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A Pair of Blue Eyes

by Thomas Hardy

'A violet in the youth of primy nature

Forwardnot permanentsweet not lasting

The perfume and suppliance of a minute;

No more.'

PREFACE

The following chapters were written at a time when the craze for
indiscriminate church-restoration had just reached the remotest
nooks of western Englandwhere the wild and tragic features of
the coast had long combined in perfect harmony with the crude
Gothic Art of the ecclesiastical buildings scattered along it
throwing into extraordinary discord all architectural attempts at
newness there. To restore the grey carcases of a mediaevalism
whose spirit had fledseemed a not less incongruous act than to
set about renovating the adjoining crags themselves.

Hence it happened that an imaginary history of three human hearts
whose emotions were not without correspondence with these material
circumstancesfound in the ordinary incidents of such churchrenovations
a fitting frame for its presentation.

The shore and country about 'Castle Boterel' is now getting well
knownand will be readily recognized. The spot isI may add
the furthest westward of all those convenient corners wherein I
have ventured to erect my theatre for these imperfect little
dramas of country life and passions; and it lies near toor no
great way beyondthe vague border of the Wessex kingdom on that
sidewhichlike the westering verge of modern American
settlementswas progressive and uncertain.

Thishoweveris of little importance. The place is preeminently
(for one person at least) the region of dream and
mystery. The ghostly birdsthe pall-like seathe frothy wind
the eternal soliloquy of the watersthe bloom of dark purple
castthat seems to exhale from the shoreward precipicesin
themselves lend to the scene an atmosphere like the twilight of a
night vision.

One enormous sea-bord cliff in particular figures in the
narrative; and for some forgotten reason or other this cliff was
described in the story as being without a name. Accuracy would
require the statement to be that a remarkable cliff which
resembles in many points the cliff of the description bears a name
that no event has made famous.

T. H.
March 1899

THE PERSONS

ELFRIDE SWANCOURT a young Lady
CHRISTOPHER SWANCOURT a Clergyman
STEPHEN SMITH an Architect
HENRY KNIGHT a Reviewer and Essayist
CHARLOTTE TROYTON a rich Widow
GERTRUDE JETHWAY a poor Widow
SPENSER HUGO LUXELLIAN a Peer
LADY LUXELLIAN his Wife
MARY AND KATE two little Girls
WILLIAM WORM a dazed Factotum
JOHN SMITH a Master-mason
JANE SMITH his Wife
MARTIN CANNISTER a Sexton
UNITY a Maid-servant

Other servantsmasonslabourersgroomsnondescriptsetc.etc.


THE SCENE
Mostly on the outskirts of Lower Wessex.


Chapter I


'A fair vestalthroned in the west'


Elfride Swancourt was a girl whose emotions lay very near the
surface. Their nature more preciselyand as modified by the
creeping hours of timewas known only to those who watched the
circumstances of her history.


Personallyshe was the combination of very interesting
particularswhose rarityhoweverlay in the combination itself
rather than in the individual elements combined. As a matter of
factyou did not see the form and substance of her features when
conversing with her; and this charming power of preventing a
material study of her lineaments by an interlocutororiginated
not in the cloaking effect of a well-formed manner (for her manner
was childish and scarcely formed)but in the attractive crudeness
of the remarks themselves. She had lived all her life in
retirement--the monstrari gigito of idle men had not flattered
herand at the age of nineteen or twenty she was no further on in
social consciousness than an urban young lady of fifteen.


One point in herhoweveryou did notice: that was her eyes. In
them was seen a sublimation of all of her; it was not necessary to
look further: there she lived.


These eyes were blue; blue as autumn distance--blue as the blue we
see between the retreating mouldings of hills and woody slopes on
a sunny September morning. A misty and shady bluethat had no
beginning or surfaceand was looked INTO rather than AT.


As to her presenceit was not powerful; it was weak. Some women
can make their personality pervade the atmosphere of a whole
banqueting hall; Elfride's was no more pervasive than that of a
kitten.


Elfride had as her own the thoughtfulness which appears in the



face of the Madonna della Sediawithout its rapture: the warmth
and spirit of the type of woman's feature most common to the
beauties--mortal and immortal--of Rubenswithout their insistent
fleshiness. The characteristic expression of the female faces of
Correggio--that of the yearning human thoughts that lie too deep
for tears--was hers sometimesbut seldom under ordinary
conditions.

The point in Elfride Swancourt's life at which a deeper current
may be said to have permanently set inwas one winter afternoon
when she found herself standingin the character of hostessface
to face with a man she had never seen before--moreoverlooking at
him with a Miranda-like curiosity and interest that she had never
yet bestowed on a mortal.

On this particular day her fatherthe vicar of a parish on the
sea-swept outskirts of Lower Wessexand a widowerwas suffering
from an attack of gout. After finishing her household
supervisions Elfride became restlessand several times left the
roomascended the staircaseand knocked at her father's chamberdoor.


'Come in!' was always answered in a hearty out-of-door voice from
the inside.

'Papa' she said on one occasion to the finered-facedhandsome
man of fortywhopuffing and fizzing like a bursting bottlelay
on the bed wrapped in a dressing-gownand every now and then
enunciatingin spite of himselfabout one letter of some word or
words that were almost oaths; 'papawill you not come downstairs
this evening?' She spoke distinctly: he was rather deaf.

'Afraid not--eh-hh !--very much afraid I shall notElfride.
Piph-ph-ph! I can't bear even a handkerchief upon this deuced toe
of minemuch less a stocking or slipper--piph-ph-ph! There 'tis
again! NoI shan't get up till to-morrow.'

'Then I hope this London man won't come; for I don't know what I
should dopapa.'

'Wellit would be awkwardcertainly.'

'I should hardly think he would come to-day.'

'Why?'

'Because the wind blows so.'

'Wind! What ideas you haveElfride! Who ever heard of wind
stopping a man from doing his business? The idea of this toe of
mine coming on so suddenly!...If he should comeyou must send him
up to meI supposeand then give him some food and put him to
bed in some way. Dear mewhat a nuisance all this is!'

'Must he have dinner?'

'Too heavy for a tired man at the end of a tedious journey.'

'Teathen?'

'Not substantial enough.'

'High teathen? There is cold fowlrabbit-piesome pastiesand
things of that kind.'


'Yeshigh tea.'

'Must I pour out his teapapa?'

'Of course; you are the mistress of the house.'

'What! sit there all the time with a strangerjust as if I knew
himand not anybody to introduce us?'

'Nonsensechildabout introducing; you know better than that. A
practical professional mantired and hungrywho has been
travelling ever since daylight this morningwill hardly be
inclined to talk and air courtesies to-night. He wants food and
shelterand you must see that he has itsimply because I am
suddenly laid up and cannot. There is nothing so dreadful in
thatI hope? You get all kinds of stuff into your head from
reading so many of those novels.'

'Oh no; there is nothing dreadful in it when it becomes plainly a
case of necessity like this. Butyou seeyou are always there
when people come to dinnereven if we know them; and this is some
strange London man of the worldwho will think it oddperhaps.'

'Very well; let him.'

'Is he Mr. Hewby's partner?'

'I should scarcely think so: he may be.'

'How old is heI wonder?'

'That I cannot tell. You will find the copy of my letter to Mr.
Hewbyand his answerupon the table in the study. You may read
themand then you'll know as much as I do about our visitor.'

'I have read them.'

'Wellwhat's the use of asking questionsthen? They contain all
I know. Ugh-h-h!...Od plague youyou young scamp! don't put
anything there! I can't bear the weight of a fly.'

'OhI am sorrypapa. I forgot; I thought you might be cold'
she saidhastily removing the rug she had thrown upon the feet of
the sufferer; and waiting till she saw that consciousness of her
offence had passed from his faceshe withdrew from the roomand
retired again downstairs.

Chapter II

'Twas on the evening of a winter's day.'

When two or three additional hours had merged
the same afternoon in eveningsome moving outlines might have
been observed against the sky on the summit of a wild lone hill in
that district. They circumscribed two menhaving at present the
aspect of silhouettessitting in a dog-cart and pushing along in
the teeth of the wind. Scarcely a solitary house or man had been
visible along the whole dreary distance of open country they were
traversing; and now that night had begun to fallthe faint
twilightwhich still gave an idea of the landscape to their


observationwas enlivened by the quiet appearance of the planet
Jupitermomentarily gleaming in intenser brilliancy in front of
themand by Sirius shedding his rays in rivalry from his position
over their shoulders. The only lights apparent on earth were some
spots of dull redglowing here and there upon the distant hills
whichas the driver of the vehicle gratuitously remarked to the
hirerwere smouldering fires for the consumption of peat and
gorse-rootswhere the common was being broken up for agricultural
purposes. The wind prevailed with but little abatement from its
daytime boisterousnessthree or four small cloudsdelicate and
palecreeping along under the sky southward to the Channel.

Fourteen of the sixteen miles intervening between the railway
terminus and the end of their journey had been gone overwhen
they began to pass along the brink of a valley some miles in
extentwherein the wintry skeletons of a more luxuriant
vegetation than had hitherto surrounded them proclaimed an
increased richness of soilwhich showed signs of far more careful
enclosure and management than had any slopes they had yet passed.
A little fartherand an opening in the elms stretching up from
this fertile valley revealed a mansion.

'That's Endelstow HouseLord Luxellian's' said the driver.

'Endelstow HouseLord Luxellian's' repeated the other
mechanically. He then turned himself sidewaysand keenly
scrutinized the almost invisible house with an interest which the
indistinct picture itself seemed far from adequate to create.
'Yesthat's Lord Luxellian's' he said yet again after a while
as he still looked in the same direction.

'Whatbe we going there?'

'No; Endelstow Vicarageas I have told you.'

'I thought you m't have altered your mindsiras ye have stared
that way at nothing so long.'

'Oh no; I am interested in the housethat's all.'

'Most people beas the saying is.'

'Not in the sense that I am.'

'Oh!...Wellhis family is no better than my own'a b'lieve.'

'How is that?'

'Hedgers and ditchers by rights. But once in ancient times one of
'emwhen he was at workchanged clothes with King Charles the
Secondand saved the king's life. King Charles came up to him
like a common manand said off-handMan in the smock-frock, my
name is Charles the Second, and that's the truth on't. Will you
lend me your clothes?I don't mind if I do,said Hedger
Luxellian; and they changed there and then. "Now mind ye King
Charles the Second said, like a common man, as he rode away, if
ever I come to the crownyou come to courtknock at the door
and say out bold'Is King Charles the Second at home?' Tell your
nameand they shall let you inand you shall be made a lord."
Nowthat was very nice of Master Charley?'

'Very nice indeed.'

'Wellas the story isthe king came to the throne; and some


years after thataway went Hedger Luxellianknocked at the
king's doorand asked if King Charles the Second was in. "Nohe
isn't they said. Thenis Charles the Third?" said Hedger
Luxellian. "Yes said a young feller standing by like a common
man, only he had a crown on, my name is Charles the Third." And----'

'I really fancy that must be a mistake. I don't recollect
anything in English history about Charles the Third' said the
other in a tone of mild remonstrance.

'Ohthat's right history enoughonly 'twasn't prented; he was
rather a queer-tempered manif you remember.'

'Very well; go on.'

'Andby hook or by crookHedger Luxellian was made a lordand
everything went on well till some time afterwhen he got into a
most terrible row with King Charles the Fourth

'I can't stand Charles the Fourth. Upon my wordthat's too
much.'

'Why? There was a George the Fourthwasn't there?'

'Certainly.'

'WellCharleses be as common as Georges. However I'll say no
more about it....Ahwell! 'tis the funniest world ever I lived
in--upon my life 'tis. Ahthat such should be!'

The dusk had thickened into darkness while they thus conversed
and the outline and surface of the mansion gradually disappeared.
The windowswhich had before been as black blots on a lighter
expanse of wallbecame illuminatedand were transfigured to
squares of light on the general dark body of the night landscape
as it absorbed the outlines of the edifice into its gloomy
monochrome.

Not another word was spoken for some timeand they climbed a
hillthen another hill piled on the summit of the first. An
additional mile of plateau followedfrom which could be discerned
two light-houses on the coast they were nearingreposing on the
horizon with a calm lustre of benignity. Another oasis was
reached; a little dell lay like a nest at their feettowards
which the driver pulled the horse at a sharp angleand descended
a steep slope which dived under the trees like a rabbit's burrow.
They sank lower and lower.

'Endelstow Vicarage is inside here' continued the man with the
reins. 'This part about here is West Endelstow; Lord Luxellian's
is East Endelstowand has a church to itself. Pa'son Swancourt
is the pa'son of bothand bobs backward and forward. Ahwell!
'tis a funny world. 'A b'lieve there was once a quarry where this
house stands. The man who built it in past time scraped all the
glebe for earth to put round the vicarageand laid out a little
paradise of flowers and trees in the soil he had got together in
this waywhilst the fields he scraped have been good for nothing
ever since.'

'How long has the present incumbent been here?'

'Maybe about a yearor a year and half: 'tisn't two years; for
they don't scandalize him yet; andas a rulea parish begins to
scandalize the pa'son at the end of two years among 'em familiar.


But he's a very nice party. AyPa'son Swancourt knows me pretty
well from often driving over; and I know Pa'son Swancourt.'

They emerged from the bowerswept round in a curveand the
chimneys and gables of the vicarage became darkly visible. Not a
light showed anywhere. They alighted; the man felt his way into
the porchand rang the bell.

At the end of three or four minutesspent in patient waiting
without hearing any sounds of a responsethe stranger advanced
and repeated the call in a more decided manner. He then fancied
he heard footsteps in the halland sundry movements of the doorknob
but nobody appeared.

'Perhaps they beant at home' sighed the driver. 'And I promised
myself a bit of supper in Pa'son Swancourt's kitchen. Sich lovely
mate-pize and figged keakesand ciderand drops o' cordial that
they do keep here!'

'All rightnaibours! Be ye rich men or be ye poor menthat ye
must needs come to the world's end at this time o' night?'
exclaimed a voice at this instant; andturning their headsthey
saw a rickety individual shambling round from the back door with a
horn lantern dangling from his hand.

'Time o' night'a b'lieve! and the clock only gone seven of 'em.
Show a lightand let us inWilliam Worm.'

'Ohthat youRobert Lickpan?'

'Nobody elseWilliam Worm.'

'And is the visiting man a-come?'

'Yes' said the stranger. 'Is Mr. Swancourt at home?'

'That 'a issir. And would ye mind coming round by the back way?
The front door is got stuck wi' the wetas he will do sometimes;
and the Turk can't open en. I know I am only a poor wambling man
that 'ill never pay the Lord for my makingsir; but I can show
the way insir.'

The new arrival followed his guide through a little door in a
walland then promenaded a scullery and a kitchenalong which he
passed with eyes rigidly fixed in advancean inbred horror of
prying forbidding him to gaze around apartments that formed the
back side of the household tapestry. Entering the hallhe was
about to be shown to his roomwhen from the inner lobby of the
front entrancewhither she had gone to learn the cause of the
delaysailed forth the form of Elfride. Her start of amazement
at the sight of the visitor coming forth from under the stairs
proved that she had not been expecting this surprising flank
movementwhich had been originated entirely by the ingenuity of
William Worm.

She appeared in the prettiest of all feminine guisesthat is to
sayin demi-toilettewith plenty of loose curly hair tumbling
down about her shoulders. An expression of uneasiness pervaded
her countenance; and altogether she scarcely appeared woman enough
for the situation. The visitor removed his hatand the first
words were spoken; Elfride prelusively looking with a deal of
interestnot unmixed with surpriseat the person towards whom
she was to do the duties of hospitality.


'I am Mr. Smith' said the stranger in a musical voice.

'I am Miss Swancourt' said Elfride.

Her constraint was over. The great contrast between the reality
she beheld before herand the darktaciturnsharpelderly man
of business who had lurked in her imagination--a man with clothes
smelling of city smokeskin sallow from want of sunand talk
flavoured with epigram--was such a relief to her that Elfride
smiledalmost laughedin the new-comer's face.

Stephen Smithwho has hitherto been hidden from us by the
darknesswas at this time of his life but a youth in appearance
and barely a man in years. Judging from his lookLondon was the
last place in the world that one would have imagined to be the
scene of his activities: such a face surely could not be nourished
amid smoke and mud and fog and dust; such an open countenance
could never even have seen anything of 'the wearinessthe fever
and the fret' of Babylon the Second.

His complexion was as fine as Elfride's own; the pink of his
cheeks as delicate. His mouth as perfect as Cupid's bow in form
and as cherry-red in colour as hers. Bright curly hair; bright
sparkling blue-gray eyes; a boy's blush and manner; neither
whisker nor moustacheunless a little light-brown fur on his
upper lip deserved the latter title: this composed the London
professional manthe prospect of whose advent had so troubled
Elfride.

Elfride hastened to say she was sorry to tell him that Mr.
Swancourt was not able to receive him that eveningand gave the
reason why. Mr. Smith repliedin a voice boyish by nature and
manly by artthat he was very sorry to hear this news; but that
as far as his reception was concernedit did not matter in the
least.

Stephen was shown up to his room. In his absence Elfride
stealthily glided into her father's.

'He's comepapa. Such a young man for a business man!'

'Ohindeed!'

'His face is--well--PRETTY; just like mine.'

'H'm! what next?'

'Nothing; that's all I know of him yet. It is rather niceis it
not?'

'Wellwe shall see that when we know him better. Go down and
give the poor fellow something to eat and drinkfor Heaven's
sake. And when he has done eatingsay I should like to have a
few words with himif he doesn't mind coming up here.'

The young lady glided downstairs againand whilst she awaits
young Smith's entrythe letters referring to his visit had better
be given.

1.--MR. SWANCOURT TO MR. HEWBY.

'ENDELSTOW VICARAGEFeb. 1818--.


'SIR--We are thinking of restoring the tower and aisle of the
church in this parish; and Lord Luxellianthe patron of the
livinghas mentioned your name as that of a trustworthy architect
whom it would be desirable to ask to superintend the work.

'I am exceedingly ignorant of the necessary preliminary steps.
Probablyhoweverthe first is that (should you beas Lord
Luxellian says you aredisposed to assist us) yourself or some
member of your staff come and see the buildingand report
thereupon for the satisfaction of parishioners and others.

'The spot is a very remote one: we have no railway within fourteen
miles; and the nearest place for putting up at--called a town
though merely a large village--is Castle Botereltwo miles
further on; so that it would be most convenient for you to stay at
the vicarage--which I am glad to place at your disposal--instead
of pushing on to the hotel at Castle Botereland coming back
again in the morning.

'Any day of the next week that you like to name for the visit will
find us quite ready to receive you.--Yours very trulyCHRISTOPHER
SWANCOURT.

2.--MR. HEWBY TO MR. SWANCOURT.

PERCY PLACE, CHARING CROSS, Feb. 20, 18--.

'DEAR SIR,--Agreeably to your request of the 18th instant, I have
arranged to survey and make drawings of the aisle and tower of
your parish church, and of the dilapidations which have been
suffered to accrue thereto, with a view to its restoration.

'My assistant, Mr. Stephen Smith, will leave London by the early
train to-morrow morning for the purpose. Many thanks for your
proposal to accommodate him. He will take advantage of your
offer, and will probably reach your house at some hour of the
evening. You may put every confidence in him, and may rely upon
his discernment in the matter of church architecture.

'Trusting that the plans for the restoration, which I shall
prepare from the details of his survey, will prove satisfactory to
yourself and Lord Luxellian, I am, dear sir, yours faithfully,
WALTER HEWBY.'

Chapter III

'Melodious birds sing madrigals'

That first repast in Endelstow Vicarage was a very agreeable one
to young Stephen Smith. The table was spread, as Elfride had
suggested to her father, with the materials for the heterogeneous
meal called high tea--a class of refection welcome to all when
away from men and towns, and particularly attractive to youthful
palates. The table was prettily decked with winter flowers and
leaves, amid which the eye was greeted by chops, chicken, pie,
&c., and two huge pasties overhanging the sides of the dish with a
cheerful aspect of abundance.

At the end, towards the fireplace, appeared the tea-service, of
old-fashioned Worcester porcelain, and behind this arose the


slight form of Elfride, attempting to add matronly dignity to the
movement of pouring out tea, and to have a weighty and concerned
look in matters of marmalade, honey, and clotted cream. Having
made her own meal before he arrived, she found to her
embarrassment that there was nothing left for her to do but talk
when not assisting him. She asked him if he would excuse her
finishing a letter she had been writing at a side-table, and,
after sitting down to it, tingled with a sense of being grossly
rude. However, seeing that he noticed nothing personally wrong in
her, and that he too was embarrassed when she attentively watched
his cup to refill it, Elfride became better at ease; and when
furthermore he accidentally kicked the leg of the table, and then
nearly upset his tea-cup, just as schoolboys did, she felt herself
mistress of the situation, and could talk very well. In a few
minutes ingenuousness and a common term of years obliterated all
recollection that they were strangers just met. Stephen began to
wax eloquent on extremely slight experiences connected with his
professional pursuits; and she, having no experiences to fall back
upon, recounted with much animation stories that had been related
to her by her father, which would have astonished him had he heard
with what fidelity of action and tone they were rendered. Upon
the whole, a very interesting picture of Sweet-and-Twenty was on
view that evening in Mr. Swancourt's house.

Ultimately Stephen had to go upstairs and talk loud to the vicar,
receiving from him between his puffs a great many apologies for
calling him so unceremoniously to a stranger's bedroom. 'But,'
continued Mr. Swancourt, 'I felt that I wanted to say a few words
to you before the morning, on the business of your visit. One's
patience gets exhausted by staying a prisoner in bed all day
through a sudden freak of one's enemy--new to me, though--for I
have known very little of gout as yet. However, he's gone to my
other toe in a very mild manner, and I expect he'll slink off
altogether by the morning. I hope you have been well attended to
downstairs?'

'Perfectly. And though it is unfortunate, and I am sorry to see
you laid up, I beg you will not take the slightest notice of my
being in the house the while.'

'I will not. But I shall be down to-morrow. My daughter is an
excellent doctor. A dose or two of her mild mixtures will fetch
me round quicker than all the drug stuff in the world. Well, now
about the church business. Take a seat, do. We can't afford to
stand upon ceremony in these parts as you see, and for this
reason, that a civilized human being seldom stays long with us;
and so we cannot waste time in approaching him, or he will be gone
before we have had the pleasure of close acquaintance. This tower
of ours is, as you will notice, entirely gone beyond the
possibility of restoration; but the church itself is well enough.
You should see some of the churches in this county. Floors
rotten: ivy lining the walls.'

'Dear me!'

'Oh, that's nothing. The congregation of a neighbour of mine,
whenever a storm of rain comes on during service, open their
umbrellas and hold them up till the dripping ceases from the roof.
Now, if you will kindly bring me those papers and letters you see
lying on the table, I will show you how far we have got.'

Stephen crossed the room to fetch them, and the vicar seemed to
notice more particularly the slim figure of his visitor.


'I suppose you are quite competent?' he said.

'Quite,' said the young man, colouring slightly.

'You are very young, I fancy--I should say you are not more than
nineteen?'

I am nearly twenty-one.'

'Exactly half my age; I am forty-two.'

'By the way,' said Mr. Swancourt, after some conversation, 'you
said your whole name was Stephen Fitzmaurice, and that your
grandfather came originally from Caxbury. Since I have been
speaking, it has occurred to me that I know something of you. You
belong to a well-known ancient county family--not ordinary Smiths
in the least.'

'I don't think we have any of their blood in our veins.'

'Nonsense! you must. Hand me the Landed Gentry." Nowlet me
see. ThereStephen Fitzmaurice Smith--he lies in St. Mary's
Churchdoesn't he? Wellout of that family Sprang the
Leaseworthy Smithsand collaterally came General Sir Stephen
Fitzmaurice Smith of Caxbury----'

'Yes; I have seen his monument there' shouted Stephen. 'But
there is no connection between his family and mine: there cannot
be.'

'There is nonepossiblyto your knowledge. But look at thismy
dear sir' said the vicarstriking his fist upon the bedpost for
emphasis. 'Here are youStephen Fitzmaurice Smithliving in
Londonbut springing from Caxbury. Here in this book is a
genealogical tree of the Stephen Fitzmaurice Smiths of Caxbury
Manor. You may be only a family of professional men now--I am not
inquisitive: I don't ask questions of that kind; it is not in me
to do so--but it is as plain as the nose in your face that there's
your origin! AndMr. SmithI congratulate you upon your blood;
blue bloodsir; andupon my lifea very desirable colouras
the world goes.'

'I wish you could congratulate me upon some more tangible
quality' said the younger mansadly no less than modestly.

'Nonsense! that will come with time. You are young: all your life
is before you. Now look--see how far back in the mists of
antiquity my own family of Swancourt have a root. Hereyou see'
he continuedturning to the page'is Geoffreythe one among my
ancestors who lost a barony because he would cut his joke. Ah
it's the sort of us! But the story is too long to tell now. Ay
I'm a poor man--a poor gentlemanin fact: those I would be
friends withwon't be friends with me; those who are willing to
be friends with meI am above being friends with. Beyond dining
with a neighbouring incumbent or two. and an occasional chat-sometimes
dinner--with Lord Luxelliana connection of mineI am
in absolute solitude--absolute.'

'You have your studiesyour booksand your--daughter.'

'Oh yesyes; and I don't complain of poverty. Canto coram
latrone. WellMr. Smithdon't let me detain you any longer in a
sick room. Ha! that reminds me of a story I once heard in my
younger days.' Here the vicar began a series of small private


laughsand Stephen looked inquiry. 'Ohnono! it is too bad-too
bad to tell!' continued Mr. Swancourt in undertones of grim
mirth. 'Wellgo downstairs; my daughter must do the best she can
with you this evening. Ask her to sing to you--she plays and
sings very nicely. Good-night; I feel as if I had known you for
five or six years. I'll ring for somebody to show you down.'

'Never mind' said Stephen'I can find the way.' And he went
downstairsthinking of the delightful freedom of manner in the
remoter counties in comparison with the reserve of London.

'I forgot to tell you that my father was rather deaf' said
Elfride anxiouslywhen Stephen entered the little drawing-room.

'Never mind; I know all about itand we are great friends' the
man of business replied enthusiastically. 'AndMiss Swancourt
will you kindly sing to me?'

To Miss Swancourt this request seemedwhat in fact it was
exceptionally point-blank; though she guessed that her father had
some hand in framing itknowingrather to her costof his
unceremonious way of utilizing her for the benefit of dull
sojourners. At the same timeas Mr. Smith's manner was too frank
to provoke criticismand his age too little to inspire fearshe
was ready--not to say pleased--to accede. Selecting from the
canterbury some old family dittiesthat in years gone by had been
played and sung by her motherElfride sat down to the pianoforte
and beganTwas on the evening of a winter's day,' in a pretty
contralto voice.

'Do you like that old thing, Mr. Smith?' she said at the end.

'Yes, I do much,' said Stephen--words he would have uttered, and
sincerely, to anything on earth, from glee to requiem, that she
might have chosen.

'You shall have a little one by De Leyre, that was given me by a
young French lady who was staying at Endelstow House:

'Je l'ai planteje l'ai vu naitre
Ce beau rosier ou les oiseaux &c.;


and then I shall want to give you my own favourite for the very
last, Shelley's When the lamp is shattered as set to music by
my poor mother. I so much like singing to anybody who REALLY
cares to hear me.'

Every woman who makes a permanent impression on a man is usually
recalled to his mind's eye as she appeared in one particular
scene, which seems ordained to be her special form of
manifestation throughout the pages of his memory. As the patron
Saint has her attitude and accessories in mediaeval illumination,
so the sweetheart may be said to have hers upon the table of her
true Love's fancy, without which she is rarely introduced there
except by effort; and this though she may, on further
acquaintance, have been observed in many other phases which one
would imagine to be far more appropriate to love's young dream.

Miss Elfride's image chose the form in which she was beheld during
these minutes of singing, for her permanent attitude of visitation
to Stephen's eyes during his sleeping and waking hours in after


days. The profile is seen of a young woman in a pale gray silk
dress with trimmings of swan's-down, and opening up from a point
in front, like a waistcoat without a shirt; the cool colour
contrasting admirably with the warm bloom of her neck and face.
The furthermost candle on the piano comes immediately in a line
with her head, and half invisible itself, forms the accidentally
frizzled hair into a nebulous haze of light, surrounding her crown
like an aureola. Her hands are in their place on the keys, her
lips parted, and trilling forth, in a tender diminuendo, the
closing words of the sad apostrophe:

'O Love, who bewailest
The frailty of all things here,
Why choose you the frailest
For your cradle, your home, and your bier!'


Her head is forward a little, and her eyes directed keenly upward
to the top of the page of music confronting her. Then comes a
rapid look into Stephen's face, and a still more rapid look back
again to her business, her face having dropped its sadness, and
acquired a certain expression of mischievous archness the while;
which lingered there for some time, but was never developed into a
positive smile of flirtation.

Stephen suddenly shifted his position from her right hand to her
left, where there was just room enough for a small ottoman to
stand between the piano and the corner of the room. Into this
nook he squeezed himself, and gazed wistfully up into Elfride's
face. So long and so earnestly gazed he, that her cheek deepened
to a more and more crimson tint as each line was added to her
song. Concluding, and pausing motionless after the last word for
a minute or two, she ventured to look at him again. His features
wore an expression of unutterable heaviness.

'You don't hear many songs, do you, Mr. Smith, to take so much
notice of these of mine?'

'Perhaps it was the means and vehicle of the song that I was
noticing: I mean yourself,' he answered gently.

'Now, Mr. Smith!'

'It is perfectly true; I don't hear much singing. You mistake
what I am, I fancy. Because I come as a stranger to a secluded
spot, you think I must needs come from a life of bustle, and know
the latest movements of the day. But I don't. My life is as
quiet as yours, and more solitary; solitary as death.'

'The death which comes from a plethora of life? But seriously, I
can quite see that you are not the least what I thought you would
be before I saw you. You are not critical, or experienced, or-much
to mind. That's why I don't mind singing airs to you that I
only half know.' Finding that by this confession she had vexed him
in a way she did not intend, she added naively, 'I mean, Mr.
Smith, that you are better, not worse, for being only young and
not very experienced. You don't think my life here so very tame
and dull, I know.'

'I do not, indeed,' he said with fervour. 'It must be
delightfully poetical, and sparkling, and fresh, and----'


'There you go, Mr. Smith! Well, men of another kind, when I get
them to be honest enough to own the truth, think just the reverse:
that my life must be a dreadful bore in its normal state, though
pleasant for the exceptional few days they pass here.'

'I could live here always!' he said, and with such a tone and look
of unconscious revelation that Elfride was startled to find that
her harmonies had fired a small Troy, in the shape of Stephen's
heart. She said quickly:

'But you can't live here always.'

'Oh no.' And he drew himself in with the sensitiveness of a snail.

Elfride's emotions were sudden as his in kindling, but the least
of woman's lesser infirmities--love of admiration--caused an
inflammable disposition on his part, so exactly similar to her
own, to appear as meritorious in him as modesty made her own seem
culpable in her.

Chapter IV

'Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap.'

For reasons of his own, Stephen Smith was stirring a short time
after dawn the next morning. From the window of his room he could
see, first, two bold escarpments sloping down together like the
letter V. Towards the bottom, like liquid in a funnel, appeared
the sea, gray and small. On the brow of one hill, of rather
greater altitude than its neighbour, stood the church which was to
be the scene of his operations. The lonely edifice was black and
bare, cutting up into the sky from the very tip of the hill. It
had a square mouldering tower, owning neither battlement nor
pinnacle, and seemed a monolithic termination, of one substance
with the ridge, rather than a structure raised thereon. Round the
church ran a low wall; over-topping the wall in general level was
the graveyard; not as a graveyard usually is, a fragment of
landscape with its due variety of chiaro-oscuro, but a mere
profile against the sky, serrated with the outlines of graves and
a very few memorial stones. Not a tree could exist up there:
nothing but the monotonous gray-green grass.

Five minutes after this casual survey was made his bedroom was
empty, and its occupant had vanished quietly from the house.

At the end of two hours he was again in the room, looking warm and
glowing. He now pursued the artistic details of dressing, which
on his first rising had been entirely omitted. And a very
blooming boy he looked, after that mysterious morning scamper.
His mouth was a triumph of its class. It was the cleanly-cut,
piquantly pursed-up mouth of William Pitt, as represented in the
well or little known bust by Nollekens--a mouth which is in itself
a young man's fortune, if properly exercised. His round chin,
where its upper part turned inward, still continued its perfect
and full curve, seeming to press in to a point the bottom of his
nether lip at their place of junction.

Once he murmured the name of Elfride. Ah, there she was! On the
lawn in a plain dress, without hat or bonnet, running with a boy's
velocity, superadded to a girl's lightness, after a tame rabbit
she was endeavouring to capture, her strategic intonations of


coaxing words alternating with desperate rushes so much out of
keeping with them, that the hollowness of such expressions was but
too evident to her pet, who darted and dodged in carefully timed
counterpart.

The scene down there was altogether different from that of the
hills. A thicket of shrubs and trees enclosed the favoured spot
from the wilderness without; even at this time of the year the
grass was luxuriant there. No wind blew inside the protecting
belt of evergreens, wasting its force upon the higher and stronger
trees forming the outer margin of the grove.

Then he heard a heavy person shuffling about in slippers, and
calling 'Mr. Smith!' Smith proceeded to the study, and found Mr.
Swancourt. The young man expressed his gladness to see his host
downstairs.

'Oh yes; I knew I should soon be right again. I have not made the
acquaintance of gout for more than two years, and it generally
goes off the second night. Well, where have you been this
morning? I saw you come in just now, I think!'

'Yes; I have been for a walk.'

'Start early?'

'Yes.'

'Very early, I think?'

'Yes, it was rather early.'

'Which way did you go? To the sea, I suppose. Everybody goes
seaward.'

'No; I followed up the river as far as the park wall.'

'You are different from your kind. Well, I suppose such a wild
place is a novelty, and so tempted you out of bed?'

'Not altogether a novelty. I like it.'

The youth seemed averse to explanation.

'You must, you must; to go cock-watching the morning after a
journey of fourteen or sixteen hours. But there's no accounting
for tastes, and I am glad to see that yours are no meaner. After
breakfast, but not before, I shall be good for a ten miles' walk,
Master Smith.'

Certainly there seemed nothing exaggerated in that assertion. Mr.
Swancourt by daylight showed himself to be a man who, in common
with the other two people under his roof, had really strong claims
to be considered handsome,--handsome, that is, in the sense in
which the moon is bright: the ravines and valleys which, on a
close inspection, are seen to diversify its surface being left out
of the argument. His face was of a tint that never deepened upon
his cheeks nor lightened upon his forehead, but remained uniform
throughout; the usual neutral salmon-colour of a man who feeds
well--not to say too well--and does not think hard; every pore
being in visible working order. His tout ensemble was that of a
highly improved class of farmer, dressed up in the wrong clothes;
that of a firm-standing perpendicular man, whose fall would have
been backwards indirection if he had ever lost his balance.


The vicar's background was at present what a vicar's background
should be, his study. Here the consistency ends. All along the
chimneypiece were ranged bottles of horse, pig, and cow medicines,
and against the wall was a high table, made up of the fragments of
an old oak Iychgate. Upon this stood stuffed specimens of owls,
divers, and gulls, and over them bunches of wheat and barley ears,
labelled with the date of the year that produced them. Some cases
and shelves, more or less laden with books, the prominent titles
of which were Dr. Brown's 'Notes on the Romans,' Dr. Smith's
'Notes on the Corinthians,' and Dr. Robinson's 'Notes on the
Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians,' just saved the character
of the place, in spite of a girl's doll's-house standing above
them, a marine aquarium in the window, and Elfride's hat hanging
on its corner.

'Business, business!' said Mr. Swancourt after breakfast. He began
to find it necessary to act the part of a fly-wheel towards the
somewhat irregular forces of his visitor.

They prepared to go to the church; the vicar, on second thoughts,
mounting his coal-black mare to avoid exerting his foot too much
at starting. Stephen said he should want a man to assist him.
'Worm!' the vicar shouted.

A minute or two after a voice was heard round the corner of the
building, mumbling, 'Ah, I used to be strong enough, but 'tis
altered now! Well, there, I'm as independent as one here and
there, even if they do write 'squire after their names.'

'What's the matter?' said the vicar, as William Worm appeared;
when the remarks were repeated to him.

'Worm says some very true things sometimes,' Mr. Swancourt said,
turning to Stephen. 'Now, as regards that word esquire." Why
Mr. Smiththat word "esquire" is gone to the dogs--used on the
letters of every jackanapes who has a black coat. Anything else
Worm?'

'Aythe folk have begun frying again!'

'Dear me! I'm sorry to hear that.'

'Yes' Worm said groaningly to Stephen'I've got such a noise in
my head that there's no living night nor day. 'Tis just for all
the world like people frying fish: fryfryfryall day long in
my poor headtill I don't know whe'r I'm here or yonder. There
God A'mighty will find it out sooner or laterI hopeand relieve
me.'

'Nowmy deafness' said Mr. Swancourt impressively'is a dead
silence; but William Worm's is that of people frying fish in his
head. Very remarkableisn't it?'

'I can hear the frying-pan a-fizzing as naterel as life' said
Worm corroboratively.

'Yesit is remarkable' said Mr. Smith.

'Very peculiarvery peculiar' echoed the vicar; and they all
then followed the path up the hillbounded on each side by a
little stone wallfrom which gleamed fragments of quartz and
blood-red marblesapparently of inestimable valuein their
setting of brown alluvium. Stephen walked with the dignity of a


man close to the horse's headWorm stumbled along a stone's throw
in the rearand Elfride was nowhere in particularyet
everywhere; sometimes in frontsometimes behindsometimes at the
sideshovering about the procession like a butterfly; not
definitely engaged in travellingyet somehow chiming in at points
with the general progress.

The vicar explained things as he went on: 'The fact isMr. Smith
I didn't want this bother of church restoration at allbut it was
necessary to do something in self-defenceon account of those d---dissenters:
I use the word in its scriptural meaningof
coursenot as an expletive.'

'How very odd!' said Stephenwith the concern demanded of serious
friendliness.

'Odd? That's nothing to how it is in the parish of Twinkley. Both
the churchwardens are----; thereI won't say what they are; and
the clerk and the sexton as well.'

'How very strange!' said Stephen.

'Strange? My dear sirthat's nothing to how it is in the parish
of Sinnerton. Howeveras to our own parishI hope we shall make
some progress soon.'

'You must trust to circumstances.'

'There are no circumstances to trust to. We may as well trust in
Providence if we trust at all. But here we are. A wild place
isn't it? But I like it on such days as these.'

The churchyard was entered on this side by a stone stileover
which having clamberedyou remained still on the wild hillthe
within not being so divided from the without as to obliterate the
sense of open freedom. A delightful place to be buried in
postulating that delight can accompany a man to his tomb under any
circumstances. There was nothing horrible in this churchyardin
the shape of tight mounds bonded with stickswhich shout
imprisonment in the ears rather than whisper rest; or trim gardenflowers
which only raise images of people in new black crape and
white handkerchiefs coming to tend them; or wheel-markswhich
remind us of hearses and mourning coaches; or cypress-bushes
which make a parade of sorrow; or coffin-boards and bones lying
behind treesshowing that we are only leaseholders of our graves.
No; nothing but longwilduntutored grassdiversifying the
forms of the mounds it covered--themselves irregularly shaped
with no eye to effect; the impressive presence of the old mountain
that all this was a part of being nowhere excluded by disguising
art. Outside were similar slopes and similar grass; and then the
serene impassive seavisible to a width of half the horizonand
meeting the eye with the effect of a vast concavelike the
interior of a blue vessel. Detached rocks stood upright afara
collar of foam girding their basesand repeating in its whiteness
the plumage of a countless multitude of gulls that restlessly
hovered about.

'NowWorm!' said Mr. Swancourt sharply; and Worm started into an
attitude of attention at once to receive orders. Stephen and
himself were then left in possessionand the work went on till
early in the afternoonwhen dinner was announced by Unity of the
vicarage kitchen running up the hill without a bonnet.


Elfride did not make her appearance inside the building till late
in the afternoonand came then by special invitation from Stephen
during dinner. She looked so intensely LIVING and full of
movement as she came into the old silent placethat young Smith's
world began to be lit by 'the purple light' in all its
definiteness. Worm was got rid of by sending him to measure the
height of the tower.

What could she do but come close--so close that a minute arc of
her skirt touched his foot--and asked him how he was getting on
with his sketchesand set herself to learn the principles of
practical mensuration as applied to irregular buildings? Then she
must ascend the pulpit to re-imagine for the hundredth time how it
would seem to be a preacher.

Presently she leant over the front of the pulpit.

'Don't you tell papawill youMr. Smithif I tell you
something?' she said with a sudden impulse to make a confidence.

'Oh nothat I won't' said hestaring up.

'WellI write papa's sermons for him very oftenand he preaches
them better than he does his own; and then afterwards he talks to
people and to me about what he said in his sermon to-dayand
forgets that I wrote it for him. Isn't it absurd?'

'How clever you must be!' said Stephen. 'I couldn't write a
sermon for the world.'

'Ohit's easy enough' she saiddescending from the pulpit and
coming close to him to explain more vividly. 'You do it like
this. Did you ever play a game of forfeits called "When is it?
where is it? what is it?"'

'Nonever.'

'Ahthat's a pitybecause writing a sermon is very much like
playing that game. You take the text. You thinkwhy is it? what
is it? and so on. You put that down under "Generally." Then you
proceed to the FirstSecondlyand Thirdly. Papa won't have
Fourthlys--says they are all my eye. Then you have a final
Collectivelyseveral pages of this being put in great black
bracketswriting oppositeLEAVE THIS OUT IF THE FARMERS ARE
FALLING ASLEEP.Then comes your In Conclusionthen A Few Words
And I Have Done. Wellall this time you have put on the back of
each pageKEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN--I mean' she addedcorrecting
herself'that's how I do in papa's sermon-bookbecause otherwise
he gets louder and loudertill at last he shouts like a farmer up
a-field. Ohpapa is so funny in some things!'

Thenafter this childish burst of confidenceshe was frightened
as if warned by womanly instinctwhich for the moment her ardour
had outrunthat she had been too forward to a comparative
stranger.

Elfride saw her father thenand went away into the windbeing
caught by a gust as she ascended the churchyard slopein which
gust she had the motionswithout the motivesof a hoiden; the
gracewithout the self-consciousnessof a pirouetter. She
conversed for a minute or two with her fatherand proceeded
homewardMr. Swancourt coming on to the church to Stephen. The
wind had freshened his warm complexion as it freshens the glow of
a brand. He was in a mood of jollityand watched Elfride down


the hill with a smile.

'You little flyaway! you look wild enough now' he saidand
turned to Stephen. 'But she's not a wild child at allMr. Smith.
As steady as you; and that you are steady I see from your
diligence here.'

'I think Miss Swancourt very clever' Stephen observed.

'Yesshe is; certainlyshe is' said papaturning his voice as
much as possible to the neutral tone of disinterested criticism.
'NowSmithI'll tell you something; but she mustn't know it for
the world--not for the worldmindfor she insists upon keeping
it a dead secret. WhySHE WRITES MY SERMONS FOR ME OFTENand a
very good job she makes of them!'

'She can do anything.'

'She can do that. The little rascal has the very trick of the
trade. Butmind youSmithnot a word about it to hernot a
single word!'

'Not a word' said Smith.

'Look there' said Mr. Swancourt. 'What do you think of my
roofing?' He pointed with his walking-stick at the chancel roof

'Did you do thatsir?'

'YesI worked in shirt-sleeves all the time that was going on.
pulled down the old raftersfixed the new onesput on the
battensslated the roofall with my own handsWorm being my
assistant. We worked like slavesdidn't weWorm?'

'Aysurewe did; harder than some here and there--heehee!'
said William Wormcropping up from somewhere. 'Like slaves'a
b'lieve--heehee! And weren't ye foaming madsirwhen the nails
wouldn't go straight? Mighty I! There'tisn't so bad to cuss and
keep it in as to cuss and let it outis itsir?'

'Well--why?'

'Because yousirwhen ye were a-putting on the roofonly used
to cuss in your mindwhich isI supposeno harm at all.'

'I don't think you know what goes on in my mindWorm.'

'Ohdoan't Isir--heehee! Maybe I'm but a poor wambling thing
sirand can't read much; but I can spell as well as some here and
there. Doan't ye mindsirthat blustrous night when ye asked me
to hold the candle to ye in yer workshopwhen you were making a
new chair for the chancel?'

'Yes; what of that?'

'I stood with the candleand you said you liked companyif 'twas
only a dog or cat--maning me; and the chair wouldn't do nohow.'

'AhI remember.'

'No; the chair wouldn't do nohow. 'A was very well to look at;
butLord!----'

'Wormhow often have I corrected you for irreverent speaking?'


'--'A was very well to look atbut you couldn't sit in the chair
nohow. 'Twas all a-twist wi' the chairlike the letter Z
directly you sat down upon the chair. "Get upWorm says you,
when you seed the chair go all a-sway wi' me. Up you took the
chair, and flung en like fire and brimstone to t'other end of your
shop--all in a passion. Damn the chair!" says I. "Just what I
was thinking says you, sir. I could see it in your facesir
says I, and I hope you and God will forgi'e me for saying what
you wouldn't." To save your life you couldn't help laughingsir
at a poor wambler reading your thoughts so plain. AyI'm as wise
as one here and there.'

'I thought you had better have a practical man to go over the
church and tower with you' Mr. Swancourt said to Stephen the
following morning'so I got Lord Luxellian's permission to send
for a man when you came. I told him to be there at ten o'clock.
He's a very intelligent manand he will tell you all you want to
know about the state of the walls. His name is John Smith.'

Elfride did not like to be seen again at the church with Stephen.
'I will watch here for your appearance at the top of the tower'
she said laughingly. 'I shall see your figure against the sky.'

'And when I am up there I'll wave my handkerchief to youMiss
Swancourt' said Stephen. 'In twelve minutes from this present
moment' he addedlooking at his watch'I'll be at the summit
and look out for you.'

She went round to the corner of the sbrubberywhence she could
watch him down the slope leading to the foot of the hill on which
the church stood. There she saw waiting for him a white spot--a
mason in his working clothes. Stephen met this man and stopped.

To her surpriseinstead of their moving on to the churchyard
they both leisurely sat down upon a stone close by their meetingplace
and remained as if in deep conversation. Elfride looked at
the time; nine of the twelve minutes had passedand Stephen
showed no signs of moving. More minutes passed--she grew cold
with waitingand shivered. It was not till the end of a quarter
of an hour that they began to slowly wend up the hill at a snail's
pace.

'Rude and unmannerly!' she said to herselfcolouring with pique.
'Anybody would think he was in love with that horrid mason instead
of with----'

The sentence remained unspokenthough not unthought.

She returned to the porch.

'Is the man you sent for a lazysit-stilldo-nothing kind of
man?' she inquired of her father.

'No' he said surprised; 'quite the reverse. He is Lord
Luxellian's master-masonJohn Smith.'

'Oh' said Elfride indifferentlyand returned towards her bleak
stationand waited and shivered again. It was a trifleafter
all--a childish thing--looking out from a tower and waving a
handkerchief. But her new friend had promisedand why should he
tease her so? The effect of a blow is as proportionate to the
texture of the object struck as to its own momentum; and she had
such a superlative capacity for being wounded that little hits


struck her hard.

It was not till the end of half an hour that two figures were seen
above the parapet of the dreary old pilemotionless as bitterns
on a ruined mosque. Even then Stephen was not true enough to
perform what he was so courteous to promiseand he vanished
without making a sign.

He returned at midday. Elfride looked vexed when unconscious that
his eyes were upon her; when conscioussevere. Howeverher
attitude of coldness had long outlived the coldness itselfand
she could no longer utter feigned words of indifference.

'Ahyou weren't kind to keep me waiting in the coldand break
your promise' she said at last reproachfullyin tones too low
for her father's powers of hearing.

'Forgiveforgive me!' said Stephen with dismay. 'I had
forgotten--quite forgotten! Something prevented my remembering.'

'Any further explanation?' said Miss Capriciouspouting.

He was silent for a few minutesand looked askance.

'None' he saidwith the accent of one who concealed a sin.

Chapter V

'Bosom'd high in tufted trees.'

It was breakfast time.

As seen from the vicarage dining-roomwhich took a warm tone of
light from the firethe weather and scene outside seemed to have
stereotyped themselves in unrelieved shades of gray. The longarmed
trees and shrubs of junipercedarand pine varietieswere
grayish black; those of the broad-leaved sorttogether with the
herbagewere grayish-green; the eternal hills and tower behind
them were grayish-brown; the skydropping behind allgray of the
purest melancholy.

Yet in spite of this sombre artistic effectthe morning was not
one which tended to lower the spirits. It was even cheering. For
it did not rainnor was rain likely to fall for many days to
come.

Elfride had turned from the table towards the fire and was idly
elevating a hand-screen before her facewhen she heard the click
of a little gate outside.

'Ahhere's the postman!' she saidas a shufflingactive man
came through an opening in the shrubbery and across the lawn. She
vanishedand met him in the porchafterwards coming in with her
hands behind her back.

'How many are there? Three for papaone for Mr. Smithnone for
Miss Swancourt. Andpapalook hereone of yours is from--whom
do you think?--Lord Luxellian. And it has something HARD in it--a
lump of something. I've been feeling it through the envelopeand
can't think what it is.'


'What does Luxellian write forI wonder?' Mr. Swancourt had said
simultaneously with her words. He handed Stephen his letterand
took his ownputting on his countenance a higher class of look
than was customaryas became a poor gentleman who was going to
read a letter from a peer.

Stephen read his missive with a countenance quite the reverse of
the vicar's.

'PERCY PLACEThursday Evening.
'DEAR SMITH--Old H. is in a towering rage with you for being so
long about the church sketches. Swears you are more trouble than
you are worth. He says I am to write and say you are to stay no
longer on any consideration--that he would have done it all in
three hours very easily. I told him that you were not like an
experienced handwhich he seemed to forgetbut it did not make
much difference. Howeverbetween you and me privatelyif I were
you I would not alarm myself for a day or soif I were not
inclined to return. I would make out the week and finish my
spree. He will blow up just as much if you appear here on
Saturday as if you keep away till Monday morning.--Yours very
truly

'SIMPKINS JENKINS.

'Dear me--very awkward!' said Stephenrather en l'airand
confused with the kind of confusion that assails an understrapper
when he has been enlarged by accident to the dimensions of a
superiorand is somewhat rudely pared down to his original size.

'What is awkward?' said Miss Swancourt.

Smith by this time recovered his equanimityand with it the
professional dignity of an experienced architect.

'Important business demands my immediate presence in LondonI
regret to say' he replied.

'What! Must you go at once?' said Mr. Swancourtlooking over the
edge of his letter. 'Important business? A young fellow like you
to have important business!'

'The truth is' said Stephen blushingand rather ashamed of
having pretended even so slightly to a consequence which did not
belong to him--'the truth isMr. Hewby has sent to say I am to
come home; and I must obey him.'

'I see; I see. It is politic to do soyou mean. Now I can see
more than you think. You are to be his partner. I booked you for
that directly I read his letter to me the other dayand the way
he spoke of you. He thinks a great deal of youMr. Smithor he
wouldn't be so anxious for your return.'

Unpleasant to Stephen such remarks as these could not sound; to
have the expectancy of partnership with one of the largestpractising
architects in London thrust upon him was cheering
however untenable he felt the idea to be. He saw thatwhatever
Mr. Hewby might thinkMr. Swancourt certainly thought much of him
to entertain such an idea on such slender ground as to be
absolutely no ground at all. And thenunaccountablyhis
speaking face exhibited a cloud of sadnesswhich a reflection on
the remoteness of any such contingency could hardly have sufficed


to cause.

Elfride was struck with that look of his; even Mr. Swancourt
noticed it.

'Well' he said cheerfully'never mind that now. You must come
again on your own account; not on business. Come to see me as a
visitoryou know--sayin your holidays--all you town men have
holidays like schoolboys. When are they?'

'In AugustI believe.'

'Very well; come in August; and then you need not hurry away so.
I am glad to get somebody decent to talk toor atin this
outlandish ultima Thule. Butby the byeI have something to
say--you won't go to-day?'

'No; I need not' said Stephen hesitatingly. 'I am not obliged to
get back before Monday morning.'

'Very wellthenthat brings me to what I am going to propose.
This is a letter from Lord Luxellian. I think you heard me speak
of him as the resident landowner in this districtand patron of
this living?'

'I--know of him.'

'He is in London now. It seems that he has run up on business for
a day or twoand taken Lady Luxellian with him. He has written
to ask me to go to his houseand search for a paper among his
private memorandawhich he forgot to take with him.'

'What did he send in the letter?' inquired Elfride.

'The key of a private desk in which the papers are. He doesn't
like to trust such a matter to any body else. I have done such
things for him before. And what I propose isthat we make an
afternoon of it--all three of us. Go for a drive to Targan Bay
come home by way of Endelstow House; and whilst I am looking over
the documents you can ramble about the rooms where you like. I
have the run of the house at any timeyou know. The building
though nothing but a mass of gables outsidehas a splendid hall
staircaseand gallery within; and there are a few good pictures.'

'Yesthere are' said Stephen.

'Have you seen the placethen?

'I saw it as I came by' he said hastily.

'Oh yes; but I was alluding to the interior. And the church--St.
Eval's--is much older than our St. Agnes' here. I do duty in that
and this alternatelyyou know. The fact isI ought to have some
help; riding across that park for two miles on a wet morning is
not at all the thing. If my constitution were not well seasoned
as thank God it is'--here Mr. Swancourt looked down his frontas
if his constitution were visible there--'I should be coughing and
barking all the year round. And when the family goes awaythere
are only about three servants to preach to when I get there.
Wellthat shall be the arrangementthen. Elfrideyou will like
to go?'

Elfride assented; and the little breakfast-party separated.
Stephen rose to go and take a few final measurements at the


churchthe vicar following him to the door with a mysterious
expression of inquiry on his face.

'You'll put up with our not having family prayer this morningI
hope?' he whispered.

'Yes; quite so' said Stephen.

'To tell you the truth' he continued in the same undertone'we
don't make a regular thing of it; but when we have strangers
visiting usI am strongly of opinion that it is the proper thing
to doand I always do it. I am very strict on that point. But
youSmiththere is something in your face which makes me feel
quite at home; no nonsense about youin short. Ahit reminds me
of a splendid story I used to hear when I was a helter-skelter
young fellow--such a story! But'--here the vicar shook his head
self-forbiddinglyand grimly laughed.

'Was it a good story?' said young Smithsmiling too.

'Oh yes; but 'tis too bad--too bad! Couldn't tell it to you for
the world!'

Stephen went across the lawnhearing the vicar chuckling
privately at the recollection as he withdrew.

They started at three o'clock. The gray morning had resolved
itself into an afternoon bright with a pale pervasive sunlight
without the sun itself being visible. Lightly they trotted along-the
wheels nearly silentthe horse's hoofs clappingalmost
ringingupon the hardwhiteturnpike road as it followed the
level ridge in a perfectly straight lineseeming to be absorbed
ultimately by the white of the sky.

Targan Bay--which had the merit of being easily got at--was duly
visited. They then swept round by innumerable lanesin which not
twenty consecutive yards were either straight or levelto the
domain of Lord Luxellian. A woman with a double chin and thick
necklike Queen Anne by Dahlthrew open the lodge gatea little
boy standing behind her.

'I'll give him somethingpoor little fellow' said Elfride
pulling out her purse and hastily opening it. From the interior
of her purse a host of bits of paperlike a flock of white birds
floated into the airand were blown about in all directions.

'Wellto be sure!' said Stephen with a slight laugh.

'What the dickens is all that?' said Mr. Swancourt. 'Not halves
of bank-notesElfride?'

Elfride looked annoyed and guilty. 'They are only something of
minepapa' she falteredwhilst Stephen leapt outandassisted
by the lodge-keeper's little boycrept about round the wheels and
horse's hoofs till the papers were all gathered together again.
He handed them back to herand remounted.

'I suppose you are wondering what those scraps were?' she saidas
they bowled along up the sycamore avenue. 'And so I may as well
tell you. They are notes for a romance I am writing.'

She could not help colouring at the confessionmuch as she tried
to avoid it.


'A storydo you mean?' said StephenMr. Swancourt half
listeningand catching a word of the conversation now and then.

'Yes; THE COURT OF KELLYON CASTLE; a romance of the fifteenth
century. Such writing is out of date nowI know; but I like
doing it.'

'A romance carried in a purse! If a highwayman were to rob youhe
would be taken in.'

'Yes; that's my way of carrying manuscript. The real reason is
that I mostly write bits of it on scraps of paper when I am on
horseback; and I put them there for convenience.'

'What are you going to do with your romance when you have written
it?' said Stephen.

'I don't know' she repliedand turned her head to look at the
prospect.

For by this time they had reached the precincts of Endelstow
House. Driving through an ancient gate-way of dun-coloured stone
spanned by the high-shouldered Tudor archthey found themselves
in a spacious courtclosed by a facade on each of its three
sides. The substantial portions of the existing building dated
from the reign of Henry VIII.; but the picturesque and sheltered
spot had been the site of an erection of a much earlier date. A
licence to crenellate mansum infra manerium suum was granted by
Edward II. to 'Hugo Luxellen chivaler;' but though the faint
outline of the ditch and mound was visible at pointsno sign of
the original building remained.

The windows on all sides were long and many-mullioned; the roof
lines broken up by dormer lights of the same pattern. The apex
stones of these dormerstogether with those of the gableswere
surmounted by grotesque figures in rampantpassantand couchant
variety. Tall octagonal and twisted chimneys thrust themselves
high up into the skysurpassed in heighthoweverby some
poplars and sycamores at the backwhich showed their gently
rocking summits over ridge and parapet. In the corners of the
court polygonal bayswhose surfaces were entirely occupied by
buttresses and windowsbroke into the squareness of the
enclosure; and a far-projecting orielspringing from a fantastic
series of mouldingsoverhung the archway of the chief entrance to
the house.

As Mr. Swancourt had remarkedhe had the freedom of the mansion
in the absence of its owner. Upon a statement of his errand they
were all admitted to the libraryand left entirely to themselves.
Mr. Swancourt was soon up to his eyes in the examination of a heap
of papers he had taken from the cabinet described by his
correspondent. Stephen and Elfride had nothing to do but to
wander about till her father was ready.

Elfride entered the galleryand Stephen followed her without
seeming to do so. It was a long sombre apartmentenriched with
fittings a century or so later in style than the walls of the
mansion. Pilasters of Renaissance workmanship supported a cornice
from which sprang a curved ceilingpanelled in the awkward twists
and curls of the period. The old Gothic quarries still remained
in the upper portion of the large window at the endthough they
had made way for a more modern form of glazing elsewhere.


Stephen was at one end of the gallery looking towards Elfridewho
stood in the midstbeginning to feel somewhat depressed by the
society of Luxellian shades of cadaverous complexion fixed by
HolbeinKnellerand Lelyand seeming to gaze at and through her
in a moralizing mood. The silencewhich cast almost a spell upon
themwas broken by the sudden opening of a door at the far end.

Out bounded a pair of little girlslightly yet warmly dressed.
Their eyes were sparkling; their hair swinging about and around;
their red mouths laughing with unalloyed gladness.

'AhMiss Swancourt: dearest Elfie! we heard you. Are you going
to stay here? You are our little mammaare you not--our big mamma
is gone to London' said one.

'Let me tiss you' said the otherin appearance very much like
the firstbut to a smaller pattern.

Their pink cheeks and yellow hair were speedily intermingled with
the folds of Elfride's dress; she then stooped and tenderly
embraced them both.

'Such an odd thing' said Elfridesmilingand turning to
Stephen. 'They have taken it into their heads lately to call me
little mamma,because I am very fond of themand wore a dress
the other day something like one of Lady Luxellian's.'

These two young creatures were the Honourable Mary and the
Honourable Kate--scarcely appearing large enough as yet to bear
the weight of such ponderous prefixes. They were the only two
children of Lord and Lady Luxellianandas it provedhad been
left at home during their parents' temporary absencein the
custody of nurse and governess. Lord Luxellian was dotingly fond
of the children; rather indifferent towards his wifesince she
had begun to show an inclination not to please him by giving him a
boy.

All children instinctively ran after Elfridelooking upon her
more as an unusually nice large specimen of their own tribe than
as a grown-up elder. It had now become an established rulethat
whenever she met them--indoors or out-of-doorsweekdays or
Sundays--they were to be severally pressed against her face and
bosom for the space of a quarter of a minuteand other--wise made
much of on the delightful system of cumulative epithet and caress
to which unpractised girls will occasionally abandon themselves.

A look of misgiving by the youngsters towards the door by which
they had entered directed attention to a maid-servant appearing
from the same quarterto put an end to this sweet freedom of the
poor Honourables Mary and Kate.

'I wish you lived hereMiss Swancourt' piped one like a
melancholy bullfinch.

'So do I' piped the other like a rather more melancholy
bullfinch. 'Mamma can't play with us so nicely as you do. I
don't think she ever learnt playing when she was little. When
shall we come to see you?'

'As soon as you likedears.'

'And sleep at your house all night? That's what I mean by coming
to see you. I don't care to see people with hats and bonnets on
and all standing up and walking about.'


'As soon as we can get mamma's permission you shall come and stay
as long as ever you like. Good-bye!'

The prisoners were then led offElfride again turning her
attention to her guestwhom she had left standing at the remote
end of the gallery. On looking around for him he was nowhere to
be seen. Elfride stepped down to the librarythinking he might
have rejoined her father there. But Mr. Swancourtnow cheerfully
illuminated by a pair of candleswas still aloneuntying packets
of letters and papersand tying them up again.

As Elfride did not stand on a sufficiently intimate footing with
the object of her interest to justify heras a proper young lady
to commence the active search for him that youthful impulsiveness
promptedand asneverthelessfor a nascent reason connected
with those divinely cut lips of hisshe did not like him to be
absent from her sideshe wandered desultorily back to the oak
staircasepouting and casting her eyes about in hope of
discerning his boyish figure.

Though daylight still prevailed in the roomsthe corridors were
in a depth of shadow--chillsadand silent; and it was only by
looking along them towards light spaces beyond that anything or
anybody could be discerned therein. One of these light spots she
found to be caused by a side-door with glass panels in the upper
part. Elfride opened itand found herself confronting a
secondary or inner lawnseparated from the principal lawn front
by a shrubbery.

And now she saw a perplexing sight. At right angles to the face
of the wing she had emerged fromand within a few feet of the
doorjutted out another wing of the mansionlower and with less
architectural character. Immediately opposite to herin the wall
of this wingwas a large broad windowhaving its blind drawn
downand illuminated by a light in the room it screened.

On the blind was a shadow from somebody close inside it--a person
in profile. The profile was unmistakably that of Stephen. It was
just possible to see that his arms were upliftedand that his
hands held an article of some kind. Then another shadow appeared-also
in profile--and came close to him. This was the shadow of a
woman. She turned her back towards Stephen: he lifted and held
out what now proved to be a shawl or mantle--placed it carefully-so
carefully--round the lady; disappeared; reappeared in her
front--fastened the mantle. Did he then kiss her? Surely not.
Yet the motion might have been a kiss. Then both shadows swelled
to colossal dimensions--grew distorted--vanished.

Two minutes elapsed.

'AhMiss Swancourt! I am so glad to find you. I was looking for
you' said a voice at her elbow--Stephen's voice. She stepped
into the passage.

'Do you know any of the members of this establishment?' said she.

'Not a single one: how should I?' he replied.

Chapter VI

'Fare thee weel awhile!'


Simultaneously with the conclusion of Stephen's remarkthe sound
of the closing of an external door in their immediate
neighbourhood reached Elfride's ears. It came from the further
side of the wing containing the illuminated room. She then
discernedby the aid of the dusky departing lighta figure
whose sex was undistinguishablewalking down the gravelled path
by the parterre towards the river. The figure grew fainterand
vanished under the trees.

Mr. Swancourt's voice was heard calling out their names from a
distant corridor in the body of the building. They retraced their
stepsand found him with his coat buttoned up and his hat on
awaiting their advent in a mood of self-satisfaction at having
brought his search to a successful close. The carriage was
brought roundand without further delay the trio drove away from
the mansionunder the echoing gateway archand along by the
leafless sycamoresas the stars began to kindle their trembling
lights behind the maze of branches and twigs.

No words were spoken either by youth or maiden. Her unpractised
mind was completely occupied in fathoming its recent acquisition.
The young man who had inspired her with such novelty of feeling
who had come directly from London on business to her father
having been brought by chance to Endelstow House hadby some
means or otheracquired the privilege of approaching some lady he
had found thereinand of honouring her by petits soins of a
marked kind--all in the space of half an hour.

What room were they standing in? thought Elfride. As nearly as
she could guessit was Lord Luxellian's business-roomor office.
What people were in the house? None but the governess and
servantsas far as she knewand of these he had professed a
total ignorance. Had the person she had indistinctly seen leaving
the house anything to do with the performance? It was impossible
to say without appealing to the culprit himselfand that she
would never do. The more Elfride reflectedthe more certain did
it appear that the meeting was a chance rencounterand not an
appointment. On the ultimate inquiry as to the individuality of
the womanElfride at once assumed that she could not be an
inferior. Stephen Smith was not the man to care about passagesat-
love with women beneath him. Though gentleambition was
visible in his kindling eyes; he evidently hoped for much; hoped
indefinitelybut extensively. Elfride was puzzledand being
puzzledwasby a natural sequence of girlish sensationsvexed
with him. No more pleasure came in recognizing that from liking
to attract him she was getting on to love himboyish as he was
and innocent as he had seemed.

They reached the bridge which formed a link between the eastern
and western halves of the parish. Situated in a valley that was
bounded outwardly by the seait formed a point of depression from
which the road ascended with great steepness to West Endelstow and
the Vicarage. There was no absolute necessity for either of them
to alightbut as it was the vicar's custom after a long journey
to humour the horse in making this winding ascentElfridemoved
by an imitative instinctsuddenly jumped out when Pleasant had
just begun to adopt the deliberate stalk he associated with this
portion of the road.

The young man seemed glad of any excuse for breaking the silence.
'WhyMiss Swancourtwhat a risky thing to do!' he exclaimed
immediately following her example by jumping down on the other


side.

'Oh nonot at all' replied she coldly; the shadow phenomenon at
Endelstow House still paramount within her.

Stephen walked along by himself for two or three minuteswrapped
in the rigid reserve dictated by her tone. Then apparently
thinking that it was only for girls to pouthe came serenely
round to her sideand offered his arm with Castilian gallantry
to assist her in ascending the remaining three-quarters of the
steep.

Here was a temptation: it was the first time in her life that
Elfride had been treated as a grown-up woman in this way--offered
an arm in a manner implying that she had a right to refuse it.
Till to-night she had never received masculine attentions beyond
those which might be contained in such homely remarks as 'Elfride
give me your hand;' 'Elfridetake hold of my arm' from her
father. Her callow heart made an epoch of the incident; she
considered her array of feelingsfor and against. Collectively
they were for taking this offered arm; the single one of pique
determined her to punish Stephen by refusing.

'Nothank youMr. Smith; I can get along better by myself'

It was Elfride's first fragile attempt at browbeating a lover.
Fearing more the issue of such an undertaking than what a gentle
young man might think of her waywardnessshe immediately
afterwards determined to please herself by reversing her
statement.

'On second thoughtsI will take it' she said.

They slowly went their way up the hilla few yards behind the
carriage.

'How silent you areMiss Swancourt!' Stephen observed.

'Perhaps I think you silent too' she returned.

'I may have reason to be.'

'Scarcely; it is sadness that makes people silentand you can
have none.'

'You don't know: I have a trouble; though some might think it less
a trouble than a dilemma.'

'What is it?' she asked impulsively.

Stephen hesitated. 'I might tell' he said; 'at the same time
perhapsit is as well----'

She let go his arm and imperatively pushed it from hertossing
her head. She had just learnt that a good deal of dignity is lost
by asking a question to which an answer is refusedeven ever so
politely; for though politeness does good service in cases of
requisition and compromiseit but little helps a direct refusal.
'I don't wish to know anything of it; I don't wish it' she went
on. 'The carriage is waiting for us at the top of the hill; we
must get in;' and Elfride flitted to the front. 'Papahere is
your Elfride!' she exclaimed to the dusky figure of the old
gentlemanas she sprang up and sank by his side without deigning
to accept aid from Stephen.


'Ahyes!' uttered the vicar in artificially alert tonesawaking
from a most profound sleepand suddenly preparing to alight.

'Whywhat are you doingpapa? We are not home yet.'

'Oh nono; of course not; we are not at home yet' Mr. Swancourt
said very hastilyendeavouring to dodge back to his original
position with the air of a man who had not moved at all. 'The
fact is I was so lost in deep meditation that I forgot whereabouts
we were.' And in a minute the vicar was snoring again.

That eveningbeing the lastseemed to throw an exceptional shade
of sadness over Stephen Smithand the repeated injunctions of the
vicarthat he was to come and revisit them in the summer
apparently tended less to raise his spirits than to unearth some
misgiving.

He left them in the gray light of dawnwhilst the colours of
earth were sombreand the sun was yet hidden in the east. Elfride
had fidgeted all night in her little bed lest none of the
household should be awake soon enough to start himand also lest
she might miss seeing again the bright eyes and curly hairto
which their owner's possession of a hidden mystery added a deeper
tinge of romance. To some extent--so soon does womanly interest
take a solicitous turn--she felt herself responsible for his safe
conduct. They breakfasted before daylight; Mr. Swancourtbeing
more and more taken with his guest's ingenuous appearancehaving
determined to rise early and bid him a friendly farewell. It was
howeverrather to the vicar's astonishmentthat he saw Elfride
walk in to the breakfast-tablecandle in hand.

Whilst William Worm performed his toilet (during which performance
the inmates of the vicarage were always in the habit of waiting
with exemplary patience)Elfride wandered desultorily to the
summer house. Stephen followed her thither. The copse-covered
valley was visible from this positiona mist now lying all along
its lengthhiding the stream which trickled through itthough
the observers themselves were in clear air.

They stood close togetherleaning over the rustic balustrading
which bounded the arbour on the outward sideand formed the crest
of a steep slope beneath Elfride constrainedly pointed out some
features of the distant uplands rising irregularly opposite. But
the artistic eye waseither from nature or circumstancevery
faint in Stephen nowand he only half attended to her
descriptionas if he spared time from some other thought going on
within him.

'Wellgood-bye' he said suddenly; 'I must never see you againI
supposeMiss Swancourtin spite of invitations.'

His genuine tribulation played directly upon the delicate chords
of her nature. She could afford to forgive him for a concealment
or two. Moreoverthe shyness which would not allow him to look
her in the face lent bravery to her own eyes and tongue.

'OhDO come againMr. Smith!' she said prettily.

'I should delight in it; but it will be better if I do not.'

'Why?'


'Certain circumstances in connection with me make it undesirable.
Not on my account; on yours.'

'Goodness! As if anything in connection with you could hurt me'
she said with serene supremacy; but seeing that this plan of
treatment was inappropriateshe tuned a smaller note. 'AhI
know why you will not come. You don't want to. You'll go home to
London and to all the stirring people thereand will never want
to see us any more!'

'You know I have no such reason.'

'And go on writing letters to the lady you are engaged tojust as
before.'

'What does that mean? I am not engaged.'

'You wrote a letter to a Miss Somebody; I saw it in the letterrack.'


'Pooh! an elderly woman who keeps a stationer's shop; and it was
to tell her to keep my newspapers till I get back.'

'You needn't have explained: it was not my business at all.' Miss
Elfride was rather relieved to hear that statementnevertheless.
'And you won't come again to see my father?' she insisted.

'I should like to--and to see you againbut----'

'Will you reveal to me that matter you hide?' she interrupted
petulantly.

'No; not now.'

She could not but go ongraceless as it might seem.

'Tell me this' she importuned with a trembling mouth. 'Does any
meeting of yours with a lady at Endelstow Vicarage clash with--any
interest you may take in me?'

He started a little. 'It does not' he said emphatically; and
looked into the pupils of her eyes with the confidence that only
honesty can giveand even that to youth alone.

The explanation had not comebut a gloom left her. She could not
but believe that utterance. Whatever enigma might lie in the
shadow on the blindit was not an enigma of underhand passion.

She turned towards the houseentering it through the
conservatory. Stephen went round to the front door. Mr.
Swancourt was standing on the step in his slippers. Worm was
adjusting a buckle in the harnessand murmuring about his poor
head; and everything was ready for Stephen's departure.

'You named August for your visit. August it shall be; that isif
you care for the society of such a fossilized Tory' said Mr.
Swancourt.

Mr. Smith only responded hesitatinglythat he should like to come
again.

'You said you wouldand you must' insisted Elfridecoming to
the door and speaking under her father's arm.


Whatever reason the youth may have had for not wishing to enter
the house as a guestit no longer predominated. He promisedand
bade them adieuand got into the pony-carriagewhich crept up
the slopeand bore him out of their sight.

'I never was so much taken with anybody in my life as I am with
that young fellow--never! I cannot understand it--can't understand
it anyhow' said Mr. Swancourt quite energetically to himself; and
went indoors.

Chapter VII

'No more of me you knewmy love!'

Stephen Smith revisited Endelstow Vicarageagreeably to his
promise. He had a genuine artistic reason for comingthough no
such reason seemed to be required. Six-and-thirty old seat ends
of exquisite fifteenth-century workmanshipwere rapidly decaying
in an aisle of the church; and it became politic to make drawings
of their worm-eaten contours ere they were battered past
recognition in the turmoil of the so-called restoration.

He entered the house at sunsetand the world was pleasant again
to the two fair-haired ones. A momentary pang of disappointment
hadneverthelesspassed through Elfride when she casually
discovered that he had not come that minute post-haste from
Londonbut had reached the neighbourhood the previous evening.
Surprise would have accompanied the feelinghad she not
remembered that several tourists were haunting the coast at this
seasonand that Stephen might have chosen to do likewise.

They did little besides chat that eveningMr. Swancourt beginning
to question his visitorclosely yet paternallyand in good part
on his hopes and prospects from the profession he had embraced.
Stephen gave vague answers. The next day it rained. In the
eveningwhen twenty-four hours of Elfride had completely
rekindled her admirer's ardoura game of chess was proposed
between them.

The game had its value in helping on the developments of their
future.

Elfride soon perceived that her opponent was but a learner. She
next noticed that he had a very odd way of handling the pieces
when castling or taking a man. Antecedently she would have
supposed that the same performance must be gone through by all
players in the same manner; she was taught by his differing action
that all ordinary playerswho learn the game by sight
unconsciously touch the men in a stereotyped way. This impression
of indescribable oddness in Stephen's touch culminated in speech
when she saw himat the taking of one of her bishopspush it
aside with the taking man instead of lifting it as a preliminary
to the move.

'How strangely you handle the menMr. Smith!'

'Do I? I am sorry for that.'

'Oh no--don't be sorry; it is not a matter great enough for
sorrow. But who taught you to play?'


'NobodyMiss Swancourt' he said. 'I learnt from a book lent me
by my friend Mr. Knightthe noblest man in the world.'

'But you have seen people play?'

'I have never seen the playing of a single game. This is the
first time I ever had the opportunity of playing with a living
opponent. I have worked out many games from booksand studied
the reasons of the different movesbut that is all.'

This was a full explanation of his mannerism; but the fact that a
man with the desire for chess should have grown up without being
able to see or engage in a game astonished her not a little. She
pondered on the circumstance for some timelooking into vacancy
and hindering the play.

Mr. Swancourt was sitting with his eyes fixed on the boardbut
apparently thinking of other things. Half to himself he said
pending the move of Elfride:

'"Quae finis aut quod me manet stipendium?"'

Stephen replied instantly:

'"Effare: jussas cum fide poenas luam."'

'Excellent--prompt--gratifying!' said Mr. Swancourt with feeling
bringing down his hand upon the tableand making three pawns and
a knight dance over their borders by the shaking. 'I was musing
on those words as applicable to a strange course I am steering-but
enough of that. I am delighted with youMr. Smithfor it is
so seldom in this desert that I meet with a man who is gentleman
and scholar enough to continue a quotationhowever trite it may
be.'

'I also apply the words to myself' said Stephen quietly.

'You? The last man in the world to do thatI should have
thought.'

'Come' murmured Elfride poutinglyand insinuating herself
between them'tell me all about it. Comeconstrueconstrue!'

Stephen looked steadfastly into her faceand said slowlyand in
a voice full of a far-off meaning that seemed quaintly premature
in one so young:

'Quae finis WHAT WILL BE THE ENDaut ORquod stipendium WHAT
FINEmanet me AWAITS ME? Effare SPEAK OUT; luam I WILL PAYcum
fide WITH FAITHjussas poenas THE PENALTY REQUIRED.'

The vicarwho had listened with a critical compression of the
lips to this school-boy recitationand by reason of his imperfect
hearing had missed the marked realism of Stephen's tone in the
English wordsnow said hesitatingly: 'By the byeMr. Smith (I
know you'll excuse my curiosity)though your translation was
unexceptionably correct and closeyou have a way of pronouncing
your Latin which to me seems most peculiar. Not that the
pronunciation of a dead language is of much importance; yet your
accents and quantities have a grotesque sound to my ears. I
thought first that you had acquired your way of breathing the
vowels from some of the northern colleges; but it cannot be so
with the quantities. What I was going to ask wasif your
instructor in the classics could possibly have been an Oxford or


Cambridge man?'

'Yes; he was an Oxford man--Fellow of St. Cyprian's.'

'Really?'

'Oh yes; there's no doubt about it.

'The oddest thing ever I heard of!' said Mr. Swancourtstarting
with astonishment. 'That the pupil of such a man----'

'The best and cleverest man in England!' cried Stephen
enthusiastically.

'That the pupil of such a man should pronounce Latin in the way
you pronounce it beats all I ever heard. How long did he instruct
you?'

'Four years.'

'Four years!'

'It is not so strange when I explain' Stephen hastened to say.
'It was done in this way--by letter. I sent him exercises and
construing twice a weekand twice a week he sent them back to me
correctedwith marginal notes of instruction. That is how I
learnt my Latin and Greeksuch as it is. He is not responsible
for my scanning. He has never heard me scan a line.'

'A novel caseand a singular instance of patience!' cried the
vicar.

'On his partnot on mine. AhHenry Knight is one in a thousand!
I remember his speaking to me on this very subject of
pronunciation. He says thatmuch to his regrethe sees a time
coming when every man will pronounce even the common words of his
own tongue as seems right in his own earsand be thought none the
worse for it; that the speaking age is passing awayto make room
for the writing age.'

Both Elfride and her father had waited attentively to hear Stephen
go on to what would have been the most interesting part of the
storynamelywhat circumstances could have necessitated such an
unusual method of education. But no further explanation was
volunteered; and they sawby the young man's manner of
concentrating himself upon the chess-boardthat he was anxious to
drop the subject.

The game proceeded. Elfride played by rote; Stephen by thought.
It was the cruellest thing to checkmate him after so much labour
she considered. What was she dishonest enough to do in her
compassion? To let him checkmate her. A second game followed; and
being herself absolutely indifferent as to the result (her playing
was above the average among womenand she knew it)she allowed
him to give checkmate again. A final gamein which she adopted
the Muzio gambit as her openingwas terminated by Elfride's
victory at the twelfth move.

Stephen looked up suspiciously. His heart was throbbing even more
excitedly than was herswhich itself had quickened when she
seriously set to work on this last occasion. Mr. Swancourt had
left the room.

'You have been trifling with me till now!' he exclaimedhis face


flushing. 'You did not play your best in the first two games?'

Elfride's guilt showed in her face. Stephen became the picture of
vexation and sadnesswhichrelishable for a momentcaused her
the next instant to regret the mistake she had made.

'Mr. Smithforgive me!' she said sweetly. 'I see nowthough I
did not at firstthat what I have done seems like contempt for
your skill. ButindeedI did not mean it in that sense. I
could notupon my consciencewin a victory in those first and
second games over one who fought at such a disadvantage and so
manfully.'

He drew a long breathand murmured bitterly'Ahyou are
cleverer than I. You can do everything--I can do nothing! O Miss
Swancourt!' he burst out wildlyhis heart swelling in his throat
'I must tell you how I love you! All these months of my absence I
have worshipped you.'

He leapt from his seat like the impulsive lad that he wasslid
round to her sideand almost before she suspected it his arm was
round her waistand the two sets of curls intermingled.

So entirely new was full-blown love to Elfridethat she trembled
as much from the novelty of the emotion as from the emotion
itself. Then she suddenly withdrew herself and stood upright
vexed that she had submitted unresistingly even to his momentary
pressure. She resolved to consider this demonstration as
premature.

'You must not begin such things as those' she said with
coquettish hauteur of a very transparent nature 'And--you must not
do so again--and papa is coming.'

'Let me kiss you--only a little one' he said with his usual
delicacyand without reading the factitiousness of her manner.

'No; not one.'

'Only on your cheek?'

'No.'

'Forehead?'

'Certainly not.'

'You care for somebody elsethen? AhI thought so!'

'I am sure I do not.'

'Nor for me either?'

'How can I tell?' she said simplythe simplicity lying merely in
the broad outlines of her manner and speech. There were the
semitone of voice and half-hidden expression of eyes which tell
the initiated how very fragile is the ice of reserve at these
times.

Footsteps were heard. Mr. Swancourt then entered the roomand
their private colloquy ended.

The day after this partial revelationMr. Swancourt proposed a
drive to the cliffs beyond Targan Baya distance of three or four


miles.

Half an hour before the time of departure a crash was heard in the
back yardand presently Worm came insaying partly to the world
in generalpart]y to himselfand slightly to his auditors:

'Ayaysure! That frying of fish will be the end of William
Worm. They be at it again this morning--same as ever--fizzfizz
fizz!'

'Your head bad againWorm?' said Mr. Swancourt. 'What was that
noise we heard in the yard?'

'Aysira weak wambling man am I; and the frying have been going
on in my poor head all through the long night and this morning as
usual; and I was so dazed wi' it that down fell a piece of legwood
across the shaft of the pony-shayand splintered it off.
Ay,says II feel it as if 'twas my own shay; and though I've
done it, and parish pay is my lot if I go from here, perhaps I am
as independent as one here and there.'

'Dear methe shaft of the carriage broken!' cried Elfride. She
was disappointed: Stephen doubly so. The vicar showed more warmth
of temper than the accident seemed to demandmuch to Stephen's
uneasiness and rather to his surprise. He had not supposed so
much latent sternness could co-exist with Mr. Swancourt's
frankness and good-nature.

'You shall not be disappointed' said the vicar at length. 'It is
almost too long a distance for you to walk. Elfride can trot down
on her ponyand you shall have my old nagSmith.'

Elfride exclaimed triumphantly'You have never seen me on
horseback--Ohyou must!' She looked at Stephen and read his
thoughts immediately. 'Ahyou don't rideMr. Smith?'

'I am sorry to say I don't.'

'Fancy a man not able to ride!' said she rather pertly.

The vicar came to his rescue. 'That's common enough; he has had
other lessons to learn. NowI recommend this plan: let Elfride
ride on horsebackand youMr. Smithwalk beside her.'

The arrangement was welcomed with secret delight by Stephen. It
seemed to combine in itself all the advantages of a long slow
ramble with Elfridewithout the contingent possibility of the
enjoyment being spoilt by her becoming weary. The pony was
saddled and brought round.

'NowMr. Smith' said the lady imperativelycoming downstairs
and appearing in her riding-habitas she always did in a change
of dresslike a new edition of a delightful volume'you have a
task to perform to-day. These earrings are my very favourite
darling ones; but the worst of it is that they have such short
hooks that they are liable to be dropped if I toss my head about
muchand when I am riding I can't give my mind to them. It would
be doing me knight service if you keep your eyes fixed upon them
and remember them every minute of the dayand tell me directly I
drop one. They have had such hairbreadth escapeshaven't they
Unity?' she continued to the parlour-maid who was standing at the
door.

'Yesmissthat they have!' said Unity with round-eyed


commiseration.

'Once 'twas in the lane that I found one of them' pursued Elfride
reflectively.

'And then 'twas by the gate into Eighteen Acres' Unity chimed in.

'And then 'twas on the carpet in my own room' rejoined Elfride
merrily.

'And then 'twas dangling on the embroidery of your petticoat
miss; and then 'twas down your backmisswasn't it? And ohwhat
a way you was inmisswasn't you? my! until you found it!'

Stephen took Elfride's slight foot upon his hand: 'Onetwo
threeand up!' she said.

Unfortunately not so. He staggered and liftedand the horse
edged round; and Elfride was ultimately deposited upon the ground
rather more forcibly than was pleasant. Smith looked all
contrition.

'Never mind' said the vicar encouragingly; 'try again! 'Tis a
little accomplishment that requires some practicealthough it
looks so easy. Stand closer to the horse's headMr. Smith.'

'IndeedI shan't let him try again' said she with a microscopic
look of indignation. 'Wormcome hereand help me to mount.'
Worm stepped forwardand she was in the saddle in a trice.

Then they moved ongoing for some distance in silencethe hot
air of the valley being occasionally brushed from their faces by a
cool breezewhich wound its way along ravines leading up from the
sea.

'I suppose' said Stephen'that a man who can neither sit in a
saddle himself nor help another person into one seems a useless
incumbrance; butMiss SwancourtI'll learn to do it all for your
sake; I willindeed.'

'What is so unusual in you' she saidin a didactic tone
justifiable in a horsewoman's address to a benighted walker'is
that your knowledge of certain things should be combined with your
ignorance of certain other things.'

Stephen lifted his eyes earnestly to hers.

'You know' he said'it is simply because there are so many other
things to be learnt in this wide world that I didn't trouble about
that particular bit of knowledge. I thought it would be useless
to me; but I don't think so now. I will learn ridingand all
connected with itbecause then you would like me better. Do you
like me much less for this?'

She looked sideways at him with critical meditation tenderly
rendered.

'Do I seem like LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI?' she began suddenly
without replying to his question. 'Fancy yourself sayingMr.
Smith:

I sat her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,



For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A fairy's song,
She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew;


and that's all she did.'

'Nono' said the young man stillyand with a rising colour.

'"And sure in language strange she said
I love thee true."'


'Not at all' she rejoined quickly. 'See how I can gallop. Now
Pansyoff!' And Elfride started; and Stephen beheld her light
figure contracting to the dimensions of a bird as she sank into
the distance--her hair flowing.

He walked on in the same directionand for a considerable time
could see no signs of her returning. Dull as a flower without the
sun he sat down upon a stoneand not for fifteen minutes was any
sound of horse or rider to be heard. Then Elfride and Pansy
appeared on the hill in a round trot.

'Such a delightful scamper as we have had!' she saidher face
flushed and her eyes sparkling. She turned the horse's head
Stephen aroseand they went on again.

'Wellwhat have you to say to meMr. Smithafter my long
absence?'

'Do you remember a question you could not exactly answer last
night--whether I was more to you than anybody else?' said he.

'I cannot exactly answer noweither.'

'Why can't you?'

'Because I don't know if I am more to you than any one else.'

'Yesindeedyou are!' he exclaimed in a voice of intensest
appreciationat the same time gliding round and looking into her
face.

'Eyes in eyes' he murmured playfully; and she blushingly obeyed
looking back into his.

'And why not lips on lips?' continued Stephen daringly.

'Nocertainly not. Anybody might look; and it would be the death
of me. You may kiss my hand if you like.'

He expressed by a look that to kiss a hand through a gloveand
that a riding-glovewas not a great treat under the
circumstances.

'Therethen; I'll take my glove off. Isn't it a pretty white
hand? Ahyou don't want to kiss itand you shall not now!'

'If I do notmay I never kiss againyou severe Elfride! You know


I think more of you than I can tell; that you are my queen.

I
would die for youElfride!'

A rapid red again filled her cheeksand she looked at him
meditatively. What a proud moment it was for Elfride then! She
was ruling a heart with absolute despotism for the first time in
her life.

Stephen stealthily pounced upon her hand.

'No; I won'tI won't!' she said intractably; 'and you shouldn't
take me by surprise.'

There ensued a mild form of tussle for absolute possession of the
much-coveted handin which the boisterousness of boy and girl was
far more prominent than the dignity of man and woman. Then Pansy
became restless. Elfride recovered her position and remembered
herself.

'You make me behave in not a nice way at all!' she exclaimedin a
tone neither of pleasure nor angerbut partaking of both. 'I
ought not to have allowed such a romp! We are too old now for that
sort of thing.'

'I hope you don't think me too--too much of a creeping-round sort
of man' said he in a penitent toneconscious that he too had
lost a little dignity by the proceeding.

'You are too familiar; and I can't have it! Considering the
shortness of the time we have known each otherMr. Smithyou
take too much upon you. You think I am a country girland it
doesn't matter how you behave to me!'

'I assure youMiss Swancourtthat I had no idea of freak in my
mind. I wanted to imprint a sweet--serious kiss upon your hand;
and that's all.'

'Nowthat's creeping round again! And you mustn't look into my
eyes so' she saidshaking her head at himand trotting on a few
paces in advance. Thus she led the way out of the lane and across
some fields in the direction of the cliffs. At the boundary of
the fields nearest the sea she expressed a wish to dismount. The
horse was tied to a post. and they both followed an irregular
pathwhich ultimately terminated upon a flat ledge passing round
the face of the huge blue-black rock at a height about midway
between the sea and the topmost verge. Therefar beneath and
before themlay the everlasting stretch of ocean; thereupon
detached rockswere the white screaming gullsseeming ever
intending to settleand yet always passing on. Right and left
ranked the toothed and zigzag line of storm-torn heightsforming
the series which culminated in the one beneath their feet.

Behind the youth and maiden was a tempting alcove and seatformed
naturally in the beetling massand wide enough to admit two or
three persons. Elfride sat downand Stephen sat beside her.

'I am afraid it is hardly proper of us to be hereeither' she
said half inquiringly. 'We have not known each other long enough
for this kind of thinghave we!'

'Oh yes' he replied judicially; 'quite long enough.'

'How do you know?'


'It is not length of timebut the manner in which our minutes
beatthat makes enough or not enough in our acquaintanceship.'

'YesI see that. But I wish papa suspected or knew what a VERY
NEW THING I am doing. He does not think of it at all.'

'Darling ElfieI wish we could be married! It is wrong for me to
say it--I know it is--before you know more; but I wish we might
beall the same. Do you love me deeplydeeply?'

'No!' she said in a fluster.

At this point-blank denialStephen turned his face away
decisivelyand preserved an ominous silence; the only objects of
interest on earth for him being apparently the three or four-score
sea-birds circling in the air afar off.

'I didn't mean to stop you quite' she faltered with some alarm;
and seeing that he still remained silentshe added more
anxiously'If you say that againperhapsI will not be quite-quite
so obstinate--if--if you don't like me to be.'

'Ohmy Elfride!' he exclaimedand kissed her.

It was Elfride's first kiss. And so awkward and unused was she;
full of striving--no relenting. There was none of those apparent
struggles to get out of the trap which only results in getting
further in: no final attitude of receptivity: no easy close of
shoulder to shoulderhand upon handface upon faceandin
spite of coynessthe lips in the right place at the supreme
moment. That graceful though apparently accidental falling into
positionwhich many have noticed as precipitating the end and
making sweethearts the sweeterwas not here. Why? Because
experience was absent. A woman must have had many kisses before
she kisses well.

In factthe art of tendering the lips for these amatory salutes
follows the principles laid down in treatises on legerdemain for
performing the trick called Forcing a Card. The card is to be
shifted nimblywithdrawnedged underand withal not to be
offered till the moment the unsuspecting person's hand reaches the
pack; this forcing to be done so modestly and yet so coaxingly
that the person trifled with imagines he is really choosing what
is in fact thrust into his hand.

Wellthere were no such facilities now; and Stephen was conscious
of it--first with a momentary regret that his kiss should be
spoilt by her confused receipt of itand then with the pleasant
perception that her awkwardness was her charm.

'And you do care for me and love me?' said he.

'Yes.'

'Very much?'

'Yes.'

'And I mustn't ask you if you'll wait for meand be my wife some
day?'

'Why not?' she said naively.

'There is a reason whymy Elfride.'


'Not any one that I know of.'

'Suppose there is something connected with me which makes it
almost impossible for you to agree to be my wifeor for your
father to countenance such an idea?'

'Nothing shall make me cease to love you: no blemish can be found
upon your personal nature. That is pure and generousI know; and
having thathow can I be cold to you?'

'And shall nothing else affect us--shall nothing beyond my nature
be a part of my quality in your eyesElfie?'

'Nothing whatever' she said with a breath of relief. 'Is that
all? Some outside circumstance? What do I care?'

'You can hardly judgedeartill you know what has to be judged.
For thatwe will stop till we get home. I believe in youbut I
cannot feel bright.'

'Love is newand fresh to us as the dew; and we are together. As
the lover's world goesthis is a great deal. StephenI fancy I
see the difference between me and you--between men and women
generallyperhaps. I am content to build happiness on any
accidental basis that may lie near at hand; you are for making a
world to suit your happiness.'

'Elfrideyou sometimes say things which make you seem suddenly to
become five years older than you areor than I am; and that
remark is one. I couldn't think so OLD as thattry how I
might....And no lover has ever kissed you before?'

'Never.'

'I knew that; you were so unused. You ride wellbut you don't
kiss nicely at all; and I was told onceby my friend Knightthat
that is an excellent fault in woman.'

'Nowcome; I must mount againor we shall not be home by dinnertime.'
And they returned to where Pansy stood tethered. 'Instead
of entrusting my weight to a young man's unstable palm' she
continued gaily'I prefer a surer "upping-stock" (as the
villagers call it)in the form of a gate. There--now I am myself
again.'

They proceeded homeward at the same walking pace.

Her blitheness won Stephen out of his thoughtfulnessand each
forgot everything but the tone of the moment.

'What did you love me for?' she saidafter a long musing look at
a flying bird.

'I don't know' he replied idly.

'Oh yesyou do' insisted Elfride.

'Perhapsfor your eyes.'

'What of them?--nowdon't vex me by a light answer. What of my
eyes?'

'Ohnothing to be mentioned. They are indifferently good.'


'ComeStephenI won't have that. What did you love me for?'

'It might have been for your mouth?'

'Wellwhat about my mouth?'

'I thought it was a passable mouth enough----'

'That's not very comforting.'

'With a pretty pout and sweet lips; but actuallynothing more
than what everybody has.'

'Don't make up things out of your head as you go onthere's a
dear Stephen. Now--what--did--you--love--me--for?'

'Perhaps'twas for your neck and hair; though I am not sure: or
for your idle bloodthat did nothing but wander away from your
cheeks and back again; but I am not sure. Or your hands and arms
that they eclipsed all other hands and arms; or your feetthat
they played about under your dress like little mice; or your
tonguethat it was of a dear delicate tone. But I am not
altogether sure.'

'Ahthat's pretty to say; but I don't care for your loveif it
made a mere flat picture of me in that wayand not being sure
and such cold reasoning; but what you FELT I wasyou know
Stephen' (at this a stealthy laugh and frisky look into his face)
'when you said to yourselfI'll certainly love that young
lady.'

'I never said it.'

'When you said to yourselfthenI never will love that young
lady.'

'I didn't say thateither.'

'Then was itI suppose I must love that young lady?'

'No.'

'Whatthen?'

''Twas much more fluctuating--not so definite.'

'Tell me; dodo.'

'It was that I ought not to think about you if I loved you truly.'

'Ahthat I don't understand. There's no getting it out of you.
And I'll not ask you ever any more--never more--to say out of the
deep reality of your heart what you loved me for.'

'Sweet tantalizerwhat's the use? It comes to this sole simple
thing: That at one time I had never seen youand I didn't love
you; that then I saw youand I did love you. Is that enough?'

'Yes; I will make it do....I knowI thinkwhat I love you for.
You are nice-lookingof course; but I didn't mean for that. It
is because you are so docile and gentle.'

'Those are not quite the correct qualities for a man to be loved


for' said Stephenin rather a dissatisfied tone of selfcriticism.
'Wellnever mind. I must ask your father to allow us
to be engaged directly we get indoors. It will be for a long
time.'

'I like it the better....Stephendon't mention it till tomorrow.'


'Why?'

'Becauseif he should object--I don't think he will; but if he
should--we shall have a day longer of happiness from our
ignorance....Wellwhat are you thinking of so deeply?'

'I was thinking how my dear friend Knight would enjoy this scene.
I wish he could come here.'

'You seem very much engrossed with him' she answeredwith a
jealous little toss. 'He must be an interesting man to take up so
much of your attention.'

'Interesting!' said Stephenhis face glowing with his fervour;
'nobleyou ought to say.'

'Oh yesyes; I forgot' she said half satirically. 'The noblest
man in Englandas you told us last night.'

'He is a fine fellowlaugh as you willMiss Elfie.'

'I know he is your hero. But what does he do? anything?'

'He writes.'

'What does he write? I have never heard of his name.'

'Because his personalityand that of several others like himis
absorbed into a huge WEnamelythe impalpable entity called the
PRESENT--a social and literary Review.'

'Is he only a reviewer?'

'ONLYElfie! WhyI can tell you it is a fine thing to be on the
staff of the PRESENT. Finer than being a novelist considerably.'

'That's a hit at meand my poor COURT OF KELLYON CASTLE.'

'NoElfride' he whispered; 'I didn't mean that. I mean that he
is really a literary man of some eminenceand not altogether a
reviewer. He writes things of a higher class than reviewsthough
he reviews a book occasionally. His ordinary productions are
social and ethical essays--all that the PRESENT contains which is
not literary reviewing.'

'I admit he must be talented if he writes for the PRESENT. We
have it sent to us irregularly. I want papa to be a subscriber
but he's so conservative. Now the next point in this Mr. Knight-I
suppose he is a very good man.'

'An excellent man. I shall try to be his intimate friend some
day.'

'But aren't you now?'

'No; not so much as that' replied Stephenas if such a


supposition were extravagant. 'You seeit was in this way--he
came originally from the same place as Iand taught me things;
but I am not intimate with him. Shan't I be glad when I get
richer and better knownand hob and nob with him!' Stephen's eyes
sparkled.

A pout began to shape itself upon Elfride's soft lips. 'You think
always of himand like him better than you do me!'

'NoindeedElfride. The feeling is different quite. But I do
like himand he deserves even more affection from me than I
give.'

'You are not nice nowand you make me as jealous as possible!'
she exclaimed perversely. 'I know you will never speak to any
third person of me so warmly as you do to me of him.'

'But you don't understandElfride' he said with an anxious
movement. 'You shall know him some day. He is so brilliant--no
it isn't exactly brilliant; so thoughtful--nor does thoughtful
express him--that it would charm you to talk to him. He's a most
desirable friendand that isn't half I could say.'

'I don't care how good he is; I don't want to know himbecause he
comes between me and you. You think of him night and dayever so
much more than of anybody else; and when you are thinking of him
I am shut out of your mind.'

'Nodear Elfride; I love you dearly.'

'And I don't like you to tell me so warmly about him when you are
in the middle of loving me. Stephensuppose that I and this man
Knight of yours were both drowningand you could only save one of
us----'

'Yes--the stupid old proposition--which would I save?

'Wellwhich? Not me.'

'Both of you' he saidpressing her pendent hand.

'Nothat won't do; only one of us.'

'I cannot say; I don't know. It is disagreeable--quite a horrid
idea to have to handle.'

'A-haI know. You would save himand let me drowndrown
drown; and I don't care about your love!'

She had endeavoured to give a playful tone to her wordsbut the
latter speech was rather forced in its gaiety.

At this point in the discussion she trotted off to turn a corner
which was avoided by the footpaththe road and the path reuniting
at a point a little further on. On again making her appearance
she continually managed to look in a direction away from himand
left him in the cool shade of her displeasure. Stephen was soon
beaten at this game of indifference. He went round and entered
the range of her vision.

'Are you offendedElfie? Why don't you talk?'

'Save methenand let that Mr. Clever of yours drown. I hate
him. Nowwhich would you?'


'ReallyElfrideyou should not press such a hard question. It
is ridiculous.'

'Then I won't be alone with you any more. Unkindto wound me
so!' She laughed at her own absurdity but persisted.

'ComeElfielet's make it up and be friends.'

'Say you would save methenand let him drown.'

'I would save you--and him too.'

'And let him drown. Comeor you don't love me!' she teasingly
went on.

'And let him drown' he ejaculated despairingly.

'There; now I am yours!' she saidand a woman's flush of triumph
lit her eyes.

'Only one earringmissas I'm alive' said Unity on their
entering the hall.

With a face expressive of wretched misgivingElfride's hand flew
like an arrow to her ear.

'There!' she exclaimed to Stephenlooking at him with eyes full
of reproach.

'I quite forgotindeed. If I had only remembered!' he answered
with a conscience-stricken face.

She wheeled herself roundand turned into the shrubbery. Stephen
followed.

'If you had told me to watch anythingStephenI should have
religiously done it' she capriciously went onas soon as she
heard him behind her.

'Forgetting is forgivable.'

'Wellyou will find itif you want me to respect you and be
engaged to you when we have asked papa.' She considered a moment
and added more seriously'I know now where I dropped itStephen.
It was on the cliff. I remember a faint sensation of some change
about mebut I was too absent to think of it then. And that's
where it is nowand you must go and look there.'

'I'll go at once.'

And he strode away up the valleyunder a broiling sun and amid
the deathlike silence of early afternoon. He ascendedwith
giddy-paced hastethe windy range of rocks to where they had sat
felt and peered about the stones and cranniesbut Elfride's stray
jewel was nowhere to be seen. Next Stephen slowly retraced his
stepsandpausing at a cross-road to reflect a whilehe left
the plateau and struck downwards across some fieldsin the
direction of Endelstow House.

He walked along the path by the river without the slightest
hesitation as to its bearingapparently quite familiar with every


inch of the ground. As the shadows began to lengthen and the
sunlight to mellowhe passed through two wicket-gatesand drew
near the outskirts of Endelstow Park. The river now ran along
under the park fenceprevious to entering the grove itselfa
little further on.

Here stood a cottagebetween the fence and the streamon a
slightly elevated spot of groundround which the river took a
turn. The characteristic feature of this snug habitation was its
one chimney in the gable endits squareness of form disguised by
a huge cloak of ivywhich had grown so luxuriantly and extended
so far from its baseas to increase the apparent bulk of the
chimney to the dimensions of a tower. Some little distance from
the back of the house rose the park boundaryand over this were
to be seen the sycamores of the grovemaking slow inclinations to
the just-awakening air.

Stephen crossed the little wood bridge in frontwent up to the
cottage doorand opened it without knock or signal of any kind.

Exclamations of welcome burst from some person or persons when the
door was thrust ajarfollowed by the scrape of chairs on a stone
flooras if pushed back by their occupiers in rising from a
table. The door was closed againand nothing could now be heard
from withinsave a lively chatter and the rattle of plates.

Chapter VIII

'Allen-a-Dale is no baron or lord.'

The mists were creeping out of pools and swamps for their
pilgrimages of the night when Stephen came up to the front door of
the vicarage. Elfride was standing on the step illuminated by a
lemon-hued expanse of western sky.

'You never have been all this time looking for that earring?' she
said anxiously.

'Oh no; and I have not found it.'

'Never mind. Though I am much vexed; they are my prettiest. But
Stephenwhat ever have you been doing--where have you been? I
have been so uneasy. I feared for youknowing not an inch of the
country. I thoughtsuppose he has fallen over the cliff! But now
I am inclined to scold you for frightening me so.'

'I must speak to your father now' he said rather abruptly; 'I
have so much to say to him--and to youElfride.'

'Will what you have to say endanger this nice time of oursand is
it that same shadowy secret you allude to so frequentlyand will
it make me unhappy?'

'Possibly.'

She breathed heavilyand looked around as if for a prompter.

'Put it off till to-morrow' she said.

He involuntarily sighed too.


'No; it must come to-night. Where is your fatherElfride?'

'Somewhere in the kitchen gardenI think' she replied. 'That is
his favourite evening retreat. I will leave you now. Say all
that's to be said--do all there is to be done. Think of me
waiting anxiously for the end.' And she re-entered the house.

She waited in the drawing-roomwatching the lights sink to
shadowsthe shadows sink to darknessuntil her impatience to
know what had occurred in the garden could no longer be
controlled. She passed round the shrubberyunlatched the garden
doorand skimmed with her keen eyes the whole twilighted space
that the four walls enclosed and sheltered: they were not there.
She mounted a little ladderwhich had been used for gathering
fruitand looked over the wall into the field. This field
extended to the limits of the glebewhich was enclosed on that
side by a privet-hedge. Under the hedge was Mr. Swancourt
walking up and downand talking aloud--to himselfas it sounded
at first. No: another voice shouted occasional replies ; and this
interlocutor seemed to be on the other side of the hedge. The
voicethough soft in qualitywas not Stephen's.

The second speaker must have been in the long-neglected garden of
an old manor-house hard bywhichtogether with a small estate
attachedhad lately been purchased by a person named Troyton
whom Elfride had never seen. Her father might have struck up an
acquaintanceship with some member of that family through the
privet-hedgeor a stranger to the neighbourhood might have
wandered thither.

Wellthere was no necessity for disturbing him.

And it seemed thatafter allStephen had not yet made his
desired communication to her father. Again she went indoors
wondering where Stephen could be. For want of something better to
doshe went upstairs to her own little room. Here she sat down
at the open windowandleaning with her elbow on the table and
her cheek upon her handshe fell into meditation.

It was a hot and still August night. Every disturbance of the
silence which rose to the dignity of a noise could be heard for
milesand the merest sound for a long distance. So she remained
thinking of Stephenand wishing he had not deprived her of his
company to no purposeas it appeared. How delicate and sensitive
he wasshe reflected; and yet he was man enough to have a private
mysterywhich considerably elevated him in her eyes. Thus
looking at things with an inward visionshe lost consciousness of
the flight of time.

Strange conjunctions of circumstancesparticularly those of a
trivial everyday kindare so frequent in an ordinary lifethat
we grow used to their unaccountablenessand forget the question
whether the very long odds against such juxtaposition is not
almost a disproof of it being a matter of chance at all. What
occurred to Elfride at this moment was a case in point. She was
vividly imaginingfor the twentieth timethe kiss of the
morningand putting her lips together in the position another
such a one would demandwhen she heard the identical operation
performed on the lawnimmediately beneath her window.

A kiss--not of the quiet and stealthy kindbut decisiveloud
and smart.

Her face flushed and she looked outbut to no purpose. The dark


rim of the upland drew a keen sad line against the pale glow of
the skyunbroken except where a young cedar on the lawnthat had
outgrown its fellow treesshot its pointed head across the
horizonpiercing the firmamental lustre like a sting.

It was just possible thathad any persons been standing on the
grassy portions of the lawnElfride might have seen their dusky
forms. But the shrubswhich once had merely dotted the glade
had now grown bushy and largetill they hid at least half the
enclosure containing them. The kissing pair might have been
behind some of these; at any ratenobody was in sight.

Had no enigma ever been connected with her lover by his hints and
absencesElfride would never have thought of admitting into her
mind a suspicion that he might be concerned in the foregoing
enactment. But the reservations he at present insisted onwhile
they added to the mystery without which perhaps she would never
have seriously loved him at allwere calculated to nourish doubts
of all kindsand with a slow flush of jealousy she asked herself
might he not be the culprit?

Elfride glided downstairs on tiptoeand out to the precise spot
on which she had parted from Stephen to enable him to speak
privately to her father. Thence she wandered into all the nooks
around the place from which the sound seemed to proceed--among the
huge laurestinesabout the tufts of pampas grassesamid the
variegated holliesunder the weeping wych-elm--nobody was there.
Returning indoors she called 'Unity!'

'She is gone to her aunt'sto spend the evening' said Mr.
Swancourtthrusting his head out of his study doorand letting
the light of his candles stream upon Elfride's face--less
revealing thanas it seemed to herselfcreating the blush of
uneasy perplexity that was burning upon her cheek.

'I didn't know you were indoorspapa' she said with surprise.
'Surely no light was shining from the window when I was on the
lawn?' and she looked and saw that the shutters were still open.

'Oh yesI am in' he said indifferently. 'What did you want
Unity for? I think she laid supper before she went out.'

'Did she?--I have not been to see--I didn't want her for that.'

Elfride scarcely knewnow that a definite reason was required
what that reason was. Her mind for a moment strayed to another
subjectunimportant as it seemed. The red ember of a match was
lying inside the fenderwhich explained that why she had seen no
rays from the window was because the candles had only just been
lighted.

'I'll come directly' said the vicar. 'I thought you were out
somewhere with Mr. Smith.'

Even the inexperienced Elfride could not help thinking that her
father must be wonderfully blind if he failed to perceive what was
the nascent consequence of herself and Stephen being so
unceremoniously left together; wonderfully carelessif he saw it
and did not think about it; wonderfully goodifas seemed to her
by far the most probable suppositionhe saw it and thought about
it and approved of it. These reflections were cut short by the
appearance of Stephen just outside the porchsilvered about the
head and shoulders with touches of moonlightthat had begun to
creep through the trees.


'Has your trouble anything to do with a kiss on the lawn?' she
asked abruptlyalmost passionately.

'Kiss on the lawn?'

'Yes!' she saidimperiously now.

'I didn't comprehend your meaningnor do I now exactly. I
certainly have kissed nobody on the lawnif that is really what
you want to knowElfride.'

'You know nothing about such a performance?'

'Nothing whatever. What makes you ask?'

'Don't press me to tell; it is nothing of importance. And
Stephenyou have not yet spoken to papa about our engagement?'

'No' he said regretfully'I could not find him directly; and
then I went on thinking so much of what you said about objections
refusals--bitter words possibly--ending our happinessthat I
resolved to put it off till to-morrow; that gives us one more day
of delight--delight of a tremulous kind.'

'Yes; but it would be improper to be silent too longI think'
she said in a delicate voicewhich implied that her face had
grown warm. 'I want him to know we loveStephen. Why did you
adopt as your own my thought of delay?'

'I will explain; but I want to tell you of my secret first--to
tell you now. It is two or three hours yet to bedtime. Let us
walk up the hill to the church.'

Elfride passively assentedand they went from the lawn by a side
wicketand ascended into the open expanse of moonlight which
streamed around the lonely edifice on the summit of the hill.

The door was locked. They turned from the porchand walked hand
in hand to find a resting-place in the churchyard. Stephen chose
a flat tombshowing itself to be newer and whiter than those
around itand sitting down himselfgently drew her hand towards
him.

'Nonot there' she said.

'Why not here?'

'A mere fancy; but never mind.' And she sat down.

'Elfiewill you love mein spite of everything that may be said
against me?'

'O Stephenwhat makes you repeat that so continually and so
sadly? You know I will. Yesindeed' she saiddrawing closer
'whatever may be said of you--and nothing bad can be--I will cling
to you just the same. Your ways shall be my ways until I die.'

'Did you ever think what my parents might beor what society I
originally moved in?'

'Nonot particularly. I have observed one or two little points
in your manners which are rather quaint--no more. I suppose you
have moved in the ordinary society of professional people.'


'Supposing I have not--that none of my family have a profession
except me?'

'I don't mind. What you are only concerns me.'

'Where do you think I went to school--I meanto what kind of
school?'

'Dr. Somebody's academy' she said simply.

'No. To a dame school originallythen to a national school.'

'Only to those! WellI love you just as muchStephendear
Stephen' she murmured tenderly'I do indeed. And why should you
tell me these things so impressively? What do they matter to me?'

He held her closer and proceeded:

'What do you think my father is--does for his livingthat is to
say?'

'He practises some profession or callingI suppose.'

'No; he is a mason.'

'A Freemason?'

'No; a cottager and journeyman mason.'

Elfride said nothing at first. After a while she whispered:

'That is a strange idea to me. But never mind; what does it
matter?'

'But aren't you angry with me for not telling you before?'

'Nonot at all. Is your mother alive?'

'Yes.'

'Is she a nice lady?'

'Very--the best mother in the world. Her people had been well-todo
yeomen for centuriesbut she was only a dairymaid.'

'O Stephen!' came from her in whispered exclamation.

'She continued to attend to a dairy long after my father married
her' pursued Stephenwithout further hesitation. 'And I
remember very well howwhen I was very youngI used to go to the
milkinglook on at the skimmingsleep through the churningand
make believe I helped her. Ahthat was a happy time enough!'

'Nonever--not happy.'

'Yesit was.'

'I don't see how happiness could be where the drudgery of dairywork
had to be done for a living--the hands red and chappedand
the shoes clogged....StephenI do own that it seems odd to regard
you in the light of--of--having been so rough in your youthand
done menial things of that kind.' (Stephen withdrew an inch or two
from her side.) 'But I DO LOVE YOU just the same' she continued


getting closer under his shoulder again'and I don't care
anything about the past; and I see that you are all the worthier
for having pushed on in the world in such a way.'

'It is not my worthiness; it is Knight'swho pushed me.'

'Ahalways he--always he!'

'Yesand properly so. NowElfrideyou see the reason of his
teaching me by letter. I knew him years before he went to Oxford
but I had not got far enough in my reading for him to entertain
the idea of helping me in classics till he left home. Then I was
sent away from the villageand we very seldom met; but he kept up
this system of tuition by correspondence with the greatest
regularity. I will tell you all the storybut not now. There is
nothing more to say nowbeyond giving placespersonsand
dates.' His voice became timidly slow at this point.

'No; don't take trouble to say more. You are a dear honest fellow
to say so much as you have; and it is not so dreadful either. It
has become a normal thing that millionaires commence by going up
to London with their tools at their backand half-a-crown in
their pockets. That sort of origin is getting so respected' she
continued cheerfully'that it is acquiring some of the odour of
Norman ancestry.'

'Ahif I had MADE my fortuneI shouldn't mind. But I am only a
possible maker of it as yet.'

'It is quite enough. And so THIS is what your trouble was?'

'I thought I was doing wrong in letting you love me without
telling you my story; and yet I feared to do soElfie. I dreaded
to lose youand I was cowardly on that account.'

'How plain everything about you seems after this explanation! Your
peculiarities in chess-playingthe pronunciation papa noticed in
your Latinyour odd mixture of book-knowledge with ignorance of
ordinary social accomplishmentsare accounted for in a moment.
And has this anything to do with what I saw at Lord Luxellian's?'

'What did you see?'

'I saw the shadow of yourself putting a cloak round a lady. I was
at the side door; you two were in a room with the window towards
me. You came to me a moment later.'

'She was my mother.'

'Your mother THERE!' She withdrew herself to look at him silently
in her interest.

'Elfride' said Stephen'I was going to tell you the remainder
to-morrow--I have been keeping it back--I must tell it nowafter
all. The remainder of my revelation refers to where my parents
are. Where do you think they live? You know them--by sight at any
rate.'

'I know them!' she said in suspended amazement.

'Yes. My father is John SmithLord Luxellian's master-masonwho
lives under the park wall by the river.'

'O Stephen! can it be?'


'He built--or assisted at the building of the house you live in
years ago. He put up those stone gate piers at the lodge entrance
to Lord Luxellian's park. My grandfather planted the trees that
belt in your lawn; my grandmother--who worked in the fields with
him--held each tree upright whilst he filled in the earth: they
told me so when I was a child. He was the sextontooand dug
many of the graves around us.'

'And was your unaccountable vanishing on the first morning of your
arrivaland again this afternoona run to see your father and
mother?...I understand now; no wonder you seemed to know your way
about the village!'

'No wonder. But rememberI have not lived here since I was nine
years old. I then went to live with my unclea blacksmithnear
Exonburyin order to be able to attend a national school as a day
scholar; there was none on this remote coast then. It was there I
met with my friend Knight. And when I was fifteen and had been
fairly educated by the school-master--and more particularly by
Knight--I was put as a pupil in an architect's office in that
townbecause I was skilful in the use of the pencil. A full
premium was paid by the efforts of my mother and fatherrather
against the wishes of Lord Luxellianwho likes my father
howeverand thinks a great deal of him. There I stayed till six
months agowhen I obtained a situation as improveras it is
calledin a London office. That's all of me.'

'To think YOUthe London visitorthe town manshould have been
born hereand have known this village so many years before I did.
How strange--how very strange it seems to me!' she murmured.

'My mother curtseyed to you and your father last Sunday' said
Stephenwith a pained smile at the thought of the incongruity.
'And your papa said to herI am glad to see you so regular at
church, JANE.'

'I remember itbut I have never spoken to her. We have only been
here eighteen monthsand the parish is so large.'

'Contrast with this' said Stephenwith a miserable laugh'your
father's belief in my "blue blood which is still prevalent in
his mind. The first night I came, he insisted upon proving my
descent from one of the most ancient west-county families, on
account of my second Christian name; when the truth is, it was
given me because my grandfather was assistant gardener in the
Fitzmaurice-Smith family for thirty years. Having seen your face,
my darling, I had not heart to contradict him, and tell him what
would have cut me off from a friendly knowledge of you.'

She sighed deeply. 'Yes, I see now how this inequality may be
made to trouble us,' she murmured, and continued in a low, sad
whisper, 'I wouldn't have minded if they had lived far away. Papa
might have consented to an engagement between us if your
connection had been with villagers a hundred miles off; remoteness
softens family contrasts. But he will not like--O Stephen,
Stephen! what can I do?'

'Do?' he said tentatively, yet with heaviness. 'Give me up; let
me go back to London, and think no more of me.'

'No, no; I cannot give you up! This hopelessness in our affairs
makes me care more for you....I see what did not strike me at
first. Stephen, why do we trouble? Why should papa object? An


architect in London is an architect in London. Who inquires
there? Nobody. We shall live there, shall we not? Why need we be
so alarmed?'

'And Elfie,' said Stephen, his hopes kindling with hers, 'Knight
thinks nothing of my being only a cottager's son; he says I am as
worthy of his friendship as if I were a lord's; and if I am worthy
of his friendship, I am worthy of you, am I not, Elfride?'

'I not only have never loved anybody but you,' she said, instead
of giving an answer, 'but I have not even formed a strong
friendship, such as you have for Knight. I wish you hadn't. It
diminishes me.'

'Now, Elfride, you know better,' he said wooingly. 'And had you
really never any sweetheart at all?'
'None that was ever recognized by me as such.'
'But did nobody ever love you?'
'Yes--a man did once; very much, he said.'
'How long ago?'
'Oh, a long time.'
'How long, dearest?
'A twelvemonth.'
'That's not VERY long' (rather disappointedly).
'I said long, not very long.'


'And did he want to marry you?'
'I believe he did. But I didn't see anything in him. He was not
good enough, even if I had loved him.'


'May I ask what he was?'
'A farmer.'
'A farmer not good enough--how much better than my family!'


Stephen murmured.
'Where is he now?' he continued to Elfride.
'HERE.'
'Here! what do you mean by that?'
'I mean that he is here.'
'Where here?'
'Under us. He is under this tomb. He is dead, and we are sitting


on his grave.'
'Elfie,' said the young man, standing up and looking at the tomb,
'how odd and sad that revelation seems! It quite depresses me for
the moment.'



'Stephen! I didn't wish to sit here; but you would do so.'

'You never encouraged him?'

'Never by look, word, or sign,' she said solemnly. 'He died of
consumption, and was buried the day you first came.'

'Let us go away. I don't like standing by HIM, even if you never
loved him. He was BEFORE me.'

'Worries make you unreasonable,' she half pouted, following
Stephen at the distance of a few steps. 'Perhaps I ought to have
told you before we sat down. Yes; let us go.'

Chapter IX

'Her father did fume'

Oppressed, in spite of themselves, by a foresight of impending
complications, Elfride and Stephen returned down the hill hand in
hand. At the door they paused wistfully, like children late at
school.

Women accept their destiny more readily than men. Elfride had now
resigned herself to the overwhelming idea of her lover's sorry
antecedents; Stephen had not forgotten the trifling grievance that
Elfride had known earlier admiration than his own.

'What was that young man's name?' he inquired.

'Felix Jethway; a widow's only son.'

'I remember the family.'

'She hates me now. She says I killed him.'

Stephen mused, and they entered the porch.

'Stephen, I love only you,' she tremulously whispered. He pressed
her fingers, and the trifling shadow passed away, to admit again
the mutual and more tangible trouble.

The study appeared to be the only room lighted up. They entered,
each with a demeanour intended to conceal the inconcealable fact
that reciprocal love was their dominant chord. Elfride perceived
a man, sitting with his back towards herself, talking to her
father. She would have retired, but Mr. Swancourt had seen her.

'Come in,' he said; 'it is only Martin Cannister, come for a copy
of the register for poor Mrs. Jethway.'

Martin Cannister, the sexton, was rather a favourite with Elfride.
He used to absorb her attention by telling her of his strange
experiences in digging up after long years the bodies of persons
he had known, and recognizing them by some little sign (though in
reality he had never recognized any). He had shrewd small eyes
and a great wealth of double chin, which compensated in some
measure for considerable poverty of nose.

The appearance of a slip of paper in Cannister's hand, and a few
shillings lying on the table in front of him, denoted that the


business had been transacted, and the tenor of their conversation
went to show that a summary of village news was now engaging the
attention of parishioner and parson.

Mr. Cannister stood up and touched his forehead over his eye with
his finger, in respectful salutation of Elfride, gave half as much
salute to Stephen (whom he, in common with other villagers, had
never for a moment recognized), then sat down again and resumed
his discourse.

'Where had I got on to, sir?'

'To driving the pile,' said Mr. Swancourt.

'The pile 'twas. So, as I was saying, Nat was driving the pile in
this manner, as I might say.' Here Mr. Cannister held his walkingstick
scrupulously vertical with his left hand, and struck a blow
with great force on the knob of the stick with his right. 'John
was steadying the pile so, as I might say.' Here he gave the stick
a slight shake, and looked firmly in the various eyes around to
see that before proceeding further his listeners well grasped the
subject at that stage. 'Well, when Nat had struck some half-dozen
blows more upon the pile, 'a stopped for a second or two. John,
thinking he had done striking, put his hand upon the top o' the
pile to gie en a pull, and see if 'a were firm in the ground.' Mr.
Cannister spread his hand over the top of the stick, completely
covering it with his palm. 'Well, so to speak, Nat hadn't maned
to stop striking, and when John had put his hand upon the pile,
the beetle----'

'Oh dreadful!' said Elfride.

'The beetle was already coming down, you see, sir. Nat just
caught sight of his hand, but couldn't stop the blow in time.
Down came the beetle upon poor John Smith's hand, and squashed en
to a pummy.'

'Dear me, dear me! poor fellow!' said the vicar, with an
intonation like the groans of the wounded in a pianoforte
performance of the 'Battle of Prague.'

'John Smith, the master-mason?' cried Stephen hurriedly.

'Ay, no other; and a better-hearted man God A'mighty never made.'

'Is he so much hurt?'

'I have heard,' said Mr. Swancourt, not noticing Stephen, 'that he
has a son in London, a very promising young fellow.'

'Oh, how he must be hurt!' repeated Stephen.

'A beetle couldn't hurt very little. Well, sir, good-night t'ye;
and ye, sir; and you, miss, I'm sure.'

Mr. Cannister had been making unnoticeable motions of withdrawal,
and by the time this farewell remark came from his lips he was
just outside the door of the room. He tramped along the hall,
stayed more than a minute endeavouring to close the door properly,
and then was lost to their hearing.

Stephen had meanwhile turned and said to the vicar:

'Please excuse me this evening! I must leave. John Smith is my


father.'

The vicar did not comprehend at first.

'What did you say?' he inquired.

'John Smith is my father,' said Stephen deliberately.

A surplus tinge of redness rose from Mr. Swancourt's neck, and
came round over his face, the lines of his features became more
firmly defined, and his lips seemed to get thinner. It was
evident that a series of little circumstances, hitherto unheeded,
were now fitting themselves together, and forming a lucid picture
in Mr. Swancourt's mind in such a manner as to render useless
further explanation on Stephen's part.

'Indeed,' the vicar said, in a voice dry and without inflection.

This being a word which depends entirely upon its tone for its
meaning, Mr. Swancourt's enunciation was equivalent to no
expression at all.

'I have to go now,' said Stephen, with an agitated bearing, and a
movement as if he scarcely knew whether he ought to run off or
stay longer. 'On my return, sir, will you kindly grant me a few
minutes' private conversation?'

'Certainly. Though antecedently it does not seem possible that
there can be anything of the nature of private business between
us.'

Mr. Swancourt put on his straw hat, crossed the drawing-room, into
which the moonlight was shining, and stepped out of the French
window into the verandah. It required no further effort to
perceive what, indeed, reasoning might have foretold as the
natural colour of a mind whose pleasures were taken amid
genealogies, good dinners, and patrician reminiscences, that Mr.
Swancourt's prejudices were too strong for his generosity, and
that Stephen's moments as his friend and equal were numbered, or
had even now ceased.

Stephen moved forward as if he would follow the vicar, then as if
he would not, and in absolute perplexity whither to turn himself,
went awkwardly to the door. Elfride followed lingeringly behind
him. Before he had receded two yards from the doorstep, Unity and
Ann the housemaid came home from their visit to the village.

'Have you heard anything about John Smith? The accident is not so
bad as was reported, is it?' said Elfride intuitively.

'Oh no; the doctor says it is only a bad bruise.'

'I thought so!' cried Elfride gladly.

'He says that, although Nat believes he did not check the beetle
as it came down, he must have done so without knowing it--checked
it very considerably too; for the full blow would have knocked his
hand abroad, and in reality it is only made black-and-blue like.'

'How thankful I am!' said Stephen.

The perplexed Unity looked at him with her mouth rather than with
her eyes.


'That will do, Unity,' said Elfride magisterially; and the two
maids passed on.

'Elfride, do you forgive me?' said Stephen with a faint smile.
'No man is fair in love;' and he took her fingers lightly in his
own.

With her head thrown sideways in the Greuze attitude, she looked a
tender reproach at his doubt and pressed his hand. Stephen
returned the pressure threefold, then hastily went off to his
father's cottage by the wall of Endelstow Park.

'Elfride, what have you to say to this?' inquired her father,
coming up immediately Stephen had retired.

With feminine quickness she grasped at any straw that would enable
her to plead his cause. 'He had told me of it,' she faltered; 'so
that it is not a discovery in spite of him. He was just coming in
to tell you.'

'COMING to tell! Why hadn't he already told? I object as much, if
not more, to his underhand concealment of this, than I do to the
fact itself. It looks very much like his making a fool of me, and
of you too. You and he have been about together, and
corresponding together, in a way I don't at all approve of--in a
most unseemly way. You should have known how improper such
conduct is. A woman can't be too careful not to be seen alone
with I-don't-know-whom.'

'You saw us, papa, and have never said a word.'

'My fault, of course; my fault. What the deuce could I be
thinking of! He, a villager's son; and we, Swancourts, connections
of the Luxellians. We have been coming to nothing for centuries,
and now I believe we have got there. What shall I next invite
here, I wonder!'

Elfride began to cry at this very unpropitious aspect of affairs.
'O papa, papa, forgive me and him! We care so much for one
another, papa--O, so much! And what he was going to ask you is, if
you will allow of an engagement between us till he is a gentleman
as good as you. We are not in a hurry, dear papa; we don't want
in the least to marry now; not until he is richer. Only will you
let us be engaged, because I love him so, and he loves me?'

Mr. Swancourt's feelings were a little touched by this appeal, and
he was annoyed that such should be the case. 'Certainly not!' he
replied. He pronounced the inhibition lengthily and sonorously,
so that the 'not' sounded like 'n-o-o-o-t!'

'No, no, no; don't say it!'

'Foh! A fine story. It is not enough that I have been deluded and
disgraced by having him here,--the son of one of my village
peasants,--but now I am to make him my son-in-law! Heavens above
us, are you mad, Elfride?'

'You have seen his letters come to me ever since his first visit,
papa, and you knew they were a sort of--love-letters; and since he
has been here you have let him be alone with me almost entirely;
and you guessed, you must have guessed, what we were thinking of,
and doing, and you didn't stop him. Next to love-making comes
love-winning, and you knew it would come to that, papa.'


The vicar parried this common-sense thrust. 'I know--since you
press me so--I know I did guess some childish attachment might
arise between you; I own I did not take much trouble to prevent
it; but I have not particularly countenanced it; and, Elfride, how
can you expect that I should now? It is impossible; no father in
England would hear of such a thing.'

'But he is the same man, papa; the same in every particular; and
how can he be less fit for me than he was before?'

'He appeared a young man with well-to-do friends, and a little
property; but having neither, he is another man.'

'You inquired nothing about him?'

'I went by Hewby's introduction. He should have told me. So
should the young man himself; of course he should. I consider it
a most dishonourable thing to come into a man's house like a
treacherous I-don't-know-what.'

'But he was afraid to tell you, and so should I have been. He
loved me too well to like to run the risk. And as to speaking of
his friends on his first visit, I don't see why he should have
done so at all. He came here on business: it was no affair of
ours who his parents were. And then he knew that if he told you
he would never be asked here, and would perhaps never see me
again. And he wanted to see me. Who can blame him for trying, by
any means, to stay near me--the girl he loves? All is fair in
love. I have heard you say so yourself, papa; and you yourself
would have done just as he has--so would any man.'

'And any man, on discovering what I have discovered, would also do
as I do, and mend my mistake; that is, get shot of him again, as
soon as the laws of hospitality will allow.' But Mr. Swancourt
then remembered that he was a Christian. 'I would not, for the
world, seem to turn him out of doors,' he added; 'but I think he
will have the tact to see that he cannot stay long after this,
with good taste.'

'He will, because he's a gentleman. See how graceful his manners
are,' Elfride went on; though perhaps Stephen's manners, like the
feats of Euryalus, owed their attractiveness in her eyes rather to
the attractiveness of his person than to their own excellence.

'Ay; anybody can be what you call graceful, if he lives a little
time in a city, and keeps his eyes open. And he might have picked
up his gentlemanliness by going to the galleries of theatres, and
watching stage drawing-room manners. He reminds me of one of the
worst stories I ever heard in my life.'

'What story was that?'

'Oh no, thank you! I wouldn't tell you such an improper matter for
the world!'

'If his father and mother had lived in the north or east of
England,' gallantly persisted Elfride, though her sobs began to
interrupt her articulation, 'anywhere but here--you--would have-only
regarded--HIM, and not THEM! His station--would have--been
what--his profession makes it,--and not fixed by--his father's
humble position--at all; whom he never lives with--now. Though
John Smith has saved lots of money, and is better off than we are,
they say, or he couldn't have put his son to such an expensive
profession. And it is clever and--honourable--of Stephen, to be


the best of his family.'

'Yes. Let a beast be lord of beastsand his crib shall stand at
the king's mess."'

'You insult mepapa!' she burst out. 'You doyou do! He is my
own Stephenhe is!'

'That may or may not be trueElfride' returned her fatheragain
uncomfortably agitated in spite of himself 'You confuse future
probabilities with present facts--what the young man may be with
what he is. We must look at what he isnot what an improbable
degree of success in his profession may make him. The case is
this: the son of a working-man in my parish who may or may not be
able to buy me up--a youth who has not yet advanced so far into
life as to have any income of his own deserving the nameand
therefore of his father's degree as regards station--wants to be
engaged to you. His family are living in precisely the same spot
in England as yoursso throughout this county--which is the world
to us--you would always be known as the wife of Jack Smith the
mason's sonand not under any circumstances as the wife of a
London professional man. It is the drawbacknot the compensating
factthat is talked of always. Theresay no more. You may
argue all nightand prove what you will; I'll stick to my words.'

Elfride looked silently and hopelessly out of the window with
large heavy eyes and wet cheeks.

'I call it great temerity--and long to call it audacity--in
Hewby' resumed her father. 'I never heard such a thing--giving
such a hobbledehoy native of this place such an introduction to me
as he did. Naturally you were deceived as well as I was. I don't
blame you at allso far.' He went and searched for Mr. Hewby's
original letter. 'Here's what he said to me: "Dear Sir--
Agreeably to your request of the 18th instantI have arranged to
survey and make drawings et cetera. My assistantMr. Stephen
Smith"--assistantyou see he called himand naturally I
understood him to mean a sort of partner. Why didn't he say
clerk?'

'They never call them clerks in that professionbecause they do
not write. Stephen--Mr. Smith--told me so. So that Mr. Hewby
simply used the accepted word.'

'Let me speakpleaseElfride! "My assistantMr. Stephen Smith
will leave London by the early train to-morrow morning...MANY
THANKS FOR YOUR PROPOSAL TO ACCOMMODATE HIM...YOU MAY PUT EVERY
CONFIDENCE IN HIMand may rely upon his discernment in the matter
of church architecture." WellI repeat that Hewby ought to be
ashamed of himself for making so much of a poor lad of that sort.'

'Professional men in London' Elfride argued'don't know anything
about their clerks' fathers and mothers. They have assistants who
come to their offices and shops for yearsand hardly even know
where they live. What they can do--what profits they can bring
the firm--that's all London men care about. And that is helped in
him by his faculty of being uniformly pleasant.'

'Uniform pleasantness is rather a defect than a faculty. It shows
that a man hasn't sense enough to know whom to despise.'

'It shows that he acts by faith and not by sightas those you
claim succession from directed.'


'That's some more of what he's been telling youI suppose! YesI
was inclined to suspect himbecause he didn't care about sauces
of any kind. I always did doubt a man's being a gentleman if his
palate had no acquired tastes. An unedified palate is the
irrepressible cloven foot of the upstart. The idea of my bringing
out a bottle of my '40 Martinez--only eleven of them left now--to
a man who didn't know it from eighteenpenny! Then the Latin line
he gave to my quotation; it was very cut-and-driedvery; or I
who haven't looked into a classical author for the last eighteen
yearsshouldn't have remembered it. WellElfrideyou had
better go to your room; you'll get over this bit of tomfoolery in
time.'

'Nononopapa' she moaned. For of all the miseries attaching
to miserable lovethe worst is the misery of thinking that the
passion which is the cause of them all may cease.

'Elfride' said her father with rough friendliness'I have an
excellent scheme on handwhich I cannot tell you of now. A
scheme to benefit you and me. It has been thrust upon me for some
little time--yesthrust upon me--but I didn't dream of its value
till this afternoonwhen the revelation came. I should be most
unwise to refuse to entertain it.'

'I don't like that word' she returned wearily. 'You have lost so
much already by schemes. Is it those wretched mines again?'

'No; not a mining scheme.'

'Railways?'

'Nor railways. It is like those mysterious offers we see
advertisedby which any gentleman with no brains at all may make
so much a week without risktroubleor soiling his fingers.
HoweverI am intending to say nothing till it is settledthough
I will just say this muchthat you soon may have other fish to
fry than to think of Stephen Smith. RememberI wishnot to be
angrybut friendlyto the young man; for your sake I'll regard
him as a friend in a certain sense. But this is enough; in a few
days you will be quite my way of thinking. Therenowgo to your
bedroom. Unity shall bring you up some supper. I wish you not to
be here when he comes back.'

Chapter X

'Beneath the shelter of an aged tree.'

Stephen retraced his steps towards the cottage he had visited only
two or three hours previously. He drew near and under the rich
foliage growing about the outskirts of Endelstow Parkthe spotty
lights and shades from the shining moon maintaining a race over
his head and down his back in an endless gambol. When he crossed
the plank bridge and entered the garden-gatehe saw an
illuminated figure coming from the enclosed plot towards the house
on the other side. It was his fatherwith his hand in a sling
taking a general moonlight view of the gardenand particularly of
a plot of the youngest of young turnipsprevious to closing the
cottage for the night.

He saluted his son with customary force. 'HalloStephen! We
should ha' been in bed in another ten minutes. Come to see what's


the matter wi' meI supposemy lad?'

The doctor had come and goneand the hand had been pronounced as
injured but slightlythough it might possibly have been
considered a far more serious case if Mr. Smith had been a more
important man. Stephen's anxious inquiry drew from his father
words of regret at the inconvenience to the world of his doing
nothing for the next two daysrather than of concern for the pain
of the accident. Together they entered the house.

John Smith--brown as autumn as to skinwhite as winter as to
clothes--was a satisfactory specimen of the village artificer in
stone. In common with most rural mechanicshe had too much
individuality to be a typical 'working-man'--a resultant of that
beach-pebble attrition with his kind only to be experienced in
large townswhich metamorphoses the unit Self into a fraction of
the unit Class.

There was not the speciality in his labour which distinguishes the
handicraftsmen of towns. Though only a masonstrictly speaking
he was not above handling a brickif bricks were the order of the
day; or a slate or tileif a roof had to be covered before the
wet weather set inand nobody was near who could do it better.
Indeedon one or two occasions in the depth of winterwhen frost
peremptorily forbids all use of the trowelmaking foundations to
settlestones to flyand mortar to crumblehe had taken to
felling and sawing trees. Moreoverhe had practised gardening in
his own plot for so many years thaton an emergencyhe might
have made a living by that calling.

Probably our countryman was not such an accomplished artificer in
a particular direction as his town brethren in the trades. But he
wasin truthlike that clumsy pin-maker who made the whole pin
and who was despised by Adam Smith on that account and respected
by Macaulaymuch more the artist nevertheless.

Appearing nowindoorsby the light of the candlehis stalwart
healthiness was a sight to see. His beard was close and knotted
as that of a chiselled Hercules; his shirt sleeves were partly
rolled uphis waistcoat unbuttoned; the difference in hue between
the snowy linen and the ruddy arms and face contrasting like the
white of an egg and its yolk. Mrs. Smithon hearing them enter
advanced from the pantry.

Mrs. Smith was a matron whose countenance addressed itself to the
mind rather than to the eyethough not exclusively. She retained
her personal freshness even nowin the prosy afternoon-time of
her life; but what her features were primarily indicative of was a
sound common sense behind them; as a wholeappearing to carry
with them a sort of argumentative commentary on the world in
general.

The details of the accident were then rehearsed by Stephen's
fatherin the dramatic manner also common to Martin Cannister
other individuals of the neighbourhoodand the rural world
generally. Mrs. Smith threw in her sentiments between the acts
as Coryphaeus of the tragedyto make the description complete.
The story at last came to an endas the longest willand Stephen
directed the conversation into another channel.

'Wellmotherthey know everything about me now' he said
quietly.

'Well done!' replied his father; 'now my mind's at peace.'


'I blame myself--I never shall forgive myself--for not telling
them before' continued the young man.

Mrs. Smith at this point abstracted her mind from the former
subject. 'I don't see what you have to grieve aboutStephen'
she said. 'People who accidentally get friends don'tas a first
stroketell the history of their families.'

'Ye've done no wrongcertainly' said his father.

'No; but I should have spoken sooner. There's more in this visit
of mine than you think--a good deal more.'

'Not more than I think' Mrs. Smith repliedlooking
contemplatively at him. Stephen blushed; and his father looked
from one to the other in a state of utter incomprehension.

'She's a pretty piece enough' Mrs. Smith continued'and very
lady-like and clever too. But though she's very well fit for you
as far as that iswhymercy 'pon mewhat ever do you want any
woman at all for yet?'

John made his naturally short mouth a long oneand wrinkled his
forehead'That's the way the wind d'blowis it?' he said.

'Mother' exclaimed Stephen'how absurdly you speak! Criticizing
whether she's fit for me or noas if there were room for doubt on
the matter! Whyto marry her would be the great blessing of my
life--socially and practicallyas well as in other respects. No
such good fortune as thatI'm afraid; she's too far above me.
Her family doesn't want such country lads as I in it.'

'Then if they don't want youI'd see them dead corpses before I'd
want themand go to better families who do want you.'

'Ahyes; but I could never put up with the distaste of being
welcomed among such people as you meanwhilst I could get
indifference among such people as hers.'

'What crazy twist o' thinking will enter your head next?' said his
mother. 'And come to thatshe's not a bit too high for youor
you too low for her. See how careful I be to keep myself up. I'm
sure I never stop for more than a minute together to talk to any
journeymen people; and I never invite anybody to our party o'
Christmases who are not in business for themselves. And I talk to
several toppermost carriage people that come to my lord's without
saying ma'am or sir to 'emand they take it as quiet as lambs.'

'You curtseyed to the vicarmother; and I wish you hadn't.'

'But it was before he called me by my Christian nameor he would
have got very little curtseying from me!' said Mrs. Smith
bridling and sparkling with vexation. 'You go on at meStephen
as if I were your worst enemy! What else could I do with the man
to get rid of himbanging it into me and your father by side and
by seamabout his greatnessand what happened when he was a
young fellow at collegeand I don't know what-all; the tongue o'
en flopping round his mouth like a mop-rag round a dairy. That 'a
diddidn't heJohn?'

'That's about the size o't' replied her husband.

'Every woman now-a-days' resumed Mrs. Smith'if she marry at


allmust expect a father-in-law of a rank lower than her father.
The men have gone up soand the women have stood still. Every
man you meet is more the dand than his father; and you are just
level wi' her.'

'That's what she thinks herself.'

'It only shows her sense. I knew she was after 'eeStephen--I
knew it.'

'After me! Good Lordwhat next!'

'And I really must say again that you ought not to be in such a
hurryand wait for a few years. You might go higher than a
bankrupt pa'son's girl then.'

'The fact ismother' said Stephen impatiently'you don't know
anything about it. I shall never go higherbecause I don't want
tonor should I if I lived to be a hundred. As to you saying
that she's after meI don't like such a remark about herfor it
implies a scheming womanand a man worth scheming forboth of
which are not only untruebut ludicrously untrueof this case.
Isn't it sofather?'

'I'm afraid I don't understand the matter well enough to gie my
opinion' said his fatherin the tone of the fox who had a cold
and could not smell.

'She couldn't have been very backward anyhowconsidering the
short time you have known her' said his mother. 'Well I think
that five years hence you'll be plenty young enough to think of
such things. And really she can very well afford to waitand
will tootake my word. Living down in an out-step place like
thisI am sure she ought to be very thankful that you took notice
of her. She'd most likely have died an old maid if you hadn't
turned up.'

'All nonsense' said Stephenbut not aloud.

'A nice little thing she is' Mrs. Smith went on in a more
complacent tone now that Stephen had been talked down; 'there's
not a word to say against herI'll own. I see her sometimes
decked out like a horse going to fairand I admire her for't. A
perfect little lady. But people can't help their thoughtsand if
she'd learnt to make figures instead of letters when she was at
school 'twould have been better for her pocket; for as I said
there never were worse times for such as she than now.'

'Nownowmother!' said Stephen with smiling deprecation.

'But I will!' said his mother with asperity. 'I don't read the
papers for nothingand I know men all move up a stage by
marriage. Men of her classthat isparsonsmarry squires'
daughters; squires marry lords' daughters; lords marry dukes'
daughters; dukes marry queens' daughters. All stages of gentlemen
mate a stage higher; and the lowest stage of gentlewomen are left
singleor marry out of their class.'

'But you said just nowdear mother----' retorted Stephenunable
to resist the temptation of showing his mother her inconsistency.
Then he paused.

'Wellwhat did I say?' And Mrs. Smith prepared her lips for a new
campaign.


Stephenregretting that he had begunsince a volcano might be
the consequencewas obliged to go on.

'You said I wasn't out of her class just before.'

'Yestherethere! That's you; that's my own flesh and blood.
I'll warrant that you'll pick holes in everything your mother
saysif you canStephen. You are just like your father for
that; take anybody's part but mine. Whilst I am speaking and
talking and trying and slaving away for your goodyou are waiting
to catch me out in that way. So you are in her classbut 'tis
what HER people would CALL marrying out of her class. Don't be so
quarrelsomeStephen!'

Stephen preserved a discreet silencein which he was imitated by
his fatherand for several minutes nothing was heard but the
ticking of the green-faced case-clock against the wall.

'I'm sure' added Mrs. Smith in a more philosophic toneand as a
terminative speech'if there'd been so much trouble to get a
husband in my time as there is in these days--when you must make a
god-almighty of a man to get en to hae ye--I'd have trod clay for
bricks before I'd ever have lowered my dignity to marryor
there's no bread in nine loaves.'

The discussion now droppedand as it was getting lateStephen
bade his parents farewell for the eveninghis mother none the
less warmly for their sparring; for although Mrs. Smith and
Stephen were always contendingthey were never at enmity.

'And possibly' said Stephen'I may leave here altogether tomorrow;
I don't know. So that if I shouldn't call again before
returning to Londondon't be alarmedwill you?'

'But didn't you come for a fortnight?' said his mother. 'And
haven't you a month's holiday altogether? They are going to turn
you outthen?'

'Not at all. I may stay longer; I may go. If I goyou had
better say nothing about my having been herefor her sake. At
what time of the morning does the carrier pass Endelstow lane?'

'Seven o'clock.'

And then he left them. His thoughts werethat should the vicar
permit him to become engagedto hope for an engagementor in any
way to think of his beloved Elfridehe might stay longer. Should
he be forbidden to think of any such thinghe resolved to go at
once. And the lattereven to young hopefulnessseemed the more
probable alternative.

Stephen walked back to the vicarage through the meadowsas he had
comesurrounded by the soft musical purl of the water through
little weirsthe modest light of the moonthe freshening smell
of the dews out-spread around. It was a time when mere seeing is
meditationand meditation peace. Stephen was hardly philosopher
enough to avail himself of Nature's offer. His constitution was
made up of very simple particulars; was one whichrare in the
spring-time of civilizationsseems to grow abundant as a nation
gets olderindividuality fadesand education spreads; that is
his brain had extraordinary receptive powersand no great
creativeness. Quickly acquiring any kind of knowledge he saw
around himand having a plastic adaptability more common in woman


than in manhe changed colour like a chameleon as the society he
found himself in assumed a higher and more artificial tone. He
had not many original ideasand yet there was scarcely an idea to
whichunder proper traininghe could not have added a
respectable co-ordinate.

He saw nothing outside himself to-night; and what he saw within
was a weariness to his flesh. Yet to a dispassionate observer
his pretensions to Elfridethough rather prematurewere far from
absurd as marriages gounless the accidental proximity of simple
but honest parents could be said to make them so.

The clock struck eleven when he entered the house. Elfride had
been waiting with scarcely a movement since he departed. Before
he had spoken to her she caught sight of him passing into the
study with her father. She saw that he had by some means obtained
the private interview he desired.

A nervous headache had been growing on the excitable girl during
the absence of Stephenand now she could do nothing beyond going
up again to her room as she had done before. Instead of lying
down she sat again in the darkness without closing the doorand
listened with a beating heart to every sound from downstairs. The
servants had gone to bed. She ultimately heard the two men come
from the study and cross to the dining-roomwhere supper had been
lingering for more than an hour. The door was left openand she
found that the mealsuch as it waspassed off between her father
and her lover without any remarksave commonplaces as to
cucumbers and melonstheir wholesomeness and cultureuttered in
a stiff and formal way. It seemed to prefigure failure.

Shortly afterwards Stephen came upstairs to his bedroomand was
almost immediately followed by her fatherwho also retired for
the night. Not inclined to get a lightshe partly undressed and
sat on the bedwhere she remained in pained thought for some
timepossibly an hour. Then rising to close her door previously
to fully unrobingshe saw a streak of light shining across the
landing. Her father's door was shutand he could be heard
snoring regularly. The light came from Stephen's roomand the
slight sounds also coming thence emphatically denoted what he was
doing. In the perfect silence she could hear the closing of a lid
and the clicking of a lock--he was fastening his hat-box. Then
the buckling of straps and the click of another key--he was
securing his portmanteau. With trebled foreboding she opened her
door softlyand went towards his. One sensation pervaded her to
distraction. Stephenher handsome youth and darlingwas going
awayand she might never see him again except in secret and in
sadness--perhaps never more. At any rateshe could no longer
wait till the morning to hear the result of the interviewas she
had intended. She flung her dressing-gown round hertapped
lightly at his doorand whispered 'Stephen!' He came instantly
opened the doorand stepped out.

'Tell me; are we to hope?'

He replied in a disturbed whisperand a tear approached its
outletthough none fell.

'I am not to think of such a preposterous thing--that's what he
said. And I am going to-morrow. I should have called you up to
bid you good-bye.'

'But he didn't say you were to go--O Stephenhe didn't say that?'


'No; not in words. But I cannot stay.'

'Ohdon'tdon't go! Do come and let us talk. Let us come down
to the drawing-room for a few minutes; he will hear us here.'

She preceded him down the staircase with the taper light in her
handlooking unnaturally tall and thin in the long dove-coloured
dressing-gown she wore. She did not stop to think of the
propriety or otherwise of this midnight interview under such
circumstances. She thought that the tragedy of her life was
beginningandfor the first time almostfelt that her existence
might have a grave sidethe shade of which enveloped and rendered
invisible the delicate gradations of custom and punctilio.
Elfride softly opened the drawing-room door and they both went in.
When she had placed the candle on the tablehe enclosed her with
his armsdried her eyes with his handkerchiefand kissed their
lids.

'Stephenit is over--happy love is over; and there is no more
sunshine now!'

'I will make a fortuneand come to youand have you. YesI
will!'

'Papa will never hear of it--never--never! You don't know him. I
do. He is either biassed in favour of a thingor prejudiced
against it. Argument is powerless against either feeling.'

'No; I won't think of him so' said Stephen. 'If I appear before
him some time hence as a man of established namehe will accept
me--I know he will. He is not a wicked man.'

'Nohe is not wicked. But you say "some time hence as if it
were no time. To you, among bustle and excitement, it will be
comparatively a short time, perhaps; oh, to me, it will be its
real length trebled! Every summer will be a year--autumn a year-winter
a year! O Stephen! and you may forget me!'

Forget: that was, and is, the real sting of waiting to fondhearted
woman. The remark awoke in Stephen the converse fear.
'You, too, may be persuaded to give me up, when time has made me
fainter in your memory. For, remember, your love for me must be
nourished in secret; there will be no long visits from me to
support you. Circumstances will always tend to obliterate me.'

'Stephen,' she said, filled with her own misgivings, and unheeding
his last words, 'there are beautiful women where you live--of
course I know there are--and they may win you away from me.' Her
tears came visibly as she drew a mental picture of his
faithlessness. 'And it won't be your fault,' she continued,
looking into the candle with doleful eyes. 'No! You will think
that our family don't want you, and get to include me with them.
And there will be a vacancy in your heart, and some others will be
let in.'

'I could not, I would not. Elfie, do not be so full of
forebodings.'

'Oh yes, they will,' she replied. 'And you will look at them, not
caring at first, and then you will look and be interested, and
after a while you will think, Ahthey know all about city life
and assembliesand coteriesand the manners of the titledand
poor little Elfiewith all the fuss that's made about her having
medoesn't know about anything but a little house and a few


cliffs and a space of seafar away." And then you'll be more
interested in themand they'll make you have them instead of me
on purpose to be cruel to me because I am sillyand they are
clever and hate me. And I hate themtoo; yesI do!'

Her impulsive words had power to impress him at any rate with the
recognition of the uncertainty of all that is not accomplished.
Andworse than that general feelingthere of course remained the
sadness which arose from the special features of his own case.
However remote a desired issue may bethe mere fact of having
entered the groove which leads to itcheers to some extent with a
sense of accomplishment. Had Mr. Swancourt consented to an
engagement of no less length than ten yearsStephen would have
been comparatively cheerful in waiting; they would have felt that
they were somewhere on the road to Cupid's garden. Butwith a
possibility of a shorter probationthey had not as yet any
prospect of the beginning; the zero of hope had yet to be reached.
Mr. Swancourt would have to revoke his formidable words before the
waiting for marriage could even set in. And this was despair.

'I wish we could marry now' murmured Stephenas an impossible
fancy.

'So do I' said she alsoas if regarding an idle dream. ''Tis
the only thing that ever does sweethearts good!'

'Secretly would dowould it notElfie?'

'Yessecretly would do; secretly would indeed be best' she said
and went on reflectively: 'All we want is to render it absolutely
impossible for any future circumstance to upset our future
intention of being happy together; not to begin being happy now.'

'Exactly' he murmured in a voice and manner the counterpart of
hers. 'To marry and part secretlyand live on as we are living
now; merely to put it out of anybody's power to force you away
from medearest.'

'Or you away from meStephen.'

'Or me from you. It is possible to conceive a force of
circumstance strong enough to make any woman in the world marry
against her will: no conceivable pressureup to torture or
starvationcan make a woman once married to her lover anybody
else's wife.'

Now up to this point the idea of an immediate secret marriage had
been held by both as an untenable hypothesiswherewith simply to
beguile a miserable moment. During a pause which followed
Stephen's last remarka fascinating perceptionthen an alluring
convictionflashed along the brain of both. The perception was
that an immediate marriage COULD be contrived; the conviction that
such an actin spite of its daringits fathomless resultsits
deceptivenesswould be preferred by each to the life they must
lead under any other conditions.

The youth spoke firstand his voice trembled with the magnitude
of the conception he was cherishing. 'How strong we should feel
Elfride! going on our separate courses as beforewithout the fear
of ultimate separation! O Elfride! think of it; think of it!'

It is certain that the young girl's love for Stephen received a
fanning from her father's opposition which made it blaze with a
dozen times the intensity it would have exhibited if left alone.


Never were conditions more favourable for developing a girl's
first passing fancy for a handsome boyish face--a fancy rooted in
inexperience and nourished by seclusion--into a wild unreflecting
passion fervid enough for anything. All the elements of such a
development were therethe chief one being hopelessness--a
necessary ingredient always to perfect the mixture of feelings
united under the name of loving to distraction.

'We would tell papa soonwould we not?' she inquired timidly.
'Nobody else need know. He would then be convinced that hearts
cannot be played with; love encouraged be ready to growlove
discouraged be ready to dieat a moment's notice. Stephendo
you not think that if marriages against a parent's consent are
ever justifiablethey are when young people have been favoured up
to a pointas we haveand then have had that favour suddenly
withdrawn?'

'Yes. It is not as if we had from the beginning acted in
opposition to your papa's wishes. Only thinkElfiehow pleasant
he was towards me but six hours ago! He liked mepraised me
never objected to my being alone with you.'

'I believe he MUST like you now' she cried. 'And if he found
that you irremediably belonged to mehe would own it and help
you. 'O StephenStephen' she burst out againas the
remembrance of his packing came afresh to her mind'I cannot bear
your going away like this! It is too dreadful. All I have been
expecting miserably killed within me like this!'

Stephen flushed hot with impulse. 'I will not be a doubt to you-thought
of you shall not be a misery to me!' he said. 'We will be
wife and husband before we part for long!'

She hid her face on his shoulder. 'Anything to make SURE!' she
whispered.

'I did not like to propose it immediately' continued Stephen.
'It seemed to me--it seems to me now--like trying to catch you--a
girl better in the world than I.'

'Not thatindeed! And am I better in worldly station? What's the
use of have beens? We may have been something once; we are nothing
now.'

Then they whispered long and earnestly together; Stephen
hesitatingly proposing this and that planElfride modifying them
with quick breathingsand hectic flushand unnaturally bright
eyes. It was two o'clock before an arrangement was finally
concluded.

She then told him to leave hergiving him his light to go up to
his own room. They parted with an agreement not to meet again in
the morning. After his door had been some time closed he heard
her softly gliding into her chamber.

Chapter XI

'Journeys end in lovers meeting.'

Stephen lay watching the Great Bear; Elfride was regarding a
monotonous parallelogram of window blind. Neither slept that


night.

Early the next morning--that is to sayfour hours after their
stolen interviewand just as the earliest servant was heard
moving about--Stephen Smith went downstairsportmanteau in hand.
Throughout the night he had intended to see Mr. Swancourt again
but the sharp rebuff of the previous evening rendered such an
interview particularly distasteful. Perhaps there was another and
less honest reason. He decided to put it off. Whatever of moral
timidity or obliquity may have lain in such a decisionno
perception of it was strong enough to detain him. He wrote a note
in his roomwhich stated simply that he did not feel happy in the
house after Mr. Swancourt's sudden veto on what he had favoured a
few hours before; but that he hoped a time would comeand that
soonwhen his original feelings of pleasure as Mr. Swancourt's
guest might be recovered.

He expected to find the downstairs rooms wearing the gray and
cheerless aspect that early morning gives to everything out of the
sun. He found in the dining room a breakfast laidof which
somebody had just partaken.

Stephen gave the maid-servant his note of adieu. She stated that
Mr. Swancourt had risen early that morningand made an early
breakfast. He was not going away that she knew of.

Stephen took a cup of coffeeleft the house of his loveand
turned into the lane. It was so early that the shaded places
still smelt like night timeand the sunny spots had hardly felt
the sun. The horizontal rays made every shallow dip in the ground
to show as a well-marked hollow. Even the channel of the path was
enough to throw shadeand the very stones of the road cast
tapering dashes of darkness westwardas long as Jael's tent-nail.

At a spot not more than a hundred yards from the vicar's residence
the lane leading thence crossed the high road. Stephen reached
the point of intersectionstood still and listened. Nothing
could be heard save the lengthymurmuring line of the sea upon
the adjacent shore. He looked at his watchand then mounted a
gate upon which he seated himselfto await the arrival of the
carrier. Whilst he sat he heard wheels coming in two directions.

The vehicle approaching on his right he soon recognized as the
carrier's. There were the accompanying sounds of the owner's
voice and the smack of his whipdistinct in the still morning
airby which he encouraged his horses up the hill.

The other set of wheels sounded from the lane Stephen had just
traversed. On closer observationhe perceived that they were
moving from the precincts of the ancient manor-house adjoining the
vicarage grounds. A carriage then left the entrance gates of the
houseand wheeling round came fully in sight. It was a plain
travelling carriagewith a small quantity of luggageapparently
a lady's. The vehicle came to the junction of the four ways halfa-
minute before the carrier reached the same spotand crossed
directly in his frontproceeding by the lane on the other side.

Inside the carriage Stephen could just discern an elderly lady
with a younger womanwho seemed to be her maid. The road they
had taken led to Stratleigha small watering-place sixteen miles
north.

He heard the manor-house gates swing againand looking up saw
another person leaving themand walking off in the direction of


the parsonage. 'Ahhow much I wish I were moving that way!' felt
he parenthetically. The gentleman was talland resembled Mr.
Swancourt in outline and attire. He opened the vicarage gate and
went in. Mr. Swancourtthenit certainly was. Instead of
remaining in bed that morning Mr. Swancourt must have taken it
into his head to see his new neighbour off on a journey. He must
have been greatly interested in that neighbour to do such an
unusual thing.

The carrier's conveyance had pulled upand Stephen now handed in
his portmanteau and mounted the shafts. 'Who is that lady in the
carriage?' he inquired indifferently of Lickpan the carrier.

'Thatsiris Mrs. Troytona widder wi' a mint o' money. She's
the owner of all that part of Endelstow that is not Lord
Luxellian's. Only been here a short time; she came into it by
law. The owner formerly was a terrible mysterious party--never
lived here--hardly ever was seen here except in the month of
Septemberas I might say.'

The horses were started againand noise rendered further
discourse a matter of too great exertion. Stephen crept inside
under the tiltand was soon lost in reverie.

Three hours and a half of straining up hills and jogging down
brought them to St. Launce'sthe market town and railway station
nearest to Endelstowand the place from which Stephen Smith had
journeyed over the downs on theto himmemorable winter evening
at the beginning of the same year. The carrier's van was so timed
as to meet a starting up-trainwhich Stephen entered. Two or
three hours' railway travel through vertical cuttings in
metamorphic rockthrough oak copses rich and greenstretching
over slopes and down delightful valleysglensand ravines
sparkling with water like many-rilled Idaand he plunged amid the
hundred and fifty thousand people composing the town of Plymouth.

There being some time upon his hands he left his luggage at the
cloak-roomand went on foot along Bedford Street to the nearest
church. Here Stephen wandered among the multifarious tombstones
and looked in at the chancel windowdreaming of something that
was likely to happen by the altar there in the course of the
coming month. He turned away and ascended the Hoeviewed the
magnificent stretch of sea and massive promontories of landbut
without particularly discerning one feature of the varied
perspective. He still saw that inner prospect--the event he hoped
for in yonder church. The wide Soundthe Breakwaterthe lighthouse
on far-off Eddystonethe dark steam vesselsbrigs
barquesand schoonerseither floating stillyor gliding with
tiniest motionwere as the dreamthen; the dreamed-of event was
as the reality.

Soon Stephen went down from the Hoeand returned to the railway
station. He took his ticketand entered the London train.

That day was an irksome time at Endelstow vicarage. Neither
father nor daughter alluded to the departure of Stephen. Mr.
Swancourt's manner towards her partook of the compunctious
kindness that arises from a misgiving as to the justice of some
previous act.

Either from lack of the capacity to grasp the whole coup d'oeil
or from a natural endowment for certain kinds of stoicismwomen
are cooler than men in critical situations of the passive form.


Probablyin Elfride's case at leastit was blindness to the
greater contingencies of the future she was preparing for herself
which enabled her to ask her father in a quiet voice if he could
give her a holiday soonto ride to St. Launce's and go on to
Plymouth.

Nowshe had only once before gone alone to Plymouthand that was
in consequence of some unavoidable difficulty. Being a country
girland a goodnot to say a wildhorsewomanit had been her
delight to canterwithout the ghost of an attendantover the
fourteen or sixteen miles of hard road intervening between their
home and the station at St. Launce'sput up the horseand go on
the remainder of the distance by trainreturning in the same
manner in the evening. It was then resolved thatthough she had
successfully accomplished this journey onceit was not to be
repeated without some attendance.

But Elfride must not be confounded with ordinary young feminine
equestrians. The circumstances of her lonely and narrow life made
it imperative that in trotting about the neighbourhood she must
trot alone or else not at all. Usage soon rendered this perfectly
natural to herself. Her fatherwho had had other experiences
did not much like the idea of a Swancourtwhose pedigree could be
as distinctly traced as a thread in a skein of silkscampering
over the hills like a farmer's daughtereven though he could
habitually neglect her. But what with his not being able to
afford her a regular attendantand his inveterate habit of
letting anything be to save himself troublethe circumstance grew
customary. And so there arose a chronic notion in the villagers'
minds that all ladies rode without an attendantlike Miss
Swancourtexcept a few who were sometimes visiting at Lord
Luxellian's.

'I don't like your going to Plymouth aloneparticularly going to
St. Launce's on horseback. Why not driveand take the man?'

'It is not nice to be so overlooked.' Worm's company would not
seriously have interfered with her plansbut it was her humour to
go without him.

'When do you want to go?' said her father.

She only answered'Soon.'

'I will consider' he said.

Only a few days elapsed before she asked again. A letter had
reached her from Stephen. It had been timed to come on that day
by special arrangement between them. In it he named the earliest
morning on which he could meet her at Plymouth. Her father had
been on a journey to Stratleighand returned in unusual buoyancy
of spirit. It was a good opportunity; and since the dismissal of
Stephen her father had been generally in a mood to make small
concessionsthat he might steer clear of large ones connected
with that outcast lover of hers.

'Next Thursday week I am going from home in a different
direction' said her father. 'In factI shall leave home the
night before. You might choose the same dayfor they wish to
take up the carpetsor some such thingI think. As I saidI
don't like you to be seen in a town on horseback alone; but go if
you will.'

Thursday week. Her father had named the very day that Stephen


also had named that morning as the earliest on which it would be
of any use to meet her; that wasabout fifteen days from the day
on which he had left Endelstow. Fifteen days--that fragment of
duration which has acquired such an interesting individuality from
its connection with the English marriage law.

She involuntarily looked at her father so strangelythat on
becoming conscious of the look she paled with embarrassment. Her
fathertoolooked confused. What was he thinking of?

There seemed to be a special facility offered her by a power
external to herself in the circumstance that Mr. Swancourt had
proposed to leave home the night previous to her wished-for day.
Her father seldom took long journeys; seldom slept from home
except perhaps on the night following a remote Visitation. Well
she would not inquire too curiously into the reason of the
opportunitynor did heas would have been naturalproceed to
explain it of his own accord. In matters of fact there had
hitherto been no reserve between themthough they were not
usually confidential in its full sense. But the divergence of
their emotions on Stephen's account had produced an estrangement
which just at present went even to the extent of reticence on the
most ordinary household topics.

Elfride was almost unconsciously relievedpersuading herself that
her father's reserve on his business justified her in secrecy as
regarded her own--a secrecy which was necessarily a foregone
decision with her. So anxious is a young conscience to discover a
palliativethat the ex post facto nature of a reason is of no
account in excluding it.

The intervening fortnight was spent by her mostly in walking by
herself among the shrubs and treesindulging sometimes in
sanguine anticipations; morefar more frequentlyin misgivings.
All her flowers seemed dull of hue; her pets seemed to look
wistfully into her eyesas if they no longer stood in the same
friendly relation to her as formerly. She wore melancholy
jewellerygazed at sunsetsand talked to old men and women. It
was the first time that she had had an inner and private world
apart from the visible one about her. She wished that her father
instead of neglecting her even more than usualwould make some
advance--just one word; she would then tell alland risk
Stephen's displeasure. Thus brought round to the youth againshe
saw him in her fancystandingtouching herhis eyes full of sad
affectionhopelessly renouncing his attempt because she had
renounced hers; and she could not recede.

On the Wednesday she was to receive another letter. She had
resolved to let her father see the arrival of this onebe the
consequences what they might: the dread of losing her lover by
this deed of honesty prevented her acting upon the resolve. Five
minutes before the postman's expected arrival she slipped outand
down the lane to meet him. She met him immediately upon turning a
sharp anglewhich hid her from view in the direction of the
vicarage. The man smilingly handed one missiveand was going on
to hand anothera circular from some tradesman.

'No' she said; 'take that on to the house.'

'Whymissyou are doing what your father has done for the last
fortnight.'

She did not comprehend.


'Whycome to this cornerand take a letter of me every morning
all writ in the same handwritingand letting any others for him
go on to the house.' And on the postman went.

No sooner had he turned the corner behind her back than she heard
her father meet and address the man. She had saved her letter by
two minutes. Her father audibly went through precisely the same
performance as she had just been guilty of herself.

This stealthy conduct of his wasto say the leastpeculiar.

Given an impulsive inconsequent girlneglected as to her inner
life by her only parentand the following forces alive within
her; to determine a resultant:

First love acted upon by a deadly fear of separation from its
object: inexperienceguiding onward a frantic wish to prevent the
above-named issue: misgivings as to proprietymet by hope of
ultimate exoneration: indignation at parental inconsistency in
first encouragingthen forbidding: a chilling sense of
disobedienceoverpowered by a conscientious inability to brook a
breaking of plighted faith with a man whoin essentialshad
remained unaltered from the beginning: a blessed hope that
opposition would turn an erroneous judgement: a bright faith that
things would mend therebyand wind up well.

Probably the result wouldafter allhave been nilhad not the
following few remarks been made one day at breakfast.

Her father was in his old hearty spirits. He smiled to himself at
stories too bad to telland called Elfride a little scamp for
surreptitiously preserving some blind kittens that ought to have
been drowned. After this expressionshe said to him suddenly:

If Mr. Smith had been already in the familyyou would not have
been made wretched by discovering he had poor relations?'

'Do you mean in the family by marriage?' he replied inattentively
and continuing to peel his egg.

The accumulating scarlet told that was her meaningas much as the
affirmative reply.

'I should have put up with itno doubt' Mr. Swancourt observed.

'So that you would not have been driven into hopeless melancholy
but have made the best of him?'

Elfride's erratic mind had from her youth upwards been constantly
in the habit of perplexing her father by hypothetical questions
based on absurd conditions. The present seemed to be cast so
precisely in the mould of previous ones thatnot being given to
syntheses of circumstanceshe answered it with customary
complacency.

'If he were allied to us irretrievablyof course Ior any
sensible manshould accept conditions that could not be altered;
certainly not be hopelessly melancholy about it. I don't believe
anything in the world would make me hopelessly melancholy. And
don't let anything make you soeither.'

'I won'tpapa' she criedwith a serene brightness that pleased
him.


Certainly Mr. Swancourt must have been far from thinking that the
brightness came from an exhilarating intention to hold back no
longer from the mad action she had planned.

In the evening he drove away towards Stratleighquite alone. It
was an unusual course for him. At the door Elfride had been again
almost impelled by her feelings to pour out all.

'Why are you going to Stratleighpapa?' she saidand looked at
him longingly.

'I will tell you to-morrow when I come back' he said cheerily;
'not before thenElfride. Thou wilt not utter what thou dost not
knowand so far will I trust theegentle Elfride.'

She was repressed and hurt.

'I will tell you my errand to Plymouthtoowhen I come back'
she murmured.

He went away. His jocularity made her intention seem the lighter
as his indifference made her more resolved to do as she liked.

It was a familiar September sunsetdark-blue fragments of cloud
upon an orange-yellow sky. These sunsets used to tempt her to
walk towards themas any beautiful thing tempts a near approach.
She went through the field to the privet hedgeclambered into the
middle of itand reclined upon the thick boughs. After looking
westward for a considerable timeshe blamed herself for not
looking eastward to where Stephen wasand turned round.
Ultimately her eyes fell upon the ground.

A peculiarity was observable beneath her. A green field spread
itself on each side of the hedgeone belonging to the glebethe
other being a part of the land attached to the manor-house
adjoining. On the vicarage side she saw a little footpaththe
distinctive and altogether exceptional feature of which consisted
in its being only about ten yards long; it terminated abruptly at
each end.

A footpathsuddenly beginning and suddenly endingcoming from
nowhere and leading nowhereshe had never seen before.

Yesshe hadon second thoughts. She had seen exactly such a
path trodden in the front of barracks by the sentry.

And this recollection explained the origin of the path here. Her
father had trodden it by pacing up and downas she had once seen
him doing.

Sitting on the hedge as she sat nowher eyes commanded a view of
both sides of it. And a few minutes laterElfride looked over to
the manor side.

Here was another sentry path. It was like the first in length
and it began and ended exactly opposite the beginning and ending
of its neighbourbut it was thinnerand less distinct.

Two reasons existed for the difference. This one might have been
trodden by a similar weight of tread to the otherexercised a
less number of times; or it might have been walked just as
frequentlybut by lighter feet.


Probably a gentleman from Scotland-yardhad he been passing at
the timemight have considered the latter alternative as the more
probable. Elfride thought otherwiseso far as she thought at
all. But her own great To-Morrow was now imminent; all thoughts
inspired by casual sights of the eye were only allowed to exercise
themselves in inferior corners of her brainpreviously to being
banished altogether.

Elfride was at length compelled to reason practically upon her
undertaking. All her definite perceptions thereonwhen the
emotion accompanying them was abstractedamounted to no more than
these:

'Say an hour and three-quarters to ride to St. Launce's.

'Say half an hour at the Falcon to change my dress.

'Say two hours waiting for some train and getting to Plymouth.

'Say an hour to spare before twelve o'clock.

'Total time from leaving Endelstow till twelve o'clockfive
hours.

'Therefore I shall have to start at seven.'

No surprise or sense of unwontedness entered the minds of the
servants at her early ride. The monotony of life we associate
with people of small incomes in districts out of the sound of the
railway whistlehas one exceptionwhich puts into shade the
experience of dwellers about the great centres of population--that
isin travelling. Every journey there is more or less an
adventure; adventurous hours are necessarily chosen for the most
commonplace outing. Miss Elfride had to leave early--that was
all.

Elfride never went out on horseback but she brought home
something--something foundor something bought. If she trotted
to town or villageher burden was books. If to hillswoodsor
the seashoreit was wonderful mossesabnormal twigsa
handkerchief of wet shells or seaweed.

Oncein muddy weatherwhen Pansy was walking with her down the
street of Castle Boterelon a fair-daya packet in front of her
and a packet under her arman accident befell the packetsand
they slipped down. On one side of herthree volumes of fiction
lay kissing the mud; on the other numerous skeins of polychromatic
wools lay absorbing it. Unpleasant women smiled through windows
at the mishapthe men all looked roundand a boywho was
minding a ginger-bread stall whilst the owner had gone to get
drunklaughed loudly. The blue eyes turned to sapphiresand the
cheeks crimsoned with vexation.

After that misadventure she set her wits to workand was
ingenious enough to invent an arrangement of small straps about
the saddleby which a great deal could be safely carried thereon
in a small compass. Here she now spread out and fastened a plain
dark walking-dress and a few other trifles of apparel. Worm
opened the gate for herand she vanished away.

One of the brightest mornings of late summer shone upon her. The
heather was at its purplestthe furze at its yellowestthe
grasshoppers chirped loud enough for birdsthe snakes hissed like


little enginesand Elfride at first felt lively. Sitting at ease
upon Pansyin her orthodox riding-habit and nondescript hatshe
looked what she felt. But the mercury of those days had a trick
of falling unexpectedly. Firstonly for one minute in ten had
she a sense of depression. Then a large cloudthat had been
hanging in the north like a black fleececame and placed itself
between her and the sun. It helped on what was already
inevitableand she sank into a uniformity of sadness.

She turned in the saddle and looked back. They were now on an
open table-landwhose altitude still gave her a view of the sea
by Endelstow. She looked longingly at that spot.

During this little revulsion of feeling Pansy had been still
advancingand Elfride felt it would be absurd to turn her little
mare's head the other way. 'Still' she thought'if I had a
mamma at home I WOULD go back!'

And making one of those stealthy movements by which women let
their hearts juggle with their brainsshe did put the horse's
head aboutas if unconsciouslyand went at a hand-gallop towards
home for more than a mile. By this timefrom the inveterate
habit of valuing what we have renounced directly the alternative
is chosenthe thought of her forsaken Stephen recalled herand
she turned aboutand cantered on to St. Launce's again.

This miserable strife of thought now began to rage in all its
wildness. Overwrought and tremblingshe dropped the rein upon
Pansy's shouldersand vowed she would be led whither the horse
would take her.

Pansy slackened her pace to a walkand walked on with her
agitated burden for three or four minutes. At the expiration of
this time they had come to a little by-way on the rightleading
down a slope to a pool of water. The pony stoppedlooked towards
the pooland then advanced and stooped to drink.

Elfride looked at her watch and discovered that if she were going
to reach St. Launce's early enough to change her dress at the
Falconand get a chance of some early train to Plymouth--there
were only two available--it was necessary to proceed at once.

She was impatient. It seemed as if Pansy would never stop
drinking; and the repose of the poolthe idle motions of the
insects and flies upon itthe placid waving of the flagsthe
leaf-skeletonslike Genoese filigreeplacidly sleeping at the
bottomby their contrast with her own turmoil made her impatience
greater.

Pansy did turn at lastand went up the slope again to the highroad.
The pony came upon itand stood cross-wiselooking up and
down. Elfride's heart throbbed erraticallyand she thought
'Horsesif left to themselvesmake for where they are best fed.
Pansy will go home.'

Pansy turned and walked on towards St. Launce's

Pansy at homeduring summerhad little but grass to live on.
After a run to St. Launce's she always had a feed of corn to
support her on the return journey. Thereforebeing now more than
half wayshe preferred St. Launce's.

But Elfride did not remember this now. All she cared to recognize
was a dreamy fancy that to-day's rash action was not her own. She


was disabled by her moodsand it seemed indispensable to adhere
to the programme. So strangely involved are motives thatmore
than by her promise to Stephenmore even than by her loveshe
was forced on by a sense of the necessity of keeping faith with
herselfas promised in the inane vow of ten minutes ago.

She hesitated no longer. Pansy wentlike the steed of Adonisas
if she told the steps. Presently the quaint gables and jumbled
roofs of St. Launce's were spread beneath herand going down the
hill she entered the courtyard of the Falcon. Mrs. Bucklethe
landladycame to the door to meet her.

The Swancourts were well known here. The transition from
equestrian to the ordinary guise of railway travellers had been
more than once performed by father and daughter in this
establishment.

In less than a quarter of an hour Elfride emerged from the door in
her walking dressand went to the railway. She had not told Mrs.
Buckle anything as to her intentionsand was supposed to have
gone out shopping.

An hour and forty minutes laterand she was in Stephen's arms at
the Plymouth station. Not upon the platform--in the secret
retreat of a deserted waiting-room.

Stephen's face boded ill. He was pale and despondent.

What is the matter?' she asked.

'We cannot be married here to-daymy Elfie! I ought to have known
it and stayed here. In my ignorance I did not. I have the
licencebut it can only be used in my parish in London. I only
came down last nightas you know.'

'What shall we do?' she said blankly.

'There's only one thing we can dodarling.'

'What's that?'

'Go on to London by a train just startingand be married there
to-morrow.'

'Passengers for the 11.5 up-train take their seats!' said a
guard's voice on the platform.

'Will you goElfride?'

'I will.'

In three minutes the train had moved offbearing away with it
Stephen and Elfride.

Chapter XII

'Adieu! she criesand waved her lily hand.'

The few tattered clouds of the morning enlarged and unitedthe
sun withdrew behind them to emerge no more that dayand the
evening drew to a close in drifts of rain. The water-drops beat


like duck shot against the window of the railway-carriage
containing Stephen and Elfride.

The journey from Plymouth to Paddingtonby even the most headlong
expressallows quite enough leisure for passion of any sort to
cool. Elfride's excitement had passed offand she sat in a kind
of stupor during the latter half of the journey. She was aroused
by the clanging of the maze of rails over which they traced their
way at the entrance to the station.

Is this London?' she said.

'Yesdarling' said Stephen in a tone of assurance he was far
from feeling. To himno less than to herthe reality so greatly
differed from the prefiguring.

She peered out as well as the windowbeaded with dropswould
allow herand saw only the lampswhich had just been lit
blinking in the wet atmosphereand rows of hideous zinc chimneypipes
in dim relief against the sky. She writhed uneasilyas
when a thought is swelling in the mind which must cause much pain
at its deliverance in words. Elfride had known no more about the
stings of evil report than the native wild-fowl knew of the
effects of Crusoe's first shot. Now she saw a little furtherand
a little further still.

The train stopped. Stephen relinquished the soft hand he had held
all the dayand proceeded to assist her on to the platform.

This act of alighting upon strange ground seemed all that was
wanted to complete a resolution within her.

She looked at her betrothed with despairing eyes.

'O Stephen' she exclaimed'I am so miserable! I must go home
again--I must--I must! Forgive my wretched vacillation. I don't
like it here--nor myself--nor you!'

Stephen looked bewilderedand did not speak.

'Will you allow me to go home?' she implored. 'I won't trouble
you to go with me. I will not be any weight upon you; only say
you will agree to my returning; that you will not hate me for it
Stephen! It is better that I should return again; indeed it is
Stephen.'

'But we can't return now' he said in a deprecatory tone.

'I must! I will!'

'How? When do you want to go?'

'Now. Can we go at once?'

The lad looked hopelessly along the platform.

'If you must goand think it wrong to remaindearest' said he
sadly'you shall. You shall do whatever you likemy Elfride.
But would you in reality rather go now than stay till to-morrow
and go as my wife?'

'Yesyes--much--anything to go now. I must; I must!' she cried.

'We ought to have done one of two things' he answered gloomily.


'Never to have startedor not to have returned without being
married. I don't like to say itElfride--indeed I don't; but you
must be told thisthat going back unmarried may compromise your
good name in the eyes of people who may hear of it.'

'They will not; and I must go.'

'O Elfride! I am to blame for bringing you away.'

'Not at all. I am the elder.'

'By a month; and what's that? But never mind that now.' He looked
around. 'Is there a train for Plymouth to-night?' he inquired of
a guard. The guard passed on and did not speak.

'Is there a train for Plymouth to-night?' said Elfride to another.

'Yesmiss; the 8.10--leaves in ten minutes. You have come to the
wrong platform; it is the other side. Change at Bristol into the
night mail. Down that staircaseand under the line.'

They ran down the staircase--Elfride first--to the booking-office
and into a carriage with an official standing beside the door.
'Show your ticketsplease.' They are locked in--men about the
platform accelerate their velocities till they fly up and down
like shuttles in a loom--a whistle--the waving of a flag--a human
cry--a steam groan--and away they go to Plymouth againjust
catching these words as they glide off:

'Those two youngsters had a near run for itand no mistake!'

Elfride found her breath.

'And have you come tooStephen? Why did you?'

'I shall not leave you till I see you safe at St. Launce's. Do
not think worse of me than I amElfride.'

And then they rattled along through the nightback again by the
way they had come. The weather clearedand the stars shone in
upon them. Their two or three fellow-passengers sat for most of
the time with closed eyes. Stephen sometimes slept; Elfride alone
was wakeful and palpitating hour after hour.

The day began to breakand revealed that they were by the sea.
Red rocks overhung themandreceding into distancegrew livid
in the blue grey atmosphere. The sun roseand sent penetrating
shafts of light in upon their weary faces. Another hourand the
world began to be busy. They waited yet a littleand the train
slackened its speed in view of the platform at St. Launce's.

She shiveredand mused sadly.

'I did not see all the consequences' she said. 'Appearances are
wofully against me. If anybody finds me outI amI suppose
disgraced.'

'Then appearances will speak falsely; and how can that matter
even if they do? I shall be your husband sooner or laterfor
certainand so prove your purity.'

'Stephenonce in London I ought to have married you' she said
firmly. 'It was my only safe defence. I see more things now than
I did yesterday. My only remaining chance is not to be


discovered; and that we must fight for most desperately.'

They stepped out. Elfride pulled a thick veil over her face.

A woman with red and scaly eyelids and glistening eyes was sitting
on a bench just inside the office-door. She fixed her eyes upon
Elfride with an expression whose force it was impossible to doubt
but the meaning of which was not clear; then upon the carriage
they had left. She seemed to read a sinister story in the scene.

Elfride shrank backand turned the other way.

'Who is that woman?' said Stephen. 'She looked hard at you.'

'Mrs. Jethway--a widowand mother of that young man whose tomb we
sat on the other night. Stephenshe is my enemy. Would that God
had had mercy enough upon me to have hidden this from HER!'

'Do not talk so hopelessly' he remonstrated. 'I don't think she
recognized us.'

'I pray that she did not.'

He put on a more vigorous mood.

'Nowwe will go and get some breakfast.'

'Nono!' she begged. 'I cannot eat. I MUST get back to
Endelstow.'

Elfride was as if she had grown years older than Stephen now.

'But you have had nothing since last night but that cup of tea at
Bristol.'

'I can't eatStephen.'

'Wine and biscuit?'

'No.'

'Nor teanor coffee?'

'No.'

'A glass of water?'

'No. I want something that makes people strong and energetic for
the presentthat borrows the strength of to-morrow for use today--
leaving to-morrow without any at all for that matter; or even
that would take all life away to-morrowso long as it enabled me
to get home again now. Brandythat's what I want. That woman's
eyes have eaten my heart away!'

'You are wild; and you grieve medarling. Must it be brandy?'

'Yesif you please.'

'How much?'

'I don't know. I have never drunk more than a teaspoonful at
once. All I know is that I want it. Don't get it at the Falcon.'

He left her in the fieldsand went to the nearest inn in that


direction. Presently he returned with a small flask nearly full
and some slices of bread-and-butterthin as wafersin a paperbag.
Elfride took a sip or two.

'It goes into my eyes' she said wearily. 'I can't take any more.
YesI will; I will close my eyes. Ahit goes to them by an
inside route. I don't want it; throw it away.'

Howevershe could eatand did eat. Her chief attention was
concentrated upon how to get the horse from the Falcon stables
without suspicion. Stephen was not allowed to accompany her into
the town. She acted now upon conclusions reached without any aid
from him: his power over her seemed to have departed.

'You had better not be seen with meeven here where I am so
little known. We have begun stealthily as thievesand we must
end stealthily as thievesat all hazards. Until papa has been
told by me myselfa discovery would be terrible.'

Walking and gloomily talking thus they waited till nearly nine
o'clockat which time Elfride thought she might call at the
Falcon without creating much surprise. Behind the railway-station
was the riverspanned by an old Tudor bridgewhence the road
diverged in two directionsone skirting the suburbs of the town
and winding round again into the high-road to Endelstow. Beside
this road Stephen satand awaited her return from the Falcon.

He sat as one sitting for a portraitmotionlesswatching the
chequered lights and shades on the tree-trunksthe children
playing opposite the school previous to entering for the morning
lessonthe reapers in a field afar off. The certainty of
possession had not comeand there was nothing to mitigate the
youth's gloomthat increased with the thought of the parting now
so near.

At length she came trotting round to himin appearance much as on
the romantic morning of their visit to the cliffbut shorn of the
radiance which glistened about her then. Howeverher comparative
immunity from further risk and trouble had considerably composed
her. Elfride's capacity for being wounded was only surpassed by
her capacity for healingwhich rightly or wrongly is by some
considered an index of transientness of feeling in general.

'Elfridewhat did they say at the Falcon?'

'Nothing. Nobody seemed curious about me. They knew I went to
Plymouthand I have stayed there a night now and then with Miss
Bicknell. I rather calculated upon that.'

And now parting arose like a death to these childrenfor it was
imperative that she should start at once. Stephen walked beside
her for nearly a mile. During the walk he said sadly:

'Elfridefour-and-twenty hours have passedand the thing is not
done.'

'But you have insured that it shall be done.'

'How have I?'

'O Stephenyou ask how! Do you think I could marry another man on
earth after having gone thus far with you? Have I not shown beyond
possibility of doubt that I can be nobody else's? Have I not
irretrievably committed myself?--pride has stood for nothing in


the face of my great love. You misunderstood my turning backand
I cannot explain it. It was wrong to go with you at all; and
though it would have been worse to go furtherit would have been
better policyperhaps. Be assured of thisthat whenever you
have a home for me--however poor and humble--and come and claim
meI am ready.' She added bitterly'When my father knows of this
day's workhe may be only too glad to let me go.'

'Perhaps he maytheninsist upon our marriage at once!' Stephen
answeredseeing a ray of hope in the very focus of her remorse.
'I hope he mayeven if we had still to part till I am ready for
youas we intended.'

Elfride did not reply.

'You don't seem the same womanElfiethat you were yesterday.'

'Nor am I. But good-bye. Go back now.' And she reined the horse
for parting. 'O Stephen' she cried'I feel so weak! I don't
know how to meet him. Cannot youafter allcome back with me?'

'Shall I come?'

Elfride paused to think.

'No; it will not do. It is my utter foolishness that makes me say
such words. But he will send for you.'

'Say to him' continued Stephen'that we did this in the absolute
despair of our minds. Tell him we don't wish him to favour us-only
to deal justly with us. If he saysmarry nowso much the
better. If notsay that all may be put right by his promise to
allow me to have you when I am good enough for you--which may be
soon. Say I have nothing to offer him in exchange for his
treasure--the more sorry I; but all the loveand all the life
and all the labour of an honest man shall be yours. As to when
this had better be toldI leave you to judge.'

His words made her cheerful enough to toy with her position.

'And if ill report should comeStephen' she said smiling'why
the orange-tree must save meas it saved virgins in St. George's
time from the poisonous breath of the dragon. Thereforgive me
for forwardness: I am going.'

Then the boy and girl beguiled themselves with words of halfparting
only.

'Own wifieGod bless you till we meet again!'

'Till we meet againgood-bye!'

And the pony went onand she spoke to him no more. He saw her
figure diminish and her blue veil grow gray--saw it with the
agonizing sensations of a slow death.

After thus parting from a man than whom she had known none greater
as yetElfride rode rapidly onwardsa tear being occasionally
shaken from her eyes into the road. What yesterday had seemed so
desirableso promisingeven triflinghad now acquired the
complexion of a tragedy.

She saw the rocks and sea in the neighbourhood of Endelstowand
heaved a sigh of relief


When she passed a field behind the vicarage she heard the voices
of Unity and William Worm. They were hanging a carpet upon a
line. Unity was uttering a sentence that concluded with 'when
Miss Elfride comes.'

'When d'ye expect her?'

'Not till evening now. She's safe enough at Miss Bicknell's
bless ye.'

Elfride went round to the door. She did not knock or ring; and
seeing nobody to take the horseElfride led her round to the
yardslipped off the bridle and saddledrove her towards the
paddockand turned her in. Then Elfride crept indoorsand
looked into all the ground-floor rooms. Her father was not there.

On the mantelpiece of the drawing-room stood a letter addressed to
her in his handwriting. She took it and read it as she went
upstairs to change her habit.

STRATLEIGHThursday.

'DEAR ELFRIDE--On second thoughts I will not return to-daybut
only come as far as Wadcombe. I shall be at home by to-morrow
afternoonand bring a friend with me.--Yoursin haste

C. S.'
After making a quick toilet she felt more revivedthough still
suffering from a headache. On going out of the door she met Unity
at the top of the stair.

'O Miss Elfride! I said to myself 'tis her sperrit! We didn't
dream o' you not coming home last night. You didn't say anything
about staying.'

'I intended to come home the same eveningbut altered my plan.
wished I hadn't afterwards. Papa will be angryI suppose?'

'Better not tell himmiss' said Unity.

'I do fear to' she murmured. 'Unitywould you just begin
telling him when he comes home?'

'What! and get you into trouble?'

'I deserve it.'

'NoindeedI won't' said Unity. 'It is not such a mighty
matterMiss Elfride. I says to myselfmaster's taking a
hollerdayand because he's not been kind lately to Miss Elfride
she----'

'Is imitating him. Welldo as you like. And will you now bring
me some luncheon?'

After satisfying an appetite which the fresh marine air had given
her in its victory over an agitated mindshe put on her hat and
went to the garden and summer-house. She sat downand leant with
her head in a corner. Here she fell asleep.

Half-awakeshe hurriedly looked at the time. She had been there


three hours. At the same moment she heard the outer gate swing
togetherand wheels sweep round the entrance; some prior noise
from the same source having probably been the cause of her
awaking. Next her father's voice was heard calling to Worm.

Elfride passed along a walk towards the house behind a belt of
shrubs. She heard a tongue holding converse with her father
which was not that of either of the servants. Her father and the
stranger were laughing together. Then there was a rustling of
silkand Mr. Swancourt and his companionor companionsto all
seeming entered the door of the housefor nothing more of them
was audible. Elfride had turned back to meditate on what friends
these could bewhen she heard footstepsand her father
exclaiming behind her:

'O Elfridehere you are! I hope you got on well?'

Elfride's heart smote herand she did not speak.

'Come back to the summer-house a minute' continued Mr. Swancourt;
'I have to tell you of that I promised to.'

They entered the summer-houseand stood leaning over the knotty
woodwork of the balustrade.

'Now' said her father radiantly'guess what I have to say.' He
seemed to be regarding his own existence so intentlythat he took
no interest in nor even saw the complexion of hers.

'I cannotpapa' she said sadly.

'Trydear.'

'I would rather notindeed.'

'You are tired. You look worn. The ride was too much for you.
Wellthis is what I went away for. I went to be married!'

'Married!' she falteredand could hardly check an involuntary 'So
did I.' A moment after and her resolve to confess perished like a
bubble.

'Yes; to whom do you think? Mrs. Troytonthe new owner of the
estate over the hedgeand of the old manor-house. It was only
finally settled between us when I went to Stratleigh a few days
ago.' He lowered his voice to a sly tone of merriment. 'Nowas
to your stepmotheryou'll find she is not much to look atthough
a good deal to listen to. She is twenty years older than myself
for one thing.'

'You forget that I know her. She called here onceafter we had
beenand found her away from home.'

'Of courseof course. Wellwhatever her looks areshe's as
excellent a woman as ever breathed. She has had lately left her
as absolute property three thousand five hundred a yearbesides
the devise of this estate--andby the waya large legacy came to
her in satisfaction of doweras it is called.'

'Three thousand five hundred a year!'

'And a large--wella fair-sized--mansion in townand a pedigree
as long as my walking-stick; though that bears evidence of being
rather a raked-up affair--done since the family got rich--people


do those things now as they build ruins on maiden estates and cast
antiques at Birmingham.'

Elfride merely listened and said nothing.

He continued more quietly and impressively. 'YesElfrideshe is
wealthy in comparison with usthough with few connections.
Howevershe will introduce you to the world a little. We are
going to exchange her house in Baker Street for one at Kensington
for your sake. Everybody is going there nowshe says. At
Easters we shall fly to town for the usual three months--I shall
have a curate of course by that time. ElfrideI am past love
you knowand I honestly confess that I married her for your sake.
Why a woman of her standing should have thrown herself away upon
meGod knows. But I suppose her age and plainness were too
pronounced for a town man. With your good looksif you now play
your cards wellyou may marry anybody. Of coursea little
contrivance will be necessary; but there's nothing to stand
between you and a husband with a titlethat I can see. Lady
Luxellian was only a squire's daughter. Nowdon't you see how
foolish the old fancy was? But comeshe is indoors waiting to see
you. It is as good as a playtoo' continued the vicaras they
walked towards the house. 'I courted her through the privet hedge
yonder: not entirelyyou knowbut we used to walk there of an
evening--nearly every evening at last. But I needn't tell you
details now; everything was terribly matter-of-factI assure you.
At lastthat day I saw her at Stratleighwe determined to settle
it off-hand.'

'And you never said a word to me' replied Elfridenot
reproachfully either in tone or thought. Indeedher feeling was
the very reverse of reproachful. She felt relieved and even
thankful. Where confidence had not been givenhow could
confidence be expected?

Her father mistook her dispassionateness for a veil of politeness
over a sense of ill-usage. 'I am not altogether to blame' he
said. 'There were two or three reasons for secrecy. One was the
recent death of her relative the testatorthough that did not
apply to you. But rememberElfride' he continued in a stiffer
tone'you had mixed yourself up so foolishly with those low
peoplethe Smiths--and it was justtoowhen Mrs. Troyton and
myself were beginning to understand each other--that I resolved to
say nothing even to you. How did I know how far you had gone with
them and their son? You might have made a point of taking tea with
them every dayfor all that I knew.'

Elfride swallowed her feelings as she best couldand languidly
though flatly asked a question.

'Did you kiss Mrs. Troyton on the lawn about three weeks ago? That
evening I came into the study and found you had just had candles
in?'

Mr. Swancourt looked rather red and abashedas middle-aged lovers
are apt to do when caught in the tricks of younger ones.

'Wellyes; I think I did' he stammered; 'just to please heryou
know.' And then recovering himself he laughed heartily.

'And was this what your Horatian quotation referred to?'

'It wasElfride.'


They stepped into the drawing-room from the verandah. At that
moment Mrs. Swancourt came downstairsand entered the same room
by the door.

'HereCharlotteis my little Elfride' said Mr. Swancourtwith
the increased affection of tone often adopted towards relations
when newly produced.

Poor Elfridenot knowing what to dodid nothing at all; but
stood receptive of all that came to her by sighthearingand
touch.

Mrs. Swancourt moved forwardtook her step-daughter's handthen
kissed her.

'Ahdarling!' she exclaimed good-humouredly'you didn't think
when you showed a strange old woman over the conservatory a month
or two agoand explained the flowers to her so prettilythat she
would so soon be here in new colours. Nor did sheI am sure.'

The new mother had been truthfully enough described by Mr.
Swancourt. She was not physically attractive. She was dark--very
dark--in complexionportly in figureand with a plentiful
residuum of hair in the proportion of half a dozen white ones to
half a dozen black onesthough the latter were black indeed. No
further observedshe was not a woman to like. But there was more
to see. To the most superficial critic it was apparent that she
made no attempt to disguise her age. She looked sixty at the
first glanceand close acquaintanceship never proved her older.

Another and still more winning trait was one attaching to the
corners of her mouth. Before she made a remark these often
twitched gently: not backwards and forwardsthe index of
nervousness; not down upon the jawthe sign of determination; but
palpably upwardsin precisely the curve adopted to represent
mirth in the broad caricatures of schoolboys. Only this element
in her face was expressive of anything within the womanbut it
was unmistakable. It expressed humour subjective as well as
objective--which could survey the peculiarities of self in as
whimsical a light as those of other people.

This is not all of Mrs. Swancourt. She had held out to Elfride
hands whose fingers were literally stiff with ringssignis
auroque rigenteslike Helen's robe. These rows of rings were not
worn in vanity apparently. They were mostly antique and dull
though a few were the reverse.

RIGHT HAND.

1st. Plainly set oval onyxrepresenting a devil's head. 2nd.
Green jasper intagliowith red veins. 3rd. Entirely gold
bearing figure of a hideous griffin. 4th. A sea-green monster
diamondwith small diamonds round it. 5th. Antique cornelian
intaglio of dancing figure of a satyr. 6th. An angular band
chased with dragons' heads. 7th. A facetted carbuncle accompanied
by ten little twinkling emeralds; &c. &c.

LEFT HAND.

1st. A reddish-yellow toadstone. 2nd. A heavy ring enamelled in
coloursand bearing a jacynth. 3rd. An amethystine sapphire.
4th. A polished rubysurrounded by diamonds. 5th. The engraved


ring of an abbess. 6th. A gloomy intaglio; &c. &c.

Beyond this rather quaint array of stone and metal Mrs. Swancourt
wore no ornament whatever.

Elfride had been favourably impressed with Mrs. Troyton at their
meeting about two months earlier; but to be pleased with a woman
as a momentary acquaintance was different from being taken with
her as a stepmother. Howeverthe suspension of feeling was but
for a moment. Elfride decided to like her still.

Mrs. Swancourt was a woman of the world as to knowledgethe
reverse as to actionas her marriage suggested. Elfride and the
lady were soon inextricably involved in conversationand Mr.
Swancourt left them to themselves.

'And what do you find to do with yourself here?' Mrs. Swancourt
saidafter a few remarks about the wedding. 'You rideI know.'

'YesI ride. But not muchbecause papa doesn't like my going
alone.'

'You must have somebody to look after you.'

'And I readand write a little.'

'You should write a novel. The regular resource of people who
don't go enough into the world to live a novel is to write one.'

'I have done it' said Elfridelooking dubiously at Mrs.
Swancourtas if in doubt whether she would meet with ridicule
there.

'That's right. Nowthenwhat is it aboutdear?'

'About--wellit is a romance of the Middle Ages.'

'Knowing nothing of the present agewhich everybody knows about
for safety you chose an age known neither to you nor other people.
That's iteh? Nono; I don't mean itdear.'

'WellI have had some opportunities of studying mediaeval art and
manners in the library and private museum at Endelstow Houseand
I thought I should like to try my hand upon a fiction. I know the
time for these tales is past; but I was interested in itvery
much interested.'

'When is it to appear?'

'OhneverI suppose.'

'Nonsensemy dear girl. Publish itby all means. All ladies do
that sort of thing now; not for profityou knowbut as a
guarantee of mental respectability to their future husbands.'

'An excellent idea of us ladies.'

'Though I am afraid it rather resembles the melancholy ruse of
throwing loaves over castle-walls at besiegersand suggests
desperation rather than plenty inside.'

'Did you ever try it?'


'No; I was too far gone even for that.'

'Papa says no publisher will take my book.'

'That remains to be proved. I'll give my wordmy dearthat by
this time next year it shall be printed.'

'Will youindeed?' said Elfridepartially brightening with
pleasurethough she was sad enough in her depths. 'I thought
brains were the indispensableeven if the onlyqualification for
admission to the republic of letters. A mere commonplace creature
like me will soon be turned out again.'

'Oh no; once you are there you'll be like a drop of water in a
piece of rock-crystal--your medium will dignify your commonness.'

'It will be a great satisfaction' Elfride murmuredand thought
of Stephenand wished she could make a great fortune by writing
romancesand marry him and live happily.

'And then we'll go to Londonand then to Paris' said Mrs.
Swancourt. 'I have been talking to your father about it. But we
have first to move into the manor-houseand we think of staying
at Torquay whilst that is going on. Meanwhileinstead of going
on a honeymoon scamper by ourselveswe have come home to fetch
youand go all together to Bath for two or three weeks.'

Elfride assented pleasantlyeven gladly; but she saw thatby
this marriageher father and herself had ceased for ever to be
the close relations they had been up to a few weeks ago. It was
impossible now to tell him the tale of her wild elopement with
Stephen Smith.

He was still snugly housed in her heart. His absence had regained
for him much of that aureola of saintship which had been nearly
abstracted during her reproachful mood on that miserable journey
from London. Rapture is often cooled by contact with its cause
especially if under awkward conditions. And that last experience
with Stephen had done anything but make him shine in her eyes.
His very kindness in letting her return was his offence. Elfride
had her sex's love of sheer force in a manhowever ill-directed;
and at that critical juncture in London Stephen's only chance of
retaining the ascendancy over her that his face and not his parts
had acquired for himwould have been by doing whatfor one
thinghe was too youthful to undertake--that wasdragging her by
the wrist to the rails of some altarand peremptorily marrying
her. Decisive action is seen by appreciative minds to be
frequently objectlessand sometimes fatal; but decisionhowever
suicidalhas more charm for a woman than the most unequivocal
Fabian success.

Howeversome of the unpleasant accessories of that occasion were
now out of sight againand Stephen had resumed not a few of his
fancy colours.

Chapter XIII

'He set in order many proverbs.'

It is London in October--two months further on in the story.


Bede's Inn has this peculiaritythat it facesreceives fromand
discharges into a bustling thoroughfare speaking only of wealth
and respectabilitywhilst its postern abuts on as crowded and
poverty-stricken a network of alleys as are to be found anywhere
in the metropolis. The moral consequences arefirstthat those
who occupy chambers in the Inn may see a great deal of shirtless
humanity's habits and enjoyments without doing more than look down
from a back window; and second they may hear wholesome though
unpleasant social reminders through the medium of a harsh voice
an unequal footstepthe echo of a blow or a fallwhich
originates in the person of some drunkard or wife-beateras he
crosses and interferes with the quiet of the square. Characters
of this kind frequently pass through the Inn from a little foxhole
of an alley at the backbut they never loiter there.

It is hardly necessary to state that all the sights and movements
proper to the Inn are most orderly. On the fine October evening
on which we follow Stephen Smith to this placea placid porter is
sitting on a stool under a sycamore-tree in the midstwith a
little cane in his hand. We notice the thick coat of soot upon
the brancheshanging underneath them in flakesas in a chimney.
The blackness of these boughs does not at present improve the
tree--nearly forsaken by its leaves as it is--but in the spring
their green fresh beauty is made doubly beautiful by the contrast.
Within the railings is a flower-garden of respectable dahlias and
chrysanthemumswhere a man is sweeping the leaves from the grass.

Stephen selects a doorwayand ascends an old though wide wooden
staircasewith moulded balusters and handrailwhich in a country
manor-house would be considered a noteworthy specimen of
Renaissance workmanship. He reaches a door on the first floor
over which is paintedin black letters'Mr. Henry Knight'-'
Barrister-at-law' being understood but not expressed. The wall
is thickand there is a door at its outer and inner face. The
outer one happens to be ajar: Stephen goes to the otherand taps.

'Come in!' from distant penetralia.

First was a small anteroomdivided from the inner apartment by a
wainscoted archway two or three yards wide. Across this archway
hung a pair of dark-green curtainsmaking a mystery of all within
the arch except the spasmodic scratching of a quill pen. Here was
grouped a chaotic assemblage of articles--mainly old framed prints
and paintings--leaning edgewise against the walllike roofing
slates in a builder's yard. All the books visible here were
folios too big to be stolen--some lying on a heavy oak table in
one cornersome on the floor among the picturesthe whole
intermingled with old coatshatsumbrellasand walking-sticks.

Stephen pushed aside the curtainand before him sat a man writing
away as if his life depended upon it--which it did.

A man of thirty in a speckled coatwith dark brown haircurly
beardand crisp moustache: the latter running into the beard on
each side of the mouthandas usualhiding the real expression
of that organ under a chronic aspect of impassivity.

'Ahmy dear fellowI knew 'twas you' said Knightlooking up
with a smileand holding out his hand.

Knight's mouth and eyes came to view now. Both features were
goodand had the peculiarity of appearing younger and fresher
than the brow and face they belonged towhich were getting
sicklied o'er by the unmistakable pale cast. The mouth had not


quite relinquished rotundity of curve for the firm angularities of
middle life; and the eyesthough keenpermeated rather than
penetrated: what they had lost of their boy-time brightness by a
dozen years of hard reading lending a quietness to their gaze
which suited them well.

A lady would have said there was a smell of tobacco in the room: a
man that there was not.

Knight did not rise. He looked at a timepiece on the mantelshelf
then turned again to his letterspointing to a chair.

'WellI am glad you have come. I only returned to town
yesterday; nowdon't speakStephenfor ten minutes; I have just
that time to the late post. At the eleventh minuteI'm your man.'

Stephen sat down as if this kind of reception was by no means new
and away went Knight's penbeating up and down like a ship in a
storm.

Cicero called the library the soul of the house; here the house
was all soul. Portions of the floorand half the wall-space
were taken up by book-shelves ordinary and extraordinary; the
remaining partstogether with bracketsside-tables&c.being
occupied by castsstatuettesmedallionsand plaques of various
descriptionspicked up by the owner in his wanderings through
France and Italy.

One stream only of evening sunlight came into the room from a
window quite in the corneroverlooking a court. An aquarium
stood in the window. It was a dull parallelopipedon enough for
living creatures at most hours of the day; but for a few minutes
in the eveningas nowan errantkindly ray lighted up and
warmed the little world thereinwhen the many-coloured zoophytes
opened and put forth their armsthe weeds acquired a rich
transparencythe shells gleamed of a more golden yellowand the
timid community expressed gladness more plainly than in words.

Within the prescribed ten minutes Knight flung down his penrang
for the boy to take the letters to the postand at the closing of
the door exclaimed'There; thank Godthat's done. NowStephen
pull your chair roundand tell me what you have been doing all
this time. Have you kept up your Greek?'

'No.'

'How's that?'

'I haven't enough spare time.'

'That's nonsense.'

'WellI have done a great many thingsif not that. And I have
done one extraordinary thing.'

Knight turned full upon Stephen. 'Ah-ha! Nowthenlet me look
into your faceput two and two togetherand make a shrewd
guess.'

Stephen changed to a redder colour.

'WhySmith' said Knightafter holding him rigidly by the
shouldersand keenly scrutinising his countenance for a minute in
silence'you have fallen in love.'


'Well--the fact is----'

'Nowout with it.' But seeing that Stephen looked rather
distressedhe changed to a kindly tone. 'Now Smithmy ladyou
know me well enough by this timeor you ought to; and you know
very well that if you choose to give me a detailed account of the
phenomenon within youI shall listen; if you don'tI am the last
man in the world to care to hear it.'

'I'll tell this much: I HAVE fallen in loveand I want to be
MARRIED.'

Knight looked ominous as this passed Stephen's lips.

'Don't judge me before you have heard more' cried Stephen
anxiouslyseeing the change in his friend's countenance.

'I don't judge. Does your mother know about it?'

'Nothing definite.'

'Father?'

'No. But I'll tell you. The young person----'

'Comethat's dreadfully ungallant. But perhaps I understand the
frame of mind a littleso go on. Your sweetheart----'

'She is rather higher in the world than I am.'

'As it should be.'

'And her father won't hear of itas I now stand.'

'Not an uncommon case.'

'And now comes what I want your advice upon. Something has
happened at her house which makes it out of the question for us to
ask her father again now. So we are keeping silent. In the
meantime an architect in India has just written to Mr. Hewby to
ask whether he can find for him a young assistant willing to go
over to Bombay to prepare drawings for work formerly done by the
engineers. The salary he offers is 350 rupees a monthor about
35 Pounds. Hewby has mentioned it to meand I have been to Dr.
Wraywho says I shall acclimatise without much illness. Now
would you go?'

'You mean to saybecause it is a possible road to the young
lady.'

'Yes; I was thinking I could go over and make a little moneyand
then come back and ask for her. I have the option of practising
for myself after a year.'

'Would she be staunch?'

'Oh yes! For ever--to the end of her life!'

'How do you know?'

'Whyhow do people know? Of courseshe will.'

Knight leant back in his chair. 'Nowthough I know her


thoroughly as she exists in your heartStephenI don't know her
in the flesh. All I want to ask isis this idea of going to
India based entirely upon a belief in her fidelity?'

'Yes; I should not go if it were not for her.'

'WellStephenyou have put me in rather an awkward position. If
I give my true sentimentsI shall hurt your feelings; if I don't
I shall hurt my own judgment. And rememberI don't know much
about women.'

'But you have had attachmentsalthough you tell me very little
about them.'

'And I only hope you'll continue to prosper till I tell you more.'

Stephen winced at this rap. 'I have never formed a deep
attachment' continued Knight. 'I never have found a woman worth
it. Nor have I been once engaged to be married.'

'You write as if you had been engaged a hundred timesif I may be
allowed to say so' said Stephen in an injured tone.

'Yesthat may be. Butmy dear Stephenit is only those who
half know a thing that write about it. Those who know it
thoroughly don't take the trouble. All I know about womenor men
eitheris a mass of generalities. I plod alongand occasionally
lift my eyes and skim the weltering surface of mankind lying
between me and the horizonas a crow might; no more.'

Knight stopped as if he had fallen into a train of thoughtand
Stephen looked with affectionate awe at a master whose mindhe
believedcould swallow up at one meal all that his own head
contained.

There was affective sympathybut no great intellectual
fellowshipbetween Knight and Stephen Smith. Knight had seen his
young friend when the latter was a cherry-cheeked happy boyhad
been interested in himhad kept his eye upon himand generously
helped the lad to bookstill the mere connection of patronage
grew to acquaintanceand that ripened to friendship. And so
though Smith was not at all the man Knight would have deliberately
chosen as a friend--or even for one of a group of a dozen friends-he
somehow was his friend. Circumstanceas usualdid it all.
How many of us can say of our most intimate alter egoleaving
alone friends of the outer circlethat he is the man we should
have chosenas embodying the net result after adding up all the
points in human nature that we loveand principles we holdand
subtracting all that we hate? The man is really somebody we got to
know by mere physical juxtaposition long maintainedand was taken
into our confidenceand even heartas a makeshift.

'And what do you think of her?' Stephen ventured to sayafter a
silence.

'Taking her merits on trust from you' said Knight'as we do
those of the Roman poets of whom we know nothing but that they
livedI still think she will not stick to you throughsaythree
years of absence in India.'

'But she will!' cried Stephen desperately. 'She is a girl all
delicacy and honour. And no woman of that kindwho has committed
herself so into a man's hands as she has into minecould possibly
marry another.'


'How has she committed herself?' asked Knight cunously.

Stephen did not answer. Knight had looked on his love so
sceptically that it would not do to say all that he had intended
to say by any means.

'Welldon't tell' said Knight. 'But you are begging the
questionwhich isI supposeinevitable in love.'

'And I'll tell you another thing' the younger man pleaded. 'You
remember what you said to me once about women receiving a kiss.
Don't you? Whythat instead of our being charmed by the
fascination of their bearing at such a timewe should immediately
doubt them if their confusion has any GRACE in it--that awkward
bungling was the true charm of the occasionimplying that we are
the first who has played such a part with them.'

'It is truequite' said Knight musingly.

It often happened that the disciple thus remembered the lessons of
the master long after the master himself had forgotten them.

'Wellthat was like her!' cried Stephen triumphantly. 'She was
in such a flurry that she didn't know what she was doing.'

'Splendidsplendid!' said Knight soothingly. 'So that all I have
to say isthat if you see a good opening in Bombay there's no
reason why you should not go without troubling to draw fine
distinctions as to reasons. No man fully realizes what opinions
he acts uponor what his actions mean.'

'Yes; I go to Bombay. I'll write a note hereif you don't mind.'

'Sleep over it--it is the best plan--and write to-morrow.
Meantimego there to that window and sit downand look at my
Humanity Show. I am going to dine out this eveningand have to
dress here out of my portmanteau. I bring up my things like this
to save the trouble of going down to my place at Richmond and back
again.'

Knight then went to the middle of the room and flung open his
portmanteauand Stephen drew near the window. The streak of
sunlight had crept upwardedged awayand vanished; the zoophytes
slept: a dusky gloom pervaded the room. And now another volume of
light shone over the window.

'There!' said Knight'where is there in England a spectacle to
equal that? I sit there and watch them every night before I go
home. Softly open the sash.'

Beneath them was an alley running up to the walland thence
turning sideways and passing under an archso that Knight's back
window was immediately over the angleand commanded a view of the
alley lengthwise. Crowds--mostly of women--were surging
bustlingand pacing up and down. Gaslights glared from butchers'
stallsilluminating the lumps of flesh to splotches of orange and
vermilionlike the wild colouring of Turner's later pictures
whilst the purl and babble of tongues of every pitch and mood was
to this human wild-wood what the ripple of a brook is to the
natural forest.

Nearly ten minutes passed. Then Knight also came to the window.


'WellnowI call a cab and vanish down the street in the
direction of Berkeley Square' he saidbuttoning his waistcoat
and kicking his morning suit into a corner. Stephen rose to
leave.

'What a heap of literature!' remarked the young mantaking a
final longing survey round the roomas if to abide there for ever
would be the great pleasure of his lifeyet feeling that he had
almost outstayed his welcome-while. His eyes rested upon an armchair
piled full of newspapersmagazinesand bright new volumes
in green and red.

'Yes' said Knightalso looking at them and breathing a sigh of
weariness; 'something must be done with several of them soonI
suppose. Stephenyou needn't hurry away for a few minutesyou
knowif you want to stay; I am not quite ready. Overhaul those
volumes whilst I put on my coatand I'll walk a little way with
you.'

Stephen sat down beside the arm-chair and began to tumble the
books about. Among the rest he found a novelette in one volume
THE COURT OF KELLYON CASTLE. By Ernest Field.

'Are you going to review this?' inquired Stephen with apparent
unconcernand holding up Elfride's effusion.

'Which? Ohthat! I may--though I don't do much light reviewing
now. But it is reviewable.'

'How do you mean?'

Knight never liked to be asked what he meant. 'Mean! I mean that
the majority of books published are neither good enough nor bad
enough to provoke criticismand that that book does provoke it.'

'By its goodness or its badness?' Stephen said with some anxiety
on poor little Elfride's score.

'Its badness. It seems to be written by some girl in her teens.'

Stephen said not another word. He did not care to speak plainly
of Elfride after that unfortunate slip his tongue had made in
respect of her having committed herself; andapart from that
Knight's severe--almost dogged and self-willed--honesty in
criticizing was unassailable by the humble wish of a youthful
friend like Stephen.

Knight was now ready. Turning off the gasand slamming together
the doorthey went downstairs and into the street.

Chapter XIV

'We frolic while 'tis May.'

It has now to be realized that nearly three-quarters of a year
have passed away. In place of the autumnal scenery which formed a
setting to the previous enactmentswe have the culminating blooms
of summer in the year following.

Stephen is in Indiaslaving away at an office in Bombay;
occasionally going up the country on professional errandsand


wondering why people who had been there longer than he complained
so much of the effect of the climate upon their constitutions.
Never had a young man a finer start than seemed now to present
itself to Stephen. It was just in that exceptional heyday of
prosperity which shone over Bombay some few years agothat he
arrived on the scene. Building and engineering partook of the
general impetus. Speculation moved with an accelerated velocity
every successive daythe only disagreeable contingency connected
with it being the possibility of a collapse.

Elfride had never told her father of the four-and-twenty-hours'
escapade with Stephennor had itto her knowledgecome to his
ears by any other route. It was a secret trouble and grief to the
girl for a short timeand Stephen's departure was another
ingredient in her sorrow. But Elfride possessed special
facilities for getting rid of trouble after a decent interval.
Whilst a slow nature was imbibing a misfortune little by little
she had swallowed the whole agony of it at a draught and was
brightening again. She could slough off a sadness and replace it
by a hope as easily as a lizard renews a diseased limb.

And two such excellent distractions had presented themselves. One
was bringing out the romance and looking for notices in the
paperswhichthough they had been significantly short so far
had served to divert her thoughts. The other was migrating from
the vicarage to the more commodious old house of Mrs. Swancourt's
overlooking the same valley. Mr. Swancourt at first disliked the
idea of being transplanted to feminine soilbut the obvious
advantages of such an accession of dignity reconciled him to the
change. So there was a radical 'move;' the two ladies staying at
Torquay as had been arrangedthe vicar going to and fro.

Mrs. Swancourt considerably enlarged Elfride's ideas in an
aristocratic directionand she began to forgive her father for
his politic marriage. Certainlyin a worldly sensea handsome
face at three-and-forty had never served a man in better stead.

The new house at Kensington was readyand they were all in town.

The Hyde Park shrubs had been transplanted as usualthe chairs
ranked in linethe grass edgings trimmedthe roads made to look
as if they were suffering from a heavy thunderstorm; carriages had
been called for by the easefulhorses by the briskand the Drive
and Row were again the groove of gaiety for an hour. We gaze upon
the spectacleat six o'clock on this midsummer afternoonin a
melon-frame atmosphere and beneath a violet sky. The Swancourt
equipage formed one in the stream.

Mrs. Swancourt was a talker of talk of the incisive kindwhich
her low musical voice--the only beautiful point in the old woman-prevented
from being wearisome.

'Now' she said to Elfridewholike AEneas at Carthagewas full
of admiration for the brilliant scene'you will find that our
companionless state will give usas it does everybodyan
extraordinary power in reading the features of our fellowcreatures
here. I always am a listener in such places as these-not
to the narratives told by my neighbours' tonguesbut by their
faces--the advantage of which isthat whether I am in Row
BoulevardRialtoor Pradothey all speak the same language. I
may have acquired some skill in this practice through having been
an ugly lonely woman for so many yearswith nobody to give me
information; a thing you will not consider strange when the


parallel case is borne in mind--how truly people who have no
clocks will tell the time of day.'

'Aythat they will' said Mr. Swancourt corroboratively. 'I have
known labouring men at Endelstow and other farms who had framed
complete systems of observation for that purpose. By means of
shadowswindscloudsthe movements of sheep and oxenthe
singing of birdsthe crowing of cocksand a hundred other sights
and sounds which people with watches in their pockets never know
the existence ofthey are able to pronounce within ten minutes of
the hour almost at any required instant. That reminds me of an
old story which I'm afraid is too bad--too bad to repeat.' Here
the vicar shook his head and laughed inwardly.

'Tell it--do!' said the ladies.

'I mustn't quite tell it.'

'That's absurd' said Mrs. Swancourt.

'It was only about a man whoby the same careful system of
observationwas known to deceive persons for more than two years
into the belief that he kept a barometer by stealthso exactly
did he foretell all changes in the weather by the braying of his
ass and the temper of his wife.'

Elfride laughed.

'Exactly' said Mrs. Swancourt. 'And in just the way that those
learnt the signs of natureI have learnt the language of her
illegitimate sister--artificiality; and the fibbing of eyesthe
contempt of nose-tipsthe indignation of back hairthe laughter
of clothesthe cynicism of footstepsand the various emotions
lying in walking-stick twirlshat-liftingsthe elevation of
parasolsthe carriage of umbrellasbecome as A B C to me.

'Just look at that daughter's sister class of mamma in the
carriage across there' she continued to Elfridepointing with
merely a turn of her eye. 'The absorbing self-consciousness of
her position that is shown by her countenance is most humiliating
to a lover of one's country. You would hardly believewould you
that members of a Fashionable Worldwhose professed zero is far
above the highest degree of the humblecould be so ignorant of
the elementary instincts of reticence.'

'How?'

'Whyto bear on their facesas plainly as on a phylacterythe
inscriptionDo, pray, look at the coronet on my panels.'

'ReallyCharlotte' said the vicar'you see as much in faces as
Mr. Puff saw in Lord Burleigh's nod.'

Elfride could not but admire the beauty of her fellow
countrywomenespecially since herself and her own few
acquaintances had always been slightly sunburnt or marked on the
back of the hands by a bramble-scratch at this time of the year.

'And what lovely flowers and leaves they wear in their bonnets!'
she exclaimed.

'Oh yes' returned Mrs. Swancourt. 'Some of them are even more
striking in colour than any real ones. Look at that beautiful
rose worn by the lady inside the rails. Elegant vine-tendrils


introduced upon the stem as an improvement upon pricklesand all
growing so naturally just over her ear--I say growing advisedly
for the pink of the petals and the pink of her handsome cheeks are
equally from Nature's hand to the eyes of the most casual
observer.'

'But praise them a littlethey do deserve it!' said generous
Elfride.

'WellI do. See how the Duchess of----waves to and fro in her
seatutilizing the sway of her landau by looking around only when
her head is swung forwardwith a passive pride which forbids a
resistance to the force of circumstance. Look at the pretty pout
on the mouths of that family thereretaining no traces of being
arranged beforehandso well is it done. Look at the demure close
of the little fists holding the parasols; the tiny alert thumb
sticking up erect against the ivory stem as knowing as can bethe
satin of the parasol invariably matching the complexion of the
face beneath ityet seemingly by an accidentwhich makes the
thing so attractive. There's the red book lying on the opposite
seatbespeaking the vast numbers of their acquaintance. And I
particularly admire the aspect of that abundantly daughtered woman
on the other side--I mean her look of unconsciousness that the
girls are stared at by the walkersand above all the look of the
girls themselves--losing their gaze in the depths of handsome
men's eyes without appearing to notice whether they are observing
masculine eyes or the leaves of the trees. There's praise for
you. But I am only jestingchild--you know that.'

'Piph-ph-ph--how warm it isto be sure!' said Mr. Swancourtas
if his mind were a long distance from all he saw. 'I declare that
my watch is so hot that I can scarcely bear to touch it to see
what the time isand all the world smells like the inside of a
hat.'

'How the men stare at youElfride!' said the elder lady. 'You
will kill me quiteI am afraid.'

'Kill you?'

'As a diamond kills an opal in the same setting.'

'I have noticed several ladies and gentlemen looking at me' said
Elfride artlesslyshowing her pleasure at being observed.

'My dearyou mustn't say "gentlemen" nowadays' her stepmother
answered in the tones of arch concern that so well became her
ugliness. 'We have handed over "gentlemen" to the lower middle
classwhere the word is still to be heard at tradesmen's balls
and provincial tea-partiesI believe. It is done with here.'

'What must I saythen?'

'"Ladies and MEN" always.'

At this moment appeared in the stream of vehicles moving in the
contrary direction a chariot presenting in its general surface the
rich indigo hue of a midnight skythe wheels and margins being
picked out in delicate lines of ultramarine; the servants'
liveries were dark-blue coats and silver laceand breeches of
neutral Indian red. The whole concern formed an organic whole
and moved along behind a pair of dark chestnut geldingswho
advanced in an indifferently zealous trotvery daintily
performedand occasionally shrugged divers points of their veiny


surface as if they were rather above the business.

In this sat a gentleman with no decided characteristics more than
that he somewhat resembled a good-natured commercial traveller of
the superior class. Beside him was a lady with skim-milky eyes
and complexionbelonging to the "interesting" class of women
where that class merges in the sicklyher greatest pleasure being
apparently to enjoy nothing. Opposite this pair sat two little
girls in white hats and blue feathers.

The lady saw Elfridesmiled and bowedand touched her husband's
elbowwho turned and received Elfride's movement of recognition
with a gallant elevation of his hat. Then the two children held
up their arms to Elfrideand laughed gleefully.

'Who is that?'

'WhyLord Luxellianisn't it?' said Mrs. Swancourtwho with the
vicar had been seated with her back towards them.

'Yes' replied Elfride. 'He is the one man of those I have seen
here whom I consider handsomer than papa.'

'Thank youdear' said Mr. Swancourt.

'Yes; but your father is so much older. When Lord Luxellian gets
a little further on in lifehe won't be half so good-looking as
our man.'

'Thank youdearlikewise' said Mr. Swancourt.

'See' exclaimed Elfridestill looking towards them'how those
little dears want me! Actually one of them is crying for me to
come.'

'We were talking of bracelets just now. Look at Lady
Luxellian's' said Mrs. Swancourtas that baroness lifted up her
arm to support one of the children. 'It is slipping up her arm-too
large by half. I hate to see daylight between a bracelet and
a wrist; I wonder women haven't better taste.'

'It is not on that accountindeed' Elfride expostulated. 'It is
that her arm has got thinpoor thing. You cannot think how much
she has altered in this last twelvemonth.'

The carriages were now nearer togetherand there was an exchange
of more familiar greetings between the two families. Then the
Luxellians crossed over and drew up under the plane-treesjust in
the rear of the Swancourts. Lord Luxellian alightedand came
forward with a musical laugh.

It was his attraction as a man. People liked him for those tones
and forgot that he had no talents. Acquaintances remembered Mr.
Swancourt by his manner; they remembered Stephen Smith by his
faceLord Luxellian by his laugh.

Mr. Swancourt made some friendly remarks--among others things upon
the heat.

'Yes' said Lord Luxellian'we were driving by a furrier's window
this afternoonand the sight filled us all with such a sense of
suffocation that we were glad to get away. Ha-ha!' He turned to
Elfride. 'Miss SwancourtI have hardly seen or spoken to you
since your literary feat was made public. I had no idea a chiel


was taking notes down at quiet Endelstowor I should certainly
have put myself and friends upon our best behaviour. Swancourt
why didn't you give me a hint!'

Elfride flutteredblushedlaughedsaid it was nothing to speak
of&c. &c.

'WellI think you were rather unfairly treated by the PRESENTI
certainly do. Writing a heavy review like that upon an elegant
trifle like the COURT OF KELLYON CASTLE was absurd.'

'What?' said Elfrideopening her eyes. 'Was I reviewed in the
PRESENT?'

'Oh yes; didn't you see it? Whyit was four or five months ago!'

'NoI never saw it. How sorry I am! What a shame of my
publishers! They promised to send me every notice that appeared.'

'AhthenI am almost afraid I have been giving you disagreeable
informationintentionally withheld out of courtesy. Depend upon
it they thought no good would come of sending itand so would not
pain you unnecessarily.'

'Oh no; I am indeed glad you have told meLord Luxellian. It is
quite a mistaken kindness on their part. Is the review so much
against me?' she inquired tremulously.

'Nono; not that exactly--though I almost forget its exact
purport now. It was merely--merely sharpyou know--ungenerousI
might say. But really my memory does not enable me to speak
decidedly.'

'We'll drive to the PRESENT officeand get one directly; shall
wepapa?'

'If you are so anxiousdearwe willor send. But to-morrow
will do.'

'And do oblige me in a little matter nowElfride' said Lord
Luxellian warmlyand looking as if he were sorry he had brought
news that disturbed her. 'I am in reality sent here as a special
messenger by my little Polly and Katie to ask you to come into our
carriage with them for a short time. I am just going to walk
across into Piccadillyand my wife is left alone with them. I am
afraid they are rather spoilt children; but I have half promised
them you shall come.'

The steps were let downand Elfride was transferred--to the
intense delight of the little girlsand to the mild interest of
loungers with red skins and long neckswho cursorily eyed the
performance with their walking-sticks to their lipsoccasionally
laughing from far down their throats and with their eyestheir
mouths not being concerned in the operation at all. Lord
Luxellian then told the coachman to drive onlifted his hat
smiled a smile that missed its mark and alighted on a total
strangerwho bowed in bewilderment. Lord Luxellian looked long
at Elfride.

The look was a manlyopenand genuine look of admiration; a
momentary tribute of a kind which any honest Englishman might have
paid to fairness without being ashamed of the feelingor
permitting it to encroach in the slightest degree upon his
emotional obligations as a husband and head of a family. Then


Lord Luxellian turned awayand walked musingly to the upper end
of the promenade.

Mr. Swancourt had alighted at the same time with Elfridecrossing
over to the Row for a few minutes to speak to a friend he
recognized there; and his wife was thus left sole tenant of the
carriage.

Nowwhilst this little act had been in course of performance
there stood among the promenading spectators a man of somewhat
different description from the rest. Behind the general throngin
the rear of the chairsand leaning against the trunk of a tree
he looked at Elfride with quiet and critical interest.

Three points about this unobtrusive person showed promptly to the
exercised eye that he was not a Row man pur sang. Firstan
irrepressible wrinkle or two in the waist of his frock-coat-denoting
that he had not damned his tailor sufficiently to drive
that tradesman up to the orthodox high pressure of cunning
workmanship. Seconda slight slovenliness of umbrella
occasioned by its owner's habit of resting heavily upon itand
using it as a veritable walking-stickinstead of letting its
point touch the ground in the most coquettish of kissesas is the
proper Row manner to do. Thirdand chief reasonthat try how
you mightyou could scarcely help supposingon looking at his
facethat your eyes were not far from a well-finished mind
instead of the well-finished skin et praeterea nihilwhich is by
rights the Mark of the Row.

The probability is thathad not Mrs. Swancourt been left alone in
her carriage under the treethis man would have remained in his
unobserved seclusion. But seeing her thushe came round to the
frontstooped under the railand stood beside the carriage-door.

Mrs. Swancourt looked reflectively at him for a quarter of a
minutethen held out her hand laughingly:

'WhyHenry Knight--of course it is! My--second--third--fourth
cousin--what shall I say? At any ratemy kinsman.'

'Yesone of a remnant not yet cut off. I scarcely was certain of
youeitherfrom where I was standing.'

'I have not seen you since you first went to Oxford; consider the
number of years! You knowI supposeof my marriage?'

And there sprang up a dialogue concerning family matters of birth
deathand marriagewhich it is not necessary to detail. Knight
presently inquired:

'The young lady who changed into the other carriage isthenyour
stepdaughter?'

'YesElfride. You must know her.'

'And who was the lady in the carriage Elfride entered; who had an
ill-defined and watery lookas if she were only the reflection of
herself in a pool?'

'Lady Luxellian; very weaklyElfride says. My husband is
remotely connected with them; but there is not much intimacy on
account of----. HoweverHenryyou'll come and see usof
course. 24 Chevron Square. Come this week. We shall only be in
town a week or two longer.'


'Let me see. I've got to run up to Oxford to-morrowwhere I
shall be for several days; so that I mustI fearlose the
pleasure of seeing you in London this year.'

'Then come to Endelstow; why not return with us?'

'I am afraid if I were to come before August I should have to
leave again in a day or two. I should be delighted to be with you
at the beginning of that month; and I could stay a nice long time.
I have thought of going westward all the summer.'

'Very well. Now remember that's a compact. And won't you wait
now and see Mr. Swancourt? He will not be away ten minutes
longer.'

'No; I'll beg to be excused; for I must get to my chambers again
this evening before I go home; indeedI ought to have been there
now--I have such a press of matters to attend to just at present.
You will explain to himplease. Good-bye.'

'And let us know the day of your appearance as soon as you can.'

'I will'

Chapter XV

'A wandering voice.'

Though sheer and intelligible griefs are not charmed away by being
confided to mere acquaintancesthe process is a palliative to
certain ill-humours. Among theseperplexed vexation is one--a
species of trouble whichlike a streamgets shallower by the
simple operation of widening it in any quarter.

On the evening of the day succeeding that of the meeting in the
ParkElfride and Mrs. Swancourt were engaged in conversation in
the dressing-room of the latter. Such a treatment of such a case
was in course of adoption here.

Elfride had just before received an affectionate letter from
Stephen Smith in Bombaywhich had been forwarded to her from
Endelstow. But since this is not the case referred toit is not
worth while to pry further into the contents of the letter than to
discover thatwith rash though pardonable confidence in coming
timeshe addressed her in high spirits as his darling future
wife. Probably there cannot be instanced a briefer and surer ruleof-
thumb test of a man's temperament--sanguine or cautious--than
this: did he or does he ante-date the word wife in corresponding
with a sweet-heart he honestly loves?

She had taken this epistle into her own roomread a little of it
then SAVED the rest for to-morrownot wishing to be so
extravagant as to consume the pleasure all at once. Nevertheless
she could not resist the wish to enjoy yet a little moreso out
came the letter againand in spite of misgivings as to
prodigality the whole was devoured. The letter was finally
reperused and placed in her pocket.

What was this? Also a newspaper for Elfridewhich she had
overlooked in her hurry to open the letter. It was the old number


of the PRESENTcontaining the article upon her bookforwarded as
had been requested.

Elfride had hastily read it throughshrunk perceptibly smaller
and had then gone with the paper in her hand to Mrs. Swancourt's
dressing-roomto lighten or at least modify her vexation by a
discriminating estimate from her stepmother.

She was now looking disconsolately out of the window.

'Never mindmy child' said Mrs. Swancourt after a careful
perusal of the matter indicated. 'I don't see that the review is
such a terrible oneafter all. Besideseverybody has forgotten
about it by this time. I'm sure the opening is good enough for
any book ever written. Just listen--it sounds better read aloud
than when you pore over it silently: "THE COURT OF KELLYON CASTLE.
A ROMANCE OF THE MIDDLE AGES. BY ERNEST FIELD. In the belief
that we were for a while escaping the monotonous repetition of
wearisome details in modern social sceneryanalyses of
uninteresting characteror the unnatural unfoldings of a
sensation plotwe took this volume into our hands with a feeling
of pleasure. We were disposed to beguile ourselves with the fancy
that some new change might possibly be rung upon donjon keeps
chain and plate armourdeeply scarred cheekstender maidens
disguised as pagesto which we had not listened long ago." Now
that's a very good beginningin my opinionand one to be proud
of having brought out of a man who has never seen you.'

'Ahyes' murmured Elfride wofully. 'Butthensee further on!'

'Well the next bit is rather unkindI must own' said Mrs.
Swancourtand read on. '"Instead of this we found ourselves in
the hands of some young ladyhardly arrived at years of
discretionto judge by the silly device it has been thought worth
while to adopt on the title-pagewith the idea of disguising her
sex."'

'I am not "silly"!' said Elfride indignantly. 'He might have
called me anything but that.'

'You are notindeed. Well:--"Hands of a young lady...whose
chapters are simply devoted to impossible tournamentstowersand
escapadeswhich read like flat copies of like scenes in the
stories of Mr. G. P. R. Jamesand the most unreal portions of
IVANHOE. The bait is so palpably artificial that the most
credulous gudgeon turns away." Nowmy dearI don't see overmuch
to complain of in that. It proves that you were clever enough to
make him think of Sir Walter Scottwhich is a great deal.'

'Oh yes; though I cannot romance myselfI am able to remind him
of those who can!' Elfride intended to hurl these words
sarcastically at her invisible enemybut as she had no more
satirical power than a wood-pigeonthey merely fell in a pretty
murmur from lips shaped to a pout.

'Certainly: and that's something. Your book is good enough to be
bad in an ordinary literary mannerand doesn't stand by itself in
a melancholy position altogether worse than assailable.--"That
interest in an historical romance may nowadays have any chance of
being sustainedit is indispensable that the reader find himself
under the guidance of some nearly extinct species of legendary
whoin addition to an impulse towards antiquarian research and an
unweakened faith in the mediaeval haloshall possess an inventive
faculty in which delicacy of sentiment is far overtopped by a


power of welding to stirring incident a spirited variety of the
elementary human passions." Wellthat long-winded effusion
doesn't refer to you at allElfridemerely something put in to
fill up. Let me seewhen does he come to you again;...not till
the very endactually. Here you are finally polished off:

'"But to return to the little work we have used as the text of
this article. We are far from altogether disparaging the author's
powers. She has a certain versatility that enables her to use
with effect a style of narration peculiar to herselfwhich may be
called a murmuring of delicate emotional triflesthe particular
gift of those to whom the social sympathies of a peaceful time are
as daily food. Hencewhere matters of domestic experienceand
the natural touches which make people realcan be introduced
without anachronisms too strikingshe is occasionally felicitous;
and upon the whole we feel justified in saying that the book will
bear looking into for the sake of those portions which have
nothing whatever to do with the story."

'WellI suppose it is intended for satire; but don't think
anything more of it nowmy dear. It is seven o'clock.' And Mrs.
Swancourt rang for her maid.

Attack is more piquant than concord. Stephen's letter was
concerning nothing but oneness with her: the review was the very
reverse. And a stranger with neither name nor shapeage nor
appearancebut a mighty voiceis naturally rather an interesting
novelty to a lady he chooses to address. When Elfride fell asleep
that night she was loving the writer of the letterbut thinking
of the writer of that article.

Chapter XVI

'Then fancy shapes--as fancy can.'

On a day about three weeks laterthe Swancourt trio were sitting
quietly in the drawing-room of The CragsMrs. Swancourt's house
at Endelstowchattingand taking easeful survey of their
previous month or two of town--a tangible weariness even to people
whose acquaintances there might be counted on the fingers.

A mere season in London with her practised step-mother had so
advanced Elfride's perceptionsthat her courtship by Stephen
seemed emotionally meagreand to have drifted back several years
into a childish past. In regarding our mental experiencesas in
visual observationour own progress reads like a dwindling of
that we progress from.

She was seated on a low chairlooking over her romance with
melancholy interest for the first time since she had become
acquainted with the remarks of the PRESENT thereupon.

'Still thinking of that reviewerElfie?'

'Not of him personally; but I am thinking of his opinion. Really
on looking into the volume after this long time has elapsedhe
seems to have estimated one part of it fairly enough.'

'Nono; I wouldn't show the white feather now! Fancy that of all
people in the world the writer herself should go over to the
enemy. How shall Monmouth's men fight when Monmouth runs away?'


'I don't do that. But I think he is right in some of his
argumentsthough wrong in others. And because he has some claim
to my respect I regret all the more that he should think so
mistakenly of my motives in one or two instances. It is more
vexing to be misunderstood than to be misrepresented; and he
misunderstands me. I cannot be easy whilst a person goes to rest
night after night attributing to me intentions I never had.'

'He doesn't know your nameor anything about you. And he has
doubtless forgotten there is such a book in existence by this
time.'

'I myself should certainly like him to be put right upon one or
two matters' said the vicarwho had hitherto been silent. 'You
seecritics go on writingand are never corrected or argued
withand therefore are never improved.'

'Papa' said Elfride brightening'write to him!'

'I would as soon write to him as look at himfor the matter of
that' said Mr. Swancourt.

'Do! And saythe young person who wrote the book did not adopt a
masculine pseudonym in vanity or conceitbut because she was
afraid it would be thought presumptuous to publish her nameand
that she did not mean the story for such as hebut as a sweetener
of history for young peoplewho might thereby acquire a taste for
what went on in their own country hundreds of years agoand be
tempted to dive deeper into the subject. Ohthere is so much to
explain; I wish I might write myself!'

'NowElfieI'll tell you what we will do' answered Mr.
Swancourttickled with a sort of bucolic humour at the idea of
criticizing the critic. 'You shall write a clear account of what
he is wrong inand I will copy it and send it as mine.'

'Yesnowdirectly!' said Elfridejumping up. 'When will you
send itpapa? '

'Ohin a day or twoI suppose' he returned. Then the vicar
paused and slightly yawnedand in the manner of elderly people
began to cool from his ardour for the undertaking now that it came
to the point. 'Butreallyit is hardly worth while' he said.

'O papa!' said Elfridewith much disappointment. 'You said you
wouldand now you won't. That is not fair!'

'But how can we send it if we don't know whom to send it to?'

'If you really want to send such a thing it can easily be done'
said Mrs. Swancourtcoming to her step-daughter's rescue. 'An
envelope addressedTo the Critic of THE COURT OF KELLYON CASTLE,
care of the Editor of the PRESENT,would find him.'

'YesI suppose it would.'

'Why not write your answer yourselfElfride?' Mrs. Swancourt
inquired.

'I might' she said hesitatingly; 'and send it anonymously: that
would be treating him as he has treated me.'

'No use in the world!'


'But I don't like to let him know my exact name. Suppose I put my
initials only? The less you are known the more you are thought
of.'

'Yes; you might do that.'

Elfride set to work there and then. Her one desire for the last
fortnight seemed likely to be realized. As happens with sensitive
and secluded mindsa continual dwelling upon the subject had
magnified to colossal proportions the space she assumed herself to
occupy or to have occupied in the occult critic's mind. At noon
and at night she had been pestering herself with endeavours to
perceive more distinctly his conception of her as a woman apart
from an author: whether he really despised her; whether he thought
more or less of her than of ordinary young women who never
ventured into the fire of criticism at all. Now she would have
the satisfaction of feeling that at any rate he knew her true
intent in crossing his pathand annoying him so by her
performanceand be taught perhaps to despise it a little less.

Four days later an envelopedirected to Miss Swancourt in a
strange handmade its appearance from the post-bag.

'0h' said Elfrideher heart sinking within her. 'Can it be from
that man--a lecture for impertinence? And actually one for Mrs.
Swancourt in the same hand-writing!' She feared to open hers.
'Yet how can he know my name? No; it is somebody else.'

'Nonsense!' said her father grimly. 'You sent your initialsand
the Directory was available. Though he wouldn't have taken the
trouble to look there unless he had been thoroughly savage with
you. I thought you wrote with rather more asperity than simple
literary discussion required.' This timely clause was introduced
to save the character of the vicar's judgment under any issue of
affairs.

'Wellhere I go' said Elfridedesperately tearing open the
seal.

'To be sureof course' exclaimed Mrs. Swancourt; and looking up
from her own letter. 'ChristopherI quite forgot to tell you
when I mentioned that I had seen my distant relativeHarry
Knightthat I invited him here for whatever length of time he
could spare. And now he says he can come any day in August.'

'Writeand say the first of the month' replied the
indiscriminate vicar.

She read om 'Goodness me--and that isn't all. He is actually the
reviewer of Elfride's book. How absurdto be sure! I had no idea
he reviewed novels or had anything to do with the PRESENT. He is
a barrister--and I thought he only wrote in the Quarterlies. Why
Elfrideyou have brought about an odd entanglement! What does he
say to you?'

Elfride had put down her letter with a dissatisfied flush on her
face. 'I don't know. The idea of his knowing my name and all
about me!...Whyhe says nothing particularonly this-


'"MY DEAR MADAM--Though I am sorry that my remarks should have
seemed harsh to youit is a pleasure to find that they have been
the means of bringing forth such an ingeniously argued reply.


Unfortunatelyit is so long since I wrote my reviewthat my
memory does not serve me sufficiently to say a single word in my
defenceeven supposing there remains one to be saidwhich is
doubtful. Youwill find from a letter I have written to Mrs.
Swancourtthat we are not such strangers to each other as we have
been imagining. PossiblyI may have the pleasure of seeing you
soonwhen any argument you choose to advance shall receive all
the attention it deserves."

'That is dim sarcasm--I know it is.'

'Oh noElfride.'

'And thenhis remarks didn't seem harsh--I mean I did not say
so.'

'He thinks you are in a frightful temper' said Mr. Swancourt
chuckling in undertones.

'And he will come and see meand find the authoress as
contemptible in speech as she has been impertinent in manner. I
do heartily wish I had never written a word to him!'

'Never mind' said Mrs. Swancourtalso laughing in low quiet
jerks; 'it will make the meeting such a comical affairand afford
splendid by-play for your father and myself. The idea of our
running our heads against Harry Knight all the time! I cannot get
over that.'

The vicar had immediately remembered the name to be that of
Stephen Smith's preceptor and friend; but having ceased to concern
himself in the matter he made no remark to that effect
consistently forbearing to allude to anything which could restore
recollection of the (to him) disagreeable mistake with regard to
poor Stephen's lineage and position. Elfride had of course
perceived the same thingwhich added to the complication of
relationship a mesh that her stepmother knew nothing of.

The identification scarcely heightened Knight's attractions now
though a twelvemonth ago she would only have cared to see him for
the interest he possessed as Stephen's friend. Fortunately for
Knight's adventsuch a reason for welcome had only begun to be
awkward to her at a time when the interest he had acquired on his
own account made it no longer necessary.

These coincidencesin common with all relating to himtended to
keep Elfride's mind upon the stretch concerning Knight. As was
her custom when upon the horns of a dilemmashe walked off by
herself among the laurel bushesand therestanding still and
splitting up a leaf without removing it from its stalkfetched
back recollections of Stephen's frequent words in praise of his
friendand wished she had listened more attentively. Thenstill
pulling the leafshe would blush at some fancied mortification
that would accrue to her from his words when they metin
consequence of her intrusivenessas she now considered itin
writing to him.

The next development of her meditations was the subject of what
this man's personal appearance might be--was he tall or short
dark or fairgay or grim? She would have asked Mrs. Swancourt but
for the risk she might thereby incur of some teasing remark being
returned. Ultimately Elfride would say'Ohwhat a plague that


reviewer is to me!' and turn her face to where she imagined India
layand murmur to herself'Ahmy little husbandwhat are you
doing now? Let me seewhere are you--southeastwhere? Behind
that hillever so far behind!'

Chapter XVII

'Her welcomespoke in faltering phrase.'

'There is Henry KnightI declare!' said Mrs. Swancourt one day.

They were gazing from the jutting angle of a wild enclosure not
far from The Cragswhich almost overhung the valley already
described as leading up from the sea and little port of Castle
Boterel. The stony escarpment upon which they stood had the
contour of a man's faceand it was covered with furze as with a
beard. People in the field above were preserved from an
accidental roll down these prominences and hollows by a hedge on
the very crestwhich was doing that kindly service for Elfride
and her mother now.

Scrambling higher into the hedge and stretching her neck further
over the furzeElfride beheld the individual signified. He was
walking leisurely along the little green path at the bottom
beside the streama satchel slung upon his left hipa stout
walking-stick in his handand a brown-holland sun-hat upon his
head. The satchel was worn and oldand the outer polished
surface of the leather was cracked and peeling off.

Knight having arrived over the hills to Castle Boterel upon the
top of a crazy omnibuspreferred to walk the remaining two miles
up the valleyleaving his luggage to be brought on.

Behind him wanderedhelter-skeltera boy of whom Knight had
briefly inquired the way to Endelstow; and by that natural law of
physics which causes lesser bodies to gravitate towards the
greaterthis boy had kept near to Knightand trotted like a
little dog close at his heelswhistling as he wentwith his eyes
fixed upon Knight's boots as they rose and fell.

When they had reached a point precisely opposite that in which
Mrs. and Miss Swancourt lay in ambushKnight stopped and turned
round.

'Look heremy boy' he said.

The boy parted his lipsopened his eyesand answered nothing.

'Here's sixpence for youon condition that you don't again come
within twenty yards of my heelsall the way up the valley.'

The boywho apparently had not known he had been looking at
Knight's heels at alltook the sixpence mechanicallyand Knight
went on againwrapt in meditation.

'A nice voice' Elfride thought; 'but what a singular temper!'

'Now we must get indoors before he ascends the slope' said Mrs.
Swancourt softly. And they went across by a short cut over a
stileentering the lawn by a side doorand so on to the house.


Mr. Swancourt had gone into the village with the curateand
Elfride felt too nervous to await their visitor's arrival in the
drawing-room with Mrs. Swancourt. So that when the elder lady
enteredElfride made some pretence of perceiving a new variety of
crimson geraniumand lingered behind among the flower beds.

There was nothing gained by thisafter allshe thought; and a
few minutes after boldly came into the house by the glass sidedoor.
She walked along the corridorand entered the drawingroom.
Nobody was there.

A window at the angle of the room opened directly into an
octagonal conservatoryenclosing the corner of the building.
From the conservatory came voices in conversation--Mrs.
Swancourt's and the stranger's.

She had expected him to talk brilliantly. To her surprise he was
asking questions in quite a learner's manneron subjects
connected with the flowers and shrubs that she had known for
years. When after the lapse of a few minutes he spoke at some
lengthshe considered there was a hard square decisiveness in the
shape of his sentencesas ifunlike her own and Stephen'sthey
were not there and then newly constructedbut were drawn forth
from a large store ready-made. They were now approaching the
window to come in again.

'That is a flesh-coloured variety' said Mrs. Swancourt. 'But
oleandersthough they are such bulky shrubsare so very easily
wounded as to be unprunable--giants with the sensitiveness of
young ladies. Ohhere is Elfride!'

Elfride looked as guilty and crestfallen as Lady Teazle at the
dropping of the screen. Mrs. Swancourt presented him half
comicallyand Knight in a minute or two placed himself beside the
young lady.

A complexity of instincts checked Elfride's conventional smiles of
complaisance and hospitality; andto make her still less
comfortableMrs. Swancourt immediately afterwards left them
together to seek her husband. Mr. Knighthoweverdid not seem
at all incommoded by his feelingsand he said with light
easefulness:

'SoMiss SwancourtI have met you at last. You escaped me by a
few minutes only when we were in London.'

'Yes. I found that you had seen Mrs. Swancourt.'

'And now reviewer and reviewed are face to face' he added
unconcernedly.

'Yes: though the fact of your being a relation of Mrs. Swancourt's
takes off the edge of it. It was strange that you should be one
of her family all the time.' Elfride began to recover herself now
and to look into Knight's face. 'I was merely anxious to let you
know my REAL meaning in writing the book--extremely anxious.'

'I can quite understand the wish; and I was gratified that my
remarks should have reached home. They very seldom doI am
afraid.'

Elfride drew herself in. Here he wassticking to his opinions as
firmly as if friendship and politeness did not in the least
require an immediate renunciation of them.


'You made me very uneasy and sorry by writing such things!' she
murmuredsuddenly dropping the mere cacueterie of a fashionable
first introductionand speaking with some of the dudgeon of a
child towards a severe schoolmaster.

'That is rather the object of honest critics in such a case. Not
to cause unnecessary sorrowbut: "To make you sorry after a
proper mannerthat ye may receive damage by us in nothing as a
powerful pen once wrote to the Gentiles. Are you going to write
another romance?'

'Write another?' she said. 'That somebody may pen a condemnation
and nail't wi' Scripture" againas you do nowMr. Knight?'

'You may do better next time' he said placidly: 'I think you
will. But I would advise you to confine yourself to domestic
scenes.'

'Thank you. But never again!'

'Wellyou may be right. That a young woman has taken to writing
is not by any means the best thing to hear about her.'

'What is the best?'

'I prefer not to say.'

'Do you know? Thendo tell meplease.'

'Well'--(Knight was evidently changing his meaning)--'I suppose to
hear that she has married.'

Elfride hesitated. 'And what when she has been married?' she said
at lastpartly in order to withdraw her own person from the
argument.

'Then to hear no more about her. It is as Smeaton said of his
lighthouse: her greatest real praisewhen the novelty of her
inauguration has worn offis that nothing happens to keep the
talk of her alive.'

'YesI see' said Elfride softly and thoughtfully. 'But of
course it is different quite with men. Why don't you write
novelsMr. Knight?'

'Because I couldn't write one that would interest anybody.'

'Why?'

'For several reasons. It requires a judicious omission of your
real thoughts to make a novel popularfor one thing.'

'Is that really necessary? WellI am sure you could learn to do
that with practice' said Elfride with an ex-cathedra airas
became a person who spoke from experience in the art. 'You would
make a great name for certain' she continued.

'So many people make a name nowadaysthat it is more
distinguished to remain in obscurity.'

'Tell me seriously--apart from the subject--why don't you write a
volume instead of loose articles?' she insisted.


'Since you are pleased to make me talk of myselfI will tell you
seriously' said Knightnot less amused at this catechism by his
young friend than he was interested in her appearance. 'As I have
impliedI have not the wish. And if I had the wishI could not
now concentrate sufficiently. We all have only our one cruse of
energy given us to make the best of. And where that energy has
been leaked away week by weekquarter by quarteras mine has for
the last nine or ten yearsthere is not enough dammed back behind
the mill at any given period to supply the force a complete book
on any subject requires. Then there is the self-confidence and
waiting power. Where quick results have grown customarythey are
fatal to a lively faith in the future.'

'YesI comprehend; and so you choose to write in fragments?'

'NoI don't choose to do it in the sense you mean; choosing from
a whole world of professionsall possible. It was by the
constraint of accident merely. Not that I object to the
accident.'

'Why don't you object--I meanwhy do you feel so quiet about
things?' Elfride was half afraid to question him sobut her
intense curiosity to see what the inside of literary Mr. Knight
was likekept her going on.

Knight certainly did not mind being frank with her. Instances of
this trait in men who are not without feelingbut are reticent
from habitmay be recalled by all of us. When they find a
listener who can by no possibility make use of themrival them
or condemn themreserved and even suspicious men of the world
become frankkeenly enjoying the inner side of their frankness.

'Why I don't mind the accidental constraint' he replied'is
becausein making beginningsa chance limitation of direction is
often better than absolute freedom.'

'I see--that isI should if I quite understood what all those
generalities mean.'

'Whythis: That an arbitrary foundation for one's workwhich no
length of thought can alterleaves the attention free to fix
itself on the work itselfand make the best of it.'

'Lateral compression forcing altitudeas would be said in that
tongue' she said mischievously. 'And I suppose where no limit
existsas in the case of a rich man with a wide taste who wants
to do somethingit will be better to choose a limit capriciously
than to have none.'

'Yes' he said meditatively. 'I can go as far as that.'

'Well' resumed Elfride'I think it better for a man's nature if
he does nothing in particular.'

'There is such a case as being obliged to.'

'Yesyes; I was speaking of when you are not obliged for any
other reason than delight in the prospect of fame. I have thought
many times lately that a thin widespread happinesscommencing
nowand of a piece with the days of your lifeis preferable to
an anticipated heap far away in the futureand none now.'

'Whythat's the very thing I said just now as being the principle
of all ephemeral doers like myself.'


'OhI am sorry to have parodied you' she said with some
confusion. 'Yesof course. That is what you meant about not
trying to be famous.' And she addedwith the quickness of
conviction characteristic of her mind: 'There is much littleness
in trying to be great. A man must think a good deal of himself
and be conceited enough to believe in himselfbefore he tries at
all.'

'But it is soon enough to say there is harm in a man's thinking a
good deal of himself when it is proved he has been thinking wrong
and too soon then sometimes. Besideswe should not conclude that
a man who strives earnestly for success does so with a strong
sense of his own merit. He may see how little success has to do
with meritand his motive may be his very humility.'

This manner of treating her rather provoked Elfride. No sooner
did she agree with him than he ceased to seem to wish itand took
the other side. 'Ah' she thought inwardly'I shall have nothing
to do with a man of this kindthough he is our visitor.'

'I think you will find' resumed Knightpursuing the conversation
more for the sake of finishing off his thoughts on the subject
than for engaging her attention'that in actual life it is merely
a matter of instinct with men--this trying to push on. They awake
to a recognition that they havewithout premeditationbegun to
try a littleand they say to themselvesSince I have tried thus
much, I will try a little more.They go on because they have
begun.'

Elfridein her turnwas not particularly attending to his words
at this moment. She hadunconsciously to herselfa way of
seizing any point in the remarks of an interlocutor which
interested herand dwelling upon itand thinking thoughts of her
own thereupontotally oblivious of all that he might say in
continuation. On such occasions she artlessly surveyed the person
speaking; and then there was a time for a painter. Her eyes
seemed to look at youand past youas you were theninto your
future; and past your future into your eternity--not reading it
but gazing in an unusedunconscious way--her mind still clinging
to its original thought.

This is how she was looking at Knight.

Suddenly Elfride became conscious of what she was doingand was
painfully confused.

'What were you so intent upon in me?' he inquired.

'As far as I was thinking of you at allI was thinking how clever
you are' she saidwith a want of premeditation that was
startling in its honesty and simplicity.

Feeling restless now that she had so unwittingly spokenshe arose
and stepped to the windowhaving heard the voices of her father
and Mrs. Swancourt coming up below the terrace. 'Here they are'
she saidgoing out. Knight walked out upon the lawn behind her.
She stood upon the edge of the terraceclose to the stone
balustradeand looked towards the sunhanging over a glade just
now fair as Tempe's valeup which her father was walking.

Knight could not help looking at her. The sun was within ten
degrees of the horizonand its warm light flooded her face and
heightened the bright rose colour of her cheeks to a vermilion


redtheir moderate pink hue being only seen in its natural tone
where the cheek curved round into shadow. The ends of her hanging
hair softly dragged themselves backwards and forwards upon her
shoulder as each faint breeze thrust against or relinquished it.
Fringes and ribbons of her dressmoved by the same breezelicked
like tongues upon the parts around themand fluttering forward
from shady folds caught likewise their share of the lustrous
orange glow.

Mr. Swancourt shouted out a welcome to Knight from a distance of
about thirty yardsand after a few preliminary words proceeded to
a conversation of deep earnestness on Knight's fine old family
nameand theories as to lineage and intermarriage connected
therewith. Knight's portmanteau having in the meantime arrived
they soon retired to prepare for dinnerwhich had been postponed
two hours later than the usual time of that meal.

An arrival was an event in the life of Elfridenow that they were
again in the countryand that of Knight necessarily an engrossing
one. And that evening she went to bed for the first time without
thinking of Stephen at all.

Chapter XVIII

'He heard her musical pants.'

The old tower of West Endelstow Church had reached the last weeks
of its existence. It was to be replaced by a new one from the
designs of Mr. Hewbythe architect who had sent down Stephen.
Planks and poles had arrived in the churchyardiron bars had been
thrust into the venerable crack extending down the belfry wall to
the foundationthe bells had been taken downthe owls had
forsaken this home of their forefathersand six iconoclasts in
white fustianto whom a cracked edifice was a species of Mumbo
Jumbohad taken lodgings in the village previous to beginning the
actual removal of the stones.

This was the day after Knight's arrival. To enjoy for the last
time the prospect seaward from the summitthe vicarMrs.
SwancourtKnightand Elfrideall ascended the winding turret--
Mr. Swancourt stepping forward with many loud breathshis wife
struggling along silentlybut suffering none the less. They had
hardly reached the top when a large lurid cloudpalpably a
reservoir of rainthunderand lightningwas seen to be
advancing overhead from the north.

The two cautious elders suggested an immediate returnand
proceeded to put it in practice as regarded themselves.

'Dear meI wish I had not come up' exclaimed Mrs. Swancourt.

'We shall be slower than you two in going down' the vicar said
over his shoulder'and sodon't you start till we are nearly at
the bottomor you will run over us and break our necks somewhere
in the darkness of the turret.'

Accordingly Elfride and Knight waited on the leads till the
staircase should be clear. Knight was not in a talkative mood
that morning. Elfride was rather wilfulby reason of his
inattentionwhich she privately set down to his thinking her not
worth talking to. Whilst Knight stood watching the rise of the


cloudshe sauntered to the other side of the towerand there
remembered a giddy feat she had performed the year before. It was
to walk round upon the parapet of the tower--which was quite
without battlement or pinnacleand presented a smooth flat
surface about two feet wideforming a pathway on all the four
sides. Without reflecting in the least upon what she was doing
she now stepped upon the parapet in the old wayand began walking
along.

'We are downcousin Henry' cried Mrs. Swancourt up the turret.
'Follow us when you like.'

Knight turned and saw Elfride beginning her elevated promenade.
His face flushed with mingled concern and anger at her rashness.

'I certainly gave you credit for more common sense' he said.

She reddened a little and walked on.

'Miss SwancourtI insist upon your coming down' he exclaimed.

'I will in a minute. I am safe enough. I have done it often.'

At that momentby reason of a slight perturbation his words had
caused in herElfride's foot caught itself in a little tuft of
grass growing in a joint of the stone-workand she almost lost
her balance. Knight sprang forward with a face of horror. By
what seemed the special interposition of a considerate Providence
she tottered to the inner edge of the parapet instead of to the
outerand reeled over upon the lead roof two or three feet below
the wall.

Knight seized her as in a viceand he saidpanting'That ever I
should have met a woman fool enough to do a thing of that kind!
Good Godyou ought to be ashamed of yourself!'

The close proximity of the Shadow of Death had made her sick and
pale as a corpse before he spoke. Already lowered to that state
his words completely over-powered herand she swooned away as he
held her.

Elfride's eyes were not closed for more than forty seconds. She
opened themand remembered the position instantly. His face had
altered its expression from stern anger to pity. But his severe
remarks had rather frightened herand she struggled to be free.

'If you can standof course you may' he saidand loosened his
arms. 'I hardly know whether most to laugh at your freak or to
chide you for its folly.'

She immediately sank upon the lead-work. Knight lifted her again.
'Are you hurt?' he said.

She murmured an incoherent expressionand tried to smile; saying
with a fitful aversion of her face'I am only frightened. Put me
downdo put me down!'

'But you can't walk' said Knight.

'You don't know that; how can you? I am only frightenedI tell
you' she answered petulantlyand raised her hand to her
forehead. Knight then saw that she was bleeding from a severe cut
in her wristapparently where it had descended upon a salient
corner of the lead-work. Elfridetooseemed to perceive and


feel this now for the first timeand for a minute nearly lost
consciousness again. Knight rapidly bound his handkerchief round
the placeand to add to the complicationthe thundercloud he had
been watching began to shed some heavy drops of rain. Knight
looked up and saw the vicar striding towards the houseand Mrs.
Swancourt waddling beside him like a hard-driven duck.

'As you are so faintit will be much better to let me carry you
down' said Knight; 'or at any rate inside out of the rain.' But
her objection to be lifted made it impossible for him to support
her for more than five steps.

'This is follygreat folly' he exclaimedsetting her down.

'Indeed!' she murmuredwith tears in her eyes. 'I say I will not
be carriedand you say this is folly!'

'So it is.'

'Noit isn't!'

'It is follyI think. At any ratethe origin of it all is.'

'I don't agree to it. And you needn't get so angry with me; I am
not worth it.'

'Indeed you are. You are worth the enmity of princesas was said
of such another. Nowthenwill you clasp your hands behind my
neckthat I may carry you down without hurting you?'

'Nono.'

'You had betteror I shall foreclose.'

'What's that!'

'Deprive you of your chance.'

Elfride gave a little toss.

'Nowdon't writhe so when I attempt to carry you.'

'I can't help it.'

'Then submit quietly.'

'I don't care. I don't care' she murmured in languid tones and
with closed eyes.

He took her into his armsentered the turretand with slow and
cautious steps descended round and round. Thenwith the
gentleness of a nursing motherhe attended to the cut on her arm.
During his progress through the operations of wiping it and
binding it up anewher face changed its aspect from pained
indifference to something like bashful interestinterspersed with
small tremors and shudders of a trifling kind.

In the centre of each pale cheek a small red spot the size of a
wafer had now made its appearanceand continued to grow larger.
Elfride momentarily expected a recurrence to the lecture on her
foolishnessbut Knight said no more than this-


'Promise me NEVER to walk on that parapet again.'


'It will be pulled down soon: so I do.' In a few minutes she
continued in a lower toneand seriously'You are familiar of
courseas everybody iswith those strange sensations we
sometimes havethat our life for the moment exists in duplicate.'

'That we have lived through that moment before?'

'Or shall again. WellI felt on the tower that something similar
to that scene is again to be common to us both.'

'God forbid!' said Knight. 'Promise me that you will never again
walk on any such place on any consideration.'

'I do.'

'That such a thing has not been beforewe know. That it shall
not be againyou vow. Therefore think no more of such a foolish
fancy.'

There had fallen a great deal of rainbut unaccompanied by
lightning. A few minutes longerand the storm had ceased.

'Nowtake my armplease.'

'Oh noit is not necessary.' This relapse into wilfulness was
because he had again connected the epithet foolish with her.

'Nonsense: it is quite necessary; it will rain again directlyand
you are not half recovered.' And without more ado Knight took her
handdrew it under his armand held it there so firmly that she
could not have removed it without a struggle. Feeling like a colt
in a halter for the first timeat thus being led alongyet
afraid to be angryit was to her great relief that she saw the
carriage coming round the corner to fetch them.

Her fall upon the roof was necessarily explained to some extent
upon their entering the house; but both forbore to mention a word
of what she had been doing to cause such an accident. During the
remainder of the afternoon Elfride was invisible; but at dinnertime
she appeared as bright as ever.

In the drawing-roomafter having been exclusively engaged with
Mr. and Mrs. Swancourt through the intervening hourKnight again
found himself thrown with Elfride. She had been looking over a
chess problem in one of the illustrated periodicals.

'You like chessMiss Swancourt?'

'Yes. It is my favourite scientific game; indeedexcludes every
other. Do you play?'

'I have played; though not lately.'

'Challenge himElfride' said the vicar heartily. 'She plays
very well for a ladyMr. Knight.'

'Shall we play?' asked Elfride tentatively.

'Ohcertainly. I shall be delighted.'

The game began. Mr. Swancourt had forgotten a similar performance
with Stephen Smith the year before. Elfride had not; but she had
begun to take for her maxim the undoubted truth that the necessity
of continuing faithful to Stephenwithout suspiciondictated a


fickle behaviour almost as imperatively as fickleness itself; a
facthoweverwhich would give a startling advantage to the
latter quality should it ever appear.

Knightby one of those inexcusable oversights which will
sometimes afflict the best of playersplaced his rook in the arms
of one of her pawns. It was her first advantage. She looked
triumphant--even ruthless.

'By George! what was I thinking of?' said Knight quietly; and then
dismissed all concern at his accident.

'Club laws we'll havewon't weMr. Knight?' said Elfride
suasively.

'Oh yescertainly' said Mr. Knighta thoughthoweverjust
occurring to his mindthat he had two or three times allowed her
to replace a man on her religiously assuring him that such a move
was an absolute blunder.

She immediately took up the unfortunate rook and the contest
proceededElfride having now rather the better of the game. Then
he won the exchangeregained his positionand began to press her
hard. Elfride grew flurriedand placed her queen on his
remaining rook's file.

'There--how stupid! Upon my wordI did not see your rook. Of
course nobody but a fool would have put a queen there knowingly!'

She spoke excitedlyhalf expecting her antagonist to give her
back the move.

'Nobodyof course' said Knight serenelyand stretched out his
hand towards his royal victim.

'It is not very pleasant to have it taken advantage ofthen' she
said with some vexation.

'Club lawsI think you said?' returned Knight blandlyand
mercilessly appropriating the queen.

She was on the brink of poutingbut was ashamed to show it; tears
almost stood in her eyes. She had been trying so hard--so very
hard--thinking and thinking till her brain was in a whirl; and it
seemed so heartless of him to treat her soafter all.

'I think it is----' she began.

'What?'

--'Unkind to take advantage of a pure mistake I make in that way.'

'I lost my rook by even a purer mistake' said the enemy in an
inexorable tonewithout lifting his eyes.

'Yesbut----' Howeveras his logic was absolutely unanswerable
she merely registered a protest. 'I cannot endure those coldblooded
ways of clubs and professional playerslike Staunton and
Morphy. Just as if it really mattered whether you have raised
your fingers from a man or no!'

Knight smiled as pitilessly as beforeand they went on in
silence.


'Checkmate' said Knight.

'Another game' said Elfride peremptorilyand looking very warm.

'With all my heart' said Knight.

'Checkmate' said Knight again at the end of forty minutes.

'Another game' she returned resolutely.

'I'll give you the odds of a bishop' Knight said to her kindly.

'Nothank you' Elfride replied in a tone intended for courteous
indifference; butas a factvery cavalier indeed.

'Checkmate' said her opponent without the least emotion.

Ohthe difference between Elfride's condition of mind nowand
when she purposely made blunders that Stephen Smith might win!

It was bedtime. Her mind as distracted as if it would throb
itself out of her headshe went off to her chamberfull of
mortification at being beaten time after time when she herself was
the aggressor. Having for two or three years enjoyed the
reputation throughout the globe of her father's brain--which
almost constituted her entire world--of being an excellent player
this fiasco was intolerable; for unfortunately the person most
dogged in the belief in a false reputation is always that onethe
possessorwho has the best means of knowing that it is not true.

In bed no sleep came to soothe her; that gentle thing being the
very middle-of-summer friend in this respect of flying away at the
merest troublous cloud. After lying awake till two o'clock an
idea seemed to strike her. She softly arosegot a lightand
fetched a Chess Praxis from the library. Returning and sitting up
in bedshe diligently studied the volume till the clock struck
fiveand her eyelids felt thick and heavy. She then extinguished
the light and lay down again.

'You look paleElfride' said Mrs. Swancourt the next morning at
breakfast. 'Isn't shecousin Harry?'

A young girl who is scarcely ill at all can hardly help becoming
so when regarded as such by all eyes turning upon her at the table
in obedience to some remark. Everybody looked at Elfride. She
certainly was pale.

'Am I pale?' she said with a faint smile. 'I did not sleep much.
I could not get rid of armies of bishops and knightstry how I
would.'

'Chess is a bad thing just before bedtime; especially for
excitable people like yourselfdear. Don't ever play late
again.'

'I'll play early instead. Cousin Knight' she said in imitation
of Mrs. Swancourt'will you oblige me in something?'

'Even to half my kingdom.'

'Wellit is to play one game more.'

'When?'


'Nowinstantly; the moment we have breakfasted.'

'NonsenseElfride' said her father. 'Making yourself a slave to
the game like that.'

'But I want topapa! HonestlyI am restless at having been so
ignominiously overcome. And Mr. Knight doesn't mind. So what
harm can there be?'

'Let us playby all meansif you wish it' said Knight.

Sowhen breakfast was overthe combatants withdrew to the quiet
of the libraryand the door was closed. Elfride seemed to have
an idea that her conduct was rather ill-regulated and startlingly
free from conventional restraint. And worseshe fancied upon
Knight's face a slightly amused look at her proceedings.

'You think me foolishI suppose' she said recklessly; 'but I
want to do my very best just onceand see whether I can overcome
you.'

'Certainly: nothing more natural. Though I am afraid it is not
the plan adopted by women of the world after a defeat.'

'Whypray?'

'Because they know that as good as overcoming is skill in effacing
recollection of being overcomeand turn their attention to that
entirely.'

'I am wrong againof course.'

'Perhaps your wrong is more pleasing than their right.'

'I don't quite know whether you mean thator whether you are
laughing at me' she saidlooking doubtingly at himyet
inclining to accept the more flattering interpretation. 'I am
almost sure you think it vanity in me to think I am a match for
you. Wellif you doI say that vanity is no crime in such a
case.'

'Wellperhaps not. Though it is hardly a virtue.'

'Oh yesin battle! Nelson's bravery lay in his vanity.'

'Indeed! Then so did his death.'

Oh nono! For it is written in the book of the prophet
Shakespeare-


Fear and be slain? no worse can come to fight;
And fight and die, is death destroying death!


And down they satand the contest beganElfride having the first
move. The game progressed. Elfride's heart beat so violently
that she could not sit still. Her dread was lest he should hear
it. And he did discover it at last--some flowers upon the table
being set throbbing by its pulsations.

'I think we had better give over' said Knightlooking at her
gently. 'It is too much for youI know. Let us write down the
positionand finish another time.'


'Noplease not' she implored. 'I should not rest if I did not
know the result at once. It is your move.'

Ten minutes passed.

She started up suddenly. 'I know what you are doing?' she cried
an angry colour upon her cheeksand her eyes indignant. 'You
were thinking of letting me win to please me!'

'I don't mind owning that I was' Knight responded phlegmatically
and appearing all the more so by contrast with her own turmoil.

'But you must not! I won't have it.'

'Very well.'

'Nothat will not do; I insist that you promise not to do any

such absurd thing. It is insulting me!'
'Very wellmadam. I won't do any such absurd thing. You shall
not win.'

'That is to be proved!' she returned proudly; and the play went
on.

Nothing is now heard but the ticking of a quaint old timepiece on
the summit of a bookcase. Ten minutes pass; he captures her
knight; she takes his knightand looks a very Rhadamanthus.

More minutes tick away; she takes his pawn and has the advantage
showing her sense of it rather prominently.

Five minutes more: he takes her bishop: she brings things even by
taking his knight.

Three minutes: she looks boldand takes his queen: he looks
placidand takes hers.

Eight or ten minutes pass: he takes a pawn; she utters a little
pooh! but not the ghost of a pawn can she take in retaliation.

Ten minutes pass: he takes another pawn and says'Check!' She
flushesextricates herself by capturing his bishopand looks
triumphant. He immediately takes her bishop: she looks surprised.

Five minutes longer: she makes a dash and takes his only remaining
bishop; he replies by taking her only remaining knight.

Two minutes: he gives check; her mind is now in a painful state of
tensionand she shades her face with her hand.

Yet a few minutes more: he takes her rook and checks again. She
literally trembles now lest an artful surprise she has in store
for him shall be anticipated by the artful surprise he evidently
has in store for her.

Five minutes: 'Checkmate in two moves!' exclaims Elfride.

'If you can' says Knight.

'OhI have miscalculated; that is cruel!'

'Checkmate' says Knight; and the victory is won.


Elfride arose and turned away without letting him see her face.
Once in the hall she ran upstairs and into her roomand flung
herself down upon her bedweeping bitterly.

'Where is Elfride?' said her father at luncheon.

Knight listened anxiously for the answer. He had been hoping to
see her again before this time.

'She isn't wellsir' was the reply.

Mrs. Swancourt rose and left the roomgoing upstairs to Elfride's
apartment.

At the door was Unitywho occupied in the new establishment a
position between young lady's maid and middle-housemaid.

'She is sound asleepma'am' Unity whispered.

Mrs. Swancourt opened the door. Elfride was lying full-dressed on
the bedher face hot and redher arms thrown abroad. At
intervals of a minute she tossed restlessly from side to sideand
indistinctly moaned words used in the game of chess.

Mrs. Swancourt had a turn for doctoringand felt her pulse. It
was twanging like a harp-stringat the rate of nearly a hundred
and fifty a minute. Softly moving the sleeping girl to a little
less cramped positionshe went downstairs again.

'She is asleep now' said Mrs. Swancourt. 'She does not seem very
well. Cousin Knightwhat were you thinking of? her tender brain
won't bear cudgelling like your great head. You should have
strictly forbidden her to play again.'

In truththe essayist's experience of the nature of young women
was far less extensive than his abstract knowledge of them led
himself and others to believe. He could pack them into sentences
like a workmanbut practically was nowhere.

'I am indeed sorry' said Knightfeeling even more than he
expressed. 'But surelythe young lady knows best what is good
for her!'

'Bless youthat's just what she doesn't know. She never thinks
of such thingsdoes sheChristopher? Her father and I have to
command her and keep her in orderas you would a child. She will
say things worthy of a French epigrammatistand act like a robin
in a greenhouse. But I think we will send for Dr. Granson--there
can be no harm.'

A man was straightway despatched on horseback to Castle Boterel
and the gentleman known as Dr. Granson came in the course of the
afternoon. He pronounced her nervous system to be in a decided
state of disorder; forwarded some soothing draughtand gave
orders that on no account whatever was she to play chess again.

The next morning Knightmuch vexed with himselfwaited with a
curiously compounded feeling for her entry to breakfast. The
women servants came in to prayers at irregular intervalsand as
each enteredhe could notto save his lifeavoid turning his
head with the hope that she might be Elfride. Mr. Swancourt began
reading without waiting for her. Then somebody glided in


noiselessly; Knight softly glanced up: it was only the little
kitchen-maid. Knight thought reading prayers a bore.

He went out aloneand for almost the first time failed to
recognize that holding converse with Nature's charms was not
solitude. On nearing the house again he perceived his young
friend crossing a slope by a path which ran into the one he was
following in the angle of the field. Here they met. Elfride was
at once exultant and abashed: coming into his presence had upon
her the effect of entering a cathedral.

Knight had his note-book in his handand hadin factbeen in
the very act of writing therein when they came in view of each
other. He left off in the midst of a sentenceand proceeded to
inquire warmly concerning her state of health. She said she was
perfectly welland indeed had never looked better. Her health
was as inconsequent as her actions. Her lips were redWITHOUT
the polish that cherries haveand their redness margined with the
white skin in a clearly defined linewhich had nothing of jagged
confusion in it. Altogether she stood as the last person in the
world to be knocked over by a game of chessbecause too
ephemeral-looking to play one.

'Are you taking notes?' she inquired with an alacrity plainly
arising less from interest in the subject than from a wish to
divert his thoughts from herself.

'Yes; I was making an entry. And with your permission I will
complete it.' Knight then stood still and wrote. Elfride remained
beside him a momentand afterwards walked on.

'I should like to see all the secrets that are in that book' she
gaily flung back to him over her shoulder.

'I don't think you would find much to interest you.'

'I know I should.'

'Then of course I have no more to say.'

'But I would ask this question first. Is it a book of mere facts
concerning journeys and expenditureand so onor a book of
thoughts?'

'Wellto tell the truthit is not exactly either. It consists
for the most part of jottings for articles and essaysdisjointed
and disconnectedof no possible interest to anybody but myself.'

'It containsI supposeyour developed thoughts in embryo?'

'Yes.'

'If they are interesting when enlarged to the size of an article
what must they be in their concentrated form? Pure rectified
spiritabove proof; before it is lowered to be fit for human
consumption: "words that burn" indeed.'

'Rather like a balloon before it is inflated: flabbyshapeless
dead. You could hardly read them.'

'May I try?' she said coaxingly. 'I wrote my poor romance in that
way--I mean in bitsout of doors--and I should like to see
whether your way of entering things is the same as mine.'


'Reallythat's rather an awkward request. I suppose I can hardly
refuse now you have asked so directly; but----'

'You think me ill-mannered in asking. But does not this justify
me--your writing in my presenceMr. Knight? If I had lighted upon
your book by chanceit would have been different; but you stand
before meand sayExcuse me,without caring whether I do or
notand write onand then tell me they are not private facts but
public ideas.'

'Very wellMiss Swancourt. If you really must seethe
consequences be upon your own head. Remembermy advice to you is
to leave my book alone.'

'But with that caution I have your permission?'

'Yes.'

She hesitated a momentlooked at his hand containing the book
then laughedand saying'I must see it' withdrew it from his
fingers.

Knight rambled on towards the houseleaving her standing in the
path turning over the leaves. By the time he had reached the
wicket-gate he saw that she had movedand waited till she came
up.

Elfride had closed the note-bookand was carrying it disdainfully
by the corner between her finger and thumb; her face wore a
nettled look. She silently extended the volume towards him
raising her eyes no higher than her hand was lifted.

'Take it' said Elfride quickly. 'I don't want to read it.'

'Could you understand it?' said Knight.

'As far as I looked. But I didn't care to read much.'

'WhyMiss Swancourt?'

'Only because I didn't wish to--that's all.'

'I warned you that you might not.'

'Yesbut I never supposed you would have put me there.'

'Your name is not mentioned once within the four corners.'

'Not my name--I know that.'

'Nor your descriptionnor anything by which anybody would
recognize you.'

'Except myself. For what is this?' she exclaimedtaking it from
him and opening a page. 'August 7. That's the day before
yesterday. But I won't read it' Elfride saidclosing the book
again with pretty hauteur. 'Why should I? I had no business to
ask to see your hookand it serves me right.'

Knight hardly recollected what he had writtenand turned over the
book to see. He came to this:

'Aug. 7. Girl gets into her teensand her self-consciousness is
born. After a certain interval passed in infantine helplessness


it begins to act. Simpleyoungand inexperienced at first.
Persons of observation can tell to a nicety how old this
consciousness is by the skill it has acquired in the art necessary
to its success--the art of hiding itself. Generally begins career
by actions which are popularly termed showing-off. Method adopted
depends in each case upon the dispositionrankresidenceof the
young lady attempting it. Town-bred girl will utter some moral
paradox on fast menor love. Country miss adopts the more
material media of taking a ghastly fencewhistlingor making
your blood run cold by appearing to risk her neck. (MEM. On
Endelstow Tower.)

'An innocent vanity is of course the origin of these displays.
Look at me,say these youthful beginners in womanly artifice
without reflecting whether or not it be to their advantage to show
so very much of themselves. (Amplify and correct for paper on
Artless Arts.)'

'YesI remember now' said Knight. 'The notes were certainly
suggested by your manoeuvre on the church tower. But you must not
think too much of such random observations' he continued
encouraginglyas he noticed her injured looks. 'A mere fancy
passing through my head assumes a factitious importance to you
because it has been made permanent by being written down. All
mankind think thoughts as bad as those of people they most love on
earthbut such thoughts never getting embodied on paperit
becomes assumed that they never existed. I daresay that you
yourself have thought some disagreeable thing or other of me
which would seem just as bad as this if written. I challenge you
nowto tell me.'

'The worst thing I have thought of you?'

'Yes.'

'I must not.'

'Oh yes.'

'I thought you were rather round-shouldered.'

Knight looked slightly redder.

'And that there was a little bald spot on the top of your head.'

'Heh-heh! Two ineradicable defects' said Knightthere being a
faint ghastliness discernible in his laugh. 'They are much worse
in a lady's eye than being thought self-consciousI suppose.'

'Ahthat's very fine' she saidtoo inexperienced to perceive
her hitand hence not quite disposed to forgive his notes. 'You
alluded to me in that entry as if I were such a childtoo.
Everybody does that. I cannot understand it. I am quite a woman
you know. How old do you think I am?'

'How old? WhyseventeenI should say. All girls are seventeen.'

'You are wrong. I am nearly nineteen. Which class of women do
you like bestthose who seem youngeror those who seem older
than they are?'

'Off-hand I should be inclined to say those who seem older.'

So it was not Elfride's class.


'But it is well known' she said eagerlyand there was something
touching in the artless anxiety to be thought much of which she
revealed by her words'that the slower a nature is to develop
the richer the nature. Youths and girls who are men and women
before they come of age are nobodies by the time that backward
people have shown their full compass.'

'Yes' said Knight thoughtfully. 'There is really something in
that remark. But at the risk of offence I must remind you that
you there take it for granted that the woman behind her time at a
given age has not reached the end of her tether. Her backwardness
may be not because she is slow to developbut because she soon
exhausted her capacity for developing.'

Elfride looked disappointed. By this time they were indoors.
Mrs. Swancourtto whom match-making by any honest means was meat
and drinkhad now a little scheme of that nature concerning this
pair. The morning-roomin which they both expected to find her
was empty; the old lady havingfor the above reasonvacated it
by the second door as they entered by the first.

Knight went to the chimney-pieceand carelessly surveyed two
portraits on ivory.

'Though these pink ladies had very rudimentary featuresjudging
by what I see here' he observed'they had unquestionably
beautiful heads of hair.'

'Yes; and that is everything' said Elfridepossibly conscious of
her ownpossibly not.

'Not everything; though a great dealcertainly.'

'Which colour do you like best?' she ventured to ask.

'More depends on its abundance than on its colour.'

'Abundances being equalmay I inquire your favourite colour?'

'Dark.'

'I mean for women' she saidwith the minutest fall of
countenanceand a hope that she had been misunderstood.

'So do I' Knight replied.

It was impossible for any man not to know the colour of Elfride's
hair. In women who wear it plainly such a feature may be
overlooked by men not given to ocular intentness. But hers was
always in the way. You saw her hair as far as you could see her
sexand knew that it was the palest brown. She knew instantly
that Knightbeing perfectly aware of thishad an independent
standard of admiration in the matter.

Elfride was thoroughly vexed. She could not but be struck with
the honesty of his opinionsand the worst of it wasthat the
more they went against herthe more she respected them. And now
like a reckless gamblershe hazarded her last and best treasure.
Her eyes: they were her all now.

'What coloured eyes do you like bestMr. Knight?' she said
slowly.


'Honestlyor as a compliment?'

'Of course honestly; I don't want anybody's compliment!'

And yet Elfride knew otherwise: that a compliment or word of
approval from that man then would have been like a well to a
famished Arab.

'I prefer hazel' he said serenely.

She had played and lost again.

Chapter XIX

'Love was in the next degree.'

Knight had none of those light familiarities of speech whichby
judicious touches of epigrammatic flatteryobliterate a woman's
recollection of the speaker's abstract opinions. So no more was
said by either on the subject of haireyesor development.
Elfride's mind had been impregnated with sentiments of her own
smallness to an uncomfortable degree of distinctnessand her
discomfort was visible in her face. The whole tendency of the
conversation latterly had been to quietly but surely disparage
her; and she was fain to take Stephen into favour in self-defence.
He would not have been so unlovingshe saidas to admire an
idiosyncrasy and features different from her own. TrueStephen
had declared he loved her: Mr. Knight had never done anything of
the sort. Somehow this did not mend mattersand the sensation of
her smallness in Knight's eyes still remained. Had the position
been reversed--had Stephen loved her in spite of a differing
tasteand had Knight been indifferent in spite of her resemblance
to his idealit would have engendered far happier thoughts. As
matters stoodStephen's admiration might have its root in a
blindness the result of passion. Perhaps any keen man's judgment
was condemnatory of her.

During the remainder of Saturday they were more or less thrown
with their seniorsand no conversation arose which was
exclusively their own. When Elfride was in bed that night her
thoughts recurred to the same subject. At one moment she insisted
that it was ill-natured of him to speak so decisively as he had
done; the nextthat it was sterling honesty.

'Ahwhat a poor nobody I am!' she saidsighing. 'People like
himwho go about the great worlddon't care in the least what I
am like either in mood or feature.'

Perhaps a man who has got thoroughly into a woman's mind in this
manneris half way to her heart; the distance between those two
stations is proverbially short.

'And are you really going away this week?' said Mrs. Swancourt to
Knight on the following eveningwhich was Sunday.

They were all leisurely climbing the hill to the churchwhere a
last service was now to be held at the rather exceptional time of
evening instead of in the afternoonprevious to the demolition of
the ruinous portions.

'I am intending to cross to Cork from Bristol' returned Knight;


'and then I go on to Dublin.'

'Return this wayand stay a little longer with us' said the
vicar. 'A week is nothing. We have hardly been able to realize
your presence yet. I remember a story which----'

The vicar suddenly stopped. He had forgotten it was Sundayand
would probably have gone on in his week-day mode of thought had
not a turn in the breeze blown the skirt of his college gown
within the range of his visionand so reminded him. He at once
diverted the current of his narrative with the dexterity the
occasion demanded.

'The story of the Levite who journeyed to Bethlehem-judahfrom
which I took my text the Sunday before lastis quite to the
point' he continuedwith the pronunciation of a man whofar
from having intended to tell a week-day story a moment earlier
had thought of nothing but Sabbath matters for several weeks.
'What did he gain after all by his restlessness? Had he remained
in the city of the Jebusitesand not been so anxious for Gibeah
none of his troubles would have arisen.'

'But he had wasted five days already' said Knightclosing his
eyes to the vicar's commendable diversion. 'His fault lay in
beginning the tarrying system originally.'

'Truetrue; my illustration fails.'

'But not the hospitality which prompted the story.'

'So you are to come just the same' urged Mrs. Swancourtfor she
had seen an almost imperceptible fall of countenance in her
stepdaughter at Knight's announcement.

Knight half promised to call on his return journey; but the
uncertainty with which he spoke was quite enough to fill Elfride
with a regretful interest in all he did during the few remaining
hours. The curate having already officiated twice that day in the
two churchesMr. Swancourt had undertaken the whole of the
evening serviceand Knight read the lessons for him. The sun
streamed across from the dilapidated west windowand lighted all
the assembled worshippers with a golden glowKnight as he read
being illuminated by the same mellow lustre. Elfride at the organ
regarded him with a throbbing sadness of mood which was fed by a
sense of being far removed from his sphere. As he went
deliberately through the chapter appointed--a portion of the
history of Elijah--and ascended that magnificent climax of the
windthe earthquakethe fireand the still small voicehis
deep tones echoed past with such apparent disregard of her
existencethat his presence inspired her with a forlorn sense of
unapproachablenesswhich his absence would hardly have been able
to cause.

At the same timeturning her face for a moment to catch the glory
of the dying sun as it fell on his formher eyes were arrested by
the shape and aspect of a woman in the west gallery. It was the
bleak barren countenance of the widow Jethwaywhom Elfride had
not seen much of since the morning of her return with Stephen
Smith. Possessing the smallest of competenciesthis unhappy
woman appeared to spend her life in journeyings between Endelstow
Churchyard and that of a village near Southamptonwhere her
father and mother were laid.

She had not attended the service here for a considerable timeand


she now seemed to have a reason for her choice of seat. From the
gallery window the tomb of her son was plainly visible--standing
as the nearest object in a prospect which was closed outwardly by
the changeless horizon of the sea.

The streaming raystooflooded her facenow bent towards
Elfride with a hard and bitter expression that the solemnity of
the place raised to a tragic dignity it did not intrinsically
possess. The girl resumed her normal attitude with an added
disquiet.

Elfride's emotion was cumulativeand after a while would assert
itself on a sudden. A slight touch was enough to set it free--a
poema sunseta cunningly contrived chord of musica vague
imaginingbeing the usual accidents of its exhibition. The
longing for Knight's respectwhich was leading up to an incipient
yearning for his lovemade the present conjuncture a sufficient
one. Whilst kneeling down previous to leavingwhen the sunny
streaks had gone upward to the roofand the lower part of the
church was in soft shadowshe could not help thinking of
Coleridge's morbid poem 'The Three Graves' and shuddering as she
wondered if Mrs. Jethway were cursing hershe wept as if her
heart would break.

They came out of church just as the sun went downleaving the
landscape like a platform from which an eloquent speaker has
retiredand nothing remains for the audience to do but to rise
and go home. Mr. and Mrs. Swancourt went off in the carriage
Knight and Elfride preferring to walkas the skilful old
matchmaker had imagined. They descended the hill together.

'I liked your readingMr. Knight' Elfride presently found
herself saying. 'You read better than papa.'

'I will praise anybody that will praise me. You played
excellentlyMiss Swancourtand very correctly.'

'Correctly--yes.'

'It must be a great pleasure to you to take an active part in the
service.'

'I want to be able to play with more feeling. But I have not a
good selection of musicsacred or secular. I wish I had a nice
little music-library--well chosenand that the only new pieces
sent me were those of genuine merit.'

'I am glad to hear such a wish from you. It is extraordinary how
many women have no honest love of music as an end and not as a
meanseven leaving out those who have nothing in them. They
mostly like it for its accessories. I have never met a woman who
loves music as do ten or a dozen men I know.'

'How would you draw the line between women with something and
women with nothing in them?'

'Well' said Knightreflecting a moment'I mean by nothing in
them those who don't care about anything solid. This is an
instance: I knew a man who had a young friend in whom he was much
interested; in factthey were going to be married. She was
seemingly poeticaland he offered her a choice of two editions of
the British poetswhich she pretended to want badly. He said
Which of them would you like best for me to send?She saidA
pair of the prettiest earrings in Bond Street, if you don't mind,


would be nicer than either.Now I call her a girl with not much
in her but vanity; and so do youI daresay.'

'Oh yes' replied Elfride with an effort.

Happening to catch a glimpse of her face as she was speakingand
noticing that her attempt at heartiness was a miserable failure
he appeared to have misgivings.

'YouMiss Swancourtwould notunder such circumstanceshave
preferred the nicknacks?'

'NoI don't think I shouldindeed' she stammered.

'I'll put it to you' said the inflexible Knight. 'Which will you
have of these two things of about equal value--the well-chosen
little library of the best music you spoke of--bound in morocco
walnut caselock and key--or a pair of the very prettiest
earrings in Bond Street windows?'

'Of course the music' Elfride replied with forced earnestness.

'You are quite certain?' he said emphatically.

'Quite' she faltered; 'if I could for certain buy the earrings
afterwards.'

Knightsomewhat blamablykeenly enjoyed sparring with the
palpitating mobile creaturewhose excitable nature made any such
thing a species of cruelty.

He looked at her rather oddlyand said'Fie!'

'Forgive me' she saidlaughing a littlea little frightened
and blushing very deeply.

'AhMiss Elfiewhy didn't you say at firstas any firm woman
would have saidI am as bad as sheand shall choose the same?'

'I don't know' said Elfride wofullyand with a distressful
smile.

'I thought you were exceptionally musical?'

'So I amI think. But the test is so severe--quite painful.'

'I don't understand.'

'Music doesn't do any real goodor rather----'

'That IS a thing to sayMiss Swancourt! Whywhat----'

'You don't understand! you don't understand!'

'Whywhat conceivable use is there in jimcrack jewellery?'

'Nononono!' she cried petulantly; 'I didn't mean what you
think. I like the music bestonly I like----'

'Earrings better--own it!' he said in a teasing tone. 'WellI
think I should have had the moral courage to own it at once
without pretending to an elevation I could not reach.'

Like the French soldieryElfride was not brave when on the


defensive. So it was almost with tears in her eyes that she
answered desperately:

'My meaning isthat I like earrings best just nowbecause I lost
one of my prettiest pair last yearand papa said he would not buy
any moreor allow me to myselfbecause I was careless; and now I
wish I had some like them--that's what my meaning is--indeed it
isMr. Knight.'

'I am afraid I have been very harsh and rude' said Knightwith a
look of regret at seeing how disturbed she was. 'But seriously
if women only knew how they ruin their good looks by such
appurtenancesI am sure they would never want them.'

'They were lovelyand became me so!'

'Not if they were like the ordinary hideous things women stuff
their ears with nowadays--like the governor of a steam-engineor
a pair of scalesor gold gibbets and chainsand artists'
palettesand compensation pendulumsand Heaven knows what
besides.'

'No; they were not one of those things. So pretty--like this'
she said with eager animation. And she drew with the point of her
parasol an enlarged view of one of the lamented darlingsto a
scale that would have suited a giantess half-a-mile high.

'Yesvery pretty--very' said Knight dryly. 'How did you come to
lose such a precious pair of articles?'

'I only lost one--nobody ever loses both at the same time.'

She made this remark with embarrassmentand a nervous movement of
the fingers. Seeing that the loss occurred whilst Stephen Smith
was attempting to kiss her for the first time on the cliffher
confusion was hardly to be wondered at. The question had been
awkwardand received no direct answer.

Knight seemed not to notice her manner.

'Ohnobody ever loses both--I see. And certainly the fact that
it was a case of loss takes away all odour of vanity from your
choice.'

'As I never know whether you are in earnestI don't now' she
saidlooking up inquiringly at the hairy face of the oracle. And
coming gallantly to her own rescue'If I really seem vainit is
that I am only vain in my ways--not in my heart. The worst women
are those vain in their heartsand not in their ways.'

'An adroit distinction. Wellthey are certainly the more
objectionable of the two' said Knight.

'Is vanity a mortal or a venial sin? You know what life is: tell
me.'

'I am very far from knowing what life is. A just conception of
life is too large a thing to grasp during the short interval of
passing through it.'

'Will the fact of a woman being fond of jewellery be likely to
make her lifein its higher sensea failure?'

'Nobody's life is altogether a failure.'


'Wellyou know what I meaneven though my words are badly
selected and commonplace' she said impatiently. 'Because I utter
commonplace wordsyou must not suppose I think only commonplace
thoughts. My poor stock of words are like a limited number of
rough moulds I have to cast all my materials ingood and bad; and
the novelty or delicacy of the substance is often lost in the
coarse triteness of the form.'

'Very well; I'll believe that ingenious representation. As to the
subject in hand--lives which are failures--you need not trouble
yourself. Anybody's life may be just as romantic and strange and
interesting if he or she fails as if he or she succeed. All the
difference isthat the last chapter is wanting in the story. If
a man of power tries to do a great deedand just falls short of
it by an accident not his faultup to that time his history had
as much in it as that of a great man who has done his great deed.
It is whimsical of the world to hold that particulars of how a lad
went to school and so on should be as an interesting romance or as
nothing to themprecisely in proportion to his after renown.'

They were walking between the sunset and the moonrise. With the
dropping of the sun a nearly full moon had begun to raise itself.
Their shadowsas cast by the western glareshowed signs of
becoming obliterated in the interest of a rival pair in the
opposite direction which the moon was bringing to distinctness.

'I consider my life to some extent a failure' said Knight again
after a pauseduring which he had noticed the antagonistic
shadows.

'You! How?'

'I don't precisely know. But in some way I have missed the mark.'

'Really? To have done it is not much to be sad aboutbut to feel
that you have done it must be a cause of sorrow. Am I right?'

'Partlythough not quite. For a sensation of being profoundly
experienced serves as a sort of consolation to people who are
conscious of having taken wrong turnings. Contradictory as it
seemsthere is nothing truer than that people who have always
gone right don't know half as much about the nature and ways of
going right as those do who have gone wrong. Howeverit is not
desirable for me to chill your summer-time by going into this.'

'You have not told me even now if I am really vain.'

'If I say YesI shall offend you; if I say Noyou'll think I
don't mean it' he repliedlooking curiously into her face.

'Ahwell' she repliedwith a little breath of distress'"That
which is exceeding deepwho will find it out?" I suppose I must
take you as I do the Bible--find out and understand all I can; and
on the strength of thatswallow the rest in a lumpby simple
faith. Think me vainif you will. Worldly greatness requires so
much littleness to grow up inthat an infirmity more or less is
not a matter for regret.'

'As regards womenI can't say' answered Knight carelessly; 'but
it is without doubt a misfortune for a man who has a living to
getto be born of a truly noble nature. A high soul will bring a
man to the workhouse; so you may be right in sticking up for
vanity.'


'NonoI don't do that' she said regretfully.

Mr. Knightwhen you are gonewill you send me something you have
written? I think I should like to see whether you write as you
have lately spokenor in your better mood. Which is your true
self--the cynic you have been this eveningor the nice
philosopher you were up to to-night?'

'Ahwhich? You know as well as I.'

Their conversation detained them on the lawn and in the portico
till the stars blinked out. Elfride flung back her headand said
idly-


'There's a bright star exactly over me.'

'Each bright star is overhead somewhere.'

'Is it? Oh yesof course. Where is that one?' and she pointed
with her finger.

'That is poised like a white hawk over one of the Cape Verde
Islands.'

'And that?'

'Looking down upon the source of the Nile.'

'And that lonely quiet-looking one?'

'He watches the North Poleand has no less than the whole equator
for his horizon. And that idle one low down upon the groundthat
we have almost rolled away fromis in India--over the head of a
young friend of minewho very possibly looks at the star in our
zenithas it hangs low upon his horizonand thinks of it as
marking where his true love dwells.'

Elfride glanced at Knight with misgiving. Did he mean her? She
could not see his features; but his attitude seemed to show
unconsciousness.

'The star is over MY head' she said with hesitation.

'Or anybody else's in England.'

'Oh yesI see:' she breathed her relief.

'His parentsI believeare natives of this county. I don't know
themthough I have been in correspondence with him for many years
till lately. Fortunately or unfortunately for him he fell in
loveand then went to Bombay. Since that time I have heard very
little of him.'

Knight went no further in his volunteered statementand though
Elfride at one moment was inclined to profit by the lessons in
honesty he had just been giving herthe flesh was weakand the
intention dispersed into silence. There seemed a reproach in
Knight's blind wordsand yet she was not able to clearly define
any disloyalty that she had been guilty of.

Chapter XX


'A distant dearness in the hill.'

Knight turned his back upon the parish of Endelstowand crossed
over to Cork.

One day of absence superimposed itself on anotherand
proportionately weighted his heart. He pushed on to the Lakes of
Killarneyrambled amid their luxuriant woodssurveyed the
infinite variety of islandhilland dale there to be found
listened to the marvellous echoes of that romantic spot; but
altogether missed the glory and the dream he formerly found in
such favoured regions.

Whilst in the company of Elfrideher girlish presence had not
perceptibly affected him to any depth. He had not been conscious
that her entry into his sphere had added anything to himself; but
now that she was taken away he was very conscious of a great deal
being abstracted. The superfluity had become a necessityand
Knight was in love.

Stephen fell in love with Elfride by looking at her: Knight by
ceasing to do so. When or how the spirit entered into him he knew
not: certain he was that when on the point of leaving Endelstow he
had felt none of that exquisite nicety of poignant sadness natural
to such severancesseeing how delightful a subject of
contemplation Elfride had been ever since. Had he begun to love
her when she met his eye after her mishap on the tower? He had
simply thought her weak. Had he grown to love her whilst standing
on the lawn brightened all over by the evening sun? He had thought
her complexion good: no more. Was it her conversation that had
sown the seed? He had thought her words ingeniousand very
creditable to a young womanbut not noteworthy. Had the chessplaying
anything to do with it? Certainly not: he had thought her
at that time a rather conceited child.

Knight's experience was a complete disproof of the assumption that
love always comes by glances of the eye and sympathetic touches of
the fingers: thatlike flameit makes itself palpable at the
moment of generation. Not till they were partedand she had
become sublimated in his memorycould he be said to have even
attentively regarded her.

Thushaving passively gathered up images of her which his mind
did not act upon till the cause of them was no longer before him
he appeared to himself to have fallen in love with her soulwhich
had temporarily assumed its disembodiment to accompany him on his
way.

She began to rule him so imperiously now thataccustomed to
analysishe almost trembled at the possible result of the
introduction of this new force among the nicely adjusted ones of
his ordinary life. He became restless: then he forgot all
collateral subjects in the pleasure of thinking about her.

Yet it must be said that Knight loved philosophically rather than
with romance.

He thought of her manner towards him. Simplicity verges on
coquetry. Was she flirting? he said to himself. No forcible
translation of favour into suspicion was able to uphold such a
theory. The performance had been too well done to be anything but
real. It had the defects without which nothing is genuine. No


actress of twenty years' standingno bald-necked lady whose
earliest season 'out' was lost in the discreet mist of evasive
talkcould have played before him the part of ingenuous girl as
Elfride lived it. She had the little artful ways which partly
make up ingenuousness.

There are bachelors by nature and bachelors by circumstance:
spinsters there doubtless are also of both kindsthough some
think only those of the latter. HoweverKnight had been looked
upon as a bachelor by nature. What was he coming to? It was very
odd to himself to look at his theories on the subject of loveand
reading them now by the full light of a new experienceto see how
much more his sentences meant than he had felt them to mean when
they were written. People often discover the real force of a
trite old maxim only when it is thrust upon them by a chance
adventure; but Knight had never before known the case of a man who
learnt the full compass of his own epigrams by such means.

He was intensely satisfied with one aspect of the affair. Inbred
in him was an invincible objection to be any but the first comer
in a woman's heart. He had discovered within himself the
condition that if ever he did make up his mind to marryit must
be on the certainty that no cropping out of inconvenient old
lettersno bow and blush to a mysterious stranger casually met
should be a possible source of discomposure. Knight's sentiments
were only the ordinary ones of a man of his age who loves
genuinelyperhaps exaggerated a little by his pursuits. When men
first love as ladsit is with the very centre of their hearts
nothing else being concerned in the operation. With added years
more of the faculties attempt a partnership in the passiontill
at Knight's age the understanding is fain to have a hand in it.
It may as well be left out. A man in love setting up his brains
as a gauge of his position is as one determining a ship's
longitude from a light at the mast-head.

Knight argued from Elfride's unwontedness of mannerwhich was
matter of factto an unwontedness in lovewhich was matter of
inference only. Incredules les plus credules. 'Elfride' he
said'had hardly looked upon a man till she saw me.'

He had never forgotten his severity to her because she preferred
ornament to edificationand had since excused her a hundred times
by thinking how natural to womankind was a love of adornmentand
how necessary became a mild infusion of personal vanity to
complete the delicate and fascinating dye of the feminine mind.
So at the end of the week's absencewhich had brought him as far
as Dublinhe resolved to curtail his tourreturn to Endelstow
and commit himself by making a reality of the hypothetical offer
of that Sunday evening.

Notwithstanding that he had concocted a great deal of paper theory
on social amenities and modern manners generallythe special
ounce of practice was wantingand now for his life Knight could
not recollect whether it was considered correct to give a young
lady personal ornaments before a regular engagement to marry had
been initiated. But the day before leaving Dublin he looked
around anxiously for a high-class jewellery establishmentin
which he purchased what he considered would suit her best.

It was with a most awkward and unwonted feeling that after
entering and closing the door of his room he sat downopened the
morocco caseand held up each of the fragile bits of gold-work
before his eyes. Many things had become old to the solitary man
of lettersbut these were newand he handled like a child an


outcome of civilization which had never before been touched by his
fingers. A sudden fastidious decision that the pattern chosen
would not suit her after all caused him to rise in a flurry and
tear down the street to change them for others. After a great
deal of trouble in reselectingduring which his mind became so
bewildered that the critical faculty on objects of art seemed to
have vacated his person altogetherKnight carried off another
pair of ear-rings. These remained in his possession till the
afternoonwhenafter contemplating them fifty times with a
growing misgiving that the last choice was worse than the first
he felt that no sleep would visit his pillow till he had improved
upon his previous purchases yet again. In a perfect heat of
vexation with himself for such tergiversationhe went anew to the
shop-doorwas absolutely ashamed to enter and give further
troublewent to another shopbought a pair at an enormously
increased pricebecause they seemed the very thingasked the
goldsmiths if they would take the other pair in exchangewas told
that they could not exchange articles bought of another maker
paid down the moneyand went off with the two pairs in his
possessionwondering what on earth to do with the superfluous
pair. He almost wished he could lose themor that somebody would
steal themand was burdened with an interposing sense thatas a
capable manwith true ideas of economyhe must necessarily sell
them somewherewhich he did at last for a mere song. Mingled
with a blank feeling of a whole day being lost to him in running
about the city on this new and extraordinary class of errandand
of several pounds being lost through his bunglingwas a slight
sense of satisfaction that he had emerged for ever from his
antediluvian ignorance on the subject of ladies' jewelleryas
well as secured a truly artistic production at last. During the
remainder of that day he scanned the ornaments of every lady he
met with the profoundly experienced eye of an appraiser.

Next morning Knight was again crossing St. George's Channel--not
returning to London by the Holyhead route as he had originally
intendedbut towards Bristol--availing himself of Mr. and Mrs.
Swancourt's invitation to revisit them on his homeward journey.

We flit forward to Elfride.

Woman's ruling passion--to fascinate and influence those more
powerful than she--though operant in Elfridewas decidedly
purposeless. She had wanted her friend Knight's good opinion from
the first: how much more than that elementary ingredient of
friendship she now desiredher fears would hardly allow her to
think. In originally wishing to please the highest class of man
she had ever intimately knownthere was no disloyalty to Stephen
Smith. She could not--and few women can--realize the possible
vastness of an issue which has only an insignificant begetting.

Her letters from Stephen were necessarily fewand her sense of
fidelity clung to the last she had received as a wrecked mariner
clings to flotsam. The young girl persuaded herself that she was
glad Stephen had such a right to her hand as he had acquired (in
her eyes) by the elopement. She beguiled herself by saying
'Perhaps if I had not so committed myself I might fall in love
with Mr. Knight.'

All this made the week of Knight's absence very gloomy and
distasteful to her. She retained Stephen in her prayersand his
old letters were re-read--as a medicine in realitythough she
deceived herself into the belief that it was as a pleasure.

These letters had grown more and more hopeful. He told her that


he finished his work every day with a pleasant consciousness of
having removed one more stone from the barrier which divided them.
Then he drew images of what a fine figure they two would cut some
day. People would turn their heads and say'What a prize he has
won!' She was not to be sad about that wild runaway attempt of
theirs (Elfride had repeatedly said that it grieved her).
Whatever any other person who knew of it might thinkhe knew well
enough the modesty of her nature. The only reproach was a gentle
one for not having written quite so devotedly during her visit to
London. Her letter had seemed to have a liveliness derived from
other thoughts than thoughts of him.

Knight's intention of an early return to Endelstow having
originally been fainthis promise to do so had been fainter. He
was a man who kept his words well to the rear of his possible
actions. The vicar was rather surprised to see him again so soon:
Mrs. Swancourt was not. Knight foundon meeting them allafter
his arrival had been announcedthat they had formed an intention
to go to St. Leonards for a few days at the end of the month.

No satisfactory conjuncture offered itself on this first evening
of his return for presenting Elfride with what he had been at such
pains to procure. He was fastidious in his reading of
opportunities for such an intended act. The next morning chancing
to break fine after a week of cloudy weatherit was proposed and
decided that they should all drive to Barwith Stranda local lion
which neither Mrs. Swancourt nor Knight had seen. Knight scented
romantic occasions from afarand foresaw that such a one might be
expected before the coming night.

The journey was along a road by neutral green hillsupon which
hedgerows lay trailing like ropes on a quay. Gaps in these
uplands revealed the blue seaflecked with a few dashes of white
and a solitary white sailthe whole brimming up to a keen horizon
which lay like a line ruled from hillside to hillside. Then they
rolled down a passthe chocolate-toned rocks forming a wall on
both sidesfrom one of which fell a heavy jagged shade over half
the roadway. A spout of fresh water burst from an occasional
creviceand pattering down upon broad green leavesran along as
a rivulet at the bottom. Unkempt locks of heather overhung the
brow of each steepwhence at divers points a bramble swung forth
into mid-airsnatching at their head-dresses like a claw.

They mounted the last crestand the bay which was to be the end
of their pilgrimage burst upon them. The ocean blueness deepened
its colour as it stretched to the foot of the cragswhere it
terminated in a fringe of white--silent at this distancethough
moving and heaving like a counterpane upon a restless sleeper.
The shadowed hollows of the purple and brown rocks would have been
called blue had not that tint been so entirely appropriated by the
water beside them.

The carriage was put up at a little cottage with a shed attached
and an ostler and the coachman carried the hamper of provisions
down to the shore.

Knight found his opportunity. 'I did not forget your wish' he
beganwhen they were apart from their friends.

Elfride looked as if she did not understand.

'And I have brought you these' he continuedawkwardly pulling
out the caseand opening it while holding it towards her.


'O Mr. Knight!' said Elfride confusedlyand turning to a lively
red; 'I didn't know you had any intention or meaning in what you
said. I thought it a mere supposition. I don't want them.'

A thought which had flashed into her mind gave the reply a greater
decisiveness than it might otherwise have possessed. To-morrow
was the day for Stephen's letter.

'But will you not accept them?' Knight returnedfeeling less her
master than heretofore.

'I would rather not. They are beautiful--more beautiful than any
I have ever seen' she answered earnestlylooking half-wishfully
at the temptationas Eve may have looked at the apple. 'But I
don't want to have themif you will kindly forgive meMr.
Knight.'

'No kindness at all' said Mr. Knightbrought to a full stop at
this unexpected turn of events.

A silence followed. Knight held the open caselooking rather
wofully at the glittering forms he had forsaken his orbit to
procure; turning it about and holding it up as iffeeling his
gift to be slighted by herhe were endeavouring to admire it very
much himself.

'Shut them upand don't let me see them any longer--do!' she said
laughinglyand with a quaint mixture of reluctance and entreaty.

'WhyElfie?'

'Not Elfie to youMr. Knight. Ohbecause I shall want them.
ThereI am sillyI knowto say that! But I have a reason for
not taking them--now.' She kept in the last word for a moment
intending to imply that her refusal was finitebut somehow the
word slipped outand undid all the rest.

'You will take them some day?'

'I don't want to.'

'Why don't you want toElfride Swancourt?'

'Because I don't. I don't like to take them.'

'I have read a fact of distressing significance in that' said
Knight. 'Since you like themyour dislike to having them must be
towards me?'

'Noit isn't.'

'Whatthen? Do you like me?'

Elfride deepened in tintand looked into the distance with
features shaped to an expression of the nicest criticism as
regarded her answer.

'I like you pretty well' she at length murmured mildly.

'Not very much?'

'You are so sharp with meand say hard thingsand so how can I?'
she replied evasively.


'You think me a fogeyI suppose?'

'NoI don't--I mean I do--I don't know what I think youI mean.
Let us go to papa' responded Elfridewith somewhat of a flurried
delivery.

'WellI'll tell you my object in getting the present' said
Knightwith a composure intended to remove from her mind any
possible impression of his being what he was--her lover. 'You see
it was the very least I could do in common civility.'

Elfride felt rather blank at this lucid statement.

Knight continuedputting away the case: 'I felt as anybody
naturally would haveyou knowthat my words on your choice the
other day were invidious and unfairand thought an apology should
take a practical shape.'

'Oh yes.'

Elfride was sorry--she could not tell why--that he gave such a
legitimate reason. It was a disappointment that he had all the
time a cool motivewhich might be stated to anybody without
raising a smile. Had she known they were offered in that spirit
she would certainly have accepted the seductive gift. And the
tantalizing feature was that perhaps he suspected her to imagine
them offered as a lover's tokenwhich was mortifying enough if
they were not.

Mrs. Swancourt came now to where they were sittingto select a
flat boulder for spreading their table-cloth uponandamid the
discussion on that subjectthe matter pending between Knight and
Elfride was shelved for a while. He read her refusal so certainly
as the bashfulness of a girl in a novel positionthatupon the
wholehe could tolerate such a beginning. Could Knight have been
told that it was a sense of fidelity struggling against new love
whilst no less assuring as to his ultimate victoryit might have
entirely abstracted the wish to secure it.

At the same time a slight constraint of manner was visible between
them for the remainder of the afternoon. The tide turnedand
they were obliged to ascend to higher ground. The day glided on
to its end with the usual quiet dreamy passivity of such
occasions--when every deed done and thing thought is in
endeavouring to avoid doing and thinking more. Looking idly over
the verge of a cragthey beheld their stone dining-table
gradually being splashed upon and their crumbs and fragments all
washed away by the incoming sea. The vicar drew a moral lesson
from the scene; Knight replied in the same satisfied strain. And
then the waves rolled in furiously--the neutral green-and-blue
tongues of water slid up the slopesand were metamorphosed into
foam by a careless blowfalling back white and faintand leaving
trailing followers behind.

The passing of a heavy shower was the next scene--driving them to
shelter in a shallow cave--after which the horses were put inand
they started to return homeward. By the time they reached the
higher levels the sky had again clearedand the sunset rays
glanced directly upon the wet uphill road they had climbed. The
ruts formed by their carriage-wheels on the ascent--a pair of
Liliputian canals--were as shining bars of goldtapering to
nothing in the distance. Upon this also they turned their backs
and night spread over the sea.


The evening was chillyand there was no moon. Knight sat close
to Elfrideandwhen the darkness rendered the position of a
person a matter of uncertaintyparticularly close. Elfride edged
away.

'I hope you allow me my place ungrudgingly?' he whispered.

'Oh yes; 'tis the least I can do in common civility' she said
accenting the words so that he might recognize them as his own
returned.

Both of them felt delicately balanced between two possibilities.
Thus they reached home.

To Knight this mild experience was delightful. It was to him a
gentle innocent time--a time whichthough there may not be much
in itseldom repeats itself in a man's lifeand has a peculiar
dearness when glanced at retrospectively. He is not
inconveniently deep in loveand is lulled by a peaceful sense of
being able to enjoy the most trivial thing with a childlike
enjoyment. The movement of a wavethe colour of a stone
anythingwas enough for Knight's drowsy thoughts of that day to
precipitate themselves upon. Even the sermonizing platitudes the
vicar had delivered himself of--chiefly because something seemed
to be professionally required of him in the presence of a man of
Knight's proclivities--were swallowed whole. The presence of
Elfride led him not merely to tolerate that kind of talk from the
necessities of ordinary courtesy; but he listened to it--took in
the ideas with an enjoyable make-believe that they were proper and
necessaryand indulged in a conservative feeling that the face of
things was complete.

Entering her room that evening Elfride found a packet for herself
on the dressing-table. How it came there she did not know. She
tremblingly undid the folds of white paper that covered it. Yes;
it was the treasure of a morocco casecontaining those treasures
of ornament she had refused in the daytime.

Elfride dressed herself in them for a momentlooked at herself in
the glassblushed redand put them away. They filled her dreams
all that night. Never had she seen anything so lovelyand never
was it more clear that as an honest woman she was in duty bound to
refuse them. Why it was not equally clear to her that duty
required more vigorous co-ordinate conduct as welllet those who
dissect her say.

The next morning glared in like a spectre upon her. It was
Stephen's letter-dayand she was bound to meet the postman--to
stealthily do a deed she had never likedto secure an end she now
had ceased to desire.

But she went.

There were two letters.

One was from the bank at St. Launce'sin which she had a small
private deposit--probably something about interest. She put that
in her pocket for a momentand going indoors and upstairs to be
safer from observationtremblingly opened Stephen's.

What was this he said to her?

She was to go to the St. Launce's Bank and take a sum of money


which they had received private advices to pay her.

The sum was two hundred pounds.

There was no checkorderor anything of the nature of guarantee.
In fact the information amounted to this: the money was now in the
St. Launce's Bankstanding in her name.

She instantly opened the other letter. It contained a depositnote
from the bank for the sum of two hundred pounds which had
that day been added to her account. Stephen's informationthen
was correctand the transfer made.

'I have saved this in one year' Stephen's letter went on to say
'and what so proper as well as pleasant for me to do as to hand it
over to you to keep for your use? I have plenty for myself
independently of this. Should you not be disposed to let it lie
idle in the bankget your father to invest it in your name on
good security. It is a little present to you from your more than
betrothed. He willI thinkElfridefeel now that my
pretensions to your hand are anything but the dream of a silly boy
not worth rational consideration.'

With a natural delicacyElfridein mentioning her father's
marriagehad refrained from all allusion to the pecuniary
resources of the lady.

Leaving this matter-of-fact subjecthe went onsomewhat after
his boyish manner:

'Do you rememberdarlingthat first morning of my arrival at
your housewhen your father read at prayers the miracle of
healing the sick of the palsy--where he is told to take up his bed
and walk? I doand I can now so well realize the force of that
passage. The smallest piece of mat is the bed of the Oriental
and yesterday I saw a native perform the very actionwhich
reminded me to mention it. But you are better read than Iand
perhaps you knew all this long ago....One day I bought some small
native idols to send home to you as curiositiesbut afterwards
finding they had been cast in Englandmade to look oldand
shipped overI threw them away in disgust.

'Speaking of this reminds me that we are obliged to import all our
house-building ironwork from England. Never was such foresight
required to be exercised in building houses as here. Before we
beginwe have to order every columnlockhingeand screw that
will be required. We cannot go into the next streetas in
Londonand get them cast at a minute's notice. Mr. L. says
somebody will have to go to England very soon and superintend the
selection of a large order of this kind. I only wish I may be the
man.'

There before her lay the deposit-receipt for the two hundred
poundsand beside it the elegant present of Knight. Elfride grew
cold--then her cheeks felt heated by beating blood. If by
destroying the piece of paper the whole transaction could have
been withdrawn from her experienceshe would willingly have
sacrificed the money it represented. She did not know what to do
in either case. She almost feared to let the two articles lie in
juxtaposition: so antagonistic were the interests they represented
that a miraculous repulsion of one by the other was almost to be
expected.

That day she was seen little of. By the evening she had come to a


resolutionand acted upon it. The packet was sealed up--with a
tear of regret as she closed the case upon the pretty forms it
contained--directedand placed upon the writing-table in Knight's
room. And a letter was written to Stephenstating that as yet
she hardly understood her position with regard to the money sent;
but declaring that she was ready to fulfil her promise to marry
him. After this letter had been written she delayed posting it-although
never ceasing to feel strenuously that the deed must be
done.

Several days passed. There was another Indian letter for Elfride.
Coming unexpectedlyher father saw itbut made no remark--why
she could not tell. The news this time was absolutely
overwhelming. Stephenas he had wishedhad been actually chosen
as the most fitting to execute the iron-work commission he had
alluded to as impending. This duty completed he would have three
months' leave. His letter continued that he should follow it in a
weekand should take the opportunity to plainly ask her father to
permit the engagement. Then came a page expressive of his delight
and hers at the reunion; and finallythe information that he
would write to the shipping agentsasking them to telegraph and
tell her when the ship bringing him home should be in sight-knowing
how acceptable such information would be.

Elfride lived and moved now as in a dream. Knight had at first
become almost angry at her persistent refusal of his offering--and
no less with the manner than the fact of it. But he saw that she
began to look worn and ill--and his vexation lessened to simple
perplexity.

He ceased now to remain in the house for long hours together as
beforebut made it a mere centre for antiquarian and geological
excursions in the neighbourhood. Throw up his cards and go away
he fain would have donebut could not. Andthusavailing
himself of the privileges of a relativehe went in and out the
premises as fancy led him--but still lingered on.

'I don't wish to stay here another day if my presence is
distasteful' he said one afternoon. 'At first you used to imply
that I was severe with you; and when I am kind you treat me
unfairly.'

'Nono. Don't say so.'

The origin of their acquaintanceship had been such as to render
their manner towards each other peculiar and uncommon. It was of
a kind to cause them to speak out their minds on any feelings of
objection and difference: to be reticent on gentler matters.

'I have a good mind to go away and never trouble you again'
continued Knight.

She said nothingbut the eloquent expression of her eyes and wan
face was enough to reproach him for harshness.

'Do you like me to be herethen?' inquired Knight gently.

'Yes' she said. Fidelity to the old love and truth to the new
were ranged on opposite sidesand truth virtuelessly prevailed.

'Then I'll stay a little longer' said Knight.

'Don't be vexed if I keep by myself a good dealwill you? Perhaps
something may happenand I may tell you something.'


'Mere coyness' said Knight to himself; and went away with a
lighter heart. The trick of reading truly the enigmatical forces
at work in women at given timeswhich with some men is an
unerring instinctis peculiar to minds less direct and honest
than Knight's.


The next eveningabout five o'clockbefore Knight had returned
from a pilgrimage along the shorea man walked up to the house.
He was a messenger from Cameltona town a few miles offto which
place the railway had been advanced during the summer.


'A telegram for Miss Swancourtand three and sixpence to pay for
the special messenger.' Miss Swancourt sent out the moneysigned
the paperand opened her letter with a trembling hand. She read:


'JohnsonLiverpoolto Miss SwancourtEndelstownear Castle
Boterel.


'Amaryllis telegraphed off Holyheadfour o'clock. Expect will
dock and land passengers at Canning's Basin ten o'clock to-morrow
morning.'


Her father called her into the study.


'Elfridewho sent you that message?' he asked suspiciously.


'Johnson.'
'Who is Johnsonfor Heaven's sake?'


'I don't know.'


'The deuce you don't! Who is to knowthen?'


'I have never heard of him till now.'


'That's a singular storyisn't it.'


'I don't know.'


'Comecomemiss! What was the telegram?'


'Do you really wish to knowpapa?'


'WellI do.'


'RememberI am a full-grown woman now.'


'Wellwhat then?'


'Being a womanand not a childI mayI thinkhave a secret or
two.'


'You willit seems.'


'Women haveas a rule.'


'But don't keep them. So speak out.'


'If you will not press me nowI give my word to tell you the
meaning of all this before the week is past.'



'On your honour?'

'On my honour.'

'Very well. I have had a certain suspicionyou know; and I shall
be glad to find it false. I don't like your manner lately.'

'At the end of the weekI saidpapa.'

Her father did not replyand Elfride left the room.

She began to look out for the postman again. Three mornings later
he brought an inland letter from Stephen. It contained very
little matterhaving been written in haste; but the meaning was
bulky enough. Stephen said thathaving executed a commission in
Liverpoolhe should arrive at his father's houseEast Endelstow
at five or six o'clock that same evening; that he would after dusk
walk on to the next villageand meet herif she wouldin the
church porchas in the old time. He proposed this plan because
he thought it unadvisable to call formally at her house so late in
the evening; yet he could not sleep without having seen her. The
minutes would seem hours till he clasped her in his arms.

Elfride was still steadfast in her opinion that honour compelled
her to meet him. Probably the very longing to avoid him lent
additional weight to the conviction; for she was markedly one of
those who sigh for the unattainable--to whomsuperlativelya
hope is pleasing because not a possession. And she knew it so
well that her intellect was inclined to exaggerate this defect in
herself.

So during the day she looked her duty steadfastly in the face;
read Wordsworth's astringent yet depressing ode to that Deity;
committed herself to her guidance; and still felt the weight of
chance desires.

But she began to take a melancholy pleasure in contemplating the
sacrifice of herself to the man whom a maidenly sense of propriety
compelled her to regard as her only possible husband. She would
meet himand do all that lay in her power to marry him. To guard
against a relapsea note was at once despatched to his father's
cottage for Stephen on his arrivalfixing an hour for the
interview.

Chapter XXI

'On thy cold grey stonesO sea!'

Stephen had said that he should come by way of Bristoland thence
by a steamer to Castle Boterelin order to avoid the long journey
over the hills from St. Launce's. He did not know of the
extension of the railway to Camelton.

During the afternoon a thought occurred to Elfridethat from any
cliff along the shore it would be possible to see the steamer some
hours before its arrival.

She had accumulated religious force enough to do an act of
supererogation. The act was this--to go to some point of land and
watch for the ship that brought her future husband home.


It was a cloudy afternoon. Elfride was often diverted from a
purpose by a dull sky; and though she used to persuade herself
that the weather was as fine as possible on the other side of the
cloudsshe could not bring about any practical result from this
fancy. Nowher mood was such that the humid sky harmonized with
it.

Having ascended and passed over a hill behind the houseElfride
came to a small stream. She used it as a guide to the coast. It
was smaller than that in her own valleyand flowed altogether at
a higher level. Bushes lined the slopes of its shallow trough;
but at the bottomwhere the water ranwas a soft green carpet
in a strip two or three yards wide.

In winterthe water flowed over the grass; in summeras nowit
trickled along a channel in the midst.

Elfride had a sensation of eyes regarding her from somewhere. She
turnedand there was Mr. Knight. He had dropped into the valley
from the side of the hill. She felt a thrill of pleasureand
rebelliously allowed it to exist.

'What utter loneliness to find you in!'

'I am going to the shore by tracking the stream. I believe it
empties itself not far offin a silver thread of waterover a
cascade of great height.'

'Why do you load yourself with that heavy telescope?'

'To look over the sea with it' she said faintly.

'I'll carry it for you to your journey's end.' And he took the
glass from her unresisting hands. 'It cannot be half a mile
further. Seethere is the water.' He pointed to a short fragment
of level muddy-gray colourcutting against the sky.

Elfride had already scanned the small surface of ocean visible
and had seen no ship.

They walked along in companysometimes with the brook between
them--for it was no wider than a man's stride--sometimes close
together. The green carpet grew swampyand they kept higher up.

One of the two ridges between which they walked dwindled lower and
became insignificant. That on the right hand rose with their
advanceand terminated in a clearly defined edge against the
lightas if it were abruptly sawn off. A little furtherand the
bed of the rivulet ended in the same fashion.

They had come to a bank breast-highand over it the valley was no
longer to be seen. It was withdrawn cleanly and completely. In
its place was sky and boundless atmosphere; and perpendicularly
down beneath them--small and far off--lay the corrugated surface
of the Atlantic.

The small stream here found its death. Running over the precipice
it was dispersed in spray before it was half-way downand falling
like rain upon projecting ledgesmade minute grassy meadows of
them. At the bottom the water-drops soaked away amid the debris
of the cliff. This was the inglorious end of the river.

'What are you looking for? said Knightfollowing the direction of
her eyes.


She was gazing hard at a black object--nearer to the shore than to
the horizon--from the summit of which came a nebulous haze
stretching like gauze over the sea.

'The Puffina little summer steamboat--from Bristol to Castle
Boterel' she said. 'I think that is it--look. Will you give me
the glass?'

Knight pulled open the old-fashioned but powerful telescopeand
handed it to Elfridewho had looked on with heavy eyes.

'I can't keep it up now' she said.

'Rest it on my shoulder.'

'It is too high.'

'Under my arm.'

'Too low. You may look instead' she murmured weakly.

Knight raised the glass to his eyeand swept the sea till the
Puffin entered its field.

'Yesit is the Puffin--a tiny craft. I can see her figure-head
distinctly--a bird with a beak as big as its head.'

'Can you see the deck?'

Wait a minute; yes, pretty clearly. And I can see the black
forms of the passengers against its white surface. One of them
has taken something from another--a glass, I think--yes, it is-and
he is levelling it in this direction. Depend upon it we are
conspicuous objects against the sky to them. Now, it seems to
rain upon them, and they put on overcoats and open umbrellas.
They vanish and go below--all but that one who has borrowed the
glass. He is a slim young fellow, and still watches us.'

Elfride grew pale, and shifted her little feet uneasily.

Knight lowered the glass.

'I think we had better return,' he said. 'That cloud which is
raining on them may soon reach us. Why, you look ill. How is
that?'

'Something in the air affects my face.'

'Those fair cheeks are very fastidious, I fear,' returned Knight
tenderly. 'This air would make those rosy that were never so
before, one would think--eh, Nature's spoilt child?'

Elfride's colour returned again.

'There is more to see behind us, after all,' said Knight.

She turned her back upon the boat and Stephen Smith, and saw,
towering still higher than themselves, the vertical face of the
hill on the right, which did not project seaward so far as the bed
of the valley, but formed the back of a small cove, and so was
visible like a concave wall, bending round from their position
towards the left.


The composition of the huge hill was revealed to its backbone and
marrow here at its rent extremity. It consisted of a vast
stratification of blackish-gray slate, unvaried in its whole
height by a single change of shade.

It is with cliffs and mountains as with persons; they have what is
called a presence, which is not necessarily proportionate to their
actual bulk. A little cliff will impress you powerfully; a great
one not at all. It depends, as with man, upon the countenance of
the cliff.

'I cannot bear to look at that cliff,' said Elfride. 'It has a
horrid personality, and makes me shudder. We will go.'

'Can you climb?' said Knight. 'If so, we will ascend by that path
over the grim old fellow's brow.'

'Try me,' said Elfride disdainfully. 'I have ascended steeper
slopes than that.'

From where they had been loitering, a grassy path wound along
inside a bank, placed as a safeguard for unwary pedestrians, to
the top of the precipice, and over it along the hill in an inland
direction.

'Take my arm, Miss Swancourt,' said Knight.

'I can get on better without it, thank you.'

When they were one quarter of the way up, Elfride stopped to take
breath. Knight stretched out his hand.

She took it, and they ascended the remaining slope together.
Reaching the very top, they sat down to rest by mutual consent.

'Heavens, what an altitude!' said Knight between his pants, and
looking far over the sea. The cascade at the bottom of the slope
appeared a mere span in height from where they were now.

Elfride was looking to the left. The steamboat was in full view
again, and by reason of the vast surface of sea their higher
position uncovered it seemed almost close to the shore.

'Over that edge,' said Knight, 'where nothing but vacancy appears,
is a moving compact mass. The wind strikes the face of the rock,
runs up it, rises like a fountain to a height far above our heads,
curls over us in an arch, and disperses behind us. In fact, an
inverted cascade is there--as perfect as the Niagara Falls--but
rising instead of falling, and air instead of water. Now look
here.'

Knight threw a stone over the bank, aiming it as if to go onward
over the cliff. Reaching the verge, it towered into the air like
a bird, turned back, and alighted on the ground behind them. They
themselves were in a dead calm.

'A boat crosses Niagara immediately at the foot of the falls,
where the water is quite still, the fallen mass curving under it.
We are in precisely the same position with regard to our
atmospheric cataract here. If you run back from the cliff fifty
yards, you will be in a brisk wind. Now I daresay over the bank
is a little backward current.'

Knight rose and leant over the bank. No sooner was his head above


it than his hat appeared to be sucked from his head--slipping over
his forehead in a seaward direction.

'That's the backward eddy, as I told you,' he cried, and vanished
over the little bank after his hat.

Elfride waited one minute; he did not return. She waited another,
and there was no sign of him.

A few drops of rain fell, then a sudden shower.

She arose, and looked over the bank. On the other side were two
or three yards of level ground--then a short steep preparatory
slope--then the verge of the precipice.

On the slope was Knight, his hat on his head. He was on his hands
and knees, trying to climb back to the level ground. The rain had
wetted the shaly surface of the incline. A slight superficial
wetting of the soil hereabout made it far more slippery to stand
on than the same soil thoroughly drenched. The inner substance
was still hard, and was lubricated by the moistened film.

'I find a difficulty in getting back,' said Knight.

Elfride's heart fell like lead.

'But you can get back?' she wildly inquired.

Knight strove with all his might for two or three minutes, and the
drops of perspiration began to bead his brow.

'No, I am unable to do it,' he answered.

Elfride, by a wrench of thought, forced away from her mind the
sensation that Knight was in bodily danger. But attempt to help
him she must. She ventured upon the treacherous incline, propped
herself with the closed telescope, and gave him her hand before he
saw her movements.

'O Elfride! why did you?' said he. 'I am afraid you have only
endangered yourself.'

And as if to prove his statement, in making an endeavour by her
assistance they both slipped lower, and then he was again stayed.
His foot was propped by a bracket of quartz rock, balanced on the
verge of the precipice. Fixed by this, he steadied her, her head
being about a foot below the beginning of the slope. Elfride had
dropped the glass; it rolled to the edge and vanished over it into
a nether sky.

'Hold tightly to me,' he said.

She flung her arms round his neck with such a firm grasp that
whilst he remained it was impossible for her to fall.

'Don't be flurried,' Knight continued. 'So long as we stay above
this block we are perfectly safe. Wait a moment whilst I consider
what we had better do.'

He turned his eyes to the dizzy depths beneath them, and surveyed
the position of affairs.

Two glances told him a tale with ghastly distinctness. It was
that, unless they performed their feat of getting up the slope


with the precision of machines, they were over the edge and
whirling in mid-air.

For this purpose it was necessary that he should recover the
breath and strength which his previous efforts had cost him. So
he still waited, and looked in the face of the enemy.

The crest of this terrible natural facade passed among the
neighbouring inhabitants as being seven hundred feet above the
water it overhung. It had been proved by actual measurement to be
not a foot less than six hundred and fifty.

That is to say, it is nearly three times the height of
Flamborough, half as high again as the South Foreland, a hundred
feet higher than Beachy Head--the loftiest promontory on the east
or south side of this island--twice the height of St. Aldhelm's,
thrice as high as the Lizard, and just double the height of St.
Bee's. One sea-bord point on the western coast is known to
surpass it in altitude, but only by a few feet. This is Great
Orme's Head, in Caernarvonshire.

And it must be remembered that the cliff exhibits an intensifying
feature which some of those are without--sheer perpendicularity
from the half-tide level.

Yet this remarkable rampart forms no headland: it rather walls in
an inlet--the promontory on each side being much lower. Thus, far
from being salient, its horizontal section is concave. The sea,
rolling direct from the shores of North America, has in fact eaten
a chasm into the middle of a hill, and the giant, embayed and
unobtrusive, stands in the rear of pigmy supporters. Not least
singularly, neither hill, chasm, nor precipice has a name. On
this account I will call the precipice the Cliff without a Name.*

* See Preface
What gave an added terror to its height was its blackness. And
upon this dark face the beating of ten thousand west winds had
formed a kind of bloom, which had a visual effect not unlike that
of a Hambro' grape. Moreover it seemed to float off into the
atmosphere, and inspire terror through the lungs.

'This piece of quartz, supporting my feet, is on the very nose of
the cliff,' said Knight, breaking the silence after his rigid
stoical meditation. 'Now what you are to do is this. Clamber up
my body till your feet are on my shoulders: when you are there you
will, I think, be able to climb on to level ground.'

'What will you do?'

'Wait whilst you run for assistance.'

'I ought to have done that in the first place, ought I not?'

'I was in the act of slipping, and should have reached no standpoint
without your weight, in all probability. But don't let us
talk. Be brave, Elfride, and climb.'

She prepared to ascend, saying, 'This is the moment I anticipated
when on the tower. I thought it would come!'

'This is not a time for superstition,' said Knight. 'Dismiss all
that.'


'I will,' she said humbly.

'Now put your foot into my hand: next the other. That's good-well
done. Hold to my shoulder.'

She placed her feet upon the stirrup he made of his hand, and was
high enough to get a view of the natural surface of the hill over
the bank.

'Can you now climb on to level ground?'

'I am afraid not. I will try.'

'What can you see?'

'The sloping common.'

'What upon it?'

'Purple heather and some grass.'

'Nothing more--no man or human being of any kind?'

'Nobody.'

'Now try to get higher in this way. You see that tuft of sea-pink
above you. Get that well into your hand, but don't trust to it
entirely. Then step upon my shoulder, and I think you will reach
the top.'

With trembling limbs she did exactly as he told her. The
preternatural quiet and solemnity of his manner overspread upon
herself, and gave her a courage not her own. She made a spring
from the top of his shoulder, and was up.

Then she turned to look at him.

By an ill fate, the force downwards of her bound, added to his own
weight, had been too much for the block of quartz upon which his
feet depended. It was, indeed, originally an igneous protrusion
into the enormous masses of black strata, which had since been
worn away from the sides of the alien fragment by centuries of
frost and rain, and now left it without much support.

It moved. Knight seized a tuft of sea-pink with each hand.

The quartz rock which had been his salvation was worse than
useless now. It rolled over, out of sight, and away into the same
nether sky that had engulfed the telescope.

One of the tufts by which he held came out at the root, and Knight
began to follow the quartz. It was a terrible moment. Elfride
uttered a low wild wail of agony, bowed her head, and covered her
face with her hands.

Between the turf-covered slope and the gigantic perpendicular rock
intervened a weather-worn series of jagged edges, forming a face
yet steeper than the former slope. As he slowly slid inch by inch
upon these, Knight made a last desperate dash at the lowest tuft
of vegetation--the last outlying knot of starved herbage ere the
rock appeared in all its bareness. It arrested his further
descent. Knight was now literally suspended by his arms; but the
incline of the brow being what engineers would call about a
quarter in one, it was sufficient to relieve his arms of a portion


of his weight, but was very far from offering an adequately flat
face to support him.

In spite of this dreadful tension of body and mind, Knight found
time for a moment of thankfulness. Elfride was safe.

She lay on her side above him--her fingers clasped. Seeing him
again steady, she jumped upon her feet.

'Now, if I can only save you by running for help!' she cried.
'Oh, I would have died instead! Why did you try so hard to deliver
me?' And she turned away wildly to run for assistance.

'Elfride, how long will it take you to run to Endelstow and back?'

'Three-quarters of an hour.'

'That won't do; my hands will not hold out ten minutes. And is
there nobody nearer?'

'No; unless a chance passer may happen to be.'

'He would have nothing with him that could save me. Is there a
pole or stick of any kind on the common?'

She gazed around. The common was bare of everything but heather
and grass.

A minute--perhaps more time--was passed in mute thought by both.
On a sudden the blank and helpless agony left her face. She
vanished over the bank from his sight.

Knight felt himself in the presence of a personalized lonliness.

Chapter XXII

'A woman's way.'

Haggard cliffs, of every ugly altitude, are as common as sea-fowl
along the line of coast between Exmoor and Land's End; but this
outflanked and encompassed specimen was the ugliest of them all.
Their summits are not safe places for scientific experiment on the
principles of air-currents, as Knight had now found, to his
dismay.

He still clutched the face of the escarpment--not with the
frenzied hold of despair, but with a dogged determination to make
the most of his every jot of endurance, and so give the longest
possible scope to Elfride's intentions, whatever they might be.

He reclined hand in hand with the world in its infancy. Not a
blade, not an insect, which spoke of the present, was between him
and the past. The inveterate antagonism of these black precipices
to all strugglers for life is in no way more forcibly suggested
than by the paucity of tufts of grass, lichens, or confervae on
their outermost ledges.

Knight pondered on the meaning of Elfride's hasty disappearance,
but could not avoid an instinctive conclusion that there existed
but a doubtful hope for him. As far as he could judge, his sole
chance of deliverance lay in the possibility of a rope or pole


being brought; and this possibility was remote indeed. The soil
upon these high downs was left so untended that they were
unenclosed for miles, except by a casual bank or dry wall, and
were rarely visited but for the purpose of collecting or counting
the flock which found a scanty means of subsistence thereon.

At first, when death appeared improbable, because it had never
visited him before, Knight could think of no future, nor of
anything connected with his past. He could only look sternly at
Nature's treacherous attempt to put an end to him, and strive to
thwart her.

From the fact that the cliff formed the inner face of the segment
of a huge cylinder, having the sky for a top and the sea for a
bottom, which enclosed the cove to the extent of more than a
semicircle, he could see the vertical face curving round on each
side of him. He looked far down the facade, and realized more
thoroughly how it threatened him. Grimness was in every feature,
and to its very bowels the inimical shape was desolation.

By one of those familiar conjunctions of things wherewith the
inanimate world baits the mind of man when he pauses in moments of
suspense, opposite Knight's eyes was an imbedded fossil, standing
forth in low relief from the rock. It was a creature with eyes.
The eyes, dead and turned to stone, were even now regarding him.
It was one of the early crustaceans called Trilobites. Separated
by millions of years in their lives, Knight and this underling
seemed to have met in their death. It was the single instance
within reach of his vision of anything that had ever been alive
and had had a body to save, as he himself had now.

The creature represented but a low type of animal existence, for
never in their vernal years had the plains indicated by those
numberless slaty layers been traversed by an intelligence worthy
of the name. Zoophytes, mollusca, shell-fish, were the highest
developments of those ancient dates. The immense lapses of time
each formation represented had known nothing of the dignity of
man. They were grand times, but they were mean times too, and
mean were their relics. He was to be with the small in his death.

Knight was a geologist; and such is the supremacy of habit over
occasion, as a pioneer of the thoughts of men, that at this
dreadful juncture his mind found time to take in, by a momentary
sweep, the varied scenes that had had their day between this
creature's epoch and his own. There is no place like a cleft
landscape for bringing home such imaginings as these.

Time closed up like a fan before him. He saw himself at one
extremity of the years, face to face with the beginning and all
the intermediate centuries simultaneously. Fierce men, clothed in
the hides of beasts, and carrying, for defence and attack, huge
clubs and pointed spears, rose from the rock, like the phantoms
before the doomed Macbeth. They lived in hollows, woods, and mud
huts--perhaps in caves of the neighbouring rocks. Behind them
stood an earlier band. No man was there. Huge elephantine forms,
the mastodon, the hippopotamus, the tapir, antelopes of monstrous
size, the megatherium, and the myledon--all, for the moment, in
juxtaposition. Further back, and overlapped by these, were
perched huge-billed birds and swinish creatures as large as
horses. Still more shadowy were the sinister crocodilian
outlines--alligators and other uncouth shapes, culminating in the
colossal lizard, the iguanodon. Folded behind were dragon forms
and clouds of flying reptiles: still underneath were fishy beings
of lower development; and so on, till the lifetime scenes of the


fossil confronting him were a present and modern condition of
things. These images passed before Knight's inner eye in less
than half a minute, and he was again considering the actual
present. Was he to die? The mental picture of Elfride in the
world, without himself to cherish her, smote his heart like a
whip. He had hoped for deliverance, but what could a girl do? He
dared not move an inch. Was Death really stretching out his hand?
The previous sensation, that it was improbable he would die, was
fainter now.

However, Knight still clung to the cliff.

To those musing weather-beaten West-country folk who pass the
greater part of their days and nights out of doors, Nature seems
to have moods in other than a poetical sense: predilections for
certain deeds at certain times, without any apparent law to govern
or season to account for them. She is read as a person with a
curious temper; as one who does not scatter kindnesses and
cruelties alternately, impartially, and in order, but heartless
severities or overwhelming generosities in lawless caprice. Man's
case is always that of the prodigal's favourite or the miser's
pensioner. In her unfriendly moments there seems a feline fun in
her tricks, begotten by a foretaste of her pleasure in swallowing
the victim.

Such a way of thinking had been absurd to Knight, but he began to
adopt it now. He was first spitted on to a rock. New tortures
followed. The rain increased, and persecuted him with an
exceptional persistency which he was moved to believe owed its
cause to the fact that he was in such a wretched state already.
An entirely new order of things could be observed in this
introduction of rain upon the scene. It rained upwards instead of
down. The strong ascending air carried the rain-drops with it in
its race up the escarpment, coming to him with such velocity that
they stuck into his flesh like cold needles. Each drop was
virtually a shaft, and it pierced him to his skin. The watershafts
seemed to lift him on their points: no downward rain ever
had such a torturing effect. In a brief space he was drenched,
except in two places. These were on the top of his shoulders and
on the crown of his hat.

The wind, though not intense in other situations was strong here.
It tugged at his coat and lifted it. We are mostly accustomed to
look upon all opposition which is not animate, as that of the
stolid, inexorable hand of indifference, which wears out the
patience more than the strength. Here, at any rate, hostility did
not assume that slow and sickening form. It was a cosmic agency,
active, lashing, eager for conquest: determination; not an
insensate standing in the way.

Knight had over-estimated the strength of his hands. They were
getting weak already. 'She will never come again; she has been
gone ten minutes,' he said to himself.

This mistake arose from the unusual compression of his experiences
just now: she had really been gone but three.

'As many more minutes will be my end,' he thought.

Next came another instance of the incapacity of the mind to make
comparisons at such times.

'This is a summer afternoon,' he said, 'and there can never have
been such a heavy and cold rain on a summer day in my life


before.'

He was again mistaken. The rain was quite ordinary in quantity;
the air in temperature. It was, as is usual, the menacing
attitude in which they approached him that magnified their powers.

He again looked straight downwards, the wind and the water-dashes
lifting his moustache, scudding up his cheeks, under his eyelids,
and into his eyes. This is what he saw down there: the surface of
the sea--visually just past his toes, and under his feet; actually
one-eighth of a mile, or more than two hundred yards, below them.
We colour according to our moods the objects we survey. The sea
would have been a deep neutral blue, had happier auspices attended
the gazer it was now no otherwise than distinctly black to his
vision. That narrow white border was foam, he knew well; but its
boisterous tosses were so distant as to appear a pulsation only,
and its plashing was barely audible. A white border to a black
sea--his funeral pall and its edging.

The world was to some extent turned upside down for him. Rain
descended from below. Beneath his feet was aerial space and the
unknown; above him was the firm, familiar ground, and upon it all
that he loved best.

Pitiless nature had then two voices, and two only. The nearer was
the voice of the wind in his ears rising and falling as it mauled
and thrust him hard or softly. The second and distant one was the
moan of that unplummetted ocean below and afar--rubbing its
restless flank against the Cliff without a Name.

Knight perseveringly held fast. Had he any faith in Elfride?
Perhaps. Love is faith, and faith, like a gathered flower, will
rootlessly live on.

Nobody would have expected the sun to shine on such an evening as
this. Yet it appeared, low down upon the sea. Not with its
natural golden fringe, sweeping the furthest ends of the
landscape, not with the strange glare of whiteness which it
sometimes puts on as an alternative to colour, but as a splotch of
vermilion red upon a leaden ground--a red face looking on with a
drunken leer.

Most men who have brains know it, and few are so foolish as to
disguise this fact from themselves or others, even though an
ostentatious display may be called self-conceit. Knight, without
showing it much, knew that his intellect was above the average.
And he thought--he could not help thinking--that his death would
be a deliberate loss to earth of good material; that such an
experiment in killing might have been practised upon some less
developed life.

A fancy some people hold, when in a bitter mood, is that
inexorable circumstance only tries to prevent what intelligence
attempts. Renounce a desire for a long-contested position, and go
on another tack, and after a while the prize is thrown at you,
seemingly in disappointment that no more tantalizing is possible.

Knight gave up thoughts of life utterly and entirely, and turned
to contemplate the Dark Valley and the unknown future beyond.
Into the shadowy depths of these speculations we will not follow
him. Let it suffice to state what ensued.

At that moment of taking no more thought for this life, something
disturbed the outline of the bank above him. A spot appeared. It


was the head of Elfride.

Knight immediately prepared to welcome life again.

The expression of a face consigned to utter loneliness, when a
friend first looks in upon it, is moving in the extreme. In
rowing seaward to a light-ship or sea-girt lighthouse, where,
without any immediate terror of death, the inmates experience the
gloom of monotonous seclusion, the grateful eloquence of their
countenances at the greeting, expressive of thankfulness for the
visit, is enough to stir the emotions of the most careless
observer.

Knight's upward look at Elfride was of a nature with, but far
transcending, such an instance as this. The lines of his face had
deepened to furrows, and every one of them thanked her visibly.
His lips moved to the word 'Elfride,' though the emotion evolved
no sound. His eyes passed all description in their combination of
the whole diapason of eloquence, from lover's deep love to fellowman's
gratitude for a token of remembrance from one of his kind.

Elfride had come back. What she had come to do he did not know.
She could only look on at his death, perhaps. Still, she had come
back, and not deserted him utterly, and it was much.

It was a novelty in the extreme to see Henry Knight, to whom
Elfride was but a child, who had swayed her as a tree sways a
bird's nest, who mastered her and made her weep most bitterly at
her own insignificance, thus thankful for a sight of her face.
She looked down upon him, her face glistening with rain and tears.
He smiled faintly.

'How calm he is!' she thought. 'How great and noble he is to be
so calm!' She would have died ten times for him then.

The gliding form of the steamboat caught her eye: she heeded it no
longer.

'How much longer can you wait?' came from her pale lips and along
the wind to his position.

'Four minutes,' said Knight in a weaker voice than her own.

'But with a good hope of being saved?'

'Seven or eight.'

He now noticed that in her arms she bore a bundle of white linen,
and that her form was singularly attenuated. So preternaturally
thin and flexible was Elfride at this moment, that she appeared to
bend under the light blows of the rain-shafts, as they struck into
her sides and bosom, and splintered into spray on her face. There
is nothing like a thorough drenching for reducing the
protuberances of clothes, but Elfride's seemed to cling to her
like a glove.

Without heeding the attack of the clouds further than by raising
her hand and wiping away the spirts of rain when they went more
particularly into her eyes, she sat down and hurriedly began
rending the linen into strips. These she knotted end to end, and
afterwards twisted them like the strands of a cord. In a short
space of time she had formed a perfect rope by this means, six or
seven yards long.


'Can you wait while I bind it?' she said, anxiously extending her
gaze down to him.

'Yes, if not very long. Hope has given me a wonderful instalment
of strength.'

Elfride dropped her eyes again, tore the remaining material into
narrow tape-like ligaments, knotted each to each as before, but on
a smaller scale, and wound the lengthy string she had thus formed
round and round the linen rope, which, without this binding, had a
tendency to spread abroad.

'Now,' said Knight, who, watching the proceedings intently, had by
this time not only grasped her scheme, but reasoned further on, 'I
can hold three minutes longer yet. And do you use the time in
testing the strength of the knots, one by one.'

She at once obeyed, tested each singly by putting her foot on the
rope between each knot, and pulling with her hands. One of the
knots slipped.

'Oh, think! It would have broken but for your forethought,'
Elfride exclaimed apprehensively.

She retied the two ends. The rope was now firm in every part.

'When you have let it down,' said Knight, already resuming his
position of ruling power, 'go back from the edge of the slope, and
over the bank as far as the rope will allow you. Then lean down,
and hold the end with both hands.'

He had first thought of a safer plan for his own deliverance, but
it involved the disadvantage of possibly endangering her life.

'I have tied it round my waist,' she cried, 'and I will lean
directly upon the bank, holding with my hands as well.'

It was the arrangement he had thought of, but would not suggest.

'I will raise and drop it three times when I am behind the bank,'
she continued, 'to signify that I am ready. Take care, oh, take
the greatest care, I beg you!'

She dropped the rope over him, to learn how much of its length it
would be necessary to expend on that side of the bank, went back,
and disappeared as she had done before.

The rope was trailing by Knight's shoulders. In a few moments it
twitched three times.

He waited yet a second or two, then laid hold.

The incline of this upper portion of the precipice, to the length
only of a few feet, useless to a climber empty-handed, was
invaluable now. Not more than half his weight depended entirely
on the linen rope. Half a dozen extensions of the arms,
alternating with half a dozen seizures of the rope with his feet,
brought him up to the level of the soil.

He was saved, and by Elfride.

He extended his cramped limbs like an awakened sleeper, and sprang
over the bank.


At sight of him she leapt to her feet with almost a shriek of joy.
Knight's eyes met hers, and with supreme eloquence the glance of
each told a long-concealed tale of emotion in that short halfmoment.
Moved by an impulse neither could resist, they ran
together and into each other's arms.

At the moment of embracing, Elfride's eyes involuntarily flashed
towards the Puffin steamboat. It had doubled the point, and was
no longer to be seen.

An overwhelming rush of exultation at having delivered the man she
revered from one of the most terrible forms of death, shook the
gentle girl to the centre of her soul. It merged in a defiance of
duty to Stephen, and a total recklessness as to plighted faith.
Every nerve of her will was now in entire subjection to her
feeling--volition as a guiding power had forsaken her. To remain
passive, as she remained now, encircled by his arms, was a
sufficiently complete result--a glorious crown to all the years of
her life. Perhaps he was only grateful, and did not love her. No
matter: it was infinitely more to be even the slave of the greater
than the queen of the less. Some such sensation as this, though
it was not recognized as a finished thought, raced along the
impressionable soul of Elfride.

Regarding their attitude, it was impossible for two persons to go
nearer to a kiss than went Knight and Elfride during those minutes
of impulsive embrace in the pelting rain. Yet they did not kiss.
Knight's peculiarity of nature was such that it would not allow
him to take advantage of the unguarded and passionate avowal she
had tacitly made.

Elfride recovered herself, and gently struggled to be free.

He reluctantly relinquished her, and then surveyed her from crown
to toe. She seemed as small as an infant. He perceived whence
she had obtained the rope.

'Elfride, my Elfride!' he exclaimed in gratified amazement.

'I must leave you now,' she said, her face doubling its red, with
an expression between gladness and shame 'You follow me, but at
some distance.'

'The rain and wind pierce you through; the chill will kill you.
God bless you for such devotion! Take my coat and put it on.'

'No; I shall get warm running.'

Elfride had absolutely nothing between her and the weather but her
exterior robe or 'costume.' The door had been made upon a woman's
wit, and it had found its way out. Behind the bank, whilst Knight
reclined upon the dizzy slope waiting for death, she had taken off
her whole clothing, and replaced only her outer bodice and skirt.
Every thread of the remainder lay upon the ground in the form of a
woollen and cotton rope.

'I am used to being wet through,' she added. 'I have been
drenched on Pansy dozens of times. Good-bye till we meet, clothed
and in our right minds, by the fireside at home!'

She then ran off from him through the pelting rain like a hare; or
more like a pheasant when, scampering away with a lowered tail, it
has a mind to fly, but does not. Elfride was soon out of sight.


Knight felt uncomfortably wet and chilled, but glowing with
fervour nevertheless. He fully appreciated Elfride's girlish
delicacy in refusing his escort in the meagre habiliments she
wore, yet felt that necessary abstraction of herself for a short
half-hour as a most grievous loss to him.

He gathered up her knotted and twisted plumage of linen, lace, and
embroidery work, and laid it across his arm. He noticed on the
ground an envelope, limp and wet. In endeavouring to restore this
to its proper shape, he loosened from the envelope a piece of
paper it had contained, which was seized by the wind in falling
from Knight's hand. It was blown to the right, blown to the left-it
floated to the edge of the cliff and over the sea, where it
was hurled aloft. It twirled in the air, and then flew back over
his head.

Knight followed the paper, and secured it. Having done so, he
looked to discover if it had been worth securing.

The troublesome sheet was a banker's receipt for two hundred
pounds, placed to the credit of Miss Swancourt, which the
impractical girl had totally forgotten she carried with her.

Knight folded it as carefully as its moist condition would allow,
put it in his pocket, and followed Elfride.

Chapter XXIII

'Should auld acquaintance be forgot?'

By this time Stephen Smith had stepped out upon the quay at Castle
Boterel, and breathed his native air.

A darker skin, a more pronounced moustache, and an incipient
beard, were the chief additions and changes noticeable in his
appearance.

In spite of the falling rain, which had somewhat lessened, he took
a small valise in his hand, and, leaving the remainder of his
luggage at the inn, ascended the hills towards East Endelstow.
This place lay in a vale of its own, further inland than the west
village, and though so near it, had little of physical feature in
common with the latter. East Endelstow was more wooded and
fertile: it boasted of Lord Luxellian's mansion and park, and was
free from those bleak open uplands which lent such an air of
desolation to the vicinage of the coast--always excepting the
small valley in which stood the vicarage and Mrs. Swancourt's old
house, The Crags.

Stephen had arrived nearly at the summit of the ridge when the
rain again increased its volume, and, looking about for temporary
shelter, he ascended a steep path which penetrated dense hazel
bushes in the lower part of its course. Further up it emerged
upon a ledge immediately over the turnpike-road, and sheltered by
an overhanging face of rubble rock, with bushes above. For a
reason of his own he made this spot his refuge from the storm, and
turning his face to the left, conned the landscape as a book.

He was overlooking the valley containing Elfride's residence.

From this point of observation the prospect exhibited the


peculiarity of being either brilliant foreground or the subdued
tone of distance, a sudden dip in the surface of the country
lowering out of sight all the intermediate prospect. In apparent
contact with the trees and bushes growing close beside him
appeared the distant tract, terminated suddenly by the brink of
the series of cliffs which culminated in the tall giant without a
name--small and unimportant as here beheld. A leaf on a bough at
Stephen's elbow blotted out a whole hill in the contrasting
district far away; a green bunch of nuts covered a complete upland
there, and the great cliff itself was outvied by a pigmy crag in
the bank hard by him. Stephen had looked upon these things
hundreds of times before to-day, but he had never viewed them with
such tenderness as now.

Stepping forward in this direction yet a little further, he could
see the tower of West Endelstow Church, beneath which he was to
meet his Elfride that night. And at the same time he noticed,
coming over the hill from the cliffs, a white speck in motion. It
seemed first to be a sea-gull flying low, but ultimately proved to
be a human figure, running with great rapidity. The form flitted
on, heedless of the rain which had caused Stephen's halt in this
place, dropped down the heathery hill, entered the vale, and was
out of sight.

Whilst he meditated upon the meaning of this phenomenon, he was
surprised to see swim into his ken from the same point of
departure another moving speck, as different from the first as
well could be, insomuch that it was perceptible only by its
blackness. Slowly and regularly it took the same course, and
there was not much doubt that this was the form of a man. He,
too, gradually descended from the upper levels, and was lost in
the valley below.

The rain had by this time again abated, and Stephen returned to
the road. Looking ahead, he saw two men and a cart. They were
soon obscured by the intervention of a high hedge. Just before
they emerged again he heard voices in conversation.

''A must soon be in the naibourhood, too, if so be he's a-coming,'
said a tenor tongue, which Stephen instantly recognized as Martin
Cannister's.

''A must 'a b'lieve,' said another voice--that of Stephen's
father.

Stephen stepped forward, and came before them face to face. His
father and Martin were walking, dressed in their second best
suits, and beside them rambled along a grizzel horse and brightly
painted spring-cart.

'All right, Mr. Cannister; here's the lost man!' exclaimed young
Smith, entering at once upon the old style of greeting. 'Father,
here I am.'

'All right, my sonny; and glad I be for't!' returned John Smith,
overjoyed to see the young man. 'How be ye? Well, come along
home, and don't let's bide out here in the damp. Such weather
must be terrible bad for a young chap just come from a fiery
nation like Indy; hey, naibour Cannister?'

'Trew, trew. And about getting home his traps? Boxes, monstrous
bales, and noble packages of foreign description, I make no
doubt?'


'Hardly all that,' said Stephen laughing.

'We brought the cart, maning to go right on to Castle Boterel
afore ye landed,' said his father. 'Put in the horse says
Martin. Ay says I, so we will;" and did it straightway. Now
maybeMartin had better go on wi' the cart for the thingsand
you and I walk home-along.'

'And I shall be back a'most as soon as you. Peggy is a pretty
step stillthough time d' begin to tell upon her as upon the rest
o' us.'

Stephen told Martin where to find his baggageand then continued
his journey homeward in the company of his father.

'Owing to your coming a day sooner than we first expected' said
John'you'll find us in a turk of a messsir--"sir says I to
my own son! but ye've gone up so, Stephen. We've killed the pig
this morning for ye, thinking ye'd be hungry, and glad of a morsel
of fresh mate. And 'a won't be cut up till to-night. However, we
can make ye a good supper of fry, which will chaw up well wi' a
dab o' mustard and a few nice new taters, and a drop of shilling
ale to wash it down. Your mother have scrubbed the house through
because ye were coming, and dusted all the chimmer furniture, and
bought a new basin and jug of a travelling crockery-woman that
came to our door, and scoured the cannel-sticks, and claned the
winders! Ay, I don't know what 'a ha'n't a done. Never were such
a steer, 'a b'lieve.'

Conversation of this kind and inquiries of Stephen for his
mother's wellbeing occupied them for the remainder of the journey.
When they drew near the river, and the cottage behind it, they
could hear the master-mason's clock striking off the bygone hours
of the day at intervals of a quarter of a minute, during which
intervals Stephen's imagination readily pictured his mother's
forefinger wandering round the dial in company with the minutehand.


'The clock stopped this morning, and your mother in putting en
right seemingly,' said his father in an explanatory tone; and they
went up the garden to the door.

When they had entered, and Stephen had dutifully and warmly
greeted his mother--who appeared in a cotton dress of a dark-blue
ground, covered broadcast with a multitude of new and full moons,
stars, and planets, with an occasional dash of a comet-like aspect
to diversify the scene--the crackle of cart-wheels was heard
outside, and Martin Cannister stamped in at the doorway, in the
form of a pair of legs beneath a great box, his body being nowhere
visible. When the luggage had been all taken down, and Stephen
had gone upstairs to change his clothes, Mrs. Smith's mind seemed
to recover a lost thread.

'Really our clock is not worth a penny,' she said, turning to it
and attempting to start the pendulum.

'Stopped again?' inquired Martin with commiseration.

'Yes, sure,' replied Mrs. Smith; and continued after the manner of
certain matrons, to whose tongues the harmony of a subject with a
casual mood is a greater recommendation than its pertinence to the
occasion, 'John would spend pounds a year upon the jimcrack old
thing, if he might, in having it claned, when at the same time you
may doctor it yourself as well. The clock's stopped again


John I say to him. Better have en claned says he. There's
five shillings. That clock grinds again I say to en. Better
have en claned 'a says again. That clock strikes wrongJohn
says I. Better have en claned he goes on. The wheels would
have been polished to skeletons by this time if I had listened to
en, and I assure you we could have bought a chainey-faced beauty
wi' the good money we've flung away these last ten years upon this
old green-faced mortal. And, Martin, you must be wet. My son is
gone up to change. John is damper than I should like to be, but
'a calls it nothing. Some of Mrs. Swancourt's servants have been
here--they ran in out of the rain when going for a walk--and I
assure you the state of their bonnets was frightful.'

'How's the folks? We've been over to Castle Boterel, and what wi'
running and stopping out of the storms, my poor head is beyond
everything! fizz, fizz fizz; 'tis frying o' fish from morning to
night,' said a cracked voice in the doorway at this instant.

'Lord so's, who's that?' said Mrs. Smith, in a private
exclamation, and turning round saw William Worm, endeavouring to
make himself look passing civil and friendly by overspreading his
face with a large smile that seemed to have no connection with the
humour he was in. Behind him stood a woman about twice his size,
with a large umbrella over her head. This was Mrs. Worm,
William's wife.

'Come in, William,' said John Smith. 'We don't kill a pig every
day. And you, likewise, Mrs. Worm. I make ye welcome. Since ye
left Parson Swancourt, William, I don't see much of 'ee.'

'No, for to tell the truth, since I took to the turn-pike-gate
line, I've been out but little, coming to church o' Sundays not
being my duty now, as 'twas in a parson's family, you see.
However, our boy is able to mind the gate now, and I said, says I,
Barbaralet's call and see John Smith."'

'I am sorry to hear yer pore head is so bad still.'

'AyI assure you that frying o' fish is going on for nights and
days. Andyou knowsometimes 'tisn't only fishbut rashers o'
bacon and inions. AyI can hear the fat pop and fizz as nateral
as life; can't IBarbara?'

Mrs. Wormwho had been all this time engaged in closing her
umbrellacorroborated this statementand nowcoming indoors
showed herself to be a wide-facedcomfortable-looking womanwith
a wart upon her cheekbearing a small tuft of hair in its centre.

'Have ye ever tried anything to cure yer noiseMaister Worm?'
inquired Martin Cannister.

'Oh ay; bless yeI've tried everything. AyProvidence is a
merciful manand I have hoped He'd have found it out by this
timeliving so many years in a parson's familytooas I have
but 'a don't seem to relieve me. AyI be a poor wambling man
and life's a mint o' trouble!'

'Truemournful trueWilliam Worm. 'Tis so. The world wants
looking toor 'tis all sixes and sevens wi' us.'

'Take your things offMrs. Worm' said Mrs. Smith. 'We be rather
in a muddleto tell the truthfor my son is just dropped in from
Indy a day sooner than we expectedand the pig-killer is coming
presently to cut up.'


Mrs. Barbara Wormnot wishing to take any mean advantage of
persons in a muddle by observing themremoved her bonnet and
mantle with eyes fixed upon the flowers in the plot outside the
door.

'What beautiful tiger-lilies!' said Mrs. Worm.

'Yesthey be very wellbut such a trouble to me on account of
the children that come here. They will go eating the berries on
the stemand call 'em currants. Taste wi' junivals is quite
fancyreally.'

'And your snapdragons look as fierce as ever.'

'Wellreally' answered Mrs. Smithentering didactically into
the subject'they are more like Christians than flowers. But
they make up well enough wi' the restand don't require much
tending. And the same can be said o' these miller's wheels. 'Tis
a flower I like very muchthough so simple. John says he never
cares about the flowers o' 'embut men have no eye for anything
neat. He says his favourite flower is a cauliflower. And I
assure you I tremble in the springtimefor 'tis perfect murder.'

'You don't say soMrs. Smith!'

'John digs round the rootsyou know. In goes his blundering
spadethrough rootsbulbseverything that hasn't got a good
show above groundturning 'em up cut all to slices. Only the
very last fall I went to move some tulipswhen I found every bulb
upside downand the stems crooked round. He had turned 'em over
in the springand the cunning creatures had soon found that
heaven was not where it used to be.'

'What's that long-favoured flower under the hedge?'

'They? O Lordthey are the horrid Jacob's ladders! Instead of
praising 'emI be mad wi' 'em for being so ready to bide where
they are not wanted. They be very well in their waybut I do not
care for things that neglect won't kill. Do what I willdig
dragscrappullI get too many of 'em. I chop the roots: up
they'll cometreble strong. Throw 'em over hedge; there they'll
growstaring me in the face like a hungry dog driven awayand
creep back again in a week or two the same as before. 'Tis
Jacob's ladder hereJacob's ladder thereand plant 'em where
nothing in the world will growyou get crowds of 'em in a month
or two. John made a new manure mixen last summerand he said
Maria, now if you've got any flowers or such like, that you don't
want, you may plant 'em round my mixen so as to hide it a bit,
though 'tis not likely anything of much value will grow there.I
thoughtThere's them Jacob's ladders; I'll put them there, since
they can't do harm in such a place; and I planted the Jacob's
ladders sure enough. They growedand they growedin the mixen
and out of the mixenall over the littercovering it quite up.
When John wanted to use it about the garden'a saidNation
seize them Jacob's ladders of yours, Maria! They've eat the
goodness out of every morsel of my manure, so that 'tis no better
than sand itself!Sure enough the hungry mortals had. 'Tis my
belief that in the secret souls o' 'emJacob's ladders be weeds
and not flowers at allif the truth was known.'

Robert Lickpanpig-killer and carrierarrived at this moment.
The fatted animal hanging in the back kitchen was cleft down the
middle of its backboneMrs. Smith being meanwhile engaged in


cooking supper.

Between the cutting and choppingale was handed roundand Worm
and the pig-killer listened to John Smith's description of the
meeting with Stephenwith eyes blankly fixed upon the tablecloth
in order that nothing in the external world should
interrupt their efforts to conjure up the scene correctly.

Stephen came downstairs in the middle of the storyand after the
little interruption occasioned by his entrance and welcomethe
narrative was again continuedprecisely as if he had not been
there at alland was told inclusively to himas to somebody who
knew nothing about the matter.

'"Ay I said, as I catched sight o' en through the brimbles,
that's the ladfor I d' know en by his grand-father's walk; "for
'a stapped out like poor father for all the world. Still there
was a touch o' the frisky that set me wondering. 'A got closer
and I saidThat's the lad, for I d' know en by his carrying a
black case like a travelling man.Stilla road is common to all
the worldand there be more travelling men than one. But I kept
my eye cockedand I said to Martin'Tis the boy, now, for I d'
know en by the wold twirl o' the stick and the family step.Then
'a come closerand a' saidAll right.I could swear to en
then.'

Stephen's personal appearance was next criticised.

'He d' look a deal thinner in facesurelythan when I seed en at
the parson'sand never knowed enif ye'll believe me' said
Martin.

'Aythere' said anotherwithout removing his eyes from
Stephen's face'I should ha' knowed en anywhere. 'Tis his
father's nose to a T.'

'It has been often remarked' said Stephen modestly.

'And he's certainly taller' said Martinletting his glance run
over Stephen's form from bottom to top.

'I was thinking 'a was exactly the same height' Worm replied.

'Bless thy soulthat's because he's bigger round likewise.' And
the united eyes all moved to Stephen's waist.

'I be a poor wambling manbut I can make allowances' said
William Worm. 'Ahsureand how he came as a stranger and
pilgrim to Parson Swancourt's that timenot a soul knowing en
after so many years! Aylife's a strange picterStephen: but I
suppose I must say Sir to ye?'

'Ohit is not necessary at present' Stephen repliedthough
mentally resolving to avoid the vicinity of that familiar friend
as soon as he had made pretensions to the hand of Elfride.

'Ahwell' said Worm musingly'some would have looked for no
less than a Sir. There's a sight of difference in people.'

'And in pigs likewise' observed John Smithlooking at the halved
carcass of his own.

Robert Lickpanthe pig-killerhere seemed called upon to enter
the lists of conversation.


'Yesthey've got their particular naters good-now' he remarked
initially. 'Many's the rum-tempered pig I've knowed.'

'I don't doubt itMaster Lickpan' answered Martinin a tone
expressing that his convictionsno less than good manners
demanded the reply.

'Yes' continued the pig-killeras one accustomed to be heard.
'One that I knowed was deaf and dumband we couldn't make out
what was the matter wi' the pig. 'A would eat well enough when 'a
seed the troughbut when his back was turnedyou might a-rattled
the bucket all daythe poor soul never heard ye. Ye could play
tricks upon en behind his backand a' wouldn't find it out no
quicker than poor deaf Grammer Cates. But a' fatted welland I
never seed a pig open better when a' was killedand 'a was very
tender eatingvery; as pretty a bit of mate as ever you see; you
could suck that mate through a quill.

'And another I knowed' resumed the killerafter quietly letting
a pint of ale run down his throat of its own accordand setting
down the cup with mathematical exactness upon the spot from which
he had raised it--'another went out of his mind.'

'How very mournful!' murmured Mrs. Worm.

'Aypoor thing'a did! As clean out of his mind as the cleverest
Christian could go. In early life 'a was very melancholyand
never seemed a hopeful pig by no means. 'Twas Andrew Stainer's
pig--that's whose pig 'twas.'

'I can mind the pig well enough' attested John Smith.

'And a pretty little porker 'a was. And you all know Farmer
Buckle's sort? Every jack o' em suffer from the rheumatism to this
dayowing to a damp sty they lived in when they were striplings
as 'twere.'

'Wellnow we'll weigh' said John.

'If so be he were not so finewe'd weigh en whole: but as he is
we'll take a side at a time. Johnyou can mind my old jokeey?'

'I do so; though 'twas a good few years ago I first heard en.'

'Yes' said Lickpan'that there old familiar joke have been in
our family for generationsI may say. My father used that joke
regular at pig-killings for more than five and forty years--the
time he followed the calling. And 'a told me that 'a had it from
his father when he was quite a chielwho made use o' en just the
same at every killing more or less; and pig-killings were pigkillings
in those days.'

'Trewly they were.'

'I've never heard the joke' said Mrs. Smith tentatively.

'Nor I' chimed in Mrs. Wormwhobeing the only other lady in
the roomfelt bound by the laws of courtesy to feel like Mrs.
Smith in everything.

'Surelysurely you have' said the killerlooking sceptically at
the benighted females. 'However'tisn't much--I don't wish to
say it is. It commences like this: "Bob will tell the weight of


your pig'a b'lieve says I. The congregation of neighbours
think I mane my son Bob, naturally; but the secret is that I mane
the bob o' the steelyard. Ha, ha, ha!'

'Haw, haw, haw!' laughed Martin Cannister, who had heard the
explanation of this striking story for the hundredth time.

'Huh, huh, huh!' laughed John Smith, who had heard it for the
thousandth.

'Hee, hee, hee!' laughed William Worm, who had never heard it at
all, but was afraid to say so.

'Thy grandfather, Robert, must have been a wide-awake chap to make
that story,' said Martin Cannister, subsiding to a placid aspect
of delighted criticism.

'He had a head, by all account. And, you see, as the first-born
of the Lickpans have all been Roberts, they've all been Bobs, so
the story was handed down to the present day.'

'Poor Joseph, your second boy, will never be able to bring it out
in company, which is rather unfortunate,' said Mrs. Worm
thoughtfully.

''A won't. Yes, grandfer was a clever chap, as ye say; but I
knowed a cleverer. 'Twas my uncle Levi. Uncle Levi made a snuffbox
that should be a puzzle to his friends to open. He used to
hand en round at wedding parties, christenings, funerals, and in
other jolly company, and let 'em try their skill. This
extraordinary snuff-box had a spring behind that would push in and
out--a hinge where seemed to be the cover; a slide at the end, a
screw in front, and knobs and queer notches everywhere. One man
would try the spring, another would try the screw, another would
try the slide; but try as they would, the box wouldn't open. And
they couldn't open en, and they didn't open en. Now what might
you think was the secret of that box?'

All put on an expression that their united thoughts were
inadequate to the occasion.

'Why the box wouldn't open at all. 'A were made not to open, and
ye might have tried till the end of Revelations, 'twould have been
as naught, for the box were glued all round.'

'A very deep man to have made such a box.'

'Yes. 'Twas like uncle Levi all over.'

''Twas. I can mind the man very well. Tallest man ever I seed.'

''A was so. He never slept upon a bedstead after he growed up a
hard boy-chap--never could get one long enough. When 'a lived in
that little small house by the pond, he used to have to leave open
his chamber door every night at going to his bed, and let his feet
poke out upon the landing.'

'He's dead and gone now, nevertheless, poor man, as we all shall,'
observed Worm, to fill the pause which followed the conclusion of
Robert Lickpan's speech.

The weighing and cutting up was pursued amid an animated discourse
on Stephen's travels; and at the finish, the first-fruits of the
day's slaughter, fried in onions, were then turned from the pan


into a dish on the table, each piece steaming and hissing till it
reached their very mouths.

It must be owned that the gentlemanly son of the house looked
rather out of place in the course of this operation. Nor was his
mind quite philosophic enough to allow him to be comfortable with
these old-established persons, his father's friends. He had never
lived long at home--scarcely at all since his childhood. The
presence of William Worm was the most awkward feature of the case,
for, though Worm had left the house of Mr. Swancourt, the being
hand-in-glove with a ci-devant servitor reminded Stephen too
forcibly of the vicar's classification of himself before he went
from England. Mrs. Smith was conscious of the defect in her
arrangements which had brought about the undesired conjunction.
She spoke to Stephen privately.

'I am above having such people here, Stephen; but what could I do?
And your father is so rough in his nature that he's more mixed up
with them than need be.'

'Never mind, mother,' said Stephen; 'I'll put up with it now.'

'When we leave my lord's service, and get further up the country-as
I hope we shall soon--it will be different. We shall be among
fresh people, and in a larger house, and shall keep ourselves up a
bit, I hope.'

'Is Miss Swancourt at home, do you know?' Stephen inquired

'Yes, your father saw her this morning.'

'Do you often see her?'

'Scarcely ever. Mr. Glim, the curate, calls occasionally, but the
Swancourts don't come into the village now any more than to drive
through it. They dine at my lord's oftener than they used. Ah,
here's a note was brought this morning for you by a boy.'

Stephen eagerly took the note and opened it, his mother watching
him. He read what Elfride had written and sent before she started
for the cliff that afternoon:

'Yes; I will meet you in the church at nine to-night.--E. S.'

'I don't know, Stephen,' his mother said meaningly, 'whe'r you
still think about Miss Elfride, but if I were you I wouldn't
concern about her. They say that none of old Mrs. Swancourt's
money will come to her step-daughter.'

'I see the evening has turned out fine; I am going out for a
little while to look round the place,' he said, evading the direct
query. 'Probably by the time I return our visitors will be gone,
and we'll have a more confidential talk.'

Chapter XXIV

'Breeze, bird, and flower confess the hour.'

The rain had ceased since the sunset, but it was a cloudy night;


and the light of the moon, softened and dispersed by its misty
veil, was distributed over the land in pale gray.

A dark figure stepped from the doorway of John Smith's river-side
cottage, and strode rapidly towards West Endelstow with a light
footstep. Soon ascending from the lower levels he turned a
corner, followed a cart-track, and saw the tower of the church he
was in quest of distinctly shaped forth against the sky. In less
than half an hour from the time of starting he swung himself over
the churchyard stile.

The wild irregular enclosure was as much as ever an integral part
of the old hill. The grass was still long, the graves were shaped
precisely as passing years chose to alter them from their orthodox
form as laid down by Martin Cannister, and by Stephen's own
grandfather before him.

A sound sped into the air from the direction in which Castle
Boterel lay. It was the striking of the church clock, distinct in
the still atmosphere as if it had come from the tower hard by,
which, wrapt in its solitary silentness, gave out no such sounds
of life.

'One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.' Stephen
carefully counted the strokes, though he well knew their number
beforehand. Nine o'clock. It was the hour Elfride had herself
named as the most convenient for meeting him.

Stephen stood at the door of the porch and listened. He could
have heard the softest breathing of any person within the porch;
nobody was there. He went inside the doorway, sat down upon the
stone bench, and waited with a beating heart.

The faint sounds heard only accentuated the silence. The rising
and falling of the sea, far away along the coast, was the most
important. A minor sound was the scurr of a distant night-hawk.
Among the minutest where all were minute were the light settlement
of gossamer fragments floating in the air, a toad humbly labouring
along through the grass near the entrance, the crackle of a dead
leaf which a worm was endeavouring to pull into the earth, a waft
of air, getting nearer and nearer, and expiring at his feet under
the burden of a winged seed.

Among all these soft sounds came not the only soft sound he cared
to hear--the footfall of Elfride.

For a whole quarter of an hour Stephen sat thus intent, without
moving a muscle. At the end of that time he walked to the west
front of the church. Turning the corner of the tower, a white
form stared him in the face. He started back, and recovered
himself. It was the tomb of young farmer Jethway, looking still
as fresh and as new as when it was first erected, the white stone
in which it was hewn having a singular weirdness amid the dark
blue slabs from local quarries, of which the whole remaining
gravestones were formed.

He thought of the night when he had sat thereon with Elfride as
his companion, and well remembered his regret that she had
received, even unwillingly, earlier homage than his own. But his
present tangible anxiety reduced such a feeling to sentimental
nonsense in comparison; and he strolled on over the graves to the
border of the churchyard, whence in the daytime could be clearly
seen the vicarage and the present residence of the Swancourts. No
footstep was discernible upon the path up the hill, but a light


was shining from a window in the last-named house.

Stephen knew there could be no mistake about the time or place,
and no difficulty about keeping the engagement. He waited yet
longer, passing from impatience into a mood which failed to take
any account of the lapse of time. He was awakened from his
reverie by Castle Boterel clock.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, TEN .

One little fall of the hammer in addition to the number it had
been sharp pleasure to hear, and what a difference to him!

He left the churchyard on the side opposite to his point of
entrance, and went down the hill. Slowly he drew near the gate of
her house. This he softly opened, and walked up the gravel drive
to the door. Here he paused for several minutes.

At the expiration of that time the murmured speech of a manly
voice came out to his ears through an open window behind the
corner of the house. This was responded to by a clear soft laugh.
It was the laugh of Elfride.

Stephen was conscious of a gnawing pain at his heart. He
retreated as he had come. There are disappointments which wring
us, and there are those which inflict a wound whose mark we bear
to our graves. Such are so keen that no future gratification of
the same desire can ever obliterate them: they become registered
as a permanent loss of happiness. Such a one was Stephen's now:
the crowning aureola of the dream had been the meeting here by
stealth; and if Elfride had come to him only ten minutes after he
had turned away, the disappointment would have been recognizable
still.

When the young man reached home he found there a letter which had
arrived in his absence. Believing it to contain some reason for
her non-appearance, yet unable to imagine one that could justify
her, he hastily tore open the envelope.

The paper contained not a word from Elfride. It was the depositnote
for his two hundred pounds. On the back was the form of a
cheque, and this she had filled up with the same sum, payable to
the bearer.

Stephen was confounded. He attempted to divine her motive.
Considering how limited was his knowledge of her later actions, he
guessed rather shrewdly that, between the time of her sending the
note in the morning and the evening's silent refusal of his gift,
something had occurred which had caused a total change in her
attitude towards him.

He knew not what to do. It seemed absurd now to go to her father
next morning, as he had purposed, and ask for an engagement with
her, a possibility impending all the while that Elfride herself
would not be on his side. Only one course recommended itself as
wise. To wait and see what the days would bring forth; to go and
execute his commissions in Birmingham; then to return, learn if
anything had happened, and try what a meeting might do; perhaps
her surprise at his backwardness would bring her forward to show
latent warmth as decidedly as in old times.

This act of patience was in keeping only with the nature of a man
precisely of Stephen's constitution. Nine men out of ten would
perhaps have rushed off, got into her presence, by fair means or


foul, and provoked a catastrophe of some sort. Possibly for the
better, probably for the worse.

He started for Birmingham the next morning. A day's delay would
have made no difference; but he could not rest until he had begun
and ended the programme proposed to himself. Bodily activity will
sometimes take the sting out of anxiety as completely as assurance
itself.

Chapter XXV

'Mine own familiar friend.'

During these days of absence Stephen lived under alternate
conditions. Whenever his emotions were active, he was in agony.
Whenever he was not in agony, the business in hand had driven out
of his mind by sheer force all deep reflection on the subject of
Elfride and love.

By the time he took his return journey at the week's end, Stephen
had very nearly worked himself up to an intention to call and see
her face to face. On this occasion also he adopted his favourite
route--by the little summer steamer from Bristol to Castle
Boterel; the time saved by speed on the railway being wasted at
junctions, and in following a devious course.

It was a bright silent evening at the beginning of September when
Smith again set foot in the little town. He felt inclined to
linger awhile upon the quay before ascending the hills, having
formed a romantic intention to go home by way of her house, yet
not wishing to wander in its neighbourhood till the evening shades
should sufficiently screen him from observation.

And thus waiting for night's nearer approach, he watched the
placid scene, over which the pale luminosity of the west cast a
sorrowful monochrome, that became slowly embrowned by the dusk. A
star appeared, and another, and another. They sparkled amid the
yards and rigging of the two coal brigs lying alangside, as if
they had been tiny lamps suspended in the ropes. The masts rocked
sleepily to the infinitesimal flux of the tide, which clucked and
gurgled with idle regularity in nooks and holes of the harbour
wall.

The twilight was now quite pronounced enough for his purpose; and
as, rather sad at heart, he was about to move on, a little boat
containing two persons glided up the middle of the harbour with
the lightness of a shadow. The boat came opposite him, passed on,
and touched the landing-steps at the further end. One of its
occupants was a man, as Stephen had known by the easy stroke of
the oars. When the pair ascended the steps, and came into greater
prominence, he was enabled to discern that the second personage
was a woman; also that she wore a white decoration--apparently a
feather--in her hat or bonnet, which spot of white was the only
distinctly visible portion of her clothing.

Stephen remained a moment in their rear, and they passed on, when
he pursued his way also, and soon forgot the circumstance. Having
crossed a bridge, forsaken the high road, and entered the footpath
which led up the vale to West Endelstow, he heard a little wicket
click softly together some yards ahead. By the time that Stephen
had reached the wicket and passed it, he heard another click of


precisely the same nature from another gate yet further on.
Clearly some person or persons were preceding him along the path,
their footsteps being rendered noiseless by the soft carpet of
turf. Stephen now walked a little quicker, and perceived two
forms. One of them bore aloft the white feather he had noticed in
the woman's hat on the quay: they were the couple he had seen in
the boat. Stephen dropped a little further to the rear.

From the bottom of the valley, along which the path had hitherto
lain, beside the margin of the trickling streamlet, another path
now diverged, and ascended the slope of the left-hand hill. This
footway led only to the residence of Mrs. Swancourt and a cottage
or two in its vicinity. No grass covered this diverging path in
portions of its length, and Stephen was reminded that the pair in
front of him had taken this route by the occasional rattle of
loose stones under their feet. Stephen climbed in the same
direction, but for some undefined reason he trod more softly than
did those preceding him. His mind was unconsciously in exercise
upon whom the woman might be--whether a visitor to The Crags, a
servant, or Elfride. He put it to himself yet more forcibly;
could the lady be Elfride? A possible reason for her unaccountable
failure to keep the appointment with him returned with painful
force.

They entered the grounds of the house by the side wicket, whence
the path, now wide and well trimmed, wound fantastically through
the shrubbery to an octagonal pavilion called the Belvedere, by
reason of the comprehensive view over the adjacent district that
its green seats afforded. The path passed this erection and went
on to the house as well as to the gardener's cottage on the other
side, straggling thence to East Endelstow; so that Stephen felt no
hesitation in entering a promenade which could scarcely be called
private.

He fancied that he heard the gate open and swing together again
behind him. Turning, he saw nobody.

The people of the boat came to the summer-house. One of them
spoke.

'I am afraid we shall get a scolding for being so late.'

Stephen instantly recognised the familiar voice, richer and fuller
now than it used to be. 'Elfride!' he whispered to himself, and
held fast by a sapling, to steady himself under the agitation her
presence caused him. His heart swerved from its beat; he shunned
receiving the meaning he sought.

'A breeze is rising again; how the ash tree rustles!' said
Elfride. 'Don't you hear it? I wonder what the time is.'

Stephen relinquished the sapling.

I will get a light and tell you. Step into the summer-house; the
air is quiet there.'

The cadence of that voice--its peculiarity seemed to come home to
him like that of some notes of the northern birds on his return to
his native clime, as an old natural thing renewed, yet not
particularly noticed as natural before that renewal.

They entered the Belvedere. In the lower part it was formed of
close wood-work nailed crosswise, and had openings in the upper by
way of windows.


The scratch of a striking light was heard, and a bright glow
radiated from the interior of the building. The light gave birth
to dancing leaf-shadows, stem-shadows, lustrous streaks, dots,
sparkles, and threads of silver sheen of all imaginable variety
and transience. It awakened gnats, which flew towards it,
revealed shiny gossamer threads, disturbed earthworms. Stephen
gave but little attention to these phenomena, and less time. He
saw in the summer-house a strongly illuminated picture.

First, the face of his friend and preceptor Henry Knight, between
whom and himself an estrangement had arisen, not from any definite
causes beyond those of absence, increasing age, and diverging
sympathies.

Next, his bright particular star, Elfride. The face of Elfride
was more womanly than when she had called herself his, but as
clear and healthy as ever. Her plenteous twines of beautiful hair
were looking much as usual, with the exception of a slight
modification in their arrangement in deference to the changes of
fashion.

Their two foreheads were close together, almost touching, and both
were looking down. Elfride was holding her watch, Knight was
holding the light with one hand, his left arm being round her
waist. Part of the scene reached Stephen's eyes through the
horizontal bars of woodwork, which crossed their forms like the
ribs of a skeleton.

Knight's arm stole still further round the waist of Elfride.

'It is half-past eight,' she said in a low voice, which had a
peculiar music in it, seemingly born of a thrill of pleasure at
the new proof that she was beloved.

The flame dwindled down, died away, and all was wrapped in a
darkness to which the gloom before the illumination bore no
comparison in apparent density. Stephen, shattered in spirit and
sick to his heart's centre, turned away. In turning, he saw a
shadowy outline behind the summer-house on the other side. His
eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. Was the form a human form,
or was it an opaque bush of juniper?

The lovers arose, brushed against the laurestines, and pursued
their way to the house. The indistinct figure had moved, and now
passed across Smith's front. So completely enveloped was the
person, that it was impossible to discern him or her any more than
as a shape. The shape glided noiselessly on.

Stephen stepped forward, fearing any mischief was intended to the
other two. 'Who are you?' he said.

'Never mind who I am,' answered a weak whisper from the enveloping
folds. 'WHAT I am, may she be! Perhaps I knew well--ah, so well!-a
youth whose place you took, as he there now takes yours. Will
you let her break your heart, and bring you to an untimely grave,
as she did the one before you?'

'You are Mrs. Jethway, I think. What do you do here? And why do
you talk so wildly?'

'Because my heart is desolate, and nobody cares about it. May
hers be so that brought trouble upon me!'


'Silence!' said Stephen, staunch to Elfride in spite of himself
'She would harm nobody wilfully, never would she! How do you come
here?'

'I saw the two coming up the path, and wanted to learn if she were
not one of them. Can I help disliking her if I think of the past?
Can I help watching her if I remember my boy? Can I help illwishing
her if I well-wish him?'

The bowed form went on, passed through the wicket, and was
enveloped by the shadows of the field.

Stephen had heard that Mrs. Jethway, since the death of her son,
had become a crazed, forlorn woman; and bestowing a pitying
thought upon her, he dismissed her fancied wrongs from his mind,
but not her condemnation of Elfride's faithlessness. That entered
into and mingled with the sensations his new experience had
begotten. The tale told by the little scene he had witnessed ran
parallel with the unhappy woman's opinion, which, however baseless
it might have been antecedently, had become true enough as
regarded himself.

A slow weight of despair, as distinct from a violent paroxysm as
starvation from a mortal shot, filled him and wrung him body and
soul. The discovery had not been altogether unexpected, for
throughout his anxiety of the last few days since the night in the
churchyard, he had been inclined to construe the uncertainty
unfavourably for himself. His hopes for the best had been but
periodic interruptions to a chronic fear of the worst.

A strange concomitant of his misery was the singularity of its
form. That his rival should be Knight, whom once upon a time he
had adored as a man is very rarely adored by another in modern
times, and whom he loved now, added deprecation to sorrow, and
cynicism to both. Henry Knight, whose praises he had so
frequently trumpeted in her ears, of whom she had actually been
jealous, lest she herself should be lessened in Stephen's love on
account of him, had probably won her the more easily by reason of
those very praises which he had only ceased to utter by her
command. She had ruled him like a queen in that matter, as in all
others. Stephen could tell by her manner, brief as had been his
observation of it, and by her words, few as they were, that her
position was far different with Knight. That she looked up at and
adored her new lover from below his pedestal, was even more
perceptible than that she had smiled down upon Stephen from a
height above him.

The suddenness of Elfride's renunciation of himself was food for
more torture. To an unimpassioned outsider, it admitted of at
least two interpretations--it might either have proceeded from an
endeavour to be faithful to her first choice, till the lover seen
absolutely overpowered the lover remembered, or from a wish not to
lose his love till sure of the love of another. But to Stephen
Smith the motive involved in the latter alternative made it
untenable where Elfride was the actor.

He mused on her letters to him, in which she had never mentioned a
syllable concerning Knight. It is desirable, however, to observe
that only in two letters could she possibly have done so. One was
written about a week before Knight's arrival, when, though she did
not mention his promised coming to Stephen, she had hardly a
definite reason in her mind for neglecting to do it. In the next
she did casually allude to Knight. But Stephen had left Bombay
long before that letter arrived.


Stephen looked at the black form of the adjacent house, where it
cut a dark polygonal notch out of the sky, and felt that he hated
the spot. He did not know many facts of the case, but could not
help instinctively associating Elfride's fickleness with the
marriage of her father, and their introduction to London society.
He closed the iron gate bounding the shrubbery as noiselessly as
he had opened it, and went into the grassy field. Here he could
see the old vicarage, the house alone that was associated with the
sweet pleasant time of his incipient love for Elfride. Turning
sadly from the place that was no longer a nook in which his
thoughts might nestle when he was far away, he wandered in the
direction of the east village, to reach his father's house before
they retired to rest.

The nearest way to the cottage was by crossing the park. He did
not hurry. Happiness frequently has reason for haste, but it is
seldom that desolation need scramble or strain. Sometimes he
paused under the low-hanging arms of the trees, looking vacantly
on the ground.

Stephen was standing thus, scarcely less crippled in thought than
he was blank in vision, when a clear sound permeated the quiet air
about him, and spread on far beyond. The sound was the stroke of
a bell from the tower of East Endelstow Church, which stood in a
dell not forty yards from Lord Luxellian's mansion, and within the
park enclosure. Another stroke greeted his ear, and gave
character to both: then came a slow succession of them.

'Somebody is dead,' he said aloud.

The death-knell of an inhabitant of the eastern parish was being
tolled.

An unusual feature in the tolling was that it had not been begun
according to the custom in Endelstow and other parishes in the
neighbourhood. At every death the sex and age of the deceased
were announced by a system of changes. Three times three strokes
signified that the departed one was a man; three times two, a
woman; twice three, a boy; twice two, a girl. The regular
continuity of the tolling suggested that it was the resumption
rather than the beginning of a knell--the opening portion of which
Stephen had not been near enough to hear.

The momentary anxiety he had felt with regard to his parents
passed away. He had left them in perfect health, and had any
serious illness seized either, a communication would have reached
him ere this. At the same time, since his way homeward lay under
the churchyard yews, he resolved to look into the belfry in
passing by, and speak a word to Martin Cannister, who would be
there.

Stephen reached the brow of the hill, and felt inclined to
renounce his idea. His mood was such that talking to any person
to whom he could not unburden himself would be wearisome.
However, before he could put any inclination into effect, the
young man saw from amid the trees a bright light shining, the rays
from which radiated like needles through the sad plumy foliage of
the yews. Its direction was from the centre of the churchyard.

Stephen mechanically went forward. Never could there be a greater
contrast between two places of like purpose than between this
graveyard and that of the further village. Here the grass was
carefully tended, and formed virtually a part of the manor-house


lawn; flowers and shrubs being planted indiscriminately over both,
whilst the few graves visible were mathematically exact in shape
and smoothness, appearing in the daytime like chins newly shaven.
There was no wall, the division between God's Acre and Lord
Luxellian's being marked only by a few square stones set at
equidistant points. Among those persons who have romantic
sentiments on the subject of their last dwelling-place, probably
the greater number would have chosen such a spot as this in
preference to any other: a few would have fancied a constraint in
its trim neatness, and would have preferred the wild hill-top of
the neighbouring site, with Nature in her most negligent attire.

The light in the churchyard he next discovered to have its source
in a point very near the ground, and Stephen imagined it might
come from a lantern in the interior of a partly-dug grave. But a
nearer approach showed him that its position was immediately under
the wall of the aisle, and within the mouth of an archway. He
could now hear voices, and the truth of the whole matter began to
dawn upon him. Walking on towards the opening, Smith discerned on
his left hand a heap of earth, and before him a flight of stone
steps which the removed earth had uncovered, leading down under
the edifice. It was the entrance to a large family vault,
extending under the north aisle.

Stephen had never before seen it open, and descending one or two
steps stooped to look under the arch. The vault appeared to be
crowded with coffins, with the exception of an open central space,
which had been necessarily kept free for ingress and access to the
sides, round three of which the coffins were stacked in stone bins
or niches.

The place was well lighted with candles stuck in slips of wood
that were fastened to the wall. On making the descent of another
step the living inhabitants of the vault were recognizable. They
were his father the master-mason, an under-mason, Martin
Cannister, and two or three young and old labouring-men. Crowbars
and workmen's hammers were scattered about. The whole company,
sitting round on coffins which had been removed from their places,
apparently for some alteration or enlargement of the vault, were
eating bread and cheese, and drinking ale from a cup with two
handles, passed round from each to each.

'Who is dead?' Stephen inquired, stepping down.

Chapter XXVI

'To that last nothing under earth.'

All eyes were turned to the entrance as Stephen spoke, and the
ancient-mannered conclave scrutinized him inquiringly.

'Why, 'tis our Stephen!' said his father, rising from his seat;
and, still retaining the frothy mug in his left hand, he swung
forward his right for a grasp. 'Your mother is expecting ye-thought
you would have come afore dark. But you'll wait and go
home with me? I have all but done for the day, and was going
directly.'

'Yes, 'tis Master Stephy, sure enough. Glad to see you so soon
again, Master Smith,' said Martin Cannister, chastening the
gladness expressed in his words by a strict neutrality of


countenance, in order to harmonize the feeling as much as possible
with the solemnity of a family vault.

'The same to you, Martin; and you, William,' said Stephen, nodding
around to the rest, who, having their mouths full of bread and
cheese, were of necessity compelled to reply merely by compressing
their eyes to friendly lines and wrinkles.

'And who is dead?' Stephen repeated.

'Lady Luxellian, poor gentlewoman, as we all shall, said the
under-mason. 'Ay, and we be going to enlarge the vault to make
room for her.'

'When did she die?'

'Early this morning,' his father replied, with an appearance of
recurring to a chronic thought. 'Yes, this morning. Martin hev
been tolling ever since, almost. There, 'twas expected. She was
very limber.'

'Ay, poor soul, this morning,' resumed the under-mason, a
marvellously old man, whose skin seemed so much too large for his
body that it would not stay in position. 'She must know by this
time whether she's to go up or down, poor woman.'

'What was her age?'

'Not more than seven or eight and twenty by candlelight. But,
Lord! by day 'a was forty if 'a were an hour.'

'Ay, night-time or day-time makes a difference of twenty years to
rich feymels,' observed Martin.

'She was one and thirty really,' said John Smith. 'I had it from
them that know.'

'Not more than that!'

''A looked very bad, poor lady. In faith, ye might say she was
dead for years afore 'a would own it.'

'As my old father used to say, deadbut wouldn't drop down."'

'I seed herpoor soul' said a labourer from behind some removed
coffins'only but last Valentine's-day of all the world. 'A was
arm in crook wi' my lord. I says to myselfYou be ticketed
Churchyard, my noble lady, although you don't dream on't.'

'I suppose my lord will write to all the other lords anointed in
the nationto let 'em know that she that was is now no more?'

''Tis done and past. I see a bundle of letters go off an hour
after the death. Sich wonderful black rims as they letters had-half-
an-inch wideat the very least.'

'Too much' observed Martin. 'In short'tis out of the question
that a human being can be so mournful as black edges half-an-inch
wide. I'm sure people don't feel more than a very narrow border
when they feels most of all.'

'And there are two little girlsare there not?' said Stephen.

'Nice clane little faces!--left motherless now.'


'They used to come to Parson Swancourt's to play with Miss Elfride
when I were there' said William Worm. 'Ahthey did so's!' The
latter sentence was introduced to add the necessary melancholy to
a remark whichintrinsicallycould hardly be made to possess
enough for the occasion. 'Yes' continued Worm'they'd run
upstairsthey'd run down; flitting about with her everywhere.
Very fond of herthey were. Ahwell!'

'Fonder than ever they were of their motherso 'tis said here and
there' added a labourer.

'Wellyou see'tis natural. Lady Luxellian stood aloof from 'em
so--was so drowsy-likethat they couldn't love her in the jollycompanion
way children want to like folks. Only last winter I
seed Miss Elfride talking to my lady and the two childrenand
Miss Elfride wiped their noses for em' SO careful--my lady never
once seeing that it wanted doing; andnaturallychildren take to
people that's their best friend.'

'Be as 'twillthe woman is dead and goneand we must make a
place for her' said John. 'Comeladsdrink up your aleand
we'll just rid this cornerso as to have all clear for beginning
at the wallas soon as 'tis light to-morrow.'

Stephen then asked where Lady Luxellian was to lie.

'Here' said his father. 'We are going to set back this wall and
make a recess; and 'tis enough for us to do before the funeral.
When my lord's mother diedshe saidJohn, the place must be
enlarged before another can be put in.But 'a never expected
'twould be wanted so soon. Better move Lord George firstI
supposeSimeon?'

He pointed with his foot to a heavy coffincovered with what had
originally been red velvetthe colour of which could only just be
distinguished now.

'Just as ye think bestMaster John' replied the shrivelled
mason. 'Ahpoor Lord George!' he continuedlooking
contemplatively at the huge coffin; 'he and I were as bitter
enemies once as any could be when one is a lord and t'other only a
mortal man. Poor fellow! He'd clap his hand upon my shoulder and
cuss me as familial and neighbourly as if he'd been a common chap.
Ay'a cussed me up hill and 'a cussed me down; and then 'a would
rave out againand the goold clamps of his fine new teeth would
glisten in the sun like fetters of brasswhile Ibeing a small
man and poorwas fain to say nothing at all. Such a strappen
fine gentleman as he was too! YesI rather liked en sometimes.
But once now and thenwhen I looked at his towering heightI'd
think in my insideWhat a weight you'll be, my lord, for our
arms to lower under the aisle of Endelstow Church some day!'

'And was he?' inquired a young labourer.

'He was. He was five hundredweight if 'a were a pound. What with
his leadand his oakand his handlesand his one thing and
t'other'--here the ancient man slapped his hand upon the cover
with a force that caused a rattle among the bones inside--'he half
broke my back when I took his feet to lower en down the steps
there. "Ah saith I to John there--didn't I, John?--that ever
one man's glory should be such a weight upon another man!" But
thereI liked my lord George sometimes.'


''Tis a strange thought' said another'that while they be all
here under one roofa snug united family o' Luxelliansthey be
really scattered miles away from one another in the form of good
sheep and wicked goatsisn't it?'

'True; 'tis a thought to look at.'

'And that oneif he's gone upwarddon't know what his wife is
doing no more than the man in the moon if she's gone downward.
And that some unfortunate one in the hot place is a-hollering
across to a lucky one up in the cloudsand quite forgetting their
bodies be boxed close together all the time.'

'Ay'tis a thought to look attoothat I can say "Hullo!" close
to fiery Lord Georgeand 'a can't hear me.'

'And that I be eating my onion close to dainty Lady Jane's nose
and she can't smell me.'

'What do 'em put all their heads one way for?' inquired a young
man.

'Because 'tis churchyard lawyou simple. The law of the living
isthat a man shall be upright and down-rightand the law of the
dead isthat a man shall be east and west. Every state of society
have its laws.'

'We must break the law wi' a few of the poor soulshowever.
Comebuckle to' said the master-mason.

And they set to work anew.

The order of interment could be distinctly traced by observing the
appearance of the coffins as they lay piled around. On those
which had been standing there but a generation or two the
trappings still remained. Those of an earlier period showed bare
woodwith a few tattered rags dangling therefrom. Earlier still
the wood lay in fragments on the floor of the nicheand the
coffin consisted of naked lead alone; whilst in the case of the
very oldesteven the lead was bulging and cracking in pieces
revealing to the curious eye a heap of dust within. The shields
upon many were quite looseand removable by the handtheir
lustreless surfaces still indistinctly exhibiting the name and
title of the deceased.

Overhead the groins and concavities of the arches curved in all
directionsdropping low towards the wallswhere the height was
no more than sufficient to enable a person to stand upright.

The body of George the fourteenth barontogether with two or
three othersall of more recent date than the great bulk of
coffins piled therehadfor want of roombeen placed at the end
of the vault on tresselsand not in niches like the others.
These it was necessary to removeto form behind them the chamber
in which they were ultimately to be deposited. Stephenfinding
the place and proceedings in keeping with the sombre colours of
his mindwaited there still.

'SimeonI suppose you can mind poor Lady Elfrideand how she ran
away with the actor?' said John Smithafter awhile. 'I think it
fell upon the time my father was sexton here. Let us see--where
is she?'

'Here somewhere' returned Simeonlooking round him.


'WhyI've got my arms round the very gentlewoman at this moment.'
He lowered the end of the coffin he was holdingwiped his face
and throwing a morsel of rotten wood upon another as an indicator
continued: 'That's her husband there. They was as fair a couple
as you should see anywhere round about; and a good-hearted pair
likewise. AyI can mind itthough I was but a chiel at the
time. She fell in love with this young man of hersand their
banns were asked in some church in London; and the old lord her
father actually heard 'em asked the three timesand didn't notice
her namebeing gabbled on wi' a host of others. When she had
married she told her fatherand 'a fleed into a monstrous rage
and said she shouldn' hae a farthing. Lady Elfride said she
didn't think of wishing it; if he'd forgie her 'twas all she
askedand as for a livingshe was content to play plays with her
husband. This frightened the old lordand 'a gie'd 'em a house
to live inand a great gardenand a little field or twoand a
carriageand a good few guineas. Wellthe poor thing died at
her first gossipingand her husband--who was as tender-hearted a
man as ever eat meatand would have died for her--went wild in
his mindand broke his heart (so 'twas said). Anyhowthey were
buried the same day--father and mother--but the baby lived. Ay
my lord's family made much of that man thenand put him here with
his wifeand there in the corner the man is now. The Sunday
after there was a funeral sermon: the text wasOr ever the
silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken;and when
'twas preaching the men drew their hands across their eyes several
timesand every woman cried out loud.'

'And what became of the baby?' said Stephenwho had frequently
heard portions of the story.

'She was brought up by her grandmotherand a pretty maid she
were. And she must needs run away with the curate--Parson
Swancourt that is now. Then her grandmother diedand the title
and everything went away to another branch of the family
altogether. Parson Swancourt wasted a good deal of his wife's
moneyand she left him Miss Elfride. That trick of running away
seems to be handed down in familieslike craziness or gout. And
they two women be alike as peas.'

'Which two?'

'Lady Elfride and young Miss that's alive now. The same hair and
eyes: but Miss Elfride's mother was darker a good deal.'

'Life's a strangle bubbleye see' said William Worm musingly.
'For if the Lord's anointment had descended upon women instead of
menMiss Elfride would be Lord Luxellian--LadyI mane. But as
it isthe blood is run outand she's nothing to the Luxellian
family by lawwhatever she may be by gospel.'

'I used to fancy' said Simeon'when I seed Miss Elfride hugging
the little ladyshipsthat there was a likeness; but I suppose
'twas only my dreamfor years must have altered the old family
shape.'

'And now we'll move these twoand home-along' interposed John
Smithrevivingas became a masterthe spirit of labourwhich
had showed unmistakable signs of being nearly vanquished by the
spirit of chat'The flagon of ale we don't want we'll let bide
here till to-morrow; none of the poor souls will touch it 'a
b'lieve.'


So the evening's work was concludedand the party drew from the
abode of the quiet deadclosing the old iron doorand shooting
the lock loudly into the huge copper staple--an incongruous act of
imprisonment towards those who had no dreams of escape.

Chapter XXVII

'How should I greet thee?'

Love frequently dies of time alone--much more frequently of
displacement. With Elfride Swancourta powerful reason why the
displacement should be successful was that the new-comer was a
greater man than the first. By the side of the instructive and
piquant snubbings she received from KnightStephen's general
agreeableness seemed watery; by the side of Knight's spare lovemaking
Stephen's continual outflow seemed lackadaisical. She had
begun to sigh for somebody further on in manhood. Stephen was
hardly enough of a man.

Perhaps there was a proneness to inconstancy in her nature--a
natureto those who contemplate it from a standpoint beyond the
influence of that inconstancythe most exquisite of all in its
plasticity and ready sympathies. PartlytooStephen's failure
to make his hold on her heart a permanent one was his too timid
habit of dispraising himself beside her--a peculiarity which
exercised towards sensible menstirs a kindly chord of attachment
that a marked assertiveness would leave untouchedbut inevitably
leads the most sensible woman in the world to undervalue him who
practises it. Directly domineering ceases in the mansnubbing
begins in the woman; the trite but no less unfortunate fact being
that the gentler creature rarely has the capacity to appreciate
fair treatment from her natural complement. The abiding
perception of the position of Stephen's parents hadof coursea
little to do with Elfride's renunciation. To such girls poverty
may not beas to the more worldly masses of humanitya sin in
itself; but it is a sinbecause graceful and dainty manners
seldom exist in such an atmosphere. Few women of old family can
be thoroughly taught that a fine soul may wear a smock-frockand
an admittedly common man in one is but a worm in their eyes. John
Smith's rough hands and clotheshis wife's dialectthe necessary
narrowness of their waysbeing constantly under Elfride's notice
were not without their deflecting influence.

On reaching home after the perilous adventure by the sea-shore
Knight had felt unwelland retired almost immediately. The young
lady who had so materially assisted him had done the samebut she
reappearedproperly clothedabout five o'clock. She wandered
restlessly about the housebut not on account of their joint
narrow escape from death. The storm which had torn the tree had
merely bowed the reedand with the deliverance of Knight all deep
thought of the accident had left her. The mutual avowal which it
had been the means of precipitating occupied a far longer length
of her meditations.

Elfride's disquiet now was on account of that miserable promise to
meet Stephenwhich returned like a spectre again and again. The
perception of his littleness beside Knight grew upon her
alarmingly. She now thought how sound had been her father's
advice to her to give him upand was as passionately desirous of
following it as she had hitherto been averse. Perhaps there is
nothing more hardening to the tone of young minds than thus to


discover how their dearest and strongest wishes become gradually
attuned by Time the Cynic to the very note of some selfish policy
which in earlier days they despised.

The hour of appointment cameand with it a crisis; and with the
crisis a collapse.

'God forgive me--I can't meet Stephen!' she exclaimed to herself.
'I don't love him lessbut I love Mr. Knight more!'

Yes: she would save herself from a man not fit for her--in spite
of vows. She would obey her fatherand have no more to do with
Stephen Smith. Thus the fickle resolve showed signs of assuming
the complexion of a virtue.

The following days were passed without any definite avowal from
Knight's lips. Such solitary walks and scenes as that witnessed
by Smith in the summer-house were frequentbut he courted her so
intangibly that to any but such a delicate perception as Elfride's
it would have appeared no courtship at all. The time now really
began to be sweet with her. She dismissed the sense of sin in her
past actionsand was automatic in the intoxication of the moment.
The fact that Knight made no actual declaration was no drawback.
Knowing since the betrayal of his sentiments that love for her
really existedshe preferred it for the present in its form of
essenceand was willing to avoid for awhile the grosser medium of
words. Their feelings having been forced to a rather premature
demonstrationa reaction was indulged in by both.

But no sooner had she got rid of her troubled conscience on the
matter of faithlessness than a new anxiety confronted her. It was
lest Knight should accidentally meet Stephen in the parishand
that herself should be the subject of discourse.

Elfridelearning Knight more thoroughlyperceived thatfar
from having a notion of Stephen's precedencehe had no idea that
she had ever been wooed before by anybody. On ordinary occasions
she had a tongue so frank as to show her whole mindand a mind so
straightforward as to reveal her heart to its innermost shrine.
But the time for a change had come. She never alluded to even a
knowledge of Knight's friend. When women are secret they are
secret indeed; and more often than not they only begin to be
secret with the advent of a second lover.

The elopement was now a spectre worse than the firstandlike
the Spirit in Glenfinlasit waxed taller with every attempt to
lay it. Her natural honesty invited her to confide in Knightand
trust to his generosity for forgiveness: she knew also that as
mere policy it would be better to tell him early if he was to be
told at all. The longer her concealment the more difficult would
be the revelation. But she put it off. The intense fear which
accompanies intense love in young women was too strong to allow
the exercise of a moral quality antagonistic to itself:

'Where love is greatthe littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow greatgreat love grows there.'


The match was looked upon as made by her father and mother. The
vicar remembered her promise to reveal the meaning of the telegram
she had receivedand two days after the scene in the summerhouse
asked her pointedly. She was frank with him now.


'I had been corresponding with Stephen Smith ever since he left
Englandtill lately' she calmly said.

'What!' cried the vicar aghast; 'under the eyes of Mr. Knight
too?'

'No; when I found I cared most for Mr. KnightI obeyed you.'

'You were very kindI'm sure. When did you begin to like Mr.
Knight?'

'I don't see that that is a pertinent questionpapa; the telegram
was from the shipping agentand was not sent at my request. It
announced the arrival of the vessel bringing him home.'

'Home! Whatis he here?'

'Yes; in the villageI believe.'

'Has he tried to see you?'

'Only by fair means. But don'tpapaquestion me so! It is
torture.'

'I will only say one word more' he replied. 'Have you met him?'

'I have not. I can assure you that at the present moment there is
no more of an understanding between me and the young man you so
much disliked than between him and you. You told me to forget
him; and I have forgotten him.'

'Ohwell; though you did not obey me in the beginningyou are a
good girlElfridein obeying me at last.'

'Don't call me "good papa,' she said bitterly; 'you don't know-and
the less said about some things the better. Remember, Mr.
Knight knows nothing about the other. Oh, how wrong it all is! I
don't know what I am coming to.'

'As matters stand, I should be inclined to tell him; or, at any
rate, I should not alarm myself about his knowing. He found out
the other day that this was the parish young Smith's father lives
in--what puts you in such a flurry?'

'I can't say; but promise--pray don't let him know! It would be my
ruin!'

'Pooh, child. Knight is a good fellow and a clever man; but at
the same time it does not escape my perceptions that he is no
great catch for you. Men of his turn of mind are nothing so
wonderful in the way of husbands. If you had chosen to wait, you
might have mated with a much wealthier man. But remember, I have
not a word to say against your having him, if you like him.
Charlotte is delighted, as you know.'

'Well, papa,' she said, smiling hopefully through a sigh, 'it is
nice to feel that in giving way to--to caring for him, I have
pleased my family. But I am not good; oh no, I am very far from
that!'

'None of us are good, I am sorry to say,' said her father blandly;
'but girls have a chartered right to change their minds, you know.
It has been recognized by poets from time immemorial. Catullus
says, Mulier cupido quod dicit amantiin vento--' What a memory


mine is! Howeverthe passage isthat a woman's words to a lover
are as a matter of course written only on wind and water. Now
don't be troubled about thatElfride.'

'Ahyou don't know!'

They had been standing on the lawnand Knight was now seen
lingering some way down a winding walk. When Elfride met himit
was with a much greater lightness of heart; things were more
straightforward now. The responsibility of her fickleness seemed
partly shifted from her own shoulders to her father's. Still
there were shadows.

'Ahcould he have known how far I went with Stephenand yet have
said the samehow much happier I should be!' That was her
prevailing thought.

In the afternoon the lovers went out together on horseback for an
hour or two; and though not wishing to be observedby reason of
the late death of Lady Luxellianwhose funeral had taken place
very privately on the previous daythey yet found it necessary to
pass East Endelstow Church.

The steps to the vaultas has been statedwere on the outside of
the buildingimmediately under the aisle wall. Being on
horsebackboth Knight and Elfride could overlook the shrubs which
screened the church-yard.

'Lookthe vault seems still to be open' said Knight.

'Yesit is open' she answered

'Who is that man close by it? The masonI suppose?'

'Yes.'

'I wonder if it is John SmithStephen's father?'

'I believe it is' said Elfridewith apprehension.

'Ahand can it be? I should like to inquire how his sonmy
truant protege'is going on. And from your father's description
of the vaultthe interior must be interesting. Suppose we go
in.'

'Had we betterdo you think? May not Lord Luxellian be there?'

'It is not at all likely.'

Elfride then assentedsince she could do nothing else. Her
heartwhich at first had quailed in consternationrecovered
itself when she considered the character of John Smith. A quiet
unassuming manhe would be sure to act towards her as before
those love passages with his sonwhich might have given a more
pretentious mechanic airs. So without much alarm she took
Knight's arm after dismountingand went with him between and over
the graves. The master-mason recognized her as she approached
andas usuallifted his hat respectfully.

'I know you to be Mr. Smithmy former friend Stephen's father'
said Knightdirectly he had scanned the embrowned and ruddy
features of John.

'YessirI b'lieve I be.'


'How is your son now? I have only once heard from him since he
went to India. I daresay you have heard him speak of me--Mr.
Knightwho became acquainted with him some years ago in
Exonbury.'

'Aythat I have. Stephen is very wellthank yousirand he's
in England; in facthe's at home. In shortsirhe's down in
the vault therea-looking at the departed coffins.'

Elfride's heart fluttered like a butterfly.

Knight looked amazed. 'Wellthat is extraordinary.' he murmured.
'Did he know I was in the parish?'

'I really can't saysir' said Johnwishing himself out of the
entanglement he rather suspected than thoroughly understood.

'Would it be considered an intrusion by the family if we went into
the vault?'

'Ohbless yenosir; scores of folk have been stepping down.
'Tis left open a-purpose.'

'We will go downElfride.'

'I am afraid the air is close' she said appealingly.

'Oh noma'am' said John. 'We white-limed the walls and arches
the day 'twas openedas we always doand again on the morning of
the funeral; the place is as sweet as a granary.

'Then I should like you to accompany meElfie; having originally
sprung from the family too.'

'I don't like going where death is so emphatically present. I'll
stay by the horses whilst you go in; they may get loose.'

'What nonsense! I had no idea your sentiments were so flimsily
formed as to be perturbed by a few remnants of mortality; but stay
outif you are so afraidby all means.'

'Oh noI am not afraid; don't say that.'

She held miserably to his armthinking thatperhapsthe
revelation might as well come at once as ten minutes laterfor
Stephen would be sure to accompany his friend to his horse.

At firstthe gloom of the vaultwhich was lighted only by a
couple of candleswas too great to admit of their seeing anything
distinctly; but with a further advance Knight discernedin front
of the black masses lining the wallsa young man standingand
writing in a pocket-book.

Knight said one word: 'Stephen!'

Stephen Smithnot being in such absolute ignorance of Knight's
whereabouts as Knight had been of Smith's instantly recognized his
friendand knew by rote the outlines of the fair woman standing
behind him.

Stephen came forward and shook him by the handwithout speaking.

'Why have you not writtenmy boy?' said Knightwithout in any


way signifying Elfride's presence to Stephen. To the essayist
Smith was still the country lad whom he had patronized and tended;
one to whom the formal presentation of a lady betrothed to himself
would have seemed incongruous and absurd.

'Why haven't you written to me?' said Stephen.

'Ahyes. Why haven't I? why haven't we? That's always the query
which we cannot clearly answer without an unsatisfactory sense of
our inadequacies. HoweverI have not forgotten youSmith. And
now we have met; and we must meet againand have a longer chat
than this can conveniently be. I must know all you have been
doing. That yon have thrivenI knowand you must teach me the
way.'

Elfride stood in the background. Stephen had read the position at
a glanceand immediately guessed that she had never mentioned his
name to Knight. His tact in avoiding catastrophes was the chief
quality which made him intellectually respectablein which
quality he far transcended Knight; and he decided that a tranquil
issue out of the encounterwithout any harrowing of the feelings
of either Knight or Elfridewas to be attempted if possible. His
old sense of indebtedness to Knight had never wholly forsaken him;
his love for Elfride was generous now.

As far as he dared look at her movements he saw that her bearing
towards him would be dictated by his own towards her; and if he
acted as a stranger she would do likewise as a means of
deliverance. Circumstances favouring this courseit was
desirable also to be rather reserved towards Knightto shorten
the meeting as much as possible.

'I am afraid that my time is almost too short to allow even of
such a pleasure' he said. 'I leave here to-morrow. And until I
start for the Continent and Indiawhich will be in a fortnightI
shall have hardly a moment to spare.'

Knight's disappointment and dissatisfied looks at this reply sent
a pang through Stephen as great as any he had felt at the sight of
Elfride. The words about shortness of time were literally true
but their tone was far from being so. He would have been
gratified to talk with Knight as in past timesand saw as a dead
loss to himself thatto save the woman who cared nothing for him
he was deliberately throwing away his friend.

'OhI am sorry to hear that' said Knightin a changed tone.
'But of courseif you have weighty concerns to attend tothey
must not be neglected. And if this is to be our first and last
meetinglet me say that I wish you success with all my heart!'
Knight's warmth revived towards the end; the solemn impressions he
was beginning to receive from the scene around them abstracting
from his heart as a puerility any momentary vexation at words.
'It is a strange place for us to meet in' he continuedlooking
round the vault.

Stephen briefly assentedand there was a silence. The blackened
coffins were now revealed more clearly than at firstthe whitened
walls and arches throwing them forward in strong relief. It was a
scene which was remembered by all three as an indelible mark in
their history. Knightwith an abstracted facewas standing
between his companionsthough a little in advance of them
Elfride being on his right handand Stephen Smith on his left.
The white daylight on his right side gleamed faintly inand was
toned to a blueness by contrast with the yellow rays from the


candle against the wall. Elfridetimidly shrinking backand
nearest the entrancereceived most of the light therefromwhilst
Stephen was entirely in candlelightand to him the spot of outer
sky visible above the steps was as a steely blue patchand
nothing more.

'I have been here two or three times since it was opened' said
Stephen. 'My father was engaged in the workyou know.'

'Yes. What are you doing?' Knight inquiredlooking at the note-
book and pencil Stephen held in his hand.

'I have been sketching a few details in the churchand since then
I have been copying the names from some of the coffins here.
Before I left England I used to do a good deal of this sort of
thing.'

'Yes; of course. Ahthat's poor Lady LuxellianI suppose.'
Knight pointed to a coffin of light satin-woodwhich stood on the
stone sleepers in the new niche. 'And the remainder of the family
are on this side. Who are those twoso snug and close together?'

Stephen's voice altered slightly as he replied 'That's Lady
Elfride Kingsmore--born Luxellianand that is Arthurher
husband. I have heard my father say that they--he--ran away with
herand married her against the wish of her parents.'

'Then I imagine this to be where you got your Christian nameMiss
Swancourt?' said Knightturning to her. 'I think you told me it
was three or four generations ago that your family branched off
from the Luxellians?'

'She was my grandmother' said Elfridevainly endeavouring to
moisten her dry lips before she spoke. Elfride had then the
conscience-stricken look of Guido's Magdalenrendered upon a more
childlike form. She kept her face partially away from Knight and
Stephenand set her eyes upon the sky visible outsideas if her
salvation depended upon quickly reaching it. Her left hand rested
lightly within Knight's armhalf withdrawnfrom a sense of shame
at claiming him before her old loveryet unwilling to renounce
him; so that her glove merely touched his sleeve. '"Can one be
pardonedand retain the offence?"' quoted Elfride's heart then.

Conversation seemed to have no self-sustaining powerand went on
in the shape of disjointed remarks. 'One's mind gets thronged
with thoughts while standing so solemnly here' Knight saidin a
measured quiet voice. 'How much has been said on death from time
to time! how much we ourselves can think upon it! We may fancy
each of these who lie here saying:

'For Thouto make my fall more great
Didst lift me up on high.'


What comes nextElfride? It is the Hundred-and-second Psalm I am
thinking of.'

'YesI know it' she murmuredand went on in a still lower
voiceseemingly afraid for any words from the emotional side of
her nature to reach Stephen:

'"My daysjust hastening to their end


Are like an evening shade;

My beauty dothlike wither'd grass
With waning lustre fade."'

'Well' said Knight musingly'let us leave them. Such occasions
as these seem to compel us to roam outside ourselvesfar away
from the fragile frame we live inand to expand till our
perception grows so vast that our physical reality bears no sort
of proportion to it. We look back upon the weak and minute stem
on which this luxuriant growth dependsand askCan it be
possible that such a capacity has a foundation so small? Must I
again return to my daily walk in that narrow cella human body
where worldly thoughts can torture me? Do we not?'

'Yes' said Stephen and Elfride.

'One has a sense of wrongtoothat such an appreciative breadth
as a sentient being possesses should be committed to the frail
casket of a body. What weakens one's intentions regarding the
future like the thought of this?...Howeverlet us tune ourselves
to a more cheerful chordfor there's a great deal to be done yet
by us all.'

As Knight meditatively addressed his juniors thusunconscious of
the deception practisedfor different reasonsby the severed
hearts at his sideand of the scenes that had in earlier days
united themeach one felt that he and she did not gain by
contrast with their musing mentor. Physically not so handsome as
either the youthful architect or the vicar's daughterthe
thoroughness and integrity of Knight illuminated his features with
a dignity not even incipient in the other two. It is difficult to
frame rules which shall apply to both sexesand Elfridean
undeveloped girlmustperhapshardly be laden with the moral
responsibilities which attach to a man in like circumstances. The
charm of womantoolies partly in her subtleness in matters of
love. But if honesty is a virtue in itselfElfridehaving none
of it nowseemedbeing for beingscarcely good enough for
Knight. Stephenthough deceptive for no unworthy purposewas
deceptive after all; and whatever good results grace such strategy
if it succeedit seldom draws admirationespecially when it
fails.

On an ordinary occasionhad Knight been even quite alone with
Stephenhe would hardly have alluded to his possible relationship
to Elfride. But moved by attendant circumstances Knight was
impelled to be confiding.

'Stephen' he said'this lady is Miss Swancourt. I am staying at
her father's houseas you probably know.' He stepped a few paces
nearer to Smithand said in a lower tone: 'I may as well tell you
that we are engaged to be married.'

Low as the words had been spokenElfride had heard themand
awaited Stephen's reply in breathless silenceif that could be
called silence where Elfride's dressat each throb of her heart
shook and indicated it like a pulse-glassrustling also against
the wall in reply to the same throbbing. The ray of daylight
which reached her face lent it a blue pallor in comparison with
those of the other two.

'I congratulate you' Stephen whispered; and said aloud'I know
Miss Swancourt--a little. You must remember that my father is a
parishioner of Mr. Swancourt's.'


'I thought you might possibly not have lived at home since they
have been here.'

'I have never lived at homecertainlysince that time.'

'I have seen Mr. Smith' faltered Elfride.

'Wellthere is no excuse for me. As strangers to each other I
oughtI supposeto have introduced you: as acquaintancesI
should not have stood so persistently between you. But the fact
isSmithyou seem a boy to meeven now.'

Stephen appeared to have a more than previous consciousness of the
intense cruelty of his fate at the present moment. He could not
repress the wordsuttered with a dim bitterness:

'You should have said that I seemed still the rural mechanic's son
I amand hence an unfit subject for the ceremony of
introductions.'

'Ohnono! I won't have that.' Knight endeavoured to give his
reply a laughing tone in Elfride's earsand an earnestness in
Stephen's: in both which efforts he signally failedand produced
a forced speech pleasant to neither. 'Welllet us go into the
open air again; Miss Swancourtyou are particularly silent. You
mustn't mind Smith. I have known him for yearsas I have told
you.'

'Yesyou have' she said.

'To think she has never mentioned her knowledge of me!' Smith
murmuredand thought with some remorse how much her conduct
resembled his own on his first arrival at her house as a stranger
to the place.

They ascended to the daylightKnight taking no further notice of
Elfride's mannerwhichas usualhe attributed to the natural
shyness of a young woman at being discovered walking with him on
terms which left not much doubt of their meaning. Elfride stepped
a little in advanceand passed through the churchyard.

'You are changed very considerablySmith' said Knight'and I
suppose it is no more than was to be expected. Howeverdon't
imagine that I shall feel any the less interest in you and your
fortunes whenever you care to confide them to me. I have not
forgotten the attachment you spoke of as your reason for going
away to India. A London young ladywas it not? I hope all is
prosperous?'

'No: the match is broken off.'

It being always difficult to know whether to express sorrow or
gladness under such circumstances--all depending upon the
character of the match--Knight took shelter in the safe words: 'I
trust it was for the best.'

'I hope it was. But I beg that you will not press me further: no
you have not pressed me--I don't mean that--but I would rather not
speak upon the subject.'

Stephen's words were hurried.

Knight said no moreand they followed in the footsteps of


Elfridewho still kept some paces in advanceand had not heard
Knight's unconscious allusion to her. Stephen bade him adieu at
the churchyard-gate without going outsideand watched whilst he
and his sweetheart mounted their horses.

'Good heavensElfride' Knight exclaimed'how pale you are! I
suppose I ought not to have taken you into that vault. What is
the matter?'

'Nothing' said Elfride faintly. 'I shall be myself in a moment.
All was so strange and unexpected down therethat it made me
unwell.'

'I thought you said very little. Shall I get some water?'

'Nono.'

'Do you think it is safe for you to mount?'

'Quite--indeed it is' she saidwith a look of appeal.

'Now then--up she goes!' whispered Knightand lifted her tenderly
into the saddle.

Her old lover still looked on at the performance as he leant over
the gate a dozen yards off. Once in the saddleand having a firm
grip of the reinsshe turned her head as if by a resistless
fascinationand for the first time since that memorable parting
on the moor outside St. Launce's after the passionate attempt at
marriage with himElfride looked in the face of the young man she
first had loved. He was the youth who had called her his
inseparable wife many a timeand whom she had even addressed as
her husband. Their eyes met. Measurement of life should be
proportioned rather to the intensity of the experience than to its
actual length. Their glancebut a moment chronologicallywas a
season in their history. To Elfride the intense agony of reproach
in Stephen's eye was a nail piercing her heart with a deadliness
no words can describe. With a spasmodic effort she withdrew her
eyesurged on the horseand in the chaos of perturbed memories
was oblivious of any presence beside her. The deed of deception
was complete.

Gaining a knoll on which the park transformed itself into wood and
copseKnight came still closer to her sideand said'Are you
better nowdearest?'

'Oh yes.' She pressed a hand to her eyesas if to blot out the
image of Stephen. A vivid scarlet spot now shone with
preternatural brightness in the centre of each cheekleaving the
remainder of her face lily-white as before.

'Elfride' said Knightrather in his old tone of mentor'you
know I don't for a moment chide youbut is there not a great deal
of unwomanly weakness in your allowing yourself to be so
overwhelmed by the sight of whatafter allis no novelty? Every
woman worthy of the name shouldI thinkbe able to look upon
death with something like composure. Surely you think so too?'

'Yes; I own it.'

His obtuseness to the cause of her indispositionby evidencing
his entire freedom from the suspicion of anything behind the
scenesshowed how incapable Knight was of deception himself
rather than any inherent dulness in him regarding human nature.


Thisclearly perceived by Elfrideadded poignancy to her selfreproach
and she idolized him the more because of their
difference. Even the recent sight of Stephen's face and the sound
of his voicewhich for a moment had stirred a chord or two of
ancient kindnesswere unable to keep down the adoration reexistent
now that he was again out of view.

She had replied to Knight's question hastilyand immediately went
on to speak of indifferent subjects. After they had reached home
she was apart from him till dinner-time. When dinner was over
and they were watching the dusk in the drawing-roomKnight
stepped out upon the terrace. Elfride went after him very
decisivelyon the spur of a virtuous intention.

'Mr. KnightI want to tell you something' she saidwith quiet
firmness.

'And what is it about?' gaily returned her lover. 'HappinessI
hope. Do not let anything keep you so sad as you seem to have
been to-day.'

'I cannot mention the matter until I tell you the whole substance
of it' she said. 'And that I will do to-morrow. I have been
reminded of it to-day. It is about something I once didand
don't think I ought to have done.'

Thisit must be saidwas rather a mild way of referring to a
frantic passion and flightwhichmuch or little in itselfonly
accident had saved from being a scandal in the public eye.

Knight thought the matter some trifleand said pleasantly:

'Then I am not to hear the dreadful confession now?'

'Nonot now. I did not mean to-night' Elfride respondedwith a
slight decline in the firmness of her voice. 'It is not light as
you think it--it troubles me a great deal.' Fearing now the
effect of her own earnestnessshe added forcedly'Though
perhapsyou may think it light after all.'

'But you have not said when it is to be?'

'To-morrow morning. Name a timewill youand bind me to it? I
want you to fix an hourbecause I am weakand may otherwise try
to get out of it.' She added a little artificial laughwhich
showed how timorous her resolution was still.

'Wellsay after breakfast--at eleven o'clock.'

'Yeseleven o'clock. I promise you. Bind me strictly to my
word.'

Chapter XXVIII

'I lull a fancytrouble-tost.'

Miss Swancourtit is eleven o'clock.'

She was looking out of her dressing-room window on the first
floorand Knight was regarding her from the terrace balustrade
upon which he had been idly sitting for some time--dividing the


glances of his eye between the pages of a book in his handthe
brilliant hues of the geraniums and calceolariasand the open
window above-mentioned.

'Yesit isI know. I am coming.'

He drew closerand under the window.

'How are you this morningElfride? You look no better for your
long night's rest.'

She appeared at the door shortly aftertook his offered armand
together they walked slowly down the gravel path leading to the
river and away under the trees.

Her resolutionsustained during the last fifteen hourshad been
to tell the whole truthand now the moment had come.

Step by step they advancedand still she did not speak. They
were nearly at the end of the walkwhen Knight broke the silence.

'Wellwhat is the confessionElfride?'

She paused a momentdrew a long breath; and this is what she
said:

'I told you one day--or rather I gave you to understand--what was
not true. I fancy you thought me to mean I was nineteen my next
birthdaybut it was my last I was nineteen.'

The moment had been too much for her. Now that the crisis had
comeno qualms of conscienceno love of honestyno yearning to
make a confidence and obtain forgiveness with a kisscould string
Elfride up to the venture. Her dread lest he should be
unforgiving was heightened by the thought of yesterday's artifice
which might possibly add disgust to his disappointment. The
certainty of one more day's affectionwhich she gained by
silenceoutvalued the hope of a perpetuity combined with the risk
of all.

The trepidation caused by these thoughts on what she had intended
to say shook so naturally the words she did saythat Knight never
for a moment suspected them to be a last moment's substitution.
He smiled and pressed her hand warmly.

'My dear Elfie--yesyou are now--no protestation--what a winning
little woman you areto be so absurdly scrupulous about a mere
iota! ReallyI never once have thought whether your nineteenth
year was the last or the present. Andby Georgewell I may not;
for it would never do for a staid fogey a dozen years older to
stand upon such a trifle as that.'

'Don't praise me--don't praise me! Though I prize it from your
lipsI don't deserve it now.'

But Knightbeing in an exceptionally genial moodmerely saw this
distressful exclamation as modesty. 'Well' he addedafter a
minute'I like you all the betteryou knowfor such moral
precisionalthough I called it absurd.' He went on with tender
earnestness: 'ForElfridethere is one thing I do love to see in
a woman--that isa soul truthful and clear as heaven's light. I
could put up with anything if I had that--forgive nothing if I had
it not. Elfrideyou have such a soulif ever woman had; and
having itretain itand don't ever listen to the fashionable


theories of the day about a woman's privileges and natural right
to practise wiles. Depend upon itmy dear girlthat a noble
woman must be as honest as a noble man. I specially mean by
honestyfairness not only in matters of business and social
detailbut in all the delicate dealings of loveto which the
licence given to your sex particularly refers.'

Elfride looked troublously at the trees.

'Now let us go on to the riverElfie.'

'I would if I had a hat on' she said with a sort of suppressed
woe.

'I will get it for you' said Knightvery willing to purchase her
companionship at so cheap a price. 'You sit down there a minute.'
And he turned and walked rapidly back to the house for the article
in question.

Elfride sat down upon one of the rustic benches which adorned this
portion of the groundsand remained with her eyes upon the grass.
She was induced to lift them by hearing the brush of light and
irregular footsteps hard by. Passing along the path which
intersected the one she was in and traversed the outer
shrubberiesElfride beheld the farmer's widowMrs. Jethway.
Before she noticed Elfrideshe paused to look at the house
portions of which were visible through the bushes. Elfride
shrinking backhoped the unpleasant woman might go on without
seeing her. But Mrs. Jethwaysilently apostrophizing the house
with actions which seemed dictated by a half-overturned reason
had discerned the girland immediately came up and stood in front
of her.

'AhMiss Swancourt! Why did you disturb me? Mustn't I trespass
here?'

'You may walk here if you likeMrs. Jethway. I do not disturb
you.'

'You disturb my mindand my mind is my whole life; for my boy is
there stilland he is gone from my body.'

'Yespoor young man. I was sorry when he died.'

'Do you know what he died of? '

'Consumption.'

'Oh nono!' said the widow. 'That word "consumption" covers a
good deal. He died because you were his own well-agreed
sweetheartand then proved false--and it killed him. YesMiss
Swancourt' she said in an excited whisper'you killed my son!'

'How can you be so wicked and foolish!' replied Elfriderising
indignantly. But indignation was not natural to herand having
been so worn and harrowed by late eventsshe lost any powers of
defence that mood might have lent her. 'I could not help his
loving meMrs. Jethway!'

'That's just what you could have helped. You know how it began
Miss Elfride. Yes: you said you liked the name of Felix better
than any other name in the parishand you knew it was his name
and that those you said it to would report it to him.'


'I knew it was his name--of course I did; but I am sureMrs.
JethwayI did not intend anybody to tell him.'

'But you knew they would.'

'NoI didn't.'

'And thenafter thatwhen you were riding on Revels-day by our
houseand the lads were gathered thereand you wanted to
dismountwhen Jim Drake and George Upway and three or four more
ran forward to hold your ponyand Felix stood back timidwhy did
you beckon to himand say you would rather he held it? '

'O Mrs. Jethwayyou do think so mistakenly! I liked him best-that's
why I wanted him to do it. He was gentle and nice--I
always thought him so--and I liked him.'

'Then why did you let him kiss you?'

'It is a falsehood; ohit isit is!' said Elfrideweeping with
desperation. 'He came behind meand attempted to kiss me; and
that was why I told him never to let me see him again.'

'But you did not tell your father or anybodyas you would have if
you had looked upon it then as the insult you now pretend it was.'

'He begged me not to telland foolishly enough I did not. And I
wish I had now. I little expected to be scourged with my own
kindness. Pray leave meMrs. Jethway.' The girl only
expostulated now.

'Wellyou harshly dismissed himand he died. And before his
body was coldyou took another to your heart. Then as carelessly
sent him about his businessand took a third. And if you
consider that nothingMiss Swancourt' she continueddrawing
closer; 'it led on to what was very serious indeed. Have you
forgotten the would-be runaway marriage? The journey to London
and the return the next day without being marriedand that
there's enough disgrace in that to ruin a woman's good name far
less light than yours? You may have: I have not. Fickleness
towards a lover is badbut fickleness after playing the wife is
wantonness.'

'Ohit's a wicked cruel lie! Do not say it; ohdo not! '

'Does your new man know of it? I think notor he would be no man
of yours! As much of the story as was known is creeping about the
neighbourhood even now; but I know more than any of themand why
should I respect your love?'

'I defy you!' cried Elfride tempestuously. 'Do and say all you
can to ruin me; try; put your tongue at work; I invite it! I defy
you as a slanderous woman! Lookthere he comes.' And her voice
trembled greatly as she saw through the leaves the beloved form of
Knight coming from the door with her hat in his hand. 'Tell him
at once; I can bear it.'

'Not now' said the womanand disappeared down the path.

The excitement of her latter words had restored colour to
Elfride's cheeks; and hastily wiping her eyesshe walked farther
onso that by the time her lover had overtaken her the traces of
emotion had nearly disappeared from her face. Knight put the hat
upon her headtook her handand drew it within his arm.


It was the last day but one previous to their departure for St.
Leonards; and Knight seemed to have a purpose in being much in her
company that day. They rambled along the valley. The season was
that period in the autumn when the foliage alone of an ordinary
plantation is rich enough in hues to exhaust the chromatic
combinations of an artist's palette. Most lustrous of all are the
beechesgraduating from bright rusty red at the extremity of the
boughs to a bright yellow at their inner parts; young oaks are
still of a neutral green; Scotch firs and hollies are nearly blue;
whilst occasional dottings of other varieties give maroons and
purples of every tinge.

The river--such as it was--here pursued its course amid flagstones
as level as a pavementbut divided by crevices of irregular
width. With the summer drought the torrent had narrowed till it
was now but a thread of crystal clearnessmeandering along a
central channel in the rocky bed of the winter current. Knight
scrambled through the bushes which at this point nearly covered
the brook from sightand leapt down upon the dry portion of the
river bottom.

'ElfrideI never saw such a sight!' he exclaimed. 'The hazels
overhang the river's course in a perfect archand the floor is
beautifully paved. The place reminds one of the passages of a
cloister. Let me help you down.'

He assisted her through the marginal underwood and down to the
stones. They walked on together to a tiny cascade about a foot
wide and highand sat down beside it on the flags that for nine
months in the year were submerged beneath a gushing bourne. From
their feet trickled the attenuated thread of water which alone
remained to tell the intent and reason of this leaf-covered aisle
and journeyed on in a zigzag line till lost in the shade.

Knightleaning on his elbowafter contemplating all thislooked
critically at Elfride.

'Does not such a luxuriant head of hair exhaust itself and get
thin as the years go on from eighteen to eight-and-twenty?' he
asked at length.

'Oh no!' she said quicklywith a visible disinclination to
harbour such a thoughtwhich came upon her with an unpleasantness
whose force it would be difficult for men to understand. She
added afterwardswith smouldering uneasiness'Do you really
think that a great abundance of hair is more likely to get thin
than a moderate quantity?'

'YesI really do. I believe--am almost surein fact--that if
statistics could be obtained on the subjectyou would find the
persons with thin hair were those who had a superabundance
originallyand that those who start with a moderate quantity
retain it without much loss.'

Elfride's troubles sat upon her face as well as in her heart.
Perhaps to a woman it is almost as dreadful to think of losing her
beauty as of losing her reputation. At any rateshe looked quite
as gloomy as she had looked at any minute that day.

'You shouldn't be so troubled about a mere personal adornment'
said Knightwith some of the severity of tone that had been
customary before she had beguiled him into softness.


'I think it is a woman's duty to be as beautiful as she can. If I
were a scholarI would give you chapter and verse for it from one
of your own Latin authors. I know there is such a passagefor
papa has alluded to it.'

'Munditiae, et ornatus, et cultus,&c.--is that it? A passage in
Livy which is no defence at all.'

'Noit is not that.'

'Never mindthen; for I have a reason for not taking up my old
cudgels against youElfie. Can you guess what the reason is?'

'No; but I am glad to hear it' she said thankfully. 'For it is
dreadful when you talk so. For whatever dreadful name the
weakness may deserveI must candidly own that I am terrified to
think my hair may ever get thin.'

'Of course; a sensible woman would rather lose her wits than her
beauty.'

'I don't care if you do say satire and judge me cruelly. I know
my hair is beautiful; everybody says so.'

'Whymy dear Miss Swancourt' he tenderly replied'I have not
said anything against it. But you know what is said about
handsome being and handsome doing.'

'Poor Miss Handsome-does cuts but a sorry figure beside Miss
Handsome-is in every man's eyesyour own not exceptedMr.
Knightthough it pleases you to throw off so' said Elfride
saucily. And lowering her voice: 'You ought not to have taken so
much trouble to save me from falling over the clifffor you don't
think mine a life worth much trouble evidently.'

'Perhaps you think mine was not worth yours.'

'It was worth anybody's!'

Her hand was plashing in the little waterfalland her eyes were
bent the same way.

'You talk about my severity with youElfride. You are unkind to
meyou know.'

'How?' she askedlooking up from her idle occupation.

'After my taking trouble to get jewellery to please youyou
wouldn't accept it.'

'Perhaps I would now; perhaps I want to.'

'Do!' said Knight.

And the packet was withdrawn from his pocket and presented the
third time. Elfride took it with delight. The obstacle was rent
in twainand the significant gift was hers.

'I'll take out these ugly ones at once' she exclaimed'and I'll
wear yours--shall I?'

'I should be gratified.'

Nowthough it may seem unlikelyconsidering how far the two had


gone in converseKnight had never yet ventured to kiss Elfride.
Far slower was he than Stephen Smith in matters like that. The
utmost advance he had made in such demonstrations had been to the
degree witnessed by Stephen in the summer-house. So Elfride's
cheek being still forbidden fruit to himhe said impulsively.

'ElfieI should like to touch that seductive ear of yours. Those
are my gifts; so let me dress you in them.'

She hesitated with a stimulating hesitation.

'Let me put just one in its placethen?'

Her face grew much warmer.

'I don't think it would be quite the usual or proper course' she
saidsuddenly turning and resuming her operation of plashing in
the miniature cataract.

The stillness of things was disturbed by a bird coming to the
streamlet to drink. After watching him dip his billsprinkle
himselfand fly into a treeKnight repliedwith the courteous
brusqueness she so much liked to hear-


'Elfridenow you may as well be fair. You would mind my doing it
but littleI think; so give me leavedo.'

'I will be fairthen' she said confidinglyand looking him full
in the face. It was a particular pleasure to her to be able to do
a little honesty without fear. 'I should not mind your doing so-I
should like such an attention. My thought waswould it be
right to let you?'

'Then I will!' he rejoinedwith that singular earnestness about a
small matter--in the eyes of a ladies' man but a momentary peg for
flirtation or jest--which is only found in deep natures who have
been wholly unused to toying with womankindand whichfrom its
unwontednessis in itself a tribute the most precious that can be
renderedand homage the most exquisite to be received.

'And you shall' she whisperedwithout reserveand no longer
mistress of the ceremonies. And then Elfride inclined herself
towards himthrust back her hairand poised her head sideways.
In doing this her arm and shoulder necessarily rested against his
breast.

At the touchthe sensation of both seemed to be concentrated at
the point of contact. All the time he was performing the delicate
manoeuvre Knight trembled like a young surgeon in his first
operation.

'Now the other' said Knight in a whisper.

'Nono.'

'Why not?'

'I don't know exactly.'

'You must know.'

'Your touch agitates me so. Let us go home.'

'Don't say thatElfride. What is itafter all? A mere nothing.


Now turn rounddearest.'

She was powerless to disobeyand turned forthwith; and then
without any defined intention in either's mindhis face and hers
drew closer together; and he supported her thereand kissed her.

Knight was at once the most ardent and the coolest man alive.
When his emotions slumbered he appeared almost phlegmatic; when
they were moved he was no less than passionate. And nowwithout
having quite intended an early marriagehe put the question
plainly. It came with all the ardour which was the accumulation
of long years behind a natural reserve.

'Elfridewhen shall we be married?'

The words were sweet to her; but there was a bitter in the sweet.
These newly-overt acts of hiswhich had culminated in this plain
questioncoming on the very day of Mrs. Jethway's blasting
reproachespainted distinctly her fickleness as an enormity.
Loving him in secret had not seemed such thorough-going
inconstancy as the same love recognized and acted upon in the face
of threats. Her distraction was interpreted by him at her side as
the outward signs of an unwonted experience.

'I don't press you for an answer nowdarling' he saidseeing
she was not likely to give a lucid reply. 'Take your time.'

Knight was as honourable a man as was ever loved and deluded by
woman. It may be said that his blindness in love proved the
pointfor shrewdness in love usually goes with meanness in
general. Once the passion had mastered himthe intellect had
gone for naught. Knightas a loverwas more single-minded and
far simpler than his friend Stephenwho in other capacities was
shallow beside him.

Without saying more on the subject of their marriageKnight held
her at arm's lengthas if she had been a large bouquetand
looked at her with critical affection.

'Does your pretty gift become me?' she inquiredwith tears of
excitement on the fringes of her eyes.

'Undoubtedlyperfectly!' said her loveradopting a lighter tone
to put her at her ease. 'Ahyou should see them; you look
shinier than ever. Fancy that I have been able to improve you!'

'Am I really so nice? I am glad for your sake. I wish I could see
myself.'

'You can't. You must wait till we get home.'

'I shall never be able' she saidlaughing. 'Look: here's a
way.'

'So there is. Well donewoman's wit!'

'Hold me steady!'

'Oh yes.'

'And don't let me fallwill you?'

'By no means.'


Below their seat the thread of water paused to spread out into a
smooth small pool. Knight supported her whilst she knelt down and
leant over it.

'I can see myself. Reallytry as religiously as I willI cannot
help admiring my appearance in them.'

'Doubtless. How can you be so fond of finery? I believe you are
corrupting me into a taste for it. I used to hate every such
thing before I knew you.'

'I like ornamentsbecause I want people to admire what you
possessand envy youand sayI wish I was he.'

'I suppose I ought not to object after that. And how much longer
are you going to look in there at yourself?'

'Until you are tired of holding me? OhI want to ask you
something.' And she turned round. 'Now tell trulywon't you?
What colour of hair do you like best now?'

Knight did not answer at the moment.

'Say lightdo!' she whispered coaxingly. 'Don't say darkas you
did that time.'

'Light-brownthen. Exactly the colour of my sweetheart's.'

'Really?' said Elfrideenjoying as truth what she knew to be
flattery.

'Yes.'

'And blue eyestoonot hazel? Say yessay yes!'

'One recantation is enough for to-day.'

'Nono.'

'Very wellblue eyes.' And Knight laughedand drew her close and
kissed her the second timewhich operations he performed with the
carefulness of a fruiterer touching a bunch of grapes so as not to
disturb their bloom.

Elfride objected to a secondand flung away her facethe
movement causing a slight disarrangement of hat and hair. Hardly
thinking what she said in the trepidation of the momentshe
exclaimedclapping her hand to her ear-


'Ahwe must be careful! I lost the other earring doing like
this.'

No sooner did she realise the significant words than a troubled
look passed across her faceand she shut her lips as if to keep
them back.

'Doing like what?' said Knightperplexed.

'Ohsitting down out of doors' she replied hastily.

Chapter XXIX


'Carethou canker.'

It is an evening at the beginning of Octoberand the mellowest of
autumn sunsets irradiates Londoneven to its uttermost eastern
end. Between the eye and the flaming Westcolumns of smoke stand
up in the still air like tall trees. Everything in the shade is
rich and misty blue.

Mr. and Mrs. Swancourt and Elfride are looking at these lustrous
and lurid contrasts from the window of a large hotel near London
Bridge. The visit to their friends at St. Leonards is overand
they are staying a day or two in the metropolis on their way home.

Knight spent the same interval of time in crossing over to
Brittany by way of Jersey and St. Malo. He then passed through
Normandyand returned to London alsohis arrival there having
been two days later than that of Elfride and her parents.

So the evening of this October day saw them all meeting at the
above-mentioned hotelwhere they had previously engaged
apartments. During the afternoon Knight had been to his lodgings
at Richmond to make a little change in the nature of his baggage;
and on coming up again there was never ushered by a bland waiter
into a comfortable room a happier man than Knight when shown to
where Elfride and her step-mother were sitting after a fatiguing
day of shopping.

Elfride looked none the better for her change: Knight was as brown
as a nut. They were soon engaged by themselves in a corner of the
room. Now that the precious words of promise had been spokenthe
young girl had no idea of keeping up her price by the system of
reserve which other more accomplished maidens use. Her lover was
with her againand it was enough: she made her heart over to him
entirely.

Dinner was soon despatched. And when a preliminary round of
conversation concerning their doings since the last parting had
been concludedthey reverted to the subject of to-morrow's
journey home.

'That enervating ride through the myrtle climate of South Devon-how
I dread it to-morrow!' Mrs. Swancourt was saying. 'I had
hoped the weather would have been cooler by this time.'

'Did you ever go by water?' said Knight.

'Never--by neverI mean not since the time of railways.'

'Then if you can afford an additional dayI propose that we do
it' said Knight. 'The Channel is like a lake just now. We
should reach Plymouth in about forty hoursI thinkand the boats
start from just below the bridge here' (pointing over his shoulder
eastward).

'Hearhear!' said the vicar.

'It's an ideacertainly' said his wife.

'Of course these coasters are rather tubby' said Knight. 'But
you wouldn't mind that?'

'No: we wouldn't mind.'


'And the saloon is a place like the fishmarket of a ninth-rate
country townbut that wouldn't matter?'

'Oh dearno. If we had only thought of it soon enoughwe might
have had the use of Lord Luxellian's yacht. But never mindwe'll
go. We shall escape the worrying rattle through the whole length
of London to-morrow morning--not to mention the risk of being
killed by excursion trainswhich is not a little one at this time
of the yearif the papers are true.'

Elfridetoothought the arrangement delightful; and accordingly
ten o'clock the following morning saw two cabs crawling round by
the Mintand between the preternaturally high walls of
Nightingale Lane towards the river side.

The first vehicle was occupied by the travellers in personand
the second brought up the luggageunder the supervision of Mrs.
SnewsonMrs. Swancourt's maid--and for the last fortnight
Elfride's also; for although the younger lady had never been
accustomed to any such attendant at robing timesher stepmother
forced her into a semblance of familiarity with one when they were
away from home.

Presently waggonsbalesand smells of all descriptions increased
to such an extent that the advance of the cabs was at the slowest
possible rate. At intervals it was necessary to halt entirely
that the heavy vehicles unloading in front might be moved asidea
feat which was not accomplished without a deal of swearing and
noise. The vicar put his head out of the window.

'Surely there must be some mistake in the way' he said with great
concerndrawing in his head again. 'There's not a respectable
conveyance to be seen here except ours. I've heard that there are
strange dens in this part of Londoninto which people have been
entrapped and murdered--surely there is no conspiracy on the part
of the cabman?'

'Oh nono. It is all right' said Mr. Knightwho was as placid
as dewy eve by the side of Elfride.

'But what I argue from' said the vicarwith a greater emphasis
of uneasiness'are plain appearances. This can't be the highway
from London to Plymouth by waterbecause it is no way at all to
any place. We shall miss our steamer and our train too--that's
what I think.'

'Depend upon it we are right. In facthere we are.'

'Trimmer's Wharf' said the cabmanopening the door.

No sooner had they alighted than they perceived a tussle going on
between the hindmost cabman and a crowd of light porters who had
charged him in columnto obtain possession of the bags and boxes
Mrs. Snewson's hands being seen stretched towards heaven in the
midst of the melee. Knight advanced gallantlyand after a hard
struggle reduced the crowd to twoupon whose shoulders and trucks
the goods vanished away in the direction of the water's edge with
startling rapidity.

Then more of the same tribewho had run on aheadwere heard
shouting to boatmenthree of whom pulled alongsideand two being
vanquishedthe luggage went tumbling into the remaining one.

'Never saw such a dreadful scene in my life--never!' said Mr.


Swancourtfloundering into the boat. 'Worse than Famine and
Sword upon one. I thought such customs were confined to
continental ports. Aren't you astonishedElfride?'

'Oh no' said Elfrideappearing amid the dingy scene like a
rainbow in a murky sky. 'It is a pleasant noveltyI think.'

'Where in the wide ocean is our steamer?' the vicar inquired. 'I
can see nothing but old hulksfor the life of me.'

'Just behind that one' said Knight; 'we shall soon be round under
her.'

The object of their search was soon after disclosed to view--a
great lumbering form of inky blacknesswhich looked as if it had
never known the touch of a paint-brush for fifty years. It was
lying beside just such anotherand the way on board was down a
narrow lane of water between the twoabout a yard and a half wide
at one endand gradually converging to a point. At the moment of
their entry into this narrow passagea brilliantly painted rival
paddled down the river like a trotting steedcreating such a
series of waves and splashes that their frail wherry was tossed
like a teacupand the vicar and his wife slanted this way and
thatinclining their heads into contact with a Punch-and-Judy air
and countenancethe wavelets striking the sides of the two hulls
and flapping back into their laps.

'Dreadful! horrible!' Mr. Swancourt murmured privately; and said
aloudI thought we walked on board. I don't think really I
should have comeif I had known this trouble was attached to it.'

'If they must splashI wish they would splash us with clean
water' said the old ladywiping her dress with her handkerchief.

'I hope it is perfectly safe' continued the vicar.

'O papa! you are not very brave' cried Elfride merrily.

'Bravery is only obtuseness to the perception of contingencies'
Mr. Swancourt severely answered.

Mrs. Swancourt laughedand Elfride laughedand Knight laughed
in the midst of which pleasantness a man shouted to them from some
position between their heads and the skyand they found they were
close to the Julietinto which they quiveringly ascended.

It having been found that the lowness of the tide would prevent
their getting off for an hourthe Swancourtshaving nothing else
to doallowed their eyes to idle upon men in blue jerseys
performing mysterious mending operations with tar-twine; they
turned to look at the dashes of lurid sunlightlike burnished
copper stars afloat on the rippleswhich danced into and
tantalized their vision; or listened to the loud music of a steamcrane
at work close by; or to sighing sounds from the funnels of
passing steamersgetting dead as they grew more distant; or to
shouts from the decks of different craft in their vicinityall of
them assuming the form of 'Ah-he-hay!'

Half-past ten: not yet off. Mr. Swancourt breathed a breath of
wearinessand looked at his fellow-travellers in general. Their
faces were certainly not worth looking at. The expression
'Waiting' was written upon them so absolutely that nothing more
could be discerned there. All animation was suspended till
Providence should raise the water and let them go.


'I have been thinking' said Knight'that we have come amongst
the rarest class of people in the kingdom. Of all human
characteristicsa low opinion of the value of his own time by an
individual must be among the strangest to find. Here we see
numbers of that patient and happy species. Roversas distinct
from travellers.'

'But they are pleasure-seekersto whom time is of no importance.'

'Oh no. The pleasure-seekers we meet on the grand routes are more
anxious than commercial travellers to rush on. And added to the
loss of time in getting to their journey's endthese exceptional
people take their chance of sea-sickness by coming this way.'

'Can it be?' inquired the vicar with apprehension. 'Surely not
Mr. Knightjust here in our English Channel--close at our doors
as I may say.'

'Entrance passages are very draughty placesand the Channel is
like the rest. It ruins the temper of sailors. It has been
calculated by philosophers that more damns go up to heaven from
the Channelin the course of a yearthan from all the five
oceans put together.'

They really start nowand the dead looks of all the throng come
to life immediately. The man who has been frantically hauling in
a rope that bade fair to have no end ceases his laboursand they
glide down the serpentine bends of the Thames.

Anything anywhere was a mine of interest to Elfrideand so was
this.

'It is well enough now' said Mrs. Swancourtafter they had
passed the Nore'but I can't say I have cared for my voyage
hitherto.' For being now in the open sea a slight breeze had
sprung upwhich cheered her as well as her two younger
companions. But unfortunately it had a reverse effect upon the
vicarwhoafter turning a sort of apricot jam colour
interspersed with dashes of raspberrypleaded indispositionand
vanished from their sight.

The afternoon wore on. Mrs. Swancourt kindly sat apart by herself
readingand the betrothed pair were left to themselves. Elfride
clung trustingly to Knight's armand proud was she to walk with
him up and down the deckor to go forwardand leaning with him
against the forecastle railswatch the setting sun gradually
withdrawing itself over their stern into a huge bank of livid
cloud with golden edges that rose to meet it.

She was childishly full of life and spiritsthough in walking up
and down with him before the other passengersand getting noticed
by themshe was at starting rather confusedit being the first
time she had shown herself so openly under that kind of
protection. 'I expect they are envious and saying things about
usdon't you?' she would whisper to Knight with a stealthy smile.

'Oh no' he would answer unconcernedly. 'Why should they envy us
and what can they say?'

'Not any harmof course' Elfride replied'except such as this:
How happy those two are! she is proud enough now.What makes it
worse' she continued in the extremity of confidence'I heard
those two cricketing men say just nowShe's the nobbiest girl on


the boat.But I don't mind ityou knowHarry.'

'I should hardly have supposed you dideven if you had not told
me' said Knight with great blandness.

She was never tired of asking her lover questions and admiring his
answersgoodbador indifferent as they might be. The evening
grew dark and night came onand lights shone upon them from the
horizon and from the sky.

'Now look there ahead of usat that halo in the airof silvery
brightness. Watch itand you will see what it comes to.'

She watched for a few minuteswhen two white lights emerged from
the side of a hilland showed themselves to be the origin of the
halo.

'What a dazzling brilliance! What do they mark?'

'The South Foreland: they were previously covered by the cliff.'

'What is that level line of little sparkles--a townI suppose?'

'That's Dover.'

All this timeand latersoft sheet lightning expanded from a
cloud in their pathenkindling their faces as they paced up and
downshining over the waterandfor a momentshowing the
horizon as a keen line.

Elfride slept soundly that night. Her first thought the next
morning was the thrilling one that Knight was as close at hand as
when they were at home at Endelstowand her first sighton
looking out of the cabin windowwas the perpendicular face of
Beachy Headgleaming white in a brilliant six-o'clock-in-themorning
sun. This fair daybreakhoweversoon changed its
aspect. A cold wind and a pale mist descended upon the seaand
seemed to threaten a dreary day.

When they were nearing SouthamptonMrs. Swancourt came to say
that her husband was so ill that he wished to be put on shore
hereand left to do the remainder of the journey by land. 'He
will be perfectly well directly he treads firm ground again.
Which shall we do--go with himor finish our voyage as we
intended?'

Elfride was comfortably housed under an umbrella which Knight was
holding over her to keep off the wind. 'Ohdon't let us go on
shore!' she said with dismay. 'It would be such a pity!'

'That's very fine' said Mrs. Swancourt archlyas to a child.
'Seethe wind has increased her colourthe sea her appetite and
spiritsand somebody her happiness. Yesit would be a pity
certainly.'

''Tis my misfortune to be always spoken to from a pedestal'
sighed Elfride.

'Wellwe will do as you likeMrs. Swancourt' said Knight'but----'

'I myself would rather remain on board' interrupted the elder
lady. 'And Mr. Swancourt particularly wishes to go by himself.
So that shall settle the matter.'


The vicarnow a drab colourwas put ashoreand became as well
as ever forthwith.

Elfridesitting alone in a retired part of the vesselsaw a
veiled woman walk aboard among the very latest arrivals at this
port. She was clothed in black silkand carried a dark shawl
upon her arm. The womanwithout looking around herturned to
the quarter allotted to the second-cabin passengers. All the
carnation Mrs. Swancourt had complimented her step-daughter upon
possessing left Elfride's cheeksand she trembled visibly.

She ran to the other side of the boatwhere Mrs. Swancourt was
standing.

'Let us go home by railway with papaafter all' she pleaded
earnestly. 'I would rather go with him--shall we?'

Mrs. Swancourt looked around for a momentas if unable to decide.
'Ah' she exclaimed'it is too late now. Why did not you say so
beforewhen we had plenty of time?'

The Juliet had at that minute let gothe engines had startedand
they were gliding slowly away from the quay. There was no help
for it but to remainunless the Juliet could be made to put back
and that would create a great disturbance. Elfride gave up the
idea and submitted quietly. Her happiness was sadly mutilated
now.

The woman whose presence had so disturbed her was exactly like
Mrs. Jethway. She seemed to haunt Elfride like a shadow. After
several minutes' vain endeavour to account for any design Mrs.
Jethway could have in watching herElfride decided to think that
if it were the widowthe encounter was accidental. She
remembered that the widow in her restlessness was often visiting
the village near Southamptonwhich was her original homeand it
was possible that she chose water-transit with the idea of saving
expense.

'What is the matterElfride?' Knight inquiredstanding before
her.

'Nothing more than that I am rather depressed.'

'I don't much wonder at it; that wharf was depressing. We seemed
underneath and inferior to everything around us. But we shall be
in the sea breeze again soonand that will freshen youdear.'

The evening closed in and dusk increased as they made way down
Southampton Water and through the Solent. Elfride's disturbance
of mind was such that her light spirits of the foregoing four and
twenty hours had entirely deserted her. The weather too had grown
more gloomyfor though the showers of the morning had ceasedthe
sky was covered more closely than ever with dense leaden clouds.
How beautiful was the sunset when they rounded the North Foreland
the previous evening! now it was impossible to tell within half an
hour the time of the luminary's going down. Knight led her about
and being by this time accustomed to her sudden changes of mood
overlooked the necessity of a cause in regarding the conditions-impressionableness
and elasticity.

Elfride looked stealthily to the other end of the vessel. Mrs.
Jethwayor her doublewas sitting at the stern--her eye steadily
regarding Elfride.


'Let us go to the forepart' she said quickly to Knight. 'See
there--the man is fixing the lights for the night.'

Knight assentedand after watching the operation of fixing the
red and the green lights on the port and starboard bowsand the
hoisting of the white light to the mastheadhe walked up and down
with her till the increase of wind rendered promenading difficult.
Elfride's eyes were occasionally to be found furtively gazing
abaftto learn if her enemy were really there. Nobody was
visible now.

'Shall we go below?' said Knightseeing that the deck was nearly
deserted.

'No' she said. 'If you will kindly get me a rug from Mrs.
SwancourtI should likeif you don't mindto stay here.' She
had recently fancied the assumed Mrs. Jethway might be a firstclass
passengerand dreaded meeting her by accident.

Knight appeared with the rugand they sat down behind a weathercloth
on the windward sidejust as the two red eyes of the
Needles glared upon them from the gloomtheir pointed summits
rising like shadowy phantom figures against the sky. It became
necessary to go below to an eight-o'clock meal of nondescript
kindand Elfride was immensely relieved at finding no sign of
Mrs. Jethway there. They again ascendedand remained above till
Mrs. Snewson staggered up to them with the message that Mrs.
Swancourt thought it was time for Elfride to come below. Knight
accompanied her downand returned again to pass a little more
time on deck.

Elfride partly undressed herself and lay downand soon became
unconsciousthough her sleep was light How long she had lainshe
knew notwhen by slow degrees she became cognizant of a
whispering in her ear.

'You are well on with himI can see. Wellprovoke me nowbut
my day will comeyou will find.' That seemed to be the utterance
or words to that effect.

Elfride became broad awake and terrified. She knew the wordsif
realcould be only those of one personand that person the widow
Jethway.

The lamp had gone out and the place was in darkness. In the next
berth she could hear her stepmother breathing heavilyfurther on
Snewson breathing more heavily still. These were the only other
legitimate occupants of the cabinand Mrs. Jethway must have
stealthily come in by some means and retreated againor else she
had entered an empty berth next Snewson's. The fear that this was
the case increased Elfride's perturbationtill it assumed the
dimensions of a certaintyfor how could a stranger from the other
end of the ship possibly contrive to get in? Could it have been a
dream?

Elfride raised herself higher and looked out of the window. There
was the seafloundering and rushing against the ship's side just
by her headand thence stretching awaydim and moaninginto an
expanse of indistinctness; and far beyond all this two placid
lights like rayless stars. Now almost fearing to turn her face
inwards againlest Mrs. Jethway should appear at her elbow
Elfride meditated upon whether to call Snewson to keep her
company. 'Four bells ' soundedand she heard voiceswhich gave
her a little courage. It was not worth while to call Snewson.


At any rate Elfride could not stay there panting longerat the
risk of being again disturbed by that dreadful whispering. So
wrapping herself up hurriedly she emerged into the passageand by
the aid of a faint light burning at the entrance to the saloon
found the foot of the stairsand ascended to the deck. Dreary
the place was in the extreme. It seemed a new spot altogether in
contrast with its daytime self. She could see the glowworm light
from the binnacleand the dim outline of the man at the wheel;
also a form at the bows. Not another soul was apparent from stem
to stern.

Yesthere were two more--by the bulwarks. One proved to be her
Harrythe other the mate. She was glad indeedand on drawing
closer found they were holding a low slow chat about nautical
affairs. She ran up and slipped her hand through Knight's arm
partly for lovepartly for stability.

'Elfie! not asleep?' said Knightafter moving a few steps aside
with her.

'No: I cannot sleep. May I stay here? It is so dismal down there
and--and I was afraid. Where are we now?'

'Due south of Portland Bill. Those are the lights abeam of us:
look. A terrible spotthaton a stormy night. And do you see a
very small light that dips and rises to the right? That's a lightship
on the dangerous shoal called the Shambleswhere many a good
vessel has gone to pieces. Between it and ourselves is the Race-a
place where antagonistic currents meet and form whirlpools--a
spot which is rough in the smoothest weatherand terrific in a
wind. That darkdreary horizon we just discern to the left is
the West Bayterminated landwards by the Chesil Beach.'

'What time is itHarry?'

'Just past two.'

'Are you going below?'

'Oh no; not to-night. I prefer pure air.'

She fancied he might be displeased with her for coming to him at
this unearthly hour. 'I should like to stay here tooif you will
allow me' she said timidly.

'I want to ask you things.'

'Allow youElfie!' said Knightputting his arm round her and
drawing her closer. 'I am twice as happy with you by my side.
Yes: we will stayand watch the approach of day.'

So they again sought out the sheltered nookand sitting down
wrapped themselves in the rug as before.

'What were you going to ask me?' he inquiredas they undulated up
and down.

'Ohit was not much--perhaps a thing I ought not to ask' she
said hesitatingly. Her sudden wish had really been to discover at
once whether he had ever before been engaged to be married. If he
hadshe would make that a ground for telling him a little of her
conduct with Stephen. Mrs. Jethway's seeming words had so
depressed the girl that she herself now painted her flight in the


darkest coloursand longed to ease her burdened mind by an
instant confession. If Knight had ever been imprudent himselfhe
mightshe hopedforgive all.

'I wanted to ask you' she went on'if--you had ever been engaged
before.' She added tremulously'I hope you have--I meanI don't
mind at all if you have.'

'NoI never was' Knight instantly and heartily replied.
'Elfride'--and there was a certain happy pride in his tone--'I am
twelve years older than youand I have been about the worldand
in a wayinto societyand you have not. And yet I am not so
unfit for you as strict-thinking people might imaginewho would
assume the difference in age to signify most surely an equal
addition to my practice in love-making.'

Elfride shivered.

'You are cold--is the wind too much for you?'

'No' she said gloomily. The belief which had been her sheetanchor
in hoping for forgiveness had proved false. This account
of the exceptional nature of his experiencea matter which would
have set her rejoicing two years agochilled her now like a
frost.

'You don't mind my asking you?' she continued.

'Oh no--not at all.'

'And have you never kissed many ladies?' she whisperedhoping he
would say a hundred at the least.

The timethe circumstancesand the scene were such as to draw
confidences from the most reserved. 'Elfride' whispered Knight
in reply'it is strange you should have asked that question. But
I'll answer itthough I have never told such a thing before. I
have been rather absurd in my avoidance of women. I have never
given a woman a kiss in my lifeexcept yourself and my mother.'
The man of two and thirty with the experienced mind warmed all
over with a boy's ingenuous shame as he made the confession.

'Whatnot one?' she faltered.

'No; not one.'

'How very strange!'

'Yesthe reverse experience may be commoner. And yetto those
who have observed their own sexas I havemy case is not
remarkable. Men about town are women's favourites--that's the
postulate--and superficial people don't think far enough to see
that there may be reservedlonely exceptions.'

'Are you proud of itHarry?'

'Noindeed. Of late years I have wished I had gone my ways and
trod out my measure like lighter-hearted men. I have thought of
how many happy experiences I may have lost through never going to
woo.'

'Then why did you hold aloof?'

'I cannot say. I don't think it was my nature to: circumstance


hindered meperhaps. I have regretted it for another reason.
This great remissness of mine has had its effect upon me. The
older I have grownthe more distinctly have I perceived that it
was absolutely preventing me from liking any woman who was not as
unpractised as I; and I gave up the expectation of finding a
nineteenth-century young lady in my own raw state. Then I found
youElfrideand l felt for the first time that my fastidiousness
was a blessing. And it helped to make me worthy of you. I felt
at once thatdiffering as we did in other experiencesin this
matter I resembled you. Wellaren't you glad to hear it
Elfride?'

'YesI am' she answered in a forced voice. 'But I always had
thought that men made lots of engagements before they married-especially
if they don't marry very young.'

'So all women thinkI suppose--and rightlyindeedof the
majority of bachelorsas I said before. But an appreciable
minority of slow-coach men do not--and it makes them very awkward
when they do come to the point. Howeverit didn't matter in my
case.'

'Why?' she asked uneasily.

'Because you know even less of love-making and matrimonial
prearrangement than Iand so you can't draw invidious comparisons
if I do my engaging improperly.'

'I think you do it beautifully!'

'Thank youdear. But' continued Knight laughingly'your
opinion is not that of an expertwhich alone is of value.'

Had she answered'Yesit is' half as strongly as she felt it
Knight might have been a little astonished.

'If you had ever been engaged to be married before' he went on
'I expect your opinion of my addresses would be different. But
thenI should not----'

'Should not whatHarry?'

'OhI was merely going to say that in that case I should never
have given myself the pleasure of proposing to yousince your
freedom from that experience was your attractiondarling.'

'You are severe on womenare you not?'

'NoI think not. I had a right to please my tasteand that was
for untried lips. Other men than those of my sort acquire the
taste as they get older--but don't find an Elfride----'

'What horrid sound is that we hear when we pitch forward?'

'Only the screw--don't find an Elfride as I did. To think that I
should have discovered such an unseen flower down there in the
West--to whom a man is as much as a multitude to some womenand a
trip down the English Channel like a voyage round the world!'

'And would you' she saidand her voice was tremulous'have
given up a lady--if you had become engaged to her--and then found
she had had ONE kiss before yours--and would you have--gone away
and left her?'


'One kiss--nohardly for that.'

'Two?'

'Well--I could hardly say inventorially like that. Too much of
that sort of thing certainly would make me dislike a woman. But
let us confine our attention to ourselvesnot go thinking of
might have beens.'

So Elfride had allowed her thoughts to 'dally with false surmise'
and every one of Knight's words fell upon her like a weight.
After this they were silent for a long timegazing upon the black
mysterious seaand hearing the strange voice of the restless
wind. A rocking to and fro on the waveswhen the breeze is not
too violent and coldproduces a soothing effect even upon the
most highly-wrought mind. Elfride slowly sank against Knightand
looking downhe found by her soft regular breathing that she had
fallen asleep. Not wishing to disturb herhe continued still
and took an intense pleasure in supporting her warm young form as
it rose and fell with her every breath.

Knight fell to dreaming toothough he continued wide awake. It
was pleasant to realize the implicit trust she placed in himand
to think of the charming innocence of one who could sink to sleep
in so simple and unceremonious a manner. More than allthe
musing unpractical student felt the immense responsibility he was
taking upon himself by becoming the protector and guide of such a
trusting creature. The quiet slumber of her soul lent a quietness
to his own. Then she moanedand turned herself restlessly.
Presently her mutterings became distinct:

'Don't tell him--he will not love me....I did not mean any
disgrace--indeed I did notso don't tell Harry. We were going to
be married--that was why I ran away....And he says he will not
have a kissed woman....And if you tell him he will go awayand I
shall die. I pray have mercy--Oh!'

Elfride started up wildly.

The previous moment a musical ding-dong had spread into the air
from their right handand awakened her.

'What is it?' she exclaimed in terror.

'Only "eight bells' said Knight soothingly. 'Don't be
frightened, little bird, you are safe. What have you been
dreaming about?'

'I can't tell, I can't tell!' she said with a shudder. 'Oh, I
don't know what to do!'

'Stay quietly with me. We shall soon see the dawn now. Look, the
morning star is lovely over there. The clouds have completely
cleared off whilst you have been sleeping. What have you been
dreaming of?'

'A woman in our parish.'

'Don't you like her?'

'I don't. She doesn't like me. Where are we?'

'About south of the Exe.'


Knight said no more on the words of her dream. They watched the
sky till Elfride grew calm, and the dawn appeared. It was mere
wan lightness first. Then the wind blew in a changed spirit, and
died away to a zephyr. The star dissolved into the day.

'That's how I should like to die,' said Elfride, rising from her
seat and leaning over the bulwark to watch the star's last
expiring gleam.

'As the lines say,' Knight replied---


'To set as sets the morning starwhich goes
Not down behind the darken'd westnor hides
Obscured among the tempests of the sky
But melts away into the light of heaven."'


'Ohother people have thought the same thinghave they? That's
always the case with my originalities--they are original to nobody
but myself.'

'Not only the case with yours. When I was a young hand at
reviewing I used to find that a frightful pitfall--dilating upon
subjects I met withwhich were novelties to meand finding
afterwards they had been exhausted by the thinking world when I
was in pinafores.'

'That is delightful. Whenever I find you have done a foolish
thing I am gladbecause it seems to bring you a little nearer to
mewho have done many.' And Elfride thought again of her enemy
asleep under the deck they trod.

All up the coastprominences singled themselves out from
recesses. Then a rosy sky spread over the eastern sea and behind
the low line of landflinging its livery in dashes upon the thin
airy clouds in that direction. Every projection on the land
seemed now so many fingers anxious to catch a little of the liquid
light thrown so prodigally over the skyand after a fantastic
time of lustrous yellows in the eastthe higher elevations along
the shore were flooded with the same hues. The bluff and bare
contours of Start Point caught the brightestearliest glow of
alland so also did the sides of its white lighthouseperched
upon a shelf in its precipitous front like a mediaeval saint in a
niche. Their lofty neighbour Bolt Head on the left remained as
yet ungildedand retained its gray.

Then up came the sunas it were in jerksjust to seaward of the
easternmost point of landflinging out a Jacob's-ladder path of
light from itself to Elfride and Knightand coating them with
rays in a few minutes. The inferior dignitaries of the shore--
Froward PointBerry Headand Prawle--all had acquired their
share of the illumination ere thisand at length the very
smallest protuberance of wavecliffor inleteven to the
innermost recesses of the lovely valley of the Darthad its
portion; and sunlightnow the common possession of allceased to
be the wonderful and coveted thing it had been a short half hour
before.

After breakfastPlymouth arose into viewand grew distincter to
their nearing visionthe Breakwater appearing like a streak of
phosphoric light upon the surface of the sea. Elfride looked
furtively around for Mrs. Jethwaybut could discern no shape like
hers. Afterwardsin the bustle of landingshe looked again with


the same resultby which time the woman had probably glided upon
the quay unobserved. Expanding with a sense of reliefElfride
waited whilst Knight looked to their luggageand then saw her
father approaching through the crowdtwirling his walking-stick
to catch their attention. Elbowing their way to him they all
entered the townwhich smiled as sunny a smile upon Elfride as it
had done between one and two years earlierwhen she had entered
it at precisely the same hour as the bride-elect of Stephen Smith.

Chapter XXX

'Vassal unto Love.'

Elfride clung closer to Knight as day succeeded day. Whatever
else might admit of questionthere could be no dispute that the
allegiance she bore him absorbed her whole soul and existence. A
greater than Stephen had arisenand she had left all to follow
him.

The unreserved girl was never chary of letting her lover discover
how much she admired him. She never once held an idea in
opposition to any one of hisor insisted on any point with him
or showed any independenceor held her own on any subject. His
lightest whim she respected and obeyed as lawand ifexpressing
her opinion on a matterhe took up the subject and differed from
hershe instantly threw down her own opinion as wrong and
untenable. Even her ambiguities and espieglerie were but media of
the same manifestation; acted charadesembodying the words of her
prototypethe tender and susceptible daughter-in-law of Naomi:
'Let me find favour in thy sightmy lord; for that thou hast
comforted meand for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine
handmaid.'

She was syringing the plants one wet day in the greenhouse.
Knight was sitting under a great passion-flower observing the
scene. Sometimes he looked out at the rain from the skyand then
at Elfride's inner rain of larger dropswhich fell from trees and
shrubsafter having previously hung from the twigs like small
silver fruit.

'I must give you something to make you think of me during this
autumn at your chambers' she was saying. 'What shall it be?
Portraits do more harm than goodby selecting the worst
expression of which your face is capable. Hair is unlucky. And
you don't like jewellery.'

'Something which shall bring back to my mind the many scenes we
have enacted in this conservatory. I see what I should prize very
much. That dwarf myrtle tree in the potwhich you have been so
carefully tending.'

Elfride looked thoughtfully at the myrtle.

'I can carry it comfortably in my hat box' said Knight. 'And I
will put it in my windowand soit being always before my eyes
I shall think of you continually.'

It so happened that the myrtle which Knight had singled out had a
peculiar beginning and history. It had originally been a twig
worn in Stephen Smith's button-holeand he had taken it thence
stuck it into the potand told her that if it grewshe was to


take care of itand keep it in remembrance of him when he was far
away.

She looked wistfully at the plantand a sense of fairness to
Smith's memory caused her a pang of regret that Knight should have
asked for that very one. It seemed exceeding a common
heartlessness to let it go.

'Is there not anything you like better?' she said sadly. 'That is
only an ordinary myrtle.'

'No: I am fond of myrtle.' Seeing that she did not take kindly to
the ideahe said again'Why do you object to my having that?'

'Oh no--I don't object precisely--it was a feeling.--Ahhere's
another cutting lately struckand just as small--of a better
kindand with prettier leaves--myrtus microphylla.'

'That will do nicely. Let it be put in my roomthat I may not
forget it. What romance attaches to the other?'

'It was a gift to me.'

The subject then dropped. Knight thought no more of the matter
tillon entering his bedroom in the eveninghe found the second
myrtle placed upon his dressing-table as he had directed. He
stood for a moment admiring the fresh appearance of the leaves by
candlelightand then he thought of the transaction of the day.

Male lovers as well as female can be spoilt by too much kindness
and Elfride's uniform submissiveness had given Knight a rather
exacting manner at crisesattached to her as he was. 'Why should
she have refused the one I first chose?' he now asked himself.
Even such slight opposition as she had shown then was exceptional
enough to make itself noticeable. He was not vexed with her in
the least: the mere variation of her way to-day from her usual
ways kept him musing on the subjectbecause it perplexed him.
'It was a gift'--those were her words. Admitting it to be a gift
he thought she could hardly value a mere friend more than she
valued him as a loverand giving the plant into his charge would
have made no difference. 'Exceptindeedit was the gift of a
lover' he murmured.

'I wonder if Elfride has ever had a lover before?' he said aloud
as a new ideaquite. This and companion thoughts were enough to
occupy him completely till he fell asleep--rather later than
usual.

The next daywhen they were again alonehe said to her rather
suddenly-


'Do you love me more or lessElfiefor what I told you on board
the steamer?'

'You told me so many things' she returnedlifting her eyes to
his and smiling.

'I mean the confession you coaxed out of me--that I had never been
in the position of lover before.'

'It is a satisfactionI supposeto be the first in your heart'
she said to himwith an attempt to continue her smiling.

'I am going to ask you a question now' said Knightsomewhat


awkwardly. 'I only ask it in a whimsical wayyou know: not with
great seriousnessElfride. You may think it oddperhaps.'

Elfride tried desperately to keep the colour in her face. She
could notthough distressed to think that getting pale showed
consciousness of deeper guilt than merely getting red.

'Oh no--I shall not think that' she saidbecause obliged to say
something to fill the pause which followed her questioner's
remark.

'It is this: have you ever had a lover? I am almost sure you have
not; buthave you?'

'Notas it werea lover; I meannot worth mentioningHarry'
she faltered.

Knightoverstrained in sentiment as he knew the feeling to be
felt some sickness of heart.

'Stillhe was a lover?'

'Wella sort of loverI suppose' she responded tardily.

'A manI meanyou know.'

'Yes; but only a mere personand----'

'But truly your lover?'

'Yes; a lover certainly--he was that. Yeshe might have been
called my lover.'

Knight said nothing to this for a minute or moreand kept silent
time with his finger to the tick of the old library clockin
which room the colloquy was going on.

'You don't mindHarrydo you?' she said anxiouslynestling
close to himand watching his face.

'Of courseI don't seriously mind. In reasona man cannot
object to such a trifle. I only thought you hadn't--that was
all.'

Howeverone ray was abstracted from the glory about her head.
But afterwardswhen Knight was wandering by himself over the bare
and breezy hillsand meditating on the subjectthat ray suddenly
returned. For she might have had a loverand never have cared in
the least for him. She might have used the word improperlyand
meant 'admirer' all the time. Of course she had been admired; and
one man might have made his admiration more prominent than that of
the rest--a very natural case.

They were sitting on one of the garden seats when he found
occasion to put the supposition to the test. 'Did you love that
lover or admirer of yours ever so littleElfie?'

She murmured reluctantly'YesI think I did.'

Knight felt the same faint touch of misery. 'Only a very little?'
he said.

'I am not sure how much.'


'But you are suredarlingyou loved him a little?'

'I think I am sure I loved him a little.'

'And not a great dealElfie?'

'My love was not supported by reverence for his powers.'

'ButElfridedid you love him deeply?' said Knight restlessly.

'I don't exactly know how deep you mean by deeply.'

'That's nonsense.'

'You misapprehend; and you have let go my hand!' she criedher
eyes filling with tears. 'Harrydon't be severe with meand
don't question me. I did not love him as I do you. And could it
be deeply if I did not think him cleverer than myself? For I did
not. You grieve me so much--you can't think.'

'I will not say another word about it.'

'And you will not think about iteitherwill you? I know you
think of weaknesses in me after I am out of your sight; and not
knowing what they areI cannot combat them. I almost wish you
were of a grosser natureHarry; in truth I do! Or ratherI wish
I could have the advantages such a nature in you would afford me
and yet have you as you are.'

'What advantages would they be?'

'Less anxietyand more security. Ordinary men are not so
delicate in their tastes as you; and where the lover or husband is
not fastidiousand refinedand of a deep naturethings seem to
go on betterI fancy--as far as I have been able to observe the
world.'

'Yes; I suppose it is right. Shallowness has this advantagethat
you can't be drowned there.'

'But I think I'll have you as you are; yesI will!' she said
winsomely. 'The practical husbands and wives who take things
philosophically are very humdrumare they not? Yesit would kill
me quite. You please me best as you are.'

'Even though I wish you had never cared for one before me?'

'Yes. And you must not wish it. Don't!'

'I'll try not toElfride.'

So she hopedbut her heart was troubled. If he felt so deeply on
this pointwhat would he say did he know alland see it as Mrs.
Jethway saw it? He would never make her the happiest girl in the
world by taking her to be his own for aye. The thought enclosed
her as a tomb whenever it presented itself to her perturbed brain.
She tried to believe that Mrs. Jethway would never do her such a
cruel wrong as to increase the bad appearance of her folly by
innuendoes; and concluded that concealmenthaving been begun
must be persisted inif possible. For what he might consider as
bad as the factwas her previous concealment of it by strategy.

But Elfride knew Mrs. Jethway to be her enemyand to hate her.
It was possible she would do her worst. And should she do itall


might be over.

Would the woman listen to reasonand be persuaded not to ruin one
who had never intentionally harmed her?

It was night in the valley between Endelstow Crags and the shore.
The brook which trickled that way to the sea was distinct in its
murmurs nowand over the line of its course there began to hang a
white riband of fog. Against the skyon the left hand of the
valethe black form of the church could be seen. On the other
rose hazel-bushesa few treesand where these were absentfurze
tufts--as tall as men--on stems nearly as stout as timber. The
shriek of some bird was occasionally heardas it flew terrorstricken
from its first roostto seek a new sleeping-placewhere
it might pass the night unmolested.

In the evening shadesome way down the valleyand under a row of
scrubby oaksa cottage could still be discerned. It stood
absolutely alone. The house was rather largeand the windows of
some of the rooms were nailed up with boards on the outsidewhich
gave a particularly deserted appearance to the whole erection.
From the front door an irregular series of rough and misshapen
stepscut in the solid rockled down to the edge of the
streamletwhichat their extremitywas hollowed into a basin
through which the water trickled. This was evidently the means of
water supply to the dweller or dwellers in the cottage.

A light footstep was heard descending from the higher slopes of
the hillside. Indistinct in the pathway appeared a moving female
shapewho advanced and knocked timidly at the door. No answer
being returned the knock was repeatedwith the same resultand
it was then repeated a third time. This also was unsuccessful.

From one of the only two windows on the ground floor which were
not boarded up came rays of lightno shutter or curtain obscuring
the room from the eyes of a passer on the outside. So few walked
that way after nightfall that any such means to secure secrecy
were probably deemed unnecessary.

The inequality of the rays falling upon the trees outside told
that the light had its origin in a flickering fire only. The
visitorafter the third knockingstepped a little to the left in
order to gain a view of the interiorand threw back the hood from
her face. The dancing yellow sheen revealed the fair and anxious
countenance of Elfride.

Inside the house this firelight was enough to illumine the room
distinctlyand to show that the furniture of the cottage was
superior to what might have been expected from so unpromising an
exterior. It also showed to Elfride that the room was empty.
Beyond the light quiver and flap of the flames nothing moved or
was audible therein.

She turned the handle and enteredthrowing off the cloak which
enveloped herunder which she appeared without hat or bonnetand
in the sort of half-toilette country people ordinarily dine in.
Then advancing to the foot of the staircase she called distinctly
but somewhat fearfully'Mrs. Jethway!'

No answer.

With a look of relief and regret combineddenoting that ease came


to the heart and disappointment to the brainElfride paused for
several minutesas if undecided how to act. Determining to wait
she sat down on a chair. The minutes drew onand after sitting
on the thorns of impatience for half an hourshe searched her
pockettook therefrom a letterand tore off the blank leaf.
Then taking out a pencil she wrote upon the paper:

'DEAR MRS. JETHWAY--I have been to visit you. I wanted much to
see youbut I cannot wait any longer. I came to beg you not to
execute the threats you have repeated to me. Do notI beseech
youMrs. Jethwaylet any one know I ran away from home! It would
ruin me with himand break my heart. I will do anything for you
if you will be kind to me. In the name of our common womanhood
do notI implore youmake a scandal of me.--YoursE.
SWANCOURT.'

She folded the note cornerwisedirected itand placed it on the
table. Then again drawing the hood over her curly head she
emerged silently as she had come.

Whilst this episode had been in action at Mrs. Jethway's cottage
Knight had gone from the dining-room into the drawing-roomand
found Mrs. Swancourt there alone.

'Elfride has vanished upstairs or somewhere' she said.

'And I have been reading an article in an old number of the
PRESENT that I lighted on by chance a short time ago; it is an
article you once told us was yours. WellHarrywith due
deference to your literary powersallow me to say that this
effusion is all nonsensein my opinion.'

'What is it about?' said Knighttaking up the paper and reading.

'There: don't get red about it. Own that experience has taught
you to be more charitable. I have never read such unchivalrous
sentiments in my life--from a manI mean. ThereI forgive you;
it was before you knew Elfride.'

'Oh yes' said Knightlooking up. 'I remember now. The text of
that sermon was not my own at allbut was suggested to me by a
young man named Smith--the same whom I have mentioned to you as
coming from this parish. I thought the idea rather ingenious at
the timeand enlarged it to the weight of a few guineasbecause
I had nothing else in my head.'

'Which idea do you call the text? I am curious to know that.'

'Wellthis' said Knightsomewhat unwillingly. 'That experience
teachesand your sweetheartno less than your tailoris
necessarily very imperfect in her dutiesif you are her first
patron: and converselythe sweetheart who is graceful under the
initial kiss must be supposed to have had some practice in the
trade.'

'And do you mean to say that you wrote that upon the strength of
another man's remarkwithout having tested it by practice?'

'Yes--indeed I do.'

'Then I think it was uncalled for and unfair. And how do you know
it is true? I expect you regret it now.'


'Since you bring me into a serious moodI will speak candidly.
do believe that remark to be perfectly trueandhaving written
itI would defend it anywhere. But I do often regret having ever
written itas well as others of the sort. I have grown older
sinceand I find such a tone of writing is calculated to do harm
in the world. Every literary Jack becomes a gentleman if he can
only pen a few indifferent satires upon womankind: women
themselvestoohave taken to the trick; and soupon the whole
I begin to be rather ashamed of my companions.'

'AhHenryyou have fallen in love since and it makes a
difference' said Mrs. Swancourt with a faint tone of banter.

'That's true; but that is not my reason.'

'Having found thatin a case of your own experiencea so-called
goose was a swanit seems absurd to deny such a possibility in
other men's experiences.'

'You can hit palpablycousin Charlotte' said Knight. 'You are
like the boy who puts a stone inside his snowballand I shall
play with you no longer. Excuse me--I am going for my evening
stroll.'

Though Knight had spoken jestinglythis incident and conversation
had caused him a sudden depression. Comingrather singularly
just after his discovery that Elfride had known what it was to
love warmly before she had known himhis mind dwelt upon the
subjectand the familiar pipe he smokedwhilst pacing up and
down the shrubbery-pathfailed to be a solace. He thought again
of those idle words--hitherto quite forgotten--about the first
kiss of a girland the theory seemed more than reasonable. Of
course their sting now lay in their bearing on Elfride.

Elfrideunder Knight's kisshad certainly been a very different
woman from herself under Stephen's. Whether for good or for ill
she had marvellously well learnt a betrothed lady's part; and the
fascinating finish of her deportment in this second campaign did
probably arise from her unreserved encouragement of Stephen.
Knightwith all the rapidity of jealous sensitivenesspounced
upon some words she had inadvertently let fall about an earring
which he had only partially understood at the time. It was during
that 'initial kiss' by the little waterfall:

'We must be careful. I lost the other by doing this!'

A flush which had in it as much of wounded pride as of sorrow
passed over Knight as he thought of what he had so frequently said
to her in his simplicity. 'I always meant to be the first comer
in a woman's heartfresh lips or none for me.' How childishly
blind he must have seemed to this mere girl! How she must have
laughed at him inwardly! He absolutely writhed as he thought of
the confession she had wrung from him on the boat in the darkness
of night. The one conception which had sustained his dignity when
drawn out of his shell on that occasion--that of her charming
ignorance of all such matters--how absurd it was!

This manwhose imagination had been fed up to preternatural size
by lonely study and silent observations of his kind--whose
emotions had been drawn out long and delicate by his seclusion
like plants in a cellar--was now absolutely in pain. Moreover
several years of poetic studyandif the truth must be told
poetic effortshad tended to develop the affective side of his


constitution still furtherin proportion to his active faculties.
It was his belief in the absolute newness of blandishment to
Elfride which had constituted her primary charm. He began to
think it was as hard to be earliest in a woman's heart as it was
to be first in the Pool of Bethesda.

That Knight should have been thus constituted: that Elfride's
second lover should not have been one of the great mass of
bustling mankindlittle given to introspectionwhose good-nature
might have compensated for any lack of appreciativenesswas the
chance of things. That her throbbingself-confounding
indiscreet heart should have to defend itself unaided against the
keen scrutiny and logical power which Knightnow that his
suspicions were awakenedwould sooner or later be sure to
exercise against herwas her misfortune. A miserable incongruity
was apparent in the circumstance of a strong mind practising its
unerring archery upon a heart which the owner of that mind loved
better than his own.

Elfride's docile devotion to Knight was now its own enemy.
Clinging to him so dependentlyshe taught him in time to presume
upon that devotion--a lesson men are not slow to learn. A slight
rebelliousness occasionally would have done him no harmand would
have been a world of advantage to her. But she idolized himand
was proud to be his bond-servant.

Chapter XXXI

'A worm i' the bud.'

One day the reviewer said'Let us go to the cliffs again
Elfride;' andwithout consulting her wisheshe moved as if to
start at once.

'The cliff of our dreadful adventure?' she inquiredwith a
shudder. 'Death stares me in the face in the person of that
cliff.'

Neverthelessso entirely had she sunk her individuality in his
that the remark was not uttered as an expostulationand she
immediately prepared to accompany him.

'Nonot that place' said Knight. 'It is ghastly to metoo.
That otherI mean; what is its name?--Windy Beak.'

Windy Beak was the second cliff in height along that coastand
as is frequently the case with the natural features of the globe
no less than with the intellectual features of menit enjoyed the
reputation of being the first. Moreoverit was the cliff to
which Elfride had ridden with Stephen Smithon a well-remembered
morning of his summer visit.

Sothough thought of the former cliff had caused her to shudder
at the perils to which her lover and herself had there been
exposedby being associated with Knight only it was not so
objectionable as Windy Beak. That place was worse than gloomyit
was a perpetual reproach to her.

But not liking to refuseshe said'It is further than the other
cliff.'


'Yes; but you can ride.'

'And will you too?'

'NoI'll walk.'

A duplicate of her original arrangement with Stephen. Some
fatality must be hanging over her head. But she ceased objecting.

'Very wellHarryI'll ride' she said meekly.

A quarter of an hour later she was in the saddle. But how
different the mood from that of the former time. She hadindeed
given up her position as queen of the less to be vassal of the
greater. Here was no showing off now; no scampering out of sight
with Pansyto perplex and tire her companion; no saucy remarks on
LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI. Elfride was burdened with the very
intensity of her love.

Knight did most of the talking along the journey. Elfride
silently listenedand entirely resigned herself to the motions of
the ambling horse upon which she satalternately rising and
sinking gentlylike a sea bird upon a sea wave.

When they had reached the limit of a quadruped's possibilities in
walkingKnight tenderly lifted her from the saddletied the
horseand rambled on with her to the seat in the rock. Knight
sat downand drew Elfride deftly beside himand they looked over
the sea.

Two or three degrees above that melancholy and eternally level
linethe ocean horizonhung a sun of brasswith no visible
raysin a sky of ashen hue. It was a sky the sun did not
illuminate or enkindleas is usual at sunsets. This sheet of sky
was met by the salt mass of gray waterflecked here and there
with white. A waft of dampness occasionally rose to their faces
which was probably rarefied spray from the blows of the sea upon
the foot of the cliff.

Elfride wished it could be a longer time ago that she had sat
there with Stephen as her loverand agreed to be his wife. The
significant closeness of that time to the present was another item
to add to the list of passionate fears which were chronic with her
now.

Yet Knight was very tender this eveningand sustained her close
to him as they sat.

Not a word had been uttered by either since sitting downwhen
Knight said musinglylooking still afar-


'I wonder if any lovers in past years ever sat here with arms
lockedas we do now. Probably they havefor the place seems
formed for a seat.'

Her recollection of a well-known pair who hadand the muchtalked-
of loss which had ensued therefromand how the young man
had been sent back to look for the missing articleled Elfride to
glance down to her sideand behind her back. Many people who
lose a trinket involuntarily give a momentary look for it in
passing the spot ever so long afterwards. They do not often find
it. Elfridein turning her headsaw something shine weakly from
a crevice in the rocky sedile. Only for a few minutes during the
day did the sun light the alcove to its innermost rifts and slits


but these were the minutes nowand its level rays did Elfride the
good or evil turn of revealing the lost ornament.

Elfride's thoughts instantly reverted to the words she had
unintentionally uttered upon what had been going on when the
earring was lost. And she was immediately seized with a misgiving
that Knighton seeing the objectwould be reminded of her words.
Her instinctive act therefore was to secure it privately.

It was so deep in the crack that Elfride could not pull it out
with her handthough she made several surreptitious trials.

'What are you doingElfie?' said Knightnoticing her attempts
and looking behind him likewise.

She had relinquished the endeavourbut too late.

Knight peered into the joint from which her hand had been
withdrawnand saw what she had seen. He instantly took a
penknife from his pocketand by dint of probing and scraping
brought the earring out upon open ground.

'It is not yourssurely?' he inquired.

'Yesit is' she said quietly.

'Wellthat is a most extraordinary thingthat we should find it
like this!' Knight then remembered more circumstances; 'Whatis
it the one you have told me of?'

'Yes.'

The unfortunate remark of hers at the kiss came into his mindif
eyes were ever an index to be trusted. Trying to repress the
words he yet spoke on the subjectmore to obtain assurance that
what it had seemed to imply was not true than from a wish to pry
into bygones.

'Were you really engaged to be married to that lover?' he said
looking straight forward at the sea again.

'Yes--but not exactly. Yet I think I was.'

'O Elfrideengaged to be married!' he murmured.

'It would have been called a--secret engagementI suppose. But
don't look so disappointed; don't blame me.'

'Nono.'

'Why do you say "Nono in such a way? Sweetly enough, but so
barely?'

Knight made no direct reply to this. 'Elfride, I told you once,'
he said, following out his thoughts, 'that I never kissed a woman
as a sweetheart until I kissed you. A kiss is not much, I
suppose, and it happens to few young people to be able to avoid
all blandishments and attentions except from the one they
afterwards marry. But I have peculiar weaknesses, Elfride; and
because I have led a peculiar life, I must suffer for it, I
suppose. I had hoped--well, what I had no right to hope in
connection with you. You naturally granted your former lover the
privileges you grant me.'


A 'yes' came from her like the last sad whisper of a breeze.

'And he used to kiss you--of course he did.'

'Yes.'

'And perhaps you allowed him a more free manner in his love-making
than I have shown in mine.'

'No, I did not.' This was rather more alertly spoken.

'But he adopted it without being allowed?'

'Yes.'

'How much I have made of you, Elfride, and how I have kept aloof!'
said Knight in deep and shaken tones. 'So many days and hours as
I have hoped in you--I have feared to kiss you more than those two
times. And he made no scruples to...'

She crept closer to him and trembled as if with cold. Her dread
that the whole story, with random additions, would become known to
him, caused her manner to be so agitated that Knight was alarmed
and perplexed into stillness. The actual innocence which made her
think so fearfully of what, as the world goes, was not a great
matter, magnified her apparent guilt. It may have said to Knight
that a woman who was so flurried in the preliminaries must have a
dreadful sequel to her tale.

'I know,' continued Knight, with an indescribable drag of manner
and intonation,--'I know I am absurdly scrupulous about you--that
I want you too exclusively mine. In your past before you knew me-from
your very cradle--I wanted to think you had been mine. I
would make you mine by main force. Elfride,' he went on
vehemently, 'I can't help this jealousy over you! It is my nature,
and must be so, and I HATE the fact that you have been caressed
before: yes hate it!'

She drew a long deep breath, which was half a sob. Knight's face
was hard, and he never looked at her at all, still fixing his gaze
far out to sea, which the sun had now resigned to the shade. In
high places it is not long from sunset to night, dusk being in a
measure banished, and though only evening where they sat, it had
been twilight in the valleys for half an hour. Upon the dull
expanse of sea there gradually intensified itself into existence
the gleam of a distant light-ship.

'When that lover first kissed you, Elfride was it in such a place
as this?'

'Yes, it was.'

'You don't tell me anything but what I wring out of you. Why is
that? Why have you suppressed all mention of this when casual
confidences of mine should have suggested confidence in return? On
board the Juliet, why were you so secret? It seems like being made
a fool of, Elfride, to think that, when I was teaching you how
desirable it was that we should have no secrets from each other,
you were assenting in words, but in act contradicting me.
Confidence would have been so much more promising for our
happiness. If you had had confidence in me, and told me
willingly, I should--be different. But you suppress everything,
and I shall question you. Did you live at Endelstow at that
time?'


'Yes,' she said faintly.

'Where were you when he first kissed you?'

'Sitting in this seat.'

'Ah, I thought so!' said Knight, rising and facing her.

'And that accounts for everything--the exclamation which you
explained deceitfully, and all! Forgive the harsh word, Elfride-forgive
it.' He smiled a surface smile as he continued: 'What a
poor mortal I am to play second fiddle in everything and to be
deluded by fibs!'

'Oh, don't say it; don't, Harry!'

'Where did he kiss you besides here?'

'Sitting on--a tomb in the--churchyard--and other places,' she
answered with slow recklessness.

'Never mind, never mind,' he exclaimed, on seeing her tears and
perturbation. 'I don't want to grieve you. I don't care.'

But Knight did care.

'It makes no difference, you know,' he continued, seeing she did
not reply.

'I feel cold,' said Elfride. 'Shall we go home?'

'Yes; it is late in the year to sit long out of doors: we ought to
be off this ledge before it gets too dark to let us see our
footing. I daresay the horse is impatient.'

Knight spoke the merest commonplace to her now. He had hoped to
the last moment that she would have volunteered the whole story of
her first attachment. It grew more and more distasteful to him
that she should have a secret of this nature. Such entire
confidence as he had pictured as about to exist between himself
and the innocent young wife who had known no lover's tones save
his--was this its beginning? He lifted her upon the horse, and
they went along constrainedly. The poison of suspicion was doing
its work well.

An incident occurred on this homeward journey which was long
remembered by both, as adding shade to shadow. Knight could not
keep from his mind the words of Adam's reproach to Eve in PARADISE
LOST, and at last whispered them to himself-


'Fool'd and beguiled: by him thou, I by thee!'

'What did you say?' Elfride inquired timorously.

'It was only a quotation.'

They had now dropped into a hollow, and the church tower made its
appearance against the pale evening sky, its lower part being
hidden by some intervening trees. Elfride, being denied an
answer, was looking at the tower and trying to think of some
contrasting quotation she might use to regain his tenderness.


After a little thought she said in winning tones--


Thou hast been my hopeand a strong tower for me against the
enemy."'


They passed on. A few minutes later three or four birds were seen
to fly out of the tower.


'The strong tower moves' said Knightwith surprise.


A corner of the square mass swayed forwardsankand vanished. A
loud rumble followedand a cloud of dust arose where all had
previously been so clear.


'The church restorers have done it!' said Elfride.


At this minute Mr. Swancourt was seen approaching them. He came
up with a bustling demeanourapparently much engrossed by some
business in hand.


'We have got the tower down!' he exclaimed. 'It came rather
quicker than we intended it should. The first idea was to take it
down stone by stoneyou know. In doing this the crack widened
considerablyand it was not believed safe for the men to stand
upon the walls any longer. Then we decided to undermine itand
three men set to work at the weakest corner this afternoon. They
had left off for the eveningintending to give the final blow to-
morrow morningand had been home about half an hourwhen down it
came. A very successful job--a very fine job indeed. But he was
a tough old fellow in spite of the crack.' Here Mr. Swancourt
wiped from his face the perspiration his excitement had caused
him.


'Poor old tower!' said Elfride.


'YesI am sorry for it' said Knight. 'It was an interesting
piece of antiquity--a local record of local art.'


'Ahbut my dear sirwe shall have a new oneexpostulated Mr.
Swancourt; 'a splendid tower--designed by a first-rate London man--
in the newest style of Gothic artand full of Christian
feeling.'


'Indeed!' said Knight.


'Oh yes. Not in the barbarous clumsy architecture of this
neighbourhood; you see nothing so rough and pagan anywhere else in
England. When the men are goneI would advise you to go and see
the church before anything further is done to it. You can now sit
in the chanceland look down the nave through the west archand
through that far out to sea. In fact' said Mr. Swancourt
significantly'if a wedding were performed at the altar to-morrow
morningit might be witnessed from the deck of a ship on a voyage
to the South Seaswith a good glass. Howeverafter dinnerwhen
the moon has risengo up and see for yourselves.'


Knight assented with feverish readiness. He had decided within
the last few minutes that he could not rest another night without
further talk with Elfride upon the subject which now divided them:
he was determined to know alland relieve his disquiet in some
way. Elfride would gladly have escaped further converse alone
with him that nightbut it seemed inevitable.


Just after moonrise they left the house. How little any



expectation of the moonlight prospect--which was the ostensible
reason of their pilgrimage--had to do with Knight's real motive in
getting the gentle girl again upon his armElfride no less than
himself well knew.

Chapter XXXII

'Had I wist before I kist'

It was now Octoberand the night air was chill. After looking to
see that she was well wrapped upKnight took her along the
hillside path they had ascended so many times in each other's
companywhen doubt was a thing unknown. On reaching the church
they found that one side of the tower wasas the vicar had
statedentirely removedand lying in the shape of rubbish at
their feet. The tower on its eastern side still was firmand
might have withstood the shock of storms and the siege of
battering years for many a generation even now. They entered by
the side-doorwent eastwardand sat down by the altar-steps.

The heavy arch spanning the junction of tower and nave formed to-
night a black frame to a distant misty viewstretching far
westward. Just outside the arch came the heap of fallen stones
then a portion of moonlit churchyardthen the wide and convex sea
behind. It was a coup-d'oeil which had never been possible since
the mediaeval masons first attached the old tower to the older
church it dignifiedand hence must be supposed to have had an
interest apart from that of simple moonlight on ancient wall and
sea and shore--any mention of which has by this timeit is to be
fearedbecome one of the cuckoo-cries which are heard but not
regarded. Rays of crimsonblueand purple shone upon the twain
from the east window behind themwherein saints and angels vied
with each other in primitive surroundings of landscape and sky
and threw upon the pavement at the sitters' feet a softer
reproduction of the same translucent huesamid which the shadows
of the two living heads of Knight and Elfride were opaque and
prominent blots. Presently the moon became covered by a cloud
and the iridescence died away.

'Thereit is gone!' said Knight. 'I've been thinkingElfride
that this place we sit on is where we may hope to kneel together
soon. But I am restless and uneasyand you know why.'

Before she replied the moonlight returned againirradiating that
portion of churchyard within their view. It brightened the near
part firstand against the background which the cloud-shadow had
not yet uncovered stoodbrightest of alla white tomb--the tomb
of young Jethway.

Knightstill alive on the subject of Elfride's secretthought of
her words concerning the kiss that it once had occurred on a tomb
in this churchyard.

'Elfride' he saidwith a superficial archness which did not half
cover an undercurrent of reproach'do you knowI think you might
have told me voluntarily about that past--of kisses and
betrothing--without giving me so much uneasiness and trouble. Was
that the tomb you alluded to as having sat on with him?'

She waited an instant. 'Yes' she said.


The correctness of his random shot startled Knight; though
considering that almost all the other memorials in the churchyard
were upright headstones upon which nobody could possibly sitit
was not so wonderful.

Elfride did not even now go on with the explanation her exacting
lover wished to haveand her reticence began to irritate him as
before. He was inclined to read her a lecture.

'Why don't you tell me all?' he said somewhat indignantly.
'Elfridethere is not a single subject upon which I feel more
strongly than upon this--that everything ought to be cleared up
between two persons before they become husband and wife. See how
desirable and wise such a course isin order to avoid
disagreeable contingencies in the form of discoveries afterwards.
ForElfridea secret of no importance at all may be made the
basis of some fatal misunderstanding only because it is
discoveredand not confessed. They say there never was a couple
of whom one had not some secret the other never knew or was
intended to know. This may or may not be true; but if it be true
some have been happy in spite rather than in consequence of it.
If a man were to see another man looking significantly at his
wifeand she were blushing crimson and appearing startleddo you
think he would be so well satisfied withfor instanceher
truthful explanation that onceto her great annoyanceshe
accidentally fainted into his armsas if she had said it
voluntarily long agobefore the circumstance occurred which
forced it from her? Suppose that admirer you spoke of in
connection with the tomb yonder should turn upand bother me. It
would embitter our livesif I were then half in the darkas I am
now!'

Knight spoke the latter sentences with growing force.

'It cannot be' she said.

'Why not?' he asked sharply.

Elfride was distressed to find him in so stern a moodand she
trembled. In a confusion of ideasprobably not intending a
wilful prevaricationshe answered hurriedly-


'If he's deadhow can you meet him?'

'Is he dead? Ohthat's different altogether!' said Knight
immensely relieved. 'Butlet me see--what did you say about that
tomb and him?'

'That's his tomb' she continued faintly.

'What! was he who lies buried there the man who was your lover?'
Knight asked in a distinct voice.

'Yes; and I didn't love him or encourage him.'

'But you let him kiss you--you said soyou knowElfride.'

She made no reply.

'Why' said Knightrecollecting circumstances by degrees'you
surely said you were in some degree engaged to him--and of course
you were if he kissed you. And now you say you never encouraged
him. And I have been fancying you said--I am almost sure you did-that
you were sitting with him ON that tomb. Good God!' he


criedsuddenly starting up in anger'are you telling me
untruths? Why should you play with me like this? I'll have the
right of it. Elfridewe shall never be happy! There's a blight
upon usor meor youand it must be cleared off before we
marry.' Knight moved away impetuously as if to leave her.

She jumped up and clutched his arm

'Don't goHarry--don't!

'Tell methen' said Knight sternly. 'And remember thisno more
fibsorupon my soulI shall hate you. Heavens! that I should
come to thisto be made a fool of by a girl's untruths----'

'Don'tdon't treat me so cruelly! O HarryHarryhave pityand
withdraw those dreadful words! I am truthful by nature--I am--and
I don't know how I came to make you misunderstand! But I was
frightened!' She quivered so in her perturbation that she shook
him with her {Note: sentence incomplete in text.}

'Did you say you were sitting on that tomb?' he asked moodily.

'Yes; and it was true.'

'Then howin the name of Heavencan a man sit upon his own
tomb?'

'That was another man. Forgive meHarrywon't you?'

'Whata lover in the tomb and a lover on it?'

'Oh--Oh--yes!'

'Then there were two before me?

'I--suppose so.'

'Nowdon't be a silly woman with your supposing--I hate all
that' said Knight contemptuously almost. 'Wellwe learn strange
things. I don't know what I might have done--no man can say into
what shape circumstances may warp him--but I hardly think I should
have had the conscience to accept the favours of a new lover
whilst sitting over the poor remains of the old one; upon my soul
I don't.' Knightin moody meditationcontinued looking towards
the tombwhich stood staring them in the face like an avenging
ghost.

'But you wrong me--Ohso grievously!" she cried. 'I did not
meditate any such thing: believe meHarryI did not. It only
happened so--quite of itself.'

'WellI suppose you didn't INTEND such a thing' he said.
'Nobody ever does' he sadly continued.

'And him in the grave I never once loved.'

'I suppose the second lover and youas you sat therevowed to be
faithful to each other for ever?'

Elfride only replied by quick heavy breathsshowing she was on
the brink of a sob.

'You don't choose to be anything but reservedthen?' he said
imperatively.


'Of course we did' she responded.

'"Of course!" You seem to treat the subject very lightly?'

'It is pastand is nothing to us now.'

'Elfrideit is a nothing whichthough it may make a careless man
laughcannot but make a genuine one grieve. It is a very gnawing
pain. Tell me straight through--all of it.'

'Never. O Harry! how can you expect it when so little of it makes
you so harsh with me?'

'NowElfridelisten to this. You know that what you have told
only jars the subtler fancies in oneafter all. The feeling I
have about it would be calledand ismere sentimentality; and I
don't want you to suppose that an ordinary previous engagement of
a straightforward kind would make any practical difference in my
loveor my wish to make you my wife. But you seem to have more
to telland that's where the wrong is. Is there more?'

'Not much more' she wearily answered.

Knight preserved a grave silence for a minute. '"Not much more'
he said at last. 'I should think not, indeed!' His voice assumed
a low and steady pitch. 'Elfride, you must not mind my saying a
strange-sounding thing, for say it I shall. It is this: that if
there WERE much more to add to an account which already includes
all the particulars that a broken marriage engagement could
possibly include with propriety, it must be some exceptional thing
which might make it impossible for me or any one else to love you
and marry you.'

Knight's disturbed mood led him much further than he would have
gone in a quieter moment. And, even as it was, had she been
assertive to any degree he would not have been so peremptory; and
had she been a stronger character--more practical and less
imaginative--she would have made more use of her position in his
heart to influence him. But the confiding tenderness which had
won him is ever accompanied by a sort of self-committal to the
stream of events, leading every such woman to trust more to the
kindness of fate for good results than to any argument of her own.

'Well, well,' he murmured cynically; 'I won't say it is your
fault: it is my ill-luck, I suppose. I had no real right to
question you--everybody would say it was presuming. But when we
have misunderstood, we feel injured by the subject of our
misunderstanding. You never said you had had nobody else here
making love to you, so why should I blame you? Elfride, I beg your
pardon.'

'No, no! I would rather have your anger than that cool aggrieved
politeness. Do drop that, Harry! Why should you inflict that upon
me? It reduces me to the level of a mere acquaintance.'

'You do that with me. Why not confidence for confidence?'

'Yes; but I didn't ask you a single question with regard to your
past: I didn't wish to know about it. All I cared for was that,
wherever you came from, whatever you had done, whoever you had
loved, you were mine at last. Harry, if originally you had known
I had loved, would you never have cared for me?'


'I won't quite say that. Though I own that the idea of your
inexperienced state had a great charm for me. But I think this:
that if I had known there was any phase of your past love you
would refuse to reveal if I asked to know it, I should never have
loved you.'

Elfride sobbed bitterly. 'Am I such a--mere characterless toy--as
to have no attrac--tion in me, apart from--freshness? Haven't I
brains? You said--I was clever and ingenious in my thoughts, and-isn't
that anything? Have I not some beauty? I think I have a
little--and I know I have--yes, I do! You have praised my voice,
and my manner, and my accomplishments. Yet all these together are
so much rubbish because I--accidentally saw a man before you!'

'Oh, come, Elfride. Accidentally saw a man" is very cool. You
loved himremember.'

--'And loved him a little!'

'And refuse now to answer the simple question how it ended. Do
you refuse stillElfride?'

'You have no right to question me so--you said so. It is unfair.
Trust me as I trust you.'

'That's not at all.'

'I shall not love you if you are so cruel. It is cruel to me to
argue like this.'

'Perhaps it is. Yesit is. I was carried away by my feeling for
you. Heaven knows that I didn't mean to; but I have loved you so
that I have used you badly.'

'I don't mind itHarry!' she instantly answeredcreeping up and
nestling against him; 'and I will not think at all that you used
me harshly if you will forgive meand not be vexed with me any
more? I do wish I had been exactly as you thought I wasbut I
could not help ityou know. If I had only known you had been
comingwhat a nunnery I would have lived in to have been good
enough for you!'

'Wellnever mind' said Knight; and he turned to go. He
endeavoured to speak sportively as they went on. 'Diogenes
Laertius says that philosophers used voluntarily to deprive
themselves of sight to be uninterrupted in their meditations.
Menbecoming loversought to do the same thing.'

'Why?--but never mind--I don't want to know. Don't speak
laconically to me' she said with deprecation.

'Why? Because they would never then be distracted by discovering
their idol was second-hand.'

She looked down and sighed; and they passed out of the crumbling
old placeand slowly crossed to the churchyard entrance. Knight
was not himselfand he could not pretend to be. She had not told
all.

He supported her lightly over the stileand was practically as
attentive as a lover could be. But there had passed away a glory
and the dream was not as it had been of yore. Perhaps Knight was
not shaped by Nature for a marrying man. Perhaps his lifelong
constraint towards womenwhich he had attributed to accidentwas


not chance after allbut the natural result of instinctive acts
so minute as to be undiscernible even by himself. Or whether the
rough dispelling of any bright illusionhowever imaginative
depreciates the real and unexaggerated brightness which appertains
to its basisone cannot say. Certain it was that Knight's
disappointment at finding himself second or third in the fieldat
Elfride's momentary equivoqueand at her reluctance to be candid
brought him to the verge of cynicism.

Chapter XXXIII

'O daughter of Babylonwasted with misery.'

A habit of Knight'swhen not immediately occupied with Elfride-to
walk by himself for half an hour or so between dinner and
bedtime--had become familiar to his friends at EndelstowElfride
herself among them. When he had helped her over the stileshe
said gently'If you wish to take your usual turn on the hill
HarryI can run down to the house alone.'

'Thank youElfie; then I think I will.'

Her form diminished to blackness in the moonlightand Knight
after remaining upon the churchyard stile a few minutes longer
turned back again towards the building. His usual course was now
to light a cigar or pipeand indulge in a quiet meditation. But
to-night his mind was too tense to bethink itself of such a
solace. He merely walked round to the site of the fallen tower
and sat himself down upon some of the large stones which had
composed it until this daywhen the chain of circumstance
originated by Stephen Smithwhile in the employ of Mr. Hewbythe
London man of arthad brought about its overthrow.

Pondering on the possible episodes of Elfride's past lifeand on
how he had supposed her to have had no past justifying the name
he sat and regarded the white tomb of young Jethwaynow close in
front of him. The seathough comparatively placidcould as
usual be heard from this point along the whole distance between
promontories to the right and leftfloundering and entangling
itself among the insulated stacks of rock which dotted the water's
edge--the miserable skeletons of tortured old cliffs that would
not even yet succumb to the wear and tear of the tides.

As a change from thoughts not of a very cheerful kindKnight
attempted exertion. He stood upand prepared to ascend to the
summit of the ruinous heap of stonesfrom which a more extended
outlook was obtainable than from the ground. He stretched out his
arm to seize the projecting arris of a larger block than ordinary
and so help himself upwhen his hand lighted plump upon a
substance differing in the greatest possible degree from what he
had expected to seize--hard stone. It was stringy and entangled
and trailed upon the stone. The deep shadow from the aisle wall
prevented his seeing anything here distinctlyand he began
guessing as a necessity. 'It is a tressy species of moss or
lichen' he said to himself.

But it lay loosely over the stone.

'It is a tuft of grass' he said.

But it lacked the roughness and humidity of the finest grass.


'It is a mason's whitewash-brush.'

Such brusheshe rememberedwere more bristly; and however much
used in repairing a structurewould not be required in pulling
one down.

He said'It must be a thready silk fringe.'

He felt further in. It was somewhat warm. Knight instantly felt
somewhat cold.

To find the coldness of inanimate matter where you expect warmth
is startling enough; but a colder temperature than that of the
body being rather the rule than the exception in common
substancesit hardly conveys such a shock to the system as
finding warmth where utter frigidity is anticipated.

'God only knows what it is' he said.

He felt furtherand in the course of a minute put his hand upon a
human head. The head was warmbut motionless. The thready mass
was the hair of the head--long and stragglingshowing that the
head was a woman's.

Knight in his perplexity stood still for a momentand collected
his thoughts. The vicar's account of the fall of the tower was
that the workmen had been undermining it all the dayand had left
in the evening intending to give the finishing stroke the next
morning. Half an hour after they had gone the undermined angle
came down. The woman who was half buriedas it seemedmust have
been beneath it at the moment of the fall.

Knight leapt up and began endeavouring to remove the rubbish with
his hands. The heap overlying the body was for the most part fine
and dustybut in immense quantity. It would be a saving of time
to run for assistance. He crossed to the churchyard walland
hastened down the hill.

A little way down an intersecting road passed over a small ridge
which now showed up darkly against the moonand this road here
formed a kind of notch in the sky-line. At the moment that Knight
arrived at the crossing he beheld a man on this eminencecoming
towards him. Knight turned aside and met the stranger.

'There has been an accident at the church' said Knightwithout
preface. 'The tower has fallen on somebodywho has been lying
there ever since. Will you come and help?'

'That I will' said the man.

'It is a woman' said Knightas they hurried back'and I think
we two are enough to extricate her. Do you know of a shovel?'

'The grave-digging shovels are about somewhere. They used to stay
in the tower.'

'And there must be some belonging to the workmen.'

They searched aboutand in an angle of the porch found three
carefully stowed away. Going round to the west end Knight
signified the spot of the tragedy.

'We ought to have brought a lantern' he exclaimed. 'But we may


be able to do without.' He set to work removing the superincumbent
mass.

The other manwho looked on somewhat helplessly at firstnow
followed the example of Knight's activityand removed the larger
stones which were mingled with the rubbish. But with all their
efforts it was quite ten minutes before the body of the
unfortunate creature could be extricated. They lifted her as
carefully as they couldbreathlessly carried her to Felix
Jethway's tombwhich was only a few steps westwardand laid her
thereon.

'Is she dead indeed?' said the stranger.

'She appears to be' said Knight. 'Which is the nearest house?
The vicarageI suppose.'

'Yes; but since we shall have to call a surgeon from Castle
BoterelI think it would be better to carry her in that
directioninstead of away from the town.'

'And is it not much further to the first house we come to going
that waythan to the vicarage or to The Crags?'

'Not much' the stranger replied.

'Suppose we take her therethen. And I think the best way to do
it would be thusif you don't mind joining hands with me.'

'Not in the least; I am glad to assist.'

Making a kind of cradleby clasping their hands crosswise under
the inanimate womanthey lifted herand walked on side by side
down a path indicated by the strangerwho appeared to know the
locality well.

'I had been sitting in the church for nearly an hour' Knight
resumedwhen they were out of the churchyard. 'Afterwards I
walked round to the site of the fallen towerand so found her.
It is painful to think I unconsciously wasted so much time in the
very presence of a perishingflying soul.'

'The tower fell at duskdid it not? quite two hours agoI
think?'

'Yes. She must have been there alone. What could have been her
object in visiting the churchyard then?

'It is difficult to say.' The stranger looked inquiringly into the
reclining face of the motionless form they bore. 'Would you turn
her round for a momentso that the light shines on her face?' he
said.

They turned her face to the moonand the man looked closer into
her features. 'WhyI know her!' he exclaimed.

'Who is she?'

'Mrs. Jethway. And the cottage we are taking her to is her own.
She is a widow; and I was speaking to her only this afternoon. I
was at Castle Boterel post-officeand she came there to post a
letter. Poor soul! Let us hurry on.'

'Hold my wrist a little tighter. Was not that tomb we laid her on


the tomb of her only son?'

'Yesit was. YesI see it now. She was there to visit the
tomb. Since the death of that son she has been a desolate
desponding womanalways bewailing him. She was a farmer's wife
very well educated--a governess originallyI believe.'

Knight's heart was moved to sympathy. His own fortunes seemed in
some strange way to be interwoven with those of this Jethway
familythrough the influence of Elfride over himself and the
unfortunate son of that house. He made no replyand they still
walked on.

'She begins to feel heavy' said the strangerbreaking the
silence.

'Yesshe does' said Knight; and after another pause added'I
think I have met you beforethough where I cannot recollect. May
I ask who you are?'

'Oh yes. I am Lord Luxellian. Who are you?'

'I am a visitor at The Crags--Mr. Knight.'

'I have heard of youMr. Knight.'

'And I of youLord Luxellian. I am glad to meet you.'

'I may say the same. I am familiar with your name in print.'

'And I with yours. Is this the house?'

'Yes.'

The door was locked. Knightreflecting a momentsearched the
pocket of the lifeless womanand found therein a large key which
on being applied to the dooropened it easily. The fire was out
but the moonlight entered the quarried windowand made patterns
upon the floor. The rays enabled them to see that the room into
which they had entered was pretty well furnishedit being the
same room that Elfride had visited alone two or three evenings
earlier. They deposited their still burden on an old-fashioned
couch which stood against the walland Knight searched about for
a lamp or candle. He found a candle on a shelflighted itand
placed it on the table.

Both Knight and Lord Luxellian examined the pale countenance
attentivelyand both were nearly convinced that there was no
hope. No marks of violence were visible in the casual examination
they made.

'I think that as I know where Doctor Granson lives' said Lord
Luxellian'I had better run for him whilst you stay here.'

Knight agreed to this. Lord Luxellian then went offand his
hurrying footsteps died away. Knight continued bending over the
bodyand a few minutes longer of careful scrutiny perfectly
satisfied him that the woman was far beyond the reach of the
lancet and the drug. Her extremities were already beginning to
get stiff and cold. Knight covered her faceand sat down.

The minutes went by. The essayist remained musing on all the
occurrences of the night. His eyes were directed upon the table
and he had seen for some time that writing-materials were spread


upon it. He now noticed these more particularly: there were an
inkstandpenblotting-bookand note-paper. Several sheets of
paper were thrust aside from the restupon which letters had been
begun and relinquishedas if their form had not been satisfactory
to the writer. A stick of black sealing-wax and seal were there
tooas if the ordinary fastening had not been considered
sufficiently secure. The abandoned sheets of paper lying as they
did open upon the tablemade it possibleas he satto read the
few words written on each. One ran thus:

'SIR--As a woman who was once blest with a dear son of her ownI
implore you to accept a warning----'

Another:

'SIR--If you will deign to receive warning from a stranger before
it is too late to alter your courselisten to----'

The third:

'SIR--With this letter I enclose to you another whichunaided by
any explanation from metells a startling tale. I wishhowever
to add a few words to make your delusion yet more clear to you---'


It was plain thatafter these renounced beginningsa fourth
letter had been written and despatchedwhich had been deemed a
proper one. Upon the table were two drops of sealing-waxthe
stick from which they were taken having been laid down overhanging
the edge of the table; the end of it droopedshowing that the wax
was placed there whilst warm. There was the chair in which the
writer had satthe impression of the letter's address upon the
blotting-paperand the poor widow who had caused these results
lying dead hard by. Knight had seen enough to lead him to the
conclusion that Mrs. Jethwayhaving matter of great importance to
communicate to some friend or acquaintancehad written him a very
careful letterand gone herself to post it; that she had not
returned to the house from that time of leaving it till Lord
Luxellian and himself had brought her back dead.

The unutterable melancholy of the whole sceneas he waited on
silent and alonedid not altogether clash with the mood of
Knighteven though he was the affianced of a fair and winning
girland though so lately he had been in her company. Whilst
sitting on the remains of the demolished tower he had defined a
new sensation; that the lengthened course of inaction he had
lately been indulging in on Elfride's account might probably not
be good for him as a man who had work to do. It could quickly be
put an end to by hastening on his marriage with her.

Knightin his own opinionwas one who had missed his mark by
excessive aiming. Having nowto a great extentgiven up ideal
ambitionshe wished earnestly to direct his powers into a more
practical channeland thus correct the introspective tendencies
which had never brought himself much happinessor done his
fellow-creatures any great good. To make a start in this new
direction by marriagewhichsince knowing Elfridehad been so
entrancing an ideawas less exquisite to-night. That the


curtailment of his illusion regarding her had something to do with
the reactionand with the return of his old sentiments on wasting
timeis more than probable. Though Knight's heart had so greatly
mastered himthe mastery was not so complete as to be easily
maintained in the face of a moderate intellectual revival.

His reverie was broken by the sound of wheelsand a horse's
tramp. The door opened to admit the surgeonLord Luxellianand
a Mr. Coolecoroner for the division (who had been attending at
Castle Boterel that very dayand was having an after-dinner chat
with the doctor when Lord Luxellian arrived); next came two female
nurses and some idlers.

Mr. Gransonafter a cursory examinationpronounced the woman
dead from suffocationinduced by intense pressure on the
respiratory organs; and arrangements were made that the inquiry
should take place on the following morningbefore the return of
the coroner to St. Launce's.

Shortly afterwards the house of the widow was deserted by all its
living occupantsand she abode in deathas she had in her life
during the past two yearsentirely alone.

Chapter XXXIV

'Yeahappy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.'

Sixteen hours had passed. Knight was entering the ladies' boudoir
at The Cragsupon his return from attending the inquest touching
the death of Mrs. Jethway. Elfride was not in the apartment.

Mrs. Swancourt made a few inquiries concerning the verdict and
collateral circumstances. Then she said-


'The postman came this morning the minute after you left the
house. There was only one letter for youand I have it here.'

She took a letter from the lid of her workboxand handed it to
him. Knight took the missive abstractedlybut struck by its
appearance murmured a few words and left the room.

The letter was fastened with a black sealand the handwriting in
which it was addressed had lain under his eyeslong and
prominentlyonly the evening before.

Knight was greatly agitatedand looked about for a spot where he
might be secure from interruption. It was the season of heavy
dewswhich lay on the herbage in shady places all the day long;
neverthelesshe entered a small patch of neglected grass-plat
enclosed by the shrubberyand there perused the letterwhich he
had opened on his way thither.

The handwritingthe sealthe paperthe introductory wordsall
had told on the instant that the letter had come to him from the
hands of the widow Jethwaynow dead and cold. He had instantly
understood that the unfinished notes which caught his eye
yesternight were intended for nobody but himself. He had
remembered some of the words of Elfride in her sleep on the
steamerthat somebody was not to tell him of somethingor it
would be her ruin--a circumstance hitherto deemed so trivial and
meaningless that he had well-nigh forgotten it. All these things


infused into him an emotion intense in power and supremely
distressing in quality. The paper in his hand quivered as he
read:

'THE VALLEYENDELSTOW.

'SIR--A woman who has not much in the world to lose by any
censure this act may bring upon herwishes to give you some hints
concerning a lady you love. If you will deign to accept a warning
before it is too lateyou will notice what your correspondent has
to say.

'You are deceived. Can such a woman as this be worthy?

'One who encouraged an honest youth to love herthen slighted
himso that he died.

'One who next took a man of no birth as a loverwho was forbidden
the house by her father.

'One who secretly left her home to be married to that manmet
himand went with him to London.

'One whofor some reason or otherreturned again unmarried.

'One whoin her after-correspondence with himwent so far as to
address him as her husband.

'One who wrote the enclosed letter to ask mewho better than
anybody else knows the storyto keep the scandal a secret.

'I hope soon to be beyond the reach of either blame or praise.
But before removing me God has put it in my power to avenge the
death of my son.

'GERTRUDE JETHWAY.'

The letter enclosed was the note in pencil that Elfride had
written in Mrs. Jethway's cottage:

'DEAR MRS. JETHWAY--I have been to visit you. I wanted much to
see youbut I cannot wait any longer. I came to beg you not to
execute the threats you have repeated to me. Do notI beseech
youMrs. Jethwaylet any one know I ran away from home! It would
ruin me with himand break my heart. I will do anything for you
if you will be kind to me. In the name of our common womanhood
do notI implore youmake a scandal of me.--Yours

'E. SWANCOURT.

Knight turned his head wearily towards the house. The ground rose
rapidly on nearing the shrubbery in which he stoodraising it
almost to a level with the first floor of The Crags. Elfride's
dressing-room lay in the salient angle in this directionand it
was lighted by two windows in such a position thatfrom Knight's
standing-placehis sight passed through both windowsand raked
the room. Elfride was there; she was pausing between the two
windowslooking at her figure in the cheval-glass. She regarded
herself long and attentively in front; turnedflung back her
headand observed the reflection over her shoulder.


Nobody can predicate as to her object or fancy; she may have done
the deed in the very abstraction of deep sadness. She may have
been moaning from the bottom of her heart'How unhappy am I!' But
the impression produced on Knight was not a good one. He dropped
his eyes moodily. The dead woman's letter had a virtue in the
accident of its juncture far beyond any it intrinsically
exhibited. Circumstance lent to evil words a ring of pitiless
justice echoing from the grave. Knight could not endure their
possession. He tore the letter into fragments.

He heard a brushing among the bushes behindand turning his head
he saw Elfride following him. The fair girl looked in his face
with a wistful smile of hopetoo forcedly hopeful to displace the
firmly established dread beneath it. His severe words of the
previous night still sat heavy upon her.

'I saw you from my windowHarry' she said timidly.

'The dew will make your feet wet' he observedas one deaf.

'I don't mind it.'

'There is danger in getting wet feet.'

'Yes...Harrywhat is the matter?'

'Ohnothing. Shall I resume the serious conversation I had with
you last night? Noperhaps not; perhaps I had better not.'

'OhI cannot tell! How wretched it all is! AhI wish you were
your own dear self againand had kissed me when I came up! Why
didn't you ask me for one? why don't you now?'

'Too free in manner by half' he heard murmur the voice within
him.

'It was that hateful conversation last night' she went on. 'Oh
those words! Last night was a black night for me.'

'Kiss!--I hate that word! Don't talk of kissingfor God's sake! I
should think you might with advantage have shown tact enough to
keep back that word "kiss considering those you have accepted.'

She became very pale, and a rigid and desolate charactery took
possession of her face. That face was so delicate and tender in
appearance now, that one could fancy the pressure of a finger upon
it would cause a livid spot.

Knight walked on, and Elfride with him, silent and unopposing. He
opened a gate, and they entered a path across a stubble-field.

'Perhaps I intrude upon you?' she said as he closed the gate.
'Shall I go away?'

'No. Listen to me, Elfride.' Knight's voice was low and unequal.
'I have been honest with you: will you be so with me? If any-strange--
connection has existed between yourself and a predecessor
of mine, tell it now. It is better that I know it now, even
though the knowledge should part us, than that I should discover
it in time to come. And suspicions have been awakened in me. I
think I will not say how, because I despise the means. A
discovery of any mystery of your past would embitter our lives.'

Knight waited with a slow manner of calmness. His eyes were sad


and imperative. They went farther along the path.

'Will you forgive me if I tell you all?' she exclaimed
entreatingly.

'I can't promise; so much depends upon what you have to tell.'

Elfride could not endure the silence which followed.

'Are you not going to love me?' she burst out. 'Harry, Harry,
love me, and speak as usual! Do; I beseech you, Harry!'

'Are you going to act fairly by me?' said Knight, with rising
anger; 'or are you not? What have I done to you that I should be
put off like this? Be caught like a bird in a springe; everything
intended to be hidden from me! Why is it, Elfride? That's what I
ask you.'

In their agitation they had left the path, and were wandering
among the wet and obstructive stubble, without knowing or heeding
it.

'What have I done?' she faltered.

'What? How can you ask what, when you know so well? You KNOW that
I have designedly been kept in ignorance of something attaching to
you, which, had I known of it, might have altered all my conduct;
and yet you say, what?'

She drooped visibly, and made no answer.

'Not that I believe in malicious letter-writers and whisperers;
not I. I don't know whether I do or don't: upon my soul, I can't
tell. I know this: a religion was building itself upon you in my
heart. I looked into your eyes, and thought I saw there truth and
innocence as pure and perfect as ever embodied by God in the flesh
of woman. Perfect truth is too much to expect, but ordinary truth
I WILL HAVE or nothing at all. Just say, then; is the matter you
keep back of the gravest importance, or is it not?'

'I don't understand all your meaning. If I have hidden anything
from you, it has been because I loved you so, and I feared-feared--
to lose you.'

'Since you are not given to confidence, I want to ask you some
plain questions. Have I your permission?'

'Yes,' she said, and there came over her face a weary resignation.
'Say the harshest words you can; I will bear them!'

'There is a scandal in the air concerning you, Elfride; and I
cannot even combat it without knowing definitely what it is. It
may not refer to you entirely, or even at all.' Knight trifled in
the very bitterness of his feeling. 'In the time of the French
Revolution, Pariseau, a ballet-master, was beheaded by mistake for
Parisot, a captain of the King's Guard. I wish there was another
E. Swancourt" in the neighbourhood. Look at this.'

He handed her the letter she had written and left on the table at
Mrs. Jethway's. She looked over it vacantly.

'It is not so much as it seems!' she pleaded. 'It seems wickedly
deceptive to look at nowbut it had a much more natural origin
than you think. My sole wish was not to endanger our love. O


Harry! that was all my idea. It was not much harm.'

'Yesyes; but independently of the poor miserable creature's
remarksit seems to imply--something wrong.'

'What remarks?'

'Those she wrote me--now torn to pieces. ElfrideDID you run
away with a man you loved?--that was the damnable statement. Has
such an accusation life in it--reallytrulyElfride?'

'Yes' she whispered.

Knight's countenance sank. 'To be married to him?' came huskily
from his lips.

'Yes. Ohforgive me! I had never seen youHarry.'

'To London?'

'Yes; but I----'

'Answer my questions; say nothing elseElfride Did you ever
deliberately try to marry him in secret?'

'No; not deliberately.'

'But did you do it?'

A feeble red passed over her face.

'Yes' she said.

'And after that--did you--write to him as your husband; and did he
address you as his wife?'

'Listenlisten! It was----'

'Do answer me; only answer me!'

'Thenyeswe did.' Her lips shook; but it was with some little
dignity that she continued: 'I would gladly have told you; for I
knew and know I had done wrong. But I dared not; I loved you too
well. Ohso well! You have been everything in the world to me-and
you are now. Will you not forgive me?'

It is a melancholy thoughtthat men who at first will not allow
the verdict of perfection they pronounce upon their sweethearts or
wives to be disturbed by God's own testimony to the contrary
willonce suspecting their puritymorally hang them upon
evidence they would be ashamed to admit in judging a dog.

The reluctance to tellwhich arose from Elfride's simplicity in
thinking herself so much more culpable than she really washad
been doing fatal work in Knight's mind. The man of many ideas
now that his first dream of impossible things was overvibrated
too far in the contrary direction; and her every movement of
feature--every tremor--every confused word--was taken as so much
proof of her unworthiness.

'Elfridewe must bid good-bye to compliment' said Knight: 'we
must do without politeness now. Look in my faceand as you
believe in God abovetell me truly one thing more. Were you away
alone with him?'


'Yes.'

'Did you return home the same day on which you left it?'

'No.'

The word fell like a boltand the very land and sky seemed to
suffer. Knight turned aside. Meantime Elfride's countenance wore
a look indicating utter despair of being able to explain matters
so that they would seem no more than they really were--a despair
which not only relinquishes the hope of direct explanationbut
wearily gives up all collateral chances of extenuation.

The scene was engraved for years on the retina of Knight's eye:
the dead and brown stubblethe weeds among itthe distant belt
of beeches shutting out the view of the housethe leaves of which
were now red and sick to death.

'You must forget me' he said. 'We shall not marryElfride.'

How much anguish passed into her soul at those words from him was
told by the look of supreme torture she wore.

'What meaning have youHarry? You only say sodo you?'

She looked doubtingly up at himand tried to laughas if the
unreality of his words must be unquestionable.

'You are not in earnestI know--I hope you are not? Surely I
belong to youand you are going to keep me for yours?'

'ElfrideI have been speaking too roughly to you; I have said
what I ought only to have thought. I like you; and let me give
you a word of advice. Marry your man as soon as you can. However
weary of each other you may feelyou belong to each otherand I
am not going to step between you. Do you think I would--do you
think I could for a moment? If you cannot marry him nowand
another makes you his wifedo not reveal this secret to him after
marriageif you do not before. Honesty would be damnation then.'

Bewildered by his expressionsshe exclaimed-


'Nono; I will not be a wife unless I am yours; and I must be
yours!'

'If we had married----'

'But you don't MEAN--that--that--you will go away and leave me
and not be anything more to me--ohyou don't!'

Convulsive sobs took all nerve out of her utterance. She checked
themand continued to look in his face for the ray of hope that
was not to be found there.

'I am going indoors' said Knight. 'You will not follow me
Elfride; I wish you not to.'

'Oh no; indeedI will not.'

'And then I am going to Castle Boterel. Good-bye.'

He spoke the farewell as if it were but for the day--lightlyas
he had spoken such temporary farewells many times before--and she


seemed to understand it as such. Knight had not the power to tell
her plainly that he was going for ever; he hardly knew for certain
that he was: whether he should rush back again upon the current of
an irresistible emotionor whether he could sufficiently conquer
himselfand her in himto establish that parting as a supreme
farewelland present himself to the world again as no woman's.

Ten minutes later he had left the houseleaving directions that
if he did not return in the evening his luggage was to be sent to
his chambers in Londonwhence he intended to write to Mr.
Swancourt as to the reasons of his sudden departure. He descended
the valleyand could not forbear turning his head. He saw the
stubble-fieldand a slight girlish figure in the midst of it--up
against the sky. Elfridedocile as everhad hardly moved a
stepfor he had saidRemain. He looked and saw her again--he
saw her for weeks and months. He withdrew his eyes from the
sceneswept his hand across themas if to brush away the sight
breathed a low groanand went on.

Chapter XXXV

'And wilt thou leave me thus?--say nay--say nay!'

The scene shifts to Knight's chambers in Bede's Inn. It was late
in the evening of the day following his departure from Endelstow.
A drizzling rain descended upon Londonforming a humid and dreary
halo over every well-lighted street. The rain had not yet been
prevalent long enough to give to rapid vehicles that clear and
distinct rattle which follows the thorough washing of the stones
by a drenching rainbut was just sufficient to make footway and
roadway slipperyadhesiveand clogging to both feet and wheels.

Knight was standing by the firelooking into its expiring embers
previously to emerging from his door for a dreary journey home to
Richmond. His hat was onand the gas turned off. The blind of
the window overlooking the alley was not drawn down; and with the
light from beneathwhich shone over the ceiling of the room
camein place of the usual babbleonly the reduced clatter and
quick speech which were the result of necessity rather than
choice.

Whilst he thus stoodwaiting for the expiration of the few
minutes that were wanting to the time for his catching the train
a light tapping upon the door mingled with the other sounds that
reached his ears. It was so faint at first that the outer noises
were almost sufficient to drown it. Finding it repeated Knight
crossed the lobbycrowded with books and rubbishand opened the
door.

A womanclosely muffled upbut visibly of fragile buildwas
standing on the landing under the gaslight. She sprang forward
flung her arms round Knight's neckand uttered a low cry-


'O HarryHarryyou are killing me! I could not help coming.
Don't send me away--don't! Forgive your Elfride for coming--I love
you so!'

Knight's agitation and astonishment mastered him for a few
moments.

'Elfride!' he cried'what does this mean? What have you done?'


'Do not hurt me and punish me--Ohdo not! I couldn't help coming;
it was killing me. Last nightwhen you did not come backI
could not bear it--I could not! Only let me be with youand see
your faceHarry; I don't ask for more.'

Her eyelids were hotheavyand thick with excessive weepingand
the delicate rose-red of her cheeks was disfigured and inflamed by
the constant chafing of the handkerchief in wiping her many tears.

'Who is with you? Have you come alone?' he hurriedly inquired.

'Yes. When you did not come last nightI sat up hoping you would
come--and the night was all agony--and I waited on and onand you
did not come! Then when it was morningand your letter said you
were goneI could not endure it; and I ran away from them to St.
Launce'sand came by the train. And I have been all day
travelling to youand you won't make me go away againwill you
Harrybecause I shall always love you till I die?'

'Yet it is wrong for you to stay. O Elfride! what have you
committed yourself to? It is ruin to your good name to run to me
like this! Has not your first experience been sufficient to keep
you from these things?'

'My name! HarryI shall soon dieand what good will my name be
to me then? Ohcould I but be the man and you the womanI would
not leave you for such a little fault as mine! Do not think it was
so vile a thing in me to run away with him. Ahhow I wish you
could have run away with twenty women before you knew methat I
might show you I would think it no faultbut be glad to get you
after them allso that I had you! If you only knew me through and
throughhow true I amHarry. Cannot I be yours? Say you love me
just the sameand don't let me be separated from you againwill
you? I cannot bear it--all the long hours and days and nights
going onand you not therebut away because you hate me!'

'Not hate youElfride' he said gentlyand supported her with
his arm. 'But you cannot stay here now--just at presentI mean.'

'I suppose I must not--I wish I might. I am afraid that if--you
lose sight of me--something dark will happenand we shall not
meet again. Harryif I am not good enough to be your wifeI
wish I could be your servant and live with youand not be sent
away never to see you again. I don't mind what it is except
that!'

'NoI cannot send you away: I cannot. God knows what dark future
may arise out of this evening's work; but I cannot send you away!
You must sit downand I will endeavour to collect my thoughts and
see what had better be done.

At that moment a loud knocking at the house door was heard by
bothaccompanied by a hurried ringing of the bell that echoed
from attic to basement. The door was quickly openedand after a
few hasty words of converse in the hallheavy footsteps ascended
the stairs.

The face of Mr. Swancourtflushedgrievedand sternappeared
round the landing of the staircase. He came higher upand stood
beside them. Glancing over and past Knight with silent
indignationhe turned to the trembling girl.

'O Elfride! and have I found you at last? Are these your tricks


madam? When will you get rid of your idiociesand conduct
yourself like a decent woman? Is my family name and house to be
disgraced by acts that would be a scandal to a washerwoman's
daughter? Come alongmadam; come!'

'She is so weary!' said Knightin a voice of intensest anguish.
'Mr. Swancourtdon't be harsh with her--let me beg of you to be
tender with herand love her!'

'To yousir' said Mr. Swancourtturning to him as if by the
sheer pressure of circumstances'I have little to say. I can
only remarkthat the sooner I can retire from your presence the
better I shall be pleased. Why you could not conduct your
courtship of my daughter like an honest manI do not know. Why
she--a foolish inexperienced girl--should have been tempted to
this piece of follyI do not know. Even if she had not known
better than to leave her homeyou might haveI should think.'

'It is not his fault: he did not tempt mepapa! I came.'

'If you wished the marriage broken offwhy didn't you say so
plainly? If you never intended to marrywhy could you not leave
her alone? Upon my soulit grates me to the heart to be obliged
to think so ill of a man I thought my friend!'

Knightsoul-sick and weary of his lifedid not arouse himself to
utter a word in reply. How should he defend himself when his
defence was the accusation of Elfride? On that account he felt a
miserable satisfaction in letting her father go on thinking and
speaking wrongfully. It was a faint ray of pleasure straying into
the great gloominess of his brain to think that the vicar might
never know but that heas her lovertempted her awaywhich
seemed to be the form Mr. Swancourt's misapprehension had taken.

'Noware you coming?' said Mr. Swancourt to her again. He took
her unresisting handdrew it within his armand led her down the
stairs. Knight's eyes followed herthe last moment begetting in
him a frantic hope that she would turn her head. She passed on
and never looked back.

He heard the door open--close again. The wheels of a cab grazed
the kerbstonea murmured direction followed. The door was
slammed togetherthe wheels movedand they rolled away.

From that hour of her reappearance a dreadful conflict raged
within the breast of Henry Knight. His instinctemotion
affectiveness--or whatever it may be called--urged him to stand
forwardseize upon Elfrideand be her cherisher and protector
through life. Then came the devastating thought that Elfride's
childlikeunreasoningand indiscreet act in flying to him only
proved that the proprieties must be a dead letter with her; that
the unreservewhich was really artlessness without ballastmeant
indifference to decorum; and what so likely as that such a woman
had been deceived in the past? He said to himselfin a mood of
the bitterest cynicism: 'The suspicious discreet woman who
imagines dark and evil things of all her fellow-creatures is far
too shrewd to be deluded by man: trusting beings like Elfride are
the women who fall.'

Hours and days went byand Knight remained inactive. Lengthening
timewhich made fainter the heart-awakening power of her
presencestrengthened the mental ability to reason her down.
Elfride loved himhe knewand he could not leave off loving her


but marry her he would not. If she could but be again his own
Elfride--the woman she had seemed to be--but that woman was dead
and buriedand he knew her no more! And how could he marry this
Elfrideone whoif he had originally seen her as she waswould
have been barely an interesting pitiable acquaintance in his eyes-no
more?

It cankered his heart to think he was confronted by the closest
instance of a worse state of things than any he had assumed in the
pleasant social philosophy and satire of his essays.

The moral rightness of this man's life was worthy of all praise;
but in spite of some intellectual acumenKnight had in him a
modicum of that wrongheadedness which is mostly found in
scrupulously honest people. With himtruth seemed too clean and
pure an abstraction to be so hopelessly churned in with error as
practical persons find it. Having now seen himself mistaken in
supposing Elfride to be peerlessnothing on earth could make him
believe she was not so very bad after all.

He lingered in town a fortnightdoing little else than vibrate
between passion and opinions. One idea remained intact--that it
was better Elfride and himself should not meet.

When he surveyed the volumes on his shelves--few of which had been
opened since Elfride first took possession of his heart--their
untouched and orderly arrangement reproached him as an apostate
from the old faith of his youth and early manhood. He had
deserted those never-failing friendsso they seemed to sayfor
an unstable delight in a ductile womanwhich had ended all in
bitterness. The spirit of self-denialverging on asceticism
which had ever animated Knight in old timesannounced itself as
having departed with the birth of lovewith it having gone the
self-respect which had compensated for the lack of selfgratification.
Poor little Elfrideinstead of holdingas
formerlya place in his religionbegan to assume the hue of a
temptation. Perhaps it was human and correctly natural that
Knight never once thought whether he did not owe her a little
sacrifice for her unchary devotion in saving his life.

With a consciousness of having thuslike Antonykissed away
kingdoms and provinceshe next considered how he had revealed his
higher secrets and intentions to heran unreserve he would never
have allowed himself with any man living. How was it that he had
not been able to refrain from telling her of adumbrations
heretofore locked in the closest strongholds of his mind?

Knight's was a robust intellectwhich could escape outside the
atmosphere of heartand perceive that his own loveas well as
other people'scould be reduced by change of scene and
circumstances. At the same time the perception was a superimposed
sorrow:

'O last regretregret can die!'

But being convinced that the death of this regret was the best
thing for himhe did not long shrink from attempting it. He
closed his chamberssuspended his connection with editorsand
left London for the Continent. Here we will leave him to wander
without purposebeyond the nominal one of encouraging
obliviousness of Elfride.


Chapter XXXVI

'The pennie's the jewel that beautifies a'.'

'I can't think what's coming to these St. Launce's people at all
at all.'

'With their "How-d'ye-do's do you mean?'

'Ay, with their How-d'ye-do's and shaking of hands, asking me
in, and tender inquiries for you, John.'

These words formed part of a conversation between John Smith and
his wife on a Saturday evening in the spring which followed
Knight's departure from England. Stephen had long since returned
to India; and the persevering couple themselves had migrated from
Lord Luxellian's park at Endelstow to a comfortable roadside
dwelling about a mile out of St. Launce's, where John had opened a
small stone and slate yard in his own name.

'When we came here six months ago,' continued Mrs. Smith, 'though
I had paid ready money so many years in the town, my friskier
shopkeepers would only speak over the counter. Meet 'em in the
street half-an-hour after, and they'd treat me with staring
ignorance of my face.'

'Look through ye as through a glass winder?'

'Yes, the brazen ones would. The quiet and cool ones would glance
over the top of my head, past my side, over my shoulder, but never
meet my eye. The gentle-modest would turn their faces south if I
were coming east, flit down a passage if I were about to halve the
pavement with them. There was the spruce young bookseller would
play the same tricks; the butcher's daughters; the upholsterer's
young men. Hand in glove when doing business out of sight with
you; but caring nothing for a' old woman when playing the genteel
away from all signs of their trade.'

'True enough, Maria.'

'Well, to-day 'tis all different. I'd no sooner got to market
than Mrs. Joakes rushed up to me in the eyes of the town and said,
My dear Mrs. Smithnow you must be tired with your walk! Come in
and have some lunch! I insist upon it; knowing you so many years
as I have! Don't you remember when we used to go looking for owls'
feathers together in the Castle ruins?" There's no knowing what
you may needso I answered the woman civilly. I hadn't got to
the corner before that thriving young lawyerSweetwho's quite
the dandyran after me out of breath. "Mrs. Smith he says,
excuse my rudenessbut there's a bramble on the tail of your
dresswhich you've dragged in from the country; allow me to pull
it off for you." If you'll believe methis was in the very front
of the Town Hall. What's the meaning of such sudden love for a'
old woman?'

'Can't say; unless 'tis repentance.'

'Repentance! was there ever such a fool as you. John? Did anybody
ever repent with money in's pocket and fifty years to live?'

'NowI've been thinking too' said Johnpassing over the query


as hardly pertinent'that I've had more loving-kindness from
folks to-day than I ever have before since we moved here. Why
old Alderman Tope walked out to the middle of the street where I
wasto shake hands with me--so 'a did. Having on my working
clothesI thought 'twas odd. Ayand there was young
Werrington.'

'Who's he?'

'Whythe man in Hill Streetwho plays and sells flutes
trumpetsand fiddlesand grand pehanners. He was talking to
Egloskerrythat very small bachelor-man with money in the funds.
I was going byI'm surewithout thinking or expecting a nod from
men of that glib kidney when in my working clothes----'

'You always will go poking into town in your working clothes. Beg
you to change how I will'tis no use.'

'WellhoweverI was in my working clothes. Werrington saw me.
Ah, Mr. Smith! a fine morning; excellent weather for building,
says heout as loud and friendly as if I'd met him in some deep
hollowwhere he could get nobody else to speak to at all. 'Twas
odd: for Werrington is one of the very ringleaders of the fast
class.'

At that moment a tap came to the door. The door was immediately
opened by Mrs. Smith in person.

'You'll excuse usI'm sureMrs. Smithbut this beautiful spring
weather was too much for us. Yesand we could stay in no longer;
and I took Mrs. Trewen upon my arm directly we'd had a cup of tea
and out we came. And seeing your beautiful crocuses in such a
bloomwe've taken the liberty to enter. We'll step round the
gardenif you don't mind.'

'Not at all' said Mrs. Smith; and they walked round the garden.
She lifted her hands in amazement directly their backs were
turned. 'Goodness send us grace!'

Who be they?' said her husband.

'Actually Mr. Trewenthe bank-managerand his wife.'

John Smithstaggered in mindwent out of doors and looked over
the garden gateto collect his ideas. He had not been there two
minutes when wheels were heardand a carriage and pair rolled
along the road. A distinguished-looking ladywith the demeanour
of a duchessreclined within. When opposite Smith's gate she
turned her headand instantly commanded the coachman to stop.

'AhMr. SmithI am glad to see you looking so well. I could not
help stopping a moment to congratulate you and Mrs. Smith upon the
happiness you must enjoy. Josephyou may drive on.'

And the carriage rolled away towards St. Launce's.

Out rushed Mrs. Smith from behind a laurel-bushwhere she had
stood pondering.

'Just going to touch my hat to her' said John; 'just for all the
world as I would have to poor Lady Luxellian years ago.'

'Lord! who is she?'


'The public-house woman--what's her name? Mrs.--Mrs.--at the
Falcon.'

'Public-house woman. The clumsiness of the Smith family! You
MIGHT say the landlady of the Falcon Hotelsince we are in for
politeness. The people are ridiculous enoughbut give them their
due.'

The possibility is that Mrs. Smith was getting mollifiedin spite
of herselfby these remarkably friendly phenomena among the
people of St. Launce's. And in justice to them it was quite
desirable that she should do so. The interest which the
unpractised ones of this town expressed so grotesquely was genuine
of its kindand equal in intrinsic worth to the more polished
smiles of larger communities.

By this time Mr. and Mrs. Trewen were returning from the garden.

'I'll ask 'em flat' whispered John to his wife. 'I'll sayWe
be in a fog--you'll excuse my asking a question, Mr. and Mrs.
Trewen. How is it you all be so friendly to-day?Hey? 'Twould
sound right and sensiblewouldn't it?'

'Not a word! Good mercywhen will the man have manners!'

'It must be a proud moment for youI am sureMr. and Mrs. Smith
to have a son so celebrated' said the bank-manager advancing.

'Ah'tis Stephen--I knew it!' said Mrs. Smith triumphantly to
herself.

'We don't know particulars' said John.

'Not know!'

'No.'

'Why'tis all over town. Our worthy Mayor alluded to it in a
speech at the dinner last night of the Every-Man-his-own-Maker
Club.'

'And what about Stephen?' urged Mrs. Smith.

'Whyyour son has been feted by deputy-governors and Parsee
princes and nobody-knows-who in India; is hand in glove with
nabobsand is to design a large palaceand cathedraland
hospitalscollegeshallsand fortificationsby the general
consent of the ruling powersChristian and Pagan alike.'

''Twas sure to come to the boy' said Mr. Smith unassumingly.

''Tis in yesterday's St. Launce's Chronicle; and our worthy Mayor
in the chair introduced the subject into his speech last night in
a masterly manner.'

''Twas very good of the worthy Mayor in the chair I'm sure' said
Stephen's mother. 'I hope the boy will have the sense to keep
what he's got; but as for menthey are a simple sex. Some woman
will hook him.'

'WellMr. and Mrs. Smiththe evening closes inand we must be
going; and remember thisthat every Saturday when you come in to
marketyou are to make our house as your own. There will be
always a tea-cup and saucer for youas you know there has been


for monthsthough you may have forgotten it. I'm a plainspeaking
womanand what I say I mean.'

When the visitors were goneand the sun had setand the moon's
rays were just beginning to assert themselves upon the walls of
the dwellingJohn Smith and his wife sat dawn to the newspaper
they had hastily procured from the town. And when the reading was
donethey considered how best to meet the new social requirements
settling upon themwhich Mrs. Smith considered could be done by
new furniture and house enlargement alone.

'AndJohnmind one thing' she said in conclusion. 'In writing
to Stephennever by any means mention the name of Elfride
Swancourt again. We've left the placeand know no more about her
except by hearsay. He seems to be getting free of herand glad
am I for it. It was a cloudy hour for him when he first set eyes
upon the girl. That family's been no good to himfirst or last;
so let them keep their blood to themselves if they want to. He
thinks of herI knowbut not so hopelessly. So don't try to
know anything about herand we can't answer his questions. She
may die out of his mind then.'

'That shall be it' said John.

Chapter XXXVII

'After many days.'

Knight roamed southunder colour of studying Continental
antiquities.

He paced the lofty aisles of Amiensloitered by Ardennes Abbey
climbed into the strange towers of Laonanalyzed Noyon and
Rheims. Then he went to Chartresand examined its scaly spires
and quaint carving then he idled about Coutances. He rowed
beneath the base of Mont St. Micheland caught the varied skyline
of the crumbling edifices encrusting it. St. Ouen'sRouenknew
him for days; so did VezelaySensand many a hallowed monument
besides. Abandoning the inspection of early French art with the
same purposeless haste as he had shown in undertaking ithe went
furtherand lingered about FerraraPaduaand Pisa. Satiated
with mediaevalismhe tried the Roman Forum. Next he observed
moonlight and starlight effects by the bay of Naples. He turned
to Austriabecame enervated and depressed on Hungarian and
Bohemian plainsand was refreshed again by breezes on the
declivities of the Carpathians.

Then he found himself in Greece. He visited the plain of
Marathonand strove to imagine the Persian defeat; to Mars Hill
to picture St. Paul addressing the ancient Athenians; to
Thermopylae and Salamisto run through the facts and traditions
of the Second Invasion--the result of his endeavours being more or
less chaotic. Knight grew as weary of these places as of all
others. Then he felt the shock of an earthquake in the Ionian
Islandsand went to Venice. Here he shot in gondolas up and down
the winding thoroughfare of the Grand Canaland loitered on calle
and piazza at nightwhen the lagunes were undisturbed by a
rippleand no sound was to be heard but the stroke of the
midnight clock. Afterwards he remained for weeks in the museums
galleriesand libraries of ViennaBerlinand Paris; and thence
came home.


Time thus rolls us on to a February afternoondivided by fifteen
months from the parting of Elfride and her lover in the brown
stubble field towards the sea.

Two men obviously not Londonersand with a touch of foreignness
in their lookmet by accident on one of the gravel walks leading
across Hyde Park. The youngermore given to looking about him
than his fellowsaw and noticed the approach of his senior some
time before the latter had raised his eyes from the groundupon
which they were bent in an abstracted gaze that seemed habitual
with him.

'Mr. Knight--indeed it is!' exclaimed the younger man.

'AhStephen Smith!' said Knight.

Simultaneous operations might now have been observed progressing
in boththe result being that an expression less frank and
impulsive than the first took possession of their features. It
was manifest that the next words uttered were a superficial
covering to constraint on both sides.

'Have you been in England long?' said Knight.

'Only two days' said Smith. India ever since?'

'Nearly ever since.'

'They were making a fuss about you at St. Launce's last year. I
fancy I saw something of the sort in the papers.'

'Yes; I believe something was said about me.'

'I must congratulate you on your achievements.'

'Thanksbut they are nothing very extraordinary. A natural
professional progress where there was no opposition.'

There followed that want of words which will always assert itself
between nominal friends who find they have ceased to be real ones
and have not yet sunk to the level of mere acquaintance. Each
looked up and down the Park. Knight may possibly have borne in
mind during the intervening months Stephen's manner towards him
the last time they had metand may have encouraged his former
interest in Stephen's welfare to die out of him as misplaced.
Stephen certainly was full of the feelings begotten by the belief
that Knight had taken away the woman he loved so well.

Stephen Smith then asked a questionadopting a certain
recklessness of manner and tone to hideif possiblethe fact
that the subject was a much greater one to him than his friend had
ever supposed.

'Are you married?'

'I am not.'

Knight spoke in an indescribable tone of bitterness that was
almost moroseness.

'And I never shall be' he added decisively. 'Are you?'

'No' said Stephensadly and quietlylike a man in a sick-room.


Totally ignorant whether or not Knight knew of his own previous
claims upon Elfridehe yet resolved to hazard a few more words
upon the topic which had an aching fascination for him even now.

'Then your engagement to Miss Swancourt came to nothing' he said.
'You remember I met you with her once?'

Stephen's voice gave way a little herein defiance of his firmest
will to the contrary. Indian affairs had not yet lowered those
emotions down to the point of control.

'It was broken off' came quickly from Knight. 'Engagements to
marry often end like that--for better or for worse.'

'Yes; so they do. And what have you been doing lately?'

'Doing? Nothing.'

'Where have you been?'

'I can hardly tell you. In the maingoing about Europe; and it
may perhaps interest you to know that I have been attempting the
serious study of Continental art of the Middle Ages. My notes on
each example I visited are at your service. They are of no use to
me.'

'I shall be glad with them....Ohtravelling far and near!'

'Not far' said Knightwith moody carelessness. 'You knowI
daresaythat sheep occasionally become giddy--hydatids in the
head'tis calledin which their brains become eaten upand the
animal exhibits the strange peculiarity of walking round and round
in a circle continually. I have travelled just in the same way-round
and round like a giddy ram.'

The recklessbitterand rambling style in which Knight talked
as if rather to vent his images than to convey any ideas to
Stephenstruck the young man painfully. His former friend's days
had become cankered in some way: Knight was a changed man. He
himself had changed muchbut not as Knight had changed.

'Yesterday I came home' continued Knight'without havingto the
best of my beliefimbibed half-a-dozen ideas worth retaining.'

'You out-Hamlet Hamlet in morbidness of mood' said Stephenwith
regretful frankness.

Knight made no reply.

'Do you know' Stephen continued'I could almost have sworn that
you would be married before this timefrom what I saw?'

Knight's face grew harder. 'Could you?' he said.

Stephen was powerless to forsake the depressingluring subject.

'Yes; and I simply wonder at it.'

'Whom did you expect me to marry?'

'Her I saw you with.'

'Thank you for that wonder.'


'Did she jilt you?'

'Smithnow one word to you' Knight returned steadily. 'Don't
you ever question me on that subject. I have a reason for making
this requestmind. And if you do question meyou will not get
an answer.'

'OhI don't for a moment wish to ask what is unpleasant to you-not
I. I had a momentary feeling that I should like to explain
something on my sideand hear a similar explanation on yours.
But let it golet it goby all means.'

'What would you explain?'

'I lost the woman I was going to marry: you have not married as
you intended. We might have compared notes.'

'I have never asked you a word about your case.'

'I know that.'

'And the inference is obvious.'

'Quite so.'

'The truth isStephenI have doggedly resolved never to allude
to the matter--for which I have a very good reason.'

'Doubtless. As good a reason as you had for not marrying her.'

'You talk insidiously. I had a good one--a miserably good one!'

Smith's anxiety urged him to venture one more question.

'Did she not love you enough?' He drew his breath in a slow and
attenuated streamas he waited in timorous hope for the answer.

'Stephenyou rather strain ordinary courtesy in pressing
questions of that kind after what I have said. I cannot
understand you at all. I must go on now.'

'Whygood God!' exclaimed Stephen passionately'you talk as if
you hadn't at all taken her away from anybody who had better
claims to her than you!'

'What do you mean by that?' said Knightwith a puzzled air.
'What have you heard?'

'Nothing. I too must go on. Good-day.'

'If you will go' said Knightreluctantly now'you mustI
suppose. I am sure I cannot understand why you behave so.'

'Nor I why you do. I have always been grateful to youand as far
as I am concerned we need never have become so estranged as we
have.'

'And have I ever been anything but well-disposed towards you
Stephen? Surely you know that I have not! The system of reserve
began with you: you know that.'

'Nono! You altogether mistake our position. You were always
from the first reserved to methough I was confidential to you.
That wasI supposethe natural issue of our differing positions


in life. And when Ithe pupilbecame reserved like youthe
masteryou did not like it. HoweverI was going to ask you to
come round and see me.'

'Where are you staying?'

'At the Grosvenor HotelPimlico.'

'So am I.'

'That's convenientnot to say odd. WellI am detained in London
for a day or two; then I am going down to see my father and
motherwho live at St. Launce's now. Will you see me this
evening?'

'I may; but I will not promise. I was wishing to be alone for an
hour or two; but I shall know where to find youat any rate.
Good-bye.'

Chapter XXXVIII

'Jealousy is cruel as the grave.'

Stephen pondered not a little on this meeting with his old friend
and once-beloved exemplar. He was grievedfor amid all the
distractions of his latter years a still small voice of fidelity
to Knight had lingered on in him. Perhaps this staunchness was
because Knight ever treated him as a mere disciple--even to
snubbing him sometimes; and had at lastthough unwittingly
inflicted upon him the greatest snub of allthat of taking away
his sweetheart. The emotional side of his constitution was built
rather after a feminine than a male model; and that tremendous
wound from Knight's hand may have tended to keep alive a warmth
which solicitousness would have extinguished altogether.

Knighton his partwas vexedafter they had partedthat he had
not taken Stephen in hand a little after the old manner. Those
words which Smith had let fall concerning somebody having a prior
claim to Elfridewouldif uttered when the man was youngerhave
provoked such a query as'Cometell me all about itmy lad'
from Knightand Stephen would straightway have delivered himself
of all he knew on the subject.

Stephen the ingenuous boythough now obliterated externally by
Stephen the contriving manreturned to Knight's memory vividly
that afternoon. He was at present but a sojourner in London; and
after attending to the two or three matters of business which
remained to be done that dayhe walked abstractedly into the
gloomy corridors of the British Museum for the half-hour previous
to their closing. That meeting with Smith had reunited the
present with the pastclosing up the chasm of his absence from
England as if it had never existeduntil the final circumstances
of his previous time of residence in London formed but a yesterday
to the circumstances now. The conflict that then had raged in him
concerning Elfride Swancourt revivedstrengthened by its sleep.
Indeedin those many months of absencethough quelling the
intention to make her his wifehe had never forgotten that she
was the type of woman adapted to his nature; and instead of trying
to obliterate thoughts of her altogetherhe had grown to regard
them as an infirmity it was necessary to tolerate.


Knight returned to his hotel much earlier in the evening than he
would have done in the ordinary course of things. He did not care
to think whether this arose from a friendly wish to close the gap
that had slowly been widening between himself and his earliest
acquaintanceor from a hankering desire to hear the meaning of
the dark oracles Stephen had hastily pronouncedbetokening that
he knew something more of Elfride than Knight had supposed.

He made a hasty dinnerinquired for Smithand soon was ushered
into the young man's presencewhom he found sitting in front of a
comfortable firebeside a table spread with a few scientific
periodicals and art reviews.

'I have come to youafter all' said Knight. 'My manner was odd
this morningand it seemed desirable to call; but that you had
too much sense to noticeStephenI know. Put it down to my
wanderings in France and Italy.'

'Don't say another wordbut sit down. I am only too glad to see
you again.'

Stephen would hardly have cared to tell Knight just then that the
minute before Knight was announced he had been reading over some
old letters of Elfride's. They were not many; and until to-night
had been sealed upand stowed away in a corner of his leather
trunkwith a few other mementoes and relics which had accompanied
him in his travels. The familiar sights and sounds of Londonthe
meeting with his friendhad with him also revived that sense of
abiding continuity with regard to Elfride and love which his
absence at the other side of the world had to some extent
suspendedthough never ruptured. He at first intended only to
look over these letters on the outside; then he read one; then
another; until the whole was thus re-used as a stimulus to sad
memories. He folded them away againplaced them in his pocket
and instead of going on with an examination into the state of the
artistic worldhad remained musing on the strange circumstance
that he had returned to find Knight not the husband of Elfride
after all.

The possibility of any given gratification begets a cumulative
sense of its necessity. Stephen gave the rein to his imagination
and felt more intensely than he had felt for many months that
without Elfridehis life would never be any great pleasure to
himselfor honour to his Maker.

They sat by the firechatting on external and random subjects
neither caring to be the first to approach the matter each most
longed to discuss. On the table with the periodicals lay two or
three pocket-booksone of them being open. Knight seeing from
the exposed page that the contents were sketches onlybegan
turning the leaves over carelessly with his finger. Whensome
time laterStephen was out of the roomKnight proceeded to pass
the interval by looking at the sketches more carefully.

The first crude ideaspertaining to dwellings of all kindswere
roughly outlined on the different pages. Antiquities had been
copied; fragments of Indian columnscolossal statuesand
outlandish ornament from the temples of Elephanta and Kenneri
were carelessly intruded upon by outlines of modern doors
windowsroofscooking-stovesand household furniture;
everythingin shortwhich comes within the range of a practising
architect's experiencewho travels with his eyes open. Among
these occasionally appeared rough delineations of mediaeval
subjects for carving or illumination--heads of VirginsSaints


and Prophets.

Stephen was not professedly a free-hand draughtsmanbut he drew
the human figure with correctness and skill. In its numerous
repetitions on the sides and edges of the leavesKnight began to
notice a peculiarity. All the feminine saints had one type of
feature. There were large nimbi and small nimbi about their
drooping headsbut the face was always the same. That profile-how
well Knight knew that profile!

Had there been but one specimen of the familiar countenancehe
might have passed over the resemblance as accidental; but a
repetition meant more. Knight thought anew of Smith's hasty words
earlier in the dayand looked at the sketches again and again.

On the young man's entryKnight said with palpable agitation-


'Stephenwho are those intended for?'

Stephen looked over the book with utter unconcern'Saints and
angelsdone in my leisure moments. They were intended as designs
for the stained glass of an English church.'

'But whom do you idealize by that type of woman you always adopt
for the Virgin?'

'Nobody.'

And then a thought raced along Stephen's mind and he looked up at
his friend.

The truth isStephen's introduction of Elfride's lineaments had
been so unconscious that he had not at first understood his
companion's drift. The handlike the tongueeasily acquires the
trick of repetition by rotewithout calling in the mind to assist
at all; and this had been the case here. Young men who cannot
write verses about their Loves generally take to portraying them
and in the early days of his attachment Smith had never been weary
of outlining Elfride. The lay-figure of Stephen's sketches now
initiated an adjustment of many things. Knight had recognized
her. The opportunity of comparing notes had come unsought.

'Elfride Swancourtto whom I was engaged' he said quietly.

'Stephen!'

'I know what you mean by speaking like that.'

'Was it Elfride? YOU the manStephen?'

'Yes; and you are thinking why did I conceal the fact from you
that time at Endelstoware you not?'

'Yesand more--more.'

'I did it for the best; blame me if you will; I did it for the
best. And now say how could I be with you afterwards as I had
been before?'

'I don't know at all; I can't say.'

Knight remained fixed in thoughtand once he murmured-


'I had a suspicion this afternoon that there might be some such


meaning in your words about my taking her away. But I dismissed
it. How came you to know her?' he presently askedin almost a
peremptory tone.

'I went down about the church; years ago now.'

'When you were with Hewbyof courseof course. WellI can't
understand it.' His tones rose. 'I don't know what to sayyour
hoodwinking me like this for so long!'

'I don't see that I have hoodwinked you at all.'

'Yesyesbut'----

Knight arose from his seatand began pacing up and down the room.
His face was markedly paleand his voice perturbedas he said-


'You did not act as I should have acted towards you under those
circumstances. I feel it deeply; and I tell you plainlyI shall
never forget it!'

'What?'

'Your behaviour at that meeting in the family vaultwhen I told
you we were going to be married. Deceptiondishonesty
everywhere; all the world's of a piece!'

Stephen did not much like this misconstruction of his motives
even though it was but the hasty conclusion of a friend disturbed
by emotion.

'I could do no otherwise than I didwith due regard to her' he
said stiffly.

'Indeed!' said Knightin the bitterest tone of reproach. 'Nor
could you with due regard to her have married herI suppose! I
have hoped--longed--that HEwho turns out to be YOUwould
ultimately have done that.'

'I am much obliged to you for that hope. But you talk very
mysteriously. I think I had about the best reason anybody could
have had for not doing that.'

'Ohwhat reason was it?'

'That I could not.'

'You ought to have made an opportunity; you ought to do so nowin
bare justice to herStephen!' cried Knightcarried beyond
himself. 'That you know very welland it hurts and wounds me
more than you dream to find you never have tried to make any
reparation to a woman of that kind--so trustingso apt to be run
away with by her feelings--poor little foolso much the worse for
her!'

'Whyyou talk like a madman! You took her away from medid you
not?'

'Picking up what another throws down can scarcely be called
taking away.Howeverwe shall not agree too well upon that
subjectso we had better part.'

'But I am quite certain you misapprehend something most
grievously' said Stephenshaken to the bottom of his heart.


'What have I done; tell me? I have lost Elfridebut is that such
a sin?'

'Was it her doingor yours?'

'Was what?'

'That you parted.'

'I will tell you honestly. It was hers entirelyentirely.'

'What was her reason?'

'I can hardly say. But I'll tell the story without reserve.'

Stephen until to-day had unhesitatingly held that she grew tired
of him and turned to Knight; but he did not like to advance the
statement nowor even to think the thought. To fancy otherwise
accorded better with the hope to which Knight's estrangement had
given birth: that love for his friend was not the direct cause
but a result of her suspension of love for himself.

'Such a matter must not be allowed to breed discord between us'
Knight returnedrelapsing into a manner which concealed all his
true feelingas if confidence now was intolerable. 'I do see
that your reticence towards me in the vault may have been dictated
by prudential considerations.' He concluded artificially'It was
a strange thing altogether; but not of much importanceI suppose
at this distance of time; and it does not concern me nowthough I
don't mind hearing your story.'

These words from Knightuttered with such an air of renunciation
and apparent indifferenceprompted Smith to speak on--perhaps
with a little complacency--of his old secret engagement to
Elfride. He told the details of its originand the peremptory
words and actions of her father to extinguish their love.

Knight persevered in the tone and manner of a disinterested
outsider. It had become more than ever imperative to screen his
emotions from Stephen's eye; the young man would otherwise be less
frankand their meeting would be again embittered. What was the
use of untoward candour?

Stephen had now arrived at the point in his ingenuous narrative
where he left the vicarage because of her father's manner.
Knight's interest increased. Their love seemed so innocent and
childlike thus far.

'It is a nice point in casuistry' he observed'to decide whether
you were culpable or not in not telling Swancourt that your
friends were parishioners of his. It was only human nature to
hold your tongue under the circumstances. Wellwhat was the
result of your dismissal by him?'

'That we agreed to be secretly faithful. And to insure this we
thought we would marry.'

Knight's suspense and agitation rose higher when Stephen entered
upon this phase of the subject.

'Do you mind telling on?' he saidsteadying his manner of speech.

'Ohnot at all.'


Then Stephen gave in full the particulars of the meeting with
Elfride at the railway station; the necessity they were under of
going to Londonunless the ceremony were to be postponed. The
long journey of the afternoon and evening; her timidity and
revulsion of feeling; its culmination on reaching London; the
crossing over to the down-platform and their immediate departure
againsolely in obedience to her wish; the journey all night;
their anxious watching for the dawn; their arrival at St. Launce's
at last--were detailed. And he told how a village woman named
Jethway was the only person who recognized themeither going or
coming; and how dreadfully this terrified Elfride. He told how he
waited in the fields whilst this then reproachful sweetheart went
for her ponyand how the last kiss he ever gave her was given a
mile out of the townon the way to Endelstow.

These things Stephen related with a will. He believed that in
doing so he established word by word the reasonableness of his
claim to Elfride.

'Curse her! curse that woman!--that miserable letter that parted
us! O God!'

Knight began pacing the room againand uttered this at further
end.

'What did you say?' said Stephenturning round.

'Say? Did I say anything? OhI was merely thinking about your
storyand the oddness of my having a fancy for the same woman
afterwards. And that now I--I have forgotten her almost; and
neither of us care about herexcept just as a friendyou know
eh?'

Knight still continued at the further end of the roomsomewhat in
shadow.

'Exactly' said Stepheninwardly exultantfor he was really
deceived by Knight's off-hand manner.

Yet he was deceived less by the completeness of Knight's disguise
than by the persuasive power which lay in the fact that Knight had
never before deceived him in anything. So this supposition that
his companion had ceased to love Elfride was an enormous
lightening of the weight which had turned the scale against him.

'Admitting that Elfride COULD love another man after you' said
the elderunder the same varnish of careless criticism'she was
none the worse for that experience.'

'The worse? Of course she was none the worse.'

'Did you ever think it a wild and thoughtless thing for her to
do?'

'IndeedI never did' said Stephen. 'I persuaded her. She saw
no harm in it until she decided to returnnor did I; nor was
thereexcept to the extent of indiscretion.'

'Directly she thought it was wrong she would go no further?'

'That was it. I had just begun to think it wrong too.'

'Such a childish escapade might have been misrepresented by any
evil-disposed personmight it not?'


'It might; but I never heard that it was. Nobody who really knew
all the circumstances would have done otherwise than smile. If
all the world had known itElfride would still have remained the
only one who thought her action a sin. Poor childshe always
persisted in thinking soand was frightened more than enough.'

'Stephendo you love her now?'

'WellI like her; I always shallyou know' he said evasively
and with all the strategy love suggested. 'But I have not seen
her for so long that I can hardly be expected to love her. Do you
love her still?'

'How shall I answer without being ashamed? What fickle beings we
men areStephen! Men may love strongest for a whilebut women
love longest. I used to love her--in my wayyou know.'

'YesI understand. Ahand I used to love her in my way. In
factI loved her a good deal at one time; but travel has a
tendency to obliterate early fancies.'

'It has--it hastruly.'

Perhaps the most extraordinary feature in this conversation was
the circumstance thatthough each interlocutor had at first his
suspicions of the other's abiding passion awakened by several
little actsneither would allow himself to see that his friend
might now be speaking deceitfully as well as he.

'Stephen.' resumed Knight'now that matters are smooth between
usI think I must leave you. You won't mind my hurrying off to
my quarters?'

'You'll stay to some sort of supper surely? didn't you come to
dinner!'

'You must really excuse me this once.'

'Then you'll drop in to breakfast to-morrow.'

'I shall be rather pressed for time.'

'An early breakfastwhich shall interfere with nothing?'

'I'll come' said Knightwith as much readiness as it was
possible to graft upon a huge stock of reluctance. 'Yesearly;
eight o'clock sayas we are under the same roof.'

'Any time you like. Eight it shall be.'

And Knight left him. To wear a maskto dissemble his feelings as
he had in their late miserable conversationwas such torture that
he could support it no longer. It was the first time in Knight's
life that he had ever been so entirely the player of a part. And
the man he had thus deceived was Stephenwho had docilely looked
up to him from youth as a superior of unblemished integrity.

He went to bedand allowed the fever of his excitement to rage
uncontrolled. Stephen--it was only he who was the rival--only
Stephen! There was an anti-climax of absurdity which Knight
wretched and conscience-stricken as he wascould not help
recognizing. Stephen was but a boy to him. Where the great grief
lay was in perceiving that the very innocence of Elfride in


reading her little fault as one so grave was what had fatally
misled him. Had Elfridewith any degree of coolnessasserted
that she had done no harmthe poisonous breath of the dead Mrs.
Jethway would have been inoperative. Why did he not make his
little docile girl tell more? If on that subject he had only
exercised the imperativeness customary with him on othersall
might have been revealed. It smote his heart like a switch when
he remembered how gently she had borne his scourging speeches
never answering him with a single reproachonly assuring him of
her unbounded love.

Knight blessed Elfride for her sweetnessand forgot her fault.
He pictured with a vivid fancy those fair summer scenes with her.
He again saw her as at their first meetingtimid at speakingyet
in her eagerness to be explanatory borne forward almost against
her will. How she would wait for him in green placeswithout
showing any of the ordinary womanly affectations of indifference!
How proud she was to be seen walking with himbearing legibly in
her eyes the thought that he was the greatest genius in the world!

He formed a resolution; and after that could make pretence of
slumber no longer. Rising and dressing himselfhe sat down and
waited for day.

That night Stephen was restless too. Not because of the
unwontedness of a return to English scenery; not because he was
about to meet his parentsand settle down for awhile to English
cottage life. He was indulging in dreamsand for the nonce the
warehouses of Bombay and the plains and forts of Poonah were but a
shadow's shadow. His dream was based on this one atom of fact:
Elfride and Knight had become separatedand their engagement was
as if it had never been. Their rupture must have occurred soon
after Stephen's discovery of the fact of their union; andStephen
went on to thinkwhat so probable as that a return of her errant
affection to himself was the cause?

Stephen's opinions in this matter were those of a loverand not
the balanced judgment of an unbiassed spectator. His naturally
sanguine spirit built hope upon hopetill scarcely a doubt
remained in his mind that her lingering tenderness for him had in
some way been perceived by Knightand had provoked their parting.

To go and see Elfride was the suggestion of impulses it was
impossible to withstand. At any rateto run down from St.
Launce's to Castle Poterela distance of less than twenty miles
and glide like a ghost about their old hauntsmaking stealthy
inquiries about herwould be a fascinating way of passing the
first spare hours after reaching home on the day after the morrow.

He was now a richer man than heretoforestanding on his own
bottom; and the definite position in which he had rooted himself
nullified old local distinctions. He had become illustriouseven
sanguine clarusjudging from the tone of the worthy Mayor of St.
Launce's.

Chapter XXXIX

'Each to the loved one's side.'

The friends and rivals breakfasted together the next morning. Not
a word was said on either side upon the matter discussed the


previous evening so glibly and so hollowly. Stephen was absorbed
the greater part of the time in wishing he were not forced to stay
in town yet another day.

'I don't intend to leave for St. Launce's till to-morrowas you
know' he said to Knight at the end of the meal. 'What are you
going to do with yourself to-day?'

'I have an engagement just before ten' said Knight deliberately;
'and after that time I must call upon two or three people.'

'I'll look for you this evening' said Stephen.

'Yesdo. You may as well come and dine with me; that isif we
can meet. I may not sleep in London to-night; in factI am
absolutely unsettled as to my movements yet. Howeverthe first
thing I am going to do is to get my baggage shifted from this
place to Bede's Inn. Good-bye for the present. I'll writeyou
knowif I can't meet you.'

It now wanted a quarter to nine o'clock. When Knight was gone
Stephen felt yet more impatient of the circumstance that another
day would have to drag itself away wearily before he could set out
for that spot of earth whereon a soft thought of him might perhaps
be nourished still. On a sudden he admitted to his mind the
possibility that the engagement he was waiting in town to keep
might be postponed without much harm.

It was no sooner perceived than attempted. Looking at his watch
he found it wanted forty minutes to the departure of the ten
o'clock train from Paddingtonwhich left him a surplus quarter of
an hour before it would be necessary to start for the station.

Scribbling a hasty note or two--one putting off the business
meetinganother to Knight apologizing for not being able to see
him in the evening--paying his billand leaving his heavier
luggage to follow him by goods-trainhe jumped into a cab and
rattled off to the Great Western Station.

Shortly afterwards he took his seat in the railway carriage.

The guard paused on his whistleto let into the next compartment
to Smith's a man of whom Stephen had caught but a hasty glimpse as
he ran across the platform at the last moment.

Smith sank back into the carriagestilled by perplexity. The man
was like Knight--astonishingly like him. Was it possible it could
be he? To have got there he must have driven like the wind to
Bede's Innand hardly have alighted before starting again. No
it could not be he; that was not his way of doing things.

During the early part of the journey Stephen Smith's thoughts
busied themselves till his brain seemed swollen. One subject was
concerning his own approaching actions. He was a day earlier than
his letter to his parents had statedand his arrangement with
them had been that they should meet him at Plymouth; a plan which
pleased the worthy couple beyond expression. Once before the same
engagement had been madewhich he had then quashed by ante-dating
his arrival. This time he would go right on to Castle Boterel;
ramble in that well-known neighbourhood during the evening and
next morningmaking inquiries; and return to Plymouth to meet
them as arranged--a contrivance which would leave their cherished
project undisturbedrelieving his own impatience also.


At Chippenham there was a little waitingand some loosening and
attaching of carriages.

Stephen looked out. At the same moment another man's head emerged
from the adjoining window. Each looked in the other's face.

Knight and Stephen confronted one another.

'You here!' said the younger man.

'Yes. It seems that you are too' said Knightstrangely.

'Yes.'

The selfishness of love and the cruelty of jealousy were fairly
exemplified at this moment. Each of the two men looked at his
friend as he had never looked at him before. Each was TROUBLED at
the other's presence.

'I thought you said you were not coming till to-morrow' remarked
Knight.

'I did. It was an afterthought to come to-day. This journey was
your engagementthen?'

'Noit was not. This is an afterthought of mine too. I left a
note to explain itand account for my not being able to meet you
this evening as we arranged.'

'So did I for you.'

'You don't look well: you did not this morning.'

'I have a headache. You are paler to-day than you were.'

'Itoohave been suffering from headache. We have to wait here
a few minutesI think.'

They walked up and down the platformeach one more and more
embarrassingly concerned with the awkwardness of his friend's
presence. They reached the end of the footwayand paused in
sheer absent-mindedness. Stephen's vacant eyes rested upon the
operations of some porterswho were shifting a dark and curiouslooking
van from the rear of the trainto shunt another which was
between it and the fore part of the train. This operation having
been concludedthe two friends returned to the side of their
carriage.

'Will you come in here?' said Knightnot very warmly.

'I have my rug and portmanteau and umbrella with me: it is rather
bothering to move now' said Stephen reluctantly. 'Why not you
come here?'

'I have my traps too. It is hardly worth while to shift themfor
I shall see you againyou know.'

'Ohyes.'

And each got into his own place. Just at startinga man on the
platform held up his hands and stopped the train.

Stephen looked out to see what was the matter.


One of the officials was exclaiming to another'That carriage
should have been attached again. Can't you see it is for the main
line? Quick! What fools there are in the world!'

'What a confounded nuisance these stoppages are!' exclaimed Knight
impatientlylooking out from his compartment. 'What is it?'

'That singular carriage we saw has been unfastened from our train
by mistakeit seems' said Stephen.

He was watching the process of attaching it. The van or carriage
which he now recognized as having seen at Paddington before they
startedwas rich and solemn rather than gloomy in aspect. It
seemed to be quite newand of modern designand its impressive
personality attracted the notice of others beside himself. He
beheld it gradually wheeled forward by two men on each side:
slower and more sadly it seemed to approach: then a slight
concussionand they were connected with itand off again.

Stephen sat all the afternoon pondering upon the reason of
Knight's unexpected reappearance. Was he going as far as Castle
Boterel? If sohe could only have one object in view--a visit to
Elfride. And what an idea it seemed!

At Plymouth Smith partook of a little refreshmentand then went
round to the side from which the train started for Cameltonthe
new station near Castle Boterel and Endelstow.

Knight was already there.

Stephen walked up and stood beside him without speaking. Two men
at this moment crept out from among the wheels of the waiting
train.

'The carriage is light enough' said one in a grim tone. 'Light
as vanity; full of nothing.'

'Nothing in sizebut a good deal in signification' said the
othera man of brighter mind and manners.

Smith then perceived that to their train was attached that same
carriage of grand and dark aspect which had haunted them all the
way from London.

'You are going onI suppose?' said Knightturning to Stephen
after idly looking at the same object.

'Yes.'

'We may as well travel together for the remaining distancemay we
not?'

'Certainly we will;' and they both entered the same door.

Evening drew on apace. It chanced to be the eve of St.
Valentine's--that bishop of blessed memory to youthful lovers--and
the sun shone low under the rim of a thick hard clouddecorating
the eminences of the landscape with crowns of orange fire. As the
train changed its direction on a curvethe same rays stretched in
through the windowand coaxed open Knight's half-closed eyes.

'You will get out at St. Launce'sI suppose?' he murmured.

'No' said Stephen'I am not expected till to-morrow.' Knight was


silent.

'And you--are you going to Endelstow?' said the younger man
pointedly.

'Since you askI can do no less than say I amStephen'
continued Knight slowlyand with more resolution of manner than
he had shown all the day. 'I am going to Endelstow to see if
Elfride Swancourt is still free; and if soto ask her to be my
wife.'

'So am I' said Stephen Smith.

'I think you'll lose your labour' Knight returned with decision.

'Naturally you do.' There was a strong accent of bitterness in
Stephen's voice. 'You might have said HOPE instead of THINK' he
added.

'I might have done no such thing. I gave you my opinion. Elfride
Swancourt may have loved you onceno doubtbut it was when she
was so young that she hardly knew her own mind.'

'Thank you' said Stephen laconically. 'She knew her mind as well
as I did. We are the same age. If you hadn't interfered----'

'Don't say that--don't say itStephen! How can you make out that
I interfered? Be justplease!'

'Well' said his friend'she was mine before she was yours--you
know that! And it seemed a hard thing to find you had got herand
that if it had not been for youall might have turned out well
for me.' Stephen spoke with a swelling heartand looked out of
the window to hide the emotion that would make itself visible upon
his face.

'It is absurd' said Knight in a kinder tone'for you to look at
the matter in that light. What I tell you is for your good. You
naturally do not like to realize the truth--that her liking for
you was only a girl's first fancywhich has no root ever.'

'It is not true!' said Stephen passionately. 'It was you put me
out. And now you'll be pushing in again between usand depriving
me of my chance again! My rightthat's what it is! How ungenerous
of you to come anew and try to take her away from me! When you had
won herI did not interfere; and you mightI thinkMr. Knight
do by me as I did by you!'

'Don't "Mr." me; you are as well in the world as I am now.'

'First love is deepest; and that was mine.'

'Who told you that?' said Knight superciliously.

'I had her first love. And it was through me that you and she
parted. I can guess that well enough.'

'It was. And if I were to explain to you in what way that
operated in parting usI should convince you that you do quite
wrong in intruding upon her--thatas I said at firstyour labour
will be lost. I don't choose to explainbecause the particulars
are painful. But if you won't listen to mego onfor Heaven's
sake. I don't care what you domy boy.'


'You have no right to domineer over me as you do. Just because
when I was a ladI was accustomed to look up to you as a master
and you helped me a littlefor which I was grateful to you and
have loved youyou assume too much nowand step in before me.
It is cruel--it is unjust--of you to injure me so!'

Knight showed himself keenly hurt at this. 'Stephenthose words
are untrue and unworthy of any manand they are unworthy of you.
You know you wrong me. If you have ever profited by any
instruction of mineI am only too glad to know it. You know it
was given ungrudginglyand that I have never once looked upon it
as making you in any way a debtor to me.'

Stephen's naturally gentle nature was touchedand it was in a
troubled voice that he said'Yesyes. I am unjust in that--I
own it.'

'This is St. Launce's StationI think. Are you going to get
out?'

Knight's manner of returning to the matter in hand drew Stephen
again into himself. 'No; I told you I was going to Endelstow' he
resolutely replied.

Knight's features became impassiveand he said no more. The
train continued rattling onand Stephen leant back in his corner
and closed his eyes. The yellows of evening had turned to browns
the dusky shades thickenedand a flying cloud of dust
occasionally stroked the window--borne upon a chilling breeze
which blew from the north-east. The previously gilded but now
dreary hills began to lose their daylight aspects of rotundity
and to become black discs vandyked against the skyall nature
wearing the cloak that six o'clock casts over the landscape at
this time of the year.

Stephen started up in bewilderment after a long stillnessand it
was some time before he recollected himself.

'Wellhow realhow real!' he exclaimedbrushing his hand across
his eyes.

'What is?' said Knight.

'That dream. I fell asleep for a few minutesand have had a
dream--the most vivid I ever remember.'

He wearily looked out into the gloom. They were now drawing near
to Camelton. The lighting of the lamps was perceptible through
the veil of evening--each flame starting into existence at
intervalsand blinking weakly against the gusts of wind.

'What did you dream?' said Knight moodily.

'Ohnothing to be told. 'Twas a sort of incubus. There is never
anything in dreams.'

'I hardly supposed there was.'

'I know that. Howeverwhat I so vividly dreamt was thissince
you would like to hear. It was the brightest of bright mornings
at East Endelstow Churchand you and I stood by the font. Far
away in the chancel Lord Luxellian was standing alonecold and
impassiveand utterly unlike his usual self: but I knew it was
he. Inside the altar rail stood a strange clergyman with his book


open. He looked up and said to Lord LuxellianWhere's the
bride?Lord Luxellian saidThere's no bride.At that moment
somebody came in at the doorand I knew her to be Lady Luxellian
who died. He turned and said to herI thought you were in the
vault below us; but that could have only been a dream of mine.
Come on.Then she came on. And in brushing between us she
chilled me so with cold that I exclaimedThe life is gone out of
me!andin the way of dreamsI awoke. But here we are at
Camelton.'

They were slowly entering the station.

'What are you going to do?' said Knight. 'Do you really intend to
call on the Swancourts?'

'By no means. I am going to make inquiries first. I shall stay
at the Luxellian Arms to-night. You will go right on to
EndelstowI supposeat once?'

'I can hardly do that at this time of the day. Perhaps you are
not aware that the family--her fatherat any rate--is at variance
with me as much as with you.

'I didn't know it.'

'And that I cannot rush into the house as an old friend any more
than you can. Certainly I have the privileges of a distant
relationshipwhatever they may be.'

Knight let down the windowand looked ahead. 'There are a great
many people at the station' he said. 'They seem all to be on the
look-out for us.'

When the train stoppedthe half-estranged friends could perceive
by the lamplight that the assemblage of idlers enclosed as a
kernel a group of men in black cloaks. A side gate in the
platform railing was openand outside this stood a dark vehicle
which they could not at first characterize. Then Knight saw on
its upper part forms against the sky like cedars by nightand
knew the vehicle to be a hearse. Few people were at the carriage
doors to meet the passengers--the majority had congregated at this
upper end. Knight and Stephen alightedand turned for a moment
in the same direction.

The sombre vanwhich had accompanied them all day from London
now began to reveal that their destination was also its own. It
had been drawn up exactly opposite the open gate. The bystanders
all fell backforming a clear lane from the gateway to the van
and the men in cloaks entered the latter conveyance.

'They are labourersI fancy' said Stephen. 'Ahit is strange;
but I recognize three of them as Endelstow men. Rather remarkable
this.'

Presently they began to come outtwo and two; and under the rays
of the lamp they were seen to bear between them a light-coloured
coffin of satin-woodbrightly polishedand without a nail. The
eight men took the burden upon their shouldersand slowly crossed
with it over to the gate.

Knight and Stephen went outsideand came close to the procession
as it moved off. A carriage belonging to the cortege turned round
close to a lamp. The rays shone in upon the face of the vicar of
EndelstowMr. Swancourt--looking many years older than when they


had last seen him. Knight and Stephen involuntarily drew back.

Knight spoke to a bystander. 'What has Mr. Swancourt to do with
that funeral?'

'He is the lady's father' said the bystander.

'What lady's father?' said Knightin a voice so hollow that the
man stared at him.

'The father of the lady in the coffin. She died in Londonyou
knowand has been brought here by this train. She is to be taken
home to-nightand buried to-morrow.'

Knight stood staring blindly at where the hearse had been; as if
he saw itor some onethere. Then he turnedand beheld the
lithe form of Stephen bowed down like that of an old man. He took
his young friend's armand led him away from the light.

Chapter XL

'Welcomeproud lady.'

Half an hour has passed. Two miserable men are wandering in the
darkness up the miles of road from Camelton to Endelstow.

'Has she broken her heart?' said Henry Knight. 'Can it be that I
have killed her? I was bitter with herStephenand she has died!
And may God have NO mercy upon me!'

'How can you have killed her more than I?'

'WhyI went away from her--stole away almost--and didn't tell her
I should not come again; and at that last meeting I did not kiss
her oncebut let her miserably go. I have been a fool--a fool! I
wish the most abject confession of it before crowds of my
countrymen could in any way make amends to my darling for the
intense cruelty I have shown her!'

'YOUR darling!' said Stephenwith a sort of laugh. 'Any man can
say thatI suppose; any man can. I know thisshe was MY darling
before she was yours; and after too. If anybody has a right to
call her his ownit is I.'

'You talk like a man in the dark; which is what you are. Did she
ever do anything for you? Risk her namefor instancefor you?'

Yesshe did' said Stephen emphatically.

'Not entirely. Did she ever live for you--prove she could not
live without you--laugh and weep for you?'

'Yes.'

'Never! Did she ever risk her life for you--no! My darling did for
me.'

'Then it was in kindness only. When did she risk her life for
you?'

'To save mine on the cliff yonder. The poor child was with me


looking at the approach of the Puffin steamboatand I slipped
down. We both had a narrow escape. I wish we had died there!'

'Ahbut wait' Stephen pleaded with wet eyes. 'She went on that
cliff to see me arrive home: she had promised it. She told me she
would months before. And would she have gone there if she had not
cared for me at all?'

'You have an idea that Elfride died for youno doubt' said
Knightwith a mournful sarcasm too nerveless to support itself.

'Never mind. If we find that--that she died yoursI'll say no
more ever.'

'And if we find she died yoursI'll say no more.'

'Very well--so it shall be.'

The dark clouds into which the sun had sunk had begun to drop rain
in an increasing volume.

'Can we wait somewhere here till this shower is over?' said
Stephen desultorily.

'As you will. But it is not worth while. We'll hear the
particularsand return. Don't let people know who we are. I am
not much now.'

They had reached a point at which the road branched into two--just
outside the west villageone fork of the diverging routes passing
into the latter placethe other stretching on to East Endelstow.
Having come some of the distance by the footpaththey now found
that the hearse was only a little in advance of them.

'I fancy it has turned off to East Endelstow. Can you see?'

'I cannot. You must be mistaken.'

Knight and Stephen entered the village. A bar of fiery light lay
across the roadproceeding from the half-open door of a smithy
in which bellows were heard blowing and a hammer ringing. The
rain had increasedand they mechanically turned for shelter
towards the warm and cosy scene.

Close at their heels came another manwithout over-coat or
umbrellaand with a parcel under his arm.

'A wet evening' he said to the two friendsand passed by them.
They stood in the outer penthousebut the man went in to the
fire.

The smith ceased his blowingand began talking to the man who had
entered.

'I have walked all the way from Camelton' said the latter. 'Was
obliged to come to-nightyou know.'

He held the parcelwhich was a flat onetowards the firelight
to learn if the rain had penetrated it. Resting it edgewise on
the forgehe supported it perpendicularly with one handwiping
his face with the handkerchief he held in the other.

'I suppose you know what I've got here?' he observed to the smith.


'NoI don't' said the smithpausing again on his bellows.

'As the rain's not overI'll show you' said the bearer.

He laid the thin and broad packagewhich had acute angles in
different directionsflat upon the anviland the smith blew up
the fire to give him more light. Firstafter untying the
packagea sheet of brown paper was removed: this was laid flat.
Then he unfolded a piece of baize: this also he spread flat on the
paper. The third covering was a wrapper of tissue paperwhich
was spread out in its turn. The enclosure was revealedand he
held it up for the smith's inspection.


'Oh--I see!' said the smithkindling with a chastened interest
and drawing close. 'Poor young lady--ahterrible melancholy
thing--so soon too!'


Knight and Stephen turned their heads and looked.


'And what's that?' continued the smith.


'That's the coronet--beautifully finishedisn't it? Ahthat cost
some money!'


''Tis as fine a bit of metal work as ever I see--that 'tis.'


'It came from the same people as the coffinyou knowbut was not
ready soon enough to be sent round to the house in London
yesterday. I've got to fix it on this very night.'


The carefully-packed articles were a coffin-plate and coronet.


Knight and Stephen came forward. The undertaker's manon seeing
them look for the inscriptioncivilly turned it round towards
themand each readalmost at one momentby the ruddy light of
the coals:


E L F R I D E
Wife of Spenser Hugo Luxellian
Fifteenth Baron Luxellian:
Died February 1018--.


They read itand read itand read it again--Stephen and Knight--
as if animated by one soul. Then Stephen put his hand upon
Knight's armand they retired from the yellow glowfurther
furthertill the chill darkness enclosed them roundand the
quiet sky asserted its presence overhead as a dim grey sheet of
blank monotony.


'Where shall we go?' said Stephen.


'I don't know.'


A long silence ensued....'Elfride married!' said Stephen then in a
thin whisperas if he feared to let the assertion loose on the
world.


'False' whispered Knight.


'And dead. Denied us both. I hate "false"--I hate it!'


Knight made no answer.



Nothing was heard by them now save the slow measurement of time by
their beating pulsesthe soft touch of the dribbling rain upon
their clothesand the low purr of the blacksmith's bellows hard
by.

'Shall we follow Elfie any further?' Stephen said.

'No: let us leave her alone. She is beyond our loveand let her
be beyond our reproach. Since we don't know half the reasons that
made her do as she didStephenhow can we sayeven nowthat
she was not pure and true in heart?' Knight's voice had now become
mild and gentle as a child's. He went on: 'Can we call her
ambitious? No. Circumstance hasas usualoverpowered her
purposes--fragile and delicate as she--liable to be overthrown in
a moment by the coarse elements of accident. I know that's it-don't
you?'

'It may be--it must be. Let us go on.'

They began to bend their steps towards Castle Boterelwhither
they had sent their bags from Camelton. They wandered on in
silence for many minutes. Stephen then pausedand lightly put
his hand within Knight's arm.

'I wonder how she came to die' he said in a broken whisper.
'Shall we return and learn a little more?'

They turned back againand entering Endelstow a second timecame
to a door which was standing open. It was that of an inn called
the Welcome Homeand the house appeared to have been recently
repaired and entirely modernized. The name too was not that of
the same landlord as formerlybut Martin Cannister's.

Knight and Smith entered. The inn was quite silentand they
followed the passage till they reached the kitchenwhere a huge
fire was burningwhich roared up the chimneyand sent over the
floorceilingand newly-whitened walls a glare so intense as to
make the candle quite a secondary light. A woman in a white apron
and black gown was standing there alone behind a cleanly-scrubbed
deal table. Stephen firstand Knight afterwardsrecognized her
as Unitywho had been parlour-maid at the vicarage and young
lady's-maid at the Crags.

'Unity' said Stephen softly'don't you know me?'

She looked inquiringly a momentand her face cleared up.

'Mr. Smith--aythat it is!' she said. 'And that's Mr. Knight. I
beg you to sit down. Perhaps you know that since I saw you last I
have married Martin Cannister.'

'How long have you been married?'

'About five months. We were married the same day that my dear
Miss Elfie became Lady Luxellian.' Tears appeared in Unity's eyes
and filled themand fell down her cheekin spite of efforts to
the contrary.

The pain of the two men in resolutely controlling themselves when
thus exampled to admit relief of the same kind was distressing.
They both turned their backs and walked a few steps away.

Then Unity said'Will you go into the parlourgentlemen?'


'Let us stay here with her' Knight whisperedand turning said
'No; we will sit here. We want to rest and dry ourselves here for
a timeif you please.'

That evening the sorrowing friends sat with their hostess beside
the large fireKnight in the recess formed by the chimney breast
where he was in shade. And by showing a little confidence they
won hersand she told them what they had stayed to hear--the
latter history of poor Elfride.

'One day--after youMr. Knightleft us for the last time--she
was missed from the Cragsand her father went after herand
brought her home ill. Where she went toI never knew--but she
was very unwell for weeks afterwards. And she said to me that she
didn't care what became of herand she wished she could die.
When she was betterI said she would live to be married yetand
she said thenYes; I'll do anything for the benefit of my
family, so as to turn my useless life to some practical account.
Wellit began like this about Lord Luxellian courting her. The
first Lady Luxellian had diedand he was in great trouble because
the little girls were left motherless. After a while they used to
come and see her in their little black frocksfor they liked her
as well or better than their own mother---that's true. They used
to call her "little mamma." These children made her a shade
livelierbut she was not the girl she had been--I could see that-and
she grew thinner a good deal. Wellmy lord got to ask the
Swancourts oftener and oftener to dinner--nobody else of his
acquaintance--and at last the vicar's family were backwards and
forwards at all hours of the day. Wellpeople say that the
little girls asked their father to let Miss Elfride come and live
with themand that he said perhaps he would if they were good
children. Howeverthe time went onand one day I saidMiss
Elfride, you don't look so well as you used to; and though nobody
else seems to notice it I do.She laughed a littleand saidI
shall live to be married yet, as you told me.

'"Shall youmiss? I am glad to hear that I said.

'Whom do you think I am going to be married to?" she said again.

'"Mr. KnightI suppose said I.

'Oh!" she criedand turned off so whiteand afore I could get
to her she had sunk down like a heap of clothesand fainted away.
Wellthenshe came to herself after a timeand saidUnity,
now we'll go on with our conversation.

'"Better not to-daymiss I said.

'Yeswe will she said. Whom do you think I am going to be
married to?"

'"I don't know I said this time.

'Guess she said.

''Tisn't my lordis it?" says I.

'"Yes'tis says she, in a sick wild way.

'But he don't come courting much I said.

'Ah! you don't know she said, and told me 'twas going to be in


October. After that she freshened up a bit--whether 'twas with
the thought of getting away from home or not, I don't know. For,
perhaps, I may as well speak plainly, and tell you that her home
was no home to her now. Her father was bitter to her and harsh
upon her; and though Mrs. Swancourt was well enough in her way,
'twas a sort of cold politeness that was not worth much, and the
little thing had a worrying time of it altogether. About a month
before the wedding, she and my lord and the two children used to
ride about together upon horseback, and a very pretty sight they
were; and if you'll believe me, I never saw him once with her
unless the children were with her too--which made the courting so
strange-looking. Ay, and my lord is so handsome, you know, so
that at last I think she rather liked him; and I have seen her
smile and blush a bit at things he said. He wanted her the more
because the children did, for everybody could see that she would
be a most tender mother to them, and friend and playmate too. And
my lord is not only handsome, but a splendid courter, and up to
all the ways o't. So he made her the beautifullest presents; ah,
one I can mind--a lovely bracelet, with diamonds and emeralds.
Oh, how red her face came when she saw it! The old roses came back
to her cheeks for a minute or two then. I helped dress her the
day we both were married--it was the last service I did her, poor
child! When she was ready, I ran upstairs and slipped on my own
wedding gown, and away they went, and away went Martin and I; and
no sooner had my lord and my lady been married than the parson
married us. It was a very quiet pair of weddings--hardly anybody
knew it. Well, hope will hold its own in a young heart, if so be
it can; and my lady freshened up a bit, for my lord was SO
handsome and kind.'

'How came she to die--and away from home?' murmured Knight.

'Don't you see, sir, she fell off again afore they'd been married
long, and my lord took her abroad for change of scene. They were
coming home, and had got as far as London, when she was taken very
ill and couldn't be moved, and there she died.'

'Was he very fond of her?'

'What, my lord? Oh, he was!'

'VERY fond of her?'

'VERY, beyond everything. Not suddenly, but by slow degrees.
'Twas her nature to win people more when they knew her well. He'd
have died for her, I believe. Poor my lord, he's heart-broken
now!'

'The funeral is to-morrow?'

'Yes; my husband is now at the vault with the masons, opening the
steps and cleaning down the walls.'

The next day two men walked up the familiar valley from Castle
Boterel to East Endelstow Church. And when the funeral was over,
and every one had left the lawn-like churchyard, the pair went
softly down the steps of the Luxellian vault, and under the lowgroined
arches they had beheld once before, lit up then as now.
In the new niche of the crypt lay a rather new coffin, which had
lost some of its lustre, and a newer coffin still, bright and
untarnished in the slightest degree.

Beside the latter was the dark form of a man, kneeling on the damp


floor, his body flung across the coffin, his hands clasped, and
his whole frame seemingly given up in utter abandonment to grief.
He was still young--younger, perhaps, than Knight--and even now
showed how graceful was his figure and symmetrical his build. He
murmured a prayer half aloud, and was quite unconscious that two
others were standing within a few yards of him.

Knight and Stephen had advanced to where they once stood beside
Elfride on the day all three had met there, before she had herself
gone down into silence like her ancestors, and shut her bright
blue eyes for ever. Not until then did they see the kneeling
figure in the dim light. Knight instantly recognized the mourner
as Lord Luxellian, the bereaved husband of Elfride.

They felt themselves to be intruders. Knight pressed Stephen
back, and they silently withdrew as they had entered.

'Come away,' he said, in a broken voice. 'We have no right to be
there. Another stands before us--nearer to her than we!'

And side by side they both retraced their steps down the grey
still valley to Castle Boterel.