Infomotions, Inc.Beatrice / Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925



Author: Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925
Title: Beatrice
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): beatrice; geoffrey; honoria; lady honoria; granger; bingham; owen davies; elizabeth; davies; miss granger
Contributor(s): Safford, Mary J. [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 113,333 words (average) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 72 (easy)
Identifier: etext3096
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Title: Beatrice

Author: H. Rider Haggard

Release Date: April 5, 2006 [EBook #3096]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK BEATRICE ***




Produced by John Bickers; Dagny





BEATRICE

by H. Rider Haggard

First Published in 1893.



                                       TO

                                    BEATRICE



             "Oh, kind is Death that Life's long trouble closes,
              Yet at Death's coming Life shrinks back affright;
              It sees the dark hand,--not that it encloses
                  A cup of light.

              So oft the Spirit seeing Love draw nigh
              As 'neath the shadow of destruction, quakes,
              For Self, dark tyrant of the Soul, must die,
                  When Love awakes.

              Aye, let him die in darkness! But for thee,--
              Breathe thou the breath of morning and be free!"

              Rueckert. Translated by F. W. B.




BEATRICE



CHAPTER I

A MIST WRAITH

The autumn afternoon was fading into evening. It had been cloudy
weather, but the clouds had softened and broken up. Now they were lost
in slowly darkening blue. The sea was perfectly and utterly still. It
seemed to sleep, but in its sleep it still waxed with the rising tide.
The eye could not mark its slow increase, but Beatrice, standing upon
the farthest point of the Dog Rocks, idly noted that the long brown
weeds which clung about their sides began to lift as the water took
their weight, till at last the delicate pattern floated out and lay like
a woman's hair upon the green depth of sea. Meanwhile a mist was growing
dense and soft upon the quiet waters. It was not blown up from the west,
it simply grew like the twilight, making the silence yet more silent and
blotting away the outlines of the land. Beatrice gave up studying the
seaweed and watched the gathering of these fleecy hosts.

"What a curious evening," she said aloud to herself, speaking in a low
full voice. "I have not seen one like it since mother died, and that
is seven years ago. I've grown since then, grown every way," and she
laughed somewhat sadly, and looked at her own reflection in the quiet
water.

She could not have looked at anything more charming, for it would have
been hard to find a girl of nobler mien than Beatrice Granger as on this
her twenty-second birthday, she stood and gazed into that misty sea.

Of rather more than middle height, and modelled like a statue, strength
and health seemed to radiate from her form. But it was her face with the
stamp of intellect and power shadowing its woman's loveliness that must
have made her remarkable among women even more beautiful than herself.
There are many girls who have rich brown hair, like some autumn leaf
here and there just yellowing into gold, girls whose deep grey eyes can
grow tender as a dove's, or flash like the stirred waters of a northern
sea, and whose bloom can bear comparison with the wilding rose. But few
can show a face like that which upon this day first dawned on Geoffrey
Bingham to his sorrow and his hope. It was strong and pure and sweet as
the keen sea breath, and looking on it one must know that beneath this
fair cloak lay a wit as fair. And yet it was all womanly; here was not
the hard sexless stamp of the "cultured" female. She who owned it was
capable of many things. She could love and she could suffer, and if need
be, she could dare or die. It was to be read upon that lovely brow and
face, and in the depths of those grey eyes--that is, by those to whom
the book of character is open, and who wish to study it.

But Beatrice was not thinking of her loveliness as she gazed into the
water. She knew that she was beautiful of course; her beauty was too
obvious to be overlooked, and besides it had been brought home to her in
several more or less disagreeable ways.

"Seven years," she was thinking, "since the night of the 'death fog;'
that was what old Edward called it, and so it was. I was only so high
then," and following her thoughts she touched herself upon the breast.
"And I was happy too in my own way. Why can't one always be fifteen,
and believe everything one is told?" and she sighed. "Seven years and
nothing done yet. Work, work, and nothing coming out of the work, and
everything fading away. I think that life is very dreary when one has
lost everything, and found nothing, and loves nobody. I wonder what it
will be like in another seven years."

She covered her eyes with her hands, and then taking them away, once
more looked at the water. Such light as struggled through the fog
was behind her, and the mist was thickening. At first she had some
difficulty in tracing her own likeness upon the glassy surface, but
gradually she marked its outline. It stretched away from her, and its
appearance was as though she herself were lying on her back in the water
wrapped about with the fleecy mist. "How curious it seems," she thought;
"what is it that reflection reminds me of with the white all round it?"

Next instant she gave a little cry and turned sharply away. She knew
now. It recalled her mother as she had last seen her seven years ago.



CHAPTER II

AT THE BELL ROCK

A mile or more away from where Beatrice stood and saw visions, and
further up the coast-line, a second group of rocks, known from their
colour as the Red Rocks, or sometimes, for another reason, as the Bell
Rocks, juts out between half and three-quarters of a mile into the
waters of the Welsh Bay that lies behind Rumball Point. At low tide
these rocks are bare, so that a man may walk or wade to their extremity,
but when the flood is full only one or two of the very largest can from
time to time be seen projecting their weed-wreathed heads through the
wash of the shore-bound waves. In certain sets of the wind and tide this
is a terrible and most dangerous spot in rough weather, as more than
one vessel have learnt to their cost. So long ago as 1780 a three-decker
man-of-war went ashore there in a furious winter gale, and, with one
exception, every living soul on board of her, to the number of seven
hundred, was drowned. The one exception was a man in irons, who came
safely and serenely ashore seated upon a piece of wreckage. Nobody ever
knew how the shipwreck happened, least of all the survivor in irons, but
the tradition of the terror of the scene yet lives in the district, and
the spot where the bones of the drowned men still peep grimly through
the sand is not unnaturally supposed to be haunted. Ever since this
catastrophe a large bell (it was originally the bell of the ill-fated
vessel itself, and still bears her name, "H.M.S. Thunder," stamped upon
its metal) has been fixed upon the highest rock, and in times of storm
and at high tide sends its solemn note of warning booming across the
deep.

But the bell was quiet now, and just beneath it, in the shadow of the
rock whereon it was placed, a man half hidden in seaweed, with which he
appeared to have purposely covered himself, was seated upon a piece of
wreck. In appearance he was a very fine man, big-shouldered and broad
limbed, and his age might have been thirty-five or a little more. Of his
frame, however, what between the mist and the unpleasantly damp seaweed
with which he was wreathed, not much was to be seen. But such light as
there was fell upon his face as he peered eagerly over and round the
rock, and glinted down the barrels of the double ten-bore gun which he
held across his knee. It was a striking countenance, with its brownish
eyes, dark peaked beard and strong features, very powerful and very
able. And yet there was a certain softness in the face, which hovered
round the region of the mouth like light at the edge of a dark cloud,
hinting at gentle sunshine. But little of this was visible now. Geoffrey
Bingham, barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple, M.A., was engaged with
a very serious occupation. He was trying to shoot curlew as they passed
over his hiding-place on their way to the mud banks where they feed
further along the coast.

Now if there is a thing in the world which calls for the exercise of
man's every faculty it is curlew shooting in a mist. Perhaps he may
wait for an hour or even two hours and see nothing, not even an
oyster-catcher. Then at last from miles away comes the faint wild call
of curlew on the wing. He strains his eyes, the call comes nearer, but
nothing can he see. At last, seventy yards or more to the right, he
catches sight of the flicker of beating wings, and, like a flash, they
are gone. Again a call--the curlew are flighting. He looks and looks, in
his excitement struggling to his feet and raising his head incautiously
far above the sheltering rock. There they come, a great flock of
thirty or more, bearing straight down on him, a hundred yards
off--eighty--sixty--now. Up goes the gun, but alas and alas! they catch
a glimpse of the light glinting on the barrels, and perhaps of the head
behind them, and in another second they have broken and scattered this
way and that way, twisting off like a wisp of gigantic snipe, to vanish
with melancholy cries into the depth of mist.

This is bad, but the ardent sportsman sits down with a groan and waits,
listening to the soft lap of the tide. And then at last virtue is
rewarded. First of all two wild duck come over, cleaving the air like
arrows. The mallard is missed, but the left barrel reaches the duck,
and down it comes with a full and satisfying thud. Hardly have the
cartridges been replaced when the wild cry of the curlew is once more
heard--quite close this time. There they are, looming large against the
fog. Bang! down goes the first and lies flapping among the rocks. Like
a flash the second is away to the left. Bang! after him, and caught
him too! Hark to the splash as he falls into the deep water fifty yards
away. And then the mist closes in so densely that shooting is done with
for the day. Well, that right and left has been worth three hours' wait
in the wet seaweed and the violent cold that may follow--that is, to any
man who has a soul for true sport.

Just such an experience as this had befallen Geoffrey Bingham. He had
bagged his wild duck and his brace of curlew--that is, he had bagged one
of them, for the other was floating in the sea--when a sudden increase
in the density of the mist put a stop to further operations. He shook
the wet seaweed off his rough clothes, and, having lit a short briar
pipe, set to work to hunt for the duck and the first curfew. He found
them easily enough, and then, walking to the edge of the rocks, up the
sides of which the tide was gradually creeping, peered into the mist to
see if he could find the other. Presently the fog lifted a little, and
he discovered the bird floating on the oily water about fifty yards
away. A little to the left the rocks ran out in a peak, and he knew
from experience that the tide setting towards the shore would carry the
curlew past this peak. So he went to its extremity, sat down upon a
big stone and waited. All this while the tide was rising fast, though,
intent as he was upon bringing the curlew to bag, he did not pay much
heed to it, forgetting that it was cutting him off from the land. At
last, after more than half-an-hour of waiting, he caught sight of the
curlew again, but, as bad luck would have it, it was still twenty yards
or more from him and in deep water. He was determined, however, to get
the bird if he could, for Geoffrey hated leaving his game, so he pulled
up his trousers and set to work to wade towards it. For the first few
steps all went well, but the fourth or fifth landed him in a hole that
wet his right leg nearly up to the thigh and gave his ankle a severe
twist. Reflecting that it would be very awkward if he sprained his ankle
in such a lonely place, he beat a retreat, and bethought him, unless
the curlew was to become food for the dog-fish, that he had better
strip bodily and swim for it. This--for Geoffrey was a man of determined
mind--he decided to do, and had already taken off his coat and waistcoat
to that end, when suddenly some sort of a boat--he judged it to be a
canoe from the slightness of its shape--loomed up in the mist before
him. An idea struck him: the canoe or its occupant, if anybody could be
insane enough to come out canoeing in such water, might fetch the curlew
and save him a swim.

"Hi!" he shouted in stentorian tones. "Hullo there!"

"Yes," answered a woman's gentle voice across the waters.

"Oh," he replied, struggling to get into his waistcoat again, for the
voice told him that he was dealing with some befogged lady, "I'm sure
I beg your pardon, but would you do me a favour? There is a dead curlew
floating about, not ten yards from your boat. If you wouldn't mind----"

A white hand was put forward, and the canoe glided on towards the bird.
Presently the hand plunged downwards into the misty waters and the
curlew was bagged. Then, while Geoffrey was still struggling with his
waistcoat, the canoe sped towards him like a dream boat, and in another
moment it was beneath his rock, and a sweet dim face was looking up into
his own.



Now let us go back a little (alas! that the privilege should be peculiar
to the recorder of things done), and see how it came about that Beatrice
Granger was present to retrieve Geoffrey Bingham's dead curlew.

Immediately after the unpleasant idea recorded in the last, or, to be
more accurate, in the first chapter of this comedy, had impressed itself
upon Beatrice's mind, she came to the conclusion that she had seen
enough of the Dog Rocks for one afternoon. Thereon, like a sensible
person, she set herself to quit them in the same way that she had
reached them, namely by means of a canoe. She got into her canoe safely
enough, and paddled a little way out to sea, with a view of returning
to the place whence she came. But the further she went out, and it was
necessary that she should go some way on account of the rocks and the
currents, the denser grew the fog. Sounds came through it indeed, but
she could not clearly distinguish whence they came, till at last, well
as she knew the coast, she grew confused as to whither she was heading.
In this dilemma, while she rested on her paddle staring into the dense
surrounding mist and keeping her grey eyes as wide open as nature would
allow, and that was very wide, she heard the report of a gun behind her
to the right. Arguing to herself that some wild-fowler on the water
must have fired it who would be able to direct her, she turned the
canoe round and paddled swiftly in the direction whence the sound came.
Presently she heard the gun again; both barrels were fired, in there to
the right, but some way off. She paddled on vigorously, but now no more
shots came to guide her, therefore for a while her search was fruitless.
At last, however, she saw something looming through the mist ahead; it
was the Red Rocks, though she did not know it, and she drew near with
caution till Geoffrey's shout broke upon her ears.

She picked up the dead bird and paddled towards the dim figure who was
evidently wrestling with something, she could not see what.

"Here is the curlew, sir," she said.

"Oh, thank you," answered the figure on the rock. "I am infinitely
obliged to you. I was just going to swim for it, I can't bear losing my
game. It seems so cruel to shoot birds for nothing."

"I dare say that you will not make much use of it now that you have
got it," said the gentle voice in the canoe. "Curlew are not very good
eating."

"That is scarcely the point," replied the Crusoe on the rock. "The point
is to bring them home. _Apres cela----_"

"The birdstuffer?" said the voice.

"No," answered Crusoe, "the cook----"

A laugh came back from the canoe--and then a question.

"Pray, Mr. Bingham, can you tell me where I am? I have quite lost my
reckoning in the mist."

He started. How did this mysterious young lady in a boat know his name?

"You are at the Red Rocks; there is the bell, that grey thing,
Miss--Miss----"

"Beatrice Granger," she put in hastily. "My father is the clergyman of
Bryngelly. I saw you when you and Lady Honoria Bingham looked into the
school yesterday. I teach in the school." She did not tell him, however,
that his face had interested her so much that she had asked his name.

Again he started. He had heard of this young lady. Somebody had told him
that she was the prettiest girl in Wales, and the cleverest, but that
her father was not a gentleman.

"Oh," he said, taking off his hat in the direction of the canoe. "Isn't
it a little risky, Miss Granger, for you to be canoeing alone in this
mist?"

"Yes," she answered frankly, "but I am used to it; I go out canoeing in
all possible weathers. It is my amusement, and after all the risk does
not matter much," she added, more to herself than to him.

While he was wondering what she meant by that dark saying, she went on
quickly:

"Do you know, Mr. Bingham, I think that you are in more danger than I
am. It must be getting near seven o'clock, and the tide is high at a
quarter to eight. Unless I am mistaken there is by now nearly half a
mile of deep water between you and the shore."

"My word!" he said. "I forgot all about the tide. What between the
shooting and looking for that curlew, and the mist, it never occurred to
me that it was getting late. I suppose I must swim for it, that is all."

"No, no," she answered earnestly, "it is very dangerous swimming here;
the place is full of sharp rocks, and there is a tremendous current."

"Well, then, what is to be done? Will your canoe carry two? If so,
perhaps you would kindly put me ashore?"

"Yes," she said, "it is a double canoe. But I dare not take you ashore
here; there are too many rocks, and it is impossible to see the ripple
on them in this mist. We should sink the canoe. No, you must get in and
I must paddle you home to Bryngelly, that's all. Now that I know where I
am I think that I can find the way."

"Really," he said, "you are very good."

"Not at all," she answered, "you see I must go myself anyhow, so I shall
be glad of your help. It is nearly five miles by water, you know, and
not a pleasant night."

There was truth in this. Geoffrey was perfectly prepared to risk a swim
to the shore on his own account, but he did not at all like the idea of
leaving this young lady to find her own way back to Bryngelly through
the mist and gathering darkness, and in that frail canoe. He would not
have liked it if she had been a man, for he knew that there was great
risk in such a voyage. So after making one more fruitless suggestion
that they should try and reach the shore, taking the chance of rocks,
sunken or otherwise, and then walk home, to which Beatrice would not
consent, he accepted her offer.

"At the least you will allow me to paddle," he said, as she skilfully
brought the canoe right under his rock, which the tide was now high
enough to allow her to do.

"If you like," she answered doubtfully. "My hands are a little sore,
and, of course," with a glance at his broad shoulders, "you are much
stronger. But if you are not used to it I dare say that I should get on
as well as you."

"Nonsense," he said sharply. "I will not allow you to paddle me for five
miles."

She yielded without another word, and very gingerly shifted her seat so
that her back was towards the bow of the canoe, leaving him to occupy
the paddling place opposite to her.

Then he handed her his gun, which, together with the dead birds, she
carefully stowed in the bottom of the frail craft. Next, with great
caution, he slid down the rock till his feet rested in the canoe.

"Be careful or you will upset us," she said, leaning forward and
stretching out her hand for him to support himself by.

Then it was, as he took it, that he for the first time really saw her
face, with the mist drops hanging to the bent eyelashes, and knew how
beautiful it was.



CHAPTER III

A CONFESSION OF FAITH

"Are you ready?" he said, recovering himself from the pleasing shock of
this serge-draped vision of the mist.

"Yes," said Beatrice. "You must head straight out to sea for a
little--not too far, for if we get beyond the shelter of Rumball Point
we might founder in the rollers--there are always rollers there--then
steer to the left. I will tell you when. And, Mr. Bingham, please be
careful of the paddle; it has been spliced, and won't bear rough usage."

"All right," he answered, and they started gaily enough, the light canoe
gliding swiftly forward beneath his sturdy strokes.

Beatrice was leaning back with her head bent a little forward, so that
he could only see her chin and the sweet curve of the lips above it. But
she could see all his face as it swayed towards her with each motion of
the paddle, and she watched it with interest. It was a new type of face
to her, so strong and manly, and yet so gentle about the mouth--almost
too gentle she thought. What made him marry Lady Honoria? Beatrice
wondered; she did not look particularly gentle, though she was such a
graceful woman.

And thus they went on for some time, each wondering about the other and
at heart admiring the other, which was not strange, for they were a very
proper pair, but saying no word till at last, after about a quarter of
an hour's hard paddling, Geoffrey paused to rest.

"Do you do much of this kind of thing, Miss Granger?" he said with a
gasp, "because it is rather hard work."

She laughed. "Ah," she said, "I thought you would scarcely go on
paddling at that rate. Yes, I canoe a great deal in the summer time. It
is my way of taking exercise, and I can swim well, so I am not afraid
of an upset. At least it has been my way for the last two years since a
lady who was staying here gave me the canoe when she went away. Before
that I used to row in a boat--that is, before I went to college."

"College? What college? Girton?"

"Oh, no, nothing half so grand. It was a college where you get
certificates that you are qualified to be a mistress in a Board school.
I wish it had been Girton."

"Do you?"--you are too good for that, he was going to add, but changed
it to--"I think you were as well away. I don't care about the Girton
stamp; those of them whom I have known are so hard."

"So much the better for them," she answered. "I should like to be hard
as a stone; a stone cannot feel. Don't you think that women ought to
learn, then?"

"Do you?" he asked.

"Yes, certainly."

"Have you learnt anything?"

"I have taught myself a little and picked up something at the college.
But I have no real knowledge, only a smattering of things."

"What do you know--French and German?"

"Yes."

"Latin?"

"Yes, I know something of it."

"Greek?"

"I can read it fairly, but I am not a Greek scholar."

"Mathematics?"

"No, I gave them up. There is no human nature about mathematics. They
work everything to a fixed conclusion that must result. Life is not like
that; what ought to be a square comes out a right angle, and _x_ always
equals an unknown quantity, which is never ascertained till you are
dead."

"Good gracious!" thought Geoffrey to himself between the strokes of the
paddle, "what an extraordinary girl. A flesh-and-blood blue-stocking,
and a lovely one into the bargain. At any rate I will bowl her out this
time."

"Perhaps you have read law too?" he said with suppressed sarcasm.

"I have read some," she answered calmly. "I like law, especially Equity
law; it is so subtle, and there is such a mass of it built upon such
a small foundation. It is like an overgrown mushroom, and the top will
fall off one day, however hard the lawyers try to prop it up. Perhaps
you can tell me----"

"No, I'm sure I cannot," he answered. "I'm not a Chancery man. I am
Common law, and _I_ don't take all knowledge for _my_ province. You
positively alarm me, Miss Granger. I wonder that the canoe does not sink
beneath so much learning."

"Do I?" she answered sweetly. "I am glad that I have lived to frighten
somebody. I meant that I like Equity to study; but if I were a
barrister, I would be Common law, because there is so much more life
and struggle about it. Existence is not worth having unless one is
struggling with something and trying to overcome it."

"Dear me, what a reposeful prospect," said Geoffrey, aghast. He had
certainly never met such a woman as this before.

"Repose is only good when it is earned," went on the fair philosopher,
"and in order to fit one to earn some more, otherwise it becomes
idleness, and that is misery. Fancy being idle when one has such a
little time to live. The only thing to do is to work and stifle thought.
I suppose that you have a large practice, Mr. Bingham?"

"You should not ask a barrister that question," he answered, laughing;
"it is like looking at the pictures which an artist has turned to the
wall. No, to be frank, I have not. I have only taken to practising in
earnest during the last two years. Before I was a barrister in name, and
that is all."

"Then why did you suddenly begin to work?"

"Because I lost my prospects, Miss Granger--from necessity, in short."

"Oh, I beg your pardon!" she said, with a blush, which of course he
could not see. "I did not mean to be rude. But it is very lucky for you,
is it not?"

"Indeed! Some people don't think so. Why is it lucky?"

"Because you will now rise and become a great man, and that is more than
being a rich man."

"And why do you think that I shall become a great man?" he asked,
stopping paddling in his astonishment and looking at the dim form before
him.

"Oh! because it is written on your face," she answered simply.

Her words rang true; there was no flattery or artifice in them. Geoffrey
felt that the girl was saying just what she thought.

"So you study physiognomy as well," he said. "Well, Miss Granger, it is
rather odd, considering all things, but I will say to you what I have
never said to any one before. I believe that you are right. I shall
rise. If I live I feel that I have it in me."

At this point it possibly occurred to Beatrice that, considering
the exceeding brevity of their acquaintance, they were drifting into
somewhat confidential conversation. At any rate, she quickly changed the
topic.

"I am afraid you are growing tired," she said; "but we must be getting
on. It will soon be quite dark and we have still a long way to go. Look
there," and she pointed seaward.

He looked. The whole bank of mist was breaking up and bearing down on
them in enormous billows of vapour. Presently, these were rolling over
them, so darkening the heavy air that, though the pair were within four
feet of each other, they could scarcely see one another's faces. As yet
they felt no wind. The dense weight of mist choked the keen, impelling
air.

"I think the weather is breaking; we are going to have a storm," said
Beatrice, a little anxiously.

Scarcely were the words out of her mouth when the mist passed away from
them, and from all the seaward expanse of ocean. Not a wrack of it was
left, and in its place the strong sea-breath beat upon their faces. Far
in the west the angry disc of the sun was sinking into the foam. A great
red ray shot from its bent edge and lay upon the awakened waters, like a
path of fire. The ominous light fell full upon the little boat and full
upon Beatrice's lips. Then it passed on and lost itself in the deep
mists which still swathed the coast.

"Oh, how beautiful it is!" she cried, raising herself and pointing to
the glory of the dying sun.

"It is beautiful indeed!" he answered, but he looked, not at the sunset,
but at the woman's face before him, glowing like a saint's in its golden
aureole. For this also was most beautiful--so beautiful that it stirred
him strangely.

"It is like----" she began, and broke off suddenly.

"What is it like?" he asked.

"It is like finding truth at last," she answered, speaking as much to
herself as to him. "Why, one might make an allegory out of it. We wander
in mist and darkness shaping a vague course for home. And then suddenly
the mists are blown away, glory fills the air, and there is no more
doubt, only before us is a splendour making all things clear and
lighting us over a deathless sea. It sounds rather too grand," she
added, with a charming little laugh; "but there is something in it
somewhere, if only I could express myself. Oh, look!"

As she spoke a heavy storm-cloud rolled over the vanishing rim of the
sun. For a moment the light struggled with the eclipsing cloud, turning
its dull edge to the hue of copper, but the cloud was too strong and the
light vanished, leaving the sea in darkness.

"Well," he said, "your allegory would have a dismal end if you worked it
out. It is getting as dark as pitch, and there's a good deal in _that_,
if only _I_ could express myself."

Beatrice dropped poetry, and came down to facts in a way that was very
commendable.

"There is a squall coming up, Mr. Bingham," she said; "you must paddle
as hard as you can. I do not think we are more than two miles from
Bryngelly, and if we are lucky we may get there before the weather
breaks."

"Yes, _if_ we are lucky," he said grimly, as he bent himself to the
work. "But the question is where to paddle to--it's so dark. Had not we
better run for the shore?"

"We are in the middle of the bay now," she answered, "and almost as far
from the nearest land as we are from Bryngelly, besides it is all rocks.
No, you must go straight on. You will see the Poise light beyond Coed
presently. You know Coed is four miles on the other side of Bryngelly,
so when you see it head to the left."

He obeyed her, and they neither of them spoke any more for some time.
Indeed the rising wind made conversation difficult, and so far as
Geoffrey was concerned he had little breath left to spare for words. He
was a strong man, but the unaccustomed labour was beginning to tell on
him, and his hands were blistering. For ten minutes or so he paddled on
through a darkness which was now almost total, wondering where on earth
he was wending, for it was quite impossible to see. For all he knew
to the contrary, he might be circling round and round. He had only one
thing to direct him, the sweep of the continually rising wind and the
wash of the gathering waves. So long as these struck the canoe, which
now began to roll ominously, on the starboard side, he must, he thought,
be keeping a right course. But in the turmoil of the rising gale and the
confusion of the night, this was no very satisfactory guide. At length,
however, a broad and brilliant flash sprung out across the sea, almost
straight ahead of him. It was the Poise light.

He altered his course a little and paddled steadily on. And now the
squall was breaking. Fortunately, it was not a very heavy one, or their
frail craft must have sunk and they with it. But it was quite serious
enough to put them in great danger. The canoe rose to the waves like a
feather, but she was broadside on, and rise as she would they began to
ship a little water. And they had not seen the worst of it. The weather
was still thickening.

Still he held on, though his heart sank within him, while Beatrice said
nothing. Presently a big wave came; he could just see its white crest
gleaming through the gloom, then it was on them. The canoe rose to it
gallantly; it seemed to curl right over her, making the craft roll
till Geoffrey thought that the end had come. But she rode it out, not,
however, without shipping more than a bucket of water. Without saying
a word, Beatrice took the cloth cap from her head and, leaning forward,
began to bale as best she could, and that was not very well.

"This will not do," he called. "I must keep her head to the sea or we
shall be swamped."

"Yes," she answered, "keep her head up. We are in great danger."

He glanced to his right; another white sea was heaving down on him;
he could just see its glittering crest. With all his force he dug the
paddle into the water; the canoe answered to it; she came round just in
time to ride out the wave with safety, but the paddle _snapped_. It was
already sprung, and the weight he put upon it was more than it could
bear. Right in two it broke, some nine inches above that blade which at
the moment was buried in the water. He felt it go, and despair took hold
of him.

"Great heavens!" he cried, "the paddle is broken."

Beatrice gasped.

"You must use the other blade," she said; "paddle first one side and
then on the other, and keep her head on."

"Till we sink," he answered.

"No, till we are saved--never talk of sinking."

The girl's courage shamed him, and he obeyed her instructions as best he
could. By dint of continually shifting what remained of the paddle from
one side of the canoe to the other, he did manage to keep her head on to
the waves that were now rolling in apace. But in their hearts they both
wondered how long this would last.

"Have you got any cartridges?" she asked presently.

"Yes, in my coat pocket," he answered.

"Give me two, if you can manage it," she said.

In an interval between the coming of two seas he contrived to slip his
hand into a pocket and transfer the cartridges. Apparently she knew
something of the working of a gun, for presently there was a flash and a
report, quickly followed by another.

"Give me some more cartridges," she cried. He did so, but nothing
followed.

"It is no use," she said at length, "the cartridges are wet. I cannot
get the empty cases out. But perhaps they may have seen or heard them.
Old Edward is sure to be watching for me. You had better throw the rest
into the sea if you can manage it," she added by way of an afterthought;
"we may have to swim presently."

To Geoffrey this seemed very probable, and whenever he got a chance he
acted on the hint till at length he was rid of all his cartridges.
Just then it began to rain in torrents. Though it was not warm the
perspiration was streaming from him at every pore, and the rain beating
on his face refreshed him somewhat; also with the rain the wind dropped
a little.

But he was becoming tired out and he knew it. Soon he would no longer be
able to keep the canoe straight, and then they must be swamped, and in
all human probability drowned. So this was to be the end of his life
and its ambitions. Before another hour had run its course, he would be
rolling to and fro in the arms of that angry sea. What would his wife
Honoria say when she heard the news, he wondered? Perhaps it would shock
her into some show of feeling. And Effie, his dear little six-year-old
daughter? Well, thank God, she was too young to feel his loss for long.
By the time that she was a woman she would almost have forgotten that
she ever had a father. But how would she get on without him to guide
her? Her mother did not love children, and a growing girl would
continually remind her of her growing years. He could not tell; he could
only hope for the best.

And for himself! What would become of him after the short sharp struggle
for life? Should he find endless sleep, or what? He was a Christian, and
his life had not been worse than that of other men. Indeed, though he
would have been the last to think it, he had some redeeming virtues. But
now at the end the spiritual horizon was as dark as it had been at the
beginning. There before him were the Gates of Death, but not yet would
they roll aside and show the traveller what lay beyond their frowning
face. How could he tell? Perhaps they would not open at all. Perhaps he
now bade his last farewell to consciousness, to earth and sky and sea
and love and all lovely things. Well, that might be better than some
prospects. At that moment Geoffrey Bingham, in the last agony of doubt,
would gladly have exchanged his hopes of life beyond for a certainty of
eternal sleep. That faith which enables some of us to tread this awful
way with an utter confidence is not a wide prerogative, and, as yet,
at any rate, it was not his, though the time might come when he would
attain it. There are not very many, even among those without reproach,
who can lay them down in the arms of Death, knowing most certainly that
when the veil is rent away the countenance that they shall see will
be that of the blessed Guardian of Mankind. Alas! he could not be
altogether sure, and where doubt exists, hope is but a pin-pricked
bladder. He sighed heavily, murmured a little formula of prayer that had
been on his lips most nights during thirty years--he had learnt it as
a child at his mother's knee--and then, while the tempest roared around
him, gathered up his strength to meet the end which seemed inevitable.
At any rate he would die like a man.

Then came a reaction. His vital forces rose again. He no longer felt
fearful, he only wondered with a strange impersonal wonder, as a man
wonders about the vital affairs of another. Then from wondering about
himself he began to wonder about the girl who sat opposite to him. With
the rain came a little lightning, and by the first flash he saw her
clearly. Her beautiful face was set, and as she bent forward searching
the darkness with her wide eyes, it wore, he thought, an almost defiant
air.

The canoe twisted round somewhat. He dug his broken paddle into the
water and once more brought her head on to the sea. Then he spoke.

"Are you afraid?" he asked of Beatrice.

"No," she answered, "I am not afraid."

"Do you know that we shall probably be drowned?"

"Yes, I know it. They say the death is easy. I brought you here. Forgive
me that. I should have tried to row you ashore as you said."

"Never mind me; a man must meet his fate some day. Do not think of
me. But I can't keep her head on much longer. You had better say your
prayers."

Beatrice bent forward till her head was quite near his own. The wind had
blown some of her hair loose, and though he did not seem to notice it at
the time, he remembered afterwards that a lock of it struck him on the
face.

"I cannot pray," she said; "I have nothing to pray to. I am not a
Christian."

The words struck him like a blow. It seemed so awful to think of
this proud and brilliant woman, now balanced on the verge of what she
believed to be utter annihilation. Even the courage that induced her at
such a moment to confess her hopeless state seemed awful.

"Try," he said with a gasp.

"No," she answered, "I do not fear to die. Death cannot be worse than
life is for most of us. I have not prayed for years, not since--well,
never mind. I am not a coward. It would be cowardly to pray now because
I may be wrong. If there is a God who knows all, He will understand
that."

Geoffrey said no more, but laboured at the broken paddle gallantly and
with an ever-failing strength. The lightning had passed away and the
darkness was very great, for the hurrying clouds hid the starlight.
Presently a sound arose above the turmoil of the storm, a crashing
thunderous sound towards which the send of the sea gradually bore them.
The sound came from the waves that beat upon the Bryngelly reef.

"Where are we drifting to?" he cried.

"Into the breakers, where we shall be lost," she answered calmly. "Give
up paddling, it is of no use, and try to take off your coat. I have
loosened my skirt. Perhaps we can swim ashore."

He thought to himself that in the dark and breakers such an event was
not probable, but he said nothing, and addressed himself to the task
of getting rid of his coat and waistcoat--no easy one in that confined
space. Meanwhile the canoe was whirling round and round like a walnut
shell upon a flooded gutter. For some distance before the waves broke
upon the reef and rocks they swept in towards them with a steady
foamless swell. On reaching the shallows, however, they pushed their
white shoulders high into the air, curved up and fell in thunder on the
reef.

The canoe rode towards the breakers, sucked upon its course by a
swelling sea.

"Good-bye," called Geoffrey to Beatrice, as stretching out his wet hand
he found her own and took it, for companionship makes death a little
easier.

"Good-bye," she cried, clinging to his hand. "Oh, why did I bring you
into this?"

For in their last extremity this woman thought rather of her companion
in peril than of herself.

One more turn, then suddenly the canoe beneath them was lifted like a
straw and tossed high into the air. A mighty mass of water boiled up
beneath it and around it. Then the foam rushed in, and vaguely Geoffrey
knew that they were wrapped in the curve of a billow.

A swift and mighty rush of water. Crash!--and his senses left him.



CHAPTER IV

THE WATCHER AT THE DOOR

This was what had happened. Just about the centre of the reef is a large
flat-topped rock--it may be twenty feet in the square--known to the
Bryngelly fishermen as Table Rock. In ordinary weather, even at high
tide, the waters scarcely cover this rock, but when there is any sea
they wash over it with great violence. On to this rock Geoffrey and
Beatrice had been hurled by the breaker. Fortunately for them it was
thickly overgrown with seaweed, which to some slight extent broke the
violence of their fall. As it chanced, Geoffrey was knocked senseless by
the shock; but Beatrice, whose hand he still held, fell on to him and,
with the exception of a few bruises and a shake, escaped unhurt.

She struggled to her knees, gasping. The water had run off the rock, and
her companion lay quiet at her side. She put down her face and called
into his ear, but no answer came, and then she knew that he was either
dead or senseless.

At this second Beatrice caught a glimpse of something white gleaming in
the darkness. Instinctively she flung herself upon her face, gripping
the long tough seaweed with one hand. The other she passed round the
body of the helpless man beside her, straining him with all her strength
against her side.

Then came a wild long rush of foam. The water lifted her from the rock,
but the seaweed held, and when at length the sea had gone boiling by,
Beatrice found herself and the senseless form of Geoffrey once more
lying side by side. She was half choked. Desperately she struggled up
and round, looking shoreward through the darkness. Heavens! there, not
a hundred yards away, a light shone upon the waters. It was a boat's
light, for it moved up and down. She filled her lungs with air and sent
one long cry for help ringing across the sea. A moment passed and she
thought that she heard an answer, but because of the wind and the roar
of the breakers she could not be sure. Then she turned and glanced
seaward. Again the foaming terror was rushing down upon them; again she
flung herself upon the rock and grasping the slippery seaweed twined her
left arm about the helpless Geoffrey.

It was on them.

Oh, horror! Even in the turmoil of the boiling waters Beatrice felt the
seaweed give. Now they were being swept along with the rushing wave, and
Death drew very near. But still she clung to Geoffrey. Once more the air
touched her face. She had risen to the surface and was floating on the
stormy water. The wave had passed. Loosing her hold of Geoffrey she
slipped her hand upwards, and as he began to sink clutched him by the
hair. Then treading water with her feet, for happily for them both she
was as good a swimmer as could be found upon that coast, she managed to
open her eyes. There, not sixty yards away, was the boat's light. Oh, if
only she could reach it. She spat the salt water from her mouth and once
more cried aloud. The light seemed to move on.

Then another wave rolled forward and once more she was pushed down into
the cruel depths, for with that dead weight hanging to her she could
not keep above them. It flashed into her mind that if she let him go she
might even now save herself, but even in that last terror this Beatrice
would not do. If he went, she would go with him.

It would have been better if she had let him go.

Down she went--down, down! "I will hold him," Beatrice said in her
heart; "I will hold him till I die." Then came waves of light and a
sound as of wind whispering through the trees, and--all grew dark.

* * * * *

"I tell yer it ain't no good, Eddard," shouted a man in the boat to
an old sailor who was leaning forward in the bows peering into the
darkness. "We shall be right on to the Table Rocks in a minute and all
drown together. Put about, mate--put about."

"Damn yer," screamed the old man, turning so that the light from the
lantern fell on his furrowed, fiercely anxious face and long white hair
streaming in the wind. "Damn yer, ye cowards. I tells yer I heard her
voice--I heard it twice screaming for help. If you put the boat about,
by Goad when I get ashore I'll kill yer, ye lubbers--old man as I am
I'll kill yer, if I swing for it!"

This determined sentiment produced a marked effect upon the boat's crew;
there were eight of them altogether. They did not put the boat about,
they only lay upon their oars and kept her head to the seas.

The old man in the bow peered out into the gloom. He was shaking, not
with cold but with agitation.

Presently he turned his head with a yell.

"Give way--give way! there's something on the wave."

The men obeyed with a will.

"Back," he roared again--"back water!"

They backed, and the boat answered, but nothing was to be seen.

"She's gone! Oh, Goad, she's gone!" groaned the old man. "You may put
about now, lads, and the Lord's will be done."

The light from the lantern fell in a little ring upon the seething
water. Suddenly something white appeared in the centre of this
illuminated ring. Edward stared at it. It was floating upwards. It
vanished--it appeared again. It was a woman's face. With a yell he
plunged his arms into the sea.

"I have her--lend an hand, lads."

Another man scrambled forward and together they clutched the object in
the water.

"Look out, don't pull so hard, you fool. Blow me if there ain't another
and she's got him by the hair. So, _steady, steady!_"

A long heave from strong arms and the senseless form of Beatrice was on
the gunwale. Then they pulled up Geoffrey beside her, for they could not
loose her desperate grip of his dark hair, and together rolled them into
the boat.

"They're dead, I doubt," said the second man.

"Help turn 'em on their faces over the seat, so--let the water drain
from their innards. It's the only chance. Now give me that sail to cover
them--so. You'll live yet, Miss Beatrice, you ain't dead, I swear. Old
Eddard has saved you, Old Eddard and the good Goad together!"

Meanwhile the boat had been got round, and the men were rowing for
Bryngelly as warm-hearted sailors will when life is at stake. They all
knew Beatrice and loved her, and they remembered it as they rowed. The
gloom was little hindrance to them for they could almost have navigated
the coast blindfold. Besides here they were sheltered by the reef and
shore.

In five minutes they were round a little headland, and the lights of
Bryngelly were close before them. On the beach people were moving about
with lanterns.

Presently they were there, hanging on their oars for a favourable wave
to beach with. At last it came, and they gave way together, running the
large boat half out of the surf. A dozen men plunged into the water and
dragged her on. They were safe ashore.

"Have you got Miss Beatrice?" shouted a voice.

"Ay, we've got her and another too, but I doubt they're gone. Where's
doctor?"

"Here, here!" answered a voice. "Bring the stretchers."

A stout thick-set man, who had been listening, wrapped up in a dark
cloak, turned his face away and uttered a groan. Then he followed the
others as they went to work, not offering to help, but merely following.

The stretchers were brought and the two bodies laid upon them, face
downwards and covered over.

"Where to?" said the bearers as they seized the poles.

"The Vicarage," answered the doctor. "I told them to get things ready
there in case they should find her. Run forward one of you and say that
we are coming."

The men started at a trot and the crowd ran after them.

"Who is the other?" somebody asked.

"Mr. Bingham--the tall lawyer who came down from London the other day.
Tell policeman--run to his wife. She's at Mrs. Jones's, and thinks he
has lost his way in the fog coming home from Bell Rock."

The policeman departed on his melancholy errand and the procession moved
swiftly across the sandy beach and up the stone-paved way by which boats
were dragged down the cliff to the sea. The village of Bryngelly lay to
the right. It had grown away from the church, which stood dangerously
near the edge of the cliff. On the further side of the church, and a
little behind it, partly sheltered from the sea gales by a group of
stunted firs, was the Vicarage, a low single-storied stone-roofed
building, tenanted for twenty-five years past and more by Beatrice's
father, the Rev. Joseph Granger. The best approach to it from the
Bryngelly side was by the churchyard, through which the men with the
stretchers were now winding, followed by the crowd of sightseers.

"Might as well leave them here at once," said one of the bearers to the
other in Welsh. "I doubt they are both dead enough."

The person addressed assented, and the thick-set man wrapped in a dark
cloak, who was striding along by Beatrice's stretcher, groaned again.
Clearly, he understood the Welsh tongue. A few seconds more and they
were passing through the stunted firs up to the Vicarage door. In the
doorway stood a group of people. The light from a lamp in the hall
struck upon them, throwing them into strong relief. Foremost, holding
a lantern in his hand, was a man of about sixty, with snow-white hair
which fell in confusion over his rugged forehead. He was of middle
height and carried himself with something of a stoop. The eyes were
small and shifting, and the mouth hard. He wore short whiskers which,
together with the eyebrows, were still tinged with yellow. The face was
ruddy and healthy looking, indeed, had it not been for the dirty white
tie and shabby black coat, one would have taken him to be what he was in
heart, a farmer of the harder sort, somewhat weather-beaten and anxious
about the times--a man who would take advantage of every drop in the
rate of wages. In fact he was Beatrice's father, and a clergyman.

By his side, and leaning over him, was Elizabeth, her elder sister.
There was five years between them. She was a poor copy of Beatrice, or,
to be more accurate, Beatrice was a grand development of Elizabeth. They
both had brown hair, but Elizabeth's was straighter and faint-coloured,
not rich and ruddying into gold. Elizabeth's eyes were also grey, but
it was a cold washed-out grey like that of a February sky. And so with
feature after feature, and with the expression also. Beatrice's was
noble and open, if at times defiant. Looking at her you knew that she
might be a mistaken woman, or a headstrong woman, or both, but she
could never be a mean woman. Whichever of the ten commandments she might
choose to break, it would not be that which forbids us to bear false
witness against our neighbour. Anybody might read it in her eyes. But in
her sister's, he might discern her father's shifty hardness watered by
woman's weaker will into something like cunning. For the rest Elizabeth
had a very fair figure, but lacked her sister's rounded loveliness,
though the two were so curiously alike that at a distance you might well
mistake the one for the other. One might almost fancy that nature had
experimented upon Elizabeth before she made up her mind to produce
Beatrice, just to get the lines and distances. The elder sister was
to the other what the pale unfinished model of clay is to the polished
statue in ivory and gold.

"Oh, my God! my God!" groaned the old man; "look, they have got them
on the stretchers. They are both dead. Oh, Beatrice! Beatrice! and only
this morning I spoke harshly to her."

"Don't be so foolish, father," said Elizabeth sharply. "They may only be
insensible."

"Ah, ah," he answered; "it does not matter to you, _you_ don't care
about your sister. You are jealous of her. But I love her, though we do
not understand each other. Here they come. Don't stand staring there. Go
and see that the blankets and things are hot. Stop, doctor, tell me, is
she dead?"

"How can I tell till I have seen her?" the doctor answered, roughly
shaking him off, and passing through the door.

Bryngelly Vicarage was a very simply constructed house. On entering the
visitor found himself in a passage with doors to the right and left.
That to the right led to the sitting-room, that to the left to the
dining-room, both of them long, low and narrow chambers. Following the
passage down for some seven paces, it terminated in another which ran
at right angles to it for the entire length of the house. On the further
side of this passage were several bedroom doors and a room at each end.
That at the end to the right was occupied by Beatrice and her sister,
the next was empty, the third was Mr. Granger's, and the fourth the
spare room. This, with the exception of the kitchens and servants'
sleeping place, which were beyond the dining-room, made up the house.

Fires had been lit in both of the principal rooms. Geoffrey was taken
into the dining-room and attended by the doctor's assistant, and
Beatrice into the sitting-room, and attended by the doctor himself. In
a few seconds the place had been cleared of all except the helpers, and
the work began. The doctor looked at Beatrice's cold shrunken form, and
at the foam upon her lips. He lifted the eyelid, and held a light before
the contracted pupil. Then he shook his head and set to work with a
will. We need not follow him through the course of his dreadful labours,
with which most people will have some acquaintance. Hopeless as they
seemed, he continued them for hour after hour.

Meanwhile the assistant and some helpers were doing the same service
for Geoffrey Bingham, the doctor himself, a thin clever-looking man,
occasionally stepping across the passage to direct them and see how
things were getting on. Now, although Geoffrey had been in the water the
longer, his was by far the better case, for when he was immersed he
was already insensible, and a person in this condition is very hard
to drown. It is your struggling, fighting, breathing creature who is
soonest made an end of in deep waters. Therefore it came to pass that
when the scrubbing with hot cloths and the artificial respiration had
gone on for somewhere about twenty minutes, Geoffrey suddenly crooked
a finger. The doctor's assistant, a buoyant youth fresh from the
hospitals, gave a yell of exultation, and scrubbed and pushed away with
ever-increasing energy. Presently the subject coughed, and a minute
later, as the agony of returning life made itself felt, he swore most
heartily.

"He's all right now!" called the assistant to his employer. "He's
swearing beautifully."

Dr. Chambers, pursuing his melancholy and unpromising task in the
other room, smiled sadly, and called to the assistant to continue the
treatment, which he did with much vigour.

Presently Geoffrey came partially to life, still suffering torments. The
first thing he grew aware of was that a tall elegant woman was standing
over him, looking at him with a half puzzled and half horrified air.
Vaguely he wondered who it might be. The tall form and cold handsome
face were so familiar to him, and yet he could not recall the name.
It was not till she spoke that his numbed brain realized that he was
looking on his own wife.

"Well, dear," she said, "I am so glad that you are better. You
frightened me out of my wits. I thought you were drowned."

"Thank you, Honoria," he said faintly, and then groaned as a fresh
attack of tingling pain shook him through and through.

"I hope nobody said anything to Effie," Geoffrey said presently.

"Yes, the child would not go to bed because you were not back, and when
the policeman came she heard him tell Mrs. Jones that you were drowned,
and she has been almost in a fit ever since. They had to hold her to
prevent her from running here."

Geoffrey's white face assumed an air of the deepest distress. "How could
you frighten the child so?" he murmured. "Please go and tell her that I
am all right."

"It was not my fault," said Lady Honoria with a shrug of her shapely
shoulders. "Besides, I can do nothing with Effie. She goes on like a
wild thing about you."

"Please go and tell her, Honoria," said her husband.

"Oh, yes, I'll go," she answered. "Really I shall not be sorry to get
out of this; I begin to feel as though I had been drowned myself;" and
she looked at the steaming cloths and shuddered. "Good-bye, Geoffrey. It
is an immense relief to find you all right. The policeman made me feel
quite queer. I can't get down to give you a kiss or I would. Well,
good-bye for the present, my dear."

"Good-bye, Honoria," said her husband with a faint smile.

The medical assistant looked a little surprised. He had never, it is
true, happened to be present at a meeting between husband and wife, when
one of the pair had just been rescued by a hair's-breadth from a violent
and sudden death, and therefore wanted experience to go on. But it
struck him that there was something missing. The lady did not seem to
him quite to fill the part of the Heaven-thanking spouse. It puzzled
him very much. Perhaps he showed this in his face. At any rate, Lady
Honoria, who was quick enough, read something there.

"He is safe now, is he not?" she asked. "It will not matter if I go
away."

"No, my lady," answered the assistant, "he is out of danger, I think; it
will not matter at all."

Lady Honoria hesitated a little; she was standing in the passage.
Then she glanced through the door into the opposite room, and caught a
glimpse of Beatrice's rigid form and of the doctor bending over it. Her
head was thrown back and the beautiful brown hair, which was now almost
dry again, streamed in masses to the ground, while on her face was
stamped the terrifying seal of Death.

Lady Honoria shuddered. She could not bear such sights. "Will it be
necessary for me to come back to-night?" she said.

"I do not think so," he answered, "unless you care to hear whether Miss
Granger recovers?"

"I shall hear that in the morning," she said. "Poor thing, I cannot help
her."

"No, Lady Honoria, you cannot help her. She saved your husband's life,
they say."

"She must be a brave girl. Will she recover?"

The assistant shook his head. "She may, possibly. It is not likely now."

"Poor thing, and so young and beautiful! What a lovely face, and what
an arm! It is very awful for her," and Lady Honoria shuddered again and
went.

Outside the door a small knot of sympathisers was still gathered,
notwithstanding the late hour and the badness of the weather.

"That's his wife," said one, and they opened to let her pass.

"Then why don't she stop with him?" asked a woman audibly. "If it had
been my husband I'd have sat and hugged him for an hour."

"Ay, you'd have killed him with your hugging, you would," somebody
answered.

Lady Honoria passed on. Suddenly a thick-set man emerged from the shadow
of the pines. She could not see his face, but he was wrapped in a large
cloak.

"Forgive me," he said in the hoarse voice of one struggling with
emotions which he was unable to conceal, "but you can tell me. Does she
still live?"

"Do you mean Miss Granger?" she asked.

"Yes, of course. Beatrice--Miss Granger?"

"They do not know, but they think----"

"Yes, yes--they think----"

"That she is dead."

The man said never a word. He dropped his head upon his breast and,
turning, vanished again into the shadow of the pines.

"How very odd," thought Lady Honoria as she walked rapidly along the
cliff towards her lodging. "I suppose that man must be in love with her.
Well, I do not wonder at it. I never saw such a face and arm. What a
picture that scene in the room would make! She saved Geoffrey and now
she's dead. If he had saved her I should not have wondered. It is like a
scene in a novel."

From all of which it will be seen that Lady Honoria was not wanting in
certain romantic and artistical perceptions.



CHAPTER V

ELIZABETH IS THANKFUL

Geoffrey, lying before the fire, newly hatched from death, had caught
some of the conversation between his wife and the assistant who had
recovered him to life. So she was gone, that brave, beautiful atheist
girl--gone to test the truth. And she had saved his life!

For some minutes the assistant did not enter. He was helping in another
room. At last he came.

"What did you say to Lady Honoria?" Geoffrey asked feebly. "Did you say
that Miss Granger had saved me?"

"Yes, Mr. Bingham; at least they tell me so. At any rate, when they
pulled her out of the water they pulled you after her. She had hold of
your hair."

"Great heavens!" he groaned, "and my weight must have dragged her down.
Is she dead, then?"

"We cannot quite say yet, not for certain. We think that she is."

"Pray God she is not dead," he said more to himself than to the other.
Then aloud--"Leave me; I am all right. Go and help with her. But stop,
come and tell me sometimes how it goes with her."

"Very well. I will send a woman to watch you," and he went.

Meanwhile in the other room the treatment of the drowned went slowly on.
Two hours had passed, and as yet Beatrice showed no signs of recovery.
The heart did not beat, no pulse stirred; but, as the doctor knew, life
might still linger in the tissues. Slowly, very slowly, the body was
turned to and fro, the head swaying, and the long hair falling now this
way and now that, but still no sign. Every resource known to medical
skill, such as hot air, rubbing, artificial respiration, electricity,
was applied and applied in vain, but still no sign!

Elizabeth, pale and pinched, stood by handing what might be required.
She did not greatly love her sister, they were antagonistic and their
interests clashed, or she thought they did, but this sudden death was
awful. In a corner, pitiful to see, offering groans and ejaculated
prayers to heaven, sat the old clergymen, their father, his white hair
about his eyes. He was a weak, coarse-grained man, but in his own way
his clever and beautiful girl was dear to him, and this sight wrung his
soul as it had not been wrung for years.

"She's gone," he said continually, "she's gone; the Lord's will be done.
There must be another mistress at the school now. Seventy pounds a year
she will cost--seventy pounds a year!"

"Do be quiet, father," said Elizabeth sharply.

"Ay, ay, it is very well for you to tell me to be quiet. You are quiet
because you don't care. You never loved your sister. But I have loved
her since she was a little fair-haired child, and so did your poor
mother. 'Beatrice' was the last word she spoke."

"Be quiet, father!" said Elizabeth, still more sharply. The old man,
making no reply, sank back into a semi-torpor, rocking himself to and
fro upon his chair.

Meanwhile without intermission the work went on.

"It is no use," said the assistant at last, as he straightened his weary
frame and wiped the perspiration from his brow. "She must be dead; we
have been at it nearly three hours now."

"Patience," said the doctor. "If necessary I shall go on for four--or
till I drop," he added.

Ten minutes more passed. Everybody knew that the task was hopeless, but
still they hoped.

"Great Heavens!" said the assistant presently, starting back from the
body and pointing at its face. "Did you see that?"

Elizabeth and Mr. Granger sprang to their feet, crying, "What, what?"

"Sit still, sir," said the doctor, waving them back. Then addressing his
helper, and speaking in a constrained voice: "I thought I saw the right
eyelid quiver, Williams. Pass the battery."

"So did I," answered Williams as he obeyed.

"Full power," said the doctor again. "It is kill or cure now."

The shock was applied for some seconds without result. Then suddenly a
long shudder ran up the limbs, and a hand stirred. Next moment the eyes
were opened, and with pain and agony Beatrice drew a first breath of
returning life. Ten minutes more and she had passed through the gates of
Death back to this warm and living world.

"Let me die," she gasped faintly. "I cannot bear it. Oh, let me die!"

"Hush," said the doctor; "you will be better presently."

Ten minutes more passed, when the doctor saw by her eyes that Beatrice
wished to say something. He bent his head till it nearly touched her
lips.

"Dr. Chambers," she whispered, "was he drowned?"

"No, he is safe; he has been brought round."

She sighed--a long-drawn sigh, half of pain, half of relief. Then she
spoke again.

"Was he washed ashore?"

"No, no. You saved his life. You had hold of him when they pulled you
out. Now drink this and go to sleep."

Beatrice smiled sweetly, but said nothing. Then she drank as much of the
draught as she could, and shortly afterwards obeyed the last injunction
also, and went to sleep.

Meanwhile a rumour of this wonderful recovery had escaped to without the
house--passing from one watcher to the other till at length it reached
the ears of the solitary man crouched in the shadow of the pines. He
heard, and starting as though he had been shot, strode to the door of
the Vicarage. Here his courage seemed to desert him, for he hesitated.

"Knock, squire, knock, and ask if it is true," said a woman, the same
who had declared that she would have hugged her husband back to life.

This remark seemed to encourage the man, at any rate he did knock.
Presently the door was opened by Elizabeth.

"Go away," she said in her sharp voice; "the house must be kept quiet."

"I beg your pardon, Miss Granger," said the visitor, in a tone of deep
humiliation. "I only wanted to know if it was true that Miss Beatrice
lives."

"Why," said Elizabeth with a start, "is it you, Mr. Davies? I am sure I
had no idea. Step into the passage and I will shut the door. There! How
long have you been outside?"

"Oh, since they brought them up. But is it true?"

"Yes, yes, it is true. She will recover now. And you have stood all this
time in the wet night. I am sure that Beatrice ought to be flattered."

"Not at all. It seemed so awful, and--I--I take such an interest----"
and he broke off.

"Such an interest in Beatrice," said Elizabeth drily, supplying the
hiatus. "Yes, so it seems," and suddenly, as though by chance, she moved
the candle which she held, in such fashion that the light fell full
upon Owen Davies' face. It was a slow heavy countenance, but not without
comeliness. The skin was fresh as a child's, the eyes were large, blue,
and mild, and the brown hair grew in waves that many a woman might have
envied. Indeed had it not been for a short but strongly growing beard,
it would have been easy to believe that the countenance was that of a
boy of nineteen rather than of a man over thirty. Neither time nor care
had drawn a single line upon it; it told of perfect and robust health
and yet bore the bloom of childhood. It was the face of a man who might
live to a hundred and still look young, nor did the form belie it.

Mr. Davies blushed up to his eyes, blushed like a girl beneath
Elizabeth's scrutiny. "Naturally I take an interest in a neighbour's
fate," he said, in his slow deliberate way. "She is quite safe, then?"

"I believe so," answered Elizabeth.

"Thank God!" he said, or rather it seemed to break from him in a sigh of
relief. "How did the gentleman, Mr. Bingham, come to be found with her?"

"How should I know?" she answered with a shrug. "Beatrice saved his life
somehow, clung fast to him even after she was insensible."

"It is very wonderful. I never heard of such a thing. What is he like?"

"He is one of the finest-looking men I ever saw," answered Elizabeth,
always watching him.

"Ah. But he is married, I think, Miss Granger?"

"Oh, yes, he is married to the daughter of a peer, very much
married--and very little, I should say."

"I do not quite understand, Miss Granger."

"Don't you, Mr. Davies? then use your eyes when you see them together."

"I should not see anything. I am not quick like you," he added.

"How do you mean to get back to the Castle to-night, Mr. Davies? You
cannot row back in this wind, and the seas will be breaking over the
causeway."

"Oh, I shall manage. I am wet already. An extra ducking won't hurt me,
and I have had a chain put up to prevent anybody from being washed away.
And now I must be going. Good-night."

"Good-night, Mr. Davies."

He hesitated a moment and then added: "Would you--would you mind telling
your sister--of course I mean when she is stronger--that I came to
inquire after her?"

"I think that you can do that for yourself, Mr. Davies," Elizabeth said
almost roughly. "I mean it will be more appreciated," and she turned
upon her heel.

Owen Davies ventured no further remarks. He felt that Elizabeth's manner
was a little crushing, and he was afraid of her as well. "I suppose that
she does not think I am good enough to pay attention to her sister," he
thought to himself as he plunged into the night and rain. "Well, she is
quite right--I am not fit to black her boots. Oh, God, I thank Thee
that Thou hast saved her life. I thank Thee--I thank Thee!" he went on,
speaking aloud to the wild winds as he made his way along the cliff. "If
she had been dead, I think that I must have died too. Oh, God, I thank
Thee--I thank Thee!"

The idea that Owen Davies, Esq., J.P., D.L., of Bryngelly Castle,
absolute owner of that rising little watering-place, and of one of
the largest and most prosperous slate quarries in Wales, worth in all
somewhere between seven and ten thousand a year, was unfit to black
her beautiful sister's boots, was not an idea that had struck Elizabeth
Granger. Had it struck her, indeed, it would have moved her to laughter,
for Elizabeth had a practical mind.

What did strike her, as she turned and watched the rich squire's sturdy
form vanish through the doorway into the dark beyond, was a certain
sense of wonder. Supposing she had never seen that shiver of returning
life run up those white limbs, supposing that they had grown colder
and colder, till at length it was evident that death was so firmly
citadelled within the silent heart, that no human skill could beat his
empire back? What then? Owen Davies loved her sister; this she knew and
had known for years. But would he not have got over it in time? Would
he not in time have been overpowered by the sense of his own utter
loneliness and given his hand, if not his heart, to some other woman?
And could not she who held his hand learn to reach his heart? And to
whom would that hand have been given, the hand and all that went
with it? What woman would this shy Welsh hermit, without friends or
relations, have ever been thrown in with except herself--Elizabeth--who
loved him as much as she could love anybody, which, perhaps, was not
very much; who, at any rate, desired sorely to be his wife. Would not
all this have come about if she had never seen that eyelid tremble,
and that slight quiver run up her sister's limbs? It would--she knew it
would.

Elizabeth thought of it as for a moment she stood in the passage, and a
cold hungry light came into her neutral tinted eyes and shone upon her
pale face. But she choked back the thought; she was scarcely wicked
enough to wish that her sister had not been brought back to life. She
only speculated on what might have happened if this had come about, just
as one works out a game of chess from a given hypothetical situation of
the pieces.

Perhaps, too, the same end might be gained in some other way. Perhaps
Mr. Davies might still be weaned from his infatuation. The wall was
difficult, but it would have to be very difficult if she could not find
a way to climb it. It never occurred to Elizabeth that there might be
an open gate. She could not conceive it possible that a woman might
positively reject Owen Davies and his seven or ten thousand a year, and
that woman a person in an unsatisfactory and uncongenial, almost in
a menial position. Reject Bryngelly Castle with all its luxury and
opportunities of wealth and leisure? No, the sun would set in the east
before such a thing happened. The plan was to prevent the occasion from
arising. The hungry light died on Elizabeth's face, and she turned to
enter the sick room when suddenly she met her father coming out.

"Who was that at the front?" he asked, carefully closing the door.

"Mr. Davies of Bryngelly Castle, father."

"And what did Mr. Davies want at this time of night? To know about
Beatrice?"

"Yes," she answered slowly, "he came to ask after Beatrice, or to be
more correct he has been waiting outside for three hours in the rain to
learn if she recovered."

"Waiting outside for three hours in the rain," said the clergyman
astonished--"Squire Davies standing outside the house! What for?"

"Because he was so anxious about Beatrice and did not like to come in, I
suppose."

"So anxious about Beatrice--ah, so anxious about Beatrice! Do you
think, Elizabeth--um--you know there is no doubt Beatrice is very well
favoured--very handsome they say----"

"I do not think anything about it, father," she answered, "and as for
Beatrice's looks they are a matter of opinion. I have mine. And now
don't you think we had better go to bed? The doctors and Betty are going
to stop up all night with Mr. Bingham and Beatrice."

"Yes, Elizabeth, I suppose that we had better go. I am sure we have much
to be thankful for to-night. What a merciful deliverance! And if poor
Beatrice had gone the parish must have found another schoolmistress, and
it would have meant that we lost the salary. We have a great deal to be
thankful for, Elizabeth."

"Yes," said Elizabeth, very deliberately, "we have."



CHAPTER VI

OWEN DAVIES AT HOME

Owen Davies tramped along the cliff with a light heart. The wild lashing
of the rain and the roaring of the wind did not disturb him in the
least. They were disagreeable, but he accepted them as he accepted
existence and all its vanities, without remark or mental comment. There
is a class of mind of which this is the prevailing attitude. Very
early in their span of life, those endowed with such a mind come to the
conclusion that the world is too much for them. They cannot understand
it, so they abandon the attempt, and, as a consequence, in their own
torpid way they are among the happiest and most contented of men.
Problems, on which persons of keener intelligence and more aspiring soul
fret and foam their lives away as rushing water round a rock, do not
even break the placid surface of their days. Such men slip past them.
They look out upon the stars and read of the mystery of the universe
speeding on for ever through the limitless wastes of space, and are not
astonished. In their childhood they were taught that God made the sun
and the stars to give light on the earth; that is enough for them. And
so it is with everything. Poverty and suffering; war, pestilence, and
the inequalities of fate; madness, life and death, and the spiritual
wonders that hedge in our being, are things not to be inquired into but
accepted. So they accept them as they do their dinner or a tradesman's
circular.

In some cases this mental state has its root in deep and simple
religious convictions, and in some it springs from a preponderance
of healthful animal instincts over the higher but more troublesome
spiritual parts. The ox chewing the cud in the fresh meadow does not
muse upon the past and future, and the gull blown like a foam-flake out
against the sunset, does not know the splendour of the sky and sea.
Even the savage is not much troubled about the scheme of things. In the
beginning he was "torn out of the reeds," and in the end he melts into
the Unknown, and for the rest, there are beef and wives, and foes to
conquer. But then oxen and gulls are not, so far as we know, troubled
with any spiritual parts at all, and in the noble savage such things are
not cultivated. They come with civilization.

But perhaps in the majority this condition, so necessary to the more
placid forms of happiness, is born of a conjunction of physical and
religious developments. So it was, at least, with the rich and fortunate
man whom we have seen trudging along the wind-swept cliff. By nature and
education he was of a strongly and simply religious mind, as he was in
body powerful, placid, and healthy to an exasperating degree. It may be
said that it is easy to be religious and placid on ten thousand a year,
but Owen Davies had not always enjoyed ten thousand a year and one of
the most romantic and beautiful seats in Wales. From the time he was
seventeen, when his mother's death left him an orphan, till he reached
the age of thirty, some six years from the date of the opening of this
history, he led about as hard a life as fate could find for any man.
Some people may have heard of sugar drogers, or sailing brigs, which
trade between this country and the West Indies, carrying coal outwards
and sugar home.

On board one of these, Owen Davies worked in various capacities for
thirteen long years. He did his drudgery well; but he made no friends,
and always remained the same shy, silent, and pious man. Then suddenly
a relation died without a will, and he found himself heir-in-law to
Bryngelly Castle and all its revenues. Owen expressed no surprise, and
to all appearance felt none. He had never seen his relation, and never
dreamed of this romantic devolution of great estates upon himself.
But he accepted the good fortune as he had accepted the ill, and said
nothing. The only people who knew him were his shipmates, and they could
scarcely be held to know him. They were acquainted with his appearance
and the sound of his voice, and his method of doing his duty. Also, they
were aware, although he never spoke of religion, that he read a chapter
of the Bible every evening, and went to church whenever they touched at
a port. But of his internal self they were in total ignorance. This
did not, however, prevent them from prophesying that Davies was a "deep
one," who, now that he had got the cash, would "blue it" in a way which
would astonish them.

But Davies did not "excel in azure feats." The news of his good
fortune reached him just as the brig, on which he was going to sail as
first-mate, was taking in her cargo for the West Indies. He had signed
his contract for the voyage, and, to the utter astonishment of the
lawyer who managed the estates, he announced that he should carry it
out. In vain did the man of affairs point out to his client that with
the help of a cheque of L100 he could arrange the matter for him in
ten minutes. Mr. Davies merely replied that the property could wait,
he should go the voyage and retire afterwards. The lawyer held up his
hands, and then suddenly remembered that there are women in the West
Indies as in other parts of the world. Doubtless his queer client had an
object in this voyage. As a matter of fact, he was totally wrong. Owen
Davies had never interchanged a tender word with a woman in his life; he
was a creature of routine, and it was part of his routine to carry out
his agreements to the letter. That was all.

As a last resource, the lawyer suggested that Mr. Davies should make a
will.

"I do not think it necessary," was the slow and measured answer. "The
property has come to me by chance. If I die, it may as well go to
somebody else in the same way."

The lawyer stared. "Very well," he said; "it is against my advice, but
you must please yourself. Do you want any money?"

Owen thought for a moment. "Yes," he said, "I think I should like
to have ten pounds. They are building a theatre there, and I want to
subscribe to it."

The lawyer gave him the ten pounds without a word; he was struck
speechless, and in this condition he remained for some minutes after
the door had closed behind his client. Then he sprung up with a single
ejaculation, "Mad, mad! like his great uncle!"

But Owen Davies was not in the least mad, at any rate not then; he was
only a creature of habit. In due course, his agreement fulfilled, he
sailed his brig home from the West Indies (for the captain was drowned
in a gale). Then he took a second-class ticket to Bryngelly, where he
had never been in his life before, and asked his way to the Castle. He
was told to go to the beach, and he would see it. He did so, leaving his
sea-chest behind him, and there, about two hundred paces from the land,
and built upon a solitary mountain of rock, measuring half a mile or
so round the base, he perceived a vast mediaeval pile of fortified
buildings, with turrets towering three hundred feet into the air, and
edged with fire by the setting sun. He gazed on it with perplexity.
Could it be that this enormous island fortress belonged to him, and, if
so, how on earth did one get to it? For some little time he walked
up and down, wondering, too shy to go to the village for information.
Meanwhile, though he did not notice her, a well-grown girl of about
fifteen, remarkable for her great grey eyes and the promise of her
beauty, was watching his evident perplexity from a seat beneath a rock,
not without amusement. At last she rose, and, with the confidence of
bold fifteen, walked straight up to him.

"Do you want to get the Castle, sir?" she asked in a low sweet voice,
the echoes of which Owen Davies never forgot.

"Yes--oh, I beg your pardon," for now for the first time he saw that he
was talking to a young lady.

"Then I am afraid that you are too late--Mrs. Thomas will not show
people over after four o'clock. She is the housekeeper, you know."

"Ah, well, the fact is I did not come to see over the place. I came to
live there. I am Owen Davies, and the place was left to me."

Beatrice, for of course it was she, stared at him in amazement. So this
was the mysterious sailor about whom there had been so much talk in
Bryngelly.

"Oh!" she said, with embarrassing frankness. "What an odd way to come
home. Well, it is high tide, and you will have to take a boat. I will
show you where you can get one. Old Edward will row you across for
sixpence," and she led the way round a corner of the beach to where old
Edward sat, from early morn to dewy eve, upon the thwarts of his biggest
boat, seeking those whom he might row.

"Edward," said the young lady, "here is the new squire, Mr. Owen Davies,
who wants to be rowed across to the Castle." Edward, a gnarled and
twisted specimen of the sailor tribe, with small eyes and a face that
reminded the observer of one of those quaint countenances on the handle
of a walking stick, stared at her in astonishment, and then cast a look
of suspicion on the visitor.

"Have he got papers of identification about him, miss?" he asked in a
stage whisper.

"I don't know," she answered laughing. "He says that he is Mr. Owen
Davies."

"Well, praps he is and praps he ain't; anyway, it isn't my affair, and
sixpence is sixpence."

All of this the unfortunate Mr. Davies overheard, and it did not add to
his equanimity.

"Now, sir, if you please," said Edward sternly, as he pulled the little
boat up to the edge of the breakwater. A vision of Mrs. Thomas shot into
Owen's mind. If the boatman did not believe in him, what chance had he
with the housekeeper? He wished he had brought the lawyer down with him,
and then he wished that he was back in the sugar brig.

"Now, sir," said Edward still more sternly, putting down his hesitation
to an impostor's consciousness of guilt.

"Um!" said Owen to the young lady, "I beg your pardon. I don't even know
your name, and I am sure I have no right to ask it, but would you mind
rowing across with me? It would be so kind of you; you might introduce
me to the housekeeper."

Again Beatrice laughed the merry laugh of girlhood; she was too young to
be conscious of any impropriety in the situation, and indeed there was
none. But her sense of humour told her that it was funny, and she became
possessed with a not unnatural curiosity to see the thing out.

"Oh, very well," she said, "I will come."

The boat was pushed off and very soon they reached the stone quay that
bordered the harbour of the Castle, about which a little village of
retainers had grown up. Seeing the boat arrive, some of these people
sauntered out of the cottages, and then, thinking that a visitor had
come, under the guidance of Miss Beatrice, to look at the antiquities
of the Castle, which was the show place of the neighbourhood, sauntered
back again. Then the pair began the zigzag ascent of the rock mountain,
till at last they stood beneath the mighty mass of building, which,
although it was hoary with antiquity, was by no means lacking in the
comforts of modern civilization, the water, for instance, being brought
in pipes laid beneath the sea from a mountain top two miles away on the
mainland.

"Isn't there a view here?" said Beatrice, pointing to the vast stretch
of land and sea. "I think, Mr. Davies, that you have the most beautiful
house in the whole world. Your great-uncle, who died a year ago, spent
more than fifty thousand pounds on repairing and refurbishing it, they
say. He built the big drawing-room there, where the stone is a little
lighter; it is fifty-five feet long. Just think, fifty thousand pounds!"

"It is a large sum," said Owen, in an unimaginative sort of way, while
in his heart he wondered what on earth he should do with this white
elephant of a mediaeval castle, and its drawing room fifty-five feet
long.

"He does not seem much impressed," thought Beatrice to herself, as she
tugged away at the postern bell; "I think he must be stupid. He looks
stupid."

Presently the door was opened by an active-looking little old woman with
a high voice.

"Mrs. Thomas," thought Owen to himself; "she is even worse than I
expected."

"Now you must please to go away," began the formidable housekeeper in
her shrillest key; "it is too late to show visitors over. Why, bless us,
it's you, Miss Beatrice, with a strange man! What do you want?"

Beatrice looked at her companion as a hint that he should explain
himself, but he said nothing.

"This is your new squire," she said, not without a certain pride. "I
found him wandering about the beach. He did not know how to get here, so
I brought him over."

"Lord, Miss Beatrice, and how do you know it's him?" said Mrs. Thomas.
"How do you know it ain't a housebreaker?"

"Oh, I'm sure he cannot be," answered Beatrice aside, "because he isn't
clever enough."

Then followed a long discussion. Mrs. Thomas stoutly refused to admit
the stranger without evidence of identity, and Beatrice, embracing his
cause, as stoutly pressed his claims. As for the lawful owner, he made
occasional feeble attempts to prove that he was himself, but Mrs. Thomas
was not to be imposed upon in this way. At last they came to a dead
lock.

"Y'd better go back to the inn, sir," said Mrs. Thomas with scathing
sarcasm, "and come up to-morrow with proofs and your luggage."

"Haven't you got any letters with you?" suggested Beatrice as a last
resource.

As it happened Owen had a letter, one from the lawyer to himself about
the property, and mentioning Mrs. Thomas's name as being in charge
of the Castle. He had forgotten all about it, but at this interesting
juncture it was produced and read aloud by Beatrice. Mrs. Thomas took
it, and having examined it carefully through her horn-rimmed spectacles,
was constrained to admit its authenticity.

"I'm sure I apologise, sir," she said with a half-doubtful courtesy
and much tact, "but one can't be too careful with all these trampseses
about; I never should have thought from the look of you, sir, how as you
was the new squire."

This might be candid, but it was not flattering, and it caused Beatrice
to snigger behind her handkerchief in true school-girl fashion. However,
they entered, and were led by Mrs. Thomas with solemn pomp through
the great and little halls, the stone parlour and the oak parlour, the
library and the huge drawing-room, in which the white heads of marble
statues protruded from the bags of brown holland wherewith they were
wrapped about in a manner ghastly to behold. At length they reached a
small octagon-shaped room that, facing south, commanded a most glorious
view of sea and land. It was called the Lady's Boudoir, and joined
another of about the same size, which in its former owner's time had
been used as a smoking-room.

"If you don't mind, madam," said the lord of all this magnificence, "I
should like to stop here, I am getting tired of walking." And there he
stopped for many years. The rest of the Castle was shut up; he scarcely
ever visited it except occasionally to see that the rooms were properly
aired, for he was a methodical man.

As for Beatrice, she went home, still chuckling, to receive a severe
reproof from Elizabeth for her "forwardness." But Owen Davies never
forgot the debt of gratitude he owed her. In his heart he felt convinced
that had it not been for her, he would have fled before Mrs. Thomas and
her horn-rimmed eyeglasses, to return no more. The truth of the matter
was, however, that young as was Beatrice, he fell in love with her then
and there, only to fall deeper and deeper into that drear abyss as years
went on. He never said anything about it, he scarcely even gave a hint
of his hopeless condition, though of course Beatrice divined something
of it as soon as she came to years of discretion. But there grew up in
Owen's silent, lonely breast a great and overmastering desire to make
this grey-eyed girl his wife. He measured time by the intervals that
elapsed between his visions of her. No period in his life was so
wretched and utterly purposeless as those two years which passed while
she was at her Training College. He was a very passive lover, as yet his
gathering passion did not urge him to extremes, and he could never make
up his mind to declare it. The box was in his hand, but he feared to
throw the dice.

But he drew as near to her as he dared. Once he gave Beatrice a flower,
it was when she was seventeen, and awkwardly expressed a hope that she
would wear it for his sake. The words were not much and the flower was
not much, but there was a look about the man's eyes, and a suppressed
passion and energy in his voice, which told their tale to the
keen-witted girl. After this he found that she avoided him, and bitterly
regretted his boldness. For Beatrice did not like him in that way. To
a girl of her curious stamp his wealth was nothing. She did not covet
wealth, she coveted independence, and had the sense to know that
marriage with such a man would not bring it. A cage is a cage, whether
the bars are of iron or gold. He bored her, she despised him for his
want of intelligence and enterprise. That a man with all this wealth and
endless opportunity should waste his life in such fashion was to her a
thing intolerable. She knew if she had half his chance, that she would
make her name ring from one end of Europe to the other. In short,
Beatrice held Owen as deeply in contempt as her sister Elizabeth,
studying him from another point of view, held him in reverence. And
putting aside any human predilections, Beatrice would never have married
a man whom she despised. She respected herself too much.

Owen Davies saw all this as through a glass darkly, and in his own slow
way cast about for a means of drawing near. He discovered that Beatrice
was passionately fond of learning, and also that she had no means to
obtain the necessary books. So he threw open his library to her; it
was one of the best in Wales. He did more; he gave orders to a London
bookseller to forward him every new book of importance that appeared
in certain classes of literature, and all of these he placed at her
disposal, having first carefully cut the leaves with his own hand. This
was a bait Beatrice could not resist. She might dread or even detest Mr.
Davies, but she loved his books, and if she quarrelled with him her
well of knowledge would simply run dry, for there were no circulating
libraries at Bryngelly, and if there had been she could not have
afforded to subscribe to them. So she remained on good terms with him,
and even smiled at his futile attempts to keep pace with her studies.
Poor man, reading did not come naturally to him; he was much better at
cutting leaves. He studied the _Times_ and certain religious works, that
was all. But he wrestled manfully with many a detested tome, in order to
be able to say something to Beatrice about it, and the worst of it was
that Beatrice always saw through it, and showed him that she did. It was
not kind, perhaps, but youth is cruel.

And so the years wore on, till at length Beatrice knew that a crisis
was at hand. Even the tardiest and most retiring lover must come to the
point at last, if he is in earnest, and Owen Davies was very much in
earnest. Of late, to her dismay, he had so far come out of his shell
as to allow himself to be nominated a member of the school council. Of
course she knew that this was only to give him more opportunities of
seeing her. As a member of the council, he could visit the school of
which she was mistress as often as he chose, and indeed he soon learned
to take a lively interest in village education. About twice a week he
would come in just as the school was breaking up and offer to walk home
with her, seeking for a favourable opportunity to propose. Hitherto she
had always warded off this last event, but she knew that it must happen.
Not that she was actually afraid of the man himself; he was too much
afraid of her for that. What she did fear was the outburst of wrath
from her father and sister when they learned that she had refused Owen
Davies. It never occurred to her that Elizabeth might be playing a hand
of her own in the matter.

From all of which it will be clear, if indeed it has not become so
already, that Beatrice Granger was a somewhat ill-regulated young woman,
born to bring trouble on herself and all connected with her. Had she
been otherwise, she would have taken her good fortune and married Owen
Davies, in which case her history need never have been written.



CHAPTER VII

A MATRIMONIAL TALE

Before Geoffrey Bingham dropped off into a troubled sleep on that
eventful night of storm, he learned that the girl who had saved his life
at the risk and almost at the cost of her own was out of danger, and in
his own and more reticent way he thanked Providence as heartily as did
Owen Davies. Then he went to sleep.

When he woke, feeling very sick and so stiff and sore that he could
scarcely move, the broad daylight was streaming through the blinds. The
place was perfectly quiet, for the doctor's assistant who had brought
him back to life, and who lay upon a couch at the further end of
the room, slept the sleep of youth and complete exhaustion. Only an
eight-day clock on the mantelpiece ticked in that solemn and aggressive
way which clocks affect in the stillness. Geoffrey strained his eyes to
make out the time, and finally discovered that it wanted a few minutes
to six o'clock. Then he fell to wondering how Miss Granger was, and to
repeating in his own mind every scene of their adventure, till the
last, when they were whirled out of the canoe in the embrace of that
white-crested billow.

He remembered nothing after that, nothing but a rushing sound and a
vision of foam. He shuddered a little as he thought of it, for his
nerves were shaken; it is not pleasant to have been so very near the End
and the Beginning; and then his heart went out with renewed gratitude
towards the girl who had restored him to life and light and hope. Just
at this moment he thought that he heard a sound of sobbing outside the
window. He listened; the sound went on. He tried to rise, only to find
that he was too stiff to manage it. So, as a last resource, he called
the doctor.

"What is the matter?" answered that young gentleman, jumping up with the
alacrity of one accustomed to be suddenly awakened. "Do you feel queer?"

"Yes, I do rather," answered Geoffrey, "but it isn't that. There is
somebody crying outside here."

The doctor put on his coat, and, going to the window, drew the blind.

"Why, so there is," he said. "It's a little girl with yellow hair and
without a hat."

"A little girl," answered Geoffrey. "Why, it must be Effie, my daughter.
Please let her in."

"All right. Cover yourself up, and I can do that through the window; it
isn't five feet from the ground." Accordingly he opened the window, and
addressing the little girl, asked her what her name was.

"Effie," she sobbed in answer, "Effie Bingham. I've come to look for
daddie."

"All right, my dear, don't cry so; your daddie is here. Come and let me
lift you in."

Another moment and there appeared through the open window the very
sweetest little face and form that ever a girl of six was blessed with.
For the face was pink and white, and in it were set two beautiful dark
eyes, which, contrasting with the golden hair, made the child a sight
to see. But alas! just now the cheeks were stained with tears, and round
the large dark eyes were rings almost as dark. Nor was this all. The
little dress was hooked awry, on one tiny foot all drenched with dew
there was no boot, and on the yellow curls no hat.

"Oh! daddie, daddie," cried the child, catching sight of him and
struggling to reach her father's arms, "you isn't dead, is you, daddie?"

"No, my love, no," answered her father, kissing her. "Why should you
think that I was dead? Didn't your mother tell you that I was safe?"

"Oh! daddie," she answered, "they came and said that you was drownded,
and I cried and wished that I was drownded too. Then mother came home at
last and said that you were better, and was cross with me because I went
on crying and wanted to come to you. But I did go on crying. I cried
nearly all night, and when it got light I did dress myself, all but one
shoe and my hat, which I could not find, and I got out of the house to
look for you."

"And how did you find me, my poor little dear?"

"Oh, I heard mother say you was at the Vicarage, so I waited till I saw
a man, and asked him which way to go, and he did tell me to walk along
the cliff till I saw a long white house, and then when he saw that I had
no shoe he wanted to take me home, but I ran away till I got here. But
the blinds were down, so I did think that you were dead, daddie dear,
and I cried till that gentleman opened the window."

After that Geoffrey began to scold her for running away, but she did not
seem to mind it much, for she sat upon the edge of the couch, her little
face resting against his own, a very pretty sight to see.

"You must go back to Mrs. Jones, Effie, and tell your mother where you
have been."

"I can't, daddie, I've only got one shoe," she answered, pouting.

"But you came with only one shoe."

"Yes, daddie, but I wanted to come and I don't want to go back. Tell me
how you was drownded."

He laughed at her logic and gave way to her, for this little daughter
was very near to his heart, nearer than anything else in the world. So
he told her how he was "drownded" and how a lady had saved his life.

Effie listened with wide set eyes, and then said that she wanted to see
the lady, which she presently did. At that moment there came a knock at
the door, and Mr. Granger entered, accompanied by Dr. Chambers.

"How do you do, sir?" said the former. "I must introduce myself, seeing
that you are not likely to remember me. When last I saw you, you looked
as dead as a beached dog-fish. My name's Granger, the Reverend J.
Granger, Vicar of Bryngelly, one of the very worst livings on this
coast, and that's saying a great deal."

"I am sure, Mr. Granger, I'm under a deep debt of gratitude to you for
your hospitality, and under a still deeper one to your daughter, but I
hope to thank her personally for that."

"Never speak of it," said the clergyman. "Hot water and blankets don't
cost much, and you will have to pay for the brandy and the doctor. How
is he, doctor?"

"He is getting on very well indeed, Mr. Granger. But I daresay you find
yourself rather stiff, Mr. Bingham. I see your head is pretty badly
bruised."

"Yes," he answered, laughing, "and so is my body. Shall I be able to go
home to-day?"

"I think so," said the doctor, "but not before this evening. You had
better keep quiet till then. You will be glad to hear that Miss Beatrice
is getting on very well. Hers was a wonderful recovery, the most
wonderful I ever saw. I had quite given her up, though I should have
kept on the treatment for another hour. You ought to be grateful to Miss
Beatrice, Mr. Bingham. But for her you would not have been here."

"I am most grateful," he answered earnestly. "Shall I be able to see her
to-day?"

"Yes, I think so, some time this afternoon, say at three o'clock. Is
that your little daughter? What a lovely child she is. Well, I will look
in again about twelve. All that you require to do now is to keep quiet
and rub in some arnica."

About an hour afterwards the servant girl brought Geoffrey some
breakfast of tea and toast. He felt quite hungry, but when it came to
the pinch he could not eat much. Effie, who was starving, made up for
this deficiency, however; she ate all the toast and a couple of slices
of bread and butter after it. Scarcely had they finished, when her
father observed a shade of anxiety come upon his little daughter's face.

"What is it, Effie?" he asked.

"I think," replied Effie in evident trepidation, "I think that I hear
mother outside and Anne too."

"Well, dear, they have come to see me."

"Yes, and to scold me because I ran away," and the child drew nearer to
her father in a fashion which would have made it clear to any observer
that the relations between her and her mother were somewhat strained.

Effie was right. Presently there was a knock at the door and Lady
Honoria entered, calm and pale and elegant as ever. She was followed by
a dark-eyed somewhat impertinent-looking French _bonne_, who held up her
hands and ejaculated, "Mon Dieu!" as she appeared.

"I thought so," said Lady Honoria, speaking in French to the _bonne_.
"There she is," and she pointed at the runaway Effie with her parasol.

"Mon Dieu!" said the woman again. "Vous voila enfin, et moi, qui suis
accablee de peur, et votre chere mere aussi; oh, mais que c'est mechant;
et regardez donc, avec un soulier seulement. Mais c'est affreux!"

"Hold your tongue," said Geoffrey sharply, "and leave Miss Effie alone.
She came to see me."

Anne ejaculated, "Mon Dieu!" once more and collapsed.

"Really, Geoffrey," said his wife, "the way you spoil that child is
something shocking. She is wilful as can be, and you make her worse. It
is very naughty of her to run away like that and give us such a hunt.
How are we to get her home, I wonder, with only one shoe."

Her husband bit his lip, and his forehead contracted itself above the
dark eyes. It was not the first time that he and Lady Honoria had come
to words about the child, with whom his wife was not in sympathy. Indeed
she had never forgiven Effie for appearing in this world at all. Lady
Honoria did not belong to that class of women who think maternity is a
joy.

"Anne," he said, "take Miss Effie and carry her till you can find a
donkey. She can ride back to the lodgings." The nurse murmured something
in French about the child being as heavy as lead.

"Do as I bid you," he said sharply, in the same language. "Effie, my
love, give me a kiss and go home. Thank you for coming to see me."

The child obeyed and went. Lady Honoria stood and watched her go,
tapping her little foot upon the floor, and with a look upon her cold,
handsome face that was not altogether agreeable to see.



It had sometimes happened that, in the course of his married life,
Geoffrey returned home with a little of that added fondness which
absence is fabled to beget. On these occasions he was commonly so
unfortunate as to find that Lady Honoria belied the saying, that she
greeted him with arrears of grievances and was, if possible, more frigid
than ever.

Was this to be repeated now that he had come back from what was so
near to being the longest absence of all? It looked like it. He noted
symptoms of the rising storm, symptoms with which he was but too well
acquainted, and both for his own sake and for hers--for above all things
Geoffrey dreaded these bitter matrimonial bickerings--tried to think of
something kind to say. It must be owned that he did not show much tact
in the subject he selected, though it was one which might have stirred
the sympathies of some women. It is so difficult to remember that one is
dealing with a Lady Honoria.

"If ever we have another child----" he began gently.

"Excuse me interrupting you," said the lady, with a suavity which did
not however convey any idea of the speaker's inward peace, "but it is
a kindness to prevent you from going on in that line. _One_ darling is
ample for me."

"Well," said the miserable Geoffrey, with an effort, "even if you don't
care much about the child yourself, it is a little unreasonable to
object because she cares for me and was sorry when she thought that I
was dead. Really, Honoria, sometimes I wonder if you have any heart at
all. Why should you be put out because Effie got up early to come and
see me?--an example which I must admit you did not set her. And as to
her shoe----" he added smiling.

"You may laugh about her shoe, Geoffrey," she interrupted, "but you
forget that even little things like that are no laughing matter now to
us. The child's shoes keep me awake at night sometimes. Defoy has
not been paid for I don't know how long. I have a mind to get her
_sabots_--and as to heart----"

"Well," broke in Geoffrey, reflecting that bad as was the emotional side
of the question, it was better than the commercial--"as to 'heart?'"

"You are scarcely the person to talk of it, that is all. I wonder how
much of yours you gave _me_?"

"Really, Honoria," he answered, not without eagerness, and his mind
filled with wonder. Was it possible that his wife had experienced some
kind of "call," and was about to concern herself with his heart one
way or the other? If so it was strange, for she had never shown the
slightest interest in it before.

"Yes," she went on rapidly and with gathering vehemence, "you speak
about your heart"--which he had not done--"and yet you know as well as I
do that if I had been a girl of no position you would never have offered
me the organ on which you pretend to set so high a value. Or did your
heart run wildly away with you, and drag us into love and a cottage--a
flat, I mean? If so, _I_ should prefer a little less heart and a little
more common sense."

Geoffrey winced, twice indeed, feeling that her ladyship had hit him as
it were with both barrels. For, as a matter of fact, he had not begun
with any passionate devotion, and again Lady Honoria and he were now
just as poor as though they had really married for love.

"It is hardly fair to go back on bygones and talk like this," he said,
"even if your position had something to do with it; only at first of
course, you must remember that when we married mine was not without
attractions. Two thousand a year to start on and a baronetcy and eight
thousand a year in the near future were not--but I hate talking about
that kind of thing. Why do you force me to it? Nobody could know that my
uncle, who was so anxious that I should marry you, would marry himself
at his age, and have a son and heir. It was not my fault, Honoria.
Perhaps you would not have married me if you could have foreseen it."

"Very probably not," she answered calmly, "and it is not _my_ fault that
I have not yet learned to live with peace of mind and comfort on seven
hundred a year. It was hard enough to exist on two thousand till your
uncle died, and now----"

"Well, and now, Honoria, if you will only have patience and put up with
things for a while, you shall be rich enough; I will make money for you,
as much money as you want. I have many friends. I have not done so badly
at the Bar this year."

"Two hundred pounds, nineteen shillings and sevenpence, minus
ninety-seven pounds rent of chambers and clerk," said Lady Honoria, with
a disparaging accent on the sevenpence.

"I shall double it next year, and double that again the next, and so on.
I work from morning till night to get on, that you may have--what you
live for," he said bitterly.

"Ah, I shall be sixty before that happy day comes, and want nothing but
scandal and a bath chair. I know the Bar and its moaning," she added,
with acid wit. "You dream, you imagine what you would like to come true,
but you are deceiving me and yourself. It will be like the story of Sir
Robert Bingham's property once again. We shall be beggars all our days.
I tell you, Geoffrey, that you had no right to marry me."

Then at length he lost his temper. This was not the first of these
scenes--they had grown frequent of late, and this bitter water was
constantly dropping.

"Right?" he said, "and may I ask what right you had to marry me when you
don't even pretend you ever cared one straw for me, but just accepted me
as you would have accepted any other man who was a tolerably good match?
I grant that I first thought of proposing to you because my uncle wished
it, but if I did not love you I meant to be a good husband to you, and I
should have loved you if you would let me. But you are cold and selfish;
you looked upon a husband merely as a stepping-stone to luxury; you have
never loved anybody except yourself. If I had died last night I believe
that you would have cared more about having to go into mourning than for
the fact of my disappearance from your life. You showed no more
feeling for me when you came in than you would have if I had been a
stranger--not so much as some women might have for a stranger. I wonder
sometimes if you have any feeling left in you at all. I should think
that you treat me as you do because you do not care for me and do care
for some other person did I not know you to be utterly incapable of
caring for anybody. Do you want to make me hate you, Honoria?"

Geoffrey's low concentrated voice and earnest manner told his wife, who
was watching him with something like a smile upon her clear-cut lips,
how deeply he was moved. He had lost his self-control, and exposed his
heart to her--a thing he rarely did, and that in itself was a triumph
which she did not wish to pursue at the moment. Geoffrey was not a man
to push too far.

"If you have quite finished, Geoffrey, there is something I should like
to say----"

"Oh, curse it all!" he broke in.

"Yes?" she said calmly and interrogatively, and made a pause, but as
he did not specially apply his remark to anybody or anything, she
continued: "If these flowers of rhetoric are over, what I have to say
is this: I do not intend to stay in this horrid place any longer. I am
going to-morrow to my brother Garsington. They asked us both, you may
remember, but for reasons best known to yourself, you would not go."

"You know my reasons very well, Honoria."

"I beg your pardon. I have not the slightest idea what they were," said
Lady Honoria with conviction. "May I hear them?"

"Well, if you wish to know, I will not go to the house of a man who
has--well, left my club as Garsington left it, and who, had it not
been for my efforts, would have left it in an even more unpleasant and
conspicuous fashion. And his wife is worse than he is----"

"I think you are mistaken," Lady Honoria said coldly, and with the air
of a person who shuts the door of a room into which she does not wish to
look. "And, any way, it all happened years ago and has blown over. But
I do not see the necessity of discussing the subject further. I suppose
that we shall meet at dinner to-night. I shall take the early train
to-morrow."

"Do what suits you, Honoria. Perhaps you would prefer not returning at
all."

"Thank you, no. I will not lay myself open to imputations. I shall join
you in London, and will make the best of a bad business. Thank Heaven,
I have learned how to bear my misfortunes," and with this Parthian shot
she left the room.

For a minute or two her husband felt as though he almost hated her. Then
he thrust his face into the pillow and groaned.

"She is right," he said to himself; "we must make the best of a bad
business. But, somehow, I seem to have made a mess of my life. And yet I
loved her once--for a month or two."

This was not an agreeable scene, and it may be said that Lady Honoria
was a vulgar person. But not even the advantage of having been brought
up "on the knees of marchionesses" is a specific against vulgarity, if
a lady happens, unfortunately, to set her heart, what there is of it,
meanly on mean things.



CHAPTER VIII

EXPLANATORY

About two o'clock Geoffrey rose, and with some slight assistance from
his reverend host, struggled into his clothes. Then he lunched, and
while he did so Mr. Granger poured his troubles into his sympathetic
ear.

"My father was a Herefordshire farmer, Mr. Bingham," he said, "and I was
bred up to that line of life myself. He did well, my father did, as
in those days a careful man might. What is more, he made some money by
cattle-dealing, and I think that turned his head a little; anyway, he
was minded to make 'a gentleman of me,' as he called it. So when I was
eighteen I was packed off to be made a parson of, whether I liked it or
no. Well, I became a parson, and for four years I had a curacy at a
town called Kingston, in Herefordshire, not a bad sort of little
town--perhaps you happen to know it. While I was there, my father,
who was getting beyond himself, took to speculating. He built a row of
villas at Leominster, or at least he lent a lawyer the money to build
them, and when they were built nobody would hire them. It broke my
father; he was ruined over those villas. I have always hated the sight
of a villa ever since, Mr. Bingham. And shortly afterwards he died, as
near bankruptcy as a man's nose is to his mouth.

"After that I was offered this living, L150 a year it was at the best,
and like a fool I took it. The old parson who was here before me left
an only daughter behind him. The living had ruined him, as it ruins me,
and, as I say, he left his daughter, my wife that was, behind him, and
a pretty good bill for dilapidations I had against the estate. But there
wasn't any estate, so I made the best of a bad business and married
the daughter, and a sweet pretty woman she was, poor dear, very like
my Beatrice, only without the brains. I can't make out where Beatrice's
brains come from indeed, for I am sure I don't set up for having any.
She was well born, too, my wife was, of an old Cornish family, but she
had nowhere to go to, and I think she married me because she didn't know
what else to do, and was fond of the old place. She took me on with it,
as it were. Well, it turned out pretty well, till some eleven years ago,
when our boy was born, though I don't think we ever quite understood
each other. She never got her health back after that, and seven years
ago she died. I remember it was on a night wonderfully like last
night--mist first, then storm. The boy died a few years afterwards. I
thought it would have broken Beatrice's heart; she has never been the
same girl since, but always full of queer ideas I don't pretend to
follow.

"And as for the life I've had of it here, Mr. Bingham, you wouldn't
believe it if I was to tell you. The living is small enough, but the
place is as full of dissent as a mackerel-boat of fish, and as for
getting the tithes--well, I cannot, that's all. If it wasn't for a bit
of farming that I do, not but what the prices are down to nothing, and
for what the visitors give in the season, and for the help of Beatrice's
salary as certificated mistress, I should have been in the poor-house
long ago, and shall be yet, I often think. I have had to take in a
border before now to make both ends meet, and shall again, I expect.

"And now I must be off up to my bit of a farm; the old sow is due to
litter, and I want to see how she is getting on. Please God she'll
have thirteen again and do well. I'll order the fly to be here at five,
though I shall be back before then--that is, I told Elizabeth to do so.
She has gone out to do some visiting for me, and to see if she can't
get in two pounds five of tithe that has been due for three months. If
anybody can get it it's Elizabeth. Well, good-bye; if you are dull and
want to talk to Beatrice, she is up and in there. I daresay you will
suit one another. She's a very queer girl, Beatrice, quite beyond me
with her ideas, and it was a funny thing her holding you so tight, but
I suppose Providence arranged that. Good-bye for the present, Mr.
Bingham," and this curious specimen of a clergyman vanished, leaving
Geoffrey quite breathless.

It was half-past two o'clock, and the doctor had told him that he could
see Miss Granger at three. He wished that it was three, for he was tired
of his own thoughts and company, and naturally anxious to renew his
acquaintance with the strange girl who had begun by impressing him so
deeply and ended by saving his life. There was complete quiet in the
house; Betty, the maid-of-all-work, was employed in the kitchen, both
the doctors had gone, and Elizabeth and her father were out. To-day
there was no wind, it had blown itself away during the night, and the
sight of the sunbeams streaming through the windows made Geoffrey long
to be in the open air. He had no book at hand to read, and whenever he
tried to think his mind flew back to that hateful matrimonial quarrel.

It was hard on him, Geoffrey thought, that he should be called upon
to endure such scenes. He could no longer disguise the truth from
himself--he had buried his happiness on his wedding-day. Looking
back across the years, he well remembered how different a life he had
imagined for himself. In those days he was tired of knocking about
and of youthful escapades; even that kind of social success which must
attend a young man who was handsome, clever, a good fellow, and blessed
with large expectations, had, at the age of six-and-twenty, entirely
lost its attractiveness. Therefore he had turned no deaf ear to his
uncle, Sir Robert Bingham, who was then going on for seventy, when he
suggested that it might be well of Geoffrey settled down, and introduced
him to Lady Honoria.

Lady Honoria was eighteen then, and a beauty of the rather thin but
statuesque type, which attracts men up to five or six and twenty and
then frequently bores, if it does not repel them. Moreover, she was
clever and well read, and pretended to be intellectually and poetically
inclined, as ladies not specially favoured by Apollo sometimes
do--before they marry. Cold she always was; nobody ever heard of Lady
Honoria stretching the bounds of propriety; but Geoffrey put this down
to a sweet and becoming modesty, which would vanish or be transmuted
in its season. Also she affected a charming innocence of all vulgar
business matters, which both deceived and enchanted him. Never but once
did she allude to ways and means before marriage, and then it was to say
that she was glad that they should be so poor till dear Sir Robert died
(he had promised to allow them fifteen hundred a year, and they had
seven more between them), as this would enable them to see so much more
of each other.

At last came the happy day, and this white virgin soul passed into
Geoffrey's keeping. For a week or so things went fairly well, and then
disenchantment began. He learned by slow but sure degrees that his wife
was vain, selfish and extravagant, and, worst of all, that she cared
very little about him. The first shock was when he accidentally
discovered, four or five days after marriage, that Honoria was
intimately acquainted with every detail of Sir Robert Bingham's
property, and, young as she was, had already formed a scheme to make it
more productive after the old man's death.

They went to live in London, and there he found that Lady Honoria,
although by far too cold and prudent a woman to do anything that could
bring a breath of scandal upon her name, was as fond of admiration as
she was heartless. It seemed to Geoffrey that he could never be free
from the collection of young men who hung about her skirts. Some of them
were very good fellows whom he liked exceedingly; still, on the whole he
would have preferred to remain unmarried and associate with them at the
club. Also the continual round of society and going out brought heavier
expenses on him that he could well support. And thus, little by little,
poor Geoffrey's dream of matrimonial bliss faded into thin air. But,
fortunately for himself, he possessed a certain share of logic and
sweet reasonableness. In time he learnt to see that the fault was not
altogether with his wife, who was by no means a bad sort of woman in
her degree. But her degree differed from his degree. She had married for
freedom and wealth and to gain a larger scope wherein to exercise those
tastes which inherited disposition and education had given to her, as
she believed that he had married her because she was the daughter of a
peer.

Lady Honoria, like many another woman of her stamp, was the overbred, or
sometimes the underbred, product of a too civilized age and class. Those
primitive passions and virtues on which her husband had relied to make
the happiness of their married life simply did not exist for her. The
passions had been bred and educated out of her; for many generations
they have been found inconvenient and disquieting attributes in woman.
As for the old virtues, such as love of children and the ordinary round
of domestic duty, they simply bored her. On the whole, though sharp of
tongue, she rarely lost her temper, for her vices, like her virtues,
were of a somewhat negative order; but the fury which seized her when
she learned for certain that she was to become a mother was a thing that
her unfortunate husband never forgot and never wished to see again. At
length the child was born, a fact for which Geoffrey, at least, was very
thankful.

"Take it away. I do not want to see it!" said Lady Honoria to the
scandalised nurse when the little creature was brought to her, wrapped
in its long robes.

"Give it to me, nurse--I do," said her husband.



From that moment Geoffrey gave all the pent-up affection of his bruised
soul to this little daughter, and as the years went on they grew very
dear to each other. But an active-minded, strong-hearted, able-bodied
man cannot take a babe as the sole companion of his existence. Probably
Geoffrey would have found this out in time, and might have drifted into
some mode of life more or less undesirable, had not an accident occurred
to prevent it. In his dotage, Geoffrey's old uncle Sir Robert Bingham
fell a victim to the wiles of an adventuress and married her. Then he
promptly died, and eight months afterwards a posthumous son was born.

To Geoffrey this meant ruin. His allowance stopped and his expectations
vanished at one fell swoop. He pulled himself together, however, as
a brave-hearted man does under such a shock, and going to his wife he
explained to her that he must now work for his living, begging her to
break down the barrier that was between them and give him her sympathy
and help. She met him with tears and reproaches. The one thing that
touched her keenly, the one thing which she feared and hated was
poverty, and all that poverty means to women of her rank and nature. But
there was no help for it; the charming house in Bolton Steet had to be
given up, and purgatory must be faced, in a flat, near the Edgware Road.
Lady Honoria was miserable, indeed had it not been that fortunately for
herself she possessed plenty of relations more or less grand, whom she
might continually visit for weeks and even for months at a stretch, she
could scarcely have endured her altered life.

But strangely enough Geoffrey soon found that he was happier than he had
been since his marriage. To begin with, he set to work like a man, and
work is a great source of happiness to all vigorous-minded folk. It is
not, in truth, a particularly cheerful occupation to pass endless days
in hanging about law-courts amongst a crowd of unbriefed Juniors, and
many nights in reading up the law one has forgotten and threading the
many intricacies of the Judicature Act. But it happened that his father,
a younger brother of Sir Robert's, had been a solicitor, and though he
was dead, and all direct interest with the firm was severed, yet another
uncle remained in it, and the partners did not forget Geoffrey in his
difficulties.

They sent him what work they could without offending their standing
counsel, and he did it well. Then by degrees he built up quite a large
general practice of the kind known as deviling. Now there are few things
more unsatisfactory than doing another man's work for nothing, but
every case fought means knowledge gained, and what is more it is
advertisement. So it came to pass that within less than two years from
the date of his money misfortunes, Geoffrey Bingham's dark handsome face
and square strong form became very well known in the Courts.

"What is that man's name?" said one well-known Q.C. to another still
more well known, as they sat waiting for their chops in the Bar Grill
Room, and saw Geoffrey, his wig pushed back from his forehead, striding
through the doorway on the last day of the sitting which preceded the
commencement of this history.

"Bingham," answered the other. "He's only begun to practise lately,
but he'll be at the top of the tree before he has done. He married
very well, you know, old Garsington's daughter, a charming woman, and
handsome too."

"He looks like it," grunted the first, and as a matter of fact such was
the general opinion.

For, as Beatrice had said, Geoffrey Bingham was a man who had success
written on his forehead. It would have been almost impossible for him to
fail in whatever he undertook.



CHAPTER IX

WHAT BEATRICE DREAMED

Geoffrey lay upon his back, watching the still patch of sunshine and
listening to the ticking of the clock, as he passed all these and many
other events in solemn review, till the series culminated in his vivid
recollection of the scene of that very morning.

"I am sick of it," he said at last aloud, "sick and tired. She makes my
life wretched. If it wasn't for Effie upon my word I'd . . . By Jove, it
is three o'clock; I will go and see Miss Granger. She's a woman, not a
female ghost at any rate, though she is a freethinker--which," he added
as he slowly struggled off the couch, "is a very foolish thing to be."

Very shakily, for he was sadly knocked about, Geoffrey hobbled down the
long narrow room and through the door, which was ajar. The opposite door
was also set half open. He knocked softly, and getting no answer pushed
it wide and looked in, thinking that he had, perhaps, made some mistake
as to the room. On a sofa placed about two-thirds down its length, lay
Beatrice asleep. She was wrapped in a kind of dressing-gown of some
simple blue stuff, and all about her breast and shoulders streamed her
lovely curling hair. Her sweet face was towards him, its pallor relieved
only by the long shadow of the dark lashes and the bent bow of the lips.
One white wrist and hand hung down almost to the floor, and beneath the
spread curtain of the sunlit hair her bosom heaved softly in her sleep.
She looked so wondrously beautiful in her rest that he stopped almost
awed, and gazed, and gazed again, feeling as though a present sense and
power were stilling his heart to silence. It is dangerous to look upon
such quiet loveliness, and very dangerous to feel that pressure at the
heart. A truly wise man feeling it would have fled, knowing that seeds
sown in such silences may live to bloom upon a bitter day, and shed
their fruit into the waters of desolation. But Geoffrey was not
wise--who would have been? He still stood and gazed till the sight
stamped itself so deeply on the tablets of his heart that through all
the years to come no heats of passion, no frosts of doubt, and no sense
of loss could ever dull its memory.

The silent sun shone on, the silent woman slept, and in silence the
watcher gazed. And as he looked a great fear, a prescience of evil that
should come, entered into Geoffrey and took possession of him. A cloud
without crossed the ray of sunlight and turned it. It wavered, for a
second it rested on his breast, flashed back to hers, then went out; and
as it flashed and died, he seemed to know that henceforth, for life till
death, ay! and beyond, his fate and that sleeping woman's were one
fate. It was but a momentary knowledge; the fear shook him, and was gone
almost before he understood its foolishness. But it had been with him,
and in after days he remembered it.

Just then Beatrice woke, opening her grey eyes. Their dreamy glance fell
upon him, looking through him and beyond him, rather than at him. Then
she raised herself a little and stretching out both her arms towards
him, spoke aloud.

"So have you have come back to me at last," she said. "I knew that you
would come and I have waited."

He made no answer, he did not know what to say; indeed he began to think
that he also must be dreaming. For a little while Beatrice still looked
at him in the same absent manner, then suddenly started up, the red
blood streaming to her brow.

"Why, Mr. Bingham," she said, "is it really you? What was it that I
said? Oh, pray forgive me, whatever it was. I have been asleep dreaming
such a curious dream, and talking in my sleep."

"Do not alarm yourself, Miss Granger," he answered, recovering himself
with a jerk; "you did not say anything dreadful, only that you were glad
to see me. What were you dreaming about?"

Beatrice looked at him doubtfully; perhaps his words did not ring quite
true.

"I think that I had better tell you as I have said so much," she
answered. "Besides, it was a very curious dream, and if I believed in
dreams it would rather frighten me, only fortunately I do not. Sit down
and I will tell it to you before I forget it. It is not very long."

He took the chair to which she pointed, and she began, speaking in the
voice of one yet laden with the memories of sleep.

"I dreamed that I stood in space. Far to my right was a great globe of
light, and to my left was another globe, and I knew that the globes were
named Life and Death. From the globe on the right to the globe on the
left, and back again, a golden shuttle, in which two flaming eyes were
set, was shot continually, and I knew also that this was the shuttle of
Destiny, weaving the web of Fate. Presently the shuttle flew, leaving
behind it a long silver thread, and the eyes in the shuttle were such as
your eyes. Again the shuttle sped through space, and this time its eyes
were like my eyes, and the thread it left behind it was twisted from a
woman's hair. Half way between the globes of Life and Death my thread
was broken, but the shuttle flew on and vanished. For a moment the
thread hung in air, then a wind rose and blew it, so that it floated
away like a spider's web, till it struck upon your silver thread of life
and began to twist round and round it. As it twisted it grew larger and
heavier, till at last it was thick as a great tress of hair, and the
silver line bent beneath the weight so that I saw it soon must break.
Then while I wondered what would happen, a white hand holding a knife
slid slowly down the silver line, and with the knife severed the
wrappings of woman's hair, which fell and floated slowly away, like a
little cloud touched with sunlight, till they were lost in darkness. But
the thread of silver that was your line of life, sprang up quivering and
making a sound like sighs, till at last it sighed itself to silence.

"Then I seemed to sleep, and when I woke I was floating upon such a
misty sea as we saw last night. I had lost all sight of land, and I
could not remember what the stars were like, nor how I had been taught
to steer, nor understand where I must go. I called to the sea, and asked
it of the stars, and the sea answered me thus:

"'Hope has rent her raiment, and the stars are set.'

"I called again, and asked of the land where I should go, and the land
did not answer, but the sea answered me a second time:

"'Child of the mist, wander in the mist, and in darkness seek for
light.'

"Then I wept because Hope had rent her starry garment and in darkness I
must seek for light. And while I still wept, _you_ rose out of the sea
and sat before me in the boat. I had never seen you before, and still
I felt that I had known you always. You did not speak, and I did not
speak, but you looked into my heart and saw its trouble. Then I looked
into your heart, and read what was written. And this was written:

"'Woman whom I knew before the Past began, and whom I shall know when
the Future is ended, why do you weep?'

"And my heart answered, 'I weep because I am lost upon the waters of
the earth, because Hope has rent her starry robes, and in everlasting
darkness I must seek for light that is not.' Then your heart said, '_I_
will show you light,' and bending forward you touched me on the breast.

"And suddenly an agony shook me like the agonies of birth and death,
and the sky was full of great-winged angels who rolled up the mist as
a cloth, and drew the veils from the eyes of Night, and there, her feet
upon the globe, and her star-set head piercing the firmament of heaven,
stood Hope breathing peace and beauty. She looked north and south and
east and west, then she looked upwards through the arching vaults of
heaven, and wherever she set her eyes, bright with holy tears, the
darkness shrivelled and sorrow ceased, and from corruption arose the
Incorruptible. I gazed and worshipped, and as I did so, again the sea
spoke unquestioned:

"'In darkness thou hast found light, in Death seek for wisdom.'

"Then once more Hope rent her starry robes, and the angels drew down a
veil over the eyes of Night, and the sea swallowed me, and I sank till I
reached the deep foundations of mortal death. And there in the Halls of
Death I sat for ages upon ages, till at last I saw you come, and on your
lips was the word of wisdom that makes all things clear, but what it was
I cannot remember. Then I stretched out my hand to greet you, and woke,
and that is all my dream."



Beatrice ceased, her grey eyes set wide, as though they still strove to
trace their spiritual vision upon the air of earth, her breast heaving,
and her lips apart.

"Great heaven!" he said, "what an imagination you must have to dream
such a dream as that."

"Imagination," she answered, returning to her natural manner. "I have
none, Mr. Bingham. I used to have, but I lost it when I lost--everything
else. Can you interpret my dream? Of course you cannot; it is nothing
but nonsense--such stuff as dreams are made of, that is all."

"It may be nonsense, I daresay it is, but it is beautiful nonsense," he
answered. "I wish ladies had more of such stuff to give the world."

"Ah, well, dreams may be wiser than wakings, and nonsense than learned
talk, for all we know. But there's an end of it. I do not know why I
repeated it to you. I am sorry that I did repeat it, but it seemed so
real it shook me out of myself. This is what comes of breaking in upon
the routine of life by being three parts drowned. One finds queer things
at the bottom of the sea, you know. By the way I hope that you are
recovering. I do not think that you will care to go canoeing again with
me, Mr. Bingham."

There was an opening for a compliment here, but Geoffrey felt that it
would be too much in earnest if spoken, so he resisted the temptation.

"What, Miss Granger," he said, "should a man say to a lady who but last
night saved his life, at the risk, indeed almost at the cost, of her
own?"

"It was nothing," she answered, colouring; "I clung to you, that was
all, more by instinct than from any motive. I think I had a vague idea
that you might float and support me."

"Miss Granger, the occasion is too serious for polite fibs. I know how
you saved my life. I do not know how to thank you for it."

"Then don't thank me at all, Mr. Bingham. Why should you thank me? I
only did what I was bound to do. I would far rather die than desert a
companion in distress, of any sort; we all must die, but it would be
dreadful to die ashamed. You know what they say, that if you save a
person from drowning you will do them an injury afterwards. That is how
they put it here; in some parts the saying is the other way about, but I
am not likely ever to do you an injury, so it does not make me unhappy.
It was an awful experience: you were senseless, so you cannot know how
strange it felt lying upon the slippery rock, and seeing those great
white waves rush upon us through the gloom, with nothing but the night
above, and the sea around, and death between the two. I have been lonely
for many years, but I do not think that I ever quite understood what
loneliness really meant before. You see," she added by way of an
afterthought, "I thought that you were dead, and there is not much
company in a corpse."

"Well," he said, "one thing is, it would have been lonelier if we had
gone."

"Do you think so?" she answered, looking at him inquiringly. "I don't
quite see how you make that out. If you believe in what we have been
taught, as I think you do, wherever it was you found yourself there
would be plenty of company, and if, like me, you do not believe in
anything, why, then, you would have slept, and sleep asks for nothing."

"Did you believe in nothing when you lay upon the rock waiting to be
drowned, Miss Granger?"

"Nothing!" she answered; "only weak people find revelation in the
extremities of fear. If revelation comes at all, surely it must be born
in the heart and not in the senses. I believed in nothing, and I dreaded
nothing, except the agony of death. Why should I be afraid? Supposing
that I am mistaken, and there is something beyond, is it my fault that
I cannot believe? What have I done that I should be afraid? I have never
harmed anybody that I know of, and if I could believe I would. I wish
I had died," she went on, passionately; "it would be all over now. I am
tired of the world, tired of work and helplessness, and all the little
worries which wear one out. I am not wanted here, I have nothing to live
for, and I wish that I had died!"

"Some day you will think differently, Miss Granger. There are many
things that a woman like yourself can live for--at the least, there is
your work."

She laughed drearily. "My work! If you only knew what it is like you
would not talk to me about it. Every day I roll my stone up the hill,
and every night it seems to roll down again. But you have never taught
in a village school. How can you know? I work all day, and in the
evening perhaps I have to mend the tablecloths, or--what do you
think?--write my father's sermons. It sounds curious, does it not, that
I should write sermons? But I do. I wrote the one he is going to preach
next Sunday. It makes very little difference to him what it is so long
as he can read it, and, of course, I never say anything which can offend
anybody, and I do not think that they listen much. Very few people go to
church in Bryngelly."

"Don't you ever get any time to yourself, then?"

"Oh, yes, sometimes I do, and then I go out in my canoe, or read, and am
almost happy. After all, Mr. Bingham, it is very wrong and ungrateful
of me to speak like this. I have more advantages than nine-tenths of
the world, and I ought to make the best of them. I don't know why I have
been speaking as I have, and to you, whom I never saw till yesterday.
I never did it before to any living soul, I assure you. It is just like
the story of the man who came here last year with the divining rod.
There is a cottage down on the cliff--it belongs to Mr. Davies, who
lives in the Castle. Well, they have no drinking water near, and the new
tenant made a great fuss about it. So Mr. Davies hired men, and they dug
and dug and spent no end of money, but could not come to water. At last
the tenant fetched an old man from some parish a long way off, who said
that he could find springs with a divining rod. He was a curious old man
with a crutch, and he came with his rod, and hobbled about till at last
the rod twitched just at the tenant's back door--at least the diviner
said it did. At any rate, they dug there, and in ten minutes struck a
spring of water, which bubbled up so strongly that it rushed into the
house and flooded it. And what do you think? After all, the water was
brackish. You are the man with the divining rod, Mr. Bingham, and you
have made me talk a great deal too much, and, after all, you see it is
not nice talk. You must think me a very disagreeable and wicked young
woman, and I daresay I am. But somehow it is a relief to open one's
mind. I do hope, Mr. Bingham, that you will see--in short, that you will
not misunderstand me."

"Miss Granger," he answered, "there is between us that which will always
entitle us to mutual respect and confidence--the link of life and
death. Had it not been for you, I should not sit here to listen to your
confidence to-day. You may tell me that a mere natural impulse prompted
you to do what you did. I know better. It was your will that triumphed
over your natural impulse towards self-preservation. Well, I will say no
more about it, except this: If ever a man was bound to a woman by ties
of gratitude and respect, I am bound to you. You need not fear that I
shall take advantage of or misinterpret your confidence." Here he rose
and stood before her, his dark handsome face bowed in proud humility.
"Miss Granger, I look upon it as an honour done to me by one whom
henceforth I must reverence among all women. The life you gave back to
me, and the intelligence which directs it, are in duty bound to you, and
I shall not forget the debt."

Beatrice listened to his words, spoken in that deep and earnest voice,
which in after years became so familiar to Her Majesty's judges and to
Parliament--listened with a new sense of pleasure rising in her heart.
She was this man's equal; what he could dare, she could dare; where he
could climb, she could follow--ay, and if need be, show the path, and
she felt that he acknowledged it. In his sight she was something more
than a handsome girl to be admired and deferred to for her beauty's
sake. He had placed her on another level--one, perhaps, that few women
would have wished to occupy. But Beatrice was thankful to him. It was
the first taste of supremacy that she had ever known.

It is something to stir the proud heart of such a woman as Beatrice,
in that moment when for the first time she feels herself a conqueror,
victorious, not through the vulgar advantage of her sex, not by the
submission of man's coarser sense, but rather by the overbalancing
weight of mind.

"Do you know," she said, suddenly looking up, "you make me very proud,"
and she stretched out her hand to him.

He took it, and, bending, touched it with his lips. There was no
possibility of misinterpreting the action, and though she coloured
a little--for, till then, no man had even kissed the tip of her
finger--she did not misinterpret it. It was an act of homage, and that
was all.

And so they sealed the compact of their perfect friendship for ever and
a day.

Then came a moment's silence. It was Geoffrey who broke it.

"Miss Granger," he said, "will you allow me to preach you a lecture, a
very short one?"

"Go on," she said.

"Very well. Do not blame me if you don't like it, and do not set me down
as a prig, though I am going to tell you your faults as I read them in
your own words. You are proud and ambitious, and the cramped lines in
which you are forced to live seem to strangle you. You have suffered,
and have not learned the lesson of suffering--humility. You have set
yourself up against Fate, and Fate sweeps you along like spray upon
the gale, yet you go unwilling. In your impatience you have flown to
learning for refuge, and it has completed your overthrow, for it has
induced you to reject as non-existent all that you cannot understand.
Because your finite mind cannot search infinity, because no answer has
come to all your prayers, because you see misery and cannot read its
purpose, because you suffer and have not found rest, you have said there
is naught but chance, and become an atheist, as many have done before
you. Is it not true?"

"Go on," she answered, bowing her head to her breast so that the long
rippling hair almost hid her face.

"It seems a little odd," Geoffrey said with a short laugh, "that I,
with all my imperfections heaped upon me, should presume to preach to
you--but you will know best how near or how far I am from the truth. So
I want to say something. I have lived for thirty-five years, and seen a
good deal and tried to learn from it, and I know this. In the long run,
unless we of our own act put away the opportunity, the world gives us
our due, which generally is not much. So much for things temporal.
If you are fit to rule, in time you will rule; if you do not, then
be content and acknowledge your own incapacity. And as for things
spiritual, I am sure of this--though of course one does not like to talk
much of these matters--if you only seek for them long enough in some
shape you will find them, though the shape may not be that which is
generally recognised by any particular religion. But to build a wall
deliberately between oneself and the unseen, and then complain that the
way is barred, is simply childish."

"And what if one's wall is built, Mr. Bingham?"

"Most of us have done something in that line at different times," he
answered, "and found a way round it."

"And if it stretches from horizon to horizon, and is higher than the
clouds, what then?"

"Then you must find wings and fly over it."

"And where can any earthly woman find those spiritual wings?" she
asked, and then sank her head still deeper on her breast to cover her
confusion. For she remembered that she had heard of wanderers in the
dusky groves of human passion, yes, even Maenad wanderers, who had
suddenly come face to face with their own soul; and that the cruel paths
of earthly love may yet lead the feet which tread them to the ivory
gates of heaven.

And remembering these beautiful myths, though she had no experience of
love, and knew little of its ways, Beatrice grew suddenly silent. Nor
did Geoffrey give her an answer, though he need scarcely have feared to
do so.

For were they not discussing a purely abstract question?



CHAPTER X

LADY HONORIA MAKES ARRANGEMENTS

In another moment somebody entered the room; it was Elizabeth. She had
returned from her tithe collecting expedition--with the tithe. The door
of the sitting-room was still ajar, and Geoffrey had his back towards
it. So it happened that nobody heard Elizabeth's rather cat-like step,
and for some seconds she stood in the doorway without being perceived.
She stood quite still, taking in the whole scene at a glance. She
noticed that her sister held her head down, so that her hair shadowed
her, and guessed that she did so for some reason--probably because she
did not wish her face to be seen. Or was it to show off her lovely hair?
She noticed also the half shy, half amused, and altogether interested
expression upon Geoffrey's countenance--she could see that in the little
gilt-edged looking-glass which hung over the fire-place, nor did she
overlook the general air of embarrassment that pervaded them both.

When she came in, Elizabeth had been thinking of Owen Davies, and of
what might have happened had she never seen the tide of life flow back
into her sister's veins. She had dreamed of it all night and had thought
of it all day; even in the excitement of extracting the back tithe from
the recalcitrant and rather coarse-minded Welsh farmer, with strong
views on the subject of tithe, it had not been entirely forgotten. The
farmer was a tenant of Owen Davies, and when he called her a "parson in
petticoats, and wus," and went on, in delicate reference to her powers
of extracting cash, to liken her to a "two-legged corkscrew only
screwier," she perhaps not unnaturally reflected, that if ever--_pace_
Beatrice--certain things should come about, she would remember that
farmer. For Elizabeth was blessed with a very long memory, as some
people had learnt to their cost, and generally, sooner or later, she
paid her debts in full, not forgetting the overdue interest.

And now, as she stood in the doorway unseen and noted these matters,
something occurred to her in connection with this dominating idea,
which, like ideas in general, had many side issues. At any rate a look
of quick intelligence shone for a moment in her light eyes, like a
sickly sunbeam on a faint December mist; then she moved forward, and
when she was close behind Geoffrey, spoke suddenly.

"What are you both thinking about?" she said in her clear thin voice;
"you seem to have exhausted your conversation."

Geoffrey made an exclamation and fairly jumped from his chair, a feat
which in his bruised condition really hurt him very much. Beatrice too
started violently; she recovered herself almost instantly, however.

"How quietly you move, Elizabeth," she said.

"Not more quietly than you sit, Beatrice. I have been wondering when
anybody was going to say anything, or if you were both asleep."

For her part Beatrice speculated how long her sister had been in the
room. Their conversation had been innocent enough, but it was not one
that she would wish Elizabeth to have overheard. And somehow Elizabeth
had a knack of overhearing things.

"You see, Miss Granger," said Geoffrey coming to the rescue, "both our
brains are still rather waterlogged, and that does not tend to a flow of
ideas."

"Quite so," said Elizabeth. "My dear Beatrice, why don't you tie up your
hair? You look like a crazy Jane. Not but what you have very nice hair,"
she added critically. "Do you admire good hair, Mr. Bingham."

"Of course I do," he answered gallantly, "but it is not common."

Only Beatrice bit her lip with vexation. "I had almost forgotten about
my hair," she said; "I must apologise for appearing in such a state. I
would have done it up after dinner only I was too stiff, and while I was
waiting for Betty, I went to sleep."

"I think there is a bit of ribbon in that drawer. I saw you put it there
yesterday," answered the precise Elizabeth. "Yes, here it is. If you
like, and Mr. Bingham will excuse it, I can tie it back for you," and
without waiting for an answer she passed behind Beatrice, and gathering
up the dense masses of her sister's locks, tied them round in such
fashion that they could not fall forward, though they still rolled down
her back.

Just then Mr. Granger came back from his visit to the farm. He was in
high good humour. The pig had even surpassed her former efforts, and
increased in a surprising manner, to the number of fifteen indeed.
Elizabeth thereon produced the two pounds odd shillings which she had
"corkscrewed" out of the recalcitrant dissenting farmer, and the sight
added to Mr. Granger's satisfaction.

"Would you believe it, Mr. Bingham," he said, "in this miserably paid
parish I have nearly a hundred pounds owing to me, a hundred pounds in
tithe. There is old Jones who lives out towards the Bell Rock, he owes
three years' tithe--thirty-four pounds eleven and fourpence. He can pay
and he won't pay--says he's a Baptist and is not going to pay parson's
dues--though for the matter of that he is nothing but an old beer tub of
a heathen."

"Why don't you proceed against him, then, Mr. Granger?"

"Proceed, I have proceeded. I've got judgment, and I mean to issue
execution in a few days. I won't stand it any longer," he went on,
working himself up and shaking his head as he spoke till his thin white
hair fell about his eyes. "I will have the law of him and the others
too. You are a lawyer and you can help me. I tell you there's a spirit
abroad which just comes to just--no man isn't to pay his lawful debts,
except of course the parson and the squire. They must pay or go to the
court. But there is law left, and I'll have it, before they play the
Irish game on us here." And he brought down his fist with a bang upon
the table.

Geoffrey listened with some amusement. So this was the weak old man's
sore point--money. He was clearly very strong about that--as strong as
Lady Honoria indeed, but with more excuse. Elizabeth also listened with
evident approval, but Beatrice looked pained.

"Don't get angry, father," she said; "perhaps he will pay after all.
It is bad to take the law if you can manage any other way--it breeds so
much ill blood."

"Nonsense, Beatrice," said her sister sharply. "Father is quite right.
There's only one way to deal with them, and that is to seize their
goods. I believe you are socialist about property, as you are about
everything else. You want to pull everything down, from the Queen to the
laws of marriage, all for the good of humanity, and I tell you that
your ideas will be your ruin. Defy custom and it will crush you. You are
running your head against a brick wall, and one day you will find which
is the harder."

Beatrice flushed, but answered her sister's attack, which was all the
sharper because it had a certain spice of truth in it.

"I never expressed any such views, Elizabeth, so I do not see why you
should attribute them to me. I only said that legal proceedings breed
bad blood in a parish, and that is true."

"I did not say you expressed them," went on the vigorous Elizabeth;
"you look them--they ooze out of your words like water from a peat bog.
Everybody knows you are a radical and a freethinker and everything else
that is bad and mad, and contrary to that state of life in which it has
pleased God to call you. The end of it will be that you will lose the
mistresship of the school--and I think it is very hard on father and me
that you should bring disgrace on us with your strange ways and immoral
views, and now you can make what you like of it."

"I wish that all radicals were like Miss Beatrice," said Geoffrey, who
was feeling exceedingly uncomfortable, with a feeble attempt at polite
jocosity. But nobody seemed to hear him. Elizabeth, who was now fairly
in a rage, a faint flush upon her pale cheeks, her light eyes all
ashine, and her thin fingers clasped, stood fronting her beautiful
sister, and breathing spite at every pore. But it was easy for Geoffrey
who was watching her to see that it was not her sister's views she was
attacking; it was her sister. It was that soft strong loveliness and the
glory of that face; it was the deep gentle mind, erring from its very
greatness, and the bright intellect which lit it like a lamp; it was the
learning and the power that, give them play, would set a world aflame,
as easily as they did the heart of the slow-witted hermit squire, whom
Elizabeth coveted--these were the things that Elizabeth hated, and
bitterly assailed.

Accustomed to observe, Geoffrey saw this instantly, and then glanced
at the father. The old man was frightened; clearly he was afraid of
Elizabeth, and dreaded a scene. He stood fidgeting his feet about, and
trying to find something to say, as he glanced apprehensively at his
elder daughter, through his thin hanging hair.

Lastly, Geoffrey looked at Beatrice, who was indeed well worth looking
at. Her face was quite pale and the clear grey eyes shone out beneath
their dark lashes. She had risen, drawing herself to her full height,
which her exquisite proportions seemed to increase, and was looking at
her sister. Presently she said one word and one only, but it was enough.

"_Elizabeth._"

Her sister opened her lips to speak again, but hesitated, and changed
her mind. There was something in Beatrice's manner that checked her.

"Well," she said at length, "you should not irritate me so, Beatrice."

Beatrice made no reply. She only turned towards Geoffrey, and with a
graceful little bow, said:

"Mr. Bingham, I am sure that you will forgive this scene. The fact is,
we all slept badly last night, and it has not improved our tempers."

There was a pause, of which Mr. Granger took a hurried and rather
undignified advantage.

"Um, ah," he said. "By the way, Beatrice, what was it I wanted to say?
Ah, I know--have you written, I mean written out, that sermon for next
Sunday? My daughter," he added, addressing Geoffrey in explanation--"um,
copies my sermons for me. She writes a very good hand----"

Remembering Beatrice's confidence as to her sermon manufacturing
functions, Geoffrey felt amused at her father's _naive_ way of
describing them, and Beatrice also smiled faintly as she answered that
the sermon was ready. Just then the roll of wheels was heard without,
and the only fly that Bryngelly could boast pulled up in front of the
door.

"Here is the fly come for you, Mr. Bingham," said Mr. Granger--"and as
I live, her ladyship with it. Elizabeth, see if there isn't some tea
ready," and the old gentleman, who had all the traditional love of the
lower middle-class Englishman for a title, trotted off to welcome "her
ladyship."

Presently Lady Honoria entered the room, a sweet, if rather a set smile
upon her handsome face, and with a graceful mien, that became her tall
figure exceedingly well. For to do Lady Honoria justice, she was one
of the most ladylike women in the country, and so far as her personal
appearance went, a very perfect type of the class to which she belonged.

Geoffrey looked at her, saying to himself that she had clearly recovered
her temper, and that he was thankful for it. This was not wonderful, for
it is observable that the more aristocratic a lady's manners are, the
more disagreeable she is apt to be when she is crossed.

"Well, Geoffrey dear," she said, "you see I have come to fetch you. I
was determined that you should not get yourself drowned a second time on
your way home. How are you now?--but I need not ask, you look quite well
again."

"It is very kind of you, Honoria," said her husband simply, but it
was doubtful if she heard him, for at the moment she was engaged in
searching out the soul of Beatrice, with one of the most penetrating
and comprehensive glances that young lady had ever enjoyed the honour of
receiving. There was nothing rude about the look, it was too quick, but
Beatrice felt that quick as it might be it embraced her altogether. Nor
was she wrong.

"There is no doubt about it," Lady Honoria thought to herself, "she is
lovely--lovely everywhere. It was clever of her to leave her hair down;
it shows the shape of her head so well, and she is tall enough to stand
it. That blue wrapper suits her too. Very few women could show such a
figure as hers--like a Greek statue. I don't like her; she is different
from most of us; just the sort of girl men go wild about and women
hate."

All this passed through her mind in a flash. For a moment Lady Honoria's
blue eyes met Beatrice's grey ones, and she knew that Beatrice liked her
no better than she did Beatrice. Those eyes were a trifle too honest,
and, like the deep clear water they resembled, apt to throw up shadows
of the passing thoughts above.

"False and cold and heartless," thought Beatrice. "I wonder how a man
like that could marry her; and how much he loves her."

Thus the two women took each other's measure at a glance, each finding
the other wanting by her standard. Nor did they ever change that hastily
formed judgment.

It was all done in a few seconds--in that hesitating moment before the
words we summon answer on our lips. The next, Lady Honoria was sweeping
towards her with outstretched hand, and her most gracious smile.

"Miss Granger," she said, "I owe you a debt I never can repay--my dear
husband's life. I have heard all about how you saved him; it is the most
wonderful thing--Grace Darling born again. I can't think how you could
do it. I wish I were half as brave and strong."

"Please don't, Lady Honoria," said Beatrice. "I am so tired of being
thanked for doing nothing, except what it was my duty to do. If I had
let Mr. Bingham go while I had the strength to hold on to him I should
have felt like a murderess to-day. I beg you to say no more about it."

"One does not often find such modesty united to so much courage, and,
if you will allow me to say it, so much beauty," answered Lady Honoria
graciously. "Well, I will do as you wish, but I warn you your fame will
find you out. I hear they have an account of the whole adventure in
to-day's papers, headed, 'A Welsh Heroine.'"

"How did you hear that, Honoria?" asked her husband.

"Oh, I had a telegram from Garsington, and he mentions it," she answered
carelessly.

"Telegram from Garsington! Hence these smiles," thought he. "I suppose
that she is going to-morrow."

"I have some other news for you, Miss Granger," went on Lady Honoria.
"Your canoe has been washed ashore, very little injured. The old
boatman--Edward, I think they call him--has found it; and your gun in
it too, Geoffrey. It had stuck under the seat or somewhere. But I fancy
that you must both have had enough canoeing for the present."

"I don't know, Lady Honoria," answered Beatrice. "One does not often get
such weather as last night's, and canoeing is very pleasant. Every sweet
has its salt, you know; or, in other words, one may always be upset."

At that moment, Betty, the awkward Welsh serving lass, with a fore-arm
about as shapely as the hind leg of an elephant, and a most unpleasing
habit of snorting audibly as she moved, shuffled in with the tea-tray.
In her wake came the slim Elizabeth, to whom Lady Honoria was
introduced.

After this, conversation flagged for a while, till Lady Honoria, feeling
that things were getting a little dull, set the ball rolling again.

"What a pretty view you have of the sea from these windows," she said in
her well-trained and monotonously modulated voice. "I am so glad to have
seen it, for, you know, I am going away to-morrow."

Beatrice looked up quickly.

"My husband is not going," she went on, as though in answer to an
unspoken question. "I am playing the part of the undutiful wife and
running away from him, for exactly three weeks. It is very wicked of
me, isn't it? but I have an engagement that I must keep. It is most
tiresome."

Geoffrey, sipping his tea, smiled grimly behind the shelter of his cup.
"She does it uncommonly well," he thought to himself.

"Does your little girl go with you, Lady Honoria?" asked Elizabeth.

"Well, no, I think not. I can't bear parting with her--you know how hard
it is when one has only one child. But I think she would be so bored
where I am going to stay, for there are no other children there; and
besides, she positively adores the sea. So I shall have to leave her to
her father's tender mercies, poor dear."

"I hope Effie will survive it, I am sure," said Geoffrey laughing.

"I suppose that your husband is going to stay on at Mrs. Jones's," said
the clergyman.

"Really, I don't know. What _are_ you going to do, Geoffrey? Mrs.
Jones's rooms are rather expensive for people in our impoverished
condition. Besides, I am sure that she cannot look after Effie. Just
think, she has eight children of her own, poor old dear. And I must take
Anne with me; she is Effie's French nurse, you know, a perfect treasure.
I am going to stay in a big house, and my experience of those big houses
is, that one never gets waited on at all unless one takes a maid. You
see, what is everybody's business is nobody's business. I'm sure I don't
know how you will get on with the child, Geoffrey; she takes such a lot
of looking after."

"Oh, don't trouble about that, Honoria," he answered. "I daresay that
Effie and I will manage somehow."

Here one of those peculiar gleams of intelligence which marked the
advent of a new idea passed across Elizabeth's face. She was sitting
next her father, and bending, whispered to him. Beatrice saw it and made
a motion as though to interpose, but before she could do so Mr. Granger
spoke.

"Look here, Mr. Bingham," he said, "if you want to move, would you like
a room here? Terms strictly moderate, but can't afford to put you up for
nothing you know, and living rough and ready. You'd have to take us as
you find us; but there is a dressing-room next to my room, where your
little girl could sleep, and my daughters would look after her between
them, and be glad of the job."

Again Beatrice opened her lips as though to speak, but closed them
without speaking. Thus do our opportunities pass before we realise that
they are at hand.

Instinctively Geoffrey had glanced towards Beatrice. He did not know if
this idea was agreeable to her. He knew that her work was hard, and
he did not wish to put extra trouble upon her, for he guessed that the
burden of looking after Effie would ultimately fall upon her shoulders.
But her face told him nothing: it was quite passive and apparently
indifferent.

"You are very kind, Mr. Granger," he said, hesitating. "I don't want to
go away from Bryngelly just at present, and it would be a good plan in
some ways, that is if the trouble to your daughters would not be too
much."

"I am sure that it is an excellent plan," broke in Lady Honoria, who
feared lest difficulties should arise as to her appropriation of Anne's
services; "how lucky that I happened to mention it. There will be no
trouble about our giving up the rooms at Mrs. Jones's, because I know
she has another application for them."

"Very well," said Geoffrey, not liking to raise objections to a scheme
thus publicly advocated, although he would have preferred to take time
to consider. Something warned him that Bryngelly Vicarage would prove a
fateful abode for him. Then Elizabeth rose and asked Lady Honoria if she
would like to see the rooms her husband and Effie would occupy.

She said she should be delighted and went off, followed by Mr. Granger
fussing in the rear.

"Don't you think that you will be a little dull here, Mr. Bingham?" said
Beatrice.

"On the contrary," he answered. "Why should I be dull? I cannot be so
dull as I should be by myself."

Beatrice hesitated, and then spoke again. "We are a curious family, Mr.
Bingham; you may have seen as much this afternoon. Had you not better
think it over?"

"If you mean that you do not want me to come, I won't," he said rather
bluntly, and next second felt that he had made a mistake.

"I!" Beatrice answered, opening her eyes. "I have no wishes in the
matter. The fact is that we are poor, and let lodgings--that is what it
comes to. If you think they will suit you, you are quite right to take
them."

Geoffrey coloured. He was a man who could not bear to lay himself open
to the smallest rebuff from a woman, and he had brought this on himself.
Beatrice saw it and relented.

"Of course, Mr. Bingham, so far as I am concerned, I shall be the
gainer if you do come. I do not meet so many people with whom I care
to associate, and from whom I can learn, that I wish to throw a chance
away."

"I think you misunderstand me a little," he said; "I only meant that
perhaps you would not wish to be bothered with Effie, Miss Granger."

She laughed. "Why, I love children. It will be a great pleasure to me to
look after her so far as I have time."

Just then the others returned, and their conversation came to an end.

"It's quite delightful, Geoffrey--such funny old-fashioned rooms. I
really envy you." (If there was one thing in the world that Lady Honoria
hated, it was an old-fashioned room.) "Well, and now we must be going.
Oh! you poor creature, I forgot that you were so knocked about. I am
sure Mr. Granger will give you his arm."

Mr. Granger ambled forward, and Geoffrey having made his adieus, and
borrowed a clerical hat (Mr. Granger's concession to custom, for in most
other respects he dressed like an ordinary farmer), was safely conveyed
to the fly.

And so ended Geoffrey's first day at Bryngelly Vicarage.



CHAPTER XI

BEATRICE MAKES AN APPOINTMENT

Lady Honoria leaned back in the cab, and sighed a sigh of satisfaction.

"That is a capital idea," she said. "I was wondering what arrangements
you could make for the next three weeks. It is ridiculous to pay three
guineas a week for rooms just for you and Effie. The old gentleman only
wants that for board and lodging together, for I asked him."

"I daresay it will do," said Geoffrey. "When are we to shift?"

"To-morrow, in time for dinner, or rather supper: these barbarians eat
supper, you know. I go by the morning train, you see, so as to reach
Garsington by tea-time. I daresay you will find it rather dull, but you
like being dull. The old clergyman is a low stamp of man, and a bore,
and as for the eldest daughter, Elizabeth, she's too awful--she reminds
me of a rat. But Beatrice is handsome enough, though I think her horrid
too. You'll have to console yourself with her, and I daresay you will
suit each other."

"Why do you think her horrid, Honoria?"

"Oh, I don't know; she is clever and odd, and I hate odd women. Why
can't they be like other people? Think of her being strong enough
to save your life like that too. She must have the muscle of an
Amazon--it's downright unwomanly. But there is no doubt about her
beauty. She is as nearly perfect as any girl I ever saw, though too
independent looking. If only one had a daughter like that, how one might
marry her. I would not look at anything under twenty thousand a year.
She is too good for that lumbering Welsh squire she's engaged too--the
man who lives in the Castle--though they say that he is fairly rich."

"Engaged," said Geoffrey, "how do you know that she is engaged?"

"Oh, I don't know it at all, but I suppose she is. If she isn't, she
soon will be, for a girl in that position is not likely to throw such
a chance away. At any rate, he's head over ears in love with her. I saw
that last night. He was hanging about for hours in the rain, outside
the door, with a face like a ghost, till he knew whether she was dead or
alive, and he has been there twice to inquire this morning. Mr. Granger
told me. But she is too good for him from a business point of view. She
might marry anybody, if only she were put in the way of it."

Somehow, Geoffrey's lively interest in Beatrice sensibly declined on the
receipt of this intelligence. Of course it was nothing to him; indeed
he was glad to hear that she was in the way of such a comfortable
settlement, but it is unfortunately a fact that one cannot be quite as
much interested in a young and lovely lady who is the potential property
of a "lumbering Welsh squire," as in one who belongs to herself.

The old Adam still survives in most men, however right-thinking they may
be, and this is one of its methods of self-assertion.

"Well," he said, "I am glad to hear she is in such a good way; she
deserves it. I think the Welsh squire is in luck; Miss Granger is a
remarkable woman."

"Too remarkable by half," said Lady Honoria drily. "Here we are, and
there is Effie, skipping about like a wild thing as usual. I think that
child is demented."

On the following morning--it was Friday--Lady Honoria, accompanied by
Anne, departed in the very best of tempers. For the next three weeks,
at any rate, she would be free from the galling associations of
straightened means--free to enjoy the luxury and refined comfort to
which she had been accustomed, and for which her soul yearned with a
fierce longing that would be incomprehensible to folk of a simpler mind.
Everybody has his or her ideal Heaven, if only one could fathom it. Some
would choose a sublimated intellectual leisure, made happy by the best
literature of all the planets; some a model state (with themselves as
presidents), in which (through their beneficent efforts) the latest
radical notions could actually be persuaded to work to everybody's
satisfaction; others a happy hunting ground, where the game enjoyed the
fun as much as they did; and so on, _ad infinitum_.

Lady Honoria was even more modest. Give her a well appointed town and
country house, a few powdered footmen, plenty of carriages, and other
needful things, including of course the _entree_ to the upper celestial
ten, and she would ask no more from age to age. Let us hope that she
will get it one day. It would hurt nobody, and she is sure to find
plenty of people of her own way of thinking--that is, if this world
supplies the raw material.

She embraced Effie with enthusiasm, and her husband with a chastened
warmth, and went, a pious prayer on her lips that she might never again
set eyes upon Bryngelly.

It will not be necessary for us to follow Lady Honoria in her travels.
That afternoon Effie and her father had great fun. They packed up.
Geoffrey, who was rapidly recovering from his stiffness, pushed the
things into the portmanteaus and Effie jumped on them. Those which would
not go in they bundled loose into the fly, till that vehicle looked like
an old clothes ship. Then, as there was no room left for them inside,
they walked down to the Vicarage by the beach, a distance of about
three-quarters of a mile, stopping on their way to admire the beautiful
castle, in one corner of which Owen Davies lived and moved.

"Oh, daddy," said the child, "I wish you would buy a house like that for
you and me to live in. Why don't you, daddy?"

"Haven't got the money, dear," he answered.

"Will you ever have the money, daddy?"

"I don't know, dear, perhaps one day--when I am too old to enjoy it," he
added to himself.

"It would take a great many pennies to buy a house like that, wouldn't
it, daddy?" said Effie sagely.

"Yes, dear, more than you could count," he answered, and the
conversation dropped.

Presently they came to a boat-shed, placed opposite the village and
close to high-water mark. Here a man, it was old Edward, was engaged
in mending a canoe. Geoffrey glanced at it and saw that it was the
identical canoe out of which he had so nearly been drowned.

"Look, Effie," said he, "that is the boat out of which I was upset."
Effie opened her wide eyes, and stared at the frail craft.

"It is a horrid boat," she said; "I don't want to look at it."

"You're quite right, little miss," said old Edward, touching his cap.
"It ain't safe, and somebody will be drowned out of it one of these
days. I wish it had gone to the bottom, I do; but Miss Beatrice, she is
that foolhardy there ain't no doing nothing with her."

"I fancy that she has learnt a lesson," said Geoffrey.

"May be, may be," grumbled the old man, "but women folk are hard to
teach; they never learn nothing till it's too late, they don't, and
then when they've been and done it they're sorry, but what's the good o'
that?"

Meanwhile another conversation was in progress not more than a quarter
of a mile away. On the brow of the cliff stood the village of Bryngelly,
and at the back of the village was a school, a plain white-washed
building, roofed with stone, which, though amply sufficient and suitable
to the wants of the place, was little short of an abomination in the
eyes of Her Majesty's school inspectors, who from time to time descended
upon Bryngelly for purposes of examination and fault-finding. They
yearned to see a stately red-brick edifice, with all the latest
improvements, erected at the expense of the rate-payers, but as yet they
yearned in vain. The school was supported by voluntary contributions,
and thanks to Beatrice's energy and good teaching, the dreaded Board,
with its fads and extravagance, had not yet clutched it.

Beatrice had returned to her duties that afternoon, for a night's rest
brought back its vigour to her strong young frame. She had been greeted
with enthusiasm by the children, who loved her, as well they might, for
she was very gentle and sweet with them, though few dared to disobey
her. Besides, her beauty impressed them, though they did not know it.
Beauty of a certain sort has perhaps more effect on children than on any
other class, heedless and selfish as they often seem to be. They feel
its power; it is an outward expression of the thoughts and dreams that
bud in their unknowing hearts, and is somehow mixed up with their ideas
of God and Heaven. Thus there was in Bryngelly a little girl of ten, a
very clever and highly excitable child, Jane Llewellyn by name, born of
parents of strict Calvinistic views. As it chanced, some months
before the opening of this story, a tub thumper, of high renown and
considerable rude oratorical force, visited the place, and treated his
hearers to a lively discourse on the horrors of Hell.

In the very front row, her eyes wide with fear, sat this poor little
child between her parents, who listened to the Minister with much
satisfaction, and a little way back sat Beatrice, who had come out of
curiosity.

Presently the preacher, having dealt sufficiently in terrifying
generalities, went on to practical illustrations, for, after the manner
of his class, he was delivering an extemporary oration. "Look at that
child," he said, pointing to the little girl; "she looks innocent, does
she not? but if she does not find salvation, my brethren, I tell you
that she is damned. If she dies to-night, not having found salvation,
she will go to _Hell_. Her delicate little body will be tormented for
ever and ever----"

Here the unfortunate child fell forward with a shriek.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, sir," said Beatrice aloud.

She had been listening to all this ill-judged rant with growing
indignation, and now, in her excitement, entirely forgot that she was in
a place of worship. Then she ran forward to the child, who had swooned.
Poor little unfortunate, she never recovered the shock. When she came to
herself, it was found that her finely strung mind had given way, and she
lapsed into a condition of imbecility. But her imbecility was not always
passive. Occasionally fits of passionate terror would seize upon her.
She would cry out that the fiends were coming to drag her down to
torment, and dash herself against the wall, in fear hideous to behold.
Then it was found that there was but one way to calm her: it was to send
for Beatrice. Beatrice would come and take the poor thin hands in hers
and gaze with her calm deep eyes upon the wasted horror-stricken face
till the child grew quiet again and, shivering, sobbed herself to sleep
upon her breast.

And so it was with all the children; her power over them was almost
absolute. They loved her, and she loved them all.

And now the schooling was almost done for the day. It was Beatrice's
custom to make the children sing some simple song before they broke
up. She stood in front of them and gave the time while they sung, and a
pretty sight it was to see her do it. On this particular afternoon, just
as the first verse was finished, the door of the room opened, and Owen
Davies entered, bearing some books under his arm. Beatrice glanced round
and saw him, then, with a quick stamp of her foot, went on giving the
time.

The children sung lustily, and in front of them stood Beatrice, dressed
in simple white, her graceful form swaying as she marked the music's
time. Nearer and nearer drew Owen Davies, till at length he stood quite
close, his lips slightly apart, his eyes fixed upon her like the eyes
of one who dreams, and his slow heavy face faintly lit with the glow of
strong emotion.

The song ended, the children at a word from their mistress filed past
her, headed by the pupil teachers, and then with a shout, seizing their
caps, ran forth this way and that, welcoming the free air. When they
were all gone, and not till then, Beatrice turned suddenly round.

"How do you do, Mr. Davies?" she said.

He started visibly. "I did not know that you had seen me," he answered.

"Oh, yes, I saw you, Mr. Davies, only I could not stop the song to say
how do you do. By the way, I have to thank you for coming to inquire
after me."

"Not at all, Miss Beatrice, not at all; it was a most dreadful accident.
I cannot tell you how thankful I am--I can't, indeed."

"It is very good of you to take so much interest in me," said Beatrice.

"Not at all, Miss Beatrice, not at all. Who--who could help taking
interest in you? I have brought you some books--the Life of Darwin--it
is in two volumes. I think that I have heard you say that Darwin
interests you?"

"Yes, thank you very much. Have you read it?"

"No, but I have cut it. Darwin doesn't interest me, you know. I think
that he was a rather misguided person. May I carry the books home for
you?"

"Thank you, but I am not going straight home; I am going to old Edward's
shed to see my canoe."

As a matter of fact this was true, but the idea was only that moment
born in her mind. Beatrice had been going home, as she wanted to see
that all things were duly prepared for Geoffrey and his little daughter.
But to reach the Vicarage she must pass along the cliff, where there
were few people, and this she did not wish to do. To be frank, she
feared lest Mr. Davies should take the opportunity to make that offer of
his hand and heart which hung over her like a nightmare. Now the way to
Edward's shed lay through the village and down the cliff, and she knew
that he would never propose in the village.

It was very foolish of her, no doubt, thus to seek to postpone the evil
day, but the strongest-minded women have their weak points, and this was
one of Beatrice's. She hated the idea of this scene. She knew that when
it did come there would be a scene. Not that her resolution to refuse
the man had ever faltered. But it would be painful, and in the end it
must reach the ears of her father and Elizabeth that she had actually
rejected Mr. Owen Davies, and then what would her life be worth? She had
never suspected it, it had never entered into her mind to suspect, that,
though her father might be vexed enough, nothing on this earth would
more delight the heart of Elizabeth.

Presently, having fetched her hat, Beatrice, accompanied by her admirer,
bearing the Life of Darwin under his arm, started to walk down to the
beach. They went in silence, Beatrice just a little ahead. She ventured
some remark about the weather, but Owen Davies made no reply; he was
thinking, he wanted to say something, but he did not know how to say
it. They were at the head of the cliff now, and if he wished to speak he
must do so quickly.

"Miss Beatrice," he said in a somewhat constrained voice.

"Yes, Mr. Davies--oh, look at that seagull; it nearly knocked my hat
off."

But he was not to be put off with the seagull. "Miss Beatrice," he said
again, "are you going out walking next Sunday afternoon?"

"How can I tell, Mr. Davies? It may rain."

"But if it does not rain--please tell me. You generally do walk on the
beach on Sunday. Miss Beatrice, I want to speak to you. I hope you will
allow me, I do indeed."

Then suddenly she came to a decision. This kind of thing was
unendurable; it would be better to get it over. Turning round so
suddenly that Owen started, she said:

"If you wish to speak to me, Mr. Davies, I shall be in the Amphitheatre
opposite the Red Rocks, at four o'clock on Sunday afternoon, but I had
much rather that you did not come. I can say no more."

"I shall come," he answered doggedly, and they went down the steps to
the boat-shed.

"Oh, look, daddy," said Effie, "here comes the lady who was drownded
with you and a gentleman," and to Beatrice's great relief the child ran
forward and met them.

"Ah!" thought Geoffrey to himself, "that is the man Honoria said she was
engaged to. Well, I don't think very much of her taste."

In another minute they had arrived. Geoffrey shook hands with Beatrice,
and was introduced to Owen Davies, who murmured something in reply, and
promptly took his departure.

They examined the canoe together, and then walked slowly up to the
Vicarage, Beatrice holding Effie by the hand. Opposite the reef they
halted for a minute.

"There is the Table Rock on which we were thrown, Mr. Bingham," said
Beatrice, "and here is where they carried us ashore. The sea does not
look as though it would drown any one to-night, does it? See!"--and she
threw a stone into it--"the ripples run as evenly as they do on a pond."

She spoke idly and Geoffrey answered her idly, for they were not
thinking of their words. Rather were they thinking of the strange chance
that had brought them together in an hour of deadly peril and now left
them together in an hour of peace. Perhaps, too, they were wondering to
what end this had come about. For, agnostics, atheists or believers, are
we not, most of us, fatalists at heart?



CHAPTER XII

THE WRITING ON THE SAND

Geoffrey found himself very comfortable at the Vicarage, and as for
Effie, she positively revelled in it. Beatrice looked after her,
taking her to bed at night and helping her to dress in the morning, and
Beatrice was a great improvement upon Anne. When Geoffrey became aware
of this he remonstrated, saying that he had never expected her to act as
nurse to the child, but she replied that it was a pleasure to her to do
so, which was the truth. In other ways, too, the place was all that he
desired. He did not like Elizabeth, but then he did not see very much
of her, and the old farmer clergyman was amusing in his way, with his
endless talk of tithes and crops, and the iniquities of the rebellious
Jones, on whom he was going to distrain.

For the first day or two Geoffrey had no more conversations with
Beatrice. Most of the time she was away at the school, and on the
Saturday afternoon, when she was free, he went out to the Red Rocks
curlew shooting. At first he thought of asking her to come too, but then
it occurred to him that she might wish to go out with Mr. Davies, to
whom he still supposed she was engaged. It was no affair of his, yet he
was glad when he came back to find that she had been out with Effie, and
not with Mr. Davies.

On Sunday morning they all went to church, including Beatrice. It was
a bare little church, and the congregation was small. Mr. Granger went
through the service with about as much liveliness as a horse driving a
machine. He ground it out, prayers, psalms, litany, lessons, all in the
same depressing way, till Geoffrey felt inclined to go to sleep, and
then took to watching Beatrice's sweet face instead. He wondered what
made her look so sad. Hers was always a sad face when in repose, that he
knew, but to-day it was particularly so, and what was more, she looked
worried as well as sad. Once or twice he saw her glance at Mr. Davies,
who was sitting opposite, the solitary occupant of an enormous pew, and
he thought that there was apprehension in her look. But Mr. Davies
did not return the glance. To judge from his appearance nothing was
troubling his mind.

Indeed, Geoffrey studying him in the same way that he instinctively
studied everybody whom he met, thought that he had never before seen a
man who looked quite so ox-like and absolutely comfortable. And yet
he never was more completely at fault. The man seemed stolid and cold
indeed, but it was the coldness of a volcano. His heart was a-fire.
All the human forces in him, all the energies of his sturdy life, had
concentrated themselves in a single passion for the woman who was so
near and yet so far from him. He had never drawn upon the store, had
never frittered his heart away. This woman, strange and unusual as
it may seem, was absolutely the first whose glance or voice had ever
stirred his blood. His passion for her had grown slowly; for years
it had been growing, ever since the grey-eyed girl on the brink of
womanhood had conducted him to his castle home. It was no fancy, no
light desire to pass with the year which brought it. Owen had little
imagination, that soil from which loves spring with the rank swiftness
of a tropic bloom to fade at the first chill breath of change. His
passion was an unalterable fact. It was rooted like an oak on our stiff
English soil, its fibres wrapped his heart and shot his being through,
and if so strong a gale should rise that it must fall, then he too would
be overthrown.

For years now he had thought of little else than Beatrice. To win her he
would have given all his wealth, ay, thrice over, if that were possible.
To win her, to know her his by right and his alone, ah, that would be
heaven! His blood quivered and his mind grew dim when he thought of it.
What would it be to see her standing by him as she stood now, and know
that she was his wife! There is no form of passion more terrible than
this. Its very earthiness makes it awful.

The service went on. At last Mr. Granger mounted the pulpit and began
to read his sermon, of which the text was, "But the greatest of these is
charity." Geoffrey noticed that he bungled over some of the words,
then suddenly remembered Beatrice had told him that she had written the
sermon, and was all attention. He was not disappointed. Notwithstanding
Mr. Granger's infamous reading, and his habit of dropping his voice at
the end of a sentence, instead of raising it, the beauty of the thoughts
and diction was very evident. It was indeed a discourse that might
equally well have been delivered in a Mahomedan or a Buddhist place of
worship; there was nothing distinctively Christian about it, it merely
appealed to the good in human nature. But of this neither the preacher
nor his audience seemed to be aware, indeed, few of the latter were
listening at all. The sermon was short and ended with a passage of real
power and beauty--or rather it did not end, for, closing the MS. sheets,
Mr. Granger followed on with a few impromptu remarks of his own.

"And now, brethren," he said, "I have been preaching to you about
charity, but I wish to add one remark, Charity begins at home. There
is about a hundred pounds of tithe owing to me, and some of it has been
owing for two years and more. If that tithe is not paid I shall have to
put distraint on some of you, and I thought that I had better take this
opportunity to tell you so."

Then he gave the Benediction.

The contrast between this business-like speech, and the beautiful
periods which had gone before, was so ridiculous that Geoffrey very
nearly burst out laughing, and Beatrice smiled. So did the rest of the
congregation, excepting one or two who owed tithe, and Owen Davies, who
was thinking of other things.

As they went through the churchyard, Geoffrey noticed something.
Beatrice was a few paces ahead holding Effie's hand. Presently Mr.
Davies passed him, apparently without seeing him, and greeted Beatrice,
who bowed slightly in acknowledgment. He walked a little way without
speaking, then Geoffrey, just as they reached the church gate, heard him
say, "At four this afternoon, then." Again she bowed her head, and he
turned and went. As for Geoffrey, he wondered what it all meant: was she
engaged to him, or was she not?

Dinner was a somewhat silent meal. Mr. Granger was thinking about his
tithe, also about a sick cow. Elizabeth's thoughts pursued some dark and
devious course of their own, not an altogether agreeable one to judge
from her face. Beatrice looked pale and worried; even Effie's sallies
did not do more than make her smile. As for Geoffrey himself, he was
engaged in wondering in an idle sort of way what was going to happen at
four o'clock.

"You is all very dull," said Effie at last, with a charming disregard of
grammar.

"People ought to be dull on Sunday, Effie," answered Beatrice, with an
effort. "At least, I suppose so," she added.

Elizabeth, who was aggressively religious, frowned at this remark. She
knew her sister did not mean it.

"What are you going to do this afternoon, Beatrice?" she asked suddenly.
She had seen Owen Davies go up and speak to her sister, and though she
had not been near enough to catch the words, scented an assignation from
afar.

Beatrice coloured slightly, a fact that escaped neither her sister nor
Geoffrey.

"I am going to see Jane Llewellyn," she answered. Jane Llewellyn was the
crazy little girl whose tale has been told. Up to that moment Beatrice
had no idea of going to see her, but she knew that Elizabeth would not
follow her there, because the child could not endure Elizabeth.

"Oh, I thought that perhaps you were going out walking."

"I may walk afterwards," answered Beatrice shortly.

"So there is an assignation," thought Elizabeth, and a cold gleam of
intelligence passed across her face.

Shortly after dinner, Beatrice put on her bonnet and went out. Ten
minutes passed, and Elizabeth did the same. Then Mr. Granger announced
that he was going up to the farm (there was no service till six) to see
about the sick cow, and asked Geoffrey if he would like to accompany
him. He said that he might as well, if Effie could come, and, having lit
his pipe, they started.

Meanwhile Beatrice went to see the crazy child. She was not violent
to-day, and scarcely knew her. Before she had been in the house ten
minutes, the situation developed itself.

The cottage stood about two-thirds of the way down a straggling street,
which was quite empty, for Bryngelly slept after dinner on Sunday.
At the top of this street appeared Elizabeth, a Bible in her hand, as
though on district visiting intent. She looked down the street, and
seeing nobody, went for a little walk, then, returning, once more looked
down the street. This time she was rewarded. The door of the Llewellyns'
cottage opened, and Beatrice appeared. Instantly Elizabeth withdrew to
such a position that she could see without being seen, and, standing
as though irresolute, awaited events. Beatrice turned and took the road
that led to the beach.

Then Elizabeth's irresolution disappeared. She also turned and took the
road to the cliff, walking very fast. Passing behind the Vicarage, she
gained a point where the beach narrowed to a width of not more than
fifty yards, and sat down. Presently she saw a man coming along the
sand beneath her, walking quickly. It was Owen Davies. She waited and
watched. Seven or eight minutes passed, and a woman in a white dress
passed. It was Beatrice, walking slowly.

"Ah!" said Elizabeth, setting her teeth, "as I thought." Rising, she
pursued her path along the cliff, keeping three or four hundred yards
ahead, which she could easily do by taking short cuts. It was a long
walk, and Elizabeth, who was not fond of walking, got very tired of it.
But she was a woman with a purpose, and as such, hard to beat. So she
kept on steadily for nearly an hour, till, at length, she came to the
spot known as the Amphitheatre. This Amphitheatre, situated almost
opposite the Red Rocks, was a half-ring of cliff, the sides of which ran
in a semicircle almost down to the water's edge, that is, at high tide.
In the centre of the segment thus formed was a large flat stone, so
placed that anybody in certain positions on the cliff above could
command a view of it, though it was screened by the projecting walls of
rock from observation from the beach. Elizabeth clambered a little way
down the sloping side of the cliff and looked; on the stone, his back
towards her, sat Owen Davies. Slipping from stratum to stratum of the
broken cliff, Elizabeth drew slowly nearer, till at length she was
within fifty paces of the seated man. Here, ensconcing herself behind a
cleft rock, she also sat down; it was not safe to go closer; but in case
she should by any chance be observed from above, she opened the Bible on
her knee, as though she had sought this quiet spot to study its pages.

Three or four minutes passed, and Beatrice appeared round the projecting
angle of the Amphitheatre, and walked slowly across the level sand. Owen
Davies rose and stretched out his hand to welcome her, but she did not
take it, she only bowed, and then seated herself upon the large flat
stone. Owen also seated himself on it, but some three or four feet away.
Elizabeth thrust her white face forward till it was almost level with
the lips of the cleft rock and strained her ears to listen. Alas! she
could not hear a single word.

"You asked me to come here, Mr. Davies," said Beatrice, breaking the
painful silence. "I have come."

"Yes," he answered; "I asked you to come because I wanted to speak to
you."

"Yes?" said Beatrice, looking up from her occupation of digging little
holes in the sand with the point of her parasol. Her face was calm
enough, but her heart beat fast beneath her breast.

"I want to ask you," he said, speaking slowly and thickly, "if you will
be my wife?"

Beatrice opened her lips to speak, then, seeing that he had only paused
because his inward emotion checked his words, shut them again, and went
on digging little holes. She wished to rely on the whole case, as a
lawyer would say.

"I want to ask you," he repeated, "to be my wife. I have wished to do so
for some years, but I have never been able to bring myself to it. It is
a great step to take, and my happiness depends on it. Do not answer me
yet," he went on, his words gathering force as he spoke. "Listen to what
I have to tell you. I have been a lonely man all my life. At sea I was
lonely, and since I have come into this fortune I have been lonelier
still. I never loved anybody or anything till I began to love you.
And then I loved you more and more and more; till now I have only one
thought in all my life, and that thought is of you. While I am awake
I think of you, and when I am asleep I dream of you. Listen, Beatrice,
listen!--I have never loved any other woman, I have scarcely spoken to
one--only you, Beatrice. I can give you a great deal; and everything
I have shall be yours, only I should be jealous of you--yes, very
jealous!"

Here she glanced at his face. It was outwardly calm but white as death,
and in the blue eyes, generally so placid, shone a fire that by contrast
looked almost unholy.

"I think that you have said enough, Mr. Davies," Beatrice answered. "I
am very much obliged to you. I am much honoured, for in some ways I am
not your equal, but I do not love you, and I cannot marry you, and
I think it best to tell you so plainly, once and for all," and
unconsciously she went on digging the holes.

"Oh, do not say that," he answered, almost in a moan. "For God's sake
don't say that! It will kill me to lose you. I think I should go mad.
Marry me and you will learn to love me."

Beatrice glanced at him again, and a pang of pity pierced her heart. She
did not know it was so bad a case as this. It struck her too that she
was doing a foolish thing, from a worldly point of view. The man loved
her and was very eligible. He only asked of her what most women are
willing enough to give under circumstances so favourable to their
well-being--herself. But she never liked him, he had always repelled
her, and she was not a woman to marry a man whom she did not like.
Also, during the last week this dislike and repulsion had hardened and
strengthened. Vaguely, as he pleaded with her, Beatrice wondered why,
and as she did so her eye fell upon the pattern she was automatically
pricking in the sand. It had taken the form of letters, and the letters
were G E O F F R E--Great heaven! Could that be the answer? She flushed
crimson with shame at the thought, and passed her foot across the
tell-tale letters, as she believed, obliterating them.

Owen saw the softening of her eyes and saw the blush, and misinterpreted
them. Thinking that she was relenting, by instinct, rather than from any
teaching of experience, he attempted to take her hand. With a turn of
the arm, so quick that even Elizabeth watching with all her eyes saw
nothing of the movement, Beatrice twisted herself free.

"Don't touch me," she said sharply, "you have no right to touch me. I
have answered you, Mr. Davies."

Owen withdrew his hand abashed, and for a moment sat still, his chin
resting on his breast, a very picture of despair. Nothing indeed could
break the stolid calm of his features, but the violence of his emotion
was evident in the quick shivering of his limbs and his short deep
breaths.

"Can you give me no hope?" he said at last in a slow heavy voice. "For
God's sake think before you answer--you don't know what it means to me.
It is nothing to you--you cannot feel. I feel, and your words cut like
a knife. I know that I am heavy and stupid, but I feel as though you had
killed me. You are heartless, quite heartless."

Again Beatrice softened a little. She was touched and flattered. Where
is the woman who would not have been?

"What can I say to you, Mr. Davies?" she answered in a kinder voice. "I
cannot marry you. How I can I marry you when I do not love you?"

"Plenty of women marry men whom they do not love."

"Then they are bad women," answered Beatrice with energy.

"The world does not think so," he said again; "the world calls those
women bad who love where they cannot marry, and the world is always
right. Marriage sanctifies everything."

Beatrice laughed bitterly. "Do you think so?" she said. "I do not. I
think that marriage without love is the most unholy of our institutions,
and that is saying a good deal. Supposing I should say yes to you,
supposing that I married you, not loving you, what would it be for? For
your money and your position, and to be called a married woman, and what
do you suppose I should think of myself in my heart then? No, no, I may
be bad, but I have not fallen so low as that. Find another wife, Mr.
Davies; the world is wide and there are plenty of women in it who
will love you for your own sake, or who at any rate will not be so
particular. Forget me, and leave me to go my own way--it is not your
way."

"Leave you to go your own way," he answered almost with passion--"that
is, leave you to some other man. Oh! I cannot bear to think of it. I am
jealous of every man who comes near you. Do you know how beautiful you
are? You are too beautiful--every man must love you as I do. Oh, if you
took anybody else I think that I should kill him."

"Do not speak like that, Mr. Davies, or I shall go."

He stopped at once. "Don't go," he said imploringly. "Listen. You said
that you would not marry me because you did not love me. Supposing that
you learned to love me, say in a year's time, Beatrice, would you marry
me then?"

"I would marry any man whom I loved," she answered.

"Then if you learn to love me you will marry me?"

"Oh, this is ridiculous," she said. "It is not probable, it is hardly
possible, that such a thing should happen. If it had been going to
happen it would have happened before."

"It might come about," he answered; "your heart might soften towards me.
Oh, say yes to this. It is a small request, it costs you nothing, and it
gives me hope, without which I cannot live. Say that I may ask you once
more, and that then if you love me you will marry me."

Beatrice thought for a moment. Such a promise could do her no harm, and
in the course of six months or a year he might get used to the idea of
living without her. Also it would prevent a scene. It was weak of her,
but she dreaded the idea of her having refused Owen Davies coming to her
father's ears.

"If you wish it, Mr. Davies," she said, "so be it. Only I ask you to
understand this, I am in no way tied to you. I give you no hope that my
answer, should you renew this offer a year hence or at any other time,
will differ from that I give you to-day. I do not think there is the
slightest probability of such a thing. Also, it must be understood that
you are not to speak to my father about this matter, or to trouble me in
any way. Do you consent?"

"Yes," he answered, "I consent. You have me at your mercy."

"Very well. And now, Mr. Davies, good-bye. No, do not walk back with me.
I had rather go by myself. But I want to say this: I am very sorry
for what has happened. I have not wished it to happen. I have never
encouraged it, and my hands are clean of it. But I am sorry, sorry
beyond measure, and I repeat what I said before--seek out some other
woman and marry her."

"That is the cruellest thing of all the cruel things which you have
said," he answered.

"I did not mean it to be cruel, Mr. Davies, but I suppose that the truth
often is. And now good-bye," and Beatrice stretched out her hand.

He touched it, and she turned and went. But Owen did not go. He sat upon
the rock, his head bowed in misery. He had staked all his hopes upon
this woman. She was the one desirable thing to him, the one star in
his somewhat leaden sky, and now that star was eclipsed. Her words were
unequivocal, they gave but little hope. Beatrice was scarcely a woman to
turn round in six months or a year. On the contrary, there was a fixity
about her which frightened him. What could be the cause of it? How came
it that she should be so ready to reject him, and all he had to offer
her? After all, she was a girl in a small position. She could not be
looking forward to a better match. Nor would the prospect move her one
way or another. There must be a reason for it. Perhaps he had a rival,
surely that must be the cause. Some enemy had done this thing. But who?

At this moment a woman's shadow fell athwart him.

"Oh, have you come back?" he cried, springing to his feet.

"If you mean Beatrice," answered a voice--it was Elizabeth's--"she went
down to the beach ten minutes ago. I happened to be on the cliff, and I
saw her."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Miss Granger," he said faintly. "I did not see
who it was."

Elizabeth sat down upon the rock where her sister had sat, and, seeing
the little holes in the breach, began indolently to clear them of the
sand which Beatrice had swept over them with her foot. This was no
difficult matter, for the holes were deeply dug, and it was easy to
trace their position. Presently they were nearly all clear--that is, the
letters were legible.

"You have had a talk with Beatrice, Mr. Davies?"

"Yes," he answered apathetically.

Elizabeth paused. Then she took her bull by the horns.

"Are you going to marry Beatrice, Mr. Davies?" she asked.

"I don't know," he answered slowly and without surprise. It seemed
natural to him that his own central thought should be present in her
mind. "I love her dearly, and want to marry her."

"She refused you, then?"

"Yes."

Elizabeth breathed more freely.

"But I can ask her again."

Elizabeth frowned. What could this mean? It was not an absolute refusal.
Beatrice was playing some game of her own.

"Why did she put you off so, Mr. Davies? Do not think me inquisitive. I
only ask because I may be able to help you."

"I know; you are very kind. Help me and I shall always be grateful to
you. I do not know--I almost think that there must be somebody else,
only I don't know who it can be."

"Ah!" said Elizabeth, who had been gazing intently at the little holes
in the beach which she had now cleared of the sand. "Of course that is
possible. She is a curious girl, Beatrice is. What are those letters,
Mr. Davies?"

He looked at them idly. "Something your sister was writing while I
talked to her. I remember seeing her do it."

"G E O F F R E--why, it must be meant for Geoffrey. Yes, of course it
is possible that there is somebody else, Mr. Davies. Geoffrey!--how
curious!"

"Why is it curious, Miss Granger? Who is Geoffrey?"

Elizabeth laughed a disagreeable little laugh that somehow attracted
Owen's attention more than her words.

"How should I know? It must be some friend of Beatrice's, and one of
whom she is thinking a great deal, or she would not write his name
unconsciously. The only Geoffrey that I know is Mr. Geoffrey Bingham,
the barrister, who is staying at the Vicarage, and whose life Beatrice
saved." She paused to watch her companion's face, and saw a new idea
creep across its stolidity. "But of course," she went on, "it cannot be
Mr. Bingham that she was thinking of, because you see he is married."

"Married?" he said, "yes, but he's a man for all that, and a very
handsome one."

"Yes, I should call him handsome--a fine man," Elizabeth answered
critically; "but, as Beatrice said the other day, the great charm about
him is his talk and power of mind. He is a very remarkable man, and the
world will hear of him before he has done. But, however, all this is
neither here nor there. Beatrice is a curious woman, and has strange
ideas, but I am sure that she would never carry on with a married man."

"But he might carry on with her, Miss Elizabeth."

She laughed. "Do you really think that a man like Mr. Bingham would try
to flirt with girls without encouragement? Men like that are as proud
as women, and prouder; the lady must always be a step ahead. But what
is the good of talking about such a thing? It is all nonsense. Beatrice
must have been thinking of some other Geoffrey--or it was an accident of
something. Why, Mr. Davies, if you for one moment really believed that
dear Beatrice could be guilty of such a shameless thing as to carry on
a flirtation with a married man, would you have asked her to marry you?
Would you still think of asking such a woman as she must be to become
your wife?"

"I don't know; I suppose not," he said doubtfully.

"You suppose not. I know you better than you know yourself. You would
rather never marry at all than take such a woman as she would be proved
to be. But it is no good talking such stuff. If you have a rival you may
be sure it is some unmarried man."

Owen reflected in his heart that on the whole he would rather it was a
married one, since a married man, at any rate, could not legally take
possession of Beatrice. But Elizabeth's rigid morality alarmed him, and
he did not say so.

"Do you know I feel a little upset, Miss Elizabeth," he answered. "I
think I will be going. By the way, I promised to say nothing of this to
your father. I hope that you will not do so, either."

"Most certainly not," said Elizabeth, and indeed it would be the last
thing she would wish to do. "Well, good-bye, Mr. Davies. Do not be
downhearted; it will all come right in the end. You will always have me
to help you, remember."

"Thank you, thank you," he said earnestly, and went.

Elizabeth watched him round the wall of rock with a cold and ugly smile
set upon her face.

"You fool," she thought, "you fool! To tell _me_ that you 'love her
dearly and want to marry her;' you want to get that sweet face of hers,
do you? You never shall; I'd spoil it first! Dear Beatrice, she is not
capable of carrying on a love affair with a married man--oh, certainly
not! Why, she's in love with him already, and he is more than half in
love with her. If she hadn't been, would she have put Owen off? Not she.
Give them time, and we shall see. They will ruin each other--they _must_
ruin each other; it won't be child's play when two people like that fall
in love. They will not stop at sighs, there is too much human nature
about them. It was a good idea to get him into the house. And to see her
go on with that child Effie, just as though she was its mother--it makes
me laugh. Ah, Beatrice, with all your wits you are a silly woman! And
one day, my dear girl, I shall have the pleasure of exposing you to
Owen; the idol will be unveiled, and there will be an end of your
chances with him, for he can't marry you after that. Then my turn will
come. It is a question of time--only a question of time!"

So brooded Elizabeth in her heart, madded with malicious envy and
passionate jealousy. She loved this man, Owen Davies, as much as she
could love anybody; at the least, she dearly loved the wealth and
station of which he was the visible centre, and she hated the sister
whom he desired. If she could only discredit that sister and show her
to be guilty of woman's worst crime, misplaced, unlegalised affection,
surely, she thought, Owen would reject her.

She was wrong. She did not know how entirely he desired to make Beatrice
his wife, or realise how forgiving a man can be who has such an end to
gain. It is of the women who already weary them and of their infidelity
that men are so ready to make examples, not of those who do not belong
to them, and whom they long for night and day. To these they can be very
merciful.



CHAPTER XIII

GEOFFREY LECTURES

Meanwhile Beatrice was walking homewards with an uneasy mind. The
trouble was upon her. She had, it is true, succeeded in postponing it
a little, but she knew very well that it was only a postponement. Owen
Davies was not a man to be easily shaken off. She almost wished now that
she had crushed the idea once and for all. But then he would have gone
to her father, and there must have been a scene, and she was weak enough
to shrink from that, especially while Mr. Bingham was in the house. She
could well imagine the dismay, not to say the fury, of her money-loving
old father if he were to hear that she had refused--actually
refused--Owen Davies of Bryngelly Castle, and all his wealth.

Then there was Elizabeth to be reckoned with. Elizabeth would assuredly
make her life a burden to her. Beatrice little guessed that nothing
would suit her sister's book better. Oh, if only she could shake the
dust of Bryngelly off her feet! But that, too, was impossible. She was
quite without money. She might, it was true, succeed in getting another
place as mistress to a school in some distant part of England, were
it not for an insurmountable obstacle. Here she received a salary of
seventy-five pounds a year; of this she kept fifteen pounds, out of
which slender sum she contrived to dress herself; the rest she gave
to her father. Now, as she well knew, he could not keep his head above
water without this assistance, which, small as it was, made all the
difference to their household between poverty and actual want. If she
went away, supposing even that she found an equally well-paid post,
she would require every farthing of the money to support herself, there
would be nothing left to send home. It was a pitiable position; here was
she, who had just refused a man worth thousands a year, quite unable
to get out of the way of his importunity for the want of seventy-five
pounds, paid quarterly. Well, the only thing to do was to face it out
and take her chance. On one point she was, however, quite clear; she
would _not_ marry Owen Davies. She might be a fool for her pains, but
she would not do it. She respected herself too much to marry a man
she did not love; a man whom she positively disliked. "No, never!" she
exclaimed aloud, stamping her foot upon the shingle.

"Never what?" said a voice, within two yards of her.

She started violently, and looked round. There, his back resting against
a rock, a pipe in his mouth, an open letter on his knee, and his hat
drawn down almost over his eyes, sat Geoffrey. He had left Effie to go
home with Mr. Granger, and climbing down a sloping place in the cliff,
had strolled along the beach. The letter on his knee was one from his
wife. It was short, and there was nothing particular in it. Effie's name
was not even mentioned. It was to see if he had not overlooked it that
he was reading the note through again. No, it merely related to Lady
Honoria's safe arrival, gave a list of the people staying at the Hall--a
fast lot, Geoffrey noticed, a certain Mr. Dunstan, whom he particularly
disliked, among them--and the number of brace of partridges which had
been killed on the previous day. Then came an assurance that Honoria
was enjoying herself immensely, and that the new French cook was "simply
perfect;" the letter ending "with love."

"Never what, Miss Granger?" he said again, as he lazily folded up the
sheet.

"Never mind, of course," she answered, recovering herself. "How you
startled me, Mr. Bingham! I had no idea there was anybody on the beach."

"It is quite free, is it not?" he answered, getting up. "I thought you
were going to trample me into the pebbles. It's almost alarming when one
is thinking about a Sunday nap to see a young lady striding along, then
suddenly stop, stamp her foot, and say, 'No, never!' Luckily I knew that
you were about or I should really have been frightened."

"How did you know that I was about?" Beatrice asked a little defiantly.
It was no business of his to observe her movements.

"In two ways. Look!" he said, pointing to a patch of white sand. "That,
I think, is your footprint."

"Well, what of it?" said Beatrice, with a little laugh.

"Nothing in particular, except that it is your footprint," he answered.
"Then I happened to meet old Edward, who was loafing along, and he
informed me that you and Mr. Davies had gone up the beach; there is his
footprint--Mr. Davies's, I mean--but you don't seem to have been very
sociable, because here is yours right in the middle of it. Therefore you
must have been walking in Indian file, and a little way back in parallel
lines, with quite thirty yards between you."

"Why do you take the trouble to observe things so closely?" she asked in
a half amused and half angry tone.

"I don't know--a habit of the legal mind, I suppose. One might make
quite a romance out of those footprints on the sand, and the little
subsequent events. But you have not heard all my thrilling tale. Old
Edward also informed me that he saw your sister, Miss Elizabeth, going
along the cliff almost level with you, from which he concluded that you
had argued as to the shortest way to the Red Rocks and were putting the
matter to the proof."

"Elizabeth," said Beatrice, turning a shade paler; "what can she have
been doing, I wonder."

"Taking exercise, probably, like yourself. Well, I seat myself with my
pipe in the shadow of that rock, when suddenly I see Mr. Davies coming
along towards Bryngelly as though he were walking for a wager, his hat
fixed upon the back of his head. Literally he walked over my legs and
never saw me. Then you follow and ejaculate, 'No, never!'--and that is
the end of my story. Have I your permission to walk with you, or shall I
interfere with the development of the plot?"

"There is no plot, and as you said just now the beach is free," Beatrice
answered petulantly.

They walked on a few yards and then he spoke in another tone--the
meaning of the assignation he had overheard in the churchyard grew clear
to him now.

"I believe that I have to congratulate you, Miss Granger," he said,
"and I do so very heartily. It is not everybody who is so fortunate as
to----"

Beatrice stopped, and half turning faced him.

"What _do_ you mean, Mr. Bingham?" she said. "I do not understand your
dark sayings."

"Mean! oh, nothing particular, except that I wished to congratulate you
on your engagement."

"My engagement! what engagement?"

"It seems that there is some mistake," he said, and struggle as he might
to suppress it his tone was one of relief. "I understood that you had
become engaged to be married to Mr. Owen Davies. If I am wrong I am sure
I apologise."

"You are quite wrong, Mr. Bingham; I don't know who put such a notion
into your head, but there is no truth in it."

"Then allow me to congratulate you on there being no truth in it. You
see that is the beauty of nine affairs matrimonial out of ten--there
are two or more sides of them. If they come off the amiable and
disinterested observer can look at the bright side--as in this case,
lots of money, romantic castle by the sea, gentleman of unexceptional
antecedents, &c., &c, &c. If, on the other hand, they don't, cause can
still be found for thankfulness--lady might do better after all, castle
by the sea rather draughty and cold in spring, gentlemen most estimable
but perhaps a little dull, and so on, you see."

There was a note of mockery about his talk which irritated Beatrice
exceedingly. It was not like Mr. Bingham to speak so. It was not even
the way that a gentleman out of his teens should speak to a lady on such
a subject. He knew this as well as she did and was secretly ashamed of
himself. But the truth must out: though Geoffrey did not admit it even
to himself he was bitterly and profoundly jealous, and jealous people
have no manners. Beatrice could not, however, be expected to know this,
and naturally grew angry.

"I do not quite understand what you are talking about, Mr. Bingham," she
said, putting on her most dignified air, and Beatrice could look rather
alarming. "You have picked up a piece of unfounded gossip and now you
take advantage of it to laugh at me, and to say rude things of Mr.
Davies. It is not kind."

"Oh, no; it was the footsteps, Miss Granger, _and_ the gossip, _and_ the
appointment you made in the churchyard, that I unwillingly overheard,
not the gossip alone which led me into my mistake. Of course I have now
to apologise."

Again Beatrice stamped her foot. She saw that he was still mocking her,
and felt that he did not believe her.

"There," he went on, stung into unkindness by his biting but
unacknowledged jealousy, for she was right--on reflection he did
not quite believe what she said as to her not being engaged. "How
unfortunate I am--I have said something to make you angry again. Why did
you not walk with Mr. Davies? I should then have remained guiltless of
offence, and you would have had a more agreeable companion. You want to
quarrel with me; what shall we quarrel about? There are many things on
which we are diametrically opposed; let us start one."

It was too much, for though his words were nothing the tone in which
he spoke gave them a sting. Beatrice, already disturbed in mind by the
scene through which she had passed, her breast already throbbing with
a vague trouble of which she did not know the meaning, for once in her
life lost control of herself and grew hysterical. Her grey eyes filled
with tears, the corners of her sweet mouth dropped, and she looked very
much as though she were going to burst out weeping.

"It is most unkind of you," she said, with a half sob. "If you knew how
much I have to put up with, you would not speak to me like that. I know
that you do not believe me; very well, I will tell you the truth. Yes,
though I have no business to do it, and you have no right--none at
all--to make me do it, I will tell you the truth, because I cannot bear
that you should not believe me. Mr. Davies did want me to marry him and
I refused him. I put him off for a while; I did this because I knew that
if I did not he would go to my father. It was cowardly, but my father
would make my life wretched----" and again she gave a half-choked sob.

Much has been said and written about the effect produced upon men by
the sight of a lady in, or on the border line of tears, and there is no
doubt that this effect is considerable. Man being in his right mind
is deeply moved by such a spectacle, also he is frightened because he
dreads a scene. Now most people would rather walk ten miles in their
dress shoes than have to deal with a young lady in hysterics, however
modified. Putting the peculiar circumstances of the case aside, Geoffrey
was no exception to this rule. It was all very well to cross spears
with Beatrice, who had quite an equal wit, and was very capable of
retaliation, but to see her surrender at discretion was altogether
another thing. Indeed he felt much ashamed of himself.

"Please don't--don't--be put out," he said. He did not like to use the
word "cry." "I was only laughing at you, but I ought not to have spoken
as I did. I did not wish to force your confidence, indeed I did not. I
never thought of such a thing. I am so sorry."

His remorse was evidently genuine, and Beatrice felt somewhat appeased.
Perhaps it did not altogether grieve her to learn that she could make
him feel sorry.

"You did not force my confidence," she said defiantly, quite forgetting
that a moment before she had reproached him for making her speak.
"I told you because I did not choose that you should think I was not
speaking the truth--and now let us change the subject." She imposed no
reserve on him as to what she had revealed; she knew that there was no
necessity to do so. The secret would be between them--another dangerous
link.

Beatrice recovered her composure and they walked slowly on.

"Tell me, Mr. Bingham," she said presently, "how can a woman earn her
living--I mean a girl like myself without any special qualifications?
Some of them get on."

"Well," he answered, "that depends upon the girl. What sort of a living
do you mean? You are earning a living now, of a kind."

"Yes, but sometimes, if only I could manage it, I think that I should
like to get away from here, and take another line, something bigger. I
do not suppose that I ever shall, but I like to think of it sometimes."

"I only know of two things which a woman can turn to," he said, "the
stage and literature. Of course," he added hastily, "the first is out of
the question in your case."

"And so is the other, I am afraid," she answered shaking her head, "that
is if by literature you mean imaginative writing, and I suppose that
is the only way to get into notice. As I told you I lost my
imagination--well, to be frank, when I lost my faith. At one time I used
to have plenty, as I used to have plenty of faith, but the one went with
the other, I do not understand why."

"Don't you? I think I do. A mind without religious sentiment is like a
star without atmosphere, brighter than other stars but not so soft to
see. Religion, poetry, music, imagination, and even some of the
more exalted forms of passion, flourish in the same soil, and are, I
sometimes think, different manifestations of the same thing. Do you know
it is ridiculous to hear you talk of having lost your faith, because I
don't believe it. At the worst it has gone to sleep, and will wake
up again one day. Possibly you may not accept some particular form of
faith, but I tell you frankly that to reject all religion simply because
you cannot understand it, is nothing but a form of atrocious spiritual
vanity. Your mind is too big for you, Miss Granger: it has run away
with you, but you know it is tied by a string--it cannot go far. And now
perhaps you will be angry again."

"No, indeed, why should I be angry? I daresay that you are quite right,
and I only hope that I may be able to believe again. I will tell you how
I lost belief. I had a little brother whom I loved more than anything
else in the world, indeed after my mother died he was the only thing I
really had to love, for I think that my father cares more for Elizabeth
than he does for me, she is so much the better at business matters, and
Elizabeth and I never quite got on. I daresay that the fault is mine,
but the fact remains--we are sisters but we are not intimate. Well, my
brother fell ill of a fever, and for a long time he lay between life and
death, and I prayed for him as I never prayed for anybody or anything
before--yes, I prayed that I might die instead of him. Then he passed
through the crisis and got better, and I thanked God, thinking that my
prayers had been answered; oh, how happy I was for those ten days! And
then this happened:--My brother got a chill, a relapse followed, and in
three days he was dead. The last words that he spoke to me were, 'Oh,
don't let me die, Bee!'--he used to call me Bee--'Please don't let me
die, dear Bee!' But he died, died in my arms, and when it was over I
rose from his side feeling as though my heart was dead also. I prayed
no more after that. It seemed to me as though my prayers had been mocked
at, as though he had been given back to me for a little while in order
that the blow might be more crushing when it fell."

"Don't you think that you were a little foolish in taking such a view?"
said Geoffrey. "Have you not been amused, sometimes, to read about the
early Christians?--how the lead would not boil the martyr, or the lion
would not eat him, or the rain from a blue sky put out the fire, and how
the pagan king at once was converted and accepted a great many
difficult doctrines without further delay. The Athanasian Creed was not
necessarily true because the fire would not light or the sword would not
cut, nor, excuse me, were all your old beliefs wrong because your prayer
was unanswered. It is an ancient story, that we cannot tell whether the
answering of our petitions will be good or ill for us. Of course I do
not know anything about such things, but it seems to me rash to suppose
that Providence is going to alter the working of its eternal laws merely
to suit the passing wishes of individuals--wishes, too, that in many
cases would bring unforeseen sorrows if fulfilled. Besides I daresay
that the poor child is happier dead than he would have been had he
lived. It is not an altogether pleasant world for most of us."

"Yes, Mr. Bingham, I know, and I daresay that I should have got over the
shock in time, only after that I began to read. I read the histories of
the religions and compared them, and I read the works of those writers
who have risen up to attack them. I found, or I thought that I found,
the same springs of superstition in them all--superstitions arising from
elementary natural causes, and handed on with variations from race to
race, and time to time. In some I found the same story, only with a
slightly altered face, and I learned, moreover, that each faith denied
the other, and claimed truth for itself alone.

"After that, too, I went to the college and there I fell in with a lady,
one of the mistresses, who was the cleverest woman that I ever knew,
and in her way a good woman, but one who believed that religion was the
curse of the world, and who spent all her spare time in attacking it in
some form or other. Poor thing, she is dead now. And so, you see, what
between these causes and the continual spectacle of human misery which
to my mind negatives the idea of a merciful and watching Power, at last
it came to pass that the only altar left in my temple is an altar to the
'Unknown God.'"

Geoffrey, like most men who have had to think on these matters, did not
care to talk about them much, especially to women. For one thing, he was
conscious of a tendency to speech less reverent than his thought. But he
had not entered Beatrice's church of Darkness, indeed he had turned
his back on it for ever, though, like most people, he had at different
periods of his past life tarried an hour in its porch. So he ventured on
an objection.

"I am no theologian," he said, "and I am not fond of discussion on such
matters. But there are just one or two things I should like to say. It
is no argument, to my mind at least, to point to the existence of evil
and unhappiness among men as a proof of the absence of a superior Mercy;
for what are men that such things should not be with them? Man,
too, must own some master. If he has doubts let him look up at the
marshalling of the starry heaven, and they will vanish."

"No," said Beatrice, "I fear not. Kant said so, but before that Moliere
had put the argument in the mouth of a fool. The starry heavens no
more prove anything than does the running of the raindrops down the
window-pane. It is not a question of size and quantity."

"I might accept the illustration," answered Geoffrey; "one example of
law is as good as another for my purpose. I see in it all the working of
a living Will, but of course that is only my way of looking at it, not
yours."

"No; I am afraid," said Beatrice, "all this reasoning drawn from
material things does not touch me. That is how the Pagans made _their_
religions, and it is how Paley strives to prove his. They argued from
the Out to the In, from the material to the spiritual. It cannot be; if
Christianity is true it must stand upon spiritual feet and speak with a
spiritual voice, to be heard, not in the thunderstorm, but only in the
hearts of men. The existence of Creative Force does not demonstrate the
existence of a Redeemer; if anything, it tends to negative it, for the
power that creates is also the power which destroys. What does touch me,
however, is the thought of the multitude of the Dead. _That_ is what we
care for, not for an Eternal Force, ever creating and destroying. Think
of them all--all the souls of unheard-of races, almost animal, who
passed away so long ago. Can ours endure more than theirs, and do you
think that the spirit of an Ethiopian who died in the time of Moses is
anywhere now?"

"There was room for them all on earth," answered Geoffrey. "The universe
is wide. It does not dismay me. There are mysteries in our nature, the
nature we think we know--shall there be none in that which we know not?
Worlds die, to live again when, after millions of ages, the conditions
become once more favourable to life, and why should not a man? We
are creatures of the world, we reflect its every light and shadow, we
rejoice in its rejoicing, its every feature has a tiny parallel in us.
Why should not our fate be as its fate, and its fate is so far as we
know eternal. It may change from gas to chaos, from chaos to active
life, from active life to seeming death. Then it may once more pass into
its elements, and from those elements back again to concrete being,
and so on for ever, always changing, but always the same. So much for
nature's allegory. It is not a perfect analogy, for Man is a thing
apart from all things else; it may be only a hint or a type, but it is
something.

"Now to come to the question of our religion. I confess I draw quite a
different conclusion from your facts. You say that you trace the same
superstitions in all religions, and that the same spiritual myths are in
some shape present in almost all. Well, does not this suggest that the
same great _truth_ underlies them all, taking from time to time the
shape which is best suited to the spiritual development of those
professing each. Every great new religion is better than the last. You
cannot compare Osirianism with Buddhism, or Buddhism with Christianity,
or Mahomedanism with the Arabian idol worship. Take the old
illustration--take a cut crystal and hold it in the sun, and you
will see many different coloured rays come from its facets. They look
different, but they are all born of the same great light; they are all
the same light. May it not be so with religion? Let your altar be to the
'Unknown God,' if you like--for who can give an unaltering likeness to
the Power above us?--but do not knock your altar down.

"Depend upon it, Miss Granger, all indications to the contrary
notwithstanding, there is a watching Providence without the will of
which we cannot live, and if we deliberately reject that Providence,
setting up our intelligence in its place, sorrow will come of it, even
here; for it is wiser than we. I wish that you would try and look at
the question from another point of view--from a higher point of view. I
think you will find that it will bear a great deal of examination, and
that you will come to the conclusion that the dictum of the wise-acre
who says there is nothing because he can see nothing, is not necessarily
a true one. There, that is all I have to say, and I wish that I could
say it better."

"Thank you," said Beatrice, "I will. Why here we are at home; I must go
and put Effie to bed."



And here it may be stated that Geoffrey's advice was not altogether
thrown away. Beatrice did try looking at the question again, and if
Faith did not altogether come back to her at least Hope did, and "the
greatest of these, which is Charity," had never deserted her. Hope came
slowly back, not by argument probably, but rather by example. In the sea
of Doubt she saw another buoyed up, if it were but on broken pieces of
the ship. This encouraged her. Geoffrey believed, and she--believed in
Geoffrey. Indeed, is not this the secret of woman's philosophy--even,
to some extent, of that of such a woman as Beatrice? "Let the faith or
unfaith of This, That, or the other Rabbi answer for me," she says--it
is her last argument. She believes in This, or That, or some other
philosopher: that is her creed. And Geoffrey was the person in whom
Beatrice began to believe, all the more wholly because she had never
believed in any one before. Whatever else she was to lose, this at least
she won when she saved his life.



CHAPTER XIV

DRIFTING

On the day following their religious discussion an accident happened
which resulted in Geoffrey and Beatrice being more than ever thrown
in the company of each other. During the previous week two cases of
scarlatina had been reported among the school children, and now it was
found that the complaint had spread so much that it was necessary to
close the school. This meant, of course, that Beatrice had all her time
upon her hands. And so had Geoffrey. It was his custom to bathe before
breakfast, after which he had nothing to do for the rest of the day.
Beatrice with little Effie also bathed before breakfast from the ladies'
bathing-place, a quarter of a mile off, and sometimes he would meet her
as she returned, glowing with health and beauty like Venus new risen
from the Cyprian sea, her half-dried hair hanging in heavy masses down
her back. Then after breakfast they would take Effie down to the beach,
and her "auntie," as the child learned to call Beatrice, would teach her
lessons and poetry till she was tired, and ran away to paddle in the sea
or look for prawns among the rocks.

Meanwhile the child's father and Beatrice would talk--not about
religion, they spoke no more on that subject, nor about Owen Davies,
but of everything else on earth. Beatrice was a merry woman when she was
happy, and they never lacked subjects of conversation, for their minds
were very much in tune. In book-learning Beatrice had the advantage of
Geoffrey, for she had not only read enormously, she also remembered what
she read and could apply it. Her critical faculty, too, was very keen.
He, on the other hand, had more knowledge of the world, and in his rich
days had travelled a good deal, and so it came to pass that each could
always find something to tell the other. Never for one second were they
dull, not even when they sat for an hour or so in silence, for it was
the silence of complete companionship.

So the long morning would wear away all too quickly, and they would go
in to dinner, to be greeted with a cold smile by Elizabeth and heartily
enough by the old gentleman, who never thought of anything out of his
own circle of affairs. After dinner it was the same story. Either they
went walking to look for ferns and flowers, or perhaps Geoffrey took his
gun and hid behind the rocks for curlew, sending Beatrice, who knew the
coast by heart, a mile round or more to some headland in order to put
them on the wing. Then she would come back, springing towards him from
rock to rock, and crouch down beneath a neighbouring seaweed-covered
boulder, and they would talk together in whispers, or perhaps they would
not talk at all, for fear lest they should frighten the flighting birds.
And Geoffrey would first search the heavens for curlew or duck, and,
seeing none, would let his eyes fall upon the pure beauty of Beatrice's
face, showing so clearly against the tender sky, and wonder what she was
thinking about; till, suddenly feeling his gaze, she would turn with a
smile as sweet as the first rosy blush of dawn upon the waters, and ask
him what _he_ was thinking about. And he would laugh and answer "You,"
whereon she would smile again and perhaps blush a little, feeling glad
at heart, she knew not why.

Then came tea-time and the quiet, when they sat at the open window,
and Geoffrey smoked and listened to the soft surging of the sea and
the harmonious whisper of the night air in the pines. In the corner Mr.
Granger slept in his armchair, or perhaps he had gone to bed altogether,
for he liked to go to bed at half-past eight, as the old Herefordshire
farmer, his father, had done before him; and at the far end of the room
sat Elizabeth, doing her accounts by the light of a solitary candle,
or, if they failed her, reading some book of a devotional and inspired
character. But over the edge of the book, or from the page of crabbed
accounts, her eyes would glance continually towards the handsome pair in
the window-place, and she would smile as she saw that it went well. Only
they never saw the glances or noted the smile. When Geoffrey looked that
way, which was not often, for Elizabeth--old Elizabeth, as he always
called her to himself--did not attract him, all he saw was her sharp but
capable-looking form bending over her work, and the light of the candle
gleaming on her straw-coloured hair and falling in gleaming white
patches on her hard knuckles.

And so the happy day would pass and bed-time come, and with it unbidden
dreams.

Geoffrey thought no ill of all this, as of course he ought to have
thought. He was not the ravening lion of fiction--so rarely, if ever, to
be met with in real life--going about seeking whom he might devour. He
had absolutely no designs on Beatrice's affections, any more than she
had on his, and he had forgotten that first fell prescience of evil to
come. Once or twice, it is true, qualms of doubt did cross his mind in
the earlier days of their intimacy. But he put them by as absurd. He
was no believer in the tender helplessness of full-grown women, his
experience having been that they are amply capable--and, for the most
part, more than capable--of looking after themselves. It seemed to him
a thing ridiculous that such a person as Beatrice, who was competent to
form opinions and a judgment upon all the important questions of life,
should be treated as a child, and that he should remove himself from
Bryngelly lest her young affections should become entangled. He felt
sure that they would never be entrapped in any direction whatsoever
without her full consent.

Then he ceased to think about the matter at all. Indeed, the mere
idea of such a thing involved a supposition that would only have been
acceptable to a conceited man--namely, that there was a possibility of
this young lady's falling in love with him. What right had he to suppose
anything of the sort? It was an impertinence. That there was another
sort of possibility--namely, of his becoming more attached to her than
was altogether desirable--did, however, occur to him once or twice. But
he shrugged his shoulders and put it by. After all, it was his look out,
and he did not much care. It would do her no harm at the worst. But very
soon all these shadowy forebodings of dawning trouble vanished quite.
They were lost in the broad, sweet lights of friendship. By-and-by, when
friendship's day was done, they might arise again, called by other names
and wearing a sterner face.

It was ridiculous--of course it was ridiculous; he was not going to fall
in love like a boy at his time of life; all he felt was gratitude
and interest--all she felt was amusement in his society. As for the
intimacy--felt rather than expressed--the intimacy that could already
almost enable the one to divine the other's thought, that could shape
her mood to his and his to hers, that could cause the same thing of
beauty to be a common joy, and discover unity of mind in opinions the
most opposite--why, it was only natural between people who had together
passed a peril terrible to think of. So they took the goods the gods
provided, and drifted softly on--whither they did not stop to inquire.

One day, however, a little incident happened that ought to have opened
the eyes of both. They had arranged, or rather there was a tacit
understanding, that they should go out together in the afternoon.
Geoffrey was to take his gun and Beatrice a book, but it chanced that,
just before dinner, as she walked back from the village, where she had
gone to buy some thread to mend Effie's clothes, Beatrice came face to
face with Mr. Davies. It was their first meeting without witnesses since
the Sunday of which the events have been described, and, naturally,
therefore, rather an awkward one. Owen stopped short so that she could
not pass him with a bow, and then turned and walked beside her. After a
remark or two about the weather, the springs of conversation ran dry.

"You remember that you are coming up to the Castle this afternoon?" he
said, at length.

"To the Castle!" she answered. "No, I have heard nothing of it."

"Did not your sister tell you she made an engagement for herself and you
a week or more ago? You are to bring the little girl; she wants to see
the view from the top of the tower."

Then Beatrice remembered. Elizabeth had told her, and she had thought it
best to accept the situation. The whole thing had gone out of her mind.

"Oh, I beg your pardon! I do remember now, but I have made another
plan--how stupid of me!"

"You had forgotten," he said in his heavy voice; "it is easy for you
to forget what I have been looking forward to for a whole week. What is
your plan--to go out walking with Mr. Bingham, I suppose?"

"Yes," answered Beatrice, "to go out with Mr. Bingham."

"Ah! you go out with Mr. Bingham every day now."

"And what if I do?" said Beatrice quickly; "surely, Mr. Davies, I have a
right to go out with whom I like?"

"Yes, of course; but the engagement to come to the Castle was made
first; are you not going to keep it?"

"Of course I am going to keep it; I always keep my engagements when I
have any."

"Very well, then; I shall expect you at three o'clock."

Beatrice went on home in a curiously irritated condition of mind. She
did not, naturally, want to go to the Castle, and she did want to go out
with Geoffrey. However, there was no help for it.

When she came in to dinner she found that Geoffrey was not there. He
had, it seemed, gone to lunch with Dr. Chambers, whom he had met on the
beach. Before he returned they were all three starting for the Castle,
Beatrice leaving a message to this effect with Betty.

About a quarter of an hour afterwards, Geoffrey came back to fetch his
gun and Beatrice, but Beatrice was gone, and all that he could extract
from Betty was that she had gone to see Mr. Davies.

He was perfectly furious, though all the while he knew how unreasonable
was his anger. He had been looking forward to the expedition, and this
sudden change of plan was too much for his temper. Off he started,
however, to pass a thoroughly miserable afternoon. He seemed to miss
Beatrice more each step and gradually to grow more and more angry at
what he called her "rudeness." Of course it never occurred to him that
what he was really angry at was her going to see Mr. Davies, or that, in
truth, her society had become so delightful to him that to be deprived
of it even for an afternoon was to be wretched. To top everything, he
only got three good shots that afternoon, and he missed them all, which
made him crosser than ever.

As for Beatrice, she enjoyed herself just as little at the Castle as
Geoffrey did on the beach. Owen Davies took them through the great
unused rooms and showed them the pictures, but she had seen them before,
and though some of them were very fine, did not care to look at them
again--at any rate, not that afternoon. But Elizabeth gazed at them with
eager eyes and mentally appraised their value, wondering if they would
ever be hers.

"What is this picture?" she asked, pointing to a beautiful portrait of a
Dutch Burgomaster by Rembrandt.

"That," answered Davies heavily, for he knew nothing of painting and
cared less, "that is a Velasquez, valued for probate at L3,000--no,"
referring to the catalogue and reading, "I beg your pardon, the next is
the Velasquez; that is a Rembrandt in the master's best style, showing
all his wonderful mastery over light and shade. It was valued for
probate at L4,000 guineas."

"Four thousand guineas!" said Elizabeth, "fancy having a thing worth
four thousand guineas hanging on a wall!"

And so they went on, Elizabeth asking questions and Owen answering them
by the help of the catalogue, till, to Beatrice's relief, they came at
length to the end of the pictures. Then they took some tea in the little
sitting room of the master of all this magnificence. Owen, to her great
annoyance, sat opposite to Beatrice, staring at her with all his eyes
while she drank her tea, with Effie sitting in her lap, and Elizabeth,
observing it, bit her lip in jealousy. She had thought it well to bring
her sister here; it would not do to let Mr. Davies think she was keeping
Beatrice out of his way, but his mute idol worship was trying to
her feelings. After tea they went to the top of the tower, and Effie
rejoiced exceedingly in the view, which was very beautiful. Here Owen
got a word with Elizabeth.

"Your sister seems to be put out about something," he said.

"I daresay," she answered carelessly; "Beatrice has an uncertain temper.
I think she wanted to go out shooting with Mr. Bingham this afternoon."

Had Owen been a less religious person he might have sworn; as it was, he
only said, "Mr. Bingham--it is always Mr. Bingham from morning to night!
When is he going away?"

"In another week, I believe. Beatrice will be sorry, I think; she makes
a great companion of him. And now I think that we must be getting home,"
and she went, leaving this poisoned shaft to rankle in his breast.

After they had returned to the vicarage and Beatrice had heard Effie her
prayers and tucked her up in her small white bed, she went down to the
gate to be quiet for a little while before supper. Geoffrey had not yet
come in.

It was a lovely autumn evening; the sea seemed to sleep, and the little
clouds, from which the sunset fires had paled, lay like wreaths of
smoke upon the infinite blue sky. Why had not Mr. Bingham come back,
she wondered; he would scarcely have time to dress. Supposing that an
accident had happened to him. Nonsense! what accident could happen? He
was so big and strong he seemed to defy accidents; and yet had it not
been for her there would be little enough left of his strength to-day.
Ah! she was glad that she had lived to be able to save him from death.
There he came, looming like a giant in the evening mist.

There was a small hand-gate beside the large one on which she leant.
Geoffrey stalked straight up to it as though he did not see her; he saw
her well enough, but he was cross with her.

She allowed him to pass through the gate, which he shut slowly, perhaps
to give her an opportunity of speaking, if she wished to do so; then
thinking that he did not see her she spoke in her soft, musical voice.

"Did you have good sport, Mr. Bingham?"

"No," he answered shortly; "I saw very little, and I missed all I saw."

"I am so sorry, except for the birds. I hate the birds to be killed. Did
you not see me in this white dress? I saw you fifty yards away."

"Yes, Miss Granger," he answered, "I saw you."

"And you were going by without speaking to me; it was very rude of
you--what is the matter?"

"Not so rude as it was of you to arrange to walk out with me and then to
go and see Mr. Davies instead."

"I could not help it, Mr. Bingham; it was an old engagement, which I had
forgotten."

"Quite so, ladies generally have an excuse for doing what they want to
do."

"It is not an excuse, Mr. Bingham," Beatrice answered, with dignity;
"there is no need for me to make excuses to you about my movements."

"Of course not, Miss Granger; but it would be more polite to tell me
when you change your mind--next time, you know. However, I have no doubt
that the Castle has attractions for you."

She flashed one look at him and turned to go, and as she did so his
heart relented; he grew ashamed.

"Miss Granger, don't go; forgive me. I do not know what has become of my
manners, I spoke as I should not. The fact is, I was put out at your not
coming. To tell you the honest truth, I missed you dreadfully."

"You missed me. That is very nice of you; one likes to be missed. But,
if you missed me for one afternoon, how will you get on a week hence
when you go away and miss me altogether?"

Beatrice spoke in a bantering tone, and laughed as she spoke, but the
laugh ended in something like a sigh. He looked at her for a moment,
looked till she dropped her eyes.

"Heaven only knows!" he answered sadly.

"Let us go in," said Beatrice, in a constrained voice; "how chill the
air has turned."



CHAPTER XV

ONLY GOOD-NIGHT

Five more days passed, all too quickly, and once more Monday came round.
It was the 22nd of October, and the Michaelmas Sittings began on the
24th. On the morrow, Tuesday, Geoffrey was to return to London, there
to meet Lady Honoria and get to work at Chambers. That very morning,
indeed, a brief, the biggest he had yet received--it was marked thirty
guineas--had been forwarded to him from his chambers, with a note from
his clerk to the effect that the case was expected to be in the special
jury list on the first day of the sittings, and that the clerk had made
an appointment for him with the solicitors for 5.15 on the Tuesday. The
brief was sent to him by his uncle's firm, and marked, "With you the
Attorney-General, and Mr. Candleton, Q.C.," the well-known leader of the
Probate and Divorce Court Bar. Never before had Geoffrey found himself
in such honourable company, that is on the back of a brief, and not a
little was he elated thereby.

But when he came to look into the case his joy abated somewhat, for
it was one of the most perplexing that he had ever known. The will
contested, which was that of a Yorkshire money-lender, disposed of
property to the value of over L80,000, and was propounded by a niece of
the testator who, when he died, if not actually weak in his mind, was
in his dotage, and superstitious to the verge of insanity. The niece to
whom all the property was left--to the exclusion of the son and daughter
of the deceased, both married, and living away from home--stayed with
the testator and looked after him. Shortly before his death, however, he
and this niece had violently quarrelled on account of an intimacy
which the latter had formed with a married man of bad repute, who was
a discharged lawyer's clerk. So serious had been the quarrel that only
three days before his death the testator had sent for a lawyer and
formally, by means of a codicil, deprived the niece of a sum of L2,000
which he had left her, all the rest of his property being divided
between his son and daughter. Three days afterwards, however, he duly
executed a fresh will, in the presence of two servants, by which he
left all his property to the niece, to the entire exclusion of his
own children. This will, though very short, was in proper form and
was written by nobody knew whom. The servants stated that the testator
before signing it was perfectly acquainted with its contents, for the
niece had made him repeat them in their presence. They also declared,
however, that he seemed in a terrible fright, and said twice, "It's
behind me; it's behind me!"

Within an hour of the signing of the will the testator was found dead,
apparently from the effects of fear, but the niece was not in the room
at the time of death. The only other remarkable circumstance in the case
was that the disreputable lover of the niece had been seen hanging about
the house at dusk, the testator having died at ten o'clock at night.
There was also a further fact. The son, on receiving a message from
the niece that his father was seriously worse, had hurried with
extraordinary speed to the house, passing some one or something--he
could not tell what--that seemed to be running, apparently from the
window of the sick man's room, which was on the ground floor, and
beneath which footmarks were afterwards found. Of these footmarks two
casts had been taken, of which photographs were forwarded with the
brief. They had been made by naked feet of small size, and in each
case the little joint of the third toe of the right foot seemed to be
missing. But all attempts to find the feet that made them had hitherto
failed. The will was contested by the next of kin, for whom Geoffrey was
one of the counsel, upon the usual grounds of undue influence and fraud;
but as it seemed at present with small prospect of success, for, though
the circumstances were superstitious enough, there was not the slightest
evidence of either. This curious case, of which the outlines are here
written, is briefly set out, because it proved to be the foundation of
Geoffrey's enormous practice and reputation at the Bar.

He read the brief through twice, thought it over well, and could make
little of it. It was perfectly obvious to him that there had been foul
play somewhere, but he found himself quite unable to form a workable
hypothesis. Was the person who had been seen running away concerned
in the matter?--if it was a person. If so, was he the author of the
footprints? Of course the ex-lawyer's clerk had something to do with
it, but what? In vain did Geoffrey cudgel his brains; every idea that
occurred to him broke down somewhere or other.

"We shall lose this," he said aloud in despair; "suspicious
circumstances are not enough to upset a will," and then, addressing
Beatrice, who was sitting at the table, working:

"Here, Miss Granger, you have a smattering of law, see if you can make
anything of this," and he pushed the heavy brief towards her.

Beatrice took it with a laugh, and for the next three-quarters of an
hour her fair brow was puckered up in a way quaint to see. At last she
finished and shut the brief up. "Let me look at the photographs," she
said.

Geoffrey handed them to her. She very carefully examined first one and
then the other, and as she did so a light of intelligence broke out upon
her face.

"Well, Portia, have you got it?" he asked.

"I have got something," she answered. "I do not know if it is right.
Don't you see, the old man was superstitious; they frightened him first
of all by a ghostly voice or some such thing into signing the will, and
then to death after he had signed it. The lawyer's clerk prepared the
will--he would know how to do it. Then he was smuggled into the room
under the bed, or somewhere, dressed up as a ghost perhaps. The sending
for the son by the niece was a blind. The thing that was seen running
away was a boy--those footprints were made by a boy. I have seen so many
thousands on the sands here that I could swear to it. He was attracted
to the house from the road, which was quite near, by catching sight
of something unusual through the blind; the brief says there were no
curtains or shutters. Now look at the photographs of the footprints.
See in No. 1, found outside the window, the toes are pressed down deeply
into the mud. The owner of the feet was standing on tip-toe to get a
better view. But in No. 2, which was found near where the son thought
he saw a person running, the toes are spread out quite wide. That is the
footprint of some one who was in a great hurry. Now it is not probable
that a boy had anything to do with the testator's death. Why, then, was
the boy running so hard? I will tell you: because he was frightened at
something he had seen through the blind. So frightened was he, that he
will not come forward, or answer the advertisements and inquiries. Find
a boy in that town who has a joint missing on the third toe of the right
foot, and you will soon know all about it."

"By Jove," said Geoffrey, "what a criminal lawyer you would make! I
believe that you have got it. But how are we to find this boy with the
missing toe-joint? Every possible inquiry has already been made and
failed. Nobody has seen such a boy, whose deficiency would probably be
known by his parents, or schoolfellows."

"Yes," said Beatrice, "it has failed because the boy has taken to
wearing shoes, which indeed he would always have to do at school. His
parents, if he has any, would perhaps not speak of his disfigurement,
and no one else might know of it, especially if he were a new-comer in
the neighbourhood. It is quite possible that he took off his boots in
order to creep up to the window. And now I will tell you how I should
set to work to find him. I should have every bathing-place in the
river running through the town--there is a river--carefully watched
by detectives. In this weather" (the autumn was an unusually warm one)
"boys of that class often paddle and sometimes bathe. If they watch
close enough, they will probably find a boy with a missing toe joint
among the number."

"What a good idea," said Geoffrey. "I will telegraph to the lawyers at
once. I certainly believe that you have got the clue."

And as it turned out afterwards Beatrice had got it; her suppositions
were right in almost every particular. The boy, who proved to be the son
of a pedlar who had recently come into the town, was found wading, and
by a clever trick, which need not be detailed, frightened into telling
the truth, as he had previously frightened himself into holding his
tongue. He had even, as Beatrice conjectured, taken off his boots to
creep up to the window, and as he ran away in his fright, had dropped
them into a ditch full of water. There they were found, and went far to
convince the jury of the truth of his story. Thus it was that Beatrice's
quick wit laid the foundations of Geoffrey's great success.



This particular Monday was a field day at the Vicarage. Jones had proved
obdurate; no power on earth could induce him to pay the L34 11s. 4d. due
on account of tithe. Therefore Mr. Granger, fortified by a judgment duly
obtained, had announced his intention of distraining upon Jones's hay
and cattle. Jones had replied with insolent defiance. If any bailiff,
or auctioneer, or such people came to sell his hay he would kill him, or
them.

So said Jones, and summoned his supporters, many of whom owed tithe, and
none of whom wished to pay it, to do battle in his cause. For his part,
Mr. Granger retained an auctioneer of undoubted courage who was to
arrive on this very afternoon, supported by six policemen, and carry out
the sale. Beatrice felt nervous about the whole thing, but Elizabeth
was very determined, and the old clergyman was now bombastic and now
despondent. The auctioneer arrived duly by the one o'clock train. He
was a tall able-bodied man, not unlike Geoffrey in appearance, indeed at
twenty yards distance it would have been difficult to tell them apart.
The sale was fixed for half-past two, and Mr. Johnson--that was the
auctioneer's name--went to the inn to get his dinner before proceeding
to business. He was informed of the hostile demonstration which awaited
him, and that an English member of Parliament had been sent down
especially to head the mob, but being a man of mettle pooh-poohed the
whole affair.

"All bark, sir," he said to Geoffrey, "all bark and no bite; I'm not
afraid of these people. Why, if they won't bid for the stuff, I will buy
it in myself."

"All right," said Geoffrey, "but I advise you to look out. I fancy that
the old man is a rough customer."

Then Geoffrey went back to his dinner.

As they sat at the meal, through a gap in the fir trees they saw that
the great majority of the population of Bryngelly was streaming up
towards the scene of the sale, some to agitate, and some to see the fun.

"It is pretty well time to be off," said Geoffrey. "Are you coming, Mr.
Granger?"

"Well," answered the old gentleman, "I wished to do so, but Elizabeth
thinks that I had better keep away. And after all, you know," he added
airily, "perhaps it is as well for a clergyman not to mix himself up too
much in these temporal matters. No, I want to go and see about some
pigs at the other end of the parish, and I think that I shall take this
opportunity."

"You are not going, Mr. Bingham, are you?" asked Beatrice in a voice
which betrayed her anxiety.

"Oh, yes," he answered, "of course I am. I would not miss the chance
for worlds. Why, Beecham Bones is going to be there, the member of
Parliament who has just done his four months for inciting to outrage. We
are old friends; I was at school with him. Poor fellow, he was mad even
in those days, and I want to chaff him."

"I think that you had far better not go, Mr. Bingham," said Beatrice;
"they are a very rough set."

"Everybody is not so cowardly as you are," put in Elizabeth. "I am going
at any rate."

"That's right, Miss Elizabeth," said Geoffrey; "we will protect each
other from the revolutionary fury of the mob. Come, it is time to
start."

And so they went, leaving Beatrice a prey to melancholy forebodings.

She waited in the house for the best part of an hour, making pretence to
play with Effie. Then her anxiety got the better of her; she put on her
hat and started, leaving Effie in charge of the servant Betty.

Beatrice walked quickly along the cliff till she came in sight of
Jones's farm. From where she stood she could make out a great crowd
of men, and even, when the wind turned towards her, catch the noise of
shouting. Presently she heard a sound like the report of a gun, saw the
crowd break up in violent confusion, and then cluster together again in
a dense mass.

"What could it mean?" Beatrice wondered.

As the thought crossed her mind, she perceived two men running towards
her with all their speed, followed by a woman. Three minutes more and
she saw that the woman was Elizabeth.

The men were passing her now.

"What is it?" she cried.

"_Murder!_" they answered with one voice, and sped on towards Bryngelly.

Another moment and Elizabeth was at hand, horror written on her pale
face.

Beatrice clutched at her. "_Who_ is it?" she cried.

"Mr. Bingham," gasped her sister. "Go and help; he's shot dead!" And she
too was gone.

Beatrice's knees loosened, her tongue clave to the roof of her mouth;
the solid earth spun round and round. "Geoffrey killed! Geoffrey
killed!" she cried in her heart; but though her ears seemed to hear the
sound of them, no words came from her lips. "Oh, what should she do?
Where should she hide herself in her grief?"

A few yards from the path grew a stunted tree with a large flat stone
at its root. Thither Beatrice staggered and sank upon the stone, while
still the solid earth spun round and round.

Presently her mind cleared a little, and a keener pang of pain shot
through her soul. She had been stunned at first, now she felt.

"Perhaps it was not true; perhaps Elizabeth had been mistaken or had
only said it to torment her." She rose. She flung herself upon her
knees, there by the stone, and prayed, this first time for many
years--she prayed with all her soul. "Oh, God, if Thou art, spare him
his life and me this agony." In her dreadful pangs of grief her faith
was thus re-born, and, as all human beings must in their hour of mortal
agony, Beatrice realised her dependence on the Unseen. She rose, and
weak with emotion sank back on to the stone. The people were streaming
past her now, talking excitedly. Somebody came up to her and stood over
her.

Oh, Heaven, it was Geoffrey!

"Is it you?" she gasped. "Elizabeth said that you were murdered."

"No, no. It was not I; it is that poor fellow Johnson, the auctioneer.
Jones shot him. I was standing next him. I suppose your sister thought
that I fell. He was not unlike me, poor fellow."

Beatrice looked at him, went red, went white, then burst into a flood of
tears.

A strange pang seized upon his heart. It thrilled through him, shaking
him to the core. Why was this woman so deeply moved? Could it be----?
Nonsense; he stifled the thought before it was born.

"Don't cry," Geoffrey said, "the people will see you, Beatrice" (for the
first time he called her by her christian name); "pray do not cry. It
distresses me. You are upset, and no wonder. That fellow Beecham Bones
ought to be hanged, and I told him so. It is his work, though he never
meant it to go so far. He's frightened enough now, I can tell you."

Beatrice controlled herself with an effort.

"What happened," he said, "I will tell you as we walk along. No, don't
go up to the farm. He is not a pleasant sight, poor fellow. When I got
up there, Beecham Bones was spouting away to the mob--his long hair
flying about his back--exciting them to resist laws made by brutal
thieving landlords, and all that kind of gibberish; telling them that
they would be supported by a great party in Parliament, &c., &c. The
people, however, took it all good-naturedly enough. They had a beautiful
effigy of your father swinging on a pole, with a placard on his breast,
on which was written, 'The robber of the widow and the orphan,' and
they were singing Welsh songs. Only I saw Jones, who was more than half
drunk, cursing and swearing in Welsh and English. When the auctioneer
began to sell, Jones went into the house and Bones went with him.
After enough had been sold to pay the debt, and while the mob was still
laughing and shouting, suddenly the back door of the house opened and
out rushed Jones, now quite drunk, a gun in his hand and Bones hanging
on to his coat-tails. I was talking to the auctioneer at the moment,
and my belief is that the brute thought that I was Johnson. At any rate,
before anything could be done he lifted the gun and fired, at me, as I
think. The charge, however, passed my head and hit poor Johnson full in
the face, killing him dead. That is all the story."

"And quite enough, too," said Beatrice with a shudder. "What times we
live in! I feel quite sick."

Supper that night was a very melancholy affair. Old Mr. Granger was
altogether thrown off his balance; and even Elizabeth's iron nerves were
shaken.

"It could not be worse, it could not be worse," moaned the old man,
rising from the table and walking up and down the room.

"Nonsense, father," said Elizabeth the practical. "He might have been
shot before he had sold the hay, and then you would not have got your
tithe."

Geoffrey could not help smiling at this way of looking at things,
from which, however, Mr. Granger seemed to draw a little comfort. From
constantly thinking about it, and the daily pressure of necessity, money
had come to be more to the old man than anything else in the world.

Hardly was the meal done when three reporters arrived and took down
Geoffrey's statement of what had occurred, for publication in various
papers, while Beatrice went away to see about packing Effie's things.
They were to start by a train leaving for London at half-past eight on
the following morning. When Beatrice came back it was half-past ten, and
in his irritation of mind Mr. Granger insisted upon everybody going
to bed. Elizabeth shook hands with Geoffrey, congratulating him on his
escape as she did so, and went at once; but Beatrice lingered a little.
At last she came forward and held out her hand.

"Good-night, Mr. Bingham," she said.

"Good-night. I hope that this is not good-bye also," he added with some
anxiety.

"Of course not," broke in Mr. Granger. "Beatrice will go and see you
off. I can't; I have to go and meet the coroner about the inquest, and
Elizabeth is always busy in the house. Luckily they won't want you;
there were so many witnesses."

"Then it is only good-night," said Beatrice.

She went to her room. Elizabeth, who shared it, was already asleep, or
pretending to be asleep. Then Beatrice undressed and got into bed, but
rest she could not. It was "only good-night," a last good-night. He was
going away--back to his wife, back to the great rushing world, and to
the life in which she had no share. Very soon he would forget her. Other
interests would arise, other women would become his friends, and he
would forget the Welsh girl who had attracted him for a while, or
remember her only as the companion of a rough adventure. What did it
mean? Why was her heart so sore? Why had she felt as though she should
die when they told her that he was dead?

Then the answer rose in her breast. She loved him; it was useless to
deny the truth--she loved him body, and heart and soul, with all
her mind and all her strength. She was his, and his alone--to-day,
to-morrow, and for ever. He might go from her sight, she might never,
never see him more, but love him she always must. And he was married!

Well, it was her misfortune; it could not affect the solemn truth.
What should she do now, how should she endure her life when her eyes
no longer saw his eyes, and her ears never heard his voice? She saw the
future stretch itself before her as a vision. She saw herself forgotten
by this man whom she loved, or from time to time remembered only with
a faint regret. She saw herself growing slowly old, her beauty fading
yearly from her face and form, companioned only by the love that grows
not old. Oh, it was bitter, bitter! and yet she would not have it
otherwise. Even in her pain she felt it better to have found this deep
and ruinous joy, to have wrestled with the Angel and been worsted, than
never to have looked upon his face. If she could only know that what she
gave was given back again, that he loved her as she loved him, she would
be content. She was innocent, she had never tried to draw him to her;
she had used no touch or look, no woman's arts or lures such as her
beauty placed at her command. There had been no word spoken, scarcely
a meaning glance had passed between them, nothing but frank and free
companionship as of man with man. She knew he did not love his wife and
that his wife did not love him--this she could _see_. But she had never
tried to win him from her, and though she sinned in thought, though her
heart was guilty--oh, her hands were clean!

Her restlessness overcame her. She could no longer lie in bed.
Elizabeth, watching through her veil of sleep, saw Beatrice rise, put on
a wrapper, and, going to the window, throw it wide. At first she thought
of interfering, for Elizabeth was a prudent person and did not like
draughts; but her sister's movements excited her curiosity, and she
refrained. Beatrice sat down on the foot of her bed, and leaning her arm
upon the window-sill looked out upon the lovely quiet night. How dark
the pine trees massed against the sky; how soft was the whisper of the
sea, and how vast the heaven through which the stars sailed on.

What was it, then, this love of hers? Was it mere earthly passion? No,
it was more. It was something grander, purer, deeper, and quite undying.
Whence came it, then? If she was, as she had thought, only a child of
earth, whence came this deep desire which was not of the earth? Had she
been wrong, had she a soul--something that could love with the body and
through the body and beyond the body--something of which the body with
its yearnings was but the envelope, the hand or instrument? Oh, now it
seemed to Beatrice that this was so, and that called into being by her
love she and her soul stood face to face acknowledging their unity. Once
she had held that it was phantasy: that such spiritual hopes were but
exhalations from a heart unsatisfied; that when love escapes us on the
earth, in our despair, we swear it is immortal, and that we shall find
it in the heavens. Now Beatrice believed this no more. Love had kissed
her on the eyes, and at his kiss her sleeping spirit was awakened, and
she saw a vision of the truth.

Yes, she loved him, and must always love him! But she could never know
on earth that he was hers, and if she had a spirit to be freed after
some few years, would not his spirit have forgotten hers in that far
hereafter of their meeting?

She dropped her brow upon her arm and softly sobbed. What was there left
for her to do except to sob--till her heart broke?

Elizabeth, lying with wide-open ears, heard the sobs. Elizabeth, peering
through the moonlight, saw her sister's form tremble in the convulsion
of her sorrow, and smiled a smile of malice.

"The thing is done," she thought; "she cries because the man is going.
Don't cry, Beatrice, don't cry! We will get your plaything back for you.
Oh, with such a bait it will be easy. He is as sweet on you as you on
him."

There was something evil, something almost devilish, in this scene
of the one watching woman holding a clue to and enjoying the secret
tortures of the other, plotting the while to turn them to her innocent
rival's destruction and her own advantage. Elizabeth's jealousy was
indeed bitter as the grave.

Suddenly Beatrice ceased sobbing. She lifted her head, and by a sudden
impulse threw out the passion of her heart with all her concentrated
strength of mind towards the man she loved, murmuring as she did so some
passionate, despairing words which she knew.

At this moment Geoffrey, sleeping soundly, dreamed that he saw Beatrice
seated by her window and looking at him with eyes which no earthly
obstacle could blind. She was speaking; her lips moved, but though he
could hear no voice the words she spoke floated into his mind--

     "Be a god and hold me
        With a charm!
     Be a man and fold me
        With thine arm.

     Teach me, only teach, Love!
        As I ought
     I will speak thy speech, Love,
        Think thy thought--

     Meet, if thou require it,
        Both demands,
     Laying flesh and spirit
        In thy hands.

     That shall be to-morrow
        Not to-night:
     I must bury sorrow
        Out of sight.

     Must a little weep, Love,
        (Foolish me!)
     And so fall asleep, Love,
        Loved by thee."

Geoffrey heard them in his heart. Then they were gone, the vision of
Beatrice was gone, and suddenly he awoke.

Oh, what was this flood of inarticulate, passion-laden thought that beat
upon his brain telling of Beatrice? Wave after wave it came, utterly
overwhelming him, like the heavy breath of flowers stirred by a night
wind--like a message from another world. It was real; it was no dream,
no fancy; she was present with him though she was not there; her
thought mingled with his thought, her being beat upon his own. His heart
throbbed, his limbs trembled, he strove to understand and could not. But
in the mystery of that dread communion, the passion he had trodden down
and refused acknowledgment took life and form within him; it grew like
the Indian's magic tree, from seed to blade, from blade to bud, and from
bud to bloom. In that moment it became clear to him: he knew he loved
her, and knowing what such a love must mean, for him if not for her,
Geoffrey sank back and groaned.

And Beatrice? Of a sudden she ceased speaking to herself; she felt
her thought flung back to her weighted with another's thought. She had
broken through the barriers of earth; the quick electric message of her
heart had found a path to him she loved and come back answered. But in
what tongue was that answer writ? Alas! she could not read it, any more
than he could read the message. At first she doubted; surely it was
imagination. Then she remembered it was absolutely proved that people
dying could send a vision of themselves to others far away; and if that
could be, why not this? No, it was truth, a solemn truth; she knew he
felt her thought, she knew that his life beat upon her life. Oh, here
was mystery, and here was hope, for if this could be, and it _was_, what
might not be? If her blind strength of human love could so overstep the
boundaries of human power, and, by the sheer might of its volition,
mock the physical barriers that hemmed her in, what had she to fear from
distance, from separation, ay, from death itself? She had grasped a
clue which might one day, before the seeming end or after--what did it
matter?--lay strange secrets open to her gaze. She had heard a whisper
in an unknown tongue that could still be learned, answering Life's
agonizing cry with a song of glory. If only he loved her, some day all
would be well. Some day the barriers would fall. Crumbling with the
flesh, they would fall and set her naked spirit free to seek its other
self. And then, having found her love, what more was there to seek? What
other answer did she desire to all the problems of her life than this of
Unity attained at last--Unity attained in Death!

And if he did not love her, how could he answer her? Surely that message
could not pass except along the golden chord of love, which ever makes
its sweetest music when Pain strikes it with a hand of fear.

The troubled glory passed--it throbbed itself away; the spiritual gusts
of thought grew continually fainter, till, like the echoes of a
dying harp, like the breath of a falling gale, they slowly sank to
nothingness. Then wearied with an extreme of wild emotion Beatrice
sought her bed again and presently was lost in sleep.



When Geoffrey woke on the next morning, after a little reflection, he
came to the decision that he had experienced a very curious and moving
dream, consequent on the exciting events of the previous day, or on the
pain of his impending departure. He rose, packed his bag--everything
else was ready--and went in to breakfast. Beatrice did not appear till
it was half over. She looked very pale, and said that she had been
packing Effie's things. Geoffrey noticed that she barely touched his
fingers when he rose to shake hands with her, and that she studiously
avoided his glance. Then he began to wonder if she also had strangely
dreamed.

Next came the bustle of departure. Effie was despatched in the fly
with the luggage and Betty, the fat Welsh servant, to look after her.
Beatrice and Geoffrey were to walk to the station.

"Time for you to be going, Mr. Bingham," said Mr. Granger. "There,
good-bye, good-bye! God bless you! Never had such charming lodgers
before. Hope you will come back again, I'm sure. By the way, they are
certain to summon you as a witness at the trial of that villain Jones."

"Good-bye, Mr. Granger," Geoffrey answered; "you must come and see me in
town. A change will do you good."

"Well, perhaps I may. I have not had a change for twenty-five years.
Never could afford it. Aren't you going to say good-bye to Elizabeth?"

"Good-bye, Miss Granger," said Geoffrey politely. "Many thanks for all
your kindness. I hope we shall meet again."

"Do you?" answered Elizabeth; "so do I. I am sure that we shall meet
again, and I am sure that I shall be glad to see you when we do, Mr.
Bingham," she added darkly.

In another minute he had left the Vicarage and, with Beatrice at his
side, was walking smartly towards the station.

"This is very melancholy," he said, after a few moments' silence.

"Going away generally is," she answered--"either for those who go or
those who stay behind," she added.

"Or for both," he said.

Then came another pause; he broke it.

"Miss Beatrice, may I write to you?"

"Certainly, if you like."

"And will you answer my letters?"

"Yes, I will answer them."

"If I had my way, then, you should spend a good deal of your time in
writing," he said. "You don't know," he added earnestly, "what a delight
it has been to me to learn to know you. I have had no greater pleasure
in my life."

"I am glad," Beatrice answered shortly.

"By the way," Geoffrey said presently, "there is something I want to ask
you. You are as good as a reference book for quotations, you know. Some
lines have been haunting me for the last twelve hours, and I cannot
remember where they come from."

"What are they?" she asked, looking up, and Geoffrey saw, or thought he
saw, a strange fear shining in her eyes.

"Here are four of them," he answered unconcernedly; "we have no time for
long quotations:

     "'That shall be to-morrow,
        Not to-night:
     I must bury sorrow
        Out of sight.'"

Beatrice heard--heard the very lines which had been upon her lips in the
wild midnight that had gone. Her heart seemed to stop; she became
white as the dead, stumbled, and nearly fell. With a supreme effort she
recovered herself.

"I think that you must know the lines, Mr. Bingham," she said in a low
voice. "They come from a poem of Browning's, called 'A Woman's Last
Word.'"

Geoffrey made no answer; what was he to say? For a while they walked
on in silence. They were getting close to the station now. Separation,
perhaps for ever, was very near. An overmastering desire to know the
truth took hold of him.

"Miss Beatrice," he said again, "you look pale. Did you sleep well last
night?"

"No, Mr. Bingham."

"Did you have curious dreams?"

"Yes, I did," she answered, looking straight before her.

He turned a shade paler. Then it was true!

"Beatrice," he said in a half whisper, "what do they mean?"

"As much as anything else, or as little," she answered.

"What are people to do who dream such dreams?" he said again, in the
same constrained voice.

"Forget them," she whispered.

"And if they come back?"

"Forget them again."

"And if they will not be forgotten?"

She turned and looked him full in the eyes.

"Die of them," she said; "then they will be forgotten, or----"

"Or what, Beatrice?"

"Here is the station," said Beatrice, "and Betty is quarrelling with the
flyman."



Five minutes more and Geoffrey was gone.



CHAPTER XVI

THE FLAT NEAR THE EDGWARE ROAD

Geoffrey's journey to town was not altogether a cheerful one. To begin
with, Effie wept copiously at parting with her beloved "auntie," as she
called Beatrice, and would not be comforted. The prospect of rejoining
her mother and the voluble Anne had no charms for Effie. They all three
got on best apart. Geoffrey himself had also much to think about, and
found little satisfaction in the thinking. He threw his mind back over
the events of the past few weeks. He remembered how he had first seen
Beatrice's face through the thick mist on the Red Rocks, and how her
beauty had struck him as no beauty ever had before. Then he thought
of the adventure of their shipwreck, and of the desperate courage with
which she had saved his life, almost at the cost of her own. He thought,
too, of that scene when on the following day he had entered the room
where she was asleep, when the wandering ray of light had wavered from
her breast to his own, when that strange presentiment of the ultimate
intermingling of their lives had flashed upon him, and when she had
awakened with an unearthly greeting on her lips. While Effie slowly
sobbed herself to silence in the corner opposite to him, one by one, he
recalled every phase and scene of their ever-growing intimacy, till the
review culminated in his mysterious experience of the past night, and
the memory of Beatrice's parting words.

Of all men Geoffrey was among those least inclined to any sort of
superstition; from boyhood he had been noted for common sense, and
a somewhat disbelieving turn of mind. But he had intellect, and
imagination which is simply intellect etherealised. Without these, with
his peculiar mental constitution, he would, for instance, probably have
been a religious sceptic; having them, he was nothing of the sort. So
in this matter of his experience of the previous night, and generally of
the strange and almost unnatural sympathy in which he found himself
with this lady, common sense and the results of his observation and
experience pointed to the whole thing being nonsense--the result of
"propinquity, Sir, propinquity," and a pretty face--and nothing more.

But here his intellect and his imagination stepped in, telling him
plainly that it was not nonsense, that he had not merely made a donkey
of himself over an hysterical, or possibly a love-sick girl. They told
him that because a thing is a mystery it is not necessarily a folly,
though mysteries are for the most part dealt in by fools. They suggested
that there may be many things and forces above us and around us,
invisible as an electric current, intangible as light, yet existent and
capable of manifestation under certain rare and favourable conditions.

And was it not possible that such conditions should unite in a woman
like Beatrice, who combined in herself a beauty of body which was only
outpassed by the beauty of her mind? It was no answer to say that most
women could never inspire the unearthly passion with which he had been
shaken some ten hours past, or that most men could never become aware of
the inspiration. Has not humanity powers and perceptions denied to the
cattle of the fields, and may there not be men and women as far removed
from their fellows in this respect as these are from the cattle?

But the weak point of mysterious occurrences is that they lead nowhere,
and do not materially alter the facts of life. One cannot, for instance,
plead a mystery in a court of law; so, dropping the imaginative side of
the question as one beyond him, Geoffrey came to its practical aspect,
only to find it equally thorny.

Odd as it may seem, Geoffrey did not to this moment know the exact
position which he occupied in the mind of Beatrice, or that she occupied
in his. He was not in love with her, at least not in a way in which he
had ever experienced the influence of that, on the whole, inconvenient
and disagreeable passion. At any rate he argued from the hypothesis that
he was not in love with her. This he refused to admit now in the light
of day, though he had admitted it fully in the watches of the night. It
would not do to admit it. But he was forced to acknowledge that she had
crept into his life and possessed it so completely that then and for
months afterwards, except in deep sleep or in hours of severe mental
strain, not a single half hour would pass without bringing its thought
of Beatrice. Everything that was beautiful, or grand, or elevating,
reminded him of her--and what higher compliment could a mistress have?
If he listened to glorious music, the voice of Beatrice spoke to him
through the notes; if he watched the clouds rolling in heavy pomp across
a broken sky he thought of Beatrice; if some chance poem or novel moved
him, why Beatrice was in his mind to share the pleasure. All of which
was very interesting, and in some ways delightful, but under our current
system not otherwise than inconvenient to a married man.

And now Beatrice was gone, and he must come back to his daily toil,
sweetened by Honoria's bitter complaints of their poverty, and see her
no more. The thought made Geoffrey's heart ache with a physical pain,
but his reason told him that it was best so. After all, there were no
bones broken; there had been no love scenes, no kiss, no words that
cannot be recalled; whatever there was lay beneath the surface,
and while appearances were kept up all was well. No doubt it was
an hypocrisy, but then hypocrisy is one of the great pillars of
civilization, and how does it matter what the heart says while the lips
are silent? The Recording Angel can alone read hearts, and he must often
find them singularly contradictory and untrustworthy writings.

Die of them, die of her dreams! No, Beatrice would not die of them, and
certainly he should not. Probably in the end she would marry that pious
earthly lump, Owen Davies. It was not pleasant to think of, it was even
dreadful, but really if she were to ask him his opinion, "as a friend,"
he should tell her it was the best thing that she could do. Of course
it would be hypocrisy again, the lips would give his heart the lie; but
when the heart rises in rebellion against the intelligence it must be
suppressed. Unfortunately, however, though a small member, it is very
strong.



They reached London at last, and as had been arranged, Anne, the French
_bonne_, met them at the station to take Effie home. Geoffrey noticed
that she looked smarter and less to his taste than ever. However, she
embraced Effie with an enthusiasm which the child scarcely responded
to, and at the same time carried on an ocular flirtation with a ticket
collector. Although early in the year for yellow fogs, London was
plunged in a dense gloom. It had been misty that morning at Bryngelly,
and become more and more so as the day advanced; but, though it was not
yet four o'clock, London was dark as night. Luckily, however, it is not
far from Paddington to the flat near the Edgware Road, where Geoffrey
lived, so having personally instructed the cabman, he left Anne to
convoy Effie and the luggage, and went on to the Temple by Underground
Railway with an easy mind.

Shortly after Geoffrey reached his chambers in Pump Court the solicitor
arrived as had been arranged, not his uncle--who was, he learned, very
unwell--but a partner. To his delight he then found that Beatrice's
ghost theory was perfectly accurate; the boy with the missing toe-joint
had been discovered who saw the whole horrible tragedy through a crack
in the blind; moreover the truth had been wrung from him and he would
be produced at the trial--indeed a proof of his evidence was already
forthcoming. Also some specimens of the ex-lawyer's clerk's handwriting
had been obtained, and were declared by two experts to be identical with
the writing on the will. One thing, however, disturbed him: neither the
Attorney-General nor Mr. Candleton was yet in town, so no conference
was possible that evening. However, both were expected that night--the
Attorney-General from Devonshire and Mr. Candleton from the Continent;
so the case being first on the list, it was arranged that the conference
should take place at ten o'clock on the following morning.

On arriving home Geoffrey was informed that Lady Honoria was dressing,
and had left a message saying he must be quick and do likewise as
a gentleman was coming to dinner. Accordingly he went to his own
room--which was at the other end of the flat--and put on his dress
clothes. Before going to the dining-room, however, he said good-night to
Effie--who was in bed, but not asleep--and asked her what time she had
reached home.

"At twenty minutes past five, daddy," Effie said promptly.

"Twenty minutes past five! Why, you don't mean to say that you were an
hour coming that little way! Did you get blocked in the fog?"

"No, daddy, but----"

"But what, dear?"

"Anne did tell me not to say!"

"But I tell you to say, dear--never mind Anne!"

"Anne stopped and talked to the ticket-man for a long, long time."

"Oh, did she?" he said.

At that moment the parlourmaid came to say that Lady Honoria and the
"gentleman" were waiting for dinner. Geoffrey asked her casually what
time Miss Effie had reached home.

"About half-past five, sir. Anne said the cab was blocked in the fog."

"Very well. Tell her ladyship that I shall be down in a minute."

"Daddy," said the child, "I haven't said my prayers. Mother did not
come, and Anne said it was all nonsense about prayers. Auntie did always
hear me my prayers."

"Yes, dear, and so will I. There, kneel upon my lap and say them."

In the middle of the prayers--which Effie did not remember as well as
she might have done--the parlourmaid arrived again.

"Please, sir, her ladyship----"

"Tell her ladyship I am coming, and that if she is in a hurry she can go
to dinner! Go on, love."

Then he kissed her and put her to bed again.

"Daddy," said Effie, as he was going, "shall I see auntie Beatrice any
more?"

"I hope so, dear."

"And shall you see her any more? You want to see her, don't you, daddy?
She did love you very much!"

Geoffrey could bear it no longer. The truth is always sharper when it
comes from the mouth of babes and sucklings. With a hurried good-night
he fled.

In the little drawing-room he found Lady Honoria, very well dressed, and
also her friend, whose name was Mr. Dunstan. Geoffrey knew him at once
for an exceedingly wealthy man of small birth, and less breeding, but
a burning and a shining light in the Garsington set. Mr. Dunstan was
anxious to raise himself in society, and he thought that notwithstanding
her poverty, Lady Honoria might be useful to him in this respect. Hence
his presence there to-night.

"How do you do, Geoffrey?" said his wife, advancing to greet him with
a kiss of peace. "You look very well. But what an immense time you have
been dressing. Poor Mr. Dunstan is starving. Let me see. You know Mr.
Dunstan, I think. Dinner, Mary."

Geoffrey apologised for being late, and shook hands politely with Mr.
Dunstan--Saint Dunstan he was generally called on account of his rather
clerical appearance and in sarcastic allusion to his somewhat shady
reputation. Then they went in to dinner.

"Sorry there is no lady for you, Geoffrey; but you must have had plenty
of ladies' society lately. By the way, how is Miss--Miss Granger? Would
you believe it, Mr. Dunstan? that shocking husband of mine has been
passing the last month in the company of one of the loveliest girls I
ever saw, who knows Latin and law and everything else under the sun. She
began by saving his life, they were upset together out of a canoe, you
know. Isn't it romantic?"

Saint Dunstan made some appropriate--or, rather inappropriate--remark
to the effect that he hoped Mr. Bingham had made the most of such
unrivalled opportunities, adding, with a deep sigh, that no lovely young
lady had ever saved his life that he might live for her, &c., &c.

Here Geoffrey broke in without much ceremony. To him it seemed a
desecration to listen while this person was making his feeble jokes
about Beatrice.

"Well, dear," he said, addressing his wife, "and what have you been
doing with yourself all this time?"

"Mourning for you, Geoffrey, and enjoying myself exceedingly in the
intervals. We have had a delightful time, have we not, Mr. Dunstan? Mr.
Dunstan has also been staying at the Hall, you know."

"How could it be otherwise when you were there, Lady Honoria?" answered
the Saint in that strain of compliment affected by such men, and which,
to tell the truth, jarred on its object, who was after all a lady.

"You know, Geoffrey," she went on, "the Garsingtons have re-furnished
the large hall and their drawing-room. It cost eighteen hundred pounds,
but the result is lovely. The drawing-room is done in hand-painted white
satin, walls and all, and the hall in old oak."

"Indeed!" he answered, reflecting the while that Lord Garsington might
as well have paid some of his debts before he spent eighteen hundred
pounds on his drawing-room furniture.

Then the Saint and Lady Honoria drifted into a long and animated
conversation about their fellow guests, which Geoffrey scarcely tried to
follow. Indeed, the dinner was a dull one for him, and he added little
or nothing to the stock of talk.

When his wife left the room, however, he had to say something, so they
spoke of shooting. The Saint had a redeeming feature--he was somewhat of
a sportsman, though a poor one, and he described to Geoffrey a new pair
of hammerless guns, which he had bought for a trifling sum of a hundred
and forty guineas, recommending the pattern to his notice.

"Yes," answered Geoffrey, "I daresay that they are very nice; but, you
see, they are beyond me. A poor man cannot afford so much for a pair of
guns."

"Oh, if that is all," answered his guest, "I will sell you these; they
are a little long in the stock for me, and you can pay me when you like.
Or, hang it all, I have plenty of guns. I'll be generous and give them
to you. If I cannot afford to be generous, I don't know who can!"

"Thank you very much, Mr. Dunstan," answered Geoffrey coldly, "but I am
not in the habit of accepting such presents from my--acquaintances. Will
you have a glass of sherry?--no. Then shall we join Lady Honoria?"

This speech quite crushed the vulgar but not ill-meaning Saint, and
Geoffrey was sorry for it a moment after he had made it. But he was
weary and out of temper. Why did his wife bring such people to the
house? Very shortly afterwards their guest took his leave, reflecting
that Bingham was a conceited ass, and altogether too much for him. "And
I don't believe that he has got a thousand a year," he reflected to
himself, "and the title is his wife's. I suppose that is what he married
her for. She's a much better sort than he is, any way, though I don't
quite make her out either--one can't go very far with her. But she is
the daughter of a peer and worth cultivating, but not when Bingham is at
home--not if I know it."

"What have you said to Mr. Dunstan to make him go away so soon,
Geoffrey?" asked his wife.

"Said to him? oh, I don't know. He offered to give me a pair of guns,
and I told him that I did not accept presents from my acquaintances.
Really, Honoria, I don't want to interfere with your way of life, but
I do not understand how you can associate with such people as this Mr.
Dunstan."

"Associate with him!" answered Lady Honoria. "Do you suppose I want to
associate with him? Do you suppose that I don't know what the man is?
But beggars cannot be choosers; he may be a cad, but he has thirty
thousand a year, and we simply cannot afford to throw away an
acquaintance with thirty thousand a year. It is too bad of you,
Geoffrey," she went on with rising temper, "when you know all that I
must put up with in our miserable poverty-stricken life, to take every
opportunity of making yourself disagreeable to the people I think it
wise to ask to come and see us. Here I return from comfort to this
wretched place, and the first thing that you do is make a fuss. Mr.
Dunstan has got boxes at several of the best theaters, and he offered to
let me have one whenever I liked--and now of course there is an end of
it. It is too bad, I say!"

"It is really curious, Honoria," said her husband, "to see what
obligations you are ready to put yourself under in search of pleasure.
It is not dignified of you to accept boxes at theatres from this
gentleman."

"Nonsense. There is no obligation about it. If he gave us a box, of
course he would make a point of looking in during the evening, and then
telling his friends that it was Lady Honoria Bingham he was speaking
to--that is the exchange. I want to go to the theatre; he wants to get
into good society--there you have the thing in a nutshell. It is done
every day. The fact of the matter is, Geoffrey," she went on, looking
very much as though she were about to burst into a flood of angry tears,
"as I said just now, beggars cannot be choosers--I cannot live like
the wife of a banker's clerk. I must have _some_ amusement, and _some_
comfort, before I become an old woman. If you don't like it, why did you
entrap me into this wretched marriage, before I was old enough to know
better, or why do you not make enough money to keep me in a way suitable
to my position?"

"We have argued that question before, Honoria," said Geoffrey, keeping
his temper with difficulty, "and now there is another thing I wish to
say to you. Do you know that detestable woman Anne stopped for more than
half an hour at Paddington Station this evening, flirting with a ticket
collector, instead of bringing Effie home at once, as I told her to do.
I am very angry about it. She is not to be relied on; we shall have some
accident with the child before we have done. Cannot you discharge her
and get another nurse?"

"No, I cannot. She is the one comfort I have. Where am I going to find
another woman who can make dresses like Anne--she saves me a hundred
a year--I don't care if she flirted with fifty ticket collectors. I
suppose you got this story from Effie; the child ought to be whipped for
tale-bearing, and I daresay that it is not true."

"Effie will certainly not be whipped," answered Geoffrey sternly. "I
warn you that it will go very badly with anybody who lays a finger on
her."

"Oh, very well, ruin the child. Go your own way, Geoffrey! At any rate I
am not going to stop here to listen to any more abuse. Good-night," and
she went.

Geoffrey sat down, and lit a cigarette. "A pleasant home-coming,"
he thought to himself. "Honoria shall have money as much as she can
spend--if I kill myself to get it, she shall have it. What a life, what
a life! I wonder if Beatrice would treat her husband like this--if she
had one."

He laughed aloud at the absurdity of the idea, and then with a gesture
of impatience threw his cigarette into the fire and went to his room to
try and get some sleep, for he was thoroughly wearied.



CHAPTER XVII

GEOFFREY WINS HIS CASE

Before ten o'clock on the following morning, having already spent two
hours over his brief, that he had now thoroughly mastered, Geoffrey was
at his chambers, which he had some difficulty in reaching owing to the
thick fog that still hung over London, and indeed all England.

To his surprise nothing had been heard either of the Attorney-General or
of Mr. Candleton. The solicitors were in despair; but he consoled them
by saying that one or the other was sure to turn up in time, and that a
few words would suffice to explain the additional light which had been
thrown on the case. He occupied his half hour, however, in making a few
rough notes to guide him in the altogether improbable event of his being
called on to open, and then went into court. The case was first on the
list, and there were a good many counsel engaged on the other side. Just
as the judge took his seat, the solicitor, with an expression of dismay,
handed Geoffrey a telegram which had that moment arrived from Mr.
Candleton. It was dated from Calais on the previous night, and ran, "Am
unable to cross on account of thick fog. You had better get somebody
else in Parsons and Douse."

"And we haven't got another brief prepared," said the agonised
solicitor. "What is more, I can hear nothing of the Attorney-General,
and his clerk does not seem to know where he is. You must ask for an
adjournment, Mr. Bingham; you can't manage the case alone."

"Very well," said Geoffrey, and on the case being called he rose and
stated the circumstances to the court. But the Court was crusty. It had
got the fog down its throat, and altogether It didn't seem to see it.
Moreover the other side, marking its advantage, objected strongly. The
witnesses, brought at great expense, were there; his Lordship was there,
the jury was there; if this case was not taken there was no other with
which they could go on, &c., &c.

The court took the same view, and lectured Geoffrey severely. Every
counsel in a case, the Court remembered, when It was at the Bar, used to
be able to open that case at a moment's notice, and though things had,
It implied, no doubt deteriorated to a considerable extent since
those palmy days, every counsel ought still to be prepared to do so on
emergency.

Of course, however, if he, Geoffrey, told the court that he was
absolutely unprepared to go on with the case, It would have no option
but to grant an adjournment.

"I am perfectly prepared to go on with it, my lord," Geoffrey interposed
calmly.

"Very well," said the Court in a mollified tone, "then go on! I have no
doubt that the learned Attorney-General will arrive presently."

Then, as is not unusual in a probate suit, followed an argument as to
who should open it, the plaintiff or the defendant. Geoffrey claimed
that this right clearly lay with him, and the opposing counsel raised no
great objection, thinking that they would do well to leave the opening
in the hands of a rather inexperienced man, who would very likely
work his side more harm than good. So, somewhat to the horror of
the solicitors, who thought with longing of the eloquence of the
Attorney-General, and the unrivalled experience and finesse of Mr.
Candleton, Geoffrey was called upon to open the case for the defendants,
propounding the first will.

He rose without fear or hesitation, and with but one prayer in his
heart, that no untimely Attorney-General would put in an appearance. He
had got his chance, the chance for which many able men have to wait long
years, and he knew it, and meant to make the most of it. Naturally
a brilliant speaker, Geoffrey was not, as so many good speakers are,
subject to fits of nervousness, and he was, moreover, thoroughly master
of his case. In five minutes judge, jury and counsel were all listening
to him with attention; in ten they were absorbed in the lucid and
succinct statement of the facts which he was unfolding to them. His
ghost theory was at first received with a smile, but presently counsel
on the other side ceased to smile, and began to look uneasy. If he could
prove what he said, there was an end of their case. When he had been
speaking for about forty minutes one of the opposing counsel
interrupted him with some remark, and at that moment he noticed that the
Attorney-General's clerk was talking to the solicitor beneath him.

"Bother it, he is coming," thought Geoffrey.

But no, the solicitor bending forward informed him that the
Attorney-General had been unavoidably detained by some important
Government matter, and had returned his brief.

"Well, we must get on as we can," Geoffrey said.

"If you continue like that we shall get on very well," whispered the
solicitors, and then Geoffrey knew that he was doing well.

"Yes, Mr. Bingham!" said his Lordship.

Then Geoffrey went on with his statement.

At lunch time it was a question whether another leader should be
briefed. Geoffrey said that so far as he was concerned he could get on
alone. He knew every point of the case, and he had got a friend to "take
a note" for him while he was speaking.

After some hesitation the solicitors decided not to brief fresh counsel
at this stage of the case, but to leave it entirely in his hands.

It would be useless to follow the details of this remarkable will suit,
which lasted two days, and attracted much attention. Geoffrey won it and
won it triumphantly. His address to the jury on the whole case was
long remembered in the courts, rising as it did to a very high level of
forensic eloquence. Few who saw it ever forgot the sight of his handsome
face and commanding presence as he crushed the case of his opponents
like an eggshell, and then with calm and overwhelming force denounced
the woman who with her lover had concocted the cruel plot that robbed
her uncle of life and her cousins of their property, till at the last,
pointing towards her with outstretched hand, he branded her to the jury
as a murderess.

Few in that crowded court have forgotten the tragic scene that followed,
when the trembling woman, worn out by the long anxiety of the trial,
and utterly unnerved by her accuser's brilliant invective, rose from her
seat and cried:

"We did it--it is true that we did it to get the money, but we did not
mean to frighten him to death," and then fell fainting to the ground--or
Geoffrey Bingham's quiet words as he sat down:

"My lord and gentlemen of the jury, I do not think it necessary to carry
my case any further."

There was no applause, the occasion was too dramatically solemn, but the
impression made both upon the court and the outside public, to whom such
a scene is peculiarly fitted to appeal, was deep and lasting.

Geoffrey himself was under little delusion about the matter. He had no
conceit in his composition, but neither had he any false modesty. He
merely accepted the situation as really powerful men do accept such
events--with thankfulness, but without surprise. He had got his chance
at last, and like any other able man, whatever his walk of life, he had
risen to it. That was all. Most men get such chances in some shape or
form, and are unable to avail themselves of them. Geoffrey was one of
the exceptions; as Beatrice had said, he was born to succeed. As he sat
down, he knew that he was a made man.

And yet while he walked home that night, his ears still full of the
congratulations which had rained in on him from every quarter, he was
conscious of a certain pride. He will have felt as Geoffrey felt that
night, whose lot it has been to fight long and strenuously against
circumstances so adverse as to be almost overwhelming, knowing in his
heart that he was born to lead and not to follow; and who at last, by
one mental effort, with no friendly hand to help, and no friendly voice
to guide, has succeeded in bursting a road through the difficulties
which hemmed him in, and has suddenly found himself, not above
competition indeed, but still able to meet it. He will not have been
too proud of that endeavour; it will have seemed but a little thing to
him--a thing full of faults and imperfections, and falling far short
of his ideal. He will not even have attached a great importance to his
success, because, if he is a person of this calibre, he must remember
how small it is, when all is said and done; that even in his day there
are those who can beat him on his own ground; and also that all worldly
success, like the most perfect flower, yet bears in it the elements of
decay. But he will have reflected with humble satisfaction on those long
years of patient striving which have at length lifted him to an eminence
whence he can climb on and on, scarcely encumbered by the jostling
crowd; till at length, worn out, the time comes for him to fall.

So Geoffrey thought and felt. The thing was to be done, and he had done
it. Honoria should have money now; she should no longer be able to twit
him with their poverty. Yes, and a better thought still, Beatrice would
be glad to hear of his little triumph.

He reached home rather late. Honoria was going out to dinner with a
distinguished cousin, and was already dressing. Geoffrey had declined
the invitation, which was a short one, because he had not expected to be
back from chambers. In this enthusiasm, however, he went to his wife's
room to tell her of the event.

"Well," she said, "what have you been doing? I think that you might have
arranged to come out with me. My going out so much by myself does not
look well. Oh, I forgot; of course you are in that case."

"Yes--that is, I was. I have won the case. Here is a very fair report of
it in the _St. James's Gazette_ if you care to read it."

"Good heavens, Geoffrey! How can you expect me to read all that stuff
when I am dressing?"

"I don't expect you to, Honoria; only, as I say, I have won the case,
and I shall get plenty of work now."

"Will you? I am glad to hear it; perhaps we shall be able to escape
from this horrid flat if you do. There, Anne! Je vous l'ai toujours dit,
cette robe ne me va pas bien."

"Mais, milady, la robe va parfaitement----"

"That is your opinion," grumbled Lady Honoria. "Well, it isn't mine. But
it will have to do. Good-night, Geoffrey; I daresay that you will have
gone to bed when I get back," and she was gone.

Geoffrey picked up his _St. James's Gazette_ with a sigh. He felt
hurt, and knew that he was a fool for his pains. Lady Honoria was not a
sympathetic person; it was not fair to expect it from her. Still he felt
hurt. He went upstairs and heard Effie her prayers.

"Where has you beed, daddy?--to the Smoky Town?" The Temple was
euphemistically known to Effie as the Smoky Town.

"Yes, dear."

"You go to the Smoky Town to make bread and butter, don't you, daddy?"

"Yes, dear, to make bread and butter."

"And did you make any, daddy?"

"Yes, Effie, a good deal to-day."

"Then where is it? In your pocket?"

"No, love, not exactly. I won a big lawsuit to-day, and I shall get a
great many pennies for it."

"Oh," answered Effie meditatively, "I am glad that you did win. You do
like to win, doesn't you, daddy, dear."

"Yes, love."

"Then I will give you a kiss, daddy, because you did win," and she
suited the action to the word.

Geoffrey went from the little room with a softened heart. He dressed and
ate some dinner.

Then he sat down and wrote a long letter to Beatrice, telling her all
about the trial, and not sparing her his reasons for adopting each
particular tactic and line of argument which conduced to the great
result.

And though his letter was four sheets in length, he knew that Beatrice
would not be bored at having to read it.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE RISING STAR

As might be expected, the memorable case of Parsons and Douse proved to
be the turning point in Geoffrey's career, which was thenceforward one
of brilliant and startling success. On the very next morning when he
reached his chambers it was to find three heavy briefs awaiting him, and
they proved to be but the heralds of an uninterrupted flow of lucrative
business. Of course, he was not a Queen's Counsel, but now that his
great natural powers of advocacy had become generally known, solicitors
frequently employed him alone, or gave him another junior, so that he
might bring those powers to bear upon juries. Now it was, too, that
Geoffrey reaped the fruits of the arduous legal studies which he had
followed without cessation from the time when he found himself thrown
upon his own resources, and which had made a sound lawyer of him as
well as a brilliant and effective advocate. Soon, even with his great
capacity for work, he had as much business as he could attend to. When
fortune gives good gifts, she generally does so with a lavish hand.

Thus it came to pass that, about three weeks after the trial of Parsons
and Douse, Geoffrey's uncle the solicitor died, and to his surprise left
him twenty thousand pounds, "believing," he said in his will, which was
dated three days before the testator's death, "that this sum will assist
him to rise to the head of his profession."

Now that it had dawned upon her that her husband really was a success,
Honoria's manner towards him modified very considerably. She even became
amiable, and once or twice almost affectionate. When Geoffrey told her
of the twenty thousand pounds she was radiant.

"Why, we shall be able to go back to Bolton Street now," she said,
"and as luck will have it, our old house is to let. I saw a bill in the
window yesterday."

"Yes," he said, "you can go back as soon as you like."

"And can we keep a carriage?"

"No, not yet; I am doing well, but not well enough for that. Next year,
if I live, you will be able to have a carriage. Don't begin to grumble,
Honoria. I have got L150 to spare, and if you care to come round to a
jeweller's you can spend it on what you like."

"Oh, you delightful person!" said his wife.

So they went to the jeweller's, and Lady Honoria bought ornaments to
the value of L150, and carried them home and hung over them, as another
class of woman might hang over her first-born child, admiring them with
a tender ecstasy. Whenever he had a sum of money that he could afford
to part with, Geoffrey would take her thus to a jeweller's or a
dressmaker's, and stand by coldly while she bought things to its value.
Lady Honoria was delighted. It never entered into her mind that in a
sense he was taking a revenge upon her, and that every fresh exhibition
of her rejoicings over the good things thus provided added to his
contempt for her.

Those were happy days for Lady Honoria! She rejoiced in this return of
wealth like a school-boy at the coming of the holidays, or a half-frozen
wanderer at the rising of the sun. She had been miserable during all
this night of poverty, as miserable as her nature admitted of, now
she was happy again, as she understood happiness. For bred, educated,
civilized--what you will--out of the more human passions, Lady Honoria
had replaced them by this idol-worship of wealth, or rather of what
wealth brings. It gave her a positive physical satisfaction; her
beauty, which had begun to fade, came back to her; she looked five years
younger. And all the while Geoffrey watched her with an ever-growing
scorn.

Once it broke out. The Bolton Street house had been furnished; he gave
her fifteen hundred pounds to do it, and with what things they owned
she managed very well on that. They moved into it, and Honoria had set
herself up with a sufficient supply of grand dresses and jewellery,
suitable to her recovered position. One day however, it occurred to her
that Effie was a child of remarkable beauty, who, if properly dressed,
would look very nice in the drawing-room at tea-time. So she ordered a
lovely costume for her--this deponent is not able to describe it, but
it consisted largely of velvet and lace. Geoffrey heard nothing of this
dress, but coming home rather early one afternoon--it was on a Saturday,
he found the child being shown off to a room full of visitors, and
dressed in a strange and wonderful attire with which, not unnaturally,
she was vastly pleased. He said nothing at the time, but when at length
the dropping fire of callers had ceased, he asked who put Effie into
that dress.

"I did," said Lady Honoria, "and a pretty penny it has cost, I can tell
you. But I can't have the child come down so poorly clothed, it does not
look well."

"Then she can stay upstairs," said Geoffrey frowning.

"What do you mean?" asked his wife.

"I mean that I will not have her decked out in those fine clothes. They
are quite unsuitable to her age. There is plenty of time for her to take
to vanity."

"I really don't understand you, Geoffrey. Why should not the child be
handsomely dressed?"

"Why not! Great heaven, Honoria, do you suppose that I want to see Effie
grow up like you, to lead a life of empty pleasure-seeking idleness, and
make a god of luxury. I had rather see her"--he was going to add, "dead
first," but checked himself and said--"have to work for her living.
Dress yourself up as much as you like, but leave the child alone."

Lady Honoria was furious, but she was also a little frightened. She
had never heard her husband speak quite like this before, and there was
something underneath his words that she did not quite understand. Still
less did she understand when on the Monday Geoffrey suddenly told her
that he had fifty pounds for her to spend as she liked; then accompanied
her to a mantle shop, and stood patiently by, smiling coldly while she
invested it in lace and embroideries. Honoria thought that he was making
reparation for his sharp words, and so he was, but to himself, and in
another sense. Every time he gave her money in this fashion, Geoffrey
felt like a man who has paid off a debt of honour. She had taunted
him again and again with her poverty--the poverty she said that he had
brought her; for every taunt he would heap upon her all those things in
which her soul delighted. He would glut her with wealth as, in her hour
of victory, Queen Tomyris glutted dead Cyrus with the blood of men.

It was an odd way of taking a revenge, and one that suited Lady Honoria
admirably; but though its victim felt no sting, it gave Geoffrey much
secret relief. Also he was curious; he wished to see if there was
any bottom to such a woman's desire for luxury, if it would not bring
satiety with it. But Lady Honoria was a very bad subject for such an
experiment. She never showed the least sign of being satiated, either
with fine things, with pleasures, or with social delights. They were her
natural element, and he might as soon have expected a fish to weary of
the water, or an eagle of the rushing air.



The winter wore away and the spring came. One day, it was in April,
Geoffrey, who was a moderate Liberal by persuasion, casually announced
at dinner that he was going to stand for Parliament in the Unionist
interest. The representation of one of the few Metropolitan divisions
which had then returned a Home Ruler had fallen vacant. As it chanced he
knew the head Unionist whip very well. They had been friends since they
were lads at school together, and this gentleman, having heard Geoffrey
make a brilliant speech in court, was suddenly struck with the idea that
he was the very man to lead a forlorn hope.

The upshot of it was that Geoffrey was asked if he would stand, and
replied that he must have two days to think it over. What he really
wanted the two days for was to enable him to write to Beatrice and
receive an answer from her. He had an almost superstitious faith in her
judgment, and did not like to act without it. After carefully weighing
the pros and cons, his own view was that he should do well to stand.
Probably he would be defeated, and it might cost him five hundred
pounds. On the other hand it would certainly make his name known as a
politician, and he was now in a fair way to earn so large an income that
he could well afford to risk the money. The only great objection which
he saw, was that if he happened to get in, it must mean that he would
have to work all day and all night too. Well, he was strong and the more
work he did the better--it kept him from thinking.

In due course Beatrice's answer came. Her view coincided with his own;
she recommended him to take the opportunity, and pointed out that with
his growing legal reputation there was no office in the State to which
he might not aspire, when he had once proved himself a capable member of
Parliament. Geoffrey read the letter through; then immediately sat
down and wrote to his friend the whip, accepting the suggestion of the
Government.

The next fortnight was a hard one for him, but Geoffrey was as good a
man on the platform as in court, and he had, moreover, the very valuable
knack of suiting himself to his audience. As his canvass went on it was
generally recognised that the seat which had been considered hopeless
was now doubtful. A great amount of public interest was concentrated
on the election, both upon the Unionist and the Separatist side, each
claiming that the result of the poll would show to their advantage. The
Home Rule party strained every nerve against him, being most anxious to
show that the free and independent electors of this single division,
and therefore of the country at large, held the Government policy in
particular horror. Letters were obtained from great authorities and
freely printed. Irish members, fresh from gaol, were brought down to
detail their grievances. It was even suggested that one of them should
appear on the platform in prison garb--in short, every electioneering
engine known to political science was brought to bear to forward the
fortunes of either side.

As time went on Lady Honoria, who had been somewhat indifferent at
first, grew quite excited about the result. For one thing she found that
the contest attached an importance to herself in the eyes of the truly
great, which was not without its charm. On the day of the poll she drove
about all day in an open carriage under a bright blue parasol, having
Effie (who had become very bored) by her side, and two noble lords on
the front seat. As a consequence the result was universally declared by
a certain section of the press to be entirely due to the efforts of an
unprincipled but titled and lovely woman. It was even said that, like
another lady of rank in a past generation, she kissed a butcher in
order to win his vote. But those who made the remark did not know Lady
Honoria; she was incapable of kissing a butcher, or indeed anybody else.
Her inclinations did not lie in that direction.

In the end Geoffrey was returned by a magnificent majority of ten votes,
reduced on a scrutiny to seven. He took his seat in the House on the
following night amidst loud Unionist cheering. In the course of the
evening's debate a prominent member of the Government made allusion to
his return as a proof of the triumph of Unionist principles. Thereon a
very leading member of the Separatist opposition retorted that it was
nothing of the sort, "that it was a matter of common notoriety that the
honourable member's return was owing to the unusual and most uncommon
ability displayed by him in the course of his canvass, aided as it was,
by artfully applied and aristocratic feminine influence." This was a
delicate allusion to Honoria and her blue parasol.

As Geoffrey and his wife were driving back to Bolton Street, after the
declaration of the poll, a little incident occurred. Geoffrey told the
coachman to stop at the first telegraph office and, getting out of the
carriage, wired to Beatrice, "In by ten votes."

"Who have you been telegraphing to, Geoffrey?" asked Lady Honoria.

"I telegraphed to Miss Granger," he answered.

"Ah! So you still keep up a correspondence with that pupil teacher
girl."

"Yes, I do. I wish that I had a few more such correspondents."

"Indeed. You are easy to please. I thought her one of the most
disagreeable young women whom I ever met."

"Then it does not say much for your taste, Honoria."

His wife made no further remark, but she had her thoughts. Honoria
possessed good points: among others she was not a jealous person; she
was too cold and too indifferent to be jealous. But she did not like the
idea of another woman obtaining an influence over her husband, who, as
she now began to recognise, was one of the most brilliant men of his
day, and who might well become one of the most wealthy and powerful.
Clearly he existed for _her_ benefit, not for that of any other woman.
She was no fool, and she saw that a considerable intimacy must
exist between the two. Otherwise Geoffrey would not have thought of
telegraphing to Beatrice at such a moment.

Within a week of his election Geoffrey made a speech. It was not a long
speech, nor was it upon any very important issue; but it was exceedingly
good of its kind, good enough to be reported verbatim indeed, and those
listening to it recognised that they had to deal with a new man who
would one day be a very big man. There is no place where an able person
finds his level quicker than in the House of Commons, composed as it is
for the most part, of more or less wealthy or frantic mediocrities. But
Geoffrey was not a mediocrity, he was an exceedingly able and powerful
man, and this fact the House quickly recognised.

For the next few months Geoffrey worked as men rarely work. All day
he was at his chambers or in court, and at night he sat in the House,
getting up his briefs when he could. But he always did get them up;
no solicitors had to complain that the interests of their client were
neglected by him; also he still found time to write to Beatrice. For
the rest he went out but little, and except in the way of business
associated with very few. Indeed he grew more and more silent and
reserved, till at last he won the reputation of being cold and hard. Not
that he was really so. He threw himself head and soul into his work
with a fixed determination to reach the top of the tree. He knew that he
should not care very much about it when he got there, but he enjoyed the
struggle.

Geoffrey was not a truly ambitious man; he was no mere self-seeker.
He knew the folly of ambition too well, and its end was always clearly
before his eyes. He often thought to himself that if he could have
chosen his lot, he would have asked for a cottage with a good garden,
five hundred a year, and somebody to care for. But perhaps he would soon
have wearied of his cottage. He worked to stifle thought, and to some
extent he succeeded. But he was at bottom an affectionate-natured man,
and he could not stifle the longing for sympathy which was his secret
weakness, though his pride would never allow him to show it. What did he
care for his triumphs when he had nobody with whom to share them? All he
could share were their fruits, and these he gave away freely enough. It
was but little that Geoffrey spent upon his own gratification. A certain
share of his gains he put by, the rest went in expenses. The house in
Bolton Street was a very gay place in those days, but its master took
but little part in its gaieties.

And what was the fact? The longer he remained separated from Beatrice
the more intensely did he long for her society. It was of no use; try as
he would, he could not put that sweet face from his mind; it drew him as
a magnet draws a needle. Success did not bring him happiness, except in
the sense that it relieved him from money cares.

People of coarse temperament only can find real satisfaction in worldly
triumphs, and eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow they die! Men like
Geoffrey soon learn that this also is vanity. On the contrary, as his
mind grew more and more wearied with the strain of work, melancholy took
an ever stronger hold of it. Had he gone to a doctor, he might have been
told that his liver was out of order, which was very likely true. But
this would not mend matters. "What a world," he might have cried, "what
a world to live in when all the man's happiness depends upon his liver!"
He contracted an accursed habit of looking on the black side of things;
trouble always caught his eye.

It was no wonderful case. Men of large mind are very rarely happy men.
It is your little animal-minded individual who can be happy. Thus women,
who reflect less, are as a class much happier and more contented than
men. But the large-minded man sees too far, and guesses too much of
what he cannot see. He looks forward, and notes the dusty end of his
laborious days; he looks around and shudders at the unceasing misery of
a coarse struggling world; the sight of the pitiful beggar babe craving
bread on tottering feet, pierces his heart. He cannot console himself
with a reflection that the child had no business to be born, or that if
he denuded himself of his last pound he would not materially help the
class which bred it.

And above the garish lights of earthly joys and the dim reek of earthly
wretchedness, he sees the solemn firmament that veils his race's
destiny. For such a man, in such a mood, even religion has terrors as
well as hopes, and while the gloom gathers about his mind these are
with him more and more. What lies beyond that arching mystery to whose
horizon he daily draws more close--whose doors may even now be opening
for him? A hundred hands point out a hundred roads to knowledge--they
are lost half way. Only the cold spiritual firmament, unlit by any
guiding stars, unbrightened by the flood of human day, and unshadowed
by the veils of human night, still bends above his head in awful
changelessness, and still his weary feet draw closer to the portals of
the West.

It is very sad and wrong, but it is not altogether his fault; it is
rather a fault of the age, of over-education, of over-striving to be
wise. Cultivate the searching spirit and it will grow and rend you. The
spirit would soar, it would see, but the flesh weighs it down, and
in all flesh there is little light. Yet, at times, brooding on some
unnatural height of Thought, its eyes seem to be opened, and it catches
gleams of terrifying days to come, or perchance, discerns the hopeless
gates of an immeasurable night.

Oh, for that simpler faith which ever recedes farther from the ken of
the cultivated, questioning mind! There alone can peace be found, and
for the foolish who discard it, setting up man's wisdom at a sign, soon
the human lot will be one long fear. Grown scientific and weary with
the weight of knowledge, they will reject their ancient Gods, and no
smug-faced Positivism will bring them consolation. Science, here and
there illumining the gloom of destiny with its poor electric lights,
cries out that they are guiding stars. But they are no stars, and they
will flare away. Let us pray for darkness, more darkness, lest, to our
bewildered sight, they do but serve to show that which shall murder
Hope.



So think Geoffrey and his kin, and in their unexpressed dismay, turn,
seeking refuge from their physical and spiritual loneliness, but for the
most part finding none. Nature, still strong in them, points to the dear
fellowship of woman, and they make the venture to find a mate, not
a companion. But as it chanced in Geoffrey's case he did find such a
companion in Beatrice, after he had, by marriage, built up an impassable
wall between them.

And yet he longed for her society with an intensity that alarmed him.
He had her letters indeed, but what are letters! One touch of a beloved
hand is worth a thousand letters. In the midst of his great success
Geoffrey was wretched at heart, yet it seemed to him that if he once
more could have Beatrice at his side, though only as a friend, he would
find rest and happiness.



When a man's heart is thus set upon an object, his reason is soon
convinced of its innocence, even of its desirability, and a kindly fate
will generally contrive to give him the opportunity of ruin which he so
ardently desires.



CHAPTER XIX

GEOFFREY HAS A VISITOR

And Beatrice--had she fared better during these long months? Alas, not
at all. She had gone away from the Bryngelly Station on that autumn
morning of farewell sick at heart, and sick at heart she had remained.
Through all the long winter months sorrow and bitterness had been her
portion, and now in the happiness of spring, sorrow and bitterness were
with her still. She loved him, she longed for his presence, and it was
denied to her. She could not console herself as can some women, nor
did her deep passion wear away; on the contrary, it seemed to grow and
gather with every passing week. Neither did she wish to lose it,
she loved too well for that. It was better to be thus tormented by
conscience and by hopelessness than to lose her cause of pain.

One consolation Beatrice had and one only: she knew that Geoffrey did
not forget her. His letters told her this. These letters indeed were
everything to her--a woman can get so much more comfort out of a letter
than a man. Next to receiving them she loved to answer them. She was a
good and even a brilliant letter writer, but often and often she would
tear up what she had written and begin again. There was not much news
in Bryngelly; it was difficult to make her letters amusing. Also the
farcical nature of the whole proceeding seemed to paralyse her. It was
ridiculous, having so much to say, to be able to say nothing. Not that
Beatrice wished to indite love-letters--such an idea had never crossed
her mind, but rather to write as they had talked. Yet when she tried to
do so the results were not satisfactory to her, the words looked strange
on paper--she could not send them.

In Geoffrey's meteor-like advance to fame and fortune she took the
keenest joy and interest, far more than he did indeed. Though, like that
of most other intelligent creatures, her soul turned with loathing
from the dreary fustian of politics, she would religiously search the
parliamentary column from beginning to end on the chance of finding his
name or the notice of a speech by him. The law reports also furnished
her with a happy hunting-ground in which she often found her game.

But they were miserable months. To rise in the morning, to go through
the round of daily duty--thinking of Geoffrey; to come home wearied, and
finally to seek refuge in sleep and dreams of him--this was the sum of
them. Then there were other troubles. To begin with, things had gone
from bad to worse at the Vicarage. The tithes scarcely came in at all,
and every day their poverty pinched them closer. Had it not been for
Beatrice's salary it was difficult to see how the family could have
continued to exist. She gave it almost all to her father now, only
keeping back a very small sum for her necessary clothing and such
sundries as stamps and writing paper. Even then, Elizabeth grumbled
bitterly at her extravagance in continuing to buy a daily paper, asking
what business she had to spend sixpence a week on such a needless
luxury. But Beatrice would not make up her mind to dock the paper with
its occasional mention of Geoffrey.

Again, Owen Davies was a perpetual anxiety to her. His infatuation for
herself was becoming notorious; everybody saw it except her father. Mr.
Granger's mind was so occupied with questions connected with tithe that
fortunately for Beatrice little else could find an entry. Owen dogged
her about; he would wait whole hours outside the school or by the
Vicarage gate merely to speak a few words to her. Sometimes when at
length she appeared he seemed to be struck dumb, he could say nothing,
but would gaze at her with his dull eyes in a fashion that filled her
with vague alarm. He never ventured to speak to her of his love indeed,
but he looked it, which was almost as bad. Another thing was that he
had grown jealous. The seed which Elizabeth had planted in his mind had
brought forth abundantly, though of course Beatrice did not know that
this was her sister's doing.

On the very morning that Geoffrey went away Mr. Davies had met her as
she was walking back from the station and asked her if Mr. Bingham had
gone. When she replied that this was so, she had distinctly heard him
murmur, "Thank God! thank God!" Subsequently she discovered also that he
bribed the old postman to keep count of the letters which she sent and
received from Geoffrey.

These things filled Beatrice with alarm, but there was worse behind. Mr.
Davies began to send her presents, first such things as prize pigeons
and fowls, then jewellery. The pigeons and fowls she could not well
return without exciting remark, but the jewellery she sent back by one
of the school children. First came a bracelet, then a locket with his
photograph inside, and lastly, a case that, when she opened it, which
her curiosity led her to do, nearly blinded her with light. It was a
diamond necklace, and she had never seen such diamonds before, but from
their size and lustre she knew that each stone must be worth hundreds of
pounds. Beatrice put it in her pocket and carried it until she met him,
which she did in the course of that afternoon.

"Mr. Davies," she said before he could speak, and handing him the
package, "this has been sent to me by mistake. Will you kindly take it
back?"

He took it, abashed.

"Mr. Davies," she went on, looking him full in the eyes, "I hope that
there will be no more such mistakes. Please understand that I cannot
accept presents from you."

"If Mr. Bingham had sent it, you would have accepted it," he muttered
sulkily.

Beatrice turned and flashed such a look on him that he fell back and
left her. But it was true, and she knew that it was true. If Geoffrey
had given her a sixpence with a hole in it, she would have valued it
more than all the diamonds on earth. Oh! what a position was hers.
And it was wrong, too. She had no right to love the husband of another
woman. But right or wrong the fact remained: she did love him.

And the worst of it was that, as she well knew, sooner or later all
this about Mr. Davies must come to the ears of her father, and then what
would happen? One thing was certain. In his present poverty-stricken
condition he would move heaven and earth to bring about her marriage to
this rich man. Her father never had been very scrupulous where money was
concerned, and the pinch of want was not likely to make him more so.

Nor, we may be sure, did all this escape the jealous eye of Elizabeth.
Things looked black for her, but she did not intend to throw up the
cards on that account. Only it was time to lead trumps. In other words,
Beatrice must be fatally compromised in the eyes of Owen Davies, if by
any means this could be brought about. So far things had gone well for
her schemes. Beatrice and Geoffrey loved each other, of that Elizabeth
was certain. But the existence of this secret, underhand affection would
avail her naught unless it could be ripened into acts. Everybody is free
to indulge in secret predilections, but if once they are given way to,
if once a woman's character is compromised, then the world avails itself
of its opportunities and destroys her. What man, thought Elizabeth,
would marry a compromised woman? If Beatrice could be compromised, Owen
Davies would not take her to wife--therefore this must be brought about.

It sounds wicked and unnatural. "Impossible that sister should so treat
sister," the reader of this history may say, thinking of her own, and of
her affectionate and respectable surroundings. But it is not impossible.
If you, who doubt, will study the law reports, and no worse occupation
can be wished to you, you will find that such things are possible.
Human nature can rise to strange heights, and it can also fall to depths
beyond your fathoming. Because a thing is without parallel in your own
small experience it in no way follows that it cannot be.

Elizabeth was a very remorseless person; she was more--she was a woman
actuated by passion and by greed: the two strongest motives known to the
human heart. But with her recklessness she united a considerable degree
of intelligence, or rather of intellect. Had she been a savage she might
have removed her sister from her path by a more expeditious way; being
what she was, she merely strove to effect the same end by a method not
punishable by law, in short, by murdering her reputation. Would she be
responsible if her sister went wrong, and was thus utterly discredited
in the eyes of this man who wished to marry her, and whom Elizabeth
wished to marry? Of course not; that was Beatrice's affair. But she
could give her every chance of falling into temptation, and this it was
her fixed design to do.

Circumstances soon gave her an opportunity. The need of money became
very pressing at the Vicarage. They had literally no longer the
wherewithal to live. The tithe payers absolutely refused to fulfil
their obligations. As it happened, Jones, the man who had murdered the
auctioneer, was never brought to trial. He died shortly after his arrest
in a fit of _delirium tremens_ and nervous prostration brought on by
the sudden cessation of a supply of stimulants, and an example was lost,
that, had he been duly hanged, might have been made of the results of
defying the law. Mr. Granger was now too poor to institute any further
proceedings, which, in the state of public feeling in Wales, might or
might not succeed; he could only submit, and submission meant beggary.
Indeed he was already a beggar. In this state of affairs he took counsel
with Elizabeth, pointing out that they must either get money or starve.
Now the only possible way to get money was by borrowing it, and Mr.
Granger's suggestion was that he should apply to Owen Davies, who had
plenty. Indeed he would have done so long ago, but that the squire had
the reputation of being an exceedingly close-fisted man.

But this proposition did not at all suit Elizabeth's book. Her great
object had been to conceal Mr. Davies's desires as regards Beatrice from
her father, and her daily dread was that he might become acquainted with
them from some outside source. She knew very well that if her father
went up to the Castle to borrow money it would be lent, or rather given,
freely enough; but she also knew that the lender would almost certainly
take the opportunity, the very favourable opportunity, to unfold his
wishes as regards the borrower's daughter. The one thing would naturally
lead to the other--the promise of her father's support of Owen's suit
would be the consideration for the money received. How gladly that
support would be given was also obvious to her, and with her father
pushing Beatrice on the one side and Owen Davies pushing her on the
other, how could Elizabeth be sure that she would not yield? Beatrice
would be the very person to be carried away by an idea of duty. Their
father would tell her that he had got the money on this undertaking, and
it was quite possible that her pride might bring her to fulfil a bond
thus given, however distasteful the deed might be to her personally. No,
her father must at all hazards be prevented from seeking assistance from
Owen Davies. And yet the money must be had from somewhere, or they would
be ruined.

Ah, she had it--Geoffrey Bingham should lend the money! He could well
afford it now, and she shrewdly guessed that he would not grudge the
coat off his back if he thought that by giving it he might directly or
indirectly help Beatrice. Her father must go up to town to see him, she
would have no letter-writing; one never knows how a letter may be read.
He must see Mr. Bingham, and if possible bring him down to Bryngelly. In
a moment every detail of the plot became clear to Elizabeth's mind, and
then she spoke.

"You must not go to Mr. Davies, father," she said; "he is a hard man,
and would only refuse and put you in a false position; you must go to
Mr. Bingham. Listen: he is rich now, and he is very fond of you and
of Beatrice. He will lend you a hundred pounds at once. You must go to
London by the early train to-morrow, and drive straight to his chambers
and see him. It will cost two pounds to get there and back, but that
cannot be helped; it is safer than writing, and I am sure that you will
not go for nothing. And see here, father, bring Mr. Bingham back with
you for a few days if you can. It will be a little return for his
kindness, and I know that he is not well. Beatrice had a letter from him
in which he said that he was so overworked that he thought he must take
a little rest soon. Bring him back for Whit-Sunday."

Mr. Granger hesitated, demurred, and finally yielded. The weak,
querulous old farmer clergyman, worn out with many daily cares and quite
unsupported by mental resources, was but a tool in Elizabeth's able
hands. He did not indeed feel any humiliation at the idea of trying
to borrow the cash, for his nature was not finely strung, and money
troubles had made him callous to the verge of unscrupulousness; but he
did not like the idea of a journey to London, where he had not been for
more than twenty years, and the expenditure that it entailed. Still he
acted as Elizabeth bade him, even to keeping the expedition secret
from Beatrice. Beatrice, as her sister explained to him, was proud as
Lucifer, and might raise objections if she knew that he was going to
London to borrow money of Mr. Bingham. This indeed she would certainly
have done.

On the following afternoon--it was the Friday before Whit-Sunday, and
the last day of the Easter sittings--Geoffrey sat in his chambers, in
the worst possible spirits, thoroughly stale and worn out with work.
There was a consultation going on, and his client, a pig-headed Norfolk
farmer, who was bent upon proceeding to trial with some extraordinary
action for trespass against his own landlord, was present with his
solicitor. Geoffrey in a few short, clear words had explained the
absurdity of the whole thing, and strongly advised him to settle, for
the client had insisted on seeing him, refusing to be put off with a
written opinion. But the farmer was not satisfied, and the solicitor was
now endeavouring to let the pure light of law into the darkness of his
injured soul.

Geoffrey threw himself back in his chair, pushed the dark hair from his
brow, and pretended to listen. But in a minute his mind was far
away. Heavens, how tired he was! Well, there would be rest for a few
days--till Tuesday, when he had a matter that must be attended to--the
House had risen and so had the courts. What should he do with himself?
Honoria wished to go and stay with her brother, Lord Garsington,
and, for a wonder, to take Effie with her. He did not like it, but he
supposed that he should have to consent. One thing was, _he_ would not
go. He could not endure Garsington, Dunstan, and all their set. Should
he run down to Bryngelly? The temptation was very great; that would be
happiness indeed, but his common sense prevailed against it. No, it was
better that he should not go there. He would leave Bryngelly alone. If
Beatrice wished him to come she would have said so, and she had never
even hinted at such a thing, and if she had he did not think that he
would have gone. But he lacked the heart to go anywhere else. He would
stop in town, rest, and read a novel, for Geoffrey, when he found
time, was not above this frivolous occupation. Possibly, under certain
circumstances, he might even have been capable of writing one. At that
moment his clerk entered, and handed him a slip of paper with something
written on it. He opened it idly and read:

"Revd. Mr. Granger to see you. Told him you were engaged, but he said he
would wait."

Geoffrey started violently, so violently that both the solicitor and the
obstinate farmer looked up.

"Tell the gentleman that I will see him in a minute," he said to the
retreating clerk, and then, addressing the farmer, "Well, sir, I have
said all that I have to say. I cannot advise you to continue this
action. Indeed, if you wish to do so, you must really direct your
solicitor to retain some other counsel, as I will not be a party to what
can only mean a waste of money. Good afternoon," and he rose.

The farmer was convoyed out grumbling. In another moment Mr. Granger
entered, dressed in a somewhat threadbare suit of black, and his thin
white hair hanging, as usual, over his eyes. Geoffrey glanced at him
with apprehension, and as he did so noticed that he had aged greatly
during the last seven months. Had he come to tell him some ill news of
Beatrice--that she was ill, or dead, or going to be married?

"How do you do, Mr. Granger?" he said, as he stretched out his hand, and
controlling his voice as well as he could. "How are you? This is a most
unexpected pleasure."

"How do you do, Mr. Bingham?" answered the old man, while he seated
himself nervously in a chair, placing his hat with a trembling hand
upon the floor beside him. "Yes, thank you, I am pretty well, not very
grand--worn out with trouble as the sparks fly upwards," he added, with
a vague automatic recollection of the scriptural quotation.

"I hope that Miss Elizabeth and Be--that your daughters are well also,"
said Geoffrey, unable to restrain his anxiety.

"Yes, yes, thank you, Mr. Bingham. Elizabeth isn't very grand either,
complains of a pain in her chest, a little bilious perhaps--she always
is bilious in the spring."

"And Miss Beatrice?"

"Oh, I think she's well--very quiet, you know, and a little pale,
perhaps; but she is always quiet--a strange woman Beatrice, Mr. Bingham,
a very strange woman, quite beyond me! I do not understand her, and
don't try to. Not like other women at all, takes no pleasure in things
seemingly; curious, with her good looks--very curious. But nobody
understands Beatrice."

Geoffrey breathed a sigh of relief. "And how are tithes being paid, Mr.
Granger? not very grandly, I fear. I saw that scoundrel Jones died in
prison."

Mr. Granger woke up at once. Before he had been talking almost at
random; the subject of his daughters did not greatly interest him. What
did interest him was this money question. Nor was it very wonderful;
the poor narrow-minded old man had thought about money till he could
scarcely find room for anything else, indeed nothing else really touched
him closely. He broke into a long story of his wrongs, and, drawing
a paper from his breast pocket, with shaking finger pointed out to
Geoffrey how that his clerical income for the last six months had been
at the rate of only forty pounds a year, upon which sum even a Welsh
clergyman could not consider himself passing rich. Geoffrey listened and
sympathised; then came a pause.

"That's how we've been getting on at Bryngelly, Mr. Bingham," Mr.
Granger said presently, "starving, pretty well starving. It's only you
who have been making money; we've been sitting on the same dock-leaf
while you have become a great man. If it had not been for Beatrice's
salary--she's behaved very well about the salary, has Beatrice--I am
sure I don't understand how the poor girl clothes herself on what she
keeps; I know that she had to go without a warm cloak this winter,
because she got a cough from it--we should have been in the workhouse,
and that's where we shall be yet," and he rubbed the back of his
withered hand across his eyes.

Geoffrey gasped. Beatrice with scarcely enough means to clothe
herself--Beatrice shivering and becoming ill from the want of a cloak
while _he_ lived in luxury! It made him sick to think of it. For a
moment he could say nothing.

"I have come here--I've come," went on the old man in a broken voice,
broken not so much by shame at having to make the request as from fear
lest it should be refused, "to ask you if you could lend me a little
money. I don't know where to turn, I don't indeed, or I would not do it,
Mr. Bingham. I have spent my last pound to get here. If you could lend
me a hundred pounds I'd give you note of hand for it and try to pay
it back little by little; we might take twenty pounds a year from
Beatrice's salary----"

"Don't, please--do not talk of such a thing!" ejaculated the horrified
Geoffrey. "Where the devil is my cheque-book? Oh, I know, I left it in
Bolton Street. Here, this will do as well," and he took up a draft note
made out to his order, and, rapidly signing his name on the back of it,
handed it to Mr. Granger. It was in payment of the fees in the great
case of Parsons and Douse and some other matters. Mr. Granger took the
draft, and, holding it close to his eyes, glanced at the amount; it was
L200.

"But this is double what I asked for," he said doubtfully. "Am I to
return you L100?"

"No, no," answered Geoffrey, "I daresay that you have some debts to pay.
Thank Heaven, I can get on very well and earn more money than I want.
Not enough clothing--it is shocking to think of!" he added, more to
himself than to his listener.

The old man rose, his eyes full of tears. "God bless you," he said,
"God bless you. I do not know how to thank you--I don't indeed," and he
caught Geoffrey's hand between his trembling palms and pressed it.

"Please do not say any more, Mr. Granger; it really is only a matter of
mutual obligation. No, no, I don't want any note of hand. If I were
to die it might be used against you. You can pay me whenever it is
convenient."

"You are too good, Mr. Bingham," said the old clergyman. "Where could
another man be found who would lend me L200 without security?" (where
indeed!) "By the way," he added, "I forgot; my mind is in such a whirl.
Will you come back with me for a few days to Bryngelly? We shall all be
so pleased if you can. Do come, Mr. Bingham; you look as though you want
a change, you do indeed."

Geoffrey dropped his hand heavily on the desk. But half an hour before
he had made up his mind not to go to Bryngelly. And now----The vision
of Beatrice rose before his eyes. Beatrice who had gone cold all winter
and never told him one word of their biting poverty--the longing for the
sight of Beatrice came into his heart, and like a hurricane swept the
defences of his reason to the level ground. Temptation overwhelmed him;
he no longer struggled against it. He must see her, if it was only to
say good-bye.

"Thank you," he said quietly, lifting his bowed head. "Yes, I have
nothing particular to do for the next day or two. I think that I will
come. When do you go back?"

"Well, I thought of taking the night mail, but I feel so tired. I really
don't know. I think I shall go by the nine o'clock train to-morrow."

"That will suit me very well," said Geoffrey; "and now what are you
going to do to-night? You had better come and dine and sleep at my
house. No dress clothes? Oh, never mind; there are some people coming
but they won't care; a clergyman is always dressed. Come along and I
will get that draft cashed. The bank is shut, but I can manage it."



CHAPTER XX

BACK AT BRYNGELLY

Geoffrey and Mr. Granger reached Bolton Street about six o'clock.
The drawing-room was still full of callers. Lady Honoria's young men
mustered in great force in those days. They were very inoffensive young
men and Geoffrey had no particular objection to them. Only he found
it difficult to remember all their names. When Geoffrey entered the
drawing-room there were no fewer than five of them, to say nothing of
two stray ladies, all superbly dressed and sitting metaphorically at
Honoria's very pretty feet. Otherwise their contributions to the general
store of amusement did not amount to much, for her ladyship did most of
the talking.

Geoffrey introduced Mr. Granger, whom Honoria could not at first
remember. Nor did she receive the announcement that he was going to dine
and stay the night with any particular enthusiasm. The young men melted
away at Geoffrey's advent like mists before a rising sun. He greeted
them civilly enough, but with him they had nothing in common. To tell
the truth they were a little afraid of him. This man with his dark
handsome face sealed with the stamp of intellect, his powerful-looking
form (ill dressed, according to their standard) and his great and
growing reputation, was a person with whom they had no sympathy, and
who, they felt, had no sympathy with them. We talk as though there is
one heaven and one hell for all of us, but here must be some mistake. An
impassable gulf yawns between the different classes of mankind. What has
such a man as Geoffrey to do with the feeble male and female butterflies
of a London drawing-room? There is only one link between them: they live
on the same planet.

When the fine young men and the two stray ladies had melted away,
Geoffrey took Mr. Granger up to his room. Coming downstairs again he
found Lady Honoria waiting for him in the study.

"Is that individual really going to dine and sleep here?" she asked.

"Certainly, Honoria, and he has brought no dress clothes," he answered.

"Really, Geoffrey, it is too bad of you," said the lady with some
pardonable irritation. "Why do you bring people to dinner in this
promiscuous way? It will quite upset the table. Just fancy asking an old
Welsh clergyman to dine, who has not the slightest pretensions to being
a gentleman, when one has the Prime Minister and a Bishop coming--and a
clergyman without dress clothes too. What has he come for?"

"He came to see me on business, and as to the people coming to dinner,
if they don't like it they can grumble when they go home. By the way,
Honoria, I am going down to Wales for a day or two to-morrow. I want a
change."

"Indeed! Going to see the lovely Beatrice, I suppose. You had better be
careful, Geoffrey. That girl will get you into a mess, and if she does
there are plenty of people who are ready to make an example of you. You
have enemies enough, I can tell you. I am not jealous, it is not in my
line, but you are too intimate with that girl, and you will be sorry for
it one day."

"Nonsense," said Geoffrey angrily, but nevertheless he felt that Lady
Honoria's words were words of truth. It struck him, moreover, that she
must feel this strongly, or she would not have spoken in that tone.
Honoria did not pose as a household philosopher. Still he would not draw
back now. His heart was set on seeing Beatrice.

"Am I to understand," went on his wife, "that you still object to my
staying with the Garsingtons? I think it is a little hard if I do not
make a fuss about your going to see your village paragon, that you
should refuse to allow me to visit my own brother."

Geoffrey felt that he was being bargained with. It was degrading, but in
the extremity of his folly he yielded.

"Go if you like," he said shortly, "but if you take Effie, mind she is
properly looked after, that is all," and he abruptly left the room.

Lady Honoria looked after him, slowly nodding her handsome head. "Ah,"
she said to herself, "I have found out how to manage you now. You
have your weak point like other people, Master Geoffrey--and it spells
Beatrice. Only you must not go too far. I am not jealous, but I am not
going to have a scandal for fifty Beatrices. I will not allow you to
lose your reputation and position. Just imagine a man like that pining
for a village girl--she is nothing more! And they talk about his being
so clever. Well, he always liked ladies' society; that is his failing,
and now he has burnt his fingers. They all do sooner or later,
especially these clever men. The women flatter them, that's it. Of
course the girl is trying to get hold of him, and she might do worse,
but so surely as my name is Honoria Bingham I will put a spoke in her
wheel before she has done. Bah! and they laugh at the power of women
when a man like Geoffrey, with all the world to lose, grows love-sick
for a pretty face; it is a _very_ pretty face by the way. I do believe
that if I were out of the way he would marry her. But I am in the way,
and mean to stay there. Well, it is time to dress for dinner. I only
hope that old clown of a clergyman won't do something ridiculous. I
shall have to apologise for him."

Dinner-time had come; it was a quarter past eight, and the room was
filled with highly bred people all more or less distinguished. Mr.
Granger had duly appeared, arrayed in his threadbare black coat,
relieved, however, by a pair of Geoffrey's dress shoes. As might have
been expected, the great folk did not seem surprised at his presence,
or to take any particular notice of his attire, the fact being that such
people never are surprised. A Zulu chief in full war dress would only
excite a friendly interest in their breasts. On the contrary they
recognised vaguely that the old gentleman was something out of the
common run, and as such worth cultivating. Indeed the Prime Minister,
hearing casually that he was a clergyman from Wales, asked to be
introduced to him, and at once fell into conversation about tithes, a
subject of which Mr. Granger was thoroughly master.

Presently they went down to dinner, Mr. Granger escorting the wife
of the Bishop, a fat and somewhat apoplectic lady, blessed with an
excellent appetite. On his other side was the Prime Minister, and
between the two he got on very well, especially after a few glasses of
wine. Indeed, both the apoplectic wife of the Bishop and the head of Her
Majesty's Government were subsequently heard to declare that Mr. Granger
was a very entertaining person. To the former he related with much
detail how his daughter had saved their host's life, and to the latter
he discoursed upon the subject of tithes, favouring him with his ideas
of what legislation was necessary to meet the question. Somewhat to his
own surprise, he found that his views were received with attention and
even with respect. In the main, too, they received the support of the
Bishop, who likewise felt keenly on the subject of tithes. Never before
had Mr. Granger had such a good dinner nor mingled with company so
distinguished. He remembered both till his dying day.

Next morning Geoffrey and Mr. Granger started before Lady Honoria
was up. Into the details of their long journey to Wales (in a crowded
third-class carriage) we need not enter. Geoffrey had plenty to think
of, but his fears had vanished, as fears sometimes do when we draw near
to the object of them, and had been replaced by a curious expectancy. He
saw now, or thought he saw, that he had been making a mountain out of
a molehill. Probably it meant nothing at all. There was no real danger.
Beatrice liked him, no doubt; possibly she had even experienced a fit of
tenderness towards him. Such things come and such things go. Time is a
wonderful healer of moral distempers, and few young ladies endure the
chains of an undesirable attachment for a period of seven whole months.
It made him almost blush to think that this might be so, and that the
gratuitous extension of his misfortune to Beatrice might be nothing more
than the working of his own unconscious vanity--a vanity which, did she
know of it, would move her to angry laughter.

He remembered how once, when he was quite a young fellow, he had been
somewhat smitten with a certain lady, who certainly, if he might judge
from her words and acts, reciprocated the sentiment. And he remembered
also, how when he met that lady some months afterwards she treated him
with a cold indifference, indeed almost with an insolence, that quite
bewildered him, making him wonder how the same person could show in such
different lights, till at length, mortified and ashamed by his mistake,
he had gone away in a rage and seen her face no more. Of course he had
set it down to female infidelity; he had served her turn, she had made
a fool of him, and that was all she wanted. Now he might enjoy
his humiliation. It did not occur to him that it might be simple
"cussedness," to borrow an energetic American term, or that she had not
really changed, but was angry with him for some reason which she did
not choose to show. It is difficult to weigh the motives of women in the
scales of male experience, and many other men besides Geoffrey have
been forced to give up the attempt and to console themselves with the
reflection that the inexplicable is generally not worth understanding.

Yes, probably it would be the same case over again. And yet, and
yet--was Beatrice of that class? Had she not too much of a man's
straightforwardness of aim to permit her to play such tricks? In the
bottom of his soul he thought that she had, but he would not admit it
to himself. The fact of the matter was that, half unknowingly, he was
trying to drug his conscience. He knew that in his longing to see her
dear face once more he had undertaken a dangerous thing. He was about to
walk with her over an abyss on a bridge which might bear them, or--might
break. So long as he walked there alone it would be well, but would it
bear them _both?_ Alas for the frailty of human nature, this was the
truth; but he would not and did not acknowledge it. He was not going
to make love to Beatrice, he was going to enjoy the pleasure of her
society. In friendship there could be no harm.

It is not difficult thus to still the qualms of an uneasy mind, more
especially when the thing in question at its worst is rather an offence
against local custom than against natural law. In many countries of the
world--in nearly all countries, indeed, at different epochs of their
history--it would have been no wrong that Geoffrey and Beatrice should
love each other, and human nature in strong temptation is very apt to
override artificial barriers erected to suit the convenience or promote
the prosperity of particular sections of mankind. But, as we have heard,
even though all things may be lawful, yet all things are not expedient.
To commit or even to condone an act because the principle that stamps it
as wrong will admit of argument on its merits is mere sophistry, by the
aid of which we might prove ourselves entitled to defy the majority
of laws of all calibres. Laws vary to suit the generations, but each
generation must obey its own, or confusion will ensue. A deed should
be judged by its fruits; it may even be innocent in itself, yet if its
fruits are evil the doer in a sense is guilty.

Thus in some countries to mention the name of your mother-in-law entails
the most unpleasant consequences on that intimate relation. Nobody can
say that to name the lady is a thing wicked in itself; yet the man who,
knowing the penalties which will ensue, allows himself, even in a fit of
passion against that relative, to violate the custom and mention her by
name is doubtless an offender. Thus, too, the result of an entanglement
between a woman and a man already married generally means unhappiness
and hurt to all concerned, more especially to the women, whose prospects
are perhaps irretrievably injured thereby. It is useless to point to
the example of the patriarchs, some foreign royal families, and many
respectable Turks; it is useless to plead that the love is deep and
holy love, for which a man or woman might well live and die, or to show
extenuating circumstances in the fact of loneliness, need of sympathy,
and that the existing marriage is a hollow sham. The rule is clear. A
man may do most things except cheat at cards or run away in action; a
woman may break half-a-dozen hearts, or try to break them, and finally
put herself up at auction and take no harm at all--but neither of them
may in any event do _this_.

Not that Geoffrey, to do him justice, had any such intentions. Most
men are incapable of plots of that nature. If they fall, it is when the
voice of conscience is lost in the whirlwind of passion, and counsel
is darkened by the tumultuous pleadings of the heart. Their sin is
that they will, most of them, allow themselves to be put in positions
favourable to the development of these disagreeable influences. It is
not safe to light cigarettes in a powder factory. If Geoffrey had done
what he ought to have done, he would never have gone to Bryngelly, and
there would have been no story to tell, or no more than there usually
is.



At length Mr. Granger and his guest reached Bryngelly; there was nobody
to meet them, for nobody knew that they were coming, so they walked up
to the Vicarage. It was strange to Geoffrey once more to pass by the
little church through those well-remembered, wind-torn pines and see
that low long house. It seemed wonderful that all should still be just
as it was, that there should be no change at all, when he himself had
seen so much. There was Beatrice's home; where was Beatrice?

He passed into the house like a man in a dream. In another moment he
was in the long parlour where he had spent so many happy hours, and
Elizabeth was greeting him. He shook hands with her, and as he did so,
noticed vaguely that she too was utterly unchanged. Her straw-coloured
hair was pushed back from the temples in the same way, the mouth wore
the same hard smile, her light eyes shone with the same cold look; she
even wore the same brown dress. But she appeared to be very pleased to
see him, as indeed she was, for the game looked well for Elizabeth. Her
father kissed her hurriedly, and bustled from the room to lock up his
borrowed cash, leaving them together.

Somehow Geoffrey's conversational powers failed him. Where was Beatrice?
she ought to be back from school. It was holiday time indeed. Could she
be away?

He made an effort, and remarked absently that things seemed very
unchanged at Bryngelly.

"You are looking for Beatrice," said Elizabeth, answering his thought
and not his words. "She has gone out walking, but I think she will be
back soon. Excuse me, but I must go and see about your room."

Geoffrey hung about a little, then he lit his pipe and strolled down to
the beach, with a vague unexpressed idea of meeting Beatrice. He did not
meet Beatrice, but he met old Edward, who knew him at once.

"Lord, sir," he said, "it's queer to see you here again, specially when
I thinks as how I saw you first, and you a dead 'un to all purposes,
with your mouth open, and Miss Beatrice a-hanging on to your hair fit
to pull your scalp off. You never was nearer old Davy than you was
that night, sir, nor won't be. And now you've been spared to become a
Parliament man, I hears, and much good may you do there--it will take
all your time, sir--and I think, sir, that I should like to drink your
health."

Geoffrey put his hand in his pocket and gave the old man a sovereign. He
could afford to do so now.

"Does Miss Beatrice go out canoeing now?" he asked while Edward mumbled
his astonished thanks.

"At times, sir--thanking you kindly; it ain't many suvrings as comes my
way--though I hate the sight on it, I do. I'd like to stave a hole in
the bottom of that there cranky concern; it ain't safe, and that's the
fact. There'll be another accent out of it one of these fine days and
no coming to next time. But, Lord bless you, it's her way of pleasuring
herself. She's a queer un is Miss Beatrice, and she gets queerer and
queerer, what with their being so tight screwed up at the Vicarage, no
tithes and that, and one thing and another. Not but what I'm thinking,
sir," he added in a portentous whisper, "as the squire has got summut to
do with it. He's a courting of her, he is; he's as hard after her as a
dog fish after a stray herring, and why she can't just say yes and marry
him I'm sure I don't know."

"Perhaps she doesn't like him," said Geoffrey coldly.

"May be, sir, may be; maids all have their fancies, in whatsoever walk
o' life it has pleased God to stick 'em, but it's a wonderful pity, it
is. He ain't no great shakes, he ain't, but he's a sound man--no girl
can't want a sounder--lived quiet all his days you see, sir, and what's
more he's got the money, and money's tight up at the Vicarage, sir. Gals
must give up their fancies sometimes, sir. Lord! a brace of brats and
she'd forget all about 'em. I'm seventy years old and I've seen their
ways, sir, though in a humble calling. You should say a word to her,
sir; she'd thank you kindly five years after. You'd do her a good turn,
sir, you would, and not a bad un as the saying goes, and give it the
lie--no, beg your pardon, that is the other way round--she's bound to
do you the bad turn having saved your life, though I don't see how she
could do that unless, begging your pardon, she made you fall in love
with her, being married, which though strange wouldn't be wunnerful
seeing what she is and seeing how I has been in love with her myself
since she was seven, old missus and all, who died eight years gone and
well rid of the rheumatics."

Beatrice was one of the few subjects that could unlock old Edward's
breast, and Geoffrey retired before his confusing but suggestive
eloquence. Hurriedly bidding the old man good-night he returned to the
house, and leaning on the gate watched the twilight dying on the bosom
of the west.

Suddenly, a bunch of wild roses in her girdle, Beatrice emerged from the
gathering gloom and stood before him face to face.



CHAPTER XXI

THE THIRD APPEAL

Face to face they stood, while at the vision of her sweetness his heart
grew still. Face to face, and the faint light fell upon her tender
loveliness and died in her deep eyes, and the faint breeze fragrant with
the breath of pines gently stirred her hair. Oh, it was worth living to
see her thus!

"I beg your pardon," she said in a puzzled tone, stepping forward to
pass the gate.

"_Beatrice!_"

She gave a little cry, and clutched the railing, else she would have
fallen. One moment she stayed so, looking up towards his face that was
hid in the deepening shadow--looking with wild eyes of hope and fear and
love.

"Is it you," she said at length, "or another dream?"

"It is I, Beatrice!" he answered, amazed.

She recovered herself with an effort.

"Then why did you frighten me so?" she asked. "It was unkind--oh, I did
not mean to say anything cross. What did I say? I forget. I am so glad
that you have come!" and she put her hand to her forehead and looked at
him again as one might gaze at a ghost from the grave.

"Did you not expect me?" Geoffrey asked.

"Expect you? no. No more than I expected----" and she stopped suddenly.

"It is very odd," he said; "I thought you knew that your father was
going to ask me down. I returned from London with him."

"From London," she murmured. "I did not know; Elizabeth did not tell me
anything about it. I suppose that she forgot."

"Here I am at any rate, and how are you?"

"Oh, well now, quite well. There, I am all right again. It is very wrong
to frighten people in that way, Mr. Bingham," she added in her usual
voice. "Let me pass through the gate and I will shake hands with
you--if," she added, in a tone of gentle mockery, "one may shake hands
with so great a man. But I told you how it would be, did I not, just
before we were drowned together, you know? How is Effie?"

"Effie flourishes," he answered. "Do you know, you do not look very
grand. Your father told me that you had a cold in the winter," and
Geoffrey shivered as he thought of the cause.

"Oh, thank you, I have nothing to complain of. I am strong and well. How
long do you stay here?"

"Not long. Perhaps till Tuesday morning, perhaps till Monday."

Beatrice sighed. Happiness is short. She had not brought him here, she
would not have lifted a finger to bring him here, but since he had come
she wished that he was going to stay longer.

"It is supper time," she said; "let us go in."

So they went in and ate their supper. It was a happy meal. Mr. Granger
was in almost boisterous spirits. It is wonderful what a difference the
possession of that two hundred pounds made in his demeanour; he seemed
another man. It was true that a hundred of it must go in paying debts,
but a hundred would be left, which meant at least a year's respite for
him. Elizabeth, too, relaxed her habitual grimness; the two hundred
pounds had its influence on her also, and there were other genial
influences at work in her dark secret heart. Beatrice knew nothing of
the money and sat somewhat silent, but she too was happy with the wild
unreal happiness that sometimes visits us in dreams.

As for Geoffrey, if Lady Honoria could have seen him she would have
stared in astonishment. Of late he had been a very silent man, many
people indeed had found him a dull companion. But under the influence
of Beatrice's presence he talked and talked brilliantly. Perhaps he was
unconsciously striving to show at his very best before her, as a man
naturally does in the presence of a woman whom he loves. So brilliantly
did he talk that at last they all sat still and listened to him, and
they might have been worse employed.

At length supper was done, and Elizabeth retired to her room. Presently,
too, Mr. Granger was called out to christen a sick baby and went
grumbling, and they were left alone. They sat in the window-place and
looked out at the quiet night.

"Tell me about yourself," said Beatrice.

So he told her. He narrated all the steps by which he had reached
his present position, and showed her how from it he might rise to the
topmost heights of all. She did not look at him, and did not answer
him, but once when he paused, thinking that he had talked enough about
himself, she said, "Go on; tell me some more."

At last he had told her all.

"Yes," she said, "you have the power and the opportunity, and you will
one day be among the foremost men of your generation."

"I doubt it," he said with a sigh. "I am not ambitious. I only work for
the sake of work, not for what it will bring. One day I daresay that I
shall weary of it all and leave it. But while I do work, I like to be
among the first in my degree."

"Oh, no," she answered, "you must not give it up; you must go on and on.
Promise me," she continued, looking at him for the first time--"promise
me that while you have health and strength you will persevere till you
stand alone and quite pre-eminent. Then you can give it up."

"Why should I promise you this, Beatrice?"

"Because I ask it of you. Once I saved your life, Mr. Bingham, and it
gives me some little right to direct its course. I wish that the man
whom I saved to the world should be among the first men in the world,
not in wealth, which is an accident, but in intellect and force. Promise
me this and I shall be happy."

"I promise you," he said, "I promise that I will try to rise because you
ask it, not because the prospect attracts me; but as he spoke his heart
was wrung. It was bitter to hear her speak thus of a future in which
she would have no share, which, as her words implied, would be a thing
utterly apart from her, as much apart as though she were dead.

"Yes," he said again, "you gave me my life, and it makes me very unhappy
to think that I can give you nothing in return. Oh, Beatrice, I will
tell you what I have never told to any one. I am lonely and wretched.
With the exception of yourself, I do not think that there is anybody who
really cares for--I mean who really sympathises with me in the world.
I daresay that it is my own fault and it sounds a humiliating thing to
say, and, in a fashion, a selfish thing. I never should have said it to
any living soul but you. What is the use of being great when there is
nobody to work for? Things might have been different, but the world is a
hard place. If you--if you----"

At this moment his hand touched hers; it was accidental, but in the
tenderness of his heart he yielded to the temptation and took it. Then
there was a moment's pause, and very gently she drew her hand away and
thrust it in her bosom.

"You have your wife to share your fortune," she said; "you have Effie to
inherit it, and you can leave your name to your country."

Then came a heavy pause.

"And you," he said, breaking it, "what future is there for you?"

She laughed softly. "Women have no future and they ask none. At least I
do not now, though once I did. It is enough for them if they can ever
so little help the lives of others. That is their happiness, and their
reward is--rest."



Just then Mr. Granger came back from his christening, and Beatrice rose
and went to bed.

"Looks a little pale, doesn't she, Mr. Bingham?" said her father. "I
think she must be troubled in her mind. The fact is--well, there is no
reason why I should not tell you; she thinks so much of you, and you
might say a word to brighten her up--well, it's about Mr. Davies. I
fancy, you know, that she likes him and is vexed because he does not
come forward. Well, you see--of course I may be mistaken, but I have
sometimes thought that he may. I have seen him look as if he was
thinking of it, though of course it is more than Beatrice has got any
right to expect. She's only got herself and her good looks to give him,
and he's a rich man. Think of it, Mr. Bingham," and the old gentleman
turned up his eyes piously, "just think what a thing it would be for
her, and indeed for all of us, if it should please God to send a chance
like that in her way; she would be rich for life, and such a position!
But it is possible; one never knows; he might take a fancy to her. At
any rate, Mr. Bingham, I think you could cheer her up a little; there is
no need for her to give up hope yet."

Geoffrey burst into a short grim laugh. The idea of Beatrice languishing
for Owen Davies, indeed the irony of the whole position, was too much
for his sense of humour.

"Yes," he said, "I daresay that it might be a good match for her, but I
do not know how she would get on with Mr. Davies."

"Get on! why, well enough, of course. Women are soft, and can squeeze
into most holes, especially if they are well lined. Besides, he may be
a bit heavy, but I think she is pining for him, and it's a pity that
she should waste her life like that. What, are you going to bed? Well,
good-night--good-night."

Geoffrey did go to bed, but not to sleep. For a long while he lay awake,
thinking. He thought of the last night which he had spent in this little
room, of its strange experiences, of all that had happened since, and
of the meeting of to-day. Could he, after that meeting, any longer
doubt what were the feelings with which Beatrice regarded him? It was
difficult to so, and yet there was still room for error. Then he thought
of what old Edward had said to him, and of what Mr. Granger had said
with reference to Beatrice and Owen Davies. The views of both were
crudely and even vulgarly expressed, but they coincided, and, what was
more, there was truth in them, and he knew it. The idea of Beatrice
marrying Mr. Davies, to put it mildly, was repulsive to him; but had he
any claim to stand between her and so desirable a settlement in life?
Clearly, he had not, his conscience told him so.

Could it be right, moreover, that this kind of tie which existed between
them should be knitted more closely? What would it mean? Trouble, and
nothing but trouble, more especially to Beatrice, who would fret her
days away to no end. He had done wrong in coming here at all, he had
done wrong in taking her hand. He would make the only reparation in his
power (as though in such a case as that of Beatrice reparation were now
possible)! He would efface himself from her life and see her no more.
Then she might learn to forget him, or, at the worst, to remember him
with but a vague regret. Yes, cost what it might, he would force himself
to do it before any actual mischief ensued. The only question was,
should he not go further? Should he not tell her that she would do well
to marry Mr. Davies?

Pondering over this most painful question, at last he went to sleep.

When men in Geoffrey's unhappy position turn penitent and see the error
of their ways, the prudent resolves that ensue are apt to overshoot the
mark and to partake of an aggressive nature. Not satisfied with leaving
things alone, they must needs hasten to proclaim their new-found virtue
to the partner of their fault, and advertise their infallible specific
(to be taken by the partner) for restoring the _status quo ante_.
Sometimes as a consequence of this pious zeal they find themselves
misunderstood, or even succeed in precipitating the catastrophe which
they laudably desire to prevent.



The morrow was Whit-Sunday, and a day that Geoffrey had occasion to
remember for the rest of his life. They all met at breakfast and shortly
afterwards went to church, the service being at half-past ten. By way
of putting into effect the good resolutions with which he was so busy
paving an inferno of his own, Geoffrey did not sit by Beatrice, but took
a seat at the end of the little church, close to the door, and tried to
console himself by looking at her.

It was a curious sullen-natured day, and although there was not very
much sun the air was as hot as though they were in midsummer. Had they
been in a volcanic region, Geoffrey would have thought that such weather
preceded a shock of earthquake. As it was he knew that the English
climate was simply indulging itself at the expense of the population.
But as up to the present, the season had been cold, this knowledge did
not console him. Indeed he felt so choked in the stuffy little church
that just before the sermon (which he happened to be aware was _not_
written by Beatrice) he took an opportunity to slip out unobserved. Not
knowing where to go, he strolled down to the beach, on which there
was nobody to be seen, for, as has been observed, Bryngelly slept on
Sundays. Presently, however, a man approached walking rapidly, and to
all appearance aimlessly, in whom he recognised Owen Davies. He was
talking to himself while he walked, and swinging his arms. Geoffrey
stepped aside to let him pass, and as he did so was surprised and even
shocked to see the change in the man. His plump healthy-looking face had
grown thin, and wore a half sullen, half pitiful expression; there were
dark circles round his blue eyes, once so placid, and his hair would
have been the better for cutting. Geoffrey wondered if he had had an
illness. At that moment Owen chanced to look round and saw him.

"How do you do, Mr. Bingham?" he said. "I heard that you were here. They
told me at the station last night. You see this is a small place and one
likes to know who comes and goes," he added as though in excuse.

He walked on and Geoffrey walked with him.

"You do not look well, Mr. Davies," he said. "Have you been laid up?"

"No, no," he answered, "I am quite right; it is only my mind that is
ill."

"Indeed," said Geoffrey, thinking that he certainly did look strange.
"Perhaps you live too much alone and it depresses you."

"Yes, I live alone, because I can't help myself. What is a man to do,
Mr. Bingham, when the woman he loves will not marry him, won't look at
him, treats him like dirt?"

"Marry somebody else," suggested Geoffrey.

"Oh, it is easy for you to say that--you have never loved anybody, and
you don't understand. I cannot marry anybody else, I want her only."

"Her? Whom?"

"Who! why, Beatrice--whom else could a man want to marry, if once he had
seen her. But she will not have me; she hates me."

"Really," said Geoffrey.

"Yes, really, and do you know why? Shall I tell you why? I will tell
you," and he grasped him by the arm and whispered hoarsely in his ear:
"Because she loves _you_, Mr. Bingham."

"I tell you what it is, Mr. Davies," said Geoffrey shaking his arm free,
"I am not going to stand this kind of thing. You must be off your head."

"Don't be angry with me," he answered. "It is true. I have watched her
and I know that it is true. Why does she write to you every week, why
does she always start and listen when anybody mentions your name? Oh,
Mr. Bingham," Owen went on piteously, "be merciful--you have your wife
and lots of women to make love to if you wish--leave me Beatrice. If
you don't I think that I shall go crazed. I have always loved her, ever
since she was a child, and now my love travels faster and grows stronger
every day, and carries me away with it like a rock rolling down a hill.
You can only bring Beatrice to shame, but I can give her everything, as
much money as she wants, all that she wants, and I will make her a good
husband; I will never leave her side."

"I have no doubt that would be delightful for her," answered Geoffrey;
"but does it not strike you that all this is just a little undignified?
These remarks, interesting as they are, should be made to Miss Granger,
not to me, Mr. Davies."

"I know," he said, "but I don't care; it is my only chance, and what do
I mind about being undignified? Oh, Mr. Bingham, I have never loved any
other woman, I have been lonely all my days. Do not stand in my path
now. If you only knew what I have suffered, how I have prayed God night
after night to give me Beatrice, you would help me. Say that you will
help me! You are one of those men who can do anything; she will listen
to you. If you tell her to marry me she will do so, and I shall bless
you my whole life."

Geoffrey looked upon this abject suppliant with the most unmitigated
scorn. There is always something contemptible in the sight of one
man pleading to another for assistance in his love affairs--that is a
business which he should do for himself. How much greater, then, is the
humiliation involved when the amorous person asks the aid of one whom he
believes to be his rival--his successful rival--in the lady's affection?

"Do you know, Mr. Davies," Geoffrey said, "I think that I have had
enough of this. I am not in a position to force Miss Granger to accept
advances which appear to be unwelcome according to your account. But if
I get an opportunity I will do this: I will tell her what you say.
You really must manage the rest for yourself. Good morning to you, Mr.
Davies."

He turned sharply and went while Owen watched him go.

"I don't believe him," he groaned to himself. "He will try to make her
his lover. Oh, God help me--I cannot bear to think of it. But if he
does, and I find him out, let him be careful. I will ruin him, yes,
I will ruin him! I have the money and I can do it. Ah, he thinks me a
fool, they all think me a fool, but I haven't been quiet all these years
for nothing. I can make a noise if necessary. And if he is a villain,
God will help me to destroy him. I have prayed to God, and God will help
me."

Then he went back to the Castle. Owen Davies was a type of the class of
religious men who believe that they can enlist the Almighty on the side
of their desires, provided only that those desires receive the sanction
of human law or custom.



Thus within twenty-four hours Geoffrey received no less than three
appeals to help the woman whom he loved to the arms of a distasteful
husband. No wonder then that he grew almost superstitious about the
matter.



CHAPTER XXII

A NIGHT OF STORM

That afternoon the whole Vicarage party walked up to the farm to inspect
another litter of young pigs. It struck Geoffrey, remembering former
editions, that the reproductive powers of Mr. Granger's old sow were
something little short of marvellous, and he dreamily worked out a
calculation of how long it would take her and her progeny to produce a
pig to every square yard of the area of plucky little Wales. It seemed
that the thing could be done in six years, which was absurd, so he gave
up calculating.

He had no words alone with Beatrice that afternoon. Indeed, a certain
coldness seemed to have sprung up between them. With the almost
supernatural quickness of a loving woman's intuition, she had divined
that something was passing in his mind, inimical to her most vital
interests, so she shunned his company, and received his conventional
advances with a politeness which was as cold as it was crushing. This
did not please Geoffrey; it is one thing (in her own interests, of
course) to make up your mind heroically to abandon a lady whom you do
not wish to compromise, and quite another to be snubbed by that lady
before the moment of final separation. Though he never put the idea into
words or even defined it in his mind--for Geoffrey was far too anxious
and unhappy to be flippant, at any rate in thought--he would at heart
have wished her to remain the same, indeed to wax ever tenderer, till
the fatal time of parting arrived, and even to show appreciation of his
virtuous conduct.

But to the utter destruction of most such hands as Geoffrey held, loving
women never will play according to the book. Their conduct imperils
everything, for it is obvious that it takes two to bring an affair of
this nature to a dignified conclusion, even when the stakes are highest,
and the matter is one of life and death. Beatrice after all was very
much of a woman, and she did not behave much better than any other woman
would have done. She was angry and suspicious, and she showed it,
with the result that Geoffrey grew angry also. It was cruel of her, he
thought, considering all things. He forgot that she could know nothing
of what was in his mind, however much she might guess; also as yet he
did not know the boundless depth and might of her passion for him, and
all that it meant to her. Had he realised this he would have acted very
differently.



They came home and took tea, then Mr. Granger and Elizabeth made ready
to go to evening service. To Geoffrey's dismay Beatrice did the same. He
had looked forward to a quiet walk with her--really this was not to be
borne. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, she was ready the first,
and he got a word with her.

"I did not know that you were going to church," he said; "I thought that
we might have had a walk together. Very likely I shall have to go away
early to-morrow morning."

"Indeed," answered Beatrice coldly. "But of course you have your work to
attend to. I told Elizabeth that I was coming to church, and I must go;
it is too sultry to walk; there will be a storm soon."

At this moment Elizabeth came in.

"Well, Beatrice," she said, "are you coming to church? Father has gone
on."

Beatrice pretended not to hear, and reflected a moment. He would go away
and she would see him no more. Could she let slip this last hour? Oh,
she could not do it!

In that moment of reflection her fate was sealed.

"No," she answered slowly, "I don't think that I am coming; it is too
sultry to go to church. I daresay that Mr. Bingham will accompany you."

Geoffrey hastily disclaimed any such intention, and Elizabeth started
alone. "Ah!" she said to herself, "I thought that you would not come, my
dear."

"Well," said Geoffrey, when she had well gone, "shall we go out?"

"I think it is pleasanter here," answered Beatrice.

"Oh, Beatrice, don't be so unkind," he said feebly.

"As you like," she replied. "There is a fine sunset--but I think that we
shall have a storm."

They went out, and turned up the lonely beach. The place was utterly
deserted, and they walked a little way apart, almost without speaking.
The sunset was magnificent; great flakes of golden cloud were driven
continually from a home of splendour in the west towards the cold lined
horizon of the land. The sea was still quiet, but it moaned like a thing
in pain. The storm was gathering fast.

"What a lovely sunset," said Geoffrey at length.

"It is a fatal sort of loveliness," she answered; "it will be a bad
night, and a wet morrow. The wind is rising; shall we turn?"

"No, Beatrice, never mind the wind. I want to speak to you, if you will
allow me to do so."

"Yes," said Beatrice, "what about, Mr. Bingham."

To make good resolutions in a matter of this sort is comparatively
easy, but the carrying of them out presents some difficulties. Geoffrey,
conscience-stricken into priggishness, wished to tell her that she
would do well to marry Owen Davies, and found the matter hard. Meanwhile
Beatrice preserved silence.

"The fact is," he said at length, "I most sincerely hope you will
forgive me, but I have been thinking a great deal about you and your
future welfare."

"That is very kind of you," said Beatrice, with an ominous humility.

This was disconcerting, but Geoffrey was determined, and he went on in
a somewhat flippant tone born of the most intense nervousness and hatred
of his task. Never had he loved her so well as now in this moment when
he was about to counsel her to marry another man. And yet he persevered
in his folly. For, as so often happens, the shrewd insight and knowledge
of the world which distinguished Geoffrey as a lawyer, when dealing with
the affairs of others, quite deserted him in this crisis of his own life
and that of the woman who worshipped him.

"Since I have been here," he said, "I have had made to me no less than
three appeals on your behalf and by separate people--by your father,
who fancies that you are pining for Owen Davies; by Owen Davies, who is
certainly pining for you; and by old Edward, intervening as a kind of
domestic _amicus curiae_."

"Indeed," said Beatrice, in a voice of ice.

"All these three urged the same thing--the desirability of your marrying
Owen Davies."

Beatrice's face grew quite pale, her lips twitched and her grey eyes
flashed angrily.

"Really," she said, "and have _you_ any advice to give on the subject,
Mr. Bingham?"

"Yes, Beatrice, I have. I have thought it over, and I think
that--forgive me again--that if you can bring yourself to it, perhaps
you had better marry him. He is not such a bad sort of man, and he is
well off."

They had been walking rapidly, and now they were reaching the spot known
as the "Amphitheatre," that same spot where Owen Davies had proposed to
Beatrice some seven months before.

Beatrice passed round the projecting edge of rock, and walked some way
towards the flat slab of stone in the centre before she answered.
While she did so a great and bitter anger filled her heart. She saw,
or thought she saw, it all. Geoffrey wished to be rid of her. He had
discerned an element of danger in their intimacy, and was anxious to
make that intimacy impossible by pushing her into a hateful marriage.
Suddenly she turned and faced him--turned like a thing at bay. The last
red rays of the sunset struck upon her lovely face made more lovely
still by its stamp of haughty anger: they lay upon her heaving
breast. Full in the eyes she looked him with those wide angry eyes of
hers--never before had he seen her so imperial a mien. Her dignity and
the power of her presence literally awed him, for at times Beatrice's
beauty was of that royal stamp which when it hides a heart, is a
compelling force, conquering and born to conquer.

"Does it not strike you, Mr. Bingham," she said quietly, "that you are
taking a very great liberty? Does it not strike you that no man who is
not a relation has any right to speak to a woman as you have spoken to
me?--that, in short, you have been guilty of what in most people would
be an impertinence? What right have you to dictate to me as to whom I
should or should not marry? Surely of all things in the world that is my
own affair."

Geoffrey coloured to the eyes. As would have been the case with most
men of his class, he felt her accusation of having taken a liberty, of
having presumed upon an intimacy, more keenly than any which she could
have brought against him.

"Forgive me," he said humbly. "I can only assure you that I had no such
intention. I only spoke--ill-judgedly, I fear--because--because I felt
driven to it."

Beatrice took no notice of his words, but went on in the same cold
voice.

"What right have you to speak of my affairs with Mr. Davies, with an old
boatman, or even with my father? Had I wished you to do so I should have
asked you. By what authority do you constitute yourself an intermediary
for the purpose of bringing about a marriage which you are so good as to
consider would be to my pecuniary interest? Do you not know that such a
matter is one which the woman concerned, the woman whose happiness and
self-respect are at stake, alone can judge of? I have nothing more to
say except this. I said just now that you had been guilty of what would
in most people be an impertinence. Well, I will add something. In
this case, Mr. Bingham, there are circumstances which make it--a cruel
insult!"

She stopped speaking, then suddenly, without the slightest warning,
burst into passionate weeping. As she did so, the first rush of the
storm passed over them, winnowing the air as with a thousand eagles'
wings, and was lost on the moaning depths beyond.

The light went out of the sky. Now Geoffrey could only see the faint
outlines of her weeping face. One moment he hesitated and one only; then
Nature prevailed against him, for the next she was in his arms.

Beatrice scarcely resisted him. Her energies seemed to fail her, or
perhaps she had spent them in her bitter words. Her head fell upon his
shoulder, and there she sobbed her fill. Presently she lifted it and
their lips met in a first long kiss. It was finished; this was the end
of it--and thus did Geoffrey prosper Owen Davies's suit.

"Oh, you are cruel, cruel!" he whispered in her ear. "You must have
known I loved you, Beatrice, that I spoke against myself because I
thought it to be my duty. You must have known that, to my sin and
sorrow, I have always loved you, that you have never been an hour from
my mind, that I have longed to see your face like a sick man for the
light. Tell me, did you not know it, Beatrice?"

"How should I know?" she answered very softly; "I could only guess,
and if indeed you love me how could you wish me to marry another man? I
thought that you had learned my weakness and took this way to reproach
me. Oh, Geoffrey, what have we done? What is there between you and
me--except our love?"

"It would have been better if we had been drowned together at the
first," he said heavily.

"No, no," she answered, "for then we never should have loved one
another. Better first to love, and then to die!"

"Do not speak so," he said; "let us sit here and be happy for a little
while to-night, and leave trouble till to-morrow."

And, where on a bygone day Beatrice had tarried with another wooer, side
by side they sat upon the great stone and talked such talk as lovers
use.

Above them moaned the rising gale, though sheltered as they were by
cliffs its breath scarcely stirred their hair. In front of them the long
waves boomed upon the beach, while far out to sea the crescent moon,
draped in angry light, seemed to ride the waters like a boat.



And were they alone with their great bliss, or did they only dream? Nay,
they were alone with love and lovers' joys, and all the truth was told,
and all their doubts were done. Now there was an end of hopes and fears;
now reason fell and Love usurped his throne, and at that royal coming
Heaven threw wide her gates. Oh, Sweetest and most dear! Oh, Dearest and
most sweet! Oh, to have lived to find this happy hour--oh, in this hour
to die!

See heaviness is behind us, see now we are one. Blow, you winds, blow
out your stormy heart; we know the secret of your strength, you rush to
your desire. Fall, deep waters of the sea, fall in thunder at the feet
of earth; we hear the music of your pleading.

Earth, and Seas, and Winds, sing your great chant of love! Heaven and
Space and Time, echo back the melody! For Life has called to us the
answer of his riddle! Heart to heart we sit, and lips to lips, and
we are more wise than Solomon, and richer than barbarian kings, for
Happiness is ours.

To this end were we born, Dearest and most sweet, and from all time
predestinate! To this end, Sweetest and most dear, do we live and die,
in death to find completer unity. For here is that secret of the world
which wise men search and cannot find, and here too is the gate of
Heaven.

Look into my eyes, and let me gaze on yours, and listen how these things
shall be. The world is but a mockery, and a shadow is our flesh, for
where once they were there shall be naught. Only Love is real; Love
shall endure till all the suns are dead, and yet be young.

Kiss me, thou Conqueror, for Destiny is overcome, Sorrow is gone by; and
the flame that we have hallowed upon this earthly altar shall still burn
brightly, and yet more bright, when yonder stars have lost their fire.

But alas! words cannot give a fitting form to such a song as this. Let
music try! But music also folds her wings. For in so supreme an hour

"A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,"

and through that opened door come sights and sounds such as cannot be
written.



They tell us it is madness, that this unearthly glory is but the frenzy
of a passion gross in its very essence. Let those think it who will, but
to dreamers let them leave their dreams. Why then, at such a time, do
visions come to children of the world like Beatrice and Geoffrey? Why do
their doubts vanish, and what is that breath from heaven which they seem
to feel upon their brow? The intoxication of earthly love born of the
meeting of youth and beauty. So be it! Slave, bring more such wine and
let us drink--to Immortality and to those dear eyes that mirror forth a
spirit's face!

Such loves indeed are few. For they must be real and deep, and natures
thus shaped are rare, nor do they often cross each other's line of life.
Yes, there are few who can be borne so high, and none can breathe
that ether long. Soon the wings which Love lent them in his hour of
revelation will shrink and vanish, and the borrowers will fall back to
the level of this world, happy if they escape uncrushed. Perchance
even in their life-days, they may find these spirit wings again,
overshadowing the altar of their vows in the hour of earthly marriage,
if by some happy fate, marriage should be within their reach, or like
the holy pinions of the goddess Nout, folded about a coffin, in the time
of earthly death. But scant are the occasions, and few there are who
know them.



Thus soared Beatrice and Geoffrey while the wild night beat around them,
making a fit accompaniment to their stormy loves. And thus they too fell
from heaven to earth.

"We must be going, Geoffrey; it grows late," said Beatrice. "Oh,
Geoffrey, Geoffrey, what have we done? What can be the end of all this?
It will bring trouble on you, I know that it must. The old saying will
come true. I saved your life, and I shall bring ruin on you!"

It is characteristic of Beatrice that already she was thinking of the
consequences to Geoffrey, not of those to herself.

"Beatrice," said Geoffrey, "we are in a desperate position. Do you wish
to face it and come away with me, far away to the other side of the
world?"

"No, no," she answered vehemently, "it would be your ruin to abandon the
career that is before you. What part of the world could you go to where
you would not be known? Besides there is your wife to think of. Ah,
God, your wife--what would she say of me? You belong to her, you have
no right to desert her. And there is Effie too. No, Geoffrey, no, I have
been wicked enough to learn to love you--oh, as you were never loved
before, if it is wicked to do what one cannot help--but I am not bad
enough for this. Walk quicker, Geoffrey; we shall be late, and they will
suspect something."

Poor Beatrice, the pangs of conscience were finding her out!

"We are in a dreadful position," he said again. "Oh, dearest, I have
been to blame. I should never have come back here. It is my fault; and
though I never thought of this, I did my best to please you."

"And I thank you for it," she answered. "Do not deceive yourself,
Geoffrey. Whatever happens, promise me never for one moment to believe
that I reproached or blamed you. Why should I blame you because you won
my heart? Let me sooner blame the sea on which we floated, the beach
where we walked, the house in which we lived, and the Destiny that
brought us together. I am proud and glad to love you, dear, but I am not
so selfish as to wish to ruin you: Geoffrey--I had rather die."

"Don't talk so," he said, "I cannot bear it. What are we to do? Am I to
go away and see you no more? How can we live so, Beatrice?"

"Yes, Geoffrey," she answered heavily, taking him by the hand and gazing
up into his face, "you are to go away and see me no more, not for years
and years. This is what we have brought upon ourselves, it is the
price that we must pay for this hour which has gone. You are to go away
to-morrow, that we may be put out of temptation, and you must come back
no more. Sometimes I shall write to you, and sometimes perhaps you will
write to me, till the thing becomes a burden, then you can stop.
And whether you forget me or not--and, Geoffrey, I do not think you
will--you will know that I shall never forget you, whom I saved from the
sea--to love me."

There was something so sweet and infinitely tender about her words,
instinct as they were with natural womanly passion, that Geoffrey
bent at heart beneath their weight as a fir bends beneath the gentle,
gathering snow. What was he to do, how could he leave her? And yet she
was right. He must go, and go quickly, lest his strength might fail
him, and hand in hand they should pass a bourne from which there is no
return.

"Heaven help us, Beatrice," he said. "I will go to-morrow morning and,
if I can, I will keep away."

"You _must_ keep away. I will not see you any more. I will not bring
trouble on you, Geoffrey."

"You talk of bringing trouble on me," he said; "you say nothing of
yourself, and yet a man, even a man with eyes on him like myself, is
better fitted to weather such a storm. If it ruined me, how much more
would it ruin you?"

They were at the gate of the Vicarage now, and the wind rushed so
strongly through the firs that she needed to put her lips quite close to
his ear to make her words heard.

"Stop, one minute," she said, "perhaps you do not quite understand. When
a woman does what I have done, it is because she loves with all her
life and heart and soul, because all these are a part of her love. For
myself, I no longer care anything--I have _no_ self away from you; I
have ceased to be of myself or in my own keeping. I am of you and in
yours. For myself and my own fate or name I think no more; with my eyes
open and of my own free will I have given everything to you, and am glad
and happy to give it. But for you I still do care, and if I took any
step, or allowed you to take any that could bring sorrow on you, I
should never forgive myself. That is why we must part, Geoffrey. And now
let us go in; there is nothing more to say, except this: if you wish
to bid me good-bye, a last good-bye, dear Geoffrey, I will meet you
to-morrow morning on the beach."

"I shall leave at half-past eight," he said hoarsely.

"Then we will meet at seven," Beatrice said, and led the way into the
house.

Elizabeth and Mr. Granger were already seated at supper. They supped at
nine on Sunday nights; it was just half-past.

"Dear me," said the old gentleman, "we began to think that you two must
have been out canoeing and got yourselves drowned in good earnest this
time. What have you been doing?"

"We have had a long walk," answered Geoffrey; "I did not know that it
was so late."

"One wants to be pleased with one's company to walk far on such a night
as this," put in Elizabeth maliciously.

"And so we were--at least I was," Geoffrey answered with perfect truth,
"and the night is not so bad as you might think, at least under the lee
of the cliffs. It will be worse by and by!"

Then they sat down and made a desperate show of eating supper.
Elizabeth, the keen-eyed, noticed that Geoffrey's hand was shaking. Now
what, she wondered, would make the hand of a strong man shake like a
leaf? Deep emotion might do it, and Elizabeth thought that she detected
other signs of emotion in them both, besides that of Geoffrey's shaking
hand. The plot was working well, but could it be brought to a climax?
Oh, if he would only throw prudence to the winds and run away with
Beatrice, so that she might be rid of her, and free to fight for her own
hand.

Shortly after supper both Elizabeth and Beatrice went to bed, leaving
their father with Geoffrey.

"Well," said Mr. Granger, "did you get a word with Beatrice? It was very
kind of you to go that long tramp on purpose. Gracious, how it blows! we
shall have the house down presently. Lightning, too, I declare."

"Yes," answered Geoffrey, "I did."

"Ah, I hope you told her that there was no need for her to give up hope
of him yet, of Mr. Davies, I mean?"

"Yes, I told her that--that is if the greater includes the less," he
added to himself.

"And how did she take it?"

"Very badly," said Geoffrey; "she seemed to think that I had no right to
interfere."

"Indeed, that is strange. But it doesn't mean anything. She's grateful
enough to you at heart, depend upon it she is, only she did not like to
say so. Dear me, how it blows; we shall have a night of it, a regular
gale, I declare. So you are going away to-morrow morning. Well, the
best of friends must part. I hope that you will often come and see us.
Good-bye."

Once more a sense of the irony of the position overcame Geoffrey, and he
smiled grimly as he lit his candle and went to bed. At the back of the
house was a long passage, which terminated at one end in the room where
he slept, and at the other in that occupied by Elizabeth and Beatrice.
This passage was lit by two windows, and built out of it were two more
rooms--that of Mr. Granger, and another which had been Effie's. The
windows of the passage, like most of the others in the Vicarage, were
innocent of shutters, and Geoffrey stood for a moment at one of them,
watching the lightning illumine the broad breast of the mountain behind.
Then looking towards the door of Beatrice's room, he gazed at it with
the peculiar reverence that sometimes afflicts people who are very much
in love, and, with a sigh, turned and sought his own.

He could not sleep, it was impossible. For nearly two hours he lay
turning from side to side, and thinking till his brain seemed like to
burst. To-morrow he must leave her, leave her for ever, and go back to
his coarse unprofitable struggle with the world, where there would be no
Beatrice to make him happy through it all. And she, what of her?

The storm had lulled a little, now it came back in strength, heralded
by the lightning. He rose, threw on a dressing-gown, and sat by a window
watching it. Its tumult and fury seemed to ease his heart of some little
of its pain; in that dark hour a quiet night would have maddened him.

In eight hours--eight short hours--this matter would be ended so far as
concerned their actual intercourse. It would be a secret locked for ever
in their two breasts, a secret eating at their hearts, cruel as the worm
that dieth not. Geoffrey looked up and threw out his heart's thought
towards his sleeping love. Then once more, as in a bygone night, there
broke upon his brain and being that mysterious spiritual sense. Stronger
and more strong it grew, beating on him in heavy unnatural waves,
till his reason seemed to reel and sink, and he remembered naught but
Beatrice, knew naught save that her very life was with him now.

He stretched out his arms towards the place where she should be.

"Beatrice," he whispered to the empty air, "Beatrice! Oh, my love! my
sweet! my soul! Hear me, Beatrice!"

There came a pause, and ever the unearthly sympathy grew and gathered in
his heart, till it seemed to him as though separation had lost its power
and across dividing space they were mingled in one being.

A great gust shook the house and passed away along the roaring depths.

Oh! what was this? Silently the door opened, and a white draped form
passed its threshold. He rose, gasping; a terrible fear, a terrible joy,
took possession of him. The lightning flared out wildly in the eastern
sky. There in the fierce light she stood before him--she, Beatrice, a
sight of beauty and of dread. She stood with white arms outstretched,
with white uncovered feet, her bosom heaving softly beneath her
night-dress, her streaming hair unbound, her lips apart, her face
upturned, and a stamp of terrifying calm.

"In the wide, blind eyes uplift Thro' the darkness and the drift."

Great Heaven, she was asleep!

Hush! she spoke.

"You called me, Geoffrey," she said, in a still, unnatural voice. "You
called me, my beloved, and I--have--come."

He rose aghast, trembling like an aspen with doubt and fear, trembling
at the sight of the conquering glory of the woman whom he worshipped.

See! She drew on towards him, and she was _asleep_. Oh, what could he
do?

Suddenly the draught of the great gale rushing through the house caught
the opened door and crashed it to.

She awoke with a wild stare of terror.

"Oh, God, where am I?" she cried.

"Hush, for your life's sake!" he answered, his faculties returning.
"Hush! or you are lost."

But there was no need to caution here to silence, for Beatrice's senses
failed her at the shock, and she sank swooning in his arms.



CHAPTER XXIII

A DAWN OF RAIN

That crash of the closing door did not awake Beatrice only; it awoke
both Elizabeth and Mr. Granger. Elizabeth sat up in bed straining her
eyes through the gloom to see what had happened. They fell on Beatrice's
bed--surely--surely----

Elizabeth slipped up, cat-like she crept across the room and felt with
her hand at the bed. Beatrice was not there. She sprang to the blind
and drew it, letting in such light as there was, and by it searched the
room. She spoke: "Beatrice, where are you?"

No answer.

"Ah--h," said Elizabeth aloud; "I understand. At last--at last!"

What should see do? Should she go and call her father and put them to
an open shame? No. Beatrice must come back some time. The knowledge was
enough; she wanted the knowledge to use if necessary. She did not wish
to ruin her sister unless in self-defence, or rather, for the cause of
self-advancement. Still less did she wish to injure Geoffrey, against
whom she had no grudge. So she peeped along the passage, then returning,
crept back to her bed like a snake into a hole and watched.

Mr. Granger, hearing the crash, thought that the front door had blown
open. Rising, he lit a candle and went to see.

But of all this Geoffrey knew nothing, and Beatrice naturally less than
nothing.

She lay senseless in his arms, her head rested on his shoulder, her
heavy hair streamed down his side almost to his knee. He lifted her,
touched her on the forehead with his lips and laid her on the bed. What
was to be done? Bring her back to life? No, he dared not--not here.
While she lay thus her helplessness protected her; but if once more she
was a living, loving woman here and so--oh, how should they escape? He
dared not touch her or look towards her--till he had made up his mind.
It was soon done. Here she must not bide, and since of herself she could
not go, why he must take her now, this moment! However far Geoffrey fell
short of virtue's stricter standard, let this always be remembered in
his favour.

He opened the door, and as he did so, thought that he heard some
one stirring in the house. And so he did; it was Mr. Granger in the
sitting-room. Hearing no more, Geoffrey concluded that it was the wind,
and turning, groped his way to the bed where Beatrice lay as still as
death. For one moment a horrible fear struck him that she might be dead.
He had heard of cases of somnambulists who, on being startled from their
unnatural sleep, only woke to die. It might be so with her. Hurriedly he
placed his hand upon her breast. Yes, her heart stirred--faintly indeed,
but still it stirred. She had only swooned. Then he set his teeth,
and placing his arms about her, lifted her as though she were a babe.
Beatrice was no slip of a girl, but a well-grown woman of full size. He
never felt her weight; it seemed nothing to him. Stealthily as one bent
on midnight murder, he stepped with her to the door and through it into
the passage. Then supporting her with one arm, he closed the door with
his left hand. Stealthily in the gloom he passed along the corridor, his
bare feet making no noise upon the boarded floor, till he reached the
bisecting passage leading from the sitting-rooms.

He glanced up it apprehensively, and what he saw froze the blood in
his veins, for there coming down it, not eight paces from him, was Mr.
Granger, holding a candle in his hand. What could be done? To get
back to his room was impossible--to reach that of Beatrice was also
impossible. With an effort he collected his thoughts, and like a flash
of light it passed into his mind that the empty room was not two paces
from him. A stride and he had reached it. Oh, where was the handle? and
oh, if the room should be locked! By a merciful chance it was not. He
stepped through the door, knocking Beatrice's feet against the framework
as he did so, closed it--to shut it he had no time--and stood gasping
behind it.

The gleam of light drew nearer. Merciful powers! he had been seen--the
old man was coming in. What could he say? Tell the truth, that was
all; but who would believe such a story? why, it was one that he should
scarcely care to advance in a court of law. Could he expect a father to
believe it--a father finding a man crouched like a thief behind a door
at the dead of night with his lovely daughter senseless in his arms? He
had already thought of going straight to Mr. Granger, but had abandoned
the idea as hopeless. Who would believe this tale of sleep-walking?
For the first time in his life Geoffrey felt terribly afraid, both for
Beatrice and himself; the hair rose on his head, his heart stood still,
and a cold perspiration started on to his face.

"It's very odd," he heard the old man mutter to himself; "I could almost
swear that I saw something white go into that room. Where's the handle?
If I believed in ghosts--hullo! my candle has blown out! I must go and
hunt for a match. Don't quite like going in there without a light."

For the moment they were saved. The fierce draught rushing through the
open crack of the door from the ill-fitting window had extinguished the
candle.

Geoffrey waited a few seconds to allow Mr. Granger to reach his room,
and then once more started on his awful journey. He passed out of the
room in safety; happily Beatrice showed no signs of recovery. A few
quick steps and he was at her own door. And now a new terror seized him.
What if Elizabeth was also walking the house or even awake? He thought
of putting Beatrice down at the door and leaving her there, but
abandoned the idea. To begin with, her father might see her, and then
how could her presence be accounted for? or if he did not, she would
certainly suffer ill effects from the cold. No, he must risk it, and
at once, though he would rather have faced a battery of guns. The door
fortunately was ajar. Geoffrey opened it with his foot, entered, and
with his foot pushed it to again. Suddenly he remembered that he had
never been in the room, and did not know which bed belonged to Beatrice.
He walked to the nearest; a deep-drawn breath told him that it was the
wrong one. Drawing some faint consolation from the fact that Elizabeth
was evidently asleep, he groped his way to the second bed through
the deep twilight of the room. The clothes were thrown back. He laid
Beatrice down and threw them over her. Then he fled.

As he reached the door he saw Mr. Granger's light disappear into his own
room and heard his door close. After that it seemed to him that he took
but two steps and was in his own place.

He burst out laughing; there was as much hysteria in the laugh as a man
gives way to. His nerves were shattered by struggle, love and fear, and
sought relief in ghastly merriment. Somehow the whole scene reminded
him of one in a comic opera. There was a ludicrous side to it. Supposing
that the political opponents, who already hated him so bitterly, could
have seen him slinking from door to door at midnight with an unconscious
lady in his arms--what would they have said?

He ceased laughing; the fit passed--indeed it was no laughing matter.
Then he thought of the first night of their strange communion, that
night before he had returned to London. The seed sown in that hour had
blossomed and borne fruit indeed. Who would have dreamed it possible
that he should thus have drawn Beatrice to him? Well, he ought to have
known. If it was possible that the words which floated through her
mind could arise in his as they had done upon that night, what was
not possible? And were there not other words, written by the same
master-hand, which told of such things as these:

     "'Now--now,' the door is heard;
     Hark, the stairs! and near--
     Nearer--and here--
     'Now'! and at call the third,
     She enters without a word.

     Like the doors of a casket shrine,
     See on either side,
     Her two arms divide
     Till the heart betwixt makes sign,
     'Take me, for I am thine.'

     First, I will pray. Do Thou
     That ownest the soul,
     Yet wilt grant control
     To another, nor disallow
     For a time, restrain me now!"

Did they not run thus? Oh, he should have known! This he could plead,
and this only--that control had been granted to him.

But how would Beatrice fare? Would she come to herself safely? He
thought so, it was only a fainting fit. But when she did recover, what
would she do? Nothing rash, he prayed. And what could be the end of
it all? Who might say? How fortunate that the sister had been so sound
asleep. Somehow he did not trust Elizabeth--he feared her.

Well might Geoffrey fear her! Elizabeth's sleep was that of a weasel.
She too was laughing at this very moment, laughing, not loud but
long--the laugh of one who wins.

She had seen him enter, his burden in his arms; saw him come with it to
her own bedside, and had breathed heavily to warn him of his mistake.
She had watched him put Beatrice on her bed, and heard him sigh and turn
away; nothing had escaped her. As soon as he was gone, she had risen and
crept up to Beatrice, and finding that she was only in a faint had left
her to recover, knowing her to be in no danger. Elizabeth was not a
nervous person. Then she had listened till at length a deep sigh told
her of the return of her sister's consciousness. After this there was a
pause, till presently Beatrice's long soft breaths showed that she had
glided from swoon to sleep.

The slow night wore away, and at length the cold dawn crept through
the window. Elizabeth still watching, for she was not willing to lose a
single scene of a drama so entrancing in itself and so important to her
interests, saw her sister suddenly sit up in bed and press her hands
to her forehead, as though she was striving to recall a dream. Then
Beatrice covered her eyes with her hands and groaned heavily. Next she
looked at her watch, rose, drank a glass of water, and dressed herself,
even to the putting on of an old grey waterproof with a hood to it, for
it was wet outside.

"She is going to meet her lover," thought Elizabeth. "I wish I could be
there to see that too, but I have seen enough."

She yawned and appeared to wake. "What, Beatrice, going out already in
this pouring rain?" she said, with feigned astonishment.

"Yes, I have slept badly and I want to get some air," answered Beatrice,
starting and colouring; "I suppose that it was the storm."

"Has there been a storm?" said Elizabeth, yawning again. "I heard
nothing of it--but then so many things happen when one is asleep of
which one knows nothing at the time," she added sleepily, like one
speaking at random. "Mind that you are back to say good-bye to Mr.
Bingham; he goes by the early train, you know--but perhaps you will
see him out walking," and appearing to wake up thoroughly, she raised
herself in bed and gave her sister one piercing look.

Beatrice made no answer; that look sent a thrill of fear through her.
Oh; what had happened! Or was it all a dream? Had she dreamed that she
stood face to face with Geoffrey in his room before a great darkness
struck her and overwhelmed her? Or was it an awful truth, and if a
truth, how came she here again? She went to the pantry, found a morsel
of bread and ate it, for faintness still pursued her. Then feeling
better, she left the house and set her face towards the beach.



It was a dreary morning. The great wind had passed; now it only blew in
little gusts heavy with driving rain. The sea was sullen and grey and
grand. It beat in thunder on the shore and flew over the sunken rocks in
columns of leaden spray. The whole earth seemed one desolation, and all
its grief was centred in this woman's broken heart.

Geoffrey, too, was up. How he had passed the remainder of that tragic
night we need not inquire--not too happily we may be sure. He heard the
front door close behind Beatrice, and followed out into the rain.

On the beach, some half of a mile away, he found her gazing at the sea,
a great white gull wheeling about her head. No word of greeting passed
between them; they only grasped each other's hands and looked into each
other's hollow eyes.

"Come under the shelter of the cliff," he said, and she came. She stood
beneath the cliff, her head bowed low, her face hidden by the hood, and
spoke.

"Tell me what has happened," she said; "I have dreamed something, a
worse dream than any that have gone before--tell me if it is true. Do
not spare me."

And Geoffrey told her all.

When he had finished she spoke again.

"By what shall I swear," she said, "that I am not the thing which you
must think me? Geoffrey, I swear by my love for you that I am innocent.
If I came--oh, the shame of it! if I came--to your room last night, it
was my feet which led me, not my mind that led my feet. I went to sleep,
I was worn out, and then I knew no more till I heard a dreadful sound,
and saw you before me in a blaze of light, after which there was
darkness."

"Oh, Beatrice, do not be distressed," he answered. "I saw that you were
asleep. It is a dreadful thing which has happened, but I do not think
that we were seen."

"I do not know," she said. "Elizabeth looked at me very strangely this
morning, and she sees everything. Geoffrey, for my part, I neither know
nor care. What I do care for is, what must _you_ think of me? You must
believe, oh!--I cannot say it. And yet I am innocent. Never, never did I
dream of this. To come to you--thus--oh, it is shameless!"

"Beatrice, do not talk so. I tell you I know it. Listen--I drew you. I
did not mean that you should come. I did not think that you would come,
but it was my doing. Listen to me, dear," and he told her that which
written words can ill express.

When he had finished, she looked up, with another face; the deep shadow
of her shame had left her. "I believe you, Geoffrey," she said, "because
I know that you have not invented this to shield me, for I have felt
it also. See by it what you are to me. You are my master and my all. I
cannot withstand you if I would. I have little will apart from yours
if you choose to gainsay mine. And now promise me this upon your word.
Leave me uninfluenced; do not draw me to you to be your ruin. I make
no pretence, I have laid my life at your feet, but while I have any
strength to struggle against it, you shall never take it up unless you
can do so to your own honour, and that is not possible. Oh, my dear, we
might have been very happy together, happier than men and women often
are, but it is denied to us. We must carry our cross, we must crucify
the flesh upon it; perhaps so--who can say?--we may glorify the spirit.
I owe you a great deal. I have learnt much from you, Geoffrey. I have
learned to hope again for a Hereafter. Nothing is left to me now--but
that--that and an hour hence--your memory.

"Oh, why should I weep? It is ungrateful, when I have your love, for
which this misery is but a little price to pay. Kiss me, dear, and
go--and never see me more. You will not forget me, I know now that you
will _never_ forget me all your life. Afterwards--perhaps--who can tell?
If not, why then--it will indeed be best--to die."

* * * * *

It is not well to linger over such a scene as this. After all, too, it
is nothing. Only another broken heart or so. The world breaks so many
this way and the other that it can have little pleasure in gloating over
such stale scenes of agony.

Besides we must not let our sympathies carry us away. Geoffrey and
Beatrice deserved all they got; they had no business to put themselves
into such a position. They had defied the customs of their world,
and the world avenged itself upon them and their petty passions. What
happens to the worm that tries to burrow on the highways? Grinding
wheels and crushing feet; these are its portion. Beatrice and Geoffrey
point a moral and adorn a tale. So far as we can see and judge there was
no need for them to have plunged into that ever-running river of human
pain. Let them struggle and drown, and let those who are on the bank
learn wisdom from the sight, and hold out no hand to help them.

Geoffrey drew a ring from his finger and gave it to his love. It was a
common flat-sided silver ring that had been taken from the grave of a
Roman soldier: one peculiarity it had, however; on its inner surface
were roughly cut the words, "ave atque vale." Greeting and farewell! It
was a fitting gift to pass between people in their position. Beatrice,
trembling sorely, whispered that she would wear it on her heart, upon
her hand she could not put it yet awhile--it might be recognised.

Then thrice did they embrace there upon the desolate shore, once, as it
were, for past joy, once for present pain, and once for future hope,
and parted. There was no talk of after meetings--they felt them to
be impossible, at any rate for many years. How could they meet as
indifferent friends? Too much they loved for that. It was a final
parting, than which death had been less dreadful--for Hope sits ever by
the bed of death--and misery crushed them to the earth.



He left her, and happiness went out of his life as at nightfall the
daylight goes out of the day. Well, at least he had his work to go to.
But Beatrice, poor woman, what had she?

Geoffrey left her. When he had gone some thirty paces he turned again
and gazed his last upon her. There she stood or rather leant, her hand
resting against the wet rock, looking after him with her wide grey eyes.
Even through the drizzling rain he could see the gleam of her rich
hair, the marking of her lovely face, and the carmine of her lips. She
motioned to him to go on. He went, and when he had traversed a hundred
paces looked round once more. She was still there, but now her face was
a blur, and again the great white gull hovered about her head.

Then the mist swept up and hid her.



Ah, Beatrice, with all your brains you could never learn those simple
principles necessary to the happiness of woman; principles inherited
through a thousand generations of savage and semi-civilized
ancestresses. To accept the situation and the master that situation
brings with it--this is the golden rule of well-being. Not to put out
the hand of your affection further than you can draw it back, this is
another, at least not until you are quite sure that its object is well
within your grasp. If by misfortune, or the anger of the Fates, you
are endowed with those deeper qualities, those extreme capacities of
self-sacrificing affection, such as ruined your happiness, Beatrice,
keep them in stock; do not expose them to the world. The world does not
believe in them; they are inconvenient and undesirable; they are even
immoral. What the world wants, and very rightly, in a person of your
attractiveness is quiet domesticity of character, not the exhibition of
attributes which though they might qualify you for the rank of heroine
in a Greek drama, are nowadays only likely to qualify you for the
reprobation of society.

What? you would rather keep your love, your reprehensible love which
never can be satisfied, and bear its slings and arrows, and die hugging
a shadow to your heart, straining your eyes into the darkness of that
beyond whither you shall go--murmuring with your pale lips that _there_
you will find reason and fulfilment? Why it is folly. What ground have
you to suppose that you will find anything of the sort? Go and take the
opinion of some scientific person of eminence upon this infatuation of
yours and those vague visions of glory that shall be. He will explain
it clearly enough, will show you that your love itself is nothing but
a natural passion, acting, in your case, on a singularly sensitive and
etherealised organism. Be frank with him, tell him of your secret hopes.
He will smile tenderly, and show you how those also are an emanation
from a craving heart, and the innate superstitions of mankind. Indeed
he will laugh and illustrate the absurdity of the whole thing by a few
pungent examples of what would happen if these earthly affections could
be carried beyond the grave. Take what you can _now_ will be the burden
of his song, and for goodness' sake do not waste your precious hours in
dreams of a To Be.

Beatrice, the world does not want your spirituality. It is not a
spiritual world; it has no clear ideas upon the subject--it pays its
religious premium and works off its aspirations at its weekly church
going, and would think the person a fool who attempted to carry theories
of celestial union into an earthly rule of life. It can sympathise with
Lady Honoria; it can hardly sympathise with _you_.

And yet you will still choose this better part: you will still "live and
love, and lose."

"With blinding tears and passionate beseeching, And outstretched arms
through empty silence reaching."

Then, Beatrice, have your will, sow your seed of tears, and take your
chance. You may find that you were right and the worldlings wrong, and
you may reap a harvest beyond the grasp of their poor imaginations. And
if you find that they are right and _you_ are wrong, what will it matter
to you who sleep? For of this at least you are sure. If there is no
future for such earthly love as yours, then indeed there is none for the
children of this world and all their troubling.



CHAPTER XXIV

LADY HONORIA TAKES THE FIELD

Geoffrey hurried to the Vicarage to fetch his baggage and say good-bye.
He had no time for breakfast, and he was glad of it, for he could not
have eaten a morsel to save his life. He found Elizabeth and her father
in the sitting-room.

"Why, where have you been this wet morning, Mr. Bingham?" said Mr.
Granger.

"I have been for a walk with Miss Beatrice; she is coming home by the
village," he answered. "I don't mind rain, and I wanted to get as much
fresh air as I could before I go back to the mill. Thank you--only a cup
of tea--I will get something to eat as I go."

"How kind of him," reflected Mr. Granger; "no doubt he has been speaking
to Beatrice again about Owen Davies."

"Oh, by the way," he added aloud, "did you happen to hear anybody moving
in the house last night, Mr. Bingham, just when the storm was at its
height? First of all a door slammed so violently that I got up to see
what it was, and as I came down the passage I could almost have sworn
that I saw something white go into the spare room. But my candle went
out and by the time that I had found a light there was nothing to be
seen."

"A clear case of ghosts," said Geoffrey indifferently. It was indeed
a "case of ghosts," and they would, he reflected, haunt him for many a
day.

"How very odd," put in Elizabeth vivaciously, her keen eyes fixed
intently on his face. "Do you know I thought that I twice saw the door
of our room open and shut in the most mysterious fashion. I think that
Beatrice must have something to do with it; she is so uncanny in her
ways."

Geoffrey never moved a muscle, he was trained to keep his countenance.
Only he wondered how much this woman knew. She must be silenced somehow.

"Excuse me for changing the subject," he said, "but my time is short,
and I have none to spare to hunt the 'Vicarage Ghost.' By the way,
there's a good title for somebody. Mr. Granger, I believe that I may
speak of business matters before Miss Elizabeth?"

"Certainly, Mr. Bingham," said the clergyman; "Elizabeth is my right
hand, and has the best business head in Bryngelly."

Geoffrey thought that this was very evident, and went on. "I only want
to say this. If you get into any further difficulties with your rascally
tithe-payers, mind and let me know. I shall always be glad to help you
while I can. And now I must be going."

He spoke thus for two reasons. First, naturally enough, he meant to make
it his business to protect Beatrice from the pressure of poverty, and
well knew that it would be useless to offer her direct assistance.
Secondly, he wished to show Elizabeth that it would not be to the
advantage of her family to quarrel with him. If she _had_ seen a ghost,
perhaps this fact would make her reticent on the subject. He did not
know that she was playing a much bigger game for her own hand, a game
of which the stakes were thousands a year, and that she was moreover mad
with jealousy and what, in such a woman, must pass for love.

Elizabeth made no comment on his offer, and before Mr. Granger's profuse
thanks were nearly finished, Geoffrey was gone.



Three weeks passed at Bryngelly, and Elizabeth still held her hand.
Beatrice, pale and spiritless, went about her duties as usual. Elizabeth
never spoke to her in any sense that could awaken her suspicions, and
the ghost story was, or appeared to be, pretty well forgotten. But at
last an event occurred that caused Elizabeth to take the field. One day
she met Owen Davies walking along the beach in the semi-insane way which
he now affected. He stopped, and, without further ado, plunged into
conversation.

"I can't bear it any longer," he said wildly, throwing up his arms. "I
saw her yesterday, and she cut me short before I could speak a word. I
have prayed for patience and it will not come, only a Voice seemed
to say to me that I must wait ten days more, ten short days, and then
Beatrice, my beautiful Beatrice, would be my wife at last."

"If you go on in this way, Mr. Davies," said Elizabeth sharply, her
heart filled with jealous anger, "you will soon be off your head. Are
you not ashamed of yourself for making such a fuss about a girl's pretty
face? If you want to get married, marry somebody else."

"Marry somebody else," he said dreamily; "I don't know anybody else whom
I could marry except you, and you are not Beatrice."

"No," answered Elizabeth angrily, "I should hope that I have more
sense, and if you wanted to marry me you would have to set about it in
a different way from this. I am not Beatrice, thank Heaven, but I am
her sister, and I warn you that I know more about her than you do. As a
friend I warn you to be careful. Supposing that Beatrice were not worthy
of you, you would not wish to marry her, would you?"

Now Owen Davies was at heart somewhat afraid of Elizabeth, like most
other people who had the privilege of her acquaintance. Also, apart from
matters connected with his insane passion, he was very fairly shrewd. He
suspected Elizabeth of something, he did not know of what.

"No, no, of course not," he said. "Of course I would not marry her if
she was not fit to be my wife--but I must know that first, before I talk
of marrying anybody else. Good afternoon, Miss Elizabeth. It will soon
be settled now; it cannot go on much longer now. My prayers will be
answered, I know they will."

"You are right there, Owen Davies," thought Elizabeth, as she looked
after him with ineffable bitterness, not to say contempt. "Your prayers
shall be answered in a way that will astonish you. You shall not marry
Beatrice, and you shall marry _me_. The fish has been on the line long
enough, now I must begin to pull in."

Curiously enough it never really occurred to Elizabeth that Beatrice
herself might prove to be the true obstacle to the marriage she plotted
to prevent. She knew that her sister was fond of Geoffrey Bingham, but,
when it came to the point that she would absolutely allow her affection
to interfere with so glorious a success in life, she never believed for
one moment. Of course she thought it was possible that if Beatrice could
get possession of Geoffrey she might prefer to do so, but failing him,
judging from her own low and vulgar standard, Elizabeth was convinced
that she would take Owen. It did not seem possible that what was so
precious in her own eyes might be valueless and even hateful to those of
her sister. As for that little midnight incident, well, it was one thing
and marriage was another. People forget such events when they marry;
sometimes even they marry in order to forget them.

Yes, she must strike, but how? Elizabeth had feelings like other people.
She did not mind ruining her sister and rival, but she would very much
prefer it should not be known that hers was the hand to cut her down. Of
course, if the worst came to the worst, she must do it. Meanwhile, might
not a substitute be found--somebody in whom the act would seem not one
of vengeance, but of virtue? Ah! she had it: Lady Honoria! Who could be
better for such a purpose than the cruelly injured wife? But then how
should she communicate the facts to her ladyship without involving
herself? Again she hit upon a device much favoured by such people--"un
vieux truc mais toujours bon"--the pristine one of an anonymous letter,
which has the startling merit of not committing anybody to anything.
An anonymous letter, to all appearance written by a servant: it was the
very thing! Most likely it would result in a searching inquiry by Lady
Honoria, in which event Elizabeth, of course against her will, would
be forced to say what she knew; almost certainly it would result in a
quarrel between husband and wife, which might induce the former to show
his hand, or even to take some open step as regards Beatrice. She was
sorry for Geoffrey, against whom she had no ill feeling, but it could
not be helped; he must be sacrificed.

That very evening she wrote her letter and sent it to be posted by
an old servant living in London. It was a master-piece in its way,
especially phonetically. This precious epistle, which was most
exceedingly ill writ in a large coarse hand, ran thus:

"My Ladi,--My consence druvs me to it, much again my will. I've tried
hard, my ladi, not to speek, first acorse of miss B. as i heve knowed
good and peur and also for the sakes of your evil usband that wulf in
scheeps cloathin. But when i think on you my ladi a lorful legel wife
gud and virtus and peur and of the things as i hev seen which is enuf
to bring a blush to the face of a stater, I knows it is my holy dooty to
rite your ladishipp as follers. Your ladishipp forgif me but on the nite
of whittsundey last Miss B. Grainger wint after midnite inter the room
of your bad usband--as I was to mi sham ther to se. Afterward more
nor an hour, she cum out ain being carred _in his harmes_. And if your
ladishipp dont believ me, let your ladishipp rite to miss elizbeth, as
had this same misfortune to see as your tru frend,

"The Riter."

In due course this charming communication reached Lady Honoria, bearing
a London post-mark. She read and re-read it, and soon mastered its
meaning. Then, after a night's thought, she took the "Riter's" advice
and wrote to Elizabeth, sending her a copy of the letter (her own),
vehemently repudiating all belief in it, and asking for a reply that
should dissipate this foul slander from her mind for ever.

The answer came by return. It was short and artful.

"Dear Lady Honoria Bingham," it ran, "you must forgive me if I decline
to answer the questions in your letter. You will easily understand that
between a desire to preserve a sister's reputation and an incapacity (to
be appreciated by every Christian) to speak other than the truth--it
is possible for a person to be placed in the most cruel of positions--a
position which I am sure will command even your sympathy, though
under such circumstances I have little right to expect any from a wife
believing herself to have been cruelly wronged. Let me add that nothing
short of the compulsion of a court of law will suffice to unseal my
lips as to the details of the circumstances (which are, I trust,
misunderstood) alluded to in the malicious anonymous letter of which you
inclose a copy."

That very evening, as the Fates would have it, Lady Honoria and her
husband had a quarrel. As usual, it was about Effie, for on most other
subjects they preserved an armed neutrality. Its details need not
be entered into, but at last Geoffrey, who was in a sadly irritable
condition of mind, fairly lost his temper.

"The fact is," he said, "that you are not fit to look after the child.
You only think of yourself, Honoria."

She turned on him with a dangerous look upon her cold and handsome face.

"Be careful what you say, Geoffrey. It is you who are not fit to have
charge of Effie. Be careful lest I take her away from you altogether, as
I can if I like."

"What do you mean by that threat?" he asked.

"Do you want to know? Then I will tell you. I understand enough law to
be aware that a wife can get a separation from an unfaithful husband,
and what is more, can take away his children."

"Again I ask what you mean," said Geoffrey, turning cold with anger.

"I mean this, Geoffrey. That Welsh girl is your mistress. She passed
the night of Whit-Sunday in your room, and was carried from it in your
arms."

"It is a lie," he said; "she is nothing of the sort. I do not know who
gave you this information, but it is a slanderous lie, and somebody
shall suffer for it."

"Nobody will suffer for it, Geoffrey, because you will not dare to stir
the matter up--for the girl's sake if not for your own. Can you
deny that you were seen carrying her in your arms from your room on
Whit-Sunday night? Can you deny that you are in love with her?"

"And supposing that I am in love with her, is it to be wondered at,
seeing how you treat me and have treated me for years?" he answered
furiously. "It is utterly false to say that she is my mistress."

"You have not answered my question," said Lady Honoria with a smile of
triumph. "Were you seen carrying that woman in your arms and from your
room at the dead of night? Of course it meant nothing, nothing at all.
Who would dare to asperse the character of this perfect, lovely, and
intellectual schoolmistress? I am not jealous, Geoffrey----"

"I should think not, Honoria, seeing how things are."

"I am not jealous, I repeat, but please understand that I will not have
this go on, in your own interests and mine. Why, what a fool you must
be. Don't you know that a man who has risen, as you have, has a hundred
enemies ready to spring on him like a pack of wolves and tear him to
pieces? Why many even of those who fawn upon you and flatter you to your
face, hate you bitterly in secret, because you have succeeded where they
have failed. Don't you know also that there are papers here in London
which would give hundreds of pounds for the chance of publishing such a
scandal as this, especially against a powerful political opponent. Let
it once come out that this obscure girl is your mistress----"

"Honoria, I tell you she is nothing of the sort. It is true I carried
her from my room in a fainting fit, but she came there in her sleep."

Lady Honoria laughed. "Really, Geoffrey, I wonder that you think it
worth while to tell me such nonsense. Keep it for the divorce court,
if ever we get there, and see what a jury says to it. Look here; be
sensible. I am not a moralist, and I am not going to play the outraged
wife unless you force me to it. I do not mean to take any further notice
of this interesting little tale as against you. But if you go on with
it, beware! I will not be made to look a fool. If you are going to be
ruined you can be ruined by yourself. I warn you frankly, that at
the first sign of it, I shall put myself in the right by commencing
proceedings against you. Now, of course, I know this, that in the event
of a smash, you would be glad enough to be rid of me in order that you
might welcome your dear Beatrice in my place. But there are two things
to remember: first, that you could not marry her, supposing you to be
idiot enough to wish to do so, because I should only get a judicial
separation, and you would still have to support me. Secondly, if I go,
Effie goes with me, for I have a right to claim her at law; and that
fact, my dear Geoffrey, makes me mistress of the situation, because I
do not suppose that you would part with Effie even for the sake of Miss
Beatrice. And now I will leave you to think it over."

And with a little nod she sailed out of the room, completely victorious.
She was indeed, reflected Geoffrey, "mistress of the situation."
Supposing that she brought a suit against him where would he be? She
must have evidence, or she would not have known the story. The whole
drama had clearly been witnessed by someone, probably either by
Elizabeth or the servant girl, and that some one had betrayed it to
Honoria and possibly to others. The thought made him sick. He was a
man of the world, and a practical lawyer, and though, indeed, they were
innocent, he knew that under the circumstances few would be found to
believe it. At the very best there must be a terrible and shocking
scandal, and Beatrice would lose her good name. He placed himself in the
position of counsel for the petitioner in a like case, and thought how
he would crush and crumple such a defence in his address to the jury. A
probable tale forsooth!

Undoubtedly, too, Honoria would be acting wisely from her point of view.
Public sympathy would be with her throughout. He knew that, as it was,
he was believed generally to owe much of his success to his handsome and
high-born wife. Now it would be said that he had used her as a ladder
and then thrown her over. With all this, however, he might cope; he
could even bear with the vulgar attacks of a vulgar press, and the gibes
and jeers of his political and personal enemies, but to lose Effie
he could not bear. And if such a case were brought against him it was
almost certain that he would lose her, for, if he was worsted, custody
of the child would be given to the injured wife.

Then there was Beatrice to be considered. The same malicious tongue that
had revealed this matter to Honoria would probably reveal it to the rest
of the world, and even if he escaped the worst penalties of outraged
morality, they would certainly be wreaked upon her. Beatrice's
reputation would be blasted, her employment lost, and her life made a
burden to her. Yes, decidedly, Honoria had the best of the position;
decidedly, also, she spoke words of weight and common sense.

What was to be done? Was there no way out of it? All that night as
Geoffrey sat in the House, his arms folded on his breast, and to
appearance intently listening to the long harangues of the Opposition,
this question haunted him. He argued the situation out this way and that
way, till at the last he came to a conclusion. Either he must wait for
the scandal to leak out, let Beatrice be ruined, and direct his efforts
to the softening of Honoria, and generally to self-preservation, or he
must take the bull by the horns, must abandon his great career and his
country and seek refuge in another land, say America, taking Beatrice
and Effie with him. Once the child was out of the jurisdiction, of
course no court could force her from him.

Of the two courses, even in so far as he himself was concerned, what
between the urgency of the matter and the unceasing pressure of his
passion, Geoffrey inclined to the latter. The relations between himself
and Honoria had for years been so strained, so totally different
from those which should exist between man and wife, that they greatly
mitigated in his mind the apparent iniquity of such a step. Nor would he
feel much compunction at removing the child from her mother, for
there was no love lost between the two, and as time went on he guessed
shrewdly there would be less and less. For the rest, he had some
seventeen thousand pounds in hand; he would take half and leave Honoria
half. He knew that he could always earn a living wherever he went, and
probably much more than a living, and of whatever he earned a strict
moiety should be paid to Honoria. But first and above everything, there
was Beatrice to be considered. She must be saved, even if he ruined
himself to save her.

Lady Honoria, it is scarcely necessary to say, had little idea that she
was driving her husband to such dangerous and determined councils. She
wanted to frighten Geoffrey, not to lose him and all he meant to her;
this was the last thing that she would wish to do. She did not greatly
care about the Beatrice incident, but her shrewd common sense told her
that it might well be used as an engine to ruin them all. Therefore she
spoke as she did speak, though in reality matters would have to be bad
indeed before she sought the aid of a court of law, where many things
concerning herself might come to the light of day which she would prefer
to leave in darkness.

Nor did she stop here; she determined to attack Geoffrey's position in
another way, namely, through Beatrice herself. For a long time Honoria
hesitated as to the method of this attack. She had some knowledge of the
world and of character, and from what she knew of Beatrice she came
to the sound conclusion that she was not a woman to be threatened, but
rather one to be appealed to. So after much thought she wrote to her
thus:--

"A story, which I still hesitate to believe, has come to me by means of
anonymous letters, as to your conduct with my husband. I do not wish
to repeat it now, further than to say that, if true, it establishes
circumstances which leave no doubt as to the existence of relations so
intimate between you as to amount to guilt. It may not be true or it
may, in which latter event I wish to say this: With your morality I have
nothing to do; it is your affair. Nor do I wish to plead to you as an
injured wife or to reproach you, for there are things too wicked for
mere reproach. But I will say this: if the story is true, I must presume
that you have some affection for the partner of your shame. I put myself
out of the question, and in the name of that affection, however guilty
it may be, I ask you to push matters no further. To do so will be
to bring its object to utter ruin. _If you care for him, sever all
connection with him utterly and for ever._ Otherwise he will live to
curse and hate you. Should you neglect this advice, and should the facts
that I have heard become public property, I warn you, as I have already
warned him, that in self-preservation and for the sake of self-respect,
I shall be forced to appeal to the law for my remedy. Remember that his
career is at stake, and that in losing it and me he will lose also his
child. Remember that if this comes about it will be through _you_. Do
not answer this, it will do no good, for I shall naturally put no faith
in your protestations, but if you are in any way or measure guilty of
this offence, appealing to you as one woman to another, and for the sake
of the man who is dear to both, I say do your best to redeem the
evil, _by making all further communication between yourself and him an
impossibility_. H.B."

It was a clever letter; Lady Honoria could not have devised one more
powerful to work on a woman like Beatrice. The same post that took it to
her took another from Geoffrey himself. It was long, though guarded, and
need not be quoted in its entirety, but it put the whole position before
her in somewhat veiled language, and ended by saying, "Marriage I cannot
give you, only life-long love. In other circumstances to offer this
would be an insult, but if things should be as a I fear, it is worth
your consideration. I do not say to you _come_, I say come _if you
wish_. No, Beatrice, I will not put this cruel burden of decision upon
you. I say _come!_ I do not command you to come, because I promised to
leave you uninfluenced. But I pray you to do so. Let us put an end to
this wretchedness, and count the world well lost as our price of love.
Come, dearest Beatrice--to leave me no more till death. I put my life
in your hands; if you take it up, whatever trouble you may have to face,
you will never lose my affection or esteem. Do not think of me, think of
yourself. You have given me your love as you once gave me my life. I
owe something in return; I cannot see you shamed and make no offer of
reparation. Indeed, so far as I am concerned, I shall think all I lose
as nothing compared to what I gain in gaining you. Will you come? If
so, we will leave this country and begin afresh elsewhere. After all, it
matters little, and will matter less when everything is said and done.
My life has for years been but as an unwholesome dream. The one real
thing, the one happy thing that I have found in it has been our love. Do
not let us throw it away, Beatrice."

By return of post he received this answer written in pencil.

"No, dear Geoffrey. Things must take their course.--B."

That was all.



CHAPTER XXV

ELIZABETH SHOWS HER TEETH

Hard had been Beatrice's hours since that grey morning of separation.
She must bear all the inner wretchedness of her lot; she must conceal
her grief, must suffer the slings and arrows of Elizabeth's sharp
tongue, and strive to keep Owen Davies at a distance. Indeed, as the
days went on, this last task grew more and more portentous. The man was
quite unmanageable; his passion, which was humiliating and hateful to
Beatrice, became the talk of the place. Everybody knew of it, except her
father, and even his eyes began to be opened.

One night--it was the same upon which Geoffrey and Honoria respectively
had posted their letters to Beatrice--anybody looking into the little
room at Bryngelly Castle, which served its owner for all purposes except
that of sleeping, would have witnessed a very strange sight. Owen Davies
was walking to and fro--walking rapidly with wild eyes and dishevelled
hair. At the turn of each length of the apartment he would halt, and
throwing his arms into the air ejaculate:

"Oh, God, hear me, and give me my desire! Oh, God, answer me!"

For two long hours thus he walked and thus cried aloud, till at length
he sank panting and exhausted into a chair. Suddenly he raised his head,
and appeared to listen intently.

"The Voice," he said aloud; "the Voice again. What does it say?
To-morrow, to-morrow I must speak; and I shall win her."

He sprang up with a shout, and once more began his wild march. "Oh,
Beatrice!" he said, "to-morrow you will promise to marry me; the Voice
says so, and soon, soon, perhaps in one short month, you will be my
own--mine only! Geoffrey Bingham shall not come between us then, for
I will watch you day and night. You shall be my very, very own--my own
beautiful Beatrice," and he stretched out his arms and clasped at the
empty air--a crazy and unpleasant sight to see.

And so he walked and spoke till the dawn was grey in the east. This
occurred on the Friday night. It was on the following morning that
Beatrice, the unfortunate and innocent object of these amorous
invocations, received the two letters. She had gone to the post-office
on her way to the school, on the chance of there being a note from
Geoffrey. Poor woman, his letters were the one bright thing in her life.
From motives of prudence they were written in the usual semi-formal
style, but she was quick to read between the lines, and, moreover, they
came from his dear hand.

There was the letter sure enough, and another in a woman's writing. She
recognised the hand as that of Lady Honoria, which she had often seen on
envelopes directed to Geoffrey, and a thrill of fear shot through her.
She took the letters, and walking as quickly as she could to the school,
locked herself in her own little room, for it was not yet nine o'clock,
and looked at them with a gathering terror. What was in them? Why did
Lady Honoria write to her? Which should she read first? In a moment
Beatrice had made up her mind. She would face the worst at once. With
a set face she opened Lady Honoria's letter, unfolded it, and read. We
already know its contents. As her mind grasped them her lips grew ashy
white, and by the time that the horrible thing was done she was nigh to
fainting.

Anonymous letters! oh, who could have done this cruel thing? Elizabeth,
it must be Elizabeth, who saw everything, and thus stabbed her in the
back. Was it possible that her own sister could treat her so? She knew
that Elizabeth disliked her; she could never fathom the cause, still she
knew the fact. But if this were her doing, then she must hate her, and
most bitterly; and what had she done to earn such hate? And now Geoffrey
was in danger on her account, danger of ruin, and how could she prevent
it? This was her first idea. Most people might have turned to their own
position and been content to leave their lover to fight his own battle.
But Beatrice thought little of herself. He was in danger, and how could
she protect him? Why here in the letter was the answer! "If you care for
him sever all connection with him utterly, and for ever. Otherwise, he
will live to curse and hate you." No, no! Geoffrey would never do that.
But Lady Honoria was quite right; in his interest, for his sake, she
must sever all connection with him--sever it utterly and for ever. But
how--how?

She thrust the letter into her dress--a viper would have been a more
welcome guest--and opened Geoffrey's.

It told the same tale, but offered a different solution. The tears
started to her eyes as she read his offer to take her to him for
good and all, and go away with her to begin life afresh. It seemed a
wonderful thing to Beatrice that he should be willing to sacrifice
so much upon such a worthless altar as her love--a wonderful and most
generous thing. She pressed the senseless paper to her heart, then
kissed it again and again. But she never thought of yielding to this
great temptation, never for one second. He prayed her to come, but that
she would not do while her will remained. What, _she_ bring Geoffrey
to ruin? No, she had rather starve in the streets or perish by slow
torture. How could he ever think that she would consent to such a
scheme? Indeed she never would; she had brought enough trouble on him
already. But oh, she blessed him for that letter. How deeply must he
love her when he could offer to do this for her sake!

Hark! the children were waiting; she must go and teach. The letter,
Geoffrey's dear letter, could be answered in the afternoon. So she
thrust it in her breast with the other, but closer to her heart, and
went.



That afternoon as Mr. Granger, in a happy frame of mind--for were not
his debts paid, and had he not found a most convenient way of providing
against future embarrassment?--was engaged peaceably in contemplating
his stock over the gate of his little farm buildings, he was much
astonished suddenly to discover Owen Davies at his elbow.

"How do you do, Mr. Davies?" he said; "how quietly you must have come."

"Yes," answered Owen absently. "The fact is, I have followed you because
I want to speak to you alone--quite alone."

"Indeed, Mr. Davies--well, I am at your service. What is wrong? You
don't look very well."

"Oh, I am quite well, thank you. I never was better; and there's nothing
wrong, nothing at all. Everything is going to be bright now, I know that
full surely."

"Indeed," said Mr. Granger, again looking at him with a puzzled air,
"and what may you want to see me about? Not but what I am always at your
service, as you know," he added apologetically.

"This," he answered, suddenly seizing the clergyman by the coat in a way
that made him start.

"What--my coat, do you mean?"

"Don't be so foolish, Mr. Granger. No, about Beatrice."

"Oh. indeed, Mr. Davies. Nothing wrong at the school, I hope? I think
that she does her duties to the satisfaction of the committee, though I
admit that the arithmetic----"

"No! no, no! It is not about the school. I don't wish her to go to the
school any more. I love her, Mr. Granger, I love her dearly, and I want
to marry her."

The old man flushed with pleasure. Was it possible? Did he hear aright?
Owen Davies, the richest man in that part of Wales, wanted to marry
his daughter, who had nothing but her beauty. It must be too good to be
true!

"I am indeed flattered," he said. "It is more than she could expect--not
but what Beatrice is very good-looking and very clever," he added
hastily, fearing lest he was detracting from his daughter's market
value.

"Good-looking--clever; she is an angel," murmured Owen.

"Oh, yes, of course she is," said her father, "that is, if a woman--yes,
of course--and what is more, I think she's very fond of you. I think she
is pining for you. I've though so for a long time."

"Is she?" said Owen anxiously. "Then all I have to say is that she takes
a very curious way of showing it. She won't say a word to me; she puts
me off on every occasion. But it will be all right now--all right now."

"Oh, there, there, Mr. Davies, maids will be maids until they are wives.
We know about all that," said Mr. Granger sententiously.

His would-be son-in-law looked as though he knew very little about it
indeed, although the inference was sufficiently obvious.

"Mr. Granger," he said, seizing his hand, "I want to make Beatrice my
wife--I do indeed."

"Well, I did not suppose otherwise, Mr. Davies."

"If you help me in this I will do whatever you like as to money matters
and that sort of thing, you know. She shall have as fine a settlement
as any woman in Wales. I know that goes a long way with a father, and I
shall raise no difficulties."

"Very right and proper, I am sure," said Mr. Granger, adopting a loftier
tone as he discovered the advantages of his position. "But of course
on such matters I shall take the advice of a lawyer. I daresay that
Mr. Bingham would advise me," he added, "as a friend of the family,
you know. He is a very clever lawyer, and, besides, he wouldn't charge
anything."

"Oh, no, not Mr. Bingham," answered Owen anxiously. "I will do anything
you like, or if you wish to have a lawyer I'll pay the bill myself. But
never mind about that now. Let us settle it with Beatrice first. Come
along at once."

"Eh, but hadn't you better arrange that part of the business privately?"

"No, no. She always snubs me when I try to speak to her alone. You had
better be there, and Miss Elizabeth too, if she likes. I won't speak to
her again alone. I will speak to her in the face of God and man, as God
directed me to do, and then it will be all right--I know it will."

Mr. Granger stared at him. He was a clergyman of a very practical sort,
and did not quite see what the Power above had to do with Owen Davies's
matrimonial intentions.

"Ah, well," he said, "I see what you mean; marriages are made in heaven;
yes, of course. Well, if you want to get on with the matter, I daresay
that we shall find Beatrice in."

So they walked back to the Vicarage, Mr. Granger exultant and yet
perplexed, for it struck him that there was something a little odd about
the proceeding, and Owen Davies in silence or muttering occasionally to
himself.

In the sitting-room they found Elizabeth.

"Where is Beatrice?" asked her father.

"I don't know," she answered, and at that moment Beatrice, pale and
troubled, walked into the room, like a lamb to the slaughter.

"Ah, Beatrice," said her father, "we were just asking for you."

She glanced round, and with the quick wit of a human animal, instantly
perceived that some new danger threatened her.

"Indeed," she said, sinking into a chair in an access of feebleness born
of fear. "What is it, father?"

Mr. Granger looked at Owen Davies and then took a step towards the door.
It struck him forcibly that this scene should be private to the two
persons principally concerned.

"Don't go," said Owen Davies excitedly, "don't go, either of you; what I
have to say had better be said before you both. I should like to say it
before the whole world; to cry it from the mountain tops."

Elizabeth glared at him fiercely--glared first at him and then at the
innocent Beatrice. Could he be going to propose to her, then? Ah, why
had she hesitated? Why had she not told him the whole truth before?
But the heart of Beatrice, who sat momentarily expecting to be publicly
denounced, grew ever fainter. The waters of desolation were closing in
over her soul.

Mr. Granger sat down firmly and worked himself into the seat of his
chair, as though to secure an additional fixedness of tenure. Elizabeth
set her teeth, and leaned her elbow on the table, holding her hand so as
to shade her face. Beatrice drooped upon her seat like a fading lily, or
a prisoner in the dock. She was opposite to them, and Owen Davies, his
face alight with wild enthusiasm, stood up and addressed them all like
the counsel for the prosecution.

"Last autumn," he began, speaking to Mr. Granger, who might have been
a judge uncertain as to the merits of the case, "I asked your daughter
Beatrice to marry me."

Beatrice gave a sigh, and collected her scattered energies. The storm
had burst at last, and she must face it.

"I asked her to marry me, and she told me to wait a year. I have waited
as long as I could, but I could not wait the whole year. I have prayed a
great deal, and I am bidden to speak."

Elizabeth made a gesture of impatience. She was a person of strong
common sense, and this mixture of religion and eroticism disgusted her.
She also know that the storm had burst, and that _she_ must face it.

"So I come to tell you that I love your daughter Beatrice, and want to
make her my wife. I have never loved anybody else, but I have loved her
for years; and I ask your consent."

"Very flattering, very flattering, I am sure, especially in these hard
times," said Mr. Granger apologetically, shaking his thin hair down over
his forehead, and then rumpling it up again. "But you see, Mr. Davies,
you don't want to marry me" (here Beatrice smiled faintly)--"you want to
marry my daughter, so you had better ask her direct--at least I suppose
so."

Elizabeth made a movement as though to speak, then changed her mind and
listened.

"Beatrice," said Owen Davies, "you hear. I ask you to marry me."

There was a pause. Beatrice, who had sat quite silent, was gathering up
her strength to answer. Elizabeth, watching her from beneath her
hand, thought that she read upon her face irresolution, softening into
consent. What she really saw was but doubt as to the fittest and most
certain manner of refusal. Like lightning it flashed into Elizabeth's
mind that she must strike now, or hold her hand for ever. If once
Beatrice spoke that fatal "yes," her revelations might be of no avail.
And Beatrice would speak it; she was sure she would. It was a golden
road out of her troubles.

"Stop!" said Elizabeth in a shrill, hard voice. "Stop! I must speak;
it is my duty as a Christian. I must tell the truth. I cannot allow an
honest man to be deceived."

There was an awful pause. Beatrice broke it. Now she saw all the truth,
and knew what was at hand. She placed her hand upon her heart to still
its beating.

"Oh, Elizabeth," she said, "in our dead mother's name----" and she
stopped.

"Yes," answered her sister, "in our dead mother's name, which you have
dishonoured, I will do it. Listen, Owen Davies, and father: Beatrice,
who sits there"--and she pointed at her with her thin hand--"_Beatrice
is a scarlet woman!_"

"I really don't understand," gasped Mr. Granger, while Owen looked round
wildly, and Beatrice sunk her head upon her breast.

"Then I will explain," said Elizabeth, still pointing at her sister.
"She is Geoffrey Bingham's _mistress_. On the night of Whit-Sunday last
she rose from bed and went into his room at one in the morning. I saw
her with my own eyes. Afterwards she was brought back to her bed in his
arms--I saw it with my own eyes, and I heard him kiss her." (This was
a piece of embroidery on Elizabeth's part.) "She is his lover, and has
been in love with him for months. I tell you this, Owen Davies, because,
though I cannot bear to bring disgrace upon our name and to defile my
lips with such a tale, neither can I bear that you should marry a girl,
believing her to be good, when she is what Beatrice is."

"Then I wish to God that you had held your wicked tongue," said Mr.
Granger fiercely.

"No, father. I have a duty to perform, and I will perform it at any
cost, and however much it pains me. You know that what I say is true.
You heard the noise on the night of Whit-Sunday, and got up to see what
it was. You saw the white figure in the passage--it was Geoffrey Bingham
with Beatrice in his arms. Ah! well may she hang her head. Let her deny
if it she can. Let her deny that she loves him to her shame, and that
she was alone in his room on that night."

Then Beatrice rose and spoke. She was pale as death and more beautiful
in her shame and her despair than ever she had been before; her glorious
eyes shone, and there were deep black lines beneath them.

"My heart is my own," she said, "and I will make no answer to you about
it. Think what you will. For the rest, it is not true. I am not what
Elizabeth tells you that I am. I am _not_ Geoffrey Bingham's mistress.
It is true that I was in his room that night, and it is true that he
carried me back to my own. But it was in my sleep that I went there, not
of my own free will. I awoke there, and fainted when I woke, and then at
once he bore me back."

Elizabeth laughed shrill and loud--it sounded like the cackle of a
fiend.

"In her sleep," she said; "oh, she went there in her sleep!"

"Yes, Elizabeth, in my sleep. You do not believe me, but it is true. You
do not wish to believe me. You wish to bring the sister whom you should
love, who has never offended against you by act or word, to utter
disgrace and ruin. In your cowardly spite you have written anonymous
letters to Lady Honoria Bingham, to prevail upon her to strike the blow
that should destroy her husband and myself, and when you fear that this
has failed, you come forward and openly accuse us. You do this in the
name of Christian duty; in the name of love and charity, you believe the
worst, and seek to ruin us. Shame on you, Elizabeth! shame on you! and
may the same measure that you have meted out to me never be paid back to
you. We are no longer sisters. Whatever happens, I have done with you.
Go your ways."

Elizabeth shrank and quailed beneath her sister's scorn. Even her
venomous hatred could not bear up against the flash of those royal eyes,
and the majesty of that outraged innocence. She gasped and bit her lip
till the blood started, but she said nothing.

Then Beatrice turned to her father, and spoke in another and a pleading
voice, stretching out her arms towards him.

"Oh, father," she said, "at least tell me that _you_ believe me. Though
you may think that I might love to all extremes, surely, having known
me so many years, you cannot think that I would lie even for my love's
sake."

The old man looked wildly round, and shook his head.

"In his room and in his arms," he said. "I saw it, it seems. You, too,
who have never been known to walk in your sleep from a child; and you
will not say that you do not love him--the scoundrel. It is wicked of
Elizabeth--jealousy bitter as the grave. It is wicked of her to tell the
tale; but as it is told, how can I say that I do not believe it?"

Then Beatrice, her cup being full, once more dropped her head, and
turned to go.

"Stop," said Owen Davies in a hoarse voice, and speaking for the first
time. "Hear what _I_ have to say."

She lifted her eyes. "With you, Mr. Davies, I have nothing to do; I am
not answerable to you. Go and help your accomplice," and she pointed to
Elizabeth, "to cry this scandal over the whole world."

"Stop," he said again. "I will speak. I believe that it is true. I
believe that you are Geoffrey Bingham's mistress, curse him! but I do
not care. I am still willing to marry you."

Elizabeth gasped. Was this to be the end of her scheming? Would the
blind passion of this madman prevail over her revelations, and Beatrice
still become his rich and honoured wife, while she was left poor and
disgraced? Oh, it was monstrous! Oh, she had never dreamed of this!

"Noble, noble!" murmured Mr. Granger; "noble! God bless you!"

So the position was not altogether beyond recovery. His erring daughter
might still be splendidly married; he might still look forward to peace
and wealth in his old age.

Only Beatrice smiled faintly.

"I thank you," she said. "I am much honoured, but I could never have
married you because I do not love you. You must understand me very
little if you think that I should be the more ready to do so on account
of the danger in which I stand," and she ceased.

"Listen, Beatrice," Owen went on, an evil light shining on his heavy
face, while Elizabeth sat astounded, scarcely able to believe her ears.
"I want you, and I mean to marry you; you are more to me than all the
world. I can give you everything, and you had better yield to me, and
you shall hear no more of this. But if you won't, then this is what I
will do. I will be revenged upon you--terribly revenged."

Beatrice shook her head and smiled again, as though to bid him do his
worst.

"And look, Beatrice," he went on, waxing almost eloquent in his jealous
despair, "I have another argument to urge on you. I will not only be
revenged on you, I will be revenged upon your lover--on this Geoffrey
Bingham."

"_Oh!_" said Beatrice sharply, like one in pain. He had found the way
to move her now, and with the cunning of semi-madness he drove the point
home.

"Yes, you may start--I will. I tell you that I will never rest till I
have ruined him, and I am rich and can do it. I have a hundred thousand
pounds, that I will spend on doing it. I have nothing to fear, except
an action for libel. Oh, I am not a fool, though you think I am, I know.
Well, I can pay for a dozen actions. There are papers in London that
will be glad to publish all this--yes, the whole story--with plans
and pictures too. Just think, Beatrice, what it will be when all
England--yes, and all the world--is gloating over your shame, and
half-a-dozen prints are using the thing for party purposes, clamouring
for the disgrace of the man who ruined you, and whom you will ruin. He
has a fine career; it shall be utterly destroyed. By God! I will hunt
him to his grave, unless you promise to marry me, Beatrice. Do that, and
not a word of this shall be said. Now answer."

Mr. Granger sank back in his chair; this savage play of human passions
was altogether beyond his experience--it overwhelmed him. As for
Elizabeth, she bit her thin fingers, and glared from one to the other.
"He reckons without me," she thought. "He reckons without me--I will
marry him yet."

But Beatrice leant for a moment against the wall and shut her eyes
to think. Oh, she saw it all--the great posters with her name and
Geoffrey's on them, the shameless pictures of her in his arms, the
sickening details, the letters of the outraged matrons, the "Mothers of
ten," and the moral-minded colonels--all, all! She heard the prurient
scream of every male Elizabeth in England; the allusions in the
House--the jeers, the bitter attacks of enemies and rivals. Then Lady
Honoria would begin her suit, and it would all be dragged up afresh,
and Geoffrey's fault would be on every lip, till he was _ruined_. For
herself she did not care; but could she bring this on one whose only
crime was that she had learned to love him? No, no; but neither could
she marry this hateful man. And yet what escape was there? She flung
herself upon her woman's wit, and it did not fail her. In a few seconds
she had thought it all out and made up her mind.

"How can I answer you at a moment's notice, Mr. Davies?" she said. "I
must have time to think it over. To threaten such revenge upon me is not
manly, but I know that you love me, and therefore I excuse it. Still, I
must have time. I am confused."

"What, another year? No, no," he said. "You must answer."

"I do not ask a year or a month. I only ask for one week. If you will
not give me that, then I will defy you, and you may do your worst. I
cannot answer now."

This was a bold stroke, but it told. Mr. Davies hesitated.

"Give the girl a week," said her father to him. "She is not herself."

"Very well; one week, no more," said he.

"I have another stipulation to make," said Beatrice, "You are all to
swear to me that for that week no word of this will pass your mouths;
that for that week I shall not be annoyed or interfered with, or spoken
to on the subject, not by one of you. If at the end of it I still refuse
to accept your terms, you can do your worst, but till then you must hold
your hand."

Owen Davies hesitated; he was suspicious.

"Remember," Beatrice went on, raising her voice, "I am a desperate
woman. I may turn at bay, and do something which you do not expect, and
that will be very little to the advantage of any of you. Do you swear?"

"Yes," said Owen Davies.

Then Beatrice looked at Elizabeth, and Elizabeth looked at her. She saw
that the matter had taken a new form. She saw what her jealous folly
had hitherto hidden from her--that Beatrice did not mean to marry Owen
Davies, that she was merely gaining time to execute some purpose of
her own. What this might be Elizabeth cared little so that it did not
utterly extinguish chances that at the moment seemed faint enough. She
did not want to push matters against her sister, or her lover Geoffrey,
beyond the boundary of her own interests. Beatrice should have her
week, and be free from all interference so far as she was concerned. She
realised now that it was too late how great had been her error. Oh, if
only she had sought Beatrice's confidence at first! But it had seemed to
her impossible that she would really throw away such an opportunity in
life.

"Certainly I promise, Beatrice," she said mildly. "I do not swear,
for 'swear not at all,' you know. I only did what I thought my duty in
warning Mr. Davies. If he chooses to go on with the matter, it is no
affair of mine. I had no wish to hurt you, or Mr. Bingham. I acted
solely from my religious convictions."

"Oh, stop talking religion, Elizabeth, and practise it a little
more!" said her father, for once in his life stirred out of his feeble
selfishness. "We have all undertaken to keep our mouths sealed for this
week."

Then Beatrice left the room, and after her went Owen Davies without
another word.

"Elizabeth," said her father, rising, "you are a wicked woman! What did
you do this for?"

"Do you want to know, father?" she said coolly; "then I will tell you.
Because I mean to marry Owen Davies myself. We must all look after
ourselves in this world, you know; and that is a maxim which you never
forget, for one. I mean to marry him; and though I seem to have failed,
marry him I will, yet! And now you know all about it; and if you are
not a fool, you will hold your tongue and let me be!" and she went also,
leaving him alone.

Mr. Granger held up his hands in astonishment. He was a selfish,
money-seeking old man, but he felt that he did not deserve to have such
a daughter as this.



CHAPTER XXVI

WHAT BEATRICE SWORE

Beatrice went to her room, but the atmosphere of the place seemed to
stifle her. Her brain was reeling, she must go out into the air--away
from her tormentors. She had not yet answered Geoffrey's letter, and
it must be answered by this post, for there was none on Sunday. It was
half-past four--the post went out at five; if she was going to write,
she should do so at once, but she could not do so here. Besides, she
must find time for thought. Ah, she had it; she would take her canoe and
paddle across the bay to the little town of Coed and write her letter
there. The post did not leave Coed till half-past six. She put on her
hat and jacket, and taking a stamp, a sheet of paper, and an envelope
with her, slipped quietly from the house down to old Edward's boat-house
where the canoe was kept. Old Edward was not there himself, but his
son was, a boy of fourteen, and by his help Beatrice was soon safely
launched. The sea glittered like glass, and turning southwards,
presently she was paddling round the shore of the island on which the
Castle stood towards the open bay.

As she paddled her mind cleared, and she was able to consider the
position. It was bad enough. She saw no light, darkness hemmed her in.
But at least she had a week before her, and meanwhile what should she
write to Geoffrey?

Then, as she thought, a great temptation assailed Beatrice, and for the
first time her resolution wavered. Why should she not accept Geoffrey's
offer and go away with him--far away from all this misery? Gladly would
she give her life to spend one short year at his dear side. She had but
to say the word, and he would take her to him, and in a month from now
they would be together in some foreign land, counting the world well
lost, as he had said. Doubtless in time Lady Honoria would get a
divorce, and they might be married. A day might even come when all this
would seem like a forgotten night of storm and fear; when, surrounded by
the children of their love, they would wend peaceably, happily, through
the evening of their days towards a bourne robbed of half its terrors by
the fact that they would cross it hand-in-hand.

Oh, that would be well for her; but would it be well for him? When the
first months of passion had passed by, would he not begin to think of
all that he had thrown away for the sake of a woman's love? Would not
the burst of shame and obloquy which would follow him to the remotest
corners of the earth wear away his affection, till at last, as Lady
Honoria said, he learned to curse and hate her. And if it did not--if
he still loved her through it all--as, being what he was, he well might
do--could she be the one to bring this ruin on him? Oh, it would have
been more kind to let him drown on that night of the storm, when fate
first brought them together to their undoing.

No, no; once and for all, once and for ever, she would _not_ do it.
Cruel as was her strait, heavy as was her burden, not one feather's
weight of it should he carry, if by any means in her poor power she
could hold it from his back. She would not even tell him of what had
happened--at any rate, not now. It would distress him; he might take
some desperate step; it was almost certain that he would do so. Her
answer must be very short.

She was quite close to Coed now, and the water lay calm as a pond. So
calm was it that she drew the sheet of paper and the envelope from her
pocket, and leaning forward, rested them on the arched covering of the
canoe, and pencilled those words which we have already read.

"No, dear Geoffrey. Things must take their course.--B."

Thus she wrote. Then she paddled to the shore. A fisherman standing on
the beach caught her canoe and pulled it up. Leaving it in his charge,
she went into the quaint little town, directed and posted her letter,
and bought some wool. It was an excuse for having been there should any
one ask questions. After that she returned to her canoe. The fisherman
was standing by it. She offered him sixpence for his trouble, but he
would not take it.

"No, miss," he said, "thanking you kindly--but we don't often get a peep
at such sweet looks. It's worth sixpence to see you, it is. But, miss,
if I may make so bold as to say so, it isn't safe for you to cruise
about in that craft, any ways not alone."

Beatrice thanked him and blushed a little. Vaguely it occurred to her
that she must have more than a common share of beauty, when a rough man
could be so impressed with it. That was what men loved women for, their
beauty, as Owen Davies loved and desired her for this same cause and
this only.

Perhaps it was the same with Geoffrey--no, she did not believe it. He
loved her for other things besides her looks. Only if she had not been
beautiful, perhaps he would not have begun to love her, so she was
thankful for her eyes and hair, and form.

Could folly and infatuation go further? This woman in the darkest hour
of her bottomless and unhorizoned despair, with conscience gnawing at
her heart, with present misery pressing on her breast, and shame to come
hanging over her like a thunder cloud, could yet feel thankful that she
had won this barren love, the spring of all her woe. Or was her folly
deep wisdom in disguise?--is there something divine in a passion that
can so override and defy the worst agonies of life?

She was at sea again now, and evening was falling on the waters softly
as a dream. Well, the letter was posted. Would it be the last, she
wondered? It seemed as though she must write no more letters. And what
was to be done? She would _not_ marry Owen Davies--never would she do
it. She could not so shamelessly violate her feelings, for Beatrice was
a woman to whom death would be preferable to dishonour, however legal.
No, for her own sake she would not be soiled with that disgrace. Did she
do this, she would hold herself the vilest of the vile. And still less
would she do it for Geoffrey's sake. Her instinct told her what he would
feel at such a thing, though he might never say a word. Surely he would
loathe and despise her. No, that idea was done with--utterly done with.

Then what remained to her? She would not fly with Geoffrey, since to
do so would be to ruin him. She would not marry Owen, and not to do so
would still be to ruin Geoffrey. She was no fool, she was innocent in
act, but she knew that her innocence would indeed be hard to prove--even
her own father did not believe in it, and her sister would openly accuse
her to the world. What then should she do? Should she hide herself in
some remote half-civilised place, or in London? It was impossible; she
had no money, and no means of getting any. Besides, they would hunt
her out, both Owen Davies and Geoffrey would track her to the furthest
limits of the earth. And would not the former think that Geoffrey had
spirited her away, and at once put his threats into execution? Obviously
he would. There was no hope in that direction. Some other plan must be
found or her lover would still be ruined.

So argued Beatrice, still thinking not of herself, but of Geoffrey,
of that beloved one who was more to her than all the world, more, a
thousand times, than her own safety or well-being. Perhaps she overrated
the matter. Owen Davies, Lady Honoria, and even Elizabeth might have
done all they threatened; the first of them, perhaps the first two
of them, certainly would have done so. But still Geoffrey might have
escaped destruction. Public opinion, or the sounder part of it, is
sensibly enough hard to move in such a matter, especially when the
person said to have been wronged is heart and soul on the side of him
who is said to have wronged her.

Moreover there might have been ways out of it, of which she knew
nothing. But surrounded as she was by threatening powers--by Lady
Honoria threatening actions in the Courts on one side, by Owen Davies
threatening exposure on another, by Elizabeth ready and willing to
give the most damning evidence on the third, to Beatrice the worst
consequences seemed an absolutely necessary sequence. Then there was her
own conscience arrayed against her. This particular charge was a lie,
but it was not a lie that she loved Geoffrey, and to her the two things
seemed very much the same thing. Hers was not a mind to draw fine
distinctions in such matters. _Se posuit ut culpabilem_: she "placed
herself as guilty," as the old Court rolls put it in miserable Latin,
and this sense of guilt disarmed her. She did not realise the enormous
difference recognised by the whole civilised world between thought and
act, between disposing mind and inculpating deed. Beatrice looked at the
question more from the scriptural point of view, remembering that in
the Bible such fine divisions are expressly stated to be distinctions
without a difference.

Had she gone to Geoffrey and told him her whole story it is probable
that he would have defied the conspiracy, faced it out, and possibly
come off victorious. But, with that deadly reticence of which women
alone are capable, this she did not and would not do. Sweet loving woman
that she was, she would not burden him with her sorrows, she would bear
them alone--little reckoning that thereby she was laying up a far, far
heavier load for him to carry through all his days.

So Beatrice accepted the statements of the plaintiff's attorney for
gospel truth, and from that false standpoint she drew her auguries.



Oh, she was weary! How lovely was the falling night, see how it brooded
on the seas! and how clear were the waters--there a fish passed by her
paddle--and there the first start sprang into the sky! If only Geoffrey
were here to see it with her. Geoffrey! she had lost him; she was alone
in the world now--alone with the sea and the stars. Well, they were
better than men--better than all men except one. Theirs was a divine
companionship, and it soothed her. Ah, how hateful had been Elizabeth's
face, more hateful even than the half-crazed cunning of Owen Davies,
when she stretched her hand towards her and called her "a scarlet
woman." It was so like Elizabeth, this mixing up of Bible terms with her
accusation. And after all perhaps it was true.--What was it, "Though thy
sins be as scarlet, yet shall they be white as snow." But that was only
if one repented. She did not repent, not in the least. Conscience, it
is true, reproached her with a breach of temporal and human law, but her
heart cried that such love as she had given was immortal and divine, and
therefore set beyond the little bounds of time and man. At any rate,
she loved Geoffrey and was proud and glad to love him. The circumstances
were unfortunate, but she did not make the world or its social
arrangements any more than she had made herself, and she could not help
that. The fact remained, right or wrong--she loved him, loved him!

How clear were the waters! What was that wild dream which she had
dreamt about herself sitting at the bottom of the sea, and waiting for
him--till at last he came. Sitting at the bottom of the sea--why did
it strike her so strangely--what unfamiliar thought did it waken in her
mind? Well, and why not? It would be pleasant there, better at any rate
than on the earth. But things cannot be ended so; one is burdened with
the flesh, and one must wear it till it fails. Why must she wear it?
Was not the sea large enough to hide her bones? Look now, she had but
to slip over the edge of the canoe, slip without a struggle into those
mighty arms, and in a few short minutes it would all be done and gone!

She gasped as the thought struck home. _Here_ was the answer to her
questionings, the same answer that is given to every human troubling,
to all earthly hopes and fears and strivings. One stroke of that black
knife and everything would be lost or found. Would it be so great a
thing to give her life for Geoffrey?--why she had well nigh done as much
when she had known him but an hour, and now that he was all in all,
oh, would it be so great a thing? If she died--died secretly, swiftly,
surely--Geoffrey would be saved; they would not trouble him then, there
would be no one to trouble about: Owen Davies could not marry her then,
Geoffrey could not ruin himself over her, Elizabeth could pursue her no
further. It would be well to do this thing for Geoffrey, and he would
always love her, and beyond that black curtain there might be something
better.

They said that it was sin. Yes, it might be sin to act thus for oneself
alone. But to do it for another--how of that! Was not the Saviour whom
they preached a Man of Sacrifice? Would it be a sin in her to die for
Geoffrey, to sacrifice herself that Geoffrey might go free?

Oh, it would be no great merit. Her life was not so easy that she should
fear this pure embrace. It would be better, far better, than to marry
Owen Davies, than to desecrate their love and teach Geoffrey to despise
her. And how else could she ward this trouble from him except by her
death, or by a marriage that in her eyes was more dreadful than any
death?



She could not do it yet. She could not die until she had once more seen
his face, even though he did not see hers. No, not to-night would
she seek this swift solution. She had words to say--or words to
write--before the end. Already they rushed in upon her mind!

But if no better plan presented itself she would do it, she was sure
that she would. It was a sin--well, let it be a sin; what did she care
if she sinned for Geoffrey? He would not think the worse of her for it.
And she had hope, yes, Geoffrey had taught her to hope. If there was a
Hell, why it was here. And yet not all a Hell, for in it she had found
her love!



It grew dark; she could hear the whisper of the waves upon Bryngelly
beach. It grew dark; the night was closing round. She paddled to within
a few fathoms of the shore, and called in her clear voice.

"Ay, ay, miss," answered old Edward from the beach. "Come in on the next
wave."

She came in accordingly and her canoe was caught and dragged high and
dry.

"What, Miss Beatrice," said the old man shaking his head and grumbling,
"at it again! Out all alone in that thing," and he gave the canoe a
contemptuous kick, "and in the dark, too. You want a husband to look
after you, you do. You'll never rest till you're drowned."

"No, Edward," she answered with a little laugh. "I don't suppose that I
shall. There is no peace for the wicked above seas, you know. Now do not
scold. The canoe is as safe as church in this weather and in the bay."

"Oh, yes, it's safe enough in the calm and the bay," he answered, "but
supposing it should come on to blow and supposing you should drift
beyond the shelter of Rumball Point there, and get the rollers down on
you--why you would be drowned in five minutes. It's wicked, miss, that's
what it is."

Beatrice laughed again and went.

"She's a funny one she is," said the old man scratching his head as he
looked after her, "of all the woman folk as ever I knowed she is the
rummest. I sometimes thinks she wants to get drowned. Dash me if I
haven't half a mind to stave a hole in the bottom of that there damned
canoe, and finish it."

Beatrice reached home a little before supper time. Her first act was
to call Betty the servant and with her assistance to shift her bed and
things into the spare room. With Elizabeth she would have nothing more
to do. They had slept together since they were children, now she had
done with her. Then she went in to supper, and sat through it like a
statue, speaking no word. Her father and Elizabeth kept up a strained
conversation, but they did not speak to her, nor she to them. Elizabeth
did not even ask where she had been, nor take any notice of her change
of room.

One thing, however, Beatrice learnt. Her father was going on the Monday
to Hereford by an early train to attend a meeting of clergymen collected
to discuss the tithe question. He was to return by the last train on
the Tuesday night, that is, about midnight. Beatrice now discovered
that Elizabeth proposed to accompany him. Evidently she wished to see as
little as possible of her sister during this week of truce--possibly she
was a little afraid of her. Even Elizabeth might have a conscience.

So she should be left alone from Monday morning till Tuesday night. One
can do a good deal in forty hours.

After supper Beatrice rose and left the room, without a word, and they
were glad when she went. She frightened them with her set face and
great calm eyes. But neither spoke to the other on the subject. They had
entered into a conspiracy of silence.

Beatrice locked her door and then sat at the window lost in thought.
When once the idea of suicide has entered the mind it is apt to grow
with startling rapidity. She reviewed the whole position; she went
over all the arguments and searched the moral horizon for some feasible
avenue of escape. But she could find none that would save Geoffrey,
except this. Yes, she would do it, as many another wretched woman had
done before her, not from cowardice indeed, for had she alone been
concerned she would have faced the thing out, fighting to the bitter
end--but for this reason only, it would cut off the dangers which
threatened Geoffrey at their very root and source. Of course there must
be no scandal; it must never be known that she had killed herself, or
she might defeat her own object, for the story would be raked up. But
she well knew how to avoid such a possibility; in her extremity Beatrice
grew cunning as a fox. Yes, and there might be an inquest at which
awkward questions would be asked. But, as she well knew also, before
an inquest can be held there must be something to hold it on, and that
something would not be there.



And so in the utter silence of the night and in the loneliness of her
chamber did Beatrice dedicate herself to sacrifice upon the altar of
her immeasurable love. She would face the last agonies of death when the
bloom of her youthful strength and beauty was but opening as a rose in
June. She would do more, she would brave the threatened vengeance of the
most High, coming before Him a self murderess, and with but one plea for
pity--that she loved so well: _quia multum amavit_. Yes, she would do
all this, would leave the warm world in the dawning summer of her days,
and alone go out into the dark--alone would face those visions which
might come--those Shapes of terror, and those Things of fear, that
perchance may wait for sinful human kind. Alone she would go--oh, hand
in hand with him it had been easy, but this must not be. The door of
utter darkness would swing to behind her, and who could say if in time
to come it should open to Geoffrey's following feet, or if he might ever
find the path that she had trod. It must be done, it should be done!
Beatrice rose from her seat with bright eyes and quick-coming breath,
and swore before God, if God there were, that she would do it, trusting
to Him for pardon and for pity, or failing these--for sleep.

Yes, but first she must once more look upon Geoffrey's dear face--and
then farewell!

Pity her! poor mistaken woman, making of her will a Providence, rushing
to doom. Pity her, but do not blame her overmuch, or if you do, then
blame Judith and Jephtha's daughter and Charlotte Corday, and all the
glorious women who from time to time have risen on this sordid world of
self, and given themselves as an offering upon the altars of their love,
their religion, their honour or their country!



It was finished. Now let her rest while she could, seeing what was
to come. With a sigh for all that was, and all that might have been,
Beatrice lay down and soon slept sweetly as a child.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

Next day was Sunday. Beatrice did not go to church. For one thing, she
feared to see Owen Davies there. But she took her Sunday school class as
usual, and long did the children remember how kind and patient she was
with them that day, and how beautifully she told them the story of
the Jewish girl of long ago, who went forth to die for the sake of her
father's oath.

Nearly all the rest of the day and evening she spent in writing that
which we shall read in time--only in the late afternoon she went out for
a little while in her canoe. Another thing Beatrice did also: she called
at the lodging of her assistant, the head school teacher, and told
her it was possible that she would not be in her place on the Tuesday
(Monday was, as it chanced, a holiday). If anybody inquired as to her
absence, perhaps she would kindly tell them that Miss Granger had an
appointment to keep, and had taken a morning's holiday in order to do
so. She should, however, be back that afternoon. The teacher assented
without suspicion, remarking that if Beatrice could not take a morning's
holiday, she was sure she did not know who could.

Next morning they breakfasted very early, because Mr. Granger and
Elizabeth had to catch the train. Beatrice sat through the meal in
silence, her calm eyes looking straight before her, and the others,
gazing on them, and at the lovely inscrutable face, felt an indefinable
fear creep into their hearts. What did this woman mean to do? That was
the question they asked of themselves, though not of each other. That
she meant to do something they were sure, for there was purpose written
on every line of her cold face.

Suddenly, as they sat thinking, and making pretence to eat, a thought
flashed like an arrow into Beatrice's heart, and pierced it. This was
the last meal that they could ever take together, this was the last time
that she could ever see her father's and her sister's faces. For her
sister, well, it might pass--for there are some things which even a
woman like Beatrice can never quite forgive--but she loved her father.
She loved his very faults, even his simple avarice and self-seeking had
become endeared to her by long and wondering contemplation. Besides, he
was her father; he gave her the life she was about to cast away. And she
should never see him more. Not on that account did she hesitate in her
purpose, which was now set in her mind, like Bryngelly Castle on its
rock, but at the thought tears rushed unbidden to her eyes.

Just then breakfast came to an end, and Elizabeth hurried from the room
to fetch her bonnet.

"Father," said Beatrice, "if you can before you go, I should like
to hear you say that you do not believe that I told you what was
false--about that story."

"Eh, eh!" answered the old man nervously, "I thought that we had agreed
to say nothing about the matter at present."

"Yes, but I should like to hear you say it, father. It cuts me that
you should think that I would lie to you, for in my life I have never
wilfully told you what was not true;" and she clasped her hands about
his arms, and looked into his face.

He gazed at her doubtfully. Was it possible after all she was speaking
the truth? No; it was not possible.

"I can't, Beatrice," he said--"not that I blame you overmuch for trying
to defend yourself; a cornered rat will show fight."

"May you never regret those words," she said; "and now good-bye," and
she kissed him on the forehead.

At this moment Elizabeth entered, saying that it was time to start, and
he did not return the kiss.

"Good-bye, Elizabeth," said Beatrice, stretching out her hand. But
Elizabeth affected not to see it, and in another moment they were gone.
She followed them to the gate and watched them till they vanished down
the road. Then she returned, her heart strained almost to bursting. But
she wept no tear.

Thus did Beatrice bid a last farewell to her father and her sister.

"Elizabeth," said Mr. Granger, as they drew near to the station, "I am
not easy in my thoughts about Beatrice. There was such a strange look in
her eyes; it--in short, it frightens me. I have half a mind to give up
Hereford, and go back," and he stopped upon the road, hesitating.

"As you like," said Elizabeth with a sneer, "but I should think that
Beatrice is big enough and bad enough to look after herself."

"Before the God who made us," said the old man furiously, and striking
the ground with his stick, "she may be bad, but she is not so bad as you
who betrayed her. If Beatrice is a Magdalene, you are a woman Judas; and
I believe that you hate her, and would be glad to see her dead."

Elizabeth made no answer. They were nearing the station, for her father
had started on again, and there were people about. But she looked at
him, and he never forgot the look. It was quite enough to chill him into
silence, nor did he allude to the matter any more.



When they were gone, Beatrice set about her own preparations. Her wild
purpose was to travel to London, and catch a glimpse of Geoffrey's face
in the House of Commons, if possible, and then return. She put on her
bonnet and best dress; the latter was very plainly made of simple grey
cloth, but on her it looked well enough, and in the breast of it she
thrust the letter which she had written on the previous day. A small
hand-bag, with some sandwiches and a brush and comb in it, and a cloak,
made up the total of her baggage.

The train, which did not stop at Bryngelly, left Coed at ten, and Coed
was an hour and a half's walk. She must be starting. Of course, she
would have to be absent for the night, and she was sorely puzzled how
to account for her absence to Betty, the servant girl; the others
being gone there was no need to do so to anybody else. But here fortune
befriended her. While she was thinking the matter over, who should come
in but Betty herself, crying. She had just heard, she said, that her
little sister, who lived with their mother at a village about ten miles
away, had been knocked down by a cart and badly hurt. Might she go home
for the night? She could come back on the morrow, and Miss Beatrice
could get somebody in to sleep if she was lonesome.

Beatrice sympathised, demurred, and consented, and Betty started at
once. As soon as she was gone, Beatrice locked up the house, put the
key in her pocket, and started on her five miles' tramp. Nobody saw her
leave the house, and she passed by a path at the back of the village, so
that nobody saw her on the road. Reaching Coed Station quite unobserved,
and just before the train was due, she let down her veil, and took a
third-class ticket to London. This she was obliged to do, for her
stock of money was very small; it amounted, altogether, to thirty-six
shillings, of which the fare to London and back would cost her
twenty-eight and fourpence.

In another minute she had entered an empty carriage, and the train had
steamed away.

She reached Paddington about eight that night, and going to the
refreshment room, dined on some tea and bread and butter. Then she
washed her hands, brushed her hair, and started.

Beatrice had never been in London before, and as soon as she left
the station the rush and roar of the huge city took hold of her, and
confused her. Her idea was to walk to the Houses of Parliament at
Westminster. She would, she thought, be sure to see Geoffrey there,
because she had bought a daily paper in which she had read that he was
to be one of the speakers in a great debate on the Irish Question, which
was to be brought to a close that night. She had been told by a friendly
porter to follow Praed Street till she reached the Edgware Road, then to
walk on to the Marble Arch, and ask again. Beatrice followed the first
part of this programme--that is, she walked as far as the Edgware Road.
Then it was that confusion seized her and she stood hesitating. At this
juncture, a coarse brute of a man came up and made some remark to her.
It was impossible for a woman like Beatrice to walk alone in the streets
of London at night, without running the risk of such attentions. She
turned from him, and as she did so, heard him say something about her
beauty to a fellow Arcadian. Close to where she was stood two hansom
cabs. She went to the first and asked the driver for how much he would
take her to the House of Commons.

"Two bob, miss," he answered.

Beatrice shook her head, and turned to go again. She was afraid to spend
so much on cabs, for she must get back to Bryngelly.

"I'll take yer for eighteenpence, miss," called out the other driver.
This offer she was about to accept when the first man interposed.

"You leave my fare alone, will yer? Tell yer what, miss, I'm a
gentleman, I am, and I'll take yer for a bob."

She smiled and entered the cab. Then came a whirl of great gas-lit
thoroughfares, and in a quarter of an hour they pulled up at the
entrance to the House. Beatrice paid the cabman his shilling, thanked
him, and entered, only once more to find herself confused with a vision
of white statues, marble floors, high arching roofs, and hurrying
people. An automatic policeman asked her what she wanted. Beatrice
answered that she wished to get into the House.

"Pass this way, then, miss--pass this way," said the automatic officer
in a voice of brass. She passed, and passed, and finally found herself
in a lobby, among a crowd of people of all sorts--seedy political touts,
Irish priests and hurrying press-men. At one side of the lobby were more
policemen and messengers, who were continually taking cards into the
House, then returning and calling out names. Insensibly she drifted
towards these policemen.

"Ladies' Gallery, miss?" said a voice; "your order, please, though I
think it's full."

Here was a fresh complication. Beatrice had no order. She had no idea
that one was necessary.

"I haven't got an order," she said faintly. "I did not know that I must
have one. Can I not get in without?"

"Most certainly _not_, miss," answered the voice, while its owner,
suspecting dynamite, surveyed her with a cold official eye. "Now make
way, make way, please."

Beatrice's grey eyes filled with tears, as she turned to go in
bitterness of heart. So all her labour was in vain, and that which would
be done must be done without the mute farewell she sought. Well, when
sorrow was so much, what mattered a little more? She turned to go, but
not unobserved. A certain rather youthful Member of Parliament, with an
eye for beauty in distress, had been standing close to her, talking to
a constituent. The constituent had departed to wherever constituents
go--and many representatives, if asked, would cheerfully point out a
locality suitable to the genus, at least in their judgment--and the
member had overheard the conversation and seen Beatrice's eyes fill with
tears. "What a lovely woman!" he had said to himself, and then did what
he should have done, namely, lifted his hat and inquired if, as a member
of the House, he could be of any service to her. Beatrice listened,
and explained that she was particularly anxious to get into the Ladies'
Gallery.

"I think that I can help you, then," he said. "As it happens a lady, for
whom I got an order, has telegraphed to say that she cannot come. Will
you follow me? Might I ask you to give me your name?"

"Mrs. Everston," answered Beatrice, taking the first that came into her
head. The member looked a little disappointed. He had vaguely hoped that
this lovely creature was unappropriated. Surely her marriage could not
be satisfactory, or she would not look so sad.

Then came more stairs and passages, and formalities, till presently
Beatrice found herself in a kind of bird-cage, crowded to suffocation
with every sort of lady.

"I'm afraid--I am very much afraid----" began her new-found friend,
surveying the mass with dismay.

But at that moment, a stout lady in front feeling faint with the heat,
was forced to leave the Gallery, and almost before she knew where she
was, Beatrice was installed in her place. Her friend had bowed and
vanished, and she was left to all purposes alone, for she never
heeded those about her, though some of them looked at her hard enough,
wondering at her form and beauty, and who she might be.

She cast her eye down over the crowded House, and saw a vision of hats,
collars, and legs, and heard a tumult of sounds: the sharp voice of
a speaker who was rapidly losing his temper, the plaudits of the
Government benches, the interruptions from the Opposition--yes, even
yells, and hoots, and noises, that reminded her remotely of the crowing
of cocks. Possibly had she thought of it, Beatrice would not have been
greatly impressed with the dignity of an assembly, at the doors of
which so many of its members seemed to leave their manners, with their
overcoats and sticks; it might even have suggested the idea of a bear
garden to her mind. But she simply did not think about it. She searched
the House keenly enough, but it was to find one face, and one only--Ah!
there he was.

And now the House of Commons might vanish into the bottomless abyss,
and take with it the House of Lords, and what remained of the British
Constitution, and she would never miss them. For, at the best of times,
Beatrice--in common with most of her sex--in all gratitude be it said,
was _not_ an ardent politician.

There Geoffrey sat, his arms folded--the hat pushed slightly from his
forehead, so that she could see his face. There was her own beloved,
whom she had come so far to see, and whom to-morrow she would dare
so much to save. How sad he looked--he did not seem to be paying
much attention to what was going on. She knew well enough that he was
thinking of her; she could feel it in her head as she had often felt it
before. But she dared not let her mind go out to him in answer, for, if
once she did so, she knew also that he would discover her. So she sat,
and fed her eyes upon his face, taking her farewell of it, while round
her, and beneath her, the hum of the House went on, as ever present and
as unnoticed as the hum of bees upon a summer noon.

Presently the gentleman who had been so kind to her, sat down in
the next seat to Geoffrey, and began to whisper to him, as he did so
glancing once or twice towards the grating behind which she was.
She guessed that he was telling him the story of the lady who was so
unaccountably anxious to hear the debate, and how pretty she was. But it
did not seem to interest Geoffrey much, and Beatrice was feminine enough
to notice it, and to be glad of it. In her gentle jealousy, she did not
like to think of Geoffrey as being interested in accounts of mysterious
ladies, however pretty.

At length a speaker rose--she understood from the murmur of those around
her that he was one of the leaders of the Opposition, and commenced a
powerful and bitter speech. She noticed that Geoffrey roused himself at
this point, and began to listen with attention.

"Look," said one of the ladies near her, "Mr. Bingham is taking notes.
He is going to speak next--he speaks wonderfully, you know. They say
that he is as good as anybody in the House, except Gladstone, and Lord
Randolph."

"Oh!" answered another lady. "Lady Honoria is not here, is she? I don't
see her."

"No," replied the first; "she is a dear creature, and so handsome
too--just the wife for a rising man--but I don't think that she takes
much interest in politics. Are not her dinners charming?"

At this moment, a volley of applause from the Opposition benches drowned
the murmured conversation.

This speaker spoke for about three-quarters of an hour, and then at last
Geoffrey stood up. One or two other members rose at the same time, but
ultimately they gave way.

He began slowly--and somewhat tamely, as it seemed to Beatrice, whose
heart was in her mouth--but when he had been speaking for about five
minutes, he warmed up. And then began one of the most remarkable
oratorical displays of that Parliament. Geoffrey had spoken well before,
and would speak well again, but perhaps he never spoke so well as he
did upon that night. For nearly an hour and a half he held the House in
chains, even the hoots and interruptions died away towards the end of
his oration. His powerful presence seemed to tower in the place, like
that of a giant among pigmies, and his dark, handsome face, lit with the
fires of eloquence, shone like a lamp. He leaned forward with a slight
stoop of his broad shoulders, and addressed himself, nominally to the
Speaker, but really to the Opposition. He took their facts one by one,
and with convincing logic showed that they were no facts; amid a hiss of
anger he pulverised their arguments and demonstrated their motives. Then
suddenly he dropped them altogether, and addressing himself to the House
at large, and the country beyond the House, he struck another note, and
broke out into that storm of patriotic eloquence which confirmed his
growing reputation, both in Parliament and in the constituencies.

Beatrice shut her eyes and listened to the deep, rich voice as it rose
from height to height and power to power, till the whole place seemed
full of it, and every contending sound was hushed.

Suddenly, after an invocation that would have been passionate had it
not been so restrained and strong, he stopped. She opened her eyes and
looked. Geoffrey was seated as before, with his hat on. He had been
speaking for an hour and a half, and yet, to her, it seemed but a few
minutes since he rose. Then broke out a volley of cheers, in the midst
of which a leader of the Opposition rose to reply, not in the very best
of tempers, for Geoffrey's speech had hit them hard.

He began, however, by complimenting the honourable member on his
speech, "as fine a speech as he had listened to for many years, though,
unfortunately, made from a mistaken standpoint and the wrong side of
the House." Then he twitted the Government with not having secured
the services of a man so infinitely abler than the majority of their
"items," and excited a good deal of amusement by stating, with some
sarcastic humour, that, should it ever be his lot to occupy the front
Treasury bench, he should certainly make a certain proposal to the
honourable member. After this good-natured badinage, he drifted off into
the consideration of the question under discussion, and Beatrice paid no
further attention to him, but occupied herself in watching Geoffrey drop
back into the same apparent state of cold indifference, from which the
necessity of action had aroused him.

Presently the gentleman who had found her the seat came up and spoke to
her, asking her how she was getting on. Very soon he began to speak of
Geoffrey's speech, saying that it was one of the most brilliant of the
session, if not the most brilliant.

"Then Mr. Bingham is a rising man, I suppose?" Beatrice said.

"Rising? I should think so," he answered. "They will get him into
the Government on the first opportunity after this; he's too good to
neglect. Very few men can come to the fore like Mr. Bingham. We call him
the comet, and if only he does not make a mess of his chances by
doing something foolish, there is no reason why he should not be
Attorney-General in a few years."

"Why should he do anything foolish?" she asked.

"Oh, for no reason on earth, that I know of; only, as I daresay you have
noticed, men of this sort are very apt to do ridiculous things, throw
up their career, get into a public scandal, run away with somebody or
something. Not that there should be any fear of such a thing where Mr.
Bingham is concerned, for he has a charming wife, and they say that she
is a great help to him. Why, there is the division bell. Good-bye, Mrs.
Everston, I will come back to see you out."

"Good-bye," Beatrice answered, "and in case I should miss you, I wish
to say something--to thank you for your kindness in helping me to get in
here to-night. You have done me a great service, a very great service,
and I am most grateful to you."

"It is nothing--nothing," he answered. "It has been a pleasure to help
you. If," he added with some confusion, "you would allow me to call some
day, the pleasure will be all the greater. I will bring Mr. Bingham with
me, if you would like to know him--that is, if I can."

Beatrice shook her head. "I cannot," she answered, smiling sadly. "I
am going on a long journey to-morrow, and I shall not return here.
Good-bye."

In another second he was gone, more piqued and interested about this
fair unknown than he had been about any woman for years. Who could she
be? and why was she so anxious to hear the debate? There was a mystery
in it somewhere, and he determined to solve it if he could.

Meanwhile the division took place, and presently the members flocked
back, and amidst ringing Ministerial cheers, and counter Opposition
cheers, the victory of the Government was announced. Then came the usual
formalities, and the members began to melt away. Beatrice saw the leader
of the House and several members of the Government go up to Geoffrey,
shake his hand, and congratulate him. Then, with one long look, she
turned and went, leaving him in the moment of his triumph, that seemed
to interest him so little, but which made Beatrice more proud at heart
than if she had been declared empress of the world.

Oh, it was well to love a man like that, a man born to tower over
his fellow men--and well to die for him! Could she let her miserable
existence interfere with such a life as his should be? Never, never!
There should be no "public scandal" on her account.

She drew her veil over her face, and inquired the way from the House.
Presently she was outside. By one of the gateways, and in the shadow of
its pillars, she stopped, watching the members of the House stream past
her. Many of them were talking together, and once or twice she caught
the sound of Geoffrey's name, coupled with such words as "splendid
speech," and other terms of admiration.

"Move on, move on," said a policeman to her. Lifting her veil, Beatrice
turned and looked at him, and muttering something he moved on himself,
leaving her in peace. Presently she saw Geoffrey and the gentleman who
had been so kind to her walking along together. They came through the
gateway; the lappet of his coat brushed her arm, and he never saw her.
Closer she crouched against the pillar, hiding herself in its shadow.
Within six feet of her Geoffrey stopped and lit a cigar. The light of
the match flared upon his face, that dark, strong face she loved so
well. How tired he looked. A great longing took possession of her to
step forward and speak to him, but she restrained herself almost by
force.

Her friend was speaking to him, and about her.

"Such a lovely woman," he was saying, "with the clearest and most
beautiful grey eyes that I ever saw. But she has gone like a dream. I
can't find her anywhere. It is a most mysterious business."

"You are falling in love, Tom," answered Geoffrey absently, as he threw
away the match and walked on. "Don't do that; it is an unhappy thing to
do," and he sighed.

He was going! Oh, heaven! she would never, never see him more! A cold
horror seized upon Beatrice, her blood seemed to stagnate. She trembled
so much that she could scarcely stand. Leaning forward, she looked after
him, with such a face of woe that even the policeman, who had repented
him of his forbearance, and was returning to send her away, stood
astonished. The two men had gone about ten yards, when something
induced Beatrice's friend to look back. His eye fell upon the white,
agony-stricken face, now in the full glare of the gas lamp.

Beatrice saw him turn, and understood her danger. "Oh, good-bye,
Geoffrey!" she murmured, for a second allowing her heart to go forth
towards him. Then realising what she had done, she dropped her veil,
and went swiftly. The gentleman called "Tom"--she never learnt his
name--stood for a moment dumbfounded, and at that instant Geoffrey
staggered, as though he had been struck by a shot, turned quite white,
and halted.

"Why," said his companion, "there is that lady again; we must have
passed quite close to her. She was looking after us, I saw her face in
the gaslight--and I never want to see such another."

Geoffrey seized him by the arm. "Where is she?" he asked, "and what was
she like?"

"She was there a second ago," he said, pointing to the pillar, "but I've
lost her now--I fancy she went towards the railway station, but I could
not see. Stop, is that she?" and he pointed to a tall person walking
towards the Abbey.

Quickly they moved to intercept her, but the result was not
satisfactory, and they retreated hastily from the object of their
attentions.

Meanwhile Beatrice found herself opposite the entrance to the
Westminster Bridge Station. A hansom was standing there; she got into it
and told the man to drive to Paddington.

Before the pair had retraced their steps she was gone. "She has
vanished again," said "Tom," and went on to give a description of her to
Geoffrey. Of her dress he had unfortunately taken little note. It might
be one of Beatrice's, or it might not. It seemed almost inconceivable to
Geoffrey that she should be masquerading about London, under the name of
Mrs. Everston. And yet--and yet--he could have sworn--but it was folly!

Suddenly he bade his friend good-night, and took a hansom. "The mystery
thickens," said the astonished "Tom," as he watched him drive away.
"I would give a hundred pounds to find out what it all means. Oh! that
woman's face--it haunts me. It looked like the face of an angel bidding
farewell to Heaven."

But he never did find out any more about it, though the despairing eyes
of Beatrice, as she bade her mute farewell, still sometimes haunt his
sleep.

Geoffrey reflected rapidly. The thing was ridiculous, and yet it was
possible. Beyond that brief line in answer to his letter, he had heard
nothing from Beatrice. Indeed he was waiting to hear from her before
taking any further step. But even supposing she were in London, where
was he to look for her? He knew that she had no money, he could not
stay there long. It occurred to him there was a train leaving Euston for
Wales about four in the morning. It was just possible that she might
be in town, and returning by this train. He told the cabman to drive to
Euston Station, and on arrival, closely questioned a sleepy porter, but
without satisfactory results.

Then he searched the station; there were no traces of Beatrice. He did
more; he sat down, weary as he was, and waited for an hour and a
half, till it was time for the train to start. There were but three
passengers, and none of them in the least resembled Beatrice.

"It is very strange," Geoffrey said to himself, as he walked away. "I
could have sworn that I felt her presence just for one second. It must
have been nonsense. This is what comes of occult influences, and that
kind of thing. The occult is a nuisance."

If he had only gone to Paddington!



CHAPTER XXVIII

I WILL WAIT FOR YOU

Beatrice drove back to Paddington, and as she drove, though her face did
not change from its marble cast of woe the great tears rolled down it,
one by one.

They reached the deserted-looking station, and she paid the man out of
her few remaining shillings--seeing that she was a stranger, he insisted
upon receiving half-a-crown. Then, disregarding the astonished stare
of a night porter, she found her way to the waiting room, and sat down.
First she took the letter from her breast, and added some lines to it
in pencil, but she did not post it yet; she knew that if she did so
it would reach its destination too soon. Then she laid her head back
against the wall, and utterly outworn, dropped to sleep--her last sleep
upon this earth, before the longest sleep of all.

And thus Beatrice waited and slept at Paddington, while her lover waited
and watched at Euston.

At five she woke, and the heavy cloud of sorrow, past, present, and to
come, rushed in upon her heart. Taking her bag, she made herself as tidy
as she could. Then she stepped outside the station into the deserted
street, and finding a space between the houses, watched the sun rise
over the waking world. It was her last sunrise, Beatrice remembered.

She came back filled with such thoughts as might well strike the heart
of a woman about to do the thing she had decreed. The refreshment bar
was open now, and she went to it, and bought a cup of coffee and some
bread and butter. Then she took her ticket, not to Bryngelly or to Coed,
but to the station on this side of Bryngelly, and three miles from it.
She would run less risk of being noticed there. The train was shunted
up; she took her seat in it. Just as it was starting, an early newspaper
boy came along, yawning. Beatrice bought a copy of the _Standard_, out
of the one and threepence that was left of her money, and opened it at
the sheet containing the leading articles. The first one began, "The
most powerful, closely reasoned, and eloquent speech made last night by
Mr. Bingham, the Member for Pillham, will, we feel certain, produce as
great an effect on the country as it did in the House of Commons. We
welcome it, not only on account of its value as a contribution to the
polemics of the Irish Question, but as a positive proof of what has
already been suspected, that the Unionist party has in Mr. Bingham a
young statesman of a very high order indeed, and one whom remarkable and
rapid success at the Bar has not hampered, as is too often the case, in
the larger and less technical field of politics."

And so on. Beatrice put the paper down with a smile of triumph.
Geoffrey's success was splendid and unquestioned. Nothing could stop
him now. During all the long journey she pleased her imagination by
conjuring up picture after picture of that great future of his, in which
she would have no share. And yet he would not forget her; she was sure
of this. Her shadow would go with him from year to year, even to the
end, and at times he might think how proud she would have been could she
be present to record his triumphs. Alas! she did not remember that when
all is lost which can make life beautiful, when the sun has set, and
the spirit gone out of the day, the poor garish lights of our little
victories can but ill atone for the glories that have been. Happiness
and content are frail plants which can only flourish under fair
conditions if at all. Certainly they will not thrive beneath the gloom
and shadow of a pall, and when the heart is dead no triumphs, however
splendid, and no rewards, however great, can compensate for an utter and
irredeemable loss. She never guessed, poor girl, that time upon time, in
the decades to be, Geoffrey would gladly have laid his honours down in
payment for one year of her dear and unforgotten presence. She was too
unselfish; she did not think that a man could thus prize a woman's
love, and took it for an axiom that to succeed in life was his one real
object--a thing to which so divine a gift as she had given Geoffrey is
as nothing. It was therefore this Juggernaut of her lover's career that
Beatrice would cast down her life, little knowing that thereby she must
turn the worldly and temporal success, which he already held so cheap,
to bitterness and ashes.

At Chester Beatrice got out of the train and posted her letter to
Geoffrey. She would not do so till then because it might have reached
him too soon--before all was finished! Now it would be delivered to him
in the House after everything had been accomplished in its order. She
looked at the letter; it was, she thought, the last token that could
ever pass between them on this earth. Once she pressed it to her heart,
once she touched it with her lips, and then put it from her beyond
recall. It was done; there was no going back now. And even as she stood
the postman came up, whistling, and opening the box carelessly swept its
contents into his canvas bag. Could he have known what lay among them he
would have whistled no more that day.

Beatrice continued her journey, and by three o'clock arrived safely at
the little station next to Bryngelly. There was a fair at Coed that day,
and many people of the peasant class got in here. Amidst the confusion
she gave up her ticket to a small boy, who was looking the other way at
the time, and escaped without being noticed by a soul. Indeed, things
happened so that nobody in the neighbourhood of Bryngelly ever knew that
Beatrice had been to London and back upon those dreadful days.

Beatrice walked along the cliff, and in an hour was at the door of
the Vicarage, from which she seemed to have been away for years. She
unlocked it and entered. In the letter-box was a post-card from her
father stating that he and Elizabeth had changed their plans and would
not be back till the train which arrived at half-past eight on the
following morning. So much the better, she thought. Then she disarranged
the clothes upon her bed to make it seem as though it had been slept it,
lit the kitchen fire, and put the kettle on to boil, and as soon as it
was ready she took some food. She wanted all her nerve, and that could
not be kept up without food.

Shortly after this the girl Betty returned, and went about her duties in
the house quite unconscious that Beatrice had been away from it for
the whole night. Her sister was much better, she said, in answer to
Beatrice's inquiries.

When she had eaten what she could--it was not much--Beatrice went to her
room, undressed herself, bathed, and put on clean, fresh things. Then
she unbound her lovely hair, and did it up in a coronet upon her head.
It was a fashion that she did not often adopt, because it took too much
time, but on this day, of all days, she had a strange fancy to look
her best. Also her hair had been done like this on the afternoon when
Geoffrey first met her. Next she put on the grey dress once more which
she had worn on her journey to London, and taking the silver Roman ring
that Geoffrey had given her from the string by which she wore it about
her neck, placed it on the third finger of her left hand.

All this being done, Beatrice visited the kitchen and ordered the
supper. She went further in her innocent cunning. Betty asked her what
she would like for breakfast on the following morning, and she told her
to cook some bacon, and to be careful how she cut it, as she did not
like thick bacon. Then, after one long last look at the Vicarage, she
started for the lodging of the head teacher of the school, and, having
found her, inquired as to the day's work.

Further, Beatrice told her assistant that she had determined to alter
the course of certain lessons in the school. The Wednesday arithmetic
class had hitherto been taken before the grammar class. On the morrow
she had determined to change this; she would take the grammar class
at ten and the arithmetic class at eleven, and gave her reasons for so
doing. The teacher assented, and Beatrice shook hands with her and bade
her good-night. She would have wished to say how much she felt indebted
to her for her help in the school, but did not like to do so, fearing
lest, in the light of pending events, the remark might be viewed with
suspicion.

Poor Beatrice, these were the only lies she ever told!

She left the teacher's lodgings, and was about to go down to the beach
and sit there till it was time, when she was met by the father of the
crazed child, Jane Llewellyn.

"Oh, Miss Beatrice," he said, "I have been looking for you everywhere.
We are in sad trouble, miss. Poor Jane is in a raving fit, and talking
about hell and that, and the doctor says she's dying. Can you come,
miss, and see if you can do anything to quiet her? It's a matter of life
and death, the doctor says, miss."

Beatrice smiled sadly; matters of life and death were in the air. "I
will come," she said, "but I shall not be able to stay long."

How could she better spend her last hour?

She accompanied the man to his cottage. The child, dressed only in a
night-shirt, was raving furiously, and evidently in the last stage of
exhaustion, nor could the doctor or her mother do anything to quiet her.

"Don't you see," she screamed, pointing to the wall, "there's the Devil
waiting for me? And, oh, there's the mouth of hell where the minister
said I should go! Oh, hold me, hold me, hold me!"

Beatrice walked up to her, took the thin little hands in hers, and
looked her fixedly in the eyes.

"Jane," she said. "Jane, don't you know me?"

"Yes, Miss Granger," she said, "I know the lesson; I will say it
presently."

Beatrice took her in her arms, and sat down on the bed. Quieter and
quieter grew the child till suddenly an awful change passed over her
face.

"She is dying," whispered the doctor.

"Hold me close, hold me close!" said the child, whose senses returned
before the last eclipse. "Oh, Miss Granger, I shan't go to hell, shall
I? I am afraid of hell."

"No, love, no; you will go to heaven."

Jane lay still awhile. Then seeing the pale lips move, Beatrice put her
ear to the child's mouth.

"Will you come with me?" she murmured; "I am afraid to go alone."

And Beatrice, her great grey eyes fixed steadily on the closing eyes
beneath, whispered back so that no other soul could hear except the
dying child:

"Yes, I will come presently." But Jane heard and understood.

"Promise," said the child.

"Yes, I promise," answered Beatrice in the same inaudible whisper.
"Sleep, dear, sleep; I will join you very soon."

And the child looked up, shivered, smiled--and slept.

Beatrice gave it back to the weeping parents and went her way. "What a
splendid creature," said the doctor to himself as he looked after her.
"She has eyes like Fate, and the face of Motherhood Incarnate. A great
woman, if ever I saw one, but different from other women."

Meanwhile Beatrice made her way to old Edward's boat-shed. As she
expected, there was nobody there, and nobody on the beach. Old Edward
and his son were at tea, with the rest of Bryngelly. They would come
back after dark and lock up the boat-house.

She looked at the sea. There were no waves, but the breeze freshened
every minute, and there was a long slow swell upon the water. The
rollers would be running beyond the shelter of Rumball Point, five miles
away.

The tide was high; it mounted to within ten yards of the end of the
boat-house. She opened the door, and dragged out her canoe, closing
the door again after her. The craft was light, and she was strong for a
woman. Close to the boat-house one of the timber breakwaters, which
are common at sea-side places, ran down into the water. She dragged the
canoe to its side, and then pushed it down the beach till its bow was
afloat. Next, mounting on the breakwater, she caught hold of the little
chain in the bow, and walking along the timber baulks, pulled with all
her force till the canoe was quite afloat. On she went, dragging it
after her, till the waves washing over the breakwater wetted her shoes.

Then she brought the canoe quite close, and, watching her opportunity,
stepped into it, nearly falling into the water as she did so. But she
recovered her balance, and sat down. In another minute she was paddling
out to sea with all her strength.

For twenty minutes or more she paddled unceasingly. Then she rested
awhile, only keeping the canoe head on to the sea, which, without being
rough, was running more and more freshly. There, some miles away, was
the dark mass of Rumball Point. She must be off it before the night
closed in. There would be sea enough there; no such craft as hers could
live in it for five minutes, and the tide was on the turn. Anything
sinking in those waters would be carried far away, and never come back
to the shore of Wales.

She turned her head and looked at Bryngelly, and the long familiar
stretch of cliff. How fair it seemed, bathed in the quiet lights of
summer afternoon. Oh! was there any afternoon where the child had gone,
and where she was following fast?--or was it all night, black, eternal
night, unbroken by the dram of dear remembered things?

There were the Dog Rocks, where she had stood on that misty autumn
day, and seen the vision of her coffined mother's face. Surely it was a
presage of her fate. There beyond was the Bell Rock, where in that same
hour Geoffrey and she had met, and behind it was the Amphitheatre, where
they had told their love. Hark! what was that sound pealing faintly at
intervals across the deep? It was the great ship's bell that, stirred
from time to time by the wash of the high tide, solemnly tolled her
passing soul.

She paddled on; the sound of that death-knell shook her nerves, and made
her feel faint and weak. Oh, it would have been easier had she been as
she was a year ago, before she learned to love, and hand in hand had
seen faith and hope re-arise from the depths of her stirred soul. Then
being but a heathen, she could have met her end with all a heathen's
strength, knowing what she lost, and believing, too, that she would
find but sleep. And now it was otherwise, for in her heart she did not
believe that she was about utterly to perish. What, could the body live
on in a thousand forms, changed indeed but indestructible and immortal,
while the spiritual part, with all its hopes and loves and fears, melted
into nothingness? It could not be; surely on some new shore she should
once again greet her love. And if it was not, how would they meet her
in that under world, coming self-murdered, her life-blood on her hands?
Would her mother turn away from her? and the little brother, whom she
had loved, would he reject her? And what Voice of Doom might strike her
into everlasting hopelessness?

But, be the sin what it might, yet would she sin it for the sake of
Geoffrey; ay, even if she must reap a harvest of eternal woe. She bent
her head and prayed. "Oh, Power, that art above, from whom I come, to
whom I go, have mercy on me! Oh, Spirit, if indeed thy name is Love,
weigh my love in thy balance, and let it lift the scale of sin. Oh, God
of Sacrifice, be not wroth at my deed of sacrifice and give me pardon,
give me life and peace, that in a time to come I may win the sight of
him for whom I die."

A somewhat heathenish prayer indeed, and far too full of human passion
for one about to leave the human shores. But, then--well, it was
Beatrice who prayed--Beatrice, who could realise no heaven beyond the
limits of her passion, who still thought more of her love than of saving
her own soul alive. Perhaps it found a home--perhaps, like her who
prayed it, it was lost upon the pitiless deep.

Then Beatrice prayed no more. Short was her time. See, there sank the
sun in glory; and there the great rollers swept along past the sullen
headland, where the undertow met wind and tide. She would think no more
of self; it was, it seemed to her, so small, this mendicant calling on
the Unseen, not for others, but for self: aid for self, well-being for
self, salvation for self--this doing of good that good might come to
self. She had made her prayer, and if she prayed again it should be for
Geoffrey, that he might prosper and be happy--that he might forgive the
trouble her love had brought into his life. That he might forget her she
could not pray. She had prayed her prayer and said her say, and it was
done with. Let her be judged as it seemed good to Those who judge! Now
she would fix her thoughts upon her love, and by its strength would she
triumph over the bitterness of death. Her eyes flashed and her breast
heaved: further out to sea, further yet--she would meet those rollers
a knot or more from the point of the headland, that no record might
remain.

Was it her wrong if she loved him? She could not help it, and she was
proud to love him. Even now, she would not undo the past. What were
the lines that Geoffrey had read to her. They haunted her mind with a
strange persistence--they took time to the beat of her falling paddle,
and would not leave her:

     "Of once sown seed, who knoweth what the crop is?
     Alas, my love, Love's eyes are very blind!
     What would they have us do? Sunflowers and poppies
     Stoop to the wind----"[*]

     [*] Oliver Madox Brown.

Yes, yes, Love's eyes are very blind, but in their blindness there was
more light than in all other earthly things. Oh, she could not live for
him, and with him--it was denied to her--but she still could die for
him, her darling, her darling!



"Geoffrey, hear me--I die for you; accept my sacrifice, and forget me
not." So!--she is in the rollers--how solemn they are with their hoary
heads of foam, as one by one they move down upon her.

The first! it towers high, but the canoe rides it like a cork. Look! the
day is dying on the distant land, but still his glory shines across the
sea. Presently all will be finished. Here the breeze is strong; it tears
the bonnet from her head, it unwinds the coronet of braided locks,
and her bright hair streams out behind her. Feel how the spray stings,
striking like a whip. No, not this wave, she rides that also; she
will die as she has lived--fighting to the last; and once more, never
faltering, she sets her face towards the rollers and consigns her soul
to doom.

Ah! that struck her full. Oh, see! Geoffrey's ring has slipped from her
wet hand, falling into the bottom of the boat. Can she regain it? she
would die with that ring upon her finger--it is her marriage-ring,
wedding her through death to Geoffrey, upon the altar of the sea. She
stoops! oh, what a shock of water at her breast! What was it--what was
it?--_Of once sown seed, who knoweth what the crop is?_ She must soon
learn now!

"Geoffrey! hear me, Geoffrey!--I die, I die for you! I will wait for you
at the foundations of the sea, on the topmost heights of heaven, in the
lowest deeps of hell--wherever I am I will always wait for you!"

It sinks--it has sunk--she is alone with God, and the cruel waters.
The sun goes out! Look on that great white wave seething through the
deepening gloom; hear it rushing towards her, big with fate.

"Geoffrey, my darling--I will wait----"



Farewell to Beatrice! The light went out of the sky and darkness
gathered on the weltering sea. Farewell to Beatrice, and all her love
and all her sin.



CHAPTER XXIX

A WOMAN'S LAST WORD

Geoffrey came down to breakfast about eleven o'clock on the morning of
that day the first hours of which he had spent at Euston Station. Not
seeing Effie, he asked Lady Honoria where she was, and was informed that
Anne, the French _bonne_, said the child was not well and that she had
kept her in bed to breakfast.

"Do you mean to say that you have not been up to see what is the matter
with her?" asked Geoffrey.

"No, not yet," answered his wife. "I have had the dressmaker here with
my new dress for the duchess's ball to-morrow; it's lovely, but I think
that there is a little too much of that creamy lace about it."

With an exclamation of impatience, Geoffrey rose and went upstairs. He
found Effie tossing about in bed, her face flushed, her eyes wide open,
and her little hands quite hot.

"Send for the doctor at once," he said.

The doctor came and examined the child, asking her if she had wet her
feet lately.

"Yes, I did, two days ago. I wet my feet in a puddle in the street," she
answered. "But Anne did say that they would soon get dry, if I held
them to the fire, because my other boots was not clean. Oh, my head does
ache, daddie."

"Ah," said the doctor, and then covering the child up, took Geoffrey
aside and told him that his daughter had a mild attack of inflammation
of the lungs. There was no cause for anxiety, only she must be looked
after and guarded from chills.

Geoffrey asked if he should send for a trained nurse.

"Oh, no," said the doctor. "I do not think it is necessary, at any rate
at present. I will tell the nurse what to do, and doubtless your wife
will keep an eye on her."

So Anne was called up, and vowed that she would guard the cherished
child like the apple of her eye. Indeed, no, the boots were not
wet--there was a little, a very little mud on them, that was all.

"Well, don't talk so much, but see that you attend to her properly,"
said Geoffrey, feeling rather doubtful, for he did not trust Anne.
However, he thought he would see himself that there was no neglect. When
she heard what was the matter, Lady Honoria was much put out.

"Really," she said, "children are the most vexatious creatures in
the world. The idea of her getting inflammation of the lungs in this
unprovoked fashion. The end of it will be that I shall not be able to go
to the duchess's ball to-morrow night, and she was so kind about it, she
made quite a point of my coming. Besides I have bought that lovely
new dress on purpose. I should never have dreamed of going to so much
expense for anything else."

"Don't trouble yourself," said Geoffrey. "The House does not sit
to-morrow; I will look after her. Unless Effie dies in the interval, you
will certainly be able to go to the ball."

"Dies--what nonsense! The doctor says that it is a very slight attack.
Why should she die?"

"I am sure I hope that there is no fear of anything of the sort,
Honoria. Only she must be properly looked after. I do not trust this
woman Anne. I have half a mind to get in a trained nurse after all."

"Well, if you do, she will have to sleep out of the house, that's
all. Amelia (Lady Garsington) is coming up to-night, and I must have
somewhere to put her maid, and there is no room for another bed in
Effie's room."

"Oh, very well, very well," said Geoffrey, "I daresay that it will be
all right, but if Effie gets any worse, you will please understand that
room must be made."

But Effie did not get worse. She remained much about the same. Geoffrey
sat at home all day and employed himself in reading briefs; fortunately
he had not to go to court. About six o'clock he went down to the House,
and having dined very simply and quietly, took his seat and listened
to some dreary talk, which was being carried on for the benefit of the
reporters, about the adoption of the Welsh language in the law courts of
Wales.

Suddenly he became aware of a most extraordinary sense of oppression.
An indefinite dread took hold of him, his very soul was filled with
terrible apprehensions and alarm. Something dreadful seemed to knock at
the portals of his sense, a horror which he could not grasp. His mind
was confused, but little by little it grew clearer, and he began to
understand that a danger threatened Beatrice, that she was in great
peril. He was sure of it. Her agonised dying cries reached him where he
was, though in no form which he could understand; once more her thought
beat on his thought--once more and for the last time her spirit spoke to
his.

Then suddenly a cold wind seemed to breathe upon his face and lift his
hair, and everything was gone. His mind was as it had been; again he
heard the dreary orator and saw the members slipping away to dinner. The
conditions that disturbed him had passed, things were as they had been.
Nor was this strange! For the link was broken. Beatrice was _dead_. She
had passed into the domains of impenetrable silence.



Geoffrey sat up with a gasp, and as he did so a letter was placed in his
hand. It was addressed in Beatrice's handwriting and bore the Chester
postmark. A chill fear seized him. What did it contain? He hurried with
it into a private room and opened it. It was dated from Bryngelly on the
previous Sunday and had several inclosures.

"My dearest Geoffrey," it began, "I have never before addressed you thus
on paper, nor should I do so now, knowing to what risks such written
words might put you, were it not that occasions may arise (as in this
case) which seem to justify the risk. For when all things are ended
between a man and a woman who are to each other what we have been, then
it is well that the one who goes should speak plainly before speech
becomes impossible, if only that the one who is left should not
misunderstand that which has been done.

"Geoffrey, it is probable--it is almost certain--that before your eyes
read these words I shall be where in the body they can never see me
more. I write to you from the brink of the grave; when you read it, it
will have closed over me.

"Geoffrey, I shall be dead.

"I received your dear letter (it is destroyed now) in which you
expressed a wish that I should come away with you to some other country,
and I answered it in eight brief words. I dared not trust myself to
write more, nor had I any time. How could you think that I should ever
accept such an offer for my own sake, when to do so would have been to
ruin you? But first I will tell you all that has happened here." (Here
followed a long and exact description of those events with which we
are already acquainted, including the denunciation of Beatrice by her
sister, the threats of Owen Davies as regards Geoffrey himself, and the
measures which she had adopted to gain time.)

"Further," the letter continued, "I inclose you your wife's letter to
me. And here I wish to state that I have not one word to say against
Lady Honoria or her letter. I think that she was perfectly justified in
writing as she did, for after all, dear Geoffrey, you are her husband,
and in loving each other we have offended against her. She tells me
truly that it is my duty to make all further communications between us
impossible. There is only one way to do this, and I take it.

"And now I have spoken enough about myself, nor do I wish to enter into
details that could only give you pain. There will be no scandal, dear,
and if any word should be raised against you after I am gone, I have
provided an answer in the second letter which I have inclosed. You can
print it if necessary; it will be a sufficient reply to any talk. Nobody
after reading it can believe that you were in any way connected with the
accident which will happen. Dear, one word more--still about myself, you
see! Do not blame yourself in this matter, for you are not to blame; of
my own free will I do it, because in the extremity of the circumstances
I think it best that one should go and the other be saved, rather than
that both should be involved in a common ruin.

"Dear, do you remember how in that strange vision of mine, I dreamed
that you came and touched me on the breast and showed me light? So it
has come to pass, for you have given me love--that is light; and now in
death I shall seek for wisdom. And this being fulfilled, shall not the
rest be fulfilled in its season? Shall I not sit in those cloudy halls
till I see you come to seek me, the word of wisdom on your lips? And
since I cannot have you to myself, and be all in all to you, why I am
glad to go. For here on the world is neither rest nor happiness; as in
my dream, too often does 'Hope seem to rend her starry robes.'

"I am glad to go from such a world, in which but one happy thing has
found me--the blessing of your love. I am worn out with the weariness
and struggle, and now that I have lost you I long for rest. I do not
know if I sin in what I do; if so, may I be forgiven. If forgiveness is
impossible, so be it! You will forgive me, Geoffrey, and you will always
love me, however wicked I may be; even if, at the last, you go where I
am not, you will remember and love the erring woman to whom, being
so little, you still were all in all. We are not married, Geoffrey,
according to the customs of the world, but two short days hence I shall
celebrate a service that is greater and more solemn than any of the
earth. For Death will be the Priest and that oath which I shall take
will be to all eternity. Who can prophesy of that whereof man has no
sure knowledge? Yet I do believe that in a time to come we shall look
again into each other's eyes, and kiss each other's lips, and be one for
evermore. If this is so, it is worth while to have lived and died; if
not, then, Geoffrey, farewell!

"If I may I will always be near you. Listen to the night wind and you
shall hear my voice; look on the stars, you will see my eyes; and my
love shall be as the air you breathe. And when at last the end comes,
remember me, for if I live at all I shall be about you then. What have
I more to say? So much, my dear, that words cannot convey it. Let it be
untold; but whenever you hear or read that which is beautiful or tender,
think 'this is what Beatrice would have said to me and could not!'

"You will be a great man, dear, the foremost or one of the foremost of
your age. You have already promised me to persevere to this end: I will
not ask you to promise afresh. Do not be content to accept the world as
women must. Great men do not accept the world; they reform it--and you
are of their number. And when you are great, Geoffrey, you will use your
power, not for self-interest, but to large and worthy ends; you will
always strive to help the poor, to break down oppression from those who
have to bar it, and to advance the honour of your country. You will
do all this from your own heart and not because I ask it of you, but
remember that your fame will be my best monument--though none shall ever
know the grave it covers.

"Farewell, farewell, farewell! Oh, Geoffrey, my darling, to whom I have
never been a wife, to whom I am more than any wife--do not forget me in
the long years which are to come. Remember me when others forsake you.
Do not forget me when others flatter you and try to win your love, for
none can be to you what I have been--none can ever love you more than
that lost Beatrice who writes these heavy words to-night, and who will
pass away blessing you with her last breath, to await you, if she may,
in the land to which your feet also draw daily on."

Then came a tear-stained postscript in pencil dated from Paddington
Station on that very morning.

"I journeyed to London to see you, Geoffrey. I could not die without
looking on your face once more. I was in the gallery of the House and
heard your great speech. Your friend found me a place. Afterwards I
touched your coat as you passed by the pillar of the gateway. Then I ran
away because I saw your friend turn and look at me. I shall kiss this
letter--just here before I close it--kiss it there too--it is our last
cold embrace. Before the end I shall put on the ring you gave me--on my
hand, I mean. I have always worn it upon my breast. When I touched you
as you passed through the gateway I thought that I should have broken
down and called to you--but I found strength not to do so. My heart is
breaking and my eyes are blind with tears; I can write no more; I
have no more to say. Now once again good-bye. _Ave atque vale_--oh, my
love!--B."

The second letter was a dummy. That is to say it purported to be such an
epistle as any young lady might have written to a gentleman friend.
It began, "Dear Mr. Bingham," and ended, "Yours sincerely, Beatrice
Granger," was filled with chit-chat, and expressed hopes that he would
be able to come down to Bryngelly again later in the summer, when they
would go canoeing.

It was obvious, thought Beatrice, that if Geoffrey was accused by Owen
Davies or anybody else of being concerned with her mysterious end, the
production of such a frank epistle written two days previously would
demonstrate the absurdity of the idea. Poor Beatrice, she was full of
precautions!



Let him who may imagine the effect produced upon Geoffrey by this
heartrending and astounding epistle! Could Beatrice have seen his face
when he had finished reading it she would never have committed suicide.
In a minute it became like that of an old man. As the whole truth sank
into his mind, such an agony of horror, of remorse, of unavailing woe
and hopelessness swept across his soul, that for a moment he thought his
vital forces must give way beneath it, and that he should die, as indeed
in this dark hour he would have rejoiced to do. Oh, how pitiful it
was--how pitiful and how awful! To think of this love, so passionately
pure, wasted on his own unworthiness. To think of this divine woman
going down to lonely death for him--a strong man; to picture her
crouching behind that gateway pillar and touching him as he passed,
while he, the thrice accursed fool, knew nothing till too late; to
know that he had gone to Euston and not to Paddington; to remember the
matchless strength and beauty of the love which he had lost, and that
face which he should never see again! Surely his heart would break. No
man could bear it!

And of those cowards who hounded her to death, if indeed she was already
dead! Oh, he would kill Owen Davies--yes, and Elizabeth too, were it not
that she was a woman; and as for Honoria he had done with her. Scandal,
what did he care for scandal? If he had his will there should be a
scandal indeed, for he would beat this Owen Davies, this reptile, who
did not hesitate to use a woman's terrors to prosper the fulfilling of
his lust--yes, and then drag him to the Continent and kill him there.
Only vengeance was left to him!

Stop, he must not give way--perhaps she was not dead--perhaps that
horrible presage of evil which had struck him like a storm was but a
dream. Could he telegraph? No, it was too late; the office at Bryngelly
would be closed--it was past eight now. But he could go. There was a
train leaving a little after nine--he should be there by half-past six
to-morrow. And Effie was ill--well, surely they could look after her for
twenty-four hours; she was in no danger, and he must go--he could not
bear this torturing suspense. Great God! how had she done the deed!

Geoffrey snatched a sheet of paper and tried to write. He could not, his
hand shook so. With a groan he rose, and going to the refreshment room
swallowed two glasses of brandy one after another. The spirit took
effect on him; he could write now. Rapidly he scribbled on a sheet of
paper:

"I have been called away upon important business and shall probably not
be back till Thursday morning. See that Effie is properly attended
to. If I am not back you must not go to the duchess's ball.--Geoffrey
Bingham."

Then he addressed the letter to Lady Honoria and dispatched a
commissionaire with it. This done, he called a cab and bade the cabman
drive to Euston as fast as his horse could go.



CHAPTER XXX

AVE ATQUE VALE

That frightful journey--no nightmare was ever half so awful! But it came
to an end at last--there was the Bryngelly Station. Geoffrey sprang from
the train, and gave his ticket to the porter, glancing in his face as he
did so. Surely if there had been a tragedy the man would know of it, and
show signs of half-joyous emotion as is the fashion of such people when
something awful and mysterious has happened to somebody else. But
he showed no such symptoms, and a glimmer of hope found its way into
Geoffrey's tormented breast.

He left the station and walked rapidly towards the Vicarage. Those who
know what a pitch of horror suspense can reach may imagine his feelings
as he did so. But it was soon to be put an end to now. As he drew
near the Vicarage gate he met the fat Welsh servant girl Betty running
towards him. Then hope left Geoffrey.

The girl recognised him, and in her confusion did not seem in the least
astonished to see him walking there at a quarter to seven on a summer
morning. Indeed, even she vaguely connected Geoffrey with Beatrice in
her mind, for she at once said in her thick English:

"Oh, sir, do you know where Miss Beatrice is?"

"No," he answered, catching at a railing for support. "Why do you ask? I
have not seen her for weeks."

Then the girl plunged into a long story. Mr. Granger and Miss Granger
were away from home, and would not be back for another two hours. Miss
Beatrice had gone out yesterday afternoon, and had not come back to tea.
She, Betty, had not thought much of it, believing that she had stopped
to spend the evening somewhere, and, being very tired, had gone to bed
about eight, leaving the door unlocked. This morning, when she woke, it
was to find that Miss Beatrice had not slept in the house that night,
and she came out to see if she could find her.

"Where was she going when she went out?" Geoffrey asked.

She did not know, but she thought that Miss Beatrice was going out in
the canoe. Leastways she had put on her tennis shoes, which she always
wore when she went out boating.

Geoffrey understood it all now. "Come to the boat-house," he said.

They went down to the beach, where as yet none were about except a few
working people. Near the boat-house Geoffrey met old Edward walking
along with a key in his hand.

"Lord, sir!" he said. "You here, sir! and in that there queer hat, too.
What is it, sir?"

"Did Miss Beatrice go out in her canoe yesterday evening, Edward?"
Geoffrey asked hoarsely.

"No, sir; not as I know on. My boy locked up the boat-house last
night, and I suppose he looked in it first. What! You don't mean to
say----Stop; we'll soon know. Oh, Goad! the canoe's gone!"

There was a silence, an awful silence. Old Edward broke it.

"She's drowned, sir--that's what she is--drowned at last; and she the
finest woman in Wales. I knewed she would be one day, poor dear! and
she the beauty that she was; and all along of that damned unlucky little
craft. Goad help her! She's drowned, I say----"

Betty burst out into loud weeping at his words.

"Stop that noise, girl," said Geoffrey, turning his pale face towards
her. "Go back to the Vicarage, and if Mr. Granger comes home before I
get back, tell him what we fear. Edward, send some men to search the
shore towards Coed, and some more in a sailing boat. I will walk towards
the Bell Rock--you can follow me."

He started and swiftly tramped along the sands, searching the sea with
his eye. On he walked sullenly, desperately striving to hope against
hope. On, past the Dog Rocks, round the long curve of beach till he came
to the Amphitheatre. The tide was high again; he could barely pass the
projecting point. He was round it, and his heart stood still. For there,
bottom upwards, and gently swaying to and fro as the spent waves rocked
it, was Beatrice's canoe.

Sadly, hopelessly, heavily, Geoffrey waded knee deep into the water, and
catching the bow of the canoe, dragged it ashore. There was, or appeared
to be, nothing in it; of course he could not expect anything else. Its
occupant had sunk and been carried out to sea by the ebb, whereas the
canoe had drifted back to shore with the morning tide.

He reared it upon its end to let the water drain out of it, and from the
hollow of the bow arch something came rolling down, something bright and
heavy, followed by a brown object. Hastily he lowered the canoe again,
and picked up the bright trinket. It was his own ring come back to
him--the Roman ring he had given Beatrice, and which she told him in the
letter she would wear in her hour of death. He touched it with his lips
and placed it back upon his hand, this token from the beloved dead,
vowing that it should never leave his hand in life, and that after death
it should be buried on him. And so it will be, perhaps to be dug up
again thousands of years hence, and once more to play a part in the
romance of unborn ages.

_Ave atque vale_--that was the inscription rudely cut within its
round. Greeting and farewell--her own last words to him. Oh, Beatrice,
Beatrice! to you also _ave atque vale_. You could not have sent a fitter
message. Greeting and farewell! Did it not sum it all? Within the circle
of this little ring was writ the epitome of human life: here were the
beginning and the end of Love and Hate, of Hope and fear, of Joy and
Sorrow.

Beatrice, hail! Beatrice, farewell! till perchance a Spirit rushing
earthward shall cry "_Greeting_," in another tongue, and Death,
descending to his own place, shaking from his wings the dew of tears,
shall answer "_Farewell to me and Night, ye Children of Eternal Day!_"

And what was this other relic? He lifted it--it was Beatrice's tennis
shoe, washed from her foot--Geoffrey knew it, for once he had tied it.

Then Geoffrey broke down--it was too much. He threw himself upon the
great rock and sobbed--that rock where he had sat with her and Heaven
had opened to their sight. But men are not given to such exhibitions of
emotion, and fortunately for him the paroxysm did not last. He could not
have borne it for long.

He rose and went again to the edge of the sea. At this moment old Edward
and his son arrived. Geoffrey pointed to the boat, then held up the
little shoe.

"Ah," said the old man, "as I thought. Goad help her! She's gone; she'll
never come ashore no more, she won't. She's twenty miles away by now,
she is, breast up, with the gulls a-screaming over her. It's that there
damned canoe, that's what it is. I wish to Goad I had broke it up long
ago. I'd rather have built her a boat for nothing, I would. Damn the
unlucky craft!" screamed the old man at the top of his voice, and
turning his head to hide the tears that were streaming down his rugged
face. "And her that I nursed and pulled out of the waters once all but
dead. Damn it, I say! There, take that, you Sea Witch, you!" and he
picked up a great boulder and crashed it through the bottom of the
canoe with all his strength. "You shan't never drown no more. But it has
brought you good luck, it has, sir; you'll be a fortunit man all your
life now. It has brought you the _Drowned One's shoe_."

"Don't break it any more," said Geoffrey. "She used to value it. You had
better bring it along between you--it may be wanted. I am going to the
Vicarage."

He walked back. Mr. Granger and Elizabeth had not yet arrived, but they
were expected every minute. He went into the sitting-room. It was full
of memories and tokens of Beatrice. There lay a novel which he had given
her, and there was yesterday's paper that she had brought from town, the
_Standard_, with his speech in it.

Geoffrey covered his eyes with his hand, and thought. None knew that she
had committed suicide except himself. If he revealed it things might be
said of her; he did not care what was said of him, but he was jealous of
her dead name. It might be said, for instance, that the whole tale
was true, and that Beatrice died because she could no longer face life
without being put to an open shame. Yes, he had better hold his tongue
as to how and why she died. She was dead--nothing could bring her back.
But how then should he account for his presence there? Easily enough.
He would say frankly that he came because Beatrice had written to him
of the charges made against her and the threats against himself--came
to find her dead. And on that point he would still have a word with Owen
Davies and Elizabeth.

Scarcely had he made up his mind when Elizabeth and her father entered.
Clearly from their faces they had as yet heard nothing.

Geoffrey rose, and Elizabeth caught sight of him standing with glowing
eyes and a face like that of Death himself. She recoiled in alarm.

"What brings you here, Mr. Bingham?" she said, in her hard voice.

"Cannot you guess, Miss Granger?" he said sternly. "A few days back you
made certain charges against your sister and myself in the presence of
your father and Mr. Owen Davies. These charges have been communicated to
me, and I have come to answer them and to demand satisfaction for them."

Mr. Granger fidgeted nervously and looked as though he would like to
escape, but Elizabeth, with characteristic courage, shut the door and
faced the storm.

"Yes, I did make those charges, Mr. Bingham," she said, "and they are
true charges. But stop, we had better send for Beatrice first."

"You may send, but you will not find her."

"What do you mean?--what do you mean?" asked her father apprehensively.

"It means that he has hidden her away, I suppose," said Elizabeth with a
sneer.

"I mean, Mr. Granger, that your daughter Beatrice is _dead_."

For once startled out of her self-command, Elizabeth gave a little cry,
while her father staggered back against the wall.

"Dead! dead! What do you mean? How did she die?" he asked.

"That is known to God and her alone," answered Geoffrey. "She went out
last evening in her canoe. When I arrived here this morning she was
missed for the first time. I walked along the beach and found the canoe
and this inside of it," and he placed the sodden shoe upon the table.

There was a silence. In the midst of it, Owen Davies burst into the room
with wild eyes and dishevelled hair.

"Is it true?" he cried, "tell me--it cannot be true that Beatrice is
drowned. She cannot have been taken from me just when I was going to
marry her. Say that it is not true!"

A great fury filled Geoffrey's heart. He walked down the room and shut
the door, a red light swimming before his eyes. Then he turned and
gripped Owen Davies's shoulder like a vice.

"You accursed blackguard--you unmanly cur!" he said; "you and that
wicked woman," and he shook his hand at Elizabeth, "conspired together
to bring a slur upon Beatrice. You did more: you threatened to attack
me, to try and ruin me if she would not give herself up to you. You
loathsome hypocrite, you tortured her and frightened her; now I am here
to frighten _you_. You said that you would make the country ring with
your tales. I tell you this--are you listening to me? If you dare to
mention her name in such a sense, or if that woman dares, I will break
every bone in your wretched body--by Heaven I will kill you!" and he
cast Davies from him, and as he did so, struck him heavily across the
face with the back of his hand.

The man took no notice either of his words or of the deadly insult of
the blow.

"Is it true?" he screamed, "is it true that she is dead?"

"Yes," said Geoffrey, following him, and bending his tall square frame
over him, for Davies had fallen against the wall, "yes, it is true--she
is dead--and beyond your reach for ever. Pray to God that you may not
one day be called her murderers, all of you--you shameless cowards."

Owen Davies gave one shrill cry and sank in a huddled heap upon the
ground.

"There is no God," he moaned; "God promised her to me, to be my own--you
have killed her; you--you seduced her first and then you killed her. I
believe you killed her. Oh, I shall go mad!"

"Mad or sane," said Geoffrey, "say those words once more and I will
stamp the life out of you where you are. You say that God promised her
to you--promised that woman to a hound like you. Ah, be careful!"

Owen Davies made no answer. Crouched there upon the ground he rocked
himself to and fro, and moaned in the madness of his baulked desire.

"This man," said Geoffrey, turning towards and pointing to Elizabeth,
who was glaring at him like a wild cat from the corner of the room,
"said that there is no God. I say that there is a God, and that one day,
soon or late, vengeance will find you out--you murderess, you writer
of anonymous letters; you who, to advance your own wicked ends whatever
they may be, were not ashamed to try to drag your innocent sister's name
into the dirt. I never believed in a hell till now, but there must be
a hell for such as you, Elizabeth Granger. Go your ways; live out your
time; but live every hour of it in terror of the vengeance that shall
come so surely as you shall die.

"Now for you, sir," he went on, addressing the trembling father. "I do
not blame you so much, because I believe that this viper poisoned your
mind. You might have thought that the tale was true. It is not true; it
was a lie. Beatrice, who now is dead, came into my room in her sleep,
and was carried from it as she came. And you, her father, allowed this
villain and your daughter to use her distress against her; you allowed
him to make a lever of it, with which to force her into a marriage that
she loathed. Yes, cover up your face--you may well do so. Do your worst,
one and all of you, but remember that this time you have to deal with a
man who can and will strike back, not a poor friendless girl."

"Before Heaven, it was not my fault, Mr. Bingham," gasped the old man.
"I am innocent of it. That Judas-woman Elizabeth betrayed her sister
because she wanted to marry him herself," and he pointed to the Heap
upon the floor. "She thought that it would prejudice him against
Beatrice, and he--he believed that she was attached to you, and tried to
work upon her attachment."

"So," said Geoffrey, "now we have it all. And you, sir, stood by and
saw this done. You stood by thinking that you would make a profit of
her agony. Now I will tell you what I meant to hide from you. I did love
her. I do love her--as she loved me. I believe that between you, you
drove her to her grave. Her blood be on your heads for ever and for
ever!"

"Oh, take me home," groaned the Heap upon the floor--"take me home,
Elizabeth! I daren't go alone. Beatrice will haunt me. My brain goes
round and round. Take me away, Elizabeth, and stop with me. You are not
afraid of her, you are afraid of nothing."

Elizabeth sidled up to him, keeping her fierce eyes on Geoffrey all
the time. She was utterly cowed and terrified, but she could still look
fierce. She took the Heap by the hand and drew him thence still moaning
and quite crazed. She led him away to his castle and his wealth. Six
months afterwards she came forth with him to marry him, half-witted as
he was. A year and eight months afterwards she came out again to bury
him, and found herself the richest widow in Wales.



They went forth, leaving Geoffrey and Mr. Granger alone. The old man
rested his head upon the table and wept bitterly.

"Be merciful," he said, "do not say such words to me. I loved her,
indeed I did, but Elizabeth was too much for me, and I am so poor. Oh,
if you loved her also, be merciful! I do not reproach you because you
loved her, although you had no right to love her. If you had not loved
her, and made her love you, all this would never have happened. Why do
you say such dreadful things to me, Mr. Bingham?"

"I loved her, sir," answered Geoffrey, humbly enough now that his fury
had passed, "because being what she was all who looked on her must love
her. There is no woman left like her in the world. But who am I that I
should blame you? God forgive us all! I only live henceforth in the hope
that I may one day rejoin her where she has gone."

There was a pause.

"Mr. Granger," said Geoffrey presently, "never trouble yourself about
money. You were her father; anything you want and what I have is yours.
Let us shake hands and say good-bye, and let us never meet again. As I
said, God forgive us all!"

"Thank you--thank you," said the old man, looking up through the white
hair that fell about his eyes. "It is a strange world and we are all
miserable sinners. I hope there is a better somewhere. I'm well-nigh
tired of this, especially now that Beatrice has gone. Poor girl, she was
a good daughter and a fine woman. Good-bye. Good-bye!"

Then Geoffrey went.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE DUCHESS'S BALL

Geoffrey reached Town a little before eleven o'clock that night--a
haunted man--haunted for life by a vision of that face still lovely
in death, floating alone upon the deep, and companioned only by the
screaming mews--or perchance now sinking or sunk to an unfathomable
grave. Well might such a vision haunt a man, the man whom alone of all
men those cold lips had kissed, and for whose dear sake this dreadful
thing was done.

He took a cab directing the driver to go to Bolton Street and to stop
at his club as he passed. There might be letters for him there, he
thought--something which would distract his mind a little. As it chanced
there was a letter, marked "private," and a telegram; both had been
delivered that evening, the porter said, the former about an hour ago by
hand.

Idly he opened the telegram--it was from his lawyers: "Your cousin, the
child George Bingham, is, as we have just heard, dead. Please call on us
early to-morrow morning."

He started a little, for this meant a good deal to Geoffrey. It meant a
baronetcy and eight thousand a year, more or less. How delighted Honoria
would be, he thought with a sad smile; the loss of that large income had
always been a bitter pill to her, and one which she had made him swallow
again and again. Well, there it was. Poor boy, he had always been
ailing--an old man's child!

He put the telegram in his pocket and got into the hansom again. There
was a lamp in it and by its light he read the letter. It was from the
Prime Minister and ran thus:

"My dear Bingham,--I have not seen you since Monday to thank you for
the magnificent speech you made on that night. Allow me to add my
congratulations to those of everybody else. As you know, the Under
Secretaryship of the Home Office is vacant. On behalf of my colleagues
and myself I write to ask if you will consent to fill it for a time,
for we do not in any way consider that the post is one commensurate with
your abilities. It will, however, serve to give you practical experience
of administration, and us the advantage of your great talents to an even
larger extent than we now enjoy. For the future, it must of course take
care of itself; but, as you know, Sir ----'s health is not all that
could be desired, and the other day he told me that it was doubtful if
he would be able to carry on the duties of the Attorney-Generalship for
very much longer. In view of this contingency I venture to suggest that
you would do well to apply for silk as soon as possible. I have spoken
to the Lord Chancellor about it, and he says that there will be no
difficulty, as although you have only been in active practice for so
short a while, you have a good many years' standing as a barrister. Or
if this prospect does not please doubtless some other opening to the
Cabinet can be found in time. The fact is, that we cannot in our own
interest overlook you for long."

Geoffrey smiled again as he finished this letter. Who could have
believed a year ago that he would have been to-day in a position to
receive such an epistle from the Prime Minister of England? Ah, here was
the luck of the Drowned One's shoe with a vengeance. And what was it all
worth to him now?

He put the letter in his pocket with the telegram and looked out. They
were turning into Bolton Street. How was little Effie, he wondered? The
child seemed all that was left him to care for. If anything happened to
her--bah, he would not think of it!

He was there now. "How is Miss Effie?" he asked of the servant who
opened the door. At that moment his attention was attracted by the dim
forms of two people, a man and a woman, who were standing not far from
the area gate, the man with his arm round the woman's waist. Suddenly
the woman appeared to catch sight of the cab and retired swiftly down
the area. It crossed his mind that her figure was very like that of
Anne, the French nurse.

"Miss Effie is doing nicely, sir, I'm told," answered the man.

Geoffrey breathed more freely. "Where is her ladyship?" he asked. "In
Effie's room?"

"No, sir," answered the man, "her ladyship has gone to a ball. She left
this note for you in case you should come in."

He took the note from the hall table and opened it.

"Dear Geoffrey," it ran, "Effie is so much better that I have made up my
mind to go to the duchess's ball after all. She would be so disappointed
if I did not come, and my dress is quite _lovely_. Had your mysterious
business anything to do with _Bryngelly_?--

"Yours, Honoria."

"She would go on to a ball from her mother's funeral," said Geoffrey to
himself, as he walked up to Effie's room; "well, it is her nature and
there's an end of it."

He knocked at the door of Effie's room. There was no answer, so he
walked in. The room was lit but empty--no, not quite! On the floor,
clothed only in her white night-shirt, lay his little daughter, to all
appearance dead.

With something like an oath he sprang to her and lifted her. The face
was pale and the small hands were cold, but the breast was still hot and
fevered, and the heart beat. A glance showed him what had happened. The
child being left alone, and feeling thirsty, had got out of bed and gone
to the water bottle--there was the tumbler on the floor. Then weakness
had overcome her and she had fainted--fainted upon the cold floor with
the inflammation still on her.

At that moment Anne entered the room sweetly murmuring, "Ca va bien,
cherie?"

"Help me to put the child into bed," said Geoffrey sternly. "Now ring
the bell--ring it again.

"And now, woman--go. Leave this house at once, this very night. Do you
hear me? No, don't stop to argue. Look here! If that child dies I will
prosecute you for manslaughter; yes, I saw you in the street," and he
took a step towards her. Then Anne fled, and her face was seen no more
in Bolton Street or indeed in this country.

"James," said Geoffrey to the servant, "send the cook up here--she is
a sensible woman; and do you take a hansom and drive to the doctor, and
tell him to come here at once, and if you cannot find him go for another
doctor. Then go to the Nurses' Home, near St. James' Station, and get a
trained nurse--tell them one must be had from somewhere instantly."

"Yes, sir. And shall I call for her ladyship at the duchess's, sir?"

"No," he answered, frowning heavily, "do not disturb her ladyship. Go
now."

"That settles it," said Geoffrey, as the man went. "Whatever happens,
Honoria and I must part. I have done with her."

He had indeed, though not in the way he meant. It would have been
well for Honoria if her husband's contempt had not prevented him from
summoning her from her pleasure.

The cook came up, and between them they brought the child back to life.

She opened her eyes and smiled. "Is that you, daddy," she whispered, "or
do I dreams?"

"Yes, dear, it is I."

"Where has you been, daddy--to see Auntie Beatrice?"

"Yes, love," he said, with a gasp.

"Oh, daddy, my head do feel funny; but I don't mind now you is come
back. You won't go away no more, will you, daddy?"

"No, dear, no more."

After that she began to wander a little, and finally dropped into a
troubled sleep.

Within half an hour both the doctor and the nurse arrived. The former
listened to Geoffrey's tale and examined the child.

"She may pull through it," he said, "she has got a capital constitution;
but I'll tell you what it is--if she had lain another five minutes in
that draught there would have been an end of her. You came in the nick
of time. And now if I were you I should go to bed. You can do no good
here, and you look dreadfully ill yourself."

But Geoffrey shook his head. He said he would go downstairs and smoke a
pipe. He did not want to go to bed at present; he was too tired.



Meanwhile the ball went merrily. Lady Honoria never enjoyed herself
more in her life. She revelled in the luxurious gaiety around her like
a butterfly in the sunshine. How good it all was--the flash of diamonds,
the odour of costly flowers, the homage of well-bred men, the envy of
other women. Oh! it was a delightful world after all--that is when one
did not have to exist in a flat near the Edgware Road. But Heaven be
praised! thanks to Geoffrey's talents, there was an end of flats and
misery. After all, he was not a bad sort of husband, though in many ways
a perfect mystery to her. As for his little weakness for the Welsh girl,
really, provided that there was no scandal, she did not care twopence
about it.

"Yes, I am so glad you admire it. I think it is rather a nice dress,
but then I always say that nobody in London can make a dress like Madame
Jules. Oh, no, Geoffrey did not choose it; he thinks of other things."

"Well, I'm sure you ought to be proud of him, Lady Honoria," said the
handsome Guardsman to whom she was talking; "they say at mess that he is
one of the cleverest men in England. I only wish I had a fiftieth part
of his brains."

"Oh, please do not become clever, Lord Atleigh; please don't, or I
shall really give you up. Cleverness is all very well, but it isn't
everything, you know. Yes, I will dance if you like, but you must go
slowly; to be quite honest, I am afraid of tearing my lace in this
crush. Why, I declare there is Garsington, my brother, you know," and
she pointed to a small red-haired man who was elbowing his way towards
them. "I wonder what he wants; it is not at all in his line to come to
balls. You know him, don't you? he is always racing horses, like you."

But the Guardsman had vanished. For reasons of his own he did not wish
to meet Garsington. Perhaps he too had been a member of a certain club.

"Oh, there you are, Honoria," said her brother, "I thought that I should
be sure to find you somewhere in this beastly squash. Look here, I have
something to tell you."

"Good news or bad?" said Lady Honoria, playing with her fan. "If it is
bad, keep it, for I am enjoying myself very much, and I don't want my
evening spoilt."

"Trust you for that, Honoria; but look here, it's jolly good, about as
good as can be for that prig of a husband of yours. What do you think?
that brat of a boy, the son of old Sir Robert Bingham and the cook or
some one, you know, is----"

"Not dead, not dead?" said Honoria in deep agitation.

"Dead as ditch-water," replied his lordship. "I heard it at the club.
There was a lawyer fellow there dining with somebody there, and they
got talking about Bingham, when the lawyer said, 'Oh, he's Sir Geoffrey
Bingham now. Old Sir Robert's heir is dead. I saw the telegram myself.'"

"Oh, this is almost too good to be true," said Honoria. "Why, it means
eight thousand a year to us."

"I told you it was pretty good," said her brother. "You ought to stand
me a commission out of the swag. At any rate, let's go and drink to the
news. Come on, it is time for supper and I am awfully done. I must screw
myself up."

Lady Honoria took his arm. As they walked down the wide flower-hung
stair they met a very great Person indeed, coming up.

"Ah, Lady Honoria," said the great Person, "I have something to say that
will please you, I think," and he bent towards her, and spoke very low,
then, with a little bow, passed on.

"What is the old boy talking about?" asked her brother.

"Why, what do you think? We are in luck's way to-night. He says that
they are offering Geoffrey the Under Secretaryship of the Home Office."

"He'll be a bigger prig than ever now," growled Lord Garsington. "Yes,
it is luck though; let us hope it won't turn."

They sat down to supper, and Lord Garsington, who had already been
dining, helped himself pretty freely to champagne. Before them was a
silver candelabra and on each of the candles was fixed a little painted
paper shade. One of them got wrong, and a footman tried to reach over
Lord Garsington's head to put it straight.

"I'll do it," said he.

"No, no; let the man," said Lady Honoria. "Look! it is going to catch
fire!"

"Nonsense," he answered, rising solemnly and reaching his arm towards
the shade. As he touched it, it caught fire; indeed, by touching it he
caused it to catch fire. He seized hold of it, and made an effort to put
it out, but it burnt his fingers.

"Curse the thing!" he said aloud, and threw it from him. It fell flaming
in his sister's dress among the thickest of the filmy laces; they
caught, and instantly two wreathing snakes of fire shot up her. She
sprang from her seat and rushed screaming down the room, an awful mass
of flame!



In ten more minutes Lady Honoria had left this world and its pleasures
to those who still lived to taste them.



An hour passed. Geoffrey still sat brooding heavily over his pipe in the
study in Bolton Street and waiting for Honoria, when a knock came to his
door. The servants had all gone to bed, all except the sick nurse.
He rose and opened it himself. A little red-haired, pale-faced man
staggered in.

"Why, Garsington, is it you? What do you want at this hour?"

"Screw yourself up, Bingham, I've something to tell you," he answered in
a thick voice.

"What is it? another disaster, I suppose. Is somebody else dead?"

"Yes; somebody is. Honoria's dead. Burnt to death at the ball."

"Great God! Honoria burnt to death. I had better go----"

"I advise you not, Bingham. I wouldn't go to the hospital if I were you.
Screw yourself up, and if you can, give me something to drink--I'm about
done--I must screw myself up."



And here we may leave this most fortunate and gifted man. Farewell to
Geoffrey Bingham.



ENVOL

Thus, then, did these human atoms work out their destinies, these little
grains of animated dust, blown hither and thither by a breath which came
they knew not whence.

If there be any malicious Principle among the Powers around us that
deigns to find amusement in the futile vagaries of man, well might it
laugh, and laugh again, at the great results of all this scheming,
of all these desires, loves and hates; and if there be any pitiful
Principle, well might it sigh over the infinite pathos of human
helplessness. Owen Davies lost in his own passion; Geoffrey crowned with
prosperity and haunted by undying sorrow; Honoria perishing wretchedly
in her hour of satisfied ambition; Beatrice sacrificing herself in love
and blindness, and thereby casting out her joy.

Oh, if she had been content to humbly trust in the Providence above her;
if she had but left that deed undared for one short week!

But Geoffrey still lived, and the child recovered, after hanging for
a while between life and death, and was left to comfort him. May she
survive to be a happy wife and mother, living under conditions more
favourable to her well-being than those which trampled out the life of
that mistaken woman, the ill-starred, great-souled Beatrice, and broke
her father's heart.



Say--what are we? We are but arrows winged with fears and shot from
darkness into darkness; we are blind leaders of the blind, aimless
beaters of this wintry air; lost travellers by many stony paths ending
in one end. Tell us, you, who have outworn the common tragedy and passed
the narrow way, what lies beyond its gate? You are dumb, or we cannot
hear you speak.



But Beatrice knows to-day!





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