in the
story of that time, because of riding in the coach made out of a
pumpkin, and the mice turned into horses, but never felt at home in the
character until he turned the story round and gave the leading part to
the Prince, with Cinderella’s adventures adapted to male habits and
dignity.

With Eliza in attendance he sometimes played for hours together in the
garden, and he could get away from her if he was careful never to be
right out of her sight or hearing.  It was then that the drama of the
garden and the flowers began, but when it came to an end he returned to
the fairy stories.

His mother told him stories too at his earnest pleading.  But they were
never the same twice running and had little point for him.  He much
preferred Eliza’s rigid version of the classical stories, and the others
were all about beautiful girls who married very handsome, noble, rich
men, but the men never did anything except love the girls to distraction
and give them beautiful presents.  There was no ground for his
imagination to work on, except in the matter of the presents, and of
these he demanded ever growing catalogues, suggesting many additions of
his own, so that if his mother remembered these and kept to them, there
was some interest to be got out of her stories, but not enough to vie
with that of Eliza’s repertoire.

His grandmother had no stories, but when he was a little older she told
him about his ancestors, who had done a good deal of fighting at one
time or another throughout the centuries, which gave him plenty of
material.  He knew that she got her information from books in the
library, and he was encouraged to persevere with his letters so that he
would be able to read those books for himself.  He gained from her the
impression that his family was above other families, and that in some
way which he didn’t quite understand, seeing that he was subject to her,
and to his mother, and even to Eliza, its superiority was also his in a
special measure. He must never do anything that would lessen it.  He
must not be too familiar with servants, and especially with grooms in
the stable.  He would hang his head at this, for it was the weak point
in his behaviour.  He was apt to be beguiled by the society of grooms in
the stable, to the extent even of using expressions unallowable in the
society of his equals.  But though he was to bear himself high, he was
to deal kindly with those at the same time beneath him and around him;
and he was to look upon Royd all his life as the place to which he
belonged.  He would go away from it sometimes when he was older, but he
must never be away for long, and never get to like being away.  This was
what young men did sometimes, and it was not good for them.  It was not
right.

Such exordiums as these, varied in manner but never in principle,
continued throughout his childhood, and had a strong effect upon him.  A
child has a natural preoccupation with the question of right and wrong
and it fitted in with all that Harry had learnt for himself that it was
right for him to be at Royd and would be wrong for him to be away.  He
could not imagine any other place that would suit him better, or indeed
nearly so well.  His mother would sometimes talk to him, when he grew
older, of the lights and the movement and the heartening crowds of
London.  She would do it half furtively, and he understood, without
being told, that he must keep the fact of her doing so at all from his
grandmother.  But he had no wish to talk about it.  The picture did not
please him.  He gained the impression of London as a dirty noisy place,
and Royd shone all the more brightly in comparison with it.  His mother
never mentioned the theatre.

She talked to him sometimes about his father.  He had been a soldier—a
very brave soldier—like all the rest of the Brents.  Harry would be a
soldier himself some day, but she prayed that he would not have to go
out and fight.  He would wear a beautiful red coat with a sash and a
sword, and a noble bearskin on his head. There was a photograph of his
father, not in this uniform, but in service kit, taken just after his
marriage. It showed a good-looking young man, amiable but weak. It was
the only photograph of him that Mrs. Brent had in her room.  Lady Brent
had many photographs of him, but this one was not among them.  As a
child he had been very like Harry.  Lady-Brent seldom mentioned him, and
to her daughter-in-law never.  Harry knew after a time, as children come
to know such things, that she had loved him very dearly.  She had all
those reminders of his childhood and youth about her.  His mother had
only the one.  She had known him for a few weeks.  All the rest of his
life had belonged to his own mother, and she was shut out of it.  Her
references to him, indeed, were hardly more than perfunctory.  The poor
bewildered little lady had loved him, and looked to him, perhaps, to
translate her to a more glamorous life. The life of dignity was hers,
but without him, and sometimes it lay very heavy upon her.  But she had
her child. Nothing mattered much as long as she was allowed to love him
and to keep his love.

A French nursery governess came when Harry was five years old, Eliza,
who showed great jealousy of her, not unmixed with contempt for her
absurd speech and foreign ways, being also retained.  She was a gentle
little thing, and, when she had got over her homesickness, bright and
gay.  She loved the child dearly, and he was soon prattling to her in
her own language, piping little French songs, and repeating verses with
his hands behind his back and his head on one side, to the great pride
of his mother and grandmother.  Mrs. Brent made a surreptitious friend
of Mademoiselle, and even went so far as to take lessons of her in
French.  Lady Brent spoke French with an accent "_tout a fait
distingué_."  Mademoiselle had observed that this was the mark of "_la
vraie grande dame Anglaise_" and perhaps Mrs. Brent imagined that the
accomplishment would bring her more into line.  But it was irksome to
sit down to grammar and exercises, and somehow she "never could get her
tongue round the queer sounds."  It was easier to help Mademoiselle on
with her English, and soon they had their heads together constantly,
comparing notes about the life of Blois and the life of London, which
was so gay and so different from this life of the château, so
magnificent but so dull and so always the same.  But Harry was not to
know that either of them felt like that about it, and the little French
girl had enough of the spirit of romance in her to judge his
surroundings of castle and park, and wide tract of country over which by
and by he was to rule, as fitting to him.  It was, after all, the
bourgeois life that she and Mrs. Brent pined for, the one in France, the
other in England.  She recognized that, but when she intimated as much
to Mrs. Brent that lady was up in arms at once, and the intimacy between
them nearly came to an end.  Let it be understood that the life she had
known in London was very different from the life Mademoiselle had known
in a provincial French city.  Hers had been the life of the great lady,
in London as well as at Royd, and it was that part of the great lady’s
life that she missed. Perhaps Mademoiselle, in her ignorance of English
customs, believed it, perhaps she didn’t; but she adopted the required
basis of conversation, and the friendship continued.  Mrs. Brent took
little trouble to assert her gentility, when once it was accepted, and
spoke often of her family, who lived in Kentish Town, where she had been
so happy, in a way that must have given Mademoiselle some curious ideas
of the ways of the British aristocracy, supposing her to have believed
in the claim set up.

But all this passed over the child’s head.  Mademoiselle had stories to
tell him of the old nobility of Touraine, which she was clever enough to
connect in his mind with the stories his grandmother told him of his own
knightly forbears.  It was from that life he had sprung. The ancient
glories of the French châteaux were allied to those of his noble English
castle.  The romance and chivalry were the same.  Lady Brent approved
very highly of Mademoiselle, and when she went back to France after two
years, to fulfil the marriage contract that her parents had made for
her, gave her a present which added substantially to her _dot_.

Then Mr. Wilbraham came, and Harry began his education in earnest.

Lady Brent had gone up to London to find a successor for Mademoiselle.
She was to be a highly educated Englishwoman, who was to give place to a
tutor in three or four years’ time.  Harry was not to go to school; he
was to spend the whole of his boyhood at Royd, but he was to be taught
all the things that boys of his class learnt, except the things that
Lady Brent didn’t want him to learn—including that precocious knowledge
of the world which had entangled his father, and in effect brought Mrs.
Brent into the family.

Lady Brent brought Mr. Wilbraham back with her, and never explained why
she had changed her plan.  In some things she made a confidante of her
daughter-in-law; in others she acted as if she had no more to say in her
child’s upbringing than Eliza.  And Mrs. Brent never thought of asking
her for an explanation of anything if she volunteered none.

Mr. Wilbraham was then a dejected young man of four or five and twenty.
He volunteered no explanation of his substitution for the lady of high
education either; nor, indeed, of his past history.  It was a long time
before Mrs. Brent, who liked to find out things about people, and
especially anything that indicated their social status, knew that his
father had been a clergyman, and that he expected some day to be a
clergyman himself. And that was all that she did know, until he had been
at Royd for years, and seemed likely to be there for ever; for gradually
he dropped talking about taking orders.  She had an idea that there was
some secret between him and Lady Brent, but the idea died away as time
went on, and at last he told her, quite casually, that he had gained his
post at Royd through a Scholastic Agency.  Lady Brent had gone there for
a tutor, and she had engaged him.  That was all.  It did not explain why
she had changed her mind; but by that time her change of mind had been
almost forgotten. Mr. Wilbraham was an integral part of life at Royd
Castle.

Harry liked him from the first.  He was a good teacher, and there was
never any trouble about lessons. Outside lesson time he was not expected
to be on duty, and when the boy grew older their companionship was
entirely friendly and unofficial.  Mr. Wilbraham introduced Harry to all
the rich lore of Greek mythology. Here was matter for romance, indeed!
Royd became peopled with nymphs and dryads and satyrs, and fabulous but
undreaded monsters.  Harry knew that Diana hunted the deer in the park
when the moon shone; he often heard Pan fluting in the woods, and
centaurs galloping over the turf.  When he was taken over to Rington
Cove, six miles away, he saw the rock upon which the mermaids sat and
combed their hair, and on the yellow sands the print of the nereid’s
dancing feet.  It was all very real to him, and Mr. Wilbraham never even
smiled at his fancies.  That was one of the reasons why he liked him.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                               *FAIRIES*


Harry lay quite still under a great tree, his chin propped on his hands,
his eyes fixed upon a spot in the glade where he knew there was a fairy
ring, upon which he was sure that if he gazed long enough with his eyes
clear and his brain free, he would see the gossamer fairies dancing.
His couch of beech-mast was dry under him, and not a breath of air
stirred the warmth that had settled there during a sunny day, though
cool fingers seemed to be touching his cheeks now and then, as of the
spirit of the young spring.  He was happy and at peace with himself, and
his happiness grew as the long minutes passed over him.  His world was
whole and good all around him.  His life contained no regrets and no
unfulfilled desires, except this one of learning the secret of his
happiness, which touched him as the fingers of the still April night
were touching him, to more alertness, not to any trouble or disturbance
of mind.  Besides, the secret was coming to him at last.  He must
believe that, or it would not come.  And he did believe it.  He no more
doubted that he would see the fairies under to-night’s moon than he
doubted of his body, lying there motionless.  Indeed, his spirit was
more alive than his body, which was in a strange state of quiescence, so
that it was not difficult to keep perfectly still for as long as it
should be necessary, and no discomfort arose from his immobility.


If Lady Brent was sometimes criticized, as she was, for keeping the boy
away from the intercourse that prepared other boys of his age and rank
for playing their part in the world, and the criticism had reached her
ears, she need have done no more than point to him as he was at the
threshold of his manhood, for justification.  Shut up in a great house,
with two women and a lazy tame-cat of a man; never seeing anybody
outside from one year’s end to another; no young people about him; no
chance even of playing a game with other boys—those were the
accusations, brought by Mrs. Fearon, for instance, wife of the Rector of
Poldaven, seven miles away, who had sons and daughters round about
Harry’s age, would have liked them to be in constant companionship with
him, and was virulent against Lady Brent, because she would have no such
companionship in any degree whatsoever.  The boy would grow up a regular
milksop. He couldn’t always be kept shut up at Royd, and when he did go
out into the world the foolish woman would see what a mistake she had
made.  His own father had made a pretty mess of it, and his early death
was no doubt a blessing in disguise.  Harry would have even less
experience to guide him.  It would be a wonder if he did not kick over
the traces entirely, and bring actual disgrace upon his name.

Thus Mrs. Fearon, not too happy in the way her own sons were turning
out, though they had had all the advantages that Harry lacked, and at
her wits’ end to cope with the discontent of her elder daughters.

Poldaven Rectory was the only house of any size within a seven-mile
radius of Royd except Poldaven Castle, which was hardly ever inhabited.
One summer, when Harry was about eight years old, Lady Avalon brought
her young family there, and settled them with nurses and governess,
while she herself made occasional appearances to see how they were
getting on.  There was going and coming during that summer between Royd
and Poldaven.  Harry would be taken there to play with the little
Pawles, and a carriage full of them would appear every now and then to
spend a long day at Royd.  Of all the large family, there was only one
with whom he found himself in accord.  The little Lords were noisy and
grasping, the little Ladies dull and mincing.  But one of the girls,
Sidney, of exactly the same age as himself, was different from the rest.
The two children would go off together, and when out of sight of nurses
and governess Sidney became quite natural and they would talk and play
games entirely happy in one another’s company until they were discovered
by the rest, and the disputes would begin again, and the eternal
cleavage between male and female.  Lady Avalon happened to be there,
they were encouraged to be together and she and Lady Brent would have
their heads close as they watched them.  A sweet little couple, hand in
hand—the boy so straight and handsome, the girl so pretty and naturally
gay.  There was match-making going on, and the nurses were in it too,
and left them alone together, and often prevented the other children
from seeking them out.

When the Pawle children went away after their secluded summer, Harry and
Sidney kissed gravely, under command of the head-nurse, who called them
"little sweet’earts."  But the kiss meant nothing to Harry, since he had
been told to proffer it.  He would rather have kissed Lady Ursula, a
large-eyed pink and flaxen damsel of twelve, for whom he had an
admiration, though she never had much to say to him, and there was no
interest in her companionship as there was in Sidney’s. He missed Sidney
when they went away, but not for long, and by this time he had almost
forgotten her.  For Poldaven Castle had remained empty ever since that
summer, and if Lady Brent had formed any premature matrimonial plans for
her grandson she seemed to have forgotten them, for she scarcely ever
mentioned the names of her one-time neighbours, and never that of Sidney
Pawle, except once when the news of Lady Ursula’s marriage was in all
the papers.  Then she said that Ursula was a beautiful girl, but Sidney
had always been her favourite. Harry looked at the picture of bride and
bridesmaids. He remembered how he had admired Ursula’s beauty, and she
was beautiful now, but he hardly recognized her; grown-up, she seemed a
generation older.  Sidney was recognizable in the photograph; she was
not yet grown up.  But she looked different too, in her silken finery.
Lady Avalon must have been economizing in her children’s clothes during
that summer at Poldaven, for the girls had never been dressed in
anything more elaborate than linen and rough straw.  Somehow this
bridesmaid Sidney was different from his old playmate.  He could not
imagine her playing the Princess to his rescuing knight, as she had done
once or twice when they had got quite away by themselves; or indeed his
letting her into any of that kind of secret, now.  He put the paper away
and forgot her afresh.

Harry played no outdoor games in his boyhood, except the games he made
up for himself.  But he was a horseman from his earliest years.  Lady
Brent encouraged it, when he was once old enough to go to the stables
without fear of danger.  He had first a tiny little Shetland, then a
forest-bred pony, and a horse when he was big enough to ride one.  He
roamed all over the country, happy to be by himself and indulge his
daydreams.  His handsome young face and slim supple boy’s figure were
known far and wide.  He had friends among farmers and cottage people,
but the few of his own class who lived in that sparsely populated
country he was inclined to avoid.  They thought it was by his
grandmother’s direction, but though it suited her that he should do so,
it was in truth from a kind of shyness that he kept away from them.  His
isolation was beginning to bear fruit.  The boys of his own age whom he
occasionally came across seemed to have nothing in common with him, nor
he with them.  The girls eyed him curiously, if admiringly, and he had
nothing to talk to them about.  He was happier by himself, or with his
horse and his dogs.  But he was never really by himself. He could always
conjure up brave knights and gentle ladies to ride with him through the
woods or by the sea, if he wanted company.  There was a whole world of
varied characters about him, from the highest to the lowest, and his
imagination did not stop at mortal companionship; he walked with gods
and heroes as often as with men and women.

No one about him suspected this inner life of his, as real to him as his
outer life, and still more important. To his mother and grandmother he
was a bright active boy, with the outdoor tastes of a boy, who slept
soundly, ate enormously, and behaved himself just as a well brought-up
boy should.  To his tutor he was a pleasant companion during the hours
they spent together, and one who did credit to his teaching.  Wilbraham
had his scholarly tastes and perceptions.  He would have hated the
drudgery of teaching an ordinary boy who made heavy work of his lessons,
but this boy took an interest in them.  It is true that there were
surprising gaps in the course of study that they followed.  Greek and
Latin, and English and French literature took up very nearly all their
time and attention.  Wilbraham looked forward with some apprehension to
the time when he should have to tell Lady Brent that in order to prepare
Harry for any examination extra cramming would be necessary by somebody
else in the subjects that he had neglected.  But at sixteen the boy was
a fair classical scholar, and his range of reading was wider than that
of many University honours men.

Harry was fortunate in having the Vicar to help and encourage him in his
Natural History studies, for this was a subject in which Wilbraham took
no interest. Mr. Thomson was an old bachelor, who had been Vicar of Royd
for over forty years.  His house was a museum, and Harry revelled in it.
No doubt he would have developed his tastes in that direction without
any guidance, but Mr. Thomson put him on the right lines, and was
overjoyed, at the end of his life, to have so apt a pupil.  He took him
out birds’ nesting, geologizing, botanizing, and encouraged him to form
his own collections though the boy showed no great keenness in this form
of acquisition.  He wanted to know about everything around him but to
collect specimens did not greatly interest him.  However, he was proud
enough when the old man died and bequeathed to him all his treasures. At
this time he was arranging them in a couple of rooms that had been given
up to them in the Castle.  But the excitement was already beginning to
wear a little thin. When he was not working with Wilbraham he always
wanted to be out of doors, even in bad weather.  And he missed his old
friend; it made him rather sad to be poring over the cases and shelves
and cabinets that had been so much a part of him.

Part of the old Vicar’s preoccupation had been with the antiquities of
the country in which he had lived.  He had collected legends and
folk-lore, perhaps in rather a dry-as-dust way; but it was all material
for the boy’s glowing imagination to work upon.  All the books were
there, now in Harry’s possession, and many manuscript notes, too.  And
scattered over the country were the remnants of old beliefs and old
rites, which took one right back to the dim ages of the past.  There was
a cromlech within the park walls of Royd itself, and from it could be
seen a shining stretch of sea under which lay, according to ancient
tradition, a deep-forested land that had once been alive with romance.
All this was very real to Harry, too.  The figures of Celtic heroes
mixed themselves up with those of the classical gods and heroes.  The
fairies and pixies of his own romantic land were still more real to him
than the fauns and dryads of ancient Greece; as he grew older his
expectation of meeting with a stray woodland nymph during his forest
rambles died away, but he was more firmly convinced than ever that the
native fairies were all about him, if he could only see them.


He lay for a very long time under the beech, quite motionless, but with
his senses acutely alert.  He heard every tiny sound made by the
creatures of the night, and of nature which sleeps but lightly under the
moon, and took in all their meaning, but without thinking about them.
The shadow cast by the tree under which he was lying had shifted an
appreciable space over the brightly illumined grass since he had stirred
a muscle. And all the time his expectation grew.

He was in a strangely exalted state, but penetrated through and through
with a deep sense of calm, and of being in absolute tune with the time
and place.  If no revelation of the hidden meaning of nature came to him
to-night, before the set of the moon, he would arise and go home, not
disappointed and vaguely unhappy, as he had done before, but with his
belief in that hidden meaning destroyed.  Only he knew now that that
could not happen.  When he had stolen out into the night, he had hoped
that he might see something that he had never seen before.  Now he knew
that he would.  He had only to wait until the revelation should come.
And he was quite content to wait, in patience that grew if anything as
the shadows lengthened towards the east.


He made not the slightest movement, nor was conscious of any quickening
of emotion, when the sight he had expected did break upon his eyes.  It
came suddenly, but with no sense of suddenness.  At one moment there was
the empty moon-white glade, at the next there were tiny fairies dancing
in a ring, so sweet, so light, so gay. And in the middle of them,
rhythmically waving her wand, was the queen—Titania perhaps, but he did
not think about that until afterwards.  Their wings were iridescent,
from their gauzy garments was diffused faint light, hardly brighter than
the light of the moon, hardly warmer, and yet different, with more glow
in it, more colour.

He heard the silvery chime of their laughter—just once.  Then where they
had been there was nothing.


He arose at once.  He had no expectation of seeing them again.  He did
not go down to the place where they had been, but made his way home by a
path under the trees.  His mind was full of a deep content.  The fairies
were, and he had seen them.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                              *MRS. BRENT*


Mrs. Grant was sitting in her drawing-room at Royd Vicarage.  It was a
lovely hot June morning, and she was at her needlework by the French
windows, which were pleasantly open to the garden.  The rich sweet peace
of early summer brooded over shaven lawn and bright flower beds, and was
consummated by the drone of the bees, which were as busy as if they were
aware of their reputation and were anxious to live up to it. Under the
shade of a lime at the corner of the lawn slumbered the Vicarage baby in
her perambulator, so placidly that the very spirit of peace seemed to
have descended on her infant head.  It was eleven o’clock in the
morning, and there was nothing to disturb the calm contentment with
which Mrs. Grant plied her needle, singing a little song to herself, and
occasionally casting an eye in the direction of the perambulator and its
precious contents.  Jane and Pobbles were at their lessons with Miss
Minster, or the scene would not have been so peaceful.  The Vicar was in
his study, happily at work on a moving chapter of his latest work; for
it was Monday, when clerical duties were in abeyance.

He had been at Royd for over a year, and found the place delightfully
suited to his taste.  He felt his inventive powers blossoming as never
before.  The first novel he had written at Royd had not long since been
published, and its modest popularity was now being reflected in the
literary and advertisement columns of the newspapers.  It had already
brought him an offer for the serial rights of his next novel, from a
magazine of good standing, which did not pay high prices, but did demand
a high moral tone in the fiction it published, and made quite a good
thing out of it.  It was all grist to the mill.  Royd Vicarage was a
good-sized house and cost more to live in comfortably than he or his
wife had anticipated, and his income as an incumbent, with all the
deductions that had to be made from it, was hardly higher than his
stipend as a curate had been.  But he had a little money of his own, and
his wife had a little money, and with the income that came from the
novels there was enough; and it was beginning to look as if there might
be a good deal more, perhaps a great deal more.  Novelists with less in
them than he felt himself to possess were making their two or three
thousand a year.  Anything in the way of large popularity might happen
within the next year.  In the meantime life was exceedingly pleasant,
and even exciting, with all those possibilities to build upon.  He would
leave his work sometimes and come into the room where his wife was,
rubbing his hands, to tell her how exceedingly jolly it all was.  She
would look up at him with a smile, pleased to see him so happy, and
happy herself, with her nice house, and no anxiety about being able to
run it properly.

She was rather expecting a visit from him this morning, for he had told
her that he was going to set to work on a new chapter, and when he had
settled what it was going to be he would usually come and tell her about
it before he began to write.  She thought it was he when the door
opened; but it was Mrs. Brent, who sometimes looked in and sat with her
for a time in the morning.

Mrs. Brent was well dressed, in the summer attire of a country-woman,
but with her fluffy hair, and face that had been pretty in her youth but
was pretty no longer, she looked somehow as if she had dressed for the
part; and the air of "commonness," not always apparent in her, was there
this morning.  The corners of her mouth drooped, and there was an
appearance of discontent, and even sullenness about her.

She brightened up a little as she greeted Mrs. Grant, and sat down
opposite to her on a low chair by the window.  "Oh, I do like coming
here," she said.  "It’s so peaceful.  And it’s such a quiet pretty
room."

The room was rather barely furnished, but what there was in it was good,
and there were a great many flowers.  To buy old things for this and
other rooms of the house was to be one of the first results of the
expected increase of income, but it was doubtful whether the charm of
this room would be much enhanced.  For it was quiet, as Mrs. Brent said,
and quietness is a valuable quality in a room.

Mrs. Grant looked round her with satisfaction.  "It _is_ nice," she
said.  "We are very happy here.  I don’t think I’d change Royd for any
place in the world."

"I would," said Mrs. Brent.  "I’m fed up with it."

Mrs. Grant threw a glance at her.  She was looking down, and the
sullenness had returned to her face.

"Fed up to the teeth," she said.

She looked up in her turn.  Behind the discontent was an appeal.  Mrs.
Grant felt suddenly very sorry for her.  If she was a little common, she
was also rather pathetic—a middle-aged child, out of place and out of
tune.

"I think it would do you good to have a change sometimes," Mrs. Grant
said.  "However beautiful a place is, one wants a change occasionally."

"_She_ doesn’t," said Mrs. Brent vindictively.  "So she thinks nobody
else ought to either."

It was coming at last, then.  Mrs. Grant had formed her own opinion of
Lady Brent long since, and it did not entirely coincide with the opinion
that her husband had formed, though she had not told him so.  Lady Brent
had been all that could have been expected towards themselves—kind and
hospitable, and within limits friendly.  She had offered no real
intimacy, and after a year’s intercourse it was plain that she had none
to offer; but it was also plain that the intercourse need never be
otherwise than smooth and even pleasant, if the limitations were
observed.  Mrs. Brent, on the other hand, had shown that she wanted
intimacy.  Mrs. Grant could not give any deep measure of friendship to
one in whom there seemed to be no depths, but she could talk to Mrs.
Brent about many things, about Harry and about her own children in
particular, and find a response that made for friendship.  She could
talk, too, about the events of her own life, but was chary of doing so,
because it would seem to be asking for confidences in return, and she
was not sure that she wanted them. There was always in the background
the feeling that Mrs. Brent and her mother-in-law were antagonistic, in
spite of the apparent harmony between them; and of late that feeling had
increased.  Mrs. Brent was such that the gates of her lips once unlocked
she would express her antagonism, and it would no longer be possible to
treat it as if it did not exist.  That time seemed to have come now.

"I hate that woman," said Mrs. Brent, "and I won’t put up with it any
longer."

There was the slightest little pause before Mrs. Grant replied.  "Why do
you hate her?  I can understand your wanting to get away sometimes; but
she always seems to me to treat you nicely; and of course she is
extremely nice to us.  I should be sorry to quarrel with her in any
way."

"No doubt you would," said Mrs. Brent drily. "You’d get the rough side
of her tongue pretty quick, and you wouldn’t forget it in a hurry."

Mrs. Grant was a little shocked.  This new plain-spoken Mrs. Brent was
more of a personage than the carefully behaved lady always anxious to be
making a good impression that she had hitherto appeared; but she seemed
out of the Royd picture—and all the more so if Harry and not Lady Brent
were regarded as its central figure.  The suggestion of Lady Brent as a
virago was also rather startling.

"Oh, I don’t mean to say that she’d use bad language," said Mrs. Brent,
in reply to some demur. "That’s not her little way.  I won’t tell you
what her little way is, but she’s always the _lady_.  I’m not, you see.
That’s what’s the matter with me.  I’m Lottie Lansdowne, who danced on
the stage, and never allowed to forget it, though you can tell of
yourself, since you’ve been here, that I’ve _tried_ hard enough to play
the game—for Harry’s sake, I have—and been at it for the last seventeen
years; and now I’m getting a bit sick of it."

She was in tears, and Mrs. Grant felt a strong emotion of pity towards
her.  She leant forward.  "My dear," she said, "I think it’s splendid
the way you sink yourself for Harry’s sake.  You mustn’t give up doing
it, you know.  It has paid—hasn’t it?—to have him brought up here, out
of the world, in the way that you and Lady Brent have done.  He’s the
dearest boy. _I_ consider that you have had more to do with the success
of it than she has.  He loves you more, for one thing; and if he sees
you living here as if you belonged to it all——"

"Oh, I know," said Mrs. Brent, drying her eyes.  "I made up my mind
about that years ago, and I’m not going back on it.  I suppose when he
gets older and begins to see things for himself, he’ll see that I
_don’t_ really belong.  I’ve got that before me, you know.  _She_ knows
it too, and of course doesn’t care.  It’ll suit her. _She’ll_ come out
all right, but I shan’t.  The only thing is that he does love me, and he
can’t really love her.  I don’t see how anybody could.  I’m glad you
said that. I love you for saying it.  I can talk to you, and I’m sure
it’s a relief to talk to somebody.  There’s Wilbraham, but he’s as much
up against her now as I am; we only make each other worse.  You do think
it’s all right so far, don’t you?  With Harry, I mean.  He couldn’t be
nicer than he is, if his mother had been born a lady.  Of course I
wasn’t, whatever I may pretend.  I haven’t got in the way, have I?  She
can’t bring that up against me."

"Oh, no!  Oh, no!  You mustn’t think that.  You’re part of it all to
him.  I said that and I meant it."

She settled herself back more easily in her chair. "Well, I believe I
am," she said.  "I’ve tried to make myself.  I love him dearly, and I’d
do anything for his sake.  It’s been right to bring him up quietly here.
She’s been right there.  I’ll say that for her, though I hate her."

"You don’t really hate her," said Mrs. Grant; "and I don’t think you’ve
any reason to.  What she has done has been for Harry’s sake too."

"It has been for the sake of the Brent family.  Her son married beneath
him—so she says—though I’d have made him a good wife, and though I loved
him I knew he wasn’t all he might have been.  She’s going to see that
Harry doesn’t run any risk of doing the same.  Well, I’m with her there.
I don’t want Harry to be mixed up with what I come from.  But there’s
nothing nasty about it.  It’s only that we weren’t up in the world.  Do
you know I haven’t so much as set eyes on my own people since Harry was
born?  Why shouldn’t I?  I’m flesh and blood.  My father died since I
came here, and mother’s getting on.  She was nearly fifty when I was
married."

"Do you mean that Lady Brent——?"

"Oh, it was me too.  I said that I’d give them up when I came here.  The
fact is that I wasn’t best pleased with them at that time.  I’d promised
Harry—my husband, I mean; they’re all called Harry—not to say I was
married till he came home.  Poor boy, he never did come home, but before
that—well, they said things—at least, mother did—that made me furious.
I kept my promise to him till I heard he’d been killed, poor boy. Then I
let them have it.  Perhaps I hadn’t learnt quite so many manners then as
I have since, though I was always considered refined by the other girls
in the company.  Anyhow, it ended in my saying I never wanted to see
them again, and we never even wrote till poor father died.  Still, I’ve
forgiven them now, it’s so long ago, and I cried when father died, and
wrote to mother. I was very fond of father.  He used to take me on his
knee when I was little and read stories out of the Bible to me.  He was
a religious man, and didn’t like my going on the stage.  Sometimes I
wish I’d never gone.  Emily, my next oldest sister, went into millinery
and did well. She married long ago and has a boy nearly as old as Harry,
though of course he’d be very different.  Mother said she had a nice
house out Hendon way, when she wrote, and three little girls, as well as
a boy.  I dare say I should have been much happier like that, though I
shouldn’t have had Harry.  But it couldn’t do Harry any harm now if I
just went up and saw them sometimes. I needn’t even say I was going to
see them or anything about them.  Why shouldn’t I go to London for a
week, as other ladies do, to see their dressmaker or something?  I think
it’s more London I want than mother, if you ask me.  Oh, just to see the
lights and the pavements, and the people jostling one another! I’m like
famished for it."

She threw out her hands with a curious stagy gesture that was yet a
natural one, and her nostrils seemed to dilate, as if she were actually
sniffing the atmosphere she so much desired.  "I’m going," she said.  "I
don’t care what she says."

"I don’t see why you shouldn’t go," said Mrs. Grant. "But why should
Lady Brent object?  What can she say?"

Mrs. Brent leant forward.  "Couldn’t you ask her for me?" she said
coaxingly.  "Tell her you think I ought to have a change.  I’m young,
you know.  At least I’m not old yet.  It can’t be right for me to be
buried down here year after year.  I shan’t get into mischief.  Just a
week!"

Mrs. Grant felt intensely uncomfortable.  Get into mischief!  What _did_
it all mean?  Lady Brent must have some reason for keeping the frivolous
pathetic little thing shut up like this?  And yet she had seemed to
disclose everything; she had dropped every trace of pretence, and had
made her appeal for sympathy on the grounds of her very unsuitability to
be where she was. If she no longer cared, before this friend, to keep up
the fiction of having sprung from a superior station in life, which from
such as she was a great concession to candour, how could she wish to
keep anything back?

"You know I’m your friend," Mrs. Grant said.  "I’d do anything I could
to help you, but you see how it is with us here.  We shall never be
close friends with Lady Brent; I don’t think she wants it.  But she’s
kind and well-disposed towards us.  I couldn’t run the risk of setting
her against us, unless I were _quite_ certain that—I mean quite certain
of my ground.  It wouldn’t be fair to my husband.  It would make all the
difference to us here if we were not on good terms with her.  Have you
told me everything?  _Why_ should she think you might get into
mischief?"

She put this aside lightly.  "Oh, there’s nothing in that.  It’s only
what she’d say.  She’d say anything. But I see I ought not to ask you.
No, it wouldn’t be fair to bring you into it.  She’d have it up against
you; you’re quite right.  I tell you this, Mrs. Grant; when Harry comes
of age—or before that, when he goes to Sandhurst—I’m off.  No more of
this for me.  I shall snap my fingers at her.  But of course you’ve got
to stay here.  No, I’ll tackle her myself, and see if I can’t get my own
way for once."

She sprang up.  "I’ll go and do it now," she said. "No time like the
present."

She laughed, and kissed Mrs. Grant.  "Good-bye, dear," she said.  "It
does me good to talk to you; you’re so understanding.  And it does me
good to have you here—you and your nice kind clever husband and your
_sweet_ children.  Ah, if I’d had a bit of real family life with _my_
poor boy!—it might have been here or anywhere; I shouldn’t have cared
where it was—it would all have been very different.  Now I’ll go and
tackle the old dragon while I’m fresh for it.  Good-bye, dear; I’ll go
out through the garden."

She went out by the window, and stopped to look at the sleeping baby as
she crossed the lawn, smiling and making a little motion of the hand
towards Mrs. Grant as she did so.  Then she disappeared behind the
shrubbery.

Mrs. Grant laid down her work and went to refresh herself with a look at
the baby.  As she turned back, her husband came out of his room, which
was next to the drawing-room and also opened on to the garden.

His face was serious.  "I didn’t know you had Mrs. Brent with you," he
said.  "I’ve had Wilbraham. They’re all at loggerheads up at the Castle,
Ethel.  I don’t quite know what to do about it.  I don’t want to get up
against Lady Brent; but——"

She told him of Mrs. Brent’s prospective revolt. "She asked _me_ to talk
to her," she said.  "But I said the same as you do.  We don’t want to
get up against her.  What is the trouble with Mr. Wilbraham?"

"Much the same as with Mrs. Brent apparently. He’s fed up with it too.
He wants to get away."

"What, for always?"

"Oh, no.  He’s too fond of Harry for that.  Besides, he’s very
comfortable here—has everything he wants.  I told him that, and he
didn’t deny it.  But he seems to have developed a furious hatred of Lady
Brent.  I really can’t tell you why.  He couldn’t tell me, when I
pressed him.  He’s morose and gloomy.  He says he must get away from her
for a time, or he’ll go off his head."

"But surely he can take a holiday sometimes if he wants to!"

"It almost looks as if she wouldn’t let him go off by himself.  He asked
me to go with him, for a month. He offered to pay all expenses and go
where I liked. In the old days I might have been tempted—if you’d
thought it would be a good thing to do.  But I don’t want to go away
from here just now—at this lovely time of year, with the work and
everything going so well. Of course I could write, but——  Anyhow I don’t
know who I should get to do my duty.  If I thought it would really put
things right!  What do you think?  Ought I to do it?"

"I don’t know, dear.  I don’t understand what’s going on.  It looks to
me as if there must be something behind it all that we don’t know of."

He laughed at her and pinched her chin.  "You take the novelist’s point
of view," he said.  "I don’t, which is perhaps rather odd.  They’re all
on each other’s nerves.  Why don’t he and Mrs. Brent go off together?"
He laughed again.  "He didn’t really press it," he said. "He wanted me
to go this week.  I couldn’t do that, anyhow, and when I said so he
seemed to drop the idea. He had wanted me to suggest it to Lady Brent
just as Mrs. Brent wanted you.  They’re a queer couple."

"I suppose it’s only to be expected that it should be like that
sometimes," she said thoughtfully.  "I think I could talk to Lady Brent,
if she’d only give me the chance."

"I don’t think she will, and it wouldn’t do to begin it."

"Oh no, I shouldn’t do that.  But there’s Harry.  It all comes back to
him, you see.  If she’s mistaken in what she’s doing, it’s for his sake
she’s doing it.  She might give me an opening there."

"I don’t think so.  It all passes over Harry’s head. It’s rather
remarkable how normal he is.  One might not have expected it under such
circumstances.  Well, I must get back, dear.  Wilbraham has taken a big
slice out of my morning.  I’m sorry for him and wish I could help him.
But I don’t see how I can, except by continuing my friendship.  I was
rather flattered that he should have come and talked to me.  He
professes to think very little of my knowledge of human nature, you
know.  But most of that’s a pose, and I like him.  He went off to tackle
Lady Brent himself.  Mrs. Brent too, you say.  She’ll have a happy day
of it, I should think."

At this moment the peaceful seclusion of the scene was destroyed by the
incursion of Jane and Pobbles, who, released from their studies, came
tumultuously round the corner of the house, Jane leading.  They woke up
the baby, or, as her time for waking up was past, perhaps they only
completed the process, and they escaped rebuke for it.  Their cry was
for Harry.  Where was Harry?  He had promised to come not a moment later
than twelve o’clock, and it was already two minutes past.

Jane was a straight, somewhat leggy child, with the promise of beauty
when the time should come for her to accept her dower of femininity.  At
present she was more like a boy than a girl, except for her long thick
plait of fair hair, which she would have given almost anything to be
allowed to sacrifice in the interests of freedom.  She was aboundingly
full of life and the most amazing physical energy.  She affected an
extreme virility of speech, and exercised a severe discipline over
Pobbles, who occasionally raged against it as an offence to his manhood,
but as a rule accepted the yoke and prospered under it.  He was a
handsome child, strong and vigorous too, but without his sister’s
determined initiative.  They were a pair to be proud of, and their
parents were proud of them, but found them a handful. Miss Minster could
manage them by the exercise of a good-humoured authority which never
allowed itself to be rattled.  But it was only Harry whose lightest word
they obeyed without question.  He was their hero and their most adored
playmate.  Perhaps Jane showed more femininity in submitting to his
direction than was apparent in her attitude towards him, in which there
was none to be seen.

Harry came into the garden as they were clamouring their questions, with
his retriever wagging its tail at his heels.  He was seventeen now,
grown almost to his full height, but his face was still that of a boy.
There was a radiant look of health and happiness in it.  He was
extraordinarily good to look at, not only because of his beauty, of form
and feature and colouring, which was undeniable, but because of this
sort of inward light, which suffused it with a sense of perfection that
went right through him.  Mrs. Grant caught her breath as she looked at
him.  She saw him as some wonderful work of God, without flaw,
untroubled in his happiness. Whatever disturbances there might be among
the figures of coarser clay by whom he was surrounded, there must be
some breath of finer spirit in each and all of them, since he stood on
the threshold of manhood as he was, here before her eyes.

The matter in hand was the building of a log cabin in a bit of forest
that reached down from the wooded hill behind the Vicarage garden.
Harry and the children had been working at it for a month or more, and
it was to be a very perfect specimen of a log cabin.

"Why haven’t you brought the saw?" said Jane, turning upon Pobbles.  "Go
and fetch it."

"It’s your turn," said Pobbles.  "Can’t always be fetching things for
you."

"Be quick," said Jane.  "We’re wasting time.  Come on, Harry, we’ll
start.  He can run after us."

"Don’t know where to find the saw," said Pobbles, untruthfully.

"Jane will go and help you," said Harry.  "Hurry up, both of you."

Jane put her long legs in rapid motion without a word, Pobbles pounding
along after her on his shorter ones.  Harry laughed.  "That’s the way to
talk to them," he said.

Jane returned bearing the saw, Pobbles following. They set off
immediately for the wood, and the voices of all three of them were heard
for a long time in animated conversation through the hot drowsy air.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                                *REVOLT*


Lady Brent sat in her business room, engaged in affairs, or apparently
so.  Business room it was called, but it was little like one except for
the large writing-table in the window at which she sat, and as a matter
of fact she transacted most of the actual business of house and estate
which fell to her share in a room downstairs called the Steward’s room,
which was far more severely furnished.  This large upstairs room, with
its deep embrasured window looking on to the park, was her fastness, and
she did not often withdraw herself into its seclusion.  It was next to
her bedroom, and might have been better called her boudoir, but that the
ancient and severe splendour of its furnishing would have seemed to
rebuke such a name.  It was richly carved and panelled, the furniture
was heavy and sombre, and lightened by none of the modern touches which
made the long drawing-room downstairs, which was mostly used, bright and
even gay.  This room was as characteristic of the old romantic Castle as
any in it.  It spoke of a time long gone by, and of a life more austere
than modern life is apt to be.  There were few comforts in it but a
great deal of rich massive dignity.  When Lady Brent ensconced herself
in it she was the chatelaine of the Castle, seated in state, and as
formidable as it was in her power to make herself.

Mrs. Brent, coming in from the Vicarage, wrought up to her purpose,
looked for her in the long drawing-room, and not finding her there had
the intuition that she was in her business room.  She hesitated a little
before going upstairs to verify it, making a further draught upon her
determination.  Of course!  She had known that it was coming to a row.
She was as sharp as a cartload of monkeys, and had seen that the row was
likely to occur just at this very time.  That was why she had taken to
her business room, when by all usual habits she would have been sitting
downstairs or in the garden, during the hour before luncheon.

So thought Mrs. Brent, mounting the oak staircase, and summoning all her
resolution.  She wouldn’t be awed by the stately lady in the stately
room.  After all, it was only a piece of play-acting.  She knew
something about play-acting herself.  She would be cold and stately too,
announce her determination and then go away.  She’d show that she wasn’t
to be put upon.  Perhaps it would be easier like that.  There would be
no leading up to the subject and no discussion after it, as there must
have been if she had joined her mother-in-law downstairs, and felt
compelled to sit on with her.

But she knew, as she opened the door, that it would not be easier.

"Oh, I wondered where you were.  I just wanted to say something to you,
if you’re not too busy."

The tone did not seem right, somehow, even to herself.  Lady Brent
turned round from the table at which she was sitting, and took off the
tortoise-shell rimmed glasses which she wore for reading and writing.
She did not look in the least degree formidable—a well-preserved,
well-dressed, middle-aged lady, not really obliged to wear glasses, even
for reading and writing, and not wanting them at all for anything else.
"Yes, certainly, Charlotte," she said, "I have nearly finished what I
came here to do, and you are not interrupting me at all."

Mrs. Brent had an impulse to make up some trivial message and go away,
but conquered it.  Her voice shook a little as she said, still standing:
"I wish to go up to London, for a few days—say a week—as soon as
possible."

Again she had not satisfied herself.  She had used the prim reserved
tone of a maid giving notice—"I wish to leave at the end of my month."
It seemed to her that she had only just prevented herself adding, "my
lady."

Lady Brent received it much as she might have received notice from a
servant, whose temporary dissatisfaction with her place must not be
taken too seriously. "Why do you want to do that?" she asked, in a
level, even a kindly voice.

It touched some chord in Mrs. Brent.  She had, perhaps, prepared herself
for a peremptory refusal, and if it had come she would have been ready
to combat it, and obstinate to push her determination through.  But
supposing her request should, after all, be granted!  That would put
everything right and save a lot of trouble.

All the irritation she had been piling up against Lady Brent would be
dissolved.  She did not want to quarrel with her, if it could be
avoided.  She would have to go on living with her, whether she had a
short respite now or not.  And it had not always been so very
disagreeable to live with her.

"Oh, I must, I really must," she said.  "I can’t stand it any longer.
Just a week!  I’ll go and see my mother, and be as quiet as possible.
Harry needn’t know I’m going to her, if you don’t want him to, though I
don’t see what difference it would make."

"I think I do," said Lady Brent quietly.  "But perhaps you’d better sit
down, and talk it over.  What is it you can’t stand any longer?  If
there’s anything wrong here we ought to be able to put it right.  Only I
must first know what it is."

Mrs. Brent sat down.  She saw that her appeal had been a mistake.  She
could not now coldly state her intention and support it against
opposition, behaving as one stately lady towards another, as she had
pictured it to herself, coming up the staircase.  And of course Lady
Brent did not mean to let her go, if she could help it.

She sat down in a high-backed Carolean chair.  "I don’t want to go into
all that," she said stiffly.  "I shall be able to stand it all right
when I come back.  A little holiday is what I really want, and what I
mean to have.  It’s not much to ask, after nearly eighteen years.  Well,
I say ask—but I’m not asking.  I’m just telling you that I’m going away
on Thursday, or perhaps Friday, and I shall come back in a week—or ten
days."

It was not quite the address of one stately lady to another, but it
seemed to have served its turn.  Lady Brent turned back to her
writing-table and took up her rimmed spectacles.

"Very well," she said.

Mrs. Brent sat in her high-backed chair, looking at her.  She placed her
spectacles upon her well-shaped nose, and took up her pen.  Then she
said, as calmly as before: "If you tell me you are going there is no
more to be said.  I’ll finish what I’m doing now, before luncheon."

"Then you’re ready for me to go; you don’t mind," said Mrs. Brent.

"It doesn’t much matter whether I mind or not, does it?  You tell me you
are going.  You refuse to discuss it with me?"

"Well, I don’t want to make trouble.  It’s no good talking over things.
There’s nothing much wrong, really.  If I go away now for a bit I shall
be all right when I come back.  I expect, really, I shall be rather glad
to get back."

Lady Brent put down her pen and took off her spectacles. "Oh, but if you
go away you won’t come back," she said, turning towards her again.
"Surely you understand that!"

Mrs. Brent felt that she had been entrapped into an opening unfavourable
to herself.  Now was the time, if she had it in her, to exercise the
restraint and reserve shown by Lady Brent.  But it was not in her; she
became angry at once, and showed her anger.

"Of course I might have known that you were leading me on," she said
bitterly.  "I dare say it seems very clever to you, and it’s what you’re
always doing.  But I’m not going to give in to it any more.  I’m going
away—only just for a little holiday—and I’m coming back. You can’t
prevent me.  This is my home.  I’ve lived here getting on for eighteen
years—me and my child.  I dare say you’d like to keep him and get rid of
me.  But you can’t do it."

"If I wanted to do that I could do it," returned Lady Brent; and, as the
statement brought no immediate response, she repeated it, in the same
level tone but with slightly increased emphasis.  "If I wanted to do
that I could do it."

"Perhaps you could do it, by law," said Mrs. Brent. "I don’t know
anything about the law, except what you’ve told me.  Perhaps you could
and perhaps you couldn’t.  But there’s one thing you can’t do, and
that’s take away my child’s love for me, though I dare say you’d like to
do that too.  You don’t suppose that if I went away and came back here
and you had me turned away from the door, you wouldn’t hear something
about it from him.  You don’t suppose that, do you?  He’s pretty near a
man now.  You’re his guardian till he comes of age; I know that you had
yourself made so by the law, and I didn’t make any objection; you told
me it was best for him, and I believed you.  But you’d find it wasn’t
all a question of law if you tried any game of that sort.  I don’t know
what Harry would do, but I do know that whatever he did it wouldn’t suit
your book."

Lady Brent had listened to this speech without showing the smallest sign
of discomposure, but her light blue eyes were hard and cold as she said:
"There is a good deal of truth in what you say.  Your going away would
completely upset everything that has been done during the last eighteen
years for Harry’s benefit.  Both you and I have made sacrifices on his
behalf.  We agreed to do so when you came here before he was born.  I
have kept strictly to the bargain.  I should not, for my own pleasure,
live the retired life that I do here, all the year round, with you as my
constant companion.  For my own sake I should be immensely relieved to
say good-bye to you for a time, if it were possible."

"Yes, that’s the sort of nasty thing you say."

"Isn’t it exactly what you say to me?  Why should you suppose your
society is any more gratification to me than mine is to you?"

"I wish to goodness you would say good-bye to me, then, for a time.  Why
isn’t it possible?  It is possible. I tell you I’m going, and I’m coming
back."

"Do you remember anything at all about the bargain we struck when you
first came here, or have you forgotten it entirely, after nearly
eighteen years, as you say?"

"Of course I remember it.  You didn’t mince your words then any more
than you do now.  You made me feel that I was dirt beneath your feet,
but you’d put up with me for the sake of preventing my boy—if it was to
be a boy—doing what his father had done, and marrying somebody he loved,
if you didn’t think she was good enough for him."

"You can put it like that if it pleases you.  You consented to
everything.  You yourself wanted the child brought up with nothing to
remind him that on one side his birth wasn’t suited to his long ancestry
on the other.  I warned you what the sacrifice would be.  It meant
giving up your own people, for one thing, and you gladly consented to do
that.  It meant your doing your utmost to fill the position that I
freely offered you here."

"So I have done my utmost."

"And now, when what we agreed to do together has turned out better than
either of us could have hoped for, when we are very nearly at the end of
it, and can send Harry out into the world what we have made of him here,
you want to break the bargain.  And why?  Not for any good it can
possibly do him, but just because you want to go back to what you were
before you came here—for your own petty selfish pleasure."

"It isn’t that," she said vehemently.  "I say it isn’t natural that
anybody should cut themselves off from their own flesh and blood.  I
loved my father and he died without me setting eyes on him.  You let me
write to mother then.  I didn’t do it without asking you, and——"

"Didn’t we strike the bargain afresh then?  Didn’t I say I was sorry
that it should have been required of you to cut yourself off from your
family, but that it had already then proved to be the right course?  And
didn’t you agree with me, though it was harder for you to bear then than
at any time?"

The tears came.  "Of course it was hard, then," she said.  "But you were
kind to me.  So you were when I first came.  If I was giving up
something, I was going to get something too.  All that I’d been was to
be forgotten, though it isn’t true that I’d been anything that I ought
not to have been.  Harry was to grow up knowing me as belonging here.
You were to be his legal guardian, but he was to be my child."

"Yes, and I might have struck a much harder bargain with you than that.
You would have consented.  I might have taken the child and paid you
off.  That’s often done, you know, in cases like yours."

She was sobbing now.  "You’re cruel," she said. "Yes, you are cruel,
even when you’re pretending to be nice.  You like hurting me.  Pay me
off!  Anybody’d think, to hear you talk, I’d been a loose woman."

"I’ve never said that, or implied it."

"No, you’ve never said it.  You wouldn’t dare.  But you’ve made me feel
that’s how you look at me.  Why didn’t you pay me off, then, and get rid
of me?"

"Exactly.  Why didn’t I?"

"Well?  I’m asking you."

"I was willing to give you your chance.  Whatever I may have thought of
you, I didn’t want to deprive you of your child, or him of his mother,
so long as you were ready to make yourself the kind of mother he ought
to have had.  You said you’d do it.  You were grateful to me.  You
consented to every stipulation I laid down. The chief of them all was
that you should break absolutely with your past until he came of age.
Then you could do what you liked; it would be between you and him.  Now
you want to break that stipulation.  I say that if you break it on one
side you break it on the other; I also say that it would be a very
wicked thing to break it, now at this time."

"It wouldn’t be if you’d just let me go away for a bit and come back."

"That I won’t do.  Why do you want to go away? It isn’t just to see your
mother.  I know that well enough.  You want the life of London, the life
you led there before Harry was born—theatres, and suppers and gaiety,
with the sort of people that you ought to be ashamed of mixing yourself
up with, when you think about Harry, and what he is.  You’ve done
without it for nearly eighteen years.  For goodness’ sake do without it
for a little time longer.  Don’t knock down what we’ve been building up
for all these years, just for a selfish whim.  Think of Harry, not of
yourself."

"I do think of him.  I love him better than anything in the world.  I’d
go barefoot if it was to do something for him."

"You’re not asked to go barefoot.  All you’re asked to do is to go on
living the quiet but very comfortable life that you’ve lived here for
years past, and make the best of it.  It’s what I’m doing myself."

She dried her eyes and rose from her chair.  "I see I’m not going to get
any kindness from you," she said. "But I’ll think about it.  Perhaps I
shan’t go.  I’ve stood it so long that perhaps I can stand it a bit
longer. If I was _sure_ it was for Harry’s good I’d never move out of
the place till I was carried out.  I’ll think about it and let you
know."

"You needn’t let me know anything," said Lady Brent.  "If you go you go,
and if you stay you stay."

With that Mrs. Brent left her.  She did not immediately return to
whatever she had been doing, but sat looking out through the open
casement across the open spaces of the park to the woods beyond.  Her
face was still hard and still watchful.  By and by she looked at her
watch, and almost immediately a knock came at the door.  She answered as
if she had been expecting it, and Wilbraham came into the room.

There was a sullen discontented expression on his face, which was
unusual with him.  He had kind lazy eyes and a whimsical twist on his
mobile lips; but all that was obliterated.

He took his seat without invitation in the chair recently vacated by
Mrs. Brent.  "I want to go away for two or three weeks’ holiday," he
said, scowling slightly, and handling his bunched fingers.  "Now you’re
going to have that man over from Burport for Harry’s mathematics he can
do without me—say for a month.  He’s well up in my subjects.  The more
he works at his mathematics the better it will be for him."

"Why do you want to go away just now?" she asked, as she had asked of
Mrs. Brent.

"Why does anybody ever want to go away?" he said.  "I want a holiday,
and if I’m to go on here I must have one."

"If you want a holiday from work, there ought to be no difficulty about
that.  You know what’s best for Harry.  If you think that Mr. Fletcher
will be of more use to him now, by all means arrange it like that and
leave yourself altogether free for a time."

"Thanks very much.  Of course I shouldn’t want to do anything that would
keep Harry back.  You know that."

"Oh yes, I know that.  He was to come first in everything. That was
agreed upon between us when you first came here.  I saw very soon that I
could leave questions of education entirely to you, and I have always
done so."

"Well, now I want to go away for a month or so. I’m getting stale.  I’m
not doing him justice."

"Perhaps not.  I’ve been feeling that for some little time.  But I don’t
think it would help you to do him justice if you went away so that you
could drink, and undo everything that——"

"Lady Brent!"  He was startled and outraged, and glared at her
terrifically.

She was not moved.  "That’s what’s the matter with you," she said, in
the same even voice, "though you may not acknowledge it to yourself.
I’m very sorry that this has happened.  I had thought that after all
these years the craving had left you.  I don’t think it can be as strong
as it was.  I ran the risk when I asked you to come here, and helped you
over the difficult time.  It is years since you told me last that the
desire was strong in you, but it was easier to overcome it.  What a pity
to give way now!"

His deep frown had not altered while she was speaking. "Give way!" he
echoed.  "I’ve no intention of giving way.  You’ve no right to speak of
that at all.  It was all over long ago."

"I helped you to get over it, didn’t I?"

"Yes, you did.  I’m not denying it.  You can be a good friend to a man
when it suits you; to a woman too, I dare say.  But you’re difficult to
live with.  I want to get away for a time.  There’s nothing to fear, of
that old weakness.  Perhaps I ought not to resent your bringing it up
against me, but——"

"You wouldn’t resent it if what I say wasn’t true. You may not know it
yourself, but you’re playing with the idea of giving way.  If you did
give way you’d be very sorry for it afterwards, no doubt, but the
mischief would have been done.  You’d no longer be a fit companion for
Harry.  It’s him I’m thinking about.  You can do what you like, but if
you go away you don’t come back.  It’s what I’ve just said to Charlotte,
who wants the same as you do.  I’m not going to have everything spoilt
when our task is coming near its end.  If she’s a foolish woman, you’re
an intelligent man.  You can see it all as well as I can if you clear
your mind of its vapours.  You know it wouldn’t do.  You must stay here
until you have finished with Harry.  Then you can do what you like—stay
here or go away."

"It won’t matter what becomes of me then, I suppose."

"I said that you could stay here if you liked.  This has been your home
for ten years.  It can go on being your home as long as you value it; or
at least as long as I have anything to do with it."

He sat looking down, still frowning; but his frown had more of thought,
and less of anger in it now.

He threw a glance at her sitting there self-possessed and at ease, and a
wry smile came to his lips.  "Why can’t you always behave like that?" he
asked.  "I suppose the fact is you’ve worked off all your temper on that
poor little creature who’s been telling you just the same as I have.  I
met her crying on the stairs just now, and she wouldn’t tell me what it
was about.  But I could guess."

She showed some surprise, but no resentment.  "My temper!" she
exclaimed.  "Well, I suppose I must pass that over in the state to which
you’ve reduced yourself."

His face became moody again.  "I won’t ask you what you mean by that,"
he said.  "But you’re quite wrong in what you said just now.  Would you
consent to my going away with Grant, if I could get him to come with me?
He’s rather a fool, but I’d rather have his company than—than——"

"Than mine, I suppose.  No, I wouldn’t consent to that.  You came here
on certain conditions, and you must keep to them.  It won’t be for very
much longer now.  I’m not altogether without sympathy with you. I’ve
felt the strain myself."

He broke into a loud laugh, and went on laughing, while she waited
patiently for him to finish, as if no vagary on his part could surprise
or upset her.

"Oh, that’s too rich," he said, "in that tone!  Yes, you’ve been feeling
the strain, and you’ve made us feel it.  That’s all the trouble.  Well
now, look here, Lady Brent, I accept what you say about its being too
late to alter things now—or too early—whichever you please.  We’re all
three of us in the bargain, I take it. It was your idea to keep the boy
shut up here, and it has paid.  I don’t believe it would have paid nine
times out of ten, and we’ve yet to see how it will turn out when the
test comes.  But Harry being what he is, it has been a brilliant
success—so far.  You’ve been justified in keeping me and his mother shut
up here too."

"And myself, you must remember.  I’ve shut myself up too, so as to make
it seem all the most natural thing in the world to him."

"Quite so.  And you’ve suffered for it, just as we have.  Suffered in
your temper.  If we stick to it, as we must, you ought to make it as
easy for us as possible. You haven’t lately."

"So Charlotte seemed to imply.  But I should like to know how."

"Oh, you know how, well enough.  You said I was a man of intelligence
just now.  Well, you’re a woman of intelligence.  Just think it over."

He nodded his head, knowingly.  He looked rather ridiculous, and Lady
Brent laughed.

"I wish you’d go away," she said.  "I want to finish what I’m doing
before luncheon.  You may tell Charlotte, if you like, that I’m sorry if
I spoke harshly to her just now.  She annoyed me and I did not pick my
words.  When three people live together year in and year out they are
apt to get annoyed with one another occasionally, for no particular
reason."



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                            *THE LOG CABIN*


The log cabin had reached the interesting stage at which its framework
was complete, and the immediate task was to nail thin bark-covered
boards upon it. After that it was to be thatched.  Then it was to be
lined with match-boarding.

Harry had built every bit of the framework himself, with such help as
Jane and Pobbles could give him in lifting and holding the timbers in
place, not without some risk to limb if not to life.  He had drawn out
his constructional plan, from careful study of a book.  Then he had had
the timbers prepared at the sawmills four miles away, and he and the
children had fetched them in a farm cart.  It had taken them weeks to
get the framework finished, but they had made a very good job of it
between them.  As they hurried up through the wood to the clearing upon
the edge of which the cabin stood, Jane and Pobbles were full of
excitement at the thought of work to come which they could really do
themselves.  So far, it had been helping Harry, which was pleasurable
enough, but not to be compared with the pleasure that was to come.

Harry let them chatter without much response, but made the pace towards
the clearing so fast that they had to run to keep up with him.  He was
excited too.  He was doing something real, from the beginning.  He had
invented something and had already carried out the most difficult part
of it, meeting the difficulties as they came, and surmounting them.  All
the rest would be easy enough until it came to the thatching.  He
proposed to do that himself too.  Watching a thatcher at work on a barn
had first put the idea of building a log cabin into his head.  He
thought he knew how it was done, and he could always ask the old
thatcher questions; but he was not going to let him lay a finger on the
roof of the cabin, nor even stand by and direct.  Jane and Pobbles might
do whatever lay within their power; it would have been he who had taught
them and directed them in everything.

They came to the clearing—a space of bright green turf nibbled short by
rabbits, surrounded mostly by oaks interspersed with glistening hollies
and here and there a graceful deliciously green beech.  The cabin stood
back among the trees, its squared timbers showing white and new against
the background of green and russet. Harry paused and put his head on one
side to contemplate it, and a grin of pure pleasure lit up his face. "A
very workmanlike job so far," he said.  "Come on, we’ll get the whole of
the front covered in this morning."

They worked at a rate unknown to members of Trades Unions, measuring and
sawing up the boards, and nailing them fast to the posts.  Harry did all
the sawing, Jane and Pobbles took it in turns to nail one end of a board
while he nailed the other.  They quarrelled a little over this until
Harry stopped them.  Jane was of the opinion that Pobbles did not drive
in a nail as well as she did.  Pobbles was of the contrary opinion.
There were only two hammers between the three of them, but Harry was to
provide a third for the afternoon.  They were to have a picnic tea at
the cabin, after lessons, and hoped to see the walls roughly finished
before dusk fell.

The brooding summer noon did not daunt these eager labourers.  It was
more like real work to sweat under the hot sun.  Harry took off his coat
at the start and turned up his shirt sleeves.  Pobbles did the same in
imitation of him.  Jane, having nothing that she could reasonably take
off, contented herself with rolling up her sleeves and warning Pobbles
that he would catch cold, which gave him an opening that he was not slow
to take advantage of.  "Men don’t catch cold when they’re working," he
said, and took off his waistcoat. Jane had to admit inferiority, for
once.

They worked till the last possible minute, and met again at the first
possible minute in the afternoon.  The game which they made of their
work was more entrancing now than it had been in the morning.  The tasks
of the day were done, and the long summer evening stretched infinitely
before them.  Moreover, the cabin, with its front all boarded in, was
now beginning to look like a cabin and not the skeleton of one; and a
picnic is always a picnic to happy youth, however inadequate the viands.
They were not inadequate on this occasion.  All three labourers had
brought baskets.  A fire was to be lit and tea made—billy tea, of which
Harry had learnt the recipe from a book.  The meal was to be an adequate
substitute for what they would have eaten indoors. Harry was to be
excused dinner for it.  The children had their freedom until half-past
eight.

Jane had changed her clothes, and wore, instead of the cotton frock of
the morning, an outgrown coat and skirt, already laid aside "to be given
away."  The reason for this apparent feminine vagary became manifest
when, arrived on the scene of action, she took off the coat, which was
uncomfortably tight, and rolled up the sleeves of the shirt she wore
beneath it.  She was now at least as much like a pioneer as Pobbles.

In their imaginative adaptable brains they were pioneers in very truth.
Harry was as serious about it as the children, though he was too old for
any childish game of make-believe.  "Now we’ll knock off for an hour,"
he said, when one of the end walls had been boarded in, and the desire
for bodily sustenance became urgent.  "We must get the roof on before
the rains begin, but we’re well ahead, and it’s better to keep at it
steadily than to work ourselves out."

He was in some imagined country of the new world, where the first duty
was to provide shelter before attacking the primeval woods and bringing
the soil into cultivation. The soft English glade, upon which the
shadows of English oaks and beeches were beginning to lengthen under the
westering sun, was transformed in his imagination to a clearing in some
tropical forest, or in the backwoods of Australia or Canada.  The
Castle, the Vicarage, the village, were wiped out.  They were very far
away from all such signs of ancient civilization, very far too from all
possibility of replenishing their stores, if these should be wastefully
used.  He asked Jane to count the eggs carefully.  "If there’s one over,
Tom had better have it," he said.

Tom was Pobbles, so called only on such occasions as this.  Jane
understood perfectly.  She was the woman of the party, and it lay with
her to adjust and husband the stores, also to support the head of it in
his designs. On such terms she was willing to shoulder her burden of
womanhood, and rather regretted having approximated her attire to that
of the men.  "You’d better put your jacket on now you’ve left off
working," said Harry, throwing a glance not altogether of approval at
her shirt, which she wore open at the neck, as he and the virile Tom
wore theirs.  She obeyed meekly, and went into the cabin to put on her
tie as well, also the hat which she had discarded.  "We ought to nail up
a bit of looking-glass inside," she said, as she came out, and before
she joined in picking up sticks for the fire she went into the wood
where some late hyacinths were still to be found, and fastened a bunch
of them on her breast.

Thus far they might make believe, acting as if they were a backwoods
party, but not bringing the pretence to the point of utterance.  They
both laughed at Pobbles when he said: "We’d better stick together when
we’re picking up sticks, or one of us may get scalped in the wood," and
Jane said: "We’re helping Harry; he’s not playing a silly game with us."
Pobbles thought it would have been more amusing if they had boldly
played the game which seemed to be in their thoughts no less than in
his, but accepted the correction, and half understood it.  Harry, who
was so wonderful at making things, would belittle himself by playing
children’s games about them.

But there was no diminution in his dignity when he showed that his mind
was full of the reality of what they were playing at.  They sat on the
chips and sawdust outside the cabin, when they had devoured everything
in their baskets, and talked.  Harry leant against the new built wall of
the cabin with his legs stretched out in front of him, his dog at his
feet, and Pobbles leant against the wall beside him, in as near an
imitation of his attitude as he could contrive without making himself
too uncomfortable.  Jane reclined gracefully on her elbow, and
occasionally pulled her too-short skirt over her knees.  The shadows of
the trees had perceptibly lengthened.  There were two hours of daylight
yet, but the heat had declined, and the evening freshness was mingled
with the evening peace.  The cuckoo was calling, now here now there, and
its grey form could be seen sometimes flitting from tree to tree across
the glade. The rabbits were out at the far end of it, and the wood
pigeons were swinging home to the high woods behind them.  But of human
occupation, besides their own, the world seemed empty.  They were secure
in their retreat.

"It must be a grand thing, you know," Harry said, "to find a new place
in the world which you can make what you like of.  Supposing this were
really right away from everywhere, in a new country, we should begin
just like this, with a cabin a bit bigger but much the same in plan.
Then we should make our garden round about it.  After that we should
prepare our fields.  We should cut down trees, for more building when we
wanted it, and for logs for burning in the winter.  We should have our
animals; we should have everything that we wanted round us, and what we
hadn’t got we should have to do without until we could go and bring it
from the nearest town, which might be hundreds of miles away. There’d be
a tremendous lot to do every day, but you’d like doing it, and you’d see
the whole thing grow and grow till you had a splendid place which you
had made out of nothing, and hundreds of people working on it."

"Shall you do that, when you’re quite grown up, Harry?" asked Pobbles.
"I think I shall.  I know a good deal about it already, and I can easily
learn some more."

Jane forbore to rebuke his assumption of knowledge, having one to make
on her own account.  "I used to think I should hate having to sew and
learn to cook," she said.  "But I shouldn’t mind it if I was living in a
log cabin.  I can cook some things already.  I suppose it would be more
fun to be a man, but a woman would have to ride and all that, if she
lived in a new country; and she could ride astride."

"It’s only when things begin to get a little settled that women go at
all," said Harry, dashing these dreams.  "The real pioneers go alone,
and carry everything they want with them on horseback.  It must be
glorious to ride for day after day in a country where no white man has
ever been before, and at last to come to some lovely place where he can
make a settlement."

"There’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t do that too," said Jane.  "She
could go alone herself, if the man didn’t want her.  She could dress
like a man."

Pobbles exploded with mirth, at some cryptic joke of his own.  "A pretty
fool she’d look if the Redskins caught her!" he said.

"Shut up," said Jane sharply, relinquishing her dreams of a woman’s
empire, "or I’ll punch your head."

"Shut up both of you," said Harry, "and don’t spoil things by
quarrelling.  You’d never do for that sort of life if you couldn’t spend
five minutes without flying at one another.  You’d have to spend weeks
and months together without seeing another living soul."

"But you’d be there," said Pobbles.  "You’d keep her in order."

"Shall you ever do it, Harry, do you think?" asked Jane.  "I should like
to come too, if you do.  I could wait behind till you’d found the right
place, and then Tom and I could come on together."

"Perhaps I shall some day," said Harry, for whom time and youth seemed
to stretch ahead illimitably. "But not until after I’ve been in the army
for some years.  And I couldn’t be away long from Royd.  I might just go
pioneering, and leave somebody else to work up the place I’ve found."

"Oh, you could leave Jane and me," said Pobbles. "And you could come
there and see us sometimes.  You would find we had worked it up better
each time you came."

"I shouldn’t care about it unless Harry was there all the time," said
Jane.  "Besides, I am going into the army too.  I read about a girl in
Russia who fought all through the wars, and nobody found her out.  I
shall be in Harry’s regiment, but he won’t tell anybody.  You can too,
Pobbles, when you’re old enough."

Harry looked at her, and laughed with great enjoyment. He had just seen
the woman coming out in her, and been mildly entertained by it through
his seriousness. Now she was a sexless child again.  "You’re one in a
thousand, Jane," he said.  "Of course you shall join my regiment, and
Pobbles too.  We’ll have some jolly times, and when it comes to fighting
we three will stick together."

Jane did not mind being laughed at by Harry, and was pleased at the
prospect held out to her.  She took off her jacket, when they set to
work again at the cabin, and threw away the bluebells, wondering why she
had picked them.

Dusk was falling as Harry made his way up through the wood and across
the park homewards.  The air was very still, and the sweet scents of the
earth, dissolved in dew, rose like incense.  Usually his impressionable
untroubled mind would have leapt to the message of his senses, and he
would have exulted in the beauty that lay all around him, sublimated by
the spell of oncoming night.  But as his feet brushed the moisture from
the grass, and stirred the cool scents to greet his nostrils, he looked
down and not up as his way was.  A vague discontent was upon his spirit,
which was not quite unhappiness though near akin to it.

The vision of a free life in a free untouched land had come to him.  For
the first time in his happy boyhood he felt himself bound by his lot.
The great world, with its endless varieties of adventure and invitation
to be doing and living, lay beyond his horizons and he had never crossed
them.

Melancholy touched him so seldom that it was a discomfort to be
resisted.  He wondered what made him sad at the thought of being tied to
Royd, which had hitherto been a paradise of enjoyment to him.  He stood
still as he came out from among the trees and looked across the park to
the dark mass of the Castle, in which lights were glimmering here and
there, making it more romantic and beautiful even than when seen in the
day-time.  And as he looked, the momentary sadness fell from him, and he
smiled with pleasure at the scene so familiar yet always showing itself
in some new emanation of beauty.  He was coming to the age at which he
could no longer be satisfied with it as holding everything in life.  The
shadow of unrest had just fallen upon him, but it would not be yet that
he would walk in it.

As he neared the Castle a white figure, dimly seen in the dusk, detached
itself from the gloom that lay about the massive walls and came towards
him along the trodden path by which he was hastening.  He recognized it
as that of his mother, who not infrequently came out to meet him like
this when he had begged off dinner and came back after it.  It usually
gave him pleasure to find her waiting for him in this way.  There was
not, perhaps, very much in common between them, but he knew how much he
was to her, and his chivalry went out towards her, in love and a sense
of protection.

To-night he was conscious of the least little sense of discomfort in
meeting her.  His time was so fully taken up, with his work indoors and
his innumerable pursuits out of doors, that neither his mother nor his
grandmother saw very much of him except at meal-times, and less than
ever in the summer-time.  It was part of the wisdom of Lady Brent that
he was left as free as he was. But he was sensitive to the atmosphere
around him, and of late when the inmates of the Castle had been together
it had been uncomfortable.  Wilbraham, while they had done their work
together, had been much as usual, but at table he had been morose and
snappy.  The two women had obviously put constraint upon themselves to
be easy and natural before him, but the coldness and irritation between
them had peeped through.  There had been nothing to cause him to reflect
upon something wrong, and the cause of it; he had been full of his own
devices and forgotten all about the discomfort at home the moment he was
away from it.  But the discomfort was there.  Perhaps it had had to do
with the vague discontent that had just come upon him and passed away.
But the sight of his mother coming to meet him brought it back ever so
little.  Whatever his dreams for the future, whether at home or abroad,
the whims and vagaries of his elders if indulged in must shut them off.
Going away from Royd meant going away from them; Royd itself must lose
some of its glamour if life there was to be troubled by their jars.

But he remembered now, as he called to his mother and hurried his steps
to meet her, that the cloud had seemed to have lifted itself somewhat at
luncheon that day. Wilbraham, at any rate, had recovered his equanimity
entirely, and had been good-humoured and talkative; and Lady Brent had
been suave, when for some days she had seemed covered with prickles.
Only his mother had been subdued, with traces of past tears about her
eyes.

He reproached himself that he had not taken much notice of these signs
of disturbance in her.  He had been too busy with his schemes for the
afternoon, about which he had talked freely, as he was encouraged to
talk about everything that interested him.  He had felt instinctively
that any sort of chatter from him would be welcomed.  But he had escaped
as soon as possible after luncheon and forgotten all about the tension
until now.

"Well, little mother!" he said as he came up to her. "Ought you to be
out at this time of night without a wrap or anything?"

He had a clear, rather high-pitched voice that was music in her ears.
She loved him anew for the kindness in it, and for the question which
showed that he was careful of her.  He put his arm round her shoulder
and kissed her, and his hand went down to her waist and remained there
as she turned to walk with him.  All this thrilled her with pleasure,
and her voice shook a little as she answered him, though she tried to
keep it level.

"Oh, I’m all right, dear," she said.  "It’s very warm. Shall we go into
the garden for a little?  It’s lovely there now."

"Yes; let’s," he said at once, though he had intended to go in and
forage for food, for he was hungry again.

They went into the garden through a tall iron gate in the wall, and
walked up and down the long bowling green, which was hidden from the
house by a high yew hedge.  A fountain plashed in a pool at the far end
of it; there were no flowers to be seen just here, but the air was full
of their scent.  The light had not yet faded out of the sky, but stars
were beginning to twinkle in it.  The grass was close cut, but wet with
dew.  He bent down to see whether she was fitly shod, and found she had
put on goloshes.  She laughed at him.  "Nobody can see them," she said,
"but you like taking care of your old mother, don’t you, darling?"

"You’re not old," said Harry; "and of course you must be taken care of.
Isn’t it lovely out here?  I don’t think there can be any place so
lovely as Royd in the whole world, though I haven’t seen much of the
world, so far."

"I think it’s lovely too," she said.  "But I shouldn’t want to stay here
always if you weren’t here.  You’ve never _wanted_ to go away, have you,
Harry?"

He laughed at his remembrances.  "Just for a little this afternoon, I
thought I should like to go somewhere else," he said.  "The children and
I have been building our log cabin, and I rather wished it was a real
one, quite away from everything, in some far-off country.  But I suppose
I shouldn’t like to be away from Royd for very long."

"It won’t be very long before you do go away now," she said.  "Oh, I do
hope it won’t change you, Harry dear.  It’s so different, out in the
world.  Sometimes I long for it, but I believe this is best, after all.
If you told me I could go to-morrow I don’t think I would now. I
wouldn’t go as long as you were here, and I knew you were happy being
here."

"I haven’t looked forward very much to going to Sandhurst," he said,
thoughtfully.  "I shan’t be nearly so free there as I am here, and I’m
not sure I shall get on very well with the others.  I’ve never had much
to do with other people of my own age."

"No, you’re different," she said.  "But you’re much nicer.  I don’t
think you’d have been so nice if you had been brought up like other
boys; or so happy, either. But you’ll have to be careful when you go
away.  There are lots of temptations which other boys of your age know
about, and you don’t."

He turned a smiling face on her.  "Then hadn’t you better tell me about
them?" he said.  "Do you mean drinking and gambling?  I was reading a
book the other day about all that.  It didn’t seem to me much of a
temptation.  I suppose I shall have as much money as I want without
gambling for it, shan’t I?  And why should I want to drink if I’m not
thirsty?"

She had not paid much attention to this.  She was wondering whether she
dared talk to him of the life, as it appeared to her, from which he had
been kept secluded.  It had been tacitly accepted, all through his
boyhood, that no mystery was to be made of it, and any questions he
might ask should be answered, but that his being kept at Royd was to be
taken as a natural thing. After her late revolt she had swung round to a
complete acceptance of the understanding by which those who were
responsible for Harry should share in the seclusion which had been laid
down as the best thing for him during his boyhood.  Only so could it be
accepted without question by him.  Lady Brent had triumphed, and had
shown, this evening, that she bore no malice on account of what had
lately happened.  Mrs. Brent was at peace with her, and once more a
loyal supporter of her views. But there was a little jealousy and a
little egotism left. She was Harry’s mother.  If any enlightenment was
to be brought to him as to what lay before him, surely she might be
considered the right person to give it!  It was only because she knew
that Lady Brent would not think so that she hesitated.

"Oh, drinking and gambling," she said, catching him up.  "No, I don’t
think those would be temptations to you, brought up as you have been,
though one never knows, with young men.  It’s women _I_ should be afraid
of.  They’ll try to get hold of you.  You see you’ll be a great catch,
Harry.  And of course you’re very handsome.  You’ll have to be careful
about designing women."

No, decidedly, Lady Brent would not have approved of this kind of
warning.

It seemed to be distasteful to Harry too.  "All right, mother, I’ll take
care," he said, shortly.

"It would never do for you to marry beneath you," she went on, rather
surprisingly, and would have gone on to amplify her statement, but that
Harry suddenly cut her short.

"I’m most frightfully hungry, mother," he said. "Let’s go in and see if
we can get hold of anything. Then I think it will be about time for me
to go to bed."



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                                *AUGUST*


Harry stood at a window of his room in the tower, looking out on to the
trees, which tossed and struggled against the gale.  Heavy clouds were
racing across the sky and at no long intervals gusts of rain rattled
against the westward window.

Harry had asked for this room as his own a year or two before.  It
filled the whole space of the tower on its top story, except for the
corner in which was the spiral stone stairway, and had windows on all
four sides.  In front was the park, and from this height could be caught
a glimpse of the sea across the tops of the trees beyond it, but this
afternoon it was blotted out by the grey mist which seemed to take the
colour from everything, though the month was August and the deep rich
tones of the woods would ordinarily have stood out boldly.  Below the
three other windows lay the long irregular roofs of the ancient house,
with the courtyards enclosed, and the outbuildings, the gardens, the
orchard,—a fascinating bird’s-eye view containing all sorts of curious
surprises.  Harry had never been tired of it as a child, and found it
interesting now, though it had ceased to hold any new discovery.  The
room had not been used until he had taken to it, though it had contained
some old pieces of furniture.  He had added to them whatever had taken
his fancy from the many unoccupied rooms of the house, and brought
whatever he wanted for his own pursuits here.  He was never disturbed in
this room, and never entered it except when he wanted to be alone.  He
did his work downstairs in the room that was still called the
schoolroom; he read in the library, where Wilbraham usually kept him
company; he sat and talked with his mother and grandmother in the rooms
they occupied.  It was of the essence of this room that he could be
alone in it when he wanted to be alone, which was not very often, for he
was no recluse.  If the elders had made themselves free of entrance to
it, its charms for him would have gone; but Lady Brent had said that it
was to be his only, without his having asked more than that he should be
allowed to have what he wanted in it.  "It’s right that he should be
able to get away from us sometimes, indoors as well as out," she had
said to Mrs. Brent.  "He’s not to feel himself chained to our society."

Harry stood at the window, looking out not upon the courts and gardens,
laid out beneath him, but across the trees to where the sea was, if he
could have seen it for the mist.  It was holiday time with him.  He had
come up here after luncheon thinking to make out the treasure island map
that he had promised to Jane and Pobbles before they had gone away to
the seaside.  This was part of a game they had invented, sitting in
their log cabin one wet afternoon.  Harry was by no means above games
that were no more than games, though he was too old to turn reality into
a game, and this was a fascinating one that they had hit upon
together—the designing of the ideal island upon which the vicissitudes
of life might one day cause them all to be wrecked.  They had
contributed its features, one by one—sandy beaches, and coral pools to
bathe in; bread-fruit and grapes and oranges; a great hollow tree
halfway up a mountain that they could make into a house, as was done by
that didactic but resourceful Swiss of the name of Robinson; a hidden
hoard of treasure which would include gold cups and plates and dishes
for domestic use; a spring of miraculously clear water, discovered just
when they were dying of thirst, and slightly flavoured with pineapple
(this was Pobbles’s idea); a hut in which a marooned sailor had left
behind him every sort of tool that could come in handy, he himself
having been taken off the island, on Jane’s suggestion, so as to avoid
the nuisance of a skeleton: these were a few of the amenities that were
to be found on this accommodating island, and they were increased every
time the subject came up for discussion.  Harry had promised to draw a
map for them, including the already settled geographical features, and
adding any others that might occur to him in the meantime.  He had drawn
the outline of the island on a handsome scale, and inked it in
carefully.  Then he had got tired of it.  The eager pleasure of the
children was wanted to give salt to this game.  He could not employ
himself for a whole afternoon over it.

He missed those little friends of his, especially Jane, with her quick
ways and eager loyalty, which made her so companionable, though never
tiresomely clinging, as is the way with admiring children.  He had not
known how much they had come to mean to him during this last year in
which they had been his constant companions, until they had gone away
and he had been left to the society of his elders.  Between him and
Wilbraham, especially, there was some community of taste. He owed a good
deal of his love of fine literature to Wilbraham, and there was much
that he could share with him that was beyond the understanding of the
children. They were only children, and he had told them none of his
secret thoughts.  Jane was very quick of understanding, and had
developed considerably during the year he had known her; perhaps he
might have come to confide some of them to her if they had ever been
alone together.  But Pobbles was her inseparable shadow, and he had
never wanted it otherwise.  With all their immaturity, they appealed to
the spirit of youth in him, and their companionship gave him something
that he could not get from his elders.  That was why he missed them so
much on this wild wet afternoon, when he was debarred from his usual
pursuits out of doors, and there seemed to be nothing worth doing
indoors.  And yet it was not them so much that he missed—though he did
not know it—as the companionship and inspiration of answering youth.
Perhaps they had had something to do with arousing the need of it in
him, but they were too young to satisfy it.  He had been supremely happy
in his childhood and youth—far more consistently happy than most boys of
his age, and happier than he consciously knew.  But the time for that
life was coming to an end; unless some change came to him he would gain
less and less contentment from it as he grew older.

He had not yet grasped the magnitude of the change that was even then
all around him, and would soon draw him, as an atom in the whole
sensitive world, into its vortex.

For the great war had begun.  As Harry stood at the window, the German
hordes were over-running Belgium and France, England was hurrying
feverishly into the breach, throughout the length and breadth of the
country nothing else was talked of but the war; only here and there in
some remote place the menace of the great conflagration was unheeded as
yet; but very soon there would be no place where its weight did not
fall.

It was talked of at the Castle.  Wilbraham already had his maps up in
the library, and his little flags to stick into them.  He and Lady Brent
disputed about it over the table.  Wilbraham thought it would all be
over, and the Germans taught their sharp lesson, in a few weeks.  Lady
Brent, remembering similar prophecies about an immeasurably less
formidable enemy fifteen years before, thought it would be longer.  It
might take a whole year to bring it to an end.  Longer it could not
take, because all Europe would be bankrupt if it did. They argued quite
impersonally.  They would not be touched by it themselves.

Harry had not caught fire over it yet.  His life had been quite divorced
from anything that went on in the world outside Royd, except in what he
had learnt from books.  Neither home nor foreign politics meant anything
to him, and he never looked at a newspaper, except in idle moments.  His
one regret was that the war would be over before he should gain his
commission, in two or three years’ time.  That seemed to be agreed upon.
At present there were no individual deeds to excite his imagination.  He
took but a languid interest in it as yet, though every day there seemed
to be some increase in its importance.  This afternoon it weighed a
little on him, with all the rest, but a break in the clouds would have
set his mind free of it, and for the moment of every other vaguely felt
dissatisfaction.

There was no sign of any break in the heavy clouds, but some weather
sense which he had acquired in his open-air life gave him the feeling
that the storm was nearing its end.  At any rate, he must go out,
whether it cleared or not.  He was getting mopy, shut up in the house.
He knew by experience that that rare feeling never persisted when he was
once out of doors.

A furious gust drove the rain against the windows and blotted out all
the landscape as he turned to leave the room; but he felt better already
for his decision. He would go for a gallop towards the sea.  It would be
invigorating to have the rain and the wind in his face, and perhaps the
storm would be over by the time he reached the shore.  It would be grand
to see the sun break over the waves, and watch them dashing themselves
against the rocks.

He put on his oldest breeches and gaiters and a riding raincoat and went
out to the stables.  He told no one that he was going out, wanting to
escape dissuasion from his mother and grandmother in the drawing-room,
and Wilbraham in the library.  They let him take his way in these
matters, but it was not to be expected from middle-aged human nature
that he would be allowed to go out in this weather without some
remonstrance.

He had two horses of his own, Clive, a bay, and Circe, a black blood
mare, and his own groom, Fred Armour, the head coachman’s son, who was
only a year older than himself, and a friend of his lifetime.  Ben, his
big black retriever, who followed him everywhere, had already expressed
his delighted agreement with the sensible course he had shown himself
about to take.  He knew he was admitted to the house on condition that
he did not raise his voice in it, and beyond a few subdued yaps of
appreciation he had followed Harry downstairs with no more than ecstatic
wrigglings and sweeps of his feathered tail. But, once outside, his
enthusiasm broke loose and brought on the scene other members of his
race at a loose end for something to do.  There was a terrific canine
commotion as Harry called for Fred, and the first thing to be done was
to bring disappointment to all but Siren, a deer hound, and Rollo, a
Great Dane, by shutting them up again.  The three bigger dogs could keep
up with Circe, galloping freely; the others must reserve themselves for
expeditions when the blood was less insistent on rapid motion.

Fred Armour, a cheerful brown-faced red-headed young man, neat and
active in his stable kit, seemed also to have been affected by the
dismal weather, for he did what was required of him without his usual
grin or ready flow of words.  It was not until he had saddled and
bridled Circe and brought her out that he said: "I’m off to-morrow, Sir
Harry.  Father’s said yes, and her ladyship has given her consent,
though she don’t like it."

Harry stared at him, holding the mare, who was dancing with impatience.
He understood nothing until Fred told him that he was joining up with
the County Yeomanry—the first man on the Royd estate to go, or, as it
seemed afterwards, to think of going.  The time had not yet come when
the call for recruits penetrated the out-of-the-way corners of England.
Harry was surprised, as his grandmother had apparently been, that Fred
should have thought of going.  But his impulse was one of envy when he
was told about it, not of dissuasion. "I’m nearly as old as you," he
said, "but it will take me a couple of years to get my commission.  It
will all be over by then."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Fred.  "But there’s a lot to be trained, in
case they want them.  I shall come back when they’ve done with me.  Her
ladyship says I can, though she’s upset like at my wanting to go."

Harry had something to think about as he rode out into the park, and
after a sharp canter over the drenched grass, with the rain and the wind
fretting the mare so that it was all he could do to hold her, slowed to
a trot as he entered a ride through the woods.  It was not so much of
the war.  Fred would have a few months of training as a trooper, and
then he would probably come back; he was not, after all, greatly to be
envied there, and Harry had no particular wish to hurry on his own
longer training, since the time was so far distant when he could expect
to get his commission.  But Fred had told him of others who were likely
to follow his example now that the ice had once been broken—another lad
from the stables, two from the gardens, some from the village.  A cousin
of his, from some distance off, who had already served in the Yeomanry,
had joined a regular cavalry regiment, and was already in France,
fighting.  It was from him that the impulsion had first come.

It was a fine thing to respond like that to your country’s call, almost
before it was sounded.  It was what Harry’s own forefathers would have
done, and had done in many an instance that he had read about in old
books in which he had pored to find out what he could about the knightly
stock from which he had sprung.  They would have collected their
servants and tenants around them and ridden off at their head to offer
themselves—a small band, perhaps, but a sturdy one, well horsed and
equipped and well versed in the man’s business of giving and receiving
blows.  It could not be quite like that in this war, when boys of his
age, even if capable of raising their followers, would have to go
through the mill of learning and training before they could be of any
use. But the readiness with which Fred’s cousin had been accepted and
sent out to fight disturbed him somewhat, both on his own account and on
that of the men and youths who owed him allegiance.  There was nobody in
the village of Royd or on all the wide Castle lands, so far as he knew,
who had done any of the soldiering that is open to young men in times of
peace.  Supposing he himself had been of full age to fight, he would
still have had to wait until he had learnt his business, and he could
have given a lead to nobody.  Why hadn’t it been suggested to him that
he should join the County Yeomanry, or why had he not thought of it
himself?  The Sir Harry of the time of the Napoleonic wars had been in
command of it; almost every man of his tenantry had belonged to it.  Now
it drew its recruits from other parts of the county; no one from Royd
had served in it for a generation or more.  It had never occurred to him
that it would be a good thing for him in his position to do so.

Royd was ruled by a woman.  That was the explanation of this lapse in
its ancient duties and responsibilities, now for the first time
apparent.  And he was ruled by a woman, though the yoke had hitherto
been but lightly felt.  Fred Armour could go off, though not without
having some opposition to encounter; others could talk of doing so.  He
must stay where he was until the appointed time.

Well, the time was not far distant now.  In January he would go up for
his examination, and after that the new life would begin for him—the
man’s life, in which, though still under tutelage, he would be free at
times to go where he would.  He had rather dreaded exchanging his life
at Royd for it, for that had been a life full of the satisfaction of all
the desires he had felt, and it had never seemed to him either narrow or
confined.  But this sense of a woman’s domination was beginning to prick
him.  He thought that at least he would put it to his grandmother that
Royd ought to have been represented in the Yeomanry.  It might have been
a small matter, in times of peace, but it was one that would not have
escaped a male head of Royd.  And he must see to it himself that any man
who wanted to join up with the troops in training should have no
difficulty put in his way.  As for himself, there seemed to be nothing
to be done but to wait until his time came.  Fred might, perhaps, see
some fighting, if Lady Brent were right and Wilbraham were wrong about
the war lasting on into the next year; that was the advantage of
belonging to the ranks.  For officers, the training must be much longer,
and his would not be finished if the war lasted for two years, which it
seemed to be agreed was an impossibility.

He shook his thoughts from him as he came out of the wood and galloped
again on the crisp turf of the hilltop, between the gorse and the
heather and the outcropping rocks.

He was on high ground here.  The rain had ceased, though the wind was
buffeting him so furiously that he had to keep his head down as he rode,
and even the mare was soon submissive to being pulled down to a trot and
then to a walk.  The light was stronger now and the clouds driven along
by the wind seemed to be higher; there was no sign of a break in them,
but there was the feeling that at any time they might be rent asunder
and let through a shaft of sunlight.  The mist had all gone, and the sea
lay, a grey, turbulent expanse, apparently near at hand, though at its
nearest point it was still some two miles distant.

The sight of the sea always had a calming effect upon Harry, whether it
lay blue and calm or was lashed to angry motion.  It was his outlook
into the world beyond the bounds of his home.  When he had least felt
himself circumscribed something had yet urged him now and then to ride
to the shore and to let his spirit go out across the boundless waters.
And now, as he saw the great spaces of sea and sky in front of him his
thoughts lightened.  As his physical world had this wide outlet into the
greater world beyond it, so his life, bound hitherto within limits that
he was outgrowing, would soon open into something wider and freer.  And
just as he would return to the sheltered haunts of his home, loving it
all the more for his glimpse of the unsheltered sea, so with the life
which had been so happy there.  It was coming to an end for him, but was
all the more to be treasured on that account as long as it lasted.

He came to a break in the rocky cliff which led down to a little sandy
bay, on the edge of which was what had once been a fisherman’s cottage.
The cliff had broken away in front of it and it had been abandoned as
dangerous some years before.  Only its walls were standing, but there
was a place among the ruins in which he could tie up his horse if he
wanted to walk by the sea.  He did so now, and went down to the sands,
followed by the dogs.  The sun came out as he did so, and great masses
of clouds were torn asunder and piled up to be rolled away before the
wind, instead of forming a thick curtain between him and the sky.

He shouted for joy at the lifting of the grey oppression, and became a
boy again as by a sudden impulse he stripped to bathe and ran over the
sands to meet the shock of the great waves that were rolling up them.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                             *ON THE MOOR*


As he rode towards home an hour or two later, Harry felt as if all the
stains upon life had been washed away, just as the wind and rain had
scoured the heavens of their dark load of cloud.  The sun, now declining
towards the west, shone in a sky of clean blue; the wind was dropping
every minute, but was still fresh as he cantered across the moor.  He
rode with his head up, singing blithely, and drinking in through all his
senses the sparkling glory of a world set free from the tyranny of storm
and gloom.

He had thought out nothing to a definite conclusion, and yet the
perplexities which had surrounded him as he started out on his ride
seemed to have disappeared. The war, which had affected him so little,
now lay in the background of his mind as a real and a very big thing,
and it seemed to him fixed and certain that somehow and at some time it
would profoundly affect his life; but at present he had nothing to do
but to await what should be coming to him.  His place at Royd must also
undergo a change, and that, too, would come, in its time, as it would
come.  Whatever should happen, he was ready for it, and his mind was
free and happy, but also strangely expectant.  He was in the current of
some power outside himself, but in complete harmony with it, and at the
same time in free possession of himself, just as he had lately exulted
in his youth and strength as his body had been borne on the motion of
the mighty waters. Ever since that night of still and unearthly beauty,
when the vision had come to him of a living power in nature for a sign
of which he had yearned, he had thought of himself as controlled by
strong yet gentle and beneficent forces, which, if he yielded himself to
them, would lead him along paths that he would best fulfil himself in
treading.  The feeling was stronger at some times than others.  It had
never been so obscured as it had been a few hours earlier, but now, in
the sun and the wind, it was very strong.  He felt himself calmed and
uplifted in spirit, as if by a tangible communion with the guiding
influences.  They seemed to be telling him, or to have told him, that
his shadowed mood need never have been; that they had something in store
for him, some experience, some happening, which would give him renewed
faith in their guidance.  There was a sense almost of being indulged, by
an assurance out of the common run.

But his mood was as far as possible from being analytical, as he rode on
singing and calling to his dogs, which sprang round him rejoicing as he
did in the exhilaration of quick motion and the strength and poise of
muscle and sinew.  His mind had cleared, and he was free to give himself
up to the joy of living, all the more keenly for the whisper that had
come to him of something new and exciting in preparation for him.

The boy, the horse and the dogs—they had had the fine, fresh world to
themselves throughout the afternoon, except for the strong birds of the
sea and the little birds of the gorsy common.  No buildings lay upon the
path that Harry had taken to the shore, nor very near it, for he had
ridden through the wood by a narrow ride, little used, and across the
open ground had kept out of the way of trodden paths.  There were sheep
on this wide stretch of upland, and a shepherd might occasionally have
been seen there.  Otherwise it was little frequented; a human figure on
it would arouse curiosity.

A human figure came into view as Harry had traversed the greater part of
the open space, and the woods of Royd were a mile or so in front of him.
It was the figure of a woman, and was immediately between him and the
point towards which he was riding.  He knew all the people who lived in
the scattered cottages and farms between Royd and the sea; there were
not many of them, and none just here.  He wondered who it could be going
in that direction, and what she was doing so far away from human
habitation.

As he rode on, he saw that it was a girl, and a stranger, which was
somewhat surprising, as the nearest place to which strangers came was
miles away.  He had left off singing, but one of the dogs barked, and
the girl turned round, evidently startled and perhaps a little alarmed.
He was near enough now to see her face.  She was very young, hardly more
than a child, for her hair was not knotted up under her hat, but tied
behind with a big bow.  She was tall and slim.  The wind took her skirts
as she stood there, and revealed the supple grace of her young figure,
firmly but lightly poised against it. She was dressed in a coat and
skirt of brown tweed, with a hat of soft straw firmly pinned on to her
graceful head.  So much Harry took in before he came near enough to see
her face.

Her features were fine and true, and she had a delicate skin, its colour
freshened by the wind.  Her eyes were dark, with a starry radiance in
them; her lips were slightly parted as she looked at him approaching.
She was beautiful, with the beauty half of a child, half of a woman.

Harry reined in his horse as he came up to her, and for an appreciable
instant they looked into one another’s eyes without speaking.  Then the
girl said: "I have lost my way.  I don’t know where I’m going to," and
laughed and blushed at the same time.

Harry laughed, too, and slipped down off his horse. "Where do you want
to go?" he asked.  "I’ll show you the way, if you tell me."

She was staying with her father, she said, at a cottage on the edge of
the woods; she had come out when the rain had ceased to walk towards the
sea, but it was farther than she had thought, and when she had turned
back to see the unbroken line of the woods before her there was nothing
to tell her which point to make for.

The woman with whom she was lodging was the widow of a man who had
worked in the Royd woods; he had died the year before and she had been
given a pension and allowed to remain on in her cottage.  It was in a
group of three or four, about a mile from the Castle and a mile and a
half from the village, which formed the nearest approach to an outlying
hamlet that was to be found on the Royd lands.  It was rather surprising
that anybody should take lodgings there, though with the deep woods
behind it and the moor in front, and the sea within view, many people
might have chosen it to make holiday in, if it had come within their
knowledge.

"Oh, Mrs. Ivimey," said Harry, pointing.  "That’s a mile and more away
over there.  I’m afraid you can’t have much sense of direction."

They both laughed at that.  It seemed the most natural thing for them to
talk and laugh together.  The secluded life that Harry had lived had
brought some shyness into the way he addressed himself to strangers,
though his natural manner was free and open.  But this girl, walking
freely over the windy moor, seemed to be in some way allied to those
living influences of nature with which his contact was so real.  And the
spirit of youth informed all her looks and her ways and met the
answering youth in him.  There was no room for shyness in speaking to
her, and as he neither felt nor showed it, her response was frank, too.
"I’m a Londoner," she said.  "You couldn’t expect me to find my way
about here, where the paths wind about anyhow, and everything is the
same."

He was walking beside her now in the direction he had pointed out.  He
had made no offer to accompany her and she made no comment upon his
doing so.  It seemed that they must have a great deal to say to one
another and that the best way was to walk together until some of it at
least should have been said.

"Everything the same!" exclaimed Harry.  "Why, every inch of it is
different!  I have never been to London, but the streets of a town must
be much more alike than this is."

They laughed again at that, and the girl threw a glance at him, walking
by her side, while Circe, held by his strong brown hand, curveted on the
close turf and the dogs ranged here and there, a little subdued from
their bounding energy, but still keenly interested in all that lay about
them.  The raindrops sparkled still upon gorse and grass and bramble,
larks sang in the clear spaces of the sky, and the dying wind brought a
salty thymy fragrance with it.  The blood in the veins thrilled to the
sweet glad freshness of it all, and youth called to youth as they trod
the springy turf together.

There was such a lot to be explained.  Everything that was said opened
up endless more things to be said. He told her that he had lived all his
life at Royd; she told him that she had seldom been away from London.
But, whereas he showed himself quite content with the unusual
limitations of his life, she spoke of hers with regret.  "I’ve always
wanted the country," she said; "I’ve never been so happy as I have been
here, for the last two days.  Even the storm this morning, I didn’t
mind.  It was something big and grand, and I knew the sun would shine
and it would all be lovely again."

They talked on and on.  They had made friends, as children make friends,
liking each other, and pouring themselves out in endless little
confidences.

"My name is Harry Brent.  I live at Royd Castle with my mother and
grandmother."

"Oh yes, of course; you’re Sir Harry Brent. Mrs. Ivimey has talked about
you.

"My name is Viola Bastian.  My father called me that out of a beautiful
poem.  He is an artist, but nobody buys his pictures, so he paints
scenery at a theatre. We are very poor."

It didn’t seem odd to Harry that this beautiful girl, whose speech was
refined and whose clothes were such as a sister or cousin of his own
might have worn, should be the daughter of a scene painter, who was also
very poor. Nor did he blench in the least at a further statement, which
explained, at least, the clothes.  "I have to work and help father.  He
didn’t want me to go on the stage, and I should have hated it, too.  I
am with a dressmaker in Dover Street—Nadine.  She makes things chiefly
for quite young girls.  I have to show them off.  It is hard work in the
season, but I get a good long holiday, and if father can get away too,
and we have enough money, we go into the country for part of it.  That
is why we are here now."

It was all very interesting, as anything she might have told him about
herself would have been interesting.  He knew nothing of states of life
other than those which were immediately around him; he accepted
everything she told him as quite natural to her, though he thought it a
pity that she should have to work so hard and could not live in the
country, as he did, since she loved it. She was what he saw and heard
her to be, and what she did and where she lived was quite unimportant,
except as she might feel them to be important.

But how did she come to be what she was under such conditions of
parentage and environment?  If it did not occur to Harry in his
all-embracing ignorance to ask himself that question, it might very well
have been asked by others with more experience of life than his.  She
was as frank in her address as he was, showed no sense of the social
difference between them in any _mauvaise honte_ or explanatory
questions.  It must have made itself plain to a listener that she was
indeed a rare flower of unsullied girlhood, as innocent in essence as
Harry himself, who had been kept from contact with the world outside his
castle of romance, since she had lived at its crowded centre and
remained unspotted by it.

They had not half finished their confidences by the time they came
within sight of the cottage at which she was staying—or, rather, of the
smoke from its chimney, which rose from behind a corner of the wood
jutting out into the moor.  Perhaps it was some acquired sophistication
that caused her to stop there and to prepare to say good-bye, out of
sight of the cottage itself and whoever might see them from it.  But,
whatever it was, Harry felt the same disinclination to being looked upon
by eyes that might have been questioning or curious. She was for him
alone—one of his cherished innocent secrets—all the more to be kept to
himself because it was like no other secret that he had ever had before.
A secret must be shared by some one, or it is no secret, but only a
deception.  Harry’s secret had been between him and nature, or between
him and an imaginary Harry who owed all initiative to the real Harry.
But this was his and hers, and hers as much as his.  She could keep it a
warm nestling secret, or destroy it by a word.  Which would she do?

"Good-bye," she said, holding out her slender girl’s hand, and looking
him straight in the eyes, as she had looked at him when first they had
met.  He took her hand, and the touch of it thrilled him.  It was soft
and firm and cool, like no hand that he had ever had in his, though he
had taken the hands of other girls not noticeably different in shape or
size from this one.

There was the hint of a question in her look.  Was it to be good-bye?

Harry had no such thought.  "There is a lot I want to talk to you
about," he said.  "Tomorrow afternoon—no, I don’t want to wait till the
afternoon—tomorrow morning I will come; quite early."

Her eyes softened, and she smiled.  "Very well," she said, and waited
for him to tell her where and when he would come.

They were to meet on the outskirts of the wood.  He would show her a
ferny pool in the very heart of it, which he thought nobody but himself
knew of.  "It will be very hot to-morrow," he said, throwing a
weatherwise eye at the heavens.  "We shall be cool and quiet there."

Suddenly he felt shy of her, mounted his horse, and cantered away, his
dogs following him.  Then he felt uneasy at the thought that she might
have found him rudely abrupt, and when he had gone a few hundred yards
he turned to look back.  She was still standing where he had left her,
and waved her hand to him.

He had the impulse to turn and ride back to her, but cantered on, with a
flame of joy shooting up in his heart. When he looked back again, she
had gone.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                                *VIOLA*


That evening at dinner all the talk was about the war. General Leman’s
heroic stand at Liège had ended in surrender.  King Albert’s government
had retired to Antwerp; the way was open for the enemy to Brussels, and
it was not yet certain whether Brussels would deliver itself up or
defend itself.

But the great news, now allowed to be known, was that the British
Expeditionary Force was all on French soil.

There was plenty to talk about.  Lady Brent was pessimistic, and already
saw the Germans over-running Belgium.  Wilbraham thought that when the
English and French once moved in concert the Germans would be rolled up
and rolled back like a carpet, and the end of the whole mad business
would come very soon afterwards. Mrs. Brent was inclined to agree with
him.  She alone of the three had her eye anxiously upon Harry as she
spoke, with the fear working in her that, after all, he might be drawn
into the vortex.  "It can’t go on for two years," she said.  "It
couldn’t go on for three years, could it?"

They laughed at her.  "You may make yourself quite easy on that score,"
said Lady Brent.

To Harry it all seemed extremely unimportant.  The conviction that,
whether it lasted one year or two years, or three, or ended before
Christmas, he would certainly be involved in it somehow had been
registered in his mind and could be laid aside until it should fulfil
itself.  He did not want to think about it, still less to talk about it.
His personal connection with what was going on now, brought to his mind
that afternoon by his talk with Fred Armour, had faded from his mind;
and the tale of the war as it was being unfolded from day to day and as
it was being discussed by those about him, had little more interest for
him than the tale of a war centuries old which he might have studied
with Wilbraham.

Yet he joined in the talk from time to time, and if he said nothing that
had much effect upon the discussion he said whatever he did say in such
a way as to arouse no suspicion in the minds of his elders that his
thoughts were almost completely divorced from his speech.

The old dim hall in which they sat had its windows open to the night,
which was now quite still, with a sky of spangled velvet, broken into by
the dark spires of the cypresses in the garden.  Harry could see them
through the window opposite to which he sat, and in the intervals of
talk he could hear the plash of the fountains.  The thought came to him
that he would like to walk with Viola in the starlit garden.  He would
like to show her this beautiful house of his; it would be a tribute to
her, and his own love of it would be enhanced by her praise.  He looked
round at the hall and saw its carved and dusky splendour with new eyes.

They were dining at a table set in the oriel window facing on the
garden.  The table was lit by candles in branched silver candlesticks.
On a heavy buffet by the door from the kitchens and buttery, under the
gallery and on serving tables, were other candles.  There were perhaps a
dozen in all, and they gave what light was necessary, but left the
high-pitched, raftered roof just a-glimmer, and parts of the hall in
shadow.  The portraits that hung above the dark wainscoting were dimly
seen, the gilded carving of the gallery and the screen beneath it glowed
softly where the candles shone upon it, and faded into rich dimness
beyond the circle of light.

Viola!  She would love this old hall, and all the other stately rooms of
the ancient house.  He had never thought of it, except very vaguely, as
belonging to him, but he thought of himself now as belonging to it.  He
would like her to admire anything that had to do with him, and he would
like her to share his admiration.

But such thoughts as these were a very small part of what was rioting
through his mind.  His chief feeling about his immediate surroundings
was one of strangeness that he should be sitting there quietly dining
and talking upon unimportant matters which had nothing to do with Viola.
It was to connect her with them that he took notice of them at all, and
he looked out more often into the still starlit garden, because it was
under the sky that he had met her and talked to her, and her alliance
with the things of nature that he loved was already fixed and
established.  All beautiful aspects of the world, and of the fair places
in his own world, connected themselves naturally with her.  She filled
every corner of his mind, and to whatever source of familiar delight he
turned she seemed to be there before him.

After dinner, on summer nights, Harry often walked in the garden with
his mother.  Lady Brent never went out, but sat with her book in the
drawing-room. Wilbraham spent half an hour in the library, smoking and
reading, and then came into the drawing-room to play the piano or to
talk until they went to bed at ten o’clock. When they heard the first
notes of the piano, Harry and his mother would go indoors.  If they
lingered, Lady Brent would send Wilbraham out for them, on the plea of
the night air being dangerous, or, if the night was so warm that that
seemed too absurd, of its being time for Harry to go to bed.  She did
not like these garden confabulations between mother and son, but never
showed it except by confining them thus to the half-hour after dinner.

To-night Harry half hoped that his mother would not come out with him.
He wanted to be alone, but reproached himself for the desire as she
asked him to fetch her shawl and smiled at him with the pleasure
manifest in her face.  He knew how much it meant to her to have him for
this quiet half-hour to herself.  It was the only one in the long day
that she could call her own.  He was left free to his own duties and
devices, except for the times when all of them were together. With his
youthful sense of fairness he knew that both his mother and grandmother
left him free in this way for his sake and not for theirs.  He must not
grudge them the short time that he was expected to be with them.  And he
had taken a pleasure himself in these little garden wanderings with his
mother that arose not only from the satisfaction of giving her pleasure.
He loved her—more than he loved anybody—and had a man’s sense of
protection towards her.  He did not know yet that he loved Viola.  The
idea of love had not yet occurred to him in connection with her.  As he
ran upstairs to get his mother’s shawl, the thought crossed his mind
that he had never yet wanted to get away from his mother for the time he
was accustomed to devote himself to her, and puzzled him a little.

He was more than usually kind to her as they walked up and down the long
bowling green together between the close-clipped yew hedges.  He made an
effort to dispossess his mind of what was filling it, and to be to her
what he would have been but for the thrilling adventure that had
befallen him.  The only sign of all that was hidden from her—and she had
no clue to its meaning—was when he said that the garden made him feel
shut in, and asked her to walk in the park with him.

She felt his tenderness and palpitated with happiness over it.  If she
had but known that the time had come when she was less to him than she
had ever been, and that his kindness and gentleness were but vicarious
tributes meant, though all unconsciously, to take the place of the love
that must soon be withdrawn from spending itself only on her, and given
to another!  But these wounds to a mother’s love were spared her for
to-night.  She thought he was nearer than ever to her, and all thoughts
of losing him were far from her.

She ventured to talk of her fear of the war taking him from her, and he
soothed her, laughing at her fears. He did not tell her of his
conviction that it would do so, nor feel any desire to tell her.  What
he did feel a half-shrinking desire to do was to tell her about Viola.
But an instinct which he did not understand prevented him, and the
moment they had parted he was glad that he had resisted the impulse.
The secret was not his alone. It gave him joy to think that it was a
secret, and that it was not his alone.

Wilbraham called out for them.  They went in, and Harry said good-night
at once and went upstairs.  He was no longer sent to bed before the
rest, but no objection was ever made if he went.

When he was alone in his room he breathed relief. His mother, perhaps,
would come in on her way to bed, but otherwise he would be alone for the
hours of the night, and yet so much not alone.  He thought that to-night
his mother would certainly come, and he undressed quickly so that when
he should hear her he could get into bed and pretend to be asleep.  This
small piece of deception did not trouble him, since it would not trouble
her.  He had never given her what he owed her.  Now he wanted to think
uninterruptedly of Viola.

He leaned out of the window with his chin on his hands and gazed at the
dark masses of trees in front of him and at the starry roof of the sky
above them, which was above her, too.  His window was on the same side
of the house as that of the room in which Grant had slept the year
before, but the trees were nearer to it. He gazed more at the sky than
at the trees.  Yes, in that direction, almost directly in front of him,
lay the cottage in which she was—now at this very minute.  It was a
moving thought.  Perhaps she was asleep, perhaps she was looking at the
same stars as he was.  Perhaps she was thinking of him, as he was
thinking of her.  That was a very stirring thought, and led him to shift
his position.  He wanted to be in motion as he thought of her. Later on,
when the house was all asleep, he would dress and go out.  For the
present he could only walk about his room, when the waves of emotion
that came to him stirred him from his place at the window.

But he could not think like that.  He did not know what to think about.
His impatience grew for the time to come when he should be alone and
undisturbed.  Then he would be able to think, out there under the stars.
The trees oppressed him, as they had never done before.  He got into
bed.  He would lie and think there until his mother had come and gone.
But the moment he got into bed he fell asleep, and did not awake when
she came in softly, shielding the light of her candle from his eyes.

How beautiful he looked as he lay there, his head slightly turned on the
pillow and one arm and hand along his side on the counterpane—and how
innocent! How she loved him for that beauty and innocence!  She felt it
as uplifting her from the lower plane of unrest and petulance upon which
she was apt to move.  She blessed him for the calming, purifying
thoughts which he brought to her, and took comfort to herself in the
thoughts that there must be something good in herself since it was
partly owing to her influence that he was so free from evil.  Yes, he
was hers; her own dear child whom she loved, and who loved her.  She had
set herself aside and allowed another to direct his life and hers. Soon
he would be free from that tutelage, but not from the bonds that her
love had woven around him.  She would reap her reward.  Oh, it was a
blessed thing to bear children, and after long years to have them as a
prop and stay, as well as a solace.  Not for many years would he leave
her, in spirit, though in body they would sometimes be parted.  She must
be more to him now than she had ever been, and when the time came to
give him up to another she would not complain, since she would have had
him so perfectly for a time.

It was nearly two o’clock when Harry awoke, suddenly, and in complete
possession of himself.  He might have thought that he had not slept at
all, but that the moon shining in at his window told him the hour as
plainly as if it had been called in his ear.

He sprang out of bed and began to put on his clothes, but paused for a
moment, asking himself why he was in such a hurry to do so.

As happens so often in sleep, the perplexities with which he had lain
down seemed to have resolved themselves without conscious process.  He
had wanted to ask himself what had happened to him, but it seemed now as
if some romantic mist had cleared away from his brain and nothing in
particular had happened to him—nothing, at least, that needed any
careful process of self-examination.  He had met a very charming and
friendly girl, and he was going to meet her again in the day that was
already moving towards dawn.  That would be very agreeable, but what was
there in it to have put him into the state in which he had lived through
the evening?

But, as the thought of meeting her again with half the hours of darkness
already gone—presented itself to him, he felt again the glow of pleasure
and anticipation. Yes, he wanted to think about her, and he could think
best about her out in the open.

He dressed quickly and dropped from his window onto the grass, which was
not more than ten feet or so below him.  And now he seemed to be more
master of himself, as he passed across a strip of moonlit green and into
the dimness of the wood.  He was reminded of the night in which the
vision of the fairies dancing had come to him. Now it was full summer
and then spring had only been on its way; his long-trained sense marked
the difference in a thousand little signs.  But that had been a night of
silver moonshine, as this was.  The contact with nature was clear on
such quiet, illumined nights as this.

Viola!

She grew slowly upon him as he trod the soft grass or the dry crackling
beech-mast.  Her face, somewhat to his surprise, he could not call up
before him, though he tried to see it with his inward eye.  But he dwelt
upon the slight supple figure that had moved beside him so freely and so
gracefully.  It gave him pleasure to recall her slender hand, which had
lain in his, and he remembered her feet and ankles in their neat brown
shoes and stockings, and the fall of her skirt over them, and the little
hat of soft white straw with its twisted ribbon.

Again he was a little puzzled at the effect these memories had upon him.
He had an eye for beauty of animate form.  He loved the grace of certain
animals; he and Wilbraham together had taken delight in pictures of
Greek statuary and vase painting, with special reference to that beauty;
he had admired the quick, clean limbs of the two children with whom he
had been so much, and of other children of the village, older or
younger.  But it had been purely an æsthetic pleasure, and had brought
with it none of the emotion with which the thought of Viola moved him.

He was a little frightened of this emotion and inclined to resist it;
but something out of the soft night whispered to him that its current
was one with all the emotions upon which he had fed, and grown in
feeding.  It was part of the secret which he had only half divined at
the end of that vigil which seemed to have marked a stage in his life.

His joy in the thought of her increased.  He recalled the tones of her
voice, and the ring of her happy laughter, and dwelt upon things that
she had said.  They were nothing; they might have been said by anybody;
none of them at which he smiled to himself were so worth remembering as
the things that little Jane often said and he had remembered afterwards,
smiling at them too, but not with that tenderness of feeling towards
them.

He came to the park wall, where there was a door to which he kept the
key.  He seldom went outside the park on his night roamings.  The woods
continued here for some distance before the open ground was reached,
though by the ride he had taken in the afternoon they ended with the
wall, in which there was another locked gate.  If he wanted to go on to
the moor at night, and stand beneath the open sky, with nothing about
him but space, it was by that path that he reached it.  But he seemed to
have had a purpose, unknown to him, in making for this door, and when he
reached it he had no thought but for passing beyond the bounds of the
park. It was by that path that the cottage in which Viola was could be
reached most directly.  He knew when he came to the door, but not
before, that he meant to go to it.

He had left the key behind, but scaled the wall, not without some
difficulty, and went on through the wood. By and by he came to a garden
fence, and there beyond it, across the fruit bushes and the untidy
tangle of late summer, was the cottage, low and thatched and
whitewashed, in which she was sleeping.

He stood still and drew his breath.

Viola!

There was a little dormer window in the thatch, open. It might be that
of the room in which she was sleeping. A cottager would not sleep in a
room with the window open.  He tried to remember what the cottage was
like inside, and what rooms would be most likely to be given up to
visitors.  It seemed to him of the utmost importance to have it settled
which was Viola’s room.

He moved round to the front of the cottage, treading softly on the turf
lest a sound should reveal his presence. Perhaps she was awake.  It was
not part of their secret that he should come out at night to gaze at her
window.  He must not reveal himself.

The wood extended a little way on to the moor by the side of the
cottage.  It was the point that had hidden it from them in the
afternoon.  But it faced open ground across a narrow fenced-in strip of
garden.  The whole of its front could be seen obliquely from the wood.

He stood in the shadow of a giant holly—and saw her.

She was sitting at a window, her chin resting on her hand, looking out
across the moor to where the sea lay gleaming in the radiance of the
moon.  She was in white; her dusky hair lay about her shoulders and
framed her young face, in which the dark eyes were set.

It was only a glimpse that he had of her, for he stole silently away,
abashed at having surprised a revelation not meant for his eyes.

But it was like the glimpse that he had had of the fairies dancing.  It
thrilled and calmed him at the same time.  He knew now that the fairies
had not revealed all the secret to him.  Viola was the secret, towards
which all his life and all that he had learned of nature had been
leading him.  Viola lay at the warm, sweet heart of it all. Everything
was changed by that vision he had had of her, and soon he would see her
and tell her so.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                          *THE WOODLAND POOL*


They met in the woodland path which Harry had taken in the night.  He
was there before the time appointed and threw himself down on the grass
to await her coming.  He could see some distance along the path from
where he had stationed himself.  It was narrow just here and the thick
overhanging branches of the trees made a green shady tunnel flecked with
quivering points of light.

He waited in a state of patient expectation, not greatly moved or
stirred, but happy and contented. The time did not seem very long,
though he waited for half an hour.

At last she came.  She was dressed all in white.  It seemed that it must
have been so as she appeared, in the glooming green, which had been like
an empty frame waiting for just that picture of maiden whiteness.

He sprang up to meet her, and she waved her hand when she saw him and
hurried her steps a little.  That frank greeting took them back to the
point at which they had parted the day before.  An ocean of feeling and
experience had washed over Harry in the intervening hours, but it was
lifted from him as they met and smiled their greetings.  His was as
frank and untroubled as hers.

They chattered gaily together like happy children as they turned aside
from the path and went up through the wood.  Harry felt an immeasurable
content at being with her, laughed at nothing, and sometimes broke into
snatches of song, which interrupted the conversation and made her laugh
in turn.  He had a fresh, clear voice, which Wilbraham had done
something to train. It was a happy little song about June that was
running in his head.  She knew it, too, and after a time she took it up
with him.  "That’s the way of June."  Once when they had come to a place
a little more open, they stood and sang it together in unison, and then
laughed and went on again.

Her father had gone out painting on the common, she told him.  He had
asked her to go with him, but she had said it was too hot in the sun.
She would wander in the woods.  "I didn’t say I should wander in the
woods alone," she said.

"They never want to know where I’m going," said Harry.  "I go out after
breakfast and come back to lunch, and sometimes I tell them where I’ve
been and sometimes I don’t."

It seemed natural that their elders should go their way, and they should
go theirs, in which elders had no concern.  It was their secret, to
which no one had a right but themselves.  But it gave Harry great
pleasure to hear from her in that way that it was to be their secret.
"That’s the way of June," he caroled again, in no very obvious
connection.

They came to the still waters of the hidden pool.  It would not have
been surprising if no eye but Harry’s had seen it since the trees had
grown up around it. They had to make their way to it through thick
bushes, which even in winter time could have concealed it.  He had been
careful in his visits not to go in and out of the thicket by the same
way, and so leave a break.  It was as if he had kept it secret for
himself and her.

When they had pushed their way through they were in a little grassy
fern-fringed space open to the sky, though it was flanked by big trees.
There were one or two more of these tiny lawns sloping to the edge of
the water, but that on to which they came was the largest. An age-old
oak stood sentinel in the middle of it and it was flanked on one side by
a yew that must have been older still, so vast was its dark
circumference and so thick its red ravelled trunk.

Viola exclaimed with delight.  The pool stretched in front of them, its
surface unruffled, mirroring the blue sky and the green depths of the
trees and the tall ferns that grew round it.  There was no vegetation on
it anywhere.  Harry told her that it must be very deep, with a spring
somewhere, or it would have been covered with weed.  "It’s much nicer
like this," she said, laughing at him.  When he asked her why she
laughed, she said: "You’re so proud of it."  It did not seem much of a
reason, but he liked her to laugh at him like that, looking at him and
showing her pleasure in everything that he said that revealed a little
of him.

For one moment as they stood by the edge of the water he had a slight
sense of anti-climax.  He had brought her, not without difficulty, to
the pool, as if in some way it was to be the end of things, and in some
way also the beginning.  But without some lead on her part there was
nothing much to stay there for.  It must be either the accepted scene,
or nothing but a point of interest from which they would presently move
on, with nothing more that he had yet thought of in front of them.

The feeling disappeared as she turned towards the mossed roots of the
oak, which made a seat for her.  He threw himself among the fern at her
feet with a sensation of desire accomplished.  She had accepted it.  The
little lawn by the still water, hidden from all human eyes but theirs,
was now consecrated by the simple fact of her taking her seat under the
oak.  She was queen of the pool and the deep summer woods.

So far in their intercourse little points had arisen in which it had
been for one or the other of them to take a step further, if it were to
continue.  She had stood waiting as Harry rode up to her, he had
stopped, and she had spoken; he had walked with her; he had asked her to
meet him again; he had brought her to the pool, and she had seated
herself there to await what should come.  The initiative had been more
his than hers, and now it was his again.  The fact of her taking her
seat there, under the tree, was an invitation, though she may not have
meant it as such.  They might talk there through the long morning hours,
but their talk could not be only of externals.  It must be on a more
intimate note, or they might just as well roam the woods together
lightly.  This green nook by the water, hidden and secret, was a shrine
in which they would worship together, as yet they knew not what, but it
would be something sacred and beautiful that was calling to both of
them.

There was silence between them for a moment—the silence of recollection
which comes before an act of devotion.  Then Harry looked up at her and
said, with his voice trembling a little: "I’ve never told any one of
this place before.  I think I kept it for you."

She smiled down at him, with the light soft in her eyes.  "I’m glad you
did that," she said.  "I shall never forget it.  It is so quiet and
green and beautiful," she added, a little hurriedly, as if the meaning
of her words might be mistaken.

"I might have shown it to the children," he said, reflectively.  "I
don’t quite know why I didn’t.  But I’m glad I didn’t, too."

She asked him who the children were, and he told her about Jane and
Pobbles, and the things that they had done together.  She asked him a
good many questions and was a little particular in fixing the exact date
of Jane’s birth, and of her arrival at Royd.

Harry answered all her questions and told her of the map that he had
begun to draw for them the afternoon before.  "It seems such ages ago,"
he said.  "I was missing them both, but I don’t think I’ve given them a
thought since, until just now."

She allowed herself to soften towards Jane; for at one point she had
suggested that she seemed rather precocious for so young a child.  "Poor
little things!" she said.  "I’m sure they must miss you, too.  You have
been so good to them.  And they are the only young friends you have had,
aren’t they?"

Talking of the children had a little lowered the note of intimacy.  Her
last words restored it.  "Until I knew you," he answered.

"And that’s such a very short time."

"No; it’s a very long time.  It’s all the time that matters."

She smiled at him, and he went on.  "Think of it, that only
yesterday—yesterday, much later than this—I was feeling dull and
unhappy.  Then I rode out to the sea, and felt much better, but I didn’t
know anything about you.  Fancy—only yesterday I had never seen you."

She listened with her eyes fixed upon him and her lips a little apart.
"What did you think when you first saw me?" she asked, softly.

He hesitated, and then laughed.  "I don’t think I thought anything in
particular," he said.  "That’s what is so extraordinary.  What did you
think when you saw me?"

It was the children’s pretty game.  "I like you. When did you begin to
like me?"  But she was not ready to tell him that yet.  Or perhaps she
might have told him, if he had acknowledged to some emotion at the first
sight of her.  "I was very glad to see somebody who could tell me where
I was," she said.  "I had heard of you, you know, from Mrs. Ivimey; but
somehow I didn’t think of you as you till you told me your name."

What had she heard of him?  She wouldn’t tell him that, either, or at
least not all that she had heard about him; but he was so unaware of the
estimation in which he was held by the people about him that he did not
divine that she was keeping something back.

What Mrs. Ivimey had said of "the folks at the Castle," generally gave
them something to talk about. She wanted to hear all about his life and
those among whom he spent it; and he talked about himself as he had
never talked to anybody before.  His desire was to bring her into it
all.  He told her a great deal about his happy childhood, and some of
the secrets that he had cherished. He told her about the stories he had
made up for himself, and, with a little hesitation, the one about the
garden and the flowers, and the end of it.  "I was terribly ashamed," he
said, "oh, for years afterwards.  I’m not sure I haven’t been ashamed of
it right up till now.  Now I’ve made a clean breast of it—to you—I don’t
mind so much.  I must have been a horribly vain little boy.  It used to
distress me that my hair wasn’t very black and very smooth.  I used to
pray that it might be made so."

Her eyes rested upon his fair close-cropped head.  He was looking down
and did not see the look in them.  "I’m glad your prayer wasn’t
answered," she said.  "But I think you must have been a very dear little
boy.  I wish I had known you then.  What were the violas like in your
story about the flowers?  Or didn’t they come in?"

"Yes, they did," he said, looking up at her.  "They were different from
the pansies—gentler and rather shy. They were never naughty."

"How old were they?  Grownup?"

"No; children—with dark eyes and a lot of dark hair all about their
faces."

"Were they like any little girls you had seen?"

"I don’t think so.  I think they must have been rather like you were
then."

"My eyes were dark, and my hair was loose on my shoulders.  Perhaps
something put it into your head that you would know a Viola some day."

    "Scoop, young Jesus, for her eyes
    Wood-brown pools of Paradise."


He said it gently, looking into her eyes.  She was startled for a
moment.  "You know it, then?" she said.

"Yes, I thought of it when you told me you had been named from a
beautiful poem.  But I couldn’t say it then.  I didn’t know you well
enough."

"Have you said it since?  Do you know it all?"

"I read it when I got home yesterday.  I know it all now."

"Say it to me."

He said it right through, slowly, and softly, dwelling on the name
Viola—Viola—with many gradations of his flexible voice, and she thought
she had never heard anything more beautiful than the way he uttered it.
Sometimes her eyes rested on the waters of the pool, but more often on
him, but his were on her all the time:


                          THE MAKING OF VIOLA

                                   I

_The Father of Heaven_

    Spin, daughter Mary, spin,
    Twirl your wheel with silver din;
    Spin, daughter Mary, spin,
      Spin a tress for Viola.

_Angels_

    Spin, Queen Mary, a
    Brown tress for Viola!

                                   II

_The Father of Heaven_

    Weave, hands angelical,
    Weave a woof of flesh to pall—
    Weave, hands angelical—
    Flesh to pall our Viola.

_Angels_

    Weave, singing brothers, a
    Velvet flesh for Viola!

III

_The Father of Heaven_

    Scoop, young Jesus, for her eyes,
    Wood-brown pools of Paradise—
    Young Jesus, for the eyes,
      For the eyes of Viola.

_Angels_

    Tint, Prince Jesus, a
    Dusked eye for Viola!

                                   IV

_The Father of Heaven_

    Cast a star therein to drown,
    Like a torch in cavern brown,
    Sink a burning star to drown
      Whelmed in eyes of Viola.

_Angels_

    Lave, Prince Jesus, a
    Star in eyes of Viola!

                                   V

_The Father of Heaven_

    Breathe, Lord Paraclete,
    To a bubbled crystal meet—
    Breathe, Lord Paraclete—
      Crystal soul for Viola.

_Angels_

    Breathe, Regal Spirit, a
    Flashing soul for Viola!

                                   VI

_The Father of Heaven_

    Child-angels, from your wings
    Fall the roseal hoverings,
    Child-angels, from your wings
      On the cheeks of Viola.

_Angels_

    Linger, rosy reflex, a
    Quenchless stain, on Viola!

                                  VII

_All things being accomplished, saith the Father of Heaven:_

    Bear her down, and bearing, sing,
    Bear her down on spyless wing,
    Bear her down, and bearing, sing,
      With a sound of Viola.

_Angels_

    Music as her name is, a
    Sweet sound of Viola!

                                  VIII

    Wheeling angels, past espial,
    Danced her down with sound of viol;
    Wheeling angels, past espial,
      Descanting on "Viola."

_Angels_

    Sing, in our footing, a
    Lovely lilt of "Viola."

                                   IX

    Baby smiled, mother wailed,
    Eastward while the sweetling sailed;
    Mother smiled, baby wailed,
      When to earth came Viola.

_And her elders shall say:_

    So soon have we taught you a
    Way to weep, poor Viola!

                                   X

    Smile, sweet baby, smile,
    For you will have weeping-while;
    Native in your Heaven is smile,—
      But your weeping, Viola?

    Whence your smiles, we know, but ah!
    When your weeping, Viola?
    Our first gift to you is a
    Gift of tears, my Viola!


When the musical flow of his voice had ended, they had advanced many
paces further on the path they were treading together, but its end was
not yet known to either of them.  Viola’s cheeks were rose-flushed and
her eyes were shining.  There was silence for a time as they looked at
one another, and love flew to and fro between them unhampered in his
flight but hidden from them.

Viola breathed a deep sigh, as she drew her eyes away from his, half
unwillingly.  "It’s lovely," she said.  "I didn’t know how lovely it was
till you said it.  I’m glad I’ve got the most beautiful name in the
world."

"And the most beautiful eyes in the world," he said. "I never knew that
there was anything half so beautiful as you, though I have always loved
the beautiful things in the world.  I used to wonder what they meant,
and a year ago I thought I had found out.  But now I know that I only
knew half of it."

"Tell me," she said.  "What did you find out a year ago?"

He told her of his moonlight vigil, which he had never thought to tell
any one, and the vision that had come to him at the end of it.

Again she listened to him, fascinated, with her eyes on his and her lips
apart.  But as he drew to the end of his story her face grew a little
troubled.

"I should never have seen that," she said when he had finished.

"We might have seen it together if you had been there," he said.  "There
is no secret I could see that you couldn’t see."

"No," she said, rather sadly.  "You have always lived in this beautiful
place, and you have seen nothing that isn’t beautiful—all your life.  Of
course you could see that, because there was nothing to get in the way.
But it isn’t at all beautiful where I live.  I have seen so many ugly
things all round me."

"It must always be beautiful where you live—Viola."

He spoke her name caressingly.  It was the first time he had uttered it,
except impersonally, and it made a new sweet contact between them.

She smiled at him.  "Perhaps if you love beautiful things, and think
about them," she said, "it doesn’t so much matter if you can’t always
have them about you. Do you think I could really see the fairies, if I
were with you?"

He thought for a moment, with a slight frown on his face, which made the
words that should come out of his thought of great importance to her.
It was not in him to say something just to please her.  The lightest
thing that he might say to her would come from the depths of the
unspoilt spirit that was in him.

His face cleared, and he looked up at her again.  "I think that when you
are very young you may see something like that," he said, "—or, by
chance, when you are older.  It means something very important, or else
it doesn’t mean much.  It meant something very important to me to see
them, but now it’s not so important.  If I had never seen it I should
have seen you, and it would have been just the same."

"Why would it have been just the same?"

She was fascinated anew.  Did ever a girl have such incense as this
burned before her?  And it was incense lit from a flame in the heart,
not from a spark on the tongue.  Her nostrils were eager for the fume of
it.

Again the little considering frown.  "It would," he said, "I know it
would.  It all meant you, somehow, though I have never seen you until
now.  There was something wanting in it all the time; and it was you.  I
should never look at anything now, and think how beautiful it was,
without thinking of you."

Lover’s words, spoken by an unconscious lover.  They pleased and pained
her at the same time.

"I’m afraid you make too much of me," she said, with a sigh.  "If I had
lived here always, as I am living now——!"

She did not complete her sentence.  The memory of things she had seen
and known and of which he had known nothing, rose up between them.  But
she put them aside, and smiled at him again.  "After all," she said, "I
am here now, and I have never been so happy anywhere else.  Perhaps I
have been keeping myself for it, without knowing that it was this I was
meant for. I think I was meant for it, because all the rest seems like
nothing at all.  When I go back, it will be less than ever to me."

Her talk of going back stabbed him.  Life would be an incredible thing
when they were parted.  They stirred each the other’s fears and
shrinkings as they talked of it, but behind all the pain was the thought
that they would be with one another for a long time yet.  They were so
young that time in front of them was not measured by the same rule as
time that had passed.  More than two whole weeks and most of a third
Viola had still to spend in Paradise.  They would meet every day.
Surely, nothing could prevent their meeting every day!  Twice a day they
would meet, in this secret place, and be undisturbed for long summer
hours in their happiness.  No need to spoil it by thinking of the end.

They parted for a time.  The last Harry saw of her was the white figure
framed in its arch of green.  Before she passed out of it she turned and
stood there for a moment, motionless.  She was too far for him to see
her face clearly, but the message passed to and fro between them again.
It was all there, though they had not yet spoken it in words, and eyes
were too far off to be read.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                           *AT THE THRESHOLD*


Harry went home to luncheon and hurried to the wood again immediately
afterwards.  He had much farther to go to the trysting-place than she.
She might even be waiting for him when he got there.

She was not there, and after half an hour she had not come.

Oh cruel!  And yet he knew, as his longing grew and his hopes fell, that
she would have come if she could. Her father had claimed her; something
out of her power to prevent or foresee had kept her away.  She would not
stay away from him for ever.

Yet he was increasingly unhappy as the time passed and the green frame
remained empty of its sweet picture. The heat of a summer afternoon lay
brooding on the silent wood, and was like lead upon his heart.  He paced
up and down the path, to the corner from which the garden of the cottage
could be seen.  He thought of going to it, and talking to Mrs. Ivimey,
who would know what had become of Viola, and would certainly talk to him
about her.  But no, he could not do that.  It would be sweet to hear her
name on other lips, but he would have to pretend that he was hearing of
her for the first time, and he shrank from that, and from all that it
would imply.  He never went farther than the corner, and by and by his
hope of seeing her that afternoon died away completely.

He had come out prepared to stay away until dinnertime, but now he
thought he would go home to tea, and come back immediately afterwards.
His absence would not then be questioned until he came back at night.
They did not like him to stay away from dinner too often, but he had not
done so for some time, and if he said that he was going out into the
woods they would not seek to prevent him.

He was all at sea with himself as at last he dragged himself away from
the empty place, which might still be brightened by her coming, with
many backward looks and much lingering.  He knew that something that
could easily be explained had kept her, and yet he was desperately
unhappy because she had failed him.  Did she want him as much as he
wanted her?  Would anything in the world have kept him away if he had
promised to come to her?  Supposing she should not come at all that day!
He shrank from the thought of the long night that would divide him from
her, if he had not seen her before it fell.  But his spirit was tired
with suspense.  The world seemed full of trouble and disappointment as
he made his way homewards.

The one thing he never thought of was that, somehow, their meeting of
the morning might have been discovered, and she had been forbidden to
meet him again. They had met, and promised to meet again, in all the
innocence of their youth.  If their elders had known of it, it would
have spoilt their happy secret, but that was all.  It had not occurred
to Harry that it would spoil anything else.

They had tea on the terrace outside the drawing-room. It was always the
same at home.  Day after day, all the year round, it was always the
same.  In winter the tea tables were placed near one of the two fires
that warmed the long room, at other times near one of the windows, or in
the summer on the terrace outside.  The four of them would sit round and
talk, Lady Brent dispensing the tea, over which she was very particular.
Occasionally some one from the Vicarage would be there, but scarcely
ever anybody else.  The friendships that had formerly been between the
Castle and other big houses within reach had fallen off, and it was the
rarest thing for visitors to appear there.

It might have been expected that, meeting like that, day after day, at
formal meals as well as at this informal one, and with no intrusion from
the outer world to break the monotony of their lives, they would have
had nothing to say to one another.  But there was always a great deal to
say.  Wilbraham read voluminously, Lady Brent read, and even Mrs. Brent
read.  They talked of what they had read in the papers and what they had
read in books; but Mrs. Brent did not take part in the conversation over
what they had read in books.

And there was the life immediately around them to talk about.  If Royd
Castle was cut off from the ordinary social intercourse that gathers
about a large country house, it was by no means divided from the
interests that depend upon ownership.  There were a few hundred people
living around it in direct relationship, and the personal contact with
them was the closer because it represented nearly all the human interest
there was in the life that was led there.  It supplied the gossip which
in some form or other is congenial to the most exalted minds, and
without which little Mrs. Brent at least would have found the
conversation unbearably arid.

Lady Brent visited among the tenantry assiduously. She was inclined to
exercise authority, but could not fairly be said to be dictatorial.
They were on their best behaviour before her, but there were few among
them who had not some kindness to remember from her. Mrs. Brent also
visited them and avoided doing so in the company of her mother-in-law if
she possibly could. Her intercourse with them was on a more intimate
plane. Her position as a great lady had to be implicitly accepted, but
if this was done she would sit and talk with more than mere affability.
Harry was her chief subject of conversation, and all the people of Royd
loved Harry and expected great things of him.  It might have surprised
Lady Brent if she had known how clearly it was in the minds of those
whom she treated as her dependents that she was only exercising
temporary authority, and how much they looked forward to the time when
her rule would be over.  This was not because they found it irksome, for
she ruled justly and considerately.  But she had ruled for a long time
and change is pleasant to most of us.  Besides, the Castle provided very
little variety of interest to those who lived within its shadow. It had
not always been so, and it was expected that it would not be so when
Harry came into his own.

Mrs. Brent could sometimes be induced to talk about the time that was
coming, if she was flattered into a state of intimacy and skilfully
drawn out.  She was always careful not to create an impression that she
and Lady Brent were at all antagonistic, but it was understood by
everybody that this was so, the extent of the antagonism was gauged to a
nicety, and the causes for it were frequently discussed and generally
agreed upon.

The fact that Mrs. Brent derived from the stage was not actually known,
but it would have surprised nobody to hear it; nor did her claims to
belonging of right to the class into which she had married carry the
smallest weight, however much they might be indulged.  It was generally
agreed that Lady Brent had done the right thing in absorbing her into
the atmosphere of the Castle, and in keeping her closely under its
influence.  Poor little lady!  She’d have liked to get away from it
sometimes, and small blame to her!  But ’twouldn’t ha’ done. She was all
right where she was, and a nice little thing too, if you took her the
right way; but there! she wasn’t what you’d expect for Sir Harry’s
mother, and her ladyship’s was the only way to keep him from knowing it.

So these remote but clear-sighted and kindly people judged of the
situation at the Castle, and on the whole approved of it.  As for Harry
himself they one and all adored him.  They were the only friends he had
had outside his home from his childhood, and they were real friends.
There was not one of them, man, woman or child, who had not some special
feeling for him different from that of the rest.  He knew them all, and
was interested in them all, with a purely human sympathy.  When the time
came for him to take the reins, he would be dealing not with an
impersonal aggregate, but with those whose interests were also his; and
he would be regarded with a loyalty and affection which is enjoyed by
few landowners.

Wilbraham kept himself more to himself, as was said of him, but had his
friends too at Royd.  It was he who brought Harry’s heart to his mouth
this afternoon by the announcement, made in a casual voice: "There is an
artist come to stay at Mrs. Ivimey’s.  He rejoices in the name of
Michael Angelo Bastian, which ought to mean that he is a very fine
artist; but I’ve never heard of him.  Have you?"

"No," said Lady Brent, who had been addressed. "But I did not know that
Mrs. Ivimey let rooms.  I think she should have asked me first.  Nobody
at Royd has done it hitherto."

"I wonder how she could get any one to take rooms in such an
out-of-the-way place as hers," said Mrs. Brent.

"I can tell you that," said Wilbraham.  "I had it all from Prout."
Prout combined the occupations of shoemaker and postman at Royd.  "Mrs.
Ivimey has a sister who lives in London and lets lodgings.  Michael
Angelo Bastian lodges with her.  The rest is plain to the meanest
intelligence."

Harry was faced with the immediate alternative of acknowledging that he
was aware of the fact stated or of affecting ignorance of it.  If he
kept silence now it would be deliberate and purposeful silence, and he
might later on be called upon to explain it.  He had not faced this; he
had not faced anything in connection with Viola that had to do with the
future.

Perhaps he would have spoken, if his mind had not been so full of his
late disappointment, and of his reviving hopes of still meeting Viola
that evening.  He could not bring himself immediately to the point of
making a decision, and when Lady Brent had next spoken, and Wilbraham
had answered her, the time had gone by for him to speak.  His not having
done so directly Bastian’s name had been mentioned would need
explanation now.  With a mental shrug of the shoulders he kept silence,
and felt a warm delicious glow as he took the further step towards a
fenced and guarded intimacy with Viola which no one outside must
penetrate.  The pleasure of hugging his secret afresh swamped the
half-guilty feeling which had preceded it in his mind.  He did not even
ask himself why it should have come to him, but his attitude towards his
elders underwent a slight change from that moment.  His youth was to be
defended from them; it had its rights, which could brook no
interference.

As he hurried off again to the trysting-place, he was glad once more
that he had refrained from betraying his secret, as he had been glad
that he had resisted the impulse to confide in his mother the night
before.  He knew now that they would have disapproved.  Some breath from
the outside world, which divides people up into categories in a way he
had never had to take into account, had come to him from the discussion
he had just listened to.  His grandmother had shown persistent concern
at Mrs. Ivimey’s having let her rooms without consultation with her.
Such a thing had never happened before in Royd.  You didn’t know what
sort of people you might get, if it became a practice.  An artist—there
was no great harm perhaps in an artist; but—  The postman had evidently
not known, or if he had he had not told Wilbraham, that this particular
artist had invaded the sanctities of Royd accompanied by a daughter, but
Harry had felt instinctively that her presence would have increased the
objections expressed by Lady Brent to Mrs. Ivimey’s taking in anybody at
all.  It had come to him somehow that Viola’s delicious charm would have
done nothing to recommend her, had she been known, and that his mother
would by no means have taken the confidence that it had been in his mind
to make to her the night before in the spirit in which it would have
been offered.

The reasons for all this were not clear to him.  He had of course no
idea that he was to be preserved at all costs from falling into
unauthorized love; he had no more than a purely academic knowledge of
what falling in love meant, and no idea as yet that he was already very
deep in it himself.  There were many things in which his inclinations
had clashed with the rules formulated by his elders—as, for instance, in
the matter of visits to the stables, during his early childhood.  This
was one of them, but he was not to be bound now by the views of his
elders, and it was not necessary to examine their origin.  There was a
vague discomfort in the idea that he was setting himself against them,
but no admission in his mind that he was in any way wrong in doing so.
And even the slight discomfort was more than balanced by the feeling
that his secret must certainly now be guarded, which had the effect of
somehow bringing him and Viola more closely together.

It had been decided chat Wilbraham was to seek out the artist, and if he
found him to be the sort of person who could be asked to Royd, he was to
ask him there. Harry smiled to himself, as he thought of the
possibilities ahead.  He must tell Viola, and he and she must decide
what was to be done about it.  It gave him a thrill to think of their
deciding anything together.  He quickened his steps.  There were such
oceans to talk to her about.  He had no doubts now about her coming to
meet him; he had almost persuaded himself that she would be there
waiting for him.

But the green frame was still empty of its picture, as he had left it an
hour before.  The evening light was slanting on it now, giving warning
that the time they would have to spend together was diminishing.  But
there were nearly two hours of daylight still.  Surely she would come
before the dusk fell!

He stretched himself under a tree, from where he could watch the place
where she would appear.  His mood was not yet impatient.  She would
surely come, and in the meantime he could think about her.


He did not think of her as a lover thinks of the mistress enthroned in
his heart, to worship her there. He had not consciously enthroned her as
yet.  He thought of her as a wonderful revelation of something he must
surely have been looking for all his life, since it was impossible now
to think of life without her.  She had come into his life, in some way
to translate its meaning for him—for both of them.  She was a revelation
from the good influences all around him, as the vision of the fairies
had been.  He had got as far as that, and had told her so.  It had been
very sweet to tell her that; it would be sweet to tell her everything
that came into his head.  There was nothing that he would not want to
tell her, at once and first of all.  In his innocence of the world and
the way of the world, he had reached that point in love’s pilgrimage
where the loved one shines out as the sweet vessel into which all
confidences may be poured, and the desire is strong for a common aim and
a common vision.  But he had not reached the point, which usually
precedes it, of an ardent desire for some sort of surrender.  Perhaps it
is not true to say that he had not yet enthroned Viola in his heart, for
she sat there the centre of everything.  But she sat there apart, as if
she had mounted the steps of the throne without his hand to raise her.
She must descend again and stand with him on the level ground of mutual
desire before her seat should be secure and acknowledged.

But as he waited for her, and the desire for her sheer presence became
stronger and stronger, he was being led towards that desire for
surrender.  The sweetest thing now would be, not to pour himself out in
confidences to her, which would still be very sweet, but to obtain from
her that look or that word which would move him to the depths.

He went over in his mind the looks and words he had received from her,
and thirsted for more.  The very first time their eyes had met, before a
word had been spoken between them, she had looked at him, with something
behind the look with which his memory blissfully played.  Once or twice
that morning, by the pool, and again when she had turned towards him and
stood gazing, far off, there had been something that thrilled him with
happiness to remember.  And there had been tones in her voice, little
things she had said—he dwelt upon them all, and longed to draw more of
them from her.  He would say this to her; greatly daring, he would say
that.  And she would reply; or if she spoke no answer he would watch her
face, and gain courage from it for speeches still more daring.


But an hour passed, and she had not come to him.

The sun was sinking now.  Outside the wood, under the open sky, its rays
would be drawing the shadow of the rocks and the gorse across the close
turf; there would be a soft golden radiance in all the air, and on the
bright distant pavement of the sea.  But here under the trees it was
already dusk, and a gloom descended on his heart, as he thought of the
sunset, from the sight of which he was shut off.

It was like a parable to him.  He had never before missed the glory of a
sunset, if he was out of doors. The woods had never kept him from that
enlarging sight. They were for other times; not less loved then, but now
seeming to hold him enchained in a menacing gloom. And so, just out of
his reach was the solace for which he craved, but in place of it
darkness was settling down over his heart, and trouble clutching at it.

But he would not go out of the wood.  She might come still.  The thought
brought him no relief; his long watch had emptied his mind of the
springs of hope.  But still he waited for her.  If she did come, she
must find him there.


The darkness had settled down now.  There was a fading light in the sky
that could be seen here and there through the thick canopy of leaves,
but beneath them only eyes that had grown used to the darkness could
have descried anything.

The boy lay stretched at length on the grass, his face to the ground,
utterly weary and utterly miserable.  He had no strength to tear himself
from this unhappy spot and go home; he only wanted to lie there in his
pain, which still had a little of sweetness in it as long as he lingered
in the place where he had last seen her.

He never moved.  His body was as still as on that night in which he had
kept his eager vigil, and at last been rewarded.  But it was the
stillness of exhaustion. No hope was left to him now.


But his ears, trained since his childhood to catch the lightest whispers
of nature, and to interpret them, alert in spite of himself, heard
something that was not of the life sinking to rest around him.  He
raised himself suddenly, almost violently, and peered into the darkness,
all his senses once more on edge.

And out of the darkness she came, no more than a moth-glimmer flitting
towards him.  A wild joy filled him, down to the very depths of his
being.  He sprang up and ran towards her.

She gave a little cry that was half a sob, and flew to his embrace.  His
arms were around her, and his lips on hers.  In all the long hours
through which he had yearned for her, and played with the thought of her
sweetness, no such blissful end to his waiting had entered his mind as
this.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                              *THE TEMPLE*


Her face was wet with her tears, but he could just see her smile
glimmering through the darkness.  His eyes were as hungry as his lips.
That sweet flower-like face, with the tender eyes and the mouth
a-quiver—would he ever be able to gaze his fill of it?

She made no effort to draw herself from him, but nestled to him, and
poured out a broken sobbing explanation of her absence to which he
hardly listened. What did it matter how she had been prevented from
coming to him, since she had longed for him as he had longed for her,
and was with him now?

He kissed away her tears; she had not returned his kisses since her
first unconsidered impelled surrender, but was still sweetly receptive
of them.  "Oh, I ought not to," she said, smiling at him.  "But I do
love you, and I have wanted you so."

Yes, this was love, of which he had never consciously, thought.  She had
spoken the word first, but he knew before she had spoken it that all his
joy and all his pain had sprung from that source, and exulted in his new
knowledge.

"I love you too—Viola," he said, lingering caressingly on her name.
"Oh, how I love you!"

He drew a long breath, and they gazed silently into one another’s eyes,
to find in them what no speech could utter.  The melting sweetness of
her gaze filled him with trembling rapture.  The secret of life and all
its beauty which he thought he had divined, now seemed to have depths
beneath depths of meaning, beyond mental capacity to grasp, in their
almost intolerable rapture. With a sigh they released each other, and
speech flowed to their relief, broken and melodious, bearing them again
to the surface of their bliss.

They withdrew a little from the path where they had met, and told over
the tale of their love.  By and by they moved along it again, in a
common impulse to escape from the thick darkness of the wood, and gain
the freedom of the starry night.

They passed the cottage where Viola dwelt and never gave it a thought.
At a later time they confessed to one another that they had no
recollection of passing it at all.  They were so wrapped up in one
another that nothing and nobody else in the wide world mattered to them
at that moment.  But when they had emerged from the wood they turned
aside, instinctively perhaps, to escape prying eyes, and passed slowly
along the path which they had taken the afternoon before.

After the darkness of the wood, the sky, moonless, but lit by the
innumerable lanterns of the stars, had the effect of brightness.  Their
young faces could be plainly seen in this soft radiance, and they stood
to worship one another afresh.

"You’re so beautiful, Viola!  How beautiful you are!  I must have been
blind not to see it before."

"I saw that you were from the very first."

Here were two statements of surpassing interest. They had to be enlarged
upon and explained, with new and immeasurable content gained from the
disclosures that were made.  Nothing had ever happened like it before.
They were pioneers in the uncharted country of love, and the springs at
which they refreshed themselves, and the flowers brushed by their feet
as they wandered through it, had been waiting for them unseen and
unguessed at since the world began.  The wonder of it increased.

They sat down on a low rock, jutting through the fern, and gave
themselves up to the miracle of their discoveries.  Harry held her hands
in his, and his eyes were never off her face, except when he looked out
into space as if trying to fathom something that passed his
comprehension.  Sometimes they drew together by an irresistible mutual
impulse, but every kiss he gave her was a consecration.  She was too
beautiful and too sacred a thing not to be treated with high reverence.
Instinctively he held himself back, though without cessation he thirsted
for her sweetness, and her lips assuaged his thirst only so long as his
were upon them.

For more than an hour they sat there, and the time seemed as nothing.
Then she sprang up suddenly and said she must go in.  She had only meant
just to run out and tell him why she had not been able to come in the
afternoon.  As she said it, a voice was heard calling: "Viola!  Viola!"
out of the darkness.  She raised herself hurriedly to kiss him, of her
own accord, and tearing her hands from his ran off without a word.

Harry stood for a long time where she had left him, while the unhurrying
stars marched on to their celestial music and looked down upon him, a
creature of the moment, who had yet found his way into the courts of
eternity.  He looked up at them, and in the rapture of the revelation
that had come to him worshipped anew in the temple whose gates he had
besieged all his life.  It was for this that he had been born; it was
for this that the heavens were lit, and the earth put forth its beauty.
At last he had been admitted into the innermost sanctuary of the temple,
and the secret of life was his.


He moved slowly towards the cottage which enshrined his love, unable to
leave its hallowed precincts.

There were lights in the lower windows, and presently in that upper one
which he knew to be Viola’s.  Perhaps she knew that he would linger out
there under the stars, for she came to the window and stood there for a
long time, and before she left it she kissed the tips of her fingers and
threw her message out into the darkness.

Presently her light went out.  Harry laid himself down on the warm turf.
He would sleep there that night, as he had sometimes slept out in the
open on warm summer nights before, but not with that sense of bliss
enfolding him.  He would keep guard over her, and perhaps, when the
stars had paced onwards in their western march, and the moon had arisen,
she would come to the window again, as she had come the night before.
He had told her that he had seen her there.  He thought she would come.
And surely her presence would make itself felt through his dreams, and
he would awake to see her! It was not possible that he should sleep
while she was awake near him.

He pillowed his head on the fern and slept, and for a long time there
was silence, on the moor and in the cottage, while the stars watched
over them and waited for their waking.


It happened just as Harry had thought when he laid himself down to
sleep.  He awoke to find the moor flooded by the bright radiance of the
moon, which shone also upon the front of the cottage and the window of
Viola’s room.  And she was there, with her dusky hair about her face and
on her shoulders, and with some dark wrap round her, so that her face
alone, and her hands, were softly illumined.

He arose and went towards her.  She saw him coming, for she gave a
little start, and then sat motionless again until he stood just beyond
the garden fence, where he could see her face, though his was in shadow.

He stood there; neither of them spoke and neither of them moved, but
drank their fill of one another’s presence.  They made no motion of
farewell when at last Harry moved away and his form was lost in the
shadows of the wood.

He could go home now and sleep, with his great happiness to bear him
company.  On the morrow he would see her again, and new happiness would
be his lot.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                               *BASTIAN*


Wilbraham picked his way along the woodland path, humming a tune.  His
only preoccupation for the moment was to preserve his shoes from getting
wet, for much rain had fallen, and there were spongy patches to be
avoided.

Wilbraham disliked exercise of almost every sort. His bad times, in the
winter, were when he felt impelled to go for a walk, which was for at
least an hour every afternoon unless the weather absolutely forbade.  In
the summer he did not mind it so much, except when the heat tried him;
but he would always have preferred to spend his leisure with a book in
the library, or in the garden.

He had long ceased to accompany Harry in any out of door expedition.
They saw quite enough of one another indoors, and their respective
preferences in the matter of pace were so in opposition that it was a
pleasure to neither of them to take the air together. Mrs. Brent
sometimes accompanied him in his constitutionals, but he seldom invited
her to do so.  They also saw enough of one another indoors, or at least
he saw enough of her.  He liked her, but she did not interest him in
conversation, while she did expect him to interest her.  He was quite
capable of doing so, but the effort spoilt the mild refreshment that
came from leaving his brain to wander where it would while his body was
being gently exercised.  He found abundant interest in the thoughts of
his well-stored mind, and sometimes stayed out for longer than he had
intended because he had fallen into such an absorbing train of
speculation.

Yet this man, who lived his monotonous life with books as his chief
recreation and his intercourse with his fellows narrowed to the few with
whom he lived, was very fond of company.  His walk this afternoon,
longer than he usually imposed upon himself in the heat of summer, was
cheered by having an object other than that of keeping his liver from
troubling him.  He was going to make a new acquaintance.  This artist,
with the rather absurd name, who was lodging with Mrs. Ivimey, might
possibly be a man of intelligence, with views upon the art he practised;
or he might be a mere commercial dauber.  If he proved to be a man of
intelligence, it would be agreeable to exchange views with him, for
after books Wilbraham liked pictures, better even than he liked music.
Or rather, his taste for music had become a little atrophied, since he
was cut off from enjoyment of it, while art could always be read about,
and there were always pictures or reproductions of pictures to be seen.

He reached the cottage on the outskirts of the wood, and looked about
him with pleasure before he entered it. The great open space upon which
it faced was a refreshment after the wooded environment of the Castle,
and the few buildings that enlivened this point relieved it of the
impression of loneliness which was unpleasing to a man of Wilbraham’s
fibre.  It was half a mile further by the path he had taken than by the
one he usually took if his humour led him towards the common, but he
thought as he stood there with his hat off, so that the breeze could
cool his brow, that he would come there more often, even if Mr. Bastian
should not turn out to be the sort of person that he might want to come
for.

A well-satisfied gentleman he looked as he stood there leaning on his
stick, his brow rather bald, his presence on the verge of portliness,
though he was not otherwise of the habit of body that runs to flesh.
The look of discontent that Grant had remarked about him on a first
acquaintance was absent now.  In his suit of dark grey flannel, with his
black-ribboned straw hat, he had something of a clerical air, and as he
turned towards the cottage his unusually sharp ears heard the sound of
hurried movement through the open window of a downstairs room, and a
voice uttering the words: "The parson come to call!  Good Lord, I’m
lost; I can’t get out."

He stood chuckling to himself as he waited for an answer to his knock.
The door stood open.  The artist could not have escaped him if his fears
had been justified.  This pleased his humour, especially as he
anticipated the pleasure of bringing relief to him.

Mrs. Ivimey did not respond to his summons, and as he was preparing to
knock again, a door on the left of the little passage opened and the
artist came out to him.

"I’m afraid Mrs. Ivimey is out at the back somewhere," he said.  "Shall
I go and call her for you?"

"Thanks, it’s you I’ve come to see, if you’re Mr. Bastian," said Mr.
Wilbraham.  "I’m tutor to young Sir Harry Brent at the Castle.  We heard
you were here, and as we don’t get many visitors at Royd I came to look
you up."

Bastian’s face changed.  "That’s very kind of you," he said.  "Do come
in."

He led the way into the little sitting-room, and Wilbraham followed him
with the feeling that his visit had justified itself.

Bastian was a tall thin man with a shock of untidy grey hair, but a
curiously young face.  His eyes were very light blue.  He had a
half-whimsical, half-appealing look, as if he was in a constant state of
amusement at himself and was begging not to be taken too seriously. The
upper part of his face was firmly and delicately modelled, but his mouth
was indeterminate and his chin weak.  He was atrociously dressed, in an
old discoloured suit of light grey flannel, and a pair of stained canvas
shoes, and he wore no collar; but he did not apologize for his
appearance.  Wilbraham judged him to be about forty-five, but discovered
later that he was three or four years younger.

Mrs. Ivimey’s parlour was furnished with the customary mixture of old
good things and bad new ones.  A few canvases stood with their faces
against the wall, and a half-finished picture of a flaming sunset over
the moor and the sea was propped on the mantelpiece.  Wilbraham threw a
glance at it as he entered, but could not make up his mind whether it
was going to be a good picture or an exceptionally bad one.  There were
some books on the round table in the middle of the room, as well as some
of the untidy paraphernalia of an artist. On a smaller table in the
window was a bottle of whisky, a glass and a jug of water, and by the
side of the table was a shabby but comfortable looking easy chair, upon
which was a book face downwards.  The room was full of the odour of
strong tobacco.

"I’m afraid it’s rather like a bar-parlour," said Bastian.  "I have a
horrible habit of smoking shag, which some people object to strongly.
Will you have some whisky?"

He looked sideways at Wilbraham as he spoke, with an engaging smile.
There was something attractive and appealing about him; he was rather
like a naughty child, caught in the act—indoors on a summer afternoon
with his shag tobacco and his whisky and his advanced dishabille.
Wilbraham was one of those who hated the reek of shag, but he forgave
him for it readily and took out his own cigarette case.  He did not
reply to the offer of whisky.

"I’ll go and get you a glass," said Bastian.  "I’m afraid there’s no
soda-water, but it’s good whisky and better with water."

He went out of the room, and Wilbraham stood with his eyes fixed upon
the whisky bottle, and a queer look in them, half of eagerness, half of
repulsion.

Bastian was away longer than it would have taken him to get a glass, and
when he returned he had on a collar and a flowing brightly coloured tie.
He now looked like an artist, and not so much like a broken-down
gentleman-loafer.

"Say when!" he said, pouring out the whisky, and Wilbraham said when,
but not immediately.

"I get tired of painting," said Bastian.  "It’s very hot out there on
the moor, and I didn’t bring a sketching umbrella with me.  I thought
I’d have a lazy time with a book.  ’David Copperfield.’  One of the best
books, I consider."  He held his head aside as he looked at Wilbraham.

Wilbraham had taken his first sip of whisky.  It was only a sip, but his
face seemed to expand under it. His heart also expanded towards a
Dickens enthusiast, and for a time they talked about Dickens, and found
themselves always in encouraging agreement.

"It’s a pleasure to have somebody to talk to," said Bastian.  "I love
being in the country and I hate being in London.  I came down here to be
as far away from London as possible, but there’s no doubt one does want
human intercourse.  I’m devoted to my little girl, who’s here with me;
but one wants men to talk to."

"Oh, you’ve got a daughter with you," said Wilbraham. He had been
considering all the time, underneath the conversation, whether or not
Bastian could be introduced to Royd.  He was a gentleman: that was
obvious.  But it was equally obvious that he had shed some of the
customs usually followed by gentlemen. Would his innate breeding carry
him through, with women—with Lady Brent?  With a man, or at least with
one who prided himself on being able to see beneath the surface, the
shocking old clothes and the shag tobacco would make no difference.
Then there was the whisky.  Wilbraham had rather more than a suspicion
that Bastian’s case was not so very different from his own: that whisky
meant a good deal to Bastian.  There were signs of it on his smooth
child-like face—a lack of clearness in a skin that was meant to be
unusually clear, a slackness of muscle, a look in the eye and in the
droop of the mouth; and the second—or possibly the third—allowance that
Bastian had poured into his glass had exceeded by a good half inch the
not meagre allowance that Wilbraham had accepted in his own. Perhaps it
might lead to complications to invite him to Royd.  If Wilbraham should
decide not to, the daughter might be made an excuse.

"She’s a dear child," said Bastian.  "Her mother’s dead.  She was one in
a thousand."  He sighed.  "Viola and I are everything to one another.
We’re scarcely ever parted, except when we’re at work.  She has to earn
money, poor child, and neither of us manages to earn very much.  Still,
we’re happy together, and happiest of all when we leave the streets
behind us and get out into the country."

He was revealing himself as one of those people who like to pour
themselves out about their own affairs, not so much out of egotism as
from an impulse to show confidence towards their hearers, to establish
relations which shall rest upon no misunderstanding, in which nothing
shall be kept back.

Wilbraham was without that impulse, but he was also without any large
share of egotism.  He was interested in other people, and usually
preferred that they should talk about themselves, since few people are
interesting upon any other subject.  He had some curiosity about
Bastian’s history, which seemed to have had contradictions in it, when
his refinement of speech and manner was compared with his confessed and
apparent indigence, which was rather below that to which men of birth
and breeding sink, even if they are without the earning capacity.

"How old is your daughter?" he asked, a little confused between the
mention of her as a child and that of her work.

"Sixteen or seventeen," said Bastian.  "I can’t quite remember which,
and I don’t particularly want to.  I don’t suppose I shall keep her with
me for many years. She’s a very beautiful girl.  So was her mother.  And
gentle and sweet and good too—both of them.  Ah, whatever I’ve missed in
life—whatever mistakes I’ve made—I’ve had that.  There’s nothing in this
world like a good and beautiful woman,—’A lovely apparition, sent to be
a moment’s ornament’—how does it go on? I can’t keep these things in my
head."

Wilbraham threw a look at Bastian’s glass, of which the contents were
now reduced by half.  His speech showed no sign of deterioration—he was
evidently one of those people who could "carry their liquor"—but
Wilbraham recognized his state as one in which the ordinary dictates of
reticence would be considerably relaxed.

His own glass was nearly as full as before.  He could quite easily have
gone away and left it there.  He felt that the small amount he had
already drunk had done him a vast amount of good, enlightened his brain
and stimulated his body.  He had an impulse of pity towards Bastian, who
was under the influence of the desire from which he had emancipated
himself, and of self-congratulation at his own freedom.  Thank God that
he could drink what was good for him, and stop there.  He was inclined
to like Bastian exceedingly.  It might be possible, if he got to know
him better, to help him out of the morass into which he had fallen.  It
seemed probable that the state of poverty to which he had come was owing
to habits of intemperance.  A man who had had the same inclinations and
might have been brought under by them, but had overcome them instead,
would be the right man to help another, if he could gain his confidence.
And Bastian seemed to be in the mood to give confidence.

"I’m afraid I don’t know your name as an artist," said Wilbraham with a
glance at the picture on the mantelpiece.  "But it’s years since I went
to an exhibition.  I’m interested in art, though, and have read a good
deal about the modern movements."

"Art!" echoed Bastian.  "There’s nothing like it, is there?  The older I
get the more I love it.  Poetry, music, painting—everything.  To tell
you the truth, art has been my downfall."

Wilbraham felt some surprise.  He had thought that if Bastian had been
through any experience that might be described as a downfall, it had
been from other causes.  "Well, if you’ve followed it when you might
have been doing something else that would have brought you more money,"
he said, "I don’t know that you’re so much to be pitied.  If I had the
gift for painting, which I haven’t at all, I’d rather do what you’re
doing now, than get rich."

Bastian laughed.  "I’m afraid I haven’t much gift either," he said.
"I’m a rotten artist, and I’m a rotten musician, and I’m a rotten poet.
I’ve tried to make my living out of all three; but perhaps you might say
that I haven’t tried very hard.  I love ’em all too much. It’s rotten to
have to make your living out of what you love.  You want to enjoy it,
not to practise it, unless you’ve got a turn that way.  You don’t have
to be a singer yourself to enjoy other people’s singing; it doesn’t
follow that you can paint good pictures because you know a bad one when
you see it.  There ought to be scholarships at the Universities for
people with a genius for contemplation, and life fellowships to follow
them up."

"The holders of life fellowships have sometimes been known to practise
contemplation to an excessive extent," said Wilbraham.

Bastian laughed heartily.  "That’s rather good," he said.  "But what a
pleasant life, eh?  These jolly places—and plenty of good company, and
good wine! Why should that happy lot be reserved for people who happened
to interest themselves in one or two subjects, out of all that there are
to interest one, in their extreme youth?  I suppose you were at Oxford
or Cambridge in those happy days of long ago?"

"Cambridge," said Wilbraham.  "I was at Christ’s."

"We must have been there about the same time.  I was at Magdalene—a nice
snug little college, and becoming quite an intelligent one, from what
I’ve heard.  But I haven’t been there since I came down.  They wouldn’t
be very proud of me now, I’m afraid.  One or two touts or stablemen
might recognize me perhaps.  They had plenty of money out of me when I
had it.  I don’t belong to that life any more."

He had a sudden mournful droop, and drank what was left in his glass.
Wilbraham had lost the impression that he was much affected by what he
had drunk, but it returned now.  That drop into self-pitying depression
immediately after smiling excitement told its tale.  His own sobriety
was indicated by his glass, still two-thirds full.  He had half a mind
to remark upon Bastian’s helping himself to another stiff peg, which he
did with a perfectly steady hand.  But he did not know him well enough
yet; the time for that sort of sympathy had not yet come.

But he was more than ever interested in him.  His fall must have been
from a higher social plane than he had suspected.  Undergraduates whose
money had been spent in connection with horse-flesh usually had more
than the average to begin with, and Magdalene had been a super-sporting
college in his day and Bastian’s day.

"I was the son of a poor parson," he said.  "I got my scholarship, and
if I had worked I should probably have got my fellowship too.  I did
work at what interested me, but the devil of it was that it didn’t
interest the dons.  Those prizes are reserved for the people who have
the sense to stick at one thing till they’ve got them. Then they can do
what they like.  They’re not necessarily the people who are best at
their subjects.  I’ve got a real love for the classics, and I probably
know a good deal more about them than a lot of the people who got Firsts
when I only got a Second.  It’s the concentration of those few years
that counts."

Bastian laughed again.  "Firsts and Seconds!" he said.  "I didn’t take a
degree at all.  The smash had come before then, and I was tied up for
life."

Wilbraham was rather taken aback.  It looked as if confidences were
coming, and he had the gentleman’s dislike to receiving them unless they
are given with full intention.  "Don’t tell me anything you’ll be sorry
for afterwards," he said, with another look at Bastian’s glass.

"Oh, my dear fellow, I’m not drunk," said Bastian. "I drink a lot, and
no doubt it has had a good deal to do with keeping me where I am; but I
don’t get drunk. I don’t often meet anybody like you, who belongs to the
world I used to inhabit.  It’s a relief sometimes to unburden oneself.
Besides, there’s Viola.  Viola doesn’t often get the chance of talking
to a gentleman.  I think you’ll open your eyes when you see Viola.  I
haven’t been able to raise myself out of the muck, but it hasn’t touched
her.  She’s the flower that has grown out of it."

Wilbraham still felt some discomfort.  If it were true that Bastian
never got drunk, he was none the less under the influence of drink now,
or he wouldn’t have talked about himself with quite that absence of
control.  He must have been referring to his wife when he had said that
he had been tied up for life, and men don’t talk to one another in that
way about their wives on a first acquaintance when they are in full
possession of themselves.

"I shouldn’t let anything you told me go any further," Wilbraham said.

Bastian did not seem to have heard this.  He was looking down with a
frown of concentrated purpose. To unburden himself was evidently
imperative on him for the moment, and he was collecting his faculties to
that end.

"I don’t want to give you a false impression," he said.  "My wife was a
woman in a thousand.  Never did I have one moment’s regret that I had
married her. I think, if she’d lived, she might have made a man of me
still.  Perhaps it was a fluke—I don’t want to make myself out better
than I was, and I was a rotten young fool in those days—perhaps it was a
fluke that she was what she was, because it was only her beauty that I
fell in love with, and I hadn’t the sense then to see what there was
behind it.  But what I do say is that my people ought to have seen.
I’ll never forgive them for that, and I’ll never let Viola have anything
to do with them.  She doesn’t even know their name, and——"

"I don’t quite understand," said Wilbraham, as he seemed to be off on
another gallop.  "Why did your people object to your marrying?"

"Oh, well of course it was a fool’s trick.  I wasn’t even of age, and
she was a girl off the stage, but one of the sweetest, kindest girls
that ever stepped.  I only had her for a few years, but I tell you I’m
in love with her memory still.  She’s been dead seventeen years and I
miss her as much as ever.  Life’s nothing to me, though I’m not old yet;
I buried it all in her grave."

It was curious, thought Wilbraham, that there should be a story here not
dissimilar from the one that he had lived with for about the same length
of time.  But the girl whose father had made the same mistake as Harry’s
had not been shielded from its consequences as he had. She was hardly
likely to have escaped the contamination of the rougher, harder world to
which her father had descended.  Wilbraham attributed Bastian’s praise
of his wife largely to the diffuse sentiment of the moment. He had not
otherwise created the impression of a man living upon a life-long
regret.  His daughter, if she was the close companion of his poverty and
the witness of his habits, could hardly be the rare and delicate flower
that he painted her, though she was probably beautiful. At any rate it
would be just as well to preserve Harry from contact with her.  It would
be an ironic stroke of fate if in this remote corner in which he had
been brought up the glamour of the stage should obtrude itself once
more.

"Is your daughter on the stage?" he asked outright, at this point in his
reflections.

Bastian roused himself, and seemed to shake off completely his mood of
hopeless regret.  "God forbid!" he said.  "I wouldn’t have risked that,
though if I had I believe she’d have come through it.  You must see
Viola. I don’t know where she is now.  She’s like a sweet young creature
of the woods—roams about in them all day. That’ll tell you what she is—a
London girl, who can throw London off her altogether when she gets away
from it.  She’s less bound to it even than I am.  Come up to-morrow,
will you?  I’ll tell her to be in to tea. She sometimes takes it out
with her.  Can you come about half-past four?"

Wilbraham had been thinking rapidly.  If this girl was in the habit of
roaming the woods all day she might come across Harry, who was also in
the habit of roaming the woods.  All the ideas with which Wilbraham had
lived for years past gathered themselves into the instinct to watch and
guard.  He must see this girl of Bastian’s, and he must be prepared for
what should come, so that he could deal with it without surprise and
without hurry. Fortunately, he had not announced his intention of
calling upon the artist that afternoon.  He would say nothing about his
visit at the Castle, but would announce one for the next day.

"Yes, I should like to come," he said, as he rose from his seat.  "I
must be getting back now."

About a third of the whisky remained in his glass. He stood looking at
it, as Bastian expressed his pleasure in having seen him, and then
drained it off before he left the room.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                              *WILBRAHAM*


Harry and Viola were in the log cabin.  They had varied their
meeting-places.  Best of them all they loved the secret pool, but that
was only for very hot still weather.  Rain was falling intermittently
this afternoon, but every now and then the sun shone.  The weather made
little difference to their happiness, and the cabin, Harry’s handiwork,
provided them with a shelter when they needed it, which brought them
also a grateful sense of seclusion and joint possession.  The Rectory
was empty; Sunday duty was performed by a visiting clergyman; nobody was
in the least likely to disturb them in their retreat.  Viola had got rid
of her slight suspicion of Jane, which she had already confessed to
Harry, with happy laughter.  "She may not know it," she had said, "but
of course she’s in love with you, poor child!  She couldn’t help being,
if she was only nine instead of thirteen.  I was a little jealous of her
being so much with you.  But I love her for loving you, and of course
I’m not jealous of anybody now."

The log cabin was roughly furnished.  Not much more would have been
required if it had really been the home of a pioneer.  Harry and Viola
had played with the idea of living together in such a cabin, with a new
beautiful world to be tamed all around them, and this as the nest of
their love and companionship.  So he had played with the children, but
Viola’s presence had given their cabin a wonderful romantic charm which
it had never had and which it would never lose.  Her presence would
illumine every place in which she might rest.  Harry’s old castle was
still in shadow because she had not yet visited it.

It was the morning of the day upon which Wilbraham was to take tea with
Bastian, and Viola was to be there to be exhibited to him.  Harry had
been concerned at hearing that he had already been to the cottage.

"He has said nothing about it at home," he said. "This morning at
breakfast he did say that he had thought of going to see your father
this afternoon, but that it looked like raining all day.  What does it
mean?"

"Nothing very dreadful," said Viola.  "He and father seem to have got on
very well together yesterday, but perhaps he wasn’t quite sure enough of
him to ask him to the Castle.  Perhaps he wants to see what I’m like
first."

Harry threw her a quick loving look.  They were sitting together on a
bench underneath the eaves of the hut.  They might not have been taken
for lovers by anyone who had seen them; their caresses were rarer than
might have been expected, fathoms deep in love with one another as they
were; but looks and smiles flashed between them like summer lightning,
and scarcely the lightest word was spoken without emotion.

"When he sees you," Harry began; but she interrupted him.  "Father
doesn’t want to go if he does ask us," she said.  "And I couldn’t go,
Harry dear.  I love you so much that I couldn’t keep it back.  I’m
afraid I shan’t be able to keep it back this afternoon from Mr.
Wilbraham, if he says anything about you."

"I’ve asked myself sometimes," Harry said, thoughtfully, "whether it’s
right to keep it back.  You’re so much above everybody else in the
world, Viola, that——"

Again she interrupted him.  "Harry darling," she said, "I’ve thought
about it too.  There are lots of things that I know about in the world
that you don’t.  I only want to forget them while I’m here with you; and
I can’t if other people know how much I love you, and that you love me.
They wouldn’t let us forget them."

"What sort of things, Viola dear?  I’m not a child, though perhaps they
have tried to keep me one for too long, at home.  I’m going to take care
of you, for all our lives.  I ought to know as much as you do."

"I hope you never will, darling," she said, a little sadly.  "I know
that the things I have learnt haven’t spoilt me, or else I shouldn’t
feel so happy as I do in your loving me.  But other people might not
believe that.  We’re very young, both of us.  We love as deeply as
people who are older love, and we know we shall go on loving each other
all our lives.  But others wouldn’t believe that.  They would try to
part us.  They would part us, as long as I stayed here; and there’s such
a little time left.  Oh, let us be happy together while it lasts, and
keep our lovely secret."

"Why should they try to part us, Viola?  Who is there?  My grandmother
and my mother.  If they only saw you!"

She smiled at him.  "It wouldn’t be enough," she said, "whatever I was.
And they wouldn’t look at me with your eyes.  Perhaps nobody else would.
What was it made you love me so much, Harry?"

He had told her a hundred times, and now told her again; and she told
him that she had loved him the very first moment she had set eyes on
him, riding up on his gallant horse with his dogs around him.  "You were
like a splendid young knight," she said.  "No girl could have helped
loving you.  But I love you a thousand times more now than I did then,
and I suppose I shall go on loving you more and more all my life."

It was like the old stories of his childhood, which had to be told over
and over again, and were better every time they were told.  But now it
was not as it had been then, when no variation must be admitted in the
telling. There was always something new—some little discovery that
deepened the sense of perfection and wonderment, some answering thought
that showed them to have been close to one another, even in the hours in
which they were parted and were pasturing on their sweet memories of one
another.

It was with a kind of solemnity of sweetness that Harry dwelt upon
Viola’s trust in him and his manhood. By a thousand little signs it had
been made plain that she knew more of the world than he, but she put all
that knowledge aside and looked up to him and submitted to him as if
infinite wisdom and experience were his.  And in truth he had grown
greatly in mental stature since her love had come into his life to
change it so completely.  They must have remarked upon it at home if he
had not taken such advantage of the freedom that was granted him and
been so little at home at this time. His mother actually had told him
that he was altered, after he had expressed himself with more than usual
self-confidence when they had talked about the war over the
dinner-table.  She was always on the look-out for signs of something
that might take him from her, and she feared the war and what might come
of it with an unreasoning fear, considering the information at her
command.  Harry was thinking a great deal about the war now, which does
not mean that there were any times at which he was not thinking about
Viola.  With the coming of love his sense of the deeper values of life
had become strengthened.  If he had felt himself borne along on a strong
current that would carry him to whatever of action or duty or mere state
of being that was laid down for him, then whatever happened to him was
part of the whole, and nothing in his life would be dissociated from
anything else.  It was this sense of unity that lifted his fresh boy’s
adoration of a girl as young and as pure as himself into something
bigger and more rooted than that, beautiful as it is.  His love gave the
divine note of joy to all his purpose, sweetened and solemnized it at
the same time.  It was not like a great happiness in which he could
forget himself, and which he must also forget for a time if something
more serious had to be faced.

This morning, for the first time, influenced perhaps by the breath from
outside which had come through Wilbraham’s advent upon the scene, which,
however, they put aside from them, they talked about the time when Viola
should have gone away.

Their extreme youth moved them to sadness, which was not wholly painful
because the time was not near yet, and present bliss was only heightened
by the thought of parting.  They were so far unlike most young lovers
that no mention was made of writing, or even of meeting again.  It was
as if the contact between them was so close and so sure that however far
apart they might be in space, and for whatever time, they would still be
together.

Harry was serious about the future.  "I don’t know exactly what is going
to happen," he said.  "I’m supposed to be going to Sandhurst in January,
but that’s a long time ahead.  I seem to see the war swallowing up
everything.  There’s something to be done here about it, and perhaps it
will be for me to do it.  But there’s nothing to show yet.  I think
there won’t be till you go away, my darling.  I think there’s nothing
that will come in the way of my being with you, and thinking about
nothing but you."

"Do you think you will have to go and fight, Harry? Oh, surely you’re
too young for that, darling!"

"I’m not too young to love you."

She thought over this.  It was one of the things he sometimes said that
meant more than it seemed to.  She loved those speeches of his,
springing from something in him to which she could give all her faith
and all her devotion.  They helped her to plumb the depths in him, and
she had never found anything there that did not make her glad and proud
of loving him.

This time her pride brought the tears close to her eyes.  There was more
than the sweetness of young love in this—to be loved as something in
full alliance with all the biggest things that a man might be called
upon to do in the world, and to which he must bring all that he was and
all that he had, even his life itself if it should be required of him.

"I shouldn’t want you not to, Harry," she said.

He did not tell her of his conviction that the war would claim him.  She
was his to be protected, and some things she must be spared.  When the
time came, she would somehow be concerned in it, because she would be
concerned in everything that he did, and whatever he should want of her
then she would give him.  He had as much confidence in her as she in
him.

"The war is like a great shadow over everything," he said.  "We’re in
the sunshine just now, you and I—the most glorious sunshine.  I don’t
think that we need fear the shadow for ourselves.  But for others—for
some it’s very deep."

The shadow seemed to creep closer and touch her heart as he spoke.  They
were silent for a time, her hand resting in his.  The contact
strengthened them both, and the shadow passed away from her.  For the
rest of their time together that morning they made love and built their
airy rainbow castles, almost as unsubstantial as those of children.  In
fact they played with the idea of having Jane and Pobbles to live with
them.  It hardly seemed fair to be using the cabin in which they had a
proprietary share and leave them out of it.  They would pass suddenly
from grave to gay in this way, and there were many times when the
children could have taken a full part in their conversation without
being at all in the way.


At about six o’clock that evening Wilbraham was walking along the
woodland path that led from the cottage to the Castle.  He walked slowly
with his eyes on the ground all the time, and his face was very
thoughtful. He started violently as he looked up to see Harry standing
in the path in front of him.

For a moment they stood there looking at one another.

"Well?" said Harry.

Wilbraham’s eyes dropped, and he walked on, Harry with him.  "You’ve
been meeting here," he said.

"Yes."

Another pause.  Then from Wilbraham: "You’ve been making love."

"Making love?  I don’t like the expression.  We love each other—yes."

Wilbraham said nothing, and they walked on together. Presently they came
to a fallen tree by the side of the path.  "Let’s sit down here and have
it out," said Wilbraham.

Harry spoke first.  "I’m glad you know," he said. "I’d like all the
world to know; you can tell why, now you’ve seen her.  But I suppose it
wouldn’t do for mother and Granny to know—not just yet."

Wilbraham seemed to pull his determination together. "My dear boy," he
said, "you mustn’t take it for granted that they’re not to know.  It has
come as a complete surprise to me; I don’t know what to do about it
yet."

Harry laughed.  The situation seemed to contain no awkwardness for him,
whatever doubts it might have brought to Wilbraham.  "Before you settle
that," he said, "tell me what you think of her."

"She’s a very beautiful child," said Wilbraham, thoughtfully.  He laid
no stress on the word "child," to belittle Harry’s confession of love.
It was as she had struck him.

He had gone into the little parlour to find Bastian there, dressed more
in accordance with what he had seemed to be than on the day before.  A
faint smell of his strong tobacco hung about the room, but it had been
tidied, and freshened up with flowers, and tea was laid on the table,
with signs of ceremony and care.  Then Viola came in, and he had the
impression of Bastian triumphantly watching him as he introduced her.

He did indeed open his eyes at first sight of her, as her father had
foretold.  He would not have been so surprised at the vision of her,
fresh and delicate, very simply dressed in her white frock, with all the
air about her of breeding and refinement, if it had not been for the
memory of Bastian the day before, with his deteriorated tastes, and his
talk of downfall.  A flower, he had said of her, growing out of the
mire; but who had tended her growing?

Mrs. Ivimey came in with the tea, and was voluble with Wilbraham about
her ladyship and Sir Harry. Wilbraham’s eyes were on Viola the whole
time, and he saw the colour rise on her soft cheeks as Harry’s name was
mentioned, but made nothing of it at the time.

Nothing more was said about the Castle when Mrs. Ivimey had left the
room.  Wilbraham had not given the invitation that might have been
expected of him.  He recognized with a sense of gratitude that no hints
towards it need be feared.  Bastian showed up much more as a gentleman
than on the afternoon before; his clothes were old enough but no longer
disreputable, and he was obviously entirely free from the influence of
drink.  The difference in his speech and bearing seemed to exaggerate
his state of the afternoon before into one of actual drunkenness.

They talked chiefly about books, and more particularly about poetry.
Viola talked very little, but her father sometimes referred to her, as
if to show with pride what she was.  Her enthusiasms showed here and
there. Wilbraham’s wonder grew at her.

Harry came to his mind again.  He brought his name in deliberately.
"Harry, my pupil, used to shout that out when he first read it.  He
loves poetry, and it takes him like that."

Viola made no reply, but the flush dyed the rose-petal of her cheeks
again.  "It’s the youth in him," her father said.  "Poetry brings you
real joy when you’re young, doesn’t it, Viola?"

She had to look up at last, and Wilbraham saw her eyes.  She made a
brave effort to speak evenly, but her voice trembled a little as she
said, "Yes, all the beautiful things in the world make you glad."

Then Wilbraham knew, and a wave of sympathy and tenderness flowed over
him, but was brought up short against the wall that all the aims of the
past years had built up around Harry, and dashed back on him to
overwhelm him.  He emerged gasping, but with the instinct strong in him
to keep his knowledge from being seen.  In the rest of the time he
stayed at the cottage nothing was said to cause Viola to betray herself
further, but he was observing her all the time, and his bewilderment
grew.

She seemed to have divined that the danger was over, and came out of her
shell and smiled and prattled delightfully.  Her happiness was too
strong in her to be kept under, and she would not have been human, or
feminine, if she had not wished to make a pleasant impression upon
Wilbraham, who was so near to Harry. It was the impression of delicious
sparkling youth that came to him most strongly.  It was as if the
confession was drawn out of him reluctantly when in his answer to
Harry’s question he said slowly: "She’s a very beautiful child."

"Why didn’t you teach me what a beautiful thing love is?" asked Harry.
"We’ve read a lot about it together, but I never had an idea of it until
now.  I don’t think anybody in the world has ever been so happy as I
am."

Wilbraham was torn in two again.  His appreciations were not all
bookish, and he loved Harry.  He saw that in a nature such as his love
would come as a very beautiful thing, and his searching observation of
Viola had revealed nothing in her that could make it less so.  And yet—!

"How long have you known her?" he asked.

"What does it matter?" said Harry.  "I’ve known her all my life.  If I
look back to any time in it, she was there, though I’d never seen her.
We’ve been meeting every day, if that’s what you mean."

It was what Wilbraham had meant, and he felt discomfort at having asked
the question.  It was the discomfort that must come from probing into
this situation, with the fear before him of saying something that would
smirch the bright purity of Harry’s mind. Anything that brought his
actions to the test must do that, if he came to understand what tests
were applicable to his meetings with Viola.

"Why didn’t you tell us?" seemed to be the safest thing to say, and he
said it with a half hope that the answer would give him some handle,
though without mental acknowledgment of the hope.

"Well, I felt somehow that you’d try to stop me," said the boy.  "At
least mother and Granny would.  I did nearly tell mother, the first time
I’d seen Viola, but something warned me not to.  I’ve been glad since
that I didn’t.  It has just been she and I—Viola and I. Oh, how I love
her!  I’m glad _you’ve_ seen her.  But you must keep it to yourself.  We
haven’t much longer together.  I can’t have our time spoilt."

He spoke almost with authority.  With every moment Wilbraham felt some
new little emotion of change and development too quick for him to
master.  Harry had been the most docile of pupils.  Never once since his
first dealings with him as a young child had he had to exercise
authority against desires or inclinations of his. True, he had held the
reins lightly, and never given him a rebuke or a direction that had mood
instead of reason behind it; but it had sometimes crossed his mind that
the boy was too docile, and that his sense of responsibility and
self-mastery might be sapped if he was brought up to give unquestioning
obedience to the directions of his elders.  He had mentioned this fear
to Lady Brent, and her answer to it had been of the kind that he had
received once or twice before in his consultations with her, from which
his confidence in her ultimate wisdom had been so firmly fixed.  The
same doubt, it seemed, had crossed her own mind.  It was to be met by
allowing Harry the fullest possible trust and freedom. If at any time he
overstepped the freedom it was not to be treated as a fault.  He was to
be told why it was not advisable for him to do this or that, and the
decision left to him.  Once or twice this had happened, and once he had
stuck out for his own will.  It was when his nocturnal rambles had been
discovered by chance, shortly after that night upon which Grant had seen
him out in the park.  Lady Brent, with calm and admirable
self-restraint, had said: "Very well, Harry.  After all, I don’t know
that there’s any harm in it.  If I had known of it a year ago I might
have stopped it; but now you’re old enough to do as you like in that
sort of way."

No one observing the boy, Wilbraham had thought, could say that he was
molly-coddled into submission. Few boys of his age had such freedom
granted to them, or carried a more gallant air before the world; and the
Grants, of whom he had taken counsel, as representing the views of the
world more closely than he in his retirement could do, had supported
him.

And yet, there had been the feeling that Harry was extraordinarily easy
to manage—too amiably submissive, almost, to the guidance of his elders,
and Wilbraham himself particularly.

But now—!  Wilbraham mentally shook himself. Was he receiving
instructions from Harry—and almost inclined to accept them submissively?

The little spurt to his pride took him a trifle farther than he had
wished to go.  "I don’t think it’s a matter for me to decide on, apart
from your grandmother," he said.

Harry turned a surprised face on him.  "No, it’s for me to decide on,"
he said.  "By and by I shall tell Granny—of course.  But I don’t in the
least know when it will be.  There’s nothing to show yet."

The phrase struck Wilbraham oddly.  Harry had used it once or twice to
him before.  "One has to decide upon things with one’s brain," he said,
"and out of one’s experience—important things that may affect one’s
life.  They can’t be left to impulse."

"The two go together, I suppose," said Harry, almost with indifference.

It was one of those little speeches upon which Viola would hang as
containing the quintessence of wisdom. She might not have understood
this speech, but Wilbraham did, and it affected him profoundly.  Here
was that rarest of characters—one who had never played with his
impulses, to give them scope beyond the guidance of his reason.  He
could trust his impulses because their springs were controlled.

"Shall we go on?" said Harry, rising.

Wilbraham rose too, slowly, after a pause of reflection, and they walked
on.  Viola’s name was not mentioned again between them.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                               *DILEMMA*


Wilbraham walked up and down in a retired part of the garden where no
one was likely to disturb him. Sometimes, because he had walked rather
farther that afternoon already than was his custom, he sat down on a
garden seat at the end of the alley where he was.  But only his body was
at rest; his mind was eagerly searching for the right course.  If only
it were as straight and as easy to tread as this soft turfed walk
between the uncompromising green walls, with the evening sun flooding
the narrow space and warming even the sombre tones of the yew to some
leniency!

He did not know where Harry was.  He had left him when they had reached
the house.  For all he could tell, he might have gone straight back to
Viola; there was an hour yet before dinner.  But he would hardly have
come right back to the Castle with him, to talk chiefly about the war,
if he had meant to do that, and he had let drop something which showed
that he had no intention of staying out during the dinner hour.  Perhaps
he would go to her afterwards, as he must have done on occasions before.
It did not much matter.  He had claimed the right to go to her when he
pleased, and Wilbraham had not controverted it.  His authority seemed to
have come to a very sudden end, he thought with a wry smile.

There remained Lady Brent’s authority.  Should he invoke it?  That was
what he had to decide for himself before he left this garden alley, the
retired scene of his cogitations.

Harry had extracted no promise from him.  That pleased him, as it had
pleased Grant when he had acted in the same way over his secret midnight
roaming.  They had been justified in their treatment of him to that
extent.  He would be ashamed of nothing that he had done, not even to
the extent of asking that it should be kept secret where he had shown
that secrecy was what he wanted—and expected.

That made it all the more difficult for Wilbraham. He would seem to be
breaking a promise if he told Lady Brent, though he had given no
promise.  He would at least be setting himself against Harry in a matter
which Harry had claimed the right to decide for himself.  He wanted to
be very sure that the boy was wrong in his decision before he did that.

He loved and admired Harry at that moment more than he had ever done.
He had a clearer vision than ever before of the boy’s clean
finely-tempered nature. He felt himself rebuked by it, and what thoughts
he spared for himself, as apart from his duty towards Harry and towards
Lady Brent, worked rather sadly upon the conviction of his own weakness.

He had kept silent about his previous visit to Bastian only partly
because of his wish to judge further for himself before he gave or
withheld the suggested invitation to the Castle.  He remembered now the
pleasure with which he had set out that afternoon to go to the cottage,
and knew that its chief source was the anticipation of drinking with
Bastian—drinking just the amount and no more to give him the slight
exhilaration that he had gained the day before.  Bastian had offered him
nothing to drink except tea.  Viola’s presence in the little parlour had
made the scene of the previous afternoon look ugly in the memory of it.
He was very glad now that it had been so.  It would have been too
painful to have the burden of that secret upon him while deciding what
he should do with Harry’s secret.  Lady Brent would certainly have
looked upon it as a fall, whatever view he might encourage himself to
take of it.

But surely, weak as he was, he had had something to do with making
Harry, who was of so much finer clay, what he had grown into.  He had
pointed him to noble things, fed his mind upon fine utterance of fine
thoughts, opened the door for him to all the rich stores of wisdom laid
up from the past.  Yes, he had done that, though he had had small profit
of it for himself.  He was consoled by the thought that Harry could not
be what he was if any breath of his own unworthiness had touched him.

He threw off the discomfort.  He would act now for Harry’s good, as he
had always acted.  There had been nothing wrong in him there.

He threw off, also, not without some impatience, the influence of
Harry’s assuredness.  If it was to be accepted that the boy could do no
wrong according to his lights—which really seemed to be what it was
coming to—it was not the less necessary to judge the situation by lights
which did not shine upon him, the glimmer of which, indeed, had been
deliberately curtained from him.

The love of a boy and a girl!  Oh, it was a touching thing, when they
were a boy and a girl like Harry and Viola.  Wilbraham rejected then and
there any suggestion that might have come from his dinted experience
that Viola was not Harry’s mate in innocence and purity.  He had seen
her for himself.  All that he knew of her father, all that he did not
know of her origin and upbringing, could go by the board.  His heart
spoke for her, his sentiment went out to her.  He was a poor, weak,
self-indulgent creature, he told himself, but he did recognize goodness
and purity when he saw it. Besides, what else could have attracted
Harry?  He was doubly armed there.

But Lady Brent wouldn’t see it like that.  The outside resemblances
between what had happened to Harry’s father and what was now happening
to Harry would be too strong for her.  She would think that all for
which she had worked and sacrificed herself through long years would be
destroyed if Harry was caught in the snares of love at this early age.
She would put her spoke in.  She would use all the wisdom of which she
was capable—and she had shown great wisdom in the past—in putting a stop
to it; but at least she would try to put a stop to it.

And then what would happen?  Wilbraham saw a sharp contest between her
and Harry, and, with the deeper vision that had come to him of the boy’s
character, he felt it to be extremely doubtful whether Lady Brent would
win.  There would be a state of open conflict, and Harry would be more
firmly fixed in his courses than before.

Boy and girl attachments—they faded out.  It was absurd to suppose that
at seventeen Harry could have any idea of marriage, however much he and
Viola might have played with the overwhelming bliss of some day being
always together.  He was not as his father had been; he would marry,
when the time came for him to do so, with a full sense of his
responsibility.  And Viola was not like Harry’s mother.  No, the danger
of a hasty secret marriage could be ruled out; it was an affront to both
of them to think of it.

Harry would go his way, and Viola would go hers. Their ways lay
naturally very far apart.  They might write to each other for a time,
and they might see one another occasionally; but what would it matter?
At the end of four years, when Harry would be twenty-one, it was most
probable that this almost childish love passage would be forgotten, or
exist only as a fragrant memory.

Wilbraham divined in himself at this point a faint regret at the thought
of this beautiful boy and girl ceasing to love one another.  Viola had
made a deep impression upon him.

At any rate, there was no harm in it.  Probably there was even good in
it.  Harry would soon be leaving home, to plunge straight into a world
for which Wilbraham had sometimes thought that his training had been a
dangerous preparation.  With this innocent early love of his to
accompany him, he would be armed against many of the temptations to
which sheltered youth does succumb when the shelter has at last been
withdrawn.

Wilbraham felt a sense of relief at having come to these conclusions.
He was sure they were right.  Harry had conquered.  He should be left
free to sun himself in the glamour of his boy’s courtship.  How pretty
it was to think of them billing and cooing like two young turtle-doves
in their leafy fastnesses!  Wilbraham’s lettered thoughts flew to
Theocritus, and he murmured soft Greek words to himself, but decided
that there would be a delicacy about the wooing of these children that
could not be matched in Sicilian idylls.  He rose from his seat and made
his way towards the house.  He had decided. He would leave them alone.

But as he dressed for dinner in a leisurely way, lingering often at his
window to enjoy the scents and sounds of the garden dusk, the thought of
Lady Brent once more occurred to him and his face grew thoughtful again.

Hadn’t he rather left her out of account?  If the decision had been so
easy to come to, and seemed so right now it was made, wouldn’t she be
quite as capable of making it as he had been?

Well, perhaps!  And whether she arrived at the same conclusion or not,
one thing was quite certain—that she would be vastly annoyed with
Wilbraham if she knew that he had taken it upon himself to decide
without consultation with her.

But his doubts were soon dissipated.  He had decided for Harry, and was
with him now.  It might be rather painful at some future time to face
her offended surprise, but, after all, he was a man and she was a woman.
And Harry had proved himself a man already.  They would only be in the
same boat.  Wilbraham smiled to himself, put on his coat and went down
to dinner.

He had had some idea of giving Harry a word to indicate that his secret
was safe, but there was no opportunity before they went in to dinner,
and afterwards he was glad that he had not done so.  For Harry did not
even give him a look of inquiry.  He chatted and laughed and seemed to
be in a mood of quite unburdened high spirits.  So had Viola been, but
Viola had not known that Wilbraham had discovered their secret, and
Harry did.  Wilbraham was pleased to think that Harry’s evident absence
of anxiety was the result of his trust in him.  He had surprised his
secret and he would respect it.  What could he do otherwise?  Wilbraham
was confirmed in his decision to leave Lady Brent out of knowledge of
it, but could not forbear an exercise of imagination as he glanced at
her and wondered what she would do if the truth were suddenly blurted
out to her.

A remarkable woman, certainly!  She provided another little surprise
that evening when for the first time she seemed to contemplate the
continuance of the war for such a time as would involve Harry in it.  It
might be that it would take a year or even more to bring it to a
conclusion.  Lord Kitchener was said to have prophesied three years,
which was impossible to believe; but the South African War had lasted
for two, when everybody thought it would be over in a few weeks.  It
might be that officers would be wanted more quickly than they could be
turned out in normal times, and that Harry’s Sandhurst training would be
speeded up.  They must bear that in mind.

The prospect did not seem to cause her any dismay, or if it did she
concealed it.  But poor Mrs. Brent raised a wail of protest.  Surely
they couldn’t take boys of eighteen, as Harry would only be in a year’s
time.  It would be wicked—unheard of.

"Not unheard of," said Lady Brent.  "And not wicked either.  For our own
sakes we should wish Harry kept out of it; but if he were of an age when
others went we should wish him to go.  However, let us hope that there
will be no necessity."

"I don’t think I hope that," said Harry.  "I don’t want the war to last,
because I think war is a horrible thing.  All the same, I wish I were
fighting in this one."

Wilbraham controverted the opinion that war was a horrible thing.
Nations were apt to get lazy and selfish over long periods of peace, and
wanted rousing out of themselves, just as sluggish human bodies did.
War was a tonic and a cleanser.

"Perhaps it is, for those who can fight, with a great idea behind them,"
said Harry.  "For all the rest I think it’s beastly.  At any rate, an
Englishman could fight in this war and know he was doing the right
thing. I wish I were a year older now."

Mrs. Brent breathed a deep sigh and looked at him hungrily.  It was of
no use her saying anything.  If Harry’s fighting or not fighting should
come to be decided on, she would have no voice in the decision.  She
looked anxiously at Lady Brent, who only said: "Fortunately, the matter
isn’t in our hands."

"People of my age are enlisting," said Harry, shortly.

Lady Brent took this up at once.  Perhaps she had already thought of it.
"It is a fine thing for a young man to do," she said.  "But for those
who have shown their willingness to fight through generations there is
an even higher duty, which is to lead.  And you cannot lead without the
proper training."

Harry did not reply, and the subject was dropped. But to Wilbraham, with
his senses more acute from what he had learned of him, came a glimpse
into still other chambers of his mind.  His silence was not that of one
who had received an answer which settled a doubtful point.  In this, as
in other matters, he would take his own way, but the way was not yet
clear to him, and he would not talk about it beforehand.

It had come of late to be Harry’s habit to stay with Wilbraham after the
women had left the table, while he drank his coffee and smoked a
cigarette.  He had done it at first on occasions, but now seldom went
away with his mother and grandmother.  It was a habit that marked his
growing manhood, but he could still have left him without remark if he
had wished to do so.  If he should leave him to-night, Wilbraham thought
it would be a sign that he did not wish to talk to him again on the
subject of which both their minds were full.

But he came back again after opening the door for his mother and
grandmother.

How young and fair and slender he was, thought Wilbraham, and he moved
lightly across the great hall and took his seat, as of right, in his
chair of dignity. Nothing but a beautiful boy, after all, too young as
yet by years to take upon himself any large responsibilities, and yet
the much older man waited instinctively on him for an indication of the
new relationship that was to exist between them.

The servants came in with the coffee, and until they had left the room
again nothing was said.  Harry looked thoughtful, and graver than usual.

When they were once more alone he said: "I want you to do something for
me, and I don’t want Granny to know—nor, of course, mother.  It’s for
you to say whether you’ll do it or not, but I want you to promise in any
case not to let them know that I’ve asked you."

Wilbraham was slightly huffed.  "I don’t know why you should want to
extract a promise of secrecy beforehand," he said.  "You didn’t this
evening, but I’ve thought it over and decided to keep to myself what I
found out."

Harry looked puzzled for a moment, and then smiled. "I hoped you would,"
he said, "for now I shall be able to talk to you about her."

"Thanks," said Wilbraham, drily.  "I’m glad I’m going to get some
reward."

Harry laughed.  "A young man in love is supposed to be rather a bore,
isn’t he?" he said.  "I seem to remember having read so, but people in
love haven’t interested me much so far.  Well, but of course that was
for you to decide—whether you’d keep it to yourself or not.  You might
not have thought it right to do so; I couldn’t tell.  But this is
something quite different—not about Viola, you know.  I want you to find
out something for me, and I don’t want Granny to know yet that I’m
thinking about it.  You may think she ought to know."

"I suppose it’s something about the war," said Wilbraham, with the
memory before him of Harry’s silence after that speech of Lady Brent’s
at dinner.

"I shan’t tell you what it is unless it’s only between you and me," said
Harry.  "I’ve a right to my own thoughts."

"Very well, then, I promise."

"I want you to find out for me exactly what chances there are of my
being able to get a commission without going through the regular
Sandhurst training.  I don’t think I want to wait for that if there are
other ways."

Wilbraham considered this.  "You’re only seventeen," he said.

"Nearly eighteen," said Harry, "and a fine-grown boy for my age."

"Why shouldn’t you want your grandmother to know?  You heard what she
said just now.  If things are going to be altered so that training is
cut short, she’s quite ready for you to take advantage of that."

"Ah, yes.  She couldn’t help it, you see.  But I think she’d do what she
could to stop me doing anything that could be helped.  I want to know if
there is any other way before I say anything to her at all.  I know so
little about it.  But supposing I could get my commission quicker by
enlisting, for instance."

"Oh, my dear boy, you wouldn’t want to do that. You heard what she said.
She was quite right there.  I believe the men of your family have been
soldiers for as long as the men of any family."

"That’s just why I want to be one, now there’s some sense in soldiering,
and as quickly as possible."

"Yes, but as an officer.  We’re not so hard pressed yet that we want to
cut grindstones with razors.  It would be waste of material for you to
enlist."

"Not if it led more quickly to being an officer.  That’s what I should
do it for.  I know it has been done. People did it in the South African
War."

"Well, yes.  But that was in order to go and fight—at once.  You’re not
ready for that yet.  You won’t be eighteen till December.  They wouldn’t
take you anyhow, unless you concealed your age, which, of course, you
wouldn’t do—couldn’t do, either, because you’re known.  Besides, your
grandmother, who is your legal guardian, could stop you.  Why hurry
things?  You’ll be at Sandhurst in a few months’ time.  Then if there’s
any way to hurry things up you can find it out for yourself.  I don’t
want to act against your grandmother in this, Harry.  I don’t think it’s
fair to her."

"Well, perhaps it wouldn’t be quite fair to you to ask you to do it,"
said Harry, with his engaging smile; "at least, not if nothing could
come out of it.  I suppose you’re quite sure that they wouldn’t take me
till I was eighteen."

"Oh, yes.  The proclamations say so.  You can see it for yourself."

"Oh, well, then," said the boy, rising from his seat, "I suppose there’s
nothing to be done just yet.  I only wanted to be quite sure that I
wasn’t leaving anything undone that I could do.  I don’t think Granny
takes quite the same view, you know.  Anyhow, there’s nothing to bother
her or mother for some months to come.  I think mother will be waiting
for me."

He passed Wilbraham, still sitting at the table, and put his hand on his
shoulder.  "I shall see her to-morrow," he said, in a low voice.  He
laughed a boyish laugh of sheer happiness and ran out of the hall.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                        *THE END OF THE SUMMER*


It was a golden day in September, which is perhaps the most beautiful of
all English months, though touched with a gentle melancholy that may be
either soothing or saddening, according to circumstances.  Regarded as
the time for taking up a new spell of work or duty after the relaxation
of summer holiday, it is a delightful month, especially when the
surroundings in which the work is to be done are such as existed at
Royd.  The Grant family had returned from the seaside and the
Vicar-novelist was positively revelling in his enjoyment of home, and
declaring that the best day of a holiday was its last.  He had acquired
a splendid idea for a novel which should excel all previous novels of
his by many degrees, and put into the shade a large number of novels by
other writers who had hitherto enjoyed a success in advance of his own.
He had sat down to write the first chapter on the morning after their
arrival at the Vicarage, and felt to the full the restful charm of his
clean, comfortable room, with all his books and conveniences around him,
and the garden outside in the full coloured glow of its autumn
profusion.

Jane and Pobbles had resumed their studies under the guidance of Miss
Minster, and if they were without the experience of satisfaction on that
account which their father enjoyed, there was yet satisfaction to be
gained from returning to the society of Harry, to whom they had an
enormous amount of information to impart.

Harry had also begun work again.  The next three months were to be
strenuous ones for him, with many hours to be spent with Wilbraham and
many more with an army coach who had been called in to supplement
Wilbraham’s deficiencies.  This was Mr. Hamerton, an obscure man of
middle age, who hated coaching embryo subalterns, hated the society of
women, and enjoyed life only when in the embrace of the purest of pure
mathematics.  He was probably the most serenely happy of all the
inhabitants of Royd Castle at this time.  His hours with Harry were
strictly defined, and his pupil, though not an enthusiast in mathematics
as he would have liked him to be, showed intelligence and application.
The house was not always full of fresh people with whom he had to begin
all over again, and he was not expected to spend valuable hours in
desultory and desolating conversation with the ladies of the house
itself, whom he met only at meal-times.  He had most of his time to
himself in the large quiet house, which he seldom quitted, and Harry had
given up to him his room in the tower, from the top of which he could
observe the stars through a telescope of more respectable dimensions
than it was customary to find in a country house.  Mr. Hamerton,
retiring to the absolute seclusion of his room, and the hours of
undisturbed study or astronomical contemplation so happily accorded him,
would rub his hands with furtive glee over his good fortune in having
obtained such employment as this; and the relief to all other members of
the household in having him out of the way was unspeakable.

Harry was with the children in the log cabin.  They had been home a
fortnight, but this was the first time that they had succeeded in
drawing Harry there, though they had raced up to it themselves at the
first possible moment after their return.

It was Saturday afternoon.  They had had a picnic tea, with the "billy"
boiled on a fire made of sticks outside, and everything in orthodox
backwoods fashion. Jane and Pobbles had looked forward to it enormously,
but somehow it had not been quite the success that they had anticipated,
though Harry had made himself very busy with the preparations, and on
the outside everything had seemed to be as it had been before they went
away.  Now he and Jane were sitting on the bench outside the cabin,
while Pobbles had reluctantly retired to fulfil a half-hour’s engagement
with Miss Minster, consequent upon some scholastic failure on his part
earlier in the week.

The two of them had been talking, as they had been wont to talk, playing
with the idea of such a life as this as a real life and not a
make-believe.  But the virtue had gone out of such play for Harry.  Even
now, as he did his best to respond to Jane and not to let her see that
his heart was no longer in any game, he was thinking of the last time he
had sat where he was sitting now, with Viola, and talked in something of
the same way, but with how different a meaning behind the talk!

The talk died down.  In Jane’s sensitive little soul was the knowledge
that Harry’s heart was not in it.  She looked up at him and saw his eyes
fixed on something beyond the green and russet of the trees in front of
them, and caught the look of yearning in his face.

"Aren’t you happy, Harry?" she asked.  "I’ll go away and not bother you,
if you’d like me to."

He turned quickly to her, full of compunction that he should have failed
her after all.  He had been so determined that the children should see
no difference in him. Why, indeed, should there be any towards them?  He
had looked forward to their return after Viola had gone away.  His
affection for them, because of their childhood, was in some ways nearer
to his love for Viola than other affections of his life; they would
console him for the loss of her.  And they had done so; but his longing
for her was so great, and no consolation was of much avail to ease it.

"Of course I don’t want you to go away, dear," he said.  "I’d rather
have you with me than anybody.  No, I’m not unhappy—perhaps a little sad
sometimes.  Lots of things have happened since you went away, you know.
I shall be going away myself before long, and as long as the war lasts
nothing will be quite like what it was before."

"Is it only the war that makes you sad?" she asked. "If there’s anything
else, I wish you’d tell me, now we’re alone together.  Of course, with
Pobbles I suppose I’m rather like a boy, and with you, too, when we’re
all three together.  But I’m not always like that—inside, I mean. I’m
really more grown up than you’d think."

Harry put his arm around her thin shoulders and gave her a fraternal
hug.  "You’re a dear," he said. "I don’t really think of you as like a
boy.  There’s something comforting about your being a girl, though I
don’t think about you as being grown up, either."

"Well then, tell me, Harry," she said, coaxingly. "We’re real friends,
aren’t we?  I’d tell you if there was anything that was making me
unhappy.  I suppose I should tell mother first, but after her I’d tell
you—because we’re friends."

The inclination came to him to pour out his burdened heart to her, but
he put it aside.  She was a dear loyal little soul, and it would assuage
his longing to talk to her about Viola; but he could not burden her with
a secret, to relieve his own burden.  "I’m not really unhappy," he said,
"only rather sad.  There is something—perhaps I’d tell you if you were
older, because we’re friends.  Anyhow, being friends with you makes me
less sad.  I didn’t mean you to know anything."

"Of course I should know," she said.  "But I won’t ask you any more if
you don’t want to tell me."

He smiled at her affectionately.  "You’ll be the first person I shall
tell when I tell anybody," he said.  He thought for a moment, with a
frown of concentration. "I don’t think there’s any harm in our having a
little secret together—one of our play secrets.  If I ever have anything
rather important to tell you—something that I shouldn’t want other
people not to know, but I should like to tell you first—I shall come
here very early in the morning and put a little note just under the
window sill, in the crack, do you see?"

"Oh, yes," said Jane, her face alight.  "That’ll be lovely.  I don’t
mind your not telling me now, Harry, if you’ll do it like that, so that
I shall know before anybody else.  Thanks ever so much."

The return of Pobbles at this moment, with his soul as emancipated as
his body, changed the current of their conversation.  For the rest of
their time together Harry was all that he had been as a companion, and
Jane exercised a more rigid control over Pobbles than the women of a
family usually bring to bear upon the men.  But every now and then she
looked at Harry with a glance that belied the extreme masculinity of her
deportment. How much did she guess, with her budding woman’s mind and
her wholly woman’s sympathies?  Nothing of the truth, it may be
supposed; but her instincts told her that there was a change in him that
would not pass away through the solution of any difficulty that might be
troubling him, and that he would never be quite the same as he had been
before.

Others had noted it besides Jane.  The Grants and Miss Minster talked it
over that evening as they sat in their pretty drawing-room after dinner,
to the adornment of which had been added an old walnut wood bureau and a
pair of Sheffield plate candlesticks, brought home as spoil from the
seaside town where they had been staying.  Grant’s eyes rested on them
with satisfaction many times during their conversation.  The war might
be entering upon a stage which promised a far longer and harder struggle
than any one had hitherto anticipated, and royalties as well as other
payments might be affected by it; but Grant’s royalties had come in
lately to an encouraging extent and there was still good old furniture
to be picked up at bargain prices if you kept your eyes open, and plenty
of room in the Vicarage for more.

Not to appear to be criticizing our clerico-novelist too severely for a
detachment that was shared by thousands who were afterwards personally
drawn into the turmoil, it may be said that nobody at this time, unless
it was those at the very heart of it, gauged the immensity of the
disaster that was settling down upon Europe and would presently involve
the whole civilized world. In future years, with the knowledge of the
more than four years of war that were then still to come in retrospect,
it will be difficult for the student to understand just how life was
altered and how it remained unaffected, and the slow stages that England
passed through until there was nobody anywhere whose life remained what
it had been before the war.

In those early days there was immense interest in the incidents of
warfare, more, indeed, than was taken at a later date, when the lock of
vast armies on a line that remained very nearly the same until the end
had reduced the expectation of surprise; the papers were eagerly read
every morning for the hoped for news of decisive success, but unless
there was a personal interest in it, as there was not at this time at
Royd, the war did not obscure other interests, or even affect them.

The advent of Mr. Hamerton had brought the approaching change in Harry’s
life more into evidence. "I think he’s taking it all very seriously,"
Mrs. Grant said.  "Thank goodness he is too young to go and fight, but,
of course, it will bring it nearer to him, going to Sandhurst; and,
anyhow, it will be a great change in his life."

"I think he is worrying a bit that he’s not old enough to go and fight,"
said Grant.  "Most boys of his age—nearly old enough, but not
quite—would feel like that about it."

"He has changed a good deal since we went away," said Mrs. Grant.  "He
seems to me older altogether. I think the children feel it too.  He’s
just as sweet to them as ever, but Pobbles said this evening that he
wasn’t nearly so much fun to play with."

"Pobbles brings everything to that test," said Miss Minster.  "If he
does not mend his ways, I anticipate an evil future for him."

"You’ve always been hard on Pobbles," said Mrs. Grant. "There’s very
little that’s really wrong with Pobbles."

"Thanks chiefly to me," said Miss Minster.  "I’m inclined to think that
there’s friction again at the Castle. Poor Mrs. Brent was as lugubrious
as possible when she came yesterday, and Mr. Wilbraham has the same
disagreeable air as he used to go about with earlier in the summer."

"That’s true about Wilbraham," said Grant.  "He has been seeing a great
deal of a London artist who was lodging at Mrs. Ivimey’s on the common.
Perhaps it has made him discontented with his lot here once more."

"Has he said anything to you about it?" asked Mrs. Grant.

"No.  Curiously enough, he didn’t seem to want to talk much about the
artist.  He just said that he was an interesting fellow to talk to, but
they’d decided not to ask him to the Castle.  He had his daughter with
him, and I suppose they’d have had to ask her too, though Wilbraham
didn’t give that as a reason, and only just mentioned her.  But he seems
to have gone up to talk to the father most afternoons."

"You know the village gossip about the artist, don’t you?" said Mrs.
Grant.

"I don’t encourage village gossip," said the Vicar.

"How very superior you are!" said Miss Minster. "I love it."

"Perhaps you would rather I didn’t tell you what they say, dear,"
suggested Mrs. Grant.

"I think it’s my duty to hear it," said the Vicar with a grin.

"Well, they say he was a hard drinker, and the number of empty bottles
he left behind him was past belief."

"Perhaps Mr. Wilbraham went there to drink with him," said Miss Minster,
"and that accounts for his moroseness."

"You oughtn’t to say a thing like that," said Grant. "Wilbraham is a
teetotaler.  None of them drink anything at the Castle."

"Perhaps that’s why he liked going to see the artist," said Miss
Minster, impenitently.

"And he doesn’t even drink a glass of claret when he lunches or dines
here.  No, you ought not to say that, even in fun.  I think what’s the
matter with him is that his teaching of Harry is coming to an end.  Of
course he has been here for many years, and I suppose he’ll have to look
about for something else to do.  I don’t suppose he really likes handing
Harry over to Hamerton for a lot of his work.  In fact, he said as much.
He’s devoted to the boy."

"Everybody is," said Mrs. Grant, "and at the Castle everything centres
round him.  Poor Lady Brent seems more stiff and stand-offish than ever.
I suppose she feels it too, that everything she has lived for, for years
past, is coming to an end, and now it will be tested whether she has
been right in bringing a boy up as she has Harry, shut away from the
world."

"I shouldn’t call Lady Brent stiff and stand-offish," said Grant.

"I only meant in everything that has to do with Harry.  One would like
to talk to her about him, but——"

"Surely she’s always ready for that!" interrupted Miss Minster.

"Only on the surface.  She wouldn’t think of telling one anything that
she must be feeling about the future. Oh, I do hope everything will turn
out right.  It is dangerous to keep a boy shut up as Harry has been, but
I think it will pay with him.  He’s good right through, and he’s a
splendid boy too—physically, I mean."

"A good man on a horse," said Grant, in a voice indicative of quotation
marks.  "Yes, he’s not been mollycoddled.  I’m afraid he’ll have some
rude shocks when he gets among other young fellows of his age, but he’ll
be just as good as they are in the things that young men admire, and he
has a fine character to carry him through.  I hope she’ll be justified
in the course she has taken.  I think she will."

September wore itself out, to the sadness of October, but in days now
and then the boon of summer seemed to linger.  Early one sunny morning,
when the grass was drenched with dew and sparkling gossamer curtains
hung upon all the bushes, little Jane ran through the garden and up to
the wood where the log cabin was.

The day before Harry had come to tea with the children in the
school-room.  They had had an uproarious game together afterwards, and
Pobbles had said that it was more fun to play with him now than it had
been before the holidays.  Jane, too, had felt that there was a
difference in him, and had been not the least uproarious of the three.
There was a weight removed; perhaps Harry would tell her what his secret
was now.

Harry had kissed both her and Pobbles, who was just not too old to take
the attention as anything but a compliment on saying good-bye.  He had
said nothing to Jane, but had given her a quick look which she
interpreted at once.

That was why she had got up as early as possible that dewy, sparkling
morning and was running to the cabin as fast as her long thin legs would
take her.

Between the board which formed the sill of the window and the vertical
half-logs beneath it was a space which she had often examined before,
but with no result. Now she drew from it a piece of folded paper.  It
was Harry’s promised message to her—first of anybody:


"Dear little Jane—I’m off to be a soldier.  Good-bye, dear, and love
from

HARRY."



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                              *AFTERWARDS*


Lady Brent and Wilbraham sat by the fire in the hour before dinner.  The
summer had quite gone now.  The rain, driven by a gale of wind, was
lashing the window panes.  There was an impression of luxury and shelter
in the handsome closely curtained room with the wood fire on the hearth
and the soft light of lamps and candles. But there was little sense of
comfort in the hearts of its occupants.  Lady Brent knitted as she
talked, and to outside view there was no sign of the sadness and
emptiness which lay upon her and over the whole house. Wilbraham was in
frowning, sombre mood.  They talked in low voices.  It was a week since
Harry had left them, but they had not yet begun to get used to his
absence. Their life went on, but it seemed now to be devoid of all
meaning.  It was almost as if death had come to the house and its shadow
still lay on it.

"I hope you won’t go," Lady Brent was saying. "After all, your tutorship
of Harry was only part of your life here.  You have been one of our
little family for over ten years.  I should feel Harry’s going more if
you went, too; and so, of course, would Charlotte."

Wilbraham stirred uneasily.  "It is very kind of you to put it like
that," he said.  But her words had not removed the frown from his face,
and he did not say that he would stay.

There was silence for a time.  Then Wilbraham said, suddenly: "Do you
remember that evening at dinner when Harry asked about hurrying up his
training, and you told him that enlistment wouldn’t be the course for
him to follow, whatever it might be for others?"

"Oh, yes, perfectly.  Why do you ask?"

"Because afterwards, when we were alone together, he came back to it."

"Ah!" she said.  "Why didn’t you tell me?"

He gave a short laugh.  "I thought you’d ask that," he said.  "I wish I
had, sometimes, though I doubt if it would have made any difference."

"What did he say?"

"He began by saying that he was going to ask me to do something for him.
I could do it or not, as I thought right, but I wasn’t to tell you about
it in either case."

She was silent, and her needles clicked steadily.  But there had been
the slightest pause in the regular sound of them.

"It was only to save you and his mother anxiety," Wilbraham hurried to
say.  "I had to give the promise, or he wouldn’t have told me what was
in his mind.  It was to find out for him whether it was possible to get
his commission sooner by enlisting.  Well, I said at once that I
couldn’t do that behind your back, and I told him that it was impossible
in any case for him to enlist before he was eighteen.  He seemed to be
satisfied.  In fact, he said that he had only wanted to be quite sure
that he was leaving nothing undone that he could do. I thought it was
off his mind.  He never said anything more to me about it."

"Well, I think you acted rightly," she said, after a pause.  "I had
thought it all out.  It had seemed to me possible that he might come to
think it was his duty to enlist, as the war went on.  I had asked myself
whether it would be right to keep him back, if that happened, and had
come to the conclusion that there was nothing to be gained by his
enlisting—from his point of view, I mean.  It seemed to me as I said
then, on the first opportunity for saying anything, that—well, you heard
what I said.  I thought he had accepted it."

"So did I.  I’m glad I’ve told you, but I’m not sure that you could have
done anything.  I believe he was satisfied to leave it alone then.  It
came to him afterwards—not that he could hurry up his training as an
officer, but that it was his duty to go off and get into the lines as
quickly as possible.  He knew you wouldn’t sanction that, and I’d
already told him that you’d have the power to stop his enlisting.  So he
thought it all out for himself, and kept his own counsel."

"That is what happened," she said, calmly.  "I have thought that out,
too.  I think he was right, you know—dear Harry."

He looked up in surprise at this.

"I couldn’t have sanctioned it," she said.  "And yet I should have
sympathized with him—much more than he had any idea of.  I’m proud of
him.  But, oh, how I wish he could have trusted me a little more."

She laid down her work on her lap and gazed into the fire.  Wilbraham
was stirred by her utterance, so unlike her, with her calm self-control
and entire command over all her emotions, to which even now, after years
of knowing her, and the springs of her conduct, he had small clue.

She took up her work again, and spoke with as much calmness as before.
"I’ve sometimes asked myself," she said, "whether I wasn’t getting so
much interested in carrying out a great experiment as to forget what it
all tended to.  But I don’t think I can fairly lay that to my charge.  I
have loved the boy too much to treat him just as the object of an
experiment.  If at any time I had thought that I—that we—were not doing
rightly by him in keeping him here away from everything that might have
prepared him for the future, in the way that other boys are prepared for
it—I should have given up the idea, and let the world in on us—and on
him.  At the beginning I don’t think I had any thought of carrying the
seclusion as far as I have done.  That was only to have been for his
childhood.  But it has been so fascinating to see him grow up here and
only become stronger and finer as he got older.  I don’t think he has
missed anything that would have been for his good.  Anything that he has
missed has been made up to him in other ways.  His intense love of
nature—none of us have been able to share that with him to increase his
love for it, but I have watched it with a glad heart.  It has seemed as
if my plan had been helped by it, in a way I couldn’t have expected—or
at least not to that extent.  And the way the people all love him here!
He had got right down into their hearts as he couldn’t have done unless
he had lived with them day after day, all the year round, and for year
after year, so that they have been his friends outside his home, and not
people away from here or coming here from time to time with whom they
could have no concern.  Everything has encouraged me to go on.  Even the
extra freedom that he has taken to himself of late has pleased me.  He
hasn’t felt himself fettered. He has had the life he wanted, and surely
it must have been the best life one could have given him, if it has made
him so happy."

"Yes," said Wilbraham.  "He has made himself happy, and he can be
trusted."

The unhappy look on his face had not lightened during her long speech,
and he spoke now as if to reassure himself that what she had said was
true.  Ever since Harry had gone off before dawn on that morning a week
ago, leaving messages of love and farewell for his mother and
grandmother, he had been asking himself the meaning of it, and whether
it was right for him any longer to keep back from Lady Brent what he
knew about Harry and she didn’t.

How much had Viola had to do with it?  Nothing, he was sure, in
persuasion of Harry.  But Wilbraham knew that his love for her had
changed the whole current of his life.  Perhaps he wouldn’t have gone
off like that if he had never seen her.

If Wilbraham could have made up his mind to tell Lady Brent everything,
he would have been able to gain from her some consolation in return.  He
needed it at this time.  She was the only person who knew of his
temptation, and she had been good to him about it in the past.

The poor man was going through a bad time on his own account.  Perhaps
he was just emerging from it, but its effects were still heavy on him.
After seeing Viola and her father together, in an atmosphere so
different from that in which he had first seen Bastian alone, he had had
a vivid sense of shame, which had increased after he had seen Harry.
The idealism of their fresh youth had made his own lapse look very ugly
to him, and still more the knowledge which he had not admitted to
himself until later that he was still playing with the idea of drinking
with Bastian, though rejecting the possibility of being caught once more
in the toils.

But the toils had caught him, though that first glass of whisky that he
had drunk with Bastian had also been the last.  Village gossip, if it
connected his name with that of Bastian as a big drinker, had done him
an injustice.  He had gone to see Bastian two or three times, and had
told him straight out the first time the truth about himself.  Bastian
had treated the confidence with ready sympathy, and Wilbraham had never
seen the whisky bottle while he was with him.  He had said that he
didn’t really care about it himself, which Wilbraham took as a speech of
politeness.  If there was foundation for village gossip, he must have
given cause for it at other times of the day.

Bastian might be able to drink or refrain from drinking at pleasure, but
for poor Wilbraham the mischief had been done with that one glass.  He
had had periods of longing of late years, always at rarer intervals, but
none of them had been so strong as this.  He was tortured; sometimes he
was on the point of asking Bastian for God’s sake to give him something.
He was drawn there in a way he could not explain; his irritated brain
rejected reasoning, and he would not keep away.  It was certainly the
fact that he had drunk spirits at the cottage that attracted him, and
yet he was fighting the desire all the time.  But once again he talked
to Viola there, and he had thoughts of Harry always before him. When for
the last time he saw Bastian and said good-bye to him he knew that the
danger of a fall was over.

But the craving had continued.  Bastian had been gone nearly a month,
and he still felt it, though now it was at last getting weaker.  There
was no danger of falling at Royd.  There was no public house there, no
wine or spirits were drunk at the Castle, and he had attained enough
mastery of himself to have no temptation to go further where he could
get drink.

His own troubles had prevented his mind from being filled with thoughts
of Harry, and he was now blaming himself for a possible carelessness
towards signs which might have shown him what the boy must have been
making up his mind to during the last month.  He had seen him sad, after
Viola’s departure, and he had never mentioned her name to Wilbraham, as
he had done once or twice before.  So far as Wilbraham knew, no letters
passed between them.  The post-bag came to the Castle once a day and was
unlocked by Lady Brent.  It would have been unlike Harry to arrange for
letters to be sent to him through a secret source; Wilbraham was pretty
sure that he had not done so.

In his effort to distract his mind from the urgency that was riding it,
Wilbraham had gone about among the tenantry more than usual.  He had
kept his ears open for signs that Harry’s meetings with Viola had become
known, and could find none.  He had gone to see Mrs. Ivimey once since
Bastian’s departure, and she had been loud in her praises of "the young
lady."  She had even said that if things hadn’t been as they were, by
which he imagined her to be alluding chiefly to Bastian’s drinking
habits, she and Sir Harry would have made "a pretty pair."  Wilbraham
was sure, from her way of saying it, that she had no idea, or suspicion,
of their having met.  The woods were of great extent, and, apart from a
few rarely frequented paths and rides, almost as little known as when
they had been primeval forest.  A few woodmen were employed in them, but
at this time they were at work felling at the other end of the manor.
It seemed almost certain that no one had ever seen the two together.

Harry’s sadness would pass.  He was still a boy, in years hardly more
than a child, and Viola was no older. If they were thrown together over
years, their young love might ripen into the love of a life-time; as it
was, it would probably die down to a fragrant memory—a love-idyll of
summer woods, happy and innocent, but no more than the budding of love
in the tender hearts of two pretty children.  Wilbraham even thought
that Harry might have put it aside from him, at least for a time.  His
poise of mind was so in advance of his years that it would not be
surprising if that were so.  He had thrown himself ardently into the
three months’ work asked of him, and if he was no longer merry and
light-hearted, as he had been, he seemed to be in full possession of
himself and concentrated in purpose.  By and by, when Wilbraham had
passed through his own troubles, he might talk to him about Viola, and
find out how it lay with them.  At present there seemed to be nothing to
do but to follow Harry’s example and concentrate his mind upon the
important business in hand, which was Harry’s preparation for his coming
examination.

So Wilbraham had thought and so he had acted, with a troubled longing
for the time when he should once more be free of his own burden.  But
now he doubted. One thing was fairly clear.  By going away Harry would
be in touch again with Viola as he could not be at Royd.  Wilbraham did
not suppose that to be the sole or even the chief reason for his going
away, but it had probably counted in his decision.

Harry had ridden off on his horse, before dawn, probably some hours
before dawn, for nothing had been seen of him in the country in which he
was known.  He had worn his oldest riding suit, and as far as could be
said had taken scarcely anything with him.  His short note to his
grandmother, and longer letter to his mother had said that he was going
to enlist, and it was supposed that he intended to offer himself and his
horse to a cavalry regiment.  He begged that no attempt should be made
to follow or to stop him doing what he had fully made up his mind to.
He would write in a few days, when affairs had been settled for him, but
after that he would not write at all until he had won his commission in
the field.  He made no apology for taking the decision into his own
hands, and offered no explanation of it.  But it was plain that he meant
to run no risk of being prevented from following out the course he had
laid down for himself.

Mrs. Brent had been full of lamentations.  Lady Brent had taken it very
calmly, though the shock it was to her had been apparent in the
seriousness and sadness of her manner.  A few inquiries were made as to
whether Harry had been seen riding away, and then they had waited for
his promised letter.

It came on the fourth day, with a London postmark. He had been accepted
for enlistment.  He was in barracks, well and happy.  His letter—to his
mother—was of the shortest, but contained expressions of affection which
did something to soothe her trouble.

On the outside his action was that of a spirited boy who had made up his
mind to go off and fight and was not to be hampered by the fears and
objections of his elders.  But to Wilbraham there was more in it than
that.  He thought that Harry might have made up his mind to the course
he had taken if he had not met Viola, but that he would not have carried
it out in quite the same way.  Then, his mother and grandmother would
have been the only people whom he had to consider. Now they hardly
counted.  He had acted, if not with want of kindness, still with
something of the insensibility of youth towards the claims of its
elders.  They would not hear from him again for months, perhaps for
years—though a lapse of years seemed unlikely at that time. But Viola
would hear from him.  It was hard on the older people who loved him.
Wilbraham knew that it was bearing hardly upon Lady Brent.

"I might find out something about him if I went to London," Wilbraham
said, after neither of them had spoken for a time.

She looked up at him quickly, and laid down her work. "I should be so
glad to know where he is," she said.  "I should like him to know—if it
were only possible to get it to him—that I should make no effort now to
go against him.  I could, you know.  It would not be difficult to find
him; at least, it would not be impossible. But I shall take no steps to
override his will.  If he knew that, surely he would not want to keep
himself cut off from us!  He could write, and before he was sent abroad
he could come here for a few days.  Oh, if only you could find out where
he is, and let him know that!"

"I’ll go up and try, if you like," said Wilbraham.

It had surprised him a little that she had not asked how or where he
would try.  He would go straight to Bastian, whose address he knew, and
see Viola.  In making the offer he had half intended, if she pressed
him, to unburden himself to her about Viola.  He did not know whether he
was relieved or disappointed that she asked him no questions.  She
seemed to be too excited to think about it, though she did say, later
on, that he could go to Mr. Gulliver, the Brent solicitor, but that if
he did so Mr. Gulliver was to be told not to interfere with Harry’s
actions.

"The sooner the better," said Wilbraham.  "I’d better go up to-morrow."

She made no demur, and was silent for a time.  Then she looked at him
kindly, and said: "There’s no danger for you now, is there?"

He was overcome with a wave of self-pity, brought out by the sympathy of
her tone.  "I’ve been through a bad time," he said.  "I think it’s
coming to an end. I don’t think there’s any danger now."

"I’ve seen it, of course," she said, "and have been very sorry for you."

He had not thought that she had noticed.  Some explanation seemed due to
her.  "I did drink some spirits," he said, with a gulp.  "Just once.  I
thought I was safe, but it brought on the craving.  I’ve had my lesson.
I know that I’m different from other men now.  It’s not in my power to
be temperate.  It has to be nothing at all from now onwards."

"I think it’s the only way," she said.  "And for years together here you
haven’t missed it, have you?"

"No," he said.  "It was very wrong to do it at all. I’m ashamed of
myself—after you’ve done what you have for me."

One thing she had done was to go without wine at table, except on the
rare occasions on which there had been guests at the Castle.  That had
been for his sake, and he knew it well enough, though she had never
mentioned it.  She deserved his confidence.

"It was when I went to see Bastian—the artist," he said.  "After the
first time I told him how it was with me, and he never drank anything
himself while I was with him."

"In the village they say he was a heavy drinker."

It surprised him to hear that she had heard about Bastian.  When he had
told her that there was no necessity to ask him to the Castle, she had
seemed to lose all interest in him, and had never mentioned his name
since.

"I should think he drinks a lot," he said.  "He did when I was with him.
But he seems to be one of those men who don’t get caught by it.  To say
he is a heavy drinker would be rather unfair.  He has his young daughter
to look after, and I think he’d be careful what he did for her sake.
He’s a gentleman, though he seems to have come down in the world, and a
man of refinement."

He was feeling his way towards a confession.  She had been so kind to
him, and so wonderful in her understanding of what had impelled Harry to
the course he had taken, though it had hit her hard, that his
inclination was to tell her, and trust her to take the view of it that
he had taken himself.  But there was a fence to take before he could
make a clean breast of it.  He had given no promise to Harry, but Harry
had trusted him to keep his secret.  It might be right to tell Lady
Brent of what had happened, but Harry would not think so. It wanted just
the slight pressure, unconscious on her part, of what it would bring
forth, to overcome his reluctance to give away Harry’s secret.

So he gave her an opening to ask him about Bastian, and about Viola.
But she did not take it.  She seemed to be thinking of something else.
"It would be sad," she said, half indifferently, "if his drinking were
to affect a young daughter.  I think I should like you to go to London
to-morrow.  It would be a great comfort to poor Charlotte to know where
Harry is; and to me, too.  And to be able to get messages to him."



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                         *WILBRAHAM IN LONDON*


In the region that lies to the north of Regent’s Park there are quiet
little streets, aside from the ugly crowded main thoroughfares, which
date back from the time, not so very long since, when there were
pleasant suburbs here, and the open country lay within a walk of the
centre of London.  Wilbraham found himself unexpectedly in one of them
in his search for the address that Bastian had given him, and, as he
waited for admission at the door upon which he had knocked, looked about
him with a sense of relief.  He had expected something almost
approaching squalor, and at least noise and unrest.  But it was not
painful to think of the girl whom Harry loved living in one of these
quiet little houses.

They were all alike, built at a time when some of the quality of
eighteenth century architecture, which hung about the simplest building,
had disappeared, but had not yet given way to the deadness and ugliness
that followed it.  Nothing could have been simpler than this regular
street of small houses, each with one window and a door on the ground
floor, two windows on the first, two windows on the second, and a
basement with a narrow area; but their very monotony was restful, and
they indicated a respectability that was almost aggressive. The paint
was nowhere shabby, the brass door handles shone, and here and there the
dirty brick of one of the houses had been cleaned and the mortar
pointed.  They were not beneath the occupation of people who took a
pride in the appearance of their dwellings, and might even have money
enough to have the faces of them washed and their interiors modernized
before they made their homes in them.

As Wilbraham stood at the top of the few steps that led to the entrance,
a door to the area beneath him opened and a woman looked up at him, and
then immediately disappeared.  Mrs. Ivimey’s sister, evidently, by the
likeness.  Somehow the fact of this relationship had been forgotten.
Here was a link with Royd.  If Harry had been to the house, or should
come there—!  He had no time to formulate his thoughts before she opened
the door to him.

He introduced himself to her at once, before asking for Bastian.  She
was a clean neat woman and gave him smiling respectful welcome when he
told her who he was. "It’s many years since I was down in those parts,
sir," she said.  "But I hear sometimes from my sister, and Mr. Bastian,
the gentleman who lodges with me, has been there lately and told me a
good deal about it."

"It’s him I’ve come to see," said Wilbraham.  "Is he in?"

"Miss Viola is in, sir," she said.  "I dare say you saw her when she was
at Royd."

"Yes," said Wilbraham.  "I should like to see her now, if you’ll tell
her who I am."

Here was a lucky chance.  It was Viola he wanted to see, and apart from
her father, if possible.  Mrs. Clark led him at once upstairs, talking
volubly as she did so. But she did not mention Harry.  Wilbraham thought
she would have done so if he had been to the house.

She showed him into a room on the first floor, after knocking at the
door and receiving no answer.  "I expect Miss Viola is upstairs," she
said, opening the door.  "I don’t think she’s gone out again.  If you’ll
kindly step in, sir, I’ll go and tell her you’re here."

Wilbraham entered the room with some curiosity.  It was larger than he
had anticipated, extending to the whole width of the house and lit by
the two windows. Its main furniture was good and solid, of about the
date of the house, when furniture had lost its simplicity of line and
ornament, but still showed some pride of craftsmanship.  Except for an
upright piano with a front of faded fluted red silk, which might or
might not have belonged to the tenants, it was all probably the property
of the landlady, and the nondescript wall paper and dark green curtains
were also probably her taste and not theirs.  But the books in shelves
on either side of the fireplace, the pictures on the walls and the
clutter of photographs and little objects for use or ornament on the
mantelpiece and elsewhere about the room struck a different note.  No
attempt had been made to make it other than it was by nature, but it had
the air of a permanent home, occupied by people of some refinement.

Viola’s work-basket was on a small table by the wall, and there were
other signs of feminine occupancy in the room.  It looked cozy enough,
with a bright fire burning, the curtains drawn and the gas lit; for it
was getting dark outside.  Bastian evidently made use of the large
shabby easy chair by the fire, for there was a tobacco jar and an array
of pipes on the table by its side, and a book or two.  With his daughter
sitting opposite to him, on a winter evening, it was possible to imagine
him taking pleasure in his home life.  It would be quieter and less
marked by poverty than Wilbraham had pictured it.  A faint odour of the
tobacco that Bastian used hung about, but there were flowers in a vase
on Viola’s table, and fruit in a plaited basket on the sideboard.  The
sideboard, apt to be so much in evidence in furnished lodgings, had none
of the paraphernalia of meals on it in the way of cruets or bottles.  In
fact, there were no bottles to be seen anywhere.  Wilbraham noticed that
at once, for his own trouble had made him acutely sensitive; he had no
fears now of succumbing to a temptation to drink, but the signs of
drinking by Bastian would have affected him unhappily.  He was inclined
to believe that he had to some extent misread Bastian, on his first
acquaintance with him.  It could not be his habitual custom to drink as
much as he had done on that afternoon, or Viola would be more affected
by it than she was.  She had none of the air of a girl whose life had
been saddened by a father’s gross intemperance; and if Bastian had been
kept down in the world by this failing of his, as he had said he had,
his poverty was shown by this room to be more relative than actual.

Wilbraham dismissed the unpleasant question of intemperance, in relief
at the signs of comfort and refinement that he saw about him.  The table
in the middle of the room was laid for tea, as if that was the chief
evening meal here.  Wilbraham hoped that Bastian would not come in for
it until he had talked to Viola.

He made his way to the mantelpiece, upon which were a good many
photographs.  The photographs in a room tell you more than anything
about its occupants.

Something was told in this instance by the fact that they were all a
good many years old.  It meant, for one thing, that Viola and her father
must have lived here for some time, and for another that they could have
made few friends of late years.

Wilbraham’s eye was caught by one of Bastian as a very young man in a
group with three others, taken by a Cambridge photographer.  His first
thought as he looked at it, was to wonder whether he himself had changed
so much in twenty years.  Bastian appeared as a young man fashionably
dressed and judging by his smile pleased with the world in general and
with his own lot in it in particular.  He had been more than usually
good-looking in those days.  There was another one of him on a horse,
taken at about the same time, but not at Cambridge.  Wilbraham wished
afterwards that he had noticed the name and habitation of the
photographer.  Bastian had never told him from what part of the country
he came, or anything about his early home and upbringing.  But it was
evident that he came from what it is customary to call "good people."
It was hardly fair to keep Viola in ignorance of her parentage, which
might possibly prove to be of some importance to her.

There was a photograph of Viola herself at the age of about ten—a pretty
child, but without the exceptional beauty into which she had grown.  In
a large frame was one of her mother, and there were others of her at
different stages.  Wilbraham examined them with some attention.  She was
certainly beautiful, with the same sort of beauty as Viola’s, though
Wilbraham thought that if he had not known the facts about her he would
yet have detected an absence of race, which seemed to him to be apparent
in Viola, and perhaps also in her father.  He tried to find in her
support for Bastian’s praise of her character and temperament, but all
he could have said was that there was nothing to show that she had not
deserved it.  She smiled sweetly in these photographs, some of which
were in theatrical costume; she was young and beautiful and happy, and
her early death added pathos to these presentments of her.

There were other photographs of girls and young women carelessly propped
up on the mantelpiece, some of them hidden.  They were probably mostly
theatrical friends of Mrs. Bastian’s, and it seemed likely that she had
lived in these rooms, or they would not have been left there.
Wilbraham’s eyes roamed over them without interest, but just as he was
about to turn away were caught by the signature of one of them.  "With
love from Lottie" in a sprawling hand.  It was of Mrs. Brent, taken in
that youth of which she was still proud but which she had left behind
her.

Wilbraham looked at it fascinated.  For some reason or other Mrs. Brent
had never shown him a photograph of herself taken during her stage
career.  For the moment he was more interested in seeing her as she had
been than in the fact of finding her photograph here—Harry’s mother, in
Viola’s room.

The photograph made her almost as pretty as Mrs. Bastian. She was a gay
light-hearted girl too.  Harry’s father might be excused for having
fallen in love with her.  And there was a look of Harry in her young
face, which Wilbraham had never noticed in the flesh.  He wondered
whether Viola had noticed the likeness, which seemed to him quite plain.
But probably she did not look at these old photographs to notice
anything about them at all once in six months, though she saw them every
day.

Viola came in as he was standing looking at them.  He thought she looked
more beautiful than ever, as she greeted him with a smile and a blush.
Her entrance into the room seemed to bring light with it, and softness
and charm.  Its commonplace features sank into the background; the
flowers became of more importance than anything, and the books and the
music.

Wilbraham had seen Viola in a pretty simple frock suitable for the
country, but although her clothes now had the same air of simplicity to
his unsophisticated eyes, they were even to him something exceptional.
One would not have expected a girl who lived in that room to enter it
dressed as she was.  The calling in which she earned her living stood
her in good stead.  Wilbraham had not been told what it was, and had the
idea of her doing something or other with a typewriter.  He thought that
the figure she presented was owing to her taste, and did not know that
it would also have meant a good deal of money if there had been nothing
more than her taste to account for it.  What he did feel was that she
might have entered any rich room in London as she was and been taken for
granted as belonging to it.  She was worthy of Harry even in this
respect, which would probably weigh more with the world even than it
weighed with him.

"Father will be in in about half an hour," she said. "You will stay and
have some tea with us, won’t you? I’m sure he will be glad to see you."

He had been looking at her searchingly.  She gave him the impression of
being older than when he had seen her at Royd, a woman full grown and no
longer half a child, though the delicacy and freshness of youth still
marked her.  She had, in fact, ceased to arrange her hair as still
growing girls wear it, and there was some to him indefinable difference
in her clothes.

He said he would stay until her father came in, and she motioned him to
her father’s chair, and sat down in her own on the other side of the
fire, facing him.

She seemed to wait for him to speak first.  He could tell nothing by her
manner, which was smiling and self-possessed, though her self-possession
was not more than is becoming to a young girl, secure in her youth and
charm.

"I suppose you know that Harry has left home to enlist in the army," he
said.

Her colour deepened a little upon the mention of her lover’s name, but
she did not shrink from his gaze, and the faint smile was still on her
lips as she said: "I thought that he might, although he didn’t say he
would."  So of course she knew, and had been prepared for the question.

"Probably he had not quite made up his mind by the time you left Royd,"
he said.

She did not reply to this, and he thought he could see that she had
decided not to admit anything, probably under Harry’s directions.  Again
there came to him the sense of dislike at interfering with what Harry
had decided.  He could not fence with her to make her say what Harry
didn’t want her to say, or force her to say that she could not answer
his questions.  She was frank and innocent.  It would seem an
impertinence to put her into the position of defending a reticence.

"We have been very anxious about him at home," he said.  "We are anxious
still—not to get him to come back, but that he should not cut himself
off from us. I’ve come up to London on purpose to get a message to him
if I can.  I didn’t tell Lady Brent I should come here, or say anything
about you.  She thinks I have only come to see Mr. Gulliver, the family
solicitor, and ask him to find out, if he can, where Harry is.  His
mother can hardly bear the thought of not hearing from him for months,
and not knowing where he is.  Lady Brent was not altogether unprepared
for his enlisting. She couldn’t have been a party to it, as he’s not
even of an age to enlist yet, and I suppose he’s had to represent
himself as older than he is in order to get taken.  But she told me
herself that she was proud of him for doing it, and she certainly
wouldn’t do anything to interfere with him, now he’s taken the matter
into his own hands. If he knew that——"

He did not finish his sentence, which was on the note of appeal to her.
Nor did he look at her.

There was a pause.  Then she said, "I haven’t seen Harry, you know, Mr.
Wilbraham."

He looked at her then, and saw that there were tears in her eyes.  So
his appeal had not been without its effect.

"I think his mother ought to know," she said, "and that he ought to
write to her."

In a flash of understanding, he saw that he had got all that he had come
for, and that he would get no more. Or at least that he must not
exercise pressure to get more, or put her in the position of refusing to
give it. She would tell Harry what he had told her, and she would tell
him that she thought he ought to write to his mother.  Of Lady Brent she
had said nothing.  It was probable that Lady Brent appeared in her eyes
in a different light from that in which Wilbraham saw her.

As for everything else—it was their secret, to be treated by him with
respect.  He would probe into it no further; and indeed it was better
that he should not know more than he knew already of how it was between
them. There was quite enough on his mind that he had kept from Lady
Brent.

"Yes, I think he should write," he said.  "I shall see Mr. Gulliver
to-morrow."

The two statements had no apparent bearing upon one another, but Viola
seemed to accept them with relief, and was beginning to talk to him
pleasantly, but with no reference to Harry, when Bastian came in.

He was nearly half an hour earlier than his usual time, it appeared, and
Wilbraham was inclined to be disappointed at having his talk with Viola
cut short. Whenever he was with her he felt himself almost violently in
sympathy with Harry in his love for her.  He was observing her all the
time, and there was nothing that she said or did that did not deepen his
first impression of her.  He wanted to feel like that about her, for
Harry’s sake; championship of her as one who was in all essentials fit
to mate with him, might stand Harry in good stead later on.

But she would show herself, perhaps with less need for carefulness in
what she said, with her father there as without him.  Bastian gave him a
cordial welcome.  He was again, in appearance, a gentleman, merely
indifferent to the shabbiness of his attire, but the younger healthier
look he had had during the latter part of his stay at Royd no longer
marked him.  Wilbraham thought he had been drinking, but he was not
drunk, or anything near it, and it seemed probable that he kept his
habits in check in the home that he must have valued.  He drank tea,
rather copiously, at the meal which soon followed his entrance, and
there was no preparation apparent for anything stronger to be drunk
later on.

It was not long before Wilbraham became as anxious to be alone with
Bastian as he had before wished to be alone with Viola.  Bastian knew,
and Viola was distressed at the signs he showed of wishing to talk about
what he knew.

It became plain to Wilbraham now that the poor child was not unaffected
by her father’s intemperance.  If the worst of it was kept from her, and
he had the self-command not to soil the home in which she lived with it,
still there were times when she saw him not quite himself.

This was one of them.  Wilbraham saw the suspicion and then the
certainty dawn upon her, with a droop, and a shadow on her brightness,
and a stiffening of manner that was not quite displeasure, but yet
something near it.  She had enough influence over him, apparently, to be
able to prevent his saying what she did not want said, but his hints and
smiles made Wilbraham as uncomfortable as they evidently made her.
Immediately the meal was over she said good-bye to Wilbraham and went
out of the room.  Perhaps this was her usual way of dealing with these
lapses.  Her father expostulated, but she took no notice, except by
saying as she went out: "I’ll tell Mrs. Clark not to clear away just
yet."

"She’s a dear child, Viola—but she’s difficult sometimes," said Bastian.
"I hope she hasn’t taken a dislike to you."

"I don’t think so," said Wilbraham, shortly.  "What she obviously does
dislike is having her secrets talked about before a comparative
stranger.  I should have thought you might have seen that."

Bastian threw a look at him as he went to the side table to take up a
pipe.  Wilbraham’s tone seemed to surprise him, but it did not subdue
the agreeable humour in which he found himself.  "We don’t look on you
as a stranger," he said, "and if there’s a secret, you’re in it.  I
think you want mellowing, my dear Wilbraham. I don’t keep anything to
drink here, but if you’d like something I can send out for it."

"You seem to forget what I told you about myself," said Wilbraham.  "I
can’t drink without losing control of myself.  You seem to be in much
the same case. I think it’s a damned shame to show it before that
child."

This brought Bastian up short.  He frowned in offence, but apparently he
was one of those people whom a rebuke moves more to sorrow than to
anger, for he said: "That’s a hard thing to say to a man, Wilbraham. I
do drink more than’s good for me sometimes, I know; but if there’s one
thing I’ve always been careful about all my life it is not to let it
affect Viola."

"Well, it does affect her," said Wilbraham.  "You’d have seen how it
affected her just now, if you hadn’t been drinking.  It’s not for me to
preach, God knows. But if you’re able to control it at all, you’ve got
something to be very thankful for, and you ought to control it
absolutely as far as she’s concerned."

"I’ve had very little to drink to-day, as a matter of fact," said
Bastian, rather sulkily, "and I don’t want to be lectured about it,
Wilbraham.  Sit down and have a talk.  You won’t find my powers of
expression affected by the little I have had."

He ended on a smile.  He was an attractive creature, Wilbraham thought,
in spite of his culpable weakness. Most men would have quarrelled with
him for what he had said, if they had been in Bastian’s state.  But the
extent to which he was affected by drink was a puzzle. As he talked
Wilbraham could mark no signs of it, though they had seemed so evident
up to this time. There was an absence of cautiousness in what he said,
but that was native to him.  It may have been slightly enhanced now, but
Wilbraham would not have put it down to the loosening of tongue brought
about by liquor if they had started with this conversation.  His own
irritation subsided.  He had said his say.  He sat down in Viola’s
chair, opposite to Bastian, and lit his cigarette, taking rather a long
time to do so, in order to leave the opening with Bastian, who was not
slow to take it.

"It wouldn’t do for my little failing to become known, would it?" he
said with a smile.  "If I can’t do without alcohol altogether—and I
don’t see why I should—I shall have to keep in the background."

Wilbraham was conscious of a return of irritation. He disliked this
half-jocular allusion to a subject of such serious importance.  "Oh,
don’t talk of it like that," he said, impatiently.  "I suppose you know
that Harry Brent and Viola have met and have fallen in love with one
another.  Nobody else knows it but me, and perhaps it’s important that
nobody else should.  At any rate you can talk quite straight about it to
me."

Bastian received this with a change of manner.  "All right," he said, "I
will talk straight.  Viola’s a girl in a thousand—in a million.  I’d
trust her anywhere.  But for a young man to be meeting her again and
again, and keeping it secret—!  Well, you see my point, I suppose."

It was quite a new point to Wilbraham, as far as he did see it.  But his
brain, edged by his long struggle with himself, and now again working
with its normal quickness, seized upon its essential insincerity at
once. There was a barely perceptible pause before he said: "If you mean
that Harry has done anything that you can take exception to why have you
been smiling and hinting about it up till now?"

Perhaps Bastian did not quite take this in.  "Oh, I don’t mean to say
that there has been anything wrong," he said.  "As I say, I trust
Viola—absolutely.  If _she’s_ satisfied with herself, as she is, that’s
enough for me."

"Very well," said Wilbraham, keeping command. "Then that applies to
Harry too.  You don’t know him. I do.  I found it out by chance, and he
made no attempt to persuade me to keep it secret.  He left it to me, and
I decided to do so.  If he wanted it kept secret, so did she; and they
both wanted it for the same reasons, whatever they were.  If she was
right, he was right, and——"

"Yes, that’s all very well——," said Bastian, but Wilbraham over-rode his
interruption.  "I suppose you didn’t know of it till after you’d come to
London.  How did you know of it?"

Bastian allowed himself to be diverted.  "I found it out on the last
night," he said.  "I went out to look for her, and she came in crying,
poor child!  Something suddenly struck me.  She had been out such a lot
alone, and she hadn’t done that before when we’d been away together—at
least not so much.  And she’d been different somehow.  I hadn’t thought
about it before, but it came to me suddenly all together.  And she
wouldn’t have been crying like that just because we were going home.
There was something—somebody.  I dare say I should have got at it by
thinking it over; but she told me.  I love her, and she loves me, and
knows that she can tell me anything.  That’s how it was, Wilbraham.
You’re not a father, but you can imagine, perhaps, what a father feels
about these things, when his daughter is the chief thing in the world to
him."

"I suppose I can," said Wilbraham.  "But all the same you’re not
treating her in the way you boast of if you’re not prepared to look upon
Harry in the same light.  You’ll agree that on the outside of things
they’re not equal—those two."

"I don’t agree to that," said Bastian, dogmatically.

"I said on the outside of things," Wilbraham persisted.  "You’ve been
where he belongs, and you know what sort of position he’s in.  You may
have belonged to the same sort of thing once.  I don’t know.  You’ve
never told me who your people were.  But you say yourself that you’ve
come down in the world, and it’s pretty obvious that you’re not in
anything like the position the Brents are now.  So you can see how it
would have been likely to strike me when I first found it out.  But
Harry is what he is.  I trusted him, just as you trusted Viola. And
afterwards I saw Viola.  If I can think of her as I do, you ought to be
able to think of Harry in the same way, though you haven’t seen him."

"Very well, then," said Bastian.  "Let’s take it that, leaving out
things that don’t matter, they’re to be looked at in the same way.  Of
course I know, really, that he’s something quite out of the common.
I’ve heard the people there talk about him.  If I hadn’t thought there
was no harm in it—for Viola—I shouldn’t have treated it as I have.  But
you see, Wilbraham, as a father I’ve got to look a little farther ahead
than you do.  I suppose to you it’s just a boy and girl falling in love
with one another in all their innocence, and if nothing comes of it no
harm will be done.  Well, it wouldn’t to him. But it’s rather different
with her, isn’t it?"

Wilbraham was silent.  That was exactly as he had looked at it, on
Harry’s behalf.  And it would be different for Viola.

"If he’s what you say he is," said Bastian, pursuing his advantage, "he
won’t want to throw her off when he gets older.  But his people will
want him to, and when they know they’ll try to bring it about.  Harry
and Viola!  Yes.  But it’s me and Lady Brent, you see, as well—as she
seems to be the one that counts most.  I don’t know anything about the
boy’s mother; they don’t talk about her much down there.  It’s his
grandmother who seems to count for everything.  Who was his mother, by
the by?"

Wilbraham had forgotten until that moment the photograph on the
mantelpiece.  He awoke to its realization with a mental start.  If
Bastian had not shown himself ignorant of Mrs. Brent’s origin he might
have succumbed to the instinct for the dramatic and surprised him by
pointing her out in reply to his question.  But when the question came
he had just received the impression of loyalty on the part of Mrs.
Ivimey, or anybody else to whom Bastian may have talked about "the
family."  They had not given Mrs. Brent away.  He wouldn’t either, at
least at this stage.

"Nobody in particular," he said with a half truth. "They were only
married for a few weeks.  Lady Brent is Harry’s guardian, and of course
she’s had most to do with bringing him up more or less in seclusion at
Royd. I suppose you know that he has gone off to enlist."

"Yes, and I suppose you’ve come here to find out from Viola where he is,
and haul him back again."

Wilbraham told him why he had come up.  "I shall go and see Gulliver
to-morrow," he said, "and get him to make inquiries.  Then I hope in a
few days Harry will write.  She’ll be satisfied with that, and whether
Gulliver finds him or not she won’t make any attempt to get him back."

"Well, you’re a funny crew altogether," said Bastian, after they had
talked a little longer.  "As far as I’m concerned, Wilbraham, I’m going
to keep my eyes open. You needn’t look to me to back up your ideas, if
it doesn’t suit me to do so.  Better have all your cards on the table.
They’re both much too young yet to think about anything further, and I
suppose he’ll be too young for another few years.  You can hug your
secret for the present."



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                               *WAITING*


Autumn gave place to winter and winter to spring. Another summer came,
and people began to resign themselves to the hitherto almost incredible
idea of the war lasting over another winter.  That winter passed away
and the interminable struggle went on.

But even after two years the texture of life had not very greatly
altered in England.  Conscription had not yet come in; there was no food
control; motor cars could be used for purposes of pleasure or
convenience; the chief opportunities for the work of women in connection
with the war were in nursing, and for girls in government clerkships.
It was not for another full year that country life in England seemed
quite a different thing from what it had been before the war.  The
change had come by degrees and its last stages were passed through much
more quickly than the first.  In the summer of 1916 it was still
possible to live in a country house without being much affected by the
war.

Lady Brent lived on at Royd Castle to all outward appearances in much
the same way as she had lived there since her widowhood.  There came to
be fewer servants, and her work in connection with the estate increased,
for her bailiff had joined up, and she had not tried to replace him.
She did much of his work herself, with the help of the estate staff, and
perhaps welcomed the increased responsibility, for her life during those
two first years was sad enough, with all that she had lived for taken
from her just at the time when the hopes of years were to have been put
to the test.

Harry had written to his mother within a few days of Wilbraham’s return
from London, and again from time to time to her and to his grandmother
and to Wilbraham; also to the children.  But his letters contained very
little news about himself.  They were posted in London and gave no
address to which answers could be sent.  After some months there was a
long silence, and then he wrote from Egypt, where his regiment had been
sent.  After that he wrote mostly to his mother. He told her more about
his life, but never anything that would identify him.

The letters sent from Egypt were subject to censorship, but they arrived
at Royd in envelopes bearing a London postmark and with no label or
stamp on them. Yet they were addressed in Harry’s writing.  He must have
left a supply of them behind him.

The clue to all this was no doubt a strong and considered determination
to carry out his plan without risk of interference.  The message carried
to him by Viola had brought letters from him, but that was as far as he
would go; and perhaps he would have written in any case.  After the
first one had been received Lady Brent wrote to Mr. Gulliver and told
him not to pursue his inquiries.  Harry must have his own way.  As he
had written, after it had seemed that he had made up his mind not even
to do that, so perhaps he would some day relent and let them write to
him.  But nearly two years went by and he had not done so.

In the long sad conversations they had about him at Royd during the
early months, they arrived at some sort of conclusions, helped by an
occasional expression in his letters.  He had gone out of his own world,
and as long as his time of probation lasted he would keep out of it. He
was not likely to think himself degraded by serving in the ranks, but
they came to understand that he was keeping his actual condition hidden.
There was nothing in his letters, which would be read by his superior
officers, to indicate it, and before he left England they were more
about Royd than about himself.  There was never very much about himself.
Every time he wrote he said he was well and happy; but it peeped through
that the change in his life was not without its effect upon him.  How
could it be otherwise, brought up as he had been?  He was learning in a
hard school; but he was learning, and flashes of his old boyish
brightness broke through the reticence which he seemed to have imposed
upon himself.  They came to look upon it as a time of probation for him,
and to believe that so he looked upon it himself.  Sometimes they
thought they saw signs of expectation.  He was working for and looking
forward to something.  Viola, said Wilbraham to himself.  His commission
to be won in the field, said Lady Brent.  He wanted no help towards it,
as might have been given by finding him out, which should not have been
difficult after he had left England, and pulling strings.  When he had
gained his commission, by his own unaided effort, and by no reliance
upon his place in the world outside the army, then he would come back to
them.  It was hard on Lady Brent to wait, and to lift no finger, and
harder still on his mother.  But he must be trusted. They had directed
him through his childhood, and youth, and now he would brook no
direction.  The only consolation they had was that his upbringing had
not taken from him a man’s initiative and determination.  The experiment
seemed to have been justified; but with a greater knowledge of the world
beforehand he might not have thought it necessary so to cut his life in
two. They were paying a heavy price.

Wilbraham, who had more of a clue to Harry’s actions than the others,
was not without irritation against what at times he set down as mere
hard undutifulness.  He had great sympathy with Lady Brent, who had so
wonderfully sunk her own feelings in acquiescing in the boy’s
unreasonable determination.  She could almost certainly have traced him
had she wished to do so.  And Wilbraham, at least, knew that he must
have been told at the very beginning that he would not be interfered
with.  Why could he not then have softened the hardship to those who
loved him?  Granted that the new love that had come into his life was so
much more to him than the old; but it was not like him to throw over the
old altogether, and indeed his letters showed that he had not done so.

After a time his irritation died away.  It could not be so distressing
to Harry to be cut off from Royd as it was to them to be cut off from
him, but his letters showed that he felt it, and especially the few
letters that he wrote to little Jane, in which he seemed to be reaching
out after the untroubled innocent happiness of his youth, and the beauty
and freedom that had lain all about it.  It was the old Harry that
appeared in those letters, and here and there in others; the new Harry
became more and more evident otherwise—a man doing a man’s hard work in
hard and uncongenial surroundings, much older than his years, where in
some ways he had been so much younger.

He was hard on himself as well as hard upon them. They had given him
happiness in his sheltered youth, but the plunge he had taken into a
life different from any that could have been anticipated for him can
have been none the easier on that account.  The ugliness and crudity
that other boys might in some measure have been prepared for would bear
very hardly upon him, and he would have to fight through it alone.
Wilbraham came to see that he might shrink from mixing it up with his
home life.  Perhaps he was afraid that he might weaken in it if he was
subject to any pressure. It would surely have been open to him to have
had at least a few days at home before he went abroad; but he had not
taken the opportunity.

Had he blamed them for bringing him up in that seclusion?  There was
nothing in his letters to show it. But it must have been very soon
revealed to him how exceptional his life had been, and how much he had
missed of what other boys had had.  He would not always be capable of
gauging the value of what he had missed, when face to face with some
situation with which his inexperience had unfitted him to cope lightly.
It might take him a long time to acknowledge that what he had gained had
been more than what he had missed, and partly arose from it.  He would
know, too, before long that the immovable seclusion in which his
grandmother and mother and Wilbraham himself lived was anything but the
normal state of affairs that it had been implicitly represented to him.
He would ask himself why they had never left Royd from one year’s end to
another, and why so few people had ever come there; and he would see
that it had all been with reference to him.  He would hardly be able to
understand it.  If he acknowledged the freedom he had enjoyed, the
limits of it would still strike him, with his new knowledge of the
world’s ways.  If he had not, since his childhood, been dominated by
women, he had certainly been managed, without knowing it.  Whether, in
the strangeness and disagreeableness and difficulty of much of his new
life he was inclined to resent this unduly, or whether he saw behind it
enough to admit that there had been wisdom as well as apparent
eccentricity, and certainly love, in the steps his youth had been made
to tread, it would not be surprising if he made up his mind at an early
date that the managing should come to an end. It was for him to direct
his own life now.  He would run no further risk of influence brought to
bear upon it, the clue to which was not in his hands.

In the first spring Wilbraham left Royd to take up work in a Government
office in London, for which Lady Brent had asked for him.  A few months
later Mrs. Brent broke loose from the now insupportable stagnation of
Royd, and went to London with the avowed object of nursing.  She had had
no training and was quite ignorant of the steps to be taken, but Lady
Brent arranged an income for her, and made no attempt to direct her
movements in any way.  She was left alone in the Castle, and stayed
there alone for another year. To all outward appearance she was exactly
what she had always been, always occupied, always unemotional, though
sometimes more unapproachable than at others. The months dragged on.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                                *SIDNEY*


One morning in May Lady Brent unlocked the letter bag, which she never
did without anticipations of some news of Harry.  It was at least a
month since there had been a letter from him, but there at last it was,
searched for among all the rest and making them of no value at all.

It was directed to Mrs. Brent, and the envelope bore the stamps and
marks of the field from which it had been written.  All Harry’s previous
letters had been redirected from London.

She sat looking at it and turning it over.  Once or twice she seemed to
be on the point of opening it, and she must have been under the
strongest temptation to do so.  What could it mean but that he had
reached his goal, and the long time of half estrangement was over?
Perhaps it was to say that he was coming home.

She laid it down, and took up her other letters with a sigh, but before
she opened any of them, she went to her writing-table and enclosed it in
a note to Mrs. Brent. Then she rang the bell and gave orders that some
one was to ride over to Burport with it, and arrange for its immediate
transmission to London by train.  By that means she might get the
telegram she had asked for from her daughter-in-law that evening.  Then
she went calmly about her duties.

These included one that was quite unusual at Royd Castle.  It was to see
that preparations were made for visitors.  Her old friend Lady Avalon
had written to ask if she might come for a few days.  After twelve or
thirteen years Poldaven Castle was to be occupied again for the summer.
Lady Avalon wanted to see what was necessary to be done there, but it
had been empty so long that she didn’t want to trust herself in it for a
night if Lady Brent could do with her at Royd and let her go over from
there..

Later on that morning she went again to her writing-table and wrote to
Lady Avalon, who was expected in a couple of days’ time.  Would she care
to bring her daughter Sidney with her?  It was no doubt very dull at
Royd, but there was just a chance of Harry coming home from Egypt.  She
sat considering for a moment when she had written this, but closed her
letter without adding any more.  Harry was extremely unlikely to be at
Royd in a few days’ time, but if Sidney had already been there when he
did come home it would be easier to ask her there again.

After this she went down to the village, taking Ben, Harry’s retriever,
with her.

She called at the Vicarage.  The Grants were to be asked to dine when
Lady Avalon came.  The maid who opened the door looked at her rather
curiously, but she did not notice it.  Mrs. Grant was in the
drawing-room and sprang up to meet her.  "Oh, I’m so glad!" she said,
and came forward, her hand held out and her face all alight with
pleasure.

Lady Brent was taken aback by the warmth of the greeting.  She liked
Mrs. Grant and supposed that Mrs. Grant liked her, but she was not
accustomed to this kind of welcome.

"Thank you," she said, a shade drily.  "I came to ask if you and your
husband would dine with me on Thursday.  Lady Avalon will be staying
with me, and possibly her daughter, Lady Sidney Pawle."

"Oh, thank you, yes, we shall be very pleased," said Mrs. Grant.  "Will
Harry be home by then?  He might, mightn’t he?  Oh, I am so glad he’s
coming at last."

Lady Brent understood now, but it took her a little time to recover
herself.  "He has written to Jane, I suppose," she said, speaking in as
natural a tone as possible.  "There was a letter from him this morning,
but it was to his mother, and I was not expecting to get the news in it
until this evening."

"Oh, I’ll go and get the letter at once," said Mrs. Grant, and ran out
of the room, leaving Lady Brent alone.  She sat quite still, and the
colour that had left her face returned to it again.  When Mrs. Grant
came back, accompanied by Jane, with the precious letter in her hand,
she had quite recovered herself.

Jane was rather a favourite of Lady Brent’s.  She was not in the least
afraid of her, as her elders were apt to be, and talked to her about
Harry in a way that nobody else did.  She was often invited to the
Castle by herself, and was always ready to go, though it might have been
thought that her inclinations towards bodily activity would have made it
a doubtful pleasure to have to sit and talk to an elderly woman.
Probably she was the only person in the world of whom Lady Brent would
not feel jealous because she had received this news first.

"I thought I’d like to bring you the letter myself," said Jane, and
stood by her side as she read it.

Jane was fourteen now.  Probably no two years in her life could bring as
great a change as the last two had brought to her.  She had grown tall
for her age, but was still slim and very upright.  There was a good deal
of the child in her still, and even a little of the boy, for her figure
was not so rounded as with most girls of her age, and her taste for
boyish activities was still strong.  But there was more of the budding
woman. She was gentler in speech and manner than of old, and her face,
if not yet her figure, was wholly feminine.  Her early promise of beauty
was in course of being fulfilled. She was very pretty, with her fair
hair and wide grey eyes, and it was no longer an effort to make her tidy
in her dress.  Her skirts were well below her knees, and in her more
active moments she took some pains to keep them there.


"My dear Jane,

"I shall be home almost as soon as you get this.  I suppose you know
I’ve been serving as a trooper all this time, but now I’ve got a
commission.  I shall be in London for a day or two to get my kit, and
then I shall come down to Royd with a month’s leave in front of me.
Hurrah!  You and I and Pobbles will have lots of fun together.  I hope
you’ve kept the cabin in good repair.

"Love from
       "HARRY."


Lady Brent took a long time to read it, while Jane stood and looked at
her.  When she looked up at last, Jane said: "I wish I’d known that his
other letter hadn’t been written to you.  I would have brought this up
at once.

"Thank you, dear," said Lady Brent.  "Of course he doesn’t know that his
mother is not at Royd.  He would have thought that we should all get the
news at the same time.  Perhaps he will have told her more exact dates,
if he knows them.  At any rate it cannot be long now before we see him
again."

She was completely herself now, and no one who had not known her would
have guessed that the news she had received meant very much to her.  She
rose almost immediately and took her leave.  She kissed Jane as she said
good-bye, which was an unusual attention, and perhaps meant that she
bore her no grudge for having received the news first.

"I think it’s rather horrid of Mrs. Brent to be away," said Jane, when
she had gone.  "Of course he would expect to find her waiting here for
him."

Mrs. Grant was sometimes puzzled in her dealings with this growing
daughter of hers.  She was becoming more of a companion to her, and now
Pobbles had gone to school could be treated less as a child.  But it was
not always easy to decide how far she should be let into the confidences
of her elders.  She seemed to have acquired a prejudice against Mrs.
Brent, which had hitherto been treated as something not to be
encouraged.

"It has made it difficult not to be able to tell Harry anything of what
has happened here," Mrs. Grant said. "She went away to try to get some
nursing, and——"

"A fat lot of nursing she’s done!" interrupted Jane. "I don’t believe
she’s tried at all.  She’s just enjoying herself in London.  I don’t
suppose Lady Brent cares for her much, but it’s rather hard lines to
leave her all by herself."

Mrs. Grant was much of the same opinion, since Mrs. Brent had taken no
steps, as far as was known, to embark upon the nursing career which she
had announced as her intention; but she was not quite ready to agree
with Jane’s criticism of her.  "It isn’t only she that has left Lady
Brent," she said.

"Mr. Wilbraham is doing some work," said Jane, "and Harry had to go.  If
he hadn’t gone when he did, he would have gone by this time."

"I don’t want to criticize him," said her mother. "It will be all over
now, but I think it has been hard lines, as you say, on Lady Brent that
she hasn’t been able to write to him."

"She understands that," said Jane.  "We’ve talked about it."

Mrs. Grant knew that Lady Brent had, surprisingly, made something of a
confidante of Jane.  She was pleased that it was so, but did not like to
ask questions about her confidences.

Jane, however, seemed ready to give them.  "We think," she said, "that
until he was made an officer he wouldn’t want anybody to know that he
was Sir Harry Brent, or different from any other soldier.  It would make
it difficult if he had letters from home.  She’s proud of him for it.
So am I."

Mrs. Grant was touched by the "we."  Evidently Jane was of some comfort
to the lonely self-contained lady, if they discussed matters in that
way.  She kissed her.  "I expect it’s something like that, darling," she
said.  "Anyhow, it’s all over now, and he’ll be just like any other
young man.  You must go back to lessons now."

"I don’t think he’s like other young men," said Jane, as she reluctantly
prepared to leave.  "I think it’s much finer to go through all the
hardships.  It’s like pioneering. I expect what we used to talk about in
the log cabin had something to do with it."

"Did you tell Lady Brent about that, darling?"

"Oh, yes.  And she quite agreed with me.  Lady Brent understands things.
I think Mrs. Brent is a rotter.  Good-bye, mother dear."

Mrs. Brent’s telegram came that evening, and she herself the next day.
According to his letter, Harry might be in England almost as soon as it
reached her. He would come down to Royd as soon as possible, but he must
be in London for a few days to get his kit.  He would wire from there.
But he did not tell her where she could communicate with him.

She was all on edge, and Lady Brent must have exercised the strongest
control over herself to act with her accustomed calmness and suavity.
Suavity had not always been the note of her intercourse with her
daughter-in-law, but it was clear that this was not the time when
friction between them could be allowed to appear. If she did not
exercise restraint it was quite certain that Mrs. Brent wouldn’t.  She
seemed to be anxious to show that she had thrown off anything like
submission.  She was noticeably less well-mannered than she had been,
though she bore herself as if she had acquired more importance.  She
brought with her a great many expensive clothes, and talked about them a
good deal.  She dressed elaborately, and in a style to which no
objection could be made if elaborate clothes were accepted as suitable
for wear in the country and at this time; but they did not improve her.
Lady Brent ventured upon a hint that Harry might like better to see her
as she had been before, but she flared up in offence, and let it be
known that she had learnt a lot since she had been in London.  Harry
also would have learnt something; the old days at Royd were over.

Underneath all her new independence, and almost aggressive spirit, her
longing for Harry was plain.  She seemed to have resigned herself to his
absence, and to have gained some satisfaction out of her life in London,
of which she had remarkably little to tell.  But now that he was coming
home again her maternal instinct arose to swamp everything else.  At the
end of the twenty-four hours Lady Brent spent alone with her she was far
nearer to being what she had been before she had left Royd.  She had to
have some sympathetic ear into which to pour her doubts and complaints
and disappointments. If only Harry had told her where he was to be in
London, she could have met him there.  Oh, it was hard to think that he
might be there now and she could not go to him.  When did Lady Brent
think they might expect him?  She asked her this again and again, and
made innumerable confused calculations, based upon this or that idea
that came into her head.  She was very trying, but she had to be put up
with.  She was Harry’s mother, whatever she might have made of herself.

On the day after her arrival Lady Avalon came, with her daughter, but
still there was no word from Harry.

They came in time for tea, and the two older ladies retired to talk
together afterwards.  Mrs. Brent was left to entertain the girl.  In the
few minutes’ conversation Sidney had with her mother before dinner she
told her that unless she gained some relief from that companionship she
really couldn’t stay at Royd.  "She’s a perfectly appalling woman,
mother," she said.  "How on earth she can have had a son like Harry, if
he’s anything like he used to be as a child, I can’t understand."

"I don’t think she’s so bad as all that, dear," said Lady Avalon.  "From
what Lady Brent tells me, she’s been running with the people she comes
from, and of course they can’t be much.  That’s admitted, though I don’t
know anything about them.  She seemed a quiet enough little thing when I
was here last.  She’ll settle down again."

"I hope she will.  But it’s a poor lookout for me if I’ve got to make a
bosom friend of her, while you and Lady Brent are putting your heads
together.  Really, darling, I don’t think I can stand it."

"Harry may be home any day, and until he does come we can spend most of
our time at Poldaven, though of course we mustn’t just make a
convenience of being here.  The Vicarage people are dining to-night, so
you won’t have her on your hands entirely.  The Vicar is David Grant,
the novelist.  I haven’t read any of his novels, but I believe a lot of
people do.  I expect he’s a clever man, and will cheer us up a bit."

"I should think we shall have quite an hilarious evening—you and Lady
Brent talking together, and me and Mrs. Brent and the Vicarage people."

"I thought you rather liked Vicarage people.  Don’t make yourself
superior to your company, there’s a good girl.  It’s the worst sort of
form—especially in the country."

Whatever the allusion to Vicarage people may have meant, it sent Sidney
out of the room with a blush on her cheeks, and Lady Avalon rang for her
maid with a look on her face as of one who had been rather clever.

Sidney had grown into a pretty girl, though she was considered the ugly
duckling of the handsome family to which she belonged.  She was tall,
and had not yet quite grown out of the youthful awkwardness of her
stature. But there was more character in her well-shaped features than
her sisters could boast of, though their widely known beauty had
descended upon them in early childhood and suffered no relapse through
the years of their growth.  They inherited their good looks from both
sides of the family, but Sidney was the only one of the girls who
derived more from her father.  Perhaps on that account she was his
favourite, and he was accustomed to prophesy that she would beat them
all in looks when she really grew up.  She had kind eyes and a smiling
mouth, to which her decisively jutting chin gave character.  Her skin
was very fair and clear, and her abundant brown hair had just a touch of
auburn in it.  There were some to whom the hint of gaucherie in her
carriage gave her an added charm.  It spoke of health and youth and
vigour, and went well with her free unafraid speech and her frequent
smile.

Grant, always on the lookout for new types of female beauty, but a
little inclined to make all his heroines alike, studied her closely that
evening at dinner and was enchanted with her.  If he had known that she
had been looked upon as an ugly duckling in her family it would almost
have given him a novel ready made. Mrs. Grant liked her too, and as they
walked home across the park, cheered by the unaccustomed pleasures of
society, they made a match between her and Harry there and then, as the
Pawle and Brent nurses had done in their early childhood.

"I shouldn’t be surprised," said Grant, "if Lady Brent had asked her
here with that idea in her mind. It’s the first time in the three years
we’ve been here that any young person has stayed at the Castle.  I dare
say Lady Avalon is in it too.  They’re old friends, and they seem to
have their heads together a good deal."

"Lady Brent didn’t know Harry was coming home when she told us they were
coming," said Mrs. Grant. "It’s a coincidence, but perhaps a fortunate
one.  They played together as children—Harry and Lady Sidney. It would
be rather a pretty match—except that Harry is so young—not twenty yet."

"You think he ought to wait a few years and marry somebody much younger,
eh?  Somebody about the age of Jane."

Mrs. Grant sighed.  "I shouldn’t be a mother if I hadn’t thought of
that," she said.  "And Jane will be quite as pretty as Lady Sidney when
she grows up.  But Harry is so sweet and natural with the children that
it would be a pity to spoil it by thinking of something that would make
it all quite different.  He wouldn’t be what he is if he were to think
of Jane as anything but a child, for some years yet."

"I think you’re right," said her husband.  "Of course I’ve built a few
castles in the air.  I shouldn’t be a father if I hadn’t.  But I expect
he’ll marry young; he seems to me that sort of boy, somehow.  I don’t
think he could do better than marry Lady Sidney.  She’s very interested
in the idea of him.  She talked to me a lot about the time they used to
play together as children."

"She said she’d come down to-morrow morning.  I think she wants to get
away from Mrs. Brent, though I shouldn’t wonder if Mrs. Brent came with
her.  I think she wants to show me as many of her new clothes as
possible.  She hasn’t improved up in London.  I don’t like her nearly as
much as I did."

"I never cared for her much," said Grant.  "She’s a common little thing,
however she may dress herself up to disguise it.  I’ve sometimes
wondered what Harry will think about her when he does come home."


Lady Sidney came down to the Vicarage the next morning, and Mrs. Brent
came with her, as Mrs. Grant had anticipated.  But apparently they each
wanted to get rid of the other, for directly Mrs. Brent had greeted Mrs.
Grant she said: "I want to have a long talk alone with you.  I wonder if
you’d spare Jane from her lessons to show Lady Sidney the log cabin that
Harry built with the children.  I’ve been telling her about it and she
said she’d like to see it."

Sidney laughed.  "I don’t want to be in the way," she said, "and I’d
like to have a walk with Jane, if she can be spared."

Jane was fetched.  She received Mrs. Brent’s effusive greeting with
unsmiling coolness and looked Sidney over very critically when she was
introduced to her.  The inspection was apparently satisfactory, for she
went off with some alacrity to change her shoes; but that may have been
because she was relieved at getting off the rest of the morning’s
lessons.

The two girls set out across the garden, where the Vicarage baby, now
getting on for three, was asleep under a tree, as before.  They stopped
to look at it, and Sidney behaved in such a way as to give Jane a good
opinion of her.  "She’s a darling," she said, as they went on.  "I do
hope she’ll be awake when we come back.  I love to hear them talk at
that age, don’t you?"

Jane said she did, and recounted specimens of the Vicarage baby’s wit,
over which they both laughed freely.  They were good friends by the time
they reached the log cabin.

Jane unlocked the door and waited for admiration, which was given.
"I’ve kept it very tidy and clean ever since Harry went away," she said,
looking solemnly at Sidney.  "I hope he won’t have got too old to like
it. He wrote to me, you know, to say he was coming back, and he
mentioned the log cabin.  I expect he’ll be pleased to see it again."

There was half an appeal in her voice.  Sidney looked at her quickly.
"I’m quite sure he will," she said. "He’s not so very old, after
all—just as old as I am, in fact, and I’m not a bit too old to
appreciate it."

"Ah, but the war may have made a great difference in him."

"It doesn’t make as much as you’d think."  She hesitated for a moment,
and said: "I know a man who has been through it all from the beginning.
He enlisted as Harry did, and had a rough time of it at first.  He’s
been wounded too—rather badly.  But he’s much the same as he was
before."

Jane looked at her.  "You knew Harry when he was little, didn’t you?"
she asked.  "We only knew him first three years ago.  He seemed old then
to me and my brother, but he was only sixteen."

"Let’s sit down somewhere and I’ll tell you all about it," said Sidney.
"I don’t think I want to walk any more, unless you do."

They sat down on the bench under the eaves, and Sidney told her about
that summer when she and Harry had played together as children.  Jane
kept her large eyes fixed upon her all the time, and they seemed to be
searching her and adding her up.  By and by her solemnity relaxed and
she smiled when Sidney did, and asked her questions here and there.
When the story came to an end it was plain that she had made up her mind
about her, and that her opinion was favourable.

This was made more evident still when she said calmly: "I expect Harry
will fall in love with you, if you’re here when he comes home."

Sidney looked at her in surprise, and then laughed. "What an
extraordinary girl you are!" she said. "You think of everything."

Jane laughed too.  She was feeling more and more at home with Sidney,
who did not treat her as a child. "Would you like him to?" she asked.

Sidney was unexpectedly silent and serious, and when she did speak, she
did not answer Jane’s question. "Would you like to be friends?" she
asked.  "Real friends, I mean, so that we could tell each other things."

"Of course I should," said Jane.  "But I expect you’ve got lots of
friends older than me, that you know much better.  I’ve got hardly
anybody, because there aren’t many people about here, and we don’t go
away very often."

"I always know at once if I’m going to like a person," said Sidney, "and
I knew I should like you when I first saw you.  We might see a good deal
of one another when we come down to Poldaven; and I shall want a friend.
I think it’s going to be rather difficult."

Jane was enchanted at the offer of friendship.  She admired Sidney
tremendously, and to be on equal terms with her gave her a most
gratifying sense of having left her childhood behind her.  "Why do you
think it is going to be difficult?" she asked, concealing her
gratification.

"Oh, because, because!  Well, because of what you said just now.  If you
haven’t seen it already you will very soon.  It’s what I’ve been brought
down here for. They don’t say so, of course, but it’s plain enough to
see.  Of course I shall like Harry awfully, if he’s anything like he
used to be.  But you see I’m in love with somebody else.  That’s the
trouble."

This was a confession worth having as an introduction to the proffered
friendship.  Jane didn’t know whether to be glad or sorry to hear it.
She had accepted Sidney as a suitable person for Harry to fall in love
with, but perhaps it would be of some advantage if she didn’t fall in
love with him.  There remained, however, the question of his falling in
love with her.

"Perhaps Harry ought to know that," she said after a pause.

Sidney looked at her and laughed again.  "You know Harry better than I
do now," she said.  "Do you think he’s likely to fall in love with me?"

Jane considered this carefully.  "I don’t know; I think I should if I
was him," she said.

"It’s very sweet of you to say that," said Sidney, becoming serious
again.  "Perhaps I will tell him; or perhaps you shall.  Then we shall
all be happy and comfortable together.  I should like to have Harry as a
friend, and I don’t in the least see why one shouldn’t have a man as a
friend when you’re in love with another man.  Do you?"

Jane had not considered the subject, but was pleased to have her opinion
asked.  It drew her to Sidney more than anything—this treatment of her
as if her opinion on a grown-up subject was worth having.  "Not if it’s
quite understood," she said, decisively.  "I’m really rather glad that
you are in love with somebody else, because Harry is already my friend,
and if you are going to be, then I shall be very well off—much better
than I should be if you and Harry wanted to be together and to leave me
out of it.  I don’t mind telling Harry, if you like.  It might be rather
awkward for you to do it, as it would look as if you were giving him a
warning.  Who shall I say you’re in love with?"

Sidney laughed merrily and gave her a sudden embrace. "I can’t help it,"
she said, "you’re such a darling.  Well, he’s a Captain in the Grenadier
Guards, and his name is Noel Chancellor."

"That’s the regiment that Harry was to have gone into," said Jane.  "His
father and grandfather belonged to it."

"Did they?" said Sidney.  "Some of Noel’s people were in it too.  It
sounds all right, but as a matter of fact Noel was a schoolmaster when
the war broke out. He’s the son of our vicar at home.  When the war is
over he is going to be a schoolmaster again.  So you see how it is."

In her general ignorance of the world outside the immediate parish of
Royd, Jane didn’t quite see how it was.  She asked kindly after Noel
Chancellor and was given a pleasing impression of a handsome athletic
young man, who had played cricket for Marlborough and Oxford and Notts,
and had been happily engaged at a health resort on the East Coast of
Kent, when the war broke out, in teaching thirty or so delightful boys
under the age of fourteen to play cricket as it ought to be played, and
to wrestle with the elements of Greek and Latin in their spare time.

"Considering that all the people who think themselves somebody send
their children to be educated in schools like Noel was in," said Sidney.
"I should have thought a person like me would have been just the touch
that was wanted to make it still more of a success.  But of course
mother doesn’t see it in that light.  It’s all very trying."

Jane’s affectionate heart went out to this tale of crossed love, the
first that had ever come within her ken outside the pages of her
father’s novels, which she read dutifully but without much interest.
She thought it quite natural that Lady Avalon should want Sidney to
marry Harry, as both of them had titles, but did not say this for fear
of being laughed at.  She wanted to be a real help and comfort to her
new friend.

"I am sure it will come all right in the end," she said.  "Perhaps when
we tell Harry he will be able to do something."



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                              *THE RETURN*


Harry came home a few days after Lady Avalon and Sidney had come to
Royd, and two days before they had been going away.  But they were
persuaded, without much difficulty, to stay a little longer.  At least,
Lady Avalon accepted Lady Brent’s invitation to prolong their visit, and
informed Sidney that she had done so.  "You see how it is," said Sidney
to Jane, with whom she was now fast friends, much to the maturing of
Jane’s behaviour, but not to the spoiling of her, as her parents
gratefully remarked.

"She’s a thoroughly nice unaffected girl," said Grant, "and she’ll be a
nice friend for Jane, especially if what we think is going to happen
does happen."

"I’m not sure she’s not putting ideas into Jane’s head," said Miss
Minster.  "I know they have secrets together, and I’ve a sort of notion
that they’re on the eternal subject of love."

"Well," said Grant, "girls will talk about love, I suppose, and if they
talk nicely I don’t know that there’s much harm done."

"Jane ought to have learnt how to talk nicely about love by this time,"
said Miss Minster, with obvious reference.  "I think Lady Sidney is all
right really, or I should perhaps advise you both differently.  Whether
she’s going to set her cap at Harry or not I don’t know, and I don’t
suppose Jane would tell me if I asked her. But I’m pretty sure that they
have discussed it."

Mrs. Grant listened to this without remark, but was a little disturbed
at the idea of Jane having secrets which she would not impart to Miss
Minster.  Would she impart them to her?  It would mark a stage if Jane
were not ready to tell her everything.

She was considering the advisability of approaching Jane on the matter
when Jane approached her.  "I’ve got a secret with Sidney, mother," she
said, in her abrupt but open way.  "It’s something she’s told me about
herself.  She says she’d rather I didn’t tell you just yet, if you don’t
mind, but she doesn’t mind my telling you that there is a secret.  You
don’t mind, do you?"

"What a lot of ’minds’!" said Mrs. Grant.  "No, darling, I don’t mind at
all, unless it’s something that you think you ought to tell me."

"Oh, no, it’s nothing of that sort," said Jane.  "It’s something about
herself which she doesn’t want people to know yet.  I’m going to tell it
to Harry when he comes home, so that we can all three enjoy ourselves
together."

Mrs. Grant, with the idea in her head that Sidney had confided to Jane
that she retained a tender memory of Harry which might become more
tender still, was a little surprised at this way of putting it; but it
did not take her long to understand the truth when Jane had left her.
She smiled and kept her own counsel, and liked Sidney all the better;
for she must have known that if Jane told her that there was a secret
she would guess what the secret was, little as Jane might suspect it.

Harry sent a wire in the morning to say that he was coming by a train
that would arrive in the late afternoon.  Only Mrs. Brent drove to the
station to meet him, but they were all waiting for him in front of the
Castle, the Grants inclusive, and there was scarcely a villager who was
not somewhere on the road, or in the more public parts of the park to
see him drive by.

His smiling excitement at this greeting from old friends—the only
friends he had had up till two years before—made him seem at first
exactly what he had been.  But there was none of the little group at the
Castle, except Lady Avalon and Sidney, who had not the impression, after
the first greeting, of his having become much older.  His fair boy’s
beauty had developed into the sunburnt hardness of a man.  He was
extraordinarily handsome in his smart khaki kit, but he looked years
older than his age, which was not much over nineteen; and his speech and
manner had altered. It would be another eighteen months before he would
be legally his own master and the master of his ancient Castle, and all
that went with it; but he seemed to have come into the house as its
master, and to give it a meaning that it had never had while it had been
ruled by a woman.

It was not too late for tea, which provided an opportunity for everybody
of getting used to the new Harry, as they sat on the terrace and made
play with their cups and conversation.  There were adjustments to be
made, and the necessity for them to be covered up. Harry talked freely
to everybody.  His manner was perfect with his grandmother, to whom he
showed deference, while she, of course, behaved with her usual calm and
let nothing appear of all that she was thinking. Mrs. Brent kept her
eyes on him all the time, and had an air almost of bewilderment.  She
did not try to assert herself, but accepted gratefully the notice he
gave her from time to time.  Lady Avalon was the only person present who
asked him questions about his experiences, but it soon became evident
that he had nothing to tell that was personal to himself.  He answered
the questions, but with a slight change in the frank manner of his
speech when they touched upon his own experiences apart from the
operations in which he had taken part. His mother told Mrs. Grant
afterwards that he had said to her during the drive that he wanted to
forget everything that had happened since he had left home—at least he
didn’t want to talk about it.  They had yet to learn how far his
experiences had changed him, and to gather whether or no they were such
as to have left a painful mark upon his life; but he would give them no
help in coming to their conclusions.  His life in the ranks was to
remain as it had been, a sealed book to them.

With Sidney Harry was friendly, but no more.  They talked a little of
their childhood, and laughed over some of their memories, but it was
not, apparently, to be the basis of any special degree of intimacy
between them. Sidney retired a little into her shell after a time, and
watched.

Harry was more like his old self with Jane than with anybody.  Beyond a
single remark about her growth he had not shown himself aware of any
change in her.  He seemed to want to take up their friendship at exactly
the place where it had stopped.  He asked her many questions about
Pobbles, and said he would write to him. His manner towards her was that
of a grown man to a child whom he loves.  Even Lady Avalon did not
mistake it for anything else, for she told Lady Brent afterwards that it
was rather extraordinary that he should not see that Jane was already
growing into a very pretty girl, with the implication that the fact
might dawn upon him as time went on.

Jane herself showed a high but modest pride in the value he put upon
her.  "Now you see what he’s like," she told Sidney.  "When we three can
be together and enjoy ourselves—well, we shall enjoy ourselves.  I
consider that Harry is about the nicest friend that anybody can have.
He doesn’t forget you when he’s away."

"He hasn’t forgotten _you_," said Sidney.  "I’m beginning to wonder
whether I shan’t be a little in the way."

Jane showed surprise at this, and Sidney laughed and said: "Darling old
thing you are!  You don’t know what you’re worth; but you will in a year
or two. Anyhow, I’m not jealous of you, and I like Harry for remembering
his old friends and not wanting to drop them for new ones.  Of course I
knew him before you did, but not as he is now.  He’s older than I should
have thought, and I think he looks rather sad.  You’ve got to cheer him
up, and if I’m wanted to help I shall be quite ready."

"Of course you’ll be wanted to help," said Jane. "You’ll be seeing more
of him, for one thing, as you will be staying in the house.  I suppose
you won’t mind my being his _chief_ friend though, if you like somebody
else better."

"I should be a horrid sort of creature if I did," said Sidney.  "You
won’t suffer from me when you’re not here."

Harry and Sidney strolled together in the garden after dinner, with the
full concurrence of their elders, except possibly of Mrs. Brent, who had
not yet recovered from her air of slight bewilderment, and was quieter
than she had been for the last few days.

They talked about Jane, and for the first time Harry seemed to regard
Sidney with interest.  Hitherto he had been merely friendly with her on
the surface, as with one who was there but didn’t matter much.  "Oh,
yes, we’re real friends," she said, with her free and pleasant smile.
"I suppose you can only see that she’s a child, but I’ve never treated
her like one.  I began like that because girls of that age love being
talked to as if they were grown up, but I very soon found out what a lot
there was in her.  If she’s a child in some ways still, as of course she
is, it makes her all the more fascinating. She’s one in a thousand.
She’ll make all the difference to me down here, if I can get hold of her
sometimes."

"She’s a real person," Harry said.  "If you and she have made friends it
will be jolly for all three of us. We can all be friends together."

"That’s what Jane wants," said Sidney.  "She’s devoted to you, and I
believe she’s also devoted to me, though not so much so.  We can go and
get hold of her to-morrow morning, can’t we?  She has a holiday on
Saturday."

"Oh yes.  I’m very glad you want to.  I was half afraid you might think
she was too young for you."

"I suppose you mean that you were half afraid you’d have to dance
attendance on me, when you’d rather have been with Jane; but you see you
need fear nothing of that sort."

They looked at one another.  There was just light enough to catch an
expression of face.  Then they both laughed, and became friends from
that moment.

"We’d settled that Jane was to tell you," said Sidney, "but I think I
might as well do it myself.  I’m engaged to somebody, but the engagement
is not smiled upon. In fact it isn’t recognized at all, and can’t be
spoken of.  But Jane and I thought that if you knew of it it would make
things more comfortable all round for us three."

Harry asked her questions and showed a friendly sympathy towards her
love affair.  But the idea of it seemed to make him rather sad too, and
Sidney did not make the mistake of thinking that his sadness was due to
any disappointment created by what she had told him. Indeed her
information had cleared the air, which held more of friendliness and
companionship in it than before, as if he were relieved at having it
quite understood that he would not be expected to make love to her, but
short of that would give her all the friendship that she wanted, and be
glad to take in return all that she had to give to him.

She had a good deal to give him.  That baby’s friendship which seemed to
have meant nothing to him had kept him alive in her heart.  He was not
quite like other men to her.  Something of his childhood lingered about
him, though he had advanced so far on the hard road of manhood, and but
for her memories of him would have seemed to her much older than his
years.  She felt the desire to encourage in him those gleams of boyish
laughter and irresponsibility which had once or twice shone out through
the half-weary indifference of his attitude.  She thought that he must
have been through a harsh disillusioning experience, and was too tired
in spirit to accept all at once the freedom of his release. Her own
lover, who was some years older than Harry, had told her that it needed
a good deal of resolution and self-hardening to go through the ranks,
and that sometimes only the remembrance of her had kept him up to it.
She thought she knew more than other girls were likely to know what it
must have meant to Harry, who did not seem even to want to speak of it.
The maternal instinct which is in all women drew her to sympathy with
him.  She and Jane between them would get rid of that sadness and
tiredness that lay over him.  If Jane was too young, and she too
occupied with somebody else to give him the consolation that would
quickly heal such wounds as he was suffering from, he would still,
surely, respond to their affection, and forget his troubles.  She must
not talk too much about her own happiness.  That seemed to depress him,
kind as he was about it.  Of course it was love he wanted, though he
might not know it.  It was a pity that Jane was not a few years older,
or that she herself was the only unmarried one of all her sisters.  She
did not suppose that there was anybody else in these parts, from what
she remembered of them, who would be good enough for Harry.  But perhaps
it was just as well.  She and he and Jane would enjoy themselves
together, and show the world, if the world happened to take notice and
be interested, that a man and two girls could be the best of friends
with no question of love affecting their intercourse.

Perhaps that evening they might have got further into intimacy, but
Harry had still something to do before he could feel himself free to
take his enjoyment in the youthful companionship that had been so
fortunately provided for him.

"I’m very glad you’re to be here for a bit," he said. "There aren’t many
young people about and it would have been a bit dull for me, though I
should have tried my best to keep it from my mother and grandmother. I
think I must go in and have a talk with Granny now, if you don’t mind.
I haven’t seen her alone since I came back."

But apparently Mrs. Brent had decided that there was to be no talk
between those two alone, as long as she could prevent it.  Lady Avalon
and Sidney said good night soon after ten o’clock, and when they had
gone Mrs. Brent said: "Come out for a little with me, Harry dear.  It’s
quite warm, and I don’t even want a wrap. If you’re tired, as I expect
you are, you can go straight to bed when we’ve just had a little
stroll."

Lady Brent sat like a sphinx.  Harry said: "All right, mother.  But I’m
not tired.  We’ll go out for ten minutes and then I’ll have a little
talk with Granny."

Directly they were in the garden, Mrs. Brent said in a querulous tone:
"Why should you want to have a talk with her?  She took you away from me
a lot when you were a child, but now it’s different.  She ought not to
have any more authority over you than I have."

Harry laughed at her.  "Authority!" he echoed.  "I don’t feel like
anybody having much authority over me now, little mother."  He spoke
tenderly, but there was a hint of impatience in his tone, which she
detected.

"I’m sure I don’t want to direct you in any way," she said.  "I only
want to feel that you’re mine now that you’ve grown up, and not hers.
Nobody in the world loves you as much as I do.  I suppose you’ll marry
some day, and I shan’t grumble at that when the time comes.  But until
then I want to feel that you and I are all in all to one another."

He answered only her reference to his grandmother. "You’re my mother,"
he said.  "In one way you’ve always been more to me than Granny.  But I
owe her a good deal, and I mustn’t forget it.  I haven’t done much for
her since I went away.  Now that I’ve got what I wanted, and have come
back again, I want to make up for that—to both of you."

"It was very cruel of you to cut yourself off from us as you did,
Harry," she said.  "You needn’t have done it.  Even she wouldn’t have
prevented you doing what you wanted to do, when once you’d done it."

"We needn’t talk about that," he said, decisively. "It’s all over now.
It’s what I want to tell her.  You must let me have a little talk with
her when we go in, please, mother."

"You mean you want me to go to bed while you sit and talk to her alone.
Why should you want that? Why shouldn’t I be there too?"

"Well, because you’re not friendly to her, and I want to be—poor old
Granny!  I suppose you’ve never got on well together.  I used to feel
it, though I didn’t think about it much.  I think you both tried to keep
it from me.  I’d much rather you tried to get rid of that feeling,
mother dear.  It makes me unhappy, and you can’t hide it from me any
longer.  After all, Royd is her home. I’m rather sorry you left it.  I
liked to think of it with you and her here, just as it used to be."

"Oh, I couldn’t stay here when you had gone.  It was too much to ask of
anybody.  I suppose she’ll always be here—at least till you come of age
and are master instead of her.  Couldn’t we go away together—I don’t
mean now, but after you’ve been here a little, to London or
somewhere—just you and I together?  I’ve had so little of you, Harry,
all to myself.  All the dull years here, while she has been everything
and I have been nothing, I’ve looked forward to it—to having you to
myself for a little, when you were grown up."

She peered into his face, and saw a frown on it; but when he spoke it
had cleared, and he spoke very kindly. "I may have to go to London
before my leave is up," he said.  "But I should want to go alone.  And I
don’t want to be away from Royd more than I can help. You’ve always
belonged to Royd, mother, ever since I can remember.  When I’m with you
I’d rather be here than anywhere.  Please don’t spoil it for me by
making things difficult with Granny.  I think I’ll go in to her now.  I
mustn’t keep her up late."

She expostulated, plaintively, as they went towards the house together.
She felt that he was slipping from her, and that nothing would be as she
had pictured it, but she had not the self-control to spare him her
complaints and appeals.  He was always kind, but he was firm too, with a
man’s firmness towards a weak and foolish woman.  He had grown
immeasurably in mental stature, and his determination impressed itself
upon her increasingly.  That mention of authority over him with which
she had begun now seemed foolish even to her. As they went into the
house she said: "Of course I don’t want to treat you like a boy any
more.  I only want to be sure that you don’t love anybody better than
me. You do love me best, don’t you, Harry?"

He bent down and kissed her.  "You know I love you, mother," he said.
"Now I’ll go and talk to Granny.  Come and see me when I go to bed—say
in half an hour—as you used to."

That comforted her a little, and she went upstairs, while he went into
the drawing-room where Lady Brent was still sitting where they had left
her.

"Well, Granny dear," he said.  "I thought we’d have a little talk.  I’ve
got things to tell you."

She laid down her work, and looked at him fondly, sitting in a low chair
opposite to her, so young in appearance, as he sat there with his long
legs stretched out, but, as she felt, so old in experience, and so
different from the boy he had been.

"Please don’t think, dear Harry," she said, "that you owe me any
explanation of anything.  I’ve had a long time to think it all out, you
know.  I think I understand most things.  Don’t you want it treated as
if it was all over now, and begin again, much as it was before?  If so,
I want that too.  We’ve got you at home now, and we want to be all happy
together."

His face cleared as he spoke.  "It’s very good of you to put it like
that," he said.  "Yes, of course I want it to be as much as possible
what it used to be as long as I can be here with you.  There’s a good
deal I want to forget."

"I’m afraid you’ve been through a very hard time, Harry."

"Not harder than others, Granny.  It’s not a bad thing to learn what you
have to learn in a hard school. Perhaps you learn it all the quicker."

There was a pause before she said: "It has troubled me a good deal—the
thought of your going straight from the life you lived here into the
ranks.  It wasn’t that that we’d tried to prepare you for."

"Oh, the ranks!" he said.  "You needn’t let that worry you, Granny.  I’m
glad I went into the ranks. I’d rather do it that way than any."

She showed some surprise at this.  "I’ve thought it over and over," she
said.  "But I’ve never thought of it in that way.  It was the roughness
and coarseness I hated for you.  Isn’t that what you want to forget?"

He was silent for a time, looking down.  Then he burst out: "It’s
learning what the beastliness of life is that I want to forget.  That’s
what I’d never known.  I never minded hard work—doing what others do.
And I doubt whether I should have been let down so easily with people
like myself—on the outside, I mean.  No, I was nearer to the men who had
lived simpler lives.  I understood them better than I should have done
the others.  And they were good to me too.  I don’t think I should have
wanted to get a commission if I hadn’t felt I ought to.  I should have
been content to go on till the end of it.  But now it’s all got to begin
again. Oh, don’t let’s talk of it.  I’ve got a month here, where it’s
quiet and clean and beautiful.  Let’s forget what’s past and what’s
coming.  I never meant to talk of it.  I only wanted to tell you what I
was going to do, and to thank you for letting me go my own way."

Poor Lady Brent went to bed that night with something new to think
about.  She could not sleep, and wrote a long letter to Wilbraham in
London.  "We might have thought of that," she wrote in the course of it.
"It wouldn’t have been the little hardships that would trouble him.  He
had prepared himself for all that, with the life out of doors that he
had led here. And he would understand the men he was with, because he
was friends with everybody about here.  I’m sure they must have loved
him too, and all the more because he wasn’t like them.  The others would
have expected him to be like them.  I am full of trouble about him.  It
looks to me now as if we had prepared him for nothing, so as to save him
pain.  Life has come as a shock to him, and he has not got over it yet.
But one thing I’m sure of—he must work it out for himself.  I shall
meddle with him no more.  I am not sure that I have not made a great
mistake."



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                             *CONFIDENCES*


Whatever it was that Lady Brent and Lady Avalon had plotted between
them, it needed no adjustment of Lady Brent’s statement to
Wilbraham—that henceforth she should meddle no more in Harry’s life—to
help or hinder it.  They had only to stand aside and perhaps to
congratulate one another upon the way their desires were being
fulfilled.  Only Mrs. Brent went about with a downcast face and air, and
but for the kindness Harry showed her might as well have been back in
London.  She also wrote to Wilbraham, and told him that Harry and Sidney
seemed to be falling more and more in love with one another every day.

"Of course it’s hard on me," she wrote.  "But it’s what mothers are made
for, I suppose.  You do everything for your children and sink yourself
entirely, and then some girl steps in and takes it all from you.
However, I’m not going to show her that I feel it.  She’s got the better
of me once more.  The girl doesn’t take the slightest trouble about
me—doesn’t think I’m worth it, I suppose—and for myself I don’t care
about her. But she is the right sort of girl for Harry to marry, or at
any rate to fall in love with.  Whatever I am, I’m fair, and I can see
that.  I should hate anybody who would take him away from me, so it
might just as well be her as anybody.  They’re happy together, and Harry
is more like his old self.  I’m sure they’ve not said anything to one
another yet.  They take Jane Grant with them whenever they can get hold
of her, and they wouldn’t want to do that if it had gone very far with
them.  The moment they want to go off by themselves I shall know what to
expect, and I’ll let you know, but I hope you’ll be down here before
then.  We are very glad you are coming.  Harry often talks about you.
How I wish it was all like it used to be!  But it never will be again."

Harry and Sidney rode together, and Harry found a horse for Jane and
taught her to ride.  Lady Avalon had a car at Royd and sometimes they
motored over to Poldaven, where everything was now ready for the
reception of a family of distinction.  But Lady Avalon had gone back to
London, and Sidney stayed on at Royd. There was no talk of her going
away.

Jane could not be always with them.  She had been let off afternoon
lessons, by special request, but had to occupy herself with them in the
mornings.

One hot morning Harry and Sidney motored over to Poldaven Castle.  It
was an old stone house, not very big, which stood on a boldly jutting
cliff with the sea on three sides of it.  There was generally some wind
hereabouts, and there was a strong fresh wind this morning, though among
the woods of Royd it was close and still.

They went down to a little sheltered garden below the house.  It had
been partly hollowed out of the rock, and was partly rock-strewn grass
and gorse and fern tamed into some semblance of ordered ground, but not
too much to take from the charm of its wildness.  Steps cut in the rock
led down to it from above, and steps had been made from it to the sea,
which lay fifty or sixty feet below.  They sat on a stone bench
overlooking the heaving emerald mass of the sea, and the waves breaking
in a high tide against the cliffs and the huge scattered rocks that
littered the shore.

They were very good friends now, these two.  It was Jane who had brought
them together, for she greatly admired both of them, and would not be
content until they admired one another.  So they laughed at her and
affected a wondering awe at each other’s perfections when they were in
her presence; and when they were alone together they sometimes kept up
the game, to prevent themselves falling into sadness over their private
troubles.

They were both a little sad now, as they sat on the sun-warmed rock and
looked out on the surge of the waves.  Nature was so bright and fresh
and happy, and seemed to be inviting a mood to respond to her own. She
could put on this air of perpetual laughing youthfulness, though age-old
and subject to moods very different.  It seemed ungracious not to laugh
and be happy with her.

"It’s lovely here," Sidney said.  "If only things would go right!
You’re the most perfect person in the world, Harry.  I ought to be quite
happy being here with you, but I want somebody else.  I’m wanting him
rather badly just at present."

"Well, you’re everything you ought to be, but I want somebody else too,"
he said.

He rose impulsively and leant against the wall of the little terrace
with one arm resting on it, and looked down at her.  "I’ve thought I’d
tell you for some time," he said.  "I want to tell somebody.  I can’t
tell Jane; she’s too young.  But you’re in the same boat as I am; you’ll
understand.  And we’re friends too, aren’t we?—always have been."

She had appeared startled at his announcement, but her face was soft as
he finished.  "Oh, yes, we’re friends," she said.  "I’m so glad you’ve
told me, Harry. Do you know I’ve wondered sometimes whether there was
somebody.  You so often look—well, you look like I feel. You’re enjoying
yourself, but there’s somebody you’re thinking of all the time who isn’t
there.  Do tell me about it."

He told her about his meeting with Viola on the moor, and how they had
seen one another constantly afterwards and loved one another.  Sidney’s
eyes were kind as she listened, but there was a little frown of
puzzlement on her face.  It was to be supposed that she wanted to
"place" this lovely girl who had come to Harry as a revelation when he
had been only a boy, and whom he adored still.  He had told her nothing
about her so far, except that her father was an artist and they had been
holiday-making at Royd.  There were many questions she wanted to ask.

"Have you got a photograph of her, Harry?" was the first that she asked.
She wanted to satisfy herself that he was not idealizing somebody not
worthy of him.

Half unwillingly he took his case out of his pocket, and Viola’s
photograph out of it.  "It isn’t as beautiful as she is," he said, "but
it’s like her in some ways."

Sidney took the card and looked at it for a long time. It was of Viola
as Harry had first known her, young and sweet and untroubled.

"She’s very lovely," she said, slowly.  Then she looked up at him with a
smile.  "I’m so glad, Harry.  I shouldn’t like to think of you in love
with somebody who wasn’t like that.  But I think she’d have to be, for
you to fall in love with her.  Have you seen her since?"

Yes, he had seen her two or three times before he had been sent abroad,
and he had been with her since he had come back, before he had come to
Royd.  She was in London, working in a government office.  He was going
to London for a few days before his leave was up, and would see her
again after that before he went to France.

He spoke as if he was troubled about it, and she knew why.  But there
was a lot to learn about it yet.  And there was something about the
beginnings of this love affair that she could not quite reconcile with
her knowledge of Harry.

"Of course you’re both frightfully young," she said. "Noel and I are of
an age to get married if they’d let us, but I suppose you could hardly
expect them to think that you were.  But mightn’t they accept your
engagement, and let her be here with you?"

He came and sat on the seat beside her again.  "Of course we shall be
married some day," he said.  "But we never thought about that, or about
what you call an engagement—I mean we didn’t think of it in the way that
older people would.  We were just happy loving each other."

"Oh, I know," she said.  "It’s a lovely time that—perhaps the best of
all.  But afterwards you come down to the earth a little.  I suppose it
has been like that with you, hasn’t it?  There are one’s people to be
considered, and what they are likely to think about it.  I suppose
nobody knows—at Royd."

"Wilbraham does—my tutor, you know.  Nobody else does."

She showed surprise at this.  "Did he find out you were seeing her?" she
asked.

He stirred uneasily.  He did not answer her question directly.  "I don’t
suppose you’d realize quite how it was with me here, before I went
away," he said. "They’d kept me shut up.  I was happy enough, but I knew
absolutely nothing about the world.  From what I’ve learnt since, I know
it must look as if we had met surreptitiously.  Perhaps we did, and yet
it wasn’t like that either.  It was the most natural thing in the world
for us to be together as we were.  At first I even thought of telling my
mother about it.  I don’t know now when it first dawned upon me that
they wouldn’t have approved—or why.  I shouldn’t have cared much if they
had known.  But it was such a beautiful secret between Viola and me; I
didn’t want it to be spoiled by other—older people—coming in."

"Mr. Wilbraham knew," she said.

"He’d seen her.  He knew what she was like.  He’s a dear old thing—full
of understanding and sympathy. I don’t know why he didn’t tell Granny.
I didn’t ask him not to.  I wouldn’t have done that; that would have
looked as if I had done something I was ashamed of. I’ve had an idea
since that he had some sort of feeling that we were two men together,
and it wasn’t for us to be directed in our affairs by a woman.
Something like that.  Granny has always been very much at the head of
things here."

"Yes, I see," she said.  "But now you’re older, Harry; and it has
lasted?  That sort of love, when you’re _very_ young, doesn’t _always_
last, you know. Wouldn’t Lady Brent accept it now?  It would be so
lovely if she could come here, and you could be happy with her as long
as you’re in England.  You wouldn’t have to go away to London to see her
then."

There was silence for a time, except for the noise of the waves on the
rocks, and the plaintive cry of the gulls wheeling above them.  Harry
sat looking on the rocky floor, Sidney out to sea.

"I’ve had to decide such a lot of things for myself lately," he said.
"I’d decided not to do that."

She thought his tone sounded as if he were wavering about his decision.
She did not look at him, but said: "With Noel and me it’s a very
ordinary sort of difficulty. He’s not what they’d call a good match.
But I suppose they won’t hold out if we show that we mean to have our
own way.  If they do, well, I shall wait till I’m twenty-one and marry
him—just like that.  But, of course, it would make a lot of difference
if they smiled on us now, instead of keeping us apart.  The real reason
why we’ve come down here is because if he comes home on leave I should
see him, and they don’t want me to; and partly, I suppose, because they
think you and I might get to like each other, now we’re both grown up.
Why can’t they let us be happy in our own way—the older people?  They’ve
done what they wanted, or if they haven’t they’re probably rather sorry
for it now. I should be very glad if Noel were in the sort of position
that my sisters’ husbands are.  But I shouldn’t love him any better for
it.  It’s love that counts."

"Yes, of course," said Harry.  "Well, both you and I are going to get
what we want by and by.  I suppose we shall have to wait about the same
time for it.  But you never know what’s going to happen to you in these
days.  If I were to get killed, I should have missed something I ought
to have had.  You’d say it wouldn’t make much difference to me, but I
don’t look at it like that; and anyhow it would make a difference to
Viola, all her life."

Her eyes had filled with tears.  "It just doesn’t do to think about
that," she said, "or to talk about it."

He looked at her quickly, and put his hand on hers as it lay on the
stone between them.  "I’m sorry," he said.  "I didn’t mean to be a
brute.  We take it like that, you know; it doesn’t make any difference
to us. Nobody worries about it.  But, of course it’s different for you."

She dried her eyes.  "It won’t happen to Noel or you," she said.  "We
shall all four of us be happy by and by.  But why shouldn’t you be happy
now, Harry? Is it necessary that you should keep it a secret still?"

The troubled look returned to his face.  "I’m different from other men,"
he said.  "Everything was spared me when I was young.  I’ve had to learn
everything since I grew up, and it isn’t a pleasant world to learn in
now.  But whatever I have to do I must do now on my own responsibility.
I should have to ask for Viola to come here.  I couldn’t do that.  When
she comes here, she’ll come of her own right—the right that I shall give
her."

"But if you were to tell them about her, Harry——"

"Yes, that’s what I’ve thought of doing.  But I can’t do that either.
They might accept her, but if they didn’t—it’s like it is with you.
They want something else."

She sighed.  "I’m glad you’ve told me, at any rate," she said.  "It puts
_everything_ right now.  You know about me and I know about you.  I
suppose Jane doesn’t know?"

"No.  And we mustn’t tell her.  I wish I could, but it wouldn’t be fair
on her.  She’ll be the first person I shall tell on that happy day when
I can tell everybody."



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                               *HOLIDAY*


Wilbraham came down to Royd for a week-end visit. It was all he could
spare from his arduous duties.  He was thinner than he had been, but
seemed to have flourished under the severe course of work to which he
had submitted himself.  He seemed harder and more self-reliant.  Lady
Brent saw at the first glance that his old temptation had not troubled
him, or if it had troubled him that he had got the better of it.

Harry drove a dogcart to the station to meet him. The greeting was warm
between them.  Wilbraham looked him up and down.  "I can’t say they’ve
smartened you up," he said, "because you didn’t want it.  But they’ve
turned you into a soldier.  I hope you haven’t forgotten all your
classics."

Harry laughed, but made no reply.  When they had driven out of the
little town and were on the long lonely country road, he said: "I wanted
to see you first.  Of course you’ll be talking me over with Granny.
There are some things I don’t want said."

"If you mean about Viola," said Wilbraham after a pause.  "I’ve kept my
own counsel—and yours—for nearly two years.  I’ve never been quite sure
that I was right to do it.  I believe it might have been better for you
if Lady Brent had known.  But at any rate, I have kept silence, and it
isn’t my affair now.  It’s yours. I quite recognize that."

"Have you seen her?"

"Viola?  Since you came home, you mean.  You know that I saw her
occasionally before.  Yes, I’ve seen her.  Of course she wants you.
You’re going up next week, aren’t you?  Have you arranged that here?"

"Not yet.  I told mother that I should be going to London, but I haven’t
said when yet."

"They won’t like it, I suppose.  You won’t give them any reason for
going.  They’ll think you just want to get away from here to amuse
yourself as other young men do who are home on leave."

"I’m afraid they must think what they like.  I hate all this secrecy—and
deception.  I won’t deceive them more than I can help.  They must let me
go my own way, and not ask questions.  But it’s deception all the same.
Why did you let me in for it?"

"Let you in for it?  _I_ let you in for it!  What on earth do you mean,
Harry?"

"Not you chiefly.  But you were in it.  You kept me knowing nothing.
Supposing it hadn’t been Viola I fell in love with!  Oh, I’ve learnt a
lot since you and I met last.  I know what men are, and I’m not
different from others at bottom, though there’s miles between me and
them in some ways.  It’s Viola I owe everything to—not Granny or mother
or you.  I don’t know how I should have lived through it if it hadn’t
been for her. I should have lost everything that I was."  He spoke more
slowly.  "Viola is everything in the world to me," he said, "everything
in this world or the next.  I want you to understand that.  I loved her
before, but I love her a thousand times more, now that I know.  All
this—Royd, and Granny and mother—everything that it all meant to me, is
nothing to me now, apart from her. Whatever there is that’s real in it—I
can’t explain it, but it’s as if she’d have to give it back to me before
I can make it anything again.  If you can see that, then you may be able
to help a little.  Viola is to come first in everything, but until it’s
all straightened out I want Granny—and mother—to be as little troubled
about me as possible.  Make it look natural to them, my going to London;
don’t let them think that I’m tired of them, or of Royd.  I’m not, only
it’s all very little to me beside Viola."

"I think you’re unjust to us," said Wilbraham.  "Say we hadn’t prepared
you for what you’ve been through—what nobody could have foreseen."

"Oh, it would have been just the same if I’d gone straight to
Sandhurst—perhaps worse—if I hadn’t known Viola."

"Well, that’s where you’re unjust.  It was only Viola—or somebody like
her—that you could have fallen in love with, as you did.  We’d done that
for you."

Harry thought this over.  Wilbraham breathed more freely the longer his
silence lasted.  He recognized with gratitude that old sense of fairness
and reasonableness which had never been absent in his dealings with
Harry. "It’s what you have to think of when you feel inclined to blame
your grandmother," he said.

"I don’t think I’m inclined to blame her," Harry answered to this.  "I’m
very sorry for her.  That’s why I want to let her down as easily as I
can.  Afterwards everything will be right for her, and she’ll see—she’s
quite wise enough—that it was right that I should take my life into my
own hands.  That’s what I’m going to do.  I had to do it once before."

"She accepted that, you know."

"Yes, in a wonderful way, I think.  And she’ll accept Viola.  But not
now.  I should have to ask her for Viola, and I’m not going to do that.
Besides, she’s got other ideas in her head for me."

"Lady Sidney, I suppose you mean.  From what your mother has written,
you seem to want her to think that her wishes are being carried out."

"Sidney and I understand one another.  She knows about Viola.  I’m very
glad she’s here.  I couldn’t have stayed here without her and little
Jane.  I suppose the beastly world would say that I’m just amusing
myself with a pretty girl, as I can’t be with the girl I love. They
might even think there’s some danger in it.  But the world doesn’t know
love as I know it."  He turned to Wilbraham with a smile.  "What you
did, my friend, you and Granny between you, was to unfit me for the
society of men.  After being with nobody but men for all this time, I’m
glad enough to have two girls as my friends before I go back to it.  As
for Granny, she’s arranged all that for me, as she’s used to arrange
everything, and if she’s disappointed with the outcome of it, I’m afraid
it can’t be helped.  It’s just that arranging that I have to make my
stand against, with as little bother about it as possible."

"I’ve said already, and I’ll say it again, that you’re hard on Lady
Brent.  I fully believe that if you were to tell her about
Viola—now—she’d accept it.  Then all the secrecy you say you hate would
be over."

"I think it’s quite possible that she might.  I don’t think my mother
would.  In any case, there’d be questions and difficulties.  Viola would
be discussed and reckoned up in a way I can’t bear to think of.  When
the time comes I shall bring Viola here and say: ’This is the girl I
love, and she loves me, though I’m not worth anything beside her.’  Then
there’ll be no questions and no difficulties, and Viola will take her
place here, and we shall be happy for the rest of our lives."

"You mean that she’ll take Lady Brent’s place here, I suppose.  It’s no
good blinking matters."

Harry laughed at him.  "You always were a persistent old thing," he
said, "but I’m very glad to see you again.  Tell me about Viola, and
what she said to you."

Wilbraham found himself, somewhat to his surprise in spite of the
preparation he had had, in an atmosphere of serenity, and almost of
gaiety.  There had been nothing like it in all the years he had lived at
Royd Castle. He told himself that unless he had known how it was with
Harry he would certainly have thought that the pleasure he obviously
took in Sidney’s society was leading to something else.  The Grants were
there when he arrived.  It was a little intimate friendly happy party of
which no single member seemed to have a care upon his or her shoulders.
Only Mrs. Brent seemed rather out of the stream.  Wilbraham saw that he
would be invited on the first opportunity to listen to the tale of Mrs.
Brent’s dissatisfaction.

It was Grant, however, to whom he first talked alone, walking in the
garden.  Grant could see nothing on the horizon but a prospective
marriage between Sir Harry Brent and Lady Sidney Pawle, which appeared
to him eminently as one that should give satisfaction to all parties
concerned.

"Of course they won’t want to be married yet awhile," he said, "but
we’re expecting an engagement any day.  I must say that it has all
turned out in a most extraordinarily satisfactory way.  Supposing the
boy had done what his father did!  He’d seen nobody here; he might very
well have got taken in by somebody who wouldn’t have been the right sort
of person for him to marry when he cut himself loose.  And there was
just the chance of this one girl being here when he came home. One is
inclined to think of Lady Brent managing everything, but she didn’t
actually manage that.  It just came about."

Wilbraham listened to all this, his own thoughts running all the time.
Sidney and Jane and Harry were in another part of the garden, out of
sight, but not out of hearing.  A burst of laughter punctuated the close
of the Vicar’s speech.  "Wouldn’t they want to get away by themselves if
it’s as you think?" Wilbraham asked.

"Ah, my boy, you don’t recognize the march of the great passion," said
Grant.  "I’ve loved watching those three together, because it is all
going as I should have expected."

"Copy in it," suggested Wilbraham.

"Well, that’s your way of putting it.  But of course one takes in
everything that passes before one’s eyes, and if it doesn’t come out
exactly like it, it’s——"

"Near enough to look like it.  Well, I suppose you’ve made a study of
it, and all the old women who read your immortal works will shiver down
their spines and say, ’It was just like that with me.’  But I’d rather
take Jane’s opinion about it than yours."

"Would you?  Well, Jane’s having the time of her life.  They’re awfully
nice to her.  Of course they’re just in the state when it’s gratifying
to have somebody like Jane with them, who thinks there never was anybody
like either of them.  They flatter each other through her."

"Oh, that’s how it’s going to be worked out, is it? The old women will
love that.  It’s a new touch, and they’ll wish they’d thought of it for
themselves, in time. Did Jane tell you it was like that, or was it your
own mighty brain?"

"You’re jealous of my success, Wilbraham.  But I don’t mind your jibes.
I don’t write for the highbrows like you, and I do touch the hearts of
thousands.  Jane talks to her mother.  I shouldn’t expect her to talk to
me about it."

"Well, what does Mrs. Grant say?  She’s got some sense."

"She keeps rather quiet about it.  I think she’s just thankful that
Harry has somebody to keep him bright and cheerful while he’s at home.
You made a mistake, you know, before, in not letting him have young
people to play with."

"He had your two."

"As it happened, yes.  But they were only children. Jane is older now,
but not old enough, fortunately, to have the danger of complications.
Apart altogether from the question of a love affair with Lady Sidney, I
believe it’s the best thing that could happen for him to have those two
with him while he’s here.  It’s an awful welter of blood and horror out
there, you know, Wilbraham. None of the young fellows who come home talk
much about it, but it doesn’t need much imagination to see what a
healing process it is for anybody like Harry to spend a few weeks with
people like those two girls as his chief companions, in a quiet lovely
place like this."

"Now you’re talking sense yourself for a change. Here’s Mrs. Brent
coming.  Don’t leave me alone with her.  It’s an awful welter of red
tape and incompetence where I’ve just come from, but I don’t want her as
a healing process till I feel a little stronger."

But the Grants had to be going very shortly, and Mrs. Brent was not to
be denied.

Her first address to Wilbraham, however, was not on the subject of her
grievances.  "Oh, I forgot to tell you when I wrote," she said.  "You
know that artist—Bastian—who came down here two summers ago?"

"Yes," said Wilbraham, with his heart in his mouth.

"Well, I’ve found out that he married a great friend of mine—oh, years
ago, but I hadn’t forgotten her.  She died, poor girl, but of course the
daughter who was with Mr. Bastian here was hers.  I wish I’d known.  I’d
have gone to see them."

"You wouldn’t have wanted to bring that time up, would you?" said
Wilbraham, scarcely knowing what to say.

She was all bristles at once.  "I think I was very badly treated about
all that," she said.  "I’d nothing whatever to be ashamed of in what I
came from, and all the time it was made to look as if I had.  I half
believed it myself, but now I know better.  Every one of my family is
doing well.  They’re not in the position I’m in, of course, but there’s
no need to be ashamed of any of them.  In fact, I’ve made up my mind to
introduce Harry to his relations on my side of the family.  I’m going to
ask him to take me up to London before he goes back.  Then he’ll see for
himself."

"Do you think you’re wise?" said Wilbraham, relieved at having got away
from the subject of the Bastians.

"What do you mean?" she asked.  "What’s the objection?"

"Well, you say they’re not equal to you.  They may be very good sort of
people; I dare say they are; but what’s the sense of dragging them in at
this time of the day—after twenty years—to mark the difference?"

"What difference?"

"Well, the difference between them and Lady Brent."

"Lady Brent!  How can you talk like that?  It’s just that I’m so mad
with Lady Brent that I——"

"I know it is.  All you can think of is to score off her.  You’re not
thinking of Harry; you’re not even thinking of yourself.  What are you
going to get, out of going back on everything you’ve stood for for the
last twenty years?  Harry thinks of you as belonging to Royd, in the
same sort of way as Lady Brent does. Why should he have ever thought of
you as anything different?  Now you’re proposing to show him the
difference.  You say yourself they _are_ different.  You’re going to
show him the difference between Lady Brent and them.  Which is likely to
come out of it best?  I don’t know; I’m asking you."

"Oh, you’re just trying to aggravate me," she said. "You always were
like that.  I don’t know why I talk to you at all."

"Well, if you’ve finished, I think I’ll go in.  I want a peaceful time
as long as I’m here.  You’re the only person who doesn’t seem to be
comfortable and happy. I’d rather be with those of them who are."

"I’m not at all happy.  I’m just miserable.  Harry doesn’t love me any
more, and I don’t know what to do about it."

They had come to the bowling alley where Wilbraham had thought out his
difficulties two summers before. She sank down on to the seat and cried.

Wilbraham felt very sorry for her, but determined to prevent her from
making mischief if he could.  "Look here," he said, "I don’t think it
really much matters whether you introduce Harry to your people or not.
He’s grown up now, and all that idea of keeping things from him is over.
Do what you like about it.  Lady Brent won’t try to stop you; I’m pretty
certain of that. She has given up trying to direct his life.  Why can’t
you?"

Her sobs increased.  "I’m his mother," she said. "I’ve had so little of
him.  I can’t give him up now."

"You had him during the whole of his childhood, more than most mothers
have their sons.  Lady Brent may have been a bit jealous of you; I dare
say she was; she’s got her weaknesses like all the rest of us.  But she
didn’t try to get him away from you.  I was here most of the time, and I
could see that plainly enough. You know it too.  You’ll be much happier
about things if you try to be fair to her, as she’s tried to be fair to
you."

"Oh, of course it’s her you’re thinking of all the time. I don’t come in
at all."

"Yes, you do come in.  I’m trying to help you to get things straight.
The fact is your nose has been put out of joint by this girl who’s here.
It isn’t Lady Brent at all, though you heap it all back on her.  You
can’t expect a boy of Harry’s age to go about tied to his mother’s apron
strings, when there’s somebody young for him to play with.  You like the
girl all right, don’t you?"

She had dried her eyes and sat leaning forward in an attitude of
picturesque misery.  "It doesn’t seem to matter whether I like her or
not," she said.  "Harry won’t talk to me about her.  If he told me he
was in love with her I should do my best to sympathize with him.  I want
to be everything to my son."

"Of course you do; and of course you can’t be.  If he hasn’t told you
he’s in love with her, it’s because he isn’t.  For goodness’ sake let
him be happy while he’s here, and in his own way.  He’ll be going back
soon enough, and you won’t want him to think of his holiday spoiled by
your complaints.  You’re selfish, you know. It’s yourself you’re
thinking of all the time, not him. You used not to be like that."

"Oh, well," she said, rising, "I suppose I must put up with it.  It’s
the common lot of mothers.  I shan’t talk about it any more, to you or
anybody."

"That’s right," said Wilbraham, as they strolled towards the house.
"And don’t make complaints to Harry, either.  It’s not the way to get
what you want from him.  Of course you know that really, as well as I
do.  Only it’s difficult, isn’t it?"

"Oh, I don’t know," she said.  With the end of her emotion she seemed to
have entered a mood almost of indifference.  "If I’ve stood what I have
all these years, and kept myself under as I have, I suppose I can go on
doing it.  It’s coming down here that has upset me. I’ve been happy
enough in London.  Of course I’ve wanted to hear about Harry, but he’s
promised me now that he’ll write to me regularly.  I shall be better
off, in a way, than I’ve ever been.  I’m _somebody_ there, you see.
Here I’m nobody.  I shan’t stay here a moment longer than Harry does.  I
hate the place now.  Why have you never been to see me in London?"

"I don’t know that you’ve ever asked me.  Where do you live?"

She told him.  She was sharing a flat with an old friend, a woman who
had been on the stage with her, had had an unhappy married life, but had
got on in her profession.

"Margaret Creedy?" said Wilbraham.  "I’ve seen her act.  She’s very
good."

"Yes, you wouldn’t have thought she began in the chorus, would you?  She
never had much voice, which was perhaps just as well for her, or she’d
have been in musical comedy still.  She doesn’t like it remembered, and
of course I don’t want it known either; but we often talk over old
times.  It was from her, by the by, that I heard about Mrs. Bastian.
She married a gentleman, like I did; but he’d come down in the world.
Bastian isn’t his real name, you know.".

"What is his real name?"

"I don’t know.  I meant to find out about him, and go and see what the
girl is like.  You never told me much about her, but if she’s like her
mother she ought to be very pretty."

"She is very pretty, but——"

"Oh, you mean I ought not to let them know who I was, as they’ve been
here.  Perhaps I shan’t.  I don’t want to give _her_ any handles against
me."

"By _her_ I suppose you mean Lady Brent.  Everything comes back to her.
You’ll think better of all that some day.  I wish you’d think better of
it now.  Royd would be a less prickly house to live in."

"Oh, I shall behave myself, never you fear," she said as she left him.

He thought it probable that she would.  He had made an impression on
her, though she was not of the sort that would acknowledge it.  She was
evidently making her own life, and even if she had dropped all pretence
of war work, for which she had gone to London, it was not a life that
would let the name of Brent down, as he had rather feared.  Margaret
Creedy was an actress of some distinction, and would be very careful not
to jeopardize the social position she had won for herself. And Mrs.
Brent, for all her independent talk, was guided by a sense of her own
importance in the world. Probably the joint establishment was as rigidly
respectable as any in London.

As for possible complications with the Bastians, Wilbraham could do
nothing.  If the revelation came in that way, it must come, and for
himself he didn’t care when it came.  He was tired of all the secrecy,
and thought too that Harry was wrong in keeping his secret; or, at any
rate, right or wrong in being unwilling to disclose it himself, that it
would be better for him if it were known.

He was inclined to dread the talk that he saw coming with Lady Brent.
He badly wanted a recreative rest himself, and hated the idea of
exercising his brain in steering clear of admissions to her, hated also
the idea of deceiving her by doing so, when all the time he was in
sympathy with her in her doubts and disappointments. What was done was
done.  Harry was what he was, and if she had made any mistake in his
upbringing, which he did not admit, it would do no good now to dwell on
it with regret.  Harry was working it all out for himself, and as far as
Wilbraham could see, was not making such a bad job of it.  He would tell
her that, when she began to discuss him, and cut the conversation as
short as he conveniently could.  Then he would be free to enjoy himself,
in the company of the people he liked best in the world, and in the
place which seemed to him, coming back to it, a haven of peace and
beauty.

But apparently that was all that Lady Brent wanted of him.  She told him
that Harry seemed much more his old self now that he had been home a
week or more, and that she was glad that there was young companionship
for him, and beyond that she did not discuss him at all.

So Wilbraham enjoyed his two days at Royd, and went back to his work
greatly refreshed, and with most of his doubts about Harry set at rest.
He might be longing for Viola all the time, as he had said he was, but
he managed to hide it effectually and seemed to be enjoying his holiday
as much as anybody.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                           *MRS. BRENT KNOWS*


Royd Castle was empty, except for the servants, for the first time for
twenty years.  Everybody had gone away, including Lady Brent, who,
however, was not very far off, for she was only visiting Lady Avalon for
a few days at Poldaven.

To the Grants, left to themselves, after the unusual amount of society
they had lately enjoyed, there was a sense of emptiness, though their
own summer life was in full swing, and the Vicar had a bright new idea
for a novel, which was keeping his thoughts happily employed. There were
to be a young man and two girls, and nobody was to know which of the
girls the young man was really in love with until the last chapter.

"Of course I got the idea from those three," he told his wife, "although
it couldn’t be exactly like them. Harry and Sidney might be, but the
second girl would have to be older than Jane, but still rather young.
She would be a sort of confidante of the other two, who would be
inclined to fall in love with one another.  Then she would gradually
find that she was in love with the young man herself.  I should make it
rather pathetic, but not overdo it, of course.  She would keep her
feelings to herself, out of loyalty to her friend.  I haven’t quite
worked it out yet, but the reality would come in a flash. The young man
would find that it was she he was in love with.  I shouldn’t be able to
leave the other girl in the air.  There might be somebody else for her.
It will come all right, now my brain has begun to work on it. I should
have to make her very charming, so that it would seem as if the man
_must_ be in love with her."

"You mustn’t make it too like Harry and Sidney," said Mrs. Grant.

"Oh, I should be careful about that, though their way with each other
has been very attractive to watch. They’re so frank, and so completely
friendly—a very delightful pair of young people I call them.  It would
be much more effective to have young lovers behaving like that to one
another than the usual sort of love affair that one meets with in
fiction.  The odd thing about it, though, is that they have parted now
and nothing has come of it all."

Mrs. Grant laughed.  "Perhaps it’s because they weren’t lovers after
all," she said, "and were so frank and friendly with each other because
they weren’t.  You must be careful about that, David."

But he would not admit that Harry and Sidney weren’t in love with one
another.  It was clear for everybody to see.  Of course Harry was rather
an exceptional young man.  That was plain from the way he had come back
to Royd as if he were master there already.  There was tremendous
strength of character in him, and even Lady Brent recognized it, and did
not seek to direct him in any way.  It was very likely that he had made
up his mind that it would not be right to engage himself to Sidney until
the war was over.  But it was also likely that they had an understanding
between themselves.  It could hardly be otherwise.

"He has certainly altered," said Mrs. Grant.  "He goes his own way as
one would hardly have expected of him in some respects.  I don’t know
why he should have wanted to be with Mr. Wilbraham for a week before he
went to France.  Poor Mrs. Brent was rather sad about it, especially
when he wrote to say that he was not coming down again."

"And now she’s gone posting up to London to get hold of him.  I’ve no
patience with Mrs. Brent.  She has greatly deteriorated.  Well, I must
be getting on with my work.  I shall very soon be ready to make a start
on the first chapter."

Jane had been very subdued in demeanour since Sidney and Harry had both
departed, and frequently sought her mother’s company.  She came to her
this morning, when her lessons were done, and sat with her in the garden
as she worked.

"Did father say that there was going to be a great attack on the Germans
soon?" she asked, after a little desultory conversation.

"It has been expected for some time.  I suppose it can’t be long before
it comes now."

"I suppose that’s why Harry’s leave has been cut short.  Will there be a
great many of our people killed, mother?"

"I’m afraid so, dear."

"Harry might be," said Jane.  "He’s very brave."

"You mustn’t let yourself dwell on that, darling.  He has been spared so
far."

"Did you know he had been wounded?"

Mrs. Grant looked at her in surprise.  "Not seriously," she said.

"Sidney and I both think he was, though he wouldn’t tell us, and said we
weren’t to talk about it.  Have you noticed he always keeps his sleeve
buttoned when he’s playing tennis?"

Mrs. Grant hadn’t noticed particularly, but said that she remembered now
that he did.

"Well, he’s got an awful great scar in his arm.  We saw it once by
accident.  A Turk did it with a bayonet. When we found out, he did tell
us a little, and about the time he was in hospital.  He told us about an
orderly who had been frightfully good to him, and said he saved his life
when he was very ill, by nursing him all the time. He liked to talk
about him; his name was Tom Weller. Sidney thought he couldn’t have been
so ill just from a wound in the arm, and then he said he’d had a little
shell wound in the body, but he wouldn’t tell us any more.  We think it
must have been a serious one.  We found out afterwards that he didn’t go
to hospital for his bayonet wound at all."

Mrs. Grant was conscious of a feeling of surprise and some discomfort.
She knew that Harry was not likely to fail in any of a young man’s
courageous work, and yet she had thought of him as having got off
lightly, except in the hardships of a trooper’s life.  And that he had
never mentioned even the actions in which he had been wounded seemed so
to accentuate the division that he had made between himself and those
who loved him. He might have died and they would have known nothing.
Apparently he had been very near to death.  She wondered whether Jane
had any theory to account for his unusual reticence about himself.

"I’m very glad Lady Brent will hear about him now," she said.  "It’s
dreadful to think what might have happened when they couldn’t have got
to him."

"Well, they couldn’t, anyhow, when he was in Egypt. He says it was much
better that they shouldn’t have been anxious about him, and as it turned
out there was no need to have been anxious.  I must say I’m rather glad
we didn’t know, though it’s horrid to think of our enjoying ourselves at
home when Harry was nearly dying.  Sidney and I both told him that we
wanted to know everything about him now, and he promised to."

"To write to you?"

"Yes; or to let us have a message.  You see we’re real friends, mother
dear.  We’ve had a lovely time together and enjoyed ourselves
frightfully; but it hasn’t been quite all enjoying ourselves.  Sidney
and I both know that Harry dreads things.  I don’t mean being wounded,
or anything like that.  But everything is so different for him.  What we
both got to know was that he wanted it to be like it used to be here as
much as ever it could be.  That’s why he won’t talk about the war.  We
could make him forget it; so we were sometimes more lively than we
really felt.  I’m sure I don’t feel at all lively now."

Her mother stole a glance at her, as she sat with a calm face looking
out in front of her.

"Well, darling," she said, "you’ll have Harry home on leave again.  I’m
sure both you and Sidney have done a lot for him since he’s been home
this time.  There was a sort of strain on him at first which wasn’t
there afterwards."

"Did you notice that?  I’m very glad.  Of course Sidney did more than I
did.  She was with him more, and she’s older.  But they were both very
sweet to me. I think I did help.  I love them both.  I love Sidney. I
wish——"

She broke off abruptly.  "I think I can guess what Sidney’s secret is,"
said her mother, after a pause.  "I think she meant me to, you know,
when she told you you could tell me that there was a secret."

Jane looked at her eagerly.  "I don’t suppose she really meant me not to
tell you," she said.

"If I’ve found it out for myself, she wouldn’t mind you talking about
it.  I shouldn’t mention it to anybody else.  I thought, when you told
me, that perhaps she was in love with somebody, and that was why you and
she and Harry could all be friends together so happily."

Jane breathed a sigh of relief.  "Yes, that’s it exactly," she said.
"How clever you are, mother!  I’m glad you knew.  His name is Noel
Chancellor.  I’ve seen his photograph.  He is very good-looking, but of
course not so good-looking as Harry.  I can’t help thinking that if
she’d never seen him she would be in love with Harry."

"Perhaps.  But it doesn’t always come like that. And he’s not in love
with her, you see, though there’s nobody else, for him."

"No, he isn’t."  Jane spoke very decisively.  "She’s such a dear that I
did think once that he might have been a little, although he knew about
Noel, without being able to help it.  But he’s not the least little bit.
I don’t know how I know that, but I do."

"I suppose you know that they think he is, at the Castle."

"Oh, yes.  And Lady Avalon will be annoyed when she finds out.  But we
can’t help that."

Mrs. Grant smiled.  She loved that "we" that came into Jane’s speech.
"What about Lady Brent?" she said.  "You were such friends with Lady
Brent before Harry came home."

"I am still.  Of course she wouldn’t say anything to me about that.  I’m
not quite sure that she does expect it.  At any rate, I know she was
glad for me to be with them.  She knew all right that we were helping
Harry.  Lady Brent sees a lot, though she doesn’t talk much."

Mrs. Grant found food for thought in this, and shared it later with Miss
Minster.  Neither of them had ever been able to make up their minds
finally about Lady Brent.

"Supposing she doesn’t really expect anything to come of it!" she said.
"I’m inclined to trust Jane when she thinks that she doesn’t."

"I’ve liked her much better since she took Jane into her confidence,"
said Miss Minster.  "I’m sorry for her now.  I think she lays her plans
deeply and then has to sit and do nothing while she sees them fail.  But
it needs a lot of self-restraint to sit and do nothing.  Yes, I’m sorry
for her."

"You think Jane is right then?"

"I don’t know.  Lady Brent would look farther than most people.  She
wouldn’t need to look much farther than I do in this.  What I think is
that Harry isn’t ready for it yet, and won’t be till the war is over.
When that oppression is removed from him I think he’s quite likely to
fall in love with Lady Sidney.  That’s what I think, and I shouldn’t
wonder if Lady Brent thought the same.  Then it wouldn’t make her quite
so superhuman as she appears.  She’d just be waiting."

This view could not be combated without disclosures. As far as it
affected Lady Brent it seemed to be the best explanation of her
attitude.  "Anyhow she’s a wonderful woman," said Mrs. Grant, "and I
also like her better than I did, although I never disliked her."

"The person I don’t like so well," said Miss Minster, "is Mrs. Brent.  I
hope we’ve seen the last of her here for the present."

But they had not, for almost immediately she had spoken a telegram was
brought in from Mrs. Brent, announcing her arrival that afternoon, and
asking Mrs. Grant to take her in, as there was nobody at the Castle. She
also asked Mrs. Grant to meet her at Burport, which seemed to indicate
that she had something of importance to disclose to her.

She looked scared and unhappy as she greeted her friend on the platform.
"I hope you didn’t mind my asking you to put me up," she said.  "I
believe she’s coming back to-morrow, and I wanted to have a long talk
with you first."

By "she" Mrs. Grant understood her to refer to Lady Brent, whom she
seldom referred to in any other way.  "I’m very glad to have you," she
said.  "I hope nothing is wrong.  Have you seen Harry?"

"I’ll tell you when we get into the carriage."

When they were settled and driving away, she said: "Have I seen Harry?
I think you’ll be surprised when I tell you how and where I’ve seen him.
I’ve never had such a shock in my life.  I don’t know what to do about
it.  I had to come straight down to see her.  She must deal with it.  I
can’t; it’s beyond me.  I only hope it won’t be beyond her.  I must tell
you all from the beginning."

She entered into a long explanation of how she had written to Harry at
Wilbraham’s flat where he was staying.  He had come to see her, and had
been kind but had seemed annoyed with her for coming up to London when
he had not expected it.  He had told her that he was very much engaged,
and could not see much of her before he went abroad.  He had not
vouchsafed any account of how he was engaged, but had come to see her
once again, in the morning, but had refused to stay to lunch or to make
any engagement for the evening.  She spoke with some resentment, and not
as she had ever spoken about Harry before.  It was as if she felt more
annoyed at being neglected than sorry at not having him with her.

Mrs. Grant sat silent, and she entered on another long explanation about
the Bastians, and her early friendship with Bastian’s wife.  Then Mrs.
Grant began to be extremely interested.

"What possessed me to find out all about them just at this time, and go
to see the girl, I can’t think," she said.  "I think it was Providence
leading me.  I’d forgotten all about Mrs. Clark, the woman they lodge
with, being Mrs. Ivimey’s sister, and fortunately—or unfortunately—she
didn’t open the door to me.  The maid said she was in, but had a young
gentleman with her.  She looked rather knowing as she said it, and I
thought it would be amusing to see what the young gentleman was like.
You can imagine what I felt when she showed me into the room and I found
Harry there."

She looked as if she expected an exclamation of surprise at this climax;
but Mrs. Grant had already been prepared for it by her rigmarole.  "That
explains a great deal," she said.  "I suppose they had met here."

"Yes, two years ago, when Harry was a boy—hardly more than a child.
Could you believe it of him, and keeping it secret all that time, and
ever since?"

"What happened?" asked Mrs. Grant, adjusting her thoughts to many
things.

"They were sitting side by side on the sofa.  I never had such a shock
in my life.  I could only stand there and stare.  She jumped up, of
course.  I hadn’t given my name, and she didn’t even know who I was.
Harry looked very black, and stood up too.  It was as if a sword was
piercing my heart to see my son look at me like that."

She paused for a moment.  It occurred to Mrs. Grant that she had
rehearsed her tale beforehand, and that phrase had come to her as an
effective one.  It did not seem to represent what she was actually
feeling, though it may have represented what she thought she ought to
feel.

"I could only gasp out, ’Harry!  You here!’  He said, ’Yes, mother!’
Then he took hold of the girl’s hand, and said, ’This is Viola.  We have
loved each other for a long time.’  That was absolutely all he said, and
she said nothing, but just looked at me, as if she was frightened, as I
dare say she was."

"Oh, I hope you——"

She did not continue.  Mrs. Brent would tell her what she had done.

She did not tell her at once, and Mrs. Grant’s heart sank as she
expatiated further on what she had felt. "The very thing," she said,
"that we’d all sacrificed ourselves to prevent, during the whole of
Harry’s boyhood.  I was absolutely _stunned_.  There they stood hand in
hand in front of me, and waited for me to say something.  And what
_could_ I say?  Harry—my boy! And a girl like that!  Oh, I shall never
get over it. And I can’t think what _she’ll_ say, though there’s one
thing—she can’t blame me for it."

Mrs. Grant had been thinking rapidly.  She had heard about Viola from
Mrs. Ivimey.  Her impression of her had been of a very young and
beautiful girl, of whom nice things were said naturally.  It needed some
little effort of imagination to connect her with Harry, and certainly it
was rather surprising that Harry, of all people, should have cherished
that kind of secret. But the picture of the pair of them standing there
hand in hand waiting for the speech which she dreaded to be told had not
come rose before her.  "Oh, he couldn’t have gone on loving her for two
whole years unless she was sweet and good," she said.

Mrs. Brent bridled in offence.  "That didn’t come in when _I_ was
married," she said.  "She’s no better than I was.  Her mother wasn’t
brought up as I had been, though there was nothing against her.  It
simply can’t be allowed.  _I_ can’t do anything.  Harry won’t listen to
me.  This girl has taken him away from me.  Of course it’s all explained
now—why he was so different to me when he came home—oh, and why he
didn’t write, and everything.  He wrote to her.  He _is_ different.
She’s made him so.  He isn’t like my son any more.  I’m only thankful
that it didn’t happen, or at least I didn’t know about it, while I was
living down here."

It seemed probable that she was congratulating herself that the whole of
her interests in life were no longer bound up in Harry.  This was no
very comforting thought to Mrs. Grant.  "I wish you’d tell me how it
ended," she said.

"It ended in Harry being very unkind to me," she said, with the first
signs of real emotion.  "He said that if I had taken the girl as my
daughter—as if I could have done that!—all the difficulties would have
been ended.  As it was he would not see me again before he went to
France.  Young people are very cruel.  I’m his mother who have been
everything to him, and now I’m nothing.  I came away and left him there.
It’s all over for me.  I’ve lost my son, and this girl who isn’t fit for
him has got him.  But I don’t think she’ll be allowed to keep him.  I
shall see her to-morrow.  She won’t be pleased at the end of all her
plotting and scheming.  But I shall be surprised if she doesn’t think of
_something_ that will put an end to it."



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                          *LADY BRENT SPEAKS*


"Yes," said Lady Brent, "I will certainly do something."

Mrs. Brent had told her story.  Lady Brent had come home from Poldaven
earlier than she had expected.  She had gone up to the Castle and found
her, somewhat to her surprise, in her business room.  Surrounded by that
ancient magnificence she had seemed even more aloof and forbidding than
on the last time Mrs. Brent had interviewed her there.  But this time
she had felt herself supported by a sense of conciliation in herself.
The fact that after all her struggles and resentments against her
mother-in-law she was now, in the crisis of affairs, putting herself in
her hands, appealing to her for help, and a decision where she could do
nothing herself, would surely soften her.  From this interview she at
least had nothing to fear for herself.

But the stiff face and the silence with which she listened to the story
brought a sense of discomfort. Mrs. Brent ended on a note more appealing
than she had intended to use.  "He won’t listen to me," she said, "but
I’m sure he would to you.  Can’t you do something?"

lady Brent moved in her chair for the first time. "Yes," she said, with
a frown, and in a voice that did nothing to remove the discomfort.  "I
will certainly do something.  I will go up to London this evening."

"By the night train," said Mrs. Brent.  "Shall I come with you?"

"I think you had better stop here.  You have done enough mischief
already."

"Mischief!  I?  What do you mean?"  She was surprised and greatly
offended, but also a little frightened.

Lady Brent leant towards her accusingly.  "He won’t do anything for you,
you say.  Why should he, when you treat him as you do?  A vain selfish
fool, thinking of yourself all the time and your own mean little
pleasures and dignities!  Serve you right if you’ve lost his love for
the rest of your life."

All Mrs. Brent’s resentments flared up.  Lady Brent had been
conciliatory towards her of late, with an evident desire to avoid
conflict, and she had taken advantage of it and lost some of her awe of
her; she had thought of herself almost as having the upper hand, and had
come to this interview prepared to treat with her amicably and be
generous in making some admissions. But she wanted a row, did she?  Very
well then, she should have it.  All her Cockney fighting spirit was
aroused.  She had years of oppression to resent and to revenge.  She was
not under her thumb now, to be browbeaten and kept in her place.  She
leapt to the opportunity of striking and wounding.

"That’s what you’d like," she said, "for me to lose his love.  You’ve
tried to take him away from me all his life up till now, and you haven’t
been able to do it. Now you’ll make use of this, somehow, to get your
way. But you won’t do it.  If he won’t listen to me, he won’t listen to
you.  I’m a fool, you say.  Yes, I was a fool to come to you and think
you could do anything. You’ve worked and worked to have your own way,
and now it’s ended like this.  You’ll suffer for it.  You’ll suffer for
it more than I shall."

Lady Brent listened to this, leaning back in her chair again.  When she
spoke her voice was even, but her face was white and her hands lying in
her lap trembled ever so little.  If Mrs. Brent’s fury had not blinded
her, she might have noticed these signs and taken warning from them, for
they had never been shown before, even in the sharpest encounters
between them.

"Whatever suffering there is to be," said the low decisive voice, "I
shall no doubt feel more than you. You’re a very poor creature, and as
long as you have something in life to amuse you you won’t suffer much
through others.  I’ve tried to make the best of you, for Harry’s sake.
You’ve had your chance with him—a better chance than you could ever have
had but for me. Sometimes I’ve thought it had succeeded to have you
here, when I’ve wished with all my heart that you could be away.  But
the test has come now, and you’ve failed. Yes, you’ve failed, much more
than you know.  You’re upset in your foolish way now, but you think I
have only to step in and do something, and it will be put right for you
again.  It will never be put right."

Mrs. Brent had tried to break in once or twice in the course of this
speech, but the level voice had gone on till the end, and the eyes fixed
upon her had never wavered.  She realized that nothing would be spared
her, that whatever dislike and hostility she might choose to express in
her anger would be met by a feeling at least as strong, which would find
expression now, after being kept under for years, with a force in
comparison with which her own powers of attack were as nothing. Already
she was affected by it.  She glimpsed hatred of her behind the steady
utterance.  She had talked freely of her own hatred, but it was a
terrifying thing to feel it returned.

"I don’t know what you’re thinking about," she said, half sulkily.  "I’d
nothing to do with his meeting this girl.  I did know her mother, as it
happened, but hadn’t any idea that it was her mother.  It isn’t through
me any more than through you that he’s got himself mixed up with people
like that."

"That’s all that you can see in it, is it?  People like that!  You think
this girl is like you were, when my poor Harry came across you.  I loved
my son, far more than you have it in you to love yours, but I know he
was weak and foolish; and he was fitly mated.  This Harry isn’t weak and
foolish.  Do you think he’d be likely to do what his father did?  Is
that all you know of him after all these years?"

She tried to control herself.  "You may say what you like about me," she
said, in a voice that trembled a little.  "I know you hate me and always
have, for marrying your son, and still more for being Harry’s mother.
But say what you like, Harry is doing exactly what his father did.  Why
should you take it for granted that this girl is any different to what I
was? It’s just your spite against me.  You haven’t seen her."

"No, but you have."

That hit her like a blow in the face.  Always battering at the gates of
her mind, to which she had never given it entrance, was the thought that
Viola was surprisingly different from herself, surprisingly unlike what
she would have expected her mother’s daughter to be, though in feature
she resembled her.

Still it was true that Lady Brent had not seen her, and could not know.
"Her mother was an actress, no better than I was," she said, "—not so
good in many ways.  Her father is a scene-painter in a theatre, and
drinks too.  My father was a good man, though he may not have been what
you’d call a gentleman.  That’s what all your wonderful bringing up of
Harry has led to.  If he’d been brought up more naturally, and not
everything and everybody sacrificed to keep him shut up down here, it’s
very unlikely that this would have happened."

"You think that, do you, in your loving wisdom? You had the boy always
before you, and saw what he was growing into.  So did I, and I trusted
him.  You couldn’t."

"I don’t mind your sneers.  At any rate, on the first opportunity he
does what any other boy might do.  He meets a girl and falls in love
with her, and keeps it from us all the time he’s meeting her, and
afterwards."

"Keeps it from you, I suppose you mean."

"Keeps it from all of us, I said.  Did you know any more than I did that
he had met this girl down here?"

"Of course I knew."

She could only sit and stare, with her mouth a little open.  Whatever
she may have thought of, it had never been this.

Lady Brent did not treat her disclosure as a triumph to be dwelt upon.
"How could I help knowing?" she went on.  "I loved Harry.  Nothing could
have happened in his life to alter it that I shouldn’t have noticed.
When I saw that something had happened I waited until it came to me what
it was."

"You knew, and you let it go on!"  The revelation had taken all the
sting out of her.  She was more interested than offended.

"Didn’t I tell you that I trusted Harry?  I knew what he was, if you
didn’t.  I should have known if he had taken a wrong turning in life,
and then I should have tried to influence him.  When I did know what had
happened I knew well enough that he hadn’t taken a wrong turning, by the
way he bore himself.  You couldn’t see that.  You can’t even see it
now."

Mrs. Brent’s surprise was still strong enough to swamp her resentment at
wounding speeches.  "Why didn’t you do anything afterwards, when he went
away?" she asked.  "You did do something.  You got Sidney Pawle down
here.  You hoped that she and Harry would fall in love with one another.
I know that.  You thought they had.  I know that too.  I think you’re
making yourself out cleverer than you are, though I don’t deny you were
clever, if you found out what nobody else did."

"It matters very little to me," said Lady Brent, "what you deny or what
you accept.  You’ve made yourself nothing and you are nothing.  I
believe that this girl Harry loves is worthy of him, or he wouldn’t have
gone on loving her.  But they were both very young.  It might have died
out of itself.  I didn’t know whether it had or not.  I might have found
out, but I wouldn’t take any steps to do that.  And even if the girl is
worthy of him, there are objections otherwise. You have named them
yourself.  There are no such objections to Sidney Pawle.  I should have
been glad if Harry’s first attachment had worn itself out and he could
have married her.  Yes, I did hope that they might have fallen in love
with one another.  You are right there.  You are quite wrong in saying
that I thought they had.  You may have thought so, who knew so little of
Harry.  I knew very soon that there was something in the way."

Mrs. Brent was beaten.  Even resentment no longer moved her.  She wanted
to ward off further blows, and to propitiate.  "When you go up to
London, shall you tell Harry that we are ready to recognize his
engagement to this Viola Bastian?" she asked.

Lady Brent seemed to take breath.  She had given her explanation as to
one with whom she might have been talking on equal terms.  But there was
still punishment to be dealt out, the smouldering fire of years of
dislike and contempt, which had been banked up so as only now and then
to show a flicker, but now could be allowed to burst into scorching
flame.

"Why should I tell you what I mean to do?" she said, with fierce scorn.
"Stay where you are till I’ve put right what you hadn’t the sense or the
heart to do; and don’t meddle.  Then you can go where you like and do
what you like; only not here.  For years I’ve had to live with you, and
bear with your ignorance and vanity and folly, and keep you from going
back on what you’d set your hand to of your own free will.  I’ve
defended you from your silly selfish self, so that your own son
shouldn’t see what a thing of naught you were.  You’ve had your chance
up to the last moment.  Directly it depends upon yourself you can only
strike the son you say you love in his tenderest place, and then come
snivelling to me to mend the damage you’ve done.  You want me to put
myself on your side, and treat him as you did.  Be very sure that I
shall treat him in no way as you have done.  I’ve stood aside all these
years, so as not to take what was owing to you, as I might well have
done if I’d lifted a little finger.  Now I’ll take whatever I’ve earned.
Mend your own broken pieces if you can.  I’ll do nothing to help you.
Live your own useless selfish life.  You shall have money for it.  But
live it away from here.  You told me once, in one of your foolish
discontented fits, that this house was like a prison to you.  You’re
free of your prison.  Go; and do what you like with your liberty."

She rose suddenly, and went out.  Mrs. Brent sat for a time where she
was, with a white frightened face. Then she went out of the room too,
and out of the house, weeping silently.  She would not stay there
another minute.  She would not run the risk of meeting that terrible
woman again, who had treated her so wickedly. She would never see her
again, and as for taking money from her—she would work her fingers to
the bone before she would touch a penny.  She went down to the Vicarage,
where she poured out her outraged feelings to Mrs. Grant, and gained
some consolation from her.  A strong cup of tea also did much to comfort
her, and after that she went to bed with a headache.  Exhausted by the
emotions of the day she slept throughout the night, which Lady Brent
spent sitting upright in a railway carriage, her endless thoughts
running to the steady beat of the train.

Wilbraham met her in London very early in the morning and took her to
her hotel.  "Harry went off yesterday," he told her.  "I sent your
telegram on to him, but there has been no answer yet.  There may be one
to my rooms this morning.  But it doesn’t very much matter, does it, as
long as he knows that you are going to see Viola?"

"If he should be killed!" she said.  It was the thought that the iron
wheels had dinned into her brain all through the night.  She could not
help giving it utterance; but she said immediately, "Oh, we mustn’t
think of that.  You have arranged that I am to see the girl this
afternoon?"

"Yes, I will take you there.  You’ll rest during the day, won’t you?
You must be very tired."

He stole a look at her.  She was looking as if the long journey had
tried her severely.  He had never thought of her as getting old, but now
he did.

"Yes, I will rest," she said.  "There is nothing else to do.  Do you
know I haven’t been in London for twenty years?"

She was looking out of the window of the taxi-cab, at the London streets
beginning to fill up with the day’s traffic.  She wanted a respite.  The
innumerable questions he had to ask of her must wait.

He breakfasted with her in her private sitting-room, where they could
talk afterwards, if she was so minded, before he went off to his work.
She came to it refreshed, and was ready for him when they were alone
together.

"Tell me about the girl," she said.  "I know she must be good and sweet,
and I know that she has helped Harry through his difficult time."

"I can’t tell you more than that," he said, "except that she’s
beautiful, and exactly what you’d want her to be, except perhaps in the
matter of her birth.  I don’t say anything against her upbringing, as it
has left her what she is.  But you seem to know everything about her
already.  I’ve known you for a good many years, but you’re always full
of surprises.  The greatest you’ve ever given me is when you wired that
you’d always known.  You must have thought of me as a pretty large size
in fools during some of the conversations we used to have.  How did you
find out, and when?"

She smiled at him.  "I think you might have guessed that I knew," she
said, "when I let you come to London to find out about Harry, and to get
a message to him. I didn’t particularly want you to know then, because,
to tell you the truth, I did rather hope that it wouldn’t continue.  I
saw that it had done him no harm, but it still might have been nothing
more than a pretty boy and girl love-making.  Then I shouldn’t have
wanted him to know that I had surprised his secret."

"No," he said.  "You showed infinite wisdom, as you always do.  But tell
me how you knew."

"Something had happened to Harry.  I think I must have guessed it the
very first time he met her, or at least when he found out he loved her,
and I think that must have been the first time he met her, or why
shouldn’t he have told us?  I was always on the lookout for changes in
him, and you see I knew the signs of this change. Harry is much more
like my dear husband was, when he was young, than he is like his father.
It was only that kind of love that could have made him so happy and so
silent and so absorbed.  Oh, I knew very soon, and of course I put two
and two together, and knew who it was.  Afterwards, little pieces of
evidence came to me, but I didn’t try to seek them, and I didn’t need
them.  Nobody guessed they had met.  Nobody knew at Royd, except me—and
you."

He laughed ruefully, and told her how and when he had found out.
"Perhaps you guessed even before I did," he said.  "Were you annoyed
with me for keeping it to myself?"

"I knew that you would have told me, if I had given you any
encouragement.  I didn’t want you to tell me. I knew too that you had
seen her and must have thought of her as I think now.  If you hadn’t I
think you would have told me anyhow."

He breathed a sigh of relief.  "That’s off my mind then," he said.  "I
didn’t like keeping anything from you.  And I’ve told Harry more than
once that he had nothing to fear from you."

"He couldn’t believe that, I suppose.  He might have thought that I
would behave as Charlotte—that light fool—has behaved."

"You had Harry’s letter before you saw her?"

"Yes, but the post is very late at Poldaven.  I went home at once, and
saw her.  On my way to Royd I thought how I could bring some of the
truth home to her.  I think I made an impression."

Her voice was as quiet as before, but something in its tone caused him
to look up.  "You didn’t spare her, I suppose," he said.

"No, I didn’t spare her.  I think I was cruel.  I know I meant to be.
But she’s not worth troubling oneself about.  Anger is a debasing
passion, and I’m not sure that mine was altogether righteous anger.  I
wanted to make an end of her.  I hope for the future I shall need to see
very little of her."

He looked grave.  "Can’t you forgive her, if things go right now?" he
asked.

"Oh, forgive her!  If I know anything of her—and I ought to by this
time—she’ll never forgive me.  She’ll hate me to her dying day, and I
care no more than if she loved me.  What is the love of a poor thing
like that worth?  She loved Harry, and what does that amount to?"

"She did love him, though.  She did give her life up to him, in the only
way she could have done.  It wasn’t in her to make herself happy living
as she did—as we all did—at Royd.  But she stuck to it for nearly twenty
years."

"Oh, yes.  I kept her to that.  I was fair to her; I gave her her
chance.  It would have been an immense relief if she had gone away.  If
I hadn’t been fair to her I could have got rid of her easily enough.
She would have gone, and she would never have known that she hadn’t gone
of her own accord."

He laughed at that.  "I think there were times when you nearly allowed
yourself to drive her away," he said. "Of course I don’t defend what she
did.  She had a great chance with Harry, and she lost it.  But it is
hard, I suppose, for mothers to lose their sons after they have been so
much to them.  There is some excuse for her."

"I don’t think there’s any," she replied at once. "And as for its being
hard on mothers, it’s only that kind of mother—foolish and sentimental
and selfish—who puts herself into rivalry with the other kind of love,
when the time comes for it.  The love of a child is very sweet, but it
can’t last like that much beyond childhood. She’d had it all.  She’s had
it to the full.  Nobody tried to deprive her of it, though of course she
accuses me of trying to do so.  I might have done.  I shouldn’t have
wearied Harry with my love as she has wearied him. I should have been
less exigent, less selfish, controlled myself more.  She doesn’t know,
even now, and I shan’t take the trouble to tell her, that she doesn’t
love him nearly as much as she thinks she does.  If it weren’t for her
jealousy she would be quite content to live her own life chiefly apart
from him, now he is grown up, and no longer a child to be petted, and to
return petting.  She has lived her foolish shallow life apart for the
last two years, and she has let it be known that she thinks herself
raised in living it.  Oh, you needn’t worry yourself about Charlotte.
She hasn’t got the depth to feel anything for long."



                            *CHAPTER XXVII*

                         *LADY BRENT AND VIOLA*


Lady Brent wondered, when Mrs. Clark opened the door to her at Bastian’s
lodgings, how much was known at Royd of what had already happened in
this house. If Mrs. Clark had not discovered who Harry was, which seemed
unlikely, and had not seen Mrs. Brent, she knew well enough whom she was
admitting now.  It was not made plain that she expected the visit, but
she expressed no surprise at it, and evidently expected to be
recognized.  Lady Brent said a few words to her about her sister at
Royd, as she was being conducted up the stairs.  Everything would come
into the light now, and it was much better so.

Viola was alone in the sitting-room.  It had been made very tidy, and
was filled with flowers.  The great red roses might have been Harry’s
gift to her.  The little row of vellum-bound books above the table in
her corner certainly were, for Wilbraham had procured them to his order.

Viola stood by the middle table as they entered.  She looked very young
and very beautiful—all the more beautiful because of the colour that was
flooding her delicate skin, and the half-alarmed look in her dark eyes.

Lady Brent waited until the door was shut behind her, searching her with
her eyes, and then went forward and kissed her.  Viola did not seem to
have expected this.  She was confused, and there was moisture in her
eyes as she greeted Wilbraham, though she smiled at him.

Wilbraham spoke first.  "You’ve had Lady Brent’s telegram," he said.
"And now she’s come herself. Everything is all right, Viola."

Her tears fell.  "If Harry loves you, my dear, that’s enough for me,"
said Lady Brent, taking her hand.

"And you can hardly be blamed for loving him," said Wilbraham.  "We all
love him.  I don’t know why, but we do."

She laughed, as she was meant to do, and dried her tears.  "I’ve had a
telegram from him," she said.  "He sent you his dear love."

Lady Brent showed her pleasure.  "I wish he’d told me sooner," she said.
"You might have been with him at Royd."

"We’ve all been making a mistake, Viola," said Wilbraham.  "I suppose
I’m most to blame, because I’ve had this lady under observation for a
good many years, and might have known that nothing so important as you
could have escaped her."

He wanted to keep the interview on a light key, at least until talk
should flow between them.  They had both been through a good deal during
the last few days, but the trouble was ended now, and the sooner it
could be forgotten the better.

Lady Brent and Viola were sitting side by side on the sofa.  Lady Brent
was not quite ready for the lighter note.  "You know that Harry’s
bringing up was different from that of other boys," she said.  "It was
owing to me that it was so, and though I tried to avoid the appearance
of dominating him, I could hardly escape being looked upon as a person
who might take a decisive line either with him or against him.  But I
can say very truly that my guiding rule was love for him.  I love Harry
very much, and I have trusted him too.  I wouldn’t have stood out
against him in anything that he had a right to decide for himself."

"I’m afraid it was I at first who wanted to keep our secret to
ourselves," Viola said.  "Or at least perhaps not quite at first, for
then we didn’t think about it; but when we first found out that we loved
one another.  I think he would have told you then, but I knew more about
the world than he did, and I didn’t think that you would want us to go
on loving one another.  Afterwards I did what he wanted."

"We all do what Harry wants," said Wilbraham. "He has that sort of way
with him.  I’ve done it myself, when I ought to have stood out."

"Harry is very happy now," said Viola.  "He sent me a long telegram.
Would you like to see it?"

"No," said Lady Brent, marking the motion she made with her hand, which
showed the warm nest in which Harry’s telegram was reposing.  "Keep it
for yourself.  I want to ask you if you’d like to come down to Royd now,
or wait till Harry can bring you.  You will have a warm welcome
whichever you like to do.  He might like to know you are there."

"I expect the claims of the government service will have to come first,
unreasonable as it may appear," said Wilbraham, marking her slight
hesitation.  "I know they have to with me."

"I couldn’t get away just now," she said.  "And in August I was going
away for a fortnight with father—if Harry is all right."

That was what lay like a shadow over the brightness brought by the
recognition of her.  The war was to be finished by that hoarded effort
for which those who knew were breathlessly waiting.  But the hoard was
chiefly of men, and much of it must be scattered if success was to be
gained by it.

Lady Brent made no pretence of taking it anything but seriously.  "I
have friends at the War Office," she said.  "We should get news at Royd
as soon as in London, perhaps sooner."  She made no allusion to the
other reason that Viola had given.  How did Harry regard Bastian?  She
had talked that over with Wilbraham.  They did not know even if he had
met him. He was not to be asked to Royd until Harry gave the word.

Viola still seemed to be hesitating, and Lady Brent took her hesitation
to mean that she would rather not come to Royd without Harry, and
accepted it at once. She talked to her about Harry, and presently Viola
was talking about him too, filling her hungry ears with news of the
times at which she had missed him.

Viola knew that he had been wounded, though he had kept it from her at
the time.  "He was very ill after the second wound," she said.  "A man
who was with him wrote to me when he couldn’t, and I got a telegram to
say he was better before I got the letter, so I wasn’t so unhappy as I
might have been.  I don’t think he would have got through that if he
hadn’t been so splendidly strong and young, and hadn’t been so devotedly
nursed.  All the men he was with loved him, and this one never left
him."

Lady Brent would not let it be seen how much this news of his past
danger moved her.  Here was a thing for which none of her searching
thoughts had prepared her.  "He has told us scarcely anything of what
has been happening to him," she said.  "It seemed to lie upon him
heavily."

"It doesn’t now," said Viola.  "Being at Royd has brought him back.  He
has told me all about Jane and Sidney.  Do you think I might write to
Jane now, and tell her about us?"

Lady Brent was struck by her entire absence of jealousy.  She might have
felt sad that the healing process had not been all her own work.  It
showed how unselfishly she loved him, and how sure she was of him.

"Jane is a loyal little soul," she said.  "She will be very pleased to
hear from you, I know."  She smiled at Viola.  "The one thing I never
quite gauged at its proper value was the companionship of young people.
I think now that he ought to have had more of it.  But he seemed so
happy, with all his own pursuits."

"Oh, he was happy, I know," she said, eagerly.  "It is wonderful to hear
him talk of his life at Royd. Perhaps I’m not altogether sorry I was
nearly the first, because I got it all.  Harry isn’t like anybody else
that ever lived.  He’s wonderful.  He couldn’t have been quite the same
if he hadn’t been brought up always in that beautiful place, and left a
great deal to himself and the woods and the hills and the sea."

"I am glad you think of it like that," said Lady Brent.  "But I have
been troubled by something he said to me when he first came home.  His
upbringing has made him what he is, but there are many things it didn’t
prepare him for.  I think he was dreading going out again, as an
officer.  He doesn’t know other young men of his class.  He is so
different from them, and they want everybody to be alike.  With the men
of simpler lives that he has lived with and fought with he would have
made his way more easily."

"Yes," said Viola.  "I was very sad at first to think of him thrown into
that rough hard life, but I needn’t have been.  And I think now he is
happier about the other."

She looked at Wilbraham, who said: "We’ve had it out, we three together.
It’s not as serious as you have been thinking.  You must remember that
he hasn’t been with young men of his own sort at all; and in the ranks
of course he’d look at them from another angle altogether; and perhaps
he wouldn’t like everything he saw about them—his officers, I mean.
That’s all it is, really—a diffidence about how he’s going to fit in
with them. But of course he’ll make his way, with the other subalterns
and people, just as he did with the men.  There’s so much character in
him, as well as everything that young men do value in each other.  I
think we persuaded him that he’d be a good deal better off than he has
been, didn’t we, Viola?"

"Oh, he didn’t want very much persuasion.  He said he had been worrying
himself about things that didn’t really matter.  But he was so much
happier about everything when he came back from Royd.  I don’t think
even I could have done that—not alone.  It would just have been we two,
keeping out of the world together.  And poor Harry is in the world now."

"Yes," said Wilbraham, "and well fitted to cope with it.  Of course it
came as a shock to him at first.  It would have done that anyhow, and he
would have had to square his accounts with it by himself, before he
could have felt himself at his ease.  We couldn’t have helped him.  If
you’re still troubling yourself about having made mistakes, dear lady, I
don’t think you need.  You made very few.  You forged the good steel in
him, but it had to be tempered."

This view of it comforted her.  "We shall all be very happy now," she
said.

When they had talked a little longer, Bastian came in.

Lady Brent rose from the sofa, and they stood looking at one another for
an instant before Bastian shook hands with her, with a laugh.  "I wasn’t
prepared for this," he said.  "Have you known who I was?"

"No," she said.  "Your people thought you were on the other side of the
world."

"I meant them to," he said.  "I’d no use for my people, after the way
they behaved to me.  I took rather an absurd name, which was the last
they would recognize me under if they ever came across it, which seemed
unlikely."

Viola and Wilbraham were in bewilderment.  "Lady Brent and I used to
know one another in the old days," Bastian said to Viola.  "It shows how
I’ve cut myself off from that world that I didn’t even know she was Lady
Brent."  He turned to Lady Brent.  "It did once occur to me, after we’d
been to Royd, to go to a Public Library and find out who you were, from
a book. But I forgot all about it.  I’m a thorough Bohemian you see, and
more comfortable so."

His light tone did not please her.  "If I had known who you were," she
said, "when you came to Royd, we should have met, and I should have
known Viola before."

His face changed as he looked quickly from her to Viola.  "I’m glad
you’ve made friends now," he said. "All the same, I doubt if you would
have taken to her two years ago.  I’ve got too far away from what I was
when you knew me."

"Well, it wouldn’t have been you so much that we should have thought
about," said Wilbraham.

Bastian laughed.  "You needn’t worry about me now," he said to Lady
Brent.  "I’ll own that I have had ideas of fighting you when the time
came.  I should rather have enjoyed it.  I think quite as highly of
Viola as you do of your grandson, and I was going to tell you so.
But—well, I’m glad to know there’s no necessity.  I think you’ve behaved
well; but I remember that you always had the reputation of behaving
well.  You’ll get some reward for it in this instance, for you know
without my having to take the trouble to prove it to you that Viola’s
birth is as good as her manners, and as for me I shall not intrude upon
you with my debased habits when I’ve once handed Viola over."

"I used to like you as a little boy," said Lady Brent, calmly.  "You
were mischievous and perverse, and afterwards gave a great deal of
trouble to your parents, who had not deserved it; but I don’t suppose
your habits are so debased as you pretend they are.  I shall be very
glad if you will bring Viola down to Royd when you take your holiday, if
she cares to come.  I think Harry would like to know that she is there."

Then Viola accepted the invitation, and Bastian did not refuse it,
though he said that it was many years since he had stayed in a country
house, and he didn’t think he should remember the rules.

Lady Brent told Wilbraham about him afterwards, what his family was and
where they came from, which was near her own girlhood’s home.  "I must
say that I am relieved," she said.  "On her father’s side her birth to
all intents and purposes is as good as Harry’s, and on her mother’s it
is no worse.  It counts for something. I married before Michael—that is
his real name, and I suppose suggested the Angelo to his freakish
imagination—before he grew up, but I was always hearing stories of his
wildness and extravagance afterwards. There was never much real harm in
him, and there were some very good qualities to balance what harm there
was.  His parents were over-strict with him, but they were fond of him,
and I think if he hadn’t taken offence at their attitude towards his
marriage, in which of course they were amply justified, they would have
come round in time."

"It may have been better for him that they didn’t," said Wilbraham.
"He’s had to make his own living, which has probably been salutary for
him, and his responsibility to Viola has kept him fairly straight.  I
wish he didn’t drink quite so much whisky or smoke such vile tobacco,
but drink hasn’t taken hold of him so much as I thought it had at one
time.  If he had been anything like what you’d call a drunkard it would
have affected Viola more.  What do you think of Viola?"

"I’m glad she came to Royd, and that Harry met her," she said.



                            *CHAPTER XXVIII*

                            *IN THE BALANCE*


So far Harry had been brought in his life’s story.

The gods had showered their gifts upon him.  They had given him strength
and beauty; a mind quick to receive their messages and eager to
interpret them; a heart that went out to others and drew others to it;
largesse of temporal favours, which they scatter here and there but are
apt to withhold from those whom they endow with their choicest gifts.
His manhood had been tried in a hard school, had been established and
wrought to finer issues by it.  He had known great happiness, and also
suffering both of mind and body, without which happiness itself is but a
monochrome.  He had entered the high courts of love, and worshipped in
them devoutly.

For what had they prepared him, on whom they had smiled, not so
uniformly as to soften his fine fibre, but as if they would have
cherished so rare an example of their handiwork, and led it towards
still higher desert of their bounties?  Would they not watch over him
and preserve him from the ultimate dangers which youth was plunging to
meet at this point in the world’s long history?  Or is the world’s
history itself a mere point in time, as it unrolls itself before their
unwearying eyes, so that it matters not what destruction may be wrought
in it, since there is infinity in which to forge new combinations of
flesh and brain and fortune?

To the women on the edge of the vortex in which manhood was fiercely
involved, but striving by prayers and tears to weigh down the balance of
life and death in favour of the men they loved, the gods may well have
appeared contemptuously indifferent.  The very interests towards which
they had seemed to be working, the values they had impressed upon those
to whom they had given enlightenment to understand them, what were they
in the balance?  It was impossible for mothers to look upon a life of no
more than twenty years as rounded and complete, however they might have
laboured to perfect it; or for young wives to balance the bliss of early
married love against a life-time of companionship and the sweet joint
care of children, and cry quits on the bargain.  To them the happiness
of youth is an earnest of still still greater happiness to come; a youth
cut short is a youth wasted, however it may have fulfilled itself.

To Lady Brent, watching the news from the battlefields of the Somme, day
after day, week after weary week, it seemed as if all young life hung by
the balance of a hair.  She felt the weight of it far more than during
the previous years, in which Harry had been far removed, and the details
of the fighting had not been brought before her with this daily deadly
insistence. To her, more than to most whose hopes were dependent upon
the chances of battle, did youth appear as a period of preparation
rather than of fruition.  Her one steady object during the last twenty
years had been to work with the high gods so as to fulfil their purpose;
and she seemed to herself to have been blest in her strivings in such a
way as to give her the right to believe that her object had also been
theirs.

She had had her grave doubts, but now the weight of them had been
removed from her.  Surely that had been because she had not tarried to
accept the foiling of her own plans where they had not served the great
purpose!  The love that had come to Harry was, on the face of it, just
the kind of love from which she had most desired to preserve him.  Now
she saw it as the crown of his happy youth, but still more as the gift
that was to bless his manhood to come.  The plunging of him into crude
and unfamiliar life, which had still lain on his spirit at his first
homecoming, and had brought her such trouble of mind on his behalf—he
had come through that fire.  It was, as Wilbraham had said, the
tempering of the steel in him.  He would not have been of the fine metal
that he was if he had not felt its rigour; and, having gone through it,
he would not be what it had made of him if his spirit were not now freed
from it. Every letter that he wrote showed him free and untroubled in
the life he was living and the work he was doing.  He wrote happily and
gaily, and as if there was not a care on his mind.  They all seemed to
take it like that—the boys who were out there, snapping their fingers in
the face of Death, who was gibbering at them from every corner and
trying to frighten them into respect for his menace.  Harry had never
feared death, and now he no longer feared life in any of its unfamiliar
aspects, but embraced it with all the ardour of his youth, and with it
the happiness it had in store for him when the great confusion should be
smoothed out.

Surely he must be spared, for whom life held so much! It could not be
squared with any theory of directing and guiding providence that one who
had been dowered with the gifts of life so much above others, and was so
much in accord with the higher purposes of life as they had been slowly
and sometimes painfully revealed to her, should be denied his full
inheritance of life.

But so much high promise had been cut down and gathered in to the
dreadful harvest.  Day after day those long lists came out.  Names,
names, columns and pages long, and each one of them to some, perhaps to
many, so much more than a name.  She could only wait and tremble for the
tilt of the scales.  He had been in the thick of it and was untouched so
far, though so many of those who had been fighting around him had
fallen.  A charmed life?  By all the theories to which she wrested her
mind she ought to have believed so, as the weeks went by and his letters
came.  But the dread only increased.

She showed little of it.  Jane was her frequent companion, and though
they never spoke of the dread, each divined much of what the other was
thinking.

Half child, half woman, Jane hovered strangely between fear and
fatalism.  She loved Harry, but if there had been any budding of a
woman’s love in her it had been nipped by the revelation of his love for
Viola and flowed again only in the channels of her childish devotion.
There was something of the woman in the way she regarded him in
connection with Viola.  One man for one woman to love and cherish.  He
was hers when he had fallen captive to her; others only had that share
in him which she might grant to them.  Jane had accepted Sidney as a
possible mate for Harry, and now she accepted Viola, whom she also loved
since she had come to Royd.  There was no jealousy in her.  Harry loved
her as he had always loved her; and Viola loved her. She felt almost as
if she had brought them together.

But in Jane’s childish view the recognition of this kind of love was the
closing of youth’s manuscript.  She was uplifted by the idea of having a
pair of intimate married friends; but it would be different.  She did
not ask herself in what way.  It might be even more agreeable than
having two separate friends, but it would be different.  So her view of
Harry was a backward one.  She talked chiefly of him as he had been, and
Lady Brent, somewhat to her comfort, learnt to look upon Harry’s youth
also as a chapter in some sense closed, and as a very perfect chapter.
Whatever might happen, he had had that.  And she had been instrumental
in fashioning his youth—a jewel to hang upon the neck of memory, whole
and flawless.

She would not disturb Jane with her fears, but the child divined them
and was often struck by foreboding, which she resisted with all her
might.  In this also she gave comfort.  Her optimism, fitting to her
youth and inexperience, was insistent, and would not be denied. Nothing
could happen to Harry worse than what had happened already.  Nothing—she
seemed to frame her creed—could happen to one who was so loved.


The gods held the scales—life whole or life disabled on the one side,
death on the other.  They dipped now this way, now that.  What was it
that they threw into them?  Was there any weight in the strong urgings
of those who thought they had learnt from them that they would incline
their ears to such utterances?  Was there anything that might incline
them to spare one to whom they had shown their favours until now?  Was
he not nearer to them in the tested quality of his manhood than the
generality of beings whom they sent to represent their godhead on earth?
Had they not fashioned him to shine in years to come as an example of
the kind of human stuff they could produce from their workshops?  Had
they no further use for him in a world so largely populated with their
failures?  Or were the tokens they threw into the scales nothing at all
but just the chances of time and space, so that this man’s righteousness
and that man’s worthlessness were of no account against the tick of a
watch or the ruled immutable path of a shard of iron?

Did they even hesitate?  Was it destined from the beginning of time that
just at that moment in a sodden desolate winter’s dawn, by just that
naked riven tree, the life they had given and so richly endowed should
be battered out of the young eager body in which they had set it, with
nothing in it left that could any more upon earth give or receive love?


So it happened.  The day of blood dawned, and waxed and waned and ended.
Many were killed in it, many lived to remember it as no more terrible
than other days. But Harry died in it.  The last boon they gave him was
that he died very quickly.



                             *CHAPTER XXIX*

                                 *LOVE*


On a February morning Viola walked through the woods of Royd, along the
path by which Harry had hastened to meet her in those bright summer days
that were now so far off.  Jane was with her.  They talked as they
walked, and sometimes even smiled.  No one would have guessed at the
sorrow that lay like a numbing weight upon one of them, and had so
saddened the other that she seemed in these days to have left most of
her childhood behind her.

They talked of this and that, but at any moment they might fall into
talk of Harry.  They were never together for long without mention of
him.  Jane was the only person to whom Viola spoke of him freely.  Lady
Brent, who hid the ruin of her life and of her hopes as best she could,
seemed to cling to her presence at Royd, but they could not talk
together yet about Harry, though his name was not avoided between them.
Mrs. Brent had been to Royd and had gone away again.  Her visit had been
painful enough; her sorrow was great and her laments had been ceaseless.
But jealousy had prevented her trying to get a response from Viola.
With Wilbraham, whom she had seen once since the fatal news had come,
she had spoken of him, but then it had been as if she hardly understood
what had happened.  Her father had been very kind to her, but with no
direct effort to console her for what was beyond consolation. She had
come to Royd after a few days, and had been there ever since.

They were talking of Sidney Pawle as they walked together through the
wood, to which the leafless trees admitted gleams of winter sunshine, so
different from the splashes of vivid light that had quivered through the
leaves on to the deep rich greenness of summer.  Sidney had gone away
from Poldaven, but Jane had heard from her a few days before, with the
news of her engagement, now permitted, though grudgingly.  She had told
Jane that she meant to be married whenever Noel could get his leave, but
had not yet broken the intention to her parents.

"I am sure she is right," Viola said.  "Even if he gets killed
afterwards she will have had him all her very own."

Jane hesitated a moment before she said, rather brusquely: "She thinks
of him as her very own now."

"Oh, yes," said Viola, almost indifferently.

Jane stuck to her point.  "You had Harry all your very own," she said.
"There wasn’t anybody else.  He liked me and Sidney, but there wasn’t
really anybody else but you."  It was by that unafraid directness, which
was part of her nature, that she had made her way with Viola, where
nobody else had gained any access to her tortured bewildered mind.  She
could say anything to her, because there was only truth and love behind
her words.

"I know," said Viola.  "I’m very glad Sidney is going to be happy—as
long as it lasts—but I don’t believe they can possibly love each other
as much as Harry and I did.  That’s what makes it so cruel that he was
killed.  There was never anybody like him.  Why were we allowed to know
each other and to love each other if it was just to be like that?"

"That’s what I mean," said Jane.  "You did love each other, and even if
you’re awfully miserable now you’d rather be that than never have known
Harry."

"It doesn’t seem to matter much whether I’m miserable or not," Viola
said.  "Everybody who has said anything to me about it has seemed to
think that’s the chief thing—that I shall get over it in time.  What
does it matter whether I get over it or not?  It’s Harry’s being killed
that matters."

"I know," said Jane.  "Older people don’t seem to understand, though
they only mean to be kind.  It’s all so different to what I’d ever
thought it would be, if anything like that happened with somebody you
loved very much.  There’s part of you goes on doing the same things
almost as if you’d forgotten, and even perhaps enjoying yourself
sometimes; and there’s part of you that never forgets.  Of course it
isn’t the same for me as it is for you," she added on a note of
humility, "but I know enough to understand."

"Oh, my dear, I know how much you loved Harry. It’s what makes me love
you.  I think I love you better than anybody, just because of that.  It
all comes back to Harry, you see.  Poor Lady Brent loved him, and I’m
desperately sorry for her.  Sometimes it seems as if I’m more sorry for
her than I am for myself.  It isn’t like being sorry for oneself; I
don’t seem to count.  But I’m sorry for her.  She’s old, but she isn’t
hard, as many old people are.  And there are so many other things than
just Harry that she has lost."

"What sort of things?"

"Oh, everything that he was, or was going to be—everything she had
thought about and looked forward to all the time he was growing up.  I
suppose they were all part of Harry to her; but they weren’t very much
to me.  I think I was even a little jealous of them.  Once when we were
at the log cabin, and talked about going away to a new country—you know,
just as you used to talk, half in fun—I thought, oh, how I wish we
could, and he would work for me and I would work for him. I wished he
wasn’t Sir Harry Brent at all, with all that belonged to him, but just
Harry, who only belonged to me."

"Of course that would have been best of all.  But he was Harry just the
same, and that’s what matters most to Lady Brent."

"Oh, yes, I know.  But all the rest does matter to her, poor dear, and I
don’t wonder at it—for her. Everything that meant so much to her has
come to an end.  He was the last Brent, and even Royd itself is nothing
to her now.  I should think that was a great pity myself, if it were
anybody else.  I think she would have liked to talk about it to me,
after the first.  But I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t now—only to you.
You’re the only person who really knows how little it matters—to me."

Jane was silent.  She had heard that talk, and tried to adjust her mind
to it.  Her father, deeply shocked at Harry’s death, and of some comfort
to her in his exposition of the Christian faith in immortality, had yet
let his mind run upon some aspects of the loss that had seemed to her,
in the first outbreak of her grief, almost to belittle it.  He had
talked about the loss to Viola, not only of Harry, but of what she would
have had as Harry’s wife—even as his widow.  He had taken it for granted
that some day she would get over her grief at Harry’s death.  It was not
to be expected that she would think of the material benefits that would
have come to her, now; but afterwards she would.

Was this so?  Jane had talked to her mother, who had told her, striving
hard to be honest with her, that few people were altogether free from
worldly desires when they grew older, and that the most bitter grief was
assuaged by time.  Jane had listened, but held to her opinion that Viola
would never get over Harry’s loss, and that nothing she had lost besides
would ever matter to her.  But she had been a little shaken.  Now she
felt that she was justified in her faith in Viola.  Not even the loss of
all that saddened others who also loved Harry, but not as she did,
mattered to her; the loss of those things to herself she did not think
about, nor ever would.

They had come a long way through the ride.  "I’m going to take you to a
place I haven’t been to since Harry died," Viola said, as she turned to
a faintly defined track through the wood.  "I’ve wanted to go, but I
couldn’t by myself."

She spoke without more emotion than had marked her speech hitherto, and
as they threaded their way through the trees, which grew closely here,
she told Jane how Harry had led her to the woodland pool on the morning
after they had first met, and how they had spent long summer hours in
that green retreat, happy in their love.

Jane felt that she was going to a holy place.  Harry had never mentioned
this secret pool to her, though he had shown her many secrets of the
woods.

The hardly discernible path by which they had turned aside was soon lost
in the tangle of undergrowth.  Viola told her that they had never gone
to the pool by the same way, so as not to leave a track; but she went on
unhesitatingly, "I think I could find my way to it blindfold," she said.

Presently they came to the pool.  Viola caught her breath and gave a
little shiver as she stood on its brink. The sun had gone behind the
clouds, and the waters were cold and steely, but there was no wind, and
they reflected as in a mirror the bare trees, which had once been
arrassed with their leafy tapestry, to close in this hidden temple.
"It’s not the same," she said.  "It isn’t secret any more.  I wish I
hadn’t come."

She turned, and there was the great tree, with the jutting roots under
its spreading canopy upon which she had sat as a queen crowned by
Harry’s adoring love. She seemed to recoil, and gave a cry which echoed
forlornly through the naked woods.  Then she sank on to the ground
beside the mossed roots crying, "Oh, Harry! My darling!  Oh, my
darling!"

The suddenness of it had brought Jane’s heart to her mouth.  Viola was
sobbing as if her heart would break. It was the first time Jane had seen
her abandon herself to her despairing grief.  Her own love and sorrow
welled up in her.  She knelt beside Viola, embracing her as she lay
there, and mingling her tears with hers, but not speaking.

For a long time both of them wept together.  Viola’s sobs decreased in
violence, but she cried piteously and forlornly.  "Oh, Harry, I do want
you so," she sobbed. "Why have you gone away from me?"

Jane rose to her knees.  Viola, still lying against the roots, with her
head buried on her arm, caught her hand and held it.  The pressure
thrilled Jane through and through.  She could console, in this
unconsolable grief. She felt as if it were a trust from Harry to do so.
Viola was not quite alone in the world, if she could still cling to her
in her bitter trouble.  She bent down again and kissed her, and Viola’s
arms went round her neck. "Don’t cry any more," she said through her own
falling tears.  "Harry hasn’t left you.  He’s alive and happy.  Perhaps
he’s looking at us now.  He loves you as much as you love him."

Viola’s sobs ceased for the moment.  "He did," she said.  "Oh, if I knew
he loved me still I could bear never seeing him any more.  But he’s
dead.  They killed Harry, Jane.  Can you believe it?  My darling Harry!
He kissed me here when he was alive and we talked and talked such a
little time ago.  I can hear him now this very minute and feel him by
me.  But he is dead.  I must keep on saying it or I can’t believe it.
Harry is dead."

Her sobs broke out afresh.  Jane rose to her feet, "No," she said, with
a solemn look on her child’s face. "Harry isn’t dead.  He won’t like to
see you giving way like that.  Just for a time you can’t help it, I
know; but you’ve cried enough.  Get up now, Viola, and let’s talk about
Harry."

Viola arose obediently, and dried her eyes.  "I’ve always tried to be
brave," she said, "because I knew Harry would like it.  He wouldn’t have
gone away from me if he could have helped it.  I’m sorry I said what I
did just now, but it was too much for me seeing this place.  I shan’t
come here again.  Let’s go away."

Jane hesitated.  "Wouldn’t you rather stay, and talk about him here?"
she said.  "It brought him more back to you to come here.  It was too
much for you at first; but now you’ve got over that——"

Viola stood and looked about her.  Her cheeks were wet with her tears,
and at intervals a tremor passed through her body; but she was not
weeping now, and the quieter look was returning to her face.

"It is the same place, after all," she said, as if slowly recognizing
it.  "But it’s bare—like my heart is.  I used to think it welcomed us
when we came here, it was so quiet and beautiful.  It’s beautiful now,
though. Harry would have loved it like this.  Yes, we’ll stay here a
little, Jane dear.  Look, this is just where I used to sit, and Harry
would always lie on the grass.  In other places he used to sit by me,
but here he said I was a queen, and he must be at my feet.  Come and sit
by me on my poor throne, Jane, and we’ll talk about him."

They sat side by side.  Jane nestled to her with her arm around her
waist, and for a time they said nothing. The sunlight fell upon them,
filtering through the interlaced branches, as they sat still in a
contact which was a solace to both of them.  Grief does not set abiding
marks upon the young.  But for the traces of her tears Viola was as
fresh and fair as when she had sat there for Harry to worship her.  It
was only in her tender reliant heart that the wound was quivering and
throbbing.  She was widowed of her love, though she had never been wed.
There was no one who could comfort her, except the still younger girl
who shared her love and her grief, and was nestling to her.

The silence of the woods lay all about them, but it was not the iron
silence of deep winter.  There was a sense of reviving life in the
February sunshine, and the hazy purple of the already swelling
leaf-buds.

Viola bent over Jane and kissed her.  "You do comfort me, dear," she
said.  "I thought nothing could ever comfort me again, but you do.  You
loved my darling Harry."

Jane buried her face on Viola’s breast and cried softly, and Viola’s
tears came again, but not with the abandonment she had lately shown.
They were healing tears of love and sympathy.

Jane dried her eyes, still leaning against Viola, and said: "I’m very
glad you brought me here.  Now I know.  Now I know for certain."

"What do you know, dear?" Viola asked her gently. She felt the stirrings
of love in her towards this child, so loyal and so steel-true.  Her
quiet tears, leaning on her breast, had brought out the child in her.
She had been dreadfully hurt too, and needed for herself the consolation
that she had only thought of giving, with a strength and wisdom beyond
her years.  Viola kissed her again as she asked her question.

"I know that Harry is alive," said Jane, sitting upright and looking out
across the waters of the pool, upon which there was not a tremor.  It
was as if it had hushed itself to listen.  "This place seems to be full
of him.  I know why.  It’s because of the love that it holds.  Love
can’t die; it’s there for always.  Harry loves you just as much as he
did when you came here together.  I believe he loves me too, just as he
used to when I was little.  Once he sent me a message, before anybody,
because we were friends.  Now I believe he’s sending me a message again.
He loves you.  Yes, he does.  It isn’t that he did love you, and then he
died and you’ve only got that to remember.  He loves you now, and he’ll
never leave off loving you, till you see him again, and are happy
together as you used to be."

Viola’s eyes had been fixed on her, as if fascinated. Her utterance was
almost prophetic in its rapt intensity.  When she had spoken she nestled
to Viola again, and said in a softer tone: "It makes me almost happy
now, believing that.  Don’t you feel that it’s true?"

"Do you really _believe_ we shall meet again some day?" Viola asked.
"If you’d asked me—before—I should have said I believed that.  But it
hasn’t given me any comfort, up till now.  I suppose I didn’t really
believe it, as I used to believe I should meet him again the next day
here.  If I could only know it!"

"But don’t you _feel_ that Harry’s alive?" said Jane. "I do.  If you
can’t feel it yet it’s only because you’ve been so sad and so puzzled
that you haven’t known. But if I can feel it you will be able to more
still, because Harry loved you so much.  I think he wants you to feel it
now."

It was Viola’s turn now to look out across the water. "It would be like
Harry," she said, slowly.  "Oh, Jane, if it’s only true!"

She put her hand to her breast, and a smile broke out upon her face—such
a smile as had not lightened it these many days.

"Of course it’s true," said Jane, in her decisive way. "It’s part of our
religion.  We say every Sunday in church: ’I believe in the resurrection
of the dead, and the life of the world to come.’"

"Ah, but that’s not the same.  I want to think of Harry as alive now.
It seemed to come to me just now that he really is—like the sun breaking
through the clouds.  If _that’s_ true, Jane dear—if _that’s_ true, that
my darling Harry is alive now somewhere, just like he used to be, and
loving me all the time, and I only have to wait for a little before I
see him again——"

"You won’t even have to wait," said Jane, "if you know he’s loving you,
and you can go on loving him because he’s alive, and not only remember
what he was when he was here."

"No.  It will only be like what it was when he went away before.  My
heart was going out to him always, and when he came back all the parting
was forgotten, and it was sweeter than if we hadn’t parted.  Oh, Jane,
fancy seeing Harry just like he used to be, beautiful and laughing and
happy!  Do you think it’s possible that it can be really like that—that
he’s somewhere now—not lying out there in France, but just as he was
when we loved each other so much?  Tell me you really believe it, and
are not saying it only to comfort me."

Jane clung to her again.  "I’m sure of it," she said. "It’s Harry’s
message.  You don’t mind it coming through me, do you?  It’s a message
to you; he wants me to give it you.  It’s not in words, as if he were
speaking.  It’s all through me.  Harry wants your love just as much now
as ever he did, and he loves you just as much too."

Viola sat silent, with a tender look in her eyes, and a smile upon her
lips.  Presently she said: "Harry once saw something, not belonging to
the world which everybody can see, and when he told me I knew at once
why he had seen it, because there had never been anything in the way
with him.  There never has been.  You could look deep, deep, deep into
him, and never find anything there that wasn’t beautiful and true.  I
wonder if there’s another place where people like that really belong—no,
not a place, but something they belong to all the time they’re in the
world, and that goes on just the same for them when they have left the
world.  I think there must be, Jane, and that’s how it is with Harry.
That would make him here, with us, wouldn’t it?"

"Yes," said Jane, softly.  "That’s what I feel about it.  It’s all love.
I can’t explain exactly, but when he was here with his body there was
something else more important still, and just as real.  It’s love that
is real—like a person.  Can you understand?"

"Yes, I think I can, and it’s what I meant, too, that is so comforting.
What I loved most in him when he was here is just what he is still, and
I can go on loving it, because it didn’t die when he was killed.  I
wonder if he thought that too.  I couldn’t bear to think of him being
killed, so he never talked about it."

"Wasn’t that because he thought it didn’t _really_ matter?"

"Oh, how it matters to me!  But perhaps God took him so that he should
never be spoilt, not the least little bit.  Oh, but I would have tried
so hard to be worthy of him, if only he’d been left to me, just for a
little little time longer.  He said I helped him.  I believe I did, when
he was unhappy—because the world wasn’t like it had been to him here,
and I knew more about the world than he did, poor darling!"

"It’s very hard indeed, and you can’t quite understand it all.  But when
you say to yourself, it’s all it seems somehow to put it more right.
And the text says, God is love, so that would come in too, though I
don’t quite know how till I think about it more.  But what I’m quite
certain of is that Harry couldn’t have been _wasted_.  I think that’s
what poor Lady Brent can’t see.  All of him that we loved is alive
somewhere.  I’m more and more sure of that every moment.  I believe it’s
what Harry is trying to say to us.  Let’s just say we believe it, Viola
dear.  Perhaps it will even make him more happy if we do.  I believe it.
I believe Harry is alive and that he knows about us, and some day you
will see him again, and you will be happier together than you have ever
been.  Say it, Viola."

"The last letter Harry wrote to me," said Viola, musingly, "he said he
should love me always, always, always.  Do you think he meant what we’ve
been saying, Jane, though he wouldn’t write about being killed?"

"I expect he did.  I’m sure he must have believed it, and I’m sure he
wants you to believe it now.  Say it, Viola.  Say you believe it."

Viola rose and stood before her.  A smile was on her lips, and there was
a light in her eyes.  "I do believe it," she said, "and it will make
everything different to me all through my life.  Harry will be with me
always."

She turned and stood, looking up to the clear space of sky above the
pool.  "Oh, Harry, my darling," she said very softly, and tenderly, "can
you hear me—your own Viola, who loves you so?  I do love you, darling,
now and for ever."





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