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Two on a tower

TwoonaTower,byThomasHardy
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Title:TwoonaTower

Author:ThomasHardy

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Thisetextwaspreparedfromthe1923MacmillaneditionbyLesBowler.



TWOONATOWER
BY

THOMASHARDY.
‘Ah,myheart!hereyesandshe
Havetaughttheenewastrology.
Howe’erLove’snativehourswereset,
Whateverstarrysynodmet,
’Tisinthemercyofhereye,
IfpoorLoveshallliveordie.’
CRASHAW:Love’sHoroscope.
WITHAMAPOFWESSEX.
MACMILLANANDCO.,LIMITED
ST.MARTIN’SSTREET,LONDON
1923
COPYRIGHT
FirstpublishedbyMacmillanandCo.,Crown8vo,1902
Reprinted1907,1911,1916,1923
PocketEdition1906.Reprinted1909,1912,1915,19181919,1920,1922,1923
WessexEdition(8vo)1912
Reprinted1920
PRINTEDINGREATBRITAIN


PREFACE.
Thisslightly-builtromancewastheoutcomeofawishtosettheemotional
historyoftwoinfinitesimallivesagainstthestupendousbackgroundofthe
stellaruniverse,andtoimparttoreadersthesentimentthatofthesecontrasting
magnitudesthesmallermightbethegreatertothemasmen.
But,onthepublicationofthebookpeopleseemedtobelessstruckwiththese
highaimsoftheauthorthanwiththeirownopinion,first,thatthenovelwasan
‘improper’oneinitsmorals,and,secondly,thatitwasintendedtobeasatireon
theEstablishedChurchofthiscountry.Iwasmadetosufferinconsequence
fromseveraleminentpens.
That,however,wasthirteenyearsago,and,inrespectofthefirstopinion,I
venturetothinkthatthosewhocaretoreadthestorynowwillbequite
astonishedatthescrupulousproprietyobservedthereinontherelationsofthe
sexes;forthoughtheremaybefrivolous,andevengrotesquetoucheson
occasion,thereishardlyasinglecaressinthebookoutsidelegalmatrimony,or


whatwasintendedsotobe.
Asforthesecondopinion,itissufficienttodrawattention,asIdidatthetime,
tothefactthattheBishopiseveryinchagentleman,andthattheparishpriest
whofiguresinthenarrativeisoneofitsmostestimablecharacters.
However,thepagesmustspeakforthemselves.Somefewreaders,Itrust—to
takeaseriousview—willberemindedbythisimperfectstory,inamannernot
unprofitabletothegrowthofthesocialsympathies,ofthepathos,misery,longsuffering,anddivinetendernesswhichinreallifefrequentlyaccompanythe
passionofsuchawomanasVivietteforaloverseveralyearsherjunior.
Thesceneoftheactionwassuggestedbytworealspotsinthepartofthecountry
specified,eachofwhichhasacolumnstandinguponit.Certainsurrounding
peculiaritieshavebeenimportedintothenarrativefrombothsites.
T.H.


July1895.


TWOONATOWER.
I
Onanearlywinterafternoon,clearbutnotcold,whenthevegetableworldwasa
weirdmultitudeofskeletonsthroughwhoseribsthesunshonefreely,agleaming
landaucametoapauseonthecrestofahillinWessex.Thespotwaswherethe
oldMelchesterRoad,whichthecarriagehadhithertofollowed,wasjoinedbya
drivethatledroundintoaparkatnogreatdistanceoff.
Thefootmanalighted,andwenttotheoccupantofthecarriage,aladyabout
eight-ornine-and-twenty.Shewaslookingthroughtheopeningaffordedbya
field-gateattheundulatingstretchofcountrybeyond.Inpursuanceofsome
remarkfromhertheservantlookedinthesamedirection.
Thecentralfeatureofthemiddledistance,astheybeheldit,wasacircular
isolatedhill,ofnogreatelevation,whichplaceditselfinstrongchromatic
contrastwithawideacreageofsurroundingarablebybeingcoveredwithfirtrees.Thetreeswereallofonesizeandage,sothattheirtipsassumedthe
precisecurveofthehilltheygrewupon.Thispine-cladprotuberancewasyet
furthermarkedoutfromthegenerallandscapebyhavingonitssummitatower
intheformofaclassicalcolumn,which,thoughpartlyimmersedinthe
plantation,roseabovethetree-topstoaconsiderableheight.Uponthisobject
theeyesofladyandservantwerebent.
‘Thenthereisnoroadleadingnearit?’sheasked.
‘Nothingnearerthanwherewearenow,mylady.’
‘Thendrivehome,’shesaidafteramoment.Andthecarriagerolledonitsway.
Afewdayslater,thesamelady,inthesamecarriage,passedthatspotagain.Her
eyes,asbefore,turnedtothedistanttower.
‘Nobbs,’shesaidtothecoachman,‘couldyoufindyourwayhomethroughthat


field,soastogetneartheoutskirtsoftheplantationwherethecolumnis?’
Thecoachmanregardedthefield.‘Well,mylady,’heobserved,‘indryweather
wemightdriveintherebyinchingandpinching,andsogetacrossbyFive-andTwentyAcres,allbeingwell.Butthegroundissoheavyaftertheserainsthat
perhapsitwouldhardlybesafetotryitnow.’
‘Perhapsnot,’sheassentedindifferently.‘Rememberit,willyou,atadrier
time?’
Andagainthecarriagespedalongtheroad,thelady’seyesrestingonthe
segmentalhill,thebluetreesthatmuffledit,andthecolumnthatformedits
apex,tilltheywereoutofsight.
Alongtimeelapsedbeforethatladydroveoverthehillagain.ItwasFebruary;
thesoilwasnowunquestionablydry,theweatherandscenebeinginother
respectsmuchastheyhadbeenbefore.Thefamiliarshapeofthecolumn
seemedtoremindherthatatlastanopportunityforacloseinspectionhad
arrived.Givingherdirectionsshesawthegateopened,andafteralittle
manoeuvringthecarriageswayedslowlyintotheunevenfield.
Althoughthepillarstooduponthehereditaryestateofherhusbandtheladyhad
nevervisitedit,owingtoitsinsulationbythiswell-nighimpracticableground.
Thedrivetothebaseofthehillwastediousandjerky,andonreachingitshe
alighted,directingthatthecarriageshouldbedrivenbackemptyovertheclods,
towaitforheronthenearestedgeofthefield.Shethenascendedbeneaththe
treesonfoot.
Thecolumnnowshoweditselfasamuchmoreimportanterectionthanithad
appearedfromtheroad,orthepark,orthewindowsofWellandHouse,her
residencehardby,whenceshehadsurveyedithundredsoftimeswithoutever
feelingasufficientinterestinitsdetailstoinvestigatethem.Thecolumnhad
beenerectedinthelastcentury,asasubstantialmemorialofherhusband’sgreatgrandfather,arespectableofficerwhohadfallenintheAmericanwar,andthe
reasonofherlackofinterestwaspartlyowingtoherrelationswiththishusband,
ofwhichmoreanon.Itwaslittlebeyondthesheerdesireforsomethingtodo—
thechronicdesireofhercuriouslylonelylife—thathadbroughtherherenow.
Shewasinamoodtowelcomeanythingthatwouldinsomemeasuredispersean
almostkillingennui.Shewouldhavewelcomedevenamisfortune.Shehad
heardthatfromthesummitofthepillarfourcountiescouldbeseen.Whatever
pleasurableeffectwastobederivedfromlookingintofourcountiessheresolved


toenjoyto-day.
Thefir-shroudedhill-topwas(accordingtosomeantiquaries)anoldRoman
camp,—ifitwerenot(asothersinsisted)anoldBritishcastle,or(astherest
swore)anoldSaxonfieldofWitenagemote,—withremainsofanouterandan
innervallum,awindingpathleadingupbetweentheiroverlappingendsbyan
easyascent.Thespikeletsfromthetreesformedasoftcarpetovertheroute,and
occasionallyabrakeofbramblesbarredtheinterspacesofthetrunks.Soonshe
stoodimmediatelyatthefootofthecolumn.
IthadbeenbuiltintheTuscanorderofclassicarchitecture,andwasreallya
tower,beinghollowwithstepsinside.Thegloomandsolitudewhichprevailed
roundthebasewereremarkable.Thesoboftheenvironingtreeswashere
expressivelymanifest;andmovedbythelightbreezetheirthinstraightstems
rockedinseconds,likeinvertedpendulums;whilesomeboughsandtwigs
rubbedthepillar’ssides,oroccasionallyclickedincatchingeachother.Below
theleveloftheirsummitsthemasonrywaslichen-stainedandmildewed,forthe
sunneverpiercedthatmoaningcloudofblue-blackvegetation.Padsofmoss
grewinthejointsofthestone-work,andhereandthereshade-lovinginsectshad
engravedonthemortarpatternsofnohumanstyleormeaning;butcuriousand
suggestive.Abovethetreesthecasewasdifferent:thepillarroseintotheskya
brightandcheerfulthing,unimpeded,clean,andflushedwiththesunlight.
Thespotwasseldomvisitedbyapedestrian,exceptperhapsintheshooting
season.Therarityofhumanintrusionwasevidencedbythemazesofrabbitruns,thefeathersofshybirds,theexuviæofreptiles;asalsobythewell-worn
pathsofsquirrelsdownthesidesoftrunks,andthencehorizontallyaway.The
factoftheplantationbeinganislandinthemidstofanarableplainsufficiently
accountedforthislackofvisitors.Fewunaccustomedtosuchplacescanbe
awareoftheinsulatingeffectofploughedground,whennonecessitycompels
peopletotraverseit.Thisrotundhilloftreesandbrambles,standinginthe
centreofaploughedfieldofsomeninetyorahundredacres,wasprobably
visitedlessfrequentlythanarockwouldhavebeenvisitedinalakeofequal
extent.
Shewalkedroundthecolumntotheotherside,whereshefoundthedoor
throughwhichtheinteriorwasreached.Thepaint,ifithadeverhadany,wasall
washedfromthewood,anddownthedecayingsurfaceoftheboardsliquidrust
fromthenailsandhingeshadruninredstains.Overthedoorwasastonetablet,
bearing,apparently,lettersorwords;buttheinscription,whateveritwas,had


beensmoothedoverwithaplasteroflichen.
Herestoodthisaspiringpieceofmasonry,erectedasthemostconspicuousand
ineffaceablereminderofamanthatcouldbethoughtof;andyetthewhole
aspectofthememorialbetokenedforgetfulness.Probablynotadozenpeople
withinthedistrictknewthenameofthepersoncommemorated,whileperhaps
notasoulrememberedwhetherthecolumnwereholloworsolid,whetherwith
orwithoutatabletexplainingitsdateandpurpose.Sheherselfhadlivedwithin
amileofitforthelastfiveyears,andhadnevercomenearittillnow.
Shehesitatedtoascendalone,butfindingthatthedoorwasnotfastenedshe
pusheditopenwithherfoot,andentered.Ascrapofwriting-paperlaywithin,
andarrestedherattentionbyitsfreshness.Somehumanbeing,then,knewthe
spot,despitehersurmises.Butasthepaperhadnothingonitnocluewas
afforded;yetfeelingherselftheproprietorofthecolumnandofallaroundither
self-assertivenesswassufficienttoleadheron.Thestaircasewaslightedbyslits
inthewall,andtherewasnodifficultyinreachingthetop,thestepsbeingquite
unworn.Thetrap-doorleadingontotheroofwasopen,andonlookingthrough
itaninterestingspectaclemethereye.
Ayouthwassittingonastoolinthecentreoftheleadflatwhichformedthe
summitofthecolumn,hiseyebeingappliedtotheendofalargetelescopethat
stoodbeforehimonatripod.Thissortofpresencewasunexpected,andthelady
startedbackintotheshadeoftheopening.Theonlyeffectproduceduponhim
byherfootfallwasanimpatientwaveofthehand,whichhedidwithout
removinghiseyefromtheinstrument,asiftoforbidhertointerrupthim.
Pausingwhereshestoodtheladyexaminedtheaspectoftheindividualwhothus
madehimselfsocompletelyathomeonabuildingwhichshedeemedher
unquestionedproperty.Hewasayouthwhomightproperlyhavebeen
characterizedbyawordthejudiciouschroniclerwouldnotreadilyuseinsucha
connexion,preferringtoreserveitforraisingimagesoftheoppositesex.
Whetherbecausenodeepfelicityislikelytoarisefromthecondition,orfrom
anyotherreason,tosayinthesedaysthatayouthisbeautifulisnottoaward
himthatamountofcreditwhichtheexpressionwouldhavecarriedwithitifhe
hadlivedinthetimesoftheClassicalDictionary.Somuch,indeed,isthe
reversethecasethattheassertioncreatesanawkwardnessinsayinganything
moreabouthim.Thebeautifulyouthusuallyvergessoperilouslyonthe
incipientcoxcomb,whoisabouttobecometheLotharioorJuanamongthe
neighbouringmaidens,that,forthedueunderstandingofourpresentyoungman,


hissublimeinnocenceofanythoughtconcerninghisownmaterialaspect,orthat
ofothers,ismostferventlyasserted,andmustbeasferventlybelieved.
Suchashewas,theretheladsat.Thesunshonefullinhisface,andonhishead
heworeablackvelvetskull-cap,leavingtoviewbelowitacurlymarginofvery
lightshininghair,whichaccordedwellwiththeflushuponhischeek.
HehadsuchacomplexionasthatwithwhichRaffaelleenrichesthecountenance
oftheyouthfulsonofZacharias,—acomplexionwhich,thoughclear,isfar
enoughremovedfromvirgindelicacy,andsuggestsplentyofsunandwindasits
accompaniment.Hisfeaturesweresufficientlystraightinthecontourstocorrect
thebeholder’sfirstimpressionthattheheadwastheheadofagirl.Besidehim
stoodalittleoaktable,andinfrontwasthetelescope.
Hisvisitorhadampletimetomaketheseobservations;andshemayhavedone
soallthemorekeenlythroughbeingherselfofatotallyoppositetype.Herhair
wasblackasmidnight,hereyeshadnolessdeepashade,andhercomplexion
showedtherichnessdemandedasasupporttothesedecidedfeatures.Asshe
continuedtolookattheprettyfellowbeforeher,apparentlysofarabstractedinto
somespeculativeworldasscarcelytoknowarealone,awarmerwaveofher
warmtemperamentglowedvisiblythroughher,andaqualifiedobservermight
fromthishavehazardedaguessthattherewasRomancebloodinherveins.
Buteventheinterestattachingtotheyouthcouldnotarrestherattentionfor
ever,andashemadenofurthersignsofmovinghiseyefromtheinstrumentshe
brokethesilencewith—
‘Whatdoyousee?—somethinghappeningsomewhere?’
‘Yes,quiteacatastrophe!’heautomaticallymurmured,withoutmovinground.
‘What?’
‘Acycloneinthesun.’
Theladypaused,asiftoconsidertheweightofthateventinthescaleofterrene
life.
‘Willitmakeanydifferencetoushere?’sheasked.
Theyoungmanbythistimeseemedtobeawakenedtotheconsciousnessthat
somebodyunusualwastalkingtohim;heturned,andstarted.


‘Ibegyourpardon,’hesaid.‘Ithoughtitwasmyrelativecometolookafter
me!Sheoftencomesaboutthistime.’
Hecontinuedtolookatherandforgetthesun,justsuchareciprocityof
influenceasmighthavebeenexpectedbetweenadarkladyandaflaxen-haired
youthmakingitselfapparentinthefacesofeach.
‘Don’tletmeinterruptyourobservations,’saidshe.
‘Ah,no,’saidhe,againapplyinghiseye;whereuponhisfacelosttheanimation
whichherpresencehadlentit,andbecameimmutableasthatofabust,though
superaddingtotheserenityofreposethesensitivenessoflife.Theexpression
thatsettledonhimwasoneofawe.Notunaptlymightithavebeensaidthathe
wasworshippingthesun.Amongthevariousintensitiesofthatworshipwhich
haveprevailedsincethefirstintelligentbeingsawtheluminarydecline
westward,astheyoungmannowbehelditdoing,hiswasnottheweakest.He
wasengagedinwhatmaybecalledaverychastenedorschooledformofthat
firstandmostnaturalofadorations.
‘Butwouldyouliketoseeit?’herecommenced.‘Itisaneventthatiswitnessed
onlyaboutonceintwoorthreeyears,thoughitmayoccuroftenenough.’
Sheassented,andlookedthroughtheshadedeyepiece,andsawawhirlingmass,
inthecentreofwhichtheblazingglobeseemedtobelaidbaretoitscore.Itwas
apeepintoamaelstromoffire,takingplacewherenobodyhadeverbeenorever
wouldbe.
‘ItisthestrangestthingIeverbeheld,’shesaid.Thenhelookedagain;till
wonderingwhohercompanioncouldbesheasked,‘Areyouoftenhere?’
‘Everynightwhenitisnotcloudy,andoftenintheday.’
‘Ah,night,ofcourse.Theheavensmustbebeautifulfromthispoint.’
‘Theyarerathermorethanthat.’
‘Indeed!Haveyouentirelytakenpossessionofthiscolumn?’
‘Entirely.’
‘Butitismycolumn,’shesaid,withsmilingasperity.
‘ThenareyouLadyConstantine,wifeoftheabsentSirBlountConstantine?’


‘IamLadyConstantine.’
‘Ah,thenIagreethatitisyourladyship’s.Butwillyouallowmetorentitof
youforatime,LadyConstantine?’
‘Youhavetakenit,whetherIallowitornot.However,intheinterestsofscience
itisadvisablethatyoucontinueyourtenancy.Nobodyknowsyouarehere,I
suppose?’
‘Hardlyanybody.’
Hethentookherdownafewstepsintotheinterior,andshowedhersome
ingeniouscontrivancesforstowingarticlesaway.
‘Nobodyevercomesnearthecolumn,—or,asit’scalledhere,Rings-HillSpeer,’
hecontinued;‘andwhenIfirstcameupitnobodyhadbeenhereforthirtyor
fortyyears.Thestaircasewaschokedwithdaws’nestsandfeathers,butI
clearedthemout.’
‘Iunderstoodthecolumnwasalwayskeptlocked?’
‘Yes,ithasbeenso.Whenitwasbuilt,in1782,thekeywasgiventomygreatgrandfather,tokeepbyhimincasevisitorsshouldhappentowantit.Helived
justdowntherewhereIlivenow.’
Hedenotedbyanodalittledelllyingimmediatelybeyondtheploughedland
whichenvironedthem.
‘Hekeptitinhisbureau,andasthebureaudescendedtomygrandfather,my
mother,andmyself,thekeydescendedwithit.Afterthefirstthirtyorforty
years,nobodyeveraskedforit.OnedayIsawit,lyingrustyinitsniche,and,
findingthatitbelongedtothiscolumn,Itookitandcameup.Istayedheretillit
wasdark,andthestarscameout,andthatnightIresolvedtobeanastronomer.I
camebackherefromschoolseveralmonthsago,andImeantobeanastronomer
still.’
Heloweredhisvoice,andadded:
‘IaimatnothinglessthanthedignityandofficeofAstronomerRoyal,ifIlive.
PerhapsIshallnotlive.’
‘Idon’tseewhyyoushouldsupposethat,’saidshe.‘Howlongareyougoingto
makethisyourobservatory?’


‘Aboutayearlonger—tillIhaveobtainedapracticalfamiliaritywiththe
heavens.Ah,ifIonlyhadagoodequatorial!’
‘Whatisthat?’
‘Aproperinstrumentformypursuit.Buttimeisshort,andscienceisinfinite,—
howinfiniteonlythosewhostudyastronomyfullyrealize,—andperhapsIshall
bewornoutbeforeImakemymark.’
Sheseemedtobegreatlystruckbytheoddmixtureinhimofscientific
earnestnessandmelancholymistrustofallthingshuman.Perhapsitwasowing
tothenatureofhisstudies.
‘Youareoftenonthistoweraloneatnight?’shesaid.
‘Yes;atthistimeoftheyearparticularly,andwhilethereisnomoon.Iobserve
fromsevenoreighttillabouttwointhemorning,withaviewtomygreatwork
onvariablestars.Butwithsuchatelescopeasthis—well,Imustputupwithit!’
‘CanyouseeSaturn’sringandJupiter’smoons?’
Hesaiddrilythathecouldmanagetodothat,notwithoutsomecontemptforthe
stateofherknowledge.
‘Ihaveneverseenanyplanetorstarthroughatelescope.’
‘Ifyouwillcomethefirstclearnight,LadyConstantine,Iwillshowyouany
number.Imean,atyourexpresswish;nototherwise.’
‘Ishouldliketocome,andpossiblymayatsometime.Thesestarsthatvaryso
much—sometimeseveningstars,sometimesmorningstars,sometimesinthe
east,andsometimesinthewest—havealwaysinterestedme.’
‘Ah—nowthereisareasonforyournotcoming.Yourignoranceoftherealities
ofastronomyissosatisfactorythatIwillnotdisturbitexceptatyourserious
request.’
‘ButIwishtobeenlightened.’
‘Letmecautionyouagainstit.’
‘Isenlightenmentonthesubject,then,soterrible?’
‘Yes,indeed.’


Shelaughinglydeclaredthatnothingcouldhavesopiquedhercuriosityashis
statement,andturnedtodescend.Hehelpedherdownthestairsandthroughthe
briers.Hewouldhavegonefurtherandcrossedtheopencorn-landwithher,but
shepreferredtogoalone.Hethenretracedhiswaytothetopofthecolumn,but,
insteadoflookinglongeratthesun,watchedherdiminishingtowardsthedistant
fence,behindwhichwaitedthecarriage.Wheninthemidstofthefield,adark
spotonanareaofbrown,therecrossedherpathamovingfigure,whomitwasas
difficulttodistinguishfromtheearthhetrodasthecaterpillarfromitsleaf,by
reasonoftheexcellentmatchbetweenhisclothesandtheclods.Hewasoneof
adying-outgenerationwhoretainedtheprinciple,nearlyunlearntnow,thata
man’shabilimentsshouldbeinharmonywithhisenvironment.Lady
Constantineandthisfigurehaltedbesideeachotherforsomeminutes;thenthey
wentontheirseveralways.
ThebrownpersonwasalabouringmanknowntotheworldofWellandas
Haymoss(theencrustedformofthewordAmos,toadoptthephraseof
philologists).Thereasonofthehalthadbeensomeinquiriesaddressedtohim
byLadyConstantine.
‘Whoisthat—AmosFry,Ithink?’shehadasked.
‘Yesmylady,’saidHaymoss;‘ahomelybarleydriller,bornundertheeavesof
yourladyship’soutbuildings,inamannerofspeaking,—thoughyourladyship
wasneitherbornnor‘temptedatthattime.’
‘Wholivesintheoldhousebehindtheplantation?’
‘OldGammerMartin,mylady,andhergrandson.’
‘Hehasneitherfathernormother,then?’
‘Notasingleone,mylady.’
‘Wherewasheeducated?’
‘AtWarborne,—aplacewheretheydrawupyounggam’sters’brainslike
rhubarbunderaninepennypan,mylady,excusingmycommonway.Theyhit
somuchlarningintoenthat’acouldtalklikethedayofPentecost;whichisa
wonderfulthingforasimpleboy,andhismotheronlytheplainestciphering
womanintheworld.WarborneGrammarSchool—that’swhere’twas’awent
to.Hisfather,thereverentPa’sonSt.Cleeve,madeaterriblebrucklehitin’s
marrying,inthesightofthehigh.Hewerethecuratehere,mylady,foralength


o’time.’
‘Oh,curate,’saidLadyConstantine.‘ItwasbeforeIknewthevillage.’
‘Ay,longandmerryago!AndhemarriedFarmerMartin’sdaughter—Giles
Martin,alimberishman,whousedtogoratherbaduponhislags,ifyoucan
mind.Iknowedthemanwellenough;whoshouldknowenbetter!Themaid
wasapoorwindlingthing,and,thoughaplaywardpieceo’fleshwhenhe
marriedher,’asockedandsighed,andwentoutlikeasnoff!Yes,mylady.
Well,whenPa’sonSt.Cleevemarriedthishomespunwomanthetoppermostfolk
wouldn’tspeaktohiswife.Thenhedroppedacussortwo,andsaidhe’dno
longergethislivingbycuringtheirtwopennysoulso’suchd---nonsenseasthat
(excusingmycommonway),andhetooktofarmingstraightway,andthen’a
droppeddowndeadinanor’-westthunderstorm;itbeingsaid—hee-hee!—that
MasterGodwasintantrumswi’enforleavinghisservice,—hee-hee!Igivethe
storyasIheardit,mylady,butbedazedifIbelieveinsuchtrumperyaboutfolks
inthesky,noranythingelsethat’ssaidon’em,goodorbad.Well,Swithin,the
boy,wassenttothegrammarschool,asIsayfor;butwhatwithhavingtwo
stationsoflifeinhisbloodhe’sgoodfornothing,mylady.Hemopesabout—
sometimeshere,andsometimesthere;nobodytroublesabouten.’
LadyConstantinethankedherinformant,andproceededonward.Toher,asa
woman,themostcuriousfeatureintheafternoon’sincidentwasthatthislad,of
strikingbeauty,scientificattainments,andcultivatedbearing,shouldbelinked,
onthematernalside,withalocalagriculturalfamilythroughhisfather’s
matrimonialeccentricity.Amoreattractivefeatureinthecasewasthatthesame
youth,socapableofbeingruinedbyflattery,blandishment,pleasure,evengross
prosperity,shouldbeatpresentlivingoninaprimitiveEdenofunconsciousness,
withaimstowardswhoseaccomplishmentaCalibanshapewouldhavebeenas
effectiveashisown.

II
SwithinSt.Cleevelingeredonathispost,untilthemoresanguinebirdsofthe
plantation,alreadyrecoveringfromtheirmidwinteranxieties,pipedashort
eveninghymntothevanishingsun.
Thelandscapewasgentlyconcave;withtheexceptionoftowerandhillthere
werenopointsonwhichlateraysmightlinger;andhencethedish-shapedninety
acresoftilledlandassumedauniformhueofshadequitesuddenly.Theoneor


twostarsthatappearedwerequicklycloudedover,anditwassoonobviousthat
therewouldbenosweepingtheheavensthatnight.Aftertyingapieceof
tarpaulin,whichhadonceseenserviceonhismaternalgrandfather’sfarm,over
alltheapparatusaroundhim,hewentdownthestairsinthedark,andlockedthe
door.
Withthekeyinhispockethedescendedthroughtheunderwoodonthesideof
theslopeoppositetothattroddenbyLadyConstantine,andcrossedthefieldina
linemathematicallystraight,andinamannerthatleftnotraces,bykeepingin
thesamefurrowallthewayontiptoe.Inafewminuteshereachedalittledell,
whichoccurredquiteunexpectedlyontheothersideofthefield-fence,and
descendedtoavenerablethatchedhouse,whoseenormousroof,brokenupby
dormersasbigashaycocks,couldbeseeneveninthetwilight.Overthewhite
walls,builtofchalkinthelump,outlinesofcreepersformeddarkpatterns,asif
drawnincharcoal.
Insidethehousehismaternalgrandmotherwassittingbyawoodfire.Beforeit
stoodapipkin,inwhichsomethingwasevidentlykeptwarm.Aneight-legged
oaktableinthemiddleoftheroomwaslaidforameal.Thiswomanofeighty,
inalargemobcap,underwhichsheworealittlecaptokeeptheotherclean,
retainedfacultiesbutlittleblunted.Shewasgazingintotheflames,withher
handsuponherknees,quietlyre-enactinginherbraincertainofthelongchain
ofepisodes,pathetic,tragical,andhumorous,whichhadconstitutedtheparish
historyforthelastsixtyyears.OnSwithin’sentryshelookedupathimina
sidewaydirection.
‘Youshouldnothavewaitedforme,granny,’hesaid.
‘’Tisofnoaccount,mychild.I’vehadanapwhilesittinghere.Yes,I’vehada
nap,andwentstraightupintomyoldcountryagain,asusual.Theplacewasas
naturalaswhenIleftit,—e’enjustthreescoreyearsago!Allthefolksandmy
oldauntwerethere,aswhenIwasachild,—yetIsupposeifIwerereallytoset
outandgothere,hardlyasoulwouldbeleftalivetosaytome,doghowart!
ButtellHannahtostirherstumpsandservesupper—thoughI’dfaindoit
myself,thepooroldsoulisgettingsounhandy!’
Hannahrevealedherselftobemuchnimblerandseveralyearsyoungerthan
granny,thoughofthisthelatterseemedtobeoblivious.Whenthemealwas
nearlyoverMrs.Martinproducedthecontentsofthemysteriousvesselbythe
fire,sayingthatshehadcausedittobebroughtinfromthebackkitchen,


becauseHannahwashardlytobetrustedwithsuchthings,shewasbecomingso
childish.
‘Whatisit,then?’saidSwithin.‘Oh,oneofyourspecialpuddings.’Atsightof
it,however,headdedreproachfully,‘Now,granny!’
Insteadofbeinground,itwasinshapeanirregularboulderthathadbeen
exposedtotheweatherforcenturies—alittlescrapparedoffhere,andalittle
piecebrokenawaythere;thegeneralaimbeing,nevertheless,toavoid
destroyingthesymmetryofthepuddingwhiletakingasmuchaspossibleofits
substance.
‘Thefactis,’addedSwithin,‘thepuddingishalfgone!’
‘I’veonlyslicedoffthemerestparingonceortwice,totasteifitwaswelldone!’
pleadedgrannyMartin,withwoundedfeelings.‘IsaidtoHannahwhenshetook
itup,“Putitheretokeepitwarm,asthere’sabetterfirethanintheback
kitchen.”’
‘Well,Iamnotgoingtoeatanyofit!’saidSwithindecisively,asherosefrom
thetable,pushedawayhischair,andwentup-stairs;the‘otherstationoflifethat
wasinhisblood,’andwhichhadbeenbroughtoutbythegrammarschool,
probablystimulatinghim.
‘Ah,theworldisanungratefulplace!’TwasapityIdidn’ttakemypoorname
offthisearthlycalendarandcreepundergroundsixtylongyearsago,insteadof
leavingmyowncountytocomehere!’mournedoldMrs.Martin.‘ButItoldhis
motherhow’twouldbe—marryingsomanynotchesaboveher.Thechildwas
suretochawhigh,likehisfather!’
WhenSwithinhadbeenup-stairsaminuteortwohowever,healteredhismind,
andcomingdownagainateallthepudding,withtheaspectofaperson
undertakingadeedofgreatmagnanimity.Therelishwithwhichhedidso
restoredtheunisonthatknewnomoreseriousinterruptionsthansuchasthis.
‘Mr.Torkinghamhasbeenherethisafternoon,’saidhisgrandmother;‘andhe
wantsmetolethimmeetsomeofthechoirhereto-nightforpractice.Theywho
liveatthisendoftheparishwon’tgotohishousetotryoverthetunes,because
’tissofar,theysay,andso’tis,poormen.Sohe’sgoingtoseewhatcomingto
themwilldo.Heasksifyouwouldliketojoin.’
‘IwouldifIhadnotsomuchtodo.’


‘Butitiscloudyto-night.’
‘Yes;butIhavecalculationswithoutend,granny.Now,don’tyoutellhimI’m
inthehouse,willyou?andthenhe’llnotaskforme.’
‘Butifheshould,mustIthentellalie,Lordforgiveme?’
‘No,youcansayI’mup-stairs;hemustthinkwhathelikes.Notawordabout
theastronomytoanyofthem,whateveryoudo.Ishouldbecalledavisionary,
andallsorts.’
‘Sothoubeest,child.Whycan’tyedosomethingthat’sofuse?’
AtthesoundoffootstepsSwithinbeatahastyretreatup-stairs,wherehestrucka
light,andrevealedatablecoveredwithbooksandpapers,whileroundthewalls
hungstar-maps,andotherdiagramsillustrativeofcelestialphenomena.Ina
cornerstoodahugepasteboardtube,whichacloseinspectionwouldhaveshown
tobeintendedforatelescope.Swithinhungathickclothoverthewindow,in
additiontothecurtains,andsatdowntohispapers.Ontheceilingwasablack
stainofsmoke,andunderthisheplacedhislamp,evidencingthatthemidnight
oilwasconsumedonthatprecisespotveryoften.
Meanwhiletherehadenteredtotheroombelowapersonagewho,tojudgefrom
hervoiceandthequickpit-patofherfeet,wasamaidenyoungandblithe.Mrs.
MartinwelcomedherbythetitleofMissTabithaLark,andinquiredwhatwind
hadbroughtherthatway;towhichthevisitorrepliedthatshehadcomeforthe
singing.
‘Sityedown,then,’saidgranny.‘AnddoyoustillgototheHousetoreadtomy
lady?’
‘Yes,Igoandread,Mrs.Martin;butastogettingmyladytohearken,that’s
morethanateamofsixhorsescouldforcehertodo.’
Thegirlhadaremarkablysmartandfluentutterance,whichwasprobablya
cause,oraconsequence,ofhervocation.
‘’Tisthesamestory,then?’saidgrandmotherMartin.
‘Yes.Eatenoutwithlistlessness.She’sneithersicknorsorry,buthowdulland
drearysheis,onlyherselfcantell.WhenIgetthereinthemorning,theresheis
sittingupinbed,formyladydon’tcaretogetup;andthenshemakesmebring


thisbookandthatbook,tillthebedisheapedupwithimmensevolumesthathalf
buryher,makingherlook,assheleansuponherelbow,likethestoningof
Stephen.Sheyawns;thenshelookstowardsthetallglass;thenshelooksoutat
theweather,mooninghergreatblackeyes,andfixingthemontheskyasifthey
stuckthere,whilemytonguegoesflick-flackalong,ahundredandfiftywordsa
minute;thenshelooksattheclock;thensheasksmewhatI’vebeenreading.’
‘Ah,poorsoul!’saidgranny.‘Nodoubtshesaysinthemorning,“WouldGodit
wereevening,”andintheevening,“WouldGoditweremorning,”likethe
disobedientwomaninDeuteronomy.’
Swithin,intheroomoverhead,hadsuspendedhiscalculations,fortheduologue
interestedhim.Therenowcrunchedheavierstepsoutsidethedoor,andhis
grandmothercouldbeheardgreetingsundrylocalrepresentativesofthebassand
tenorvoice,wholentacheerfulandwell-knownpersonalitytothenames
SammyBlore,NatChapman,HezekiahBiles,andHaymossFry(thelatterbeing
onewithwhomthereaderhasalreadyadistantacquaintance);besidesthese
camesmallproducersoftreble,whohadnotyetdevelopedintosuchdistinctive
unitsofsocietyastorequireparticularizing.
‘Isthegoodmancome?’askedNatChapman.‘No,—Iseewebehereafore
him.Andhowisitwithagedwomento-night,Mrs.Martin?’
‘Tedioustraipsingenoughwiththisone,Nat.Sityedown.Well,littleFreddy,
youdon’twishinthemorningthat’twereevening,andateveningthat’twere
morningagain,doyou,Freddy,trustyeforit?’
‘Now,whomightwishsuchathingasthat,MrsMartin?—nobodyinthis
parish?’askedSammyBlorecuriously.
‘Myladyisalwayswishingit,’spokeupMissTabithaLark.
‘Oh,she!Nobodycanbeanswerableforthewishesofthatonnaturaltribeof
mankind.Notbutthatthewoman’sheart-stringsistriedinmanyaggravating
ways.’
‘Ah,poorwoman!’saidgranny.‘Thestateshefindsherselfin—neithermaid,
wife,norwidow,asyoumaysay—isnottheprimestformoflifeforkeepingin
goodspirits.HowlongisitsinceshehasheardfromSirBlount,Tabitha?’
‘Twoyearsandmore,’saidtheyoungwoman.‘HewentintoonesideofAfrica,
asitmightbe,threeSt.Martin’sdaysback.Icanmindit,because’twasmy


birthday.Andhemeanttocomeouttheotherside.Buthedidn’t.Hehasnever
comeoutatall.’
‘Foralltheworldlikelosingaratinabarley-mow,’saidHezekiah.‘He’slost,
thoughyouknowwhereheis.’
Hiscomradesnodded.
‘Ay,myladyisawalkingweariness.Iseedheryawnjustattheverymoment
whenthefoxwashalloaedawaybyLorntonCopse,andthehoundsrunneden
allbutpasthercarriagewheels.IfIweresheI’dseealittlelife;thoughthere’s
nofair,club-walking,norfeasttospeakof,tillEasterweek,—that’strue.’
‘Shedaresnot.She’sundersolemnoathtodonosuchthing.’
‘BecustifIwouldkeepanysuchoath!Buthere’sthepa’son,ifmyearsdon’t
deceiveme.’
Therewasanoiseofhorse’shoofswithout,astumblingagainstthedoor-scraper,
atetheringtothewindow-shutter,acreakingofthedooronitshinges,anda
voicewhichSwithinrecognizedasMr.Torkingham’s.Hegreetedeachofthe
previousarrivalsbyname,andstatedthathewasgladtoseethemallso
punctuallyassembled.
‘Ay,sir,’saidHaymossFry.‘’Tisonlymyjintsthathavekeptmefrom
assemblingmyselflongago.I’dassembleuponthetopofWellandSteeple,if
’tweren’tformyjints.Iassureye,Pa’sonTarkenham,thatintheclitcho’my
knees,wheretherainusedtocomethroughwhenIwascuttingclotsforthenew
lawn,inoldmylady’stime,’tisasifratswezgnawing,everynowandthen.
Whenafeller’syounghe’stoosmallinthebraintoseehowsoonaconstitution
canbesquandered,worseluck!’
‘True,’saidBiles,tofillthetimewhiletheparsonwasengagedinfindingthe
Psalms.‘Aman’safooltillhe’sforty.OftenhaveIthought,whenhay-pitching,
andthesmallofmybackseemingnostouterthanaharnet’s,“Thedevilsend
thatIhadbutthemakingoflabouringmenforatwelvemonth!”I’dgieevery
manjacktwogoodbackbones,evenifthealterationwasaswrongasforgery.’
‘Four,—fourbackbones,’saidHaymoss,decisively.
‘Yes,four,’threwinSammyBlore,withadditionalweightofexperience.‘For
youwantoneinfrontforbreast-ploughingandsuchlike,oneattherightsidefor


ground-dressing,andoneattheleftsideforturningmixens.’
‘Well;thennextI’dmoveeveryman’swyndpipeagoodspanawayfromhis
glutchpipe,sothatatharvesttimehecouldfetchbreathin’sdrinking,without
beingchokedandstrangledasheisnow.ThinksI,whenIfeelthevictuals
going—’
‘Now,we’llbegin,’interruptedMr.Torkingham,hismindreturningtothisworld
againonconcludinghissearchforahymn.
Thereupontheracketofchair-legsonthefloorsignifiedthattheyweresettling
intotheirseats,—adisturbancewhichSwithintookadvantageofbygoingon
tiptoeacrossthefloorabove,andputtingsheetsofpaperoverknot-holesinthe
boardingatpointswherecarpetwaslacking,thathislamp-lightmightnotshine
down.Theabsenceofaceilingbeneathrenderedhispositionvirtuallythatof
onesuspendedinthesameapartment.
Theparsonannouncedthetune,andhisvoiceburstforthwith‘Onward,
Christiansoldiers!’innotesofrigidcheerfulness.
Inthisstart,however,hewasjoinedonlybythegirlsandboys,themen
furnishingbutanaccompanimentofahasandhems.Mr.Torkinghamstopped,
andSammyBlorespoke,—
‘Begyourpardon,sir,—ifyou’lldealmildwithusamoment.Whatwiththe
windandwalking,mythroat’sasroughasagrater;andnotknowingyouwere
goingtohitupthatminute,Ihadn’thawked,andIdon’tthinkHezzyandNat
had,either,—hadye,souls?’
‘Ihadn’tgotthoroughready,that’strue,’saidHezekiah.
‘Quiterightofyou,then,tospeak,’saidMr.Torkingham.‘Don’tmind
explaining;wearehereforpractice.Nowclearyourthroats,then,andatit
again.’
Therewasanoiseasofatmospherichoesandscrapers,andthebasscontingent
atlastgotunderwaywithatimeofitsown:
‘Honwerd,Christensojers!’
‘Ah,that’swherewearesodefective—thepronunciation,’interruptedthe
parson.‘Nowrepeatafterme:“On-ward,Christ-ian,sol-diers.”’


Thechoirrepeatedlikeanexaggerativeecho:‘On-wed,Chris-ting,sol-jaws!’
‘Better!’saidtheparson,inthestrenuouslysanguinetonesofamanwhogothis
livingbydiscoveringabrightsideinthingswhereitwasnotveryperceptibleto
otherpeople.‘Butitshouldnotbegivenwithquitesoextremeanaccent;orwe
maybecalledaffectedbyotherparishes.And,NathanielChapman,there’sa
jauntinessinyourmannerofsingingwhichisnotquitebecoming.Whydon’t
yousingmoreearnestly?’
‘Myconsciencewon’tletme,sir.Theysayeverymanforhimself:but,thank
God,I’mnotsomeanastolessenoldfokes’chancesbybeingearnestatmytime
o’life,andtheysomuchnearertheneedo’t.’
‘It’sbadreasoning,Nat,Ifear.Now,perhapswehadbettersol-fathetune.Eyes
onyourbooks,please.Sol-sol!fa-fa!mi—’
‘Ican’tsinglikethat,notI!’saidSammyBlore,withcondemnatory
astonishment.‘Icansinggenuinemusic,likeFandG;butnotanythingsomuch
outoftheorderofnaterasthat.’
‘Perhapsyou’vebroughtthewrongbook,sir?’chimedinHaymoss,kindly.‘I’ve
knowedmusicearlyinlifeandlate,—inshort,eversinceLukeSneapbrokehis
newfiddle-bowintheweddingpsalm,whenPa’sonWiltonbroughthomehis
bride(youcanmindthetime,Sammy?—whenwesung“Hiswife,likeafair
fertilevine,herlovelyfruitshallbring,”whentheyoungwomanturnedasredas
arose,notknowing’twascoming).I’veknowedmusiceversincethen,Isay,
sir,andneverheardthelikeo’that.EverymartelnotehadhisnameofA,B,C,
atthattime.’
‘Yes,yes,men;butthisisamorerecentsystem!’
‘Still,youcan’talteraold-establishednotethat’sAorBbynater,’rejoined
Haymoss,withyetdeeperconvictionthatMr.Torkinghamwasgettingoffhis
head.‘NowsoundA,neighbourSammy,andlet’shaveaslapatChristensojers
again,andshowthePa’sonthetrueway!’
Sammyproducedaprivatetuning-fork,blackandgrimy,which,beingabout
seventyyearsofage,andwroughtbeforepianofortebuildershadsentupthe
pitchtomaketheirinstrumentsbrilliant,wasnearlyanoteflatterthanthe
parson’s.Whileanargumentastothetruepitchwasinprogress,therecamea
knockingwithout.


‘Somebody’satthedoor!’saidalittletreblegirl.
‘ThoughtIheardaknockbefore!’saidtherelievedchoir.
Thelatchwaslifted,andamanaskedfromthedarkness,‘IsMr.Torkingham
here?’
‘Yes,Mills.Whatdoyouwant?’
Itwastheparson’sman.
‘Oh,ifyouplease,’saidMills,showinganadvancedmarginofhimselfroundthe
door,‘LadyConstantinewantstoseeyouveryparticular,sir,andcouldyoucall
onherafterdinner,ifyouben’tengagedwithpoorfokes?She’sjusthadaletter,
—sotheysay,—andit’saboutthat,Ibelieve.’
Finding,onlookingathiswatch,thatitwasnecessarytostartatonceifhe
meanttoseeherthatnight,theparsoncutshortthepractising,and,naming
anothernightformeeting,hewithdrew.Allthesingersassistedhimontohis
cob,andwatchedhimtillhedisappearedovertheedgeoftheBottom.

III
Mr.Torkinghamtrottedbrisklyonwardtohishouse,adistanceofaboutamile,
eachcottage,asitrevealeditshalf-buriedpositionbyitssinglelight,appearing
likeaone-eyednightcreaturewatchinghimfromanambush.Leavinghishorse
attheparsonageheperformedtheremainderofthejourneyonfoot,crossingthe
parktowardsWellandHousebyastileandpath,tillhestruckintothedrivenear
thenorthdoorofthemansion.
Thisdrive,itmayberemarked,wasalsothecommonhighwaytothelower
village,andhenceLadyConstantine’sresidenceandpark,asisoccasionallythe
casewithold-fashionedmanors,possessednoneoftheexclusivenessfoundin
somearistocraticsettlements.Theparishionerslookedupontheparkavenueas
theirnaturalthoroughfare,particularlyforchristenings,weddings,andfunerals,
whichpassedthesquire’smansionwithdueconsiderationsastothesceniceffect
ofthesamefromthemanorwindows.HencethehouseofConstantine,when
goingoutfromitsbreakfast,hadbeencontinuallycrossedonthedoorstepforthe
lasttwohundredyearsbythehousesofHodgeandGilesinfullcrytodinner.At
presentthesecollisionswerebuttooinfrequent,forthoughthevillagerspassed
thenorthfrontdoorasregularlyasever,theyseldommetaConstantine.Only


onewastheretobemet,andshehadnozestforoutingsbeforenoon.
Thelong,lowfrontoftheGreatHouse,asitwascalledbytheparish,stretching
fromendtoendoftheterrace,wasindarknessasthevicarslackenedhispace
beforeit,andonlythedistantfallofwaterdisturbedthestillnessofthemanorial
precincts.
OngainingadmittancehefoundLadyConstantinewaitingtoreceivehim.She
woreaheavydressofvelvetandlace,andbeingtheonlypersoninthespacious
apartmentshelookedsmallandisolated.Inherlefthandsheheldaletteranda
coupleofat-homecards.Thesoftdarkeyeswhichsheraisedtohimashe
entered—large,andmelancholybycircumstancefarmorethanbyquality—were
thenaturalindicesofawarmandaffectionate,perhapsslightlyvoluptuous
temperament,languishingforwantofsomethingtodo,cherish,orsufferfor.
Mr.Torkinghamseatedhimself.Hisboots,whichhadseemedelegantinthe
farm-house,appearedratherclumsyhere,andhiscoat,thatwasamodelof
tailoringwhenhestoodamidthechoir,nowexhibiteddecidedlystrained
relationswithhislimbs.Threeyearshadpassedsincehisinductiontotheliving
ofWelland,buthehadneverasyetfoundmeanstoestablishthatreciprocity
withLadyConstantinewhichusuallygrowsup,inthecourseoftime,between
parsonageandmanor-house,—unless,indeed,eithersideshouldsurprisethe
otherbyshowingrespectivelyaweaknessforawkwardmodernideason
landownership,oronchurchformulas,whichhadnotbeenthecasehere.The
presentmeeting,however,seemedlikelytoinitiatesuchareciprocity.
TherewasanappearanceofconfidenceonLadyConstantine’sface;shesaidshe
wassoverygladthathehadcome,andlookingdownattheletterinherhand
wasonthepointofpullingitfromitsenvelope;butshedidnot.Afteramoment
shewentonmorequickly:‘Iwantedyouradvice,orratheryouropinion,ona
seriousmatter,—onapointofconscience.’Sayingwhichshelaiddownthe
letterandlookedatthecards.
Itmighthavebeenapparenttoamorepenetratingeyethanthevicar’sthatLady
Constantine,eitherfromtimidity,misgiving,orreconviction,hadswervedfrom
herintendedcommunication,orperhapsdecidedtobeginattheotherend.
Theparson,whohadbeenexpectingaquestiononsomelocalbusinessor
intelligence,atthetenorofherwordsalteredhisfacetothehigherbranchofhis
profession.


‘IhopeImayfindmyselfofservice,onthatoranyotherquestion,’hesaid
gently.
‘Ihopeso.Youmaypossiblybeaware,Mr.Torkingham,thatmyhusband,Sir
BlountConstantine,was,nottomincematters,amistaken—somewhatjealous
man.Yetyoumayhardlyhavediscerneditintheshorttimeyouknewhim.’
‘IhadsomelittleknowledgeofSirBlount’scharacterinthatrespect.’
‘Well,onthisaccountmymarriedlifewithhimwasnotofthemostcomfortable
kind.’(LadyConstantine’svoicedroppedtoamorepatheticnote.)‘IamsureI
gavehimnocauseforsuspicion;thoughhadIknownhisdispositionsoonerI
shouldhardlyhavedaredtomarryhim.Buthisjealousyanddoubtofmewere
notsostrongastodiverthimfromapurposeofhis,—amaniaforAfricanlionhunting,whichhedignifiedbycallingitaschemeofgeographicaldiscovery;for
hewasinordinatelyanxioustomakeanameforhimselfinthatfield.Itwasthe
onepassionthatwasstrongerthanhismistrustofme.Beforegoingawayhesat
downwithmeinthisroom,andreadmealecture,whichresultedinaveryrash
offeronmypart.WhenItellittoyou,youwillfindthatitprovidesakeytoall
thatisunusualinmylifehere.Hebademeconsiderwhatmypositionwouldbe
whenhewasgone;hopedthatIshouldrememberwhatwasduetohim,—thatI
wouldnotsobehavetowardsothermenastobringthenameofConstantineinto
suspicion;andchargedmetoavoidlevityofconductinattendinganyball,rout,
ordinnertowhichImightbeinvited.I,insomecontemptforhislowopinionof
me,volunteered,thereandthen,tolivelikeacloisterednunduringhisabsence;
togointonosocietywhatever,—scarceeventoaneighbour’sdinner-party;and
demandedbitterlyifthatwouldsatisfyhim.Hesaidyes,heldmetomyword,
andgavemenoloopholeforretractingit.Theinevitablefruitsofprecipitancy
haveresultedtome:mylifehasbecomeaburden.Igetsuchinvitationsas
these’(holdingupthecards),‘butIsoinvariablyrefusethemthattheyare
gettingveryrare....Iaskyou,canIhonestlybreakthatpromisetomy
husband?’
Mr.Torkinghamseemedembarrassed.‘IfyoupromisedSirBlountConstantine
toliveinsolitudetillhecomesback,youare,itseemstome,boundbythat
promise.Ifearthatthewishtobereleasedfromyourengagementistosome
extentareasonwhyitshouldbekept.Butyourownconsciencewouldsurelybe
thebestguide,LadyConstantine?’
‘Myconscienceisquitebewilderedwithitsresponsibilities,’shecontinued,with


asigh.‘Yetitcertainlydoessometimessaytomethat—thatIoughttokeepmy
word.Verywell;ImustgoonasIamgoing,Isuppose.’
‘Ifyourespectavow,Ithinkyoumustrespectyourown,’saidtheparson,
acquiringsomefurtherfirmness.‘Haditbeenwrungfromyoubycompulsion,
moralorphysical,itwouldhavebeenopentoyoutobreakit.Butasyou
proposedavowwhenyourhusbandonlyrequiredagoodintention,Ithinkyou
oughttoadheretoit;orwhatistheprideworththatledyoutoofferit?’
‘Verywell,’shesaid,withresignation.‘Butitwasquiteaworkof
supererogationonmypart.’
‘Thatyouproposeditinasupererogatoryspiritdoesnotlessenyourobligation,
havingonceputyourselfunderthatobligation.St.Paul,inhisEpistletothe
Hebrews,says,“Anoathforconfirmationisanendofallstrife.”Andyouwill
readilyrecallthewordsofEcclesiastes,“Paythatwhichthouhastvowed.Better
isitthatthoushouldestnotvowthanthatthoushouldestvowandnotpay.”
WhynotwritetoSirBlount,tellhimtheinconvenienceofsuchabond,andask
himtoreleaseyou?’
‘No;neverwillI.Theexpressionofsuchadesirewould,inhismind,bea
sufficientreasonfordisallowingit.I’llkeepmyword.’
Mr.Torkinghamrosetoleave.Aftershehadheldoutherhandtohim,whenhe
hadcrossedtheroom,andwaswithintwostepsofthedoor,shesaid,‘Mr.
Torkingham.’Hestopped.‘WhatIhavetoldyouisonlytheleastpartofwhatI
sentforyoutotellyou.’
Mr.Torkinghamwalkedbacktoherside.‘Whatistherestofit,then?’heasked,
withgravesurprise.
‘Itisatruerevelation,asfarasitgoes;butthereissomethingmore.Ihave
receivedthisletter,andIwantedtosay—something.’
‘Thensayitnow,mydearlady.’
‘No,’sheanswered,withalookofutterinability.‘Icannotspeakofitnow!
Someothertime.Don’tstay.Pleaseconsiderthisconversationasprivate.
Good-night.’

IV


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