H. Rider Haggard
Part 2 out of 7
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
"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
"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,
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"I am most grateful," he answered earnestly. "Shall I be able to see
"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
"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
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 voilà enfin, et moi, qui suis
accablée de peur, et votre chère mère aussi; oh, mais que c'est
méchant; et regardez donc, avec un soulier seulement. Mais c'est
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"Do what suits you, Honoria. Perhaps you would prefer not returning at
"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.
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
"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, £150 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
"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 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
"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.
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
"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
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
"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
"'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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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 Mænad 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?
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
"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
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
"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 /naïve/ 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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
After this, conversation flagged for a while, till Lady Honoria,
feeling that things were getting a little dull, set the ball rolling
"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
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.
"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
"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
"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?"
"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
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
"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.
BEATRICE MAKES AN APPOINTMENT
Lady Honoria leaned back in the cab, and sighed a sigh of
"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
"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 /entrée/ 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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"I shall come," he answered doggedly, and they went down the steps to
"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
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?
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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