In the Wilderness
Robert Hichens

Part 9 out of 15

till the last. Tell her if she had been free I should have begged her
to marry me."

And he had added, after a pause:

"Not that she'd ever have done it. I'm pretty sure of that."

When Dion had finished, still standing by the fire, Mrs. Clarke said:

"Thank you for remembering it all. It shows your good heart."


Why didn't she think about Brayfield?

She turned round and fixed her distressed eyes on him.

"Which is best, to be charitable or to be truthful?" she said, without
any vibration of excitement. "/De Mortuis/--it's a kindly saying. A
true Turk, one of the old Osmanlis, might have said it. If you hadn't
brought me that letter and the message I should probably never have
mentioned Brayfield to you again. But as it is I am going to be
truthful. I can say honestly peace to Brayfield's ashes. His death was
worthy. Courage he evidently had. But you mustn't think that because
he liked me I ever liked him. Don't make a mistake. I'm not a nervous
suspicious fool of a woman anxiously defending, or trying to defend,
her honor--not attacked, by the way. If Lord Brayfield had ever been
anything to me I should just be quiet, say nothing. But I didn't like
him. If I had liked him I shouldn't have burnt his letter. And now"--
to Dion's great astonishment she made slowly the sign of the Cross--
"/requiescat in pace/."

After a long pause she added:

"Now come and see the other room. I'll give you Turkish coffee there."


It had been understood between Rosamund and Dion that he should spend
that night in London. He had several things to see to after his long
absence, had to visit his tailor, the dentist, the bootmaker, to look
out some things in Little Market Street, to have an interview with his
banker, et cetera. He would go back to Welsley on the following
afternoon. In the evening of that day he dined in De Lorne Gardens
with Beatrice and Guy Daventry and his mother, and again, as in
Knightsbridge, something was said about the Welsley question. Dion
gathered that Rosamund's devotion to Welsley was no secret in "the
family." The speedy return to Little Market Street was assumed;
nevertheless he was certain that his mother, his sister-in-law, and
Guy were secretly wondering how Rosamund would be able to endure the
departure from Welsley. Beatrice had welcomed him back very quietly,
but he had felt more definitely than ever before the strong sympathy
which existed between them.

"I quite love Beatrice," he said to his mother in the jobbed brougham
with the high stepping, but slow moving, horse which conveyed them to
Queen Anne's Mansions after the dinner.

"She is worth it," said Mrs. Leith. "Beatrice says very little, but
she means very much."

"Yes. I wonder--I wonder how much of her meaning I thoroughly
understand, mater."

"Perhaps about five per cent of it, dee-ar," observed Mrs. Leith in
her sweetest voice.

And then she began to talk about Esme Darlington.

That night Dion stayed at Queen Anne's Mansions, and slept in his old

In her room his mother lay awake because she wished to lie awake. In
sleep she would have lost the precious sense of her boy's nearness to
her. So she counted the hours and she thanked God; and twice in the
night she slipped out into the hall, with her ample dressing-gown
folded about her, and she looked at her boy's coat hanging on its
hook, and she listened just outside his door. Once she felt certain
she heard his quiet breathing, and then, shutting her eyes, for a
moment she was again the girl mother with little Dion.

Little, little Dion! The soldier, burnt and hardened and made wholly a
man by South Africa, was still that to his mother, more than ever that
since he had been to the war.

That question of Welsley!

Going down in the train next day Dion thought about it a great deal.
With his return the old longing, almost an old need it was, to give
Rosamund whatever she wanted, or cared at all for, had come to him
again. But something fought it, the new longing to dominate and the
wish to give Rosamund chances. Besides, how could they possibly live
on in Welsley? He could not spend from three to four hours every day
in the train. He might get away from London on Fridays and stay at
Welsley every week till Monday morning, but that would mean living
alone in Little Market Street for four days in the week. If he seemed
willing to do that, would Rosamund consent to it?

Another test! He remembered his test before the war.

Mrs. Clarke's allusion to Welsley had left a rather strong impression
upon him. He did not know whether he had a great respect for her, but
he knew that he had a great respect for her mind. Like Beattie, but in
a very different way, she meant a great deal. He no longer doubted
that she liked him very much, though why he honestly did not know.
When with her he felt strongly that he was not an interesting man.
Dumeny was a beast, he felt sure, but he also felt sure that Dumeny
was an interesting man.

Mrs. Clarke's wild mind attracted something in him. Through her eyes
he was able to see the tameness of Welsley, a dear tameness, safe,
cozy, full of a very English charm and touched with ancient beauty,
but still----! Would the petals of Rosamund ever curl up and go brown
at the edges from living at Welsley? No, he could not imagine that
ever happening. A dried-up mind she could never have.

He would not see Welsley through the eyes of Mrs. Clarke.

Nevertheless when he got out of the train at Welsley Station, and saw
Robin's pal, the Archdeacon, getting out too, and a couple of minor
canons, who had come up for the evening papers or something, greeting
him with an ecclesiastical heartiness mingled with just a whiff of
professional deference, Mrs. Clarke's verdict of "stifling" recurred
to his mind.

Stamboul and Welsley--Mrs. Clarke and Rosamund!

The dual comparison made him at once see the truth. Stamboul and
Welsley were beautiful; each possessed an enticing quality; but the
one enticed by its grandiose mystery, by its sharp contrasts of marble
stability and matchboard frailty, by its melancholy silences and
spaces, by its obscure peace and its dangerous passion; the other by
its delightful simplicity, its noble homeliness, its dignity and charm
of an old faith and a smiling unworldliness, its harmonies of gray and
of green, of stone and verdure, its serenity lifted skywards by many

But at the heart of Stamboul the dust lay thick, and there was dew at
the heart of Welsley.

Perhaps green Elis, with its sheep-bells, the eternal voices of its
pine trees, the celestial benignity of its Hermes, was more to be
desired than either Stamboul or Welsley. But for the moment Welsley
was very desirable.

Dion gave his bag to an "outside porter," and walked to the Precincts
with the Archdeacon.

He found Rosamund uplifted and triumphant; Mr. Thrush had finally
captivated the Dean, and had been given the "situation" which Rosamund
had desired for him. Her joy was almost ebullient. She could talk of
nothing else. Mr. Thrush was to be installed on the following Sunday.

"Installed?" said Dion. "Is the Archbishop coming down to conduct the

"No, no! What I mean is that Mr. Thrush will walk in the procession
for the first time. Oh, I shall be so nervous! If only he carries the
wand as I've taught him! I don't know what Mr. Thrush would do without
me. He seems to depend on me for everything now, poor old gentleman."

"I'm afraid he'll miss you dreadfully," said Dion.

"Miss me? When?"

Before he could answer she said quickly:

"Oh, by the way, Dion, while you've been away I've done something for

"What is it, Rose?"

She was looking gaily mysterious, and almost cunning, but in a
delightful way.

"I don't want you to be bored during your holiday."

"Bored! Don't you realize that this is an earthly Paradise for me? You
and Robin and peace after South Africa."

She looked very shrewd.

"That's all very well, but a man, especially a soldier man, wants

She laid a strong and happy emphasis on the last word, and then she
disclosed the secret. A brother of "the cold douche," a gentleman
farmer who had land some four miles from Welsley, and who was "a great
friend" of Rosamund's--she had met him three times at the organist's
house--hearing of Dion's arrival, had written to say that he had some
partridges which needed "keeping down." He himself was "laid by" with
a bad leg, but he would be very glad if Mr. Leith would "take his
chance among the birds" any day, or days, he liked while at Welsley.
The gentleman farmer could not offer much, just the ground, most of it
stubble, and a decent lot of birds.

"Dear Mrs. Dickinson knew through me how fond of shooting you are. We
owe it all to her," said Rosamund, in conclusion. "I've written to
thank him, and to say how glad you'll be."

"But you must come too," he said. "You shot in Greece, you must shoot
again here."

"I don't think I will here," said Rosamund, confidentially and rather

"Why not?"

"Well, I don't think the Dean would approve of it. And he's been so
bricky about Mr. Thrush that I shouldn't like to hurt him."

"I can't go alone. I shall take Robin then."

He spoke half-laughingly.


"Yes, why not? I'm sure he'd love to go."

"Of course he would. But how could his little legs walk over stubble?
He's not four years old yet."

"Robin's got to be Doric. He can't begin too soon."

She smiled, then looked at him seriously.

"Dion, do you know that you've come back much more Doric than you were
when you went out?"

"Have I, Rose?"

"Much more."

"Do you like me less because of that?"

She blushed faintly.

"No," she said.

That faint blush made Dion's heart bound, he scarcely knew why. But he
only said soberly:

"I'm glad of that. And now about Robin. You're right. He can't walk
over stubble with me, but why shouldn't I stick him on a pony?"

"Oh--a pony! How he would love it!"

"Can't I get hold of one?"

"But Job Crickendon's got one!"

"Job Crick-- . . . ?"

"Mrs. Dickinson's brother who's lending you the partridges. Don't say
another word, Dion. I'll arrange it all. Robin will be in the seventh

"And you must come with us."

Rosamund was about to speak quickly. Dion saw that. Her eyes shone;
she opened her lips. But something, some sudden thought, stopped her.
After a minute she said quietly:

"We'll see."

And she gave Dion a curious, tender look which he did not quite
understand. Surely she was keeping some delicate secret from him, one
of those dear secrets which perhaps will never be told, but which are
sometimes happily guessed.

Dion could not help seeing that Rosamund eagerly wanted to attach him
to Welsley. He felt that she had not honestly and fully faced the
prospect of returning to live in London. Her plan--he saw it plainly;
the partridge shooting was part of it--was to make Welsley so
delightful to him that he would not want to give up the home at Little
Cloisters. What was to be done? He disliked, he almost hated, the
thought that his return would necessitate an unpleasant change in
Rosamund's life. Yet something within him told him that he ought to be
firm. He was obliged to live in London, and therefore it was only
natural and right that Rosamund and Robin should live in London too.
After this long separation he ought not to have to face a semi-
bachelor life; three days of the week at Little Cloisters and four
days alone in Little Market Street. He must put Rosamund to the test.
That faint blush, which he would not soon forget, made him hope that
she would come out of the test triumphantly.

If she did, how splendid it would be. His heart yearned at the thought
of a Rosamund submissive to his wish, unselfish out of the depth of--
dared he think of it as a new growth of love within her, tending
towards a great flowering which would bring a glory into two lives?
But if she yielded at once to his wish, without a word of regret, if
she took the speedy return to London quite simply as a matter of
course, he would feel almost irresistibly inclined to take her in his
arms and to say, "No, you shall stay on at Little Cloisters. We'll
manage somehow." Perhaps he could stand three hours daily in the
train. He could read the papers. A man must do that. As well do it in
the train as in an arm-chair at home.

But at any rate he would put her to the test. On that he was resolved.

At dinner that night Rosamund told him she had already written to
"dear, kind Job Crickendon" about the pony.

"You might shoot on Monday," she said.

"Right you are. When we hear about the pony we'll tell Robin."

"Yes. Not till it's all delightfully settled. Robin on horseback!"

Her eyes shone.

"I can see him already with a gun in his hand old enough to shoot with
you," she added. "We must bring him up to be a thorough little
sportsman; like that Greek boy Dirmikis."

They talked about Robin's future till dinner was over. Dion loved
their talk, but he could not help seeing that in Rosamund's forecast
town life held no place at all. In everything, or in almost
everything, that she said the country held pride of place. There was
not one word about Jenkins's gymnasium, or the Open Air Club with its
swimming facilities, or riding in the Park, or fencing at Bernardi's.
Rosamund seemed tacitly to assume that everything which was Doric was
connected with country life.

On the following morning she hastened out "to buy riding gaiters for
Robin." She had his "size" with her.

Not a word had been said about Dion's visit to Mrs. Clarke. Rosamund's
lack of all curiosity in regard to Mrs. Clarke and himself gave him
the measure of her faith in him. Few women, he thought, would be able
to trust a man so completely. And this trust was the more remarkable
because he felt positive that Rosamund distrusted Mrs. Clarke. She had
never said so, but he considered that by her conduct she had proved
her distrust.

It was a great virtue in Rosamund, that power she had to trust where
trust was deserved.

Dear, kind Job Crickendon wrote that Master Robin could ride his pony,
Jane, and welcome. The letter arrived on Saturday. Rosamund read it
aloud to Dion.

"The people about here are the dearest people I've ever come across,"
she said. "So different from people in London."

"Why, what's the matter with people in London?" asked Dion.

"Oh, I don't know; they're more artificial. They think so much about
clothes, and hats, and the way their hair's done."

"The men!"

"I was talking of the women."

"But is Job Crickendon a woman?"

"Don't be absurd, Dion. You know what I mean. The country brings out
the best that is in people."

"That's a bad look out for me, who've lived nearly all my life in

"You would be yourself anywhere. Now about Robin. I've got the
gaiters. They're not exactly riding gaiters--they don't make them for
such little boys--but they'll do beautifully. But I don't want to tell
Robin till Monday morning. You see he's got a very exciting day before
him to-morrow, and I think to know about Monday on top of it might be
almost too much for him."

"But what excitement is there to-morrow?"

She looked at him reproachfully.

"Mr. Thrush!"

"Oh, of course. And is Robin coming to the Cathedral?"

"Yes, for once. It's a terribly long service for a child, but Robin
would break his heart if he didn't see Mr. Thrush walk in the
procession for the first time."

"Then we won't tell him till Monday morning. I'll hire a dog-cart and
we can all drive out together."

Again she gave him the tender look, but she did not then explain what
it meant.

That evening they dined with Canon Wilton, who had a surprise in store
for them. Esme Darlington had come down to stay with him over Sunday,
and to have a glimpse of his dear young friends in Little Cloisters.

The dinner was a delightful one. Mr. Darlington was benignly talkative
and full of kindly gossip; Canon Wilton almost beamed upon his guests;
after dinner Rosamund sang song after song while the three men
listened and looked. She sang her very best for them, and when she was
winding a lace shawl about her hair preparatory to the little walk
home, Canon Wilton thanked her in a way that brought the blood to her

"You've made me very happy to-night," he said finally. And his strong
bass voice was softer than usual.

"I'm glad."

"Not only by your singing," he added.

She looked at him inquiringly. His eyes had gone to Dion.

"Not only by that."

And then he spoke almost in a murmur to her.

"He's come back worth it," he said. "Good night. God bless you both."

The following day was made memorable by the "installation" of Mr.
Thrush as a verger of Welsley Cathedral.

The Cathedral was not specially crowded for the occasion, but there
was a very fair congregation when Rosamund, Dion and Robin (in a
sailor suit with wide blue trousers) walked in together through the
archway in the rood-screen. One of the old established vergers, a
lordly person with a "presence" and the air of a high dignitary, met
them as they stepped into the choir, and wanted to put them into
stalls; but Rosamund begged for seats in a pew just beyond the
lectern, facing the doorway by which the procession came into the

"Robin would be swallowed up in a stall," she whispered to Dion.

And they both looked down at the little chap tenderly, and met his
blue eyes turned confidingly, yet almost anxiously too, up to them. He
was wondering about all this whispering with the verger, and hoping
that nothing had happened to Mr. Thrush.

They found perfect seats in a pew just beyond the deanery stalls. Far
up in the distance above them one bell, the five minutes' bell, was
chiming. Its voice recalled to Rosamund the "ping-ping" of the bell of
St. Mary's Church which had welcomed her in the fog. How much had
happened since then! Robin was nestling against her. He sat between
her and his father, and was holding his father's hand. By dividing
Dion from her he united her with Dion. She thought of the mystery of
the Trinity, and then of their mystery, the mystery of father, mother
and child. To-day she felt very happy, and happy in an unusual way. In
her happiness she know that, in a sort of under way, she had almost
dreaded Dion's return. She had been so peacefully content, so truly at
rest and deeply serene in the life at Welsley with Robin. In her own
heart she could not deny that she had loved having her Robin all to
herself; and she had loved, too, the long hours of solitude during
which, in day-dreams, she had lived the religious life. A great peace
had enveloped those months at Welsley. In them she had mysteriously
grown into a closer relation with her little son. She had often felt
in those months that this mysterious nearness could never have become
quite what it had become to her unless she had been left alone with
Robin. It was their solitude which had enabled her to concentrate
wholly on Robin, and it was surely this exclusive concentration on
Robin which had drawn him so very close to her. All the springs of his
love had flowed towards her.

She had been just a wee bit frightened about Dion's return.

And that was why at this moment, when the five minutes' bell was
ringing, she felt so happy. For Dion's return had not made any
difference; or, if it had made a difference, she did not actively
regret it. The child's new adoration of his father had made her care
more for Dion, and even more for Robin; for she felt that Robin was
unconsciously loving in his father a strength and a nobility which
were new in Dion, which had been born far away across the sea. War
destroys, and all the time war is destroying it is creating. Robin was
holding a little bit of what the South African War had created as he
held his father's hand. For are not the profound truths of the soul
conveyed through all its temple?

"Happiness is a mystery," thought Rosamund.

And then she silently thanked God that this mystery was within
herself, and that she felt it in Robin and in Dion.

She looked down at her little son, and as she met his soft and yet
ardent eyes,--full of innocent anxiety, and almost of awe, about Mr.
Thrush,--she blessed the day when she had decided to marry Dion, when
she had renounced certain dreams, when she had taken the advice of the
man who was now her friend and had resolved to tread that path of life
in which she could have a companion.

Her companion had given her another companion. In the old gray
Cathedral, full of the silent voices of men who had prayed and been
gathered to their rest long since, Rosamund looked down the way of
happiness, and she could not see its end.

The five minutes' bell stopped and Robin sat up very straight in the
pew. The Bishop's wife proceeded to her stall with a friend. Robin
stared reverently, alert for the tribute to Mr. Thrush. Miss Piper
glided in sideways, holding her head down as if she were searching for
a dropped pin on the pavement. She, too, was an acquaintance of
Robin's, and he whispered to his mother:

"Miss Piper's come to see Mr. Thrush."

"Yes, darling."

What a darling he was in his anxiety for his old friend! She looked at
the freckles on the bridge of his little nose and longed to kiss them.
This was without doubt the most wonderful day in Robin's life so far.
She looked ahead and saw how many wonderful days for Robin! And over
his fair hair she glanced at Dion, and she felt Dion's thought hand in
hand with hers.

A long sigh came from the organ, and then Mr. Dickinson was at work
preluding Mr. Thrush. Distant steps sounded on the pavement behind the
choir screen coming from some hidden place at the east end of the
Cathedral. The congregation stood up. All this, in Robin's mind, was
for Mr. Thrush. Still holding his father's hand tightly he joined in
the congregation's movement. The solemnly pacing steps drew nearer.
Robin felt very small, and the pew seemed very deep to him now that he
was standing up. There was a fat red footstool by his left leg. He
peeped at his father and whispered:

"May I, Fa?"

Dion bent down, took him under the arms and lifted him gently on to
the footstool just as the vergers appeared with their wands, walking
nobly at the head of the procession.

At Welsley the ordinary vergers did not march up the choir to the
return stalls, but divided and formed up in two lines at the entrance,
making a dignified avenue down which the choristers and the clergy
passed with calm insouciance into the full view of the waiting
congregation. Only two picked men, with wands of silver, preceded the
dignitaries to their massive stalls. Mr. Thrush was--though not in
Robin's eyes--an ordinary verger. He would not therefore penetrate
into the choir. But, mercifully, he with one other had been placed in
the forefront of the procession. He led the way, and Robin and his
parents had a full and satisfying view of him as the procession curved
round and made for the screen. In his dark and flowing robe he came on
majestical, holding his wand quite perfectly, and looking not merely
self-possessed but--as Rosamund afterwards put it--"almost uplifted."

Robin began to breathe hard as he gazed. From Mr. Thrush's shoulders
the robe swung with his lordly movements. He reached the entrance. It
seemed as if nothing could prevent him from floating on, in all the
pride and dignity of his new office, to the very steps of the Dean's
stall. But discipline held him. He stood aside; he came to rest with
his wand before him; he let the procession pass by, and then, almost
mystically, he evaporated with his brother vergers.

Rosamund sent a quick look to Dion, a look of subdued and yet bright
triumph. Then she glanced down at Robin. She had been scarcely less
excited, less strung up, than he. But she had seen the fruit of her
rehearsals and now she was satisfied. Robin, she saw, was more than
satisfied. His eyes were round with the glory of it all.

That was the happiest Sunday Dion had ever spent, and it was fated to
close in a happiness welling up out of the very deeps of the heart.

Canon Wilton and Esme Darlington came in to tea, and Mr. Thrush was
entertained at a sumptuous repast in the nursery "between the
services." Robin presided at it with anxious rapture, being now just a
little in awe of his faithful old friend. His nurse, who approved of
Mr. Thrush, and was much impressed by the fact that after two
interviews with the Dean he had been appointed to a post in the
Cathedral, sat down to it too; and Rosamund and Dion looked in to
congratulate Mr. Thrush, and to tell him how delighted they were with
his bearing in the procession and his delicately adroit manipulation
of his wand. Mr. Thrush received their earnest congratulations with
the quiet dignity of one who felt that they did not spring from
exaggeration of sentiment. Like all great artists he knew when he had
done well. But when Rosamund and Dion were about to retire, and to
leave him with Robin and the nurse to the tea and well-buttered toast,
he suddenly emerged into an emotion which did him credit.

"Madame!" He said to Rosamund, in a rather hoarse and tremulous voice.

"Now don't trouble to get up again, dear Mr. Thrush. Yes, what is it?"

Mr. Thrush looked down steadily at the "round" which glistened on his
plate. Something fell upon it.

"Oh, Mr. Thrush----!" began Robin, and paused in dismay, looking up at
his mother.

"Madame," said Mr. Thrush again, still looking at the "round," "I
haven't felt as I do now since I stood behind my counter just off
Hanover Square, respected. Yes," he said, and his old voice quavered
upwards, gaining in strength, "respected by all who knew me. /She/ was
with me then, and now she isn't. But I feel--I feel--I'm respected

Something else fell upon the toast.

"And it's all your doing, madam. I--all I can say is that I--all I can
say----" His voice failed.

Rosamund put her hand on his shoulder.

"There, Mr. Thrush, there! I know, I know just how it is."

"Madame," said Mr. Thrush, with quavering emphasis, "one can depend
upon you, a man can depend upon you. What you undertake you carry
through, even if it's only the putting on his feet of--of--I never
thought to be a verger, never. I never could have looked up to such a
thing but for you. But Mr. Dean he said to me, 'Mr. Thrush, when Mrs.
Leith speaks up for a man, even an archbishop has to listen.'"

"Thank you, Mr. Thrush. Robin, give Mr. Thrush the brown sugar. He
always likes brown sugar in his tea."

"It's more nourishing, madam," said Mr. Thrush, with a sudden change
from emotion to quiet self-confidence. "It does more work for the
stomach. A chemist knows."

"Dear old man!" said Rosamund, when she and Dion were outside in the
passage. "To say all that before nurse--it was truly generous."

And she frankly wiped her eyes. A moment later she added:

"I pray he doesn't fall back into his little failing!"

She looked at Dion interrogatively. He looked at her, understanding,
he believed, the inquiry in her eyes. Before he could say anything the
kind and careful voice of Mr. Darlington was heard below, asking:

"Is Mrs. Dion Leith at home?"

Mr. Darlington was delighted with Little Cloisters. He said it had a
"flavor which was quite unique," and was so enthusiastic that Rosamund
became almost excited. Dion saw that she counted Mr. Darlington as an
ally. When Mr. Darlington's praises sounded she could not refrain from
glancing at her husband, and when at length their guests got up to go
"with great reluctance," she begged them to come and dine on the
following night.

Mr. Darlington raised his ragged eyebrows and looked at Canon Wilton.

"I'm by way of going back to town to-morrow afternoon," he began

"Stay another night and let us accept," said Canon Wilton heartily.

"But I'm dining with dear Lavinia Berkhamstead, one of my oldest
friends. It's not a set dinner, but I should hardly like--"

"For once!" pleaded Rosamund.

Mr. Darlington wavered. He looked round the room and then at Rosamund
and Dion.

"It's most attractive here," he murmured, "and Lady Berkhamstead lives
in the Cromwell Road, at the far end. I wonder--"

"It's settled!" Rosamund exclaimed. "Dinner at half-past seven. We
keep early hours here, and Dion goes shooting to-morrow with Robin and
may get sleepy towards ten o'clock."

After explanations about Robin, Mr. Darlington gracefully yielded. He
would wire to dear Lavinia Berkhamstead and explain matters.

As he and Canon Wilton walked back to the Canon's house he said;

"What dear people those are!"

"Yes, indeed," said the Canon.

"Happiness has brought out the very best in them both. Leith is a fine
young fellow, and she, of course, is unique, a piece of radiance, as
her beautiful mother was. It does one good to see such a happy

He gently glowed, and presently added:

"You and I, dear Canon, have missed something."

After a moment the Canon's strong voice came gravely out of the winter

"You think great happiness the noblest education?"

Mr. Darlington began to pull his beard.

"You mean, my dear Wilton----?"

"Do you think the education of happiness is the education most likely
to bring out the greatest possibilities of the soul?"

This was the sort of very definite question that Mr. Darlington
preferred to get away from if possible, and he was just preparing to
"hedge," when, fortunately, they ran into the Dean, and the
conversation deviated to a discussion concerning the effect the
pursuit of scientific research was likely to have upon religious

After supper that evening--supper instead of dinner on Sundays was the
general rule in Welsley--Dion lit his pipe. It had been a very happy
day. He wished the happiness to last till sleep came to Rosamund and
to him; nevertheless he was resolved to take a risk, and to take it
now before they went to bed, while they still had two quiet hours
before them. He looked at Rosamund and reluctance surged up in him,
but he beat it back. Something told him that he had been allowed to
come back from South Africa in order that he might build firm
foundations. The perfect family life must be set upon rock. He meant
to get through to the rock if possible. Rosamund and he were beginning
again. Now surely was the day of salvation if he played the man, the
man instead of merely the lover.

"This has been one of the happiest days of my life," he said.

He was standing by the fire. Rosamund was sitting on a low chair doing
some embroidery. Gold thread gleamed against a rough cream-colored
ground in her capable hands.

"I'm so thankful you like Welsley," she said.

"Won't you hate leaving Welsley?" he asked.

Rosamund went on quietly working for a moment. Perhaps she bent a
little lower over the embroidery.

"I've made a great many friends here," she said at length, "and----"

She paused.

"Yes--do tell me, Rose."

"There's something here that I care for very much."

"Is it the atmosphere of religion? There's a great deal here that
suggests the religious life."

"Yes; it's what I care for."

"I was almost afraid of meeting you here when I came back, Rose. I
remembered what you had once told me, that you had had a great longing
to enter the religious life. I was half afraid that, living here all
alone with Robin, you might have become--I don't know exactly how to
put it--become cloistral. I didn't want to find you a sort of nun when
I came back."

He spoke with a gentle lightness.

"It might have been so, mightn't it?"

She remembered her dreams in the walled-in garden almost guiltily.

"No," she said steadily--and as she spoke she felt as if she were
firmly putting those dreams behind her forever. "Motherhood changes a
woman more than men can ever know."

"I--I know it's all right. Then you won't hate me for taking you both
back to Little Market Street in a few days?"

He saw the color deepen in her face. For an instant she went on
working. Then she put the work down, sat back in the low chair, and
looked up at him.

"No, of course we must go back. And I was very happy in Little Market

And then quickly, before he could say anything, she began to recall
the pleasant details of their life in Westminster, dwelling upon every
household joy, and everything that though "Londony" had been
delightful. Having conquered, with an effort which had cost her more
than even Dion knew, a terrible reluctance she gave herself to her own
generous impulse with enthusiasm. Rosamund could not do things by
halves. She might obstinately refrain from treading a path, but if
once she had set her feet on it she hurried eagerly along it.
Something to-night had made her decide on treading the path of
unselfishness, of generosity. When Dion lit his pipe she had not known
she was going to tread it. It seemed to her almost as if she had found
herself upon the path without knowing how she had got there. Now
without hesitation she went forward.

"It was delightful in Westminster," she concluded, "and it will be
delightful there again."

"And all your friends here? And Mr. Thrush?"

"I don't know what Mr. Thrush will do," she said, with a change to
deep gravity.

The two lines showed in her pure forehead.

"I'm so afraid that without me he will fall back. But perhaps I can
run down now and then just for the day to keep him up to his promise,
poor dear old man."

"And your friends?"

"Oh, well--of course I shall miss them. But I suppose there is always
something to miss. There must be a crumpled rose leaf. I am far more
fortunate than almost any woman I know."

Dion put down his pipe.

"I simply can't do it," he said.


"Take you away from here. It seems your right place. You love it;
Robin loves it. What's to be done? Shall I run up and down?"

"You can't. It's too far."

"I have to read the papers somewhere. Why not in the train?"

"Three hours or more! It's impossible. If only Welsley were nearer
London! But, then, it wouldn't be Welsley."

"Now I know you'll go I can't take you away."

"Did you--what did you think I should do?"

"How could I tell?"

He sat down and took her hands.

"Rose, you've made this the happiest day of my life."

"Do you mean because----?"

She stopped. Her face became very grave, almost severe. She looked at
him, but he felt that she was really looking inward upon herself. When
at last he let go her hands she said:

"Dion, you are very different from what you were when you went to the
war. If I seem different, too, it's because of that, I think."

"War changes women, perhaps, as well as men," he said tenderly.

They sat by the fire in the quiet old room and talked of the future
and of all the stages of Robin: as schoolboy, as youth, as budding
undergraduate, as man.

"Perhaps he'll be a soldier-man as his father has been," said

"Do you wish it?"

She looked at him steadily for a moment. Then she said:

"Yes, if it helps him as I think it has helped you. I expect when men
go to fight for their country they go, perhaps without knowing it, to
fight just for themselves."

"I believe everything we do for others, without any thought of
ourselves, we do for ourselves," he said, very seriously.

"Altruism! But then I ought to live in London for you, and you in
Welsley for me."

They both laughed. Nothing had been absolutely decided; and yet it
seemed as if through that laughter a decision had been reached about
everything really important.


A dogcart from Harrington's had been ordered to be "round" the next
day at noon. Dion had decided against a long day's shooting on Robin's
account. He must not tire the little chap. In truth it would be
impossible to take the shooting seriously, with Robin there all the
time, clinging on to Jane and having to be looked after.

"It's going to be Robin's day," Dion said the next morning. "When are
you going to tell him?"

"Directly after breakfast. By the way, Dion,"--she spoke carelessly,
and was opening a letter while she spoke,--"I'm not coming."

"Oh, but you must!"

"No; I'll stay quietly here. I have lots of things to do."

"But Robin's first day as a sportsman!"

"He isn't going to shoot," she said with a mother's smile.

"Why won't you come? You've got some very special reason."

"Perhaps I have, but I'm not going to tell it. Women aren't wanted
everywhere. Sometimes a couple of men like to be alone."

"Robin's a man now?"

"Yes, a little man. I do hope the gaiters will fit him. I haven't
dared to try them on yet. And I've got him the dearest little whip you
ever saw."

"Jane will have to look to her paces. I'm sorry you're not coming,

But he did not try to persuade her. He believed that she had a very
sweet reason behind her abstention. She had had Robin all to herself
for many months; perhaps she thought the father ought to have his turn
now, perhaps to-day she was handing over her little son to his father
for the education which always comes from a man. Her sudden
unselfishness--Dion believed it was that--touched him to the heart.
But it made him long to do something, many things, for her.

"I'm determined that you and Welsley shan't part from each other
forever," he said. "We'll hit on some compromise. This house is on our
hands, anyhow, till the spring."

"Perhaps we could sublet it," said Rosamund, trying to speak with
brisk cheerfulness.

"We'll talk it over again to-night."

"And now for Robin's gaiters!"

They fitted perfectly; "miraculously" was Rosamund's word for the way
they fitted.

"His legs might a-been poured into them almost, a-dear," was nurse's
admirably descriptive comment on the general effect produced.

Robin looked at his legs with deep solemnity. When the great project
for this day of days had been broken to him he had fallen upon awe.
His prattling ardors had subsided, stilled by a greater joy than any
that had called them forth in his complex past of a child. Now he
gazed at his legs, which were stretched out at right angles to his
body on a nursery chair, as if they were not his. Then he looked up at
his mother, his father, nurse; then once more down at his legs. His
eyes were inquiring. They seemed to say, "Can it be?"

"Bless him! He can't hardly believe in it!" muttered nurse. "And no

A small sigh came from Robin. To his father and mother it came like
the whisper of happiness, that good fairy which men cannot quite get
rid of, try as they may. Two small hands went down to the little
gaiters and felt them carefully. Then Robin looked up again, this time
at his father, and smiled. Instinctively he connected his father with
these wonderful appurtenances, although his mother had bought them and
put them on him. With that smile he gave the day to his father, and
Dion took it with just a glance at Rosamund--a glance which deprecated
and which accepted.

When the dogcart was announced by Annie, with beaming eyes, Dion got
his gun, Robin received his whip,--a miniature hunting-crop with a
horn handle,--his cap was pulled down firmly on his head by Rosamund,
and they set forth to the Green Court. Here they found Harrington's
most fiery horse harnessed to quite a sporting dogcart and doing his
very best to champ his bit. From the ground Robin looked up at him
with solemn eyes. The occasion was almost too great. His father with a
gun, his own legs in gaiters, the whip which he felt in his hand, the
packet of sandwiches thrust tenderly by nurse into the pocket of his
little covert coat, and now this glorious animal and this high and
unusual carriage gleaming with light-colored wood between its immense
wheels! There was almost too much of meaning, too much of suggestion
in it all. No words came to him. He could only feel and gaze.

A stableman with hard lips stood sentinel in front of the fiery horse,
and put up a red forefinger on the right side of his temple to give
them greeting.

"I'll get in first," said Dion to Rosamund, "and then you can hand me
up Robin."

He put in his gun and took the reins, while Robin instinctively
extended his arms so that his mother could take hold of him under

"Up we go!" cried Dion.

And he mounted lightly to the high seat.

"Now, Robin!"

Rosamund took hold of Robin, whose short arms were still solemnly
outstretched. She was about to lift him into the cart, but, overcome
by an irresistible impulse, she paused, put one arm under the little
legs in the gaiters, drew him to her and pressed her lips on the
freckled bridge of his tiny nose.

"You darling!" she whispered, so that only he could hear. "I love you
in your gaiters better than I ever loved you before." Then she handed
him up to his father as if he were a dear little parcel.

"That's it," said Dion. "Put your arm round here, boy. Hold on tight!
Let him go!"

The hard-lipped man stood to one side and the horse--well, moved.
Robin gazed down at his mother with the faint hint of an almost shy
smile, Dion saluted her with his whip, and the glorious day was fairly
begun. Traveling with a sort of rakish deliberation the dogcart
skirted the velvet lawn of the Green Court and disappeared from sight
beneath the ancient archway.

Rosamund sighed as she turned to walk back to Little Cloisters. She
had made a real sacrifice that day in giving up Robin to his father
and staying at home. Secretly she had longed to go with her "men-folk"
upon the great expedition, to be present at Robin's initiation into
the Doric life. But something very dear in Dion had prompted her to be
unselfish. Dion was certainly much more impressive to her since his
return from the war. Even the dear things in him meant more. There
seemed to be more muscle in them than there had been when he went

"Even our virtues can be weak or strong, I suppose," Rosamund thought,
as she turned into the walled garden which she loved so much, and
there followed the thought:

"I wonder which mine are."

She meant to spend that day in saying good-by to Welsley. Dion had
said they would talk things over again that night; probably he would
be ready to fall in with any desire of hers, but she felt almost sure
that she would not tell him how much she wished to stay on at Little

An obscure feeling had come to her that perhaps it was not quite safe
for her to remain any longer here in the arms of the Precincts.
Looking backward to that which has been deliberately renounced is
surely an act of weakness.

Even the imaginative effort to live a life that has been put aside is
a feeble concession to an inclination at least partially morbid.
Rosamund was in fact a mother, and yet here in Welsley, she had, as it
were, sometimes played at being one of those "Sisters" who are content
to be brides of heaven and mothers of the poor. For her own sake it
was doubtless best to renounce Welsley at once. The new meaning of
Dion would help her to do that bravely. He had often been unselfish
for her; she would try to counter his unselfishness with hers.

When she was in the house again she had a colloquy with the cook about
the dinner for that evening. As Esme Darlington had given up an
engagement in London to come to Little Cloisters, her dinner must be
something special. She told the cook so in her cordial, almost
confidential, way, and they "put their heads together" and devised a
menu full of attractions. That done she had the day to herself. Dion
and Robin would come home some time in the afternoon, and they were
all going to have tea together up in the nursery. It might be at half-
past four, it might be at half-past five. Till then she was free.

For a moment she thought of going to see some of her friends, of
telling Mrs. Dickinson and other adherents of hers that her days in
Welsley were numbered. But a reluctance seized her. She felt a desire
to be alone. What if instead of saying good-by to Welsley, she said
good-by to her dreams in Welsley? She summoned Annie and told her not
to let any one in.

"I'm going to spend a quiet day, Annie," she said.

"Yes, ma'am," said Annie, with an air of intelligent comprehension.

"Though what else any one ever does in old Welsley I'm sure I couldn't
say," she afterwards remarked to the cook.

"You're a cockney at 'eart, Annie," repeated that functionary. "The
country says nothing to you. You want the parks, that's what you

"Well, I was brought up in 'em, as you may say," said Annie, whose
father had been a park-keeper, and whose mother and grandmother were
natives of Westbourne Grove.

By a quiet day Rosamund meant a day lived through in absolute
solitude, a day of meditation in the cloistered garden. She would not
have any lunch. Then she would have a better appetite for the nursery
tea at which Robin would relate to her all the doings of the greatest
day of his life. Precious, precious Robin!

She went down into the garden.

It was a mistily bright day of November. The sun shone through a
delicate veil. The air was cold but not sharp. Neither autumn nor
winter ruled. It seemed like a day which had slipped into an
interstice between two seasons, a day that was somehow rare and
exceptional, holding a faint stillness that was strange. There was in
it something of the far away. If a fairy day can be cold, it was like
a fairy day. On such a day one treads lightly and softly and at
moments feels almost as if out of the body.

Lightly and softly Rosamund went to and fro between the high and mossy
walls of the garden, keeping to the straight paths. When the bells
chimed in the tower of the Cathedral they sounded much farther away
than usual; the song of the thrush somewhere in the elder bush near
the garden door was curiously remote; the caw-caw of the rooks dropped
down as if from an immeasurable distance. Through the mist the
sunshine filtered, lightly pale and pure, a sensitive sunshine which
would surely not stay very long in Rosamund's garden.

A sort of thin stillness had fallen upon the world.

And so another chapter of life was closing, the happy chapter of

Something of sadness accompanied Rosamund along the straight paths,
the delicate melancholy which attends the farewells of one who has
regret but who has hope.

With the new Dion and with the old Robin, the Robin blessedly
unchanged, she could not be really unhappy. Yet it was sad to give up
the dear garden and all the dreams which belonged to it. Far down in
her--she knew it--there was certainly a recluse. She could see the
black figure, the sheltered face, the eyes looking down, the praying
hands. It would have been very natural to her long ago to seek God in
the way of the recluse. But not now!

Hermes and the child came before her. In the stillness of Welsley it
was as if she heard the green stillness of Elis. She was quite alone
in that inner room where stood the messenger with the wings on his
sandals. Dion had stayed outside. He had been unselfish that day as
to-day she had been unselfish. For she had wanted to go with the
little gaiters. She could see the smiling look of eternity upon the
face of the messenger. He had no fear for the child. He had mounted on
winged feet to the region where no fear is. How his benign and eternal
calm had sunk into Rosamund's soul that day in Elis. Far off she had
seen through the frame of the Museum doorway a bit of the valley in
which the Hermes had dwelt, and stretching across it a branch of wild
olive. She had looked at it and had thought of the victor's Crown, a
crown which had even been won by a boy at the games.

Already then a fore-knowledge of Robin had been in her.

She had gazed at the branch and loved it. Certainly she had been
dreaming, as she had afterwards told Dion, and in her dream had been
Hermes and the child, and surely another child for whose future the
messenger would not fear. The branch of wild olive had, perhaps,
entered into the dream. Into a crown she had wound it to set upon the
little fair head. And that was why she had suffered, had really
suffered, when a cruel hand had come into Elis and had torn down the
wild olive branch. Dion's hand!

That action had been like a murder. She remembered even now her
feeling of anger and distress. She had been startled. She had been
ruthlessly torn away from the exquisite calm in which, with the
Hermes, she had been celestially dreaming. Dion had torn her away,
Dion who loved her so much.

Why had he done it? Even now she did not know.

He had taken her out of that dream, and now he was going to take her
away from Welsley.

The misty brightness was already fading from the garden; the song of
the thrush was no longer audible: he had flown away from the elder
bush and from Rosamund. The coldness and silence of the day seemed to
deepen about her. Welsley was fading out of her life. She felt that.
She was going to begin again. But as she had carried Elis with her
when she left it, and the dear tombs and temples of Greece, when she
had bidden good-by to the bare and beautiful land whose winds and
whose waters are not as the winds and the waters of any other region,
so she would carry away with her Welsley, this garden with its
seclusion, its old religious atmosphere, the music of the chimes, even
the thrush's song from the elder bush. "Farewell!" She must say that.
But she had her precious possession. Another page of the book of life
would be turned. That was all.

That was all? She sighed. A painful sense of the impermanence of the
things of this world came suddenly upon her. Like running water life
was slipping by; its joys, the shining bubbles poised upon the
surface, drifted into the distance and--how quickly!--were out of

Perhaps the great attraction, the lure of the religious life, was the
sense felt by those who led it of having a close grip upon that which
was permanent. The joys of the world--even the natural, healthy,
allowed joys--were shut out, but there was the great compensation,
companionship with that to which no "farewell" would ever have to be
said, with that to which death only brought the human being nearer.

Rosamund stopped in her walk, and looked up at the great Cathedral
which towered above the wall of the garden. She had been pacing to and
fro for a long time. She did not feel tired, but she was beset by an
unaccustomed sensation of weariness, mental and spiritual rather than

After a minute she went into the house, found a rug and a book, came
back into the garden, and sat down on a bench in a corner hidden from
observation. This bench was close to the wall which divided the garden
from the "Dark Entry." It was separated from the lawn and the view of
the house by a belt of shrubs. Rosamund was fond of this nook and had
very often sat in it, sometimes alone, sometimes with Robin. She had
told the maids never to look for her there; if any visitor came and
she was not seen in that part of the garden which was commanded by the
windows of the house, they were to conclude that she was "out." Here,
then, she was quite safe, and could turn the last page of the chapter
of Welsley in her book of life.

She wrapped herself up in the big and heavy rug. The sun was gone, the
mist had become slightly more dense, the air was colder.

Presently Dion and Robin would come back; there would be tea in the
warm old-fashioned nursery, gay talk, the telling of wonderful deeds.

If only Robin did not fall off Jane! But Dion would take care of that.
Dion certainly loved Robin very much. The bond between father and son
had evidently been strengthened by the intervention of the war, which
had broken off their intercourse for a time, and given Robin a father
changed by contact with hard realities.

For a few minutes in imagination Rosamund followed the two figures
over the stubble, the thin strong walking figure, and the little
darling figure on pony back. Would Robin quite forget her in the midst
of his proud and triumphant joy? She wondered. Even if he did, she
would not really mind. She wanted him to be very happy indeed without
her--just for a short time: that he could not be happy without her for
long she knew very well.

Oddly, her sensation of weariness persisted. She recognized it now as
wholly unphysical. She was certainly feeling what people call
"depressed." No doubt this unusual depression--for she had been born
with a singularly cheerful spirit--was caused by the resolution she
had taken to give up Welsley. Perhaps Welsley meant more to her even
than she had supposed. But it was absurd--wasn't it?--to be so
dominated by places. People, certain people, might mean everything in
the life of a woman; many women lived, really lived, only in and
through their lovers, their husbands, their children; but what woman
lived in and through the life of the place? She had only to compare
mentally the loss of Welsley with--say--the loss of Dion, the new
Dion, to realize how little Welsley really meant to her. Certainly she
loved it as a place, but probably a woman can only love a place with a
bit of her.

And yet to-day, she certainly felt depressed. Even the thought of the
nursery tea did not drive the depression from her.

She opened the book she had brought from the house. It was a volume of
Browning's poems. She had opened it at hap-hazard, and now her eyes
rested on these words, words loved almost above all others by one of
the greatest souls that ever spent itself for England:

"I go to prove my soul!
I see my way as birds their trackless way
I shall arrive! What time, what circuit first
I ask not; but unless God send His Hail
Or blinding fire-balls, sleet, or stifling snow,
In some time, His good time!--I shall arrive:
He guides me and the bird. In His good time!"

She read the lines three--four times. Then she laid the book down on
her knees and sat very still. Consciously she tried to withdraw
herself, to pass into meditation carrying the poem with her.

"I see my way as birds their trackless way--
I shall arrive!"

Rosmund was gazing downward at a coping of worn brick on which she had
set her feet, but she did not see it now. She saw migratory birds
traveling steadily through a vast expanse of gray sky; birds that were
going, at the appointed time, to some far-distant place, in search of
a golden climate, in search of the sun. Inevitably they would come
into the golden climate, inevitably they would find the sun which they
needed. Like them she was traveling through a vast gray expanse, the
life of the world. Robin and Dion were with her. They were seeking the
sun which they needed. Surely, like the birds, they would find the sun
at last. She had thought to seek her way deliberately. When she was
quite a girl it had seemed to her that the human being had the power,
and was therefore almost under the obligation, to find the way to God
for herself. When she had contemplated entering the religious life the
thought at the back of her mind had perhaps been something like this:
"I'll conquer the love and the mercy of God by my own exertions; I'll
find the way to God by my own ingenuity and determination in searching
it out." Possibly she had never quite simply and humbly said in her
soul, with Newman, "Be Thou my Guide." Now, as she sat in the garden,
with the image of the migratory birds in her mind, she thought, "The
birds do that. They give themselves to the sky, and God does the rest.
He knows the way by which each human soul can best go back to that
from which once it issued forth." Perhaps as a Sister, leading the
hidden secluded life, she could not have found the way; perhaps she
had to find it in the world, through Dion with whom she had united
herself, or through Robin to whom she had given birth.

Through Robin! Yes, surely that was her way to God. "A little child
shall lead them." The words started up in her mind without their
context, and she realized that, though people believe it is the mother
who teaches the child, nevertheless the mother learns the greatest
truths from the child. Who living on the earth could keep her from sin
as surely as her Robin? How could she be evil when Robin looked to her
as the embodiment of goodness. What would she not do, what would she
not give up, to increase Robin's love for her, to give him more reason
for regarding her with innocent confidence and simple reverence?

Yes, Robin was surely her way to God.

And now, withdrawn into the very depths of meditation, and hearing no
longer the distant voices of the rooks as they wheeled about the elm-
tops near Canon Wilton's house, she went onwards down the way chosen
for her by God, the "Robin-way."

Now Robin was a young child, and naturally looked up to her as a kind
of Providence. Presently he would be a lad; inevitably he would reach
the age when the growing mind becomes critical. Young animals gnaw
hard things to test the strength of their teeth; so do young growing
minds gnaw the bones that come in their way. Even the mother comes in
for much secret criticism from the son who loves her. Rosamund's time
for being criticized by Robin would come in the course of the years.
She must try to get ready against that time; she must try to be worthy
of Robin's love when he was able to be critical. And so onwards down
the way across the gray expanse, guided, like the birds!

Rosamund saw herself now as the mother of a tall son, hardened a
little by public-school life, a cricketer, a rower, a swimmer; perhaps
intellectual too, the winner of a scholarship. There were so many
hearts and minds that the mother of a son must learn to keep, to
companion, to influence, to go forward with: the heart and the mind of
the child, the schoolboy, the undergraduate, the young man out in the
world taking up his life-task--a soldier perhaps, or a man of
learning, a pioneer, a carver of new ways for the crowd following

It was a tremendous thing to be a mother; it was a difficult way to
God. But it was the most beautiful way of all the ways, and Rosamund
was very thankful that she had been guided to take it. Robin, she
knew, had taught her already very much, but how little compared with
all that he was destined to teach her in the future! Even when her
hair was white no doubt she would still be learning from him, would
still be trying to lift herself a little higher lest he should ever
have to look downward to see her.

For a long time she meditated on these things, for a very long while.
The sun never came back to the garden as she dreamed of the sun which
the birds were seeking, of the sun which she and Dion and Robin were
seeking; the afternoon hours passed on in a gray procession; the
chimes sounded many times, but she did not hear them. She had
forgotten Welsley in remembering how small a part Welsley must play in
her mother-life, in remembering how very small were the birds in the
immense expanse of the sky.

In Meditation she had entered into Vastness.

The sound of the organ in the Cathedral recalled her. It was four
o'clock. The afternoon service was just beginning. She sat still and
listened. It was growing dark now, but she had no wish to move.
Probably in half an hour Robin and Dion would come back from the
shooting. From to-day she would think of Robin in a different way. He
would be even dearer to her, even more sacred, her little teacher.
What did it matter where she lived if her little teacher was with her.
The sting had gone out of her unselfishness; she was glad she had been
able to be unselfish, to put Dion before herself.

The organ ceased. They were praying now in the Cathedral. Presently
she heard them singing the psalms faintly. The voices of the boys came
to her with a sort of vague sweetness through the gathering darkness
and the mist. They died away; the Magnificat followed, then silence,
then the Nunc Dimittis, then another silence, presently the anthem.
Finally she heard the organ alone in a Fugue of Bach.

The quarter to five chimed in the tower. Dion and Robin were a little

She got up, and carried the rug into the house.

"Annie!" she called.

Annie came.

"When Mr. Leith and Robin come back,--they'll be here directly,--will
you ask them to give me a call? I shall be in the garden."

"Very well, ma'am."

Again Rosamund paced up and down the paths. Now she was very conscious
of herself and of her surroundings. The long night of early winter was
falling upon Welsley. Five o'clock struck, a quarter-past five, then
the half-hour. She stood still on the path, beginning to wonder. How
late they were! Robin would surely be very tired. It would be too much
for him. Directly he had had his tea he must be put to bed. Or perhaps
it would be best to put him to bed at once. He would be disappointed,
but they could easily have tea in the night nursery. She smiled,
conjuring up a picture of Robin under the bedclothes being fed pieces
of cake. He would enjoy that. And she would hold his cup for him while
he drank, so that the bed might be safe. Meals in bed are often
dangerous to the bed. How delightful were all the little absurd things
she did for Robin!

When the chimes told her that it was a quarter to six she began to
feel puzzled, and just the least little bit anxious. It had been quite
dark for a little while now. Job Crickendon's farm was only about four
miles from Welsley. Harrington's horse might not be an exceptionally
fast-goer, but surely he could cover six miles in an hour. Dion and
Robin could get back in forty minutes at the most. They must have
stayed on at Job Crickendon's till past five o'clock. Could they have
had tea there? No, she was sure they would not have done that, when
they knew she was waiting for them, was looking forward eagerly to tea
in the nursery.

When six o'clock struck and they had not returned she felt really
uneasy, although she was not at all a nervous mother, and seldom, or
never, worried about her little son. She could not doubt any longer
that something unexpected had occurred. They were dining at half-past
seven that night. In an hour's time at the latest she and Dion would
have to dress. The hopes she had set on the family tea were vanishing.
In her uneasiness she began to feel almost absurdly disappointed about
the tea. She was hungry, too; she had had no lunch just because of the
tea. It was to be a sort of family revel, and she had wished to enjoy
it in every way, to make of it a real meal. Her abstention from lunch
now seemed to her almost pitiful. Disappointment became acute in her.
Yet even now her uneasiness, though definite, was not strong. If it
had been she would not have been able to feel so disappointed, even so
sorry for herself. She had given up the day to Dion. The nursery tea
was to have been her little reward. Now she would be deprived of it.
For a moment she felt hurt, almost the least bit angry.

As the words formed themselves in her mind she heard the quarter-past
six chime out in the tower. She stood still on the path. What had
happened? Perhaps Robin had fallen off Jane and hurt himself, or
perhaps there had been an accident when they were driving home.
Harrington's horse was probably a crock. He might have fallen down.
The dogcart was a high one----

She pulled herself up. She had always secretly rather despised the
typical "anxious mother," had always thought that the love which shows
itself in perpetual fear was a silly, poor sort of affection. Even
when Robin, as a baby, had once been seriously ill, at the time of the
Clarke divorce case, she had been calm, had shown complete self-
control. She had even surprised people by her fearlessness and quiet

They did not know how she had prayed, and almost agonized in secret.
She had drawn the calm at which they had wondered from prayer. She had
asked God to let Robin get well, and she had felt that her prayer had
been heard, and that God would grant her the life of her child.

Perhaps she had exaggerated to herself the danger he was in. But he
was ill--for a short time he was very ill, and a baby's hold on life
is but frail.

Now she remembered her self-control during Robin's illness, and
resolutely she banished her anxiety. There was no doubt some perfectly
simple explanation which presently would account to her for their not
coming at the tea hour.

"Ma'am!" cried a respectable voice. "Ma-a-am!"

"What is it, Nurse. They haven't come back?"

Nurse was coming down the path gingerly, with a shawl over her cap.

"No, ma'am. Whatever can have happened? /Something's/ a-happened,
that's certain."

"Nonsense, Nurse!"

"But whatever should keep them out till late into the night, ma'am?"

"It's only a little after six. It isn't night at all."

"But the tea, ma'am! And Master Robin's so regular in his habits.
He'll be fair famished, ma'am, that he will. I---- Well, ma'am, if I
may say it, I really don't hold with all this shooting, and sport, and
what not for such young children."

"It's only just for once, Nurse. Go in now. You'll catch cold."

"But yourself, ma'am?"

"I'm quite warm. I'd rather stay out."

Nurse stared anxiously for a moment, then turned away and went
gingerly back to the house. Her white shawl faded against the
background of darkness. With its fading Rosamund entered into--not
exactly darkness, but into deep shadows. She supposed that nurse's
fear had communicated itself to her; she had caught the infection of
fear from nurse. But when was nurse not afraid? She was an excellent
woman and absolutely devoted to Robin, but she was not a Spartan. She
leaped at sight of a mouse, and imagined diseases to be for ever
floating Robinwards on all the breezes. Rosamund had strictly
forbidden her ever to talk nonsense about illness to Robin, and she
had obeyed. But that was her one fault; she had a timorous nature.

Rosamund wished nurse had not come out into the garden to infect her
with foolish fear.

Nurse's invitation to her to come into the house had made her suddenly
know that to be shut in would be intolerable to her. Why was that? She
now knew that lately, while she had been walking in the garden, she
had been straining her ears to hear the sound of wheels in the Green
Court. She knew she would be able to hear them in the garden. In the
house that would be impossible. Therefore she could not go into the
house till Robin came back.

All her fear was for Robin. He was so young, so tiny. Perhaps she
ought not to have allowed him to go. Perhaps nurse was right, and such
an expedition ought to have been ruled out as soon as it was
suggested. Perhaps Dion and she had been altogether too Doric. She
began to think so. But then she thought: "Robin's with his father.
What harm could come to him with his father, and such a competent
father too?" That thought of Dion's strength, coolness, competency
reassured her; she dwelt on it. Of course with Dion Robin must be all

Presently, leaving the path in front of the house, she went again to
the seat hidden away behind the shrubs against the wall which
separated the garden from the Dark Entry. This dark entry was an
arched corridor of stone which led directly from the Green Court to
the passage-way on which the main door of the garden opened. It was
paved with worn slabs of stone upon which the feet of any one passing
rang with a mournful and hollow sound. A tiny path skirted the garden
wall, running between the hidden seat and the small belt of shrubs
which shut out a view of the house. Just before she turned into this
path Rosamund looked back at the old house, and saw a lamp gleaming in
the lattice window of the nursery. She did not sit down on the seat.
She had thought to do that and to listen. But the mist had made the
wood very wet, and she had left the rug in the house. If she walked
softly up and down the little path she would be sure to hear the hoofs
of Harrington's horse, the wheels of the dogcart directly the
wanderers drove into the Green Court. There they would get down, and
would walk home through the Dark Entry. She intended to call out to
them when she heard their footsteps ringing on the old stones. That
would surprise them. She tried to enjoy the thought of their surprise
when they heard her voice coming out of the darkness. How Robin would
jump at the sound of mummy!

She stood just in front of the seat for two or three minutes,
listening intently in the misty darkness. She heard nothing except for
a moment a rustling which sounded like a bird moving in ivy. Then she
began to walk softly up and down passing and repassing the seat. When
she came up to the seat for the fourth time in her walk, an ugly
memory--she knew not why--rose in her mind like a weed in a pool; it
was the memory of a story which she had long ago read and disliked.
She had read it, she remembered, in a railway train on a long journey.
She had had a book, something interesting and beautiful, with her, but
she had finished it. A passenger, who had got out of the carriage, had
left behind him a paper-covered volume of short stories. She had taken
it up and had read the first story, which now, after an interval of
years, recurred to her mind.

There was in the story a very commonplace business man, middle-aged,
quite unromantic and heavy, the sort of man who does not know what
"nerves" means, who thinks suggestion "damned nonsense," and psychical
research, occultism, and so forth, absurdities fit only to take up the
time of "a pack of silly women." This worthy person lived in the
suburbs of London in a semi-detached villa with a long piece of garden
at the back. On the other side of the fairly high garden wall was the
garden of his next-door neighbor, another business man of the usual
suburban type. Both men were busy gardeners in their spare time.
Number one had conceived the happy idea of putting up a tea-house in
the angle of the wall at the bottom of his lawn. Number two, having
heard of this achievement, and not wishing to be outdone, put up a
very similar tea-house in the corresponding angle on his side of the
wall. The two tea-houses stood therefore back to back with nothing but
the wall between them. Now, one warm summer evening Mr. Jenkins-Smith
--Rosamund could remember his name, though she had not thought of him
for years--had been busy watering his flowers and mowing his lawn. He
had worked really hard, and when the evening began to close in he
thought he would go into the tea-house and have a rest. On each side
of the curly-legged tea-table of unpolished wood stood a wicker arm-
chair. Into one of these chairs Mr. Jenkins-Smith sank with a sigh of
content. Then he lighted his pipe, stretched out his short legs, and,
gazing at his beautifully trimmed garden, prepared to enjoy a
delicious hour of well-earned repose. Things were going well with him;
money was easy; his health was good; when he sat down in the wicker
chair and put his pipe into his mouth he was, perhaps, as happy a man
as you could find in all Surbiton.

But presently, in fact very soon, he became conscious of a
disagreeable feeling. A curious depression began to come upon him. He
smoked steadily, he gazed out at his garden green with turf and gay
with flowers, but his interest and pleasure in it were gone from him.
He wondered why. Presently he turned his head and looked over his
shoulder. What he was looking for he did not know; simply he felt
obliged to do what he did. He saw, of course, nothing but the curved
wooden back of the tea-house. He listened, he strained his ears, but
he heard nothing except the faint "ting-ting" of a tram-bell, and
voices of some children playing in a distant garden. His pipe had gone
out. As he lit a match and held it to his pipe bowl he saw that his
hand was shaking. Whatever had come to him? He was no drinker; he had
always been a temperate man, proud of his clear eyes and steady limbs,
yet now he was shaking like a drunkard. Perspiration burst out upon
his forehead. He was seized by an intense desire to get away from the
tea-house, to get out into the open, and he half rose from his chair,
holding on to the arms and dropping his pipe on the wooden floor. The
tiny noise it made set his nerves in a turmoil. He was afraid. But of
what? He took his hands from the chair and sat back, angry with
himself, almost ashamed. That he should feel afraid, here in his own
garden, in his own cozy tea-house! It was absurd, monstrous; it was
like a sort of madness come upon him. But he was determined not to
give way to such nonsense. Just because he was longing to go out of
the tea-house he would remain in it. Let the darkness come; he did not
mind it; he was going to smoke his pipe.

Again he stared over his shoulder, and the sweat ran down his face.
Had not he heard something in the tea-house of his neighbor on the
other side of the wall? It seemed to him that he had rather felt a
sound than actually heard it. Nausea came upon him. He got up
trembling. But still he was ashamed of himself, and he would not go
out of the tea-house. Instead he went behind the table, stood close to
the wooden wall, put his ear to it and listened intently. He heard
nothing; but when he was standing against the wall his horror and fear
increased until he could no longer combat them. He turned sharply,
knocked over a chair, and hurried out into the garden. There for a
moment he stood still. Under the sky he felt better, but not himself;
he did not feel himself at all. After a pause for consideration he put
on his jacket,--he had been gardening in his shirt-sleeves,--went into
his house, out into the road, and then up to the door of his neighbor.
There he rang the bell and knocked. A maid came. "Is your master in?"
he asked. "Yes, sir, he's sitting in the summer-house at the end of
the garden." "How long's he been there?" "About half an hour, sir, as
near as I can reckon." "Could I see him?" "Certainly, sir." "Perhaps
you'd--perhaps you'd show me to the summer-house." "Yes, sir."

Mr. Jenkins-Smith and the maid went to the end of the garden, and
there, in the summer-house, they found the corpse of a suicide hanging
from a beam in the roof.

This was the ugly story which had come into Rosamund's mind as she
stood by the seat close to the garden wall. On the other side of Mr.
Jenkins-Smith's wall had been the summer-house of his neighbor; on the
other side of her wall there was the Dark Entry. She stood considering
this fact and thinking of the man's terror in his garden. He had been
subject surely to an emanation. A mysterious message had been sent to
him by the corpse which dangled from the beam on the other side of the

She went nearer to the wall of the garden and listened attentively.
Had she not heard a sound in the Dark Entry? It seemed to her that
some one had come into the stone corridor while she had been walking
up and down on the path, and was now standing there motionless. But
how very unlikely it was that any one would do such a thing! It must
be quite black there now, and very cold on the stone pavement, between
the stone walls, under the roof of stone. Of course no one was there.

Nevertheless she went on listening with a sort of painful attention.
And distress came upon her. It began in a sort of physical malaise out
of which a mental dread, such as she had never yet experienced, was
born. She felt now quite certain that some one was standing still in
the Dark Entry, very close to her, but separated from her by two walls
of brick and stone; and something of this unseen person, of his
attention, or his anger, or his terror, or his criminal intent, in any
case something tremendously powerful, pierced the walls and came upon
her and enveloped her. She opened her lips, not knowing what she was
going to say, and from them came the cry:


Silence followed her cry.

"Dion! Dion!" she called again.

Immediately after the third cry she heard a slow step on the stones of
the Dark Entry, passing close to her but muffled by the intervening
walls. It went on very slowly indeed; it was a dragging footfall; the
sound of it presently died away.

Then she sat down on the bench close to the wall. She still felt
distressed, even afraid. Whoever it was--that loiterer in the Dark
Entry--he had left the corridor by the archway near Little Cloisters;
he had not gone into the Green Court.

She sat waiting in the darkness.

* * * * *

That afternoon, while Rosamund was in the garden, Mr. Esme Darlington
was paying a little visit to his old friend and crony, the Dean of
Welsley. He had known the Dean--well, almost ever since he could
remember, and the Dean's wife ever since she had married the Dean. His
delay in returning to town, caused by Rosamund's attractive
invitation, enabled him to spend an hour at the Deanery, where he had
tea in the great drawing-room on the first floor, which looked out on
the Green Court. So pleasant were the Dean and his wife, so serenely
flowed the conversation, that the hour lengthened out into two hours,
and the Cathedral chimes announced that it was a quarter to seven
before Mr. Darlington uncrumpled his length to go. Even then Mrs. Dean
begged him to stay on a little longer.

"It's such a treat to hear all the interesting gossip of London," she
said, almost wistfully. "When Dickie"--Dickie was the Dean,--"when
Dickie was at St. Peter's, Eaton Square, we knew everything that was
going on, but here in Welsley--well, I often feel rather rusty."

Mr. Darlington paid the appropriate compliment, not in a banal way,
and then mentioned that at half-past seven he was dining in Little

"That delightful creature Mrs. Dion Leith!" exclaimed Mrs. Dean.
"Dickie's hopelessly in her toils."

"My dear!" began the Dean, in pleased protestation.

But she interrupted him.

"I assure you," she went on to Mr. Darlington, "he is always making
excuses to see her. She has even influenced him to appoint a new
verger, a most extraordinary old person, called Thrush, with a nose!"

Mr. Darlington cocked an interrogative eyebrow.

"My darling!" said the Dean. "He's a good old man, very deserving, and
has recently taken the pledge."

"He's a modified teetotaler!" said his wife to Mr. Darlington, patting
her husband's arm. "You see what Dickie's coming to. If it goes on he
will soon be a modified Dean."

It was past seven when they finished talking about Rosamund and Dion,
when Mr. Darlington at length tore himself delicately away from their
delightful company, and, warmly wrapped in an overcoat lined with
unostentatious sable, set out on the short walk to Canon Wilton's
house. To reach the Canon's house he had to pass through the Dark
Entry and skirt the garden wall of Little Cloisters.

Now, as he came out of the Dark Entry and stepped into the passage-
way, which led by the wall and the old house into the great open space
of green lawns and elm trees round which the dwellings of the canons
showed their lighted windows to the darkness of the November evening,
he was stopped by a terrible sound. It came to him from the garden of
Little Cloisters. It was short, sharp and piercing, so piercing that
for an instant he felt as if literally it had torn the flesh of his
body. He had never before heard any sound at all like it; but, when he
was able to think, he thought, he felt almost certain, that it had
come from an animal. He shuddered. Always temperamentally averse from
any fierce demonstrations of feeling, always instinctively restrained,
careful and intelligently conventional, he was painfully startled and
moved by this terrible outcry which could only have been caused by
intense agony. As he believed that the cry had come from an animal, he
naturally supposed that the agony which had caused it was physical. He
was a very humane man, and as soon as he had mastered the feeling of
cold horror which had for a moment held him rigid, he hastened on to
the door of Little Cloisters and pulled the bell. After a pause which
seemed to him long the door was opened by Annie, Rosamund's parlor-
maid. She presented to Mr. Darlington's peering gaze a face full of
ignorance and fear.

"What is the matter?" he asked, in a hesitating voice.

"Sir?" said Annie.

"What has happened in the garden?"

"Nothing, sir, that I know of. I have been in the house." She paused,
then added, with a sort of timorous defiance: "I'm not one as would
listen, sir."

"Then you didn't hear it?"

"Hear what, sir?"

Her question struck upon Mr. Darlington's native conventionality, and
made him conscious of the fact that, perhaps almost indiscreetly, he
was bandying words with a maid-servant. He put up one hand to his
beard, pulled at it, and then said, almost in his usual voice:

"Is Mrs. Leith in?"

"She's in the garden, sir."

"In the garden?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is--is Mr. Leith at home?"

"He's just come home, sir, and gone to Mrs. Leith in the garden."

Mr. Darlington stood for a moment pulling his beard and raising and
lowering his eyebrows. Then he said doubtfully:

"Thank you. I won't disturb them now. I shall be here with Canon
Wilton at half-past seven."

Annie stood staring at him in silence.

"They--Mr. and Mrs. Leith expect us, I believe?" added Mr. Darlington.

"They haven't said anything to the contrary, sir."


Slowly Mr. Darlington turned away, slowly he disappeared into the
darkness; his head was bent, and he looked older than usual. Annie
gazed after him. Once she opened her lips as if she were going to call
him back, but no sound came from them.

"Annie! Annie!" cried a voice in the house behind her.

She turned sharply and confronted Robin's nurse.

"Where's Master Robin?" said the nurse, almost fiercely.

"I don't know. He hasn't come back with master."

"I'm going into the garden," said the nurse.

"For God's sake, don't!" said Annie.

"Why not?" asked the nurse.

Suddenly Annie began to cry. The nurse pulled her in and shut the door
of the house.


Rosamund did not know how long she sat in the garden after she had
heard the footfall in the Dark Entry. Perhaps five minutes, perhaps
many more had slipped by before she was aware of feeling cold. A chill
had gone through her mind when she heard the footfall; now her body
was chilled. She shivered and got up. She must go into the house.

It was now very dark. The path was a pale grayish blur at her feet. On
her left the shrubs which concealed the house from her showed as a
heavy morose blackness against the softer and more mysterious
blackness of the night. The dampness which rose in the garden was like
the dreary whispering of sad earth voices.

She shivered again.

Then she heard a faltering step on the path beyond the shrubs. It was
certainly Dion's step. At last they had come back!

With a movement of her shoulders she tried to throw off her
depression, as if it were something heavy resting upon her, something
which a physical effort could get rid of. Then she called out in a
brisk and cheerful voice:

"Dion, I'm here. How late you are! What have you shot?"

It was too late now for the nursery tea, but they had come back and
all was well.


The step had stopped on the path and no voice answered her.
Nevertheless she was certain that it was Dion who had come into the
garden. Perhaps Robin was with him, perhaps they were going to give
her a surprise. She waited for an instant. Something within her was
hesitating. She conquered it, not without an effort, and went round
the angle of the path. Beyond the shrubs, but not far from them, a man
was standing. It was Dion. He was alone. It was so dark that Rosamund
could not see him clearly, but she noticed at once that the outline of
his figure looked strange. His body seemed to be all awry as if he
were standing in an unnatural position. She stopped and stared at this

"Is anything wrong, Dion?" she asked. "What's the matter? Why do you
stand like that?"

After her last quick question she heard a long-drawn quivering breath.

"Where's Robin?" she said sharply.

He did not answer. She meant to go up to him; but she did not move.

"Why are you so late? Where's Robin?" he repeated.


"Don't move! Stand there, and tell me what it is."

"Haven't I--always tried to make you happy?"

The words came from the body before her, but she did not know the
voice. It was Dion's voice, of course. It must be that. But she had
never heard it before.

"Don't come nearer to me. What have you done?"

"Robin--I have--I have--Robin--my gun----"

The voice failed in the darkness. Rosamund shut her eyes. She had seen
an angry hand tear down a branch of wild olive. Suddenly she knew. It
seemed to her that ever since that day long ago in Elis some part of
her had always prophetically known that Dion was fated to bring terror
and ruin into her life. This was not true, but now she felt it to be

"You've killed Robin," she said, quietly and coldly.

Her brain and heart seemed to stand still, like things staring into an
immense voice. They had come to the end of their road.

"You've killed Robin," she said again.


The body in front of her moved to come towards her. Then she uttered
the fearful cry which was heard by Mr. Darlington on his way home from
the Deanery, and she fled from the body which had slain Robin.

That purely instinctive action was the beginning of Dion's punishment.
A cry, the movement of a body, and everything which meant life to him,
everything for which he had lived, was gone. But he followed Rosamund
with a sort of blind obstinacy, driven as she was by instinct. Dimly
he knew that he was a man who only merited compassion, all the
compassion of the world. He had no horror of himself, but only a
horror of that Fate to which mortals have to submit and which had
overtaken him in a shining moment of happiness. The gun accident of
which his little son had been the victim presented itself to his
erring mind as a terrific stroke from above, or from beyond, falling
equally upon father and child. He was not responsible for it. The
start of a frightened pony, its sudden attempt to bolt, the pulling of
a rein which had brought the animal against him just as he was lifting
his gun to fire at a rising bird--what were those things? Only the
clumsy machinery used by implacable Fate to bring about that which had
been willed somewhere, far off in the dark and the distance.

He must tell Rosamund, he must tell Rosamund.

* * * * *

Annie and the nurse came out to the edge of the broad path which ran
along the front of the house and peered into the darkness. Annie was
crying and holding on to the nurse, whose almost fierce determination
faded as she confronted the mystery of the night which hid her master
and mistress.

"H'sh, Annie," she whispered. "Where can they be? Listen, I tell you!"

Annie strove to choke down her sobs.

"I can hear--some one," whispered the nurse, after a moment. "Don't
you. Listen, I tell you! Right over by the wall near the Bishop's!"

The sound of steps indeed came to them through the darkness. Annie
broke away from the nurse.

"I'm frightened! I'm frightened! I don't know what's come to them,"
she whispered through her teeth, resisting the impulse to cry out.
"Come in, Nurse, for God's sake!"

She shrank into the house. The nurse stood where she was for a moment,
but when she heard the steps a little nearer to her she, too, was
overcome by fear and followed Annie trembling, shutting the door
behind her.

Exactly at half-past seven Mr. Darlington and Canon Wilton were
outside the door of Little Cloisters and Mr. Darlington pulled the
bell. Always the most discreet of men, he had not mentioned to his
host the terrible cry he had heard in the Leiths' garden, or his short
colloquy with Annie. He was seriously disturbed in mind, but, being a
trained man of the world and one who prided himself upon his powers of
self-control, he had concealed this unpleasant fact from the Canon,
and had talked quite agreeably during their little walk between the
two houses. The sound of that dreadful cry still seemed to shudder
through his flesh, but it was not for him to pry into the private
lives of others, even of those whom he knew intimately, and had a
great regard for. He hoped all was well with his dear young friends,
There might be some quite simple explanation of that cry. He fervently
hoped there was. In any case it was not for him to ask questions, or

"They're a long while answering the bell," said Canon Wilton, in his
strong, earnest voice. "Hadn't you better give it another tug,

Mr. Darlington started.


He raised his hand and pulled the bell a second time.

"That's better," said the Canon, as he heard inside the house a long
tinkle. "Annie's bound to come now. As a rule she's very quick in
answering the door. Among her many virtues, Mrs. Leith counts that of
being a first-rate housewife. She trains her maids well."

"Does she?" murmured Mr. Darlington abstractedly, bending forward till
he seemed almost to be listening at the door. "Does she? I hear some
one coming. H'm!"

He straightened himself. The door opened and Annie appeared. When she
saw the two men she drew back quickly to let them pass in. Canon
Wilton said kindly: "Good evening, Annie."

"Oh, sir," said Annie, and began to cry audibly.

"What's the matter?" asked the Canon, surprised.

They were now in the little oak paneled hall, and by the light of the
lamp they could see the tears running down the flushed face of the
maid. "Is anything wrong?" said the Canon.

"Oh, sir, I'm so glad you've come! Oh, we don't know what it is!"

At this moment Robin's nurse showed herself on the staircase.

"For God's sake, sir," she said, with trembling lips, "do go into the

"Why?" said Canon Wilton, in a loud, firm voice.

"Mr. and Mrs. Leith are both there, sir. They've been there this long
time. Mr. Leith he's come back from the shooting without Master Robin.
Oh, there's something wrong, sir, there's something wrong!"

"Stay here for a moment, Darlington," said the Canon, with a sudden,
almost fiery, decision. "I'll go at once and see what's the matter."

But Mr. Darlington laid a bony hand on his friend's arm.

"I'll come with you, Wilton. I'm--I'm afraid it's something very bad."

He lowered his voice almost to a whisper in saying the last words.

The Canon formed "Why?" with his lips.

"Just now, as I was passing the garden here coming back from the
Deanery, I heard a most dreadful cry. I thought at the time that it
came from an animal, but--now----"


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