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combe, dine there if he was asked, which times wondered whether she quite real. was not invariably the case, and walk ized how fast a time was coming when that cheerfully home along the lanes, under pleasant burden must perforce be relethe muffled starlight, or through that gated to other shoulders. More even than dropping curtain of Devonshire rain, her words, her looks, everything that she which seems always to be more pervasive did, showed that she depended upon him. there than in any other corner of England. If he stayed away even a few additional
He was extremely, quite exceptionally hours she resented it as if she had an unhappy, happier probably than he had ever challenged right to his time and services. been before. He hardly thought of the For all that, she would now and then carry future, and but little even of the past, the out some scheme which they had planned present seemed to have grown large together, with a sort of sudden imperious. enough, and he rested in it contentedly. ness quite as though he had never had That sense of Algernon Cathers's owner. any share or lot in it. He wondered a ship, which at first had troubled him, wore little why she did so. Was it to show her off after a while, as the impress of even own independence? Was it, could it be the best and best-loved owner inevitably upon some darkly feminine theory of commust and does. Day by day, too, it be- pensation - paying back as it were upon came more difficult, not only for him but his unoffending shoulders some of those for all, to resist a certain sense of cheer, weary by-gone hours of self-effacement? that sober cheer which comes often with or was it - perhaps that after all was the the lengthening nights, and is never more explanation that she simply forgot him felt than when the same set of people when he was out of sight, and rememmeet evening after evening round the bered him only when anything called for same hearth, cut off safely from intrusions, his services, as we remember a stick or with the oak logs reddening to powder, umbrella only when we happen to want with an ever-running accompaniment of a support, or the weather threatens to be children's babbling talk and laughter, as showery? irrepressible and as contagious as the These, however, were trifles, and for the little sportive jets of fame, which will most part the measure of his content was leap and dance and utter quick little inter- full - pressed together, and running over. jectionary notes, no matter how thickly In a more social neighborhood, or one in the shadows may be lying elsewhere. which society the explorer had attained to
It seemed to John Lawrence that Elea- more rigorous methods of observation, so nor Cathers's own life was trying hard to close an attendance, even upon the part of piece itself together again. Lighter the oldest of friends, could hardly have touches broke out here and there over the failed to awaken comment. Whatever sombreness of her moods, and though they other drawbacks the neighborhood of Redpassed away others arose in their turn. combe might have had, in this respect it It took amongst other symptoms the form was above reproach. Lady Mordaunt, of a little return to her earliest tone with when by chance they met in her rooms, himself. She would fall into half-smiling, used to look from one to the other with a half-serious arguments, sometimes holding momentary scrutiny, kindly but whimsical. her own side with a spark of the old im- She never said anything on the subject, periousness, bearing him down and assert- even when John Lawrence chanced to be ing her opinion, not by argument, but tête-à-tête with her, so that he naturally sheer right of acknowledged queenship. concluded that she suspected nothing on It seemed to him and he realized it with either side beyond a friendship, which an odd inixture of pain and pleasure - had certainly the sanction of the hoariest that with him she was different somehow antiquity for its encouragement. from what she was with others, less con- So the winter passed, and the spring siderate, more imperious, sometimes even began to make efforts towards asserting a trifle capricious. Grown into the most itself, and there were small lambs in the patient, most sclf-effacing of women, she Redcombe pastures, and young crows on reverted a little here. Her old self broke the tops of the big lime-trees. Jan used out in a new place, showing a little wilful. to come in every day, her eyes wide with ness, a little capriciousness, nay, now and tales of extraordinary discoveries she had then a streak of downright honest femi- been inaking in the lawn or the garden. nine unreasonableness. It showed in To John Lawrence the lengthening days other matters beside argument. She chiefly suggested the fact that he must wanted his help, and depended upon it shortly be going back to India — by the completely, so completely, that he some- I beginning of May, barely now six weeks off – a necessity which pressed upon him | itself in the rock; where snaky anemones with a weight growing heavier the nearer reared green and red tipped arms, gob, it approached.
bies and blennies shot to and fro, and He hinted it from time to time to Lady ghostly prawns peeped at them from unEleanor, but she always met it by an im- der the overhanging ulva. The children perious rejoinder. Go? How could he were in tearing spirits, excited as a pair go ? It was utterly out of the question ! of young kittiwakes under the touch of He mustn't even think of such a thing ! spring. Even Lady Eleanor's smile lost What was to be done about this, that, and some of its seriousness as she pointed the other, if he went? how were any of out old haunts of hers, little changed in them to get on without him? Above all, all these years, or held a pair of wriggling what was Mrs. Cathers to do?
little legs, while the rest of the body vanHe used to smile and waive the ques- ished under dripping boulders, where the tion, willingly enough, letting the occasion most delightful things might have been pass, and turning to something else. The seen if only the capabilities of the human time, however, was passing on and on un-anatomy had not been so cruelly circumtil now there was very little left.
scribed. It seemed to John Lawrence that A couple of weeks before the inevitable there was a spirit too within her telling end he invited her and the children to her to be young again, peeping eager eyes, spend an afternoon at Colts Head, to drink and breathing quick breaths of longing. tea and hunt for sea-beasts in the rock The stone still lay upon the ground, but pools. It was a warm day for the time of the strong succulent growths and little year, straggling glints of sunshine bright wiry grasses were making prodigious efening the wet seaweeds and tufts of yel. forts to thrust it aside, and sooner or later low goatsbeard — the two best bits of they were bound to succeed. coloring just then upon bis territory. He Half an hour afterwards, while the chilwaited a little while for his visitors, then, dren were regaling themselves upon lumps finding that they did not arrive, put on his of plum-duff, and sinearing their faces bat and sauntered down the path to meet with blackberry jam, provided by the pen. them, pausing again at the boundary of sioner's wife, he and she sauntered leihis dominions, where a newly erected surely to and fro along the little path paling had been set up, and looking back which edged the cliff, sometimes talking, across it.
oftener silent — that silence which only The sea, which washed it on three sides, love, or very, very close-sealed friendship, gave from this point a certain dignity to ever attains to. the little triangular plot, a dignity, yet at He had been speaking of something the same time a decided absurdity. Poor that was to happen in the summer, after little human appanage ! type of the myri- he had left, he said. Suddenly she turned ads of more or less ludicrous human ap- to him with a rapid gesture, panages scattered over the face of the “ Colonel Lawrence – John — tell me. round world, and along the edge of the Are you really going to leave us ? Must great deep, type in its turn of that hover- you go?" she inquired urgently. ing, unknown vastness, beyond the grasp " I must,” he answered; “ I am bound of even the hungriest hands. Never be to be back by the middle of June. Before had it seemed to its owner so small; sides, why should I stay, there is nothing never before had his own disabilities shone in the world to keep me,” he added with in so ludicrous a light. He could have a sudden bitterness, inspired he hardly laughed aloud at the bare thought of the himself knew by what. proprietor of that, aspiring even in his She made no answer, and they walked dreams to be anything to her. If in his silently on side by side. The long roll of dreams - and he had been visited by very the shingle underneath was dully audible, strange dreams lately — such a hope had the great grey plain stretched dimly away come, then his dreams, he told himself, into the far-off illuminated distance. must bave been the dreams of a madınan. They had been silent some time, and
He was still communing in this cheer- he had turned to make some remark to ful fashion when he caught sight of his her, when he discovered to his consternaguests coming towards him, so started up, tion that she was crying. The discovery and hastened forward to meet them. gave him the keenest discomfort, so keen
They clambered down the cliffs, and, that he found it impossible to conceal it. the tide being out, visited the rock pools, “Eleanor — dear Lady Eleanor what where the big sea-urchins lived each in is it? do tell me!” he cried in a tone of an armchair which it had scooped for I dismay. “Have I - can I have said any
thing that has distressed you? Please it is impossible, and if it were not even, I tell me.”
know that I am nothing to you." “No, no, I hardly know what it is. It Ι
She stretched out her hands appeal. is only that I am tired; I have had a good ingly, many things the last few days to worry *Don't !” she said brokenly—“don't It is very foolish, I know, but I do
- you are more than
think. Only' feel so lonely sometimes, so dreadfully she paused, then suddenly burst outlonely- no one can guess how lonely. “Oh, if I could, if I could! Don't you No one seems to belong to me, or want know, John, I would if I could ? Dear me, - no one, that is, except my little John, I do care for you - better than for children. I feel so extraordinarily soli- any one except, of course, my children tary in the world. I seem to have lost all -my Jan — my little Algy. But I can't my strength too. I don't know where it do that ! I gave him all I had - once, has gone, I used to have a good deal.” and now there is nothing - nothing for
She had turned appealingly to him as you, nothing for myself, nothing for any she spoke, but now she paused, startled one; nothing, nothing, nothing!” She by something in his face - that kindly, burst into fresh sobs, and the tears rolled helpful face which she had turned to so down her cheeks in a flood. often, which had offered so much, and He stood still, feeling very helpless, had asked for so little in return. John, rather bewildered, a little abashed. He in fact, had changed, — people do change had known it all along, he said to himself, sometimes suddenly, once for all. An and yet — these things being never really impulse had come over him, one that he known beforehand — he felt it as if it had could neither resist nor control. His soo been unforeseen. Even in the midst of ber, patient love bad suddenly changed his own discomfort an impulse of gener. its character. Like lightning it had be. osity rose to the front, and a great pity come imperious; it would have its rights, surged over him, as be bent his eyes on her, or it would die for them; it was mascu- as she stood there in all the plenitude of line enough now, if never before, in its her beauty, never perhaps before so beau. self-insistence. All those obstacles which tiful. “ Nothing!” she had said. Not he had himself so carefully heaped up for him alone, but never, never in all the against it- his pride, her wealth, her re years to come! That one poisoned draught cent widowhood, his whole realization of of joy had made havoc of all the growing the fitness of things he struck them years. She had sent her arrow into the right and left as if they had been straws, air, and it had missed its mark, had thrown tossed the whole useless barricade bodily her one stake, and the wretched coin had upside down, and stepped unhesitatingly been swept away and lost in the dust forover the ruins.
ever. By no fault of hers, by a mere mis“ That is not true. You know perfectly judgment, an error so natural that it was well that it is not true, Eleanor,” he said hardly an error at all, her life - nay, her quietly. “You know very well that, what. whole memory of that life - was nothing ever you may be to others, to me you are but one great aching wound, worse a thoufirst, - more than first - you are the only sand times than any simple void. Think. woman alive. I love you — always have, ing of all this, of all he had seen, all he always must, wherever you are, wherever had guessed, all that she had endured, of
It is no doing of mine; it is part of which she still bore the traces, his heart myself — will be till I die.'
melted over her with a great tenderness. He stopped. She was looking at him He did not even resent - what he might
he hardly knew how-startled, almost fairly have resented the woman's unaghast, as a woman does look when a man reasonable appeal, and the equally unreawhom she imagines that she knows sud- sonable, if also equally womanly astonishdenly reveals himself in a new light, ment when the response to that appeal was stands before her a new figure, unfamiliar, more vehement than she had bargained for. possibly even unguessed at. She was He was past resenting that or anything trembling slightly, and put out her hand else, Lady Mordaunt had twitted him as if in search of support.
with his humility, and he felt certainly des. “ There, fool that I am, I have startled perately humble now. She was his all, you you !” he said with sudden compunction. see. Other men put treasures into differ. “God knows why. I said it! I never ent caskets, but he had only this one. He meant to do so; it broke out hearing you was nothing, he told himself, to ber, but talk about your loneliness. I know that I that could not affect the position. He
had given what he had given, and it was bear it. Why should I not? I have past his own power to withdraw the gift never had any hope, so that there is nothagain.
ing new in that. Only tell me, tell me Suddenly she looked up through her bonestly." tears with a little quick, imperious gesture, She threw out her hands impetuously. one which he had grown accustomed to of “How can I tell? I do -- love you, the late.
word is not a bit too strong, but when I “ But that has nothing to say to your think of marriage, when I think of all going back to India !” she exclaimed en- those old mad, foolish, wicked feelings ergetically. “ Please don't
I am sure for those sort of wild, reckless feelings you need not if you do not choose. There are wicked – it fills me with a sort of must be plenty of others there without horror! When you tell me you love me, you, and we want you so badly. I, and then it all comes back, and it makes me Mrs. Cathers, and the children. Promise - it makes me "- she paused, grew very that you will not go, at any rate for a long, pale, and a look almost of terror came into long time?"
her face. “I cannot. Simply I cannot ! He stared at her silently. It was one Don't ask me !" she cried passionately. of those impulses which have set men " Very well,” he answered quietly. He talking from the beginning of time about stood still, looking at her. She was white, the unaccountableness of the feminine he saw, to the lips, her eyes, too, had a mind. Why on earth should she wish scared look, as if she saw something him to remain, seeing that he was no more strange and terrible. What did she see to her than he was, that she plainly never he wondered. What gleams from the wished him to be anything more?' What past were throwing their sinister light he failed to understand, what she did not along the footway? perhaps fully understand herself, was that “ Listen," he said after a moment. if she shrank from marrying him, she “ Put all this out of your head; put out of shrank still more from losing him; that your head that I have spoken, put every, the thought of her life with him gone out thing away that disturbs you. When I of it was as the thought of a life without come back- as I shall come back, sooner a centre, a boat without a rudder, a thing perhaps than you look for- - then I will maimed and incomplete. He did not un- ask you again. If you can give me anderstand it, and his anger - a difficult other answer, well and good, if not - well, fount for her to touch was stirred. His I suppose I must learn to bear it. Only bristles began to rise,
get well, get calm, be as happy as ever " It would be utterly impossible, of you can, that is what you have got to do." course," he said curtly. “ You evidently He turned of his own accord, and they don't in the least understand. How the walked back together to the cottage.
- how on earth could I remain ? It is The sea had changed its note and be. ridiculous even to suppose such a thing." come noiser. There was a hollow rever
The tears sprang again to her eyes. beration like the preludings of a coming
“You are very unkind. You say that storm, and all the little sea-pools were only to pain me, to make me feel that I crossed with angry wrinkles. Words have acted badly, and all because be mad, strong, passionate, adoring - kept cause other things are impossible - as leaping to John Lawrence's lips, over. they are quite, quite impossible.” -
whelming him almost with their insistence, Suddenly - by dint perhaps of her in- but he drove them resolutely back. She sistence -'a hope began to rise in his should not be tormented, he said to himbreast, a very small hope, seen far off, self, she should be left in peace. Her life and vaguely as if through some disturbing should have time to settle itself, till the medium. It was like some creature of sensitive tendrils had anchored again after the deep, which rises to the surface when the storm, till time the merciful had given every ripple is laid. For a moment he back to her something of the old tranquilseemed to catch the faint pulsations of lity. If by pressing her now he could its coming, to perceive it gleaming away as for a moment it had seemed — have deep down below the surface.
overcome her reluctance, still he would “Will it always be impossible, Elea- have abstained. If by tormenting her he por ? ” he said tenderly, his face looking could have won her, even so he swore to leaner and browner than usual, but all the himself he would not torment her. The patient love of his whole life shining clear perfect hero, we all agree and admit, is and steady in his honest eyes. " Don't the perfect monster, yet at this moment, keep me in suspense, dear, tell me. I can if never before or again in his history,
John Lawrence in his biographer's opinion | down-stairs. What did they mean by not was the perfect hero.
going to see what he wanted? Was he to The children, who had been going be kept waiting in his own house? With through no such exciting moments, were great difficulty they at last got her to bestill soberly eating plum-duff, and be. lieve that he was not there, and to sit smearing their faces with jam in the little down again, but after that nothing would parlor. Jan came to the window with a divest her mind of the idea. At ail hours large lump of the former delicacy in her of the day and night she would start up fingers.
and say that Algernon wanted her, he was "Have a little bit, muddie,” she said, calling, did they not hear him? He was stretching it down over the ledge towards in the next room, or he was shooting in them. “Just a wheshy, wheshy bit,” she the wood, or he had just come in from continued insinuatingly. “ It is so nice, riding, and she must go down and see that and hard, and stodgy, all over little the door was open, as he would certainly leathery lumps like vezy old plum-pud- take a chill if he were not let in at once. ding."
Poor thing, it was she, in spite of all care, “That doesn't sound tempting! You that took the chill, Lady Mordaunt went are not very kind to Colonel Lawrence's on to say. One night in early spring, good things, Jan,” her mother said, with when snow was on the ground, the nurse, rather a faltering laugh.
who had a bed in the room, was asleep. “ But it is good ! weally good," she an- Eleanor, who slept in the next room, and nounced, turning to the proprietor of the who generally awoke at the slightest depreciated dainty with an air of convic- movement, was asleep also.
No one tion; I like it. And I am coming back heard or knew that the poor creature bad vezy soon to see if the little prickly man left her bed, run down-stairs, and managed has got into his hole. Algy is too young; to get the front door open, until a sensation I shall come alone all by my own self next of cold stealing through the house awoke time.”
Eleanor, who sprang up and hastened into “Shall you forget me, Jan, when I have the next room, where to her horror she gone?” he enquired, rather irrelevantly found the bed empty. to the prickly man.
Arousing the nurse, both hurried downJan drew herself up. “I never forget; stairs, and there in her nightgown, exdo 1, muddie? I thudn't forget you not posed to the full night draught, they found if you was away for yearths and yearths Mrs. Cathers, crouched upon the doorand yearths ; not if you never came back step, waiting patiently for her son, whom never no more !"
she no doubt believed to be somewhere “Let us hope it may not be quite so not far off. They got her back to bed, long as all that,” he answered with a Lady Mordaunt added, applied hot fomen. laugh.
tations, and sent off post-haste for the
doctor. But the hour's chill had done its Ten days afterwards he went, and they work. Next morning she was in high remained behind under the dappled skies, fever, talking wildly of Algernon, her litile and beside the river, running thick and Algernon, her baby, her darling boy; turbid to its goal. He did not hear very Why did they not bring him to her? did often from Lady Eleanor during his ab- they want to kill her child, her precious sence, and her letters, when they did come, treasure ? After about a week the fever seemed to breathe a certain constraint. left her, but she began steadily to sink, Lady Mordaunt's were much fuller, and it and nothing that the doctors could conwas from her that he received the account trive would restore her strength, and with. of that tragedy which was the most signal in three weeks she had followed Algernon event of the year following his departure. Cathers, and been laid beside him in the
Mrs. Cathers, she told him, had for same grave. some time been getting worse, her appe- Her granddaughter, Lady Mordaunt tite declining, her strength failing. One went on to inform him, had taken the poor day, as she was sitting with her daughter. thing's death dreadfully to heart, and had in-law and a nurse in an up-stairs room, chosen to imagine that it was in some she all at once sprang from her chair, ran degree her fault, the effect of her having over to a window and opened it. They slept too soundly that night, or of some followed, and urged her to close it again, want of proper precaution. It was one of the day being bleak and raw, but she took Eleanor's failings that she was certainly no notice. Hark! she said, Algernon was morbid. The troubles of her married life calling. Did they not hear him ? he was I had told in that direction. She could not