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gated to other shoulders. More even than her words, her looks, everything that she did, showed that she depended upon him. If he stayed away even a few additional hours she resented it as if she had an unchallenged right to his time and services. For all that, she would now and then carry out some scheme which they had planned together, with a sort of sudden imperiousness quite as though he had never had any share or lot in it. He wondered a little why she did so. Was it to show her own independence? Was it, could it be upon some darkly feminine theory of compensation-paying back as it were upon his unoffending shoulders some of those weary by-gone hours of self-effacement? or was it-perhaps that after all was the explanation that she simply forgot him when he was out of sight, and remembered him only when anything called for his services, as we remember a stick or umbrella only when we happen to want a support, or the weather threatens to be showery?
combe, dine there if he was asked, which times wondered whether she quite realwas 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 dropping curtain of Devonshire rain, which seems always to be more pervasive there than in any other corner of England. He was extremely, quite exceptionally happy, happier probably than he had ever been before. He hardly thought of the future, and but little even of the past, the present seemed to have grown large enough, and he rested in it contentedly. That sense of Algernon Cathers's ownership, which at first had troubled him, wore off after a while, as the impress of even the best and best-loved owner inevitably must and does. Day by day, too, it became more difficult, not only for him but for all, to resist a certain sense of cheer, that sober cheer which comes often with the lengthening nights, and is never more felt than when the same set of people meet evening after evening round the same hearth, cut off safely from intrusions, with the oak logs reddening to powder, with an ever-running accompaniment of children's babbling talk and laughter, as irrepressible and as contagious as the little sportive jets of flame, which will leap and dance and utter quick little interjectionary notes, no matter how thickly the shadows may be lying elsewhere.
It seemed to John Lawrence that Eleanor Cathers's own life was trying hard to piece itself together again. Lighter touches broke out here and there over the sombreness of her moods, and though they passed away others arose in their turn. It took amongst other symptoms the form of a little return to her earliest tone with himself. She would fall into half-smiling, half-serious arguments, sometimes holding her own side with a spark of the old imperiousness, bearing him down and asserting her opinion, not by argument, but sheer right of acknowledged queenship. It seemed to him-and he realized it with an odd mixture of pain and pleasure that with him she was different somehow from what she was with others, less considerate, more imperious, sometimes even a trifle capricious. Grown into the most patient, most sclf-effacing of women, she reverted a little here. Her old self broke out in a new place, showing a little wilful ness, a little capriciousness, nay, now and then a streak of downright honest feminine unreasonableness. It showed in other matters beside argument. She wanted his help, and depended upon it completely, so completely, that he some
These, however, were trifles, and for the most part the measure of his content was full-pressed together, and running over. In a more social neighborhood, or one in which society the explorer had attained to more rigorous methods of observation, so close an attendance, even upon the part of the oldest of friends, could hardly have failed to awaken comment. Whatever other drawbacks the neighborhood of Redcombe might have had, in this respect it was above reproach. Lady Mordaunt, when by chance they met in her rooms, used to look from one to the other with a momentary scrutiny, kindly but whimsical. She never said anything on the subject, even when John Lawrence chanced to be tête-à-tête with her, so that he naturally concluded that she suspected nothing on either side beyond a friendship, which had certainly the sanction of the hoariest antiquity for its encouragement.
So the winter passed, and the spring began to make efforts towards asserting itself, and there were small lambs in the Redcombe pastures, and young crows on the tops of the big lime-trees. Jan used to come in every day, her eyes wide with tales of extraordinary discoveries she had been making in the lawn or the garden. To John Lawrence the lengthening days chiefly suggested the fact that he must shortly be going back to India-by the beginning of May, barely now six weeks
He hinted it from time to time to Lady Eleanor, but she always met it by an imperious rejoinder. Go? How could he go? It was utterly out of the question! He mustn't even think of such a thing! What was to be done about this, that, and the other, if he went? how were any of them to get on without him? Above all, what was Mrs. Cathers to do?
He used to smile and waive the question, willingly enough, letting the occasion pass, and turning to something else. The time, however, was passing on and on until now there was very little left.
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, gobit approached. bies and blennies shot to and fro, and ghostly prawns peeped at them from under the overhanging ulva. The children were in tearing spirits, excited as a pair of young kittiwakes under the touch of spring. Even Lady Eleanor's smile lost some of its seriousness as she pointed out old haunts of hers, little changed in all these years, or held a pair of wriggling little legs, while the rest of the body vanished under dripping boulders, where the most delightful things might have been seen if only the capabilities of the human anatomy had not been so cruelly circumscribed. 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 ef ening 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 his territory. He waited a little while for his visitors, then, finding that they did not arrive, put on his hat and sauntered down the path to meet them, pausing again at the boundary of his dominions, where a newly erected paling had been set up, and looking back
The sea, which washed it on three sides, gave from this point a certain dignity to the little triangular plot, a dignity, yet at the same time a decided absurdity. Poor little human appanage! type of the myriads of more or less ludicrous human appanages scattered over the face of the round world, and along the edge of the great deep, type in its turn of that hovering, unknown vastness, beyond the grasp of even the hungriest hands. Never before had it seemed to its owner so small; never before had his own disabilities shone in so ludicrous a light. He could have laughed aloud at the bare thought of the proprietor of that, aspiring even in his dreams to be anything to her. If in his dreams - and he had been visited by very strange dreams lately-such a hope had come, then his dreams, he told himself, must have been the dreams of a madman. He was still communing in this cheerful fashion when he caught sight of his guests coming towards him, so started up, and hastened forward to meet them.
They clambered down the cliffs, and, the tide being out, visited the rock pools, where the big sea-urchins lived each in an armchair which it had scooped for
Half an hour afterwards, while the children were regaling themselves upon lumps of plum-duff, and smearing their faces with blackberry jam, provided by the pensioner's wife, he and she sauntered leisurely to and fro along the little path which edged the cliff, sometimes talking, oftener silent—that silence which only love, or very, very close-sealed friendship, ever attains to.
He had been speaking of something that was to happen in the summer, after he had left, he said. Suddenly she turned to him with a rapid gesture,
"Colonel Lawrence John-tell me. Are you really going to leave us? Must you go?" she inquired urgently.
"I must," he answered; "I am bound to be back by the middle of June. Besides, why should I stay, there is nothing in the world to keep me," he added with a sudden bitterness, inspired he hardly himself knew by what.
She made no answer, and they walked silently on side by side. The long roll of the shingle underneath was dully audible, the great grey plain stretched dimly away into the far-off illuminated distance.
They had been silent some time, and he had turned to make some remark to her, when he discovered to his consternation that she was crying. The discovery gave him the keenest discomfort, so keen that he found it impossible to conceal it.
"Eleanor-dear Lady Eleanor - what is it? do tell me!" he cried in a tone of dismay. "Have I- can I have said any
thing that has distressed you? Please tell me."
"No, no, I hardly know what it is. It is only that I am tired; I have had a good many things the last few days to worry me. It is very foolish, I know, but I do feel so lonely sometimes, so dreadfully lonely no one can guess how lonely. No one seems to belong to me, or want me, -no one, that is, except my little children. I feel so extraordinarily solitary in the world. I seem to have lost all my strength too. I don't know where it has gone, I used to have a good deal." She had turned appealingly to him as she spoke, but now she paused, startled by something in his face that kindly, helpful face which she had turned to so often, which had offered so much, and had asked for so little in return. John, in fact, had changed, - people do change sometimes suddenly, once for all. An impulse had come over him, one that he could neither resist nor control. His sober, patient love had suddenly changed its character. Like lightning it had become imperious; it would have its rights, or it would die for them; it was masculine enough now, if never before, in its self-insistence. All those obstacles which he had himself so carefully heaped up against it his pride, her wealth, her recent widowhood, his whole realization of the fitness of things he struck them right and left as if they had been straws, tossed the whole useless barricade bodily upside down, and stepped unhesitatingly over the ruins.
it is impossible, and if it were not even, I
Don't!" she said brokenly-"don't you are more than you think. Only" she paused, then suddenly burst out"Oh, if I could, if I could! Don't you know, John, I would if I could? Dear John, I do care for you better than for any one except, of course, my children my Jan-my little Algy. But I can't do- that! I gave him all I had- once, and now there is nothing-nothing for you, nothing for myself, nothing for any one; nothing, nothing, nothing!" She burst into fresh sobs, and the tears rolled down her cheeks in a flood.
He stood still, feeling very helpless, rather bewildered, a little abashed. He had known it all along, he said to himself, and yet these things being never really known beforehand -he felt it as if it had been unforeseen. Even in the midst of his own discomfort an impulse of generosity rose to the front, and a great pity surged over him, as he bent his eyes on her, as she stood there in all the plenitude of her beauty, never perhaps before so beautiful. 66 Nothing!" she had said. Not for him alone, but never, never in all the years to come! That one poisoned draught of joy had made havoc of all the growing years. She had sent her arrow into the air, and it had missed its mark, had thrown her one stake, and the wretched coin had been swept away and lost in the dust forever. By no fault of hers, by a mere misjudgment, an error so natural that it was hardly an error at all, her life-nay, her whole memory of that life was nothing but one great aching wound, worse a thousand times than any simple void. Think ing of all this, of all he had seen, all he had guessed, all that she had endured, of which she still bore the traces, his heart 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 unrea whom she imagines that she knows sud-sonable, if also equally womanly astonishdenly reveals himself in a new light, stands before her a new figure, unfamiliar, possibly even unguessed at. She was trembling slightly, and put out her hand as if in search of support.
"That is not true. You know perfectly well that it is not true, Eleanor," he said quietly. "You know very well that, whatever you may be to others, to me you are first, more than firstyou are the only woman alive. I love you-always have, always must, wherever you are, wherever I am. It is no doing of mine; it is part of myself will be till I die."
There, fool that I am, I have startled you!" he said with sudden compunction. "God knows why I said it! I never meant to do so; it broke out hearing you talk about your loneliness. I know that
ment when the response to that appeal was more vehement than she had bargained for. He was past resenting that or anything else. Lady Mordaunt had twitted him with his humility, and he felt certainly desperately humble now. She was his all, you see. Other men put treasures into different caskets, but he had only this one. He was nothing, he told himself, to her, but 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 honestly."
Suddenly she looked up through her tears with a little quick, imperious gesture, one which he had grown accustomed to of late.
She threw out her hands impetuously. "How can I tell? I do-love you, the 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 go. 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 ! Don't ask me!" she cried passionately.
He stared at her silently. It was one of those impulses which have set men talking from the beginning of time about the unaccountableness of the feminine mind. Why on earth should she wish him to remain, seeing that he was no more to her than he was, that she plainly never wished him to be anything more? What he failed to understand, what she did not perhaps fully understand herself, was that if she shrank from marrying him, she shrank still more from losing him; that the thought of her life with him gone out of it was as the thought of a life without a centre, a boat without a rudder, a thing maimed and incomplete. He did not understand it, and his anger a difficult fount for her to touch was stirred. His bristles began to rise. "It would be utterly impossible, of course," he said curtly. "You evidently don't in the least understand. How the - how on earth could I remain? It is ridiculous even to suppose such a thing." The tears sprang again to her eyes. "You are very unkind. You say that only to pain me, to make me feel that have acted badly, and all because cause other things are impossible they are quite, quite impossible." Suddenly by dint perhaps of her insistence -a hope began to rise in his breast, a very small hope, seen far off, and vaguely as if through some disturbing medium. It was like some creature of the deep, which rises to the surface when every ripple is laid. For a moment he seemed to catch the faint pulsations of its coming, to perceive it gleaming away deep down below the surface.
"Will it always be impossible, Eleanor?" he said tenderly, his face looking leaner and browner than usual, but all the patient love of his whole life shining clear and steady in his honest eyes. "Don't keep me in suspense, dear, tell me. I can
"Very well," he answered quietly. He stood still, looking at her. She was white, he saw, to the lips, her eyes, too, had a scared look, as if she saw something strange and terrible. What did she see? he wondered. What gleams from the past were throwing their sinister light along the footway?
Listen," he said after a moment. "Put all this out of your head; put out of your head that I have spoken, put every. thing away that disturbs you. When I come back as I shall come back, sooner perhaps than you look for then I will ask you again. If you can give me another answer, well and good, if not well, I suppose I must learn to bear it. Only get well, get calm, be as happy as ever you can, that is what you have got to do.”
He turned of his own accord, and they walked back together to the cottage.
The sea had changed its note and be come noiser. There was a hollow reverberation like the preludings of a coming storm, and all the little sea-pools were crossed with angry wrinkles. Words mad, strong, passionate, adoring - kept leaping to John Lawrence's lips, overwhelming him almost with their insistence, but he drove them resolutely back. She should not be tormented, he said to himself, she should be left in peace. Her life should have time to settle itself, till the sensitive tendrils had anchored again after the storm, till time the merciful had given back to her something of the old tranquil. lity. If by pressing her now he could as for a moment it had seemed have overcome her reluctance, still he would have abstained. If by tormenting her he could have won her, even so he swore to himself he would not torment her. The perfect hero, we all agree and admit, is the perfect monster, yet at this moment, if never before or again in his history,
Have a little bit, muddie," she said, stretching it down over the ledge towards them. "Just a wheshy, wheshy bit," she continued insinuatingly. "It is so nice, and hard, and stodgy, all over little leathery lumps like vezy old plum-pudding."
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 believe 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 all 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 calling, did they not hear him? He was in the next room, or he was shooting in the wood, or he had just come in from riding, and she must go down and see that the door was open, as he would certainly take a chill if he were not let in at once. Poor thing, it was she, in spite of all care, that took the chill, Lady Mordaunt went on to say. say. One night in early spring, when snow was on the ground, the nurse, who had a bed in the room, was asleep. Eleanor, who slept in the next room, and who generally awoke at the slightest movement, was asleep also. No one heard or knew that the poor creature had left her bed, run down-stairs, and managed to get the front door open, until a sensation of cold stealing through the house awoke Eleanor, who sprang up and hastened into the next room, where to her horror she found the bed empty.
"That doesn't sound tempting! You are not very kind to Colonel Lawrence's good things, Jan," her mother said, with rather a faltering laugh.
"But it is good! weally good," she announced, turning to the proprietor of the depreciated dainty with an air of conviction; "I like it. And I am coming back vezy soon to see if the little prickly man has got into his hole. Algy is too young; I shall come alone all by my own self next time."
"Shall you forget me, Jan, when I have gone?" he enquired, rather irrelevantly to the prickly man.
Jan drew herself up. "I never forget; do I, muddie? I thudn't forget you not if you was away for yearths and yearths and yearths; not if you never came back never no more!"
"Let us hope it may not be quite so long as all that," he answered with a laugh.
Ten days afterwards he went, and they remained behind under the dappled skies, and beside the river, running thick and turbid to its goal. He did not hear very often from Lady Eleanor during his absence, and her letters, when they did come, seemed to breathe a certain constraint. Lady Mordaunt's were much fuller, and it was from her that he received the account of that tragedy which was the most signal event of the year following his departure. Mrs. Cathers, she told him, had for some time been getting worse, her appetite declining, her strength failing. One day, as she was sitting with her daughterin-law and a nurse in an up-stairs room, she all at once sprang from her chair, ran over to a window and opened it. They followed, and urged her to close it again, the day being bleak and raw, but she took no notice. Hark! she said, Algernon was calling. Did they not hear him? he was
Arousing the nurse, both hurried downstairs, and there in her nightgown, exposed to the full night draught, they found Mrs. Cathers, crouched upon the doorstep, waiting patiently for her son, whom she no doubt believed to be somewhere not far off. They got her back to bed, Lady Mordaunt added, applied hot fomentations, and sent off post-haste for the doctor. But the hour's chill had done its work. Next morning she was in high fever, talking wildly of Algernon, her little Algernon, her baby, her darling boy. Why did they not bring him to her? did they want to kill her child, her precious treasure? After about a week the fever left her, but she began steadily to sink, and nothing that the doctors could contrive would restore her strength, and within three weeks she had followed Algernon Cathers, and been laid beside him in the same grave.
Her granddaughter, Lady Mordaunt went on to inform him, had taken the poor thing's death dreadfully to heart, and had chosen to imagine that it was in some degree her fault, the effect of her having slept too soundly that night, or of some want of proper precaution. It was one of Eleanor's failings that she was certainly morbid. The troubles of her married life had told in that direction. She could not