Young Lives
Richard Le Gallienne

Part 4 out of 4

"You dear child! Yes! I went out of pure love for you."

"Now you needn't be so grown up. You know you wanted to go just for
yourself as well. And you saw the monkey-house?"


"And the lions?"


"And the snakes?"


"Oh, I'd give anything to see the snakes! Did they eat any rabbits when
you were there,--fascinate them, and then draw them slowly, slowly in?"

"Angel, what terrible interests you are developing! No, thank goodness,
they didn't."

"Why, wouldn't it fascinate you to see something wonderfully killed?"
asked Angel. "It is dreadful and wicked, of course. But it would be so
thrillingly real."

"I think I must introduce you to a young man I met in London," said
Henry, "who solemnly asked me if I had ever murdered anyone. You savage
little wild thing! I suppose this is what you mean by saying sometimes
that you are a gipsy, eh?"

"Well, and you went to the Tower, and Westminster Abbey, and everything,
and it was really wonderful?"

"Yes, I saw everything--including the Queen."

For young people of Tyre and Sidon to go to London was like what it once
was to make the pilgrimage to Rome.

Mike created some valuable nonsense on the occasion, which unfortunately
has not been preserved, and Esther was disgusted with Henry because he
could give no intelligible description of the latest London hats; and
all examined with due reverence those wonderful books for review.

In Tichborne Street Aunt Tipping had taken advantage of his absence to
enrich his room with a bargain in the shape of an old desk, which was
the very thing he wanted. Dear old Aunt Tipping! And Gerard, it is to
be feared, took a little more brandy than usual in honour of his young
friend's adventures in the capital.

These excitements over, Henry sat down at his old desk to write his
first review; and there for the present we may leave him, for he took it
very seriously and was dangerous to interrupt.



More than a year had now gone by since Henry left home, and meanwhile,
with the exception of Dot's baptism, there had been no exciting changes
to record. Perhaps uneventfulness is part of the security of a
real home. Every morning James Mesurier had risen at half-past
six,--though he no longer imposed that hour of rising upon his
daughters,--breakfasted at eight, and reached his office at nine. Every
evening during those months, punctually at half-past six his latch-key
had rattled in the front-door lock, and one or other of his daughters
had hurried out at the sound to bid him welcome home.

"Home at last, father dear!" they had said, helping him off with his
coat; and sometimes when he felt bright he would answer,--

"Yes, my dear, night brings crows home."

"Home again, James!" his wife would say, as he next entered the front
parlour, and bent down to kiss her where she sat. "It's a long day.
Isn't it time you were pulling in a bit? Surely some of the younger
heads should begin to relieve you."

"Responsibility, Mary dear! We cannot delegate responsibility," he would

"But we see nothing of you. You just sacrifice your whole life for the

If he were in a good humour, he might answer with one of his rare sweet
laughs, and jokingly make one of his few French quotations: "_Telle est
la vie_! my dear, _Telle est la vie_! That's the French for it,
isn't it, Dot?"

James Mesurier was just perceptibly softening. Perhaps it was that he
was growing a little tired, that he was no longer quite the stern
disciplinarian we met in the first chapter; perhaps the influence of his
wife, and his experiences with his children, were beginning to hint to
him what it takes so long for a strong individual nature to learn, that
the law of one temperament cannot justly or fruitfully be enforced as
the law of another.

The younger children--Esther and Dot and Mat used sometimes to say to
each other--would grow up in a more clement atmosphere of home than had
been Henry's and theirs. Already they were quietly assuming privileges,
and nothing said, that would have meant beatings for their elders. For
these things had Henry and Esther gladly faced martyrdom. Henry had
looked on the Promised Land, but been denied an entrance there. By his
stripes this younger generation would be healed.

The elder girls hastened to draw close to their father in gratitude, and
home breathed a kinder, freer air than ever had been known before.
Between Esther and her father particularly a kind of comradeship began
to spring up, which perhaps more than ever made the mother miss her boy.

But, all the same, home was growing old. This was the kindness of the
setting sun!

Childless middle age is no doubt often dreary to contemplate, yet is it
an egoistical bias which leads one to find in such limitation, or one
might rather say preservation, of the ego, a certain compensation? The
childless man or woman has at least preserved his or her individuality,
as few fathers and mothers of large families are suffered to do. By the
time you are fifty, with a family of half a dozen children, you have
become comparatively impersonal as "father" or "mother." It is tacitly
recognised that your life-work is finished, that your ambitions are
accomplished or not, and that your hopes are at an end.

The young Mesuriers, for example, were all eagerly hastening towards
their several futures. They were garrulous over them at every meal. But
to what future in this world were James and Mary Mesurier looking
forward? Love had blossomed and brought forth fruit, but the fruit was
quickly ripening, and stranger hands would soon pluck it from the
boughs. In a very few years they would sit under a roof-tree bared of
fruit and blossom, and sad with falling leaves. They had dreamed their
dream, and there is only one such dream for a lifetime; now they must
sit and listen to the dreams of their children, help them to build
theirs. They mattered now no longer for themselves, but just as so much
aid and sympathy on which their children might draw. Too well in their
hearts they knew that their children only heard them with patience so
long as they talked of their to-morrows. Should they sometimes dwell
wistfully on their own yesterdays, they could too plainly see how long
the story seemed.

_Telle est la vie!_ as James Mesurier said, and, that being so, no
wonder life is a sad business. Better perhaps be childless and retain
one's own personal hopes and fears for life, than be so relegated to
history in the very zenith of one's days. If only this younger
generation at the door were always, as it assumes, stronger and better
than its elder! but, though the careless assumption that it is so is
somewhat general, history alone shows how false and impudent the
assumption often is. Too often genius itself must submit to the silly
presumption of its noisy and fatuous children, and it is the young fool
who too often knocks imperiously at the door of wise and active
middle age.

That all this is inevitable makes it none the less sad. The young
Mesuriers were neither fools nor hard of heart; and sometimes, in
moments of sympathy, their parents would be revealed to them in sudden
lights of pathos and old romance. They would listen to some old
love-affair of their mother's as though it had been their own, or go out
of their way to make their father tell once more the epic of the great
business over which he presided, and which, as he conceived it, was
doubtless a greater poem than his son would ever write. Yet still even
in such genuine sympathy, there was a certain imaginative effort to be
made. The gulf between the generations, however hidden for the moment,
was always there.

Yet, after all, James and Mary Mesurier possessed an incorruptible
treasure, which their children had neither given nor could take away. To
regard them as without future would be a shallow observation,--for love
has always a future, however old in mortal years it may have grown; and
as they grew older, their love seemed to grow stronger. Involuntarily
they seemed to draw closer together, as by an instinct of
self-preservation. Their love had been before their children; were they
to be spared, it would still be the same love, sweeter by trial, when
their children had passed from them. In this love had been wise for
them. Some parents love their children so unwisely that they forget to
love each other; and, when the children forsake them, are left
disconsolate. One has heard young mothers say that now their boy has
come, their husbands may take a second place; and often of late we have
heard the woman say: "Give me but the child, and the lover can go his
ways." Foolish, unprophetic women! Let but twenty years go by, and how
glad you will be of that rejected lover; for, though a son may suffice
for his mother, what mother has ever sufficed for her son?

But though sometimes, as they looked at their parents, the young
Mesuriers caught a glimpse of the infinite sadness of a life-work
accomplished, yet it failed to warn them against the eager haste with
which they were hurrying on towards a like conclusion. Too late they
would understand that all the joy was in the doing; too soon say to
themselves: "Was it for this that our little world shook with such fiery
commotion and molten ardours, that this present should be so firm and
insensitive beneath our feet? This habit--why, it was once a passion!
This fact--why, it was once a dream!"

Oh, why shake off youth's fragile blossoms with the very speed of your
own impatience! Why make such haste towards autumn! Who ever thought the
ruddiest lapful of apples a fair exchange for a cloud of sunlit blossom?
Whose maturity, however laden with prosperity or gilded with honour,
ever kept the fairy promise of his youth? For so brief a space youth
glitters like a dewdrop on the tree of life, glitters and is gone. For
one desperate instant of perfection it hangs poised, and is seen
no more.

But, alas! the art of enjoying youth with a wise economy is only learnt
when youth is over. It is perhaps too paradoxical an accomplishment to
be learnt before; for a youth that economised itself would be already
middle age. It is just the wasteful flare of it that leaves such a
dazzle in old eyes, as they look back in fancy to the conflagration of
fragrant fire which once bourgeoned and sang where these white ashes now
slowly smoulder towards extinction.

When Mike has a theatre of his own and can send boxes to his friends,
when Henry maybe is an editor of power, when Esther and Angel are the
enthroned wives of famous men, and the new heaven and the new earth are
quite finished,--will they never sigh sometimes to have the making of
them all over again? Then they will have everything to enjoy, so there
will be nothing left to hope for. Then there will be no spice of peril
in their loves, no keen edge that comes of enforced denial; and the game
of life will be too sure for ambition to keep its savour. "There is no
thrill, no excitement nowadays," one can almost fancy their saying, and,
like children playing with their bricks, "Now let us knock it all down,
and build another, one. It will be such fun."

However, these are intrusive, autumnal thoughts in this book of simple
youth, and our young people knew them not. They were far indeed from
Esther's mind as she talked with Dot of the future one afternoon.
Instead, her words were full of impatience with the slow march of
events, and the enforced inactivity of a girl's life at home.

"It is so much easier for the boys," she was saying. "There is something
for them to do. But we can do nothing but sit at home and wait, darn
their socks, and clap our hands at their successes. I wish I were
a man!"

"No, you don't," said Dot; "for then you couldn't marry Mike. And you
couldn't wear pretty dresses--Oh! and lots of things. I don't much envy
a man's life, after all. It's all very well talking about hard work when
you haven't got to do it; and it's not so much the work as the
responsibility. It must be such a responsibility to be a man."

"Of course you're right, Dot--but, oh! this waiting is so stupid, all
the same. If only I could be doing something--anything!"

"Well, you _are_ doing something. Is it nothing to be all the world to a
man?" said Dot, wistfully; "nothing to be his heaven upon earth? Nothing
to be the prize he is working for, and nothing to sustain and cheer him
on, as you do Mike, and as Angel cheers Henry? Would Henry have been the
same without Angel, or Mike the same without you? No, the man's work
makes more noise, but the woman's work is none the less real and useful
because it is quiet and underground."

"Dear Dot, what a wise old thing you're growing! But you know you're
longing all the time for some work to do yourself. Didn't you say the
other day that you seemed to be wasting your life here, making beds and
doing housework?"

"Yes; but I'm different. Don't you see?" retorted Dot, sadly. "I've got
no Mike. Your work is to help Mike be a great actor, but I've got no one
to help be anything. You may be sure I wouldn't complain of being idle
if I had. I think you're a bit forgetful sometimes how happy you are."

"Poor old Dot! you needn't talk as if you're such a desperate old
maid,--you're not twenty yet. And I'm sure it's a good thing for you
that you haven't got any of the young men about here--to help be
aldermen! Wait till you come and stay with us in London, then you'll
soon find some one to work for, as you call it."

"I don't know," said Dot, thoughtfully; "somehow I think I shall never

"I suppose you mean you'd rather be a nun or something serious of that

"Well, to tell the truth, I have been thinking lately if perhaps I
couldn't do something,--perhaps go into a hospital, or something of
that sort."

"Oh, nonsense, Dot! Think of all the horrible, dirty people you'd have
to attend to. Ugh!"

"Christ didn't think of that when He washed the feet of His disciples,"
said little Dot, sententiously.

"Why, Dot, how dreadfully religious you're getting! You want a good
shaking! Besides, isn't it a little impious to imply that the apostles
were horrible, dirty people?"

"You know what I meant," said Dot, flushing.

"Yes, of course, dear; and I think I know where you've been. You've been
to see that dear Sister Agatha."

"You admit she's a dear?"

"Of course I do; but I don't know whether she's quite good for you."

"If you'd only seen her among the poor little children the other day,
how beautiful and how happy she looked, you might have thought
differently," said Dot.

"Oh, yes, dear; but then you mustn't forget that her point of view is
different. She's renounced the world; she's one of those women," Esther
couldn't resist adding, maliciously, "who've given up hope of man, and
so have set all their hopes on God."

"Esther, that's unworthy of you--though what if it is as you say, is it
so great a failure after all to dedicate one's self to God rather than
to one little individual man?"

"Oh, come," said Esther, rather wilfully misunderstanding, and suddenly
flushing up, "Mike is not so little as all that!"

"Why, you goose, how earthly you are! I never thought of dear
Mike--though it would have served you right for saying such a mean thing
about Sister Agatha."

"Forgive me. I know it was mean, but I couldn't resist it. And it is
true, you'll admit, of some of those pious women, though I withdraw it
about Sister Agatha."

"Of course I couldn't be a sister like Sister Agatha," said Dot,
"without being a Catholic as well; but I might be a nurse at one of the
ordinary hospitals."

"It would be dreadfully hard work!" said Esther.

"Harder than being a man, do you think?" asked Dot, laughing.

"For goodness' sake, don't turn Catholic!" said Esther, in some alarm.
"_That_ would break father's heart, if you like."

A horror of Catholicism ran in the very marrow of these young people.
It was one of the few relics of their father's Puritanism surviving in
them. Of "Catholics" they had been accustomed to speak since childhood
as of nightmares and Red Indians with bloody scalps at their waists; and
perhaps that instinctive terror of the subtle heart of Rome is the
religious prejudice which we will do well to part with last.

Dot had not, indeed, contemplated an apostacy so unnatural; but beneath
these comparatively trivial words there was an ever-growing impulse to
fulfil that old longing of her nature to do something, as the Christians
would say, "for God," something serious, in return for the solemn and
beautiful gift of life. By an accident, she had met Sister Agatha one
day in the house of an old Irish servant of theirs, who had been
compelled to leave them on account of ill-health, and on whom she had
called with a little present of fruit. She had been struck by the
sweetness of the Sister's face, as the Sister had been struck by hers.
Sister Agatha had invited Dot to visit her some day at the home for
orphan children of which she had charge; and, with some misgiving as to
whether it was right thus to visit a Catholic, whether even it was
safe, Dot had accepted. So an acquaintance had grown up and ripened into
a friendship; and Sister Agatha, while making no attempt to turn the
friendship to the account of her church, was a great consolation to the
lonely, religious girl.

Dot retained too much rationalism ever to become a Catholic, but the
longing to do something grew and grew. At a certain moment, with each
new generation of girls, there comes an epidemical desire in maiden
bosoms to dedicate their sweet young lives to the service of what Esther
called "horrible dirty people." At these periods the hospitals are
flooded with applications from young girls whom the vernal equinox urges
first to be mothers, and, failing motherhood, nurses. Just before she
met Henry, Angel had done her best to miss him by frantic endeavours to
nurse people whom the hospital doctors decided she was far too slight a
thing to lift,--for unless you can lift your patients, not to say throw
them about, you fail in the muscular qualifications of a hospital nurse.
Dot, as we have seen, was impelled in this direction from no merely
sentimental impulse, unless the religious impulse, which paradoxically
makes nuns of disappointed mothers, may so be called. Perhaps,
unacknowledged, deep down in her heart, she longed to be the nurse--of
one little wonderful child. Had this been granted her, it is probable
that the maimed and the halt would have had less attraction for her
pitying imagination. As it was, however, she persuaded herself that she
loved them. Was it because, at the moment, no one else seemed to
need her love?



Esther's impatience was to be appeased, perhaps a little to her regret
after all, by an unexpected remission of the time appointed between Mike
and his first real engagement. Suddenly one day came an exciting letter
from the great actor, saying that he saw his way to giving him a part in
his own London company, if he could join him for rehearsal in a
week's time.

Here was news! At last a foundation-stone of the new heaven was to be
laid! In a week's time Mike would be working at one of the alabaster
walls. Perhaps in two years' time, perhaps even in a year, with good
fortune, the roof would be on, the door wreathed with garlands, and a
modest little heaven ready for occupation.

Now all that remained was to make the momentous break with the old life.
Old Mr. Laflin had been left in peaceful ignorance of the mine which
must now be exploded beneath his evening armchair. Mike loved his
father, and this had been a dread long and wisely postponed. But now,
when the moment for inevitable decision had come, Mike remembered, with
a certain shrinking, that responsibility of which Dot had spoken,--the
responsibility of being a man. It was his dream to be an actor, to earn
his bread with joy. To earn it with less than joy seemed unworthy of
man. Yet there was another dream for him, still more, immeasurably more,
important--to be Esther's husband. If he stayed where he was, in slow
revolutions of a dull business, his father's place and income would
become his. If he renounced that certain prospect, he committed himself
to a destiny of brilliant chances; and for the first time he realised
that among those chances lurked, too, the chance of failure. Esther must
decide; and Henry's counsel, too, must be taken. Mike thought he knew
what the decision and the counsel would be; and, of course, he was
not mistaken.

"Why, Mike, how can you hesitate?" said Esther. "Fail, if you like, and
I shall still love you; but you don't surely think I could go on loving
a man who was frightened to try?"

That was a little hard of Esther, for Mike's fear had been for her sake,
not his own. However, that and the even more vehement counsel of Henry
had the desired bracing effect; and Mike nerved himself to deal the
necessary blow at his father's tranquillity.

As the writer of this book takes no special joy in heart-breaking scenes
with fathers, the painful and somewhat violent scene with Mr. Laflin is
here omitted, and left to the imagination of any reader with a taste for
such unnatural collisions. Any one over thirty will agree that all the
reason was on Mr. Laflin's side, as all the instinct was on his son's.
Luckily for Mike, the instinct was to prove genuine, and his father to
live to be prouder of his rebellion than ever he would have been of his

This scene over, it was only a matter of days--five alone were
left--before Mike must up and away in right good earnest.

"Oh, Mike," said Esther, "you're sure you'll go on loving me? I'm
awfully frightened of those pretty girls in ----'s company."

"You needn't be," said Mike; "there's only one girl in the world will
look at a funny bit of a thing like me."

"Oh, I don't know," said Esther, laughing, "some big girls have such
strange tastes."

"Well, let's hope that before many months you can come and look after

"If we'd only a certain five pounds a week, we could get
along,--anything to be together. Of course, we'd have to be
economical--" said Esther, thoughtfully.

On the last night but one before his leaving, it was Mike's turn for a
farewell dinner. Half-a-dozen of his best friends assembled at the
"Golden Bee," and toasts and tears were mingled to do him honour. Henry
happily caught the general feeling of the occasion in the following
verses, not hitherto printed. Henry was too much in earnest at the time
to regard the bathos of rhyming "stage waits" with such dignities as
"summoning fates," except for which _naivete_ the poem is perhaps not a
bad example of sincere, occasional verse:

_Dear Mike, at last the wished hour draws nigh--
Weary indeed, the watching of a sky
For golden portent tarrying afar;
But here to-night we hail your risen star,
To-night we hear the cry of summoning fates--
Stage waits!

Stage waits! and we who love our brother so
Would keep him not; but only ere he go,
Led by the stars along the untried ways,
We'd hold his hand in ours a little space,
With grip of love that girdeth up the heart,
And kiss of eyes that giveth strength to part.

Some of your lovers may be half afraid
To bid you forth, for fear of pitfalls laid
About your feet; but we have no such fears,
That cry is as a trumpet in our ears;
We dare not, would not, mock those summoning fates--
Stage waits!

Stage waits! and shall you fear and make delay?
Yes! when the mariner who long time lay,
Waiting the breeze, shall anchor when it blows;
Yes! when a thirsty summer-flower shall close
Against the rain; or when, in reaping days,
The husbandman shall set his fields ablaze.

Nay, take your breeze, drink in your strengthening rain,
And, while you can, make harvest of your grain;
The land is fair to which that breeze shall blow.
The flower is sweet the rain shall set aglow,
The grain be rich within your garner gates--
Stage waits!

Stage waits! and we must loosen now your hand,
And miss your face's gold in all our land;
But yet we know that in a little while
You come again a conqueror, so smile
Godspeed, not parting, and, with hearts elate,
We wait_.

Yes, for the second time the die was cast. Henry was already afoot on
the adventure perilous. Now it was Mike's turn. These young people had
passionately invoked those terrible gods who fulfil our dreams, and
already the celestial machinery was beginning to move in answer. Perhaps
it just a little took their breath, to see the great wheels so readily
turning at the touch of their young hands; but they were in for it now,
and with stout hearts must abide the issue.

This was to be Esther and Mike's first experience of parting, and their
hearts sickened at the thought. Love surely does well in this world, so
full of snares and dangers, to fear to lose from its eyes for a moment
the face of its beloved; and in this respect the courage of love is the
more remarkable. How bravely it takes the appalling risks of life! To
separate for an hour may mean that never as long as the world lasts will
love hear the voice it loves again. "Good-bye," love has called gaily so
often, and waved hands from the threshold, and the beloved has called
"good-bye" and waved, and smiled back--for the last time. And yet love
faces the fears, not only of hours, but of weeks and months; weeks and
months on seas bottomless with danger, in lands rife with unknown evils,
dizzily taking the chances of desperate occupations. And the courage is
the greater, because, finally, in this world, love alone has anything to
lose. Other losses may be more or less repaired; but love's loss is, of
its essence, irreparable. Other fair faces and brave hearts the world
may bring us, but never that one face! Alas! for the most precious of
earthly things, the only precious thing of earth, there is no system of
insurance. The many waters have quenched love, and the floods drowned
it,--yet in the wide world is there no help, no hope, no recompense.

The love that bound this little circle of young people together was so
strong and warm that it had developed in them an almost painful
sensibility to such risks of loss. So it was that expressions of
affection and outward endearments were more current among them than is
usual in a land where manners, from a proper fear of exaggeration, run
to a silly extreme of unresponsiveness. They never met without showing
their joy to be again together; never parted without that inner fear
that this might be their last chance of showing their love for
each other.

"You all say good-bye as if you were going to America!" Myrtilla
Williamson had once said; "I suppose it's your Irish grandmother." And
no doubt the _empressement_ had its odd side for those who saw only
the surface.

Thus for those who love love, who love to watch for it on human faces,
Mike's good-bye at the railway station was a sight worth going far
to see.

"My word, they seem to be fond of each other, these young people!" said
a lady standing at the door of the next carriage.

Mike was leaning through the window, and Esther was pressing near to
him. They murmured low to each other, and their eyes were bright with
tears. A little apart stood a small group, in which Henry and Angel and
Ned were conspicuous, and Mike's sisters and Dot and Mat were there. A
callous observer might have laughed, so sad and solemn they were. Mike's
fun tried a rally; but his jests fell spiritless. It was not so much a
parting, one might have thought, as a funeral. Little was said, but eyes
were eloquent, either with tears, or with long strong glances that meant
undying faithfulness all round; and Mike knew that Henry's eyes were
quoting "_Allons_! after the great Companions, and to belong to them!"

Henry's will to achieve was too strong for him to think of this as a
parting; he could only think of it as a glorious beginning. There is
something impersonal in ambition, and in the absorption of the work to
be done the ambitious man forgets his merely individual sensibilities.
To achieve, though the heavens fall,--that was Henry's ambition for Mike
and for himself.

No one really believed that the train would have the hard-heartedness to
start; but at last, with deliberate intention, evidently not to be
swayed by human pity, the guard set the estranging whistle to his lips,
cold and inexorable as Nero turning down the thumb of death, and surely
Mike's sad little face began to move away from them. Hands reached out
to him, eyes streamed, handkerchiefs fluttered,--but nothing could hold
him back; and when at last a curve in the line had swallowed the white
speck of his face, they turned away from the dark gulf where the train
had been as though it were a newly opened grave.

A great to-do to make about a mere parting!--says someone. No doubt, my
dear sir! All depends upon one's standard of value. No doubt these young
people weighed life in fantastic scales. Their standard of value was, no
doubt, uncommon. To love each other was better than rubies; to lose each
other was bitter as death. For others other values,--they had found
their only realities in the human affections.



Yes, Mike had really gone. Henceforth for ever so long, he would only
exist for Esther in letters, or as a sad little voice at the end of a
wire. It had been arranged that Henry should take Esther with him for
dinner that evening to the brightest restaurant in Tyre. He was a great
believer in being together, and also in dinner, as comforters of your
sad heart. Perhaps, too, he was a little glad to feel Esther leaning
gently upon him once more. Their love was too sure and lasting and
ever-present to have many opportunities of being dramatic. Nature does
not make a fuss about gravitation. One of the most wonderful and
powerful of laws, it is yet of all laws the most retiring. Gravitation
never decks itself in rainbows, nor does it vaunt its undoubted strength
in thunder. It is content to make little show, because it is very
strong; yet you have always to reckon with it. It is undemonstrative,
but it is always there. The love of Esther and Henry was like that. It
has made little show in this history, but few readers can have missed
its presence in the atmosphere. It might go for weeks without its
festival; but there it was all the time, ready for any service, staunch
for any trial. It was one of the laws which kept the little world I have
been describing slung safely in space, and securely shining.

It was, indeed, something like a perfect relationship,--this love of
Esther and Henry. Had the laws of nature permitted it, it is probable
that Mike and Angel would have been forced to seek their mates
elsewhere. As it was, though it was thus less than marriage, it was more
than friendship--as the holy intercourse of a mother and a son is more
than friendship. Freed from the perturbations of sex, it yet gained
warmth and exhilaration from the unconscious presence of that
stimulating difference. Though they were brother and sister, friend and
friend, Henry and Esther were also man and woman. So satisfying were
they to each other, that when they sat thus together, the truth must be
told, that, for the time at all events, they missed no other man
or woman.

"I have always you," said Esther.

"Do I still matter, then?" said Henry. "Are you sure the old love is not
growing old?"

"You know it can never grow old. There is only one Mike; but there is
only one Henry too. It's a good love to have, Harry, isn't it? It makes
one feel so much safer in the world."

"Dear little Esther! Do you remember those old beatings, and that night
you brought me the cake? Bless you!"--and Henry reached his hand across
the table, and laid it so kindly on Esther's that a hovering waiter
retreated out of delicacy, mistaking the pair for lovers. It was a
mistake that was often made when they were together; and they had
sometimes laughed, when travelling, at the kind-hearted way passengers
on the point of entering their carriage had suddenly made up their minds
not to disturb the poor newly-married young things.

"And how we used to hate you once!" said Esther; "one can hardly
understand it now. Do you remember how on Sunday afternoons you would
insist on playing at church, and how, with a tablecloth for a surplice,
you used to be the minister? How you used to storm if we poor things
missed any of the responses!"

"The monstrous egoism of it all!" said Henry, laughing. "It was all got
up to give me a stage, and nothing else. I didn't care whether you
enjoyed it or not. What dragons children are!"

"'Dragons of the prime, that tare each other in their slime,'" quoted
Esther. "Yes, we tore each other, and no mistake--"

"Well, I've made up for it since, haven't I?" said Henry. "I hope I'm a
humble enough brother of the beautiful to please you nowadays."

"You're the truest, most reliable thing in the world," said Esther; "I
always think of you as something strong and true to come to--"

"Except Mike!"

"No, not even except Mike. We'll call it a draw--dear little Mike! To
think of him going further and further away every minute! I wonder where
he is by now. He must have reached Rugby long since."

At that moment the waiter ventured to approach with a silver tray. A
telegram,--it was indeed a telegram of tears and distance from Mike,
given in at Rugby. Even so long parted and so far away, Mike was still
true. He had not yet forgotten!

These young people were great extravagants of the emotional telegram.
They were probably among the earliest to apply electricity for
heart-breaking messages. Some lovers feel it a profanation thus to
reveal their souls beneath the eye of a telegraph-operator; but the
objection of delicacy ceases if you can regard the operator in his
actual capacity as a part of the machine. French perhaps is an advisable
medium; though, if the operator misunderstands it, your love is apt to
take strange forms at its destination, and if he understands it, you may
as well use English at once.

"Dear Mike! God bless him!" and they pledged Mike in Esther's favourite
champagne. The wives of great actor-managers must early inure themselves
to champagne.

"But if you're jealous of Mike," said Esther, presently, taking up the
dropped thread of their talk; "what about Angel?"

"Of course it was only nonsense," said Henry. "I know you love Angel far
too much to be jealous of her, as I love Mike; and that's just the
beautiful harmony of it all. We are just a little impregnable world of
four,--four loving hearts against the world."

"How clever it was of you to find Angel!"

"I found Mike, too!" said Henry, laughing.

"Oh, yes, I know; but then I discovered you."

"Ah, but a still higher honour belongs to me, for I discovered you,"
retorted Henry. "When you consider that I discovered three such
wonderful persons as you and Angel and Mike, don't you think, on the
whole, that I'm singularly modest?"

"Do you love me?" said Esther, presently, quite irrelevantly.

"Do you love _me_?"

"I asked first."

"Well, for the sake of argument, let us say 'yes.'"

"How much?"

"As big as the world."

"Oh, well, then, let's have some Benedictine with the coffee!" said

"I've thought of something better, more 'sacramental,'" said Henry,
smiling, "but you couldn't conscientiously drink it with me. It's the
red drink of perfect love. Will you drink it with me?"

"Of course I will."

So the waiter brought a bottle bearing the beautiful words, "_Parfait

"It's like blood," said Esther; "it makes me a little frightened."

"Would you rather not drink it?" asked Henry. "You know if you drink it
with me, you must drink it with no one else. It is the law of it that we
can only drink it with one."

"Not even with Mike?"

"Not even with Mike."

"What of Angel?"

"I will drink it with no one but you as long as I live."

"I will drink it then."

They held up their glasses.

"Dear old Esther!"

"Dear old Henry!"

And then they laughed at their solemnity. It was deeply sworn!

When Esther reached home that evening, she found a further telegram from
Mike, announcing his arrival at Euston; and she had scarcely read it
when she heard her father's voice calling her. She went immediately to
the dining-room.

"Esther, dear," he said, "your mother and I want a word with you."

"No, James, you must speak for yourself in this," said Mrs. Mesurier,
evidently a little perturbed.

"Well, dear, if I must be alone in the matter, I must bear it; I cannot
shrink from my duty on that account." Then, turning to Esther, "I called
you in to speak to you about Mike Laflin--"

"Yes, father," exclaimed Esther, with a little gasp of surprise.

"I met Mr. Laflin on the boat this morning, and was much astonished and
grieved to hear of the rash step his son has chosen to take. The matter
has evidently been kept from me,"--strictly speaking, it had; "I
understand, though on that again I have not been consulted, that you and
Mike have for some time been informally engaged to each other. Now you
know my views on the theatre, and I am sure that you must see that
Mike's having taken such a step must at once put an end to any such
idea. Your own sense of propriety would, I am sure, tell you that,
without any words from me--"

"Father!" cried Esther, in astonishment.

"You know that I considered Mike a very nice lad. His family is
respectable; and he would have come into a very comfortable business, if
he hadn't taken this foolish freak into his head--"

"But, father, you have laughed at his recitations, yourself, many a
time, here of an evening. What difference can there be?"

"There is the difference of the theatre, the contaminating atmosphere,
the people it attracts, the harm it does--your father, as you know, has
never been within a theatre in his life; is it likely that he can look
with calmness upon his daughter marrying a man whose livelihood is to be
gained in a scandalous and debasing profession?"

"Father, I cannot listen to your talking of Mike like that. If it is
wrong to make people innocently happy, to make them laugh and forget
their troubles, to--to--well, if it's wrong to be Mike--I'm sorry; but,
wrong or right, I love him, and nothing will ever make me give him up."

Mrs. Mesurier here interrupted, "I told you, James, how it would be. You
cannot change young hearts. The times are not the same as when you and I
were young; and, though I'm sure I don't want to go against you, I
think you are too hard on Esther. Love is love after all--and Mike's one
of the best-hearted lads that ever walked."

"Thank you, mother," said Esther, impulsively, throwing her arms round
her mother's neck, and bursting into tears, "I--I will never
give--give--him up."

"No, dear, no; now don't distress yourself. It will all come right. Your
father doesn't quite understand." And then a great tempest of sobbing
came over Esther, and swept her away to her own room.

The father and mother turned to each other with some anger.

"James, I'm surprised at your distressing the poor child like that
to-night; you might have known she would be sensitive, with Mike only
gone to-day! You could surely have waited till to-morrow."

"I am surprised, Mary, that you can encourage her as you did. You cannot
surely uphold the theatre?"

"Well, James, I don't know,--there are theatres and theatres, and actors
and actors; and there have been some very good men actors after all, and
some very bad men ministers, if it comes to that," she added; "and
theatre or no theatre, love's love in spite of all the fathers and
mothers in the world--"

"All right, Mary, I would prefer then that we spoke no more on the
matter for this evening," and James Mesurier turned to his diary, to
record, along with the state of the weather, and the engagements of the
day, the undutiful conduct of Esther, and a painful difference with
his wife.

Strange, that men who have themselves loved and begotten should thus for
a moment imagine that a small social prejudice, or a narrow religious
formula, can break the purpose of a young and vigorous passion. Do they
realise what it is they are proposing to obstruct? This is love--_love_,
my dear sir, at once the mightiest might, and the rightest right in the
universe! This is--Niagara--the Atlantic--the power of the stars--and
the strength of the tides. It is all the winds of the world, and all the
fires of the centre. You surely cannot be serious in asking it to take,
in exchange, some obsolete objection against its beloved!



This collision with her father braced up Esther's nerves, and made
Mike's absence easier to bear. Her father made no more allusion to it.
He was entering that period when fathers, however despotic, content
themselves with protest, where once they have governed by royal
proclamation. He was losing heart to contend with his children. They
must go their own ways--though it must not be without occasional severe
and solemn warnings on his part.

Mike and Esther wrote to each other twice a week. They had talked of
every day, but a wise instinct prompted them to the less romantic, but
likely the more enduring arrangement. It would be none the less open to
them to write fourteen letters a week if they wished, but to have had to
admit that one letter a day was a serious tax, not only on one's other
occupations, including idleness, but also on the amount of
subject-matter available, would have been a dangerous correction of an
impulsive miscalculation.

Second-rate London lodgings are not great cheerers of the human spirit,
and Mike was very lonely in his first letter or two; but, as the
rehearsals proceeded, it was evident that he was taking hold of his new
world, and the letter which told of his first night, and of his own
encouraging success in it, was buoyant with the rising tide of the
future. His chief had affectionately laid his hand on his shoulder, as
he came off from his scene, and, in the hearing of the whole company,
prophesied a great future for him.

Mike had been born under a lucky star; and he had hardly been in London
two months when accident very perceptibly brightened it. The chief
comedian in the company fell ill; and though Mike had had so little
experience, his chief had so much confidence in his native gift, that he
cast him for the vacant part. Mike more than justified the confidence,
and not only pleased him, but succeeded in individualising himself with
the audience. He had only played it for a week, when one Saturday
evening the audience, after calling the manager himself three times, set
up a cry for "Laflin." The obsequious attendant pretended to consider it
as a fourth call for the manager, and made as if to move the curtain
aside for him once more; but, with a magnanimity rare indeed in a "star"
of his magnitude, "No, no!" he said; "it is Mr. Laflin they want. Quick,
lad, and take your first call."

So little Mike stepped before the curtain, and made his first bow to an
affectionate burst of applause. What happy tears would have glittered in
Esther's eyes had she been there to see it, and in Henry's too, and
particularly, perhaps, in excitable Angel's!

Even so soon was the blossom giving promise of the fruit.



Meanwhile, Henry plodded away at Aunt Tipping's, working sometimes on a
volume of essays for the London publisher, and sometimes on his novel,
now and again writing a review, and earning an odd guinea for a poem;
and now and again indulging in a day of richly doing nothing. Otherwise,
one day was like another, with the many exceptions of the days on which
he saw Angel or Esther. With Ned, he spent many of his evenings; and he
soon formed the pleasant habit of dropping in on Gerard, last thing
before bed-time, for a smoke and half an hour's chat.

There is always a good deal of youth left in any one who genuinely loves
youth; and Gerard always spoke of his youth as Adam, in his declining
years, might have spoken of Paradise. For him life was just youth--and
the rest of it death.

"After thirty," he would say, "the happiest life is only history
repeating itself. I am no cynic,--far from it; but the worst of life is
the monotony of the bill of fare. To do a thing once, even twice, is
delightful--perhaps even a third time is successfully possible; but to
do it four times, is middle age. If you think of it, what is there to do
after thirty that one ought not to have achieved to perfection before?
You know the literary dictum, that the poet who hasn't written a
masterpiece before he is thirty will never write any after. Of course,
there are exceptions; I am speaking of the rule. In business, for
example, what future is there for the man who has not already a dashing
past at thirty? Of course, the bulk, the massive trunk and the
impressive foliage of his business, must come afterwards; but the tree
must have been firmly rooted and stoutly branched before then, and able
to go on growing on its own account. The work, in fact, must have
been done.

"Take perhaps the only thing really worth doing in life," and Gerard
perceptibly saddened. "That is, marrying a woman you love, or I
should say _the_ woman, for you only really _love_ one woman--I'm
old-fashioned enough to think that,--well, I say, marrying the woman you
love, and bringing into the world that miracle of miracles,--a child
that shall be something of you and all her: that certainly is something
to have done before thirty, and not to be repeated, perhaps, more than
once before or after. She will want a boy like you, and you will have a
girl like her. That you may easily accomplish before thirty. Afterwards,
however, if you go on repeating each other, what do you do but blur the
individuality of the original masterpieces--though," pursued Gerard,
laughing, always ready to forget his original argument in the
seductiveness of an unexpected development of it, "though, after all, I
admit, there might be a temptation sometimes to improve upon the
originals. 'Agnes, my dear,' we might say, 'I'm not quite satisfied yet
with the shade of Eva's hair. It's nearly yours, but not quite. It's an
improvement on Anna's, whose eyes now are exactly yours. Eva's,
unfortunately, are not so faithful. I'm afraid we'll have to try again.'

"No, but seriously," he once more began, "for a really vital and
successful life there is no adequate employment of the faculties after
thirty, except, of course, in the repetition of former successes. No; I
even withdraw that,--not the repetition, only the conservation, the
feeding, of former successes. The success is in the creation. When a
world is once created, any fool can keep it spinning.

"Man's life is at least thirty years too long. Two score years is more
than enough for us to say what we were sent here to say; and if you'll
consider those biographies in which you are most interested, the
biographies of great writers, you cannot but bear me out. What, for
instance, did Keats and Shelley and Burns and Byron lose by dying, all
of them long before they were forty,--Keats even long before he was
thirty; and what did Wordsworth and Coleridge gain by living so long
after? Wordsworth and Coleridge didn't even live to repeat themselves,
else, of course, one would have begged them to go on living for ever;
for some repetitions, it is admitted, are welcome,--for instance, won't
you have a little more whisky?"

Henry always agreed so completely with Gerard's talk, or at least so
delighted in it, that he had little scope of opportunity to say much
himself; and Gerard was too keen a talker to complain of a rapt
young listener.

"How old are you?" he said, presently.

"Twenty-two next month."

"Twenty-two! How wonderful to be twenty-two! Yet I don't suppose you've
realised it in the least. In your own view, you're an aged philosopher,
white with a past, and bowed down with the cares of a future. Just you
stay in bed all day to-morrow, and ponder on the wonderfulness of being

"I'm forty-two. You're beginning--I'm done with. And yet, in some ways,
I believe I'm younger than you--though, perhaps, alas! what I consider
the youth in me is only the wish to be young again, the will to do and
enjoy, without the force and the appetite. But, by the way, when I say
I'm forty-two, I mean that I'm forty-two in the course of next week,
next Thursday, in fact, and if you'll do me that kindness, I should be
grateful if you would join me that evening in celebrating the melancholy
occasion. I've got a great mind to enlist your sympathy in a little
ancient history, if it won't be too great a tax upon your goodness; but
I'll think it over between now and then."

Gerard's birthday had come; and the ancient history he had spoken of
had proved to be a chapter of his own history, the beauty and sadness of
which had made an impression upon Henry, to be rendered ineffaceable a
very few days after in a sudden and terrible manner.

One early morning about four, just as it was growing light, he had
suddenly awakened with a strong feeling that some one was bending over
him. He opened his eyes, to see, as he thought, Gerard hastily leaving
his bedside.

"Gerard!" he cried, "what's the matter?" but the figure gave no answer,
faded away down the long room, and disappeared. Henry sat up in bed and
struck a light, his heart beating violently. But there was no one there,
and the door was closed. It had evidently been one of those dreams that
persist on the eye for a moment after waking. Yet it left him uneasy;
and presently he wondered if Gerard could be ill. He determined to see;
so, slipping on his dressing-gown, he crossed the landing to Gerard's
room, and, softly knocking, opened the door and put in his head.

"Gerard, old chap, are you all right?--Gerard--"

There was no answer, and the room seemed unaccountably still. He
listened for the sound of breathing, but he couldn't hear it.

"Gerard!" he cried, again louder, but there was still no answer; and
then, with the silence, a chill terror began to creep through his blood.
He had never yet seen death; and perhaps if he had the terror in his
thought would not have been lessened. With a heart that had almost
stopped beating, and knees that shook beneath him, he pushed open the
door and walked over to the bed. It was still too dark to see more than
outlines and masses of white and black; but even so he could see that
the stillness with which Gerard was lying was the stillness of death.

His next thought was to rouse Aunt Tipping; and together the two bent
over the dead face.

"Yes, he's gone," said Aunt Tipping; "poor gentlemen, how beautiful he
looks!" and they both gazed in silence upon the calm, smiling face.

"Well, he's better off," she said, presently, leaning over him, and
softly pressing down the lids of his eyes.

Henry involuntarily drew away.

"Dear lad, there's nothing to be frightened of," said his aunt. "He's
as harmless as a baby."

Then she took a handkerchief from a drawer, and spread it gently over
the dead man's face. To Aunt Tipping the dead were indeed as little
children, and inspired her with a strange motherly tenderness. Many had
been the tired silent ones whose eyes she had closed, and whose limbs
she had washed against their last resting place. They were so helpless
now; they could do nothing any more for themselves.

Later in the day, Henry came again and sat long by the dead man's side.
It seemed uncompanionable to have grown thus suddenly afraid of him, to
leave him thus alone in that still room. And as he sat and watched him,
he gave to his memory a solemn service of faithful thought. Thus it was
he went over again the words in which Gerard had made him the
depository, the legatee, of his most sacred possession.

Gerard had evidently had some presentiment of his approaching end.

"I am going," he had said, "to place the greatest confidence in you one
man can place in another, pay you the greatest compliment. I shall die
some day, and something tells me that that divine event is not very far
off. Now I have no one in the world who cares an old 'J' pen for me, and
a new one is perhaps about as much as I care for any one--with one
exception, and that is a woman whom I shall never see again. She is not
dead, but has been worse than dead for me these ten years. I am optimist
enough to believe that her old love for me still survives, making sweet
the secret places of her soul. Never once in all these years to have
doubted her love has been more than most marriages; but were I to live
for another ten years, and still another, I would believe in it still.
But the stars were against us. We met too late. We met when she had long
been engaged to a friend of her youth, a man noble and true, to whom she
owed much, and whom she felt it a kind of murder to desert. It was one
of those fallacious chivalries of feeling which are the danger of
sensitive and imaginative minds. Religion strengthened it, as it is so
apt to strengthen any form of self-destruction, short of technical
suicide. There was but a month to their marriage when we met. For us it
was a month of rapture and agonies, of heaven shot through with hell. I
saw further than she. I begged her at least to wait a year; but the
force of my appeal was weakened by scruples similar to her own. To rob
another of his happiness is an act from which we may well shrink, though
we can clearly see that the happiness was really destined for us, and
can never be his in any like degree. During this time I had received
from her many letters, letters such as a woman only writes in the
May-morning of her passion; and one day I received the last. There was
in it one sentence which when I read it I think my heart broke, 'Do you
believe,' it ran, 'in a love that can lie asleep, as in a trance, in
this world, to awaken again in another, a love that during centuries of
silence can still be true, and be love still in a thousand years? If you
do, go on loving me. For that is the only love I dare give you. I must
love you no more in this world.'

"Each morning as I have risen, and each night as I have turned to sleep,
those words have repeated themselves again and again in my heart, for
ten years. It was so I became the Ashton Gerard you know to-day. Since
that day, we have never met or written to each other. All I know is that
she is still alive, and still with him, and never would I disturb their
peace. When I die, I would not have her know it. If love _is_ immortal,
we shall meet again--when I am worthier to meet her. Such reunions are
either mere dreams, or they are realities to which the strongest forces
of the universe are pledged."

Henry's only comment had been to grip Gerard's hand, and give him the
sympathy of silence.

"Now," said Gerard, once more after a while, "it is about those letters
I want to speak to you. They are here," and he unlocked a drawer and
drew from it a little silver box. "I always keep them here. The key of
the drawer is on this ring, and this little gold key is the key of the
box itself. I tell you this, because I have what you may regard as a
strange request to make.

"I suppose most men would consider it their duty either to burn these
letters, or leave instructions for them to be buried with them. That is
a gruesome form of sentiment in which I have too much imagination to
indulge. Both my ideas of duty and sentiment take a different form. The
surname of the writer of these letters is nowhere revealed in them, nor
are there any references in them by which she could ever be identified.
Therefore the menace to her fair fame in their preservation is not a
question involved. Now when the simplest woman is in love, she writes
wonderfully; but when a woman of imagination and intellect is caught by
the fire of passion, she becomes a poet. Once in her life, every such
woman is an artist; once, for some one man's unworthy sake, she becomes
inspired, and out of the fulness of her heart writes him letters warm
and real as the love-cries of Sappho. Such are the letters in this
little box. They are the classic of a month's passion, written as no man
has ever yet been able to write his love. Do you think it strange then
that I should shrink from destroying them? I would as soon burn the
songs of Shelley. They are living things. Shall I selfishly bury the
beating heart of them in the silence of the grave?

"So, Mesurier," he continued, affectionately, "when I met you and
understood something of your nature, I thought that in you I had found
one who was worthy to guard this treasure for me, and perhaps pass it on
again to some other chosen spirit--so that these beautiful words of a
noble woman's heart shall not die--for when a man loves a woman,
Mesurier, as you yourself must know, he is insatiable to hear her
praise, and it is agony for him to think that her memory may suffer
extinction. Therefore, Mesurier,--Henry, let me call you,--I want to
give the memory of my love into your hands. I want you to love it for
me, when perhaps I can love it no more. I want you sometimes to open
this box, and read in these letters, as if they were your own; I want
you sometimes to speak softly the name of 'Helen,' when my lips can
speak it no more."

Such was the beautiful legacy of which Henry found himself the possessor
by Gerard's death. Early on that day he had remembered his promise to
his dead friend, and had found the silver box, and locked it away among
his own most sacred things. Some day, in an hour and place upon which
none might break, he would open the little box and read Helen's letters,
as Gerard had wished. Already one sentence was fixed unforgettably upon
his mind, and he said it over softly to himself as he sat by Gerard's
silent bed: "Do you believe in a love that can lie asleep, as in a
trance in this world, to awaken again in another,--a love that during
centuries of silence can still be true, and be love still in a thousand
years? If you do, go on loving me. For that is the only love I dare give
you; I must love you no more in this world."

Strange dreams of the indomitable dust! Already another man's love was
growing dear to him. Already his soul said the name of "Helen" softly
for Gerard's sake.



With Gerard's death, Henry began to find Aunt Tipping's too sad a place
to go on living in. It had become haunted; and when new people moved
into Gerard's rooms, it became still more painful for him. It was as
though Gerard had been dispossessed and driven out. So he cast about for
some new shelter; and, one day, chance having taken him to the shipping
end of the city, he came upon some old offices which seemed full of
anxiety to be let. Inquiring of a chatty little housekeeper's wife, he
discovered, away at the echoing top of the building, a big, well-lighted
room, for which she thought the owner would be glad to take ten pounds a
year. That whole storey was deserted. Henry made up his mind at once,
and broke the news to Aunt Tipping that evening. It was the withering of
one of her few rays of poetry, and she struggled to keep him; but when
she saw how it was, the good woman insisted that he should take
something from her towards furnishing. Receiving was nothing like so
blessed as giving for Aunt Tipping. That old desk,--yes, she had bought
it for him,--that he must certainly take, and think of his old aunt
sometimes as he wrote his great books on it; and some bed-linen she
could well afford. She would take no denial.

Angel and Esther were then called in to help him in the purchase of a
carpet, a folding-bed, an old sofa, and a few chairs. A carpenter got to
work on the bookshelves, and in a fortnight's time still another
habitation had been built for the Muse,--a habitation from which she was
not destined to remove again, till she and Angel and Henry all moved
into one house together,--a removal which was, as yet, too far off to be
included in this history.

Ten pounds a year, a folding-bed, and a teapot!--this was Henry's new
formula for the cultivation of literature. He had so far progressed in
his ambitions as to have arrived at the dignity of a garret of his own,
and he liked to pretend that soon he might be romantically fortunate
enough to sit face to face with starvation. He knew, however, that it
would be a starvation mitigated by supplies from three separate,
well-lardered homes. A lad with a sweetheart and a sister, a mother and
an aunt, all in love with him, is not likely to become an authority on
starvation in its severest forms.

A stern law had been passed that Henry's daytime hours were to be as
strictly respected as those of a man of business; yet quite often, about
eleven o'clock in the morning, there would come a heavenly whisper along
the passage and a little knock on the door, soft as a flower tapping
against a window-pane.

"Thank goodness, that's Angel!

"Angel, bless you! How glad I am to see you! I can't get on a bit with
my work this morning."

"Oh, but I haven't come to interrupt you, dear. I sha'n't keep you five
minutes. Only I thought, dear, you'd be so tired of pressed beef and
tinned tongue, and so I thought I'd make a little hot-pot for you. I
bought the things for it as I came along, and it won't take five
minutes, if Mrs. Glass [the housekeeper] will only lend me a basin to
put it in, and bake it for you in her oven. Now, dear, you mustn't--you
know I mustn't stay. See now, I'll just take off my hat and jacket and
run along to Mrs. Glass, to get what I want. I'll be back in a minute.
Well, then, just one--now that's enough; good-bye," and off she
would skip.

If you want to know how fairies look when they are making hot-pot, you
should have seen Angel's absorbed little shining face.

"Now, do be quiet, Henry. I'm busy. Why don't you get on with your work?
I won't speak a word."

"Angel, dear, you might just as well stay and help me to eat it. I
sha'n't do any work to-day, I know for certain. It's one of my
bad days."

"Now, Henry, that's lazy. You mustn't give way like that. You'll make me
wish I hadn't come. It's all my fault."

"No, really, dear, it isn't. I haven't done a stroke all morning--though
I've sat with my pen for two hours. You might stay, Angel, just an
hour or two."

"No, Henry; mother wants me back soon. She's house-cleaning. And
besides, I mustn't. No--no--you see I've nearly finished now--see! Get
me the salt and pepper. There now--that looks nice, doesn't it? Now
aren't I a good little housewife?"

"You would be, if you'd only stay. Do stay, Angel. Really, darling, it
will be all the same if you go. I know I shall do nothing. Look at my
morning's work, and he brought her a sheet of paper containing two lines
and a half of new-born prose, one line and a half of which was
plentifully scratched out. To this argument he added two or three
persuasive embraces.

"It's really true, Henry? Well, of course, I oughtn't; but if you can't
work, of course you can't. And you must have a little rest sometimes, I
know. Well, then, I'll stay; but only till we've finished lunch, you
know, and we must have it early. I won't stay a minute past two o'clock,
do you hear? And now I'll run along with this to Mrs. Glass."

When Angel had gone promptly at three, as likely as not another step
would be heard coming down the passage, and a feminine rustle,
suggesting a fuller foliage of skirts, pause outside the door, then a
sort of brotherly-sisterly knock.

"Esther! Why, you've just missed Angel; what a pity!"

"Well, dear, I only ran up for half-a-minute. I was shopping in town,
and I couldn't resist looking in to see how the poor boy was getting on.
No, dear, I won't take my things off. I must catch the half-past three
boat, and then I'll keep you from your work?"

Esther always said this with a sort of suggestion in her voice that it
was just possible Henry might have found some new way of both keeping
her there and doing his work at the same time; as though she had said,
"I know you cannot possibly work while I am here; but, of course, if you
can, and talking to me all the time won't interfere with it--well,
I'll stay."

"Oh, no, you won't really. To tell the truth, I've done none to-day. I
can't get into the mood."

"So you've been getting Angel to help you. Oh, well, of course, if Angel
can be allowed to interrupt you, I suppose I can too. Well, then, I'll
stay a quarter of an hour."

"But you may as well take your things off, and I'll make a cup of tea,
eh? That'll be cosey, won't it? And then you can read me Mike's last
letter, eh?"

"Oh, he's doing splendidly, dear! I had a lovely letter from him this
morning. Would you really care to hear a bit of it?"

And Esther would proceed to read, picking her way among the endearments
and the diminutives.

"I _am_ glad, dear. Why, if he goes on at this rate, you'll be able to
get married in no time."

"Yes; isn't it splendid, dear? I am so happy! What I'd give to see his
little face for five minutes! Wouldn't you?"

"Rather. Perhaps he'll be able to run up on Bank Holiday."

"I'm afraid not, dear. He speaks of it in his letter, and just hopes for
it; but rather fears they'll have to play at Brighton, or some other
stupid seaside place."

"That's a bother. Yes, dear old Mike! To think of him working away there
all by himself--God bless him! Do you know he's never seen this old
room? It struck me yesterday. It doesn't seem quite warmed till he's
seen it. Wouldn't it be lovely to have him here some night?--one of our
old, long evenings. Well, I suppose it will really come one of these
days. And then we shall be having you married, and going off to London
in clouds of glory, while poor old Henry grubs away down here in Tyre."

"Well, if we do go first, you will not be long after us, dear; and if
only Mike could make a really great hit, why, in five years' time we
might all be quite rich. Won't it be wonderful?"

Then the kettle boiled, and Henry made the tea; and when it had long
since been drunk, Esther began to think it must be five o'clock, and,
horrified to find it a quarter to six, confessed to being ashamed of
herself, and tried to console her conscience by the haste of
her good-bye.

"I'm afraid I've wasted your afternoon," she said; "but we don't often
get a chat nowadays, do we? Good-bye, dear. Go on loving me, won't you?"

After that, Henry would give the day up as a bad job, and begin to
wonder if Ned would be dropping in that evening for a smoke; and as that
was Ned's almost nightly custom about eight o'clock, the chances of
Henry's disappointment were not serious.



One morning, as Henry was really doing a little work, a more ponderous
step broke the silence of his landing, a heavy footfall full of
friendship. Certainly that was not Angel, nor even the more weighty
Esther, though when the knock came it was little and shy as a woman's.

Henry threw open the door, but for a moment there was no one to be seen;
and then, recalling the idiosyncrasy of a certain new friend whom by
that very token he guessed it might be, he came out on to the landing,
to find a great big friendly man in corpulent blue serge, a rough, dark
beard, and a slouched hat, standing a few feet off in a deprecating
way,--which really meant that if there were any ladies in the room with
Mr. Mesurier, he would prefer to call another time. For though he had
two or three grownup daughters of his own, this giant of a man was as
shy of a bit of a thing like Angel, whom he had met there one day, as
though he were a mere boy. He always felt, he once said in explanation,
as though he might break them in shaking hands. They affected him like
the presence of delicate china, and yet he could hold a baby deftly as
an elephant can nip up a flower; and to see him turn over the pages of a
delicate _edition de luxe_ was a lesson in tenderness. For this big man
who, as he would himself say, looked for all the world like a pirate,
was as insatiable of fine editions as a school-girl of chocolate creams.
He was one of those dearest of God's creatures, a gentle giant; and his
voice, when it wasn't necessary to be angry, was as low and kind as an
old nurse at the cradle's side.

Henry had come to know him through his little Scotch printer, who
printed circulars and bill-heads, for the business over which Mr.
Fairfax--for that was his name--presided. By day he was the vigorous
brain of a huge emporium, a sort of Tyrian Whiteley's; but day and night
he was a lover of books, and you could never catch him so busy but that
he could spare the time mysteriously to beckon you into his private
office, and with the glee of a child, show you his last large paper. He
not only loved books; but he was rumoured liberally to have assisted one
or two distressed men of genius well-known to the world. The tales of
the surreptitious goodness of his heart were many; but it was known too
that the big kind man had a terribly searching eye under his briery
brows, and could be as stern towards ingratitude as he was soft to
misfortune. Henry once caught a glimpse of this as they spoke of a
mutual friend whom he had helped to no purpose. Mr. Fairfax never used
many words, on this occasion he was grimly laconic.

"Rat-poison!" he said, shaking his head. "Rat-poison!" It was his way of
saying that that was the only cure for that particular kind of man.

It was evident that his generous eye had seen how things were with
Henry. He had subscribed for at least a dozen copies of "The Book of
Angelica," and in several ways shown his interest in the struggling
young poet. As has been said, he had seen Angelica one day, and his
shyness had not prevented his heart from going out to these two young
people, and the dream he saw in their eyes. He had determined to do
what he could to help them, and to-day he had come with a plan.

"I hope you're not too proud to give me a hand, Mr. Mesurier, in a
little idea I've got," he said.

"I think you know how proud I am, and how proud I'm not, Mr. Fairfax,"
said Henry. "I'm sure anything I could do for you would make me proud,
if that's what you mean."

"Thank you. Thank you. But you mustn't speak too fast. It's
advertising--does the word frighten you? No? Well, it's a scheme I've
thought of for a little really artistic and humorous advertising
combined. I've got a promise from one of the most original artists of
the day, you know his name, to do the pictures; and I want you to do the
verses--at, I may say, your own price. It's not, perhaps, the highest
occupation for a poet; but it's something to be going on with; and if
we've got good posters as advertisements, I don't see why we shouldn't
have good humorous verse. What do you think of it?"

"I think it's capital," said Henry, who was almost too ready to turn his
hand to anything. "Of course I'll do it; only too glad."

"Well, that's settled. Now, name your price. Don't be frightened!"

"Really, I can't. I haven't the least idea what I should get. Wait till
I have done a few of the verses, and you can give me what you please."

"No, sir," said Mr. Fairfax; "business is business. If you won't name a
figure, I must. Will you consider a hundred pounds sufficient?"

"A hundred pounds!" Henry gasped out, the tears almost starting to his

Mr. Fairfax did not miss his frank joy, and liked him for his

"All right, then; we'll call it settled. I shall be ready for the verses
as soon as you care to write them."

"Mr. Fairfax, I will tell you frankly that this is a great deal to me,
and I thank you from my heart."

"Not a word, not a word, my boy. We want your verses, we want your
verses. That's right, isn't it? Good verses, good money! Now no more of
that," and the good man, in alarm lest he should be thanked further,
made an abrupt and awkward farewell.

"It will keep the lad going a few months anyhow," he said to himself,
as he tramped downstairs, glad that he'd been able to think of
something; for, while the scheme was admirable as an advertisement, and
would more than repay Messrs. Owens' outlay, its origin had been pure
philanthropy. Such good angels do walk this world in the guise of bulky,
quite unpoetic-looking business-men.

"One hundred pounds!" said Henry, over and over again to himself. "One
hundred pounds! What news for Angel!"

He had soon a scheme in his head for the book, which entirely hit Mr.
Fairfax's fancy. It was to make a volume of verse celebrating each of
the various departments of the great store, in metres parodying the
styles of the old English ballads and various poets, ancient and modern,
and was to be called, "Bon Marche Ballads."

"Something like this, for example," said Henry, a few days later,
pulling an envelope covered with pencil-scribble from his pocket. "This
for the ladies' department,--

_"Oh, where do you buy your hats, lady?
And where do you buy your hose?
And where do you buy your shoes, lady?
And where your underclothes?_

_"Hats, shoes, and stockings, everything
A lady's heart requires,
Quality good, and prices low,
We are the largest buyers!

"The stock we bought on Wednesday last
Is fading fast away,
To-morrow it may be too late--
Oh, come and buy to-day!"_

Mr. Fairfax fairly trumpeted approval. "If they're all as good as that,"
he said; "you must have more money. Yes, you must. Well, well,--we'll
see, we'll see!" And when the "Bon Marche Ballads" actually appeared,
the generous creature insisted on adding another fifty pounds to
the cheque.

As many were afterwards of opinion that Henry never again did such good
work as these nonsense rhymes, written thus for a frolic,--and one
hundred and fifty pounds,--and as copies of the "Bon Marche Ballads" are
now exceedingly scarce, it may possibly be of interest to quote two or
three more of its preposterous numbers. This is a lyric illustrative of
cheese, for the provision department:--

"_Are you fond of cheese?
Do you sometimes sigh
For a really good
Gorgonzola? Try,

"Try our one-and-ten,
Wonderfully rotten,
Tasted once, it never can
Be again forgotten_!"

Here is "a Ballad of Baby's Toys:"--

"_Oh, give me a toy" the baby said--
The babe of three months old,--
Oh, what shall I buy my little babee,
With silver and with gold?"

"I would you buy a trumpet fine,
And a rocking-horse for me,
And a bucket and a spade, mother,
To dig beside the sea."

"But where shall I buy these pretty things?"
The mother's heart inquires.
"Oh, go to Owens!" cried the babe;
"They are the largest buyers."_

The subject of our last selection is "Melton Mowbray," which bore
beneath its title due apologies to Mr. Swinburne:--

_"Strange pie, that is almost a passion,
O passion immoral, for pie!
Unknown are the ways that they fashion,
Unknown and unseen of the eye,
The pie that is marbled and mottled,
The pie that digests with a sigh:
For all is not Bass that is bottled,
And all is not pork that is pie."_

Of all the goodness else that Henry and Angel were to owe in future days
to Mr. Fairfax, there is not room in this book to write. But that
matters little, for is it not written in the Book of Love?



One afternoon the step coming along the corridor was almost light enough
to be Angel's, though a lover's ear told him that hers it was not. Once
more that feminine rustle, the very whisper of romantic mystery; again
the little feminine knock.

Daintiness and Myrtilla!

"Well, this is lovely of you, Myrtilla! But what courage! How did you
ever dare venture into this wild and savage spot,--this
mountain-fastness of Bohemia?"

"Yes, it was brave of me, wasn't it?" said Myrtilla, with a little
laugh, for which the stairs had hardly left her breath. "But what a
climb! It is like having your rooms on the Matterhorn. I think I must
write a magazine article: 'How I climbed the fifty-thousand stairs,'
with illustrations,--and we could have some quite pretty ones," she
said, looking round the room.

"That big skylight is splendid! As close, dear lad, to the stars as you
can get it? Are you as devoted to them as ever?"

"Aren't you, Myrtilla?"

"Oh, yes; but they don't get any nearer, you know."

"It's awfully good to see you again, Myrtilla," said Henry, going over
to her and taking both her hands. "It's quite a long time, you know,
since we had a talk. It was a sweet thought of you to come. You'll have
some tea, won't you?"

"Yes, I should love to see you make tea. Bachelors always make such good
tea. What pretty cups! My word, we are dainty! I suppose it was Esther
bought them for you?"

Henry detected the little trap and smiled. No, it hadn't been Esther.

"No? Someone else then? eh! I think I can guess her name. It was mean of
you not to tell me about her, Henry. I hear she's called Angel, and that
she looks like one. I wish I could have seen her before I went away."

"Going away, Myrtilla? why, where? I've heard nothing of it. Tell me
about it."

The atmosphere perceptibly darkened with the thought of Williamson.

"Well!" she said, in the little airy melodious way she had when she was
telling something particularly unhappy about herself--a sort of
harpsichord bravado--"Well, you know, he's taken to fancying himself
seriously ill lately, and the doctors have aided and abetted him; and so
we're going to Davos Platz, or some such health-wilderness--and well,
that's all!"

"And you I suppose are to nurse the--to nurse him?" said Henry,

"Hush, lad! It's no use, not a bit! You won't help me that way," she
said, laying her hand kindly on his, and her eyes growing bright with
suppressed tears.

"It's a shame, nevertheless, Myrtilla, a cruel shame!"

"You'd like to say it was a something-else shame, wouldn't you, dear
boy? Well, you can, if you like: but then you must say no more. And if
you really want to help me, you shall send me a long letter now and
again, with some of your new poems enclosed; and tell me what new books
are worth sending for? Will you do that?"

"Of course, I will. That's precious little to do anyhow."

"It's a good deal, really. But be sure you do it."

"And, of course, you'll write to me sometimes. I don't think you know
yet what your letters are to me. I never work so well as when I've had a
letter from you."

"Really, dear lad, I don't fancy you know how happy that makes me to

"Yes, you take just the sort of interest in my work I want, and that no
one else takes."

"Not even Angel?" said Myrtilla, slily.

"Angel, bless her, loves my work; and is a brave little critic of it;
but then it isn't disloyal to her to say that she doesn't know as much
as you. Besides, she doesn't approach it in quite the same way. She
cares for it, first, because it is mine, and only secondly for its own
sake. Now you care for it just for what it is--"

"I care for it, certainly, for what it's going to be," said Myrtilla,
making one of those honest distinctions which made her opinion so
stimulating to Henry.

"Yes, there you are. You're artistically ambitious for me; you know what
I want to do, even before I know myself. That's why you're so good for
me. No one but you is that for me; and--poor stuff as I know it
is--never write a word without wondering what you will think of it."

"You're sure it's quite true," said Myrtilla; "don't say so if it isn't.
Because you know you're saying what I care most to hear, perhaps, of
anything you could say. You know how I love literature, and--well, you
know too how fond I am of you, dear lad, don't you?"

Literary criticism had kindled into emotion; and Henry bent down, and
kissed Myrtilla's hand. In return she let her hand rest a moment lightly
on his hair, and then, rather spasmodically, turned to remark on his
bookshelves with suspicious energy.

At that moment another step was heard in the corridor, again feminine.
Henry knew it for Angel's; and it may be that his expression grew a
shade embarrassed, as he said:

"I believe I shall be able to introduce you to Angel after all--for I
think this is she coming along the passage."

As Henry opened the door, Angel was on the point of throwing her arms
round his neck, when, noticing a certain constraint in his manner of
greeting, she realised that he was not alone.

"We were just talking of you, dear," said Henry. "This is my friend,
Mrs. Williamson,--'Myrtilla,' of whom you've often heard me speak."

"Oh, yes, I've often heard of Mrs. Williamson," said Angel, not of
course suffering the irony of her thought to escape into her voice.

"And I've heard no less of Miss Flower," said Mrs. Williamson, "not
indeed from this faithless boy here,--for I haven't seen him for so long
that I've had to humble myself at last and call,--but from Esther."

Myrtilla loved the transparent face, pulsing with light, flushing or
fading with her varying mood, answering with exquisite delicacy to any
advance and retreat of the soul within. But an invincible prejudice, or
perhaps rather fear, shut Angel's eyes from the appreciation of
Myrtilla. She was sweet and beautiful, but to the child that Angel still
was she suggested malign artifice. Angel looked at her as an imaginative
child looks at the moon, with suspicion.

So, in spite of Myrtilla's efforts to make friends, the conversation
sustained a distinct loss in sprightliness by Angel's arrival.

Myrtilla, perhaps divining a little of the truth, rose to go.

"Well, I'm afraid it's quite a long good-bye," she said.

"Oh, you're going away?" said Angel, with a shade of relief
involuntarily in her voice.

"Oh, yes, perhaps before we meet again, you and Henry will be married.
I'm sure I sincerely hope so."

"Thank you," said Angel, somewhat coldly.

"Well, good-bye, Henry," said Myrtilla,--it was rather a strangled
good-bye,--and then, in an evil moment, she caught sight of the Dante's
head which, hidden in a recess, she had not noticed before. "I see
you're still faithful to the Dante," she said; "that's sweet of
you,--good-bye, good-bye, Miss Flower, Angel, perhaps you'll let me say,

When she had gone there seemed a curious constraint in the air. You
might have said that the consistency of the air had been doubled.
Gravitation was at least twice as many pounds as usual to the square
inch. Every little movement seemed heavy as though the medium had been
water instead of air. As Henry raised his hands to help Angel off with
her jacket, they seemed weighted with lead.

"No, thank you," said Angel, "I won't take it off. I can't stay long."

"Why, dear, what do you mean? I thought you were going to stay the
evening with me. I've quite a long new chapter to read to you."

"I'm sorry, Henry,--but I find I can't."

"Why, dear, how's that? Won't you tell me the reason? Has anything

Angel stood still in the middle of the room, with her face as firmly
miserable as she could make it.

"Won't you tell me?" Henry pleaded. "Won't you speak to me? Come,
dear--what's the matter?"

"You know well enough, Henry, what's the matter!" came an unexpected
flash of speech.

"Indeed, I don't. I know of no reason whatever. How should I?"

"Well, then, Mrs. Williamson's the matter!--'Myrtilla,' as you call her.
Something told me it was like this all along, though I couldn't bear to
doubt you, and so I put it away. I wonder how often she's been here when
I have known nothing about it."

"This is the very first time she has ever set foot in these rooms,"
said Henry, growing cold in his turn. "I'll give you my word of honour,
if you need it."

"I don't want to hear any more. I'm going. Good-bye."

"Going, Angel?" said Henry, standing between her and the door. "What can
you mean? See now,--give your brains a chance! You're not thinking in
the least. You've just let yourself go--for no reason at all. You'll be
sorry to-morrow."

"Reason enough, I should think, when I find that you love another

"I love Myrtilla Williamson! It's a lie, Angel--and you ought to be
ashamed to say it. It's unworthy of you."

"Why have you never told me then who made that sketch of Dante for you?
I suppose I should never have known, if she hadn't let it out. I asked
you once, but you put me off."

Henry had indeed prevaricated, for Angel had chanced to ask him just
after Myrtilla's letter about his poems.

"Well, I'll be frank," said Henry. "I didn't tell you, just because I
feared an unreasonable scene like this--"

"If there had been nothing in it, there was nothing to fear; and, in
any case, why should she paint pictures for you, if she doesn't care for
you?--No, I'm going. Nothing will persuade me otherwise. Henry, please
let pass, if you're a gentleman--" and poor little Angel's face fairly
flamed. "No power on earth will keep me here--"

"All right, Angel--" and Henry let her have her way. Her feet echoed
down the stairs, further and further away. She was gone; and Henry spent
that evening in torturingly imagining every kind of accident that might
happen to her on the way home. Every hour he expected to be suddenly
called to look at her dead body--his work. And so the night passed, and
the morning dawned in agony. So went the whole of the next day, for he
could be proud too--and the fault had been hers.

Thus they sat apart for three days, poles of determined silence. And
then at last, on the evening of the third day, Henry, who was half
beside himself with suspense, heard, with wild thankfulness, once more
the little step in the passage--it seemed fainter, he thought, and
dragged a little, and the knock at the door was like a ghost's.

There, with a wan smile, Angel stood; and with joy, wordless because
unspeakable, they fell almost like dead things into each other's arms.
For an hour they sat thus, and never spoke a word, only stroking each
other's hands and hair. It was so good for each to know that the other
was alive. It took so long for the stored agony in the nerves to relax.

"I haven't eaten a morsel since Wednesday," said Angel, at last.

"Nor I," said Henry.

"Henry, dear, I'm sorry. I know now I was wrong. I give you my word
never to doubt you again."

"Thank you, Angel. Don't let us even think of it any more."

"I couldn't live through it again, darling."

"But it can never happen any more, can it?"

"No!--but--if you ever love any woman better than you love me, you'll
tell me, won't you? I could bear that better than to be deceived."

"Yes, Angel, I promise to tell you."

"Well, we're really happy again now--are we? I can hardly believe it--"

"You didn't see me outside your house last night, did you?"


"Yes, I was there. And I watched you carry the light into your bedroom,
and when you came to the window to draw down the blind, I thought you
must have seen me. Yes, I waited and waited, till I saw the light go out
and long after--"

"Oh, Henry--you do love me then?"

"And we do know how to hate each other sometimes, don't we, child?" said
Henry, laughing into Angel's eyes, all rainbows and tears.



And now blow, all ye trumpets, and, all ye organs, tremble with exultant
sound! Bring forth the harp, and the psaltry, and the sackbut! For the
long winter of waiting is at an end, and Mike is flying north to fetch
his bride. Now are the walls of heaven built four-square, and to-day was
the roof-beam hung with garlands. 'Tis but a small heaven, yet is it big
enough for two,--and Mike is flying north, flying north, through the
midnight, to fetch his bride.

Henry and the morning meet him at Tyre. Blessings on his little wrinkled
face! The wrinkles are deeper and sweeter by a year's hard work. He has
laughed with them every night for full twelve months, laughed to make
others laugh. To-day he shall laugh for himself alone. The very river
seems glad, and tosses its shaggy waves like a faithful dog; and over
yonder in Sidon, where the sun is building a shrine of gold and pearl,
Esther, sleepless too, all night, waits at a window like the

Oh, Mike! Mike! Mike! is it you at last?

Oh, Esther, Esther, is it you?

Their faces were so bright, as they gazed at each other, that it seemed
they might change to stars and wing together away up into the morning.
Henry snatched one look at the brightness and turned away.

"She looked like a spirit!" said Mike, as they met again further along
the road.

"He looked like a little angel," said Esther, as she threw herself into
Dot's sympathetic arms.

A few miles from Sidon there stood an old church, dim with memories, in
a churchyard mossy with many graves. It was hither some few hours after
that unwonted carriages were driving through the snow of that happy
winter's day. In one of them Esther and Henry were sitting,--Esther
apparelled in--but here the local papers shall speak for us: "The
bride," it said, "was attired in a dress of grey velvet trimmed with
beaver, and a large picturesque hat with feathers to match; she carried
a bouquet of white chrysanthemums and hyacinths."

"The very earth has put on white to be your bridesmaid!" said Henry,
looking out on the sunlit snow.

"After all, though, of course, I'm sad in one way," said Esther, more
practical in her felicitations, "I'm glad in another that father
wouldn't give me away. For it was really you who gave me to Mike long
ago; wasn't it?--and so it's only as it should be that you should give
me to him to-day."

"You'll never forget what we've been to each other?"

"Don't you know?"

"Yes, but our love has no organs and presents and prayer-books to bind
it together."

"Do you think it needs it?"

"Of course not! But it would be fun for us too some day to have a
marriage. Why should only one kind of love have its marriage ceremony?
When Mike's and your wedding is over, let's tell him that we're going
to send out cards for ours!"

"All right. What form shall the ceremony take--_Parfait Amour_?"

"You haven't forgotten?"

"I shall forget just the second after you--not before--and, no, I won't
be mean, I'll not even forget you then."

"Kiss me, Esther," said Henry.

"Kiss me again, Esther," he said. "Do you remember?"

"The cake and the beating?"

"Yes, that was our marriage."

* * * * *

When all the glory of that happy day hung in crimson low down in the
west, like a chariot of fire in which Mike and Esther were speeding to
their paradise, Henry walked with Angel, homeward through the streets of
Tyre, solemn with sunset. In both that happy day still lived like music
richly dying.

"Well," said Angel, in words far too practical for such a sunset, "I am
so glad it all went off so well. Poor dear Mrs. Mesurier, how bonny she
looked! And your dear old Aunt Tipping! Fancy her hiding there in
the church--"

"Of course we'd asked her," said Henry; "but, poor old thing, she
didn't feel grand enough, as she would say, to come publicly."

"And your poor father! Fancy him coming home for the lunch like that!"

"After all, it was logical of him," said Henry. "I suppose he had made
up his mind that he would resist as long as it was any use, and after
that--gracefully give in. And he was always fond of Mike."

"But didn't Esther cry, when he kissed her, and said that, since she'd
chosen Mike, he supposed he must choose him too. And Mike was as good as
crying too?"

"I think every one was. Poor mother was just a mop."

"Well, they're nearly home by now, I suppose."

"Yes, another half-hour or so."

"Oh, Henry, fancy! How wonderful for them! God bless them. I _am_ glad!"

"I wonder when we shall get our home," said Henry, presently.

"Oh, Henry, never mind us! I can't think of any one but them to-day."

"Well, dear, I didn't mean to be selfish--I was only wondering how
long you'd be willing to wait for me?"

"Suppose I were to say 'for ever!' Would that make you happy?"

"Well, I think, dear--I might perhaps arrange things by then."



Back to Full Books